Barenreiter Beethoven of Jonathan Del Mar

I was more than curious to see Jonathan Del Mar introducing his now completed edition of the Beethoven Sonatas at the Wigmore Hall for their Beethoven 250 series.
I came across a new edition of the ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata in the music shop of the S.Cecilia Conservatory in Rome.
Beautiful to look at as it was fascinating to consult , I gladly took it back home to study at my leisure.
Edited for Barenreiter by Jonathan Del Mar…..could it be the son of the conductor Norman Del Mar?
Listed as a Pre-concert talk to Jonathan Biss’s Beethoven 250 series.
I gladly skipped the concert but gratefully accepted the free filler.
Nice to see Leslie Howard,Stephen Hough,Julian Jacobson,Misha Donat,Bobby Chen,Ronan O’Hora and many other notable musicians come to be informed and entertained by this remarkable man.
Ever generous in thanking the late and much missed Paul Badura Skoda and Leslie Howard for their invaluable contributions as well as Misha Donat and Julian Jacobson.
It was nice to be in the company of such distinguished musicians who had come to celebrate this momentous event.
Sorry to hear that there was a change of programme in the evening concert due to illness and the promised ‘Hammerklavier’that had originally drawn me to Jonathan Del Mar had been substituted for op.109!

The Aristocratic Brahms of Ariel Lanyi – with Henry Kennedy and the Resonate Symphony Orchestra

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I had heard Ariel Lanyi only a few weeks ago via the superb streaming from Perivale and had been overwhelmed by his masterly playing.

It was the same simple direct musicianship  that was today the hallmark of an extraordinary performance of Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto.A concerto that Brahms described as : ‘a tiny little piano concert with a tiny little wisp of a scherzo.’ In reality, he had composed one of the most monumental piano concertos ever imagined- a concerto set in four movements rather than the customary three, which unfolds as a virtual symphony for piano and orchestra instead of the usual “soloist versus orchestra” .Brahms began work on the piece in 1878 and completed it in 1881 while in Pressbaum near Vienna. It is dedicated to his teacher,Eduard Marxsen and Brahms gave the first performance  in  Budapest on 9 November 1881, with  the  Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra.It was an immediate success and Brahms proceeded to perform the piece in many cities across Europe.

Some superb playing from Ariel Lanyi together with Henry Kennedy and the Resonate Symphony.Orchestra in a true symphonic performance of a much loved concerto.
Viva la gioventu!
It was nice to see my old Alma Mater the Royal Academy out in full force today with two brilliant young artists united with other outstanding young musicians- I imagine from the RAM .They are without doubt the next generation that will guide the way for the next fifty years.
All united to support the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Foundation whose aim is to promote peace and open dialogue through the power of music.
Tonight’s concert was promoted by Marsha Lee of the IPO Foundation together with Jessie Harrington of Canan Maxton’s Talent Unlimited.
Both Canan and Jessie are tireless supporters of some of the finest young musicians who are just in need of an audience to play to whilst they build up their careers.
This concert hopes to sustain a historic next chapter for the IPO and their award- winning music education programmes that transcends divides amongst Christian,Jewish and Muslim communities in Israel and on tour worldwide.
2019 marked a pivotal momenti in the orchestras 84 year history,as the legendary Zubin Mehta handed the baton to Lahav Shani after 50 years as music director.
He follows in  the  shadow not only of Mehta but  that  of Huberman,Toscanini and Bernstein.
It was exactly this dedication to music that was the hallmark of a moving experience to see these young musicians  sacrificing their youth for their art.
The 18 year old virtuoso Alexander Malofeev when confronted with this remark in an interview recently replied quite simply  that it was no sacrifice – it was simply his life!
And so it was today when these young musicians treated us to a performance of such youthful passion as they joyously swept all before them in a sink or swim totally committed performance.
These musicians have been  highly trained and are all greatly talented but  above all they are survivors.
There were some moments where their youthful passion took over where  more  aristocratic  weight might have been more effective.
But as Barbirolli famously said of  just that criticism of Jaqueline Du Pré’s early performances ……’ but if you don’t play with passion at that age what do you pair off later……….I love it!’
Indeed how right he was and it was after her marriage to Barenboim in Israel during the 40 day war that she managed to control and to channel her enormous talent into performances that will  long be remembered by those that will never forget their glorious performances  together for the few years that were still left to her.They were rightly known as the ‘Golden Couple’ but alas it was to last for an intensive period that was far too short. Her career was over at the age 28!
The concert had begun with the Mozart Symphony n.36 in C major K.425 “Linz” It had immediately established the credentials not only of this very fine orchestra but above all of a conductor with such fluid expressive movements who could immediately convey  his overall vision to his fellow colleagues.It is rare to see such naturally expressive movements that can convey so clearly the shape and style of the mature Mozart.
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I had been at the rehearsal earlier and had seen with what care he actually listened so intently to the balance between the players. Sometimes leaving the rostrum to stand in the centre of the hall to judge the exact weight needed to allow the complete architectural line to emerge without any impediment.
I had been pleasantly surprised to witness the discussions between Ariel and Henry and see with what immediate professional style they were able to correct minor details from the orchestra.
No wasting of time where  there were facts to get right!
The actual music making was such a natural shared experience where  the music just seemed to pour from the musicians with a spontaneity that was quite overwhelming at times.
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It was a fine performance of the Mozart but it was the Brahms that united them as they entered into the spirit of the passionate majesty and heartmelting delicacy of Brahm’s magic world.
I was sure that this must have been one of many performances of this concerto that Ariel had performed and was taken aback when he quite modestly said it was the first time for him and he hoped he would be up to the challenge!
His authority and total command of some of the most difficult passages in all the piano repertoire was quite astonishing .The treacherous double thirds in the last movement,or the octave cadenza in the second  where Brahms asks them to be played sotto voce and legato. The audacious  grandiose flourishes of the first movement were played too with an ease that did not preclude the grandiose character of the music.
There must be a sense of struggle in this concerto that holds us all on the edge of our seats.Even if the technical difficulties can be dispatched with ease they should never sound easy.
I remember hearing Arcadi Volodos play this concerto with such ease and grace which completely contradicted the very spirit that Curzon would conquer  so magnificently only with  blood and tears .
I remember many performances of this concerto but above all it was Gilels that I doubt will ever be surpassed for me.
It was during the cold war and he came to play  at the Royal Festival Hall :Tchaikowsky 3rd piano concerto together with the Brahms.
Sir Andrian Boult that most english of conductors was very much at the helm.
Gilels dared to complain about the opening of the Tchaikowsky to which Sir Adrian replied very sharply:’would you please tell  the player Mr Gilels exactly what you want!’
No more words were spoken during the rehearsal but the performances were memorable.
Rubinstein too had played it in an afternoon concert with Barenboim at the helm.It was in the Brighton Festival and the concert took place obviously after a rather strenuous luncheon party.Even Barenboim looked down surprised as Rubinstein tore into the opening cadenza at a badly misjudged breakneck speed  !
These are all technical details that one is only aware of when they are not played by masters.
I have rarely heard this concerto played as today with the simplicity and sensitivity that belied the transcendental difficulties involved.
Today they were incorporated into musical values of both drammatic and subtle effect.
From the very first notes of the piano entry one could hear that this was a poet of the piano with the seemingly impossible hairpin of Brahms on the last  single F so magically conveyed.The contrast between that and the first entry of the opening cadenza was quite startling and the very subtle colouring of the build up to the explosive entry of the full orchestra was quite masterly.The re – entry of the piano with its imperious chords dissolved into a quite exquisitely phrased build up of the theme from mezzopiano to forte.Here I think the imperious chords marked staccato were rather too literal and should be  the longer staccato of a blown instrument and I remember the weight that Claudio Arrau gave to them.
The majestic entry of the second subject was beautifully judged and the careful sense of balance gave a great architecutural shape to a passage that so often can seem hammered out.The  opening of the recapitulation with the gentle mist of notes from the piano and  with the distant reminiscence of the  horn finally made wonderful sense as it was played with a simplicity and sensitivity that I have rarely heard in the concert hall.
The great rhythmic impetus and washes of sound in the second movement were an ideal contrast to the  Andante  played quite beautifully by the solo cello.
A little on the fast side even though it was the crotchet at 84 that Brahms marks.I just felt it could have breathed a little more  especially coming as it does after the triumphant close of the Allegro appassionato.
Some truly ravishing playing in the ‘più adagio molto espressivo’where this usually rather bright sounding Fazioli seemed to seminate jewels amidst the beautiful sustained chords from the orchestra .The duet with the clarinet was something to cherish indeed.
The buoyancy of the ‘Allegretto grazioso’ entered as if growing out of the sumptuous last chord of the Andante.So often there is a break between movements but if ever there were twins they are surely these two movements.
There were some beautifully elegant things and rustic pastoral moments contrasting with the sheer animal excitement of the coda.
A slightly steadier tempo at the beginning would have made life easier to interrupt in the varying contrasting passages.
As I said above the treacherous double thirds marked to be played pianissimo and always lightly were thrown off like streaks of lights almost glissandi in their atmospheric  effect.
The great rhythmic input from Ariel was matched  too by his colleague Henry in a  partnership that was made in heaven indeed.
There were about five major concerts in London last night but it was nice to see that the people that count had all flocked to St James’s not only to support the Israel Philharmonic Foundation but also two stars on the horizon.
Ariel Lanyi and Henry Kennedy after their superb performance of Brahms together
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Ariel Lanyi with his mentor at the Royal Academy Ian Fountain,winner of the Rubinstein International Piano Competition
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Ariel Lanyi with Ian Fountain
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Henry Kennedy,conductor with Sir Norman Rosenthal and Ian Fountain
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Arile Lanyi Jessie Harrington(centre) Canan Maxton (right)
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Tireless promoter of young musicians Sir Norman Rosenthal in discussion with Ariel – he had recently promoted Ariel’s Diabelli Variations in his series for the Solti Foundation.
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Left in the wings Linn Rothstein – like her late husband the violinist Jack Rothstein supporting and helping greatly talented young musicians.
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a grateful embrace for Canan Maxton founder of Talent Unlimited
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A Lion in Villa Torlonia – Luca Lione at Teatro di Villa Torlonia

Luca Lione in Villa Torlonia ……”Il pianoforte intimo”
Not sure what the title has to do with what we heard tonight for here was a piano of ravishing beauty played with the passion and energy of a young ‘Lion’ indeed.
It is always nice to see Mimmi Martinelli/Cafaro in the audience and it is  invariably a sign that we will hear a real musician play.
She and her late husband Sergio Cafaro have taught and helped so many artists who have established themselves in a profession that is always happy to welcome real musicians.
I am thinking of the many who have passed through my theatre just down the road from the Cafaro studio:
Roberto Prosseda,Alessandra Amara,Luisa Prayer,Lisa Mancini,Francesco Libetta and many many others.
Luca had not studied with them but he had received a top award in the competition that bears the name of Sergio Cafaro.
It was in particular his Scarlatti Sonata in D minor K 77 in the programme and the C major sonata offered as an encore that showed to the full his intelligent musicianship.
The opening of the Sonata K.77 could almost be mistaken for a Bach sarabande but the clockwork precision of what followed was beautifully shaped.Not sure I liked the staccato imitation but it was played with convincing style and remarkable sense of colour.
The C major Sonata as an encore was played with great rhythmic energy and remarkable precision.
The highlight of the concert though was the Granados ‘Allegro de concierto’ op 46.
He threw himself into this magic world full of ravishing colours and scintillating pianism.
This was a world with which this young ‘lion’ from Calabria could identify himself with as he entered the fray with such total conviction.
Throughout the recital I was struck by the beauty of sound of the piano.
I thought maybe it was no longer the usual Yamaha but a very fine Steinway,such was the full rich sound.
Reading the biography of Luca I was pleasantly surprised that he had been taught in Potenza Conservatory with a teacher from the Matthay school.
It was infact the same Yamaha piano but played by someone with the extreme sensibility to sound as a Myra Hess or a Moura Lympany.
I used to have lessons in the Matthay room at the Royal Academy in London.There were all sorts of objects like the ones you see on a billiard table but as Moura Lympany used to tell me it was Uncle Tobb’s sensitivity to touch and sound that was so remarkable.
The Schumann op 20 and 22 fared less well.
Luca’s great temperament made him choose breakneck tempi where the articulation and precision that he had brought to Scarlatti were abandoned as he threw himself with such passionate involvement into these masterpieces.
Unfortunately he had to over rely on the pedal to cover his sins.
There were of course some very beautiful things in the Humoresque in the more lyrical episodes as there were in the G minor sonata. It was just a pity that his great sense of self identification precluded a clearer looking glass.
Some of the most memorable things in a very interesting recital were the sublime opening of the Humoresque or the exquisite lyrical central section of the last movement of the sonata.The sublime lied – Andantino- that is the second movement of the sonata had given the title to this concert-‘Intimate piano’ so Valerio explained afterwards.It was indeed beautifully expressive even if the singer might well have asked her accomplished partner to play down a bit !

That is the clue to the “Intimate Pianoforte” of the title……..according to

Valerio Vicari our ever present host to so many talented musicians via the Roma 3 University of which he is artistic director.
Matteo Rocchi,viola and Valerio Vicari
Signora Martinelli/Cafaro
Valerio Vicari with Luca Lione

Giovanni Bertolazzi – “A Giant amongst the Giants”

Giovanni Bertolazzi

The concert in Padua in the historic Sala dei Giganti.

10 Sunday morning concerts in the series for the Amici della Musica di Padova dedicated to young Italian prize winners.
Today it was the turn of the 22 year old pianist from Verona,Giovanni Bertolazzi, who had made such an impression at the Busoni International Competition last summer.( see below)
I knew he was special but did not realise how special until Sig.Zanta the piano technician (who has been the guardian angel of such artists as Richter,Serkin,Fischer,Argerich and more recently Virsaladze,Goode,Romanovsky,Zilberstein etc)took me to one side to tell me that this young man today was really very special.
I knew that of course from Bolzano this summer which is where we met.
He took the competition by storm – in my opinion head and shoulders above all the other extraordinary young musicians that had chosen to enter the circus ring!
He fell at the final hurdle when he was unable to tame the magnificent but highly experienced unwielding quartet with whom the semi finalists had to play.
He chose Schumann where Franck and Shostakovich were more their cup of tea.
His sensitive artistry and sense of style was not given the time to breathe,swept along as he was by four magnificent winners of past Tchaikowsky competitions.
Pity but that is all part of being a professional musician and knowing how to fight for what you believe in so passionately.
However today on the piano that Richter loved so much he was given free reign to his quite considerable artistry.Playing to an audience depleted by the fear of Corona virus the news of which is being so amply and continuously described on the mass media.
For a real artist just one person is enough to ignite the touch paper that unleashes the passionate total dedication to comunicating the composers wishes.It is like a ‘sunami’ that takes hold of us and is the only thing that matters in that moment.
A great wave unleashed that carries us all along on a shared journey of discovery.
Serkin,of course,was one of the prime examples of this extraordinary energy that explodes from the very first note until long after the final note has been struck.
Who could ever forget the final chord of Serkin’s ‘Hammerklavier’ in the Festival Hall in London and seeing this slight seventy year old legendary figure spitting and kicking as he held on to the final chord after a truly towering performance.
And so it was that I was reminded of Serkin as the ‘Waldstein’ sonata unfolded like a spring being unleashed on this unsuspecting public.
A rhythmic drive but with such surprising colours especially with help from slight insinuating hints from the left hand thumb.
Remarkable how he managed to give the impression of rock solid tempo with such rhythmic urgency.
It showed off his transcendental control not only of the notes but of the very sound within their very soul.
The introduction to the last movement I have never heard with such intelligent deep understanding . Beautiful rich very masculine sound,Adagio molto but with a sense of line and direction that led via a great arch to the bell like first note of the Rondo.
Played’ moderato’ as Beethoven beseeches us – a pastoral calm before the ever more vigorous wind takes us into the helter skelter of the Prestissimo coda.
A calm on a wave of gentle sounds that Beethoven asks to be bathed in pedal as Giovanni interpreted so intelligently on this instrument that Beethoven would have never known except in his inner ear.
Interrupted by episodes of ever more rhythmic impetus.
Pure magic was the way he played the long pedal held chords on which the rondo theme was allowed to float before the final tumultuous episodes.
We were never aware of his transcendental technical assurance as we were swept along on such an exhilarating musical wave.
The treacherous glissandi were thrown off with an ease as he was obviously not aware of the transcendental hurdles he was surmounting on his journey of scaling the mountain.
I remember Serkin wetting his fingers to play the glissandi first in the right then the left.
Kissin just played them as very fast scales with a very deft magician’s slight of hand.
I mentioned it to Giovanni at the end and he just modestly shrugged and said he did the best he could.
But the point was that it was of no importance to him.
It was his nervous energy that swept all before it.
There were no hurdles but an unrelenting forward journey.
Sink or swim indeed.
And he is a survivor!
Mendelssohn ‘Variations Serieuses’ are just made for him with all his youthful passion and vigour.It is a young mans music that just seems to slip so easily out of ones sleeve.
I must say Saint- Saens owes much to this much neglected master.
It was Mendelssohn who discovered Bach but who is going to discover Mendelssohn?
Well Roberto Prosseda is flying the flag high and I think Giovanni will not be far behind in a year or two.
It is a new work to his repertoire and as he gradually worked his way in after one or two rather hasty variations his great poetic artistry shone through with a very beautiful sense of balance and astonishing range of colours.The physical excitemement he brought to the ending bodes well for future performances.
It is not only the playing of this young man that is so extraordinary but his sense of occasion and theatre too.
A programme must be shaped in a great arch as its components are within.
It was the sudden burst of power with the opening declamatory chords of the B minor scherzo by Chopin,following a slight pause after Beethoven and Mendelssohn that was so perfectly timed.It could not have been more subtley directed by Visconti!
Now we were in the realm of Rubinstein with a Chopin of such noble sentiment and of such delicacy contrasted with a virility that was at times breathtaking.
Florestan and Eusebius in the most aristocratic of company.
Even ‘Ondine’ a constant in Rubinstein’s recitals was played with the same creamy richness but with a savage dance like contrast that had me searching through the score afterwards.
‘Scintillant’ – ‘doux ‘ that is what it means.
And in the mists of ‘Brouillards’ the chiselled sounds – ‘un peu en dehors’ – it is all there in the score for he who has the ultra sensitive intelligent soul.
Murray Perahia springs to mind!
How many Rubinstein recitals I have heard end with the 12th Hungarian Rhapsody.
Here was the same enormous rhythmic energy that had us on our seats cheering Rubinstein, at his triumphant end, when he was well into his 80’s.
It was the same energy that this 22 year old pianist had today.
The same irresistible sense of colour and charm and the wild gypsy passion.
Contrast of such breathtaking daring that only a true artist would be able to lead us to the end unscathed.
Bewitched bothered and not a little bewildered that we could witness something of such genuine aristocratic simplicity from someone sixty years younger.
I was not expecting an encore of the Chopin study op 10 n.1 that I doubt Rubinstein.would ever have dared  play in public.
A breathtaking performance not only for the transcendental technical difficulties overcome with such ease .But he showed us the great melodic arch in the aristocratic bass line that the right hand arabesques just illuminate.
One interesting fingering I noted where the left hand very deftly came to the rescue of the right.
It was the sense of shape and colour that made us aware that this,the first of Chopin’s monumental 24 studies,is so similar to the last great arpeggios of the  study op 25 n.12.
We will be hearing a lot more from this young lion of the keyboard and above all supreme poetic artist.Two of the discerning public had realised too when they asked Giovanni at the end for an autograph to add to their collection of great pianists that they have heard over the past 50 years in this hallowed hall.
The hall of giants indeed where I brought my beloved mentor Vlado Perlemuter to play all those years ago.
Mr Zanta without whom we would all be at
 Filippo Juvarra recounting his encounters with Richter and Argerich in nearly sixty years of activity in Padua 
Giovanni Bertolazzi domani mattina un” Gigante tra I Giganti”……in ” ll salone dei Giganti” at 11 in Padua
“A Giant amongst the Giants “….and thanks to Filippo Juvarra for inviting these great young musicians to play on Richter’s favourite instrument.
Dieci concerti con giovani vincitori di concorsi
la domenica mattina alle ore 11.00 in Sala dei Giganti al Liviano
dal 19 gennaio al 22 marzo 2020
Domenica 23 febbraio 2020 – ore 11.00
Sala dei Giganti, Liviano
4° Premio – 62° Concorso Pianistico Internazionale Ferruccio Busoni, 2019
Musiche di Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Chopin, Debussy
link al programma completo
Nato nel 1998 a Verona, si avvicina al pianoforte all’età di 10 anni, venendo fin da subito supportato da una famiglia particolarmente interessata alla cultura, all’arte ed alla musica. Ha conseguito il diploma accademico di I livello in pianoforte con votazione di 110 e lode presso il Conservatorio “B. Marcello” di Venezia, sotto la guida di Massimo Somenzi. Attualmente, Giovanni è allievo di Epifanio Comis, presso l’Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali “V. Bellini” di Catania.
Durante il suo percorso di studi frequenta corsi di perfezionamento pianistico con Alberto Nosè, Riccardo Risaliti, Lily Dorfman, Matti Raekallio, Violetta Egorova, Joaquín Achúcarro e Boris Berezovsky.
Nel Giugno 2019 è stato premiato con il “Premio Alkan per il virtuosismo pianistico” a Piacenza. Più recentemente, ha vinto il 4° Premio al prestigioso Concorso Pianistico Internazionale “Ferruccio Busoni” di Bolzano (2019).
Christopher Axworthy

Viva Busoni …alive and well in Bolzano Part one ,two and three – The Final
Bolzano and the final chamber music round of the Busoni competition. Two Shostakovich Quintets op 57 One clean and literal and the other mysterious and full of colour.

Cesira Ferrani and the Fig Tree

Cesira Ferrani - Sì. Mi Chiamano Mimì - 1903 - from 78 RPM
Cesira Ferrani – Sì. Mi Chiamano Mimì – 1903 – from 78 RPM
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The fig tree under which Toscanini and Puccini fought over their muse Cesira Ferrani in the garden of her villa in Biella.
Cesira Ferrani (May 8, 1863 in Turin – May 4, 1943 in Pollone) was an Italian operatic soprano who is best known for debuting two of the most iconic roles in opera history, Mimì in the original 1896 production of Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème and the title role in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut in its 1893 world premiere. Ferrani sang a wide repertoire that encompassed not only verismo opera but the works of composers like Verdi, Gounod, Wagner, and Debussy.
Born Cesira Zanazzio, Ferrani studied with Antonietta Fricci in Turin before making her professional opera début in 1887 as Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen at the Teatro Regio di Torino. That same year she sang Gilda from Verdi’s Rigoletto and Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust at the same theater. Over the next four years she appeared in numerous productions in Catania, Genoa, and Venice. She also sang in several productions in France. In 1892 she appeared at the Teatro Carlo Felice as Amelia into Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra and as the title role in Catalani’s Loreley under Arturo Toscanini.[1]
Ferrani’s costume for Act I of La bohème designed by Adolf Hohenstein for the world premiere
On 1 February 1893, Ferrani sang the title role in the world premiere of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Teatro Regio di Torino. It was the first time of many that she would sing opposite Giuseppe Cremonini, who originated the role of Chevalier des Grieux. In 1894 Ferrani and Cremonini reprised their roles in Manon Lescaut’s La Scala premiere and sang opposite each other in the world premiere of Alberto Franchetti’s Il fior d’Alpe as Maria and Paolo. Ferrani later reprised the role of Manon in productions at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and cities throughout Italy.
In 1895 Ferrani sang the role of Suzel in L’amico Fritz at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo and created the title role in the world premiere of Giacomo Orefice’s Consuelo at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. The following year she portrayed the role of Mimì in the original production of Puccini’s La bohème in Turin (1896). The day after the successful premiere of La bohème, with the cast receiving 15 curtain calls, Puccini gave Ferrani his photograph with the dedication:
“To my true and splendid Mimì, signorina Cesira Ferrani, with gratitude, G. Puccini” [2]
Following the success of La bohème, Ferrani embarked on performance tours of Russia and Spain, and appeared in productions in Cairo and Lisbon in addition to continuing to perform throughout Italy. In 1901 Ferrani sang in the world premiere of Mascagni’s Le maschere at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa.[1]
At La Scala she sang Mélisande in the first Milan performance of Pelléas et Mélisande with Toscanini in 1908. Her other roles included Juliette from Roméo et Juliette, Fanny in Sapho, Charlotte from Werther, Amelia from Simon Boccanegra, Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, and both Elsa in Lohengrin and Eva in Die Meistersinger among others. Her final appearance was in 1909 as Mélisande.[3]
In 1928 when the first recording of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly was made, the Gramophone Company invited her out of retirement to sing Kate Pinkerton’s handful of lines in Act 3.
Mi chiamano Mimi from La bohème sung by Cesira Ferrani (recorded 1903). Library and Archives Canada.
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The fig tree still stands in then garden of the Villa in Biella


Miracles at the Basilica …Francesca Benedetti plays Beckett and even more in Padua with Maria Teresa Benedetti ‘900 Italiano

A wonder to behold at Teatro Basilica in Rome
Francesca Benedetti in “Back to Beckett”

An amazing one woman 90 minute performance directed by

Marco Carniti


With a special introduction by Antonio Calenda and an even more particular epilogue by the poet Elio Pecora.
After Beckett there can only be silence……..not with Francesca though!!!!!!! …………………………and after tonight’s performance by the octogenarian actress Francesca Benedetti
We can only thank God that in the shadow of the magnificent San Giovanni in Laterano,the most ancient Basilica in Rome, we were present to witness such a miracle.
Tommaso Le Pera,the renowned photographer whose son Pino is manager of this unique space were both present as were the Signora Pirandello and Signora Sironi.
David Paryla,Romeo and Hamlet in Rome a few years ago and now a star of German TV was amongst the many personalities who were witness to a star shining brightly tonight.
Ever generous Francesca had the whole world in her hands tonight.
She implored me to tell the public my experiences with Beckett .
Via numerous messages we had been in touch with each other in these traumatic days for her of preparing such a marthon.
Luckily she had that most eclectic and adorable of directors Marco Carniti at her side.
Fresh from their triumph with Pasolini last year.
I told Francesca that she was the ‘Diva’ and I had no right or wish to share the stage with her even for a second.
At the end of her marathon monologue she insisted that I come on stage with her …..
…………..what could I do when a Queen demands…………. her faithful servants must obey.
Noblesse oblige!
Beckett directs Beckett in 1983 at the newly opened Ghione Theatre in Rome.
Reminded last night with the great and adorable  Francesca Benedetti of the time the prisoners,in for life at San Quentin prison in the USA, performed Becket in Rome as part of a world tour organised from Australia!
Beckett had gone into the prison to direct three works:Waiting for Godot,Krapps Last Tape and End Game.
No women in sight.
No ‘Happy Days’ for these lifers!
It was Cluchy the star who every evening I would accompany to the bar opposite the Ghione Theatre for many stiff whiskies to give him the courage to go on stage.
It was a great event and much publicised .
When this rather elite audience began to realise that the few words that Beckett gave them were in english and without surtitles, the numbers rapidly diminished!
 Beckett was hard to find too.
No mobile or telephone for him.
If you wanted to contact him you would have to ring a bar in Paris and ask to be passed to one of their habitual clients!
Sad to discover, much later, that the whole cast one by one was stricken with AIDS  in a period when so many great artists were struck down so cruelly and  unjustly.
I was living in Chelsea,the centre of London years before meeting my wife to be Ileana Ghione.
I had finished my studies at the RAM and in Rome and Paris and was a struggling musician happy to take on some students to tide me over to the next engagements.
One of these was a little french child about six years old and her father Arikha was the man that helped Beckett design his sparse very essential sets.
Little did I know that I would marry a famous actress and build and run a theatre in Rome for forty years!Small world!………
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    • Photos by Tommaso Le Pera in 1983
    • Tommaso and Pino Le Pera this evening
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David Paryla and beautiful friend

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Signora Sironi and Signora Pirandello
Below Elio Pecora with Francesca Benedetti and Marco Carniti
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a Triumph for the great Francesca Benedetti

Sokolov in Todi……..”…..the greatest pianist alive or dead?”

Sokolov tonight was like a light shining brightly with playing of such clarity and beauty that it illuminated the well known Sonata in A K. 331 and Rondo in A minor K. 511 as it did the little known Prelude and Fugue in C K.394.
They were in almost complete darkness and without any break or applause between the three works of Mozart that opened this recital.
It was in  the jewel of a theatre in the little hillside town of Todi in the Umbrian hills that it shares with nearby Spoleto.
There was a complete concentration and silence that allowed these works to be heard in all their naked purity.
The fearless almost Beethovenian sounds in the opening Prelude and the absolute clarity of the part playing in the fugue were contrasted with the naive purity of the opening theme and variations of the Sonata.
Each variation sparkled like perfect jewels.
Like the rays of light in a multicoloured prism.
Playing of such purity but of such subtle contrast too.
Seemingly without pedal as it was played with such care and mastery we were never aware of the technical feats at the service of the music.
The Rondo alla turca was played with such delicacy and supreme sense of style that allowed this almost pastoral sonata to seemingly hover above the keys.
The delicacy and intricate weavings of the Rondo in A minor K. 511 were one of the most wondrous things I have heard since Maestro Sokolov’s Haydn Sonatas last year.
The difference between Pletnev and Sokolov was like chalk from cheese.
The intimacy that Pletnev was trying to achieve in Florence on Saturday was achieved tonight in Todi because Sokolov was interested only in purveying the composers wishes without any evident invasion of his own personality.
But my God here was one of the great musical personalities of our time.
The 14 pieces of Bunte Blatter op 99 by Schumann where time stood still as the sumptuous sounds filled the air with poetry,passion,intimate confessions and joyous celebration.
The magic of the melody of the fourth , used by Brahms for his variations op 9 , was something to cherish.
As was the disperation and passion with which he plunged into the Praludium.
Complete darkness did not allow me to make detailed notes but what does that matter when we were treated to such a range of moods.
We were assaulted and then seduced,titivated and then mourned,thrilled and then reduced to tears.
Coloured leaves indeed….and what colours in this magicians hands.
I was in doubt to undertake the two hour car journey from Rome for this concert.
“He can bunte his blatter without me” I told friends………I had heard Trifonov play them all in the Barbican last year and just a few weeks ago heard two from Volodos as a prelude to the Humoresque and that was quite enough for a lifetime.
Two great pianists of course……..
…………………………but then there is Sokolov!
I will be the first in line to cheer the same programme in Rome on the 30th March or Eindhoven on the 13th.
It was the artistic secretary of S.Cecilia that when I had questioned the programme.
He had told me yes it was  the complete Bunte Blatter….40 minutes and an absolute masterpiece.
How right he was!
An intimate atmosphere was created in this theatre of 300 seats.He can create  the same atmosphere in a hall of 3000 too such is the spell he can spin.
Generous as always or is it something more like a rite, where at the end one can celebrate and enjoy together the absolute gems he was throwing our way.
Two Chopin Mazukas of such perfection ……not sterile perfection but human and full of refined sentiment.
The trills in the B flat mazurka were something to cherish for a lifetime as they spun and unwound each in a different unobtrusive way.
Two of his famous pieces by Couperin and Rameau. In the ‘Rappel des oiseaux’ we could see the birds hovering around him like St Francis just a stones throw from here.
The absolute perfection was once again shared with his doting public.
The Rachmaninov Prelude in G sharp minor op 32 was of a hauntimg beauty that there are no words to describe.
But it was the massive opening and closing chords of Chopins C minor Prelude that had us on the edge of our seats as it got quieter and quieter with a superhuman control of sound.
It sent us into the cool evening air astonished,moved and seduced by the “…..greatest pianist alive or dead”

Of course a pianist needs a perfect instrument to be able to search for such perfection and it was another magician

Mauro Buccitti  who was at his side tonight with a truly magnificent Steinway from our old friend of over 50years Alfonsi in Rome.
Chapeau is just not enough!
Five encores later……..
Linda Alberti niece of that great aesthete and much missed  actress from nearby Bevagna: Elsa de’ Giorgi.Never forgotten even by Adelaide married to Lindas son Fabio  and both artist working in the beautiful hillside town of Bevagna with Montefalco looking on enticingly from above.
Awaiting the legendary Sokolov in beautiful Todi.I decided I really could not miss Bunte Blatter that I have never liked played as a whole but he may just be the one that can convince like he did with Haydn last year

The return of a legend Pletnev in Florence

Pletnev at the Pergola
I am jotting down some thoughts and it is only the interval!
One could already fill a book with ideas about the performances of Mozart K.282 and Beethoven op.110.
I had spent the morning with Elisso Virsaladze in Fiesole where she had implored two very fine pianists to just do what Beethoven asks- no more but certainly no less!
A japanese boy,a protégée of Martha Argerich in op.27n.2 and Elia Cecino,winner of the Premio Italia in op 31n.1.
“But why are you doing that if Beethoven does not ask for it?”
The same integrity and humility of the legendary pianist/musician Guido Agosti,my mentor and great friend who gave a lecture recital in my theatre on the very sonatas that Pletnev is offering today (both on video in the Ghione archives.Op 110 on CD in one of the very rare performances to be recorded of this great master who reigned in Siena for many years).
Pletnev today  offered a sort of improvisation on themes by Mozart and Beethoven but I think it was much more than that and will try to reason out the riddle.
Both Pletnev and Pogorelich have played in my theatre and so was not surprised to see Pogorelich backstage at a Wigmore recital by his colleague some years ago and if I may say with all respect “birds of a feather.”
I remember Pletnev declaring that to play in the Wigmore was “ playing unter ze water”
Tatyana Nikolaeva told us that her student was coming to play in our series too after her many recitals for us and we were delighted to take him out to dinner after a wonderful ‘Pictures’ and his own ‘Sleeping Beauty’
Pogorelich had played that season too: the 4 Scherzi and two Mozart Sonatas.
Fou Ts’ong had arrived a few days early for his recital and I asked him if he would like to hear Pogorelich.
I explained that like Cherkassky he was not always faithful to the score.
After the concert Ts’ong took me aside and said:
“…but Shura loves the piano …. this man hates it!”
The thing Pletnev and Pogorelich have in common was as Pablo Rossi immediately said today at the end of op 110…
“but what voicing!Modern day pianists do not do that any more.”
Thank God you might say …..but there is much more to be said about it than that.
Fanny Waterman used the word ‘mold’ but she meant that pianists do not seem to have a distinctive voice.
As Elisso too says, 90% of pianists today have nothing to say.They are too predictable.
In Pletnev’s case though I think on todays hearing:
“All song and no dance make for rather a dull boy!”
I am now continuing these thoughts and reflections long after the end of the concert.
I have reasoned with a whole group of magnificent musicians playing hookey from Elisso’s class over a glass or two in Florence Cathedral square.
They had flocked to hear a legendary pianist in a beautiful programme of Late Beethoven and Mozart.
I have come to the conclusion that without form,shape or some sort of structured order, held together by a rhythmic undercurrent, beautiful sounds on their own become predictable and in the end boring.
An encore of the Scarlatti Sonata in D minor summed up a whole recital and was cheered to the rafters by the same followers of ‘bel canto’ who live for the high wire momentary gratification of some rarified sounds.
But the art of the great interpreter is to make one feel that whilst obeying the composers wishes it should also sound like a spontaneous improvisation but with a rhythmic undercurrent that holds the work together and gives architectural shape to the works played and also to the recital as a whole.
One that keeps an audience on the edge of their seats waiting to see if they should fall off the high wire.
The great musician is he who lasts the course and arrives triumphantly to the finishing post with his humiltiy and integrity intact.
Having shared a unique musical experience with the audience that have created the atmosphere in which anything is possible.
The Amici dell Musica in Florence has for decades been in the dedicated hands of the Passigli family of publishers.
They are renowned for their high standards and absolute musical integrity where only the greatest music and interpreters are allowed to tred.
I brought Perlemuter,Tureck and Cherkassky to them from Rome but it was only Perlemuter and Tureck who were idolised and invited back year after year.
They are renowned for their programmes of the greatest string quartets,something that would be an absolute rarity in Rome or the south.
Serkin,Arrau,Fischer and Brendel were their Gods.
Artists that all others were measured by.
Today regular visitors are Murray Perahia,Andras Schiff,Angela Hewitt,Paul Lewis, Ian Bostridge, Les Arts Florissants,Jordi Savall the Emerson Quartet etc etc.
The same serious intent as the Wigmore Hall in London.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Pletnev in their season but I think a programme of Beethoven Op 110 & 111 plus two Mozart Sonatas was hard to resist!
The Scarlatti was full of rarified sounds.
Episodes in varying tempi that did not relate one to the other.
Scales that sounded like washes of colour from a different world arriving eventually to a bell like trill that unwound like tinkerbell!
It reminded me of the pianists we have heard on the old 78 rpm records of De Pachmann or the like.
Pletnev is no longer the spry young man of thirty years ago when he came to us.Life has lain heavily on him and he shuffles on and off and seems very unsure of his bearings on stage.
However once arrived at the piano he is still the master that had Sandor exclaiming as to why he should want to be a conductor when he could play the piano like the unique virtuoso he is.
He started the recital late and it made me wonder if it would be the same experience we had at Rome University a few years ago.
A five o clock recital in Rome and I was five minutes late too.
I found people still outside the hall and was surprised when they asked me if I was Pletnev as he had not yet arrived!
After a forty minute wait La Sapienza decided to cancel the concert.
It would appear that Mr Pletnev had gone sightseeing not realising that Saturday afternoon there was a protest march that had blocked the ‘Infernal City’ and made a visitors life a misery!
The Teatro Della Pergola was once the Opera House of Florence and who knows if Pletnev was aware of that as he proceded to play Mozart’s E Flat Sonata K:282 as if all the world is a stage.
(The theatre is renowned these days as the most important stage for drama in Italy.I first saw my future wife,Ileana Ghione, there in 1978 in Private Lives by Noel Coward and we last performed John Gabriel Borkman there 20 years later when Rosalyn Tureck had become the absolute ‘Diva’ of Florence).
Pletnev’s performance today was deliciously free and of such subtle multi- coloured shading with all the characters and drama present of an Opera by Mozart.
It may have seemed rather exaggerated in these days of such purity and almost fear to touch the great scores.But it is ignorance of the style and it was Horowitz who lay the same operatic scenario in front of us …his very last concerto recording was of Mozart K 488 with that most elegant and eclectic of conductors: Carlo Maria Giulini.
It may have seemed ‘over the top’ but his slight delays and sudden changing of colours were riveting.
The magical colours in the Menuetto 2 contrasted so well with the return of the Menuetto 1 played very rhythmically.
The Allegro was not rhythmically so clear and his jeux perlé with abrupt changes of tempo started to  became rather mannered and predictable and for that reason a little tiresome!
And from here on in this hallowed hall that has seen the greatest musicians of our time we were treated to old style performances between the “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea!”
I had started to make notes as an ‘aide memoire’ but after a while I just shut the book and tried to concentrate on the delicacies that we were being fed instead of being swept up in the current of great interpretations of master works.
A very wayward opening to op 110 where the tempo seemed to change by the second depending on what delicious sounds he was trying to titivate his senses with.The actual sublime opening melody was extremely beautiful after a trill that I have never heard thrown off with such deliberation.
Bass notes that suddenly sounded like an organ stop where the filigree figurations that Beethoven asks for were submerged in pedal.
It did have a certain aspect of being improvised though and the splitting of hands in the magical key change was very effective but by then the tempo had almost come to a halt! It was interesting to see him strike a single note from above like a great painter with his canvas but then the left hand phrasing in twos was completely submerged in pedal as the melody was reduced to a romantic song without words!
The second movement was very deliberately played ,the syncopations hardly recognisable as they were thrown off with a nonchalance that killed the very deliberate rhythmic urgency that Beethoven asks for.
The famous ‘bebung’ or repeated/vibrated notes in the Adagio were played with one finger and seemed to work well and the sublime melody that followed was barely audible but extremely beautiful.
His lack of rhyhmic impulse though left Beethoven’s ‘Sturm and Drang’ out of the equation completely.
What remained was his heart and soul.Even if his heart was sometimes on his sleeve it was a memorable moment to cherish.
The return of the fugue subject in inversion was almost unrecognisable due to his rhythmic distortion.
The mysterious reappearance of the subject after the great chords was as astonishing as it was surprising.
Some very bare isolated pizzicato octaves led to the gradual build up to the final great climax.It was rather thrown away on mists of sound from a different era.We are used to hearing such clarity and forward propulsion to the final break of tension.What we got was a sort of beautiful melody and accompaniment!
The second half began with the Sonata in C K. 330 “Parigina” by Mozart.It opened with a delicate left hand staccato that was very beautiful but then rapidly resorted to the same changes of tempo and exaggerations that had been the hallmark of the first part of the recital.
Op 111 Beethoven’s last great Sonata where the first movement is full of struggle to be resolved only in the sublime Arietta and variations.
The opening fanfare Beethoven asks to be played with one hand- Pletnev chose to play it with both! He reduced the struggle immediately to a sort of jeux perlé where Perlemuter had likened the fast semiquavers to water boiling over at 100% .
Perlemuter had studied with Schnabel who had been one of the first to respect the composers wishes.
His teacher Leschetizsky had told him that he was not a pianist but a musician.
What greater compliment could there be today!
But in that period pianists were entertainers and would have “their own” interpretations that were designed to titivate the senses and show off their technical and emotional prowess.They even spoke to the audience to let them know how they were doing!
And Pletnev today had decided to turn back the clock and reduced the great Artietta to melody and accompaniment.
Where the opening is so obviously a string quartet and the voices in the variations give such energy and meaning to one of Beethoven’s most poignant utterences.
The powerful arpeggios were reduced to arabesques like a Shultz- Evler Strauss transcription.
The etherial meanderings in the upper registers of the piano were in Pletnev’s hand like a fly buzzing around the piano instead of the most magical sounds that lead to the final statement of the theme amidst magical trills and mere fragments magically placed all over the keyboard.
These were just some of the reasons that in the end the recital was boring.
ùIt could have been controversial ,non intellectual,provocative even but I am sorry to say boring it should never have been.
He gave the impression of someone who was tired but if that is what the public accepts so be it.
I was just surprised to hear this in such a hallowed hall and very disappointed more than anything else….
I was expecting nothing and that is what I got!
So perhaps I was not disappointed …but for sure I certainly was not elated!
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Ashley Fripp in Florence – A walk to the Paradise Garden

Ashley Fripp

in Florence.

On the road to Paradise.
Some very fine playing in the beautiful surroundings of the British Institute in Florence.
A room with a view indeed surrounded by the books of Harold Acton in this library that he bequeathed to the British Institute.
Harold Acton a great aesthete from the times when Florence attracted artists that had the possibility and wish to dedicate themselves to the beauty that is still at the very roots of this beautuful city.
He left his famous villa “La Pietra” to New York University having been turned down by his Alma Mater at Oxford on the grounds that it would be too onerous to maintain!
That other almost contemporary Bernard Berenson left “I Tatti” to Harvard University.
Ashley is on a four year course with Elisso Virsaladze in Fiesole.
Having won eight years ago the Gold Medal at the Guildhall he has come under the spell of this extraordinary lady whom he met in the summer school of another small town in Italy: Sermoneta .
As this highly talented,intelligent young man realised, immediately, the road to paradise is long and arduous indeed.
If there is someone who can indicate the way to the exceptionally gifted young pianists that flock five times a year to her mastercourse,it is this humble lady much admired by Richter and his peers.
Amazingly at 78 she had come directly from her triumphant recital in Milan (they tell me her Schumann Fantasie was memorable) ready to dedicate herself eight hours or more a day to sharing her secrets with her admiring and adoring students that had come from all parts of the world.
Ashley is now coming to the end of his four years in ‘paradise’ and at the same time completing his doctorate in London on the work of Thomas Ades:
“Ashley Fripp is a genuine virtuoso,an astoundingly brilliant and masterly pianist and his total grasp of the music is a joy to hear”.
The words of Thomas Ades were amply demonstrated in the recital he gave last night rapturously received by a very discerning public.
It has hopefully signalled the start of much music in this hallowed library overlooking the Ponte Vecchio.
Music was the only thing missing…..up to now!
I had followed the masterclasses in Fiesole during the day and had heard a veritable feast of music.
From Beethoven Sonata op 90 and Bagatelles op 126.Haydn’s charming little two movement Sonata in C and Chromatic Fantasie of Bach.Through an extraordinary Scarbo and a contemporary virtuoso piece for left hand alone Tapiola Visioins op 92 by Takashi Yoshimatsu( a much discussed title ‘Commas of birds’..Google to the rescue here) and finally Schumann Piano Concerto.
All superbly played just waiting to be pointed in the right direction or at least another more musically inspired one!
What fun Elisso had conducting the wonderfully charming Haydn last movement or sitting at the piano to show how the glorious phrasing of Schumann could illuminate the many sometimes seemingly empty notes.
But it was Ashley just a few hours before his totally different recital programme who presented Schubert’s last sonata in B flat .
Just a few indications from Elisso who knew that although this was work in progress it was in the hands of a master musician who would always treat the score with such loving and intelligent care .
He would,however, appreciate some indications from a ‘policeman’who had known the area for a lifetime!
Just an hour of music at the British Institute presented by their enlightened director Simon Gammell.
Two impromptus by Schubert D 935 (op 142n.1) and D899 (op 90 n.2)
contrasted with two by Chopin n.1 op 29 and n.2 op 36.
These acted as an introduction to Chopin’s B minor Sonata op 58.
It was immediately apparent the liquid sound that Ashley sought on this old but still noble Bechstein.
It allowed the lyricism of this late Impromptu to be shaped with such loving care and sense of colour.
His refined musicianship never allowed for any sentimentality but a nobility carried forward by an inner rhythmic energy which gave great architectural shape to this the most noble of Schuberts eight impromptus.
It was the same aristocratic elegance and simplicity that I remember from Annie Fischer.
Elisso knew that Annie Fischer had played in my theatre in Rome and told the story of her visiting the class of Neuhaus whilst giving a concert in Moscow.She remembered that this much revered legendary pianist wanted to play a Bartok Concerto to them but amongst Neuhaus’s students there were none that knew the concerto or could play the second piano with her!
This was after Richter and Gilels had left this illustrious nest and were already flying high.
The impromptu in E flat that followed ran like water in a brook with a jeux perlé shaped with such colour and beauty.The march like middle section contrasting so beautifully in the hands of a musician who had known how to achieve such a sense of balance and rigour.
It is a long time since I have heard the Chopin Impromptus in the concert hall.
Hats off to Ashley for choosing to contrast them with the preceding ones of Schubert.
The A flat Impromptu was played with an irresistible charm where the pianists agile hands just seemed to fly over the keys with a lightness and subtle rubato that led the way to the more dramatic Impromptu in F sharp.
A beautiful sense of balance allowed the melody to sing so naturally without any hardness as it did when it transfered to the left hand towards the end with cascades of notes lightly brushing the keys like an artist adding a wash of colour to a masterpiece.
It was the B minor Sonata of Chopin though that showed off the remarkable musicianship and sensibility of this pianist.
Here was a musician from a great school ….the school of that great Dame of the piano here in Fiesole.
It was the passionate, robust recapitulation of Chopin’s second subject that gave such weight and importance to what is so often refered to as Chopin’s weak sense of structure in his sonatas and concertos.
It added the seal to a very taught sense of structure in which Chopin’s sublime melodic invention was allied to a very precise framework.
This second subject in the opening Allegro Maestoso was then allowed to dissolve so magically.
Remarkable too was ‘the knotty twine’ in the middle section of the Scherzo played with such an unusually clear sense of line.
The faster outer sections thrown off with an ease like streams of light during the night.
Magical feux follets indeed.
There was magic in the air too with the sublime stillness that he found in the coda of the slow movement.
I would have linked the final chords of the Scherzo with the arresting call to arms of the slow movement.But his playing and sense of stillness and shape that he brought to this movement created a heatfelt contrast to the scintillating virtuosity of the relentless Presto finale.
In Fiesole influenza had been passing from one student to the other.
Elisso assured me that it was not the corona virus!
But unfortunately it was Ashley’s turn and so meant that his great professionalism had allowed him to come to the end of his recital not without some discomfort, of course unnoticed by the public.
It meant,though, that after a very exciting performance of the Presto finale of the B minor Sonata  he had no energy left to offer an encore to a very enthusiastic audience.
A nice glass of wonderful Chianti ensured an almost complete recovery and will be recommended to all the future stars that will be invited to shine in this unique venue
On the road to paradise. Elisso Virsaladze in Fiesole
The Villa Music Accademy in Fiesole
The Paradise Road in Fiesole
Elisso Virsaladze with Ashley

Ariel Lanyi – The return of a star – The sublime Schubert of a master musiciankpp0p

The return of Ariel Lanyi- Sublime Schubert of a Master Musician
Scriabin: Sonata no 3 in Fsharp minor Op 23
Schubert: Sonata in D major D850
Ariel Lanyi, born in 1997, began piano lessons with Lea Agmon just before his fifth birthday and made his orchestral debut at the age of 7. Since then, he has given numerous recitals in cities such as London, Paris (including Hôtel des Invalides and Radio France), Rome, Prague, Brussels, and regularly in concerts broadcast live on Israeli radio and television. He has appeared as a soloist with a variety of orchestras in the United Kingdom and Israel, including the Israel Symphony Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and has participated in festivals such as the Israel Festival, Ausseer Festsommer, Bosa Antica Festival, Miami Piano Festival, the Ravello Festival, and the Young Prague Festival. As a chamber musician, he has appeared with members (including leading members) of the Prague Philharmonia, the Czech Philharmonic, the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, and the Israel Philharmonic, among others.
In 2020, Ariel will appear in the Marlboro Festival. Ariel was awarded first prize at the 2017 Dudley International Piano Competition following a performance of Mozart’s Concerto in C minor, K. 491 in the final round, and in 2018, he was awarded the first prize in the Grand Prix Animato in Paris.Ariel studied at the High School and Conservatory of the Jerusalem Academy of Music, in the piano class of Yuval Cohen. He also studied violin and composition, and was concertmaster of the High School and Conservatory Orchestra. He has also received extensive tuition from eminent artists such as Leon Fleisher, Robert Levin, Murray Perahia, Imogen Cooper, Leif Ove Andsnes, Steven Osborne, and the late Ivan Moravec. Currently, he studies as a full scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music in London with Hamish Milne and Ian Fountain. Ariel is a recipient of the Munster Trust Mark James Star Award and the Senior Award of the Hattori Foundation.
What can one add when you are swept away from the first to the last note by two works that I could not say are my favourites.
From the first robust ‘Drammatico’ of his beautifully full sounds in Scriabin from which the fragments of Scriabin’s romantic imagination come together little by little until he reaches the final explosion and passionate sweep of the ‘star.’
With the imposing octaves of the second movement dissolving to a liquid cantabile of such clarity.
The extreme beauty of the Andante where Ariel’s wondrous sense of colour and balance added to a fluidity of sound of great beauty allowed Scriabin’s magical sounds to float into the rarified air before leading into the Presto con fuoco and great passionate outbursts of the last movement.
Scriabin had been married to a young pianist, Vera Ivanovna Isaakovich, in August 1897 and he and his wife went to Paris, where he started to work on the new sonata. Scriabin is said to have called the finished work “Gothic”, evoking the impression of a ruined castle. Some years later however, he devised a different programme for this sonata entitled “States of the Soul”:First movement, Drammàtico: The soul, free and wild, thrown into the whirlpool of suffering and strife.Second movement, Allegretto: Apparent momentary and illusory respite; tired from suffering the soul wants to forget, wants to sing and flourish, in spite of everything. But the light rhythm, the fragrant harmonies are just a cover through which gleams the restless and languishing soul.Third movement, Andante: A sea of feelings, tender and sorrowful: love, sorrow, vague desires, inexplicable thoughts, illusions of a delicate dream.Finale, Presto con fuoco: From the depth of being rises the fearsome voice of creative man whose victorious song resounds triumphantly. But too weak yet to reach the acme he plunges, temporarily defeated, into the abyss of non-being.
All this was evoked today in the magical hands of this young Israeli pianist ,who is being coached by Ian Fountain ,the only british born pianist to have won the Rubinstein Competition and who is like Ariel a disarmingly reserved master musician.
But it was in the Schubert D major Sonata D.850 that Ariel’s great musicianship and technical command became startlingly apparent.
This is the most Beethovenian of Schubert’s 21 Sonatas (as the Mozart C minor concerto is the most Beethovenian of the 27) and it takes a very great musician to bring it to life.
It needs a forward unrelenting propulsion that is so much part of the world of Beethoven.
Even in the more lyrical sections there is an underlying energy like being on a great conveyer belt or wave that carries us forward.
Never missing however all the wondrous beauty that surrounds this unrelenting journey.
I have only heard this sonata played as today from Curzon or Perahia.
From the sense of rhythmic energy that seemed to bubble over with a great forward propulsion that would every so often burst into a lyricism without loosing the ever present undercurrent that sweeps all before it.
The charming lilt to the ‘con moto’ where the interchange of melodic line from the right hand to the left was pure magic.
The delicate comments ornamenting the melodic line were quite sublime as this movement disappeared to a mere murmur before the wonderful sense of dance in the Scherzo.
There were such humourous comments after the rather serious almost pompous opening and a trio that had a subtle rubato and sense of style where each note spoke so eloquently.
His sense of dynamic control and colour meant that he could arrive at the end without any ritardando which was so startlingly right.
The Rondo was played like the charming clock work clock that it so vividly depicts.
It was played with an irresistible charm and childlike simplicity.The change to the minor was quite breathtaking.
There was indeed magic in the air as Schubert’s sublime lyrical invention suddenly entered on the tail of a great energetic outburst.
It is one of those moments like in the G major sonata where Schubert’s so called ‘sublime length’ was infact just that.
It was in Ariel’s sensitive but very masculine hands that this melodic outburst was so wonderfully shaped with such subtle rubato and colouring.
Seeming to barely touch the keys as he caressed such wondrous sounds out of a piano that rarely have we heard sound so beautiful.
I remember quite some years ago when my wife was playing Candida by Shaw in Rovigo in the Veneto region of Italy.
A little jewel of an opera house in the centre of this town and used for all types of culture.
We noticed that Murray Perahia was to give a recital a month later and we decided to return to hear him.
This was when he was just starting to play in Italy after winning the Leeds Competition.
He played the Chopin 4 Ballades , the Mozart D minor Fantasy and Schubert D Major Sonata.
It was an unforgettable performance.
We were in the square afterwards and saw the young man we had just admired so much coming towards us.
As I obviously looked as though I might speak English he had found himself, after this triumph, completely on his own and he had no idea where he could get something to eat!
Well, we were delighted to take him with us to eat and were overwelmed as much by his simplicity and humility as we had been by his performances.
Murray Perahia has since gone on to conquer the world and in the many masterclasses that I have attended his intelligence,humility and total dedication to the music have been as much of a surprise and his playing.
Each time he plays musicians invariably reach for their scores to discover the beauty that has been revealed from his hands in scores that they have lived with for a lifetime!
As Serkin said to Richard Goode :”You told me that he was good,but you did not tell me how good!”
Ariel too when he was invited to introduce the music today he did it with the same intelligence and humility that his playing revealed.
I very much look forward to his performance of the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto at St James’s Piccadilly on the 27th February at 7.30.
A Concert for Israel .I am flying back from my home in Italy especially.
I am also very much looking forward to his Diabelli Variations ,at last, on the 23rd April at the Arts Club in Waterloo as winner of the Senior Award of the Hattori Foundation.
Hats of to Dr Hugh Mather, Roger Nellist and his team for allowing us to eavesdrop on a future star.