For his concert in the beautiful Harold Acton Library, Pedro played Haydn, Paderewski, Ginastera and Mussorgsky.
The Haydn Sonata XV1 n.12 in A first appeared as a Divertimento in A and was written around 1767.It is thought the first movement may have been by C.P.E Bach.According to Grove Music, this is in the list of “early harpsichord sonatas attributed to Haydn”, but has the comment ‘I doubtful’ which may mean that the 1st movement is considered doubtful.
Franz Joseph Haydn,31st March 1732 – 31st May 1809,was one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet” because of his important contributions to these forms. He was also instrumental in the development of the piano trio and in the evolution of sonata form. A lifelong resident of Austria, Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family on their remote estate. Isolated from other composers and trends in music until the later part of his long life, he was, as he put it, “forced to become original”. At the time of his death, he was one of the most celebrated composers in Europe.
From the very first notes Pedro showed us that we were in for something very special tonight as everything he played was brought to life with such musicianship.Every phrase,every passage was given a life of its own in a musical conversation that is rare indeed.There was such delicacy in the opening Andante with jewel like ornaments that just sprang from his fingers with spring like brilliance.Sparkling and glowing with ever more meaning as he shaped the phrases with beauty and rhythmic drive.The Menuet was very simple and beautifully shaped contrasting with the music box sounds of the Trio played on the surface of the keys with long held pedals as Haydn himself had indicated.A similar effect to the later C major Sonata Hob XV1:50 written more that 30 years later in 1795/5 and one of Haydn’s four famous London Sonatas which are the distillation of the composer’s entire sonata-writing output .They were,though,written for an instrument of greater tonal range than the Viennese instruments of the day, with a wider palette of specified dynamic possibilities and pedal effects.The return of the simple black and white elegance of the Menuet was like reopening a window, having been taken on a magic dream world of make believe.The Finale was scintillating and exhilarating bursting with youthful energy but in Pedro’s masterly hands always given such shape and character .
Ignacy Jan Paderewski (18 November 1860 – 29 June 1941) was a Polish pianist and composer who became a spokesman for Polish independence. In 1919, he was the new nation’s Prime Minister and foreign minister during which he signed the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War 1.A favorite of concert audiences around the world, his musical fame opened access to diplomacy and the media.During World War I, Paderewski advocated an independent Poland, including touring the United States, where he met with President Woodrow Wilson who came to support the creation of an independent Poland at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, which led to the Treaty of Versailles.
His piano miniatures became especially popular; the Minuet in G Op. 14 No. 1, written in the style of Mozart, became one of the most recognized piano tunes of all time. Despite his relentless touring schedule and his political and charitable engagements, Paderewski left a legacy of over 70 orchestral, instrumental, and vocal works.All of his works evoke a romantic image of Poland. They incorporate references to Polish dances (polonaise, krakowiak, and mazurka) and highlander music (Tatra album [Album tatrzańskie], op. 12, Polish Dances [Tańce polskie], op. 5.
The two short pieces that Pedro chose were beautifully played and although they were obviously salon pieces written for Paderewski’s own tours he almost turned ‘baubles into gems’.His extraordinary sense of balance allowed the touching ‘bitter sweet’ melody to sing in an enchanting way that was of great effect.The Cracovienne fantastique on the other hand where the Gopak type dance was played with great energy and character.There was also scintillating jeux perlé effects that were ravishing and would have obviously thrilled the thousands of fans that flocked to hear the ‘greatest virtuoso of all time’.Pedro’s fingerfertigkeit was extraordinary in the way the notes just seemed to flow from his fingers with such charm and ease.Let us not forget that Paderewski was the first pianist to give a solo recital in the newly opened 3000 seat Carnegie Hall and 20000 people flocked to hear him in Madison Square Garden.A modern day Lang Lang one might say who like Paderewski has also put his quite considerable fortune amassed from his concert career to philanthropical use.
After the invasion of Poland in 1939, Paderewski returned to public life. In 1940, he became the head of the National Council of Poland , a Polish sejm (parliament) in exile in London. He again turned to America for help and his broadcast was carried by over 100 radio stations in the United States and Canada. He advocated in person for European aid and to defeat Nazism. In 1941, Paderewski witnessed a touching tribute to his artistry and humanitarianism as US cities celebrated the 50th anniversary of his first American tour by putting on a Paderewski Week, with over 6000 concerts in his honour. In 1992, after the end of communism in Poland, his remains were transferred to Warsaw and placed in St.John’s Archcathedral. His heart is encased in a bronze sculpture in the National Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa near Doylestown,Pennsylvania.
Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22 by Ginastera is in four movements.It was commissioned by the Carnegie Institute and the Pennsylvania College for Women writing a piano sonata for the Pittsburgh International Contemporary Music Festival. The first performance in 1952 was given by pianist Johana Harris, wife of American composer Roy Harris, and Ginastera’s intention for the piece was to capture the spirit of Argentine folk music without relying on explicit quotations from existing folk songs.Ginastera was born in Buenos Aires (April 11, 1916 – June 25, 1983) and is considered to be one of the most important 20th century classical composers of the Americas.He studied at the Williams Conservatory in Buenos Aires, graduating in 1938 and as a young professor, he taught at the Liceo Militar General San Martín. After a visit to the United States in 1945–47, where he studied with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, he returned to Buenos Aires. Ginastera grouped his music into three periods: “Objective Nationalism” (1934–1948), “Subjective Nationalism” (1948–1958), and “Neo-Expressionism” (1958–1983). Among other distinguishing features, these periods vary in their use of traditional Argentine musical elements. His Objective Nationalistic works often integrate Argentine folk themes in a straightforward fashion, while works in the later periods incorporate traditional elements in increasingly abstracted forms.
There was playing of rhythmic precision and driving Latin fever mixed with episodes of ravishing colour.The legato meanderings of the second movement were of Chopinesque whispered mystery until sudden ferocious outbursts erupted before dissolving back to its atmospheric beginnings.There was startling intensity in the Adagio with its calm and crystalline melodic interruptions over exotic luxuriant arpeggiando chords.The final toccata was played with a ferocious outpouring of savage rhythms that were of great effect and brought this showcase work to a brilliant conclusion.Much to the relief of the director Simon Gammell who feared that his 1898 instrument might have collapsed in a heap at his feet!But Pedro is an artist who can feel the limits and possibilities of the instrument he is playing and can gage his passion with extraordinary sensitivity.
Pictures at an Exhibition is based on pictures by the artist, architect, and designer Viktor Hartmann. It was probably in 1868 that Mussorgsky first met Hartmann, not long after the latter’s return to Russia from abroad. Both men were devoted to the cause of an intrinsically Russian art and quickly became friends. They met in the home of the influential critic Vladimir Stasov, who followed both of their careers with interest. According to Stasov’s testimony, in 1868, Hartmann gave Mussorgsky two of the pictures that later formed the basis of Pictures at an Exhibition.
Hartmann’s sudden death on 4 August 1873 from an aneurysm shook Mussorgsky along with others in Russia’s art world. The loss of the artist, aged only 39, plunged the composer into deep despair. Stasov helped to organize a memorial exhibition of over 400 Hartmann works in the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg in February and March 1874. Mussorgsky lent the exhibition the two pictures Hartmann had given him, and viewed the show in person, inspired to compose Pictures at an Exhibition, quickly completing the score in three weeks (2–22 June 1874).Five days after finishing the composition, he wrote on the title page of the manuscript a tribute to Vladimir Stasov, to whom the work is dedicated.The music depicts his tour of the exhibition, with each of the ten numbers of the suite serving as a musical illustration of an individual work by Hartmann.Although composed very rapidly, during June 1874, the work did not appear in print until 1886, five years after the composer’s death, when a not very accurate edition by the composer’s friend and colleague Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was published.
Mussorgsky suffered personally from alcoholism, it was also a behavior pattern considered typical for those of Mussorgsky’s generation who wanted to oppose the establishment and protest through extreme forms of behavior.One contemporary notes, “an intense worship of Bacchus was considered to be almost obligatory for a writer of that period.”Mussorgsky spent day and night in a Saint Petersburg tavern of low repute, the Maly Yaroslavets, accompanied by other bohemian dropouts. He and his fellow drinkers idealized their alcoholism, perhaps seeing it as ethical and aesthetic opposition. This bravado, however, led to little more than isolation and eventual self-destruction.
I have heard Pedro before,encouraged to listen to a very talented student by his teacher at the RCM Norma Fisher. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/05/12/norma-fisher-at-steinway-hall-the-bbc-recordings-on-wings-of-song-the-story-continues/. I could never have imagined that he would mature into an artist of such stature .Such weight and sensitivity where every note had a meaning in an overall architectural structure of remarkable maturity.Could it have been the times we are living as Semyon Bychkov said introducing Ma Vlast – My fatherland with the Czech Philharmonic?Maybe we listen in these terrible times to the music we have known for a life time in a different way.The Great Gate of Kiev we certainly listened in a different way today not only because of the terrible news from the Ukraine but also because this young man played it with such a sense of style and colour with real physical elan.An old much abused war horse was truly reborn as we hope a miracle might occur in real life to curb the zealous evil of a despot.
It had been from the very first luminous notes of the Promenade of Mussorgsky’s Pictures that our attention was immediately caught and we were held very much under the spell of the authority and extraordinary musicianship of this young artist.The character he brought to Gnomus was captivating as was the sublime beauty of the promenade 2 before the gentle flow of the Old Castle .It was played with such subtle colouring and a sumptuous sense of balance of utmost sensitivity.A promenade 3 of weight and determination led to the irresistible insistence of children quarrelling in the Tuileries only to be interrupted by the grandeur of Bydlo.Such delicacy and luminosity in the promenade 4 was followed by the rhythmic pointing and delight of the unhatched chicks pleasantly surprised to find such fingerfertigkeit!Has Samuel Goldenberg ever sounded so pompous and serious and Schmuyle so beseechingly humble?The dexterity in the market place was astonishing for the breath control at such a pace.His sense of colour in catacombae was truly kaleidoscopic where every note of every chord had such meaning.The sheer physical urgency of Baba Yaga was overpowering with an absolutely hypnotic energy that swept all before it.The contrast with the whispered terror of the central section sent a scriver down our backs and to any pianists present a lesson of control in pianissimo!
There was such grandeur in the opening statement of the Great Gate and a serenity and complete change of colour that was deeply moving for the two chorale episodes.The gradual tolling of the bells showed a quite extraordinary sense of balance and control without ever loosing the inner tension and energy.It demonstrated the total immersion of this young artist in his magic sound world that he was able to share so magnificently with us today.
A spontaneous standing ovation and insistence brought Pedro back with his castanets ,clicking his heels in an an absolutely scintillating performance of El Pelele by Granados .I never expected to hear it played with such charm and style again since Alicia de Larrocha used to seduce us with it in Rome.He could have played all night but with three quarters of a century still before him this is just the beginning of a long and illustrious career.What better after such a concert than a wine tasting organised by Simon and Jennifer Gammell of an excellent IGT merlot “Le Redini” from their partners Tenuta degli Dei.
“Perfect blend of musicality, personality, and brilliantly polished technique” (La Tribuna).
Born in 1997, Pedro is a Spanish pianist who is currently studying the Master of Performance Degree with Prof. Norma Fisher at the “Royal College of Music” of London (RCM), awarded with full scholarship and the title of the “Leverhulme Honorary Arts Scholarships”. He is a “Keyboard Trust” artist, as well as a “Talent Unlimited” artist, both from the UK.He has been awarded with more than 40 prizes at International and National piano competitions, among them, the First Prizes at the Malta International Piano Competition; “Composers of Spain” CIPCE International Piano Competition (Las Rozas, Madrid); “Joan Chisell” Schumann Prize of the RCM (London); César Franck” International Piano Competition (Bruxelles), Second Prize and four special Prizes at the Ferrol International Piano Competition, etc.He has also received crucial inspiration from internationally renowned masters such as Dmitri Baskirov, Dmitri Alexeev, Alexander Kobrin, Pavel Nerssesian, Pascal Nemirovsky, Pavel Gililov, Marianna Aivazova, Mariana Gurkova and Ludmil Angelov.He has performed throughout Spain and Europe in prestigious concert halls, such as the “Palau de la Música” of Valencia, “Teatro de la Maestranza” of Seville, “Miguel Delibes” Concert Hall of Valladolid, Ferrol Concert Hall, “Manuel de Falla” of Granada, “Teatro Circo” of Albacete, Theater of Aachen, “Wiener Saal” of Salzburg, among many others. He has performed as a soloist with the highest quality spanish orchestras, as the “Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia”, “Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León”, “Orquesta de Valencia”, “Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla”, etc.He has offered numerous interviews for international and national press, radio and television. “Three encores, standing audience and a long line of spectators lined up to congratulate the young Spanish pianist. Pedro López Salas brightened up the evening in Milan” (Cultura di Milano). “More than an excellent pianist, he is a soloist and almost a conductor, judging by his scenic development” (Ritmo magazine). “Enormous security and great capacity of the young pianist to endow Liszt’s concerto number 2 with expressiveness and poetry” (El correo de Sevilla).
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