Tamara KONSTANTIN (b.1961) Inflections Spring [3:05]
Childhood memories [1:48]
Nocturne romantica* [3:08]
Sonata No.1 “Alke” [8:10]
Ladybird lullaby* [2:45]
Sonata No.2 “Bia” [10:23]
Duncan Honeybourne (piano) Tamara Konstantin (piano)*
rec. 23 June, 2014 Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, UK STONE RECORDS 5060192780666 [49:03]
Anyone who has read my reviews will know I often “bang on” about the dark days of 1950s Britain, when the BBC hierarchy scorned tunes in favour of the avant-garde, which left many music lovers bereft with little they could enjoy being broadcast over the airwaves. There is a place for everything, and a wide choice allows us all to decide what we want to hear. I’ve often imagined what kind of music I would compose if I had the knowledge that allowed me to try, and it’s not far removed from the type of music on this disc. Tamara Konstantin, a Georgian-born British composer, now living with her husband Derek in Dorset, declares her love for the baroque as well as citing Chopin, Rachmaninov and Beethoven as inspiration for her music. Indeed these influences are writ large in her compositions, which, while being undemanding, are nevertheless extremely pleasant to listen to.
The first piece Spring is Chopinesque in the extreme with his characteristic lilting sound, while Nocturne Romantica is tinged with the sadness Chopin found it easy to employ the melancholy edge that made his music so attractive. Co-incidentally the fourth piece is indeed entitled Melancholy and very effective it is, too. A disc like this raises various interesting questions. If I were familiar with every piece of Chopin’s piano music, then of course I would know that this was not by him, but since I don’t, what is it that should tell me? I don’t have a ready answer and if anyone who reads this and hears the disc does, I would be glad to hear their opinions, if they would kindly send the musicweb message board a response. What I am convinced of is that it is best to approach everything with an open mind and not make value judgements, until you have given the music a listen. The Hungarian born comic writer George Mikes concocted a rating system for composers that listed first rate composers, then second rate first rate, not be confused with first rate second rate, etc., you get the drift. Naturally all that is completely subjective, but so long as it is an honest opinion, we can either agree or agree to differ. How many times does one read letters sent to music magazines that have featured its list of ‘great’ composers, complaining about those who were left out?
The first of her two sonatas, named after characters from Greek mythology, Alke, is an altogether more weighty and serious work with some very colourful moments. Chopin’s well-known use of notes, cascading as if they were drops of water, is well in evidence in Ladybird lullaby, while Dreams is a lovely little nocturne-like piece. Tamara Konstantin’s second sonata is entitled Bia, who was goddess of force, might and power, according to Greek mythology, and the sonata shows these characteristics very well musically. In the same way her interpretation of Summer is equally successful in representing long languorous days of shimmering heat. A facility that enables someone to characterise meditation and looking backwards in music is to be applauded and she certainly achieves that in a couple of minutes with Reflections, and to represent falling leaves and raindrops falling in Autumn is indeed a clever one. Inspiration and Winter close the disc, both of them further examples of her keen admiration for the world of Chopin, whose music and style are, for me, her greatest influences; I hear less overtones of either Beethoven or Rachmaninov since her music is firmly reminiscent of the 1820s.
The overarching impression this disc gives is of a composer from the 1820s whose inspiration has enabled a 21st century one to write some extremely attractive music that, while it might not be considered ‘first rate’, is well worth hearing. I hope Tamara Konstantin will keep writing and that one day she will find her own unique voice that perhaps incorporates something of her Georgian background, and becomes a composer recognisable in her own right. Both she and Duncan Honeybourne play the pieces very effectively, though I imagine they do not present too much difficulty in that direction; in fact the music might well suit young pianists who are on their way to their final exams.
Reading about Tamara’s early years I discovered that she only began composing four years ago after a career as a presenter and host of her own show on Georgian TV, as well as a period after moving to the UK as an oil company executive, which led to her receiving an award for her contribution to her country’s economy. That gives me hope that maybe in my next life I could also follow my dream of composing; that is after learning to play the piano, read music and....