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: https://crosseyedpianist.com/2020/08/06/meet-the-artist-thomas-kelly-pianist/
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!
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.
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
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