Rapa Nui Odyssey
JS Bach: Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue in D minor, BWV 903; Chopin: Nocturnes Nos 1 & 19, etc; Handel: Keyboard Suite, HWV 430 in E; Liszt: Ballade No. 2 in B minor; Vallée d’Obermann; plus works by Rachmaninov and Scriabin
Mahani Teave (piano)
Rubicon RCD1066 102:32 mins (2 discs)
It’s not often that a recording with a ‘backstory’ turns out as impressive as this. The stringed instrument collector David Fulton, on a cruise in the South Pacific, found himself at a concert by pupils of the Easter Island Music School, concluded by its founder, Mahani Teave. Her artistry bowled him over; this, her first recording, is the happy result. Teave studied at the Cleveland Institute in the US and the Hanns Eisler Academy in Berlin before returning to Easter Island to found her school.
She is in her late 30s, but sounds more like an artist of the 1950s/’60s, following in the footsteps of an Arrau or Nikolayeva: someone with an entirely natural feel for what the piano is all about and a personality that can meld ideally with the composers’ worlds. She has a rich, luminous tone – and just try the deep, growling opening of the Liszt Ballade No. 2 – which complements a splendid instinct for rubato, expert voicing and colouring. Her wide expressive range can embrace the contrapuntal vigour of Handel, the flair and proud rhetoric of Liszt (Vallée d’Obermann is a special highlight), the dusky outpourings of Scriabin and Chopin that is exquisitely controlled and intensely poetic. There’s genuine virtuosity, without one note of bluff, bluster or vulgarity. The piece based on the Easter Island song I hē a Hotumatu’a is dazzling and heartfelt; and the disc ends with Chopin’s E minor Nocturne rapt and tender, drifting away into the waves. This is sincere, pure and magnificent artistry.