Pianistic perfection ……………. And much more besides.Not even from Cherkassky on this very stage have we heard a Liebestraum of such freedom and refined purity of sound. Myra Hess would have been astonished at the finesse and ravishing sense of balance in ‘Jesu Joy’.With or without Matthay this young man has a thousand gradations of sound in each finger and the intelligence and sensitivity to be able to read beyond the notes written on the page and into the very soul of the composer.
His Liszt and Rachmaninov may be of a superstar but his Beethoven Bach and Brahms are of a great interpretative artist.Daring to declare Byrd to be the greatest English composer four centuries from his death was taking his life into his hands on the Wigmore stage.His performance of simplicity and subtlety combined with glistening ornaments played in an unobtrusive but extraordinarily meaningful way convinced us that he was probably right!Have Bach’s 15 Sinfonia’s ever sounded so full of beauty and simplicity as he seemed to barely touch the keys?No showmanship or external interference with the music that just poured so naturally from his fingers and drew the audience in to the heart of the music rather than being projected to greedy but lazy ears.Knotty twine as Delius was wont to describe Bach but knots tied by the angels in a celestial paradise.It was in Beethoven too,where he truly understood the composers irascible character that erupted so unexpectedly from the golden streams of notes that flowed from his hands in the Bagatelles.The chameleonic quicksilver changes of character were superbly realised with a pianistic perfection that was revelatory and to say the very least ,extraordinary.The rage and dynamic energy he brought to the final A flat Bagatelle was quite overwhelming.’Rage over a lost penny’ we know but this,though,was a ‘rage over a million dollar note!’It led immediately to the great opening chord of the variations op 15 – a real call to arms.It put a stop to all those trifles and surprising Beethovenian frivolities as we got to the heart of the recital with a monumental performance of the Eroica Variations that I have described in detail below from his performance in Poland last summer.Not quite the characterisation of Curzon but the dynamism and drive of Serkin or Brendel with the beauty of sound of Gilels or Volodos.In a word at 18 he is already a complete artist of great stature.
Old and New at the National Liberal Club where the Kettner Concert Society have been giving concerts for the past fifty years.A new artistic direction of Hannah-Elizabeth Teoh and Cristian Sandrin have taken over Ben Westlake’s inspired lead and now on its second concert this season has filled this unique hall with an enthusiastic audience for a superb recital given by the young Romanian pianist Mihai Ritivoiu.
Superb performances on the Club’s own magnificent Steinway but it was the scintillating encore of Chopin’s Study op 10 n.4 that brought the house down much as it had for Rubinstein in his last recital at the Wigmore Hall in 1976.The difference of course was that Mihai was not born then but he has inherited the same rhythmic drive and scintillating palette of sumptuous sounds that the 90 year old Rubinstein could still inspire his audience with.
But this was only a thank you to an audience that had sat spellbound through a recital of impeccable good taste and intelligence from a musician who could conjure up magic from a black box of hammers and strings with sounds of simplicity and sumptuous beauty.A monumental performance of Enescu’s masterpiece the 1924 Sonata that had won Mihai a top prize at the 2011 Enescu International Piano Competition and which he has delved ever deeper into ,since,in a continual voyage of discovery.
This was after a ravishing performance of Chopin’s most perfect work,the Barcarolle op 60 .A performance of great stature with it’s continuous outpouring of song played with such delicacy and sumptuous richness by a master musician .Fauré’s beautiful early Ballade I had fallen in love with,as a child,in Robert Casadesus’ magical performance for piano and orchestra with Bernstein at the helm.I think this is the first time I have heard Fauré’s own solo piano version and I was overwhelmed by the same beauty of the mellifluous outpouring of an aristocratic French sound world that was to come to an end with the Great War.
A war that Ravel had taken part in as an active ambulance driver and had been inspired by the horrors that he saw to write a work that looked back to the perfection of the world of Couperin.A world of purity and simplicity that inspired him to dedicate each movement to friends whose young lives had been so cruelly curtailed.Mihai played just two movements with ravishing colours and the perfect clockwork mechanism of purity and perfection of the Prélude was complimented by the suave chiselled beauty of the Menuet.
Opening with Couperin’s Les Barricades Mysterieuses played entirely without pedal made a great contrast with the 2005 reworking by the Romanian composer Dediu in which the original is inverted and weaves a spider’s web of etherial fluid sounds.
Schubert’s first Impromptu D 935 was the real majestic opener and showed us the mature musicianship and sensitivity of an artist who could delve into the heart of such a well known work with such intensely moving originality and simplicity.
Peter Whyte,the venerable chairman,was happy to take back seat tonight as he passed the reigns to these two young artistic directors,who are also distinguished pianists,and who will take the Kettner Music Society to even greater heights.
The next concert is on the 22nd February with the renowned English pianist Dame Imogen Cooper,who is also Cristians mentor via the Imogen Cooper Musical Trust.
Let us not forget that the Liberal Club has rung with the sounds of the likes of Rachmaninov and Moiseiwitch and now indeed looks like turning full circle – a true glorious renaissance Great music returns to the National Liberal Club with this series and others including the Keyboard Trust of which Cristian and Mihai have both been recipients.
A Golden era returns and I can’t wait to enjoy the promise of such glorious music in these august historic surrounds.
Yisha Xue celebrates the ‘Year of the Rabbit’ on the 2nd of February with a recital by a highly gifted teenager,Shutian Cheng,who recently played in St Johns SS Rachmaninov’s much revered and feared Third Piano Concerto. The National Liberal Club is indeed resounding with the sound of music
Artistic Directors of the Kettner Music Society
Hailed for her ‘dark energy’ and ‘uncommon sensitivity’, New Zealand born Hannah-Elizabeth Teoh is one of the most interesting young pianists in the UK. Following intensive periods of study at the Royal Academy of Music, the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris and the Royal College of Music, she has won numerous awards including the Harold Samuel Prize, the Florence Murray Award, the Lesley Holland Scholarship and the Ivy Corkill Recital Award. As a concerto soloist she has performed around the world, including a premiere recording of Ross Harris’ Concertina for Piano and Orchestra with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and most recently making her Italian debut with the Master Orchestra in Brescia playing Saint-Saëns’ second piano concerto. A keen exponent of contemporary music, Hannah-Elizabeth has premiered a number of works for piano including Kettner composer-in-residence Dan Chappell’s Microludes in a 2022 Kettner Concert. Supporting her musical life, Hannah-Elizabeth draws inspiration from literature and art and has a Masters in Philosophy from Birkbeck University.
Born in Bucharest, Romania, Cristian Sandrin had his Wigmore Hall debut recital in 2017. He collaborates often with orchestras in Romania and the UK, having had his debut with the prestigious “George Enescu” Philharmonic and the Bournemouth Bach Choir Orchestra in 2021. Cristian enjoys conducting Mozart concertos from the keyboard as well as chamber music collaborations. He has performed all over Europe, including recitals at the Salle Cortot, Teatro La Fenice and Palau de la Musica Catalana. He has won numerours prizes and distinctions in international piano competitions, such as the top prizes of the International Piano Competition Citta di Oleggio 2019, the Windsor International Piano Competition 2018, the Concours Musical de Versailles 2019, Automobile Club de France Piano Competition 2011 and the “Animato” Competition in Paris 2012. In 2019 he received the Rossalyn Tureck Prize for the best interpretation of Bach at the Olga Kern International Piano Competition in New Mexico. He is an alumni of the Imogen Cooper Music Trust, being supported as well by the Keyboard Charitable Trust. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/03/17/cristian-sandrin-liberally-speaking/
Chairman of the Kettner Music Society
Peter Whyte has been involved with the Kettner Society since its very beginning; it was while working at a tour operating firm in the 70s that he had a visit from Peter Boizot, who invited him to attend the new dining group he was starting. In 2003 Peter up the position of chairman, the sixth in the history of the society.Born and raised in North London, Peter’s interest in politics later led him to become chairman of the Bracknell Liberal Association. A keen cricketer, he has also chaired a cricket club. Always interested in commemorating significant figures, he is responsible for ten blue plaques in London, (including ones dedicated to Chopin and Mendelssohn) and six road names in Reading (including one to the Liberal statesman Rufus Isaacs).Since becoming interested in music, Peter has relished the opportunity to attend performances by many great pianists. Among those who left a particular impression are Claudio Arrau, Steven Bishop, Alfred Brendal, Artur Rubinstein, and John Ogdon.
Some very assured musicianly playing from Ivelina Krasteva in St James’ Sussex Gardens. Beethoven’s op 22 Sonata was paired with the equally youthful 2nd Sonata of Prokofiev.Many striking similarities with their quixotic changes of character and dynamic rhythmic drive allied to a subtle sense of balance and colour.
Beethoven in particular showed her great sense of architectural shape as she not only imbued each movement with subtle detail and character but managed to combine all four movements into a unified whole of great significance. Such refined detail in the first movement ‘Allegro con brio’ where the seemingly innocent opening motif is transformed in so many genial ways ,a similar opening to his even earlier Sonata op 2 n 3. But now Beethoven has realised the great significance of the bass as he leaves his Haydnesque early world and strikes out into unexplored territory. A journey that will pervade his complete musical evolution (or revolution) through the thirty two sonatas that span his total existence on earth . The final sonatas pointing already to a celestial world away from the sturm und drang of his earthly existence. Ivelina realised this and it was the bass that she gave such weight to in the first movement.The melodic line in the development was allowed to murmur in the bass so magically where above were mere vibrations of sound.
An Adagio where the bass notes were hardly audible as she stroked and caressed them providing a carpet of sound on which Beethoven’s mellifluous outpouring could unwind with such beauty and aristocratic shape.Magic sounds where the left hand that was a mere heartbeat on which ever more expressive appoggiaturas could float with poignant significance.There was purity and simplicity as Ivelina allowed this extraordinary movement to unfold with simplicity and subtle projection. I remember being baffled by a critic writing about Richter’s performance in London on one of his first visits to the west.I did not understand at the time what he meant with ‘the Adagio was inexistant’.We had only just begun to understand the extraordinary sound world of the Russian school untainted by tradition as it was in the hands of this gigantic pianistic genius. Ivelina too today looked afresh at a Sonata that we have lived with for a lifetime. She imbued it with a clarity and intelligence that took us by surprise as it must have done when the ink was still fresh on the page. There was a simple mellifluous flow to the Minuetto followed by vibrations of sound answered by the distant strains of a march.A trio played with great control as the weaving strands in the left hand were allowed to flow with ease.A Rondo of pastoral grace and charm interrupted by ever more dramatic insistent episodes of febrile energy.A fugato where the dynamic pieces were gradually calmed ,burning themselves out as they found their way back to the Rondo that was now embellished with great style and charm.
From the first notes of Prokofiev’s second sonata we were plunged into a world of savage rhythms and sensual sounds.The opening pastoral innocence interrupted by celestial sounds and episodes of dynamic energy.A pedal note that is but a menacing rumble in the bass while frenzied energy is suddenly gathering force above.A Scherzo that was a continuous rhythmic outpouring played with relentless dynamic energy and a grotesque sense of humour. There was deep mediation in the Andante with the ravishing beauty of the melodic line over an ever moving wave of unearthly sounds.A treble eerily meandering over an insistent bass in continual motion ever more intense. There was a bustling rhythmic energy to the ‘vivace’ with an almost french flavour of sarcastic humour.A magical reappearance of the first movement theme was given a quixotic work over tainted by the good humoured banter of this early work as yet untouched by a world that had still to open up and turn upside down Prokofiev’s whole existence. Two works on their first outing for Ivelina that showed her mature intelligent musicianship and superb technical control. .
Some superb playing at St Mary’s today from a pianist of great sensibility and with a technical prowess that knew no hurdles.An aristocratic sense of style and ravishing sense of colour that belied any idea of showmanship or excess.This was a true thinking musician equipped with astonishing technical finesse who filled the notes with loving care rather than imbue them with dramatic tension and drive.Her charming introduction had already revealed a simple love for the music she was playing,describing Chopin’s Barcarolle as ‘a postcard from Venice’.
Three Scarlatti Sonatas opened her recital with K.121 of delicacy and brilliance ;K 146 beautifully shaped with elegant arpeggios and teasingly busy figurations and rather than finish with brilliance she chose K 534 of languid beauty and reflection.It was the same choice that she made at the end of the recital where rather than finish with the astonishing pyrotechnics of Erlkonig she chose the magic sounds and liquid beauty of Mompou’s evocative’El Lago’
Haydn’s Sonata was filled with ‘joie di vivre’ and as Haydn himself said he resorted to a spot of self-borrowing, recycling the perky tune of the Scherzando second movement of sonata No 36 from the same, ‘Auenbrugger’ set .Haydn added an explanatory note on the reverse of the title page to avoid eventual criticism:’Among these six sonatas are two movements that use the same idea for the first few bars … the composer wishes it to be known that he has done this on purpose to demonstrate different methods of treatment.’ The Adagio was played with a luminosity of sound shaped with simplicity and the beauty of gently flowing sounds.The Prestissimo had buoyancy and high spirits even if it could have had more abandon to bring it even more vividly to life.
It was obvious from how she played the opening bass octave of Chopin’s Barcarolle that we were in the hands of a true musician.Not a declaration of intent but more the opening of a secret chest of jewels.And there were certainly ravishing sparkling sounds in this great song that Chopin had so miraculously penned towards the end of his short life.The golden sounds of the ravishing central nocturne effect that Perlemuter described to me as ‘here we are in heaven’.Sacrificing passion and showmanship for a more inward beauty as she brought this great ‘postcard from Venice’ to a ravishing end.
She chose four of Liszt’s poetic transcriptions of Schubert songs that created a sumptuous feast of refined playing with refined sounds and a sense of balance that no matter how elaborate the decorative accompaniment Schubert’s miraculous melodic invention shone through with heartrending meaning.’Ave Maria’ where the delicacy of the ever more elaborate embellishments gave even more poignancy to the simplicity of the melodic line.An elaborate crossing of hands and magic trickery worthy of Liszt’s great rival Thalberg were played with a religious fervour with sounds that made the piano vibrate with a sumptuous golden glow.She brought refined delicacy to ‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’ where the the cascades of delicate notes from Ave Maria spilled over on to the tenor line with its magic arabesques linking up to the water bubbling over the stream.An extraordinary sense of balance and technical control as clouds appeared on the scene and the intensity grew more ruvid.The sombre atmosphere she created with her superb control of sound brought Der Doppleganger miraculously to life.It was her phenomenal technical control that brought the infamous octaves of Erlkonig vividly to life but always with the musical meaning being the instigator rather that the victim.The beseeching contrasts and fearsome final chords were indeed breathtaking and would have made a fitting ending for any recital.But it was beauty and serenity that Maya chose to close this very refined musical experience that she had share with us.
London-based Maya Irgalina is a Belarusian pianist of Tatar origin. Her musical interests include jazz and contemporary classics, including Nikolai Kapustin and Carl Vine; as well as Spanish and French impressionism alongside her European and Russian repertoire. Her work has paired her with celebrated tenor Simon O’Neal, cellist Abel Selaocoe, alongside her collaboration with mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron. As a guest pianist, she has played with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Manchester Camerata and Belarusian Opera House Orchestra to name just a few. Maya has been selected as a Britten-Pears Young Artist and was featured in Semyon Bychkov’s Beloved Friend project about Tchaikovsky with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
She has won prizes in such competitions as Dudley, Sydney, Maria Yudina, Scriabin etc., and performed internationally with the UK highlights including performances at Wigmore Hall, Barbican, Machynlleth Festival, Oscar Wilde Weekend, Rye Arts Festival, and Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Maya is very grateful to her professors Lilia Ter-Minasian, Graham Scott, Ronan O’Hora and Julius Drake. She holds the International Artist Diploma in Solo Performance and the Gold Medal from the Royal Northern College of Music and the master’s degree in Music from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
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.
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 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.
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’.
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.
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,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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.