Wednesday 8 May 2024 7:30pm

Ravel          Ma mère I’Oye (Mother Goose)

Stravinsky Petrushka

Fauré          Dolly suite. op 56

Holst            The Planets, op 32 (four movements)

Katya Apekisheva,well-known to Ilkley audiences, and Charles Owen are one of the most highly-acclaimed piano duos performing. Their collaboration, which began in 2001, arises from a shared teacher at the Royal College of Music who was an inspiration to them both. They are the founders and artistic directors of the London Piano Festival, held annually at Kings Place since 2016.

Their programme includes two classics of the piano duo repertoire, Fauré’s enchanting Dolly suite, written for his mistress’s daughter, and Ravel’s magical ‘five children’s pieces’ – Mother Goose – named for the children’s story book and dedicated to the Godebski children. Stravinsky’s piano duo score for Petrushka is the original source out of which the orchestral version of the ballet was created. In contrast, Holst’s Planets was adapted for piano duo: to celebrate Holst’s 150th birthday, we shall hear four of the movements to round off the season with a bang!

REVIEW BY Chris Skidmore

Two star pianists performing as one!

For the final concert of the Concert Club’s 77th season, a large audience gave a warm welcome last Wednesday to the piano duo of Katya Apekisheva and Charles Owen. Their programme comprised four well-known works from around the turn of the 20th century, bringing out interesting comparisons and hidden influences.

Ravel is known as a master orchestrator but his fairy-tale suite – Ma mère L’Oye [Mother Goose] – was written for piano duet and Katya and Charles gave a vivid and sparkling performance with wonderful singing legatos and astonishing percussive effects – the famous use of the celeste in the orchestral version brilliantly evoked here. Stravinsky’s piano duo score of his ballet Petrushka also preceded the more-often performed orchestral version and was contemporary with the Ravel. Again the performers brought forth all the familiar orchestral effects on the piano to magical effect – the bustle of the Shrovetide fair, the characteristics of the three puppets as they come to life, the tragic outcome and the final ghostly farewell! The playing was full of energy but combined with lyricism and careful attention to detail so that important phrases could emerge where necessary from the dense textures.

Fauré’s Dolly suite started the second half with its entrancing series of dances for the entertainment of a much-loved child – and the opening Berceuse part of so many British childhoods as the theme to Listen with Mother. This was followed by four movements of Holst’s suite The Planets in a piano version the composer helped to prepare. This was a tour de force of exceptional pianism, from the threateningly persistent rhythms of Mars, through the tranquillity of Venus, and the lively scherzo of Mercury, finishing with the noble expansive melody of Jupiter. Our players spared nothing to bring us a complete and beautifully nuanced realization of the score, pointing to intriguing comparisons with the Stravinsky!

It is fascinating to watch two performers, so clearly used to playing together, yet each with their own gifts to bring, combine them and almost choreograph them into a single performance. A wonderful end to a most successful season!