Shunta Morimoto a star shining brightly at St Mary’s – the UK debut of a Master

Sunday 20 February 3.00 pm

Shunta Morimoto.

Beethoven: Piano sonata in E flat Op 27 no 1
Andante- Allegro / Allegro / Adagio / Allegro

Some quite extraordinary playing from a young master.
From the whispered opening of Beethoven’s op.27 n.1 ,the much neglected twin of the so called ‘Moonlight’Sonata,that was transformed into astonishing sudden changes of character from the rumbustuous to the soul searching with a microscopic attention to the composers indications.A rhythmic drive that swept all before it.Here was the real blue print of Beethovens rapid changes of mood and impatient soul searching.
The Adagio had such stillness and subtle colouring dissolving in a cadenza of pure magic and an Allegro vivace of the same quite extraordinary drive that I have only known from Serkin’s searing performance many years ago in London.Such energy combined with control and attention to detail that would seem impossible to maintain in lesser hands.The magical return of the Adagio ,a stroke of true genius,but then the mad impatient drive to the final slam of the door.A tour de force of transcendental playing and a true understanding of the character of Beethoven as indicated in minute detail in the score.

Chopin: Scherzo no 2 in B flat minor Op 31

Even more astonishing was to listen to Chopin’s much abused second scherzo as if listening to a completely new work.Of course ‘ sotto voce’ is much more than just ‘ piano’ and what a contrast it created with the heroic chordal interruptions.A true Orpheus in Hades so often smoothed over with too much pedal and lack of attention to Chopin’s scrupulous pedal indications.Anton Rubinstein said that the pedal was the soul of the piano but I think soul in this context means the composer indicating to us via the pedal indications the true architectural contour of colour and shape.There were so many things revealed in this performance that it was as though I had never heard it before with every phrase revealed in its naked simplicity and sheer beauty.Sumptuous sound and astonishing technical mastery .The subdued beauty of the sostenuto transformed into a golden web of magical sounds from which Shuntas magic eye could point to a subtle bass counterpoint with such good taste.The gradual build up to the climax was quite breathtaking,the astonishing downward scale leading into the aristocratic explosion and inevitable heroic climax and the gradual dissolving to the return of the ever mysterious ‘ sotto voce’.This time with the long held second note becoming ever more menacing.The excitement of the coda was all the more astonishing for its controlled frenzy with such subtle colouring that never allowed the texture to harden or be muddied.

Faure: Nocturne in D flat Op 63

Faure 6th nocturne was played with a maturity way beyond his barely seventeen years.Such subtle sounds and refined rubato where the deeply moving melodic line had an inner meaning,each note shaped and caressed with loving care without any external distortion or rhetoric.Technical feats of fleeting jeux perle sounds in diminuendo or the crystal clear unpedalled flight of imaginary birds on which floated a radiant melodic line passed to the listener unnoticed .Art that conceals art indeed from an artist dedicating his superlative technical command not to self exultation which would be understandable for such a talented teenager.Here was an artist ready to sacrifice his own applause in a demonstration of modesty and humility as he searches for the true meaning that lies hidden in the score.Hats off to William Nabore who insists that after Rachmaninov 3 and a great following in Japan since his first public performances from the age of ten he must now concentrate on delving deep in the scores of great masterworks rather than seeking out short lasting adulation as a child prodigy.
The fluidity of Shuntas movements too were so natural and just outlined the sounds that he could conjure from an instrument that we have heard many pianist play.Today this good well used Yamaha was made to sound like the most magnificent concert piano that one could imagine.

Franck: Prelude, Chorale et Fugue

Cesar Franck showed off every facet of his quite considerable artistry.A very difficult work that can so easily become episodic instead of a unified whole leading like Beethoven’s op 110 to the final exultation in the final fugue.
From the ethereal opening and it’s dramatic declarations to the extraordinary chorale spread over the entire keyboard where every chord had not only an outer shape but an inner radiance that finally becomes of an unbearable intensity before the simple statement of the fugue.The reappearance of the opening motif in the middle of the fugue is a master stroke and one of those magic velvet moments that can take ones breath away as it did in Shunta’s sensitive hands. The build up of the fugue and combination of all the melodic strands was masterly with Shunta’s sense of passionate control and sense of ecstasy ( the same ‘star’as in much of Scriabin).The animal energy and sumptuous full sound in the final coda was as overwhelming for us as it was for him.Je joue,je sens,je transmet, indeed.

It was in the encore that Shunta showed his aristocratic sense of style and sensitivity to sound as he translated Chopin’s pedal indications into magical sounds of ravishing beauty.
Like Pollini looking carefully into the score and the composers indications rather than relying on tradition and it gave a refreshing radiance and new life to a much loved classic of the romantic repertoire.Welcome to the UK at the start of a glorious career for many years to come.

Shunta with Dr Mather the deus ex machina of St Mary’s the Mecca for young pianists where he was invited to make his UK debut.

Shunta Morimoto was born in Kyoto, Japan in December 2004. From an early age he showed great talent for the piano. At the age of 12, in 2017, he won the prestigious First Prize and the “Fukuda Scholarship Award” by the Piano Teachers Association of Japan, one of the most important prizes for a young musician. This allowed him to study with some of the most important teaching pianists in the world. He took part in the Van Cliburn Junior competition in Dallas, Texas at age 14 in May 2019 with exceptional public success. His performances have gone viral on the Internet and have earned him a large following of fans, critics, musicians all over the world. Since then he has performed in concert with leading musicians and symphony orchestra in Japan and abroad. In September 2020, he won the Second Prize in the “Piano Teachers Association of Japan” competition, one of the most important competitions in Japan. Following this victory he played Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto in with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.In the same year he was invited to the International music festival ARSONORE in Graz to perform the sextet for piano and strings by Mendelssohn Bartholdy with members of the Hagen quartet.In 2021 he played several concerts in Tokyo playing Schumann’s concerto for piano and orchestra in A minor with Tacticart orchestra and Franck’s piano quintet and the second sonata for violin and piano by Brahms. In November 2021, he had recital in the historic hall of the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome. He currently studies with Maestro William Grant Naboré as a special student of the International Piano Academy Lake Como and studies piano accompaniment in the class of Maestro Giovanni Velluti at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome.

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