‘Happy Days’ at St Dunstan in the West with Sasha Grynyuk and Jaga Klimaszewska


I have written many times about Sasha Grynyuk’s playing and it was indeed like a breath of fresh air in the imposing space of St Dunstan-in -the-West  in Fleet Street.

The Guild Church  is dedicated to Dunstan Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury.Of medieval origin, although the present building, with an octagonal nave, was constructed in the 1830s to the designs of John Shaw. In the early 19th century the medieval church of St Dunstan was removed to allow the widening of Fleet Street and a new church was built on its burial ground.  St Dunstan-in-the-West is one of the churches in England to share its building with the Romanian Orthodox  community (St. George church).

The chapel to the left of the main altar is closed off by an iconoctasis, formerly from  Antim Monastery in Bucharest  and dedicated in 1966.

Two of the happiest works by Beethoven were on the programme.The Sonata for solo piano in E flat op 31 n.3 (The Hunt) and the Sonata for violin and piano op 24 (The Spring )  both written in 1801 and 1802.Sasha was joined by the distinguished violinist Jaga Klimaszewska.

The Sonata op 31 n.3   was the one much associated with Artur Rubinstein and was infact the opening work in his farewell recital that he gave at the Wigmore Hall in 1976.Rubinstein  was a stylist and he made the sonata speak in a unique way without ever loosing sight of the very precise indications of the composer.It was exactly this that came across  today from the very first notes in Sasha Grynyuk’s very sensitive hands.The two questioning  bars, the same notes but a different inflection on each was answered by the rather serious chords growing in sound before the bubble burst and Beethoven’s bucolic humour was allowed full reign to spontaneously overflow.A whole world in only six bars but as any great actor will tell you it is exactly when  the lights go up that the scene is set and you either captivate your audience or loose them.Such subtle details just added to the fun .The rather awkward left hand commented on so coquetishly by the right.The sparkling trills chasing each other up and down the keyboard alternating with the pastoral good humour of the burst of song that seemed to appear out of the fresh country air.The two final chords played quietly took me pleasantly by surprise but made me wonder if that was Beethoven’s or Sasha’s intention!

The Menuetto sang so beautifully it was a real ‘song without words’ and so reminiscent of the ravishing beauty of some of Mendelssohn’s later works of that very title .The famous trio was played with a grace and charm where one could  almost envisage  the dancers elegantly bowing to each other  and it made one realise why Saint- Saens had taken it as the theme for his set of variations for two pianos.The ‘almost too serious’  coda was allowed to die away to a whisper  making room for the bubbling good natured Scherzo.This inversion of the Menuet and Scherzo was unusual and I wonder again whose idea it was?It was so convincing that surely Sasha must know something new from recent authentic  editions? Barenreiter of Jonathan Del Mar or the new Murray Perahia editions perhaps .Beethoven even after 250 years is still the revolutionary!

Sasha with his mentor Noretta Conci Leech.For many years assistant to Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, now in her 90th year she is happy to share her knowledge with an artist such as Sasha .

This scherzo in Rubinsteins hands had an infectious rhythmic relentlessness the same as he had in the Liszt 12th Hungaran Rhapsody or the Saint- Saens 2nd Concerto that my old teacher Freddie Jackson used to tell me had the students on their feet cheering at the end.Beethoven  of course is not to be confused with Saint- Saens or Liszt but this unrelenting rhythmic drive with at the same time  subtle phrasing and colouring is of a chosen few.Sasha can be added to that list on hearing his subtle inflections and characterful playing whilst never loosing sight of the unrelenting undercurrent of energy.The final pianissimo octaves at the end were thrown off with a nonchalant teasing ease that was irresistible indeed especially when coloured so masterly  from the bass.The bustling energy of the hunt with the jumping of hurdles and horn calls was thrown off with  mischievous good humour that made light of the transcendental control that made it all possible.The humorous  feigned tiredness after the hunt and the renewed energy that took us to the final triumphant chords was the ultimate tour de force  in this vividly  perceptive performance.

What better to follow than with the mellifluous ‘Spring ‘ Sonata .Misjudging the acoustic it seemed slightly too fast at the beginning but they soon found their natural tempo where everything seemed to fit so perfectly into place.The sublime beauty of the Adago molto espressivo in Sasha ‘s hands was commented on so movingly by Jaga’s violin.The Scherzo was a tour de force of rhythmic drive and energy before the simple cantabile of the Rondo Allegro ma non troppo.

Sasha Grynyuk can be heard again in the same sonata in the marathon of Beethoven 250 celebrations.The 32 Sonatas played by 32 remarkable pianists on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October  from 2  until 9 each day- starting with op 2 on Saturday and finishing with op 111 on Sunday.Streamed live on St Mary’s Perivale website    


Saturday 3 October 2 – 6 pm
St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 1
2.00 Edward Leung: Sonata in F minor Op 2 no 1, 2.25 Andrew Yiangou: Sonata in A major Op 2 no 2, 2.55 Florian Mitrea: Sonata in C major Op 2 no 3, 3.30 Simon Watterton: Sonata in E flat major Op 7, 4.05 Simone Tavoni: Sonata in C minor Op 10 no 1, 4.30 Colin Stone: Sonata in F major Op 10 no 2, 4.50 Mengyang Pan: Sonata in D major Op 10 no 3, 5.20 Callum McLachlan: Sonata in C minor Op 13 ‘Pathetique’, 5.45 Petr Limonov: Sonata in E major Op 14 no 1
Saturday 3 October 7 – 10pm St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 2
7.00 Ashley FrippSonata in G major Op 14 no 2, 7.25 Leslie Howard : Sonata in B flat major Op 22, 7.55 Mishka Rushdie Momen: Sonata in A flat major Op 26 ‘Funeral March’, 8.20 Evelyne Berezovsky : Sonata in E flat Op 27 no 1, 8.40 Alexander Ullman : Sonata in C sharp minor Op 27 no 2 ‘Moonlight’, 9.05 Julian Jacobson: Sonata in D major Op 28 ‘Pastoral’, 9.35 Olga Paliy: Sonata in G major Op 31 no 1 
Sunday 4 October 2 – 6 pm St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 3
2.00 Iyad Sughayer: Sonata in D minor Op 31 no 2 ‘Tempest’, 2.30 Sasha Grynyuk: Sonata in E flat major Op 31 no 3, 3.00 Andrew Bottrill: Sonata in G minor Op 49 no 1, 3.15 Veronika Shoot: Sonata in G major Op 49 no 2, 3.30 Luke Jones: Sonata in C major Op 53 ‘Waldstein’, 4.05 Ben Schoeman: Sonata in F major Op 54, 4.25 Martin Cousin: Sonata in F minor Op 57 ‘Appassionata’, 5.00 Dinara Klinton: Sonata in F sharp major Op 78, 5.20 Daniel Lebhardt: Sonata in G major Op 79, 5.35 Ilya Kondratiev: Sonata in E flat major Op 81a ‘Les Adieux’ 
Sunday 4 October 7 – 10 pm St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 4
7.00 Mark Viner: Sonata in E minor Op 90, 7.20 Yehuda Inbar: Sonata in A major Op 101, 7.50 Julian Trevelyan: Sonata in B flat major Op 106 ‘Hammerklavier’, 8.40 Amit Yahav: Sonata in E major Op 109, 9.05 Konstantin Lapshin: Sonata in A flat major Op 110, 9.30 Alim Beisembayev: Sonata in C minor Op 111 

Talent Unlimited at St James’s 24th September 2020

Wonderful to hear live music in St.James’s again thanks to Canan Maxton and her Talent Unlimited.
A small audience due to distancing regulations but a very distinguished one.I could just discern amongst this masqueraded audience Dr Hugh Mather,Lisa Peacock,Julian Jacobson,Mathew of the McLachlan clan and the distinguished composer Howard Blake. Our sound engineer Petar Dimov and much admired commentator Jessie Harrington would never miss such an event either.Our indomitable, courageous hostess Canan Maxton of course presented the artists.
An interesting programme that showed off to the full the artistry of these musicians selected for this annual showcase recital.
From Brahms to Schubert and Hindemith with two contemporary works by Knox and Leung.
A superb Brahms Sonata from Miguel Sobrinho and

Ivelina Krasteva

…has the piano ever sounded so sumptuous? – a Bosendorfer bass and a Bluthner treble in these expert hands.The viola of Miguel who seemed to grow in stature as he nurtured the most beautiful sounds from his instrument.

Unbelievable pyrotechnics took us by storm when the cellist Findlay Spence joined Miguel for a new work by Knox that inhabited a quite scintillating roguish sound world – not sure if Irish or Scottish but definately a native participation.
Remarkable musicianship and sheer resiliance from both performers.
After a sumptuous performance of Debussy’s Apres midi…… from Sirius Chau and Kumii Matsuo – a truly magical performance was followed by the inevitable Hindemith Sonata for flute( I think he must have written for every instrument including the kitchen sink- what versatility!) For my ears it was in the work by Leung where an alto flute is called for : ‘As the wind resonates’ that we could appreciate the true magical sounds from both artists.This was before finishing the concert with a scintillating performance of the Schubert Variations on Trockne Blumen……..can it really be by Schubert? – a virtuoso piano part , of great difficulty as Dr Hugh Mather exclaimed, played by a pianist whose fingers seemed to cling to the keys with limpet like tenacity whilst Sirius spun his magic web of extraordinary beauty and dexterity.
Hats off to Canan Maxton for having found these players who are obviously headed for the stars, with a little help from Talent Unlimited,
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Canan Maxton, Kathryn Page and 17 others


Martin Cousin at St Mary’s awaiting Beethoven 250 festival

Tuesday 22 September 4.00 pm

Streamed LIVE concert in an empty church

Martin Cousin (piano)

       Chopin: Ballade no.1 in G minor Op 23

       Brahms: Intermezzo in E Op 116 no 4

      Grieg: March of the Dwarfs Op 54 no 3

       Grieg: Notturno Op 54 no 4

      Grieg: Wedding Day at Troldhaugen                               Op 65 no 6

      Debussy: Clair de Lune

      Rachmaninov: Prelude in C# minor

                        Op 3 no 2                                      Rachmaninov: Romance Op 10 no 6

     Rachmaninov: Humoresque Op.10 no 5

Martin Cousin is now regarded as one of the most exceptional pianists of his generation, having been awarded 1st prize at the 2005 Ettore Pozzoli International Piano Competition (Seregno, Italy) and Gold Medal at the 2003 Royal Over-Seas League Music Competition (London). Martin has appeared regularly in the major British musical venues since graduating from the Royal College of Music, making his London solo debut at the Purcell Room in 1998. Numerous solo recitals followed, most notably at the Wigmore Hall in 2001, 2005, and 2011 and he has appeared as concerto soloist with the London Philharmonic, Halle, Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia and BBC Concert Orchestras. Performances further afield have included tours of New Zealand, Italy, the US and concerts in Stockholm, Brussels, Toronto, Berne and The Hague.2006 saw the release of his debut CD, Rachmaninov’s Sonata No.1 and Morceaux de Salon with SOMM Recordings, which was selected as Classical CD of the week by the Daily Telegraph. The US magazine Fanfare added, “This is the performance of the 1st Sonata that I have always heard in my head but never thought I’d actually get to hear with my ears. This guy’s the Real Deal!” His second CD for SOMM, featuring Glazunov’s piano sonatas, was released in 2010 to great acclaim, with Gramophone stating that the new release is ‘in every way, an impressive disc.’ His latest disc of Rachmaninov’s Etudes-Tableaux was released in 2014 and was proclaimed ‘a landmark recording’ by the Observer with a 5-star review. Classical Source added, ‘This is one of the best solo piano records I have heard for a very long time – the more so considering it faces some pretty severe competition in the catalogues. Those who do not know these extraordinarily original masterpieces are strongly advised to acquire this disc. There is none better’.Fanfare Magazine proclaimed, ‘Based on the present disc and on the towering performance of the First Sonata on his debut CD, I am prepared to state that Cousin is among the most distinguished Rachmaninoff pianists of our generation.’Martin is also a member of the Aquinas Piano Trio and chamber music has taken him to places such as Prague, Tokyo, Indonesia, Thailand, Zimbabwe and Barbados.Martin’s hands were featured on the big screen in the Oscar-winning film “Shine”, for the scenes involving Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto.


As  Dr Hugh Mather said at the end of this programme of ‘Lollipops’, it was one of the finest recitals in a hall that has seen some wonderful performances in the past few weeks.It was playing of beautiful fluidity ,great clarity and  assurance.There was no doubt  about this artists intentions from the very first notes of the Chopin G minor Ballade to the final cheeky note thrown off with great elan at the end of Rachmaninov’s Humoresque.

His total control was evident from the opening of the Chopin first Ballade.Played with a simplicity and intelligence.He gave more weight to the accompaniment than I am used to but it contrasted so well with the second subject that seemed to float on the arpeggios that flowed so naturally from his hands.Leading gradually to the first great climax with sumptuous sounds from the bass and a great sense of balance and  aristocratic control.Dissolving to the touchingly delicate return of the opening theme that led to the gradual  built up to the tempestuous coda played with a technical brilliance and sense of shape that was remarkable.The final flourishing scales contrasted so well with the stillness that he found with the chordal interruptions and the final octaves that brought this opening work to an exciting close.

It was the longest work on the programme that continued with the Brahms intermezzo op 116.n.4 played with a luminosity of sound of yearning nostalgia and a purity that was most touching.The beautifully mellifluous middle section floated on a wave of ravishing sounds leading to the magical return of the opening theme only to vanish into the distant heights of the piano.

Three lyric pieces by Grieg were played with a wonderful sense of colour and  contrast. The March of the Dwarfs an irrisorial rhythmic drive contrasted so well with the magical lyrical central section.The sheer beauty of the Notturno was  played with a wonderful sense of balance that allowed the bird calls at the end  to be heard so clearly and poetically ………an interesting use of the thumb in the left hand gave a sense of colour to a simple scale as it traversed the keyboard.The Wedding day at Troldhaugen was played with a truly joyous lilt with a beautifully evocative middle section before the final peal of  wedding bells – as Martin said St Mary’s was just the place for them.

Claire de Lune  by Debussy was played with a lovely liquid sound with a beautifully flowing middle section and a final page of poignant stillness and tranquility. The majestic opening of THE Rachmaninov prelude broke the spell and took us into another world of Russian nostalgia and grandeur.As Martin said :Rachmaninov himself used to turn to the public after his recitals and ask if he really had to play it!  It is rarely played these days which is also the fate of   Liszt’s Liebestraum or Sinding Rustle of Spring.They were amongst the most loved and played pieces for amateur pianists in the good old days !In simplified editions of course which  was not the case today as Martin played the middle section of the prelude with great elan and control that led to the  final explosive exulted sounds.A hauntingly beautiful Romance op 10 n.6 was followed by the rumbustuous Humoresque.It brought this recital of  ‘Lollipops’ to a scintillating end with the syncopated rhythms played wth a buoyancy and  filigree passage work that was thrown off with great ease and above all style.

We can look forward to his performance of the ‘Appassionata’ Sonata op 57 in the marathon Beethoven series at St Mary’s on the 3rd and 4th of   October when 32 superb pianists will play Beethovens 32 piano sonatas as part of their 250th anniversary celebrations this year.

Saturday 3 October 2 – 6 pm
St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 1
2.00 Edward Leung: Sonata in F minor Op 2 no 1, 2.25 Andrew Yiangou: Sonata in A major Op 2 no 2, 2.55 Florian Mitrea: Sonata in C major Op 2 no 3, 3.30 Simon Watterton: Sonata in E flat major Op 7, 4.05 Simone Tavoni: Sonata in C minor Op 10 no 1, 4.30 Colin Stone: Sonata in F major Op 10 no 2, 4.50 Mengyang Pan: Sonata in D major Op 10 no 3, 5.20 Callum McLachlan: Sonata in C minor Op 13 ‘Pathetique’, 5.45 Petr Limonov: Sonata in E major Op 14 no 1 
Saturday 3 October 7 – 10pm St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 2
7.00 Ashley FrippSonata in G major Op 14 no 2, 7.25 Thomas Kelly: Sonata in B flat major Op 22, 7.55 Mishka Rushdie Momen: Sonata in A flat major Op 26 ‘Funeral March’, 8.20 Evelyne Berezovsky : Sonata in E flat Op 27 no 1, 8.40 Alexander Ullman : Sonata in C sharp minor Op 27 no 2 ‘Moonlight’, 9.05 Julian Jacobson: Sonata in D major Op 28 ‘Pastoral’, 9.35 Olga Paliy: Sonata in G major Op 31 no 1 
Sunday 4 October 2 – 6 pm St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 3
2.00 Iyad Sughayer: Sonata in D minor Op 31 no 2 ‘Tempest’, 2.30 Sasha Grynyuk: Sonata in E flat major Op 31 no 3, 3.00 Andrew Bottrill: Sonata in G minor Op 49 no 1, 3.15 Veronika Shoot: Sonata in G major Op 49 no 2, 3.30 Luke Jones: Sonata in C major Op 53 ‘Waldstein’, 4.05 Ben Schoeman: Sonata in F major Op 54, 4.25 Martin Cousin: Sonata in F minor Op 57 ‘Appassionata’, 5.00 Dinara Klinton: Sonata in F sharp major Op 78, 5.20 Daniel Lebhardt: Sonata in G major Op 79, 5.35 Ilya Kondratiev: Sonata in E flat major Op 81a ‘Les Adieux’ 
Sunday 4 October 7 – 10 pm St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 4
7.00 Mark Viner: Sonata in E minor Op 90, 7.20 Yehuda Inbar: Sonata in A major Op 101, 7.50 Julian Trevelyan: Sonata in B flat major Op 106 ‘Hammerklavier’, 8.40 Amit Yahav: Sonata in E major Op 109, 9.05 Konstantin Lapshin: Sonata in A flat major Op 110, 9.30 Alim Beisembayev: Sonata in C minor Op 111 


Music in Sardinia – Festival of Burning Intensity and joyous music making for Santu Lussurgiu

Some amazing music making as you can see below from this summers’ festival in Santu Lussurgiu in Sardinia.

A superb performance of Schumann’s Sonata n.1 in Aminor op 105 with Gordan Nikolitch and Linn Rothstein

It was written in a week  in September 1851 and Schumann was not pleased with it saying:”I did not like the first Sonata for Violin and Piano; so I wrote a second one which I hope has turned out better”. It was given its official premiere by  Clara Schumann and Ferdinand David in March 1852.It has since become together with the Cesar Franck Sonata one of the most loved of the romantic repertoire for violin and piano.

The passionate first movement was played with a great sense of balance the piano answering the violin deep in the bass and later a touching question and answer from the piano to the violin.The innocent capriciousness of the second movement where Schumann’s duel personality of Florestan and Eusebius were playfully realised in a true refreshing Allegretto  tempo with some magical pedal effects from the piano at the end.The last movement almost Beethovenian in character  with the violin and piano seemingly chasing each other  until coming together in great passionate outbursts of rhythmic energy and strength.


Gordan Nikolitch, also spelled Gordan Nikolić,(Serbian: Гордан Николић; born 1968) is a Franco-Serbian violinist. He was the first concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra for nearly 20 years, having stepped down in October 2017 to concentrate on directing and teaching.Born in a music loving family Gordan Nikolitch began playing the violin when he was seven. He studied at the Conservatory  in Basel with .Jean-Jaques Kantarow He also met and worked with Walter Levin, Wytold Lutoslavsky, György Kurtág, Hans Werner Henze etc, cultivating an interest in contemporary music.As a violinist, he participated and was awarded in many competitions, the Tibor Varga competition, Paganini competition at Genoa, Brescia and Vaclav Hummel competition Zagreb. In 1989, he became concertmaster of Orchestra d’Auvergne post he held until 1999.Nikolitch has been as well the leader of the Orchestra de Chambre de Lausanne and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Prince consort professor at the Royal College of Music in London, giving masterclasses at the Guildhall  School of Music and Drama, he also teaches Master since 2005 at the CODARTS, Rotterdam Conservatory of Music  and since 2017 he is Professor at the Hochschule für Musik Saarbrücken.In 2004 he was named artistic director of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, Amsterdam, a group created in the 50es by Szymon Goldberg, the great concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic from the times of their conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler.

And another  superb performance this time  of  the Cesar Franck Sonata for violin and piano with Roman Simovic and Linn Rothstein enhanced by the page turning of Vitaly Pisarenko.

Sometimes known in the profession  as the Frank Sinatra ! It is  one of Franck’s best-known compositions, and is considered one of the finest sonatas for violin and piano ever written. It is an amalgam of his rich native harmonic language with the Classical traditions he valued highly, held together in a cyclic framework.It  was written in 1886  as a wedding present for the 28-year-old violinist Eugène Ysaye. Franck was not present when Ysaÿe married, but on the morning of the wedding, on 26 September 1886 in  Arlon, their mutual friend  Charles Bordes presented the work as Franck’s gift to Ysaÿe and his bride Louise Bourdeau de Courtrai. After a hurried rehearsal, Ysaÿe and Bordes’ sister-in-law  played the Sonata to the other wedding guests .The work  is notable for the difficulty of its piano part, when compared with most of the chamber repertoire. Its technical problems include frequent extreme extended figures—the composer himself having possessed huge hands—and virtuoso runs and leaps, particularly in the second movement. 

From the very first notes of Roman’s entry it was obvious that there was magic in the air.A freedom and playing of such burning intensity.The serene opening of the magical opening notes from the piano  were immediately answered by the magnificent creamy rich sounds from the violin.A forward movement that gave great architectural shape and sense of drive.The technical brilliance in the second movement was breathtaking in its audacity and sensitivity to sound from the glorious rich sonorities of the piano melting into the most delicate jewel like sounds glistening in this wondrous sound world that they had created together.The passionate outbursts were breathtaking in their intensity and its effect  was amply demonstrated by the spontaneous applause  and cat calls after the second movement from a public mesmerised by such glorious sounds. The same reaction as a home goal on the football pitch except much less frequent in the concert hall!

There followed the recitativo of great stillness and beauty mingling with whispered confessions from the violin as the golden notes from the piano penetrated the soul of the work concluding with the wondrous final chords .There was a  simplicity and joy on Roman’s face as he allowed the last movement to almost play itself with such natural  lyricism before the pulsating excitement generated by the left hand of the piano leading to the exultant final passionate outpourings.

Only one word to describe a performance of this calibre :”Glorious”


Roman Simovic’s brilliant virtuosity and seemingly-inborn musicality, fueled by a limitless imagination, has taken him throughout all continents performing on many of world’s leading stages including the Bolshoi Hall of the Tchaikovsky conservatory, Mariinsky hall in St. Petersburg, Grand Opera House in Tel-Aviv, Victoria Hall in Geneva, Rudolfinum Hall in Prague, Barbican Hall in London, Art Centre in Seoul, Grieg Hall in Bergen, Rachmaninov Hall in Moscow… Roman Simovic has been awarded prizes at numerous international competitions among which are:”Premio Rodolfo Lipizer” (Italy), SionValais (Switzerland), Yampolsky Violin Competition (Russia) and the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition (Poland), placing him among the foremost violinists of his generationAs soloist, Simovic has appeared with the world leading orchestras: London Symphony orchestra, Mariinsky theatre symphony orchestra, Teatro Regio Torino, Symphony Nova Scotia (Canada), Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra (Hungary), Camerata Bern (Switzerland), Camerata Salzburg (Austria), CRR Chamber Orchestra (Turkey), Poznan Philharmonia, Prague Philharmonia, North Brabant (Holland)…with such a conductors like: Valery Gergiev, Antonio Pappano, Daniel Harding, Gianandrea Noseda, Kristian Jarvi, Jiri Belohlavek, Pablo Heras Casado, Nikolai Znaider… A sought-after artist, Roman Simovic has been invited and continues to perform at various distinguished festivals such as the “Verbier Festival”, ” White Nighsts” Festival St. Petersburg, Easter Festival Valery Gergiev Moscow, Dubrovnik Summer Festival in Croatia, “Kotor Art” Montenegro, the BEMUS and NOMUS Festivals in Serbia, “Sion Valais” Switzerland, Norway’s Bergen Festival, “Moscow Winter” Festival in Russia, Portogruaro Festival in Italy, “Granada music festival” in Spain, collaborating  with such  renowned artists as Leonidas Kavakos, Yuja Wang, Gautie Capucon, Tabea Zimermann, Misha Maisky, Schlomo Mintz, Francois Leleux, Itamar Golan, Simon Trpceski, Janine Jansen, Julian Rachlin…  Aside from being an active soloist,  Roman Simovic is an avid chamber musician, and is a founding member of the distinguished Rubikon String Quartet. As an educator, he has presenter master-classes in the US, UK, South Korea, Serbia, Montenegro, Israel. Roman Simovic plays a 1709 Antonio Stradivari violin which was generously given to him on loan from Jonathan Moulds, Bank of America’s president. In the 15/16 season Roman Simovis is relising two cd’s directing LSO string orchestra for the LSO label and Tchaikovsky and Glazunov concertos with Gergiev and Mariinsky orchestra for Mariinsky label.Mr Simovic is serving as a leader of the great London Symphony

Linn Rothstein is far too modest to have a  published curriculum .She came to England in 1970 to study with John Lill and Peter Katin having  been trained in Canada by her mother and Robin Wood.After her first appearances in Dartington and elsewhere  aged 20 she was immediately helped by Andre Tchaikowsky,Hans Keller and John Amis who introduced her to the agents Harrison Parrot.But her heart was with chamber music  and infact she lost her heart to the violin and a violinist in particular  and became with her husband Jack Rothstein an important part of the music life in London. Jack Rothstein (15 December 1925 – 16 November 2001) was a Polish-born violinist and conductor, living most of his life in  England.He  was born in  Warsaw , and moved to  Israel with his family at the age of two. Later on, he was sent to live with his aunt in Cairo  and attended a French school where  he also started his music studies.During World War II he joined the British Army as a musician and performed in the Middle and Far East. Following the war, he  settled in London and  married Linn Hendry.He studied at the  Guildhall School of Music in the early 1950s, and took part in  masterclasses  by Sascha Lasserson, Leonid Kogan, Felix van Dyl and Henryk Szeryng. In the 1954 Carl Flesh Competition he  won the second prize.Throughout his professional career he also performed as a soloist, playing most of the well-known violin concertos with leading orchestras and giving solo recitals, appearing at the  Royal Festival Hall and the Barbican on various occasions.


Here is a recent concert that Milena Simovic and Vitaly Pisarenko gave at Hatchlands for the Cobbe Collection Trust – only snippets  for reasons beyong my control remain of their performances together in Sardinia .

Here is part of the group who spend their summers sharing their music with the lucky inhabitants of a little town in the hills of Sardinia together with Gordan Nikolitch and Celine Flamen.

Roman and Milena  Simovic- Vitaly Pisarenko and Linn Rothstein in rehearsal here in London

Angela Hewitt – the long awaited return to the Wigmore Hall


Programme Saturday 19th September 2020

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

        • 4 Duettos from Clavier-Ubung (Book III) BWV802-805
        • Prelude in C BWV924
        • Prelude in G minor BWV930
        • Prelude in D BWV925
        • Prelude in A minor BWV931
        • Prelude in D minor BWV926
        • Prelude in F BWV927
        • Prelude in F BWV928
        • Prelude in C major BWV933
        • Prelude in C minor BWV934
        • Prelude in D minor BWV935
        • Prelude in D major BWV936
        • Prelude in E major BWV937
        • Prelude in E minor BWV938
        • Prelude in C major BWV939
        • Prelude in D minor BWV940
        • Prelude in E minor BWV941
        • Prelude in A minor BWV942
        • Prelude in C major BWV943
        • Prelude in C minor BWV999
        • Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV944
        • Ouvertüre nach französischer Art BWV831
        • Italian Concerto in F BWV971


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) transcribed Wilhelm Kempff

Wachet auf! ruft uns die Stimme BWV645

It was last June when Angela Hewitt played at the Wigmore Hall to a live stream public but an empty hall.

An exhilarating occasion for us all.


But it was today for her beloved Wigmore  audience that she truly rose to the occasion.The eleventh concert in her series of twelve that she has been performing  all over the world under the title of Bach Odyssey that she was  persuaded to undertake by John Gilhooly.The final – 12th Concert with Bach’s monumental Art of Fugue will be on the 28th September.

Today we were treated to an eclectic series of works – no Partitas , English or French Suites or Variations – but the  Little Keyboard book written as a teaching aid for his nine year old son Wilhelm Friedemann in 1720.Ferruccio Busoni combined the Twelve Little Preludes and the Six Little Preludes in a set of 18 kleine Präludien (18 Short Preludes), followed by the  Fughetta BWV 961.Angela chose to follow them with the Prelude in C minor for lute BWV 999.It was indeed the perfect way to lead into the Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV 944 that closed the first part of the concert.

A variety of fascinating sounds in the preludes  from the meanderings of the Praeambulum in G minor to the grandeur of the D major or the subtle ornamentation of the beautiful A minor.The perpetual motion of the Preambulum in F to the pure joy of the prelude that follows.The subtle colour and inflections of the  final C minor so similar to the first prelude of the ’48 – “too easy for children and too difficult for grown ups”In Angela’s magic hands,however, it was played with a simplicity and purity that only someone who has lived with this music for a lifetime could achieve.

The concert began with  four duetti BWV 802–805  which were included at a fairly late stage in 1739 in the engraved plates for Klavier-Übung III. As the distinguished critic Michael White explained in his fascinating and amusing  introduction to the concert ,the Duets were intended as meaning two voices living together. Bach wrote the duets to lie comfortably  within the relatively narrow compass of almost every organ of the time. From the lyrical beauty of the opening E minor to the extreme clarity of the voices  and the rhythmic energy of the second in F.The extreme simplicity of the third in G with voices seeming to appear from every part of the keyboard.To the urgency of the final Duet in A minor.

The Fantasy and Fugue in A minor BWV 944 closed the first half of the concert. The ten-bar fantasia is more complicated than it looks. On paper, it’s just a series of chords taking less than a minute to play; in reality, the performer is expected to arpeggiate and improvise on the chords as lavishly as desired, exploring the chords’ dissonances and harmonic surprises. The mellifluous  fugue,Bach’s longest outside The Art of the Fugue, shares its basic theme with the Fugue for organ in A minor (BWV 543).The first notes almost conducted by Angela’s hands with  the restless music gradually  thickening its texture with counterpoint derived from the main theme in a gradual crescendo with deep bass notes adding to the grandeur of Bach with astonishing technical brilliance that brought this first part to an exhilarating end.

The second part of the programme was dedicated to two major works from the second book of the Klavier-Ubung

The Overture in the French style BWV 831 was published as the second half of the Klavier-Ubung in 1735  and was paired with the  Italian Concerto as it was indeed today . The work was transposed into B minor  from the  C minor original version BWV 831 a, to complete the cycle of tonalities in Parts One and Two of the Klavier-Übung.

It is fascinating to read about the almost mathematical and  scientific mind of Bach.Rosalyn Tureck in the editorial for her  first  Interaction Symposium in Oxford as part of her Bach Reseach Foundation states:”At least as far back as Pythagoras  we have known that there is a correspondence between soundwaves and arithmetic.But composed music is more than wavelengths,vibrations and numbers.It partakes of,indeed its very essence is dependent upon ,processes of thought,form and structure.”  The keys of the six Partitas (B major, C minor, A minor, D major, G major, E minor) form a sequence of intervals going up and then down by increasing amounts: a second up (B to C), a third down (C to A), a fourth up (A to D), a fifth down (D to G), and finally a sixth up (G to E). The key sequence continues into  Clavier- Ubung II (1735) with two larger works: the Italian Concerto, a seventh down (E to F), and the French Overture, an augmented fourth up (F to B). Thus this sequence of customary tonalities for 18th-century keyboard compositions is complete, extending from the first letter of his name (Bach’s “home” key, B, in German is B) to the last letter of his name (B in German is H).

The genius of Bach indeed.A monumental performance where Angela’s own comment that Bach is ‘pure,cleansing and comforting but with backbone’ became perfectly clear in a performance to quote a critic where ‘everything is right – everything is natural’.With eleven movements, the French Overture is the longest keyboard suite ever composed by Bach.From the majesty of the opening to the refined shaping of the dance movements and the sheer exuberance of the final Eco.

It seemed impossible that we could experience anything better.However turning off her ‘aide memoire’ I pad she threw herself into the Italian Concerto with a freedom and irresistible sense of rhythm and colour that kept her audience, both in the hall and at home,spellbound.The slight hesitations and inflections injected into this continuous flow of music was absolutely mesmerising.The stillness and ravishing beauty of the slow movement was something to cherish indeed.The rhythmic drive ,energy  and sheer joy of the last movement was remarkable  especially after  two hours of continuous concentrated playing.The  Busoni like transcription of  Wilhelm Kempff of ‘Wachet auf,ruft uns die stimme’ (Sleepers Awake) was her way of thanking her audience for their thirty faithful years of following all the great performances that she has given in this hallowed hall.As she herself said : the Wigmore Hall is indeed the best thing in London in this rather bleak Corona virus period.


Simovic – Pisarenko Duo “On wings of song” at Hatchlands for the Cobbe Collection Trusto

The season at Hatchlands Park opened after months of enforced silence  with  an recital from Milena Simovic on her Testore viola from 1740 and Vitaly Pisarenko on a  1864  Steinway Grand Piano ,New York.

The piano was from the extraordinary Cobbe  collection of instruments housed in the splendid surrounds of  Hatchland Park  in Surrey.In the same room  there was even Liszt’s  upright piano  and an Erard grand too . Elgars piano and the Broadwood that Chopin had used on his last tour in England was in the room next door.

I have been to many  concerts in their beautiful music room but always solo keyboard recitals on the various historic intruments from this remarkable collection.Infact Vitaly Pisarenko had given a few years ago  a solo recital on the same Steinway  that he played today.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/vitaly-pisarenko-at-hatchlands/10155688214697309/ https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/tyler-hay-at-hatchlands-for-the-cobbe-collection/10156554648092309/

This however was the first time that I have been able to listen to a duo recital in these beautiful surroundings and it was quite a revelation.

“It could not be better than  that ” was just one of the many similar  comments from the small audience allowed to attend on this occasion.Due to the distancing regulations instead of the usual 80 people in these drawing room midday concerts there were  allowed only 20.However the genial Alec Cobbe and his faithful collaborators are  recording the concerts  and they will be available for future listening   to a much larger audience on their website.

Alec Cobbe with Milena  Simovic                       

Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata opened this short programme and it is the only substantial composition for the arpeggione (which was essentially a bowed guitar) which remains extant today. It was probably commissioned by Schubert’s friend Vincenz Schuster, who was a  virtuoso of the arpeggione, an instrument which had been invented only the previous year. By the time the sonata was published posthumously in 1871 the enthusiasm for the novelty of the arpeggione had long since vanished, together with the instrument itself.Today, the piece is heard almost exclusively in transcriptions for  cello / viola and  piano.

It was the sheer passion of Milena’s viola that took me by surprise today  as  the cello of Jaqueline Du Pré had years ago.Sir John Barbirolli famously said “If you don’t play with passion in your youth what do you pare off in old age”.Sadly with Jaqueline Du Pré we were never to know.

One is so used to Schubert’s intrumental works being played with a lyrical restraint that it is refreshing to hear the burning intensity behind the seemingly simple notes.Imperceptable breaths and slight inflections just like the greatest of lieder singers brought the music to life so vividly and with such personality.Here was a beautiful young lady with something to say and with the technical  means and control to convey it and involve all those around her.After the opening Allegro moderato there was the stillness of the Adagio where the melodic line soared into the heights to dissolve so magically into the opening of the final Allegretto.This was played with a true lyrical abandon and the throbbing heartbeat from Vitaly’s left hand together with  the restrained beauty  of the melodic line in the opening Allegro moderato were things to cherish.It was though Milena’s viola that captivated us with all the heartfelt abandon that is rarely apparent to lesser souls in the multi faceted canvas  that Schubert in his short life was to bequeath.The magical music box in Vitaly’s sensitive hands with the gently modulated pizzicato from Milena was indeed one of those sublime,seemless moments  that Schubert  keeps up his sleeve and that   can take one’s breath away.

Brahms Sonata in F minor op 120 n.1 was the second work on the programme.As with the Schubert it was left to Vitaly’s poetic artistry to open the Allegro appasionato with a  disarming simplicity before being united with Milena in sumptuous sounds and rhythmic urgency.  Filling this hallowed hall before the touching lyricism of  the  sostenuto ed espressivo and the magical ending to this  movement.A true dialogue between the two players with some magical colours from this historic instrument of 1864 even though it lacks the luminosity and projection of the later Steinway pianos.The Andante was beautifully shaped and  the glorious pastoral lyricism of the Allegretto grazioso gave a magical respite from the burning intensity of the outer movements.Some truly atmospheric playing from the piano in the trio section created a magical  contrast to the  almost orchestral lyricism of the outer sections.The vivace final movement burst in with extreme urgency and the trascendental technical command from both players created an energy that was quite exhilarating as it brought this masterpiece to an exciting conclusion.

It was again Vitaly with the deep brooding opening notes of Enescu’s Concertstuck that created the atmosphere of this extraordinary hommage to his  Romanian homeland.It was commissioned in 1906 by Gabriel Fauré for the internal competition of the Paris Conservatoire, of which  George Enescu was a jury member between the years 1904-1910.A very early work designed to show off the technical and interpretative skill of the players.Alternating fantastic colours and technical brilliance for both players  with all the  fantasy of the  Romanian folk world.It brought this midday concert to a truly exhilarating end and bodes well for the series that  once again will fill Hatchlands with live music making . “On wings of song” indeed!


DAMIR DURMANOVIC’ at St James’s – A Poet speaks

                                           St   James’s Church, Piccadilly
Lunchtime Recital Series
Wednesday 16th September 2020: 1:10-2pm
                                     Damir Durmanović, piano

Franz Schubert (1797-1828) 4 Ländler from D.366
No.1 in A major (da capo al fine)
No.3 in A minor
No.4 in A minor
No.5 in A minor
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) Piano Sonata No.20 in A major, D.959
Scherzo: Allegro vivace
Rondo: Allegretto
As an internationally sought-after performer, Damir Durmanović has performed in venues and festivals including the
Wigmore Hall, Champs Hill Studios, YPF Festival Amsterdam, Wimbledon Music Festival, Renia Sofia Audotorium Madrid,
Gstaad Menuhin Festival, Derby Multifaith Center, Flusserei Flums, ‘Ballenlager’ Vaduz. He has won prizes in numerous
international competitions including The Beethoven Intercollegiate Junior Competition in London, Adilia Alieva
International Piano Competition in Geneva and Isidor Bajic International Piano Competition in Novi Sad.
He has performed in masterclasses with Claudio Martinez-Mehner, Dmitri Bashkirov, Pascal Devoyon, Jacques Rouvier,
Robert Levin, JeanBernard Pommier, Tatyana Sarkisova, and chamber ensembles such as the Emerson Quartet. Damir
is also a scholar at the ‘Musikakademie Liechtestein’ and participates annually in the courses offered by the Academy.
Damir began his studies at age of eight with Maja Azabagic before commencing his studies at the Yehudi Menuhin
School where he studied with Professor Marcel Baudet.
Damir is an ABRSM scholar and is kindly supported by the Talent Unlimited Scheme. He is currently studying at the
Royal College of Music in London with professor Dmitri Alexeev.

Could there be any better way to open the lunchtime series of concerts at St James’s Piccadilly than with an all Schubert recital.Especially when there is such a fine young musician to guide us through the magic sound world of this poet of the piano destined to have such a tragically short life.It was the penultimate Sonata in A major that was the main work in this short lunchtime recital.Together with the C minor and B flat sonatas they were written during the last months of Schubert’s life, between the spring and autumn of 1828, but were not published until about ten years after his death, in 1838–39.

Four short Landler D 366  created just the intimate atmosphere of charm and elegance before bursting into the grandeur and nobility of the A major sonata D 959.A few improvised arpeggios took us from the A minor of the last of the landler to the major of the sonata.Damir showed himself  to be a true stylist where imperceptable hesitations and changes of colour brought an almost orchestral variety to the sounds that he was able to find on this not easy Fazioli piano.A true musician who could make every phrase speak so eloquently with such ravishingly beautiful sound.Has the ending of the first movement ever sounded so beautiful?An ideal preparation for the full blossomed beauty of the Andantino.But there was also a fierce tempest blowing where the piano from a whisper was made to roar and tear up and down the keyboard in an astonishing transcendental way.The storm passing and the melody returning embellished with the most ravishing comments like jewels glistening from afar.A quite extraordinary control of the keyboard that could create so many different sounds but at the same time keep the overall architectural shape.

The Scherso had the same irresistible lilt as in the opening landler and contrasted so well with the tempestuous trio.Maybe the same hesitations each time gave the game away too obviously but it was played with such ravishing delicacy that one could forgive this youthful indulgence! He found a fuller almost orchestral sound for the Rondo which allowed him some truly wondrous changes of colour with a left hand like a wind brewing in the distance with a whirlwind swirling above it that gave  way to one of  Schubert’s unexpected glorious outburst of song and the magic reappearance of the rondo.

A whole world created by this extraordinary young musican where time seemed to stand still.Such was his ability to make the music speak so eloquently with total concentration that he led his masked audience into a wondrous world that we have missed for too long.I was not surprised to read that has been trained at the Menuhin School under Marcel Baudet and that now he is working with that supreme stylist Dmitri Alexeev at the Royal College here in London.

Friends and colleagues after concert celebrations  in the September sunshine in the strangely bare front patio of St James’s Piccadilly

Joanna Kacperek at St Mary’s

Tuesday 15 September 4.00 pm

Streamed LIVE concert in an empty church

Joanna Kacperek (piano)

Chopin: Fantasy in F minor Op 49
Chopin: 4 Mazurkas Op 30
Liszt: Ballade no 2 in B Minor S 171
P. Mykietyn: Preludes 1-3 from ‘Four Preludes for Piano’ (1992)

International concert pianist, Joanna Kacperek has performed in major concert halls in Poland (Warsaw Philharmonic, Concert Studio of the Polish Radio, the Royal Castle in Warsaw, NOSPR in Katowice) and abroad (including United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Norway, Russia, the Ukraine, Canada and Japan). As a soloist, she has performed with such orchestras as the Symphony Orchestra of the National Philharmonic in Warsaw, State Academic Symphony Orchestra in Moscow and Lviv Virtuosos Chamber Orchestra.From September 2019, Joanna has been studying at The Royal College of Music in London in the class of Norma Fisher, as the recipient of the C. Bechstein Scholarship and The Zetland Foundation Scholarship. J oanna is a graduate from the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw (diploma with distinction) where she studied with Ewa Poblocka. She also studied at the ‘Berlin University of Arts’ in Germany (academic year 2016/2017) where she was mentored by Professor Markus Groh as the receipt of an Erasmus scholarship. Joanna has also received the scholarships from the Minister of Culture and from the Prime Minister.Joanna Kacperek has won international piano competitions in Szafarnia (‘F.Chopin’), Pilsen (‘B.Smetana’), Paris (‘M.Magin’) as well as the National Witold Lutoslawski Music Competition in Warsaw. The achievements of the pianist include winning a special prize at the International Edvard Grieg Piano Competition in Bergen (2016), granted unanimously by the jury and the composer Christian Blom for the best performance of his work. In November 2017, togeather with violinist Roksana Kwasnikowska, Joanna won The 2 nd International Beethoven Chamber Music Competition, organized by The Krzysztof Penderecki European Music Centre, Internationale Beethoven Gesellschaft and The Ludwig van Beethoven Association.Alongside a growing career as a soloist, Joanna Kacperek is highly celebrated for being a multi-faceted pianist. She regularly performs with singers and instrumental players. Her duo with violinist Roksana Kwasnikowska represented Poland at the Kyoto International Music Students Festival in Japan (2015) and regularly performs recitals both in Poland and abroad.

Some beautifully musicianly playing as you would expect from a student in  the class of Norma Fisher .From the very first notes of the Chopin Fantasy  everything was allowed to sing so naturally even though hampered by a small hand that did not allow her to abandon herself completely to some of the transcendental demands that both Chopin and Liszt make.The magical pedal effect at the end of the fantasy revealed a true musician who listens so carefully and obviously feels the music deeply.It was a pity the lyrical chords in the Liszt had to be arpeggiated but the majestic ever more passionate outbursts were played with real control and sense of architectural shape.


It was in the four mazurkas op 30 by Chopin that her beautiful liquid sound and true lyricism allowed her to shape these touchingly nostalgic works and make them glitter as the jewels they truly are.The three Preludes from 1992 by Mykietyn showed off her true command of the keyboard with the almost Bartokian rhythmic impetus  of the first and the beautiful lyricism of the second that seemed to float on a cloud of magical sounds.The extreme gaity of the third with it deep bass melody and the sparse dialogue between the hands and suggestive pedal effects were played with the fearless abandon and total  conviction that had strangely been missing in the two larger romantic works.

Wonderful to think that this is just a prelude to the forthcoming Beethoven marathon where 32 pianists will perform Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas over the first weekend in October.What wonders this beautiful deconsecrated church still holds thanks to Hugh Mather and his dedicated team and the many many young musicians who have found a true home where their talent can be  appreciated and celebrated .



Ben Schoeman at St Mary’s

Tuesday 8 September 4.00 pm

Streamed LIVE concert in an empty church

Ben Schoeman (piano)

Bach: Toccata in E minor BWV 914

Szymanowski: Etude in B flat minor Op 4 no 3

Chopin: Scherzo no. 3 in C sharp minor Op 39

Chopin: Impromptu in G flat major Op 51

Scriabin: 9 Preludes from Op 11

Rachmaninov: Sonata no 2 in B flat minor Op 36

Pianist Ben Schoeman is a Steinway Artist. He won several awards, including the first grand prize in the 11th UNISA Vodacom International Piano Competition, Pretoria (2008), the gold medal in the Royal Over-Seas League Music Competition, London (2009), the Standard Bank Young Artist Award (2011), the contemporary music prize at the Cleveland International Piano Competition, USA (2013), and the Huberte Rupert Prize from the South African Academy for Science and Art (2016).He has given solo, chamber music and concerto performances in such prestigious concert halls as the Wigmore, Barbican, Cadogan, LSO St Luke’s and Queen Elizabeth Halls in London, the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Gulbenkian Auditorium in Lisbon, the Fondazione Cariplo Auditorium in Milan, the Durban and Cape Town City Halls and the Romanian Athenaeum in Bucharest. He has performed at many international festivals such as City of London, Edinburgh Fringe, Chester, Enescu Bucharest, Grahamstown and Ottawa. As a concerto soloist he has collaborated with several conductors, including Wolfram Christ, Nicholas Cleobury, Carlos Izcaray, James Judd, Gérard Korsten, Theodore Kuchar, Diego Masson, En Shao, Yasuo Shinozaki, Arjan Tien and Conrad van Alphen.Schoeman studied at the University of Pretoria, the Accademia Pianistica ‘Incontri col Maestro’ in Imola, the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole in Florence and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London with renowned professors such as Joseph Stanford, Louis Lortie, Michel Dalberto, Boris Petrushansky, Ronan O’Hora and Eliso Virsaladze. He obtained a doctorate in music from City, University of London and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama with a thesis on the piano works of the eminent South African composer Stefans Grové.In collaboration with his duo partner, cellist Anzél Gerber, Ben Schoeman was awarded the first prize in the Ibla Grand Prize Competition in Italy. The duo performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and has received the gold medal in the Global Music Awards for their recording of music by Anton Rubinstein. Stefans Grové dedicated his Concerto for Piano, Cello and Orchestra ‘Bushman Prayers’ (2013) to Gerber and Schoeman, and they premiered the work with the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestras.Schoeman’s solo album, featuring works of Franz Liszt, is available under the TwoPianists label. His performance in London with pianist Tessa Uys of Beethoven’s 9 th Symphony, arranged for piano duet by Xaver Scharwenka, was recorded for broadcast on South African national television.Ben Schoeman is a senior lecturer in piano and musicology at the University of Pretoria, where he received the Laureate Award. His students have received prizes at several competitions, and he has served as a jury member at national and international competitions


I had last heard Ben together with another distinguished South African pianist Tessa Uys playing the Beethoven 9th Symphony in the Scharwenka edition for piano duet.The nine symphonies  in the Scharwenka edition  that Tessa had grown up with in her mother’s studio   in South Africa.Before the Corona virus pandemic struck they had in programme the complete Symphonies for the Beethoven 250 celebrations. I had already been able to hear in various venues in London  their superb performances of  the third,fifth and sixth symphonies and am looking forward to an eventual marathon from these two remarkable musicians .

In the meantime Ben arrived in Perivale with a solo programme that  showed off his full range of sounds.From the  clarity of  Bach to the sumptuous romantic outpourings of  Rachmaninov.


The Bach Toccata in E minor SV 914 was played with a clarity and a sense of fantasy especially in the quasi improvised Adagio.All leading to the Fuga  – Allegro played at breakneck speed but with a control and sense of line that was remarkable .An infectious sense of rhythmic urgency that was only interrupted by the grandiloquent final flourish.

As a complete contrast the beautiful song like study in B flat minor op 4 n.3 by Szymanowski followed.A great song almost Hollywoodian in its romantic fervour was played with a great sense of colour and passionate conviction.The third Scherzo and third Impromptu by Chopin were a little disappointing as they followed the old tradition of  sentimentality and  lack of precision.This was  especially notceable in the cascading comments in the scherzo that should glisten like a ray of sunlight with a rhythmic precision that contrasts with the great choral which they ornament.The Impromptu  is almost Poulencian in its suave clear melodic line.I remember Rubinstein playing it without any sentimentality but with the same clarity and inner meaning that he gave to Poulenc’s much neglected Impromtus.Ben played them with great sentiment which he obviously feels  very deeply but for me too personal and  gets in the way of the aristocratic sentiment that is within the notes themself without any external help.The 9 Preludes op 11 by Scriabin were given a superlative performance where his very sense of shape ,colour and freedom gave life to these remarkable tone poems in a way that had escaped Benedetto Lupo who I had heard from Milan the day before.


This in turn led so naturally to the sumptuous sound world and astonishing technical brilliance of the second sonata by Rachmaninov. Feats of virtuosity were thrown off with great ease and the amazingly rich textures played with sumptuous sound.But it was also remarkable for the beauty  in the meno mosso of the first  movement that  was played with such subtle nostalgia . The sheer beauty of sound in the simple melodic line of the opening of the second movement  led to the rhapsodic sound world that is so much part of Rachmaninov before the eruption and romantic effusions of the last movement.The coda was quite astonishing for it’s total command allied to such excitement and breathtaking virtuosity.


Yoanna Prodanova and Mihai Ritivoiu at St Mary’s

Thursday 3 September 4.00 pm

Streamed LIVE concert in an empty church

Yoanna Prodanova (cello)
Mihai Ritivoiu(piano)

Beethoven: Cello sonata Op 102 no 1 in C

  1. Andante – Allegro vivace 2. Adagio – Tempo d’andante – Allegro vivace

            Schumann: Three Romances Op 94

  •              I. Nicht schnell   II. Einfach, innig  III. Nicht schnell

  Mendelssohn: Cello sonata no 1 in B flat Op 45

  1. Allegro vivace    2. Andante   3. Allegro assai


Cellist Yoanna Prodanova was born in Varna, Bulgaria. She completed her studies in 2019 at the Royal Academy of Music in London where she was a Bicentenary Scholar on the prestigious Advanced Diploma course, already having obtained her Bachelor and Master’s degrees at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Previously she studied in Varna and in Montreal where her family immigrated in 2006.Yoanna has performed concertos with the RAM Orchestra and the Doric String Quartet, the Amati Orchestra, the Surrey Philharmonic and the Guildford Symphony Orchestra among others. She regularly performs as a recitalist in the UK and Europe. Yoanna’s awards include The Philip and Dorothy Green Award for Young Artists (2016), the Sylva Gelber Award (2017, 2018), Tunnell Trust Award (2019) and the First prize at the International Joachim Competition in Weimar with her string quartet, the Barbican Quartet. Yoanna’s most important cello mentors have been, in chronological order, Daniela Kirilova, Denis Brott, Louise Hopkins, Rebecca Gilliver, Richard Lester and Hannah Roberts. She is extremely grateful to the Canimex Group for the loan of a beautiful cello made by Giuseppe Gagliano.

Born in Bucharest, Mihai Ritivoiu won the Dinu Lipatti National Competition in 2010 and was laureate of numerous international competitions including the George Enescu Competition in 2011 (Bucharest), Tunbridge Wells International Young Concert Artist Competition in 2014 and Teresa Llacuna Competition in 2015 (Valence). Most recently, he was awarded the Gold Medal at the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe Intercollegiate Competition. He leads an international career performing solo and chamber music recitals in Europe and Asia. He also played concertos with the Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra, the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra and the MDR Leipzig Radio Orchestra. Regularly invited to play on BBC Radio 3’s programme ‘In Tune’, his performances have been broadcast on Radio Romania Muzical, Radio Television Suisse and Medici TV He studied at the National University of Music in Bucharest and at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London with Joan Havill. Mihai is a City Music Foundation artist and a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. He has received generous support from the Liliana and Peter Ilica Foundation for the Endowment of the Arts, Erbiceanu Cultural Foundation and Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation.

For the second concert of Dr Mather’s Autumn season it was refreshing to hear late Beethoven in the hands of such a distinguished young duo.I have heard Mihai many times as a solo pianist but this is the first time that I could really appreciate his superb musicianship as he partnered Yoanna Prodanova in a programme that included one of Beethoven’s last piano and  cello sonatas and also the rarely heard Sonata in B flat by Mendelssohn.

The two sonatas op 102 by Beethoven were composed between May and December 1815. During the period 1812 to 1817 Beethoven, ailing and overcome by all sorts of difficulties, experienced a period of literal and figurative silence as his deafness became overwhelmingly profound and his productivity diminished. Following seven years after the A Major Sonata op 69, the complexity of their composition and their visionary character marks (together with the  piano sonata op 101) the start of Beethoven’s”third period”.The critics of the time, often perplexed by Beethoven’s last compositions, described the sonatas in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung  :’They elicit the most unexpected and unusual reactions, not only by their form but by the use of the piano as well…We have never been able to warm up to the two sonatas; but these compositions are perhaps a necessary link in the chain of Beethoven’s works in order to lead us there where the steady hand of the maestro wanted to lead us.’

The beautiful opening Andante with a magical  transition to the  Vivace risoluto was played with great rhythmic energy and lyricism .A meltingly beautiful Adagio with the poignant ‘teneramente’ that led to the impish Allegro Vivace with its typical Beethoven sting in a tail theme that appears in so many different guises throughout this movement.A superb dialogue between piano and cello each listening so attentively to the other in a fascinating intelligent musical conversation between real musicians.

As Yoanna pointed out in her introduction it is the high register of the cello that Beethoven surprisingly exploits in this late work.She also said how beautifully Schumann’s Romances for Oboe and piano fitted  the cello register which explains why it is more often heard on the cello than in its original form!The rarely heard Mendelssohn Sonata was in many ways almost like a piano concerto with its virtuosistic writing for the piano with cascades of notes glistening with a freshness and lyricism that is so much part of Mendelssohns’ age.

The Three Romances originally  for Oboe and Piano, op. 94  is Schumann’s  only composition for oboe although more often played these days on the cello.It was composed in December 1849 one of the most productive years of Schumann’s entire career. Previously that year, Schumann had written two other works for wind instruments and piano: the Adagio and Allegro, op. 70, for French Horn and piano, and the Fantasy Pieces for Clarinet and Piano op 73. Unlike many other oboe works at the time, the pieces were not the result of a commision by a prominent soloist of the day  and Schumann gave the pieces to his wife ,Clara, whom he once described as his own “right hand”,] as a Christmas present, calling them his “hundredth opusculum.” His mental health was quickly deteriorating during the time of the composition; shortly afterwards, he moved from Dresden to  Dusseldorf, where he was admitted to and eventually died in an asylum.His publisher Nikolaus Simrock had written to Schumann on November 19, 1850, asking whether or not he “would be in agreement if we were to print on the title page: ‘for oboe and pianoforte’ and on the second  ‘for violin and pianoforte’ and on the third ‘for clarinet and pianoforte’, since it is not looked upon with favour when several instruments appear on the title page.” However, Schumann denied the request, replying, “If I had originally written the work for violin or clarinet it would have become a completely different piece. I regret not being able to comply with your wishes, but I can do no other.”

The first Romance was beautifully shaped in a great arch followed by the  passionate lyricism of the second and the great character they brought to the story that is told in the third.Some sumptuous sounds of great beauty.

The Sonata in B flat major, Opus 45, by Mendelssohn was written around the beginning of 1838. In a letter of January 20th Mendelssohn mentions that it is finished, and also that he had been suffering from an ear infection which had left him temporarily deaf in one ear and fearful of the consequences. It was, nevertheless, a happy time: his wife Cecile was about to give birth to their first child, Karl Wolfgang Paul, who was born on February 7th. The child’s third name was in honour of Mendelssohn’s brother Paul, a financier and amateur cellist for whom this sonata, and the earlier Variations concertantes, were written.The Mendelssohns were at this time living in Leipzig, where Felix was the conductor of the orchestral concerts in the Gewandhaus. His innovations in this series had a far-reaching effect on German musical life in general. He took over the conducting of symphonies, which had previously been directed ‘from the violin’ by the orchestral leader. He hired better players, and fought successfully to get their salaries raised. Equally important were his imaginative programmes. In the 1837/38 season, when this Sonata was written, he devised four ‘historical concerts’ which introduced the public to the music of Handel, Bach, Viotti, Cimarosa, Haydn, Naumann, Righini, Mozart, Salieri, Beethoven and the Abbé Vogler. Perhaps the large amount of music from the Classical era influenced the character of his own compositions, for the B flat Sonata is certainly Classical in form and mentality. Its textures are light and clear, its pacing superbly graded; only the piano writing, with the excited heartbeats common to both sonatas, shows the restless temperament of the nineteenth century.

A rarely heard sonata with beautiful interplay between the cello and the piano.Full of typical freshness and charm with great excitement to the coda of the first movement before the simplicity of the second.A true ‘song without words’ of great delicacy dissolving so magically into nothing.The passionate forward motion  of the last movement was played with a refreshing lilt before the ever more virtuosistic exchanges superbly played by this fine duo .The ending was pure  unexpected magic.