Parvis Hejazi The Musicanship and Poetry of a true artist – a winning combination at Netherhall Auditorium

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Sonata in C minor K457 Allegro – Adagio – Allegro assai

Dmitrii Shostakovich

Four Preludes op. 34 1. Moderato – 6. Allegretto – 10.Moderato non troppo – 24. Allegretto


Johannes Brahms

Variations on an Original Theme op. 21 No. 1

Johannes Brahms

Variations on a Hungarian Song op. 21 No. 2

Parvis Hejazi in recital with Mozart,Shostakovich,Brahms .Some remarkable musicianly performances from a true artist.Always a great showman but one who has learnt that the message of music is the greatest show that one can share.A performance of Mozart C minor Sonata that was both dramatic and tender.
Early Shostakovich Preludes with their sometimes grotesque sense of humour but that spoke as eloquently as Prokofiev’s poetic Visions Fugitives.
But it was the Brahms variations op 21
n.1 and 2 that unleashed the depth of sound and ravishing sense of colour from this young poet of the piano,together with his aristocratic sense of harmonic structure.
It gave great weight and meaning to these sumptuous scores of passionate pulsating harmonic blocks of ever moving romantic effusions.
A single encore of Couperin who’s sublime simplicity was the ideal antidote to Brahms’s passionate effusions and the allusion to the Mysteries of Bacchus led very nicely to the post concert drink.

There was a clarity and rhythmic drive to the opening movement where the energy of the opening statement was answered by the plaintive questioning reply.It was these contrasts that were so poignantly played never allowing the tempo to slacken even for the most mellifluous of second subjects.There was an imperious drive as the opening motive was expanded in the development only to dissolve onto a pianissimo questioning chord as the recapitulation regenerated the initial opening energy.The mysterious coda was beautifully played as it disappeared into the depths of the piano.There was a fluidity to the tempo of the Adagio played very much in four that allowed it to flow so naturally with simplicity and beauty.The central episode,so similar to Schubert,was played with a sense of peace and reverence as it’s dark colours contrasted so well with the luminosity of its surrounds.There was great mystery to the opening of the Allegro assai that contrasted so well with the rhythmic interruptions that follow.A fluidity and simplicity in Parvis’s playing that brought a freshness combined with drama to this remarkable movement.A hypnotic coda brought this extraordinary sonata to a Beethovenian conclusion from the hands of a real musician.

The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor K.457, was composed and completed in 1784, with the official date of completion recorded as 14 October 1784 in Mozart’s own catalogue of works.It is dedicated to Theresia von Trattner (1758–1793), who was one of Mozart’s pupils in Vienna. Her husband, Thomas 1717–1798), was an important publisher as well as Mozart’s landlord in 1784. Eventually, the Trattners would become godparents to four of Mozart’s children.It was composed during the approximately 10-year period of Mozart’s life as a freelance artist in Vienna after he left the patronage of the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1781 and is one of the earliest of only six sonatas composed during the Vienna years.It is only one of two sonatas Mozart wrote in a minor key, the other being the the A minor K.310 which was written six years earlier, around the time of the death of Mozart’s mother.He was extremely deliberate in choosing tonalities for his compositions; therefore, his choice of C minor for this sonata implies that this piece was perhaps a very personal work.Kochel said of this sonata, “Without question this is the most important of all Mozart’s pianoforte sonatas. Surpassing all the others by reason of the fire and passion which, to its last note, breathe through it, it foreshadows the pianoforte sonata, as it was destined to become in the hands of Beethoven The last movement is unlike many of Mozart’s sonatas’ last movements, which tend to have fast tempo and joyfulness and happiness. This movement contains a great tragic sense that really makes it stand out.

A choice of four preludes that were four miniature tone poems .With each one that could portray so much in such a short space of time.There were the pungent harmonies and deep bass notes of the Moderato and the brittle strident sounds of the parody of a dance in the Allegretto .There was a beautiful fluid melodic line to the Moderato n.10 very similar in atmosphere to Prokofiev’s Visions with the calm and tranquility of brittle sounds.A magical ending in trills that in Parvis’s hands were mere vibrations of sound.The last n.24 Parvis relished the grotesque parody of the dance that he was obviously enjoying as much as the audience.

The 24 Preludes, op.34 is a set of short piano pieces written and premiered by Shostakovich in 1933. They are arranged following the circle of fifths with one prelude in each major and minor key.He began composing the preludes in December 1932, shortly after finishing his opera Lady Macbeth .He completed the cycle in March 1933, and premiered it in Moscow himself in May of the same year.He composed the preludes largely in order to return to public performance as he had stopped performing in 1930, after his failure to be placed at the 1927 First International Chopin Competition.The preludes are intimate and brief forming a link to Shostakovich’s next work, the Piano Concerto No 1 (for piano, trumpet and strings), which he began just four days after completing the preludes.Each prelude shows that Shostakovich was able to distil his genius into the shortest time span, as well as, of course, he would prove able to explore on the largest scale in his next work, the fourth symphony.

There was grandeur and sumptuous full sounds to the simple mellifluous theme of op 21 n.1 that spread over into a series of variations of fluidity and ravishing beauty.Sounds that spread gradually over the whole keyboard with a radiance and harmonic richness without any hardness.There was grandeur and brilliance too but always within a sound world that he built from the bass and that gave such ecstatic warmth to this beautiful work.The variations op 21 n.2 were of an orchestral brilliance and rhythmic energy that contrasted so well with it’s twin.Parvis brought to it a completely different sound of radiance and sunlight where it’s twin had been bathed in a twilight area of subtlety and deep emotions.

Brahms began his career as a pianist. His contribution to the piano music of the 19th century is significant in two respects: following Schubert and Schumann he cultivated the small, lyrical form, while as Beethoven’s successor he admitted large forms such as the piano sonata and variation cycle. His two variation cycles op. 21, published in 1862, place great demands on the performer. In the first cycle, on a lyrical theme in D major, the technique of figurative and contrapuntal alterations is highly developed. The “Variations on an Original Theme” although published as “No. 1,” as a set of independent piano variations–the only one on a theme of Brahms’s own devising–was certainly composed a few years later than the ‘Hungarian song ‘ set published as “No. 2.” The two sets work well when performed together, as they share a central key. The Hungarian Song op 21 n.2 was composed as early as 1853, thus even predating the “Schumann” variations op 9 .The “Hungarian Song” was given to Brahms by his violinist collaborator Eduard Reményi and as used in the variations, the “theme” is a brief, vigorous eight bars. Its distinctive aspect is the alternation between 3/4 and 4/4 bars, a typical example of Eastern European mixed meter. The ‘Hungarian Song ‘set can function as an extroverted “encore” to the more introspective and longer “Original Theme” set. The “Variations on an Original Theme” were probably composed in the late 1850s, partly as an exercise in variation technique. Brahms set several challenges for himself in devising the theme. The irregular lengths of each repeated half–nine bars each–remain mostly consistent through the variations, lending stability and recognition as other elements range farther from the theme.

There was a beguiling ease to the rondo theme of Couperin ‘Les Barricades’ as it returned with hypnotic fluidity.It was an ideal encore after such a sumptuous feast of music from the hands of a true musician.

Les Barricades Mystérieuses (The Mysterious Barricades) by Couperin for harpsichord and was composed in 1717. It is the fifth piece in his “Ordre 6ème de clavecin” from his second book of collected harpsichord pieces (Pièces de Clavecin).Debussy expressed particular admiration for Les Barricades Mystérieuses and in 1903 wrote: ‘We should think about the example Couperin’s harpsichord works set us: they are marvelous models of grace and innocence long past. Nothing could ever make us forget the subtly voluptuous perfume, so delicately perverse, that so innocently hovers over the Barricades Mystérieuses.The title is probably meant to be evocative rather than a reference to a specific object, musical or otherwise.It has suggested that, in keeping with the bucolic character of other pieces in Couperin’s Ordre 6ème de clavecin, the pounding rhythm may represent the stamping of grapes in winemaking (given that the French word barrique means ‘barrel’, and barriquade was a designation adopted by viticultualists of the day in France).In this view, the “mysterious” epithet could allude to the significance of wine in the Mysteries of Bacchus.

Parvis Hejazi is known as a “rising star on the piano sky” (ARD), and “a poet and virtuoso at the piano” (Christopher Axworthy). Playing his debut at the Salzburg Festival aged 16, Parvis has performed throughout Europe, the Middle East, and the US at venues such as the Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Die Glocke Bremen, and the Gnessin Institute Moscow. Having won more than 30 first prizes in national and international competitions, Parvis has received coverage by ARD, NDR, and HR, and in foreign and domestic print media. Parvis is a graduate Scholar of the Royal College of Music, where he currently pursues a Master of Music, studying with Norma Fisher and Vanessa Latarche. In autumn, Parvis will commence his studies on the prestigious Artist Diploma programme at the College on a full scholarship. A Member of the Keyboard Charitable Trust and Talent Unlimited UK, Parvis holds the Music Talks Award and the Bärenreiter Urtext Award. He is supported by the Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst, the Karin and Uwe Hollweg Foundation and Susan Sturrock.

Parvis waiting to greet his guests ready to unwind and discuss the concert over a glass of wine
Robert Tickle a great admirer of classical music with Parvis and Parvis’s duo partner Sonia Tulea Pigot both in the class of Norma Fischer.
Our genial host with the Netherhall House tie .Pietro Genova Gaia will give a violin and piano recital with Parvis in a future concert on the 26th May in their season.

Aidan Mikdad at the Wigmore Hall astonishes and ravishes with Scriabin of mystery,passion and colour as he reaches for the stars.

Promoted by the Royal Academy of Music.

Aidan Mikdad at the Wigmore Hall in the Royal Academy Piano Series astonished and amazed in Scriabin as he entered completely into a world of mystery,passion and above all colour.
Reaching for the elusive star that was very much Scriabin’s llfelong obsession with the ominous opening appearing as a menacing shadow before the passionate frenzy of the Presto con fuoco.
The sumptuous opening sounds marked ‘Drammatico’opened a Pandora’s box of colour with strands of melody that were like jewels sparkling in this cauldron of effusive sounds.

There was mystery even in the Allegretto second movement with it’s constant forward moving rhythmic energy and whispered drive.
But it was the Andante with it’s liquid luminosity that cast a magic spell from this true poet of the piano.The gentle menacing opening motive was like a distant memory entering into the spell cast by the Andante .It burst into action with the transcendental pyrotechnics of the last movement.The triumphant explosion of the ‘star’ was played with the youthful passionate conviction of someone who had completely understood this mysterious world that Scriabin inhabited.
An audience that was totally mesmerised by an extraordinarily powerful performance was rewarded by even more ravishing effusions with Scriabin’s early Waltz.The jeux perlé and lightweight sounds that flew from his hands reached peaks of passionate effusions before returning into it’s opening shell.

It is obviously no coincidence that Aidan has been touring with Arcadi Volodos whose ravishing sense of colour is legendary.
If Aidan has acquired something of the the same love for sound he has not yet acquired the sheer beauty of movement of Volodos who like a sculpture shapes the sounds giving the same form to his hands on the keys as the sounds he is painting in the air.
It was this rather pianistic approach to the keyboard that made his brilliant performance of Schumann’s Carnaval rather lacking in charm and seemed strangely black and white compared to the multicoloured performance that was to follow.
Surely there are many variations of forte and piano as marked by Schumann that he was later to find so wonderfully in Scriabin.
It was scrupulously played and technically flawless but needed more time to breathe and Schumann’s duel personality of Eusebius and Floristan seemed unfairly one sided .

There were of course many beautiful things because Aidan’s natural artistry will always shine through but it was a world that he looked at rather than inhabited.It was a young man’s Carnaval but was not Rubinstein’s always youthful even at 90 on this very stage!There were some beautiful moments in Chiarina which reached ravishing heights in Chopin played with the same aristocratic sentiment that was very much Rubinstein’s.But the fleeting vision in Reconnaissance is marked pianissimo in the score as was missing the playful squabbling between Pantalon and Colombine.Paganini was played with flawless perfection but many passages are marked piano and if the final four chords are played too loudly the magical pianississimo echo will not stand a chance of appearing like a magic vibration.Schumann marks the final March ‘non allegro’ which was certainly not the case today but Aidan’s youthful exuberance did add great excitement to the final pages .Eusebius and Aveu were beautifully played as the melodic line was allowed to unravel and breathe so magically.Aidan did bring astonishing bravura and excitement to his Carnaval but the melancholy wistful fantasy and subtle rubato of a Rubinstein were missing.Aidan was happier with the deep brooding of Scriabin rather than the seemingly frivolous effervescence of Schumann.

Cristian Sandrin Visions of Life dedicated to his father Sandu Sandrin .

Wed 26 Apr 2023 7.30pm – 9.00pm 

Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s, London

Ludwig van Beethoven 
Piano Sonata in E-major major Op 109
Piano Sonata in A-flat major Op 110
Piano Sonata in C minor Op 111

Cristian Sandrin piano

The distinguished pianist and pedagogue Sandu Sandrin with Radu Lupu

Visions of Life. ….a memorable occasion dedicated to the distinguished pianist Sandu Sandrin by his son …………….we await the video recording with the Scriabin Colour Keyboard :Blue for E major op 109; Purple for A flat op 110;Red for C minor op 111.And three superb performance of Beethoven’s farewell to the Sonata as he at last finds peace and serenity and a Vision of the life that awaits.

I have written many times about Cristian’s performance of the Trilogy that I have heard slowly maturing over the past two years.Today was something special as he gathered all his strength and courage to pay tribute to his father who passed away in November last year.A performance that was video recorded in the same hall that had seen the recording of Zimerman and Rattle with the five Beethoven Concertos.Cristian not only shared his voyage of discovery with us but also wrote the programme notes and chose from from Scriabin’s Colour Keyboard the lights that discreetly created rays of light for each sonata.

A full hall with many distinguished guests Tessa Uys with Siva Oke of Somm Records

Earthly. Tragic. Exalted. Delve into Beethoven’s magisterial late works for the piano, as acclaimed Romanian-British pianist Cristian Sandrin examines the intricate pianism and the complex narratives told by his Piano Sonatas Op 109, 110 and 111.

Sieva Oke of Somm records with the distinguished critic and pianofile Bryce Morrison

Composed in tandem with the Missa Solemnis and the Diabelli Variations, and in spite of Beethoven’s aggravating deafness and social isolation, these Sonatas reveal an optimistic approach to life and music, as well as painting a vast emotional and psychological landscape. We observe the composer searching for the spiritual whilst resurrecting old styles or experimenting with innovative ideas – formidable artistic acts that would influence the course of music and inspire an entire new generation of artists and musicians, the Romantics.

Cristian’s mother had flown in especially for this tribute for her husband from their son……….with Mihai Ritivoiu the distinguished Romanian pianist helping his friend and colleague with the editing of the recording

Mrs Sandrin with french colleague of her son,Philippe Duffour

LSO St Luke’s

Filip Michalak at St Mary’s ‘something old but oh so new in a great artists hands’

Tuesday 2 May 3.00 pm 

Exhilarating afternoon of wonderful playing ‘something old but something so new’ in the hands of an artist of his calibre.
Please take time to listen you will not regret it
Myra Hess with Bruno Walter in 1956

Songs from the shows indeed !But what a show with the simplicity of ‘Jesu Joy of man’s desiring’ with the strength of the tenor register giving such hope as it had done to Dame Myra in her ‘penny concerts ‘at the National Gallery during the air raids that raged in London during the war.In Filip’s hands immediately showed his credentials as an artist of refined aristocratic musicianship.Deep sonorous sounds of Busoni’s magical ‘Ich ruf zu dir , Herr Jesu Christ’ every bit a beautiful as the performances of the much lamented Nelson Freire.

Bursting into the sunlight with Mozart’s Rondo alla turca as beguiling in Filip’s crystalline hands as the pyrotechnical wizardry that has befallen it from the dazzling Fazil Say or Arcadi Volodos.What a revelation to hear the Mozart ‘Lacrimosa’ in a sumptuous heartrending transcription by Evgeny Sudbin,of a true believer .Magnificent full sounds of orchestral proportions where every strand in every chord had a special role to play.

There was a wonderful sense of balance in Liszt’s recreation of Schubert’s Standchen where the musical line was allowed to sing with such beauty as it duetted in magic harmony with the world.

A minute waltz that Filip almost completed in 55 seconds and luckily slowed himself down enough to give it ravishing shape without any ‘traditional’ messing with Chopin’s ‘tip toeing through the tulips!’The C sharp minor waltz had something of the refined elegance that Rubinstein used to bring to it with the slight hesitation of the reply to the opening deep sigh.An E flat nocturne that was played simply and with a fluidity of sound that was refreshingly innocent as it built to a climax and it’s feigned cadenza of shimmering beauty.

Straight into Liebestraum which took me by surprise as I did not recognise it at first until it burst into the sumptuous melodic outpouring that we are all too rarely treated to these days.And a dream that came true in Filip’s hands with the simple beauty of Schumann’s song without words.

The spell was broken by Pletnev’s Nutcracker.An ingenious transcription of doubly troubled genii!There was sumptuous beauty of the Rachmaninov Vocalise as it built to a climax as ravishing as anything the Philadelphia and Ormandy could have provided.

Filip was now diving into the depths of the piano into the Hall of the Mountain King.Again a piece so well known that one dares not play it in public for fear of a cliché,and is fast falling into oblivion.

The oblivion of Piazzola following on from the most famous waltz of Brahms.In the good old pre- television days the music would sit on the music stand in every respectable ‘front parlour’,between the two candelabra and the piano overlooked by the aspidistra and lace doilies.

The hysterical rhythmic drive of Liebertango worked its magic even in Perivale and was greeted by an ovation for our young Dane who impishly exclaimed that we had had all his encores already so that was that !

But there was still one more treat in store with a scintillatingly pure account of Scarlatti’s famous E major Sonata K.380.Unfortunatley it brought this wonderfully enjoyable survey of old ‘favourites’ to an end.A presto to the next sumptuous Danish sandwich..

The young Danish/Polish classical pianist, Filip Michalak is an active soloist and chamber musician. He has performed across Europe in countries such as Poland, Germany, England, France, Italy and all Scandinavian countries and has future engagements in more European countries, China and USA. Filip has won numerous prizes abroad and in his home country and has also been awarded prestigious scholarships for his studies. In 2021 he performed Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto with Shrewsbury Sinfonia. This year he is going to play Chopin’s 2nd Piano Concerto with a string quartet in Poland and few weeks after he will be performing Brahms’ 1st Piano Concerto in USA. Filip is also an active chamber musician playing with all different ensembles. Future engagements include a concert tour in China with violinist Kehan Zhang and performances with his duo partner Lovisa Huledal in Sweden and Denmark. He is the Artistic Director of Södertälje Chamber Music Festival in Sweden which had its first edition in 2019 and this summer it had its 3rd edition. He started his studies at The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen in prof. Niklas Sivelövs class. Later on he received many scholarships to study abroad and for 3 years he was a student of prof. Julia Mustonen-Dahlkvist at Ingesund Musikhögskolan in Sweden and simultaneously he was pursuing his master-degree at Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Filip has finished his Post Graduate Diploma at Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester with prof. Graham Scott, and is currently being mentored by the world famous pianist Gabriela Montero.

Alexandre Kantarow ignites and delights Naples at San Carlo with his great artistry

April 22, 2023


A truly breathtaking and exhilarating performance of Brahms first Piano Sonata op 1.
From the very first notes there was a sumptuous richness to the sound with the deep bass harmonies opening up endless possibilities of colour.
Infact the melting whispered cantabile of the second subject had a fluidity of ravishing beauty.Here was a true musician the same one that had mesmerised me in the performance he gave to an empty Philharmonie in Paris during the Covid pandemic.An oasis of beauty and hope for the future.A performance of Rachmaninov’s seemingly ungrateful first sonata that in his hands revealed a hidden masterpiece.

Waiting for Kantarow in the sumptuous beauty of San Carlo Opera House in the heart of Naples

It was the same today in the bustle of Naples on a Saturday night where he created an oasis of beauty revealing a masterpiece every bit as noble as the better known third sonata.Revealing a true symphony for piano with transcendental command and a technical mastery at the service of the composer.Here was a Furtwangler at the piano commanding attention and revealing the very soul of recreation.The Schubertian questioning and answering of the Andante was unforgettable for the portent that was concealed in so few notes.A truly magical duet between the tenor and soprano voices was a celestial ending.A spectacular Scherzo immediately broke the spell with its dynamic driving energy contrasting with the beautifully fluid trio.The finale was indeed Allegro con fuoco with it’s burning intensity and driving bass energy.Above all there was clarity and precision not only technically but of the mind of a great artist that can give us the complete architectural shape of a very complex work

A selection of six Schubert Lieder in the transcription of Liszt.Miniature masterpieces recreated by the genius Liszt.In Kantorow’s hands they were indeed imbued with the magical atmosphere of Schubert that Liszt had miraculously recreated.Six miniature tone poems in this artist’s sensitive hands where each one was a true ‘song without words’.Avoiding the more obvious well known Erlkonig,Standchen etc Kantarow brought us the rarely heard ‘other six’.I imagine he may have chosen them at the last minute like Schiff and Richter preferring not to be pinned down to a specific programme years in advance.’Sei mir gegrusst,Du bist die Ruh’,Meeresstille,Die junge Nonne,Rastlose Liebe,Der Wanderer’ by process of elimination were the Lieder he actually played.I have rarely heard them in concert and they were a revelation of sumptuous golden sounds,melancholic simplicity,mystery but above all a sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing out no matter the glittering ingenious cascades of notes that Liszt envelopes them in.They sparkled and shone like the jewels they are but above all communicated the emotion of the poetry and digging even deeper,revealing a world where the actual words are just not enough.Hypnotic performances that showed the extraordinary sensitivity and artistry of this youthful poet of the piano.A remarkable technical command of hands and feet! Yes,it was Anton Rubinstein who said the pedal was the soul of the piano and nowhere has it been more apparent than in the series of wondrous sounds and atmospheres that surrounded this beautiful black box on a stage that is used to welcoming the greatest voices of the age.A public that had escaped to a world of pure magic as they surrendered to the beauty and passion that was filling this historic temple of music that has resounded to some of the greatest performances ever heard.

The Wanderer Fantasy continued this Schubertiade without a break (probably because we were expecting all twelve Lieder as printed) but also because it had created an atmosphere that Kantarow was happy to maintain to the tumultuous ending of Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy.A Fantasy that had opened the door for Liszt with it’s newly created form created with the transformation of themes.Liszt was to continue and pursue this new form bringing to it to even more Romantic self identification.He was happy to inspire his son in law Richard Wagner who was to bring it to unheard of heights of inspiration.To quote Badura Skoda :’It is Schubert’s most monumental piano piece and stands as a guidepost to the future not only in the matter of form ,but also in its grandiose ‘orchestral’ use of the piano’.Kantarow imbued it with orchestral sounds and even the scales and arpeggios that abound were linked to a bass that was the anchor that guided us through a work written in the same year as Beethoven’s visionary last thoughts in the evolution of the Sonata from op 2 to the final Sonata op 111. The four movements are developed from a single thematic cell ,a rhythmic motive taken from the song Der Wanderer (that we had heard earlier in Liszt’s transcription ). All the themes in the Fantasy are developed from a single Leitmotiv as in the symphonic poem of a later era.Here the classical symphonic order of movements -Allegro,Adagio,Scherzo,Finale – corresponds to the principal sections of one larger sonata movement (exposition,development,recapitulation and coda).

It was this architectural shape that was missing in a performance of great beauty and transcendental command where he chose rather fast tempi that meant there was a continual relaxation of tempo in the more lyrical passages that rather fragmented a work that in many ways anticipates the symphonic sonata of the Brahms op 1.In Brahms Kantarow had kept a bass anchor that was like a great wave that took us from the first note to the last and gave great weight and authority as in fact he had done in the Rachmaninov Sonata from the Philharmonie.His Schubert of course was played with the same artistry and sensitivity but I missed this undercurrent that could have given great weight and authority to this most Beethovenian of all Schubert’s piano works.I found the opening of the Scherzo – Presto rather fragmented and the last movement too fast for it’s Allegro indication.The last movement lost something of it’s accumulation of grandeur and crescendo of excitement that was so telling in Arrau’s artistocratic hands.This was a Schubert Fantasy of a young poet that I am sure will gain in weight and authority as it enters his soul.

Amazingly only the night before Kantarow had played a magnificent Rachmaninov First Piano Concert in Turin with Barenboim’s assistant Thomas Guggeis – two artists in their twenties who can be heard in this link to the live radio broadcast:—Il-Cartellone-del-21042023-99a3944b-9d83-4ad2-9378-0e65eb224d08.html.

Three encores in a crescendo of acceptance as Kantarow treated us to another Schubert transcription of sumptuous beauty.

It was followed by the encore he had played the night before in Turin :Vecsey/Cziffra ‘Valse Triste’.Played with passion and insinuating style together with all the jeux perlé ‘tricks of the trade’ associated with the heir to Liszt that was the extraordinary Cziffra.Like the ‘bel canto’ stars that have ignited this stage for the past two centuries Kantarow knew how to ignite and excite an audience that was now following his every move with rapt attention and adulation.Realising like the great artist he is that he could not leave his audience yet he gave them what they were craving for with the greatest circus act of our age :Volodos’s revisitation of Mozart’s ‘Turkish March’.It sent the audience into delirium with everyone on their feet cheering this great new star that had arrived in their midst.

A surging mass of people outside on a festive Saturday evening in the centre of Naples
Waiting for Kantarow in one of the most beautiful theatres in the world
Kantarow ‘Veni,vidi,vici’
Nice to join in the fun of Naples by night in the Pizzeria opposite San Carlo with my adopted family waiting to run me home.
Nice to know that Michael Aspinall’s favourite restaurant awaits just around the corner too

Ruben Micieli triumphs in London for the Keyboard Trust at Steinway Hall

A standing ovation for Ruben Micieli after his scintillating performance of Fazil Say’s fantasmagoric manipulation of Mozart’s Turkish March!
Chopin Mazukas op 24,the second Ballade and Polonaise Heroique opened his recital before Ruben lifted the lid to his discovery of opera paraphrases and fantasies by long forgotten virtuosi of the 1800’s.
Immersed in a style from another age this young Sicilian musician,disciple of the much missed Aquiles delle Vigne, gave scintillating not to say titivating accounts of ’songs from the shows’ Thalberg style.

Founders of the Keyboard Trust still following the great young talents that they offer a step in the ladder to a career in music .John Leech who celebrates his 98th birthday tomorrow and is looking forward to his letter from King Charles 111 in two years time!

As a child near Catania and an aspiring young pianist he was shown the scores of Ignace Leybach by an elderly ex pupil of this long forgotten virtuoso.
She bequeathed her entire library to Ruben entrusting him with her invaluable archive.
It was in Catania the birthplace of Bellini whose bel canto was to be such an influence on music of the nineteenth century.
Chopin and Field above all brought it to the piano with refined aristocratic elegance.
Liszt and Thalberg used the famous opera melodies for an intricate web of virtuosity where they gave the illusion of having many more hands than just the two that God gave them.
The Norma fantasy by Liszt has become a standard piano showpiece often played by great virtuosi of our day such as Hammelin and Arrau.
Mark Viner another Keyboard Trust alumni has made a special study of this legendary period seeking out and recording the works of Alkan,Thalberg,Liszt and many other pioneers of a past age.
The golden age of piano playing when pianists were feted like pop stars by the aristocratic salons of the time.Refined gentry were turned into a hysterical mob seeking out souvenirs of their idols to take home perchance to dream.

Sir Geoffrey Nice a long time trustee of the KT taking time off from negotiating peace in the world,introducing his grandson Leo to the much more beautiful world of music

Ruben had gone a step further after this childhood discovery and now has been commissioned by Naxos recording company to seek out further gems in the archives of the musty libraries and institutions where these scores have lain undisturbed for centuries.
Ruben has a virtuoso technique acquired from the Russian school of his first Serbian teacher in Catania.
Much more importantly he has a sense of style and colour,nurtured by Jasinski and Delle Vigne,that brings these works vividly to life with the same love and sense of showmanship for which they were born.
There was a crescendo of cheers and applause as Ruben unraveled this magic in transcriptions of Gluck,Mozart,Verdi and Bellini that cast the same spell on today’s audience as they had obviously done at their birth.
It was interesting to note that Leybach’s Norma fantasie uses many of the arias that Liszt chooses to ignore.Of course it is a sign of the genius of Liszt who knew how to transform and even improve on Bellini’s order.Leybach is a good workmanlike fantasy,black and white as compared to Liszt’s multicoloured score.

Ruben in discussion with Alberto Portugheis a true renaissance man

It was strange to hear Raff’s treatment of Gluck’s ‘Che faro’,having been so used to Sgambati’s magical transcription.It often cast it’s spell as an encore piece from the hands of the much loved Nelson Freire.The Raff transcription is much longer and more complex and was in itself a great discovery from a name that I have only ever seen as editor on the cover of early scores.

Two of the three artistic directors of the KT celebrating the success of this young Sicilian virtuoso.
Leslie Howard after his triumphant 75th birthday concert last night needed a much earned day of rest.

Duvernoy’s ‘Don Giovanni’ fantasy was simple and ingenious but of course not the masterpiece that Liszt had penned,but well worth hearing.
Eugenia Appiani ,a female virtuoso like Clara Wieck,in what was predominantly a man’s world in that period.A fascinating and beautiful Ballade on Verdi’s Rigoletto and as Ruben told us afterwarda he hopes to find many more pioneering ladies in the archives.
A fascinating conversation after his triumphant performances just whet the appetite for more discoveries.Watch this space!
His encore was a modern day caprice on Mozart by the now much feted Turkish pianist Fazil Say.A few years ago Say was made to suffer imprisonment from a regime he chose to challenge in his home country.
I have never seen an audience so enthusiastic giving a spontaneous standing ovation to this remarkably committed young artist.
Music hidden in musty archives and now given a new lease of life?!
Last night in this young artist’s golden hands it had the same effect as they would have received from the hands of long forgotten virtuosi of the past.
Hats off and more please !

What fun we had too with Cremonese Mario,ex head waiter at the Hilton,now at 89 an enthusiastic follower of the Keyboard Trust
Exciting times for the KT with one of the finest pianists of his generation opening the new season at the national Liberal Club.Four stars will be shining brightly thanks to the Robert Turnbull Foundation and Yisha Xue at the Liberal Club
Our general manager Sarah Biggs and administrator Richard Thomas leave no stones unturned in trying to raise funds to give more concert opportunities to the marvellous young musicians the KT is sworn to help
A very fruitful partnership has been forged with Roma 3 Orchestra University in Rome.Valerio Vicari,the artistic director,like us at the KT is dedicated to helping young musicians by giving opportunities with numerous public performances solo and with their magnificent orchestra

McLachlan – Blazquez for Talent Unlimited at St James’s Piccadilly

Programme Callum McLachlan:

Schumann – Arabesque op 18
Rachmaninov– Etude Tableaux op 39 N. 3 in F# Minor
Chopin – Barcarolle op 60
Shostakovich – Prelude and Fugue in D Minor op 87 N.24

Programme Juanjo Blázquez:

-Gounod/Blázquez Duo de Marguerite and Faust
-Schubert/Liszt Gretchem am Spinnrade, Erlkönig
-Dukas/Staub l’apprenti sorcier
Presented by Talent unlimited.

What a feast of music in one of London’s most secluded churches just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus.All those that had taken the time off to sit and marvel at two young artists united under the banner of Canan Maxton who with her ‘Talent Unlimited’ is the unstoppable promoter of young musicians,left enriched and enlightened ,as they returned to the bustle of the world outside.

From the very first notes of the Schumann Arabesque it was obvious we were in the presence of a young artist of a rare sensibility with something very important to say.The kaleidoscope of sounds and ravishing colours from Callum McLachlan allowed this little gem to shine and gleam as it rarely does in lesser hands.A very subtle flexibility allowed the music to speak with a voice where every note had a significance while showing us the overall shape of this miniature tone poem.

It was the same subtle beauty that Juanjo bought to the duet from Gounod’s Faust.Such subtle colour and ravishing sense of balance brought this transciption vividly to life .But it was the Liszt transcriptions of Schubert’s Gretchen and the mighty Erlkonig that was breathtaking in its refined beauty and passionate outpouring of sumptuous sounds.No matter how many notes were spread over the keyboard Juanjo’s sense of colour and shape never allowed the music to become hard or ungrateful.It was instead the sumptuous sounds of a truly ‘Grand’ piano in the sensitive hands of a refined artist.
It was the same sensitivity that Callum had brought to Chopin’s great outpouring of song with his Barcarolle op 60.From the gentle opening with a melodic line played with such beautiful legato,the continuous gentle lapping of the left hand following so attentively but never overpowering.A fluidity of sound with a luminosity that in the beautiful central episode reached truly sublime heights .It led to the climax of passion and glory only to die to a whisper before the final four chords that mirrored the opening chord that had opened the gate to Chopin’s wondrous lagoon.
The technical wizardry and sense of character that Juanjo brought to Dukas ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ was breathtaking in it’s total conviction and technical mastery.All at the service of a story that held us mesmerised by this young magician.
It was the same magic that Callum had brought to the Shostakovich Prelude and Fugue in D minor.A monumental work that from the whispered opening could be transformed into a climax of such grandeur and pyrotechnical authority,it made one realise what a genius Shostakovich truly was.
Often saturated by complete performances it was refreshing to hear this monumental work given the space it truly deserves on its own.
Two artists of great stature still only in their twenties both having dedicated their youth to their art.Something that is never mentioned in the mass media that only spreads the word of evil and ugliness in the world .But there is another much better world of beauty and dedication for all those with the ears to hear it.

Callum McLachlan was finalist of The 18th International Robert Schumann Competition Zwickau and Semi-Finalist of the XX Santander International Piano Competition Paloma O’ Shea, Callum Mclachlan, 23, has been described as ‘A born Schumann player’ with a ‘magical sense of colour and extraordinary technical prowess’ (July 2019, London recital). Born into a family of musicians, he first started piano lessons with his father at the age of 7, and entered Chetham’s School of Music at age 11, where he studied with Russian pianist and pedagogue Dina Parakhina. He was awarded the highest diploma from Trinity College – the FTCL, in his final year. He studied under Professor Claudius Tanski for Bachelors at the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg.He is now studying for Masters with Professor Claudio Martinez Mehner in Cologne Hochschule fur Musik and Prof. Jacques Rouvier in the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg.He has performed at many of the most important concert venues throughout the UK, Europe, and USA, including Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Wien Konzerthaus, Pereda Hall Santander, London’s Steinway Hall and Manchester’s Bridgewater and Stoller Hall. Recently he performed with the renowned ensemble Casals Quartet. .In 2021, he was a Hattori Foundation 2021 Senior Finalist and receives generous support. He has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, works of Benjamin Britten in Steinway Hall London, Liszt’s 2nd Piano Concerto with Paul Mann and CSO at RNCM Concert Hall, which he recently repeated at the Turner Sims Concert Hall in Southampton in March 2020 and Mozart Sonatas for Piano and Violin at The Bridgewater HallHe has also had much success in competitions throughout the UK, winning 1st prize in the Welsh International Piano Competition (U19), The Scottish International Youth prize, as well as reaching the national finals of the EPTA piano competition.Most recently, he made a recording of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata at the Universitat Mozarteum Salzburg, in collaboration with G. Henle Verlag for Beethoven 250. He made his New York recital debut in 2019, performing works of Brahms and Percy Grainger, an eclectic recital programme he performed at the newly opened Stoller Hall in Manchester, to critical acclaim. In his first year of studies at the Mozarteum, he was personally invited by Pascal Nemirowski to perform in the Young Artist Series in the RBC Birmingham Piano Festival

Juanjo Blazquez was born in Lorca (Spain) in 1998, he began his piano studies at the “Narciso Yepes” Professional Conservatory of Lorca in 2006. He received his first lessons from professor Estrella Romero Jiménez and later from Antonio Agustín González Hidalgo and Helena Ayala Gea. He has performed concerts in Spain and UK, and the ALTI Hall in Kyoto. Juanjo recently performed as a soloist Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto at Madrid’s National Auditorium with the María Rodrigo Symphony OrchestraHe has received masterclasses from teachers such as Lilya Zilberstein, Anna Malikova, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Stephen Hugh, Claudio Martínez-Mehner, Ashley Wass and Nino Kereselidze among others.Juanjo has won prizes in national and international competitions such as the “Ciudad de Albacete”, the “Entre Cuerdas y Metales”, the “Almudena Cano” and “ClaMo” International competition. He is also recipient of the “FW Wright Piano Scholarship” endowed by the RNCM , and he was chosen to represent Spain in the “Kyoto International music students festival” in 2019, receiving outstanding reviews.He completed his piano studies at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid in 2020, under the guidance of Ana Guijarro, having previously studied with Pilar Bilbao Iturburu. He continued his Master’s studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester with Graham Scott and Kathryn Stott.

Leslie Howard 75th Birthday Concert ‘An experience beyond compare’- The true heir to Agosti – Busoni -Liszt

Leslie Howard, who has chosen a typically diverse all-Liszt programme for his 75th birthday concert at Wigmore Hall, is known universally as a specialist in the music of this most prolific and influential of composers and has devoted much time to performing, recording, teaching and writing on his works. Howard has also shared his extraordinary understanding of Liszt in numerous masterclasses around the world where his erudition and ease enable him to convey the very essence of Liszt’s style.

Masterly playing for Leslie Howard’s 75th birthday concert.
Of course a Liszt recital of works many of us have never heard on the concert stage before.
His series of Liszt recitals in this very hall have passed into history as have his complete recordings on 100 cd’s of the entire pianistic repertoire of the Genius that is Liszt.
Seated at the piano hardly moving a muscle he miraculously ignited the piano with an extraordinary range of sounds and colours.It was the same lesson that had allowed Rubinstein to ravish and seduce audiences right up to his last concert in this very hall at the age of 90.
Art that conceals art that had so inspired the young blue eyed ,blond haired Australian who had made the pilgrimage to Siena to study in the class of Guido Agosti.

Leslie following his colleague Jack Krichaf in Agosti’s masterclass in Siena .Leslie seated in the front row with long hair and beard .

Agosti who had been a disciple of Busoni in turn a disciple of Liszt was no showman and playing in public was a great suffering for this real gentleman of the piano.
His true artistry could only be best expressed in the intimate atmosphere of his studio that became his home every summer in Siena for thirty years .
There were sounds heard in that studio that have never been forgotten by generations of pianist many of whom at the beginning of illustrious careers.
Agosti and his wonderfully extrovert wife Lydia a real Floristan and Eusebius couple,immediately realised the extraordinary intellect and serious intent of this young virtuoso as they took Leslie very much under their wing.
It was obviously from Agosti that the seed of absolute musical integrity and reverence for the composer’s wishes was born.Also a musical curiosity of rare intelligence and humility.
Lydia had never realised also what refreshing fun music could be with this extrovert young Australian.
A musical purity in which the pianist is a medium between the composer and his audience.
Je sens,je joue,je trasmets.
Music for Agosti was the bible!
Of course there is great scholarship and the understanding of structure and architectural shape of a great musical mind .A scholarship that has Leslie searching the archives for the original manuscripts to get as close as possible to the seed that gives birth to the music.
Agosti and Leslie Howard,two great minds at the service of the composer.

Leslie has happily an international concert itinerary which has seen him performing throughout the world for more than half a century.Unlike Agosti he relishes his ability to communicate with a public and his generosity towards serious young musicians is well known by all those that flock to his home to discuss and discover the secrets in the scores of which Leslie is a living encyclopaedia of knowledge and acquired wisdom.

A talking encyclopaedia indeed that can bring all the most obscure and absurdly ignored scores vividly to life ……at the touch of a hat!
Like Rubinstein Leslie is also a ‘Bon viveur’and well known also for his discerning taste in fine wines.
Tonight on his 75th birthday even though in momentarily difficult circumstances he pulled another rabbit out of the hat.
A scintillating display of virtuosity,scholarship and the joy of communication that held a full house astonished and astounded by many works that they had never heard before.

Minkyu Kim in the ‘Green room’ after the concert

Infact some works were only recently discovered in the archives.’Der Todesengel’ was dicovered by Minkyu Kim, a disciple of Leslie,and a distinguished pianist and scholar in his own right, who found it in Georgetown University -Leon Robbin Collection.
Above all Leslie like Rubinstein shared his ‘joie de vivre’ and generosity with his admirers who are happy to know that Leslie still has another quarter of a century before him of stimulating discoveries.
He may not have had the strength to offer a much requested encore,but it certainly did not stop him from unwinding with his many friends and disciples in the improvised Green room just a stones’ throw from the scene of his triumphant birthday concert.

Noretta Conci-Leslie’s “Piano mummy’

Noretta Conci and her husband John Leech,both well into their nineties were the first to congratulate their musical ‘son’ who they have nurtured and mentored for more than half a century.
Noretta,a disciple of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli ,who had also as a child studied with Agosti,was astounded that there was not a single wrong note musically or technically in Leslie’s heroic appearance tonight.

John Leech founder of the Keyboard Trust together with Leslie

John founded the Keyboard Trust together with Leslie,thirty three years ago ,as a sixtieth birthday present for his beloved Noretta.
He will be 98 on Friday and made the pilgrimage tonight especially to be with his musical ‘baby’ on his mere seventy fifth birthday.

The improvised after concert Green Room

Edward Morton Jack of the Liszt Society, writes in tribute: ‘Among Leslie Howard’s many distinctions is his having been invited, aged only 39, to be president of the Liszt Society upon the death in 1987 of Louis Kentner. Howard has remained president of the Society ever since, working tirelessly to promote an understanding of the music and life of Liszt’. Tonight’s concert is no exception.

Leslie in the green Room with Elena Vorotko co artistic directors of the Keyboard Trust
  • Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
    • Ballade No. 1 (‘Le chant du croisé’) S170
    • Ballade No. 2 S171
    • 4 Valses oubliées S215
    • Petite valse (‘Nachspiel zu den drei vergessenen Walzer’) S695e
    • Variationen über das Motiv von Bach S180
    • Hungarian Rhapsody No. 16 in A minor S244
    • Hungarian Rhapsody No. 17 in D minor S244
    • Hungarian Rhapsody No. 18 in F sharp minor S244
    • Hungarian Rhapsody No. 19 in D minor S244
The Maestro speaks.Leslie’s own programme notes – no comment needed or indeed possible from us mortals.
Leslie at home amongst his scores

Axel Trolese – A Spanish Rhapsody – Passion and seduction of a virtuoso in Frascati

A fascinating survey of music with a Spanish flavour from this most eclectic of young musicians.Axel was born in the Castelli Romani in Genzano and brought up in Aprilia on the plains below.His musical wings have taken him far and wide to study with Maurizio Baglini and Denis Pascal.I first heard him in the final concert of Benedetto Lupo’s class at the Academy of S.Cecilia.Recently it was Louis Lortie who spoke so highly of this young musician and even acted as recording engineer for his two piano recording with Luigi Carrocia of Liszt ‘s mighty Dante Symphony.

I have recently listened to his CD of the first two books of Iberia and was very curious to hear today the third book.Interludes of three of Mompou’s very suggestive songs and dances ,as Axel explained,gave us the introvert side to the Spanish character as opposed to the scintillating glitter and animal passion of Albeniz,Ravel and De Falla.It was refreshing to hear with what intelligence and integrity Axel brought to these little pieces that are now being re-evaluated by musicians of great standing.Both Stephen Hough and Arcadi Volodos have recently made CD’s of the works of this much neglected composer.It is a far cry from Agosti’s class in Siena in the late sixties when a very fine Canadian student Jack Krichaf after playing Chopin’s B minor Sonata and the Goldberg Variations appeared with some pieces by Mompou.Agosti took the music from the stand and put it in the waste paper bin saying:’Now play me some music!!!!’.Axel may have turned baubles into gems but they stood their own today against the other undisputed masterpieces on the programme.

Albeniz was played with scintillating colours and spectacular technical prowess where no matter how many notes were scattered around the keyboard the musical line came shining through.Ravel too was played with ravishing colours and refined good taste.De Falla of course was like a wild animal let loose on the keys with amazing glissandi up and down the keyboard like jets of light being shot at an uncontrolled crowd.Chopin’s Nocturne op 62 n. 1,played as an encore,came as a relief with Axel’s refined tone palette and intelligence giving such strength to the Genius of Chopin.

De Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance was a must as a parting shot.I have never heard it played with such electric passion and rhythmic energy.Even the middle section where Rubinstein would throw his hands up and down to great effect Axel turned it into a murmuring boiling cauldron out of which exploded a savage musical cry.You could almost hear the raucous gipsy voice intoning her seductive song.

The distinguished pianist Marylene Mouquet thanking Axel for his magnificent performance

An exhilarating recital from a musician returned to his origins thanks to Marylene Mouquet’s association dedicated to her teacher Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and to the Keyboard Trust of London who had invited this young star back to his roots to astonish and amaze.

Iberia is a suite for piano composed between 1905 and 1909 by Isaac Albeniz. It is composed of four books of three pieces each.

It is Albéniz’s best-known work and considered his masterpiece. It was highly praised by Debussy and Messiaen who said: “Iberia is the wonder for the piano; it is perhaps on the highest place among the more brilliant pieces for the king of instruments”. Stylistically, this suite falls squarely in the school of impressionism,especially in its musical evocations of Spain.It is considered one of the most challenging works for the piano: “There is really nothing in Isaac Albeniz’s Iberia that a good three-handed pianist could not master, given unlimited years of practice and permission to play at half tempo. But there are few pianists thus endowed.”

El Albaicin where Axel brought bright and brittle rhythms of savage exhilaration after a sleepy atmospheric opening .It was interrupted only by a melancholic cry with magic bells heard in the distance.Axel showed here
his transcendental sense of colour as he did in the lavish melodic dance of El Polo.Played with great passion and sumptuous full sounds of rhythmic energy.Lavapies an intricate Spanish dance with a jumble of clashing sounds out of which emerges the melodic cry amidst all the bustle of Spanish life.
  • Axel played Book 3 :El Albaicin a district of Granada El Polo (F minor) after the flamenco Polo Lavapiés another district of Madrid.

Cançons i danses Songs and Dances by Frederic Mompou each originally published singly under the Spanish title Canción y Danza is the title of a collection of 15 pieces by Federico Mompou and were written between 1918 and 1972. All were written for the piano except No. 13 for guitar and No. 15 for organ

Axel brought a luminosity and simplicity to these three pieces with a full rich melodic sound of such strength and character .

Each piece consists of an introductory slow Cançó, followed by a more animated Dansa in a related key but not necessarily in the same time signature. They are mostly based on existing Catalan folk tunes, although some of them are original works.

N.1 Song :Quasi moderato; F-sharp major; based on La hija de Crimson (La Filla del Carmesi) and dance :Allegro non troppo; F-sharp minor – F-sharp major; based on Dansa de Castelltercol (or Castelltersol) written without a key signature .

N.7 Song :Lento; A major; 6/8; based on Muntanyes regalades) Dance:A major; 3/4; based on L’Hereu Riera ;

N.3 SongModéré; based on El Noi de la Mare Dance:Sardana-temps de marche; 6/8; original, salvaged from an unfinished string quartet dedicated to Frank Marshall and contains no bar lines.It is interesting to note that Alicia de Larrocha became director of the Frank Marshall Academy named after her illustrious teacher.

Frederic Mompou Dencausse (Federico Mompou) 16 April 1893 – 30 June 1987 was a Catalan composer and pianist.

Rapsodie espagnole is an orchestral rhapsody written by Maurice Ravel and composed between 1907 and 1908, the Rapsodie is one of Ravel’s first major works for orchestra. It was first performed in Paris in 1908 and quickly entered the international repertoire. The piece draws on the composer’s Spanish heritage and is one of several of his works set in or reflecting Spain.Axel played the transcription by Lucien Garban.

Lucien Garban (1877–1959) was a French composer, music arranger and editor who wrote transcriptions still performed in the modern repertoire. Garban studied under Gabriel Fauré at the Conservatoire de Paris and served as musical director of the publishing house Durand until 1959.Around 1900, Garban along with Ravel and a number of young artists, poets, critics, and musicians joined together in an informal group; they came to be known as Les Apaches (“The Hooligans”), a name coined by Ricardo Vines to represent their status as “artistic outcasts”.

Axel introducing the Ravel before giving a quite spectacular account that was breathtaking in its sweep and subtle sense of colour

Prélude à la nuit movement is marked très modéré and the whole movement is quiet, never rising above mezzo forte . Malaguena is the shortest of the four movements, and is marked assez vif and refers to a flamenco dance from the southern Spanish province of Malaga where Ravel’s music here is more a romantic evocation of place and mood. Habanera is beguiling and subtle in its expression of a thoroughly Spanish character and spirit. Feria is the longest of the four movements, and is the first point in the score at which Ravel allows “the élan that has so far been deliberately stifled” to break out. The boisterous carnival atmosphere has undertones of nostalgia, but exuberance triumphs and the work ends in a joyful burst of orchestral colour.

Fantasia Baetica was given a quite remarkable performance of burning Latin fire.Some amazing technical feats whilst maintaining this energy even in moments of peaceful contemplation where there was always a feeling that something was about to erupt.Listening to Axel’s superlative performance I find it even more surprising that the fiery temperament of Rubinstein had not taken this work into his repertoire as he had The Ritual Fire dance.
I have a copy of the Urtext edition given to me by the much missed Aquiles delle Vigne that he gave me especially on one of his many visits to Rome.

Fantasía bética, or Andalusian Fantasy, was written in 1919 by Manuel de Falla evoking the old Roman province of Baetisin in southern Spain, today’s Andalusia. It was commissioned by Artur Rubinstein who planned to perform it in Barcelona that year but did not learn it in time and so wound up giving the premiere in New York on 20 February 1920; as it turned out, he would play it only a few times before dropping it from his repertory without recording it.Arthur Rubinstein, years later,explained to the composer that he found it too long … It was Falla’s last major piano work and the only one that belongs to the virtuoso tradition in which Falla the pianist had been trained. As Ronald Crichton has written: ‘Guitar figurations transformed into pianistic terms abound … other passages evoke the harpsichord, Scarlatti as it were, rewritten by Bartók.’ Beyond that are the smoky, heavily ornamented lines of flamenco singers and the tightly controlled gestures of Andalusian dancing, the whole work adding up to a marvellously varied and vigorous portrait of Spain. From the structural point of view, one can only admire what Falla called ‘internal rhythm’, which he explained as ‘the harmony in the deepest sense of the word born of the dynamic equilibrium between the sections’.

Nice to see two ex students from the class of Maurizio Baglini both playing in the ‘Castelli’ today and both being helped by the Keyboard Trust of London .Ilaria Cavalleri had played in Velletri in a coffee concert on an Erard of 1879 where Axel had played just a few months ago too.
Prof.Carlo Tamassia who gave a very interesting introduction to the concert

Giovanni Bertolazzi at the Quirinale A kaleidoscope of ravishing sounds that astonish and seduce for the Genius of Liszt

The Quirinale Palace in the heart of Rome

Après une lecture du Dante – Fantasia quasi Sonata
da Années de pèlérinage. Deuxième Année. Italie, S.161 (1849).
Sonetto di Dante “Tanto gentile e tanto onesta” (da H. v. Bülow), S.479 (1874)
Totentanz. Parafrasi sul Dies Irae, S.525 (1865) Preludio su “Weinen, klagen, sorgen, zagen” (da J. S.Bach), S.179 (1859)
Recueillement. Vincenzo Bellini in memoriam, S.204 (1877)
Rapsodia ungherese n. 2, S.244 (1847)Lento a capriccio (do minore)

Liszt is alive and well in his beloved Eternal City and at the President’s Palace .
With the young virtuoso ,top prize winner of the Liszt / Budapest competition , Giovanni Bertolazzi astonished us this morning in a live Sunday morning broadcast where not even the unexpected intrusion of a brass band could distract him from the nobility and poetic insights he brought to the Genius of Liszt.

An encore in Hungarian Style with the Valse Triste by Vecsey-Cziffra

Considered by many to be the finest young pianist of his generation he showed us why, with an hour of astonishing playing of great showmanship but above all with a kaleidoscope of ravishing sounds of deep poetic content all from the hands of an artist of great stature.Liszt is indeed alive and well and I like to think he too was looking on today to a worthy disciple

The dramatic intensity he brought to the ‘Dante Sonata’ from the very first notes immediately held our attention.Silences that became menacing as sounds entered like threatening whispers out of this void.A performance of great theatricality where passionate explosions were contrasted with sublime confessions of intimate secrets.It was not only the transcendental control and dynamic physicality of his virtuosity but it was the kaleidoscope of sounds that he could find and extract from this powerful Fazioli that surrendered all its secrets under his hands.Not even the explosion of a loudspeaker in the most tender part of the Sonata could distract from the atmosphere he had created that held us all in his spell from the first to the last note of this remarkable one movement work.

Après une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata (French for After a Reading of Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata; also known as the Dante Sonata) was completed in 1849. It was first published in 1856 as part of the second volume of the Anne de Pélerinage (Years of Pilgrimage) and was inspired by the reading of Victor Hugo’s poem “Après un lecture du Dante” (1836).It was originally a small piece entitled Fragment after Dante, consisting of two thematically related movements,which Liszt composed in the late 1830s.He gave the first public performance in Vienna in November 1839.When he settled in Weimar in 1849, he revised the work along with others in the volume, and gave it its present title derived from Victor Hugo’s own work of the same name.

Three rarely heard works by Liszt gave much needed contrast to the drama that unfolds in the Dante Sonata and Totentanz.I imagine the Liszt expert Leslie Howard had pointed Giovanni in the direction of these rarely heard gems of Liszt.A simple beautiful outpouring of song from Hans von Bulow who was Liszt’s son in law until Wagner came along and stole away the heart and mind of his daughter,Cosima.Beautifully played with a ravishing sense of balance that resounded with such beauty in these sumptuous surroundings

Von Bülow’s song Tanto gentile e tanto onesta never entered the repertoire, Liszt’s enthusiasm for it notwithstanding. The piano transcription S.479 is simple and straightforward, and the original song a worthy setting of Dante Alighieri. (‘My lady is so gentle and modest when she greets others that every tongue trembles and is still, and eyes do not dare to look upon her.’) .Written on the first anniversary of Beatrice’s death (therefore in 1291, according to the chronology established by Dante himself) this sonnet with two different beginnings above all describes the poet’s pain in the memory of his woman now seated in the splendor of the heavens, also through the personification Cavalantiana of the sighs that come out of the author’s chest and speak autonomously. In the prose, the anecdote that allegedly gave rise to the composition of the sonnet is interesting, i.e. Dante’s meeting with unspecified important characters while he is intent on drawing “an angel above certain tablets” (perhaps evidence of an artistic practice also evoked in other parts of Dante’s work).

An overwhelming performance of Totentanz where even my camera could not keep up with the funabulistic gymnastics of Giovanni.I remember hearing Arrau play this with orchestra in the vast Royal Albert Hall and being blown away by the volume of sound that he could produce.It is rare to hear this version for piano solo but Giovanni brought an amazing sense of line pointing out the Dies Irae no matter what technical feats were being performed all around.Giovanni had an entire orchestra in his hands as he astonished and amazed us.He also found the tranquility and innocence of a saint with the simplicity he brought to the plain chant in between the enormous volumes of sumptuous sounds he produced that would have put any orchestra to shame .

Totentanz (English: Dance of the Dead): Paraphrase on Dies irae, S .126 for solo piano and orchestra is notable for being based on the Gregorian plainchant melody Dies irae as well as for stylistic innovations. It was first planned in 1838, completed and published in 1849, and revised in 1853 and 1859.Some of the titles of Liszt’s pieces, such as Totentanz,Funérailles,la lugubre gondola and Pensée des morts show the composer’s fascination with death.In the young Liszt we can already observe manifestations of his obsession with death, with religion, and with heaven and hell.Liszt frequented Parisian “hospitals, gambling casinos and asylums” in the early 1830s, and he even went down into prison dungeons in order to see those condemned to die.Liszt also wrote versions for two pianos (S.652) and solo piano (S.525) In the last movement of the Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz the medieval (Gregorian) Dies Irae is quoted in a shockingly modernistic manner. In 1830 Liszt attended the first performance of the symphony and was struck by its powerful originality. Liszt’s Totentanz (Dance of Death), a set of variations also paraphrases the Dies Irae plainsong.An an early biographer notes, “Every variation discloses some new character—the earnest man, the flighty youth, the scornful doubter, the prayerful monk, the daring soldier, the tender maiden, the playful child.”

The Dance of Death (Totentanz) from Liber Chronicarum [Nuremberg Chronicle], 1493, attr. to Michael Wolgemut

The Prelude Weinen,Klagen,Sorgen,Zagen ‘Praludium nach Johann Sebastian Bach S 179 of 1859 is a dignified and restrained piece with just one dramatic outburst, all within the framework of a passacaglia which unfolds 25 variations on the motif

The prelude a work of more substance than these other two gems as Giovanni built it to a climax of unexpected architectural importance.Not the masterpiece of Liszt’s Variations on the same theme but a performance of great simplicity and beauty that I have never heard in the concert hall before.

Recueillement (‘Recollection’) S 204 was a gift to the Italian composer Lauro Rossi .It weaves arpeggios around a rising scale before settling into very simple, chordal writing.Written in memoriam to Vincenzo Bellini of who Liszt had made famous paraphrases of his Norma,La Sonnambula and I Puritani (Hexameron).Played with simplicity and sensitivity before the final salute from Liszt the greatest showman the piano has ever known .

One of Liszt’s most popular works the Hungarian Rhapsody n. 2 that followed the simplicity of the work dedicated to the memory of Bellini .It was given a new lease of life in Giovanni’s hands.There was a veiled beauty to the lassan before the full brass band of the friska.It was played with an irresistible sense of dance and style.Even the cadenza made a dramatic appearance as it led to the hard driven final octaves and the abrupt explosive final notes.

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp minor, S.244 is the second in a set of 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies and is by far the most famous of the set.Franz Liszt was strongly influenced by the music heard in his youth, particularly Hungarian folk music, with its unique gypsy scale,rhythmic spontaneity and direct, seductive expression. These elements would eventually play a significant role in Liszt’s compositions.Composed in 1847 and dedicated to Count Laszlo Teleki it was first published as a piano solo in 1851 .Offering an outstanding contrast to the serious and dramatic lassan.the following friska holds enormous appeal for audiences, with its simple alternating tonic and dominant harmonization, its energetic, toe-tapping rhythms, and breathtaking “pianistics”.Most unusual in this composition is the composer’s invitation for the performer to perform a cadenza .Sergei Rachmaninov wrote a famous cadenza for his interpretation and Liszt himself wrote several cadenzas for the piece, but they were rarely performed.

Cappella Paolina Palazzo del Quirinale

Giovanni Bertolazzi
Insignito nel 2021 del 2° Premio e di 5 premi speciali al prestigioso Concorso Pianistico Internazionale “Franz Liszt” di Budapest, Giovanni Bertolazzi è nato a Verona nel 1998 e ha iniziato a studiare pianoforte da bambino. Diplomato prima al Conservatorio “Benedetto Marcello” di Venezia con Massimo Somenzi, quindi all’Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali “Vincenzo Bellini” di Catania con Epifanio Comis, ha frequentato le masterclasses di Lily Dorfman, Joaquín Achúcarro, Matti Raekallio, Violetta Egorova, Boris Berezovsky, Stephen Kovacevich e Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. Ha vinto più di 40 premi in concorsi pianistici internazionali, tra cui il 1° Premio al Concorso Pianistico “Siegfried Weishaupt” di Ochsenhausen (2017), il 1° Premio al Concorso Pianistico Internazionale “Sigismund Thalberg” di Napoli (2018) e il 4° Premio al Concorso Pianistico Internazionale “Ferruccio Busoni” di Bolzano (2019). Nel giugno 2019 a Milano ha ricevuto il “Premio Alkan per il virtuosismo pianistico”. Dal 2020 è sostenuto artisticamente dall’Associazione Culturale “Musica con le Ali” e nel 2022 è stato premiato con il “Tabor Foundation Award”, riconoscimento assegnatogli dalla Verbier Festival Academy in occasione del Verbier Festival (Svizzera).
Si è esibito fra l’altro al Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, a Palazzo Pitti a Firenze, al Teatro Politeama Garibaldi di Palermo, al Teatro Bellini di Catania, presso la Sala Verdi del Conservatorio di Milano, a Budapest alla “Franz Liszt” Academy of Music e al Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum, alla Landesmusikakademie di Ochsenhausen, al Kadrioru Kunstimuuseum di Tallinn e alla Steinway Hall a Londra. È stato ospite inoltre delle Serate Musicali di Milano, degli. Amici della Musica di Padova, del Bologna Festival, degli Amici della Musica di Firenze, del Verbier Festival e del Cziffra Festival di Budapest. Nei suoi concerti con orchestra ha collaborato, fra gli altri, con direttori come Gergely Vajda, Maurizio Dini Ciacci, Epifanio Comis, Daniel Smith. Ai Concerti di Radio3 al Quirinale ha debuttato in recital nell’ottobre del 2020.
Di recente ha pubblicato un album dedicato a Liszt e premiato dalla critica internazionale nel quale suona un pianoforte Borgato Grand Prix 333, strumento di fabbricazione italiana che detiene anche il record della maggior lunghezza (3,33 m.) per uno strumento gran coda da concerto.

With Andrea Penna the unflappable and highly informed radio presenter

Giovanni Bertolazzi will inaugurate the Robert Turnbull -Keyboard Trust series at the National Liberal Club in London on the 5th June