Umberto Jacopo Laureti at St Mary’s

Such a busy week in the sweltering heat of Rome that only now can I listen to the recital streamed live from Perivale.
I had asked Umberto and Hugh Mather if they could leave it on line for a few days to give me a chance to catch up.
Whilst Umberto was playing in London his teacher from the Accademia di S.Cecilia in Rome,Benedetto Lupo, was holding his recital diploma final recitals.
Umberto did this last year whilst he was also studying for a Doctorate in Busoni at the Royal Academy in London.
I had heard Umberto play for the University in Rome a programme dedicated to Italian piano music.Some of which we heard today in Perivale https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/umberto-jacopo-laureti-at-rome-3-university/10156402485297309/

Paul Tortelier looking on as the concert from Perivale was streamed to Rome
Little did Umberto know that he was playing under the vigilant eye of Paul Tortelier!
Not only is Umberto a magnificent pianist but also a very sensitive intellectual who has delved deep into the works he plays.
Hardly surprising as he comes from the school of two master musicians: Benedetto Lupo in Rome and Ian Fountain in London.
The Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances , better known in the orchestral version ,were described as almost Busoni type transcriptions.
Busoni with hints of Grainger and Vaughan Williams I would say.
Some remarkable feats of piano playing in his use of finger legato and very scarse use of the pedals.
Great sonorities too when needed but it was the refined clarity that he was able to produce that was quite astonishing.
Still two hands at the beginning of the Chopin Barcarolle!
He has almost convinced me that artistically it is absolutely right.
Why Chopin did not write it is a mystery!
Once the gondoler had floated out to calmer waters the beautiful continuous melodic invention was spun with great poetry.
The passion of a young man and not the simplicity of a man already consumed by disease though.
It was interesting that in the introduction to Beethoven op 109 Umberto pointed out that the link between Chopin and Beethoven was their need in their last years to sing rather than astonish or take by storm.
It was this extreme cantabile that was so overwhelming in a work we have heard so many times.
The first movement was pure song .One that had begun long before we could overhear it.
The second movement, too, usually so violently contrasted lost none of its energy and rhythmic precision. It had though a sound reminiscent of the Erard that I had found so sweet sounding in the Schubert Sonata that Tyler Hay played a week ago. https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/tyler-hay-at-hatchlands-for-the-cobbe-collection/10156554648092309/
The aristocratic sense of song in the last movement was linked also to a sense of equilibrium and control that in moments of abandon created an almost unbearable tension.
Released only in the long trills that are such a trade mark of the last sonatas of Beethoven.
A winding up and gradual release of tension.
A man with a soul that was on the edge of desperation and frustration as he inhabited ever more his world of total silence.
The celestial sounds only he could experience and try to decribe to us mortals with paper and pen.
It was interesting to know that Busoni wrote his Toccata in exile in Switzerland during the first world war.
Drawn all his life between Italy and Germany now he had to suffer also the strain of war.
All this is in his Toccata that received a superb performance.
His” party piece” as Benedetto Lupo told me.
And very remarkable it is too.
Every bit as remarkable as that of Serkin who played it in London many years ago together with the last Sonata of Beethoven and Reger Theme and Variations.
Those were the days when Rachmaninoff 3 and Prokofiev 2 were still on the horizon for a chosen few who could master notes.
Real intellect and study were in the hands of masters like Serkin and Kempff .
Bravo Umberto for shining a light on an ever more predictable piano scene.

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