Emanuil Ivanov at La Scala to the Glory of God and beyond

In May 1909, a few months before the death of his mother, Busoni had lost his father. In his memory the son created an original work, poised and noble in tone, out of three organ pieces by Bach: Busoni’s way of thanking his father for an early introduction to the music of a composer he had been championing for years. The Fantasia after J S Bach is the first of his works that can be called a Nachdichtung—a work resulting from such a free transcription or adaptation of a model that it becomes original and independent in its own right. Following an improvisatory-like introduction in the low register leading to a more chromatic theme, Busoni offers his piano versions of the first, second and seventh sections from the chorale partita Christ, der du bist der helle Tag, BWV766. He also amplifies the fughetta on Gottes Sohn ist kommen, BWV703 (from the Kirnberger chorale settings), as well as the chorale prelude Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott, BWV602 (from the Orgelbüchlein).

It is indeed an amazing work that in the span of only 15 minutes there is sublime inspiration and ecstasy,deep meditation and exultation.A performance from this young musician that belied his years.Of such overwhelming maturity where nothing was overstated but played in this vast empty Mecca as though there was a golden sheen around this magnificent Fabbrini Steinway.A protection that would not allow him to make anything but sublime sounds to the glory of a believer as thanks to his parents who had gone to a world of Glory and Hope.It was indeed a very moving experience and one that quite frankly I was not expecting.I had heard Emanuil in Bolzano playing Brahms Handel variations and Saint Saens noble but rather sugary Second Piano Concerto.Nothing had prepared me for the depth of feeling and range of sounds but above all control and intelligence.Beautifully atmospheric opening with the bass notes on this magnificent instrument barely audible but because of his extraordinary sense of balance they emerged from the magic that he had created from the very first murmur.Yearning harmonies followed on a continuous flow of sounds.The richness of the chorale commented on by whispered sounds on high that in lesser hands could have had quite a different effect than that of finding true gold.It built up to an ecstatic climax on a frenzied wave of full sumptuous sounds before subsiding again to deep meditation and a final barely audible contemplation that was very moving.

In the hands of this young artist he convinced me of what a great work I was hearing as if for the first time.I can now understand Alfred Brendel’s complete devotion to Busoni .

An ultra sensitive performance of Ravel’s extraordinary Miroirs.Noctuelles could not have been in better hands than today with a crystal clear clarity even at such speed as his sensitive fingers allowed these moths full range in this hallowed cavern. I imagine the moths at La Scala have been undisturbed for quite some time.A magical mist to end from which the moth escaped to join his fellows so promptly.



It was just this agility and lightness that I had so admired in Bolzano but in another way missed the weight and depth of sound especially in his ‘short back and sides’Brahms Handel – magnificent though it was.It missed the orchestral colours that are so much part of that world.The nobility of the opening of the Saint Saens that Rubinstein used to astonish us with was missing but the captivating brilliance of the Scherzo took our breath away.Rubinstein was from the old school and knew how to turn baubles into gems with not only his astonishing vitality but also the depth of sound that he could by contrast produce.I remember my old teacher Perlemuter,who had played Ravel’s works to the composer ,filling my scores with his fingerings that were those of an organist that would never leave the keys,as he would find and perfect ,over and over again,the fingering that would shape the contour of the music without relying on the sustaining pedal.Perlemuter like Arrau would often play loudly with the soft pedal that would give a new colour to their already extraordinary palette of sound .Schwarzkopf had the most extraordinary range of sounds too not only that of the beautiful sound that she was famed for.Oiseaux tristes was played with some sublimely sensitive sounds but even here in the very atmospheric languishing harmonies of the middle episode there was missing the almost 3D quality as we remained in the sullen world of Le Gibet.

’Une barque sur l’océan’was a truly remarkable performance where the difficult cross rhythms were thrown of with a subtle ease and the sudden storms that cross the path were allowed to interrupt the flow with great technical brilliance.Here his crystalline sounds really added to the extraordinary sound picture that Ravel describes.The almost religious appearance of the left hand chorale over shimmering right hand sounds would have been even more sublime if he had allowed Ravel to speak without any rallentando,however discreet.Ravel was a master of clarity – the precision of a clock indeed-that no underlining is necessary.But it was nevertheless an almost perfect performance and I do not remember ever hearing an ending so clear and yet so magical and doubt I will again.

A truly amazing performance of ‘Alborada del gracioso’ where suddenly Emanuil let his temperament take over knowing that his technical command was complete.Exhilarating ,relentless Spanish rhythms were played with astonishing clarity.An extraordinary ‘tour de force’ with repeated notes thrown off with ease as were the treacherous double glissandi.The orchestral colours though were missing as comments to a heartbreaking recitativo and later the sudden interruption of full orchestra in the animal like frenzy that was taking us to the final overwhelming bacchanal .But is was a quite extraordinary performance and of course the weight and strength will come as he matures with these works.I remember Moiseiwitch when he was dying in hospital and he asked to hear an old piano roll recording of ‘Jeux d’eau’.With a twinkle in his eye he said :’Yes ,I could play like that in my youth.’’La vallée des cloches’ was wonderfully atmospheric and I loved the final bass bells that were allowed to reverberate.I was missing here more than elsewhere the ‘weight’ that gives an inner propulsion to the sounds.Rubinstein in his recording of French music is the supreme example and although I doubt that Rubinstein could have played as well as Emanuil at his age ,the maturity that will come from living with the music much longer will obviously come to this superb young artist in what no doubt will be a long and celebrated career.

A truly remarkable performance of Scriabin’s 5th Sonata that showed off all Emanuil’s temperament ,colour and quite transcendental technical command.A world that took us by surprise when Richter came to the west to show us just what it meant to give yourself up so totally and be literally devoured by the keys.Scriabin just enticing us into an almost obscene world of Impetuoso,Languido,Fantastico.Luckily Emanuil’s tendency towards Eusebius was not allowed much thrift here as he entered this fantastic world of frenzied almost psychedelic emotions.A wonderful end to this short recital celebrating his victory in Bolzano.

Another extraordinary performance was heard by a young Korean boy,Eunseong Kim,in the previous competition a rare talent cut short by an unimagined accidental death .But as a tribute to him I include that performance as a celebration to him and his family

https://youtu.be/3ad5YCG9wcY. This not the Scriabin I was searching for but the set piece from the competition in the hope that the Scriabin could be added later. https://app.idagio.com/recordings/16645228?utm_source=pcl

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