A beautiful programme for Holy Week at Roma 3 where their series ‘Young Artists Piano Solo’ continues unabated with the energy and dedication of the President Roberto Pujia and his ex student,Artistic Director,Valerio Vicari.
With their many young helpers it is a series that gives an invaluable showplace for young musicians at the start of their career.After years of study dedicating their youth to art as they take the big step from Gradus ad Parnassum.An unreachable Parnassum but real artists can get nearer only by playing in public and learning from listening to themselves.It was Artur Rubinstein who told the contestants at the first competition in his name in Tel Aviv,fifty years ago ,that true artists should be like bees.To cultivate one’s own taste by listening to as much music as possible and by living the life of a true artist that can appreciate beauty.
Music is such fun at Roma 3
A life where quality rather than quantity is what counts.Likened to the bees that cultivate their pollen from the flowers that they are attracted to and which makes every honey different from another.The Rubinstein Competition is now in its 50th year but the message of Rubinstein in more actual today in this fast moving world than it has ever been.I remember Ruggiero Ricci telling me that in his opinion performances these days were so uniform in their perception because there is no time to stop and stare!In order to cross the Atlantic it would take days on an Ocean liner when there was time to stop,think,digest and look around and maybe even question many things.Today as Ricci told me he could be playing the Tchaikowsky concerto today in New York and tomorrow the Sibelius in Tokyo!
It was fascinating to see this young artist today and to appreciate a programme that we rarely see even in the most important concert halls. Six short works by Rachmaninov for the 150th anniversary celebrations of a composer who is only now getting the recognition that he has long been denied by so called ‘serious’ musicians.The last work penned by Schumann and Beethoven’s most mellifluous Sonata op 110.In between a rarely heard toccata by Bach and Scriabin’s luminous Fourth Sonata.
A true artist is known by his programmes and this was already a superb visiting card for this young musician from Brescia.It was also fascinating to learn that he is receiving advice from Alexander Romanovsky which was so evident from his ‘straight finger’ technique.Fingers pointing with sensibility and control to notes whose sound they can hear in their ears before they touch the keys.As opposed to a certain Russian school of playing mainly by force on pianos that fortunately are built like tanks but unfortunately cannot bite back!
An unusual choice of Rachmaninov’s ravishing Vocalise was followed by two transcriptions of his 12 Romances, Opus 21, which is a set of pieces for voice and piano, composed in 1902 except Number 1 which was composed in 1900. Russian librettos were written by various authors.’Sorrow in Springtime’n.12 and ‘Where Beauty Dwells ‘n.7 were played with ravishing beauty and sumptuous sounds and were an unusually effective prelude to three tempestuous Etude Tableaux op 39.There was dynamic rhythmic drive to n.1 followed by the playful charm and almost too serious central episode of n.4.A beautiful fluidity with a languid melodic outpouring of romantic sounds in n.8 filled this cavernous hall with a kaleidoscope of sounds.
The Piano Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp major, op 30, was written around 1903 and first published in 1904. It consists of two movements Andante and Prestissimo volando, and is one of Scriabin’s shortest piano sonatas and is generally considered to be the beginning of Scriabin’s middle period due to the newly mystical sonorities and tonal ambiguity of the first movement.Scriabin wrote a poem after composing this sonata that explains its meaning: In a light mist, transparent vapor Lost afar and yet distinct A star gleams softly. How beautiful! The bluish mystery Of her glow Beckons me, cradles me. O bring me to thee, far distant star! Bathe me in trembling rays Sweet light! Sharp desire, voluptuous and crazed yet sweet Endlessly with no other goal than longing I would desire But no! I vault in joyous leap Freely I take wing. Mad dance, godlike play! Intoxicating, shining one! It is toward thee, adored star My flight guides me. Mad dance, godlike play! Intoxicating, shining one! Toward thee, created freely for me To serve the end My flight of liberation! In this play Sheer caprice In moments I forget thee In the maelstrom that carries me I veer from they glimmering rays. In the intensity of desire Thou fadest O distant goal. But ever thou shinest As I forever desire thee! Thou expandest, Star! Now thou art a Sun Flamboyant Sun! Sun of Triumph! Approaching thee by my desire for thee I lave myself in they changing waves O joyous god. I swallow thee Sea of light. My self-of-light I engulf thee! Giulio played it with a luminous beauty that pervaded the whole sonata.Contrasted with a rhythmic energy and dynamic technical control as it built to the passionate outpouring of the final sumptuous vision that is the guiding light of all Scriabin’s later works.It did not quite have the limpet type control of velvet beauty of Emil Gilels whose performance of this sonata has haunted me all these years .But Giulio played it with the same passionate drive and total conviction that is also an essential part of this most mellifluous of all Scriabin’s ten sonatas .
The earliest sources of the BWV 910, 911 and 916 toccatas appear in the Andreas Bach Book an important collection of keyboard and organ manuscripts of various composers compiled by Bach’s oldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach between 1707 and 1713. Giulio played the first of the seven toccatas that represent Bach’s earliest keyboard compositions known under a collective title. Toccata in F-sharp minor, BWV 910. (Toccata) [no tempo indication] Presto e Staccato (Fuga) [no tempo indication] (Fuga). The toccata is in five episodes that were played with a clarity and almost without pedal .It was like a sorbet in a great feast ,cleansing the palette of the sumptuously rich sounds before continuing this great feast.The Grandiose opening statement gradually unfolded as Bach’s knotty twine was played with great control and sense of style.
The ( Geistervariationen Ghost Variations), or , WoO 24, composed in 1854, is the last piano work of Robert Schumann .The variations were composed in the time leading up to his admission to an asylum for the insane where he was admitted to the mental hospital in Bonn.Schumann believed that he was surrounded by spirits who played him music, both “wonderful” and “hideous”. They offered him “most magnificent revelations”, but also threatened to send him to Hell.On the 17 or 18 February 1854, Schumann wrote down a theme he said was dictated to him by voices like those of angels. He did not recognize that it was actually a theme which he had composed previously.Several days later, he wrote a set of variations on this theme. While he was still working on the composition, on 27 February he suddenly threw himself half clothed into the freezing Rhine from which he was rescued and returned home.After surviving the suicide attempt, he continued to work on it. The next day, he completed the work and sent the manuscript to his wife, Clara ,who had left him the night before, on the advice of a doctor.Due to the harrowing events of this period Clara Schumann – to whom the work is dedicated – jealously guarded the manuscripts of this piece, her husband’s last composition for piano, as if they were sacred relics, and forbade any attempt to publish them. Not until 1939 did the first edition finally appear which departs in many respects from Schumann’s manuscripts. Theme and Variations in E flat for piano Theme – Leise, innig (Quiet, earnest) Variation I Variation II – Canonisch (Like a canon) Variation III – Etwas belebter (Somewhat more animated) Variation IV Variation V The theme was played with ravishing sounds with a fluidity bathed in pedal out of which the variations evolved so naturally.Finishing with the beautiful fifth which was obviously Schumann’s glimpse of paradise.Helped by the very resonant acoustic of this rationalist hall Giulio managed to mould the variations with a sensibility and colour that created the exact atmosphere for the opening of the most beautiful of Beethoven’s last thoughts on the Sonata form .The 31st Sonata of 32 that traced his musical path from the early op 2 to the final op 111.He was to leave the Sonata form for good as he penned only trifles op 119 and 126 .But also the greatest set of variations (Diabelli op 120) after Bach’s monumental Goldberg.
It was in 1983 that I persuaded my teacher Guido Agosti to play the last two Beethoven Sonatas in a public concert in Teatro Ghione.Op.110 was recorded and it is the only recording that exists of this musical genius .A student of Busoni who had been a student of Liszt who was in turn a pupil of Czerny a pupil of Beethoven.It is one of the historic concerts in the Ghione theatre during the 80’s and 90’s that Valerio Vicari and many others have never forgotten.All those that frequented the Chigiana in Siena and heard Agosti in his studio ,where he held classes for the summer,have never forgotten the sounds that resounded in that intimate private space.As Mitsuko Uchida rightly said it is the memory of a performance that remains in the heart and soul more than any printed copy!But it is nice to know there is at least one recording of this musical genius who brought such honour to Italy
It was Beethoven’s Sonata op 110 that finished the programme with an exemplary performance of classical intelligence and measure.Beethoven’s marking were scrupulously noted and the pedal very sparing except in the two or three places were Beethoven specifically asks for long pedals of special effect.The ‘bebung’ effect of vibration which is impossible on a modern day piano but which Giulio knew the effect that Beethoven intended.The longer held pedals too were discreetly adapted to produce the effect that Beethoven was obviously intending even if he himself could only hear them in his own inner ear.A very measured Allegro molto second movement in which the treacherous trio was played with dynamic control.The final chord disappearing into the distance as the Adagio emerged from it.The fugue was played with great clarity and even a momentary lapse was professionally dealt with as Giulio built this masterpiece to its momentous conclusion.
Last but not least was the encore .A tumultuous performance of Chopin’s ‘Winter Wind’ study op 25 n.11.Played with the same fire and technical prowess as his mentor,Romanovsky,who has recently been playing all 24 Studies in his recital programmes .I am not sure it was necessary to add extra bass notes but it was the end of a long recital and think this bit of fun was well deserved for a young man who obviously loves the piano as much as his renowned mentor .
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