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.
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!
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.