Music

Anush Hovhannisyan

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

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Keith Bruce, five stars

THE revolution-marking feast of Russian music to be savoured of late was crowned by this wonderful recital in Glasgow on Sunday morning. Primarily it was a showcase for Armenian soprano Anush Hovhannisyan, an alumnus of the Conservatoire currently sharing the role of Violetta with Gulnara Shafigullina in Scottish Opera’s revival of David McVicar’s production of La traviata.

A finalist at this year’s Cardiff Singer of the World, with Tim Dean at the piano she performed Prokofiev’s settings of Five Poems of Anna Akhmatova and then a carefully-sequenced selection of songs by Rimsky-Korsakov. The former are small, intimate dramas to which she brought a compelling intensity, with the fifth demonstrating her remarkable range, and the relaxed poise she brings to all of it, from top to bottom.

The earlier songs are clearly great favourites to judge by the animation she brought to their performance. The Lark Sings Louder, from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Opus 43 “In Spring” collection and the Pushkin-setting The Poet – a hymn to the value of vocation that clearly applies as pertinently to musicianship – were glorious, while the two Opus 56 songs are like operatic arias, with the narrative of Summer Night’s Dream a highly romantic conclusion.

Between her sets RSNO leader Maya Iwabuchi, BBC SSO principal cello Martin Storey and RCS head of keyboard studies Aaron Shorr gave a stunning performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No.2, a work that fully exploits the sonic possibilities of the instruments in a beautifully structured and always musically compelling way.

Beginning with cello harmonics and muted fiddle, the pulse is passed around and pace builds to the second movement Allegro con brio, which was as spirited as you could wish in these hands. The yearning legato lines of the Largo, accompanied by simple piano chords, are followed by playful pizzicato dance rhythms and repeating piano figures in the finale in what is a huge, demanding work.

Altogether an hour of world-class music-making that all who heard it will remember for a long time.