Worthing Symphony Society Russian-flavoured Interview Concert - Olga Paliy (piano) at The Denton, Worthing Pier

A climax of double surprise capped a fascinating evening of exploration by Worthing Symphony Society into the potential of The Denton as a venue for classical music.

Ukrainian pianist Olga Paliy stunned her audience with a final unexpected cross-boundary virtuoso item in three of Ginastera’s Argentinian Dances. Then, having hoisted her listeners onto a new level of excitement and exhilaration, she shocked then delighted them by singing, and accompanying herself, in Rachmaninov’s Romance, The Lilac.

This song by the composer is well-known in Russia as an expression of common emotional release after the long, cold winter, and it sealed the success of Paliy’s programme, which included four short items of poetry or verse by Pasternak, Zhavronok, Pushkin and Balmont. These linked to piano works that followed and were read by Susanna Gordon of Rainbow Shakespeare Theatre.

Forget the concept of a stuffy, formal, impersonal, standard type of recital. This was the second of these Interview Concerts by WSS, the idea being to meet the performing artiste, discover things about them and the music they’ve chosen to play.

Timothy J Chick of WSS had two sessions of interviewing Olga Paliy, ending the first, then the second half of the evening. Both were conducted in the domestic comfort of a large leather sofa, the second interview including audience questions submitted during the interval. Here, Paliy surprised most with her eloquence in her non-native tongue.

The Denton, as for its jazz evenings introduced by Worthing Theatres in the past couple of years, was laid out in cabaret with low-lit tables and the bar and coffee cafe serving before the start and during the interval.

The Blüthner piano was lit for the performance with the audience in semi-darkness to aid concentration and focus on the words and music. The presentation included on-show Russian artefacts and domestic objects, including a magnificent, large samovar charcoal-powered tea urn behind the pianist.

Paliy, the Audience Prize winner in Worthing at April’s Sussex International Piano Competition showed ready artistic imagination in collaboration with the WSS production people. Pasternak’s The Wind prefaced Glinka’s variations on a Russian song about gentle valleys. Zhavronok’s The Lark foreshadowed Blakirev’s pianistically picturesque transcription of Glinka’s song The Lark.

She then unleashed the storms and contemplations of three of Rachmaninov’s Etude Tableaux (studies of, or reactions to, paintings). Here the 31-year-old showed her full power and extended the Blüthner far beyond its erstwhile tender tinklings of jazz.

After this had the audience and piano reeling, her choice of two studies of his 11 Studies in the Form of Old Dance by her compatriot Viktor Kosenko provided music that yet further elevated the evening and elated the listener. An excerpt of verse about dancing, from Eugene Onegin (Pushkin), preceded this, from the eager Gordon.

The second half opened with the evening’s most substantial and concentrated work, Schumann’s Davidsbündler Dances, where Paliy showed the strength and stamina, as well as poetry and romantic insight demanded by this leading German composer for the piano. Then came the Ginastera (say it ‘Heena- stairer’) Argentinian Dances with its cross-rhythms, motor rhythms, and at times almost rock-music energy from a composer who died in 1983 in his late-60s.

Preceded by Balmont’s poem The Birth of Music, I doubt that Ginastera’s Dances of the Old Herdsman, Beautiful Maiden and Arrogant Cowboy had been heard before by anybody in the room, unless they had secretly swotted up on what was to be heard. Young pianists today are easily absorbing a huge new contemporary breadth of music repertoire and using it to their high-impact advantage in entertaining their audiences.

WSS chairman, the Worthing Symphony Orchestra double bass player, Eddie Hurcombe, thanked Paliy and Gordon, and emphasised to the audience the pianism and musicianship already noted by his orchestra in accompanying her at the Sussex Competition final. He estimated that, to have reached her level of attainment had taken something like 15,000 hours of lifetime practice.

Finally, Paliy’s home host for the competition, Diana Twitchen, an East Preston former head mistress, in thanking the audience, related the joys and thrills of accommodating an international class pianist under her own roof – and the emotional high of sponsoring this event and seeing perform a person with whom, as a result, she had formed a loving bond.

More is to come of this new kind of concert presentation by Worthing Symphony Society and it is undoubtedly taking Worthing’s cultural life into an artistic area it has not been.

Richard Amey