Russian viola magic on the menu

The richly expressive sound of the viola is one of life’s most underrated and exquisite pleasures. 

Fortuitously, on Thursday, 1 September, you can hear exactly why that instrument has such a resplendent reputation as multi-grammy award-nominated Eliesha Nelson joins gifted concert pianist Glen Inanga for a special Music on the Menu event. 

The pair have recently wowed the classical world with the release of their special duet CD album, Varvara Gaigerova – Russian Viola Sonatas. That release comprises a unique and eclectic programme of early 20th Century Russian viola masterworks – bridging pre-Revolutionary Russian viola pieces and early Soviet period compositions with two world premiere recordings. 


Great response 

Glen tells Weekender that response to the album has been very good so far. 

“The CD release has generated multiple discussions about the composers. I remember that prior to the release of the album, I could hardly find anything on Google about the only woman composer – Varvara Gaigerova – on the recording, but since the release there have been numerous references to her work. 

“As a result of the album release, the Kapralova Society has added Varvara Gaigerova to their list of women composers,” he says, happily. 

And although there is not yet an actual plan to go and perform these pieces in Russia itself, the pair are hopeful that something will materialise soon. says Eliesha. 

“Most reviewers have commented on a Russian recording without the typical viola sonatas by Shostakovich or Glinka, but appreciate the novelty and fantastic quality of the music from the composers we chose. 

“I’m always surprised when people have interest in my work. I have this love of exploring viola music off the beaten path, and that’s an obscure venture! It’s easy to think that if a piece of music isn’t popular, it must not be of quality. Even great music can fall by the wayside due to politics, bad first performances, or simply bad timing.” 

Luckily for Cayman, these beautiful pieces of music will be performed a little closer to home on Thursday at Luca. The event begins with cocktails and canapes at 6.30pm, then the performance takes place at 7.30pm and dinner follows. All proceeds from the event, which costs $100, go toward the Cayman Youth Choir. Ticket prices include a three-course dinner, cocktails and wine. 


The viola 

The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin but larger and therefore has a deeper register which allows for some tonality between the cello and violin. Notable players of the instrument include Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and more recently John Cale, formerly of seminal New York alternative group The Velvet Underground.  

Anyone who has heard the magnificent drone-rock of Venus In Furs will be familiar with the instrument’s character, if not its potential range. It is well worth discovering; the instrument can be quite extraordinarily subtle and incredibly emotive at equal turn. 


World premiere 

Glen says that he is looking forward to unveiling the music to Cayman’s music lovers. 

“We are performing two of the three major works on the CD which will give attendees a chance to hear a live performance of these recorded gems. One of the items in the programme – Varvara Gaigerova’s Suite for Viola and Piano – is one of the two world premieres recorded works on the CD,” he said. 

Indeed, two of those people will be lucky winners of the Cayman Free Press competition that has been running during August. A feast for the belly as well as the ears, no less. 

For the rest of us, we’ll have to move quickly, says Simon Harvey of the Cayman Arts Festival. 

“Ticket sales have been brisk, so people that have not yet bought their tickets should do so before the event is sold out,” he cautions Weekender. We’re already counting the pennies in our long-suffering piggy banks; this kind of quality is a pleasure to have in Cayman and we can’t wait. Dosvedanya tovarisches! Na Zdorovie! 



Anne Mason, marketing supervisor of Cayman Free Press, is keen to express the company’s delight at being involved with such a prestigious and musically special occasion. 

“The Caymanian Compass is proud to support the arts in Cayman and we are delighted to sponsor this Music on the Menu concert with Glen and Eliesha. 

“It’s great that the Cayman Arts Festival committee can bring down such noteworthy musicians from around the world and it will surely be a real treat to see this Grammy-nominated player perform right here in Cayman with the always superb Glen Inanga on the piano,” she tells us. 

Walkers are also a major force in helping to make this unique concert happen. David Byrne, chief marketing officer, says the company is very pleased about continuing to support the arts in Cayman. 

“Walkers is proud to sponsor the Cayman Arts Festival’s Russian Viola Sonatas as part of the Music on the Menu series. Walkers has had a long association with the Cayman Arts Festival, having sponsored the festival since its inception in 2004, as well as the Cayman Classical Performances which preceded it. 

“The Cayman Arts Festival has gone from strength to strength over the years, regularly bringing culturally rich and diverse performances to the Island, while developing strong links to schools and the youth of Cayman, and Walkers is delighted to be involved,” he tells us 

Remember that CDs will also be available to purchase on the night; take a little bit of Russian musical class home with you. 


Buy your tickets online at 


The CD that reintroduced Varvara Gaigerova to the world. – PHOTO: SUBMITTED

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