Happy Birthday Pascal Nemirovski the persuasive charm and instruction of a true artist


A fascinating conversation between Dr Hugh Mather and Pascal Nemirovski.But it was the recordings of his own performances in his formative years that were a revelation.Of course he encouraged us to listen to Cortot to show that there is no one way of playing the piano.As saying ‘thank you’,which the human voice can say with so many different inflections.The last word today was in fact given to the sublime voice of Janet Baker as an example of what we are all striving for.Listen ,listen ,listen was his message.In fact it was Shura Cherkassky after listening to the first recital of a complete series of the Beethoven Sonatas from a top prize winning pianist ,who turned to me and said I don’t think he is listening to himself!Just as Pascal charmingly told of Glenn Gould practicing with the vacuum cleaner on so he would have to strain to hear the musical sounds he was searching for on the piano.Of course Pascal touched on the subject of technique and the importance of correct posture that would not impede the energy from flowing through the fingers into the notes.But above all to think of the sound you are striving for before looking for the note on the keyboard.A fascinating conversation of great charm and ‘joie de vivre’ of an artist deeply in love with music and the idea of sharing this great love and experience with others.What better way to celebrate his extraordinary career than to hear five of his remarkable students ,three of whom have played on this very stage and Emanuil Ivanov ,winner of the 2018/19 Busoni Competition ,who will play on Valentine’s Day.






Pascal Nemirovski is recognized as one of the most sought-after piano pedagogues in the world with many of his students winning top international prizes (Leeds, Busoni, Ettlingen, YCA New York, YCAT London, BBC New Generation Artist…) and many of whom are now successful recording artists represented by major Concert Artist Management companies. These include Lise de la Salle, Louis Schwizgebel, Daniel Lebhardt, Mario Mora, Roman Kosyakov, Emanuil Ivanov, Edward Leung, Yi Zhong. He studied at the Juilliard School with Nadia Reisenberg and Adele Marcus from 1981 to 1984 on a full scholarship. Then he continued his studies in Paris with France Clidat and Alexis Weissenberg and gave concerts and masterclasses in Europe, the United States and Asia. He was a Piano Professor at the Royal Academy of Music from 2006 to 2017, and since 2015 has held the post of International Chair in Piano at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Samson Tsoy – A poet speaks at the Wigmore Hall and a star is born

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel Op. 24 (1861)

4 Klavierstücke Op. 119 (1893) Intermezzo in B minor,Intermezzo in E minor ,Intermezzo in C ,Rhapsody in E flat.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Piano Sonata in B flat D960 (1828) I. Molto moderato
II. Andante sostenuto
III. Scherzo. Allegro vivace con delicatezza – Trio IV. Allegro ma non troppo

Samson Tsoy opening his recital with the Brahms Handel Variations followed by the four Klavierstucke op 119.
Even the hall thought it must be a mistake and had to make an announcement to confirm the order that Samson had obviously communicated previously.
A very bold move until we heard this early Brahms masterpiece in Samson’s hands played with such sensitivity and gentle luminosity where usually we are assaulted by robust ‘orchestral’ sound and strenuous virtuosity.
This was quite a revelation as he moved from one variation to another with ravishingly delicate playing of exquisite tonal colour.There was grandeur and dynamism when called for but the overall impression was that this is the same ethereal world of his later miniature masterpieces of op 117,18 and 19.
Schubert’s last Sonata was played with gentle authority of great aristocratic poise and poignancy.
Momentary flashes of ‘storm und drang’were short lived as Schubert’s profoundest of utterings were given all the time needed to ravish and seduce the senses for the last time.
The Impromptu in E flat played as an encore produced streams of sounds of pure gold as the jeux perlé notes were shaped with the same sensitivity and loving care that had been the hallmark of a recital dedicated to pure beautiful music making.An ovation,whistles and cat calls were greeted at last with a smile from this very dedicated young artist.

The opening theme was played with an unusual sensitivity and very subtle flexibility that immediately caught my attention.It was to be held with baited breath until the final tumultuous notes of the Fugue.Every variation was a revelation,as if the notes were still wet on the page,The silence too before the music box variation n. 22 towards the end was played as if in a wondrous dream of nostalgic recollection .It was the magic touch of a deeply committed artist.The first four variations were played with a liquid legato with cascades of arabesques in the second and deeply expressive fourth.Awakened by demonic octaves: dynamic and impressive as they burst onto this seemingly pastoral scene.Immediately contrasted with the mellifluous mysterious meanderings of the sixth and the very light rhythmic drive of the seventh and eighth.A subtle build up in intensity led to declamatory octaves phrases each one disappearing to oblivion with such nonchalant ease and grace.Cat and mouse delicately chasing up and down the keys with ‘kittenish’ playfulness.Delicacy and beauty followed and led to the gentle duet between fairy horns and flutes.There followed grandeur but with luminosity and very personal inflections.The pointed deep bass notes of the seventeenth was followed by the gentle pastoral cascades of notes in the eighteenth leading to the beautiful lilting ‘siciliano’ of the nineteenth .A very demonic build up followed with dry menacing staccato notes driving ever more excitedly with swirls of sounds like the west wind blowing.And after such tension the triumphant opening theme in all its glory ,worthy of Busonian exultation,came as such a cathartic relief.The bare notes of the fugue were like a window suddenly being opened and letting the blazing sun light dazzle us with Samson’s unrelenting technical prowess.The Great Gate of Kiev comes to mind as the chimes first in the right hand are answered by the left and accompanied by transcendental technical high jinx.Played with extraordinary architectural command of startling authority where even here he found a sense of colour and contrast that kept us on the edge of our seats until the final majestic chords.

The Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, was written by in 1861. It consists of a set of twenty-five variations and a concluding fugue, based on a theme from Handel’s Harpsichord suite N.1 in B flat .Ranked by Tovey as “the half-dozen greatest sets of variations ever written”.They were written in September 1861 after Brahms, aged 28, abandoned the work he had been doing as director of the Hamburg women’s choir (Frauenchor) and moved out of his family’s cramped and shabby apartments in Hamburg to his own apartment in the quiet suburb of Hamm, initiating a highly productive period that produced “a series of early masterworks”.Written in a single stretch in September 1861,the work is dedicated to a “beloved friend”, Clara Schumann widow of Robert and was presented to her on her 42nd birthday, September 13.Brahms played the piece himself in his first solo performance in Vienna – even Wagner had to admit how much could still be done in the ‘old forms’. Brahms’s approach to variation writing is outlined in a number of letters. “In a theme for a set of variations, it is almost only the bass that has any meaning for me. But this is sacred to me, it is the firm foundation on which I then build my stories. What I do with a melody is only playing around … If I vary only the melody, then I cannot easily be more than clever or graceful, or, indeed, if full of feeling, deepen a pretty thought. On the given bass, I invent something actually new, I discover new melodies in it, I create.” The role of the bass is critical.

Op 119 is the last composition for solo piano by Brahms and was premiered in London in January 1894.In May 1893 Brahms wrote to his beloved Clara about the first intermezzo in B minor :”I am tempted to copy out a small piano piece for you, because I would like to know how you agree with it. It is teeming with dissonances! These may [well] be correct and [can] be explained—but maybe they won’t please your palate, and now I wished, they would be less correct, but more appetizing and agreeable to your taste. The little piece is exceptionally melancholic and ‘to be played very slowly’ is not an understatement. Every bar and every note must sound like a ritard[ando], as if one wanted to suck melancholy out of each and every one, lustily and with pleasure out of these very dissonances! Good Lord, this description will [surely] awaken your desire!”Samson gave us a moving glimpse of what Brahms had tried to put into words.There was a timeless luminosity to the gasps of sublime poetry that Brahms could miraculously convey in his old age.Have so few notes ever meant so much as in Samson’s sensitive fingers?Coming after the ‘barn storming’ young Brahms,Samson was immediately able to create a magic atmosphere with a Scriabinesque range of fluid sounds .Even the ‘poco agitato’ of the second intermezzo was bathed in pedal with the gentle ‘grazioso’ like a ray of light rising out of the mist.The third Intermezzo was also a ‘grazioso ‘ and ‘giocoso’ in the half light of dusk,rather than dawn,with the final swirls of notes played piano and the quixotic chords pianissimo ,as Brahms asks and rarely gets,with the final held pedal on the three last chords that were played with a real sense of awakening.A Rhapsody played with rhythmic drive even if the opening chords I found less rich in sound than i was expecting.It made an exciting contrast,though,to the mysterious held pedal a little later.The beautiful central section was played with a playful nonchalance ‘grazioso’ that brought a smile of whimsical capriciousness to Brahms’ last thoughts.

The last three sets of piano pieces, Op.117, 118 and 119, are linked by a certain personal intimacy, almost a secrecy of meaning. Brahms called the three pieces of Op. 117 ‘lullabies to my sorrows’, The pianist Ilona Eibenschütz on hearing Brahms wrote: ‘He played as if he were just improvising, with heart and soul, sometimes humming to himself, forgetting everything around him.’Fanny Davies wrote: ‘When Brahms played, one knew exactly what he intended to convey to his listeners: aspiration, wild fantastic flights, majestic calm, deep tenderness without sentimentality, delicate, wayward humour, sincerity, noble passion’.

In David Owen Norris’s refreshingly informed programme notes he talks about the sinister trill on the piano’s very bottom note being described by his grandmother as ‘the note the cat died on’.Someone must have trod on the cat’s tail today because the yelp she let out at the end of the ritornello of the first movement showed the intelligence of this young musician.Extra bars that are often left out because to return to the opening might seem excessive in an already long work!The sublime length of Schubert,sometime brought to the extremes by Richter,was today in Samson’s poetic hands only pure joy to hear again the sublime beauty of the exposition.The howl he let fire before the repeat only made us more aware of the sublime almost improvised creation that Schubert could envisage in his last days on earth.A magical performance of shape and colour and a sense of detail as in the combined tenor and soprano duet of the second subject that was sublime.There were true strokes of magic in the development that were quite breathtaking .The calm created before the storm was retraced with even more poignant delicacy as the melodic line floated on chords that were mere vibrations of sound.The Andante too was played with an architectural shape and direction without any exaggerations but allowing this sublime utterance to speak for itself.The Scherzo was indeed as Schubert asks ‘con delicatezza’ with also charm and subtlety.The sforzando/pianos of the Trio were not played like ‘spooks in the night’ but just pointed at with the same sheen and gloss that had been created in the Scherzo.The final Allegro was played at a leisurely pace with the call to arms of G interrupting so naturally the simple flow of Schubert’s timeless mellifluous outpouring .There was great passion and desperation in the first climax but it immediately dissolved into even more mischievous charm of disarming simplicity.The final climax was played with great brilliance and fire with the two last. Imperious chords placed with the aristocratic timing of a great artist in total command of his canvas.

Schubert’s last three piano sonatas D 958, 959 and 960, are his last major compositions for solo piano. They were written during the last months of his life, between the spring and autumn of 1828, but were not published until about ten years after his death, in 1838–39.Like the rest of Schubert’s piano sonatas, they were mostly neglected in the 19th century.By the late 20th century, however, public and critical opinion had changed, and these sonatas are now considered among the most important of the composer’s mature masterpieces.

The last year of Schubert’s life was marked by growing public acclaim for the composer’s works, but also by the gradual deterioration of his health. On March 26, 1828, together with other musicians in Vienna ,Schubert gave a public concert of his own works, which was a great success and earned him a considerable profit. In addition, two new German publishers took an interest in his works, leading to a short period of financial well-being. However, by the time the summer months arrived, Schubert was again short of money and had to cancel some journeys he had previously planned.Schubert had been struggling with syphilis since 1822–23, and suffered from weakness, headaches and dizziness. However, he seems to have led a relatively normal life until September 1828, when new symptoms appeared. At this stage he moved from the Vienna home of his friend Franz von Schober to his brother Ferdinand’s house in the suburbs, following the advice of his doctor; unfortunately, this may have actually worsened his condition. However, up until the last weeks of his life in November 1828, he continued to compose an extraordinary amount of music, including such masterpieces as the three last sonatas.The final sonata was completed on September 26, and two days later, Schubert played from the sonata trilogy at an evening gathering in Vienna.In a letter to Probst (one of his publishers), dated October 2, 1828, Schubert mentioned the sonatas amongst other works he had recently completed and wished to publish.However, Probst was not interested in the sonatas,and by November 19, Schubert was dead.In the following year, Schubert’s brother Ferdinand sold the sonatas’ to another publisher, Anton Diabelli , who would only publish them about ten years later, in 1838 or 1839.Schubert had intended the sonatas to be dedicated to Hummel, whom he greatly admired. Hummel was a leading pianist, a pupil of Mozart, and a pioneering composer of the Romantic style (like Schubert himself).However, by the time the sonatas were published in 1839, Hummel was dead, and Diabelli, the new publisher, decided to dedicate them instead to Robert Schumann,who had praised many of Schubert’s works in his critical writings.


Samson Tsoy standing in for an indisposed Mariam Batsashvili.She made her debut in the Wigmore Hall a few years ago and I was moved to write :’A star is born’ .I think the same could be said of Samson after tonight’s sublime performances. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2017/01/20/a-star-is-born-mariam-batsashvili/

Mother Clara ‘Spare’ a loving thought for Old Mother Hubbard

Mother Clara a beautiful singspiel by Graham Johnson .

With Janet Suzman,Alexandra Gilbreath,Sophie Rennert,Roderick Williams they told the other story of Clara through the eyes of Eugenie,one of Clara’s seven siblings.
Clara was a ‘tough cookie’,self centered and ‘a legendary matriarch of unimpeachable seriousness and dignity’.A pioneer who made concertising a respectable profession for young women.
Receiving the sonata that Liszt had dedicated to her asylumed husband she declared it a fearful noise!Overtones of Bernard Shaw’s famous confrontation between mother and daughter.Another up to date ‘spare’ kiss and tell tale of abandoned love in childhood !’
‘My kingdom for a horse’indeed!

A superb Janet Suzman being congratulated in the Green room by friends

A superb Janet Suzman,ravishing Sophie Rennert ,imposing Roderick Williams and the very outspoken Eugenie of Alexandra Gilbreath.
But the real star was never ‘too loud’ and Graham’s chameleonic role of Sherlock Holmes ,scriptwriter and researcher was outshone not only by the magic that poured from his fingers but also the weight of his acting skills that could hold their own with such a noble assembly of artists

‘Am I too loud?’Greetings from Tessa Uys who was at the RAM with us – could it be fifty years ago!Remembering the genial Harry Isaacs and John Streets who were both so important in Graham’s formative years.Tessa has almost completed her recordings with Ben Schoeman of the Scharwenka four hand arrangement of the Beethoven Symphonies .A book that her piano teacher mother had on her piano in South Africa https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2018/07/01/tessa-uys-part-2-at-st-lawrence-jewry-and-at-st-michaels-highgate-with-ben-schoeman-in-beethoven-5th-and-9th/ https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2018/06/19/tessa-uys-at-st-lawrence-jewry/
Graham with Brandon Velarde in the Green Room scene of so many triumphs for the Songmakers Almanac https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2019/12/23/ocome-all-ye-faithful-a-songmakers-christmas-carol/
Linn Rothstein hosting Sophie Rennert on a flying visit between Mozart and Massenet in Germany
Roderick Williams describing the joy of discovery with Graham


‘Diamonds are forever’ – the 60th wedding anniversary of Noretta and John – founders of the Keyboard Trust

Noretta and John with Lady Annabelle Weidenfeld
https://youtu.be/9L9Vc0ebt7o. https://youtu.be/tu92-VR3YdM. https://youtu.be/ItV_Ub18lBI. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/09/14/the-gift-of-life-the-keyboard-trust-at-30/

Moritz presenting his treat for Noretta and John and close friends
A Rose is always a Rose and if Music be the food of love ,play on ………

A surprise gift from a long standing friend and trustee of the Keyboard Trust,Dr Moritz von Bredow.A celebration of the enduring love that the founders of the Keyboard Trust have enjoyed for sixty years.By example sharing the Gift of Life so generously with so many talented young musicians and creating a true musical family.Offering concert opportunities,with their numerous musical friends worldwide,at the start of their career.All outlined in the book ‘The Gift of Music’ that John had so industriously formulated during the prolonged Pandemic lock down.Four of their favourite pianists were chosen by Moritz to give a fifteen minute recital in the music room in Chester Square that is known to so many musicians.There could easily have been four hundred but unfortunately time only permitted a selection that Moritz knew would give them such pleasure today.

Elena Vorotko one of the three artistic directors nominated by John and Noretta on their retirement from their day to day running of the Trust.Elena has created a Historic Keyboard section within the trust and today played short works by Vivaldi/Bach;Bach/Cohen and Rameau.Explaining so poignantly that the transcription of ‘Liebster Jesu,wir sind hier ’ is a work that has followed her in all the most important events in her life.
Mark Viner since making his Wigmore debut as a KCT prize winner,has made many CD’s all receiving five star reviews.He took both Rome and London by storm in concerts organised by the KCT and is fast becoming a very distinguished artist on the world stage .https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2020/11/15/mark-viner-at-st-marys-faustian-struggles-and-promethean-prophesis/
What better choice than to play Liszt’s rarely performed transcription from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliette
Evie,Noretta and John’s absolute favourite ,and a born artist,who like Martha Argerich can do no wrong.Playing Beethoven’s miniature masterpiece op 14 n.2 with dynamic drive and insinuating lyricism .It was a work that Annie Fischer used to regularly include in her recitals playing with the same improvised intelligence and human warmth.A delightful poem that Evie had formulated just minutes before playing showed the same love to the ‘festeggiati’ as her playing did. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/02/25/evelyne-berezovsky-seduction-in-rome/
Sasha Grynyuk who is like a son to John and Noretta and together with his wife Katya are always there in moments of need.
Sasha regularly helps John with his computer studies every Friday after playing and working on a different work from his vast repertoire with Noretta .Today it was the Brahms Waltzes op 39 that showed off his great artistry. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/07/11/sasha-grynyuk-anniversary-recital-of-a-great-pianist-in-perivale/
Lady Annabelle Weidenfeld who had left Menahem Pressler at home ,for health reasons, enjoying the celebrations of two other ‘youngsters’.Menahem,one of the great musicians of our time,recently celebrated his 99th birthday and had written a moving preface to John’s book :’ The Gift of music’
Menahem Pressler with Dame Fanny Waterman in Oxford a few years ago
A sumptuous luncheon had been organised by Moritz in a nearby restaurant.
John being supported on both sides with loving warmth by Moritz and Noretta during his after luncheon speech of thanks
An after luncheon celebration in Chester Square Mews – Moritz between John and Noretta
Sarah seated between John and Noretta
Dr Trevor Hudson talking to Sir Geoffrey Nice a trustee of long standing .Dr Hudson has been Noretta and John’s private doctor for the past sixty years .He was also,by coincidence,the trusted doctor of my old teacher Vlado Perlemuter and his companion Joan Floquart Booth. It was very reassuring to know from him that our ‘festeggiati’ are in good health and can look forward to many more celebrations! https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2017/12/19/in-praise-of-joan-2/
What fun was had by all .
Our valiant general manger,Sarah Biggs,without whom this event certainly would not have run so smoothly …looking on is Dr Hudson’s wife,Sue,who expects a similar celebration in seven years time!
Nice to see our two Russian pianists Evelyn Berezovsky and Elena Vorotko arm in arm as they pass from their mews concert to the luncheon table.
Moritz to whom must go infinite thanks for masterminding this wonderfully heartfelt celebration
Sasha Grynyuk with his wife Katya
Richard Thomas the KCT administrator with Sue Hudson and Sarah Biggs.
Poetically eloquent Dr Moritz von Bredow a true renaissance man and renowned pediatrician with hundreds of clients in his clinic in Hamburg.
Thank you Moritz for such a memorable occasion

Thomas Kelly …..’Reaching for the stars!’ – a voyage of discovery at Leighton House

Tuesday 10 January 2023 at 19 h.


RAMEAU Le Rappel des Oiseaux

                                    Gavotte and Variations

FRANCK                    Prelude, Chorale and Fugue

SCRIABIN                  Poeme-Nocturne Op.61

Fantasie Op.28

Lord Leighton

Stepping into the sumptuously restored home of Lord Leighton is like turning the clock back a hundred years.
Listening to Thomas Kelly ,the fourth artist in the indomitable Lisa Peacock’s ‘Discovery’ series, is like listening to a pianist from another age.

Lisa Peacock presenting her discovery

The Golden Age of piano playing as inhabited by gentle giants who could ravish and seduce with their transcendental control of sound.
Rosenthal,Hoffman,Godowsky,Rachmaninov spring to mind.
Piano playing of such subtlety that was a mirror of the great bel canto singers who could drive their public to adoration and delirium.

Franz Liszt wouid drive his public into such adoration where seemingly austere aristocratic ladies would be turned into a frenzied mob ready to conserve a lock of hair,a cigarette but or even coffee dregs of the adored one.
If music be the good of love ……play on.It just shows the power that music can have even today with ’pop’ idols filling stadiums with doting fans.

Ariel Lanyi ,top prize winner with Thomas at the Leeds who will play in this series on the 24th January prior to a concert tour of Australia . https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/05/02/ariel-lanyi-the-simplicity-and-poetry-of-a-great-musician-at-st-marys/. Pictured here with Mark Eynon ,director of the Sheepdrove Piano Competition that Thomas won this year

It was Ariel Lanyi who turned to me after Thomas’s sumptuous performance of Franck’s Prelude,Chorale and Fugue ,exclaiming between cheers that Thomas was born of the last century.
His Rameau did not quite have the charm and colour of Cherkassky’s dip into the baroque but it was played with the same fleeting fingers of jeux perlé.Streams of golden notes that just flowed from his fingers with the charm and ease of a master.
The Gavotte and Variations produced streams of ravishing notes with a hypnotic rhythmic drive that was teasingly captivating.
It was the colour and architectural shape that he brought to the Prelude Chorale and Fugue that showed off his true artistic stature.Detail and understanding of the form were united in a performance of radiance and passion without a hint of sentimentality.
Scriabin ,of course, opened a world that is truly Thomas’s.Glittering jewels that shone and glistened with ravishing sounds,from the almost inaudibile to the overpowering rich sonorities of driving passion.
Of course the seeds of this amazing talent were sown by the late Andrew Ball who had taken Thomas under his wing and ignited this search for beauty in a box of hammers and strings.

Dmitri Alexeev with Lisa Peacock https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/11/13/dmitri-alexeev-mastery-and-communication-beyond-all-boundaries/

It is now the great pianist Dmitri Alexeev,present in the hall with his wife Tatyana Sarkissova,who guides this light that is shining ever more brightly.
Alexeev has just completed his complete survey of Scriabin’s piano music which has obviously inspired Thomas with his insatiable desire to consume lesser known scores and bring them to life.
He had played not long ago the mammoth piano sonata by Liszt’s cherished pupil ,Reubke. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/01/20/thomas-kelly-at-steinway-halllondon-for-the-keyboard-trust-new-artist-series/
It was for the Keyboard Trust at Steinway Hall that this young man played a work that has so many notes it must go down in the Guinness book of records.
Reubke had died at only 24 -Thomas’s age – and had left only two sonatas :one for organ and the other for piano.
The organ sonata is standard repertoire but no one until Thomas has dared to conquer the marathon difficulties and mind boggling number of notes of the sonata for piano.
And so it was to Scriabin for the final two works in this short recital.
A world of introversion and exultation reaching for the star that is the unattainable goal and inspiration of all real artists.
It was just this search for sounds that was so exhilarating from Thomas’s hands.A palette of colour that one could never have dreamt were laying dormant in this good but not exceptional Steinway.
A Poeme Nocturne op 61 ( nothing like Chopin’s op 61 but just as original) that was a revelation not only of sounds but how these sounds could be sown together and given a shape and meaning and an overall architectural shape.
Scriabin’s Fantasie op 28 like his Fantasy Sonata is often to be found in concert programmes but rarely have I heard it played with such menace and unbridled passion as tonight.
Of course the true revelation was in the second encore : the old war horse of Saint Saens’ Etude en forme de Valse.
We all know the performance of Cortot,an old 78 rpm recording that is part of the history of piano playing .
Tonight ,as Ariel Lanyi had exclaimed, here is the reincarnation of pianists of another age .An age when performers were steeped in a hypnotic way of seducing their public with subtle colours of insinuating whispered asides and bursts of demonic virtuosity.Throwing notes off with a devil may care ease that just shows us the real meaning of jeux perle .

Lisa Peacock – Tatyana Sarkissova – Thomas Kelly – Dmitri Alexeev

Lisa Peacock has devised this series under the title ‘Discoveries’.
No better word could describe what we were treated to tonight.
It would be interesting in this newly restored house to know who the pianists were that Lord Leighton would have invited into this sumptuous den in an earlier very privileged age.
Ariel Lanyi is playing here on the 24th and Alexeev in an all too rare gala recital on the 7th February.

Thomas Kelly started playing the piano aged 3, and in 2006 became Kent Junior Pianist of the Year and attained ABRSM Grade 8 with Distinction. Aged 9, Thomas performed Mozart Concerto No. 24 in the Marlowe Theatre with the Kent Concert Orchestra. After moving to Cheshire, he regularly played in festivals, winning prizes including in the Birmingham Music Festival, 3rd prize in Young Pianist of The North 2012, and 1st prize in WACIDOM 2014.Thomas studied with Andrew Ball, initially at the Purcell School of Music and then at the Royal College of Music. He is currently studying for his Masters at the Royal College of Music with Professor Dmitri Alexeev.  Thomas has also gained inspiration from lessons and masterclasses with musicians such as Vanessa Latarche, William Fong, Ian Jones, Valentina Berman, Wei-Yi Yang, Boris Berman, Paul Lewis, Mikhail Voskresensky, Dina Yoffe.He has won 1st prizes including Pianale International Piano Competition 2017, Kharkiv Assemblies 2018, at Lucca Virtuoso e Bel Canto festival 2018, RCM Joan Chissell Schumann competition 2019, Kendall Taylor Beethoven competition 2019, BPSE Intercollegiate Beethoven competition 2019, 4th Theodor Leschetizky competition 2020, a finalist at Leeds in 2021 and 1st Prize in the Newbury Spring Festival Sheepdrove Piano Competition in 2022.

He has performed in a variety of venues, including the Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, Paris Conservatoire, StreingreaberHaus, Bayreuth, Teatro Del Sale in Florence and in Vilnius and Palanga. Since the pandemic restrictions in 2020, Thomas’ artistic activities included participating in all 3 seasons of the “Echo Chamber” an online concert series curated by Noah Max, and releasing 3 singles under the Ulysses Arts label on digital platforms.Thomas is a C. Bechstein Scholar supported by the Kendall-Taylor award. He has been generously supported by the Keyboard Charitable Trust since 2020, and Talent Unlimited since 2021.



Thomas Kelly, piano. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/09/03/thomas-kelly-at-the-royal-college-of-music-a-star-shining-brightly/

The distinguished critic Bryce Morrison
Ariel with Bryce Morrison
A very happy family – great music in sumptuous surrounds

Parvis Hejazi the clarity and intelligence of a youthful poet in Perivale

Tuesday 10 January 3.00 pm 


Some superb playing from a poet who not only has a heart but also a mind as you would expect from the school of Norma Fisher.
A Mozart of a clarity and sense of character but with a rhythmic precision and buoyancy that brought this well known sonata vividly to life.The characters entered and exited from the stage in what is a superb operatic scenario.
It was a great operatic sweep he also brought to Liszt’s all to rarely heard ‘Lamento’.It was played with a sense of style and just the right amount of showmanship that could bring this beautiful piece vividly to life.The delicacy he brought to the final few bars was most touching after the passionate outpouring that had preceded it with a sumptuous sound and refined sense of balance.
There were chiselled sounds of great beauty in Messiaen’s contemplation.Pungent harmonies and atmospheres with the intensity of a fervant believer.
The first performance I ever heard of Brahms Handel Variations was from Parvis Hejazi’s teacher Norma Fisher.I had been taken as a teenager by our mutual teacher Sidney Harrison to hear his star pupil in the London Pianoforte Series at the Wigmore Hall when she was already an established artists.
I have never forgotten that performance of such warmth and nobility and an astonishing transcendental command of the structure of this almost orchestral work.
Parvis gave a remarkable performance of simplicity and dynamic drive.Shorn of all rhetoric it was a young man’s performance – Brahms was after all only 28 when he wrote it for his beloved Clara’s birthday.
Of course from Norma Fisher he had learnt the importance of the bass and each variation grew out of the other with this never wavering anchor that he had created.A technical command that was astonishing for a live performance and a clarity that was not ‘Brahmsian’- thank God!
The sheer beauty of his playing and unwavering command was quite remarkable as Handel’s innocent little melody was transformed into an outpouring of Busonian proportions.Spurred on into the fugue by this driving undercurrent that he had created he brought this masterpiece to a breathtaking conclusion.
Visibly exhausted as we all were he was happy to share his own beautiful Messiaen like piece with an enthusiastic audience.
‘After the magnificat’ showed the same fervent conviction of a true believer with magic sounds the melted into a cherished distance of oblivion and peace.

There was above all a clarity and sense of style that allowed Mozart’s players in this operatic scenario to enter and exit,each with their own character and personality.Interrupted only by the fairy like horn call or the pungent forte and piano contrasts,all played with such delicacy and style.The Adagio was poised and eloquent with a sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing so naturally.There was great delicacy too with subtle ornamentation in the ritornello.The Assai Allegro was played with infectious rhythmic verve and buoyancy.The staccato and legato could have been more carefully noted at the end to create even more contrast with Mozart’s genial surprise ending after the streams of notes of innocent Mozartian charm.

The Piano Sonata No. 12 in F major K.332 was published in 1784 along with the No.10 in C major, K. 330, and No.11 K. 331.[Mozart wrote these sonatas either while visiting Munich in 1781, or during his first two years in Vienna.[Some believe, however that Mozart wrote them during a summer 1783 visit to Salzburg made for the purpose of introducing his wife, Constanze to his father. All three sonatas were published in Vienna in 1784 as Mozart’s Op. 6.In the 1994 film Immortal Beloved , Giulietta Guicciardi is heard playing the second movement during a piano lesson with Beethoven

Great sweep to Liszt’s luxuriant melodic line that was played with style and just the right amount of showmanship.The passionate climax was played with grandeur and aristocratic authority before the return of the opening melody embellished with cascades of golden strands leading to an ending of subtle beauty.

Three Concert Études (Trois études de concert), S.144 is a set of three Etudes by composed between 1845–49 and published in Paris as Trois caprices poétiques with the three individual titles as they are known today:Il lamento (“The Lament”), La leggierezza (“Lightness”), and Un sospiro (“A sigh”)Il lamento is the first of the études and is among Liszt’s longest pieces in the genre. It starts with a four-note lyrical melody which folds itself through the work, followed by a Chopin like chromatic pattern which reappears again in the coda.Although the piece opens and ends in A-flat major, it shifts throughout its three parts to many other keys, A, G, D-sharp, F-sharp and B among them.

Chiselled sounds of ravishing simplicity with pungent harmonies creating the rarified air of a true believer.Insistent harmonies with fervent conviction ever more intense.

The Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (“Twenty Contemplations on the Infant Jesus”) are a suite of 20 pieces for solo piano by the French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992). It is a meditation on the childhood of Jesus and was composed from March to September of 1944 following commission by Maurice Toesca wishing for a reading of his twelve poems on the nativity. The abandoned plan was later reworked with a dedication to his protégée Yvonne Loriod later to become his wife.Although the work was finished shortly after the liberation of Paris in August and excerpts played in public by Messiaen and Loriod, the complete premiere took place 26 March 1945 at the Salle Gaveau with the composer reading aloud his own commentaries.Messiaen uses Thèmes or leitmotifs, recurring elements that represent certain ideas. They include:

  • Thème de Dieu (“Theme of God”)
  • Thème de l’amour mystique (“Theme of Mystical Love”)
  • Thème de l’étoile et de la croix (“Theme of the Star and of the Cross”)
  • Thème d’accords (“Theme of Chords”)

Regard du temps (“Contemplation of time”) in the 9th of the set.

Rather a brisk opening which opened the gate for this extraordinary set of variations.From the rhythmic flow of the first,flowing legato and solidity of the second and the charm of the halting rhythm of the third.The fourth was of great nobility dissolving into the mellifluous continuous outpouring of the fifth.Octaves mysteriously shadowing each other to be interrupted by the militaristic rhythmic insistence of the seventh.Grandeur and nobility of the ninth before the quixotic chase up and down the keyboard of the tenth.Contrasting with the beautiful outpouring of the eleventh played with a sumptuous sense of balance.Gentle cascades of notes in the seventeenth before the gentle bourée of elusive charm and grace.There was ravishing beauty in the music box variation before the ominous build up of great rhythmic drive with ever more exciting swirls of forward moving notes,like a great gust of wind.The triumphant declaration,before the entry of the fugue,was played with great assurance and overpowering authority.The Fugue was played with great clarity and even if he was visibly tired after such an exhausting journey he managed to bring this early masterpiece to a triumphantly youthful conclusion.Missing maybe the orchestral sounds and thick luscious harmonies of more mature artists Parvis gave us a vision of clarity and sincerity shorn of the usual Brahmsian rhetoric that can weigh down a work that is of a master craftsman

The Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, was written by in 1861. It consists of a set of twenty-five variations and a concluding fugue, based on a theme from Handel’s Harpsichord suite N.1 in B flat .Ranked by Tovey as “the half-dozen greatest sets of variations ever written” and biographer Jan Swafford describes the Handel Variations as “perhaps the finest set of piano variations since Beethoven”.They were written in September 1861 after Brahms, aged 28, abandoned the work he had been doing as director of the Hamburg women’s choir (Frauenchor) and moved out of his family’s cramped and shabby apartments in Hamburg to his own apartment in the quiet suburb of Hamm, initiating a highly productive period that produced “a series of early masterworks”.Written in a single stretch in September 1861,the work is dedicated to a “beloved friend”, Clara Schumann widow of Robert and was presented to her on her 42nd birthday, September 13.Brahms’s approach to variation writing is made explicit in a number of letters. “In a theme for a set of variations, it is almost only the bass that has any meaning for me. But this is sacred to me, it is the firm foundation on which I then build my stories. What I do with a melody is only playing around … If I vary only the melody, then I cannot easily be more than clever or graceful, or, indeed, if full of feeling, deepen a pretty thought. On the given bass, I invent something actually new, I discover new melodies in it, I create.” The role of the bass is critical.

Being a pianist and composer, Parvis Hejazi is known as a “rising star on the piano sky” (ARD television), interested in a variety of performance activities from solo recital and concerto programmes to chamber music performances and from composing to conducting his own works. He holds the Gerd Bucerius award of the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben for being “a highly promising young artist”. In 2021, Parvis won the Grand Prix of the International PianoArt Competition in Kiev. He furthermore was awarded the first prize and special prize of the International Piano Competition Gagny in 2017 and was also awarded first prizes in various national and international competitions in Germany.His performance activities led Parvis to prestigious venues, including the Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Die Glocke Bremen, the Robert Bosch Foundation in Berlin, the SWR Sendesaal Stuttgart, the Wiener Saal and Solitaire at the Mozarteum Salzburg and to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, the Czech Republic and Israel. Broadcasts of concerts and TV documentaries were transmitted on leading German TV and radio stations such as ARD, NDR, NDR Kultur and Deutschlandfunk.
Born in 1999, Parvis studied piano and composition at the Junior Department of the University of the Arts Bremen. He received crucial influence from working with world leading pianists such as Norma Fisher, Jerome Lowenthal, Vanessa Latarche, Stephen Hough, Jerome Rose, Anatol Ugorski, Igor Levit and Lars Vogt.He is currently studying with Norma Fisher at the Royal College of Music in London with a Music Talks Scholarship, as well as grants from the prestigious Evangelisches Studienwerk (Villigst), the Hollweg Foundation and the D eutsche Stiftung Musikleben. Parvis is a Member of the Keyboard Charitable Trust as well as of Talent Unlimited UK.


Jakub Hrusa and Beatrice Rana – Florestan and Eusebius unite and ignite La Befana in Rome

A New Year concert with the dynamic man of the moment Jakub Hrusa.
The heir to Pappano,inheriting ‘his’ orchestra in Rome which he has nurtured and turned into one of the finest orchestras on the world stage An orchestral body that actually listens to itself as over the past twenty years they have worked and played together as equals.
Just as Simon Rattle had done in Birmingham in his formative years.
Jakub is also taking over Covent Garden in London in 2025 whilst our adored Maestro takes over the reigns from Simon Rattle of the London Symphony Orchestra.One of the truly great orchestras of the world.
Two Knights in shining armour indeed.

Thanking the orchestra by shaking the hand of its superb leader Carlo Maria Parazzoli

From the very first notes of Der Freischutz with its whispered asides,at times barely audible,bursting into joyous operatic outpourings of popular mellifluous sounds of brass band proportions .Driven with dynamic energy,Jakub urging his players on to give as much passionate involvement as he was demonstrating on the podium with ever more ferocious strokes and athleticism.
He stoked the flames of his players though always with intelligent musicianship and a overall sense of architectural shape.

Beatrice in her flaming red dress offering an encore of Scriabin Prelude in B minor op 11

Beatrice Rana is an artist in residence both here in Rome and at the historic Wigmore Hall in London.It was in a recent recital there that she unleashed a tornado with a Hammerklavier of breathtaking proportions – an all or nothing outpouring of dynamism and intelligence.
I have not seen the like since Serkin took London by storm and was left holding the final chord of the mighty fugue still kicking and spitting.A passionate participation that had exhausted not only him but an audience hypnotised by such a force of nature.

Friends and a musical complicity that made for a memorable combination

Tonight she chose the more passive world of Eusebius ,Schumann’s dreaming poet,leaving the dynamism of Florestan to her simpatico partner.
Hers was the communing of a selfless chamber music player only occasionally allowing herself to raise her head with shows of great virtuosity.
She had shown us at the beginning of the season her virtuosity and dynamism in the concerto by the 16 year old future mother of Robert’s 8 children.

Today it was the turn of the mature genius of Clara’s husband ,the poet Robert.
A world inhabited by psychic problems and conflicts.Demonstrated by his double personality with the meek Eusebius and the rumbustuous Florestan. Genius is never easy to live with and Robert after attempting suicide entered an asylum where his days were numbered .
He left the ever courageous Clara with a family of numerous siblings and a career that was to last 61 years as one of the first women virtuosi of her age.
The difference between the youthful prodigy Clara and the mature poet Robert was an abyss which accounts for the neglect of Clara’s large but mostly uninspired compositions.
Beatrice showed us the exquisite poetry in the music of Robert from the very opening where she replied to the orchestras opening with phrasing of timeless beauty.

A musical conversation with an orchestra that was listening as attentively as she,and both responding with unusual poetic intimacy.
Even at the end of the cadenza where for an instant Beatrice’s command of the piano and its overwhelming sonorities allowed a moment of flaming glory.It was to dissolve into counterpoints usually in lesser hands of knotty twine.In her hands today they were glistening layers of sound that moved inexorably to the energy that was to bring us to the close of this movement.
A fantasy that he had written for his Clara and only later added two movements to complete the concerto we know and love today.
Beatrice was in dreamy mood today and although the Intermezzo was ravishingly beautiful I found it more whispy and capricious rather than simply grazioso.
Continuing her ever more intimate conversations with the superb solists of this great orchestra.Luigi Piovano we know is a great cellist and he was matched today by the magnificence of the wind players with Andrea Oliva,flute;Francesco Di Rosa,oboe;the superb clarinet of Stefano Novelli and the horn of Alessio Bernardi.

Interesting to note from the very informative programme of past performances with the orchestra

This was Hausmusik shared with an intimacy and flexibility that is rare to find away from an intimate salon.
I think that the recording will be even more effective rather than in this vast hall which calls for what Richter used to call ‘the good old professional cantabile’to project and maintain the musical line.
Richter was referring to Rubinstein whose playing he adored and who I had heard many times playing this concerto.
Rubinstein had a ‘diaphragm’ that could transmit his love to the first row with the same intimacy as those in ‘paradiso’ (the Gods or loggione)!
A secret learnt by a lifetime communicating with an adoring public as Beatrice too will find on her magic carpet that is flying ever higher.
Beatrice sacrificed the rhythmic precision of the opening statement of the Allegro vivace for a smoother more eloquent style where her intricate weaving in and out of the orchestra was a ravishing web of golden sounds.
Even the final statement in octaves was shaped and phrased with the timeless poetry that had pervaded the whole of todays wondrous performance.

The distinguished critic Simonetta Allder with Christopher Axworthy

As to Jakub Hrusa’s mind blowing account of Beethoven’s ‘apotheosis of the dance’ I can do no better than quote my distinguished colleague Simonetta Allder :’As for the sheer energy of Beethoven’s Seventh played by the Santa Cecilia Orchestra under the baton of Jakub Hrusa, I feared for a moment that the entire Orchestra was going to explode, and the whole Auditorium would literally blow up, with a mind-shattering display of Twelfth Night fireworks going off in all directions, visible all the way to the moon! ‘
Pages of the score and even finally the baton were victims of this assault.

An energy that was unleashed without any timidity.Beethoven’s irascible temperament shared by our ‘man of the moment’.
It was a riveting account of a work that we have known and loved for a lifetime .An electric injection of energy, subtle colouring and phrasing that made this Seventh Symphony shine like a newly minted masterpiece.
The famous Allegretto was played with an unrelenting rhythmic energy that I am not used to and I did rather miss the calm between the stormier movements.
It was played though with such overwhelming authority that any petty comments of that sort become totally irrelevant.

Beatrice offered only one encore.Could it have been by Clara Schumann or even worse Fanny Mendelssohn or Medtner?Whatever it was she,like all great artists,with her magic wand could turn any bauble into a gem!!!!I learn this morning.however,that it was the Prelude in B minor op 11 by Scriabin……his 24 Preludes op 11 are a much neglected masterpiece and that would explain her sublime performance too.

Beatrice too as a teenager was discovered in the class of Benedetto Lupo …small world …….and La Puglia baciata da Dio

Carissimo Christopher, 

Grazie davvero per la tua mail e per le tue parole sul “mio” 3° di Rachmaninoff! 

Spero di rivederti prossimamente, purtroppo per me era impossibile venire a Roma in questi giorni per sentire Beatrice, dopodomani ho un recital al Teatro Verdi di Trieste con un programma completamente diverso, formulato specialmente per ricordare il primo recital della Società dei concerti di Trieste di 90 anni fa, con Carlo Zecchi al pianoforte

Nella prima parte suonerò Schumann Kinderszenen (una delle pochissime registrazioni disponibili di Zecchi) e Kreisleriana (che Zecchi suonò a Trieste 90 anni fa), in seconda parte l’omaggio sarà più personale perchè ricorderà il prima brano che io suonai per Zecchi da ragazzino, Debussy Images première série… all’epoca era al suo corso di perfezionamento a Sorrento, Francesco Canessa scriveva per il Mattino di Napoli ed era venuto a trovare Zecchi, rimase così colpito che ne scrisse subito dopo sul Mattino! Io avevo appena compiuto 15 anni, non sapevo neanche chi fosse Francesco Canessa, immaginati quando parecchi anni dopo me lo sono ritrovato davanti come sovrintendente al San Carlo quando vi debuttai con la Burleske di Strauss! 

Ti allego anche il vecchissimo articolo che sono riuscito a ritrovare per questa occasione; davvero altri tempi per i quotidiani, per fortuna che ci sono ancora persone come te che ogni tanto parlano dei giovani… e dei meno giovani!

Porta i miei migliori auguri a Noretta e al marito, un abbraccio a te e spero di rivederti presto,


Ten year old Himari Sugiura in Rome at Teatro Ghione ‘On Wings of Song’

What a wonder to hear of the activity of Europa in Canto dedicated to sharing music and culture with the younger generation.As the programme says Europa in Canto was born in 2012 convinced that promoting culture and all forms of art at a very early age is a necessity for the development of man and his role in the world.As Shakespeare says:‘ If Music be the food of love ….play on .’And Europa in Canto certainly does that as was shown tonight with their collaboration with ‘Aria di Musica’ giving precious concert experience to a ten year old pianist .

Playing in a theatre where the greatest musicians of our age have played in the past .From Guido Agosti – a student of Busoni to Vlado Perlemuter a student of Cortot mentored by Ravel an Fauré.In fact it was Gianni Maria Ferrini who brought his ten year old student Himari Sugiura to have one of her first concert experiences under his careful supervision in a hall where he as a teenager had heard Perlemuter playing Ravel .

Cristiana Pegoraro a young student playing to Perlemuter in 1985. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/12/21/ithaka-of-cristiana-pegoraro-a-star-shining-brightly-in-latina-for-christmas/

Cristiana Pegoraro flocked to the theatre too where she had given one of her first recitals as a fourteen year old student of Elio Maestosi. Cristiana is pictured on the walls of the theatre playing in the masterclass of Perlemuter in the 80’s.A glorious period for the Ghione Theatre when in the 80’s and 90’s Rome was in urgent need of a chamber music hall along the lines of the Wigmore Hall in London.

It was known affectionately as the ‘ Salotto di Roma’.Ileana Ghione dedicated her life with her husband Christopher Axworthy to sharing a space that was created with ‘love’ and the conviction that theatre is a social necessity .

Ileana Ghione at home in Circeo with the High priestess of Bach Rosalyn Tureck

Ileana was proud to be awarded ‘Grande Ufficiale’ by President Ciampi even though as our great friend Rosalyn Tureck said:’It is nice to have one’s work recognised but it is the work not the award that counts!’ (Word had spread about our activity and I was awarded an associateship from my old Alma Mater -The Royal Academy in London).With the opening of the wonderful concert halls created by Renzo Piano at the Parco della Musica the Ghione theatre returned to its origins as a theatre.

But there are many that remember their student years when they could hear their colleagues making their debut in Rome like Cristiana,Roberto Prosseda,Francesco Libetta,Leslie Howard,Angela Hewitt,Janina Fialkowska etc etc alternating with some of the greatest musicians missing from Rome for lack of space :Annie Fischer,Alicia de Larrocha,Shura Cherkassky Moura Lympany or Fou Ts’ong etc etc .It was the favourite theatre of Stockhausen and was where Goffredo Petrassi shared the stage with Eliot Carter……Berio too figures in the photos along the beautiful ‘red plush’corridors.Red velvet made to seem antique which gives a warmth and homely feel like the theatres in London that Ileana loved to frequent and dreamt one day to create in Rome.A dream come true and a place where dreams can be realised ‘…..perchance to dream ‘as was the inspiration of the Universal genius of Shakespeare.

Gianni Maria Ferrini sharing in the applause with Himari

‘Aria di musica’ was created in 2015 by Himari’s teacher Gianni Maria Ferrini a student of Orazio Frugoni and Aldo Ciccolini and for many years repetiteur at the Rome Opera together with our much missed friend Steven Roach who had played many times at the Ghione Theatre.An orchestra of young musicians has been formed directed by Maestro Donato Renzetti.In fact yesterday the orchestra played in the historic Teatro Argentina where Rossini’s Barber of Seville had first seen light and where for many years S.Cecilia held their concerts.It is now like the Ghione theatre mostly dedicated to drama.However these theatres are reopening their doors again to music thanks to the passion and expertise of Associations like Europa in Canto and Aria di Musica -‘On Wings of Song’….flying high indeed.Musica con le Ali del Veneto is an organisation with similar aspirations for young performers and Giovanni Bertolazzi,…………..https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/12/04/giovanni-bertolazzi-the-mastery-and-authority-of-liszt/. …………one of the finest young musicians of his generation will play at Teatro La Fenice for Carlo Hruby on the 12th January https://www.musicaconleali.it/attivit%C3%A0/calendario/17-calendario-eventi/381-fenice-12-01-2023.html

Germano Neri and Nunzia Negro founders of Europa in Canto – formed at the school of Emma Contestabile at S.Cecilia Conservatory.I was on the jury of an International Piano and Singer competition in Enna with Madam Contestabile in the 80’s.An artist and remarkable musician of immovable beliefs who in her home in Montepulciano used to supervise the ten hours of practice that she insisted on from any “serious”student!

Le nostre due realtà hanno come obiettivo quello di diffondere la cultura artistica e musicale tra le nuove generazioni, lavorando con e per i giovani. Presentiamo quindi insieme la prima rassegna musicale dedicata a talenti eccezionali. In apertura la giovanissima pianista giapponese Himari Sugiura allieva del M° Gianni Maria Ferrini ad Ariadimusica dall’età di 4 anni.
A 7 anni si è esibita nella meravigliosa cornice del Parco Archeologico di Paestum e a soli 9 anni ha eseguito il Concerto per pianoforte e orchestra K 246 di Mozart diretta dal M° Donato Renzetti al Teatro Italia di Roma.

Il programma della serata, di grande impegno tecnico e musicale, è dunque affidato ad una bambina dalle incredibili capacità musicali e pianistiche. Bach, Clementi, Chopin e Debussy eseguiti in maniera stupefacente. Afferma il suo Maestro: “Il nostro è un lavoro di grandissima attenzione reciproca, trascorriamo ore e ore insieme al pianoforte. Certamente è una allieva dotata di qualità eccezionali, ma studia con grande dedizione e metodo. Il lavoro del pianista si costruisce soltanto così. E’ una gioia per me che possa far sentire dal vivo ciò di cui è capace”.

The remarkable activity of Europa in Canto and Aria di Musica outlined in the programme

“Felicissimi di poter presentare progetti che dimostrano l’importanza dell’educazione musicale che può certamente cambiare la vita dei giovani” afferma il M° Germano Neri, Direttore Artistico e Musicale di Europa in Canto.
Dopo questo evento, un contest determinerà i prossimi talenti protagonisti della rassegna.
Un appuntamento imperdibile.

Perlemuter giving a masterclass at the Ghione Theatre in 1985 with Cristiana Pegoraro ,Constance Channon Douglass ,Antonio Sardi di Letto with the guitarist Griselda Ponce de Leon looking on far left.

And so to the programme of a rather shy ten year old pianist.She has been studying from the age of four in 2017 with Gianni Maria Ferrini whilst her parents were here from Japan on diplomatic duties.Now transferred back to Tokyo she continues her studies on line with occasional visits to her Professor in Rome for essential one to one lessons.As Maestro Ferrini said it is the experience of playing in public from an early age that is so important.But he is also aware that this is work in progress and to be treated as such even though it is nice to receive applause from an appreciative audience.A child prodigy has to be treated with care as extraordinary gifts must go hand in hand with the normal activity of a child growing up as naturally as parents and teachers can offer.The difficulty is to pass from a child to an adult,as maestro Ferrini is very much aware.He is treating her public performances as an essential learning curve and not as a circus act!

Cherkassky in one of his many performances at the Ghione Theatre

I remember Cherkassky telling me that Rachmaninov refused to teach him unless he gave up playing in public.Hoffman on the other hand encouraged public performances hand in hand with youthful studies and became director of the Curtis Institute .A role that later Rudolf Serkin was to hold.

In the Green Room of the Ghione Theatre with great friend Constance Channon Douglass

The Partita for keyboard No. 2 in C minor,BWV 826, is a suite of six movements written originally for the harpsichord by J.S. Bach It was announced in 1727,issued individually, and then published in 1731 as Bach’s Clavier – Ubung 1 .Sinfonia – Allemande – Courante – Sarabande- Rondeau – Capriccio .It is an important work and Bach is an essential ingredient for a young pianist.Chopin used to insist on his pupils learning Bach especially the 48 Preludes and Fugues.But the six partitas are also a basis for any musician of learning about control ,articulation and architectural shape.

Himari played it with admirable musicianship and sense of style with a very solid declamatory opening where the difficult dotted rhythms were impeccably played.The Allemande flowed beautifully as did the Sarabande giving great shape to the fluidity of Bach’s genial outpouring of song.The Courante needed a clearer articulation that will come with time as she works hard with her teacher to obtain ‘fingers of steel but wrists of rubber’ to quote Busoni.Work in progress that already shows a great understanding of the shape and style and with time she will perfect the inner details.A remarkable performance though played without the score which for a ten year old is already a great achievement and gives hope for a future career as her studies progress.

The Clementi Sonata was played with clarity and contrasts where a greater sense of balance would have given a lightness to this charming two movement work.Her Chopin playing showed great musicality and the nocturne in particular showed a sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing unimpeded with a natural rubato that was very beautiful.The same beauty she brought to the central episode of the Fantasie Impromptu op 66.The jeux perlé of the outer episodes was played with a musical shape that could now,as her fingers grow in strength, give more articulation to this knotty twine that Chopin weaves with such a mellifluous outpouring of romantic sounds.

Her playing of Debussy showed a great sense of colour and style .The Arabesque n.1 was beautifully atmospheric as was Claire de lune that she added as an encore by great request.Her teacher had told me that she was determined to play Chopin’s Study op 10 n.8 as a first encore and she played it with a musicality and she will gradually gain a clearer articulation with the hours of study that lie ahead.It was Curzon who said that to be a pianists was 90% work and 10% talent.Of course for a born pianist playing is a passion and a joy and the hours spent at the keyboard are some of the happiest as the quest of discovery opens a world of fantasy …..’perchance to dream’

Roberta Blasi directing the Ghione Theatre with the same passion and dedication with which it was created by Ileana Ghione.

Let’s hope that this is just the start of music returning to the hallowed stage of the Ghione Theatre directed so ably by Roberta Blasi and Ercole Palmieri with their two sons Luca and Matteo.A happy family indeed and I know Ileana would be as overjoyed as I am to know that it is being run with the same loving care and dedication that had created this beautiful theatre next to St Peters Square .

In the meantime as a musician I too have been involved in helping young musicians to arrive at their goal with a satisfying journey of creative art .Leslie Howard who had made his Rome debut at the Ghione 37 years ago shares the artistic direction with me and Elena Vorotko of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.Honorary president Sir Anthony Pappano.All roads obviously lead to …..or from Rome.A journey that is a never ending search for sharing beauty and art with others.Dedicating one’s youth to Art is not only fun but is a fulfilment that is sadly lacking in an ever more consumerist society.A life truly enriched as Europa in Canto and Aria di Musica have outlined in their programme and by their actions tonight

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/09/14/the-gift-of-life-the-keyboard-trust-at-30/. https://youtu.be/9L9Vc0ebt7o. https://youtu.be/tu92-VR3YdM

Maestro Franco Mezzena teacher of violin and chamber music at Aria di Musica Academy ……..outside the Ghione Theatre with Christopher Axworthy
Cristiana Pegoraro with companion Lorenzo Porzio,conductor and the irreplaceable piano technician Valerio Sabattini
Luca Angelillo with Cristiana both having been brought up musically playing in their student days in the Ghione theatre
Our star shining brightly after her concert .

Rose Mc Lachlan The birth of an artist at St Mary’s

Tuesday 3 January 3.00 pm 


It was nice to see that the opening of the new season of concerts at St.Mary’s should be with a pianist who a few years ago gave a very promising recital at St Barnabas and now has returned to St Mary’s as a very refined artist.From a family of musicians she had from an early age received expert training from her father.Well trained fingers,musicianly performances of intelligence and sensibility.I well remember her scintillatingly diligent account of Schumann’s early Abegg Variations.Today we have seen the transformation of a prize winning student into an artist of stature.

From the opening flourish of the Bach Toccata that immediately caught our attention with her natural musicality allowing the music to flow with subtle natural shape.It was played with a sense of style both of nobility and aristocratic authority.I found her insistence on playing ‘non legato’ though not quite as natural as though someone had told her rather than her being convinced and allowing her natural musicality to lead her rather than someone else’s head!It did though create a contrast between the opening improvised flourish and the following fugato passages.But Bach is based on the song and the dance as Angela Hewitt and Andras Schiff have shown us – Nikolaeva was one of the first to allow Bach to flow naturally from her fingers.Rosalyn Tureck,of course was unique but was more monumental than natural as was her disciple Glenn Gould who took Bach to the extremes with genius and individuality.I well remember Shura Cherkassky playing this Partita to me in his hotel room in Florence.He had programmed it in his next concert programmes and just needed to try it out.Cherkassky was not known for his Bach playing but he imbued it with his unique colour palette and a natural musicality that has remained in my memory for its unaffected musicianship.Rose with her natural musicality allows the music to flow through her with naturalness and musicianship where rules and regulations should now have no place as was so clearly shown with her wonderfully mellifluous Chopin Nocturnes.

The Scarlatti Sonata in G that followed the Bach Toccata was played with clarity and rhythmic buoyancy.A delicacy and infectious ‘joie de vivre’of whispered fun and games.Even the chordal interruptions were unusually delicately placed that made the jeux perlé passages even more enticing.

The D major Sonata showed a commanding dexterity as she allowed a natural hand position to hover over the keys horizontally rather than in her Bach where they were almost vertical.A natural hand position that allowed her to let the music flow through her with searing controlled passion.These were jewels that sparkled and shone with scintillating rhythmic energy of subtle shaping and colour and a sense of timing that cannot be taught but is of great artistry.

Chopin: Nocturne in B Major Op 62 no 1

And what beauty she brought to the two Chopin Nocturnes.The B major was played with a wonderful sense of balance where the melodic line was allowed to sing with sensitivity and a rubato that was so natural.It could have flowed more ‘Andante’,though, as Chopin marks ,which would have made the ‘sostenuto’ of even greater contrast.The trills,poco piu lento and dolce,were played like beams of light vibrating in this ever more languid atmosphere.At the return to the original tempo she allowed the meandering embellishments to flow with all the time they needed to cast their magic spell.Strangely enough it was the ‘Lento sostenuto’ of the E flat Nocturne that flowed so poetically and naturally with insinuating counterpoints poignantly played.It gradually built in passion only to dissolve with magical embellishments to its final resting place.These were performances of great artistry and searing beauty of ravishing sounds and poetry.

I well remember listening astonished at the refined and subtle virtuosity of Leopold Godowsky in this very piece by Liszt.It was a performance from a piano roll that had recently come to light in Frank Holland’s Piano Museum in Brentford.Sidney Harrison ,my teacher,was very much involved in helping Frank ,who was not a musician but an engineer,in bringing these amazing performances to the attention of a discerning musical public.They were first heard on BBC programmes late at night where one could listen to these rediscovered performances of legendary pianists from the Golden Age of piano playing.One became ever more aware of a virtuosity that was as remarkable for its range of sounds not only from forte to fortissimo but more from mezzo forte to pianissimo.This was,of course before the arrival of Sviatoslav Richter in the west.Rose played it with a beautiful legato and subtle sense of rubato.Grandeur and delicacy turned this neglected work into the miniature masterpiece that it truly is.’Au Bord d’une source’ and ‘Ricordanza’ together with this study are true miniature masterpieces that are unduly neglected these days.Hats off to Rose for including it in her recital and placing it along side recognised masterpieces by Chopin

I had heard Rose play Debussy in a recital streamed from St James’s this summer and had been deeply impressed by her identification with this sound world.Today she not only chose four preludes but the extraordinary second book of Images.The multicoloured bells of ravishing sounds spread over the entire keyboard flowed from her entire body with such ease.Like a great painter spreading colour over the entire canvas with strokes of beauty where the sounds she was creating were mirrored in the movements that were making them.’Et La Lune descend ‘,sounds of echoed vibrations and melancholic recollections with a translucency of vibrant lyricism.Played with astonishing delicacy with sounds that at times were barely audible such was their rightful place in this poetic landscape.Have Debussy’s Gold Fish ever been allowed to wallow in such clear waters?An aristocratic French sound of vibrancy and urgency with a fluidity as Debussy asks ‘Expressif et sans rigueur ‘disappearing to a mere magical whisper.

Four Preludes were of great character and beauty .’Fairies’that were indeed ‘exquisite’and the magic rays of the moon shone so clearly as Ondine darted in and out of the picture.But it was the Fireworks that showed of her remarkable technical assurance where her authority and remarkable virtuosity were used to create a picture of extraordinary imagery.The Marseilles was allowed to shine in the distance over the smokey atmosphere that was all that was left after a multicoloured feast and dazzling display of sounds.

Rose McLachlan comes from a family of musicians and was born in Cheshire in 2002. She began piano lessons with her father and entered Chetham’s School of Music in 2010, initially as a chorister at Manchester Cathedral. She now studies piano with Helen Krizos. After gaining a high distinction for grade 8 at 11, Rose was awarded the LTCL performers diploma with distinction in 2017. Rose has already had considerable successes in national and international competitions. After being awarded the Sir David Wilcock’s Organ Scholarship in 2014/15 she was the overall winner of the 2016 Scottish International Youth Prize at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. As a result of winning the Yamaha Prize in the 2017 EPTA UK competition, Rose performed at St Martins in the Fields. As an overall winner of the Chetham’s concerto competition in February 2018, Rose was selected to perform the Ravel G major concerto with the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra during the 2018-19 season. In 2018, Rose won the Chopin and Beethoven prizes at Chetham’s and in 2019 she was overall winner of the junior intercollegiate Beethoven Piano Society of Europe competition. Also, in 2019 Rose was the overall winner of the 11th “Dora Pejacevich” competition organized by EPTA Croatia. She has performed Beethoven’s second Piano Concerto five times with orchestra, as well as solo recitals in Lanzarote, St James Piccadilly, London, Portsmouth and Birmingham. With her family, Rose has given recital tours in Scotland. In March 2019, Rose performed the Clara Schumann concerto with the New Tyneside Orchestra in Newcastle conducted by Monica Buckland. 2018 saw her first commercial recording being issued by Divine Art, performing ‘Five Hebridean Dances’ by John McLeod. In October 2019 she performed Shostakovich’s Second Concerto with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Barry Wordsworth in the Malcolm Arnold Festival which was broadcast on BBC Radio Three. As a result of this concert she was immediately invited to perform live at the Royal Festival Hall as a solo pianist on Radio 3 in a concert scheduled for 6 May 2020. In January 2020, Rose recorded piano duets by the distinguished British composer, Edward Gregson, with her father for a new commercial recording on the Naxos label. In 2021, Rose was a winner of the Pendle Young Musicians Bursary. In September 2021, Rose was a Tabor Piano Ambassador in the Leeds International Piano Competition, resulting in her first published article for the online Pianist magazine. In February 2022, Rose was the winner of the Kirklees Young Musician of the Year. Rose is now at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, continuing her studies with Helen Krizos. She is extremely grateful to receive financial support from the Waverley Fund.


Piers Lane a nightingale ravishes us at the Wigmore Hall – A Christmas treat from a true poet of the piano.

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907). Holberg Suite Op. 40 (1884)
I. Praeludium • II. Sarabande • III. Gavotte • IV. Air • V. Rigaudon

Edvard Greig
Piano Sonata in E minor Op. 7 (1865)
I. Allegro moderato • II. Andante molto • III. Alla menuetto, ma poco più lento • IV. Finale. Molto allegro

Franz Liszt
Weihnachtsbaum S186 (1874-6)
Schlummerlied • Abendglocken • Ehemals

Franz Liszt (1811-1886). Piano Sonata in B minor S178 (1849-53)
Lento assai – Allegro energico – Andante sostenuto – Allegro energico – Lento assai

A favourite pianist with a wide repertoire selected works from two popular composers, one very much a musical nationalist, the other of the widest intellectual interests. Compared to the virtuosic B minor Sonata, Franz Liszt’s Christmas Tree is relatively simple – a suite of pieces first performed on Christmas Day 1881 in the hotel room in Rome where his granddaughter Daniela von Bülow – the work’s dedicatee – was staying.

Piers Lane the nightingale of the piano ravished us with his playing of Grieg in the first half of his Christmas piano recital at the Wigmore Hall.
Charming as ever he decided to keep Grieg and Liszt apart.
Playing the Holberg Suite followed by the youthful Sonata in E minor in the first half and Liszt three pieces from his Christmas Tree Suite and the B minor Sonata in the second.

Some magical playing with the Air of the suite and the Andante molto of the sonata as we have come to expect from this poet of the piano.A refined sense of balance that can persuade us into believing that the piano can sing as beautifully as any nightingale in Berkeley Square.
It was a few years ago that I was stopped in my track as I listened to radio 3 where someone was playing so beautifully:’A Nightingale sings in Berkeley Square’.Listening entranced in my garden in Italy as the announcer told us that it was Piers Lane – I have never forgotten the indelible impression of that performance.
Grieg had taken his piano concerto to show Liszt who famously sat down and sight read it but too fast for the composer’s taste!
Nothing like that tonight with the selfless musicianship that our true nightingale,Piers,shared with us.

Piers with a few well chosen words to guide us on our journey together

The Holberg Suite was written originally for piano when Grieg was at the height of his fame .It was commissioned for the bicentenary celebrations of the birth of the playwright Ludvig Holberg with an attempt to reconstruct the sounds of his epoque.
A Praeludium with a perpetual mobilé of nobility and beauty with harmonies tinged with nostalgia and pungent expression.
A Sarabande and Gavotte of great charm and grace leading to the Aria which was allowed to shine like a jewel of radiance and delicacy in Piers magical hands.
Ending with a Rigaudon played with scintillating rhythmic energy and a jeux perlé bursting into a grandiloquence of rhetorical nobility.
I am not sure that it was a good idea to change the order of a programme that had originally been conceived as Grieg /Liszt – Liszt/Grieg.
The reason was obviously in order to finish the recital with a monument of the Romantic Piano Repertoire :the Liszt B minor Sonata – and it was a truly monumental performance.
But an entire first half of Grieg even in such poetic hands I found hard to enjoy as I would have in smaller doses!
The last time I heard Grieg’s only sonata for piano was with Shura Cherkassky and I remember being surprised that it was not included more often in concert programmes.There are many beautiful things not least the haunting opening theme based on the composers initials E H (b)G played with insinuating romanticism and ravishing sounds of passionate drive.A luscious Andante of Hollywood proportions follows.A surprisingly dramatic ‘Alla menuetto’ and a highly charged Finale all played with architectural shape and drive contrasted with episodes of subtle beauty.

With his supreme good taste and intelligence Piers played these two works by Grieg with masterly musicianship.I secretly longed to hear,though,the magical Lyric Pieces that are so rarely heard in concert rather than these pieces painted on too large a canvas for a nationalistic miniaturist.
The exception ,of course,is the piano concerto which with the aristocratic nobility of a great artist can captivate any audience.The slow movement is one of those moments of magic,like the Mahler Adagietto, that must be high on the list of favourites to take to a desert island .

Piers greeted by Li Siqian with her mentor Norma Fisher looking on https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/07/13/li-siqian-streams-of-ravishing-gold-at-st-marys/

Three pieces from the twelve that make up Liszt’s Christmas Tree Suite dedicated to his granddaughter in 1881 were the foil for the B minor sonata.
Liszt had played them for her in her hotel room in Rome.Ibsen was staying just around the corner in via Condotti and it is where he too was inspired to write his revolutionary masterpiece ‘A Doll’s House’in 1879.We produced the play in Rome on it’s 100th anniversary with my wife Ileana Ghione in the ‘women’s lib’ role of Nora!
All roads obviously lead to Rome!

The Wigmore in festive mood

Liszt’s late Christmas Tree are pieces full of luminous sounds of whispered secrets but without any sense of true direction.Liszt with only ten more years on this earth was profetically pointing the way to a future that Busoni was to continue and bring to its ultimate conclusion as mathematics took over from the burning intensity of the heart.
It was a fascinating entrée to the B minor Sonata and luckily in this urtext age we were treated to only three very carefully selected pieces – the other nine will have to wait for eternity!Arrivederci a non presto!

Beethoven eternally present in Bonn thanks to Liszt

The B minor Sonata is dedicated to Schumann in grateful thanks for the dedication of the Fantasie op 17.
It was the work that Schumann donated to the appeal that Liszt had taken in hand to build a monument to his master ,Beethoven,in his birthplace of Bonn.
Many other composers had donated their works to the appeal amongst which Mendelssohn offered his ‘Variations Serieuses’.
The efforts of Liszt were rewarded with the unveiling of the statue in 1845 on the 75th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth and which still very much dominates the city of this universal genius.

The clue to the Sonata is in the first and last pages.The three ideas that become the leit motif of a new container freeing the Sonata form of its constraints.The opening ideas are transformed as if by magic into a landscape that allows more Romantic freedom of expression but still with an architectural form of cohesion.
The last page of the Sonata is pure genius as the disintegration or sublimation of the three motives are combined in this supreme rethought of a revolutionary genius.
Liszt had scratched out the initial bombastic final page and replaced it with a visionary revisitation of almost religious contemplation.The final three chords reach for the heights only to be denied the inevitable with a sudden pianissimo and the same deep note in the bass where the journey had begun.
It was this page that Piers played to perfection and all the trials and tribulations ,triumphal outpouring of transcendental difficulty mixed with whispered secrets of mouthwatering delicacy found at last a mystical peace .It was all played with such consummate artistry that the technical hurdles passed unnoticed as they were part of a much larger musical landscape.
A message that Piers brought to it’s ultimate conclusion and which earned him a spontaneous ovation from the full house that had greeted this much loved artist.

Norma embracing Piers in a Green Room she knows so well. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/05/12/norma-fisher-at-steinway-hall-the-bbc-recordings-on-wings-of-song-the-story-continues/

Norma Fisher was the first to greet him backstage with a heartfelt embrace.
How many times as a student I had heard her on this very stage invited by our mutual teacher Sidney Harrison to proudly show his schoolboy student where our journey might eventually lead.

What to offer as an encore after such an enormous meal?
Of course a sorbet was needed consisting of a ravishing Barcarolle written for an Australian film.
Liszt after all was a supreme show man and Grieg a supreme miniaturist and here combined in one simple piece was the charm and sounds that had beguiled and bewitched us all evening.
Happy Christmas ,dear Piers,and may there be many many more New Years!

Like our teacher Sidney Harrison Norma accompanying her star student Li Siqian to the Wigmore hall to listen and learn from her friend and colleague Piers Lane

Edvard Hagerup Grieg 15 June 1843 – 4 September 1907) the Norwegian composer and pianist was raised in a musical family. His mother was his first piano teacher and taught him to play when he was six. At the age of 15 the boy’s talent was noted by a family friend the violinist Ole Bull who persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory where the piano department was directed by Ignaz Micheles.He later declared that he left Leipzig Conservatory just as stupid as he entered it. Naturally he did learn something, but his individuality was still a closed book to him.During 1861, Grieg made his debut as a concert pianist in Karlshamn in Sweden and in 1862, he finished his studies in Leipzig and had his first concert in his home town,where his programme included Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata.During 1868, Franz Liszt ,who had not yet met Grieg, wrote a testimonial for him to the Norwegian Ministry of Education, which resulted in Grieg’s obtaining a travel grant.

The two men met in Rome in 1870. During Grieg’s first visit, they examined Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 1, which pleased Liszt greatly. On his second visit in April, Grieg brought with him the manuscript of his Piano Concerto, which Liszt proceeded to sightread (including the orchestral arrangement). Liszt’s rendition greatly impressed his audience, although Grieg said gently to him that he played the first movement too quickly. Liszt also gave Grieg some advice on orchestration (for example, to give the melody of the second theme in the first movement to a solo trumpet, which Grieg himself chose not to accept).The Holberg Suite, op.40, more properly From Holberg’s Time is in Norwegian: Fra Holbergs tid), subtitled “Suite in olden style” (Norwegian: Suite i gammel stil), is a suite of five movements based on eighteenth – century dance forms, and was written by in 1884 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dano-Norwegian humanist playwright Ludvig Holberg (1684–1754).It exemplifies nineteenth-century music which makes use of musical styles and forms from the preceding century.
It was originally composed for the piano, but a year later was adapted by Grieg himself for string orchestra

Liszt’s Weihnachtsbaum was chiefly composed between 1874 and 1876. The set of 12 pieces represents Christmas from three different viewpoints, with hymns (including Adeste Fideles), then a series of pieces portraying Christmas with an attitude of child- like purity (e.g. No. 7, Schlummerlied), and finally a Christmas tinted with experience (No. 9, Abendglocken, and No. 10, Ehemals). There is a further reading of Ehemals, in which it may also represent Liszt’s first meeting with his lover Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, a match prevented by family and religion.