Mishka Rushdie Momen a timeless message of comfort and beauty

Mishka Rushdie Momen’s solo debut recital included the plaintive elegance of Janáček’s In the Mists, alongside extracts from Schumann’s Waldscenen and Ravel’s Miroirs , in a programme that explores cyclical works and keys. The programme begins with Rameau’s Les tendres plaints (‘The tender sighs’), a rondeau which shimmers with grace.

A programme at the Wigmore Hall that sparkled and shone to the glory of music.There is a tendency these days to underestimate the power of music in the mistaken idea that it is quantity not quality that counts.Nowhere was I more aware of this than listening to Christian Blackshaw a while ago playing the Mozart Adagio in B minor K 540 that had me running to look at the score such were the subtle sounds reminiscent of a string quartet but coming from two hands on a keyboard.Of course Murray Perahia regularly surprises us with his revelatory readings of much loved works as do a chosen few such as Mitsuko Uchida,Krystian Zimerman,Richard Goode.All top prize winners in the past of International Competitions and hats off to the discerning jury that could pin point them.A jury usually made up in those days of great pianists who had given up their time – bullied by the indomitable Dame Fanny Waterman – who in her early competitions in Leeds insisted that great pianists should be prepared to give up some of their time to ensure the quality of the next generation.She also got Benjamin Britten to write a test piece.Nowadays there are so many competitions that if the great performing musicians had to give up their time for them there would be no time for their own concerts.But there are young artists who do not have the infallible preparation that competitions require and many technically better prepared young pianists suddenly find the field wide open.Many of the truly aspiring young artists need time and experience to mature but venture into the circus arena in the hope of gaining some recognition and future concerts.Would Myra Hess Clifford Curzon ,Alfred Cortot or Edwin Fischer have got through the preliminary rounds of a competition?So it is very refreshing to find the Wigmore Hall offering space to emerging young artists that have been nurtured and encouraged by the great interpreters who have themselves found a haven in this much revered hall.Such was the case today with Mishka who has for some time been mentored by Andras Schiff,Angela Hewitt,Imogen Cooper and Steven Isserlis.After her extraordinary duo recitals with Steven Isserlis she was left on her own in this hallowed space – just her and the pure music that she conjured from a black box full of hammers and strings.

I was reminded of another recital less than a week ago in that other venue dedicated to giving a platform to young artists in a beautiful redundant church in the middle of Ealing golf course:“The deep melancholy of the andante was so poignant – can only three notes mean so much?That,of course is the art of the true interpreter and so rare these days where young musicians are cultivated in the Russian repertoire that seems to require many more notes to say much less !What a lesson and an eye or should I say ear opener today.I remember Serkin listening to a young Murray Perahia and admonishing Richard Goode for not telling him quite how good he was!’

  • Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
  • Pièces de clavecin avec une methode pour la mechanique des doigts XI. Les tendres plaintes .Such beautifully delicate playing with ravishing ornaments that gleamed like jewels.It made one wonder why we are not treated more often to the deep melancholy and tenderness of Rameau instead of the usual brilliance and clockwork precision of his more technically explosive pieces.
  • Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
  • Variations sérieuses in D minor Op. 54.The beauty of the Andante sostenuto theme was played with such subtle colouring and led to the first variation where her legato in the right hand was matched by the gentle staccato of the left.The continual flow of the second led us to the drama of the third and the fleeting jeux perlé that followed.Building up the tension with the agitato fifth and the almost playful sixth before the virtuosity and excitement of the seventh and eighth.The beautiful change of mood with the warmth and sublime calm before the tempest was magically controlled with quite exquisite sounds.The beautiful tenor melody was accompanied by the butterfly staccato cascades of delicate notes so similar to Schumann op 13 studies.There was deep meditation too in the following two variations :Adagio and gradually poco a poco più agitato.The tumultuous final two variations were played not only with brilliance but with such colour and architectural shape that was breathtaking in its audacity and at times even delicacy before coming to rest on the last three magical chords.

  • Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
  • Ballade No. 2 in F Op. 38 It was the extreme delicacy of the andantino where her absolute legato in the bass gave such subtle colour to the seemingly innocent melodic line and made the eruption of the Presto con fuoco so thrilling.A true Schumannesque Florestan and Eusebius as a tribute to its dedicatee?It was played with such flowing forward movement that led to the technical brilliance of the agitato coda but with such sumptuous sounds that the final pianissimo comment with which it ends came as a true surprise as was the pause,so pregnant with meaning,before the final farewell.
  • Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)
  • In the Mists is a piano cycle and the last of Janacek’s more substantial solo works for piano It was composed in 1912, some years after Janáček had suffered the death of his daughter Olga and while his operas were still being rejected by the Prague opera houses. All four parts of the cycle are largely written in “misty” keys with five or six flats; it is in four parts Andante ;Molto adagio ;Andantino ;Presto.A work very much championed by Mishka’s mentor Andras Schiff and is indeed remarkable,full of haunting melodies and elusive harmonies of great character and was given a totally committed performance.
  • Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
  • Waldscenen Op. 82 No. 7 Vogel als Prophet
  • Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
  • Miroirs. Oiseaux tristes. Alborada del gracioso The subtle colours and atmosphere created in these final works created the magic out of which sprung the pyrotechnics of Alborada with its treacherous repeated notes and double glissandi bringing this magical recital to an exciting end. Not before admiring the sumptuous central prayer like episode where Schumann’s prophet bird miraculously reappears before Ravel’s sad birds take wing .
  • Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
  • Ungarische Melodie in B minor D817 A beautifully shaped melody dedicated to the people suffering in India was this sensitive artist’s way of thanking her imaginary audience.Listening, I am sure,from every part of the globe where the message within her music of comfort and beauty is indeed timeless and universal

Mishka Rushdie Momen -In search of beauty – St Mary’s Live


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