Ivan Krpan Busoni 2017 in Florence Mastery and simplicity at the service of music

Harold Acton Library of the British Institute 2nd March at 18:30

Ivan Krpan in rehearsal

At the age of twenty, Ivan Krpan won the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition 2017, one of the world’s most prestigious piano competitions. Since then he has been in demand for concerts in venues throughout Europe and Asia and has released  several recordings

Ivan Krpan was the first in this special series of concerts by three Busoni winners presented by the Keyboard Trust in partnership with the British Institute .Emanuil Ivanov (in the photo at La Scala) on the 30th March and 2015 winner Chloe (Jiyeong)Mun on the 9th June.

Franz SchubertSonata in C major, D 840 (Reliquie)

Frédéric Chopin: Four Ballades.

Sensational success as Ivan went British in Florence today.
The winner of Busoni in 2017 just proves that a jury with musical principles held high can choose a young artist of talent that matures into the great artist that we had before us today.The transcendental control of sound in Schubert’s ‘Reliquie Sonata’ was quite extraordinary.A Sonata that even Schubert had realised that after a first movement of such heavenly length to continue further would not be possible in this world.It was written three years before his untimely death and was paired with the large scale A minor Sonata.It preceded the last great trilogy of Sonatas that Schubert miraculously penned knowing that his time on this earth was coming to an end .There was real weight and authority from the very first notes with a rich orchestral tone palette never hard but rich and full.It contrasted so well with the magical second subject that was played with such delicacy over a gently murmuring bass.This was a true ‘tour de force’of technical control of sound on a not easy piano.The fluidity of the melodic line with it ravishing heartrending outpouring of mellifluous poetic murmurings was something to marvel at indeed.There were extraordinary contrasts that he brought to this monumental first movement.It was played with an aristocratic architectural sense of line that made one realise that even Schubert could not have continued.Lasting over twenty minutes it contrasted with the relatively short Andante that was simple and playful where again Ivan found simple beauty in Schubert’s unending outpouring of melodic invention.

The Chopin Ballades were so freshly minted that they left us breathless with anticipation from music that we have lived with for a lifetime.
A musicianship that looked at the score with the uncontaminated eyes of a virgin but with the mastery of someone who listens to what he is creating with an innocence that made Chopin’s miraculous creations spring to life as though freshly minted.

There was the utmost delicacy at the opening of the first Ballade where even the opening Largo introduction was merely a way of arriving to the simple outpouring of melody.The moderato was played with subtle balance allowing the melodic line to sing so delicately above the chordal accompaniment.An opening I have heard innumerable times but rarely have I heard it played with such disarming simplicity .It was this inevitability that each episode was merely a link in a chain united by a sound where the more demonstrative virtuosistic passages grew so naturally as a climax of what had come before. The beautiful ‘meno mosso’ second subject just floated on the waves of sound that had been created in the previous bars.The great romantic climaxes were played without any rhetoric but with fervent youthful conviction.The presto con fuoco was played with transcendental control but it was above all the music that we followed and not the astonishing technical mastery that Ivan was to demonstrate in all four codas of the Ballades.

The four Ballades were played without a break as a whole and so it was that the gentle lilting second Ballade grew so naturally our of the majestic final chords of the first.Interrupted by the tempestuous ‘Presto con fuoco’ but subsiding so naturally to the questioning return of the ‘Andantino’.His remarkably intelligent musicianship gave such a clear line and direction to Chopin’s contrapuntal ‘knotty twine’ that I have never heard so clearly defined as this before.Another coda with passionate flashes of sumptuous sounds before the final climactic flourish out of which Ivan with simplicity and ravishing beauty brought this remarkable work to a poignant close.The beautiful third Ballade was just one long outpouring of song .Magical washes of colour just embellished the musical line without ever interrupting the continual flow.Even the gradual build up to the final glorious outpouring were just layers of ever more exciting washes of sound bringing this most luminous of Ballades to an exciting conclusion.The fourth Ballade I have rarely heard the theme played with such luminosity and sensitivity and without indulging in unnatural rubati or personal interjections.Even the first variation was just a wash of sound that gradually built to the first passionate climax.The return of the introduction was played exactly as Perlemuter had written in my score – the poetic words of his teacher Alfred Cortot :’avec un sentiment de regret’.The slight pressure on the thumb notes created a magic aura that I have only ever heard once before from a young french pianist Jean Rodolphe Kars who after being noted in the first Leeds piano competition became a Trappist Monk!

Ivan enjoying a relaxing drink with his delightful pianist and violinist companion

I am not suggesting for a moment that our Ivan ,who is destined for an illustrious career in music,should follow suit!The elaborate embellishing of the theme in the final variation was played with a precision and forward movement that is of the very few and the build up to the final great climax was indeed a monumental end for these four Ballades.The pianissimi chords just before the tumultuous final coda were played with a luminosity and sense of line that made the final great interruption even more unexpected.

A Chopin Mazurka was played as an encore by great demand from a public that had been astonished ,moved and excited by this young poet of the piano.

The first of three Busoni winners in the Harold Acton Library that injects these musty books with the very life that had so inspired them .

A full house for the first of this trilogy of Busoni winners in partnership with the Keyboard Trust.It awards a career development prize to the winners of the competition that its founder Noretta Conci has frequented since the very first edition in 1949.No prize was awarded that year but a fourth prize was offered to Alfred Brendel!

Franz Schubert Piano Sonata in C major,840, nicknamed “Reliquie” upon its first publication in 1861 in the mistaken belief that it had been Schubert’s last work,was written in April 1825,whilst the composer was also working on the A minor D.845 in tandem. Schubert abandoned the C major sonata and only the first two movements were fully completed, with the trio section of the third movement also written in full. The minuet section of the third movement is incomplete and contains unusual harmonic changes, which suggests it was there Schubert had become disillusioned and abandoned the movement and later the sonata. The final fourth movement is also incomplete, ending abruptly after 272 measures.The fragments of the sonata survived in Schubert’s manuscripts, and later the work was collected and published in its incomplete form in 1861.

Sublime inspiration with simple musicianship of such integrity and mastery

The term ballade was used by Chopin in the sense of a balletic interlude or dance-piece, equivalent to the old Italian ballata, but the term may also have connotations of the medieval heroic ballad, a narrative minstrel-song, often of a fantastical character. There are dramatic and dance-like elements in Chopin’s use of the genre, and he may be said to be a pioneer of the ballade as an abstract musical form. The four ballades are said to have been inspired by a friend of Chopin’s, poet Adam Mickiewicz.The exact inspiration for each individual ballade, however, is unclear and disputed.Though the ballades do not conform exactly to sonata form the “ballade form” created by Chopin for his four ballades is a variant of sonata form with specific discrepancies, such as the mirror reprise (presenting the two expositional themes in reverse order during the recapitulation The ballades have directly influenced composers such as Liszt and Brahms who, after Chopin, wrote ballades of their own.Besides sharing the title, the four ballades are entities distinct from each other. Each one differs entirely from the others, and they have but one thing in common – their romantic working out and the nobility of their motifs.

The Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23, was completed in 1835 in Paris.In 1836, Schumann wrote: “I have a new Ballade by Chopin. It seems to me to be the work closest to his genius (though not the most brilliant). I even told him that it is my favourite of all of all his works. After a long, reflective pause he told me emphatically: ‘I am glad, because I too like it the best, it is my dearest work.'”

Manuscript of the opening of the First Ballade op 23

The Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op. 38, was composed from 1836 to 1839 in Nohant and on the Spanish island of Mallorca .Schumann who had dedicated his Kreiseleriana op.16 to Chopin, received the dedication of this ballade in return.Schumann found it a less ingenious work than the first.It was supposedly inspired by Mickiewicz’s poem :Świtezianka, the lake of Willis,

The Ballade No. 3 in A♭ major, Op. 47, was composed in 1841 in Nohant .It was first mentioned by Chopin in a letter to Julian Fontana on 18 October 1841 and was likely composed in the summer of 1841 in, Nohant where he had also finished the Nocturnes op 48 and the Fantasie in F minor.It is dedicated to his pupil Pauline de Noailles (1823–1844).

The Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52, was composed in 1842 in Paris and Nohant and revised in 1843.It is considered one of Chopin’s masterpieces, and one of the masterpieces of 19th-century piano music.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.” It is dedicated to Baroness Rothschild ,wife of Nathaniel de Rothschild,who had invited Chopin to play in her Parisian residence , where she introduced him to the aristocracy and nobility.

Manuscript of the fourth Ballade house in the Bodleian Museum in Oxford.

In the preface to his edition of Chopin’s ballades, Alfred Cortot claims that the inspiration for this ballade is Mickiewicz’s poem The Three Budrys, which tells of three brothers sent away by their father to seek treasures, and the story of their return with three Polish brides.

Ivan Krpan was born in Zagreb in 1997 into a musical family and began studying the piano at the age of six at the Blagoje Bersa Music School in Zagreb, under the tutelage of Renata Strojin Richter.
He studied piano with Ruben Dalibaltayan at the Music Academy in Zagreb where he obtained his master’s degree in 2019. In 2021 he started postgraduate study Konzertexamen at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln in the class of prof. Claudio Martinez Mehner. He has won several first prizes in national and international piano competitions; prize wins of note include first prizes at the 12th Piano Competition “Les Rencontres Internationales des Jeunes Pianistes” Grez Doiceau in Belgium in 2014, the International Piano Competition Young Virtuosi in Zagreb in 2014, the International Piano Competition for Young Musicians in Enschede (Netherlands) and the Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists. He achieved 2nd prize in the International Danube Piano Competition in Ulm in 2014 and same year he won a special prize awarded by the Dean of the Zagreb Music Academy and the 4th prize at the 1st International Zhuhai Mozart Competition in Zhuhai, China. He also won the annual Ivo Vuljević prize awarded by the Jeunesses Musicales Croatia for the best young musician in Croatia in 2015. In 2016 he won the 3rd prize at the 10th Moscow International Frederick Chopin Competition for Young Pianists and the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra has granted him the Young Musician of the Year Award.
At the age of twenty, Ivan Krpan has won the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition 2017, one of the world’s most prestigious piano competitions. 2018/2019 season saw him performing in important Italian cities as Venice, Rome, Milano, Turin, in major music centers as London, Vienna and Hong Kong as well as a tour in South Korea in collaboration with the World Culture Networks Foundation and Steinway & Sons. He also had an important tour in Germany (Munich, Hamburg, Leipzig, Dusseldorf, Dresden, Hanover), and an extensive tour in Japan.
For the first time the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition Foundation has produced a studio album, which it has made available exclusively on IDAGIO, a leading streaming service for classical music. In May 2018 Mr. Krpan took to the Emil Berliner Studios in Berlin to record Chopin’s 24 Préludes and Schumann’s Fantasie op. 17 and Arabeske op. 18.


Sir David Scholey with his son who had flown in from his home on Majorca (where Chopin and George Sand were so rudely ejected by the natives frightened of catching the disease that was to claim Chopin’s life just a few years later!)
Ivan with his companion Marie Carrière talking with enthusiastic members of the audience


One of the important things about these concerts is the discussions between artist and public with a sumptuous glass of wine in hand provided by local sponsors.It is all overseen with great approval by the director Simon Gammell (centre) who with his wife Jennifer has created a unique cultural meeting place in Florence


Discussions continued with members of the public until it was time to shut up shop.


Sir David Scholey ever generously hosting a sumptuous after concert supper in the restaurant downstairs


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