Review of Vlasta Gyura Concert
Cabrillo College, April 24, 2004
The vivacious Vlasta Gyura, a youngish Croatian pianiste, had performed at the home of Distinguished Artists director John Orlando a few weeks before her appearance on Saturday, April 24, at the Cabrillo College theater. Her recital was the latest in the ongoing series of benefit concerts for the Carole Holdaway fund, the purpose of which is to buy a new grand piano for the soon-to-be-constructed Cabrillo Performing Arts Center. Once again, Vlasta did not disappoint. Indeed, with her stunning combination of physical appeal and passionate musicality, she easily conquered the large audience.
Her program was ranged widely within the 60-year period of 1781-1839. It included both the classicism of Mozart and the romanticism of Liszt and Chopin, with the transitional protean figure of Beethoven as well. This sequence included two jokes (one of them an unintended program-note glitch),
some walks and marches, along with several songs without words (though not by Mendelssohn) in slow movements, all of them performed with tremendous feeling of the sort that won Vlasta the First Prize in the 1991 Roma International Competition.
The evening started off with a hilarious “mistake” on account of Orlando’s having forgotten to cross out the Mozart Sonata K. 330 in C Major. Instead we heard the Beethoven “Pathetique” (1798), which began stiffly under Vlastašs cold fingers, then progressed with assurance. When most of the
audience applauded wildly after the first movement, it was not in ignorance but in enthusiasm. Just listen to the recent genuine appreciation.
Beethovenšs “Rage over a Lost Penny” from 1795 is a hilarious early work of program music, where a young stroller in Vienna struts out cockily, then realizes he has lost his “Grosschen” – as in the 20th century Weill’s “Dri Grosschen Oper” and must look for it, going from despair and self pity as he
retraces his steps, to triumph, on finding the coin. These emotions were well conveyed.
Lisztšs “Venezia e Napoli,” from his “Years of Pilgrimage,” dates from 1838, when the noble composer returned to Vienna to give big benefits for victims of the Danube flood. Vlasta spun out the “Gondoliera,” a work that might have been one of Mendelssohn’s boat songs, except for the ornamentation; and the “Tarantella” was a wildly headstrong spider-bite dance.
After intermission came the Chopin “Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise in E Flat,” Op. 22, from 1834. This was followed by the great “Sonata Op. 35 in B Flat Minor” (1838), the famous “Funeral March” work. The march (third movement) was especially well played, as was the presto finale.
In the past, various critics have compared this brief coda to “wind whispering among gravestones” or “only two hands gossiping.” But I like as much its recent characterization by writer Josef Sekon in the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian as “a huge swarm of bees flying almost silently at high speed.”
In addition to the passionate, if sometimes inaccurate, keyboard forays of Vlasta, the audience was treated to her stunning appearance, perhaps a reminder of the enthusiasm of the Italian jury of the early 1990’s. Stunning in a matte black gown with sequins, she also displayed stiletto heels at the pedals. And her silhouette was unintentionally thrown up, as if by a magic lantern, on the acoustic screen behind her, which added to the drama.
Also unintended but remarkable were a couple of motifs: walks/marches and melodic songs. Here are some of the worthy tunes from this recital that beg for lyrics and a golden voice: the “Andante Cantabile” from Beethoven’s “Pathetique,” which I have never heard better; the “Canzona” from Liszt’s
“Venezia & Napoli,” and, yes, the soaring middle section of the Chopin “Funeral March,” which Vlasta sang out divinely. Ditto the “Andante Spianato” of Chopin, fit for a wordsmith as well as a voice. Singers and composers of lyrics – where are you now? We need you for such melodic fare.
Then there was the other side, the foot-stomping march music that is not fit for words, simply because it is too fast to be sung. The third movement of the “Pathetique” is a fast walk, but nothing like the cocky strutting of the ending of the “Rage over the Lost Penny.” Liszt’s “Tarantella” is no cakewalk,
but a frenzied Neapolitan “out with the spider bite.” Chopinšs “Grand Polonaise” after the Andante starts off like his “Military” one, and also has echoes of his “Heroic.” His “Funeral March,” as played here, was slow, somber, and dignified, without the heavy-handedness of a Rachmaninoff, as in his
And the surprise encore, tossed off perfectly, was a return to the unplayed but programmed Mozart of the unbeginning, in his famous “Turkish March” which concludes the Sonata in A Major, K 300, from 1781-83. Here, we had a military band of Turks, right outside the walls of Vienna, as they had
threatened the city many years ago. You can look up this date on the Internet if you wish. For myself, I am computer illiterate, so will instead look forward to the next recital in these parts by Vlasta Gyura.
VLASTA GYURA was born in Croatia and was educated at: The Novi Sad University, Yugoslavia (Professor Arbo Waldmann and prof Rita Kinka), The Zagreb Academy of Music, Croatia (Professor Vladimir Krpan), and the famous "Mozarteum" Hochschulle fur Musik in Salzburg, Austria (Professor Peter Lang). She has studied in advanced Master Workshops all over Europe.
Since 1987, she has performed with great success in concerts throughout Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Italy, Romania, Macedonia, Belgium, Hungary and France, with repertoire of all music periods from Bach to contemporary music.
She was awarded First prize in "Roma International competition", Rome, Italy in 1991 Honored for outstanding achievement as "Best Artist Performer in Croatia" by Zagreb Society of Artists, Zagreb, Croatia in1994
Since 1998, she has played in Salzburg, the acknowledged empire of the solo and chamber music in Europe, as exclusive musician of the agency "Mirabell Schlosskonzerte". During this time, she has performed with numerous famous names as Igor Oistrakh, Luz Leskowitz, Eugen Rosseau. She is awarded the celebrated "Permanent Guest" of the "Salzburg Soloists".
She travels regularly to Europe performing on concert tours, and she is the founder and Artistic Director of the annual "Vukovar Music Festival", Croatia which completed its third season in July 2001.
Besides her intensive concert activities, Vlasta Gyura is permanently engaged by the Music Academy at the University of Zagreb as member of Piano Faculty.
J. S. Bach: Italian concerto, Toccata in D Major, Partita B Flat Major, Suite A minor, Goldberg Variations
W. A. Mozart: 19 Sonatas(in full),Fantasy C minor, Variations
L. van Beethoven: Sonatas op. 13, op. 14 no 1 and 2,op. 26, op. 31 no. 2,op. 106, op. 109, op. 110
F. Schubert: Wanderer-Fantasie, Sonata A Major, 4 impromptus
R. Schumann: Kinderszennen, Carnaval op. 9, Fantasia C Major, a-b-e-g Variations
F. Chopin: 4 Balllades, Polonaise op. 53, Waltzes, 4 Scherzos, Sonata op. 35, Nocturnes, Barcarolle op.60, Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise
F. Liszt: Sonata BFlat Minor, Hungarian Rapsodies, Etudes de concert, Venezia e Napoli, Spanish Rapsodie, Mephisto-Valtz, Valee d'Obermann, "Rigoletto" Parafrase
S. Rachmaninov: Moments musicaux, Polka, Liebesleid, Liebesfreude, Vocalise
A. Scriabine: Sonata-Fantasia no. 2, Fantasia
C. Debussy: L'Isle joyeuse, Estampes, Suite Bergamasque
M. Ravel: La Valse, Pavana, Sonatina
I. Stravinski: Suite "Petroushka"
S. Prokofjev: Sonata no. 3
A. Webern: Variationen op. 27
G. Ligeti: Etudes
I. Albeniz: Triana,Granada, Cordoba
J. S. Bach: Concerto for two pianos C Minor, Concerto F Minor
W. A. Mozart: Concertos K.V.271, 413, 414, 415, 466, 467, 595
L. van Beethoven: Concertos no. 4, 5
J. Haydn: Concerto D Major
F. Chopin: Concerto no. 1,no.2
F. Liszt: Concerto no 1,E Flat Major
E. Grieg: Concerto A Minor
S. Rachmaninov: Paganini-Variations
C. Saint-Seans: Concerto G Minor
P. I. Tchaikovski: Concerto no.1, B Flat Minor
"... With rare sensibility and imagination, V. Gjura has awakened Mozart's piano pieces to new life. Accurate in her rendering, adept at phrasing and the use of agogical liberties, displaying a high level of tone control and a careful attention to detail, faithful to the spirit of the period in her treatment of dynamic amplitudes, Vlasta Gyura has realized a natural and profoundly musical interpretation of Mozart's works.
Vecernji List daily, 1996
"… Performing Bach, Mozart, Debussy, Chopin and Stravinski with consummate ease, the young artist has displayed excellent concentration and maturity and a beautiful, carrying tone. Particularly impressive was the performance of the 3rd movement of Starvinski's "Petrushka," which ranks this recital among memorable musical achievements.
Dubrovacki List daily, 1997
"Vlasta Gyura's studied and absorbing exploration of the world of music is reflected in the unconventionality of the programme. Her playing is pure, simple, immediate and stylistically defined... The culmination of the performance was the superb rendering of "Petrushka" - confident, convincing and joyful, a wondrous mingling of simple melodies, luxurious harmonies and enticingly pregnant rhythms. V. Gyura selflessly gives of her vision of the work of the Russian master she has long nurtured within herself."
Slobodna Dalmacija daily, 1999
"... I really think that her interpretation of the Goldberg Variations was a very remarkable achievement... especially the rendering of Variations 13, 15, and 25 was breathtakingly sincere and touching. I could feel in her performances that she is not worried about producing an "effect" ... This is for me the most important element inherent to all artistic truth and achievement."
Claus-Christian Schuster (Altenberg Trio)
"... This young artist has performed the Goldberg Variations by J.S. Bach with surprising maturity, displaying in her interpretation not only the required technique but also a wonderful dynamic plasticity... Departing, for the most part, from the abrupt Baroque dynamics dictated by the structural limitations of the harpsichord, she interpreted the thematic line in a truly modern spirit...Once again: congratulations!"
Vjesnik daily, 1994
"Daring to perform such as substantial work as the Goldberg Variations by J.S. Bach, Vlasta Gjura took upon herself a Herculean task. The pianist's spiritual discipline, her ability to interpret the capital pages of piano literature in a focused and deeply poetic way, bespeaks a remarkable musician."
Vecernji List daily, 1994
"... The Fantasy in C minor, K.C. 475, was rendered with remarkable ease. V. Gyura has revealed herself as a virtuoso of renown, worthy to be counted among the world's leading pianists. She showed extensive knowledge, perfect technique and a superb power of interpretation."
Glas Istre daily, 1995
"Vlasta Gjura has shaped a delicate, airy Mozart... With crystalline ease, she created a musical world of surpassing beauty ... elegance in the performance of the melodic line, controlled contrasts, brilliant passages ... all was permeated with warmth and musical sensitivity... With their clear architecture, ease and loveliness, the fast movements magically brought back the world of sunny, spacious withdrawing rooms of Mozart's time."
Karlovacki Tjednik weekly, 1995
"Vlasta Gyura's recital took place two days after Jorg Demus' performance, thus providing an opportunity to compare these two adventurers of musical interpretation. Staying closer to the accepted idea of what late 18th century music sounded like, V. Gjura proved the less adventurous of the two... Gyura's concentrated, technically sound and musically sensitive interpretation of Mozart's Fantasy, Variations on a Theme by Gluck and the B Flat Minor Sonata (K.V. 333 and 570, respectively) has shown that these pieces, usually reserved for teaching purposes, can feature as the piece de rÃŠsistance without fear of monotony...”
Salzburger Nachricht, daily 1998