Sister Act: The Bibby Piano Duo

Sisters Nicola (left) and Alexandra Bibby at Bute Arts Society's concert on Friday evening in Trinity Church.
Sisters Nicola (left) and Alexandra Bibby at Bute Arts Society's concert on Friday evening in Trinity Church.

Sisters Alexandra and Nicola Bibby thrilled an appreciative audience at Trinity Church on Friday evening at the Bibby Piano Duo concert hosted by Bute Arts Society.

The ladies said that coming to play in a church in Scotland in November they had thought it best to choose an opening piece to warm themselves up, and they certainly did so with Shostakovitch’s Festive Overture Op. 96. Even more impressive than the ladies’ obvious skill and talent was their ability to effectively swat the sheet music which refused to lie flat against the stand during such a technically challenging work - proof that women are excellent multi-taskers!

In a change of pace, the second piece of the evening was Schubert’s Grande Sonate Op. 30, a stunning, elegant work composed in 1818, ten years before the composer’s untimely death at the age of 31.

The third piece, Debussy’s ‘Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune’, was transcribed by the composer for two pianos, but the ladies’ arrangement for four hands at one piano was made by Ravel. This beautiful work from the Romantic era was the perfect antidote to such a cold and wintry night.

Closing the first half, the ladies performed four of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances. Alexandra advised that in the second dance it would sound as though Nicola was playing the wrong notes (“She assures me she’s not!”), but that this is an imitation of the stringed instrument, the zither. The fourth dance (Hungarian Dance No. 5) was probably the most well-known, and showed the sisters’ talent as they sped up and slowed down in tandem with remarkable skill.

Kicking off the second half, the ladies began with a piece by York Bowen, a composer who, at the tender age of 19, was hailed by Saint-Saens as “the finest of English composers”. ‘Suite Op. 52’ is of the late-Romantic era, and is relatively new to the Bibby sisters’ repertoire.

The final piece of the night was one which the audience had been eagerly waiting for - the Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens - and they weren’t disappointed!

The piece contains fourteen movements - each representing a different animal or animals - and is perhaps Saint-Saens’ best known work. It was strange, then, to learn that Saint-Saens had such little confidence in it that he insisted it should not be published until after his death. The Bute Arts Concert audience certainly enjoyed it, and it was apparent from the ladies’ performance on the grand piano that they enjoyed it equally as much.

* The next concert in the Bute Arts Concert programme will be by Aimee Toshney (soprano) and Ewan Gilford (piano), and will take place on Friday, November 27 in Trinity Church.