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


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