Liszt: ‘Vallée d’Obermann’ from Années de Pèlerinage: Suisse
What an afternoon ……..always surprises at St Mary’s and this afternoon to hear such masterly playing and hear such eloquence from a pianist …musician three times the age of the usual performers who only an extravagant past has kept him from our shores. Now returned with playing of rare musicianship helped by a true finger legato ,so rare these days ,that allowed a rare depth of sound and profundity on Dr Mather’s fine Yamaha piano.In Dr Mather’s own words he made the piano sound like a piano of the great German tradition.
The contrasts he immediately brought to the opening Scarlatti Sonata where subtle shading ,delicacy and exhilaration all lived together in a basket of jewels that glistened and shone in his magnificent hands.
Even Bach’s C sharp major prelude was played with a jeux perlé touch that contrasted so well with the militaristic fugue.
It is in late Beethoven that men are sorted from the boys.And as Ronan himself said in his very informative introduction that having learnt the sonata when he was 19 ,at 67 he is still making new discoveries in it. It was just this freshness of discovery that came over with such a powerful personality.From the mellifluous opening with it’s astonishing interruptions to the superb energy and quite considerable technical command of the second movement.It was in the last movement though that he managed to bring such depth of meaning with such clarity and richness of sound .The first variation already sang with a voice of such penetrating clarity without ever hardening the sound by a careful sense of balance and mature musicianship that can understand Beethoven’s true meaning .The non legato second variation that delicately dissolves into melody leading to the transcendental eruption of the third with playing of such enviable technical assurance.There was a gradual entry into the miraculous final variation where the melodic line rose above the cloud on which Beethoven places it before dissolving and returning ,full circle ,to the opening theme.This time played with even more intensity until the final chord was allowed so poignantly to add its final farewell. As Dr Mather rightly said it was a truly profound Beethoven of a simplicity that comes from maturity and true technical mastery.
Not only was there great playing but the same profound simplicity he brought to his introductions of Chopin and Liszt.A Mazurka of ‘hope and despair’where his slight hesitation in the return of the opening theme was quite breathtaking.
His command of Liszt’s ‘introspective emotions’ in the Vallée d’Obermann was indeed overwhelming.The beauty and drama he brought to this great tone poem showed his transcendental command of the keyboard .From the opening profound rhetoric to the beseeching choir of angels through the great personality of the middle recitativo.Finally he threw all caution to the wind as he allowed the music to build in tension without any regard for the quite considerable technical difficulty.We were swept along on a great wave of passionate outpouring where Liszt’s treacherous octaves in both hands were never allowed to waver as the tempo seemed to get even more agitated.The final great rhetorical statement was played with all the dramatic emphasis of an operatic performance. Hats off to Dr Mather and above all to Ronan Magill for a memorable afternoon .
The pianist and composer RONAN MAGILL (born Sheffield 1954) was, as a nine year old, chosen to be one of the founder pupils of the Yehudi Menuhin School. Later after a period at Ampleforth College, and on the advice of Benjamin Britten, he went to the Royal College of Music working with David Parkhouse and later John Barstow, and winning all the major prizes for piano and composition. After his Wigmore and South Bank debuts (Brahms 2 nd Concerto) in 1974, and again on Britten’s advice, he moved to Paris to study with Yvonne Lefebure at the Conservatoire, and then remained in Paris for a number of years, performing regularly both in concert and on TV and radio, and also receiving advice from Pierre Sancan, and Nikita Magaloff and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli in Switzerland. In 1985 Magill won ist Prize in the 1 st “Milosz Magin” International Competition for Polish Music, followed by a European tour, and then after returning to the UK , he won the 3rd British Contemporary Piano Competition which a UK tour and concerts on BBC Radio 3. In recent years Magill has been performing in the UK, USA (Rachmaninoff 3 rd Concerto) and most recently in Japan where he has been living since 2013 performing in many cities.
Julian Brocal’s musical garden was surely blessed tonight .Simplicity and humility a sound that projects what she has inside – a true box of jewels that glistened and glowed in a continual stream of ravishing sounds .Sublime.Claire de lune played in a series of gasps ,one more beautiful than the other as though she could not believe the magical creation in her hands.It led of course to the sublime ecstasy of the central episode before dissolving to a whisper ending with a perfect stream of gold.Chopin’s first nocturne op 9 was played with the same aristocratic beauty that was Rubinstein’s.There was sublime rubato in the well known op 9 n.2 and n.3 was even more beautiful than in Lhevine’s hands.Op 27 n.1 was played very slowly building up to a passionate climax before the coda full of heartbreaking nostalgia .The famous D flat nocturne was played too like the sublime tone poem it can be in the hands of a great artist.The Valse de l’adieu was thrown off with just the jeux perlé that she had brought to the nocturne op 9 n.3 allowing the bel canto embellishments to flow from her fingers like streams of gold and silver as she delved ever more deeply into the true meaning hidden in these miniature masterpieces.The mazurkas were described by Schumann as canons covered in flowers but surely today in these pieces too it was never more evident than in Maria’s hands ,the poignant deep meaning that Chopin miraculously could conjure out of this box of hammers and strings.His heart may have been taken back to his homeland but it is to France that his aristocratic bearing could allow him to describe so eloquently the nostalgia for his birthplace.The Debussy Arabesque n.2 was played as an encore with the same delicacy that she brought to the Suite Bergamasque.Such colours and sumptuous sounds of ravishing beauty that had bewitched all those that Julian had enticed into his magic garden. https://youtu.be/x1Md7QbPPo4 Debussy Suite Bergamasque ,Arabesque n.2 ; Chopin 3 Nocturnes op 9 ,2 Nocturnes op 27 ,Nocturne op 72 n.1, Valse de l’adieu op 69 n.1
Prokofiev of such beauty never since Rubinstein’s magical Visions Fugitives have I ever put those two words together until listening to this young man’s Cinderella suite today. Six pieces one more beautiful and characterful than the other and far from ending with a bang there was the same magic that had ended Rachmaninov’s Corelli variations minutes before.Or the same beautiful pastoral ending to Beethoven’s most Schubertian outpouring of his sonata op 90.All from a young man as he himself declared:’ I have always studied with Russian teachers at the Purcell School with Alexeev’s wife Tatyana Sarkissova and now in Glasgow with Petras Geniusas.’ .Sing a song of sixpence indeed as he has learnt how to extract the magic from this box of strings and hammers and shape them with his own sensibility into sumptuous music.A secret that is kept locked away in a box and the key evidently only given to a special few of which Nikita is most definitely the only one I have heard for a long long time.
Beethoven: Sonata in E minor Op 90 con vivacità ma sempre con sentimento ed espressione -Non tanto mosso e molto cantabile
There was an architectural shape and sense of direction from the very first notes of Beethoven’s most mellifluous outpouring with his Sonata op 90.Opening the door to Beethoven’s final thoughts as his survey of 32 sonatas comes to a close.One of the simplest of Sonatas in just two movements to be followed by one of the most complex:op 101 or the longest :op 106 ‘Hammerklavier’ before entering the realms of glory with the final trilogy where the song of life has taken over from his conflict and strife.There was immediately a great sense of character but with an almost orchestral fullness to the sound even with the continual contrasts of very strong and rhythmic dissolving to the absolute essential outline.Of course Beethoven’s precise indications were scrupulously incorporated into a carefully orchestrated architectural line.Even in the development section there were taught rhythms and beautifully shaped lines.The melodic nature of the semi quavers was never allowed to interrupt this continual rhythmic undercurrent as it gradually disintegrates taking us back to the recapitulation so naturally.The coda was played with such masculine delicacy as it led into one of Beethoven’s most simple melodies.This almost Schubertian outpouring was played with a rhythmic buoyancy that together with Nikita’s superb sense of balance allowed one episode to grow so naturally out of another as the melody returns in a continual flow of mellifluous sounds.There was a magical duet between left and right hand before the sublime pastoral conclusion …..like water in a brook with a feeling that this was only a momentary interruption in a continual natural flow.
Rachmaninov:Variations on a theme of Corelli Op 42 Andante Theme -20 variations – Andante Coda
Variations on a Theme of Corelli op 42 by Rachmaninov was written in 1931 at his holiday home in Switzerland and was his last work for piano solo.The theme known as La Folia was used by Corelli in his Sonata op 5 n.12 but it was a theme popularly used as the basis for variations in baroque music.Liszt used it too in his Spanish Rhapsody .Rachmaninov dedicated the work to his friend and duo partner Fritz Kreisler,one of the greatest violinists of all time and with whom he famously asked where he was when he lost his way in the score during a recital.’In Carnegie Hall’,came the dour reply from Rachmaninov.My old teacher ,Vlado Perlemuter ,used to tell me that Rachmaninov appeared in public looking as though he had just swallowed a knife ,but the romantic sounds he could conjure from the piano with his two huge hands was quite unique.
Rachmaninov wrote to composer friend Nikolai Medtner, on 21 December 1931:’I’ve played the Variations about fifteen times, but of these fifteen performances only one was good. The others were sloppy. I can’t play my own compositions! And it’s so boring! Not once have I played these all in continuity. I was guided by the coughing of the audience. Whenever the coughing would increase, I would skip the next variation. Whenever there was no coughing, I would play them in proper order. In one concert, I don’t remember where – some small town – the coughing was so violent that I played only ten variations (out of 20). My best record was set in New York, where I played 18 variations. However, I hope that you will play all of them, and won’t “cough”.’Rachmaninov recorded many of his own works, but this piece wasn’t one of them.
I heard them for the first time in Siena when I remember Agosti interrupting his masterclass to be able to watch on television the first man to set foot on the moon.I remember him being astonished by this achievement as a student friend- we had skived off from the RAM together -played him these variations.Agosti not known for his generosity was overcome by the performance and that occasion of over 50 years ago has remained with me every time I hear them.Today there was an absolute purity of sound in the theme which was played with such disarming simplicity contrasting with the sumptuous sounds of the first variation with its beautiful haunting syncopations and counterpoints.There was a stillness to the second where the inner legato melodic line was commented on with great technical control by the staccato outer line leading to the capricious interruption of the Tempo di Menuetto.Hauntingly delicate comments on the solemn melodic line played by his delicate orchestra before the rhythmic energy of the fifth and sixth.The bass pedal note marked ‘laissez vibrer’ was exactly that and so rarely observed that I had to look carefully at my score.But here in Nikita we have a real interpreter who delves deeply into the scores of all that he plays.He plays with great fantasy and colour but always having scrupulously understood the composers intentions.An Adagio misterioso was played with all the impish dry humour typical of Rachmaninov and followed by a continual flow of harmonious sounds before the almost clockwork precision and clarity of the tenth variation.The ending just thrown off with ease before plunging into the hammered rhythms of the next variation but never allowing the sound to harden only enrichen it’s character.Molto marcato Rachmaninov writes for this sparse almost Prokofiev like variation before the driving rhythms leading up to the central cadenza.Even here the accents in the left hand were carefully pointed and gave such shape to what so often sounds like an empty gallop.A cadenza of wondrous colours and true magic that dissolves amidst cascading sounds leading us to the theme in the warmth of the major key .There was some glorious legato playing of ravishing beauty with Rachmaninov’s ever present shadow of nostalgia before the almost re-tuning of the sixteenth variation and the theme that comes riding in gently on horseback in the seventeenth.There was much power in the eighteenth and a gust of wind in the nineteenth as we came to the last variation of double octaves played with transcendental skill allowing even here a great sense of colour and shape.The long vibrating note of D left a cloud of sound on which floats one of Rachmaninov’s most haunting melodies before the utmost simplicity of the transformed theme …….’folia’indeed as the two final chords were barely whispered and certainly not struck at the end of this extraordinary performance
Prokofiev: 6 pieces from Cinderella Op 102
Waktz: Cinderella and the Prince (Вальс: Золушка и принц)
Cinderella’s Variation (Вариация Золушка)
Waltz: Cinderella Goes to the Ball (Вальс: отъезд Золушки на бал)
Pas de Chale (Па-де-шаль)
This collection of six transcriptions was the last of the three sets for piano that Prokofiev extracted from Cinderella, the other two being ten pieces (Op. 97) and three pieces (Op. 95). He wrote the ballet from 1940-44, during which time he also worked on these transcriptions, as well as other music, including parts of his opera War and Peace, the whole of his orchestral suite, The Year 1941, and the String Quartet No. 2. Along with his Ten Pieces from Romeo & Juliet, Op. 75, this collection represents the composer’s best piano transcriptions. Prokofiev arranged them in 1944 and published them the same year.
This is only the second time I have heard this suite complete although I think Richter played some of them as encores in the many memorable recitals he used to give in London in the 60’s and 70’s.I heard the complete set in Italy with a Russian protégée of Eliso Virsaladze. A fine performance but one that I could take or leave.So I was not over enthusiastic about hearing it again today.But as Joan Chissell famously said in a review of a concert by Rubinstein,the Prince of pianists : ‘Mr Rubinstein turned baubles into gems’.I have no wish to infer that Prokofiev’s Cinderella are baubles but I do mean in the wider sense that the music today was made to talk and tell a story.In Nikita’s hands it was a wondrous story indeed full of colour,imagination and a sense of line.Someone who has the ‘gift of the gab’ and that can keep you enthralled with the story he has to tell.Tomorrow I will add the score to my library but for now just recommend that you listen to this exemplary performance of a Prokofiev that can be made to SING! In the meantime I just copy these notes that may be of interest:
This collection of six pieces from Cinderella is without doubt the most substantial of the three sets. It contains not only some of the ballet’s most memorable themes but also its darker and more profound music. Many have viewed the work as a light piece, almost on the direct and generally simple level of Peter and the Wolf. Its music, however, goes far deeper in its often-thorny expressive language and complex conflicts than any of his children’s works. For example, the third piece, The Quarrel, taken from Nos. 2, Pas-du-châle) and 4, The Father, in the ballet, contrasts playful mischief at the outset with a dissonant buildup in the middle section that could well depict a bloody sword fight, rather than the nagging Cinderella’s father suffers from his second wife and her daughters. The opening piece in the set, Waltz (Cinderella and the Prince), portraying the Grand Waltz (No. 30 in the ballet), is sinister and suggests strife and anything but romance between Cinderella and the Prince. The second piece, Cinderella’s Variation, is one of the lighter items, yet even it portends anxiety in its closing moments. Taken from Cinderella’s Dance (No. 32), it is a fairly literal transcription of the music, as is generally the case here. Prokofiev rarely enlarged upon or substantially altered music he transcribed, though he often shifted sections around and rearranged their order. The fourth piece is the famous Waltz, No. 37 in the ballet, that occurs just before Midnight. It is sinister and ominous, quite effective on the piano too, but Prokofiev had to tack on an ending to it since this section in the ballet leads right into Midnight. The next piece, Pas-du-châle, is taken from music in the first act dance of the same name (No. 2) and from Duet of the Sisters with the Oranges. The mood is humorous at the outset, then turns mocking. It fits well on the piano, the color and sarcasm conveyed splendidly, with the music not landing softly on its dissonances. The final piece here is Amoroso, comprised of Cinderella’s theme, which occurs in No. 1, Introduction (and elsewhere in the ballet), a portion from No. 3 Cinderella, and from the closing number, Amoroso. This is probably the best of the six pieces, not only because it combines music from throughout the ballet, but because it captures Cinderella’s sadness and adversity at the outset, her inner beauty and love for the Prince in the latter half and her happily-ever-after triumph at the close. It is a musical depiction of her character’s growth. Prokofiev here does make a few minor changes in accommodating the music from the ballet’s Amoroso close, but the differences sound greater than they actually are, partly because of the piano’s non-sustaining sonority.
Nikita Lukinov was born in Russia in 1998. In 2005 Nikita started studying at Voronezh Central Music School with Svetlana Semenkova, an alumna of Dmitry Bashkirov. Nikita’s first success was a Grand-Prix at the 2010 International Shostakovich Piano Competition for Youth (Moscow). Nikita’s debut with a symphonic orchestra was at the age of 11. Other achievements include 1st place in the Inter-Russian piano competition for young pianists, Finalist of an International television competition for young musicians “Nutcracker”, 1st place in the Inter-Russian Concerto competition, where he performed a Chopin piano Concerto No1 op.11 with on orchestra at the age of 14. Nikita’s most recent awards include 1st place in the Inter-Russian Competition “Music Talents of Russia” (Russia, 2020), 2nd place at the Franz Liszt Center International Piano Competition (Spain, 2021). After studying in Russia, Nikita won a full scholarship to continue his studies in London at Purcell School for Young Musicians, the oldest and one of the most prestigious specialist music school in the UK. His musicianship was cultivated by Professor Tatiana Sarkissova, a Dmitry Bashkirov’s alumna. While studying at the Purcell School Nikita had his Kings Place and Wigmore Hall debuts, he also won The Purcell School Concerto Competition. He performed Prokofiev Concerto 1 op.10 and Mozart Concerto 15 K.450 with the Purcell School Orchestra at the age of 15. Since September 2017, Nikita continues his education at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on a full scholarship with Professor Petras Geniušas. Nikita has been fortunate to gain numerous concert opportunities at prestigious venues across the UK and outside, such as St. Martin in the Fields, Wigmore Hall (London), Kings Place (London), Fazioli Hall (Italy), Vaduz Rathaussaal (Liechtenstein), The Small Hall of Moscow Conservatory, St. Petersburg Music House. He is the recipient of a personal scholarship from Voronezh’s State Government “For Outstanding Cultural Achievements”, “Russian Children’s Foundation” and an international charity foundation “New Names”, personal scholarship from the National Artist of Russia V. Ovchinnikov, scholarship from the International Academy of Music in Liechtenstein, where he participated in the Intensive Music Weeks and activities offered by the Academy in 2020. In 2020 Nikita was appointed as “Emissary of the Muses of San Antonio, Texas”. Nikita is one of the musicians at the Talent Unlimited scheme (London). 2021 highlights should include participation at the “Verbier Music Festival”, “Art of the Piano” Festival in the USA and a debut recital at the Steinway Hall in London.
It was only a few months ago that Dr Hugh Mather ,a 75 year old retired physician celebrated the 1000th concert in a series that he together with his enthusiastic and expert colleagues have been running for some years .St Mary’s Perivale is a beautiful redundant church in the centre of Ealing golf course,only a stone’s throw from central London,that has become one of the most important chamber music concert halls in the country.With the passion of people that enjoy selflessly sharing their expertise with the next generation it gives a platform to the most talented young musicians in London.
Canan Maxton too has created for quite some time ,Talent Unlimited,designed to help young musicians find a platform for their outstanding talent.So it was very refreshing to see the two united in presenting two aspiring young musicians from the Royal,College of Music in two of the masterworks for piano.An unexpected illness had left a last minute space in the calendar that was immediately filled by Simo Sisevic from Montenegro and Kirill Zheleznov from Russia.
Beethoven: Sonata no 23 in F minor Op 57 ‘Appassionata’ Allegro assai-Andante con moto-Allegro ma non troppo /Presto
They are two of the most important works in the piano repertoire.Beethoven’s revolutionary Appassionata Sonata op 57 and Schumann’s Fantasie op 17 .It was Schumann’s contribution towards Liszt’s cost of erecting a monument to Beethoven in Bonn.Hat’s off to both the young artists that at very short notice could give such exemplary performances .Simo even playing Rachmaninov’s beautiful prelude in D op 23 as a tranquil, opening to the drama that was about to be enacted .A sense of architectural shape was the overall impression of the two performances of Beethoven and Schumann.The very precise indications of Beethoven regarding his revolutionary use of the pedal was not always noted but the Andante con moto was played at just the right tempo of the corteo that it depicts.Great contrasts in the first movement could have been even more accentuated had the second subject been more expressive and mysterious.The Allegro ma non troppo was played with great control even if it could have been almost lighter in places especially in the coda where Beethoven does indicated the dramatic contrasts that he imagined.There were some beautiful things too in the Schumann Fantasie but sometimes Kirill felt this passionate outpouring for Clara a little too strongly which could sometimes blur the overall line of this masterpiece.There were some exquisite moments in the sostenuto where Agosti had written the words Clar. ……..a in my score at bar 4.The coda of the second movement was thrown off with technical proficiency but somewhat at the expense of the overall shape.An afternoon of sumptuous music played by two aspiring young musicians that we wish the success that they deserve with their future studies in London.
Simo Šiševic is an award-winning Montenegrin pianist and a current student at the Royal College of Music in London. His competition successes include the Absolute Prize in the Academy Award International Competition in Rome (2013), Special Prize in the Windsor International Piano Competition^ (2015), First Prize in the International Piano Competition in Tivat, Montenegro (2016), First Prize in the Pieter Gaci International Competition in Shkoder, Albania. (2017) He has performed extensively at Montenegrin festivals including Fortepiano, Bartok for Young Pianists , Piano in the Spirit of Folklore and French Music in the Early 20th Century . Šiševic also took part in Montenegrin Cultural Symphony event organized by the Embassy of Republic of Montenegro in the UK. He has also performed at the RCM Keyboard Festival (2019) and gave a solo recital in London at the English-Speaking Union in organisation of The Zetland Trust. In 2016, Šiševic represented his country and its musical heritage in the Monténégro au coeur de l’Europe concert at the Festival Weekend de Clavier Contemporain at the Frederic Chopin Conservatoire in Paris. As a jazz pianist, Šiševic has performed extensively including at the opening of the jazz festival Made in New York in Montenegro alongside Randy Brecker, Bobby Sanabria, and Edsel Gomez. Šiševic has been generously supported by The Katheleen Trust, The Zetland Foundation, The Talent Unlimited, The Henry Wood Trust, St Maryleboune Educational Foundation, PAM Montenegro, Ministry of Culture of Montenegro, and Capital City of Podgorica. Throughout his education in Podgorica and previous two years in London he awarded a scholarship by Montenegrin Ministry of Education. Šiševic was recently awarded a scholarship by Municipality of City of Bar (Montenegro) as well as a scholarship by Global Ports Holding. Simo Šiševic was born in Podgorica, Montenegro. He is a graduate of the Art School of Music and Ballet in Podgorica, where he studied with Anka Asanovic. Šiševic is currently a 4th year undergraduate student at the Royal College of Music in London where he has studied with pianist Gordon Fergus-Thompson and John Byrne.
Kirill Zheleznov (piano)
Schumann: Fantasy in C Op 17 Appassionato e fantastico-Maestoso e con energia-Sostenuto
Kirill Zheleznov – Russian concert pianist and a composer currently based in London. He is studying at the Royal College of Music, London, for a Bachelor of Music with John Byrne and Sofya Gulyak, where he is a ‘Kenneth and Violet Scott Scholar’. Kirill was nominated for ‘Study award in recognition of progress’ in 2019 and became an artist of Talent Unlimited Trust in 2020. Since childhood, he has performed in numerous concert halls such as Vienna Concert Hall in Vienna, Austria, and Yehudi Menuhin Hall in Brussels, Belgium. Kirill performed his first solo recital at St. Petersburg House of Music Concert Hall in 2015, aged 19. The most recent Kirill’s successes in international piano competitions include the first prize as well as 2 award-concerts in Italy at the international piano competition “Città di Arona” 2021, the Grand Prize at the XVIII Crimean Spring International Music Competition, the second prize at the Franz Liszt Centre Piano Competition and the third prize at the VI Odin International Music Competition. In 2018 Kirill was also awarded the second prize and the special prize for the best performance of the given composition at the Classic Pure Vienna International Music Competition. Kirill graduated from the St. Petersburg Mussorgsky College of Music (Russia) in 2016 where he studied with Tatiana Osipova. Since then, he has become a prize winner in many international piano competitions, and he has also actively participated in numerous festivals and master classes across Russia and other European countries. Kirill also participated in various programs sponsored by state authorities (including the Russian Ministry of Education) and by well-known multinational companies. As a student he became acquainted with film music and realised that he wants to become not only a concert pianist but a film composer. Therefore, Kirill started to participate in production of films as a film composer. Since then, he collaborated with many directors such as Alena Mikhailina, Valery Ushakov and Andrew Klementev.The most recent Kirill’s collaboration as a composer is a score and production of soundtracks for the play ‘While It was Raining’ (dir. Valery Ushakov) presented by the theatre ‘S.A.D.’ (Moscow). This play is going to be distributed by ‘Stage Russia HD’ company across the Globe in 2021. In 2019 he composed a score and produced soundtracks for Alena Mikhailina’s musical ‘An Eye for a Window’ which won Cannes Corporate Media & TV Award for the ‘Best Student Film’. Kirill Zheleznov also significantly contributed to production of movies by composing soundtracks in collaboration with the St. Petersburg State University of Film and Television.
Mishka Rushdie Momen’s solo debut recital included the plaintive elegance of Janáček’s In the Mists, alongside extracts from Schumann’s Waldscenen and Ravel’s Miroirs , in a programme that explores cyclical works and keys. The programme begins with Rameau’s Les tendres plaints (‘The tender sighs’), a rondeau which shimmers with grace.
A programme at the Wigmore Hall that sparkled and shone to the glory of music.There is a tendency these days to underestimate the power of music in the mistaken idea that it is quantity not quality that counts.Nowhere was I more aware of this than listening to Christian Blackshaw a while ago playing the Mozart Adagio in B minor K 540 that had me running to look at the score such were the subtle sounds reminiscent of a string quartet but coming from two hands on a keyboard.Of course Murray Perahia regularly surprises us with his revelatory readings of much loved works as do a chosen few such as Mitsuko Uchida,Krystian Zimerman,Richard Goode.All top prize winners in the past of International Competitions and hats off to the discerning jury that could pin point them.A jury usually made up in those days of great pianists who had given up their time – bullied by the indomitable Dame Fanny Waterman – who in her early competitions in Leeds insisted that great pianists should be prepared to give up some of their time to ensure the quality of the next generation.She also got Benjamin Britten to write a test piece.Nowadays there are so many competitions that if the great performing musicians had to give up their time for them there would be no time for their own concerts.But there are young artists who do not have the infallible preparation that competitions require and many technically better prepared young pianists suddenly find the field wide open.Many of the truly aspiring young artists need time and experience to mature but venture into the circus arena in the hope of gaining some recognition and future concerts.Would Myra Hess Clifford Curzon ,Alfred Cortot or Edwin Fischer have got through the preliminary rounds of a competition?So it is very refreshing to find the Wigmore Hall offering space to emerging young artists that have been nurtured and encouraged by the great interpreters who have themselves found a haven in this much revered hall.Such was the case today with Mishka who has for some time been mentored by Andras Schiff,Angela Hewitt,Imogen Cooper and Steven Isserlis.After her extraordinary duo recitals with Steven Isserlis she was left on her own in this hallowed space – just her and the pure music that she conjured from a black box full of hammers and strings.
I was reminded of another recital less than a week ago in that other venue dedicated to giving a platform to young artists in a beautiful redundant church in the middle of Ealing golf course:“The deep melancholy of the andante was so poignant – can only three notes mean so much?That,of course is the art of the true interpreter and so rare these days where young musicians are cultivated in the Russian repertoire that seems to require many more notes to say much less !What a lesson and an eye or should I say ear opener today.I remember Serkin listening to a young Murray Perahia and admonishing Richard Goode for not telling him quite how good he was!’
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
Pièces de clavecin avec une methode pour la mechanique des doigts XI. Les tendres plaintes .Such beautifully delicate playing with ravishing ornaments that gleamed like jewels.It made one wonder why we are not treated more often to the deep melancholy and tenderness of Rameau instead of the usual brilliance and clockwork precision of his more technically explosive pieces.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Variations sérieuses in D minor Op. 54.The beauty of the Andante sostenuto theme was played with such subtle colouring and led to the first variation where her legato in the right hand was matched by the gentle staccato of the left.The continual flow of the second led us to the drama of the third and the fleeting jeux perlé that followed.Building up the tension with the agitato fifth and the almost playful sixth before the virtuosity and excitement of the seventh and eighth.The beautiful change of mood with the warmth and sublime calm before the tempest was magically controlled with quite exquisite sounds.The beautiful tenor melody was accompanied by the butterfly staccato cascades of delicate notes so similar to Schumann op 13 studies.There was deep meditation too in the following two variations :Adagio and gradually poco a poco più agitato.The tumultuous final two variations were played not only with brilliance but with such colour and architectural shape that was breathtaking in its audacity and at times even delicacy before coming to rest on the last three magical chords.
Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
Ballade No. 2 in F Op. 38 It was the extreme delicacy of the andantino where her absolute legato in the bass gave such subtle colour to the seemingly innocent melodic line and made the eruption of the Presto con fuoco so thrilling.A true Schumannesque Florestan and Eusebius as a tribute to its dedicatee?It was played with such flowing forward movement that led to the technical brilliance of the agitato coda but with such sumptuous sounds that the final pianissimo comment with which it ends came as a true surprise as was the pause,so pregnant with meaning,before the final farewell.
Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)
In the Mists is a piano cycle and the last of Janacek’s more substantial solo works for piano It was composed in 1912, some years after Janáček had suffered the death of his daughter Olga and while his operas were still being rejected by the Prague opera houses. All four parts of the cycle are largely written in “misty” keys with five or six flats; it is in four parts Andante ;Molto adagio ;Andantino ;Presto.A work very much championed by Mishka’s mentor Andras Schiff and is indeed remarkable,full of haunting melodies and elusive harmonies of great character and was given a totally committed performance.
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Waldscenen Op. 82 No. 7 Vogel als Prophet
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Miroirs. Oiseaux tristes. Alborada del gracioso The subtle colours and atmosphere created in these final works created the magic out of which sprung the pyrotechnics of Alborada with its treacherous repeated notes and double glissandi bringing this magical recital to an exciting end. Not before admiring the sumptuous central prayer like episode where Schumann’s prophet bird miraculously reappears before Ravel’s sad birds take wing .
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Ungarische Melodie in B minor D817 A beautifully shaped melody dedicated to the people suffering in India was this sensitive artist’s way of thanking her imaginary audience.Listening, I am sure,from every part of the globe where the message within her music of comfort and beauty is indeed timeless and universal
A terrific recital to use Dr Mather’s words where his long suffering piano today found someone who could allow it to express all the love and beauty that it can reveal in the right hands.I am reminded of Tobias Matthay and his famous school which included Myra Hess and Moura Lympany never capable of making ugly sounds. Well another young lady just showed us that today in a repertoire that was very much of a Hess or Kovacevich.
A Mozart Fantasy where all the world’s a stage and we were treated to opera on a grand scale.From the very first notes where a string quartet was in play with the deeply contemplative depth of sound and the beautifully searching melodic line.The question and answer amongst the characters dying away to a whisper before the questioning opening returns to complete the scene.The left hand melodic line given great weight and meaning as it moves higher and arrives at its terrible inevitable conclusion.There was excitement too with the sheer drama of the Allegro where the menacing bass notes were aided and abetted by the fiery tremolandi.The absolute precision with which she threw herself into the fury of the Più allegro was just as astonishing as it must have been for the audience in Mozart’s day as were the sheer orchestral sounds of the slurred arpeggios with their calming chordal response.The final pianissimi chords on high made the reappearance of the opening intense notes even more poignant as it gradually blew itself out with a final surge of energy.
It was a panorama that she opened for us where every note spoke to the next as in her scrupulous attention to Beethoven’s meticulous indications in his Sonata op 109. This more than any other was a work that Myra Hess moved a world as Ivelina did today .They showed us Beethoven’s vision of life with the deep restrained contemplation with which like Bach he ends his journey through life with acceptance and nobility.The first movement had an overall shape of grandeur with a tender almost pastoral longing as it flowed in and out like the stream of life.Dolce,forte,piano,crescendo, piano ,crescendo ,piano all within the first few bars that give some indication of the silent world that Beethoven inhabited.Without doubt a better world than he had suffered all his irritated life.All played with such serenity and simplicity but with a beauty of sound that was quite overwhelming.The prestissimo created a surge of energy with its continuous forward movement where even the quieter sections had a certain ominous presence and there was a final irritated swipe to finish.There followed Beethoven’s almost Nimrodian acceptance of what life had offered him in what is surely his most clearly defined benediction.The theme was most beautifully shaped with such quiet authority and inner feeling .The total rhythmic mastery of the third variation followed the utmost delicacy of the second and the scrupulous attention to detail in the first ,which is probably the hardest to interpret without falling into banality.There was a feeling of circular movement to the fourth variation that was very moving with Beethoven’s own pedal effects just adding to the magic of creation that was in his own head and private ear.The Allegro of the fifth was thankfully ma non troppo,never rising above the forte that is indicated and not always noticed by lesser interpreters.It was at this point that in Moura Lympany’s recital for us in Rome she screamed that she could see five pedals.Poor Moura she was able to finish the recital but it was the beginning of a stroke that was to hit hard a year later.The magical return of the theme in all its glory and mystery signalled the sixth and final variation.Passion and celestial sounds combine dissolving into the deep contemplation of the return of the theme ( or aria in Bach’s case) played with an aristocratic simplicity where even the final chords were judged to absolute perfection.
There was a complete change of sound for Brahms as the velvety sumptuous sounds flooded these emotional gates that Brahms’intimate being had kept to himself for too long.Like Beethoven who had come to terms with life too ,they were able to share their true inner feelings at the end of their lives via the magic world of music.There was passion in the opening Capriccio with a full orchestral sound created by a superb sense of balance and a magic transformation by a sense of touch and subtle use of pedal.Octaves just thrown off so delicately on their downward path on which the melodic line spun its passionate web.What questions there were in the beseeching search of the Intermezzo in A minor.Entering into the centre of Brahms’ most intimate self with glorious celestial sounds from on high.The deep melancholy of the andante was so poignant – can only three notes mean so much ?That,of course is the art of the true interpreter and so rare these days where young musicians are cultivated in the Russian repertoire that seems to require many more notes to say much less !What a lesson and an eye or should I say ear opener today.I remember Serkin listening to a young Murray Perahia and admonishing Richard Goode for not telling him quite how good he was!
A capriccio in G minor of astonishing sweep but also with such shape .A sumptuous ‘un poco meno Allegro’ like a great hymn to life played with glorious resonant sounds.An Intermezzo Adagio in E major of heart melting intimacy with such exquisite sounds of tentative tenderness in reply to Brahms’ deep sighs.Clouds parting in the dolce una corda interval before the celestial ending.The eery Intermezzo in E minor played with a superb sense of phrasing that gave such sad yearning to the sparse notes. The almost hidden explosion of ecstatic melody before the sublime resolution.The flowing Intermezzo in E major with the beauty of the middle section played with an exquisite sense of colour that led to the mysterious entry of the Intermezzo before the gradual disintegration to the magical drawn out final resolution.The final Capriccio Allegro agitato burst onto the scene but even here Brahms had a Schubertian outpouring of melodic invention to share .The passion at the end was even more remarkable for its control of sound and colour. Music that can talk to the soul is music to cherish indeed. Thank you dear Iva for reminding us that it is quality not quantity that makes a true artist.
Ivelina Krasteva was born in 1998 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. She started to play the piano at the age of 4. Two years later she got accepted in the National School of Music and Dance in Plovdiv, where she studied with Elena Velcheva until her graduation with distinction in 2017. Currently, Ivelina is acquiring her undergraduate degree studying as a HWE and WL Tovery Scholar with Ronan O’Hora and Katya Apekisheva at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Ivelina has received numerous awards from international competitions such as first prize and a livestreamed recital on Radio Plovdiv from the International Piano Competition “Schumann-Brahms” in Plovdiv, Bulgaria; third prize at the Pera Piano Competition in Istanbul, Turkey; second prize at The Golden Keys Piano Competition; third prize at International competition “Wiener Pianisten”, Vienna, Austria; and others. In addition to her studies, she has worked with internationally acclaimed musicians, such as Itamar Golan, Boris Petrushansky, Paul Roberts, Charles Owen, Noriko Ogawa, Stephan Moeller among others. As a dedicated chamber musician, Ivelina has worked in various ensembles and has been a prize winner in numerous competitions such as the First prize at the International Music Competition in Belgrade, Serbia, category “Chamber music”, as a part of a piano trio, 2016. She has received tuition from the Endellion Quartet, the Gould Piano Trio, Carole Presland, Caroline Palmer, Adrian Brendel, Ralf Gothoni, Levon Chilingirian. Ivelina has given concerts both as a solo pianist and with orchestra. She has performed in several countries – Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria, Romania, Italy and the UK. Highlights include a performance of Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto with the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra and Mozart’s 24th Piano Concerto with the Vratsa State Orchestra. Days before the UK lockdown Ivelina won the Coulsdon and Purley Concerto Competition, which will result in her concerto debut in the UK in the next season, performing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto no.3 with the Worthing Philharmonic Orchestra under Dominic Grier. Throughout her education, she has been supported with scholarships from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, the “Prof. Lyuba Encheva” Foundation and the Henry Wood Accommodation Trust.
Romanticism and eclecticism, for a program driven by a unique father-daughter bond. With the duo, discover or rediscover key works from the repertoire for cello and piano: Beethoven’s Variations, Rachmaninoff’s sonata, overflowing with romanticism, Britten’s sonata, perhaps the most beautiful cello work of the twentieth century, and the Great tango of Piazzolla.
What a wonderful garden Julien Brocal has created in his atelier in Brussels . Julien who I met many years ago in Monza has been taken under the wing of Maria Joao Pires and has now earned his own wings creating his Jardin Musical where Misha and Lily Maisky performed tonight. What a great cellist ,playing with his daughter Lily creating that wonderful fusion that Tortelier created with his daughter all those years ago. What refined intensity and what luminous sounds from the piano too
O+ Beethoven – Seven Variations in E flat major on Mozart’s Magic Flute in E flat major, WoO 46 + Britten – Sonata for Cello and Piano in C + Tchaikovsky – Autumn Song (“October” from “The Seasons”, Op.37a/10) + Tchaikovsky – Valse Sentimentale, Op.51/6 + Rachmaninov: – Melodie, op.3/3 – Twilight, op.21/3 – Vocalise, op.34/14 – Elegie, op.3/1 + Piazzolla – Le Grand Tango
Next concert on May 9th at 18 h with Julien ‘s mentor the wonderful Maria Joao Pires. I heard Julien play the Mozart double with her in Oxford and when I went to thank her for all she was doing to help young musicians.She very simply said: ‘But it is I who should thank them for all that they give me!’
She like that other great lady of the keyboard Martha Argerich are a lesson to us all of the humility and simplicity with which true greatness is wrapped.
THE KEYBOARD CHARITABLE TRUST for Young Professional Performers
Patron: SIR ANTONIO PAPPANO
Wednesday 21 April, 7.00pm in celebration of the founder John Leech on his 96th birthday.
“I have rarely heard Schumann’s Humoresque so beautifully played…a true poet of the piano. His musicianship and superb technical control will not be forgotten for a long time” CHRISTOPHER AXWORTHY Co-Artistic Director, Keyboard Trust
Scarlatti: Sonatas K. 11 in C minor and K.159 in C Beethoven : Sonata Op. 31 No. 3 in E flat Schumann : Humoresque Op. 20
I recently heard Roman Kosyakov in a private recording venue for the Keyboard Charitable Trust.It just confirmed my previous impression of a quite extraordinary artist more than ready to demonstrate his great artistry to an awaiting public.He arrived after a delayed journey from Hastings to London and just sat down and gave one of the most remarkable performances of Schumann Humoresque that I have ever heard.He is also one of the simplest and nicest people it has been my pleasure to meet. I enclose a piece about Roman that I wrote a few weeks ago at St Mary’s and just confirm that he is a major talent.In his hands he had such authority,musicianship and above all a range of sound that projected in the quietest passages and roared like a lion when he wanted but never letting the sound harden.He explained about his early training and his teacher at central school telling him to think before you play, which are the same words that Andras Schiff uses in his masterclasses.He won Hastings 2018 and awaits his RPO concert at Cadogan Hall .He has a Liszt cd for Naxos part of a collaboration between Birmingham Conservatoire and Naxos and I believe Leslie Howard is very much involved in this series of lesser known works.
I have spoken about Roman’s remarkable performances of the Schumann Humoresque together with the Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition,but today I was taken by surprise also by his superb performances of Scarlatti and Beethoven.
Two Scarlatti sonatas played with such jewel like precision.The C minor K.11 was played with beautiful grace and charm with astonishing clarity as the music seemed to pour from his agile fingers with such fluidity.The ornaments just glittering like jewels as he seemed to conduct himself at the same time as playing.The famous C major Sonata K.159 with its horn like imitation was played with a crisp rhythmic impetus that was truly exhilarating.The discreet echo effect was judged to absolute perfection.
Beethoven’s Sonata op 31 n.3 was played with a freshness and feeling of pastoral well being with scrupulous attention to Beethoven’s precise indications .The almost too serious Beethoven character showing through at the beginning of the development was immediately diffused by the playfully wistful character that permeates this exhilarating work.We could admire yet again the ornaments that glistened and glittered like magic in his delicate hands.The Allegro vivace Scherzo just flowed from his fingers with an irresistible sense of mischief as it was played with a clockwork precision of great shape and character.And what fun he had as Beethoven slides up and down the keyboard before just throwing the end off with such nonchalant ease and charm.The Minuetto was indeed moderato and grazioso but it was also played with a simplicity and subtle beauty.The Trio,that Saint Saens uses as the theme of his Beethoven Variations was played with the mock seriousness of Beethoven poking fun at the proceedings before entering the bucolic fun of the Presto con fuoco that just spun from his fingers like a well oiled spring with an infectious joie de vivre.The central chase was played with the same sense of character that I remember from Rubinstein’s many memorable performances including his last at the Wigmore Hall in 1976.Roman had too that enormous rhythmic drive that I remember was so much part of Richter’s characterful exhilaration in the Schubert C minor Sonata.
More remarkable performances to add to my previous impressions.What a wonderful tribute to our founder on his 96th birthday to know that he has created a Keyboard Trust with his wife Noretta Conci that will help young musicians like Roman bridge the gap between acquiring a mastery and being able to share it with a waiting world.
Roman Kosyakov was born into a musical family and made his debut with orchestra at the age of 12 with Mozart Concerto N.23 in A Major. In 2012, he graduated from the Central Music School in Moscow where he studied with Farida Nurizade and then in 2017 from the Tchaikovsky Moscow Conservatoire with Vladimir Ovchinnikov. Since September 2017, he has studied at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire on a full scholarship with Pascal Nemirovski.He is a laureate of many national and international competitions, among them “Young Talents of Russia” (Russia, Moscow 2006), the 1st International competition “Sforzando” (1st Prize, Berlin, 2007), the International Alexander Scriabin Piano Competition (1stPrize, Paris 2011), the 8th Open Competition of Musicians Performers N. Sabitov (1stPrize, Russia, Ufa, 2012), the International Piano Competition “Minsk-2014” (2nd Prize, Republic of Belarus, Minsk, 2014), the 4th International Piano Competition “Russian season in Ekaterinburg“ (1st Prize, Russia, Ekaterinburg, 2015), the 4th International Piano Competition “Vera Lotar-Shevchenko”(2nd Prize,Russia, Ekaterinburg, 2016), 4thPrize of the 1st Saint-Priest International Piano Competition Saint-Priest (Lyon-France, 2017).In the UK, Roman won 1st Prize and the Audience Prize at the 10th Sheepdrove Piano Competition open to candidates from the eight major UK music colleges.He won the prestigious 2018 Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition, and the Orchestra Prize performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (2018, UK).Roman is now regularly invited to give concerts in France, Italy, Germany, Republic of Belarus, Russia, UK, USA. He just performed with the Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra and the English Symphony Orchestra. In January 2019 Roman received “The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire- Silver Medal” from the Musician’s Company and became a member of Musician’s Company Yeomen Young Artists’ Programme. He was also invited to represent and launch the 2019 Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition at the House of Commons in London. Roman is a winner of the Denis Matthews Memorial Trust award, Kirckman Concert Society Artist and a scholar of the Drake Calleja Trust.In Summer 2019 Roman recorded a debut CD for Naxos with works by Liszt. As part of Fitzroy Piano Quartet Roman won the Royal Over-Seas League Annual Music Competition string ensembles section in January 2020.
A very sensitive account of the Scarlatti Sonata in Fminor K 466.Caressing the keys in this deeply felt lament.But it was the fluidity of sound in the Schubert A minor sonata that was so remarkable.Even in the most strenuous passages there was an extraordinary sound very reminiscent of the Hungarian school of Geza Anda and Tamas Vasary .A deeply contemplative slow movement where the barely whispered echo of the tenor melodic line was quite magical and the frantic perpetual motion of the last movement was only relieved by Schubert’s ever surprising melodic outpouring.
The Chopin study op 10 n.8 glided with such ease from his well oiled fingers but it was the shaping of the left hand melodic line that was so remarkable. There was a superb sense of balance in the late nocturne op 62 n.1 where one could appreciate to the full his aristocratic sense of rubato and colour.
The sense of architectural shape and character made one appreciate even more the Chopin second scherzo as it built to its exciting close contrasting so well with the beautiful shape he brought to the eloquent central section
Stephen Kovacevich (piano) with Tamsin Waley-Cohen (violin)
Beethoven: Piano Sonata in A flat op 110 Moderato cantabile,molto espressivo-Allegro molto-Adagio ma non troppo-Fuga allegro ma non troppo
Bach Allemande from the 4th Partita
Debussy: Violin Sonata in G minor
What a treat on these wonderful spring days to hear music played by a master. Playing of almost whispered intimacy as Stephen Kovacevich shared the secrets of a lifetime ,living with the respect,intimacy and love that was divulged to a teenager from Los Angeles whom Myra Hess had taken under her wing more than half a century ago. Playing with the intimacy that I have only heard from Kempff in his later years where the piano ceases to become a percussion instrument and every note sings or vibrates in sympathy with Beethoven at peace with the world. It was very moving to realise that the Debussy sonata was also his last work and was in fact the last time that Debussy was heard in public. The Allemande from the Fourth Partita by Bach was played with a luminous beauty and the stillness of music that is Universal. If music be the food of love ……….play on. A magical moment and an example to all the young virtuosi that Hugh Mather and his team very generously support. It is quality not quantity that remains in the soul and enriches us forever
Stephen had played four recitals in my series in Rome between 1992 and 2004 .Always a cherished occasion for the programmes that he brought of Bach ,Brahms,Beethoven and Schubert,bathed as he was in the glorious tradition that Myra Hess had bequeathed to him.As a schoolboy in London I remember his memorable performances of Beethoven fourth concerto with Boulez coupled as it was with the Elgar Concerto with Jaqueline Du Pré in the same concerts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra on their early tours of America.I remember ,years later on one of his visits to Rome,when he decided the piano was more suited to Schubert’s last A major sonata rather than to the B flat that had been announced .He asked if he could change programme which was no problem for him as this music was such an integral part of his being.I notice too that in his first and last concerts for us he included the Sonata op 110 by Beethoven which he played today in Perivale in the charming deconsacrated church whose walls now ring with the sound of music.And what music was heard today where this work that was so much part of Myra Hess’s repertoire showed us that more than any other of the Beethoven Sonatas it is a great song from the first to the last note.Stephen,sitting very low as always – in Rome he asked if he could chop a few inches of the stool to make it even lower-as he barely seemed to depress the keys with no fuss or unnecessary histrionics but just listening so carefully to the sounds that were concealed in his very passionate but also intelligent soul.
There were wondrous homogeneous sounds from the very first notes and the opening trill just flowed with a natural simplicity from the heartwarming indication of Beethoven ‘con amabilità’ to the sublime ‘cantabile con intimissimo sentimento,ma sempre molto dolce e semplice’ – to quote Schnabel.The ethereal broken chords just fluttered over the keys in a vibration of sounds with the gentle bass chords just hinted at.The deep bass trills too were just vibrations of sound leading to a momentary passionate outpouring before the magical transitions to the development.The move from Eflat to Dflat was judged to perfection and created the mood for the opening theme accompanied by the subtle swelling of the cello voices where Beethoven’s very intricate indications were translated into sound with such clarity and meaning.The supreme legato of the coda was something to marvel at indeed and gave creed to Dame Fanny’s remark that people do not know how to ‘mould’ any more!The Allegro molto of the scherzo was played in a subdued manner and not the usual rumbustuous intrusion that lesser mortals offer.The clipped chords at the end just made the rests more meaningful.The treacherous trio section was made to sing instead of spitting blood and was a tour de force of control.There was a hushed opening to the Adagio of such calm and beauty.The mystery of the più adagio answered by the calm chords of the Andante and the gentle vibration of the high A opened a world of pure magic where the arioso dolente sang with a deeply personal voice that was even more moving on its return as it interrupts the fugue.A simple almost whispered eloquence as was the fugal last movement where his sense of finger legato was to marvel at indeed.I liked the pause between the end of the fugue and the change of key to the arioso ‘perdendo le forze ,dolente’.The staccato chords barely touched before growing in sound as Beethoven opens the chords with pedal to create a cloud on which the fugue ,now inverted,floats to take us to the ever more agitated movement on which the theme is allowed to bask in it’s ultimate glory with such a passionate outpouring of overwhelming commitment.
A serene work of Bach was the only possible reply to such words of worldly wisdom.From Stephen’s renowned performance of the Fourth Partita by Bach he chose just the Allemande that was played with a luminous simplicity where the music was simply allowed to unfold and tell its own wondrous story.
The Debussy Sonata was an intimate performance between friends.Some magnificent violin playing integrated so beautifully with the subtle sounds from the piano and was a joy and privilege to be abie to eavesdrop.
The sonata for violin and piano in G minor, L. 140, was written in 1917. It was the composer’s last major composition and the premiere took place on 5 May 1917, the violin part played by Gaston Poulet with Debussy himself at the piano. It was his last public performance.
The work has three movements:Allegro vivo Intermède: Fantasque et léger Finale: Très animé.From 1914, the composer, encouraged by the music publisher Jacques Durand,intended to write a set of six sonatas for various instruments, in homage to the French composers of the 18th centuryThe First World War , along with the composers Couperin and Rameau , inspired Debussy as he was writing the sonatas.Durand, in his memoirs entitled Quelques souvenirs d’un éditeur de musique, wrote the following about the sonatas’ origin:After his famous String Quartet, Debussy had not written any more chamber music. Then, at the Concerts Durand, he heard again the Septet with trumpet by Saint-Saëns and his sympathy for this means of musical expression was reawoken. He admitted the fact to me and I warmly encouraged him to follow his inclination. And that is how the idea of the six sonatas for various instruments came about.In a letter to the conductor Bernard Molinari, Debussy explained that the set should include “different combinations, with the last sonata combining the previously used instruments”. His death on 25 March 1918 prevented him from carrying out his plan, and only three of the six sonatas were completed and published by Durand.
Stephen Kovacevich is widely recognised as one of the most revered artists of his generation. With an international career spanning more than six decades, he has long been recognised as one of the most searching interpretors – “A musician completely absorbed in his craft, his interpretations are like no one else’s and always eminate directly from the heart: musical messages of wisdom, peace, resignation, and hope” (The Washington Post). He is known for never being afraid to take both technical and musical risks in order to achieve maximum expressive impact. Through this, he has won unsurpassed admiration for his piano-playing, none more than from Leopold Stokowski , who famously wrote: “You do with your feet what I try to do with my Philadelphia Orchestra” . Born in Los Angeles, Kovacevich laid the foundation for his career as concert pianist at the age of eleven. After moving to England to study with Dame Myra Hess, he made his European debut at Wigmore Hall in 1961. Since then, he has appeared with many of the world’s finest orchestras and conductors, including Hans Graf , Bernard Haitink , Kurt Masur , Yannick Nezet-Seguin , Sir Simon Rattle , and the late Sir Georg Solti . As concerto soloist, recent and forthcoming highlights include Aurora Orchestra/Nicholas Collon , Los Angeles Philharmonic/Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla , Orchestre symphonique de Montréal/David Zinman , Sydney Symphony/Vladimir Ashkenazy , and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony/Sylvain Cambreling . In recital, recent and forthcoming highlights include performances in Europe, Asia, and the United States – including the NCPA (Bejing), the Phillips Collection (Washington), the Bridgewater Hall (Manchester), and the Wigmore Hall (London). Kovacevich also performs regularly across the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand, and is a regular guest at prestigious festivals worldwide – including Lugano , Verbier , and the Mariinsky International Piano Festival (the latter by personal invitation of Valery Gergiev ). Over the course of his extensive career, Kovacevich has forged many long-standing artistic partnerships, such as that with the late Sir Colin Davis with whom he made numerous outstanding recordings, including the legendary Bartok Piano Concerto No.2 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Another such long-term affiliation is his professional partnership with Martha Argerich , with whom he regularly performs in duo on the world’s leading concert stages. Recent and forthcoming highlights for the Argerich-Kovacevich Duo include recitals at Het Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Philharmonie (Paris), Victoria Hall (Geneva), the Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles), and the Wigmore Hall (London). He is a committed chamber musician, with collaborations over the course of his long career including with such luminaries as the late Lynn Harrell , Jacqueline du Pré , and Joseph Suk . Kovacevich now enjoys regular artistic collaborations with such violinists as Nicola Benedetti , Renaud Capuçon , and Alina Ibragimova ; cellists Gautier Capuçon , Steven Isserlis , and Truls Mørk ; flautist Emmanuel Pahud ; and the Amadeus , Belcea , and Cleveland quartets. Stephen Kovacevich has enjoyed an illustrious long-term relationship with recording companies Philips and EMI. To celebrate his 75 th birthday, Decca released a Limited Edition 25-CD Box Set of his entire recorded legacy for Philips. In 2008, he re-recorded Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations , exactly 40 years after his first recording of the work. This Onyx recording won him the Classic FM Gramophone Editor’s Choice Award (2009) and the Gramophone Magazine Top Choice Award (2015), to quote: “His seasoned yet fearless mastery reveals something new with each hearing…” .
Born in London, Tamsin Waley-Cohen enjoys an adventurous and varied career. In addition to concerts with the Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Hallé, Liverpool Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony, Royal Northern Sinfonia and BBC orchestras, amongst others, she has twice been associate artist with the Orchestra of the Swan and works with conductors including Andrew Litton, Vasily Petrenko, Ben Gernon, Ryan Bancroft and Tamás Vásáry. Her duo partners include James Baillieu and Huw Watkins. She gave the premiere of Watkins’ Concertino, and in Summer 2020 will premiere a new work for violin and piano with him at Wigmore Hall. She is thrilled to be a Signum Classics Artist. With her sister, composer Freya Waley-Cohen, and architects Finbarr O’Dempsey and Andrew Skulina, she held an Open Space residency at Aldeburgh, culminating in the 2017 premiere of Permutations at the Aldeburgh Festival, an interactive performance artwork synthesising music and architecture. Her love of chamber music led her to start the Honeymead Festival, now in its twelth year, from which all proceeds go to support local charities. She is a founding member of the Albion string quartet, appearing regularly with them at venues including Wigmore Hall, Aldeburgh Festival, and the Concertgebouw. In 2016-2017 she was the UK recipient of the ECHO Rising Stars Awards, playing at all the major European concert halls and premiering Oliver Knussen’s Reflection, written especially for her and Huw Watkins. In the 2018-19 season she toured Japan and China, and gave her New York Debut recital at the Frick.She is Artistic Director of the Two Moors Festival, and has previously been Artistic Director of the Music Series at the Tricyle Theatre, London, and the Bargello festival in Florence. She studied at the Royal College of Music and her teachers included Itzhak Rashkovsky, Ruggiero Ricci and András Keller.