Amit Yahav a a master musician at St Mary’s

Tuesday 14 June 3.00 pm

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.


Inserisci i tuoi dati qui sotto o clicca su un'icona per effettuare l'accesso:

Logo di

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto Twitter

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Twitter. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto di Facebook

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Facebook. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Connessione a %s...