Cristian Sandrin at the National Liberal Club in a varied programme that showed off every facet of his quite considerable artistry.Opening with the Bach Prelude and Fugue in F minor Book 1 he managed to convey all its architectural shape on the magnificent Steinway D piano that lay before him.A refined control of sound allowed us to follow Bach’s genial meanderings with a clarity and sense of style with the entry of the deep bass notes giving such strength to the overall structure.The fugue entered in a religious whisper of such piety never allowing the purity of Bach’s extraordinary knotty twine to be out of focus whilst building gradually to an architectural climax that brought a seemingly innocuous fugue to a conclusion of powerful conviction.
There was the same clarity but also an extraordinary sense of colour to the eleventh study from the late masterpieces that Debussy had distilled and refined during a lifetime of sensitivity and mastery of atmosphere and colour.
The most beautiful of his set of twelve is ‘pour les arpèges composées’that certainly Hanon or Czerny could never have contemplated!
The arpeggio in all its shapes and sizes woven into a magic web of ravishing sounds.Stating so simply the opening arpeggio played with the same golden sound that Cristian had beguiled us with in Bach but soon transformed into cascades of etherial arabesques with the contrast of the quixotic minstral that the genius Debussy had incorporated.
These are no longer just studies for the ‘fingerfertigkeit’but true tone poems where the dry boring scales and arpeggios of our youth are transformed into magic webs of sound.
Cristian’s hands seem to belong to the keys as his movements are mirrored in the sounds he makes with never an unintentional jagged edge,but velvet sounds shaped and styled with sensitive artistry.
The sound of Rubinstein in Spanish and French music will never be forgotten It was a sound never sentimental but with a nobility and suavity typical of the golden era in Paris of Poulenc,Cocteau,Picasso etc.A mecca for artists where striving for innocence and purity could insinuate the very opposite but never with unintentional vulgarity or sentimentality.
It is a purity of sound more masculine than feminine but full of aristocratic elegance and nostalgia.
Cristian’s opening was beautiful but gave the game away too soon.The passion and sweep that he found later was remarkable but the bitter sweet opening just eluded him.
Even so it in no way completely spoilt the overall impression of the passionate maiden and her mellifluous nightingale that flittered out of Cristian’s hands with such clarity and delicacy.
Cristian’s performance of Beethoven’s sonata op 109 I have written about on several occasions,notably his last performance of the Beethoven trilogy in Florence.
The performance gets better and better as like all great artists he digs deeper and deeper into Beethoven’s final thoughts.
To think that Beethoven could only hear these works in his inner ear.It is even more remarkable that he could notate his wishes with such precision for posterity.
Cristian’s interpretation is gaining in weight and authority on every outing and his extraordinary technical prowess brings the genial final sounds miraculously to life.Trill’s that with his very individual technique seem to be played in the air as he literally hovers over the keys allowing Beethoven’s theme to appear on a cloud of sounds that are both clear and suggestively atmospheric.
The master of this was the young Ashkenazy of whom both physically and musically Cristian reminds me.
A tour de force of interpretation showing that real technique is translating ones imagination into sounds as Debussy has shown us in his final masterpieces for the piano.
It is proof of the great genius of Beethoven who when completely deaf could translate what was only in his own private ear into notes on a blank page.
Notes that could be translated into the same secret sounds,that only he could imagine,by those that dared enter his private world.
The power and beauty of Beethoven is indeed universal in the hands of an interpreter who can struggle and suffer for his art in the same way as the composer in his moment of divine inspiration.
The nocturne by Sciarrino was like a sorbet in a great feast.The pungent sounds and gentle athleticism were so refreshing as Cristian imbued these sparse sounds with an architectural sense of line that was quite remarkable.Reminding me more of Bartok than Stockhausen with its constant recurring sounds like a Swiss clock carved with enviable precision by such a crystalline technical command of not only the keyboard but also the pedals!
Two jewels from Lili Boulanger,sister of the great pedagogue Nadia ,who was tragically struck down still only in her mid twenties.
They showed what promise there might have been had she been granted longer on this earth.I remember Nadia Boulanger extolling the genius of her sister and doing much to promote the not inconsiderable works that she had left at the age of only twenty five.
These small salon pieces already show a real musical personality and sense of style somewhat more reminiscent of John Ireland than Ravel.
How many great composers were taken from us too as a generation was wiped out so uselessly in the First World War.The First World War began on 28 July 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918
Ravel’s Miroirs (as a lorry driver in the war he was saved from sure annihilation) and the Ginastera Sonata n.1 I have written about before.
Cristian’s interpretation of Ravel’s masterpiece of colour and character were etched in streams of gold and silver.From the fleeting lightness of the ‘moths’ and the luminosity of the ‘sad birds’ both in a desolate languid landscape that Ravel depicts with such extraordinary sultry sounds bathed in mists of pedal.A boat on the swirling waves of an ocean brought to life with technical prowess by Cristian just as he had thrown off the treacherous double glissandi that Ravels troubadour beguiles us with in his hypnotic depiction of Spain.
It is impossible to believe ,listening to this ‘Jester’s Aubade’,that it takes a French man to depict so distinctly a country they had never actually even visited !
The Bells in Cristian’s valley were bathed in a magic both distant menacing but vibrantly at peace.
A peace immediately interrupted by the explosive rhythmic outburst of Ginastera’s Sonata n.1.
A tour de force of drive and frenzied resilience that only found a momentary respite in the monumental Adagio.Placed between the rushing whispered wind of the Presto Misterioso and the Prokovian high jinks of athleticism in the Ruvido ed Ostinato.
An extraordinary recital and a foretaste of what awaits Barcellona in a few weeks’ time.
Cristian would have happily danced all night but our genial host Peter Whyte was anxious to thank this young artist who was following in the footsteps of Rachmaninov and Moisewitch whose shadows could be felt tonight in these hallowed surrounds.
But the bar was now open and it was time for Cristians illustrious colleagues (notably Tyler Hay,Damir Durmanovic,David Earl and even an illustrious critic !)to celebrate with a glass in their hands.
Toasting this feast of music that the Liberal club so liberally(sic) and generously had shared with us tonight
Salvatore Sciarrino born in 1947 is a native of Palermo and as a youth was attracted to the visual arts, but began experimenting with music when he was twelve. Though he had some lessons from Antonino Titone and Turi Belfiore, he is primarily self-taught as a composer.A stranger (also for reasons of age) to the pointillist-structuralist phase of the New Music, Sciarrino, along with Xenakis and Ligeti he was among the voices most lucidly critical of Darmstadt’s orthodoxy, its contradictions and its limits, animated by that concrete desire for “sound” that some other composers were developing in those years.
As a Parisian-born child prodigy Lili Boulanger’s talent was apparent at the age of two, when Fauré, a friend of the family, discovered she had perfect pitch . Her parents, both of whom were musicians, encouraged their daughter’s musical education. Her mother, Raissa Myshetskaya (Mischetzky), was a Russian princess who married her teacher from the Paris Conservatoire ,Ernest Boulanger (1815–1900), who won the Prix de Rome in 1835. Her father was 77 years old when she was born and she became very attached to him. Her grandfather Frédéric Boulanger had been a noted cellist and her grandmother Juliette a singer.Lili was the first female winner of the Prix de Rome composition prize.Her older sister was the noted composer and composition teacher Nadia Boulanger.She suffered from chronic illness, beginning with a case of bronchial pneumonia at age two that weakened her immune system, leading to the intestinal tuberculosis that ended her life in 1918 at the age of 24.The two pieces played tonight are from 1914.