Dominic Doutney at St Marys.A gentle giant of intelligence,mastery and control

Tuesday 11 April 3.00 pm
There was a luminosity from the very first notes that were played with an unearthly beauty .The central episode could have moved more freely as if the sumptuous strings of a great orchestra taking over from the plaintive cry of the woodwind.But it was the clarity and deep meaning to every note that touched the heart of these last thoughts that Brahms was to write.The gentle throbbing of the second intermezzo was followed by the grace and charm of the third.The grandiose sounds of the heroically noble Rhapsody broke the spell and prepared us for the feast of Rachmaninov that was to follow.
A quite remarkable performance that I doubt could be matched by many other pianists in a live performance.Thirteen Preludes that were miniature tone poems.From the clarity and rhythmic drive of the first contrasting with the gentle lilt to the second.With its superbly played fleeting ornamentation building to a transcendental climax only to die away to a whisper.The fourth Prelude showed a mastery of control and character as it’s busy weaving was continually transformed in what must be the longest of the preludes .There was ravishing beauty with a superb sense of balance in the hauntingly beautiful G major Prelude.It was the same beauty that he found in the G sharp minor Prelude n.12.Rachmaninov’s favourite n.10 was played with a kaleidoscopic sense of colour and an architectural shape that gave great meaning to this ‘Homecoming’.And homecoming there was with the grandeur and nobility of the 13th Grave.It was here in particular that I was reminded of the transcendental artistry of Peter Katin who would regularly include this prelude in his recitals.

Playing of remarkable clarity and intelligence from Dominic Doutney.It is the same playing that I remember from Peter Katin in the days when he together with Moura Lympany were the pride of Madam Tillett who in that period was known as the Empress of Europe.For the greater part of the twentieth century, Ibbs and Tillett’s concert agency was to the British music industry what Marks and Spencer is to the world of the department store. The roll-call of famous musicians on its books was unmatched, and included also such international stars as Clara Butt, Fritz Kreisler, Pablo Casals, Sergei Rachmaninov, Andr Segovia, Kathleen Ferrier, Myra Hess, Jacqueline du Pre Clifford Curzon and Vladimir Ashkenazy, to name but a handful. From 1906, the success of the company was due to the dedication of its founders, Robert Leigh Ibbs and John Tillett. After their deaths, the agency was run by the latter’s wife, Emmie, who, dubbed the ‘Duchess of Wigmore Street’, became one of the most formidable yet respected women in British music.

Peter Katin after the downfall of Ibbs and Tillett was unjustly forgotten especially after his return from Canada where he had moved to be part of a prestigious piano faculty.His performance of the Rachmaninov Third Piano Concerto at the Promenade Concerts was considered by many to have been the finest of the day.His Chopin recitals in the Festival Hall were regularly sold out.Although Moura Lympany was the first to record all the Rachmaninov Preludes it was Peter Katin that soon followed suit.His playing of the Preludes as with his Chopin or Mendelssohn was like that of a superb precision clockmaker.Within the notes that were played with impeccable good taste and control there was deep feeling for all that could appreciate it.There was none of the flamboyance of the Russian School that was yet only on the distant horizon.Kept at bay by the ‘Cold War’ that prevailed until Victor Hochauser managed to persuade the authorities in Russia to allow some of their stars to play in the west.Richter,Gilels Oistrakh and Rostropovich changed our conception of Russian music with its flamboyance and animal like mastery.It was the same change with the Baroque movement that appeared on the scene and completely changed the style of performance.Authenticity was the key word much to the dismay of artists who until up until then had been quite happy to play in a musicianly way rather than turning the clock back.

Peter Katin after a concert at the Ghione Theatre with Ileana Ghione

It was just this mastery of Peter Katin that I was reminded of today listening to Dominic’s masterly performances.An intelligence and musicianship but allied to a superb technical control and faultless precision.There was none of the visible flamboyance that we have come to associate with Rachmaninov these days but there was just as much passion and expression within the notes themselves.Dominic has the same very large hands of Katin who used to play for us in Rome regularly during his Indian Summer.

A wonderfully incisive sound without any hardness or digging right down to the bottom of the keys as we had heard from Lazar Berman or Alexander Toradze.Dominic’s was simple musicianship where the music was allowed to unfold with naturalness and beauty.

The Four Pieces for Piano Op. 119, were composed by in 1893 .The collection is the last composition for solo piano by Brahms. Together with the six pieces op 118 ,Op. 119 was premiered in London in January 1894.

In a letter from May 1893 to Clara Schumann ,Brahms wrote: I am tempted to copy out a small piano piece for you, because I would like to know how you agree with it. It is teeming with dissonances! These may [well] be correct and [can] be explained—but maybe they won’t please your palate, and now I wished, they would be less correct, but more appetizing and agreeable to your taste. The little piece is exceptionally melancholic and ‘to be played very slowly’ is not an understatement. Every bar and every note must sound like a ritard[ando], as if one wanted to suck melancholy out of each and every one, lustily and with pleasure out of these very dissonances! Good Lord, this description will [surely] awaken your desire!

Clara Schumann was enthusiastic and asked him to send the remaining pieces of his new work.

The first edition 1911

Thirteen Preludes op 32 were composed in 1910.It complements his earlier Prelude in C sharp minor op 3 n.2 and 10 Preludes op 23 to complete the full set of 24 preludes in all 24 major and minor keys.

The Homecoming 1887 Arnold Böcklin

Prelude in B minor, Op. 32, No. 10, was written in 1910 along with the other twelve pieces. Rachmaninoff was inspired by Arnold Bocklin’s painting “ Die Heimkehr”- “The Homecoming” or “The Return”Rachmaninoff also stated to pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch that this was his personal favourite among his preludes. This is the second work of Rachmaninoff’s to be inspired by one of Böcklin’s paintings; the other being Isle of the Dead

Dominic Doutney is a graduate of the Royal College of Music, where he was the Fishmongers’ Company Beckwith scholar, and studied with Professors Ian Jones, Dmitri Alexeev and Sofya Gulyak. At his graduation he was awarded the prestigious Tagore Gold Medal, given to two students annually for outstanding musical contribution to the Royal College.In 2022 Dominic was awarded 1st prizes at the 25th Mauro Paolo Monopoli International Competition in Barletta, Italy, and Semana Internacional de Piano de O´bidos in Portugal. In 2021 he was awarded 3rd prize at the Jaén International Piano Competition in Spain in April 2021, 1st prize in the Norah Sande Award, and 3rd prize in the Clamo International Competition in Murcia, Spain. Dominic is also the 2020 winner of the Royal Over-Seas League Award for Keyboard. In the summer of 2021 Dominic attended the Oxford Piano Festival on the personal invitation of Sir Andras Schiff, having played in a highly publicised masterclass with him at the RCM in the previous May. Dominic has also spent summers at the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Banff Centre. Concerto appearances include Brahms 1st concerto with both the Málaga Philharmonic and the Leipziger-symphonieorchester in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Mendelssohn-Saal; Schumann’s Piano Concerto in St John’s Smith Square with the Young Musician’s Symphony Orchestra; Beethoven’s 3 rd with the Soundiff Orchestra in the Teatro Curci, Barletta; Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments with Martyn Brabbins and the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra; and Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Dorset Chamber Orchestra.

Ileana Ghione on the roof of our house in Rome with Peter Katin
A memorial concert for Ileana by Peter


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