Ariel Lanyi – Imogen Cooper Music Trust The trials and tribulations of a great artist

Ariel at the end of his monumental performance

Ariel Lanyi at Pavilion Road for the Imogen Cooper Music Trust.
Not only a Hammerklavier of searing intensity but a bouquet of perfumed sounds in Debussy and a kaleidoscope of incredible impressionistic sounds in Bartok.
I have never forgotten the sound world of Radu Lupu that took us by storm in Leeds all those years ago in this very suite Out of doors by Bartok.


The same sound world that Ariel discovered today and kept us mesmerised as Bartok’s incredible imagination is matched by his transcendental skill to make these sounds come vividly to life.
It is no coincidence that Ariel is flushed from his success in Leeds over 40 years later to recreate such magic.
And this was just a prelude to a monumental performance of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata op 106.


Taking Beethoven at his word with the treacherous opening leaps played with fearless courage and conviction.
This is not a play safe sonata and it comes with an X certificate for all those intrepid souls that dare enter its hallowed world.Here is the very spirit of Beethoven who with this sonata had brought the form to a collapse of atomic proportions.
A slow movement both adagio and appassionato that held us transfixed for over twenty minutes -transfixed and transformed as the mighty fugue enters helter skelter in this all or nothing world from which Beethoven knew there was no possible solution.Like Bach before him in the Art of Fugue he had tied himself in knots from which the ultimate solution was only the paradise that awaited as he at last came to terms with life with his final trilogy .

Dame Imogen presenting the concert

Not at all sure where the title of Sunshine and Shadows came from but it certainly did not describe the magic world the Ariel re-enacted for us in this extraordinary recital from a recent top prize winner in the Leeds International Piano Competition.There was such a startling range of colours and a sense of timelessness in the Cloches à travers le feuilles with the barely whispered opening and the melody with a clarity ‘un peu en dehors’ that was so perfectly judged.The gentle atmospheric sounds ‘comme une buée irisée’with a deeply nostalgic melody ‘expressif et doucement appuyé‘The gradual build up to the great peal of bells and a return of the melody even more desperately isolated ‘avec un sentiment de regret’ before the sounds disintegrated and only the final two beseeching yearning notes were left isolated in the rarified air.Ariel set the atmosphere from the very first notes and the audience followed with baited breath every nuance and subtle inflection.Has a temple ever been better described in the moonlit atmosphere that Ariel created?The magical sounds at the end were sublime where he barely touched the keys as they were allowed to ‘faites vibrer’ in the fading moonlight.Have goldfish ever been so lucky to wallow in such sumptuous waters?The gentle waters ‘aussi lèger que possible’ gradually getting more agitated as the goldfish wallowed in these ravishing waters only to disappear into the distance ‘en serrant jusqu’à la fin .

A complete change of atmosphere for the Drums and pipes which opens Bartok’s ‘Out of doors’ “Suite” The opening With Drums and Pipes divides the piano into two distinct registers. In the deep bass, a loud stuttering volley of sounds, both muffled and clearly-pitched, represents an echoing pair of drums while the mid-range offers up the pipes in a similar imitative interplay of overlapping short motives.The Barcarolla features the same continuous 8th-note motion, but in a constantly wandering two-voice texture that imitates the rocking motion of a Venetian gondola, over which a plaintive gondolier’s melody struggles to be heard.The creak and skirl of village bagpipes is portrayed with astonishing accuracy in Musettes, with quicksilver trill figures representing the typical ornamentation patterns of traditional pipe-playing. The most extraordinary piece in this set is The Night’s Music, with its tightly-packed tone clusters imitative of the eerie nocturnal musings of crickets, cicadas and frogs.Ariel showed an extraordinary mastery of sound as the ever constant tone clusters created the atmosphere much as the bell in Ravel’s mysterious Le Gibet from Gaspard de la unit .A luscious resonant sound on which the crickets and cicadas sounded out completely independently.A transcendental control of sound and mastery of the pedals much as I remember Radu Lupu many years ago .The suite closes with The Chase, a toccata-with a furiously churning ostinato in the left hand of transcendental difficulty that Ariel played with such ease and burning sense of excitement.It is one of the most difficult things of Bartók’s entire piano output.

The longest and in many ways the most difficult of the Beethoven Sonatas is the ‘Hammerklavier’ op 106.Ariel Lanyi is fresh from his triumph at the Leeds Piano Competition where he also played Brahms 2,the longest and most difficult of concertos.A truly monumental performance where in particular the twenty minute Adagio sostenuto was played with an intensity and architectural shape ‘Appassionata e con molto sentimento’.Of course who would ever forget Serkin’s performance years ago in London when he was in his 70’s.Ariel only 23 was every bit as convincing – Serkin was strangely even more Appassionato though but the intensity and commitment were the same.Overwhelming indeed.The first movement leap of course played with one hand – Serkin insisted on that – and anyone who wants to play safe has chosen the wrong work!The Scherzo was played with a fleeting energy and the Trio created a carpet of sound on which the melodic line was contained as it passed from treble to bass.Beethoven’s tempestuous impatience was thrown at us like a slap in the face before the tongue in cheek ending of the Scherzo preparing us for the great journey before us and the explosion of energy in the treacherous fugue.A magisterial performance for a true monument.When you realise that the performer is only 23 one is left,bewitched,bothered and bewildered not to say completely breathless!

For the record Ariel is of course an A sharp man

It might be interesting to note ,as it is for me now to remember,that my performance of the Hammerklavier sonata has gone down in history at the Royal Academy.With Myra Hess we are the only two Liszt Scholarship and Tobias Matthay fellowship holders to have failed our Division 2 exam – she probably overstretched herself too!Ariel was left prostrate but a champion nevertheless

The investiture of Dame Imogen on the 13th October
Sunshine there was none but shadows and ravishing half shades abounded with Debussy and Bartok before the tempest and atomic explosion of op 106
The distinguished audience with Ann Machin hosting Dame Imogen in her beautiful concert space in Pavilion Road
After concert reception in the beautiful Stone Hall
Angela Brownridge the distinguished pianist and student of my great friend and teacher Guido Agosti

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/06/01/ariel-lanyi-flying-high-at-st-marys/

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