It is a beautiful idea to be able to wake up on a sunday morning to the sound of music in Queen Victoria’s monument to her dearly beloved husband Albert.
Here in what has been re-cristened the Elgar Room one can hear some of the prize students from their next door neighbour the Royal College of Music.
In 1884 it was known as the West Theatre and Mr Barton,a student of the RCM, performed Chopin’s 3rd Ballade on the 2 July to open a programme that included Mozart, Handel,Gluck,Schumann and Haydn.
A beautifully elegant, if sparsely decorated room with large windows that look on to the Albert Monument opposite in Kensington Gardens.
130 years on great photos of Frank Sinatra,Ella Fitzgerald and the Beatles now adorn the walls.In the corner on a podium is the Yamaha Grand Piano that Elton John used for his Red Piano Tour that has now been very generously bequeathed to the Albert Hall by Marksons Pianos.
It is a piano that was created for the very special world of Elton John where its bark is as good as it’s bite.
Unfortunately J.S. Bach,which was the first half of today’s programme is music based on the song and the dance.
This instrument,though, was created for a quite different song and dance act based on amplification and mechanical reproduction to satisfy the thousands of fans that flock to Elton John’s concerts.
I have heard Victor Maslov play many times and although still only in his early twenties he has an enviable curriculum.
Starting as a child in Moscow at the Gnessin Special School,taught by his mother Olga Maslova .
He later became a scholar of the Vladimir Spivakov Foundation.Masterclasses with Dmitry Bashkirov and now completing his advanced studies with Dmitri Alexeev at the RCM.
It is nice to see that he became one of the first Eileen Rowe Musical Trust Award Holders.
Miss Rowe was a remarkable teacher in Ealing who dedicated her life to the children in her care.
She even left all her worldly goods to create this fund for exceptionally talented but needy young musicians of which Victor is a beneficiary.
As a student together with Katherine Stott,Daniel Salamon and many others we would help her prepare her numerous young students for their piano exams in her house that was full of pianos in every room.
Ilya Kondratiev who like Victor is also helped by Talent Unlimited of Canan Maxton came to hear his colleague having played in this very room some years ago.
Victor Maslov will play Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto in the Queen Elisabeth Hall on the 2 July with the Orchestra of the RCM in a special showcase concert in one of the major halls in London.
It was in fact Rachmaninov that made up a large part of Victor’s programme today.
The complete Etudes Tableaux op 39 and the arrangement of the Bach suite from the Partita n. 3 fro violin BWV 1006.
The Bach Toccata in E minor BWV 914 that opened the programme immediately showed his transcendental technique and musicianship to the full.The rhythmic energy and his total command allowed us to enjoy certain aspects of this rarely played piece.The layers of colour and different registers of sound were just not possible to fully convey on this rather bright instrument.
The Rachmaninov transcription of the Violin Suite fared better as the slight retouches to the original Bach score allowed more use of the pedals and added a more sumptuous sound.The Menuet was played with great charm and added a brief respite from the more rhythmic knotty twine of the outer movements.
This opened the way to the world of Rachmaninov with his Etudes Tableaux op 39.
A technical command that knows no difficuties and a sense of style that is in his Russian blood.
From the very first notes we were carried away by the sheer sweep of the first study.A range of orchestral sounds from the deep bass to the tender treble.The second study revealed a beautiful cantabile thanks to his very careful sense of balance leading to a startling climax dissolving magically to end this little tone poem.
A great call to arms in the 3rd study of transcendental virtuosity with enormous sonorities that dissolved to almost a whisper tinged with that typical Rachmaninovian nostalgia .
The 4th study could have been more playful and seemed rather too ‘serioso’ to contrast with the passionate declamations of the famous E flat minor study n.5. His great sense of balance allowed the melodic line to sing out gloriously ,even on this piano, above the most passionate outpourings.
The absolute clarity of the scary “ Red Riding Hood” study n.6 led to the sonorous brooding harmonies and pealing bells of the 7th with its insistent repeated notes.
Victor was able to find a beautiful delicate legato for the double notes of the pastoral like 8th study similar to op 10 n.10 of Chopin.It led to the final call to arms of the 9th study.
Great sonorities and orchestral sounds were magically drawn from this piano that I am sure was not used to the transcendental pianism of this young Russian virtuoso.
A wake up call indeed on this beautiful Sunday morning.