REVIEW: Chamber duo “AnAntonio” – refined aesthetics of piano play

The art of playing two pianos, in the sphere of chamber music, in a way is recognised as a more complex skill compared to the playing in other chamber formations. The percussive nature of the piano makes each tone to be produced with a precise strike, and in the case of duo piano, if the impulses don’t sound simultaneous, the sound discrepancy is notable and disrupts the performance, no matter how good it is. In that sense, a full-of-content, but also a good concert for duo piano is a real pleasure for the piano art lovers. The literature for such ensembles starts to evolve during Bach’s time, transfers in the classicism in Mozart, and becomes a significant part of the works of composers from Romanticism and are an imperative in the contemporary music of the twentieth and twenty-first century.

The second Festival evening of Ohrid Summer Festival 2022, after the brilliant concert at the gala opening ceremony, with the chamber duo piano concert showed us exactly that kind of refined aesthetics of piano play. The artistic pair Ana Josimovska Cagnazzo and Antonio Cagnazzo, as a chamber duo have existed since 2005 in Slovenia, and has performed in many European centres with solo, four-hand and duo piano programmes. The appearance of these sophisticated artists at this Ohrid Summer Festival is a continuation of the tradition to regularly attend piano duo ensembles in the St Sophia church. With due respect towards the others, we will point out the duo Ljupka Haadzi-Georgieva and Evgeni Koroliov, who became favourites of the Ohrid audience in the seventies of the last century with their outstanding performances.

The concert of the chamber duo named “AnAntonio” was a presentation of a wide, classical repertoire for duo piano. The two Suites composed in the same historical moment, around the 1900, by two powerful creative figures, Anton Arensky, often marginalised because of the opinion that his style lacks originality, and Sergey Rachmaninoff, whose greatness needn’t be clarified, will be marked as an excellent repertoire choice for waking the rich aesthetics of the late Russian Romanticism. Ana and Antonio Cagnazzo in the two powerful compositions showed that they possess a firmly defined and coherent piano technique and a subtly organized dynamic concept. These Suites are ranges of Romanticism harmony solutions, articulated in a complex piano technique, which the duo spirited pianists with imaginative interpretation performed under the arches of the Church with the appropriate moods and personality. In Arsensky, that was the brave harmonies in the Prelude, a simple melody contributed by brilliant passages in the Romance, a magical dreaming in La Rêve and a subtle virtuosity in the Finale. What can be said for the Second suite by Rachmaninoff… That storm of imagination fully organically connected to the Second piano concert in the best majestic way reflects the genius creativity which haunted his soul at the beginning of the last century. With a dose of technical dominance at the side of the lady, we will underline that the “AnAntonio” duo, meticulously reading the notes, wins and interprets all hidden messages in the multi-layered world of Rachmaninoff. We can point out the brilliant Waltz where the pianists showed equal and refined virtuosity. The sound image in all Suite characters gave us the impression that we have met outstandingly talented, but also especially prepared musicians.

The two-piano variations by Johannes Brahms, at the unforgettable solemn theme by Joseph Haydn were one confirmation more to this conclusion. Ana and Antonio, with visible pleasure played the different variations, showing their richness in piano techniques and dramatic dynamics making Brahms great in the art of piano. The resounding accords connected in deep polyphonic factures typical for Brahms could be heard in a excellently compliant rhythmic pulsation, so the two pianos could be heard as a single instrument.

The Sonatina in C for two pianos by the Macedonian composer Tomislav Zografski, as a sparkle of its kind, was performed by the artists in a single breath. It is a piece fully reflecting the creative character of one of the most significant Macedonian composers of the 20th century. The piece was created back in 1955 in the early period of his work, and much later, in his last period, in 1999 the author partially revises it, so today artists play the upgraded version. Ana and Antonio simply enjoyed playing the Sonatina and with visible ease and charm reminded us on the scherzo and sharpness of Zofrafski’s works.

The joint creative life of Ana and Antonio Cagnazzo, through a valuable and devoted music-making, has obviously made a strong connection which initiates an excellent music creation. The audience at the St Sophia had the opportunity to experience that. With such concert Ohrid Summer Festival, as always, shows the way chamber music should lead.

Vikica Kostoska Peneva – musicologist