Nestled on a quaint unassuming street in Torrington your host, creative director, and proprietor Timothy Alexandre Wallace will warmly greet you as your climb the steps of this Victorian era former church.
On this snowy February night I attended with my sweetie to celebrate Valentine's Day and to enjoy Mr. Wallace perform the program Rachmaninoff the Romantic.
Stepping inside this spectacular space you are greeted with an abundance of Victorian inspired charm with warm inviting winged back chairs, shelves of antique books that range from the Greek classics, to the great English poets to New Age books on Atlantis. There is a mishmash of beautiful throw rugs, numerous candelabras,two roaming cats, luscious plants, eclectic medieval inspired wall hangings and Tiffany and Art Deco lamps galore.
You are also entering Mr. Wallace's personal home as well as his performing space and the details of his decorating nearly cover every inch of this inviting space, one which you could spend hours investigating and being delighted at with what you discover. At the center piece of this grand room is his majestic Steinway piano. I have to add his kitchen was a delight as well and he served his guests on this night a variety of sweets and a wonderful tea punch.
Mr. Wallace is as equally a generous host as he is a virtuous on the piano. He is also a passionate resource of endless insights into the music that he loves and performs. He began this magical night by humbly introducing the program and sharing the historical significance of the great Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. (1873-1943) His demeanor is both sincere and self-effacing, he is also a teacher of music and that quality shines through in his approach to relating the music to the audience. Mr. Wallace is also passionate and laughs frequently as he was brutally honest about the challenges of playing any of this master works.
I am far from an expert on classic music but I do know great music and playing and right out of the gate Mr. Wallace plunged in with joyful abandonment and precision into Preludes, Op. 23 (composed 1901-03).
The second piece of the night No. 4, D major: Andante cantabile was stunningly beautiful as it was transforming as you hung on every sweet note.
Another thrilling highlight of this evening was Mr. Wallace breath taking set ending explorations of Etudes Tableaux, Op. 33 ( composed 1911) both No. 7, G minor: Moderato which was haunting and No. 9 C Sharp minor: Grave which was exquisite in its reach and mastery.
A short intermission ensued and that gave us pause and the chance to wander around the space and mingle in the kitchen. The evening closed with the final set as we were treated to more of the soul moving Russian Romantic master.
I have to say the most moving piece came near the end of the set as Mr. Wallace blew us away with his reading of Etudes Tableeaux, Op. 39 No.5, Eminor: Appassionato. In this piece you see hear a transition in Rachmaninoff's composing as he clearly introduces the influences of music from America, hints of ragtime interposed with an almost Bernstein- Copeland twist are a refection of the changes occurring at the dawn of the 20th century.
For the final piece Mr. Wallace played possibly Rachmaninoff's most familiar piece Rhaspsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 18th Variation. But first he treated us to playing Paganini's original theme to give us the scope of and depth of Rachmaninoff's interpretation. The piece was elegant as it was simple.
For the encore Mr. Wallace treated us to a piece of improvisational classical music, a personal passion of his and quite rare these days. He later explained to me that it has sadly become a forgotten piece of classical music history as both Brahms and Mozart were quite renowned for this type of spontaneous playing.
Mr. Wallace prefaced, this never performed piece, by sharing that after playing the works of Rachmaninoff his influence would spill over into this composition.
It surely did and it was a joyous and moving composition that danced between the past and present, joy and longing, greetings and goodbyes, and left all of us smiling and reflecting on the beauty of creation as well as the fleeting quality of life as sadly this piece would be never be performed or heard of ever again.
Bravo! Mr. Wallace.