Ten year old Himari Sugiura in Rome at Teatro Ghione ‘On Wings of Song’

What a wonder to hear of the activity of Europa in Canto dedicated to sharing music and culture with the younger generation.As the programme says Europa in Canto was born in 2012 convinced that promoting culture and all forms of art at a very early age is a necessity for the development of man and his role in the world.As Shakespeare says:‘ If Music be the food of love ….play on .’And Europa in Canto certainly does that as was shown tonight with their collaboration with ‘Aria di Musica’ giving precious concert experience to a ten year old pianist .

Playing in a theatre where the greatest musicians of our age have played in the past .From Guido Agosti – a student of Busoni to Vlado Perlemuter a student of Cortot mentored by Ravel an Fauré.In fact it was Gianni Maria Ferrini who brought his ten year old student Himari Sugiura to have one of her first concert experiences under his careful supervision in a hall where he as a teenager had heard Perlemuter playing Ravel .

Cristiana Pegoraro a young student playing to Perlemuter in 1985. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/12/21/ithaka-of-cristiana-pegoraro-a-star-shining-brightly-in-latina-for-christmas/

Cristiana Pegoraro flocked to the theatre too where she had given one of her first recitals as a fourteen year old student of Elio Maestosi. Cristiana is pictured on the walls of the theatre playing in the masterclass of Perlemuter in the 80’s.A glorious period for the Ghione Theatre when in the 80’s and 90’s Rome was in urgent need of a chamber music hall along the lines of the Wigmore Hall in London.

It was known affectionately as the ‘ Salotto di Roma’.Ileana Ghione dedicated her life with her husband Christopher Axworthy to sharing a space that was created with ‘love’ and the conviction that theatre is a social necessity .

Ileana Ghione at home in Circeo with the High priestess of Bach Rosalyn Tureck

Ileana was proud to be awarded ‘Grande Ufficiale’ by President Ciampi even though as our great friend Rosalyn Tureck said:’It is nice to have one’s work recognised but it is the work not the award that counts!’ (Word had spread about our activity and I was awarded an associateship from my old Alma Mater -The Royal Academy in London).With the opening of the wonderful concert halls created by Renzo Piano at the Parco della Musica the Ghione theatre returned to its origins as a theatre.

But there are many that remember their student years when they could hear their colleagues making their debut in Rome like Cristiana,Roberto Prosseda,Francesco Libetta,Leslie Howard,Angela Hewitt,Janina Fialkowska etc etc alternating with some of the greatest musicians missing from Rome for lack of space :Annie Fischer,Alicia de Larrocha,Shura Cherkassky Moura Lympany or Fou Ts’ong etc etc .It was the favourite theatre of Stockhausen and was where Goffredo Petrassi shared the stage with Eliot Carter……Berio too figures in the photos along the beautiful ‘red plush’corridors.Red velvet made to seem antique which gives a warmth and homely feel like the theatres in London that Ileana loved to frequent and dreamt one day to create in Rome.A dream come true and a place where dreams can be realised ‘…..perchance to dream ‘as was the inspiration of the Universal genius of Shakespeare.

Gianni Maria Ferrini sharing in the applause with Himari

‘Aria di musica’ was created in 2015 by Himari’s teacher Gianni Maria Ferrini a student of Orazio Frugoni and Aldo Ciccolini and for many years repetiteur at the Rome Opera together with our much missed friend Steven Roach who had played many times at the Ghione Theatre.An orchestra of young musicians has been formed directed by Maestro Donato Renzetti.In fact yesterday the orchestra played in the historic Teatro Argentina where Rossini’s Barber of Seville had first seen light and where for many years S.Cecilia held their concerts.It is now like the Ghione theatre mostly dedicated to drama.However these theatres are reopening their doors again to music thanks to the passion and expertise of Associations like Europa in Canto and Aria di Musica -‘On Wings of Song’….flying high indeed.Musica con le Ali del Veneto is an organisation with similar aspirations for young performers and Giovanni Bertolazzi,…………..https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/12/04/giovanni-bertolazzi-the-mastery-and-authority-of-liszt/. …………one of the finest young musicians of his generation will play at Teatro La Fenice for Carlo Hruby on the 12th January https://www.musicaconleali.it/attivit%C3%A0/calendario/17-calendario-eventi/381-fenice-12-01-2023.html

Germano Neri and Nunzia Negro founders of Europa in Canto – formed at the school of Emma Contestabile at S.Cecilia Conservatory.I was on the jury of an International Piano and Singer competition in Enna with Madam Contestabile in the 80’s.An artist and remarkable musician of immovable beliefs who in her home in Montepulciano used to supervise the ten hours of practice that she insisted on from any “serious”student!

Le nostre due realtà hanno come obiettivo quello di diffondere la cultura artistica e musicale tra le nuove generazioni, lavorando con e per i giovani. Presentiamo quindi insieme la prima rassegna musicale dedicata a talenti eccezionali. In apertura la giovanissima pianista giapponese Himari Sugiura allieva del M° Gianni Maria Ferrini ad Ariadimusica dall’età di 4 anni.
A 7 anni si è esibita nella meravigliosa cornice del Parco Archeologico di Paestum e a soli 9 anni ha eseguito il Concerto per pianoforte e orchestra K 246 di Mozart diretta dal M° Donato Renzetti al Teatro Italia di Roma.


Il programma della serata, di grande impegno tecnico e musicale, è dunque affidato ad una bambina dalle incredibili capacità musicali e pianistiche. Bach, Clementi, Chopin e Debussy eseguiti in maniera stupefacente. Afferma il suo Maestro: “Il nostro è un lavoro di grandissima attenzione reciproca, trascorriamo ore e ore insieme al pianoforte. Certamente è una allieva dotata di qualità eccezionali, ma studia con grande dedizione e metodo. Il lavoro del pianista si costruisce soltanto così. E’ una gioia per me che possa far sentire dal vivo ciò di cui è capace”.

The remarkable activity of Europa in Canto and Aria di Musica outlined in the programme


“Felicissimi di poter presentare progetti che dimostrano l’importanza dell’educazione musicale che può certamente cambiare la vita dei giovani” afferma il M° Germano Neri, Direttore Artistico e Musicale di Europa in Canto.
Dopo questo evento, un contest determinerà i prossimi talenti protagonisti della rassegna.
Un appuntamento imperdibile.

Perlemuter giving a masterclass at the Ghione Theatre in 1985 with Cristiana Pegoraro ,Constance Channon Douglass ,Antonio Sardi di Letto with the guitarist Griselda Ponce de Leon looking on far left.

And so to the programme of a rather shy ten year old pianist.She has been studying from the age of four in 2017 with Gianni Maria Ferrini whilst her parents were here from Japan on diplomatic duties.Now transferred back to Tokyo she continues her studies on line with occasional visits to her Professor in Rome for essential one to one lessons.As Maestro Ferrini said it is the experience of playing in public from an early age that is so important.But he is also aware that this is work in progress and to be treated as such even though it is nice to receive applause from an appreciative audience.A child prodigy has to be treated with care as extraordinary gifts must go hand in hand with the normal activity of a child growing up as naturally as parents and teachers can offer.The difficulty is to pass from a child to an adult,as maestro Ferrini is very much aware.He is treating her public performances as an essential learning curve and not as a circus act!

Cherkassky in one of his many performances at the Ghione Theatre

I remember Cherkassky telling me that Rachmaninov refused to teach him unless he gave up playing in public.Hoffman on the other hand encouraged public performances hand in hand with youthful studies and became director of the Curtis Institute .A role that later Rudolf Serkin was to hold.

In the Green Room of the Ghione Theatre with great friend Constance Channon Douglass

The Partita for keyboard No. 2 in C minor,BWV 826, is a suite of six movements written originally for the harpsichord by J.S. Bach It was announced in 1727,issued individually, and then published in 1731 as Bach’s Clavier – Ubung 1 .Sinfonia – Allemande – Courante – Sarabande- Rondeau – Capriccio .It is an important work and Bach is an essential ingredient for a young pianist.Chopin used to insist on his pupils learning Bach especially the 48 Preludes and Fugues.But the six partitas are also a basis for any musician of learning about control ,articulation and architectural shape.

Himari played it with admirable musicianship and sense of style with a very solid declamatory opening where the difficult dotted rhythms were impeccably played.The Allemande flowed beautifully as did the Sarabande giving great shape to the fluidity of Bach’s genial outpouring of song.The Courante needed a clearer articulation that will come with time as she works hard with her teacher to obtain ‘fingers of steel but wrists of rubber’ to quote Busoni.Work in progress that already shows a great understanding of the shape and style and with time she will perfect the inner details.A remarkable performance though played without the score which for a ten year old is already a great achievement and gives hope for a future career as her studies progress.

The Clementi Sonata was played with clarity and contrasts where a greater sense of balance would have given a lightness to this charming two movement work.Her Chopin playing showed great musicality and the nocturne in particular showed a sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing unimpeded with a natural rubato that was very beautiful.The same beauty she brought to the central episode of the Fantasie Impromptu op 66.The jeux perlé of the outer episodes was played with a musical shape that could now,as her fingers grow in strength, give more articulation to this knotty twine that Chopin weaves with such a mellifluous outpouring of romantic sounds.

Her playing of Debussy showed a great sense of colour and style .The Arabesque n.1 was beautifully atmospheric as was Claire de lune that she added as an encore by great request.Her teacher had told me that she was determined to play Chopin’s Study op 10 n.8 as a first encore and she played it with a musicality and she will gradually gain a clearer articulation with the hours of study that lie ahead.It was Curzon who said that to be a pianists was 90% work and 10% talent.Of course for a born pianist playing is a passion and a joy and the hours spent at the keyboard are some of the happiest as the quest of discovery opens a world of fantasy …..’perchance to dream’

Roberta Blasi directing the Ghione Theatre with the same passion and dedication with which it was created by Ileana Ghione.

Let’s hope that this is just the start of music returning to the hallowed stage of the Ghione Theatre directed so ably by Roberta Blasi and Ercole Palmieri with their two sons Luca and Matteo.A happy family indeed and I know Ileana would be as overjoyed as I am to know that it is being run with the same loving care and dedication that had created this beautiful theatre next to St Peters Square .

In the meantime as a musician I too have been involved in helping young musicians to arrive at their goal with a satisfying journey of creative art .Leslie Howard who had made his Rome debut at the Ghione 37 years ago shares the artistic direction with me and Elena Vorotko of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.Honorary president Sir Anthony Pappano.All roads obviously lead to …..or from Rome.A journey that is a never ending search for sharing beauty and art with others.Dedicating one’s youth to Art is not only fun but is a fulfilment that is sadly lacking in an ever more consumerist society.A life truly enriched as Europa in Canto and Aria di Musica have outlined in their programme and by their actions tonight

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/09/14/the-gift-of-life-the-keyboard-trust-at-30/. https://youtu.be/9L9Vc0ebt7o. https://youtu.be/tu92-VR3YdM

Maestro Franco Mezzena teacher of violin and chamber music at Aria di Musica Academy ……..outside the Ghione Theatre with Christopher Axworthy
Cristiana Pegoraro with companion Lorenzo Porzio,conductor and the irreplaceable piano technician Valerio Sabattini
Luca Angelillo with Cristiana both having been brought up musically playing in their student days in the Ghione theatre
Our star shining brightly after her concert .

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