Beatrice Rana takes London by storm
“Wonderful ………..one of the most beautiful performances of things we have heard so often but tonight they glittered like the jewels that Chopin must have imagined”
That I wrote in the interval ..”.lovely.suprise to be in London again to hear you……”
I have heard Beatrice Rana play many times in Italy also at the Wigmore Hall in London.
I remember her Goldberg Variations in London broadcast live from the Wigmore Hall but also in Rome a year later which was televised.
A remarkable enough performance in London that Stephen Kovacevich particularly admired.
The later performance in Rome was even more extraordinary for its maturity and rock like sense of direction.
I was told by Prof.Pieralbero Biondi that her final exam performance at S.Cecilia had the jury members cheering at the end.
After all her successes worldwide she had returned home to her original teacher Benedetto Lupo with whom she had studied as a child at the Monopoli Conservatory in Puglia.
She returned to his class at the Academy of S. Cecilia inspite of his insistence that she should branch out on her own now.
But between Benedetto Lupo,Sir Antonio Pappano and the Academy of S. Cecilia she had returned home to work on her scores in peace and serenity and delve ever more deeply in the music to which she was destined since her birth in Puglia of a family of musicians.
And so it was today that we heard the Chopin Studies op 25 played as the composer had indicated.
Each of the 12 studies was a miniature tone poem.
Bathed in the sunlight that Chopin’s own pedal indications had asked for she shaped each one with a luminosity and poetry that I have only heard similar on the old recording of Cortot.
Completely different of course but the one thing- the most important thing in common was the poetry that is concealed in what are conceived also as studies.
The Aolian Harp of the first study showing exactly what Sir Charles Halle had described on hearing Chopin on his last tour in Manchester.
”Il faut graver bien distintemente les grandes e les petites notes” writes Chopin at the bottom of the first page.
Long pedal markings overlapping the bar lines and the pianissimo asked for by Chopin so perfectly played by Beatrice. The long held pedal at the end gave such an etherial magical sound.
The second study too like silk.
Not the usual note for note performances we are used to but washes of sound perfectly articulated of course but with the poetry and music utmost in mind.
The final three long “C’s” which can sound out of place were here of a magic that one never wanted them to stop.
The third and fourth to contrast were played with great clarity with some surprising inner notes that gave such substance and depth to the sound.
Here was not only a supreme interpreter but also a great personality.
The end of the fifth that linked up to the 6th.It grew out of the final crescendo flourish that always had seemed out of place.
Here in Beatrice’s hands it is exactly as Chopin in his own hand has indicated.
Here too one must mention the sumptuous middle melody of the fifth played with wonderful sense of balance and also a flexibility of pulse that again showed the hands of a great musical personality.
I have only heard similar sense of “rubato” live from Rubinstein although Murray Perahia on CD is pure magic too.
The technically difficult double thirds accompanied the left hand melodic line with a subtle sense of sound like a wind passing over the grave indeed !
The absolute clarity and jeux perle of the “double” double thirds was just the relief and contrast that was needed.
Beautiful sense of colour in the Lento that is the 7th study where Chopin marks so clearly that the melody is in the left hand with only counterpoint comments from the right( Cortot and Perlemuter are the only others that I have heard make this distinction so clearly)
The 8th played very much molto legato and sotto voce to contrast with the absolute clarity of the “ Butterfly” study that is n.9.
The ending that can sound so abrupt in some hands here was perfectly and so naturally shaped
The great octave study entered like a mist as Chopin indicates poco a poco crescendo .Bathed in pedal too even though not indicated so precisely by Chopin.
Such was her identification with this sound world she had seen this study as great wedges of sound interrupted only by the extreme legato cantabile of the middle Lento section.
Chopin marks very precisely here the fingering he wants to obtain this effect.
The great “Winter Wind” study n. 11 where there were great washes of sound ,again as Chopin so clearly indicates .The final great scale played unusually cleanly with a very precise final note.
Of course all clearly indicated in Chopin’s own hand .
The final 12th study was played with enormous sonority and very clear melodic line as Chopin indicates very clearly. The ending marked “ il piu forte possibile” and a final crescendo to “fff”.
It brought this revelatory performance to a breathtaking ending.
We had been taken on such an unexpected journey that my original thought was a first half of only 30 minutes?
But such a performance and vision could not have been shared with anything else and quite rightly was presented by a master as the absolute masterpiece it is.
After the interval Miroirs played with all the magical sounds and complete mastery that is rarely heard from others.
The beauty and variation of colour was again a revelation.
But coming after the Chopin I could not appreciate fully all the detail that she was outlining as she spun her delicate web of sound.
Maybe here a more classical approach less fussy might have led to more clarity?Too many hairpins that the long line was not what I was used to hearing from the aristocratic french school.
But hearing my colleagues who had come to hear a Master I realise that the unease was with me not with her!
We were soon woken out of the cocoon of sound by Agosti’s extraordinary transcription of Stravinsky Firebird.
It was written in 1928 and a fellow student of Agosti,Peter Bithell, told me that it was Stravinsky himself that had had it published.
Agosti and his wife were great friends of my wife and I , and the sounds that he could conjure from the piano in private I have never forgotten.
His crippling stage fright meant that the vast public were robbed of hearing one of the greatest musicians – a disciple of Busoni.
We managed to bully him into playing Beethoven op 111 and op 110 in public in our theatre but he always had to precede it with a spoken introduction.
It is one of the few recordings of this genius that we have.
I never heard him play the Firebird although I suspect he taught it in Siena where the world used to flock to his studio in the summer months to hear sounds that will never be forgotten.
I am sure that had he heard Beatrice play today he would have been filled with pride as to how she could realise the sounds that are transformed from the orchestra to the piano so magically.
A standing ovation and two encores from the Preludes by Chopin op 28.
Again even more of a revelation with the F sharp major prelude n.13 that can sound so disjointed in lesser hands. Here it was allowed to sing with a simplicity and a sense of the big line that so often is disrupted by a less than flowing left hand.
Here is the true rubato that Chopin described to his aristocratic pupils.The trees with the roots firmly in the ground and the branches free to sway simply and naturally above.
The piu lento middle section was played as from afar but with such a magical sound projected as only a true master could judge.
The final few notes were played so naturally and with such gradations of sound that allowed the prelude to disappear to nothing as it had appeared.
It led to one of those rare moments of silence where no one dared even breath.
A magisterial account of the Prelude in B flat minor broke the spell and showed us just what a virtuoso we had in our midst.
Digging deep into the bass to give depth to the swirling sounds that she was spinning with such passion in the right hand.
Of course many of the finest pianist were present and above all her greatest admirer Stephen Kovacevich.
She greeted us all with a simplicity gladly signing her CD’s and talking to her friends and admirers.
At 26 we have a great master in our midst and it is lovely to know that she is from Puglia.
That part of Italy blessed indeed for so many magnificent things.
The land of Riccardo Muti, Benedetto Lupu,Nino Rota,Gioconda de Vito,Paolo Grassi , Tito Schipa,burrata,focaccia,vino di Locorotondo and the Spanish baroque of the Vallee D’Itria- Martina Franca and Lecce,of course at the very heel -the Florence of the south.
It can now be proud to boast Beatrice Rana.