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Claire and Antoinette Cann have been regular visitors to the pre-Christmas slot in the Royal Concert Hall's Sunday morning piano series for some years now, and they brought a typical stylistic mix. [5 December 2021, Nottingham, UK]
Variation 18 from Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini was a strange choice of opener. It was eloquently played, but such an obviously climactic piece would have been more effective later in the programme. They followed it with Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumble Bee, in their own take on Rachmaninov's solo piano transcription, deftly thrown off.
Brahms' Variations on the St Antoni Chorale brought some gravitas to the occasion, and there were some nice touches. No 5, the first of the two scherzo variations, was frisky, and they made a lilting siciliana of No 7. The theme, at the start, was a little on the sleepy side, and a tendency to slow down at the end of each variation sapped the overall momentum somewhat. Balance favoured the bass end at times, notably in the second variation, and the finale was a shade too quick for ideal clarity. Strangely, the spoken introduction told us about St Anthony, but said nothing about the tune's origins.
Johann Strauss II's The Blue Danube was another of their own transcriptions, which they claimed was based on a Tom and Jerry cartoon. I couldn't hear the connection myself; it was a perfectly straightforward account in an idiomatic Viennese waltz style.
Six dances from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker were, again, played in the pianists' own version. The Russian, Arabian, Chinese and Mirlitons' dances came off well, all neatly characterised. The March set off briskly and had to slow down a touch in the middle. The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy was also on the quick side, and threatened to turn into another march.
One problem with solo- and two-piano versions of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is, of course, that a piano simply can't replicate the celebrated clarinet smear at the start, and this set the tone for a performance that was just a little on the polite side, lacking some of the necessary crackle and fizz. At some points it was over-romanticised, and the work's sectional nature stood out more clearly than it needed to.
Jeffrey Reid Baker's A Composer's Christmas, re-casting well-known Christmas tunes in various composers' styles, is a collection the Cann Twins have dipped into on previous visits. On this occasion, the ghost of Erik Satie was let loose on 'The First Nowell', with whimsical, Gymnopédie-like results.
Copyright © 31 December 2021