The Loves of Picasso…Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery Picasso
What a man ………if only Trump could paint!
As Gyorgy Sandor said to me at the time of the Klinton debacle :
”So he likes women,whats the problem!”
Well that is one way of defusing a very distasteful episode ……….
Picasso certainly liked women and here they are …… his inspiration ……..he ate them alive ,consumed them and two of them committed suicide.One had the cpourage to leave him and is still alive in New York- Francoise Gilot
As in Terry d’Alfonso’s film “ Loves of Picasso” shown in many galleries throughout the world Berlin/New York/London.
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p

Julian Trevelyan at St James’s

Julian Trevelyan at St James’s
Extraordinary recital by the seventeen year old Julian Trevelyan at St James`s Piccadilly today. Presented by Canan Maxton from Talent Unlimited that together with David McCleery ,concerts manager of St James’s and Heather J.Turnham of Bedford Concerts gave us the possibility to hear this still very young pianist.
The unknown young man who took the Marguerite Long Competition in Paris by storm last year.
And it was infact in “Warum” by Schumann ,played as an encore that showed to the full his remarkable artistry. A wonderful sense of balance that allowed this difficult Fazioli to sing as it very rarely does in other hands. Allied already to a great musical personality that was immediately obvious from the arpeggiated chords in the opening statement of Busoni’s great transcription of the Bach Chaconne.
Originally written for violin solo,his mentor Elizabeth Altman told me afterwards that he insisted in breaking the chords as would be done on the violin.Even Busoni did not do that on his famous piano roll performance but it just showed the sort of commitment from this young man.
His superb sense of balance meant that in the climaxes he was able to take us by storm with his generous but never percussive full orchestral sound. Of course in the final his youthful passion got the better of him and he lost some of his remarkable self control of tempo and pedal in his zeal.Surely the great final bass notes are organ stops and not percussive pillars ,as Agosti a pupil of Busoni was always keen to point out ,even though very excitingly played.Some very interesting re arrangements of the hands too showed a man born to play the piano.
Faure`s rarely heard but charming Valse Caprice op.30 was given a scintillating performance showing a real understanding of the style and subtle salon colours,but always within the bounds of the aristocratic good taste of the French.
Let me say straight away that Scarbo that completed his performance of Gaspard de la Nuit was one of the most remarkable that I have heard. Here the great final climax was given with such passionate restraint and real virtuosity .
But it was the central section that was remarkable seeming to enter like mist and the subtle slow awakening that led so magnificently to that final climax. Some very original colouring too in some of the most hair raisingly difficult escapades of this little demon.
Le Gibet was given with.such a consistent rhythmic impulse allied to the most subtle colouring around the insistent tolling bell.
Ondine that opens this extraordinary almost revolutionary work of Ravel was played with the restraint and undemonstrative virtuosity of a real master. Beautiful pedal effect of that final simple reappearance of Ondine,a not very nice accent on the penultimate note but even that was resolved on the last note by this young artist who actually listens to every note with technical and musical mastery that mark him out and will indeed be a name to watch in the near future as he makes his inevitable ascent .
Finally letting his hair down with a scintillating jazz etude by Kapustin,rather too long ,but when you are young and letting your hair down one can only stand and cheer

My Waterloo…..Southbank Sinfonia and Nicholas Young at the 1901 Arts Club

My Waterloo….Southbank Sinfonia and Nicholas Young at 1901 Arts Club
Very interesting evening on the Southbank yesterday .In fact all revolving around Waterloo …..so this was my Waterloo……….To hear the Southbank Sinfonia,whom I had last heard in Anghiari( Arezzo) ,Italy now in the Church of St John’s ,Waterloo with a free Rush hour concert that comprised not only the Dances of Galanta by Kodaly but also a fabulously passionately concise performance of Sibelius Second Symphony.Some very fine playing but a really exceptional conductor in Natalia Luis-Bassa ,who could steer them through these fragmentary waters to the inevitable overwhelming final statement .
A conductor from the famous El Sistema in Venezuela personified in Gustavo Dudamel who was discovered and brought to Europe by Claudio Abbado .Now established in the UK we will be hearing a lot more of her as we will from the fabulous players in this magnificent apprentices orchestra. Not only Kodaly and Sibelius but also a glass of wine.Hats off indeed.
But next door in Exton Street is the charming Headmaster house that is the 1901 Arts Club that offers a beautiful but intimate space for young musicians in concert and rehearsal. The Hattori Foundation use it for their concerts to promote young musicians and last night it was the turn of the Australian pianist Nicholas Young. What an interesting programme all revolving around London in the 1920’s ……A chance to hear again the two sonatas by Roy Agnew, a little known Australian composer who died in 1944 ,that had been heard the evening before for the Keyboard Charitable Trust at Steinways .
A very interesting Second Sonata by Arnold Bax that Nicholas in his learned introduction likened to the Liszt Sonata in shape and form.Indeed it had the same quiet beginning and ending and much virtuoso piano writing inbetween . I had no idea that Busoni also spent so much time in London.But as Nicholas again explained that although based in Berlin Busoni loved London and would dress in different ways and go out on the town to meet all spheres of people ………His Berceuse , Toccata and Ten variations on a Prelude by Chopin ( n.20 in Cminor like Rachmaninov) were given such fine performances that I have not heard the like since Serkin played them ( Berceuse and toccata) in London together with op111 ,Schumann Carnaval and Reger Variations – those were the days!
A very musicianly performance of the famous Chaconne finished off this fascinating recital .(The day before Nicholas had indeed included op.111 in his Steinway

Mihai Ritivoiu at St Mary’s Perivale

Mihai Ritivoiu at St Mary’s Perivale
Mihai Ritivoiu at St Mary`s Perivale Schumann Romances op 28 Toccata op7 Liszt Sonata in B minor Once more a magnificent recital for Hugh Mathers remarkable Tuesday series dedicated to the very finest pianists from the up and coming younger generation..
A remarkable array of talent chosen with the care and expertise of a real musician who passionately cares and wants to help these young artists by offering concerts in his very well attended series .. Most from the series have won major prizes at our music colleges andMihai Ritivoiu, a student of the highly esteemed Joan Havill at the Guildhall was in fact winner of the Gold Medal of the Beethoven Society of Europe. I was present when he played a very fine ” Appassionata”to Piers Lane and Noretta Conci who as a jury had no hesitation in awarding him their highest honour.
Today he was presenting two works by Schumann and one of the most remarkable works in the Romantic repertoire the Sonata in B minor by Liszt. Starting with the three Romances op 28 by Schumann.The second of which is very often played as an encore but rarely do we see all three in a concert programme.Very good to hear them all at the opening of a programme especially when played with the intelligence that was revealed here. All the romantic ardour and colours but allied to a rigour and attention to the bass that gave great profundity and sense of direction especially noticeable in the first of the Romances. The famous second Romance in F sharp was played with an aristocratic sense of line that never was allowed to dissolve into sentimentality.The final Romance,the longest of them all,based on Schumann’s dotted rhythm was here played with a lightness and shape that made an ideal conclusion to this group.
I remember Cherkassky used to play the even more rarely heard op111 of Schumann as a prelude to the Liszt Sonata and Mihai chose to combine the Romances with the famous , dare I say infamous, Toccata in C op 7 . When its is played by a real musician ,with the technical equipment to cope with its treacherous demands,one is made to realise what a masterpiece it is . Here Mihai with the perfect legato that Schumann asks for in place and again the bass made prominent below the fast repeated right hand octaves leading to a most romantic outpouring only to dissolve into nothing as it had begun . In that sense it has much in common with the Liszt Sonata that was to follow. The Liszt Sonata was given a musician’s performance. And that is not to say that there were not many thrilling moments in which Mihai rose to the occasion.But there was also a sense of architecture and shape together with a sense of wonder and beauty in the slower passages with an aristocratic rubato that never lost sight of the overall shape and picture.
Maybe it was missing something of the demonic character and sheer animal excitement but this will come with living with it for some time , It is already quite remarkable for a young hot blooded pianist to be able to control his emotions and to play this work with the respect and intelligence that it deserves .

Benjamin Grosvenor at St Johns Smith Square

were Benjamin Grosvenor at SJSS
Sold out recital of Benjamin Grosvenor at St Johns Smith Square tonight.
An impeccable Mozart Sonata in B flat was strangely followed by a rather disjointed performance of Chopin`s Funeral March Sonata in which the blurred lines of a super veloce last movement were only matched by the continual tempo changes in the first. This led to an uneven performance in which the nobility and majesty of this, one of Chopin`s masterpieces were not given their full due.
It was a different pianist that stepped out on to the platform for the second half of this justly sold out recital. A sumptuous performance of Scriabin`s Sonata Fantasie in G sharp minor full of subtle colours,half lights and delicacy mingled with the most passionate outpourings .There was no doubt we were now listening to a master. And masterly performances were to abound in this remarkable second half. Two pieces from Goyescas by Granados full of subtle charm and wit and notes just thrown off with an easy elegance and jeux perle` reminiscent of the virtuosi of the “Golden Age”of piano playing. If Liszt’s Spanish Rhapsody did not have the majesty or frenzied primitive forward drive of Gilel’s memorable performance in the RFH many years ago that had us sitting on the edge of our seats, it was,however, for a young man still only in his twenties and British to boot , a very remarkable performance.
There was no doubt about his complete technical command of the keyboard in every sense not only funambulistic velocity but something much rarer: a subtle sense of colour and style that one thought was a long lost tradition. The little study in Fminor by Moszkowski played as an encore with that nonchalance and teasing elegance that Horowitz had to perfection.Nothing was missing in the performance tonight even the teasingly long drawn out final notes that were thrown into  the audience holding its breath and only  to happy to receive them with a joy that can only confirm that there is a new Golden Age of virtuosi and that they are British! .
Having heard also this morning on Radio 3 a performance of Schultz Evler’s Blue Danube and expecting to hear it was Lhevine or Cherkassky but to learn that it was our Benjamin Grosvenor and the other day a teasingly virtuoso transcription of Delibes that was written and played by Stephen Hough .Hats off to these British pianists that are bringing back a long lost tradition from the grand era of the divo virtuoso that one thought long lost in the concert hall and only still reigned in the Opera House.

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

Jan Lisiecki at the Wigmore Hall

Jan Lisiecki at the Wigmore Hall
And so to the Wigmore Hall with great pleasure to hear again Jan Lisiecki. Glad to see that all his publicity hype as a Vogue model had calmed down and he was now presented as the very fine pianist that he revealed here last season. From the great Canadian school a direct line from Glen Gould through Mark Andre Hammelin,Louis Lortie,Janina Fialkowska and Angela Hewitt.
A programme starting with Bach and ending with Schubert was indeed an intriguing and happy occasion to show off his real musicianly credentials.
Unfortunately it was not the extraordinary occasion that I was expecting and I suspect that this extraordinarily talented young man is playing all over the globe too often and is having to rely on his remarkable facility that allows him to free wheel seemingly without much real depth or control.
In the Bach Second Partita that opened the concert it seemed as though he was playing with the notes rather than having any real depth of meaning or command of architecture and structure, as we have come to expect from a Hewitt or a Gould .
Technically impeccable,of course,but no real backbone it was more like a plasma searching its way.
The opening sounding like a transcription of Bach/Busoni such were the sonorities he found. All rather too fast to be able to unentangle the knotty twine that Delius was to find so distasteful.
The rarely performed Schumann Klavierstucke op 32 was made painfully obvious why, from his performance of this work of the dotted rhythm Schumann that can be so tiresome even in his greatest masterpieces.
The Scherzo in B minor by Chopin that ended the first half was rattled off like a transcendental study with all sorts of strange shadings and a middle section so woefully slow it sounded as though it was a nocturne that had slipped somehow into the middle of all this razz -matazz.
There were then great hopes for the second half with the two nocturnes op 48 and the  four great late Schubert Impromptus.
Some people walked out after the nocturnes as it was obvious that it was an off day .
The exaggerated dynamics and rubato that verged on the vulgar were a premonition as to what we were in for with the Impromptus.
These great poetic works some of the last outpourings of a man close to death were rattled off like studies with the most literal staccato instead of the poignant portamento that Serkin,Fischer and Fialkowska have given to us in the past .
The last Impromptu sounded in places like a transcendental study.
Instead of the standing ovation of his last concert the discerning Wigmore audience were only too anxious to leave the hall not a little dismayed.
However we were treated to an encore announced as a work to help us dream:Schumann’s Traumerei ……more like a nightmare than a glimpse of paradise.
One can only assume that this very gifted young pianist still only in his early twenties with many memorable performances  and even a notable recording of the Schumann Concerto with Pappano to his name has joined the jet setting concert circuit long before he is mature enough to be able to cope.
The same thing happened to Trifonov after he won two major competitions and was thrown into the spotlight. He has recovered thanks to his close friends and a caring benefactor and is now in his rightful place as one of the great pianists of our time .
I sincerely hope that Jan Lisiecki will overcome this obvious and understandable crisis and in his own time take his rightful place on the international circuit.
Nadia Boulanger used to quote Shakespeare :”Words without thought no more to heaven go”……….the problem is that these days there is no time to stop and think ,digest and mature in this jetsetting world where everything is expected to happen instantly .