Alberto Portugheis Festival
A week of intense study in the masterclasses that the indefatiguable Alberto Portugheis holds each year in London.
At the age of 78 he has an activity that would wear anyone half his age out.
Between his lifelong passions of music and peace work he still finds time to play with his great friend Martha Argerich.
In fact they shared their 75th birthday at a Wigmore Hall concert three years ago and he tells me there is an 80th in view for 2021.
In August there will be a Carnaval of the Animals in London St James’s 12/8 and Oxford Sheldonian 13/8 for this duo that was formed as children together in their home city of Buenos Aires.
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.
Artur Haftman I have known since his very first year at the RCM under Dmitri Alexeev.
He played a Mozart Sonata K 281 with some beautiful phrasing and very sensitive touch allied to a very secure technical command.
Strangely his A flat Polonaise op 53 by Chopin suffered from a rather wayward rubato that robbed this most “Heroic” of all polonaises of its nobility and almost military stance.
Mrs Judy Harris had very generously donated prizes for the best performances that went of course to Artur Haftman and joint second to Nicolas Absalom and Mathew McLachlan
Last year was the Beethoven Piano Concerto Competition linked to the week of study and Masterclasses .
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.