Talent Unlimited Showcase Recital

Talent Unlimited Showcase Recital
In the foto above John Leech and Canan Maxton.”Birds of a feather” one might say.
John with his wife Noretta Conci-Leech is founder of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
Canan Maxton founder of Talented Unlimited .Both dedicated to helping young talented musicians receive the recognition they deserve and need by bringing them before the public .
So it is Christmas for Canan Maxton’s remarkable array of talent that she so unselfishly helps and promotes all year round.
In the beautiful church of St James’s in the heart of London where the Christmas frenzy is on as are the beautiful lights too in full blaze.
Every year Talent Unlimited too blazes the Christmas Trail to show off a few selected artists from the roster of young musicians that it helps in so many different ways.
With encouragement,promotion via public concerts and sometimes even some financial help for studies.
But above all knowing that there is someone to whom they can turn on their long sometimes lonely journey to realises their search for the impossible.
It does not and cannot exist in art and one can only strive to reach out for the end of that rainbow.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it is here that Canan Maxton via her Talent Unlimited aims to help.

Canan Maxton, Yuanfan Yang Paola Gorbanova Stavros Dritsas
Three very talented young artists shared the stage before a very large audience.
In the organ loft,unknown to all, were two other TU artists Petar Dimov and Thibault Charrin professionally recording the concert in audio and video.
Thibault’s own violin sonata ,still fresh on the page, he will be performing in this same space on Wednesday 5th December at 1 .10 pm.
Petar Dimov,a disciple of Norma Fisher shared a concert a month ago too playing Schumann Carnaval Jest from Vienna.
Both are composer pianists but today helping to record their colleagues in such an enthusastic and unselfish way following the example of their adored leader Canan Maxton

Petar Dimov Ivan Krpan Thibault Charin a workers late supper. Ivan winner of the 2017 Busoni International Competition playing in London twice this week
The concert began with the young Greek pianist Stavros Dritsas playing Liszt Ballade n.2 in B minor followed by two movements from Bartok Suite Out of Doors.
Having studied in Athens and Paris now still only 22 he is completing his studies in London at the Guildhall under the renowned pianist and sometimes BBC commentator Lucy Parham.

Stavros Dritsas
Immediately evident was the beauty of sound and great sense of balance in the Liszt.
Some wonderfully suggestive sounds in the Bartok “Night Music” where the magical sounds he created wafted into the vast space of St James’s creating a very special atmosphere.
To be broken by the” Chase” where all of Stavros’ remarkable technical skill was needed in this pianistic show piece.
He was joined by the violinist Paula Gorbanova for a deeply felt performance of the Franck violin sonata.
Paula the daughter of the ballet dancer Gennady Gorbanev at only 20 is completing her studies too at the Guildhall here in London.
Some beautiful playing from the question and answer of the opening through the extremely exciting technical demands of the Allegro second movement to the wonderfully lyrical interplay of the Allegretto finale.
A very fine ensemble in which the piano was never allowed to overpower the beautiful sounds of the 19th century Italian violin on loan to Paula from Florian Leonhard Fine Violins.

Paula Gorbanova and Stavros Dritsas
After the interval the well known Scottish pianist Yuanfan Yang took the stage.
At only 20 he is fast making a name for himself and only last month took first prize in the Rome International Piano Competition.
A student now at the RAM of that renowned teacher of so many remarkable pianists :Christopher Elton .

Yuanfan Yang
Yuanfan took Rome by storm recently not only with his very fine performance of Beethoven Third Piano Concerto but also by improvising on a theme given to him by the distinguished jury.
He is at 20 not only a remarkable pianist but a composer too as we were able to hear tonight.
A glittering performance of the Haydn Sonata in E minor played with such subtle colours and ornaments that seemed to glisten under his hands.
The multi coloured charm of the final Vivace was irresistable.
The slow movement sang beautifully shaped but always perfectly in style.
“Scarborough Fair “alla Yang (as was his Waves from Three Aquarelles) was a kaleidoscope of magical sounds.
Sometimes thunderous but mostly etherial from which a slight hint of our old favourite would emerge and almost be discernable to all of us that were drawn into his magic sound world of fantasy.
Schubert/Liszt Litanei of such ravishing beauty was a remarkable way of leading us into a truly monumental performance of the Brahms Handel Variations op 24.
It was quite simply one of the most convincing performances I have ever heard.
Not the great Brahms sound but the subtle sound world of his later pieces op 116/117
The great Brahms of course was present and even the more impressive because like all great pianists was held back until the absolute right moment.
With the triumphant appearance of Handels little melody it was allowed to blaze out in all its glory with quite extraodinary full orchestral sound.

Sir Norman Rosenthal another great promoter of young musicians congratulating Yuanfan Yang
Never a harsh sound always careful as one must be on a fine Fazioli piano never to force the sound.
Some ravishing sounds in the variations alternating with some really transcendental piano playing.
Never relaxing the tempo but always pressing forward to the triumphant final appearance before the Fugue.
A quite extraordinary performance from someone so young .
Both mature and tender but with the same youthful passion and virtuosity that must have been so much part of Brahms’ early world.
Here is Sir Norman Rosenthal in a concert in Rome promoted by him.
He also promotes young musicians in Valerie Solti’s house in London.
Chiyan Wong will be giving a recital in Bob Boas house ( by invitation by application …see web site ) on the 4th December .
Elisabeth and Bob Boas are other untiring promoters of young talent in London and Ivan Krpan,2017 winner of the Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano was invited by them to their beautiful home to make his London debut this week.
Hats off to them all ……and a Merry Christmas to you all

John Leech at 93 not missing an occasion to support young artists pictured with with Canan Maxton

Keishi Suzuki at St Mary’s Perivale

Keishi Suzuki at St Mary’s Perivale
Another very fine pianists in Hugh Mathers’ series at St Mary’s.
Keishi Suzuki graduated from Tokyo College of Music and went on to study at the Sibelius Academy in Finland and obtained his Masters degree with highest honours at the Liszt Academy in Budapest.
He was the winner of the Liszt Society International Piano Competition in 2017.
This year the competition was hosted for the first in St Mary’s Perivale and it was here that we were able to hear him in recital.
Some very refined playing of great style in works by Debussy,Beethoven and Liszt.
A very well oiled technique ,that I mean as a great compliment and it is something that one often notices in Hungarian born pianists.
I am thinking of course of Geza Anda, who had a very clean and clear sound capable of many colours but always very incisive.
His performances of Schumann Davidsbundler,Chopin Studies ,Beethoven op 110 or the Brahms B flat Concerto are some of the finest on record.
He was a disciple of Ernst von Dohnanyi.

Keishi with Dr Hugh Mather introducing his programme
It is then no coincidence that Keishi Suzuki is preparing for his doctorate on Dohnanyi and it is obviously this influence that has very much shaped his musical taste for sound.
It was obvious from the first of two Preludes by Debussy that opened the programme
”Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest” was played with a clarity that is very rare to hear in this particular prelude.The pedal at a minimum but just the right amount to create the atmosphere of the slow rising of the west wind building to a tumultuous climax showing off all his remarkable command of the keyboard.
General Lavine was truly” eccentic” and played with a great sense of style that really brought the title to life.
It is interesting to note that Debussy gave titles to the preludes at the end of each prelude.
It is the music that talks and suggests the title.
The mighty Sonata in D op 10 n.3 by Beethoven was given an incisive performance in which Beethoven’s precise indications were scrupulously noted.
A rhythmic drive that did not exclude the many surprises that Beethoven has in store in the first movement.
Great attention to the bass especially in the development section gave a weight and importance to the arresting chord before the reappearance of the first theme.
The beautiful second subject was played with a lyricism that did not interfere with the continual drive that is starting to be so characteristic of Beethoven from this early sonata from op 10 onwards.
The mighty Largo e mesto that followed had a perfect sense of both weight and balance that allowed the melodic line to sing out in a most subtle way with the sudden outbursts played with a rarely heard precision and clarity.
Beethoven’s very particular pedal effects over a long held note were beautifully managed and the lead up to the climax was quite overwhelming in its intensity that made the final notes disappearing into thin air so extraordinary.
The Trio section of the Menuetto -Allegro that followed was played with a quite infectious sense of bucolic fun all the more so for his scrupulous attention to Beethoven’s legato and staccato markings.
The Rondo too was remarkable for his absolute attention to the rests which are every bit as important as the actual notes especially in this surprising movement.
The disappearance of the final notes in a haze of chromatic scales and arpreggios was even more remarkable for his ability to maintain the tempo to the very end with some very subtle colouring and balance between the hands.
The second half of the programme was dedicated to Liszt.Some beautifully poetic playing in the rarely heard Faribolo Pasteur S 236 n.1 and the Schubert /Liszt “Der Muller und der Bach.”
The Hungarian Rhapsodies n.12 and 13 were played with superb virtuosity and sense of style.
The climax of the 12th Rhapsody was played with all the passionate involvement that these bravura showpieces demand and the repeated notes in the 13th played in true virtuoso style.
Widmung by Schumann/Liszt was the beautiful encore offered to a very enthusiastic audience.
Wonderfully shaped with a subtle clarity leading to a sumptuous climax before dying away to a murmur .It showed of all the artistic qualities of this remarkable young pianist

Mariam Batsashvili with the RPO

Twinkle Twinkle little star……….Mariam Batsashvili with the Royal Philharmonic
It was under the banner of War and Conflict that H.E .The Hungarian Ambassador presented the programme with the RPO at Cadogan Hall last night.
Three Hungarian composers Kodaly,Liszt and Bartok to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end first world war – the war to end all wars!
Who better to be at the helm with the Liszt First Piano Concerto than Mariam Batsashvili The young winner a few years ago of the Liszt Competition in Utrecht and fast making a name for herself after a London debut a few years ago that seemed to go un noticed.
Please read my comments on that occasion.
She is now receiving the world recognition that this minuscule Piaf like power house truly deserves.
Selected by the BBC as a Young Generation Artist,tours in the USA for the Keyboard Charitable Trust and now in demand to play with the major Orchestras throughout the world.
She completed her studes at the Weimar Liszt Academy and she now lives in Budapest  as near as is possible to the roots of her beloved master : Franz Liszt .
In only twenty minutes she had shown us the grandeur,supreme delicacy and a her total mastery of the piano.
An aristocratic Liszt that only Arrau used to show us.
Even in the thundering octaves and glittering passage work there was a total respect for the composers wishes.
Restoring the sometimes superficial sounding Liszt to his place with Beethoven as one of the most revolutionary and visionary composers of all time.
It was a remarkable display of intelligence ,passion and delicacy .
She had the audience in her hand from the first to the last note.
Very well aided by Alexander Shelley ,a conductor fast making a name for himself as befits the son of such a distinguished father as Howard Shelley.
An encore of the famous Paderewski Minuet in G .
Played with such subtle rubato and an infectious sense of dance.
The fast embellishments thrown off with an ease and charm that is of the great pianists of the past.
She plays it better than the great pianist/ statesman himself and I can only imagine that that might have very well  been the case with the concerto too!

Dmitri Alexeev at the Chopin Society London

The Chopin Society salutes a Master
It was very moving to see the spontaneous standing ovation given to Dmitri Alexeev at the end of his recital for the Chopin Society in the Westminster Hall in London.
In their series of past top prize winners of the Leeds International Piano Competition it was the turn of Dmitri Alexeev who had won first prize in 1975.
Mitsuko Uchida and Andras Schiff were second and third.
He has gone on to a worldwide career.
He played for us in Teatro Ghione in Rome some memorable recitals in 1996 and 2003 always represented by Donatella Brizio his adorable old style agent in Milan who is much missed

Dmitri Alexeev with Ileana Ghione Rome 2003
He was a favourite soloist for the artistic director of the Radio Symphony Orchestra in Rome,Lanza Tomassi.
It would be hard to ever forget his memorable performance of Rachmaninov 3rd Piano Concerto with them.
Listening some time ago to a radio interview he explained that he had decided after years of travelling the world playing with the greatest orchestras and conductors that he would dedicate himself to travelling and playing less in order to help talented young musicians- the next generation.
Infact he is one of the most sought after and renowned teachers at the Royal College of Music in London .

Vitaly Pisarenko top prize winner at Leeds in 2015 arriving from Paris to thank his friend and mentor
It was at this rare appearance in London where many of the finest young pianists came to applaud and thank their dedicated mentor.

Jun Lin Wu remarkable winner of the Jaques Samuel Competition thanking his teacher
It was a display of piano playing that London is all too rarely used to hearing.
It had a sense of weight and commitment that allowed the piano to sing in a way that we are not used to hearing these days.
A cantabile sound of such richness that it would have carried with the same intensity to the back of the largest halls as it would appear to the nearest .

Alexeev in concert
With actors it would be the use of the diaphram to allow the voice to be modulated and projected.
A tender “I love you” would be appreciated by the public in the front row as it would in the last.These days actors rely on artificial means of amplification and only the greatest of stage actors seem to know what a diaphram is and its importance.
Richter described with great admiration the magical sound of Rubinstein as “the good old professional cantabile.”The Russian school was more preoccupied with the sounds from pianissimo to mezzo piano.
Richter and Gilels were the magicians that could conjure up both.
Richter was of course unique in his own magic world of pure genius.
Gilels was much less “Russian” in his approach to sound and it was Rubinstein who on hearing a young red headed boy play in the class of a teacher in Russia had exclaimed that if he ever came to the west he would pack up his bags immediately!
And it was of Gilels that I was reminded today.
The total commitment combined to a sound world in which anything was possible.
Like a beautiful cocoon that has he created in which the musical intelligence of Alexeev could operate with a freedom and sense of direction without ever the possibility of seeming indulgent or in bad taste.
There was never a doubt of his musical intentions in a long programme of Scriabin and Chopin.
I believe he has embarked on recording all the works of Scriabin which include many of the smaller works rarely performed in the west.
It was a revelation to hear the little waltz op 38 with its charming “tinkerbell” type call to order .
Together with the Mazukas played with the same charm and colour that he later reserved for the much better known ones of Chopin.
What was truly a revelation was the Vers la Flamme op 72 following on from superb performances of the two better known poems op.69 .
Vers la Flamme I had heard recently from a very fine french pianist at the Wigmore Hall A very clean and clear performance in which the two note motif was hammered out incessantly.
In Alexeevs hands we heard the gurgling of murky waters in which the motif was revealed.As the water got hotter and hotter so the motif became more urgent until  a boiling point of such overwhelming intensity was reached and  there was a gasp from an audience totally mesmerised and involved as Alexeev was.
Throwing himself at the desperate trills in the end it was a harrowing and unforgettable experience for us all.
The Fantasie too received a very involved performance.
A work which is played a lot these days as it is has become a showpiece for advanced students and is the more accessible early Scriabin.
Here was a lesson of how to blend together all the many strands of knotty twine that Scriabin weaves but at the same time to follow the direction of each with an almost Wagnerian subtlety.
A very powerful reading of great passion when needed but also of such sumptuous sounds.
Interesting to see that Alexeev has no worries about dividing the hands at the beginning of the Polonaise- Fantasie by Chopin .More preoccupied about the actual sounds than the way they are produced.
It was an opening of pure magic where the opening fanfares seemed to reverberate throught the piano as I am sure Chopin intended.
Fantasie indeed.
The return of the fanfare too in which time seemed to stand still such was his aristocratic understanding throughout  of Chopins world.
The wonderful sculptured cantabile of the yearning almost mazuka type nostagic motif  and the build up to the end was extraordinary.
Without any hardness but through a subtle use of the pedal and sense of balance he brought the final few bars to a truly triumphal ending.
The Rondo op 1 rarely heard since the passing of Magaloff.
It is a charming early work and was played with just the charm and style of the great pianists of the past.
No jeux perle though but cascades of notes and a subtle use of the pedals that made the return of the rondo theme seem like an old friend returning with a simplicty and clarity that contrased with the showpiece that Chopin had obviously written for his early appearances in the salons of Paris and Warsaw.
The four Mazukas were treated as a whole with the op 30 n.3 leading into the op 63.n.2.
A wonderful sense of rubato never sentimental but with  great inner profound meaning
.The Polonaise op 53 brought the house down as it always did for Rubinstein.
The famous octaves were dispatched like the triumphant troups they are supposed to represent.
The melodic line always foremost in mind with a very subtle sense of balance that never allowed us to be outside the cocoon that he had created.
There was an aura created around the piano from the first note to the last where the magician Alexeev could cast his spell on us as he wished.
A spell that had the usual rather well behaved Chopin Society screaming for more.
The Noctune in C sharp minor op posth was the first of four encores and exemplified all that had so enraptured us.

A standing ovation from the Chopin Society audience
Never since Rubinstein or Gilels have I heard the piano sing with such beauty and nobility.
Aristocratic one might say but never detached but totally committed from the first to the last note.
Following with another Mazurka by Scriabin and the E minor Waltz of Chopin .
The final D sharp Study by Scriabin had the usually  rather well behaved  audience on their feet to thank the Master that had given them so much this afternoon .

Lady Rose Cholmondeley and Lisa Peacock congratulating Alexeev

The programme

Disciple Denis Maslov with Alexeev after the concert

Salih Can Gevrek flown in from La Chappelle in Brussels where he is a pianist in residence to hear his former teacher

Liszt Day at St Mary’s Perivale

Liszt comes to St Mary’s

The competitors 2018
The Liszt Society International Competition was held this year at the “other” St Mary’s.
It has found it’s home in the charming “redundant”chuch in Perivale that Hugh Mather has transformed into a mecca for young aspiring pianists.
The ever generous physician together with his team which includes his wife doctor Felicity and Roger Nellist have been giving an average of three concerts a week of recitals by the most talented young musicians in London and elsewhere.
A professional engagement is offered with video recording and more importantly a large discerning audience.
It was now the turn of the Liszt Society to be invited to move down the road from the other St Mary’s ,part of the West London University, to this Mecca.
This is what I wrote last year (last year’s winner Keishi Suzuki will give a solo recital at St Mary’sPerivale on Tuesday 27th November at 14h):

Liszt Society publications available from the Hardie Press and on show rare publications edited by the President Leslie Howard
A day dedicated to Liszt and who better to host it that Leslie Howard the President who has recorded all the works of Liszt on 100 Cd’s.
Only one work is missing and was sold at auction and not available ….the search is on!
The Annual General Meeting at mid-day followed by an hour’s recital by Luca Monachino the young Italian pianist who was runner up in the 2017 Competition.
I think this extract from the Liszt Society web site explains fully the raison d’etre of the AGM.
“The Society’s activities have included piano recitals and masterclasses (especially by the late President of the Society Louis Kentner, and by Leslie Howard, the Society’s current President), members’ soirées, lectures, organ and song recitals, and chamber music. The Annual General Meeting, far from being just the gathering required by statute, has always been a very happy and musical encounter of friends with a shared and deeply-felt enthusiasm for Liszt.”
Co sponsored by the Keyboard Charitable Trust as is also the recital that Keishi gave in Vienna recently .

Dr Felicity Mather being affectionately thanked by Chairman Mark Viner
Today they were given a magnificent welcome by Hugh Mather and his fellow enthusiasts .
His wife providing refreshments that started with very welcoming hot soup and sausages after the AGM and followed with wine and tea during the two short intervals between the recital and the competition .
Luca had flown in especially from Messina with an interesting programme starting with the Sonata in G minor op 7. n.3 by Clementi taken from his vast and realtively unknown output of Sonatas.
Finishing of course with Liszt: the rarely heard “Marche heroique dans le genre hongrois” S231.

Cobin Beisner USA 1988
Four contestants gave forty minute recitals before the panel of judges :Leslie Howard,Melvyn Cooper and Mark Viner.
Four fine recitals from:
Corbin Beisner from the USA who had studied in Hungary and in fact gave a very assured performance of the Dante Sonata that won him first prize.

Phillip Leslie UK 1994
Phillip Leslie from Trinity Laban a student of Philip Fowke in an interesting programme that included Csardas obstinee S.225/2 and Aux cypres de la Villa d’Este- Threnodie 1 and was voted second prize
Pascal Pascaleff from Bulgaria studying in Birmingham with Pascal Nemirovski

Pascal Pascaleff 1991
A very fine technique able to produce the most liquid sounds from the piano gave a fine performance of the Dante Sonata and finished with Liszt’s amazing Nuages gris.

Raymond Wui Man Yiu
Wui Man Raymond Yiu an ex student of Joan Havill that was evident from his performances of La lugubre gondola and the Weinen,Klagen,Sorgen Zagen variations .S.180
His class shone through but with a rather patchy performance of the Liszt Variations.
A unanimous decision and an fascinating afternoon in the presence of Liszt .

The beautiful St Mary’s Perivale only 20 minutes from the centre of London

Last years winners Keishi Suzuki and Luca Monachino

The jury : Mark Viner Leslie Howard Melvyn Cooper

Corbin Beisner First Prize winner with Felicity Mather and Ludovico Troncanetti

Phillip Leslie Pascal Pascaleff Raymond Wui Man Yiu

Prize giving ceremony with Leslie Howard,Mark Viner and Melvyn Cooper

Lara Melda at St Mary’s Perivale

Lara Melda at St Mary’s Perivale
And so Hugh Mather’s amazing season just gets better and better.
With Hugh at the helm and Roger Nellist directing the video recording in the organ loft and Lara Melda at the piano not even the terrible weather could keep a capacity crowd from coming on a very cold and wet Tuesday afternoon.
We were indeed warmed by Lara Melda’s very simple beautiful playing of Chopin Four Ballades .
The Liszt Ballade n.2 acting as contrast between 1/2 and 3/4.
Simplicity is the hardest thing to acquire for a real interpreter and so it is with real admiration that I congratulated and thanked her at the end of the recital.
I have never had an opportunity to listen to Lara before and asked her if she was receiving guidance still .
Oh yes she modestly replied :with Alfred Brendel.

The same programme will be repeated at the BBC radio 3 lunchtime concerts from the Wigmore Hall at 1pm on Monday the 3rd December
Of course it all fitted into place.
As students we used to buy the Turnabout recordings for 50 pence of a virtually unknown pianist to hear such illuminated , intelligent and simple performances of Beethoven and Liszt.
That pianist was of course the now legendary Alfred Brendel.
At Dartington in 1968 at the masterclasses of Perlemuter I well remember the young daughter of the critic Martin Cooper playing Valses Nobles by Ravel to this disciple of Ravel.
I was a first year student at the RAM but I have never forgotten that exceptionally he had nothing to say except to compliment her not only on her superb musicianship but also on her perfect French!
Imogen Cooper was also taken under the wing of Alfred Brendel and not only has gone on to a worldwide career but has found time to share her knowledge with others by forming the Imogen Cooper Trust of which Lara is the first scholarship holder
I read too that Lara graduated from the RCM with first class honours in 2016 where she studied with Ian Jones.
Already before entering the RCM she had won the BBC Young Musician 2010 Competition.
Only in her mid- twenties she already has an enviable curriculum of playing with some of the finest orchestras and in the finest venues.
It is this experience and supreme professionalism that shone through a recital that reminded me of the Matthay school as exemplified by Dame Myra Hess and even more of Dame Moura Lympany.
Moura Lympany I knew well and when she could no longer play or travel away from her home in Montecarlo I used to send her a video recording of our concerts in Rome and we would discuss the performances on the telephone.
On hearing Peter Frankl play the Liszt Sonata magnificently as only a true musician could, she even wrote to him personally to thank him.
He of course had not known that Dame Moura was present!
All this to say that Lara plays with that same beautiful simplicity that is so hard to achieve especially at such a young age and especially with Chopin and Liszt.
So often the red hot passion of youth in these romantic masterpieces can lead to exaggerations where the heart takes precedence over the mind.
Where the passion of the moment takes over from the absolute control that is necessary and is evident with the experience gained by more mature players.
Here were the four ballades played beautifully and simply.
There was delicacy, feeling and passion too but a control and sense of musical command that is unusual in someone so young.
This was also the hallmark of the young Imogen Cooper and why she received such praise from a mature master as Perlemuter.
The overall architecture and shape were so clear.
Some small blemishes were of no importance on a musical journey of this stature.
Technically she is not of the dynamic Russian school but like Moura and Myra she has a real technical command and can produce the sounds that she hears.
One of the rare occasions of a pianist that actually listens to herself whilst she is playing
Cherkassky often used to say after listening to the latest whizz kid “ but I don’t think they are listening to themselves.”
Mention should be made of the beautiful and intelligent performance of the Liszt Ballade n.2 in B minor.
A true masterpiece revealed in her intelligent hands with sumptuous sounds of delicacy and grandeur just as I remember Brendel all those years ago.
She will choose her repertoire carefully as Imogen Cooper ,Paul Lewis and Alfred Brendel do to share their discovery of music with us.
The Realm of the Gods indeed !
The recital can be heard on BBC radio 3 on the 3rd December at 1 am live from the Wigmore Hall.
The next concert in Hugh Mathers series will be a day dedicated to Liszt on Saturday 24th November at 1.pm and onwards .

Gabriele Baldocci at Trinity Laban

Gabriele Baldocci …Greenwich Profiles
It is nice to see that Professors at Trinity Laban are being given the platform in a new series of “Profiles” which was opened by Gabriele Baldocci.
I was last at Trinity on the invitation of the then head of keyboard Deniz Arman Gelenbe retiring to concentrate on her own magnificent chamber music activities:
Her successor Peter Tuite had invited Boris Petrushansky to give a masterclass.
Petrushansky was a top prize winner in one of the first Leeds Piano Competitions and has since combined an International career with his teaching at the renowned Academy in Imola created by Franco Scala.
Many of the finest young pianists playing today have benefitted from his guidance.
It was a fascinating masterclass but just a pity that it was in russian with a rather intimidated student translator that slowed the whole process down.
Teaching on this level is one to one so a third party as in all intimate relationships can be one too many and create problems!

The statue in the Peacock Room at Trinity Laban in their new home that was the magnificent old Martime Base in Greenwich
All this to say that Gabriele I heard for the first time some years ago when he was one of the privileged few to be accepted to the “other” Piano Academy,that in Como, created and directed by William Grant Nabore.
(Imola and Como are two of the most important advanced piano academies in the world – both founded by former students of Carlo Zecchi in Rome).
These superb young pianists would come regularly to play in Rome in Teatro Ghione to give them a platform before they went on to great careers.
I well remember Davide Cabassi and Alessandro Delvayan (both top prize winners at Van Cliburn )Roberto Prosseda,Michelangelo Carbonara and many more.
Above all I remember Gabriele Baldocci a young lad from Livorno who bewitched Dino Villatico the renowned critic of La Repubblica with his magnificent playing allied to sculptured good looks.
It is hardly surprising that the Honorary President of the Piano Academy in Como,Martha Argerich,has taken him under her wing and they regularly give chamber music concerts together.
The last time I saw Gabriele Baldocci was in the green room at the Festival Hall with his beautiful young son bouncing on the knee of Martha Argerich.
His lovely spanish wife looking on at this happy family scene.
It was today too that Gabriele chose to play a piece especially written by a colleague Anthony Phillips for a two piano recital tour of Spain with Martha Argerich.
Under the title Gemini ( the sign

Anthony Phillips
of the zodiac of Martha Argerich of course).
Gabriele played it today in a transcription for solo piano.
Lasting only a few minutes.It is a short encore piece that could have almost have been written for a film by Oscar Hammerstein.
Beautifully played by Gabriele even if the composer thought it had more effect on two pianos.
It came as a breath of fresh air after the 6 Moments Musicaux D 780 by Schubert on a rather ungrateful Steinway D that almost turned Schubert into Beethoven.
Gabriele tried his best to tame this beast but when he attacked the 5th “moment” we literally jumped in the air !
He was though able to find some beautiful “moments” not least the weaving of the fourth or the gentle lilt of the third.The last was beautifully sung but again the middle section suffered and Gabriele wisely sought to unexpectedly change the tempo to create more contrast.
Gabriele has embarked on a very successful series of recordings of the Liszt transcriptions of Beethoven Symphonies.
So it was to Liszt that he turned for the second half of this short Profile recital.
Some beautiful weaving of counterpoints in Wagner’s intricate Liedestod.
A simple transciption from Lohengrin where Liszt allowed the sublime melodic line to sing unimpeded by the usual funambulistic fireworks that abound  as in the famous Don Juan Reminiscences.
The deeply felt ostinato bass from Parsifal was allowed to unwind so beautifully in Gabriele’s hands.
The enormous difficulties that abound were dispatched with ease and we could only look on astounded.
A young italian student Giulio Poggia exclaimed to his friends that he has the best left hand in the business!
We could only look on in admiration but the great sumptuous sounds that are the real heart of these pieces was missing on a piano so ungrateful as to be almost unbearable.
Maybe its next door neighbour on stage would have been more appetizing?
It was only the great artistry of Gabriele that saved the day.
An improvisation of his own on Don Giovanni revealed all the subtle secrets that we were were not able to fully appreciate in Liszt.
Abandoning the score at last he was lost in a secret world of wondrous sounds treading carefully so as not to wake the “baby” again.
So pleased to see and hear Professor Gabriele Baldocci who had beguiled us all as an aspiring young pianist in Rome all those years ago.
I very much look forward to hearing his CD’s of the Beethoven Symphonies that have received such rave reviews from the critics recently.
Martha too would be so proud of “ her family.”

Prof.Sergio De Simone florentine colleague of Gabriele at Trinity Laban introducing his colleague to the public.

The famous Cutty Sark in the Maritime Museum where Trinity Laban has its magnificent new studios

The magnificent Maritime Museum

Roberto Prosseda and Oleg Caetani with the London Philharmonic in London

“Get Closer” Roberto Prosseda and Oleg Caetani at the Festival Hall
As always a fascinating journey of discovery with Roberto Prosseda with his appearance with the London Philharmonic introducing the pedal piano to London audiences.
The last time he was here was with the then unknown conductor Yannick Nezet Seguin with Mendelssohn’s 3rd piano concerto ( fragments of a third concerto never finished but assembled and completed by Marcello Bufalini).
Roberto went on to record it with Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for Decca.
(The unknown Nezet Seguin has since become director of the Philadelphia Orhestra after Riccardo Muti!)
And this time he brings to London Gounod’s Concerto for Pedal Piano in E flat -1889.
He was shown the then unpublished score in 2010 by Gerard Conde who explained that Gounod had given the original manuscript to Lucie Palicot for whom his four works were written.

The Pinchi system brought especially to London by Roberto Prosseda

The Pinchi pedal board
A student of the son of Alkan ,Elie Dalaborde It was her appearances in Paris at the Salle Pleyel in 1882 ,having also heard Alkan himself in 1875 , that inspired Gounod and he gave her sole rights to the concerto.
Unfortunately she retired from the concert stage in 1895 when she married for the second time and the manuscript disappeared.
A report from the musicologist Paul Landormy recalled :”I remember what a strange impression was produced by the sight of this graceful and dainty person perched on a huge case containg the lower strings of the pedal-board beneath a grand piano resting on it.What surprised us above all,pleasantly enough to be sure,was to see Mme Palicot wearing a short knee-length skirt ( entirely necessary but astonishing in those days),and her pretty legs darting most adroitly to reach the different pedals of the keyboard she had at her feet !”
Roberto Prosseda  has recorded all four works by Gounod for Hyperion directed by Howard Shelley in his Romantic Piano Concerto Series.
He had commisioned from the Italian organ builder Claudio Pinchi an innovative system so that a pedal piano can be created from any two grand pianos.
Two Steinway D pianos one on top of the other with the Pinchi system that allows them to be transformed into a pedal piano.
The problem is that the pedal technique used for the organ cannot be applied since it requires a particular sensitivity of touch,as the pedals control a piano with hammers and strings.

The artistic balancing act of Roberto Prosseda
So a more pianistic approach is required,using the weight of the leg and transferring the weight from one note to another in order to achieve a legato and enable a rich sonority and good control of dynamics.
The sustaining pedal is seldom used as both feet are often busy playing the pedal board.The hands are required to play differently than on a normal piano as the player’s balance and seating position are often altered by the constant movement of the legs!
No one was aware of all these difficulties listening to the superb performance of Gounod’s long lost concerto.
The outer movements were extremely rhythmically controlled in their question and answer between pianos and orchestra .
It was in the beautiful Adagio and in the Schumann encore – the fourth of the six Canonic studies for pedal piano – that one could appreciate to the full the supreme artistry and superb sense of style of Roberto Prosseda.

Roberto discussing the pedal piano  with his colleagues and sponsors after his superb  London premiere performance of Gounod’s Pedal Piano Concerto
Infact I was witness backstage to the orchestral players coming one by one to congratulate Roberto especially for the beauty of his performance of the Schumann encore.
Praise indeed coming from his colleagues in the London Philharmonic.
It is very nice to see the success of the young pianist who studied in the Sergio Cafaro/Martinelli household a stone’s throw from our theatre in Rome(Teatro Ghione) and was reared by the Campus Musicale in his home town of Latina.
He often used to play in our theatre in Rome as ” try outs ” for his appearances in International Competitions .
I well remember the joy of Fou Ts’ong on hearing that Roberto would be playing in his Masterclasses.
He also went on to study with Fou Ts’ong and William Grant  Nabore at the International Piano Academy in Como  created and run  by William Nabore a former disciple of Carlo Zecchi (Martha Argerich is honorary President).
For some years he was artistic director of the Pontine Festival together  with Fabrizio von Arx  continuing their great tradition by bringing Elisso Virsaladze,Charles Rosen  and many others to the summer festival in Sermoneta in the grounds of the Caetani Castle.
A festival started in the 60’ by Menuhin/Szigeti and Alberto Lysy.

Oleg Caetani son of Igor Markevitch one of the last of the noble Italian dynasty of  Caetani
By coincidence the concert was the symphonic debut with the LPO of Oleg Caetani.Renowned in the opera houses throughout the world he is one of the last surviving members of the noble Caetani family.
His father was Igor Markevitch and his mother was Donna Topazia Caetani from whom he chose to take his name to prolong the family lineage.
Not only  with a renowned father whom I heard many times on this very stage but also with a superb pedigree of studies with Nadia Boulanger and Franco Ferrara.
He gave some superb performances of Messiaen : Hymne and the Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz that I well remember his father performing with such electricity here all those years ago.
We await many new discoveries from Roberto Prosseda in London on his remarkable journey in the music world where he delves with such intelligence and artistry .

The rather complicated removal in the interval of the two Steinways and Pinchi system

Roberto explaining the Pinchi system during the interval backstage

The rapt attention of his colleagues in the LPO during the Schumann encore that Roberto very spiritedly introduced .

Rachel Cheung at St Mary’s Perivale

Rachel Cheung at St Mary’s Perivale
Not a week goes by without hearing another remarkable young pianist in the series of Tuesday afternoon piano recitals at St Mary’s in Perivale.
And Hugh Mather has struck gold again today with a young pianist from Hong Kong: Rachel Cheung.
Looking at her biography it was reassuring to see that her early training she had received from a fellow student of mine at the Royal Academy in London.
Eleanor Wong studied with Frederick Jackson a remarkable musician who died conducting the Verdi Requiem in the Dukes Hall of the RAM .His final words were to carry on as they carried him off in an ambulance.
Eleanor had won all the major prizes and also carried off silver medal at the Vercelli competition in Italy.
She used to knock on my door where I was practicing every evening to play through her programmes to this young first year student.
Of course I was very impressed but not nearly as impressed as seeing her forty years later on the jury of the Leeds International Piano Competition.
Great reports were coming from Hong Kong of this superb trainer of young pianists as we were to hear today from Rachel Cheung.

Rachel Cheung
It was nice to see also that after graduating from Hong Kong Academy with First Class Honours Rachel had gone on to complete her studies with the legendary hungarian pianist Peter Frankl at Yale University in America.
One of the youngest competitiors in the Leeds Competition in 2009 at the age of 17.
She was awarded fifth prize the year that Gulyak Sofya was awarded the Gold medal.
She went on to win prizes in many other major competitions and recently conducted from the keyboard Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris at the Play-Direct Academy led by Stephen Kovacevich.
It was hardly surprising that St Mary’s was packed to the rafters for the beautiful programme of Franck,Schumann and Liszt presented by this remarkable young musician.
Still only 26 she played with the authority and control of a master.
Starting with the hauntingly beautiful transcription by Harold Bauer of Cesar Franck Prelude,Fugue and Variation op 18 for organ.
It was clear from the beautiful liquid tone and the way that she moved so naturally at the piano that we were in the presence of a true musician and poet of the piano.
So often the works of Franck for solo piano and piano transcriptions from the organ can sound so thick and heavy and these days rather outdated.
Rachel managed to convey with an almost whispered appearance of the recurring melody a feeling that this was the only possible medium for this piece.
Even the Fugue was played with the same delicate tone colour and the reappearance of the melody at the end was quite magical.
She looked exactly as I remember Eleanor did at the piano all those years ago.
A beautiful natural way of almost conjuring the sounds out of the keyboard.
The main work on the programme was the Fantasy in C Major by Schumann.
Charmingly presented to the public explaining that it was an outpouring of love for his beloved Clara and there are many references to her throughout the work .

Rachel presenting her programme after the Franck
Not least the quote from Beethoven  :To the distant beloved – An die ferne geliebte at the end of the first movement.
It is dedicated to Liszt who in turn dedicated his B minor Sonata to Schumann.
The two pinnacles of the Romantic piano repertoire.
And it was to Liszt that Rachel turned to close the programme ;the Mephisto Waltz n.1.
I well remember Peter Frankl giving a masterclass in Oxford on the Schumann Fantasy and explaining the difficulty of keeping the structure of the first movement in mind amidst the continual fluctuations of tempo that Schumann asks for.
It was exactly this that marked Rachel’s performance as very special today.
All the passionate outpouring of love for Clara was there together with the extreme tenderness and subtle sense of colour and exquisite phrasing.
All this held tightly together to the final magical quote from Beethoven.
Ever more in diminuendo to the bell like final chords and the three final bass chords almost disappearing into the infinite.A remarkable control of sound completely mesmerised the audience.
The march of the second movement was played with great rhythmic impetus but I felt the dotted rhythms of Schumann could have been less clipped and more melodically shaped.
The middle section was beautifully shaped though.
Hampered I fear by a small hand but she managed to conquer the infamous difficulties of the coda magnificently.
The last movement was magically played managing to play with great feeling but always keeping the great melodic line in view architecturally.The melodic line in the bass in the coda was sublime and her control of sound remarkable.
The minutes of silence that greeted the final chords was evidence enough of the magic she had created this afternoon.
This was obviously the Eusebius side of Rachels’ character.
Now with the Mephisto Waltz n.1 we were treated to Floristan and a truly fearless performance of this virtuoso showpiece.
There was though a virtuosism of great subtlety with infinite shades of colour in the most transcendental scale passages.
A middle section of heartrending sentiment and a coda in which she threw herself completely at the infamous octave leaps that the virtuoso Liszt had conjured up.
The birdcalls at the end were played with a clarity and precision before throwing herself at the double octave ending.
One can understand why she won the Audience Award at the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
In fact it was by popular demand that she played Widmung by Schumann in the Liszt transcription where the two composers were at last consoled in a performance at once delicate,passionate and virtuosistic.
But above all it was the the poetic intelligence and complete command of the keyboard that kept us spellbound for this short recital in Hugh Mather’s remarkable series.
An immediate invitation for a return match was greeted with cheers from this very appreciative audience today.

Rachel Cheung

Rachel Cheung and CA

Graham Johnson and the Songmakers’ Almanac

On Wings of Song The Songmakers’ Almanac 40 years on
It was in 1976 under the enlightened management of William Lyne that the Wigmore Hall was relaunched.
He had persuaded Artur Rubinstein to give just one last concert in his long career in order to save the Wigmore Hall from the threat of demolition.
A concert on the 31st May 1976 when an almost blind Artur Rubinstein played for the very last time in public.
His final piece the B flat minor Scherzo by his beloved Chopin he abandoned as he could no longer see the great leaps involved.
He proceeded to play two studies op 10 n.4 and one we had never heard him play in public before op 25 n.2.
Both of which took our breath away.
It was a truly memorable recital that had included Schumann Carnaval,Beethoven op 31 n.3 Ravel Valses Nobles and Chopin Nocturne op 27 n.2 and Scherzo op 31.
An audience in delirium and Rubinstein with not the slightest sign of having played a recital that would have worn out much younger colleagues.
He turned to the audience and begged them not to allow the hall to be demolished.
He had started his career in 1912 in the Bechstein Hall and he was happy to finish it here in the newly named Wigmore Hall 54 years later.
He invited the audience to go backstage for this very last time.
He was being greeted by all when he could sense that there was someone very exceptional in front of him.
”I may be blind but not too blind to know when a beautiful lady is standing in front of me.”
Lauren Bacall was charmed of course as only Rubinstein knew how.
William Lyne not content with just Rubinstein devised in typical antipodean style a month of celebrations with concerts that included Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,Henryk Szeryng, Peter Pears with Julian Bream and Murray Perahia,Melos Ensemble,Parikian, Fleming,Roberts Trio and a concert in memory of David Munrow who was to have directed the Early Music Consort.
The Hall was reborn and has since under the enlightened antipodean Managements of William Lyne and now John Gilhooly become one of the most sought after and revered chamber music venues.
It has created its own audience who fill the hall night after night for artists such as Andras Schiff,Steven Isserlis,Angela Hewitt,Joshua Bell ,Graham Johnson etc etc .

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf on the 12th June 1976
Little could they have imagined that the hall was born on the wings of song.
For just down the road on the South Bank a young enthusiastic pianist was devising programmes for singers with themes under the name of the Songmakers’ Almanac.

A man in love
It took a little while for William Lyne and Graham Johnson to find each other and to realise that the ideal place for this new adventure was infact in the reborn Wigmore Hall.
With the first steps on stage of Graham with his colleagues from the RAM :Felicity Lott,Anthony Rolf Johnson,Richard Jackson,Ann Murray it was love at first sight.
A love affair that has lasted over 40 years.
Visibly moved as Graham Johnson remembered all those who had been on this long journey of discovery with him but were no longer with us.
The voice of “Tony”Rolfe Johnson brought a tear to his eyes as it still brought to us a tingle of excitement with the sublime exchange between voice and piano of this singer whose life was cut short much too early.
Sharing with us so generously his memories of 40 years of the almanac which he had idealised for these great young singers who were just happy to have programmes devised for them rather than jotting down their pieces on the back of a brown envelope.
Geoffrey Parsons was not immediately convinced.
Singers sing and accompanists follow !
He soon changed his tune and became an invaluable part of the Almanac as did the veteran Gerald Moore.
Officially retired in 1967 to tend his rose garden rather than darting from one continent to another.Gerald Moore took the Almanac audience by surprise one evening by joining Graham at the piano for a Schubertiade.
What greater endorsement could there be than that for a young man who had been seduced by song at the age of 21 playing with Felicity Lott in the class of Flora Nielson.
Graham and I had been contemporaries at the Royal Academy.
He had come on an Associated Board Scholarship from South Africa to study with Harry Isaacs .
I with Sidney Harrison but we shared chamber music coaching together with John Streets.
I well remember him telling Graham that he did not have to play every note as if someone was sticking a knife into him!
But Graham was already ultra sensitive to beautiful sound and he would also regularly quote the great poets to us in the student canteen much to our bewilderment.
Graham took part in the BBC Cello Competition directed at Dartington by Eleonor Warren.
He partnered Jonathan Williams a very fine cellist and the son of one of the Trimble sisters who had a well known piano duo at the time.
But when he struck up the Rococo Variations by Tchaikowsky it was the sheer beauty of the sound of Grahams’ orchestra that has remained with me all these years.
As Graham told us he was preparing the usual Concerto and Sonatas of a solo pianist ………………..that is until at the age of 21 he fell madly in love ………..with song.
Thanks to that great singing teacher Flora Nielson.
A lover he has never betrayed in fact it has become stronger as he delved deeper and came into contact in those early days with musicians of the calibre of Schwarzkopf,De Los Angeles,Pierre Bernac,Peter Pears,Gerald Moore,Walter Legge ,Hugh Cuenod etc etc.
He even helped Benjamin Britten write down his opera Death in Venice when he became physically too frail to write down the marvels that were still in his heart and mind.
This is just a small part of the fascinating journey that Graham shared with us on a Saturday morning here on his beloved stage.
Pointing to the spot where an already invalid Peter Pears had participated at an Almanac dedicated to him and had stated :
”The Wigmore hall is the place where singers can sing better than they ever thought possible”
How many programmes had been meticulously prepared and in preparing them how deeper his love had become.
His CD recording of the complete Schubert Songs has become a classic and his volume that accompanies it a reference for all that wish to know every detail of Schuberts heart and mind.
It was a story that Graham shared in is inimitable way.
With elegance,wit and above all intelligence in which his passionate involvement rang out so strongly.
A few years ago after one of his many recitals he was honoured with the Gold Medal of the Wigmore Hall.
He was presented too with a carriage clock.
Graham in thanking John Gilhooly immediately  quipped “but I have no intention of retiring!”
I introduced him via internet to Dame Fanny Waterman.
I had been listening in Italy over the radio to a recital transmitted from the Wigmore Hall.
Mesmerised by the beauty of Graham’s playing in writing to Dame Fanny with birthday greetings I mentioned that I had just been overwhelmed by the concert.
”But I was listening too in Leeds and he is the greatest accompanist alive .“
Fanny has chosen artists of the calibre of Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu to win her competition and is rarely wrong when it comes to playing the piano.
They have since become friends and mutual admirers.
I am involved too with helping to monitor and point in the right direction extraordinarily talented young pianists on the verge of important careers in music.And I often say to these Lions of the Keyboard if you want to learn how to make the piano sing listen to Graham Johnson.
Ever generous he came to one of the Keyboard Trusts’ Prize Winners Wigmore debut of a magnificent Russian pianist who had sought from Graham to find his secret of true legato hidden in that black box of hammers and strings.
A wonderful illuminating morning that I just hope will be recorded for posterity or at least published as an important document of someone who has changed the face of music appreciation.
Not content with all that he does he has just finished an important book on Poulenc which is about to be published in the UK.
The Green Room crowded by his friends and admirers after an hour and a half cut short only because time ran out.
“Am I too loud” his mentor Gerald Moore would ask.
No No dear Graham but much much “more” please.
The good news is that at the invitation of John Gilhooly,Graham has devised a new Songmakers’ Almanac series that begins on the 24th January 2019.
The Wigmore and Graham Johnson are indeed floating once again on Wings of Song.

Graham Johnson