Noah Zhou at St Mary’s the virtuosity and poetry of a great artist

Tuesday 29 November 3.00 pm

Some superb playing from Noah Zhou of great musicianship and astonishing technical prowess.
An encore of Chasse Neige where virtuosity and poetry are combined in a tone poem of delicacy and passion.It was here that all we had heard before was summed up in this the last of Liszt’s Transcendental Studies.Musicianship,control,passion and fantasy all played with natural fluid movements of ease and grace.

An encore after an astonishing performance of Liszt’s Norma Fantasy where the funabulistics that Liszt requires were played with sumptuous sound and astonishing ease.The drama he brought to the opening fanfare with the drum roll opened the door for one of the greatest of Liszt’s paraphrases.It was full of conflicting emotions and ravishing beauty.The final combination of the two main melodies was played at astonishing speed and with such radiance after cascades of notes had swept across they keyboard with the melodic line amazingly appearing in the middle of these streams of golden sounds.

Liszt undertook the challenge of diluting Bellini’s opera Norma into a 15 minute solo piano work in 1841. The work easily equals the dramatic impact of the original opera through Liszt’s dynamic and highly virtuosic writing. No less than seven arias dominate Liszt’s transcription of Norma which are threaded together to create a nearly continuous stream of music.It is probably for dramatic reasons that Liszt ignored the famous aria ‘Casta Diva’ (which Thalberg used as the basis for his fantasy) a triumph of understanding of Bellini’s masterpiece.The title role of Norma is often said to be one of the hardest roles for a soprano to sing, and this adds to the drama and intensity of the music. “Norma, a priestess facing battle against the Romans, secretly falls in love with a Roman commander, and together they have two illegitimate children. When he falls for another woman, she reveals the children to her people and accepts the penalty of death. The closing scenes and much of the concert fantasy reveal Norma begging her father to take care of the children and her lover admitting he was wrong.”

His musicianship had been evident from the opening notes of the Clementi sonata that he played with elegance and style with streams of notes that flowed so mellifluously from his well oiled fingers.The Presto too was played with great delicacy and rhythmic drive.

Muzio Filippo Vincenzo Francesco Saverio Clementi (23 January 1752 – 10 March 1832) was an Italian composer,pianist,teacher and conductor ,music publisher, editor, and piano manufacturer, who was mostly active in England.Encouraged to study music by his father, he was sponsored as a young composer by Sir Peter Beckford who took him to England to advance his studies. Later, he toured Europe numerous times from his long-standing base in London. It was on one of these occasions, in 1781, that he engaged in a piano competition with Mozart.On 12 January 1782, Mozart reported to his father: “Clementi plays well, as far as execution with the right-hand goes. His greatest strength lies in his passages in 3rds. Apart from that, he has not a Kreutzer’s worth of taste or feeling – in short, he is a mere mechanic.” In a subsequent letter, he wrote: “Clementi is a charlatan, like all Italians. He marks a piece presto but plays only allegro.”Clementi’s impressions of Mozart, by contrast, were enthusiastic saying of Mozart: “Until then I had never heard anyone play with such spirit and grace. I was particularly overwhelmed by an adagio and by several of his extempore variations for which the Emperor had chosen the theme, and which we were to devise alternately.”In 1810, Clementi stopped performing in order to devote his time to composition and to piano making. On 24 January 1813, together with a group of prominent professional musicians in England, he founded the “Philharmonic Society of London”.Meanwhile, his piano business had flourished, affording him an increasingly elegant lifestyle. As an inventor and skilled mechanic, he made important improvements in the construction of the piano, some of which have become standard.In 1826 he completed his collection of keyboard studies, Gradus ad Parnassum, and set off for Paris with the intention of publishing the third volume of the work simultaneously in Paris, London, and Leipzig returning to London in the autumn of 1827.He moved with his wife Emma (née Gisborne) and his family to the outskirts of Lichfield,and rented ‘Lincroft House’ on the Earl of Lichfield`s Estate from Lady Day 1828 until late 1831. He then moved to Evesham where he died on 10 March 1832, after a short illness, aged eighty. On 29 March 1832, he was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.Accompanying his body were three of his students: Johann Baptist Cramer, John Field and Ignaz Moscheles. He had five children, a son Carl by his wife Caroline (née Lehmann) who died soon after his birth and the others, Vincent, Caecilia, Caroline, and John Muzio with his wife Emma.

The Beethoven Sonata op 22 was played with an understanding of the architectural shape and style.Already there was from the first notes the differing character of the fleeting opening rhythmic comments answered by the beautifully shaped melodic line .There was a driving rhythmic insistence in the development dissolving into the opening melodic line now in the bass where there was a constant flow of notes played with a superb sense of balance .
The Adagio con molto espressione was played with aristocratic weight full of poignancy.It was this movement that a critic had said of Richter’s magical performance that it was inexistent but that was certainly not the case today.A beautiful cantabile on a throbbing bass making the sudden pianissimo of the central section so astonishing.There was elegance in the Menuetto and a fluidity of the trio that was in perfect harmony without any exaggeration.The gentle pastoral rondo was allowed to unfold so naturally contrasting with the drama of the central episode before the gentle fluidity of the final pages that flowed so easily from the hands of a true artist.

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 11 in B flat major op 22 was composed in 1800, and published two years later. Beethoven regarded it as the best of his early sonatas, though some of its companions in the cycle have been at least as popular with the public.Sir Donald Tovey called this work the crowning achievement and culmination of Beethoven’s early “grand” piano sonatas. (The “grand” modifier was applied by Beethoven to sonatas with four movements instead of three.) Subsequent sonatas find Beethoven experimenting more with form and concept.

Born in London, British-Chinese pianist Noah Zhou has since established himself as one of the leading talents of his generation. He began learning piano at age 5 with Tra Nguyen before moving on to study with Hilary Coates. Currently, he holds the full fees Margaret Kitchin Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music where he studies with the Emeritus Head of Keyboard, Christopher Elton. He is also generously supported by the Eileen Rowe Musical Trust, a fund headed by Vanessa Latarche, Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music. In 2018, Noah was awarded the prestigious Duet Prize for Best Young Instrumentalist by the Royal Philharmonic Society of Great Britain, before going on to be awarded the top prize at the first edition of Coach House Pianos’ UK National School Piano Competition a year later. He was awarded the Third prize and Bronze medal in Kiev at the 2019 International Horowitz Piano Competition (edition XII), where he was also awarded the Jury’s Special Prize for the best interpretation of a solo Ukrainian Work. Following this, he was invited to perform live on the Ukrainian Radio Channel ‘Aristocrat’, and his performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 was featured on national Ukrainian Television. Later that same year he was also named as one of six finalists in the Manchester International Concerto Competition (edition VI). Noah frequently performs in concerts, and has appeared at many venues all over Europe, including London’s St John’s Smith Square, Southbank Royal Festival Hall, BBC Hoddinott Hall and Steinway Hall (UK), Kiev’s Philharmonia Hall (Ukraine), Gothenburg’s Operan and Konserthuset (Sweden), Budapest’s Danube Palace (Hungary) and Bayreuth’s Steingraeber Kammermusik-Saal (Germany). He was worked with many orchestras, including the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine, the Danube Symphony Orchestra and the Manchester Camerata, and similarly has performed under the batons of conductors such as Vitaliy Protasov, András Deák, Ronald Corp and Stephen Threlfall. As a growing talent, Noah has also participated in the masterclasses of many eminent figures of the musical world, including Leonel Morales, Andreas Weber, Pavel Gililov, Barbara Szczepanska, Pascal Devoyon, Craig Sheppard, Stanislav Ioudenitch, Imogen Cooper and Andreas Froehlich, to name a few.

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