Classical, Here, There And Everywhere

Murray McLachlan & family, a camel house concert, Macher
Concierto ´Souvenir Romantico,´ Salon Indieras in Tias
Iya Zhmaeva on violin and Natalijo Nikolayeva at the piano.
Iya Zhmaeva talks to Lanzarote Information


Camel House Concerts are presented at a Camel House in Macher that was transformed into a spacious and unique home by British entrepreneur Sir Ernest Hall several years. During those renovations he saw the potential for one of the outside, detached rooms to be converted into an almost spiritual concert hall.

The recital we heard here recently was delivered at four pm in the afternoon, with sunlight streaming through a huge window at one end of the hall, bathing the musicians in an ethereal light. The friends we were with, Iain and Margaret, told us they remember late evening concerts here, many years ago, when the short narrow paths down to the hall were lit by natural flame lanterns and that sounded a pretty magical atmosphere, too.
The pre-concert chat among the audience is always informative because we are, I suppose, all like-minded people and so it was good to meet up with acquaintances like Christine Want and Dena Emerson and to learn that they hope to present a major summer concert later in the year, as members of the Voices choir.

This was a re-arrangement of a concert that had to be postponed last year sue to poor health, but in the interim I had researched Murray and his career on my search engines. Check out his official web site at for details of his impressive credential.

Tonight, though, was to be not only about Murray McLachlan but also about all the talented musicians in his family.

To see Murray now introducing his wife and children, who comprise a wonderfully talented family, was a significant recompense for all lovers of the occasional series of classical concerts held in this now almost fabled venue.

The recitals by Murray’s children were opened by nineteen year old Matthew. He has just commenced studies at the Royal College of Music in London with a full scholarship.
Matthew has won dazzling critical acclaim for his performances of Tchaikovsky’s first Piano Concerto and has an enormous repertoire ranging from Bach to the present day. His study of Charconne in D minor by Bach and Busoni presented us with intriguing variations and dramatic overtones, in a recital that held attention throughout.

Seventeen year old Rose will perform at the Royal Festival Hall for BBC Radio 3 in May and has already won four international competitions. Her programme included ravishing Debussy Preludes and Schumann’s effervescent Abegg variations.

In performance tonight she played with perfect posture and a maturity that belied her years. Occasionally cross hand, she showed an ability to hang notes in the air and the motifs in the higher register in Schumann’s work were exquisite. Her representation of Debussy trod easily the path between high drama and tinkling playfulness, and somehow it was easy to see that sunlight streaming through the window as a moonbeam lighting her way as Rose skipped in and out of the shadows.

Equally impressive was twenty one year old Callum, now studying at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. This young pianist has already seen his interpretation of Beethoven’s celebrated ‘Pathetique’ sonata flag-shipped as being ´authoritative´ and published on the prestigious international Henle Urtext edition website.

Tonight he brought us back to Schumann, but this time to the composer’s Etudes symphoniques Opus 13, another work exploring variations on a theme.

There should be no doubt, though, that to reach these standards these young and gifted players from a wonderful genealogical line, must have worked and studied incredibly hard and must have made several sacrifices that some youngsters might have been unwilling to make. It is because of that attitude as much as their innate talents that a long and successful career in classical music surely beckons each of them.

None of them tonight appeared to be playing from music and it seemed evident on occasions that even a public performance in the company of their parents might be a release from the rigours of an academic approach to music. In concert here, their love of what they were playing and their apparent individual abilities of losing themselves in the reverie of the pieces might have been evidence that actual playing is what justifies the years of study and the lifelong practice.

Matthew began the second half of this concert to a full hall with Chopin’s Etude in A flat, opus 25 number 1, at times tumultuous and even threatening and at others seeming to tumble like water from a mountain spring.

Whilst there didn’t seem to be any competitive element among the family performers there was now a moment, as Matthew took his bow, that signified a ceding of ground to the ´old guard´ as represented by their admittedly still very youthful parents.

Murray offered another side of Chopin, with his Polonaisse in A flat opus 53 and a slow movement from Rachmaninov piano concerto number 1 in F sharp minor. He gave us us wonderful notes from all parts and both colours of the keyboard that reminded us and reassured us that however extensive are the skills already acquired by his young children, the dad can still play a bit too. Nevertheless, without ever being gushing, his pride in his family was written by the smile on his face.

The concert was brought to wonderful close with a sequence that saw Murray joined by his wife, Kathryn Page, also an international virtuoso player, for Gershwin’s dazzling and effervescent arrangement of his world famous ‘Rhapsody in Blue’.

Full of jazzy, poppy and decidedly modern twentieth century sounds, this incredible duet delivery gave the piece a grandeur I have until now somehow overlooked. As performed by Kathryn and Murray here, this music swept across the wide open plains and seemed to gawp at and celebrate the multi-culturalism of the then new build American cities and was, in its way, as exclamatory and rhapsodic as Copeland.

This long delayed and therefore even more keenly anticipated concert had provided us with a programme of vibrant piano classics by the international concert pianist Murray McLachlan ( and also an introduction to his wife and their award-winning family of virtuoso children.

This, however, was only half time in what turned out to be wonderful day of music.


Our friend ´Magrait Marguerita´ (MM), who can spot an arts poster from half a mile away, rang us excitedly. We tend to ignore the first minute of any such phone calls as she is usually so excited we can’t follow a word she is saying, but after a while the story unfolded. She had seen a poster in Tias about a concert of piano and violin.

We did what we always have to do with MM, and interrogated her with our ´five bums at the bar´ kind of questions to clarify the information.

Who is playing we wondered. ´Not sure, they were funny names. I don’t think they are Spanish.´

So, what sort of music did it say it would be? ´Piano and violin.´

When is it on, then? ´Saturday 15th February.´

I had to explain, then, that it would be impossible for us to get to as we, and she and Iain, already had paid-for tickets for that date in our diary to see the eagerly anticipated Murray McLachlan and family giving a classical recital at the Camel House in Macher. Still, I soldiered on with my debriefing of MM and asked.

Where is it on at? ´In that building with a name we can’t pronounce and that we’ve never been able to find in Tias.´

Why don’t you let Dee (my wife) try and make some phone enquiries and see what she can find out? ´That’s why I’ve phoned you !´

So I put Dee on the line to see whether she could extrapolate any further minutia that might prove useful.

A couple of hours later she was talking to somebody in a ticket reservation place who seemed delighted to accept a reservation of four twelve euro tickets for Concierto Souvenir Romantica on Saturday 15th February at 8.00 pm in Salon Indieras in Tias. This would feature Iya Zhmaeva on violin and Natalijo Nikolayeva at the piano.

It would be tight but do-able as Murray’s recital was scheduled for 4.00 p.m. and likely to finish at circa 6.oo pm leaving us enough time to drive to Tias and see if we could grab a quick meal in The Kitchen, a new-ish English owned restaurant on the main drag, and walk across town to where we would hope to find the venue. (No, of course my wife hadn’t asked for directions on the phone, don’t be so silly!)

The joy of our friendship with Margaret and Iain, though, is that they are as prepared as we are to follow sidetracks and detours all across the arts on a wing and a prayer, eating and drinking on the hoof as we do so, and being grateful for whatever we stumble across. We had all really enjoyed the Murray McLachlan family gala, previously reviewed on these pages, and now Dee and Margaret were tucking into bangers and mash that might not have been tapas but looked terrific and Iain was feasting on a heck of a sized hamburger. I, being somewhat more refined and cosmopolitan was devouring a duck pizza that was far more delicious than it might sound; it all went down nicely with a couple of beers and glasses of wine (between us) in a cosy atmosphere with friendly management and staff. Suddenly though it was ten to eight and we had to dash so we slapped the money on the table, grabbed our coats, shouted cheers and stepped out into the street. (No, of course we didn’t ask the English speaking staff for directions, stop being so silly).

´It’s over there, somewhere,´ pointed out Iain, our former Royal Navy Officer friend, as if he had a tall ship and a star to steer her by. Over there seemed to be a long way behind some buildings that there didn’t seem to be a way round. The little hand was on eight and the big hand on twelve as we arrived at the building we suddenly all recognised, although we had never known it contained a concert room.

The charming and friendly counter staff pressed our tickets into our hands and showed us into the small auditorium that was about two thirds full, suggesting an audience of about 120 and there were four seats still free in the middle of the front row. They would do nicely.

The musicians stepped out as we sat down, and for the next hour or so we were taken to another world by two musicians who were enjoying the concert as much as we were in the audience.

Playing the violin Iya Zhmaeva stood slightly to the fore, dressed in black trousers and top, and at the piano was Natalija Nikolayeva, resplendent in a bottle green evening gown.

Their first offering was from Beethoven’s Sonata for violin and piano Opus 24 and it was immediately apparent in the allegro how much they loved the pieces they were playing, with Iya swooping with the violin over cheerful, even jaunty piano motifs as they echoed each other’s instruments. The adagio molto expressive with its familiar piano motif was full of call and response, and at times the violin was beautifully lonesome even as it shared its stories with the piano. There was perfect synchronisation between the two instruments throughout the Scherzo and, in the Rondo, piano and violin frequently exchanged lead instrument roles.

There was a warmth in the playing and in the pervasive atmosphere in the hall that suggested to us that these two musicians were somehow among friends, and the instrumentalists were certainly relaxed enough to show their appreciation of the music, with Natalija in particular often smiling with delight at the notes on her music sheets.

A Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Opus 24 was delightful, with the violin leading the way in the skippy Melodia. A galloping piano took over in front in the Scherzo before the pace slowed and brought the section to an end with an almost audible sigh.

The Meditacion drew a fuller sound from the violin and showcased some tumbling piano work from Natalia through varied melodies down to the angst of the closing bars.

All this was played out in front of a massive and colourful painting that seemed to be a backdrop of Lanzarote culture, including camels, sea, sun, sand, mountains and artisans.

Four preludes from Opus 34 by Schostakovich gave us an exquisitely aching violin and deep rumbling piano, before moving to the higher tempo of the allegretto, which included some effective pizzicato, flicked rather than plucked, on the violin before the piano and violin seemed to play almost in combat rather than concord, with violin closing the piece in almost celebratory and victorious style. The Andantino had the violin lead us all in a stately dance, into which stepped a thunderous piano before it all then settled gain into dainty steps.

The closing piece was accredited in a listing I didn’t recognise as being Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes by M. Weinberg. Once again, though, the shock of the new (to me) was wonderful and will cost me a few quid on amazon or i tunes or some such as I try to find some recordings. Tonight a lengthy piano introduction, expertly played, was interrupted by a swift, rhapsodic riff on the violin which, however, soon succumbed to overpowering and repetitive piano refrains. The violin recovered, though, with a plucked pizzicato this time, that led to another flight of rhapsody which closed the recital and immediately gave way to loud, prolonged applause and cries of bravo and more from the audience.

The two female musicians seemed almost overwhelmed by this response but recovered well enough to go through a little silent-comedy routine as they searched through scores and music sheets for an appropriate encore.

They served us a polka that in its joyful sounds seemed to echo their seemingly giddy delight in how well the concert had been received. We, too, were giddy with delight. Our second concert of the day had been as amazing as had been the first. This afternoon we had witnessed maestros at play at The Camel House as Murray Mclachlan and his family gave us piano passages to die for, and tonight we had heard two players in a ´secret´ little hall in Tias share with us their love of the music they were playing.

The musicians in Tias, as well as the staff members and the audience created a wonderful atmosphere and we managed to grab a quick word with the violinist, that led to a lovely little exchange of e mails, that all google-translated into a fascinating interview, reproduced here below.


an exclusive interview by Norman Warwick

WHO is Iya Zhmaeva, and how did she come to be in a musical partnership with a lady from Crimea, playing classical music on Lanzarote?

´I’m Russian. I studied in Moscow at the University Of Gnessin, I did the ´superior´ and then the postgraduate as a solo violinist with the same professor. During my studies I always worked in some orchestra and at the end of my studies I got a contract to play Celtic music in Lanzarote. Since 2003 I am in Lanzarote. Five years ago I met Natalija, when she came to my concert and was introduced to me. We are both Russian and we liked the idea of playing together the next time she was on Lanzarote. (She comes every year to Lanzarote. Natalija loves Lanzarote !)´

WHAT do you find so appealing about the combination of violin and piano and what do you and Natalija each bring to your partnership that makes it work so well?

´There is plenty of repertoire for violin and piano, from violin works as a soloist with the accompanying piano, to chamber music, as well as sonatas for violin and piano. Since we’re both Russian we love to play Russian music, which around here is actually played very, very little. We both studied using the Russian school method so it is easier for us to understand each other when interpreting the works.´

WHEN you play together as you did last night, are you constantly exploring what you can do with the music you are playing, or do you remain faithful to the score?

´Yes. We are totally faithful to the score as we have a lot of respect for the composer. In classical music, that’s the first thing. Now there may be different versions and editions, but we always try if it is possible to search for the original text.´

WHERE has your love of music taken you?

´We have now played together a few times and have included Russian composers in concerts in Lanzarote, in Berlin, in Dresden, and in Frankfurt on the Oder. I also played in various places with the Celtic music, including in South Korea.´

´Where does the music take me, in a ´spiritual sense? Music reassures me, yes! Even when I’m nervous before a concert, I take the violin and start to play review the works of the concert and I find myself gradually calming down.´

WHY, then, were you so obviously delighted to have performed in that hall last night? In what way was a small town theatre so special?

´It was the first time we played in that room and we loved it! The first thing is the acoustics; the acoustics are very good. The violin sound seemed so soft when we played. It was very nice to play there. It is a very cosy room I find, I hope we do more performances there.´

I am sure everyone in the audience is hoping that, too, and we here at all across the arts hope that Iya will keep us informed of any further concerts here on Lanzarote. If so, we will be sure to make sure we let all our readers know about these two ladies who take so much joy in each other’s company and so much pleasure in sharing their country’s music with others.

Playing, however, is only part of Iya’s journey with music, as she explained in closing our interview.

´Playing together is such fun but I am mainly a violin teacher, I work with all levels. I have students from as young as three years old and I also work with adults who are starting from scratch, I love to share, and to teach what was long ago me taught to me. I still continue to study, too. Thanks to my students I am learning new things even as I am explaining them and teaching them, working with the Russian method, the Russian school.´

So, after taking months, nay years, to find out about this venue we turned up to see our first gig there and immediately new friends. Iya and I have linked up of facebook to try to ensure we can keep our Lanzarote Information readers updated on their forthcoming performances.

By strange coincidence we will be back at the venue on March 7th to see a musical quartet going by the name of Maximum Ensemble. Tickets are still available from Salon Indieras on Calle La Luchada, (or by phoning 639 993 202) for only 15 euros, so why not pop in and have a listen too?

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