Romanovsky a miracle in the Eternal City – the reincarnation of Richter and Rachmaninov?

Alexander Romanovsky in front of the mural of Mario Sironi at the Aula Magna of La Sapienza

They say miracles never strike twice in the same place but in the Eternal city they do.After Sokolov’s six encores last night we were treated to eight from Alexander Romanovsky after his quite extraordinary recital in the first of his series of the complete works of Rachmaninov to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth.


The physicality of his playing I have only experienced from Richter,a fellow Ukrainian,who knew no rules in searching for the sounds that he tore from his soul.
A savagery that I have never since experienced until tonight.
Not showing any outward signs but listening like a praying mantice ready to pounce in performances that were exhilarating as they were astonishing and breathtakingly beautiful.
The description of my old teacher Perlemuter fits exactly for Romanovsky. He told me that Rachmaninov would come on stage looking as though he had swallowed a knife but then produced the most romantic sounds that he had ever heard.


A overwhelming experience by quite simply one of the greatest pianists before the public today.
Yesterday I missed Sokolov’s concert in order to support young artists playing in the Ghione Theatre. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2022/04/11/alistair-wroe-raffaello-moretti-in-concert-at-teatro-ghione-rome-illumination-and-exhilaration-of-a-new-art-form/

Sokolov is considered by many,including me,to be one of the finest pianist before the public today.His annual recitals established by the much missed Bruno Cagli are a highlight of the S.Cecilia season.But today I am reminded of Romanovsky’s performance of Rachmaninov 3rd concerto a few years ago when he stood in at the last minute for an indisposed Bronfman.


The cheers and standing ovation he got not only from the public but also from the world weary professionals of the S.Cecilia Orchestra were repeated again tonight after his triumphant opening concert at the IUC Sapienza University Concert Series.

After the sudden death in 2005 of my wife Ileana Ghione on stage in our theatre, struck down by an aneurysm whilst playing Hecuba.Escaping to London for a short break from the inevitable upheaval from the press and others I passed by Steinway Hall.Quite unexpectedly I was greeted by Noretta Conci Leech who with tears in her eyes knew of the tragedy that had befallen me in Italy.She was promoting with her husband a young Brazilian pianist, Pablo Rossi,and they suggested that I invite him to give a recital in our theatre in Rome.He came to play in the spring of 2007 and thus was sealed a link with the Keyboard Trust that is continuing up until the present day.A link that was forged when John and Noretta had accompanied Leslie Howard to play in Rome in my Euromusica season in the mid nineties.

Noretta Conci Leech with Leslie Howard

After Pablo’s great success a series was created and in May 2008 a very doleful looking young Ukrainian pianist was invited to give a recital.I can still remember turning to the two very beautiful ladies who had accompanied Alexander Romanovsky and saying that I had never heard such beautiful sounds from our Steinway.It was the second subject of Chopin B minor sonata that will remain with me for the rest of my days.Tours for him with the Keyboard Trust followed in America and Germany crowned with the Keyboard Trust prizewinners recital at the Wigmore Hall in London.Since then Sasha has gone on to conquer the major musical centres throughout the world with a career that has established him as one of the finest pianists of his generation.So I was particularly happy to be able to hear him in recital again after many years.

It was the same artist,now in his late thirties,with every reason to appear doleful as tragedy unfolds day by day,blow by blow,in his homeland.I was astounded by the maturity and authority of his playing.Added to the beauty and sense of balance was a sense of weight which gave a sumptuous depth of sound.Any slight imperfections passed completely unnoticed such was his overwhelming vision and sense of communication.Here there was no doubt that the seventeen year old winner of the Busoni competition had joined the ranks of the great interpreters of our day.

The opening Elégie was overwhelming in its outpouring of noblility and nostalgia with its sumptuous sounds and kaleidoscopic sense of colour.There was a wonderful sense of flexibility with an infinite variety of sounds and a way of touching the piano that I have rarely noticed in others.He seemed to fearlessly strike the keys with passionate strokes from above , playing a series of notes with just one pointed finger.But such was his sensitivity that there was never a hard or ungrateful sound but an infinite variety of sounds allied to an overwhelming conviction that was quite breathtaking in its audacity and authority.There was a wonderful sense of balance too with the ravishingly haunting Mélodie that immediately followed the famous Prélude.It was this Prélude that was to shadow Rachmaninov all his career as it was the most requested piece in any of his recital programmes.Here Sasha struck the great chords from above but with massive strokes covered in velvet with an impact of grandiosity that held us riveted to every note.The final heart melting sounds of three delicate chords seemed to disappear into the rarified air.There was a transcendental command in Polichinelle where he swept over the entire keyboard with astonishing brilliance and sumptuous beauty before the insinuatingly subtle sounds of the final Sérénade.

The six Etudes -Tableaux op 33 were given a scintillating performance.From the imperious March opening of the first through to the ravishing melodic line of the second and the ‘Snow storm’ streams of golden sounds of the third.A great call to arms in the fourth was answered by the wonderful luminous sounds of the fifth with a sense of balance full of sumptuous colours.The grandeur and obsessive Scriabinesque motifs of the sixth was quite hypnotic and unleashed an animal like attack on the piano that was truly overpowering.

The second sonata in the revised 1931 version was played with the same fury and abandon that Horowitz had unleashed on an unsuspecting world in his historic comeback recitals.Astonishing pyrotechnics and animal attack alternating with the most seductively ravishing sounds that held the audience spellbound almost gasping in astonishment at the audacity and animal like frenzy that was unleashed on a piano that was ready and waiting for a great artist to bring it to life.

Mauro Buccitti that other great artist preparing the piano for Romanovsky’s recital

A piano prepared by that other artist,Mauro Buccitti who had spent many hours before the recital making sure that it would respond to a great artists’every demand.

Well it certainly did that and I was reminded of that famous cartoon of Franz Liszt taming the animal with black and white keys that lay before him

What to say of the eight encores that he offered to a public drunk with the extraordinary performances that had been re-enacted so unexpectedly before them and not wanting the evening to come to an end.Three studies by Scriabin from the heart rending C sharp minor op 2 n.1 to the tumultuous study in D sharp minor op.8 n.12 .A revolutionary study that was mirrored by Chopin’s own op 10 n 12.How could he not include a scintillating performance of the black key study that Myra Hess would play with an orange and two carrots.Sasha certainly had no need of any assistance as his fingers unravelled like springs with octaves that were breathtaking as they cascaded down the keyboard in this by now party atmosphere .The Rachmaninov Prélude in G minor op 23 n 5 was played with such military authority that the ravishing central episode seduced us all.The final encore summed up the complete artistry of Romanovsky and was the same encore that Emil Gilels would captivate his audiences with.After all the overwhelming sounds and rhythmic drive here were the gentle ondulating arpeggios of Siloti’s Prélude in B minor.Whispered sounds out of which emerged a chorale melody of quite sublime beauty.

Alexander Romanovsky -Daniele Cipriani – Simonetta Allder- Leonetta Bentivoglio-Gaston Fournier-Facio in the green room after the recital

Described by Carlo Maria Giulini as “extraordinarily gifted,” pianist Alexander Romanovsky is a riveting, distinct and subtle performer with an utterly engaging voice.Born in Ukraine in 1984, Alexander studied with his mentor Leonid Margarius at the Imola Piano Academy for fifteen years before continuing his studies at the Royal College of Music (London) with Dmitri Alexeev. At the age of seventeen, he won First Prize at the prestigious Busoni Competition in Italy.Praised by The New York Times as “special, not just an extraordinary technician with a flair for colour and fantasy, but also a sensitive musician and lucid interpreter,” Alexander graces many of the world’s most prestigious stages in recital. Recent highlights include the complete Chopin Études in the Main hall of Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw; the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow and the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire; Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Teatro Olimpico in Rome; Tokyo’s Asahi and Kioi halls; Chile’s Teatro Municipal; and Sala Verdi at Milan’s Conservatorio; as well as a performance with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev.Romanovsky regularly performs with major orchestras throughout Europe, Asia and The Americas including the UK’s Royal Philharmonic, English Chamber, Hallé and Bournemouth Symphony orchestras; Italy’s Orchestra dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome and Milan’s Filarmonica della Scala; Russia’s Mariinsky and Russian National orchestras and St. Petersburg and National philharmonics; Japan’s Tokyo and NHK symphony orchestras; Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival; Pacific and Santa Barbara symphony orchestras; Costa Rica Symphony; and with the New York Philharmonic, under Alan Gilbert, at the Bravo! Vail Festival. He collaborates at a very high level with conductors such as Vladimir Spivakov, Valery Gergiev, Michael Pletnev, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Sir Antonio Pappano, Gianandrea Noseda and James Conlon.Recent highlights have included Brahms No. 1 at the Brescia and Bergamo International Piano Festival with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Pier Carlo Orizio; Shostakovich No. 2 with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Victor Aviat; Liszt No. 1 with the Moscow Philharmonic and Yuri Simonov; Tchaikovsky No. 1 at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires; Prokofiev No. 3 with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León under Andrew Gourlay; and a concert in honour of the late Claudio Abbado at the Colmar International Festival, performing Beethoven No. 5 under Vladimir Spivakov. Recent recitals include Casa da Música in Porto; the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow; Teatro Manzoni in Bologna; and Istituzione Universitaria dei Concerti in Rome.Highlights have also included performances of Rachmaninov No. 3 with the Filarmonica della Scala and Myungwhun Chung at the MITO Settembre Musica festival and in Verona and Muscat, as well as on tour in the Baltic states with the Russian National Philharmonic and Vladimir Spivakov; and his debut at the Royal Albert Hall in London playing Beethoven No. 5 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and David Hill. Alexander performed the complete Beethoven Piano Concerti, returning to both the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and the Costa Rica Symphony under the baton of Carl St Clair.Recitals have included Musica Insieme Bologna, Amici della Musica di Padova, Unione Musicale Torino, Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, Freiburg International Piano Series, Fondazione Accademia Musicale Chigiana, and his debuts at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and Spivey Hall, Atlanta; with repertoire including the complete Chopin Études, Beethoven Diabelli Variations, Brahms 7 Fantasien Op. 116, and the Bach Chaconne from Partita No. 2 .Alexander performs extensively throughout Italy, where he has lived since early childhood. In 2007, he was invited to give a concert at the Papal Residence in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI in celebration of the 110th Anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s birth. Since 2007, he has released five critically acclaimed albums on Decca: Beethoven: Diabelli Variations, Brahms/Schumann, Rachmaninov: Etudes-Tableaux and Corelli Variations, Rachmaninov: Piano Sonatas, and more recently Childhood Memories.Alexander Romanovsky has held the post of Artistic Director of the Vladimir Krainev Moscow International Piano Competition since 2014

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