Andrzej Wiercinski at La Mortella Ischia The William Walton Foundation – Refined artistry and musical intelligence in Paradise

The rock where Sir William’s ashes were laid to rest in 1983

Two afternoon recitals by Andrzej Wiercinski took place in the concert room that Susana Walton had built next to her husbands music room.It had been Sir William’s wish to create a space where music could be performed and heard.It was designed by their friend the Architect John O’Connell with special attention to the acoustical properties of all material used.In Sir William’s later years they had discussed the future of La Mortella and agreed that a trust should be formed to preserve La Mortella and to provide help and opportunities for young musicians.Young musicians from some of the major institutions worldwide have since been invited to perform in these wonderfully suggestive surroundings.The hall now boasts two Steinways and the concerts are also recorded for study purposes for the young artists.Not content with having built this 130 seat concert room after her husband’s death even though she had to sell off five holiday houses that surround the principal property to raise the necessary funds.The indomitable Susana has added to this magnificent hall an amphitheatre seating 400 ,where in the summer months Youth Orchestras from around the world can have a platform too.

The Ninfeo housing the ashes of Susana Walton next to William’s rock -both overlooking the bay of Forio -‘Susana che ha amato teneramente,ha lavorato con passione ed ha creduto nell’immortalità’

Susana is buried next to her husband overlooking the garden in the Paradise that they had shared for so many years together and is now a living monument to them both.Andrzej had been invited to perform by the artistic director of the ‘Incontri Musicali’ the distinguished musician Lina Tufano.

Alessandra Vinciguerra

Alessandra Vinciguerra,the director of La Mortella and President of the Foundation had made an opening welcoming speech on behalf of the ‘Walton’s’,as were Susana’s wishes.In her own words Susana stated that ‘I was created to take care of William’ and she continued to do that after his death in March 1983 until her own in March 2010 and their legacy will live on for generations.

In rehearsal

Superb playing from a real artist offering some master works from the piano repertoire in the two afternoon concerts .Visitors to the gardens had been delighted to hear this young man rehearsing the Chopin Second Piano Concerto and were entranced by his ravishing sound and aristocratic style.An artist is always an artist even in the rehearsal studio and many of the visitors to the gardens had thanked him as he had a well earned rest between rehearsal and concert.It was though in the second recital that Andrzej reached the heights that I knew he would.I had told Lina about this remarkable young man and I was very touched that she trusted my opinion and invited him to Ischia.Lina has been organising concerts for over twenty years at La Mortella and knows that it is always the second recital that really takes ‘wing’.Could it be the shadow of Sir William in the green room with his special Bechstein piano where he composed many of his masterworks that intimidates the artists.Willie would be chuckling at that indeed!Andrzej had felt uncomfortable in his first recital but gave a fine recital,missing that magic that only the truly great artists possess.Playing that is like recreation and creates a rapport between the music and the public where the pianist is just a medium that can point out the beauty and detail in a journey that they are sharing together.Je sens,je joue ,je transmets.

Smart casual opened the door to Paradise for this supreme stylist

In the second recital Andrzej had decided to wear smart but casual clothes following in the tradition of Igor Levit and Juan Perez Floristan and had freed himself from the straight jacket of more formal clothes. ‘Clothes maketh man’ is a very English proverb but on this occasion oh so true!From the very first notes Andrzej created the magic that I knew he was capable of and took us on a sumptuous journey that held us in his spell.An artist who knew he could do what he liked and we would follow every move.It is one of those rare occasions that I would often experience in Rubinstein’s performances.Kantarow and Floristan,of Andrzej’s generation ,are those that can spin a web like the one we were caught up in today.It is the web of great dedicated artists- supreme stylists – of which Andrzej is most certainly one of the few that truly ‘dare’ in public performance.

With the artistic director Lina Tufano

The concerts had begun with a scintillating performance of Bach’s D major Prelude and Fugue BWV 850 Book 1. There was clarity and authority in a performance where the precise finger articulation was part of the dance rhythm sustained in the same way that I remember from Rosalyn Tureck’s performances.The dance movement of the whole body added a grace and elegance to the ‘knotty twine’ that was both exhilarating and refreshing.It contrasted with the nobility of the French overture rhythm of the Fugue.Dotted rhythms played with great precision,non legato,with rests that became an integral part of it’s grandeur and nobility.It was the melting moments of great delicacy,though,that showed the true artistry of a supreme stylist who can shape even Bach’s seemingly mathematical designs into a vivid living musical experience.
Beethoven’s op.110 Sonata is one of the great monuments of the piano repertoire and is the composer’s penultimate thoughts with his 32 Sonatas spread over a lifetime.Beethoven could only envisage the sonata with his inner ear as he had become completely deaf towards the end of his life.His indications in the score are of remarkable precision where every dot or dash has a great significance.It was Andrzej complete adherence to the score that gave such weight and meaning to his playing.From the beauty and clarity of the opening as the trill was allowed to melt into the bel canto of the opening theme.The dialogue between the left hand and right in the development episode was of a clarity and beauty just as Beethoven had so meticulously indicated.The final three bars that can sound so abrupt were given a meaning and significance by Andrzej that I have rarely heard – the solution of a supreme stylist.The scherzo was played with dynamic energy rounding the edges with unusual style and giving an eloquence to a movement usually mercilessly driven.The precision and shape of the notoriously dangerous trio was thrown off with transcendental ease.The final chord melting into the heights and preparing us for the sublime Adagio and Arioso dolente that follow.Ravishing beauty and aristocratic poise gave great meaning to this extraordinary bitter sweet outpouring of emotional impact.The fugue appeared out of the emotional mist as it built to the final passionate outpouring and glorious exultation with Beethoven reaching for the light that he could already envisage.It was played with superb control and exhilarating excitement as the final great arpeggio unwound over the entire keyboard.A masterly performance where some of Beethoven’s rough edges had been elegantly smoothed out by an artist who had understood the real meaning behind the notes.
The legendary Guido Agosti held summer masterclasses in Siena for over thirty years.All the major pianists and musicians of the time would flock to learn from a master,a student of Busoni,where sounds heard in that studio have never been forgotten.He was persuaded by us in 1983 to give a public performance of the last two Beethoven Sonatas.The recording of op 110 from this concert is a testament,and one of the very few CD’s ever made,of this great master.
The facsimile of the manuscript were given to the Ghione theatre by Maestro Agosti.They still adorn the walls of this beautiful theatre ,created by Ileana Ghione and her husband,that became a cultural centre of excellence in the 80’s and 90’s.

In the summer of 1819, Adolf Martin Schlesinger from the Schlesinger firm of music publishers based in Berlin sent his son Maurice to meet Beethoven to form business relations with the composer.The two met in Modling,where Maurice left a favourable impression on the composer.After some negotiation by letter, the elder Schlesinger offered to purchase three piano sonatas for 90 ducats in April 1820, though Beethoven had originally asked for 120 ducats. In May 1820, Beethoven agreed, and he undertook to deliver the sonatas within three months. These three sonatas are the ones now known as Op. 109,110, and 111 the last of Beethoven’s piano sonatas.

Beethoven’s own markings with the ‘bebung‘ or vibrated notes in the Adagio of op.110

The composer was prevented from completing the promised sonatas on schedule by several factors, including his work on the Missa solemnis (Op. 123),rheumatic attacks in the winter of 1820, and a bout of jaundice in the summer of 1821.Op. 110 “did not begin to take shape” until the latter half of 1821.Although Op. 109 was published by Schlesinger in November 1821, correspondence shows that Op. 110 was still not ready by the middle of December 1821. The sonata’s completed autograph score bears the date 25 December 1821, but Beethoven continued to revise the last movement and did not finish until early 1822.The copyist’s score was presumably delivered to Schlesinger around this time, since Beethoven received a payment of 30 ducats for the sonata in January 1822.

There was no doubt with the passionate drive and intensity of the opening of Kreisleriana that this would be a breathtaking journey of sublime beauty.The eight episodes contrasting so vividly with each other as the conflicting personality of Florestan and Eusebius illuminated each picture.After the dynamic opening episode,where Andrzej managed to maintain the same tempo even in the mellifluous central section,there followed a wonderful sense of legato in the second with the duet between the bass and treble so poignantly depicted.The spikey rhythm and romantic sweep of the contrasting sections was enhanced by the sumptuous richness of the bass notes.There was great rhythmic clarity in the third episode contrasting with the beauty and sweep of the long melodic outpouring that follows before the almost hysterical excitement of the ending.The lyrical beauty of the fourth episode with it’s deep bass melody was answered by the golden beauty of the soprano voice.An impish sense of rhythmic delight in the fifth episode out of which Schumann magically conjures strands of melody without interrupting the continuous forward drive of this movement.A nostalgic melodic outpouring in the sixth which Schumann magically brings to life before the sublime notes of the final bars.Dynamic drive of the seventh with the mellifluous central section played strangely detached instead of the usual portamento but it gave great contrast to the driving rhythmic energy that surrounds it.In the second performance ,however,Andrzej played these chords with delicate weight and vibrancy as he truly reached for the heights in his second recital .The simple syncopated last episode was played with ghostlike precision before bursting into the sumptuous outpouring of luxuriant melody.Finally bursting into flames of passion with the dynamic outpouring of the final contrasting section before the ghostly footsteps returned to lead us to the end deep into the bottom of the keyboard.Some remarkable playing of transcendental control with the poetic fantasy of a supreme stylist.Even here an occasional added bass note just illuminated the entire keyboard with a subtlety that only the greatest artists dare in public performance.

Kreisleriana, Op.16, is a composition in eight movements that Schumann claimed to have written in only four days in April 1838 and a revised version appeared in 1850. The work was dedicated to Frederic Chopin but when a copy was sent to him he commented favourably only on the design of the title page.It is a very dramatic work and is viewed by some critics as one of Schumann’s finest compositions.In 1839, soon after publishing it, Schumann called it in a letter “my favourite work,” remarking that “The title conveys nothing to any but Germans. Kreisler is one of E.T.A Hoffmann’s creations, an eccentric, wild, and witty conductor.”In a letter to his wife Clara,Schumann reveals that she has figured largely in the composition of Kreisleriana:”I’m overflowing with music and beautiful melodies now – imagine, since my last letter I’ve finished another whole notebook of new pieces. I intend to call it Kreisleriana. You and one of your ideas play the main role in it, and I want to dedicate it to you – yes, to you and nobody else – and then you will smile so sweetly when you discover yourself in

Of course Chopin is very close to Andrzej’s heart and he brings to it the same intelligence and aristocratic understanding like Rubinstein.Breaking with a tradition that would present Chopin’s works with a disregard for what the composer actually wrote.It was a tradition when many great pianists took the notes and turned and twisted them in a rather sentimental show of pianistic trickery.Some say that only Polish pianists can really understand the Chopin Mazurka.But it was in one of the very first Chopin Competitions in Warsaw that a Chinese pianist was awarded the special prize for his interpretation of the Mazurkas.Fou Ts’ong later explained in his masterclasses,that he would hold year after year at the Ghione Theatre in Rome,that the sentiment in Chinese poetry was the same sentiment that was to be found in Chopin.However Andrzej is a Polish pianist and played the three Mazukas op 59 with subtle brilliance and beguiling nostalgia.They were three jewels that glistened and shone with ravishing beauty and crowned his first recital together with the little known Polonaise in B flat minor op.posth that he offered as an encore.There was beguiling rhythm and flexibility in the first Mazurka and the beauty of the simple flowing melodic line of the second.Building to a passionate climax before dissolving into the extreme delicacy of the ending with the final whispered stamping of the feet.It became a miniature tone poem of hidden verse.The rumbustuous dance of the third was full of nostalgia for Chopin’s homeland that he had left as a teenager never to return.A land that had remained in his heart and that was eventually returned to where it truly belonged.
Andrzej played two of these Mazukas n.3 and 1 as encores in his second recital after a truly exhilarating performance of the Grande Polonaise Brillante.A performance of the Andante spianato where Andrzej spun a golden web of sounds on which floated the melody that shone like jewels in such authoritative hands.Fingers of steel but with velvet gloves that created a magic that all those present will remember for a long time.The embellishments just unwound from his fingers like a golden web with beguiling rubato but above all the clarity and beauty of sound of a Caballé.The Polonaise was played with all the youthful passion and exhilarating jeux perlé of an artist who was on the crest of the wave and enjoying every moment of the magic of direct communication that had miraculously illuminated everything he touched in this second recital.
A great artist recreating performances that surprised him too – even adding cheekily but discreetly slight additions to Chopin’s embellishments.The occasional deep bass note added that opened up the sound of the piano and is a secret that only the greatest of pianists dare to risk in live performance.A standing ovation from a hall that was full on this rainy day in Ischia.A public that would not let this young man leave as they wanted to enjoy for a few minutes longer the magic that had descended on us all in Paradise on this Sunday afternoon.

Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante in E flat op 22 was composed between 1830 and 1834. The Grande polonaise brillante in E-flat, set for piano and orchestra, was written first, in 1830-31. In 1834, Chopin wrote an Andante spianato in G, for piano solo, which he added to the start of the piece, and joined the two parts with a fanfare like sequence. The combined work (both orchestrated version and solo piano version) was published in 1836, and was dedicated to Madame d’Este.The Andante spianato (spianato means “even” or “smooth”) for solo piano was composed as an introduction to the polonaise after Chopin received a long-awaited invitation to perform in one of Habeneck’s Conservatoire Concerts in Paris. This was the only time Chopin had ever used the term spianato as a description for any of his works.


A full hall and standing ovation after performances that will long be remembered by all those present.Luckily it was recorded too but as Mitsuko Uchida told me once it is better the memory of a beautiful occasion rather than a printed picture!How wise she is but it is nice to know it exists in the archive at least.


Edith Sitwell


John Piper design for Facade with the mouth where Edith Sitwell would pronounce the verses via a ‘megaphone’.Both Piper and Walton were guests of the Sitwells at the family home, Renishaw. Walton when interviewed at the end of his life remembered himself as a “scrounger” on their company in the 1920s and 30s and that they used him for his talents as a composer and he used them for access to others, such as Stravinsky, but he admitted, they knew everyone. The Sitwell’s were very keen to have creative people around them (rather like the Morrell’s a generation before). In the nature of friendships, collaborations happened.
For Walton and Sitwell this started with ‘Façade – An Entertainment’; a mixture of poems by Edith Sitwell recited over the music of William Walton. Sitwell penned some of the poems in 1918 and music was put to them in 1922, and a public performance the following year. The poems were recited behind the curtain with a band behind. Using a sangaphone. (A Megaphone made of paper mache to project the voice) Edith spoke out her poems in rhythm to the music and all the audience saw was a sheet, with a face painted on it and a hole for the megaphone.



The theatre designed by Emanuele Luzzati



The house hidden by the sumptuous green forest that surrounds it.


Lina Tufano in euphoric mood after Andrzej’s magnificent recital on this rainy Sunday afternoon in Walton’s Paradise.A special spritz made with mirto that is only to be found on the island
















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