Celebrated international pianist Ivan Ilić develops his relationship with audiences across Wales with a new tour which features the work of renowned Welsh composer John Metcalf.
The charismatic artist can be seen at Rhosygilwen (October 9th); St David’s Hall, Cardiff (October 13th); The Ffwrnes, Llanelli (October 20th); Ucheldre Centre, Holyhead (October 30th); Neuadd Dyfi, Aberdovey (November 1st).
The Serbian-American pianist, educated in the Unites States and based in France since 2001, is a champion of the works of Welsh composer John Metcalf whose 2014 opera based on Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood was widely praised by critics and audiences alike. Ivan’s concert programme includes the first public performances of a new Metcalf work, entitled Chant (2015).
Their association began in 2007 with Ivan’s first Welsh tour which included John Metcalf’s little known Endless Song. “Endless Song was written in 1999 and had not been extensively performed,” said Ivan. “I received the score and ended up playing it at all the 2007 tour dates, not just in Wales, or even the UK, but also California, France and Ireland. I must have played it more than 60 times in the end. It is a powerful piece: simple but well crafted.”
A year later Ivan and John’s paths crossed again when the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama commissioned Metcalf to write a new piece, to be played by Ivan, entitled Appassionata (2008). But over the years Ivan has remained frustrated that there are so few piano compositions by Metcalf for him to perform.
Late last year John was commissioned to write a piece to mark the retirement of Nantwich NHS worker Marie McKavanagh, and that’s how Chant came about. While he wrote it with Ivan in mind, it is inspired by a Welsh folk song, “Watching the White Wheat”. He took a few bars from the song and interpolated it into what became Chant. When Chant was delivered to him in February, Ivan couldn’t have been happier.
“I was delighted because I love Endless Song and regretted that John hadn’t composed more piano music. I wanted more! It was very frustrating, so my first emotion when reading the score for Chant was relief that more was coming out. It was also clear to me that John can continue to write more piano music. Endless Song was not a fluke; he can do this again and again. John has a skill for piano composition and can do it any time he wants.
“John is one of those composers who writes at the piano and has a real physical connection to the instrument. His pieces are natural and enjoyable to play, not abstract. This is relatively unusual, the tactile element.”
As well as Metcalf, Ivan’s repertoire on the forthcoming tour will also include some of Anton Reicha’s 36 Fugues. Reicha was a contemporary of Beethoven, but their work is so different that Ivan enjoys demonstrating the contrast. Also on the agenda will be Alexander Scriabin, who died 100 years ago and whose 24 Preludes Ivan will be performing, as well as pieces by Beethoven and Chopin.
October also sees the release of Ivan Ilić’s new recording of For Bunita Marcus (1985), the culmination of 3 years of immersive research into Morton Feldman‘s life and work. Ilić’s luminous sound and elegant, supple phrasing allow the music to unfold organically. He leads a new generation of Feldman champions who will carry the music into the 21st century.
Rhosygilwen (October 9th); St David’s Hall, Cardiff (October 13th); The Ffwrnes, Llanelli (October 20th); Ucheldre Centre, Holyhead (October 30th); Neuadd Dyfi, Aberdovey (November 1st).