YUANFAN YANG IN ITALY Part 1 :Vicenza and Rai Radio 3 Part 2: Viterbo,Frascati and Rome

YUANFAN YANG IN ITALY Part 1 Vicenza and Rai Radio 3 Part 2 Viterbo,Frascati and Rome
Yuanfan Yang at the Teatro Comunale in Vicenza.
Amazing performance for Incontro sulla Tastiera that for 45 years the indefatigable Maria Antonietta Squeglia has been organising in the beautiful city of Palladio.
But today there was something special in the air and a party atmosphere ignited by a young UK born chinese pianist whose improvisations and incredibly natural musicianship were being likened by an enthusiastic public to the prodigy Mozart!
At the end of the concert Yuanfan announced that he wanted to give the audience the chance to take part too.Can anyone offer a few notes on which he would create a piece,their piece,in this very moment?

Discussing the encore improvisation of three voices in jazz style
The public were a bit wary of this novelty and no one wanted to be embarrassed.So Yuanfan turned his back on the keyboard and played five or six random notes and then created a piece in the style of Beethoven.
The President of the Incontro was heard complaining that Beethoven had been missing from the programme!
And what a beautiful piece it was!Even better than Beethoven?!

Review of the concert in Vicenza by Eva Purelli
Now of course the cat was out of the bag and three people wanted to offer notes for a second encore from a now very insistent public.
No problem for our young musician touched by genius.
He improvised in jazz style using all three themes.
It brought the house down and poor Maria Antonietta and the sponsor Ermanno Detto have been bombarded by enthusiastic messages of disbelief and astonishment from their public.

Maria Antonietta Squeglia and Mrs Jieling Yu Yang in the Teatro Comunale of Vicenza
But it was the story that his mother had to tell over breakfast today that revealed the true amazing facts about a young boy who out of the blue was discovered at a birthday party to be able to play the piano!
He was 5.
At the age of 6 the BBC made a programme about him and his amazing musical genius.
Yuanfan Yang’s parents from Beijing were at Edinburgh University where he was born.His mother obtained a master in Telecommunications and his father in East European Studies.An exchange between the UK and China in the Thatcher period.Both had top class degrees from Bejing University.
His father is a professor now at Leeds University and for many years his mother taught at Leeds High School.

Yuanfan with Busoni Winner 2017 Ivan Krpan after Ivan’s performance of Liszt 1 at the Sala S.Cecilia in Rome with the Zagreb Philharmonic in celebration of the Presidency of Croazia to the European Union.Yuanfan made a 7 hour trip from Vicenza to salute his colleague and fellow KCT artist……what a family we are
They brought the five year old Yuanfan a piano as soon as they realised that he was born with this talent.
The mother of one of his friends had asked who his teacher was,as he had played so beautifully.But he does not play the piano,she exclaimed, we do not even have one at home!
Well all that changed overnight and Yuanfan was taken to study at Chethams in Manchester with that magnificent trainer of so many amazing talented children,Murray McLachlan.
The family have altered their own lifestyle to give him all the opportunities that his talent demands.
Winning many International competitions and even the BBC composing competition and top prize in China for his First Piano Concerto that as winner toured eight major cities in China!
It was,infact,his own piece :’The Haunted Well’ ,the prize winning piece of the BBC competition played immediately after the interval that ignited the enthusiasm of a usually rather reticent audience.
It was this four minute piece that the audience looked at with suspicion in a programme that included Schumann Carnaval,Chopin B flat minor sonata and Bach C minor toccata.
They soon realised that they need not have worried about this so called ‘contemporary ‘ piece.
They had obviously had some nasty experiences in the past!
But here was a piece full of magical sounds.
Of a fantasy of colours and subtle shading of the clock that strikes 13 at midnight (so clearly introduced by Yuanfan in a charmingly simple way….apologising for not being able to talk in Italian).
It was all so clear as these’pictures’painted in sound filled the air with such sumptuous sounds.
Transcendental technical feats alla Messiaen were eagerly accepted by an audience immediately so involved in the story ..just like the ‘Papillons’ of Schumann ….that he had to tell.
The Chopin B flat minor sonata ( his performance is new to me) was a revelation of clarity allied to a beauty and rigor that I have only experienced from the hands of Rubinstein.
If only we could have started the concert over again we would have realised what a superb performance he gave of Schumann Carnaval.Full of subtle poetry and colour but with an aristocratic sense of rubato and flow that is of the chosen few.

Raffaella Squeglia presenting the concert
Technical considerations never entered into the discussion such was his total mastery.But his incredible technical mastery was also there to be admired by colleagues who have struggled for hours to master ‘Paganini’ or the ‘March of Davidsbundler!’

Sponsor Ermanno Detto with Maria Antonietta Squeglia and enthusiastic friends.
His Bach Toccata now is like a rock.But a multicoloured rock that never wavers but is full of subtle colours and discrete ornamentation …..much more to follow….but would recommend wherever you are in the world to tune in on Friday 24th Jan at 11 pm Italian time to his live broadcast on RAI Radio 3.
Rai Radio 3 ‘La Stanza della Musica’

Stefano Roffi – left – producer La Stanza della Musica Rai 3
Yuanfan Yang last nights’ broadcast available on their website Rai radio 3 ‘La stanza della musica.’
It created quite a stir.Due to the overruning of Tristan with the live transmission from the opening of the season in Bologna there was barely 30 minutes left to midnight.Like Cinderella the midnight hour decides our fate!There was a quick rethinking for the programme and as in all true theatre and live performances there was magic in the air.

Yuanfan sound check
After one of the most beautiful Chopin Barcarolle`s that I can remember and opening with his own piece which starts on the same E flat with which the live relay of Tristan finishes.
He was invited by a phone in audience to improvise on The Godfather Theme of Nino Rota.
As requested ,first in jazz mode and then in vulcanic mode.
A sensational way to finish the day for Stefano Roffi and all his team applauding and cheering him from behind the glass that separates the studio from the control room.Radio switchboard almost erupted too with enthusiastic calls…….and it was almost midnight as Yuanfans prize winning piece’ The Haunted Bell’ struck its midnight E flat 13 times!
Stefano tells me it is available forever on their web site.
From ” Here to Eternity” one might well say!

YUANFAN YANG in Italy Part 2 Viterbo,Frascati and Rome

Review of the concert in the Teatro Comunale in Vicenza
“The 23 year old chinese offers points of mastery and technical command also playing with his back to the keyboard like Mozart.”
Eva Purelli
“Lets start at the end.
Yuanfan Yang,the 23 year old Chinese pianist ,born in Edinburgh at the end of the concert for Incontro sulla Tastiera improvised with great authority on a few notes chosen at random.
Something quite usual in the past centuries for those that played a keyboard instrument or organs.An ability today much appreciated and used in jazz rather than in ‘serious’ music.But Yang after a much applauded concert in the Ridotto of the Teatro Comunale did not choose to play an encore from the vast piano solo repertoire,but instead offered an immediate example of his improvisatory gifts.

With the distinguished french pianist Marylene Mouquet in Frascati
Asking the public in fluent english for any ideas,notes or melodies (next time it would be better to provide a simultaneous translation as it seemed that nobody understood what he was saying).But there was no sign of life from the public.So Yang with a shrug,just turned his back to keyboard and putting his hands on the keys chose some random notes (remember the scene in the film ‘Amadeus’?When Mozart plays with his back to the keyboard).
Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati
Offering the first example of his great talent.Asking again he found three volontiers who climbed on to the stage putting their hands on the keys and making unprepared noises at the keyboard.And Yang asks what type of piece they would like the improvisation to be.In what style.Yang goes for the Jazz style improvisation suggested.
It is here that his great talent showed itself.
In the concert in Vicenza the prodigeous pianist not only showed his great personality and natural fluid technique but also a musical intelligence,capable of involving the public with a born gift of creating visual images .Something rare and of a chosen few.Because he can adapt the sounds to the model being created.
One was aware of this even when he was playing one of his pieces ,”The Haunted Bell”that is on his debut CD for solo piano “Watercolours.”
It was the piece that won him the BBC Young Musicians International Composers Competition in 2012.
Programme in Frascati for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli
The concert however was also made up of standard repertoire,in which the 23 year old chinese pianist showed his technical skill of enviable bravura and refined sensibility.To start with the opening clean and clear Bach of the Toccata in C minor BWV911 without any blemishes (the only exaggeration in some parts was in his unrelenting speed).Of great note was his interpretation of another well known work:the Sonata in B flat minor op.35 ‘Funeral March’by Chopin.
The concert that opened the 2020 season of Incontro sulla Tastiera ,dedicated to Fernanda Muraro Detto confirmed the value of the collaboration with the UK foundation “Keyboard Trust”.
Teatro di Villa Torlonia Rome
After this magnificent review from Vicenza the tour moved down to Rome and the surrounding towns of Viterbo and Frascati.
Unfortunately I was not able to be in Viterbo where the distinguished musicologist and university professor Franco Ricci has for some years organised a Saturday afternoon series in the Tuscia University Auditorium S.Maria in Gradi.
I was in Padua that day for another important presence of the Keyboard Trust for the final of the 17th edition of the International Competition for soloists and orchestra:”Premio Citta’ di Padova” run by Elia Modenese and Elisabetta Gesuato who also invite our pianists in collaboration with AGIMUS to play each year in Venice,Padua and Abano Terme.
We had divided the Italian tour this year into two parts due to incompatible dates.The first half of the tour was taken up with three superb recitals by Alberto Chines
Yuanfan Yang continued his tour after Vicenza ,Rai radio 3 and Viterbo with Frascati and Rome with a slightly different programme that included Chopin Barcarolle and 3 Rachmaninov Preludes in place of the Chopin Sonata op 35.

Dancing baby in Frascati
Another triumph in Frascati for Yuanfan Yang ……even a newly born baby could not resist his improvisations!
And thanks to Marylene Mouquet ,the distinguished french born pianist ,for inviting the Keyboard Trust to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Michelangeli,of whom our founder Noretta Conci was assistant for 15 years.
Yuanfan Yang in Frascati
Now for Rome 3 University after Villa Aldobrandini in another magnificent theatre, that of Villa Torlonia in the centre of the Eternal City.
Rehearsing in the Teatro di Villa Torlonia in Rome
Amazing final concert of Yuanfan Yang in Rome for the Keyboard Trust Italian tour.In the magnificent Teatro di Villa Torlonia for the Roma 3 University under the enlightened artistic directorship of Valerio Vicari
With Marcella Crudeli gracing the proceedings of the winner of her Rome International Piano Competition 2018.
Marcella Crudeli ..the Fanny Waterman of Italy!
”Wonderful evening of music at Teatro Torlonia, protagonist Yuanfan Yang, winner of the 28th International Piano Competition “Rome” 2018. Great talent for a bright future.” Marcella Crudeli
It was she that after a wonderful recital of Bach,Schumann,Chopin,Yang and Rachmaninov ,was seen crying out her preference for an encore of an improvisation on
Valerio Vicari ,artistic director of Roma 3 University
“La ci darem la mano” in rock n’roll style added Valerio Vicari.
Followed by “Nessun Dorma” in Beethoven style and “The Godfather” in jazz style.An unforgettable evening that we will be proud to say that we were present as Yuanfan Yang takes his place on the world stage
The slightly different programme for the last two concerts included Chopin Barcarolle op 60 and three Rachmaninoff Preludes n. 10,12,13 op 32.They replaced the Chopin B flat minor Sonata op 35 that had recently been performed by other pianists in the Rome 3 University series.It was indeed a discovery to find that Yuanfan understood so well the musical language of Rachmaninoff just as he had Chopin.
Yuanfan and Marcella Crudeli,Mrs Yang on right Paolo, Marcella’s son on left with Valerio Vicari behind
FouTs’ong in his many masterclasses for us in Rome over the years had explained that it is the same soul in Chinese poetry as that of Chopin. Small world indeed.
Rachmaninoff was never mentioned by FouTs’ong as it is never mentioned by Andras Schiff,Alfred Brendel,Angela Hewitt,Paul Lewis or other great musicians who realise a lifetime is not enough for Bach,Beethoven,Mozart or Schubert so why trespass on the Russian path of Tchaikowsky,Prokofiev or Rachmaninoff!
Teatro di Villa Torlonia
I remember Benno Moiseiwitsch in his last television broadcast where he spoke of his friend Rachmaninoff and performed for the last time his Paganini Rhapsody and the Prelude op 32 n.10.It was this very prelude that Yuanfan chose to open with.Moiseiwitsch told Rachmaninoff that for him the Prelude depicted with such nostalgia the return.Rachmaninoff was overwhelmed as it was exactly that that has inspired the piece.”The Return” indeed
There was the same aristocratic nostalgia and grandeur in the hands of this young Chinese/Scottish pianist.A remarkable sense of line and colour .The gradual build up was overwhelming in its inevitability and power without any hardening of tone.Like a great string orchestra with sumptuous sound and only full orchestra in the final few bars with a Jochum or Klemperer at the helm of course to keep the brass under control!It gradually dissolved into an explosive swirl of sound where we were not aware of individual notes such was his mastery of the pedal.Above all it was a musicality and mastery that was able to depict pictures in sound.The final yearning chords were deeply felt not only by him but by all those present creating an ideal link to the next Prelude in G sharp minor.
Marcella Crudeli showing the theatre and stage behind
Here again beautifully shaped, the left hand melody wonderfully understated .The change of colour when the melodic line passes to the right hand flute was quite remarkable in its purity.The final notes were thrown off as only a true musician would know how.
It led to the final grandest of Preludes the last of the set op 32 n.13.An aristocratic sense of style allied to an acute sense of richness and colour.Always anchored in the bass which disappeared so magically in the middle section marked pianississimo.It was in the sensitive hands of Yuanfan that it was reduced to a mere murmur on which strands of melody were searching their way forward.A build up of quite transcendental difficulty was thrown off with such ease.It led to the grandest of climaxes where because of his keen awareness of balance and sound there seemed to be no limit to the tumultuous build up.The final explosion of octaves took our breath away and brought the audience to their feet.
Ready to be astounded by improvisations in any style chosen by them.
Of course his CD’s at this point became almost collectors items!
Rehearsing in Villa Torlonia
The Barcarolle op 60 by Chopin is a seemless melodic outpouring with no beginning and no ending arriving at sublime heights with the ‘dolce sfogato’ central section.It is Chopin’s absolute masterpiece The final pianissimo leggiero demisemiquavers Perlemuter confided that Ravel loved so much.
Janina Fialkowska played it in a recital dedicated to my late wife,Ileana Ghione.Coming off stage after a performance that had the eloquence and simplicity of her mentor Rubinstein ,she confided to me waiting in the wings “ that was Ileana.” We both knew what that meant!
The first C sharp in the bass as the last C sharp and F sharp are just there to open and close the sublime sonorities and are certainly not percussive in any way.Much in the way that the great pianists of the past playing in enormous opera houses would subtley add bass notes to open up the piano so they did not have to force the tone in the upper registers.Rubinstein used to do this so subtley and to wonderful effect. I will never forget the end of the first movement of the B flat minor Sonata in his hands.
The pianist who most resembles Rubinstein for me today is Nelson Freire and he often adds very subtle bass notes to wonderful effect.Straight to the solar plexus indeed!He even adds a bass chord in Chopin ‘s 2nd piano concerto before the first entry high in the upper register.
Villa Torlonia The Theatre Today
Our young Chinese pianist does this instinctively too.I had noticed it in Schumann Carnaval between Coquette and Replique and at the end of Papillons.Very pointed phrasing too at the end of Promenade and so many other memorable things that will remain with me for a long time.
It cannot be taught it is something that comes naturally to those touched with greatness.It is a question of total dedication and deep love of the piano sonorities.
In fact I was listening to the 18 year old Malofeev playing Tchaikowsky first piano concerto relayed live from Rome He comes from the Gnessin school in Moscow where the technical preparation can often take precedence over their musical preparation.Infact it was an extraordinary exhibition of virtuosity.But in the interview afterwards he was asked if he regretted having to practice for hours each day or give up many normal things at his tender age having been launched into a worldwide career so young.
His reply was astonishing.He simply said it was not study or career it was quite simply the love of his life!I will look out for him in a few years time with expectation.
Yuanfan too played so instinctively with an obvious love for the piano sonorities.Hats off to his teachers that have also given him the musical and technical means to indulge himself and us without damaging his extraordinary natural gifts !
He will be noticed in the Rubinstein Competition where he is one of the few selected to partecipate next spring.I and his audiences in Italy would have no hesitation in awarding him first prize but unfortunately we are not part of that Circus act.Fingers crossed that his great talent will be recognised so more people can enjoy the extraordinary interpretations as we all have in the past few days.

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