Recueillement. Vincenzo Bellini in memoriam, S. 204
Hungarian Rhapsody no. 12 in C-sharp minor, S: 244/12
Sonata no. 4 in E flat major, opus 7: Beethoven himself named this pianoforte sonata Grande Sonate because it was published by itself in 1797 – unusual for the time. It remains his second-longest sonata, behind the Hammerklavier Sonata op 106. Beethoven’s pupil (and Liszt’s teacher) Carl Czerny wrote: “The epithet appassionata would fit much better to the Sonata in E flat op. 7, which he wrote in a very impassioned mood”. It may be that the reason behind such passionate music was the composer’s attraction for his dedicatee, the then 16-year-old pupil Anna Luise Barbara Countess von Keglevich, and it is possible be that her father had commissioned Beethoven to write the work for her.
Totentanz (Dance of the Dead): Paraphrase on the ‘Dies irae’, S126 for pianoforte and orchestra is notable for being based on the Gregorian hymn Dies irae as well as for its many stylistic innovations. The piece was completed and published in 1849, and later revised twice (1853-9 and early 1880s. All these versions were also prepared for two pianos). In the late 1860s, Liszt published a version for pianoforte solo, S525. Some of the titles of Liszt’s pieces, such as Totentanz, Funérailles, La lugubre gondola and Pensée des morts show the composer’s obsession with mortality, as well as his profound Christian faith, these things being apparent from Liszt as a teenager right up until his last days – more than 50 years later.
In the last movement of the Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz the medieval (Gregorian) Dies Irae is quoted in a shockingly modernistic manner. In 1830 Liszt attended the first performance of the symphony and was struck by its powerful originality. Liszt’s Totentanz presents a series of variations on the Dies irae – a theme that his will have known since 1830 at the latest from Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. As an early biographer noted, “Every variation discloses some new character―the earnest man, the flighty youth, the scornful doubter, the prayerful monk, the daring soldier, the tender maiden, the playful child.” A second theme, beginning at variation 6 – taken from the Prose des morts in the Catholic breviary – is itself varied before the first theme returns at the end of the work.
Recueillement (Recollection), S204 (1877) was a gift to the Italian composer Lauro Rossi. It weaves arpeggios around a rising scale before settling into very simple, chordal writing. Written in memoriam Vincenzo Bellini (of whom Liszt had made famous paraphrases of his opera Norma, La sonnambula and I puritani, as well as the variations Hexaméron, on another theme from I puritani). Simplicity and sensitivity before a final salute from the older Liszt, dispelling any image of earlier keyboard wizardry, but revealing nonetheless the author of some of the most naturally grateful and percipient pianoforte music of all time.
The twelfth of the nineteen Rapsodies hongroises, S244/12 (c1847) is dedicated to Josef Joachim (who was Liszt’s principal violinst in the Wemar court orchestra, and with whom he later made a version of the piece for violin and pianoforte) is one of the most often played in recital and was a work that Anton Rubinstein and other great virtuosi would often include in their programmes. Liszt draws on five different folk themes to produce one of his most ingenious Hungarian Rhapsodies. It offers a unique mix of melancholy, glittering keyboard acrobatics and stormy, rousing dance. It became so popular that the original version was later arranged for orchestra, and for pianoforte four hands. Liszt collected Hungarian folk-songs and Zigeunermusik over many years – without particularly distinguishing between folk-song and gypsy band ‘standards’, and he was strongly influenced by this music that he had heard from his earliest days, with its unique gypsy scale, rhythmic spontaneity and direct, seductive expression. He went on major song collecting expeditions in 1840 and 1846, and he knew many composers of gypsy tunes, who often transpired to be members of the Hungarian upper middle class. The large scale structure of each was influenced by the verbunkos, a Hungarian dance form in several parts, each with a different tempo. Within this structure, Liszt preserved the two main structural elements of typical Gypsy improvisation―the lassan (“slow”) and the friska (“fast”).
‘If musik be the food of love………play on ‘ as Dr Moritz von Bredow reminded us in his brief words of thanks to Noretta and John Leech.For it is their great love not only for each other but of music that with vision and determination they have shared with innumerable young artists.Sharing with them a sense of duty,humility and integrity that gives weight and meaning to their artistry.A maturity that is born ‘on wings of song ‘ as Maestro Pappano so eloquently pointed out.
But it was the reverential minute of silence at 7 o’clock broken only by the magic strains of the Aria from the ‘Goldberg Variations’ that spoke louder than any words.Sir Antonio Pappano playing with exquisite luminous sound,the repeats allowed to whisper as he just seemed to dust the keys allowing the genius of Bach to cast a spell on this distinguished gathering.As Maestro Pappano was to say in his short speech after listening to six of the finest young musicians from the Keyboard Trust:the variety of sounds that can be produced from this black box of hammers and strings is remarkable.Technical proficiency and mastery aside it is the difference of sound and character that each one brought to the same instrument that is remarkable.
To quote from the ‘little red book’ masterminded by the indomitable John Leech is a message from Sir Antonio Pappano the honorary Patron and opens this ‘bible’ and sets the scene for all that lies within.
“‘The Gift of Music’ is a love story in the best operatic tradition:Love of music above all.Love and determination to create a unique gift to hand to those you hold dear.Love and compassion for those born to make music but unable to find their proper role.How well I know the plot of this book,having been captured by it myself years ago.Even on the threshold of the Trust’s fourth decade the story remains compelling,strong enough and relevant to be carried forward to create a brighter future for us all.Guidance,patience,vision and opportunity have come together so that an astonishing number of musicians have been able to flourish under the wing of The Keyboard Trust.Long May it endure!”
Never more so than this evening where the crystalline sounds and mastery of style of Leslie Howard were immediately in evidence.What better title could there be than ‘Mes joies’,as an enticing web of golden sounds were spun by a true master.Hardly moving but with concentration focused on every note ,so reminiscent of Rubinstein in his later years where all the flamboyance and showmanship of his ‘youthful years’ had been condensed into the very notes themselves .Seated as in a favourite armchair allowing us to share the wonder of discovery as every note had a significance and meaning.Rosalyn Tureck once said to me when one of her friends commented that at the age of 78 she had given a note perfect performance of the Goldberg variations:’But,darling I don’t play wrong notes ‘.Of course the meaning was far from that of note picking proficiency but that every note belonged to a chain that created the whole architectural shape dedicated to Bach’s genius .Moura Lympany too,from the Matthay school,spoke of thinking of chains that she linked together.https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/02/16/leslie-howard-masterclass-at-the-r-c-m-scholarship-and-mastery-shared/.
They were mirrored by the rich velvet sonorities of great intensity of Jayson Gilham with Medtner’s ‘Stimmungsbilder op 1 n.1’.A sumptuous performance on this magnificent Steinway ‘D’ which allowed the winner of the Montreal International Competition to show the subtle strands and hidden melodic lines of a still neglected composer who is buried in Hendon Cemetery.Before his success in Montreal Jayson had played in our series of all the Rachmaninov works for piano and orchestra that the KT was invited to give in Rossini’s home town of Pesaro.He gave a remarkable performance of the fourth concerto in the uncut original version on the recommendation of Leslie Howard.He learnt it especially for the occasion and was able to give three impeccable performances in Ancona,Pesaro and Fabriano. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2015/05/26/rachmaninoff-festival-ancona-2015/
Leslie Howard was proud to present the winner of the 2021 Weir Trust,Oscar Colliar,who is in his second year as Organ Scholar in Cambridge.He gave a very musicianly account of great clarity and shape of June and November from Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Seasons’.
This was followed by all the passion and fire of Pablo Rossi with a performance of ‘Widmung’ of burning intensity and Villa Lobos’s scintillating ‘0 Polichinelle’ .A work that Artur Rubinstein would often play and it was with his same sense of communication that he enflamed his audience.Joan Chissell had said ‘Mr Rubinstein turned baubles into gems ‘ Pablo was the first pianist I had heard in 2005 when Noretta seeking to console and distract me with music after the dramatic events of my life,invited me in to Steinway Hall to hear this young boy from Brazil.He was the first of many artists that I was able to invite to play in Rome and from then on the concert activity in our theatre in Rome became ever more entwined with the activity of the Keyboard Trust.(This is all explained more fully in the ‘red book’). Sixteen years on,after his studies in Moscow with Eliso Virsaladze (on the advice of Noretta ) and with Jerome Rose in New York we can now hear how this young Rubinstein look alike ‘could mature in music ‘ – to use Pappano’s own very eloquent words – and not only look like the great master but have the same power of communication allied to a professional training that will carry him into the great concert halls of the world https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/07/30/pablo-rossi-a-star-shining-brightly-for-brazil-200/
Michail Lifits,winner of the 57th Busoni Competition ( a competition that Noretta has frequented every year since the very first edition in 1949 when her great friend and now trustee of the KCT,Alfred Brendel was awarded 4th Prize!) Mischa was also recipient of the KCT Annual prize winners concert at the Wigmore Hall in 2011 having completed KCT tours in USA,Italy and even Mexico.I heard him in 2013 in the beautiful Auditorium in Foligno and was immediately struck not only by the beauty of sound but the kaleidoscopic colours he found in the Rachmaninov Corelli Variations.Now with a flourishing career and newly appointed Professor at the Franz Liszt University in Weimar he flew in especially to pay homage to two people that he is much indebted to in so many ways.His performance of the much overplayed Chopin First Ballade was a revelation on how such a work can come alive as new in the hands of a true artist.The authority and clarity of thought ,the aristocratic architectural vision was masterly and had me wanting to check the score once again to relive the magic that had allowed him to bring new life to such a masterpiece.
There would have been many encores had we heard a performance of that stature in the concert hall but tonight we were called to order by our Chairman Geoffrey Shindler and our indefatigable Chief executive Sarah Biggs.Stop watch in hand it is thanks to them that the evening in The National Liberal Club ran so smoothly with caos all around as London was about to welcome our beloved Queen back home on her last great journey.
Chloe,teenage winner of both the Geneva and Busoni International competitions (the only other pianist to do that was Martha Argerich) ,flew in especially for this celebration from her adopted home in Salzburg.The rarified perfection and fluidity of her playing created an enormous effect in her all to short appearance playing only ‘Reflets dans l’eau’.Only! It was a true jewel of ravishing voluptuous sounds from extreme delicacy to passionate abandon.I accompanied Chloe on the American tour where I could witness the bond with her audiences of a true artist as she looked with dagger like concentration at the notes but then wafting on with the same genial simplicity of Martha Argerich.Elena Vorotko,our co artistic director,was in tears after her performance of Beethoven’s penultimate sonata op 110 at her prize winner’s Wigmore recital in June 2017.I implored her to play the 14th of Schumann’s Davidsbundler but there was a complicity between her and Sarah that I could not budge.It is here in this link to the performance she gave in Poland this summer: https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/08/12/chloe-mun-at-the-duszniki-chopin-festival-refined-perfection-and-aristocratic-simplicity/
Vitaly Pisarenko,winner of the Utrecht Liszt Competition at the age of 20 and a top prize winner at Leeds in 2015.With a worldwide career opening up and now a much sought after teacher at the Purcell School for highly gifted young performers and as assistant Professor to his much admired mentor Dmitri Alexeev at the Royal College of Music.I am glad to see that there is a poster in the ‘red book’ in which the KCT were invited to Aquila in Italy in 2013 to spend a weekend sharing youthful enthusiasm and bringing much needed distraction and relief to a community that had been so cruelly struck down by an earthquake.Noretta’s dear friend Claudio Abbado gave the first concert in a hall that had be newly donated by the people of Trento and constructed by the walls of a city that lay in ruins.Mey Yi Foo,Pablo Rossi and Vitaly Pisarenko were chosen to represent three different nations by Noretta and John following in Abbado’s footsteps in bring the Gift of Music to an oppressed community.Bringing all the youthful spirit of hope and enthusiasm that these three young artists had in abundance.Fabbrini ( Pollini’s piano technician had donated the piano -Pollini too a close friend of Noretta).
It was when this young Ukrainian pianist touched the piano in a ravishing performance of Siloti’s Prelude in B minor that Noretta and I looked at each other and it was love at first hearing.A pianist of such simplicity but of such refined playing of sounds that rarely others can reach.Playing of an intelligence and the aristocratic sense of style of another age -The Golden Age of piano playing.This was ten years ago in which time Vitaly has played every tour and venue of the KCT including the Wigmore Hall.The great accompanist Graham Johnson insisted on going back stage in the interval to meet the man who could turn a piano that he knew only too well into a magic box or rarified sounds with Ravel’s Miroirs.It had Graham running to Cadogan Hall a few months later to hear his Ravel G major Concerto.’Gretchen am Spinnrade’ was played with such subtlety and rarified sounds from the barely audible to the most enormous sonorities of refined passion ……and then back again.Gretchen at her wheel still whispering in the distance with playing of incredible precision at a level of pianissimo that I have only ever heard from Richter.
The great pianists are not those that play the fastest and loudest but it is those dedicated few that can play the quietest with total control.A mastery that requires total dedication.Vitaly’s unique artistry is gradually being discovered by a public who realise that it is quality not quantity that reaches the soul.A very classical performance of Liszt’s capricious play on Schubert’s Soirées de Vienne was admirable for its pianistic perfection but it was Gretchen that will haunt me for a long time to come!https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/09/13/bewitched-and-amazed-by-vitaly-pisarenko-in-colombia/
Sasha Grynyuk was born in Kyiv and now lives in London where he won the Gold Medal at the Guildhall and went on to win a considerable number of International Competitions including the Grieg in Bergen.Every Friday will see him at the mews of Noretta and John,a new score in hand.John waiting until the end of their musical session to be instructed on computer literacy or whatever other hi jinks are the latest fashion.They have befriended him in his hour of need as his parents fled the Ukraine only able to fill a car with belongings knowing full well they may never see their homeland again.Sasha flew to Cracow to meet them and drive them back to the Oxfordshire countryside where they have found refuge.Sasha recently found happiness too ,much to the delight of Noretta and John, in the arms of the extraordinary Katya Gorbatiouk.
All this to say that Sasha is like a son to John and Noretta and a rock on which they can rely in moments of uncertainty.He is not only a wonderful human being but also a remarkable pianist who leaves Noretta astonished every week with his mastery of all the Beethoven sonatas and Concertos and many other things besides.One of these being one of the most transcendentally difficult show pieces for piano by Balakirev .His famous Islamey op 18 that strikes terror into all those that dare to trespass.Ravel even tried to out do him in writing Scarbo – the last of his suite Gaspard de La Nuit.A work that Noretta’s own mentor Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli has left his own indelible mark in historic recordings.
To sit down from cold and burst into Islamey is a feat in itself.It would normally come as the icing on the cake after a long recital programme.However orders were orders and if Islamey exceeds the allotted five minutes it certainly could not be preceded by even the shortest of pieces.Little did we know that whilst Sasha was conquering his Everest her majesty the Queen was passing by below.A scintillating performance that just missed the wild abandon and depth of sound that Sasha would normally regale us with.Sasha’s prize winner’s Wigmore in 2013 opened and closed with a magical piece by Arvo Part that gave an overall shape to a container of Mozart,Beethoven and Gulda and made me aware of what an extraordinary artist he was.Bryce Morrison,the distinguished critic and pianophile, played me a while back a recording and asked me to guess who it was.A scintillating display of classical music in jazz idiom that was quite breathtaking in its audacity – it was Play Gulda with Sasha Grynyuk!Sasha has dedicated himself tirelessly to helping his co nationals by arranging and giving benefit concerts for the Ukrainian relief fund.https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/06/10/sasha-grynyuk-at-cranleigh-arts-for-ukraine-joint-fundraiser-for-the-disasters-emergency-committee-and-cranleigh-arts/
And so we were coming to the end of this extraordinary evening that was described as a book launch but I think we were all aware that it was much more than that.
Elena spoke of the formation of the Historical Instrument Section of the KCT which she has been responsible for creating and has already helped reach recognition artists such as Jean Rondeau.This activity is progressing with extraordinary rapidity as there was obviously the same need of creating a bridge between young artists and their potential public.The KCT could not have been more poetically described than by Moritz von Bredow or so clearly expressed by Geoffrey Shindler.Our chairman looking to the future as John and Noretta have always done saluting our loyal and indispensable donors and thanking them all and delighted in seeing them honoured in the pages of the book.
It is to the book we return for the final comment from one of the greatest musicians of our time now in his 100th year.Menahem Pressler was moved to write an introduction that could have not been clearer or more to the point :’The young artists entering the orbit of Noretta and John,having been carefully selected ,are nurtured and advised according to their individual needs,repertoire is chosen with great care and they become part of a big family.This is truly a love affair,and the story of its birth and development so beautifully told by John Leech in ‘The Gift of Music’ is a wonderful read.
P.S.The last words most go to John and Noretta who write :
‘Last night was an overwhelming display of musical ability, colour – and affection: a moving review of what our labours with the Keyboard Trust have meant to young lives – as well as our own.
But as the night wore on, other qualities were called into play by the momentous events that were changing the structure of the city around us. Noretta and I had to wait for a solicitous police vehicle to escort us out of the forest of barricades. Sarah, Richard, Pablo, Moritz and Sasha nobly deployed to the compass points more likely to bear a stray cab, even under by then streaming rain.
When eventually one was found, the heavy police presence had to approve access and clear the way. By this time most of the barricades were already in place, and the final leg of the mercy mission had to be negotiated on a heavily laden police transport. Effusive thanks are due to all those involved in this midnighht mission. It was the kind of effort that friends might well make; last night, against the background of royal mourning and teeming rain it acquired an almost symbolic significance.
The degrees of sadness and selflessness shown by all our friends and company were certainly worthy both of the occasion and its profoundly historic background. All of us were conscious of the passage of great events, modestly accompanied by our small event of personal significance.
With our glowing thanks to all our friends, for last night’s acts of heroism as well as over the last 30 years,
Noretta and John, with love.’
The last word must be from the master himself penned just before midnight last night …….no pumpkins for John or Noretta!
Perfection fired by genius! Completeness beautifully etched, the whole story rounded, the affection clearly displayed on its sleeve. What a remarkable story, most expertly recounted – without an ending, but measuring its beating pulse!Viva! Viva! Vivat the Spirit of Music!!!
Thank you, Chris, for showing us how vigorous that Spirit is still becoming!
Pablo Rossi and friends with The Tree of Life at the Brazilian Embassy in the beautiful ex Cunard Hall in Trafalgar Square . A full house for the world premiere of ‘Abaporu’ Concertante for piano and strings by Joao Guilherme Ripper.Works by Villa Lobos and ending with Schubert’s ‘almighty’ Wanderer Fantasy ! Superb performances and nice to see our little ‘Pablo’ coming of age from the feet upwards as he takes his place so honourably on the world stage.
Works by Villa Lobos and Schubert completed the programme which is a reflection on the relation between nature and music.’Abaporu’ written for Pablo Rossi and commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a work full of aristocratic nobility in which the piano has the voice of authority aided and abetted by the string quintet.
A group of superb young musicians assembled by Can Arisoy who after only a few hours rehearsal had conquered it’s complex musical language ready to give the ‘world premiere’ with it dedicatee at the helm.The authority and aristocratic nobility Pablo gave to this work was a reminder of Rubinstein’s magnetism and personality.
It was Rubinstein who on his triumphant South American tours in the 1920’s encountered Villa Lobos whose works he became a lifelong advocate .In 1923 he bought him to Paris to play to the musical elite that was in Paris between the wars.A group of musicians was assembled in Rubinstein’s hotel to ravish and seduce the musical world with the highly original sounds of far off Brazil.
Today Pablo was content to play just one of the pieces that Rubinstein was sure to have played.’Saudades das Selvas Brasileiras’- Memories of Brazilian Forests was one of the branches that Pablo offered with his playing of insinuating persuasive charm.A sense of balance that allowed the melodic lines to intertwine in a such and enticingly amorous way.
A much later work ‘Forest of the Amazon’ is a song cycle taken from his Symphonic Poem and was sung so eloquently by the mezzo soprano Marina Melaranci.Her beautiful voice soared into the rarified air and was a refreshing breath of fresh air after the dynamic urgency and declamations of ‘Abaporu’.The voice and piano in perfect harmony as they revealed the subtle beauty and charm of these four evocative songs.Even more memorable was the encore that Marina was invited to offer on behalf of all the musicians that had taken part.Her voice ravished and seduced as Bachianas Brasileiras n. 5 by Villa Lobos was allowed to float into the highly charged air and bring such bewitchingly subtle emotions after the breathtaking virtuosity of Schubert’s monumental -‘ almighty’ Wanderer Fantasy.
Wonderful to see ‘our’ little Pablo who had been chosen at 16 to play for Noretta and John Leech in Steinway Hall in London when he became part of the family of the Keyboard Trust.Advised and nurtured by them,this highly talented young teenager was taken under the wing of the great pianist and teacher Eliso Virsaladze who in seven years of intensive study turned a talented young pianist into an artist ready to grace the world stage.It was a joy to see this now established artist sitting low at the keyboard with his hands like eagles ready to pounce on its pray.His long fingers and noticeable arch of the hand extracting ravishing sounds with such sensitivity and intelligence from a black box of hammers and strings.
A musicality that like Rubinstein goes beyond the note picking impotent accuracy that is so prevalent in our day of instant perfection.A musicality that goes to the very soul of the music and can communicate with spontaneity and personality the very meaning behind the music’s creation.’Je joue,je sens,je transmets’ is the title of an article written some years about Shura Cherkassky.Shura who would often be astonished by the efficiency of young musicians who he would be glad to listen to in concert but who so often he would gently remark ….’but I don’t think they listen to themselves!’Not only listen but also feel – many pianists before the public …too many ……do not really love the piano ……and quite often seem to hate it as they assault the great concert pianos that are built these days to withstand even a tank!All this to say that Pablo is from the ‘old school’ and it was refreshing to watch him throw his hands onto the keys with a ‘jeux perlé’,that was like brushing dust off the keys,in the variations on Schubert’s Wanderer which is the second movement of the fantasy.Nobility and fearless abandon brought this masterpiece vividly to life.’Almighty’ obviously translated from Brazilian in the publicity but described well a work that was to so profoundly influence Liszt.Schubert’s creation of a new form with the transformation of themes was a work that was to influence composers long after Schubert’s all too short existence on this earth.Schubert had been lent to us for only 31 years but his influence on the world was not only his poetic vision and seemingly endless outpouring of melodic invention but also his sense of architectural shape and structure.It was to influence Liszt and his son in law Richard Wagner in creating revolutionary new art forms.
The transcriptions by Liszt of two songs by Schubert were indeed recreations by a magician of the piano.Liszt could make the piano speak more eloquently than the human voice with his total mastery of the ‘modern’ piano.The pedal being the very soul,with fingers that could delve deep into the keys and extract sounds of eloquence and meaning.Pablo did just that with the first song from Schubert’s last great ‘Swan Song’ cycle .’Love’s message’ was played with heartrending beauty and a refined sense of balance that made this ‘Boston’ sound as though nurtured in Berlin or Hamburg.’Erlkonig’ burst onto the scene with demonic insistence and the story that Pablo told with just ten fingers and two (almost respectably clad ) feet was terrifying as this tone poem was unraveled with all the pianistic magic that only great artists can provide.
FOREST OF THE AMAZON is a symphonic poem based on texts of Dora Vasconcellos. It had started out as music for a film of W. H. Hudson’s Green Mansions (with Anthony Perkins, and Audrey Hepburn as the bird-woman Rima), but with typical high-handedness the film producers had jettisoned most of the score in favour of another by Bronislau Kaper. Not surprisingly, Villa-Lobos was furious and decided to re-use and recast his music, transferring sections and adding a brief overture and four new songs to Portuguese texts. The work became an extended symphonic poem, or rather, a multi-section rhapsody, which breathes a pantheistic doctrine of Nature, universal love and extinction. It tells the story of Rima the bird-girl and such narrative afforded the composer an opportunity to indulge in many different creative selves. In the complete cycle there are distinct episodes with melodies as simple and lovely as any of his previous works, as well as passages of tempestuous excitement or angular metric irregularity. We have Villa-Lobos the primitivist, the descriptivist, the folklorist, the romanticist and the Stravinskyan modernist. Later on,there was an short version made from only the solo voice parts, that become a much performed cycle for voice and piano.
Schubert/Liszt 2 songs (Liebesbotschaft and Erlkonig). Liebesbotschaft (Message of love, the singer invites a stream to convey a message to his beloved.) is the first lied from Schwanengesang a collection of songs written at the end of his life and published posthumously. –
Franz Liszt explained what moved him to his intense preoccupation with Franz Schubert’s lieder between the years of 1833 and 1845 during his 1838 visit in Vienna: “I heard in the salons, with vivid pleasure and sentimentality bringing tears to my eyes, an artistic friend, the Baron von Schönstein, present Schubert’s lieder. The French translation renders only a very incomplete sense of how this mostly-very-lovely poetry connects to the music of Schubert, the most poetic musician ever to live. The German language is so admirable in the area of sentimentality, perhaps only a German is capable of comprehending the naiveté and fantastic aspects of so many of these compositions, their capricious appeal, their melancholy letting-go.”
Murmuring brook, so silver and bright,do you hasten, so lively and swift, to my beloved? Ah, sweet brook, be my messenger.Bring her greetings from her distant lover.All the flowers, tended in her garden,which she wears so charmingly on her breast, and her roses with their crimson glow:refresh them, brooklet, with your cooling waters.When on your banks she inclines her head lost in dreams, thinking of me,comfort my sweetheart with a kindly glance, for her beloved will return soon.When the sun sinks in a red flush,lull my sweetheart to sleep.With soft murmurings bring her sweet repose, and whisper dreams of love.
“Erlkönig“, op 1 D 328, was composed in 1815,which sets Goethe’s poem.The singer takes the role of four characters — the narrator, a father, his small son, and the titular “Erlking”, a supernatural creature who pursues the boy — each of whom exhibit different tcharacteristics. A technically challenging piece for both performers and accompanists, “Erlkönig” has been popular and acclaimed since its premiere in 1821, and has been described as one of the “commanding compositions of the century”.
Who rides, so late, through night and wind? It is a father with his child. He has the boy well in his arm He holds him safely, he keeps him warm. “My son, why do you hide your face in fear?” “Father, do you not see the Erlking? The Erlking with crown and tail?” “My son, it is a streak of fog.” You dear child, come, go with me! Very lovely games I’ll play with you; Some colorful flowers are on the beach, My mother has some golden robes.” My father, my father, and do you not hear What Erlking quietly promises me?” “Be calm, stay calm, my child; The wind is rustling through dry leaves.”
“Do you, fine boy, want to go with me? My daughters shall wait on you finely; My daughters lead the nightly dance, And rock and dance and sing you to sleep, They rock and dance and sing you to sleep.” “My father, my father, and don’t you see there Erlking’s daughters in the gloomy place?” “My son, my son, I see it clearly: There shimmer the old willows so grey.” I love you, your beautiful form excites me; And if you’re not willing, then I will use force.” “My father, my father, he’s touching me now! Erlking has done me harm!” It horrifies the father, he swiftly rides on, He holds the groaning child in his arms, Reaches the farm with great difficulty; In his arms, the child was dead.
The Fantasie in C major, Op. 15 ( D.760), popularly known as the Wanderer Fantasy, is a four-movement fantasy for solo piano composed by Schubert in 1822 when only 25 in a life that was tragically cut short by the age of 31.It is widely considered his most technically demanding composition for the piano and Schubert himself said “the devil may play it,” in reference to his own inability to do so properly.The whole work is based on one single basic motif from which all themes are developed. This motif is distilled from the theme of the second movement, which is a sequence of variations on a melody taken from the lied “Der Wanderer”, which Schubert wrote in 1816. It is from this that the work’s popular name is derived.The four movements are played without a break. After the first movement Allegro con fuoco ma non troppo in C major and the second movement Adagio (which begins in C-sharp minor and ends in E major), follow a scherzo presto in A-flat major and the technically transcendental finale, which starts in fugato returning to the key of C major and becomes more and more virtuosic as it moves toward its thunderous conclusion.Liszt was fascinated by the Wanderer Fantasy, transcribing it for piano and orchestra (S.366) and two pianos (S.653). He additionally edited the original score and added some various interpretations in ossia and made a complete rearrangement of the final movement (S.565a).I remember a recent lesson I had listened to of Elisso Virsaladze in which I was struck by the vehemence of the Wanderer Fantasy and the ragged corners that we are more used to in a Beethoven almost twice Schubert’s age .It made me wonder about the maturity of the 25 year old Schubert and could he have had a premonition that his life was to be curtailed only six years later.We are used to the mellifluous Schubert of rounded corners and seemless streams of melodic invention.But surely in the final three sonatas written in the last months of his life the A major and C minor start with a call to arms and only in the last B flat sonata do we arrive at the peace and tranquility that Beethoven was to find too in his last sonata.But the deep rumblings in the bass in Schubert’s last sonata give food for thought that his life was not all sweetness and light.I remember Richter’s long tribulation in the recording studio to put on record as near definitive version as possible of the Wanderer Fantasy with the help of the pianist and musicologist Paul Badura Skoda.
It was exactly like a tornado with which Pablo presented the opening flourishes of this remarkable work .It was played with the authority and breathless urgency that Richter and now Trifonov had unleashed on an unsuspecting public.This was a full symphony orchestra not a chamber orchestra but one that was capable of moments of excitement and urgency but also moments of lyricism and delicacy.The contrasts that Pablo found kept us on the edge of our seats as the underlying rhythmic current flowed from the source to the mouth of this great stream of sounds.Not a Schubert for the weak hearted but a Schubert of a man that had known great tenderness but also great suffering.There was a technical prowess that seemed to have no limitations as his body movements followed the great streams of sound that poured out of this little Boston with the same dynamic energy and richness as the greatest of concert grands.
The natural movements that followed the contours of the music allowed him to seek out sounds without any ungrateful hardness even in the most challenging passages that abound in a work that the composer himself said : ‘May the devil play it ‘.The fullness of rich sound in the solemn Adagio – The Wanderer – was remarkable for its sonority.I even found it a little too important a statement but was then led by Pablo to the magic of the variations where streams of golden sounds just poured like water over the keys leading to a climax worthy of the mightiest of Beethoven only to disappear in a series of vibrations all so similarly found in late Beethoven.The scherzo ,presto,was played with a clarity and sense of dance that created just the contrast and lyrical interlude before the tumultuous final explosion in preparation for the Allegro fugato.He embarked on the Allegro with an urgency almost in two instead of four.But we need not have worried as Pablo is also a great virtuoso as he fearlessly led us to the tumultuous conclusion with no sign of collision or mishap.A remarkably exciting conclusion to a superb performance.
A short lunchtime programme for the BBC at the Wigmore Hall.It was quality rather than quantity that was so evident from the very first notes of this recital.Still under thirty having played her first recital on this stage six years ago.The indomitable Lisa Peacock had managed her London debut immediately after her success at the Utrecht Liszt competition.Leslie Howard who was chairman of the jury in Utrecht was present and a handful of important people for a lunchtime recital in this very Hall.
She quickly became a BBC young artist and played many memorable recitals including several for the Keyboard Trust in Germany with a specific invitation to play on a very special occasion in Lorin Maazel’s Castleton Festival in Virginia.Playing as today on a Yamaha piano that she turned into a Pandora’s box with a kaleidoscope of sounds that were breathtaking for their refined beauty and ravishing sense of balance.But there was also a demonic soul inside,ready to erupt and astonish with overwhelming sumptuous sounds that were so surprising coming from the hands of such a ‘minute’young lady.Piaf springs to mind.It was the sound of a truly ‘Grand’ piano in masterly hands that is very rare to hear these days with modern pianos that can resist even the most bombastic attacks from super trained virtuosi!The piano is fundamentally a percussive instrument but in the hands of someone who really loves the piano it can be persuaded to give the illusion that it can sing and dance better than any orchestra.In the hands of a true artist it has infinite possibilities of expression and is the crowned King of instruments.Joan Chissell anointed Rubinstein ‘the Prince of Pianists’ and all those that flocked to his concerts in the 70’s during his Indian Summer have never forgotten the sounds and with what seeming simplicity he held his audience in a spell that was unique.Rubinstein loved the piano but there are many before the public who seem to hate it – to quote Shura Cherkassky.’I don’t think they listen to themselves’ Shura often used to say listening to very assured performances from young aspiring pianists.Mariam not only loves the piano but she also listens to herself and having recently experienced motherhood she is even more sensitive to all around her.Living every note and acting the part as she is so involved in a musical conversation.Reliving these precious moments of sharing her act of discovery with us on the other side of the third wall,to use theatrical language.
Chopin’s First Ballade was an epic journey from the very first notes with her superb sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing so naturally.It led to the first climax with such an evident joy of discovery on her face.But it was an onward journey as her ‘jeux perlé’ just took over with a ravishing sense of shape and colour.All leading to the one great climax just before the coda that was of epic proportions and gave such an overall architectural shape to this magisterial tone poem.An unrelenting drive to the coda was breathtaking as it was unforgiving in it’s transcendental authority .The final flourishing scales ending in a silence that was so pregnant with meaning that the gently calming chords came as a relief before the tumultuous cascades of octaves and final magisterial chords.
The ballade dates to sketches Chopin made in 1831, during his eight-month stay in Vienna.It was completed in 1835 after his move to Paris, where he dedicated it to Baron Nathaniel von Stockhausen, the Hanoverian ambassador to France.
In 1836, Robert Schumann wrote: “I have a new Ballade by Chopin. It seems to me to be the work closest to his genius (though not the most brilliant). I even told him that it is my favourite of all his works. After a long, reflective pause he told me emphatically: ‘I am glad, because I too like it the best, it is my dearest work.'”
The Dante Sonata was originally a small piece entitled Fragment after Dante, consisting of two thematically related movements which Liszt composed in the late 1830s.He gave the first public performance in Vienna in November 1839.When he settled in Weimar in 1849, he revised the work along with others in the volume, and gave it its present title derived from Victor Hugo’s own work of the same name.It was published in 1858 as part of Années de pèlerinage
The Dante Sonata too received a performance of Hollywoodian technicolour as she followed with intelligence and real understanding the very precise indications that Liszt had marked in the score.After the grandiose opening octaves played with a subtle diminuendo followed by notes that were just a terrifying gust of wind,barely audible,but that sent a shiver down the spine.Cascades of octaves given such a meaningful musical shape contrasted with rays of light that shone like jewels.The overwhelming climax that burst into one of the most technically treacherous moments in an outpouring of romantic effusion that held no terror for Mariam.There were no thoughts for her other than a musical language that had to be fearlessly shared and experienced.
Schubert Impromptus are a series of eight pieces for solo piano composed in 1827. They were published in two sets of four each: the first two pieces in the first set were published in the composer’s lifetime as Op. 90; the second set was published posthumously as Op. 142 in 1839 (with a dedication added by the publisher to Franz Liszt ).The third and fourth pieces in the first set were published in 1857 (although the third piece was printed by the publisher in G major, instead of G♭ as Schubert had written it, and remained available only in this key for many years). The two sets are now catalogued as D. 899 and D. 935 respectively. They are considered to be among the most important examples of this popular early 19th-century genre.
There was aristocratic beauty to Schubert’s First Impromptu from his last set.A musical shape from the very opening with the downward shaping of the dotted introduction .It led to the velvet fluidity of the tenor melodic line with the right hand just shadowing and adding magical embellishments of scintillating delicacy.How to describe the sublime beauty and stillness she brought to the question and answer of the the central episode?One could see so clearly on her face her reaction to the sounds she was producing in a conversation of heartrending beauty.
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14, S.244/14 in F minor ,is the fourteenth Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt and the Hungarian Fantasy written in 1852, is an arrangement of the rhapsody for piano and orchestra.This rhapsody is composed of several distinct melodies. Some of them are Hungarian folk songs, such as Magosan repul a daru. Others are of uncertain origin; they may have been written by Liszt himself.
It was fascinating to be brought down to earth with Liszt’s Hungarian Fantasy.I had not realised that this 14th Hungarian Rhapsody had been orchestrated and known as the Hungarian Fantasy.It used to be played quite frequently by pianist such as Cziffra or Cherkassky in orchestral concerts.(Richter and Arrau too I believe).Playing with the score hidden in the piano to avoid the obvious confusion between the solo and orchestral versions that can be so confusing for a performing artist.(The same confusion can arise with Liszt’s orchestral version of Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy).She gave a scintillating performance where even the repeated notes bubbled over with infectious ‘joie de vivre’ and refined virtuosity of another age.The nobility and grandeur she brought to Liszt’s grandiose score were just as overwhelming as the Berlin Philharmonic and brought this magic hour almost to an end.
An encore of Liszt’s fourth Paganini study where Liszt outdid even Paganini with his formidably simple transcription of the violin with a single strand and only a few additions to keep the pianist even busier!It was a superb display of scintillating piano playing from the so called Golden Era.Mariam not only played the notes with driving rhythmic energy but she imbued them with a subtle charm and beguiling style that brought a smile even to her face as her hands seemed to fly across the keys with a hypnotic rhythmic ease.
A journey of discovery with Angela Hewitt in which even the little D minor fantasy by Mozart was revealed as if for the first time. She was living every note astonished by the audacious genius of Mozart as his improvised fantasy was played with the same invention from which it was born with its continuous outpouring of startling ideas. A programme of four major sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven. D major in the first half and C minor in the second. Starting the recital after the opening improvised Fantasy with Mozart’s last Sonata played with the same sense of fantasy and discovery that she brought to everything she did . The poignancy of the Largo and mesto of Beethoven’s D major sonata had gone someway to prepare us for the end of this enthralling journey. Mozart’s most Beethovenian of Sonatas was our preparation for Beethoven’s own last statement at the end of his own journey as chronicled in 32 gigantic passes. It was the end too of Angela’s journey that was so poignant,as the aching minutes of silence were witness,after Beethoven’s final visionary chord of C major was barely whispered in our ear. It was one of those rare moments when people unknown to each other are united in a wave of unified emotion. Gradually Angela’s hands were freed from the keys that had seemed to possess her as she appeared visibly moved before a public who could only relieve the tension with cheers and a standing ovation
Viennese classics are close to the heart of a pianist whose programme includes the final sonatas for the instrument by both Mozart and Beethoven. Her Beethoven series on disc has been widely praised: BBC Music Magazine described her CD including Op. 10 No. 3 as ‘every bit as intellectually lucid, technically secure and focussed, as her Bach.’
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Fantasia in D minor K397 (c.1782-7) Piano Sonata in D K576 (1789) I. Allegro • II. Adagio • III. Allegretto
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 7 in D Op. 10 No. 3 (1797-8) I. Presto • II. Largo e mesto III. Menuetto. Allegro • IV. Rondo. Allegro
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Piano Sonata in C minor K457 (1784) I. Molto allegro • II. Adagio • III. Allegro assai
Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor Op. 111 (1821-2) I. Maestoso – Allegro con brio ed appassionato II. Arietta. Adagio molto semplice cantabile
Playing of real beauty and originality that was born from her natural musicianship.Even Chopin’s Funeral March played so slowly,but so beautifully and nobly that it could have gone on forever.A thing of beauty is a joy forever and the artistry and beauty of all she did will long remain in my memory.There was the same sense of style as Gelber to her Beethoven,where any sharp edges were smoothed over without in any way taking away from it’s dynamic energy.The final note with it’s impossible crescendo was smoothed over to make musical sense without taking away anything from the intrinsic meaning of the composer.Technically impeccable because every note had a meaning in a chain that was part of an architectural whole.’Words without thought no more to heaven go’ Nadia Boulanger would quote from Shakespeare to insensitive students and it was this heavenly message with Zala that came across so directly because of her musicality of such eloquence.A gift from heaven indeed!A timeless beauty to the slow movement that was played with great character.Throughout her performance too the bass had played such an important part as the anchor on which she was free to sail freely with sensitivity and intelligence.
Very interesting to discover the sound world of Francoise Choveaux and to hear Zala’s performance with it’s ‘Le Gibet’ continuous tolling bell around which a universe is described with vivid imagination and a startling kaleidoscope of colours.The words of a famous comedian come to mind as he plays what he described as the Grieg Piano Concerto – the conductor aghast at such noise asks him what is he doing.’ I am playing the notes of Grieg but not necessarily in the same order ‘. https://youtube.com/watch?v=uMPEUcVyJsc&feature=share. Just to say that Zala played notes maybe in a different order and style from what we are accustomed to,but the way she made it speak was the same language ,that of music,that had been a hallmark of a remarkable recital.
Francoise Choveaux was trained in the Lille Conservatory of Music CRD, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Musique de Paris, the Institute Peabody of Baltimore and in Juilliard School of New York. She performed in prestigious festivals in France, in Europe, in Asia, in the United States and in Brazil.
Françoise Choveaux takes up with a musical tradition anchored in the 19th Century. She is a composer but also a pianist. As of today, she has already written more than 280 opus for all instruments and all formations, from solos to symphony orchestras. And her works are performed in Europe (France, Italy, Germany, Russia, Belgium, Baltic States), in Asia and in America.Numerous live recordings and in studio were made of her music, among which the integral works of her quartets recorded by the famous Vilnius Strings Quartet.As pianist, she stood out as an privileged interpreter of French music: the international and specialized press approved by a large majority her recordings (10 Repertoire, 5 Diapasons) of the complete works for Darius Milhaud’s piano in world premiere.
Some Chopin playing of real beauty and style.Four Mazurkas op 30 plus another Mazurka as an encore were played with flexibility and a beguiling sense of style.It was here that her true artistry shone brightly There was such subtlety and ravishing colours allied to a sense of dance and fantasy that made each one of these gems a miniature tone poem where Chopin could say so much with so little.
A very dramatic start to the B flat minor Sonata with a sforzando at the end of the introduction that was a call to arms.She has such a forceful character that convinces because it is part of a musical conversation of such directness and simplicity.The repeat back to the ‘doppio movimento’ showed her assertive character as she was certainly not repeating the introduction that is hotly debated these days.A simple direct and logical musicianship in which debates or discussions have no meaning for her.The Scherzo sounded a little stilted to me as the accent on the final note of the bar,although written by Chopin,was rather exaggerated and disturbed the natural flow of the music.Her technical command ,though,was never in doubt here or in the perpetuum mobile of the ‘wind over the graves’.The central episode of the Scherzo and the Funeral March were played with ravishingly hypnotic beauty.The ‘Più lento flowed so naturally and was shaped with the same natural beauty that she had brought to the Mazurkas – to the manner born indeed.The Funeral March was played more Adagio than Lento ,a subtle difference,but it was totally convincing as was the masterly control of the ultra slow trio.Her searching for a melodic line in the Presto was laid before us without apology and like all she did was totally convincing.
Born in Slovenia in July 2002, Zala was initiated into music from the age of three in Brussels and received her first piano lessons at five in Luxembourg. At six, she entered the Conservatory of the City of Luxembourg , where she has obtained all available diplomas in piano performance and several diplomas in music theory. From 2012 to 2018, she studied in parallel at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel (Belgium) with Maria João Pires and Louis Lortie. She is currently in her last year of the BA (Hons) programme at the Royal College of Music , studying with Norma Fisher. Every year from 2009 to 2014, she won several national and international competitions in Luxembourg and France and in 2016 in the USA, where she was invited to play at Carnegie Hall. Since then, she has been focusing on concert performances.
Since the age of six, she has been performing regularly and has already played in eighteen countries, including China and the USA. She has participated in festivals in a dozen European countries. She also plays with orchestras, chamber music and piano duet with her younger brother Val . In 2018, she was nominated for the prize ‘Export Artist of the Year’ in Luxembourg. In 2017, at fourteen, she recorded in Germany her debut solo album, well received by the critics and the media in seven European countries.
Lovre Marusic and Lucas Krupinski together at Steinway Hall in London.
Lovre is a top prize winner at the 2021 Cleveland Competition who with his long spindly fingers etched out sounds of crystalline beauty in Mozart’s Sonata in C K 330.A fluidity and luminosity with a kaleidoscope of hidden sounds that brought the apparent simplicity of Mozart’s score vividly to life.Played with great taste but with the originality of a stylist with the inflections and breathing of a singer.Bowed low over the keyboard of this wonderful Steinway D that George Soole had made available to these two remarkable artists in the beautifully refurbished Concert Room.
Beauty and the beast for this wonderful Steinway Concert Grand.A piano that was made to adorn any of the great cavernous concert halls seating thousands,not a room of less than a hundred.It takes a real musician and great mastery to be able to project but not overwhelm a small intimate audience seated at such close proximity.It was a mark of Lovre’s musicianship that he could project the sounds with great purity and fluidity without ever overwhelming his audience seated practically at his elbow.Fou Ts’ong told me once that it was easier to create an intimate atmosphere in a big space than in a small one.Lovre,like Ts’ong loves the music of Mozart so much that it’s simplicity and naturalness are sometimes overwhelmed by a an external element that can interfere with music that Schnabel declared was too easy for children but too difficult for adults.It was a beautiful performance with moments of the real illuminated originality of a stylist.Always played with impeccable good taste and above all genuine humility,love and respect for this little masterpiece.Wonderful fingers where ornaments just sprang from his fingers and glistened like jewels never upsetting the overall music line.There were just a few occasions where his slowing down to point out the sublime beauty bequeathed to us by Mozart disturbed the natural flow that is the very motor force behind his genius.The Andante cantabile was played with simplicity and his fluid natural sounds were transformed into sublime utterings over the heart beating palpitations in the bass – the genius of Mozart revealed with a sensitivity where the coda was shaped to absolute heartrending perfection.The Allegretto missed the courtly charm that I have always associated with it but Lovre obviously saw it in another more brilliant and scintillating light.His well oiled fingers shaping Mozart’s passages with sparkle and wit rather than charm and grace.Lovre also played Schumann’s Arabesque where his fantasy and sensitivity allowed this early gem to glisten and shine as the Rondo melody returned each time more beautifully that the last.Transformed into a commentator after each of the contrasting episodes that interrupt it’s sublime meanderings.The purity and fluidity of his sounds were allowed to vibrate around this room with extraordinary poetic vibrancy as he recreated the coda much as pianists at the end of Liederkreis are entrusted to enter a world where words are not enough.
Lucas Krupinski who swept the board at the 7th San Marino competition took over the reigns from his colleague and duo partner with a performance of Ravel’s Sonatine and Chopin’s Second Scherzo.
Could it have been the same piano as Lucas just seemed to blow on the keys to produce such delicacy and whispered fluidity.Beautiful half lights which invited us to strain to follow him into a magic world of colour and perfumed fragrance.An aquatic sense of forward motion with its continual stream of ever more fluid sounds of ravishing beauty.A pandora’s box opening up that we could perceive within this Ondinesque landscape.Amazing to think that Ravel wrote the first movement of the Sonatine for a competition sponsored by the Weekly Critical Review magazine after being encouraged by a close friend.The competition requirement was the composition of the first movement of a piano sonatina no longer than 75 bars,with the prize being 100 francs. Ravel submitted the piece under a pseudonym and chose an anagram of his name :’par Verla’.There was beauty too in the simple grace and charm of the ‘Menuet’ with the sublime radiance of it’s noble ending.The ‘Animé’ was bathed in pedal as strands of melody are floated on this wave of sounds reaching an exhilarating driven climax.
Chopin,of course ,was Lucas’s birthright and he rose to the challenge with a scintillating performance of the Second Scherzo.Clarity and brilliance went hand in hand with beauty and poetry.Played always with aristocratic good taste but with the flexibility that Chopin likened to the wind in the branches of a tree but with the roots firmly placed in the ground.’Con anima’ Chopin writes in the beautifully mellifluous second subject and it certainly was that in Lucas’s hands with the same subtle beauty that he brought to the central episode.There was clarity and beauty to his ‘jeux perlé’ where streams of notes just flowed so naturally out of the musical line almost unnoticed.On it’s second appearance Chopin brings it to it’s ultimate heroic conclusion.Lucas brought dynamic rhythmic energy and excitement but never forcing the sounds that filled but never overwhelmed this intimate venue.A coda of scintillating transcendental excitement reminded me of Rubinstein’s last performance in 1976 just a stone’s throw from here.The veteran performer had generously offered to give his final public performance to save the Wigmore hall from threatened demolition.He had to stop his performance of this very Scherzo that he had so often regailed audiences with in his eighty year career.The gigantic leaps that Lucas played with such ease today were not in range of Rubinstein’s failing eyesight.Little did Rubinstein imagine that his noble gesture would lead to the rebirth of the Wigmore Hall and that next door fifty years later Bechstein would construct another one on the doorstep of the hall that was confiscated after their defeat in the First World War!
Two supremely gifted musicians and colleagues now joined forces for four hands on one piano.Four feet too that with modern technology made a third party unnecessary as each one of our valiant pianist appeared with his I Pad and personal set of pedals. I see that the evening was promoted by the Oleg Prokofiev Trust and so it was obvious that a member of the family should be represented.Gabriel Prokofiev was born on 6 January 1975 to an English mother and a Russian father, the artist Oleg Prokofiev,and is the grandson of the composer Sergei Prokofiev. He studied composition at the University of Birmingham and the University of York and became a producer of Dance, Electro, Hip-hop and Grime music and has emerged as a significant voice in new approaches to classical music at the beginning of the 21st century. His Transhuman Etudes for Piano, 4 hands was commissioned by New Muse Piano Duo and the first performance was given by New Muse Piano Duo (Paola Savvidou & Jonathan Kuuskoski) on April 22, 2016, in the Whitmore Recital Hall, University of Missouri, USA.A work full of continuous motion a real perpetuum mobile of simplicity and clarity.It would have been good to hear it again in order to get to grips with it’s knotty twine and engaging musical vocabulary.Again I am reminded of Rubinstein playing in Spain ,Ravel’s Valses Nobles e sentimentale ,when the ink was still wet on the page .Rubinstein was so angry at it’s hostile reception that’s at the end of the concert he played it as an encore!
A short interesting work played with the same impeccable artistry and musicianship that they brought to Debussy’s Petite Suite .The suite, was composed from 1886 to 1889, and first performed on 2 February 1889 by Debussy and pianist-publisher Jacques Durand at a salon in Paris.It may have been written due to a request (possibly from Durand) for a piece that would be accessible to skilled amateurs, as its simplicity is in stark contrast with the modernist works that Debussy was writing at the time.It is exactly this simplicity and ‘joie de vivre’ that these two colleagues obviously relished after the much more serious menu on today’s programme.Sailing across the keys in an enjoyable boat ride together with its simple flowing mellifluous melody and capricious contrasting central episode.Cortège,though,could have been more leisurely shaped and relished with more rounded phrases and ‘joie de vivre’.The Menuet,on the other hand , was beautifully etched with it’s charming pastoral atmosphere beautifully captured with great style and a perfect harmony between two players who were obviously enjoying it as much as we were.The final Ballet was like a breeze flowing over the keys with it’s very ‘French’ mix of elegance and brilliance. Brahms’s most famous waltz,known so well to all those that have ever shared a keyboard with a friend,was played with beauty,grace and the artistry that they had both shared so generously with us on this all too short concert of Hausmusik.
A ravishing kaleidoscope of sounds and as Dr Mather said of the 500 pianists that have played on this piano none has been able to achieve the range of sounds that we heard today from a pianist that has a mastery of the piano that I have only ever heard from Volodos.The young Volodos who I heard in Rome many years ago and thought that this was the greatest pianist alive or dead.A programme with a range of sounds and a series of encores that evoked the Golden era of piano playing of the likes of Rachmaninov,Godowsky,Rosenthal and indeed Horowitz.Volodos has since refined his playing excluding the exhibitionism of a showman of breathtaking transcriptions and is dedicated to great original works for the keyboard.He leaves his transcriptions to be played by younger virtuosi who have still to win their laurels.His playing may not be as exciting as in his youth but the refined beauty of sound and above all how he produces the sound is one of the wonders of our age.The hand movements of Volodos are just as beautiful as Nureyev or Fonteyn’s movements were on stage.The actual shape of his hands is the same shape as the music he can conjure out of the piano.Today with this rather mysterious young man flown in especially from Hong Kong I was reminded of the young Volodos .Not of the much missed lollipops but because of the drive and passion of the young Volodos allied to his kaleidoscope of sounds.
Praised for his originality and exceptional musicianship, KaJeng Wong was the winner at the Alaska International Piano E-Competition 2018, and was recently awarded Third Prize at the Maria Canals International Piano Competition 2019. Previously, KaJeng achieved success at Los Angeles IPC and Young Concert Artist Audition in New York. He received a commendation by the Hong Kong government and has been selected to represent Hong Kong at multiple international platforms, performing at Esplanade in Singapore, Shanghai Concert Hall, Palau de la Musica Catalana and participated in festivals such as PianoTexas, Verbier Festival and Hong Kong Arts Festival. The featured documentary about his growth, “KJ: Music & Life”, was awarded Best Documentary at the Golden Horse Awards. Besides his activities as a performer, he is involved in collaborative projects involving modern dance and theatres. Recently serving as Artist-in-residence at Zuni Icosahedron, they forged an ongoing relationship experimenting various productions crossing classical music. He also writes prolifically about music and was featured at the Pianist Magazine. Lately he hosted several TV/online programs promoting music in Asia. In the past 4 years, he has also curated the annual Music Lab Festival. After studies with Nancy Loo and Gabriel Kwok in Hong Kong, KaJeng further his training under Prof. Emile Naoumoff at the Indiana University. He is currently pursuing Artistic Diploma at Guildhall School of Music & Drama under Prof. Ronan O’Hora, and with Prof. Julia Mustonen-Dahlkvist at the Ingesund School of Music.
Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt, forerunners of the Romantic generation of composers nurtured a very intimate connection with the Italian lands, their people and music: Chopin’s fascination of the bel canto and the operas of Bellini, Liszt’s travels through the country and the creation of Années des Pélérinage. Conversely, we discover a later generation of Italian composers, Sgambati and Martucci, whose music is highly influenced by the works of Chopin and Liszt.
F. Liszt – Two Petrarch Sonnets from Années des Pélérinage: Italie
G. Sgambati: Notturno op. 31
G. Martucci: Notturno op. 70 no. 1
F. Chopin: Ballade no. 3 in A flat major op. 47
F. Chopin: Ballade no. 4 in F minor op. 52
F. Chopin: Piano Sonata in B minor op. 58
A voyage to Italy with Cristian Sandrin was full of the radiance and beauty that we associate with the ‘Museum of the World‘ to quote Rostropovich. He brought an atmosphere of nobility and timeless beauty to a programme that included Liszt but also two rarely heard Italian composers Sgambati and Martucci.It was Chopin,though,who had never set foot in Italy although a great admirer of Belcanto ,that brought out the aristocratic nobility and refined good taste of Cristian that Chopin himself had revealed on his first appearances in the Salons of the aristocracy in Paris. Chopin’s roots were always with the simple native folk of Poland that was his birthright,but his world was with the refined elegance and perfumed sensibility that was very much of pre revolution Paris. Années de Pélerinage were not for him and in fact his unfortunate encounters and meanderings with well meaning but assertive and insensitive lady admirers left him shocked and aghast and hastened his delicate consumtive frame to renounce his worldly existence. His first appearances had been greeted by Schumann with ‘Hats off a genius’ and there was no rivalry with Liszt who bowed to the poetic genius of this young Pole.
Liszt was happy to spar with lesser mortals that tried to encroach on his throne.The famous duel between Thalberg and Liszt is well documented as they fought it out in the salon of Princess Belgioso.Thalberg might be a great virtuoso but Liszt was always unique!
It was a similar duel that was to face Rubinstein when his position in Paris was compromised by the arrival of the young Horowitz.He was greeted by Rubinstein’s friends and the Parisian critics as ‘the greatest pianist alive or dead!’ Liszt,of course relished the adventures as one of the greatest showmen the world has ever known and his years of travelling around Italy and Switzerland with noble lady friends are well documented. It was with two of Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnets n.104 and 123 that Cristian opened the journey he had promised us in his first season of concerts for the Kettner Concert Society.
He and Hannah Elizabeth Teoh have taken over the reins of this illustrious music society,guest of the NLC for over forty years,and have brought to it their youthful enthusiasm and artistry together with an enthusiastic following of music lovers.
In the hallowed splendour of the National Liberal Club on their superb Steinway D concert grand Cristian proceeded to ravish and seduce us with refined sounds of timeless beauty.He brought such subtle phrasing and a sense of architectural shape to these tone poems where Liszt had put aside his phenomenal virtuosity and had instead revealed the very soul hidden in Petrarch’s sonnets with refined good taste and sumptuous poetry.Cristian understood this as he enticed us into this intimate sound world with subtle colouring and an overall sense of shape that even the most passionate outpourings were a consequence of poetic meaning and significance and never just scintillating displays for effect.I have heard Cristian many times but today even from these very first notes he revealed a maturity and poetic understanding where the music seemingly is allowed to speak for itself.There was time taken without any thought of paying it back!As Chopin himself described to his aristocratic pupils ,tempo should be flexible like the wind in the trees but with roots that are always firmly planted in the ground.Many young musicians feel that have to ‘do’ things to the music rather than allow the expression to come from within the note not superficially placed on top!Cristian has always been a good musician inherited from his distinguished pianist father Sandu Sandrin and later from his superb training at the Royal Academy in London.He is now benefitting from the guidance and mentorship of that great English musician Imogen Cooper.It was his colleague and mentor that he invited to play a few months ago when this great beast was illuminated with superb performances of two of Beethoven’s last Sonatas.Beauty and the beast were united as they ignited their audience as he did today in his opening season for the Kettner Concert Society.
A beautiful Nocturne by Sgambati revealed a subtle sense of colour from a composer remembered only for his famous transcriptions of Gluck’s Orfeo.Cristian with his refined palette of subtle sounds revealed a work of great beauty and simplicity from a composer who had something important to say.There is a vast amount of music in the musty archives in Italy to be explored and revealed to a public with a thirst for new music from this Golden period of the piano-virtuosi of the past.Mark Viner and Tyler Hay are tireless promoters of this forgotten age and I am glad to see Cristian seeking out long forgotten gems to bring before his audiences gently adding but not overloading his profound study of recognised masterworks.
Martucci is a very highly esteemed composer for piano teachers in Italy and I remember being very impressed by a Fantasia in G minor op 51 (1880) when I gave classes to Italian piano students in Martina Franca many years ago.A Mendelssohnian type of writing of great effect but in the end lacking genial melodic invention.An exhilarating facility of great effect and music enjoyed by the young pianists at their first moments of being able to master the piano.The Nocturne in G flat op 70 n. 1 is a later work from 1891 and was very interesting to hear but was not as ravishingly beautiful as Sgambati and was for my taste,on first hearing,a little too verbose.These were interesting stops of a voyage that Cristian had chosen to share with us today.It was however the two Ballades and the B minor Sonata by Chopin where Cristian revealed to us his mastery ,creating a spell over an audience immediately overwhelmed by the beauty and authority of his performances.Perhaps it was because this concert signalled the end of an exhausting work load that Cristian had undertaken in the past days with a duo concert in Stockholm only the day before .Today at last he was able to take more time and allow the music to unfold leisurely as though he too was discovering and enjoying the beauty that was pouring so naturally from his hands.
There was also passion and drive when called for as with the coda of the Fourth Ballade or the Finale of the B minor Sonata but with a control and sense of line.Like Rubinstein ,in his later years,who could illuminate a wondrous musical journey with such simplicity but where injections of energy were like electric shocks that left us ,like today,overwhelmed because so unexpected.
There was a pastoral beauty to the third Ballade where the fluidity of his playing was so natural and with such sophisticated calm that Cristian’s poetic programme notes actually described in words what he could was depicting with such mastery in music.’The opening theme blooming like a flower from a single E flat revealing the emotional essence and the sensuality of what follows’.’could it be the mortal man uttering an invocation,calling out the water spirit?’’One can detect streams of water in this music with ripples produced by falling pebbles…..the music leads to triumphal waves seeping up and down the keyboard that is perhaps after the feelings of persistent uncertainty,a jubilant representation of reciprocated love’.These words remind me of Alfred Cortot and I remember Vlado Perlemuter writing Cortot’s words in my score of the Fourth Ballade ,at the recapitulation of the introduction,’Avec un sentiment de regret’.A poet can say so much with so little ( I remember Arnold Wesker writing to me after my wife had died on stage -‘They never forget you’ – it meant so much with so little) https://youtube.com/watch?v=rNUNNNNj_Qw&feature=share
The Fourth Ballade is one of the pinnacles of the Romantic piano repertoire.Together with the Liszt Sonata and the Schumann Fantasie they are the pianistic equivalent of the Bach B minor Mass or Beethoven’s Missa solemnis – Michelangelo’s David or Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa .Works that make one marvel at what man is really capable of !!In Cristian’s own words :’all the transformations of the themes reveal in their climax the architectural mastery of the medieval cathedral builder and their solitary yet singular towering spires’.Supposedly inspired by Mickiewicz’s poem the Three Budrys I find it hard to believe in a work where music speaks much more powerfully than words.The music just flowed from Cristians fingers helped by the beauty of the piano in a chain of notes that were entwined in a poetic outpouring of ravishing sounds.Even the notorious coda we were not aware of the transcendental difficulties as there was a musical line that was so engaging and poignantly eloquent played with a driving intensity and passion that was breathtaking as it was unexpected.
The B minor Sonata was indeed ‘maestoso’ and I was glad that he decided to do the repeat that gave such architectural shape to the first movement.The final glorious outpouring of the second subject was played as Chopin clearly marks,but is so often ignored,instead of a sickly nocturne a noble outpouring of aristocratic sentiment.There was some beautiful shading to the jeux perlé Scherzo which evolved so naturally from the contrasting nobility of the central mellifluous episode.
The final exciting chords of the Scherzo leading straight into the declamatory chords that herald the Largo as Chopin had so clearly indicated .It made the appearance of the long Belcanto melody so much more poignant as it floated on a barcarolle of a gently modulated moving accompaniment.The end of the Largo too was linked to the Finale with the opening octave flourishes entering so gradually into the ever more hypnotically exciting Rondo.
An exhilarating evening of real discovery for both the audience and this young poet not only on the keyboard but also in life.The life of an artist is not easy but it is certainly rewarding as were were all aware of today on Cristian’s shared journey
Chopin Four Ballades were composed between 1831 and 1842. The term ballade was used by Chopin in the sense of a balletic interlude or dance-piece, equivalent to the old Italian ballata, but the term may also have connotations of the medieval heroic ballad, a narrative minstrel-song, often of a fantastical character. There are dramatic and dance-like elements in Chopin’s use of the genre, and he may be said to be a pioneer of the ballade as an abstract musical form. The four ballades are said to have been inspired by a friend of Chopin’s, poet Adam Mickiewicz .The exact inspiration for each individual ballade, however, is unclear and disputed.John Ogdon said of the fourth Ballade that it is ‘the most exalted, intense and sublimely powerful of all Chopin’s compositions… It is unbelievable that it lasts only twelve minutes, for it contains the experience of a lifetime.’ Alfred Cortot claims that the inspiration for this ballade is Mickiewicz’s poem The Three Budrys, which tells of three brothers sent away by their father to seek treasures, and the story of their return with three Polish brides.It is commonly considered one of Chopin’s masterpieces, and one of the masterpieces of 19th-century piano music.
Henry Cash I have not heard before but his teacher Colin Stone has played many times in Perivale.It was obvious from his musicianly performances that he is receiving advice from a master.Henry is a true musician armed with a very solid technique that seems to know no difficulties .He chose Rachmaninov’s favourite prelude to open his concert.I remember Benno Moiseiwitch playing it to his friend Rachmaninov who was surprised when Benno said it reminded him of ‘the return’.Rachmaninov was taken aback as that is exactly what inspired the piece.Henry played it with great poise and a remarkable clarity,simplicity and great assurance.His musicianship is of great architectural lines and his body movements are like a continual wave from which sounds are discovered with naturalness and ease.There are no half lights or insinuating textures but a direct simple message without any rhetoric or showmanship that could interrupt this continual flow of sounds.
The Brahms Sonata in five movements is a very difficult work to hold together as the intimate details and contrasts can detract from the continual flowing undercurrent that takes us on a forty minute journey .I have rarely heard this sonata played with such assurance both technical and musical as today in the hands of this twenty three year old artist.Because an artist he certainly is and there were many ravishingly beautiful things in his performance as there was also passion,drama and a technical mastery that allowed him to play fearlessly the treacherous octave leaps that Brahms demands.The coda to the last movement was played with a clarity and a speed that I have rarely heard in the concert hall.The scherzo too was played with exhilarating daring and a relentless forward movement.It contrasted with the sublime beauty of the Andante and the intensity of the Intermezzo
Henry Cash is 23 and from Huddersfield. He began his musical training at Chetham’s School of Music, age 13, before receiving a scholarship in 2017 to study with Rustem Hayroudinoff at the Royal Academy of Music. After graduating with a first class degree from the Royal Academy he received a scholarship to study with Colin Stone at the Royal Northern College of Music. He has given numerous concerts in the UK and abroad including solo recitals in venues such as the Bridgewater Hall, the Stoller Hall and St James’s Piccadilly. He performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 1 in 2015 (age 16), accompanied by the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra and again with the Bristol Classical Players in 2018. Henry won second prize at the 2021 James Mottram International Piano Competition performing the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in the final round. He is grateful for the generous support he recieves from the Drake-Calleja Trust, the Pendle Young Musicians’ Bursary and the Oglesby Charitable Trust.