S.Cecilia Juni Orchestra at the Valvisciolo Abbey,Ninfa

Amazing S.Cecilia Youth Orchestra at the Valvisciolo Abbey a stones throw from the magical gardens of Ninfa in the shadow of the Caetani Castle in Sermoneta.

And what a joy to see all these young people intent on expressing themselves through art , as the Bishop of Valvisciolo said in his thanks to the young musicians .

After all the horrors that a regularly transmitted into our hallowed homes we now see all these young people just intent on making music together and sharing it with others.

How true that music can arrive where words are not enough ……

A little shy boy,Giorgio Abbadessa,trying not to be noticed but then in a trance when he struck up the first notes of Beethoven’s Romance in F for violin and orchestra.
Cheered to the rafters by his 100 or so friends ” in crime” he was to be seen in the second violin section for the rest of the concert.

A real lesson of humility and innocence obviously imparted by Simone Genuini their musical ” daddy” for the past ten years ,since Bruno Cagli insisted that the most prestigeous and oldest musical institution in Italy- S.Cecilia – Pappanos realm- should start training and forging real youthful enthusiasm from the earliest age .

Now regularly directed by Pappano,Accardo,Biondi .

Hats off again to the Pontine Festival for recognising and encouraging such wonders and to allow the almost abandoned Valvisciolo Abbey to resound ,centuries later, to such magnificence.
Giving us once again hope and courage for the future.

An example set by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said with their West Divan Orchestra a response to ignorance ,poverty and lack of communication ……..

Education,art and history are the stories that we elders should impart to our youths not hatred,violence and racialism.

If only one could convince the mass media to take note the Daily News might not be so hard to digest .

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.

Boris Berman in Fondi

uBoris Berman in Fondi …….magnificent masterclass in the Roberto Prosseda/Baglini series.Two wonderful young musicians students of Roberto Prosseda and Riccardo Zadra from Vicenza.
Very nice  to see Boris again  after his memorable recitals in my theatre in Rome some years ago now .Sorry his wife  Zina was not with him this time.

Some great and helpful comments from the head of Piano at Yale.

In the beautiful Palazzo Baronale belonging to the Caetani Foundation as does the Castle in Sermoneta where for two years the Keyboard Charitable Trust together with the Pontine Festival have given some memorable recitals from Pablo Rossi,Alexander Ullman,Evelyne Berezovskyand Emanuel Rimoldi.

Lack of funds this year have meant no concerts but that has not stopped the local musicians from organising some magnificent masterclasses in this very hall.

Two star students this morning the first a 23 year old pianist from Vicenza presenting Liszt Totentanz and Schumann Carnaval and a 17 year old boy also from Vicenza with Chopin B flat minor Sonata Some remarkable piano playing as Boris pointed out and that coming from the head of one of the most important piano faculties in the world is a compliment indeed.

Always ready to show them how to improve already accomplished performances ,showing them how project and make them understand more the character of the pieces they had already mastered.The different types of Waltz in Carnaval or the demonic aspect of Dies Irae in Liszt where death was not the consolation and liberation as in Bach, but a reckoning time before the final judgement .

A fascinating morning of how to relax in order to project the sound without harshness or how to listen and regulate the pedal in this very resonant hall.
Always making the students think about what they were doing and never imposing one way or another .
Wonderful restaurant in the courtyard that not only I remembered from my last visits but also the owner remembered me too !

How lucky the people are in this area to have Virsaladze on one hill and Berman on another two of the most sought after teachers in the world .

Boris Berman off after this week to Portugal,Lucca,Finland and St Petersburg  before recording all the Debussy Preludes in France this autumn .

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.


Elisso’ Virsaladze Masterclass and Student Concert

Elisso’ Virsaladze Masterclass
Concerto finale corso di Elisso Virsaladze and as you would expect some remarkable playing that included some of her students that had followed her from Moscow.Under the eagle eye of the ever present Elisa Cerocchi the concert included nine of the students from the course.A fine musicianly performance of the first movement of the Schumann Fantasie played by Alvam Baltanas Meliveo with great intelligence and feeling …..no easy task . A very fine Barcarolle from Ashley Fripp hardly surprising for this Gold Medalist from the Guildhall already much admired for his performances heard worldwide on streaming from the Chopin Competition. in Warsaw.
A 22 year old Portughese student of Elisso for the past five years in Moscow:joao Xavier .A very secure and well tempered Prokofiev 3rd Sonata . Sachiko Eto also a student from Moscow playing two Scarlatti Sonatas and a very precise and passionate L’Isle joyeuse by Debussy .A fine performance of Scriabin fourth Sonata by Moeko Ezaki and a very fine disciplined performance of Liszt 12 Rhapsody from Alessandro Romagnoli. Schubert Landler and a Scriabin Study op.8 n.9 from another student from Moscow Hiroo Sato and a good performance of the very complex ” White mass” of Scriabin from Luc Redor.
But I think there can be no doubt that Franck Laurent Grandpre stole the show with his own amazing Salsa Lipsa .A truly virtuoso performance that brought the house down.Elisso enjoying every minute from the back row and refusing to share in the applause that was rightly for her adoring students that she had spent so much care and preparation on , allowing each one to stand before the public on their own .Drinks for all and a party until curfew time in the little square with Elisso at the centre,of course.
And the end of another wonderfully successful course here in Sermoneta where only musicians of the very highest calibre have dared venture before her . They include : Magaloff,Kempff,Schiff,Canino,Ciccolini,Rosen to name only a few…..No mean feat for the Cerocchi Family to maintain the highest possible standards on this little hillside village in the middle of the wilderness that are the Pontine Hills.But then that is why.with all the difficulties that surround our resent day lives,we all flock back every year to recharge our batteries and remind ourselves of some true values .
Corso Virsaladze al Castello Caetani Sermoneta yesterday . Looking closely at the piano the seeming Steinway & Sons of the first piano on closer inspection was infact Chang Wang……the second one a rather harsh Schimmel . Such are our times. Interesting to hear the original Liszt Paganini studies ……sounded a bit like Liszt on a drunken binge but as Elisso said in her very down to earth way ” it is interesting at least to know”…………..a brave student from the RNCM who assume was Russian but living in Manchester fro some years ……….followed by a very involved performance of Prokofiev 3rd sonata by Franck Laurent Grandpre ,who was to take the student concert by storm with a piece of his own..A musicianly performance of Chopin Fantasie op 49 from an ex student of Yale and a well prepared performance of Schumann G minor Sonata op.22 played by a young Korean boy ……….a very busy afternoon with a seemingly tireless task master listening to every note …nothing escapes her eagle ears.

Elisso Virsaladze in Sermoneta

The Festival Pontino di Musica in Sermoneta in these difficult times has dedicated this years festival to the young that are so in need of a platform .
And so the very opening concert in the magical atmosphere of the Caetani Castle was dedicated to the Orchestra of the Liceo Musicale Farnesina and on the 29th July in the beautiful Abbey of Valvisciolo it will be the turn of the Juni Orchestra of the Accademy of S.Cecilia .
What better way to turn these austere times to the advantage of the enormously talented young musicians that dedicate their youth to Art.
Hats off the Elisa Cerocchi( daughter of the now retired founder Riccardo Cerocchi)Tiziana Cherubini and the ever present neo presidente Luigi Giannini.
However the Pontine Festival does not lack in illustrious names with a faithful following from artists such as Elisso Virsaladze,Alessandro Carbonare,Franco Petracchi and Mariana Sirbu all dedicating their time to the masterclasses that since the time of Menuhin and Szigeti have been so much part of the music making on the Pontine Hills during the summer months.

So it was last night with the return of Elisso Virsaladze,who has been an annual appointment for for many years .
Missing last year due to illness and now returning to give a recital in the courtyard of the castle of Mozart.Schubert and Schumann.

And what a return it was .Could there now be another dimension to her playing or have we just been starved of her great artistry for too long
The little Mozart Rondo in A minor KV511 given a really operatic performance such was the freedom she found within the strict framework where very note seemed to talk directly in a fascinating and very subtle way.
Beautiful and unexpected jeux perle’ and wonderful sense of balance allowed the music to speak for itself with a surprising intensity .It was as though we were hearing this well known piece for the first time.
Following with Schubert’s great G major Sonata Fantasia .
A difficult work to bring off in the concert hall so here in the open air it was a real challenge.
It was obvious from the magical opening that she had perfectly judged the accoustic as she held the public in her hands for the next half an hour . Not missing the drama of the development section in the first movement but always in the context of the fantasy that she was recounting .Some beautifully projected cantabile in the andante and some very subtle shading in the Menuet leading to an impish opening of the Allegretto ,played with such obvious enjoyment that when it burst into one of the most beautiful melodies that Schubert has penned we were reminded of that other wonderful last movement that is Mozart’s Cmajor concerto K503 where the overwhelming invention pours out in a seemingly limitless way.

Schnabel once said that Mozart was too easy for children and too difficult for adults but in the Sonata in F K.533 that followed after the interval this amazingly complete artist found just the right simplicity and character that can be so difficult to balance .

Richter was a great admirer of Elisso Virsaladze’s Schumann from when she won the competition in Zwickau and so it was no surprise to find an impeccable performance of his Carnaval op 9.
Restored to the original with all the traditional idiosyncracies eliminated as she purveyed in a microscopic way the original intentions of Schumann as shown  so clearly in the score .
Not to say it lacked colour,passion,charm and style for this is one of the great artists of our time and how lucky all the young pianists are that flock to her masterclasses to be able to share in her seemingly direct contact with the composers.Students that have included Beatrice Rana,Emanuel Rimoldi,Alexander Ullman,Pablo Rossi and Evelyne Beresowsky to name but a few.

Ever generous with three encores (Mozart and Chopin Mazurka op30 n.4 and the Waltz op 42 ) and an enthusiastic audience glad to be able to demonstrate how pleased they are to have her back again.

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.


Dinara Klinton and the Virgin St Mary

Dinara Klinton* opening the new series by the indefaticable Hugh Mather in the beautiful church of St Mary the Virgin in the middle of Ealing Golf course.
A series of 19 concerts in which one can hear most of the best young pianists around.
Every Tuesday at 2pm until 26th July and then from 6th September.
Amazingly free entrance with retiring collection.

In Chronological order:Salimdjanova,Fripp,Viner* in July .
And from 6th September :Rajeshkumar,Mei Yi Foo*,Schoeman,Fisher,Ritivoiu*,Mitrea,Mengyang Pan,Ullman*,Lapshin,Kondratiev*,Haftman,Okros,Pablo Rossi*,Uttley,Jianing Kong.*

What a line up I certainly recommend turning up early although such is the infectious and informed enthusiasm of our host I am sure no one will ever be turned away.

This friday at nearby St Barnabas another great pianist Evgeny Genchev* at 1pm .

What a season and is says much of Dott Mathers discerning musicianship,and rare capacity to select and help the very best young pianists, that they all flock to play in his remarkable series

Could not miss the very first concert with Dinara Klinton a student of Elisso Virsaladze( who is playing and giving masterclasses in the festival(Pontine Festival)) founded in the 60’s by Menuhin and Szigeti in Sermoneta just above the famous gardens of Ninfa and a stones throw from my home in Italy where I will arrive later today).

Having heard someone playing very beautifully the Harmonies du Soir on Radio 3 two mornings ago whilst in Perlemuter’s house in Oxford , I was not surprised, but extremely pleased to know it was from Dinara Klinton’s new recording of the Liszt Transcendental Studies that was so well received on the Classical Record Review a month ago.

Opening this afternoon with the so called ” Moonlight ” sonata one was immediately struck by the beauty of her tone even on a piano that was not so responsive as the wonderful Bosendorfer in Hugh Mathers other hall in St Barnabas .
I found the Scherzo a bit too frivolous after such a profound opening .But in Dinaras hands the Presto con Fuoco of the last movement was just that .Some very aristocratic control of tempi especially in the final outburst before the coda.

Chopin could not be missed out in the first of a series dedicated to the piano and Dinara offered some very poetic performances of the G major Nocturne op15 and the Trois Nouvelles Etudes that Chopin wrote for Fetis’s treatise on piano .
Never can two against three or three against two or even staccato combined with legato have sounded more like pure poetry in Chopin’s hands than the dry piano lesson that perhaps Fetis had envisaged .
Beautifully performed by this artists who has no trouble either with the monstrous technical difficulties of the studies op 10 and 25 .

The polonaise op 40 n.2 perhaps the most regal and aristocratic of them all was give a noble performance but one was always left thinking how wondrous it might have been on Dott Mathers magnificent Bosendorfer in the church just around the corner.

However to finish this short hour long programme Dinara pulled out all the stops in Rosenblatt’s fiendishly difficult Variations on a theme of Paganini.
And as if to sugar the pill afterwards of this rather outlandish piece Dinara offered ,after great insistence, the little Valse Oublie’ by Liszt .
Played with all the style and subtle colouring that have made this young artist  already a highly esteemed specialist in the Romantic repertoire.

Hats off again to Dott Mather for inventing yet another series for his loyal public, that never abandon him on his various and numerous musical journeys.

And we must all thank Dott Mather for giving such opportunities to so many young amazingly gifted artists who just crave for a discerning public to share their wares with .

 *Keyboard Charitable Trust Artists
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.

Artist Diploma at the Guildhallu

Some really exceptional piano playing this morning from Mihai Ritivoiu andEvgeny Genchev.
Both with the Keyboard Charitable Trust and both presenting their Artists Diploma Graduation Recital at Milton Court today.
I had already heard great things about Mihai from a KCT concert in Frankfurt recently and was actually present in the USA when Evgeny greatly impressed the public in New York and Philadelphia on a KCT tour.
It was left to Mihai to start at 10 am with a Prelude and Fugue not by Bach but unusually these days by Mendelssohn.Not since Serkin have we seen Mendelssohn in the first part of a recital.
Very rare even to hear this one in Fminor op 35 .
The prelude showed off all the poetry and beautiful sound world of Mihais extremely assured playing it was a pity that the Fugue and the Variations serieuses that followed suffered a bit from this early morning start where a more leisurly would have give more time for the music to unfold naturally .Some very fast tempo played with complete clarity and assurance …..here indeed was a young virtuoso of the first order enjoying every minute of his prowess gained in the class of the magnificent teacher that is the renowned Joan Havill .
And so it was having shown us the virtuoso now it was the time of the poet.
And so it was with the Schumann Fantasie an outpouring of love for Clara ,dedicated to Franz Liszt.
So a formidable challenge and a work that needs a real musician to be able to share its inner secrets.
A beautiful performance unfolded with all the passion but also innermost feelings all held together in a very precise framework.
No mean feat for the greatest of pianists but here was totally understood and transmitted with some really beautiful sounds on the magnificent Steinway that allowed all the varied emotions that Schumann wanted to include.
Fine rhythmic second movement led to the yearning lament for Schumann’s beloved Clara .The famous skips in in the coda of the second movement well judged indeed.
If the ending of the last movement could have been less accentuated it would have been an even more beautiful ending that Schumann indicates in crescendo with accents but surely in the context of a sumptuous string chamber orchestra.
Following on with a magical but also very precise performance of Debussy Images book 1 he ended the eighty minute recital with De Falla Fantasia Baetica .Written for the virtuoso that was Rubinstein here Mihai was in his element showing all the colours , virtuosity but also eloquence and elegance that its dedicatee was renowned for even in 1919 .
Evgeny Genchev presenting a very assured performance of the Overture in the French style BWV 831 .Particularly suited to this magnificent opening work were his taught rhythmic control but also a non legato touch , reminiscent of Glenn Gould ,that totally suited this work.
Following with a poetic performance of Beethoven’s op110.
A performance in which we could admire not only the intelligence of this problematic work but also his superb control of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing in one of Beethoven’s last trilogy that is the most lyrical and serene of all his last utterings for piano.
The return of the fugue was ushered in an almost inaudible whisper that allowed the tumultuous final passionate outpouring to be even more impressive.
Liszt’s transcription of Wagners Liebestod found the ideal interpreter here for all the subtle colours but above all the clarity and projection that showed a rare capacity to listen and adjust immediately to the piano,hall and us the audience.
So it was the extreme delicacy of the the first of the two Poemes op 32 by Scriabin that particularly impressed although the virtuosity and passion in the second Poeme and the Fantasie in B minor op 28 that followed were very impressive indeed.
So it was with great expectation that we awaited the Dante Sonata of Liszt .All the virtuosity,temperament and poetry beautifully realised but with a sense of overall line and direction of a real thinking musician.
Infact Artists Diploma is exactly the title that the lucky people present ,which included the renowned critic Bryce Morrison ,were able to confirm with these very impressive performances from the splendid stable of the Guildhall so ably presided over by Ronan o Hara with artists of the calibre of Martin Roscoe ,Joan Havill  and Peter Bithell at his side.

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.

Peter Feuchtwanger

Peter Feuchtwanger funeral today in the beautiful Brompton Cemetery in the centre of London.Much loved and esteemed musician.
Moving words from Michael Garady,Haydn Dickenson,Ben Bryant….of course the wonderful playing of Clara Haskil that he loved so much filled the air with Abschied from Waldszenen as did the wonderful voice of Kathleen Ferrier.True magic in the air.What a wonderful way to go …..paradise surely awaits

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.

Simon Rattle and Krystian Zimerman

Krystian Zimerman at the end of Beethoven 4 with Simon Rattle and the LSO.
They certainly had fun this evening together.
We a little less as we were not let totally into their secret world.

In their real enjoyment and involvement of making music together they took the very backbone out of this, the most poetic but also the most precise of Beethoven’s concertos.
In fact it requires just that almost clockwork precision allied to the most poetic soul,one of the most elusive things to achieve in the concert hall

Some wonderful things of course .Zimermans beauty of sound reminiscent of his mentor Rubinstein and Rattles inquisitive energy like a modern day Toscanini.

But right from the beginning with Zimerman appearing with Rattle for the Unanswered Question……what could it mean ?
Infact the opening of the Beethoven was mixed without a break from the end of the Ives .
Searching for some new link and so it continued throughout but without that wondrous sense of line so essential in Beethoven.

Even some ragged edges are an essential part of Beethoven`s character and it was this that I suppose made this performance not entirely successful as a whole.

Wonderful to see these two white haired lads having such fun and it was that that was so unusual to see in this old warhorse and it led,of course, to a well deserved standing ovation for trying perhaps too hard to be original and astonished as Beethoven’s audience must truly have been in 1806.
In the end inspiring,of course,but on this occasion not totally convincing .

After the interval,on the other hand , was a totally inspired performance of Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony.

Not since Stokowski has the LSO sounded so glorious.

The sumptuous rich ,mellow string sound of a Philadelphia or Vienna Philharmonic and the sheer rhythmic energy and drive of the Cleveland or Chicago orchestras all this from the magic hands of Simon Rattle intent on making music with these marvellous musicians before him .
With the cellos and violas at his feet and the first and second violins either side there was this wonderfully rich sound that seemed to come from deep down inside the very body of the Symphony.
And the cheers that Simon Rattle received spontaneously from a rapt audience at the end , he was happy to share, with the superb clarinettist who he climbed up to embrace, as we all would have liked to, after such wonderful heartfelt playing.

Infact is that not the sign of a great conductor to allow each player to share in the music making and to be made to feel that each player is essential to the whole allowing them the freedom to give totally of themselves as is so rarely the case in professional orchestras under lesser mortals .

A totally exhausting evening for all concerned but what music making and how lucky we were to be part of it tonight.

Welcome back to London Simon you have been greatly missed

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.