Rose Mc Lachlan The birth of an artist at St Mary’s

Tuesday 3 January 3.00 pm

It was nice to see that the opening of the new season of concerts at St.Mary’s should be with a pianist who a few years ago gave a very promising recital at St Barnabas and now has returned to St Mary’s as a very refined artist.From a family of musicians she had from an early age received expert training from her father.Well trained fingers,musicianly performances of intelligence and sensibility.I well remember her scintillatingly diligent account of Schumann’s early Abegg Variations.Today we have seen the transformation of a prize winning student into an artist of stature.

From the opening flourish of the Bach Toccata that immediately caught our attention with her natural musicality allowing the music to flow with subtle natural shape.It was played with a sense of style both of nobility and aristocratic authority.I found her insistence on playing ‘non legato’ though not quite as natural as though someone had told her rather than her being convinced and allowing her natural musicality to lead her rather than someone else’s head!It did though create a contrast between the opening improvised flourish and the following fugato passages.But Bach is based on the song and the dance as Angela Hewitt and Andras Schiff have shown us – Nikolaeva was one of the first to allow Bach to flow naturally from her fingers.Rosalyn Tureck,of course was unique but was more monumental than natural as was her disciple Glenn Gould who took Bach to the extremes with genius and individuality.I well remember Shura Cherkassky playing this Partita to me in his hotel room in Florence.He had programmed it in his next concert programmes and just needed to try it out.Cherkassky was not known for his Bach playing but he imbued it with his unique colour palette and a natural musicality that has remained in my memory for its unaffected musicianship.Rose with her natural musicality allows the music to flow through her with naturalness and musicianship where rules and regulations should now have no place as was so clearly shown with her wonderfully mellifluous Chopin Nocturnes.

The Scarlatti Sonata in G that followed the Bach Toccata was played with clarity and rhythmic buoyancy.A delicacy and infectious ‘joie de vivre’of whispered fun and games.Even the chordal interruptions were unusually delicately placed that made the jeux perlé passages even more enticing.

The D major Sonata showed a commanding dexterity as she allowed a natural hand position to hover over the keys horizontally rather than in her Bach where they were almost vertical.A natural hand position that allowed her to let the music flow through her with searing controlled passion.These were jewels that sparkled and shone with scintillating rhythmic energy of subtle shaping and colour and a sense of timing that cannot be taught but is of great artistry.

Chopin: Nocturne in B Major Op 62 no 1

And what beauty she brought to the two Chopin Nocturnes.The B major was played with a wonderful sense of balance where the melodic line was allowed to sing with sensitivity and a rubato that was so natural.It could have flowed more ‘Andante’,though, as Chopin marks ,which would have made the ‘sostenuto’ of even greater contrast.The trills,poco piu lento and dolce,were played like beams of light vibrating in this ever more languid atmosphere.At the return to the original tempo she allowed the meandering embellishments to flow with all the time they needed to cast their magic spell.Strangely enough it was the ‘Lento sostenuto’ of the E flat Nocturne that flowed so poetically and naturally with insinuating counterpoints poignantly played.It gradually built in passion only to dissolve with magical embellishments to its final resting place.These were performances of great artistry and searing beauty of ravishing sounds and poetry.

I well remember listening astonished at the refined and subtle virtuosity of Leopold Godowsky in this very piece by Liszt.It was a performance from a piano roll that had recently come to light in Frank Holland’s Piano Museum in Brentford.Sidney Harrison ,my teacher,was very much involved in helping Frank ,who was not a musician but an engineer,in bringing these amazing performances to the attention of a discerning musical public.They were first heard on BBC programmes late at night where one could listen to these rediscovered performances of legendary pianists from the Golden Age of piano playing.One became ever more aware of a virtuosity that was as remarkable for its range of sounds not only from forte to fortissimo but more from mezzo forte to pianissimo.This was,of course before the arrival of Sviatoslav Richter in the west.Rose played it with a beautiful legato and subtle sense of rubato.Grandeur and delicacy turned this neglected work into the miniature masterpiece that it truly is.’Au Bord d’une source’ and ‘Ricordanza’ together with this study are true miniature masterpieces that are unduly neglected these days.Hats off to Rose for including it in her recital and placing it along side recognised masterpieces by Chopin

I had heard Rose play Debussy in a recital streamed from St James’s this summer and had been deeply impressed by her identification with this sound world.Today she not only chose four preludes but the extraordinary second book of Images.The multicoloured bells of ravishing sounds spread over the entire keyboard flowed from her entire body with such ease.Like a great painter spreading colour over the entire canvas with strokes of beauty where the sounds she was creating were mirrored in the movements that were making them.’Et La Lune descend ‘,sounds of echoed vibrations and melancholic recollections with a translucency of vibrant lyricism.Played with astonishing delicacy with sounds that at times were barely audible such was their rightful place in this poetic landscape.Have Debussy’s Gold Fish ever been allowed to wallow in such clear waters?An aristocratic French sound of vibrancy and urgency with a fluidity as Debussy asks ‘Expressif et sans rigueur ‘disappearing to a mere magical whisper.

Four Preludes were of great character and beauty .’Fairies’that were indeed ‘exquisite’and the magic rays of the moon shone so clearly as Ondine darted in and out of the picture.But it was the Fireworks that showed of her remarkable technical assurance where her authority and remarkable virtuosity were used to create a picture of extraordinary imagery.The Marseilles was allowed to shine in the distance over the smokey atmosphere that was all that was left after a multicoloured feast and dazzling display of sounds.

Rose McLachlan comes from a family of musicians and was born in Cheshire in 2002. She began piano lessons with her father and entered Chetham’s School of Music in 2010, initially as a chorister at Manchester Cathedral. She now studies piano with Helen Krizos. After gaining a high distinction for grade 8 at 11, Rose was awarded the LTCL performers diploma with distinction in 2017. Rose has already had considerable successes in national and international competitions. After being awarded the Sir David Wilcock’s Organ Scholarship in 2014/15 she was the overall winner of the 2016 Scottish International Youth Prize at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. As a result of winning the Yamaha Prize in the 2017 EPTA UK competition, Rose performed at St Martins in the Fields. As an overall winner of the Chetham’s concerto competition in February 2018, Rose was selected to perform the Ravel G major concerto with the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra during the 2018-19 season. In 2018, Rose won the Chopin and Beethoven prizes at Chetham’s and in 2019 she was overall winner of the junior intercollegiate Beethoven Piano Society of Europe competition. Also, in 2019 Rose was the overall winner of the 11th “Dora Pejacevich” competition organized by EPTA Croatia. She has performed Beethoven’s second Piano Concerto five times with orchestra, as well as solo recitals in Lanzarote, St James Piccadilly, London, Portsmouth and Birmingham. With her family, Rose has given recital tours in Scotland. In March 2019, Rose performed the Clara Schumann concerto with the New Tyneside Orchestra in Newcastle conducted by Monica Buckland. 2018 saw her first commercial recording being issued by Divine Art, performing ‘Five Hebridean Dances’ by John McLeod. In October 2019 she performed Shostakovich’s Second Concerto with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Barry Wordsworth in the Malcolm Arnold Festival which was broadcast on BBC Radio Three. As a result of this concert she was immediately invited to perform live at the Royal Festival Hall as a solo pianist on Radio 3 in a concert scheduled for 6 May 2020. In January 2020, Rose recorded piano duets by the distinguished British composer, Edward Gregson, with her father for a new commercial recording on the Naxos label. In 2021, Rose was a winner of the Pendle Young Musicians Bursary. In September 2021, Rose was a Tabor Piano Ambassador in the Leeds International Piano Competition, resulting in her first published article for the online Pianist magazine. In February 2022, Rose was the winner of the Kirklees Young Musician of the Year. Rose is now at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, continuing her studies with Helen Krizos. She is extremely grateful to receive financial support from the Waverley Fund.

Piers Lane a nightingale ravishes us at the Wigmore Hall – A Christmas treat from a true poet of the piano.

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907). Holberg Suite Op. 40 (1884)
I. Praeludium • II. Sarabande • III. Gavotte • IV. Air • V. Rigaudon

Edvard Greig
Piano Sonata in E minor Op. 7 (1865)
I. Allegro moderato • II. Andante molto • III. Alla menuetto, ma poco più lento • IV. Finale. Molto allegro

Franz Liszt
Weihnachtsbaum S186 (1874-6)
Schlummerlied • Abendglocken • Ehemals

Franz Liszt (1811-1886). Piano Sonata in B minor S178 (1849-53)
Lento assai – Allegro energico – Andante sostenuto – Allegro energico – Lento assai

A favourite pianist with a wide repertoire selected works from two popular composers, one very much a musical nationalist, the other of the widest intellectual interests. Compared to the virtuosic B minor Sonata, Franz Liszt’s Christmas Tree is relatively simple – a suite of pieces first performed on Christmas Day 1881 in the hotel room in Rome where his granddaughter Daniela von Bülow – the work’s dedicatee – was staying.

Piers Lane the nightingale of the piano ravished us with his playing of Grieg in the first half of his Christmas piano recital at the Wigmore Hall.
Charming as ever he decided to keep Grieg and Liszt apart.
Playing the Holberg Suite followed by the youthful Sonata in E minor in the first half and Liszt three pieces from his Christmas Tree Suite and the B minor Sonata in the second.

Some magical playing with the Air of the suite and the Andante molto of the sonata as we have come to expect from this poet of the piano.A refined sense of balance that can persuade us into believing that the piano can sing as beautifully as any nightingale in Berkeley Square.
It was a few years ago that I was stopped in my track as I listened to radio 3 where someone was playing so beautifully:’A Nightingale sings in Berkeley Square’.Listening entranced in my garden in Italy as the announcer told us that it was Piers Lane – I have never forgotten the indelible impression of that performance.
Grieg had taken his piano concerto to show Liszt who famously sat down and sight read it but too fast for the composer’s taste!
Nothing like that tonight with the selfless musicianship that our true nightingale,Piers,shared with us.

Piers with a few well chosen words to guide us on our journey together

The Holberg Suite was written originally for piano when Grieg was at the height of his fame .It was commissioned for the bicentenary celebrations of the birth of the playwright Ludvig Holberg with an attempt to reconstruct the sounds of his epoque.
A Praeludium with a perpetual mobilé of nobility and beauty with harmonies tinged with nostalgia and pungent expression.
A Sarabande and Gavotte of great charm and grace leading to the Aria which was allowed to shine like a jewel of radiance and delicacy in Piers magical hands.
Ending with a Rigaudon played with scintillating rhythmic energy and a jeux perlé bursting into a grandiloquence of rhetorical nobility.
I am not sure that it was a good idea to change the order of a programme that had originally been conceived as Grieg /Liszt – Liszt/Grieg.
The reason was obviously in order to finish the recital with a monument of the Romantic Piano Repertoire :the Liszt B minor Sonata – and it was a truly monumental performance.
But an entire first half of Grieg even in such poetic hands I found hard to enjoy as I would have in smaller doses!
The last time I heard Grieg’s only sonata for piano was with Shura Cherkassky and I remember being surprised that it was not included more often in concert programmes.There are many beautiful things not least the haunting opening theme based on the composers initials E H (b)G played with insinuating romanticism and ravishing sounds of passionate drive.A luscious Andante of Hollywood proportions follows.A surprisingly dramatic ‘Alla menuetto’ and a highly charged Finale all played with architectural shape and drive contrasted with episodes of subtle beauty.

With his supreme good taste and intelligence Piers played these two works by Grieg with masterly musicianship.I secretly longed to hear,though,the magical Lyric Pieces that are so rarely heard in concert rather than these pieces painted on too large a canvas for a nationalistic miniaturist.
The exception ,of course,is the piano concerto which with the aristocratic nobility of a great artist can captivate any audience.The slow movement is one of those moments of magic,like the Mahler Adagietto, that must be high on the list of favourites to take to a desert island .

Piers greeted by Li Siqian with her mentor Norma Fisher looking on

Three pieces from the twelve that make up Liszt’s Christmas Tree Suite dedicated to his granddaughter in 1881 were the foil for the B minor sonata.
Liszt had played them for her in her hotel room in Rome.Ibsen was staying just around the corner in via Condotti and it is where he too was inspired to write his revolutionary masterpiece ‘A Doll’s House’in 1879.We produced the play in Rome on it’s 100th anniversary with my wife Ileana Ghione in the ‘women’s lib’ role of Nora!
All roads obviously lead to Rome!

The Wigmore in festive mood

Liszt’s late Christmas Tree are pieces full of luminous sounds of whispered secrets but without any sense of true direction.Liszt with only ten more years on this earth was profetically pointing the way to a future that Busoni was to continue and bring to its ultimate conclusion as mathematics took over from the burning intensity of the heart.
It was a fascinating entrée to the B minor Sonata and luckily in this urtext age we were treated to only three very carefully selected pieces – the other nine will have to wait for eternity!Arrivederci a non presto!

Beethoven eternally present in Bonn thanks to Liszt

The B minor Sonata is dedicated to Schumann in grateful thanks for the dedication of the Fantasie op 17.
It was the work that Schumann donated to the appeal that Liszt had taken in hand to build a monument to his master ,Beethoven,in his birthplace of Bonn.
Many other composers had donated their works to the appeal amongst which Mendelssohn offered his ‘Variations Serieuses’.
The efforts of Liszt were rewarded with the unveiling of the statue in 1845 on the 75th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth and which still very much dominates the city of this universal genius.

The clue to the Sonata is in the first and last pages.The three ideas that become the leit motif of a new container freeing the Sonata form of its constraints.The opening ideas are transformed as if by magic into a landscape that allows more Romantic freedom of expression but still with an architectural form of cohesion.
The last page of the Sonata is pure genius as the disintegration or sublimation of the three motives are combined in this supreme rethought of a revolutionary genius.
Liszt had scratched out the initial bombastic final page and replaced it with a visionary revisitation of almost religious contemplation.The final three chords reach for the heights only to be denied the inevitable with a sudden pianissimo and the same deep note in the bass where the journey had begun.
It was this page that Piers played to perfection and all the trials and tribulations ,triumphal outpouring of transcendental difficulty mixed with whispered secrets of mouthwatering delicacy found at last a mystical peace .It was all played with such consummate artistry that the technical hurdles passed unnoticed as they were part of a much larger musical landscape.
A message that Piers brought to it’s ultimate conclusion and which earned him a spontaneous ovation from the full house that had greeted this much loved artist.

Norma embracing Piers in a Green Room she knows so well.

Norma Fisher was the first to greet him backstage with a heartfelt embrace.
How many times as a student I had heard her on this very stage invited by our mutual teacher Sidney Harrison to proudly show his schoolboy student where our journey might eventually lead.

What to offer as an encore after such an enormous meal?
Of course a sorbet was needed consisting of a ravishing Barcarolle written for an Australian film.
Liszt after all was a supreme show man and Grieg a supreme miniaturist and here combined in one simple piece was the charm and sounds that had beguiled and bewitched us all evening.
Happy Christmas ,dear Piers,and may there be many many more New Years!

Like our teacher Sidney Harrison Norma accompanying her star student Li Siqian to the Wigmore hall to listen and learn from her friend and colleague Piers Lane

Edvard Hagerup Grieg 15 June 1843 – 4 September 1907) the Norwegian composer and pianist was raised in a musical family. His mother was his first piano teacher and taught him to play when he was six. At the age of 15 the boy’s talent was noted by a family friend the violinist Ole Bull who persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory where the piano department was directed by Ignaz Micheles.He later declared that he left Leipzig Conservatory just as stupid as he entered it. Naturally he did learn something, but his individuality was still a closed book to him.During 1861, Grieg made his debut as a concert pianist in Karlshamn in Sweden and in 1862, he finished his studies in Leipzig and had his first concert in his home town,where his programme included Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata.During 1868, Franz Liszt ,who had not yet met Grieg, wrote a testimonial for him to the Norwegian Ministry of Education, which resulted in Grieg’s obtaining a travel grant.

The two men met in Rome in 1870. During Grieg’s first visit, they examined Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 1, which pleased Liszt greatly. On his second visit in April, Grieg brought with him the manuscript of his Piano Concerto, which Liszt proceeded to sightread (including the orchestral arrangement). Liszt’s rendition greatly impressed his audience, although Grieg said gently to him that he played the first movement too quickly. Liszt also gave Grieg some advice on orchestration (for example, to give the melody of the second theme in the first movement to a solo trumpet, which Grieg himself chose not to accept).The Holberg Suite, op.40, more properly From Holberg’s Time is in Norwegian: Fra Holbergs tid), subtitled “Suite in olden style” (Norwegian: Suite i gammel stil), is a suite of five movements based on eighteenth – century dance forms, and was written by in 1884 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dano-Norwegian humanist playwright Ludvig Holberg (1684–1754).It exemplifies nineteenth-century music which makes use of musical styles and forms from the preceding century.
It was originally composed for the piano, but a year later was adapted by Grieg himself for string orchestra

Liszt’s Weihnachtsbaum was chiefly composed between 1874 and 1876. The set of 12 pieces represents Christmas from three different viewpoints, with hymns (including Adeste Fideles), then a series of pieces portraying Christmas with an attitude of child- like purity (e.g. No. 7, Schlummerlied), and finally a Christmas tinted with experience (No. 9, Abendglocken, and No. 10, Ehemals). There is a further reading of Ehemals, in which it may also represent Liszt’s first meeting with his lover Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, a match prevented by family and religion.

Nikita Lukinov plays breathtaking charity recital for Ukraine in Berlin.

An appreciation by Moritz von Bredow

On December 8th 2022 the 24-year-old Russian pianist Nikita Lukinov, who comes from Voronezh in Russia, gave an acclaimed benefit recital for a Ukrainian aid organization at the Representation of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg in Berlin. The mayors of Kiyv and Hamburg had signed a humanitarian pact to support the Ukrainian population, for which Nikita Lukinov now committed himself with this performance. He had already given benefit concerts for Ukraine in the UK in the past.

Nikita Lukinov’s recital was enabled through the cooperation between the Keyboard Charitable Trust, London and the Representation of the City of Hamburg, as well as the generous support of Steinway & Sons, Berlin, who had once again supplied an amazing Steinway B.

The artist, who appears modest and listens attentively in conversation, has every artistic means at his disposal to make him a truly great pianist. He showed this impressively on this evening.

Trained by Bashkirov students Svetlana Semenkova in Voronezh and Tatiana Sarkissova at the Purcell School in London, Lukinov is currently studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) with Lithuanian pianist Petras Geniušas in the master’s program. He has also been teaching at his conservatoire since October 2022.

For tonight’s performance he had chosen two colossal works of the romantic piano literature.

The demonic opening of Franz Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor made each of the 120 listeners in the sold-out hall sit up and hold their breath. Lukinov fully understands the complex character of this demanding sonata, which is nevertheless often heard in concert halls, and at no point he allowed himself to be carried away by tasteless exaggerations or “kitschy” embellishments. At all times he was able to master the musical complexity, combined with the immense technical challenges, in an absolutely controlled manner. His technical mastery as well as his always idiomatic musical expression are impressive. He succeeded not only in great orchestral colours and fantastic climaxes, but also in lyrical cantilenas and dreamy, subtle rubato – just as Liszt had notated. The listeners were spellbound. 

I found the outstanding use of the two pedals particularly impressive: the right pedal was never used to excess, on the contrary: many of those phrases which with other pianists blur or disappear in a great, hurricane-force surge of notes were heard clearly, chiselled and transparent. The left pedal was used with restraint, at most for displaying colours, but never to breathe away a powerless, dull pianissimo.

Great applause – great, intelligent piano playing.

Nikita Lukinov then played the Symphonic Etudes, Opus 13 by Robert Schumann, to whom, incidentally, Franz Liszt had dedicated his previously played Sonata in B minor.

In addition to the etudes, Nikita Lukinov had also selected some of the variations composed later by Robert Schumann and woven them into the overall work with great sensitivity. 

Here, too, he mastered both the musical demands and the technical challenge. Both merged into a unity.

The two characters repeatedly quoted by Robert Schumann, Florestan (the wild rebel) and Eusebius (the lyrical dreamer), which he had borrowed from a novel by the Romantic poet Jean Paul, were wonderfully brought out by Lukinov in their musical contrasts, thus perfectly capturing the Symphonic Etudes. At the end, there was once again unending applause. Two encores by Tchaikovsky and Scriabin rounded off this extremely impressive and moving piano recital.

Although Nikita Lukinov had chosen two colossal works of the romantic piano literature, there was at no time any tonal or acoustic exaggeration, which one unfortunately hears all too often in concert halls. Young pianists are all too likely to be seduced by showmanship and the above mentioned “kitschy” exaggeration, but none of this was to be heard in Lukinov’s performance. 

And so I am eager to hear how this promising pianist, equipped with all the means for a grandiose career, will develop. 

I think of Glenn Gould or Kit Armstrong with Byrd and Gibbons, the interpretations of Bach by Samuel Feinberg and Svatjoslav Richter, of Scarlatti with Vladimir Horovitz and Beethoven with Emil Gilels, of Cage with Grete Sultan. Nikita Lukinov seems absolutely equal to all these pianists with his performance offered here. 

And so this would be my only wish: that one may hear Nikita Lukinov also with compositions from other epochs, from the Renaissance to the Modern. This could be, as already shown here with works from the Romantic period, a musical revelation, and he could show the whole range of his immense pianistic skills in highly interesting, musically diverse programmes.

John Leech listening to Nikita talk as well as play
Nikita with Noretta Conci overwhelmed by his beautiful playing
Soirée musicale for the founders of the Keyboard Trust – a Christmas treat indeed

Ithaka of Cristiana Pegoraro A star shining brightly in Latina for Christmas

Cristiana forty years on – a star shining brightly as she guides her audiences worldwide via music to a broader vision of the meaning of life.

It was in 1983 that a fourteen year old schoolgirl was presented to us in the Ghione theatre by the brother of our leading actor Walter Maestosi.Side by side with my wife Ileana Ghione in Private Lives by Noel Coward and a new play ‘Only a Holiday’ by Guido Nahum.Elio Maestosi had met at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw ,Thorunn Johannsdottir who was destined in 1961 to become the wife of Vladimir Ashkenazy.He was an expert dedicated to the performance of Chopin and was now teaching at the Terni Conservatory .He had a remarkably talented young student who he wanted to make her debut playing Chopin in Rome.She played for our Euromusica Concert season ,a programme that included the 24 Preludes by Chopin.

Guido Agosti with my wife Ileana Ghione .He felt relaxed and at home in our beautiful theatre

It was in December 1984 that I invited my teacher Vlado Perlemuter to make his debut in Italy – he was 81.It followed in the footsteps of another forgotten legend and teacher of mine :Guido Agosti who played in 1983 also in his 80’s.Legendary figures strangely neglected by the concert circuits due to their fear of playing continuously in public and their own careers as the most sought after teachers of their age.

Cristiana in the masterclass of Vlado Perlemuter in 1984

Perlemuter had been ,at the age of fourteen,the youngest student of Alfred Cortot.He lived in the same house in Paris as the director of the Conservatoire ,Gabriel Fauré .He was one of the first pianists to play the complete piano works of Ravel under the composers supervision.He not only gave a recital – all Chopin – for us but was invited immediately to play in Padua and from there Venice Milan and Florence .He played for us until his ninetieth year and he would also give a masterclass the day after his concert.It was in 1984 that Cristiana played in his first of many classes that he gave over the next ten years.

The Ghione Theatre

The theatre had opened in 1982 after three difficult years of restoring a derelict cinema in the centre of Rome.With a ridiculously low budget we managed to transform an abandoned cinema into a jewel of a theatre thanks to to my wife’s determination and my hard work!I had left all my commitments in London to help my future wife in her life’s quest to have a theatre of her own.With only three workmen to keep inspired daily ,the theatre opened and fast became a favorite venue where the plays that my wife could now choose lived happily together with music.Rome in that period was a city where there was a desperate need for a medium size hall for chamber music and recitals.We filled that gap!

Cristiana today in Latina with a benefit concert for the Lions Club Latina to create funds for the Breast Cancer Unit at the Goretti Hospital.A guest of Alfredo De Santis and Roberto Volpe the untiring organisers of fund raising events in Latina.

Dott.De Santis welcoming the audience that had filled everything seat in the theatre of the Town Hall
Dott.Roberto Volpe ,President of Lions Latina, presenting Cristiana Pegoraro for the second time to Latina

A voyage of Ithaka a modern day Ulysses.A theme inspired by the poetry of Costantino Petrou Kavatis.

A voyage of life around which Cristiana had composed a suite that describe a life’s journey in search of love.

Her own book of poetry is dedicated to her parents for never having denied her the possibility to dream.

Sold out hall for benefit of the local hospital

In fact it is Giuseppe Giacovazzo who beautifully sums up the meaning of Cristiana’s message:‘ A book of verse that is a love letter without address.Sent to eternity but with an unknown destination .A letter inexorably destined to a mailbox………hers. Releasing a secret chest,a kite to the wind.And it was returned to its sender.Like the kites.Cristiana could not have expected anything else from her thirst.So limitless.

What better than this view of the sea just 20 minutes from Latina ,in Sabaudia,on the way to Cristiana’s magic journey of Ithaka

There is a musical trace of her in those verses:the sea.Its music .”This autumn is becoming too vast for those who cannot forget the colour of the sea”.She feels life like the sea that “stole the imprints from the sand”In the winter months she dreams of being the seagull that dominates,alone,the waves of the sea.And the storms of love.This is the music that accompanies the song of her piano.

And so it was with the pieces she chose from her suite that described this journey.’Sailing away’;’The wind and the sea’;’Summer morning’;’Infinite’;’Now I know’.Some very descriptive playing of great colour and passionate involvement.A technical command that allowed her to bring her classical training to an almost improvised outpouring of sounds.From the whispered secrets of the sea to the passionate wind.Every bit as expressive as Ravel or Debussy but with a more immediate popular melodic appeal.

Opening with a ‘smile’ as she delightfully describe the start of her journey.Mozart’s Turkish March from his Sonata K.331 was played with impeccable style and good taste.As she said it was written for a piano in Mozart’s day,that would have provided a pedal effect of drums and bells that in Cristiana’s hands were more than amply provided for from this gleaming Brodmann Grand.

Terni in the regione of Umbria like Perugia,Spoleto and Assisi.Terni home of San Valentino who gives the name to it’s Cathedral

This was followed by a piece dedicated to the patron saint of her home town of Terni:San Valentino.A work that also summed up the message that Cristiana wanted to share with us today:’Colours of Love- Never loose the courage to love’.

By request of our host Dott De Santis her own transcription of Rossini’s Figaro from the Barber of Seville was played with scintillating jeux perlé and remarkable technical command.

Let’s not forget that Cristiana a while ago asked me if she could play the 32 Beethoven Sonatas in our concert season where her debut recital had included Chopin’s 24 Preludes.A real virtuoso ,dedicated also to concerts with a social meaning but who after her early studies in Italy had continued at the Juilliard School in New York where she plays regularly to a sold out Weil Hall of the Carnegie Hall

Cristiana in rehearsal on a new Brodmann piano that unfortunately she had not noticed a bass ‘A’that did not repeat .It made her second encore of Piazzola a bit of a nightmare due to it’s repeated pedal note of ‘A’!!!Her great professionality ,though,turned a problem into a triumph!Her first encore of a repeat of ‘Sailing away’ had brought us magically full circle.
Dott De Santis looking on with great satisfaction at the great success that Cristiana had brought to Latina
Latina in Christmas mood ……..Piazza del Popolo and the Town Hall

Christmas comes to Frascati The gift of music illuminates the city.

Federico Biscione with Marylene Mouquet

What a memorable celebration the distinguished pianist Marylene Mouquet had organised in memory of her daughter,Patricia,who died tragically in December 2004.

Marylene has long been a central figure in Frascati where her Association dedicated to her teacher Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli has long given a platform to talented young musicians with her concert series in the historic Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati .Once a year she also invites young piano stars from the prestigious Keyboard Trust to perform in her series.

Marylene introducing her guests

Every year a Christmas concert is dedicated to her daughter’s memory and this year she had invited musicians from the Centro Diffusione Musica at Tivoli directed by Federico Biscione.With his passionate commitment and the superb preparation of the string orchestra by Giovanna Lattanzi and the chorus by Antonella Zampaglioni they gave remarkable performances of works from Bach,Vivaldi and Corelli to Tchaikowsky and even Holst.

The CDM orchestra and choir

Remarkable,considering that these young students are delving into music with evident seriousness but also with real joy and passion.It was refreshing to see some of the orchestral musicians,girls but also numerous boys,joining the choir for a splendidly rhythmically engaging Vivaldi Credo,transmitting too the sublime simplicity of Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.We hear so often in the mass media of the problems of students struggling to survive in an ever more populated world.What we never hear about is the joy and passion that youthful commitment to making music together can give them them as they share their passion with others.The Gift of Music is a wondrous thing and it is thanks to Marylene that she has given us this gift from ‘Patricia’ to add moments of joy and peace,escaping for a moment the turmoil that we are told by the media is ever more engulfing us

Music is everywhere in Frascati
Captured or captivating !
An addition to the programme gave us a chance to hear the Polka for typewriter and strings ….where the bell at the end of each line was fundamental to the delicious charm and flow of the music.
Lucrezia Leardini and Riccardo Pastori ,the splendid violin soloists in Vivaldi and Corelli
The extraordinary Choir and Strings of CDM of Tivoli playing with such commitment and accomplishment under the passionate baton of Federico Biscione
The streets of Frascati resounding once again to the ‘sound of music’
Liszt was a frequent visitor the the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati and the Villa d’Este in Tivoli

Andrea Baggioli – Roma 3 at the Danish Academy for the 200th Anniversary of César Franck

Fascinating to hear three master works for piano by César Franck on the 200th anniversary almost to the day of his birth on the 10th December 1822.The pianist and musicologist Andrea Baggioli was at the Danish Academy in Rome to remind us of the importance of these works that are rarely heard in concert these days and certainly not together.Including also the Bach Chaconne not in the more usual Busoni transcription but in that of Brahms for the left hand alone.Playing of great architectural understanding if sometimes not of the clarity in Franck that would have made his ingenious counterpoints even more revealing.What better way to celebrate Cesar Franck’s 200th anniversary than with his Prelude Chorale and Fugue when it is played with such weight and authority.A prelude bathed in mysterious colours with clouds of pedal and a chorale that was allowed to shine on high above magisterial spread chords.The bold entry of the fugue and its climax on which the sublime opening theme in this cyclic work floated into the air of the Danish Academy ,as it must have done in St Clotilde in Paris , creating a magic that was to lead to the triumphant and nobly emphatic exultation of a true believer.

Prélude, Choral et Fugue, FWV 21 was written in 1884 and is an exemple of Franck’s distinctive use of cyclic form .The key to Franck’s music may be found in his personality. His friends record that he was “a man of utmost humility, simplicity, reverence and industry.” Louis Vierne , a pupil and later organist titulaire of Notre-Dame, wrote in his memoirs that Franck showed a “constant concern for the dignity of his art, for the nobility of his mission, and for the fervent sincerity of his sermon in sound… Joyous or melancholy, solemn or mystic, powerful or ethereal: Franck was all those at Sainte-Clotilde.”Franck had huge hands (evinced by the famous photo of him at the Ste-Clotilde organ), capable of spanning the interval of a 12th on the keyboard.This allowed him unusual flexibility in voice-leading between internal parts in fugal composition, and in the wide chords and stretches featured in much of his keyboard music.In his search to master new organ-playing techniques he was both challenged and stimulated by his third and last change in organ posts. On 22 January 1858, he became organist and maître de chapelle at the newly consecrated Sainte-Clotilde (from 1896 the Basilique-Sainte-Clotilde), where he remained until his death. Eleven months later, the parish installed a new three-manual Cavaillé-Coll instrument,whereupon he was made titulaire. The impact of this organ on Franck’s performance and composition cannot be overestimated; together with his early pianistic experience it shaped his music-making for the remainder of his life.

Here is the rare historic recording of Blanche Selva in 1928 one of the pioneers of french music

Prélude, Aria et Final, op 23 was written in 1886 – 87 Unusually for a composer of such importance and reputation, Franck’s fame rests largely on a small number of compositions written in his later years, particularly his Symphony in D minor (1886-88) the Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra (1885), the Prelude Chorale and Fugue for piano solo (1884), the Violin Sonata in A (1886), the Piano Quintet in F minor (1879), and the symphonic poem Le Chasseur maudit (1883).

Here is the historic 1932 recording of Alfred Cortot whose edition of the score Andrea was using today

César Franck at the console, painting by Jeanne Rongier , 1885

His set of Six Pièces for organ, written 1860–1862 (although not published until 1868). These compositions (dedicated to fellow organists and pianists, to his old master Benoist, and to Cavaillé-Coll) remain part of modern organ repertory and were,the first major contribution to French organ literature in over a century, and “the most important organ music written since Mendelssohn”.The group includes two of his best-known organ works, the “Prélude, Fugue et Variation”, op. 18 and the “Grande Pièce Symphonique op 17.”Franck was inspired to write this organ piece for the instrument at the church of Sainte-Clotilde. While it sounds majestic on the organ, it is also frequently heard in Harold Bauer’s transcription for the piano.The Prelude, Fugue and Variation, Op. 18 is one of Franck’s Six Pieces for organ, premiered by the composer at Sainte-Clotilde on 17 November 1864. They mark a decisive stage in his creative development, revealing how he was building on the post-Beethoven Germanic tradition in terms of the importance given to musical construction.

The Prelude, Fugue and Variation is dedicated to Saint-Saëns. Years earlier, when Franck published his Op. 1 trios, Liszt was among their admirers but had advised his younger colleague to write a new finale for the third of the trios and create a separate work from the original finale – this became Franck’s Fourth Piano Trio, Op. 2, dedicated to Liszt. In spring 1866, the Hungarian composer was in Paris for the French premiere of his Missa solennis for the consecration of the Basilica in Gran (Esztergom) at the Église Saint-Eustache on 15 March, a work about which Franck was enthusiastic. At the beginning of his stay, Liszt had come to listen to Franck improvising at Sainte-Clotilde and, apparently at Duparc’s instigation, a second private performance took place on 3 April. Franck wanted to play Liszt’s Prelude and Fugue on the Name BACH but the latter asked instead to hear Franck’s own Prelude, Fugue and Variation.

The piano transcription of this organ work was made by Harold Bauer (1873-1951), the British pianist who gave the world premiere of Debussy’s Children’s Corner and was the dedicatee of Ondine, the first piece in Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit.Harold Bauer made his debut as a violinist in London in 1883, and for nine years toured England. In 1892, however, he went to Paris and studied with Paderewski for a year.In 1900, Harold Bauer made his debut in America with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, performing the U.S. premiere of Brahms’Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor. On 18 December 1908, he gave the world premiere performance of Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite in Paris.After that he settled in the United States.He was also an influential teacher and editor, heading the Piano Department at the Manhattan School of Music . Starting in 1941, Bauer taught winter master classes at the University of Miami and served as a Visiting Professor at the University of Hartford Hartt .Students of Harold Bauer include notably Abbey Simon and Dora Zaslavsky.

Here is Mariam Batsashvili talking about and playing this Franck /Bauer transcription

Presenting his transcription to Clara Schumann (his friend and the widow of Robert Schumann), Brahms wrote: “The Chaconne is, in my opinion, one of the most wonderful and most incomprehensible pieces of music. Using the technique adapted to a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I could picture myself writing, or even conceiving, such a piece, I am certain that the extreme excitement and emotional tension would have driven me mad. If one has no supremely great violinist at hand, the most exquisite of joys is probably simply to let the Chaconne ring in one’s mind. But the piece certainly inspires one to occupy oneself with it somehow…. There is only one way in which I can secure undiluted joy from the piece, though on a small and only approximate scale, and that is when I play it with the left hand alone…. The same difficulty, the nature of the technique, the rendering of the arpeggios, everything conspires to make me feel like a violinist!”

Here is the 1889 recording of Brahms himself playing – not the chaconne unfortunately but a short extract of one of his Hungarian Dances

Majesty and vastness are easily conjured when two hands and a grand piano, or for that matter a full symphony orchestra, are called into service. But it is far more challenging to recognize that the true genius of the Chaconne is that it achieves its immenseness within the confinements of a single violin, and then to seek to inhabit on the piano this achievement with just the left hand alone.

Valerio Vicari,artistic director of Roma 3 having battled with a rain storm in Rome arriving late but not too late to applaud his distinguished Professor from the S.Cecilia Conservatory

Mariacristina Buono bringing Christmas to Roma 3 with intelligent brilliance.

Mariacristina Buono – Young Artists Piano Solo Series 2022 – 2023

I might have guessed that our genial host at Roma 3,Valerio Vicari,would have something special up his sleeve for the last concert before Christmas of his Young Artists Piano Solo Series.
The surprise was a beautiful young pianist from the school of Benedetto Lupo in Bari – the home of San Nicola – Father Christmas.After a recital of well known classics from the piano repertoire she appeared with one year old baby Leonardo in her arms.

Mariacristina with baby Leonardo and Valerio Vicari

Having just watched a Christmas Carol in the Ghione Theatre too I am feeling very much in the Christmas Spirit in the Eternal City.

Mariacristina Buono trained from an early age under Benedetto Lupo and went on to study with Fabio Bidini in Cologne and in Zurich with Ulrich Koella.
It was no surprise then that her intelligent musicianship from such superb mentors shone through everything she played.
Haydn Variations that were played with a clarity and impeccable phrasing with the tempo intelligently maintained as the variations were allowed to unfold so naturally.
If it was slightly missing grace and charm it was in part due to the brightness of this magnificent Fazioli Concert Grand that stands so proudly in this overly spacious rationalist hallway.
It was also,we realised later,the tension at leaving baby Leonardo in the Green Room while his very talented mother left him in his grandmother’s arms so she could offer us her gift of music that she had brought from Bari to the Eternal City.

The return to Bari

Leonardo’s cousins ,uncle and grandmother had travelled up together to Rome to enjoy this musical treat that Maria Cristina was sharing so generously with us today.

The new venue for Roma 3 concerts

This is the splendid new venue that Valerio has added to the Teatro Palladium and the historic Teatro Torlonia.
The Convitto Vittorio Locchi is just a stone’s throw from Roma 3’s Teatro Palladium and is in its own grounds where open air concerts were held this summer under the portico of this very imposing building which is the seat of INPS – the official Italian social security office.

Beethoven’s so called ‘Moonlight’Sonata was allowed to flow naturally with the melodic line architecturally shaped.Sustained by the anchor in the bass as the triplets were obviously the gently flowing waves of Lake Lucerne that had inspired Rellstab’s naming of ‘Moonlight.’The Allegretto was gracefully played and phrased so intelligently with scrupulous attention to the composer’s indications.The imposing Trio was played with weight as it contrasted so well with the gentle charm of the ‘Minuet’.Leading immediately into the Presto agitato that was played with startling rhythmic energy and real Beethovenian bite.The tumultuous last cascades of notes finally came to rest on a trill that unwound so naturally as it led to the downward scale which heralded the exciting final few bars.

Chopin’s first Ballade is one of the best known works by Chopin and in Mariacristina’s intelligent hands it was restored to the aristocratic tone poem that had been inspired by the poet Adam Mickiewicz.
From the very opening flourish that was played like someone opening a book with a tale about to be told .Coming to rest on a long held note that gradually dissolves as Chopin recounts his story of ravishing beauty and nobility.The subtle beauty of the opening led to the nobility of the first passionate climax played with aristocratic authority and musical intelligence.It dissolved into brilliance and scintillating jeux perlé as it built up again to the outpouring of mellifluous passion leading to a transcendental coda of technical brilliance and excitement.

The Mendelssohn Fantasy op 28 found Mariacristina in a more relaxed mood as the reams of notes that Mendelssohn weaves with mercurial lightness just flowed so naturally from her fingers.Played with passionate conviction and architectural shape as she moulded the phrases with mercurial sentiment of great control and brilliance.If the Allegro con moto could have been lighter with more Italian charm than German nobility it was contrasted with the breathtaking brilliance of the Presto.Knowing Leonardo was enjoying her performance too she threw herself into the fray with astonishing abandon and passion.

All obviously was now well back stage and Mariacristina felt free to offer as a thank you to her enthusiastic audience Chopin’s final study op 25.Ocean waves flowing with passionate drive and ravishing sounds played with brilliance and a technical command with a musical line of clarity and intelligence.
Happy Christmas to you all from Valerio Vicari and his untiring team at Roma 3.

The Andante with variations in F minor (Hoboken 17/6), also known as Un piccolo divertimento, was composed in Vienna in 1793 for the talented pianist Barbara (‘Babette’) von Ployer, for whom Mozart had written the concertos K449 and K453. This profoundly felt music vies with the Andante of the ‘Drumroll’ Symphony as Haydn’s greatest set of alternating minor–major variations and is among his most popular piano works.It was possibly inspired by the death of Maria Anna von Genzinger (1754–93, called “Marianne”) The variations are a set of double variations, the first theme is in F minor and the second theme in F major.Two variations of each theme and an extended coda follow.Haydn’s last piano work is also considered to be his most famous single work for this instrument. The minor theme is filled with emotional depth: “a melancholy andante in f minor, with variations, as only a genius can do them, that almost sounds like a free fantasia” (thus described in a review of the time). The autograph shows us that the work was originally intended to be the first movement of a sonata.

Title page of the first edition of the score, published on 2 August 1802 in Vienna by Giovanni Cappi e Comp

The Piano Sonata No. 14 Quasi una fantasia, op 27 n.2 was completed in 1801 and dedicated in 1802 to his pupil Countess Giulietta Guicciardi The popular name Moonlight Sonata goes back to a critic’s remark after Beethoven’s death and comes from remarks made by the German music critic and poet Ludwig Rellstab. In 1832, five years after Beethoven’s death, Rellstab likened the effect of the first movement to that of moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne.Beethoven’s pupil Czerny described the first movement as “a ghost scene, where out of the far distance a plaintive ghostly voice sounds”.Berlioz commented that it “is one of those poems that human language does not know how to qualify”

Autograph of the first movement

The first movement was very popular in Beethoven’s day, to the point of exasperating the composer himself, who remarked to Czerny, “Surely I’ve written better things”.although technically a sonata,’quasi una fantasia’is suggestive of a free-flowing, improvised fantasia.
Of the final movement, Charles Rosen has written “it is the most unbridled in its representation of emotion. Even today, two hundred years later, its ferocity is astonishing”.It is thought to have been the inspiration for Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu, and the Fantaisie-Impromptu to have been in fact a tribute to Beethoven.

The Grey Goose San Felice Circeo

Mendelssohn was among many nineteenth-century German composers, among them Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Bruch, who were fascinated by Scotland, by its folk music, history and literature. Mendelssohn was the only one of these six who visited Scotland, when at the age of twenty during the summer of 1829 he found the inspiration for his Scottish Symphony at Holyrood Chapel in Edinburgh and for the ‘Hebrides’ Overture (also known as the ‘Fingal’s Cave’ Overture) on the desolate island of Staffa off the coast of Mull in the Hebrides. But well before he made his celebrated walking tour of Scotland in 1829, he was reading the poetry and novels of the ‘great wizard’ of the North, Sir Walter Scott, and was acquainted with the ‘Ossianic’ poems, one of the great literary forgeries of the eighteenth century. In the early 1820s he composed two settings of verses from Scott’s epic poem The Lady of the Lake (including the Ave Maria, also set by Schubert). Then, probably in 1828 or early 1829, the young composer attempted his first full-scale work inspired by a Scotland he had not yet seen or experienced. The three-movement Fantasia in F sharp minor, Op 28, eventually released in 1834, took shape originally as a ‘Sonate écossaise’, mentioned already in family correspondence from early 1829. Four years later, early in 1833, Mendelssohn revised the work, still titled ‘Sonate écossaise’, but then published it the following year as a Fantasia, without its Scottish attribution.

Christmas comes to Italy – the Grey Goose San Felice Circeo

The ballade dates to sketches Chopin made in 1831, during his eight-month stay in Vienna.It was completed in 1835 after his move to Paris, where he dedicated it to Baron Nathaniel von Stockhausen, the Hanoverian ambassador to France.

Autograph of the first page

In 1836, Robert Schumann wrote: “I have a new Ballade by Chopin. It seems to me to be the work closest to his genius (though not the most brilliant). I even told him that it is my favourite of all of all his works. After a long, reflective pause he told me emphatically: ‘I am glad, because I too like it the best, it is my dearest work.'”

Mariacristina Buono intraprende lo studio del pianoforte all’età di 5 anni, si diploma a 17 anni con 10, Lode e Menzione presso il conservatorio “Niccolò Piccinni” di Bari; prosegue gli studi con Benedetto Lupo, sotto la cui guida
consegue la Laurea specialistica con 110 e Lode, presso il conservatorio “Nino Rota” di Monopoli. Nel 2015 si trasferisce all’estero, dapprima in Germania dove studia con Fabio Bidini presso la “Hochschule für Musik und
Tanz” di Colonia, concludendo brillantemente nel 2018 il suo Master in Pianoforte solistico; dopo in Svizzera, dove frequenta un Master in “Specialized Klavierkammermusik” all’ Università delle arti di Zurigo, sotto la guida del Prof Ulrich Koella. E’ vincitrice di circa 50 primi premi in concorsi pianistici internazionali, e di numerose borse di studio. Nel 2017 la Giuria della “Werner Richard Dorken Stiftung” le aggiudica una Borsa di studio e diversi concerti in Germania. Sin da piccola suona in veste di solista e camerista in Europa, in America e in Australia, contando ad oggi più di 200 performances, fra cui l’esibizione, nel 2019, alla Carnegie Hall di New York. A 22 anni debutta con la “Fima orchestra” eseguendo il Concerto n. 1 op. 11 di Chopin con ad Almeria (Spagna). Vincitrice del Concorso docenti 2016, è titolare di cattedra di Pianoforte dal 1° settembre 2017, presso il Liceo Musicale “Cirillo” di Bari.
Dal febbraio 2022, è docente presso il conservatorio “Monteverdi” di Bolzano.

My adopted granddaughter Anastasia first birthday today too !
All well ,Christmas is here
Our genial host the artistic director of Roma 3 Valerio Vicari
Mariacristina presenting her programme

Mikhail Pletnev in Rome – the return of De Pachmann – Fake,fool or genius?

lunedì 12 dicembre ore 20.30
Auditorium Parco della Musica Ennio Morricone – Roma

It was in the encore teasingly offered to an enthusiastic public that the art of Milhail Pletnev was summed up.
I mean the Pletnev of today not the supreme virtuoso who had taken the world by storm with his triumph at the Tchaikowsky Competition in 1978.Not even the conductor that thanks to Gorbachev founded his Russian National Orchestra.I remember Gyorgy Sandor perplexed as to why one of the world’s finest virtuosi would want to become a conductor!
Life has turned full circle now and despite serious personal problems that it is rumoured were only resolved thanks to Putin’s personal intervention,Pletnev has become a recreator of the music he chooses to play.
Certainly the great musician is still present as could be seen with his recent Masterclasses of the Geza Anda Foundation.Classes on conducting from the keyboard with four of the finest young pianists of their generation.The pearls of wisdom and technical expertise will not be forgotten by all those that were present on line.

Recreation is something all artists crave for and some succeed in their Indian Summers .With their by now intimate knowledge of the repertoire and a lifetime of delving deep into the secrets of the piano.They manage to combine absolute fidelity to the composers indications as is their legacy written on the page but with a sense of naturalness and discovery in an almost improvisatory way.
Kempff,Fischer and Rubinstein come to mind.

There is another school that think it is the inspiration behind and beyond the notes that should be the criteria.Taking the notes and using them to create what they think was the inspiration of the composer in that moment.This was epitomised by artists such as De Pachmann and these days by many artists from the East ,until recently deprived of access to historic archives or the recordings of the masters .De Pachmann used to famously talk to the public whilst he was playing to keep them informed on how the performance was proceeding.

The Sala Sinopoli – the second largest of the three halls that make up the Parco della Musica of Renzo Piano

There is a line,which can even be very fine,between the interpreter and the entertainer and it can be a subject of heated debate.
Karl Ulrich Schnabel on encountering a prize student from the East who followed this recreational method exclaimed :’Ah so you are a composer.You take the notes of Beethoven and use them for your own creation !‘ Charles Rosen,the great musicologist and also great pianist ,a student of Moritz Rosenthal,simply exclaimed :’he plays like a whore !’ That young student has now become a star having created various scandals in International competitions.Once he even walked off the stage during a competition because he was not happy with how he played.Another shot to fame over night when a famous jury member resigned over the fact that such a star pianist had not been admitted to the final round of the competition.They are convinced of the path they have taken and on occasion can be convincing .Alas they are not artists of integrity and honesty ready to suffer in their quest to find the real meaning behind and beyond the notes of the composers they are trusted to interpret.The difference is between interpreter or entertainer !

‘To be or not to be that is the question!’

Pletnev is somewhere in between.A perfect miniaturist in the style of many great virtuosi of the Golden Age of Piano Playing.But with a larger canvas,as recently with Beethoven op 110 and 111 in Florence,chooses not to see the wood for the trees .

Rome’s glorious Parco dell Musica created by Renzo Piano

This sort of multifaceted searching for hidden sounds and colours is exactly what Jazz pianists are so good at.Not being tied to the interpretation of the music of others they are free to improvise and search deep in the piano for the kaleidoscope of sounds that are hidden inside.They can be found with the skill of a illusionist adding a palette of colours and shapes and giving a new dimension,a minefield,that the classical trained musician dares not risk.

And so it was with his encore that he teasingly indicated to the public would be the only one as he was already too tired from this long programme.The famous Nocturne op 9 in E flat by Chopin was played with teasing half lights contrasting with operatic projection.Fiortiori that would have done Caballé proud .But above all a sense of balance that allowed the musical line to shine with ravishing beauty.Whispered secrets contrasting with chiselled projection as the spotlight fell capriciously wherever Pletnev chose to point it.Pointillist indeed like an artist ready to point his brush and illuminate hidden corners with the eyes of an artist of exquisite sensibility.
And so it was today with a programme of miniatures alternating Brahms with Dvorak.An epic performance of the Rhapsody in B minor by Brahms with the occasional discreetly added bass notes that just opened up the possibility of even more subtle sounds.(Nelson Freire did that at the opening of the Chopin F minor concerto in the Albert Hall – placing a deep bass note just added to the sonority of the high first entry of the piano.Rubinstein too would very discreetly,in live performance,add a bass note to open up the sound of the piano in the high register and project the sound more fully in vast opera houses with their natural sound and not the acoustically assisted sound of most modern concert halls).I was once shown around ‘La Fenice’ theatre in Venice and told that under the orchestral pit there was one and a half meters of glass that was known to reflect the sound naturally into the hall.Actors too used to have a diaphragm that’s could project the voice with the same intensity to the first row as to the last or even the ‘Gods’ (loggione or paradiso).Nowadays the actors have a microphone !All this to say that there is much to learn from an artist of Pletnev’s stature who is also searching for natural sounds.Recreating the music,keeping it alive and fresh.Gilels famously likened recorded and live performances to fresh or canned food.Today many performances reproduce what one can find on their CD’s .The element of the audience adding another exciting dimension to the performance is lost in their quest for what they consider perfection.If only they too would listen and learn from artists such as Cortot or Fischer !

Of course the choice of programme is very important for the true artist.It is their canvas on which they share their voyage of discovery.Today Pletnev showed us a very interesting side to Dvorak of piano miniatures many of which are tone poems of great character and beauty.Grieg Lyric pieces are sometimes included in programmes and much loved by great pianists.Dvorak is almost unknown as a composer for piano except for his gargantuan concerto for Piano and Orchestra that sometimes features in concerts .Richter chose it for his debut in London in the 60’s and went on to make a famous recording with Kleiber.

Leif Ove Andsnes just played the complete Poetic Tone Pictures op 85 in London and has recorded them recently too.To play them all in one is a big mistake as they are such concentrated tone poems that together their individuality cannot be immediately appreciated.Pletnev today realised that and played just a carefully selected group that with his sense of colour and characterisation was the revelation of the evening.

Vladimir de Pachmann or Pachman (27 July 1848 – 6 January 1933)Pachmann was born in Odessa,Ukraine as Vladimir Pachmann. The von or later de as was most probably added to his name by himself. Pachmann was one of the earliest performers to make recordings of Chopin,beginning in 1906 with recordings for the Welte-Mignon reproducing piano and in 1907 for the gramophone.He was also famous for gestures, muttering and addressing the audience during his performances characterised as the “playfulness of his platform manner”.Critic James Huneker called him the “Chopinzee”, and George Bernard Shaw reported that he “gave his well-known pantomimic performance, with accompaniments by Chopin.”In April 1884 Pachmann married the Australian-born British pianist Maggie Okey (Annie Louisa Margaret Okey, 1865–1952), who was later known as Marguérite de Pachmann. They did concert tours of Europe together and had three sons – Victor, who died in infancy, Adriano and Leonide (called Lionel). The marriage ended after seven years.

Vladimir de Pachmann died in Rome in 1933, aged 84.

lunedì 12 dicembre ore 20.30
Auditorium Parco della Musica Ennio Morricone – Roma

pianoforte Mikhail Pletnev

Brahms Rapsodia op. 79 n. 1
Dvořák Minuetti
Dvořák Eclogue e Allegro
Dvořák March
Brahms Intermezzo op. 118
Dvořák 4 Humoresques
Dvořák Eclogue
Brahms Tre Intermezzi op. 117
Dvořák Eclogue
Dvořák Moderato in la maggiore
Brahms Ballata in sol minore, op. 118 n. 3
Dvořák Quadri Poetici: selezione

Continua la sfilata delle grandi star del pianoforte con il ritorno di Mikhail Pletnev, vincitore nel 1978 del celebre concorso pianistico Čajkovskij di Mosca, e che da anni si esibisce anche come direttore orchestra, oltre ad essere un raffinato compositore. Nella sua lunga carriera è stato ospite delle maggiori sale del mondo; a Santa Cecilia debuttò nel lontano 1981 mentre la sua ultima presenza risale al gennaio del 2016.
Dotato ditecnica brillante e capace di interpretazioni che uniscono istinto e razionalità, nel concerto in programma nella stagione da camera Pletnev accosterà la produzione pianistica di un gigante come Johannes Brahms a quella meno nota e di rara esecuzione di Antonin Dvořák, di cui Brahms fu amico e sostenitore e al quale fece anche ottenere una borsa di studio statale a Vienna nel 1875, oltre a fornirgli egli stesso aiuto economico. Pletnev eseguirà celebri brani come la Rapsodia op. 79 n. 1, gli Intermezzi op. 117 che trasudano commozione e che Brahms definì la “ninna-nanna dei miei dolori” e una selezione dai Sei pezzi per pianoforte op. 118. I brani verranno intervallati dalle composizioni del boemo Dvořák, pagine dal linguaggio fresco e animate dal folklore, come le Humoresques op. 101, i Quadri poetici, composti nel 1889 e forse tra le composizioni più avvincenti del compositore, e il Moderato in la maggiore.

Christmas is coming to Rome next week

Emanuil Ivanov in Capua the bells of their 100 churches tolling brightly -ignited by his mastery and dedication


Emanuil Ivanov. Premio Busoni 2020

Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757). Cinque Sonate:F major K.150 ;in C minor K.303 ;B flat major K.192; A minor K.188; D major K.137

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

Sonata n.17 in D minor op.31 n.2 ‘Tempest’. Largo – Allegro; Adagio ;Allegretto

Emanuil Ivanov. (1998)

Tema e variazioni

Ferruccio Busoni. (1866 – 1924)

Sonatina n.6 BV 284 / Super Carmen (Fantasia da camera sull’opera di Bizet)

Franz Liszt (1811 – 1896)

Après une lecture du Dante – Fantasia quasi Sonata S.161 (dal secondo volume degli Années de pèlerinage)

The bells were certainly tolling brightly in the city of 100 churches as Emanuil Ivanov took Capua by storm.
A recital of scintillating piano playing of dynamic energy and passion that was truly overwhelming.
His extraordinary technical command though was always at the service of the music he was playing.
A scrupulous attention to Beethoven’s indications turned the ‘Tempest’ sonata into a declaration of the sturm und drang of the composers tormented soul.
Startling contrasts from the opening flourish that was played with such delicacy and concentration. The opening phrases perfectly shaped but rudely interrupted by tumultuous outbursts and beseeching replies.
Even Beethoven’s pedal indication in the recitativi were scrupulously ‘interpreted ‘.

Barely touching the keys with the right hand whilst his left rested above the keyboard.Emanuil crouched over the keys listening to the magically evocative sounds that reverberated in Beethoven’s soul.The magic only awoken by menacing staccato chords before bursting into flames ….the same fearful flames that were to ignite Liszt’s Dante Sonata that closed this cyclic concert programme.
The reverberation of the final bars that like his final thought in op 111 was a chord made to live with a long held pedal that was a mere vibration to the final pianissimi chords.
The weight he gave to the Adagio in what he revealed as a beautiful chorale with comments above and below was a revelation of clarity and musical vision.
I have never heard it so clearly expressed since Ashkenazy’s magical account of the op 31 sonatas together with two books of Chopin Studies taking London by storm half a century ago.I still remember this very movement as I will Emanuil’s today.The astonishing orchestral clarity of the vibrations of notes with such dry sterile clarity with the sumptuous Philadelphian string sound of the chorale.Even more extraordinary was the final bar with no ritardando but so wonderfully shaped with the final bass B flat barely touched to close this remarkable statement.
The infectious forward impulse of the Allegretto was accompanied by a dynamic drive .This was Beethoven with a capital’B’.Sforzandi like gun shots such was the surprise of the contrast from the mellifluous gentle flow and even music box colours to a most tumultuous rhythmic insistence.
When I saw this Sonata on his programme I was not expecting to be totally overwhelmed by a performance of such identity and character.In Capua today it was restored to its place amongst the greatest of Beethovens thirty two sonatas.Hallelujah!

The concert had opened with five Scarlatti sonatas with all the ritornelli as with Beethoven scrupulously observed which meant the Scarlatti was not the usual ’opener’. Like the great musician Emanuil has become,the Scarlatti Sonatas were given a weight and character that brought these gems vividly to life.With the elegance and crystalline clarity and ornaments like well oiled springs.Bright lights ignited as the light touched this prism of digital perfection in K.303 with trills of delicacy and brilliance like jewels shining with the question and answer between the hands.The Imperiously busy K.192 almost Haydnesque in its operatic characterisation.There was a joyous outpouring of rhythmic energy in K.137 played with burning intensity and drive.

When I heard Emanuil rehearsing just before the concert I exclaimed ‘so you are playing a jazz encore too’.’No it is my theme and variations’ he exclaimed.And what a beautifully shaped work it is with the subtle colouring of the mellifluous theme played with the sumptuous colours that Jazz pianists seem to be born to find often more than classical trained musicians.It is a freedom to experiment with colour and sounds that was immediately noticeable.A theme that returned so beautifully at the end after some variations of hair raising brilliance and quixotic character.It was the perfect foil for Busoni’s Carmen Fantasy that burst on the scene with a brilliance like a gust of wind suddenly blowing over the keys bustling and vibrantly alive .Giving way to the sumptuous tenor melody – con amore dolcissimo cantando – accompanied by jeux perlé cascades of notes and a hair raising Habanera of astonishing delicacy and brilliance.A build up to the complete brass band – quasi Tromba- of excitement before waves of notes spread over the keyboard taking us to the final tragic scene -Andante visionario – that was played with orchestral colour of heartrending beauty.The final staccato chords over a long held note were the perfect way to close this astonishing miniature tone poem .This was Busoni’s flurry at looking back with nostalgia to the world of the virtuoso before Liszt’s final prophetic years looking to the future that heralded the real birth of his true heir,Busoni.

The Dante Sonata was overwhelming in Emanuil’s complete identification with a world from the Inferno to Paradiso.Astonishing tumultuous sounds contrasted with intimate secrets.With never a light on his astonishing virtuosity as it was a story he was telling with total commitment and astonishing youthful passion.

We were witness today to one of the most remarkable reincarnations of what it must have been like to hear the master himself recount in music the world of Dante.

By great request from a discerning audience in this unique Museo Campano Emanuil let leash one of the most astonishing feats of pianism I have ever heard in public.The Rondo Toccata by the Georgian composer Revaz Laghidze.I have not heard the like since as a boy I used to listen astonished to the improvisations of Cziffra.’A Maiden’s Wish’ the transciption of Chopins Polish Song was a second encore of scintillating subtlety with passionate mellifluous outpourings of beauty that I have not heard since Moritz Rosenthal’s historic recording from the ‘Golden Age of Piano Playing’

Revaz Laghidze

Revaz Laghidze was a famous Georgian composerwho was born in 1921 in Bagdadi district. In 1939, he graduated from Tbilisi IV Music School, after which he continued his studies at the Vano Sarajishvili Tbilisi State Conservatoire.He died in 1981 in Tbilisi,Georgia

I had been impressed by Emanuil’s digital clarity in Bolzano when he gave a ‘short back and sides’ performance of Brahms Handel Variations that missed the colour and weight of orchestral sound .His prize winning performance of Saint Saens second concerto where his scintillating trills and clarity were quite extraordinary.
Three years on Emanuil has matured into a master musician using his phenomenal digital dexterity to enlighten the composers message.

It has been inspiring to see his gradual maturity from the extraordinary streamed recital in a La Scala ,emptied by the pandemic, To a recital he gave at Steinways in London for the Keyboard Trust.

His mentor Pascal Nemirovski has often thanked me for my comments on Emanuil’s playing but it is we that should thank him for allowing brilliant young pianists to mature,keeping their own personality as they dedicate their youth to the interpretation of great art.

The Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2, was composed in 1801–02 and is usually referred to as The Tempest (Der Sturm ), but the sonata was not given this title by Beethoven, or indeed referred to as such during his lifetime. The name comes from a reference to a personal conversation with Beethoven in which Schindler reports that Beethoven suggested, in passing response to his question about interpreting it and Op. 57, the Appassionata sonata ,that he should read Shakespeare’s Tempest .Some however have suggested that Beethoven may have been referring to the works of C.C. Sturm, the preacher and author best known for his Reflections on the Works of God in Nature, a copy of which he owned and, indeed, had heavily annotated.

The imposing entrance to the Capua ‘Museo Campano’

In Busoni’s hands Bizet’s masterpiece is sculpted with breathtaking creativity. This re-imagining forms the basis of Busoni’s sixth sonatina, the Kammer-Fantasie uber Carmen completed in 1920. It was premiered by the composer in the same year at Wigmore Hall. The work takes its thematic material from the opening chorus of the fourth act, Don José’s ‘Flower song’ in Act II, the Act I ‘Habanera’ (in its minor and major forms), and the prelude to Act I. The Kammer-Fantasie über Carmen bears all the Busoni hallmarks:

Après une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata (French for After a Reading of Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata; also known as the Dante Sonata) is a sonata in one movement , completed in 1849 and was first published in 1856 as part of the second volume of his Années de pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage) and was inspired by the reading of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.The Dante Sonata was originally a small piece entitled Fragment after Dante, consisting of two thematically related movements, which Liszt composed in the late 1830s.He gave the first public performance in Vienna, during November 1839.When he settled in Weimar in 1849, he revised the work along with others in the volume, and gave it its present title derived from Victor Hugo’s own work of the same name.

Emanuil Ivanov attracted international attention after receiving the First prize at the 2019 Ferruccio Busoni Piano Competition in Italy. This achievement was followed by concert engagements in some of the world’s most prestigious halls including Teatro alla Scala in Milan and Herculessaal in Munich.Emanuil Ivanov was born in 1998 in the town of Pazardzhik, Bulgaria. From an early age he demonstrated a keen interest and love for music. He regards the presence of symphonic music, especially that of Gustav Mahler, as tremendously influential in his musical upbringing during his childhood. He started piano lessons with Galina Daskalova in his hometown around the age of seven. He later studied in and graduated from the Bertolt Brecht language high school in Pazardzhik. Ivanov studied with renowned bulgarian pianist Atanas Kurtev from 2013 to 2018. He is currently studying on a full scholarship at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire under the tutelage of Pascal Nemirovski and Anthony Hewitt.Ivanov has won prizes in competitions such as “Alessandro Casagrande”, “Scriabin-Rachmaninoff”, “Liszt-Bartok”, “Young virtuosos” and “Jeunesses International Music Competition Dinu Lipatti”. He was also awarded the honorary Crystal lyre and the Young Musician of the Year Award – some of the most prestigious awards in Bulgaria. In 2022 he received the honorary Silver Medal of the London Musicians’ Company and later in the same year became a recipient of the Carnwath Piano Scholarship.His participations in masterclasses include those of Dmitri Bashkirov, Dmitri Alexeev, Stephen Hough, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Peter Donohoe, etc.
In February 2021, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ivanov performed a solo recital in Milan’s famous Teatro alla Scala. The concert was live-streamed online and is a major highlight in the artist’s career.Emanuil Ivanov has also performed at many festivals in Bulgaria and has also given solo recitals in France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Cyprus, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Poland. He has played with leading orchestras in Bulgaria and Italy.

With Antonino Cascio and wife Artistic director and President of Autunno Musicale – autunnomusicale .com

Nel 2019 si è affermato in due tra i più importanti concorsi pianistici internazionali, ottenendo il Primo Premio al Concorso Busoni di Bolzano e il Secondo Premio al Casagrande di Terni.Precedentemente era stato premiato in vari concorsi – Vivapiano, Scriabin-Rachmaninoff, Viktor Merzhanov, Pavel Serebryakov, Liszt-Bartók, Young virtuosos e Jeunesses International Music Competition Dinu Lipatti a Bucarest, e il secondo premio al Concorso Chopin di San Pietroburgo.È stato anche insignito di alcune tra le più prestigiose onorificenze bulgare: la Lira di cristallo e il Premio Young Musician of the Year; nel 2022, inoltre, ha ricevuto la medaglia d’argento della London Musicians’ Company e la Carnwath Piano Scholarship. Ha studiato con Galina Daskalova e con Atanas Kurtev, si è perfezionato al Birmingham Royal Conservatory con Pascal Nemirovski e Anthony Hewitt ed ha partecipato a masterclass di Dmitri Bashkirov, Dmitri Alexeev, Andrzej Jasinski, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Ludmil Angelov, Pavel Egorov. Ha tenuto concerti in Bulgaria, Italia, Austria, Regno Unito, Germania, Francia e Polonia, Russia, suonando in sale prestigiose, tra cui il Teatro alla Scala di Milano, La Fenice di Venezia, l’Herkulessaal di Monaco nonché al Festival Moscow meets friends. Ha suonato con l’eminente pianista bulgaro Ludmil Angelov al Palazzo Reale di Varsavia e ha debuttato a Sofia con la Classic FM Symphony Orchestra diretta da Grigor Palikarov, nonché con le migliori orchestre italiane e bulgare.

Antonino Cascio who will be conducting Bruno Canino in works by Giovanni Simone Mayr at the Reggia di Caserta -Cappella Palatina on 26th December with the Orchestra da Camera di Caserta founded by the remarkable Cascio family .
Johann(es) Simon Mayr (14 June 1763 – 2 December 1845), was a German composer . His music reflects the transition from the Classical to the Romantic musical era. He was an early inspiration to Rossini and taught Donizetti.He moved to Bergamo in 1802 and was appointed maestro di cappella at the Cathedral of Bergamo, succeeding his old teacher Lenzi. He held the post until his death, and became a central figure, organizing concerts and introducing Beethoven’s music there. By the end of his life, he was blind . He died in Bergamo and is buried in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore there, just in front of the tomb of his famous pupil.
Mayr’s works, among which there are almost seventy operas, are rarely performed today.

Alexander Gadjiev penetrates the soul of Chopin and Schumann and enraptures the Eternal City

A mysterious voice over the intercome was intent on creating the right atmosphere for the ritual that was about to unfold.
Imploring us to savour two minutes of absolute silence,in complete darkness,in preparation for the sounds we were about to receive -sounds were born before words we were told !

And out of the darkness a silhouette appeared as a shadow slowly advancing onto the stage and sitting at the piano as the light gently appeared.
The show was about to begin with the sounds of the poetically imperious chords of Chopin’s Polonaise Fantasy
This was just the introduction to Alexander Gadjiev’s rapturously received Rome debut for the Accademia di Santa Cecilia.

An interval where there was just time to swop over pianos -Fazioli for Chopin but Steinway for Schumann !
This for Alex was an adventure that he wanted us to share and be part of.

Alex’s companions on his voyage of discovery – two magnificent instruments Fazioli and Steinway with two different characters.
It was his mentor at la Chapelle : Louis Lortie who had written in the programme at the Wigmore hall in London that whereas Fazioli had the luminosity that is perfect for Chopin .Steinway and Bosendorfer have the rich darkness of the German classics.

His almost improvised freedom was allied to a search for sound and the inspiration that had ignited Chopin and Schumann in their moments of creation.
There were moments of ravishing sounds and washes of colour -has Chopin’s ‘wind over the graves’ ever sounded so impressionistic and terrifying?
Schumann’s youthful passion for Clara unbridled a red hot ‘ruin’ where the right hand was called into play to strike fear into Clara’s fathers refusal to acknowledge true love -a love that was to produce eight children!

But it was the solitary Prelude op 45 by Chopin that showed the true artistry of this young top prize winner at the last Chopin competition .
Sounds that spread like a flow of lava over the entire keyboard.Full of shifting harmonies but allowing a deeply expressive melodic line to unravel with sumptuous ease.
Alex had penetrated the soul of an audience who clammered for more after he had revealed the secret message that Schumann had woven into his greatest masterpiece.A message for his ‘distant beloved’ that Alex had so passionately portrayed.

Five encores and wanting more shows how successful Alex was in demonstrating that music can and must speak louder than words.
Could that voice in the darkness have been this poet of the keyboard that had so enraptured his fellow travellers tonight in the Eternal City?

The red hot passion of the Schumann Fantasie.Written as an outpouring of love for his future wife Clara Wieck .Alex plunged in with a passion and savage rhythmic intensity that was quite overwhelming .The burning passion and unrelentless forward movement found momentary respite in the ‘Im legendenton’ played with such a mellifluous freedom that the bar lines ceased to exist as it built in tension to the true climax of this movement. The right hand once again found itself in foreign territory as it added to the enormous sonority being created.Schumann’s quote from Beethoven’s ‘An die ferne Geliebte ’ was played with great liberty and I wonder if Alex knows something more than is just printed in the score as the movement moved to it’s magical conclusion

The original title of Schumann’s work was “Obolen auf Beethovens Monument: Ruinen, Trophaen, Palmen, Grosse Sonate f.d. Piano f. Für Beethovens Denkmal”. The movements’ subtitles (Ruins, Trophies, Palms) became Ruins, Triumphal Arch, and Constellation, and were then removed altogether before Breitkopf & Härtel eventually issued the Fantasie in May 1839.Dedicated to Franz Liszt , who replied in a letter dated June 5, 1839: “The Fantaisie dedicated to me is a work of the highest kind – and I am really proud of the honour you have done me in dedicating to me so grand a composition” Liszt in return dedicated his B minor Sonata to Schumann – two pinnacles of the Romantic piano repertoire .The piece has its origin in early 1836, when Schumann composed a piece entitled Ruines expressing his distress at being parted from his beloved Clara Wieck (later to become his wife). This later became the first movement of the Fantasy adding later that year two more movements to create a work intended as a contribution to the appeal for funds to erect a monument to Beethoven in his birthplace of Bonn.So it was hardly surprising the imperious opening of Alex’s second movement – Triumphal Arch indeed .Although written mezzo forte in the score it was of truly orchestral proportions building unbelievably in sonority each time it reappeared.The beauty of the ‘etwas langsamer’came as a true relief from the relentless rhythmic drive and enormous sounds that Alex coaxed out of this beautiful Steinway piano.

An even greater relief was the pianissimo scherzando before the mighty build up to the infamous leaps that Schumann demands in the ‘più animato’coda.Even here there was a total command and authority that the transcendental difficulties just disappeared in a resonance of overwhelming power and majesty.

“Resounding through all the notes. In the earth’s colourful dream.There sounds a faint long-drawn note.For the one who listens in secret.”is the poem that prefaces the Fantasie and nowhere can it be more appropriate that in the final ‘Langsam getragen Durchweg leise zu halten’.The enormous sforzando E flat chord,ending the second movement,was allowed to die away before the magical opening in C major just seemed to appear from afar.I remember Agosti writing in my score ‘Cla …ra’over the long held A and G as a sign that this really was as Schumann wrote to Clara: ‘the most passionate thing I have ever composed – a deep lament for you.’They still had many tribulations to suffer before they finally married four years later.In Alex’s hands there was a continual outpouring of ravishing sounds always with deep,true feeling never for a second becoming sentimental or weak.The three carefully judged final chords brought this miraculous programme to a close ………or so we thought ……not counting on the generosity of this much loved artist.

Five encores of Debussy and Chopin.The octave and arpeggio study of Debussy were played with ravishing colours and a quixotic control that brought these late masterpieces vividly to life and were in fact the highlight of the concert.The waltz op 42 by Chopin was played with jeux perle nonchalance and charm.Two of the shorter Preludes from op 28 gave us the emotionally charged n.4 and the whispered charm of the shortest of them all n.7.

Around 1837 Chopin composed a Funeral March , a piece which most likely reflected the musician’s profoundly mournful mood following the breaking of his engagement to Maria Wodzińska. When he then went to the island of Majorca,at the end of 1838, he began to write a piece, Grave , which will later be the first movement of the sonata, and a Presto which will be the finale; this time in composing Chopin was influenced by the worsening of his illness and influenced by the gloomy ruins and cemetery of the Certosa di Valldemossa,certainly not cheerful visions in the pouring rain that gave no respite. The Scherzo was written when the musician returned to Nohant in the second part of 1839.

In a letter to his friend Fontana he wrote: “I am composing a Sonata in B flat minor in which the Funeral March that you already know will be found. There is an Allegro, then a Scherzo and, after the March, a small Finale, not very long, in which the left hand chatters in unison with the right hand”. In writing the Scherzo , the musician had thought of collecting the pieces already composed in a Sonata, perfecting and polishing them.

The Sonata in B flat minor was published in 1840 in Paris by Troupenas, later in Leipzig by Breitkopf & Härtel and in London by Wessel. The piece is one of the few by Chopin that does not feature a dedication, perhaps it was actually a tribute intended for George Sand, to be kept private. Contemporaries were rather baffled by this Sonata. In the first place Robert Schumann who, while recognizing the beauty of the piece, even found “something repulsive” in the Funeral March and defined the Finale as “something more like an irony than any other music”. Even Felix Mendelssohn, not understanding the modernity of the Finale, declared that he abhorred it.Later Vincent d’Indy even went so far as to argue that Chopin had chosen certain keys not for strictly musical reasons, but only for executive convenience. The Funeral March was performed, in the version orchestrated by Reber , together with the Preludes op. 28 no. 4 and 6, played by the organist Léfebure-Wély, at the composer’s funeral on 30 October 1849. Of the Sonata Schumann wrote: “It might be called a whim, if not a hubris, that he called it the Sonata , for he brought together four of his most bizarre creatures, to be smuggled under that name into a place where they otherwise would not have penetrated “. The Sonata op. 35 has also been taken to support the view of many critics that Chopin had found himself in difficulty with the sonata and its formal construction.Others have found the composition to be defective in poetic unity and continuity, constructed with limited technique, judgments based mostly on an outward view of the work rather than an examination of its content. It was interesting to note that in this performance Alex did Chopin’s repeat to the doppio movimento and not to the much debated introduction as he had done so miraculously in other of his performances I have heard.Tonight it obviously felt right for him to accept the traditional repeat rather than the much debated ambiguity of the original score.

The Polonaise Fantasie in A flat major, Op. 61, was published in 1846 with dedication to Madame A. Veyret. Its complex form, the fact that it displays characteristics of both a fantasie and a polonaise, its advanced harmonic development and technical level, made it a piece that was slow in gaining favour from pianists.Alex’s was a very poetically imperious performance with mists of sound and atmospheres.Perhaps a little too free with the final reverberations of the opening chords before the tumultuous build up to the glorious final outpouring of triumphant passion.But it was in the last few bars that he found the magic of Chopin’s final whispered gasps with the last bell note just allowed to toll with such luminosity.A bell that was already tolling with this last masterpiece from the pen of the poetic and genial innovator of the piano that was Fryderyk Chopin.

The Prelude in C sharp minor, composed at Nohant during the summer of 1841 and published in the autumn as a separate Opus (45). When sending the manuscript to Fontana for copying, Chopin could not hide his satisfaction, expressed in the words: ‘well modulated!’.The Prelude does not have an a priori form. It gives the impression of being a notated improvisation. The four opening bars set the mood. There follows a dreamy spinning-out of two slowly formed themes: the principal theme, in which the boundary between melody and accompaniment melts away in the overall sound, and a second theme in which the distinctness of the melodic contour holds sway over the colouring, emotions over impressions.The charms of pure sonority are brought by the cadenza, but that too swells towards emotional ecstasy. The opening theme returns, before dissolving away in softening strains.Chopin composed the Prelude in C sharp minor for the Paris publisher Maurice Schlesinger. At the beginning of October, in Paris, Fontana proofread the work. It appeared as Opus 45, with a dedication to Princess Elisabeth Czernicheff, one of Chopin’s pupils.