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Viviana Sofronitsky plays Five Paul McNulty Fortepianos

Wigmore Hall, London 26 July 2011





Daughter of legendary Russian pianist Vladimir Sofronitsky, Viviana became captivated by early pianos early in her career, and on Tuesday she gave an astonishing multi-piano debut recital at Wigmore Hall, which was received with boundless enthusiasm.

Images of the pianos are from the McNulty website and from Spain, because the Wigmore Hall staff was officiously (and pointlessly?) preventing photos of the astonishing and unique sight of the five instruments crowded so uncomfortably onto the small platform...

[- - every inch of the stage was crammed with winged fortepianos. Fighting her way through them was the glamorous Viviana Sofronitsky, clad for the first half like an exotic moth, and for the second like a dazzling opium poppy - - Michael Church].

Pianists usually like to have a quiet "warm up" period before embarking on a recital; Viviana Sofronitsky hurled herself into music from a delicious CPE Bach sonata on the Stein copy to Liszt's Biosselot at the other extreme. The five McNulty copies could not be more different from each other; managing to play each of them with taste and real virtuosity was a feat in itself.

She exploited all the individual tone qualities built into each piano, e.g. the various pedal effects built into the Graf; moderator, double moderator, sustaining and una corda demonstrated in a riveting interpretation of the big Schubert Impromptu - really a quite extended set of variations, given with generous rubato and freedom.

The small tone of the Stein had carried well in Wigmore Hall (probably probably it has some frequencies which carry even better then a modern grand, suggested Viviana Sofronitsky) and the latest of the McNulty stable, a newly completed copy of Liszt's favourite Biosselot 1846, commissioned by Klassik Stiftung Weimar, could thunder away in Funerailles fit to challenge, the Hall's regular Steinway.

For a very personal encore sequence, Viviana Sofronitsky gave us a musical pot-pourri, moving from one instrument to another to remind us of what they could do.

Never more should those of us there be likely to accept "having been brainwashed into taking for granted that pianos should always be black and made by Steinway" [Andras Schiff].

The only other review seen of this exceptional event has come from a journalist who prefers Steinways. It was noticeable that the regular reviewers' seats (side groups left and right at the back) were empty...

I am attaching below the comprehensive factual information from the programme book, some of which had been traversed by Paul McNulty at his well attended pre-concert talk.

Peter Grahame Woolf

P.S. See a video about McNulty pianos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfPztCH98CY&feature=share