Partitura Project with Maria João Pires and Kaito Kobayashi at Rome University “La Sapienza” .
It is very apposite that in Busoni’s 150 anniversary year one should be reminded twice in the same week of his statement that “the pedal is the soul of the piano”.Nowhere could that have been more evident than at Krystian Zimerman’s recital of Schubert’s last two Sonatas in London a few days ago and now even more evident with Pires in Beethoven’s last two Sonatas op110 and op.111.The pedal used as voice in its own right . Now to open up the sound in the piano almost as a percussion instrument in order to make the piano sound like a full orchestra and now to give a sheen and luminous sound. Reminiscent of the great almost forgotten Wilhelm Kempff especially in his later years. We are a taught from an early age to practise without pedal and to join the notes with ones fingers , not to rely on the pedal but to a certain extent to add the pedal after this work has been done. But are we ever made aware that the pedal ( I am talking about all three pedals ) in the hands of a real thinking musician is another voice in its own right? And so it was as Maria Joao Pires stepped onto the platform with a very fine twenty one year old disciple whom she had decided to share the concert with fifty fifty.TheJapanese pianist Kaito Kobayashi. Last time I saw her she share the concert with Julien Brocal ,a young french pianist whom I had heard and admired at the Monza Competition a few years ago. There she played the Mozart double with him and a series of shared recitals all over the north of Italy . When I went backstage,in Oxford, to thank her for all she is doing to help these marvellous young musicians she replied with a very sweet genuine modesty that it was they that helped her!
Very similar to that other great , generous lady Martha Argerich.A table to one side with a chair for the attentive listener awaiting their turn to play.It was hardly fair for Kaito to follow Pires’s opening op 110 with Beethovens Funeral March Sonata op 26 . Clean and clear a fine musicianly account of op 26 some very beautiful things indeed but when Pires opened opn 110 there was a sheen and luminosity to the sound that was quite unique . The simple but extreme attention to sound no where more evident than in the last chord of the first movement that seemed to disintigrate before our very eyes( just infact as another great magician of sound Shura Cherkassky would have done) The second movement with all the rhythmic energy necessary but without that usual heavy not always legato chord playing that we are so used to hearing. Leading to a final movement of such majesty and beauty . Can the melodic line ever have sounded so beautiful with the rock solid but never heavy repeated chords underneath? Wonderful sense of balance and of holding back the sound until the climax before the explosion of arpeggiated chords and the gentle almost murmured return of the fugue in inversion this time leading to the real climax and triumphant ending of this masterpiece.Here the almost percussive use of the pedal to open up the full rich sound that is hidden away in that black box of tricks. A beautiful Steinway from Alfonsi lovingly tuned by that master Mauro Buccitti. Follow that! After the interval Kaito gave a very fine performance of Mozart A minor Sonata …the last movement,of course,too fast , as always not allowing a real legato and giving the beautiful middle section a chance to have time to sing and breath. The first movement on the other hand magnificently played with the right sound and majesty with a real sense of colour and rhythmic energy leading to a beautifully shaped slow movement. All this appreciated from the lady seated at the table by the piano awaiting her turn to play. And play she did ! Beethoven’s last Sonata . And if ,unexpectedly, she played the opening octaves with two hands it was always with the intended struggle in mind. If the first movement did not always seem as rock solid as it probably could ,it was remarkable for the sheen and overall homogenious sense of sound sometimes again resorting to almost jumping on the sustaining pedal to open up the sound to give us that full orchestral sound that obviously Beethoven ,who was totally deaf, had envisage. But who could have imagined the visionary performance of the last movement from the very opening. Beauty without sentimentality so difficult to transmit in this piece. And whereas the most notable thing about this small, sparrow like master was the stillness when she played . But suddenly in the middle jazz like variation she became a jazz star moving just as one would expect from a keyboards player in some dive , with an almost infectious dance like movement . But all this to lead to the most serene and sublime final pages imaginable leading ,in turn, to the triumphant climax always( with that luminous and sometimes rich full sound ) Discending to the final pages of the trills that I have never heard played so beautifully. The technical feat of playing in itself a continuous trill with two fingers of one hand whilst using the others have to play the most etherial appearance of the theme . All this whilst the left hand has a magic all of its own . We were not made aware of the difficulty such were the magic sounds produced ……it was as though Beethoven had anticipated the Impressionist and that in his imagination he could have imagined what the remarkable Madame Pires miraculously achieved. To end the concert suddenly two stools appeared and our two artists played this time as one a beautiful piece for four hands by Grieg . A big queue in the Green Room to thank Madame Pires for the lesson of humility,sensitivity and humanity that she had brought to us. Many fine pianists in the queue for it was they, above all ,that were able to appreciate the state of perfection that she had achieved . Beatrice Rana ,fresh from a recital in Leipzig,had even forsaken an evening’s rest in order not to miss Pires before flying off the following morning on a South American tour with Pappano (Tchaikowsky n.1 S.Cecilia Orchestra) .In the queue with many others to meet and thank this remarkable lady.