Ljubica Stojanovic at St Mary’s

Tuesday 12 January 4.00 pm 

Ljubica Stojanovic (piano) 

Mozart: Rondo in A minor K511

Brahms: Variations and Fugue on a theme by Handel Op 24

Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit

Some very fine musicianly playing of three of the most complex works in the piano repertoire.A Mozart played ‘in one heartbreaking breath’;a magnificent present for Clara from her devoted admirer Brahms with his Handel variations and Fugue ,and Ravel’s poetic vindication of Balakirev’s Islamey with his magical vision of Aloysius Bertrand’s Gaspard de la nuit.

The Mozart Rondo was given a ravishing performance with such delicate tonal phrasing and such an astonishing change of colour from minor to major.It was the ideal opening work that set the scene for some beautiful musicianly playing of delicate luminous sounds.It was the same clarity that she brought to the Handel variations by Brahms. They were written in September 1861 after Brahms, aged 28, abandoned the work he had been doing as director of the Hamburg women’s choir.It is dedicated to a “beloved friend”, Clara Schumann,widow of Robert Schumann.It was presented to her on her 42nd birthday, September 13. The theme of the Handel Variations is taken from an aria in the third movement of Handel’s Harpsichord Suite No. 1 in B♭ Major, HWV 434 (Suites de pièces pour le clavecin,).While Handel had written only five variations on his theme, Brahms, with the piano as his instrument rather than the more limited harpsichord enlarged the scope of his opus to 25 variations ending with an extended Fugue.

A crystalline performance of the theme that allowed the first variation to enter so naturally and led to the beautiful legato of the second.The quixotic elegance of the third before the entry of the full orchestra with octaves was played with great rhythmic impetus but slightly missing the weight to give full power to Brahms’s obvious orchestral conception. What she missed in weight she more than made up for with her refined detailed playing .The beauty of the 5th and 11th variations were contrasted so well with the intricate 7th and 8th.The quixotic outburst of the tenth was perfectly judged as was the extreme legato of the octaves in the sixth and ninth.A beautifully grandiose thirteenth variation before the acrobatics of the variations leading to the triumphant twenty fifth.There were ravishing sounds in the music box of the twenty second before the exciting build up to the twenty fifth.The triumphant fugue was beautifully clear and perfectly judged but sometimes missing the feeling of full orchestral colour.

Gaspard de la nuit (subtitled Trois poèmes pour piano d’après Aloysius Bertrand),was written by Ravel in 1908. It has three movements , each based on a poem or fantaisie from the collection of the same title by Bertrand.’Ondine,’the water nymph. singing to seduce the observer into visiting her kingdom deep at the bottom of a lake with the sounds of water falling and flowing, woven with cascades. ‘Le Gibet’ with the view of the desert, where the lone corpse of a hanged man on a stands out against the horizon, reddened by the setting sun. Meanwhile, a bell tolls from inside the walls of a far-off city, creating the deathly atmosphere that surrounds the observer. ‘Scarbo’depicts the nighttime mischief of a small fiend flitting in and out of the darkness, disappearing and suddenly reappearing. Its uneven flight, hitting and scratching against the walls, casting a growing shadow in the moonlight, creates a nightmarish scene for the observer lying in his bed.With its repeated notes and two terrifying climaxes, this is the high point in technical difficulty of all the three movements and the one that Ravel intended to be more difficult than Balakirev’s Islamey.It is in fact considered to be one of the most difficult solo piano pieces in the repertoire.

Ljubica’s palette of delicate ravishing colours were just right for Ravel’s remarkable tone poem.Ondine ,with its washes of colour and superb passionate outburst with Ondine disappearing to a whisper having cast her spell.The mysterious bells of Le Gibet were allowed to chime in such a beautifully atmospheric panorama that led so naturally to the diabolical Scarbo.One of the most difficult works for the piano played with complete technical command .A sense of line and musical understanding that brought this piece vividly and excitingly to life.

Ljubica Stojanovic started to play piano at the age of 6. She graduated with a Masters from Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, studying with Prof. Caroline Palmer, and subsequently studied on the fellowship programme, with Professor Ronan O’Hora. Her studies were generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust and Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s scholarship fund. Ljubica is a 1st prize-winner of over 20 national and international competitions. She is a very active musician who performs regularly as a soloist as well as with European chamber ensembles. Ljubica has performed in the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Hall, Wigmore Hall, St. James’s Piccadilly, St. Martin in the Fields, Mozarteum University Hall in Salzburg, Philharmonia Hall in Ljubljana, Slovenia,Thonex hall in Geneva, and in Kolarac Hall in Serbia. She has collaborated with the Witold Lutoslawski Philharmonia from Wroclav, soloists from Philharmonia Orchestra in London, Serbian Radio Television Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Belgrade, and with Nicholas Daniel and Andrew Marriner. In 2015 Ljubica became an artist for the KNS Classical record label in Spain. Ljubica would like to thank Ronan O’Hora, Henning Kraggerud and Christian Petersen for their guidance, inspiration and support.

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