Fiammetta Tarli, Ivo Varbanov & Friends at Kings Place – Brahms Waltzes and Sonatas – and the Launch of ICSM Records

Sixteen Waltzes, Op.39
Sonata No.2 in A for Violin and Piano, Op.100
Liebeslieder-Walzer, Op.52
Sonata No.2 in F for Cello and Piano, Op.99

Fiammetta Tarli & Ivo Varbanov (piano) with Ofer Falk (violin) and Jozef Luptak (cello)

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 21 May, 2014
Venue: Hall One, Kings Place, London

Fiammetta Tarli & Ivo Varbanov. Photograph: Vanity Studios This Kings Place evening was a triple event. Overarching it was the launch of a new recording enterprise, ICSM (Independent Creative Sound and Music), the husband-and-wife team of Fiammetta Tarli and Ivo Varbanov being its “Co-artistic Directors and Visionaries”. The other offering was a chance to sample some of Varbanov’s own-label (IVO) wine from his native Bulgaria. My own (limited!) experience of Dionysus’s gift to us mere mortals tells me that it really is good stuff. The Chardonnay was not over-oaked, and the Mavrud & Syrah balanced its elegance with robustness, making it very quaffable during the post-concert tasting. My editor much enjoyed the Rosé!

The recital? Well, Brahms’s Sixteen Waltzes and Love-Song Waltzes are delightful (both sets were here for piano/four hands and they also comprise one of the first releases on the ICSM label – to be reviewed in due course), hearing them in one sitting was not ideal; lovely music certainly but each collection has too many sections (49 in total). They were nicely played though with a notable rapport between Tarli and Varbanov.

Between these two opuses, it was instructive to hear the A major Violin Sonata in a clear acoustic and given with an intimate feel. The piano part was delivered expressively by Tarli, attuned to support and spontaneity, and if Ofer Falk overdid vibrato and some of his notes were off-centre, he was affecting in the work’s intimate corners.

The F major Cello Sonata found its exponents (Varbanov now at the piano) highlighting some of the youthful qualities that this cousin of the Fourth Symphony (same key, the Sonata written a year later) has beneath its surface. The piano-playing was strong in itself as well as sympathetic if a little smudged at times, while Jozef Luptak gave a burly account, always communicative, if like Falk prone to occasional lapses, but the two players forged a good relationship and a beating pulse and vibrant lyricism were maintained throughout.

Music-making amongst friends has many rewards: here the exponents were equals and this respected the ‘duo’ nature of the Sonatas as well as the domesticity of those sweet, lively and touching Waltzes.

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