Like the ultra-shy former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes, he displays a form of ferocious, virtuosic reticence (©Lebrecht Music and Arts)
Another day has gone by and the island of Cyprus is no closer to reunion. The north was invaded by the Turkish army 39 years ago, driving out 200,000 Greeks and perpetuating an illegal occupation that somehow escapes the world's attention. Greek Cyprus this year was hit by a second disaster, a Euro bank raid that drained the life savings of ordinary citizens and precipitated economic depression. The Pharos chamber music festival I am here to attend is going ahead only because the artists are playing for free and a Russian bank is paying the rent.
On a forlorn street that hugs the frontline, a former shoe factory has been privately converted into a recital space. Inside, the audience sits in a semi-circle, arena fashion, around and above the performers. The place is packed tonight, with extra chairs dragged in from other venues and more than a hundred ticketless customers turned away at the door. It's a big night in Nicosia, the debut of a much discussed pianist with a peculiar pedigree.
Elisha Abas, 41, is a descendant of Alexander Scriabin, the mystic Russian composer who believed he was the Messiah and died of a mystery bug in 1915, leaving behind five symphonies and a never-ending drama. Scriabin's eldest daughter Ariadna moved to France, converted to Judaism, fought for the resistance in an armée Juive against the Nazis and was shot dead in an ambush in 1944; she was Elisha's maternal great-grandmother. Her brother, Julian, a boy composer, drowned at the age of 11. A cousin, Vyacheslav Scriabin, changed his surname to Molotov and became Stalin's trusted hatchet-man. Not many musicians have a composer, a war heroine and a mass murderer in their bloodline. In an age obsessed with celebrity, Elisha Abas has enough snaps in his family scrapbooks to keep him perpetually in headlines.
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