Saturday, May 13, 2017

Marc Vella ~ Nomadic Pianist ~ Review

To show the beauty of mankind in the silence of the world, convinced that humanity cannot grow unless it falls in loves with itselfMarc Vella
Marc Vella is known as the "nomadic pianist". Since the age of 30 he and his grand piano have travelled more than 250,000 km though around 40 countries - from from the Malagasy bush to sub-Saharan villages, the Kosovo countryside to the lively suburbs of India, from the nightclubs of Beirut to Santiago de Cuba.

Vella began learning the piano at the age of four and continued his music studies until adulthood. He won several prizes, attesting to his virtuosity.  At age 24, he acquired a grand piano and began a remarkable road trip has seen him play in unusual places, including building sites, deserts and on mountains. He has written a number of books about what he has learned on his travels, such as Eloge de la fausse note (In Praise of False Notes).

In Saturday afternoon's concert, held at Jnan Sbil, Vella began with a commentary (in French) about the uniqueness of the human beings he had met on his travels; then gave the modest-sized audience a taste of his virtuosity. His improvised chords created evocative soundscapes. At some points it was possible to imagine wind, rain, and rolling thunder. At others, his touch was light and contemplative - underscored by the chorus of birds in the gardens. He created a wide range of effects by using his fingers on the strings of the piano, as well as on the keys, and by rolling a ball around on the strings as he played.

Vella's unorthodox style of improvisation incorporates variacordes. Devised with sculptor Jean-Jacques Lamenthe, they are ergonomic, light and uncluttered and allow a playfulness with a variety of implements, including mallets and chopsticks.

His performance was interspersed with more monologues (sadly, in French),  and Vella said that he preferred to describe his performances as "conferences" rather than "concerts", I found myself craving more of his music. Perhaps if English translation had been provided, I would have found this aspect more engaging.

Vella spoke of "false notes" and their necessity - failures and destructive behaviours, depression, inability to love and to be loved: all the 'false notes' that occur in life  are opportunities to learn and to grow. He has certainly given himself a remarkable range of experiences to that affect, and they resonate through his music.

Review and photographs: Suzanna Clarke
Documentary (in French):


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