Gabriele Strata in Siena Micat in Vertice 100 A Poet speaks

La Micat in Vertice è anche una stagione per i giovani, aperta all’esordio dei nuovi talenti chigiani, proiettati verso il futuro. Allievo chigiano di Lilya Zilberstein, Gabriele Strata è uno dei più interessanti pianisti della nuova generazione internazionale. Un programma imperdibile, dedicato ai capolavori di Händel, Adès e Chopin.


Teatro dei Rozzi Siena
Gabriele Strata

Gabriele Strata the poet of the piano.
After all the intricacies of the Handel G minor suite ,the austere atmospheric musings of Ades or the passionate outpouring of Chopin’s monumental Four Ballades it was in the very final encore with the magic of the nightingale still in the air,the Maiden nowhere to be seen,that a moment of sublime inspiration by Schumann had revealed what we had already realised during his programme today .A single simple page,Liebeslied originally for four hands but here played with just two,but hands of poetic gold as Gabriele kept this enraptured audience breathless and mesmerised by his supreme poetic playing.

I have had the opportunity to listen to Gabriele over the past few years.A student formed by two friends of the Ghione Theatre in Rome where they both performed in their formative years Riccardo Zadra and most notably Roberto Prosseda . By coincidence also with Boris Berman at Yale University who had given many memorable recitals at the Ghione too.I first heard Gabriele playing the Schumann concerto with the Roma 3 University Orchestra.A fine very solid performance but one which showed the superb technical training he was receiving at Yale.A performance that was a work in progress by a remarkably talented student who was at a crossroads of choosing his path,whether it be precision and technical perfection or poetry and inspiration,or indeed both.

I heard him again last year in London at the Barbican as a top prize winner at the Guildhall where he is studying with Ronan O’Hora (who had studied like me with Vlado Perlemuter the protégée of the greatest poet of the piano Alfred Cortot).Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini does not show off the finesse of interpretative skills but is more an intricate ensemble work that requires agility and skill.Gabriele imbued it though with great meaning and there were moments of beauty mingled with his already quite remarkable technical mastery.Not surprisingly Gabriele is also perfecting his studies in Rome at the Accademia di S. Cecilia with that wonderful friend and trainer of all young artists Benedetto Lupo .Today I was overwhelmed by this young student who has come through a professional training process where youthful talent can be transformed into professional proficiency without damaging the essential heart and soul of the young performer and above all maintaining that still youthful love and passion for music.Hats off to Ronan O’Hora ,head of Keyboard studies at the Guildhall,who has obviously restored and shared with Gabriele his own superb musicianship and poetic artistry.

Ronan is a remarkable musician and is about to embark on a cycle of the 32 Beethoven Sonatas this Easter in a series presided over by Paul Lewis.

I was glad to see that the artistic director of the Chigiana,Nicola Sani,is intent on inviting not only illustrious artists of long standing ,but also young musicians from the next generation,to play in the prestigious ‘Micat in Vertice’ Concert Season.A season that had been the idea of Count Chigi when he would personally invite Artur Rubinstein,Horowitz,Cortot,Segovia etc to play in his home in Siena !Gabriele had been particularly noted in the class of Lilya Zilberstein in 2020 and was invited now to play in a concert in the 100th Anniversary Season.Just a month ago Angela Hewitt shared the same stage of the beautiful Teatro dei Rozzi : .

A very interesting introduction to the concert by a musicologist colleague of the Artistic Director Nicola Sani

I had visited the course of Lilya Zilberstein the year after Gabriele and had admired enormously her generosity in helping talented young musicians.It followed in the tradition inaugurated by Count Chigi of inviting Casella,Cortot,Ferrara and above all for generations of pianists,Guido Agosti.

A very interesting programme from Gabriele included a rarely heard suite by Handel and rather daringly finishing the first half with a work based on John Dowland’s song “Darknesse Visibile” as visualised in modern idiom by the poetic Thomas Ades.

Scintillating ornaments abounded in the Ouverture by Handel.They were played with crisp precision that like Sokolov were indeed enviable on a modern day Steinway.Although admiring the spring like unravelling of this knotty twine I could not help thinking that a few less ornaments would have given more clarity to Handel’s architectural conception.After all,this is a modern day instrument that can sustain notes in a way that the harpsichord could not do and where necessarily there was a need of ornamental help.But it was nevertheless remarkable playing even though a window of fresh air was opened when the Largo was interrupted by the simple clarity and energy of the Presto.The Andante was played so delicately and was beautifully shaped with the deliciously subtle addition of ornamentation in the ritornello and the perpetuum mobile of the Allegro was played with enviable clarity and rhythmic energy.Then the gates of Gabriele’s simple poetic vision opened to show it’s face with a sublimely expressive Sarabande where peace and beauty spoke so eloquently in Gabriele’s sensitive hands.This ravishing atmosphere was interrupted as the Gigue cast its hypnotically energetic spell before the grandiose opening of the final Passacaglia.An ending of great authority where there was an exhilarating build up of tension and where now Gabriele allowed himself the full potential of this modern instrument,but with great taste ,to exult the glory of Handel’s invention that had been limited to the instruments of his age.

A completely different world was opened up as the full potential of this magnificent modern Steinway was transformed by Ades ,with considerable help from Gabriele,into a magic world of wondrously atmospheric vibrating sounds.It was leading to a whispered account of Dowland’s song as heard far away in Ades’s land of dreams.A remarkable control of the piano with a kaleidoscope of sounds where Gabriele shared with the rapt attention of his audience the trance and poetic vision he was transmitting via the extraordinary world of this contemporary poet of sound.It was an unusual way to end the first half of a recital but then great artists are never predictable but are always totally convincing in all they do.’Je sens,je joue ,je trasmets’ so simple but oh so rare !

The four Chopin Ballades I had heard only the day before in Florence from Ivan Krpan in a series with the Keyboard Trust in partnership with the British Institute. fascinating performance full of poetic artistry and mystery that complimented so well today with a similar poetic vision of Gabriele but who played with a luminosity and monumentality that illuminated another side of these masterpieces.Eight Ballades in twenty four hours must be a record but from the hands of two such wonderful young artists it was an uplifting and inspiring experience indeed.Something of the atmosphere of Ades was still lingering in the hall as Gabriele entered the world of Chopin with an opening of the G minor Ballade played with great delicacy .It showed his superb musicianship as an interpreter of Chopin’s very precise indications that over the years the ‘tradition’ has somewhat distorted!There was a delicacy to the second theme but there was also a depth of sound from the bass and a subtle doubling of the tenor voice.Gabriele’s Ballades were etched in chiselled monumental sounds that gave great aristocratic space to the passionate outpourings that gradually erupt out of the most poetic musings.The notorious codas to the four ballades held no terror for Gabriele as he too like Ivan had incorporated them into the very fabric of creation.After the tumultuous outburst of aristocratic nobility and brilliance of the first ballade there followed the extreme whispered delicacy of the second.There were dramatic contrasts too with the Presto con fuoco played with a sense of excitement and fire but kept always scrupulously under control.The third ballade with its seemingly improvised opening where the ravishing beauty of the arabesques that followed just exulted the sumptuous subtlety of the tenor voice .The melodic lines were gently unfolded in this the most pastoral of the Ballades.There was an aristocratic timelessness to the build up to the final exultant outburst.It was complimented by the extreme beauty of the opening of the fourth Ballade where here too there was an improvised freedom but always of great taste combining a sense of fantasy and discovery to Gabriele’s superb musicianship.The gradual build up to the tumultuous climax and exhilarating coda brought a just ovation from an audience that had applauded already each Ballade as each one was so monumentally unfolded by this true poet of the keyboard.

There was magic in the air with the whispered secrets that Gabriele shared with us of the ‘Maiden and the Nightingale’ from Granados’ Goyescas.Sumptuous sounds of pulsating beauty and a web of golden delicacy spun with the same beauty that reminded me of the magic that Rubinstein could spin at the end of his recitals all too many years ago.The minutes of aching silence after the sublime beauty of his final encore by Schumann spoke more eloquently than my poor words could ever do.It was Mitsuko Uchida who said,after her recital in Perugia a few years ago.that it is the memory of an experience that remains long after recording and photographs have been consumed worldwide and long been forgotten.We have a story to tell and a memory of a thing of beauty that will remain a joy forever.Thank you Gabriele!

The Chigiana Academy the home of Count Chigi Saracini

Georg Friedrich Händel da Otto grandi suite per clavicembalo, Suite n. 7 in sol min. HWV 432

Suite No 7 in G minor owes its character to its key, which Charpentier had called ‘sévère et magnifique’ and which was shortly to become Mozart’s key of tragedy and consequence. But this suite is to a degree equivocal because although it starts with a pompous and circumstantial French overture, with a slow introduction complete with double dots where the succeeding quick fugal section is not the conventional triple-rhythmed round-dance, but is in common time.After this highly theatrical overture, an Andante and Allegro (really a French allemande and Italian corrente) are discreet, consistently in two parts, one for each hand, with canonic imitations. The sarabande, more harmonic in texture, is heart-easingly lyrical, flowering into additional ornamentation in the repeats. The conventionally Italianate gigue is unpretentious, but Handel adds as finale a massive passacaille: a set of variations over a chord sequence, beginning in diatonic homophony but increasingly chromaticized into diminished sevenths.Significantly, this piece is not in the triple rhythm typical of processional passacaglias (and of chaconnes and sarabandes) but is rather in a common time relating back to the fugato section of the overture.

Ouverture – Andante – Allegro – Sarabande – Gigue – Passacaille:Chaconne

Thomas Adès
Darknesse Visible

This piece is an explosion of John Dowland’s lute song ‘In Darknesse Let Mee Dwell’ (1610). No notes have been added; indeed, some have been removed. Patterns latent in the original have been isolated and regrouped, with the aim of illuminating the song from within, as if during the course of a performance.The first performance of Darkness Visible was given by the composer at the Recital Hall, Franz Liszt’s house, Budapest, in October 1992.

‘A haunting meditation in which the presence of John Dowland is clearest where the music seems least like him: a magical illusion as well as a moving homage.’Gramophone

In darknesse let mee dwell,
the ground shall sorrow be,
The roofe Dispaire to barre
all cheerful light from mee,
The wals of marble blacke
that moistned still shall weepe,
My musicke hellish jarring sounds
to banish friendly sleepe.
Thus wedded to my woes,
and bedded to my Tombe,
O let me living die
till death doe come.

Dowland ends the song with a restatement of the opening line.

Thomas Adès

Fryderyk Chopin
Ballade n. 1 in sol min. op. 23
Ballade n. 2 in fa magg. op. 38
Ballade n. 3 in la bem. magg. op. 47
Ballade n. 4 in fa min. op. 52

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 magnificent Siena Cathedral

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 G minor Ballade

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).

Manuscript of the opening of the F minor Ballade

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.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.

Gabriele Strata in the Green Room after the concert in Siena

Hailed as “a brilliant talent with extraordinary sensitivity and superb technique”, Gabriele Strata (1999) has established himself as one of the leading Italian pianists of his generation. In 2018 Gabriele won First Prize at the XXXV Premio Venezia, the most prestigious Italian piano competition where he was awarded the Plaque of the President of the Italian Republic and the Medal of the Italian Senate. The Italian government previously recognized his artistic achievements in 2016 when he was awarded the Medal of the Italian Parliament. Gabriele regularly performs in Italy, Europe and the US. His 2021-2022 includes debut concerto appearances in the Berlin Philharmonie with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra; in Barbican Centre (London) with the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra, in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen (China) with the Young Musician European Orchestra, and in Venice with the Orchestra del Teatro la Fenice. He has given recitals in prominent concert halls including Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Philharmonic Hall in Bratislava and Fazioli Concert Hall in Sacile, as well as venues in Brussels, Florence, Rotterdam, Portland (OR), Verona, Bologna, Treviso, Padova. An avid chamber musician, he has played at Wigmore Hall and Milton Court Concert Hall in London, and has premiered chamber music works by Academy Award nominee Thomas Newman and Pulitzer Prize finalist Kate Soper. Gabriele received his Master of Music (M.M) degree from Yale University in 2019 at age 19, and a Master of Musical Arts (M.M.A) degree at Yale University in 2020 under the guidance of Professor Boris Berman. At Yale, he was awarded for two consecutive years the Charles R. Miller and the Elizabeth Parisot Prize as “most outstanding pianist in the School of Music”. He is currently pursing two Artist Diploma degrees, at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. In 2017, he graduated summa cum laude from the Conservatory of Music in Vicenza, Italy.

Teatro dei Rozzi waiting for the audience

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