Posted by: viewfromtheriva | June 23, 2009

Classical piano, fabulous hall, and it’s free!

Croatia is well-known for its appreciation and love of the arts.  From close harmony Klapa singing to jazz, from street juggling to classical music, from traditional wooden boat builders to modern jewelry makers and more.

Here in Split, the jewel box theatre just up from the Riva is the venue for most of the classical concerts and its Foyer, a splendid mirrored Baroque hall that seats around 200 with soaring ceilings decorated with frescoes and gilt is a treasure.

Throughout the year there are free concerts in the evening featuring professional as well as promising amateur artists.  Marjan Duzel, a 19-year old classical pianist was in recitat tonight, June 23, playing an interesting program that ran from the modern Croatian composer S. Drakulic to Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 3, Op. 28.

With an early Beethoven (a Sonata, Op. 31), some Lizst, Bach and Chopin it was a wonderful evening of music.  It’s always a treat to hear someone play a Bosendorfer, a monster of a grand piano witht has such a big voice that it requires more than the usual skill to tame this beast.

Duzel played very well, but at just 19, lacked the color and emotion that a more mature artist brings to these pieces.  His encore, a mazurka, not sure by whom, was terrific however and showed his future passion.

Being here tonight with some Russian friends reminded me of just how important live classical music is to me and hopefully to a lot of others (most of the audience was under 25, a good sign!).

Having lived in Russia for almost a decade, with its astonishing array of virtuoso everything, I must admit that I am spoiled when it comes to hearing great music or seeing great dance or hearing great opera.  And don’t forget Chagall was Russian (and Kandisnky and oh well, you know what I am talking about).

When I was 20, in college in Boston, like many students, we’d make a beeline for Symphony Hall on Friday to make the matinee.  It was cheap and hearing the BSO and the soloists they brought in was magical–even if breathing was difficult from the balcony seats that were so high up that even the music took its time getting there.

It was there, sneaking into the first row after intermission, that I saw the great Svyatoslav Richter pounding on the Steinway and grunting with every chord as he blasted his way through the score.  Many years later, I was wowed by a 23 year old Yvgenny Kissim, the only Russian I ever saw with an Afro (not really, but his hair was so kinky, that it looked that way) whose hands moved so fast on the keyboard they literally were a blur.

So my standards are pretty high and mostly Russian (but the best violinist I ever heard was Ruggierio Ricci, go figure).

But Split artists, considering this is a tiny city of 200,000 in a tiny country of less than 5 million, continues to amaze me.

So far this year I’ve seen some spectacular ballet (Yury Vamos’ Romeo and Juliet, the subject of an earlier blog), animated film, this concert, and some Street Talks performances–and yet to come is the 56th annual Split Festival which begins in a few weeks and promises to be stellar.

Sure, Split has the sea, great food, a first place baseball team, a new mayor who apparently never went to high school but is a millionaire, Diocletian’s Palace and much more to mention in a blog.  But it also has a vibrant art scene that’s accessible, supported and high quality–and that is a VERY important reason why living here is such a joy.


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