Tyler Hay at St .Mary’s The gentle giant with a heart of gold and magic fingers.

Tuesday 31 January 3.00 pm 

I have heard Tyler play many times over the past few years and it is good to see how he has matured into an artist of great stature.A technical assurance allied to a musical intelligence and curiosity that allows him to delve deep into the piano archives finding many unjustly neglected scores.The marvel is that Tyler together with Mark Viner and Thomas Kelly are a hope for future music making and are able to bring their discoveries vividly to life in recording and on the concert platform Three artists ,each very different,all with a superb technical training giving their playing such weight and assurance.Not always an easy thing as much of the music was written for composer – virtuosi and make great demands on the pianist.All three received their early training at the Purcell School for gifted young musicians and all three went to the Royal College of Music to perfect the base that they had been given as gifted youths.Both Tyler and Mark Viner studied with that superb trainer of young musicians Tessa Nicholson (both later perfecting their studies with Niel Immelman ).Another of her students from Purcell and later continuing with her at the RAM,Alim Beisembayev ,recently won the Gold Medal at the Leeds.Thomas Kelly studied with the late Alan Ball at the Purcell School and later at the RCM .The intense beauty Tyler brought to the Field nocturnes was matched by the dynamic virtuosity required from Clementi (his infamous Gradus ad Parnassum gives some idea of what is expected).The Liszt Venezia e Napoli showed off his superb sense of style as well as dynamic showmanship.

Sumptuous purity of sound and gentle flowing accompaniments belied Tylers rather military appearance.Jorge Bolet too looked more like a sergeant major than a pianist but his ravishing delicacy and astonishing subtle brilliance have passed into legend.Bolet was from the remarkable school of David Stapleton as was Earl Wilde and many other legendary figures of the not too distant past.Tyler perfected his studies with Niel Immelman who was from the school of the great English pianist Cyril Smith who epitomised the Stapleton school.I well remember Niel Immelman and Frank Wibaut (and many others including David Helfgott of ‘Shine’ fame and the indomitable Fanny Waterman) astonishing the rather more solid formation of their fellow students with their natural ease and kaleidoscopic palette of sounds.There was ravishing beauty in the C minor nocturne that Liszt likened to ‘a moonlit walk amongst the birch trees’ .A luminous sound with fiortiori embellishments played like streams of gold with the embellishments incorporated so unobtrusively into the Bel canto line.The innocent Pastoral beauty of the F major nocturne with it’s simplicity and the beautiful little cadenza just added to the ever more embellished melodic line played with the utmost delicacy leading to the beautiful bell like finale.There was grace and intimate charm in the A major nocturne that was Schumann’s favourite.Its seemless Schubertian outpouring of song so beautifully shaped in Tyler’s ever more sensitive hands.The E flat nocturne based on an Irish folk song was played with the beguiling innocence and purity of sound that had made these performance such an enticing showcase for Tyler’s less adventurous colleagues.

John Field (26 July 1782 – 23 January 1837), was an Irish pianist, composer, and teacher.He was born in Dublin into a musical family, and received his early education there, in particular with the Italian composer Tommaso Giordani .The Fields soon moved to London, where Field studied with Muzio Clementi .Under his tutelage, Field quickly became a famous and sought-after concert pianist. Together, master and pupil visited Paris,Vienna and St Petersburg.Ambiguity surrounds Field’s decision to remain in the former Russian capital, but it is likely that Field acted as a sales representative for the Clementi Pianos.

Field became well-known for his post-London style, probably developed in Moscow around 1807. The characteristic texture is that of a chromatically decorated melody over a sonorous left hand supported by sensitive pedalling. Field also had an affinity for ostinato patterns and pedal points, rather unusual for the prevailing styles of the day. Entirely representative of these traits are Field’s 18 nocturnes and associated pieces such as Andante inedit, H 64. These works were some of the most influential music of the early Romantic period and do not adhere to a strict formal scheme but create a mood without text or programme.They were admired by Chopin who subsequently made the piano nocturne famous, and Liszt who published an edition of the nocturnes based on rare Russian sources that incorporated late revisions by Field.

None have quite attained to these vague eolian harmonies, these half-formed sighs floating through the air, softly lamenting and dissolved in delicious melancholy. Nobody has even attempted this peculiar style, and especially none of those who heard Field play himself, or rather who heard him dream his music in moments when he entirely abandoned himself to his inspiration.– Franz Liszt’s preface to his edition of Field’s nocturnes, 1859.

Tyler imagines that Clementi must have heard Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (and maybe even seen it on the stage in London ) and been inspired to write his only openly programmatic work.A very fine work inexplicably excluded from programmes and rarely played even in Italy or elsewhere.It’s dramatic slow opening leading to the Allegro and Tyler’s driving rhythmic energy where passionate outpourings contrasted with expressive melodic passages.There was great beauty that Tyler brought to the Adagio with it’s tolling bell like opening and long held pedals where the delicate melodic line emerged with it’s ghostly murmurings The final Allegro burst onto the scene with the scintillating rapidity of Tyler’s remarkable ‘fingerfertigkeit’.Passages of almost operatic exhilaration as Tyler’s electric energy brought this remarkable work vividly to life.Hopefully it will be a visiting card for all pianists to consider for their future programmes.

Muzio Filippo Vincenzo Francesco Saverio Clementi (23 January 1752 – 10 March 1832) was an Italian composer,pianist,pedagogue,conductor ,music publisher, editor, and piano manufacturer, who was mostly active in England.Encouraged to study music by his father, he was sponsored as a young composer by Sir Peter Beckford who took him to England to advance his studies. Later, he toured Europe numerous times from his long-standing base in London.Clementi moved with his wife Emma (née Gisborne) and his family to the outskirts of Lichfield ,Staffordshire and rented ‘Lincroft House’ on the Earl of Lichfield`s Estate from 1828 until late 1831. He then moved to Evesham where he died on 10 March 1832, after a short illness, aged eighty. On 29 March 1832, he was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.Accompanying his body were three of his students: Johann Baptist Cramer, John Field and Ignaz Moscheles. He had five children, a son Carl by his wife Caroline (née Lehmann) who died soon after his birth and the others, Vincent, Caecilia, Caroline, and John Muzio with his second wife Emma.

Didone Abbandonata – Piano Sonata in G, Op. 50, No.3 is the final sonata composed by Muzio Clementi in 1821. It was titled after Metastasio’s often-set opera libretto where Clementi seeks to tell the tragic story of Virgil’s heroine instrumentally. It is the only example of such a programmatic piece in the composer’s oeuvre.One of the most eminent pianists of his time – who even engaged in a contest with Mozart and did not lose – Muzio Clementi created fundamental pedagogical works for piano and altogether 63 sonatas for piano solo. Didone abbandonata dates from his last compositional opus for solo piano sonatas written in 1821. The topic of Dido, who was abandoned by Aeneas and expressed her grief through mourning, despair and, ultimately, raving madness, was extremely popular and subjected to countless arrangements since the 17th century in operas, single “scena” and many instrumental works. The performance instructions for the sonata are as numerous as they are uncommon, and symbolize Dido’s hyper-expressiveness.

The only other time I have heard this work was by the distinguished Italian pianist ,Sandro de Palma,who has a similar curiosity to Tyler of searching out neglected works as they delve ever deeper into musical archives https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2017/11/19/sandro-de-palma-in-viterbo-a-didone-never-abandoned/

And now a well known work by Liszt that is often included in recitals.Cherkassky used to play the Tarantella on it’s own.That great Liszt authority Leslie Howard rightly points out that at the Canzone and Tarantella should be played together as they are linked by the umbelical pedal that Liszt so clearly indicates.Tyler of course played the entire suite of three pieces.Creating a ravishing atmosphere with the delicate arabesques where Liszt could immediately create the languid liquidity of that magic city.A melodic line that just floated above the gentle waves and was beautifully etched with subtle embellishments that seemed to flow with such ease from Tyler’s authoritative hands.There was dramatic intensity to the ‘canzone’ with Tylers sense of the nobility and grandeur of operatic rhetoric.A beautifully florid ending linked up to the astonishing funabulistics that Liszt demands in the Tarantella.Repeated notes thrown of with the jeux perlé ease of the great virtuosi of the Golden age of piano playing.An era when understatement was far more astonishing than rumbustuous empty virtuosity of the ‘I plays mainly by force” .A way of playing digging deep right to the bottom of the keys(and beyond!)that characterises mistakenly much of the Russian school of playing epitomised by the much lamented Alexander Toradze and the ever present Denis Mutseev.From Tyler’s hands flowed seemless streams of gold and silver with a central episode of ravishing beauty and subtle breathtaking rubato.This was the lesson that the Belcanto singers of their day had imparted and inspired pianists to imitate.The excitement and virtuosity that Tyler aroused in the final pages of the Tarantella was astonishing for its pianistic perfection and passionate involvement.

Venezia e Napoli where each of the three piece is based on what was familiar material in the streets of Italy at the time of their conception.

Gondoliera is described by Liszt in the score as La biondina in gondoletta—Canzone di Cavaliere Peruchini (Beethoven’s setting of it, WoO157/12, for voice and piano trio just describes it as a Venetian folk-song, and Peruchini remains elusive) and he treats it in a much gentler way than in the earlier version with a particularly fine verse with tremolo accompaniment; the tremolo guides a very dark musing upon Rossini’s Canzone del Gondoliere—‘Nessùn maggior dolore’ (Otello) which itself recalls Dante’s Inferno and the Tarantella—incorporating themes by Guillaume Louis Cottrau (1797–1847)—emerges from the depths, much more subtle than in its previous, primary-coloured garb, but ultimately triumphantly boisterous.

Tyler is also a gifted communicator whose introductions were not only informative but also amusing with delectable asides that made one relish even more his remarkable performances

Tyler Hay was born in 1994 and gained a place to study at the Purcell School in 2007 where he studied under Tessa Nicholson. He studied with Graham Scott and Frank Wibaut at the RNCM and with Niel Immelman and Gordon Fergus-Thompson at the RCM. Tyler has performed Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Sonata at Wigmore Hall, Scriabin’s 5th So nata at the Purcell Room and Ravel’s Concerto for Left Hand Alone at the Queen Elizabeth Hall . In 2016, Tyler won first prize in the keyboard section of the Royal Overseas League Competition and as well as winning the RNCM’s Gold medal competition, also won first prize in the Liszt Society Competiti on. He competed in the final stages of the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2021 and won 1st prize in the Dudley International Piano Competition in November, 2022. CDs of Liszt, John Ogdon and Kalkbrenner are available on Piano Classics and Tyler’s latest album of virtuoso piano music by Simon Proctor is now available on Navona Records







Simone Tavoni in Viterbo a recital of poetic sensitivity and intelligence


Simone Tavoni in Viterbo,city of the Popes – 80 km from Rome.
Florid Mendelssohn Variations op 83 were played with a ravishing jeux perlé that were just streams of gold.Mendelssohn’s enticing melodies were allowed to float on a magic wave of sounds due to Simone’s very sensitive sense of touch.
Two Schubert Impromptus,the first of his late set, revealed Simone’s superb musicianship as Schubert’s irrepressible outpouring of song was given an underlying structure and sense of architectural shape that made one marvel at the maturity of an already mortally sick composer at such an early age .
Simone brought sumptuous orchestral colour and power to the two Brahms Rhapsodies op 79 but it was the heart rending simplicity and ravishing beauty of the op 118 n.2 intermezzo,that was to be the final work for piano of Brahms, that was so aristocratically poignant.
The frenzy and passion in Schumann of the outer movements was calmed by the beauty and subtle shaping of the ‘lied’ that Schumann had chosen to weave into his Sonata op 22
Simone was happy to offer to an enthusiastic public his own improvisation in the style of a Chopin mazurka which just added the final touch to a recital that had been a demonstration of intelligence and sensitive musicianship.

The beauty of the theme was contrasted by the fluidity of the first variation and the clarity but also delicacy of the counterpoints that followed .There were clouds of drama on the horizon followed by the legato right hand with insistent brief interjectory comments from the left.Gentle leaps reminiscent of Saint Saens were followed by the final flowing beauty and passionate virtuosity of the ending,burning itself out so beautifully with an elegant flourish before the gentle final chords that signalled the end of the dream.Played by Simone with a sense of style and simplicity that avoided all rhetoric as the music was allowed to speak for itself quite simply without any complications.

The variations op 83 were written in 1841 and the four hand adaptation was published after his death as op 83a.The theme and variations that Simone plays today have five whereas the four hand adaptation have eight.Mendelssohn made his first public concert appearance at the age of nine and was a prolific composer from an early age. As an adolescent, his works were often performed at home with a private orchestra for the associates of his wealthy parents amongst the intellectual elite of Berlin.Between the ages of 12 and 14, Mendelssohn wrote 13 string symphonies for such concerts, and a number of chamber works.His first work, a piano quartet, was published when he was 13.He suffered from poor health in the final years of his all too short life, probably aggravated by nervous problems and overwork. A final tour of England left him exhausted and ill, and the death of his sister, Fanny, on 14 May 1847, caused him further distress. Less than six months later, on 4 November, aged 38, Mendelssohn died in Leipzig after a series of strokes.His funeral was held at the Paulinerkirche, Leipzig, and he was buried at the Dreifaltigkeitsfriedhof I in Berlin-Kreuzberg. The pallbearers included Moscheles, Schumann and Niels Gade.Mendelssohn had once described death, in a letter to a stranger, as a place “where it is to be hoped there is still music, but no more sorrow or partings.”

Simone played the Schubert Impromptus with great authority and intelligence.The opening declamation of the F minor impromptu dissolving into the deeply meditative central episode with its heart melting treble melody answered by the bass.There were a stream of sounds rippling unobtrusively throughout played with a transcendental control of balance.I had not heard before the legato treble contrasted so clearly with a non legato bass but it was nevertheless very authoritative and totally convincing.The A flat Impromptu that followed was played with great delicacy as one of Schubert’s most poignantly beautiful melodies was allowed to unfold so naturally.The slightly chiselled right hand of the melodic line towards the end showed Simone’s sensibility to Schubert’s sublime mellifluous sound world.The gradual unfolding of the central episode produced some sumptuous rich sounds of great beauty and contrast.

The Schubert Impromptus are a series of eight pieces for solo piano composed in 1827. They were published in two sets of four impromptus each: the first two pieces in the first set were published in the composer’s lifetime as Op. 90; the second set was published posthumously as Op. 142 in 1839 (with a dedication added by the publisher to Franz Liszt).As the first and last pieces in this set are in the same key (F minor) the set bears some resemblance to a four-movement sonata.It has been suggested that these Impromptus may be a sonata in disguise, notably by Robert Schumann and Alfred Einstein ,who claim that Schubert called them Impromptus and allowed them to be individually published to enhance their sales potential.It is also believed that the set was originally intended to be a continuation of the previous set, as Schubert originally numbered them as Nos. 5–8.

High drama and sumptuous orchestral sounds heralded the opening of the two rhapsodies op 79.There was also a beautiful fluidity and simplicity to the central episode of the first with a melodic line that was allowed to shine so clearly due to Simone’s impeccable sense of balance .He allowed the excitement to mount in the coda of the first that then seemed to be searching a way out with Simone creating a magic atmosphere as it dissolved to a mere whisper.The same orchestral sounds burst onto the scene with fervid passion in the second rhapsody with chordal exhilaration of great rhythmic energy and menace.The two rhapsodies had opened up a completely different sound world of sumptuous orchestral sounds that Simone shared with us thanks to his kaleidoscopic palette of colours.

The Rhapsodies, Op. 79 were written in 1879 during Brahms’ summer stay in Portschach,when he had reached the maturity of his career. They were inscribed to his friend, the musician and composer Elisabeth von Herzogenberg .At the suggestion of the dedicatee, Brahms reluctantly renamed the sophisticated compositions from “Klavierstücke” (piano pieces) to “rhapsodies

  • No. 1 in B minor.  Agitato is the more extensive piece, with outer sections in sonata form enclosing a lyrical, nocturne-like central section in B major and with a coda ending in that key.
  • No. 2 in G minor.  Molto passionato, ma non troppo allegro is a more compact piece in a more conventional sonata form.

In each piece, the main key is not definitely established until fairly late in the exposition.

There was ravishing beauty to his playing of the A major Intermezzo which he played with poignant strength that did not allow any sentimentality or rhetoric.A beautiful fluidity to the central episode allowed the two voices to converse with such delicacy.Barely touching the keys at the end as he stroked the utmost meaning from one of Brahms’ most beautiful utterances.

The Six Pieces for Piano, Op. 118, were completed in 1893 and dedicated to Clara Schumann ,the collection is the penultimate composition published during Brahms’ lifetime. It is also his penultimate work composed for piano solo. Consistent with Brahms’s other late keyboard works, Op. 118 is more introspective than his earlier piano pieces, which tend to be more virtuosic in character. Simone played the second piece the Intermezzo in A major. Andante teneramente

Driving rhythm and passionate involvement burst onto the scene with Schumann’s op 22 Sonata.But there was beauty too as the melodic line was allowed to shine through all the fervent outpourings of notes that litter the score with such youthful exhilaration and virtuosity.Even with Schumann’s quixotic changes of mood the driving tempo was never allowed to sag in Simone’s authoritative hands.There was great delicacy in the second movement reaching moments of fervent exultation and the even more tender return of the opening theme ‘avec un sentiment de regret’ to quote Alfred Cortot.There was the absolute frenzy of the scherzo where a more legato syncopation of the chords that followed would have given more startling contrast.The last movement burst impatiently onto the scene with driving passion and a technical prowess that was quite overwhelming.A young man’s convincing performance of the still youthful and passionate composer Robert Schumann.

Clara Schumann claimed to be “endlessly looking forward to the second sonata”, but nevertheless Robert revised it several times. At Clara Schumann’s request, the original finale, marked Presto passionato was replaced with a less difficult movement in 1838.Clara considered it “not too incomprehensible,” though she admitted that she would “play it if necessary, but the masses, the public, and even the connoisseurs for whom one is really writing, don’t understand it.”The Andantino of the sonata is based on Schumann’s early song “Im Herbste”; It is dedicated to Schumann’s friend the pianist Henriette Voigt and was published in September 1839.




Hao Zi Yoh Italian tour for the Keyboard Trust.The refined elegance and sensibility of a great artist

Hao Zi Yoh on her Italian tour for the Keyboard Trust played in Venice,Padua and Florence :Mozart Sonata K.533/494 ;Schumann Kinderszenen op 15 ;Ravel ‘Une barque sur l’océan’ from Miroirs;Chopin Ballade n.4 op 52.

A longer programme in Vicenza was with the addition of Schumann Novelette op.21 n.8 and Ravel ‘Noctuelles ‘and ‘Alborada del grazioso’ from Miroirs.Her encore was Chopin ‘s ‘Minute’ Waltz op 64 n.1.It was indeed her refined elegance and supreme artistry that summed up in only a minute her pure beautiful music making and had given her the ovation she truly deserved.

Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 15 in F major K. 533/494 (finished 3 January 1788)is in three movements :Allegro – Andante – Rondo: Allegretto.The Rondo was originally a stand-alone piece composed by Mozart in 1786 (Rondo No. 2, K. 494 ).In 1788, Mozart wrote the first two movements of K. 533 and incorporated a revised version of K. 494 as the finale, having lengthened it in order to provide a more substantial counterpart to the other two movements.There was clarity and a disarming simplicity to Hao Zi’s playing with crystal clear articulation and a rhythmic drive that was spellbinding from the first notes.Great elegance in the beautifully shaped Andante was played with an aristocratic sense of style.There was drama too but always within the confines of the overall shape of the movement that unlike Beethoven was just a passing cloud until returning to the serenity of the opening melodic line.The cascading arpeggios replying one to the other at the end were played with a refined delicacy that was absolutely ravishing.The purity of sound and child like simplicity gave such charm to her playing of the rondo.The ever more vivacious ornamentation just added to the rhythmic impetus with her sparkling jewel box full of kaleidoscopic colours.A coda deep in the bass in such reflective mood as the rondo theme just dissolved before our eyes with the magic that Hao Zi had recreated.

The beautiful Palazzo Albrizzi Capello in the centre of Venice
A full house and a happy return to Palazzo Zacco-Armeni the seat of the Circolo Unificato dell’Esercito
Elia and Elisabeta Modenese of Agimus Padova who organise every year the young people’s concerts in Padua and Venice

Schumann wrote 30 movements for Kinderszenen- Scenes from childhood but chose 13 for the final version. The unused movements were later published in Bunte Blatter- coloured leaves op 99, and Albumblatter Op. 124. Schumann told his wife Clara that the “thirty small, droll things”, most of them less than a page in length, were inspired by her comment that he sometimes seemed “like a child”. He described them in 1840 as “more cheerful, gentler, more melodic” than his earlier works.It was just this sense of character that came across so vividly with the same inflections and slight pauses that Curzon and Cortot brought to these seemingly simple pieces.The beautiful fluid sounds ‘Of foreign lands and people’with the melodic line shaped so eloquently with a magical sense of balance.The playful rhythmic lilt she gave ‘A curious story’ led so well to the hell for leather fun of ‘Blind man’s bluff’ .Could one ever resist such a ‘Pleading child ‘that made him ‘Happy enough’to sing such a joyous song on his way to a truly ‘Important event’.Played with such grandeur and precision never allowing the tone to harden.’Dreaming’ with such magical sounds and subtle phrasing shaped with infinite love and care.Ready for the duet between the voices ‘At the fireside’ before jumping onto a ‘Hobby horse’ of such rhythmic energy.It was ‘Almost too serious’ for her delicate projection of the melodic line helped by the rich bass notes .Her delicacy and precision was beautiful as it was ‘Frightening’ and the ‘Child falling asleep’ must have been an angel indeed as it shone out like a diamond amongst these jewels.The final chords of ‘A poet speaks’ was a lesson in how to persuade us that the piano was not a percussive instrument. Alfred Cortot could explain better than anyone https://youtube.com/watch?v=UroWVTDb8Oo&feature=share

With Maria Antonietta Sguelia the indefatigable organiser of the Incontri who with her daughter Raffaella have given a platform to Keyboard Trust Artists for the past twenty years.

The Novelletten, op 21, is a set of eight pieces written by Schumann in 1838 and is dedicated to Adolf von Henselt.February 1838 was a period of great struggle for Schumann who originally intended the eight pieces to be performed together as a group, though they are often performed separately.The concluding piece of the set that Hao Zi played is actually two pieces in one. The first part is a passionate etude in 2/4, the second has the nature of a march ending in D major, the principal key of the cycle.There was a romantic outpouring of sumptuous beauty with some pungent harmonies within the alternating legato and staccato.She brought such clarity as she pin pointed the melodic line in the first episode made up of the dotted rhythms that Schumann was so fond of.She brought an equally infectious rhythmic drive to the second where the gradual diminuendo created a magical base on which floated one of Schumann’s most heavenly melodies.Nobility and passion marked the final episode of the best known of these eight novelettes.It was the one together with the fourth that I have never forgotten from the hands of Sviatoslav Richter on one of his first visits to London in the 70’s.If Hao Zi did not quite have the animal like rampage of Richter she made up for it with her sumptuous sounds and an architectural shape that makes one wonder why it is not more often played these days.

Teatro Comunale Ridotto in Vicenza
Five star review from Eva Purelli from Il Giornale di Vicenza. ‘Yoh,a Magic Malaysian a long way off from the empty virtuosi of the keyboard.Thanks to the Bosendorfer concert grand with its marvellous sound,the pianist was able to show off her great class and bravura.’ Eva Purelli
Il Giornale di Vicenza

She started to play at the age of 3 and already at 12 played at the Carnegie Hall as Gold Prize Winner of the Bradshaw International Competition.
Hao Zi Yoh,born of Malaysian parents,continued her training at the Royal Academy of Music but was also noticed by the Keyboard Charitable Trust,that sustains internationally young keyboard talents.
Already noticed by Noretta Conci,Italian concert pianist,assistant of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli,who with her husband John Leech created the Keyboard Trust,which is a saving anchor in the great music business sea of classical pianists.
Amongst the young particularly talented brought to light and in need of sustaining ,over the years many have also come to Vicenza,thanks to the collaboration with the ‘Incontro’.Alexander Romanovsky was one amongst many of those chosen.
Tuesday in the small hall of the Teatro Comunale another young pianist played thanks to this partnership.
There are many young pianists technically prepared but often their technique becomes a obstacle with only prodigious finger gymnastics,the triumph of virtuosity with the flexing of muscles.
The pianist Hao Zi Yoh showed in her recital that she had not fallen into this trap.On the contrary,thanks to the marvellous natural sound of a Bosendorfer Concert Grand ,the 28 year old Yoh was able to play with subtle phrasing and a jewel like touch of great intensity.Her interpretation of Robert Schumann’s op 15 ‘Kinderszenen’,from which we all know the famous ‘Traumerei’ (Dreaming)but that includes in the collection pearls of absolute beauty that the pianist demonstrated with her unique musicality.This absolute beauty of sound does not belong to all pianists but is worth much more than any cold virtuosity.
Chopin’s Fourth Ballade ( played in place of the Fourth Scherzo as the Schumann ‘Scenes from childhood’ replaced the Rachmaninov Corelli Variations)demonstrated her expressively eloquent and profound singing touch from a pianist who had won third prize in the Rome International Piano Competition.
In Vicenza she opened with Mozart’s 15th Sonata in F K.533 of intricate harmonic structure that she played with freshness and loving lyricism.
Equally expressive and luminous was her interpretation of the 8th Novelette op.21 by Robert Schumann,a composer particularly close to her heart.She had closed her recital with a sparkling performance of a selection from Ravel’s ‘Miroirs’:’Noctuelles’,’Une barque sur l’océan ‘ and the explosion of Spanish colour in ‘Alborada del Gracioso’.
Great applause from an audience of 200 was well deserved and was thanked with an encore of Chopin’s brilliant ‘Minute’Waltz.
Eva Purelli
The distinguished critic Eva Purelli

Miroirs has five movements, each dedicated to a member of Les Apaches.Around 1900, Maurice Ravel joined a group of innovative young artists, poets, critics, and musicians referred to as Les Apaches or “hooligans”, a term coined by Ricardo Vines to refer to his band of “artistic outcasts”.To pay tribute to his fellow artists, Ravel began composing Miroirsin 1904 and finished it the following year

The indomitable Maria Antonietta Sguelia promoting music in Vicenza at the Teatro Comunale and the historic Teatro Olimpico for a lifetime

“Noctuelles” (“Night Moths”). D♭ major. Dedicated to Léon-Paul Fargue and is a highly chromatic work, maintaining a dark, nocturnal mood throughout. The middle section is calm with rich, chordal melodies, and the recapitulation takes place a fifth below the first entry.”Une barque sur l’océan” (in English “A Boat on the Ocean”). F♯minor. Written for Paul Sordes , the piece recounts a boat as it sails upon the waves of the ocean. Arpeggiated sections and sweeping melodies imitate the flow of ocean currents. It is the longest piece of the set.Alborada del gracioso” (Spanish: “The Jester’s Aubade -Morning Song of the Jester”). D minor — D major. Dedicated to Michel -Dimitri Calvocoressi Alborada is a technically challenging piece that incorporates Spanish musical themes into its complicated melodies.

Ermanno Detto sponsor and friend of Incontri with the concert dedicated each year to his late mother and also this year with great sadness to his father.

There was a fluidity of sound together with the fleeting lightness of Noctuelles.A deeply brooding atmospheric middle section with a completely different sound colour from the Schumann that one could only describe as unmistakably French.These moths flittered around the keyboard with kaleidoscopic colours that just seemed to flow so naturally from Hao Zi’s hands.The final flourish as they disappeared into the night air was of quite ravishing beauty.One could almost see the waves splashing about in ‘Une barque’with an astonishing fluidity out of which emerged a gentle melody that gradually became ever more turbulent.Storm clouds of mysterious sounds were played with astonishing technical prowess with streams of wonderful sounds just cascading from her fingers with such ease.What beauty she brought to the left hand melodic line as the waves weaved their delicate way in the right hand and calm was restored as rays of sunlight seemed to appear between the clouds with such subtle radiance.The Alborada showed off Hao Zi’s technical mastery as the repeated notes and double glissandi were simply incorporated into a musical tone poem of such languid beauty mixed with a passionate frenzy of astonishing virtuosity.

The Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52 by Frederic Chopin completed in 1842 in Paris It is commonly considered one of Chopin’s masterpieces, and one of the masterpieces of 19th-century piano music.Of the four ballades, it is considered by many pianists to be the most difficult, both technically and musically.It is also the longest, taking around ten to twelve minutes to perform. According to John Ogdon , it is “the most exalted, intense and sublimely powerful of all Chopin’s compositions… It is unbelievable that it lasts only twelve minutes, for it contains the experience of a lifetime.

A room with a view in the beautiful Harold Acton Library home of the British Institute directed by Simon Gammell OBE who together with his wife Jennifer have created a centre for excellence and an essential meeting place for all lovers of the Arts
Manuscript of Chopin op 52 in the Bodleian Library in Oxford

This was a monumental performance of one of the greatest works in the piano repertoire.It was played with an aristocratic nobility but a sensitivity to sound that made one realise what Cortot meant when he said:’ avec un sentiment de regret’ at the return of the opening heartbeating repeated notes.A magical cadenza brought us to the main theme seemingly lost until it found its way with such swirling mists of sound and a gradual magisterial build up to the final explosion and the five redeeming chords that seem to find such peace after such a storm of romantic passion. The transcendentally intricate coda that follows was indeed breathtaking in Hao Zi’s hands.It was played with an unrelenting forward propulsion that did not exclude the most intricate shaping of this extraordinary after thought of pure genius.

A standing ovation in the Harold Acton Library with a full house of discerning music lovers https://youtu.be/boNnAWOgMNs
Director Simon Gammell already on his feet at the end of a superb recital
A sumptuous celebratory feast hosted by a very enthusiastic Sir David Scholey
Sir David looking forward to the next Keyboard Trust concerts in The British Institute where two Gold Medal winners of the Busoni International Piano Competition will give concerts on the 2nd and 30th March Ivan Krpan on the 2nd and Emanuil Ivanov on the 30th. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/12/09/emanuil-ivanov-in-capua-the-bells-of-their-100-churches-tolling-brightly-ignited-by-his-mastery-and-dedication/. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/03/26/ivan-krpan-plays-mozart/
I truly mean what I write here: click on the link for an hour’s unforgettable music, wherever you are. Performance doesn’t come better than this.
Nice to remember Jack Buckley who died last September in London at the age of 84 – A life lived to the full right until the last – he will be much missed.For a lifetime he promoted music in Italy and was a great friend of Harold Acton.He was an indefatigable promoter of Sir William Walton and Sir Maxwell Davis bringing to Rome the London Symphony Orchestra under Andre Previn with an all Walton programme.He also helped Lady Walton found the William Walton Trust on Ischia and helped Joy Bryers found the European Youth Orchestra.He was Arts officer of the British Council in Rome for many years having followed in the footsteps of the remarkable Hilda Colucci.In later years he became a very erudite commentator on the Arts via Seen and Heard International.
Jack Buckley with another great female pianist Beatrice Rana

I have heard Hao Zi many times as these articles will show and some include performances and a biography of this remarkable young musician :









Red roses from the sponsors of her concert in Florence :Mr and Mrs Carpenter

Ignas Maknickas at St Marys.A poet speaks with simplicity and fluidity

Tuesday 24 January 3.00 pm 


I was invited about four years ago to a concert at the Royal Academy of Music in which two ‘freshers’were performing the Mozart Double Concerto.I had known Alim Beisembayev since his studies at the Purcell School with Tessa Nicholson and it was she who had invited me to the concert in which Alim was playing with a young Lithuanian student Ignas Maknickas.Two very talented young pianists embarking on an intensive professional training.Alim has gone on to win the Gold Medal at the Leeds International Piano Competition and on todays performance Ignas is well on the way to receiving International recognition too .I had heard Ignas a few years later at the Imogen Cooper Musical Trust and at St James’ Piccadilly and began to realise that the young rather undisciplined pianist of the Mozart Double was fast maturing into a pianist to be reckoned with.Today I heard a great artist ready to take the world by storm.But not only for his extraordinary natural technical skill but for his intelligence and simple but profound musicality.A fluidity of sound that seems to be the norm for the Lithuanian school of pianists who have come to perfect their studies in London.A school that creates pianists with a relaxed natural technical ease that gives the sound they make a fluidity and purity similar to the remarkable Hungarian School .(I am reminded of the fluid,liquid sound of Geza Anda).Rokas Valuntonis ,Gabrielé Sutkuté and Milda Daunoraite are three Lithuanian pianists whose career I have been following with great interest ,who all play with a natural ease and fluidity of sound.An exhilarating ‘joie de vivre’ that allows the music to flow so naturally from their finely trained fingers and gives them a security that is so often missing in young performers in need of experience.

From the very first notes there was a rhythmic energy and passionate involvement but with a clarity and technical ease that allowed him to pursue Schumann’s wishes to the full.The rippling left hand I have never heard so clearly since Geza Anda.A clarity that was unobtrusive but gave a support to the passionate outpouring of Schumann’s heart in ‘the most passionate thing he had ever written’.There was tenderness too as Schumann’s deep lament for his beloved Clara gave rise to ravishingly lyrical interludes.Never allowing the tempo to sag,Ignas had entered so well into the very heart of a composer deeply in love.There was an overall architectural shape to his playing that never denied intimate moments of reflection,always picking up the tempo(something that the composer had not marked clearly in the score).The second movement was played with great musicality as Schumann’s sometimes irritating dotted rhythms were give a shape and meaning as they led to the gradual build up to the treacherous coda.Hurdles placed in these final two pages that Ignas took in his stride shaping them into the overall argument with transcendental control and never loosing his wonderful luminous sound.It was a control sound that he had realised from the outset that the march is marked only mezzo forte as it gradually built up to this final exhilarating explosion of pyrotechnics.Liszt was said to have played this coda with glee and although he played the entire work in private he never actually played it in public considering it not ‘effective’.The first performance I had ever heard was in the 60’s from the golden hands of Artur Rubinstein.It was Rubinstein too,a showman like Liszt,who never played Davidsbundler in public (Schumann’s most poetic early masterpiece) because it finished quietly and audiences required a more triumphant finish to the first or second half of a recital!The central ‘etwas langsamer’was played with ravishing beauty and the lightness of the pianissimo scherzando was shaped with such delicacy and even the slight ritardando at the end although not marked in the score was the touch of a true poetic stylist.The deep beauty of the last movement where Schumann declares openly his deep feeling for his distant beloved was played with a fluidity and a control of balance,that never allowed the melodic line to be overwhelmed by the fluid accompaniment,even in the most passionate climaxes.The deeply contemplative final page where the temperature was allowed to discreetly rise,as Schumann indicates,but without any exaggeration as the music drew to its final three whispered chords with a natural musicianship and intelligence that could be called recreation!

The Fantasie in C, op.17, was written in 1836. It was revised prior to publication in 1839, when it was dedicated to Franz Liszt.Liszt in return dedicated his B minor Sonata to Schumann.The two works are generally considered to be the pinnacles of piano music of the Romantic period.The Fantasie is in loose sonata form. Its three movements are headed:Durchaus fantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutragen; Im Legenden-TonMäßig. Durchaus energischLangsam getragen. Durchweg leise zu halten. 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.Later that year, he wrote 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, Bonn.

Liszt’s Beethoven Monument in Bonn

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.Schumann prefaced the work with a quote from Friedrich Schlegel:Durch alle Töne tönet Im bunten Erdentraum Ein leiser Ton gezogen Fur den, der heimlich lauschet.(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.)Agosti a student of Busoni who was a student of Liszt wrote the word Cla-ra in my score over the long A to G in the last movement.

Cla- ra written by Agosti a pupil of Busoni who was a pupil of Liszt.

There is a musical quotation of a phrase from Beethoven’s song cycle An die ferne Geliebte (to the distant beloved )in the coda of the first movement :’Accept then these songs beloved, which I sang for you alone.’All Schumann wrote to Clara: The first movement may well be the most passionate I have ever composed – a deep lament for you. They still had many tribulations to suffer before they finally married four years later.

Cla- ra in Agosti’s hand in my score

Liszt had played the piece to Schumann privately, and later incorporated it into his teaching repertory, but he considered it unsuitable for public performance and never played it in public.However, Liszt returned the honour by dedicating his own Sonata in B minor to Schumann in 1853. Clara Schumann did not start to perform the Fantasie in her concerts until 1866,ten years after the composer died ,the Liszt Sonata she never played as she considered it ‘a blind noise’!

It was Artur Rubinstein who in his ‘80’s decided that this last masterpiece for the piano of Schubert should be shared by him in the concert hall.In fact there is a wonderful very aristocratic performance available on an historic video from Poland .His protégé, Janina Fialkowska had discovered it during the pandemic when she finally decided that the time was right to include this masterpiece in future programmes. https://youtube.com/watch?v=qLTM-Y3dXs4&feature=share. Rubinstein had recorded the sonata in the studios in Rome but he had brought his own beautiful piano with him.He realised that this was one long outpouring of song – the last that was to flow from a composer aware that there was little time left on this earth.It requires a fluidity of sound and a sense of balance and control that never allows for any Beethovenian symphonic heavyness .Even in the tumultuous climaxes there must be an overall glow to the sound as the forty minutes of continuous mellifluosity should be like floating on the continual undisturbed movement of a mountain stream.Ignas had just this sound and entered perfectly into this ravishing sound world.His musicianship and sense of overall architectural shape revealed a maturity way beyond his actual age.The deep bass rumble (menacing like the Appassionata?) was played with superb control which is not easy on a good but not perfectly regulated piano.He created a sublime outpouring of song in the Andante sostenuto only interrupted by the deeply sonorous chorale central episode .But it was the Scherzo Allegro vivace con delicatezza that I will remember for its freshness ,luminous shape and the beauty of the trio with its bump in the night ‘fzp’that are usually so intrusive.Not in this musicians hands as he shaped the music with the same musicality and loving care of all he did.Including the interruption of ‘G’ in the ‘Allegro,ma non troppo’last movement.It merely signalled the quixotic changes of character in a movement of grace and great drama.a memorable performance form a youthful poet of the piano.

Schubert’s last three piano sonatas ,D 958, 959 and 960, are his last major compositions for solo piano. They were written during the last months of his life, between the spring and autumn of 1828, but were not published until about ten years after his death, in 1838–39.Like the rest of Schubert’s piano sonatas, they were mostly neglected in the 19th century but the late 20th century, however, public and critical opinion had changed, and these sonatas are now considered among the most important of the composer’s mature masterpieces. The last year of Schubert’s life was marked by growing public acclaim for the composer’s works, but also by the gradual deterioration of his health. On March 26, 1828, together with other musicians in Vienna Schubert gave a public concert of his own works, which was a great success and earned him a considerable profit. Schubert had been struggling with syphilis since 1822–23, and suffered from weakness, headaches and dizziness. However, he seems to have led a relatively normal life until September 1828, when new symptoms appeared. At this stage he moved from the Vienna home of his friend Franz von Schober to his brother Ferdinand’s house in the suburbs, following the advice of his doctor; unfortunately, this may have actually worsened his condition. However, up until the last weeks of his life in November 1828, he continued to compose an extraordinary amount of music, including such masterpieces as the three last sonatas.Schubert probably began sketching the sonatas sometime around the spring months of 1828; the final versions were written in September.A year after the composers death Schubert’s brother Ferdinand sold the sonatas’ autographs to another publisher, Anton Diabelli who would only publish them about ten years later, in 1838 or 1839.Schubert had intended the sonatas to be dedicated to Johann Nepomuk Hummel whom he greatly admired. Hummel was a leading pianist, a pupil of Mozart, and a pioneering composer of the Romantic style (like Schubert himself).However, by the time the sonatas were published in 1839, Hummel was dead, and Diabelli, the new publisher, decided to dedicate them instead to Robert Schumann who had praised many of Schubert’s works in his critical writings.

Born in California in 1998, Ignas was raised in Lithuania. In 2017, graduating from the National M.K. Ciurlionis School of Art in Vilnius, he was honoured by the President of Lithuania, H.E. Dalia Grybauskaite. With his sister and three brothers the talented Maknickas Family Ensemble has represented Lithuania on National Television and at State Occasions.Ignas completed his Bachelor of Music at the Royal Academy of Music on full scholarship under Professor Joanna MacGregor. In September 2021 he commenced the Master of Arts Programme with Professor MacGregor, also on full scholarship. He is a recipient of the Julien Prize, the ABRSM Scholarship Award, the Imogen Cooper Music Trust Scholarship, Munster Trust Mark James Award, Robert Turnbull Piano Foundation Award, Tillett Trust and Colin Keer Trust Award and Hattori Foundation Award. He is an Artist of the Munster Trust Recital Scheme.He has attended masterclasses with Dmitri Bashkirov, Dame Imogen Cooper, Christopher Elton, Stephen Hough, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Marios Papadopoulos, Menahem Pressler, Geoffrey Simon, Tamás Ungár, Arie Vardi and Ilana Vered. As a soloist he has appeared at the Steinway Hall in London, Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, Charlottenborg Festival Hall in Copenhagen, Ed Landreth Hall in Fort Worth, Lithuanian National Philharmonic in Vilnius and Kinross House in Scotland.”



Elia Cecino at the Quirinale in Rome – Realms of Gold in the President’s Palace

Elia Cecino at the Quirinale -The President’s Palace in Rome – a live radio broadcast with some memorable performances of Chopin and Schumann played with aristocratic musicianship and youthful passion.
But it was when the microphones were turned off,as air time had run out,that for us lucky ones in the audience Elia treated us to a ravishing performance of Tchaikowsky’s Nocturne.We listened with baited breath as Elia allowed the music to float around this golden hall with sounds that were truly etched in gold and silver.


The ceiling of the Cappella Paolina

Chopin’s Polonaise in F sharp minor that opened this morning concert was played with aristocratic nobility but also a driving rhythmic energy and a remarkable architectural shape.There was dynamic energy and astonishing technical command but also a poetic sense of phrasing created by a masterly sense of balance.The mazurka central episode sprang to life as he shaped it with inflections that gave such meaning to a seemingly repetitive rhythmic cell.Bursting into an outpouring of glorious song that was shaped with such sensitivity and loving care before the return of the Polonaise now imbued with a hypnotic drive and sumptuous rich sound.A climax of such nobility as the driving cascades of octaves were played with passionate conviction .Dying away to a mere whisper with only a menacing shadow left as an undercurrent of the polonaise rhythm.An extraordinarily poetic ending to this tone poem that Chopin has miraculously etched and is a premonition of the later Polonaise Fantasie op 61.

The four mazurkas op 24 were played with beguiling freedom and subtle rhythm.A sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing without any forcing of tone or being overpowered by the driving dance rhythms.A Lento of beauty and yearning contrasting with Allegro non troppo of infectious dance rhythms and foot stamping but with the magic shepherds bagpipe that opens and closes the scene.A Moderato con anima full of wistful nostalgia and refined elegance trailing into the distance at the end with ravishing fluidity.A final Moderato of beguiling insistent dance with it’s driving forward movement played with infectious good humour and it’s central episode of question and answer but always ending on a note of sweet nostalgia.They were all bathed in a glorious golden glow due to a trascendental control of pedal and ultra sensitive touch.
Chopin was only a few years older that Elia when he penned these jewel like tone poems .Elia understood perfectly entering with such understanding this world of poetic yearning.

The Schumann Fantasiestucke op 111 is a late work which I first heard from the hands of Cherkassky in the first concert he gave in Rome in 1985.It was the opening work in a recital and was followed by a monumental performance of the Liszt Sonata.The renowned critic Peter Stadlen had likened the performance of Liszt to that of pre war Horowitz.It was too much for Guido Agosti a direct descendent of Liszt via Busoni who did not agree with such freedom of interpretation but he did appreciate the late Schumann piece . One of Agosti’s most beloved works in his later years was the Gesange des Fruhe (Songs of Dawn) op 133 which was written only three years before Schumann’s death.Elia plunged into the first of op 111 with passionate abandon with its relentless whirlwind of sounds.Followed by a most Schubertian of melodic outpourings which Elia played with a luminous cantabile which contrasted with the more sinuous dotty Schumannisms of the central episode.There was joyous relief with Elia’s sumptuous full sound and bounding energy of the Brahmsian march last movement .It soon dissolved into one of Schumann’s quixotic changes of mood played with a subtle elegance and charm before the return of the March and an unexpected coda where Florestan and Eusebius were at last united!

Presenting the performances for the listeners on Radio 3

The Symphonic Studies op 13 made up the whole of the second half of the programme and Elia chose to play just the original twelve variations as published in 1837.He did not include the five extra ones that Schumann had cut out but had been restored by Brahms in his edition of 1890 .They are often added into the fabric of the original twelve but Elia chose to play the original ones only and also to ignore variants that Schumann too had eliminated in his final edition.It gave great strength to the overall shape of the work with a sense of architectural line that took us so inevitably to the finale.Elia had realised that the seventh variation is the culmination point of the studies .Agosti likened it to a Gothic cathedral and Elia played it with grandiose nobility with the bass notes giving a solid foundation to such a monumental edifice .There was astonishing technical precision to the Mendelssohnian ‘presto possibile’ with its fleeting lightweight chords played at lightening speed.There was great weight and beauty that he brought to the nocturne like penultimate study giving emotional meaning to the melodic line with the accompaniment just a mere vibration of harmonies.The finale was played with astonishing power and driving rhythmic energy.The dramatic change of harmony towards the end was placed with aristocratic precision and control which made the change even more astonishing.The tumultuous ending was played with an exhilaration and driving force that was truly breathtaking.The studies had started with his future father in law’s theme played with a disarming simplicity as the variations were allowed to unfold with a continual driving undercurrent.From the simplicity of the rhythmic bass of the first to the passionate outpouring of the second.There followed the simple fleeting notes of butterfly lightness while the tenor melody is allowed to intone the theme with the beautiful ornament just adding to it’s poignant beauty.There was a fleeting lightness to the scherzando after the rather ponderous precisely placed chords of the previous one.A remarkable performance of great power and beauty but above all a sense of shape and direction of a mature musician who had seen the work as a unified whole.

A full hall on a very cold Sunday morning in Rome
Elia with his mentor Maddalena de Facci
Francesco Moretti of MA MUSIC Agency – http://www.mamusic.it
Imposing sculpture by Manzu





Marcella Crudeli reigns in Viterbo A lifetime at the service of music




Zero temperatures with ice and snow invading Italy this week but nothing could stop the indomitable Marcella Crudeli in her 82 year from giving a recital in Viterbo for her friend and colleague Prof Franco Ricci .A recital that showed off all her consumate artistry with works she has loved and lived with for a life time .

The four Impromptus D 899 by Schubert were played with an aristocratic sense of timing and phrasing that allowed the music to flow with such ease and style.She found all the time to show us the most intimate secrets of a composer who was born on wings of song.It gave a spaciousness and a sense of authority to a performance that was a lesson in aristocratic music making.

Three beautifully mellifluous works by Marco Sollini were given their premiere outing from the hands of this ever generous veteran of the keyboard and gave a refreshing change of mood before the selection of works by Chopin .

Works that have been an important part of Marcella’s repertoire for a lifetime.From the scintillating early Variazioni Brillanti op 12 to the Scherzo in B flat minor played with an authority and vigour that like Rubinstein denied their age ,The Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante op 22 was played with the tender longing of the Andante contrasting with the dynamic bravura of the Polonaise .A work that Chopin was to woo the aristocrats with who flocked to the salons of Paris to hear this pianistic genius.An encore of the Fantasie Impromptu op 66 was played with consummate artistry and scintillating brilliance and was a personal gift to Prof Ricci to thank him for all that he is doing like her to help young musicians find an audience.


Professore Franco Ricci


Two giants break the ice in Rome – Pappano and Ólafsson with the colours of’Novecento’

Who could substitute an indisposed Martha Argerich?No one is the simple answer she is quite simply unique.

Both she and her childhood friend Daniel Barenboim were seen still making music together in Berlin only ten days ago .https://youtube.com/watch?v=CzxZmvqZnEA&feature=share .A heart rending clip of two giants of our time who have given us so much for so long.

But tonight we were presented with a Viking bringing with him the coldest spell that Rome has known for some time.A hall decimated partly for the absence of Martha but mostly because of the extreme cold that has struck the Eternal City.

The Islandic pianist ,Vikingur Olafsson ,towered over our beloved ‘Toni’ Pappano as they came on stage together.It gave no idea of the musical giants that they both are.
Sir Antonio we know,having savoured his intimate music making with the S.Cecilia Orchestra over the past twenty years until it has become one of the world’s finest orchestras.Pappano too has grown with them and is now one of the most sought after conductors of our time ready to take over the reigns of the historic London Symphony Orchestra.
Vikingur Olafsson on the other hand has been noticed over the past few years for the remarkable recordings he has made mainly of transcriptions of Bach.A unique sound world of such luminosity that made one wonder if there had been some mechanical magic in the recording studio.

He is now gradually being heard in the great concert halls of the world and it was an inspired choice to invite him on this sad occasion to replace Martha Argerich.It must have been a daunting prospect for him too until he actually sat at the piano.

Past performances of the Ravel Concerto in Rome at S.Cecilia

The Ravel concerto was premiered at S Cecilia,a year after the world premiere in Paris in 1932,by my teacher and friend Guido Agosti.
A work that is pure chamber music and it was the way that the pianist today integrated and interwove with the players that was so impressive.
Of course the heart of the concerto is the long ‘adagio assai’ in which the solo piano sets the scene for the unique magic colour and atmosphere that Ravel could conjure from an orchestra.The long slow opening was played in whispered tones where Vikingur’s unique sense of balance could allow the melodic line to float unimpeded on a bed of true gold but with that same radiance and fluidity that had been so noticeable in his recordings.With the superb wind players,all soloists in their own right,our Viking brought an incisive assured rhythmic impulse to the outer movements under the energetic and subtle eye of our musical magician ‘Toni’ .They all united in the spirit of improvised jazz idioms that Ravel has so ingeniously woven into his web of intoxicating sounds.

Greeted by an ovation from a suitably warmed up public our Viking had passed his test and was fully accepted by all as ‘the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’.But there was more to come as our gentle giant thanked S.Cecilia for the honour of inviting him to play with them and their illustrious conductor,He offered as a thank you the second movement from Bach’s Fourth Organ Sonata.BWV 528 transcribed by August Stradal.Here the heavens truly opened with the same unique sounds that we had heard in his recordings.A whispered luminosity created by his extraordinary use of the pedals and a sense of balance building to a climax of Busonian proportions.Building the sonorities with great bass pedal notes on which he could float his unique sounds just as I imagine Busoni may have done.It may not be to everyone’s taste as it is these days a very unconventional way to approach Bach.But surely there is no one way to appreciate and worship at a shrine that is solely created for the glory of God.

This is his recording of the same piece from his prize winning album.J.S.Bach ‘Works and reworks’ that won him the Gramophone award as ‘Artist of the year’ https://youtube.com/watch?v=h3-rNMhIyuQ&feature=share.

A second encore and a little speech to praise the works of the unjustly neglected composer Domenico Cimarosa.The sonata n.55 in A minor was played with the same glistening tone palette of whispered beauty that drew the audience in to him rather than projecting the sound out.Inwards rather than outwards as we were mere eavesdroppers.But by some magic the sounds flew through the now heated air and reached an audience listening with baited breath to such sublime beauty.

He will be playing the Schumann Concerto next week at the Royal Festival Hall in London with the London Philharmonic under Edward Gardner and look forward to a solo recital with longer works by Beethoven and Schumann in order to appreciate his unique musical interpretations of other important solo masterpieces

The concert had begun with a beguiling account of Prokofiev’s classical Symphony from 1918.An orchestra in splendid form led by the genial Andrea Obiso and of course the masterly direction of Sir Antonio Pappano.Who also united the strands of Sibelius’s 5th symphony with a dynamic pulse and sense of architectural shape.

He is not only a musical communicator via the sounds he conjures out of thin air but also a moving commentator who can explain the technical construction of Sibelius’s compositional style but that is in the end only a means to the emotional impact that strikes deeply at the heart of a musical genius.

The Pianistic Perfection of Yunchan Lim at the Wigmore Hall

Yunchan made his triumphant London debut yesterday 18th January 2023 at Wigmore Hall to a standing ovations and two encores. Inspiring a five-star review from Richard Morrison in The Times, “If ever a young pianist made his London debut trailing clouds of glory, it was this 18-year-old South Korean.”
Watch the performance here: https://www.youtube.com/live/RJeGcWZ-K5Q?feature=share
Barry Millington of the Evening Standard with five stars exclaims ‘We’re at the start of something special and the audience knew It’ Andrew Clements in the Guardian with four stars:’Piano prodigy puts his brilliance on full display ‘.Five stars from Jessica Duchen :’The pianist’s playing is so good you think you are dreaming’

Pianistic perfection ……………. And much more besides.Not even from Cherkassky on this very stage have we heard a Liebestraum of such freedom and refined purity of sound.
Myra Hess would have been astonished at the finesse and ravishing sense of balance in ‘Jesu Joy’.With or without Matthay this young man has a thousand gradations of sound in each finger and the intelligence and sensitivity to be able to read beyond the notes written on the page and into the very soul of the composer.

The piano bashers bible !

His Liszt and Rachmaninov may be of a superstar but his Beethoven Bach and Brahms are of a great interpretative artist.Daring to declare Byrd to be the greatest English composer four centuries from his death was taking his life into his hands on the Wigmore stage.His performance of simplicity and subtlety combined with glistening ornaments played in an unobtrusive but extraordinarily meaningful way convinced us that he was probably right!Have Bach’s 15 Sinfonia’s ever sounded so full of beauty and simplicity as he seemed to barely touch the keys?No showmanship or external interference with the music that just poured so naturally from his fingers and drew the audience in to the heart of the music rather than being projected to greedy but lazy ears.Knotty twine as Delius was wont to describe Bach but knots tied by the angels in a celestial paradise.It was in Beethoven too,where he truly understood the composers irascible character that erupted so unexpectedly from the golden streams of notes that flowed from his hands in the Bagatelles.The chameleonic quicksilver changes of character were superbly realised with a pianistic perfection that was revelatory and to say the very least ,extraordinary.The rage and dynamic energy he brought to the final A flat Bagatelle was quite overwhelming.’Rage over a lost penny’ we know but this,though,was a ‘rage over a million dollar note!’It led immediately to the great opening chord of the variations op 15 – a real call to arms.It put a stop to all those trifles and surprising Beethovenian frivolities as we got to the heart of the recital with a monumental performance of the Eroica Variations that I have described in detail below from his performance in Poland last summer.Not quite the characterisation of Curzon but the dynamism and drive of Serkin or Brendel with the beauty of sound of Gilels or Volodos.In a word at 18 he is already a complete artist of great stature.


Mihai Ritivoiu’s triumphant recital signals a musical renaissance at the National Liberal Club

Mihai presenting his very interesting programme
A full house for the new season of Kettner Concerts .The season had opened with a recital by another Keyboard Trust Artist Yuanfan Yang https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/09/06/yuanfan-yang-in-paradise/

Old and New at the National Liberal Club where the Kettner Concert Society have been giving concerts for the past fifty years.A new artistic direction of Hannah-Elizabeth Teoh and Cristian Sandrin have taken over Ben Westlake’s inspired lead and now on its second concert this season has filled this unique hall with an enthusiastic audience for a superb recital given by the young Romanian pianist Mihai Ritivoiu.


Superb performances on the Club’s own magnificent Steinway but it was the scintillating encore of Chopin’s Study op 10 n.4 that brought the house down much as it had for Rubinstein in his last recital at the Wigmore Hall in 1976.The difference of course was that Mihai was not born then but he has inherited the same rhythmic drive and scintillating palette of sumptuous sounds that the 90 year old Rubinstein could still inspire his audience with.

But this was only a thank you to an audience that had sat spellbound through a recital of impeccable good taste and intelligence from a musician who could conjure up magic from a black box of hammers and strings with sounds of simplicity and sumptuous beauty.A monumental performance of Enescu’s masterpiece the 1924 Sonata that had won Mihai a top prize at the 2011 Enescu International Piano Competition and which he has delved ever deeper into ,since,in a continual voyage of discovery.

This was after a ravishing performance of Chopin’s most perfect work,the Barcarolle op 60 .A performance of great stature with it’s continuous outpouring of song played with such delicacy and sumptuous richness by a master musician .Fauré’s beautiful early Ballade I had fallen in love with,as a child,in Robert Casadesus’ magical performance for piano and orchestra with Bernstein at the helm.I think this is the first time I have heard Fauré’s own solo piano version and I was overwhelmed by the same beauty of the mellifluous outpouring of an aristocratic French sound world that was to come to an end with the Great War.

A war that Ravel had taken part in as an active ambulance driver and had been inspired by the horrors that he saw to write a work that looked back to the perfection of the world of Couperin.A world of purity and simplicity that inspired him to dedicate each movement to friends whose young lives had been so cruelly curtailed.Mihai played just two movements with ravishing colours and the perfect clockwork mechanism of purity and perfection of the Prélude was complimented by the suave chiselled beauty of the Menuet.

Q.E.D Mihai’s feet during the opening Couperin

Opening with Couperin’s Les Barricades Mysterieuses played entirely without pedal made a great contrast with the 2005 reworking by the Romanian composer Dediu in which the original is inverted and weaves a spider’s web of etherial fluid sounds.

Schubert’s first Impromptu D 935 was the real majestic opener and showed us the mature musicianship and sensitivity of an artist who could delve into the heart of such a well known work with such intensely moving originality and simplicity.

Peter Whyte surrounded by friends and admirers happy to sit back and enjoy such sumptuous music making

Peter Whyte,the venerable chairman,was happy to take back seat tonight as he passed the reigns to these two young artistic directors,who are also distinguished pianists,and who will take the Kettner Music Society to even greater heights.

Cristian taking over the reigns of the venerable Peter Whyte

The next concert is on the 22nd February with the renowned English pianist Dame Imogen Cooper,who is also Cristians mentor via the Imogen Cooper Musical Trust.


The new artistic directors applauding their colleague

Let us not forget that the Liberal Club has rung with the sounds of the likes of Rachmaninov and Moiseiwitch and now indeed looks like turning full circle – a true glorious renaissance
Great music returns to the National Liberal Club with this series and others including the Keyboard Trust of which Cristian and Mihai have both been recipients.


A Golden era returns and I can’t wait to enjoy the promise of such glorious music in these august historic surrounds.

Another exciting New Year Concert organised by Yisha Xue. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/02/17/the-year-of-the-tiger-with-love-concert-yuanfan-yang-and-shirley-wu-at-the-nlc/

Yisha Xue celebrates the ‘Year of the Rabbit’ on the 2nd of February with a recital by a highly gifted teenager,Shutian Cheng,who recently played in St Johns SS Rachmaninov’s much revered and feared Third Piano Concerto.
The National Liberal Club is indeed resounding with the sound of music

Artistic Directors of the Kettner Music Society

Hailed for her ‘dark energy’ and ‘uncommon sensitivity’, New Zealand born Hannah-Elizabeth Teoh is one of the most interesting young pianists in the UK. Following intensive periods of study at the Royal Academy of Music, the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris and the Royal College of Music, she has won numerous awards including the Harold Samuel Prize, the Florence Murray Award, the Lesley Holland Scholarship and the Ivy Corkill Recital Award. As a concerto soloist she has performed around the world, including a premiere recording of Ross Harris’ Concertina for Piano and Orchestra with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and most recently making her Italian debut with the Master Orchestra in Brescia playing Saint-Saëns’ second piano concerto. A keen exponent of contemporary music, Hannah-Elizabeth has premiered a number of works for piano including Kettner composer-in-residence Dan Chappell’s Microludes in a 2022 Kettner Concert. Supporting her musical life, Hannah-Elizabeth draws inspiration from literature and art and has a Masters in Philosophy from Birkbeck University.

Born in Bucharest, Romania, Cristian Sandrin had his Wigmore Hall debut recital in 2017. He collaborates often with orchestras in Romania and the UK, having had his debut with the prestigious “George Enescu” Philharmonic and the Bournemouth Bach Choir Orchestra in 2021. Cristian enjoys conducting Mozart concertos from the keyboard as well as chamber music collaborations. He has performed all over Europe, including recitals at the Salle Cortot, Teatro La Fenice and Palau de la Musica Catalana. He has won numerours prizes and distinctions in international piano competitions, such as the top prizes of the International Piano Competition Citta di Oleggio 2019, the Windsor International Piano Competition 2018, the Concours Musical de Versailles 2019, Automobile Club de France Piano Competition 2011 and the “Animato” Competition in Paris 2012. In 2019 he received the Rossalyn Tureck Prize for the best interpretation of Bach at the Olga Kern International Piano Competition in New Mexico. He is an alumni of the Imogen Cooper Music Trust, being supported as well by the Keyboard Charitable Trust. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/03/17/cristian-sandrin-liberally-speaking/

Chairman of the Kettner Music Society

Peter Whyte has been involved with the Kettner Society since its very beginning; it was while working at a tour operating firm in the 70s that he had a visit from Peter Boizot, who invited him to attend the new dining group he was starting. In 2003 Peter up the position of chairman, the sixth in the history of the society.Born and raised in North London, Peter’s interest in politics later led him to become chairman of the Bracknell Liberal Association. A keen cricketer, he has also chaired a cricket club. Always interested in commemorating significant figures, he is responsible for ten blue plaques in London, (including ones dedicated to Chopin and Mendelssohn) and six road names in Reading (including one to the Liberal statesman Rufus Isaacs).Since becoming interested in music, Peter has relished the opportunity to attend performances by many great pianists. Among those who left a particular impression are Claudio Arrau, Steven Bishop, Alfred Brendal, Artur Rubinstein, and John Ogdon.

CD signing – two great Romanian pianists in London




Petar Dimov photographer in residence and superb pianist also from the KCT and resident at the Kew Academy https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/04/03/petar-dimov-a-voyage-of-discovery-of-sumptuous-beauty/
Poetry reading of Yates evoking the atmosphere of a ‘Fin de siècle salon’
Co Artistic Director Hannah-Elizabeth Teoh reading a poem written especially for the occasion
The imposing entrance to the National Liberal Club

Ivelina Krasteva at St James,Sussex Gardens Intelligence and mastery at the service of music

Some very assured musicianly playing from Ivelina Krasteva in St James’ Sussex Gardens.
Beethoven’s op 22 Sonata was paired with the equally youthful 2nd Sonata of Prokofiev.Many striking similarities with their quixotic changes of character and dynamic rhythmic drive allied to a subtle sense of balance and colour.

Beethoven in particular showed her great sense of architectural shape as she not only imbued each movement with subtle detail and character but managed to combine all four movements into a unified whole of great significance.
Such refined detail in the first movement ‘Allegro con brio’ where the seemingly innocent opening motif is transformed in so many genial ways ,a similar opening to his even earlier Sonata op 2 n 3.
But now Beethoven has realised the great significance of the bass as he leaves his Haydnesque early world and strikes out into unexplored territory.
A journey that will pervade his complete musical evolution (or revolution) through the thirty two sonatas that span his total existence on earth .
The final sonatas pointing already to a celestial world away from the sturm und drang of his earthly existence.
Ivelina realised this and it was the bass that she gave such weight to in the first movement.The melodic line in the development was allowed to murmur in the bass so magically where above were mere vibrations of sound.

An Adagio where the bass notes were hardly audible as she stroked and caressed them providing a carpet of sound on which Beethoven’s mellifluous outpouring could unwind with such beauty and aristocratic shape.Magic sounds where the left hand that was a mere heartbeat on which ever more expressive appoggiaturas could float with poignant significance.There was purity and simplicity as Ivelina allowed this extraordinary movement to unfold with simplicity and subtle projection.
I remember being baffled by a critic writing about Richter’s performance in London on one of his first visits to the west.I did not understand at the time what he meant with ‘the Adagio was inexistant’.We had only just begun to understand the extraordinary sound world of the Russian school untainted by tradition as it was in the hands of this gigantic pianistic genius.
Ivelina too today looked afresh at a Sonata that we have lived with for a lifetime.
She imbued it with a clarity and intelligence that took us by surprise as it must have done when the ink was still fresh on the page.
There was a simple mellifluous flow to the Minuetto followed by vibrations of sound answered by the distant strains of a march.A trio played with great control as the weaving strands in the left hand were allowed to flow with ease.A Rondo of pastoral grace and charm interrupted by ever more dramatic insistent episodes of febrile energy.A fugato where the dynamic pieces were gradually calmed ,burning themselves out as they found their way back to the Rondo that was now embellished with great style and charm.

From the first notes of Prokofiev’s second sonata we were plunged into a world of savage rhythms and sensual sounds.The opening pastoral innocence interrupted by celestial sounds and episodes of dynamic energy.A pedal note that is but a menacing rumble in the bass while frenzied energy is suddenly gathering force above.A Scherzo that was a continuous rhythmic outpouring played with relentless dynamic energy and a grotesque sense of humour.
There was deep mediation in the Andante with the ravishing beauty of the melodic line over an ever moving wave of unearthly sounds.A treble eerily meandering over an insistent bass in continual motion ever more intense.
There was a bustling rhythmic energy to the ‘vivace’ with an almost french flavour of sarcastic humour.A magical reappearance of the first movement theme was given a quixotic work over tainted by the good humoured banter of this early work as yet untouched by a world that had still to open up and turn upside down Prokofiev’s whole existence.
Two works on their first outing for Ivelina that showed her mature intelligent musicianship and superb technical control.



St James’ Sussex Gardens Lancaster Gate