Welcome back Mr Kissin

The triumphant return of Kissin to Rome last night
Evgeny Kissin returned to the concert platform after a year’s sabbatical refreshed,renewed and rejuvinated.
The title at the gates of the magnificent Parco della Musica just about sums up what Kissin was about to offer to Rome an “Inverno Incantato” . It was indeed just that and he was awarded a spontaneous standing ovation by a capacity audience that included Sir Anthony Pappano,Donatella Flick , Nicola Bulgari,Benedetto Lupo and many other illustrious music lovers.
A first half of classical repertoire : the Mozart little C major K.330 and Beethoven’s Appassionata op 57.
Whilst the second half was dedicated after short but magical Intermezzi op 117 by Brahms to Spanish music where he really let his hair down which led to an ever more enthusiastic audience demanding more .
Ever generous and obviously glad to be back ,a sign of real enjoyment showed not only on his face but by the ravishing sounds that he drew from the piano in The Maiden and the Nightingale and in the famous 5th Spanish dance by Granados. At this point having set the pace the recital should obviously have ended with a breathtakingly virtuoso account of Brahms Hungarian Dance in G minor in some demonic transcription reminiscent of those presented by that other super virtuoso Arcadi Volodos.
But from an imploring public visibly in delerium we were treated to a little Spanish piece full of melancholy and nostalgia . No one seemed to know what it was but does that matter when we are treated to such music that we thought we would never hear again since the passing of the great and much missed Alicia De Larrocha .The Master informs me that it was “Oriental” by Granados
The first half quite rightly was a strictly  classical affair in every sense.
The beautiful little Mozart played with all the repeats that instead of lasting the usual fifteen minutes lasted almost thirty.
As with Richter and many other discerning musicians who quite rightly insist that repeats are an integral part of the structure.
I personally think there could be a compromise at least in public recitals but what does it matter when there is playing of such charm , grace and intellectual musicianship. Some of the startling changes of harmony  though were not so surprising the second time around  even though played with such a sense of control and colour .
The last movement could have had more wit and the bubbling enthusiasm of youth ,but the seriousness of this performance set the tone of the recital and led us into a dramatic and tautly drawn performance of the Appassionata.
Never has the contrast between the whispered opening and the explosive chords sounded so overwhelming- reminiscent of the Liszt Sonata although always in the classical style as befits the new vision of this great artist.
The last movement was played non troppo Allegro but with the driving rhythm together with a total control that had us sitting on the edge of our seat something we thought was lost with the passing of his great predecessor Emil Gilels.
Not quite the luminosity of sound in the Andante con moto but played with great sentiment but without sentimentality, a great unfolding corteo as Agosti liked to describe it, only interrupted by the astonishing chords that are so much part of the revolutionary Beethoven of this period and that takes us into the frenzy of the final movement.
The architecture of the first movement was clearly chiselled together with the unexpected changes of dynamics of this extraordinary work.
Last but not least mention must be made of his extraordinary performance of Asturias from the Suite Espanola by Albeniz.The barely audible whispering of guitar strings to the enormous build up was a tour de force of control , sense of colour and style and was followed by a virtuoso performance of Viva Navarra by Larregla .
I was expecting the famous Navarra that Rubinstein used to offer at the end of his recitals but this was another piece with the same febrile sense of excitement and it brought the official programme to a rousing ending .
A startling journey of discovery that indeed left the audience exhausted and “incantato” as the sign had shown us as we entered this hallowed hall.
Tomorrow Pappano with his magnificent orchestra on a voyage of discovery with Janine Jansen .
An unknown work to me and to most others too I believe ,of Bernstein’s Serenata dal Simposio di Platone .
Sugaring the pill for Christmas with Ravel Miroirs , La Valse and Sibelius’s extraordinary Seventh Symphony .
Music is alive and well in the Eternal City as it has never been before ,since the arrival of our knight in shining armour .

Jianing Kong in Perivale

A standing ovation for Jianing Kong in Hugh Mather’s remarkable Tuesday series in Perivale of some of the most talented young pianists around.
Very distinguished performances of two of Beethoven`s best loved Sonatas : The Waldstein and Appassionata. Somewhat reminiscent of Solomon in its seemingly direct and intelligent musicianship where everything seemed so logical and clearly expounded.
The most noticeable thing about these performances was the luminosity of sound that he was able to find on this not easy instrument. Allied to a very strong Beethovenian temperament he held a full hall enthralled as we listened to these very well known works as if for the first time.
Tightly held together with a very strong and precise rhythmic impulse that seemed to come from within ,such was his identification with the aggressive and at the same time lyrical and calming world that belongs to Beethoven in his middle period. The subdued opening of the last movement of the Waldstein made the irascible outbursts even more unexpected.The continuous pulse of the second movement and its variations in the Appassionata has never sounded more like the cortege that the composer so obviously intended.
The lead into the coda in the last movement literally had us all on the edge of our seats for the animal excitement that he was able to generate. Beethovens pedalling scrupulously noted and intelligently interpreted as at the end of the two sonatas .Especially finely interpreted in the first movement of the Appassionata where the demonic motive reminiscent of the Fifth Symphony took on a frighteningly menacing aspect as rarely heard before. Such precision allied to such innate musicianship was exactly the reason that Solomon sprang immediately to mind.
No encores possible after that but a word of congratulations from our host and best wishes on his recent wedding to another remarkable pianist Caterina Grewe who will be performing the Liszt Transcendental Studies on this very piano in April. Now that is what I would call a very equilibrated household and send them both all best wishes from myself and in particular the Keyboard Charitable Trust for whom they have been selected a few years ago.

A birds eye view of a very happy occasion Martha Argerich and Alberto Portugheis Wigmore Hall 75th birthday celebration

Happy Birthday Martha and Alberto a page turners view of a remarkable occasion .
Wonderful birthday celebration at the Wigmore Hall last night for the joint birthday concert of Martha Argerich and her old friend Alberto Portugheis – their 75 Anniversary. And what energy they both have with nearly four hours of rehearsal before the two hours of the concert.
Fortified in between with only a cup of coffee it was a memorable occasion in which two old friends from their long distant youth in Buenos Aires ,shared their love and enjoyment of making music together with a packed out Wigmore Hall.
Two fine Steinways side by side for the two piano works on the programme Mozart Sonata in D and the Brahms Haydn Variations and a single piano was enough for the two duets of Rachmaninov Six Pieces op 11 and Ravel Ma Mere l’Oye . To an enraptured audience they offered two encores :Oblivion by Piazzolla in the arrangement of another old friend Eduardo Hubert and Milhaud’s Braziliana from Scaramouche. Two old friends as page turners completed the festive atmosphere on this very special occasion
Wonderful to hear the exchange between two old friends in the exquisite second movement of the Mozart and the real fun they had in the outer movements . Some beautiful sounds through a very special use of the sustaining pedal in their magical performance of Ravel’s Ma Mere L’Oye suite. And the Rachmaninov played with all the pathos that the twenty one year old composer was able to convey in these very atmospheric six pieces.
And like all good old friends they shared equally the two scores Martha taking the top in Ravel and Alberto the top in the Rachmaninov.
Virtuosity abounding in a rousing performance of the Haydn Variations by Brahms in which Martha Argerich took on the first piano showing all her remarkable gifts that have made her one of the most loved and sought after musicians of our time.
Our remarkable Alberto,nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize no less,showed all his innate musicality in this heartwarmingly affectionate conversation shared with all their adoring friends in the wonderfully welcoming space that is the Wigmore Hall.
Festivities with friends long into the night completed this memorable encounter of two friends of a life time in music.

Daniel Harding’s tribute to his Master

‘Resurrected on the Immacolata
Immaculate performance of the Resurrection Symphony under a superb Daniel Harding truly worthy of the dedication of tonights concert to Claudio Abbado on the feast day of the Immacolata.
Pappano’s wonderful S. Cecilia Orchestra and Chorus in Rome in magnificent form. A truly memorable performance for its controlled passion and grandeur.
A great sense of line in the German Kappelmeister tradition of Jochum or Klemperer as exemplified in our time by the great and much missed Claudio Abbado .
To say that we were not aware of the ten horns and eight trombones is the greatest compliment one could give to this young director discovered and helped by Abbado for whom he became assistant .
The one and a half hour work all leading  inevitably to the last movement inspired by the funeral of Hans von Bulow where the entry of the magnificent chorus is so movingly  right.
All performed with a sense of line ( not easy with the enormous orchestra asked for by Mahler) that held the packed audience spellbound to the end.
A standing ovation was not enough for such a profound experience .We left the hall uplifted by this great tribute to Claudio Abbado as Mahler had been at the funeral of Liszt’s son in law.
Where words are not enough …….music can reach the realms that our souls need these days, when we appear to have so much but in fact after this experience  it is in fact too little .

The great lesson from L’Aquila

A great lesson of humility and humanity by the noble people of L’Aquila

Great performance today at the Ghione Theatre in Rome and all proceeds to be given to those stricken by the recent earthquake in Amatrice by their next door neighbours of L’Aquila who are still very much suffering from the destruction to their magnificent city seven years ago.
The orchestra and soloists in this semi staged performance all trained at the Conservatory of Aquila.

Such youthful energy and wonderful voices bodes well for the future for this earthquake stricken area just 100KM from Rome.

But what stories these poor people have to tell about the aftermath and consequencies of such a tragedy.Not only for their loved ones that were lost in those few tragic seconds but the complete change of life and even their homes , declared unsafe to inhabit , being taken over by vandals many from Albania and Rumania who terrorise the just inhabitants of this once glorious city.

What a wonderful noble gesture of real solidarity and understanding for your neighbours tragedy that was yours only a short while ago.
I well remember my visit with the Keyboard Trust to Aquila and repeat here a description that I was reminded of as I went up to listen to Carlo Grante and Luisa Prayer and to applaud the courage once again of these strong,noble people.

Hats off indeed and lets us all learn from them .


This is what I found just a couple of months ago……………..

The Emperor speaks Carlo Grante – Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese directed by Marcello Bufalini
It must be over twenty five years ago that Vittorio Antonellini asked me if his orchestra could give Sunday morning concerts in my theatre in Rome .
And so for many Sundays we had the Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese anxious to have a prestigious presence also in Rome apart from their home city of L’Aquila where they had their own hall.
Many memorable concerts in spite of the difficulty to get an orchestra on stage when in the afternoon there was a stage performance of a play.
But where there is a will there is a way and we succeeded as indeed the orchestra have now in their earthquake torn city.

They have re- emerged to offer comfort as only music can to their strong but shaken citizens .
In the Ridotto of the Teatro Comunale the Orchestra has found its home whilst the actual Theatre next door is being reconstructed after the terrible earthquake seven years ago that almost flattened this very important city.

By coincidence two young artists that were performing regularly in my theatre in the same period were Carlo Grante and Luisa Prayer.
Carlo born in L’Aquila gave several series of concerts playing a large part of the piano repertoire of which he was already master.
Luisa too a student of our near neighbour that magnificent musician Sergio Cafaro ,played many concerts demonstrating, as all Sergio’s students did, a rare musicality .Another of his students to find a home in my theatre was in fact Roberto Prosseda.who recently recorded Mendelssohn’s third piano concerto with Riccardo Chailly ,performing it also with the LPO at the Festival Hall in London and many other prestigious venues throughout the world

So it was a great joy to hear Carlo Grante play the Emperor Concerto at the inaugural concert of the Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese of which the new artistic director is Luisa Prayer.
Directed by Marcello Bufalini the musician who had infact recently completed from fragments Mendelssohn’s third piano concerto mentioned above.
(Another coincidence was listening on the radio on my long trip back to Rome the opening concert from La Scala which was directed by Riccardo Chailly with Benjamin Grosvenor the much applauded soloist in Liszt’s first piano concerto)
The world of great music making is very small indeed !

A splendid performance of the Emperor played with that great Beethovenian energy (that Pappano had too in Fidelio that was awaiting me on my return this evening on the television transmitted from the opening concert of S,Cecilia ,that I had attended the day before).
Some very fine playing form Carlo not least for his utmost attention to the bass – the very roots of the Beethoven sound.
It much reminded me ,in his mature innate musicianship,of that other renowned musician Paul Badura Skoda (who has just been performing in Carlo’s new Piano Festival Cristoferi in Padua).
The same clarity but at the same time extreme attention to detail as was obvious from a magical account of the slow movement.

The opening had all the majesty and command together with an impetus that propelled the music forward and swept us along with it too.The Orchestra very well directed by Bufalini had found the same impetus that was also very well projected into the final Allegro con spirito that was in fact repeated as an encore from a very numerous and insistent audience.
An appeal from Carlo from citizen to citizen to spread the word about this wonderful music making in this strife ridden city and remind their friends that there was still time to buy a season ticket and thus give the maximum support to this splendid venture so ably directed by Luisa Prayer.

I should add also that three years ago we at the Keyboard Charitable Trust were invited by Guido Barbieri,the renowned critic,and artistic director of the Amici della Musica, a music society that goes back more than a century and where Rubinstein and many other illustrious musicians would return every year .Rubinstein was in fact an honorary citizen .#

We too were invited to bring three young pianists to play and talk about our activity of encouraging and helping young musicians in the very difficult period between the end of studying and starting a career .
We performed in a new hall,designed by Renzo Piano(The Shard,Parco della Musica)and given to the L’Aquila by another earthquake torn city,that of Trento.
Claudio Abbado had agreed to give the inaugural concert donating also he ,his services as a sign of solidarity and encouragement .
And so it was shortly afterwards that three very fine young pianists Pablo Rossi,Vitaly Pisarenko and Mei Yi Fou were chosen to come L’Aquila together with the founders of the Keyboard Charitable Trust -Noretta Conci-Leech and her husband John Leech.We came to give comfort and a message of hope for the future to these very strong,courageous people .
What was it that Shakespeare said :” If music be the food of love …..play on …”
For music arrives where words are just not enough .

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