Jonathan Ferrucci at St Mary’s

Tuesday 30 June 4.00 pm

Streamed ‘live’ concert in an empty church

Jonathan Ferrucci (piano)

Bach: Toccata in G minor BWV 915
Bach: French suite no 5 in G BWV 816

  1.                                                       Allemande Courante Sarabande Gavotte Bourrée Loure Gigue

Schumann: Fantasy in C Major Op 17

  •   Durchaus fantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutragen; Im Legenden-Ton – Mäßig. Durchaus energisch – Langsam getragen.                                                                                    Durchweg leise zu halten.

Italian-Australian pianist Jonathan Ferrucci has given concerts throughout Europe, Australia, the US and Japan. In London he has performed in Wigmore Hall, Barbican Hall, Milton Court Concert Hall. As winner of the Jaques Samuel Competition in 2016, his Wigmore recital was professionally recorded and he was invited to play at Fazioli Concert Hall in Italy. In 2018 he made his debut at Carnegie Weill Hall as part of the “Guildhall Artists in New York” project and was a winner at the International Bach Competition in Leipzig. In 2019 he was a Rising Star for Portland Piano International and gave a masterclass and recitals throughout Oregon.Jonathan studied at the Conservatory of Music in Florence with Giovanni Carmassi, then in London with Joan Havill at the Guildhall, where he completed a masters degree, Artist Diploma, and Artist Fellowship. His studies have been supported by the Leverhulme Trust, Jessie Wakefield Award, Guildhall School Trust and Tait Memorial Trust. Jonathan’s artistic development has been profoundly influenced by Aldo Ciccolini and Robert Levin, and by his ongoing studies with Angela Hewitt, as well as masterclasses with Murray Perahia, Richard Goode, Peter Frankl and Christian Zacharias.As co-founder of Made in Music, a non-profit, he organized two festivals bringing together musicians from eight countries. He believes that music is a universal language that can unite people from different cultures and backgrounds. Alongside his time at the piano, Jonathan practises Ashtanga yoga and considers it an integral part of his work, and essential in his life.Illustrated below for Yoga day :

As you can see and read I have heard Jonathan on many occasions and always marvel at his Bach playing of such  clarity combined with a delicacy and above all for his teasing very personal use of ornamentation.
From the very opening flourishes of the Toccata in G minor here was someone with something  important to say .There were such colours and meaning in every note but at the same time played with absolute clarity .From the  nobility  of the opening  changing  to deeply contemplative and yet again to a playfully understated dance.All this within a span of a few minutes.A stillness in the  moving central section before bursting into the rhythmic impetus of the toccata and the final virtuosistic  flourishes  before plunging to the final  bass  notes.
The beautifully simple pastoral opening  of the Allemande  of the 5th French suite was immediately followed by the infectious dance rhythm of the Courante.The Sarabande was played with a sublime simplicity and wonderful sense of balance that was even more poignant in the ritornello.The charmingly hesitant opening of the Gavotte  gradually took sail and led to a scintillating Bourée like a ray of sunshine with the ornaments glistening like jewels in its busy percourse.The Loure was played with a melancholic yearning of great meaning.The Gigue was full of such gaiety with an amazing clarity in which every strand was so clearly heard and the ornamentation in the ritornello just added to the sense of enjoyment  with some wonderful changes of colour that were really quite breathtaking.
He immediately plunged into the world of Schumann with the passionate outpourings of this work dedicated to Liszt and written as a contribution to the appeal to erect a monument to Beethoven in Bonn.The monument was eventually completed, due mainly to the efforts of Liszt, who paid 2,666 thaler, the largest single contribution. It was unveiled in grand style in 1845, the attendees including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and many other dignitaries and composers, but not Schumann, who was already ill.
The first movement though was written  as a lament on being separated from his future wife Clara.It is  full of passionate longing and at the same time heartrending delicacy.The problem is to wield these two elements together  with an underlying rhythmic energy that is like an undercurrent that is always present although now passionate and now subdued. Jonathan produced some wonderfully full sounds and literally rose to the occasion with passionate involvement never loosing his control and sense of architectural shape as they dissolved into the most beautifully shaped quieter,contemplative  sections.
In his search for exquisite colours he sometimes lost this sense of forward movement that combines these Floristan and Eusebius characters into one complete lament.The ending with the quote from Beethoven: ‘to the distant beloved’ was touchingly played with such beautiful colours.
The second movement was played in a very measured way where Schumann’s sometimes irritating dotted rhythms were in Jonathan’s hand turned into the most beautifully shaped melodic episodes.The middle section in particular was played with a rich sonority and  beguiling sense of colour.The trecherous coda was played with great shape and amazing control and brought this movement to a tumultous ending before the magical opening of the final slow movement.Here Jonathan’s artistry and commitment were united with his musicianly sense of control for a truly moving performance.The rhythm even in the greatest of climaxes  was perfectly controlled and  shaped and the final ecstatic few bars were allowed full reign before the calming  final chords brought this extraordinary masterpiece to a very moving conclusion-
Jonathan Ferrucci can be heard again  with the Schumann op 17 and Bach 5th French Suite   together with the Bartok Sonata in a special live stream from Perivale to Washington on the 12th July at 19h .It is a joint collaboration between the Washington Arts Club directed by Burnett Thompson ,the Keyboard Charitable Trust and St Mary’s Perivale.

Julian Jacobson at St Mary’s



Sunday 28 June 4.00 pm

Streamed ‘live’ concert in an empty church

Julian Jacobson (piano)

Bach-Jacobson: Sarabande from 6th Cello Suite
Granados:  The Maiden and the Nightingale (Goyescas no 4)
Chopin    Sonata no 2 in B flat minor Op 35 “Funeral March”

Rachmaninov: Prelude in G flat Op 23 no 10

One of Britain’s most creative and distinctive pianists, Julian Jacobson is acclaimed for the vitality, colour and insight he brings to his enormous repertoire ranging across all styles and periods. He was born in Peebles, Scotland and studied in London from the age of seven with Lamar Crowson (piano) and Arthur Benjamin (composition), and had published four songs by the age of nine. From 1959 to 1968 he studied at the Royal College of Music where his principal teachers were John Barstow and Humphrey Searle. On graduating with the Sarah Mundlak Piano Prize in 1968 he took up a scholarship to read Music at Queen’s College, Oxford. After further studies with Louis Kentner he made his London debut at the Purcell Room in 1974, follwed by his Wigmore Hall debut as both solo recitalist and chamber musician. During the 1980s he established himself as a fine duo and ensemble pianist, partnering many leading instrumentalists including Nigel Kennedy, Steven Isserlis, Moray Welsh, Colin Carr, Alexander Baillie and Philippa Davies.
His appointment in 1992 as Head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama led to an increasing concentration on solo work. In 1994 he embarked on his first cycle of the complete 32 Beethoven sonatas; he has now presented the cycle eight times, the last two in a single day (apparently being only the second pianist to attempt this). His many festival appearances as soloist and chamber musician include Edinburgh, Aldeburgh, Bath, Brighton, Cheltenham, Dartington, Glasgow, Huddersfield, Norwich and Prussia Cove on tour. He has appeared in more than forty countries on five continents. An ongoing commitment to contemporary music has led to many commissions and premieres. In 1987 he gave the critically acclaimed UK premiere of Ligeti’s now famous Etudes Book One; a subsequent recording for BBC Radio 3 was highly praised by the composer.Julian Jacobson is currently a professor of piano and chamber music at the Royal College of Music. He was Artistic Director of the Paxos International Festival, Greece, from 1988 to 2004, is Artistic Director of “Rencontres Musicales à Eygalières”, and teaches regularly at Cadenza Summer School at the Purcell School, North London. He has given masterclasses in Germany, Paris, Budapest (Franz Liszt Academy), Spain, Sweden, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, the Middle East, and on many occasions in Dartington.


An extra recital added to the Tuesday and Thursday series of  concerts live streamed from St Mary’s in Perivale.It was to give a platform to a distinguished musician who was only too pleased to be invited to play live after so many months of cancelled or postponed concerts.Julian Jacobson is one of the very few musicians who can play all 32 Sonatas of Beethoven on the same day in a true marathon performance.And that is only a small part of his repertoire and activity as a musician.He was consultant together with Leslie Howard and Paul Badura Skoda for the Barenreiter edition of the Beethoven Sonatas in the new and most complete edition  to date edited by Jonathan del Mar.

One just has to look at his curriculum to marvel at all the  activities that he is able to undertake.It  was indeed fascinating to hear his very learned introductions to the works he presented and then to hear them so clearly presented by a musician who was intent on showing us the great musical line of the works.There were moments in the Chopin Sonata op 35 where one would have liked a little more detail but it was interesting to see how he played the repeat in the first movement.There have long been discussions about this repeat! Should it include the introduction  or be repeated only to the doppio movimento some bars later?Well of course Julian being the  learned musician he is realises that the introduction is exactly the main ingredient  of the development section that follows with the great bass intervals.As he told us the Funeral March was written two years before the rest of this ‘dark,strong and tragic sonata ‘.He also quoted Charles Rosen as saying these were not four independent movements just pieced together but they have no independent life of their own.A performance of great lines in which the lightness and agility of the second was slightly laboured but the final movement of continuous triplets was played with great agility.A mysterious movement at times even atonal that no one has quite understood how it evolved as it is quite unique in its originality.


Julian’s own transcription of the 6th cello suite opened the concert.He had heard  the suites as a student at Oxford  University when Rohan de Sarem played them over two evenings.Piers Lane had invited Julian to play in his series of transcriptions at the National Gallery some years ago and what better excuse than to transcribe the Sarabande from the 6th suite. Written for a five string instrument and the hardest to play Julian decided that he too would make it more difficult for himself by playing the Bach original in the left hand before adding his own harmonies and embellishments to the repeat of Bach’s original .A fascinating transcription played with great style and colour.


A very interesting introduction to Goyescas by Granados  of which he played one of the six pieces: ‘The Maiden and the Nightingale.’Julien had listened to an historic recording of Granados playing it and had noticed that there was a note that was not in any of the published scores.He found the same difference looking at the opera of Goyescas, a one act opera based on this piano suite of 1911 and  first performed in 1916 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York .The opera was based on themes from the famous piano suite of 1911, which he orchestrated and augmented to form a three-scene work. The libretto had to be fitted to existing melodies, the reverse of the usual way of writing an opera. Though the opera is rarely performed, the piano suite forms part of the standard piano repertoire.The success of the Met premiere of Goyescas led indirectly to Granados’s death. He was invited by President  Woodrow Wilson to perform a piano recital at the White House causing him to postpone his return to Spain. Granados and his wife lost their lives on March 24, 1916 when their ship, the French steamer Sussex, was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the English Channel.

Rubinstein too played as the composers recording.His was the first performance that I had heard in public.Rubinstein being a friend of Granados obviously followed the composers own indications that has sadly not been the case in the editions that were subsequently published.A beautifully modulated performance of great strength and charm.

The Prelude in G flat op 23  by Rachmaninov was  as Julian said the ideal calming piece to play after the Chopin Sonata and it was infact a most delicately and beautiful shaped performance .

Dr Hugh Mather was proud to say that Julian will be one of the 32 pianists that will perform the Beethoven Soanatas over two days -October 3rd and 4th in St Mary’s celebration of Beethoven 250.If any of the pianists should be indisposed I am sure that Julian at a drop of a hat could fill in!Hats off to an extraordinarily versatile musician .


A Winter’s Journey ……..In the beginning is our end …….or is it?Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida final live stream in the Wigmore Hall lockdown Series

A Winters Journey what a journey indeed and a moving end to these lockdown concerts streamed live from the Wigmore Hall over the past four weeks.
As the clouds gradually lift Schubert with Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida could not have expressed what we have all experienced so eloquently or should I say magically.
Winterreise D911 charting a devastated landscape of the mind moving eventually from disaster to a kind of resumption of life.
The final Leiermann-Hurdy Girdy man :’No one wants to hear him,no one looks at him and the dogs growl around the old man.And he lets it go on ,everything just as it will.Should I go with you?Will you play your hurdy-girdy to my songs’
Minutes of aching silence after a 90 minute journey together with these two supreme interpreters.
Covid is being conquered with the magic message of the soul through poetry and music.Q.E.D.
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Martha Argerich – A legend speaks – Hamburg 25th June 2020

An amazing evening again in the company of the genial,mercurial and unique Martha Argerich.In the historic Laeiszhalle she chose to play a solo performance of Chopin B minor Sonata inbetween two violin and piano sonatas by Beethoven and Franck.Here is the review from Bachtrack that I found on line today and gladly add to the photos that I took whilst watching the streaming live .

It seemed like the right moment to add some pieces of mine of her performances over the past few years in Rome and London just to add to the legend that is Martha Argerich.


Mercurial Martha: Argerich springs a surprise in recital with Renaud Capuçon in Hamburg

This was 24-carat special. Since its long overdue (and grossly over-budget) debut in 2017, the shiny new Elbphilharmonie has dominated Hamburg’s musical life. However, the Laeiszhalle – over a century older – continues to offer musical excellence, home to the Symphoniker Hamburg, currently in the midst of an enterprising series of live-streamed concerts themed around Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. Tonight though, the decks were cleared as classical music royalty took to the stage, Martha Argerich joining Renaud Capuçon for an outstanding recital which included a huge surprise.

Renaud Capuçon and Martha Argerich © Symphoniker Hamburg

Renaud Capuçon and Martha Argerich
© Symphoniker Hamburg

After weeks of live streams to empty halls, it still feels odd not to hear the buzz of an expectant audience. Staring into the ceiling of the Großer Saal, all one could hear was Capuçon warming up, then the sound of footsteps echoing before the video editor finally showed us the stage. With the minimum of fuss – Argerich cannot bear fuss – they got straight down to business with a jovial account of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata no. 8 in G major, the third of the Op.30 set, dedicated to Tsar Alexander I. Although composed at a time when Beethoven knew he was losing his hearing, it’s full of joy. Capuçon was at his most playful, left foot often swinging in the air, his satin tone immaculately tailored to the musical line. Argerich, giving an occasional flick of her hair, was a miracle of agility and feathery touch, gently teasing rubatos in the central Tempo di minuetto. The Rondo finale, with its piano drone reminiscent of peasant bagpipes, had a pastoral feel, Capuçon bowing furiously in the coda.

César Franck’s A major sonata is probably his best known piece, a work with a happy genesis, composed as a wedding present for Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe in 1886. In the wrong hands it can cloy, but in the best performances – and this was definitely one – there is an aroma of perfumed ecstasy that’s impossible to resist. Capuçon spun gilt threads in the opening, his tone exquisite throughout. Argerich was the perfect foil, her playing feisty, more instinctive. She flung herself into the frenetic semiquavers that open the Allegro in tempestuous fashion, while the third movement had a rhapsodic feel, the violin’s big yearning melody tinged with regret. But the clouds scatter and blue skies prevail in the finale, building in passionate excitement. Without the usual ritual of applause, the players politely bowed to each other, Argerich whispering a simple “Merci”.

Martha Argerich © Symphoniker Hamburg

Martha Argerich
© Symphoniker Hamburg

But, with all due to respect to the superb Capuçon, it was what came in between these two violin sonatas that astonished. Argerich eschews the limelight and long since gave up solo recitals, her energies focused on chamber music and a small canon of concertos. Even her encores tend to favour collaborative duets with conductor-pianists. Incredibly, Argerich hasn’t performed Chopin’s mighty Third Sonata in public for 25 years – and it’s never been captured on film before – so this performance was totally unexpected. It was clearly kept under wraps, the programme only announced on the Symphoniker Hamburg’s website half an hour before the recital began.

There was no public here, at least in the hall, so perhaps this released Argerich from any tension. She didn’t quite rip into the opening as she did in her legendary 1965 recording – Gramophone famously likened her to “a tigress” – but the Scherzo was lightning fast, every note sparkling and tumbling in cascades, Martha at her mercurial best. She rocked from side to side in the cantabile lines of the Largo, her poetic phrasing improvisatory in nature. She allowed herself an occasional smile and a half glance out into the auditorium, as if revelling in the solitude. After a fleet-fingered finale, Argerich gave almost an accusatory glance to her imaginary audience, acknowledging that she’d not forgotten her eavesdroppers after all. Pure gold.

This performance was reviewed from the video live stream. 





Angela Hewitt the Glory of God to refresh our spirits live stream from the Wigmore Hall

 For the Glory of God to refresh our spirits
Angela Hewitt’s most moving recital at the Wigmore Hall.
Visibly moved as we all were as she allowed her own transcription of “All men must die ” BWV 643 to fill this hallowed hall with the hope and joy that she has been sharing with us for the past 35 years.
In the month when Angela Hewitt would have performed the final concert of the multi-season Bach Odyssey, she presented a special live broadcast programme including her own arrangement of a 1714 chorale.
PROGRAMME  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Toccata in C minor BWV911; Sinfonia No. 5 in E flat BWV791; English Suite No. 6 in D minor BWV811 I. Prelude; Capriccio in B flat major (Capriccio on the Departure of his Most Beloved Brother) BWV992 III. Adagiosissimo: Ist ein allgemeines Lamento der Freunde; Fantasia and Fugue in C minor BWV906 I. Fantasia; French Suite No. 5 in G BWV816 III. Sarabande; Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor BWV903 ;Alle Menschen müssen sterben BWV643 (arr. Angela Hewitt)
There are times when words are just not enough and music takes over as the complete silence and stillness at the end of Angela Hewitt’s recital demonstrated today.
Capturing in the few final lines a contemplative faith,joy and musical perfection.
As Schumann exclaimed to Mendelssohn when he listened to a Bach chorale …….’a melody laced with garlands of gold evoking the thought that if life were deprived of all trust and faith this chorale would restore it to me’
A recital in place of the final Art of Fugue that would have brought her 12 recital Bach Odyssey to an end and the highest award that the hall could humbly offer to an artist.
As John Gilhooley in his citation declared: ‘Angela in  35 years of performances at the Wigmore Hall has shown a timeless curiosity,technical flair and an overriding sense of artistic integrity.’
A recital that demonstrated the art of Angela Hewitt from the opening grandiose introduction of the C minor Toccata to the magic stillness of the Adagio.The supreme delicacy of the Toccata theme in the left hand answered so eloquently by the right and its return where the mischievous counterpoints were played with a delicacy that allowed this knotty twine to glisten like jewels in the sun.
The sinfonia was a miracle of purity of line with a staccato accompaniment that demonstrated her mastery and technical prowess.
The grandiose opening of the D minor English suite with the multicoloured strands that she went on to extract with such obvious delight and joy.The expressive yearning one could almost hear in the way she played the right hand downward phrases in the Capriccio for a dearly departed brother.
The Fantasia in C minor was just the shimmering almost Scarlatti precision  that was needed before the sublime beauty of the Sarabande from the 5th French suite.
The grandiose flourishes of the Chromatic Fantasy soon died away as she drew us in to her world of Bach where every strand made such sense and was imbued with such character.
The final Chorale created even over the air that magical moment when you can almost feel the listeners sharing an experience together that can only happen in that moment.
It was Mitsuko Uchida who told me once after a concert in Perugia that  it is the memory of such an occasion  that is to be cherished – no photo or recording will ever capture that magic moment again.


Nicola Losito takes Piano City Pordenone by storm

Nicola Losito at Piano City Pordenone
Some extraordinarily authoritative playing of Beethoven and Liszt from this young pianist from Trieste.
He had been  invited to join ranks with some other superb musicians such as Andrea Bacchetti,Leonora Armellini and many others with the internet star Valentina Lesitsa at their helm.
Piano City with great courage had decided that the show must go on and despite distancing difficulties it decided to give the guiding light to start up live music making once again.
 A year  or so ago Nicola Losito was invited by the Keyboard Trust to play in London in the last recital to be held in the Steinway Hall of Fame.This hall was transferred from the historic site in Bond Street to Wigmore Street.A magnificent Steinway concert grand surrounded by historic portraits of all the great pianists that have played Steinway in the past.Since Nicola’s concert the hall has been restored to a piano show room in a commendable effort to commercialize Steinway  in view of the strong competition from the Japanese and Italian School of Pianos makers.
Bechstein was always the great rival at the turn of the last century and their pianos were much admired by the great artists playing before the public.The Wigmore Hall was born as Bechstein Hall.
Other German makes sprung up: Boesendorfer,Bluthner,Grotrian Steinweg etc as now there are also Yamaha,Kwai and Fazioli.
Steinway has always held its head up high and universally has become the piano that is most reliable for sound,projection and workmanship.
That is not to say that there are not some wonderful pianos also produced by others.
I have heard some magnificent performances on Yamaha, by Richter and others, and also on his disciples pianos: Kwai Shigeru at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw.I have heard many great performances from Angela Hewitt and others on Fazioli too.I remember though Louis Lortie in London preferring to play Brahms Sonata in F minor on a Boesendorfer even though he is a Fazioli artist.He had told us in the programme that for Chopin Fazioli was ideal but for Brahms Boesendorfer was the only one!I understand that the mechanics of Boesendorfer are produced now by Yamaha.
In the end it is a question of sound and touch which also depends on the artistry of the performer.
The Yamaha that had been provided by Giovanni Iannantuoni was a fine intrument as were the six that he had generously provided for the Piano Barga Festival of Roberto Prosseda last year
Hats off to this civilised rivalry between piano makers that are able to make fine instruments available to so many new concert initiatives for a superb array of young talent.
The home concerts by Yamaha in this lockdown period have allowed us to hear live streamed concerts amazingly on in tune instruments!
I had heard just by chance, the day before Nicola’s concert,  Leonora Armellini giving  magnificent performances of Chopin.I had innocently commented on the fact that I had not expected to hear such sumptuous sounds from a Japanese piano!
Well I got playfully reprimanded by Giovanni Iannantuoni for that, quite rightly!
Nicola had offered a very musicianly programme with the two sonatas by Beethoven: Sonate quasi una fantasia op 27 followed by Liszt Fantasia quasi Sonata.
The Sonata of 27 n.2 is better known as the “Moolight ” Sonata as the Liszt is known only as the Dante Sonata.This is the programme that he was to play for the Keyboard Trust in the series for the Amici della Musica di Padova – due to the lockdown the concert was cancelled and has just been re confirmed for the 17th January leaving time to adjust to the new distancing regulations in the historic Salone dei Giganti.
It is the hall where Richter used to practice on their still magnificent Steinway before travelling a short distance to Mantua where the traffic was stopped around the historic Teatro Bibiena whilst his recording sessions were in progress.The recordings were on a Yamaha piano that Richter admired and  in that period had a special arrangement where a magnificent instrument and tuner would be provided anywhere he chose to travel!For Richter a prize instrument was provided!
The two Beethoven Sonatas were given exemplary performances in which every detail of the score was respected and brought vividly to life.The clarity and technical control were indeed remarkable and the Adagio  of op 27 n.1  was memorable.The rhythmic impetus in the Allegro vivace was wonderfully maintained and the dynamic contrasts and very precise indications were translated into hypnotic sounds.The interruption of the Adagio and the gently unfolding cadenza led to the brilliant Presto conclusion played with quite remarkable control.
The same Yamaha as Leonora but now slightly worse for wear after the marathon of concerts at the Piano City.It did not allow quite the same sense of colour and subtlety but it did allow us to marvel at his musicianship and sense of architectural control.
The famous Adagio sostenuto of op 27 n.2 I found a little slow for the marking that Beethoven indicates.To be played in 2 not 4 which gives slightly too much importance to the triplet accompaniment. He managed to sustain the melodic line  though so beautifully through a very careful sense of balance .By the ritornello and wonderful bass melodic line he had convinced me that this was a true Adagio sostenuto after all.
The second movement though I found a little too slow for the Allegretto marking and it lost something of its dance like lift.
The Presto Agitato was superbly played with great Beethovenian fervor.The balance between the hands in the lyrical sections allowed the melodic line to sing so touchingly without any forcing of the tone.The dramatic  virtuoso florishes that abound in this movement were played with great passion and the final few bars had all the bad manners for which Beethoven was famed .
The Dante Sonata was given an amazingly assured performance.The enormous contrasts between the great virtuoso octaves and tremolandos were  contrasted  so touchingly with the delicacy and Liszt’s most intimate confessions .A performance of great authority and character that held the audience spellbound and just confirmed my previous note about this young pianist in which I had been overwhelmed by his virtuosity and poetry.
His performances in London had been highly commended by the noted critic Bryce Morrison who had invited him to his home to discuss repertoire and listen to his unique collection of great pianists of the past.Alberto Portugheis,another highly respected figure in the music world living in London had been  impressed too and he  had invited him to discuss music with him in his studio.
One of the KT founder trustees had been on the jury of Osimo International Competition when Nicola was awarded first prize as a teenager.He has arranged tours for him in Germany as I have been able to in Italy too.
A young man headed for the heights  and it was wonderful how he rose to the occasion here in Pordenone  with some memorable performances after three months enforced silence.
But the most memorable was to come with an impeccable performance of Liszt Spanish Rhapsody that Valentina Lisitsa had chosen to play too in her opening gala recital.It was played by Nicola though with all the youthful passion and freshness of a young man like Liszt himself ready to take the world by storm.
By overwhelming public demand he was allowed to play one encore.
It was indeed a make or break performance of Chopin ‘s so called Ocean study op 25 n. 12 .Played with  tumultuous passion and breathtaking energy that swept  all before it  on a tidal wave of emotions.
Music is still alive and well .Welcome back to live music making at last!


Patrick Hemmerle’ – Miracles at St Mary’s

Tuesday 23 June 4.00 pm

Streamed ‘live’ concert in an empty church

Patrick Hemmerlé (piano)

Bach: Toccata in D BWV 912
Mendelssohn/Hemmerlé: Scherzo from the Midsummer Night’s Dream
Schumann: Toccata Op 7
Chopin: Ballade no 4 in F minor Op 52
Liszt: Transcendental étude no 10 in F minor
Fauré: Nocturne no 6 in D flat Op 63
Severac: Les Baigneuses au Soleil
Debussy: L’Isle Joyeuse.

Acclaimed for the originality of his concert programmes and the depth of his interpretations, Patrick Hemmerlé is a French pianist living in England. He can often be heard performing such works as the 24 Chopin Etudes, the 48 Bach Prelude and Fugues, or    lesser-known composers. Recent engagements have taken him to New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and Prague, as well as many festivals and music society in England.Patrick has published 3 CDs, which have been well received by the international press. His latest recording project, to be issued in 2020 is a pairing of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier and Fischer’s Ariadne Musica.  He is in demand as a lecturer. He has given talks for the Cambridge University, as well as a cycle of concert-lectures on French music, presenting composers little known to the general public,. This led to the recordings of the piano music of Jean Roger-Ducasse and Maurice Emmanuel. Patrick is laureate of the international competition of Valencia, Toledo, Epinal, Grossetto, and more recently the CFRPM, in Paris, where his interpretation of Villa-Lobos’s Rudepoema, raised a great deal of interest.  He was trained in Paris at the Conservatoire (CNR), under the tuition of Billy Eidi.

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They say miracles do not strike twice but listening to Leonora Armellini from Pordenone yesterday and today to Patrick in Perivale I would not have believed such sounds possible on a Yamaha piano!

I was told off by the Yamaha dealer in Milan for saying that yesterday.I told him that I prefer the great German pianos of Steinway or Bosendorfer but a great artist can sometimes convince us that the Yamaha is just as good.
The difference is that even a beginner on a German piano can convince whereas he cannot on Yamaha.
I remember Richter playing exclusively Yamaha in the latter part of his career.I heard a Schubert recital in the RFH in London with four sonatas.
I was sitting not in my usual choir seats used to being as near to the piano as possible. I was in the gallery stalls escorting my future wife for the first time in London and to the RFH where we could feel the full atmosphere and see the hall but I could not see what piano he was playing.
I was astounded when I went to the stage afterwards and saw that it was a Yamaha.
The same thing happened with Mariam Batsashvili at her Wigmore Hall debut.Such wondrously delicate sounds I assumed it was the usual hall Steinway and I could not believe as I went to greet her in the green room that it could have been a Yamaha.

You see miracles can happen and today in Perivale it certainly did!

Not only wondrous colours and magical sounds but a programme where each piece led into the next in a succession that was astonishing.He had after all told us in his brief introduction that the programme would be eclectic and coherant and was designed to be played without a break.
The one place where they did not quite fit  so perfectly together he added an arpeggio link ,like the old virtuosi of the past.It managed to join the frenzy of the F minor study by Liszt so naturally to the pure magic of Fauré’s D flat nocturne.
A little piece by Severac suddenly became the world of Debussy’s L’Isle joyeuse.
And joyous it was as after a series of fleeting  melodic glimpses the clouds parted and the work erupted with the overwhelming passion that I have only once heard from another pianist.
That pianist was Annie Fischer and it has remained with me for over 30 years as I am sure the recital today will too.

The Toccata in D by Bach rarely have I heard played with such sense of character .The song and the dance indeed but also much more besides .A sense of nobility and architectural shape with some very delicate ornamentation and adding some stops here and there where it gave great depth to the sound.Not the barnstorming transcriptions of Busoni that are wonderful in their own right but here was a musician who knew so well the organ and the harpsichord stops that the piano lacks.There was a great contrast too between non legato and a cantabile played seemingly and miraculously without smudging the sounds with the pedal that would have been totally out of character. The recitativo and almost orchestral comments were captivating.The part playing in the Adagio was of astonishing clarity with such  a flexible rubato that came so near but never overstepped the boundary of good taste and style.There was a truly magical transition passage with added bass stops making a great question and answer seemingly  between two keyboards and then the joyous overflow of the toccata played with an infectious rhythmic drive.What an opening……what a personality!

His own arrangement of Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from a Midsummer Night’s Dream had more colour than Rachmaninov’s famous transcription.This was more Mendelssohnian with such a fleeting will’ the wisp filigree it was indeed a dream of  Midsummer just past.

It led straight into the grandiose opening of Schumann’s Toccata op 7.Almost the same world as  Mendelssohn when placed side by side like this.With its fleeting virtuosity and beguiling bursts of cantabile.Of course Schumann’s harmonies and modulations turn this toccata into the masterpiece  that it undoubtedly is.A showpiece for a master technician but above all for a musician.Impish good humour mixed with almost pastoral colours.The fugato was a miracle of clarity whilst in crescendo  and the climax was played with a magnificent richness of sound and passionate involvement.The most remarkable thing of course was his perfect legato throughout which is the real test of this work.Certainly one of the finest performances that I have heard in years.

Dying away as Schumann asks to almost a whisper and Patrick’s hand all ready for the magical opening notes of the Fourth Ballade by Chopin.Here there was above all a luminosity of sound as the theme shone out with bell like clarity and simplicity.I thought the arpeggiated left hand chords though were a little exagerrated and throughout the Ballade became a little mannered.Like the good old Chopin tradition  of yore!But even so it was a remarkable performance for many other reasons .The superb return of the main theme and the magical build up to the climax  and the adding of a bass octave to the great final arpeggio swirls of passion as great pianist often do in public performances at this point.Perlemuter showed me once that Cortot arranged his left hand so that the first bass note of the arpeggio he would play with the thumb to get extra power.It is easier and more effective to add an octave though as Patrick did today!The five final  defusing chords were beautifully shaped and the coda entered as a swirl of musical sounds rather than the usual rumbustuous showpiece that seems to be attached as an afterthought by Chopin.It was certainly no afterthought here in the hands of this superb musician as it led so naturally into the gradual passionate build up in Liszt’s F min transcendental study that followed on  almost without a break.A magnificent melodic climax before the demonic build up to the ritornello swept us up in a breathtaking display of romantic pianism.But even in the quieter more lyrical passages there was a sense of colour even within the same hand.Between the thumb and the little finger just as Cherkassky would do as he searched for the elusive secrets hidden within the seemingly  percussive chords and octaves.The animal excitement generated at the ending was indeed breathtaking even over the air!

This is where an arpeggio link was necessary to transport us into the magical world of Fauré with his most famous nocture- that in D flat.Perlemuter lived in the same house as Fauré and would try out the nocturnes whilst the ink was still wet on the manuscript.It was the only time he wanted me to tell the public  before he played some of the nocturnes in my series in Rome.He bequeathed to me  his score of the nocturnes with his precious legato fingerings and it is one of my most treasured possessions!Patrick played it exactly as Perlemuter insisted it should be played.Not sentimentally but with great noble sounds also of great delicacy but with a crystalline clarity and sense of legato.How much more  moving it is to hear it played in this almost masculine  authoritative way.The undulating final chords I had never realised until today how unbelievably beautiful they are .

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It was the first time that I have heard the Severac  and it was played with great charm and character with washes of colour through his superb use of the sustaining pedal.It was the same world of Debussy and the L’Isle Joyeuse with its fleeting melodic line appearing and disappearing in a maze of fantastic sounds.A wondrous sense of colour that produced jewel after jewel of sounds glistening and gleaming in the wonderful liquid atmosphere that he had created as if by magic.

Annie Fischer springs to mind …no greater compliment is possible!


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Happy 75th birtday to Dr Hugh Mather with his wife of 48 years  Dr Felicity who together with his team of volonteers have turned St Mary’s into one of the most exciting show places for amazing young talent to perform and be streamed worldwide.


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Leonora Armellini’s glorious Chopin – Piano City Pordenone

Piano City Pordenone Italy

Wonderful Chopin recital by

Leonora Armellini
Played with a truly noble spirit with such wonderful sound .It was hard to believe it was a Yamaha piano but when you are a true artist that listens to every sound with such refined musicianship miracles can happen.
A magnificent Sonata in B flat minor op 35.It reminded me of the limpet type playing of Gilels where his fingers seemed to fit the keys so perfectly.
She played too with the same aristocratic sense of style and architecture.
The waltz op 34 n.3 was played with such irresistible sense of rhythm ,the ornaments played with the clarity and finesse of the greatest of Polish pianists like Askenase or Smeterlin or dare I say above all like Rubinstein.
Four mazurkas just added to the impression that here is a great artist that the world should know.
The Polonaise Heroique op 53 was played with all the nobility and total assurance of the great virtuosi of the past.
But even here there were glimmers or originality as her ears delved deep into the rich harmonies and found jewels that glistened and shone with such refined good taste.
Even though there is a cavalcade of piano recitals the public insisted on more and were regaled with three encores.
Such subtle sounds in the first one which I did not recognise….could have been Szymanowski….I like to think it was.
Debussy Jardins sous la pluie of such wondrous colours was followed by an impassioned account of the Revolutionary study.
What better way to end this concert to a live audience distanced as must be these Corona virus days.But at least concerts cancelled in Italy since the beginning of March are starting up cautiously again.
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Nicola Losito whose concert in Padua was one of the first to be cancelled on the 8th March played yesterday before an audience three months on.

All can be heard live or in playback on Piano City Pordenone web site.
It is not the first time that I have been astounded by the musicianship and playing of this remarkable young artist.


Mishka Rushdie Momen -In search of beauty – St Mary’s Live

Tuesday 16 June 4.00 pm

Streamed ‘live’ concert in an empty church

Mishka Rushdie Momen (piano)

Schumann: Impromptus on a theme by Clara Wieck Op 5
Mozart: Rondo in A minor K511
Scarlatti: Sonata in F minor K519
Schubert: Fantasie in C major D 760 ‘Wanderer’

Mishka Rushdie Momen studied with Joan Havill and Imogen Cooper at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and has also studied with Richard Goode and Sir Andras Schiff, who presented her in recitals in Zurich Tonhalle, New York’s 92Y, Antwerp deSingel, and several cities in Germany and Italy for his “Building Bridges” Series. A committed chamber musician whose partners have included Steven Isserlis, Midori, and members of the Endellion, Belcea, and Artemis String Quartets, she played in the Marlboro, Krzyzowa and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Music Festivals and regularly participates in Open Chamber Music at the International Musicians Seminar in Prussia Cove, Cornwall. She has given solo recitals at the Barbican Hall, the Bridgewater Hall, St. John’s, Smith Square and major venues across the UK, as well as abroad in New York City, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and India. Recent and future concerts include performances at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall and the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria, and include world premieres of commissions by Nico Muhly and Vijay Iyer. Her debut solo recording, “Variations”, a recital disc of works by Robert and Clara Schumann, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Nico Muhly and Vijay Iyer, was released on the Somm label in October 2019. She is currently studying at the Kronberg Academy as part of the Sir András Schiff Performance Programme for Young Pianists. This study is funded by the Henle Foundation.

“Sublime  sounds  of ravishing beauty and delicacy”  as Dr Mather so eloquently expressed his appreciation of the recital by Mishka live streamed from an empty church in the beautiful setting of Ealing Golf Course.He and the tecnician were the only ones in the church to listen live like that other courageous venue the Wigmore Hall -which has opened it virtual doors to live music making too.There may only be two people in the hall but they are in company of  a vast audience worldwide of people in need of live music and a message from the heart to the heart as only music can provide.Words are not enough and it is music for those willing to appreciate it  that fills those cracks that have in these strange times been getting wider and wider.This is a new way of sharing music and both Wigmore Hall and Perivale have managed to perfect a system that so many musicians have been searching for from their homes in these past three month.

It was Imogen Cooper who played the day before her pupil Mishka at the Wigmore Hall.It was she after a very moving return to the Wigmore stage (where she had celebrated her 70th birthday last november with the last three sonatas of Schubert) had said that people needed the  message that Schubert and Janacek could offer and which joined  two such different composers together in the quest to send a message from the Heart to the Heart.

Mishka too had played with the cellist Steven Isserlis the week before at the Wigmore Hall where she was every bit an equal partner to this very distinguished cellist.A cellist who has much in common with that other very distinguished musician Sir Simon Rattle.Not only their very Beethovenian hair style but more importantly that burning desire to enter into the very spirit of the composer with a fire and energy that is mesmerising. was in our class with Gordon Green  at the Royal Academy who would often exclaim how talented Simon was but oh how he wished he would practice the piano more!Simon had a burning desire to conduct and hours spent at the keyboard searching for that elusive perfection was not for him.

Mishka on the other hand has dedicated  her youth to searching for that perfection that allows the composers wishes to be turned into sound.Like her mentors Imogen Cooper and Andras Schiff she concentrates on what we know as the three B’s:Bach ,Beethoven ,Brahms which of course is a world that includes Schubert, Schumann and others.

The percussive  Russian school, so much in vogue these days ,is not for them.Artur Rubinstein used to have great discussions with his friend Mr Stravinsky trying to convince him that the piano was not just a percussion instrument but that in the right hands it could sing as well as any bird on the tree!Rubinstein comissioned a piece by Stravinsky and was appalled when he received his Ragtime music that he refused to play.Petroushka,though, was dedicated to him and he played it with the composers approval very much in his own unique way!


The Impromptus on a theme of Clara Wieck by Schumann opened the recital.From the first solo left hand notes one was aware of Mishka’s superb musicianship in the way she shaped this beautifully expressive opening.The scherzo type impromptus were played with fleeting lightness and Schumann’s somewhat tiresome dotted rhythms where shaped so beautifully and delicately as maybe Clara herself may have done.There were some sumptuous sounds in a work that already shows the seeds of his Symphonic Variations op 13.If it missed something of the passion and forward drive of Floristan  it was a small price to pay for such a beautiful Eusebian opening.

Beauty too in Mozart’s great masterpiece that is the Rondo in A minor.It was played with a simplicity and attention to detail that was quite exquisite.If Floristan was not allowed his full share of the stage it was because Mishka did not want to stir these magical waters with any other characters that might appear in Mozart’s miniature opera scene that he so clearly depicts.

It was in the Scarlatti Sonata that suddenly ignited the stage .A brilliant refined and subtle almost Mendelssohnian Sonata played with an infectious energy and lightness that was quite ravishing.

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Could it be that she had put her scores away and  felt ready now to throw herself into the fray.

Many artists have said how difficult it is to play to an empty hall knowing that there are cameras watching your every move .Both Paul Lewis and Imogen Cooper at the Wigmore Hall had used an I pad as an ‘aide memoire.’ So hats of to Mishka who threw caution to the wind as she plunged into Scarlatti and Schubert with the vigour and impetus that had been missing up until now.This is what live music is all about .The fact that anything could happen.Not only slight  blemishes which are of no importance when on the other side of the rainbow miracles begin to appear as much a surprise for the artist as for the audience.

Re- creation indeed that we have so much need of in these strange times.In Stephen Hough’s opening recital at the Wigmore Hall I had spoken exactly of this  reawakening of the senses.

She gave an exemplary performance of the Schubert Fantasie in C D.760.A work given to advanced students together with the 32 Variations of Beethoven and Brahms Handel Variations that have so many technical challenges but always with musical values of shape and colour to the fore .Not the stale exercises given to students in early days to train their fingers very often at the expense of their ears.Rubinstein used to practice them eating chocolates and reading novels.But once aquired at an early age one has fingers of steel but wrists of rubber and an orchestra of ten wonderful players that will do exactly what the heart and mind require.


And this was the wonderful orchestra that Mishka used with such refined intelligent musicianship.The Allegro con fuoco was restrained as Schubert asks in order to make the final explosion of the Allegro even more overwhelming.If she did not quite have the burning rhythmic impetus that she had found with Steven Isserlis she rose to all the quite considerable hurdles with great assurance .She shaped the most energetic passages with the same beautiful lyricism that she brought to the many sublime passages in the first movement in particular.The Adagio Wanderer theme was played so exquisitely and kept moving in 2 not 4 as the composer so clearly indicated. There was great passion and  delicacy and the final tremolandos were quite magical before the rude interruption of the Presto.She threw herself into the great flourishes  of this movement that created even more contrast with the beautiful lyrical central section.It led to the excitement of the final Fugato of the Allegro where her ease and naturalness as  she threw off the most technical challenges brought yet another of her superb recitals at St Mary’s  to a tumultuous end.

No encore ..their time was up …but it will live on in the memory, as Mitsuko Uchida says it should.It can also be heard though on the web site of St Mary’s Perivale together with an archive of over 400 performances from the past ten years.

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Imogen Cooper Heart to Heart at the Wigmore Hall

Imogen Cooper live at the Wigmore Hall
As she so eloquently said at the end of her recital- from the heart to the heart. A beautifully atmospheric encore by Janacek that with this sentiment had much in common with Schubert .
How much we need that in these strange times that have befallen the world!
It was a recital from the beginning to the end like a great song.
A lyricism that denied any percussion or ugly viral sounds but created a warm hearted flow that drew us in to this intimate world that she wanted and needed to share with us.
After weeks without an audience having spent this unexpected lock down period we are told , cooking ,learning new repertoire and lots of washing up she was at last free to share her most intimate thoughts with us.
It was the same sound that I well remember her enchanting Vlado Perlemuter with at Dartington and he being so enthusiastic about her musicianly performance of the Epilogue of Ravel’s Valses Nobles as he was of her Chopin Mazukas .
That was in 1968 when the daughter of Martin Cooper ,the eminent critic of the DailyTelegraph and a musicologist whose book on French piano music is an absolute reference for students, had come from her Premier Prix in Paris.
Realising that Imogen had an exceptional musical talent her parents sent her at the age of 12 to Paris to study for six years at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique (CNSM) with Jacques Février, Yvonne Lefébure and Germaine Mounier. This was considered a provocative move by the music establishment, and there was a lengthy correspondence in The Times between Thomas Armstrong, Principal of the Royal Academy of Music in London, and Martin Cooper, arguing the pros and cons of taking a gifted child out of conventional education to specialise so early, and in a foreign country.
In 1967 at the age of 17, the CNSM awarded her a Premier Prix de Piano, a major distinction. Cooper was mentored in her late teens by Arthur Rubinstein and Clifford Curzon, and subsequently studied in Vienna with Alfred Brendel, Paul Badura-Skoda and Jörg Demus, particularly in her early twenties by Brendel, an experience that has resonated with her throughout her performing life.
She has dedicated her life to playing mostly the classical repertoire and in particular the works of Schubert .In fact she played just a few months ago at the Wigmore Hall the three last sonatas of Schubert to celebrate her 70th birthday.
She also has a foundation that is aimed at giving the same help to talented young musicians that she herself had received in her formative years.
It was a programme dedicated to Schubert and Beethoven as her colleague and fellow disciple of Alfred Brendel,Paul Lewis, had shared with us last week in this same series.
Paul Lewis’s programme was of fantasies and today a different type of fantasy with the German Dances of Schubert and the exquisite baubles of Beethoven op 119 before the most lyrical and profoundly simple of all Beethoven’s sonatas the penultimate op 110.
The 12 German Dances D.790 were played from the very first note to the last with an absolute lyricism.
Beautifully warm and delicate sounds but also robust dance rhythms within this framework.
They are the layers of sound that Brendel speaks so eloquently about .
Dances at times almost like the Mazurkas of Chopin and a final dance that finished on a cloud of mysterious gentle sounds.
It is very interesting to note that as pianists mature they seem to explore much more the subtle use of the pedals to hide the fact that this black box is just full of strings and hammers.
A well known difference of views between Artur Rubinstein and Igor Stravinsky.
Wilhelm.Kempff and Edwin Fischer were supreme examples of this much neglected art but it was Imogen today who reminded us of it today in her insistent quest for the human voice hidden within.
The eleven Bagatelles op 119 were indeed a collection full of gems.Each one was so clearly characterised from the sedate almost Schubertian opening to the pure and gentle lyricism of the 4th and 8th.
Beethoven’s humour shining through in the 5th and 6th and the great drive of the 9th .The all too short bars of the 10th led to the beauty of the final Andante ma non troppo.
The Sonata in A flat op 110 was given an authorative performance of great architectural shape and a musicianly understanding of the many indications that Beethoven marks in the score.
Con amabilità and molto espressivo he marks at the beginning as though he could hear so clearly in his mind the sounds that he was destined never to be able to hear himself in real life.
The transition from the Scherzo to the Adagio was on a waft of magic sounds.
The repeated notes in the Adagio.-the bebung- were so beautifully realised and the fugue too seemed to enter in this magic world without ruffling any waters.The imposing bass fugal entry was greatly measured and the ‘p’ and subtle countrapuntal colours before the crescendo leading to the ‘ff’ trill I have rarely heard so eloquently played.
The return of the Adagio was even more moving with Beethoven’s ‘heart beats’ allowed to pulsate so beautifully.The gradual disintigration of the final chords of the Adagio led so magically to the fugue in inversion that took us on a continual crescendo to the final  euphoric explosion.
This was a side of Beethoven that  lacked the jagged edges of the Allegro Molto of the Scherzo or the frenzy that Serkin used to bring to the final triumphant flourishes.
It was the world that Imogen obviously needed so much to share with us today and that we were so grateful to her and the Wigmore Hall for allowing us to eavesdrop on such beauty after being deprived for so long.