Sublime music making as she herself says Schubert’s music is at once personal and profound.
Every note speaks and touches your soul.
In the first of two recitals of Schubert Sonatas Mitsuko Uchida swept onto the platform of the Royal Festival Hall and immediately plunged into the great C minor Sonata D.958. Such rhythmic energy and real passion it was the only really Beethovenian statement that we were to get tonight .
For like Wilhelm Kempff that great kapellmeister of the piano who in his later years forsook his nobility and overwhelming authority for something much more subtle and poetic.
He had found the true secret of how to make the piano sing.
Gone were the bar lines and any resemblance of percussiveness.
In its place was a sublime legato that drew the audience in to him as if sharing an intimate secret with them.
Thus it was tonight .
The great opening statement of the C minor soon gave way to the most sublime legato. Chromatic scales almost impossibly whispered with the menacing opening rhythm only hinted at in the left hand before erupting into the recapitulation.
She had no time for any little mishaps or muddyness that might occurr on her long search to eliminate any sense of percussiveness from what is after all a percussive instrument.
It was Schubert ,the greatest song smith of all, that was paramount in Mitsuka Uchidas heart and soul.
The Adagio played like the great song it is with absolutely no sense of percussiveness but an almost superhuman control of sound that allowed her to shape so naturally.
Schubert’s seemingly seemless unending invention.
The middle section of the Menuetto played as if a wondrous murmured song that linked up so well with the da capo of the Menuetto.
The supreme clarity of rhythmic invention of the last movement in her hands dissolved so naturally into the heavenly hint of melody that Schubert could not resist even here.
The little A Major Sonata D.664 that opens with a simple melody so beautifully shaped with such a subtle sense of rubato . The great octave passages completely integrated into this cantabile context and a heartrending ending that seemed to get ever more quiet as it whispered its farewell.
A transcendental feat of piano playing for any that have tried to shape a melodic line from piano to pianissimo.
The wonderful duet effect in the slow movement was matched to the seeming simplicity with which she played the charming last movement.
I well remember Mitsuko’s monumental Hammerklavier in the Leeds Competition all those years ago, so much admired by Rosalyn Tureck, when she took a top prize with Alexeev and Schiff.
As I remember too the truly overwhelmingly powerful performance of Brahm’s F minor Sonata in the mighty hands of Wilhelm Kempff.
Wonderful and overpowering as it was they were projecting to the audience whereas in the later period of their careers they have a need to bring the audience in to them.
What better example than the minutes of total silence that greeted Mitsuko Uchida’s sublime performance of the great G major Sonata.
No words could describe this totally unblemished performance as near perfection as I would have thought possible.
She had the whole audience of thousands following her every sound and she did not let them down in the sublime thirty minutes or so of sheer music making .
A standing ovation particularly appreciated by her from the music students that had been seated behind her on the platform.
An almost inaudible langsam second piece from Schoenbergs six little pieces op 19 made the audience work even harder to listen to every note just as she was .
Performer and audience were united in the creation of music .
A truly remarkable experience for all those privileged to be present .
The second concert on Friday with another three Sonatas I can’t wait .
Che dire……sublime Mitsuko Uchida part 2
From the very first note of the usually much overlooked B major sonata.
Through a monumental performance of the big A minor.
The opening theme so many subtle ways of saying goodbye and the ever present throbbing heart beat.
The great D major perhaps the most Beethovenian of Schubert sonatas but where the toy like clockwork precision in the last movement is sublimely Schubert. Touched more by Mozart for its simple innocent purity than the complexity of Beethoven.
I have only heard Curzon come near to this interpretation with Schnabel`s “too easy for children but too difficult for adults” made so apparent.
A sublime evening where pure music spoke louder than words .
Nicholas Freestone at Temple Church and Umberto Jacopo Laureti at Steinway Hall……two great artists today for the Keyboard Charitable Trust
Two great concerts for the Keyboard Charitable Trust on the same day but in very different venues.
The first on the magnificent organ in the Temple Church by Nicholas Freestone and the second in Steinway Hall with Umberto Jacopo Laureti.
I never thought I would use the word charming for an organist but here it was today in a little piece by John Ireland :Villanella from the Miniature Suite.
There was all the cheeky charm that one usually associates with the great romantic pianists of the past.
The reason being of course that here at the organ today was a real thinking musician totally in command of the instrument and able to find and use to the advantage of the music all the vast range of colours that this organ could provide.
From the great March on a theme of Handel by Alexandre Guilamt in which the nobility and grandure immediately announced the credentials of this young Organ Scholar at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Nicholas Freestone graduate of Oxford holding an Organ Scholarship at Worcester College where he was resonsible for the running of the chapel music .He later went on to be Organ Scholar at St Albans Cathedral training and accompanying the choirs as well as being their principal organist .
At his young age he is a complete musician a Kappellmeister in the great tradition of the past and lent to the music an authority and sense of style and direction that was quite absorbing from the first to the last note.
Herbert Howells Master Tallis’s Testament almost whispered after the tumultuous sounds at the end of the Handel March by Guilmant.
Frank Bridge Adagio in E where his subtle use of the stops gave such a great sense of colour but never forsaking the sense of line .
The great Carillon de Westminster by Louis Vierne that concluded this all too short recital were allowed to ring out around this ancient church of the Knights Templar in the heart of London
It was nice to see John Leech the founding father of the KCT present in these august surroundings and missing only Sir Geoffrey Nice his lifelong friend and instigator of this new branch of activity for the Trust . As one of his illustrious colleagues pointed out without doubt taken up with the events of the day in his very busy schedule
The second appointment of this busy day for the KCT was with Umberto Jacopo Laureti an equally remarkable musician from the school of Benedetto Lupo in Rome and Ian Fountain in London.
Noretta Conci-Leech the founder of the KCT sharing this day with her husband .
I had heard him play in a concert by the students of Benedetto Lupo’s class at the Accademia di S.Cecilia in Rome.
All the Scriabin sonatas played by some of the very talented young musicians that flock to study with him in Rome.
So it was very interesting to be able to hear a complete programme today that ranged from Schubert to Busoni. Now studying for a PhD with a research programme on Busoni it was hardly surprising to find an important work of Busoni as a finale to a recital that had shown off the intelligent musicianship that had been apparent from the very first opening chords of Schubert’s great C minor Sonata D.985.
From the very first notes there was an energy and inner propulsion that he maintained for the next thirty minutes .
From the great Beethovenian opening played with great passion dissolving into the beautiful second subject played with just the right flexibility that allowed Schubert`s sublime melodic invention to cast it`s spell.
The same spell that was to be cast in the Adagio with just the perfect mix of shape and character that allowed the sublime invention in Schubert`s last year to speak so naturally .
The Minuetto perfectly judged to contrast with the tarantella like Allegro.
Schubert spinning his magic in this young man`s hands .
The magical melodic interruptions never halting the infectious forward movement.
I wonder why Umberto chose to play the opening bass of the Chopin Barcarolle with two hands?
A poetic reading where the melodic invention was played with a beauty of tone that was never allowed to become percussive.
Always expressive this great long song was allowed the space and time to breathe so naturally.
The arrival in paradise (in Perlemuters own words) was played with an exquisite completely natural cantabile.
The final page,so much admired by Ravel, played in such a fluid manner and the last chords played without emphasis as the end of this great melodic outpouring of the already gravely ill Chopin on his ill fated soggiorn with Georges Sand on Majorca.
A contemporary piece of a friend “Song for him” was just the right contrast for the Busoni Toccata.
A piece I well remember Serkin playing in London together with the Reger variations and op.111.
It is nice to see being rediscovered by this fine young musician delving into the output of Busoni.A real reincarnation of Franz Liszt in his anticipation of the direction that music might take.
Some remarkable sounds and use of pedal effects in the De Angelis “Song for him” as was the sparseness of pedal in the Busoni .
A true musician ,the second in the same day that only goes to confirm the very roots on which the KCT was born.
A little piece of childrens slumbers from Schumann`s Kinderscenen was just the ideal encore at the end of a long day dedicated to real music making.
A whole day dedicated to Liszt and as Leslie Howard,President of the Liszt Society, said where else could you have heard on the same day or on any day come to that : Faribolo,Chanson tiree du Poeme de Franconnetto de Jasmin,the Fourth Mephisto Waltz or the Heroischer Marsch in ungarischen Stil.
An entire evening dedicated to Enoch Arden on the occasion of the presentation of a series of paintings by Paolo Giorgi inspired by that great poem of Alfred Lord Tennyson.
A poem that in 1864 sold 70000 copies in only four months and inspired Richard Strauss to compose perhaps the greatest of all Melologos in 1897.
With the voice of Tommaso Ragno and the piano of Stefano Greco we were treated to a performance in the free italian translation of that great man of culture Prof Bruno Cagli.
A standing ovation from one President to another for the rare presence these days of Bruno Cagli,President of Santa Cecilia for 22 years bringing it to world attention taking it into its magnificent new halls designed by Renzo Piano with a historic Orchestra re born under Sir Antonio Pappano.
Michele dall’Ongaro will have his work cut out to follow in such illustrious footsteps.
But as ex director of the Italian Television’s prime culture channel: Rai 5 and a notable composer in his own right he has all the cards possible to bring the greatest performances to a discerning public.
And tonight as Master of Ceremonies he was able to introduce us in his inimitable way to the world of the Melologo.
Passing the microphone to Prof Cesare Scarton,author of the only Italian book on this genre of music theatre.
He was given just ten minutes to give a brief history of this now almost obsolete form of dramatic declamation.
A brilliant and fortunately with the Presidents stop watch ticking away,brief,resume’ of which from Rousseau in 1712 to Schonberg in 1951 has included such composers as Mozart,Schubert,Schumann,Liszt,Wagner,Grieg and of course Richard Strauss.
So seemingly all the cards in order for an enjoyably instructive evening amongst friends.
It is at this point that I was reminded of the story that Paul Tortelier loved to recount about Georges Enescu.
Enescu had asked some friends to listen to one of his violin students in concert and this is what they recounted:
The man playing the piano ,Enescu (renowned mentor of Yehudi Menuhin) should have been playing the violin .
The page turner Alfred Cortot should have been playing the piano
and the prize student should have considered himself lucky to turn pages.
In Torteliers inimitable way of story telling it was unforgettable.
It passed through my mind tonight as we had some beautiful modern paintings that depicted a mermaid type waif in front of a sinking Concordia and seemingly nothing to do with the world of Tennyson’s Enoch;
A magnificent reciter hidden behind two music stands with a radio microphone attached to him which made it rather difficult to declame dramatically as was intended ;
a truly remarkable pianist in front of a magnificent Fabrini Steinway with its voice muted by it being almost totally closed.
An unfair match indeed was to be played out.
But then the magic of Enoch Arden mysteriously filled this rather austerely modern Spazio Risonanze and all the seeming incongruities were forgotten and forgiven in a performance that held the audience riveted from the first waves on the piano to the death of Enoch forty minutes later.
We even looked at those pictures with the eyes of a painter who had been so inspired by this recount that he had overheard one day on the radio
Martha Noguera al Ghione Homage to Lya De Barberiis
Wonderful to see that great Steinway back on stage to embrace a great friend of the theatre from its very beginning in 1982.
Lya De Barberiis was one of the first pianists to play on this wonderful Fabrini Steinway,that was purchased especially for the theatre .
She was playing in a series of contemporary music for the publisher Edipan created by Bruno Nicolai.
Her contemporaries whom she championed with that same seriousness and absolute integrity that we had all learnt from our beloved Maestro Agosti.
Casella,Pizzetti,Malipiero,Dallapiccola,Martucci and her great friend Goffredo Petrassi were among the many that she gave first performances of and many of their works are dedicated to her.
From those first moments the Ghione theatre has passed into history for its celebrated series of concerts for Euromusica.
Artists that have included so many great names neglected or ignored by the great established music societies .
Artist that included in 1984 Vlado Perlemuter,making his debut in Italy at the age of 81,Shura Cherkassky,Gyorgy Sandor,The Tortelier Family,Ruggiero Ricci,Karlheinz Stockhausen,Marylyn Horne,Carlo Bergonzi and a very rare recital by Guido Agosti too just to name a few.
But the artist that created the greatest impression on Lya was the debut after a 30 year absence from the concert stage of Rosalyn Tureck,whose performance of the Goldberg Variations in September 1990 created an earth tremor not only for all those present but also for the rest of Europe where she started to play again.
The High Priestess indeed!
She had not been forgotten.
I had heard Rosalyn Tureck in London playing the “Goldbergs” in one evening at the Royal Festival Hall ,first on the harpsichord and after a long interval on the piano.
An unforgettable performance that I learn years later Martha Noguera was present at too whilst she was having a period of study with that great stylist of her day Ilona Kabos
I met Lya in Siena for Guido Agosti’s 80th birthday concert.
No party he very seriously specified but he would give a lecture recital on the Debussy Preludes .
What a wonder it was too even if it finished well after midnight.
But the Maestro did agree to a midnight brindisi after his serious work was done and it was here at the Chigiana that I met Lya for the first time with my wife .
We had all come to Siena especially to be with the Maestro and his adorable wife Lydia on what was for us at least such an important occasion.
Little did I imagine that we would all spend so much time together immersed in culture in Rome.
Infact it was Lya years later that exclaimed that we should be feted by the state for all that we had done for culture over the years.
In 2001 ” we ” were infact made a Dame by the President of Italy.
When in 2000 Lya heard me play in the theatre for a commemoration concert with my wife she decided there and then that this was the that sort of musician she wanted to make music with.
We played all over Italy travelling together when my wife was not on stage.
Ileana adored seeing me in the place where we had met (at the piano) instead of behind the scenes running our theatre business!
Our last concert at the Ghione was in 2012 in a concert in memory of our dear friend Goffredo Petrassi at the creation of an Association -” Circolo Culturale Lya De Barberiis”- to promote the music of the composers whom she had so valiantly championed during her long life but also to help bring new young talent to the fore.
All this under the admiring patronage of Gianni Letta.
Created by one of her many students – she would never accept money for teaching by the way – Massimiliano Negri who has since brought out a well researched book” Lya de Barberiis una vita di music nel Novecento italiano”
Lya loved our piano and could not understand why we did not have a proper cover for it One day a large packet arrived from Hamburg with the cover that still houses the Steinway ……”with love and admiration Lya.”
Much missed, Martha Noguera who was a great friend ,they each frequented each others concerts.
Martha had flown in especially from her home in Buenos Aires to celebrate Lya in three concerts in the places she loved playing in the most: Rome,Sorrento and Viterbo.
Part of an exchange that Lya would have totally endorsed with Martha’s Chopin Festival in Argentina ,now in its 18th year .
Included in this year’s programme was Pablo Rossi one of the greatly admired artists from the Keyboard Charitable Trust,who himself had played at the Ghione when he was just in his teens.
Martha is no stranger to Rome having given a series of concerts in 97 to 99 of the complete works of Chopin and the 32 Sonatas of Beethoven.
A remarkable capacity.
She even told me that she was engaged at the last minute to play the Clara Wieck piano concerto and not being able to find the score in time she learnt the entire concerto from the Serkin’s recording .
This was some years ago before the advent of internet.
Finding the score only at the rehearsal she was relieved to know that it was almost perfect.
The same amazing talent as another Ghione artist Ian Hobson who learnt the Horowitz transcription of Stars and Stripes from the recording as the Maestro like Liszt and Thalberg kept his secrets up his sleeve.
Someone from his University in USA sent it to the Maestro and was surprised to have a reply from the devil himself: ” Not Bad” !
And so it was hardly surprising to find the theatre packed out on a very rainy Sunday evening in Rome for this long overdue homage to a great lady.
It was hardly surpring too that the finest performance was the last work on a long and varied programme .
The Sonata n.1 op 22 by Ginastera an Argentinian compatriot of Martha with whom she had discussed this very work.
From 1952 in his “Subjective Nationalism” period in the Gauchesco tradition .
A gaucho being a landless native horseman of the plains and is a symbol of Argentina.
A superlative performance that Martha even had the energy to describe to us in Ginastera’s own words in the Green Room after the concert .
Wonderful sense of colour allied to a rhythmic energy that never relented even in the Presto misterioso somewhat reminiscent of the last movement of Chopin’s B flat minor Sonata .
Such beautiful sounds in the Adagio molto appassionato and such unrelenting sense of movement and real virtuosity in the Allegro marcato and Ruvido ed ostinato.
Throughout the concert one had been aware of her great sense of line and real sense of balance that allowed the piano to sing in such a natural way.
Particularly ideal for the “little” Schubert A major sonata op posth 120.
The opening Allegro moderato allowed to sing as if one of the composers sublime songs . A great sense of style and even if some details were occasionally blurred one was always aware of being in the presence of a true musician.
The charming last movement thrown off sometimes with a little too much liberty and ease followed a slow movement of rare beauty.
The Chopin Polonaise Fantasie given a full blown performance in which the key word was Fantasie sometimes at the price of sacrificing the true line and rhythm of the Polonaise in what could almost be considered the “old tradition” of the Chopin stylist that Pollini via Rubinstein has long eliminated .
However it was a very convincing heartfelt performance as a whole and was played with all the passion and verve of a musician half her age .
The Haydn and Beethoven E flat Sonatas :n.59 Hob XV1:49 and op 81a “Les Adieux” were given stylish performances of a simplicity in which the beauty of sound was paramount.
A very clear pulse to the opening Haydn was sometimes betrayed by the freedom she gave to the more virtuosistic passages .
The slow movement unfolded in a very spacious manner and the contrast with the middle section was very passionately conveyed.
Always perfectly in style the last movement was played with all the charm and grace that made this “little” Haydn E flat a perfect opening and preparation for the only Sonata that Beethoven himself actually gave a title .
Prefacing the three movements :Farewell;Absence;Return , Beethoven’s “Les Adieux was vividly depicted in a performance of great intelligence .
In particular notable for the beauty of the melodic line in the second movement and the nervous forward motion of the Return.
No encores were possible after such a tumultuous performance of Ginastera and it was nice to note such distinguished musicians in the audience.Prof Franco Carlo Ricci,
Maestro Cerroni, Pieralberto Biondi,Signora Martinelli Cafaro,Sergio Calligaris,Ornella Cogliolo,Avvocato Ambrosio all present to pay homage to an extraordinary artist despite a deluge in Rome that has not been seen for quite sometime.