Here in the beautiful Villa Wolkonsky in Rome music is resounding again thanks to enlightened insistence since 2016 of the Ambassador Jill Morris.
Guided by Sir Norman Rosenthal,known for the help he gives to young talented musicians to establish themselves and take their rightful place in the profession.
For many years his concerts in Valerie Soltis house in London have been followed with great enthusiasm by fellow music lovers.
It is many a year since I was invited to play here for the honeymoon concert of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Invited by the Arts Officer of the British Council,Jack Buckley, and Lady Susanna Walton to give a gala concert for them with Antonio Lysy which would include the short pieces written especially for Prince Charles when he was learning the cello.
Little did I know until today from Chiyan Wong about the provenence of the Bechstein grand that stands so proudly in the sumptuous ballroom of this Villa ,in it’s own park just a stones throw from the Basilica of S.Giovanni in the centre of Rome.
A Villa that had seen some terrible scenes when it had been occupied by the Nazi’s during the second world war.
It was fitting that Antonio Lysy should have have been invited by Lord Bridges (grandson of the poet Robert Bridges) the then Ambassador , to give a recital there to exorcise these terrible ghosts.
Antonio, the son of Benedetta Origo and Alberto Lysy ,a disciple of Menuhin and founder of the Academy in Gstadt ,his grandmother was Dame Iris Origo whose heroic story is so beautifully described in The War in Val D’Orcia .A famous book ,that has just been reprinted, by this remarkable lady who befriended so many people fleeing the tyrany that was imposed on them by the Fascist regime.
Antonio’s annual festival in Val D’Orcia- In Terra di Siena – is a just tribute to a great lady who will never be forgotten.
Music,after all,arrives where words are just not enough.
Such is the searching mind of Chiyan Wong that having only arrived the evening before the concert he had already found out about the piano from Gregor Willmes at Bechsteins .
It had been delivered to Robert von Mendelssohn at the Jagerstrasse in Berlin in 1905.
A banker member of the famous Mendelssohn family who married in 1898 the pianist daughter of the Italian painter Michele Gordigiani,Giulietta.
I am sure that even more news will shortly be forthcoming from this insatiably inquisitive young man.
“Beyond the dazzling technical polish he brings to these fiendishly challenging pieces,most striking is Wong’s sincerity of purpose” Gramophone Magazine 2017 greeting his CD dedicated to Liszt
“Jaw dropping and spine-tingling pianistic mayem.This is how legends are made”The Straits Times
In discussion after a superb recital in which many things took me by surprise,he confided that he despises the mundane, for music is a supernatural language .
His training from an early age from Norma Fisher has ensured his musical integrity to the full but it has not stopped that mind from delving where many fear to tread.
In fact it is no surprise to find that the two composers with whom he feels a close affinity are Franz Liszt and Ferruccio Busoni both of whom had a searching original mind foreseeing the many new directions that music was to take .
The programme opened with Bach Goldberg Variations BWV 988 in the Busoni edition and with a coda by Chiyan Wong after the Busoni edition!
I had heard this before last December in London and enclose my thoughts .
It was interesting to learn from Chiyan :”Goldbergs in Bach’s original and also the Busoni version have one problem that a lot of great plays have- the first half is really clear and driven,and once the line is established,the scene changes and ideas thrown about are sometimes so eccentric!Like Goethe’s Faust and then Strindberg’s Dream Play or Ghost Sonata(August Strindberg,who created plays inspired by the form of musical composition)”
In fact it is exactly in the second half that the Busoni version for me becomes overgrown and pompous as only Busoni knew how.
Wheras Bach maintains the utmost retraint allowing the music to speak for itself without having to resort to rhetoric or pianistic gimmicks .
I had, by the way, produced A Dolls House by Ibsen in Rome exactly 100 years since it was written in Rome in 1979 .
We played to sold out houses just a stones throw from Villa Wolkonsky at the Colloseum with my wife Ileana Ghione as Nora.
It is the exact opposite to Chiyan’s idea expressed above .
The actual setting up of the drama can be a little slow but the denoument comes in such a direct and revolutionary way that the audience are kept spellbound and astonished to the end.
The other three works on the programme ( that will be repeated in London on Thursday the 4th October) were by Busoni,Ades and Liszt.
The Busoni Second Sonatina BV 259 was followed by Thomas Ades variations on a traditional song “Lavaba la blanca nina” from his opera that Sir Norman told us afterwards he had seen twice “Exterminating Angel” in London and also in New York which it took by storm.
It was amazing how similar the two music worlds were.
Busoni and Ades with more than a century apart seemed to be speaking the same language.
Both were of course superb pianists as well as composers and the supreme colours that Chiyan found spread over the full length of the keyboard were indeed a marvel especially coming after the Goldberg variations.
They opened the way for Liszt’s “Dante “ Sonata (after the poem by Victor Hugo) “Apres une lecture du Dante”.
It was in Chiyan’s own words a Cinematic spectacle in sound .
A superb performance ,very individual but totally convincing .
He launched into the opening octaves with two hands explaining afterwards that it was to bring more colour to each of the notes .
”Can’t you just hear the horns and the strings” what could I say in front of such intelligent enthusiasm except of course he is right.
An extraordinary recital from and extraordinarily original thinking musician.
If anyone is in London next week I would rush to hear this recital at Barnes Music Society on Thursday 4th October at 19.30.
Much looking forward to Sir Norman’s future discoveries in Rome and in London .
In the historic hall of the Academy of S.Cecilia in Via dei Greci ,invited by the director M°Roberto Giuliani, the 13th edition of the Prize took place Saturday in memory of Sergio Cafaro.
His wife Anna Maria Martinelli Cafaro has offered since 2005 scholarships to particularly talented young artists at the beginning of their careers via the Associazione Il Ventaglio represented by Tiziana Cosentino
This year there was a special prize for the interpretation of works by Schumann and Schubert,composers that were particularly close to Sergio Cafaro It was offered by the past students from the renowned School of Piano of Sergio and Anna Maria Cafaro.
The president of the jury was Pieralberto Biondi for many years promoter of a series of concerts in Rome in the Ghione Theatre and himself a very fine pianist, teacher and highly esteemed jury member.
Laura Manzini,one of Sergios pupils of whom he was very proud for her musical prowess and refined piano playing which she had just been demonstrating a few days before in Bucharest in a duo concert with Salvatore Accardo as part of the Enescu Festival
Luisa Prayer another of Sergio’s favourite students and now Artistic Director of the Orchestra in Aquila where her programmes show off all her great musicianship as organiser and performer.
The other two members of the jury were Roberto Giuliani ,director of S.Cecilia and Stella Quadrini substituting for AnnaMaria Martinelli.
A special prize of concerts for AGIMUS in Rome and for Prof Franco Carlo Ricci’s prestigious series at the Tuscia University in Viterbo.
Both Prof Ricci and the violinist Rodolfo Bonucci were also part of the special Schumann/Schubert jury this year .
In all three winners the thing that was most noticeable was the musicianship as well as the remarkable technical accomplishment of the competitors.
A beauty of sound and superb sense of balance that allowed the very fine Steinway concert grand to show off the artistry of all three finalists.
Gaia Sokoli ,third prize winner was also winner of this years special Schubert and Schumann award.
Her Scarlatti Sonata K13 showing off her refined rhythmic control and sense colour which was even more apparent in a magical account of Liszt’s La Leggerezza.
”Leggerezza” indeed was the word that springs to mind in a very refined musical palate shaped with astonishing control and sense of bravura always with the musical shape and style to the fore.
Pasquale Evangelista,who won second prize, gave a very fine performance of the Concerto sans Orchestra which is the 3rd Sonata op 14 by Schumann.
A very difficult work to hold together due to the rather capricious nature of Schumann’s fantasy.
The famous Clara Wieck variations that make up the second movement were superbly shaped .
The first movement though could have been more rhythmically tightly held together .
Nevertheless it was played with great romantic fervour which could be even more engaging if he allowed himself more flexibility in his physical movements.
The last movement although marked Prestissimo possible could also have been even more carefully articulated.
Nevertheless it was a very successful performance of one of Schumann’s most problematic works.
The first prize went to a very fine Korean pianist Boosung Lee who played two works by Rachmaninoff.The Etude Tableaux op 39 n.1 and the original version of the Sonata n.2 in B flat minor op 36.
Some very fine playing indeed from a student of an old friend M°Micheletti from his own concerts at the Ghione quite rightly proud to pass on his remarkable skill to this beautiful young Korean pianist.
Some ravishing sounds from the piano that could now have more inner rhythmic energy in the slow lanquid sections.
The faster virtuoso passages were played brilliantly .
It was nice to see Paolo Fazioli in the front row listening to a Steinway concert grand!
His own superb pianos are to be found in most major concert halls all over the world with artists such as Angela Hewitt insisting on playing a Fazioli whenever possible.
Prof Ricci was happy to tell me that Anna Maria in desperation had told Paolo that he would never become a pianist and why did he not do something else like making them instead of breaking them!
He was there out of the esteem and thanks that he has for the “Cafaros”.
It was so nice to be back in this historic hall where as a student I had heard for the first time some of the greatest artists of our age.
I remember sitting on the stage behind Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in one of her inimitable lieder evenings.
Of Pina Carmirelli playing the three Brahms Sonatas with a last minute substitute of her regular partner Rudolf Serkin,the young Murray Perahia.
The last time I heard Aldo Ciccolini was in this hall in a concert that he gave to thank the family Napolitano that had looked after him so well after a long illness in Naples .
Many old friends and distinguished musicians present to celebrate Sergio Cafaro and to demonstrate with what esteem he was held by his colleagues.
From Luciano Cerroni and his wife Patrizia,Fausto Di Cesare as well as Laura Manzini,Luisa Prayer and many others.
Roberto Prosseda and Alessandra Ammara were in a sense present too as it was one of their pupils that took one of the major prizes .
Of course the shadows of Lya De Barberiis,Guido Agosti,Carlo Zecchi,Franco Manino,Franco Ferrara,Anna Rosa Tadei,Fausto Zadra ,Licia Mancini,Marisa Candeloro,Gabriella Galli Angelini and of course our beloved Sergio Cafaro
Nice to see Sergio Perticaroli’s star pupil Carlo Guaitoli and to hear news of this other great musician whose life so sadly has been held together by a string for so long.
Sergio who used to live near the theatre near S Peters Square that had become a mecca for musicians that just needed a space where they could share their music with others.
Sergio often used to pass by to discuss his future programmes or to tell me about particularly talented students that he and his wife had befriended.
Sergio was the most eclectic of men and one day he came with a painting that he wanted me to have that he had painted,inspired by Debussy’s Cathedrale Engloutie
Sergio was tall and thin and quite distracted and lived in his own extraordinary world of art and culture and of course his hobby of collecting insects!
He was a remarkable musician who accompanied artists of the calibre of Nathan Milstein .
He was also the most amazing improviser who could play any piece you cared to name in any style!
He was of course a very remarkable pianist and I still remember very vividly the clarity and sound of his left hand in Beethoven’s little Sonata op 79 in his very last concert for us .
Roberto Prosseda and Francesco Libetta gave a duo concert for his birthday in the Ghione theatre bringing the house down with Sergios own extraordinary pot pourri of melodies .
It is refreshing to see that the values that Sergio and Anna Maria have shared with their numerous students live on and will do so for a long time to come .
It was in 1972 whilst a student of Guido Agosti in Rome that I ventured into this historic Oratorio of 1544 to hear a performance of the Diabelli Variations for the Coro Polifonico Romano by William Grant Nabore .
It was introduced by that great character and founder Gastone Tosato.
A very fine performance I remember from Nabore a student of Carlo Zecchi.
Now returning forty years later to hear Marcos Madrigal a remarkable Cuban pianist student of Nabore at the International Piano Academy in Como that he founded with Martha Argerich many years ago and that has been ever since an oasis for many great pianists.
Tureck,Pressler,Fleischer,Fou Ts’ong,Alicia De larrocha,Moura Lympany,Karl Schnabel,Frankl,Perahia,Bashkirov are just a few of the great pianists that have been to the Academy to share their knowledge and experience with some of the finest young aspiring pianists of our day.
Just in the past two weeks there has been a festival in Como for some of the more recent students that have benefited from all that the Academy has offered:Dmitry Masleev,Alessandro Deljavan,Chi Ho Han,Francois Dumont,Ran Jia,Kostantin Lifschitz and last monday Marcos Madrigal.
A semi private concert at Gonfalone for the opening of the Rotary Club in Rome which was opened by Prof Iacobelli describing some of the amazing frescos which cover the walls of this historic hall.
Starting with the Sonata op 69 by Beethoven.
The first sonata in which cello and piano have equal importance
If the great cello solo opening could have had more weight it was the piano that immediately caught our attention with the opening flourish so beautifully shaped by Marcos.
In fact it was the great temperament of Marcos Madrigal that brought this sonata to life.
Some very refined musicianly cello playing that came to life only in the more energetic moments as the slower more melodic lines could have been projected with more authority.
Authority there certainly was from Marcos and the sheer beauty of the sound and sense of balance between the hands was quite sublime.
The interplay between cello and piano was finely managed by both players in a performance between real musicians .
The Scherzo could have had more rhythmic energy to contrast with the beautiful slow introduction to the ebuliant last movement.
The three Fantasiestucke by Schumann were played with great romantic fervour.
The first one perhaps rather too much rubato from the opening cello phrase for my taste but the interplay between the instruments was absolutely perfect with Marcos following every inflection of his partner.
The cat like glance ready to pounce the moment the cello touched the strings in the last piece gave great impetus to the music that had been lacking from the cello in the Beethoven.
Some very refined playing and great sense of colour from the cello in Casella’s Nocturne and the Tarantella was thrown off with all the ease that I remember from Andre Navarra many years ago.
Now both players were completely warmed up as was the audience on this very balmy september evening in Rome.
We were treated to a virtuoso account of Castelnuovo- Tedesco’s devilish Rhapsody on Mozart’s Figaro.
Some truly remarkable ensemble playing of great virtuosity and charm .
Suddenly we were treated to the atmosphere of sheer joie de vivre that had been missing Both audience and players were united in a great performance that brought the house down.
Or almost because first there were the two thank you speeches from the charming Rotary Presidents who had hosted this feast of music
Luckily there was still time for two extraordinary encores.
Summertime played with all the sleazy flexibility of two artists now completely at their ease .
A tango by Piazzola was the only way to finish such a feast of music .
Of course Marcos on home territory relishing every minute of the driving rhythms that had the cello now totally involved too.
The Cuban sunshine had spread its rays on a cellist that had seemed at first to be a refined musician rather than a showman in the mold of Rostropovich – more a Fournier than a Tortelier .
The stars were shining brightly yesterday for the opening of Hugh Mather’s new season at St Mary’s Perivale.
A true mecca for some of the most talented young pianists wishing to enter the musical scene in London.
A programme announced of some 42 pianists together with its nearby sister St Barnabas that this dedicated musician, a retired physician, is helping to bring generations of amazingly talented young musicians to a discerning and deserving public.
In a beautiful 12th century redundant church that since 1976 has become a flourishing centre for classical music.
With his faithful helpers including Roger Nellist and a superb piano technician nephew of the renowned singer Richard Lewis each concert is professionally video recorded live on the fine Yamaha and Bosendorfer pianos that live in St Mary’s and St Barnabas .
It has become an invaluable stepping stone for a generation of musicians seeking to make their way in a very difficult often overcrowded profession in which the very first steps are the most difficult to make.
And so it did not come as a surprise to find a new name amongst the pianists: that of the young Israeli pianist Ariel Lanyi.
Still only 21 and in the final year of his “Masters” at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Already a seasoned performer since his debut with orchestra at the age of 7 .He has played with many orchestras including the Israel Symphony and the City of Birmingham .He was awarded last year first prize at the prestigious Dudley International Piano Competition.
Glancing at a programme of Schubert and Beethoven it was obvious that we were in the hands of a true musician and I later learnt that he had been working in London with Hamish Milne and for the past few years with Ian Fountain both renowned for their remarkable intelligent musicianship.
I had just been to Highgate Cemetery to visit the grave of the leggendary pianist Shura Cherkassky who had played for us in Rome over a period of almost ten years.
Talking about young pianist he often used to say that he did not think they listened enough to themselves !
Well it came as a refreshing change to hear a pianist such as Ariel Lanyi who not only listened to himself but could make the piano speak in a way that is very rare indeed these days .
Tobias Matthay imparted to his students the way to listen to every note and to find the minutest gradations of tone as though there was a word on every note that had to tell a story.
And what a story in the hands of Dame Myra Hess and Dame Moura Lympany
.Leschetizky too stressed the same to wonderful effect with Moiseiwitsch ,Schnabel and Katherine Goodson the teacher of Clifford Curzon that true poet of the piano.
There were indeed ravishing sounds today but with an intelligence and searching musicality that is of the chosen few.
It was refreshing to see the way he caressed the keys with fingers like steel but wrists like rubber .
I have only recently noticed that in a young pianist with André Gallo.
It was the same touch that was noticeable in Rosalyn Tureck who brought to the piano an ultra sensitivity of touch that allowed for the minutest gradations of tone without for a second loosing the rhythmic energy that comes from within the music itself.
The song and the dance is that not the very basis for music ?
These days we have marvellous resiliant intruments that can take the treatment dished out by many so called virtuosi .
Acoustically assisted sound in halls seating thousands means that the secret of real projection is of no importance.
The Rubinsteins,Rachmaninovs,Hoffmans had learnt the secret of projecting their magic sound to the “ Gods” .
It was the art of every great artist to take the time and with a subtle sense of balance project their sound into the great opera houses and halls to their adoring public .
There were no microphones to help, just two hands and two feet on an instrument that was still being perfected.
“Tricks of the trade” my old “piano daddy” Sidney Harrison used to call it
I was shown around the opera house in Venice- La Fenice and it was explained to me that under the orchestral pit there were one and a half meters of glass because the old master builders knew that it was glass that reflected the sound.
No pressing of buttons but it was the true art of a great artist.
Like an actor that has trained the diaphram to produce and modulate the voice – JohnGuilgood, Lawrence Olivier,Dame Edith Evans spring to mind .
I doubt that many of todays actors know what a diaphram is but they do know at what level their microphones should be tuned!
All this springs to mind when you hear someone that can play Schubert’s six Moments Musicaux and Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata in a way that can grip your attention from the first to the last note
I was sorry to have missed the first two Moments Musicaux but on arriving late from Highgate I was able to hear the Allegro moderato in F minor played with a subtle sense of colour ,not quite the charm that Curzon used to find but a very delicate palate that led to the almost Bachian meanderings of the C sharp minor .
Beautifully modulated and shaped .The middle section played in a way that made me want to rush home and look at the score as I often do after a recital by Murray Perahia the most discerning of todays pianists .
The Allegro vivace contrasted well with the supreme delicacy of the beautiful Allegretto in A flat.
Time taken inbetween each of the moments as though he were cleaning the slate and preparing the canvas for another wonderful discovery .
I found the Allegretto of the Tempest Sonata a little too fast and Ariel was ready to explain the reason for his tempo.As it is the only movement in 3/8 and so there should always be this forward movement .Infact he played much of this movement with the Beethovenian vehemance that was missing in the first movement that was a little too much like op 110 missing the Sturm und Drang of the master in this period of his life.
Ariel played it really quite magnificently and if I disagree with certain details it is with an intelligent thinking musician who cares desperately about the music and bringing the printed notes alive .
Not to insist but Allegretto for me in this period of Beethoven’s life means something more pastoral and it is in fact op 31 that follows on from op 28 the so called Pastoral Sonata.
I have never heard the ending of the first movement played so beautifully but felt he could have dug deeper into the string in the deep bass notes marked forte or fortissimo that are answered by the beseeching treble marked piano.
Beethoven’s revolutionary pedal markings were beautifully realised by someone who was listening so intently to every sound produced .
There were so many remarkable things to admire in the slow movement but above all his sense of orchestration that produced a kaleidoscope of colours that was quite hypnotic.
The little Rondo in D by Mozart was played with an irresistible charm and a very subtle sense of ornamentation that shows a quite unique sense of style and musicianship.
Much in common with Francesco Piemontesi who is indeed fast becoming an established star .
I was not surprised to see Lisa Peacock in the audience a concert manager with an infallible ear who had obviously heard about this rising young star that our Hugh had invited to open his season.
Luke Jones on Friday at St Barnabas who I had heard play in Manchester recently a Brahms Paganini of such beauty that the transcendental hurdles that he surmounted did not even enter into the discussion .
A remarkable recital today in preparation for one of the greatest “circuses” on earth.
For Anna was one of the 24 selected from hundreds auditioned worldwide to compete in the Leeds International Piano Competition .
You can hear her live on the LPC website streaming on Friday at 19.40 .
Some very musicianly playing and her Prokofiev 8th Sonata is even more remarkable a year on from the Busoni competition where she was voted the best player by the renowned
Quartetto di Cremona with whom she played the Schumann Quintet.
Lovely to know that a recital she gave recently in the Busoni Festival in Bolzano she dedicated to one of her colleagues in last years’ Busoni competition : the young Korean pianist EunSeong Kim who died recently in a tragic swimming accident .
A life full of promise so cruelly cut short.
All best wishes to Anna for the success that she truly deserves to find in Leeds .
Upstaged by Yanky Doodle Yuja Wang and the Berlin Philharmonic
Yuja Wang and the Berlin Philharmonic under Kirill Petrenko
Probably sounded wonderful on the radio but even getting as close as I could to the piano much was inaudible.
Actors used to have a diaphram that allowed them to project their voice to the first as to the last seats .
Great pianists of the past such as Rubinstein and Rachmaninov knew the secret ….the tricks of the trade Sidney Harrison used to call it.
The Torteliers called it “peso” or weight.
Richter rather condescendingly referred to it as the good old concert cantabile in the same rather impish way he referred to Moura Lympany.
Pity Uncle Tobbs is no longer around to show us what a true cantabile can be as in the hands of the two Dames: Myra and Moura who learnt from a master.
Such a pity as Yuja Wang in the loud parts and in the occasional exquisite sounds that wafted my way showed the great artist she undoubtedy is.
In the Rachmaninov op 23 n.5 encore,the beautiful middle section was inexistent.
The encore though of Mozart goes to town was unique. Not even Volodos or Hammelin could do that.
Horowitz certainly could and it was infact Yujas Yanky Doodle that brought the house down
The Berlin Phil could have stayed at home.
Ashamed to say I skipped the Schmidt I had been standing too long and hearing about the knotty twine in the pre concert talk I decided to drag another fine pianist Ilya Kondratiev down to the Imperial College pub.
Thought I might have found Yuja there but expect she was surrounded by her fans like the true entertainer she can be.
I bet the only thing on people’s lips after that was Yuja’ s party piece.
Upstaged by Yank Doodle
I don’t think that Karajan would have stood for that but then I doubt he would have offered a programme of Dukas and Schmidt with his band.
New brooms and all that ….look forward to Strauss and Brahms tonight though.
Each Prelude beautifully shaped from the calm of the opening that although marked agitato unfolds on its own if allowed to.
The second Lento could have been even more sombre although played with a beautiful sense of balance.
The famous fourth prelude in E minor was played with a grace and shape and very telling phrasing.
The E major n.9 could have been even more simply played as the left hand accompaniment seemed too important and unsteady for the supreme simplicity of the melodic line .
Some slight strain in the more strenuous Preludes as in number 13 in F sharp due to her small hands was beautifully concealed by her real understanding and musicianship.
The raindrop prelude was played with a beautiful lyrical legato and the tempestuous middle section never allowed to overwhelm the calm and beauty of this remarkable prelude.
The B flat minor got spontaneous applause from an audience totally overwhelmed by this sudden explosion of virtuosity from someone so delicate looking Not quite as tempestuous as Martha Argerich but in the context of her interpretation it had no lesser effect.
If the E flat minor showed some sign of strain due to the enormous leaps that Chopin demands in a melodic line almost Alkan like in difficulty the C minor was played with all the nobility that it demands.
The great bells in the left hand in n.17 in A flat could have been even more telling to allow the Debussy like apparition from afar to be even more apparent.
A beautiful cantabile in the B flat major n.21 where the melodic line was allowed to sing almost at the cost of ignoring the extraordinary harmonies in the left.
The great octave Prelude and the final Allegro appassionato were played with great fire and command and the little F major in between was played with a touching sense of colour .
A very fine performance that was played and shaped with great beauty and delicacy in fact as she appears in life.
Sincere compliments from Bryce Morrison the renowned expert on pianos and pianists who complimented her on a highly enjoyable and successful performance.
Beauty ,delicacy and the intelligence from the school of Gordon Green via his renowned disciple Christopher Elton.
Now the search for the elusive simplicity and nobilty that were very much of Rubinstein .