Marialena Fernandes offers Viennese delights at her piano recital


Babagallore International Center celebrated a week of programs in honor of women on Women's Day. 'Connecting the Generations', a piano recital by Marialena Fernandes, was a wonderful collection of piano miniatures from Vienna. Not only were Marialena's talents on the keyboard greatly appreciated, but she also charmed off stage with her warm approachability and friendliness and genuine desire to connect.

It is important to connect with this Mumbai-born Goan. “I had a very good childhood. As most homes in our community always had a piano, music was an integral part of our lives. As was church, where we sang in the choir. Our house was a center in the neighborhood, open to all, where people of all religions came. It was the same in school too: we were eager to celebrate each other's festivals and where else could one celebrate such diversity?”

Marialena misses India so much that she has to visit India at least every second year. “I love the noise of the street, the amazing colorful clothes, the amazing food… I don't get all this anywhere else in the world. Yes, there are shortcomings, from the terrible political situation to pollution, broken sidewalks… but I am amazed when I see the smiles of ordinary people who have so little to be happy about. In the West, where people have much more than these people, you don't see such smiles and happy faces! I have come back for the warmth of the people.”

Her deep commitment to sharing her music leads her to conduct workshops in every city and reach out to young aspiring music students. “Practice, practice, practice, that's what I tell them. Don't be discouraged by failures like not winning the competition. They should encourage you not to surrender, but to persevere. But you have to have a vision, with concrete goals, not vague dreams.”

Her desire to reach out to them was manifested in her introductions to the pieces, which emphasized how much she wanted to share the music she was able to create, which she loved so much. It was this genuine warmth that added immediacy to his performance.

Not only did he choose pieces of appropriate length that would be easily understood by the audience, but the strong melodic music they contained greatly appealed to them. When pieces are unfamiliar, it is difficult for people to focus on them, and one's attention tends to get lost. But because the tunes had instant appeal, audiences were able to get into the music and stay with it. Marialena's own obvious enjoyment greatly enhanced this important factor in the performance.

The link between his chosen musicians was Vienna, now Marialena's home. Three composers – Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms – wrote works while living in the Austrian city, which was a vibrant musical centre. Rachmaninoff was a strange man, his only connection to Vienna being his great admiration of the Viennese spirit of Beethoven and Brahms.

Marialena talking to the audience.

Marialena talking to the audience.

Perhaps it is not so surprising that Beethoven abandoned his creative genius at the end of his career, writing the opus 126 Bagatelles. By the time many artists reach the essentials in their chosen fields in their maturity, they have limited their creativity to the essentials and have the courage to stay away from complexity to show the value of simplicity. Some bagatelles are therefore associated with his larger and more complex instrumental works, and are seen as modifications or truncated versions of some aspects of them.

Although they are short pieces, Marialena expresses the essence of Beethoven's musical language: his harmonic intricacies and melodic fretwork. His right hand was often so light that at times the voice became almost invisible. The left hand was suitably strong and the battle between the right and left strings in Beethoven's Fourth Bagatelle was given greater prominence with his forceful gestures.

Marialena played the audience Schubert's rarely performed 3 Piano Pieces D 946, which are obviously not better known, as they are just as brilliant as his famous Impromptus from before this opus. Written in the year he died, they are perhaps a farewell, filled with the pain of his life, sensitively and poignantly realized in his brilliant melodies. Delicately presented, Marialena brought out the beauty of the vocal line, but was also equal to the intense urgency of the staccato and driven triplets. Schubert's tragic personal life is so embedded in his music that listening to this fine rendition is a very moving experience.

The surprise of the program was Rachmaninoff's 3rd Prelude Op23, #s 4, 5 and 6, because no one associates the Russian composer with Vienna. Their inclusion was extremely welcome, as Marialena's mastery was evident in her execution. rich russian sound [following Tchaikovky’s example], is a brilliantly crafted romantic blend of sensual melody entirely rooted in classical structure. Rachmaninoff encouraged each performer to bring their personal experience to their compositions and Marialena did justice to his injunction in the stunning G minor Prelude, whose format encourages such personal involvement. She pounded out big splashy double octaves, but managed appropriately skimming passages lightly with the expected light mercurial touch.

Marialena concludes with 4 pieces from Brahms' Op. 119. Written in his last years, they demonstrate some of the experiments he himself permitted. Although they are miniatures, they are pieces of deep character, testing the artist's musicianship. For example, in the B minor Intermezzo, the strings are delicately plucked.

In a translucence, and Marialena's paddle control helped capture this delicacy. The E flat major Rhapsody has a more symphonic flavour, shifting from an exuberant major key to its minor counterpart, requiring quick changes by the pianist.

Not only was the singing admirable, showcasing Marialena's rhythmic beauty and superb keyboard artistry, her warm personality also added a special dimension, making it a memorable evening.

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