Constella impressions: French inspirations

It’s hard to believe that the Constella Festival is winding up its season. I was able to attend French inspirations last week at the newly opened Woodward Theater on Main Street. Here are some thoughts.

The program: Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski was the soloist in a piano recital that included Three Intermezzi, Op. 117, by Brahms, Ravel’s Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, Soirées de Vienne, Nos. 5 and 6 by Liszt, based on Schubert, and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.

The scene: A beautiful Steinway sat center stage in the hall. Upstairs was a very small art exhibit; downstairs, a few people mingled at the bar. It’s too bad that once the concert started, the beer refrigerator couldn’t be turned off, because the noise interfered with the pianist’s sensitive playing. At least six cameras were trained on the pianist, as this was all being filmed for a future documentary.

Seen in the crowd: Jazz pianist Steve Schmidt, Constella founder Tatiana Berman (who picked up her violin and joined Trpceski in two lovely miniatures — Debussy’s Clair de Lune and the Girl with the Flaxen Hair) and David Donnelly,, director of the new film, “Maestro,” which had its local premiere on Friday.

Musical highlight: For me, it was Ravel. Trpceski, who appeared with the CSO two years ago, balanced the work’s brilliant flashes with intimate moods, and was a master of color, nuance and sonority. The seventh waltz reminded me of “La Valse,” Ravel’s orchestral piece that has a desperate, end-of-an-era mood.

His brilliant and jazzy encore, composed for him by a Macedonian composer, was “Struga,” named for a city in Macedonia.

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