Beethoven: 7 Bagatelles Op 33
Brahms: Variations and Fugue on theme of Handel Op 24
Born in Kyiv- Ukraine, Sasha Grynyuk studied at the National Music Academy of Ukraine and later at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London with Ronan O’Hora. After graduation he also benefited from artistic guidance of such great musicians as Alfred Brendel and Murray Perahia. Sasha was described by legendary Charles Rosen as “an impressive artist with remarkable, unfailing musicality always moving with the most natural, electrifying, and satisfying interpretations”. He regularly performs in most renowned concert halls throughout Europe, South and North America, Far East and Asia including Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Salle Cortot, Bridgewater Hall, Barbican Hall, Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall. Winner of over ten International competitions, prizes and awards Sasha was chosen as a Rising Star for BBC Music Magazine and International Piano Magazine. His recent successes also include 1st prizes of Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition, Grieg International Piano Competition and Guildhall School’s most prestigious award – the Gold Medal – previously won by such artists as Jacqueline Du Pre and Bryn Terfel.
I think it is only in Dr Hugh Mathers stable of pianists that one great artist could immediately substitute another.
It was just the case today that Jianing Kong had to leave for China on urgent family business but Sasha Grynyuk was in the wings happy to play in his place.
I have heard Jianing Kong give a magnificent recital in this very series in Perivale and was surprised to see Sasha Grynyuk appear on my screen in Rome where I had tuned in to follow the concert with their excellent live streaming.
I have heard Sasha play many times and have long admired his command of the keyboard and absolute faithfulness to the letter of the score.
His mentor Noretta Conci-Leech to whom he plays every week had told me about a memorable Brahms Handel that he had brought to her.
I was doubly happy then to be able to listen so unexpectedly to his performance today.
I was not disappointed on the contrary, like Noretta, I was quite exhilarated.
Week after week she listens in awe to his 32 Beethoven Sonatas ,five Concertos,Bagatelles sprinkled with Scriabin 5th and many other works by Rachmaninov and all.
After hearing Sasha play a Beethoven recital in Steinway Hall Stephen Kovacevich (who had been mentored by Myra Hess) wanted to know who his teacher was,such was his acute intelligence and understanding of Beethoven’s musical world.
A programme today that included Beethoven’s early 7 Bagatelles op 33 and finished with the Brahms 24 Variations and Fugue op 24.
The 7 Bagatelles were like 7 little tone poems each one with a story to tell with a great sense of character and subtle sense of colour.
A simple musicianship in which the music was allowed to unfold so naturally.
From the charm of the Andante grazioso to the deliciously playful Scherzo where the legato melody over a typical early Beethoven rolling bass in the middle section was immediately contrasted to the playfulness at the end.
Beethoven having such fun with the acciacturas in the beautifully shaped legato melody followed by a lied with beautiful trills played with a simplicity and innocence that opened the way to the most lovely of farewells.
The rolling arpeggios in the fifth were thrown off with such precision in the Allegro ma non troppo followed by a subtle cantabile contrasting section with Beethoven having the last laugh at the end.
The sixth bagatelle dissolving into nothing as it prepared the field for the insistent energy of the last Presto played with exhilarating physical participation.
Sasha gave a voice to each bagatelle allowing them to speak so naturally and beguilingly to a rapt appreciative audience.
An exemplary performance followed of Brahms Handel Variations.
From the very clearly stated theme with finely articulated trills there was a continous forward movement in the twenty four variations that followed.
They led to the final unusually clearly defined final statement before the explosion of the fugue.
A rhythmic and playful first variation was followed by the beautiful legato of the second played with great expression and with a very telling staccato left hand contrasting with the legato right. The very deliberate overlapping of the third was deliciously underplayed and followed by very rhythmic octaves that were never allowed to exit from the overall architectural frame.
A very florid cantabile beautifully shaped leading to legato octaves mirroring each other in a superb display of true legato.
The entry in the seventh of staccato signals the start of the rhythmic march that will take us through to the final triumphant ending.
A gradual build up magnificently controlled.
The beautiful music box in the twenty second sparkled in such refined hands leading to a relentless gear change for the final statement of the theme.
The explosion of energy in the fugue was played with a driving, relentless insistence.
Any slight mishap on the way was washed to one side on this tidal wave of energy that led the final triumphant chords.
A Rachmaninov encore just showed the subtle versatility of this remarkable young artist.
It is amazing the amount of music that is still to be found in the hills around Rome.Of course in the 18th century the great villas on the Castelli Hills were part of the grand tour and were frequented by Mozart,Liszt and many other renowned figures of the day.
Today just by chance I looked at what music there might be over the weekend and found Ivan Donchev’s second recital in his complete Beethoven Sonata cycle in Velletri and Luca Ciammarughi dedicating a duo recital with Jacopo Taddei to Picasso.
I had heard Ivan Donchev last April in Villa Mondragone playing on an 1879 Erard piano the ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ by Berlioz transcribed by Liszt.A superb performance played without the score which included also a detailed and intelligent preparatory description.
I was told by the artistic director Giancarlo Tammaro that in this Beethoven year Ivan will play the Pastoral Symphony in a series that will include all the Symphonies on the historic Erard piano in the Villa Mondragone.
Beatrice Rana the supreme stylist …..triumph of sublime sounds rarely heard in the concert hall these days.
Chopin studies even better than I remember from London.
Each one a miniature tone poem that amazingly seemed to grow one out of the other until the overwhelming tumultuous waves of the last study.
Albeniz full of ravishing colours and sudden changes of mood.
Alicia de Larrocha has always been my rule by which I compare all others.
After tonight it will be Beatrice Rana.
I remember Pollini`s Petrushka from his two debut recitals in London forty years ago.
Wonderful though it was the layers of sounds that were revealed tonight were of another world completely.
With Pollini we were astonished tonight we were seduced.
Overwhelmed indeed by this waif of an unasuming young girl who is already one of the greatest artists before the public today.
The sublime beauty of Chopins 13th Prelude played as an encore for the 2000 people in delirium was matched by the simple but very subtle clarity of Bach`s Gigue from the 1st Partita.
The studies together with her miraculous Ravel Miroirs can be heard live from the Wigmore Hall in London on Sunday 1st December at 11.30.And at the Wigmore again on the 7th February at 19.30 Bach Italian Concerto,Schumann Sonata op 14 1836 version( Concerto senza orchestra) Iberia Bk 3 ,Petrushka.
Overwhelmed again by the 5th study with the middle melodic section shaped as I have only heard from the hands of Rubinstein.
The opening played sottovoce but finishing like a great drama.Out of the mist appeared as if magic the sixth in double thirds that were seemless streams of gold in which the left hand melody was hinted at with a subtlety that was a revelation as Perlemuter had shown us years ago.The seventh too entered almost unnoticed with such beauty that the duet between the right hand and left was a true revelation for its sublime tenderness.
Never any hardness with the usual battle between the hands or of Cortot’s choice to give the stage to the left hand alone.
The eighth slipped in with a velocity of washes of sound with a supreme sense of legato.
The “butterfly” fluttered in on this wash of sound and how it fluttered away at the end was nothing short of miraculous.
Enormous sonorities for the mighty octave study but with hidden inner sounds that seemed to emerge and disappear like a ‘will- 0’ -the wisp.’
The extreme calm at the opening of the ‘Winter wind’ study with an almost inaudible pianissimo made the entry of the left hand polonaise rhythm even more overwhelming.
An overpowering ending in which the tumultuous waves in C minor swept us all away on a sea of passionate emotions.
But even here there were very subtle changes of dynamic that allowed a gradual increase in sound without any hardness.
A sense of balance quite unique in these days where the modern Steinway can accomodate ,and too often does, sledgehammer sensibilities.
Here the piano sound was always of supreme beauty and never allowed to harden or become a showpiece and excuse for empty showmanship.
An Albeniz full of nostalgia and ravishing Spanish atmospheres.
Sudden changes of mood too took us by surprise in El Albaicin in the final few bars with a sudden return to the festa.
A wonderful luminosity of sound in El Polo and a frenzied sense of dance in Lavapié full of the joy and subtle colours and rhythms of Spain.
The layers of sound in Petrushka were played with a relentless rhythmic drive .One could see the characters entering the stage in the second movement that began almost before the Danse russe had finished.
The Semaine Grasse was full of extraordinary colours and explosions of sound.
A full orchestra from the magic hands of this waif of a girl that has been truly blessed with a unique gift of communication that I have only heard similar from another beautiful lady of the name of Martha Argerich.
This is what I wrote about her studies in London recently:click the link below to see full article with photos(That did not reproduce in what is opened below)
“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 surprise 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 into the music to which she was destined since her birth in Puglia of a family of musicians.
Facsimile of Chopin manuscript
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 suprising 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.
Study 5 to 6 link that Chopin indicates in his own hand
Here too one must mention the sumptuous middle melody of the fifth played with a wonderful sense of balance and also a flexibility of pulse that again showed the hands of a great musical personality.I have only heard a 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 “Winter Wind” study n.11
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 .
Study n. 12.
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 in concert these days.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 was allowed to sing with a simplicity and a sense of 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 have judged.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 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 Kovachevich and 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.
Greeting her public and signing CD’s after the recital
Canan Maxton from Talent unlimited of which Simone is disciple was also present.
Deniz Arman Gelenbe had flown in from Paris to hear Simone whom she had prepared for his Artists diploma at Trinity Laban.
It was interesting to see that he had acquired his Masters at the RCM with Andrew Ball.
A whispered Mozart Variations on “La Belle Francoise “and the dramatic declarations of Liszt`s great homage to Dante.A delicate and intricate Paysages by Mompou led to one of the most lyrical of Prokofiev`s Sonatas.
Number 5 is the calm before the storm of the War Trilogy that followed.
I quote from Leslie Howard :” Simone Tavoni played like a man possessed, and it was spellbinding! Best Prokofiev 5th Sonata I’ve ever heard!
By the way, Christopher, Simone played the revised version of the 5th Sonata – opus 135 rather than opus 38 – which was the last opus number that Prokofiev completed – so some years after the 9th Sonata!!”
A surprise encore of a short piece that had come to Simone during the night!
Inspired by Mompou it showed off all the subtle colours that flow from Simone`s hands.
The second student that I had heard this week of that evident magician Andrew Ball.I had just heard at St Mary`s the day before Thomas Kelly searching for the same sounds as Simone today.
As with so many things the world of civilisation starts in Florence.
A book easily on a par with the pianist`s bible of Neuhaus.
Noretta Conci was enthusiastic for Simone`s range of sound.
She was the assistant for many years of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli who was one of the first to have discovered the rare scores of the recluse Mompou.
Simone asking forgiveness from Leslie Howard for one or two blemishes in the Prokofiev that only he would have noticed was glad and visibly relieved to hear of Leslie`s unqualified enthusiasm for his performance.
I first heard this 22 year old pianist at the Royal College of Music during the annual Joan Chissell Schumann competition.
There were some fine performances of many of the masterpieces that Schumann wrote one after the other from the Abegg variations op 1 to the Eight Novelettes of op 21 and on.
A continuous series of masterpieces.
But it was a performance of op 9 Carnaval that caught my attention for the liquid sound and natural pianism almost of Nelson Freire dimension.
Some things cannot be taught and the God given gift to communicate has been given only to a chosen few.
They may exceed in rubato or excess of bravura but there is a quality of sound that goes straight to the heart in a direct musical conversation.
Thomas Kelly ran away with the prize and I can just see Joan Chissell with a smile of recognition on her face.
She was a critic who could in just a few well chosen words illuminate her articles in the Times.
Mr Rubinstein the `Prince of Pianists` has remained in my memory as was her description of Villa Lobos` O Prol do Bebe` :’Mr Rubinstein turned baubles into gems.’
She could be harsh and unforgiving too and I remember Peter Katin telling me that he implored the Times not to keep sending her to his sold out Chopin recitals in the Festival Hall!
And so it was today that I was able to hear Thomas Kelly in a full recital for that connoisseur of young musicians Dr Hugh Mather.
I was not disappointed,on the contrary ,Thomas has matured without damaging his great natural talent and what we were privileged to hear today was quite extraordinary.
The only other pianists that I could liken his sound to are Leonard Pennario or Byron Janis or almost a Curzon.A liquid sound that is so pure and never with a hard edge.A sound that could go on forever in any direction.
It is a question of super sensibility to balance and a completely relaxed arm allied to ears that listen to every single nuance with a masterly control of the pedals.
That is a very simplified way of describing a sort of piano genius and in a nutshell that was what we were treated to today.
Starting with Schubert’s little A minor sonata D.784 which immediately showed his extraordinary range of sound.
The purity too of the opening theme that returns even more delicately after the menacing bass trills that were so beautifully calculated.
The initial outburst never exceeding the great architectural line created led so naturally to a heartmelting second subject.Magic was in the air even more etherial when the right hand embellishments were added.
A perfect sense of lilt in the developement section contrasted so well with the mighty dotted octaves and allowed a magical transition back to the recapitulation.
The final sighing farewell was played with a nostalgia and beauty of sound that was quite memorable.
A sumptuous sound for the Andante contrasted so well with the menacing dotted rhythmic interruptions played very clearly and precisely even though pianissimo.Maintaining the flow that Schubert asks for, the return in the tenor register of the main theme with magical embellishments high in the upper register created an otherworldly atmosphere.
This is surely one of Schubert’s most beautiful utterences full of both subtle tenderness and hint of menace.
The last movement entered in a whisper like Chopin’s B flat minor Sonata with’ the wind blowing over the graves.’
The difference is that here it was full of joy and Schubert’s endless melodic invention adding only to the glow of the contrasting episodes.
A true ‘Allegro vivace’ beautifully maintained to the very end with the famous octaves dispatched with an ease and sense of cantabile that is rare indeed.The final three chords played in crescendo and not the usual slam of the door that we are used to in lesser hands.
I remember Radu Lupu playing this sonata in the opening round of the Leeds Piano Competition and although his sound was even more etherial he together with Gilels a few years later in the Festival Hall had opened the pandoras box of one of Schubert’s most beautiful early creations.
Thomas too today has been touched by the same magic wand and his care and attention to detail kept us following his every move.
Kinderscenen by Schumann maintained the same magic with a visit from beautifully simple ‘foreign lands’ leading to a most charming ‘curious story.’A lovely ending to ‘blind mans bluff’ and has a ‘child’s imploring’ ever been more persuasive?Interrupted by a really ‘important event’ that gradually disappeared into the distance as a dream came floating in on a cloud of ravishing beauty.
A’ fireside’ both welcoming and warming and the ‘knight on the hobby horse’ entering at first so delicately.Could it have been a ‘dream’ as he mused ‘almost too seriously and frighteningly’ with such fantastic fantasy.The ‘child falling asleep’ on a truly magic wave of sumptuous sounds with a beam of light illuminating the entry of’ the poet who speaks’ so eloquently with sounds pulled out of this magic box that were so beautiful.
All this was conveyed by this young man as a Curzon or a Cortot could do in the past bringing to life Schumann’s fantasy of a child’s dream world.
The Scriabin Fantasie op 8 opened up a world of subtle insinuating sounds.
An opening that had the quiet menace of things to come.Thomas has the ideal sound for Scriabin where his liquid sound world gave endless possibilities of unsuspected directions. Scriabin’s luxuriant melodies emerge to disappear almost immediately in a couldron of kaleidoscopic sounds.Gradually re-emerging in romantic triumph.
A virtuoso performance that led the way for the almost orchestral sounds in Liszt’s Reminiscences de Norma.
Here he could let his hair down and fearlessly treat us to one of Liszt’s masterly revisitation of Bellini’s Norma.
Enormous orchestral sounds dissolving into heartmelting cantabile.
The menace of the war turning into the most demonic show piece of transcendental difficulty thrown off with all the ease that is needed and rarely offered.
The final duet between the two voices was really breathtaking in its unrelenting crescendo to the end.
As Dr Hugh Mather exclaimed an exhilarating afternoon of quite phenomenal playing that can all be relived on the magnificent streaming from St Mary’s Perivale .
It may seem strange to talk about two concerts together but as coincidence would have it Leslie Howard ‘s 45th Anniversary Concert coincided with Burnett Thompson’s at the Church of the Annunciation,just a stones throw away.
Leslie is a founder trustee and co artistic director of the Keyboard Charitable Trust created by his mentor Noretta Conci-Leech.
Burnett has for many years befriended Keyboard Trust Artists at the Maazel Estate in Virginia of which he was an artistic director.
The only thing to do was to divide the concerts in half – I did the only thing possible and divided Leslie into two thirds and much to my sorrow Burnett a third.
As it turned out they both have much in common.
A complete command of the instrument and a sense of fantasy and colour of true musicians that actually listen to themselves!
Burnett of course in the jazz idiom and improvising with such intelligence and humour.
Rameau himself could not have made better imitations.
The art of improvisation and discovery has almost been lost in our quest to interpret the scores of the great masters from Bach to Liszt – who were both in their day the greatest of improvisers.
Leslie is a great interpreter and knows the scores intimately which in turn gives him great freedom.
Always having to keep on the straight and narrow of the path indicated by the composer in the many editions and changes in manuscript that have to be consulted.
The few lines in the programme written by Leslie immediately show his intimate knowledge of the composer and the scores which he puts over with the same intelligent wit that Burnett did just around the corner.
Beethoven’s description of his Sonata op 22 that “hat sich gewaschen”- has washed itself —meaning that he himself was very pleased with it.
Leslie is a mine of information.
His insatiable appetite made him nearly 50 years ago the great favourite of Guido Agosti in Siena.
Guido Agosti was one of the greatest interpreters of his day.A disciple of Busoni , musicians would flock to his studio in the summer months in Siena to learn secrets of interpretation that only he seemed to have the key to.
I well remember Leslie playing op 101 to Agosti and the great master being so impressed with his scholarship and complete command of the instrument.
Burnett had presented his programme :Reformation :Age of Mayhem.The project began in Washington DC and premiered in New York at the renowned Mezzrow Jazz Club.The CD will be released on 1st December.
It is a non-traditional look at the mid-16th century history and culture via the music of the time.
Medieval and Renaissance repertoire were complimented by Burnett’s own compositions.
A last minute recital date was invented by Sasha Grynyuk and Katya Gorbatiouk to perform as part of the London Town Chamber Fest in the Church of the Annunciation.
Only an upright piano was available but in Burnett’s hands he turned it into gold.
Full of shimmering colours and magic sounds where the music took wing and spoke so eloquently sometimes with Messiaen overtones and others with the mischievous humour of Rameau.Always in the magic jazz idiom that seemed to pour from his fingers with such ease.
Aided and abetted by bassist Dudley Phillips .Burnett with the dry humour of a Woody Allen.
I had to drag myself away with a heavy heart.
But magic awaited just around the corner too .
I arrived just in time to hear most of the Mozart Sonata K331 from the very comfortable divan in the foyer of the Wigmore Hall.
As Leslie himself says:one of Mozart’s best loved sonatas with all three movements in the home key of A major and with the complete absence of any movement in ‘sonata form’.
Fascinating to read in so few lines that Mozart very likely employed his ‘banda turca’ pedal with its simultaneous stroke of bass drum,triangle and cymbals!
Leslie played it with two hands and two feet in the traditional manner on the rather bright sounding house Steinway.Of course played in great style and the discovery of an original autograph manuscript in Budapest in 2014 led to several striking deviations from the familiar text.
Many great virtuosi of the past play the closing Alla Turca as an encore piece.Cherkassky used to play it with a teasing jeux perlé contrasting with the great roll of the left hand drums.
Of course Leslie played it in context and it was even more impressive following on as it should from the beautiful opening variations and charming Menuetto.
The sonata in B flat op 22 ,as Leslie again points out’ brings the sonatas of the so called first period to a very happy and robust conclusion. ‘I had never thought of the last movement being so similar in mood to that of op 7.
The opening theme and key points,of course, to the greatest of all piano sonatas :Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” op 106.
I had heard Richter play op 22 many years ago in the Festival Hall and had not understood a critic complaining that much was inaudible.
I was just a student and had much to learn but now I understand that the great Russian school sometimes took Beethoven’s extremes of dynamics to its limit without actually thinking of the great architectural line.
That was not the case today where Leslie’s scrupulous attention to detail was allied to the overall shape not only of each movement but also of the whole.That may explain why the second movement marked’ Adagio con molta espressione’ seemed to move as an ‘Andante con moto.’It is marked in 9/8 but I found it just a fraction too fast as an Adagio in feeling although I am sure that Leslie has very definite reasons for chosing that tempo.
It was played with a beautiful cantabile sound and a bass that sustained without counting the beats.
The Menuetto bubbled along in a very simple way that made the Beethovenian outbursts all the more surprising.
The return after the ‘minore’ was like the return of an old friend.
The entry of the Allegretto was like a refreshing return to the countryside with the bubbling brook and feeling of tranquility.
As Leslie says in his notes:’there remains throughout the air of this being a good job well done.’
After the interval the age of Mayhem indeed reigned.
It was as though a new wind had blown into the hall from the moment Leslie sat at the piano to play Liszt.
Leslie has made a lifelong study of Liszt and after his historic 10 recitals here of all the works of Liszt he has recorded them on 100 CD’s ..he is in the Guinness book of records no less!
Here the piano was ablaze with subtle colours and a range from the almost inaudible staccato to the tumultuous sounds of a truly “Grand” piano.I know it is probably sacrilege,and may Leslie forgive me for even thinking it, but I could not help musing that some of these wondrous sounds surely he could have shared with Mozart and Beethoven too!
‘Trois Odes funèbres’ were written to be played together but as Leslie states they have never been published together and have rarely been performed as Liszt desired.
The first ‘Les Morts’ was prompted by the death at only 20 of his only son Daniel.The second ‘La notte’ was composed after the death in childbirth of Liszt’s first daughter Blandine.’Le triomphe funèbre du Tasse’ was a self portrait believing as Liszt did that his time too would not come until after his own death.
Some extraordinary playing of true mastery.
Like Rubinstein hardly seeming to move but the sounds he found inside that old box of strings and hammers were quite extraordinary.
Here was Leslie Howard the world authority on Liszt sharing with us with his searching mind and intellect ,some of the lesser masterpieces of this very often misunderstood and underrated composer.
It was only fitting that to contrast with all this morbosity even Leslie should let his hair down and show us the other side of Liszt.
The travelling virtuoso astonishing the courts of the whole of Europe with his amazing bag of funabulistic tricks that he pulls out of his magic bag one after the other.
A transcription I had not heard before based on Robert le Diable de Meyerbeer.The Cavatina and the Valse Infernale.
Leslie visibly exhausted as I expect Liszt himself would have been.
Ever generous and by great demand he let us hear his ‘sigh’ of relief.
’Il sospiro’ was absolute magic.
A wonderful wash of sound on which Liszt’s magical melody could float.An expertly handled tangled knot in the middle led to an ending that I would not be surprised was another discovery that this master musician had discovered on delving deep into the archives of the great composers.
And so I was invited to listen again this year to the students that had spent some days in preparation for the final concert ar Steinway Hall.
A very fine Bach Chaconne played by the eighteen year old Matthew Mclachlan continuing his studies with Dina Parakhina on a full scholarship at the RCM in London.Having already studied with her for many years in Manchester after his early training from his father Murray McLachlan head of keyboard and much else beside at Chethams Music School.
His elder brother, Callum, is studying in Salzburg; his younger sister, Rose, has just played Shostakovich 2 with the BBC Concert Orchestra and the youngest brother is a professional junior footballer for Everton!
A family of winners indeed under the expert guidance of their mother Katherine Page McLachlan,herself a very fine pianists having met her husband at the RCM some years ago.
A Bach Chaconne that showed a great sense of architecture allied to a subtle sense of colour and great temperament .
Some beautifully shaped pieces by Graziela Jimenez were played by the Argentinian from Mendoza Juan Antonio Sanchez.
A Debussy study “ Pour le notes repétées” was played very cleanly and correctly and is obviously work in progress under the expert guidance of fellow Argentinian Alberto Portugheis.
Zoltan Galyas chose to play with Sophia Ramnarine the A major Sonata of César Franck.Some very beautiful moments mixed with some intonation problems not completely resolved.The infamous second movement was played with great virtuosity by Galyas no doubt helped by Alberto who has learnt the “tricks of the trade” from the many fine performances that he himself has given over the years.
Nicolas Absalom played Beethoven’s op 2 n.2 and once again ( having heard him a few months ago in St Martin in the Fields and last year in Beethoven Piano Concerto Competition) showing his very precise touch and musicality.He tells me he is preparing for the Beethoven year with Concertos n. 3 and 5 and many solo works by the great master in his 250th anniversary year celebrations in Vienna.
In fact today he is playing for the Thomas Harris Foundation in Rye a complete Beethoven recital programme.
This year the Concerto Competition was dedicated to Chopin with the Orpheus Ensemble led by Orpheus Leander .
Two performances of the 2nd piano concerto and one of the 1st Concerto.
Unfortunately two of the performances were very much work in progress.
Juan Antonio Sanchez showed the makings of a very classical approach with some beautiful aristocratic cantabile full of noble sentiment but not for a minute sentimental.With work in progress it should develop into a fine performance.
Zoltan Galyas showed signs of a great natural technical fluency more wayward than Antonio in the cantabile passages but with a fine sense of colour that now needs to be refined and perfected.
Both played from the score.
Artur Haftman came into his own with a very fine account of the 2nd concerto.
Played with great authority with an ensemble that were not at ease with the score.
He led the way and if there were a few stumbles in the last movement they were a small price to pay for a very secure musicianly performance.
Artur was awarded the prize from the Thomas Harris Foundation judged by Bobby Chen ,Alberto Urroz and myself who is only too happy to help Alberto in all his commendably worthwhile enterprises.
Hats off to Mrs Judy Harris and her illustrious consultant Albert Portugheis for offering a platform and much more besides to these aspiring young musicians.
It was a few years ago that I heard Anna Tsybuleva’s London debut at the Wigmore Hall as winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition.
I had met Dame Fanny Waterman,the founder and lifeblood of the Leeds, in Oxford.
Later,the next spring, in wishing her birthday greetings from Italy we discovered that we had both heard a magnificent concert transmitted live from the Wigmore Hall on BBC Radio 3.
She in Leeds and I in Italy.
We had great fun exchanging views and saying how wonderful the concert had been with Graham Johnson at the piano (I cannot remember the name of the very fine baritone) .
We both agreed that Graham is one of the greatest accompanists of our day, a just heir to Gerald Moore and Geoffrey Parsons.
Graham and I were contemporaries at the Royal Academy and even shared, in our first year, chamber music coaching from John Streets.
I put Graham and her in touch much to their mutual delight.
So when we met at the Wigmore Hall at the end of Anna’s recital I
was pleased to say in person how much I had enjoyed the second half of the recital.
I did not say that the first half of CPE Bach and Schumann had left me very perplexed whereas the second of Debussy and Medtner was quite superb.
”You must have been asleep in the first half then” she immediately replied!
Dame Fanny is invariably right and judging by what I heard today she may very well have been or at least saw what potential lay behind the notes having heard Anna in all the rounds in Leeds that led to her ultimate victory.
A CPE Bach that I heard today, with the superb streaming from St Mary’s, that showed a complete mastery.
An infectious almost electric sense of rhythm and a great sense of characterisation.An almost euphoric enjoyment as she played with such spirit and obvious joy.
The transition, quasi recitativo, from the Allegro to the Andante was quite magical and played with a subtle sense of colour and rubato that made every note speak so eloquently.Deeply felt, it led into the Allegro finale played with great contrasts and a conversation between upper and lower registers of the keyboard that was quite exhilarating.
I think Anna has matured and grown in confidence since her Wigmore debut recital and as she herself said she felt at home at St Mary’s.With such an appreciative warm audience she could relax and enjoy the music too,
The trial was over and she could allow the artistry, that Dame Fanny had noted, to flower and mature.
It was the same with the Beethoven Sonata op 31 n.2 (The Tempest).
It reminded me of the debut recitals of Ashkenazy when he too played the sonatas op 31 together with the Chopin studies in two memorable recitals.
It was as though we were hearing these well known works for the first time such was the complete mastery of sound and colour.
A complete understanding of the style and above all Beethoven’s indications scrupulously interpreted.
Not just played because written on the page but as Murray Perahia has said in his memorable interview with Arie Vardi on you tube:”a true artists has to understand what in his opinion the composer wanted to convey and translate that into sound but also adding his own personality and experience too.To make the music a living experience. “ https://youtu.be/T-RHiS4H_xE
Her performance today was like quicksilver in the changes of colour and character and it made one realise just how revolutionary this fairly early work of Beethoven’s must have been received by the public of the day.
Respecting also how the music was written on the page.
There was no changing of hands to hold long bass notes as is so often the case but she hinted at them the same.
Beethoven’s long pedals were beautifully interpreted and the staccato pianissimo chords that led back into the allegro sounded like the orchestra coming in after the cadenza.The deep bass notes especially in the recitativi were quite overwhelming in their quiet authority. The deep bass pianissimo rumblings and the two final chords created the magic for the personalities that were to enter centre stage in the Adagio.
The music spoke with such immediacy that one could almost see the curtain rising for the drama that was about to unfold.
The contrasts between the sumptuous melody and the dotted rhythm after dry comments from the timpani and flutes was wonderfully realised.The telling dotted rhythm beautifully poignant (I would have kept the rhythm after the right hand turns that she chose to relax).Ending in a murmur always with that dotted rhythm in view.
The Allegretto drifted in lazily gradually picking up momentum.
There was a delicious lilt to the rondo theme with a very telling rubato so subtle as to be almost unnoticeable.
A meticulous attention to detail that was just as I remembered Ashkenazy all those years ago when I heard this sonata in the Festival Hall for the very first time.
A beautiful music box effect before the final triumphant entry of our,by now, old friend disappearing like scarbo into the quiet depths of the keyboard.
A quite remarkable performance that kept me mesmerised thousands of miles away in the depths of the Italian countryside.
The 12 Schubert Landler showed a great sense of style sometimes with a great Viennese lilt or a beautiful sense of legato.An almost Chopinesque rubato and elegance sometimes of great nostalgia or great majestic rhythmic impulse .They were a kaleidoscope of emotions and colours played with such emotive participation.
It led to a monumental performance of the Wanderer Fantasy. A great sense of architectural shape that did not allow her to wallow or alter the great rhythmic drive of the first movement.
There was great attention to detail and the chords usually bashed out fortissimo in the recapitulation were played as Schubert indicated in the score and were integrated into what had preceeded them.
Schubert has written out his own ritardando before the Wanderer Adagio and if respected, as today, it is even more poignant than the usual slowing down.
Very subtle expression so similar to the great lieder for which Schubert is best known. The left hand demisemiquavers just a subtle link to the magical appearance of the melody with a typical Schubertian accompaniment.Embellishments gleaming like magic as the bass filled in the harmonies leading to a great passionate outburst.Dying away on a cloud that links up to the Presto.Great washes of sound and a lovely lilt to the waltz in the middle episode.
A passionate climax led to the Allegro fugato that was played with ever more fervancy and rhythmic drive.
A Hymn of triumph with a great sense of balance and contrasts even in the most troubled waters.
An ovation from a packed audience that had come to hear this great young artist.
They were rewarded with scintillating encore of Saint Saens’ “Etude en forme de valse.”
A great ‘cavallo di battaglia’ of Alfred Cortot. It’s technical difficulties thrown off with an ease and nonchalance that is of a different era.
The Golden Age of piano playing indeed.
There were seemless streams of gold that we were treated to today.
Will Dame Fanny ever forgive me?
Anna Tsybuleva shot into the international spotlight in 2015 when she won First Prize in the Leeds International Piano Competition, being described as “A pianist of rare gifts: not since Murray Perahia’s triumph in 1972 has Leeds had a winner of this musical poise and calibre”. Now a regular performer in major cities worldwide, Anna’s early experiences were more modest: born in 1990, she was raised in Nizhny Arkhyz – a small village of approximately 500 inhabitants – in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic of Russia. She took her first piano lessons with her mother at the age of 6, before moving away from home in order to attend the Shostakovich Music School in Volgodonsk at the age of 9. From age 13, she continued her studies at the Moscow Central Music School and the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatoire, under internationally renowned pedagogue Professor Lyudmila Roschina. During this time, Tsybuleva garnered other major competition wins – including the Grand Prix of the International Gilels Piano Competition (2013), and top prizes from the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition (2012) and Takamatsu International Piano Competition (2014). After graduating in 2014 with the coveted award for ‘Best Student’ from the Moscow Conservatoire, Tsybuleva furthered her studies with Claudio Martínez-Mehner at the Hochschule für Musik Basel. She now combines her international performance career with completion of post-graduate studies at the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatoire.
Tsybuleva appears regularly throughout Europe, including in recital on some of the greatest international stages, such as Palais des Beaux-Arts , Philharmonie Luxembourg , Tonhalle Zürich , and the Wigmore Hall . As concerto soloist, recent and forthcoming highlights include Basel Symphony, the Hallé, Mariinsky Orchestra, Oxford Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Tsybuleva is in high demand in Asia, with recent and forthcoming concerto engagements including those in Singapore (Singapore Symphony), South Korea (Daejeon Philharmonic), and Japan (Tokyo Philharmonic), as well as recitals at the Shanghai Grand Theatre and Hong Kong Concert Hall, amongst others. Her debut solo recording, Fantasien (Champs Hill, 2017) garnered universal praise for its imaginative and carefully crafted programme. With her “energetic elan, bravura, and heart-on-sleeve communication” (International Piano Magazine), Anna Tsybuleva is fast emerging as one of the finest pianists of her generation, “destined to become a world piano star” (APE Musicale, Italy)
Her tiger like attack in the opening octaves of Liszt 1 was breathtaking not only for the passion with which she dispatched them but for the full rich sound never hard or metallic.
A truly ‘grand’piano.
Her great sense of balance like Cherkassky “the man she loved “to quote ‘Le Monde de la Musique.’Listening so carefully and with such love to each individual note and not afraid to split the chords almost imperceptibly to find the colours therein.
A wonderful ‘jeux perlé’ knowing exactly which notes to accentuate to give such a foreward impetus.
Her melting self communing cantabile was of such seductive beauty but with a sense of projection that carried to the far corners of this vast hall of Renzo Piano- Sala S.Cecilia Parco della Musica Rome
‘Widmung’ by Schumann/Liszt was played as though she was alone and dreaming of one of Schumann’s most magical melodies.
Hardly aware that there were over 2000 people hanging on to every note.
The passionate climax after the intimacy of the opening was quite overwhelming as it grew so naturally out of the preceeding hymn.
It died away to a whisper as we eavesdroppers hardly dared to breathe.
So much for changing Chopin 1st concerto to Liszt Ist because of fatigue after endless tournees.
Walking off the stage arm in arm with her great friend Sir Antonio Pappano she looked tired but she certainly did not sound it!