Classical music aficionados defied all odds to attend the second edition of Steinway Piano Concert Series, which was headlined by a Swiss soprano singer and A-listers of the local classical music scene, reports Okechukwu Uwaezuoke
Any lingering uncertainty about a successful concert ought to have been dispelled by now. For at about 6:20 pm, the Steinwayâ€™s Victoria Island-based showroom can almost boast of having a full house. Yet, the pre-concert anxieties seem justified. After all, it is a well-known fact that rain-drenched days and events like this do not normally consort so well together. And this fact, a traffic-prone city like Lagos corroborates so well.
So it happens that Steinway Piano Concert Series stomps into its second edition on a sure-footed note. Could there have been a better entrÃ©e than Francesco Paolo Tostiâ€™s â€œLa Serenataâ€? Or, perhaps, a better time to flaunt the tenor Joseph Oparamanuikeâ€™s vocal talents? That Oparamanuike is at home with this Italian, later British, composerâ€™s work is obvious. Likewise, he leaves no one in doubt about his expertise when he subsequently takes â€œVainement, Ma Bien-aimÃ©eâ€ from Ã‰douard-Victoire-Antoine Laloâ€™s notable composition for the stage, Le Roi dâ€™Ys. For both performances, he is accompanied on the piano by one of the concertâ€™s headliners, Nigeriaâ€™s most talented pianists, Tunde Sosan.
A brief reminder about Oparamanuike: his renown as one of Nigeriaâ€™s most talented tenors easily endears him to concert habituÃ©s. Not any time soon would his formal training as a chemical engineer stand in the way of his lustrous musical career. Recall that this is a career he owes so much to. And that includes, among other things, seeing him perform before Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh during the 2014 Commonwealth Games as well as in several concerts, since 2012, in Germany, France, Italy, Austria, England, Scotland, China and Brazil.
As for Sosan, he is the MUSON Centreâ€™s resident pianist. As the story goes, he owes so much about his musical career to the influences of his grandmother Arinola Sosan and his church organist and master of music at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos, Mrs Tolu Obajimi. A graduate of physiotherapy at the Lagos University Teaching College of Medicine, he also holds a bachelor’s degree in music with a specialty in Piano and Organ performance of Trinity College of Music, Greenwich, England. He had in addition honed his skills under the tutelage of Raymond Banning, an ex professor of piano at the institution.
Back to the concert. A solemn note creeps into it with â€œPreghieraâ€ (Prayer) in the Style of Padre Martini by Fritz Kreisler. Because it is a composition for violin and piano, this is a tailor-made opportunity for a re-enactment of the on-stage chemistry between the violinist Uche Nwamara and his elder brother Chijioke on the piano.
Of course, years of joint performances â€“ which sometimes included their father, David Nwamara on the flute â€“had a lot to do with this chemistry. That both young talents took music lessons from Our Saviourâ€™s Anglican Churchâ€™s music director/organist Theophilus Orkang might also explain a lot. Yet, one must not discountenance their early inclination to music, which was nurtured by their father, who even as an engineer founded Orpheus Company Limited, the one-stop venue for musical instruments. Besides, both brothersâ€™ precocious predilection for music hints at pre-incarnation experiences.
As for Uche, not even the piano lessons taken at the age of six under Mrs Anna Ogunnaike could stop his switching over to the violin a year later. Thus, under the watchful eyes of Theophilus Orkang and Vania Sigridova, his budding musical skills blossomed. Chijioke, meanwhile, remained steadfast with piano and has since grown from strength to strength in the music world.
Tertiary education in the US might have seen the Nwamara duo temporarily part ways with Chijioke studying to become an economist and Uche later enrolling for a law degree from Harvard. Nonetheless, their taproots remained anchored in music.
This would explain Ucheâ€™s further tutelage under Zina Gendel at the Washington Conservatory, Washington, DC and the late Janet Packer at the Longy School of Music, Boston, Massachusetts as well as under Susie Meszaros of the Chillingrian String Quartet in London. Add to these his performance opportunities with groups like the Mount Vernon Symphony Orchestra and the Harvard Mozart Society Orchestra.
Besides his many performances back in Nigeria, he also doubles a classical music critic for THISDAY newspaper.
Back on the stage, the highly decorous audience watches Chijiokeâ€™s recital of Franz Schubertâ€™s familiar â€œImpromptu Op. 142 No. 2â€. Schubertâ€™s â€œImpromptusâ€, by the way, consist of eight pieces for solo piano. Composed in 1827, they were published in two sets of four. While the first two pieces in the first set were published in his lifetime as Op. 90, the second set was published posthumously as Op. 142 in 1839 with a dedication added by the publisher to the prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer and virtuosic pianist Franz Liszt.
It is soon the turn of the promising soprano Foluso Nwamara, who â€“ accompanied on the piano by Tunde Sosan â€“ is set to burnish her concert credentials with her solo rendition of George Frederic Handelâ€™s â€œRejoice Greatly, Oh Daughter of Zion!â€ (from his Messiah).
The audience gets a full taste of Tunde Sosanâ€™s musical skills, when he lunges into a solo recital of â€œWedding Day at Troldhaugenâ€ (from Lyric Pieces Op. 65) by Edvard Hagerup Grieg, a Norwegian leading Romantic era composer and pianist.
The wedding mood lingers into the next performance as the concertâ€™s main headliner, the Swiss-born soprano Teuta Nicolet, sings â€œDeh, Vieni Non Tardaâ€ from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozartâ€™s Le Nozze di Figaro. This, she follows up with â€œQuando Meâ€™n Voâ€ from Giacomo Pucciniâ€™s opera in four acts, La BohÃ¨me.
Uche Nwamaraâ€™s return for a haunting recital of â€œMitternachtsglocken” (Midnight Bells), Arr. for Violin and Piano from the Austrian composer of operas and operattas Richard Heuberger’s Der Opernball returns the audience briefly to enchanting world of the Romantic era with the accompaniment of Chijioke on the piano.
Joseph Oparamanuike follows up with â€œSi, Ritrovarlaâ€ from Gioachino Rossiniâ€™s operatic drama (dramma giocoso, literally: drama with jokes) La Cenerentola, which he prefaces with brief explanatory remarks. He is accompanied on the piano by Tunde Sosan, who stays back for a solo recital of Aldo LÃ³pez GavilÃ¡nâ€™s â€œPan con Timbaâ€. GavilÃ¡n is known for fusing the academic elements with the most popular rhythms without losing his essence: being Cuban.
Next follows Joseph Oparmauinkeâ€™s anticipated duet with Teuta Nicolet. From â€œLippen Schweigenâ€ taken from an operetta by the Austro-Hungarian composer Franz LehÃ¡râ€™s Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow), they move on to â€œSolla Tombaâ€ from La sonnambula, an opera semiseria in two acts, with music in the bel canto tradition by Vincenzo Bellini set to an Italian libretto by Felice Romani and first performed on March 6, 1831.
The concert, figuratively speaking, turns full cycle with Joseph Oparamauike concluding the evening performance with “My Way”,a song popularised by Frank Sinatra, but whose lyrics were written by Paul Anka and set to music based on the French song “Comme d’habitude” composed in 1967 by Claude FranÃ§ois and Jacques Revaux, with lyrics by Claude FranÃ§ois and Gilles Thibault.
By the way, Anka’s English lyrics are unrelated to the original French song, even when “My Way” is often quoted as the most covered song in history.
-This concert held on Saturday, May 30