Amici della Musica di Palermo in memory of Barone Francesco Agnello on the 10th anniversary of his death.A Beethoven recital by the young veronese pianist Giovanni Bertolazzi
I remember Barone Agnello from when he came to my theatre on the 9th October 1989 to hear an eighteen year old violinist from Siberia: Vadim Repin.Already winner of the Queen Elisabeth and Wieniawski Competitions this was his debut in Italy.Opening a season of Russian musicians for Italconcert in Genoa that could not get a foot in Rome to show off their collection of amazing Russian musicians.The Ghione theatre was glad to offer them the space that they had been denied as it was to many many musicians before the opening of the Parco della Musica concert halls. The Baron went back stage in the interval and offered this young boy a concert tour of Sicily who was infact only interested in driving his agents fast sports car!That was my first of many meetings with this Noble Sicilian who was an important figure in the musical life of Italy. Dedicating his life to music,helping many artists via his Amici della Musica and CIDIM that he had created with Gisella Belgeri for the divulgation of Italian Music.So it was only fitting that one of the finest young Italian pianists should be chosen to pay homage to him on the stage of his Amici della Musica in Palermo.
I have heard Giovanni many times since that first time in Bolzano two summers ago.Just a few weeks ago he gave a superb recital in the President’s Palace in Rome that was televised live.It was his Beethoven Waldstein on that occasion that was so impressive for it’s authority and rhythmic drive as it was today in two sonatas op 10 n.2 and op 22.
Two early sonatas.Op 10 n.2 was a favourite of Glenn Gould and the Sonata op 22 I remember Richter playing at the Festival Hall in London.They are infact two remarkable sonatas that are often overlooked even today.
The beautiful pastoral opening of the Sonata op 10 was played with a real sense of Beethoven drive even in this most lyrical of passages.Played with a great sense of character with one phrase answering another with subtle inflections but always of masculine sentiment.The bass trills never allowed to disturb the driving flow as the sudden quiet opening of the development took him and us by surprise.Infact in Giovanni’s playing there is always an element of freshness and new discovery that is invigorating and very much of the Serkin school of Beethoven playing.The rhythmic buoyancy of the development was captivating, dying away as it does with Beethoven seeking a way back to the relative calm of the opening phrase.The Allegretto was played with a clarity that contrasted so well with the almost Schubertian middle section.The Finale Presto was thrown off with great drive and precision.His sparing use of the sustaining pedal was indeed refreshing and allowed for a sparkling clarity as we were swept along on the momentum of a great wave of rhythmic emergy.
The Sonata op 22 I remember well from one of Richter’s first appearances in London.We were astonished not only by his complete identification with the works he was playing but above all how quietly and slowly he could play always with perfect control and projection.It was though on this occasion that one ‘learned’ critic exclaimed in print that the Adagio had been inexistant!We were not used in the west to the amazing sound world of the Russian school from mezzo forte to pianissimo.As Richter would say we were used to the good old concert cantabile that Rubinstein would seduce us with on his much awaited annual visits.Rubinstein and Richter were good friends and great admirers of each others art .Two different schools but two of the greatest of artists.There is the story of the historic meeting that Sol Hurok had arranged between these two great artists.They had a long and stimulating evening where much champagne was drunk.The next day the hotel doctor was needed to visit Rubinstein.Oh what a coincidence,he exclaimed I have just come from maestro Richters room!
A four movement Sonata with a profound ‘Adagio con molta espressione’ that Giovanni played with a simplicity and sense of line that gave it great weight and meaning.The embellishments were played with a great sense of melodic line and the subtle changes of harmony took us by surprise as did the heartfelt intensity of the middle section.The Menuetto was played with a refreshing simplicity and led to the mellifluous outpouring of the Rondo.Even here the driving rhythmic energy was mesmerising and contrasted so well with the recurring innocence of the Rondo theme.The opening movement was played with a great sense of architectural line.The jewel like precision of the passage work contrasted so well with the insistent majestic outbursts.The long development was played as if on a long cloud of sound out of which emerges the left hand melodic line.
Some remarkable performances from a true Beethoven player and a fitting tribute to Barone Agnello