Ignas Maknickas – finds a home in an artistic oasis between the Gherkin and the Shard

Ignas Maknickas at the Hattori Foundation 1901 Arts Club.
Chopin 2 Nocturnes op 27 and Schubert’s last sonata filled this intimate salon space with an hour of sublime music.

It is the second time this month that I have heard Ignas’s performance of Schubert and even in such short a time it has grown in assurance and stature.
Last time he very courageously paired it with the Schumann Fantasie.It is no coincidence that the Schubert was dedicated to Schumann by the publisher,Diabelli,as recognition of the admiration that Schumann had publicly declared for a composer whose works were greatly neglected after his early death.
Today Ignas shared it with the most beautiful pair of Chopin Nocturnes.Those in C sharp minor and D flat op 27 .A form that was inspired by John Field but the content was decidedly influenced by bel canto.

It was just this continuous outpouring of song that linked Chopin to Schubert and was especially noticeable today in Ignas’s eloquent hands.
The 1901 Arts Club started life as part of the next door school and when that closed became offices and later still part of London Underground operations where the Jubilee line was masterminded.
Thanks to the Hattori Foundation it has now been transformed into an exquisite intimate venue for chamber music and good conversation.
It was obviously an inspiration for our young pianist today.
The artistry of this young musician I have described many times but today this intimate atmosphere created a particular magic of its own,
A good but stubborn Steinway B piano that Ignas transformed into an instrument that could sing and dance under his slender agile fingers.
The hardest thing for a pianist is not playing loud and fast but to be able to play pianissimo and fast.
It requires a transcendental technique and a superbly regulated piano.It is infact not the transcendental eruptions that are a problem so much as the little menacing trill deep in the bass.It must reverberate in pianissimo and unwind without any slowing or smudging,It needs a virtuoso technique of Richter proportions but above all a piano perfectly regulated.It may be a detail but like the menacing four note motive in Beethoven’s Appassionata it is of fundamental importance.
Just as the rude interruptions of G in the final rondo,every time it returns it has to be with a different intensity and meaning.

Ignas with his natural musicality managed to persuade us that this was a perfectly regulated piano but not without some difficulty.
He transformed the opening of the sonata ‘molto moderato’ into a architectural whole by establishing the tempo from the bucolic dance like section that follows the long opening outpouring.The sublime mellifluous streams of song that were unstoppable for a poet destined to have all too short a time left on this earth.
It is what gave such strength to his performance where he allowed Schubert’s sublime streams of song to speak so simply without any underlining or eccentricity.
The Andante unfolded in an natural way that was all the more poignant allowing Schubert the last word.
Of course the heart of this last Sonata in the ‘Andante sostenutio’ slow movement miraculously written with many other masterpieces in the last months of his life.
It was played with a delicacy and ravishing sense of balance,the delicately embellished return ever more poignantly unfolded.
The nobility of the central chorale of almost Brahmsian proportions was played with disarming simplicity and of orchestral colour that made the contrast so moving knowing that just a few months later Schubert would breathe his last breath .

A scherzo all lightness -‘ con delicatezza’- but with the foreboding in the trio ever present.
Ignas played it with a refreshing youthful ‘ joie de vivre ‘ but the ‘spook in the night ‘left hand accents of the Trio are more a bow digging deeper that suddenly a blast from a brass band !
The last movement with its rude interruption was given an ebullient life,the one that was to be denied so imminently to the composer.
The great declamatory outbursts were played with rhythmic drive and fiery youthful passion but always within the overall structural sound of the whole performance.
It demonstrated Ignas’s natural musicianship that I had admired so much s few weeks ago in Perivale.
No encores were offered and certainly were not needed after such a poignant offering of poetic significance.

The genial general manager Glenn Kesby
How could we resist his invitation to the dance upstairs

We all adjourned to the upstairs salon to join in convivial conversation with the artist and all those that had been lucky enough to be present at this artistic seance .
An evening all too rare to find in a great metropolis that seems to have no time to stop, stare and dream as we were allowed to do tonight .

The two Chopin nocturnes that opened the concert were a continuous outpouring of bel canto over a gently moving bass accompaniment.
If the first started in a mysterious haze of sound bursting unexpectedly into dance.The second in D flat was one of Chopin’s most beautiful melodic inventions.
Time stood still as it did on so many memorable occasion with Artur Rubinstein just a stone’s throw from this jewel of 1901 Arts Club.
Dwarfed by the Shard and the Gherkin but only in size.

It is quality not quantity that replenishes the soul as was so obvious to us all tonight !


The Green Room in this charming 1901 house in the heart of London


Upstairs downstairs life from the concert salon to the Green room and living salon
Ignas making the most of the last day of Carnaval


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