Andrew Yiangou- Liszt is alive and well and in Ealing!

Andrew Yiangou

in Perivale.Image may contain: 1 person

An amazing day of full imersion into the genial world of Franz Liszt.The International Liszt Competition in Utrecht is about to be held from the 16th to the 28th March.
Andrew is one of the 14 that have been chosen to compete from the many that took part in the preliminary auditions worldwide.
Andrew a ‘local boy’ whose mother is a GP in Ealing was recipient of the Eileen Rowe Musical Award Trust ( a fund set up, with funds from Eileen Rowe’s estate.She was for many years the backbone of musical life in Ealing- teaching young children ,including Vanessa Latarche(Andrew’s distinguished teacher) and Dr Mather’s children-in a house full of pianos where she  dedicated her long life to the promotion of talented young musicians).
Andrew has a distinguished curriculum culminating in his graduation with distinction from the Royal College of Music under Gordon Fergus Thompson,Vanessa Latarche and Norma Fisher.
The selection jury of the competition, consisting of former prize winners Jean Dubé, Christiaan Kuyvenhoven and Mariangela Vacatello, listened to 53 pianists during selection rounds in Shanghai, Moscow, Utrecht and New York and made a final choice of the following:
Leonardo Pierdomenico (Italy)
Irina Chistiakova (Russia)
Ivan Vihor (Croatia)
Tamta Magradze (Georgia)
Hang Zhong (China)
Nicola Pantani (Italy)
Minkyu Kim (South Korea)
Andrew Yiangou (United Kingdom)
Priscila Navarro (Peru)
Yeon-Min Park (South Korea)
Anton Yashkin (Russia)
Asagi Nakata (Japan)
Matyáš Novák (Czech Republic)
Viktoria Baskakova (Russia)
And so thanks to the generosity of Dr Hugh Mather,Roger Nellist
and friends he was able to try out his repertoire on a very discerning audience in his native Ealing over a full imersion day divided between St Barnabas and St Mary’s- the latter performances streamed world wide.
Programme for the lunchtime concert at St Barnabas
Programme for the evening concert at St Mary’s – Liebestod had been substituted for the beautiful relatively unknown transcription of Adelaide by Beethoven.
A fascinating series of works many of which were unknown to me .
In particular the very opening work of Beethoven’s Six Gellert Songs S 467.It was the start of a fascinating journey with some extraordinarily commanding playing full of wondrous colours and some very technically challenging passages played with a musical line and shape that belied the actual technical difficulty.This glorious old Bosendorfer that may be old but still has a quite unique matured voice in the right caring hands!
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To quote from that expert Leslie Howard:Liszt altered the order and some of the tonalities of Beethoven’s Gellert Songs, especially to allow the most popular of them to conclude the set. Uniquely among his Beethoven transcriptions, Liszt allows himself considerable liberties in embellishing the originals and adding extra verses, but all in a spirit which combines his love of Beethoven with his love of God, echoing Gellert’s texts. In Liszt’s order, the poems speak of: (i) God’s Might and Providence—‘God is my song!’; (ii) Supplication—‘God’s goodness ranges as far as the clouds move’; (iii) Song of Penitence—‘Although I have sinned against Thee alone, grant, patient God, that I see your face’; (iv) Of Death—‘My life’s term expires’; (v) The Love of thy neighbour—‘A man cannot love God and hate his own brother’; (vi) God’s Glory in Nature—‘The heavens declare the glory of God’.
The two legends S 175/1&2 used to be played much more often.I grew up with  a wonderful recording of Wilhelm Kempff that I can still remember to this day for it eloquence and grandiosity.Infact today in St Francis and the birds it was  the absolute almost Messiaenic clarity that Andrew brought to the birds like figurations that was so remarkable.The sermon was delivered with a peace and calm that was  moving for its beautiful legato and perfect shape.
The hymn like celebration to the glory of St Francis of  Paule walking on the waves was truly robust almost Brahmsian in its full rich sound floating on the swirl of the waves from the left hand. The balance between the hands was so well judged and allowed for a gradual build up of  transcendental playing of great passion and vigour.
The Scherzo and March S 177 written in1854, the same years as the great B minor Sonata (which was to be played in the evening performance at St Mary’s) and maybe for that reason  has been so unjustly neglected according to Andrew’s very interesting introduction.The Scherzo with a relentless rhythmic propulsion sometimes of heroic proportions and the entry of the Military with the March and all the excitement of the full cavalry with General Andrew very much at the helm.Some superb playing of such precision and musicianship allied to a great sense of style and some ravishing sounds from the whispered confessions of St Francis of Assisi to the enormous full but never harsh sonorities of the Light Brigade.
Andrew Yiangou on the piano in St Mary’s Perivale.
Andrew chose to begin his second recital with another transcription by Liszt of a Beethoven song.This time ‘Adelaide’ S,466ii’ and once again we must prevail on that expert Leslie Howard :
“The title says it all, really: the second edition of this transcription follows the first, almost unaltered, up to the end of the Larghetto, but then a vast original meditation upon Beethoven’s song ensues, similar in shape and intent to the optional cadenza in the final version but with some markedly different harmonies. The elaboration of the concluding Allegro is also similar to the first version but towards the end there is a further reminiscence of earlier material with reference to the cadenza, and the coda is extended (rather like Liszt’s first transcription of Schubert’s Ave Maria) by a passage marked ‘religioso’. The beauties of these last additions may permit the overwhelming bulk of them in relation to the original song to be forgiven, but Liszt’s later elimination of them is equally understandable.”
A performance of sumptuous sounds even on this Yamaha at St Mary’s with a  melodic line so richly and beautifully embellished.It was the perfcct introduction for a quite overwhelming performance of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.Image may contain: outdoor
It may be the Liszt Competition but this year it is dedicated in particular to Beethoven 250.
It was Franz Liszt who wanted to erect a monument to this master from Bonn.
He involved himself in the project in October 1839 when it became clear it was in danger of foundering through lack of financial support. Till then, the French contributions had totalled less than 425 francs; Liszt’s own personal donation exceeded 10,000 francs He contributed his advocacy and also his personal energies in concerts and recitals, the proceeds of which went towards the construction fund. One such concert was his last public appearance with Frédéric Chopin, a pair of piano duo concerts held at the Salle Pleyel and the Conservatoire de Paris on 25 and 26 April 1841.
Liszt returned to the concert stage for this purpose; he had earlier retired to compose and spend time with his family. He also wrote a special work for occasion of the unveiling, Festival Cantata for the Inauguration of the Beethoven Monument in Bonn, S.67 (Festkantate zur Enthüllung des Beethoven-Denkmals in Bonn).
Risultato immagini per beethoven monument in bonn
Other musicians had been involved earlier:
Robert Schumann offered to write a “Grande Sonate”, have it published with gold trim and black binding, and use the proceeds of the sale for the building fund. His Small Contribution to Beethoven’s Monument: Ruins, Trophies, Palms: Grand Sonata for the Pianoforte for Beethoven’s Memorial, by Florestan and Eusebius)underwent some name changes. His publishers did not accept it in 1836, and so he revised it and had it published in 1839 as his Fantasie in C op 17 with a dedication to Liszt. In the first movement, Schumann possibly alludes to a theme from Beethoven’s song cycle An die ferne Geliebte (To the Distant Beloved)] which if true, was also an allusion to his own “distant beloved”, Clara Wieck, who was then separated from him in Paris, by order of her father Friedrich Wieck In 1841
Felix Mendelssohn wrote his Variations sérieuses for the project.
The unveiling was originally scheduled for 6 August 1843, but was postponed to 12 August 1845.

And what better work to play than Liszt’s own transcription of the 5th Symphony.

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A magnificent performance that missed nothing of two hands taking the place of a full orchestra.It was the sense of relentless drive and nobility that immediately took us all by storm.After the initial shock of hearing  on the piano what is the most famous opening in all music we were immediately swept up in a  whirlwind that took us from the monumental opening to the Andante  and variations of beautiful shape and drive,through the relentless rhythmic drive of the scherzo to the heroic  propotions of the final Allegro.

After a short interval Andrew returned to give a pertformance of the Liszt Sonata in B minor that had the same  coherance and architectural direction as the Symphony.A remarkable performance from the whispered opening and close that encapsulates one of the truly greatest works in the Romantic repertoire.It was played with great control and extraordinary clarity.Encompassing moments of great passion with absolute exquisitely whispered delicacy.It was one of the most enjoyable performances I have heard in a long time of this much maligned work.

All best wishes to this local lad from Ealing who is flying high on his way to Utrecht in the name of Franz Liszt.

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Inon Barnatan takes the Wigmore Hall by storm

Inon Barnatan at the Wigmore Hall
I had heard Inon Barnatan on the radio in a magical performance of Schubert G major sonata.And so I was very pleased to have the chance to hear him live in concert at last.
He has quite a reputation in America but judging by a less than half full Wigmore hall his reputation has yet to reach these shores.Who is Inon Bantanan? …….. like most of the programmes these days it does not tell you who he is or his formation but lists  the many prestigious engagements that he has coming up.This is what I was able to find out on the web though :

The Israeli pianist, Inon Barnatan, born in 1979 in Tel Aviv, started playing the piano at the age of 3 after his parents discovered he had perfect pitch, and he made his orchestral debut at 11. His studies connect him to some of the 20th century’s most illustrious pianists and teachers: he studied with Professor Victor Derevianko, who himself studied with the Russian master Heinrich Neuhaus, and in 1997 he moved to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music with Maria Curcio – who was a student of the legendary Artur Schnabel – and with Christopher Elton. Leon Fleisher has also been an influential teacher and mentor. In 2006 Barnatan moved to New York City, where he currently resides in a converted warehouse in Harlem.!He regularly performs with cellist Alisa Weilerstein.In 2014 Barnatan became the first Artist in Association at the New York Philharmonicand The New York Times listed his album Darknesse Visible as one of the best classical recordings of 2012.He has received many awards, including an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2009 and the Andrew Wolf Memorial Award.

 

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A programme of which the Schubert B flat Sonata was its crowning glory.
Prefaced by nine Mendelssohn Songs without Words and Ronald Stevenson’s remarkable Peter Grimes Fantasy ( or should one apply Grainger’s terminology of ‘ramble’ here?)
Concluding this prelude to the main course of the evening in true show business style with Gershwin’s sleezy second prelude and the amazingly energetic antics of Earl Wild’s reworking of ‘I Got Rhythm.’

Some commanding playing of such assurance both musical and technical.There was never a moment of doubt of what his intentions were.
Playing of complete conviction and intelligent musicianship that is rare indeed.
But it was exactly his total self assurance that precluded any discovery or feeling that anything could happen.
Etherial,magical,fantasy or kaleidoscopic sounds were not part of his vocabulary.Intellectual control,total command of the instrument and absolute respect for the score were.
Here was an artist that gave such perfect performances but one was left with the impression that our presence was superfluous!

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There are some artists these days that are so enormously gifted they can play perfectly all the works of Beethoven,Schubert,Mozart or even Busoni ,Prokofiev and Shostakovich.Even fly to Rome in the intervening period of complete cycles to perform the mammoth Busoni Piano Concerto.Or even give definitive performances of the Grosse Fuge for four hands in their spare time.
They are impeccabile and can and do give urtext performances of the entire piano repertoire.
But there is not a single memorable moment that one longs to cherish!

I heard just such a genius play the last three sonatas of Beethoven at 7.30 relayed live from the Wigmore Hall.I followed with the Urtext score at home and was very impressed by the perfection in every sense.There were so many people that wanted to attend he had to repeat the  performance half an hour later.A performance that was equally as perfect- maybe after a quick cup of tea!
Serkin or Arrau could never have done that!Not only they, but also the audience, would be so exhausted and overwhelmed with performances of towering commitment it would have been impossible to even contemplate a repeat.
Neither the audience or the performer could have possible sustained such a daunting prospect.

I heard Mitsuko Uchida playing the Schubert B flat in London and I then travelled thousands of miles to have the same experience in Perugia months later.In the hope to meet her and try to understand who the artist was that could create such magic and wield such power over me.
Of course I am thinking above of Igor Levit and Jeremy Denk.Inon Barnatan certainly joins their ranks……….they have a superhuman talent to play and to know so intimately such a vast repertoire but ultimately do not wield the same power as a Serkin or an Arrau.Image may contain: text

The nine Songs without Words were the most popular ones chosen from the 48 Songs in eight books.The Hunt is  one of the longest and it was played immediately with great rhythmic propulsion and shaped so beautifully it became a miniature tone poem that contrasted so well with the staccato/ legato song in F sharp that followed and was so much part of Horowitz and Ivan Davis’s repertoire.Marked leggiero with the beautiful legato melodic line added above its delicate accompaniment.It is a magical song that was played with great assurance and shape but already one became aware that he missed that lightness of touch and quicksilver sounds that can turn these well known works into real jewels that can be made to sparkle and shine.

The approach to the keyboard of Inon Barnatan with his wonderfully assured fingers gripping the keys like limpets does not allow for a more etherial touch that barely dusts the keys.

It is the so called Russian school that has reminded us of the value of being able to modulate so infinately not the sounds from mf to ff necessarily but the sounds from mp to pppp.When I first heard Richter it was how quietly he could play and with what control that took us all by surprise.Generally the beauty of the hand movements and the flexibility of the wrist allow the music to be shaped with such colour and naturalness.The shape of the hand movement could almost be the same shape as the music on the page or like a  conductor painting the music in the air like a  painter would with a brush on the canvas.Image may contain: 1 person, standing, shoes, suit and indoor

Inon Barnatan has a different type of approach that somewhat limits his choice of colour.In these pieces by Mendelssohn in particular they could sound a little colourless  and  as one of the public said rather hard and without charm.Nevertheless it was remarkable playing of great assurance and of a musician of great intelligence.There were many things to admire from the passionate outpourings of the B minor op 30 n.4 to the beautifully shaped ‘Shepherd’s Lament.’The extreme beauty of op 62.n.1 ‘Maidufte’- a  song spun with great expression that excluded any sentimentality.The imperious march of op 62 n.3 ‘Trauermarsch’that dissolved so magically was contrasted with the ‘Bee’s wedding’played with such clarity and assurance but lacking in that last ounce of charm and wicked sparkle that can be so persuasive as it was in Rubinstein’s hands. There were beautiful sonorous sounds in the ‘Venetian Gondola Song’with a crystal clear melodic line of such melancholy and sadness.The ‘Elegie’ was played with a glorious outpouring of melody contrasting so well with the final joyous dance of op 62.n.2.These were fine musicianly performances but just missing that ultimate touch of  magic because of a lack of a full  kaleidoscopic range of sounds.

The bleak and bare world of Stevenson’s Peter Grimes Fantasy was ideal territory for him and there were suddenly some magical colours and transcendental playing of great conviction.Magical pedal effects and even some plucking of strings as a whole fantasy world of sound was suddenly opened up.The final chains of rising and falling thirds were pure magic and created the atmosphere that Britten had conjured up with his masterpiece of Grimes. The work that created such a stir just three months before the end of the second world war when it was premiered in London at Sadlers Wells in June 1945(the war finished in September).Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, standing, shoes, living room and indoor

The sleezy Prelude n.2 in C sharp minor missed that wonderful fluidity that  real jazz pianist’s have up their sleeve.Talking of which it was his no holes barred performance – elbows at the ready-of Earl Wild’s  ‘I got rhythm’that  brought the first part to a glorious show busy end. His transcendental rhythmic command, total assurance and evident ‘joie de vivre’  was intoxicating indeed.

After the interval the last of Schuberts great trilogy written just a few months before his death.Here he found a much more fluid sound and there was a great outpouring of emotion and passion.His very solid musicianship gave great architectural shape and weight and it was in many ways a remarkable performance.

But it was a Schubert with his feet very much on the ground.Etherial,magical and subtle phrasing were not for him.This was a more intellectual approach of great involvement like I remember from Serkin.

One is searching for that elusive unknown world and the other lives in a established world of certainty .The difference between a believer and non believer one might say.Both are valid when played by artists that are convinced and can be convincing.The search though is more memorable than that of the arrival.I am surprised he did not play the repeat in the first movement that for an intellectual musician of his stature I would have thought a necessity.The slow movement was monumental indeed played with masculine sentiment that excluded any sentimentality of falseness.The scherzo was played with a very smooth legato and with great rhythmic energy.The last movement was played with almost pastoral calm that contrasted so well with the passionate outbursts that dissolved into the seemless song which seemed to pour from Schuberts pen with such spontaneity.

In many ways a great performance of one of the masterpieces of the piano repertoire.

The transcription of Bach’s ‘ Sheep may safely graze’  was offered as an encore after much insistence from a small but very enthusastic audience. It was here that he revealed some of the magic that had eluded him earlier.The final whispered confession  floated into the auditorium and held us all spellbound long after the final notes had resounded.

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Hao Zi Yoh flying high at St James’s Piccadilly- Kind Hearts and Coronets!

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/hao-zi-yoh-at-regent-hall/https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/hao-zi-yoh-at-regent-hall/10155929756752309/Image may contain: sky and outdoor

I have heard Hao Zi Yoh  play many times and I am always glad to attend her concerts in the many churches and halls that give a platform to these gifted young performers whilst they are perfecting their quite considerables skills here in London.

I was rather surprised when Hao Zi sent me a last minute invitation to a recital in St James’s Piccadilly.

These are uncertain times with the Corona virus taking an ever stronger hold of our lives.In fact a concert by a chamber orchestra from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama had been cancelled as the School has also been closed due to this scare.A scare that is fast dominating our lives ,not only for the uncertainty and worries for health issues but also for our educational,cultural and spiritual welfare.Could Hao Zi take over at the last minute to offer some music to the vast audience that still overflows this most beautiful of churches a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus?No photo description available.

However out of bad comes some good and we were able to applaud Hao Zi’s quite considerable artistry before she embarks on a tour of Spain for the Keyboard Charitable Trust .Her programme for Spain consists of two of the most difficult pieces for piano:Feux Follets and Gaspard de la Nuit.Today she had decided to offer works by Haydn,Brahms and Chopin .Musically equally  as demanding though.

The little Haydn Sonata in C Hob XVI-48  in two movements.It immediately established her musical credentials demonstrating her intelligent musicianship and untrasensitivity.The first movement ‘Andante con espressione’ could not have been more expressive but within a rhythmic framework with some very subtle phrasing.So beautifully and delicately shaped with such fantasy but without ever loosing sight of the overall shape and direction of this remarkable movement.She immediately drew us in to her extraordinarily sensitive  world of fantasy and exquisite piano playing.The Rondo I found a little too fast for this church acoustic and the faster passages lost something of that precision of which other lady performers like Maria Joao  Pires and  Alicia de Larrocha were masters.

Her playing did in many respects though remind me of the playing of Maria Joao Pires for its clarity and delicacy allied to extreme musical intelligence.

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And it was this very rare talent that allowed her to shape the four Klavierstucke op 119 by Brahms with such sumptuous sound.Ranging from the most delicate to the most robust but never loosing that radiance and feeling that the roots are very firmly placed in the bass.

This was the last work for solo piano by Brahms and received its premiere in London in 1894 .Brahms had written to Clara Schumann about the elusive first Intermezzo in B minor: “I am tempted to copy out a small piano piece for you, because I would like to know how you agree with it. It is teeming with dissonances! These may well be correct and can be explained—but maybe they won’t please your palate, and now I wished, they would be less correct, but more appetizing and agreeable to your taste. The little piece is exceptionally melancholic and ‘to be played very slowly’ is not an understatement. Every bar and every note must sound like a ritardando, as if one wanted to suck melancholy out of each and every one, lustily and with pleasure out of these very dissonances! Good Lord, this description will surely awaken your desire!”Clara Schumann was enthusiastic and asked him to send the remaining pieces of his new work.

Hao Zi  brought a beautiful stillness to this first Intermezzo. Revealing some of the extraordinary  inner secrets that Brahms had obviously added for  those like his adored  Clara with the soul to seek them out!It is extraordinary how the inner meaning of these pieces as in those of Chopin transcends all frontiers. We can find musicians a long way from where these pieces were written  with a deep understanding of their inner depths.

I remember Fou Ts’0ng explaining that the beauty in chinese poetry was so similar to the poetry found in the works of Chopin.And so it was today that this beautiful young Malaysian pianist could understand and transmit so movingly these last romantic confessions of Johannes Brahms.The second Intermezzo in E minor was played with a great sense of character and range of dynamics as it revealed a real miniature tone poem.The third in C major, that was so much a piece for the hands of Curzon, was played today with such infectious rhythmic energy and subtle colouring with the ending thrown off with the same beautifully knowing nonchalance as Curzon.All with a minimum use of the sustaining pedal and it gave a clarity to music that can in so many lesser hands be a cloudy mess.The mighty Rhapsody in E flat revealed the enormous sounds that this waif of a pianist had up her sleeve when needed.A wonderful sense of balance allowed the magical central lyrical section a unique voice that took us into the exhilarating almost orchestral sounds of the finale as the excitement mounted to almost fever pitch.

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Three mazukas op 59 were played with such subtle understanding and delicacy.It was almost a shame that applause interrupted the sheer magic  created before the opening of the Fourth Ballade op 52.

This was a monumental performance of one of the greatest works in the piano repertoire.It was played with an aristocratic nobility but a sensitivity to sound that made one realise what Cortot meant when he said:’ avec un sentiment de regret’ at the return of the opening heartbeating repeated notes.A magical cadenza brought us to the main theme seemingly lost until it found its way with such swirling mists of sound and a gradual magisterial build up to the final explosion and the five redeeming chords that seem to find such peace after  such a storm of romantic passion. The transcendentally intricate coda that follows was indeed breathtaking in Hao Zi’s hands.It was played with an unrelenting forward propulsion that did not exclude the most intricate shaping of this extraordinary after thought of pure genius.

Christopher Axworthy noting the details of the encore played by Hao Zi Yoh at her piano recital today as part of the
Concerts at St James’s Church, Piccadilly.
In fact “A Distant Voice in the Rainforest” by Ng Chong Lim 
Documented  by Geoff Cox the tireless promoter of young musician without whom we would never know where and when they were all playing.
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Geoff Cox- caught by me this time –  a retired chemistry teacher who has become the tireless PR man of  so many young musicians.
An extraordinary encore for an extraordinary concert.The piece by a co-national had her wailing and flaying her arms as she produced such
magic both inside and out from this true Pandora’s box.
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I just wish I could hear her Feux Follets and Gaspard in Spain next week.I am sure that the Corona virus will not have spread its wings as far as the wilds of Malaga so she can enchant the local people with the same magic with which she enchanted us today.

 

Julien Brocal at the Wigmore Hall on Wings of Song

Julien Brocal

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                                                                              PART 1
In 2008 I was asked by a dear friend and fellow student of Guido Agosti: Constance Channon Douglass to stand in for her on the jury of the Rina Gallo  International Piano Competition in Monza.
I do not usually accept those sort of engagements as I feel only those that can play equally as well as the contestants should be asked to judge them!
But for Connie one could never say no either!Image may contain: 5 people
Ileana Ghione,my wife with Constance Channon Douglass Marinsanti with husband Cesare .Lydia Agosti and husband Guido centre and right
I have for almost 30 years created Euromusica in Teatro Ghione in Rome that has given an average of 50 concerts a year.No photo description available.
A Wigmore Hall type venue that was so useful before the opening of the magnificent concert halls of Renzo Piano.
So many musicians from the legendary to the aspiring, from Vlado Perlemuter to Angela Hewitt and Roberto Prosseda who could find  no space in Rome.
They were never turned away from my doors  where we welcomed them all with open arms.
Nearly all are now flying high in one sense or another!Image may contain: night
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My very first concert that I attended as a child in 1962 was Joaquin Achucarro in Rachmaninov second piano concerto with Charles Mackerras and in over 50 years of concert going has included most of the greatest artists both large and small.So I think I have acquired a certain taste that allows me to appreciate great talent when it presents itself.
There was in 2008 a performance of Schumann Carnaval in the competition in Monza that immediately struck me for its fantasy,colour and understanding, combined with  youthful vigour and passion.
A young frenchman by the name of Julien Brocal gave this very fine performance.
He did not pass to the final as the circus element on these occasions does not always suit the sensitivity of all the aspiring participants.
He asked me afterwards what he should do next?
How could he advance and allow his talent to mature in order to enter the profession and share his music with more people?
We discussed various avenues that he might like to explore.
And then quite a few years later I saw that he was performing  in concerts with Maria Joao Pires.Concerts that in using her great name and following she very generously shared  the platform with young artists whom she admired and who only needed experience of playing often in public. Concerts where Maria Joao shared the platform with one or at most two young artists.Alternating  their performances with hers each sitting on the platform whilst the other performed.
Discussing and enjoying making music together.
It was in Oxford a few years ago when Julien played the Mozart Double Concerto with her and the Oxford Philomusica under Marios Papadopoulos.On going backstage to congratulate Julien I thanked Madame Pires for all that she was doing to help these young artists.
She  replied quite simply :”But it is what they do for me and I should thank them!”
Another great woman Martha Argerich also similarly shares the platform with young  friends as they share music together with their doting public.
And now Julien has his first CD and has already been spotted by the Chopin Society where he was invited to play last year.
At last he has arrived at the hallowed Wigmore Hall flying high with his own wings.
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An announcement at the beginning of the Wigmore concert by a charming young lady to say that we would get more than our moneys worth as there was an addition to the programme!
The concert would now commence with a piece by Mompow…………….?!
The title in spanish was of course equally unintelligible
It had no matter- a rose is always a rose.
And they were the most beautiful multicoloured flowers of ‘The Fountain and the  Bell’ by Mompou(sic).
It was a piece that immediately took us into a special world – the world of Julien Brocal that I remember from all those years ago in Monza.
It was a magic sound world of such kaleidoscopic colours.
It opened our taste buds and it made us aware of every slight nuance of sound as Julien, crouched over the keyboard, coaxed the most wondrous sounds out of this piano.
The same piano that I had heard in the equally wonderful hands of Graham Johnson just a few hours before.
Leaning back too as he allowed his hands to caress the keys bringing out bell like sounds that belied the fact that the piano is a percussion instrument where hammers simply hit the strings.
It takes a  very special musician that can convince us otherwise.
They say miracles never strike twice but with Graham and Julien that  certainly was not the case today.
As Stephen Hough says in his new book of ‘Rough Ideas’:’The music of Federico Mompou is the music of evaporation.The printed page seems to have faded,as if the bar lines,time signatures,key signatures,and even the notes themselves have disappeared over a timeless number of years’
Musical Interlude:
Anna Huntley and Graham Johnson

at the Wigmore Hall .”Confinememt and Freedom :women abandoned and on the open road” was the title of an hour of sublime music making.

Graham playing with the lid fully opened as Anna Huntley’s sumptuously creamy rich voice floated into the hall with a communcative immediacy that ranged from the overwhelming to the most delicately whispered confessions.

As Graham has often said ‘I leave the piano lid fully open because I know how to drive.’
Infact with Graham in the driving seat Anna could allow herself all the freedom that her quite considerable artistry deserves.
An encore of Noel Coward had all the subtle innuendo and style that was at the bottom of Cathy Berberian’s fairy garden.
With both artists enjoying each others company an hour together passed all too quickly but was indeed to cherish.
Graham Johnson with Linn Rothstein – where would we all be without them?
                                                                                            PART 2
And so Julien had prepared us for the main menu…just as the great pianists of the past would improvise interludes between one work and another.Preparing the way and making sure that our ears were ready and truly thankful for what we were about to receive!
In fact it was a beautifully fluid Mozart that at times with his care not to produce percussive sounds we missed that absolute precision of which both Pires and De Larrocha were masters.One could almost say that he loves the music too much and in his attempt to shape the phrases he gave himself a little too much freedom.The music lost its sense of forward propulsion and inner rhythmic energy.
The legato of the Andante cantabile was extremely beautiful as he crouched over the keyboard to find the whispered secrets within.
The Allegretto grazioso too suffered a little from this lack of absolute, almost clockwork, precision that Schnabel  described so well as :’Too easy for children and too difficult for grown ups!’
It was in the Bach G minor English Suite that he came into his own
A rocksteady pulse allied to his great sense of characterisation.
An almost hypnotic sense of rhythm gave great architectural shape and allowed full range to his extraordinary sense of imagination and  colour.
A beautifully fluid Allemande and the rhythmic propulsion of the Courante all leading to the very heart of this Suite which is the Sarabande.
Played with such subtle colours and with great aristocratic bearing that was indeed very moving.
The Gavotte seemed a little too fast  but contrasted so well with the childlike simplicity of the whispered Musette.
I thought the Gigue could have been more carefully articulated but this was a very personal vision that was totally convincing.
It was the vision of a real artist and thinking musician.
His magnificent performance of the 24 Preludes held his audience spellbound on a journey of such variety,passion and rhythmic drive allied to moments of sublime beauty and calm.
It will live with me for a long time to come.
Fou Ts’ong describes them as 24 problems but in Julien’s hands they were 24 jewels in a crown of such radiance I doubt the Wigmore Hall has resounded with a  performance of this stature for a long time.
The very leisurely opening contrasted with the very dramatic lento where a whole world of emotion  was envisaged  in just one page.
The joy of the vivace where the melodic line floated on a wave of sound was followed by the touching simplicity of the E minor Largo.The fifth appeared out of the last chord leading into the poignant B minor Lento assai that in turn ended so delicately to prepare the scene for the innocence of the Andantino.
The passion and subtle colours of the Molto Agitato n.8 was matched by the frenzied dance of the 12th in G sharp minor.The astonishing transcendental difficulties of the 16th were played with a real Presto con fuoco where he threw himself  with great excitement into the swirling mist of notes and extracted himself with such drama after the final rising scales.
The so called ‘Raindrop’ prelude was played with such disarming simplicity as was the beautiful F sharp lento with such ravishing beauty.The A flat bell toll of the 17th had created such magic that the recitativo of the 18th came as such an astonishingly dramatic contrast.The E flat vivace of very subtle difficulty was played with a beautiful almost pastoral calm.The final chord preparing us for the great C minor prelude that has been taken as the theme by many other composers for variations.
Played with great poise and almost religious calm.
An enormous full sound never hard from the left hand octaves in the 22nd prelude  and the beautiful fluidity of the penultimate  led so well into the passionate final excitement of the final D minot Allegro Appassionato.
The final three D’s played with great dramatic effect.
A truly  memorable performance of such a well know work just demonstrated the great and original artistry of this young musician.
A sublime performance of the Andante spianato was the ideal way to thank such an attentive audience .
But as Mitsuko Uchida rightly says a great performance should live in your memory and remain with you as a joy forever.
It will certainly be that in this debut recital by Julien Brocal.
Image may contain: Julien Brocal

Giuseppe Guarrera at the Wigmore Hall

Giuseppe Guarrera at the Wigmore Hall for YCAT
Some truly commanding playing from this young Sicilian pianist.
Interesting to know he is from the school
of Siavush Gadjiev whose son Alexander Gadjiev made his London debut with such success a few months ago.The total conviction and personal aplomb of Giuseppe Guarrera was allied to such intelligent musicianship.
His sense of dramatic colouring was quite overwhelming in the menacing bell like chimes of the Andante caloroso of the Prokofiev 7th Sonata.
The sense of architectural understanding in what must surely rank as one of Chopin’s greatest works – The Polonaise Fantasie op 61 – together with a very personal style never overstepping the aristocratic taste of Chopin, was of a chosen few.He had a strange way of taking his hands off the keyboard but leaving the sustaining pedal.Listening so intently to the beautiful sounds he had created, gradually dying away, before placing his hands on the keys again.A pianist who actually listens to what he is creating is rare indeed.
The very deliberate opening of Alborada by Ravel was soon whipped up into a frenzy of quite transcendental playing.
The famous glissandi in thirds glided as swirls of sound as Ravel brought the extreme contrast between the song and the frenzied dance to its ultimate conclusion.
No encore was possible,although dearly sought by a very full hall,after the Prokofierv Precipitato.
This last movement of the Prokofiev Sonata had crept in so quietly in the shadow of the Andante before completely mesmerising us with his unrelenting rhythmic drive that verged on the hysterically hypnotic.
Hats off to YCAT for finding yet another very special talent amongst the many very fine pianists who had auditioned.
Flippo Juvarra the artistic director of the Amici della Musica
in Padua had told me not to miss this exceptionally gifted young artist at the start of a great career.
I am glad he did …….but then Filippo and I have over the past 40 years shared artists such as Vlado Perlemuter and Annie Fischer and we often exchange ideas.

He too has a young Italian musicians series and just the other day I was there with Giovanni Bertolazzi.Concerts, unfortunately, are now postponed in Padua otherwise I would have been there with Nicola Losito for the Keyboard Trust this Sunday again.

All great talents of which Giuseppe Guarrera and Alexander Gadjiev are from the Venetian school of Professor Siavush Gadjiev and are both first prize winners of the prestigious Premio Italia.