Ignas Maknickas fluidity and romance for the Imogen Cooper Music Trust

Ignas Maknickas presented by the ever generous Dame Imogen Cooper in the sumptuous surrounds of Pavilion Road in Knightsbridge.Playing of such fluidity and radiant sounds with a natural technical brilliance that brought vividly to life all he played.It was though his fellow Lithuanian Alvidas Remesa that ignited his imagination and allowed his kaleidoscopic sense of sound to convey the extraordinarily evocative sound world of this Franciscan Monk

In the first six months of this year not only will Dame Imogen’s brilliant young protegés be performing in the “Young Artists” concert series, but Imogen herself is launching a new series of recitals under the title “Imogen and Friends” featuring Mark Padmore, Paul Lewis and Adrian Brendel among others.

Dame Imogen Cooper introducing Ignas and outlining her parallel series where distinguished colleagues will be joining her to make music together in this beautiful venue.The 12th February will see a recital together with Mark Padmore of lieder by Schumann and Brahms.

Estampes by Debussy is a suite of three movements and was written in 1903

  1. Pagodes (“Pagodas”) evokes Indonesian gamelan music which Debussy first heard in the Paris Exhibition of 1889 and makes extensive use of pentatonic scales and mimics traditional Indonesian melodies.An impressionistic work where the goal is not overt expressiveness but instead an emphasis on the wash of colour presented by the texture of the work. Debussy marks in the text that “Pagodes” should be played “presque sans nuance“.And it was just this that Ignas managed to achieve with his natural flowing technique and liquid sounds due to his utmost care of balance and colour.Over generous with the pedal throughout the recital, and in Chopin it was less welcome,but here in this impressionistic world that Debussy creates it immediately established his musical credentials.Poised over the Keyboard like a bird in flight he was ready for the slightest breeze that the music required.
  2. La soirée dans Grenade (“Evening in Granada”) evoking images of Grenada in Spain where Debussy’s imagination created in de Falla’s words : “There is not even one measure of this music borrowed from the Spanish folklore,and yet the entire composition in its most minute details, conveys admirably Spain.”Ignas brought a haunting beauty to the sultry melodic line with the gently strumming guitar sounds and there were contrasts of great effect.
  3. Jardins sous la pluie (“Gardens in the Rain”) describes a garden in the Normandy town of Orbec during an extremely violent rainstorm.There was great clarity due to his sparing use of the pedal here at the opening evoking the sounds of the wind blowing followed by sumptuous sounds of rhythmic urgency as he depicted a raging thunderstorm.Utmost delicacy and ravishing fluidity contrasted with raindrops dripping as Debussy makes use of the French folk melodies “Nous n’irons plus aux bois” and “Dodo, l’enfant do.” with a disarming simplicity.

Chopin’s fourth ballade was dedicated to Baroness Rothschild who had invited Chopin to play in her Parisian residence, where she introduced him to the aristocracy and nobility.In the preface to his edition of Chopin’s ballades, Alfred Cortot claims that the inspiration for this ballade is Adam Mickiewicz’s poem The Three Budrys, which tells of three brothers sent away by their father to seek treasures, and the story of their return with three Polish brides.This ballade op 52 is one of the pinnacles of the romantic piano repertoire together with the Liszt Sonata and Schumann Fantasie

1842 autograph of the fourth ballade in the Bodleian Museum Oxford

I had studied this work with Vlado Perlemuter who was a pupil of Cortot and he wrote in many poetic phrases of Cortot’s that illuminated the seemingly empty notes on the page.Ignas brought great beauty to the opening with his ravishing liquid sound that eliminated the seemingly restrictive bar lines as he allowed the music to breathe in long phrases.There could have been greater simplicity and there were some unwarranted changes of tempo due to his temperament where his heart took over from his head.It is a strange fact in interpretation that quite often it is the romantic works that need a more classical approach and the classical works often more romantic.There was great beauty in the return of the introduction that Cortot marks ‘avec un sentiment de regret’ and an etheral cadenza leading to the gradual build up to the passionate climax of the work.Here Ignas’s over generous use of the pedal whilst creating great surges of sound disguised many bass notes that got lost in this romantic outpouring of sumptuous sounds.Chopin likened rubato to a tree with the roots firmly placed in the ground which allowed the branches of the tree to flow and move with the wind …….one might add without the tree being uprooted!

The five gentle chords after the mighty climax herald a coda of transcendental difficulty.The real calm before the storm – a storm that starts with a sforzando in the left hand not with the right and it was these details from Chopin’s own pen that were sometimes sacrificed for Ignas’s romantic temperament .I think the great musicianship of his mentor Imogen Cooper will sort out just such details of fundamental importance in the masterclasses that she holds twice this year in Provence (16/17 April and 14/16 October).However his performance of the coda was of great effect and brought this masterpiece to a triumphant conclusion

Alvidas Remesa (born in 1951) composed over 100 works in genres ranging from songs to symphonies and stage works; however, sacred music occupies the main part of his output. During the last 15 years he has studied theology, history of ecclesiastical music, liturgy, Gregorian chant and became a Franciscan monk. In 1990-2002 he was an organist at the Franciscan monastery church in Kretinga, currently he works also in the field of music therapy. Especially subtle and eloquent is his chamber music, the composer often employs monothematic principle; movements of the traditional cyclic structure in his works project consistent development of the main idea. Among most popular opuses should be mentioned his Seven Words of Jesus Christ for solo clarinet and Stigmata for piano of 1990.Stigmata is about the five wounds of Jesus Christ and found in Ignas the ideal interpreter.Throwing himself into the fray with such conviction as he brought his imagination to creating sounds of great effect.There was great contrast between the stark dry rhythmic chords answered by cascades of notes that poured from his fingers so naturally.There was folk music too of great clarity and rhythmic energy alternating with a final very suggestive pastoral atmosphere.This was indeed the highlight of the concert where Ignas’s temperament,fluid technical assurance and imagination all came together in a very convincing performance.

Chopin completed his second sonata op 35 while living in George Sand’s manor in Nohant,some 250 km (160 mi) south of Paris a year before it was published in 1840.While the sonata gained instant popularity with the public, critical reception was initially more doubtful.Schumann among other critics, argued that the work was structurally inferior and that Chopin “could not quite handle sonata form”.He went even further describing the sonata as “four of his maddest children under the same roof” and found the title “Sonata” capricious and slightly presumptuous.He also remarked that the Marche funèbre “has something repulsive” about it, and that “an adagio in its place, perhaps in D-flat, would have had a far more beautiful effect”.In addition, the finale caused a stir among Schumann and other musicians. Schumann said that the movement “seems more like a mockery than any sort of music”,and when Felix Mendelssohn was asked for an opinion of it, he commented, “Oh, I abhor it”.The finale has been later described as “probably the most enigmatic piece Chopin ever wrote”,and Anton Rubinstein is said to have remarked that the fourth movement is the “wind howling around the gravestones”.Liszt of course understood the very sound of Chopin and wrote:’Chopin composes and plays for himself.Listen to him as he dreams.As he weeps.As he sings ,with tenderness,gentleness,and melancholy;how perfectly he expresses every feeling,however delicate,however lofty…….Chopin is the pianist of pianists.’

Ignas brought great beauty to many parts of the sonata.In particular the beautiful second subject of the first movement and the heart melting middle section of the Scherzo and Marche funèbre.Despite Schumann’s early criticism of lack of structure time has shown that it is a masterpiece of invention and of an originality that was at the time difficult to comprehend.The opening declaration is reworked in the bass in the development section as the fleeting opening of the doppio movimento is taken up too with the invention of a master craftsman and poet.Ignas chose not to do the repeat in the first movement which has been in discussion for many years as to Chopin’s real intention but he gave the entire movement a rhythmic energy and forward movement that just needed a little taming.The Scherzo too could have been more lightweight to allow a more architectural shape to the overall excitement and underlying rhythmic energy.There could have been a more architectural shape to the Marche funébre by a more judicious use of dynamics as Ignas with his great temperament gave us too much too soon.The Finale described as the wind over the graves is a perpetuum mobile of notes in unison.The revolutionary effect that Chopin wanted is in the notes themselves and needs no external help and above all very judicious pedalling.Ignas gave a performance of great effect which brought him great applause from a very select audience. I cannot help thinking,though,that a more controlled and clearer performance would have brought him an even greater ovation

In July 2021 Ignas Maknickas received “The Queen’s Commendation for Excellence” as the highest-scoring graduate of the Royal Academy of Music. He has taken First Prize at the XIX Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition for Youth in Szafarnia, First Prize at the XX Piano Competition “Young Virtuoso” in Zagreb and, in 2019, Third Prize at the Aarhus Piano Competition.Ignas has appeared with the Aarhus Symphony, Alicante Philharmonic, Dartington Festival Orchestra, Lithuanian National Symphony, Lithuanian State Symphony, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, London Mozart Players and Royal Academy of Music Chamber Orchestra.Born in California in 1998, Ignas was raised in Lithuania. In 2017, graduating from the National M.K. Čiurlionis School of Art in Vilnius, he was honoured by the President of Lithuania, H.E. Dalia Grybauskaitė. With his sister and three brothers the talented Maknickas Family Ensemble has represented Lithuania on National Television and at State Occasions. Ignas completed his Bachelor of Music at the Royal Academy of Music on full scholarship under Professor Joanna MacGregor. In September 2021 he commenced the Master of Arts Programme with Professor MacGregor, also on full scholarship. He is a recipient of the Julien Prize, the ABRSM Scholarship Award, the Imogen Cooper Music Trust Scholarship, Munster Trust Mark James Award and Robert Turnbull Piano Foundation Award. Ignas is an Artist of the Arts Global Foundation.He has attended masterclasses with Dmitri Bashkirov, Dame Imogen Cooper, Christopher Elton, Stephen Hough, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Marios Papadopoulos, Menahem Pressler, Geoffrey Simon, Tamás Ungár, Arie Vardi and Ilana Vered. As a recitalist he has appeared at Steinway Hall London, Vaidilos Theatre Vilnius, Kinross House Scotland and Charlottenborg Festival Hall Copenhagen.



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