Pappano and Wang in Rome

Wang and Pappano in Rome
Che festa al Parco della Musica oggi con Yuja Wang and Antonio Pappano at S.Cecilia tonight at the start of their European tour finishing in London on the 11th May.
A full house at the Sala Santa Cecilia for the concert with two superstars in a programme that included the ever popular Tchaikowsky First Piano Concerto.
A concert that signals the start of a tour the orchestra will take in eight other European Cities finishing at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Having heard Yuja Wang in London recently in recital I was happy to be able to hear her again in the concerto that shot her to stardom in 2007 when she stood in at the last minute for an indisposed Martha Argerich in Boston.
In London I had been very perplexed by the recital she gave recently .Some exquisite playing but barely audible in the hall.
Tonight that was certainly not the case .
This miniscule young lady in the flaming pink dress produced such enormous sounds one wondered how it was possible.
Octaves of such enormous power reminiscent of the sounds that Arrau used to produce . Sounds of such power but never any hardness .
Her projection of the more lyrical passages was still very much for herself but played with such a convincing musical personality that it was totally integrated into a whole overpowering musical line.
Playing from the original score that my young musician friends Evgeny Genchev and Alexander Ullman have recently been excited to show me in the new edition that has recently appeared.
This explains,of course ,the famous opening chords played arpeggiando.Taking away all the hard rather battling chords that we are used to and instead the piano accompanying the magnificent sounds that Pappano draws from his orchestra .
An orchestra where every player feels he has an important part to play as in real chamber music.Where each player is listening so intently to the other led by a most extraordinarily aware leader Roberto González.
So many beautiful things from Yuja Wang but she too was always listening intently to her partners and integrating her sound to create a whole homogeneous sound.
An almost whispered slow movement in which the beautiful opening flute solo of Andre Oliva was then played even more tenderly on the piano in a real musical conversation. Just as the clarinet solo of Alessandro Carbonare in the first movement had been matched and accompanied so perfectly by the pianist.
Of course this did not mean that at the crucial moments there were not the most torrential sounds and rhythmic energy that took even Pappano by surprise .
The great orchestral climax in the last movement led to the most amazingly robust octaves from the pianist and created an electric tension before the final glorious release where everyone was allowed to play out with all the passion that Tchaikowsky’s rich melodic palate inspires.
At this point our Yuja produced such electric sparks that even the orchestra were swept along to the most scintillating final few bars in a feat of amazing virtuosity that surely can only have been matched in the days of Horowitz
A standing ovation was most generously shared by the soloist with the entire orchestra and its magnificent conductor and first violin .
She obviously felt part of a group of musicians just there to enjoy playing together .
The audience were stamping their feet in the hope of encouraging an encore from this twenty nine year old waif of a super virtuoso .
She was just happy to go off arm in arm with our extraordinary knight in shining armour happy at having been able to make music with these remarkable musicians.
I now understand how lonely she must have felt in London on the enormous Royal Festival Hall stage just her and a piano for company .
She has so much in common with that other fantastic super virtuoso Martha Argerich via whom she shot to stardom.
Argerich who prefers to play in company rather than travelling and playing alone .
Introducing the concert and preparing his audience for the twelve minutes of a first performance by the Swiss composer Richard Dubugnon student late in life of the Paris Conservatoire and my Alma Mater the RAM in London .
In his affectionate address to his family ,for that is what his audience in Rome have become ,he said how surprised he was to see such a full hall with a contemporary opening work.
Could it by any chance be for the Tchaikowsky that was to follow?
He need not have worried because this Caprice Romain op 72 n.3 was a quite remarkable work full of extraordinary colours including the bells that were to appear later in Respighi.
A rhythmic energy and a real tour de force for the orchestra .
Conducted with amazing technical precision and real participation from his players one could almost say that this was the highlight of this remarkable concert.
Pity that this work will not be heard in London where it would have been greatly appreciated
 I suppose an overture by Rossini is more of a draw for the box office but I just hope that at least they may decide to play this relatively short work as an encore as it deserves to be heard often on the world stage.
The total infectious dedication and technical expertise of Pappano were reminiscent of the young Colin Davis and the LSO in the works of another much neglected composer Roberto Gerhard.
The Respighi Symphonic poems :The fountains of Rome and the Pines of Rome were played without a break in one glorious whole.
All the places from the fountain of Valle Giulia to the Trevi fountains together with the Pines of Villa Borghese and on the Gianicolo instantly recognisable to me who has had the fortune to spend most of my life in the company of these glorious places in this Eternal City.
Wonderful colours and sumptuous sounds in the careful loving hands of these bringers of all the atmospheres and amazing different lights of these suggestive places.
The build up in the Appian Pines from a whispered insistent bolero type rhythm leading to the most overwhelming climax brought this extraordinary concert to a tumultuous close .
I already have my ticket for London and cannot wait to hear it all over again.

Valcuha and Bozhanov in Rome

Valcuha and Bozhanov in Rome
Juraj Valcuha and Evgeni Bozhanov Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Beethoven Canto Elegiaco e Concerto n.3 Bartok Concerto per orchestra
Interesting concert at St Cecilia a prelude,one might say, to next week with two hardly known musicians.
Juraj Valcuha principal director of the Orchestra and Chorus at San Carlo in Naples and Evgeni Bozhanov much discussed young bulgarian pianist.
Both obviously two rising stars .
Next week’s concert on the other hand will be  with two super stars :Yuja Wang and Sir Anthony Pappano in Tchaikowsky First piano concerto.
A concert that will be repeated at the Royal Festival Hall in London on the 11th May. Even if Yuja Wang cannot be heard who cares when Pappano is at the helm .
Having just recorded so magnificently this concerto and Prokofiev 2 with another rising star Beatrice Rana .
A recording that quite rightly has has won every major international prize.…/…
Very interesting progamme with the rarely if ever heard Canto Elegiaco op 118 by Beethoven for chorus and orchestra .
Very big forces for this hardly whispered ten minute work. Here the conductor immediately established his credentials as a very sensitive intelligent musician .
Beautiful to see how he molded the phrases with his bare hands and how the orchestra and chorus were so ready  and willing to respond .
I was interested to hear the pianist Evgeni Bozhanov who has been the subject of some discussion since his appearance at the Van Cliburn and Chopin Competitions .
In fact something of the same cause celebre at the Chopin Competition that launched Pogorelich’s career, years earlier, so spectacularly when Martha Argerich resigned in protest.
In this competition in 2010 he was awarded 4th prize amongst much discussion having taken 2nd at Van Cliburn a few months earlier .
Outright winner though of the Casagrande competition in 2008.He is  obviouslya pianist with the same background as a Pogorelich or Trpcescki .
Master pianists but rather controversial musicians .
Infact it was clear from the encore that was offered that this was a pianist of the old school of the so called Golden Era of piano playing Lhevine,Rosenthal,Friedman,Hoffman etc.
In our day it could be liken to some of the things that Magaloff or Fiorentino were sometimes capable of charming us with .( Strangely enough Buchbinder the other day astounded his audience  too after four Beethoven Sonatas with the most ravishing performance of a Strauss transcription as in the good old days)
The four/two waltz op 42 by Chopin was rattled of with all the jeux perle of the old school together with some extremely beautiful moments of delicious cantable almost song like in its super sensibility.
Some added bass notes of course that opened up the possible sounds in the top register of the piano as in the good old days in the great old opera houses .
Since those times of course we have had the reaction of Rubinstein and Schnabel. Rubinstein the great showman but also the great musician who was able to give nobility and intelligence back to a school of piano playing that could titivate and excite the senses much as the great singing divas of the day.
Sometimes at the expense of what the composer had actually asked for though .
Schnabel of course just stated that usually the first part of pianists programmes are the most boring whereas the difference with his was that the second half was boring too!
And so it was interesting to listen to this suprising choice of Beethoven third piano concerto.
It is a concerto that requires a very solid sense of touch where every note should sing as if an orchestra in its own right .
Many of the piano melodies are taken up in fact by the orchestra and vice versa in an interplay that makes these concertos of Beethoven such masterpieces.
Of course a concerto for piano and orchestra not orchestra with piano (as in the cello or violin sonatas).
It is just this interplay that is so important and gives a forward architectural propulsion to the music.
On the whole Evgeni Bozhanov molded in well with the sensitive conducting of Juraj Valcuha but there were occasions in the first movement in particular when his almost throwing away of the semiquavers- jeux perle- allowed the rhythmic energy to sag instead of propelling the music forward with the energy so typical of Beethoven in this period.
The cadenza in particular suffered from this lack of orchestration where the great cascades of notes were rather thrown off instead of leading into what followed.
The frenzied stamping dance rhythym was again played rather frivolously and the speed of the entry of the theme in octaves was enviably ridiculous.
Not always infallible though as there were some remarkable scrappy passage playing no doubt due to the pressure of a debut in Rome with such a prestigious orchestra.
Some very beautiful things in the slow movement and the last movement played with all the joie de vivre that Beethoven has written in the score.
All in all I must say it was a rather boring performance where the continual forward impulse of the music was interrupted too many times by some remarkably beautiful legato playing and conducting but it needed a tighter reign to allow us all to be swept up in the great architectural shape of this great work .
The Concerto for Orchestra by Bartok in which even the orchestra at the end joined in the applause for this very musical conductor.
Now with a baton in his hand to direct this very complicated work.
I felt though that it somehow missed the forward sweep in the conductors effort to shape every small section loosing the driving force of the work as a whole .
A not very full hall this time due to the continual holidays in this period but I am sure that Pappano on his home ground will find his usual justly admiring public waiting for him next week .
I of course will be in the front row in Rome and in London.

Performance – To be or not to be?

A Consideration :To be or not to be

Caught on a Wang ,you might say, I have been interested to clarify certain thoughts on performers,performances and their public .

Geoff Cox ,a chemist by profession and music lover who is ever present and helpful in publicising events that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Jessie Harrington is the other one of these amazingly dedicated people of whom there are certainly not many.

Two at the last count

Hats off to them and long may their enthusiasm endure.

I had heard Yuja Wang only on the much discussed video from Carnegie Hall in which she plays the Hammerklavier sonata in an evening that was very special indeed.

Much discussed her disabille’ that had no relevance whatsoever to her extraordinarily prodigious playing .

To hear a Hammerklavier of such drive and intelligence from a young chinese lady together with some other remarkable performances showed a phenomenally prodigeous pianist that I was longing to hear live.

So I was very pleased that she had announced that very Hammerklavier at the Royal Festival Hall last week .
She decided to change the programme and all that has been discussed and has no relevance to what I actually ( over) heard.( enclosed below my views).

That this has become a cause celebre I do not think is worth contemplating on this occasion.

We often used to have the” for and against” at Kissin and Pogorelich’s early recitals.

That they are controversial musicians is true but that they are masters of their instrument is also true.

Most young pianists if you ask them who is the pianist they most admire would reply Grigory Sokolov .

So two years ago I was happy to be able to hear him in Rome playing Schumann’s Humoresque.
It was such a brutal performance where true balance was substituted for a brutal fight between the melodic line and the accompaniment. No winners possible here .

Never did I think I would witness such an attentive public to such a brutal exhibition .
I looked around amazed and astonished never more so than at the standing ovation that he received at the end.

I returned a year later to hear a most phenomenal Hammerklavier that had me cheering to the rafters.

The same thing happened years ago with Lazar Berman .
Known in the trade as “Lazar Beam” for his razor sharp brutal- I plays mainly by force- technique.
I walked out after the third of the Transcendental Studies by Liszt at the Festival Hall.
The sound was quite literally overpowering and unbearable.
But years later in my theatre in Rome he gave the most magical performances of Chopins Polonaises .
Here was the true artist, pupil of the legendary Goldenweiser

Lang Lang played a most memorable Rachmaninoff 3rd concerto at his Prom debut .
But last year in Rome he played the four ballades by Chopin where he went into fifth gear at each of the four codas .
The fourth particularly horrible as the five quiet chords before the coda ended fortissimo with a bang at the bottom register of the piano.
Lang Lang played with slick professionism to 3000 people whereas Behozod Abduraimov the day before had played the same Ballades magnificently to 30 people .

There is a difference obviously between entertainers and great interpreters which is not necessarily and very rarely the same .

I was brought up in a non musical family but the inspiration to play the piano came from seeing Liberace,Winifred Attwell and Russ Conway on the Television.
In the same way that Lang Lang relying on his prodigious gifts as an entertainer has reached a doting public of millions .
Giovanni Alleevi and Andrea Bocelli have also reached millions .
Some of whom,inspired by them, have been tempted to attend a classical music concert .People who would have never have even thought that classical music could be for them .
There is a great stigma that classical music is only for people of a certain education and upbringing but when this barrier is proved false by the classical entertainers these are in fact the people that might flock to our concerts in the future and become as passionate as Geoff and Jessie today.

Yuja Wang prodigiously gifted of course falls into the category of entertainer on this occasion.
And she certainly did that .

When Vlado Perlemuter,disciple of Ravel ,was asked by Deutsche Grammophon for some words to put on the cover of Pogorelich’s new Ravel recording he simply replied “quesque c‘est que ca!”
That Pogorelich was one of the great pianists of our time was never in discussion but that his musicianship was in discussion led to Martha Argerich walking out of the Chopin Competition in which Pogorelich was voted out by a jury that considered that musical interpretation came as important as the means to express it.

Another great discussion could be of well established musicians performing solo recitals and concertos later in life with the score .
That most recordings in the studio are recorded with the score on the stand is standard practise.

The fact is that the piano recital as we know it today was established by Franz Liszt .
The greatest showman the world has ever known .
The Mick Jagger of the piano !
Here is the very fact that show business also comes into play .
Anyone who has been to a Rubinstein recital would realise this .
It is what can create a very special rapport between public and performer where anything is possible .
A bit like the man on a tight rope

I have been to three such performances recently where even the artists performing were amazed,bewildered and astonished by what they had been inspired to produce.

It is a two way thing between public and performer and the reason we flock to their concerts.
Mariam Batshiavili in Liszt , Murray Perahia,’s Emperor and the Andsnes/Hamelin Rite of Spring all this month in London.

I sometimes wonder why the established arists feel they have to perform in public with the score when they could be so much happier in the recording studio.

Sometimes the artists having to deal with all the usual day to day things can switch on their automatic pilot and we can get a streamlined performance that does not satisfy the discerning listener or the great artist.
The only people kept happy are the agents and organisers .

Dicussions are opened on these occasions “ for and against”.

But with a really great performance such is the overwhelming atmosphere created there is absolutely no discussion necessary.
In fact a magic has been created which is the very reason we still flock to concerts.

Gilels used to liken live and recorded performances to the difference between fresh and canned food….and he certainly knew being one of the most exciting performers I have ever heard.
At this point a great artist like Arrau who felt he could not give his best would have no hesitation to cancel or Horowitz’s case retire for twelve years from the concert platform.I suppose it might be cosidered artistic integrity but also fear of not doing justice to their reputation.You are only as good as your last performance Rubinstein would often exclaim.

Curzon and Richter chose to perform with the score towards the end of their glorious careers and although they were a shadow of their former selves it was probably better than nothing .
Myra Hess towards the end of her career used to play Brahms 2 with the score and still get lost.
Alfred Cortot was asked by his wife and pupils to stop playing in public when this great artist’s performances were no longer easy for him.

The truth is to play in public is one the loneliest ,most exposed tricks of the trade and every performer deserves our utmost admiration for going through such an ordeal…………..Perlemuter used to say it was like going to the guillotine wheras Jaqueline Du Pre used to bounce with joy at the thought of joining her adoring public .

The public after all can choose who they wish to hear ………

I know who I will always choose but I fully appreciate the taste of others can be different from mine .
The spice of life so they say.
It is important that we go to the trouble of reaching the hall and for our wallet where it is so easy these days just to stay at home and switch or click on.

Yuja Wang at the Festival Hall CHRISTOPHER AXWORTHY·MARTEDÌ 11 APRILE 2017 Yuja Wang at the Festival Hall tonight must count as one of the most irritating and frustrating performances I have ever h…
Christopher Axworthy
Christopher Axworthy I know the feeling …… you!

L'immagine può contenere: una o più persone, persone sul palco, persone che suonano strumenti musicali e chitarra

Rudolf Buchbinder in Rome

Rudolf Buchbinder in Rome
I remember attending Buchbinder’s Royal Festival Hall recital and concerto debut when he was only 16.
Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini I remember well although only just a teenager at the time.
I also remember the Schubert Impromptus op.90 that were on the programme today in Rome in the magnificent Renzo Piano Complex of the Parco della Musica.
Performing in the medium sized hall named after Giuseppe Sinopoli it was sold out for his long awaited recital of Beethoven and Schubert.
I was very happy to be able to listen to him again fifty years on.
Now celebrating his 70th birthday.
Very rare appearances with orchestras both in London and Rome and strangely never a recital until now.
Last summer a Beethoven Sonata Cycle at the Edinburgh Festival and Brahms 2 at the RFH a few weeks ago are strangely the only appearances of this seasoned performer with a career spanning over five decades.
I can happily say that his performances were the very opposite of Yuja Wang yesterday at the RFH .
His sense of projection was paramount but it is very interesting to analize the differences between them.
Beginning with the Sonata op 13 “Pathetique” it was immediately apparent the authority of the performer . Some really impressive things at the opening with the great declamation and the quiet pleading reply.
A real sense of orchestra but also a telling personality with small unperceivable inflections that really made the music talk.
But the moment we got to the con brio we were treated to a rather brutal matter of fact rhythmic playing along the lines of the famous Vitale school of playing where precision takes precedence over sound and shape.
His rather brutal prodded bass questions were replied by the same brutal reply from the treble. In fact throughout the recital we were aware of the good traditional teutonic almost orchestral cantabile from the school of Backhaus or Richter Haaser.
Of course neither were as matter of fact as Buchbinder today but the approach was very similar .
Long almost orchestral lines with a severe.teutonic no nonsense approach that was at odds with the extremely expressive and subtly personal playing of the quieter sections.
In the opening Impromptu op 90 by Schubert the theme was played with such a subtle telling rubato contrasting with the staccato chords that followed but the moment the volume augmented we were again in this rather brutal matter of fact world
The second Impromptu where the jeux perle can sound so magical in say Murray Perahias hands here sounded rather prosaic and almost mechanical.
In trying not to sentimentalise the glorious melodic invention of the G flat Impromptu it sounded strangely robust and missed the sheer beauty of Schubert’s sublime inspiration. The last impromptu was also too serious and the lightness and almost capricious character was substituted for a seriousness that was out of place.
Some beautiful things in the little G major Sonata op 14.n.2 . by Beethoven but the buoyant playfulness was somehow missing in the final movement.
The Appassionata given a very musicianly reading but the good traditional cantabile did not allow enough room for the contrasts that are so much a part of this revolutionary work.. The coda in the last movement for example is quite clearly marked by the composer with sforzandi and pianos but here was played with an ever generous mezzo forte throughout. The slow movement on the other hand was a real cortege of orchestral proportions that cut out all the usual sentiment so out of place here . The last movement although generating a certain excitement lacked in tonal contrast .
An encore of the last movement of the Sonata op 31.n.2 only went to confirm the teutonic seriousness of this fine artist . Little did we expect what he would treat his imploring audience to next .
Right at the end we got a display of such subtle romantic virtuosity that one could only wonder why had he not used the same fabulous resources to illuminate his overserious classical repertoire.
A transcription of Strauss – his own I suspect- with all the phenomenal feats of pianistic virtuosity that we associate with the likes of Rosenthal and Lhevine.
Not only that but a subtle use of rubato and colour that left us wondering why some of this arsenal that he had at his finger tips had he not used in his musicianly performances played in the good old traditional style but rather too standardly predictable .

Yuja Wang in London

Yuja Wang at the Festival Hall
Yuja Wang at the Festival Hall tonight must count as one of the most irritating and frustrating performances I have ever heard.
Having booked some time ago to hear her performance of Beethoven`s Hammerklavier sonata that I had been so impressed with on the video recording some years ago from Carnegie Hall.
Somewhat disappointed that it had been substituted for Chopin 24 Preludes.
However that was just the beginning of the extraordinary experience of Yuja Wang live.
Entering the hall was now a notice that the Schubert Drei Klavierstucke had disappeared and the programme would consist of only two works : Chopin 24 Preludes interval and Brahms Handel variations.
A sold out hall waited patiently for our diva who after about ten minutes slinked on to the stage in a clinging long grey evening gown and proceeded to play the twenty four preludes.
At least that what I assumed she was doing as it was practically inaudible not only at the back of the hall but friends told me even at the front.
Once ones ears became accustomed one could appreciate a streamlined musicality with of course some beautiful things.
The faster Preludes rattled off at breakneck speed and the faster they were the louder the volume.
No real sense of architectural shaping of this delicate much loved masterpiece.
We got instead a series of episodes sometimes even exquisite but for the most part with no real projection at all.
A very long interval and even longer wait for our diva before she arrived looking a million dollars, as they say, in a long sparkly green creation.
And continued her procession of little episodes but this time with Brahms monumental work .
A work of almost orchestral proportions that is a continual evolution of the innocent little Handel melody leading inevitably to the triumphant grandiose explosion of the theme in all its glory.
This in turn leads inevitably to an out pouring of energy that has been generated in a continual rhythmic and tonal crescendo.
This energy is only relieved in the massive fugue that brings this great work to its glorious and inevitable conclusion.
Instead we got a series of sometimes pretty sounds reduced to music box proportions and some other variations rattled off so fast that no real characterisation was attempted or even possible.
The most alarming thing was the lack of any real rhythmic pulse and the way she teased and reduced to episodic even the fugue was ridiculous and unforgivable.
I left as fast as I could and noticed on the screen in the foyer that she had sat down to play an encore.
The steward try as he could turning the volume up to 100% nothing could be heard.
Not surprised I quipped we have just sat through an entire concert like that.
Amazed now to see that she is to play Tchaikovsky 1 with Pappano in Rome soon and Brahms 2 at the Barbican in June.
Or she was ill this evening and just did not feel like playing or she was playing the diva and like the actors sometimes do at school performances saving themselves and their voices for more important occasions.
Or she is a fine pianist just being exploited by the publicity machine.
I should be very interested to hear what comes across with a Brahms or Tchaikovsky concerto but imagine she will just change the programme with the same nonchalance that she has demonstrated this evening .
I think I have heard her now (at least I think I have) once too often.

Julian Trevelyan at St Mary’s

Julian Trevelyan at St Mary’s
Julian Trevelyan at St.Mary`s Perivale
The exquisite encores of Noctuelles by Ravel and Chopin’s Aeolian Harp study op 25 n.1 summed up the extraordinary piano playing of this modest young man who took the music world by storm two years ago at the age of 16 by running off with the top prize at the Long Thibaud International Piano Competition in Paris.
Now only 18 and playing quite regularly in public whilst studying at the Ecole Normale and also studying.for a degree in Geology with the Open University.
Such is the talent of this young man that is imbued with the spirit of the real Renaissance man.
And such is the wisdom of Doctor Hugh Mather to have established a season on Tuesday afternoons in which the finest young pianists in the land can not only be heard by his large and discerning public but they can also listen to themselves , via the professional video recording of these concerts, on their long and ever more difficult ascent to sharing their remarkable interpretative skills on the world stage.
The complete understanding of this first of Ravel`s Miroirs showed the absolute clarity and clockwork precision that the composer demands added to a complete and subtle sense of colour.
Wonderful use of the sustaining pedal gave his nimble fingers the possibility to fleet around the keyboard like the night moths that Ravel intended.
The Chopin study seemingly one of the easiest to play. But in order to have the sonority of an Aeolian Harp and allow the melody to soar above it requires a transcendental technique and subtlety of balance that Charles Halle so aptly described on hearing Chopin himself playing this piece on his last ill fated visit to our Isles.
Julian would have gladly played all of Ravels Miroirs as I am sure he would have played all Chopin`s Studies too for this sort of talent has no limit or restrictions .
It is a joy for him to share his music with us.
And doubly a joy for Dr Mather and his by now devoted followers of which I count myself privileged to have found this musical oasis in this ever more barren time.
However this came at the end of a very difficult programme that included Schumann`s Humoreske op 20,Shostakovich`s youthful first sonata op.12 and Chopin`s late scherzo op.54
The Chopin Scherzo played with just the right sonority that seemed to give an aura to this not always easy Yamaha in which his superb sense of balance could allow the beautiful middle section to sing as only a seasoned Chopin player could do.
Some very fleet passage work quite rightly passed unnoticed as the mood was set from the very outset.
Another of this young mans talents is also acting which was obvious from his very clear and intelligent introduction to todays programme.
The Shostakovich sonata written at about the same age as our performer today sounded very much like Prokofiev`s 3rd Sonata but very soon dissolved into Shostakovich`s typical march like mood.
Some amazingly percussive sounds sometimes even resorting to first the left fist and then the right .Such was the musicianship and his acute ear it never forced the piano sound but only reinforced the rhythmic urgency with quite astonishing technical skill.
The middle section dissolving into the most magical sound world where the remarkable use of the pedals together with a very sensitive sound palate showed us just what a remarkably neglected work this is.
In the notoriously elusive Humoresque by Schumann I felt he had not quite judged the piano or sized up the audience.
Beautiful cantabile of the touchingly simple opening but I felt it was a little too slow to allow the very subtle shaping that Schumann`s world demands.
Einfach,yes ,as simple as you like but there are so many different inflections of what are in reality songs without words.
If the cantabile passages were too slow and the faster ones too fast it was not to say that here there was not some remarkable playing .
It was to say that the romantic sweep and rich sonority of Julian`s Chopin later in the programme did not make clear in Schumann  the overall architectural shape .
Julian had after all warned us in his introduction about this seemingly free formed work
 By opus 20 Schumann had gone through most of his major works for solo piano:Carnaval op.9 ,Kreisleriana op.16,Fantasie op.17 and Symphonic Studies op 13 to name just a few of the continuous outpouring of masterpieces from Schumann`s pen.
After the concerto op 54 we get to the later works where Schumann’s vision is ever more clouded by his fight with Florestan and Eusebius.
But in op. 20 Schumann`s romantic ardour is in full flight and I felt that Julian wanted to show us the more classical later side rather than the truly romantic ardour that he saved for the Chopin in the second half of this remarkable recital.
He is also studying with a 92 year old disciple of Floria Musicescu ,Dinu Lipatti and Radu Lupu`s teacher and he would do well to listen to Radu Lupu`s remarkable performance of this notoriously elusive masterpiece.
Richter and Horowitz too.
There is in fact a remarkable video on you tube of the inspirational masterclass of Andras Schiff at the RCM with another of Dr Mathers pianists Hin-Yat Tsang who by coincidence has this week won a top prize in Barcellona.
Hats off to Ealing and to Hugh Mather and Vanessa Latarche  ( head of piano studies at the RCM) star pupil of the much missed Eileen Rowe of Ealing  and  also Dmitri Alexeev long time  resident in Ealing and Hin Yats  former teacher  at the RCM.

Dinara Klinton at St Mary’s

Dinara Klinton at St Mary’s
Dinara Klinton at St Mary`s Perivale
The opening of the Beethoven Sonata op 101 summed up just what is so special about Dinara Klinton. The absolute perfect legato combined to a perfect tonal control allowed this sonata to enter like the slow arrival from afar of a distant friend .
Again I must say that this legato is born from a childhood training that through hours of disciplined training her fingers have developed a strength and flexibility that seem to cling to the keys like limpets very much in the same way that an organist must in order to maintain a legato where the sustaining pedal does not exist .
The dotted rhythms in the second movement were played with an incisive sense of inevitability and the rock steady momentum was very assured indeed.
Again most notable the supreme legato in the adagio but even more remarkable was the fugue subject played so quietly but with the treacherous trills so perfectly performed that it almost defied belief.
Obviously this is the backbone in her repertoire and showed a real musical understanding of the dual character that is so much part of Beethoven passing from his middle period to the barbaric sublimity of his final works.
This sonata op 101 is similar in the pastoral almost improvisatory searching mood of op.109 the first of the last great trilogy of sonatas for piano and it was just this that she captured so well.
Not being a great advocate of Medtner I was happy to hear for the first time his Sonata Romantica op 53 n.1 .
It only confirmed what I had already surmised in many of his other works.
Although the technical mastery of colour and the understanding of the capabilities of the piano are very similar to that of Scriabin and Rachmaninov for me he seems to lack their melodic inspiration which makes their works so much more memorable for me.
Rachmaninov without the tunes I like to quip when asked who is Medtner as I often am . Horowitz was a great admirer of Medtner but very rarely brought his works onto the concert platform.
Dinara through having to prepare some of his works for a festival in Moscow organised by her former teacher Dina Parakhina is beginning to appreciate this very particular sound world.
Certainly her transcendental performance full of the most astonishing technical feats of colour and agility must have required some quite considerable preparation.
A rather jaunty last movement in a style reminiscent of the dotted rhythms that Schumann could be so fond of was played with a real command of the keyboard .
On the other hand her encore of the Pas de Deux from Pletnev’s transcription of the Tchaikowsky Nutcracker Suite showed just what a difference a good tune could make in great traditional Russian hands.
Wonderful sense of balance from Dinara where the melodic line was allowed to soar above all the whirlwind of sounds that were created over the whole range of the keyboard in a transcendental display of piano playing .
Maybe not a fair comparison but I am sure that if you asked any of the delighted audience to sing the sumptuous melody they had just heard there would be no difficulty at all I just doubt that they could so the same for the twenty four minute work that preceded it!
Hats off to Dinara for preparing such a difficult work whilst she tells me she is changing houses!
The Bach- Busoni great organ Prelude and Fugue in D which opened this packed out Sunday afternoon concert whilst played with all the colour and shaping that is always a hallmark of this very fine musician I found it lacked that obsessive frenzy of a true believer such as Emil Gilels. In her attempt to show all the varied strands perfectly shaped and stylishly played it lacked that rugged hypnotic rhythmic energy that was later also the hallmark of that other great believer Messiaen.
The Chopin Funeral March Sonata that closed the first half of this most enjoyable recital on the hottest day of the year was given the stylish performance of a true Chopin player. The first movement although tightly held together there was just enough freedom to allow the music to breathe in a natural way. The incisive rhythm of the the scherzo was played with great authority and led to a moving account of the great Funeral March.
Such a wind that passed over the grave in the last movement brought a shiver to the audience, rapt in attention of this much admired Chopin player.

Leeds- Land of Hope and Glory

Leeds Land of Hope and Glory
Vitaly Pisarenko in Leeds
Great to see a full hall in the Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall in Leeds for the recital by Vitaly Pisarenko top prize winner at the last International Piano Competition in 2015.
The competition now in its fiftieth year,I believe, was created by that remarkable lady who believed so firmly that even in Leeds there could be major musical events.
With all the northern principles of common sense,down to earth intelligence and hard graft how could she fail?
How right she has been proven to be with some of the past top prize winners going on to glorious worldwide careers.Murray Perahia,Radu Lupu ,Andras Schiff,Mitsuko Uchida amongst many others that have gone on from Leeds to become the finest pianists of our era.
The most remarkable thing is that Dame Fanny Waterman at 97 is still very much participating in her brain child and it was wonderful to see her not only at the concert but also at the very interesting conversation and Q&A between Vitaly Pisarenko and the new co artistic director Adam Gatehouse.
Right from the very first competition it was made clear by Dame Fanny that this was a very special competition in which musical values were paramount together of course with complete mastery of the instrument.
And so this has been made very clear by the new nomination of Adam Gatehouse and his co partner as artistic director the pianist but above all much admired musician Paul Lewis.
It was clear right from the very first competition with the commissioning of a set piece by Benjamin Britten and juries that included the greatest musician pianists of our time: Clifford Curzon,Annie Fischer,Gina Bachauer,Rosalyn Tureck,Nadia Boulanger to mention only a few that rallied around this remarkable lady and were happy to give their time and services to create such a Eutopia in Leeds and realise Dame Fanny`s seemingly impossible dream for her beloved city
And so it was good to see this principal upheld today with the very musicianly  and beautifully shaped programme presented by Vitaly Pisarenko .
Beethoven Sonata op 26 Funeral March,
Schumann Fantasiestucke op.12 ,
Schubert Drei Klavierstucke D946
 Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies n.10 and 13.
The Beethoven op.26 was given a very musicianly performance in which the structure and overall shape were paramount.
The extraordinary opening Andante con variazioni was played with a delicacy and forward propulsion that showed an enviable mastery of all the colours that this beautiful Steinway could produce and it was clear that we were in the presence of not only a master pianist but also a formidable musician.
If the scherzo could have been more characterised it was however propelled forward with all Beethoven`s youthful energy and was the ideal foil for the extraordinary Marcia Funebre that followed.
Here all the dramatic contrasts were brought to the fore in a remarkable control of colour and texture.
The perpetuum mobile of the last movement that follows one of Beethoven`s most profound early statements was played with all the light hearted ease that only virtuosi such as Richter and Michelangeli have equalled in the past.
The eight evocative scenes that make up Schumann`s Fantasiestucke op.12 revealed all the sensitivity of this young musician.
The same sensitivity that had brought Janina Fialkowska to tears at his performance at her festival in Bavaria.
And the same tears that Rubinstein had shed when deeply moved by her own performance of the Liszt sonata at the competition dedicated to him.
There is an instant recognition by their peers when these artists can appreciate the same love and dedication to making Schumann`s remarkable fantasy re-live.
Des Abends played with an awesome control of sound that allowed us to immediately enter into Schumann`s private fantasy world of Eusebius.
Immediately awoken by the rude entrance of Florestan with a very romantically robust Aufschwung.
And soared it did with all the romantic ardour of this young lion.
To a meltingly and delicately touching Warum.
Why indeed ?
Who are we ,what are we ~ the great romantic dilemma was so candidly discussed with this very attentive audience by this young poet.
In front of the ever youthful Dame Fanny seated in the front row attentive to every single wondrous sound.
In fact she turned to me at the end ~”beautiful”~as always she had hit the nail on the head.
The trecherous difficulties of Traumes Wirren were thrown off with all the charm and lightness of virtuosi of the past.
Extraordinary misted vision of In der Nacht lead to a real story told in Fabel.
The gentle disintegration at the end of Ende vom Lied was remarkably moving.
After the interval Schuberts Drei Klavierstucke .
One of Schubert’s most elusive works to hold all the episodes together and draw them into a single whole.
This is a world that only great musicians such as Alfred Brendel or his disciple Paul Lewis dare to tread.
Here the early training in Moscow became apparent in his real legato playing without any percussiveness that allowed Schubert’s seamless melodic invention to sing as it can only do when you have acquired fingers of steel but a wrist and flexibility that are born from youthful sacrifice and total dedication.
It was indeed Clifford Curzon ,the supreme poet of this magical sound world ,that exclaimed quite candidly that it was made up of 90% hard work and 10% talent.
What he did not add was that 10% was a gift from the Gods.
It is just such a gift that Dame Fanny and Leeds have excelled in finding and encouraging over this past half a century.
The beauty of the cantabile in the second of the Klavierstucke dissolved into the most magical sounds from the most menacing to the most meltingly seductive.
The opening rhythmic motif of the first piece whispered its insistence as it separated the sublime melodic interruptions.
In the same way that the energetic and greatly virtuosistic interruptions in the final piece had brought this masterpiece to an exciting conclusion.
This young lion of the keyboard now could let his hair down in the company of Liszt as all the great virtuosi would have done in the past .
Two rarely played Hungarian Rhapsodies n.10 and 13 played as to the manner born.
Winner of the Liszt International Piano Competition in Utrecht at only twenty. Now almost ten years later here was a master showing off all the subtle colours,glissandi,funambulistic technical command and above all sense of style and real gipsy soul  which were all thrown off with just the right sense of showmanship with which Liszt himself would have astonished and seduced his adoring public in the aristocratic salons of his day.
A little early melody by Rachmaninov ,a whispered secret that Vitaly wanted to share with us to thank his very attentive audience on his long awaited return to Leeds.

The Emperor Speaks

Spontaneous standing ovation from the entire Barbican for what must be the most noble of Emperors from Murray Perahia .
Conducting the Academy of St Martins in the Fields it was immediately apparent from the opening flourishes that we were to share in a most masculine performance . The octaves were of a massively full sound that took everyone`s breath away including the orchestra .
The electric physical energy right from the outset was then maintained from the keyboard in the long tutti that follows.
Such clarity of intention and such sense of line created a tension in which every member of this very fine orchestra was swept up in.
Like some great wave ~swim or die~ such was this Emperor of Emperors.
Even the slow movement where immediately the inner parts in the opening tutti were of such a vibrant warmth that when the magical scales from the piano entered they seemed to float and hover in the air with a masculine almost orchestral authority.
So the change from the magic of the strings to the world of the wind was a totally logical sequence something I have never witnessed before.
This led so logically to the magical change into the Rondo where the added bass notes in one or two key points was so right ,for the Emperor was speaking and it literally took your breath away as indeed Rubinstein had done all those years ago.
The wonderful lyricism floating on this buoyant rhythm that had been created was quite hypnotic as were the sheer perfection of the jeux perle scales.
Percussion and pianist listening intently to each other at the end led to a final outburst played with an urgency and rhythmic clarity that had the entire audience on their feet cheering.
There was no choice the Emperor had spoken and had brought this remarkable cycle of Beethoven Piano Concertos to an end.
Looking bewildered and embarrassed by what was after all a battle fought by the Emperor and his troups he was obviously touched and moved as we all were tonight.
A Beethoven recital from Murray Perahia on the 11thJune will obviously be the highlight of the season  .
Tomo Keller leading the Academy in Beethoven`s First Symphony and soloist in the opening Romance n.2 in F gave some very fine performances totally eclipsed on this occasion by the monumental performance that they were commanded to play by our Emperor Murray Perahia.

Jaques Samuel Prize Winners Concert

Jaques Samuel Prize Winners Concert In memoriam Peter Uppard
Jaques Samuel`s Prizewinners Concert at the Wigmore Hall
Always a great guarantee to see that great teacher Joan Havill in the audience as she was today for the recital of her pupil Jonathan Ferrucci ,winner of this years Jaques Samuel Intercollegiate Piano Competition sponsored by Fazioli pianos.
I came especially to remember our dearly missed Peter Uppard who was on the jury of the competition which I attended a few months ago .
I had heard all the contestants except for the first one who was in fact the first prize winner .
A very high standard from all the runners up I was very anxious to see who this pianist was that Peter had spoken so highly about that I had arrived too late to hear.
That was the last time that I saw Peter who in the meantime had lost his brave fight over a long difficult illness only kept alive for many years with an apparatus strapped to his waist that he quite amusingly referred to in his usual charming way …..he was that sort of person.
I was not disappointed as it was clear from the very first notes of Bach’s 2nd Partita that we were in the presence of a very intelligent musician who really had something important to say.
A very passionate young man who played with great verve and just the right amount of showmanship and participation that held his audience’s attention from the first to the last note .
The opening dotted rhythms played with great nobility and grandeur immediately held our attention .
Followed by clean beautifully shaped part playing .
Some very discreet ornamentation always in good taste and some really beautiful playing in the Sarabande .
The dance movements especially the final Capriccio played with a rhythmic verve that was quite hypnotic.
Some magical moments in Cesar Franck’s Prelude Choral and Fugue played with great feeling and passion in the ecstatic climaxes but also the most subtle sounds in the choral or the reappearance of the theme in the final fugue .
This final magical appearance leading to a most passionate climax and some really overpowering playing of great authority that brought the first half to a close of great virtuosity .
His great sense of rhythm in the opening chords of Albeniz’s Fete Dieu a Seville even brought a smile to Joan Havills face such was his sense of authority and immediate communication .
The transcendental accompaniment to the great melodies were played with great sense of colour and excitement .The final melting away played with some wonderful evocative colours
Le tombeau de Couperin lacked the clockwork type precision that this piece so needs but it was played with great rhythmic energy and some really extraordinary colouring.
The gentle fugue exquisitely sustained but the opening prelude a little too fast to allow the clockwork precision of Ravel to really weave its spell.
The Rigaudon and the Toccata although dispatched with great virtuosity and real musical meaning sometimes this young pianists very strong temperament got the better of him in the great final outbursts.
This will obviously come with maturity as he realises the meaning of real legato as Ravels disciple Perlemuter was so keen to point out to his students with his utmost attention to finding the perfect fingering to allow the music the real weight that was in the score.
I have to say that rarely have I seen a more beautiful pianists hands as those of this young man on the keyboard tonight.
In fact in his first encore of the Prelude for the left hand by Scriabin I thought it a little bit cheeky when he played the last note so beautifully with the right hand .
But the surprise was that that last note became the first of one of Scriabin’s most passionate studies played with enormous passion,drive and quite considerable virtuosity.
A real standing ovation from a discerning audience brought the real signature to an evening of musicianly playing with a beautifully simple and unmannered performance of the Aria from the Goldberg Variations.
A fitting end and for me memorial from this young pianist that had been so admired by our dear friend Peter Uppard .
Not quite the complete artist yet as Ullman was that same afternoon but still only 23 with already an honours degree from Florence Conservatorio and now studying for a Masters degree with Joan Havill it must only a question of time before we hear a lot more of him in the future .