Simone Tavoni at St Mary’s

Streamed LIVE concert in an empty church

Tuesday 1 December 4.00 pm

Simone Tavoni (piano)

Sibelius arr. Tavoni : Sonata

Chopin: 4 Mazurkas Op 41

Chopin: Ballade no 3 in A flat Op 47

Martucci: Three pieces
(Pensiero Musicale Op 10, Melodia no 2 Op 21, Barcarola Op 20 no 1)

Tavoni: Fiasco

Liszt:  Grande fantaisie sur des motifs de Soirées musicales S422ii

A stimulating and scintillating programme from the young Italian pianist Simone Tavoni.A beautiful sense of colour but above all allied to a musicianship that never failed to show us so clearly the way in a programme that was made up of works rarely if ever heard in the concert hall.

The first movement was very lyrical but full of technical hurdles beautifully played with a driving rhythmic impetus and clear sense of architectural line.The second movement with its nostalgic melodic line accompanied by a staccato bass showed off Simone’s refined finger legato with a melodic line shaped so poignantly over the gentle staccato accompaniment.Interrupted by a Nordic dance of impish good humour leading to a sumptuous rhapsodic melodic outpouring accompanied by swirling arabesques building to a passionate climax before the return to the impish dance and to the final almost hymn like return of the main theme and an exquisitely delicate ending.The last movement was played with great urgency with arpeggios over the entire keyboard in a scintillating display of driving energy.

Opening with the Sonata op 12 by Sibelius.A work that Simone admired for the ideas and musical invention of Sibelius but felt the work was not very pianistic and sounded ‘ more like a transcription from orchestra than a piece for piano.’So during this lockdown period Simone has rearranged the material in a more pianistic way.Trying to imitate the style of the period and possible development of the original ideas it made for a very stimulating opening to his recital.

Followed by Four Chopin Mazukas op 41 played with a very delicate and flexible melodic line of great beauty.The stamping feet of the second mazurka almost took Simone by surprise as his temperament just added to the excitement.A beautiful sense of colouring and a real feeling for the nostalgic yearning in these gems that Chopin penned far from his homeland.

The third Ballade from the very first notes it was evident we were in the hands of a true poet.Extreme delicacy alternating with passionate outbursts but always with a clear sense of line and direction.The gradual exciting build up to the final melodic climax almost took Simone by surprise as his great temperament could have been slightly more controlled.But as Barbirolli famously said to Jaqueline Du Pré if you don’t play with passion in your youth what do you pare off in maturity!

Three short pieces by Martucci a composer that is the diet of most piano students in Italy but almost unknown elsewhere.I remember being very impressed by a student in Martina Franca when he played the Fantasia op 51.A virtuoso work in the style of Liszt,Thalberg or Mendelssohn springs to mind but without the same weight or inspiration but nevertheless of great effect.Giuseppe Martucci 1856 –1909) was influential in reviving Italian interest in non-operatic music. As a conductor he helped to introduce Wagner’s operas to Italy and also gave important early concerts of English music there.Martucci’s career as an international pianist began with a tour through Germany, France and England in 1875, at the age of 19.He was appointed piano professor at the Naples Conservatory in 1880,and moved to Bologna in 1886 and in 1902 he returned for the last time to Naples, as director of the Royal Conservatory of Music.He began composing at the age of 16, with short piano works.He wrote no operas  which was unusual for an Italian composer of his generation, but instead concentrated on instrumental music and songs, but did write an oratorio.Being an important part of the great Neapolitan school of piano playing from Thalberg to Longo,Vitale,Scaramuzza and Fiorentino.

In fact the three early pieces chosen by Simone were charming salon pieces that the seventeen year old Martucci would have played in his own recitals much as Chaminade would have similarly done.Simone played them with ravishing tone and charm.Almost mazurka like Pensiero Musicale op 10 played with a yearning delicate rubato of great nostalgia and a final sad farewell.There followed the flowing arabesques of Melodia n.2 op 21 very much in the style of Thalberg with a melody embellished with magic sounds spread over the entire keyboard.Played with a haunting charm disappearing into the heights flying away on wings of song.The Barcarola op 20.n1 was played with an infectious lilt with the typical beguiling Neapolitan aria captivating all hearts with the true charm of a Latin lover.In the hands of this young Italian pianist we were indeed charmed and seduced by some playing of simplicity and ravishing beauty.

It was the perfect interlude before Simone’s own work ‘Fiasco‘ inspired by the second book of the Hungarian Nobel prize winner Imre Kertés.The philosophical meaning of unsuccessful which was written after the cool reception of his first book ‘Fateless.’Imre Kertész was born in Budapest in 1929 of Jewish descent and in 1944 he was deported to Auschwitz and from there to Buchenwald .Kertész’s first novel,  Sorstalanság ( Fateless,), is a work based on his experiences in Auschwitz and Buchenwald and was published in 1975. “When I am thinking about a new novel, I always think of Auschwitz,” he has said. A short but intense work full of stillness contemplation and mystery.Clouds of sound,the reverberations of a sudden struck note out of which a melody appears maybe a Jewish folk song so clear but so unsure of its way before ending with a question mark.Rubinstein used to include four mazurkas by his friend Szymanowski in the middle of a Chopin recital that like a sorbet could be so refreshing and cleansing as it strangely was today.

And so it was to the grande finale with Liszt’s ‘Grande Fantasie sur des motifs de La Serenade e L’orgia des Soirées musicales’by Rossini.A work like the ones that Liszt or Thalberg would astonish the aristocratic public of the salons with.A pot-pourri of fantastic embellishments of the popular melodies of the day.Based on the 4th and 11th of the popular Rossini song cycle it has been strangely neglected in the concert programmes of today.It is a fascinating work with the cheeky Rossini melody in the bass before the typical ravishing Bellinian cantabile in all it glory.A musical duet between bass and soprano and a rumbling bass straight out of his second ballade.Making way for the typical coquettish Rossinian melody embellished and varied in ways that only Liszt could envisage with his ten diabolical fingers devouring the keys.A triumphant return of the first theme over a stampede of octaves almost combining the two melodies in one as he has in the much better known Norma Fantasy.

Giving Rossini the typical last laugh with a seemingly false finale that leads to an ending of astonishing virtuosity.It was played by Simone with an ease and sumptuous sense of colour that was quite ravishing and was indeed astonishing.A fitting ending with all the fun of the circus for a quite stimulating and refreshing afternoon of rarely heard music .

Simone Alessandro Tavoni has given recitals internationally across Europe and U.S in venue such the Southbank Centre, Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, St Martin in the Fields, Steinway Hall in London, Liszt Museum in Budapest, Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona, the Aarhus concert hall and the Florence Conservatory hall. In 2019, Simone has been selected as a Parklane Group Artist, as Keyboard Charitable Trust Artist and received the Luciano and Giancarla Berti full-ride scholarship to attend the Aspen Music Festival and School studying with renowned professor Fabio Bidini.  Graduated at Royal College of Music with professor Andrew Ball, and Simone has recently attained an Artist Diploma at Trinity Laban Conservatoire with professors Deniz Gelenbe and Peter Tuite. He began his musical education in Italy with professor Marco Podesta’ and pursue his studies at the Liszt Academy of Budapest with Dr.Kecskes Balazs and in Germany at the Hochschule fur Musik un Darstellende of Stuttgart with Dr,Peter Nagy. In 2016 was selected for the BBC pathway scheme and he is a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and School.

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