It is thanks to Dr Hugh Mather and Roger Nellist that we were able to hear Yuanfan Yang in Perivale today prior to his Italian tour for the Keyboard Charitable Trust.Yuanfan had won the Rome International Piano Competition in 2018.Better known as the Marcella Crudeli Competition even if the Fanny Waterman of Italy does not want it to stop when she retires but must continue like the Leeds Competition and be known only as the Rome Competition.
Why is there a photo of Rosalyn Tureck in the Teatro Olimpico as a heading here,one may ask?It is because Yuanfan Yang’s tour will start in Vicenza which is the city of Palladio .The Teatro Olimpico was designed by Palladio and made entirely of wood and can only be used in the warmer months as obviously no form of heating is allowed.
Lord Burlington took a fancy to La Rotonda, one of the imposing Palladian villas in this Venetian area of Italy.
He had a replica built in the ‘countryside’ in Chiswick and used to take his guests on a coach ride from Burlington House in London after dinner to listen to Handel perform in the villa.
It was here in Vicenza that I took Rosalyn Tureck many years ago to perform a Bach recital in this historic theatre.
It is where my wife used to perform and she is infact still on the cover of the tourist brochure
It is in Vicenza that Yuanfan will start his tour for the ‘Incontro con La Tastiera’ organised by Maria Antonietta Squeglia and her daughter Raffaella.The concerts during the winter months are held in the magnificent Teatro Comunale complex where Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia and many other illustrious artists perform every season.
Yuanfan will play in Italy a superb programme which will start as today in Perivale with the C minor Toccata by Bach.
It will then include Schumann Carnaval op 9.
A piece of his own ‘The Haunted Bell’ and the Chopin Sonata op 35 Funeral March.
In Rome he will play the Chopin Barcarolle that he played today and three Preludes from op 32 by Rachmaninov in place of the Chopin Sonata.
In Frascati in the historic Villa Aldobrandini he will play in the series to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Michelangeli and has been asked to improvise in the style of Mozart on a theme given to him by the audience!
A quite remarkable young man born in Edinburgh of Chinese parents and studying as a child at Chethams in Manchester with that superb trainer of talented young musicians Murray McLachlan.
He has completed his studies at the Royal Academy with Christopher Elton and is now at the Royal College with Vanessa Latarche and Dmitri Alexeev.
His Italian tour after Vicenza will include the Univeristy of Viterbo for Prof Franco Carlo Ricci (whose biographies of Francesco Siciliani and Vittorio Rieti are definitive ),Frascati Villa Aldobrandini for the distinguished french pianist Marylene Mouquet and in the historic Teatro di Villa Torlonia in Rome for Roma 3 University directed Valerio Vicari.
He will also be giving a live radio broadcast for the Italian Radio RAI 3.
I have heard Yuanfan many times since that first time when he won the Liszt Competition held by the Liszt Society of Leslie Howard.
I remember this young man in his first year of studies in London playing a magnificent Vallee d’Oberman and running off with first prize from a very distinguished jury indeed.
I also heard him a few years later for Canan Maxton’s Talent Unlimited Showcase concert.
He played one of the finest performances I have every heard of Brahms Handel Variations
And then just a while ago I heard a performance streamed live from Perivale of his Schumann Carnaval that was of such subtle artistry that it was hard to believe that this young man could have matured so wonderfully.
There is something about the Chinese personality that understands Chopin so well.
One thinks that only the Polish can truly understand Chopin ,but it was Fou Ts’ong who ran off with the best mazurka prize many years ago at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw.
He explained in his many wonderful masterclasses that he gave for us in Rome that Chinese poetry and the poetry in Chopin’s works have much in common.
It was infact Bizet who wrote the most magnificent spanish music with Carmen never having set foot in Spain!
And it was indeed the Chopin Barcarolle that seemed to illuminate this young artists face as he played the ravishing melodic phrases with such a flexible rubato but without any excess. Always with such refined taste never slipping into the rather sloppy rubato that can pass for the Chopin tradition in lesser hands.
But here is an artist that from the very first bass C sharp it was clear that we were in very special hands.
And as Yuanfan explained to the full house today the Barcarolle is like a journey to Venice full of subtle ebb and flow and pure magic.
It is something of course he will be seeing for himself when he flies into Marco Polo Airport in Venice at the start of his tour later this month.
I am much looking forward to the Chopin B flat minor Sonata op 35 which I have not heard him play yet.
The Bach which opened the programme today and will open his programmes in Italy was a young man’s Bach.
As he explained the Toccatas were written to show off the keyboard technique and it certainly did that in his hands.
It reminded me of the same ‘joie de vivre’ that Martha Argerich brought to this piece years ago in Florence beforeplaying the Liszt Sonata.
But I think there is much more in these Toccatas than just rhythmic delight.
It was Angela Hewitt the other night in Perugia with this very Toccata who created such a special atmosphere with the Adagio after the opening flourishes.
The toccata was played not at breakneck speed but with a constant rhythmic pulse that did not budge for a moment.
Like Rosalyn Tureck but with more song and dance than she cared to admit to.The strands of the subject played really quite quietly where every one became such a clear voice in its own right.
The counter melodies just a delightful humorous comment.
This of course will come to Yuanfan as he matures.As it has come to Angela after living and performing these masterpieces for so many years.
The Haydn Variations in F minor were beautifully shaped with a great sense of colour and character.As he explained to the audience it was a piece inspired by the death of a friend.
In contrast the Sonata in E minor Hob XVI:34 was played with such a joyous spirit and the last movement was like a well oiled spring jumping out of the keyboard with a great sense of charm and pure fun.
The Andante was magically shaped and the embellishments quite exquisite.
Four Rachmaninov Preludes op 32 completed this short programme.
The turbulence of n.1 in C major was thrown off with great elan but ending so mellifluosly leading into the beautifully melodic n.5 in G major.
A wonderful sense of colour and balance allowed the melodic line to sing out on a cloud of magical harmonies.
The G sharp minor n.12 that followed was full of that typical Russian melancholy building up to a climax only to die away into the depths of dark despair disappearing into thin air.
The grandeur of the D flat n.13 was played with sumptuous sound and the aristocratic pianism of the pianist that Perlemuter described as looking as though he had swallowed a knife but producing the most romantic sounds he had ever heard.
It brought the concert to its official ending but then Yuanfan knew it was tradition in Perivale for him to improvise on themes given to him by the audience.
Something this remarkable young musican loved to do as it gave something back to the audience and allowed them to participate in the music making too.
An amazing display of an all but lost art that in this young man’s hands caused quite a stir at the final concert in the Rome International Piano Competition as it did indeed today.