John Leech MBE at 95 a personal Tribute


August 2019 — March 2020


A Personal Chronicle Of Events




I dedicate this chronicle to John Leech on his 95th birthday,

one more than our gracious Queen who shares the same glorious day of 21 April.

















John Leech and and Noretta Conci-Leech receiving their MBEs


The unexpected event of the coronavirus is having a devastating effect throughout the world. In the Keyboard Trust’s particular case, it has taken away the ladder we offer to some extraordinarily talented young musicians to take one more step on the very steep climb to a successful career. We hope that we can help put the ladder back in its rightful place as soon as it is possible.


In view of the extreme hardship at a very delicate moment in the lives of these young artists, our Founders and Chairman agreed that as an indication of our understanding of their plight we should pay the artists for all their cancelled concerts during this period (with a request for future reciprocity, if possible). This offer / payment has now been made to 15 artists for the 30 concerts scheduled at the outbreak of this emergency.



The season began in Bolzano with the Busoni International Piano Competition (28 August – 6 September). As always, the competition was followed closely by our Founders — and the Keyboard Trust’s Career Development Prize was awarded to Emanuil Ivanov, a 22-year-old Bulgarian pianist perfecting his studies at the Birmingham Royal Conservatory under Pascal Nemirovski and Anthony Hewitt.



On 19 September Pablo Rossi gave a recital at the Brazilian Embassy in London where it is hoped we shall be able to collaborate with the Embassy in the future to restart a series in their beautiful Cunard Hall, just off Trafalgar Square.



Tyler Hay gave a recital  at St James’s Piccadilly on 25 September.


His new CD  recording of Kalkbrenner is receiving great praise from the critics:



In September and October, Mihai Ritivoiu played at St John’s Smith Square and at St Mary’s Perivale:



From 26 – 29 September there were three very intense days of the Cremona Musica International Exhibition. The Artistic Director, Roberta Prosseda, invited both Maurizio Baglini and Ivan Krpan to give recitals in the Fazioli Hall and John Leech to talk about the Keyboard Trust.



In October, Jonathan Ferrucci played in Rome University 3’s Aula Magna Room — a recital in collaboration with the KT:


This is a very fruitful relationship with the enlightened Artistic Director, Valerio Vicari who promotes young musicians in over 60 concerts a year. His season started in September with ‘1770—2020: 250 years of Ludwig’ — The Maurizio Baglini Project. (Maurizio Baglini is a KT Emeritus Artist.)


Many other opportunities are opening up for the future. One of which last January was the recital by Yuanfan Yang in the beautiful Teatro di Villa Torlonia as part of his Italian tour.



Between 16 and 21 October, Iyad Sughayer undertook the KT tour of the USA which included recitals in New York, Philadelphia, Delaware, Castleton Virginia and at the Washington Arts Club.


Helen Foss, Concert Manager in Delaware wrote:


‘Iyad was brilliant!   Everyone at Cokesbury is still raving about his concert!  His playing was astonishing.  I cannot even imagine how all those notes even fit on a page of music and was in awe at his dynamics – from softly caressing the keys to crescendoing full force.  I took several photos for him to send to his mother and thought about how pleased the composers of his music would be to hear how he interpreted their scores.  You should have heard the remarks right after the concert – many exclaiming it was the best piano concert they had ever experienced.

All that said, Iyad was also a delight to get to know.  Charming, funny, interesting, open, warm.  In short, a magnificent representative of the Keyboard Trust.  And now a friend of ours, too!


Thank you Keyboard Trust for yet another amazing performance.  We are so very grateful.’

Iyad’s recent recording of works by Khachaturian has received five star reviews from all the major critics. You will find details and an interview with Burnett Thompson of the Washington Arts Club in the article below about his recital in March 2020 in St Mary’s, Perivale.


Iyad Sughayer with Beth Glendinning in Philadelphia


The notable critic Bryce Morrison wrote: ‘I’ve listened to your Khachaturian CD and it is utterly superb. I knew the Sonata from Gilels’ recording but you have all the outsize virtuosity for this outsize work. Everything in your playing is so richly coloured and with a born empathy for Khachaturian’s very distinctive idiom. A dazzling success, and I look forward to hearing you on further recordings and, hopefully, in London.’



Thanks to Bobby Chen’s intiative, the beautiful Farm Street Church in Mayfair opened its doors to us and we were invited to fill it at teatime with meaningful sounds. A beautiful piano placed in front of Pugin’s masterly altar piece in an oasis that has long been the chosen refuge for our Founders.


Drew Steanson played on 19 October and Bocheng Wang on 7 December:



On 16 October — the same day that Iyad was playing at Steinway Hall in New York — Luke Jones gave his ‘audition recital’ at Steinway Hall in London.



In October, Evelyne Berezovsky stood in at the last minute for Lara Melda in St Mary’s, Perivale and gave ‘a sensational recital’ (Dr Mather):


This was just a prelude to her chamber music recital on Christmas Day in Moscow for ‘Bosendorfer Loft’, a series introduced to us by KT pianist, Emanuel Rimoldi.  (Ilya Kondratiev had represented the KT in this series at Christmas in 2018.)























Evelyne Berezovsky performed at the Bösendorfer Loft on 25 December 2019 with participants from the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow in 2019: Leonid Zhelezny (violin) and Vasiliy Stepanov (cello). They are both studying for a Master’s Degree at the Tchaikovsky State Conservatory in Moscow. The Christmas Day programme included Tchaikovsky’s Trio for violin, cello and piano Op.50 and Rachmaninov’s Two pieces Op.6 for violin and piano (Romance and Danse hongroise).


Evie wrote: ‘The whole Loft experience was wonderful — Alissa was very warm and helpful, the atmosphere of the hall on the night was relaxed yet professional (people seated on cushions lining the walls), and the audience very warm and appreciative. It was a cool venue and I felt like I could relax in what often can be a very stressful situation. The Yamaha was great, too. All in all, a very happy experience!’


And Alisa Kupriyova, promoter of the concert, said:


‘I’m very glad to have Evelyne here for the project’s Christmas Loft evening! It was very warm atmosphere and completely sold out: people sat not only on the rows but also on the pillows on the floor! There were more than 200 people that night. Trio went very well, it was a fruitful collaboration and the guys had a stunning success that evening! Many people from the audience wanted to enter backstage to speak to me and congratulate the artists. I’m very pleased and grateful that Loft Philharmonic has the opportunity to collaborate with the Keyboard Charitable Trust. Very big thanks to all the Directors for the high-level artists and good organisation at all management levels. We have a very important cultural mission and I’m very proud that we can manage it together!’


The whole video of the concert is at:




After his enormously successful concert in Cyprus last year, Ilya Kondratiev was invited for a return visit on 31 January by the Pharos Arts Foundation.  He performed at the Shoe Factory Cultural Centre with even greater success!


Ilya Kondratiev is a true force of nature — a fierce, gravity defying, almost demonic force — all wrapped up in the most refined, delicate package. His sold-out performance last night was transcendental and unanimously spectacular. We feel privileged that we witnessed such a level of virtuosity and musicianship by such a young pianist. The future is all his!!!’ – Yvonne Georgiadou, Artistic Director







A major annual event for the KT is the Prizewinners Concert at Wigmore Hall.  On 27 October, the recital was given by Jiyeong (Chloe) Mun, a remarkable young Korean pianist:



This is a review from Musical Opinion:






















































Jiyeong Mun and Founder, John Leech MBE




On Sunday,10 November there were two extraordinary concerts, luckily in the same street. There was just enough time to get from one to the other. They were Artistic Director and Trustee, Leslie Howard’s annual Wigmore Hall recital and a concert by Burnett Thompson, former Artistic Director at the Maazel Estate in Castleton, USA, and now at the Washington Arts Club.


It was Leslie’s 45th Wigmore anniversary!


Burnett I had met in Castleton but I was not expecting such an extraordinarily enjoyable performance at the piano with introductions of a dry almost Cowardian wit that had us all hanging onto every word and note!



On 13 November, Simone Tavoni gave his ‘audition recital’ at Steinway Hall in London:



On the same day, in Frankfurt, Ivan Krpan played for the 25th Anniversary of the Rabuts’ concerts at the Bechstein Centrum:


‘Wow!’, sighed the lady at my side after Ivan’s encore with a prelude of Chopin, and said she couldn’t believe that at the age of 22 Ivan played in such a mature way full of tenderness. A neighbour, a piano player himself, took my hand and said ‘I am deeply grateful for this evening’ — and another piano playing lawyer said: ‘This was the very best I ever heard here.’ What an evening and after 24 wonderful concerts a real highlight as well for the programme for the lyrical and tender performance. Thanks to all of you for choosing another brillant young pianist to offer this outstanding concert to a breathless public.’ — Sibylle and Patrick Rabut


Ivan continued his short tour of Germany with performances at Steinway Hall in Hamburg and also in Berlin.


This was the report by Moritz von Bredow, Trustee and German Concert Manager:


November, 2019 – Steinway Hall, Hamburg & Representation of the City of Hamburg, Berlin


‘What a most wonderful and unusual pianist Ivan Krpan is! This was his programme:


  1. Brahms: 3 Intermezzi, op. 117
  2. Liszt: Andante lagrimoso, S. 173/9
  3. Liszt: Funérailles, S. 173/7
  4. Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, Op.9
  5. Liszt: Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude, S. 173/3


For the Berlin recital, he omitted the Brahms intermezzi, but finally played No.2 as an encore. This was a very challenging and wonderfully interpreted programme.


The Brahms Intermezzi were played with the greatest intensity, nothing at all was left to chance, and throughout his interpretation, Ivan kept the tension, and the listener was left in awe.


It might be interesting to say that Ivan pointed towards his love for Liszt’s ‘Harmonies poétiques et religieuses’ S.173. Again, he was able to find a most convincing tonal language, and he played with the greatest inner tranquillity and strength, thus bringing to light not only the religious aspect of Liszt’s wonderfully meditative pieces, but also the depth in turmoil that can root in anyone’s soul.


Brahms’s Variations Op.9 (which he wrote when he was only 21!) on a Schumann theme, rarely played, were beautiful and sad at the same time — an Hommage, perhaps a premature eulogy on Robert Schumann, who was then already in a mental asylum. Interestingly, Clara Schumann had written variations of the same theme (from Schumann’s ‘Bunte Blätter’) one year before (in 1853, when Brahms had stayed with Liszt in Weimar and later went to visit Schumann in Düsseldorf, which gave the latter an uplifting energy during a phase that was already characterised by severe depression).


Ivan played with an incredible maturity, considering his young age of only 22, bringing out all the themes from other works by Robert Schumann, and his playing was absolutely beautiful in colour, tone, dynamics and rhythm.


Both halls were completely sold out, the smaller one in Hamburg with just under 60 people, the one in Berlin with just under 150 people. Raucous applause followed everywhere, and people were deeply moved. The Croatian General Consul attended the Hamburg recital with an entourage of four people, he was deeply impressed and considering helping Ivan in the future, too.


Ivan is a very interesting pianist, most notably also because he is far away from striving for superficial glory and far away from playing the piano only in order to show off how great a pianist or virtuoso he is. He is indeed both, but he won’t show it.


Ivan is quiet and calm, very attentive in conversation, and his piano playing is simply masterful in any respect. He has full control about anything he wants to do, and together with his amazing personality, it makes him a great artist.


Full marks, and I would strongly recommend Ivan to be given any opportunity that the Keyboard Trust is able to provide, especially our tour of the United States.’


On 23 January Ivan played with the  Zagreb Philharmonic in Rome’s S. Cecilia Hall in a special concert to celebrate the Presidency of Croatia to the Eurpoean Union. Liszt’s First Piano Concerto was listened to by Yuanfan Yang on his Italian tour. He had had hurried back from Vicenza especially to meet his colleague and fellow KT artist.















Yuanfan Yang and Ivan Krpan in Rome



On 20 November, KT ‘emeritus’ artist, Sasha Grynyuk filled the breach at a moment’s notice for an indisposed colleague at St Mary’s, Perivale with extraordinary results:




On 30 November, the UK’s Liszt Society held its annual recital and Piano Competition.  As winner of the 2018 Competition, Corbin Beisner gave the recital:


Minkyu Kim was the winner of the 2019 Competition and he went on to give a recital in Dr Mather’s series in St Mary’s, Perivale in January:






The Italian tour this year was divided in two due to a change of venue in Padua — which gave two KT pianists the opportunity to perform.


For the first three concerts of the tour, Alberto Chines had the chance to shine as he had done in his Steinway Hall concert. And shine he did with a superb performance of Schubert’s last Sonata and Beethoven’s Op. 27 No.2 the so-called ‘Moonlight’ Sonata.  It was played with an intellectual and spiritual control of great authority. He even designed the poster!


The second half of the tour was with Yuanfan Yang (see separate entry). He gave some quite extraordinary performances that included the RAI 3 radio producer cheering from the control room as he improvised on themes via direct phone-in from the listening public. The ‘Godfather’ in stormy mode was quite sensational.



On 24 January, Edward Leung played at the Cranleigh Arts Centre.  These are the words of Stephen Dennison, Director:


‘You will be delighted to hear that Edward gave a star performance last night. For the first time in our 5 years of classical concerts we had an advance booking sell-out. The quality of performance is being recognised by our community.


The programme was excellent with the Chopin and Prokofiev Sonatas being loved by the audience. He is an excellent communicator and established a strong rapport with his words about what he played: our audience like that.


This was the first concert on our new hand crafted Shigeru Kawai piano. Edward hit it hard (!!) but also with great delicacy. It was a pleasure to have him stay over with us: his life story is very interesting and he was very open about the challenges facing a young professional trying to be famous.


He seems to know all the circle of his age group, some of whom have performed at Cranleigh and others who are scheduled. He has his Wigmore debut in April, accompanying violin I think he said. I do hope he succeeds. I know that the Cranleigh audience would love to hear him again in a year or so.


I spoke for a couple of minutes pre-concert about the valuable work of the Keyboard Trust as well as featured your logo on the programme. Thank you for finding Edward for us.’



On 25 January, in Padua, the KT had a presence at the 17th annual International Competition Premio Citta’ di Padova with the prestigious Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto.





On 5 February Pontus Carron gave an ‘authoritative’ and ‘remarkable’ recital at Steinway Hall in London:







A few days later, on 13 January, in Florence, a very interesting new venue opened up at the British Institute. Concerts take place in the library of that extraordinary aesthete Harold Acton. It is just a stone’s throw from the Ponte Vecchio and we hope to add it to our Italian tours in the future — whether live or virtual. We have to thank Angela Hewitt and Ashley Fripp for the introduction to the enlightened Director, Simon Gammell OBE.



On 14 February, Jamie Bergin gave a recital for Buxton Festival’s AGM, Trustees and Friends:

‘I thought that I should let you know that Jamie Bergin’s recital yesterday was a huge success and received tremendous applause and congratulations from all who were there. We were pleased that his mother and aunt were there too. They must have felt very proud at the audience reaction … He really is very talented and we look forward to hearing more of him in the future. Thank you for introducing him to us.’



On 19 February William Fox, sub-organist at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, gave an outstanding organ recital at Temple Church with the following thrilling selection of pieces:  ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’ from Sonata Celtica (Op. 153) by Charles Villiers Stanford; Fantasia in A minor by William Byrd; Spring Song by Alfred Hollins and Sacred and Hallowed Fire by Cecilia McDowall.





In February, there were already signs of coronvirus in Italy. In fact, a concert in Padua on 23 February was attended by an unusually small audience some of whom were already ‘social distancing’ and wore masks.


I attended a concert by Giovanni Bertolazzi, a finalist in the Busoni Competition, in the Sunday morning series in the Salone dei Giganti. (Giovanni Bertolazzi has yet to join the KT!)


After this concert all concerts in Italy were cancelled and the KT concert in this series that was due to take place on the 8 March with Nicola Losito  was one of the first casualties.

Nicola Losito



Concerts continued in London for a while longer.


Our last concert at Steinway Hall was on 11 March with George Xiaoyuan Fu standing in at very short notice for Irma Giganti who had not been allowed to fly from Vienna:



Luka Okros, a KT artist, gave the last concert in London for the foreseeable future on 17 March at St John’s, Smith Square:



Mention should be made of the extraordinary reviews that Mark Viner’s remarkable severn CDs are receiving. He gave our Prizewinners Wigmore Hall recital last year.


Mark played at St Mary’s, Perivale on 10 March — and, on 13 March, presented his new CD of Alkan’s monumental Grande Sonate Op.33 at the Royal College of Music.





Mention should also be made of the podcasts that Sasha Grynyuk (in collaboration with my co-Artistic Directors, Elena Vorotko and Leslie Howard), have created and which can now be viewed on the KT website.


These feature interviews and short performances with Alexander Ullman, Evgeny Genchev, Martina Kazmierczak (harpsichord), Iyad Sughayer, Jean Rondeau, Mark Viner, André Gallo and Ilya Kondratiev with Dietlinde Turban Maazel Wood at Castleton, Virginia in the USA.


The Keyboard Trust is currently investigating ways to augment the website and YouTube channel with past performances of KT artists.  I am sure we shall come up with some lovely surprises before this cunning little virus leaves us with a less complacent and surely more human world where music will once again be our guiding light.


Eliane de Castro and Paulo Gala are generously supporting a Keyboard Trust Book to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the KT in 2021.  Contributions in terms of thoughts or ideas would be gratefully received!


DR WEIR LEGACY AWARD (The Keyboard Trust Reaches Out To An Even Younger Generation)


The Executors of the will of the late Dr Kenneth Ross Weir appointed the Keyboard Charitable Trust to implement one of his key bequests: an annual award to support the musical education of a young keyboard player between the ages of twelve and twenty. Dr Weir was a frequent visitor at the Trust’s performances by its new intake of highly gifted pianists normally in their early twenties; he clearly thought of those whose circumstances deprived them of the training that might qualify them to enter the profession at this advanced level.


It is therefore natural that the Keyboard Trust’s three joint Artistic Directors – Prof. Leslie Howard, Dr Elena Vorotko and Christopher Axworthy – should be responsible for identifying the candidates for the Weir scholarships. Teaching and holding masterclasses at world-wide institutions, serving on juries of international competitions and tending links with academic exchange networks, they have far-reaching opportunities to become aware of potential beneficiaries. The scheme will therefore not be accessible by application.


This additional activity fits well with the Trust’s traditional field of intensively assisting highly promising young artists – pianists, organists and historical keyboard players – to build an international career in the short interval between ending their formal education and confronting a fully independent professional life. Those who respond well to Dr Weir’s support may find an easy continuity as they advance to maturity in their profession. Followers of the KT’s website should receive annual news of the award recipients at the beginning of each academic year.



The Keyboard Trust would like to congratulate Elias Ackerley, the first recipient of Dr Weir’s Legacy. Elias began his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, USA in September 2019.


Born in Shrewsbury in 2001, and emigrating the following year, Elias began his piano studies at the age of five in South Korea. After making rapid progress, he was taken on by Russian pianist, Oleg Shitin, under whose guidance he succeeded in a number of competitions, including winning the junior prize at the Gumi National Piano Competition in 2012.


In May 2013, at the age of eleven, Elias gave his debut recital in Chester and has since performed regularly in concerts in the UK, including as a soloist with a number of orchestras.


Between 2014 and 2019 Elias was a student at Chetham’s school of Music where he was a pupil of Dr Murray McLachlan (Head of Keyboard), under whose tutelage Elias succeeded in becoming the youngest ever winner of Chetham’s Beethoven competition in 2015.


More recently, Elias won first prize at the Scottish International Youth Piano Competition (2017), the Blue Ribbon at the National Eisteddfod (2017) and the Epta UK Piano competition (2018). He was a keyboard finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2018.

Elias has received masterclasses from Sir Andras Schiff and Stephen Hough and lessons from Leslie Howard, Boris Berman and Robert McDonald.


Elias is currently a student of Prof. Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute of Music.


‘Elias Ackerley is doing magnificently in that in addition to all the solo piano work – he was accepted as a piano student – he is also doing more chamber music than practically anyone else (and not just first year students!).  He came to New York to have an extra lesson with me a couple of days ago because he is playing Brahms’ Paganini Variations in a student concert next week.  It’s remarkable.  Pamela Frank in the violin faculty – she is a good friend of mine – told me independently how interesting he is to work with. You should know about Paul Bryan, the Dean who is knowledgeable about the academic stuff (non musical stuff) he is doing.  I can only be extremely complimentary, especially as he has only been here a few months.  At this moment, he would get either an A or an A+ so far as I’m concerned.

My cell phone number is enclosed.  I’d rather talk on the phone as I don’t have a computer, am 91 years old and am not learning new tricks!’ — Prof. Graffman, November 2019


Update from Elias Ackerley – April 2020

‘Hope you are well in these troublesome times. I just wanted to update you what is going on in terms of school. Currently I’m back at home but online classes and lessons have continued. I am receiving assignments and phone calls to catch up with lessons every week. I hope to be back at Curtis by September having just heard this current semester will not be resumed on site.’


Academic Year 2020-2021

A new Dr Weir beneficiary will be selected by the KT’s Artistic Directors shortly — to start studies in the next academic year.  Full details will be provided in the next Newsletter!


Happy Birthday to our Founder

On behalf of all the Trustees, Artistic Directors and Friends of the Keyboard Trust, I wish John Leech MBE, our beloved Founder, a very HAPPY 95TH BIRTHDAY on 21 April 2020!



Christopher Axworthy, April 2020


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