Ashley Fripp at St Marys penetrating the soul of Mozart and Schubert

Tuesday 14 December 3.00 pm

Mozart: Piano sonata in A minor K310
Allegro / Andante / Presto

Schubert: Sonata in B flat D 960
Moderato / Andante / Scherzo / Allegro

Christmas certainly is a magical time no more than today to pass from aristocratic Beethoven in Hampstead to sumptuous Mozart and Schubert in Perivale.

Ashley Fripp with performances not only of great intelligence and technical mastery but where he managed to penetrate the very soul of these two masterworks with such contrasts between ravishing beauty and dynamic rhythmic drive.

Mozarts A minor sonata was played with grandeur and urgency as the notes just seemed to pour from his fingers with jewel like precision.The Andante cantabile was true opera with the sumptuous bel canto contrasting with the menacing central section and the return to the sublime where peace once more reigns.
The restless and breathless Presto with its almost Schubertian melodic middle section just miraculously appearing on this relentless wave of such rhythmic drive.

Schubert’s last sonata written only a few months before his tragically early death was full of radiance and ravishing beauty.Drama too but such simplicity in the scherzo and even the interruptions of the last movement could not curb Schubert’s seemingly endless stream of melodic invention.
A superb performance from a master musician .

Here is the link to enjoy the performances at your leisure :

Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor K.310 was written in 1778.It is the first of only two that Mozart wrote in a minor key (the other being n.14 in C minor K.457).It was composed in the summer of 1778 around the time of his mother’s death and one of the most tragic times of his life.The surviving manuscript was written using the same type of paper that was used for the Symphony n.31 in D K.297 which Mozart purchased while in Paris.

Playing of great rhythmic energy but also a luminous melodic sound where everything was allowed to sing with such intensity.The arresting opening was immediately answered by the contrasting charm of reply all so subtly phrased by Ashley.The ornaments on the beat just adding to the rhythmic drive.Even the chords over silvery left hand figurations were played with lyrical fullness and beauty of sound and shape.The development took on an orchestral texture with the pungent harmonies over quick silver accompaniment alternating between right and left hands with brilliance and ease.The phrasing of the Andante was of such simplicity and subtlety that one could understand why Mozart should be considered too easy for children and too difficult for adults.But not in Ashley’s sensitive hands where there was such delicacy and attention to phrasing like an operatic scene where one could almost imagine the different characters taking their places.There was drama too in the middle section where a question and answer was played out over a continually moving bass and then taking over the melodic line with throbbing right hand harmonies of simple emotion of great poignancy.The Presto was like a breathless whirlwind of relentless forward movement.The melody moving into the bass with almost unnoticed ease as Ashley took such trouble over maintaining the same overall sound in the continual outpouring of continuous motion.The sun did come out for a moment as a magical ray of light was shed in the major key creating the contrast that is such a part of Mozart’s genial invention.

Schubert’s last three piano sonatas D.958, 959 and 960, are his last major compositions for solo piano. They were written during the last months of his life, between the spring and autumn of 1828, but were not published until about ten years after his death, in 1838–39.One of the reasons for the long period of neglect of Schubert’s piano sonatas seems to be their dismissal as structurally and dramatically inferior to the sonatas of Beethoven.In fact, the last sonatas contain distinct allusions and similarities to works by Beethoven, a composer Schubert venerated.However,analysis has shown that they maintain a mature, individual style and are now praised for that mature style, manifested in unique features such as a cyclical formal and tonal design, chamber music textures, and a rare depth of emotional expression.Schubert had been struggling with syphilis since 1822–23, and suffered from weakness, headaches and dizziness. However, he seems to have led a relatively normal life until September 1828, when new symptoms such as effusions of blood appeared. At this stage he moved from the Vienna home of his friend Franz von Schober to his brother Ferdinand’s house in the suburbs, following the advice of his doctor; unfortunately, this may have actually worsened his condition. However, up until the last weeks of his life in November 1828, he continued to compose an extraordinary amount of music, including such masterpieces as the three last sonatas.

Ashley is not only very eloquent with sounds but also with words.It was fascinating to have his thoughts about his journey with Schubert’s last sonata before he delved even deeper into that realm where words cannot reach.The longest of all Schubert’s sonatas ( if one does the ritornello in the first movement it would add a good 10 minutes to the 40 that Ashley offered today.I think for time reasons Ashley chose not to repeat.Many great pianists insist on the repeat which includes eight extra bars of Schubert’s sublime music.As Andras Schiff says :who are we mere performers to question the creator?)Ashley quoted too a Danish philosopher :’life can only be lived forwards but understood backwards’ in relation to Schubert reaching for the cosmos even though he knew that he had very little time left on this earth.Quoting Brendel too: ‘when Schubert writes in a major key it can be even more tragic than the minor!’……especially I think coming from minor to major – as in the slow movement .Ashley is a thinking musician and his studies that continue still in Florence with Eliso Virsaladze are opening up ever more spiritual and intellectual horizons as one might expect from the city that is the very cradle of our culture.

There was a beautiful mellow sound from the opening with the glorious melodic line a stream of pure gold cut off by a menacing rumble deep in the bass.A pianissimo trill, a mere murmur in the bass is very difficult to control and needs a transcendental technique………a good piano helps too!A gradual build up to the repeat of the theme in all its glory dissolving almost immediately to a magic duet between tenor and soprano voices.As Ashley says this liquid sound and fluidity as in many of Schubert’s songs gives life and hope.The eternal life of water flowing.

The playful pastoral staccato and legato searching for a way back with the declamatory question and answer led to the development and the mystery and wonder of the minor key.Major to minor or minor to major touches deeply our inner emotional senses.There was a beautiful flexibility to the melodic line like a human voice and the return of the staccato and legato playfulness this time took us to the left hand palpitations of Schubert’s heartbeat.Building to a passionate climax finding a resolution only in the simplicity of the melodic line as it passes from one voice to another .Magically leading us to a wonderland of sounds played so profoundly but simply by Ashley as it leads us back,like a sleepwalker,to the sublime return of the recapitulation.

The Andante sostenuto was a great song with a delicate filigree accompaniment spread all around it.Ashley had a supreme control of sound and the melodic line was bathed in pedal which gave great fluidity to the melodic line while the accompaniment was played with a completely different opaque colour – the contrast was quite ravishing as the melodic line was played with searing architectural shape.The magical modulation this time from minor to major for the almost Brahmsian chorale of velvet richness was like the sun shining through the clouds.The chorale contrasting with the mellifluous flowing song like answer in the treble.Clouds appeared once more with the major returning to the minor and the opening melody accompanied by the rumbles of thunder in the distance deep in the bass.It is this constant rumbling bass throughout the sonata that must be the cloud hanging over Schubert’s earthly existence as he lay on his deathbed unable to curb the continuous outpouring of music that was in his head.

The Scherzo played ‘allegro vivace con delicatezza’but also with the simplicity of a child’s hide and seek with its constant changes of character and position.Once again the deep bass notes this time in the Trio trying to interrupt the eternal flow!But the playfulness of the Scherzo wins this time.A least until the sinister call to order of the octave ‘G’in the last movement ‘Allegro ma non troppo’.An apparent playfulness overshadowed always but the sinister ‘G’ but leading to a mellifluous outpouring of melody that is a constant of Schubert’s genius. Here now erupting into a volcanic episodes of drama and athletic virtuosity played with passion and dynamic control by Ashley.The menacing ‘G’ now becomes a sinister ‘G flat’ and ‘F’before the final explosion that brings Schubert’s last masterpiece to a miraculously exciting conclusion.A remarkable performance of great maturity by Ashley at the start of a lifetime journey of penetrating the very soul of Schubert with the intelligence and humility of a true musician .

His encore of a waltz by Chopin was a lesson in aristocratic style and artistry .

British pianist Ashley Fripp has performed extensively as recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist throughout Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and Australia in many of the world’s most prestigious concert halls. Highlights include the Carnegie Hall (New York), Musikverein (Vienna), Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), the Philharmonie halls of Cologne, Paris, Luxembourg and Warsaw, the Bozar (Brussels), the Royal Festival, Barbican and Wigmore Halls (London), the Laeiszhalle (Hamburg), the Megaron (Athens), Konzerthaus Dortmund, the Gulbenkian Auditorium (Lisbon) and the Konserthus (Stockholm). He has won prizes at more than a dozen national and international competitions, including at the Hamamatsu (Japan), Birmingham and Leeds International Piano Competitions, the Royal Over-Seas League Competition, the Concours Européen de Piano (France) and the coveted Gold Medal from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. In 2013, Ashley won the Worshipful Company of Musicians’ highest award, The Prince’s Prize, and was chosen as a ‘Rising Star’ by the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO). He has also performed in the Chipping Campden, Edinburgh, Brighton, Bath, City of London and St. Magnus International Festivals as well as the Oxford International Piano Festival and the Festival Pontino di Musica (Italy). A frequent guest on broadcasting networks, Ashley has appeared on BBC television and radio, Euroclassical, Eurovision TV and the national radio stations of Hungary, Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium and Portugal. He has collaborated with orchestras including the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, the Milton Keynes City Orchestra and the Kammerorchester der Universität Regensburg (with whom, in 2012, he recorded Chopin Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2). He has worked with conductors including Semyon Bychkov, James Judd, Vasily Petrenko, Robertas Šervenikas, Hilary Davan Wetton, Jonathan Bloxham, Graham Buckland and Peter Stark. Ashley Fripp studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama with Ronan O’Hora. He is currently studying with Eliso Virsaladze at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole (Italy) and undertaking doctoral studies into the piano music of Thomas Adès at the Guildhall School.

Bocheng Wang at St James’s Piccadilly Supreme musicianship and style

Bocheng Wang at St James’s Piccadilly.Some exquisite playing from this young Chinese pianist perfecting his studies with Ian Fountain at the Royal Academy.Above all supreme musicianship allied to a technical control and sense of style that allowed him to give such shape and form to whatever he played.
A brilliant Sonata in G K 13 by Scarlatti was a scintillating stream of sounds of driving rhythmic energy.Played with jewel like precision and irresistible charm.

There was such beauty in the opening of Haydn’s C minor Sonata.A mellifluous outpouring of great sensitivity in one of Haydn’s most gracious creations.There were subtle contrasts between the melodic and rhythmic episodes of almost operatic proportions.Sublime beauty too in the central section played with ravishing colour and aristocratic control.The Andante played ‘con moto’ as Haydn asks where there was simplicity and elegance as the music was allowed to unfold so naturally with such subtle shading.The finale -Allegro that was played with such elegance that found Haydn in this sonata in such pastoral reflective mood.

The opening Prelude of Debussy’s ‘Pour Le Piano’ was played with great excitement and magical shifts of sound.It was however the nobility of Rubinstein that his rather fast tempo did not completely allow.In the central section though there were some magical music box sounds that gleamed and glistened in his sensitive hands.The final recitativo and closing flourish was played with aristocratic control as he found the nobility that had eluded him in the opening.There was great beauty and elegance in the Sarabande with mysterious sounds in the central section of great atmosphere A very moving climax but that did not quite find that yearning quality that was so memorable in Perlemuter’s hands where he played with great weight of limpet like legato.There was a subtle fluidity to the Toccata with great washes of sound and romantic abandon.Chopin’s Fourth Ballade opened with extreme delicacy and his very subtle rubato in the theme was of sublime beauty.His great control and technical mastery allowed this pinnacle of the romantic repertoire to unfold with a scintillating display of streams of golden sounds and moments of great poetic poignancy.The cadenza before the return of the main theme in Cortot’s most poetic words ‘avec un sentiment de regret’ was of quite ravishing beauty and the build up to the final great climax was played with transcendental control and technical mastery.The five quiet chords before the explosion of the coda created an atmosphere of such serenity that made what came after even more exhilarating and breathtaking as he brought this masterpiece to it’s final inevitable conclusion.

Chopin’s late Nocturne in E major op 62 n.2 was offered as an encore to an enthusiastic and insistent public.It showed off to the full his extraordinary refined playing of great musicianship that had been the hallmark of his entire lunchtime recital in this most beautiful of churches, a real oasis just a stones throw from Piccadilly Circus

This is the link to the concert that will be available to enjoy until the end of December

George Harliono at the Wigmore Hall

George Harliono at the Wigmore Hall YCAT presentation concert.Some astonishing playing with not only a technical fluidity but a kaleidoscopic repertoire of sumptuous sounds played with a musicality that is rare indeed.Episodes of ravishing beauty and subtle dynamic shading alternated with enviable technical wizardry.
But this was still a youthful vision of an artist who has a golden palette in his hands but as yet cannot see the wood for the trees.Wondrous trees though they might be.
His sense of architectural shape and real weight we had to wait until the encore to catch a glimpse of .
A Brahms intermezzo of such beauty and maturity that I have only heard similar from the hands of Radu Lupu.

This is what we had been waiting for during a remarkable display of playing with the Bach Chaconne,Prokofiev 2nd Sonata and even Liszt’s Spanish Rhapsody.
A display of transcendental control of sound at whatever speed he chose and an extraordinary sensibility but missing the overall shape and the control from the bass that gives an underlying energy and shape to larger forms.
Schubert’s Standchen in the Liszt transcription was given a memorable performance where the form and shape were governed by the melodic line that he played with infinite gradations of tone of jewel like wonder.
The concert opened with the Bach Siciliano in the famous transcription by Kempff but was hampered though by his preoccupation with the non legato accompaniment that strangely kept this marvel rather earthbound.
A second encore for an enthusiastic audience on their feet .He threw himself into Chopin’s first study with a devil may care velocity that almost caught even him out.But here too at last was the great bass melody deciding the fate of the transcendental accompaniment that he played with phenomenal technical and musical prowess.

There were sumptuous sounds from the very outset of the recital with the melodic line floating above the accompaniment in Wilhelm Kempff’s transcription of the Siciliano from the flute Sonata BWV.1031 .A whispered repeat created the magic world that George wanted to share with us throughout the recital with seemless streams of sound and ravishing half lights.His preoccupation with the difference between the non legato accompaniment and the mellifluous flute melody did not allow him the freedom that he was to find later in the recital with Standchen.In fact one had the impression that he was more preoccupied with the details than the overall picture.

This too became more evident as the recital progressed .The Bach Chaconne was immediately much more fluid and was played with great authority.However the etherial contrasts and refined sensitivity robbed this great monument of its nobility.The lightweight left hand octaves entered like a breath of fresh air as a series of episodes,sometimes of ravishing beauty and astonishing technical control,became more evident than the gradual build up to the mighty final declaration of nobility and grandeur that Bach had perceived for solo violin.George in general favoured very fast tempi and it was this lack of continuous pulse that made the great climax at the end seem so divorced from what had come before,instead of being the culmination of Bach’s glorious creation.The big bass notes too in the final page were more like canon shots than the great stops of a magnificent organ that Agosti,a pupil of Busoni,had insisted on.It was an extraordinary performance though that showed off more the qualities of a master pianist than the architectural shape and grandeur of this monumental chaconne.In fact there was much more of the remarkable George Harliono than Johann Sebastian Bach.

It was in the Prokofiev second Sonata that the continual driving rhythms and kaleidoscopic sense of colour allied to a transcendental technical control found an ideal interpreter in George.The simplicity of the opening with its sudden rhythmic outbursts and changes of mood was beautifully captured.There was real beauty in the melodic sections with magical colours that contrasted with the rhythmic interruptions.The Allegro marcato was played with great authority and rhythmic drive and the Andante with deep brooding of haunting beauty.The vivace finale was played with astonishing bravura and rhythmic drive with the theme from the first movement appearing like a distant memory of beauty and reflection.

The Spanish Rhapsody was astonishing for its musicianly sense of colour and enviable technical command.But I missed here too the almost animal rhythmic drive that had us sitting on the edge of our seats when Gilels let rip in the Festival Hall.It was such refined musicianly playing that did not fully suit the blazing passions and savage rhythmic excitement of red hot Spain.

British pianist George Harliono was invited to make his first one hour long, solo recital at the age of nine and since then has performed in numerous locations both in the UK, USA, Europe and Asia, appearing at venues such as Wigmore Hall, The Berlin Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal, The Royal Albert Hall and Chicago Symphony Centre.In 2013 he was invited to record Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op.2 No.1 at the Southbank Centre in London. In 2016 his performance of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 at the Great Hall of The Moscow Conservatory was broadcast live on Russian national TV and streamed live on Medici TV.Since his concerto debut at the age of 12 he has been a regular performer with orchestras including the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, The Mariinsky Orchestra, Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra, New Millennium Orchestra of Chicago and Tyumen Philharmonic Orchestra. George also regularly performs alongside eminent artists such as Lang Lang and Denis Matsuev and has worked with many renowned conductors including Valery Gergiev, Alexander Sladkovsky, Evgeny Shestakov and Anton Lubchenko.George has been awarded prizes in numerous competitions throughout the world including The Grand Piano Competition in Moscow, Royal Overseas League Music Competition in London, Gina Bachauer Piano Competition in Utah and Dinu Lipatti Piano Competition in Bucharest.Most recently he performed with The Mariinsky Orchestra in Vladivostok, Russia under the baton of Valery Gergiev and was also invited to perform a recital as part of the Scherzo Young Series in Madrid. Scherzo is the most important piano series in Madrid and has previously featured artists such as Yuja Wang and Mitsuko Uchida.He studies with Professor Vanessa Latarche (Chair of International Keyboard Studies and Head of Keyboard, Royal College of Music in London). He has taken masterclasses with Dmitri Bashkirov, Lang Lang and Vladimir Ovchinikov among others. George also works closely with Alexander Sladkovsky who has taken a personal interest in his development as an artist.”George Harliono is very talented, he’s got a phenomenal career ahead of him.” Says the acclaimed Russian pianist Denis Matsuev.George began studying at The Royal College of Music for a BMUS Degree on a full four year scholarship in September 2017. He is one of the youngest students ever to be accepted onto this course.In 2018 he was shortlisted for an award in the ‘Sound of Classical Poll’ at the Classic BRIT Awards in London, which promotes the best emerging artists and ones-to-watch in classical music.Upcoming engagements for George include concerto performances at Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and Zaryadye Hall in Moscow.

The aristocratic style and vision of Alim Beisembayev

A standing ovation for Alim Beisembayev with masterly performances of Clementi and Chopin.Aristocratic performances where the young 17 year old youth I had heard at the Purcell School a few years ago has blossomed and grown into a great artist. I had heard him play the same programme last June at that piano Mecca in Perivale.

But today after his triumph in Leeds this was an even more assured performance.
Chopin 24 Preludes were quite simply one of the most moving and memorable that I have ever heard in public or on disc ( Cortot excepted of course)
A Clementi sonata of scintillating streams of golden sounds that just made one wonder why is this music not more often played.
An encore of ‘Chasse Neige’ by Liszt that was truly a wonder and summed up the artistry of this young artist with his transcendental technical control.Imagination and kaleidoscopic sense of colour that added to his youthful passion and uninhibited sense of style was nothing short of sensational.

A very full Wigmore Hall for the BBC live broadcast

There were so many wondrous things,that like listening to that other Leeds winner Murray Perahia,he had you listening afresh as his uncontaminated interpretation from Chopin’s own hand was turned into musical sounds that were at once fresh and amazingly original.
I was asked to review this concert but all I can do is point to some of the landmarks that I have lived with all my life but now find myself . in a magic land of wondrous sounds and aristocratic comments that I had not visited before.

The opening sounded like a magic harp just glowing in intensity as jewel like sounds seemed to appear in its midst like magic.
There was the languid beauty of the second and the fleeting lightness of the third ,a final flourish led to the sublime beauty of the fourth with the bass pulsating like a heartbeat of searing intensity.
Such liquid sounds in the fifth that were shaped into clouds of sound.
The sublime sixth with the ending a magical disappearance on a cloud of pedal as Chopin himself had indicated.There was grace and elegance with an extraordinary sense of timing in the seventh as we were enveloped in the streams of romantic sounds of the eighth.A build up of tension of aching intensity before the etherial coda.There was great architectural shape to the ninth with a truly surprise entry of the bass which lent such aristocratic nobility to a prelude often considered as ‘also ran’.Scintillating ‘jeux perlé’ of the tenth and subtle colouring and beauty of legato of the eleventh.The frenzied dance of the twelfth was astonishing for its clarity and total technical command but even more for its mazurka like characterisation that I have never been aware of in the usually laboured or virtuoso bravura performances that are the norm in lesser hands.Wondrous sense of melodic line in the thirteenth and fifteenth- the so called ‘raindrop ‘ prelude – with a middle section where the continuous tolling of a bell (as in Ravels Le Gibet ) I had never been aware of before today’s performance.

The B flat minor n.16 was astonishing for its sweeping sounds of transcendental difficulty.But even at this breakneck speed you could see Alim slightly lift his arm and place it with a disarming mastery that I have only ever seen from Arrau or Gilels.The palpitations of the seventeenth immediately entered on the final vibrations of the three carefully placed chords.The deep bass notes at the end I have never heard played so simply or to such effect as today.A wonderful moving melodic line to the nineteenth just belied the enormous technical demands as it was allowed to unwind so naturally with disarming authority.Aristocratic control of sound in the twentieth,so short but used by many composers as the basis of variations for its seemingly simple construction.Such passionate streams of sound in the twenty second where one was not aware that it is familiarly known as the octave prelude.
You see such was Alims identification with the musical world of Chopin that his total mastery allowed him to concentrate on the purely musical meaning of a work that Fou Ts’ong used to describe as 24 problems.
The pastoral simplicity -au bord d’une source springs to mind -of the penultimate prelude as streaks of lightening and red hot blazing sounds took us to the final devastating three notes deep in the bass.

Alim receiving gifts in the green room

What to say of the marvel of Clementi – a magic box of jewels made to gleem and shine in Alims hands
Scales that were streams of gold and silver combined with ethereal sounds and a musicianship that never left the great architectural shape that was being created by his magic fingers.
‘Il lento e patetico’ was played with the weight that I have only heard from the greatest interpreters.
Whirlwind sounds in the Presto with a fabulous ‘jeux perle’ of lightness and ‘joie de vivre’ that was the vocabulary of the pianists of the Golden era of piano playing and until today rarely even hinted at especially with Alims good taste and aristocratic sense of style created together with his mentor of the past ten years Tessa Nicholson and the unforgettable school of Fou Ts’ong who has inspired so many generations of aspiring young musicians.

Friends getting Alim after his concert

Joanna Kacperek at St Mary’s A scintillating display of style and musicianship

Tuesday 7 December 3.00 pm

Soler: 4 Keyboard Sonatas: 
K 104 in D Minor, 
K 102 in D Minor, 
K 106 in E Minor, 
K 88 in D Flat Major 

Schubert: Piano Sonata in B Major D 575
Allegro / Andante / Scherzo / Allegro

Chopin: Rondo a la Mazur Op 5

Scriabin: Sonata no 2 in G Sharp Minor Op 19
Andante/ Presto

Joanna Kacperek standing in at very short notice for a pianist stranded in Austria!A scintillating display of dexterity and style with four Sonatas by the ‘Spanish’Scarlatti -Antonio Soler.He wrote 471 Sonatas rarely heard and so it was refreshing to hear four of them played with vibrant rhythmic energy and crisp delicate passage work shaped by a true musician as you might expect from the school of Norma Fisher.
An eclectic choice of programme too with Schubert’s rarely heard B major Sonata given a reading of both beauty and intelligence.Chopin’s Rondo op 5 was played by a native who brought Chopins early sparkling rondo vividly to life with irresistible charm,grace and scintillating virtuosity.
Scriabin’s two movement Fantasy Sonata was played with sumptuous colour and a sense of line that gave great coherence to this ravishing early work of Scriabin.The second movement was played with passion and great technical flair by this beautiful young Polish but Ealing based pianist.It was very refreshing to see her husband the pianist Andrew Yiangou following with such pride his talented partner in life.There must be something about the air in Ealing that produces such talented and dedicated people!

International concert pianist, Joanna Kacperek has performed in major concert halls in Poland (Warsaw Philharmonic, Concert Studio of the Polish Radio, the Royal Castle in Warsaw, NOSPR in Katowice) and abroad (including United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Norway, Russia, the Ukraine, Canada and Japan). As a soloist, she has performed with such orchestras as the Symphony Orchestra of the National Philharmonic in Warsaw, State Academic Symphony Orchestra in Moscow and Lviv Virtuosos Chamber Orchestra. In 2021 Joanna graduated with distinction from The Royal College of Music in London in the class of Norma Fisher, as the recipient of the C. Bechstein Scholarship and The Zetland Foundation Scholarship. J oanna is also a graduate from the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw (diploma with distinction) where she studied with Ewa Poblocka. She also studied at the ‘Berlin University of Arts’ in Germany (academic year 2016/2017) where she was mentored by Professor Markus Groh as the receipt of an Erasmus scholarship. Joanna has also received the scholarships from the Polish Minister of Culture and the Prime Minister. Joanna Kacperek has won international piano competitions in Szafarnia (‘F.Chopin’), Pilsen (‘B.Smetana’), Paris (‘M.Magin’) as well as the National Witold Lutoslawski Music Competition in Warsaw. The achievements of the pianist include winning a special prize at the International Edvard Grieg Piano Competition in Bergen (2016), granted unanimously by the jury and the composer Christian Blom for the best performance of his work. In November 2017, together with violinist Roksana Kwasnikowska, Joanna won The 2 nd International Beethoven Chamber Music Competition, organized by The Krzysztof Penderecki European Music Centre, Internationale Beethoven Gesellschaft and The Ludwig van Beethoven Association. Alongside a growing career as a soloist, Joanna Kacperek is highly celebrated for being a multi-faceted pianist. She regularly performs with singers and instrumental players. Her duo with violinist Roksana Kwasnikowska represented Poland at the Kyoto International Music Students Festival in Japan (2015) and regularly performs recitals both in Poland and abroad. In 2021 she was chosen as Young Artist and took part in The Leeds Lieder Festival 2021 (duo with Ava Dodd).

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.

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).

Julian Jacobson Boogie woogie and Beamish at City University of London

A very interesting programme for our ever versatile Professor Jacobson.I remember thirty years ago Julian Dawson -Lyell (as he was then) mixing with all the avant guarde composers at the American Academy in Rome with their Prix de Rome or Fulbright Scholarships,breathing the rarified air of the latest innovative music.
When they needed more space or a better piano they would venture down from the Gianicolo to play in the Ghione Theatre.A memorable concert thanks to the Aspen Institute with Petrassi and Carter has gone down in legend.Julian too would be there with his intellectual curiosity ready to perform works where the ink was still wet on the page.It was the ‘indefatigable’Robin Freeman who had invited Julian to play a Suite by Scelsi which he did in the Ghione theatre and which Julian intriguingly says that the whole adventure turned out to be a bit of a nightmare………?!

So it was very interesting today to see the presence of Sally Beamish in his short lunchtime programme for the City University of London.Julian had met her at that chamber music mecca of Prussia Cove.I did not know that she was a very highly esteemed viola played as well as being one of the most prolific composers of the day.I had been charmed by her introduction ,a few months ago, to the much postponed premiere of Sonnets that she had written for the New Ross and London Piano Festivals.A hilarious piece where three pianist’s vied for two pianos.

Julian had asked her for a piece to play in today’s concert and it was ‘Lullaby for Owain’written in 1986 that he played today.It was inspired by the uncertain emotions that a parent might feel at the birth of a child with Down’s Syndrome.The initial shock mixed with powerful love and pride.It was a very simple peace almost pastoral in atmosphere and played with clarity and rhythmic precision.A modern vocabulary that spoke every bit as powerfully as the Great E flat Sonata Hob.XV1:52 by Haydn that had preceded it.

The nobility and rhythmic drive of the Allegro was answered by the beauty and poise of the Adagio.The extraordinary bass interruption central section just showed the genial Haydn at his best and the return of the beseeching opening statement was by contrast so magical.The Finale :Presto was played with great precision and rhythmic energy.

It was interesting to hear the introduction by Julian in which he said that Haydn may not have been touched with the genius of Mozart, Bach or Beethoven but he was a prolific composer,still today much neglected ,and who does have moments of pure genius in his enormous output of works mainly commissioned for a specific occasion or purpose.The composer that Prokofiev most admired was indeed Haydn.Prolific Haydn and prolific too Sally Beamish the most commissioned composer of the day who has been recognised recently with an OBE.

Nikolai Kapustin too was a most prolific composer who produced 20 piano sonatas ,6 piano concertos,many studies and 24 Preludes and Fugues in jazz style.He studied from 1956 until 1961 with Goldenweiser at the Moscow Conservatory.During that period he acquired a reputation as a jazz pianist, arranger and composer.He regarded himself as a composer rather than a jazz musician: “I was never a jazz musician. I never tried to be a real jazz pianist, but I had to do it because of the composing. I’m not interested in improvisation – and what is a jazz musician without improvisation? All my improvisations are written, of course, and they became much better; it improved them.”Julian played the 6th Sonata op 62 from 1991.Taking his jacket off he proceeded to let rip as he entered into this special jazz idiom.A beautiful bass melody in the Grave central movement with a final whispered chord at the top of the keyboard before the undisguised boogie woogie of the Vivace last movement.

Chopin’s late fourth scherzo ,the only one in a major key ,was given a very musicianly performance of aristocratic good taste.It suffered though,from being a little too earthbound rather than etherial.The beautiful melodic middle section was played with a luminosity of sound and a disarming simplicity that was most touching.Helped of course by this Steinway D concert grand in this wooden concert space at the University of London.

A small but appreciative audience was offered a reflective,elegiac encore of the Minuet from Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin.The ideal choice for the resonance and luminosity of sound in this small hall where Ravel’s atmospheric Minuet could breathe so magically under Julian’s sensitive hands.

Dame Fanny Waterman – a tribute by master pianist and pupil Benjamin Frith

A beautiful tribute by Benjamin Frith to his much missed teacher Dame Fanny Waterman.
She would often tell me how eloquent I was as indeed Ben was tonight in Oleg and Pollina Kogan’s Rasumovsky Academy.
But it was the beauty of the playing of this Gold medal winner of the Rubinstein competition that would have thrilled her more than any words.
Someone who still knows how to ‘mould’ as she would so simply describe the real Matthay legato.Playing of real intelligence and musical integrity as you might expect having studied since childhood with someone who simply declared that she was the reincarnation of Mozart!
It avoided any discussions or doubts with her young students who might question her sterling musicianship.

Ravishing sounds from this piano that once belonged to Fou Ts’ong and that lovingly restored is now cherished by Oleg.
In Ben’s hands tonight it gleamed and shone as it must have done in Ts’ongs hands and it could not have found a more warm and welcoming home.
A home built with love and passion by Oleg with his own hands.The hands of a renowned cellist who has created this beautiful venue where the predominance of wood has been lovingly restored by him as if it were indeed his own cello.

Oleg Kogan

Some fascinating reminiscences of a childhood shaped by Dame Fanny and that led Dennis Matthews to describe the 14 year old Benjamin Frith as the ‘Prodigy of Prodigies’.In 1989 he was awarded the Gold Medal at the Rubinstein Competition ,tying with Ian Fountain,the only British pianists ever to have won this very prestigious prize,having already won the top prize in the 1986 Busoni Competition in Bolzano.In fact I first met Dame Fanny in Oxford where she was giving Masterclasses in Marios Papadopoulos’s annual Piano Festival.I was with a young Russian pianist who the keyboard Trust had taken under their wing .I asked her ,rather mischievously,if she would like to meet the winner of her next competition in Leeds.’Come with me’ she said to the young Russian pianist ,‘play me something classical ‘.Vitaly Pisarenko went on to win a top prize in the competition.

Ben tells the story too of Irving Moskovitz calling from New York.’Would you please book me a room at the Queens Hotel.I am coming over to Leeds ,and I’m bringing the winner with me .’Really?’asked Fanny.’Well if he doesn’t win I want to be there to hear the pianist who beats him’.Murray Perahia’s performance of the ‘Davidsbundlertanze ‘had many of the jury members in tears and of course he swept the board being already the great pianist the world has since recognised.Ben remembers hearing the performance a year later and falling in love with it.Ben’s recording of it since has been highly praised by the critics .And it was with this work that he chose to close his tribute to Dame Fanny,transforming Ts’ongs Steinway D into a jewel box of emotions of ravishing beauty.

Fou Ts’ong used to come to my concert series in Rome every year and his wife Patsy used to thank me for being so faithful.Thank me!But it is I that should thank him for sharing with us not only his performances but also his unique musical knowledge with young musicians in his Masterclasses for over ten years One year I had suggested he might like to look at the ‘Davidsbundler’which he immediately fell in love with.He played it the next time he came to Rome but unfortunately I was on tour with our theatre company at the other end of Italy.’Oh Chris’,he exclaimed ‘ it is as though I have cooked you a sumptuous meal and you did not turn up to eat it!’Just a few years ago I had listened to a concert on Radio 3 from my home in the depths of the Italian countryside and in writing to Dame Fanny sending her birthday greetings,I mentioned how moved I had been by Graham Johnson’s wonderful accompaniments .She immediately replied saying that she too had listened on the radio in Leeds and considered Graham the greatest living accompanist of our day.Graham and I had been students together at the Royal Academy and when I told him of Dame Fanny’s enthusiasm he immediately thanked her and that day a beautiful friendship was sealed.I was pleasantly surprised one year when she accepted an invitation to a Keyboard Trust concert at the Brazilian Embassy in the beautiful Cunard Hall in Trafalgar Square.Unknown to Pablo Rossi the brilliant Brazilian pianist she sat in the front row and nodded her head on every note that he played.She was much feted by an audience full of distinguished musicians and of course Pablo was thrilled to think such a leggendary figure had come to hear him.’You are such a wonderful host’,she affectionately exclaimed as I hailed a taxi to take her to the Hotel Club where she was staying.

Dane Fanny in heated discussion with Menahem Pressler

She and Menahem Pressler are the only two people I have ever met that listen with such untiring concentration to every single note that is played.Even Pressler complains though that when he is on the jury of Fanny’s competition in Leeds she wants him to sit next to her.So while many jury members are able to nod off for a second in the afternoon of a long session,Pressler sitting with Dame Fanny has to stay continuously alert!There are many anecdotes that Ben affectionately shared with his audience but it was his music making that stood for all the principles that this great lady fought for in her long life.He was often called on to play in fund raising concerts where Fanny would ask him to play works that were easily accessible to an aristocracy that would be the life blood of her competition.Mendelssohn was Queen Victoria’s favourite composer and so as he was playing invariably in Victorian mansions for fund raising concerts Mendelssohn must be included.The two ‘Songs Without Words’ that he played today op 67 n.1 & 2 immediately showed off his ‘moulding’ with ravishing legato playing.The melodic line just floating on a stream of golden sounds as the melody was beautifully shaped with delicious embellishments and a real feeling of nostalgia of times passed.The second ‘Song’ showed his transcendental control of sound and colour with a subtle melodic line accompanied by staccato notes of such exquisite delicacy.There was also a musicianly architectural shape to this miniature tone poem with a subtle refined finale just thrown off with the charm and ease of another age.

The concert had opened with two contrasting Sonatas by Scarlatti.K 213 in D minor was played with subtle delicacy of pastoral atmosphere with beautifully varied sounds.K 492 in D major was played with a crystalline clarity and a rhythmic exuberance that immediately betrayed Scarlatti’s Spanish roots.There was playful charm but also passion and clockwork precision with glitteringly characterful jewels much as I remember Ts’ongs inimitable playing of these very works.

Master piano specialist Nigel Polmear with Oleg at post the concert celebration

The variations on a theme of Schumann op 9 ,deeply elegiac,is Brahms’s first true masterpiece in the genre. The almost overwhelming pathos of this work mirrors the circumstances of its composition in proximity to the stricken Schumann household in Düsseldorf in May and June of 1854 (apart from variations 10 and 11, which were inserted in September). Schumann had only recently been confined in the Bonn asylum for the insane, leaving his wife Clara, pregnant with their seventh child, to look after their five surviving children. She is the work’s dedicatee; Brahms brought each of his variations to show her as he composed them as his love for Clara was tinged with his respect for Robert.The theme comes from the fourth of Schumann’s Op 99 Bunte Blätter—and is the same theme as Clara had chosen for her own set of Variations, Op 20, composed the previous year. But it is Robert who chiefly presides over Brahms’s work: there are stylistic and textural reminiscences of several of his other works, and the variation techniques as such, based especially on the free melodic transformations of the theme or its bass in ‘fantasy’ style, show Brahms absorbing some of Schumann’s most personal innovations. (In the manuscript, though not as published, many of the individual variations are signed: the more lyrical ones 4,7,8,14 and 16 with ‘B’—for Brahms—and the faster, more ardent ones 5,6,9,12 and 13 with ‘Kr’—for ‘Johannes Kreisler Junior’, the romantic alter ego Brahms had invented for himself while still a teenager, after the protagonist of E T A Hoffmann’s novel Kater Murr. N.10 and 11 added later are entitled:’Rose and Heliotrope smelled sweet’(Similar to Schumann’s way of assigning the movements in Davidsbündlertänze to ‘Eusebius’ and ‘Florestan’.)

Oleg Kogan with Benjamin Frith

There was beauty and simplicity in the theme and first variation.The second variation showed a beautiful sense of shape and colour with its legato right hand and staccato left and the fourth variation with the gentle rocking rhythmic accompaniment that led to the outburst of the Allegro capriccioso.There were cascades of brilliance in the sixth variation and the subtle sumptuous beauty of the seventh and eighth.There was great agility in the ninth and an almost religious stillness to the ‘poco adagio’ tenth with its sumptuous accompaniment.Great technical agility in the twelfth and thirteenth before the sumptuous beauty of the fourteenth with its beautiful melodic line suspended above a staccato accompaniment.There was magic in the air as the etherial beauty of the fifteenth variation gave way to the desolation of the final sixteenth.

Ben in discussion with colleague of yore,Linn Rothstein with Pollina Kogan looking on amused.

This was just a preparation for the sumptuous beauty and passionate commitment of the ‘Davidsbundler’.Schumann’s early piano works were influenced by his relationship with Clara Wieck. On September 5, 1839, Schumann wrote to his former professor: “She was practically my sole motivation for writing the Davidsbündlertänze, the Concerto, the Sonata and the Novellettes.” They are an expression of his passionate love, anxieties, longings, visions, dreams and fantasies.From the subtle passionate syncopation of the opening to the sublime musings of the second piece played with such clarity of line and heart melting beauty- Eusebius indeed had entered before being knocked of his pedestal by the rumbustuous Floristan.There was disarming simplicity with the fifth ‘Einfach’ before the rollicking moto perpetuo of the sixth.Extraordinary beauty of the seventh where time seemed to stand still before the rhythmic drive of the following three movements ending in the epic Balladenmassig played with passionate ardour.The gentle shadowed lyricism of the eleventh was followed by the whimsical twelfth thrown of with nonchalant ease.Passion and fire ignited the thirteenth with the wonderfully lyrical middle section that seems to arise above the turbulant waves with a coda that was thrown off with the ease of the great pianists of another age.The fourteenth is one of Schumann’s most sublime creations and it was played with a golden sound of heart rending simplicity.There was great sweep to the fifteenth with its passionate outpouring of melody and the entry of a brief lighthearted play on rhythm ‘mit gutem Humor’.The sixteenth is an epilogue with magical apparitions of past memories.Very similar in atmosphere to the epilogue of Ravel’s Valses Nobles.

An honoured guest presenting Oleg Kogan with a present of esteem and thanks

It built up to an exhilarating climax only to die away to the whispered simplicity of a waltz of such nostalgia and beauty that is no longer as time has passed.The entire penultimate piece is played ‘as if from afar’, lending the music a patina of nostalgia. None of this, however, prevented Schumann from adding his C major postscript—a gentle waltz whose simplicity is infinitely affecting. As it draws towards its close, the music begins to fade away with the chimes of midnight sounding deep in the bass. The inscription Schumann placed at the head of this piece in the original edition tells its own story: ‘Quite superfluously Eusebius added the following; but in so doing, much happiness radiated from his eyes.The first edition is also preceded by the following epigraph that sums up so poignantly the magical atmosphere of this masterpiece: Old saying
In each and every age
joy and sorrow are mingled:
Remain pious in joy,
and be ready for sorrow with courage.

Ben with Pollina Kogan

A wonderful tribute to a remarkable lady from a master pianist formed and shaped by her and demonstrating her great legacy of integrity,intelligence and humility in her approach to the classical repertoire.Something that with her unique northern directness and simplicity she promoted with untiring energy and passionate enthusiasm.