The four pedals on the Fazioli concert grand
Today we were treated to the six variations op 34 in F followed by the mighty 15 variations and Fugue op 35 “Eroica Variations.“
It was good to see the 32 Variations in C minor too that has been missing from concert programmes for far too long.
Angela laughingly told me Beethoven described them as trash!
It was as though Angela was playing a different instrument such was the luminosity of sound as she shaped the Adagio cantabile so beautifully.A sense of grace and charm for these rarely heard variations that I have only heard in the concert hall years ago from Richter.
There was such extreme delicacy in the first variation as Angela spun a magic web of intricate embellishments.
It contrasted so well with the rhythmic energy of the second and the beautiful legato of the Allegretto third or Beethoven’s almost too serious Tempo di Menuetto of the fourth.
The dotted rhythms of the fifth were very subdued with magic horns leading into the cantabile of the sixth.
Joyous and playful and very reminiscent of the bubbling energy of the early cello sonatas.The simplicity of the return of the theme was transformed with Beethoven’s magical embellishments that in Angela’s sensitive hands seemed to be spread over the keyboard like seemless streams of gold.
The very simple playful ending was rudely interrupted by Beethoven’s call to arms with the ‘Eroica Variations’ that followed on immediately.
The Eroica theme was played so simply that Beethoven’s three note interruption came even more as a suprise.
What fun Angela seemed to be having as she played these variations with a quiet mastery that was quite mesmerising.
The beautiful legato of ‘a due’ and ‘a tre’ was suddenly interrupted with the rhythmic energy of ‘a quattro’.
A bewitching lilt to the first variation was immediately trasformed into the second of swirling virtuosity.
The left hand in the fourth variation was played so smoothly that the almost cheeky comments from the right hand gave it great character before the sublime legato of the fifth.
The same beauty with more intricate crossing of hands that she found in the eighth.This led into the more playful variations with the left hand sforzandi of the ninth and the dizzingly busy tenth.
The almost Mozartian charm she brought to the eleventh contrasted so well with the octaves dashing up and down the keyboard in the question and answer session that followed.
The acciaccaturas of the thirteenth magnificently insistent were a perfect contrast for the minor version of the theme that led into the most profound last variation.The longest of all the variations it was played with a rare understanding of the complex almost Floristan and Eusebius character of Beethoven.Disappearing in a puff of smoke a left hand murmur played so magically and leading the way to the final great fugue.
Here as in Bach the clarity of Angela’s playing was quite astonishing as she played with all the energy and contrasts that the composer demands.
A transcendental control and rhythmic drive that was maintained with an almost military precision until the final explosion of three chords before the momentarily defusing adagio led to the ever mellifluous statement of the theme.
Beethoven’s invention seemingly endless until he decides to draw things to a conclusion with a short question and answer coda and a final slam of the door.
This was indeed a remarkable performance of one of Beethoven’s greatest works for the keyboard.
Angela’s interpretations of the First Partita and the Italian Concerto are well known from her performances worldwide over the past forty years.
There was all the clarity and purity in the Prelude and a mellifluously flowing Allemande of such fexibility with some very subtle phrasing that made this well known work speak so enchantingly.Especially at the ending which seemed as though hearing it for the first time.
A Corrente that bounced along with some very delicate ornamentation.A Sarabande that seemed more flowing than usual but with such a flexible melodic line that allowed for such delicate ornamentation in the ritornelli. A lovely melodic shape to a fast flowing Menuet I and a subdued Menuet II that contrasted so well before the repeat.
There was sheer joy in her crystal clear Gigue of absolute perfection.
A brightly polished jewel indeed.
The Beethoven C minor variations were played with great authority.
Beethoven’s indications were scrupulously observed allowing the first three variations to be shaped so delicately instead of the usual pistol shots in lesser hands.The thirteenth was teasingly thrown off with great elan before the more virtuosistic variations took over.
The wonderful pianissimo cloud created in the left hand made the swirling shapes above it even more exciting.
It led to the delicate phrasing of almost Mozartian contrast and the gradual question and answer crescendo to the final octaves of great power only to be answered by the final two almost tongue in cheek quiet chords.
Interesting the broken chords in the left hand of the Italian Concerto like Beethoven four that we had discussed a while back.
There was a great sense of driving rhythmic energy with some very subtle changes of dynamics.The sublime simplicity of the Andante was faster than most but with such a subtle almost unnoticeable pause before the coda that was absolute magic. The last movement was played at a real Presto with an infectious interplay of voices.
What better choice for a final farewell than ‘Jesu,Joy of Man’s Desiring’ from the Cantata n.147 in the arrangement of another great woman pianist Dame Myra Hess.
A strange coincidence that my old copy from Squires in Ealing is stamped Red Cross Competition.
Angela’s performance tonight for the Red Cross too was absolutely sublime as I had mentioned at the beginning with my first impressions jotted down enthusiastically immediately after the concert.
Greeted by a standing ovation she was happy to share in the joy she had so generously created surrounded by friends and admirers from her adopted home town in the Italy- ‘the museum of the world’- that she adores and that has enriched her life so much.
We look forward now to her annual summer festival in her home town on Lake Trasimeno