Filippo Gorini at Rome University La Sapienza

A very interesting programme of Beethoven’s last two Sonatas:op 110 and op 111 in the last of a series of three concerts dedicated to the composer in his 250th anniversary year.The concert was presented by Rome University in collaboration with the German Embassy.It was fitting that the young Italian pianist Filippo Gorini should be invited to play both Sonatas as he had won the Beethoven Competition in Bonn at the age of 20 and has since been taken under the wing of Alfred Brendel.His first two CD’s of Beethoven op 106 (Hammerklavier) op 111 and the Diabelli Variations have been rapturously received by the critics.

Still in his early twenties he has been preparing , during the long lockdown, the Art of Fugue ,one of Bach’s infinitely complex works that even the composer left unfinished…infact it dissolves into the infinite after 14 fugues and 4 canons………a riddle that is still left unsolved to this day.

Filippo Gorini is very serious young musician with something important to say with a transcendental technique and an intellect way beyond his 24 years.I enclose two articles about recent performances one of which was the op 111 that was on the programme today with it’s twin op 110.

It was in 1983 that I managed to persuade my friend and teacher Guido Agosti to give a lecture recital on op 110 and 111.He too prefaced his masterly performances with an introduction much as Professor Rostagno did today.

The recording of op 110 from the Teatro Ghione is one of the very few recordings by this leggendary figure who had been befriended in his youth by Busoni.Far too reserved to have a major public career the world used to flock to his studio in Siena each summer to be informed,enlightened and invigorated by his playing and total dedication to music.For him music was the Bible – Beethoven his God.

An unexpected on line concert without an audience due to the restrictions reintroduced for public performances in Italy.Some interesting references to Adorno,Bekker,Rosen and Mann in Professor Rostagno’s brief but informed introductions as he attempted to explain what he thought was the message that lay in these two works.The catastrophy and return to life of op 110.The coming to terms with contrasts in life and the acquisition of simplicity in op.111.

Agosti had attempted something similar too.Interesting concepts and mercifully short as the true answer lies in the music itself .Music takes over where words are just not enough and nothing could be clearer than the music in the hands of a true musician of the calbre of Filippo Gorini.

Op 110 was full of subtle detail almost orchestral in conception and for that was full of beauty without any sentimentality.The opening more like a string quartet than a melody and accompaniment.The trill beautifully prolonged as it dissoved into the sublime simplicity of Beethoven’s melodic line.Sustained by the left hand that gave great weight and an inner strength to this seemingly simple opening statement.The fleeting passage work up and down the keyboard was played with a clarity and lightness as Beethoven himself has indicated.The half bowed left hand chords again just added depth and weight without for a moment allowing any heavyness in the etherial right hand figurations.There was a controlled passion in the robust syncopated passage that follows dissolving to a whisper as the meanderings of the development gradually enter.The precise crescendo and diminuendo markings of Beethoven unobtrusively realised in the left hand as the opening theme appears in many different guises above. The contrasting vigour of the Allegro molto second movement with its bursts of syncopated energy dissolved so magically as it prepared the scene for the very heart of the Sonata : Adagio ma non troppo and above all the miraculous arioso dolente.

There was no break between the movements and Beethovens pedal indications in the recitativo were beautifully translated into magic sounds The vibrations of the ‘bebung’- repeated notes- created exactly the atmosphere in which Beethoven could float miraculously one of his most beautiful melodies.Again following the very precise pedal indications of the composer the fugue that follows seemed to grow out of the arioso so naturally.A mellifluous fugue with a forward movement that swept us along on a continuous wave breaking only momentarily the pastoral feel with the entry of the great bass octaves.The arioso seemed to reappear like a wondrous vision even more tender than before.The inversion of the fugue slipping in almost unnoticed as it gradually became more alive. Transformed into passionate declamations and a glorious outpouring of sounds-a true reaffirmation of life to quote Charles Rosen.

I have written about op 111 this summer at the Ravenna Festival and it was played with the same gripping rhythmic energy.It alternated with moments of reflection before dissolving into the major key for the Arietta. Played simply in three so that the variations that follow,grow naturally out of the previous one.Plunging into the third tumultuous variation in 12/32 time that in turn dissolves leaving the fragmented theme searching for it’s way forward.The absolute clarity of Filippo’s playing here was quite remarkable with a control and maturity way beyond his years.The leggiermente, un poco legato writes Schnabel, was perfectly judged leading gradually to it’s climax via even more fragmented trills and a question and answer between the hands.Gradually the way forward is found with a simple passionate outpouring of the theme that ascends into the stratosphere amongst magic trills sustained by a barely whispered left hand.A final disintigration of the falling interval of the theme leads to the gentle whispered farewell in the major key.Peace at last .Simple and lasting.This was Beethovens last word on the Sonata.

Francesco Piemontesi at the Wigmore Hall – A poet speaks

Francesco Piemontesi piano

The Swiss pianist presents three major piano works including Schubert’s 1826 sonata, the last published during his lifetime, and Liszt’s 1853 sonata dedicated to Robert Schumann.

Helmut Lachenmann (b.1935)

5 Variations on a Theme of Schubert

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Fantasy Sonata in G D894

Molto moderato and cantabile-Andante-Menuetto Allegro moderato- Allegretto

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

Piano Sonata in B minor S178

“Francesco Piemontesi combines stunning technique with an intellectual capacity that few can match” Spectator

Francesco Piemontesi is a pianist of exceptional refinement of expression, which is allied to a consummate technical skill. Widely renowned for his interpretation of Mozart and the early Romantic repertoire, Piemontesi’s pianism and sensibility has a close affinity too with the later 19th century and 20th century repertoire of Brahms, Liszt, Dvořák, Ravel, Debussy, Bartók and beyond. Of one of his great teachers and mentors, Alfred Brendel, Piemontesi says that Brendel taught him “to love the detail of things.”He was born in 1983 in Locarno and studied at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hannover with Arie Vardi before closely collaborating with Alfred Brendel. He rose to international prominence with prizes at several major competitions, including the 2007 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. In 2009 he was awarded the fellowship of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust. Between 2009-2011 he was chosen as a BBC New Generation Artist.In 2012he was announced as Artistic Director of the ‘Settimane Musicali’ music festival in Ascona,and received the BBC Music Magazine Newcomer Award for his ‘Recital’ disc with works by Haendel, Brahms, Bach and Liszt.Since 2012 he records exclusively for the French label Naïve Classique. He currently lives in Berlin.

I first heard Francesco Piemontesi when he appeared at a Prom concert a few years ago playing the Strauss Burlesque and a concert Rondo by Mozart.His musicianship together, in that period, with another young musician, Martin Helmschen, immediately struck me as a quite exceptional light.He has gone on since then to establish himself as the real musician he is who can shed new light on the works he plays with a refreshing simplicity without any rhetoric.And so it was today in a programme with the magical G major Sonata by Schubert and the monumental Sonata by Liszt prefaced by Variations on the Waltz in C sharp minor of Schubert by the contemporary composer Helmut Lachenmann

Lachenmann was born in Stuttgart and after the end of the Second World War (when he was 11) started singing in his local church choir. Showing an early aptitude for music, he was already composing in his teens. He studied piano with Jürgen Uhde and composition and theory with Johann Nepomuk David at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart from 1955 to 1958[1] and was the first private student of the Italian composer Luigi Nono in Venice from 1958 to 1960. The Five Variations on a theme by Schubert – the waltz in C sharp minor D643 was written in 1956

Immediately taking us into his own very particular sound world of clarity and delicacy with the jewel like precision of sounds barely rising above piano.The first variation was played with a rhythmic energy, the ending thrown off with nonchalant charm.It was followed by a deeply melancholic second variation that sang so beautifully thanks to an extraordinary sense of balance that allowed for such a kaleidoscope of multicoloured effects.Sounds sweeping up and down the keyboard in the third with glissandi where even faster motion was needed all thrown off with such subtle ease and virtuosity.A barely whispered fourth variation followed in which the extreme legato of the right hand was mirrored by the delicate almost plucked staccato of the left.

It made for the ideal preparation to the serene masterpiece of Schubert’s fantasy sonata which Schumann described a the most perfect in form and spirit .David Owen Norris described it as uninterrupted sunshine but that was before the performance of Francesco Piemontesi that was truly Beethovenian and anything but a sunny romp.This was not just an outpouring of Schubert’s sublime melodic invention but a full blooded account where Schubert’s seeming innocence had also an undercurrent of menace and foreboding that every so often would erupt with quite openly drammatic contrasts.

A barely whispered opening to the magic chords of an intimate confession that Richter loved so much he made them last as long as possible and added a good ten minutes to the normal performance time.Francesco Piemontesi played with a simplicity barely caressing the notes with a wondrous flexibility.It made every note talk with a tenderness and yearning that made the sudden outburst of the development in the minor and the gradual build up of tension even more surprising.These brief interruptions were juxtaposed with some of Schubert’s most sublime melodic inventions seemingly of joy but with an undercurrent of melancholic nostalgia .The return of the opening chords after these outburts was even more sublime because Schubert had shared this panorama of emotions with us.

The excellent streaming allowed us to appreciate not only the extreme beauty of sound but the beauty of the pianist’s hands as he caressed the keys with a simplicity and sincerity that belied any rhetoric or showmanship.

The Andante was played with the purity of a creamy rich sound that was very moving as nothing was added to the emotion within the notes that Schubert himself had penned. The turbulance of a passing cloud was soon forgotten with the sublime melodic invention that flows continuously from Schubert’s pen in the final years of his short life.Francesco Piemontesi showed a remarkable sense of balance and of self identification with the emotional world of Schubert.He is only a few years older than the composer when he wrote this remarkable work.

The Menuetto was played with a subdued lilt and sense of lyriciam that precluded any percussive hardening of sound.Infact there had been created, from the very first note to the last of this Sonata, a sonorous bubble within which all these marvels were revealed by this true poet of the piano.The Trio, a landler, seemed to grow so naturally out of the Menuetto with a simple uplifting charm and delicate sound that was indeed mesmerising.

The last movement burst in too, quite naturally, with a joyously refreshing lilt as if a window had been opened on the simple folk enjoying the wonders of country life.A beguiling sense of rubato was really quite hypnotic as we were led around this rural scene until the miracle occurs. A barely prepared interruption with one of Schubert’s most sublime melodies.It is as though a cloud has lifted and we are all reduced to silence as we marvel at this heavenly apparition.The delicate ritardando towards the final meanderings was a truly magic ending to a dream.One is reminded of a report of Schubert’s only performance in public where it was noted much to his approval that ‘the keys in his hands became singing voices?

The Liszt Sonata is a monument and together with the Fantasie of Schumann constitutes the peak of the Romantic repertoire (together of course with the Fourth Ballade of Chopin).The Sonata by Liszt is dedicated to Schumann as the Fantasie is dedicated to Liszt – birds of a feather indeed .The Sonata was dedicated to Schumann in return for the dedication of the Fantasie op 17 (published 1839) to Liszt.It was Schumann’s contribution to the Beethoven monument that Liszt had taken in hand (as Mendelssohn’s Variations Serieuses was too) A copy of the work arrived at Schumann’s house in May 1854, after he had entered Endenlich sanatorium. Schumann’s wife Clara, an accomplished concert pianist and composer in her own right, did not perform the Sonata; apparently she found it “merely a blind noise!”.

I remember André Tchaikowsky persuading his friend Radu Lupu to spend time learning the sonata.Richter played it in London that for us mortals was an absolute eye opener and marvel.Richter was so disgusted by his performance that he would not see anyone after the concert!Gilels and Curzon have shown us that this work although seemingly a showpiece is a work of startling originality.It created a completely new direction of perfect form from the classical style sonata of yore. Liszt, the revolutionary original thinker, was to foresee the direction that music was to take fifty years hence.

I was expecting from Francesco Piemontesi a performance of the introspection of Lupu or the absolute originality of Richter but instead we got a youthful make or break performance that nevertheless kept us riveted from the opening whispered G’s to the all too final submerged murmur of B – played with the right hand deep in the bass!

From the opening notes his supreme musicianship shone through .The contrast between the opening notes that will be trasformed during the percourse of the following thirty minutes was captivating from the very first sounds.This after all is the leit motif idea that was to inspire Liszt’s son in law Wagner in his operas.The first agitato semiquavers were played like rays of light (as Agosti played them) leading to the first triumphant octave declaration.A masterly sense of colour and shape led to the passionate outpouring of the ‘grandioso’.It immediatley dissolved into the mellifluous ‘dolce con grazia’.

It was ,in fact, the total identification with the demonic Florestan and and the ever more tender and magical Eusebius that was remarkable.From the passionate virtuosistic outbursts to the most intimate comuning it was all played with an overall sense of architectutral shape..There was always a sense of balance and colour that never once evolved into the barnstorming of lesser musicians that has been the rule amongst so called virtuosi that plunder this masterpiece!

The Andante sostenuto was of a wondrous beauty coming as it did after such sould searching virtuosity.Managing to keep the pulse flowing even in the’ quasi Adagio’ (where Richter almost came to a stop) leading so naturally and gradually to the passionate central outburst of romantic fervour. It was indeed a ‘scorching’ performance as David Owen Norris aptly described it .But judging from the moments of absolute silence that greeted the final note it was also a deeply touching comuning of the soul.This indeed was a performance to treasure .

The beautiful ‘Au Lac de Wallenstadt’ offered as a thank you to the audience, both real and virtual, seemed to flow from his fingers with such freshness and simplicity and belied the fighting off of the demons that we had witnessed only a few moments before.

Petar Dimov at St Mary’s A musician speaks

in collaboration with the Keyboard Charitable Trust

Tuesday 27 October 4.00 pm

Streamed LIVE concert in an empty church

Petar Dimov (piano)

Debussy: 2 Preludes
Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest
La fille aux cheveux de lin

Dimov: Passacaglia

Debussy: Prelude
La cathédrale engloutie

Dimov: Aura (Daylight) (UK premiere)

Brahms Sonata in F minor op 5

Allegro maestoso-Andante-Scherzo:Allegro energico-Intermezzo:Andante-Finale :Allegro moderato ma rubato

A very interesting programme from this young Bulgarian pianist graduate of the Royal College of Music where he was in the class of Norma Fisher for six years.A programme that was so well thought out where one work grew out of another and created a fascinating sound picture which culminated in the youthful masterpiece of Brahms’ all too rarely heard third sonata op 5.

I have heard in the past such great pianists such as Annie Fischer,Kempff,Rubinstein,Arrau,Cherkassky,Curzon play this monumental five movement work.More recently I heard a magnificent performance in London and in Rome from Louis Lortie with not a little help, as he pointed out to his audience afterwards in the Wigmore Hall ,from the aristocratic rich sounds of a Bosendorfer piano.

The sonata of course needs a real musician to hold it together and find the orchestral colours with which it was obviously conceived.One could almost say that it is his fifth symphony such is the overall architectural conception of this monumental work.It was just such a performance we heard today from this young musician.Maybe lacking in the overall sweep and some of Brahms’s youthful romantic verve but there was a control of sound and colour and an overall architectural conception of the work that showed a quite remarkable musical maturity allied to an impressive technical prowess.All this he could do on a fine but limited Yamaha piano, so hats off indeed!

The concert had begun with a juxtaposition of three Debussy Preludes and two of Petar’s own works.All knotted together to create one whole sound picture that started with Debussy’s depiction of the west wind where immediately we were thrown into a world of swirling waves and violent contrasts.Some evocative sounds from deep within the piano took us by surprise as they led to bursts of violent storms with notes encompassing the entire keyboard played with astonishing technical mastery.This led to the simple beauty of the girl with the flaxen hair where the melodic line was not so much projected but seemed to emerge from the underlying harmonies as if we were eavesdropping on some distant beauty.Petar’s own Passacaglia followed with barely whispered sounds leading to a peal of bells with full orchestral sounds that were allowed to resonate as Debussy’s sunken cathedral began to emerge from the depths.Again the melodic line was never forced but seemed to be sustained by the underlying harmonies.The majestic nobility of the risen cathedral was quite overwhelming with its reverberant sounds created by a masterly use of the pedals as was the descent into the depths with a barely audible left hand on which floated the memory of the apparition that had appeared so magically before us.

A remarkable technical control allied to an extraodinary sense of immagination.Last but not least in this opening group was Petar’s own Aura or Daylight with the sun now glistening on the waves of a perpetum mobile that concluded so well this atmospheric prelude to the great F minor Sonata.

The grandiose opening to the Sonata broke the spell that he had created and brought us into the more sedate but passionate world of Brahms.A great sense of control and contrasts where one could almost envisage the whole orchestra.The solo horns alternating with the full sumptuous string section.This work in lesser hands can often seem fragmented and it takes a real musician to be able to see the whole line from the first to the last note without getting distracted by Brahms’s seemless melodic lines.The Andante was played with a sense of foreward movement where deeply felt sounds emerged with touching insight. The ‘Ben cantando’ section was even more mellifluous contrasting with the opening melodic line that had been deliberately subdued and the poco piu lento section was very beautiful indeed .One of the most touching moments though came in the Andante molto coda, where the gradual reawakening leads to a passionate outburst that dies away to a whisper as Debussy’s cathedral had done only moments before.The Scherzo was thrown off with great verve and a slight wrong turning was a small price to pay for a performance of such technical assurance.

An intermezzo of haunting beauty and desolate nobility was the prelude to the Finale where Brahms’s rather fragmented comments were held together with the same expertise of a conductor directing an orchestra.The sumptuous central choral melody was beautifully controlled and the piu mosso coda was thrown off with great ease but not without being aware of the melodic line hidden in it’s midst.It led to the final passionate outbursts of full orchestral sounds with which the work triumphantly ends.

Petar Dimov was born in 1994 in Plovdiv (Bulgaria). He studied there with Svetlana Koseva until his graduation with distinction in 2014. He then studied at the Royal College of Music, graduating with distinction in 2018. He is now a postgraduate student at the RCM, studying with Norma Fisher and Vanessa Latarche, supported by the Henry Wood Accommodation Trust and the St. Marylebone Foundation. He has won numerous prizes at music competitions in recent years. In 2011 he was awarded 2nd prize at the International Competition for Young Pianists in Craiova (Romania), and in 2012 he received two 1st prizes at the International Piano Competition ‘Schumann-Brahms’ in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and at the International Competition for Young Musicians ‘Ohrid Pearls’ in Ohrid (Macedonia). In 2013,he won first prize at the ‘Scriabin’ International Piano Competition in Paris (France). In 2020 he won third prize and a performance of Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 2, op. 83 with the Worthing Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2013 his accomplishments as a pianist, chamber musician and accompanist were acknowledged with two prizes – from the Union of the Bulgarian Composers and the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture. He has performed Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto with the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra. He has performed across multiple venues in England between 2014 and 2020, including Steinway hall, St. James’ Piccadilly, Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, Austrian Cultural Forum, Waltham Abbey, Pallant House Gallery and St. Mary Abbots amongst others. In addition, he has given solo recitals in Athens, Crete, Edirne, Istanbul, Volos, Sofia and his native Plovdiv. As a composer, Dimov has worked with Nikolay Stoykov, and has written a number of works for various instruments and ensembles including Nocturne, Passacaglia, Alpha and Omega Sonata No. 1) and Butterfly dream for solo piano, Forwards for violin and piano duo, 19 Devouring time ) for unaccompanied choir, Aphelion for string quartet, Laniakea for orchestra, Circle of Light for soprano and piano, amongst others. His piano works are often performed by RCM pianists.

Exploring Liszt with Leslie Howard

Sunday 25 October 4.00 pm

Streamed LIVE concert in an empty church

Leslie Howard – Lecture – recital

‘Exploring Liszt at the piano’

Programme to include Grosses Konzertsolo S176

The oracle speaks indeed.Leslie Howard gave a sometimes amusing and moving talk , full of information,wisdom and insights into the extraordinary world of Franz Liszt.

It is some years that the Liszt Society chaired by Leslie Howard have held their annual Liszt Day and Competition at St Mary’s and it was only logical that Leslie Howard should be the first for their new series of lecture recitals by renowned musicians.

Lecture sounds so pompous and academic but here was a man who was praised to the skies, 50 years ago, by Guido Agosti (a pupil of Busoni who was a pupil of Liszt) in the summer school of the Chigiana in Siena.Always with a twinkle in his eye as he share the facts from his profound study of the world of Liszt with a humour and simpatia that belies the information that he is sharing with us.

A fascinating afternoon, visible always on the St Mary’s web site, full of insights that are too numerous to ‘Liszt’ here.

Some extraordinary performances such as the late nocturne En reve , that was a favourite with my old teacher Gordon Green.Interesting the original idea for La Ricordanza one of the most mellifluous of his later Transcendental Studies.

The tour de force of the afternoon was an extraordinary performance of the Grosses Konzertsolo that was the forerunner of the B minor Sonata.

To celebrate his seventieth birthday, Leslie Howard prepared some of the works which have proved most in demand by his many followers throughout the years: a programme of Liszt’s operatically inspired piano music that he is playing in many countries.  2018 will also see the release of one further CD of hitherto unrecorded pieces by Liszt, finally bringing the total to 100, and so extending the already unequalled accomplishment of the largest solo artist recording project in the history of classical music.  (The new disc can be safely slotted into the famous complete Liszt boxed set which has been available from Hyperion Records since 2011.)  This critically acclaimed project merited Leslie Howard’s entry in the Guinness Book of World Records, six Grands Prix du Disque, the Medal of St. Stephen, the Pro Cultura Hungarica award and a mounted bronze cast of Liszt’s hand presented by the Hungarian President. 

Leslie Howard has balanced his prodigious recording career with an international concert itinerary which has seen him performing regularly throughout the world for more than half a century, always with a repertoire that seeks to extend the audience’s experience and to challenge accepted hierarchies of received wisdom.  He has appeared regularly with the world’s finest orchestras, and has also pursued a distinguished career as a chamber musician, partnering many of the greatest solo musicians and ensembles of our time. In addition to his solo Liszt recordings, Leslie Howard’s CD discography contains many other important world première recordings, including the four piano sonatas of Rubinstein, the three piano sonatas of Tchaikovsky and a disc of Scandinavian piano sonatas. All his early solo and duo recordings (with David Stanhope) of the music of Grainger have been reissued in a 5-CD set by Eloquence. There are also the Piano Quartets of Rubinstein – world première recordings for Hyperion, 25 Etudes in Black and White – his own compositions recorded for ArtCorp, and a disc pairing the two Rakhmaninov piano sonatas for Melba Recordings.  Melba has also released two CDs with Mattia Ometto joining Howard in the complete music of Reynaldo Hahn for two pianos and piano duet.  A work in progress, Brilliant Classics are issuing three sets each of 3 CDs of Liszt’s complete music for two pianos, again with Mattia Ometto – the first box contains all 12 of Liszt’s own two-piano versions of his symphonic poems.  

In his capacity as a renowned scholar working from primary sources, Professor Howard has produced 13 volumes of Liszt Society Publications for The Hardie Press, including the complete chamber music, 30 volumes of the Music Section of the Liszt Society Journal, and 4 volumes of the new Urtext Liszt scores for Edition Peters (with a much-praised version of the Liszt Sonata).  His other editorial work includes a new reconstruction and orchestration of Paganini’s fifth violin concerto for the collected Paganini Edition in Italy, the full score of Bellini’s ‘Adelson e Salvini’, and the now-standard two-piano score of Rakhmaninov’s 4th Concerto for Boosey & Hawkes. 

Giovanni Bertolazzi a star shining brightly at the President’s Palace ,Rome

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)
Sonata per pianoforte n. 21 in do maggiore op.53
“Waldstein” (1804)
– Allegro con brio
– Introduzione. Adagio molto (fa maggiore)
– Rondò. Allegretto moderato

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809 – 1847)
Variations sérieuses in re minore op.54 (1841)
– Tema: Andante sostenuto
– Un poco più animato
– Più animato
– Scherzo in forma di canone
– Variation en écho
– Con fuoco
– Allegro vivace
– Moderato
– Cantabile
– Tempo del tema
– Sempre assai leggero
– Adagio in re maggiore
– Poco a poco più agitato
– Allegro vivace
– Presto

Fryderyk Chopin (1810 – 1849)
Scherzo n. 4 in mi maggiore op.54 (1842)

Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886)
Rapsodia ungherese n. 12 per pianoforte S 244 (1847)

Giovanni Bertolazzi , pianoforte

Veneto, nato nel 1998, Giovanni Bertolazzi si è imposto in numerosi premi internazionali e si è segnalato alla critica specializzata nel 2019, dopo un exploit al Concorso Busoni e il secondo posto conseguito al Premio Venezia. Esordisce ai Concerti di Radio3 al Quirinale con un programma che parte da Beethoven (Sonata per pianoforte n. 21 op. 53) e attraversa alcuni capisaldi del suo repertorio: Mendelssohn, Chopin e Liszt.

A star was shining brightly at the President’s Palace in Rome today and Giovanni Bertolazzi‘s magnificent recital might be the last for a long time as the Prime Minister Conte will probably announce tonight…………

A Waldstein Sonata of great rhythmic energy and astonishing contrasts.The wonderful deep notes of a superb Fazioli gave such poignancy to the introduction to the Rondo that was a true miracle of subtle colouring and virtuosity.Even Beethoven’s very precise pedal indications made such sense as did the glissandi that seemed to slip from this young musicians fingers with such ease and mastery.

Mendelssohn’s Variations Serieuses were played with such subtle colouring and an undercurrent of energy that was hypnotic.The sudden hushed fugato out of which was ,after a moving respite, a rebirth of almost mystical beauty.It led so naturally to the final pages of transcendental pyrotechnics thrown off with an ease and grace that was astonishing.

A great sense of characterisation in Chopin’s fourth Scherzo built to a monumental climax before melting away to a heartrendingly haunting melodic line that was masterly.The almost timeless ornaments and whispered repeat were pure magic.But nothing could compare with the aristocratic control of an exultant ending of passionate excitement .

The Liszt 12th Rhapsody was full of subtle colouring alternating almost animal stimulation with moments of mouthwatering delicacy and charm.Whispered confessions of intimacy alternated with truly demonic technical wizardry-No wonder Liszt was chased like a pop star by all the usually well behaved artistocracy of his day.

I have heard all these pieces from Giovanni over the last year or so since hearing him at the Busoni Competition I was not expecting such maturity and total mastery as he revealed today.

The last time I heard him was in Padua in the Sala dei Giganti, just before the lockdown last february

.It looks as though this too will be the last concert for a while.Another threatened lockdown seems inevitable as the Prime Minister of Italy will explain tonight on television.

The Trilogy of Francis Grier at St Mary’s Perivale

Ludwig van Beethoven

Sonata n.30 in E major op 109

Vivace ,ma non troppo – Prestissimo -Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo

Sonata n.31 in A flat major op 110

Moderato cantabile ,molto espressivo -Allegro molto-Adagio ma non troppo – Fuga

Sonata n.32 in C minor op 111

Maestoso-Allegro con brio ed appassionato-Arietta:Adagio molto semplice e cantabile

“He is a genius, and I don’t say that about many people. Absolutely amazing for a 65 year old with about 3 other major careers !” So wrote Hugh Mather who being a pianist,organist,retired physician and concert promoter should know.

I was very intrigued to be able to hear Dr Grier ,who I had heard in Trio with his daughters but never in a solo recital!The three last Sonatas by Beethoven.What greater test could there be of intelligence,pianistic skill and that elusive quality that some may describe as soul?

I remember a renowned critic who was only able to listen to the last three sonatas in a concert at the Wigmore Hall for the second performance. Such was the demand for an earlier performance, that was also relayed live on the radio,that a repeat performance had been arranged an hour later.It was the end of a long much praised journey of all the 32 Sonatas .I listened at home on the radio with the Urtext at hand and a glass of wine in the other ready to switch off if need be.

It was one of the most remarkable performances that I have heard where every note was mirrored in the score with such intelligence and temperament.I asked my colleague what he thought of the repeat performance a few hours later.”Well” he replied”When I heard Arrau or Serkin play the same trilogy at the Festival Hall not only were they visibly elated and exhausted but the audience were too””It would have been impossible to contemplate a repeat performance after a cup of tea!”Make of that what you will!

Elusive indeed .Beethoven demanded a lot from himself with a kaleidoscope of feelings from the sublime to the ridiculous in a framework that evolved over a lifetime from the early Sonatas op 2 through op 31 and 57 to the monumental Hammerklavier op 106.They opened a new way – the gate to heaven maybe- to the last three sonatas. Beethoven had come to terms with life as a cloud seemed to lift and indications appear such as Adagio espressivo,Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo,Leggiermente,cantabile,Arioso dolente,Arietta:Adagio molto semplice e cantabile.

Even the very last Sonata finishes pianissimo in the major key.There are of course flashes of the irascibile temperament of his youth but they soon give way to a serenity and calm often with the magic sound of trills accompanying thematic material.

Today listening to this 65 year old polyhedric gentleman as he played these three monumental works,I was struck by the extreme simplicity and directness with which he comunicated Beethoven’s last thoughts on the Sonata.

The 32 Sonatas that St Mary’s had offered only a few weeks ago with 32 pianists over two days as their contribution for the 250th anniversary celebrations.I might also talk of their generosity and humanity in offering a professional engagement to 32 pianists in this time of crisis for musicians in a world struck dumb by a totally unexpected pandemic.

It was obvious from the very first bars that here was a musician of intelligence who could transmit the very essence of the music through the composer’s very detailed indications in the score.Op 109 started as though a door had opened and we were eavesdropping on something that had already begun in the distance.Interrupted by cadenza type passages in Adagio espressivo episodes before disappearing into the distance from where if had begun.Rudely interrupted by the Prestissimo second movement which in Dr Griers hands was the same orchestra with never any addition of Tchaikovskian brass!There was great energy but with a sheen to the sound that gave a great sense of line to the trilogy from the opening of op 109 through the almost pastoral op 110 to the magically atmospheric end of op 111.The Andante molto espressivo and variations were played with a simplicity but also a weight that did not allow any sentimentality – there is no place for romantic rhetoric in Beethoven.The first variation that so often can sound like a slow waltz was here played with true aristocratic sentiment – molto espressivo as the composer beseaches us.The leggiermente of the second variation was alternated with it’s cantabile trills.Some very solid playing in the third contrasted so well with the fragmented fourth.Rock solid Allegro ma non troppo of the fifth heralding the return of the main theme (so similar to the 22nd variation of Bach’s Goldberg) and its eventual disintigration as it reaches for the stars and the sublime opening of op 110 that follows.There was a luminosity of sound and simplicity in this opening that we were to find again in the Arietta of op 111.

The Allegro molto of the second movement was again beautifully judged and never allowed any percussiveness as this great architectural arch was always foremost in Dr Grier’s interpretation .There was a memorable unfolding of the chords as the Adagio moved to piu adagio- even slower.The luminosity of the bebung (repeated notes that on the original instruments of the time could almost be made to vibrate)was ravishing and led to the heartrending simplicity of one of Beethoven’s most sublime creations.Beethoven’s frenzy at the end of the fugue was more restrained than Serkin and owed more to the complete command of Arrau.

The commanding Maestoso of op 111 was played with great authority and although the Allegro con brio ed appassionato that followed was not quite like ‘water boiling at 100°’ according to Perlemuter who had studied with Schnabel,it had a great sense of line and smoothed over the jagged corners that every so often slipped from Beethoven’s pen in his final thoughts.The Adagio was played in three and not nine as is so often the case. It gave a forward impulse to the Arietta and variations .Agosti often had to point this out to the pianists that flocked each summer to his studio in Siena: Adagio ………..molto semplice e cantabile. Dr Grier’s simplicity and sense of architectural shape was quite overwhelming as it moved inexorably and inevitably into a better world.

Dr Mather was so moved he almost found it impossible to talk about donations after such an emotionally moving experience.

Francis Grier was born 29 July 1955 in Kota Kinabalu,Malaysia and used to be organist of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, and gave the first ever Prom concert given over to a solo performer in 1985. He is now a psychoanalyst and composer. In 2006 his Passion , commissioned by the BBC and VocalEssence in Minneapolis was described by the Independent as “a work of vital attack, shivering beauty and compelling power…”, and by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as “a modern masterpiece.” He was awarded a British Composer Award for his Missa Brevis (2011) for St Paul’s Cathedral. As a chamber music pianist he has recorded with Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis, and has performed with Colin Carr, Louise Williams and Andrew Marriner – as well as with his daughters Savitri and Indira. In June 2018 the Choir of King’s College Cambridge digitally released Lit by Holy Fire ; in September a CD was released of his organ music performed by Tom Winpenny at St Albans Abbey. His new oratorio Before All Worlds will be performed by the BBC Singers in November 2020.


Tuesday 13 October 4.00 pm

Cristian Sandrin (piano)

Bach: Goldberg variations BWV 988

A very fine first outing for Cristian Sandrin’s Goldberg and what courage after months in lockdown to choose a new work from his repertoire : the Goldberg Variations, that without repeats lasts the 50 minutes of St Mary’s Live Stream Tuesday recitals.

Playing without the score it was a tour de force indeed.

Even Rosalyn Tureck who had played them all her life had aide memoire cards in the piano except on the occasion when she was about to cancel her concert in Florence.I told her it was a pity because the head of Deutsche Grammophon was coming especially! She was well into her 80’s but not only played them but played them completely without the score.Even she came momentarily adrift though in the treacherous 23rd variation as Cristian today had had one or two slight moments of doubt too.

Tureck was invited on that performance to make her very last recording of her long career.Cristian too today demonstrated his supreme musicianship and simple command of the keyboard allied like Tureck to a sense of structure and overall architectural shape.

After the 29th virtuoso variation one usually hears an almost triumphant Quodlibet (Busoni played it fortissimo with all the trumpets ringing) but in Cristian’s hands it was played in a very subdued way leading so naturally to the magical repeat of the Aria .But the Aria very gradually and in such good style grew in intensity dissolving to the final chord after a journey of a lifetime.

It was a wonderful musicianly idea and gave a totally satisfying shape to this monumental work.

From the very first note there was a crystalline clarity and a beauty of sound that was created by very little use of the sustaining pedal but rather use of a finger legato that gave great weight and substance to the sound even in the most touchingly profound 25th variation or the dark brooding of the 21st.There was also a great sense of energy from the very first variation and some transcendental piano playing in the 14th and 26th amongst many others.

The great french overture of the 16th that signals the end in sight was played with a nobility and sense of style that was remarkable.There was delicacy too from the outset in the 2nd variation with the gentle left hand continuo meandering along like water in a brook over which sang a simple duet between two voices.It led so rightly to the gentle lilt of the canon in unison of the 3rd variation .I am used to hearing the 4th variation slower as the first suggestion of the grandeur that is to come but Cristian played it with such commanding authority I was swept along on this continuous undercurrent that he created from the first to the last note of this monumental work.

The variations were written for the insomniac Count von Kesserling who had asked Bach to write some pieces of ‘smooth and lively character’ to relieve the tedium of his sleepless nights.Johann Goldberg ,a pupil of Bach and an artist of outstanding reputation was harsichordist to the Duke and it is his name that has become associated with the variations.

The ‘knotty twine’ of the fifth variation that Bach does not specify if for 1 or 2 manuals was played with a true jeux perlé of such delicacy that it belied the transcendental difficulty of playing this variation on the single keyboard.

Bach did know the piano in its early stage but it has evolved through several centuries,its style changing with each era.The justifiable performance of Bach on the piano is conditioned by the usage of pianistic devices such as these.

To quote Rosalyn Tureck :’One may choose the instrument but with music and instrument treated with respect and knowledgeable art,the integrity of the music should stand,retaining its clarity,its structure and its infinite significance to the human spirit’

There was a great contrast with the almost pastoral simplicity of the 7th variation the playful 8th and the deeply contemplative 9th.And as if to remind us that we are on a long journey it was back to business with the almost military style Fughetta of the 10th.

The ravishing beauty of the 13th variation was treated with such aristocratic care by Cristian that the contrast between the transcendental eruption of the 14th was even more astonishing.The gentle yearning of the 15th was played so eloquently and with such nostalgia dissolving at the end into thin air.

The French overture I have mentioned before and it signifies the half way mark of the variations.A subdued suggestion of what is to come in the 18th variation was very moving and was answered by the gentle lilt of the 19th.The excitement mounting with the transcendental difficulties of the 20th was followed by the dark brooding of the 21st.The 22nd reminds us of the long journey we are on before the treacherously difficult 23rd variation which even Tureck treated with caution.The sublime 25th with its yearning ornamentation ( Cristian had told me of Imogen Cooper’s hilarious way of describing this way of leaning expressively on the first note)Now the virtuosistic final variations( the 26th even playing 18/16 against 3/4 ) leading to what infact is the final variation the 29th (this variation was one of Tureck’s favourite encore pieces together with the Gigue from the first partita).

The 30th variation stands outside the formal plan between variations 1 and 29.

To quote Tureck again’The 30th or Quodlibet is a joke.A musical prank which the Bach family and their friends used to indulge in on social occasions.It consists of two folk songs:”I have not been with you for so long” and “Cabbages and turnips have driven me away”.The melodies of which are developed contrapuntally and follow the harmony of the aria,as do all the variations.The humorous and good-natured style of the last variation of this colossal work reminds one of the humour of the last fugue in B minor Book 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavier,finishing off, as it does,a great and varied collection of elaborately conceived works.’

The ending of the Goldberg Variations is given to the Aria with the return to the beginning completing the life cycle.It is one of the most sublime moments in music and Cristian captured it with such poignancy that I am sure the audience from wherever they were listening would have relished the moment of silence that this communion with one’s soul demands.

Born to a family of musicians from Bucharest, Romania, Cristian Sandrin made his solo debut at prestigious Romanian Atheneum Hall at the age of 13. After graduating the “Dinu Lipatti” Art College in Bucharest, Cristian moved to London where he studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Having graduated with First Class Honours in 2016, he is currently pursuing a postgraduate degree at the same institution. He is currently a receiver of the Piano Fellowship of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Martin Musical Scholarship Fund 2017/2018, benefiting also from a scholarship of the Imogen Cooper Music Trust.Cristian Sandrin won numerous prizes and awards at international and national competitions. A Second Prize Winner of the Windsor International Piano Competition (2018), Third Prize Winner of the Sheepdrove Intercollegiate Piano Competition (2018), Prize winner of the Yourii Boukoff International Competition in Sofia (2009), a runner up of the Automobile Club de France Piano Competition in Paris (2011) and a First Prize winner of the ProPiano Competition (2012), At the Royal Academy of Music he has been awarded the William Sterndale Bennett Prize for a recital of Romantic repertoire and in 2016 has been awarded the Harold Craxton Prize for chamber music.Cristian had his solo debut recital at the Wigmore Hall in London in September 2017. His passion for conducting led him to direct numerous piano concertos by Mozart from the keyboard. Other London highlights include solo and chamber performances at the St Martin-in-the-Fields, St James Piccadilly Church and the Freemason Hall. In Romania, Cristian Sandrin is a regular guest artist of the Filarmonica “Mihail Jora” Bacau, the Sibiu Sibiu Philharmonic, Ramnicu-Valcea National Philharmonic and Bucharest Symphony Orchestra. Other international engagements include performances at “La Fenice” Theatre in Venice, Theatre de la Montjoie, Salla Manuel de Falla in Madrid, Palazzo Ricci in Montepulciano, the Romanian Atheneum in Bucharest, and “Bulgaria Philharmonic Hall” in Sophia.

I had heard Rosalyn Tureck in London on the 29th September 1972 in the Royal Festival Hall when she played the variations first on the harpsichord and then after an hour interval on the piano.I could not understand why no one in Rome had heard of her.

Some years later having opened with my actress wife a theatre next to St Peter’s Square I had the opportunity to invite her and Tatyana Nikolaeva to play the Goldberg Variations.

Rosalyn had not played for almost twenty years as she had decided to concentrate on her study of Bach in Oxford where she was a fellow of St Hilda’s.She created the Oxford Bach Research Institute that she invited me to become a trustee of many years later.She was nominated by the eminent NY critic Harold Schonberg as the High Priestess of Bach and Rubinstein quipped the Tureck made Bach box office .

The comparison between her and Nikolaeva was quite extraordinary.Nikolaeva based her interpretation on the song and the dance element whereas Tureck put him on a pedestal the rock on which civilisation is born.

Faites vos jeux ……..but the jeux is always Bach’s!

This is the season at the Ghione Theatre in 1991/92

St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival

All 32 piano sonatas played by 32 pianists
to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 1770
Saturday and Sunday October 3rd and 4th 2020

This major festival will be streamed LIVE. Watch on the website .
We will pay all the pianists, and we hope you might donate via our website
SESSION 1SATURDAY AFTERNOONClick here for programme notes and pianist biographies
2.0 pmEdward LeungSonata in F minor Op 2 no 1
2.25 pmAndrew YiangouSonata in A major Op 2 no 2
2.55 pmFlorian MitreaSonata in C major Op 2 no 3
3.30 pmSimon WattertonSonata in E flat major Op 7
4.05 pmSimone TavoniSonata in C minor Op 10 no 1
4.30 pmColin StoneSonata in F major Op 10 no 2
4.50 pmMengyang PanSonata in D major Op 10 no 3
5.20 pmCallum McLachlanSonata in C minor Op 13 ‘Pathetique’
5.45 pmPetr LimonovSonata in E major Op 14 no 1
SESSION 2SATURDAY EVENINGClick here for programme notes and pianist biographies
7.00 pmAshley FrippSonata in G major Op 14 no 2
7.25 pmLeslie HowardSonata in B flat major Op 22
7.55 pmMishka Rushdie MomenSonata in A flat major Op 26 ‘Funeral March’
8.20 pmEvelyne BerezovskySonata in E flat Op 27 no 1
8.40 pmAlexander UllmanSonata in C sharp minor Op 27 no 2 ‘Moonlight’
9.05 pmJulian JacobsonSonata in D major Op 28 ‘Pastoral’
9.35 pmOlga PaliySonata in G major Op 31 no 1
SESSION 3SUNDAY AFTERNOONClick here for programme notes and pianist biographies
2.00 pmIyad SughayerSonata in D minor Op 31 no 2 ‘Tempest’
2.30 pmSasha GrynyukSonata in E flat major Op 31 no 3
3.00 pmAndrew BottrillSonata in G minor Op 49 no 1
3.15 pmVeronika ShootSonata in G major Op 49 no 2
3.30 pmLuke JonesSonata in C major Op 53 ‘Waldstein’
4.05 pmBen SchoemanSonata in F major Op 54
4.25 pmMartin CousinSonata in F minor Op 57 ‘Appassionata’
5.00 pmDinara KlintonSonata in F sharp major Op 78
5.20 pmDaniel LebhardtSonata in G major Op 79
5.35 pmIlya KondratievSonata in E flat major Op 81a ‘Les Adieux’
SESSION 4SUNDAY EVENINGClick here for programme notes and pianist biographies
7.00 pmMark VinerSonata in E minor Op 90
7.20 pmYehuda InbarSonata in A major Op 101
7.50 pmJulian TrevelyanSonata in B flat major Op 106 ‘Hammerklavier’
8.40 pmAmit YahavSonata in E major Op 109
9.05 pmKonstantin LapshinSonata in A flat major Op 110
9.30 pmAlim BeisembayevSonata in C minor Op 111

‘Thanks so much Hugh……I will try to write about the magnificent Beethoven event but am wary at leaving anyone out .Public recognition surely must be due …..I keep saying it but fear these things depend on who you know and the Johnsons  or Trumps are not people I would ever frequent.
Many thanks again Hugh …lovely to see your little show with Felicity ….what wonders you are.’

‘Yes I agree with pretty well all of that.   Don’t feel obliged to write about 32 performances in detail – you will go crazy !    We can talk next time we meet.   Absolutely fascinating.’  

I could write a book about Trevelyn’s Hammerklavier that took me by the scruff of the neck and made me miss Schiff on the other chanel!I loved the style of Alex’s Moonlight and our wonderful Evie was in a class of her own,of course .The great professional Alim closing in masterly fashion with op 111 – a very fine musician.I loved Amit’s jewel like precision in op 109 .Iyads op 31 n.2 was superbly professional but this time just lacking that ultimate spark.Dinara was exquisite,a great pianist that the world has yet to discover- it will !Daniel Lebhaft played after Dinara and I can now see why YCAT took him on.Sasha Grynuk always plays well and should be playing at least as much as his brother.Ilya’s Les Adieux I know and it has now matured as has he.Slight lack of concentration towards the end but of no overall importance- it was his birthday after all.Edward Leung was a magnificent start followed by  Andrew very good but last movement trying to be Schubertian and the rhythmic impetus was slightly lost.Florian op 2 n.3 the bits I heard sounded very good indeed.

Leslie Howard,standing in at four days notice for a quarantining Thomas Kelly showed us just why he is a leggendary figure.Ben Shoeman gave an impeccable performance of the notoriously difficult ‘little’ op 54 .It was difficult to follow Luke Jones’ superb Waldstein.Callum McLachlan lived up to his his family’s name with a very fine Pathetique .I only caught the end of Menyang’s op 10.n.3 but it showed all the precision and delicacy that one associates coming like Alim and Mark from the class of Tessa Nicholson .Mark showed us that apart from astonishing the world with his five star Alkan and Thalberg what an intelligent musician he is with a refreshing(Aimard springs to mind) simplicity op 90. Must listen to some more and apologies to too many that I have not mentioned here but it is a marathon task and I am no Hugh Mather!

And a message from Hugh Mather:

The St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Festival went very well indeed. All 32 pianists turned up on time, and played wonderfully well. The livestream recordings are all available on We had some minor internet problems on Session 3 – yesterday afternoon – Op 31 no 2 to Op 81a – but we are uploading a high-definition version which will be available later. We had many wonderful performances – have a look ! I would like to thank all our pianists for taking part in the festival. Our camera operators were Roger Nellist, Rob Jenkins and Andrew Whadcoat, and our technical team comprised Simon Shute, George Auckland, Patrick Magill and Andrew Whadcoat. Thanks also to Felicity Mather and Gill Rowley for sanitizing piano keys etc. Thanks also to Rebecca Breen, James Ross, Jessica Duchen and Frances Wilson for help with publicity. The full programme is still here and you can use it to find a particular performance on our Youtube channel.…

Tyler Hay at St Mary’s

Tuesday 6 October 4.00 pm

Streamed LIVE concert in an empty church

Tyler Hay (piano)

Czerny: Piano Sonata no 7 in E minor Op 143

  1. Allegro spiritoso (E minor)
  2. Andante (E major)
  3. Scherzo. Allegro vivo (E major)
  4. Allegretto (G major)
  5. Finale. Allegro molto (E minor)

Chopin: Waltz in A flat Major Op 34 no 1
Chopin: Waltz in D flat Major Op 64 no 1
Chopin: Waltz in C sharp minor Op 64 no 2
Chopin: Waltz in E minor Op posth

Beethoven: Piano Sonata no 23 in F minor Op 57 ‘Appassionata’

  1. Allegro assai
  2. Andante con moto (in re bemolle maggiore) – attacca:
  3. Allegro, ma non troppo – Presto

The programmes of Tyler Hay are like his colleague Mark Viner’s full of unusual works by composers we have read about but rarely ever been able to hear in the concert hall.Both from the school of Tessa Nicholson at the Purcell School where they have received a technical and musical training second to none.Mark Viner’s landmark recordings of Alkan,Thalberg and Chaminade are being received with five star reviews.Tyler Hay’s recordings of works by Liszt,Ogdon and Kalkbrenner are being equally enthusiastically greeted by the critics.To quote Bryce Morrison in IPQ ‘an awe-inspiring tribute to what is clearly a special love’ or Guy Richards in Musical Opinion:’a beguiling delicacy of touch when required and awesome technique when necessary.Hay plays it superbly’

And so today a programme that opens with the 7th of Czerny’s many Sonatas, that I have never heard on the concert platform before, combined with one of Beethoven’s most performed Sonatas – The Appassionata and in between four of the most well known Waltzes by Chopin

It is interesting to delve into the archive and remind ourselves who Czerny was and his influence on piano playing that reaches even into twenty first century.

Carl Czerny ( 21 February 1791 – 15 July 1857) was an Austrian composer, teacher, and pianist of Czech origin whose vast musical production amounted to over a thousand works. His books of studies for the piano are still widely used in piano teaching. He was one of Beethoven’s numerous pupils.At the age of fifteen, Czerny began a very successful teaching career. Basing his method on the teaching of Beethoven and Muzio Clementii, He taught up to twelve lessons a day in the homes of Viennese nobility and his ‘star’ pupils included  Stephen Heller , Sigismond Thalberg,Theodor Leschetizky,Theodor Kullak .In 1819, the father of Franz Liszt brought his son to Czerny, who recalled:’He was a pale, sickly-looking child, who, while playing, swayed about on the stool as if drunk…His playing was…irregular, untidy, confused, and…he threw his fingers quite arbitrarily all over the keyboard. But that notwithstanding, I was astonished at the talent Nature had bestowed upon him.’

Liszt became Czerny’s most famous pupil and the Liszt family lived in the same street in Vienna as Czerny, who was so impressed by the boy that he taught him free of charge. Liszt was later to repay this confidence by introducing the music of Czerny at many of his Paris recitals. Shortly before Liszt’s Vienna concert of 13 April 1823 (his final concert of that season), Czerny arranged, with some difficulty (as Beethoven increasingly disliked child prodigies) the introduction of Liszt to Beethoven. Beethoven was sufficiently impressed with the young Liszt to give him a kiss on the forehead. Liszt remained close to Czerny, and in 1852 his Transcendental Studies were published with a dedication to him.

After 1840, Czerny devoted himself exclusively to composition and wrote a large number of piano solo exercises for the development of the pianistic technique, designed to cover from the first lessons for children up to the needs of the most advanced virtuoso.Czerny’s many piano sonatas show themselves as an intermediate stage between the works of Beethoven and Liszt. They blend the traditional sonata form elements with baroque elements, such as the use of  fugato, and free forms of fantasy.

His influence as a teacher can best be appreciated by this list:Wanda Landowska: pupil of Moritz Moszkowski ← Theodor Kullak ← Czerny;Sergei Prokofiev: pupil of Anna Yesipova ← Theodor Leschetizky ← Czerny;Claudio Arrau: pupil of Martin Krause ← Liszt ← Czerny;Ernő Dohnányi: pupil of István Thomán ← Liszt ← Czerny;Georges Cziffra: pupil of István Thomán ← Liszt ← Czerny;Daniel Barenboim: pupil of Edwin Fischer ← Martin Krause ← Liszt ← Czerny;Van Cliburn: pupil of Rildia Bee Cliburn-(mother) ← Arthur Friedheim ← Liszt ← Czerny;Sergei Rachmaninoff: pupil of Alexander Siloti ← Liszt ← Czerny;Leon Fleisher: pupil of Artur Schnabel ← Theodor Leschetizky ← Czerny

The seventh Sonata op 143 opened with great drama and as one would expect arpeggios abound.There was also a great sense of fantasy and colour with some beautiful lyrical playing bathed in pedal that created a great contrast to the more rhythmically energetic episodes.The beautiful Andante was played with simplicity and great luminosity in the variation of the theme that follows.There was a great lightness almost Mendelssohnian in the Scherzo played with great charm and delicacy. The music box motion of the Intermezzo was almost Schubertian in its gentle continuous motion.The last movement was a tour de force of energy provided by the left hand repeated notes and great flourishes of notes brought this interesting but rather uninspired Sonata to its inevitable conclusion.

There was a world of difference between Czerny and Chopin as was immediately evident from the opening notes of the first of four waltzes that Tyler offered as a contrast to the two Sonatas on the programme by master and pupil.Chopin was full of refined lyricism and scintillating virtuosity where every note had a meaning. The subtle beauty and charm of the Waltz op 34 was quite ravishing in Tyler’s hands.Playing with a great sense of style and perfect balance Chopin’s magical web was spun with irresistible forward propulsion.The so called Minute waltz that followed was played slightly too fast to let the notes to breathe as naturally as he allowed the lyrical middle section to be shaped with a great sense of flexibility.The waltz in C sharp minor that followed had a beautiful natural delicacy and sense of rubato that contrasted with the simplicity of the middle section.The E minor Waltz op posth was played with great beauty of tone and sense of style even if some of the faster parts were thrown off a little too casually but the excitement generated in the coda brought this refreshing group of Chopin to a joyous conclusion.

The highlight of the recital was Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata.It was played with great architectural shape and sense of rhythmic drive.The lyrical passages were shaped most beautifully and contrasted so well with Beethoven’s bursts of startling virtuosity.Thrown off with remarkable precision and sense of drama even though he chose not to completely follow Beethoven’s very precise pedal effects.

The Andante con moto was played as a ‘Pilgrims March’ to use Agosti’s words and the variations that followed were played with great sensitivity and ravishing tone.Maybe more weight and less reliance on the sustaining pedal would have given even more depth to this remarkable movement.

The last movement was played with relentless rhythmic drive but always shaped so clearly with a great sense of line.The long quiet arched arpeggio could have been even clearer with less pedal as it led to the return of the main theme on its relentless journey and Tyler’s masterly control of the coda which brought this magnificent Sonata to an exciting conclusion.

Beethoven undoubtedly the master always.Q.E.D

Tyler Hay was born in 1994 in Kent and began learning the piano at the age of 6. He studied with the Head of Keyboard, Andrew Haigh at Kent Music Academy for 3 years before gaining a place to study at the Purcell School for Young Musicians in 2007 where he received a scholarship from the Government’s Music and Dance Scheme and studied the piano with Tessa Nicholson. He completed his studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in 2016 where he received the keyboard department’s ABRSM scholarship. He studied with the Head of Keyboard, Graham Scott and the British pianist, Professor Frank Wibaut. Before completing his 4th year in June 2016, Tyler won the esteemed Gold Medal competition at the Royal Northern and played in the prize winner’s concert at Wigmore Hall in the Spring of 2017. He has also received a scholarship covering all fees to study at the Royal College of Music in 2017, where he studied with South African pianist, Niel Immelman and now continues with renowned British pianist, Gordon Fergus-Thompson.

Tyler has become a virtuoso pianist who enjoys tackling some of the most demanding works in the repertoire. He has performed Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Sonata at Wigmore Hall and Cadogan Hall, Scriabin’s 5th Sonata at the Southbank’s Purcell Room and as a result of winning the Senior Concerto Competition at the Purcell School, he played Ravel’s Concerto for Left Hand Alone at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in Spring, 2013. Tyler is proud to have successfully organised a full evening recital at the Purcell School as a charity event, raising close to £2000 for the Watford Peace Hospice in Summer, 2012. He has also achieved a full performance of Chopin’s 24 Etudes in Blackburn, 2014. Most recently, Tyler won first prize in the keyboard section of the Royal Overseas League Competition in February 2016 and also went on to win first prize in the Liszt Society Competition in November, later that year. CDs of Liszt’s piano music and John Ogdon’s unpublished works were both released in the Spring of 2018 under the Piano Classics label and received superb critical acclaim. A new album consisting of Kalkbrenner’s Etudes op 143 is due to be released in the summer of 2019 and this will be the first commercial recording made on a modern pianoforte of these highly inventive and attractive works. In addition to playing concerts for the Park Lane Group, Tyler is proud to be a new member of Canan Maxton’s Talent Unlimited which is a charity aimed at propelling young musicians in the opening stages of their career.

In 2012, Tyler won the £5000 Fenton Award from the Purcell School as a scholarship for furthering his musical education and as well as having performed in South Africa, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Germany, Tyler continues to play solo recitals, chamber recitals and Concertos throughout the UK.

Bela Hartmann at St James’s

Some remarkable playing from this disciple of Elisso Virdsaladze.

Of Czech-German origin although now based in the UK his recital for Opus Musica series directed by Alberto Portugheis was a revelation of authority,intelligence and supreme sensitivity.

The small socially distanced audience were mesmerised by magisterial performances of Bach and Beethoven.

Never have I heard this Fazioli piano,that had been chosen some years ago by Alberto Portugheis, sound so sumptuous in the bass yet so luminous in the treble with a middle register that could only be compared to the finest of Bechstein pianos.

Throwing down the gauntlet from the very first work on the programme: The Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue by Bach.It was immediately played with assertive authority almost too aggressive until a miracle occurred with the beautiful modulation dissolving into the most subtly coloured arpeggios with very deep added bass notes that just seemed to open up endless possibilities of sound.

They were not ‘alla Busoni’ but so subtle one was hardly aware of this magician’s trick of finding the key that could make the whole piano glow with astonishing radiance.

The recitativos were so expressive and were answered by chords that were listening and entering into this musical conversation too.A feeling of great nostalgia in the coda coming to rest for a moment’s peace on a major chord full of hope.

It was out of this chord that the fugue subject emerged and was played with a delicacy and clarity that was quite formidable in its audacity and complete technical command.There was a jewel like perfection to the fugue as he brought this opening work to an eventual tumultuous end.

Beethoven’s song-cycle’ An die ferne Geliebte’ (‘To the Distant Beloved’) was completed in 1816 and dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz. The words of the six songs that form the work were by a young medical student, Alois Jeitteles, and were perhaps commissioned by the composer.

They express a mood of longing and resignation as reflected in Liszt’s feelings as he made the transcription in 1849. Bela pointed out before playing the the four he had chosen( from the cycle of six) of Liszt’s admiration for Beethoven and where his piano version tries only to make still clearer the essential unity of the cycle.Some have criticised Liszt but as Bela pointed out it is an effective guide and model for later composers and no greater compliment could Liszt have offered to the man he had built a monument to!

The beautiful cantabile was deeply moving as the radiant colours that Bela drew from the piano became ever more full of fervour.There was a luminosity of sound of such subtle magic and Beethoven’s eventual meanderings were played with an irresistible nonchalance.The melodic line appearing in the tenor register and taken over with glowing sounds by the treble.The final poetic declamations were played with a charm and rhythmic sense of forward movement.

It opened the door for the outpouring of song with which Beethoven’s Sonata op 101 opens.One voice answered another in a subdued conversation of magical sounds that led to almost unbearably serious chords that at once dissolved into jewels of mellifluous beauty.

The second movement was played with great rhythmic fervour but even here there were the magic pedal points of Beethoven with his sudden outbursts of dramatic contrasts brought to the fore.

The clarity and beauty of the parts in the middle section was a wonder of technical control-indeed that of a true poet- and the gradual build up to the repeat of the first section was indeed masterly.

Removing his spectacles for the poignant’ Adagio ,ma non troppo,con affetto’,it was evident of his devotion to this most sublime but all too short introduction to the final Presto/Allegro.

An astonishing sense of legato almost eliminated bar lines as the piano was allowed to sing in such a lovingly natural way.Beethoven’s dissonances were allowed to speak for themselves without any exaggerations as the magic of the opening Allegretto was recreated for a moment as in a dream before the final relentless forward motion of the last movement.

It was played with real Beethovenian fervour .The almost pastoral aspirations were allowed to bounce along like a breath of fresh air and the slight hesitations in the fugato were very telling indeed.Leading after some perfect meanderings to the glorious triumphant ending.

A small but very enthusiastic audience was rewarded with a Viennese waltz almost Schubertian with a touch of help from Godowsky.On further investigation it turned out to be Bela’s own transcription of a waltz by Brahms.

Barely an hour of live music but as Shakespeare said ‘If music be the food of love,play on’

Béla Hartmann studied with Elisso Virdsaladze and Vadim Suchanov in Munich, as well as the celebrated Cyprot pianist Nicolas Economou. He continued his studies with John Bingham at Trinty College of Musc , London, where he was the recipient of several college prizes, as well as winning an award from the Tillett Trust in 1996. Whilst at Trinity, he was selected to represent the college at the launch of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe. He has given recitals at prestigious venues in several European cities, as well as the USA, where he appeared at the Carnegie Recital Hall, New York. In London he has played in venues such as thePurcell Room Wigmore Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St James’ Piccadilly andSt John’s Smith Square. Béla Hartmann has performed widely for music societies in Wales, Scotland and England, and Germany (Gasteig, Munich), theCzech Republc (Estate Theatre, Prague) and Switzerland, and has given highly acclaimed concerto performances around the UK of concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, Brahms and ProKofIev. His playing has been broadcast onBBC Radio 3 as well as on German and Luxemburg radio. Béla Hartmann has given several masterclasses and teaches regularly at bothTrinty College of Music and the Royal College of Music Junior departments.