Paul Lewis at 50 …….celebration of a Poet and Musician

Paul Lewis 50th Birthday concert at the Barbican

Paul Lewis’s extraordinary musicianship shone through every note of the much loved Pathétique that opened his celebratory recital.
The weight and meaning he brought to such a well worn piece was a revelation of simplicity and sensitivity.There was also a control of sound and transcendental command of the keyboard much to do with his masterly use of the pedals.
The arresting opening was like a call to arms with the beseeching reply that immediately created a rhythmic tension that was the undercurrent of all he did.
An ‘Adagio Cantabile’ that was allowed to flow so simply with a sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing so naturally.
The rondo was played with a delicious twinkle in his eye and with such subtle shading.

The five Mendelssohn songs without words were linked to the six Sibelius Bagatelles and were a continuous stream of ravishing sounds played with a sense of style and charm that brought each of these charming pieces to life .
The title ‘songs without words’ was an anomaly as they did speak in Paul Lewis’s hands so eloquently.
We have not heard Mendelssohn in the concert hall for too long.I well remember the same musicianship and beauty that Paul Lewis brought to them today as Serkin and Perahia had done too many years ago.
Have the opening chords of Chopin’s Polonaise Fantasie ever sounded so beautiful?
A fantasy or dream world that Chopin shares with us with the Polonaise a voice in the distant past.
There was such an aristocratic sense of rubato that brought to Chopin’s ever more Bellinian inspired melodic line with heart rending simplicity of rare beauty.
The accumulation of trills in lesser hands,usually hammered home, here were played with the same fantasy that had pervaded the entire performance of this late masterpiece.
The triumphant polonaise was the consequence of the exciting transcendental build up that Paul Lewis had kept up his sleeve.
But now all hell was let loose with sumptuous full sounds and driving rhythmic excitement.But even here Chopin returns to the fantasy in the final few bars where the tension is relaxed and the final chord is the consequence of the fantasy world that Chopin has revealed to us in his final years.

Paul may have exclaimed at the end of his extraordinary ‘Appassionata’Sonata,’I’m still only forty nine ………until tomorrow.’
That is already ten more years on this earth than Chopin was to enjoy……if that is the word for a weak and ailing composer who had born a lifelong nostalgia for the land he had left as a teenager.
It is well known that Paul Lewis left behind him the world of the virtuoso to emerse himself in the Viennese classics under the guidance of Alfred Brendel.
It was indeed Brendel ‘s performance that sprang to mind as I listened to Paul Lewis today.
Of course Brendel could be more brittle edged than Paul could ever be.Paul’s poetic soul shone through everything he did but the drive and architectural shape he brought to the Appassionata was the same.
The precision and scrupulous attention to Beethoven’s very precise markings whether it be the rhythmic urgency and precision of the opening fanfares or the long held pedals that Beethoven scatters in the score of the Allegro assai .
An ‘Andante con moto ‘ with the quality of string quartet where every strand had a meaning and only added to the full sound of a cortège.
Little could we have expected the assault that he brought to the exciting coda of the last movement -well,Beethoven does mark it Presto and he does ask for the pedal to be left on for the final massive accumulation of sounds.
This I have not heard with such animal excitement since that performance of Paul’s mentor in the QEH too many years ago.

A spontaneous standing ovation brought what must be the highlight of this memorable concert.A ‘re-enactment’ of a piece that Paul tells us he learnt when he was 12.
The ‘Gollywogs Cake Walk’ was played with the same irresistible charm and character that Horowitz was to bring to ‘The snow is dancing’ years ago on his return to the stage in 1968.
Here the Gollywog was given full reign,letting his hair down and having a ball.
The sumptuous melody that interrupts the cake walk was commented on with such tongue in cheek replies.Paul even looking at the public and rolling his eyes as he brought this delightful bijou vividly to life.
What a way to end your first half century and I look forward to what delights he has in store for us in his second!

Programme :
Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No 8 in C minor, Pathétique Grave – Allegro di molto e con brio. Adagio cantabile. Rondo: Allegro

Felix Mendelssohn

No 1 in E major from Songs without words, Op 19
No 3 in G minor from Songs without words, Op 53
No 2 in E-flat major from Songs without words, Op 53
No 2 in A minor from Songs without words, Op 19
No 3 in E major from Songs without words, Op 30

Jean Sibelius Six Bagatelles. Humoreske I. Lied. Kleiner Walzer. Humoristischer Marsch. Impromptu. Humoreske II

Frédéric Chopin Polonaise-fantaisie op 61

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No 23 in F minor, Appassionata Allegro assai. Andante con moto. Allegro ma non troppo – Presto

Paul Lewis is one of today’s foremost interpreters of the Central European piano repertoire, his performances and recordings of Beethoven and Schubert receiving universal critical acclaim. He was awarded a CBE for his services to music in 2016, and the sincerity and depth of his musical approach have won him fans around the world. This global popularity is reflected in the world-class orchestras with whom he works and the international concert halls and festivals where he performs.Born in Liverpool in 1972, Paul studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Joan Havill before going on to study privately with Alfred Brendel. He quickly became a favourite with London’s concert audience in particular, and has performed at the Wigmore Hall over 100 times, as well as making regular appearances at the Barbican, Southbank Centre and the BBC Proms, where he was the first pianist to perform all 5 Beethoven piano concerti in a single season in 2010.His award-winning and extensive discography for Harmonia Mundi ranges from Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Weber through to Schumann, Liszt, Mussorgsky and Brahms. He has also recorded Schubert ‘s 3 lieder cycles with Mark Padmore.In addition to his busy concert career Paul and his wife Bjørg are co-Artistic Directors of the Midsummer Music festival in Buckinghamshire. He makes his debut solo recital at the Barbican Centre tonight in celebration of his 50th birthday.

John Leech

John Leech in his 97th year and founder of the Keyboard Trust with Noretta Conci proudly tells me that Paul Lewis was the first artist selected by Noretta to benefit from the Trust.Celebrating it’s 30th anniversary with the publication of ‘The Gift of Music ’.A book about the activity of the trust that John had up for his wife on her sixtieth birthday.A retirement gift!! I met John on his 60th birthday when they accompanied Leslie Howard to play in my concert series in Rome 37 years ago!………I have been involved with the trust and young musicians ever since ………..such is their power of persuasion!

John and Noretta celebrating ‘The Gift of Music’

Giordano Buondonno at the Solti Studio- Masterly performances of searing intensity

Giordano Buondonno playing on Michelangeli’s own Fabbrini Steinway concert grand

There was magic in the air at the Solti Studio today with a young Italian pianist Giordano Buondonno surely a name to remember after today’s masterly performances.
A student of Deniz Arman Gelenbe that was immediately apparent from the refined musicality of his performance of the Brahms Ballades op 10.

with Deniz Gelenbe

A work that in Michelangeli’s hands could touch the sublime as it did today with moments of searing intensity and sublime beauty as this young man allowed himself to be seduced by Michelangeli’s own piano that sits so proudly still in Sir George Solti’s studio in Elsworthy Road St Johns Wood.

A pianist who listens to himself is a rarity indeed but when one enters their magic world it reveals a land of magic colours and passionate emotions.
The intensity which this young man brought to the final pages of the last Ballade were of unbearable emotions with the clashing harmonies that reminded me of the scorching intensity of the supreme believer Messiaen.There was delicacy in the first Ballade and an outpouring of song in the second with great clarity in the contrasting middle episode.A startling rhythmic urgency in the third but with an architectural sense of line – the glowing prayer of the middle episode was pure magic with the delicately embroidered comments played with such refined delicacy.
Kantarow recently touched the same heights in an empty Philharmonie de Paris during the pandemic.Heights that I remember from the atmosphere that Michelangeli could create in the vast space of the Festival Hall.Fou Ts’ong would often say that it is easier to be intimate in a large space rather than a small one!

The distinguished audience for the Wednesday Lunchtime Recital Series in memory of Lady Solti

There too on a Fabbrini piano with Fabbrini who would travel with him to make sure that the piano would respond to the Maestros demanding needs.
Michelangeli was Godfather to Fabbrini’s children and it was to Fabbrini that I turned to choose a piano for my concert season in Rome.
Today’s young pianist chose also Ravel’s Gaspard de La Nuit,another of Michelangeli’s cavalli di battaglia.Could it be that the Maestro’s
soul was hidden deep in the piano just waiting for an artist of Giordano’s calibre to ignite and excite once again this black box of hammers and strings.

Another remarkable performance;from the glowing fluidity of Ondine where the water was allowed to flow so naturally from his magic hands as it built to an overwhelming climax and where even the final pedal indication with Ravel’s precise indications were scrupulously interpreted – yes not just played as written but played as intended by the composer!
The desolate insistence of Le Gibet with austere chiselled sounds etched with such desolation and with the relentless insistence of the distant tolling bell – a true tour de force of transcendental control with his pointed fingers as the plaintive isolated melody cried out loud in anguish .It was followed by a performance of one of the most technically challenging works for the piano:that of the devilish goblin Scarbo.Such a kaleidoscope of colours and emotions that one was not aware of the technical mastery of this young man.
Sandwiched between these two glorious works was Scriabin’s Fantasy Sonata which was a continuous outpouring of streams of gold and silver.The final great passionate outpouring which Scriabin was eventually to call the star was played with an aristocratic passion of searing intensity.A star shining brightly indeed!Ravishing golden sounds in this sumptuous early world of Scriabin were allowed to pour from his fingers with subtle beauty.It was this piercing beauty of sound with refined shading that was so seductive and overwhelmingly convincing.The transcendental sweep he gave to the second movement with swirls of notes of romantic sounds and an outpouring of passion in the climax dying away to a whispered ending of ravishing beauty.
The Etude tableaux op 39 n 3 was played as the picture book that Rachmaninov intended with ravishing colours and transcendental playing of sumptuous sounds.

They had told me in Rome that Giordano was a culturist which made me a bit worried looking at the programme and knowing that this concert grand was in a small music room .

What they did not tell me was that here was a sensitive artist of aristocratic good taste and intelligence who actually listens to himself sharing his passion and love which could reach the sublime heights that this piano has rarely known.

the distinguished critic Bryce Morrison with Yisha Xue of the National Liberal Club

Cristian Sandrin plays Goldberg Variations the start of a lifetime journey of discovery from Perivale to Bucharest

Thursday 19 May 3.00 pm and 9th June Radio Hall Bucharest

A voyage of discovery with the monumental Goldberg Variations.
Cristian Sandrin on his fourth outing with them(the second at St Mary’s) and in between enthralling us with his Beethoven trilogy.

This remarkable young musician is about to return to his native Romania where he has been invited to play them on the 9th June in a live broadcast performance in Bucharest.

The absolute clarity and simplicity of his performance is becoming ever more authoritative with some very subtle ornamentation that just add even more character to these extraordinary variations.
Bringing a smile to our face with the impish good humour of the 7th or captivated by the fleeting non legato of the 14th.A sudden tear in the sublime contemplation of the 15th with it sighing leaning duplets and the imperious 16th French overture call to arms at the mid way point of a journey that from here on is one big crescendo of emotion and technical intricacy to the mighty organ stops of the 29th .
‘I’ve not been with you for so long.Come closer,closer,closer.Beets and spinach drove me far away.Had my mother cooked meat,then I’d have stayed much longer’ These are the words from the two folk songs that Bach combines in his final variation the 30th ‘Quodlibet’ Who says Bach had no sense of humour or emotion .

Cristian showed us every facet of his character in a voyage of discovery that will continue for a lifetime.Refreshing and rejuvenating him for years to come as it did the High Priestess of Bach :Rosalyn Tureck

Born to a family of musicians from Bucharest, Romania, Cristian Sandrin made his solo debut at prestigious Romanian Atheneum Hall at the age of 13. After graduating the “Dinu Lipatti” Art College in Bucharest, Cristian moved to London where he studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Having graduated with First Class Honours in 2016, he is currently pursuing a postgraduate degree at the same institution. He is currently a receiver of the Piano Fellowship of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Martin Musical Scholarship Fund 2017/2018, benefiting also from a scholarship of the Imogen Cooper Music Trust. Cristian Sandrin won numerous prizes and awards at international and national competitions. A Second Prize Winner of the Windsor International Piano Competition (2018) and Third Prize Winner of the Sheepdrove Intercollegiate Piano Competition (2018). He had his solo debut recital at the Wigmore Hall in London in September 2017. In Romania, Cristian Sandrin is a regular guest artist of the Filarmonica “Mihail Jora” Bacau, the Sibiu Sibiu Philharmonic, Ramnicu-Valcea National Philharmonic and Bucharest Symphony Orchestra. Other international engagements include performances at “La Fenice” Theatre in Venice, Theatre de la Montjoie, Salla Manuel de Falla in Madrid, Palazzo Ricci in Montepulciano, the Romanian Atheneum in Bucharest, and “Bulgaria Philharmonic Hall” in Sophia.

Cristian after his fifth outing with Bach Goldberg

Unfortunately the Youtube version of this superb recital is now unavailable because of an absurd ‘copyright infringement’ ! Very tiresome and completely barmy. It is still available on Vimeo . Apologies – the vagaries of the internet. A terrific performance this afternoon
Rosalyn Tureck with Ileana Ghione at home in Circeo

The historic return in Rome to the concert platform of Rosalyn Tureck

Philharmonia London 1959


Milda Daunoraité at St Mary’s -refreshing simplicity and beauty of a musician

Tuesday 17 May 3.00 pm

Milda Daunoraité (piano)

Bach: Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor BWV 903

Bach: French suite no 2 in C minor BWV 813
Allemande / Courante / Sarabande / Minuet / Aria / Gigue

Beethoven: Piano Sonata in E flat major Op 81a ‘ Les Adieux’
Adagio-Allegro / Andante / Vivacissimamente

Bartok: Piano Sonata
Allegro / Sostenuto / Allegro

How refreshing to hear a recital from a young musician with classical repertoire played with such simplicity and clarity and a transcendental technique that allows the music to speak so naturally and with such intelligent musicianship.
Such was the recital of Milda Daunoraitė at St Mary’s today ……..a rose is always a rose so Dr Hugh Mather is forgiven for misspelling her name as she is one of the 150 young musicians that he presents in his series year after year.
Milda played with such freshness and joie de vivre that it was a joy to listen to her on what must be the hottest day of the year.
And hot it certainly was with her demonic performance of the Bartok Sonata with it’s pungent driving rhythms and a kaleidoscopic range of sounds that gave such architectural shape to the outer movements.The austere slow movement was played with a luminosity of sound and a clear sense of line but always with the same clean and clear sound that is so much part of the Hungarian sound world of Foldes or Anda.
A chromatic fantasy that was indeed a great fantasy of beauty and authority with some magic colouring as the arpeggios were allowed to unravel so naturally and there was such deep meaning given to the recitativi.A fugue that was played with a clarity and rhythmic energy as it built up to the grandiose final statement.
Her Beethoven op 81a ‘Les Adieux’ was played with such joy and energy.The opening Adagio played with weight and meaning and an Andante of ravishing colour and fluidity that was rudely interrupted by her scintillating Vivacissimamente.
Her choice too of the second French suite was a refreshing change from the better known fifth.It was played with infectious rhythmic energy and the ornaments of the final Gigue were worthy of the greatest intricacies of Rameau.There was also great beauty in the Aria played with a superb sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing with such simple beauty.

Milda Daunoraité was born in Lithuania and began her piano studies at the age of six. She moved to London 4 years ago and studied piano performance at the Purcell School and is now continuing her studies with Tessa Nicholson at the Royal Academy of Music under a full fees scholarship. She has been supported by ‘SOS Talents foundation – Michel Sogny’ since she was 9 and as a result, Milda began performing extensively throughout Europe for many eminent music societies, festivals and key events. Milda has performed at venues such as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Musikhuset Aarhus in Denmark, United Nations headquarters in Geneva. Every year, she has an opportunity to appear in a Christmas concert held in the ‘Dassault’ hotel in the Champs Elysées in Paris. A few of those concerts were broadcast by Mezzo & TV5 Monde. Milda has performed at the EMMA World Summit of Nobel Prize Peace Laureates in Warsaw and also had an opportunity to play the 4th V. Bacevicius concerto for Piano and Orchestra in Lithuanian National Philharmonic with Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra as a result of having EMCY publish her profile on their website.She is a prize winner of numerous national and international competitions, such as the 1st Prize in the international V. Krainev Piano Competition in Kharkov, Ukraine; the ‘jury‘ prize in the PIANALE International Academy & Competition and the Purcell School solo and concerto competition which led her to perform at the Wigmore Hall and the Ravel piano concerto in G at the QEH, Southbank.

Francois-Frédéric Guy ignites the soul of Fou Ts’ong’s piano at the Razumovsky Academy.

Some sublime playing where Oleg’s ‘cello resonated with such depth and weight with the wooden floor made with his own hands allowing a deep mellow sound of great beauty.Francois-Frédéric’s passionate response from Ts’ong’s piano with it’s deep luscious bass and brilliant upper register.It brought Fauré’s Elégie to a tumultuous climax and the barely whispered confessions in it’s wake were of deeply felt emotion.I much look forward to a repeat of their Beethoven op 102.n.2 that I had missed at their Wigmore Hall recital some time ago.

Fauré Élégie for cello and piano (with Oleg Kogan – cello)

Debussy with Chopin were very much the world that Ts’ong inhabited.It is interesting to note that Debussy edited the complete works of Chopin.I remember in his many masterclasses in Rome where Ts’ong likened the similarity between the same soul that inhabited Cinese poetry and their music.Francois-Frédéric brought great clarity to these four Préludes that he had chosen from the works of Debussy that he had studied with Ts’ong at the Piano Academy in Como and also at Ts’ong’s house in Aberdeen Road in London.Brouillards slightly missed the mystery as he obviously was still reminding himself of the piano that he used to study on at his mentor’s house.La Puerta Del Vino found him completely at home with it’s rhythmic drive and it’s frenzied Habanera dance.La terrasse was played with great atmosphere and clarity building to a remarkable climax that was to die away to a mere whisper of gently chiselled sounds.Feux d’artefice was played with extraordinary control and transcendental command.A kaleidoscope of colours starting with a mere whisper and building to enthralling pyrotechnics as the excitement rose but dying to a mere murmur as the Marseillaise is heard in the distance

Debussy 4 Préludes from Book 2 Brouillards-La Puerta del Vino-La terrasse des audiences du Clair de lune-Feux d’artefice

Chopin Polonaise Fantaisie op.61

Chopin of course was the world that Ts’ong understood so well and had surprised everyone at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw when a young Chinese pianist ran off with the coveted ‘Mazurka’ award that was thought to belong to the natives of Poland!Thus began a life long love affair with Chopin that Ts’ong imparted with such inspiration to the many young musicians he mentored in his long life.Francois-Frédéric was one of the original students at the Como Academy and was greatly inspired by Ts’ong as we could appreciate tonight from the opening of the Polonaise Fantasie – one of Chopin’s greatest works that was written late in life and is more Fantasie than Polonaise.The opening is a great wave of sounds that expand over the entire keyboard from the opening declamatory chords.They were played exactly as I remember Ts’ong playing them with one long beautiful horizontal movement like the opening of a great wave of sound.There was great beauty but never of a sentimental nature but of the aristocratic poetic soul that Ts’ong understood so well.It was the same with the great B minor sonata played with architectural shape with the second subject so often played as a nocturne but in Francois-Frédéric’s hands it was played with such forward movement that moments of great delicacy were even more breathtakingly beautiful.

The appearance of the second subject in the recapitulation was played as a passionate outpouring of all that had gone before.The second movement was played with jeux perlé brilliance and an interesting swop over of hands that I forgot to ask if that was Ts’ong’s fingering of a rather tricky passage.Leading of course straight into the mighty opening chords of the Largo where he brought great strength and shape to this most beautiful of movements.The finale was a tour de force of brilliance and resilience with the return of the rondo theme ever more passionate until the final explosion and transcendental excitement of the final pages.
The original manuscript 2nd subject of the recapitulation

Chopin Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op.58 Allegro Maestoso – Scherzo:Molto vivace-Largo-Finale:Presto non tanto

Oleg Kogan seated at the much loved piano

The stars were shining brightly for Fou Ts’ong at the Razumovsky Academy.
A recital on Ts’ongs beautiful Steinway D piano by Francois-Frédéric Guy.

A piano that now sits proudly in Oleg Kogan’s much loved Academy that he built with his own hands.Every brick and stone not to mention the abundance of wood was put in place by Oleg.

The Razumovsky Academy audience

It was the same love and passion that he gave to the Fauré Elégie that they wanted to dedicate to all those suffering from the senseless rape of the Ukraine by a self centred despot .

What a marvel to hear the Chopin nocturne op posth at the end of a memorable recital played with such simplicity and beauty -Ts’ong was truly with us tonight. I well remember the many times that Ts’ong would end his recitals in Rome with his favourite nocturne,he even wrote in my score the various differences from the original markings of Chopin.

Wonderful to hear Francois Frédéric talk about the concerts in Le Roque d’Antheron in 2003 of Ts’ong and his great friend Radu Lupu and to hear that the public was reduced to tears by the sublime beauty of their playing.
Dedicating the concert to his great friend Nicholas Angelich who had passed away at only 51,on the same day as Radu Lupu,and who had been best man at his wedding .

Dinara Klinton reunited with her mother.

What a joy at the end to see Dinara Klinton united with her mother who had managed to
flee from the senseless persecution of all Ukrainians in Russia.

Anne-Marie and Francois-Frédéric Guy with Patsy Fou

Lovely to see Patsy Fou with us and her husband’s piano brought to life with such love and was again sharing with us the soul that Ts’ong had bequeathed to it.

François-Frédéric Guy is widely regarded first and foremost as an outstanding interpreter of the German Romantics and their forebears. His unrivalled ability to create musical structure in sound is especially evident in his interpretations of Beethoven, which bring to life his profound and ongoing dialogue with the composer.The pianist has a special affinity for the music of Bartók, Brahms, Liszt, and Prokofiev, as well as a strong commitment to contemporary music. He has close ties to composers including Ivan Fedele, Marc Monnet, Gérard Pesson, Bruno Mantovani, and Hugues Dufourt. François-Frédéric Guy has also given the premiere of works such as Mantovani’s Double Concerto (2012), which he performed with the Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto, Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In 2013 he gave the South Korean premiere of Tristan Murail’s Le Désenchantement du monde with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Based on this fruitful collaboration, he will premiere another new piano concerto by Tristan Murail with the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo in June 2021.

The Guy’s in discussion with Patsy Toh-Fou

In the current season, François-Frédéric Guy will continue his dialogue with the music of Beethoven while also giving appearances in the dual role of soloist and conductor. His acclaimed performances of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, already performed in Tokyo, Washington, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Monte Carlo, Norwich, Metz, and Buenos Aires, will take him this season to Seoul.Conducting from the piano, François-Frédéric Guy works frequently with the Sinfonia Varsovia. From 2017 to 2020, he was artist of residence with the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris with a special focus on the Beethoven repertoire. In the dual role of soloist and conductor, François-Frédéric Guy is also regularly performing works by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Brahms, as well as, most recently, the world premiere of the piano concerto Écoumène by Aurélien Dumont, which was composed especially for him. His orchestral partners further include the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Liege, Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife or the National Orchestra of Pays de la Loire.As a Beethoven specialist François-Frédéric Guy will also continue to focus on chamber music and solo works of the great composer: at the end of the summer, Radio France presented the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas from the Maison de la Radio Paris in live streams, where young French pianists performed their interpretations in eight recitals under the auspices of Guy. At the Festival International de Piano de La Roque d’Anthéron he also performed in the prominent cycle alongside colleagues such as Nicholas Angelich and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. After interpreting the complete violin sonata cycle with his long-time duo partner Tedi Papavrami at the start of the season at the Piano à Lyon concert series, the two musicians will perform the complete Beethoven trios together with Xavier Phillips on the cello in the Arsenal de Metz.The pianist has been a guest of orchestras such as the Philharmonia Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and Tonhalle-Orchester Zurich. He has collaborated with world-famous conductors including Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kazushi Ono, Marc Albrecht, Philippe Jordan, Daniel Harding, Neeme Järvi, Michael Tilson Thomas, Gustavo Gimeno, Michael Sanderling, and Kent Nagano. In recital he has performed at the major concert halls in cities such as London, Milan, Berlin, Munich, Moscow, Paris, Vienna, and Washington, and at festivals including the Chopin Festival in Warsaw, Beethovenfest Bonn, Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo, and the Cheltenham Festival.At the heart of his discography is the complete recording of Beethoven’s sonatas, released in 2013 on the Zig-Zag Territoires label, which had already released his highly acclaimed Liszt album, Harmonies poétiques et religieuses. The complete recording of Beethoven’s piano concertos with the Sinfonia Varsovia under François-Frédéric Guy’s direction was released to mark the start of the ‘Beethoven Year’ 2020. Together with his chamber music partners Xavier Phillips and Tedi Papavrami, he also released highly acclaimed recordings of Beethoven’s cello and violin sonatas, and in 2017 presented his new Brahms album with the three piano sonatas.

Oleg Kogan with Patsy Fou

Francois-Frédéric Guy with Patsy Fou

Fou Ts’ong

Norma Fisher at Steinway Hall The BBC recordings -On wings of song- the story continues

Tatyana Sarkissova-Dmitri Alexeev-Gyorgy Pauk -Annie and Peter Frankl

Wonderful occasion for the launch of Norma Fisher’s 3rd CD from her historic BBC recordings ………it was also her birthday so truly a double celebration.Being described as her oldest friend was a surprise and delight as we remembered our piano daddy Sidney Harrison where in his home in Hartington Road our passion for music was born.
On Wings of Song indeed -fifty years have passed and still flying high.

Li Siqian

Let’s not forget your students who ravished us with an astonishing La Valse from Li Siqian

Daniel Hyunwoo

and an improvised happy birthday from Daniel Hyunwoo in party mood after his exquisite Debussy Preludes .

Piers Lane with Dmitri Alexeev

Nice to see two jury members Dmitri Alexeev and Piers Lane fresh from Ferrol International Piano Competition where another of your prodigies Pedro Lopez Salas ravished and seduced with the great artistry that you have nurtured in him.

Our hosts at Steinways Craig Terry Managing director and Maura Romano

Steinways our wonderfully generous hosts are being more than repaid for their passion and true love of music with a sold out on the door whilst they await the piano makers to replenish their wonderful new showroom.

Rainer Hersch and wife with Norma

Last but not least the extraordinary Rainer Hersch who when I told you of his wonderful Victor Borge show in a little theatre in the West End you immediately exclaimed :’But he is one of mine’!

Peter and Annie Frankl with Norma Fisher

Mother to all the great artists that you have nurtured and promoted over your many years of enforced retirement from the concert stage.It is born of the same passion deep in us from our own childhood lessons from Sidney Harrison.

Nelly Miricioiu

Of course the Happy Birthday chorus was led by the incredibly simpatico Sir John Tomlinson and the wonderful Nelly Miricioiu who tells me her final concert in a long and illustrious career will be at the Wigmore Hall on the 28th June for her 70th Birthday celebration.

Dr Hugh Mather

Nice to see the guardian of great talent Dr Hugh Mather celebrating his first award from the critic’s circle for the same passion and dedication turned into practical help in the Mecca that he has created at St Mary’s ………he certainly gets our vote for the House of Lords!

Norma Fisher thanking her guests

Selfless dedication and passion combined with warmth,integrity and honesty.All words that have almost disappeared from our daily lives you make them relive for us all.

Distinguished guests watching the specially prepared video of Norma Fisher’s life and career

Tomoyuki Sawado ,PhD – CEO /Producer Sonettò Classics Ltd

Norma Fisher on her early success as a concert pianist, and how a rare neurological condition changed everything

Michelle Assay
Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Piano prodigy turned influential teacher Norma Fisher’s performing prowess is once more being recognised thanks to the series of historic BBC recordings

Norma Fisher (photography: Richard Kalina)

‘Is this really the same Norma Fisher as the famous teacher?’ asked David Fanning (my husband) when I told him that I was about to review a disc of her historic recordings.

For many years she has been known as the great mentor behind a generation of up-and-coming pianists. Now it turns out there was a great pianist behind the mentor.

Before Tomoyuki Sawado, the CEO of Sonetto Classics, approached her, Fisher herself had apparently all but forgotten about that ‘other life’.

One of her students, Chiyan Wong, brought him to a student concert at Fisher’s residence. ‘I adore your playing. I would love to record you,’ Sawado told her.

Astonished, Fisher replied: ‘Oh my God, I don’t play any more. I only teach.’

He insisted that he was ready to be as patient as needed and if necessary to record only one movement a year.

A sleepless night followed for Fisher; and when she consulted family members, her son suggested that her historic BBC recordings be resurrected.

Thus began the ‘Norma Fisher at the BBC’ series, whose first two volumes appeared to unanimous acclaim; the third has just been released.

Norma Fisher at the BBC, Vol 3

Fisher’s 80th birthday having been eclipsed by lockdown, it’s high time to celebrate her and her years of music- and musician-making.

I ask her whether there is any difference in her mind between Fisher the performer and Fisher the teacher.

‘I am one and the same,’ she says. ‘When I am teaching, it is as if I am working with myself. Every suggestion is exactly what I’d do myself.’

She holds up her hands and adds, ‘Of course, I am five foot eight and have huge hands. In that respect I always have to consider that my students may not have that facility, so I have to become the teacher and rethink the whole thing as they would; I have to become them.’

As a pianist with small hands and regularly belittled for that by my teachers in Kyiv, I point out how fortunate her pupils are.

She thinks back to her own teacher, the formidable Ilona Kabos: ‘She was like a sparrow. When I first started studying with her, she would sit at the piano and look up at me towering above her, and say: “Darling, you’re five times my size, but I make five times your sound.”’

‘I always give everything away; I want to share everything. My whole life is about sharing’

Kabos features regularly in our conversation, as does Fisher’s musical ‘mother’, the Greek pianist Gina Bachauer. ‘Both Ilona and Gina were incredibly generous.’

This is a quality she herself emanates: ‘I always give everything away; I want to share everything. My whole life is about sharing.’

Norma Fisher was born in London in 1940 to a Polish-Russian family who had escaped to the UK from the pogroms.

Her love of music came from her mother, and it was she who supported her musical education.

‘My father was musically illiterate. And I actually think he grew to resent the fact that once I started playing and she realised there was a talent, my mother gave her soul to me; he was sidelined, and I think he suffered a lot.’

Even as a child, Fisher would enjoy others’ success and talent, somewhat to her mother’s chagrin.

‘My gift for piano meant the world to her and nobody compared to me … It was strange to me, because I loved complimenting people and it excited me to see others doing well. But my mother would shut me up, telling me, “Don’t you dare tell me about anyone else who plays the piano!”’

Having exhausted the local teachers, the 11-year-old Fisher went to Sidney Harrison at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

When Harrison compared her to Bachauer, Fisher encouraged her mother to take her to hear the pianist in London and to meet her afterwards.

Norma Fisher, her love of music came from her mother

This was an encounter that would shape the rest of Fisher’s musical formative years, most importantly because it led to the arrangement for her to study with the equally legendary Kabos.

‘I had incredible facility but didn’t have an understanding of sound until I met Ilona.’ But it came at a cost. When she first went to Kabos, the Hungarian asked if she was ‘psychologically fit’ to study with her.

‘I was 14 and didn’t have a clue what she was referring to. I simply answered that I wasn’t afraid of working.’

Soon she discovered what she had let herself in for: ‘When I first went for lessons, there was silence outside. I pushed the door open and there was this huge guy sitting at the piano, weeping.’

All subsequent lessons would start with young Fisher walking in on a tearful previous pupil. Then came her turn.

‘I remember exactly where and when she first made me cry.’ It was at a lesson the night before the final round of a piano competition at Wigmore Hall, for which Fisher was playing Brahms’s F minor Sonata.

‘It came to the Scherzo, which I was not happy about anyway. When I finished playing it, I hung my head … She got up out of her chair, put her head near mine and almost spat in my face, “That was horrible, my darling.”’

‘Kabos gave me so much. She taught me how to think about music. I had a sort of animal instinct. I just knew what to do. But that “ knowing what to do” needed training’

Fisher remembers crying bitterly on the way home. The next day she won the competition.

Today she forgives Kabos, ‘because on the other hand she gave me so much. She taught me how to think about music and even to become aware that music was involved. I had a sort of animal instinct. I just knew what to do. But that “knowing what to do” needed training … It was about how to understand what the piano was doing for you and how you could converse with it. And that knocked me sideways for a good couple of years. I went into a terrible depression because I didn’t know how to put one note after the next. And then once I understood what she was getting at, we were able to work on style and to understand what was on the written page. Then it became an absolute joy. Her demands were terrifying. But it was also a constant joy of endless discovery.’

Along the way, Kabos facilitated the next significant encounter: ‘Annie Fischer was doing her debut in London with the Brahms B flat Concerto.’

Fisher was still a teenager but knew the piece well. ‘Ilona told me: “Annie needs your help, darling! You go and play second piano and if anything doesn’t feel right, you tell her.” Can you imagine that? And that is how I met Annie and totally fell in love with her.’

The journey with Kabos lasted 14 years. Kabos left for the States around the same time that Fisher was about to marry Barry Saipe.

‘Ilona would say: “Don’t worry, my darling. You try it [marriage] for six months.”’ Norma and Barry are still happily married.

‘He was a clarinettist and very talented. He would have continued if circumstances had been otherwise. But he had to look after his mother and two sisters … He has a musical understanding bar none. I always said I would never marry a musician, but in his case his critical ability is amazing. It’s been a good partnership, and a huge sacrifice on his part.

‘Those were heady days,’ recalls Fisher with a laugh. ‘Shura Cherkassky was a really good friend. He was such a character. Sérgio Varella-Cid had phenomenal talent but was completely crazy. He destroyed himself and his career, because he was unreliable.’

Norma Fisher has suffered pain, but in her early life she was ‘so lucky – everything fell into place’ (photo: Ronald Julian)

Fisher remembers seeing the young Portuguese pianist learning Chopin’s Fantasy during the interval of the recital for which the piece was programmed. (He would ultimately disappear without a trace in Brazil, widely assumed to have been shot by gangsters.)

‘There were so many friends. They were top young pianists in the world and we all studied with Ilona.’ Many of them (including Fisher, from 1961) also lived together, in a mansion in Finchley, north London, which was bought by Kabos’s close friend Charles Napper for those of her students who didn’t have an appropriate place to live and work.

‘Every room had a Steinway. We had a housemaid. And we played for each other.’

Napper appears in another of Fisher’s friendship stories. She met the Polish-born pianist and composer André Tchaikowsky after a concert at Wigmore Hall in 1962.

‘I ended the recital with Liszt’s “Mazeppa” and then played Schumann’s Toccata as an encore. After the concert, André came backstage to see me and he was literally shaking. He said to me: “I am still trembling; how could you play ‘Mazeppa’ and then immediately Schumann?” I will never forget that. And we became friends and remained friends until the day he died.’

During his final days the ailing composer sent Fisher a letter. By this stage (1982) she had reduced the number of her performances owing to family commitments.

‘It was the sweetest letter. In it he said how much he adored my playing and that we must find a way to get me back on to the stage.’

Following Tchaikowsky’s death, one of the first concerts Fisher gave included the first public performance of his Inventions (composed early 1960s), a series of musical portraits of his friends.

‘It was as if he was there to tell me, “I told you I will get you back to the stage.”’ But there was more to that concert.

‘André had a very difficult character; he was separated from his mother as a child, and that left a mark on him. Throughout his life he had problems connecting to people.’

Napper was the dedicatee of one of the Inventions (No 5a), and following ‘a terrible fall-out’ with him, Tchaikowsky removed that piece from the collection and replaced it with another (No 5b), dedicated to the pianist Patrick Crommelynck.

‘But I was in the possession of that invention [5a] and fell in love with it; apart from that, I knew Charles Napper well.’ So Fisher included the Napper invention in her premiere.

‘That night, when I was playing it at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, I absolutely expected to be hit by a thunderbolt from André with fury for my going against his wishes.’ The complete set is included in the second volume of her BBC recordings.

It was around the age of 17 that Fisher auditioned for the BBC. She was accepted immediately and soon she was also performing on the Continent.

Although she no longer needed to compete, she nevertheless won joint second prize at the Busoni competition in 1961, and in 1963 she shared with Vladimir Ashkenazy the Harriet Cohen International Music Award piano prize.

Our talk turns to her other BBC repertoire. Having been moved to tears by her Scriabin, I ask her about her approach.

‘It was totally intuitive. I didn’t have to think. I could just look at a piece of music, put my hands on the piano and know what to do. In fact, Scriabin was asked of me. I had never played any Scriabin. It was his anniversary and they asked me if I could put a programme together.’

The repertoire closest to her heart, she admits, is that of the German Romantics – Brahms and Schumann in particular.

‘I put my hands on the piano for Brahms and Schumann, and it all comes naturally’

‘Do you know what our original name was? Führer! A year ago, a cousin discovered that the roots of the Fisher family go back to Germany and this awful name.’

However, Fisher believes that her genetic stock accounts for her special musical affinity: ‘I put my hands on the piano for Brahms and Schumann, and it all comes naturally.’

The BBC, however, promoted her as a Lisztian. The second volume of the BBC recordings includes some jaw-dropping Liszt performances.

I ask if she was ever put off by empty virtuosity. ‘Nothing is empty. Even when I think about Liszt.’

She continues: ‘I’m a little bit like that with people. You hear people saying bad things about somebody. I don’t think in my life I’ve been capable of doing that, because I can always see the good in everybody. It’s the same in music; even if it’s something that appears to be trite or unworthy, I always manage to find something that makes me appreciate it.’

I ask her what Fisher the teacher would think of Fisher the performer, specifically in the third volume of her BBC recordings, which includes music by both her favourite composers: Schumann’s Papillons and Brahms’s Op 116 Fantasies.

‘I have to say, I loved the Schumann. It actually makes me cry when I listen to it. The only thing is that I could have waited a little bit longer between some of them; some need a little more pause for thought.’

The juxtaposition of Papillons with Brahms only further highlights the fragility and delicacy of these miniatures: ‘The Brahms is so extreme,’ she says. ‘I played it a lot and I adored doing so.’

She pauses, and adds: ‘I love the recording, but parts of the capriccios for me are a little too headstrong. I would have said somehow that too much body is involved – because you can be as emotional and headstrong while also being physically focused.’

And then there is the Chopin selection, which I find unusually moving, dramatic and poignant, as if coming from a place of pain and struggle.

Fisher admits that Chopin was never a natural language for her. But the pieces on the disc also happen to be part of her last BBC recital, in 1992, when her focal dystonia had already manifested itself and was giving her pain.

‘When I listen to this recording I know exactly at which moments my hand was not feeling right and I was concerned. I can hear it.’

The gradual onset of the condition had a disturbing psychological and emotional impact.

‘I thought I was going mad. It’s like someone tells you to get up and walk, and your legs won’t move … I was running from doctor to doctor. I discussed it with all my pianist friends, and nobody had a clue. It was years into it when I discovered what it was. But it had got worse.’

Then in a back copy (1988) of the American magazine Piano Quarterly she came across an article by the neurologist Frank Wilson entitled ‘Teaching Hands, Treating Hands’.

‘For the first time someone was describing my condition.’ She met up with the author, who had also worked with Leon Fleisher, another sufferer.

Later it became apparent that she was also suffering from laryngeal dystonia.

‘This taught me a lot about dystonia. I can be talking in full flow, but suddenly the vocal cords go into spasm, and you can never know when that will happen. With the hands it was the same. It would take a stronger person than I am to go on stage because you’d never know when it was going to set in.’

It was this unpredictability that eventually convinced her to step away from the stage and from public performance.

Norma Fisher, ‘agony aunt for pianists’: it is now possible to hear her performing on record (photo: Tomoyuki Sawado) 

She began this process during the 1990s, performing for the last time at the Barbican, London, in June 1999.

‘The final appearance with Brahms Two (of all works!) was because the conductor, David Josefowitz, was a good friend and begged me to play this concerto with him. I simply have memories of fear – not knowing if my hand would “behave” – utterly terrifying!’

Having already enjoyed teaching, she found it natural to transfer to it.

‘If young pianists came to my agent with problems, they would be sent my way. I was a sort of agony aunt for pianists.’

One of her former students, Murray McLachlan, asked her to offer occasional masterclasses at Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester.

The Royal Northern College of Music would soon approach her too (and she currently teaches at the Royal College of Music, London).

By this time she had been regularly visiting Kyiv to offer masterclasses, especially at the Horowitz summer school, ‘So when the opportunity opened at the RNCM, a steady stream of students started to arrive there from Kyiv and Moscow.’

Does she have a teaching method?

‘Well, everybody is different and this is what I love about the job.’

‘I pick up vibes scarily fast. I had healer friends who always accused me of being in the wrong profession. But I feel my teaching is also a case of healing’

Referring back to Kabos, she says: ‘I work similarly to her, but over the years I am adding things that have been helpful for me. On the question of style, I think of her all the time.’

And then there is Fisher’s spirituality, a feature that has brought us close ever since I first contacted her.

‘I pick up vibes scarily fast. I had healer friends who always accused me of being in the wrong profession. But I feel my teaching is also a case of healing.’

And then as if she has picked up on my own vibes, she adds: ‘For the first quarter of my life I was so lucky, I was spoon-fed. Everything fell into place … Every door was open, and I just sailed through. And then when that first door closed it was a shock of the first order. It took a long time [to heal] because I had been so spoilt.’

I admire her positive outlook but ask if she has ever cast herself as victim.

‘It hurt terribly at times, but I never said it’s unfair, because I believe that in life everything happens for a reason and I think we are here to learn from that happening. I went to hell and back with this problem, but I wouldn’t have had it otherwise. It taught me so much; I learnt so much from it. And I feel that actually I can do more with it by helping others than if I was just playing the piano and satisfying myself.’

Vol 3 of Fisher’s BBC recordings is available directly from Sonetto Classics

This interview originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Gramophone magazine. Never miss an issue – subscribe today

JunLin Wu at the Solti Studio- Savagery and refined elegance of a warrior

It was nice to hear JunLin again in the same programme I had heard on Elton John’s Red Piano in the Elgar Room of the Royal Albert Hall.Here is a more detailed report on almost the same programme as today:

Here on the sumptuous Fabbrini Steinway in Sir George Solti’s private studio I could appreciate even more the extraordinary colours and excitement that Agosti’s 1928 transcription could communicate from the hands of this young virtuoso who seems to know no difficulties.An extraordinary sense of balance allowed him to ravish and astonish just as much as the original full orchestral score.

The sheer animal excitement from the very first notes played without a break after the Scriabin Reverie were like an animal about to pounce.It was,though,the sumptuous beauty of the magical appearance of the Firebird that took our breath away as it gradually built up to its tumultuous conclusion.It brought back great memories of the weekends spent with Agosti playing Beethoven late quartets and Brahms Symphonies together four hands whilst our wives spent the day enjoying the beach!

Guido Agosti on his left his wife Lydia Stix Agosti and on the right my wife Ileana Ghione

Agosti was a very reserved person until you sat him at the piano and as all those that frequented his studio in Siena can testify there were sounds heard in that room in the Chigiana that would never be forgotten.Sounds that he miraculously found in this remarkable transcription.

Dmitri Alexeev with JunLin

Listening again to JunLin I could marvel at his intelligence and refined artistry in Chopin that never reached the heights though that he found in the Stravinsky.In the Firebird he was a savage hunter where his whole appearance and approach to the keyboard was of a fearless warrior.In Chopin it was as though he was in awe of this refined aristocratic poetry .In Stravinsky he played horizontally as though spreading the sounds over the keyboard whereas with Chopin he played vertically looking on from above rather that creating from within.

It was remarkable playing nevertheless but I could not understand why the sound world of Stravinsky and Chopin should have appeared so different on the same piano.A much requested encore was rewarded with a delicious rendering of Cordoba by Albeniz with sumptuous subtle sounds of beguiling freedom.

Dmitri Alexeev admiring Solti’s score of the St John Passion

A remarkable series of recitals for young musicians in memory of Lady Solti and organised by the indefatigable Lisa Peacock.This was last week’s recital :

JunLin with Mrs Alexeev – Tatyana Sarkissova
The remarkable Studio of Sir George Solti
Cristian Sandrin in discussion with Dmitri Alexeev with Petar Dimov and Damir Durmanovic in the background – some of the many pianist present to admire the artistry of JunLin
JunLin rushing back to the Wigmore Hall where he was in the middle of a chamber music competition – this recital was his lunch break!
The St John Passion open as Sir George Solti had left it in his studio.

The enigmatic Ronan Magill astonishes again at St Mary’s who are in celebratory mood with the Critic’s circle accolade

Thursday 12 May 3.00 pm

More magnificent playing from the elusive Ronan Magill with playing of such intelligence and luminosity from scintillating Scarlatti to rarely heard works by Brahms and Debussy.All played with a rare sense of aristocratic style and technical command that makes one wonder why we have not heard more of this master pianist before.
His debut recital at St Mary’s last year was a revelation and today only endorsed that great first impression .
K.420 received a performance of luminosity a precision – beautifully shaped played with high fingers that gave such clarity and a chiselled sound of purity and sparkling brilliance .There was simplicity and beauty in K 481 that was allowed to sing so eloquently and elegantly.The legato right hand with the deliciously delicate left hand staccato was a marvel of refined tone colour.The agility and frantic driving energy of K.39 was electrifying as it was allowed to boil over at 100° with astonishing mastery .
Fascinating to hear these rarely performed variations op 21 n.2 – partner to the better known op 21 n.1 ‘on an original theme’.Ronan explained that he had be drawn to them ever since he heard Richter perform them in Paris in the ‘80’s.Only recently adding them to his repertoire he gave a very persuasive performance of great technical brilliance but also of musicianly style and architectural shape ending in the triumphant last variation played with remarkable clarity and masterly control.

In the years following the composition of his three sonatas in 1851–4, Brahms concentrated his piano output on sets of variations and groups of shorter pieces—and the first representatives of those genres are already powerful indications of his mastery in these smaller forms.Apart from the brief sets of variations on folksongs which constitute the slow movements of his first two piano sonatas, the earliest (and simplest) of Brahms’s existing sets of piano variations is the Variations on a Hungarian Song, Op 21 No 2, composed in 1853 but only published eight years later. The work is based on a rugged eight-bar melody, rhythmically enlivened by its alternating bars of 3/4 and 4/4, which Brahms probably derived from his Hungarian violinist-friend Ede Reményi during their concert tour together in the spring of that year.

Ronan charmingly described the discovery of this very early work that already shows a the personality and unique sound world that Debussy was to demonstrate in his later works.In fact Debussy had sent it to a publisher and not hearing anything had forgotten all about it.Years later,when Debussy had become an accepted master he received an envelope in the post with the published version of his forgotten early Reverie.Another discovery that Ronan shared with us today with it’s gentle rocking left hand ‘barcarolle’ and the luminosity of the melodic line.There were sumptuous sounds ( reminiscent of the first Arabesque written only four years later when Debussy was still in his 20’s) with beautifully shading and a truly magical ending.

Written in 1888, Debussy’s Reverie was one of his first solo piano works to make an impact. Even at this early stage in his career, when he was still working out what kind of composer he wanted to be (he was apparently a fervent debater when it came to Wagnerism), it’s clear to see traits of that signature Debussy sound.However, the young Debussy had not quite developed the style and tricks that would earmark him as one of his generation’s most notable talents. There are no fireworks here, no sudden explosions in texture that would come to characterise his later works – this is more of a meditation, the perfect precursor to exploring those later works.The gently repetitive theme that opens the work feels like a descent into sleepy dream-world (as the title suggests), and as the textures become ever richer the dreams only become more lush and addictive.

Played with a luminous touch and perfect balance allied to a sense of style of melancholic nostalgia
Chopin’s sparkling study with cascades of notes played with remarkable agility and clarity with such subtle shading to the left hand melodic line.A delicious coda was allowed to flow with such timeless phrasing.However the final few chords were a little disappointing not being teasing ( like Horowitz) or authoritative (like Arrau) and without that twinkle in his eye that had given such energy to his remarkable dexterity.
There was aristocratic elegance and beauty of tone where the melodic line was given time to breathe so naturally. A wonderful flowing elegance to the mellifluous central section, the delicate duet was played out between the emerging voices with beguiling subtlety.
Ronan gave weight and authority to the opening theme before giving a remarkable sense of sweep and shape to the transcendental difficulties that litter Brahms’s score .The subtle cross phrasing between the hands was played with great mastery but it was the beauty he gave to the ‘ music box’ variations n. 11 and 12 that will remain in my memory for its luminosity and aristocratic simplicity.If the glissandi in the 13th did not seem to glide with the elegance and ease that Brahms demands and led to a rather uneasy final variation,it was still kept remarkably under control as it brought this voyage of discovery with the enigmatic Maestro Magill to a stimulating end.

Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Op 35, is a work was composed in 1863 in two books and based on the Caprice n.24 in A minor by Paganini.Brahms intended the work to be more than simply a set of theme and variations ; each variation also has the characteristic of a study. He published it as Studies for Pianoforte: Variations on a Theme of Paganini and was dedicated to the piano virtuoso Carl Tausig It is well known for its harmonic depth and extreme physical difficulty. A particular emphasis of the technical challenges lie on hand independence, with the left hand often mirroring the right hand throughout the piece or having its own set of obstacles.Clara Schumann called it Hexenvariationen(Witch’s Variations) because of its difficulty.

A last minute rethought about an encore allowed us to share in an intimate confession with his own ‘Lament for the sea dead’.How many people the sea has claimed that are never heard of again!This piece was dedicated to a friend whom he admired who was to disappear for good on a distant unknown wave.A remarkable piece that played with suggestive sonorities.Stamping on the sustaining pedal to create mysterious sounds allowing the strings to vibrate as subtle bass murmurs where fragments of melodic line disappeared as fast as they appeared.Visibly moved,as was the audience ,it was an intimate confession that this remarkable musician had decided to share with us.

The pianist and composer RONAN MAGILL (born Sheffield 1954) was, as a nine year old, chosen to be one of the founder pupils of the Yehudi Menuhin School. Later after a period at Ampleforth College, and on the advice of Benjamin Britten, he went to the Royal College of Music working with David Parkhouse and later John Barstow, and winning all the major prizes for piano and composition. After his Wigmore and South Bank debuts (Brahms 2 nd Concerto) in 1974, and again on Britten’s advice, he moved to Paris to study with Yvonne Lefebure at the Conservatoire, and then remained in Paris for a number of years, performing regularly both in concert and on TV and radio, and also receiving advice from Pierre Sancan, and Nikita Magaloff and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli in Switzerland. In 1985 Magill won ist Prize in the 1 st “Milosz Magin” International Competition for Polish Music, followed by a European tour, and then after returning to the UK , he won the 3rd British Contemporary Piano Competition which a UK tour and concerts on BBC Radio 3. In recent years Magill has been performing in the UK, USA (Rachmaninoff 3 rd Concerto) and most recently in Japan where he has been living since 2013 performing in many cities. He returned to the UK in April 2021 and gave a memorable recital at St Mary’s Perivale last year.


We are delighted with this recognition:St Mary’s, Perivale – a tiny, Grade 1-listed redundant church in west London – has punched far above its weight with the range and quality of its streamed recitals. Dr Hugh Mather and the team – all volunteers – carried on with their three weekly recitals when Covid hit, providing young artists with paid employment and a platform during this hardest of times, raising their own funds, largely through donations, to pay the artists without any public subsidies. Both the quality of the concerts on offer and the diversity of performers and repertoire put the response of many larger, subsidised venues to shame. The concerts were streamed live using very high quality equipment installed by two former BBC engineers, Simon Shute and George Auckland. Live audiences are now back at the free-of-charge concerts, and live streaming continues. St Mary’s broadcast 154 live concerts and 53 recordings during the pandemic, and a full schedule of recitals for the year ahead is already in place.

Dr Hugh Mather

Dear Hugh,Warmest congratulations on this recognition of the pivotal role which you and your remarkable colleagues have played throughout the Pandemic. Not only have you kept up the brisk pace of your St Mary’s Perivale recitals, but the quality of the talent, performance, recording and transmission have reached once unsuspected heights – attaining a pace and now justly recognised star lustre and life. The recognition now given your sustained efforts is more than fully earned.Thank you from Noretta and myself as well as the Keyboard Trust, to so many of whose artists you have given these precious opportunities. With every good wish, John ( Leech -founder of the Keyboard Trust)

Roger Nellist

Dear John,Thank you very much indeed for your heart-warming email. It is indeed a communal effort with my amazing colleagues, and you and I have similar interests in helping the very best of young pianists to develop their careers. I have huge admiration for your achievements with the Keyboard Charitable Trust, and our two organizations are of course complimentary. Our joint collaborations have worked very well indeed, and indeed we are planning a joint festival for March next year to give a platform to ‘new’ pianists who haven’t played at Perivale before. Thank you once again for your very kind email, which I will copy to my colleagues. With very best wishes to Noretta and yourself. Hugh and everyone at St Mary’s Perivale

Benjamin Grosvenor at the Wigmore Hall-a voyage of discovery with a seamless stream of golden sounds.

The ravishing sounds of Benjamin Grosvenor’s recreation of seamless rays of gold and silver in Ravel’s Jeux d’eau will be remembered by all those present for a long time.
It is not since Moiseiwitch that we have heard effortless natural sounds of such simple beauty.
It was the same sound that opened the second half of the recital with Albeniz Evocacion followed by the infectious excitement of El Puerto and the hysterical outpouring of exultation in Fete Dieu a Seville.
There were transcendental feats of athleticism and diabolical technical prowess in Ravel’s La Valse- glissandi that spread over the keyboard with breathtaking ease.The sumptuous sounds and relentless devilish dance entranced and mesmerised us as of course Ravel intended.
It was though the disarming simplicity and ravishing sounds of a single magical encore of Ginastera’s Argentinian Dance n. 2 ,whispered with gloriously obsessive insistence,that silenced the audience who instinctively knew quantity had no place here when the quality of perfection had been reached.

San Carlo Naples

The recital was the same as the one I would have heard in the San Carlo Opera House in Naples last Thursday .A phone snatch had me racing back to London to replace stolen documents that I should have known better than to take into the jungle with me especially after forty years of regularly frequenting this wonderful city.

The two major works by Franck and Schumann would have benefitted from the distance that is needed to be able to wallow in the romantic sounds reverberating freely around a vast horseshoe shaped opera house.
There were so many wonderful things to admire but there were also moments when one would have longed for a more resonant sumptuous sound without any hard edges.The golden sound that Rachmaninov always had in mind when composing – that of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The Cesar Franck Prelude,Chorale and Fugue was like embarking on a voyage of discovery.A work I have heard many times ,even this week,and is returning more regularly into the concert repertoire.But today’s performance was different.From the opening notes played with such delicacy it was like a cloud of smoke hovering above the keys until gradually the declamatory chords brought us back to the real world.Some very subtle contrapuntal playing of ravishing sounds but as the tension mounted the sound began to harden and remarkable as it was missed the sumptuous rich sound of the truly grand style.The simple plain chant of the chorale was answered by the celestial chords spread across the keyboard gaining ever more in intensity until the insinuating announcement of the fugue with its fanfare flourishes of bravura and the very sombre ‘largamente’ announcement of the fugue subject.His wonderful sense of balance allowed for such clarity of line with cascades of embellishments as it built to the climax and the release of tension in the cadenza.The return of the opening melody was allowed to shine so beautifully through the magic cloud of sound that he had created and gradually built to the climax where the two main themes are united in a glorious outpouring of sounds ‘con molto fuoco’.There was great excitement too in the quiet build up to the final triumphant explosion.An aristocratic ending to a remarkable performance that in a bigger more resonant hall might have given more weight to Franck’s explosions of the glorious sounds of a true believer.

Kreisleriana is dedicated to Chopin who in return dedicated his second Ballade to Schumann.It’s eight episodes are full of romantic sweep and beauty and it needs a real artist to unite them in a whole.Benjamin Grosvenor gave it a great architectural shape whilst not sacrificing the exquisite details of each of the episodes.The opening was taken rather literally with accents that seemed to distort the natural shape of the music.It was,though,the central episode where his sense of style created a magic web of ravishing sounds.The extreme legato of the second episode was beautifully shaped and the two intermezzi in its midst were played with staccato contrast and romantic sweep.Schumann seems to struggle to find his way back to the main theme and it was played in a superbly improvisatory way before the final magical Adagio chords.Again I found rather too much contrast in the third episode between the clipped rhythmic momentum of the opening and the extreme legato of the intertwining melodic line which was played with a wonderful sense of style.There was great beauty too in the fourth with the languid melodic line of such beauty contrasting with the simplicity of the central ‘bewegter’.There was absolute clarity in the fifth with its quixotic sense of playfulness and with the sumptuous romantic fervour of the central climax.There was magic at the end of the beautifully mellifluous sixth episode as it exploded into the ‘sehr rasch’ of the seventh with its rhythmic energy and driving force.It was in these outbursts though that the sumptuous quieter tones hardened as the passion rose.The passionate outpouring of the central episode of the last piece,in particular,I was missing again the feeling of resonance of a sumptuous full orchestra instead of just the brass blaring in all its glory.The ‘schnell und spielend’ of Mendelssohnian lightness was superbly played and brought the work to a subtle finish as it disappeared into the depths of the keyboard.A remarkable performance where each of the magnificent players in Benjamin’s fingers did not always seem so happy to unite into one glorious whole but were happy to create seamless streams of romantic sounds with the delicacy from the Golden age of piano playing.

Dinara Klinton at the Wigmore Hall RCM Benjamin Britten Fellow Recital

Superb performances by Dinara Klinton of two masterworks:Beethoven op 111 and Prokofiev’s Eighth ,the last of the ‘War’Sonatas.It was the Rachmaninov Elegie that ,she chose to thank her audience with, that summed up her supreme artistry that had been so apparent in this short but very dense lunchtime recital for the RCM as beneficiary of the Benjamin Britten Piano Fellowship.

Seemless streams of golden sounds that with her extraordinary control and sense of balance made the piano sing as rarely heard these days.
Radu Lupu and Wilhelm Kempff spent their life searching for the secret of a true legato in which the percussive nature of the piano was disguised by a transcendental control of sound that could make the piano sing and breathe as well as any singer.
Dinara joins those ranks where the glorious outpouring of Beethoven’s last Sonata was allowed to glow as the Aria hovered over magic sounds that the master could have only imagined in his private ear.It was on this magic wave that the sumptuous melody of Prokofiev’s 8th Sonata ravished and seduced in a performance of such intensity and beauty that one was not aware of the technical difficulties.A performance where there were streams of golden sounds woven with a mastery I have rarely heard before.Gone were the usual note picking percussive sounds as the radiance and kaleidoscopic colours depicted a landscape similar to Beethoven’s vision of paradise.Even the Andante sognando took on a different significance and if the Vivace came to an irascible tumultuous ending it was only a passionate affirmation of all that had come previously.

Before the final Elegie she had included a ‘song’ by a Levko Revutsky played with such grace and charm to remind us of her roots that are firmly in the Ukraine.In fact the whole of the recital had been a moving testimony of War and Peace a great message that was obviously weighing on her heart today where senseless suffering and distress are being reported daily from her homeland.

An extraordinary initiative that Dr Peter Barritt has promoted in Shrewsbury .Five recitals of which Dinara gave the closing recital last Saturday ……………..Ever generous he writes:’Thank you so much for your help with the Ukraine fund-raising recitals. We should raise over £10,000 which will be matched by the government. The five recitals would not have happened without your kind support and help and I am very grateful to the KCT.