The Fantasie of Louis Lortie

The “Fantasie” of Louis Lortie
The Fantasie of Louis Lortie
Two pianos on the stage of the Wigmore Hall and a note in the programme to explain why.
I remember a while back him playing a monumental performance of the Brahms F minor Sonata and pointing to the name on the side of the piano to demonstrate what a wonder the Bosendorfer was.
In Rome the same Brahms this time on Steinway. You can see his reasoning here .
So tonight we were treated to the magical Schubert Fantasie Sonata on the Bosendorfer and the equally imposing Chopin Fantasie on a Fazioli.
Both superb performances from this real thinking musician .
Rather a delusion hearing him play all the 27 Chopin Studies in Rome recently and thinking that this is the realm of the young virtuosi.
Although each study was played magnificently I could not help thinking all the way through of what we were missing from this remarkable musician in terms of intelligence and architecture.
The real all too rare realm of the Gods.
Could there be a more magical opening than the Schubert G major Sonata?
Here there was just that magic where every note spoke in a musical journey that filled the entire first half of the concert at the Wigmore Hall.
The Bosendorfer gave just that ring to the treble because of the resonance from the bass so much part of this piano.A ring that allowed an almost complete legato that allowed the long lines of Schubert to be just as expressive as the human voice in his lieder.
The spell only slightly broken in the few moment when Lortie allowed himself a little too much muscle for this great elusive song.
There are passages that could almost be Beethoven but they are still pure Schubert and you have to be a very sensitive trapeze artist to venture into the realms of the Gods without breaking the spell.
So many memorable things from the magical opening to the almost teasing Allegretto final.
The final few bars almost Mendelssohnian in their lightweight fantasy played to absolute perfection .
And the final nostalgic few bars allowing its whispered farewell to float into the absolute silence of an audience mesmerized by this extraordinary performance .
Only Mitsuko Uchida recently in the Festival Hall could captivate an audience for the almost forty minutes of concentration needed.
The second half dedicated to Chopin on the equally magnificent Fazioli piano that was patiently waiting in the wings.
He is recording the entire works on Chandos.
Interesting recordings in that the Ballades and the Impromptus are alternated with the Nocturnes and not just lumped together as is usually the case.
A real thinking musician who wants to share his musical journey with us.
And so it was tonight the Fantasie op 49 and the Polonaise in F sharp minor op 44 alternating with mazukas not only by Chopin but also by Thomas Ades.
Like his great predecessor Artur Rubinstein who in the middle of an all Chopin recital would play four Mazurkas by his friend Karol Szymanowski.
Almost like having a lemon sorbet in the middle of a sumptuous feast .Opening ones ears even more attentively to the marvels that were on display.
Some amazing sounds from the Ades Mazurka op 27.n.2 .
Almost like Ligeti in its spider like escapade over the entire range of the keyboard.
Some wonderfully luminous sounds from this very fine instrument too.
The actual Chopin Mazukas were a little too explosive for my taste and I would have appreciated a little less richness in the louder sections.
A very strange staccato opening of the Fantasie made me want to rush and look at the score.
Otherwise it was a very powerful poetic performance almost taking a wrong turning which would have taken us back to the beginning and an expert change of gear brought us to the magical final bars.
The second Mazurka by Ades op 27.n.1 did sound a little like a nightmare dream where everything bar the kitchen sink was thrown very expertly at us.

Edward Leung,winner of the Liszt Society Competition who come from Birmingham to applaud
The Polonaise in F sharp minor I felt could have had a more sonorous sound to the octaves that abound and maybe the Bosendorfer might have been better.However the elusive mazuka like middle section was made to speak as rarely it can in lesser hands.
A single encore of one of the 27 studies I had heard in Rome recently. An absolutely magical performance of the “Aeolian Harp” so aptly described by Charles Halle when Chopin himself played it in England and was here brought to life again in the hands of this great musician.

Giving away leaflets for Mark Viners Winners Recital for the Keyboard Charitable Trust

Julian Trevelyan Work in Progress at St Mary’s

Julian Trevelyan Work in progress at St Mary’s
Julian Trevelyan at St Mary`s
It is always refreshing to be in the presence of true intelligence.
Everything is simplified in the logic and wish to communicate and share information with others.
I have heard Julian Trevelyan on many other occasions since being curious to hear the 16 year old who had taken everyone by surprise in 2015 sweeping the board to win top prize in the Long Thibaud Crespin International Competition in Paris.
Knowing that Stephen Kovacevich,that great musician,star pupil of Dame Myra Hess,was chairman of the jury made me even more anxious to hear him.
As you can see from the links below I was as impressed as obviously that jury had been by the simple unaffected musicianship allied to a remarkable command of the keyboard. An intelligence that was apparent from his musicianship even before talking to him.
Genius is always surprising and so it was today that I was pleasantly taken by surprise by the “work in progress” that was offered by this now 19 year old young man eager to share his musical discoveries with whoever was willing to listen.
I have only had that same experience in the past few years from Daniil Trifonov and to a slightly lesser extent from Olli Mustonen .
It is both refreshing and exhausting for us mortals.
Always surprising however.
Very eloquently introducing the programme that he admitted he had wanted to prepare instead of just regaling us with facts.
But what facts!
Did we know of the quotes of the St John and Matthew Passions in Beethoven op.110 that Julian considers Beethovens triumph over death?
Or likening L`Isle Joyeuse (that incidentally was written by Debussy on a trip to Jersey) to Scriabin Vers la flamme in its reaching out to the sun.
Or Granados never arriving in America to play The Maiden and the nightingale, which had been transformed into an opera, as his boat was torpedoed in the first world war.
And many other interesting points thrown in with a charm and innocence that was very refreshing.
A new programme still in gestation and so playing from the score with his ever vigilant father turning pages.
Let us say straight away that most convincing performances were those where he did not use the score.
The first movement of Mozart Sonata in F K. 333,offered as an encore, was remarkable for its almost Horowitzian sense of colour and flexibility always allied to a complete understanding of the style.The delicious embellishments so tantalizingly hinted at.
A Brahms Intermezzo in C op 119 n.3 was played with that infectious sense of rhythmic pulse and a quite extraordinary ending that I have only heard before from Curzons’ hands.
Ligeti “Die Zauberlehrling” even if the score was before him there was no way he could have looked at it whilst coping with Ligetis’ quite outrageous demands.
Of course, as to be expected, a very interesting programme that started with Alborada del gracioso from Miroirs by Ravel.
Usually a finishing piece but not for our artist today who wanted it to be a wake up call for him and for us!
It certainly was that with the double note glissandi dispatched with ease.
Great rhythmic precision and very clean and clear, the magic will come as he grows with it.
A very beautiful rarely heard Adagio in E major D.612 by Schubert probably the slow movement of the unfinished Sonata in C D.613.
Beautiful “fioritura” almost Bellini like bel canto reminiscent of the refined use in Chopin.
Beethoven’s penultimate Sonata op 110 so interestingly introduced was played cleanly and clearly with some beautiful cantabile playing.
This will eventually be a great performance and is obviously very dear to his heart but with a very precise road plan in mind.
Still in early stages it lacked the ebb and flow that this above all the Sonatas of Beethoven needs.Like a plasma where Beethoven enters into regions where few if any before have dared to enter.
Etherial is the key word for this sonata and Julian still has his feet very firmly planted on the ground.
New “ground ” for Julian Trevelyan and his recent discovery of the enormous amount of keyboard works by Byrd.
A very clear performance of the especially difficult ornamentation on an instrument that was yet to be discovered .No use of either pedal – the two feet very firmly resting!
We discussed it afterwards and I asked him why did he want to play these works on the piano if it was not to subtly use all the colours and sounds of the piano which in a way substitute the stops of the original instrument for which they were written?
The most prolific composer for the keyboard until the arrival of Scarlatti surely the colours of the piano could be an addition to the composers extraordinary invention .
The Scarlatti of Horowitz or even Sudbin sprang to mind.
The Maiden and the Nightingale and Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse brought this very interesting programme to a close.
Without being tied to the score these works will gain in all the colour and excitement that we were treated to in the two extra works played by public demand.
Numerous public that had braved the snow storm that was raging outside this beautiful little wooden church that has become the haven for anyone interested in great piano playing.
Much looking forward to hearing the definitive performances from this thinking musician in the near future.

                                                   Julian Trevelyan

A Doctors’ Cure Jayson Gillham at Cadogan Hall

A Doctors’ Cure Jayson Gillham at Cadogan Hall
The Doctors cure
Jayson Gillham and The Doctors`Orchestra in aid of Freedom from Torture
Superbly lyrical performance of Brahms D minor Concerto and astonishing Bach Busoni Choral Prelude :”Rejoice,beloved Christians”(Nun freut euch BWV.734a) as an encore for an audience dedicated to the Freedom from Torture cause so eloquently and movingly presented by Sherine Krause.
Stephen Brearley a consultant surgeon at Whipps Cross University Hospital and The Royal London Hospital who in partnership with the late Dr Michael Lasserson created the European Doctors Orchestra in 2004.
Dr Brearley in his youth was a member with Simon Rattle of the Merseyside Youth Orchestra.
Simon came to the Royal Academy and was in Gordon Greens class.
Dr Brearley went on to study medicine in Cambridge.
Gordon was always complaining about this very gifted boy that did not practice the piano and was always in a corner conducting some student groups.
There is obviously something about the air in Liverpool as in Cambridge Stephen Brearley was doing the same thing.
Simon has become a world famous conductor and Dr Brearley a very distinguished surgeon but their love for music is the same.
This was obvious from the results that we heard last night with the “Doctors’ Orchestra” conducted by Stephen Brearley .
Always in control sometimes even reduced to visibly counting up to six in the difficult first movement of the Brahms Concerto.

           Janina Fialkowska and Jayson Gillham in Montreal 2014
I am not sure if all the orchestral members are doctors .
I suspect the whole orchestra would have rushed to the aid of any audience member taken ill!
I wonder how many musicians could do the same and play as well as they did last night!
A very moving address about the aims and results in the more than thirty years that The Freedom from Torture movement has been helping survivors of torture to recover from the pain and humiliation they have endured.
Supporting them as they rebuild their lives in the UK
Who better then than Doctors to support and help this noble cause with their music played with a passion and quite some professional skill that only non professional players possess in great quantity.

                     Jayson Gillham Bach Busoni encore
And who better indeed than Jayson Gillham so affectionately and aptly described by the founder of the Keyboard Charitable Trust, Noretta Conci-Leech ,as “Sunny” Jayson.
Winner of the Montreal International Music Competition in 2014 and much admired by Janina Fialkowska a jury member and protege’ herself of Artur Rubinstein when she was a top prize winner in his first competition in Israel.
Fast building a reputation for not only his technical command but also for his musicianship and radiant performances .
He graduated from the Royal Academy in London under that distinguished pedagogue and former student also of Gordon Green: Christopher Elton.
Small world indeed!
Below is a link to  a recent recital he gave in London .

                   Noretta Conci and John Leech with Jayson Gillham

Benedetto Lupo at the RFH London

Benedetto Lupo at the Royal Festival Hall LPO Juanjo Mena conductor
Ravel Concerto for Left Hand

Great performance of the concerto from Benedetto Lupo who although being left handed says quite rightly that that does not make this concerto any easier to play!

Fantastic sense of colour replying to Ravel’s very large orchestra full of the most wondrous sounds.

Amazing bass notes from the piano as he literally launched himself at the keyboard .

Meltingly beautiful the second subject,the same exotic beauty that lead into  the most sensuous of cadenzas building up to a lush full orchestral participation almost” alla russe” before the final explosive ending .

Glad to see Umberto Jacopo Laureti a student of Benedetto’s at the Accademia in Rome and now completing his studies for a doctorate in Busoni at the RAM .
He was recently accepted for help by the Keyboard Charitable Trust and is one of the superb musicians coming from Benedetto’s class in Rome.Beatrice Rana is perhaps the best known so far.A BBC young artist is rapidly making a great name for herself.

No encores expected in the UK although Benedetto received a real ovation from a very full RFH.

The series Changing Faces: Stravinsky’s Journey included tonight The Rite of Spring in which Juanjo Mena lived and acted every minute to great effect.
Chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic he conducted two little known very early works by Debussy:Printemps:Symphonic Suite and Delius Idylle de Printemps.

L'immagine può contenere: 3 persone, persone sul palco e spazio al chiuso
L'immagine può contenere: 1 persona, sul palco, sta suonando uno strumento musicale e spazio al chiuso
L'immagine può contenere: 2 persone, persone che sorridono
L'immagine può contenere: una o più persone e folla


The Supreme Mr Pisarenko

The Supreme Mr Pisarenko
Vitaly Pisarenko at Parliament Chamber,Inner Temple
It is Sir Geoffrey Nice that the Keyboard must thank for his just insistence that an important presence from the KCT stable should be part of this prestigious institution : Temple Music

                                     Sir Geoffrey Nice QC
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, long term friend of the founders of the Keyboard Trust was happy to introduce them this evening to a very select audience in the hallowed hall of Parliament Chamber,Inner Temple.
Sir Geoffrey was also very happy to tell them about the very first concert of the KCT that was a surprise 60th birthday gift to Noretta Conci-Leech from her husband John Leech.
That was 27 years ago today as today is amazingly Noretta Conci-Leech‘s 87th birthday.
Noretta found to her complete surprise three concert grand pianos on stage of an institution similar to todays august surroundings.
Seven of her pupils from her star studded studio were there to celebrate the official founding of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
A birthday gift from her husband to cement what Noretta had already been doing for a long time .
Leslie Howard at the helm with Andrew Wilde ,Maria Garzon amongst the pianist gathered to say thank you for all the help and encouragement that they had received and continue to this day to receive.
Both Leslie Howard and Sir Geoffrey Nice are founder members and long term trustees.
It was 33 years ago too that Noretta and John accompanied Leslie Howard to play in the theatre that I had created with my wife Ileana Ghione in the centre of Rome.
It was John’s retirement present from Noretta for “his” 60th birthday!
I had of course known and admired Leslie Howard since our Siena days where he was very much admired and helped by Guido Agosti who was notoriously famous for seeing only the composer and the score and heaven help anyone who thought they could get away with less!
Claudio Abbado had agreed to head a body of Trustees which enabled Alfred Brendel to announce the official creation of the Keyboard Charitable Trust .
The funds created from a concert at the RFH in London two years later with Claudio Abbado ,Evgeny Kissin,Mark Wigglesworth and the ECYO allowed it to be registered with the Charity Commission.
Alas Claudio Abbado is no longer with us but his spirit very much remains in the principles that he had so readily accepted from his lifelong friends.
What could be more fitting than to have at the helm now Sir Antonio Pappano as Patron and with Evgeny Kissin happily joining the rank of Trustee for an institution created by his friends that he had until now admired only from afar.

              Evgeny Kissin at home with John, Noretta and Vitaly
Friends and admirers have been only too happy to accept the founders request to take on much of the workload and responsibility of what has become a welcoming and helpful stepping stone for over 200 aspiring young musicians in the 50 venues offered worldwide.
The aim being to help give a platform and much needed experience to the enormous amount of exceptional talent that abounds these days.
With Sarah Biggs and Sarah Moyse keeping order the KCT is growing rapidly in strength.
An MBE from the Queen for our founders ,a just recognition for all they have been doing for so many young artists for over a quarter of a century.
Many friends and admirers present today were happy to join the founders in this first joint venture between Temple Music and the KCT.

                     John and Noretta Leech with Bryce Morrison
The renowned critic Bryce Morrison and the authoress Claire Packenham were amongst many of the friends who had followed the progress of the KCT as it has inevitably grown over this past quarter century.
What better way to start than with a star indeed .
Noretta and I had heard this young Russian pianist during a special weekend devised by Valentina Lo Surdo in L’Aquila.
A weekend to give hope and encouragement to the people so cruelly marked by a recent earthquake.
So it was in this noble city reduced to a ghost town that three top pianists from the KCT stable:Pablo Rossi,Mei Yi Fou and Vitaly Pisarenko were invited to give morning concerts that were introduced by the well known critic and radio broadcaster Guido Barbieri.
A very moving occasion that will be remembered for a long time by all those who gathered to receive some relief from the strife that had so unexpectedly hit them.
Pablo Rossi I knew well as he was the first of a series of young artists to play in Rome since cementing the partnership between the Ghione Theatre and the KCT.
Vitaly Pisarenko we had not heard before but when he started the Prelude in B minor by Bach/ Siloti Noretta and I looked at each other and it was love at first sight.
Such a extraordinarily subtle sense of balance on the wonderful Fabbrini Steinway Concert Grand that had been donated to this hall that Claudio Abbado had so wished for this cruelly tarnished city.
Designed by Renzo Piano it had been donated by the city of Trento to this strife torn city and built outside the city gate.
If Music be the food of love………….music can enter where words are just not enough.
Vitaly has since gone on to win recognition from his performances worldwide.
Winner at only 20 of the Utrecht Liszt Competition he was a top prize winner in the last Leeds international Piano Competition.
Recognition too from the Royal College of Music where he completed his studies with Dmitri Alexeev and where he is now combining a busy concert career with a doctorate in Anton Rubinstein.
A new Steinway piano,a beautifully appointed intimate hall and an audience suitably welcomed with a glass of much appreciated nectar on this very cold winters day.
Not a spare seat in the house for a programme of Schubert and Liszt.
From the very first note Noretta and I looked at each other as we had done in L’Aquila .
Schubert’s very elusive 12 German Dances that can so easily in the wrong hands sound heavy and ungrateful were here give a performance of such subtle colours and shaping. The viennese lilt to them was quite irresistible.
The most noticeable thing of course was that every note was given a life of its own.
You could almost see on his face how a great story teller was sharing this intimate tale with us.
The music spoke as only music can in the hands of a great interpreter.
A great lesson learnt from our illustrious founder member and trustee Alfred Brendel.
I was not expecting to hear in this repertoire such a refined sensibility with so few notes from this extraordinarily sensitive artist.
Artist he certainly is as the two impromptus that followed confirmed.
Has the G flat impromptu ever been played with a such aristocratic sense of line?
A very loud new piano did not allow for all the subtleties that he was striving for but it was nevertheless a performance to cherish.
The wash of sound given to the opening of the fourth impromptu sounded just like a very gentle wash of water contrasting with the chordal interruptions.
An almost superhuman sense of touch allowed this sheen of sound to glisten as it has rarely done in lesser hands.
The passionate middle section played with just the right amount of feeling that held this elite audience in complete silence enthralled by what was unfolding before them.
Liszt filled the rest of this short one hour programme.

                 Noretta Conci- Leech and Bryce Morrison
Leslie Howard pointed out in his very informative programme note quoting from the editors Zoltan Gardonyi and Istvan Szelenyi in the introduction to the Neue Liszt- Ausgabe:
“…it is intended to put and end to the various and often completely contradictory interpretations of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies,,,,,,,,,,,,to this day these works are principally but erroneously looked on as more or less trivial products …the reason for the general inaccuracy in performance and the tendency to indulge in vivid though rough showmanship……….despite all the virtuosity they demand,mere technical bravura should never predominate”.
Who better to describe what we heard this evening.
A revelatory Liszt.
Leslie Howard long time mentor to Vitaly since he was on the jury of the Utrecht Liszt Competition that he won ten years ago .
It is hardly surprising that we were completely overwhelmed by the performances not only of the Hungarian Rhapsodies n.10 and 13 but also by the two Ballades that have lain in the shadow of Chopin’s four masterpieces for too long.
A respect for the score that we all learnt to appreciate via Busoni in the studio at the Chigiana in Siena where musicians flocked to hear the equally revelatory performances of Guido Agosti.

Lidia Stix Agosti   Guido Agosti   Ileana Ghione in the Ghione Theatre in Rome
It is hard to believe that the first Ballade is very rarely,if ever heard, in concert .
Together with its partner it showed to the full the musicianship but also the supreme command of the keyboard and just that right amount of showmanship that could bring these masterpieces to life.
Octaves played with such an overall sense of line and colour one was not aware of the transcendental technique required to interpret and really make these pieces speak.
Claudio Arrau and Alfred Brendel were our two models in my youth that restored Liszt to his rightful place amongst the giants of all time.
And tonight there were so many wonderful things to admire.
One was never aware of the superlative technical control and digital brilliance because there was a musical mind of such overpowering authority one was completely absorbed in the story that this artist was imparting.
Of course the triumphant metamorphosis of the simple melody in the second ballade was quite overwhelming in its power and sheer sumptuousness.
The amazing control of the glissandi in the 10th Rhapsody or the enormous full but never hard sounds in the 13th were all things one can think about in retrospect.
The fact was that here was an artist with a story to tell and the means to hold us spellbound whilst he shared it with us.

         Vitaly Pisarenko with Sarah Biggs ,General Manager of the KCT
How we would have like to have more but the lawyers have to have supper and an early night to do battle for us all early next day.
Happy to realise that it is the quality not the quantity that counts !
However Mr Pisarenko can be heard again for the KCT with the Manchester Camerata on the 17th April in Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio and in June in Cadogan Hall with Ravel G major Piano Concerto and The London Mozart Players.
Having made his debut at the Wigmore Hall at the KCT’s annual prizewinners concert two year ago .
We await this years winner Mark Viner on the 2nd March .
Another eclectic programme of Liszt,Alkan and Thalberg from the chairman of the Alkan and Liszt Societies and like his mentor Leslie Howard only in his twenties he already shares the accolade with him of being a world authority on Alkan to Leslie Howard‘s undisputed authority on Liszt.

Mark Viner this years Prize Winners concert at the Wigmore Hall 2nd March

Beethoven glorious Beethoven Hin-Yat Tsang at St Mary’s

Beethoven glorious Beethoven Hin Yat Tsang at St Mary`s
We are so used to hearing Beethoven’s last three sonatas op 109,110 and 111 that it came as a surprise to see the three Sonatas op 101,109 and 110 grouped together in today’s programme …….. …..that is until one heard Hin Yat Tsang’s revelatory performance today for Dr Hugh Mather‘s extraordinary season of great young pianists in the beautifully welcoming wooden church in the middle of Ealing golf course!
It was many years ago that I studied with “Freddie” Jackson at the Royal Academy.
Sidney Harrison ,my professor from my youth,had gone away for a term to adjudicate in Canada and he sent me to that remarkable musician who had recently awarded me the Liszt Scholarship.

                                               Hin-Yat Tsang
I would practise every evening in the Royal Academy and one day a young chinese girl shyly knocked on my door.
She too was studying with Professor Jackson and she had heard a lot about me and could she play through her programme that she was about to play at the Vercelli International Competition in Italy.
She was in her final year and I was in my first.
I remember it well.How could I forget?
She won the silver medal.
She played Beethoven op 110,Schumann Kinderszenen and a Bach Prelude and Fugue.
It was wonderful musicianly playing,beautiful sound and of such intelligence.
I was overwhelmed and full of compliments.
Her name was Eleanor Wong who has gone on to make a big name for herself in her home in Hong Kong. Not only as a pianist but as a trainer of young very gifted children. She is an important part of the very prestigious Hong Kong International Piano Competition …the only competition where the jury are asked to give concerto performances with the Hong Kong Philharmonic. Recently she was also invited onto the jury of the Leeds International Piano Competition.
So it came as no surprise to learn that Hin-Yat Tsang was just such a gifted child in Hong Kong when he started his studies with Eleanor at the age of four.
Today in his twenties having graduated from the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts with a B mus he went on to study at the Royal College of Music with Dmitri Alexeev.
Supported by the Harold Craxton Trust,Worshipful Company of Musicians and Constant and Kit Lambert Junior Fellowship winning many important prizes and graduating last year.
He is now completing his studies in Berlin with Klaus Hellwig.
A real thinking musician his reasoning became perfectly clear with his unusual grouping together of these three sonatas from Beethoven’s final output of five from op 106 to 111 .
It all fell so clearly into place as these three sonatas each starting in a pastoral mood ever more serene as they progress from op101 to 110.
Of course it was obvious as op 106 and op 111 both start in an imperious mood throwing all caution to the wind as Beethoven asks the player to risk all with the opening fanfares in the “Hammerklavier” as in the last Sonata op 111.
It became  clear as Hin-Yat Tsang caressed so lovingly the opening phrase of op 101.”mit der innigsten Empfindung ” with innermost sensibility exactly as Beethoven had indicated .
It was as though the bar lines did not exist as this great song unravelled with all Beethoven’s indications , digested and interpreted so naturally.
The throbbing syncopated rhythms where Beethoven marks espressivo and semplice so gently telling.
The climax dissolving into almost a murmur. An extraordinary control on this not easy piano was so evident from the very first notes.
I was reminded of the masterclass with Andras Schiff on the Schumann Humoresque at the RCM a year or two ago.
One of the most inspired I have ever witnessed where the student and master were on such a level that it became a truly unforgettable experience.
His performances of the Rachmaninov 2nd Sonata and the Scrabin Studies at his graduation concert showed a trascendental technique .
A technique that gives him complete command of the sound and allied to a musical intelligence of extraordinary sensibility it lead to an unforgettable hour of music today.
The extraordinary concentration from this charming young man I have only seen once before recently and that was from Chloe Mun the winner of the Busoni Competition who made her debut for the Keyboard CharitableTrust at Steinway Hall last summer and thanks to the generosity of Dr Hugh Mather in Perivale too.
Like her his head bowed, watching like a hawk every move .
Such beautifully natural movement of the hands as they hovered over the keys almost like a sculptor bringing a work of art to life.
Taught rhythmic control in the march never allowing the tension to lag leading to an adagio of such longing as Beethoven asks each hand to beseech the other so clearly and tenderly.
The opening theme erupting into a final movement that bubbled over with an almost pastoral charm and joy .Played with just the right aristocratic determination on the questioning chordal interruptions .
The Sonata op 109 floated in as though it had already begun afar .
The Prestissimo played with all the Beethovenian energy and rhythmic assurance of the greatest players .
The theme and variations beautifully shaped.
The voicing in the second variation so unusually clear showed a real musical mind at work.The transcendental precision of the Allegro vivace 3rd variation and again the clarity of the part playing in the 4th .
The majestic statement of the Allegro,ma non troppo of the 5th leading to the celestial return of the main theme .
The extreme attention to the the left hand rhythm allowed for the natural disintegration with the trills superbly controlled and leading to the final magical reapparition of the theme.
No pause between this sonata and the heavenly opening of op 110 was possible.
The capacity audience spellbound hardly daring to breathe as he played with the true “amabilita’” that Beethoven asks for.
The whole Sonata unfolded and time seemed to stand still as it had when his teacher Eleanor Wong all those years ago played it to that first year student who listened as overwhelmed as we all were today.
A Prelude from the 48 in F minor Bk 1 was the only possible encore for an insistent public .
I was hopefully expecting op 111 that Dr Mather had told me he had been playing in his warm up before today’s concert.
Next time we will be waiting with great anticipation for the reappearance of this remarkable young musician.

The Amazing Mr Ullman

The Amazing Mr Ullman
Alexander Ullman at the Muzieckgebouw in Eindhoven
A standing ovation at the end of a magnificent recital for the winner of this years Utrecht International Piano Competition.
Previous winners include such artists as Vitaly Pisarenko and Mariam Batsashvili.
Alexander Ullman having won the Liszt/Bartok competition in Budapest 6 years ago. He is now at 26,the only British pianist to have won both prestigious competitions dedicated to Liszt.
A prime example indeed of how the right early training can allow British artists to hold their heads high in the very competitive international field.
Having studied from an early age with William Fong at the Purcell School he won a scholarship to study for four years with Leon Fleischer,Ignat Solzhenitsyn and Robert McDonald at The Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.
Already winner of the Liszt /Bartok in Budapest he returned to England to complete his studies with Dmitri Alexeev and Ian Jones at the Royal College of Music winning the Benjamin Britten Piano fellowship with help from the Philip Loubser Foundation.
Now having completed his studies and winner of the Liszt competition in Utrecht he is taking the world by storm as was obvious from the reaction of the audience today.
The new Muziekgebouw in the centre of Eindhoven ,an industrial centre the home of Philips , so cruelly destroyed in the second world war.
A symphony and recital hall in a new commercial complex opposite the cathedral in the very centre of this very active city.
A city where ,like many of the cities in the” padana” in central Italy ,the predominant means of transport is the bicycle.
It gives a calm and peace to what replaces the frenzy in the centre of many cities.
A city where crime is almost unknown is a city to cherish and hold up as a shining example indeed.

                                        Entrance to the Muziekgebouw
An interesting choice of pieces from the vast output of Franz Liszt was followed by the two transcriptions of Russian Music where indeed Mikhail Pletnev and Guido Agosti had exceeded the shining examples set by Liszt and Thalberg
“Harmonies du soir” was given all the sumptuous sounds that Liszt imbues in this neglected master piece.
A very brilliant Steinway D was easily persuaded to reveal all the sensual sounds and passion in the hands of this young virtuoso.
A pity not to have combined it with Chasse Neige, its partner from the 12 Transcendental Studies.
It was however the perfect foil for two of Liszt`s later visionary pieces Nuages Gris and the Bagatelle sans tonalite.
Written when Liszt had long forsaken the life of the greatest living virtuoso for a vision of music that he saw on the horizon.
Some subtle sounds beautifully realised in Nuages Gris but with a forward projection that made the disappearance at its end even more startling.
The Bagatelle where Liszt tries to combine the new with a nostalgic look back over his shoulder was played with such an easy and scintillating jeux perle.
It lead quite naturally to Liszt the supreme showman with his 10th Hungarian Rhapsody. The treacherous glissandi played with an ease and charm that brought a smile to the by now completely absorbed public.
The majestic opening played with all the grandiloquence for whom it was written but gave way to a subtle charm and seductive colours before the extraordinary feats of transcendental pianism brought this showpiece to a remarkable end.
And now the fireworks could really begin.
I well remember Gyorgy Sandor telling me that he could not understand why one of the greatest of pianists like Mikhail Pletnev should want to turn his hand to conducting.
It is easy to understand Sandor’s perplexity from his amazing transcriptions that Pletnev has made of two of Tchaikowskys best loved scores:The Sleeping Beauty and tonights Nutcracker.
Just two hands are made to seem many more as the sumptuous sounds erupt from this box of strings in no way diminishing the beauty of the great original orchestral versions. On the contrary like Thalberg before him he is a true magician or should I say as Sylvan is want to correct me ,an illusionist,and understood how to unlock the sounds giving the illusion indeed of many more hands than the two our young virtuoso today possesses!
The final Andante Maestoso in which the melodic line miraculously appears whilst notes are swirling all around.
Very similar to the techniques used by Liszt in his Norma Fantasy or Thalberg in his extraordinary Moise Fantasie.
(Both can be heard by that other extraordinary British virtuoso and scholar Mark Viner in the Keyboard Trusts Annual Prizewinners concert at the Wigmore Hall on the 2nd of March. Alexander Ullman was the winner two years ago and was much helped by the KCT and YCAT…….it is no coincidence that both Mark and Alexander were students from an early age at the Purcell School)
Not only great virtuosity is required but it takes above all a great sense of balance, that only true musicians have, to be able to create sumptuous but never hard or metallic sounds
Musicianship and virtuosity Alexander Ullman has in abundance that was clear from the relish and sheer enjoyment he was having and was more than happy to share with just that right amount of showmanship that completely won over his sold out Sunday afternoon public.
The imperious rhythm of the march with which the seven episodes of the Nutcracker Suite opens immediately created the atmosphere for the magic that was to follow.
A Sugar Plum Fairy of such charm and delicacy was a complete contrast to the scintillating Tarantella that followed.
The beautiful intermezzo unfolded with a wondrous sense of colour conjured up by a subtle use of the sustaining pedal allied to an acute sense of touch that allowed the melodic line to shine through this beautiful cloud of sound.
The rhythmic energy of the Trepak was a great contrast to the amazing leaps of the Chinese dance.
The final Andante Maestoso was as breathtakingly passionate as only Tchaikowsky can be.
The famous transcription that Agosti made in 1928 of the Firebird by Stravinsky closed this short but very intense recital .
A notoriously difficult transcription much more so than the transcription of Petroushka that the composer made for his friend Artur Rubinstein.
It is hard to think of Agosti the young virtuoso .
We all use to flock to his studio in Siena where in his latter years it would be the only place that we could marvel and learn from the complete mastery of this very reserved maestro of maestros.
The school of Liszt passed on via Busoni and hence this transcription with so many magical colours emanating as if by magic from a single instrument.
Right from the bursting energy of the Danse Infernale it was clear that Alexander Ullman had all the requisites to bring this score startlingly to life.
Like Agosti a true magician with a transcendental control of sound never harsh but always with the precise timbre required.
Beautiful seductive sounds in the Berceuse lead to the magical reappearance of the theme in the Finale.
The calm and build up to the final was most impressively spread with such knowing care across the entire keyboard. A standing ovation and a bouquet of tulips were his just reward .
“En reve” by Liszt the beautiful little nocturne that my old teacher Gordon Green,disciple of Egon Petri( another student of Busoni) loved so much,was the ideal thank you to an audience that had been spellbound by this young winner of the Utrecht Competition.

Rob Hilberink
The public surrounding him in the foyer as he signed copies of his latest CD from the competition so ably anchored by Rob Hilberink who has brought this important competition to the attention of a waiting world.
Ever an English gentleman Alex very gallantly gave his bouquet to Linn Rothstein who had come especially to bring him greetings from her best friend Janina Fialkowska who had been on the jury of the competition together with Leslie Howard and many other illustrious colleagues.
Joseph Rothstein, horse trainer son of Jack Rothstein ,the renowned violinist in London for so many years,had left his horse breeding stables nearby to join us in applauding this young English gentleman.

Alexander Ullman with Linn Rothstein
Reminded of an old Tuscan proverb whilst he was playing being very much in line with the Liszt – Paganini tradition: “L`Inglese Italianizzato e`il Diavolo Incarnato”……..

Signing CDs after the concert

Bob Hilberink Alexander Ullman Linn Rothstein

with Rob Hilberink signing CDs

Alexander Ullman

The London Music Foundation

The London Music Foundation
London Music Foundation first concert to create funds for a proposed London International Piano Competition in 2020
With Ilya Kondratiev as artistic director presided over by Vanessa Latarche the first concert for the launch of this new project took place in the Russian Cultural Centre in Kensington.
London the undisputed capital for music strangely does not have an International Piano Competition of its own.
A few years ago there was the London Power Piano Competition the brain child of Sulamita Aronovsky .
The Honorary Patron was Prince Charles and the finals took place in the Royal Festival Hall with the London Philharmonic .
I well remember the year that the 19 year old Behozod Abduraimov won with a stunning performance of Prokofiev 3rd Piano Concerto – Alessandro Taverna gave a memorable performance of Chopin 1st Piano concerto in the final too.
A glittering audience including many renowned musicians including Dame Fanny Waterman founder of the Leeds Piano Competition which has been for many years one of the very best competitions in the world.
I well remember a party afterwards that went on late and Peter Frankl having his car locked up for the night in the RFH garage that like Cinderella at the midnight hour was nowhere to be seen!
Unfortunately like so many worthy cultural initiatives it has not continued as  hoped it might.
Rome too was sadly lacking until the indomitable Marcella Crudeli came along with Carola Grindea from EPTA to found the Rome International Piano Competition now an established part of the International music scene
So Vanessa Latarche,head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal College of Music has taken on the burden of putting this matter right.
             Martin James Bartlett   Vanessa Latarche and husband  Ilya Kondratiev
Tonight was the first of a series of fund raising events for the first competition that will take place in 2020.
Who better that Vanessa to lead London into victory.
Having studied from an early age with the indomitable Eileen Rowe in Ealing .
A shining example of what passion,resilience and intelligence could do in a West London suburb.
We all flocked to her home to help her cope with her very large teaching practice.
Pianos in every room we could help with her students and earn some money for our own studies as well as enjoy the roast lunch that was part of the deal too.
Danielle Salamon,Katherine Stott,Tessa Nicholson and me too were just a few that were happy to help this remarkable lady who had dedicated her life to her students with a rigour discipline and kindness that will not be forgotten.
She left all her worldly goods to a Trust to help young musicians in Ealing.
A Trust administered with great affection by Vanessa Latarche and that other remarkable benefactor in West London Dr Hugh Mather.
There must be something in the air in those parts that rings to the sound of music!

                                   Milana Sarukhanyan
Tonight abetted by her own star students Ilya Kondratiev and Martin James Bartlett and with the kind help of the Russian Cultural Centre we were treated to the launch of this new project.
Milana Sarukhanyan, soprano was magnificently accompanied by Ilya Kondratiev Chappell Gold Medal Prize winner of the RCM.
Lid on full stick we were treated to some beautiful Russian Romances by Rimsky- Korsakov and Tchaikowsky.
I am so used to Russian songs in my theatre with Christoff,Ghiaurov or the much missed Hvorosovsky full of pessimism and doom that it was so refreshing to hear this beautiful young lady singing about love!
I had no idea of what the actual words were but the sentiment was just as compelling. Beautiful voice with such passion and feeling and rich velvet sound where the Russian language is  so obviously expressive.

                                      Renate Sokolovska
The moment Renate Sokolovska appeared with her flute I knew that I had heard her before at the Wigmore Hall.
The instrument is such a part of her it is something so rare that one does not easily forget
Lenski’s aria from Eugene Onegin was followed by a full blooded performance of Prokofiev Sonata op 94.
A real duo played with great technical assurance and passion very expertly shared with our artistic director .
Martin James Bartlett,winner of the BBC Young Musician of the year in 2014 when he was 17 now under the expert guidance of Vanessa Latarche he is standing on the threshold of a very important career.
Already noted for his superb performances at the Van Cliburn Competition.

                                      Martin James Bartlett
Just last week he played Mozart C minor Concerto with the distinguished conductor Bernard Haitink in a performance streamed worldwide.
Three of the best known Preludes by Rachmaninov from op 32- n.10,5 and 12 superbly played and lead to a totally convincing account of Scriabin’s magical 4th Sonata .
Martin on the cover of the Lark Music magazine of the Lark Insurance Co Uk was very happy to turn pages for his colleague tonight demonstrating the simplicity that surrounds great talent very much on display tonight.

                                         Renate Sokolovska

                                             Ilya Martin Milana Renate

                                 Vanessa Latarche with the artists

             Martin James Bartlett   Vanessa Latarche  Ilya Kondratiev

Jamal Aliyev and Daniel Hyun-woo Evans at the Wigmore Hall

Jamal Aliyev and Daniel Hyun-woo Evans at the Wigmore Hall
Jamal Aliyev and Daniel Hyun-Woo Evans at the Wigmore Hall for the Kirckman Concert Society……memories of an evening of great music making from ……….the page turner!
It was Jamal Aliyev who quite rightly said if I really wanted to listen to his concert I should be out front and not turning pages.
He was quite right of course ,but having turned for some of his concerts I was quite happy to turn on this occasion so I could get a good look at his new piano partner.
Norma Fisher had spoken about her remarkable new student Daniel who had come to her Summer London Masterclass course in Manchester(!)and who was now studying for his Masters with her at the Royal College of Music.
“Daniel who?”, I asked .”Oh but I am turning pages for him next week!”, I replied much to her surprise.
Small world!
Very refreshing to see Thomas Carroll and Norma Fisher backstage in the interval to encourage,stimulate and advise their star pupils of whom they were obviously so proud. To give the benefit of their professional advice and experience to two future stars at this important concert in the Wigmore Hall for the renowned Kirckman Concert Society.

Thomas Carroll and Norma Fisher
Jamal Aliyev a student from an early age with Thomas Carroll at the Menuhin School and now at the Royal College of Music where he has graduated with honours performing the Dvorak with their Symphony Orchestra ,and is now embarking on his Masters degree. Another instance of early training from specialist schools like the Menuhin that are able to give a complete education including specialist musical training to gifted young children.
Thomas Carroll is in fact Jamal’s mentor who has followed his progress during the long and difficult growing up period.
Jacqueline Du Pre used to call William Pleeth her cello daddy as it was he had that had followed her progress and rise to fame in much the same way.
Daniel Hyun-woo Evans,Jamal’s new piano partner, had much the same youthful training having studied at Wells Cathedral School from the age of 11.
Of Welsh father and Asian mother he went on to get his B mus from the Guildhall with that remarkable trainer of renowned pianists: Joan Havill.
Now since his meeting with Norma Fisher he too is preparing for his Masters degree at the Royal College.

Danny Norma Fisher and Jamal
In my day there were two very remarkable women Maria Curcio and Ilona Kabos who befriended,helped,encouraged and trained the very finest young pianist in London. Future great artists such as Radu Lupu,Mitsuko Uchida and Rafael Orozco would join their group and frequent each others concerts and generally create a solid warm nucleus in what can be a very dispersive and lonely city.
Norma Fisher although a Londoner was very much befriended by Kabos whom she has never forgotten and a picture of her stands in her studio.
Joan Havill and Norma Fisher have taken just that same place today and Danny has studied with them both .
He has also received great encouragement from Richard Goode .
A better pedigree than that would indeed be hard to find.

Wigmore audience tonight
I was reminded of Artur Rubinstein at his last concert in this very hall in 1976.
He was almost blind and the concert was his last concert performance in a very long and glorious life.
He played to save the hall from demolition .
He spoke to the public saying he had started his career in London in this hall and he was happy to finish it here . Please do not let them pull it down.
That genial director William Lyne had asked for his help.
We all went back stage to thank him for the last time .
Suddenly the Maestro realised there was a beautiful woman standing in front of him.
“I may be blind”,he said ” but not too blind to know a beautiful woman when she is standing in front of me!”
Lauren Bacall was charmed as had been all the other beautiful women in Rubinstein’s long career .

Green room pre concert preparations
So whilst Jamal was correct to say that with me perched on the left and he on the right of the pianist it would be difficult to appreciate fully the concert ,it was obvious even under those circumstances that we were in the presence of a very special duo indeed.
I have heard Jamal Aliyev play with some very remarkable even exquisite pianists but tonight I felt that he had found the one that was just right.

The brilliant pianist Maria Tarasewicz
From the first notes of the Eccles Sonata in G minor it was obvious that there was a cohesion between these two young artists that comes from a true musical understanding between them.
Some very discreet imitation from the piano of Jamal’s beautifully shaped opening Largo immediately made me aware that we were in for a real musical treat.
A Courante and Presto played with such rhythmic authority each player listening intently to the other and adding rather tongue in cheek expertise to their quite transcendental command of this seemingly simple Sonata.
The “Arpeggione” is very much part of Jamal’s repertoire and here playing without the score gave him the flexibility and freedom for this great melodic masterpiece to be expressed with just that freedom allied to supreme mastery and intelligence that the master of lied demands.
An opening of great beauty from the piano and some really beautiful things adding his personality to Jamal’s in a fascinating conversation that held a packed out Wigmore Hall in complete silence.
As they play it together more often it will grow and become even freer within the framework set by Schubert.
A true high wire act that will be even more memorable than this evenings remarkable performance .
Benjamin Britten created just such a bond with Rostropovich and they became completely free .
Bar lines did not exist just heaven sent melodies ready to relish together.

Green Room preparations
From my perch too I could see the total assurance together with complete participation of Jamal’s new musical partner.
A beautiful pianistic hand,so flexible and without affectation.
Just as Jamal looks so right behind his cello.
A truly transcendental performance of the Sonata in G minor op 65 by Chopin. Notoriously difficult here it was given a performance of almost Beethovenian proportions that was exactly right for a work that can sometimes seem overlong and is only now returning quite regularly to the cello repertoire.
Written late in life for his friend Auguste Franchomme they performed only the last three movements together at Chopin’s last concert in Paris on 16th February 1848,a year before  he died.
A quite remarkable ensemble from these two virtuosi.
Listening always intently to each other but riding as one on the great wave of sound that they were producing together. Each one producing not only some transcendentally exciting playing but also in the Largo in particular some playing of extraordinary poignancy and beauty as Chopin’s sublime nocturnal melody was passed from one to the other.
Even Jamal Aliyev was applauding his extraordinary partner after the ovation they received at the end of a very exhilarating Finale Allegro.

Green Room discussions between friends
The Variations on a theme of Rossini by Martinu written rather cheekily in 1942 for Piatigorsky was give a magnificent performance where the charm together with bravura ensemble was a tribute indeed to the great cellist it was written for.
A little nocturne by Tchaikowsky was the only possible encore after such a scintillating performance .
An idyllic calm indeed from two artists on the crest of the wave

Green Room after concert
A green room taken by siege by friends,colleagues and admirers all captured by the page turner on his new telephone.
A well earned party for the “kids” in the Pizzeria later

Fun for all after concert Pizza
A word of thanks must also go to Canan Maxton and Talent Unlimited that has helped and encouraged these two young artists and who brought a real delegation to enjoy the fruits of her untiring labour in helping young artists survive and advance at the start of their career.

Norma Fisher with her star students

Serious discussions amongst friends and colleagues

Norma Fisher offering some valuable advice

Bobby Chen at St Mary’s Perivale

Bobby Chen at St Mary’s Perivale

Hugh Mather can just be seen at the door greeting his guests
Nice to be back at St Mary’s Perivale on this wintery day and to be greeted so warmly by our host Dr Hugh Mather the “Deus ex machina” of this veritable mecca of major pianistic talent .
A great pleasure to hear Bobby Chen a well known figure on the musical scene in London but that I have never had the chance to hear until now.
A notable curriculum in which in particular his appearances with Lord Menuhin in Beethoven’s Triple Concert immediately takes the eye.
Having studied at the Menuhin School he exemplifies the very reason that Menuhin wanted to start a school where very talented young musicians could from childhood receive a normal school education alongside a very specialist musical one as befits these precociously gifted children often misunderstood and trained too late to be able to compete with the children from Eastern Countries.
Completing his studies at the Royal Academy of Music he has gone on to play with many major orchestras under renowned conductors.
He has represented his home country of Malaysia for their 50th Anniversary as a nation in 2007 performing the world premiere of a newly written piano concerto at the Royal Festival Hall.
In 2010 he founded his own Overseas Malaysian Winter Academy based at the Menuhin School.
With four solo recitals at the Wigmore Hall and a duo recital with Leslie Howard it was indeed with great interest that I was at last able to appreciate his great musical pedigree at close hand
His musical credentials were evident from the first notes of the Haydn Sonata in C Hob XV1:50.
Here was a piano sound reminiscent of Myra Hess and Moura Lympany rather than the usual barnstormingly proficient performances we are so often subjected to these days .
He has that rare gift of being able to make the music speak and his variants of tone colour were almost as multifaceted as the human voice. The magical music box effect was beautifully realised as was the impish good humour in the Allegro finale .
It made one wonder why these masterpieces are not played more often .Haydn,Mozart and Beethoven what amazing genius and true understanding of the instrument.
Of course it takes a great musician to be able to interpret these works to allow them to speak naturally instead of taking off like a box of fireworks.
Paul Lewis is playing two recitals of Haydn Sonatas and Beethoven Bagatelles in the Royal Festival Hall something that would have been unthinkable, especially for a British pianist, a few years back.
The Liszt Sonetto del Petrarca 104 was beautifully shaped the intricate embellishments incorporated into the long melodic lines as if a great Bel canto aria.
The Busoni arrangement of Bach’s moving “Ich ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ” played with a stillness and such subtle tone colours even the final chord placed with just that perfection of a real musician that is listening intently to himself .
In fact in all these pieces I found myself wishing that there could have been a bit more Florestan to his ultra sensitive Eusebius.
Surely within the notes of Bach’s sublime Cantata there is also an underlying passion of a true believer and not just a devout follower.
The great Bach- Busoni Chaconne followed.
It is every bit Busoni as it is Bach .
To think that a piece for solo violin could be transcribed so perfectly as to be almost reinvented .
And it was just that reinvention that was so obvious in Bobby Chen’s performance .
None of the usual barnstorming presentation of the theme but played with an unusual quiet calm that lead quite naturally into the left hand staccato octaves played quarter bow as the Chaconne lead us to its obvious conclusions. Some beautiful contrasts with sumptuous tone from the middle register of the piano and a general sense of shape a direction that lead into the almost organ like writing before the triumphant return of the opening theme.
The great bass notes deep down in the piano played as a real musician who is aware that these notes are only to enrich the noble sounds and not like guns being fired as is too often the case.
Sometimes rhythmically not always impeccable it was a small price to pay for such musicianly playing.

Bobby Chen presenting the concert
The Liszt second Ballade in B minor charmingly introduced by this “gentle ” man was played with great command.
Right from the swirling left hand on which the theme emerges as if on some great wash of waves to the sublime first appearance of the second subject there was always a musical sheen and never just empty virtuosity.
Astoundingly musical octaves and an appearance at last of Florestan in the great heroic outpourings of Liszt’s magical metamorphosis that conjures up an almost operatic melody from its first innocent appearance.
An encore of Schumann’s Widmung in Liszt’s beautiful transcription brought this recital to a magical end.

Hugh Mather’s faithful Tuesday afternoon helper

Bobby Chen