Only London recital for the 2022-23 season
Dmitri Alexeev showed us what we have been missing for too long in London A demonstration of supreme artistry with playing of authority and weight.
Such artistry that in the Mozart C minor Sonata every note was played with seeming simplicity with only the slightest of inflections but that gave such meaning and poignancy to every note.There was great drama too but it was all within a certain architectural framework with a sense of direction that left no doubt that we were in the hands of a master who has lived with this music for a lifetime.
It was the same authority that he brought to Schumann with a memorable account of Waldszenen where every one of the nine pieces was painted with extraordinary characterisation with a sound that created a complete world of ravishing beauty.The first Novelette too was an explosion of sumptuous and even sensuous sounds driven with a passion and beauty that swept all before it.
The ravishingly sumptuous sound he brought to the beautiful opening of Prokofiev’s 8th Sonata created a barren landscape out of which was to erupt explosions of frenzy and breathtaking dynamism.It took us by surprise as Prokofiev had intended with the last of his trilogy of War Sonatas.
War is a cruel and ugly beast but there are also moments of peace that become even more poignant in the midst of a full battle.And a full battle was waged tonight with Alexeev’s total immersion with all his transcendental piano playing exposed with brutality,dynamism and driving rhythmic energy.Even the Andante sognando was a dream of almost nightmare proportions before the driving insistence of the final battle.Looking back for a moment to the desolate beauty of the first movement it just made the final cries for help even more terrifying.
A remarkable performance that kept the full house riveted to their seats even Lilian Hochhauser a great friend of Emil Gilels who gave the first performance in the early 40’s was cheering as we all were as we were left breathless with the terror and excitement that war can produce and be reproduced from the descriptive soul and hands of a master.
Visions fugitives op 22 was the only way to break the spell after a performance of that stature.
These jewels that Prokofiev had also penned were the ideal antidote for his later nightmare visions.
The first was played with an unusual freedom as though Alexeev was freeing himself of the tight reigns that he had set himself before.The impish second (n.10) even brought a smile to lips when played with the charm and control of sound of a pianist of another age.
One of the Albumblatter op 126 that Schumann had produced towards the end of his life, n.16 Schlummerlied was the simple charm of his second encore before bursting into the unbridled passion of the Intermezzo from Schumann’s Carnaval Jest from Vienna op 26
And jesting indeed he now was as,he was persuaded to play a fourth encore with the charming staccato song without words by Mendelssohn op 67 n.2 on which floats a beguiling melody of Victorian charm.
An ever more insistent audience brought us the Spanish dance n.5 by Granados.It was played with insinuating charm and beguiling rhythmic agitation.
Was it just a coincidence that Granados too went down in a torpedoed boat during the First World War?
An unforgettable evening in beautiful Leighton House a true oasis of artistic endeavour between the wars and recently restored to it’s original splendour.
It is thanks to Lisa Peacock that once again this music room resounds to the sounds of great artists as it had done in the past.
A sumptuous feathered nest to revive any soul.
MOZART: Sonata C minor KV457
The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor K. 457, was composed and completed in 1784, with the official date of completion recorded as 14 October 1784 in Mozart’s own catalogue of works.It was published in December 1785 together with the Fantasy in C minor K.475 as opus 11 by the publishing firm Artaria,Mozart’s main Viennese publisher.The title page bore a dedication to Theresia von Trattner (1758–1793), who was one of Mozart’s pupils in Vienna. Her husband, Thomas von Trattner (1717–1798), was an important publisher as well as Mozart’s landlord in 1784. Eventually, the Trattners would become godparents to four of Mozart’s children.It was composed during the approximately 10-year period of Mozart’s life as a freelance artist in Vienna after he removed himself from the patronage of the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1781. It is one of the earliest of only six sonatas composed during the Vienna years, and was probably written either as a teaching tool or for personal use.Sonatas during this time were generally written for the domestic sphere– as opposed to a symphony or concerto,they were designed to convey ideas in a small, intimate setting.The sonata is in three movements Molto allegro,Adagio ,Allegro assai.The Sonata is only one of two sonatas Mozart wrote in a minor key, the other being the Sonata in A minor K.310 which was written six years earlier, around the time of the death of Mozart’s mother .Mozart was extremely deliberate in choosing tonalities for his compositions; therefore, his choice of C minor for this sonata implies that this piece was perhaps a very personal work.
SCHUMANN : Waldszenen Op.82
Forest Scenes , op.82, is a cycle of nine character pieces ,composed in 1848 and 1849. The sequence of the pieces reveals the striving for a largely symmetrical architecture of the cycle. The first piece ( Entrance ) corresponds to the last ( Farewell ), the second ( Hunters in wait ) to the penultimate ( Hunting song ). The third piece ( Lonely Flowers ) is also thematically related to the third piece ( Vogel als Prophet ): flowers and birds are both representatives of living nature. Finally, the disreputable place , as an eerie place, corresponds in contrast to the homely inn . All of these pieces center around the fifth piece ( Friendly Landscape ) as an axis of symmetry.The main key of B flat major determines the beginning, middle and end of the cycle. The Lonely Flowers also use B flat major, whereas the thematically relevant bird as a prophet (probably because of its more mysterious character) is in the relative key of G minor. It is also worth noting that the two uncanny pieces ( Hunters on the Lauer and Verrufene Stelle ) are in D minor, while their positive counterparts ( Jagdlied and Herberge ) are both in E flat major.
SCHUMANN: Novelette Op.21 No.1
The Novelletten, op 21, is a set of eight pieces written by Schumann in 1838 and is dedicated to Adolf von Henselt.February 1838 was a period of great struggle for Schumann who originally intended the eight pieces to be performed together as a group, though they are often performed separately.
After seeing his beloved Clara again at a concert in August 1837 , Schumann, despite the difficulty of their relationship, felt more relieved and went through a serene period during which he composed some more relaxed and happy works, among which the Novellettes .The origin of the title has been a field of discussion by critics, but the reality is very simple and has been explained by the composer himself: «How happy I have been in recent days… In these last three weeks I have written a frightening amount of music, of jokes, of family scenes with parents, a wedding: in short, as you can see, all the most desirable things. I called the whole thing Novelletten because your name is Clara like Novello’s and because Wiecketten unfortunately didn’t sound as good!» Schumann in the letter refers to the singer Clara A.Novello whose name was the same as his girlfriend.The Novellettes reflect the happiest and most peaceful period the composer went through while composing them; this serenity is clearly represented by the keys of the eight pieces which are all written in a major key, with the prevalence of D major; it was a period in which, as he himself said, he wrote easily, as had happened few other times; moreover, the presence of the inspiring figure of Clara is evident in the momentum and lyricism that dominate the composition. The collection, even if it includes only eight pieces, is of considerable size and is the most extensive among the piano works of the musician, so much so that no real connection can be found in the structure; the individual pieces therefore remain autonomous, showing in this a weakness of the composition, as if there were already a sort of weariness of the musician towards the piano.Despite everything, the Novellettes contain some of Schumann’s most inspired and happy pages.The first Novelletta , nearly five minutes long, opens incisively with the grand-looking main theme. Then enters the second melody, sweet and dreamy which suggests melancholy sensations and which returns several times alternating with the more marked initial section.
Entry-Hunters lying in wait-Lonely flowers-Disreputable place-Friendly landscape,hostel,Bird as a prophet,Hunting song,Farewell.
PROKOFIEV: Sonata No.8 Op.84
Piano Sonata No. 8 in B♭ major, op.84 is the third and longest of the three ‘war sonatas ‘.He completed it in 1944 and dedicated it to his partner Mira Mendelson ,who later became his second wife.The sonata was first performed on 30 December 1944, in Moscow by Emil Gilels
The sonata has three movements.
- Andante dolce — Allegro moderato (in B♭ major)
- Andante sognando (in D♭ major)
- Vivace (in B♭ major)
Russian pianist Dmitri Alexeev is one of the world’s most highly regarded artists. His critically acclaimed recitals on the world’s leading concert stages and concerto appearances with the most prestigious orchestras have secured his position as one of “the most remarkable pianists of the day” (Daily Telegraph).
He has performed in all the major concert halls around the world and with all leading orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia, Royal Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, the five London orchestras, Orchestre de Paris, Israel Philharmonic and Munich Bavarian Radio Orchestra. He has worked with conductors including Ashkenazy, Boulez, Dorati, Giulini, Jansons, Muti, Pappano, Rozhdestvensky, Salonen, Svetlanov, Temirkanov, Tilson Thomas and Klaus Tennstedt. Alexeev has been a juror for many of the world’s most prestigious international piano competitions including Leeds, Chopin (Warsaw), Van Cliburn, Santander, Beethoven (Vienna) and Tchaikovsky (Moscow)Alexeev has made many fine recordings for EMI, BMG, Virgin Classics, Hyperion and Russian labels. Following his Virgin Classics recording of the complete Rachmaninov Preludes, which won the Edison Award in the Netherlands, BBC Music Magazine described him as “a pianist at once aristocratic, grand and confessionally poetic. This is an inspiring disc.” His recording of the complete Chopin Mazurkas was released in 2014. A recording that Gramophone Magazine referred to as “one of the best recordings of the Chopin Mazurkas that have appeared in the past three-quarters of a century – one of the best alongside those of Rubinstein and Yakov Flier.” His recordings of the complete Scriabin works for piano solo were released by Brilliant Classics in 2022. Alexeev’s two piano transcriptions of works by Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Gershwin, as well as his transcriptions of Brahms’ Ballade for Viola and Piano were recently published.