Juan Pérez Floristàn takes London by storm

Wonder of wonders a miracle of ravishing playing where time just stood still as we listened breathless in wonder . A young man who recreated the music not only before our eyes but where he too is astonished by the wonders that flow from his fingers.
Has the menace of the Appassionata ever been more terrifying than in the opening few bars or the sumptuous beauty that follows that until now only Rubinstein could make glow like gold.
Chopin Preludes that I had heard streamed live from Duszniki Festival together with the same group by Liszt but tonight created an electric atmosphere that made words superfluous .Where most pianists have a range of ten gradations in every note ,Floriestan has 100 but even that is a ridiculous calculation because it is infinite .
At last an artist, the worthy heir of Rubinstein.An artist who lives and breathes music.
I have written about some of programme from Verbier last summer but tonight there was the Appassionata where stood the Wanderer Fantasy and there is still so much to say about an artist who lives and breathes music so intensely.

Floristan telling the story behind the notes like an artist describing the landscape that he is about to depict.

An Appassionata of absolute clarity but veiled in mystery where the rests spoke louder than the notes.From the very opening with a dynamic energy within the whispered notes.The phrases ending abruptly in silence after a trill that unwound with spine tingling nervous energy.The menacing bass notes played totally expressionless sent a cold shiver down our backs before the inevitable irascible explosion.Fragments appearing on expressionless repeated notes led to the sumptuous richness of the second subject played with a timelessness that I have not heard since Rubinstein’s performances in London.The mysterious descending scale bathed in a veiled mist led to an explosion of rhythmic energy of breathtaking contrast.The opening theme’s gentle appearance in the left hand marked only forte by Beethoven as it spread over the entire keyboard with ever more fervour before the point of arrival with the sforzandi and its immediate disintegration.The second subject now got gradually more intense leading suddenly to fortissimo cascades of notes and the menacing four notes from the opening unmasked revealing the real force behind their opening menace.The final virtuosistic cascades of notes were built up with levels of sound ever more intense until the bubble burst with devastating effect and it was here that Floristan had been saving his true dynamic force raising himself up in the seat as Rubinstein would do at the key moment in the movement .It took our breath away for its audacity and seemingly improvised freedom.Beethoven’s great temperament had been unleashed before the agitated coda dissolves into a mist of sound that is all very clearly Beethoven’s wishes for those that can understand them.This was a remarkable recreation of the score where not only the composers wishes had been digested fully but also an understanding of the composers temperament,personality and the times he lived in .

For us tonight Floristan had become Beethoven.

The Andante con moto was played in whispered tones as the variations became more and more agitated leading to the mysterious arpeggiando chord (did I hear it played top to bottom ?) and the final fortissimo chord heralding the start of the Allegro ma non troppo.It was played with swirls of sound with a great sense of urgency and ever increasing intensity never allowing the dynamics to take over or disturb the relentless rhythmic pace that he had set .Even the coda was played with great control until the final page where the wild beast of Beethoven was unleashed with devastating effect.

Floristan with Lady Weidenfeld

The Preludes by Chopin in Floristan’s hands were not those described by Fou Ts’ong as 24 problems but these were 24 jewels of ravishing beauty as the rays they projected shone with such radiance and subtle colouring within a sound world that was like a shell into which we were invited to look.The improvised beauty of the opening flourishes were transformed into a brooding almost lumbering second prelude on which the melodic line was placed so freely with subtle shaping of great delicacy.The lightness of his left hand in the third allowed the melodic line to sing without any forcing and was even allowed to breathe with the same liberty as a singer.The beauty of the fourth was enhanced by the opening rather rapid tempo that was allowed to dissolve into three beautifully placed chords of great significance.The whispered entrance of the fifth’s meanderings led to the luxuriance of the melodic line of the sixth suddenly bathed in a warm glow of pedal and where the final few bars were like a dream or reminiscence of what had come before.The grace and delicacy he brought to the seventh belied the fact it is the shortest of them all!The eighth grew out of this so naturally -one can see where Scriabin got his inspiration from- beautifully shaped with timeless phrasing despite the fistful of notes that have to be contemplated.

Yisha Xue of the National Liberal Club with Floristan

The added bass notes in the ninth just added to the nobility and beauty and contrasted with the jets of jeux perlé interspersed between the simple melodic line.The frenzy and sense of dance in the twelfth was allied to a precision and clarity but given also shape and colour.The shimmering beauty of the thirteenth allowed the melodic line to float with subtle delicacy and breathless beauty.The almost secret entry of the wind blew itself out before the great bel canto singer took the stage with ‘raindrops’from heaven.Adding some slight embellishments of his own that only added to the beauty and legato line as a great singer might do with the superlative breath control of a Caballée.Even the usually overblown central section was allowed to grow so naturally and never was an unwanted visitor to this extraordinary tone poem.There was beauty and transcendental control with richly highlighted inner harmonies that added a golden richness to the sixteenth and seventeenth.There was passion and rhetoric in the cadenza of the eighteenth having crept in almost unnoticed before exploding before our very eyes.The transcendental difficulties of the nineteenth were ignored by a pianist that lives and breathes only music and the fullness of the C minor chords of the twentieth became a whispered secret in only a few magical bars .The octaves of the twenty second were played with the same mellifluous colour that had illuminated all the preludes .Chopin’s flowing jeux d’eau was of timeless beauty as the final prelude crept in with such subtlety without for a moment becoming the usual bombastic show piece we are used to in lesser hands.He even found time for a magical pianissimo in the ever boiling intensity and the final dive from the top to the bottom of the keyboard was greeted by three ‘D’s’of such colour and subtle vibrancy and not the usual bomb shell final blast played helter skelter with the right hand A performance where Floristan allowed the music to breathe and vibrate so naturally but also keeping the overall architectural line from the first improvised notes to the final beauty of the last three magic gongs.

Franz Liszt composed Sposalizio, which means marriage in Italian ,after being inspired by Raphael’s painting The Marriage of the Virgin.The first piece from Deuxième Année de Pélerinage :Italie (Second Year of Pilgrimage: Italy), published in 1858.Starting with a simple pentatonic melody, which is transformed into a complex musical shape. The melody is then transformed into a type of wedding march leading to the grand climax before dying away to a mere whisper.It was played with beautiful hand movements caressing the keys as I have only seen the like from Volodos, producing magic sounds with even the thumbs delicately punching the notes deep into the keys with passiona\te fervour within an almost whispered confession.The melodic line floated on the ever busy left hand that even in the most passionate climax never overpowered the melodic line and sense of overall shape.Coming full circle and ending with the same delicately played configurations as at the beginning. it prepared the scene for the brooding contemplation of ‘Pensieroso’

Distinguished guests in discussion Norma Fisher with Prof.Christopher Elton

The concept of ‘Il pensieroso’ which Michelangelo Buonarroti symbolized in his idealized representation of Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici at Florence’s Cappelle Medicee might have had even earlier roots but it became a fascinating subject for many years after Michelangelo’s time. ‘Il pensieroso’, this time was in Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année: Italie. The inspiration for the main title of the three cycles for piano solo came from Goethe whose Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre (years of the journeyman) provided the idea. Much later in Liszt’s life, parts of ‘Il pensieroso’ surfaced once again in the second part of his Trois odes funèbres, La notte where Michelangelo meets Liszt, Milton, Goethe, Händel, and last not least the British/American Painter Thomas Cole.In La notte Liszt divides his attention between the tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici which shows the sleeping woman to the left symbolizing the night and the tomb of Lorenzo de’ Medici who is portrayed as the man who is deeply thinking seemingly in an introspective and melancholy mode. If Liszt’s La notte came after the untimely death of his daughter Blandine at childbirth, it adds tragedy to the composer’s life of highs and lows, of extremes and contradictions that it followed the early death of Liszt’s son Daniel which had been reflected in the music of Les morts. Here Liszt was seeking guidance from Hugues Félicité Robert de Lamennais, a priest and author who had Liszt’s confidence and trust throughout most of Liszt’s life. It is Lamennais’s presence when Liszt subtitled the work ‘oraison’ (prayer or oration). Les morts was dedicated to Liszt’s daughter Cosima who survived her father by almost a half-century. Liszt’s music can be said to represent a philosophy of art, poetry and religion, the complex sources he drew from,
the multitudes of inspiration from an unending number of origins and the awareness that Liszt’s work transcended music in a multitude of ways and means.

The distinguished cellist Oleg Kogan and pianist wife Polina of the Razumovsky Academy

A deeply introspective performance where Floristan barely touched the keys before Liszt’s chords of the final scene from Tristan and Isolde opened a flood gate of a gasping,breathless unending build up of fragments that led to the final crowning passionate outpouring.It was played with a magical sense of colour with golden streams of sounds that grew so naturally with an inner passion and intensity that was mesmerising.Even the most passionate of climaxes was played with a beauty of sound from a pianist who could never play vertically but saw the long lines with his body movements as horizontal and deeply etched into the keys.The aching silence that greeted the final moments of this marvel were proof enough of the trance that had been created by this true poet of the Keyboard.

Lady Weidenfeld with concert manager Lisa Peacock without whom this concert would not have been possible

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2017/01/13/juan-perez-floristan-at-the-wigmore-hall/. Prize winners concert of the Santander Competition .


St John’s Smith Square ,Westminster

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