Michelle Candotti ravishes and seduces the piano for Rome Tre Young Artists Piano Solo Spring series in Aula Magna

La musica ci indica la strada. Andare a Teatro è un gesto responsabile

Michelle Candotti for the Roma Tre Young Artists Series is a pianist who I had noted in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw.A slender young lady from Livorno who plays like a lion with intelligence and technical prowess and breathtaking excitement as she enacts the music before our very eyes.

Such power and concentration but sublime beauty and subtle sounds too.In fact this Fazioli became an orchestra in her hands taking us into a world of fantasy and make believe.An overwhelming rhythmic energy and a hypnotic sense of communication that gave new life to that old war horse of the ‘Waldstein’ Sonata.

Allegro con brio first movement was played with a great sense of drive and rhythmic intensity.The second subject growing so naturally out of this whirlwind that Beethoven unleashes on an unsuspecting world.Coming as it does after the two rather Haydnesque sonatas op 49 Beethoven opens the flood gates for his irascible temperament that like Schumann’s Florestan and Eusebius was to oscillate between the tempest and the calm.It was exactly the character that this delicate looking young pianist surprised us with,astonishing explosions alternating with ravishing calm.A development episode that exploded into a continual display of multicoloured arpeggios where gradually the energy subsided and we are left with a menacing rumble in the bass played with remarkable clarity by Michelle even in pianissimo.Slamming the door shut at the end with Beethoven’s three fortissimo chords where even here her natural musicianship gave them a great sense of direction.This was after a scintillating coda of what Delius describes as Beethoven’s scales and arpeggios! The pianissimo octaves were surprisingly well played even though it was not a true finger legato but her natural musicianship allowed her to create the same illusion with a subtle use of the pedal.The Adagio molto introduction to the Rondo was played with great weight with Beethovens ‘rinforzando’ giving the just colour to Beethovens obvious orchestral writing.The Rondo flowed so beautifully out of this that one could forgive her for not risking Beethoven’s long pedal notes.However she gave it the same impression but also permitted a clarity that was unusually beautiful.The ever more technically difficult episodes that Beethoven alternates with the Rondo theme were played with breathtaking audacity and a rhythmic drive reminiscent of Serkin.He though would wet his fingers before playing each of the glissandi in the coda that lesser mortals play as very deft scales (Kissin like Michelle choose to play them as scales!)However that is just a detail compared to the beauty of the Rondo theme over Beethovens magic cloud of trills.These clouds of sound that from here onwards were the almost completely deaf composer reaching out to the paradise that was awaiting him in his last great trilogy.Michelle’s was a remarkable performance of exhilaration,excitement but also with this glimpse of calm and beauty.I look forward to hearing more of her Beethoven for her unique understanding of the very character of the composer.

The opening Barcarolle was imbued with subtle passion maybe even slightly too much …….but can it ever be too much when it is so totally convincing?There was a great sense of style from the very opening gentle flow of the left hand undulations which was to give continual momentum to Chopin’s most perfect creation.The beautiful melody that floats over it was sometimes with a very slight lack of synchronisation that gave expression and allowed even more colour to appear as if by magic.There was great beauty in the undulating middle section but it was the dolce sfogato that was so beautiful for its simplicity and lack of ‘traditional’ sentimentality.Coming after the legato meno mosso with its orchestral non legato accompaniment played so beautifully the sudden flowering of this part of the Barcarolle was where I remember Perlemuter exclaiming quite spontaneously in his lessons:’this is paradise’.It was followed by the passionate outpouring of the climax in which Michelle’s aristocratic understanding was with sumptuous full sounds that she produced from the bass creating the sound and a freedom that Chopin himself likened to a tree with roots firmly planted in the ‘Polish soil’ and the branches free to move freely with the wind.The delicacy of the final leggiero(sic) filigree above the gently melodic chords made one realise why Ravel so admired this particular passage .The great downward plunge to the final four four chords was played with aristocratic control, a control which had been the absolute key to this remarkably fine opening performance.

Has the maiden ever been so enchanted as by Michelle’s nightingale?A beautiful performance full of ravishing colours but with the weight and creamy rich sound that was so much the character that Rubinstein imbued into these beautiful Spanish pieces.’Mr Rubinstein turned baubles into gems’ said Joan Chissell and indeed he did like Alicia de Larrocha too.Michelle has that same intense feeling but within the notes not externally that gives such meaning to the sounds that she shapes like a sculptor or a painter where the sounds she is creating are the same shape as her movements on the piano.A true artist in all that she does.

And has Liszt’s Dante Sonata ever been so terrifying as she literally ravaged and seduced the piano with the same animal force that reminds me of her mentor Dmitri Alexeev in his all too rare public performances these days? Giovanni Bertolazzi gave a performance of the two Liszt Sonatas in this same series last January that was quite remarkable.’The best Dante I have ever heard’exclaimed Valerio Vicari.However today at the end of the concert I told Valerio that I would have gladly travelled 500 kilometres to hear these performances instead of my actual 200.He just smiled with that look that says it all ….‘I told you so!’It was a remarkable tour de force of a Dante Sonata completely different from Giovanni’s where she too lived every second – of course she is Tuscan so can understand the significance of Dante.But there was a technical assurance allied to a mature control that never took away from the moments of animal excitement.Even the treacherous skips at the end held no terror for her as they were part of the fantastic story she was telling and not just isolated moments of transcendental difficulty.The silences between episodes too were terrifying as they were unexpected.Her fearless abandon and volumes of sounds belied her rather frail appearance and were overwhelming.

Even she at the end was breathless and found it hard to announce her encore but certainly had no difficulty playing it!Expecting a nice peaceful nocturne or Bach Siloti Prelude our young pianist launched into Chopin’s octave study with a power and energy that was astonishing.Even the beautiful middle section was played with rich unsentimental sound incorporating it into a great architectural shape that gave such sense to a study so often broken into two parts.

With Ing.Giancarlo Tammaro of the Villa d’Este Liszt Festival

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