“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.
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?
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 .
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.