There was magic in the air at Steinways as Giulia Contaldo filled the air with refined sounds of perfumed succulence as ‘Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air de l’après – midi” where ‘Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses’.
A transcription by the English pianist Leonard Borwick,a student of Clara Schumann,whose London debut was on 8 May 1890, at a Royal Philharmonic Society concert with Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor. His performance of Brahms D minor was greeted by Shaw,the Basset horn critic,as ‘a hash of bits and scraps with plenty of thickening in the pianoforte part,which Mr Leonard Borwick played with the enthusiasm of youth in a style technically admirable’. Giulia had more problem pronouncing his name than playing his sumptuous transcription full of subtle half colours hinted at through a haze of golden harp like arabesques.
Giulia has lived with this music since childhood as both her parents are professional flautists in her home city of Florence.
A magic ‘faune’unjustly neglected in the solo piano repertoire.
This is not the case of Liszt’s dramatic depiction of Wagner’s Liebestod that closed Giulia Contaldo’s short programme for the Keyboard Trust.
Where Debussy had been all perfume and atmosphere ,Wagner was all passion and seduction.
Both played with authoritative musicianship and transcendental technical command.
She did not quite find the thread weaving its way through the knotty twine of ‘Des Abends’ that opens Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestucke.It was obvious later that it was because she was keeping the simplicity until ‘Warum’which was played with the same aristocratic poise and beauty that I remember from Rubinstein.
She too obviously knew this was the heart of these eight contrasting pictures because she chose to play it again as an encore with even more intensity.
A performance of passion and superlative technical control from a pianist who is an intelligent musician who could not only see the intimate detail of Schumann’s tale but could also see the architectural shape of the whole suite.
Estampes took us once again to Debussy’s magical visions,this time with the gardens in Granada and his imagining of the Pagodas in the Orient .The clarity and technical prowess of her playing in ‘Jardins sous la pluie’ had me running for the umbrella that I had almost left on Ischia this weekend where indeed her depiction of non stop down-pouring rain brought back vivid memories still fresh in my mind as I try to dry out my shoes !
Transcendental technical control of fantasy and musical meaning was Debussy’s answer late in life to Chopin’s own studies. ‘Pour Les agréments’ just underlined Giulia’s masterly playing at the service of music that we had been aware of since the first magic flute notes of her ‘faune’.
A short post concert conversation with Elena Vorotoko brought us even closer to this young Florentine pianist.
After obtaining her Masters at Florence Conservatory she went on to obtain her Artist’s Diploma in Imola with Jin Ju and Manchester under Dina Parakhina and Graham Scott.
Now completing her studies in Geneva with Ricardo Castro she flies off tomorrow to teach in Sicily where she is already a distinguished professor at Trapani Conservatory.
All part of the ‘Gradus ad Parnassum’ for young artists whose talent has chosen them ,obliging the gifted few to dedicate their youth to art and beauty.
Refreshing to see and to hear this.
It is thanks to Steinway’s in London and their ebullient concert and artists manager,Wiebke Greinus ,that we could also celebrate with a glass of well earned champagne in the company of a distinguished audience ready to applaud and sustain such audacious behaviour.
The KT were very proud to have the great film director Tony Palmer with us to applaud the courage and artistry of Giulia Contaldo still only in her twenties.The world is her oyster and awaits.