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. https://youtube.com/watch?v=xREDG_KggLE&feature=share

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


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