Reviewed by Pat O’Kelly, Irish Independent

“Now in its fourth season, the four-day New Ross Piano Festival, with Finghin Collins as Artistic Director, displays innovative planning both in content and artistic flexibility.

This year’s event, based in the acoustically excellent St Mary’s Church, brings together a coterie of Collins’ contemporaries, several of whom enjoy international reputations following prestigious competition awards.

My schedule embraces three of these, – Finland’s Antti Siirala (Dublin and Leeds 2003), South Korea’s Sunwook Kim (Leeds 2006) and Collins himself (Geneva (1999) – together with the Callino Quartet currently celebrating a decade of solidarity.

Siirala opens the evening with Skriabin’s diffuse Third Sonata where his wealth of tone suits the music’s bravura style that is steeped in channels of Russian romanticism.

While the Sonata’s wandering thematic development implies waywardness in its leavening processes, Siirala’s imaginative interpretation ensures interest is unfailingly maintained.

Dvorak’s more disciplined Piano Quintet is a delightful contrast. Kim’s major role has tremendous momentum. There is delicacy as well as drama amid splashes of Brahmsian grandeur. The Callino’s upper strings may broach harshness but Sunwook Kim shines through with iridescent vitality.

Finghin Collins’s own contribution is substantial. Gracefully propelled, Beethoven¹s short Op 90 Sonata moves with articulate clarity. Two of Liszt’s operatic paraphrases ­ Wagner’s Isolde Liebestod and a potpourri of Verdi’s Rigoletto themes ­ come in waves of pianistic virtuosity.

Bertrand Dubedout’s Indian influenced Vrishti, recently premiered by Collins in Paris, finds repeated notes and phrases rooted in sitar and tabla, although tintinnabulation has a persistent presence.

Tolling bells also permeate Schnittke¹s Piano Quintet. This angst-ridden threnody, occasionally grotesque and macabre, suggests demonic undercurrents although at times benevolent gestures are less sinister.

The intense Collins/Callino partnership conveys the Quintet¹s disturbing qualities with uncompromising, if eerie, candour.”

25 to 28 September 2014