Andre Gallo at Magliano in Toscana

Andre Gallo at Magliano in Toscana
Much has been said about this remarkable musician but there is a lot more to say after his magnificent recital for the Centenary of the death of Claude Debussy at the Festival in Tuscany organised by Diego Benocci and Gala Chistiakova helped by baby Leonardo whose godfather is Vitaly Pisarenko.
What a line up for the beautiful unspoilt village of Magliano in Toscana so cruelly ravaged by the second world war.
Just a glance at the programme is enough to know that we have a real thinking musician in our midst: Ballade,Reverie,Nocturne rarely heard in concert were programmed together with the 2 Arabesques,Suite Bergamasque and significant Preludes from Book 1.
As he flies off to Japan this morning I shall continue this personal observation as I roam around the paradise that is Tuscany in the spring.
This beautiful little village near Grosseto in one of the oldest churches in Italy that was completely restored after it was bombed during the second world war.
A little village in one of the most beautiful parts of Tuscany had become in fact a German stronghold.
Now dedicated to art and artists it is an important venue for the festival created by Diego and Gala now celebrating its 5th edition.
A church full to the rafters for this recital by Andre Gallo marking the first collaboration of the festival with the Keyboard Trust of London.In fact Andre will make his New York debut for the Keyboard Trust on the 22nd May.
It was no coincidence then that this concert should be on the 93rd birthday of the Trust’s founder John Leech.
The second of a series of eight concerts beginning in Grosseto with a duo recital with Enrico Pace and Igor Roma that will finish on 24th June in the Church of San Francesco in Grosseto with Diego Benocci playing Brahms Concerto in D minor op 15.
The next concert is in the historic theatre in Grosseto on the 4th May and will include both Gala Chistiakova and Diego Benocci in Saint- Saens Carnival of the Animals.
A zoological fantasy for two pianos,orchestra and very interestingly with reciter Erica Banchi.Not the usual verses of Ogden Nash but some specially written for this occasion.
A collaboration between Italy and Russia is indeed being whelded .With a project of exchange between great numbers of young musicians who will descend on Grosseto from the 1st to the 12 June.
Extraordinarily talented young musicians between 5 and 20 years old from the Tchaikowsky Conservatory in Moscow and the famous Gnessin Academy giving concerts in many of the beautiful locations in and around this much blessed paradise of Tuscany. An extraordinary event where music can bring people together where words are not enough and in fact seem to do the exact opposite these days!

                            Gala Chistiakova with Andre Gallo
Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said have put this very much into practise with the West Divan Orchestra.
Antonio Abreu too with “El sistema” that has got thousands of poor children off the streets and playing in orchestras and groups in Venezuela instead of creating gang warfare that is becoming such a problem these days.
No point in waiting for the politicians it is enough that every person does his bit as indeed some of the greatest artists have been doing in Tuscany for centuries.

                        Mr Benocci with grandson Leonardo
Whilst the politicians are fighting in Rome over who will gain power, here in Grosseto the link founded by Diego and Gala, both students of the renowned school in Imola, has brought about this great cultural collaboration between Russia and Italy.
For this is a real exchange helped and organised by the mother of Gala in Moscow forging this important link between young talented people of both countries.
Diego’s mother and father and the whole community are very much involved too as will be eight month old Leonardo rapidly learning both languages!
Refreshing too the programme dedicated to Debussy including three early works very rarely heard in the concert hall.
Opening with the very well known Arabesques,Andre Gallo immediately established a link with this large gathering.Drawing them into this very special sound world with the ravishing colours that he was miraculously able to find on this Kwai grand.
I have written many times about his very individual approach to the keyboard as has Bryce Morrison when Andre made his London debut for the Trust a few years ago.
It is like watching a great sculptor moulding the sounds with his body where all the physical movements are so flexible and elastic exactly seeming to epitomise the sounds that are being created.
So often one hears magnificent piano playing that can be so ugly to watch.
Rarely the two arts are joined as with for example with Giulini or Rubinstein.
The human body is not made to sit at a box of strings and hammers and can seem even in the most remarkable hands very angular and unnatural.
So it is very refreshing to see how Andre has found a way of shaping the music in this extremely natural way.
An astonishingly large sound palate from the most subtle quite ravishing sounds to the full grandiose sounds of a really ” grand ” piano.
It is a joy to watch him almost pulling the sounds out of the piano and also flicking his fingers into the keys to give a very clean clear “pichiettando” when needed.
Even on this fine but rather unyielding Kwai we were treated to all the sounds and colours of an orchestra.
The first Arabesque rather slow and languid but with such subtle colouring it became a little tone poem on its own and established a rapport with the audience that was to last until the tiny magical piece by Mompou that was offered as a second encore.
The second Arabesque played with a clarity and playful rubato that was a complete contrast to its companion.
Great sense of line in the Ballade that brought it to life and made one realise the similarity to the sound world of the Suite Bergamasque that was to follow.
The Reverie and Nocturne played with such ravishing sounds and the echo effect of the opening flourishes in the Nocturne showed an extraordinary control and dexterity.
The sounds in Claire de lune were of such a refined subtlety that the audience had to almost strain to overhear the intimate caressing of each note as it seemed to get ever more ravishingly whispered into our ears.
Stephen Hough recently had started his Festival Hall recital with Clair de lune to create just the same intimate atmosphere that was necessary for what was to follow. The glorious almost passionate declaration in the Prelude took the audience by surprise at how much real almost romantic emotion there is in this early Debussy.
It is the passion of a young man that was to be pared off in his later years as his sound world became ever more revolutionary.
An extraordinary range in the Cathedrale engloutie from the whispered opening to the glorious apparition of quite overwhelming power.
Gradually dying away to a whisper on a shimmer of sound from deep down in the piano where even the distant bells could still be discerned.
A truly transcendental feat of piano playing that I have only recently heard from Kissin but on a magnificent concert Steinway not on todays much smaller Kwai.
La danse de Puck was thrown off with great impish humour and Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest that brought the concert to a tumultuous ending spread Debussy’s vision of the west wind over the entire range of the keyboard but with a command that never allowed us for a second to think of just notes but rather mists of sound.

                          Christopher Axworthy with Andre Gallo
A toccata by Poulenc was thrown off with quite astonishing ease followed by a few words of thanks to the citizens and organisers that had allowed him to share his vision of Debussy with them.
Cancion y danza n.6 of great nostalgia by Mompou was Andres way of saying a heartfelt goodbye.

                        Gala Chistiakova with Andre Gallo

            Diego Benocci with a major sponsor of the festival Mr Danilo


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