If pressed, many audience members admit that encores are the most enjoyable part of a piano recital. After performing Beethoven's last three Sonatas, Myra Hess may have asked, 'what else can I play after such music?' but others have invariably followed scarcely less exalted programmes with longed for favourites or a mischievously unannounced bonne bouche. A Rubinstein recital without 'Nocturne by Chopin'(always opus 15 No 2 in F sharp) and Falla's Ritual Fire Dance (his arms flailing like a threshing machine much to his public's delight), a Moiseiwitsch concert without Palmgren's enchanting West Finnish Dance or Rachmaninov's vertiginous E minor Moment musical or, if you were lucky, the Mendelssohn-Rachmaninov Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo, or Gilels and his valedictory close with the Bach-Siloti B minor Prelude, would have been something of a let-down.



Following in a romantic and authentic tradition Mariam Batsashvili feels no less happy to tickle her audience's fancy, to delight them with this or that favourite or rarity, to send them home thoughtfully humming, smiling and light-footed. Opening with Chopin's 'Souvenir de Paganini' a set of variations dating from 1829 her warm-hearted cantabile tells you that Chopin is less concerned with Paganini's violin wizardry than with his love of opera, and of the bel canto tradition in particular. Based on a theme from Paganini's 'Carnaval de Venice (which is in turn based on the Neapolitan folk tune, 'O Mamma, Mamma Cara') his 'Souvenir' joins other genial alternatives to his more epic and large-scale masterpieces; his Sonatas, Ballades and Scherzi. The opening question blossoms into a truly operatic aria, richly yet delicately ornamented, floating above the left hand's swaying tonic-dominant bass line (a procedure later taken to a transcendental level in the Berceuse.)  The virtuosity is refined rather than flamboyant (Chopin is not Liszt) and there is a constant reminder of Chopin's advice to his students to sing... to above all sing. For him the piano should always create the illusion of being a vocal rather than percussive instrument. For Mariam Batsashvili the 'Souvenir hardly deserves its neglect and remains a touching reminder of her late teacher who hoped she would include it among her encores.



Rossini's 'Peches de viellesse, 'Sins of Old Age,' do not, surprisingly, continue his opera tradition. Surprisingly, because Rossini, the master of thirty-nine operas, abruptly left his favoured genre, one that provoked 'Rossini fever' and 'near hysteria,' to concentrate on the piano, a sudden change of direction that was compared by the poet Heine to Shakespeare's early decision to retire.  Composed of thirteen volumes the Peches de Viellesse' is a collection of one hundred and fifty vocal, chamber and solo piano works, and number 6 from volume 10 is a 'Petit caprice (Style Offenbach), brimming over with all of Rossini's wit and parody. A bon viveur, his works would not be complete without a reference to food; it was rumoured that the only time anyone saw Rossini weep was when he was overwhelmed by Paganini's playing but also when a stuffed turkey fell overboard during a picnic on a boat trip. Again, for Mariam Batsashvili No 6 is a golden opportunity to relax, have fun, and revel in so many mischievous and unexpected turns. 



With his Minuet in G or 'Menuet l'Antique' opus 14 Book 1 Ignacy Jan Paderewski, President of Poland, tireless nationalist and legendary concert pianist, found universal acclaim. Recorded by Rachmaninov, Josef Hoffman, Ignaz Friedman and Shura Cherkassky, his Minuet also became the property of reasonably gifted amateur pianists who could shine in its courtly charm as well in its flashes of not too demanding virtuosity. 


LIszt’s Six 'Paganini' Etudes date from 1851, a refinement of their earlier 1838 version. Liszt, part realist, part altruist, knew the value of making his music more accessible to possible pianists, though the etudes remain fiercely demanding. Dedicated to Clara Schumann, they can hardly have been warmly received as a gift from a composer she described as showing 'too much of the tinsel and the drum.' No 4, written on a single stave, imitates the violinist's 'sautille' bowing, lightly bouncing across the strings in fast sharply accented, articulated notes. 


Finally, and with solace for those daunted by Liszt's demands, there is the Minuet from Handel's G minor Suite, recreated by Wilhelm Kempff with all of his inimitable artistry. For Maria Batsashvili this is music that goes right to the heart, glowing in an unapologetically romantic light A recreation of a part of Handel's unjustifiably neglected keyboard Suites, such poetry reaches far beyond mere pastiche.


Bryce Morrison