Andre Gallo and Gala Chistiakova with the Manchester Camerata

Up Close:The Next Generation Andre Gallo and Gala Chistiakova in Carnival Mood
Greeted on the way to the train by this publicity for Manchester.
Could not be more spot on.
Sharpish indeed as the pianists from Keyboard Charitable Trust have been experiencing over the past few years in an enlightened collaboration with the Manchester Camera– Britains most exciting chamber orchestra.
The brain child of Geoffrey Shindler who wanted the young musicians from the Keyboard Trust to experience making music with “his” orchestra in his beloved Manchester.
And what an vibrant place Manchester is with exciting new venues opening all over the city to share music with audiences that until now had not known what they were missing.
In fact bringing them “Up Close”
It was only fitting that Alexander Ullman, a star shining brightly thanks also to the KCT , should open the series in the award winning Whitworth Art Gallery.
He was followed by other stars :
Emanuel Rimoldi in “Home” a community arts centre where once stood a leather factory.
A very teasing title for Valentine day of “Camerata in Love” with Ilya Kondratiev.
Mark Viner performed unknown works by Alkan in the Anthony Burgess Foundation that was once a rubber factory
Vitaly Pisarenko brought Beethoven and Bartok to a Hungarian Fest in Albert Square where once stood the famous Freemasons Hall in the heart of the city.
And now an Aquatic Carnival in the magnificent new Stoller Hall that is part of Chethams School of Music just opposite the Cathedral.
Two stars shining brightly here too.
André Gallo from the south of Italy where he astonished audiences at the age of nine in S.Carlo Opera House in Naples performing the 24 Chopin Studies .
Lazar Berman took him under his wing and had a lasting concern for him in the Piano Academy in Imola where after his death Franco Scala took over his musical education .

Andre Gallo                              Gala Chistiakova                 Vitaly Pisarenko
Now at 29 he is astonishing audiences with his supremely natural musical gifts.
No less remarkable Gala Chistiakova performing both the Chopin Concertos in Moscow when only 12.
Now established in Grossetto where she has a music festival with her husband Diego Benocci that is bringing remarkable young talents from specialist schools in Russia including the renowned Gnessin School to Italy in an exchange programme that allows hundreds of children to feast on the culture that is Italy, “The Museum of the World” ,to use Rostpropovich’s own words.
Gala is also mother to fourteen month old Leonardo,of whom Vitaly Pisarenko is the godfather.
She had taken time off to perform in this remarkable series but had to get a very early flight back to her family the next day.
Vitaly had come up especially from London after a month long concert tour of South Africa.

Carnival of the Animals the final work on the programme with the complete ensemble
A real party atmosphere was created with ten members of the Camerata together with the two pianists enjoying every minute of the work that Saint Saens had momentarily put aside his third symphony for .
He had such fun writing this Aquatic Carnival for Shrove Tuesday in 1886 but did not allow it to be published in his lifetime as he thought it would detract from his image as a “serious composer”!
The second performance in the same year was in the presence of Franz Liszt at the house of Pauline Viardot.
It was in fact published only after the composers death in December 1921 except for the beautiful Swan for cello that Saint Saens allowed to be published in 1887.

The video especially created by a special programme for children, called Carnage of the Animals
It certainly gives every player a chance to shine and in the hands of the Camerata it also gave the chance to autistic children to create a video especially for the rousing final.
Bringing music to the people and people to the music indeed.
Up Close indeed giving children with difficulties a chance to participate and express themselves artistically.
Each of the artists was allowed to shine in their own particular way as explained in the very amusing introduction by Janet Fulton,our amazing and unexpected percussionist.

                                       Janet Fulton with Andre Gallo
What fun everyone had .
Not only the performers but also the audience that were captivated by the menagerie that was paraded before them.
From the Lions roaring,the Hens and Roosters crowing even the Tortoises dancing the Can Can.
But what virtuosity from these superb players only a few days from returning from an exhausting five concert tour of China.
The elephant of Daniel Storer on the double bass .
The beautiful playing of Amina Cunningham creating a magical aquarium on her incredible flute.

                                          The magic flute of Amina Cunningham
Of course the characters with long ears were so hilariously depicted by the violin director Adi Brett with Katie Stillman.
Daniel Bayley’s cuckoo in the depth of the woods with his C and A flat call on the clarinet .Our two virtuosi pianists fooling around with scales and exercises .
Janet Fulton’s Fossils evoking images of skeletons playing card games on her xylophone

                            Janet Fulton introducing their Carnival
One could not forget the magical swan of Hannah Roberts with the etherial accompaniment from Andre and Gala.
Leading to the finale in which everyone could make their own inimitable comment
.Ending with the “Hee Haws” of the donkeys as if to say the donkey has the last laugh
The concert had begun with just two pianos .
Two wonderful Steinway “D” ‘s .
One at home and the other on loan from the Halle’s Bridgewater Hall ,yet another wonderful venue that this extraordinary city can proudly boast.

Andre Gallo and Gala Chistiakova in Mozart Sonata K448 that opened the concert
As Geoffrey Shindler proudly exclaimed a sublime Mozart played with such finesse and purity of sound .
Perfect ensemble from our two pianists,who truly played as one.
The beauty of sound in the slow movement where time seemed to stand still.
The last movement bubbling over with that innocent charm that is so much part of Mozart’s genius.
The opening Allegro con spirito that grew in spirito as they warmed to the sheer joy of playing this masterpiece to such an attentive audience.
The sense of balance and give and take between the two pianists was infact remarkable
They played as one .No greater compliment is possible.
A rarity too was included in the programme.
That of Schumann’s Andante and Variations in B flat in the original version WoO10 for two pianos,two cellos and horn.
Written in 1843 but on Mendelssohn’s suggestion he published it as op 46 for just two pianos.Omitting two variations as well as the introduction and interlude.

Emma Wigley,the magician behind the scenes with the Camerata
Brahms ,on the other hand recognised the value of the original and premiered it with Clara Schumann in 1868.
Playing of great delicacy but also of great virtuosity from our two pianists with the cello of Hannah Roberts together with that of Chris Murray from the Heath Quartet and with the horn of Naomi Atherton adding that sheen to the most romantic of works
After a tiring tour of China what better way to celebrate than the opening of a celebratory bottle or two by Bob Riley the manager of the Camerata and James Thomas head of artistic development and programming.

              Bob Riley letting his hair down with his orchestra
I am sure that there are many more surprises in store for these young musicians with the Manchester Camerata – “the supreme experimental orchestra “.

                                Gala Chistiakova with James Thomas

     A celebratory “selfie” of the “gang” from the Keyboard Trust  after such an                                                            exhilarating evening

                                     Andre Gallo in rehearsal

               Gala Chistiakova enjoying every minute of the rehearsal

Llyr Williams opens the 30 Anniversary International Piano Series

Llyr Williams at QEH London
The welsh pianist Llyr Williams opened the International Piano Series at the recently re opened Queen Elisabeth Hall on the South Bank in London .
A musician’s programme of Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms as befits a former BBC New Generation artist and a recipient of the Borlotti- Buitoni award.
I was very pleased to be able to listen live to this pianist who has been performing all the Beethoven Sonatas in a series at the Wigmore Hall.
Unfortunately there is not much information about his formation in the programme or about any of the other artists in the series .
As is the norm these days which seems to be more about recent events than the actual birth and nurturing of the talent that has brought them to the fore !
Marketing it is called !
(Thanks to Google I learn that he had an early taste for opera and a love for Wagner at the age of ten.He got a first class degree from Oxford Queen’s College at 22 and did postgraduate work at the RAM with Michael Dussek,Julius Drake,Hamish Milne and Irina Zaritskaya)
However Linn Rothstein who had invited me had told me that he studied at the Royal Academy in London and studied to be an accompanist .This was with only the programme information (cost 4 pounds) before referring to the “master” Google
Unable to ascertain for certain but as music speaks louder than words it seemed obviously the case as exemplified by the wondrous sounds and extraordinary sense of balance which was combined to a musicality that left no doubt as to his intentions.
Let us not forget the great singing tradition in Wales .
Adelina Patti had a castle there and Dame Gwyneth Jones and Margaret Price wanted to turn it into a National Singing Academy.
Something that Dame Gwyneth learnt when singing in our theatre in Rome that the Arts Council had turned the idea down.
I remember the coaching from John Streets sharing lessons with Graham Johnson and being overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of sound that was possible from the piano to he who listens!
In fact if I had to say who can make the piano sing today more than any other I would not hesitate in saying Graham Johnson and Menahem Pressler.
I often say to young pianists go and listen to Graham and learn how to make the piano sing!
It was even more evident in the single encore offered of the Schubert G flat Impromptu after a long and musically difficult programme .
The magical way in which he could make the melody sing out over a gently murmuring accompaniment reminded me of Gerald Moore playing An Di Musik at his farewell concert.
With Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,Victoria de los Angeles and Dietrich Fischer Diescau looking on he captured a public that had been overwhelmed by an evening of sublime music making .
”Am I too loud” he might very well have asked .
Never !Would be the only answer possible as indeed was the case tonight.
The introduction in the programme too showed a true musical mind .
One that had thought of the recital as a voyage of discovery.From the Beethoven 32 variations based on an eight bar harmonic progression similar to the Baroque chaconne form .To the Brahms Variations in D minor obviously inspired by the great Bach Chaconne in the same key.
These two works as an introduction to two important works :that of Schumann Humoreke op 20 and Brahms Sonata in F minor op 5 .
An imposing opening to the Beethoven as you might expect from someone who was signing after the concert his 12 CD set under the title of Beethoven Unbound.
Some really beautiful detail but somehow the energy behind the notes was missing.
The extraodinary thing about Gilels and Annie Fischer’s performance of this work was the driving energy from the first to the last note .
Here was some extremely beautiful playing but the savage almost animal like Beethoven was missing which left us with a series of episodes where the underlying pulse was missing.
The Schumann rarely have I heard the opening so beautifully played .
The melody projected to perfection.
But when it came to the more articulated sections that make such a telling contrast between Florestan and Eusebius the rhythmic energy and articulation became part of a wash of musical sound.
The great sounds of the piano from which emerge the most heartrending melodic invention was not possible when the whole landscape was one of such beauty.
It became a little boring.
We were in the end yearning for a change of scenery.
It was the same in the Brahms .
A quite remarkable performance but I remember that of Kempff in this very hall where the eruptions of sound were contrasted with the most liquid of cantabiles.
A true orchestra in his hands
Here there were some wonderful moments especially in the slow movement that was a model of perfection for subtlety of balance and projection of melodic line of pure beauty .But the great passionate finale of this movement did not take our breath away as it surely should .
The Brahms variations after the second movement of the String Sextet op 18 n.1 was written as a present for Clara and was given perhaps the most satisfying performance of the evening ………….
…………….that is until we struck gold with Schubert.
It is without doubt that the Welsh have music in their blood and soul.
It is evident when they speak ,sing or as tonight play an instrument.
A remarkable lesson of musicianship indeed in this era where the modern day pianos are used to being beaten to death instead of being caressed and truly loved
P.S. Another fine young Welsh pianist Luke Jones writes :
Luke Jones He lives just a stone’s throw away from my house in Wrexham! Small world it is.
 He studied as a youth with a local teacher called Lottie Williams-Parry and was a student at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, he went to study at Oxford University in Music whilst taking lessons at RAM. I believe he studied with Hamish Milne whilst a student there. He worked a great deal for Live Music Now and I think YCAT in the early 2000s. I believe he also studied a bit with Julius Drake and Irina Zaritskaya and a few other names that escape me.
 His mother and father are also very keen on music and I understand took him to many concerts as a child. I recall he mentioned to me once he has a copy of Chopin Polonaises signed by Sviatoslav Richter.