Thomas Kelly …..’Reaching for the stars!’ – a voyage of discovery at Leighton House

Tuesday 10 January 2023 at 19 h.


RAMEAU Le Rappel des Oiseaux

                                    Gavotte and Variations

FRANCK                    Prelude, Chorale and Fugue

SCRIABIN                  Poeme-Nocturne Op.61

Fantasie Op.28

Lord Leighton

Stepping into the sumptuously restored home of Lord Leighton is like turning the clock back a hundred years.
Listening to Thomas Kelly ,the fourth artist in the indomitable Lisa Peacock’s ‘Discovery’ series, is like listening to a pianist from another age.

Lisa Peacock presenting her discovery

The Golden Age of piano playing as inhabited by gentle giants who could ravish and seduce with their transcendental control of sound.
Rosenthal,Hoffman,Godowsky,Rachmaninov spring to mind.
Piano playing of such subtlety that was a mirror of the great bel canto singers who could drive their public to adoration and delirium.

Franz Liszt wouid drive his public into such adoration where seemingly austere aristocratic ladies would be turned into a frenzied mob ready to conserve a lock of hair,a cigarette but or even coffee dregs of the adored one.
If music be the good of love ……play on.It just shows the power that music can have even today with ’pop’ idols filling stadiums with doting fans.

Ariel Lanyi ,top prize winner with Thomas at the Leeds who will play in this series on the 24th January prior to a concert tour of Australia . Pictured here with Mark Eynon ,director of the Sheepdrove Piano Competition that Thomas won this year

It was Ariel Lanyi who turned to me after Thomas’s sumptuous performance of Franck’s Prelude,Chorale and Fugue ,exclaiming between cheers that Thomas was born of the last century.
His Rameau did not quite have the charm and colour of Cherkassky’s dip into the baroque but it was played with the same fleeting fingers of jeux perlé.Streams of golden notes that just flowed from his fingers with the charm and ease of a master.
The Gavotte and Variations produced streams of ravishing notes with a hypnotic rhythmic drive that was teasingly captivating.
It was the colour and architectural shape that he brought to the Prelude Chorale and Fugue that showed off his true artistic stature.Detail and understanding of the form were united in a performance of radiance and passion without a hint of sentimentality.
Scriabin ,of course, opened a world that is truly Thomas’s.Glittering jewels that shone and glistened with ravishing sounds,from the almost inaudibile to the overpowering rich sonorities of driving passion.
Of course the seeds of this amazing talent were sown by the late Andrew Ball who had taken Thomas under his wing and ignited this search for beauty in a box of hammers and strings.

Dmitri Alexeev with Lisa Peacock

It is now the great pianist Dmitri Alexeev,present in the hall with his wife Tatyana Sarkissova,who guides this light that is shining ever more brightly.
Alexeev has just completed his complete survey of Scriabin’s piano music which has obviously inspired Thomas with his insatiable desire to consume lesser known scores and bring them to life.
He had played not long ago the mammoth piano sonata by Liszt’s cherished pupil ,Reubke.
It was for the Keyboard Trust at Steinway Hall that this young man played a work that has so many notes it must go down in the Guinness book of records.
Reubke had died at only 24 -Thomas’s age – and had left only two sonatas :one for organ and the other for piano.
The organ sonata is standard repertoire but no one until Thomas has dared to conquer the marathon difficulties and mind boggling number of notes of the sonata for piano.
And so it was to Scriabin for the final two works in this short recital.
A world of introversion and exultation reaching for the star that is the unattainable goal and inspiration of all real artists.
It was just this search for sounds that was so exhilarating from Thomas’s hands.A palette of colour that one could never have dreamt were laying dormant in this good but not exceptional Steinway.
A Poeme Nocturne op 61 ( nothing like Chopin’s op 61 but just as original) that was a revelation not only of sounds but how these sounds could be sown together and given a shape and meaning and an overall architectural shape.
Scriabin’s Fantasie op 28 like his Fantasy Sonata is often to be found in concert programmes but rarely have I heard it played with such menace and unbridled passion as tonight.
Of course the true revelation was in the second encore : the old war horse of Saint Saens’ Etude en forme de Valse.
We all know the performance of Cortot,an old 78 rpm recording that is part of the history of piano playing .
Tonight ,as Ariel Lanyi had exclaimed, here is the reincarnation of pianists of another age .An age when performers were steeped in a hypnotic way of seducing their public with subtle colours of insinuating whispered asides and bursts of demonic virtuosity.Throwing notes off with a devil may care ease that just shows us the real meaning of jeux perle .

Lisa Peacock – Tatyana Sarkissova – Thomas Kelly – Dmitri Alexeev

Lisa Peacock has devised this series under the title ‘Discoveries’.
No better word could describe what we were treated to tonight.
It would be interesting in this newly restored house to know who the pianists were that Lord Leighton would have invited into this sumptuous den in an earlier very privileged age.
Ariel Lanyi is playing here on the 24th and Alexeev in an all too rare gala recital on the 7th February.

Thomas Kelly started playing the piano aged 3, and in 2006 became Kent Junior Pianist of the Year and attained ABRSM Grade 8 with Distinction. Aged 9, Thomas performed Mozart Concerto No. 24 in the Marlowe Theatre with the Kent Concert Orchestra. After moving to Cheshire, he regularly played in festivals, winning prizes including in the Birmingham Music Festival, 3rd prize in Young Pianist of The North 2012, and 1st prize in WACIDOM 2014.Thomas studied with Andrew Ball, initially at the Purcell School of Music and then at the Royal College of Music. He is currently studying for his Masters at the Royal College of Music with Professor Dmitri Alexeev.  Thomas has also gained inspiration from lessons and masterclasses with musicians such as Vanessa Latarche, William Fong, Ian Jones, Valentina Berman, Wei-Yi Yang, Boris Berman, Paul Lewis, Mikhail Voskresensky, Dina Yoffe.He has won 1st prizes including Pianale International Piano Competition 2017, Kharkiv Assemblies 2018, at Lucca Virtuoso e Bel Canto festival 2018, RCM Joan Chissell Schumann competition 2019, Kendall Taylor Beethoven competition 2019, BPSE Intercollegiate Beethoven competition 2019, 4th Theodor Leschetizky competition 2020, a finalist at Leeds in 2021 and 1st Prize in the Newbury Spring Festival Sheepdrove Piano Competition in 2022.

He has performed in a variety of venues, including the Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, Paris Conservatoire, StreingreaberHaus, Bayreuth, Teatro Del Sale in Florence and in Vilnius and Palanga. Since the pandemic restrictions in 2020, Thomas’ artistic activities included participating in all 3 seasons of the “Echo Chamber” an online concert series curated by Noah Max, and releasing 3 singles under the Ulysses Arts label on digital platforms.Thomas is a C. Bechstein Scholar supported by the Kendall-Taylor award. He has been generously supported by the Keyboard Charitable Trust since 2020, and Talent Unlimited since 2021.

Thomas Kelly, piano.

The distinguished critic Bryce Morrison
Ariel with Bryce Morrison
A very happy family – great music in sumptuous surrounds

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