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.
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.
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.