Beatrice Rana chose three works that traversed a century of developing virtuosity, including the piano as illustrator and all-encompassing of the orchestra, prefaced by Studies of visionary beauty: technical challenges elevated to unparalleled depth and feeling.
There is nothing showy or exaggerated in Rana’s playing, no self-aggrandising gestures or didactic manner to distract from a lightly-worn brilliance, to which refinement and intensity of focus are added. If, to misquote Donald Tusk, you had ever wondered about the special place in Heaven, then it is Beatrice Rana compelling with a sensitive touch and inner strength that defies description.
Her Opus 25 Chopin Études were a wonderful lesson in polished restraint. Understated and subtle they developed from dreamy, translucent textures – semiquavers in the First swirling around like confetti. This wasn’t just about flawless technique, nor was it the devastating accuracy of swarms of ascending octaves, thirds and sixths, or her channelling an inner voice, but more the infinitesimal calibration of tone from one second to the next – colour and weight judged to perfection. And then there’s her singing line, effortlessly shaped in the Seventh Study, in which beauty and melancholy were exquisitely entwined.
Miroirs, Ravel’s paintings in sound from 1905, was further proof of Rana’s facility and filigree virtuosity.The fleeting world of moths in ‘Noctuelles’ was deftly imagined with a flickering intensity allied to gossamer playing. Likewise, the elusive sonorities of ‘Oiseaux tristes’ drew on Rana’s limitless supply of nuance. ‘Une barque sur l'océan’ might have been a little more storm-tossed, its ebb and flow contained, with nothing to alarm coastguards. Bypassing the Bay of Biscay we arrived in Spain for ‘Alborada del gracioso’, colours glittering, rhythms dancing, and then on to ‘La vallée des cloches’, its remoteness superbly concentrated.
Then she unleashed her big guns for an eye-popping account of transcriptions from The Firebird. She hurled herself at ‘Infernal Dance’, as if one of the untamed beasts in Kashchei’s kingdom. The ‘Berceuse’ was no less keenly imagined, while the ‘Finale’ dazzled, its titanic chords creating a momentous close.
She gave two encores, both from Chopin’s Twenty-Four Preludes, Opus 28: the F-sharp (XIII) and the B-flat minor (XVI), both imbued with precision, control and wonderful musicianship.