Petr Limonov’s masterly final recital in St Mary’s summer lockdown series

Tuesday 21 July 4.00 pm

Streamed ‘live’ concert in an empty church

Petr Limonov (piano)

Beethoven: Piano sonata in C Op 53 ‘Waldstein’
Allegro con brio -Introduzione Adagio molto- Rondo Allegretto moderato;Prestissimo
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
1 Promenade ;2 Gnomus ;3 Promenade ;4 The Old Castle; 5 Promenade; 6 Tuileries; 7 Bydlo; 8 Promenade ;9 The Ballet Of Unhatched Chicks In Their Shells ;10 Samuel Goldenberg And Schmuyle; 11 Promenade; 12 Limoges, le marché; 13 Catacombae (Sepulcrum Romanum);14 Cum Mortuis In Lingua Morta; 15 The Hut On Fowl’s Leg Baba-Yaga; 16 The Great Gate Of Kiev 

Petr Limonov was born in Moscow in 1984 and studied at the Central Music School. After winning the First prize at the Nikolai Rubinstein piano competition in Paris (1998) he started giving concerts in Europe, Russia and Japan, sponsored by the Vladimir Spivakov International Foundation. He subsequently studied at the Royal Academy of Music, in Paris and at the Royal College of Music. During his studies at RCM he began taking conducting lessons and in 2012 he became the principal conductor of the London Soloists Philarmonia orchestra. He frequently appears on UK and European scene collaborating, among others, with Nicola Benedetti, Laura van der Heijden, Jennifer Pike, Van Kujik Quartet, Leonard Elschenbroich and Liana Isakadze. He has recorded for Decca, Onyx Classics, Chandos and Champs Hill labels; the “1948” album, recorded with Laura van der Heijden, received “Edison Klassiek” award in 2018. Petr’s notable appearances include La Roque d’Antheron festival (Boris Berezovsky’s Carte Blanche, broadcast by radio France Musique), Wigmore Hall, iTunes Festival, Cadogan Hall, Kings Place, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Southbank Centre, the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory, a recital in The Duke’s Hall for HRH Prince Charles, TV appearances for BBC Proms Extra and broadcasts for BBC Radio 3 and “Culture” TV channel (Russia). In 2017, his arrangement of the Auld Lang Syne (issued on Decca in 2014 as a part of Nicola Benedetti’s best-selling “Homecoming” album) was performed in the Albert Hall at the BBC Proms. His repertoire stretches from Orlando Gibbons to Arvo Part.


I have known Petr for some time being in a select group of musicians that include many  old friends like Alexander Ullman,Sasha Grynyuk and Evelyne Beresovsky.All remarkable young musicians on the threshhold of important careers.But I have never heard Petr give a solo recital.Today at St Mary’s was just that opportunity  in the final concertof the  lockdown series that has included over 70 concerts streamed live or  from the archive when live streaming was not permitted at the height of the Covid crisis.As Dr Mather rightly said at the end of Petr’s masterly recital it was a fitting end to a very difficult period for young musicians’ survival without public concerts.In fact St Mary’s is one of the very few realities that have insisted on playing to an empty hall,streamed live, thus offering nevertheless a professional engagement to help so many struggling young musicians at the start of their career.


Only two works on the programme but both of extreme  importance in the piano repertoire.The Waldstein Sonata op 53 is a sonata that fits nicely into Delius’s decription of Beethoven as all scales and arpeggios.(Bach faredworse in Delius’s hands  as  he described his works as knotty twine!)


In one way it is true the Waldstein is  one of those key works like the Schubert Wanderer Fantasy ,Schumann Symphonic Studies or the Brahms Handel Variations that covers almost  every aspect of piano technique.Not just the dry scales and arpeggios of Delius’s remark but allied to true musical  and architectural values  and they are an invaluable voyage of discovery for any aspiring young artist.


It was obvious today that these two works are part of Petr’s repertoire as they were played with an authority and total command that only comes with having lived with them for a long time.

The opening of the Waldstein started in brooding mode that did not quite seem to respect the ‘con brio’ that Beethoven asks for.But it was played with such an impressive regard for detail allied to an overall architectural shape and impressive technical command that one was quite swept up in the overall vision of this remarkable movement.The same general tempo throughout gave  reason for  the brooding opening when the opening tempo is set by the second subject as his superb musicianship had quite rightly noted.Beethoven writes only decrescendo and dolce e molto ligato(Beethoven’s Italian  was not perfect obviously).Maybe the melodic semiquavers leading into this gradual relaxation could have been even more melodic as they lean more towards the melodious second subject than the almost animal rhythmic drive of the opening.Of course food for thought as it should be with all true interpretations.Beethoven’s repeat too  was scrupulously noted and the great contrasts in dynamics were never allowed to overwhelm the overall architectural shape.


The Adagio molto introduction to the Rondo was played with a stillness and an aristocratic sense of weight that gave great meaning to every note.Beethoven had substituted the original slow movement, that was later to appear as the Andante Favori, in favour of this short but poignant introduction. The Rondo theme  almost Schubertian in character  floating as Beethoven indicates on a cloud of pedal before embarking on the most strenuous episodes, where there seems to be at times  explosions of almost Lisztian euphoria. Beethoven’s very precise pedal effects were interpreted by Petr and transposed to the modern instrument with great effect.The tumultuous final episode before the Prestissimo coda was quite overwhelming in its rhythmic insistence.The coda kept in perfect control which gave time to play each note of the infamous  octave glissandi without having to wet his fingers as Serkin used to deftly do!


Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is a work in 10 movements that was inspired by a visit to an art exhibition. Each of the movements represents one of the drawings or artworks on display. Mussorgsky composed Pictures as a memorial to his friend, the Russian artist Viktor Hartmann, who had died in 1873 at age 39. Shortly after the artist’s death, Mussorgsky visited a retrospective exhibit of Hartmann’s sketches, stage designs, and architectural studies and felt the need to capture the experience in music. By early summer 1874, he had completed the work, a lengthy and fiendishly difficult suite for solo piano. At the time of Mussorgsky’s death in 1881 from alcoholism, the piece had been neither performed nor published. It fell to his friend and colleague Rimsky-Korsakov to tidy up the manuscript and bring it to print in 1886.It is a very impressive showpiece for piano and was the ideal piece for Petr to conclude this series with.


The actual Promenade interludes might have been more of a contrast if played quite simply as each of the pieces that follow depict the paintings of Hartmann in a beautifully shaped and characterised manner.

From the opening Gnomus played with an almost ghostly ‘spooks in the night’ feel.To the Old Castle   shaped with a great sense of balance that allowed the left hand heart beat to throb so delicately under the luminous nostalgic melodic line .Tuileries was played with gentle insistence leading to the ponderous grandure of Bydlo that gradually  disappears into the distance with a very telling ritardando that was Petr’s personal addition,I believe, but that worked so well here.The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks chattered on to its very cheeky ending.Before being interrupted by a very noble Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle with an  impressive build up of repeated notes and a very moving ending.All the bustle of Limoges market was played with  impressive technical control and excitement leading to the rude interruption of Catacombae with its impressive dissonant chords that make the resolution Cum mortuis even more magical in Petr’s sensitive hands especially when played with his almost pleading poignancy.Baba -Yaga was full of animal excitement and great feats of virtuosity .The  middle interlude seemed almost orchestral  with the question and answer between the hands whilst the murmur of the orchestra in the middle part of the keyboard  was ever present and undisturbed, as if by magic!The Great Gate of Kiev was played with masterly control of colour and timbre with the great bells sounding in every part of the keyboard.A very impressive sense of balance and insistence on the pivotal bass notes gave great weight with a sumptuous full sound that brought this performance and the season to a marvellous end.


Our  indomitable host Dr Mather was proud to announce his autumn season. 44 concerts in programme streamed with or without live audience depending how this cunning little virus behaves in the intervening period!

Tuesday 1 September Tim Horton (piano)
Thursday 3 September Yoanna Prodanova (cello) Mihai Ritivoiu (piano)
Sunday 6 September  Norma Fisher: Talk- ‘My Life and Music’
Tuesday 8 September Ben Schoeman (piano)
Thursday 10 September The Odysseus Piano Trio
Tuesday 15 September Joanna Kacperek (piano)
Thursday 17 September Lisa Ueda (violin) Daniele Rinaldo (piano)
Sunday 20 September Howard Blake (piano) Alan Parmenter (violin)
Tuesday 22 September Martin Cousin (piano)
Thursday 24 September Lana Trotovsek (violin) Maria Canyigueral (piano)
Tuesday 29 September Sonya Pigot (piano)
Thursday 1 October The Barbican String Quartet
Saturday/ Sunday 3 / 4 October St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival
Tuesday 6 October Tyler Hay (piano)
Thursday 8 October Sarah Gabriel (soprano) Iain Farrington (piano)
Sunday 11 October So-Ock Kim (violin) Josephine Knight (cello) Petr Limonov
Tuesday 13 October Cristian Sandrin (piano)
Thursday 15 October Emily Sun (violin) Caterina Grewe (piano)
Sunday 18 October Thomas Carroll (cello) Graham Caskie (piano)
Tuesday 20 October Francis Grier (piano)
Thursday 22 October Kate Gould (cello) Viv McLean (piano)
Sunday 25 October Leslie Howard and Ludovico Troncanetti (piano duo)
Tuesday 27 October tbc (Keyboard Charitable Trust)
Thursday 29 October tbc
Tuesday 3 November Roman Kosyakov (piano)
Thursday 5 November Milos Milivojevic (accordion)
Sunday 8 November Christopher Kent (actor) Gamal Khamis (piano)
Tuesday 10 November George Todica (piano)
Thursday 12 November Coco Tomita (violin)
Sunday 15 November Jessica Duchen (narrator) Viv McLean (piano)
Tuesday 17 November Aristo Sham (piano)
Thursday 19 November Corran String Quartet
Sunday 22 November Evelyne Berezovsky (piano)
Tuesday 24 November Hugh Mather (piano)
Thursday 26 November Natalia Lomeiko (violin) Yuri Zhislin (violin) Ivan Martin
Saturday 28 November Liszt Society Day (tbc)
Tuesday 1 December Simone Tavoni (piano)
Thursday 3 December The Rautio Piano Trio
Sunday 6 December Mengyang Pan (piano)
Tuesday 8 December Caterina Grewe (piano)
Thursday 10 December Ionel Manciu (violin)
Sunday 13 December Lipatti Piano Quartet
Tuesday 15 December Krzyzstof Moskalewicz (piano)
Friday 18 December Indira Grier (cello) Francis Grier (piano)

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