The latest addition to the concert series organized by the Brno-based Ensemble Opera Diversa is a chamber recital by violinist Milan Paľa and pianist Katarína Paľová entitled “Repentance”. The program, which took place on Sunday 30 October at Villa Stiassni, presented works by composers Valentin Bibik and the recently deceased Roman Berger, whose Adagio No. 2 "Repentance" (Pokánie) inspired the title of the evening.
Although Berger's composition was originally first on the program, it was the one-movement Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2, Op. 111, by Ukrainian composer Valentin Bibik that opened the concert. The work begins with a fragile but inherently urgent dialogue between piano and violin – Milan Paľa purposefully accommodated this inner tension in his interpretation, not only in his work with dynamics and accents, but above all with subtle (and abrupt) contrasts in expression. This is a manner typical of Paľa's staging, and the structure of Bibek's sonata gave him more than ample opportunity to apply his characteristic interpretive language. This detailed – sometimes even eccentric – handling of the subtlest stirrings of specific musical phrases was literally and unabashedly breathless. The dramatic areas of gradation, in which Paľa whipped the violin to a physically crippling expressiveness, all with impeccable intonation, was a highlight of the work and the interpretation. No less impressive was the performance of pianist Katarína Paľa whose polished musical sensitivity formed not only an excellent backdrop to her husband's musical frenzy, but also excelled in her own escalations. In general, however, the piano part can be described as more delicate, and Paľová lived up to this with her sometimes ethereally tender playing. The emotional power of her interpretation was then most developed especially in the final reconciliatory movement of Bibik's sonata. Indeed, since both musicians present the work on a suitable level of virtuosity is evidenced by their 2021 release of the album “Valentin Bibik: Sonatas for Violin and Piano” through Pavlík Records. I recommend the album, which includes Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2, to all interested listeners.
I will not deny that I was not surprised by Roman Berger's Adagio No. 2 "Repentance" following Bibik's sonata. By contrast, Berger's piece begins (seemingly!) naively simple with relatively simple harmonies and more or less traditional tonal language. Appearances, though, (at least here) are undoubtedly deceptive. Not only are such pieces often much more challenging to interpret, since the musicians have to avoid the appearance of banality, but they also provide much more scope for accessing musical contrasts. Although there may have been relatively settled procedures on the score paper at the outset, the resulting music was still far from any kind of blandness or mundanity. The piano introduction by Katarína Paľová carried a deep anguish and a kind of light, barely graspable hope. At the moment when Paľa’s violin began, the entire piece took on a completely different connotation. Like Bibik's sonata, it too contained extremely heart-rending areas of violin incisions as well as inevitable and ever-increasingly intense piano strikes. Here again, the cathartic conclusion resulted in a submerged silence that only very reluctantly yielded to the nascent applause.
The autumn concert, directed by Ensemble Opera Diversa, lived up to all expectations. In good conscience, I cannot think of a single fault to the Sunday evening concert at Villa Stiassni. Perhaps only a slightly higher turnout would have made the Repentance concert more deserving.
Valentin Bibik: Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2, Op. 111 (1995)
Roman Berger: Adagio No. 2 "Repentance" for violin and piano (1988/1989)
violin by Milan Paľa
piano by Katarína Paľová
30 October 2022, 19:00