The splendid Long Room at Busta House reverberated to the sound of music on Friday night when around 20 people braved the snow to hear a selection of classical and operatic favourites.
The charming young Bulgarian duo of singer Oksana Mavrodii and pianist Silviya Mihaylova entertained an appreciative audience with works from folk songs to piano solos, each enhanced by an explanatory introduction.
Oksana, who started singing at the age of five and graduated from Sofia’s State Academy of Music in 2001, is married to Shetlander Eric Peterson and is now based in Glasgow.
Together with her accompanist she delivered a varied repertoire, singing in Italian, German, Russian, Czech and Ukranian.
The songs ranged from humorous, as in Mozart’s aria in Cosi Fan Tutte, to wistful, as in Schubert’s Ständchen, part of a melancholy collection named Swan Songs.
The variety continued with a Ukranian folk song, with its infectious rhythm and Verdi’s Chimney Sweep, in which the staccato and misaccuented singing mimicked a street cry.
Oksana delivered the aria Summertime from Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess in a spine-tingling manner, demonstrating her vocal range by hitting the high notes perfectly and ending in a descending scale.
Another well-known offering was Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro, which was a delight and showed a voice of both power and sweetness. Her diction was clear and her projection good – she could have just as easily sung in an auditorium.
Silviya was just as impressive. As well as accompanying the singing, she performed two solos, one of them the fiendishly difficult Nocturne Op 9 no 2 for left hand only. Written by the composer Scriabin when he damaged his right hand through excessive piano practice (after all he was in the same class as Rachmaninov), the piece was designed to sound like two hands playing. With its big chords and use of many octaves it achieves this, and Silvija performed perfectly, playing both the nocturne and Chopin’s Polonaise in C minor with aplomb, all the more to her credit as she was using a keyboard.
The 20-year-old, who has been playing since she was seven, said afterwards the keyboard was harder to play than a piano and did not sound quite the same, but nevertheless she managed to make it sing.
The concert was thoroughly enjoyable albeit a little short at just under an hour. A couple more songs and an interval – the bar is conveniently situated virtually next door – would have made it feel more like an event.
A piano, too, would have made all the difference and would have been very appropriate in the plush surroundings – a keyboard seemed altogether too modern.
But these are just quibbles. It was marvellous to have a performance of this calibre outwith Lerwick and the atmosphere was warm and intimate – Oksana said she found it good to be so close to the audience.
Full marks to Shetland Arts and Busta House for hosting the evening – more please.