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.