Alessandro Taverna at the Filarmonica

Alessandro Taverna at the Filarmonica
Alessandro Taverna at the Filarmonica Romana for their Beethovenklavier series
I have only been able to attend two of these memorable concerts that Matteo D’Amico ,the Artistic Director of the Filarmonica Romana,has dedicated to the Pinnacle of the piano repertoire:The 32 Sonatas of Beethoven.
Giving the stage to some of the most remarkable pianists of their generation and all Italian too.
Not content with this, as a notable composer in his own right ,he has included a piano work by contemporary Italian composers in each programme.
All these concerts recorded for the RAI for future broadcast including a brief but sometimes illuminating talk by the composers themselves.
The recitals  are under the eagle eye of Andrea Lucchesini ,the director of the famous Academy in Fiesole,and a very distinguished pianist in his own right.
I well remember Cherkassky when I took him to play in Empoli,Busoni’s birthplace,being invited to Luciano Berio’s house nearby to hear his protege Andrea Lucchesini play.
Cherkassky was very impressed and that young boy has since gone on to have a very distinguished career never forgetting in turn to help his younger colleagues.
Much in the same vein as his teacher Maria Tipo.
There is certainly something in the hills around Florence that is conducive to great pianists.
All the concerts in the Sala Casella ,part of the beautiful Villa which is the seat of the Filarmonica .
Is it just a coincidence that the Casella edition of the Beethoven Sonatas was for many years the bible for young pianists ?
The bust of his hands was recently bequeathed to the Filarmonica by that great,much missed Italian pianist Lya De Barberiis also champion of so many Italian contemporary composers.
Her memorable lecture recital in this very hall for her 90th birthday a few years ago has become a benchmark for all those interested in the Italian composers of that period.
My previous visit was to hear that great stylist Leonora Armellini and today it was the turn of Alessandro Taverna fast being recognised as one of the finest interpreters of his day especially of contemporary music.
Interesting to note that both have been chosen to perform for the Keyboard Charitable Trust of London founded by a disciple of Benedetti Michelangeli,Noretta Conci-Leech.
Hats of to the composer Matteo D’Amico because for me the highlight of the recital today was the contemporary piece by the composer Michele dall’Ongaro.
President in his own right of the Accademia di S.Cecilia and director of RAI 5 the cultural station like BBC 4 in the UK .
His only piece for solo piano written in 1989 as he very amusingly decribed the five “brief” scenes that make up his “Autodafe'”.
Explaining that everything of any importance has already been done by Beethoven and so anything that composers  could offer today had in some way already been contemplated by Beethoven.
But he said the greatest joy for a composer was to be alone in a darkened room with a pencil and manuscript paper to turn his fantasy into sound.
He certainly did that in these varied pieces describing the jouney to the scaffold!
Amazing sounds from the piano played with such conviction by Alessandro Taverna.
He did not break a string in the final piece as the composer had recommended but as a true master of the piano played with the same vehemence that was required.
In fact it was even more remarkable for the contrast that he found .
The floating sounds of the fourth piece “rassegnato” and the contrasts in the first piece “riluttante” all played with an enviable clarity and precision but with a fantasy that made  the composers own images so immediately apparent.
The three Sonatas op 27 n.1 “quasi una fantasia “;op 53 “Waldstein”;op 110.
All three sonatas played with the rigour for which this young man is renowned and duly feted by Lorin Maazel ,who on hearing him at his festival in Castleton,USA for the KCT,immediatley engaged him to play together with his Munchner Philharmoniker.
A Beethoven in which the great contrasts that are so much part of Beethoven’s character were immediately apparent.
The virtuoso demands in the Waldstein were played with a mastery that did not deny either the struggle that is within and is the very essence of this sonata.
The short slow movement (Andante Favori that was the original mouvement was published separately ) was a beautiful introduction to Rondo’-Allegretto moderato where the bell like melody entered so gently on a cloud of sound before the very energetic eruptions. The first movement played at just the right tempo that allowed the second subject to make such a telling contrast, without a change of tempo ,with the rhythmic rumble with which the movement begins.
Infact it was this sense of line that was so apparent in the penultimate Sonata op 110.
This seemingly Pastoral Sonata that is sometimes so difficult to perceive as a whole was here given an exemplary reading.
Eventually some of the magical sounds that had sparked his fantasy in the contemporary piece he will add to his notable intellectual musicianship that gave such a sense of architectural line to this masterpiece where Beethovens rage was turning into something so much simpler and profound as in the works that follow op.111,126 and the great Diabelli op120.
The companion sonata to the more famous “Moonlight” was played with all the simplicity and rhythmic energy that brought this once much neglected sonata to life.
Hats off to the Filarmonica and Matteo D’Amico for promoting Beethoven, the finest young Italian musicians as well as contemporary Italian composers .
Matteo D’Amico who wrote the score many years ago for me to play in Orazio Costa’s famous edition of Pirandello “Cosi e’ se vi pare” with my wife the renowned actress and impresario Ileana Ghione.

Jayson Gillham at Conway Hall

Jayson Gillham at Conway Hall Romantic Bach for the Bloomsbury Festival
Jayson Gillham at Conway Hall.
The Bloomsbury Festival Romantic Bach from the intimate to epic on the modern piano………………Sunny Jason outshone them all tonight
Very interesting for a Londoner like me to discover a new venue for classical music. Conway Hall like Regent Hall has always for me had the sound of the Salvation Army and not a concert hall.
I remember Madame Tillett determined to have a hall in the centre of London and not accept the rather cold Queen Elisabeth Hall on the Southbank .
She opened a new hall in Regents street ,paid to have it refurbished and opened with a season of all of her roster of stars from Segovia and Szeryng to a complete Beethoven Series with Badura Skoda.
Coffee served in real china cups but nothing could make the hall feel like a real concert hall. It may have well been the carpets and plush seats.
This is certainly not the case of Conway Hall as I discovered at Jayson Gillham’s recital for the Bloomsbury Festival.
An Art Deco type building in the corner of Red Lion Square in Holborn.
It has a very well worn feeling inside that fits like a friendly glove .
Wood everywhere gives a very warm feeling in particular to the sound from their fine Boesendorfer piano .
The hall was infact purpose built for concerts in 1929 when the South Place Ethical Society acquired the concert series from the People’s Concert Society of 1878.
Four hundred comfortable but certainly not plush seats,no carpets in sight to hinder the near perfect acoustic of this wooden interior.
Just the right amount of resonance to allow the Majestic Boesendorfer to ring out maybe even a little too overpowering at times.
Jayson Gillham is fast becoming an important part of those magnificent Australian musicians that live and work in and around London as well as in their native Australia. Piers Lane and Leslie Howard are both renowned for their enormous musical appetite and their intellectual and musicianly mastery of the piano.
Having graduated from the RAM in London under that renowned pedagogue Christopher Elton. Jayson Gillham has gone on to take first prize in 2014 at the Montreal International Music Competition.
Since then he has played with many of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors.
A real thinking musician in the mold of his illustrious colleagues it was his informal introductions that were so stimulating and informative in this well thought out recital under the title of :”Romantic Bach from initmate to epic on the modern piano”.
As he stated in the introduction :Bach was the undisputed master of Counterpoint- the art of setting independent musical lines against each other and interweaving them to create harmony (just the harmonic inevitability that Murray Perahia so eloquently demonstrated in his Masterclass at Milton Court last week)
The complexity with which Bach could compose in this manner is to this day unmatched,and the resulting beauty and depth of emotion of Bach’s music is immense. “From the intimate to the epic” was all in a day’s work for Bach,who dedicated his life’s work to God.
The Toccatas in G major and C minor opening the first and second half of original and trascriptions of J.S. Bach.
Full blooded performances never afraid of the pianos sonorities but always contained within an architectural framework which is the very substance of Bach’s genius.
Some beautiful contrasts made one almost think that these are just as powerful as some of the overblown transcriptions of Busoni.
The C minor Toccata in particular played with crystalline clarity and an energy that swept us along to the very last note.
The same rigour that he brought to the Chaconne from the violin Partita n.2 in Dminor in perhaps the greatest of all transcriptions of Bach that of Busoni.
Of course a use of the piano and of great virtuosity but never sacrificing this masterpiece written as part of a series of dances .
As Jayson so clearly stated a masterwork as long as all the other movements of the Partita put together.
Played with an unusual and very original ,refreshing and unrhetorical look at the score. A much maligned work in the piano repertoire here Jayson restored it to the masterwork that it most clearly is.
On a par with that of Bach?He almost convinced me!
Bach’s original Prelude and Fugues in C sharp minor Bk.2 and B flat minor Bk 1 so much more powerful than the rather overblown transcription by Rachmaninov of the Suite in E major.
So many extra notes it really became a suite by Rachmaninov with references to Bach! Beautifully played,the Gavotte had a charm and lilt and just the right amount of virtuosity in the Gigue was quite overwhelming in Jayson’s hands.
It was interesting to hear the Prelude in E minor by Rachmaninov’s teacher Alexander Siloti . Not quite the magical B minor that is most often played and there is also the doubt that this too was not an original work of Bach at all!
Dazzling is the only way to describe his performance of Nun freut euch,lieben Christen g’mein in Busoni’s busy transcription .I doubt Busoni himself could have matched that.
His Jesu Joy of Man’s desiring in the Myra Hess transcription was of such beauty that one never wanted it to stop.
Transcendental piano playing in Liszt’s very unfussy and respectful Prelude and Fugue in A minor .
Astounding left hand octaves brought the first half to a breathtaking ending
I was thinking how strange that an Australian pianist should play Egon Petri’s transcription of ” Sheep may safely Graze” .Even though beautifully shaped it did not have the same magic as Percy Grainger’s transcription that Jayson surprised us with as an encore.
Indeed as he pointed out Grainger not content with Bach’s title gave his ramble on “Sheep may safely graze” the title of Blithe Bells. Played as to the manner born . The colours and sounds that now lit up the piano showed us all the magic and fantasy that had up until now been hidden in Jayson’s intellectual and masterly performances.
It was as though he could let his hair down as Grainger obviously was doing and enter a fantasy world of sound that even Bach could not have imagined possible.

Julian Jacobson 70th Birthday Series at St John’s Smith Square

Julian Jacobson’s 70th Birthday Series at St John’s Smith Square
Julian Jacobson at St John`s Smith Square
The first of four concerts to celebrate Julian Jacobson’s 70th Birthday year.
Concerts that include the three “war” sonatas of Prokofiev and some of the major works from the piano repertoire.
I was much reminded of that remarkable musician Frederick Jackson .
“Freddie” as he was affectionately known could sit down and play the Goldberg or Diabelli Variations as he could conduct the Verdi Requiem.
I first met Julian thirty years ago when he came to Rome to perform in a contemporary music festival in my theatre in collaboration with the American Academy in Rome.
There was talk of him coming to give a recital with Ida Handel and Zara Nelsova but it was not to be and so I met him again only last year when he was taking over the chairmanship of the Beethoven Society from the retiring Dr Malcom Troup .
I together with Piers Lane and Noretta Conci-Leech were invited to judge their annual Beethoven Competition which was won by Mihai Ritivoiu with a remarkable performance of the “Appassionata” as you would expect from a prize student of Joan Havill.
And so I was very keen to hear Julian again especially as I had heard about his cycle of the 32 Beethoven Sonatas played in the same day in aid of charity WaterAid.
I also knew of his many other activities at the RCM and for the Beethoven Society.
A real musician as you would expect from a young boy at the age of seven studying piano and composition with the Lamar Crowson and Arthur Benjamin.
A graduate of Queen’s College Oxford and student later of Louis Kentner .
I was intrigued to see a CD on sale of the works of Maurice Jacobson who on reading the cover learn was Julian’s father.
A very distinguished musician in his own right, a child prodigy who could play the “48” and “32” from memory at the age of 16!
A fine accompanist he was to discover Kathleen Ferrier and went on to found the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain with Dame Ruth Railton.
Director and chairman of the publisher J.Curwen and Sons with an impressive 450 works to his name.
He was also founder , I was told, of The Chopin Society UK.
He was awarded an OBE in 1971 and died in 1976 at the age of 80.
On the same table a CD of the complete piano works of Balakirev and some of Julians compositions which include The Orang-U-Tango written for the Martha Argerich Festival .
Only three great works on his first programme as you would expect with such a pedigree:
Beethoven “Eroica” variations op 35 , Schubert’s first set of Four Impromptus D 899 Prokofiev 6th Sonata in A 82.
Never a harsh sound from this musician who was listening intently to the great line of these masterworks that he was sharing with us.
The great Beethovenian interruptions in the Eroica Variations played with all the vehemence that made the contrast with the simple theme so telling.
If there were some blurred edges it did not in anyway detract from the overall picture that was so much part of this musician’s vision and wish to guide us through.
Beautiful almost whispered sound after the Beethovenian opening of Schubert’s first Impromptu .
The similarity between the opening of the Beethoven was even more striking for its direct unfussy approach to the composers intentions.
Many beautiful things in the following impromptus especially the 3rd Impromptu where the melody was allowed to sing out in such a natural unmannered way.
The jeu perle in the second and fourth Impromptu played with an enviable precision and it was good to notice this pianist’s “paws” the same ones I used to admire so much in “Freddie” who I mentioned above.
A pianist’s hand that seems to always be drawn to the keyboard without any fuss or affectation in many ways an organist’s hand too and allow us to follow unimpeded the composers intentions.
Enormous contrasts in the Prokofiev as though Julian was trying to show us the reasoning behind this first sonata of his “war” trilogy.
Here a slightly clearer articulation would have given even more rhythmic impetus to this astonishing sonata.
The long slow movement seemed so logical in it’s projection of the long melodic line.
If the last movement could have been even more steely fingered it was played in a fearless way that brought the concert to tumultuous finish
A rarely heard Scriabin Prelude in B minor played with all the colour and calm but always with the same sense of line and direction that had been so much the hallmark of a real musicians recital.
The next recital on the 26th November in which another three blocks from the piano repertoire Schubert D850,Beethoven op 27 n.2 and Prokofievs 7th Sonata.
A remarkable tour de force indeed for someone who is so much involved in every aspect of musical life ……..
It is evidently a family trait!

Andrei Iliushkin at St Martins for the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe and The Worshipful Company of Musicians

Andrei Iliushkin at St Martin in the Fields for The Beethoven Piano Society of Europe and The Worshipful Company of Musicians
Andrei Iliushkin at St Martin in the Fields ,winner of the Intercollegiate Beethoven Piano Society of Europe Competition and Winner of the Worshipful Company of Musicians Beethoven Medal
All in the family you might say today.
Andrei Iliushkin having completed his early studies in Moscow has been studying for the past four years at the RAM with the renowned teacher Christopher Elton ,disciple as we all were in that period of our dearly beloved Gordon Green.
The Worshipful Company of Musicians was founded in 1350 and the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe has as its International President Paul Badura Skoda and as Honorary UK President Sir Andras Schiff so it was a decided honour for a young pianist of only 22 to be recognised by such noble institutions .
Julian Jacobson the chairman of the Beethoven society and Alberto Portugheis founder member together with Andrew Morris and many other distinguished colleagues were present today for the winners recital and presentation of the Beethoven Medal.
Three works in the programme which showed off ever facet of this young man’s remarkable talent. Bach/Busoni Chaconne,Beethoven Sonata in E minor op 90 and Scriabin’s 3rd Sonata.
It was immediately apparent from the first notes of the Chaconne the intelligence and musicality that was allied to his complete control of the piano.
Obviously early training in Moscow has given him a security and sense of dynamic control that can only come from this early preparation.
Fingers of steel and wrists of rubber Agosti used to say.
But fingers of steel that allow you to play with more colours and dynamic range ,never hitting the piano but caressing the sounds that are there to be found .
He brought a great nobility to the Chaconne thinking always from the bass upwards as indeed he did in the other two works in the programme.
Not afraid to take liberties with the tempo where his personality thought it necessary but never loosing sight of the great architectural line that Bach designs so masterly for solo violin and which Busoni is able to transform in an almost equally masterly way for the piano .
His great range of dynamics brought this work into the realm of the modern piano but never forgetting its origin.
The tranquillo middle section played with a delicacy and clarity.
The seemingly violin like texture played with a precision leading to a tumultuous climax that gave way to a heart rending calm -quasi tromboni writes Busoni – but rarely have I heard such beautiful trombones as today.
An equally delicate calm before the storm in the Piu sostenuto and piu espressivo leading inexorably to the great climax and final triumphant statement of the Chaconne .
Agosti would have had a fit to hear the great bass notes played as canons.
They are marked staccato and are there just give more sonority to the great final statement of the theme.
It is a trick of the great pianists especially of the past that playing in great halls they would add very judiciously bass notes that would allow the sonority of the piano to carry across the vast opera houses where they would often be expected to play to their doting public.
Nelson Freire still does this to great effect and I remember him playing a very subtle bass note before the entry in the treble of the piano in Chopin’s Second Concerto.
Tricks of the Trade my old piano teacher Sidney Harrison used to call them and indeed they are .
But if you are playing in public you must also sometimes be a showman.
Rubinstein and Horowitz were of course the prime examples in my day.
Before them there was Rachmaninov,Rosenthal,Lhevine ,Godowsky etc in the Golden era of Romantic piano playing of which Busoni in a certain sense was part of.
It all of course was born with the greatest showman ever Franz Liszt.
Busoni was a disciple of Liszt as Agosti was a disciple of Busoni .
This was an impressive opening for Andrei and confirmed his credentials as the just winner of the honours that were bestowed on him at the end of a very revealing programme.
Beethoven’s beautiful little E minor Sonata op 90- the calm before the storm you might say.
Perhaps the most Schubertian of all Beethoven’s Sonatas was given here a loving performance .
The beautiful second movement entering almost unnoticed as indeed it does in the last movement of Schubert’ s great A major Sonata.
This is of course Beethoven and the great contrasts were very clearly marked with great rhythmic clarity.
Rarely have I heard the left hand semiquavers in the first movement played so clearly without pedal allowing the legato right hand to be so telling.
The great delicacy in the middle section somewhat reminiscent of the opening of Liszt’s great tone poem Vallee d’Oberman.And the gentle disintegration of the first movement disolving into the Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen.
The Third Sonata by Scriabin was given a very fine performance indeed.
His sense of colour and inner rhythmic propulsion allowed the hypnotic opening motif to spring to life in all its multitude of forms as if by magic.
The long slow movement played with a great sense of line and the rhythmic impulse in the last movement and heroic statement of the main theme brought this sonata and the recital to a magnificent conclusion.

Mastery at St Mary’s Rokas Valuntonis

The Master Speaks Rokas Valuntonis at St Mary’s
Rokas Valuntonis at St Mary`s Perivale.
Sensational performances by a master pianist.
It was a very pleasant surprise to hear this charming young man from Lithuania for the first time.
I had met him at a private concert in the house of that renowned pianist Norma Fisher but had never had a chance to hear him until now.
I introduced him to Hugh Mather at a concert in Perivale.
Hugh listened to a “you tube” performance of his Mozart/ Volodos Turkish March and immediately invited him to play in his remarkable season at St Mary’s.
And so it was yesterday that Rokas Valuntonis gave a short Tuesday afternoon recital at St Mary’s.
I was surprised to see an old RAM friend Peter Bithell there too as well as many other remarkable young musicians including Andrew Yiangou
Word has obviously got around that we have a major new talent in our midst.
In fact a Pogorelich type with that most remarkable technique to match ears that can hear and project sounds that most others never reach.
Together with an extraordinary digital precision and clarity that is of the world of the young Pogorelich or Arcadi Volodos.
He graduated in Lithuania and at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki.
He has had guidance in Paris from Eugen Indjic ,a top prize winner in the first Rubinstein Competition together with Emanuel Ax and Janina Fialkowska ,and a very remarkable musician that we were privileged to hear in London recently thanks Lady Rose Cholmondeley at the Chopin Society.
Like all great artists,having won many major competitions and performed a great deal in Europe he is still searching for musical stimulation and guidance which he is now receiving at the Guildhall under that remarkable musician Peter Bithell.
He could not do better for Peter was the finest pianist of my generation.
A top prize winner at an early age in the Busoni , Casella and Santader competitions
A real thinking musician with an impeccable musical pedegree starting with Harold Craxton and finishing with Maria Curcio taking in Guido Agosti and Gordon Green.
He is now a highly esteemed professor at the Guildhall and at the Summer Academy in Bloomington USA.
A charming presentation showed all his acute intelligence and wit.
Thanking Hugh for the opportunity to give his first concert in the UK and having seen the beautiful antique church where the concert was to take place he immediately thought of a programme of suitably sombre respectful music by Bach .
But then he had an after thought and decided to dedicate it rather impishly to the Devil . After all there would be no Heaven without Hell!
Hence the inclusion of Liszt Mephisto and Gounod Faust Paraphrase.
Ending of course by great demand with the Turkish March.
The concert began with three rarely heard Scarlatti Sonatas. K487,K.8,K 79. in which one was struck by the precision and carity of his touch.
Never a harsh sound but just the right rhythmical energy and quite considerable temperament that can turn these gems into living sounds weaving their thread so simply and inevitably .
A sparing use of pedal made the contrast even more gripping in the middle slow sonata K.8.Played with such liquidity of sound and sense of subtle colour and shaping one was reminded of the miraculous Scarlatti performances of Horowitz.
Never the dry accademic approach but a very respectful one that brought the music alive using dicreetely all the possibilities of an instrument that the composer could only have imagined in his dreams.
The four early mazukas op 6 by Chopin were played to the manner born.
Here one was immediately made aware of the bagpipe sounds and rhythms of Chopin’s native land that he was describing in these miniature masterpieces.
And so for a really devilish performance indeed of Liszt’s famous Mephisto Waltz n.1.
Here again one was aware of the acute attention to sound and detail in a breathtaking performance ranging from transcendental virtuosity to heatrending cantabile.
The subtle use of the pedal and his very sense of searching out all the range of sounds and colours that rarely we hear these days of barnstorming pianism.
Rarely if ever have I heard this good but not remarkable Yamaha piano be transformed into a Pandora’s box full of magical sounds and excitement in the hands of this master magician.
Of course this is what make the piano such a much loved instrument a true orchestra in the right hands, and why all the greatest composers from Bach onwards have been able to create their masterpieces for an instrument that inspires so much love.
It is in large part due to a sense of balance and the ability to convince us that this is not only a percussion instrument where hammers are hitting strings but an instrument that is capable of a true legato and a kaleidoscopic range of sounds.
This is what technique really means and this is what is so rare where a majority of pianists aim to play as fast and as loud as they can with scrupulous attention to the composers written indications.
The pianos these days can take it.
Our ears cannot !
In order to bring the composers indications to life you have to understand the intention and real meaning behind the notes and have intelligence allied to a total command of the instrument to begin the search for the style, colour and feeling in the notes.
“Words without thought no more to Heaven go” as Boulanger loved to quote from Shakespeare.
Of course but words are not enough there is even more within the notes for he who has the talent and dedication to search within.
That is the real interpreter and it is very rare these days.
The example for me today are Murray Perahia and Krystian Zimerman.
It is hardly surprising that their mentors were Vladimir Horowitz and Arthur Rubinstein!
The Sonetto del Petrarca n.123 fared less well as Rokas’s search for colour and sound, remarkable though it was, did not allow us to follow the line.
Somehow we lost the thread as infact he momentarily did too.
Wood for the trees in this case in a recital that had been of an authority and assurance of few.
No outward signs of exuberance or showmanship as can be in this music of Liszt the greatest showman ever.
With his complete concentration on the sounds that he was producing it was all in the sounds that he was transmitting to his very attentive audience.
Entering into the real style for which this music was written he was never afraid to add the odd bass note or fill in very subtly some of Liszt’s intricate meanderings around Gounod’s Faust .
“Je sens ,Je trasmet” not sure who wrote that but it is exactly what went on today.
Rokas had written a Paraphrase of   Lithuanian folk song especially for today’s concert
 As he said .His op.1
He had given the title for the programme knowing that the incentive would make him actually finish the piece.
Full of nostalgia for his Lithuania in the recurring opening motif repeated after some glistening arpeggios reminiscent of the Tchaikowsky transcriptions of that other great vituoso of our day Mikhail Pletnev
Sensational is the only word that can describe the performance of Mozart’s famous Turkish March in the paraphrase that Arcadi Volodos has made of it .
Such ease,charm,sumptuous sounds and teasingly infectuous virtuosity it just brought tears to ones eyes for the sheer perfection that was on show.
An audience held spellbound and absolutley incredulous .
Dear Hugh Mather you were right as always but you are going to have a hard job to follow that !
Many thanks to you and your faithful public for welcoming Rokas to London.
We have been waiting a long time!
After that what could be better than a magical performance of the Barber of Seville in Jonathan Miller’s famous production conducted by old friend Hilary Griffiths .
Having conducted many of the major opera companies in the world making his debut in London at last at the ENO

Mishka Rushdie Momen at St Mary’s

The Bells of St Mary’s Mishka Rushdie Momen
Mishka Rushdie Momen at St Mary`s Perivale This must be London`s best kept secret.
A wonderful meal in a comfortably civilised Farmhouse Inn.
Eat as much as you like ~ or can!~for under ten pounds.
Scrupulously clean with attentive caring young personnel.
The same caring people who surround Felicity and Hugh Mather,both doctors sharing their love of music and providing the ideal conditions and opportunity to perform for some of the most talented up and coming young musicians in London.
Three or four concerts a week in St Mary`s Tuesday at 14h,Wednesday at 19.30 and Sunday at 15h. And at the sister church of St Barnabas on Friday at 13h.
Each concert professionally video recorded and every artist paid a performing fee.
Hugh was passing around a Questionnaire Survey on how they could improve.
Improve on that dear Hugh not on this earth!
Today after a sumptuous Sunday roast we were treated to the exquisite playing of Mishka Rushdie Momen .
Her Uncle is the famous writer Salman Rushdie.
As Hugh explained she has been playing for his series regularly since that first concert as part of the Purcell School when she was only 16.
Now 9 years later still only in her mid twenties she has received accolades from some of the finest musician pianists of our age.
Having studied with Joan Havill and Imogen Cooper at the Guildhall and periodically with Richard Goode she has attracted the attention of Sir Andras Schiff.
Not only inviting her to his Masterclasses in Gstaad but also to play in his “Building Bridges” Series offering her recitals in New York,Zurich,Antwerp, Germany and Italy.
In fact her superb sense of balance and legato allied to an exquisitely​ intelligent musicality that allows the music to speak so naturally reminds me of the fourteen year old Schiff studying with us in the class of the much missed Andre Tchaikowsky in Dartington fifty years ago.
The wondrous sense of legato in Chopin`s 3rd Ballade was the envy of us all!
A musicians programme played like the consummate musician she is.
The finest performance for me today were the “Ghost” variations WoO24 by Schumann. In fact one of Schumann`s last works on a theme that came to the dying composer sent by the Angels.
The same theme that was used in his violin concerto discovered long after his death by Menuhin .
In fact it was in a seance in 1933 that Joachims two grand nieces Jelly d’Aranyi and Adila Fachiri were directed to the Prussian State Library where Joachim had left the manuscript saying it should not be played for 100 years.
As the copyright was German property the first performance was given by Georg Kulenkampff and the Berlin Philharmonic on 26th November 1937.
Menuhin gave the second performance at Carnegie Hall in the violin and piano version on 6th December that year.
Jelly d’Aranyi ( dedicatee of Ravel Tzigane) gave the first London performance with the BBC Philharmonic in Queens Hall.
The same theme used by Brahms too for his Variations on a theme by Schumann.
The composer tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge into the Rhine but was saved in time and managed to finish these very delicate variations that his adored Clara kept locked in her drawer for many years after his death a short while later.
That great musician Menahem Pressler has taken them into his repertoire in his 90`s.
In fact they are very much twilight musings of sublime beauty.
Playing from the score ,this work that is new to Mishka`s repertoire was a sort of work in progress.
I can not wait to hear the work when it is fully absorbed into her mind and soul.
Some wonderful sounds in which this heaven sent melody was allowed to sing no matter how intricate its surrounds.
A feat of great artistry in which art conceals art.
The same artistry which allowed the two Albeniz pieces from Iberia “El Puerto” and “Triana” to sing in such a joyous sunny way.
Never having to force the tone ,she was able to find the ideal sheen of the land of sun and manyana.
The Mozart Rondo in A minor found an ideal interpreter where the innocent Rondo theme appeared with all the innocence pregnant with meaning that makes Mozart`s quality rather than quantity so hard for the interpreter.
“Too easy for children but too difficult for adults” according to Schnabel.
“You are a musician not a pianist” said Leschetizky of his pupil Schnabel.
What greater compliment could one receive indeed?
The Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor BWV 903 opened the programme.
The Fantasia I found a bit too fragmented but then with the recitativos she seemed to bring the fragments together bringing the fantasia to an unusually moving ending before embarking on the fugue played with great clarity and sense of line.
The final work in this full Sunday afternoon recital programme to a sold out hall was Schumann’s great Sonata in F sharp minor op 11.
This is a very long and difficult work and was played with all the sense of shape and colour necessary but missed the sense of passionate urgency and almost operatic showmanship that was so much part of Annie Fischer’s historic performances .
In fact it was the last work that Annie Fischer played in my theatre in Rome and she followed it with the most nakedly passionate performance of L’Isle Joyeuse.
The opening is pure opera but it also leads into the Allegro and this sense of forward drive was missing in an extremely musical account where the actual almost savage spirit was denied.
One needs great reserves to be able to play this work as a Fischer or a Gilels otherwise it can sound like a series of beautiful episodes without any great architectural line.
In fact the middle section in the last movement was sublime as was the beautiful Aria today.
Let us not forget though that Schumann broke his fingers in trying to improve his technique and his works are of transcendental difficulty because they must sound as though there are always infinite reserves available.
After an afternoon of such wonderful music making no encore was possible so we passed immediately to the tea and homemade cakes which is all part of the Sunday afternoon St Mary’s ritual.
Felicity at the helm in the kitchen and Hugh playing host to his enchanted guests.

Jamal Aliyev and Maria Tarasewicz at the 1901 Arts Club

Swan Song in Paradise Jamal Aliyev and Maria Tarasewicz at the 1901 Arts Club
JamalAliyev and Maria Tarasewicz at the 1901 Arts Club for Chanan Canan Maxton`s Talent
Sold out 1901 Arts Club for the recital by Jamal Aliyev fast making a name for himself as one of the finest cellist of his generation.
Already having won every award from the RCM where he studies with Thomas Carroll having previously studied with him from an early age at the Menuhin School .
This year has seen his Proms debut as well as being solist only a few days ago at the RFH with the Philharmonia .
Selected to be one of YCAT’s prestigious young artists he has already recorded his first CD of Russian Masters to great acclaim on the Champs Hill label .
His debut in the 2018 Enescu Festival at the Atheneum in Bucharest will be broadcast live by Medici.
He still finds time for his Masters degree,a three year course which he has just embarked on this autumn at the RCM.
Winner of the Arts Club- Sir Karl Jenkins Award he appeared in this delightfully secluded oasis in the centre of London with the magnificent pianist Maria Tarasewicz with whom he has shared the platform for the past few years.
This house just off Waterloo is inspired by the Salon Culture in Europe with beautifully decorated rooms designed to re- create the initimate ambiance of a private residence.
As the critics have noted:
” Walking past,you probably wouldn’t guess there was a recital room here. Truly lovely hosts,nineteenth century salon vibe and bar upstairs, Check it out ,its a real gem”
And “gems ” there were indeed last night in a varied recital from Bach to Shchedrin.
This may very well be their swan song together for Jamal now being a YCAT artist where birds of a feather are expected to flock together!
Promoted for the past three years by the indefatigable Canan Maxton and her Talent Unlimited,which promotes and oversees the early stages of the careers of exceptionally talented young artists.
I have heard these two young artists together in these past three years many times but tonight as talented artists with the right guidance can do,there was a maturity and authority added to their passionate total commitment to the music.
Starting on his own Jamal gave great weight and authority to the magnificent opening Prelude of the Solo Cello Suite n.3 in Cmajor BWV1009.
A great opening statement that filled this hall with the glorious sounds of his 1756 Giovanni Battista Gabrielli.
The 45 people privileged to be present knew immediately that here was an artist to be reckoned with indeed.
Great sense of dance in the Allemande was followed by a Courante that I found ran too fast for comfort to allow the music to unfold naturally as in the Bouree and Gigue that followed.
The Sarabande of course was sublime indeed as a contrast to the Courante.
As with all great artists everything falls into place and he almost convinced me that the contrast between the Courante and the Sarabande was right in the end!
I wish he could have abandoned the score as he did later in the programme to give him all the freedom that his innate musicianship and intelligence demand .
In fact a free reign like a throughbread free to roam in the wonderland that Bach sets before us.
Following with the Rococo Variations by Tchaikowsky in which Maria Tarasewicz joined forces with him in a sumptuous performance played with all the passion and fire that comes only with youth.
Abandoning the score this time Jamal was free to allow the music to pour out of him directly via the magnificent sounds of his cello which he imbued with a great sense of weight even in the most subtle cantabile passages .
His faithful orchestra filling in with all the colours and sounds of a symphony orchestra.
It lead to a very exciting exchange between solist and orchestra which was greeted by an ovation from this very attentive audience.
During the interval we were invited by our host to see the terrace on the floor above the intimate salon and bar where I was able to meet many of Jamal and Maria’s admirers and friends.
It is that sort of place.
I even encountered Jamal and Maria on the narrow staircase and of course they asked me if I would turn pages for the rather complicated Chopin Sonata for duo that was to follow.
Asked why he played on such an old instrument.
Could he not afford a new one?
I did not wait for what I expect was a most charmingly amused reply.
And charm there was indeed from Maria and Jamal in the duo Sonata in Gminor op 65 by Chopin.
A real conversation between equals .
A birds eye view from the page turner I could not judge perfectly their performance but I could see and appreciate with what commitment, passion and technical mastery these two young artists had given to this once much neglected chamber work of Chopin.
In fact only one of nine works for instruments other than piano written by Chopin .
Dedicated to the french cellist,friend of Mendelssohn,Auguste Franchomme dedicatee of the Sonata.
He played the last three movements with the composer in Chopin’s last public concert on the 16th February 1848 at the Salle Pleyel .
He had also collaborated with Chopin on his Grand Duo Concertant and rewrote the cello part of his youthful Polonaise Brillante op 2.
Alkan too dedicated his cello sonata to Franchhomme who died of a massive heart attack shortly after receiving the Legion d’honneur at the age of 75.
He rarely left Paris.
Beautifully shaped Largo ,the cello singing out the melody and very attentively accompanied and commented on by the piano.
The Final Allegro played with great virtuosity from both in a perfectly matched duo performance.
In the famous “Vocalise” by Rachmaninov Jamal allowed his magnificent instrument to fill the room with the finely shaped melodic line that only Rachmaninov could spin.
Sumptuous piano accompaniment from a pianist composer who like Chopin really understood the capabilities to sing of their instrument.
Full of the nostalgia ,passion and yearning for his homeland as like Chopin he had been forced to abandon in his youth.
Shchedrin’s virtuoso piece In the style of Albeniz op 52 brought this magical evening to a transcendental close.
These were in fact the encores enclosed in a programme that was finely thought out by these two remarkable artists.

Nicolae Dumitru the great communicator in the name of Enescu

Nicolae Dumitru at the Romanian Culturale Institute

A packed out hall at the Romanian Institute for the Enescu Concert Series.

Having just returned from the Enescu Festival in Romania I can testify as to what reverence the memory of this great musician is held.…/…

For us he is well known as the much loved mentor of Yehudi Menuhin .
But he was a prodigy on the piano and violin graduating at a very early age in Vienna and completing his studies at the Paris Conservatoire with the one wish to compose.
There are so many compositions almost unknown to us and it is the ambition of this series to invite musicians of stature with the sole obligation of including at least one work by Enescu in their programme

Tonight Nicolae Dumitru included three pieces from the Suite.3 op 18:Melodie,Mazurk Melancolique and the Appassionato.

Maestro Dumitru is obviously a born communicator.

In 2013 he initiated ,with the sponsorship of the Raiffeisen Bank,a series of educational concerts in 15 Romanian cities.
During the Franz Liszt Bicentennial Year (2011) he performed “Liszt dans le Metro” in the Bucharest subway!

In fact it was his very learned introductions that made for such a stimulating evening tonight.
From his explanation as to who was Enescu .
Following after Chopin’s first Ballade with the fact that Brahms was one of the last of the composer pianists of his period.As indeed was Rachmaninoff.

It gave us food for thought indeed in his performances of one of Brahms last compositions for the piano the beautiful set of six pieces that make up op 118.

And one of the last composition for piano of Rachmaninoff The Corelli Variations op 42.

This fine musician to finish his lecture recital treated his audience to an improvisation sharing with us in music the mood of this day of sun in London
A drink together in the beautiful ever generous Romanian Institute gave the audience a chance to discuss and delve deeper into the thoughts that had been seeded in an unsually stimulating evening in the name of Enescu.


L'immagine può contenere: 1 persona, spazio al chiuso
L'immagine può contenere: 1 persona, spazio al chiuso
L'immagine può contenere: una o più persone e spazio al chiuso
L'immagine può contenere: 1 persona, spazio al chiuso


Vengerov and Papian Enescu Festival Che Festa !

Vengerov and Papian – Enescu Festival Welcome to their party in Sibiu
Maxim Vengerov and Vag Papian for the Enescu Festival in Sibiu
This recital was the last in the series of five concerts in Sibiu for the Enescu Festival .
A recital that will close this three week feast of music on Sunday in Bucharest.
Every seat in the house was taken for Maxim Vengerov the 14 year old boy who took London by storm all those years ago and is now sharing his gifts with a world in desperate need of charm and beauty.
It is the same charm and total assurance that he shares equally in his masterclasses with young musicians as with his adoring public in concert.
His charm,stature and total control remind me not a little of Pavarotti!
“Perfection ,which is the passion of so many people,is irrelevant to me.What is important in art is to vibrate and make others vibrate” George Enescu
As was clear last night it is not the absolute perfection of Vengerov but his ability to communicate with the audience and to make them feel that he is playing for each and every one present that lead to a party type atmosphere that only the greatest of musicians can create.
And he too was now part of this party and ever generous regaled the footstamping and rhythmic clapping ,that he had generated, with four encores.
Two by Kreisler, that other great communicator :Caprice Viennois op.2 and Tambourin Chinois op 3.
Played with such subtle charm and evident contageous enjoyment that it could only be followed by a dream.
“Apres un reve” played with that wonderful golden sound that was very much Kreislers The glorious sounds soaring into the auditorium and greeted by an absolute golden silence from a public mesmerised by the elegance of this young charmer.
Greeted eventually
by a storm of applause a last farewell with Brahms Hungarian Dance n.2.
An announcement immediately afterwards even said that the arists would be glad to meet the audience and sign autographs!
What fun we all had. Not even the artists wanted to say goodbye.
Of course in all this we have spoken only of Vengerov .
The amazing discovery for me was the pianist Vag Papian every bit his equal on this occasion.
Music just poured out of the piano with such marvellous sounds that matched the violin so perfectly.
Listening so intently he hardly looked at the score in a long and difficult programme. Infact in the last encore he did not even have the score.
In his hands the piano became a magic box of sounds.
A real orchestra with such total control of the whole line but with such temperament that he shared the sparks with his famous partner.
I read that he is also a very distinguished conductor directing from the piano with the English Chamber Orchestra and many others worldwide.
Not suprised.
I doubt that the Enescu Sonata – n.2 op 6 in place of the advertised better known n.3- could have had a finer reading .
An earlywork from 1899 it was the first work in which the young Enescu had found his voice fusing Rumanian folk elements, through the use of the Aeolian mode ever present in Moldavian folk music, with the classical sonata structure.
Enescu (1881-1955) was a child prodigy in violin and piano graduating in Vienna at the age of 13 and later completing his studies at the Paris Conservatoire where this work was composer shortly after.
Dedicated to Jacque Thibaut there is a famous recording of Enescu playing it with Dinu Lipatti.
The bare opening theme played in unison and leading to impassioned sections played with great feeling by the two players in total harmony.The spirted dance like Vif played with great rhythmic energy.
The Brahms FAE sonata movement and the great D minor Sonata op 108 received sumptuous full blooded performances.
The piano providing the almost orchestral support and in the scherzo – un poco presto e con sentimento- coming very much into his own and leading with great charm and delicacy before launching into the massive Presto Agitato .
The soaring melody in the Adagio can rarely have been given a more impassioned and beautiful reading.
After the interval the Cesar Franck Sonata played with all the virtuosity and impassioned beauty that makes this work so loved.
No words can express the atmosphere created in the hall by the total fusion of these two great artists.
It was indeed an evening that will long be remembered and it was a privilege to have been present at such an intimately impassioned evening amongst friends.

Ilya Kondratiev at St Mary’s Perivale

Ilya Kondratiev at St Mary’s Perivale
Good to be back for the Hugh Mathers new series of concerts in this beautiful deconsacrated church in the idyllic surroundings of Ealing Golf course.
I counted 32 concerts in the Autumn series from the 4th September until the 13th December.
A series that includes many of the finest young musicians of the land giving them a much needed platform to a very discerning enthusiastic public.
Under the ever vigilant eye of Hugh Mather who chooses the numerous young artists with a special regard to helping them take a step forward in their long and difficult journey to a career on the concert platform .
“Heaven helps those who help themselves” says La Fontaine and it is wonderful to see with what obvious relish and delight that Hugh presents these young artists to his numerous faithful public.
Today it was the turn of Ilya Kondratiev, winner of the Chappell Gold Medal at the RCM and student of Vanessa Latarche ,Head of Keyboard Studies,and former student of Miss Eileen Rowe,that great teacher of talented children just a stones throw from St Mary’s in Ealing.
She and Hugh Mather run the Trust that was set up in her name to help needy young musicians from Ealing. There must be something about the air in Ealing that inspires this sort of wish to help,promote but above all relish good music.
This was certainly not Ilya’s first visit to St Mary’s and I am sure the audience was keen to hear his programme of Beethoven,Liszt and Chopin that filled the air in this beautiful wooden church for and hour on Tuesday afternoon.
The Sonata in E flat op 31 n.3 sometimes known as “La Chasse” was the first work on the programme.
I have heard Ilya play it before at the RCM and for that other indefatigable promoter of young musicians Canan Maxton of Talent Unlimited but rarely have I heard him play in such a mature almost aristocratic manner as today.
There was all the self identification that is so much part of Ilya’s performances but there was also a feeling of that time and weight that Arrau used to treat us to.
In fact there was a maturity that can only be acquired by the most talented in living and sharing the music in public.
This is just the sort of opportunity that Hugh Mather is able to offer to that amazing array of talent that is now before us as never before.
The beautiful shape in the Menuetto with the ornaments played as part of the melodic line as only a singer would do.
A fine sense of balance that allowed the melody to sing out without any forcing of tone on this not easy Yamaha piano.
Here was a real musician listening intently to every note.
From the very first note he imbued this Sonata ,a favourite of Arthur Rubinstein,with all the character indeed of “La Chasse” .
The same almost pastoral character of the Sonata op 28 that preceeds the op 31’s.
A country character that bubbled over with energy in the final Presto con fuoco.
This movement played more seriously than he usually does reminded me of the ebulliant energy generated in last movement of Schubert’s great C minor Sonata .
Following with Liszt’s Sarabande and Chaconne from Handel’s Almira admirably introduced from the stage by Ilya himself.
Played with all the sumptuous sounds that Liszt regales this simple melody with.
Leading to some transcendental piano playing in which Ilya showed off his considerable technical prowess and temperament in a most exciting performance of what was once a rarely heard work of Liszt.
Let us not forget that Ilya was a top prize winner together with Alexander Ullman in the Liszt Bartok Competition in Budapest some six years ago.
Two Scherzi by Chopin completed the programme.
N.1 in B minor was written in 1831 when Chopin was persuaded to stay in Vienna by his friend Thomas Albrecht even though in his native Poland there was the November uprising against the Russian Empire.
This and several of the op. 10 studies including the “Revolutionary” were written in this period and one can imagine Chopin’s state of mind from the character with which he imbues these works.
Scherzo literally means joke but as Schumann commented on hearing this first Scherzo :” How is “gravity” to clothe itself if “jest” goes about in dark veils”
It was just this great temperament that Ilya brought to his performance . Not an easy task with the exposed scale passages that abound. But Ilya managed to anchor them very firmly to the ground giving again a great Arrau type weight to this masterpiece.
The ornaments not quite incorporated into the framework yet as they were so splendidly in the Beethoven.
But this is a new work in Ilya’s repertoire and that will surely come in his next performances which will be for a new important venue in Glasgow for the Keyboard Charitable Trust .
The beautiful Old Polish Christmas song in the middle section played with great sentiment but not an ounce of sentimentality that can so often happen .
Restoring the aristocratic nobility to Chopin’s heartfelt outpourings in this difficult period away from his beloved homeland.
The 3rd Scherzo,written in the old Monastery in Valldemossa on Majorca where his lover George Sand took him on a disastrous trip intentionally to cure him of the illness that was consuming him.
Great sense of line even in the long choral that is interrupted by magical cascades of notes played with great delicacy.
The transcendental piano playing in the coda brought this short recital to an exciting end.
A public that would not let this young artist go without an encore.
A Scarlatti Sonata played with crystalline clarity the beautifully melodic D minor.
Calm after the storm indeed from a remarkable young musician and indeed a great favourite with Hugh Mather’s very discerning public.