Fanny Davies International Piano Series presents Ida Pelliccioli – St James Concert Hall – 12/10/22

Ida Pelliccioli - St James

As I’m sure is evident if you’ve followed my writing for any length of time classical music (in its broad sense) is not really something I have a lot of experience of – in fact I’m not sure I’ve ever attended a dedicated classical music event before, but that changed tonight as I headed to St James in Guernsey for the first in the 2022/23 Fanny Davies International Piano Series, in this case featuring Italian pianist Ida Pelliccioli.

I also have to admit to having wondered about the name of the series of events (which has been ongoing for several years) but this was explained at the start as Fanny Davies was a concert pianist born in Guernsey in the 1800s and who, appropriately for tonight’s event, was an early performer of the works of Debussy.

I say that as this concert was subtitled Debussy and Influences and saw Pelliccioli take us on something of a journey through some of the works that influenced Debussy and some of his own works, as well as a couple of others bits.

Ida Pelliccioli
Ida Pelliccioli

The first half began with Suite in A Minor from the ‘Nouvelles Suites pour clavecin’ by Jean-Phillipe Rameau, and I’ll admit to being both entirely unfamiliar with the composer and somewhat in a state of culture shock about how one should respond and even listen to the performance, something I’m not really used to in this context.

That said, and this goes for the entire evening, Pelliccioli’s playing was hugely impressive.

These six shorter pieces all seemed intent on playing as many notes as quickly as possible in a somewhat baroque style that, I believe, was originally intended for the harpsichord and I could hear a bit of that in them and, by the end, I was starting to feel I was maybe starting to get my head around things a little and was beginning to find more of a feeling in the music beyond the technical.

The first half then concluded with Claude Debussy’s Homage à Rameau (Images – Book 1 L.110) which instantly felt more familiar in style.

While it, apparently, was written based on the ideas heard in the earlier pieces I’m in no position to say I really spotted the references but nonetheless it sounded terrific and had some moments that were genuinely absorbing and transporting, while also giving us moments that saw the performance really come alive in a way I could more directly interpret.

The second half began by again taking us back to a composer who had influenced Debussy in the form of Isaac Albeniz and Suite Antigua no.3 (Minuetto and Gavotte) and La Vega – Suite of the Alhambra no.1 – by this stage I was possibly starting to get the hang of things a little more and the Spanish flavours and imagery certainly began to emerge in the music.

St James stage and piano
The St James grand piano on stage

This was followed by a trio Debussy pieces influenced by Albeniz and with an increasingly Iberian flavour, La Puerta Del Vino, Evening In Granada and Masques, again these were somewhat more immediate and saw the performance take on a more direct feel.

The main portion of the concert was then rounded off by another piece from Albeniz, Asturias, which definitely had a familiar ring to it and brought a hint of flamenco to proceedings.

We then were treated to a pair of short encores, the first being a more modern piece from the 1990s with a very strong flamenco feel and then a Profokiev Tarantella both of which had a more accessible ‘pop’ feel and saw Pelliccioli play in a far more expressive way which, for me, was far more engaging but I realise is likely down to my lack of experience of such events.

Ultimately this evening was a great experience and, while it may not have instantly made me a convert to all things classical music and piano based, was terrific to see and hear and I can’t help but feel should have a wider appeal than the turn out tonight suggested.

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