Arcadi Volodos whispered secrets of introspection and fantasy

Arcadi Volodos at S.Cecilia that like Richter chose to play in penombre as he comuned with the very soul of Schubert’s D major Sonata. Sounds of sublime beauty contrasting with driving rhythmic urgency.Moments of such ravishing beauty that time seemed to stand still as he relished the perfumed sounds of such subtle fragrance.Sounds that I have only ever heard from Gilels where his fingers were like limpets driving deep into each key to produce velvet sounds of glowing richness.
But Gilels never forgot that even in Schuberts most mellifluous continuous outpouring of melodic invention there must always be that underlying rhythmic current that holds the whole architectural structure together.

Curzon was a master of this as demonstrated by his famous recording of this sonata.I remember a youthful Murray Perahia holding our rapt attention with it in Rovigo.A recital that included Mozart D minor Fantasy and Chopin four ballades – a truly unforgettable experience.
Forty minutes of sublime sounds and transcendental control but with Volodos tonight it did not hold us on the edge of our seats as Curzon,Gilels,Brendel or Perahia could do.
Could it be that such pianistic perfection should also contain some imperfection too?
A performance to marvel at but not to be devoured by.

I was hoping that like in his last recital his concentrated playing was so great that the first half of late Liszt had me exclaiming that this was the greatest pianist of our day.The way he touched the keys ,his supreme artistry where the shape of his hands was like a sculptor shaping the sublime sounds he was able to create.The first half of late Liszt played as a whole without a break was quite sublime and will never be forgotten.The range of sound and above all the supreme musicianship was of a different age.The second half had been less convincing as the musical vocabulary became repetitive rather than creative.

The second half today was dedicated to two of the most loved works in the piano repertoire: Schumann’s Kinderscenen op 15 and the Fantasy op 17,only Kreisleriana op 16 separates them.A series of masterpieces that poured from Schumann’s soul from op 1 to op 26. Unfortunately it was an evening where Volodos seemed to be like a cat playing with a mouse.Ravishing sounds that seem to stand like little episodes on their own,discovered and played with like an improvisation Little counterpoints that would suddenly appear as quickly as they would disappear without any apparent reason except for a personal journey of discovery.Could he be bored and looking for new things to ignite and renew that initial voyage of discovery?After a lifetime of playing these works instead of becoming more profound with a deeper insight Volodos- the greatest pianist alive or dead – seemed tempted today to look into the nooks and crannies forgetting the actual point of arrival of the journey.A distinguished pianist present at the end told me he had not realised that it was to be an all Scriabin programme!

Kinderscenen was played with ravishing sounds that rarely rose to mezzo forte.A ‘Traumerei’ where the climax was played so gently as it dissolved to an incredible pianissimo.Sounds that I have only ever heard from this pianistic genius.Of course there were many beautiful things because Volodos is a great artist even though today he seemed distracted and to have lost his way. There was a beautiful melodic line in ‘Of foreign Lands and Peoples’ and a gentle playfulness to ‘A curious story’.Fleeting lightness of ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’ was followed by some beautiful subtle shaping of the ‘Pleading Child’ and ‘Happy Enough’.The ‘Important Event’ was played with a restrained mezzo forte to contrast with the forte of the central section as ‘The Knight of the Hobbyhorse’ was played with delicious rhythmic verve but always in penombra.By the time he got to the ‘Child falling asleep’ I was too!The ravishing sounds of a ‘Poet Speaks ‘ we had heard it all before.There was a lack of overall architectural shape to this miniature masterpiece that Volodos had neglected in his search for half lights and whispered asides.Sounds of course that no other pianist alive could even imagine but that today he too seemed to have got lost in this maze of sublime creation.

One of the greatest masterpieces of the Romantic era is the Fantasie in C op 17 by Schumann that is dedicated to Liszt.Liszt in turn dedicated his Sonata in B minor to Schumann,that other pinnacle of the Romantic repertoire.I was expecting an overpowering authoritative performance from Volodos but who today had chosen to make his own fantasy on Schumann’s already perfect masterpiece.Added octaves and unexpected eruptions of volcanic proportions.Strange counterpoints underlined at the expense of the musical line,episodes that seemed to end in a sumptuous dead end as it had been teased and played to death.An architectural line that today Volodos had sacrificed to the intimate secret confessions that maybe suited his mood as he sat in almost total darkness in front of this magnificent black box.Today it seemed full of toys and play things instead of the wondrous jewels that I was indeed hoping for from one of the greatest pianist before the public today.

Five encores were generously offered to the very small but enthusiastic audience.The slow movement from the A major Sonata op posth by Schubert where for a moment the turbulent middle section seemed to bring some much needed contrast to the sublime sounds he had teased out of the piano before and after.Another four encores including the famous Brahms Intermezzo op 117 and other works that I could not identify but presume of the school of Scriabin even with a hint of Sondheim in one of them.But where is the Volodos of the Turkish March or the other fabulous encore pieces that had us all in delirium the first time he appeared in Rome.A recital programme must have some shape and contrast and be like a great theatrical production full of every facet of life .Grief ,sadness,and whispered secrets but also joy,life and exhilaration.It is a show and needs a showman to lead us like Rubinstein or Horowitz or indeed the greatest showman ever,Franz Liszt.

It was nice to see all the pianists gathered here today to pay homage to this great artist.Eduardo Hubert an intimate friend of Martha Argerich who like me was studying in Rome many years ago!He was even the page turner for a duo I had with Mirta Herrera in that period.He is a much better pianist and composer than page turner,by the way.50 years ago cannot have been me then!Greeted by Maria Teresa Carunchio,a prodigy of Emma Contestabile,who insisted on calculating the years that had passed since she too had been studying in Rome and shared the Pensione Rosario in via Sistina with us all.Musicians all following on the trail of the much missed Fausto Zadra in the class of Carlo Zecchi and Guido Agosti.

A masked Daniil Trifonov still in Rome instead of Vienna

Daniil Trifonov was present too.He had braved tennis elbow to respect his tour with Pappano and the S.Cecilia Orchestra only to be cheated out of their concert tonight in the Musikverein in Vienna- cancelled as COVID once again raises its evil eye.The life of a travelling musician is certainly not an easy one but in the end what and honour to know that all roads lead to Rome and this magnificent hall that Renzo Piano has donated to the Eternal City.

Julian Trevelyan at St Mary’s – Liszt restored to the pinnacle of the Romantic repertoire

Tuesday 30 November 3.00 pm

Debussy :Prélude a l’Apres-midi d’un Faune

Chopin: Barcarolle Op 60

Liszt: Sonata in B minor

Faure: Nocturne in B minor Op 119

A truly remarkable performance of the Liszt Sonata was the highlight of Julian Trevelyan’s recital at St Mary’s .

I have heard him give extraordinary performances of the Hammerklavier Sonata and the Diabelli variations.But it is the Liszt Sonata today that will remain for a long time in my memory not only for it’s Arrau type control but also for his scrupulous attention to Liszt’s detailed instructions.
How often they are ignored by fine pianists as tradition takes over from intelligence and real musicianship sacrificed to passionate fervour and showmanship.
The simple staccato B that ends this one movement masterpiece was the same simple staccato note that had opened the gate to this vast range of emotions and revolutionary transformation of themes that was to be the inspiration later for Liszt’s son in law Richard Wagner.There was a remarkably musicianly opening with a clarity and scrupulous attention to detail .A sumptuous full sound in the first big climax that was immediately diffused and where the silences too had great emotional significance.There was the devilish left hand motif of such menace leading to the beauty of the ‘Marguerite’ melody played with great shape and style.

A highly controlled performance where any slight blemishes were of no significance in a performance of such noble vision,The opening of the slow movement where the hands were slightly out of sinc as he strove to find the right colours in the magically atmospheric chords.The passionate central climax was played with superb control and a wonderful balance between the hands.The anchor very much in the bass giving an aristocratic control and an ‘Arrau’ sense of weight of notes pregnant with significance.There was a stillness in the long falling passages above radiant left hand chords leading to the clarity and absolute precision of the fugato.The treacherous octaves at the end were played with enviable clarity and control as the sonata unwound to its inevitable celestial conclusion.

Already from the opening of the Debussy ‘Prélude a l’Apres-midi’ there was extreme delicacy with washes of colour and a wonderfully rich orchestral sense of colour adding such atmosphere with the refined detail he gave to the different instrumentation.

A Barcarolle that suffered a little from too much water and at one point risked sinking altogether!But it was played with a wonderful sense of melody with Chopin’s magical golden line shining through with such colour and sensitivity.A gentle opening with a wonderful lilt to the gentle lapping of waves that created the base for this continuous outpouring of song.I was not convinced by the non legato/staccato embellishments that sounded suddenly too contrived and pianistic but it was a momentary lapse in an overall performance of great warmth and love.There was a moment too in the transition that sounded nit a little laboured and could have been more simply,opening the door as it does to one of the most magical moments that Chopin has ever created.It was the moment that had Perlemuter exclaiming that this was paradise.Julian at a certain point though looked rather tense with shoulders high and I wonder if all his energy had been directed to the Liszt and poor Chopin had been given poor shrift in its preparation this time!

The Fauré Nocturne in B minor op 119 was one of Fauré’s last works written when he was in his nineties and hard of hearing.But like Beethoven,Fauré could hear wondrous sounds in his head that he was able to share with posterity on the printed page.Written in 1921, three years before Fauré s death, the tragic despair of the Thirteenth Nocturne shares its depth of feeling with few other works in the piano repertoire. Certainly nothing like this was written by Debussy or Ravel, and only in the last pages of Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart or Bach can parallels be found to its austere heartbreak and it should be regarded as deeply autobiographical.The 13th nocturne has long been considered a secret masterpiece by Perlemuter ,Horowitz and many other great musicians.
It showed off all the remarkable facets of Julian’s artistry:intelligence,transcendental control of balance and colour together with the passionate commitment of an artist who has a burning desire to share his musical discoveries with others.An encore of the Intermezzo in C op 119 by Brahms was played with the same consumate ease and style that I remember from the hands of Clifford Curzon

Dr Hugh Mather :’It was a truly remarkable recital indeed by a very special pianistic talent.’Here is the link

Julian Trevelyan is a British pianist and performs regularly throughout Europe and the UK.  Performances in the 2019/20 season have included Prokofiev’s fifth piano concerto with the Russian State Academy Symphony Orchestra, Howard Blake piano concerto and Brahms’ first piano concerto in the UK.  He gave the first Russian performance of the Concertino for piano and orchestra by Lucas Debargue in the Zaryadye Hall in Moscow in December 2018.  His solo recitals have included performances of Beethoven’s Diabelli variations in London, Munich, Paris,  and Switzerland. Over the past four years, Julian has studied piano with Rena Shereshevskaya at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris.  Since 2018 he has also been studying Musicology at Oxford University.  He composes, regularly performs chamber music on piano, violin and viola, and sings with an acappella group in Oxford. Since the pandemic eased In the summer of 2020 he has taken part in the Vienna Summer School of the International Piano Foundation Theo and Petra Lieven of Hamburg, and has been able to return to France to give a number of solo recitals.

Maria Serena Salvemini triumphs in Frascati

Some scintillating playing from the 16 year old violinist Maria Serena Salvemini with her mother and teacher Daniela Carabellese and the pianist Pietro Laera.
Yesterday this very gifted young violinist was awarded the Gold Medal for her exceptional youthful activity,by the ‘Maison des Artistes ‘in the Aula Magna of La Sapienza University of Rome.

Maria Serena Salvemini in the Aula Magna of La Sapienza University of Rome

Today they had been invited to play in Villa Aldobrandini by the distinguished pianist Marylene Mouquet.

Marylene Mouquet

The Trio are from Puglia – that land kissed by the Gods from which so many distinguished musicians have their roots.Not least of whom the legendary violinist Gioconda de Vito from Martina Franca and Riccardo Muti from Molfetta the very town where our young violinist was born too.Not to mention Beatrice Rana,Benedetto Lupo and Francesco Libetta.
Five pieces for two violins and piano by Shostakovich immediately presented their notable musical credentials.Short works played with charm and character from the beautiful mellifluous opening to the charmingly shaped Viennese style waltz and the final flamboyant dance.

This was just the opening for a series of violin show pieces :Ziguenerweisen by Sarasate and the solo 24th caprice by Paganini which were given scintillating performances that showed off the technical and musical mastery of this young artist.

Maria Serena Salvemini

The mother Daniela gave a performance of the Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve of De Falla that was full of the flair and colour that Kreisler had brought to his transcription of this piece.
Together in Saratsate’s Navarra mother and daughter brought a subtle display of scintillating virtuosity.

The scene was set for the highlight of the concert with a remarkable performance by Maria Serena of Saint Saens famous violin warhorse the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.A performance full of subtle artistry and technical command and a maturity way beyond her sixteen years.Some very fine playing from her orchestra Pietro Laera,who throughout the concert had followed the violinists every move listening very carefully and never overpowering his companions even with the lid of the Steinway fully open to reflect the sound.A very interesting work was written especially for Maria Serena by the composer Massimo De Lillo and was played in a real duo performance with Pietro Laera.Both artists showing off to the full this very interesting work with its beautifully mellifluous opening and sumptuous accompaniment to the energetic finale of great fervour.

A beautiful Tarantella full of ravishing sounds and excitement was played by the trio with superb ensemble and brought this very enjoyable concert to its official end.
A standing ovation after their delicious Hungarian encore was a just reward for these remarkable musicians.

Minkyu Kim – mastery exults to the glory of Liszt

Saturday 27 November St Mary’s Perivale

The Liszt Society Annual Day and Competition

Minkyu Kim Leslie Howard Mark Viner

1.00 pm Recital by Minkyu Kim (1st prize in the 2019 competition) 

Two Hungarian Recruiting Songs ‘Zum Andenken’, S241Scherzo in G minor, S153
Schlaflos! Frage und Antwort (‘Question and Answer’) – Nocturne nach einem Gedicht von A Raab, S203i
Schubert song transcriptions S558: no 1 Sei mir gegrüßt
Soirées de Vienne – Valses-Caprices d’après Schubert, S427: No. 4
Variationen über das Motiv von Bach, ‘Weinen, Klagen’ S180
Grande Fantaisie sur des thèmes de Paganini – La clochette et Le carnaval de Venise,

Some quite extraordinary playing from Minkyu Kim.A total mastery of the keyboard,a transcendental technique that seems to know no difficulties .But above all a poet’s soul allied to an intelligence that brings to life a programme of almost unknown works of Liszt.A Campanella Fantasy that Mark Viner exclaimed was impossibly difficult .Not for this young pianist who brought it vividly to life.One could see Liszt’s work in progress and indeed understand the gentleman in Dublin who exhorted Liszt :“Play them bells again Paddy”.The only work that I knew was the extraordinary “Weinen Klagen Variations” that received a truly monumental performance.There was a great sense of balance even when there were transcendental left hand octaves but he was always aware of the overall architectural line.The triumphant ending of a work,that even Perlemuter in his old age had on his music stand,was played with total conviction and mastery.There was great rhythmic control and clarity in the two Hungarian Recruiting Songs S 241 and scintillating playing of great rhythmic drive in the Scherzo S.153.There was also the great beauty of the tenor melody in Schubert’s ‘Sei mir gegrusst’accompanied by ravishingly arpeggiated chords played with such subtle colouring .Soirée de Vienne S.427 N.4 was a novelty as we know only the famous one immortalised by Horowitz and the virtuosi of the Golden age of piano playing.An irresistible rhythmic pulse of extreme delicacy led to a gradual build up to a mighty climax all played with crystalline clarity.An encore of a March that had remained unknown for over a century ,of course now recorded by Leslie Howard,but that Minkyu wanted to play as a final tribute to Liszt at his prizewinners concert today at St Mary’s.

Minkyu Kim was born in South Korea in 1995. He studied piano with Soojeong Jeong at Goyang High School of Arts and with Hyung-Joon Chang and Sehee Kim at Seoul National University and harpsichord with Joohee Oh. He has won many prizes including second prize in the Korean Liszt Competition, first prize in the Jock Holden Memorial Mozart Prize (RCS), Governors’ Recital Prize for Keyboard (RCS), Philip Halstead Prize (RCS) and third prize in the Windsor International Piano Competition. He was selected as one of 14 semi-finalists of International Franz Liszt Competition in 2020, unfortunately cancelled due to the pandemic. Minkyu has given many recitals in Korea, including several lecture concerts. He has also performed the entire Transcendental Études by Franz Liszt. Minkyu has performed piano concertos with Goyang High School of Arts Orchestra, Scottish Ensemble and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and has had several chamber music concerts with Seoul National University Philharmonic Orchestra. After graduating with distinction from the University in 2017, he began his studies at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with a full scholarship from ABRSM. He is currently studying for a Doctor of Performance degree at the RCS in with Professor Aaron Shorr and Sinae Lee with a full scholarship.

The Liszt Society International Competition 2021

HyunJeong Hwang (aged 31, from Korea)

Études d’exécution transcendante d’après Paganini, S140: nos 2 in E flat / 6 in A minor
Rapsodie espagnole – Folies d’Espagne et Jota aragonesa, S254

Anastasia Tionadewi (aged 24, from Indonesia)

Harmonies poetiques et religieuses, S173 no 3: Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude

Eri Yamamoto (aged 27, from Japan)

Rigoletto de G. Verdi – Paraphrase de concert, S434
Deuxieme Année de pèlerinage – Italie, S161: no 7: Après une lecture de Dante – Fantasia quasi Sonata

Results of the competition announced

Anastasia Tionadewi winner

Some very fine playing from all three contestants in the Annual Liszt competition.Some rather over cautious playing from HunJeong Huang but nevertheless with some beautiful shaping of great musicality.A finely spun Dante Sonata from Eri Yamamoto after a scintillating Rigoletto paraphrase.But it was to the beautiful unrestrained musicality of Anastasia Tionadewi that first prize was given.

HyunJeong Hwang

HyunJeong Hwang is a keen pianist with a passion for the classical and romantic repertoire, and she enjoys an active and multifaceted musical life, performing as a soloist and chamber musician.  She won various competitions in South Korea from the age of 17, and went on achieve a high commendation in the Lilian Davis Competition at the Royal Academy of Music, the 4th prize in the Osaka International Competition, 2nd prize in the Lazar Berman Competition in Italy,  and was also asked to be an official accompanist at the Grand Virtuoso Prize in London for the winning concert at the Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall. A frequent guest at international festivals she has played in Amalfi (Italy), Gabala (Azerbaijan), Puigcerda (Spain) and Kyiv (Ukraine) – where she performed Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto. She holds a BMus and MMus from the RAM, where she studied with Daniel-Ben Pienaar and Colin Stone, and she continued with her doctorate at the Guildhall. 

Anastasia Tionadewi

 Anastasia Tionadewi was borin in Indonesia in 1997, and pursued her musical education in Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, The University of Melbourne under the tutelage of Miss Janine Sowden. She has performed throughout Australia, and is the winner of many national awards and prizes there, including the Hephzibah Menuhin Award, the Florence Menk Meyer Prize, the C G McWilliam Bequest, and the Ormond Exhibition Scholarship for the best student of the course for the Bachelor of Music (Hons). Anastasia is now one of the Guildhall School of Music scholars, studying with Joan Havill in the artist master’s programme. 

Eri Yamamoto

Eri Yamamoto was born in Tokyo and, after achieving her BA and MA with highest honours at the F. Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest as a Stipendium Hungaricum scholar, she moved to London in 2017 to further her skills on the Professional Diploma course at the Royal Academy of Music. Currently she is also an official piano accompanist of the RAM. She has won numerous prizes and awards throughout Europe and Asia, and she has recently performed important engasgements in Warsaw, Budapest Salzburg and Tokyo. She studied with Na´dor Gyo¨rgy and Orsolya Szabo´ and participated in masterclasses by Cyprien Katszaris and Pavel Gililov. Eri currently receives coaching from Julian Jacobson.

Trio Eidos -Margoni -Bruno- Loperfido ‘ A winning combination of musical integrity and youthful passion together with intelligence and technical brilliance’.

What a wonderful surprise to find this concert in the local town hall full to the rafters on this wet winters evening,ready to applaude a trio of young twenty year old musicians.
It speaks louder than words of the perseverance in the name of young talent,of Elisa Cerocchi and Tiziana Cherubini.

Determined to maintain the crusade of Arch Riccardo Cerrochi to bring the highest excellence of culture to this magical but much overlooked part of Italy.
The masterclasses at Sermoneta on the hills around Latina have become legend since their beginning with the noble Cattani/Howard family.
The decision to create the marvel that are the gardens at Ninfa, the ruin that Liszt knew and frequented as his pupil was Roffredo Cattani, the composer.
They invited Menuhin and Szigeti to their castle to play and give masterclasses in the 60’s to help and encourage future generations-Jaqueline Du Pre was one of the first students.
Arch Cerrochi maintained and amplified that promise until his death a few years ago.
It is nice to see his daughter now at the reigns with the same devotion and surrounded by expert musicians whose care and advice is obviously bringing new life and opportunities for young musicians.

Trio Eidos is made up of Ivos Margoni (1999) a student of Accardo at the extraordinary Stauffer Academy in Cremona. Stefano Bruno (2000) student of Giovanni Solima and Giulia Loperfido(2000) student of Benedetto Lupo, both at the S.Cecilia Accademy in Rome.Playing of such intelligence and musical integrity together with youthful passion and technical brilliance.
And what wonders they produced with a scintillating performance of Mendelssohn D minor Trio. Glittering silver from Giulia’s fingers as Ivos and Stefano intoned Mendelssohn’s passionate outpouring of melody.Both listening to Giulias beautiful playing of the Andante ready to join in a musical conversation full of the passion and enthusiasm that only youth can offer.

A recently written work by Capogrosso saw the perfect gentleman of a cellist helping a damselle in distress as Giulia valiantly prepared surprises inside the piano.Some very energetic sounds all expertly played with great seriousness finally ending with a magical ethereal coda of ravishing effect.Just ten minutes that cleansed and refreshed the ears like a sorbet at a ‘cordon bleu’ dinner party
Of course Brahms C minor trio op 101 found its ideal interpreters with these wonderful passionate young players.
Superb intonation and balance throughout meant that Brahms’s passionate outpourings could sweep over this very full hall and hold us all in their spell to the final noble chords.
An encore by Beethoven just underlined the extraordinary musical credentials of this newly formed youthful Trio.
Elisa and the Cherubini family very much in evidence .Elisa’s astonished remark – ‘all only 20’ – as she too was bewitched and thrilled that her fathers wish was being maintained in the name of youth and culture in his beloved home town Latina

Peter the Great- Peter Frankl with the Kelemen Quartet in Budapest

A wonderful review from the distinguished critic Ates Orga after reading Julian Jacobson’s comment on social media: ‘Jaw dropping ‘

Peter Frankl and the Kelemen Quartet in Budapest tonight with superb performances of the Franck and Brahms Quintets.What a lesson Peter Frankl in his 87th year playing with all the youthful passion of the superb Kelemen Quartet less than half his age.I remember Peter remarking about his friend Menahem Pressler playing the Franck Quintet for the first time in his nineties and remarking that it was one of the most difficult and strenuous works in the repertoire.
And yet here in Budapest Peter played not only the Franck Quintet but also the Brahms Quintet – two monuments of the chamber music repertoire.
And what a lesson it was as he weaved his way in and out with his magnificent players in a musical conversation that today has no peers.
Hugh Mather,of that musical Mecca of St Mary’s in Perivale,just commented that he thought Peter no longer played in public.
How wrong can you be!
Just listen to these performances last night!

Peter had to have two 80th birthday parties in London – one for his English friends and one for his Hungarian friends – there were so many people that wanted to pay tribute to one of the most loved musicians of the day.Together with his inseparable wife Annie they are one of the most loved couples for their intelligence warmth,humility and supreme artistry.A rarity indeed these days where quantity has been mistaken for quality.
Many people thought he no longer lived in London as he never plays there any more.
Peter would commute to Yale University for many years but always came back home to London.
He would often come with Annie to play for us in Rome and it would of course include a visit to the Villa Borghese or other famous monuments.But they also insisted on coming to see my wife on stage and I well remember the fun we had in my wife’s green room afterwards.One year Peter got a letter from Dame Moura Lympany congratulating on his superb performance of the Liszt Sonata at the Ghione Theatre.He had no idea that such an illustrious colleague had been present.Little did anyone know that when Moura was housebound in Montecarlo due to a stroke just before her 80th birthday,I used to send her videos of all the concerts at the Ghione theatre.We would then discuss and enjoy the performances together.I well remember a young Canadian pianist Katherine Chi from the International Piano Academy in Como ,playing the Hammerklavier Sonata and both Moura and Peter after hearing the video asking how they could help such an enormous talent.Moura and Peter – two of the most generous artists that has been my privilege to know.
Peter and Annie go more to the opera and the theatre than to piano concerts and they would often ring us up to say they had seen a play that would be particularly ideal for Ileana.
‘Glass Menagerie’ was a terrific success for Ileana thanks to them.( Rosalyn Tureck made a journey especially from Florence to Empoli to see her in it)

Peter now feels uncomfortable to play solo piano from memory and refuses to use a score.So in the past few years he has dedicated himself to the vast Chamber music repertoire of which he is the indisputed master now that Menahem Pressler has retired.(There are only us two left as Horowitz said to Cherkassky when Bolet died).

This can be seen and heard in Budapest last night and it is indeed strange that so many great artists living in London are never actually invited to perform there.Cheethams in Manchester (where he gave the greatest performance of Beethoven’s 4th Concerto that Craig Shepherd had ever heard ) and the Oxford Philamusica have been two enlightened oasis that have been able to enjoy his performances and precious advice in Masterclasses,but London has been deaf for too long to the gold that is hidden at the bottom of its garden!

Jianing Kong Master musician at St Mary’s

Tuesday 23 November 3.00 pm

Beethoven: Piano sonata in E Op 109
Vivace / Prestissimo / Andante and variations

Brahms: Piano sonata in F minor Op 5
Allegro / Andante / Scherzo / Intermezzo / Finale

It was very stimulating to be able to hear Jianing Kong in the Brahms F minor Sonata just a few days after hearing his mentor Dmitri Alexeev play it in his series of concerts dedicated to his own mentor Dmitri Bashkirov.Of course both are superb musicians and real artists with all the technical resources at their fingertips to be able to concentrate on the actual meaning behind the notes and the overall architectural shape of this monumental work.One cannot make comparisons between two such committed performances.Each one stands on it’s own and in that moment is totally convincing.But it is possible on reflection to make some comments and observations as one rethinks of the performances and of things that linger in ones mind and are to cherish for a long time after the sounds have died away.Let me say immediately that the comparison for me is between Alexeev at the helm of the Philadelphia under Ormandy and Jianing with the New York Philharmonic under Boulez.

Some time ago I heard Volodos play the Brahms second piano concerto at the Festival Hall.Volodos ,also a pupil of Bashkirov,has been glibly but with a grain of truth described as the greatest pianist alive or dead!It was a magnificent performance that just slipped out of his fingers with his ravishing tone and transcendental technical control. I remember very little else about subtle details or those velvet moments (to use Joseph Coopers very apt remark about the F sharp major episode of the slow movement). I do though still remember 30 years on the performance by Curzon at the Proms where he sweated blood and tears together with the Concertgebouw orchestra .I was standing almost next to him and could see the enormous effort that went into the performance.My teacher Sidney Harrison listening on the radio confirmed that it was indeed a memorable performance.

Recently a well known critic went to hear the Beethoven trilogy played by a very fine artist who having come to the end of his cycle of 32 sonatas had to repeat the trilogy on the same day such was the demand for tickets.I listened to the first performance on the radio in my garden ,the score at hand ,and was overwhelmed by a performance of such perfection and absolute fidelity.The critic had been only able to secure a seat for the second performance and he confirmed my impression of the earlier concert.’There is only one point though’ he said very wisely ‘ when I heard Arrau play this trilogy in the Festival Hall he was so exhausted and exhilarated at the end of such a mammoth journey as was his audience too.It would have been unthinkable that he could have just had a cup of tea and done it all over again’.Wise words indeed.Make of it what you will!Music ,must be a struggle. Like climbing a mountain a life embracing all or nothing effort.

Jaining’s performance of Brahms op 5 I have admired enormously for his formidable technical control and superb musicianship.A rhythmic precision that in this sonata is a great challenge to the performer.There were some beautiful counterpoints in the ‘con espressione’ of the first movement and the transition to D flat was quite magical.His sense of architectural shape was also quite remarkable.The beauty and colouring he found in the Andante duet between voices was only surpassed by the delicacy with which he played the ‘poco più lento.’There was passion too in the gradual build up to the climactic outpourings.Sumptuous rich sounds in the coda that started with a mere whisper and built up to a climax of orchestral proportions.The scherzo was played with enviable clarity and rhythmic energy and his colouring of the trio was of great beauty. The startling Intermezzo was played with great attention to detail but did not quite create the desolate atmosphere of this extraordinary movement.The Finale was played with enviable precision and kept firmly in control as the beautiful mellifluous ‘con espressione’ created a wonderful contrast.There was such a rich sound to the chorale melody too that built to up to an overwhelming opulence.His very clean and precise ‘più mosso’ was just the right maze on which this beautiful chorale melody was to wind it’s way to a tumultuous climax.A remarkable performance that I admired enormously.It is however the struggle and turmoil of Alexeev’s conquest that will remain with me for a long time to come.

Jaining’s Beethoven playing I have always admired for it’s precision,clarity and utmost fidelity to the score.But in Beethoven he seems to have understood also the very soul of the composer and I have never forgotten a quite remarkable recital he gave at St Mary’s a few years ago.

Today I will add his op.109 as a thing to cherish.The very opening was played with the feeling that the melodic line had started like a bubbling brook in a distant paradise and had just momentarily resurfaced before disappearing just as mysteriously.It was played with a sense of improvisation that made the ‘Adagio espressivo’ episodes so startling in their rhetorical freedom.Written in such a way that one was not aware that ‘vivace’ was being interrupted by an ‘adagio.’It was a continual magical discovery played by Jianing with such understanding that allowed Beethoven’s notes to unwind with a simplicity that seemed to let the music speak for itself.The ‘prestissimo’ was played very deliberately giving time to allow the intricate details to speak so clearly.Even the ‘fortissimo’ opening was played with an understanding of the overall architectural shape of this rude interruption that Beethoven places as a contrast between two of his most meaningful statements.The opening of the last movement showed the true stature of Jaining’s Beethoven.The theme was played like in the last quartets with a richness of sound where every strand had a deep meaning as Beethoven asks ‘mit innigster Empfindung’ .A first variation was played with such restrained dignity,the almost waltz time accompaniment played with great weight.Rarely have I heard it so full of emotional significance.The ‘leggermente’staccato of the second variation was contrasted so well by the mellifluous ‘teneramente’ where his sense of contrapuntal line was quite extraordinary in it’s logical simplicity.Each semiquaver in the Allegro vivace third variation was give a significance that stopped it running ‘helter skelter’ as it so often does in lesser hands.It led so naturally to the gradual unwinding of the fourth variation before the great weight of the fifth,’Allegro.’’Non troppo’ Beethoven marks and it was this utmost precision that gave such significance to the great rhythmic impulse of this movement.It takes us to a magical realm that only Beethoven could experience in his inner ear but by some miracle could write down to share this celestial world with posterity.In Jaining’s hands it was truly a magical experience and the sublime reappearance of the theme with its subdued sumptuous string quartet writing brought to a close one of Beethoven’s most perfect creations.

Jianing is one of group of musicians from the school of Alexeev who now have illustrious careers of their own.Jianing Kong,Caterina Grewe and Vitaly Pisarenko in pauses from their own concert tours are sharing their knowledge and experience with the next generation at the Royal College of Music so ably run by Vanessa Latarche Head of Keyboard studies.An Ealing girl and like Dr Mather has her origins in the remarkable school of the much missed Eileen Rowe.

Jianing Kong has performed to great critical acclaim throughout the UK, US, Continental Europe and Asia. He appeared in many major concert venues as well as with renowned orchestras such as the Hallé Orchestra, Sydney Symphoney Orchestra, Orchestre Royal de Chambre Wollone, Orquesta Sinfónica de Radiotelevisión Espanõla, Scottish National Symphony Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra of Dominican Republic. Jianing has been awarded numerous prizes in many prestigious international piano competitions such as the Leeds, Scottish, Santander, Beethoven (Bonn), Valsesia and Tunbridge Wells. In 2016, he became finalist and prizewinner at the Sydney International Competition, where his performances of Beethoven Diabelli Variations and Mozart K.467 concerto won unanimous praise and was awarded the Ignaz Friedman best semi-final prize and the best classical concerto prize, respectively. During 2012-13 season, Jianing was invited by the Keyboard Charitable Trust to give a series of recital tour at venues across Europe and America, including a gala-recital Maestro Lorin Maazel’s home Estate — the Castelton Festival Theatre in Virginia, at which Maestro Christopher Eschenbach was one of his audience. In the same year, Jianing was also selected by the Kirckman Concert Society as one of their artists and has since given his Wigmore Hall Debut Recital to an enthusiastic public. In recent seasons, Jianing gave extensive tours in Spain (Madrid, Seville, Córdoba, Santander and Bilbao); in China (all major cities) and in New Zealand. In 2019, Jianing has begun to embark on a new journey of recording and performing the complete Beethoven piano sonatas cycle and the complete chamber music. Jianing studied at the Purcell School with the legendary British pianist Ronald Smith and at the Royal College of Music, first with Ruth Nye and Gordon Fergus-Thompson, and then with Prof. Dmitri Alexeev. He also received regular coaching and mentoring from the renowned Chinese pianist Fou Ts’ong. Apart from a busy performing schedule, Jianing has joined the piano faculty at the Purcell School since 2011, and is now a professor of piano at Royal College of Music.

Shunta Morimoto takes Rome by storm

Talents of the future at Santa Cecilia
Shunta Morimoto
in collaborazione con International Piano
Academy Lake Como

Sala Accademica
23 novembre 2021 ore 20:30

Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita Nr.4 in Re maggiore BWV 828 Overture,
Aria, Sarabande, Menuet, Gigue

César Franck:
Prelude, Chorale et Fugue in Si minore M.21.

Manuel De Falla: Fantasia Bætica

Maurice Ravel : da “Miroirs” Oiseaux tristes,
Alborada del gracioso

Chopin, Fryderik: Sonate no.2 “Marche funèbre” in si bemolle minore Op.35
Grave, Doppio movimento
Lento, Marche Funèbre

Wonderful to be back in this hall where as a student at S Cecilia I heard all the greatest musicians of our time.I even remember sitting on stage behind Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Murray Perahia substituting an indisposed Serkin to play the three Brahms Sonatas with Pina Carmirelli.I remember too our old piano tuner Mordacchini telling me of a certain M°Brendel who he was most impressed with. Mordacchini was a marvellous tuner from the old school who did not bother with the top or bottom registers of the piano that in his opinion were rarely used!This historic hall was immortalised by Visconti in the film ‘Death in Venice.’

Sala Accademica of S.Cecilia in Rome

Today it is the setting for the debut of one of the most , talents of his generation.Already amazing everyone at the age of twelve with performances of Liszt Venezia e Napoli that astonished the musical world . Now at sixteen he is an artist ready to be placed amongst the most revered.

Shunta at the after concert celebrations engrossed in Beethoven

A eclectic programme that showed off every facet of his artistry. From the precision of Bach,through the passionate out pourings of César Franck.The throbbing heartbeat of the Spain of De Falla,the refined transcendental pianism of Ravel to the aristocratic marvels of Chopin.A programme chosen together with his esteemed mentor William Grant Naboré for his European debut in the historic Sala Accademica of S.Cecilia where Shunta is enrolled in the class of Giovanni Velluti.

William Naboré ( left),Giovanni Velluti (centre).Shunta,Roberto Giuliani (right)

A special event organised by Roberto Giuliani,director of S.Cecilia Conservatory and William Naboré founder and director of the International Piano Academy Lake Como.

Shunta with Giovanni Velluti

Giovanni Velluti I have known since as a student he often used to play in the Ghione theatre and went on to accompany great singers such as Katia Ricciarelli.William(Bill) Naboré I first heard play in Rome in 1972 when he gave a remarkable performance of the Diabelli variations in the Gonfalone Chapel of the indomitable Gaston Tosati.When I had already launched my concert season in Rome in 1982 with Guido Agosti and Vlado Perlemuter both in their 80’s it caused quite a stir with many great artists strangely neglected in Italy .I also gave a much needed platform to many of the most gifted of the younger generation.Bill was starting up his Academy in Como as fellow student of Carlo Zecchi ,Franco Scala,would do too, later in Imola.They have become the two most important Academies in Europe and a living testimony of the need of a place of excellence where the finest young pianists could find specialist training and help in building a career.Bill would often call me up to ask if I could persuade Alicia de Larrocha,Moura Lympany,Rosalyn Tureck ,Fou Ts’ong and many others to come to Como for brief periods to live and work with some of the finest young pianists.They flocked to his Academy that was dedicated to the serious study of the piano with some of the most revered artists of our day.Martha Argerich is the President.

Bill Naboré,Shunta,Giovanni Velluti

Bill has been helping this young boy together with his early teacher Shohei Sekimoto for some time in Japan.Now at 16 Shunta has come to Rome to work more intensively with Bill and also is enrolled in the class of Giovanni at the historic S.Cecilia Conservatory.

The Bach Partita n.4 was a perfect visiting card to show the serious musicianship and intent of this young man.Nobility together with rhythmic authority were the hallmarks of an interpretation of a maturity way above his 16 years!Ornamentation that was never exaggerated but just added to the architectural structure and emotional content of Bach’s ‘knotty twine’- to quote Delius!Together with the second Partita it is one of the noblest of openings where in just a few bars one knows who one is talking to!It was contrasted with wonderful bass voicing leading to extreme lightness and fleeting agility too.Contrasts in dynamic colouring that seemed to point to the different keyboards of the period all played with the minimum of pedal that allowed for a remarkable clarity of texture.A beautiful mellifluous Allemande with such a subtle telling rubato of a vocal quality that allowed the music to live and breathe so naturally.The rhythmic very decided characterful spirit of the Courante contrasted with the delicacy of the Aria.There was a subtle luminosity to the opening question mark posed by the Sarabande full of such noble,aristocratic sentiment.A Menuet of limpid fluidity was followed by the tornado of the final Gigue.An amazing feat of transcendental playing but I just felt a little too fast for this imperious ending of such nobility.Separate bows not slurred would necessitate a speed limit as with the first of the Goldberg variations and is the only slight blemish for me in a truly exemplary performance.

There was a complete change of scene for the César Franck with its gentle wash of etherial fluidity.A heartfelt sense of yearning (with a Casals inspired effort) had a sense of improvisation and wondrous colouring.The transition to the Chorale and to the Fugue was so subtle where Shunta’s silences and delicate sounds took us unawares to our inevitable destinations.The chorale always anchored from the bass upwards which gave it a remarkable architectural shape leading to a climax of overwhelming authority.One could fully imagine Franck seated at the organ of the Basilica of St Clotilde in Paris with the stops fully open with an outpouring of true religious intensity.There was great clarity in the fugue contrasted with a scherzotic middle section where clarity was sacrificed to the burning intensity of the gradual build up.Pure magic returned though as the fleeting arpeggiandi created a cloud on which the theme appeared like a truly celestial vision.It gradually built up to its mighty conclusion with the bass stops again now fully opened.There was an overpowering passionate outpouring of exhilaration and brilliance that brought us to the tumultuous conclusion of an extraordinary performance.

De Falla’s scintillatingly atmospheric Fantasia Baetica was written for Artur Rubinstein and is full of the passion,fire and pure showmanship that was so much part of that much missed artist.Shunta is an ideal champion with his youthful passionate involvement and a fearless technical control that can comunicate such animal excitement.He also has the clarity and the sensual sense of colour that is so much part of this ‘earthy’ music.Sharp,crisp sounds and swirling notes like being caught up in the wild frenzy of flamenco.Better than Alicia de Larrocha I heard from an exhilarated member of the audience -and certainly on a par say I-for a work too rarely played in recital these days where Ginastera and Piazzola seem to have taken pride of place.

Have Ravel’s Oiseaux Tristes ever been in such a sumptuous atmospheric aura of stillness and isolation as in the hands of this young magician?There was a wild sense of improvisation in Alborada del gracioso and a driving sense of rhythmic frenzy contrasted with the most sensuous ‘X’ certificate outpourings.His sense of colour was every bit as astonishing as the double glissandi that he just rattled off with such transcendental ease.I am not surprised that his you tube performances have broken all records of listeners !

Shunta surrounded by admirers

Shunta is a born Chopin player as was shown tonight with an exemplary performance of the masterpiece that is the Second sonata in B flat minor.A very sonorous opening ,never hard or heavy opened the flood gate for the burning drive of passionate forward movement.It became overwhelming with its power and great insistence on the bass in the development and the contrasts between the demonic and the sublime.The second subject was played with an aristocratic nobility that truly reminded one of the majesty and nobility of Rubinstein rather than that of sickly sentimentality that is too often inflicted on it in the name of tradition!The scherzo began with a lighter texture with a gradual build up in sound and tension.The beautiful middle section was played with a continual forward movement that gave strength to the sublime beauty of one of Chopin’s greatest creations.The utmost simplicity of the Trio section of famous Funeral March showed a transcendental control of sound where his fingers barely brushed the keys but with his superb sense of balance sang out without any obvious projection but with a tenderness that was truly remarkable as it was moving.Of course the last movement was truly a masterly wind blowing over the graves but always with a subtle sense of architectural line and shape.One of the finest performances I have heard was matched and even superseded by a magical performance of the Waltz in A flat op 34 n.1 .The great Nikita Magaloff must be turning in his grave to hear such wondrous jeux perlé from this young master.A scintillating display of style and technical brilliance that was the highlight of an extraordinary evening!

Deep in thought with a newly found book on the works of Beethoven

That is until Shunta reappeared with nothing less than the mighty octaves of Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s Erlkonig.An amazing array of power,delicacy resilience allied to a sense of artistry where Schubert’s terrifying vision was brought vividly to life.

An evening to remember and seeing telecameras in the hall surely a record breaker again for YouTube visitors.

What more do they want?

Shunta Morimoto (with apologies for his biography that I could only find in Italian)
Nato a Kyoto, in Giappone nel dicembre del 2004. Fin dalla più tenera età mostra un grandissimo talento per il pianoforte sorprendendo e sbalordendo il mondo della musica.
Vince all’età di 12 anni, nel 2017, il prestigioso Primo Premio e la borsa di studio “Fukuda Scholarship Award” riconoscimento messo in palio dalla Piano Teachers Association of Japan, uno dei più importanti premi per un giovane musicista.Questo gli permette di studiare con alcuni dei più importanti pianisti pedagoghi del mondo.
Partecipa al concorso Van Cliburn Junior a Dallas, in Texas a 14 anni nel maggio del 2019 con eccezionale successo di pubblico. Le sue esibizioni sono diventate virali su Internet e gli hanno procurato un vasto seguito di appassionati, critici, musicisti in tutto il mondo.
Da allora si è esibito in concerto con importanti musicisti e orchestra sinfoniche in Giappone e all’estero. A settembre 2020 ancora neanche,sedicenne, ha vinto il Secondo Premio nel concorso “Piano Teachers Association of Japan”, uno dei più importanti concorsi del Giappone .
In seguito a questa vittoria ha suonato il Terzo Concerto per pianoforte e orchestra di S.Rachmaninov in con al Tokyo Simphony Orchestra e a Graz, in Austria,il sestetto per pianoforte ed archi di F.Mendelssohn Bartholdy con i membri del famoso quartetto Hagen.
Nel 2021 ha eseguito il concerto per pianoforte e orchestra in la minore di R.Schumann con Tacticart orchestra e ,sempre a Tokyo, il quintetto per archi e pianoforte di C.Franck e la seconda sonata per violino e pianoforte di Brahms.
Attualmente studia con il Maestro William Grant Naboré come studente speciale della International Piano Academy Lake Como e studia accompagnamento pianistico nella classe del Maestro Giovanni Velluti presso il Conservatorio di S.Cecilia a Roma

Only 16 and a star shining brightly

The back of beyond -Bright future for the class of Dmitri Alexeev -Jacky Zhang-Alexander Doronin-Nikita Burzanitsa-Thomas Kelly -JunLin Wu

The final concert in this series of four that Dmitri Alexeev dedicated to his mentor Dmitri Bashkirov.
Visibly moved the usually reticent Alexeev made a short speech to point out the importance of Bashkirov and the Russian tradition of piano playing via Goldenweiser to Liszt.

Dmitri Alexeev paying tribute to a Genius

Dmitri Aleksandrovich Bashkirov November 1, 1931 – March 7, 2021.Trained in his hometown Tbilisi and Moscow and began an International career as a soloist when he won the Marguerite Long Competition in Paris in 1955. He taught at the Moscow Conservatory from 1957 to 1991, and at the Queen Sofia College in Madrid from 1991 to 2021. He taught also as a guest at other international conservatories and is regarded as Dmitri Alexeev said as a representative of the Russian piano school. He taught many internationally renowned artists such as Dmitri Alexeev,Arcadi Volodos,Nikolai Demidenko,Kiril Gernstein ,Stanislav Ioudenitch ,Denis Kozhukhin,Dang Thai Son and many others .He also taught at the International Piano Academy on Lake Como,the Shanghai Conservatory,the Chapelle musicale Reine Elisabeth in Brussels,the Paris Conservatoire,Salzburg Mozarteum etc.His daughter,also his pupil,is married to Daniel Barenboim.

The Royal College of Music pays tribute to a Genius

Memorable for many reasons were his Masterclasses at the Royal College on this very stage.In private he was a revelation but in public he was a tyrant.I well remember a young Serbian pianist preparing with him in private lessons the Rachmaninov Corelli Variations .Invited to play them at his public masterclass he dressed in his best concert outfit to find that the Maestro in front of a shocked public shrieked and shouted at him and he only got as far as the first bar.Another young pianist ,who had just won the coveted Schumann prize with the Sonata op 14 he reduced to tears and most of the public at this point left in a state of shock and disbelief.Genius is never easy to live with,which is easy to appreciate from the list of pianists who passed through his hands and thanks to him have gone on to great careers.

JunLin Wu,Thomas Kelly,Nikita Burzanitsa,
Alexander Doronin,Mykyta,Dmitri Alexeev,Jacky Zhang

And so now to the Alexeev school of piano playing at the Royal College in London with five of his actual students invited to give a scintillating display of this remarkable tradition of piano playing.

Jacky Zhang

A very young looking Jacky Zhang gave a remarkable account of the Brahms Handel variations.
From the clarity of the theme through a series of episodes of such character but with such burning intensity and drive.From the most delicate sounds to the mighty and powerful and from the veritable music box to the menacing build up with swirling crescendi from the bass to the triumphant exhilaration of Handel’s mighty theme.
There was astonishing clarity in the fugue where the bells of Kiev rang out first in the treble answered by the bass with overwhelming authority while the knotty twine of the fugue was wending its way to the tumultuous final bars.

Alexander Doronin

A very pale looking Russian boy Alexander Doronin proceeded to ravish us with a sumptuous performance of Berg’s one movement sonata.There was magic in the air as the sounds he produced were pure streams of gold with so many layers,one overlapping the other but with a sense of architectural line that was quite remarkable.
The absolute clarity and rhythmic control he brought to Ligeti’s extraordinary ‘l’escalier du diable’showed a remarkable technical control and rhythmic drive -a real Jekyll and Hyde and a name to look out for in the future.

Shura,me,and Connie Channon Douglass in Sabaudia on holiday

I well remember the legendary Russian virtuoso,Shura Cherkassky arriving one summer at my beach house with a tattered BBC copy of this study.Even in his 80’s he made himself learn a new contemporary work each season.He had previously learnt Copland’s El Salon Mexico and what impish joy he took is attacking the deep bass notes .Morton Gould’s Boogie Woogie Etude he teased his audiences with.So it was in fact the title of the piece that he loved but little had he realised the transcendental difficulties that Ligeti demands in his studies.It is a young man’s piece as Alexander showed us so magnificently today.But Shura eternally youthful performed and recorded it to great effect too.

Nikita Burzanitsa

Nikita Burzanitsa played with just the demonic control that I had heard a year ago from his teacher Dmitri Alexeev in a concert streamed live from Poland.The star ringing out at the beginning in a mist of mysterious sounds that grew in intensity until the final ecstatic explosion. A very fine performance just missing the absolute frenzy of his mentor who had literally brought the final few bars to an unrelenting fever pitch that was so hypnotically exhausting as it was memorable.

Thomas Kelly

Thomas Kelly is now making a mark for himself and his great artistry is being revealed.I heard him in this hall four years ago when he gave an extraordinary account of Schumann’s Carnaval and much to everyone’s surprise, except mine,he swept the board and was awarded the much coveted Joan Chissell Schumann prize.
It is she that had turned the phrase ‘Mr Rubinstein turned baubles into gems’ referring to Villa Lobos ‘O prol do bebe’ suite.
The same could be said of the works by Medtner that Thomas played today.I know I risk a black eye but have always thought of Medtner to be Rachmaninov without the tunes !
Today with the great artistry of Thomas he convinced me that I was wrong.
The absolute charm of the melodic line in ‘Canzona Matinata’ had all the aristocratic colour and sound of the Poulenc Intermezzo in A flat in the hands of Rubinstein – that sense of elegance without sentimentality.But what wondrous colours Thomas could conjure from the piano and this was just a prelude to the eruption of the Sonata Tragica.
Sounding like the opening of Rachmaninov’s much overplayed second sonata there followed a continuous outpouring of sumptuous sounds.But sounds with a meaning and overall sense of direction and a subtle sense of balance that never once lost the illusive thread.A quite extraordinary performance from an artist who is fast getting the recognition that he deserves.A finalist in the Leeds piano competition,he has shown the world what talent there is on the horizon.

JunLin Wu

JunLin Wu I had heard three years ago he was astonishing then but now matured into a quite amazing artist.
A sense of style and colour that brought Albeniz’s ‘baubles’ to life as only Alicia de Larrocha could have done.A driving insistence in the Prelude interspersed with a melodic line doubled at the octave that was so atmospheric with such quixotic changes of character.A sense of rubato or flexibility as a Spanish singer would do instinctively,born into the Spanish tradition.A wonderfully mellifluous Córdoba was answered by the infectious rhythmic outpouring of Triana.
But this was just the prelude to a transcendental performance of Ravel’s La Valse.
How was that possible from this youthful young musician.
Pure magic!
Only a true magician knows the secrets of how to turn this black box of strings and hammers into an instrument of blazing emotions and searing excitement.
Glissandi shot out of his fingers like rockets as the Valse did it’s demonic deed and we were all caught up in this diabolical display of transcendental piano playing.’X’ certificate stuff indeed!

JunLin Wu

The Russian school of piano playing as shown by Alexeev not only from his teaching but also as he showed us last week in his magnificent totally committed performances.
It is a misunderstood school that for once has been clarified today not as a school of extremes but a school where the absolute fidelity to the composers intentions are exulted by a total command of the keyboard.
First and foremost with orchestral colours added to a transcendental technique where any difficulties are those of interpretation,any others just do not exist.
This is what was on display today in these young musicians hands and there could be no greater tribute to the genius of Bashkirov thanks to Dmitri Alexeev

Sinae Sung and Jianing Ng -viva Santa Cecilia- patron Saint of music with Yulia Chaplina,Thomas Kelly and Andras Schiff with the Philharmonia Orchestra .

Sinae Sung and Jianing Ng

An exhausting two days for two remarkable young pianists recently graduated with Masters Degrees from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Thanks to the indefatigable Yulia Chaplina who had lined up a series of concerts for these extraordinarily talented young pianists together with a Masterclass with their remarkable teacher Aaron Shorr.

A masterclass at the Coachhouse piano stable in the Kings Road.
A true oasis for pianists with its amazing array of pianos from the greatest German makes to the most remarkable modern instruments from Japan.
I had only been able to admire Sinae Sung from South Korea and Jianing Ng from Singapore,though,at Goldsmiths Rush Hour concert series in Deptford Town Hall.

Deptford Town Hall – Goldsmiths College University of London

A noble edifice from another era now sitting in a very vibrant multi ethnic part of South London.
Truly from another age but with its superb Steinway D where I remember the Liszt Society used to hold their annual meeting and competition.

Yulia Chaplina and Thomas Kelly

But first stop today was at the Coachhouse for a private play through of Rachmaninov’s Second Concerto with indomitable Yulia Chaplina at the helm with that Berlin Philharmonic of orchestras kept within the noble fingers of Thomas Kelly,recent finalist at the Leeds International Piano Competition.
In fact it was again the unstoppable Yulia who had made a documentary about the competition which had opened the doors of the Coachhouse to her and allowed her to get to know and admire the notable artistry of Thomas Kelly.
A scintillating display of transcendental piano playing from Yulia on the wonderfully resonant Bosendorfer Imperial Grand and a suitably passionate Thomas Kelly on a Steinway B imitating and even matching the rich velvet sounds of Rachmaninov’s much loved Philadelphia orchestra.

Thomas Kelly enjoying every minute of these sumptuous sounds they were creating together

The ravishing beauty of Thomas’s clarinet was something to marvel at as it was enveloped in Yulia’s golden web of sounds.
Amazing virtuosity from Yulia and in the last movement her passionate transcendental involvement was only matched by the polyphonic playing of her orchestra.
The final Hollywoodian climax had all the other wonderful instruments -Steinway,Shegaru Kwai,Yamaha,Fazioli,Steingraber and all – looking on with envy as they too would have liked to be ravished and caressed by our two young virtuosi.
Lucky Philharmonic of the Isle of Man with whom Yulia is playing on Sunday!

Yulia Chaplina with her mentor Dmitri Alexeev

Jianing Ng had also played Rachmaninov with his second sonata (1931) rediscovered by Horowitz and presented to an astonished world during his come back recitals of the 70’s.

Jianing Ng taking us by storm with Rachmaninov’s 2nd Sonata

This delicate looking young musician revealed a powerhouse of passion and rich sumptuous sounds.An amazing range of colour too,from the most delicate and luminous cantabile to the enormous sounds of a full orchestra. Some amazing feats of virtuosity but all scrupulously within the architectural framework of this now over popular rhapsodic work.
Sinae Sung played Lyadov’s Variations on a Polish Folk Theme op 51 with a stream of golden sounds in the style and delicacy of another age.A scintillating display of wondrous playing.From the charm,delicate staccato and jeux perlé to a beautiful mellifluous legato played with such natural flowing sounds of great musical intelligence.

Sinae Sung ravishing us with Lyadov and Henselt

The Ballade op 31 by Adolf von Henselt was a real discovery being a real cross between Mendelssohn and Liszt. He was born May 9, 1814 in Schwabach, Bavaria and died Oct. 10, 1889, Warmbrunn, Silesia, Germany.He was a pianist and composer, considered to be one of the greatest virtuosi of his time having studied piano with Johann Hummel in Weimar.The only piece of his that I know is the encore that Rachmaninov used to play ‘Si oiseau j’etais’ .Here today in this Ballade op 31 the beautiful opening melody was played with a superb sense of balance with a passionate outpouring of romantic sounds. A tumultuous climax led to an ending of breathtakingly subtle virtuosity.
I am sure we will be hearing a lot more from these highly gifted young artists and compliments must surely go to the RCS ready to share their wonderfully trained musicians and eclectic choice of repertoire to a discerning world that awaits.

This world of Henselt had me researching the enormous amount of his compositions that are still never given an airing in the modern day concert hall . Repertoire that could do with just such an injection of new blood.To some ears, Henselt’s playing combined Franz Liszt’s sonority with Hummel’s smoothness. It was full of poetry, remarkable for his use of extended chords and technique.
His cantabile playing was highly regarded too: “Find out the secret of Henselt’s hands,” Liszt told his pupils.
Once he commented on the lengths Henselt took to achieve his famous legato, saying, “I could have had velvet paws like that if I had wanted to.” Henselt’s influence on the next generation of Russian pianists was immense and his playing and teaching greatly influenced the Russian school of music, developing from seeds planted by John Field.
Sergei Rachmaninoff held him in very great esteem, and considered him one of his most important influences.
Henselt excelled in his own works and in those of Weber and Chopin. His Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 16 was once frequently played in Europe, and of his many valuable studies the Étude in F-sharp major ‘Si oiseau j’étais’ was very popular and there is a famous recording from the hands of Rachmaninov himself.At one time Henselt was second to Anton Rubinstein in the direction of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory.
However, despite his relatively long life, Henselt ceased nearly all composition by the age of thirty and his chronic stage fright, bordering on paranoia, caused him to withdraw from concert appearances by the age of thirty-three.I see an extended list of works starting with op 1 Variations on ‘Io son’ ricco’ from Donizetti’s ‘L’elisir d’amore’ through variations on a theme by Meyerbeer op 11,the concerto op 16,a cadenza for Beethoven’s 3rd Concerto,Concert studies ,Nocturnes,Scherzi.Impromptus and much more besides!

Rush Hour Concert programme

Our two young pianist dashed off after this rush hour concert to perform yet again,thanks to Yulia,in another venue in the centre of town.Steeped as they are in an almost lost tradition of piano playing that has much more to do with charm and colour than the speed mongering that too many wizz kids prefer these days.Hats off to Yulia Chaplina for generously sharing her discoveries with us whilst giving magnificent performances herself.

And so to the final concert this evening that,just by chance,I happened to notice passing by the Festival Hall on my way home.
Andras Schiff at the helm of the Philharmonia orchestra playing and conducting an all Mozart programme.
Kapellmeister Schiff ,par excellence,as he shared his infectious love of music with us all last night.Pouncing on the keyboard of his modern Steinway in K.291 with all the ‘Jeunehomme’ energy of one genius talking through another.A continual outpouring of glorious music making and the visibly noticeable total participation of every component of this magnificent complex led by a totally involved concert master,Benjamin Marquise Gilmore.
Schiff or should I say Mozart shed a spell over us all.
The dark brooding of the D minor Concerto K 466 with the suitably gruff Beethoven cadenzas was paired with the two earth shaking chords of the opening of Mozart’s chilling Don Giovani overture.

A wonderfully characterised ‘Linz’Symphony saw Schiff on the podium alone without his piano or score as he became an indispensable coordinator and instigator to this glorious group of musicians.
But in the end it was Schiff alone at the piano surrounded by his valiant ‘campagni di viaggio’ that sublime heights were reached.The simplicity and humility with which the Adagio from Mozart Sonata K.570 just poured so naturally out of him reached every one of us lucky to be present.

Cheers and a standing ovation were just a way of letting off steam after the extreme tension of love and beauty that had been shared with us all.
Viva Santa Cecilia,the patron Saint of music whose birthday will be three days hence.

The delightful duo Sinae Sung and Jianing Ng