"Pianist Emma Abbate is a consummate chamber player."
Colin Clarke, Classical Explorer
The first concert of the present season at Conway Hall was given by the Tippett Quartet with the pianist Emma Abbate [...] These two works were superbly executed, their vivacious, effervescent music sometimes set in relief by reserved, introspective episodes.
Meirion Bowen, The Guardian
"This final recital in what has been a very successful "Celebrating English Song" series got us all in the mood for what awaits us next year, when it seems every concert society under the sun will be marking the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare.
Baritone Ashley Riches gave us an all-Shakespeare programme, fascinatingly including settings of the same poetry by different composers [...] His accompanist was far more than merely that.
Emma Abbate, like the great Gerald Moore, is a pianist who can bring life to her contribution for its own sake, full of colour, and at the same time empathetically attuned to Riches' brave, confident rubato.
Her gifts were particularly well-suited to John Joubert's That Time of Year (the much-loved composer present in the audience), settings of four sonnets, one for each season, which seem almost piano pieces, dramatic and atmospheric, with an obbligato vocal line."
Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post
"Sunday afternoon's celebration brought together Ashley Riches, a powerful-voiced baritone with a distinguished and diverse performance history, and Emma Abbate, a wonderfully-skilled and sensitive accompanist, who complemented Riches' expressive singing with equally responsive piano accompaniment. The programme, drawing chiefly on Shakespeare's Sonnets, coupled with song lyrics from the plays, took in compositions by four 20th century composers, Roger Quilter, Madeleine Dring, Gerald Finzi and the Italian Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, together with two of today's composers, Roxana Panufnik and John Joubert. A lasting impression left by a thoroughly enjoyable and revealing concert was the sheer diversity of response by the great playwright, as interpreted by music, to the common topic of love and desire, ranging from the charming and carefree Who is Sylvia and Sigh no more, ladies (Quilter's Four Shakespeare Songs) or the joie de vivre of Finzi's O Mistress mine and It was a lover and his lass, to the self-lacerating if ultimately triumphant journey of Panufnik's Sonnet 29 ('trouble deaf heaven ... 1 scorn to change my state with kings'). Yet even the most seemingly contented appreciation of love is tinged in Shakespeare with, at the least, a wry anticipation of troubles to come. It is here, in the complex interpretation of paradoxical feeling that John Joubert's compositions stand out, with resonant phrases such as 'widowed wombs' and 'unfathered fruit' (Sonnet 97) receiving equally resonant musical expression. If we can salute a composer's musical means to purge sentiment from love-melancholy, we can also wonder at Riches's vocal athleticism in conveying frequently challenging score — not to mention his feat of committing so much complicated text to memory — alongside Abbate's superbly dexterous accornpaniment. A memorable performance from both."
Ronnie Mulryne, Stratford-upon-Avon Herald
"Yesterday Lunchtime Classics concert welcomed two young artistes for the first time. They were Evva Mizerska (cello) and Emma Abbate (piano) who started playing together in 2003 and have toured extensively. To celebrate the bi-centenary of the birth of both Chopin and Schumann the programme consisted of two transcriptions and two original works. Glazunov's arrangement of Etude in C Sharp Minor suited this combination with the cello presenting the main tune in this short piece. Chopin's Cello Sonata was completed near the end of his life. Both players had complete control of their respective parts in this excellent performance. Schumann's Phantasiestücke was originally written for clarinet but he also said that it would be suitable for the cello. The cellist took on the task, producing some of her own ideas in a rendition that went from nostalgic lyricism to firm resolution with excellent support from the pianist. The Polonaise Brilliante was one of Chopin's early works and there were no problems for the duo who produced a fine conclusion to this fascinating concert with some superb playing."
John Packwood, Bristol Evening Post
"The autumn season of the Funtington Music Group continued with a marvellous concert from mezzo-soprano Ciara Hendrick accompanied by Emma Abbate on piano at the University of Chichester on 14 October [...] The second half opened with an emotionally compelling interpretation by Emma Abbate of Brahms Intermezzo in A Major Opus 118 No 2. Her choice of piece was appropriate for this concert, and she had a genuine affinity with the composer’s musical phraseology. [...] The accompaniment of Emma Abbate was absolutely right for this evening from subtle pianissimo in some sections of the programme, to, particularly at the end of Funeral Blues, where she employed some fiendish pyrotechnics on her piano to match the belting fortissimo from the mezzo-soprano.
As FMG Chairman David Tinsley said, 'This was such a wonderful blend of voice and music from two incredibly talented musicians. A truly memorable evening."
Chris Linford, Funtington Music Group
"The collaborative works of Polish cellist Evva Mizerska and Italian pianist Emma Abbate (their début recording premièred the complete works for cello and piano of the contemporary Polish composer Krzysztof Meyer) have been received to great acclaim. An outstanding partnership, they respond superlatively to the complexity, sensitivity and power of Chopin's and Schumann's works, playing with utter commitment, complete assurance and a beautiful, spotlessly clean sound."
St George's, Bristol
"This year the 200th and 100th anniversaries of the birth, respectively, of Frédéric Chopin and Samuel Barber are celebrated, and cello sonatas by these composers were the chief works in the recital by Evva Mizerska (cello), and Emma Abbate, (piano). The cellist’s rich and sonorous tone filled Hexham Abbey and she and her pianist partner left us in no doubt that we were listening to a genuine duo of highly accomplished performers. Shorter pieces by Polish and British composers of the present day, Krzysztof Meyer, Stephen Dodgson and Graham Coatman, sustained the essentially melodic and romantic mood. Coatman’s Fable Fantaisiste, receiving its first performance, developed the thematic possibilities of Japanese motifs in an atmospheric piece reminiscent at times of Debussy. Barber’s Cello Sonata Op.6 (1938) is full of Brahmsian gesture on a classical-romantic scale. Like Barber himself, an outstanding though conservative musician alongside more original figures like Copland and Carter, it struggles to maintain a distinctive identity. It is nevertheless engaging in its complexity of structure and detail. Chopin’s Cello Sonata in G minor Op.65 of nearly 100 years earlier, which perhaps should have concluded the programme, is a different matter. This sonata is also set out in classical form and proportions but strikes home with its confident directness. Familiar pianistic figurations remind us of how we usually remember Chopin, but such finger prints are a characteristic and integral part of the substance and originality of this music. The whole of this unashamedly romantic programme was played with warmth, breadth of expression and triumphant musicianship."
Howard Layfield, Hexham Courant
We welcomed two pianists, Emma Abbate and Julian Perkins, for their programme of four hands, ‘A Playful Tournament’ [...] In their Mozart pieces, particularly in the D major Sonata, their warm tones (but not without crispness) were really pleasing. Both Sonatas had several repeats but the passages were not repeated in the same manner. They added some ‘fun elements’ of trills and accentuations which gave a fresh spontaneity.
Claude Debussy’s Petite Suite had a completely different texture and resonance. It was picturesque and stimulated my imagination with little vignettes of scenes flashing into my mind. It is a game I play when I hear good music, which is satisfying indeed.
Stephen Dodgson is a composer I had not heard of before this recital, but the performers knew him towards the end of his death eighteen months ago . Tournament for Twenty Fingers, a series of short pieces, were high-spirited and quick-witted, and filled a pocket between the Mozart and Debussy with a completely different style. What’s more, it was quite refreshing to hear something that you could not find from Google or YouTube!
Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances raised the atmosphere and tension to a climax. The piano was sounding at its best and emotions, soaring. With the full-bodied sound of Dance No 2, it was like being caught in a swirl of romance. So sentimental.
Julian and Emma expressed their love of performing pieces that had been originally written for four hands. Their encore, however, was a "very shamelessly arranged" Chopin’s Waltz in A flat major. What a delightful evening it had been.
Our recital room became a perfect music chamber where everything we had wished for just happened. It was like the programme found the best place for performance, or vice versa. Most of all, their musicianship and personality were heartfelt.
Kumi Smith-Gordon, Soirées at Breinton
"...There was a determined element of this to Emma Abbate's playing in the Piano Quintet; delicate, sympathetic and with beautifully shapely phrases, she did not hog the limelight and for the more solo moments the strings made way for her, all five performers know when to come forward and when to retreat, so for instance the second theme of the first movement featured a lovely viola/cello duet, discreetly accompanied by Abbate.
Since Abbate anchored the performance in this way, the strings' passionate artistry was moulded by her poise and classical style, always with a lovely fluidity. The march in the slow movement paired deliberate, detached string playing with more lyrical piano contributions, giving it a strong atmosphere, and the middle section moved on to shimmering lyricism. The Scherzo was vividly done, tightly controlled yet full of vigour. The first trio was more relaxed whilst the second one became a dark, demented dance. The finale featured steady, yet highly characterful playing with strong rhythms. Episodes introduced more relaxed textures but the final fugue was full of vivid character."
Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill
"Peninsula Arts operates from within the Faculty of Arts and serves as the arts and culture organisation for Plymouth University, the largest university in the South West of England. As part of its on-going cultural remit, it hosts a chamber-music series of regular recitals, the latest of which was given by the Polish-Italian Evva Mizerska & Emma Abbate Duo.
This cello and piano duo was formed in 2003, and has performed extensively in the UK and Europe, as well as having two world-premiere CD recordings of music by Krzysztof Meyer and Algernon Ashton respectively to its name.
Even if the weather outside felt far more like winter, the duo created a ray of spring sunshine with their performance of Beethoven's Variations on a Theme from Mozart's Magic Flute, which opened the recital. This was a perfectly-poised reading which finely reflected the character of the original, while never short on light-hearted playfulness, too - all in all a true dialogue between the two protagonists here, and successfully mirroring their operatic counterparts of Pamina and Papageno.
This proved an ideal light aperitif for Janáček's Pohádka, an archetypal exemplar of Russian story-telling in music, inspired by nineteenth-century writer Vasili Zhukovsky, from the pen of a Moravian-born composer who nevertheless was also a confirmed Russophile. While Janáček categorically stated that his was not programme music as such, the duo's playing was suitably fervent and effectively portrayed the magic of the story. There was also due regard paid to the composer's idiosyncratic style - a musical assimilation of the rhythm, pitch contour and inflections of normal Czech speech.
Barber's epic Sonata, which has become one of the most frequently-performed chamber works by an American composer, followed on seamlessly, with both players tackling the work's impassioned writing with great aplomb. In such a work, especially where a good deal of the cello writing is in the resonant lower register, balance between solo instrument and piano is critical. Despite the fact that the piano was not a full-length concert-grand, the decision to keep the piano lid on the half-stick throughout the recital was well-considered. Even in the often thundering climaxes, and with Abbate's powerful playing, the dynamic balance remained well managed.
An unfamiliar composer's name on a programme can often perhaps suggest an avant-garde work in a decidedly modern idiom. In spite of today's propensity for resurrecting Christian names more popular in foregone eras, Algernon Bennet Langton Ashton, born in Durham in 1859 is, in fact, one of the better-kept secrets in British music, with a generous output of piano music, chamber works and songs. At the age of twenty-five, he was appointed professor of piano at London's Royal Academy of Music, before taking a similar position at the London College of Music, where his students included William Hurlstone and William Alwyn. The well-known English composer of operas and choral music, Rutland Boughton, wrote: '(Ashton) seems to pour out a great musical thought as easily as the lark trills its delight in cloudland'.
Even if not stunningly inventive, there is still much to savour in his Sonata No 1 in F, a three-movement work couched firmly in the Romantic tradition. The finale bears one of Ashton's favourite directions - 'frescamente' - the music must sound 'fresh or newly-minted' and Mizerska and Abbate were clearly at one with this sentiment, in a persuasive performance that did much to promote this arguably-neglected British composer.
The Sonata can be heard on Toccata Classics' CD: 'Algernon Ashton - Music for Cello and Piano, Volume 1' (TOCC 0142 (read Nick Barnard's review at Music Web International.)
Given Mizerska's Warsaw connection, it came as no surprise that the duo should choose Chopin's Introduction and Polonaise Brillante with which to end their programme. Although the composer referred to the work as 'nothing more than a trifle for the salon, for ladies', the piece is considerably more difficult, especially for the pianist, than Chopin's rather disparaging description would suggest. Here again, both artists rose to their respective challenges with true panache, in a performance that so finely encapsulated the indigenous qualities of this now-stylised Polish dance-form.
A further short piece of Chopin's, by way of a generous encore in the shape of Davydov's delightful take on the composer's original A minor Waltz for piano, rounded off a thoroughly enjoyable recital by these two highly talented and communicative young players."
Philip R Buttall, Seen and Heard International (MusicWeb International)
Evva Mizerska and Emma Abbate joined forces in 2003 to create a formidable partnership with a passion for contemporary music [...] Together they tackled a varied programme with consummate skill and sensitivity.
Meyer’s brooding Canzona is not a typical concert opener, but the low melodies of the cello and the intense piano accompaniment drew the audience in, before giving way to intense and agitated cadenzas with reminiscences of Shostakovich.
Algernon’s Phantasiestücke has its basis in Schumann’s work of the same name. However with just three pieces rather than eight, it functions as something of a sonata, with an opening sonatina form followed by a sumptuous ‘Andantino Con Gran Espressione’ and a spritely scherzo to round off the work. The duo excelled in this triptych, luxuriating in the passionate melodies of the middle movement and bringing out all of the characterful juxtapositions of the finale.
The Debussy Cello Sonata was playfully executed before the highlight of the concert, Zygmunt Stojowski’s Sonata in A major, Op. 18. Composed in Paris in 1892 and dedicated to the famous pianist Ignacy Paderewski, the piano is given equal prominence to the cello. Within this balance the two individuals excelled, tackling the technical passages with panache and the Gershwin-esque melodies with wit and subtlety.
The final work was Chopin’s Introduction et Polonaise Brillante, the dance rhythms returning with more and more burgeoning exuberance and bringing the recital to a very satisfying close.
Our sincere thanks to the Evva&Emma Duo for an engaging and informative recital. As soon as the audience get the Chopin earworm out of their heads, we can look forward to exploring the works of Meyer, Ashton and Stojowski further and following the progression of these two wonderful musicians with interest.
Sidney Sussex College Music Society International Concert Series
For the other two items the Tippett Quartet was joined by pianist Emma Abbate [...] Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet in E flat amply demonstrated her star quality.
Tilford Bach Society
Friday’s concert by Piano Duo Emma Abbate and Julian Perkins gave us a wonderful excursion through some of the finest works written for this medium, contrasting the elegance of Mozart and Clementi, the colours of Dvorak and Debussy, and the wit and good nature of Constant Lambert and Stephen Dodgson. But, for many, the tour-de-force was Schubert’s Fantasie, which was performed with all its drama and shifting moods by these exceptional performers, whose complementarity and integration were ideal.
Anthony Pinching, Pinner Music Festival