Pietro Fresa Maturity and Mastery at Roma 3

Maestro Piero Rattalino

Another tribute to Piero Rattalino from Valerio Vicari for the recent loss to the musical world of such a distinguished figure.Maestro Rattalino had also been very much associated with Roma Tre Orchestra from it ‘s founding almost twenty years ago.It was refreshing to hear of the encounter between Pietro Fresa and Maestro Rattalino,two years ago,on the occasion of Pietro’s performance of Mozart’s last piano concerto with the Roma Tre Orchestra.A mine of information he was only too happy to share his knowledge with this young pianist as he had done with generations of pianists many of whom now have gone on to illustrious careers.


I had not realised though that this signalled an unexpected change of programme.To the Brahms monumental variations were now added Mozart’s deliciously refreshing variations on “Ah vous dirai-je,Maman” and Beethovens monumental Waldstein Sonata op 53 .These two masterworks were in substitute for Liszt’s rhetorical tone poem “Vallée d’Obermann” and Scriabin’s hysterical reaching for the stars with his 10th and last Sonata.

Fair exchange is no robbery and a programme of three great masterworks was only to be applauded especially when played with the maturity and mastery as today.Pietro told me afterwards that this was the programme that he had prepared for a tour of Spain in the next few days and he preferred to share this monumental programme with his Roma 3 audience,especially when his previous appearance had been Mozart’s last great piano concerto that had been so appreciated by Maestro Rattalino.

Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”, K.265 was composed when Mozart was around 25 years old (1781 or 1782). It consists of twelve variations on the French folk song “Ah!vous dirai-je,maman”.The French melody first appeared in 1761, and has been used for many children’s songs, such as “Twinkle ,Twinkle,Little Star” or “Baa,Baa,Black SheepFor a time, it was thought that these variations were composed in 1778, while Mozart stayed in Paris from April to September in that year, the assumption being that the melody of a French song could only have been picked up by Mozart while residing in France. For this presumed composition date, the composition was renumbered from K. 265 to K. 300.Later analysis of Mozart’s manuscript indicated 1781/1782 as the probable composition date.They were first published in Vienna in 1785.

A performance of great delicacy and style .It was played with a disarming simplicity that allowed Mozart’s scintillating variations to speak for themselves.There was an elegance and precision from the first variation followed by the beauty of the melodic line over a moving bass followed by the clarity and simplicity of the second .Such beauty with the ravishing ease of the rising and falling arabesques of the third was followed by the rhythmic propulsion over a moving bass of the fourth.There were swimming strokes of utmost delicacy in the fifth that was a true lesson on how to play the piano.Like a vibration the moving scales of the sixth led so naturally to the humour and ingenuity of the minor variation of the eighth.There was a gradual build up of excitement with the tenth but always within the limits of the style that epitomises Mozart being too easy for children but too difficult for grown ups!The eleventh,Adagio,was with the delicately chiselled ornamentation of simple unadorned beauty.Exhilaration and excitement brought this miniature masterpiece to a delicious conclusion.A lesson in style and precision in which Pietro was listening carefully always to the sounds that he was able to produce from this very powerful Fazioli.He created a cocoon of sound within which Mozart could live happily without ever smudging the contours but using this magnificent instrument to illuminate and comunicate as Mozart himself might have done on the very different instruments of his day!

Piano Sonata No. 21 , Op. 53 in C major known as the Eroica symphony for piano.It is considered to be one of Beethoven’s greatest piano sonatas. Completed in 1804, it has a scope that surpasses Beethoven’s previous sonatas, and notably is one of his most technically challenging compositions. It is a key work early in his ‘Heroic’ decade (1803-1812) and set the stage for piano compositions in the grand manner both in Beethoven’s later work and all future composers. The Waldstein receives its name from Beethoven’s dedication to Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein of Vienna, a patron as well as a close personal friend of his. This sonata is also known as ‘L’Aurora’ (The Dawn) in Italian, for the sonority of the opening chords, which are said to conjure an image of daybreak.It is in two movements :Allegro con brio and an Adagio molto which is an introduction to the Rondo Allegretto moderato.The original second movement Beethoven chose to publish separately as his ‘Andante Favori’ and substitute it for a much shorter introduction to the final Rondo.

It was this movement that stood out more than all the pyrotechnical gymnastics of the outer movements for Pietro’s complete understanding of the orchestral colour and intensity in this single,intense, page.It was a sign of his maturity as an interpreter where ‘rinforzando’ was given such a noble sound as it disappeared into the distance passing from one instrument to another.This after the stillness of the pianissimo opening full of the precise indications by Beethoven that were scrupulously understood and transformed into sounds.At the same time giving an architectural shape that dissolved into oblivion with the single shining star of G that was to be brought to life with the undulating harmonies of the Rondo.Of course it was a sign of the genius of Beethoven who could contemplate this link between two transcendentally busy outer movements.

A first movement played with a rhythmic energy and authority where the startling contrasts in dynamics were slightly exaggerated especially in the development where the long held arpeggiated harmonies were sometimes give a shock start from the bass.But the overall impression was of a performance of great authority and architectural understanding where his ability to keep a constant tempo despite the demonic drive that Beethoven demands was exhilarating and kept us on the edge of our seats.The technically exhilarating episodes of the Rondo were played with authority and drive and his slight hesitation before the return of the luminous rondo was a master stroke that I have rarely heard from other interpreters.I liked his insistence on the bass harmonies in the coda that gave great weight to the arpeggiando changing harmonic pattern of the right hand.His ability to play the glissandi on a modern piano with such ease was nothing short of remarkable.Serkin used to lick his fingers before attempting them – others like Kissin play them with some very deft scales.A remarkable performance that showed the maturity that this young man has now acquired.

An encore of Schubert’s beautiful Impromptu op 142 n.2 rounded off this unexpectedly important programme.Played with luminous beauty and simplicity he could even have taken more time over the mellifluous meanderings of the central episode where he had found some magical counterpoints that were worth savouring even more.

The Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, was written by Brahms in 1861 and consists of a set of twenty-five variations and a concluding fugue, all based on a theme from Handel’s Harpsichord Suite n.1 in B flat HWV 434. Tovey ranked it among “the half-dozen greatest sets of variations ever written”.Written in September 1861 after Brahms, aged 28, abandoned the work he had been doing as director of the Hamburg women’s choir (Frauenchor) and moved out of his family’s cramped and shabby apartments in Hamburg to his own apartment in the quiet suburb of Hamm, initiating a highly productive period that produced “a series of early masterworks”.Written in a single stretch in September 1861,it is dedicated to a “beloved friend”, Clara Schumann widow of Robert Schumann.It was presented to her on her 42nd birthday, September 13. At about the same time, his interest in, and mastery of, the piano also shows in his writing two important piano quartets, in G minor and A major. Barely two months later, in November 1861, he produced his second set of Schumann Variations, Op. 23, for piano four hands.One aspect of his approach to variation writing is made explicit in a number of letters. “In a theme for a set of variations, it is almost only the bass that has any meaning for me. But this is sacred to me, it is the firm foundation on which I then build my stories. What I do with a melody is only playing around … If I vary only the melody, then I cannot easily be more than clever or graceful, or, indeed, if full of feeling, deepen a pretty thought. On the given bass, I invent something actually new, I discover new melodies in it, I create.” The role of the bass is critical.Brahms played them at a meeting with Wagner who commented:’One sees what still may be done in the old forms when someone comes along who knows how to use them”.Clara writes in her diary :’On Dec 7th I gave another soirée, at which I played Johannes’ Handel Variations. I was in agonies of nervousness, but I played them well all the same, and they were much applauded. Johannes, however, hurt me very much by his indifference. He declared that he could no longer bear to hear the variations, it was altogether too dreadful for him to listen to anything of his own and to have to sit by and do nothing. Although I can well understand this feeling, I cannot help finding it hard when one has devoted all one’s powers to a work, and the composer himself has not a kind word for it.

Pietro played the theme with scintillating ornaments that sprang from his fingers like springs and gave such luminous clarity to the theme that was to be so nobly enhanced by Brahms in the triumphant 25th variation.There was never a moment in Pietro’s authoritative performance that seemed anything other than inevitable.The transcendental difficulties and complex musical ideas just poured from his sensitive hands as he gave an architectural shape to the twenty five variations culminating in a final fugal climax of overwhelming power and authority.There was rhythmic energy and clarity and ‘joie de vivre’ to the first variation contrasting with the fluidity and legatissimo of the second with some very interestingly pointed counterpoints.There was a gentle lilt to the third and great sonorities to the octaves of the fourth.Gentle flowing lyricism of the fifth leading to the legatissimo octaves of mysterious atmosphere and the answer of the sixth bringing great rhythmic impetus leading to the fanfare of the seventh.There was a gradual build up with a sudden rhythmic impetus to the eighth and admirable control of the whispered sonorities of the octaves answering one another in the ninth.But why so violent a contrast between the sforzando and sudden piano that was rather exaggerated and overwhelming too soon?There was a sudden change of character with the quixotic flight from the top to the bottom of the keyboard in the tenth contrasting with the beautifully lyrical eleventh.The languid left hand melodic line in the twelfth was very slow and unusually beautiful followed by the noble sonorities of pompous regal sonorities of the thirteenth.Tovey sees a grouping in Variations 14–18, which he describes as “arising one out of the other in a wonderful decrescendo of tone and crescendo of Romantic beauty”.The nineteenth is slow, relaxing variation, with its lilting rhythm and 12/8 time,written in the dance style of a Baroque French siciliana from the school of Couperin (Brahms had edited Couperin’s music ).It uses chords almost exclusively in the root position, perhaps as another reminiscence of “antique” music. In a technique often used by Brahms, the melodic line is hidden in an inner part and was played with a clarity and simplicity before the final build up to the twenty fifth triumphant fanfare and the mighty fugue.In fact there was great character to each of the variations played with an underlying rhythmic impetus which as Brahms clearly describes comes from the solidity of the bass allowing freedom for all that rides on it.There was much beauty in the music box twenty second variation leading to the spikey staccato build up ever more energetic until the final explosion of the theme in all its glory.The fugue was played with amazing clarity and a build up of tolling bells and frenzied movement that demonstrated his truly transcendental technical prowess.An overpowering performance of one of the masterworks for the piano all too often used as a tool for aspiring young pianists struggling with the technical difficulties and not always realising the enormous musical invention that the 28 year old Brahms demonstrated at the same time as writing his poorly received first piano concerto

With Valerio Vicari ,Artistic Director of Roma 3 Orchestra,paying tribute to Piero Rattalino

Pietro è stato ammesso, a soli undici anni, alla prestigiosa Accademia Pianistica Internazionale “Incontri col Maestro” di Imola, ove ha studiato con la concertista cinese Jin Ju, ed è attualmente allievo del celebre Maestro russo Boris Petrushansky. Dopo il Conservatorio, ha iniziato gli studi presso il Royal College of Music di Londra per merito di una importante borsa di studio, e qui, frequentando i corsi dei Maestri Dmitri Alexeev e Sofya Gulyak, si è laureato con il massimo dei voti nel settembre 2020.Pietro inoltre si è perfezionato con docenti quali Enrico Pace, Boris Berman, Vovka Ashkenazy, Leonid Margarius, Vanessa Latarche, Andreas Frölich, Stefano Fiuzzi e Roberto Cappello partecipando regolarmente alle loro Masterclass. A dodici anni, ha tenuto la sua prima esibizione con l’orchestra inaugurando, con il concerto Hob. XVIII/11 in re maggiore di Haydn, l’anno accademico del Conservatorio presso l’Auditorium Manzoni di Bologna.

President of Roma Tre Orchestra Roberto Pujia

Da allora ha iniziato una intensa attività concertistica sia come solista che in formazioni di musica da camera che l’ha portato ad esibirsi in numerose rassegne sia in Italia che all’estero, fino a condividere il palco con artisti del calibro del violoncellista Mario Brunello. Tra le rassegne di cui è stato protagonista: i concerti per Roma Tre Orchestra nell’Aula Magna dell’Università Roma Tre, al Teatro Palladium e a Palazzo Braschi, la prestigiosa stagione di Musica Insieme presso l’Auditorium Manzoni a Bologna, Bologna Festival, Genus Bononiae, Musica in Fiore presso la Sala Farnese del Comune, San Giacomo Festival presso la omonima basilica, I Concerti del Teatro Comunale, del Teatro Guardassoni, del Cenobio di S. Vittore, dell’Università di Lettere, la rassegna del Circolo Ufficiali, la stagione Talenti in Musica di Modena, la Società Letteraria di Verona, il Festival Talent Music Mater Courses di Brescia nonché i concerti del Teatro Sancarlino di Brescia.
Si è aggiudicato il primo premio assoluto in più di trenta concorsi di esecuzione pianistica. Di particolare rilievo è stata la vittoria del primo premio al Concorso Internazionale “Grand Prize Virtuoso Competition” di Vienna, che gli ha dato occasione di esibirsi presso la rinomata Metallener Saal della Musikverein (Vienna).

Music is such fun at Roma 3 and I leave a bit of research I had done into the original programme in the hope that in the near future we might be able to hear Pietro’s performance of these missing stones in his crown!

Étienne Pivert de Sénancour’s novel Oberman ( with one n) was not well received at its publication in 1804. So forcefully, however, did it resonate with the emerging æsthetic preoccupations of the age that three decades later it was a ‘must-read’ in Parisian literary circles, its eponymous central character virtually a watchword for the Romantic sensibility in art. Set in a picturesque valley in Switzerland, it tells the story of a young man enthralled, but at the same time overwhelmed and confused, by his encounters with Nature and the feelings of longing that they engender in him. Helpless to relieve this eternal yearning, he settles on a life of utter simplicity in an attempt to escape the inner struggle and torment of his emotional life.Liszt’s own travels through Switzerland in the late 1830s inspired his Vallée d’Obermann (with two n’s), first published in 1842 and later included,in a revised version, in the first of his piano suites entitled Années de Pèlerinage I (Suisse) published in 1855. Overtly literary in conception, Liszt’s Vallée d’Obermann pays tribute to its famous forbear in a type of musical construction that sees its principal theme, a descending scale figure, suffer harmonic and chromatic transformations that parallel the emotional turmoil experienced by Sénancour’s sensitive young hero. This descending scale figure, announced in the left hand as the work opens, permeates every page of the score.’What do I wish? What am I? What shall I ask of nature? I feel; I exist only to waste myself in unconquerable longings…Inexpressible sensibility, the charm and the torment of our futile years; vast consciousness of a nature that is everywhere incomprehensible and overwhelming; universal passion, indifference, the higher wisdom, abandonment to pleasure— I have felt and experienced them all’

The Piano Sonata No. 10, Op. 70, was written in 1913. It was his final work in this form. The piece is highly chromatic and tonally ambiguous like Scriabin’s other late works.It is characterized by frequent trills and tremolos and is sometimes called his “Insect Sonata”, referring to his words:

“My Tenth Sonata is a sonata of insects. Insects are born from the sun […] they are the kisses of the sun.”

The atmosphere of the introductory pages of the Tenth Sonata is veiled and distant, like an impressionist reflection, but much more intensely elevated and spiritual. Trills soon sweep into every corner of the music, and in the last pages they are transformed into a glorious reverberation, as if shimmering with pulses of glowing light and taking on lives of their own. Such life and light/sound corroborations are typical of the composer’s own imaginative world.

Old friends from London days.



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