A Lion at the Keyboard

Wonderful sunny day at St James`s today for the recital of that young “lion of the keyboard”Ilya Kondratiev.
All the people queuing up for edible delights outside in the beautiful courtyard of this magical church only a stones throw from Piccadilly Circus.If only.they knew what treats were in store inside with the almost daily lunchtime concerts of which the Royal College of Music was proud to present today the winner of its prestigeous Chappell Gold Medal, the young russian pianist Ilya Kondratiev.
The virtuoso Ilya I know well so it was a double surprise to find Ilya the mature musician offering an impeccable account of Beethoven`s Les Adieux Sonata op 81a. It was all there :the scrupulous attention to Beethovens very meticulous indications which even include pedalling in this, the only Sonata with a programme indicated by the composer. It was also the spirit of Beethoven that was so clear” Les Adieux” of the title and the joyous return but all kept strictly under control. Right from the very opening a very taut rhythm all perfectly measured with some beautiful dynamic shading. It is very rare to find in the Russian school this deep understanding of Beethoven and infact that master Gilels comes to mind as an exception .
I well remember the first time Annie Fischer came to play in my theatre in Rome.She had just come from being on the jury of the famous Liszt/Bartok competition in her home city of Budapest. She was supposed to play the Liszt Sonata but she changed the programme not able to face that sonata ever again.(She played the Brahms F minor Sonata op 5 instead). She obviously had not heard Ilya`s Liszt sonata that we were treated to today. Ilya who six years ago at a very young age was a top prize winner in that very competition. Let me say that this was a young mans Liszt full of passion and feats of virtuosity,in fact a real lion of the keyboard. With the maturity that came to Gilels and Arrau in their middle age,he will control his admirable ardour and play the virtuoso passages with the same refined,measured poetry that he played the long drawn out slow sections of which this masterpiece abounds. That is not to say that he did not give an architecturally clear account where the structure was always kept top most in mind.
It was just that I was not expecting such an extraordinary performance of the Beethoven and was hoping that he could have had the same “classical “approach to the passionate outpourings of the Liszt. It is just a question of time and with the superb musicianship of Vanessa Latarche at his side I would not be surprised if the seemingly elusive maturity was not far away.
Canan Maxton from Talent Unlimited was ever present for one of her stars. Even a broken leg could not keep her away from sustaining and encouraging this remarkable young “lion”
And so on to the extraordinary exhibition Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy opposite and on to the Wigmore Hall …..what a day


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