Miracles in Rome

Grande Goldberg al Parco della Musica ieri sera con un Beatrice Rana in un vero stato di grazia.
Un ora e mezza in un silenzio totale in una sala gremita.
Era anche trasmesso in diretta sulla radio e registrato per futuro visione per televisione. Un tour de force per una ragazza appena compiuta 24 anni.
Strano come quasi tutti i piu grandi interpreti dei Goldberg sono donne da Tureck,Nikolaeva, Hewitt e adesso a questa illustre lista si puo aggiungere Beatrice Rana.
They say that miracles never strike twice in the same place .
Well Beatrice Rana proved them wrong last night with a miraculous performance of the Goldberg Variations in a sold out hall in Rome.
Only just 24 years old she gave as near perfect performance as I have ever heard.
For an hour and a half holding the complete attention of this vast audience.
Not only those fortunate enough to find a ticket but for all those listening live on the Rai Radio 3. Also to be televised by RAI 5 ,the cultural channel ,this was an even more remarkable performance than the one she gave just three months ago for the BBC at the Wigmore Hall.
Gone were some of the rubatos that a young pianist can be forgiven for doing in their genuine quest to find the maximum expression in this monumental work.
Already in three months that same expression is now inside the notes.
It was as though the long journey with this work,for her teacher Benedetto Lupo tells me she learnt it with him as a girl, she was inside the very bones of this masterpiece written by Bach for the insomnia of Count Kaiserling.
The Count had asked Bach to write for his pupil Johann Gottlieb Goldberg ,who lived in the Counts house,”some klavier pieces which should be of such a smooth and somewhat lively character that he might be a little cheered up by them in his sleepless nights.”
Bach was never so rewarded for one of his works as for this.The Count presented him with a golden goblet filled with 100 louis-d’or.
No goblet for Beatrice last night but a ten minute ovation from an audience that had barely dared to breathe such was the concentration generated.
A performance that was without interval by this charming young musician in a flame red dress.
The return of the Aria after the Quodlibet was absolute magic with a total control of sound even in the almost inaudible whispered final breath.
Virtuosity abounded as in her extraordinary clarity and precision in the 5th Variation taken at an extraordinary pace but totally convincing because of the rock steady tempo she managed to maintain .
The 29th variation was not quite so rock steady in her quest to arrive at the ultimate explosion of the Quodlibet where Bach unites two folk- songs :”I’ve not been with you for so long,Come closer closer,closer,closer” and “Beets and spinach drove me far away.Had my mother cooked some meat,then I’d have stayed much longer”.
I remember Tureck too was not so rock steady in this variation which is understandable with the build up of tension over such a long span .
So much to admire in her intelligent and tasteful understanding of ornamentation also the rock steady pulse that she was able to maintain throughout with a remarkable sense of colour that revealed a true mastery .
A mastery that is easy to appreciate, but nevertheless remarkable for a twenty year old girl from the south of Italy,in the Tchaikowsky and Prokofiev Concertos that have been so admired in her CD with Pappano .
This is true mastery where art conceals art .
She joins that select group of women, Rosalyn Tureck, Tatyana Nikolaeva and ,Angela Hewitt who have made the Goldbergs their own.
Hats off to Benedetto Lupo who has been her guide and mentor from her early beginnings in Puglia a land blessed by the Gods indeed.
Lecce the wonderful spanish baroque city known in fact as the Florence of the south .
Interesting to note that pulling out my score of the Kirkpatrick edition a programme fell out of another memorable performance .
That of Rosalyn Tureck in 1972 when she played the Goldbergs twice in the same evening at the Festival Hall in London . First on the harpsichord and second after an hour interval,on the piano.
Interesting to note in her programme notes: The justifiable performance of Bach on the piano is conditioned by the usage of pianistic devices.This instrument,known by Bach in its early stage,has evolved through several centuries ,its style changing with each era. It is capable of many styles of sonority and technique. If played ” pianistically”,meaning 19th and early 20th century style,it is anachronistic.
However,in performing Bach on the piano I do not play the instrument in this former pianistic style.
I employ an entirely different technique and touch.
Music and instrument treated with respect and knowledgeable art,the integrity of the music should stand,retaining its clarity,its structure and its infinite significance to the human spirit.
Rosalyn who repeated the Goldbergs in my theatre in Rome in 1991 after a twenty years absence fom public performances to enable her to concentrate entirely on her studies of Bach in Oxford. Known by Harold Schonberg as the ” High Priestess of Bach” and as Artur Rubinstein quipped: “Tureck made Bach box office” .
I am sure if they were looking on tonight they would have a wry knowledgeable smile on their lips as they saw how this vast public devoured the performance of the young lady in the flame red dress.


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