There is something refreshing about seeing Dr Mather at last presenting the first of a superb line up of young artists live that he and his team at St Mary’s have been selflessly promoting over the past years.
In the last few months relying on an archive of over 400 artists St Mary’s has continued after the lock down to tirelessly promote these young artists by streaming from this archive a selection of remarkable performances.
All the artists are offered a professional engagement even when it is an archive recording.
So many artists rely on this window that allows them to share their talent with a discerning public not only live but also virtual – necessità virtu.
But there is something about a live concert that makes one even more aware of what marvels are being shared.
As Gilels said it is the difference between fresh and canned food.
Yesterday the Wigmore Hall opened its ‘virtual’ doors to a series of recitals streamed live from an empty hall.
Today following their lead St Mary’s has followed suit.Careful ,as only a physician could be,of respecting the distancing regulations even paying for his artists to travel to the hall in a private car.
Stephen Hough opened the season at the Wigmore Hall and it was like a breath of fresh air for us listeners but also for the artist who rose to the occasion with superb performances of Bach and Schumann.
The Bach/Busoni Chaconne and the Schumann Fantasie – two pinnacles of the pianistic repertoire.
At St Mary’s today the bells were pealing just as loudly with Beethoven’s last word on his 32 Sonatas preceeded by five of Liszt’s Transcendental Studies .
Stephen Hough is a world renowned figure, a true renaissance man who not only plays the piano better than most but also writes,paints and is a public commentator on so many subjects.His latest book ‘Rough Ideas’ sums this all up with his ‘reflections on music and more!’
Alim Beisembayev is a young pianist in his early twenties and at the start of what promises to be an equally remarkable career.
I do not say that lightly as I have heard Alim since he was in his teens at the Purcell School and on many occasions since he won a scholarship to continue his studies with Tessa Nicholson at my old Alma Mater – the RAM.
Could it have been the occasion?
Or was it simply that this very talented young man already winner of the Junior Van Cliburn Competition in Texas ,has matured into an artist of quite considerable stature.
It was enough to see the intelligent choice of five of Liszt’s trascendental studies.
Chosen to give a shape to what in his hands are miniature tone poems but shaped into a much larger and satisfying whole.
From the luminosity of ‘Paysage’ played with such a flexible beat and subtle sense of phrasing.A touching duet that moved so eloquently towards the passionate climax ‘ritentuto ed appassionato assai’ but always maintaining the same mellifluous dialogue .A simple growling acciaccatura in the bass brought us back to the countryside and a gradual disappearance into the distance.
Ready for will 0′ the wisps or ‘Feux Follets.’
Sparkling lights that light up the countryside so magically in hot climes.
And there was indeed true magic in Alim’s hands.
One of the most transcendentally difficult works in the piano repertoire together with Chopin’s study op 10 n.2 that relies on the independence of the fourth and fifth fingers in the right hand.It was played with an ease and charm like Liszt’s ‘Au bord d’une source’ but with the intricate precision of a Swiss clock.The sense of character he gave this perfect jewel was something to marvel at indeed.The contrast in dynamics but above all the subtle melodic line that he could shape so beautifully whilst the most difficult filigree accompaniment was thrown of with the ease of a true magician.
This gave way to the romantic outpourings of the 10th study in F minor.A passionate performance of demonic pianism of breathtaking mastery.This was a truly operatic scenario that had nothing to fear from Bellini.
The wonderful romantic melody floating on a most intricate syncopated accompaniment before bursting into red hot declamations of almost obscene passionate involvement.Driving savage rhythms had all the hallmarks of the’ guerra guerra ‘ of Norma.
Harmonies du soir was full of magical sounds .The piu lento was played with all the heartfelt cantabile of the most Italianate tenors that gradually built up to a most sumptuous outpouring of emotion kept perfectly under masterly control .Dying away to a mere off stage whisper it prepared the scene for the delicate melodic duet between soprano and baritone in Chasse Neige.A truly magnificent control of balance allowed the melodic line to sing above the constant tremolando accompaniment with gushes of wind every so often appearing from the depths.
These performances made one aware of the truly poetic nature of Liszt’s virtuosity that was almost never to an end of its own but always at the use of descriptive sounds much as a painter would add strokes of genius to an already expressive canvas.