The British Institute are delighted to welcome Thomas Kelly, a rising star in the classical music world. He has won numerous prizes at international piano competitions and performed in many leading venues in London, Paris and beyond. He is making waves in the UK as an emerging superstar pianist, and we are thrilled to be presenting him here in Florence, thanks to our partnership with the Keyboard Trust (UK). After a recent concert in UK, Christopher Axworthy wrote:
Astonished, amazed and completely exhausted by a performance of staggering proportions by Thomas Kelly playing Rachmaninov…where there was no doubt about a great musical personality on the crest of a wave. I am much looking forward to his recital in Florence in a few weeks’ time with the Rachmaninov second sonata
Schubert – Sonata in A Major D.959 Allegro – Andantino -Scherzo:Allegro vivace -Trio:un poco più lento -Rondo:Allegretto Presto
Rachmaninoff – Sonata No.2 (Revised 1931Version)Allegro agitato -Non allegro /lento-Allegro molto
Live at the British Institute Library.This is an in person-only event, in collaboration with the Keyboard Charitable Trust in London and the fourth in a series of concerts .The next concert in the series that has included Jonathan Ferrucci,Cristian Sandrin,Simone Tavoni and Thomas Kelly will be with Salvatore Sanchez on the 30th June
Thomas Kelly takes Florence by storm.In the beautiful library bequeathed by that great aesthete Harold Acton.
Thomas Kelly astonished and seduced the select audience at the British Institute.Performances of such intelligence and musical understanding that gave new life to the two Sonatas by Schubert and Rachmaninov.
Schubert’s last three piano sonatas D.958, 959 and 960, are his last major compositions for solo piano. They were written during the last months of his life, between the spring and autumn of 1828, but were not published until about ten years after his death, in 1838–39.Like the rest of Schubert’s piano sonatas, they were mostly neglected in the 19th century but by the late 20th century, however, public and critical opinion had changed, and these sonatas are now considered among the most important of the composer’s mature masterpieces.The last year of Schubert’s life was marked by growing public acclaim for the composer’s works, but also by the gradual deterioration of his health. On March 26, 1828, together with other musicians in Vienna, Schubert gave a public concert of his own works, which was a great success and earned him a considerable profit. In addition, two new German publishers took an interest in his works, leading to a short period of financial well-being. However, by the time the summer months arrived, Schubert was again short of money and had to cancel some journeys he had previously planned.He had been struggling with syphilis since 1822–23, and suffered from weakness, headaches and dizziness. However, he seems to have led a relatively normal life until September 1828, when new symptoms appeared. At this stage he moved from the Vienna home of his friend Franz von Schober to his brother Ferdinand’s house in the suburbs, following the advice of his doctor; unfortunately, this may have actually worsened his condition. However, up until the last weeks of his life in November 1828, he continued to compose an extraordinary amount of music, including such masterpieces as the three last sonatas.
There was a rhythmic energy from the very opening fanfare of this penultimate Sonata – power and delicacy with playing of such subtle colouring but also an overall architectural shape that gave great strength to all that he did.The beauty of the cantabile that he brought to the Andantino where his extraordinary sense of balance and technical control allowed the melody to sing so naturally.An accompaniment just a whisper as it sustained and added colour to Schubert’s miraculous outpouring of melodic invention.The tempestuous middle episode showed his transcendental control and technical prowess with streams of notes that were waves of sound of shifting colour as they led us to the recitativo that was enacted with great drama.The beseeching solo voice answered by ever more insistent chords.The storm passing and the clouds opened to show rays of radiant light as the opening melody returned as a mere whisper.There was an ever more intricate accompaniment, played with the same delicacy that the late Radu Lupu would entrance us with,as he drew the audience in to a secret world of ravishing beauty with a superhuman control of sound.The final plodding chords played like an emotionally weary traveller at the end of an unexpected journey.The Scherzo of beguiling capriciousness which contrasted so well with the luminosity of the trio.Its beautifully fluid melodic line played so clearly with the accompaniment just adding delicate comments from above and below.There were such subtle inflections and flexible phrasing to the beautiful Rondo theme that like the human voice seemed to speak so eloquently as it flowed on its pastoral journey.The drama of the minor key soon gave way to the supreme tenderness of the return and the final disintegration of the theme.Here Schubert seems to be searching for a way out that he finds with a Presto coda of exhilaration and nobility that reminds us of the start of this wondrous journey.An audience mesmerised by playing where Thomas allowed the music to speak so eloquently and with such emotional impact where forty minutes seemed to pass all too quickly in his intelligent musicianly hands.
Three years after Rachmaninoff had completed his third piano concerto he moved with his family to the house in Rome where Tchaikovsky had stayed .It was during this time in Rome that Rachmaninoff started working on his second piano sonata.However, because both of his daughters contracted typhoid fever, he was unable to finish it in Rome and moved his family on to Berlin in order to consult with doctors.When the girls were well enough, Rachmaninoff travelled with his family back to Ivanovka ,his country estate, where he finished the second piano sonata.Its premiere took place in Kursk on 18 October 1913 (5 October in the Julian calendar)When Rachmaninoff performed the piece at its premiere in Moscow, it was well received but he himself was not satisfied with the work and felt that too much in the piece was superfluous.Thus, in 1931, he commenced work on a revision. Major cuts were made to the middle sections of the second and third movements and all three sections of the first movement, and some technically difficult passages were simplified.He added to the score , “The new version, revised and reduced by author.”A performance of the original version lasts approximately 25 minutes,while a performance of the revised version lasts approximately 19 minutes.
Thomas chose to play this revised version with a pulsating romanticism of heroic proportions.Like his recent performance of Rachmaninoff third concerto in London one was left astonished,breathless and seduced by playing of authority and total command .Not only scintillating virtuosity but also moments of contrasting poetic confessions played with a kaleidoscopic sense of colour that was truly ravishing.An old Bechstein piano that Thomas delved deep into its soul and drew out sounds that one would not have thought possible.A special thanks must go to the composer – piano technician Michele Padovano for his labour of love on this beautiful instrument.
It was Sviatoslav Richter too who enjoyed the challenge of discovery of pianos he found on his famous whistle-stop tour of Russia.He would stop the train in little villages and announce an improvised concert for the locals on any instrument that was available.
There were moments in the lead up to the final passionate climax that could have been from Scriabin on his mystical search for the star.But Rachmaninoff with his unmistakable musical vocabulary takes over from this fleeting mysterious moment and the passionate outpouring of sounds is unmistakably of the great Russian master.Like his third concerto we are enveloped into the sumptuous world of the Philadelphia Orchestra (Rachmaninoff’s favourite orchestra which he confessed was always in his thoughts whilst composing).With its rich velvety sound never harsh or blaring ,and here playing of a romantic sweep that is quite breathtaking in its inevitability.The final coda in Thomas’s hands was an amazing technical tour de force that brought a spontaneous ovation from an enraptured audience.
Thomas said he had not thought of an encore after two such noble works but with a still insistent audience he offered a work that he told me afterwards that he had not played for a month.It was a Fairytale op 20 n.1 by Medtner.A Russian composer that I often describe as Rachmaninoff without the tunes!But not today in Thomas’s musicianly hands there was a sense of line and architectural shape that I have rarely noticed in lesser hands.It was the same simplicity of line that he had brought to the Rachmaninoff Sonata and that Thomas brought to all he played.An intelligence and technical command that can see the overall architectural shape and that gives a rhythmic propulsion and overall meaning to all that he does.
Thank you dear Thomas I now retract my rather mean remark about Medtner who spent his last years in England and is buried in Hendon Cemetery.I know that Thomas is playing in a few days time in the late Sir George Solti’s house opening a new season of concerts with the Sonata Tragica by Medtner which I will now very much look forward to from these noble hands.