IVAN KRPAN IN LONDON
For many years now John and Noretta Conci-Leech have made the pilgrimage from their country home in Trento to Bolzano to listen to the array of pianistic talent that flocks to this town on the border of Italy and Austria for the Busoni International Piano Competition.
Busoni although born in Italy in Empoli from a very early age the family moved via Trieste to Vienna and on to Graz, where he received his early training.
Leipzig,Helsinki,Boston,New York followed but he finally settled in Berlin where he died in 1924.
So it is quite fitting that Bolzano should have named their competition after one of the most visionary composer virtuosi since Franz Liszt.
One of the oldest established competitions with the first in 1949.
No first prize was given in the first three competitions or 31 out of 61 editions.
The first prize winner was in 1952 and was Sergio Perticaroli and in the fifth competition in 1957 Martha Argerich ran away with first prize at the age of 16.Many of the other competitors have gone on to establish themselves on the world stage.
They include: Alfred Brendel,Bela Siki,Bruno Mezzena,Walter Klien,Karl Engel,Ingrid Habler and many others.
It is exactly this element of the competition that is so interesting.
A chance to hear some of the finest young pianistic talents in the world.
Some of the most talented are not necessarily equipped in every way to impress a jury or to be ready to accept the many engagements and chances that would be offered to he who seems to have all the elements at his fingertips!
The Keyboard Charitable Trust was established by John and Noretta Leech to select those with exceptional talent that with the right encouragement and practical help of experience of public performances could eventually blossom into an important career.
A career Development Prize is offered to the Busoni Competition by the KCT.
Many have been helped over the years in this way: Alexander Romanovsky,Michail Lifits, Emanuel Rimoldi,Gala Chistiakova,Gesualdo Coggi,Maurizio Baglini to name but a few Recently Jiyeong Mun and now Ivan Krpan.
So it was at the 2017 competition that Noretta immediately noted the extraodinary talent of a young Croatian………much too young to win but together with an equally youthful Korean boy 김은성 EunSeong Kim undoubtedly talent that might benefit from the help of the KCT.
A cruel twist of fate has taken EunSeong from us and a great talent will forever be mourned.
But Ivan Krpan much to the delight and surprise of everyone present was voted first prize by an enlightened jury and it was London this week that has been overwhelmed by this twentyone year old pianist.
Bryce Morrison together with Alberto Portugheis,Canan Maxton,Hugh Mather ,Bob and Elisabeth Boas ,Martin Campbell- White are some of the distinguished guests who together with the Artistic Directors and founders of the KCT were able to witness the arrival of an important new talent in our midst.
Invitations to play for the KCT in place of Steinway Hall that is being renovated were very gratefully received from the very prestigious venue that is the home in the centre of London of Bob and Elisabeth Boas.
An invitation too to perform in that Mecca for pianists created by Dr Hugh Mather in Perivale.
Steinway versus Bosendorfer indeed!
Both fine instruments with very different voices that Ivan was able to share with small but very distinguished audiences.
A very well thought out programme for which Ivan was only too willing to share his raison d’etre.
It was no programme thrown together solely to demonstrate his remarkable gifts.
Beethoven’s late Sonata in E minor op 90 was paired with op 109 in E major.
The lyrical two movement sonata op 90 infact ends in E major and leads so well into the lyricism of op 109 the first of Beethoven’s trilogy that ends his final thoughts on his 32 Sonatas.
After the interval the visionary Sonatina seconda by Busoni written quite amazingly in 1912.
It incorporates many of the themes from his unfinished opera and life’s work Doktor Faust and is an incredibly modern piece for its time.
“Pensee de morts” of 1834 by Liszt from his series of 10 Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses.It already forsees the visionary works of his later period.
It led so naturally to the Dante sonata which ended this fascinating programme.
But not before even offering as an encore Busoni’s extraordinarily moving transcription of “Ich ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ.”
The first concert included the Beethoven sonata op 90 which was played on Bob Boas’ fine Steinway,
The first movement played with a precision and sense of dynamic contrast and a scrupulous regard for Beethoven’s very precise markings.
But there was also a fantasy and a certain flexibility that marked out a very particular musical personality.
” Nicht zu geschwind” indicates Beethoven in this almost Schubertian second movement.I found it just a shade too fast to allow the melody to unwind naturally without doing anything except to allow the music to sing.
His reasoning is in the contrasted more rhythmic episodes that alternate but as in Schubert this can be accomodated with a more flexible tempo as he infact did a few days later in his magical performance of Schumann Arabesque op 18 played as an encore in Perivale.
Here the change of tempo before the coda created a magic that was unforgettable.
The use of silence too with pauses that were so pregnant with meaning.The coda of the Schumann every bit as unbearably beautiful as the ending of Liederkreis where words are just not enough.
Here the Bosendorfer came into its own and I would have liked to hear Beethoven op 90 on Hugh Mather’s piano that had a much more singing tone as suits the world of Brahms,Schumann and Beethoven.
However in discussion afterwards he was quite adament that this is what he wanted and gave me the reasons why.
In someone so young I was quite taken aback in admiration with such a mature and definite musical decision in someone barely 21.
Infact one of the remarkable things about this young man was his absolute command and musical intelligence.A personality that is ready to be convinced but only if convincing.
It is this conviction that makes his performances so full of authority and hats off to the jury in Bolzano that had noted this in someone seemingly so young.
The vivace ma non troppo of the Sonata op 109 was beautifully shaped with great fantasy.The build up and passion of the triumphant exposition of Beethoven’s seemingly dream like melody was quite overwhelming.
Even more so on Hugh Mathers’ Bosendorfer that gave a much wider range of dynamics and a richness of sound that the clarity of a Steinway could not match in this music.
The arpeggiandi I found a little too slow in unwinding but could see his musical reasoning and was almost convinced although my teacher Agosti would not have been so accomodating!
The “prestissimo” second movement was ideally suited to the clarity and precision of the Steinway.
Always moving foreward relentlessly .Sometimes with his youthful zeal making little of the forte and fortissimo differences but bringing it to the abrupt ending that made the appearance of the Andante seem even more cantabile ed espressivo as Beethoven asks.
Here the Bosendorfer came into its own and the slight overpedalling on the Steinway was here translated into the most sublime sense of phrasing.
Time seemed to stand still for all those fortunate enough to be present.
Ivan is his own man and it was a performance by a supremely intelligent stylist.
Serkin was of course unique but there were no compromises for him.
Beethoven was a bible written in stone.
For Ivan it was written in sand and for me was even more remarkable because of that.
The first variation – molto espressivo- was played with a weight and meaning that led so naturally into the second variation- leggiermente .The third showed his enormous assurance in an Allegro vivace that sounded almost Presto.
But the unfolding of the fourth was pure magic probably because of that contrast that he had chosen.
The great fugato, so similar to that same moment in the Goldberg variations, was played with breathtaking authority and assurance and it was the same orchestral sound that he maintained for the sixth where the trills create an uncontainable tension that spins out into the air like the Bach variations and like Bach leading to a magical reappearance of the theme where Ivan’s control of sound was quite remarkable.
An unforgettable performance from someone so young.
The Busoni sonatina showed off his transcendental technique and kaleidoscopic sense of colour.
The rhythmic precision ideally suited to the Steinway.
A work from a composer who like Liszt could see into the future and anticipate the trends in music that were still to come.
His performance of the Liszt Dante Sonata was quite simply the most convincing I have ever heard in a live performance.
The wonderfully incisive performance on record of the young Ogdon was balanced by the weight and authority that Arrau gave in his leggendary performances.
It was also his choice of Liszt that was so remarkable -The “Pensee des morts” very rarely heard in the concert hall but already evokes the Liszt of Nuages gris and En reve.
Some magical sounds and a great sense of drama prepared us in such an intelligent manner for the astonishing performance of the Dante Sonata that was to follow.
Perhaps it is the fourth time this this week I have heard the Dante Sonata but today in Ivan’s hands I was rooted to the spot.
An astonishing sense of drama allied to a truly transcendental technique.
But as Hugh Mather so rightly pointed out it was the pauses that were so extraordinary.
Creating such great contrasts it was as if we were hearing this work for the first time restoring it to its rightful place next to the mighty B minor Sonata.
He threw himself into the final astonishing bars and we were mesmerised by the energy that he had generated and was allowed to explode with such virtuosity.
The final few chords in a seemingly endless crescendo brought this extraordinary performance to a close.
I have already spoken of the Schumann Arabesque played as an encore in Perivale.
Mention should be made of his performance of the Bach Busoni Chorale Prelude which received a very original performance obviously conceived by him with the rich sounds of the organ in mind.
Gone were the usual rather beautiful piano sounds of Jesu Joy or Gluck/Sgambati Orpheo so often offered as encores.
Here was a full blooded performance where one could appreciate the true Glory to God of Messiaenic fervor.
I have rarely seen after a debut recital such excitement and exchanging of visiting cards.
It was hardly suprising that he also received a telephone call from one of the major agents the next day too.
I am much looking forward to his next performance in Rome on the 12th February at the IUC La Sapienza University Series as winner of the Busoni Competition.
I am sure that this is just the beginning of many performances that await in London,Rome and elsewhere.
The world has been waiting indeed for an interpreter of such stature !