Damir Durmanovic at St Mary’s stars shining brightly in Perivale today

Tuesday 5 July 3.00 pm



Presentation of Award by Critics’ Circle to St Mary’s Perivale
‘Lockdown Star Venue’

DAMIR DURMANOVIC

‘Lockdown stars’ as Robert Fitness of the critics circle described the Mecca for young musicians that has been created by an extraordinary team of passionate ‘amateurs’ in a small redundant church on Ealing Golf Course.

Robert Fitness Chairman of the Music section of the Critics Circle


But as Rosalyn Tureck once said to my wife:it is a great satisfaction to have one’s work recognised but it is the work that counts!

Rosalyn Tureck ‘The High Priestess of Bach’ conducting the Philharmonia in 1959


Damir Durmanovic was the living proof of that today giving a recital of such musicianship and artistry that I was reminded of the unique sounds that Moiseiwitch would coax out of the piano with his ravishing sense of balance and aristocratically natural musicianship.
Sounds from the piano that Matthay had shared with Myra Hess and Moura Lympany where every note has an infinite variety of beautiful sounds that can as if by magic turn a box of hammers and strings into a wondrous world of fantasy and sumptuous delight.
Damir has much in common with them too with his natural musicianship that has been nurtured from his youthful studies with Marcel Baudet and Robert Levin at that remarkable school that Menuhin has bequeathed to his adopted country.
Programmes that are constructed with key relationships in mind.
Repertoire chosen from a vast range of neglected masterpieces.
A true musician who can improvise and modulate as was the norm in Bach’s day but has now become a rarity.
I am not sure if the public were aware of the improvised link between the rare pieces by Lyadov and the Rachmaninov Preludes
Dr Hugh Mather sounded perplexed as to why Damir should play the well known Rachmaninov preludes in a seemingly arbitrary order.
Damir simply explained that the preludes had never been written by Rachmaninov with the idea to be played all together and so he had tried to link them by key relationships to make a more satisfying whole.
Well Damir is part of the school of Andras Schiff,Paul Baudura Skoda and Robert Levin with their extraordinary curiosity that comes from deep research together with the natural musicianship like the ‘kapellmeisters’ of a bygone age.

The Intermezzi…might equally well have been called ‘Improvisations’, they convey so strongly the impression that the composer is as surprised and gratified at what is emerging as his audience…
Schumann composed the Intermezzi Op. 4 in Spring 1832 and declared that they were special works, conceived as “longer Papillons” where “every note ought to be weighed and balanced”. The Intermezzi employ the same techniques used in Op. 2: quotations, fragments, and metamorphoses of poetry into music.The scherzo-like No. 2 in E minor is a depiction of Faust’s and Mephistopheles’ journey through the air; there is much interest in the complex rhythms that throw the underlying pulse out of sync with the melodic and harmonic rhythm. Unusual rhythms and accentuation highlight the main section of No. 3 in A minor; Schumann curiously labels the faster central section “Alternativo.” Schumann constructed No. 4 in C major, the shortest of the Intermezzi, from fragments of three earlier discarded works. No. 5 in D minor is more lyrical than its partners, in spite of its fast tempo; the central section, labeled “Alternativo” as in No. 3 above, is probably the most beautiful passage in the entire set. It was exactly the contrast of quixotic and romantic that was so fascinating.Damir has a way of coaxing the sounds out of the piano like a painter with strokes on the canvas which adds such a sumptuous sense of colour and balance to these flights of fancy.There are moments when the clouds seem to clear and we catch a glimpse of the sublime melodic line that is to become ever more evident in the works that are to follow on closely.From op 6 Davidsbundler through the extraordinary technical hurdles and romantic outpourings of the Toccata op 7 to the Carnaval op 9.These are like a painter trying out his ideas before arriving at the final masterpiece.Damir gave a very convincing performance that makes one want to hear the entire set of six as Schumann intended them to be heard together.
Lyadov taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory from 1878, his pupils included Sergei Prokofiev.Stravinsky remarked that Lyadov was as strict with himself as he was with his pupils, writing with great precision and demanding fine attention to detail. Prokofiev recalled that even the most innocent musical innovations drove the conservative Lyadov crazy. “Shoving his hands in his pockets and rocking in his soft woollen shoes without heels, he would say, ‘I don’t understand why you are studying with me. Go to Richard Strauss .Go to Debussy.’ This was said in a tone that meant ‘Go to the devil!'”Still, Lyadov told his acquaintances about Prokofiev. “I am obliged to teach him. He must form his technique, his style—first in piano music.”While Lyadov’s technical facility was highly regarded by his contemporaries, his unreliability stood in the way of his advancement. His published compositions are relatively few due to a certain self-critical lack of confidence. Many of his works are variations on or arrangements of pre-existing material (for example his Russian Folksongs, Op. 58). He composed a large number of piano miniatures, of which his Musical Snuffbox of 1893 is perhaps most famous.His three pieces of op 57 are from 1900-1905.Three salon pieces similar to the early pieces by Scriabin.A prelude with a wonderful sense of style and balance with a subtle delicacy of another era.There was such control and sense of atmosphere in the Valse and a mazurka of beautiful musings of almost improvised radiance.A gentle improvisation invented even by Damir as pianists of another generation would have done between piece which took us from F minor of the Mazurka to the first Rachmaninov Prelude in F sharp minor .
Rachmaninov completed Prelude No. 5 in 1901. The remaining preludes were completed after Rachmaninov’s marriage to his cousin Natalia Satina: Nos. 1, 4, and 10 premiered in Moscow on February 10, 1903, and the remaining seven were completed soon after.
1900–1903 were difficult years for Rachmaninov and his motivation for writing the Preludes was predominantly financial.Composed in the Hotel America, financially dependent on his cousin Alexander Siloti, to whom the Preludes are dedicated.
The popular Prelude in C sharp minor op 3.n.2 perhaps unfairly eclipses the Op. 23 Preludes. Rachmaninov remarked, “…I think the Preludes of Op. 23 are far better music than my first Prelude, but the public has shown no disposition to share in my belief….”
The composer never played all of the Preludes in one sitting, preferring to cycle through a rotating mix of his favorites.There was a beautifully flowing tempo as the melodic lined duetted between the tenor and soprano registers in the first prelude .A bold melodic line was etched out in the beautiful D major prelude full of nobility and there was pure magic as the melodic line was embellished with a golden web of ravishing beauty above a sumptuous undercurrent of romantic sounds.The famous G minor prelude was played with deliberately beguiling capriciousness which contrasted so well with the aristocratic beauty of the mellifluous central episode.The excitement of the return of the march was enthralling but there was also an unexpected finesse to the phrasing as it just blew itself out so innocuously .The third in D minor was played with the capricious left hand melody answered by the solidity of the right hand chords with a deep sounding bass note that heralded a coda of magic discovery.The transcendental difficulties of the E flat minor prelude were disguised with such subtle phrasing and ‘will o’the wisp’ fleeting colours that was just as breathtaking as Liszt’s miniature tone poem.There was a ravishing melodic line of such fluidity in the E flat prelude as this most romantic of preludes just weaved it’s way into our hearts.There was such clarity in the mighty C minor prelude with its unrelenting rhythmic energy on which emerges the melodic line floating on this wave of busy weaving sounds with an even more exhilarating coda of sumptuous golden sounds.Strands of melody emerged out of the busy meanderings of the A flat prelude contrasting so well with the beauty of the melodic line of the tenth in G flat.Romantic sounds unfolded with such grace and beauty over the entire keyboard until the eruption of the second prelude in B flat.Transcendental playing of overwhelming romantic sounds like a call to arms before the sumptuous beauty of the central section where the melodic line emerges from an accompaniment spread over the entire keyboard.Fearless chords and cascades of notes brought this performance of the preludes op 23 to a brilliant conclusion.

An eclectic encore of a very moving performance with the sumptuously rich sounds of Brahms ‘Herzlich tut mich verlangen’op posth 122 in the richly embroidered version for piano by Busoni.The chorale preludes, not published until five years after his death, turned out to be Brahms’ last work. From one of the greatest composers of symphonies, chamber works, a requiem and more—a collection of short pieces that honour the past, reflect his own time, and continue to be re-interpreted today.Brahms wrote the 11 preludes in 1896 for organ,soon after the death of his dear friend, Clara Schumann. The short liturgical pieces, used to elaborate hymn tunes during a service, recall the music of J.S. Bach.

Tatyana and Dmitri Alexeev -Vitaly Pisarenko-Damir Durmanovic-Can Arisoy-Victor Maslov


Damir is also an excellent cook and the magic he cooked up for his teacher Dmitri Alexeev and family the other day in my garden was the same magic that he cooked up today at the keyboard!
Music is life and life is music,just as the dedicated people of St Mary’s are showing us at least three times a week.
They say miracles do not happen twice in the same place ….well I know differently.

As an internationally sought-after performer, Damir Durmanovic has performed in venues and festivals including the Wigmore Hall, Champs Hill Studios, YPF Festival Amsterdam, Wimbledon Music Festival, Renia Sofia Audotorium Madrid, Gstaad Menuhin Festival, Derby Multifaith Center, Flusserei Flums, ‘Ballenlager’ Vaduz. He has won prizes in numerous international competitions including The Beethoven Intercollegiate Junior Competition in London, Adilia Alieva International Piano Competition in Geneva and Isidor Bajic International Piano Competition in Novi Sad. He has performed in masterclasses with Claudio Martinez-Mehner, Dmitri Bashkirov, Pascal Devoyon, Jacques Rouvier, Robert Levin, Jean-Bernard Pommier, Tatyana Sarkisova, and chamber ensembles such as the Emerson Quartet. Damir is also a scholar at the ‘Musikakademie Liechtestein’ and regularly participates in the courses organised by the academy. Damir began his studies at age of eight in his home country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Maja Azabagic before continuing his studies at the Yehudi Menuhin School where he studied with professor Marcel Baudet. He is an ABRSM scholar and is kindly supported by the Talent Unlimited Scheme. He is currently studying at the Royal College of Music in London with professor Dmitri Alexeev.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/04/18/damir-duramovic-at-cranleigh-arts-a-musician-speaks-with-simplicity-and-poetry/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/09/30/damir-durmanovic-the-complete-musician-at-saint-olave-tower-hill/

Milda Daunoraite live stream concert for the Keyboard Charitable Trust – youthful charm and ease at the service of music

Recorded at St Matthew’s Church, Ealing
and now Free-to-View on our YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/nGbJemRih0g

It was the same innocence of simple music making that I had heard from Milda in Perivale recently that was the hallmark of her recital for the Keyboard Trust .Such a refreshing ‘joie de vivre’ of a young pianist who actually looks carefully at the score and with crystalline technical ease can imbue the music with youthful charm and energy.The same innocent charm that she shared with Prof Leslie Howard in their brief post concert slightly one sided conversation.Charmed he was too!Especially having enjoyed her performances of Beethoven,Debussy and Bartòk where she had delved deeply into the score and translated what she had found into sounds of such buoyancy and well oiled fluency.It was good to be reminded by Prof.Howard that Bartòk had written his Sonata with the Imperial Bosendorfer in mind – a piano that can be bewildering with its 97 keys- the extra keys painted black or even covered by a wooden box! It can be very disconcerting to a pianist that is used to navigating the standard keyboard.The nine extra keys are coloured black so the pianist can distinguish them from the standard 88. The keys are rarely used, but the extra bass strings add harmonic resonance that contributes to the rich, overall sound of the instrument.

Beethoven Sonata No. 18 Op. 31 No.3

As Prof Howard had pointed out the three Sonatas op 31 could not be more varied.The first with is syncopated rhythms and extended bel canto Adagio grazioso to the dramatic outpourings of the second – so called ‘Tempest’ and the third that could almost be called pastoral.A sonata full of lightness and bucolic energy.I had heard Milda play op 81a ‘Les Adieux’ and was surprised as I was today by her youthful spirit and sense of improvisational discovery together with a microscopic attention to the composers meticulous indications.It is the same youthful sense of freedom that was so much admired in Annie Fischer well into her seventies!The ever youthful Artur Rubinstein chose this sonata to open the final concert in his long career at the Wigmore Hall when he was already in his 90th year!The opening of the sonata where the rests are as important as the notes and the intricate joining scale passages played with a precision never allowed the rhythmic impulse to waver in a haze of imprecision.Milda had all the precision of a Swiss watch but never allowed the music to sound mechanical or unnatural.The music unfolded with such bucolic energy that the mellifluous second subject just floated on a wave of energy that would have done ‘Alberti’ proud!Never allowing the phrases to be rounded off by a change of tempo and even the lead up to the recapitulation revealing the opening as if by surprise.The final two chords at the end of the movement were thrown off quietly and rather too matter of fact and came as a surprise. Beethoven had not been clear but his irascible temperament has never been in doubt though!The Scherzo was played with continual rhythmic buoyancy and one can see where Saint Saens got much of his inspiration almost a century later.A mixture of jeux perlé and ‘lost penny’ precision.No rage here though with a movement like a gust of fresh air blowing over the canvas.Exhilarating playing of character and unrelenting forward movement with fists full of notes playfully chasing each other up and down the keyboard.The ending pianissimo with no rallentando was exactly what Beethoven wrote and was just like the great man blowing out the final candle.A Menuetto and Trio in place of the usual slow movement just showed the character that Beethoven had imbued into this pastoral scene.A beautiful sense of balance allowed the melodic line to sing out so naturally and the simple poignancy of the coda was Beethoven’s genius raising its head so clearly.Even the seemingly innocent Trio full of meticulous indications was played with refreshing simplicity that made one realise why Saint Saens had chosen this as the basis of variations for two pianos.The bucolic ‘joie de vivre’of the ‘Presto con fuoco’ suited Milda’s youthful verve and energy.Unrelenting in its rhythmic energy and Milda’s meticulous care of phrasing gave extraordinary life and vigour to Beethoven’s simple melodic outline.Almost too serious in the poco ritardando after the accumulation of sounds led to the sudden electric injection of energy to the final few bars.The typical Beethovenian impatience slamming the door firmly shut ( surely what was intended in the first movement too?).
‘Sonore sans dureté ‘ ‘doux et fluìde’’sans nuances’ Debussy writes in the score of this tone poem of the Cathedral rising out of the sea .All beautifully realised by Milda with the ‘un peu moins lent’ played with delicacy and Michelangeli icy precision as it moved to the final climax before disappearing again.A murmuring bass that was played with such delicate precision and transcendental control before the return to the scene of the cathedral once more under the waves and out of sight .Minstrals was played with great character and rhythmic drive.The rapid changes showing Milda’s chameleonic kaleidoscope of sounds as she moved into the sleezy night club atmosphere that Debussy cheekily adds to try to dampen his minstrel’s gaiety.’La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune’ was played with a sumptuous sense of atmosphere and real delicacy all the time maintaining the long architectural line with a rhythmic undercurrent on which these sounds were floated so magically.Debussy’s very precise indications of touch were beautifully played with the luminosity of the calm and silence of this moonlit scene.Some remarkable playing of great delicacy allied to a rhythmic intensity that allowed her to give such shape and meaning to these ravishing jewels.Debussy wanted them to speak for themselves adding a title only after the last note had sounded.


Debussy Préludes
La cathédrale engloutie
Minstrels
La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune

To quote myself if I may:’ a demonic performance with its pungent rhythms and kaleidoscopic range of sounds.‘ ‘A slow movement of intensity and crystalline simplicity -sostenuto e pesante indeed.Breathtaking as it was breathless the driving rhythmic energy of the Allegro molto.’


Bartók Piano Sonata, BB 88 (Sz. 80)

The Piano Sonata, BB 88, Sz. 80,Hungarian composer Béla Bartòk was composed in June 1926 known to musicologists as Bartók’s “piano year”, when he underwent a creative shift in part from Beethovenian intensity to a more Bachian craftsmanship.It is in three movements: Allegro moderato. Sostenuto e pesante. Allegro moltoIt is tonal but highly dissonant (and has no key signature), using the piano in a percussive fashion with erratic time signatures. Underneath clusters of repeated notes, the melody is folklike. Each movement has a classical structure overall, in character with Bartók’s frequent use of classical forms as vehicles for his most advanced thinking.Bartok wrote it with an Imperial Bosendorfer in mind, which has extra keys in the bass (97 keys in total) and the second movement calls for these keys to be used (to play G♯0 and F0).It is dedicated to his second wife Ditta-Pasztory – Bartòk

The Italian composer, conductor and pianist Ferruccio Busoni meticulously transcribes the famous organ works of Bach.He soon realises that he requires additional bass notes in order to do Bach’s masterpieces and the immersive sound of 16 to 32 feet bass pipes found in an organ justice. Ludwig Bösendorfer is ready to take on the challenge and builds the first prototype having full 8 octaves in tonal range. Not only Busoni starts to appreciate the exceptional qualities of the – later coined – Imperial Concert Grand: Bartók, Debussy and Ravel compose further works to exploit the tremendous resonance of this very instrument. These oeuvres can only played and interpreted as they were meant to on this Concert Grand. Evoking an extraordinary sound – sonorous and rich in expression and resonance – the timbre of the Imperial Grand seems to be orchestral. The additional deeper bass notes resonate with every key you strike and the massive soundboard supports the projection of any frequency. Ludwig Bösendorfer’s Imperial still to this day represents the precious heritage of the Bösendorfer piano manufactory.

Exhilarated and charmed by the youthful spirit of the remarkably talented young musician

Born in September 2001 in Anykščiai, Lithuania, Milda Daunoraite began her piano studies at the age of six.Studying piano performance at the The Purcell School For Young Musicians, London, with Tessa Nicholson she now continues her studies with her on a full scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music .With the support of “SOS Talents – Fondation Michel Sogny pour les Enfants Talentueux” and Mstislav Rostropovich Foundation, 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, The Wigmore Hall in London, Musikhuset Aarhus in Denmark, United Nations headquarters in Geneva amongst others. In addition, she was given the opportunity to appear in countries such as France, Austria, Georgia, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Latvia, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom and many cities across Lithuania. Furthermore, Milda is a prize-winner of numerous national and international piano competitions.In 2010, she was adjudicated a Grand Prix winner in the 10th International Competition “Music Without Limits”, Lithuania. In 2014, Milda won Grand Prix in the International Musicians Competition – festival “Renaissance”. In 2015, she won 1st prize in the 4th International Competition in Stockholm and the International Young Pianists Competition in Klaipėda, Lithuania. That year, Milda‘s playing impressed the jury once again and she received grand prix in the 15th International Competition “Music Without Limits”, Lithuania. Moreover, Milda was a four-time Prize winner in the National and International Balys Dvarionas Competitions for young pianists and violinists, followed by several special prizes: the best performance of a baroque piece, best performance of a classical composition, best performance of a contemporary piece, artistic prize. In 2016, she won the jury prize in the PIANALE International Academy & Competition and was awarded a concert in Fulda, Germany, and an opportunity to play with an orchestra. In 2017, Milda was a 1st prize winner in the 17th international competition-festival “Akordy Khorticy”, as a soloist and as soloist with orchestra.In March 2018, she won the 1st Prize in the International Vladimir Krainev Young Pianist Competition in Kharkov, Ukraine, as well as special prizes: the best performance of a classical period composition, best performance of a piece by F. Liszt, best performance of a virtuoso piece, EMCY Prize. In April 2018 she also won the Grand Prix at “Akordy Khorticy”. At the end of the 2019 academic year, Milda won the 1st prize in the Solo Competition at the Purcell School and as a prize she is going to perform Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major in the Queen Elizabeth Hall in March, 2020.Every year, Milda has an opportunity to appear in a Christmas concert held on the Champs Elysées in Paris. The young pianist’s performances were broadcast by Mezzo, TV5 Monde and Radio Classique. She has also performed in the Batumi concert hall twice, which was watched by both the Lithuanian and Georgian Presidents and at the EMMA World Summit of Nobel Prize Peace Laureates in Warsaw, Poland.Milda was invited to perform V. Bacevičius Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.4, in the Lithuanian National Philharmonic with Lithuanian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, together with conductor Martynas Stakionis, which was broadcasted by Euroradio, in November 2018.Milda was previously a student of Justas Dvarionas and has participated in masterclasses with artists such as Olga Kern, Pascal Devoyon, Pietro De Maria, Yong Hi Moon, Grigory Gruzman, Fali Pavri, William Fong, Mūza Rubackytė, Uta Weyand, Petras Geniušas and many others.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/05/16/milda-daunoraite-at-st-marys-refreshing-simplicity-and-beauty-of-a-musician/


Click here to view now on YouTube.

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30th Anniversary Year
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Daniel Lebhardt ‘The Prince of Piano’ descends on St Mary’s

Tuesday 28 June 3.00 pm

The Prince of the piano descends on St Mary’s with a masterly display of playing of breathtaking scope and aristocratic intelligence.
I had heard Daniel play the Emperor concerto at the Barbican recently and had written an article of appreciation entitled :’Emperor for a night’:https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/12/29/daniel-lebhardt-emperor-for-the-night/



Beethoven: Sonata Op 54 in F
In Tempo d’un Menuetto – Allegretto

It is interesting to note what Sir Donald Tovey writes about this sonata :
…’the whole work is profoundly humorous, with a humour that lies with the composer rather than with the childlike character portrayed by the music. No biographical details are known as to whether Beethoven thought of any person or household divinity in connection with this sonata; but its material is childlike, or even dog-like, and those who best understand children and dogs have the best chance of enjoying an adequate reading of this music; laughing with, but not at its animal spirits; following in strenuous earnest its indefatigable pursuit of its game whether that be its own tail or something more remote and elusive; and worthily requiting the wistful affection that is shown so insistently in the first movement and even in one long backward glance during the perpetuum mobile of the finale.’


But today listening to such burning intensity and contrasting beauty I was reminded of Joan Chissell ‘s review of Artur Rubinstein in the 70’s …..’The Prince of pianists’ was the title and she went on to say that Mr Rubinstein had turned baubles into gems……..referring to ‘O prol do bebè’ suite by his friend Villa Lobos.
I cannot say that Daniel did that because he played a programme of master works which he nurtured,caressed,savaged and seduced in a programme where Beethoven’s much neglected op 54 Sonata was played ‘quasi una fantasia’ that I had not been aware of until today as maybe even Beethoven had not realised with what fantasy he had imbued this two movement sonata.
But there we were today with a sonata of such fantasy and kaleidoscopic sense of colour and chameleonic sense of character that it took Daniel today to reveal it’s true character .
The capricious opening motif that erupts all through a movement that is rudely interrupted by Beethovens irascible temperament was followed by a perpetuum mobile ‘Allegretto’ that Daniel ignited with a rhythmic energy that was breathtaking .


It was by no means the poor bed fellow of the ‘Appassionata’which also received a performance where Beethoven’s markings had been remarkably reproduced but above all the temperament behind the notes had been hypnotically characterised with a rhythmic intensity that I have only heard the like from Serkin.
I had bumped into Daniel after the recital of Giordano Buondonno in Perivale ……https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/06/20/giordano-buondonno-crystalline-clarity-and-mastery-at-st-marys/. He had come to try the piano a week before his concert.In fact as Curzon famously said a great pianist is 90 % work and 10% talent.
That 10% is God given and God has been very generous to Daniel as he was with Curzon.


Schumann: Toccata in C Op 7

completed in 1830 and revised in 1833.
The work was originally titled Etude fantastique en double-sons (Fantastic Study in Double Notes), and was infamously referred to by Schumann as the “hardest piece ever written”—to this day it remains as “one of the most ferociously difficult pieces in the piano repertoire”.
The development features rapidly repeated unison octaves and knotty counterpoints at breakneck speed.
Schumann dedicated the work to his friend Ludwig Schuncke who had dedicated his Grande Sonata in G minor, Op. 3, to Schumann. It is partially based on the Czerny Toccata in C op 92,which Clara Schumann spent much of her youth practicing.


A quite extraordinary performance of Schumann’s Toccata in which his sense of legato was more astonishing than his transcendental control of the obstacles that Schumann throws into the path of pianists who dare attempt the technical hurdles that abound in this early work.Suddenly one was aware of the wonderful romantic harmonies and overall architectural shape before even contemplating the technical mastery that could allow this to happen.


Beethoven: Sonata in F minor Op 57 ‘Appassionata’
Allegro assai / Andante con moto / Allegro ma non troppo

Composed during 1804 and 1805, and perhaps 1806 was dedicated to Count Franz von Brunswick. The first edition was published in February 1807 in Vienna
Unlike the early Sonata op 13 Pathétique the Appassionata was not named during the composer’s lifetime, but was so labelled in 1838 by the publisher of a four-hand arrangement of the work. Instead, Beethoven’s autograph manuscript of the sonata has “La Passionata” written on the cover, in Beethoven’s hand.
One of his greatest and most technically challenging sonatas the Appassionata was considered by Beethoven to be his most tempestuous piano sonata until the Hammerklavier op 106.1803 was the year Beethoven came to grips with the irreversibility of his progressively deteriorating hearing.


The ‘Appassionata’in which Beethovens indications were scrupulously observed.Even the seemingly awkward arpeggios were played with the struggle that Beethoven intended and not simplified into a pianistic juggling act !
Extraordinary to watch Daniel’s cat like movements ready to pounce with his body in continual almost imperceptible motion depending on which way the music was to unfold.It was the same cat like movements of Peter Frankl with the Kelemen Quartet playing in the Liszt Academy in Budapest last winter.One was aware of music making of the ‘old school’ the one that listens to every sound and is ready to respond in a musical conversation that is a continual voyage of discovery. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/11/27/peter-the-great-peter-frankl-with-the-kelemen-quartet-in-budapest/
Daniel is a graduate of the Liszt Academy so could it be that the genial tentacles of Liszt are still very much in the air?


Schubert: Drei Klavierstucke D 946
(1 in E flat minor, 2 in E flat major, 3 in C major)

In the last years of his life, Schubert increasingly succeeded in finding publishers for his works. His Impromptus and Moments musicaux, for example, appeared in print in 1827 and 1828. Probably to pick up on the success of these editions, he wrote three further pieces in May 1828; though no less outstanding than their predecessors, they were not printed until Brahms’edition of 1868, which is perhaps one reason – a completely unjustifiable one –why they are still not very well known today.
Schubert did not live to see the publication of his three impromptus composed in May 1828. They were not printed until 40 years later (!), and it was no less a person than Johannes Brahms who edited these piano pieces beloved by pianists and audiences down to the present day.
There is a problem in the first piece in e-flat minor.This concerns the ‘C part’ of the rondo-like piece, A – B – A – C – A. Only a few are aware of the fact or take it seriously that in his autograph Schubert unmistakeably crossed out this ‘C part’, thus cancelling it:We can indeed speculate as to the reasons for this autograph deletion: Was it on formal grounds? Hardly likely, because just such a rondo form is known through many other Schubert pieces. Did Schubert perhaps feel the piece was too long, which is why he crossed out around at least 165 measures (not counting the repeats)? That could have been a reason since both of the other piano pieces of D 946 are only about half as long. Or, did he possibly consider that on musical grounds it was compositionally too slight?
But the problem is that Johannes Brahms, editor of the first edition, reversed Schubert’s cancellation and had all the notes reprinted. He, who of all people was so scrupulous, who knew the struggle of a composer for the optimal solution, he ignored Schubert’s express wishes .Brahms identified the original deletion by adding a footnote:


A very long programme that Schnabel would have boasted that the difference between his programmes and those of his colleagues was that his were a hundred per cent boring.
So after Beethoven op 54 and 57 a Schumann Toccata as light relief we were rewarded with Schubert’s Drei Klavierstucke played with a sense of style and subtle beauty that rather than being an over zealous intellectual enterprise was a ray of wonder where such beauty could quite happily have lasted even longer.

S.Felice Circeo where the God given waves of the sea are stronger than the Man made waves in the air!


Now as I am struggling with internet in the depths of the Italian countryside I am happy to add my first impressions having been able to listen to the recital in sporadic moments where the air waves had taken second place to the the glorious waves of the Mediterranean.

On the crest of a wave indeed ………that of St Mary’s Perivale with Dr Hugh Mather our genial host in the Mecca that he and his colleagues have created for young musicians in West London


I had a feeling that even Daniel had enjoyed the experience of sharing these masterworks with such a discerning audience and that he would gladly have added a minute or two more to it.
Dr Mather being our genial host but also referee had realised that we had gone into overtime .. ………..and so a return match is inevitable and awaited with great joy.

In 2014 Daniel Lebhardt won 1st Prize at the Young Concert Artists International auditions in Paris and New York. A year later he was invited to record music by Bartók for Decca and in 2016 won the “Geoffrey Tozer Most Promising Pianist” prize at the Sydney International Competition. In 2018 he has been signed for commercial management by Askonas Holt. March 2020 saw Daniel make his debut with The Hallé, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5 – a work he has also performed at the Barbican, London and Symphony Hall, Birmingham. The last two concert seasons have also witnessed recital debuts in Dublin and Kiev, and at the Lucerne International, Tallinn International and Miami International Piano festivals. He has received reinvitations to Wigmore Hall, London, the Auditorium du Louvre, Paris and Merkin Concert Hall in New York (‘He brought narrative sweep and youthful abandon to [Liszt’s B minor Sonata], along with power, poetry and formidable technique’ – The New York Times). Other recent highlights include a return to Paris for a recital at L’Église Saint-Germain-des-Près, as part of the festival ‘Un week-end à l’Est’; an appearance as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 21 at the Royal Festival Hall, London; and tours in China, South America and the USA. Born in Hungary, Daniel studied at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest with István Gulyás and Gyöngyi Keveházi, then with Pascal Nemirovski at the Royal Academy of Music and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He was a prizewinner at the Young Classical Artists Trust auditions in 2015 and currently lives in Birmingham.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/07/20/daniel-lebhardt-the-simple-grandeur-of-j-s-bach-at-st-marys/

Giordano Buondonno crystalline clarity and mastery at St Marys

Thursday 23 June 3.00 pm


Giordano Buondonno (piano)

https://youtube.com/watch?v=GrlBfNmzL_k&feature=share

Having heard recently this young Italian pianist in the Solti studio I was very glad to be able to listen again not only to the Ravel and Scriabin but to hear also two works by Chopin in place of the previous Brahms Ballades op 10.These works of Chopin,Brahms and Ravel were all works that were immortalised by the legendary fellow Italian:Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.

Solti Studio …Fabbrini Steinway that once belonged to Michelangeli

In the Solti studio he had the privilege to play on the Fabbrini Steinway ‘D’ piano that had once belonged to the Italian master.Wherever Michelangeli played there would be Angelo Fabbrini to insure that the piano had been fine tuned and in perfect running order like the racing cars that he also liked to fine tune himself and to drive as fast as possible.There was such a close relationship between Fabbrini and the Maestro that Michelangeli became the Godfather to his children.Often I would queue up a month in advance in London for tickets to hear the great masters like Rubinstein,Richter or Michelangeli .Michelangeli would regularly cancel at the last minute if he thought the conditions were not right for the piano and he could not produce the sounds that were ingrained in his being.Nothing less than pianistic perfection was possible!I never got to hear Michelangeli in London but I did hear him once in the Vatican City in Rome.The videos of his performances have become classics and his first recording of the Bach Chaconne has remained with me ever since .Watching and listening to Giordano again especially in this repertoire reminded me so much of the crystalline clarity and chiselled precision of Michelangeli.A pianist that listens to himself with such scientific care is indeed a very special artist.Giordano hardly moving but watching like a hawk about to pounce as his long fingers etched out the sounds with such crystalline clarity.One could see him pointing to the keys before striking the note,with his head down in total concentration on the sounds he wanted those fingers to make as they landed full centre on the note.I have written recently about his Scriabin and Ravel that he also played today on this fine Yamaha piano,playing with the same precision and clarity that he had on Michelangeli’s own Steinway.’Ondine’ was even more memorable today than it had been in the Solti Studio.His remarkable sense of balance allowed the water nymph to flit in and out of the flowing waters without ever for a second being overwhelmed by the enormous amount of notes that Ravel adds to his score.The desolation of Le Gibet was even more terrifying for its austere clarity and absolute control of sound.Scarbo was played with transcendental control and sense of drive in a work that Ravel wrote of such extraordinary difficulty putting to the test any pianist who could dare play it after Balakirev’s Islamey.There were no such problems for Giordano who etched out with clarity and precision the antics of the diabolical Scarbo.Scriabin too he played with ravishing colours and sense of balance.The end of the first movement suddenly becoming alive as the romantic outpourings of the second movement swept across the keyboard.

Hands on performance of Fazil Say

His encore of ‘Black Earth’ by Fazil Say had Dr Mather a little alarmed as he saw Giordano placing his hands inside the piano to mute the strings to make a drum like effect.(I remember being asked by Stockhausen if he could use my Steinway instead of the rather inferior piano that had been brought in especially for a performance of his 12 Klavierstucke …….How could I say no ? I did specify though that it should only be used by two hands and two feet in the traditional manner).However there was no need to worry about the sounds that Giordano manage to evoke from the piano.They were as unexpected as they were extraordinary,playing with the same precision and seriousness that had been a hallmark of the entire recital

There was absolute precision with Giordano’s long pointed fingers etching out sounds of such subtle clarity.A sense of balance where the left hand was a mere murmur (not sure sharing the opening with two hands was quite what Chopin intended).Playing of great beauty and clarity.If the orchestral tutti was kept to a minimum it just opened the gate to Giordano’s superb jeux perlé of such beguiling shape and aristocratic grandeur.Scintillating notes of silver just glistened as they spun their magic web around the Polonaise with such brilliance as Chopin himself might have done in the Parisian salons that announced his arrival as a musical genius to rival even Liszt.
A beautiful flowing tempo that allowed the melodic line to be played with such flexibility.There was clarity but bathed in velvet with a mysterious cloud of sound towards the end out of which emerged the melodic line creating an atmosphere of pure magic.Golden fingers but also a heart of gold!

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/05/18/giordano-buondonno-at-the-solti-studio-masterly-performances-of-searing-intensity/

Italian pianist Giordano Buondonno graduated from the Giacomo Puccini Conservatoire with Honours, receiving the highest mark in his class, and completed his MMus with Distinction in 2021 at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London.. He is studying for an Artist Diploma under the guidance of Sergio De Simone and Deniz Gelenbe. Giordano is a proud recipient of The Leverhulme Arts Scholarship, the Jaqueline Williams Scholarship and the Arthur Haynes Scholarship for his studies at Trinity Laban. At the age of 19, he won first prize at the Clara Schumann Competition and performed for the Piano City Festival in Milan. He also came first in the PianoLink Concerto Competition, playing Chopin’s First Piano Concerto with the PianoLink Philarmonic Orchestra in Milan. Giordano’s performance highlights include a recital at Steinway Hall London, King’s Place Hall, and a recital at Henley Park Manor in Surrey, for His Serene Highness Prince Donatus von Hohenzollern; representing Trinity Laban as a finalist at the 2019 Beethoven Society Intercollegiate Piano Competition; the Sheepdrove Intercollegiate Piano Competition, the Young Artist concert series organised by Roma Tre Orchestra, South Hill Park Arts Centre in the International Conservatoire series, Paganiniano Festival in Italy, the Old Royal Naval College, St. Alfege Church and St. James’s Piccadilly in London.

John Humphreys – Allan Schiller 50th Anniversary concert at St Mary’s – the humility and simplicity of master musicians:‘notre amitié est invariable’

Sunday 19 June 3.00 pm

https://youtube.com/watch?v=5NGxh1I3nN4&feature=share

Some masterly playing from two musicians with celebrated careers that now in their Indian summer have chosen to share together with us their inestimable experience and profound understanding of music.Playing as one where their musical minds and intelligence combined in an exhilarating afternoon of music making at its purist and most enjoyable.No mean feat as Dr Mather pointed out after an hour listening to music making of rare humility,modesty but above all ‘joie de vivre.’As Schubert titles one of his rondos :”Nostre amitié est invariable”.There was the absolute clarity of J.C Bach where Allan Shiller’s ornaments glistened like jewels.Charm and beauty were the hallmark of Schubert’s Andante varié D 823 n.2 – the second of three pieces that make up the ‘Divertissement sur des motifs originaux francais’ – which John Humphrey’s puts on the same level as his celebrated Fantasy in F minor.Playing of great sensitivity where John’s care of balance and superb use of pedal allowed Schubert’s mellifluous outpouring to sing out unimpeded by any hard or ugly sounds.In fact music just poured from their four hands and two feet!There was grandeur in the Mozart with perfect synchronisation between the four hands – after 50 years it is the least one could expect! But there was much much more besides!As Dr Mather said at the end we look forward to celebrating the next fifty!Hugh who had heard Allan when they were both children over sixty five years ago!Allan of course was one of the many child prodigy’s that came under the spell of the indomitable Dame Fanny Waterman.

Dame Fanny in her 80’s helping young musicians to excel https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/12/02/dame-fanny-waterman-a-tribute-by-master-pianist-and-pupil-benjamin-frith/

I had not realised that Allan had gone on to study with Guido Agosti in Italy which goes a long way to explain his intelligent musical pedigree.I used to play four hands with Agosti for eight hours a day whilst our wives spent a peaceful day on the beach!Agosti was never happy away from the piano.We would prepare a concert for them in the evening after supper.

Guido Agosti with our wives Lydia Agosti (left) Ileana Ghione (right)

It was the same spirit of friendship and relaxed music making that made today so poignant and special.The Ravel Mother Goose can she ever have sounded so contented and ready to share all her ravishing secrets with us.

A superb ensemble of transcendental control from both players and glissandi at the end that were like a silver lining to the almost religious chorale of peace and Elgarian importance of Ravel’s Jardin Féerique.Three Slavonic dances by Dvorak were played with rhythmic intensity and beguiling gypsy freedom.The simplicity and beauty they brought to the four Ländler by Schubert played as an encore just summed up the elegance and humility of the Hausmusik that we had been allowed to eavesdrop on all afternoon .

Allan Schiller and John Humphreys have been playing as a piano duo since 1972 and in 2022 will be celebrating their 50th anniversary with appearances throughout the UK, ending with a recital at Wigmore Hall on Saturday 25th June .They have recorded Busoni and Schubert for Naxos and on 26th January 2006 were invited by Wigmore Hall to present a recital on the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. In addition to BBC Radio 3 broadcasts they have played throughout the UK and more recently have played in Iceland.

Allan Schiller is widely regarded as one of the UK’s finest pianists. Born in Leeds he studied initially with Fanny Waterman making his debut at the age of ten with the Halle Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli. He later studied with Denis Matthews and became the first British pianist to be awarded a scholarship to study at the Moscow Conservatoire. After further study under Guido Agosti in Italy he returned to this country and rapidly established a reputation as one of the most exciting pianists of his generation with solo appearances throughout the country and concerto performances with all the major UK orchestras and the BBC Symphony Orchestras. He has made countless broadcasts for BBC Radio 3 and recorded a number of highly regarded cds. 

John Humphreys was born in Liverpool and studied with Henryk Mierowski and later with Harold Rubens at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1967 he was awarded one of four scholarships by the Austrian Government to study in Vienna and on his return to this country made his Wigmore Hall debut in 1972 with Busoni’s rarely heard ‘Fantasia Contrappuntistica’. Since then he has appeared throughout the country as soloist, accompanist and chamber musician. In 1975 he performed the cycle of Mozart piano sonatas in London and elsewhere and has given many performances of Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’. John was Assistant Head of Keyboard Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire until 2009. He is also Chairman and Artistic Advisor to the Dudley International Piano Competition. In 1998 he was awarded the ARAM for ‘his distinguished contribution to music’.

George Fu his joy and exhilaration saves the day and uplifts our spirits

Fantastic George Fu coming to the rescue at 48 hours notice .
A lesson in beauty and seduction and a charmer on and off the stage where his love for music is irrepressible as it is irresistible.
Harvard ,Curtis and Royal Academy have given him much but the spirit and joy of sharing music is his birthright.Beguiling,sensuous and intelligence added to a transcendental command of the instrument combine in an unforgettable musical experience of joy and exhilaration.


What better way to celebrate the platinum Jubilee of our much loved Queen.
We send all best wishes to Thomas Kelly who had to cancel all his engagements due to what we hope is only a temporary indisposition

Co artistic director Ian Maclay introducing the concert and explaining the change of programme and artist.
Thomas Kelly rapidly making a name with his success at the Leeds and Hastings competitions recently found himself ill in bed having prepared a programme that was to have included transcriptions or revisitations of Brigg Fair and Peter Grimes Having to cancel his final masters recital too at the RCM.
https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/04/18/thomas-kelly-takes-florence-by-storm-music-al-british/
George Fu at less that 48 hours notice was able to step in today even finding time to prepare the very interesting notes for his unexpected programme.
George Fu’s own programme notes that he wrote especially for this last minute concert
George Fu with co artistic director Jenny Robinson
St Giles Cripplegate Old and New at the Barbican Centre
George in rehearsal with his wonderfully fluid natural movements of continuous motion with the fingers making contact like floating in water.Exactly the natural position that Chopin had discovered for himself with the advent of the piano where touch and sensitivity were crucial in disguising the percussive nature of a box of hammers and strings.Chopin with the sound of bel canto in his ears could search for a way to extract the sounds from the instrument that could mirror the sounds in his ear creating compositions and technical innovations .Exactly in the same way that Casals was to do with the performance of Bach on the cello or Segovia on the guitar a century later.
The six partitas for keyboard form the last set of suites that Bach composed, and are the most technically demanding of the three. They were composed between 1725 and 1730 or 1731. As with the French and English Suites, the autograph manuscript of the Partitas is no longer extant.The first Partita is the most luminous for it’s agility,lightness and nobility.
It was fascinating to watch George in rehearsal as though he were conducting the music with the continuous sense of circular movement of his arms with his hands and fingers just caressing the keys as they made contact on their natural onward journey.
Experimenting too with possible ornamentation that he might use in performance on a voyage of discovery where the response of the piano and even the vibrations from the audience would lead him in an ever new direction.Even transposing one phrase up an octave as one might change manual on the harpsichord.
George said that he had been listening to the monumental performances of Rosalyn Tureck and he was surprised to know that I had been not only a great friend but also one of the trustees of her Oxford Bach Research Institute.I pointed out that Rosalyn was not one to imitate the harpsichord on the piano and so would never have tried to transpose up an octave .She gave an unforgettable recital in London in 1972 when she played the Goldberg Variations twice – once on the harpsichord and once on the piano – both without the score and both completely different!
I rather liked his transposition up an octave at the end of the Gavotte I – but the vibes were not right today or super intelligent George had been chewing over our discussion in the green room! It was the beauty and luminosity of sound that illuminated all that George did but nowhere more than in the Praeludium of the Partita with the crisp beauty of the trill passing from the right hand to the left without any hesitation or doubt, like the greatest of singers and all within the gentle pastoral flow of simple beauty.There was such fluidity in the Allemande played with absolute purity and clarity of sound with beguiling ornamentation in the repeat with very subtle colouring of ravishing simplicity.Gentle is the word in this Partita where any aggression or disturbances are alien to its very pastoral nature.There was the beautiful non legato of the Corrente with its gradual build up in volume leading to the whispered opening of the repeat with its simple scintillating ornamentation.The noble beauty of the Sarabande was allowed to grow out of the Corrente with magic effect and the improvised freedom of the deep bass line was of operatic weight over the subtle trill of the right hand.The Gavotte entered with grace and elegance and the Gavotte II was imbued with subtle phrasing and articulation .The gentle glissando of notes back into the Gavotte 1 was intoxicating in its subtle charm.The Giga was played with solidity but also a clear hypnotically enticing melodic line with a majestic final fearless flourish.
An opening to a recital that indeed was like the vision of the fresh air and vivid greenery of an English Country Garden or Rhapsody.
Rosalyn Tureck’s own programme notes for the Goldberg Variations.
Chopin based his mazurkas on the traditional Polish folk dance also called the mazurka (or “mazur” in Polish). However, while he used the traditional mazurka as his model, he was able to transform his mazurkas into an entirely new genre.
George chose four contrasting Mazukas from the published 58 that were written from the age of 15 up to his untimely death at only 39.
Op 7 n.1 was played with exhilarating rhythmic energy so typical of the folk dance but with a sense of style and mystery in the ‘sotto voce’ middle episode before exploding into dance again.
Op.30 n.4 showed us the intensely expressive character playing with feeling and temperament but also ravishing beauty.There was great contrast between the song and the dance with the final breathtaking beauty of the intensely felt downward scale and the final ‘blue’ note of E.
Bursting into bucolic dance with op 56 n,2 played with infectious rhythmic verve and a final haze of sounds as though from afar.
Op.50 n.3 where nostalgia and beauty unite to create a hypnotic effect ending in a dream world suddenly awoken with the final stamp of the feet.
What a marvellous world George showed us today as he took us on the journey of Chopin’s life passed a long way from his homeland but where his heart was in the end to be forever rested.
https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwj0v-ueu7T4AhVeQkEAHdEFDyMQFnoECAkQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thefirstnews.com%2Farticle%2Fhome-is-where-the-heart-lies-the-amazing-story-of-chopins-heart-10636&usg=AOvVaw12ievY6_oE_KLHvU2tPrK4
It was fascinating to see how this journey to the intimate world of Chopin could be created by a contemporary American composer Caroline Shaw.Creating the atmosphere of a faded vintage photograph of one of Chopin’s best loved Mazurkas,that in A minor op 17 n.4.
Gentle whispered sounds reaching at some point fever pitch all based on the left hand chords of the original Mazurka.Eventually the original being exposed as if seen from afar gradually getting more and more in focus with almost unbearable intensity.It was a similar effect that Artur Rubinstein would seek in his all Chopin recitals where he would add four Mazurkas op 50 by his friend Szymanowski, dedicated to him,that would cleanse the taste buds like a sorbet during a sumptuous meal.
The fourth Ballade of Chopin is one of the pinnacles of the pianistic repertoire and it was this that George chose to finish his recital with.
A true voyage of discovery played with ravishing beauty and simplicity but also passion and transcendental technical command.
It was a real voyage of discovery from the mysterious opening to the seeming simplicity of the theme.It had though such intensity sown into each note lovingly caressed by George’s unrelenting and irrepressible sensitivity.The subtle counterpoints of the first variations leading to a climax of passionate intensity.Dissolving into the beauty of the second subject that was played with such complete understanding.A series of unwinding modulations led to the return of the opening whispered statement ‘avec un sentiment de regret’.
Knotty twine of counterpoints appear out of a magical cascade of notes.With the theme being entwined before it’s liberation into swirls of embellishments that lead to the final passionate climax.Explosion of chords played with extraordinary technical prowess were answered by five exquisitely whispered chords before the exhilaration and explosion of the coda.A remarkable performance played with passion,sensitivity and intelligence never rhetorical or sentimental.
A tour de force indeed but then as George would say ‘here we go’.
The ‘Valse de l’adieu’ by Chopin was indeed George’s farewell to us today.But what fun he had with the ravishing embellishments and subtle rubatos all thrown off with the ease of the master that we only too readily realised we had before us so unexpectedly today.
We wish all best wishes to George and Leda who have announced their marriage next month …..not sure who is the luckiest.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/01/01/george-x-fu-ravishing-the-senses-as-a-young-eagle-descends-on-st-marys/

The Keyboard Trust celebrating it’s 30 anniversary is happy to be associated with the Summer Music in City Churches with the second collaboration in the beauty of St Giles Cripplegate

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2019/06/26/words-and-music-nicola-losito-poetry-and-virtuosity/

Wai Yuen Wong soaring high at St Mary’s

Thursday 16 June 3.00 pm

https://youtube.com/watch?v=IbZX26yvyGw&feature=share

Some beautiful musicianly playing of great intelligence with a near scrupulous attention to the composers intentions.A programme of two master works from the Romantic piano repertoire.It was though in the Scriabin Waltz op 38 played as an encore that she suddenly found the improvised freedom that had been lacking in her exemplary but over respectful performances.In her beautiful playing of Schumann and Chopin she had been searching for a deeper meaning and expression but sometimes loosing sight of the overall architectural shape.Trees of ravishing beauty where the confines were not clearly enough defined.

Eleonor Wong and Norma Fisher are two teachers of enormous musical stature.Eleonor was a highly respected student in her final year at the Royal Academy under Frederick (Freddie) Jackson,a much respected musician who died conducting the Verdi Requiem in the RAM Dukes Hall.I was in my first year and was very much in awe of her and her sister Linda.Eleonor would often ask me if she could play through her programmes that she was preparing for competitions.I was always so overcome by her musical and pianistic perfection in performances of Schumann Kinderscenen,Mozart C minor Sonata or Beethoven op 110 that I like to think that my unbounded enthusiasm evidently gave her the courage to go on and win many important International competitions .Her teacher had recently awarded me the Liszt Scholarship and it was my teacher Sidney Harrison who took me to the Wigmore Hall to hear his star student Norma Fisher giving a recital in the prestigious London Piano Series.I felt almost as proud as he did as he presented me to her as the new Liszt Scholar after a wonderful recital.I still remember to this day her performances of Brahms Handel Variations ,Chopin Berceuse and Debussy studies. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/05/12/norma-fisher-at-steinway-hall-the-bbc-recordings-on-wings-of-song-the-story-continues/

So it is a small world where now half a century later I listen to a pupil of both Eleonor and Norma.Gordon Green,my second teacher at the RAM would cheekily say two Wongs do not necessarily make a right!An innocent remark from one of the most loved and respected teachers of his day.In this case dear Gordon they do!There was great beauty in Wae Yuen’s playing with never an ugly or ungrateful sound.If she loved the music too much is that really a bad thing?Scriabin liberated her of all her inhibitions and left her free as a bird to soar to the heights where her superb technique and musicianship can really take her.

Davidsbündlertänze (Dances of the League of David),op.6 is a group of eighteen pieces composed in 1837 by Schumann who named them after his music society Davidsbundler.The low opus number is misleading: as it was written after Carnaval op.9 and the Symphonic Studies op 13 .His early piano works were influenced by his relationship with Clara Wieck as he wrote to his former professor: “She was practically my sole motivation for writing the Davidsbündlertänze, the Concerto, the Sonata and the Novellettes.” They are an expression of his passionate love, anxieties, longings, visions, dreams and fantasies.The theme of the Davidsbündlertänze is based on a mazurka by Clara Wieck and these intimate character pieces are his most personal work. In 1838, Schumann told Clara that the Dances contained “many wedding thoughts” and that “the story is an entire Polterabend – a German wedding eve party, during which old crockery is smashed to bring good luck”.18 characteristic pieces or musical discussions about contemporary music between Schumann’s characters Florestan and Eusebius. These represent the impetuous and the lyrical, poetic sides of Schumann’s nature. Each piece is ascribed to one or both of them. Their names follow the first piece and the appropriate initial or initials follow each of the others except the sixteenth (which leads directly into the seventeenth) and the ninth and eighteenth, which are respectively preceded by the following remarks: “Here Florestan made an end, and his lips quivered painfully”, and “Quite superfluously Eusebius remarked as follows: but all the time great bliss spoke from his eyes.”The suite ends with the striking of twelve low C’s to signify the coming of midnight.The first edition is preceded by the following epigraph: In each and every age
joy and sorrow are mingled:
Remain pious in joy,
and be ready for sorrow with courage.

A beautifully shaped capricious opening with such subtle colours but sometimes slowing down too much and loosing the essential impish impetus of this first piece that is ascribed to both Florestan and Eusebius.A beautiful sense of balance and sensitivity -inning- in the second piece but slowing down a little too much at the end.She brought lightness and wit to the third with a beautiful sweeping coda of fleeting colours and great passion to the fourth.The fifth ascribed to Eusebius with delicate phrasing that she played with loving care!There was great agility and sense of forward propulsion in the sixth contrasting with the beauty of the seventh where the middle section was allowed to flow so naturally.Florestan was now in charge with the scintillating ‘Frisch’ of the eighth or the passionate duet of the ninth and the almost Brahmsian fullness of the tenth.The ‘wild und lustig’ of the thirteenth was lacking in pedal and although a good contrast with the beautiful mellifluous central episode it somehow did not seem to link up as a whole.The coda was played with fleeting sounds disappearing to a whisper of jeux perlé swirls of notes.The fourteenth is the very heart of Schumann -zart und singend – and was played with ravishing tone even if the accompaniment and melody seemed to be heading for a collision at one point.The ‘Frisch’ of the fifteenth I found a bit too heavy at the opening but then she allowed herself such freedom that the middle section soared into the heights of sublime romantic sounds.The sixteenth is a preparation for the sumptuous beauty of the seventeenth and could have had a little more forward movement as it leads to the magical F sharp which opens up Schumann’s dream world of fantasy where Florestan and Eusebius are at last united.The final nostalgic waltz was played with a wonderful sense of phrasing that just added such poignancy to the twelve remarkable chimes of C and the gradual disappearance into the distance of one of Schumann’s most miraculous creations.

Chopin Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor,op .58, is the last of his piano sonatas and was completed in 1844, only five years before his death,and is the only one to finish in a major key.

The opening of the B minor Sonata
Chopin’s very precise indications in the autograph manuscript
The first movement of the B minor Sonata was played with great forward movement that gave such nobility and strength with a sense of architectural sweep where her occasional caressing of beautiful corners was even the more poignant and ravishing.There could have been a little more care of Chopin’s own pedal markings in the ‘leggiero’ passage that would have sounded more melodic and less quixotic and of the final chords three are marked forte and the final two fortissimo.But it was a remarkably fine performance where the second subject was allowed to soar on high with such freedom and emotional strength .The scherzo was played with admirable clarity and agility but given such shape too.If she tended to dwell too much in the long central section the gentle return of the scherzo was masterly.Like the very fine musician she is understanding instinctively that the final fortissimo of the scherzo leads immediately into the opening aristocratic fanfare of the Largo.Beautifully played and managing to keep the tempo moving it might be useful now to look at Chopin’s own pedal indications that could inspire her to even greater flights of fantasy.The Finale was played with exemplary precision and control not allowing the opening agitato indication to lead her astray too soon.Great excitement,passion and technical prowess were the extraordinary ingredients that brought this very fine performance to a remarkable end .
The autograph showing Chopin’s very precise pedal indications

Born in Hong Kong, Wai Yuen Wong graduated from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Music department under Professor Eleanor Wong, Artist-in- residence. While followed Miss Juile Kuok at younger age. She is now studying the Master Degree of the Royal College of Music, under Professor Norma Fisher.She has won many overseas and local music competition prizes: Concerto trial prize with the the HKAPA orchestra, the 2nd prize at the International Piano Competition for Young Musicians, Enschede of the Netherlands. The 3rd Prize in the 1st Korea International Competition for Young Pianists, the First Prize and Professional Grand Prize at the 75th Steinway & Sons International Youth Piano Competition and was invited to perform at “The International Steinway Art Festival ” held in Hamburg, Germany. She was also awarded the First Prize at the 65th Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales, UK. In addition to holding recitals in Hamburg, Beijing and Xiamen, she also performed the “Magic Piano & The Chopin Shorts” and “Beyond Impressionism” at the 42nd and 46th Hong Kong Arts Festival respectively.She was awarded a Certificate of Commendation by the Hong Kong Government in recognition of her outstanding achievements in the promotion of international arts and culture activities.

Amit Yahav a a master musician at St Mary’s

Tuesday 14 June 3.00 pm

https://youtube.com/watch?v=g28DeViCJbo&feature=share

The Ballades, Op. 10, are dated 1854 and were dedicated by Brahms to his friend Julius Otto Grimm.Their composition coincided with the beginning of the composer’s lifelong affection for Clara Schumann who was helping Brahms launch his career.The four ballades are arranged in two pairs of two, the members of each pair being in parallel keys. The first ballade was inspired by a Scottish poem “Edward ” found in a collection Stimmen der Völker in ihren Liedern compiled by Johann Gottfried Herder. It’s open fifths, octaves, and simple triadic harmonies are supposed to evoke the sense of a mythological past.

  1. D minor. Andante
  2. D major. Andante
  3. B minor. Intermezzo. Allegro
  4. B major. Andante con moto

Brahms returned to the wordless ballade form in writing the third of the Six pieces op.118.His Op. 75 vocal duets titled “Ballads and Romances” include a setting of the poem “Edward”—the same that inspired Op. 10, No. 1.

Some beautiful playing of great weight and sumptuous orchestral sounds.
The ‘Edward’ Ballade opened almost too slowly and had me feeling that a Furtwangler not a Toscanini was needed to shape the phrases over the bar lines.But it was the musicianship that guided his hands and his scrupulous attention to detail that was so convincing.The contrast between the opening Andante and contrasting chorale type chords was even more startling when he arrived at the Allegro.Here there was his sumptuous full orchestral sound and real sense of colour where one could almost visualise the Brahms orchestra in the hands of the Philadelphia’s golden rich sounds.The second Ballade floated on a mellifluous cloud of luminous sounds that was quite magical.The contrast with the Allegro was like the entry of the brass section in Amit’s orchestral conception and the following lightweight acciaccaturas allowed the tenor melody to be heard so naturally like the ‘cellos with above staccato violins.The return of the Andante and coda were a mixture of magical sounds and subtle colouring.The contrast in the third ballade between the quixotic Allegro and the etherial sounds of the central episode was played with remarkable control of colour and legato leading to the ravishing last of the Ballades.Who could ever forget the atmosphere that Michelangeli or Kantorow could create here.Brahms marks it simply ‘ espressivo andante con moto’,but he does actually indicate the pedal too.Amit preferred the absolute orchestral clarity,understandably,as a contrast to the central ‘ più lento’.It did not allow the melodic line though to soar above the accompaniment with the flexibility and freedom that Brahms at his most intimate could imply.However this clarity was of great effect when the opening melodic line returns ‘dolce leggiero’ in a slightly varied more urgent form.It is as though Brahms is pushing the melodic line on to transcend the bar lines and soar above the accompaniment as he does in the B flat minor intermezzo.However all this had been careful thought out by this remarkable musician.It opened the way to the searing beauty of the final page where the beseeching tenor and bass implore the alto and soprano into submission before the final heartrending surrender. A very fine performance of a work that ,as Amit says,is not as often played as it merits.Maybe that is because it needs a musician like Amit to guide us through these seemingly orchestral sounds and to seek out the colours that only a true poet knows where they are hidden.

Chopin wrote his 24 Préludes op 28 between 1835 and 1839, partly at Valldemossa Mallorca where he spent the winter of 1838–39 and where he had fled with George Sand and her children to escape the damp Paris weather.In Majorca, Chopin had a copy of Bach’s 48 , and as in each of Bach’s two sets of preludes and fugues , his Op. 28 set comprises a complete cycle of the major and minor keys, albeit with a different ordering.The brevity and apparent lack of formal structure in the Op. 28 set caused some consternation among critics at the time of their publication.No prelude is longer than 90 bars (No. 17), and the shortest (No. 7) is ca. 45 sec. and No. 9 is a mere 12 bars (but 1m25s). Schumann said: “they are sketches, beginnings of études or, so to speak, ruins, individual eagle pinions, all disorder and wild confusions.”Liszt’s opinion, however, was more positive: “Chopin’s Preludes are compositions of an order entirely apart… they are poetic preludes, analogous to those of a great contemporary poet, who cradles the soul in golden dreams…”

A very solid musicianly account of Chopin’s masterpiece but as Liszt astutely says they are poetic preludes that cradle the soul in golden dreams.
Although admiring his scrupulous musicianship and lack of sentimentality I did feel that these preludes were earthbound rather than etherial.
The opening statement should be like an improvisation that takes us on a miraculous voyage of discovery.Perlemuter found it so hard to create this atmosphere in the studio that in his recording for Nimbus the engineers had left the tape running when the grand old man was just trying the piano prior to recording.It was exactly this spontaneous relaxed performance that was used for the recording having tried in vain to find the simplicity of that first play through!
Fou Ts’ong who described the 24 Preludes as 24 problems!How right he was!
Of course there were many remarkable things in this performance not least the control and technical assurance of the ‘Presto con fuoco’ in B flat minor.The A flat prelude that follows was played with passion and sense of colour with the great chime of A flat creating the final atmosphere of the whispered echo of the main theme as it looses its way.We were not made aware of the transcendental technical challenges of the eighteenth as the melodic line floated unimpeded on a continuous flow of triplets.The famous twentieth in C minor was played with great authority as it gradually died to a whisper with great tonal control only garnishing a little strength for the final noble chords.Only a few bars but it was enough to set the fantasy of both Rachmaninov and Busoni into inventing a series of variations.
The outpouring of octaves in the twenty second was played with passionate control and the mellifluous gentle flow of the twenty third was only spoilt by ignoring Chopin’s indication of dying away (smorzando) before the dramatic opening of the final prelude in D minor .This was played with absolute control where the melodic line had time to breathe instead of the usual passionate race to the end.I can understand his wanting to beat out the three last notes with his fist but they are really only three very resonant notes and not at all marked sforzando or martellato by the composer.The opening preludes suffered from too slow a tempo as they are marked in two not in four in a bar.This would have given the melodic line of the second and the fourth much more freedom to soar above the accompaniment instead of being tied to it.There was however great simplicity to the grace of the seventh and the passionate molto agitato of the eighth was played with a sense of shape and line with quite considerable technical control.The jeux perlé of the tenth was played with admirable ease and charm and contrasted so well with the driving rhythms of the unrelenting ‘Presto’ of the twelfth.The thirteenth suffered from an over important accompaniment instead of allowing the melodic line the freedom of a true bel canto singer but the fourteenth was a terrifying gust of wind that took us to the beauty of the ‘Raindrop’ prelude .
This was played as a true tone poem of great beauty and full of subtle contrasts.

In many ways these preludes received a remarkable performance that now needs to break free and be allowed to reach for the stars.

A scintillating performance of a Scarlatti Sonata in G major was Amit’s way of thanking an audience who had patiently awaited this recital for almost a year.
It had been postponed due to the passing away of his mother in South Africa and it was nice of Amit to share with us that these were two of her favourite works that he he dedicated today to her memory.
Manuscript of the ‘Raindrop’ prelude op 28 n.15
The final three notes of the preludes op 28

Multi-award-winning pianist Amit Yahav is much in demand as a recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist, having earned his reputation for interpretations that grip and move audiences with passion and intellectual insight. His interpretations of the music of Chopin and Schumann in particular have received high praise. In 2018, he earned a Doctor of Music degree from the Royal College of Music for his thesis investigating interpretation in the music of Chopin. Amongst Amit’s success are the Anthony Lindsay Piano Prize and the György Solti Award for Professional Development. Amit also won the 1st International Israeli Music Competition in London and consequently performed Israeli composer Zvi Avni’s On the Verge of Time in London’s Southbank Centre in the presence of the composer. In 2014, Amit attracted much positive attention with his CD “Amit Yahav Plays Chopin“, containing the four Ballades. This release followed Amit’s tour showcasing the four Ballades in an explained recital, which was also selected by the Royal College of Music as part of their Insight Series of soirees offered to their donors. Most recently, his newest disc featuring Romantic piano fantasies by Mendelssohn, Schumann and Chopin appeared on the GENUIN label.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2020/06/10/amit-yahav-live-at-st-marys/

Leslie Howard and Ludovico Troncanetti at St Mary’s A wondrous voyage of discovery

Sunday 12 June 3.00 pm

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=BrwQbxQDgKI&feature=share

A work for solo piano op 83 and four hands op 83a however rarely heard in either form in the concert hall.Roberto Prosseda a disciple of Fou Ts’ong who has carried the same crusade for Mendelssohn that Leslie has carried for Liszt and Rubinstein bringing many works of this much neglected composer from the archives to the concert platform.The weight that Leslie brought to the opening Andante was mirrored by his pupil as they proceeded to embellish this beautiful melody with ever more intricate variations of startling virtuosity.Missing the luminosity of the Rubinstein but had an exemplary clarity and rhythmic drive and was just another work that could be added to the ‘standard’ four hand repertoire.

Fascinating to hear master and ex pupil playing completely unknown works for piano duet by Mendelssohn ,Rubinstein and Liszt .
Leslie Howard and the Sienese pianist Ludovico Troncanetti are fresh from their two piano tour of Italy.

Fascinating to hear this work rarely if ever played in concert.Suddenly these two extraordinary musicians brought a luminosity and sense colour to the piano as they gave an impassioned account of quite considerable logistical virtuosity.A beautiful melodic opening and the grandiloquent final flourishes of the Moderato as the diabolical Scherzo entered with scintillating sparkling virtuosity with playing of astonishing agility.A Mendelssohnian final Andante seeming like an anticlimax until it suddenly came to life with the astonishing excitement of the final pages.It was played as one with an ensemble that was never allowed to wane even if the work on first listening seemed rather overlong.Of course Leslie would never agree to any shortening of the composers intentions but I could not help feeling that some judicious cuts would make it a more appetising bed fellow for the sublime but over exposed Schubert Fantasie in F minor.


If it was a bit of a tight squeeze in Perivale today on one piano but it was a small price to pay to hear a monumental work by Anton Rubinstein for the first time.
Rubinstein was the founder of the St Petersburg Conservatory whose younger brother Nikolai founded the Moscow Conservatory.He wrote 5 Piano Concertos,6 Symphonies,20 Operas and much else but all that we remember these days is his Melody in F and really not even that after the passing of Cherkassky!
Leslie Howard is a tireless promoter of the neglected works of Liszt ,Rubinstein and others.His 100 CD ‘s of the complete works of Liszt has entered the Guinness Book of records and his series of 10 Wigmore recitals of Liszt has gone down in legend.

Lydia and Guido Agosti with ‘Artur Rubinstein’ .Agosti a beacon of humility and integrity who brought great honour to Italy on the jury of the first ‘Rubinstein’ Competition in Tel Aviv.


No stopping the intellectual curiosity of a young Australian pianist who Guido Agosti,a disciple of Busoni- a pupil of Liszt,took under his wing in Siena sixty years ago!

Fascinating to hear these two short extracts from the first part of one of Liszt’s finest works.In piano duet form who am I to comment when played with the absolute authority of a master.


Two pieces from the first part of Liszt’s Oratorio Christus -written in Rome-were but candles shining brightly on a cake ready to be savoured and enjoyed after too many years in oblivion.

The piano duo Troncanetti-Howard was born in 2016 making its debut at the Teatro dei Rinnovati in Siena in October of the same year. It is formed by Leslie Howard, internationally acclaimed pianist, musicologist and composer, best known for being the only pianist to have recorded the complete solo piano works of Franz Liszt, a project which included more than 300 premiere recordings and more than 99 CDs, and Ludovico Troncanetti, italian international concert pianist and former pupil of Howard himself through whom he also met the music of Anton Rubinstein of whom he now makes himself the standard-bearer in the world .

They have performed in the most prestigious festivals and concert halls of Italy, Russia, Portugal, India etc offering a variety of programmes including some remarkably fine rarities as well as a rich selection from the great masters both four-handed and two pianos.

They gave the italian première of the gargantuan Fantasy for two pianos by Anton Rubinstein in 2018 and in April 2019 in India the world première of a marvellous set of concert variations for 2 pianos from an unpublished Liszt’s manuscript: Grandes Variations de concert sur un thème des Puritains, S654.

Mumbai India 2019
Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op 22 by Saint-Saens was composed in 1868 – the same time as this daguerreotype portrait. It was dedicated to Madame A. de Villers (née de Haber). At the première on 13 May the composer was the soloist and Anton Rubinstein (pictured here) conducted the orchestra.
Ludovico a disciple of Leslie Howard has taken on the crusade for the music of Anton Rubinstein having recorded two of the four Sonatas ……….Leslie,of course,has recorded all four
The visiting book of Siena Cathedral visited by Liszt, Wagner and Joukowsky in 1880 guests of the Sergardi Family in the Villa Fiorentina
Rubinstein’s third sonata .Sacriligious(!) music heard for the first time in the Cathedral of Ludovico’s home city Siena
Reform Club London on 10th June two days before Perivale

Sasha Grynyuk at Cranleigh Arts for Ukraine. https://www.withukraine.org/

The relief fund that Sasha refers to is the following https://www.withukraine.org/

https://youtube.com/watch?v=TYWIJbf-Dd4&feature=share

Sasha is not well known for his loquaciousness so it was surprising to see him take the microphone and talk to the public in Cranleigh and indirectly to the world via their excellent streaming .A public that had flocked to support the appeal for his fellow countrymen in the Ukraine who have suffered so unjustly from the zealous greed of a despot.

Stephen Dennison in an interval discussion with Sasha Grynyuk

Stephen Dennison and his colleagues at Cranleigh Arts were only too happy to be able show their support for one of their favourite musicians in his crusade for his homeland.

Music is the world that Sasha inhabits as all those that have followed his illustrious career know.Within that rather timid exterior there is an internal fire that ignites the moment he sits at the piano.Now his offence at the unjust occupation of his homeland and I expect encouraged by his recent marriage to Katya Gorbatiouk have opened a door where he feels that his music together with a few carefully placed words can help create funds to alleviate the physical suffering of the people in the Ukraine.Sasha was one of the first to dedicate himself to the Ukraine relief fund in a concert organised by his friends at the immensely welcoming home of Bob Boas and his wife.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/03/12/war-or-peace-the-help-ukraine-concert/

A concert that took even Sasha by surprise for the support that it had inspired.He has since dedicated his performances to the Ukraine Relief Fund via the Ukrainian Embassy where he explained every penny of the help offered was used to alleviate some of the immediate suffering.https://www.withukraine.org/

Little did we know,except for close friends,that Sasha’s parents had fled the bombs of Kiev putting whatever they could in their car as they sought refuge in Poland.Sasha flew to Cracow to meet them and drive them in a long and difficult journey to refuge in the UK.Many days passed without any news until we discovered that they had been given refuge in a community in the English countryside!It reminds me of a similar journey that Rosalyn Tureck undertook as she boarded the luxurious Queen Elisabeth II from Spain back to her home in New York.She knew her Indian Summer in Europe had come to an end after many years,as her cancer that had lain dormant suddenly sprang to life.She arrived back in New York on 9/11!There was no way of communicating with a city that had been so viciously raped by terrorists and we feared the worst for our beloved Rosalyn.Of course it would have taken more than a few terrorists to keep Rosalyn down and when at last communications were open we learnt that she had arrived in her final abode in Riverdale overlooking the Hudson where she was shortly able to join the sublime world of her adored J.S.B.Not necessarily the same thing but the war of terrorism and the siege of the Ukraine are they not acts of war – unjustifiable as all war must be!

It was interesting to hear that the opening work by Liszt had been dedicated to Anton Rubinstein and that the closing work by Balakirev had been dedicated to Nikolai Rubinstein,his younger brother .Scriabin in trying to master the monstrous difficulties of Islamey had been forced into a period of retirement from the concert platform.I well remember Sasha’s intelligent way of programming works into a unified whole.His Wigmore Hall recital too some years ago he opened and closed with a very atmospheric piece by Arvo Part that opened our ears and taste buds as it drew us in to a programme in which we could overhear works by Mozart and Gulda.

A very persuasive performance of one of Liszt’s unjustly neglected late works.I remember Vlado Perlemuter well into his eighties with this score on his music stand.Very expressive recitativi with delicate chordal interruptions always with the yearning or leaning of the duplets.There was such stillness as Bach’s ‘Was Got tut,das ist wohlgetan’ led to the final grandiloquent fervour of a true believer.

Variations on “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen,” S. 180 is one of Franz Liszt’s most significant but understudied piano works. Written after Liszt joined the Third Order of Saint Francis and during a time of deep personal tragedy, this composition reflects both Liszt’s religious journey and his coping with suffering and shows daring explorations of chromaticism that pushed the limits of tonality. It was arranged for organ one year after the piano version was composed and became one of his best-known compositions for organ.The Variations on “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen,” S.180 was written in 1862 when Liszt settled in Rome.It was published by Schlesinger in Berlin two years later. Liszt dedicated it to Anton Rubinstein who unfortunately never performed it in public.Liszt performed it in a festival at Hanover in April of 1875 and is the first record of the public performance of this music. Liszt performed it again in May of 1876.Both performances have no recorded reaction from audiences, but based on Liszt’s self- mockery in his master class of 1885, it could be speculated that the piece was not well- received: In the master class, after August Stradal played the Variations on “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen,” S.180, Liszt said: “If you want a bad criticism, you must play this. It will then be said: ‘the young artist is not lacking in talent —- it remains only to regret that he made such a poor choice of piece.’The organ version appeared in 1863 .”Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen,” S.180 is probably Liszt’s most important set of variations. He composed a prelude on the theme three years earlier which could be seen as a preparation for this work.The chromatic theme of the variations was taken from Bach’s Cantata No. 12 and also used for the Crucifixus of Bach’s mass in B minor. Liszt also used the final chorale “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan” as the ending section. It is one of the most masterly and ambitious works of Liszt’s third compositional period.While it is an outstanding work, it was not accepted or admired by the musicians of Liszt’s time because of its innovativeness.

Beethoven’s final sonata op 111 was given a masterly performance.From the opening Maestoso chords played as Beethoven implores,where the struggle is implied in the physical risk involved.But played with a sense of architectural shape that led so inevitably to C major and the real struggle of water boiling over at 100 degrees (to quote Schnabel according to Perlemuter).The contrast between extreme energy and moments of peace in the recitativi all leading to the long final peace that heralds the opening of the sublime Arietta and variations.Beethoven’s last word on the Sonatas that were a lifetime’s journey.From his early exuberance through the struggles and hurdles that life threw in his path to the sublime peace that only Beethoven could hear in his inner ear.It was this peace and feeling of constant flow that was such a part of Sasha’s performance.Taking us to the explosion of the third variation and it’s murmured resolution reaching ecstasy and finally sublime peace with streams of sound on which the Arietta was allowed to float as it wove its way ever more upwards to paradise.
I had never thought of the opening of Chopin’s Fantasie as being a funeral March until Sasha mentioned it in his introductory talk even though it is marked Tempo di Marcia.It was played with a real flowing tempo with the poco a poco doppio movimento in an improvised search for the passionate outpouring of the ‘agitato’.A ravishing close to this first half took us magically to the sublime simplicity of the Lento sostenuto.The sudden eruption of the agitato taking us to the passionate outpourings of Chopin’s aristocratic bel canto world.A momentary respite in an improvised recitativo, played with heart rending simplicity and control of the sustaining pedal,before the magical sweep of whispered sounds and the two final majestic chords.
A juxtaposition of Scriabin led to a technical confusion with the subtitles but certainly not with the music!Scriabin’s Prelude and Nocturne op 9 for the left hand alone was pure magic.Sasha showed his sense of balance and technical control,resting his right hand whilst his one hand sang with all the eloquence of two!Wondrous colours in the Nocturne where his use of the sustaining pedal created a ‘halo’ of sound on which the melodic line could float.
A fascinating ‘Valse de salon’ that until a few months ago was completely unknown to me or Sasha’s mentor Noretta Conci.We had heard a young Russian pianist Nikita Lukinov play it in a recital for Noretta’s Keyboard Trust – together with a memorable performance of the usually much maligned Liszt Sonata.This young man had brought this deliciously delicate virtuoso valse to our attention as well as a scrupulous faithfulness to the Liszt Sonata . https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/06/15/nikita-lukinov-at-bluthner-piano-centre-for-the-keyboard-trust-liszt-restored-to-greatness/Sasha has since added it to his repertoire where Noretta would like him to programme it in a recital of waltzes by Brahms,Chopin and Ravel.Sasha, today gave a sumptuous performance of style and elegance and real jeux perlé playing of a different age.The age when virtuosity was not how fast and loud one could play but how delicately and quietly one could ravish the keyboard.Sasha revealed himself to be a master of this elusive almost forgotten art !
Suddenly Sasha unleashed his quite considerable technical mastery in a performance of such overwhelming sweep and authority.Sumptuous sounds too with the sublime beauty of the central tenor melody.A hypnotic sense of rhythm allied to a kaleidoscopic range of colour all played with such passion and considerable virtuosity that was as dazzling as it was breathtaking.
An encore of Galuppi’s most magical movement from one of his many neglected sonatas .The one made famous by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and obviously suggested to Sasha by Noretta Conci who was Michelangeli’s assistant for over 15 years

Islamey: Oriental Fantasy Op. 18, by Mily Balakirov was written in 1869 The great New York critic Harold Schonberg said it was “at one time…considered the most difficult of all piano pieces and is still one of the knucklebusters.”It has had a lasting influence on piano solo music; Ravel once remarked to a friend that his goal in writing Gaspard de la nuit was to compose a piece that was “more difficult than Balakirev’s Islamey.” This turned out to be Scarbo, the third piece in the suite.Balakirev, a committed nationalist whose music was influenced by Russian traditions, was inspired to write the piece after a trip to the Caucasus ,as he relates in a letter: :…the majestic beauty of luxuriant nature there and the beauty of the inhabitants that harmonises with it – all these things together made a deep impression on me… Since I interested myself in the vocal music there, I made the acquaintance of a Circassian prince, who frequently came to me and played folk tunes on his instrument, that was something like a violin. One of them, called Islamey, a dance-tune, pleased me extraordinarily and with a view to the work I had in mind on Tamara I began to arrange it for the piano. The second theme was communicated to me in Moscow by an Armenian actor, who came from the Crimea and is, as he assured me, well known among the Crimean Tatars. (Letter to Eduard Reiss (1851–1911), 1892) .Balakirev, considered a virtuoso pianist in his time, once admitted that there were passages in the piece that he “couldn’t manage.” In fact it was Nikolai Rubinstein who premiered the work .In addition, Scriabin seriously damaged his right hand fanatically practicing the piece along with Liszt’s Don Juan Fantasie.

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Sasha Grynyuk was awarded a scholarship to continue his music studies at the Guildhall School of Music in London. There he was awarded the Gold Medal – the school’s most prestigious award. He currently benefits from the artistic guidance of Noretta Conci-Leech, the founder of the Keyboard Trust. Sasha has performed around the world in many major venues including Barbican Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall, Wiener Konzerthaus, Weill Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall) and Teatro Real. With orchestras including: Bergen Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Brazil National Orchestra, Ukraine National Symphony.Sasha has won many awards, such as first prizes at the Grieg International Piano Competition in Norway and the BNDES International Piano Competition in Brazil. His recording of music by Gould and Gulda for Piano Classics was chosen as the record of the month for the Piano News magazine and shortlisted for the New York Classical Radio.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/04/05/sasha-grynyuk-at-st-marys-for-the-glorification-of-love-and-passion/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2020/11/11/sasha-grynyuk-for-cranleigh-arts-online/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/03/16/the-czech-philharmonic-with-semyon-bychkov-and-yuga-wang-illuminate-and-inspire-in-a-moment-of-crisis-and-suffering/