Refined musicianship and authority were the hallmark of a remarkable recital by Elia Cecino in the Tempietto courtyard in the centre of Rome.Three masterworks played with an architectural sense of line and total mastery that belied his 22 years.His annual recital has been a highlight of the Music Festival of the Nations since his first appearance here at the age of thirteen.Winner of many accolades the latest of which in New Orleans where he won first prize that leads to many appearances with major American orchestras .
On his way now to Bergen with his remarkable teacher Maddalena de Facci by his side to guide his talent as he reaches for the heights.We were treated to some little known pieces by Grieg in preparation for the International Competition held in Bergen where Grieg wrote much of his music.Hardly surprising that Elia should have offered Liszt’s Chasse Neige as a final encore to remind us of a completely different climate from the one we were enjoying today!
In the balmy air of the open air courtyard with this unique backdrop of the Eternal city Elia allowed all the passion and colours of Liszt’s remarkable tone poem to overwhelm us after a recital that was a tour de force of intellectual and technical bravura.
His performance of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto at the Ghione Theatre will be his next appearance in the Eternal City on the 16th September following on from the Grieg Concerto in Bergen that is sure to crown yet another triumph for this young virtuoso
Brazil 200 celebrations with Pablo Rossi in London. A star is truly born with playing of supreme artistry and authority with the same charm and style of Rubinstein for whom Villa Lobos wrote many of his works .Joan Chisell remarked in a review in the 70’s:’Mr Rubinstein turned baubles into gems.’ Pablo did more than that today as he convinced us of the wondrous colours and aristocratic simplicity of Villa Lobos’s two Children’s Suites. The performance of Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy that followed was breathtaking in its overwhelming sweep .It kept us on the edge of our seats seduced and ravished like a relentless tornado as it took us all by storm.
With the same musicianship from his years of study with Elisso Virsaladze he restored this work to the pinnacle where it belongs.Beethovenian in scope but unmistakably Schubertian in content the contrast he brought to the complex character of this early work must have been the same spark that had so inspired Liszt. Winner some years ago of the first Nelson Freire competition he will give a concert to celebrate this much loved pianist in the hallowed surroundings at the piano festival in France at La Roque d’Antheron on the 7th August.
What better tribute could there be from a pianist who has inherited the mantle from a true master and become he too an advocate of the music of his native Brazil.A mantle that had been inherited from Artur Rubinstein who strangely enough Pablo has always physically resembled .
Now this young man in his early thirties who was brought to prominence at only sixteen by Noretta and John Leech of the Keyboard Trust has come of age and has inherited his rightful place as heir to this great tradition. Ready to conquer the hearts and admiration of a world that awaits the rarity of a great artist able to move and entertain an adoring public following in the footsteps of the greatest of them all : Franz Liszt
Food for thought indeed from Pletnev,this elusive pianist,and the discussions between Elisso’s class after the concert were fascinating as they were bewildering.Thanks to the extraordinary humanity and unique musicianship of Elisso all was quite clear once back in her studio in Fiesole where intensive study and hard work left no room for doubt or discussion.Music is the star and the wishes of the composer are paramount …..https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/07/25/mikhail-pletnev-in-verbier-fakefool-or-genius/
After his initial debut in London at the age of sixteen for the Keyboard Trust and a few months later at the Ghione Theatre in Rome Pablo went to Moscow on the advice of Noretta Conci to study with Elisso Virsaladze.A very close and trusting relationship was born over many years of intensive study as he added to his already extraordinary natural talent the unique guidance and training of a pianist much admired by Sviatoslav Richter.Graduating from the Moscow Conservatory with the highest accolades he proceeded to perfect his understanding and musical training at the Mannes School of Music with Jerome Rose in New York receiving his second masters degree in 2021
Now in 2022 the transformation from an extraordinarily talented young pianist into an artist of great stature took me completely by surprise.The assurance and authority not only in the music of his compatriot Villa Lobos and Prado ,but also the maturity and breathtaking sweep of his Schubert left me and all those present amazed.Still the young man of aristocratic bearing and irresistible charm ,even the same rather eccentric footwear,but there was above all the music and sense of communication that are of a born few.Pablo had the same charming asides that Rubinstein used to regale us with on his annual visits to London after a sumptuous feast of music played with an ease and simplicity that inspired generations of pianists.
Having finished the concert and receiving an ovation from a public overwhelmed by the audacity and beauty of his Schubert ….he thanked his friends at the Brazilian Embassy for inviting him to London but what more did they want ….his contract he had completed ?!………..
After much insistence …….Chopin was heard to be requested from the audience and it was Chopin that we got.But what Chopin! The most famous of all nocturnes op 9 n.2 in E flat played with such subtle colouring and the rubato of a great bel canto singer.Sublime simplicity. Thanks should go to the Brazilian Embassy too for inspiring a new series of recordings on the Naxos label for their 200th anniversary celebrations.Pablo has just completed the piano works of Villa Lobos and is obviously a wonderful cultural ambassador for bringing unknown Brazilian music to the fore.
Heitor Villa-Lobos March 5, 1887 – November 17, 1959 was a Brazilian composer,conductor, cellist, and classical guitarist described as “the single most significant creative figure in 20th-century Brazilian art music” and has become the best-known South American composer of all time.A prolific composer, he wrote numerous orchestral,chamber,instrumental and vocal works, totaling over 2000 works by his death in 1959.In about 1918 Villa-Lobos abandoned the use of opus numbers for his compositions as a constraint to his pioneering spirit.
With the piano suite Carnaval das crianças (Children’s carnival) of 1919–20, Villa-Lobos liberated his style altogether from European Romanticism:the suite, in eight movements with the finale written for piano duet, depicts eight characters or scenes from Rio’s Lenten Carnival.In February 1922, a festival of modern art took place in Sao Paolo and Villa-Lobos contributed performances of his own works. The press were unsympathetic and the audience were not appreciative; their mockery was encouraged by Villa-Lobos’s being forced by a foot infection to wear one carpet slipper.(sic!)
In July 1922, Rubinstein gave the first performance of the piano suite A Prole do Bebê (The Baby’s Family), composed in 1918. There had recently been an attempted military coup on Copacabana Beach,and places of entertainment had been closed for days; the public possibly wanted something less intellectually demanding, and the piece was booed. Villa-Lobos was philosophical about it, and Rubinstein later reminisced that the composer said, “I am still too good for them.” The piece has been called “the first enduring work of Brazilian modernism”.Rubinstein suggested that Villa-Lobos tour abroad, and in 1923 he set out for Paris.His avowed aim was to exhibit his exotic sound world rather than to study. Just before he left he completed his Nonet (for ten players and chorus) which was first performed after his arrival in the French capital in Rubinstein’s hotel room to a select public.He stayed in Paris in 1923–24 and 1927–30, and there he met influential residents where his Parisian concerts of his music made a strong impression.
His meeting with Artur Rubinstein in 1918 prompted Villa-Lobos to compose piano music such as Simples coletânea of 1919—which was possibly influenced by Rubinstein’s playing of Ravel and Scriabin on his South American tours—and Bailado infernal of 1920.The latter piece includes the tempi and expression markings “vertiginoso e frenético”, “infernal” and “mais vivo ainda” (faster still).When touring Europe with his music he said, “I don’t use folklore, I am the folklore” and “I have not come to learn, I have come to show what I have done” showing that he was quite aware of his unique position among classical composers, and he made good use of his origins to publicise his own works.
Carnaval das crianças of 1919–20 saw Villa-Lobos’s mature style emerge; unconstrained by the use of traditional formulae or any requirement for dramatic tension, the piece at times imitates a mouth organ, children’s dances, a harlequinade , and ends with an impression of the carnival parade. This work was orchestrated in 1929 with new linking passages and a new title, Momoprecoce.
Naïveté and innocence is also heard in the piano suites A Prole do Bebê (The Baby’s Family) of 1918–21.It was exactly this naiveté and innocence that Pablo captured so beguilingly.The childlike simplicity of the melodic line chiselled out so clearly wherever it was to appear but accompanied by magic sounds that seemed to float around the melodic line with streams of gold and silver of subtle colouring.A remarkable sense of balance due to his continual gentle movements allowing him to stroke the keys with such ease that opened a Pandora’s box of kaleidoscopic sounds that sparkled and shone like jewels of voluptuous beauty.
The extended Rudepoema for piano which we had heard in a previous concert in the Brazil 200 series,played by another KCT pianist Sasha Grynyuk.It was written for Rubinstein 1921-26 and is a multi-layered work, often requiring notation on several staves, and is both experimental and demanding and the most impressive result of this formal development.It was written in Rio de Janeiro from 1921 to 1926 and is the largest and most challenging work Villa-Lobos wrote for solo piano. It is in one continuous movement and runs about 19–20 minutes.
The piece has been described as “Le Sacre du printemps meets the Brazilian jungle”.However, the score’s dedicatee, Artur Rubinstein explained, “The ‘Rude’ of the title did not have the English meaning. In Brazil it meant ‘savage’. When I asked him if he considered me a savage pianist, he said excitedly, ‘We are both savage! We don’t care much for pedantic detail. I compose and you play, off the heart, making the music live, and this is what I hope I expressed in this work'”.It was intended as a tonal portrait of Rubinstein, who premiered the work at the Salle Gaveauin Paris on 24 October 1927, on the first of a pair of concerts devoted to Villa-Lobos’s compositions.The dedication of the score to Rubinstein reads, “My true friend, I do not know if I can have fully assimilated your soul with this Rudepoema but I swear with all my heart that I have the impression in my mind of having recorded your temperament and of having mechanically transcribed it on paper, like an intimate Kodak.Therefore, if I have succeeded, you will be the true author of this work”.
José Antônio Rezende de Almeida Prado or Almeida Prado (February 8, 1943 – November 21, 2010) was an important Brazilian composer and pianist.On his death, his personal friend, conductor Joao Carlos Martins stated that Prado had possibly been the most important Brazilian composer ever.He wrote over 400 compositions and won various prizes for his work.He was born in Santos,Sao Paolo in 1943 and died there in 2010.He studied piano with Dinora de Carvalho,harmony with Osvaldo Lacerda and composition with Camargo Guarnieri and later from 1970 to 73 with Olivier Messiaen and Nadia Boulanger in Paris and brief studies with Gyorgy Ligeti and Lukas Foss in Darmstadt.
The work that Pablo played was from his suite written in 1973 ‘Ilhas’ Islands .The ‘Ice Island’ was full of mysterious sounds and vibrations spread over the entire keyboard in an impressionistic piece that owed much to Bartok in it’s insistent repeated motives creating a hypnotic atmosphere similar to that in the suite ‘Out of doors’.Here Pablo’s sense of colour and ability to create an overall form from such extraordinary sounds showed a musicianship that could form a coherent whole from such sparse shapes and colours spread over the entire keyboard.
Not expecting or getting applause he plunged straight into the ‘Children’s Carnaval’ suite by Villa Lobos.I recognised it because the first piece ‘Ginete da Pierrazinho’ had been an encore that Nelson Freire had played for us in Rome and had touchingly remembered in a later recital that it had been my late wife’s favourite piece!Nelson was an extraordinary human being and inherited the same warmth,generosity and artistry from Artur Rubinstein.
The Fantasie in C major, Op. 15 ( D.760), popularly known as the Wanderer Fantasy, is a four-movement fantasy for solo piano composed by Schubert in 1822 when only 25 in a life that was tragically cut short by the age of 31.It is widely considered his most technically demanding composition for the piano and Schubert himself said “the devil may play it,” in reference to his own inability to do so properly.The whole work is based on one single basic motif from which all themes are developed. This motif is distilled from the theme of the second movement, which is a sequence of variations on a melody taken from the lied “Der Wanderer”, which Schubert wrote in 1816. It is from this that the work’s popular name is derived.
The four movements are played without a break. After the first movement Allegro con fuoco ma non troppo in C major and the second movement Adagio (which begins in C-sharp minor and ends in E major), follow a scherzo presto in A-flat major and the technically transcendental finale, which starts in fugato returning to the key of C major and becomes more and more virtuosic as it moves toward its thunderous conclusion.Liszt was fascinated by the Wanderer Fantasy, transcribing it for piano and orchestra (S.366) and two pianos (S.653). He additionally edited the original score and added some various interpretations in ossia and made a complete rearrangement of the final movement (S.565a).
I remember a recent lesson I had listened to of Elisso Virsaladze in which I was struck by the vehemence of the Wanderer Fantasy and the ragged corners that we are more used to in a Beethoven almost twice Schubert’s age .It made me wonder about the maturity of the 25 year old Schubert and could he have had a premonition that his life was to be curtailed only six years later.We are used to the mellifluous Schubert of rounded corners and seemless streams of melodic invention.But surely in the final three sonatas written in the last months of his life the A major and C minor start with a call to arms and only in the last B flat sonata do we arrive at the peace and tranquility that Beethoven was to find too in his last sonata.But the deep rumblings in the bass in Schubert’s last sonata give food for thought that his life was not all sweetness and light.I remember Richter’s long tribulation in the recording studio to put on record as near definitive version as possible of the Wanderer Fantasy with the help of the pianist and musicologist Paul Badura Skoda.
It was exactly like a tornado with which Pablo presented the opening flourishes of this remarkable work .It was played with the authority and breathless urgency that Richter and now Trifonov had unleashed on an unsuspecting public.This was a full symphony orchestra not a chamber orchestra but one that was capable of moments of excitement and urgency but also moments of lyricism and delicacy.The contrasts that Pablo found kept us on the edge of our seats as the underlying rhythmic current flowed from the source to the mouth of this great stream of sounds.Not a Schubert for the weak hearted but a Schubert of a man that had known great tenderness but also great suffering.There was a technical prowess that seemed to have no limitations as his body movements followed the great streams of sound that poured out of this little Boston with then same dynamic energy and richness as the greatest of concert grands.
The natural movements that followed the contours of the music allowed him to seek out sounds without any ungrateful hardness even in the most challenging passages that abound in a work that the composer himself said : ‘May the devil play it ‘.The fullness of rich sound in the solemn Adagio – The Wanderer – was remarkable for its sonority.I even found it a little too important a statement but was then led by Pablo to the magic of the variations where streams of golden sounds just poured like water over the keys leading to a climax worthy of the mightiest of Beethoven only to disappear in a series of vibrations all so similarly found in late Beethoven.The scherzo ,presto,was played with a clarity and sense of dance that created just the contrast and lyrical interlude before the tumultuous final explosion in preparation for the Allegro fugato.
Noretta and I looked at each other as he embarked on the Allegro with an urgency almost in two instead of four.But we need not have worried as Pablo is also a great virtuoso as he fearlessly led us to the tumultuous conclusion with no sign of collision or mishap.A remarkably exciting conclusion to a superb performance.
It made me wonder:’is a true enterpreter he who takes the markings left by the composer as the starting point of an interpretation or is it valid to take just the notes and bring the meaning behind them to life as decided by an informed or uniformed entertainer?That can lead to a very personal or subjective approach. Well I think both should be valid as is obvious from the score that a deaf composer could leave us with his trilogy of dreams so clearly annotated onto a dumb page. Agosti,Perahia and Serkin have shown us that this is the true path of an interpreter and not just an entertainer or ‘giocaliere delle note’ as the headline of a Cherkassky recital of all transcriptions was reported in the Corriere della Sera many years ago. Since that moment Shura,who was a very serious artist,would not allow anyone to choose his programmes or even suggest what encores he should play. I used to stand in the wings and he would announce to me as he returned to the stage the pieces he would play knowing full well that we were all waiting for the Godowsky Tango or Boogie Woogie etude. There are interpreters who are intellectual and do their research and delve deeply into the archive to find a dot or a dash in più that could give a clue to the composers initial inspirational spark.They are not necessarily those that can convince as true performing artists are made of many different parts as Liszt has more than amply shown us.
There are those who are not quite so academic and follow their instinct as Rubinstein explained to the pianists in his first competition. A pianist must be like the bees and listen to as much music as possible and acquire his own sense of taste of good and bad and create as the bees do their own unique honey. Of course this implies a technical mastery such as many have from an early age in the East where they may not have the intellectual capacity or access to the tradition of the great interpreters or original manuscripts as in the West. Pogorelich had a sense of colour and technical mastery that was unique but when DGG sent a demo recording of his Ravel to Perlemuter for some phrase that could be used for promotional purposes ,Vlado in all innocence replied ‘quesque c’est que ca’.
Curzon declared that to be a great pianist was 90% work and 10% talent – Curzon was blessed by the Gods indeed …………as was the complex undefinable Mikhail Pletnev who appeared before us in Verbier. The same Pletnev that Sandor had implored not to abandon such a God given gift for conducting !
Pletnev played the Chopin Preludes in his final recital and for me it was simply the reincarnation of the magic that Cortot had immortalised on 78 rpm discs. A performance of such freedom and sense of colour such an overall vision that was indeed what we might very well call recreation. He may not see the wood from the trees any more but by God the word genius is as near as one can get to describing sounds that do not fit into any vocabulary but touch you very deeply,in fact much more than any words ever could.Curzon on the jury of the Leeds competition in the late 60’s had not been convinced of the genius of Radu Lupu and did not vote him into the finals.Luckily he was outvoted and was the first to say after his performance of Beethovens 3rd Concerto:’Thank God I lived to hear that!’
Pletnev’s encore of Scriabin’s op 2 n.1 Study underlined this genius with a work so often churned out by lesser hands but today was shaped where whispered secrets went hand in hand with aristocratic grandeur. To see him shuffle on and off must have been how the nearly blind Cortot must have appeared when the poet speaks directly through such a medium. As Trifonov demonstrated in Verbier too genius can be a hard burden to bear in everyday life .
Lang Lang was a great pianist from the studio of Gary Graffman but now is more the entertainer who was inspired as a child by Tom and Gerry ………he would have loved Pletnev’s Beethoven 3………But thanks to Lang Lang China sells more pianos than anywhere in the world and the Trust Funds that he has been able to set up help innumerable young musicians world wide ………..His piano mummy was after all Dame Fanny Waterman one of the most remarkable people I have ever met ……..’you are so eloquent’ she would say to me on the phone as we listened to the same concerts on the BBC in different countries and would compare notes together………….’Graham Johnson we agreed together was the greatest accompanist alive ………..on that a meeting was arranged between Dame Fanny and Graham who had shared chamber music lessons with me in John Streets class when we were both ‘kids’ at the RAM .Small world! There are still enough fingers on our hands to count the great musicians of our day …………dedication and sacrifice are for the chosen few.
All you need is love’ as the song goes but some pianists sound as though that love has run its course whereas real love grows more profound with every day !
Karl Ulrich Schnabel once praised a student at the Piano Academy in Como : ‘Oh so you are a composer ………but with Beethoven’s notes!’
Another pianist also now in career was not accepted into the class :’You think more of yourself than the music!’
Charles Rosen,one of the great minds of our day, was much more to the point :’You play like a whore!’
Two young pianists flying high in Verbier- Nikita Lukinov and Giovanni Bertolazzi what do they have in common? The most intelligent and exciting performances of the Liszt sonata that I have heard for too long. A masterpiece dedicated to Schumann and despite Clara Schumann’s refusal to play such a bombastic piece it is recognised together with the Schumann Fantasie (dedicated to Liszt) and Chopin’s 4th Ballade as the pinnacles of the romantic piano repertoire. Liszt also meticulously edited all the sonatas of Beethoven yet so many pianists disregard the very precise indications in his own music preferring to play as loud and fast as possible. The rot sets in from the very first page where the indications of p,mf,f are substituted for the ff that is not requested until the second page. Cortot,the great poet of the piano,made the first recording and his rhetorical opening did not set a good example to future generations who misunderstood his unique personal vision as an example to follow. I never expected to hear the Liszt sonata restored to what the composer actually wrote until I heard the twenty year old Nikita Lukinov in London………later in Rome I was to be catapulted into a performance of such fire and imagination by Giovanni Bertolazzi who had a vision of the sonata that held me mesmerised. Maybe not quite as meticulous as Nikita but Sergio Tofano,the great Italian actor, once said to his students that there is no such thing as a right or a wrong way but you must convince the audience. By God these two young pianists certainly convinced me and I will not forget that in a hurry. I am glad that Giovanni has been able to record the sonata and just hope Nikita will follow suit soon…….two beacons shining brightly whose paths have crossed this summer in Verbier ………small world !
Today on this special occasion in the torrid heat of the English summer (nothing of course compared to where I am listening to this today)there was a special clarity and luminosity as a great pianist serenades his bride of a year with a superlative display of music making of a simplicity and clarity that is of a chosen few.Two of the nicest people I know sharing a life in music together . The Galuppi sonata where it was good to hear all three movements.The first movement was a favourite encore of Benedetti Michelangeli but it was refreshing to hear the cascades of crystal clear notes of the Allegro and the elegance of the vivace. I have heard his Liszt but it was overwhelming on rehearing it today played with such musicianship where the cascades of notes were all to the means of an architectural whole.The sublime simplicity of the chorale and its sublimation on high was breathtaking in its breadth and meaning. To play Scriabin’s Prelude and Nocturne with such control of sound and colour with just the left hand was even more astonishing that the amazing feats of virtuosity with which he astonished and seduced us in Islamey. A charming ground in C by Purcell was an unusually beguiling encore and quite hypnotic in its irresistible repetition
Winner of over ten international competitions, prizes and awards, Sasha was chosen as a ‘Rising Star’ for BBC Music Magazine and International Piano Magazine . His successes also include First Prizes in the Grieg International Piano Competition and the BNDES International Piano Competition, in addition to winning the Guildhall School of Music’s most prestigious award – the Gold Medal – previously won by such artists as Jacqueline Du Pré and Bryn Terfel.Sasha has performed in many major venues including Wigmore Hall, Barbican Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Bridgewater Hall (Manchester), Wiener Konzerthaus, Weil Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall, New York), Teatro Real (Rio de Janeiro) and Salle Cortot (Paris). He has performed with such orchestras as the Royal Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic and Orchestra Sinfonica Brasiliera. His recording of music by Glenn Gould and Friedrich Gulda for Piano Classics was chosen as the record of the month for the German magazine Piano News and shortlisted for the New York Classical Radio Award. Among Sa sha’s ongoing projects are performances of Shostakovich’s original piano score for the 1929 silent film The New Babylon , which he premièred at LSO St. Luke’s and later performed at Leif Ove Andsnes’ Rosendal Festival, Norway. Born in Ukraine, Sasha studied at the Guildhall School in London. Sasha is a Keyboard Trust artist and currently benefits from the artistic guidance of its founder Noretta Conci-Leech.
It may have been a short recital by this young German-Iranian pianist but it was enough from the very first notes to realise his intelligent sensitive musicianship.Studying in the class of Norma Fisher as was obvious from his way of thinking from the bass upwards with a sense of architectural shape and spaciousness that is so much part of a real thinking musician.A transcendental control that meant that he could fearlessly conquer the hurdles that Liszt lays before those that dare play his Dante Sonata.
Even the dramatic opening ,that I am not sure if I would have divided between the hands,was played with on overall sense of line and architectural shape.A continual sense of forward movement and a sumptuous sense of sound that enveloped the entire sonata and gave it such an overall shape and cohesion.Even the treacherous octave leaps at the end were played with the same sumptuous sound and sense of shape and was not just a technical hurdle but an integral part of the overall conception of a work that can so often appear episodic.There were ravishing sounds in the central episode with a superb sense of balance but always with the feeling of an anchor in the bass .It allowed him freedom and at the same time a sensitivity that was never sentimental or rhetorical.
It was Chopin who described the elusive word ‘rubato’ as flexibility like a tree with the roots firmly in the ground but the branches free to move and sway naturally in the wind.There was great passion and drama too from a young man who is obviously living the drama but there was always a control and sense of line.
His ravishing beauty of sound was in evidence from the very first notes of the recital with the sumptuous chorale prelude by J.S.Bach:’Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ’BWV 639.The serenity and understanding of the magical colouring that Busoni could conjure out of the piano was matched with playing of a fluidity and unforced sound that was memorable.There was a kaleidoscopic range of sounds spread over the entire keyboard in Messiaen ‘s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus IX. Regard de temps (Mystère de la plénitude des temps; le Temps voit naître en lui Celui est éternel…).It was the ideal bridge between the early Haydn Sonata in C minor n.33 Hob XV1.20 and the Liszt Dante Sonata.This early Sonata is often referred to as Haydn’s ‘Appassionata’ with its dynamic contrasts and dramatic intensity and is in fact the first great sonata for the piano.It was played with a sense of style and a luminosity of sound with phrasing of delicacy and beauty.A playful development led to a climax of searing beauty.The Andante con moto was beautifully fluid and sensitively shaped with a constant forward movement .There was a driving rhythmic energy and sense of dance to the Finale Allegro. His sensitivity to the changing harmonies gave great musical shape to the streams of notes of great brilliance that Haydn adds to this remarkable early work.
Parvis Hejazi is a 22-year-old German-Iranian pianist and composer, living in London.From 2012-2017, he studied piano and composition at the University of the Arts in Bremen. In 2021, he graduated with honours and distinction from the Royal College of Music in London. He is currently studying for a Master’s degree at the RCM under Norma Fisher and Vanessa Latarche.He has also studied with such leading pianists as Stephen Hough, Jerome Rose, Norma Fisher, Dmitri Alexeev, Niel Imelman, Jerome Lowenthal, Leon McCawley, Anatol Ugorski, Igor Levit, Konrad Elser, Markus Groh, Vanessa Latarche, Christopher Hinterhuber and Lars Vogt.Parvis holds several scholarships including the RCM Scholarship, the Evangelisches Studienwerk (Villigst) and the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben.
He is an honorary member of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Philosophie and is supported by donors Karin and Uwe Hollweg and the Gisela and Erich Andreas Foundation.He enjoys a wide range of musical activities ranging from solo recital and concerto programmes to chamber music performances, and from composing to conducting.In 2021, he won the Grand Prix at the International Piano Competition in Kyiv, First Prize and the special prize ‘Le maitre de piano’ in the International Piano Competition in Gagny (Paris) in 2017 – and First Prizes in several other national and international competitions including the final stage in the ‘Jugend musiziert’ Competition in Germany for organ, piano and piano duo and the Federal Composition Competition of the Jeunesses Musicales where he received the highest award every year from 2012-2016.In 2018, his composition ‘In memoriam E. A. Poe’ (composed in 2010) was selected as a compulsory piece for pianists to play in the reputable WESPE competition in Germany. In 2019, he was a finalist in the prestigious Chapell Medal International Piano Competition and was selected for the Gateway Scheme, a programme designed by the Royal College of Music to promote extraordinarily talented musicians.Broadcasts of concerts, recordings, interviews and TV documentaries have been transmitted on German state TV and radio channels such as ARD, NDR, HR and the Deutschlandfunk – and he has performed in major concert venues throughout Europe, the USA and Israel.
A standing ovation for Jonathan Ferrucci at Angela Hewitt’s Festival with playing that just gets bigger and bigger as he seems to get smaller and smaller!A Bach that reminded me of Gulda as he seemed to be searching for that undefined structure where Bach leaves a provocative question mark with a freedom that brought three Toccatas vividly and originally to life. And as he so eloquently said an Adagio in B minor where Mozart is searching for an intense and contemplative memory that he cannot find.Played with a desolate anxiety of isolated sounds that one associates more with composers of the next century. There was a sultry radiance to Albeniz’s Evocacion and an El Puerto that had us wanting to click our heels and stamp our feet.His Fetes Dieu was a towering tour de force of brilliance,colour and sumptuous sounds. Three tone poems of such radiance and ravishing sounds as each one had a very special story to tell. Granados’s Spanish dance n 5 was offered as an encore and which he had learnt like all of us as a child. But,by God,I doubt we could have imagined it could sound as it did today in Jonathan’s magic hands.
It was lovely to meet so many of Angela’s friends from Canada who could suffer the torrid afternoon heat.But they filled the hall to enjoy again a pianist who is being mentored by Angela and who took her place the other evening whilst our much loved Angela is isolated with COVID.So near but still unfortunately so far in her house on lake Trasimeno.
I have written about Jonathan’s performance of the Bach and Mozart that he performed recently in London: https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/05/02/jonathan-ferrucci-the-essence-of-music-with-aristocratic-intelligence-and-passion-at-st-marys/But like all real artists every performance is different and today the Bach Toccatas although having the same overall framework there were many differences where Jonathan felt free to elaborate with even more fantasy than on previous occasions.The overall impression was of a voyage of fresh discovery as he dug even deeper into the score.As he had said in his introductory talk,Bach in his Toccatas allowed himself a freedom and room for improvisation that is much less restrictive that the more usual dance based movements of his Partitas ,Suites or variations.
Today Jonathan on this magnificent Fazioli piano was having fun as he took his audience on a journey of discovery.Some things worked better than others and I found the opening of the D major Toccata rather quixotic but on the other hand the return of the theme in the C minor Toccata entering almost as a whisper after a long pause was masterly as was the vehemence of the G minor toccata .
It was the first time I had heard him play Spanish music though,and it was here with the same sense of improvisation added to a sumptuous sense of colour that he turned the first three of Albeniz Iberia into real gems.
I had missed them recently at the Hampstead Proms where he had played the same programme for the Keyboard Charitable Trust but was glad to have heard his masterly playing today.
He will be touring the USA for the Keyboard Trust in a long postponed trip due to the pandemic and is working on various programme proposals for this ten concert tour which includes a trip to the beautiful little theatre that Lorin Maazel constructed on his estate in Castletown,Virginia .
It was a New York critic who once said after a performance of Iberia by Alicia de Larrocha :’There is really nothing in Isaac Albeniz’s Iberia that a good three-handed pianist could not master, given unlimited years of practice and permission to play at half tempo. But there are few pianists thus endowed.’
I have never forgotten a performance by a hot blooded young Spaniard at one of the first Leeds Piano Competitions,Rafael Orozco,with a hair raising performance of such colour and brilliance of the Fetes Dieu a Seville.Annie Fischer who was on the jury had never forgotten either and when she asked me what had happened to him I was able to tell her that he was living in Rome and enjoying a more settled life away from the usual non stop concert tours.Unfortunately his life was cut short far too early living life to the full as was obvious from his hot blooded youthful performances.
Fête-dieu à Séville whose alternative titles are : Corpus Christi; El Corpus en Sevilla ,describes the Corpus Christi Day procession in Seville, during which the Corpus Christi is carried through the streets accompanied by marching bands. Musically, this piece consists of a processional march that eventually becomes overwhelmed by a mournful saeta, the melody evoking Andalusian cante jondo and the accompaniment evoking flamenco guitars. The march and saeta alternate ever more loudly until the main march theme is restated as a lively tarantella that ends abruptly with a flamboyant fffff climactic chord; finishing with a gentle coda again evoking flamenco guitars along with distant church bells.
It was given a transcendental performance where the triumphant theme rings out whilst the piano is submerged by the excited crowds thronging the streets.A tour de force technically as it requires great flexibility and sense of balance to keep the same sense of line spread over the entire keyboard.Jonathan’s extreme flexibility which comes from his expert yoga exercises were particularly useful here.Allied to his technical mastery there was also a fluidity of sound never hard or ungrateful as he flew from one end of the keyboard to the other with the grace and ease of an eagle swooping in on its prey.The tarantella too showed off the clockwork precision and fluid sounds of someone who is happy to spend hours at the keyboard perfecting his ‘fingerfertigkeit’.It was Curzon who when asked the secret of a great pianist replied:’90% hard work allied to 10% of talent ‘.Of course God was very generous with Curzon as he obviously has been with Jonathan.It is that 10% that we were able to appreciate in particular in the final bars where the gentle coda with distant church bells created a magic that held the audience spellbound with breathtaking silence.
Evocación is an impressionist reminiscence of Albéniz’s native country, combining elements of the southern Spanish fandango and the northern Spanish jota song forms. The rarely seen seven-flat key signature of A flat minor is in itself part of the Evocación.The sumptuously rich sounds coming after the crystal clear purity of Mozart took us by surprise as the kaleidoscopic sense of colour was given full reign and was a true revelation.The sumptuous bass of this Fazioli sounded so similar to that of the Bosendorfer and just opened up a sound world that took me by surprise from a piano that is best known for its clarity and brilliance.A great artist though can search for the sounds that are in his head and reproduce them as if by magic with the same sense of illusion of a magician where the seemingly impossible can happen.There was a subtle sense of phrasing where the notes just seemed to flow one out of the other with a fluidity that belies the very nature of this black box full of hammers and strings.
El Puerto is a zapateado inspired by El Puerto de Santa Maria in Càdiz.A lively Andalusian dance in 6/8 marked on two beats, the second being very stressed was in many way the most remarkable performance with its energy and transcendental technical command of irresistible verve and sense of style.
Chopin: Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante Op. 22
Schumann: Fantasy in C, Op. 17
I. Durchaus fantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutragen; Im Legenden Ton
II. Mäßig. Durchaus energisch
III. Langsam getragen. Durchweg leise zu halten
Debussy: Isle of Joy
Hao Zi Yoh
I have heard Hao Zi many times but today in this glorious programme she made me even more aware of her unique qualities of scrupulous musicianship but also with a sensitivity to sound and colour that brought everything she touched vividly to life.Even the encore that she introduced so eloquently depicting a Malaysian rain forest was played with the same artistry and luminosity that she had brought to the Bach Partita that had opened this programme.Gently coaxing out sounds by plucking and dampening the piano strings whilst gently intoning a native chant.Bursting into more traditional cascades of notes played in the traditional manner all done with the utmost seriousness that created the atmosphere of her native country.
I remember Stockhausen asking me in Rome if he could use our Steinway Concert grand instead of the Yamaha that had been brought in specially for his complete Klavierstucke.How could I say no?But I did specify that the piano could only be used with two hands and two feet in the traditional manner!I had recently seen John Tilbury fill a piano with nuts and bolts in the search for special sound effects.Adulescu too turned the piano on its side as he threw rocks onto the strings!Luckily they were pianos that were brought in for the occasion whilst mine sat safely locked in a corner of the hall.
It just shows the esteem that Stephen Dennison and his colleagues in Cranleigh have for the artistry of Hao Zi to allow her to search for sounds inside the piano instead of only from the exterior.Infact from the very first notes of Bach’s glorious fourth partita we were aware of the extraordinarily luminous sounds that Hao Zi could conjure from this new Shegeru Kwai that was especially chosen by Sasha Grynyuk for the hall.
The opening of the fourth Partita BWV 828 was played with authority and with a sound of great clarity as the imperious opening chords in 2/2 are suddenly brought to life in 9/8 bringing a sense of rhythmic energy as it springs to life at the opening of this Partita written in 1728 and part of the Clavierubung n.1.There was an operatic freedom to the Allemande that was shaped with delicacy with some very subtle colouring that immediately brought a magic spell to this mellifluous outpouring .This contrasted with the injection of rhythmic energy of the Courante before the ravishing beauty of the Aria.Hao Zi brought subtle phrasing and a sense of colour with playing of great delicacy.Even the final cadence was judged to perfection before the playful Sarabande with its cascades of arpeggios ,just shifts of sounds creating an orchestral effect of shifting harmonies.There were ornaments in the Menuet that sparkled like jewels as even here she brought this playful movement vividly to life .She brought authority to the Gigue which was played with relentless rhythmic energy but was also shaped with such care with a sound that was never hard or mechanical as often it can be in lesser hands as they cope with the transcendental technical difficulties of this movement.Hao Zi was not at all intimidated as she turned any technical hurdles into music of searing intensity and intelligence .
Malaysian pianist Hao Zi Yoh was born in 1995 and began her music studies at the age of 3. By the age of 12, she already performed at Carnegie Hall as a gold medalist of the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition. Most recently, Hao Zi was selected as participant in the Preliminary Round of Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw 2021. At the age of 14, she moved to Germany to study with Prof. Elza Kolodin at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg. It was then she won top prizes in many international competitions including EPTA Belgium, Enschede, RNCM James Mottram (Manchester, 2012) and Concurso international de piano Rotary Club Palma Ramon LLull, Mallorca (Spain 2013).In 2014, she came under the tutelage of Prof. Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy of Music, London, generously supported by Lynn Foundation, Leverhulme Trust, Countess of Munster and Craxton Memorial Trust. She received 3rd Prize at Roma International Piano Competition, the Phillip Crawshaw Memorial Prize for an Outstanding Musician from Overseas at the Royal Overseas League Competition. She was also recipient of prestigious Martin Musical Scholarship Trust Philharmonia Piano Fellowships on the Emerging Artists Programme 2017/18. During her studies, she explored her relationship with music and her interest in creating sound colours: her MMus Project 2016 involved collaborating with percussionist Daniel Gonzalez to create a version of Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit for Piano and Percussion.Apart from this, Hao Zi also participated in creative outreach projects led by the Open Academy for children and elderly with Dementia, where she performed in Music for Moment Concerts at the Wigmore Hall. She collaborated with author-illustrator David Litchfield and improvised to his storytelling of award-winning book “The Bear and the Piano”.She is further developing her performing career being part of the Keyboard Trust London, Talent Unlimited. Hao Zi is also a piano tutor at King’s College London and gives masterclasses at Imperial College London.
Terra del Fuoco indeed as this young Spanish pianist /composer ignited the already torrid heat in Florence with a scintillating display of ‘joie de vivre’as rays of sunlight just shot from his agile fingers.
A Wanderer Fantasy where Schubert’s youthful energy and brilliance were matched with intelligence and sublime beauty as Salvador Sanchez with his noble opening statement took us on a long and intricate journey.From the heroic opening,the teasing fun of the scherzo to the very heart of the Wanderer.It was here that Salvador’s romantic soul allowed the sublime variations to seduce and beguile before the astonishing pyrotechnics of the fugato.
Calming the waters with Debussy’s mists of sound Salvador was able to conjure up an atmosphere that was certainly not the one we were experiencing in Florence today. The wonderful blue sky and crystal clear atmosphere was more a tune to what Salvador had up his sleeve in the second part of his recital in the Harold Acton Library of the British Institute. His performance of the complete Goyescas had Leslie Howard on the edge of his seat a while ago in his first concert for the Keyboard Trust. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/06/30/salvador-sanchezs-scintillating-artistry-for-the-keyboard-trust/ Four pieces were re-enacted today without even waiting for the mist to clear!
Music that is clearly in the blood of this young virtuoso from Alicante.Conquering the enormous technical hurdles that Granados delighted in pouring into his famous Goyescas.Written of course before he went down with the ship.(His ship was torpedoed on his way home from New York where his opera based on Goyescas received its premiere.Being summoned to play for the President at the White House’ he fatally caught a later boat home). Pieces of a transcendental difficulty not only to play the notes but to keep in the memory with the intricate strands of melody that are so richly embellished in a true maze of sounds.The ‘Fandango’was played with hypnotic rhythmic verve and contrasted with the sublime beauty of ‘The Maiden and the Nightingale’ where the sheer beauty of the maiden truly delighted the nightingale who was ready to warble to her hearts delight with such clarity and daring.’Los Requiebras’ was a tour de force of technical and musical mastery as the melodic line passed from one part of the keyboard to the other.Magical filigree embellishments of fleeting beauty passed like shafts of gold and silver ornamenting the sumptuous beauty of the melodic line.’Coloquio en La Reja’ showed off his extraordinary sense of balance allowing sounds of ravishing beauty to sing so naturally unforced. This young Spaniard’s sense of timing and subtle stretching of the tempo that like Chopins Mazurkas cannot be taught but has to come from the soul. And Salvador not only has a soul but also the passion and fire of a hot blooded Latin.
No more evident that in the Argentinian Dances by Ginastera where having astonished with the brilliance of the ‘del viejo boyero’he seduced with the sublime musings of ‘la moza donosa’only to be literally caterpulted into the astonishing exuberances of ‘del gaucho matrero’ Astonished and not a little exhausted by this sparkling display of virtuosity Salvador was ready to offer one of his own compositions. The calm and translucent sounds brought us to the atmosphere that Bartok brings to his own ‘open air’ that was probably the inspiration for this very evocative piece. Salvador is also a remarkable composer and on the 10th July a commissioned work for string quartet and magnetised (!)piano will receive it’s premiere in London.
It was so refreshing on this suffocatingly hot day to see the radiance and fun he was evidently having sharing music with this elite audience.A new series that director Simon Gammell and wife Jennifer have organised with the astonishing array of artists from the ever expanding roster of the Keyboard Trust.Here they are in our collaboration with six of the artists chosen to play this season in Florence from October ‘21 to October ‘22
📌🇬🇧 Concerto per The Keyboard Charitable Trust presso la Steinway Hall di Londra.
Un concerto difficile da spiegare in poche parole, una impresa titanica svolta interamente in 24h. Poche ore di sonno, ritardi del volo, scioperi in città (e che città, incredibile!), arrivo soltanto due ore prima del concerto!
Tutte le fatiche, però, ripagate da un concerto con un pubblico di altissimo livello, dalle commoventi parole di stima e affetto che custodirò gelosamente dentro di me soprattutto da parte di Noretta Conci-Leech (allieva e assistente di Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli). L’incontro con il leggendario Maestro Leslie Howard, invece, illuminante. Grazie per l’invito e per tutto ciò che mi ha anche insegnato in così poco tempo. Grazie a Christopher Axworthy, cuore pulsante di questa realtà londinese. Grazie Sarah Biggs. Grazie a tutti, per l’accoglienza e per ciò che avete lasciato dentro di me. Il potere della Musica è davvero infinito.
Sono grato alla Musica, alla Vita.
Thank you, London! ♥️🇬🇧
Luca Lione takes London by storm. Flying in at the last minute from Potenza in Southern Italy the moment this young man sat at the piano the beauty and calm he shared with us in Scarlatti’s two movement sonata K.77 belied the passion and transcendental display of virtuosity that he was to unleash on an unsuspecting audience at Steinway Hall. His Romantic good looks and fiery Latin temperament ignited this magnificent Steinway concert grand with performances of beauty and grandeur that astonished even Noretta Conci-Leech ,assistant for many years to Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli ! The Liszt expert and one of the founder trustees of the Keyboard Trust,Leslie Howard,realised that any conversation after performances of that stature were an unnecessary intrusion where music had been allowed to speak louder than words. The distinguished actor Marco Gambino exclaimed that the Liszt Ballade in B minor had told the story of Hero and Leander better than words ever could . Noretta Conci Leech was amazed at his authority and passion in a performance of Schumann’s Humoresque ,one of his most complex works. Granados ‘El amor y La muerte’ was breathtaking in its sweep and subtle colouring. London awaits a return match from this dashing young Italian virtuoso. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2020/02/27/a-lion-in-villa-torlonia-luca-lione-at-teatro-di-villa-torlonia/