Ilya Kondratiev at the Elgar Room

Full house at the Royal Albert Hall for the young russian pianist Ilya Kondratiev. Impeccable Mozart as you would expect from the class of Vanessa Latarcheat the RCM where this young virtuoso is perfecting his quite considerable artistry. If the last movement of K310 could have sung and been shaped with more legato was probably due more to the piano than Ilyas natural musicianship. Strange how in Liszts Fantasy and Fugue on BACH it is the performer that is fundamental whereas in Bach the instrument and performer are incidental. And what a virtuoso performance we were treated to. It is also nice to remember that it was this score that my old mentor Vlado Perlemuter had on his music stand when he died a few years ago. And what a coincidence that Ilya followed the Liszt with one of Perlemuters favourite pieces Debussy Pour le Piano. Here given a magnificent almost orchestral performance without a hint of sentimentality.I could just imagine Vlados approval. Three Preludes by Gershwin admirably suited to Elton Johns Red Piano Tour Yamaha, generously donated to the Elgar Room by Marksons pianos ended this ,that was in so many ways a remarkable recital. Virtuoso performances full of excitement and energy but sadly lacking in the sense of song that Ilya so magically projected as encores in three Schubert/Liszt song transcriptions . Here Ilya sang his heart out with a sumptuous sense of balance and colour and made you realise just what neglected masterpieces these really are. No mean feat for a young man on a Sunday morning. Here he is pictured with Canan Maxton from Talent Unlimited who does so much to help these wondrous young musicians find an audience.That is all they need… mean feat though these days l

Mihai Ritivoiu at the Reform Club 25th November 2015

A dream come true for Mihai Ritivoiu performing at the Reform Club the venue used by Jules Verne in his novel “Around the World in 80 days”.His grandmother used to read the book to him and he often used to wonder what a ” Gentleman’s Club ” would look like. So now he knows and also knows what a great venue the library is for his refined piano playing. Schuberts great C minor Sonata played with all the intellectual rigour allied to a sure sense of structure allowed the many sublime moments to be appreciated without sentimentality but with real noble sentiment. Rigoletto Paraphrase at just the right pace and in the right place for the ball. Mozart ‘s Sonata opened this pre lunchtime programme played with all the intelligence and sensitivity that one would expect from a student of Joan Havill. The concert was for the Beethoven Gold Medal Prize Winner…..and it would have been a real treat to have some Beethoven from this very fine player……but time is very precious at the Reform Club ~there is a country to govern ~so fingers crossed that there might be a repeat performance in the not too distant future.

Craig Sheppard at the RCM

Real revelations at the RCM at the appearance in the UK again of Craig Sheppard.In the 1970’s when he and Murray Perahia won the top prizes at Leeds ,he became a real favourite playing regularly in London with the major orchestras. For quite some years now he has been missing from the concert scene in Europe. On todays revelatory recital and masterclass one demands to know why? All I can say is that we have been loosing a lot but Mr Sheppard has evidently been refining his quite considerable musicianship,together with a humanity and understanding that is very rare indeed. This is someone who really knows and has no intention of playing the know it all teacher and so with the superb young Ilya Kondratev it was a real meeting of minds and prepared to experiment to find the solution for one of two problems together. At one point he even said he felt like calling Beethoven so he could explain some of his ornamentation more clearly.That ,ofcourse ,would have fallen on deaf ears,Mr Sheppard! But it was the humility and wish to find the solution together that was so refreshing. The only other time I have encountered such helpful masterclasses where teacher and pupil were equals ,was at the RCM with Emanuel Ax. Great compliments to Vanessa Latarche,Ian Jones and of course above all Norma Fisher for convincing these wonderful artists to come to work together with the amazing talent that is being nurtured in a country that has always looked to the east or the USA for such potential. Welcome back Mr Sheppard some of us still remember you and look forward to sharing you with a new generation.

Graham Johnson at the Guildhall

 Wonderful to be reminded that music,poetry,history and art are all a means of expressing human feelings and experience of life . And for Schubert such a short but full one. Sheer piano playing has no place here. Graham Johnson together with Menahem Pressler ,as Dame Fanny reminded me after hearing a song recital on the radio of Graham this spring ,are examples of piano playing that trascends the piano and music is allowed its true voice at last…….seems so simple but is ,in fact,so rare. Masterclass at the Guildhall today

Florian Heinisch at Steinway Hall

 Interesting concert at Steinway Hall of the pianist Florian Heinisch for the Keyboard Charitable Trust. In the presence of the composer Sidney Corbett ,the world premier of his PostScript(to an unsent letter). A very evocative piece full of atmospheric sounds beautifully realised by Florian. Schonbergs 6 piano pieces op23 ,this very complex piece fully rendered without the score. If the classical repertoire did not have the finish or the polish of his contemporary interpretations ,the choice of Images lib.1 ,Bachs B major Prelude and Fugue BWV 893 and the rarely heard two movement sonata op 54 of Beethoven ,showed a refreshingly informed musical mind in his choice of repertoire Of course the real hero of the evening was Dott.von Bredow ,founder member and trustee of the KCT who has done more than anyone ,with his passion for music, to promote young artists,providing many concert engagements not only throughout Germany but expanding almost daily to include Turkey,Jerusalem and Spain. For he knows that it is only through playing in public regularly that these very gifted young artists can aspire to take their just place in the profession. Little could we imagine that Moritz von Bredow will have 97 patients tomorrow morning, clammering for his professional consultancy in his clinic in Germany. Passion for music and helping the young evidently has no limits at the KCT. “Hats off” indeed.

Simon Trpceski at the Barbican november 2015

 A standing ovation and five encores for Simon Trpceski’s Chopin recital at the Barbican tonight. A Pogorelich type control of the keyboard but with such extremes of dynamics that the musical line was not always clear. What had happened to what Richter described as”the good old traditional cantabile”(describing with great love and admiration the art of Artur Rubinstein) Passing from first to fifth gear did not allow us,the audience,to follow the great musical line. Some extremrely beautiful,almost inaudible,sounds that the audience followed in hushed reverence.Here is a man who obviously loves the piano and is a supreme pianist in total control. Perhaps for this reason the last prelude op 28 and a little waltz so simpatically announced that he had played since childhood ,were the most satisfying performances. Maybe the simplicity of a child would be the clue to more coherent performances. However it was a very enjoyable way of ending a day full of glorious music making. What a place London is Cherkassky was right when he said it was the only place to live