Lunchtime concerts in London churches take place virtually every day, with programmes that are, of necessity, short but which occasionally feature music not otherwise encountered. It is easy to overlook such recitals, but occasionally one encounters a programme whereby one’s interest is aroused.
On this occasion, it was rather more than the content that will remain in the memory, for Rebeca Omordia, of Romanian-Nigerian parentage, showed herself to be a quite remarkably gifted pianist, playing from memory and delivering performances that were outstanding in every regard.
The two items from the First Book of Debussy’s Images at once declared Omordia to be a brilliant and sensitive player, the technical difficulties of the pieces holding no terrors for her, and in which her refined and subtle playing were a constant joy, easeful and quite enchanting.
Her account of John Ireland’s large-scale and very difficult Piano Sonata was simply astonishingly good (interesting to hear it after the Debussy, where its occasional Impressionistic colourations suited the mood established by the French composer). Hearing this account made one realise that the work is very probably Ireland’s masterpiece – and not only in his piano output. Omordia’s command of the Sonata’s structure was complete, and her control of the many myriad changes of richly imaginative mood – from moments of rapt ecstasy in the slow movement, to those of commanding power in the first and last – was completely compelling.
To follow this with Prokofiev’s Third Piano Sonata (the shortest of his nine) was another remarkable achievement, showing much care for detail and just the right amount of strength in a work notable for its barely-concealed energy and deep originality. This equally impressive performance was followed by five short pieces by a (we must assume) African composer that are attractive, rather epigrammatic and made an immediate effect, a compelling mixture of technical challenges, memorable ideas and clever compositional working, none of which outstayed their welcome. Omordia clearly enjoyed imparting their essence to the audience. This was a wonderful recital. I would go a long way to hear this exceptional pianist again.