Alexandre Kantorow takes the Philharmonie de Paris by storm

Sensational is the only word to describe Kantorow streamed live from the Philharmonie de Paris.Wondrous playing of such ravishing beauty and passionate drive.
Brahms Ballades reminded me of Michelangeli’s magic that he brought to the Festival Hall on one of his rare visits to London.
But then a Rachmaninov first sonata that I never thought of as a great work until today.
An unbelievably majestic Bach Chaconne played as only a great musician could understand the line as carved out by Brahms for the left hand alone.The final bars played with sumptuous rich sound where the big bass notes were only allowed to illuminate the final great chaconne .
Ending not in triumph but almost in anger as he glared at the last chord as if to say: ‘if looks could kill I would gladly die having discovered such a masterpiece of creation.’

Not since Zimerman have I heard such richness,purity and meaning from the piano and he was mentored by Artur Rubinstein.Those who heard Rubinstein live will forever search for that sound that was his alone.
Today I have found it.

Wonderful cinematic unobtrusive camera work just added to the atmosphere.
Available on the Philharmonie de Paris web site thanks to Medici and on line still.

What great temperament in the Brahms Ballades of such sumptuous beauty .The passionate outburst of the third,contrasting steely precision with sounds of pure magic.A plain chant that seemed to appear from nowhere was interrupted by a magic bell pealing.The fourth I will never forget as he revealed such unearthly sounds from a beautifully mellifluous melodic line miraculously accompanied by detached notes of featherlight delicacy.A deeply moving melodic line in the tenor register answered by the angels above with a deep rumbling bass of almost unbearable intensity and beauty.I was reminded of Michelangeli’s legendary performance in London years ago.

I would never have thought that the Rachmaninov first sonata could have such overwhelming drama with an opening of such ominous foreboding that gave way to wondrous luminous sounds.Notes that seemed to spin out of his hands like a golden web of subtle brilliance and just added kaleidoscopic colour to such a clarity of line.There was a seductive beauty to the sound with a wondrous sense of balance that never excluded dramatic power and passion.The ending was of never to be forgotten beauty.The Lento was full of languishing,haunting nostalgia with his sumptuous sense of sound and cadenzas that poured from his fingers like wafts of magic colours.The Allegro molto had a demonic rhythmic drive but in its midst a crystalline voice sang out.We are in the hands of a master musician who listens so carefully to every sound as he shapes the notes with such loving care and excitement.The final majestic chords were played with a sense of total abandonment that was truly breathtaking.

Bach’s mighty Chaconne was played with such personality with a passion and rhythmic drive from within the notes themselves.Brahms decides they should be played with the left hand alone to give the same sense of miraculous virtuosity and triumph through a world of emotions,as Bach demands of a solo violinist.Infact the last chords were played with a sense of relief and disbelief instead of Busoni’s triumph and glory.

Listening to this recital one is prompted to ask but where does he come from and who were the influences in his youthful formation:

Alexandre Kantorow (born 20 May 1997) is a French pianist.[Described by Gramophone as a “fire-breathing virtuoso with a poetic charm”[2] and by Fanfare as “Liszt reincarnated”,he won the first prize, gold medal, and Grand Prix at the 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2019.With this win, Kantorow became the first French winner in the history of the competition.

Kantorow was born in Clermont-Ferrand to a family of musicians; his father is the violinist and conductor Jean-Jacques Kantorow and his mother is also a violinist.[He began to study piano at the age of five at the conservatory of Pontoise. At the age of 11, Kantorow began studies with Pierre-Alain Volondat, who was the winner of the 1983 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium, and continued training with Igor Lazko at the Schola Cantorum de Paris, as well as with Frank Braley and Haruko Ueda. When he was 16 years old, Kantorow was invited to play at the La Folle Journée festival in Nantes and has since appeared at such festivals as the Festival de La Roque-d’Anthéron, the Festival Chopin à Paris, and the Festival Piano aux Jacobins.At the age of 17, he performed at the Philharmonie de Paris with the Pasdeloup Orchestra at its inaugural season to an audience of about 2,500.He has since appeared at major concert halls including the Konzerthaus Berlin, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the BOZAR in Brussels, and the auditorium in the Louis Vuitton Foundation. Kantorow currently studies with Rena Shereshevskaya, who was also the teacher of Lucas Debargue, at the École Normale de Musique de Paris.

In 2019, Kantorow won the first prize, gold medal, and Grand Prix at the 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition, becoming the first French winner in the history of the competition. He was the only finalist in the competition to play the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, and also performed BrahmsPiano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major.

Happy to report Michael Morans equally enthusiastic review of a musical genius

Saturday, August 3 CHOPIN’S MANOR 8:00 PM


Winner of the XVI International Tchaikovsky Competition, Moscow 2019

Alexandre Kantarow

This recital was without doubt one of the truly great piano recitals at Duszniki Zdroj, if not the greatest. I believe it was his first public concert after winning the competition. An authentic ‘Duszniki Moment’. This unassuming young man has all the nascent qualities of a great artist in the process of maturing. He is only 22 and in possession of a gift and talent bordering on genius.

Sergei Rachmaninov (1873–1943)

Piano Sonata No. 1 in D Minor Op. 28 (1907)

Allegro moderato


Allegro molto

Rachmaninoff wrote to his friend Nikita Morozov on 8 May 1907: 

‘The Sonata is without any doubt wild and endlessly long. I think about 45 minutes. I was drawn into such dimensions by a programme or rather by some leading idea. It is three contrasting characters from a work of world literature. Of course, no programme will be given to the public, although I am beginning to think that if I were to reveal the programme, the Sonata would become much more comprehensible. No one will ever play this composition because of its difficulty and length but also, and maybe more importantly, because of its dubious musical merit. At some point I thought to re-work this Sonata into a symphony, but that proved to be impossible due to the purely pianistic nature of writing’. 

It is said that Rachmaninoff withdrew this reference to literature and certainly the music contains other associations.

The ‘literature’ he referred to is Goethe’s Faust (possibly with elements of Lord Byron’s Manfred) and there is convincing evidence to believe that this plan to write a sonata around Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles was never entirely abandoned. of course there are other musical elements present as it is not programme music. The pianist Konstantin Igumnov, who gave its premiere performance in Moscow, Leipzig and Berlin, visited Rachmaninoff in November 1908 after the Leipzig recital, the composer told him that ‘when composing it, he had in mind Goethe’s “Faust” and that the 1st movement related to Faust, the 2nd one to Gretchen and the 3rd was the flight to the Brocken and Mephistopheles.’

Faust in the opening monologue of the play:

In me there are two souls, alas, and their 

Division tears my life in two. 

One loves the world, it clutches her, it binds 

Itself to her, clinging with furious lust; 

The other longs to soar beyond the dust 

Into the realm of high ancestral minds. 

A man whose soul is rent between the hedonistic pleasures of the earth and spiritual aspirations – Sacrum et Profanum. Exploring this all to human dichotomy, Rachmaninoff builds almost unbearable tension. 

In the Allegro moderato as Faust wrestles with his soul and temptations. Kantorow constructed and extraordinary edifice of unique sound, each note of each the massive chord weighted perfectly against the others to create a richness of great magnificence and splendour, rather like an organ His tone is liquid gold and even in passages of immense dynamic power he did not break the sound ceiling of the instrument. There was superb delicacy here. The delineation of eloquent melody and the dense polyphony of Rachmaninoff’s writing was miraculously transparent.

The Lento second movement could well be interpreted as a lyrical poem expressing the love of Gretchen for Faust. Kantorow was so poetic here yet managing the dense polyphony once again with great artistry, tenderness and delicacy. His melodic understanding was paramount. The legato cantabile tone was sublime, the execution carrying with it an uncanny feeling of lyrical improvisation. A fervent and impassioned love song…

The wildness of the immense final movement Allegro molto with its references to a terrifying Dies Irae and death can well associate this massive declamation to Mephistopheles and insidious and destructive evil. Kantorow built a Chartres Cathedral of sound here with immense structural walls embroidered with the most delicate of decoration relieved by moments of refined reflection. Are we exploring the darker significance of Walpurgis Night?  Kantarow extracted and expressed a diabolism seldom encountered in any piano recital. All my remarks are assuming his towering technical ability and nervous pianistic concentration of a remarkable kind. Overwhelming.

Walpurgisnacht Kreling: Goethe’s Faust. X. Walpurgisnacht, 1874 – 77

Gabriel Fauré  (1845–1924)

Nocturne in D-flat major Op. 63 (1894) 

Known for his songs and solo piano works, Fauré wrote this beautiful and profound piece after a long dry spell of some eight years where he had not written a keyboard composition. Alfred Cortot considered it a masterpiece. Kantarow gave us a poetic and sensitive rendition of the work. The only reservation I had was programming it after the Rachmaninoff (from which I was still recovering!) and could not turn my full musical attention to the Fauré. Perhaps it should have preceded it as a gentle introduction to the recital….


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)   

Piano Sonata in A major Op. 2 No. 2 (1794–1795)

We then heard the seldom performed youthful but harmonically new and exploratory Beethoven Piano Sonata in A major (1770–1827) Op. 2 No. 2 (1794–1795). I heard this difficult work performed in recital in Duszniki last year by RÈMI GENIET. This was also a fine performance that indicated he understood the classical style of the work (dedicated to Haydn) and the harmonic originality of Beethoven’s modulations. He experimented a great deal with articulation and tempo in the manner of improvisation. The staccato he introduced in the left hand in the Largo appasionato however, tended to reduce the lyricism of the passion for me. His golden tone and refined touch and articulation were often evident. However a little more delightful Viennese charm in the Rondo (the lightweight charm he brought to the Scherzo in fact) would have been appropriate in this Haydnesque movement. I was hoping for the deeper classically disciplined expressiveness that comes with time. I know as a young man I hated to be told that by older musicians but it is true except in the rarest of cases where musical maturity emerges fully formed in youth. Yehudi Menuhin springs to mind.

During my researches before writing this review, I came across the most inspirational, humorous and insightful lecture on this sonata (in fact all the sonatas of Beethoven) given by Sir AndràsSchiff in 2006. His original conclusion is that Beethoven intended that the three sonatas of Op. 2 make up a type of  ‘Trio under Op.2’ –  No. 1 being ‘dramatic’, No. 2 being ‘lyrical and tender’, and No.3 ‘a brilliant concert piece full of humour’. Schiff nearly always thinks of the piano in orchestral terms, especially the Beethoven sonatas. Not imitating orchestral instruments but associating with them in his mind. Kantarow seemed to do much the same but far less conventionally and with much more variety than the warmly classically inclined Sir Andràs Schiff.

Allegro vivace

Largo appasionato


Allegretto Rondo Grazioso

Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971)

The Firebird K 10 (1910)

This work is most familiar from the orchestral version. The piano reduction Stravinsky made is rarely performed. The work almost defies translation from the orchestral version.

The ballet is a mixture the stories of the Firebird and Kashcheithe Immortal, two of Russia’s most well-known legendary stories or fairy tales. Prince Ivan comes into an enchanted garden and captures the Firebird. The bird wants to be released and promises Ivan it will assist him in the realization of his desires.

Ivan falls in love with one of the thirteen princesses he meets. She informs him that he is in the realm of Kashchei the Immortal, a powerful wizard who captures and imprisons passing travelers making them slaves. Ignoring her warning, Ivan approaches Kashchei to request her hand in marriage. Kashchei orders his magic creatures to attack the prince and tries to turn Ivan to stone. The Firebird comes to Ivan’s aid, enticing the creatures into a dance and then putting them to sleep. The bird bewitches Kashchei in the same manner.

Kantorow was possessed of some sort of force of nature as he embarked on the Danse infernale of this piece. The screech at the beginning as the bird precipitously attacks was deeply disturbing. Then the ‘infernal’ dance rhythms with their relentless intensity begin to wear the attackers down. This movement is of immense pianistic difficulty with leaps at fortissimo and huge glissandi. One could easily visualise the bird in its various tempestuous rhythmic transformations during this demented attacking dance. 

The creatures then fall asleep as depicted in the Berceuse. Kantarow created and hallucinogenic, hypnotic atmosphere during this sleeping, poetic dream – a magical word beyond. The triumphal wedding celebrations of the Finale developed in overwhelming dynamic joy and the clamorous ringing of orthodox bells flooded us with Russian emotional storms – magnificent, almost possessed yet under control and unprecedented in my experience of the sound capabilities of the piano.

The encores were Tchaikovsky’s Méditation Op. 72 No 5 which Kantarow played with ardent depth and glowing cantabile which developed into deep expressive, passionate rhapsodic feeling. 

He then spoke to the audience: ‘I am feeling rather tired so I will only play Liszt Chasse-neige as an encore.’ We did smile and some laughed with pleasure at such an understatement. 

It was the greatest performance of this work I have ever heard – the icy flurries of wind- driven snow in the left hand are indescribable in the lightness of their electrical virtuosity. The control and gradual culmination and augmentation of pent up cataclysmic energy towards the conclusion was beyond ordinary mortal comprehension. I have never heard such a terrifying sound from the piano – a force of Nature unleashed.

J.M.W.Turner Valle d’Aosta Snowstorm, Avalanche….

This was surely one of the great recitals that is of the most value at Duszniki. The first exposure to the birth of a great and immensely gifted musical talent is priceless. It will be fascinating to see how Kantarow develops. We already have the extraordinary precedents of Daniil Trifonov, Seong-Jin Cho and Igor Levit.

Christian Blackshaw at the Wigmore Hall

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
  • Fantasia in D minor K397
  • Rondo in D K485
  • Adagio in B minor K540
  • Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
  • Piano Sonata in D D850 Allegro-Con moto-Scherzo:Allegro vivace-Trio-Rondo:Allegro moderato

My old teacher Gordon Green often used to talk about his star student Christian Blackshaw and news travelled fast when he was the first UK student to be accepted to study at St.Petersburg Conservatory and also won the Casella International Competition in Naples in Italy.
After my student days I lost touch with the concert world in London – this was before the advent of internet.I married an Italian actress and we gave birth to a very demanding son in the form of Teatro Ghione – a theatre in the centre of Rome.Thirty years spent with stage productions and as a sideline a concert season – Euromusica of more than 60 concerts a year with many artists young and old able to be heard in Rome that was sadly lacking in concert venues in that period.
We became in Italy what the Wigmore Hall is today- a centre of excellence in Europe.With the advent of internet though I was able to see programmes of all the major venues worldwide and was very pleased to see the name of Christian Blackshaw with his Mozart being promoted by the Wigmore Hall ,as they had done for Mitsuko Uchida or Andras Schiff.
I wondered why he had not made more of an international name for himself since his auspicious early days mentored by no less than Clifford Curzon.I later learned of the tragic death of his wife and deciding that his duty as a father,with three small daughters,took precedence over career.
I learnt only recently that his late wife was the star pupil of Fanny Waterman that I remember playing in Dame Fanny’s showcase masterclass on the Southbank,exclaiming that the copy of the Chopin B minor Sonata was the third one that she and Nicola Gebolys had got through.
So it was a treat to be able to hear Christian playing Mozart.Looking more like Liszt than Mozart but when he touched the keys I understood immediately why such a perfectionist as Clifford Curzon had taken him under his wing.

Three short works by Mozart placed together to form a whole.Not quite a sonata as the excellent presenter Ian Kelly suggested because the group started with the Fantasia in D minor and ended with the Adagio in B minor taking in the Rondo in D as the central movement.The Fantasia immediately showed his exquisite phrasing and very careful pedalling that only added colour without smudging the crystal clear notes that he was so carefully shaping.A sense of improvisation pervaded the opening with a freedom allied to the flexibility of the human voice.The simplicity of the final rondo was truly of a child like innocence so difficult to capture,as Curzon’s teacher Schnabel is often quoted as saying.A surprise return to the opening fantasie improvisation gave a wonderfully satisfying ending to this seemingly simple piece and allowed the opening cloud to cast its shadow upon the proceedings again.I wonder if there is some mention of this ending in Mozart’s letters that Christian had discovered and like Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto where the opening chord Beethoven mentioned that he spread gives an authenticity to a not usual performing practice in these days of absolute faithfulness to the original score!The Rondo in D was played with absolute charm with the appoggiatura type phrasing so reminiscent of the much missed Clifford Curzon’s impeccably refined playing.Articulation and voice like inflections in a piece that we have heard many times in piano lessons but very rarely brought to life in such a joyous way.The Adagio in B minor one of Mozart’s most profound works is also one of his shortest.Mozart could express so much with so little where every note has a significance never more so than in this piece written towards the end of his short life.There was a great sense of time standing still in Christian’s performance where every phrase was given time to breathe so naturally.It was a great treat on the Wigmore’s superb streaming to be able to see with what care his fingers articulated like a Swiss clock hammer just carefully striking the keys and producing such magic out of the few notes actually written on the page.Every strand was given its just weight as in a string quartet.The opening theme moving to the bass before the beseeching question and answer that followed.The refreshing simplicity of the melody that magically emerges from Mozart’s pen after some almost too serious questioning chords.Time stood still in a performance of pure magic where Mozart’s 57 bars were doubled in a performance to quote the poet Shakespeare :’if music be the food of love – play on.’

The other work on the programme was the Sonata in D by Schubert known as the Gasteiner,as it was written during August 1825 whilst the composer was staying in the spa town of Bad Gastein .A year later it became only the second of three of his piano sonatas to be published in his lifetime.Four movements in which Christian observed all the repeats pushing Schubert’s sublime length maybe to the limit.Andras Schiff says that if the composer wrote repeats who are we mere performers to know better?Others suggest that it was the form to repeat certain sections and that if the composer really meant it he would write 1. and 2 .over the bar line.The first movement was played with driving rhythm and crystal clear articulation in this very busy opening movement.Exquisite phrasing and attention to the minutest detail much as I remember from Curzon’s famous recording or Perahia’s memorable performance that I heard in Rovigo – a beautiful town in the north of Italy.There was in both these performances the contrast between Floristan and Eusebius (to borrow from Schumann) that gave a more satisfying architectural shape.Christian concentrated more on the Eusebius side with such exquisite things as in his Mozart but missed the great sweep that a work of over 30 minutes needs.Schubert’s rarely writes double forte or double sforzandi,but here he does,and Christian diluted them down to suite his vision of poetic beauty at the expense of the real storm und drang.A sumptuous string chamber orchestra but where are the wind,the brass and percussion ?

The ‘con moto’ slow movement was played with such beauty especially when the theme returns in the left hand with barely hinted shadowing from the right that was truly a sublime moment to cherish.The coda too was absolute magic in this poet’s delicate hands.The contrast in the Scherzo between the march like opening and the delicate ländler reply was beautifully shaped as was the subtle rubato in the Viennese waltz type passage that follows.The pianissimo chords of the trio were played with delicate sumptuous sounds.The almost clock like simplicity of the Rondo was played just a pointedly as I remember from Curzon with an irresistible simplicity and charm that is ever more elaborate on its return until the perpetuum mobile played with an astonishing jeux perlé to the final impish comment.Much as Rachmaninov does a century later in his Paganini Rhapsody signing off after breathtaking antics with such childish simplicity.

Bewitched ravished and bewildered by Beatrice Rana at the Philharmonie de Paris

Would one ever associate breathtaking beauty and delicacy with Tchaikowsky n.1 ?Beatrice Rana playing with the Philharmonie de Paris with Paavo Jarvi demonstrated last night to a hall that may have been empty of an audience but it was full of subtle emotion and daring.An almost chamber ensemble of magnificent musicians listening to each other as they recreated this much maligned work and demonstrated why it is still one of the most popular concertos in the repertoire.An orchestra that was allowed to breathe in the same extraordinary way as Beatrice Rana aided and abetted by a conductor such as Jarvi who was flying on the crest of a magnificent wave of sumptuous sounds and allowing the music to unfold so naturally.Tomorrow I see Kantorow is playing Brahms …..strange coincidence as he won the last Tchaikowsky competition!

Iijima-Shilyaev duo -juggling with lollipops at St Mary’s

Thursday 28 January 4.0 pm 

Tadasuke Iijima (violin)
Mikhail Shilyaev (piano) 

Wieniawski: Polonaise de Concert Op 4

Sarasate: Caprice Basque Op 24

Rachmaninov arr. Kreisler: Marguerite(Daisies) Op 38 no 3

Wieniawski: Polonaise Brillante Op 21

Kreisler: La Gitana

Kreisler: Tambourin Chinois

Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen Op 20

Bazzini: La ronde des Lutins, Scherzo fantastique Op 25

von Paradis arr. Dushkin: Sicilienne in E flat

Tadasuke Iijima was born in Japan, and has previously studied under the guidance of Hitoshi Maezawa, Boris Kuschnir, Toshiya Eto, Zakhar Bron, Mayumi Fujikawa and Rivka Golani. He has won numbers of competitions, including the highest award at the Tokyo ‘ s “ New Stars of Music ” Competition, First Prize at the Toshiya Eto Violin Competition, First Prize in the Soloist Competition with the Hamamatu Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, Special Prize for performing a Contemporary Piece at the Heifetz International Violin Competition, and First Prize at the Uralsk International Violin Competition. He also awarded the Harold Craxton Prize, and David Martin Concerto Prize at Royal Academy of Music, and the Vera Kantrovich Prize, Vivian Joseph Classical Concerto competition, and the trinity laban Soloist’s Competition at Trinity College.Tadasuke has also appeared as a soloist alongside the Japan Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo New City Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, the Kanagawa Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, and West Kazakhstan Orchestra. He also attended the masterclass by Ida Haendel and Edith Peinemann. He is currently giving performances throughout UK and worldwide. 

Mikhail Shilyaev was born in Izhevsk, Russia. He started learning piano at the age of six and won several regional piano competitions at a young age. He studied in Russia in Moscow State Conservatoire, in Germany and in the UK. As a soloist with orchestra, he has performed with Musikkollegium Winterthur, the London Soloists Chamber Orchestra, the Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra and with the Gulbenkian Symphony Orchestra among others. He has worked with leading conductors including Christopher Warren-Green, Pascal Rophé, Nikoloz Rachveli and Gianluca Marcianó. In July 2010 Mikhail won the Bronze Medal at the prestigious Vianna da Motta International Piano Competition in Lisbon. Mikhail lives in London and plays mostly in the UK and Europe. He has been taking part in numerous festivals across Europe including Zaubersee festival in Lucerne and Suoni dal Golfo in La Spezia, Italy. Among his chamber music partners are Boris Brovtsyn, Anastasia Kobekina and Natalie Clein. He is interested in historical performance practice and often g ives recitals on fortepianos. Mikhail is also known for his collaboration with singers including the rising stars Anna Gobachyova, Nardus Williams , Tuuli Takkala and Anush Hovhannisyan. Mikhail’s repertoire stretches from early Baroque to contemporary music with its focus on J. S. Bach, Viennese classics, German romantics and Chopin. He has recently released two critically acclaimed CDs on Toccata Classics and Stone Records. His new record made on historical Bechstein has been released by Willowhayne Records.

Nice to be reminded of some old violin warhorses.Ruggiero Ricci used to come often to play and give classes for us in Rome.Uto Ughi and Rodolfo Bonucci were always to be seen cheering in the audience.
Vadim Repin and Natalia Priscipienko students of Zahar Bron in Siberia both made their debuts as teenagers in my theatre in Rome.So it was refreshing to hear all these old pieces again all played together so brilliantly in this unusual teatime lollipops concert from St Mary’s

Thanks Christopher Axworthy. I was very pleased with the concert, although it was certainly unusual. Tadasuke Iijima is an amazing violinist and to play all those hair-raising pieces, one after another, was quite a feat. Not many other violinists would attempt it. And his quiet playing was ravishing. And – just to be clear – it was me who suggested he play some old warhorses, rather than the Ravel sonata yet again – didn’t realize then that the whole concert would be that sort of fare. We will be getting him back again… Here’s the link in SD

Oh so it was your fault Hugh.Some people do not approve as you may have noticed the exchange between Tyler Hay and Stephen….the distinguished critic.Cherkassky was once invited to Milan by the ever eccentric Hans Fazzari ,who has the most important piano series in Milan .He ordered a programme of transcriptions and encore pieces ending with Schulz Evler Blue Danube taking in Godowsky’s Wine Women and Song.The review from a highly respected critic was “Juggler of notes “Giocaliere delle Note”it did not mention his unique artistry but criticised the programme.Shura would never allow an organiser to choose his programme again.He offered two different programmes a season and you could ask for any order or as we slyly did,have him play both together !

Strange how a programme can provoke such heated discussion.It was a ‘tour de force’ of virtuoso violin playing not to say also some fine accompanying for a pianist who could more than stay the course without stumbling on any of the numerous hurdles.A concert ,of course ,that could not be played looking at the score because the pieces were written as showpieces for the virtuosi of their time.With a seemgly sedate audience mostly aristocratic,they would be whipped up into a screaming mob, trying to get as close to their idols much as in the ‘pop’ world of today.But there was much more than just note spinning for there was infinite charm ,passion ,style and colour .Can Daisies ever have sounded so beautiful as with the muted cantabile today.Or the hair raising antics of ‘La ronde des Lutins’thrown off with such consummate ease.The two Wieniawski Polonaises played like a jack in the box full of astonishing surprises from the sumptuous to the spectacular.Of course I missed Schon Rosmarin from his group of pieces by Kreisler who I was pleased to hear is Tadasukes favourite violinist ever.Mine too for the sheer charm colour and natural beauty of sound.This together with Dushkin’s famous (and perhaps like Kreisler much questioned) transcription of Von Paradis with the sublime beauty of his Sicilienne gave an idea of the artistry and not just the acrobatics of this remarkable young violinist.Not quite the devil in disguise but we shall see next time when hopefully he will display all his diabolical artistry with Paganini Caprices and much else besides.

Here is a short extract of some comments – so far – from distinguished musicians :Only heard from pianist FB friends so far, who have a slightly biased view of this repertoire, from the piano stool ! Anyway this is getting slightly out of hand. I am obviously not decrying the music of Liszt or Rach – just pointing out that the repertoire offered by over 100 violinists in over 1000 concerts at Perivale over the last few years has rarely included any of the old showpieces which used to be played frequently. They seem to have become very unfashionable, and to me, that is a great pity. Still haven’t heard from violinists as to why this has happened. The wider question of the attractions of virtuosity, empty or otherwise, is best left to another post. Sufficient to say that I enjoy hearing say Mark Viner or Tyler Hay playing unbelievably difficult piano music supremely well, regardless of whether the musical content is profound or (relatively) superficial !

Stephen Pettitt:Horses for courses but I really don’t like pieces that are showy-offy for the sake only of showing off. Despite (often) gobsmacking skills. There’s got to be (for me) more of a point to music than that and I don’t need a cheap thrill at the end of a concert of deep things. I want to go out into the night (or up to bed if online) full of food for thought. Weird I know.

Tyler Hay :Stephen Pettitt thank you! All that we can ask is that people give things a serious and fair listen. Worth pointing out that we don’t just play any old thing.I’ve told this story so many times but it’s worth thinking about. When I studied in Manchester, I had a 15 min slot to fill during a recital and I decided to find a group of 5 Cimarosa Sonatas. I sightread through about 50 of them and found a dozen that I really liked. I took the score to the bar and pondered over which ones to do, vodka and tonic in hand! One of the best pianists in the department came over and criticised me for choosing Cimarosa over Scarlatti on the grounds that the former is “just a poor man’s Scarlatti.” I thought about it and came to the conclusion that even though it’s true that Cimarosa isn’t Scarlatti, it’s equally true that Scarlatti isn’t Cimarosa. That was a very important moment for me and since then, I’ve loved every minute of finding forgotten and neglected gems. They might not always be “great” but they are certainly at least “very good” and that’s more than enough for me to be getting on with.

Victor Maslov the birth of a great artist

Tuesday 26 January 4.0 pm 

Victor Maslov 

Haydn: Sonata in B minor HobXVI/32 Allegro moderato – Menuetto – Finale:Presto

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

A superb recital from a Victor Maslov in St Mary’s today.He has not only changed appearance with a very becoming beard but has matured into an artist with a great new temperament and something important to say.From the child like simplicity of Haydn almost Haebleresque in its chiselled porcelain precision and complete control of sound and colour.It was a model of quite extraordinary style.Every note made to speak so eloquently almost on tip toe until the last movement that erupted on to the scene like an unleashed spring.Mussorgsky I had no wish to listen to but in his hands today I was totally mesmerised by a performance from an artist that listens so carefully to every sound with a sense of balance and complete mastery that allowed him to give in Dr Mather’s words a ‘towering’ performance.A local lad whilst he perfects his studies with Dmitri Alexeev,resident in Ealing since winning the Leeds competition where he took first prize over Mitsuko Uchida and Andras Schiff.Victor has been helped by the trust set up after her death of that much loved teacher of generations in Ealing.Eileen Rowe was also the teacher of Dr Mather and his children as well as the very young Vanessa Latarche who has become head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal College of Music where Victor is a star shining brightly

The Haydn sonata No 32 is one of a group of six published privately in manuscript copies in 1776, and moves away from inspired galanterie to the vehement astringency characteristic of Haydn’s music in B minor (compare the string quartets Op 33 No 1 and Op 64 No 2). A very stately opening like a solemn procession played with an almost porcelain doll like simplicity and some beautifully subtle colours and sounds.The music box delicacy of the Menuet with some charming added embellishments that was contrasted with an almost too serious Trio.The finale :presto entered on the scene like a spring unwinding with its insistent rhythmic drive .His superb sense of style kept the left hand octaves perfectly placed above a very busy right hand and even the final double octaves were played with such grace and elegance to the final matter of fact two chords.

Pictures at an Exhibition is a suite of ten pieces (plus a recurring, varied Promenade) for piano by Modest Mussorgsky written in 1874.The suite is Mussorgsky’s most-famous piano composition, and has become a showpiece for virtuoso pianists based on pictures by the artist, architect, and designer Viktor Hartmann.It was probably in 1868 that Mussorgsky first met Hartmann, not long after the latter’s return to Russia from abroad. Both men were devoted to the cause of an intrinsically Russian art and quickly became friends. They likely met in the home of the influential critic Vladimir Stasov, who followed both of their careers with interest.Hartmann’s sudden death on 4 August 1873 from an aneurysm shook Mussorgsky along with others in Russia’s art world. The loss of the artist, aged only 39, plunged the composer into deep despair and Stasov helped to organize a memorial exhibition of over 400 Hartmann works in the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg in February and March 1874. Mussorgsky lent the exhibition the two pictures Hartmann had given him, and viewed the show in person. Later in June he was inspired to compose Pictures at an Exhibition, quickly completing the score in three weeks (2–22 June 1874).The work did not appear in print until 1886, five years after the composer’s death, when a not very reliable edition by the composer’s friend and colleague Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was published. It was only in 1931, marking the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death, that it was published in a scholarly edition in agreement with his manuscript.

Victor gave a very impressive performance of a work that all too often is misused as a vehicle for empty virtuosity.That was not the case today as with scrupulous attention to detail Victor brought this work back into the realms of the great works of the piano repertoire as Richter had done in the 60’s,and Horowitz had done with his own inimitable rearrangements in the 40’s.The simple statement of the opening promenade led straight to the grotesque outburst of Gnomus depicting a little gnome, clumsily running with crooked legs.There were beautiful legato octaves in the meno mosso with a very impressive crescendo.The left hand trills were mere vibrations of sound leading to the final cry and transcendental outburst of a final scale passage played by Victor exactly as the composer asks ‘velocissimo con tutta forza.’A mysterious ethereal promenade leads to ‘The old castle’ played so delicately but with a rich sound palette with magical counterpoints and a gradual disappearance.A more decisive promenade leads to the Tuileries,an avenue in the garden near the Louvre, with a swarm of children and nurses.Played with an infectious lilt and playful asides thrown in with great nonchalance.Bydlo is obviously hanging next to it and depicts a Polish cart on enormous wheels, drawn by oxen.Never slackening its constant pace but building in volume to a very impressive climax as it comes into full view.Played with overpowering weight but never any hardening of tone only to die away to barely a whisper.I had never been aware until today in Victor’s knowledgeable hands of the two staccato notes in the melodic line that gave great character to this lumbering old cart.After such fatigue a promenade made in heaven led so peacefully to the audacious chatterings of the ‘Ballet of unhatched chicks’ which is based on Hartmann’s design for the ballet Trilby where the famous variation by Petipa for the male dancer in the Le Corsair from Gerber’s score shows a painting of dancers from the ballet in costume (as fledglings emerging from the shell).In Victors hands there was such a playful sense of fun that contrasted with the beautiful bass counterpoints,that he played so pointedly,in the middle section.The grandiloquent Samuel Goldenberg burst on to the scene with the gloriously reverberant beseeching of Schmuyle.The last Promenade was played this time with much vehemence as it led to the featherlight chatterings of the market place in Limoges depicting French women quarrelling violently in the market.A tour de force of repeated notes thrown off with great ease by Victor as it led to a startling climax interrupted by the mighty entry to the catacombs.Mussorgsky’s manuscript of “Catacombs” displays two pencilled notes, in Russian: “NB – Latin text: With the dead in a dead language” and, along the right margin, “Well may it be in Latin! The creative spirit of the dead Hartmann leads me towards the skulls, invokes them; the skulls begin to glow softly.”

In fact it was just this magic glow that Victor was able to illuminate with such vibrating sounds of great delicacy with long held pedal notes of real beauty.Only to be interrupted by the ferocious Baba -Yaga where even Victor was taken aback as he threw himself into the whirlwind sounds of the chase.Only finding an oasis of peace in the middle section with a serene bass melody over a constant wave of vibrant sounds,the spell being broken ,though,by the cries of the witches flight.A tumultuous build up of double octaves suddenly was abruptly abated by the vision of the Great Gate of Kiev in all its majesty. Hartmann’s sketch was his design for city gates at Kiev in the ancient Russian massive style with a cupola shaped like a slavonic helmet.The beautiful colours of the plain chant were interrupted by the constant joyous pealing of bells.The build up to the last glorious outpouring was indeed very impressive .Victor perfectly judged the gradual build up with a tension that finally exploded with a cascade of scales leading to the sheer orchestral outpouring of glorious sounds with which he brought this ‘towering’ performance to a shattering end.A memorable performance that I ,for one,would be quite happy to listen to again.

Russian pianist Victor Maslov was praised as “one of those people who is close to all-round mastery of his repertoire” by the New York Concert Review, following his performance at Weill Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall), New York in 2010. Victor is currently studying at the Royal College of Music, London, with Prof. Dmitri Alexeev and Prof. Vanessa Latarche as a Carne Trust Junior Fellow supported by the Ruth West Scholarship. In 2020 Victor received Munster Trust Award. In 2017 he became an Eileen Rowe Musical Trust Award Holder. Victor began his studies at the Gnessin Moscow Special School of Music, where he was taught by his mother Olga Maslova. He later became a scholar of the Vladimir Spivakov International Charity Foundation and has received masterclasses from Dmitry Bashkirov for several years.
Victor has been a prize winner in several international competitions, including the First Prize at the Nikolai Rubinstein International Piano Competition (Paris 2004), the First Prize at the Musicale dell’Adriatico piano competition (Ancona 2007), Overall Prize Winner of the 47th Concertino Praga International Radio Competition for Young Musicians (2013), Two times winner of Concerto Competition (Royal College of Music, 2015, 2018), the First prize at the 2nd International Rachmaninoff Piano Competition (Moscow 2020), and the First prize at the AntwerPiano International Competition (Antwerpen 2020).
Additional prizes include Fourth Prize at the Vladimir Horowitz International Competition for Young Pianists (Kiev 2012), Second Prize at the Astana Piano Passion (Astana 2015), Second prize at Joan Chissell Schumann Prize (London 2019) and Third prize at the 6 th Umanitaria Societa Competition (Milan 2019).
He gave his concerto debut at the age of nine with the State Symphony Orchestra of Moscow and has since performed with orchestras such as RCM Symphony, RCM Philharmonic, Symphonic Orchestra of Czech Radio, Astana Opera Symphonic Orchestra, Kostroma Symphonic Orchestra, Penza State Symphonic Orchestra, State Orchestra “New Russia”. Victor has given solo performances at international music festivals across the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Turkey, Switzerland, Russia, Israel, and the USA. Venues have included Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Weil Recital hall at Carnegie Hall, Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, Great Hall of Moscow Conservatoire, Smetana Hall and Rudolfinum.

Petar Dimov -Victor Maslov- Prof.Vanessa Latarche after his performance of Rachmaninov 3rd Piano Concerto at QEH last year

Matteo Bevilacqua for Roma 3 Clarity and Fantasy combined with great Artistry

Matteo Bevilacqua at Teatro Palladium Rome for the Young Artist’s Piano Solo series of Roma 3 University.
Amazingly assured Scarlatti and Beethoven with crystal clear articulation and rhythmic drive.
But it was Liszt’s strangely haunting Sunt Lacrymae Rerum that lit a spark that illuminated from that moment on everything that he did.The sparkling opening of El Puerto with the sultry atmosphere of Spain to the high jinx of the clowns that Debussy depicts on Eastbourne Promenade.There was magic in the air as he discovered a kaleidoscope of colours with playing of fantasy and total conviction as his imagination was ignited.Ravishing sounds and astonishing virtuosity was enthralling as it was mesmerising to see this young artist illuminate this magnificent piano as he recounted such magic tales.

Matteo Bevilacqua made his debut at age of ten as an actor, performing in theater productions for “CSS Teatro stabile di Innovazione” travelling around Italy on several tours.He studied with Ferdinando Mussutto and Luca Trabucco in “J. Tomadini” conservatory and obtained Bachelor with highest marks and “cum laude”, then Master degree with 110/110, laude and special mention.Continuing his studies also with Luca Rasca.
He obtained more than 20 awards in International piano competitions such as: “Ars Nova, Paolo Spincich” in Trieste; “Nuova Coppa Pianisti” in Osimo; “Giuliano Pecar” in Gorizia; “Premio Filippo Trevisan” in Palmanova; “Tomaz Holmar” in Malborghetto; “Empoli “; “premio isola del sole” in Grado; “Don Oreste Rosso” in Martignacco; “Maria Grazia Fabris” in Trieste. In 2017 he was awarded with the 3rd prize in the “Murai Grand Prix” International piano competition in Varaždin and 2nd prize in “Palma d’Oro” international competition in Finale Ligure. In 2018 he was given the special prize at “Stefano Marizza” International competition in Trieste. In 2019 he won the 3rd prize and the public award at “S. Donà” International piano competition, the 3rd prize at Albenga International piano competition, and a special mention at Vienna piano prize (cat. Virtuoso)
He is the winner of the 46^ edition of the “Palma d’oro ” International piano competition.
He performed more than 50 solo/chamber recitals, around Europe (Germany, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Republica Moldova) for prestigious festivals and season such as “Mittelfest”; “Carniarmonie” ; “Festival dei suoni nei luoghi” , “Roma Tre Orchestra” and others. In 2016 he played in duo 4-hands with M° Bruno Canino at “Palamostre” theater in Udine.
He has also attended several masterclass with renowned pianists such as Maurizio Baglini, Bruno Canino, Massimiliano Damerini, Johannes Kropfitsch, Daniel Rivera, Jerome Rose, Daniel Rivera, Pierluigi Camicia. in 2015 he was assigned a scolarship from the International Keyboard Institute & Festival to take part at the festival and study in New York with Arnaldo Cohen, Alexander Kobrin and Victor Rosembau

Looking at Matteo’s CV I could not help but be struck by the name Luca Rasca who I remember playing the Brahms 1st Piano Concerto in the Royal Festival Hall with the London Philharmonic in the presence of Prince Charles who was honorary patron of Sulamita Aranowsky’s London Power International Competition. won a top prize for his brilliant performance as the 18 year old Behzod Abduraimov was to do in the subsequent competition in 2009.It is nice to know that he is sharing his knowledge and experience with young artists such as Matteo.

The Sonata in B minor by Scarlatti is one of the most beguiling of Scarlatti’s vast output of over 500 sonatas.It showed off Matteo’s superb crystalline fingers that can play with such clarity and precision.It was a favourite of Emil Gilels who playing at a slower tempo was able to turn a bauble into a real gem.Matteo adopted a very fast tempo that did not allow time to savour the beautiful modulations in the midst of such an intricate web of notes.The choice of tempo may have been attributed to nerves at the beginning of a recital without the company of an audience but only cameras following your every move and taking your performance in that very instant who knows where!

The Sonata op 31 n.1 was well suited to Matteo’s crystalline technique.A very rhythmic performance although somewhat lacking in Beethoven’s very precise dynamic indications.A movement in which Beethoven is playing with the syncopated rhythms and Matteo did not seem to fully enter into the spirit of the fun of being continually wrong footed .Nevertheless there were some beautiful moments,in particular the transition from the development to the recapitulation and the final tongue in cheek coda.He gave an exemplary clear account,that is no mean achievement,but just missed the sense of character that he was to find later with the more atmospheric works in the programme.The long operatic Adagio grazioso -almost Rossinian as the op 106 is Verdian- sang beautifully with a very fine sense of balance that allowed the staccato bass to follow the beautifully mellifluous melodic line.I think for that reason the staccato note embellishments should have the weight of a singer rather than the staccato of a pianist.The longer fiortiori were played with a clarity and flexibility especially in the two beautiful cadenzas.The scintillating Rossiniana question and answer over repeated notes,though,was rather disturbed by sforzandi where Beethoven only asks for forte piano and it stopped the charming natural flow that Matteo had created with the outer melodic episodes.The Rondo was given a scintillating performance even though Beethoven’s indication of two instead of four would have given the lift that Schnabel describes as ‘con buon umore,senza pensieri,un poco capriccioso.’It was however a ‘tour de force’ how he maintained the tempo and rhythmic pulse with such an intricate web of notes certainly an inspiration to Mendelssohn with its scintillating jeux perlé.

Années de pèlerinage is widely considered as the masterwork and summation of Liszt’s musical style. The third volume is notable as an example of his later style and includes the better known ‘Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este.Composed well after the first two volumes, it displays less virtuosity and more harmonic experimentation.Lacrimae rerum is the Latin phrase for “tears of things.” It derives from Book I, line 462 of the Virgil’s Aeneid.’Sunt lacrimae rerum’means ‘there are tears of (or for) things.’It is the fifth piece in the suite of seven and is dedicated to Liszt’s son in law Hans von Bulow (who gave the first performance of Liszt’s masterpiece the Sonata in B minor).Suddenly it ignited the imagination and commitment of Matteo who until now had seemed to be afraid of allowing himself to get too involved in the more classical works.If only he could have experienced the extraordinary commitment that Serkin astounded us with on his all to infrequent visits over the Atlantic.He would throw himself into the fray and come out as exhausted as his audience after a complete emotional and physical experience (memorable were his performances of this and the ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonatas).Matteo has learnt his lesson well and can now put the rule book to one side and allow himself full reign to his considerable artistry as he demonstrated with a highly charged performance of this rarely heard work of Liszt.It was played with a sense of mystery illuminated by a sense of fantasy and colour.

‘El Puerto’ too was played with biting rhythms and crystalline ornaments like rays of sunshine but with such a feel for the style and the sultry moods of Albeniz’s Iberia with an ending full of sensuality and melancholy.Here was a story to be told by a true raconteur.I am not surprised to read that Mattheo started his career as a child actor!

The five Preludes from the first book by Debussy were pure magic in his hands especially on a piano so lovingly cared for by Mauro Buccitti.’Voiles’ was bathed in atmosphere through a superb use of the pedals,with strands of sound like boats passing in the night and intermingling in the breeze.Sails or veils as Debussy suggests at the end,but does it matter which ,where imagination and sound are so much more evocative than the printed word.’Les collines d’Anacapri’ was full of light at the awakening of the day and the bustling of the crowds.There were sultry nightclub sounds in the sleezy middle section too.‘C’è qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest’ was a tour de force of brilliance and a technical control of notes and sound that was as terrifying as Debussy intended.Following with the complete stillness of ‘La Cathédrale engloutie’ with the mysterious sonorities of the spires appearing through the mist.The atmospheric plain chant contrasted so well with the amazing bass notes on this magnificent Schimmel piano.Given the chance,in this artist’s sensitive hands,to ring out in all their glory as the Cathédrale gradually disappeared into the depths.Some wonderfully suggestive sounds very reminiscent of Michelangeli who could play with such clarity combined with such multifaceted colours.In ‘Minstrels’ that ended this group he could have had even more fun as Debussy depicts the black faced clowns on Eastbourne Pier.If Paderewski could let his hair down there is no excuse for this brilliant young artist now he has found his way!

Mozart in Viterbo with Sebastiano Brusco and the Harmoniae Aureae Ensemble

After two solo recitals it was refreshing to hear a true chamber music ensemble in two of Mozart’s early Piano Concertos. Mozart decided in the autumn of 1792 to start composing three new works, K. 413, 414, 415. Mozart in a letter to his father: “The concertos are just a cross between too complicated and too easy – are very brilliant – easy to listen – of course without the feeling of emptiness – here and there – can provide satisfaction for connoisseurs, too – but in a way – the amateurs might be pleased even without knowing why”. Like all three of the early Vienna concertos that Mozart wrote, it is a modest work that can be performed with only string quartet and keyboard (i.e., “a quattro“). As per 18th century performance practice a string orchestra could also have served as a suitable option for the “quattro” accompaniment.

Two Mozart Piano Concertos played with great sensibility by Sebastiano Brusco with string quintet.An ensemble that really listens is the greatest compliment that one can pay to an ensemble that can even cope with one or two uneven passages and never loose sight of Mozart’s genius.
I remember hearing Fou Ts’ong play the three concertos that Mozart conceived also for this chamber formation K 413,414,415.It has stayed in my memory all these years as being one of the most beautifully satisfying concerts.
It was a great treat to be reminded of that in the splendid season on line devised by the artistic director Prof.Ricci.

K 414 was the first of a set of three keyboard concertos (with K. 413 and 415) that Mozart performed at his Lenten concerts in 1783. The concert rondo in A, K. 386, has often been discussed as an alternative finale to the work; however, K. 386 cannot be performed a quattro, and autograph evidence shows that the current finale starts on the same sheet as the end of the slow movement. Despite the modest nature and scoring of this concerto, it stands out in Mozart’s early production. Although the three early Viennese concertos (Nos 11, 12 and 13) represent in some senses a formal regression compared to their immediate predecessors, especially No. 9 in E-flat major K 271. ‘Jeunehomme’ which is a remarkable forerunner of the mature works in terms of its musical effect. The second movement of K 414 is notable for its quotation of a theme from the overture to La calamita de’ cuori by J.C.Bach, Mozart’s former mentor in London, who had just died on 1 January 1782.In view of the fact that at this point Mozart also wrote back to his father concerning Bach’s death, saying of it ‘what a loss to the musical world!’, we may also regard the moving Andante as a musical epitaph by the younger man for the old master.

Today too even though only time for two concertos K 414 was given a beautiful sparkling performance the conductor/soloist playing without the score as Mozart himself would have done – probably improvising the cadenza too.The highlight of the two concertos is without doubt the beautifully simple but poignant slow movements played with a freedom and sensibility that only a chamber music ensemble can allow.The very fine Harmoniae Aureae Ensemble followed every note of the soloist as they listened so intently in true chamber music fashion.It was in the slow episodes of the last movement of K 415 where moments of sublime beauty were reached that only the genius of Mozart could capture with so few notes meaning so much.

Just a year ago with a full audience

Mozart and Befana an interesting mix in Piazza Navona in Rome with Martha Noguera and Franco Carlo Ricci. A concerto using the old pitch of 432 that gave a more mellow sound to Mozart as Curzon too used to prefer

Sebastiano Brusco with Prof Ricci
With the distinguished pianist Martha Noguera outside the church in Piazza Navona
The distinguished pianist Alessandro Drago,disciple of the legendary Guido Agosti listening last January to his student /colleague Sebastiano Brusco
Remembering the audiences last January

Duo PROSSEDA -AMMARA -French women composers for four hands from Palazetto Bru Zane in Venice

Fascinating …Music of French female composers unknown to me but then Roberto Prosseda and Alessandra Ammara are always full of inspired new discoveries from the vaults of forgotten archives.Roberto had found Mendelssohn’s 3rd Piano concerto in manuscript,had it pieced together by M°Buffalini and recorded it with Mendelssohns Leipzig Gewandhaus under Chailly.He recently brought Gounod’s Concerto for pedal piano to London with the London Philharmonic under Oleg Caetani…….. unstoppable and insatiable …….

A refreshing new discovery in duo with his wife and mother of their three beautiful children!For the French Academy in the beautiful Bru Zane Palace in Venice .Some superb playing as one -what more can one say.Such sensitive playing by two musicians listening so intently to the music with a sense of balance and ensemble that was remarkable as it was ravishing.

All works that had me running to the encyclopaedia after having heard such a collection of short but sometimes ravishing pieces that have been much neglected by the established piano duos .A careful selection from this collection of some thirty short pieces could indeed be a great addition to a repertoire that has become overloaded with the more predictable master works of Schubert,Schumann,Mozart,Debussy,Bizet and Poulenc.The pieces by Chaminade in particular were to be appreciated for the charming salon pieces that they are.The first played with such a superb sense of balance that allowed for a kaleidoscope of subtle sounds.The delicacy and luminous playful melodic line of the second.The sumptuous melodic line on a wash of delicate sounds in the third or the almost Indian dance of the fourth played with great rhythmic impulse with mighty bass gong notes to set the ball rolling.The final piece a touching lullaby played with a simplicity and charming immediacy .Mel Bonis outlines her first collection as four hands of which two are very easy.The two collections are well worth discovering although not quite as convincing as those of Chaminade .The pieces by Marie Jaell a student of Liszt are well worth a voyage of discovery.Hats off to Roberto and Alessandra showing us yet again that there is still so much music to discover in the archives.

Cécile Chaminade was born in Paris,she studied at first with her mother, then with Le Couppey on piano.Savard and Marsick on violin and Godard for composition, but not officially, since her father disapproved of her musical education.Her first experiments in composition took place in very early days, and in her eighth year she played some of her music to Bizet,who was much impressed with her talents. She gave her first concert when she was eighteen, and from that time on her work as a composer gained steadily in favor. She wrote mostly character pieces for piano, and salon songs, almost all of which were published.She toured France several times in those earlier days, and in 1892 made her debut in England where her work was extremely popular.Isidor Philipp,head of the piano department of the Paris Conservatory championed her works. She repeatedly returned to England during the 1890s and made premieres there with singers such as Blanche Marchesi and Pol Plancon, though this activity decreased after 1899 due to bad critical reviews.

Mélanie Hélène Bonis, known as Mel Bonis (21 January 1858 – 18 March 1937), was a prolific French late-Romantic composer. She wrote more than 300 pieces, including works for piano solo and four hands, organ pieces, chamber music, mélodies, choral music, a mass, and works for orchestra. She attended the Paris Conservatoire where her teachers included Cesar Franck,Ernest Guiraud and Auguste Bazille.Bonis was born to a Parisian lower-middle-class family and was educated according to the strict norms of the Catholic morality of the time. Of great talent and musical sensitivity, she taught herself the piano. Initially her parents did not encourage her music, but when she was twelve, they were persuaded by a professor at the Conservatoire to allow her to receive formal music lessons.At the age of sixteen, she began her studies at the Conservatoire, and attended classes in accompaniment, harmony and composition, where she shared the benches with Debussy ,Pierné , and others.Due to the difficulties encountered by women who wished to compose, she adopted the more androgynous form of her first name, “Mel”At the Conservatoire, she met and fell in love with Amédée Landély Hettich, a student, poet and singer, setting some of his poems to music. Unfortunately, her parents disapproved of the match and, in 1883, arranged for her to marry the businessman Albert Domange, who was 25 years her senior, and a widower with five children from two previous marriages. After that, she disappeared into domesticity and had three children. For Bonis it was not an ideal marriage because Domange did not like music.[3] In the 1890s, she met Hettich again, who encouraged her to return to composition, after which her career took off. She also began an affair with Hettich, which led to the birth of an illegitimate child, Madeleine. The child was put into the care of a former chambermaid, whilst Bonis devoted all her energies to composition, becoming a member of the Société des compositeurs de musique and a published composer with Editions Leduc.

Marie Jaëll (née Trautmann) (17 August 1846 – 4 February 1925) was composed pieces for piano, concertos, quartets, and others,She was the first pianist to perform all the piano sonatas of Beethoven in Paris.She did scientific studies of hand techniques in piano playing and attempted to replace traditional drilling with systematic piano methods.Her students included Albert Schweitzer,who studied with her while also studying organ with Widor in 1898-99. She died in Paris.Her father was the mayor of Steinseltz in Alsace, and her mother was a lover of the arts and became her manager She began piano studies at the age of six with F.B. Hamma and Ignaz Moscheles in Stuttgart and a year after she already gave concerts in Germany and Switzerland.In 1856, the ten-year-old Marie was introduced to the piano teacher Heinrich Herz at the Paris CobservatoireParis. After just four months as an official student at the Conservatory, she won the First Prize of Piano. Her performances were recognized by the public and local newspapers; the Revue te gazette musicale printed a review on July 27, 1862 that reads: “She marked it [the piece] with the seal of her individual nature. Her higher mechanism, her beautiful style, her play deliciously moderate, with an irreproachable purity, an exquisite taste, a lofty elegance, constantly filled the audience with wonder.”On August 9, 1866, at twenty years of age, Marie married the Austrian concert pianist, Alfred Jaëll. She was then known variously as Marie Trautmann, Marie Jaëll, Marie Jaëll Trautmann or Marie Trautmann Jaëll. Alfred was fifteen years older than Marie and had been a student of Chopin. The husband and wife team performed popular pieces, duos, solos, and compositions of their own throughout Europe and Russia. As a pianist, Marie specialized in the music of Schumann,Liszt and Beethoven.They transcribed Beethoven’s “Marcia alla Turca Athens Ruins” for piano; the score was successfully published in 1872.Alfred was able to use his success and fame to help Marie meet with various composers and performers throughout their travels. In 1868, Marie met the composer and pianist Franz Liszt. A record of Liszt’s comments about Marie survives in an article published in the American Record Guide: “[Marie Jaëll] has the brains of a philosopher and the fingers of an artist.” Liszt introduced Marie to other great composers and performers of the day—for example, Brahms and Anton Rubinstein.By 1871, Marie’s compositions began to be published.With the death of her husband in 1881, Marie had the opportunity to study with Liszt in Weimar. She also had piano and composition lessons with Franck and Saint- Saens, who dedicated his Piano Concerto No. 1 and the “Étude en forme de valse” to her.Saint-Saëns thought highly enough of Marie to introduce her to the Society of Music Composers—a great honor for women in those days.She was well respected, both as a performer and a composer, by her contemporaries. Lea Schmidt-Roger states “Four-handed literature was as much a part of Jaëll’s repertory as solo literature. She concertized with duo piano and four-handed pieces from the age of fourteen, and later she and husband Alfred transcribed and performed much of the contemporary four-handed literature.”After struggling with tendonitist, Jaëll began to study neuroscience. The strain on her playing and performing led her to research physiology. Jaëll studied a wide variety of subjects pertaining to the functioning of the body,and also ventured into psychology: “She wanted to combine the emotional and spiritual act of creating beautiful music with the physiological aspects of tactile, additive, and visual sensory.”Dr. Charles Féré assisted Jaëll in her research of physiology. Her studies included how music affects the connection between mind and body, as well as how to apply this knowledge to intelligence and sensitivity in teaching music. Liszt’s music had such a tremendous influence on Jaëll that she sought to gain as much insight into his methods and techniques as possible.

This research and study led to Jaëll creating her own teaching method based on her findings.Jaëll’s teaching method was known as the ‘Jaëll Method’. Her method was created through a process of trial and error with herself and her students. Jaëll’s goal was for her students to feel a deep connection to the piano. An eleven book series on piano technique resulted from her research and experience. Piano pedagogues have since drawn insight into teaching techniques of the hand from her method and books. In fact, her method is still in use today.As a result of her studies, Jaëll was able to compile her extensive research into a technique book entitled L’intelligence et le rythme dans les mouvements artistiques. This text is used by pianists and piano pedagogues as a reference, specifically with hand position and playing techniques.

A fascinating look into the archives which I simply reproduce here that may stimulate the imagination for piano duos looking for some new interesting pieces to add to their repertoire .The Duo PROSSEDA- AMMARA – I had heard in the Piano Barga Festival a few years ago and is obviously establishing itself as an ensemble that is going from strength to strength.

Thomas Kelly at Steinway Hall,London for the Keyboard Trust ‘New Artist’ series

Wednesday 20 January 2021, 7.15pm

Please join us for this live, online recital from Steinway Hall, London featuring Keyboard Trust “New Artist” Thomas Kelly who will perform works by Busoni, Britten and Reubke.

•Busoni -Sonatina n.6 Chamber Fantasy on themes from Bizet’s Carmen
•Britten / Stevenson – Fantasia on Themes from Peter Grimes
•Reubke – Piano Sonata in B flat minor

Thomas Kelly was born in 1998. He passed Grade 8 with Distinction in 2006 and performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury two years later.Since 2015, Thomas has been studying with Andrew Ball, initially at the Purcell School of Music and currently at the Royal College of Music where he is a third year undergraduate.Thomas won Third Prize in the Young Pianist of The North Competition in 2012. He has subsequently won many First Prizes including at the WACIDOM in 2014, at the Pianale International Piano Competition in 2017, the Kharkiv Assemblies in 2018, at the Lucca Virtuoso e Bel Canto Festival in 2018, the RCM Joan Chissell Schumann competition in 2019, the Kendall Taylor Beethoven Competition in 2019, the BPSE Intercollegiate Beethoven competition in 2019 and the fourthTheodor Leschetizky competition in 2020.He has performed in a variety of venues, including at Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, Holy Trinity Sloane Square, St James’ Piccadilly, Oxford Town Hall, St Mary’s Perivale, St Paul’s Bedford, the Poole Lighthouse Arts Centre, the Stoller Hall in Manchester, the Paris Conservatoire, the StreingreaberHaus in Bayreuth, the Teatro Del Sale in Florence, and in Vilnius and Palanga.Thomas’s studies at the RCM are generously supported by Ms Daunt and Ms Stevenson, Pat Kendall Taylor and C. Bechstein pianos.

You might also be interested in Thomas’s interview for The Cross-Eyed Pianist blog:

Fascinating recital streamed live for the Keyboard Trust ‘New artists’ series.Thomas Kelly playing an eclectic choice of some of the most complex and for that reason little played works in the repertoire.
Busoni 6th Sonatina Chamber Fantasy on Carmen was more than just a ramble but an intellectual précis by a pupil of Liszt .Peter Grimes Fantasy by Scotland’s modern day answer to Busoni ,and the Reubke Sonata by the pupil of Liszt who died so prematurely.
Talk about a kitten on the keys.Here was an amazing natural talent,a prodigy of Andrew Ball ,who dazzled us with a dizzying collection of notes,sumptuous colours and a kaleidoscope of sounds.Above all there was a musicianship and clarity of thought that could guide us through such a maze with the same authority that only Busoni himself could have done.
Like a contemporary music recital,now I have got over the shock I will listen again to savour the full artistry of this amazing English gentleman!

Leslie Howard talks to Thomas Kelly

A talk with the distinguished Liszt expert Leslie Howard was indeed a rare cherry on the cake and not to be missed.
A bulls eye for this series that is helping to promote important young talent at the beginning of their career.The distinguished keyboard player Elena Vorotko presented the concert as co artistic director of the Keyboard Trust together with Leslie Howard and myself.

Elena Vorotko

Busoni transcribed many works especially of Bach.The Kammer-Fantasie über Carmen uses ideas present in the opera that he admired so much.Bizet’s melodies are sculpted with breathtaking creativity. It was written in 1920 and first performed in the Wigmore Hall by Busoni himself. It takes thematic material from the opening chorus of the fourth act, Don José’s ‘Flower song’ in Act II, the Act I ‘Habanera’ (in its minor and major forms), and the prelude to Act I.Ending with the final whispered sounds of the final tragic bars -the three final heart beats so poignantly played by Thomas after a scintillating display of his subtle artistry typical of the great virtuosi of Golden age of piano playing.It was quite usual for the greatest of pianists to play some crowd teasing lollipops to finish their recitals and whip their adoring audiences into a frenzy.Schultz-Evler Arabesques on The Blue Danube was a favourite of Josef Lhevine,Carnaval de Vienne of Moritz Rosenthal ,Vladimir Horowitz even wrote his own hair raising Carmen Fantasy.It is in fact a bit of a shock to see such a piece from the hands of such an intellectually serious musician such as Busoni.It has all the hallmarks though of a serious musician just wanting to pay homage to a masterpiece.The fact that it ends quietly too is very significant.But it did give Thomas a chance to show off his scintillating piano playing.From the bustling opening crowd scene played with great rhythmic drive and sparing use of the sustaining pedal as a sudden wind passes across the scene to the sumptuous outpouring of melody with magical arabesques barely noticeable with some scintillating jeux perlé playing.The Habanera barely hinted at on the horizon until it came fully into view with some diabolical embellishments thrown off with nonchalant charm that was every bit as beguiling as the recording of the young Ogdon.There was a great sense of the excitement of the theatre in his playing but at the same time an intellectual control of line and architecture that gave great weight to what could seem in lesser hands a mere Bon-Bon .Busoni would never have condoned that but neither would his disciple Ronald Stevenson.

It was cleverly programmed with the Peter Grimes Fantasy and although another sound world from that of Busoni it showed the same transcendental control of sound with the composer/pianist Ronald Stevenson’s admiration for Britten’s masterpiece shining through.The same admiration that Busoni had shown for Bizet and that Stevenson too was able to focus on with the amazingly atmospheric intervals that Britten uses to depict the desolation and grandeur of the sea.A fascinating work that deserves to be played more often especially when played with the kaleidoscopic range that Thomas could show us today.

The Piano Sonata in B-flat minor is a work written by Julius Reubke between December 1856 and March 1857. It is an absolute rarity in the concert hall and Thomas’s enterprising choice of programme gave us the chance to hear this monumental work written just three years after the Liszt B minor Sonata that in part it much resembles.Combining his teacher Franz Liszt’s technique of thematic transformation, colourful harmonies, virtuosic piano writing and a wide array of characters and sentiments.When Liszt visited Berlin in December 1855, he arranged, on the recommendation of Bülow, to teach Reubke from February 1856 in Weimar and allowed him to live at the Altenburg house he kept. It was here that he composed his two major works, the Piano Sonata and the Organ Sonata in C minor on the 94th Psalm in C minor,which is considered one of the pinnacles of the Romantic organ repertoire.The piano sonata has remained in obscurity,no doubt due to it extreme technical difficult.A dazzling and at times bewildering array of notes obviously greatly influenced by his master’s great masterpiece the B minor sonata.Listening to it for the first time I was struck by many similarities not least the central slow section and many of the passages in which he allows the opening motif to evolve.It was played with astonishing command and control of sound that even with the enormous technical hurdles involved Thomas was able to forge a coherent line that one could follow.This was amidst many of the more rhetorical outbursts of a youthful disciple of Liszt who at only 24 would die of tuberculosis.He was one of Liszt’s favourite pupils; after his death, Liszt wrote a letter of sympathy to Reubke’s father: ‘Truly no one could feel more deeply the loss which Art has suffered in your Julius, than the one who has followed with admiring sympathy his noble, constant, and successful strivings in these latter years, and who will ever bear his friendship faithfully in mind’

An amazing accomplishment to master such a long and complicated work and to play it without the score for what must be one of the very rare outings for such an unknown work.Combined with the Busoni and Stevenson it showed a rare attention to programming in an age when most young pianists are tied to competition repertoire instead of exploring the vast amount of music that needs to be heard.It was this amongst many other problems facing young musicians that formed the basis of the informal talk between Thomas and the distinguished Liszt scholar and pianist Leslie Howard

Mihai Ritivoiu at St Mary’s

Tuesday 19 January 4.00 pm 

Mihai Ritivoiu (piano)

Haydn: Sonata in C major Hob. XVI:50 Allegro-Adagio-Allegro molto

Ravel: Ondine from Gaspard de la Nuit

Schubert: Impromptus D 935 nos 1 in F minor and 2 in A flat   

Beethoven: Bagatelle in A Op 33 no 4 

Liszt: Mephisto Waltz no 1 S514

A superb concert from St Mary’s Perivale.Mihai Ritivoiu a true poet of the piano from the crystal clear hi-jinks of late Haydn through the magic swirling and swishing of Ravel’s Ondine to the sublime simplicity of Schubert.Beethoven too in almost Schubertian mood and finally the devilry of Liszt for which he was to pay dearly in his later years.
All played with sumptuous sound and total mastery.
Mihai’s playing just grows in stature from the first time I heard him in his first year at the Guildhall with Richard Goode almost ten years ago to today’s performances from an established artist graduated with honours from the school of Joan Havill.

Born in Bucharest, the multi-awards pianist 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. Mihai 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. His debut album released under the label Genuin with solo works by Franck, Enescu and Liszt has been praised as “beautifully recorded, handsomely played – a solo recital to cherish” (The Arts Desk). Graduated with the highest distinction from the National University of Music in Bucharest and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, Mihai studied with Professors Viniciu Moroianu and Joan Havill. He also had the privilege to take part in masterclasses led by Dimitri Bashkirov, Dominique Merlet, Emmanuel Ax, Richard Goode and is mentored by Valentin Gheorghiu. 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.

A perfect sense of style in the Haydn C major Sonata Hob XVI:50 and as Mihai explained is a late work that shows off all Haydn’s mischievous sense of humour.From the bare opening notes to the bubbling energy and sense of character full of sparkling ornaments and the humorous questions and answers all played with such delicacy and musical understanding .There was a beautiful change of colour for the development and surprising pedal effects that Haydn writes in the score anticipating his illustrious pupil.The exquisite delicacy of the Adagio was played with such simplicity and sense of colour where the music really was allowed to speak for itself.Deliciously descending staccato scales after a trill that just seemed to dissolve in a moment of sublime beauty.Sensitivity and sense of discovery with astonishing key changes and a magical coda leading to the final deep breath.There was a great sense of humour in the Allegro molto where Haydn at a certain point seems to be taking the player astray only to rejoin the fun with the final chords thrown off with whimsical nonchalance.

Gaspard de la nuit (subtitled Trois poèmes pour piano d’après Aloysius Bertrand),is a suite of three pieces by Ravel written in 1908.Of the three pieces Ondine,Le gibet.Scarbo,Mihai played the first and perhaps most ravishing of the suite:Ondine. It is the tale of the water nymph singing to seduce the observer into visiting her kingdom deep at the bottom of a lake:’I thought I heard A faint harmony that enchants my sleep.
And close to me radiates an identical murmur Of songs interrupted by a sad and tender voice.’A beautiful melodic line above the splashes of swirling water that surround the water nymph Ondine was played with sumptuous sound where the melodic line seemed to emerge from the watery sounds that were so beautifully played.With complete technical command even the glissandi seemed to be just waves of colour that Mihai added to his magic palette.Building to a tumultuous climax always with such radiant tone colours as he threw himself into the quite extraordinary hurdles that Ravel purposefully places before any pianist who tries to play this suite that was written with the idea to out do Bakakirev’s notorious Islamey.The virtuoso Ricardo Vines gave the first performance in Paris in January 1909.It was though Vlado Perlemuter who sought out Ravel to get his advice on giving the first complete Ravel recitals in Paris in 1929.Here is the link to his historic performance recorded in 1991:

The first two of the ‘late’ Impromptus by Schubert made up this very well thought out programme.The first is one of the longest of the set of four D.935 published after Schubert’s early death and were probably written in his last year of 1828.There are haunting seamless streams of melody that seemed to pour from Schubert’s pen with such ease and simplicity.These four Impromptus were thought by Schumann to be a Sonata in disguise much like the Drei Klavierstucke D.946.In fact the first two impromptus that Mihai had chosen for his programme could almost be the first two movements of a sonata with the first long almost in Sonata form without development and the second a simple Minuet and Trio.The first Impromptu was played as if Mihai was telling a story with such an imperious opening dissolving into landler played with such delicacy and flowing tempo.It dissolved to the the magic duet between bass and treble voices over a constant stream of waves of sound played with such colour and sensitivity by a true poet of the piano.A duet between voices just as poignant as in Schubert’s songs.Songs without words indeed,but just as eloquent when played with such sensitivity.

There was an almost string quartet texture to the A flat Impromptu that followed not just as a melody and accompaniment but gave great depth to this seemingly innocent opening.There were some very poignant bass notes too that gave great meaning to the upper voices.Schubert deliberately rewrites the same time signature for the flowing Trio section and I would have kept more strictly the same tempo as at the opening even though Mihai played it in a lovingly flowing way.Almost Beethovenian in its unsentimental sentiment it was beautifully realised and made this the ideal companion for the charming almost Schubertian Bagatelle op 33 n.4 by Beethoven.As Mihai said ‘this is a piece of sunshine on a beautiful bright day where all the worries are left long behind’and it was part of this carefully constructed programme that he offered today.

After all this charm and pastoral peace Mihai chose the devil himself to finish.Liszt’s demonic Mephisto Waltz n.1. written originally for orchestra in 1859 is one of Liszt’s most popular show pieces for piano .It is pure programme music and tells the story of a wedding feast in progress in the village inn, with music, dancing, carousing.’Mephistopheles induces Faust to enter and take part in the festivities. Mephistopheles snatches the fiddle from the hands of a lethargic fiddler and draws from it indescribably seductive and intoxicating strains. The amorous Faust whirls about with a full-blooded village beauty in a wild dance; they waltz in mad abandon out of the room, into the open, away into the woods. The sounds of the fiddle grow softer and softer, and the nightingale warbles his love-laden song.’It certainly must have been quite a party that Mihai envisaged as he opened at high speed with a delicacy but rhythmic urgency that immediately set the scene.Some amazing pyrotechnics were thrown off with aplomb but with such musical understanding.Here again was a poet of the piano with a technical mastery that the story was allowed to unfold with mounting excitement and even the nightingales seemed happy allowed to warble within his scintillating fingers.A truly exciting finish to an extremely enjoyable programme.

In fact as I told Mihai this lockdown is obviously doing you good – ‘what is your secret?’: ‘It must be Yoanna’s superb cuisine.’Charming and spirited in life as on the platform.