POINT AND COUNTERPOINT Chronicle of events of the Keyboard Charitable Trust from January to June 2018


Chronicle of events from January to June 2018

by Christopher Axworthy,  Co-Artistic  Director




What an amazingly busy and successful six months it has been for the KCT with tours in Italy, Germany and the USA and individual concerts throughout England, Cyprus and the Isle of Man.

All summed up so beautifully in an article penned by our founding father John Leech:  https://allaboutpiano.co/the-essential-keyboard-trust/

The year started in Viterbo with our annual recital at the Tuscia University for Prof. Ricci with Mark Viner who went on to play in the Teatro Ghione in Rome, the Teatro Comunale in Vicenza for the series ‘Incontro sulla Tastiera’ for Mariantonietta Righetto Sgueglia and in Venice, Padua and Abano Terme for AGIMUS, Padua directed by Elia Modenese. He gave the same programme as he was to present in the KCT Prize Winner’s concert at Wigmore Hall on 2 March 2018.

‘Mark Viner shows us how to transform the piano into an orchestra Superlative technical skill even in “forgotten” composers.’ — Eva Purelli, Vicenza

Here is my report of Mark Viner’s concerts in Italy:  https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/mark-viner-takes-italy-by-storm/

Whilst Mark was playing in the Palazzo Zacco-Armeni on a Sunday afternoon in January, another of our pianists André Gallo was playing in the morning in the historic Sala dei Giganti in a series for young Italian pianists organised by the renowned Amici della Musica with whom we also have an annual appointment.

Here are my thoughts on this performance: https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/andregallo-a-master-speaks-2/

After many years’ collaboration with Elia Modenese and AGIMUS, our presence was requested as part of the commission for the 15th Series of the International Prize for Soloists with Orchestra. The final was with the prestigious Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto, one of the finest chamber orchestras in Europe, in the Auditorium Pollini.

Here were my comments:  https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2018/01/28/citta-di-padua-international-prize-of-elia-modenese-and-elisabetta-gesuato-for-agimus-padova/

On 20 January Iyad Sughayer gave a well-received programme of Handel, Schubert/Tirimo and Liszt at the Newport Music Club in Shropshire.

On 8 February, IIya Kondratiev played in our ongoing series ‘Up Close — The Next Generation’  with the Principals of Manchester Camerata at the Stoller Hall in Manchester, repeated at The Muni in Colne on 9 February.  It was a concert for Valentine’s Day with the charming title of ‘Camerata in Love’.

Here were my comments:  https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/the-camerata-in-love/

On 20 February 2018, Vitaly Pisarenko gave the first recital in what we hope will become a prestigious new venue for the Trust:  the Parliament Chamber at the Temple in London. (This recital was initiated and encouraged by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, a KCT Trustee and member of Temple Garden Chambers.)

Here is my report: https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/the-supreme-mr-pisarenko/

Mark Viner gave the annual KCT Prizewinner’s Wigmore Hall recital on 2 March 2018, having performed all over Italy for the KCT during January 2018. The concert was in memory of the renowned music critic, Bill Newman, a generous benefactor to the KCT.

‘From his stronghold as the Chairman of both the Alkan and Liszt Societies of the United Kingdom, he goes on to reinstate these and other masters or forgotten virtuosi in their actual historical interaction. He thus contributes steadily to the enhancement of our conscious overview of 19th century piano playing and its influences from and to other genres, such as Literature and Art.’ –  Kyriakos P.Loukakos

And from Seen and Heard: http://seenandheard-international.com/2018/03/mark-viner-at-the-wigmore-hall-elicits-musings-on-virtuosity/.

And here were my thoughts:


On 23 March Ilya Kondratiev substituted at the last minute for an indisposed Mariam Batsashvili in Cyprus at the Pharos Shoe Factory of Garo Keheyan.

Yvonne Georgiadou, Artistic Director, wrote:

‘THANK YOU for introducing us to Ilya! Please express our utmost gratitude to the board of the KCT — you can even tell Mariam that we thank her because if it were not for her cancelation we might have never encountered such an amazing artist, or we might have been late in discovering him.

We have come across some really amazing piano talents in the last couple of years of our collaboration with the KCT, but I dare to say that Ilya is the most exceptional of all. I even dare to say…. I have been working as the Artistic Director of Pharos for over 12 years, and I have listened to countless pianists, some of them are considered amongst the most important names on the international scene. Never before did a pianist keep me locked on my seat, full of excitement from the beginning till the end. He is a fascinating artist. He enlivens the piano, he makes it sound like a full orchestra. It brings out all the colours, all the expressions and sentiments. There is so much character in his playing, and so many characters interacting with each other. He is not just technically exceptional but there is something about his general approach to the performance that cannot be captured on video or explained in words. Ilya should have been one of the biggest names in Europe right now. We will definitely invite him to Cyprus again, there is no question about it. Thank you, thank you again for introducing Ilya to us. I knew he would be a very talented young pianist, but nothing prepared me for such a revelation.’

On 21 April we were invited to recommend a KCT pianist for the Festival in Grosseto in Tuscany ‘Recondite Armonie’, now in its fifth year and run by Galina Chistiakova (a KCT artist) and her husband Diego Benocci.

The Artistic Directors selected André Gallo who gave a recital dedicated to the works of Debussy.

André and Galina (Gala), both colleagues from the famous music school in Imola will also perform together in a two piano programme of  Mozart, Schumann and Saint Saëns  on 4 October in our series ‘Up Close — The Next Generation’ with the Principals of Manchester Camerata.

Here is my report on Andre’s recital in Grosseto:


On 25 April Hin Yat Tsang played at the Bechstein Centrum in Frankfurt for long-standing KCT Friends, Sibylle and Patrick Rabut, who invite a KT pianist to perform in their Series twice every year.

These were their comments:

‘The concert is over and once more left an enthusiastic and overwhelmed public behind. Hin-Yat Tsang did a fantastic job with an exigent and challenging programme. Perhaps, rather too challenging … the twelve Scriabin Etudes were too much and it might have been better to start with three or four of the Etudes for warming up and then play the Beethoven Sonate No.28, Op. 101, which is a difficult one. The second half with Chopin and Rachmaninov was just marvellous as well as the Bach encore.’

Mariam Batsashvili gave two concerts in Germany — on 26 April at Steinway Hall in Cologne and on 27 April at the magnificent Orangery at Castle Rheda, organised by Trustee, Moritz von Bredow.

‘Mariam Batsashvili really is one of the best pianists the KT has ever supported. Her understanding of the music comes from an indescribable inner connection to each epoch … ‘ — Moritz von Bredow.

Here is his complete report:

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/moritz-von-bredow-report-on-mariam-batsashvili-in-germany-april-2018/ .

Mariam will return to Germany to Steinway Hall in Hamburg on 5 July — to be followed by a Hauskonzert for Moritz von Bredow on 6 July — for which she will be playing the Goldberg Variations.  Prior to this concert she will fly to Virginia to give a recital to celebrate Dietlinde Turban Maazel’s marriage to Tony Wood on 1 July.

[Vitaly Pisarenko with our founding fathers John and Noretta Leech – and Trustee Evgeny Kissin.]

On 4 May, Vitaly Pisarenko gave the first concert in our new collaboration with the Erin Arts Festival on the Isle of Man. He went on to play at Hatchlands on 10 May in our new series organised by Elena Vorotko as part of her Historic Piano programme for the KCT.  He played on an historic 1864 Steinway from Alec Cobbe’s amazing collection.

Here were my comments:


Vitaly went on to play at the Chopin Society in London on 20 May as part of their series of Leeds top prize winners:


On 4 May Mark Viner played at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester for our series ‘Up Close— The Next Generation’ with members of Manchester Camerata, a concert repeated at Adbaston Concert Society in Staffordshire. These collaborative concerts are very much the brainchild of Geoffrey Shindler, our Chairman.  Now in its second year, the Series is proving an ever-growing success.



On 11 May at Steinway Hall we were proud to honour the Trustees of the Max Grünebaum Foundation, Cottbus with a recital by Sasha Grynyuk.

In John Leech’s own words: ‘Your visit allows us to acknowledge a vital bond we have shared with the City of Cottbus for the past 27 years: the Keyboard Trust in London owes as much of its existence to the hard work and generosity of Marion and Ellen Frank, as the creation of the magnificent Theatre that you help to sustain did to their grandfather Max Grünebaum.’


On 22 May André Gallo played in New York for us in a new venue on West 57th street — Parc Vendôme — born out of a last minute cancellation by Steinway Hall. One of the most knowledgeable critics in New York sent us a one line email after the concert: ‘STUPENDO ….!’

André went on to play for Beth Glendinning, ex-Assistant of Ormandy, in Philadelphia:

‘Hi — I just put André on the train to Wilmington, and miss him already.  It’s amazing — the way I bond with your pianists, and can’t bear to see them leave.  His concert was fabulous, with raves from the audience.  His talent and personality overwhelmed us.  I think he finally caught up with his sleep deprivation and jet lag, but none of that was evident in his playing.  He has a glorious technique and sound.  We want him to come back (on what would be his second trip to America), because he didn’t see enough of our country on this brief tour.  He appeared to enjoy the reception we gave post-concert.  He is so interesting, aside from his musical life, that everyone he met here was deeply impressed. All the best to you, and many thanks for sending this remarkable young man our way. Beth.’

[Photo of Beth Glendinning with Mark Viner from 2016.)

And for our friends in Cokesbury Village in Delaware: ‘Last night, Cokesbury Village was treated to another overwhelming performance by yet another gifted pianist sponsored by your splendid organization.  André Gallo played a wide ranging program that allowed us to appreciate both his extreme sensitivity and phenomenal touch in quieter pieces and his astonishing facility and power in more dramatic works.  In addition to his technical virtuosity he exhibited a delightfully ingratiating style in introducing each selection.  The standing ovation he received was whole hearted and much deserved.’

This winter, there were three Steinway Hall ‘auditions’ in London:

  • 28th February Adrian Brendle



  • 21st March Filip Michalak


  • 25th April Tomoki Sakata


Three extraordinary performances over the past months by ‘emeriti’ KCT artists may also be of interest:



  • Mihai Ritivoiu on 16 May at Cadogan Hall with the English Chamber Orchestra directed by Michael Collins and promoted by the City Music Foundation.

Mihai Ritivoiu performed Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No.2 and Michael Foyle performed Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.1 — with an encore for piano and violin by Prokofiev.

‘The superb English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Michael Collins offered a splendid account of Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony – and there’s a great new CD of works by Liszt, Enescu and Cesar Franck.’ – C. Axworthy.


 Scots pianist, Yuanfan Yangyuanfanyang.com —  will be giving a recital at St Michael and all Angels in Adbaston, Staffordshire for Adbaston Concert Society on Sunday, 3 June featuring works by Beethoven, Chopin, Haydn, Brahms — and one of his own compositions:  Waves (from Three Aquarelles).

  Vitaly Pisarenko will be giving a performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto with the London Mozart Players, conducted by Hilary Davan Wetton on Sunday, 17 June:

 Mention should also be made of our last audition before the summer on Wednesday, 20 June at Steinway Hall at 19.00 by Nicola Losito.

Having graduated with the highest honours, Italian pianist Nicola Losito, 22, is currently studying with Leonid Margarius at the Imola International Piano Academy ‘Incontri col Maestro’ and with Massimo Gon at the Giuseppe Tartini Music Conservatory in Trieste.
Nicola has won first prize in prestigious national and international competitions including the National Piano Competition ‘Muzio Clementi’ (Florence), the 6th Isidor Bajic Piano Memorial Competition Novi Sad (Serbia), the International Piano Competition ‘Dinu Lipatti’ (Bucharest).He has recorded two CDs for labels Amadeus and Movimento Classical. He has also recorded for Rai Radio 1, Radio Classica, Radio Vaticana and Sky. Since 2017, he has been President and Artistic Director of the Italian Philharmonic Association.


Etude Op.10 nos.1, 2, 3, 4 and 12
Etude Op.25 Nos.7 and 12
Sonata Hob.XVI:50
Faschingsschwank aus Wien Op.26

  • On Friday, 22 June (17.30) Vitaly Pisarenko will be performing with members of Manchester Camerata as part of Manchester’s Góbéfest, the UK’s only Transylvanian and Szekler Hungarian Festival of Arts and Culture. Vitaly will be playing Beethoven’s Piano Trio Op.70 ‘The Ghost’ and pieces by Bartók and Kodály.

Full details on this link:  http://www.manchestercamerata.co.uk/whats-on/concerts/g-b-fest

 Adrian Brendle will give a recital for the KCT and Kestrel Music on Wednesday, 27 June in St Giles-without-Cripplegate (Fore Street, London EC2Y 8DA) at 13.00 in a programme in memory of Dame Myra Hess and her National Gallery wartime performances:



Mention should also be made of the podcasts that Sasha Grynyuk (in collaboration with my co-Artistic Directors, Elena Vorotko and Leslie Howard), have created and which can now be viewed on the KCT website.

These feature interviews and short performances with Alexander Ullman, Evgeny Genchev, Martina Kazmierczak (harpsichord), Iyad Sughayer, Jean Rondeau and Mark Viner. 

Best wishes to everyone for a very happy Summer holiday – and please do join us for as many of these Summer Concerts as you can!

Christopher Axworthy, Co-Artistic Director and Trustee


May 2018

On Wings of Song ….Young musicians at the Ghione Theatre

On wings of song- young musicians at the Ghione Theatre

Young musicians at the Ghione theatre.

On the second anniversary of the death of Giorgio Albertazzi………..a beautiful short film of him talking in a intelligently witty and ironic way about death was followed by a concert by four young artists for an association that has been created to help children and their families cope with cancer …………….
A remarkable Rachmaninov Moment musical op 16 n.4 after a very mature performance of Chopin Scherzo n.4. Matteo Pomposelli at only 13 has the makings of a real artist .
An ex student of Marcos Madrigal he and Angela Carradori both frequent now the renowned school in Trani .
They both displayed the same very sensitive sense of style and colour and technical prowess.
Virginia Di Rocco a student of Andre Gallo gave a very assured performance of Beethoven’s first piano and violin Sonata op 12.n.1 with 21 year old violinist Flavio Montella .
Sorry to miss Yuja Wang but so pleased to be able to give a helping hand to real talent and for such a worth cause .
All organised splendidly by our old friend Franco Buzzanca creator of Scenografia Oggi who contructed many of our sets for us over the past 40 years .
It was part sponsored by the Associazione Lya De Barberiis my much missed duo partner for so many years.

Moritz von Bredow report on Mariam Batsashvili in Germany April 2018

Mariam Batsashvili gave two concerts in Germany on the 26th April at Steinway Hall Cologne and the 27th April at the magnificent Orangery at Castle Rheda this is what Moritz von Bredow wrote:

“please allow me to send you my report on Mariam Batsashvili‘s two very outstanding piano recitals last week in Cologne and Rheda-Wiedenbrück. The latter one was followed by two most amazing reviews in local newspapers.The audience in Cologne was small but enthusiastic and very attentive, and the hall in Rheda-Wiedenbrück was completely sold out.The programme consisted of:

Bach/Busoni – Chaconne D Minor

Mozart – Rondo A Minor K511

Schubert – Impromptu F Minor op. 142/1

Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody no. 12


Chopin – Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante op. 22

Mozart/Liszt – Fantasy on themes from Figaro and Don Giovanni (completed by Leslie Howard)

Mariam started the evening with the Chaconne, a  work that most pianists would use to end a programme. The opening chords were placed in a grand and solemn mood , and it  was these first notes that already made everybody listen with deepest attention. What followed was a unique demonstration of wonderfully understood Bach as well as meticulously prepared Busoni. Never forgetting the intimate and figurative playing of the violin, Mariam Batsashvili exposed the grandeur of Busoni’s orchestral use of the piano in unparalleled ways. Her sense of rhythm as well as her  demonstration of each of the various themes’ architecture and counterpoint were breathtaking. She never got lost in small pieces, but saw the entity of this one work, going through the most difficult fugal developments in a seemingly easy way. Mariam’s  highly intelligent understanding of the difficult structure of this work made it possible that the listener could hear lines and inner melodies that before may never have been shown that clearly. La forza of La Batsashvili was never left to chance – she controls the piano whenever she wants, and this her orchestral sound is huge, but always transparent and never hard. Thus, La Chacona was something that could not have started this evening in a better manner.
What followed was equally beautiful: concise and unsentimental, yet flowing and absolutely rhythmical interpretation of Mozart’s Rondo in A minor. This work, written only a few years before Mozart died, is very difficult in that one may easily fall into overromantic expression. Mariam had prepared this piece meticulously and never left the path of idiomatic Mozartism. The lightness of her playing, her sheer understanding and deep love for Mozart’s music, made this one of the the most moving works of the evening.
It fitted well to hear Schubert’s first of four Impromptus  op.  142 in F minor. Schubert wrote this cycle the year before he died, already ill and pensive. There was a relentless pulse going through the opening bars, and this continued throughout the peace with the exception of the more lyrical parts. Also in this piece, as before and after, it was clear that Mariam was able to connect with the Epoque of the composer’s time, with its spirit which she brought to life so beautifully. Her sound was always clear, her use of both pedals admirable – her  technical mastery of all works is without any doubt one of the best that I have heard in recent years.
Before the interval, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody no. 12  was interpreted in a rendition that reminded me of Geza Anda’s  or Lazar Berman’s great interpretations. The mystical opening developed soon into a rhythmic firework and the mystic depth in the manifold beauty of Liszt’s music. I am sure Leslie would have enjoyed this performance so very, very much. BRAVISSISSIMA, MARIAM!!

After the well-deserved interval, Mariam Batsashvili played Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise op 22 -again, and idiomatic expression of Chopin’s tonal language that left nothing open. Rubinstein would have loved her here. It is that mood of solemn and pensive meditation that Mariam can contrast so perfectly with melodic and happy dancing as well as heavy orchestral developments. She can do it all, no question, out of her most natural talent.

This evening ended with Liszt’s Fantasy on themes from two operas by Mozart, completed by Leslie. What an honour to hear Mariam perform this work, immensely difficult and yet it sounded so light, so cheerful, with these incredibly difficult scales, jumps and mystical roaring in the left hand challenges that left everybody startled.

The encore consisted of a Menuet by Ignacy Paderewski from his Humoresques de Concert. Everybody would have loved to dance with Mariam at that moment!

Had I dared, I would have kneeled down before Mariam after these ever so beautiful recitals.
Mariam Batsashvili really is  one of the best pianists the KT  has ever supported. Her understanding of the music comes from an indescribable inner connection to each epoch, to each era’s spirit from which the composers have given us their music. It seems as if Mariam comes from the Baroque era, having jumped into the romantic period, then back to Salzburg and Vienna in the late 18th century –   it is clear to me that she feels deeply connected when she plays. Mariam is  an amazing pianist who controls everything, she is perfectly prepared, highly professional and at the same time highly sensitive, kind and modest, without giving up her inner strength. Mariam is a great, musical and ideal classical pianist, and I feel honoured and am very grateful that I could look after her during these days.

Our conversations were at all times profound, and her spirit as well as her intelligence make Mariam Batsashvili a most wonderful person to be with. As a pianist and as a person, she has  moved me deeply. It is from her inner personality, her ability to observe and listen where her  art of playing the piano comes from. I believe that her future will be bright, and I’m wishing her this. All doors should be open for her, and any consider recital that might be a special acknowledgement of her position in the musical world should be given to her at any time.
I will not forget these days and am enormously looking forward to July, 5th  when Mariam Batsashvili will return to play Bach’s Goldberg Variations for The Keyboard Trust in Hamburg, at Steinway Hall and at my home. I guess I should kneel down then.

Moritz von Bredow



Mr A Brendle at Steinway Hall

Mr A Brendle at Steinway Hall
Adrian Brendle at Steinway Hall for the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
Some very fine playing of Beethoven op 57 “Appassionata” Sonata in F minor and the complete Rachmaninoff Preludes op 32.
Showing off all his superb technical and intellectual skills.
Very taut rhythms in the Beethoven and nice to see that the complicated arpeggios in the first movement were played with one hand as Beethoven wrote it and as Arrau insisted it should be played.
The second subject rhythm could have been even more marked as the motif of the sonata is based exactly on that insistent rhythm in all its forms .
The Andante played con moto as Beethoven indicates.
A real corteo as Agosti used to describe it .
Some unusual pointing of the left hand in the second variation but played with such authority it was totally convincing
Never sentimental as is so often the case but with noble sentiment.
The astonishing link to the last movement was just that!
The Allegro maybe not quite non troppo as Beethoven indicates but played with an enviable precision and authority.
It would have allowed even more of a surprise with the coda Presto and the off beat “sfp” syncopation. There was no question of not playing the repeat with this thinking musician and it led inexorably to a Presto of quite extraordinary rhythmic power. Beethoven’s pedal marks were scrupulously noted and in a more resonant hall would have been even more startling.

Elias Corrinth
But it was the piece especially written for him that brought out all the fantasy and colour that had been difficult to find in such a small hall.
Fou Ts’ong always used to say that it was easier to be intimate in a very big rather than a small one .
A very interesting piece dedicated to him and having its UK premiere:”Invocation,Intermezzo” by Elias Corrinth.
The composer an old school friend was also present
The Rachmaninoff complete Preludes op 32 had a colossal performance of great brilliance and subtlety.
From the opening in C major to the monumental last Prelude in D flat major.
The wonderful “return” as Moisewitch described n 10 in B minor and the mellifluous B major could have had more tenderness and nostalgia but the last study was breathtaking in its monumental power and authority.
I was not at all surprised to see Ian Fountain in the audience as he is Adrian Brendle’s teacher at the Royal Academy .
He is the only British pianist to have won the Rubinstein Competition in Israel and glad to share his knowledge with such a talented young colleague.
The last of the Gesange der Fruhe op 133 as a rarely played encore.One of the last pieces that Schumann wrote and that my old teacher Guido Agosti loved so much

“Leeds leads” – Vitaly Pisarenko at the Chopin Society UK

“Leeds leads “…..Vitaly Pisarenko at the Chopin Society UK
Vitaly Pisarenko at The Chopin Society Westminster Cathedral Hall for their series of Leeds top prize winners .
“Leeds leads” as one might say in this period as we approach the next Leeds International Piano Competition in September.
And Lady Rose Cholmondeley with her faithful staff and followers has added to the excitement with a series of concerts of past illustrious top prize winners. on her splendid new Steinway piano in the Westminster Hall .
It was to have begun with the greatest of them all Murray Perahia(1972),Honorary President of the Chopin Society and also Honorary Patron of the Leeds.
Unfortunately he had to cancel at the last minute due to a hand injury that since has led to the cancellation of his much awaited recitals worldwide.
But many other top prize winners have been adding great lustre to the series that Lady Rose Cholmondeley and Gillian Newman have been championing with such success for the Chopin Society UK .
In February Ian Hobson winner of the 1981 Competition , in March Gulyak Sofya ( 2009); in April Anna Tsybuleva (2015) and in September Sunwook Kim (2006).
Now it was the turn of Vitaly Pisarenko (2015) with a programme of Schubert,Prokofiev,Chopin and Liszt.
I have heard Vitaly many times also in this very programme but never have I heard such authority and overwhelming sense of technical and musical control as today.
Since becoming a top prize winner he has matured and he made the piano sound today like a very “grand” piano indeed as only the greatest hands can do.
It was not the funabulistics of the Liszt Ballade , the beauty of the sound in the Schubert Klavierstucke or the sheer rhythmic energy and self identification with the sound world of Prokofiev but in the little piece offered as an encore that showed a staggering control of dynamic nuance that I doubt  even Gilels could have matched.
The Prelude in B minor attributed to Bach in the Siloti arrangement played with a disarming simplicity much as Myra Hess would do with her famous arrangement of Jesu Joy of Mans desiring.
At a certain point the melodic choral in the left hand middle register of the piano returns with the same filigree accompaniment in the right hand and it was here that magic filled the hall.
The beauty of the sound and with perfect balance as he shared his whispered secret to each and every one of us.
Yes projection too a staggering technical control indeed.
Any pianist will know that it is relatively easy to play loud and fast but to play quiet and with perfect control where the percussive piano can reveal its secret legato and be allowed to sing without any hardness is the realm of a Kempff , Richter or Lupu.
Most of this programme I have spoken about in his recent performances but the Prokofiev was a new addition.
Played with a great sense of style and brittle humoristic character that is so much part of the Russian school in that period.
A style that can some times be a bit tiresome and seem somewhat militaristic and detached.
This was certainly not the case today where every one of the 10 Pieces that make up this early work op 12 was imbued with a character and colour that was quite enthralling.

                                         Westminster Hall audience
The sheen of sound in the famous Harp Prelude that is n.7 had a wonderful sense of forward movement together with a brilliance and delicacy of sound .
The great opening Marche full of the brilliance of the early Prokofiev of the first concerto with that brittle brilliant sound and full sumptuous bass ending in a whisper that led into the old world charm of the Gavotte.
Almost the charm of the encores offered by the great virtuosi of the past .
A little bauble played with such teasing rubato that led us again into the brilliance of the Rigaudon.
The wonderful full cantabile of the Legende with that Russian nostalgia beautifully portrayed and showed off the same intense understanding that our pianist obviously feels for his roots.
The grotesque humour of the Allemande and the Scherzo humoristique blended so well into the brilliance of the final breathtaking virtuosity of the final Scherzo.
A fascinating journey that our pianist shared with us allowing us to marvel at his chameleon sense of changing colour always with a brilliance and the virtuosity that is so much part of Prokofiev’s music.
The sheen of the “harp ” prelude was the same sheen that he brought to the first scherzo of Chopin.
Where the astonishing brilliance was used to share with us the shifting harmonies and subtle melodic line that so often in lesser hands can sound like an etude.
The beautiful Polish folk song in the middle section played with a subtle rubato and sense of colour that one was reminded of the sublime middle section of Chopin’s famous funeral march.
It was another colour from that of the great Schubert Klavierstucke with which he had opened this fascinating programme.
The brilliance of the coda’s of the two Scherzi was astonishing and just as exciting as the Liszt Ballade n.2 and Hungarian Rhapsody n.10 that had Lady Rose exclaiming that now she understood how Liszt must have played.
What more can one say coming from the President of the Chopin Society and herself a distinguished pianist?

                       Bryce Morrison with Noretta Conci-Leech
Noretta Conci-Leech and her husband John Leech were present today.
The founders of the Keyboard Charitable Trust that has been a family for Vitaly Pisarenko in his student days in London after winning the Utrecht International Liszt Competition when he was only 20.
Noted on that occasion by that other great Liszt authority,Artistic director and founder member of the Trust Leslie Howard .

       John Leech and Noretta founders of the Keyboard Charitable Trust
They can all be so proud ten years on listening to this great artist on the crest of a wave and at the start of what will be a remarkable career.
Enough to say that John Leech at 93 turned to his wife at home later and exclaimed “Wasn’t that wonderful!”
“It certainly was” she replied “one of the very best of all the wonderful young artists that we have befriended and been privileged to help over the years.
Hats off to Lady Rose and her wonderful team for allowing us to experience in London such artistry.

Peter Hill and the Goldberg Variations

Peter Hill with the Goldberg Variations
A full house for a Wigmore favourite Prof.Peter Hill
An elderly gentleman appeared on stage to introduce us to the Goldberg.Variations.
Playing from, but hardly glancing at, the score it was refreshingly obvious from the very first note his love and respect for Bach`s monumental score shone through like a blazing light that held the discerning Wigmore audience under his spell.
Some of the more virtuosistic variations were a bit woolley but it was of no importance as this elderly gentleman showed us how the score could come to vivid life without all the barnstorming that we are often treated to.
If a gentle snore from behind me accompanied this gentle performance the humble acceptance of the ovation he was awarded was indeed a tribute to the devotion that Peter Hill has dedicated his life to.
Played without the repeats except strangely the Quodlibet which caught the Wigmore staff unawares with our coffee morning delights still in preparation.
They are more used to the great performances of Angela Hewitt or Rosalyn Tureck who would never dream of abbreviating the variations but when true love and professorial respect for time takes over an hour is always an hour.
If one or two of the public dozed off it is after all rumoured that Bach wrote his variations for the insomniac count who repaid him with a purse of golden florins.

Richard Goode – A Master speaks

Richard Goode- A Master speaks
Richard Goode Masterclass at the Wigmore Hall- the third this week .
Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall and now after his recital last night at the Wigmore Hall.
Some magnificent playing from the master and the disciples- one from each college .
He was as mightily impressed as they were.
The audience ,of course, were totally taken by surprise by these other young people after a day of experiencing the nuptuals………..
Frederic Bager with the makings of a superb Hammerklavier
Iyad I. Sughayer with an exquistely beautiful Mozart K282
Tamila Salimdjanova with a wonderfully shaped Davidsbundler
Ana Gogava with an impassioned and intelligent op 109.
It was nice to see Martino Tirimo listening to his student Iyad I. Sughayer and to hear his loving words for our much missed maestro Gordon Green -” the greatest teacher of the century” in Martino’s words” each of his many illustrious students all different…………”.he should know because Gordon entrusted his students to him on many an occasion. I would also add a wonderfully warm and affectionate human being who with his wife always by his side shaped the pianists of an era.
Much in the way of Tobias Matthay.
Sidney Harrison said that of all his colleagues at the RAM Gordon was the one he agreed with always.
How could you not resist his warm northern common sense and bonomie- nice to know that we have never forgotten and are forever grateful!

Leeds comes to London

Leeds comes to London

                              Sunwook Kim at the Wigmore Hall
Leeds comes to London  with three Wigmore lunchtime concerts of past winners of the Leeds International Piano Competition :Lars Vogt (1990), Sunwook Kim(2006) and Alessio Bax(2000)
A refreshing air of change for the Leeds International Piano Competition.
Dame Fanny Waterman that fearless and intrepid doctors wife who decided over 50 years ago that her home city of Leeds should be put on the musical map.
Together with Marion Stein the Countess of Harewood they instigated and ran almost single-handedly the very first competition in 1963.
Benjamin Britten provided the set piece: a wonderfully evocative Notturno.
Musical values were to be upheld and were the very core of this competition .
As Dame Fanny would say in her very down to earth manner: “People do not mould any more”- and how right she is!

                    Dame Fanny Waterman with Menahem Pressler
With the chairman Sir Arthur Bliss and his jury of great musicians who were happy to join Dame Fanny in her adventure. Hans Keller,Geza Anda,Badura Skoda,Jacob Flier,Yvonne Lefebure ,Nikita Magaloff,John Pritchard were some of the prestigious names that voted Michael Roll,a student of Dame Fanny,the winner. Vladimir Krainiev came in second.
Ileana Ghione with Dmitri Alexeev                     Craig Sheppard with Murray Perahia
A competition is only as good as its competitors as Dame Fanny would famously say and her dream has come true and the competition has gone from strength to strength thanks to Rafael Orozco,Radu Lupu,Murray Perahia ,Dmitri Alexeev going on to win the first competitions with world famous names like Mitsuko Uchida ,Victoria Postnikova and Andras Schiff gaining their first International recognition.

                                   Sunwook Kim at the Wigmore Hall
Now Dame Fanny in her 97th year has become Life President Founder and Director Emeritus and leaves the day to day running to Paul Lewis and Adam Gatehouse.
With Paul Lewis ,one of the finest musicians this country has produced, and the organisational and administrative skills of Adam Gatehouse by his side they will be ensuring that the values on which it was born will endure .
Values that have made of the Leeds one of the most highly esteemed competitions in a market that is now saturated by competitions of all sorts!
And so it was refreshing with this announced wind of change to see that the first round of the competition was given in three different countries with heats in Berlin,Singapore and New York .
Giving the opportunity to many more applicants to be heard before arriving in Leeds for the actual competition in September.
Twenty four pianists have been selected and will arrive in Dame Fanny’s beloved Leeds in September.

                               Alessio Bax at the Wigmore Hall
The whole competition will be streamed this time and broadcast live.
An innovation for the competition that will give us all an opportunity to hear every performer and not just the few top prize winners.
I believe the heats too will be available from late August in an attempt to give a platform to many of the enormously talented young musicians,more than at any previous time I would imagine.
If some of the individual talents do not have yet all the facets necessary to start an international career, which is what the few top prizes would imply, it will allow their talent and potential to be spotted and helped from an early stage.
And now the Leeds has come home in preparation for the Festival in September.
A piano Festival in London and Leeds with three of the previous  prize winners .
A beautiful new brochure and concerts alternating between the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds and the Wigmore Hall in London.
Lars Vogt (1990),Sunwook Kim (2006) and Alessio Bax(2000) and also three young scholars from the Lang Lang International Music Foundation .
Lang Lang who calls Dame Fanny his piano “mummy” and like Dame Fanny has done so much to promote and help young talent .
He is in fact described as the Global Ambassador for the Leeds.
In his own words:”She shares my passion for nurturing young talent and reaching out to encourage kids to engage in music”.
The Honorary Patron Murray Perahia was one of the first winners of the Leeds and one of the most distinguished musicians of our time .
In his own words:” Leeds gave me undreamt of opportunities that I am forever grateful for,not only important concerts but also the chance of meeting leading musicians and people I much admired”.

                          Alessio Bax at the Wigmore Hall
And so I was very pleased this week to be in London able to hear two of these concerts with Alessio Bax and Sunwook Kim.
Of course there are teething problems and the problem with marketing is that essential information is sometimes left out at the expense of selling a super product.
This magnificent programme is a case in point with many inaccuracies and essential details missing about where and with whom these artist have received their first education.
Of course there are lists of their engagements past and present in the most prestigious world venues with famous orchestras and conductors.
What really interests us on the threshold of such a prestigious competition is where did they receive their own early training that was obviously so crucial for their future development.
Some silly mistakes that never would have passed the eagle eye of Dame Fanny had concerts listed in the Wigmore that in fact will take place in Leeds.
However some really enlightened programme notes by Katy Hamilton more than made up for these silly errors.
Sunwook Kim the youngest winner of the Leeds in 2006 and the only Asian to have won it too.
Now only 30 having received his early training from that magician Daejin Kim at the University of Seoul in South Korea.(I had heard about him and his remarkable students at the Busoni Competition where his student Chloe Mun was the winner in 2015)
I learn (from Google n.b.) that he has lived in London and after his success in Leeds and at the Clara Haskil Competition he studied for an MA in conducting at the Royal Academy in London in 2013.

                                Sunwook Kim at the Wigmore Hall
Many recordings and prestigious concerts to his name and still only 30 this year.
A programme of the three “B’s” Bach,Beethoven and Beethoven very much in line with Dame Fanny’s ideals of starting with the classics.
I remember a few year ago in Oxford at Marios Papadopoulos’s Piano Festival introducing tongue in cheek to Dame Fanny the future winner of the Leeds Competition. She was immediately intrigued and whisked this young Russian pianist off to a room. “Play me something classical” she said .
He played the Beethoven Pathetique to her.
She listened to every note more intently than anyone I know with the sole exception of Menahem Pressler.
The young man did in fact become a top prize winner in the competition the following year!
So it was very interesting to find the Pathetique in the programme for this first Leeds Festival.

                                      Sunwook Kim at the Wigmore Hall
Some exemplary playing of course but also a lack of rhythmic tension in the opening Grave that I am sure Dame Fanny would have put right.
It made for some rather fragmented playing in which the contrasts between forte,fortissimo and piano were rather exaggerated and did not allow for the natural flow.
Some rather individual liberties with the tempo too whilst giving a refreshing youthful feel to this well known classic lost some of the power that this work should have.
It was apparent from the first passionately played notes of the great Busoni transcription of Bach’s Toccata,Adagio and Fugue in C major BWV 564.
Unfairly it immediately came to mind that this is a typical youthful winner on the competition circuit.
Overpowering forte opening statement came like an electric shock as it had also in certain of the Brahms Handel Variations.
Some beautiful playing in the Adagio made one realise that here was a real master.
But again it seemed as though they were fragments not entirely envisaged as a whole.
Superbly assured playing of the Fugue with some really transcendentally accomplished feats of piano playing and also wonderful layers of colour.
One just wished that it could have been envisaged more as a whole as obviously Bach and Busoni had intended.
The Brahms Handel Variations showed off some wonderful colouring and trascendental piano playing but I found that the search for something new in the repeat of every variation was rather irritating because it did not allow for the continual forward movement of the whole work to its inexorable climax and mighty fugue.
This was a young man’s Brahms lacking in the grandeur of Arrau or the introspection of a Lupu or the supreme intelligence of a Perahia .
It reminded me of the superb youthful passion of Rafael Orozco and his playing of Brahms op 5 Sonata or his prizewinning performance of the D minor Concerto.
He swept the board with his youthful passion and brilliance much as this young man obviously did 12 years ago in Leeds.
Annie Fischer who was on that second jury asked me about him when she came to Rome where he lived. She had never forgotten the excitement and the battle between him and Victoria Postnikova in Leeds.
He died much too early and is much missed.
Sunwook Kim is obviously gaining in maturity and experience and his onward musical journey is a very exciting prospect. His beautiful encore of a passionately played Intermezzo in A major was a gentle reminder of what we have in store from this young man.

                       Alessio Bax with John Leech and Noretta Conci- Leech
Alessio Bax I have  only heard in a remarkable recital on the radio recently.
I am very happy to hear him live at last.
Always a good sign when John and Noretta Conci-Leech are in the audience.
It was Alessio who the Keyboard Trust befriended and helped before going on to be recognised in Leeds.
Noretta had told me about his mentor Joaquin Achucarro ( the first person I heard play at the RFH when I was a child in Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto with Charles Mackerras ) whom he met in Siena and in 1994 transferred to Texas to study with him .

                             Alessio Bax at the Wigmore Hall
Referring again to Google I learn that Alessio was the youngest person to graduate with honours from his home Conservatory in Bari at only 14.
Studying with Angela Montemurro and later with Francois Joel Thiollier in France.
At only 19 he won the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition .
In 2000 he won the Leeds and now lives in New York with his wife Lucille Chung with whom he has a piano duo.
He also has a blog “Have piano,will travel” talking about music and food!
He is now also artistic director of Antonio Lysy’s Festival in Tonino’s grandmothers’ house in the Val D’Orcia :”In Terra di Siena”.
Dame Iris Origo writes famously about La Foce in her book “The War in Val D’Orcia.”
Tonino was a schoolboy in Rome,the son of Alberto Lysy the violinist,and we played together many times in my theatre and also in Villa Volkonsky for the newly wed Prince Charles and Diana.
Charles had been a cellist and many composers had written pieces for his studies which the enlightened arts officer of the British Council,Jack Buckley, thought would be nice to hear on that occasion!
Rehearsing in Tonino’s family home in the centre of Rome I parked my car in the drive only to find a rather irate note from Dame Iris saying my tyres would be punctured if I did that again!
I had no idea at the time that his grandmother was the woman whom I had admired from a distance for so long via her memorable books.
To find that note was indeed an honour!

                Noretta Conci-Leech and John Leech in the audience
The same beautiful playing that I had heard on the radio .
The Adagio from the Oboe Concerto by Marcello in Bach’s transcription was memorable for the beauty of the melody and the perfect sense of balance.
The outer movements had the same liquid sound and maybe in the over resonant Wigmore Hall could have had some of Sunwook Kims clean crisp clarity.
A musicianly sense of style and shape that made one understand where Busoni got his inspiration for transcriptions from .
As Katy Hamilton quotes in her excellent programme notes:” by cleansing them of the dust of tradition…attempt to make them young,the way they were at the moment when they emerged from the head and pen of the composer”.
In fact in Alessio’s hands the spirit and joie de vivre allowed this music to bubble over and was indeed an infectious opening work.

                               Alessio Bax at the Wigmore Hall
By the time of the Rachmaninov Corelli Variations Alessio had judged perfectly the complex acoustic that Pletnev describes as “playing unter ze vater”.
Again quoting Katy Hamilton who informs us that this work was not on a theme by Corelli at all but on a Portuguese dance melody known simply as La Folia .
Rachmaninov had been recording with Fritz Kreisler in 1928 Corelli’s own variations on this theme – hence the confusion.
Rachmaninov’s work is dedicated to Kreisler.
Some truly magical sounds and sense of character . A sumptuous full piano sound and a superb use of the pedals allowed us to appreciate this work put together by Rachmaninov in only three weeks whilst on holiday in France.
The simple theme returning after such transformations as if in a dream on a cloud of sound that in Alessio’s magical hands was opium for the ears.
The Quaderno musicale di Annalibera by his compatriot Luigi Dallapiccola allowed us to appreciate his enormous range of sound as he picked his way through this prickly complex score.
The Dante Sonata by Liszt was given a truly monumentally fearless performance showing off both his supreme virtuosity combined with a poetic sensitivity that made one realise why he had won the Leeds in 2000.
A Prelude for the Left Hand by Scriabin was his way of thanking the small but very appreciative audience at the Wigmore Hall this lunchtime.

Andreas Haefliger at the Wigmore Hall

Andreas Haefliger at the Wigmore Hall
On a balmy Summers evening after a visit to the new Temperate House in Kew and a guided tour of the newly housed Brentford Piano Museum.
What better way to finish the day than the “Hammerklavier” played by the distinguished German/Swiss pianist Andreas Haefliger.
Dearly missed today both Frank Holland and Sidney Harrison the founders of the original museum that was housed for many years in the leaky,cold church just down the road.
Frank lived in the presbytery – the pianos were his life. Now the church is transformed into luxury flats at astronomical prices……….
Not sure Frank would approve as he refused to have his “babies” housed under the more secure roof of the V&A as suggested by Sidney Harrison.
He did not want to be separated from them for a second.

              The mighty Wurlitzer in its new home
This remarkable collection is now securely housed in a brand new building complete with concert hall where the mighty Wurlitzer can be seen emerging from the depths with all its lights flashing as it would have done in numerous cinemas throughout the world.
On such a wonderfully warm evening it was a pleasure to prolong the day with music of Mozart and Beethoven in the warm surroundings of the Wigmore Hall.
Andreas Haefliger,son of the renowned swiss tenor Ernst Haefliger was Julliard trained and since his Wigmore Hall debut in 1993 has played throughout the world .
His renowned” Perspectives” CD series based around Beethoven is in its 7th volume.
Just a glance at the programme and one could see that we were in the presence of a real thinking musician.
Beethoven’s late sonatas op 101 and 106 introduced by Mozart Fantasia in C minor and his Adagio in B minor.
It was immediately apparent from the opening Mozart Fantasie and the Adagio in B minor that opened the second half the attention to detail and balance and a very luminous legato somewhat reminiscent of Wilhelm Kempf.
This was most apparent in the opening of the Beethoven Sonata op 101 beautifully shaped and dissolving into nothing.
The second movement march very securely played as was the Fugue from the Hammerklavier but in both cases it seemed like another pianist and seemed to exit from the fantasie world that had been created.
Almost like a Floristan and Eusebius whereas the extreme contrasts in Beethoven are one and the same person.
The Adagio of the Sonata op101 as with that of op106 extremely beautifully played with great feeling but always with a view of the great architectural line .
The opening of the Hammerklavier played with great control and clarity as with the finale of op 101 the contrasts in this case admirably held within Beethoven’s own framework.
The mighty Fugue from the Hammerklavier was a true tour de force and although feeling slightly divorced from the rest of the Sonata brought this recital to a magnificent conclusion.
Of course no encore was possible as the very appreciative Wigmore audience were fully aware.

Vitaly Pisarenko at Hatchlands

Vitaly Pisarenko at Hatchlands
Vitaly Pisarenko at Hatchlands.
A beautiful recital on a Steinway of 1864 in the truly magnificent setting of Hatchlands in East Clandon in Surrey for the Cobbe Collection Trust in collaboration with the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
The second concert for the KCT with the remarkable Mr Alec Cobbe and his collection of unique historic instruments.
A collaboration welded together by Dr Elena Vorotko Honorary Research Fellow of historic instruments at the Royal Academy and one of the artistic directors and trustees of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
After the remarkable recital by Jean Rondeau of the Goldberg Variations on an historic english harpsichord of 1787,today it was the turn of a star pianist of the Keyboard Charitable Trust,Vitaly Pisarenko.
Winner of the Liszt International Competition in Utrecht at the age of twenty and recently a top prize winner in the Leeds International Piano Competition.
He has already performed at the Wigmore Hall as KCT Prize Winner and recently gave a showcase recital in the Parliament Chamber in the prestigious Inner Temple in London. He has also performed for the KCT Rachmaninov 2nd and 3rd piano concertos in the series of Rachmaninov’s complete works for piano and orchestra for the Amici della Musica di Ancona with the Orchestra Marchigiana performing in Ancona Fabriano and the Teatro Rossini di Pesaro.
Performing today on the most modern instrument in this historic collection- A New York Steinway of 1864.
A programme similar to the recent performance in the Inner Temple but with the inclusion of Schubert Drei Klavierstucke D.946 and two Scherzi by Chopin :n.1 in B minor and n.2 in B flat minor.
It was immediately apparent that although this piano did not have the strength and brilliance of the modern day Steinway it did have a very mellow sound ideally suited to the more sublime melodic invention of which Schubert was master.
Starting with the 12 German Dances D.790 as already outlined below he included in Hatchlands the 3 Klavierstucke that can sometimes be so problematical in the concert hall.
Here the mellow piano sound in a smaller and more refined space was the ideal location for these three late pieces.
Probably a similar place where Schubert and his contemporaries were used to sharing their music in an intimate setting amongst friends.
The long songlike Allegretto that makes up the second piece in this trilogy sang in a way that is rare to find on a modern day piano.
A sound both rich and yet melodic.
Limited and delicate but at the same time a robust sound that did not allow for sentimentality such was the directness of the sound produced by this historic instrument.
Beautifully shaped where even the tempestuous middle section that is marked fortissimo with bass sforzandi was in the same sound world.
It was interesting to note that the limitations of the instrument were in fact to the advantage of the music that on modern instruments can sound too Beethovenian in the sense of symphonic instead of purely instrumental.
The sublime A flat minor episode was given a completely different meaning.
The melodic invention allowed to sing out so naturally and poignantly as never before and the passionate outbursts always interrupting in a seemingly more reserved gentlemanly way than we are normally accustomed.
No histrionics but emotions kept under perfect control.
The return of the Allegretto came like a beam of light that disintegrated before our very eyes with the final five chords played with an amazing control in an ever more expressive pianissimo.
Great rhythmic control in the opening Allegro assai contrasting with the beautiful cantabile of the middle Andante.
The pianissimo flourishes thrown off like a delicate breeze embellishing the melodic line.
Alec Cobbe was interested to know that Vitaly played the second section that Schubert had in fact crossed out in the later autograph edition.
That great Schubertian Alfred Brendel does not include it in his performances but here it was included as the simple landler of great contrast before the urgency of the final return of the Allegro assai.

Vitaly Pisarenko in discussion with Alec Cobbe
The technical challenges in the final Allegro were thrown off with great aplomb and brilliance showing that even a piano with limited sound can in the right hands achieve great rhythmic urgency.
The beautiful D flat section was allowed to pulsate with an onward momentum and sense of colour that gave great contrast to the brilliance of the great virtuosity expected in the final exciting pages.
After the interval we were introduced to the world of Chopin and Liszt.
The Ballade n.2 and the Hungarian Rhapsody n.10 displaying great feats of virtuosity.
The famous glissandi in the Rhapsody were thrown off with great charm and ease as befits this famous showpiece.
The Ballade n.2 displayed all the virtuosity that one would expect from the winner of the International Liszt Competition and although the piano did not have the reserves of sound that a modern day piano could provide it did give an overall sense of line and structure in a work that can so often sound fragmented.
The transformation of the delicate opening melody into a tumultuous passionate outpouring sounded a more natural evolution that one normally expects on the modern instrument in the hands of barn storming virtuosi.
Of course Vitaly although a remarkable virtuoso is also a remarkable musician as was no more clearly demonstrated than in the two Chopin Scherzi.
The opening declamation in the first scherzo was of the same sound as the great virtuosistic flourishes that evolve from it.
The beautiful Polish Folk Song that makes up the central section was beautifully and simply shaped and the tumultuous coda was truly breathtaking.
The opening triplet of the B flat minor Scherzo was so clear and when at the repeat it is held it became really quite startling as never before.
The great virtuoso demands were thrown off with great passion and elan and the coda was a remarkable tour de force and showed that once entering into this limited tone world a true musician and virtuoso can shape and in many ways make the musical line more apparent.
A long programme on a balmy summers evening with the smell of the lilacs wafting into the room from the magnificent surrounds of this unique stately home the residence of the remarkable Cobbe Collection housing more than 50 unique instruments.