A Rose for Martin Bartlettt
Martin James Bartlett at the Chopin Society in Westminster Cathedral Hall London today.
Winner of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2014 at the age of 17 and now at the tender age of 20 beginning to make a name for himself throughout the country.
He is infact one of a very select group of remarkable young British musicians who are demonstrating to the world how important the early training of our young musicians is.
Often criticised for their great musicality but lack of that solid early essential technical preparation from childhood that the Eastern countries could offer.
Thanks to institutions such as the Purcell and Menuhin schools that offer a complete education to gifted young children this is no longer the case .
The BBC ,RAM and RCM early training schemes play an important part too.
Such is being proven on the International Circuit with pianists still in their 20’s or even younger taking the world by storm .
Benjamin Grosvenor also a BBC Young Musician of the Year at the age of 12 now at 23 is an established star of the International concert world .
And now we have two very fine young musicians – for that is what they are above all – but also refined virtuosi of their instrument- both selected for two of the major International Piano Competitions .
They will be competing in the next few days with the finest young talents the world has to offer.
I am referring to Julian Trevelyan who at the tender age of 16 took everyone by surprise by winning top prize at the Margherite Long Competition in Paris and now at 18 is competing probably today in the prestigious Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv.
Martin James Bartlett has been selected from hundreds auditioned worldwide to compete in the Van Cliburn Competition in Texas at the end of the month.
Martin already well known via his television Prom performances having studied at the RCM and Purcell School is now perfecting his studies under the guidance of Vanessa Latarche ,that remarkable head of keyboard studies at the RCM who has brought the finest talents to London to teach and study.
She too I well remember as a little girl the star pupil of Eileen Rowe in Ealing who single handed dedicated her life to training and promoting talented young children.
A house full of pianos and lessons from morning to evening and a chance for us to earn some money for our own advanced studies helping out this remarkable lady who after her death left a bequest to the Eileen Rowe Trust to continue her dedicated work from afar.
There must be something about the air in Ealing the home for so many years of Dmitri Alexeev and Murray Perahia – both of whom winners of the Leeds International Piano Competition where musicianship allied to virtuoso technique have always been the trade mark of that other remarkable lady and founder Dame Fanny Waterman ( also a student of the RCM under Cyril Smith).
How proud Eileen Rowe would have been to have heard Martin yesterday for he epitomises all the qualities that she and Vanessa Latarche consider paramount.
That is: a musicianship that knows how to look at the original indications of the composer and turn them into sounds with an infallible technique of ten wonderful musicians in their two hands .
A magnificent Symphony Orchestra at their command indeed!
And so we all flocked yesterday to listen to Martin thanks to the generosity of Lady Rose Cholmondeley and her wonderful team headed by Gillian Margaret Newman .
Here we are able on Sunday afternoons to hear some of these remarkable young musicians together with established artists such as Peter Donohoe and Janina Fialkowska in an almost family atmosphere of yore.
Immediately establishing his credentials with two Scarlatti Sonatas in which the characterisation and total immersion in this very special sound world were quite mesmerising .
Crystal clear ornaments too showed off his early training .
But there was more than this .
There was a genuine talent to make the music speak something that can be encouraged by early training but cannot be taught .
It is a God given gift probably with an extra sensitive ear to all sounds heard from birth.
These were full blooded performances played with passion and colour but above all with a good taste that was aware of the period and the instruments that these 500 miniature masterpieces were written for.
Horowitz was the first in our time to combine these two worlds and show us how with good taste and style these pieces could and should be played on the modern piano with all the advantages of an instrument that Scarlatti could not have known.
The Beethoven Sonata op 31 n.3 popularly known as the Hunt had us afterwards reaching for the score such were the surprises that Martin had in store through his thorough musicianly reading of Beethoven’s own indications.(The last two chords of the first movement played piano instead of the more usual forte ).
The only other musician who can reveal new light on such well known scores is Murray Perahia who spends hours pouring over original editions to get as close to the composers intentions as possible.
The Scherzo .Allegretto vivace was a little too fast to allow it to be played with all the tongue in cheek character that Beethoven could also be capable of in this period.
The sheer beauty of the Menuetto showed off all the perfect balance between the hands and allowed this new Steinway to sing as it rarely is allowed to.
The charming grazioso was just that and made one realise just why Saint Saens had taken that motif for his variations for two pianos.
Presto con fuoco ending was very clearly played with sparing use of the pedal that allowed the Hunt to continue to its inexorable end undisturbed by any unwanted clouds .
The Liszt Sonetto del Petrarca was played with real passion and sense of style that only a young man with a great romantic heart could offer.
Sumptuous sounds from the piano and some really ravishing playing.
The same ravishing,teasing almost scintillating sounds that he found later in the little waltz op.64.n.2 by Chopin where his perfect sense of balance allowed this well known piece to be played with a charm and grace that is of a real born Chopin player.
Bach’s great C minor Toccata could have been more insistent with its main theme more marcato alla Tureck but it was a very fine performance played with great style and forward propulsion and was the perfect opening piece after the interval for what was to follow.
Jacket now thrown to the wind as Martin launched ,and that is the word,into Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata .
One of the three so called War Sonatas numbers 6,7 and 8.
And war it was with the real energy and zeal that only a young man could have found on discovering this extraordinary sound world .
Enormous sounds from the bass and cascades of notes from the treble played with great verve and a rhythmic energy that was quite infectious for this seemingly rather staid audience of the Chopin Society.
Beautifully shaped slow movement where the great melody was allowed to sing and make such a contrast between the two outer movements .
The Precipitato last movement was just that .
Played at full throttle the insistent left hand rhythm never for a moment allowed to wane Infact as the movement moves inexorably to its final enormous crescendo it was quite a tour de force even for this young virtuoso to keep the momentum right to the end .
No wonder he had thrown off his jacket and caution to the wind as he was prepared to fight to the end ……..and he certainly did as the spontaneous standing ovation could testify.
A single encore after much persuasion from an audience totally overcome by this extraordinary exhibition .
Schubert G flat Impromptu op 90 n.3 played with such refined rubato and sense of balance where the sublime melodic line was allowed to soar and sing as it only can in the hands of a real musician.