The Hills of Rome are ringing to the sound of music – Donchev in Velletri and Taddei-Ciammarughi in Ariccia

The Hills of Rome are ringing with the sound of music- Donchev in Velletri and Taddei- Ciammarughi in Ariccia
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. Some truly unexpected delights especially coming after Beatrice Rana’s superb recital in Rome a few days73 before to be followed on the 1st December by an unexpected return of Ivo Pogorelich!
And the Rome International Piano Competition from 29 November until 9th December about to begin.
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.

Artistic director Giancarlo Tammaro
The same artistic director was responsable for inviting Ivan to play the 32 sonatas by Beethoven in a series of 10 recitals over three years Starting a year before the 250th anniversary year and finishing a year later.
Playing this time on a fine modern Pleyel piano in the beautifully restored house of culture and music in the historic centre of Velletri.
A real oasis in this town which is the pivotal hub for Latina, Frascati,Appia, Genzano,Lariano and Castelgandolfo.
Infact the traffic that abounds gives no idea of the tranquility and peace that is to be found in this restored monastery in a quiet tree line cobbled street, one of the few where cars are not allowed to tread!Finding it of course was like finding the needle in the proverbial haystack especially for a town in holiday mood with a local festa in full swing.
This was the second concert in the series and included the two Sonatas op 14 together with the Sonata op 7.
The two little sonatas op 14 are two jewels and were often to be found in the programmes of Sviatoslav Richter and Annie Fischer.
The E major op 14 n.1 was played with a great sense of contrasts and rhythmic drive. Absolute clarity was a hallmark of these two sonatas and it was good to see Ivan using the Arrau edition.It showed in his performances of great respect for the score allied to a real feeling for the remarkable contrasts and changes of mood that Beethoven demands.
A beautifully fluid sense of direction with the fast passages that sparkled like jewels in the first movement contrasted with, in Ivans own words, the “Brahms like” lyrical second movement.
A Rondo that showed off all the contrasting sudden changes of mood and accents and florid outbursts that already in these early sonatas were the signs of the direction that Beethoven was taking the sonatas which would span almost an entire lifetime.
The beautifully lyrical opening of the G major sonata was contrasted with the ‘sturm und drang’ of the development section.
As Ivan had said in his introdution let us not forget that Beethoven wrote some 200 lieder too.
It led quite unexpectedly to the innocent reappearance of the opening theme and the coda disappearing into the distance.
There were beautiful contrasts between the staccato and legato in the Andante that followed with the sudden accents very well judged.
Beautifully florid variations again disappearing with piano and pianissimo chords to be rudely interrupted by Beethoven’s final fortissimo slam of the door.
The scherzo final movement was played with great spirit and charm.The lyrical second subject floated so easily on the rhythmic waves created in the left hand The question and answer between bass and treble was charmingly characterised leading so naturally to the impish piano ending.

Ivan introducing the sonatas before performing them
Ivan had explained in his concise but very informative introductions that the key of E flat, which was that of the Sonata op 7, was of great significance for Beethoven.Having used the same key for his Emperor Concerto,Les Adieux op 81a Sonata and the Eroica Symphony.
In fact this is one of the bigger sonatas of Beethoven’s early period and can be placed with op 2 n.3 and op 10 n.3 where Beethoven was expanding the Sonata to almost symphonic proportions.
There was a great sense of forward movement with great contrasts from the very opening.
An almost Brahmsian second subject with outbursts of great virtuosity and a startling development section.
The profound ‘Largo,con gran espressione’ was a pointer to that of op 10.n.3 for its great weight and orchestral contrasts.
As Ivan had pointed out, the silences are so poignant and to live through the silence to keep the musical line was beatifully realised particularly in the recapitulation.
The ‘pastoral’ Allegro emerged almost out of the last utterances of the Largo.A beautiful shape of moving harmonies in the ‘minore’ middle section with some almost menacing accents that dissolved so beautifully into the repeat of the Allegro.
The lyrical Rondo was interrupted by great dramatic rhythmic outbursts where each of the demisemiquavers could have had a separate bow to give even more energy to this unexpected outburst.
The ending was allowed to float away quite magically in Ivans very sensitive hands.
The last movement of the “Moonlight” Sonata op 27 n.2 was played with great energy and lyricism as an encore.
And by great demand Ivan ended with the beautifully lyrical waltz in A minor op 34 n.2 by Chopin.
The next recital in this series will be in the spring of 2020.
In the meantime Giancarlo Tammaro was proud to announce the Beethoven Symphony Series on the historic Erard piano in Villa Mondragone from mid January with the pianist Michelangelo Carbonara opening with the Eroica Symphony.
Some remarkable music in Ariccia too.
With the famous square inspired by Bernini and the sumptuous Palazzo Chigi.Together with thier famous roast suckling pig and’ Lovers Leap’ bridge
I had recently heard the Roma 3 Orchestra in a collaboration between Roma 3 Music directed by Valerio Vicari and Coop Art Cestem Manci/Fasolo now celebrating its 50th year of activity
Today was a concert :’ The Sound of Picasso’ with Jacopo Taddei and Luca Ciammarughi

Lorenzo Ciammarughi and Picasso
This was a very unexpected but totally absorbing recital at Palazzo Chigi.
Jacopo Taddei, saxophone and Luca Ciammarughi pianoforte in a programme dedicated to Picasso.
It had been prepared for and exhibition at the Palazzo Reale in Milan under the title ‘Picasso Metamorfosi.’
A concert of music associated with Picasso and introduced very eloquently by Luca together with slides of some of Picasso ‘s works.
But the real revelation was the sheer virtuosity and sense of style of both.
An evening of entertainment in which we were informed ,entertained and thrilled by such virtuoso performances.
Two saxophone solos revealed the extraordinary virtuosity of this 23 year old musician.
A true “sax hero” as he has been defined by the Corriere della Sera.He was totally transfixed and inspired as he made us believe that we were listening to a whole orchestra such was the range of sounds and colours that this young ‘giant’ could conjure up out of this very innocent looking instrument.
His infectious rhythm in ‘Fragmentango’ by Girotto was overwhelmingly hypnotic.
The second solo showed off all the extraordinary technical inventions of sounds that I had never even imagined possible.
His saxophone was indeed a revelation.
Luca Ciammarughi too in his solos showed an extraordinary range of colours allied to a total technical command that held us all spellbound.
His Debussy ‘The snow is dancing’ was quiteremarkably evocative and the rhythmic precision and spontaneous energy in the’ Golliwogg’s cakewalk’ and Stravinsky’s ‘Piano Rag Music’ was quite exhilarating.
The Stravinsky was infact written for Rubinstein who refused to play it saying that he disagreed with his friend over the piano being presented as only a percussive instrument .Jose Iturbi gave the first performance in Lausanne in 1919.
Stravinsky later dedicated his piano suite ‘Petrushka’ to Rubinstein and peace was made !
It is so rare to hear any of Cécile Chaminade’s charming music (Mark Viner has just recorded her works which have been greeted by the critics as a revelation).Luca played her ‘Le Retour’ with the same charm that he brought to Albeniz’s ‘Tango’(here in the original version as opposed to Godowsky’s famous transcription).
There were true fireworks when these two virtuosi teamed up to play the ‘Carmen Fantasy’ by Francois Borne that concluded todays programme.
Letting their hair down each one trying to out do the other.
It was such an exciting and truly scintillating performance.
They even had to repeat the final after the ovation they received from a public not imagining that they would be treated to such a display of febrile virtuosity.
Of course there had been other memorable performances during the course of the concert.
Granados,Satie and Poulenc too.
Luca’s extraordinary ability to listen and create a musical conversation had me thinking of that great accompanist Dalton Baldwin who turns out to have been one of Luca’s mentors!
The ‘Romanza’ from the Poulenc Sonata for clarinet and piano was played with such a perfect feeling of unity of style.It allowed both players to relax and bask in the sounds that they were producing together.
It was similar to their last encore a piece called ‘Vacanze’ by a living composer whose name I did not know.
It was played with such a sumptuous unified sound that summed up the refined virtuosity that we had experienced from these two very fine artists.

Luca Ciammarughi Giovanna Manci Jacopo Taddei Giacomo Fasola
A party feeling had been created as the public gathered around the two artists exhilarated and excited and in no hurry to leave this beautiful hall without thanking them personally.

Luca Ciammarughi’s best selling book

CD signing after the concert

Two masters in performance

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