Sasha Grynyuk and the Max Grunebaum Foundation,Cottbus

Sasha Grynyuk and the Grunebaum Foundation,Cottbus.

                                Sasha Grynyuk with John Leech
A very special celebration as John Leech the founder of the Keyboard Trust outlined in his welcoming speech to the Trustees of the Max Grunbaum Foundation Cottbus.
“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 in Cottbus, that you help to sustain, did to their grandfather Max Grunebaum.”

                     John Gumbel of the Max Grunebaum Foundation
Their son John Gumbel explained that the family Foundation was established with restitution funds in 1997 to celebrate and nurture young talent in both theatre and technical university by awarding annual prizes and travel bursaries to outstanding students.
Also to foster close cultural links between the City of Cottbus and the United Kingdom.

                            Sasha Grynyuk with Noretta Conci- Leech
Hence the first collective visit of the Foundation Trustees to London for a concert likewise showcasing exceptional young talent,supported and nurtured by a UK charity.
What better way to cement a consolidated friendship than with music.
And what music!
In John Gumbel’s own words: “May it herald a bright future of collaboration.

                Noretta Conci- Leech with Bryce Morrison and Lisa Peacock
A magnificent recital by an established Keyboard Trust Artist Sasha Grynyuk already winner a few years ago of the KCT Annual Prizewinner Wigmore Recital and whose mentor is the founder of the Keyboard Trust Noretta Conci-Leech
Now in her late eighties she was excited and delighted to discuss afterwards about Sasha’s artistry in the concert we had just heard.
An extraordinary sense of colour in this small hall with a magnificent but what can so often seem an overpowering Steinway “D”.
We have heard many recitals in this hall which is a true trial for the many very talented musicians who are invited to give recitals here for the KCT.
It takes a true musician who really listens intently to be able to adapt this concert instrument to such a confined space.
Not only was Sasha able to adapt but the layers of sound that he produced were quite remarkable.

                                Fervid discussions about the recital
“Layers” thats it exclaimed Noretta .
I wonder if anyone else had noticed!
We were both so excited by what we had heard that the magnificent reception offered was put to one side in an explosion of enthusiasm and of the excitement of discovery to describe something so beautiful.
We not only noticed but he held our attention playing with a clarity where every note spoke with extraordinary musicality.
Occasionally one could see in a gesture or the facial expression of the story that he was telling but in a very refined a restrained way not at all the exhibitionism that we are sometimes used to seeing on the concert platform these days.

                    Sasha with John Gumbel at the end of the recital
It was all in the music.
A very careful use of the pedal which of course Noretta Conci had passed on from her master Benedetti Michelangeli of whom she was not only a disciple but also assistant for many years.
She had just told me that the soft pedal should rarely be used in the classics and the gradations of sound should all be found by a subtle control and digital sensitivity which requires a truly virtuoso technique and it does not hurt to also have a magnificent instrument.
How many times I had queued to hear Michelangeli in London who would cancel his concerts because the piano had suffered too much humidity and would not allow him to even strive for his keyboard perfection!

Sasha Grynyuk with the distinguished authoress Claire Packenham
Sasha Grynyuk was born in Kiev and after his early studies he moved to London to study with Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall where he graduated with the prestigious Gold Medal
He has since been helped by the KCT and has gone on to win many International prizes and awards.
His CD of Gould and Gulda was chosen as record of the month by Piano News.
His recent performance of the original piano score by Shostakovich for the 1929 silent film The New Babylon by Kozintsev and Trauberg was hailed as a tour de force by the critics.
Today’s works included Bach ,Mozart,Beethoven ,Prokoviev and Gulda.
A short lunchtime programme that nevertheless showed off many of the remarkable facets of his considerable artistry.

               Sasha with Bryce Morrison and Noretta Conci -Leech
I have heard Sasha many times and much admired his Mozart K 331 at his Wigmore Prizewinners concert.
A programme that was notable for how it had been conceived as a whole.
Starting and finishing with an atmospheric piece by Arvo Part.
It was as though he was preparing the listener and trying to draw them into his own very particular sound world.
I was even on stage with him for the marathon Shostakovich but nothing had prepared me for the musical and technical perfection that was in store today.
The same framework though this time of Bach.
Starting and ending with two very evocative transcriptions .
Not the usual bombastic ones we are used to hearing in the concert hall but a very subtle Siciliano from a flute sonata transcribed by that other pianistic magician/musician Wilhelm Kempff.
Finishing his programme with the magical Prelude in B minor in the transcription by Alexander Siloti that framed so perfectly the whole picture on display.
From the very outset the liquidity of the melody in the Siciliano was complimented by a very subtle staccato accompaniment and also very deep bass notes that gave a sumptuousness that Bach could only have imagined .
It was Idil Biret,a student of Kempff that used to play it as an encore for us on her many visits to Rome.
My wife remembered it and incorporated it into her performance in the last heartrending moments of “Whose afraid of Virginia Wolff”.
Idil never knew this as my wife died shortly after and when I told her recently at a recital in London for the Chopin Society she played it as an encore in memory of a dear friend. We were both in tears …only we knew why!
Both the Mozart little D major Sonata K331 and Beethoven’s unjustly neglected partner to the so called “Moonlight” Sonata from op 27,were played with exemplary intelligence and respect for the score.
A true sense of layers of colours and sounds joined inexorably together.
Sudden pianos and legato and staccato phrasing interpreted as he brought exactly what he saw in the score to vivid life.
Truly recreating these works as is rarely heard these days in our thirst to either ignore completely what the composer wrote in the style of the so called “Golden Age” of piano playing or to reproduce dryly without imagination or colour.
To interpret exactly the intentions of what the composer wrote and bring the notes to life is the realm of a true artist of the calibre of Annie Fischer,Artur Schnabel ,Murray Perahia or Krystian Zimmerman .
The sense of balance too was notable and gave a wonderful singing sound to the Andante con espressione of Mozart and the Adagio con espressione of Beethoven.
Some things had me searching in the score afterwards to see if the sometimes revolutionary phrasing was actually there.
For example in the Allegro molto e vivace of the Beethoven.
Rarely have I heard the phrasing in three so tellingly interpreted.
Or Beethoven’s pianissimo indications in the first movement especially in the coda.
The sudden piano after the forte outbursts was especially surprising.
This precise attention to the minutest detail allowed us to appreciate the layers of sound almost as if for the first time.
A magical orchestra in the hands of a Kleiber.

                   John Leech ,Sasha Grynyuk and German colleague
Six of the Visions Fugitives by Prokofiev ,not quite the ones that Rubinstein plays from Carnegie Hall where each one as today was made to speak and shine like the true gems they are.
The 3rd and 11th deliciously playful with just that sense of charm that even Prokofiev was capable of once all the barnstorming virtuosity was out of the way.
Could n.11 have been ever more ridiculous – ridicolosamente the composer truly asks for?
The beautiful sense of line and cantabile of n.8 was contrasted with the full blooded Dolente of n.16.
So much pedal and played with a really heavy legato touch brought the pathos of this remarkable piece to life as I have never before been aware.
Choosing the same final as Rubinstein n.14 played with all the ferocity and rhythmic energy of that young man that Rubinstein always was.
Leading without a break into the jazz idioms of Friedrich Gulda.
Played with all that nonchalant charm and chameleon type rubber rubato that is so much part of this idiom .
I well remember the last recital of Friedrich Gulda in my theatre.
A Mozart recital announced that in fact was a rock show with Mozart personified in a wig and playing a synthesizer.
Not much Mozart but when all the public had left in dismay he sat down and played one of his Play piano so beautifully I just wished he had done that earlier.
He left way after midnight and I took him to the Alexanderplatz jazz club where he stayed all night.
A remarkable man whose only student was Martha Argerich both known not only as the greatest of pianists but also two of the most individual and seemingly capricious people that refuse to be labelled and marketed.
Much to talk about then with our distinguished guests over the canapes and drinks that were offered to celebrate this collaboration.
Bryce Morrison and Lisa Peacock two beacons on the London concert scene were celebrating with us together with the founders of the Keyboard Charitable Trust and our German friends of the Grunebaum Foundation.

        Elena Vorotko one of the artistic directors and trustee of the KCT
But the real celebration had been the hour of music to which we had all been treated to .…/the-keyboard-charitable-trust/


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