Thanksgiving in Rome

Afkham and Helmchen at S.Cecilia for Thanksgiving.
Martin Helmchen and David Afkham at S. Cecilia Rome.A concert that confirms that there is a great new young generation about to take the concert scene by storm.
It was obvious with the first stroke of the young German conductor’s baton that we were in for an evening where the sparks were flying. A baton that like all great conductors was only at the service of the players but when it was necessary to dig deeper into the music the human hand was the most expressive means . Were not Giulini’s hands just the nearest thing to a Michelangelo sculpture?
Pappano too leaves his baton to one side when he really wants to grip at the heart strings.
But here in this orchestra – Pappano’s Orchestra – every player has an important part to play ,and to see the enjoyment and concentration on every players face is extraordinary Never more so than watching the energy and real participation of the first violin Roberto Gonzales Monjas ,who I had noted with such admiration in Pappano’s Fidelio recently.
A real love affair which is confirmed in Pappano’s contract extended by mutual agreement only a few days ago until 2021.
Till death do us part .Hats off indeed.
A Magic Flute Overture full of youthful energy and a respect for the very precise markings that Mozart indicates in the score.
However I had really come to hear Martin Helmchen who a highly esteemed pianist friend in London had spoken so highly of and whose name I have seen appearing with ever more regularity.
In fact he is part of an elite of young pianists who are fast making a name for themselves in a profession where it had seemed that the barn storming virtuoso was the norm. I am referring to five pianists in particular ,two of whom have been particularly associated with Alfred Brendel .They are Paul Lewis and Martin Helmchen together with Inon Barnatan,Igor Levit and Francesco Piemontesi.
All have one thing in common which is absolute fidelity to the composers wishes and as Pollini has said it is at this point and only at this point that one has the freedom to interpret the music with one’s own personality. Murray Perahia ,of course, is the supreme example for us today.
But there are also these great young musicians who are conquering a public who is tired of hearing just notes being spun faster or more beautifully without any real reference to the source from which they were born.
And so it was with this young German Martin Helmchen today that we heard a Mozart D minor Concerto K 466 as we have not heard it’s like since Haskil,Brendel or Pires . This was a young man’s Mozart full of passionate energy that together with David Afkham and the passionate involvement of Roberto Gonzales Monjas and his colleagues held us spellbound for a half an hour of sublime music making.
Some slight embelishments in the slow movement were so much in style that instead of being annoyed one was delighted,,, as was shown by the smile on the conductors face when he realised that here was some real spontaneous music making.
I missed a little the Curzon approach where every note had a place and an individual meaning but that can only come with maturity and experience .
The slow movement of the Mozart Sonata in F  K.332 offered as an encore, however, had all the things that had been missing in the concerto. Time seemed to stand still such was the attention to detail with such subtle phrasing and style .I would say this was the nearest thing to perfection that I have heard for a long time .
The last Shostakovich Symphony ,of course received a virtuoso performance from this very fine conductor but after such refined Mozart performances I really did not need anything more . Great thanks indeed to Cecilia on ” Thanksgiving”


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