Giordano Buondonno at Roma 3 ‘Drops of crystal ‘ of musical intelligence and ravishing beauty

Giordano Buondonno for Roma Tre Orchestra Young Artists Series kept us enthralled with a clarity and luminosity of playing that I have not heard since the Michelangeli sound that was likened to ‘drops of crystal’.
Particularly suited to French music where clarity and atmosphere are united and the cloudy mists that are so often inflicted on this music are cleared,opening a window on a whole new world.
The Chopin Andante Spianato was particularly poignant as jewel like bel canto notes were floated on a sumptuous wave of fluid sounds.
Particularly noticeable was the arch of his hand and the flat fingers drawing the sounds out of each key.
Debussy Images Book one,a great speciality of Michelangeli’s together with Gaspard de la Nuit,where Giordano produced sounds that were not a pale imitation of the great master but highly intelligent interpretations of ravishing beauty.
He even convinced me that Rachmaninov’s highly personal transcription or reinvention of three movements from Bach’s violin suite is a sumptuous feast basking in Rachmaninovian sounds combined with Bach’s absolute genius.Similar to the Busoni transcriptions but with a voice that is unmistakably Rachmaninov.With Giordano’s aristocratic playing ,similar to Weissenberg’s in Rachmaninov,that was a sumptuous romantic feast indeed.

The Bach/Rachmaninov opened with the Prelude of crystal clear sounds on a magic carpet of bass harmonies.Unmistakably Rachmaninov’s with a sumptuous sense of colour .A ‘knotty twine’ and a glorious outpouring of grandiose sounds never hard but of a Philadelphian richness that illuminated the whole piano.There was a delicious even cheeky charm added to Bach’s already courtly gavotte.The Gigue was a continuous stream of sounds played with wondrous shape and subtle refined dynamic contrasts.

A wonderful sense of balance showed us indeed what ‘spianato’ really meant.Giordano delicately chiselling out notes with infinite care of the bel canto melodic line with it’s magical embellishments and gently cascading notes.The mazurka too was played with refined good taste and added a subtle contrast to the magic that spun from his long flat pointed fingers.A very short introduction heralded the Grande Polonaise that was played with dynamic control and brilliance.Some subtle changes of dynamics made us even more aware of the majesty of the Polonaise on it’s return.Jeux perlé that just flowed so naturally and with such elegance and ease from his fingers leading to a brilliant finish as,of course,Chopin intended.
It was written for Chopin’s own performances as he took the Parisian salons of the day by storm.It was one of the early works of Chopin ,the refined virtuoso,that had Schumann declare :’Hats off ,gentlemen,a genius’

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.

There was magic in the air as Giordano brought a kaleidoscope of ravishing colour to ‘Reflets dans l’eau’.The chiselled clarity of sounds gave the contrast needed for the whispered beauty of all that surrounded it.These reflections were of a fluidity created by a subtle use of pedal but above all by a musicianly sense of line.There was aristocratic grandeur in Debussy’s Hommage à Rameau with the flowing tempo of the sarabande as it built to a regal outpouring of majesty and respectful passion.It was in Movement,in particular,that Giordano’s clarity and precision reminded me of Michelangeli’s performances.A continual stream of sounds on which the melodic line was chiselled with such authority and determination .There were sounds from the bass that gave great depth to the central section and allowed Giordano the freedom to float Debussy’s magical strands of melody on a wave of sumptuous sounds.

Images is a suite of six compositions for solo piano by Debussy.They were published in two books/series, each consisting of three pieces. The first book was composed between 1901 and 1905, and the second book was composed in 1907.With respect to the first series of Images, Debussy wrote to his publisher, Jaques Durand :”Without false pride, I feel that these three pieces hold together well, and that they will find their place in the literature of the piano … to the left of Schumann, or to the right of Chopin… “

“Reflets dans l’eau” is one of the many pieces Debussy wrote about water;in particular, light reflecting off its surface. The piece creates an image of water being not quite still, then becoming rapid, then decreasing in motion again. “Reflets dans l’eau” is also an example of the new tone colours Debussy discovered for the piano in this part of his life, and it is considered to be one of his greatest works for the instrument.

“Hommage à Rameau” is more subdued. It is a sarabande honouring the memory of Jean-Philippe Rameau.

“Mouvement” is the most abstract designation of the pieces. It is a perpetuum mobile meaning that it is built around a continuous stream of notes.

Gaspard de la Nuit was one of the most famous interpretations of Michelangeli.It was the only time I actually heard the great master live in concert but not for want of trying .Michelangeli was a notorious perfectionist and an expert also on the mechanical side of the piano ,as he was with sports cars!
Michelangeli would all too regularly cancel performances in London if the instrument was not in perfect shape.
I caught up with him,at last,in Rome in the Sala Nervi ,a concert for the Red Cross in the Vatican City.He had refused to put foot professionally in Italy after the tax scandal accusations that were inflicted on famous Italian artists in that period.Luciano Pavarotti and Sophia Loren had to face false accusations too from the authorities and became scapegoats for those involved in the so called ‘black economy.’
Ondine had a wondrous fluidity to it from the very first notes as he brought a beauty and serenity to Ondine herself that was truly sublime.The gradual build up to the explosive climax was masterly in its control and technical authority.The long held pedal at the end I have rarely heard so beautifully sustained as the water nymph disappeared in a haze of wondrous sounds.
Le Gibet was played with amazing clarity and beauty where the gentle tolling of the bell in the distance brought a poignant significance to the bleak vision of the gallows swinging on the horizon.Again it was the absolute clarity of the opening three notes deep in the bass that sent a shiver down the spine as the devilish Scarbo got up to his diabolical tricks.Amazing technical control and breathtaking risks gave great excitement to a piece that Ravel had written expressly to challenge only the greatest pianist who would dare attempt this transcendental study.
Giordano gave a masterly performance driven by a passion and conviction that was overwhelming and breathtaking in its shape and control.

Gaspard de la nuit (subtitled Trois poèmes pour piano d’après Aloysius Bertrand), was written in 1908. It has three movements each based on a poem or fantaisie from the collection Gaspard de la Nuit – Fantaisies à la manière de Rembrandt et de Callot.and was completed in 1836 by Aloysius Bertrand .The work was premiered in Paris, on January 9, 1909, by Ricardo Vines.The piece is famous for its difficulty, partly because Ravel intended the Scarbo movement to be more difficult than Balakirev’s Islamey.Because of its technical challenges and profound musical structure, Scarbo is considered one of the most difficult solo piano pieces in the standard repertoire.The name Gaspard is derived from its original Persian form, denoting “the man in charge of the royal treasures”: “Gaspard of the Night” or the treasurer of the night thus creates allusions to someone in charge of all that is jewel-like, dark, mysterious, perhaps even morose.Of the work, Ravel himself said: “Gaspard has been a devil in coming, but that is only logical since it was he who is the author of the poems. My ambition is to say with notes what a poet expresses with words.”Aloysius Bertrand author of Gaspard de la Nuit (1842) introduces his collection by attributing them to a mysterious old man met in a park in Dijon who lent him the book. When he goes in search of M. Gaspard to return the volume, he asks, “Tell me where M. Gaspard de la Nuit may be found”.”He is in hell, provided that he isn’t somewhere else”,comes the reply. “Ah! I am beginning to understand! What! Gaspard de la Nuit must be…?” the poet continues. “Ah! Yes… the devil!”his informant responds. ‘Thank you, mon brave!… If Gaspard de la Nuit is in hell, may he roast there. I shall publish his book.”

Nato a La Spezia nel 1995, Giordano Buondonno si diploma al Conservatorio Giacomo Puccini con il massimo dei voti e la lode. Ha studiato con Fabrizio Giovannelli, Vincenzo Audino e Folco Vichi. Nel 2021 ha completato un Master in Music Performance con Distinction presso il Trinity Laban Conservatoire a Londra, seguito da Sergio De Simone e Deniz Gelenbe. Nel 2022 nello stesso istituto completa un Artist Diploma, sempre con il massimo dei voti.
I suoi studi in questi anni sono stati finanziati da numerose borse di studio, tra le quali la Leverhulme Trust Scholarship, Jacqueline Williams Scholarship, Arthur Haynes Scholarship e da Dr. Prince Donatus Von Hohenzollern.
All’età di 19 anni ha vinto il primo premio al concorso Clara Schumann. Ha vinto il primo premio al PianoLink Concerto Competition, suonando il Concerto di Chopin in Mi minore con la PianoLink Philarmonic Orchestra diretta da Massimo Fiocchi Malaspina, nella Palazzina Liberty a Milano.Si è esibito in concerto in importanti sale londinesi come Steinway Hall, Kings Place Concert Hall, Saint James’s Piccadilly,South Hill Park Arts Centre, Polish Heart Club, Old Royal Naval College.
Ha suonato un recital sullo Steinway D “Fabbrini” appartenuto ad A.B Michelangeli, nella residenza londinese di George Solti.
È stato inoltre finalista alla Trinity Laban soloist competition e quarto premio alla Sheepdrove Intercollegiate Piano Competition. Ha rappresentato il Trinity Laban nella finale della Beethoven Intercollegiate Piano Competition.

A happy birthday indeed to Valerio Vicari the enlightened artistic director of Roma 3 Orchestra
The Buondonno’s a happy family group down from La Spezia for this special concert


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