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.


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