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.
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-Ton –Mäßig. Durchaus energisch – Langsam 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.
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.
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.
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’!
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.”