Pietro Fresa in London – refined seduction and intelligence at Brompton Oratory

Pietro Fresa at Brompton Oratory showed his true colours with performances of such disarming simplicity.That the ebullient early Mozart could charm and excite as the late Schubert Impromptus op 142 could seduce and reduce us to tears .Some remarkable playing from a musician who could hold us entranced as he allowed the genius of Mozart and Schubert to penetrate our souls with playing of sublime eloquence and ravishing beauty

Piano Sonata No. 5 in Gmajor K 283 (1774)

  1. Allegro
  2. Andante (in C major)
  3. Presto

This sonata is part of the earliest group of sonatas that Mozart published in the mid-1770s and was written down during the visit Mozart paid to Munich for the production of his La finta giardiniera from late 1774 to the beginning of the following March.

It was this work that opened Pietro’s recital in the beautiful St Wilfrid’s Hall,part of Brompton Oratory.A new work for his repertoire that contrasted so well with the late Schubert Impromptus that made up the rest of this short but intense recital.There were great contrast and rhythmic drive from the first notes of the Allegro.A beautifully shaped opening melody was immediately contrasted with Mozart’s joyous youthful exuberance .Great attention to detail meant that every phrase was imbued with such character with the beauty of the legato melodic line contrasted with the very pointed rhythmic phrasing of the streams of golden sounds that seemed to flow so naturally from Pietro’s hands.A development of a mere eighteen bars but it allowed a contrast that the magical reappearance of the opening theme was as refreshing as it was seductive.

From the very first notes Pietro had shown his musical credentials of intelligence,sensitivity and technical brilliance.The Andante was played with such simplicity – Schnabel use to say that Mozart was too easy for children but too difficult for adults.It is a simplicity that comes from a real understanding of phrasing and sense of architectural shape.He allowed Mozart’s melodic line to sing incorporating Mozart’s precise dynamic indications into a musical line that had great meaning and significance.The Presto was played with all the youthful verve and technical agility that Mozart himself would have astonished his audiences with.But even here there were melodic episodes of refined detail and eloquence.But it was the rhythmic drive and ‘joie de vivre’ that left us breathless.That is until Mozart just adds two quiet arpeggiated chords pointedly placed as if to say that’s all there is !

The warm hospitable of St Wilfrid’s Hall

It was probably in just such a hall that Mozart himself might have played.The log fire blazing and book shelves lined with antique editions not to mention the refined candelabras just adding to the atmosphere that Pietro’s refined playing created.

Pietro being introduced to the public by Claudia

The atmosphere too of being in someone’s house in this concert lovingly organised by Claudia and colleagues to raise funds for the Oratory Scout Group.Many young scouts too were eager to listen to Pietro’s very interesting introductions and it should be mentioned too that Pietro himself is only twenty one and not so much older than they are!

The second set of four Impromptus was published posthumously as Op. 142 in 1839 (with a dedication added by the publisher to Franz Liszt).They were probably written in 1827 just a year before Schubert’s death at the age of only 31.

Four Impromptus, D. 935 (Op. posth. 142) N 1 in F minor N.2 in A flat major N.3 in B flat major N.4 in F minor

As the first and last pieces in this set are in the same key of F minor and the set bears some resemblance to a four-movement Sonata,it has been suggested that these Impromptus may be a sonata in disguise, notably by Schumann and Einstein, who claim that Schubert called them Impromptus and allowed them to be individually published to enhance their sales potential.However it is also believed that the set was originally intended to be a continuation of the previous set op 90 as Schubert originally numbered them as Nos. 5–8.It is one of Schubert’s most important compositions and takes a great musician to be able to truly bring them to life and unite them into a whole.I remember in particular memorable performances by Annie Fischer ( in the Teatro Ghione in Rome) and Serkin and Brendel (in the Festival Hall in London).I also remember an inspired performance in Padua by Pietro’s teacher Boris Petrushansky.I had heard Pietro play Mozart’s last piano concerto in Rome recently though and although he gave a fine professional performance it showed a youthful immaturity that did not totally convince. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/10/30/mozart-triumphs-at-torlonia-with-jonathan-ferrucci-pietro-fresa-sieva-borzak/

So today I was overwhelmed by a performance of great sensitivity allied to the same maturity and sense of style as his teacher.From the opening there was great authority allied to a very subtle sense of colouring.There was great weight to all that he did where every note had a significance as it created a sumptuous whole.Even the fortissimo outbursts were played with restrained phrasing of aristocratic control.There was ravishing beauty in the legato melody with its magical music box sounds high on up on the keyboard played with a luminosity that was simple and enchanting.Dissolving into the heart melting question and answer over a gently moving accompaniment.There were such subtle sounds as the musical conversation was both moving and uplifting.I have never forgotten Annie Fischer in her 70’s in this Impromptu and Pietro barely 21 came very close in the atmosphere that he was able to create.The second Impromptu was played at a true Allegretto tempo with such beautiful gentle sounds of real meaning,but never sentimental as can so often befall this much loved Impromptu.There was an etherial beauty of sounds as the trio magically unwound gradually building to a climax only to disappear to a mere whisper and the return of the opening in veiled sounds of sublime beauty.There was beautiful luminous sound to the theme of this set of five variations that make up the third Impromptu that unwound with such beauty and variety of touch and sound.The subtle beauty of the first variation was of a melodic line just resting so gently on the undulating accompaniment.The lyrical playfulness of the second and the almost too serious passion of the third.Beautiful lyricism in the bass of the fourth was in complete contrast to the delicious jeux perlé streams of golden sounds of the fifth,A gentle coda of sublime seriousness brought us to realms of concealed gold indeed.The final Impromptu was very much Serkin’s with the electric current that runs through it and scintillating swirls of sound.Pietro combined both the lyrical and rhythmical elements that whilst not having the same animal excitement – who does!- he found such eloquence and beauty in the middle section before the gradual menacing race to the headlong plunge and the final note deep in the bass.

An encore of an effortless black key study by Chopin was played with all the ease and musical assurance of the great virtuosi of a past age .

The name of the pianist Pietro Fresa (Bologna 2000) first became known in musical circles when he made his debut at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool in September 2017. On this occasion he performed Ludwig van Beethoven’s third concerto, opus 37 for piano and orchestra, as representative of the Italian nation for the event “Bologna-Liverpool UNESCO city of music”. In the same year he received an invitation to the Festa Europea della Musica di Roma; during which event, held at the Camera dei Deputati, the Medaglia della Camera was conferred on him by the Hon. Laura Boldrini in recognition of his musical talent and as a winner of international awards. As regards his training, Pietro Fresa was admitted to the Conservatorio G. B. Martini of Bologna in 2010 where he obtained the highest marks possible graduating with distinction under the guidance of Maestro Carlo Mazzoli in July 2017. During the same period and at only eleven years old, Pietro won a place at the prestigious Accademia Pianistica Internazionale in Imola on the course entitled “Incontri col Maestro” (“Meetings with the Maestro”). Here he studied with the Chinese concert pianist, Jin Ju, whilst at present he is a pupil of the renowned Russian Maestro, Boris Petrushansky. After the Conservatorio he began his studies at the London Royal College of Music, thanks to a generous study grant, and here he attends the courses of the Maestri Dmitri Alexeev and Sofya Gulyak. In addition, Pietro has honed his skills under the instruction of teachers such as Andreas Frölich, Enrico Pace, Roberto Cappello, Vovka Ashkenazy, Leonid Margarius, Stefano Fiuzzi and Vanessa Latarche, participating in their Masterclasses on a regular basis. At twelve years old, he gave his first public performance with the orchestra and inaugurated the academic year of the Conservatorio at the Manzoni Auditorium in Bologna performing Haydn’s Hob.XVIII/11 in D Major. Since then he has embarked on an intensive career as a concert pianist both as a soloist and in chamber music in numerous musical events including Musica in Fiore at the Sala Farnese of the Municipality of Bologna, the San Giacomo Festival at the church of that name in Bologna, the prestigious season Genus Bononiae at the Auditorium of Santa Cristina in Bologna, the Concerts of the Teatro Guardassoni and of the Cenobio of S. Vittore in Bologna, the season entitled Talenti in Musica in Modena, the programme of the Officers’ Club in Bologna, the Literary Society of Verona, the Festival Talent Music Mater Courses and the concerts of the Teatro Sancarlino of Brescia as well as the Teatro Comunale of Bologna. He has been awarded first prize in more than thirty piano competitions. One noteworthy occasion being his triumph at the Vienna International Competition, the Grand Prize Virtuoso Competition, where he carried off the first prize enabling him to perform at the renowned Metallener Saal of the Musikverein (Vienna).

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