Cristiana Pegoraro in San Sebastiano The blossoming of the tree
It was in 1984 (the year of my marriage to the actress Ileana Ghione) and the year that the legendary pianist (mentored by Cortot,Ravel and Fauré )Vlado Perlemuter made his debut in Italy in the Teatro Ghione in Rome.
I had studied with him in Paris after my studies at the RAM with Gordon Green and Sidney Harrison and in Rome with Guido Agosti.
Having recently renovated a theatre in Rome (next to St Peters Square) principally for the play productions of my actress wife we were beginning to get requests from musicians to play in a city where the space for concerts was extremely limited.
I asked Vlado if he would like to come and play in Rome.
Of course he loved the idea and he and his companion Joan Booth came and were to return year after year until his 90th in fact.
He was immediately feted all over Italy but it was the very first review in the Corriere della Sera that I remember reading to him over breakfast in the nearby Columbus Hotel.
Vlado had been invited by the Signora Adriana Casagrande a few years before as a jury member of the Casagrande Competition held in mem0ry of her father in Terni.
An industrial town built by Mussolini that was the centre of steel production up until the end of the war.
One of our principle actors at the time was Walter Maestosi and his brother Elio was a well known Professor of piano.
His star pupil was a fourteen year old girl from Terni Conservatory.
Could she play in the theatre where his brother was leading man on stage with Ileana Ghione?
Cristiana Pegoraro gave the first of many concerts in 1983 and also took part in the first of many masterclasses that Perlemuter gave the day after his triumphal Italian debut.
Reminding Cristiana Pegoraro of these articles she very sweetly sent me the following note:
”Ah Chris,what a joy to read these articles!I always remember those years and Teatro Ghione with all the amazing concerts and masterclasses you were able to organise.The Golden Age of Pianists and I remember Ileana with great love……..Thanks for sharing”
Cristiana graduated at the age of sixteen from Terni Conservatory and went on to study with Lilian Zafred,Jorg Demus,Hans Leygraf and finally Nina Svetlanova at the Manhattan School of Music in New York.
We had lost touch over the years with our busy careers taking us in different directions.
I met Cristiana again in New York where she was about to give one of her many recitals in the Institute of Italian Culture.
She has become something of an Ambassador for Italian Culture performing for Unicef,Amnesty International,World Food Programme,Energency,Lions Clubs International and Rotary International.
Sustaining them in their humanitarian projects.
In June she was awarded the highest acknowledgement for an Italian woman artist by the President of Italy Sergio Mattarella
Since 2011, she is the President of Narnia Arts Academy (www.narniaartsacademy.com) and Artistic Director of Narnia Festival (www.narniafestival.com).
The Academy and Festival were four time recipients of the President of Italy Gold Medal award for their outstanding programming.
(Narni is a magical hillside town perched on the hills above Terni and each summer there is a teaching and performing programme of artists from the USA and Italy).
So I was pleasantly surprised to see this poster announcing a recital in a little hill top town in the Abruzzo mountains where I and others were seeking refuge from the sweltering Italian summer weather.
Usually deep in snow in the winter with many of these towns inaccessible for months.
During the summer they provide a refuge for many from the big cities who prefer the mountains to the beach.
Only 100 KM from Rome it is an area not readily on the tourist trail but a truly magical area full of tradition and of course superb local cuisine.
A little town on holiday and all the inhabitants filling the streets with good will and entertainment.
In the church of San Pancrazio there was a superb Steinway piano provided by Angelo Fabbrini (who has his studio on the beach in the nearby town of Pescara.I last saw him with Pollini in New York and then with Sokolov in Rome both of whom trust him to provide them with the very best instruments for their concerts worldwide.We also bought from him the concert grand in the theatre in the early ‘80’s ) .
A very interesting programme that Cristiana introduced to a full attentive audience that had gathered to celebrate their own native musician and composer Filippo Berardini.(1898-1950).
A celebration that his son Tito Berardini ,the mayor of San Sebastiano, has for two years celebrated with the invaluable help of Cristiana.
Repeating the concert in the Cathedral of the nearby larger town and ski resort Pescasseroli it has become an eagerly awaited annual event.
Filippo Berardini had studied at the Naples Conservatory “San Pietro a Majella” where he was the favourite student of Florestano Rossomandi ,the renowned piano pedagogue whose book on piano technique is still used today.
His compositions and biography are published in the book “Liriche per canto e pianoforte”.
It was some of these pieces that Cristiana played today in his honour.
Her own transcription of his only piece for violin and piano as well as a selection of his songs.
She was joined in an encore for four hands by the conductor Lorenzo Porzio.
They showed all the charm and typical lyricism of the Neapolitan Romances of that period.
Played with great artistry and virtuosity by Cristiana and the shared duet at the end made a charming interlude from the main programme of Rossini,Bizet,Chopin,Vivaldi ,Verdi-Puccini-Rossini.
I was very pleased to hear some very refined Chopin playing where her great sense of balance allowed the melody to sing out unimpeded in the Nocturne in C sharp minor Op Post.A more simple left hand accompaniment would have allowed the music to speak more naturally.But the embellishments at the end were quite magical and the two against three in the middle section was perfectly managed.
It led the way for a performance of the so called “Aolian Harp”study op 25 n.1.
It was here that she found that simplicity that had eluded her in the nocturne and the melodic line was incorported so beautifully over the shimmering changing harmonies that Sir Charles Halle had described so well when Chopin himself played it in his last ill fated tour of England the year before his death.
The so called “Revolutionary” study was played with great passion and technical assurance.
The differing dynamic contrasts played as only a true artist could do.
In fact I think it may have been these very studies that she had played at the Ghione Theatre 36 years ago!
Two of her own remarkable transcriptions opened the programme.
The Rossini Overture from “L’Italiana in Algeri” was a virtuoso transcription full of colour and and quite considerable virtuosity.
Neither this nor the Carmen Fantasy that followed were in the style of a Horowitz but it was Cristiana’s quite considerable personality and technical command of the keyboard that held this audience and I imagine her audiences worldwide spellbound.
I was sorry not to be able to hear the entire concert but dusk was setting in.
A 100 kilometer drive ahead of me through mountainous country roads where fires too were raging as always during the dry hot summer months.
I look forward to the next occasion of catching up with the little fourteen year old girl that has matured into a sensitive artist and human being.
A real blossoming of talent that I like to think was in some way influenced by the Ghione Theatre in those crucial formative years.