Some remarkable playing from Ignas Maknickas at St James’s Piccadilly that thanks to their superb streaming and still very fine Fazioli piano I was able to admire every facets of his great natural talent . A grandiose Bach Chaconne with such sumptuous sounds not only of richness but also of golden sweetness never forsaking the monumental architectural shape that Bach had so miraculously woven on a single violin. Here in Busoni’s extraordinary reworking it is reborn for the solo piano with the same grandeur as the original. Brahms too made a magnificent transcription for the left hand alone giving it the same transcendental difficulty as the original conception.But when played with the virtuosity and richness of sound as today it becomes more than a transcription but a highly original work as if born for the solo piano. I remember as a student being bowled over by the recording of Michelangeli and locking myself away for a week to learn it before playing it to my teacher Sidney Harrison.He could not believe what progress this schoolboy had made over night. It was the piece that earnt me a scholarship to study with him at the Royal Academy. Can it just be coincidence that this concert is promoted by my old Alma Mater where Ignas is a master student?!
His Mozart too showed off his natural musicality and beautiful relaxed flexibility never taking away the driving rhythmic energy but allowing the characters in this piece of pure operatic inspiration to enter and exit with the same beauty and exhilaration as any opera singer. There was subtle beauty in the slow movement with a ravishingly beautiful sound and such subtle embellishments that made these jewels sparkle even more brightly.The last movement sprang out of his fingers like a ‘jack in the box’ and Mozarts genial surprise ending caught even his audience unawares. Pagodes from Debussy’s Estampes was played with a kaleidoscopic sense of sound,like a prism that on every turn shone rays of magic. There was such delicacy in the gentle childrens song that Debussy quotes with swirling spirals of golden sounds that drifted into a visionary cloud that took us to the sublime opening of Chopin’s great masterpiece.
The fourth ballade one of the most miraculous creations even for Chopin was played with an aristocratic sense of style.Beauty and passion combined together with moments of ravishing beauty like the little cadenza before the final great build up.A sound that was always of a fluidity and never allowed to harden no matter the technical difficulty. If the coda was a little laboured it is because this young man must spend more time at the keyboard to eliminate also small blemishes that did occur during the recital.His extraordinary talent demands more hours to turn a wonderful picture into a masterpiece.He is a great artist in the making and must suffer more for his quite considerable artistry.
A monument speaks in Rome today ………….to almost three thousand people in the Sala S.Cecilia that has not seen so many people for a long time.
It was a sign of the love and esteem he commands even now in his eightieth year. He has given us 60 or more years of performances of integrity,simplicity and honesty as he has put his phenomenal technical gifts at the service of the composer. It was Rubinstein on the jury of the Chopin competition who declared that this eighteen year old boy played better than any of us. He is the monumental figure that we music students would refer to in order to hear the printed page come to life with an intellectual rigour that excluded any demonstrative personal distortions. He together with Brendel were the icons that shone brightly over the more individual stylists whose personal interpretations whilst adding a different more personal point of view took us into an outward rather than inward approach to the greatest works of the piano literature. Monuments cast shadows and the greater the monument the greater the shadow.
It was the shadow that we celebrated tonight ……but what a shadow! Having changed his programme from the Schumann Fantasie and the Hammerklavier sonata for intellectual or physical reasons was of absolutely no importance for us mortals.
We that sat at his feet today in awe of pianist who could command our total attention for an hour long first half with Beethoven’s most problematic sonata op 101 followed by one of the pinnacles of the romantic piano repertoire the Fantasie in C op 17 by Schumann.Preceeding the Beethoven with a Bagatelle,one of his last works for piano op 126 n.3 in which so little could say so much and prepare us for the mellifluous outpouring of the Sonata that followed. This was monumental playing of great masculinity and warmth with a symphonic sound that any minor blemishes were of no importance as the great architectural shape was unravelled before us.
But even more importantly the revolutionary character of Beethoven was revealed with warts and all. Has the Langsam und sehnsuchtsvoll ever sounded so profound and involved or the Lehaft second movement suddenly becoming so similar to Schumann’s Massig second movement of the Fantasie? Whereas Kempff and Lupu got more introspective as they searched for the perfect legato in their Indian summer,Pollini has taken the opposite approach as he completely takes on Beethovens rough exterior. But of course there is a soulful interior to Beethoven too that we begin to become aware of from op 90 to op 111. Op.101 is on the tip of the balance and it enough to think that the next sonata is the mighty Hammerklavier op 106 where Beethoven takes the sonata to the limit of one human’s capacity on the piano. There will be those tonight who will comment that it was massively over pedalled and there were many smudged details but I would suggest that tonight we were in the presence of Beethoven himself who was far from a perfectionist in his lifelong struggle with himself and his physical ailments.
The Chopin Mazurka op 56 n.3 was a whole world in Pollini’s hands from ravishing beauty to intense introspection and stamping of feet. Ending with two mere gasps of astonishment.Three thousand people were holding their breath indeed. The Barcarolle – surely Chopin’s most perfect work was played together with the Fourth Ballade and the First Scherzo and were given very masculine no nonsense performances of great power and intellectual prowess. That an eighty year old man after almost two hours onstage could thank his audience by playing the First Ballade of Chopin was nothing short of a miracle. It was this conjuror of miracles that the Roman public had bade farewell to COVID worries as they came in their droves to pay homage to a living legend. It was nice to see the magnificent Fabbrini Steinway on stage and to know that Angelo Fabbrini was with us in the audience having given his priceless contribution to the recital by preparing an instrument fit for a King.
‘To hear the printed score come alive with intellectual rigour’, that phrase conveys so well why I attended Pollini’s recitals. As do your phrases ‘an outward approach’ and ‘taking on Beethoven’s rough exterior’. Thanks Christopher, your writing conveys exactly why Pollini’s many recitals at the RDH so excited me as a young lad learning the repertoire for the first time. And Pollini had to be heard live to witness the long-term build and sheer excitement of his playing, the sometimes hard-edged chords gleaming like copper building blocks as if the composer was with us on the piano stool. Pollini broke through the niceties of remembered music. His recordings often sound two-dimensional stripped of their molten energy. Heard live, Pollini was exciting. I really enjoyed your writing that conveys why, so thanks!’Bob Goldsmith
Many thanks I am glad I could share such sentiments and be understood for what Pollini has meant for us!You write so poetically ‘hard edged chords gleaming like copper building blocks as if the composer was with us on the piano stool’is exactly what he was and a glimpse of a paradise lost is worth its weight in gold not copper!
‘Lovely review of one of the all-time greats.’Hugh Mather ………it was a wonderful occasion even if the twilight of a God
Sonata in E major Op 109 Vivace / Prestissimo / Andante with variations
The New Testament of the piano literature.Some notes and thoughts stimulated by the performance today.
Op.109 There was a chiselled beauty to the sound that flowed so naturally as it was allowed to sing due to an extraordinary sense of balance and above all a scrupulous attention to Beethoven’s very precise indications in the score.Beethoven’s own pedal mark that links the first and second movement without a break- so often overlooked as the meaning of Beethoven’s pedal markings are dismissed by lesser mortals!.There was a string quartet texture to the last movement and a striking clarity to the turn so often thrown off as an aside but here every note given real meaning.There was a strikingly beautiful luminosity to the first variation where the deep bass notes were the very anchor of a variation that can often slip into waltz time!There was absolute control of texture in the second variation with no accommodating ritardando so there was no loss of rhythmic energy even in the teneramente contrasting episodes .The Allegro vivace third variation was like a volcano unleashed with superlative precision and a rhythmic drive I have only ever heard from Serkin .The fourth variation was like a ray of sunlight suddenly appearing on the horizon only slightly missing the off beat sforzandi and Beethoven’s own pedal indication in the long tremolando.It was at the end of this variation that I felt ended rather too abruptly to contrast with the authoritarian fugato that follows.The end of the fugato too could anticipate the tempo prima of the final extraordinary sixth variation,The same for the return of the theme where the etherial trills should dissolve more naturally into the opening theme almost like the opening of a magic door where an imperceptible gasp of astonishment could recreate this magic moment.Beethoven had marked after all one long pedal from the beautifully placed bass E that becomes the anchor for the first note of the return of the theme.
Sonata in A flat major Op 110 Moderato / Allegro / Adagio / Allegro
There was a luminosity of sound from the very first notes of op 110 with the fermata on the trill unravelling so naturally as the ravishing beauty of this movement is revealed .The magical change from E natural to D sharp was played with a simplicity that was very moving without any artificial slowing or underlining,The two short chords at the end played like two final gasps.The Trio section of the Allegro molto was given a kick start from the two bass notes of each phrase that made the syncopations even more startling and gave great authority to what can be very treacherous waters for some!There was great weight and significance in every note of the Adagio that reminded me of certain passages in the Bach B minor mass such was the burning intensity of simple expression and depth of meaning.The complicated pedal indications in the bebung ( notes made to vibrate ) were so magical that the throbbing intensity of Beethoven’s heartbeat became almost unbearably intense before the disarming simplicity of the Arioso dolente.There was a great forward movement to the fugue that interrupts the aria before it’s return and I would have avoided all accents on the two chords before the magical modulation that heralds the ever more poignant reappearance of the aria where Beethoven asks ‘ perdendo le forze,dolente.’There was magic in the air with the final long pedal held chords beautifully judged as they disintegrate into the reappearance of the fugue in inversion.Here too was one of those magical moments where more sense of astonishment and wonder would have added to this remarkable moment.The final great build up led to the release of tension on the A flat chord where a total control of tempo would have given even more impact to this ending in glory.Even Schnabel notorious for his impetuosity writes here ‘non accelerando’…….easy to write but hard to do when the adrenaline is flowing so passionately!
Sonata in C minor Op 111 Maestoso – Allegro / Adagio
Op 111 opened with enviable authority and importance – Maestoso as Beethoven writes.Beethoven wrote for the bass trill at the end of the introduction to be played without pedal which Cristian played so perfectly in pianissimo (the same technical feat that Schubert asks in his final sonata).The Allegro con brio was played with superb technical control and chiselled sounds boiling over at 100 degrees .There was a great sense of exaltation and release of tension in the two short recitativi and Cristian’s scrupulous attention to detail was quite remarkable.Even the final three chords were played in diminuendo to pianissimo but without any relaxing of the rhythmic tension created.This meant of course that the simplicity of the Arietta was even more poignant.There was unrelenting virtuosity and almost brutal accents with the sforzandi in the third variation before the gradual disintegration of the theme over a murmured bass all played with startling clarity .There was aristocratic control in the long build up to the final release to a magical world of trills where the theme was allowed to be heard so clearly in this wondrous landscape.I would have placed the final chords in the last two bars with more weight.Not with a ritardando but an inner feeling that we had come to the end of a long journey and with exhaustion and relief we arrive home to the final C major chord .
Some truly remarkable playing from a Cristian Sandrin reborn.As Hugh Mather said at the end ‘he played the trilogy as Beethoven would have imagined it in his secret ear that he was forced to inhabit towards the end of his life.’ Easy to say but so difficult to transmit unless you follow Beethoven’s incredibly precise indications that he was able miraculously to notate better than any computer could possibly do today. Because there are seemingly impossible juxtapositions of forte and piano,of legato and non legato,of never adding a polite rallentando at the end of a phrase unless Beethoven specifically indicates it.Not to mention the meaning of his pedal markings like the end of the first movement of op 109 linked so clearly to the Prestissimo that follows and the sinister bass vibration in op 111 before the Allegro con brio. These are lessons that all those that were privileged to hear Brendel and Serkin in their greatest moments would understand. Serkin was still kicking and trembling way after the last chord of the Hammerklavier had been struck. Brendel too brought to the Diabelli variations a final chord that was the release of mounting tension .An unforgettable experience that I was privileged to experience in my student days in London.
Today in this little church in the beautiful surroundings of Perivale golf course ,this Mecca for pianists that is Dr Mathers dream come true,we were privileged to witness the birth of another supreme interpreter of Beethoven. As unexpected as it was overwhelming. I have known Cristians playing from when he was one of the most talented students at the Royal Academy.A very fine musician often to be heard conducting or playing from the keyboard. Today there was a total understanding of the very complex character of Beethoven that lies hidden in the scores for those few that have the total dedication and of course technical skill and supreme musicianship to unravel the secrets that Beethoven was so miraculously able to notate. All I can add is an appreciation ,maybe point at one or two places where a release of tension might have added even more magic.
Lucky Florence where Cristian will be playing this trilogy on the 24th in the library of that aesthete Harold Acton who I am sure will be looking on with admiration. Playing in a series organised by The Keyboard Charitable Trust I think the founders Noretta Conci-Leech and her husband John Leech can be justly proud as Dr Mather was today. Simple,Great Beethoven ……..easier said than done! Q.E.D https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1N1oJc0lnCc
There is also an amusing and revealing story relating to having a ‘cuppa’ after such a monumental chore as the Beethoven Trilogy.I had been intrigued one day to see the final concert in a complete Beethoven Sonata Cycle completely sold out at one of the major concert halls in London.Intrigued to see that the final trilogy would be performed twice by the same pianist on the same day with only time for a quick cup of tea between performances.I listened to the first performance that was relayed on the radio and was able to follow the score with a glass of wine in hand and an easily accessible on/off button on the radio.I was bowled over by a performance where every detail of the score was played to perfection.Needless to say neither the radio or the wine were even contemplated in an hour of extraordinary music making.A renowned critic who had found a ticket for the second performance was equally bowled over but his reaction was surprising as it was revealing .’Well,Chris,it was a quite extraordinary performance.I remember though hearing Claudio Arrau playing the trilogy in the Festival Hall.At the end of the performance not only he was exhausted but the audience was too.There was no way that he could have had a quick cup of tea and done it all over again!’Make of it what you will but I will never forget Serkin too literally shaking at the end of the Hammerklavier or the Diabelli Variations.It is a spiritual journey that carries on long after the last note has sounded.I remember Mitsuko Uchida too pointing out to an audience member that she did not want to be photographed or recorded because a concert should remain in the memory as a wonderful experience and not just a thing printed on a sterile page.I think all those present yesterday too were exhilarated and exhausted judging by the moments of moving collective silence that we shared together at the end of op.111.
Born to a family of musicians from Bucharest, Romania, Cristian Sandrin made his solo debut at prestigious Romanian Atheneum Hall at the age of 13. After graduating the “Dinu Lipatti” Art College in Bucharest, Cristian moved to London where he studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Having graduated with First Class Honours in 2016, he is currently pursuing a postgraduate degree at the same institution. He is currently a receiver of the Piano Fellowship of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Martin Musical Scholarship Fund 2017/2018, benefiting also from a scholarship of the Imogen Cooper Music Trust. Cristian Sandrin won numerous prizes and awards at international and national competitions. A Second Prize Winner of the Windsor International Piano Competition (2018) and Third Prize Winner of the Sheepdrove Intercollegiate Piano Competition (2018). He had his solo debut recital at the Wigmore Hall in London in September 2017. In Romania, Cristian Sandrin is a regular guest artist of the Filarmonica “Mihail Jora” Bacau, the Sibiu Sibiu Philharmonic, Ramnicu-Valcea National Philharmonic and Bucharest Symphony Orchestra. Other international engagements include performances at “La Fenice” Theatre in Venice, Theatre de la Montjoie, Salla Manuel de Falla in Madrid, Palazzo Ricci in Montepulciano, the Romanian Atheneum in Bucharest, and “Bulgaria Philharmonic Hall” in Sophia. .
Mozart: Sonata in D Major K 576 Allegro / Adagio / Allegretto
Beethoven: Sonata in E flat Op 81a ‘Les Adieux’ Adagio-Allegro / Andante / Vivacissimamente
Brahms: 4 Klavierstücke Op 119 I. Intermezzo in B minor II. Intermezzo in E minor III. Intermezzo in C Major IV. Rhapsody in E-flat Minor
Liszt: La Campanella S 141 no 3
Some masterly playing from Ingmar Lazar.With simplicity and remarkable musicianship he allowed the music to speak for itself with a luminosity of sound and technical mastery that was never allowed to intrude on the architectural music line.I was reminded of the same sound of Gelber many years ago when he too played Beethoven with the same natural simplicity as today.One was never aware of his superb technique which was totally at the service of the music.
From the very first notes of Mozart’s last piano sonata there was a simplicity and clarity that held us spell bound.A beautiful liquid sound of great refinement and a kaleidoscopic sense of colour in the development before the delicate energy of the recapitulation.Pires has shown us the same art that conceals art that is one of the most difficult feats to achieve. The famous saying of Schnabel that ‘ Mozart is too easy for children but too difficult for adults’ was evident today as in the simplicity there were so many subtle inflections of sound and also considerable temperament when needed that brought this work vividly to life. An Adagio slow movement of ravishing beauty with a rich cantabile and a sumptuous sense of balance.It could have flowed more but it was played with a simplicity and sensitivity and an aristocratic sense of style.The final allegretto was also of a disarming simplicity,played with a sense of line of remarkable clarity and rhythmic energy.
The opening Adagio of the Beethoven ‘Les Adieux’ Sonata where a world was expressed in the introduction with such sublime sounds but above all scrupulous attention to the score. The Allegro -Das Lebewohl – The Farewell -was played with great energy but also a clarity where every note was allowed to speak without any thought of the treacherous technical challenges that Beethoven demands. An andante espressivo- ‘Abwesenheit – The Absence’ that was allowed to flow so naturally with a ravishing sense of balance and a truly magical ending before the explosion of the Vivacissimamente ‘Das Wiedersehen-The return’ thrown off with technical brilliance and notable clarity.
The four Brahms Klavierstucke op 119 were played with ravishing beauty and disarming simplicity.The opening Intermezzo in B minor I have never heard played with such clarity where every voice and strand spoke so eloquently.His continual natural body rotation gave such a natural fluidity to all he does. The gentle flow of the Intermezzo in E minor where the middle episode spoke with such a sumptuous golden sound.The C major Intermezzo was thrown off with the seeming simplicity and fantasy that only Curzon could conjure up before the majesty and excitement of the final Rhapsody.
A true musicians view of La Campanella where all the flashy showmanship so often displayed in this showpiece was put to one side with some very interesting fingerings though.But Liszt’s magnificent miniature tone poem was allowed to ravish and seduce with all the subtlety of another age. A simple eloquent Prelude by Lyadov was this young musicians way of thanking a justly enthusiastic audience
Hailed by the Classica Magazine as a “pianist of magnetic presence”, Ingmar Lazar has established himself as one of the leading French musicians of his generation.He performs in the world’s prestigious halls such as the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Herkulessaal in Munich, Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg, Rudolfinum in Prague, Romanian Athenaeum in Bucharest, and the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv to name a few.He collaborates with conductors Vladimir Spivakov, Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Mathieu Herzog, Peter Vizard among many others, and performs with the National Philharmonic of Russia, the Moscow Virtuosi, the Orchestre Lamoureux, the Romanian Radio Chamber Orchestra, and the Lviv Philharmonic Academic Symphony Orchestra. His critically acclaimed discography includes a Schubert recital (2017), and a Beethoven recital (2019), both issued on the Lyrinx label.Born in 1993, Ingmar Lazar made his debut at the age of 6 at the Salle Gaveau in Paris. He is the recipient of the Tabor Foundation Piano Award at the Verbier Festival (2013), and was named laureate of the Safran Foundation for Music (2016). A former student of Valery Sigalevitch and Alexis Golovin, he continued his studies with Vladimir Krainev and Bernd Goetzke at the Hannover Musikhochschule. Thereafter he attended the International Piano Academy Lake Como. He received his Master’s and Postgraduate degree from the Universitat Mozarteum Salzburg in the class of Pavel Gililov. Currently, he is mentored by Elisso Virsaladze at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole. Since 2016, Ingmar Lazar is founder and artistic director of the Festival du Bruit qui Pense, located in Louveciennes (France). He was named starting from 2021 artistic director of the piano festival Escapades Pianistiques taking place at the Chateau de Commarin, near Dijon.