Lorenzo Bagnati a romantic virtuoso at Roma 3

Another fine pianist to add to the remarkable series in which Valerio Vicari is giving an important stage in Rome.A space for young musicians where they can demonstrate their remarkable talent with a series of recitals in the Aula Magna of Roma 3 or in the historic Teatro di Villa Torlonia.
There is a school of piano playing in Italy that is revealing itself to be quite unique.Roma 3 is underlining this thanks to Roberto Pujia ,President and his ex student Valerio Vicari ,Artistic director.Also to the Vice President Piero Rattalino,who has spent a lifetime dedicated to the study of pianos and pianists past and present .A formidable team indeed!Pianists in Italy now with the essential early training that we used to think they could only receive in the East.

Valerio Vicari with Lorenzo Bagnati

I was very interested to hear Lorenzo Bagnati today especially as he is studying with the remarkable Epifanio Comis in Catania.
We had already heard another of his remarkable students this season: Giovanni Bertolazzi who with his performance of the two Liszt Sonatas in Villa Torlonia revealed himself to be a great artist on the crest of an important career.
So I was enticed by an unusually interesting programme today to the Aula Magna of Roma 3 orchestra.

Starting with the beautiful Vallée d’Obermann that since Horowitz’s performances in the 70s has been accepted more readily into the piano repertoire (together with the Rachmaninov second sonata that since that astonishing Horowitz performance in his same Indian summer has now become even over exposed!)
There was great beauty from the very first notes of the haunting opening of this remarkable tone poem from Liszt’s years of pilgrimage.
Vallée d’Obermann is a large-scale character piece of Années de Pèlerinage : Suisse.It was published in 1842 and inspired by the landscape and literary works that Liszt and Countess Marie d’Agoult read whilst travelling to Switzerland. Its musical content is closely related to the novel Obermann by French writer Étienne Pivert de Senancour. Liszt quoted the Letter 63 from the novel as the preface of Vallée d’Obermann.
A letter with the great question of the romantic era :’What do I want?what am I?what may I demand of nature ?All cause is invisible ,all effect misleading ;every form changes ,all time runs it’s course ….I feel ,I exist only to exhaust myself in untameable desires,to drink deep of the allurement of a fantastic world,only to be finally vanquished by its sensuous illusion ‘

From the beauty of the tenor melody Lorenzo passed to the haunting reply in the treble of subtle crystalline purity.The great recitativo that follows showed off all the technical command of this young virtuoso but soon dissolved into the heart rending ‘Lento’ that Liszt develops via a crescendo of ever more transcendentally demanding outpourings of romantic fervour.
Octaves thrown off with astonishing ease by this young poet but not always with the sumptuous full sound of Philadelphian richness and grandeur that is the culmination of this passionate fervour as he brought this great tone poem to an exhilarating end with its rhetorical final gasping statement.

Lorenzo’s passionate romantic soul must now try to shape the sounds like a sculptor rather than a pianist.The shape of the hand and arm should be in harmony with the music he is passionately extolling.A young man with a fearless technical command who needs now to sit back and listen to the great canvas he is so passionately depicting – a hard lesson that will come as his interpretations gain in maturity.
His performance of the Mephisto waltz n.1 was programmed remarkably at the beginning of his recital and again showed off his passionate romantic temperament and fearless technical command but sacrificing the sumptuously rich sonority of a really ‘Grand’ piano.
Of course the magnificent Fazioli that had been especially hired for this series of concerts is well known for its bright clear sounds that suit so well the baroque keyboard works and the subtle counterpoints of Chopin.
But as Louis Lortie publically exclaimed,after performances of the Brahms F minor and Schubert G major Sonatas on a Bosendorfer piano in London.The great Romantic works of Brahms,Schubert or Liszt one can only really find their rich velvet soul on a German piano of great pedigree rather than on the too honest Fazioli sound.That was very sincerely expressed in the programme in London explaining why a Fazioli artist played Brahms snd Schubert on a Bosendorfer piano in the first half and Chopin on Fazioli in the second !
Giovanni Bertolazzi with his immovable artistic integrity insisted on a Steinway D for his remarkably beautiful Liszt performances even offering to pay for the piano himself but like Lortie could not compromise his artistic integrity.
Richter on the other hand used to enjoy the voyage of discovery into the heart of any piano that was placed before him!
But Richter was indeed an Enigma as he toured the world in his last years with a Yamaha piano!

The choice of two works by Ravel opened up another world of sounds.Jeux d’eau and Ondine from Gaspard de La Nuit are full of the liquid sounds of water that Lorenzo allowed to flow from his fingers with such ease.The luminous beauty of Jeux d’eau led to final magical sounds where the melodic line floats on cascades of delicate filigree notes .They were the same sounds that the water nymph ‘Ondine’ was to find as she weaved her way so magically in and out of the sprays of water in the delicate springs.Building to a climax of transcendental technical difficulty where Lorenzo even allowed the melodic line to resound clearly but still with overwhelming passion.Dying away to a mere whisper as the nymph says her delicate farewell that Ravel marks to be bathed in pedal.It was interesting to note how Lorenzo held the deeps bass D whilst he allowed Ondine her final delicate farewell without being submerged.Suddenly overwhelmed by an avalanche of water in a cadenza of astonishing bravura and as the waters calmed Ravel indicates the now ‘pianississimo’ waves are to be played ‘bien égal de sonorité’ and ‘sans ralentir’.The water continues disappearing on high like at the end of ‘Jeux d’eau’ just waiting for an artist like Lorenzo to bring Ravels magic water world into focus again.

Prokofiev’s early second sonata is rarely heard these days in the concert hall replaced as these early works are by the later ‘War’ sonatas.It was refreshing to hear the energy and rhythmic elan this young man brought to the four movements.There was a kaleidoscope of ravishing colours too and if his temperament sometimes overwhelmed the sound it was his fearless youthful exuberance that brought this work vividly to life.In his enthusiasm he sometimes exchanged clarity for a more overall excitement and a little less pedal would have shown us the remarkable technical assurance of Prokofiev the young virtuoso.

However it brought the concert to an exhilarating end with my neighbour ready to give him full marks on the voting card that the season ticket public are encouraged to complete.The audience winner will be rewarded with a chance to play with Roma 3’s splendid Orchestra that Valerio has insisted on for the past 16 years.The Orchestra of Roma 3 give young music graduates a chance to have orchestral experience for their future careers in music.

By great request Lorenzo gave us two eclectic encores that had me baffled until I did a bit of research.A sumptuous performance of a piece from Ravel’s early suite of four short pieces ‘a la manière de….’.In the manner of Chabrier is subtitled “ paraphrase on an air of Gounod”. It is indeed a paraphrase of a paraphrase , the pastiche of a Chabrier who himself would pastiche Gounod ,the aria being the romance of Siébel, from the second act of Faust.Written in 1913 and first performed in Paris at the Salle Pleyel by Alfredo Casella.It was Casella who had persuaded Ravel to follow in the footsteps of his own 1911 suite of six pieces .Casella had chosen:Wagner,Fauré,Brahms,Debussy,Strauss and Franck.Ravel on the other hand had chosen:Chabrier,Borodin,D’Indy and Ravel!A performance by Lorenzo of ravishing colours and subtle embellishments where his great romantic temperament had been held at bay as he listened so attentively to the beauty that was pouring from his delicate fingers.

Discussing the encore that Valerio had recognised as being from Gounod’s Faust

The second encore was ‘Notturno’ the third piece from Sei pezzi per pianoforte (“Six pieces for piano”)written by Ottorino Respighi between 1903 and 1905. It is the most popular of the set and represents one of Respighi’s finest piano compositions.It is an eclectic work that has been described as “an exercise in musical moonlight and shadow”,and as having a distinctly Rachmaninovian style.Again some beautifully sensitive playing this time with the help of an ‘I pad’ which he only barely glanced at as he listened so carefully to the ravishing sounds.

A fascinating finish to a real voyage of discovery from this young romantic thinking musician .

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