Ilya Kondratiev in Germany

A most impressive tour of six recitals, played by Russian pianist Ilya Kondratiev, has sadly come to an end. I would have loved to hear 6 or 60 more! This will be a long review, very

much deserved so by a unique pianist.

 

His programme comprised

Schubert – Four impromptus op. 90 (1827), 

Chopin – Polonaise in A Flat op. 53 (1842), Liszt – Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-C-H (1871),   

Liszt – Sonata in B Minor (1852/53).

Ilya Kondratiev is indeed one of those pianists that should be in the limelight of worldwide attention – a masterful, profound  musician who to me certainly is one of the best Keyboard Trust pianists I have met. He played at venues in Berlin (Representation of the City of Hamburg, with support by Steinway & Sons, Berlin), Hamburg (Bechstein Centre for the first time, New Living Home and Steinway & Sons), Munich (Steinway & Sons), and Frankfurt (Bechstein Centre).

 

All six programmes that Ilya played were at highest level, one after the other, and I do indeed have the impression that with Ilya Kondratiev,  the tradition of the grand art of piano playing is being continued, if not revived in the most noble way, in a long-awaited way, in an astonishing and overwhelming way. He is far from being a superficial poser, far from being a showman or a vain actor who happens to play the piano, as so very many young ‘pianists’ nowadays are. Ilya Kondratiev’s appearance on stage is noble, elegant and modest, yet an aura surrounds him immediately, and the halls became silent in awe from the beginning to the end, wherever he performed.

Ilya Kondatiev chose to open his intelligently and beautifully chosen recital with the certainly too rarely played Four Impromptus op. 90 by Franz Schubert, composed in 1827 at the age of 30, the year before Schubert died. The opening Impromptu in C Minor, Allegro molto moderato, which Ilya views and interprets as a funeral march, was played in a somber mood, melancholically throughout, yet never losing tension or rhythm. In Hamburg’s Steinway Hall, a gentleman from New Zealand, a music- and piano teacher himself, later told me that he was crying right from the beginning. The funeral march resounded under Ilya’s hands like an apodictic epitaph, moving forward with determination, beautiful in sound and moving everyone in the hall. Ilya adhered very closely to the music, giving special attention to the non-legato rhythm which deepend the impression even more. He then transformed the modulation to the Major key into a promise of salvation, an incredible, magic momentary illumination during this first impromptu, before bringing it to a silent ending. What a beginning!

 

Impromptu op. 90 No. 2 in E Flat, Allegro, was an example of Ilya Kondratiev’s immaculate Jeu perlé, the joyful triplets of the right hand executed by him in absolute clarity, with scarce use of the right and absolutely no left pedal, and with excellently sustained left hand – thus leading to an exciting, dancing and rhythmically even flow of music, that all of a sudden gave way for the dramatic, rhythmically unstoppable modulation into B Minor, ben marcato. Schubert’s sadness and mourning, seemingly a relentless invocation, were powerfully performed by Ilya Kondratiev who allowed space for breathtaking increases in drama and tension before turning this phrase into a pianissimo prayer, finally returning subtly to Schubert’s seemingly joyful triplets. However, these were not to last, there is indeed no redemption, no salvation, and Schubert cannot evade the B Minor darkness any more – with dazzling accelerando through Schubert’s haunting modulations, Ilya Kondratiev brought this Impromptu to its uncompromising end in E Flat Minor. I rarely heard greater silence in a concert hall than at the very moment after Ilya Kondratiev had ended – what a Schubert player! What control, what rhythm, what a multitude of colours and dynamics!

 

Impromptu op. 90 no. 3, in G Flat Major, Andanteis an elegy that enabled Ilya Kondratiev to use his perfect finger legato, allowing him in the accompanying triplets under the steady flow of enchanting melodic lines to form a rhythmically firm ground, crystal clear and yet mellow in musical language.  Again, Schubert’s modulations into Minor keys bring in a dark atmosphere, hauntingly beautifully interpreted by Ilya Kondratiev, but this time, the Impromptu has its inherent salvation, and the ending in G Flat is at least for now reconciling, under Ilya’s hands a lasting one.

 

Impromptu op. 90 No 4 in A Flat, Allegrettoanother one of Schubert’s late masterpieces, brought out all of Ilya Kondratiev’s virtuosity (which he never uses for superficial shine), inseparably linked to his highly developed taste for tonal quality, musical development and inner structures of the work. The cascades of semiquavers, in downward movements dropping over a strict and immaculately executed ¾ rhythm, are leading toward a Trio in C Sharp Minor – and there it is again: Schubert’s melancholic vision of our inescapable unhappiness, of his own early death lurking behind his illness. This last of the Four Impromptus concludes majestically in A Flat, a somewhat last demonstration of strength and determination against all foreseeable destiny. Ilya Kondratiev understands all this to the deepest, he understands Schubert, his life, his adversity. Ilya Kondratiev understands – and this makes him such a compelling, convincing pianist and musician.

 

Next in Ilya Kondratiev’s programme came Chopin’s Polonaise in A Flat, op. 53, which Chopin wrote in 1842, at the age of 32. Ilya Kondratiev started the introduction in E Flat, set by Chopin as Maestoso. There was absolutely convincing expression in Ilya’s approach, which was not only achieved by his exquisit tonal quality and sublime phrasing, but also -again!- through a strict adherence to rhythm right from the beginning – a rarely realised aspect of interpreting Chopin’s music, as some of Chopin’s pupils have stated (I am

quoting  the following passage from

http://musicofyesterday.com/history/chopin-tempo-rubato/)

 

Carl Mikuli, one of his pupils, categorically asserts that in the matter of time Chopin was inexorable. “It will surprise many to learn that with him the metronome did not come off the piano,” Mikuli adds. Mme. Friedericke Streicher, another pupil, tells us that “he required adherence to the strictest rhythm, hated all lingering and lagging and misplaced rubatos, as well as exaggerated ritardandos.” George A. Osborne, who resided near him in Paris, and heard him  play many of his compositions while still in manuscript, has left it on record that “the great steadiness of his accompaniment, whether with the right or left hand, was truly remarkable.” 

 

This was one of the many strong qualities of Ilya Kondratiev’s interpretation – his rhythm! Not talking about is beautiful and majestic sound and Chopinesque expression – perhaps the most ideal interpretation I have ever heard, because Ilya Kondratiev was avoiding all kitsch, all sweetly sugar coating that many pianists try to use in order to make this beautiful music sound more “romantic”. The rapid, rotating octaves in the middle part in E Major, swirling round in the left hand, were simply breathtaking, never destroying the delicacy of the melody played by Ilya Kondratiev’s right hand. The return to the main theme then was marked towards the end by a triumphant, truly heroic and never exaggerated tonal language that brought the audience to frenetic and roaring applause. They did not know what was to come.

 

For the opening of the second half, Ilya Kondratiev had chosen Franz Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue on 

B-A-C-H, S.529, originally composed in two versions for organ (S.260/1 and S.260/2) in 1855/56 (as Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H for the consecration of the organ of the Dome in Merseburg) and 1870 resp., and transcribed for the piano by Liszt himself in 1871, when he was almost 60 years old. A gigantic homage to Johann Sebastian Bach, Ilya Kondratiev clearly evoked the reverberating sound of a large, romantic church organ right from the beginning. The constant presence of the

B-A-C-H (sounding: B Flat – A – C – B) theme in complex chromatic and polyphonic structures lead up to the Fugue. Massive chords, always orchestral and never hard or beaten, resounded the theme afterwards, before a sudden turn brought up a difficult passage of glittering scales and mystic tonal flakes which took this glorious piece to an end under Ilya Kondratiev’s glorious hands. Many composers (amongst others,  R. Schumann in ‘Scenes from Childhood’, F. Chopin in his Etude in C Minor op. 25 no. 12, and J. Brahms in his motet ‘Warum ist das Licht gegeben den Mühseligen?’) have paid homage to J. S. Bach by using the B-A-C-H theme, but no one has ever laid out a tribute as tremendous in sound and musical architecture as Franz Liszt has here. Ilya Kondratiev fully lived up to the gigantic challenges here, bowing only briefly to thunderous applause – what was to follow is almost beyond words:

 

Franz Liszt completed his Sonata in B Minor, S.178, at the age of 41 in 1853, the year which also saw the founding of the piano companies C. Bechstein in Berlin as well as Steinway & Sons in New York – a beautiful coincidence as Ilya played only wonderful Bechstein and Steinway pianos during this tour! Liszt dedicated his sonata to Robert Schumann (who had, in 1839,  dedicated his Fantasie in C Major, op. 17, to Franz Liszt).

 

Ilya Kondratiev played this sonata, one of the most difficult pieces of the piano literature, with an allusion to Goethe’s ‘Faust’, as he explained in Munich, where Mephistopheles and Gretchen appear in musical allegories, expressed in thematic phrasings, and with this explanation, understanding this extremely complex work became more transparent.

 

Ilya immersed himself into the music as a servant to Liszt’s compositorial and pianistic  audacity and presented the listeners with an unforgettable encounter of a clearly concentrated, highly musical and deeply intellectual performance that left anybody in all six halls breath- and speechless. It is not possible for me to go through the entire sonata, or even attempt to analyse it. What matters is Ilya Kondratiev’s view, his approach, and his performance. He mastered every pianistic nuance of the chilling challenges with obvious ease. It was impossible to divert one’s attention from the diabolical colours and chasing raptures as well as from the elegiac, inward moments of pensive beauty that Ilya realised at all times. The fugue, yet another homage to Johann Sebastian Bach, was then leading to even more darkening moments, before heavenly tranquility in Major surrounded each and everybody in the hall at the end. The final  ‘B’ in the bass, standing alone as a single note, reminded us of the beginning, and everybody’s sensation was that it seemed imminent to hear Liszt’s sonata again, such was the tension.

 

The precision of Ilya Kondratiev’s fingering and his enormously winning use of both pedals, combined with his technical skills and omnipresent control of sound and dynamics allowed to hear a translucency of inner structure that is rarely present in concert halls where Liszt’s sonata is played.

 

Ilya concluded his recital with beautifully chosen encores: Schubert’s ‘Gretchen am

Spinnrad’, again after Goethe’s Faust, in Liszt’s piano transcription – ideally bringing together the two major composers of the evening, and a beautifully crisp piano sonata by Domenico Scarlatti. He can do all of this!! At the end of the evening, Ilya Kondratiev still seemed indefatigable despite the huge programme he had played twice on three subsequent nights within a fortnight.

 

What a great musician, what a wonderful pianist and what a modest, educated person Ilya Kondratiev is! He reminded me of Wilhelm Kempff and Edwin Fischer in his Schubert, of Arthur Rubinstein and Alfred Cortot in his Chopin, of Lazar Berman and, yes, Leslie Howard in his Liszt! Ilya clearly gives major credit to The Keyboard Trust and shows very amazingly on what level of supporting pianists we are working. BRAVISSIMO, ILYA!!

 

His performances were astounding, and I would like to emphasise my strongest recommendation that Ilya Kondratiev, amongst other options,

 

– be sent to play at our most prestigious venues in the US, notably Lorin Maazel’s estate

 

– be considered for our next available ‘Prizewinners’ Recital’, formerly (and hopefully also in the future??) held at Wigmore Hall.

 

– receive further KT support as available

 

It is thanks to Sibylle and Patrick Rabut that through their meticulous and enthusiastic organisation, the Bechstein Centre in Frankfurt was once more completely sold out. MANY THANKS, dearest Sibylle and Patrick, also for a very generous dinner invitation to your home afterwards.

 

For the first time ever, I had the pleasure of organising a recital at Hamburg’s Bechstein Centre – a most wonderful, friendly and warm welcome by its director, Mr Axel Kemper, who presented us with a completely sold out hall (65 seats so far, but refurbishment and thus enlargement is on its way!). MANY THANKS to Mr Kemper for opening up another beautiful venue to the Keyboard Trust!

 

Sadly, the new management at Steinway Hall in Munich (new director: Mr Joe Plakinger), had failed completely to do anything for this recital apart from uploading it to their store website 2 weeks before the recital and to their Facebook site about 5 days before the recital. We always used to have between 70-100 people there. Mr Plakinger, in an email addressed to me, had actively refused to send out any newsletter for this recital, and so we were left with an audience of 4 people (!!), three of them friends of mine, one a gentleman who happened to play at one of the Steinway pianos, and I had notified him about the upcoming recital that evening. Mr Plakinger himself was not present that night, but the two staff, a Mrs Pütz and a Mrs Li, were the most unwelcoming, unhelpful, disrespectful and disinterested people I had ever met at any venue. At this moment, I will only contact Steinway Munich again if I can be sure if their active and happy support. I will also have to have a word with one of the senior directors in Hamburg.

 

But this is a small aspect to an incredible tour that Ilya Kondratiev has completed with greatest artistic merits.

 

With love and best wishes to all of you,

 

 

Moritz

 

 

——————————————–

 

 

Dr. Moritz v. Bredow

Trustee, The Keyboard Charitable Trust

– Internationale Klavierstiftung –

Schirmherr: Sir Antonio Pappano

www.keyboardtrust.org

The Sublime Perfection of Mitsuko Uchida

The sublime perfection of Mitsuko Uchida
Mitsuko Uchida at the RFH Schubert A minor D.537,C major D.840 ( Reliquie),Bflat D.960
The pinnacle of pianistic perfection……..sublime is the only word that could someway describe what we experienced together tonight.
Her unbelievable control of sound held us all mesmerised from the first to the last by the sublime poetry that was unfolded with such simplicity before us.
The B flat Sonata development reached points of beauty that have rarely if ever been heard in this hall.
Pianissimi that only Richter had attempted in this hall in Beethoven op 22 but that failed to project and had one critic saying it was inexistent.
Richter certainly was never that, but he was watching from afar with his geniale sense of structure and total dedication to the composers wishes that even negated his own personal engagement.
The luminosity of Mitsuko Uchida was not for him.
His message was written in stone ….Mitsuko’s on sand.
One immediately more human and of this earth rather than the abstract perfection of pure genius.
Mitsuko Uchida was more involved as she entered the very core of the B flat sonata with vibrancy,reverance but above all with a supreme sense that every moment was a magic discovery that could only be savoured and never repeated.
The first movement of the C major Sonata already showed us that this was a very special evening with the melodic line so perfectly legato but the accompaniment almost staccato and perfectly phrased……
The same with the A minor ( a sonata that Michelangeli made his own) where the melody is the same as the great A major last movement and was played so delicately and cantabile but with a perfectly clear accompaniment almost without pedal.

students on stage cheering after a sublime B flat Sonata
How she did it ….I can only say that miracles can occur and they certainly did tonight.
I had thought that the perfection of Zimerman’s memorable B flat Sonata would never be reached again.
But here even in the last movement with that single bell like note that interrupts the flow Mitsuko Uchidas interpretation was even more magical tonight.
It had the entire audience on their feet cheering and a rather bewildered Mitsuko who was left on stage knowing that it was Schubert himself who had been with us tonight she was just his faithful servant …………
I can ony repeat what I wrote last november when she had almost reached the same heights with the G major Sonata ………

a spontaeous standing ovation at tyhe end of her recital

a humble servant serving her beloved Schubert so well

World Premiere of Thibault Charrin’sviolin sonata

 

 

Wonderful to see Canan Maxton giving a chance to young composers to have their works heard in her series for Talent Unlimited Music Charity at St James’s Piccadilly in the centre of London.
Fresh on the heels of her Christmas Showcase recital she is here in the same week to give a chance to another very talented pianist composer Thibault Charrin.
Infact the versatility of her artists was demostrated as it was Thibault who produced together with Petar Dimov the video/audio recording that is so important for promotion of the showcase concert.

Petar Dimov alone in the organ loft today
Today it was left to Petar Dimov to be alone in the organ
loft to record his friend and colleague.
Thibault Charrin was born in France and received his early education at the Conservatoire of Saint Germain-en-Laye and with Tristan Pfaff in Paris.
Winning a scholarship to the Guildhall he came to London at 18 to complete his piano studies with Caroline Palmer and Philip Jenkins.
But he is a composer at heart as we could hear today.
The public in Cambridge in March were made aware of his versatility when he performed the Poulenc Two Piano Concerto and then went on to play his own two piano transcription of the Golliwogs Cake Walk to celebrate the centenary anniversary of Debussy.
Weeks of discussions and trying out different possibilities preceded the definitive performance that we heard today at St James’s.

Supper and discussion about Thibault’s new work with Petar Dimov and Busoni winner in town for concerts Ivan Krpan
The violinist for whom it was written was called up for Turkish military service and it was the very fine violinist Enyuan Khong who stood in at very short notice.

Dimov discusses the placing of the score with Enyuan
A three movement sonata with the same very tranquil atmosphere that Ravel created at the start of his sonata.
Some very original things in Thibault’s sonata but always maintaining that very french aristocratic sound .The Finale of the Anime- tres vif in which Enyuan’s violin was allowed to soar into the rafters of this magnificent church brought this short piece to a magnificent ending .

Thibault Charrin with Enyuan Khong
The composer at the keyboard playing without the score creating a magnificent duo with his partner.
As with all contemporary music it would be good to hear the piece again and on this occassion it occurred to me that this 15 minute work could easily have opened and closed the concert and would have given us a chance to appreciate this beautiful piece even more.
The De Falla Suite populaire espagnole for violin and piano was the ideal companion for the sonata that was to close the programme.
Played again by Thibault without the score it was a very fine performance that could have had even more projection and energy that was obviously being saved for the premiere performance that followed.

Thibault Charrin Aida Lahiou Enyuan Khong
The concert had opened with the pianist Aida Lahiou born in Casablanca and now an undergraduate at Cambridge where she continues her piano studies with Caroline Palmer too.
Having received her early training from an old friend Marcel Baudet at the Menuhin School (we were on the jury of Monza together and he is artistic director of the YPF Piano Competition).
Small world!
She too gave the London premiere of a fellow compatriot Nabil Benagdeljalil(b,1972).A fascinating piece “Frisson”Nocturne of 2015 in C minor like the proposed Chopin Nocturne it happily and unexpectedly substituted.
A very interesting piece with an unmistakably Morrocan sound played so convincingly by Aida.
This minuscle pianist went on to give a very big performance of Liszt Ballade n.2 in B minor.Some very beautiful things.
It was played with an intelligence that held this episodic piece together giving it shape and style without any rhetoric.
Hampered only by a small hand it was a very successful performance from someone who feels the music so well.
It is Christmas and this concert from Talent Unlimited Music Charity gave us food for thought and hope indeed.

A shop in Saville Row

For my wife in her favourite church on the 13th anniversary of her death

What style at St James’s

Christmas is certainly here

Enyuan Khong and Thibault Charrin

The Price of Genius Jean-Selim Abdelmoula at the Wigmore Hall

The Price of Genius…… Jean-Selim Abdelmoula at theWigmore Hall
Hats off to YCAT – Young Classical Artists Trust.
A charitable trust founded in the UK in 1984 that builds the career of emerging artists that are selected by rigorous final public auditions.
Daniel Lebhardt ,Michael Petrov and Alexander Ullman are just three of the recent artists to have been launched successfully.
Daniel Lebhardt and Michael Petrov being signed up by major agents and Alexander Ullman going on to win the Utrecht Liszt Competition which has opened up a worldwide career for him.

Thomas Ades
But there are those artists that do no fit easily into the convenient package of pianist,cellist,conductor etc.
They are the genial figures of musicians who happen to play an instrument supremely well but their minds are elsewhere in the world of creating music…..their own music.
Thomas Ades is a prime example today as was Benjamin Britten of course.
There are less well known musicians that have appeared on the scene and been taken under the wing by great musicians who can understand and learn from these remarkable naturally gifted musicians and want to help them in their struggle to express themselves and to find their own musical language.

Olli Mustonen
I remember a few years ago Olli Mustonen being taken under the wing of Vladimir Ashkenazy.
Gianluca Cascioli with Luciano Berio.
And now I have seen the same fascination that Andras Schiff has with Jean-Selim Abdelmoula.

Gianluca Cascioli
And so it was with great courage that YCAT seemingly allowed Jean-Selim free range to make up a programme that in itself would show all the propective organisers present exactly who he was and what he could do.
Which is exactly what he did today to an enraptured audience that sat in total silence completely absorbed by the genial sound world in which this young man lives and has a need to share with others.

Jean – Selim Abdelmoula at the Wigmore Hall today
Searching in vain in the programme to understand his age and where he was born and spent his formative years.
Is he from a musical family and who had been his mentors from an early formative age?
Essential information if one is to understand how such a talent is born and nurtured until the moment he appears on a major London stage.
Instead we get very general information all wrapped up as they are fond of saying at Kings Place in a beautifully produced product but woefully empty.
Marketing and packaging need only to know where they are playing and with whom.
It is a pity that this information is not readily available in a programme that should be there to inform especially on an occasion such as this important presentation.
A concert that has been conceived as a whole with a beginning piece that is then completed at the end after a long journey in a magic world of sound.
This is Jean- Selim’s sound world and his trailer of A Piece(2017) that started this journey and A Piece (2018) that finished it displayed to the full sounds that could range like the running of water,broken glass or the very precise detached sounds that contrasted so well.
Occasional full climaxes but always well judged and never percussive drawing the audience in to listen to and savour the variety of sounds that were being produced on this black box full of strings and hammers !
Sounds that linked up so perfectly with the Berg extraordinary one movement sonata op.1.
As Glenn Gould exclaimed on first hearing it :”the most auspicious Opus One ever written!”
The Sonata was written probably in 1909 and first performed in Vienna in 1911 .A time when Berg was having lessons in harmony and counterpoint from from Arnold Schoenberg.
It would have been very interesting to know from Jean-Selim in the programme what is meant by the second edition of 1926!
This extremely complex one movement sonata was played with great authority and any little blemishes on the way were of no importance to us or the performer in a performance of such stature.
A little piece by Kurtag from his “Games” entitled Hommage a Schubert was an ideal prelude into the world of Schubert.
The six moments musicaux by Schubert inhabited the same sound world where the audience was once again drawn in to listen to the most ravishing sounds.
An amazing sense of balance that was more the very special sound world of a Radu Lupu than a Curzon or Brendel.
The different layers of sound were quite remarkably revealed in the first moderato in C major.
The bell like sounds pure magic.
The charm of the Allegro Moderato was as memorable as Curzon.
Leading into the beautifully shaped Bachian Moderato in C sharp minor.
The outburst of the Allegro vivace in F minor was restrained and perfectly belonged to this almost whispered sound world of Jean- Selim.
The final sad return of the melody in the Alegretto in A flat was quite magical.
An ovation from an audience that had been listening in rapt silence throughout this hour long journey were rewarded with another hearing of the evocative piece by this quite remarkably original musician.
Judging from the reaction of the audience I think that the battle of recognition and acceptance of such an original talent is already well on the way to being won by the many organisers that were gathered today to listen.

IVAN KRPAN IN LONDON

IVAN KRPAN IN LONDON
For many years now John and Noretta Conci-Leech have made the pilgrimage from their country home in Trento to Bolzano to listen to the array of pianistic talent that flocks to this town on the border of Italy and Austria for the Busoni International Piano Competition.
Busoni although born in Italy in Empoli from a very early age the family moved via Trieste to Vienna and on to Graz, where he received his early training.
Leipzig,Helsinki,Boston,New York followed but he finally settled in Berlin where he died in 1924.
So it is quite fitting that Bolzano should have named their competition after one of the most visionary composer virtuosi since Franz Liszt.

Ivan Krpan with John and Noretta Leech
One of the oldest established competitions with the first in 1949.
No first prize was given in the first three competitions or 31 out of 61 editions.
The first prize winner  was in 1952  and was Sergio Perticaroli and in the fifth competition in 1957 Martha Argerich ran away with first prize at the age of 16.Many of the other competitors have gone on to establish themselves on the world stage.
They include: Alfred Brendel,Bela Siki,Bruno Mezzena,Walter Klien,Karl Engel,Ingrid Habler and many others.
It is exactly this element of the competition that is so interesting.
A chance to hear some of the finest young pianistic talents in the world.
Some of the most talented are not necessarily equipped in every way to impress a jury or to be ready to accept the many engagements and chances that would be offered to he who seems to have all the elements at his fingertips!

John and Noretta Leech with co artistic director of the KCT Leslie Howard
The Keyboard Charitable Trust was established by John and Noretta Leech to select those with exceptional talent that with the right encouragement and practical help of experience of public performances could eventually blossom into an important career.
A career Development Prize is offered to the Busoni Competition by the KCT.
Many have been helped over the years in this way: Alexander Romanovsky,Michail Lifits, Emanuel Rimoldi,Gala Chistiakova,Gesualdo Coggi,Maurizio Baglini to name but a few Recently Jiyeong Mun and now Ivan Krpan.
So it was at the 2017 competition that Noretta immediately noted the extraodinary talent of a young Croatian………much too young to win but together with an equally youthful Korean boy 김은성 EunSeong Kim undoubtedly talent that might benefit from the help of the KCT.
A cruel twist of fate has taken EunSeong from us and a great talent will forever be mourned.
But Ivan Krpan much to the delight and surprise of everyone present was voted first prize by an enlightened jury and it was London this week that has been overwhelmed by this twentyone year old pianist.

Bryce Morrison the distinguished critic and world expert on all things to do with piano and pianists
Bryce Morrison together with Alberto Portugheis,Canan Maxton,Hugh Mather ,Bob and Elisabeth Boas ,Martin Campbell- White are some of the distinguished guests who together with the Artistic Directors and founders of the KCT were able to witness the arrival of an important new talent in our midst.
Invitations to play for the KCT in place of Steinway Hall that is being renovated were very gratefully received from the very prestigious venue that is the home in the centre of London of Bob and Elisabeth Boas.
An invitation too to perform in that Mecca for pianists created by Dr Hugh Mather in Perivale.
Steinway versus Bosendorfer indeed!
Both fine instruments with very different voices that Ivan was able to share with small but very distinguished audiences.

Alberto Portugheis,the distinguished musician and seeker of peace,founder of HUFUD with Ivan Krpan after the concert in Perivale
A very well thought out programme for which Ivan was only too willing to share his raison d’etre.
It was no programme thrown together solely to demonstrate his remarkable gifts.
Beethoven’s late Sonata in E minor op 90 was paired with op 109 in E major.
The lyrical two movement sonata op 90 infact ends in E major and leads so well into the lyricism of op 109 the first of Beethoven’s trilogy that ends his final thoughts on his 32 Sonatas.
After the interval the visionary Sonatina seconda by Busoni written quite amazingly in 1912.
It incorporates many of the themes from his unfinished opera and life’s work Doktor Faust and is an incredibly modern piece for its time.

Ivan with Elisabeth and Bob Boas ever generous hosts to some of the most extraordinary musicians of our time
“Pensee de morts” of 1834 by Liszt from his series of 10 Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses.It already forsees the visionary works of his later period.
It led so naturally to the Dante sonata which ended this fascinating programme.
But not before even offering as an encore Busoni’s extraordinarily moving transcription of “Ich ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ.”

Ivan Krpan playing Hugh Mathers’ Bosendorfer
The first concert included the Beethoven sonata op 90 which was played on Bob Boas’ fine Steinway,
The first movement played with a precision and sense of dynamic contrast and a scrupulous regard for Beethoven’s very precise markings.
But there was also a fantasy and a certain flexibility that marked out a very particular musical personality.
” Nicht zu geschwind” indicates Beethoven in this almost Schubertian second movement.I found it just a shade too fast to allow the melody to unwind naturally without doing anything except to allow the music to sing.
His reasoning is in the contrasted more rhythmic episodes that alternate but as in Schubert this can be accomodated with a more flexible tempo as he infact did a few days later in his magical performance of Schumann Arabesque op 18 played as an encore in Perivale.
Here the change of tempo before the coda created a magic that was unforgettable.
The use of silence too with pauses that were so pregnant with meaning.The coda of the Schumann every bit as unbearably beautiful as the ending of Liederkreis where words are just not enough.
Here the Bosendorfer came into its own and I would have liked to hear Beethoven op 90 on Hugh Mather’s piano that had a much more singing tone as suits the world of Brahms,Schumann and Beethoven.
However in discussion afterwards he was quite adament that this is what he wanted and gave me the reasons why.
In someone so young I was quite taken aback in admiration with such a mature and definite musical decision in someone barely 21.
Infact one of the remarkable things about this young man was his absolute command and musical intelligence.A personality that is ready to be convinced but only if convincing.
It is this conviction that makes his performances so full of authority and hats off to the jury in Bolzano that had noted this in someone seemingly so young.

Ivan Krpan on Bob Boas fine Steinway
The vivace ma non troppo of the Sonata op 109 was beautifully shaped with great fantasy.The build up and passion of the triumphant exposition of Beethoven’s seemingly dream like melody was quite overwhelming.
Even more so on Hugh Mathers’ Bosendorfer that gave a much wider range of dynamics and a richness of sound that the clarity of a Steinway could not match in this music.
The arpeggiandi I found a little too slow in unwinding but could see his musical reasoning and was almost convinced although my teacher Agosti would not have been so accomodating!
The “prestissimo” second movement was ideally suited to the clarity and precision of the Steinway.
Always moving foreward relentlessly .Sometimes with his youthful zeal making little of the forte and fortissimo differences but bringing it to the abrupt ending that made the appearance of the Andante seem even more cantabile ed espressivo as Beethoven asks.
Here the Bosendorfer came into its own and the slight overpedalling on the Steinway was here translated into the most sublime sense of phrasing.
Time seemed to stand still for all those fortunate enough to be present.
Ivan is his own man and it was a performance by a supremely intelligent stylist.
Serkin was of course unique but there were no compromises for him.
Beethoven was a bible written in stone.
For Ivan it was written in sand and for me was even more remarkable because of that.

Ivan in Perivale
The first variation – molto espressivo- was played with a weight and meaning that led so naturally into the second variation- leggiermente .The third showed his enormous assurance in an Allegro vivace that sounded almost Presto.
But the unfolding of the fourth was pure magic probably because of that contrast that he had chosen.
The great fugato, so similar to that same moment in the Goldberg variations, was played with breathtaking authority and assurance and it was the same orchestral sound that he maintained for the sixth where the trills create an uncontainable tension that spins out into the air like the Bach variations and like Bach leading to a magical reappearance of the theme where Ivan’s control of sound was quite remarkable.
An unforgettable performance from someone so young.

Foto by Geoff Cox of manager of the KCT Sarah Biggs ,Ivan and me
The Busoni sonatina showed off his transcendental technique and kaleidoscopic sense of colour.
The rhythmic precision ideally suited to the Steinway.
A work from a composer who like Liszt could see into the future and anticipate the trends in music that were still to come.
His performance of the Liszt Dante Sonata was quite simply the most convincing I have ever heard in a live performance.
The wonderfully incisive performance on record of the young Ogdon was balanced by the weight and authority that Arrau gave in his leggendary performances.

with Canan Maxton of Talent Unlimited
It was also his choice of Liszt that was so remarkable -The “Pensee des morts” very rarely heard in the concert hall but already evokes the Liszt of Nuages gris and En reve.
Some magical sounds and a great sense of drama prepared us in such an intelligent manner for the astonishing performance of the Dante Sonata that was to follow.
Perhaps it is  the fourth time this this week I have heard the Dante Sonata but today in Ivan’s hands I was rooted to the spot.
An astonishing sense of drama allied to a truly transcendental technique.
But as Hugh Mather so rightly pointed out it was the pauses that were so extraordinary.
Creating such great contrasts it was as if we were hearing this work for the first time restoring it to its rightful place next to the mighty B minor Sonata.
He threw himself into the final astonishing bars and we were mesmerised by the energy that he had generated and was allowed to explode with such virtuosity.
The final few chords in a seemingly endless crescendo brought this extraordinary performance to a close.
I have already spoken of the Schumann Arabesque played as an encore in Perivale.
Mention should be made of his performance of the Bach Busoni Chorale Prelude which received a very original performance obviously conceived by him with the rich sounds of the organ in mind.
Gone were the usual rather beautiful piano sounds of Jesu Joy or Gluck/Sgambati Orpheo so often offered as encores.
Here was a full blooded performance where one could appreciate the true Glory to God of Messiaenic fervor.
I have rarely seen after a debut recital such excitement and exchanging of visiting cards.
It was hardly suprising that he also received a telephone call from one of the major agents the next day too.
I am much looking forward to his next performance in Rome on the 12th February at the IUC La Sapienza University Series as winner of the Busoni Competition.
I am sure that this is just the beginning of many performances that await in London,Rome  and elsewhere.
The world has been waiting indeed for an interpreter of such stature !

Ivan Krpan plays Bosendorfer in Perivale

Talent Unlimited Showcase Recital

Talent Unlimited Showcase Recital
In the foto above John Leech and Canan Maxton.”Birds of a feather” one might say.
John with his wife Noretta Conci-Leech is founder of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
Canan Maxton founder of Talented Unlimited .Both dedicated to helping young talented musicians receive the recognition they deserve and need by bringing them before the public .
So it is Christmas for Canan Maxton’s remarkable array of talent that she so unselfishly helps and promotes all year round.
In the beautiful church of St James’s in the heart of London where the Christmas frenzy is on as are the beautiful lights too in full blaze.
Every year Talent Unlimited too blazes the Christmas Trail to show off a few selected artists from the roster of young musicians that it helps in so many different ways.
With encouragement,promotion via public concerts and sometimes even some financial help for studies.
But above all knowing that there is someone to whom they can turn on their long sometimes lonely journey to realises their search for the impossible.
Perfection!
It does not and cannot exist in art and one can only strive to reach out for the end of that rainbow.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it is here that Canan Maxton via her Talent Unlimited aims to help.

Canan Maxton, Yuanfan Yang Paola Gorbanova Stavros Dritsas
Three very talented young artists shared the stage before a very large audience.
In the organ loft,unknown to all, were two other TU artists Petar Dimov and Thibault Charrin professionally recording the concert in audio and video.
Thibault’s own violin sonata ,still fresh on the page, he will be performing in this same space on Wednesday 5th December at 1 .10 pm.
Petar Dimov,a disciple of Norma Fisher shared a concert a month ago too playing Schumann Carnaval Jest from Vienna.
Both are composer pianists but today helping to record their colleagues in such an enthusastic and unselfish way following the example of their adored leader Canan Maxton

Petar Dimov Ivan Krpan Thibault Charin a workers late supper. Ivan winner of the 2017 Busoni International Competition playing in London twice this week
The concert began with the young Greek pianist Stavros Dritsas playing Liszt Ballade n.2 in B minor followed by two movements from Bartok Suite Out of Doors.
Having studied in Athens and Paris now still only 22 he is completing his studies in London at the Guildhall under the renowned pianist and sometimes BBC commentator Lucy Parham.

Stavros Dritsas
Immediately evident was the beauty of sound and great sense of balance in the Liszt.
Some wonderfully suggestive sounds in the Bartok “Night Music” where the magical sounds he created wafted into the vast space of St James’s creating a very special atmosphere.
To be broken by the” Chase” where all of Stavros’ remarkable technical skill was needed in this pianistic show piece.
He was joined by the violinist Paula Gorbanova for a deeply felt performance of the Franck violin sonata.
Paula the daughter of the ballet dancer Gennady Gorbanev at only 20 is completing her studies too at the Guildhall here in London.
Some beautiful playing from the question and answer of the opening through the extremely exciting technical demands of the Allegro second movement to the wonderfully lyrical interplay of the Allegretto finale.
A very fine ensemble in which the piano was never allowed to overpower the beautiful sounds of the 19th century Italian violin on loan to Paula from Florian Leonhard Fine Violins.

Paula Gorbanova and Stavros Dritsas
After the interval the well known Scottish pianist Yuanfan Yang took the stage.
At only 20 he is fast making a name for himself and only last month took first prize in the Rome International Piano Competition.
A student now at the RAM of that renowned teacher of so many remarkable pianists :Christopher Elton .

Yuanfan Yang
Yuanfan took Rome by storm recently not only with his very fine performance of Beethoven Third Piano Concerto but also by improvising on a theme given to him by the distinguished jury.
He is at 20 not only a remarkable pianist but a composer too as we were able to hear tonight.
A glittering performance of the Haydn Sonata in E minor played with such subtle colours and ornaments that seemed to glisten under his hands.
The multi coloured charm of the final Vivace was irresistable.
The slow movement sang beautifully shaped but always perfectly in style.
“Scarborough Fair “alla Yang (as was his Waves from Three Aquarelles) was a kaleidoscope of magical sounds.
Sometimes thunderous but mostly etherial from which a slight hint of our old favourite would emerge and almost be discernable to all of us that were drawn into his magic sound world of fantasy.
Schubert/Liszt Litanei of such ravishing beauty was a remarkable way of leading us into a truly monumental performance of the Brahms Handel Variations op 24.
It was quite simply one of the most convincing performances I have ever heard.
Not the great Brahms sound but the subtle sound world of his later pieces op 116/117
The great Brahms of course was present and even the more impressive because like all great pianists was held back until the absolute right moment.
With the triumphant appearance of Handels little melody it was allowed to blaze out in all its glory with quite extraodinary full orchestral sound.

Sir Norman Rosenthal another great promoter of young musicians congratulating Yuanfan Yang
Never a harsh sound always careful as one must be on a fine Fazioli piano never to force the sound.
Some ravishing sounds in the variations alternating with some really transcendental piano playing.
Never relaxing the tempo but always pressing forward to the triumphant final appearance before the Fugue.
A quite extraordinary performance from someone so young .
Both mature and tender but with the same youthful passion and virtuosity that must have been so much part of Brahms’ early world.
Here is Sir Norman Rosenthal in a concert in Rome promoted by him.
He also promotes young musicians in Valerie Solti’s house in London.
Chiyan Wong will be giving a recital in Bob Boas house ( by invitation by application …see web site ) on the 4th December .
Elisabeth and Bob Boas are other untiring promoters of young talent in London and Ivan Krpan,2017 winner of the Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano was invited by them to their beautiful home to make his London debut this week.
Hats off to them all ……and a Merry Christmas to you all

John Leech at 93 not missing an occasion to support young artists pictured with with Canan Maxton

Keishi Suzuki at St Mary’s Perivale

Keishi Suzuki at St Mary’s Perivale
Another very fine pianists in Hugh Mathers’ series at St Mary’s.
Keishi Suzuki graduated from Tokyo College of Music and went on to study at the Sibelius Academy in Finland and obtained his Masters degree with highest honours at the Liszt Academy in Budapest.
He was the winner of the Liszt Society International Piano Competition in 2017.
This year the competition was hosted for the first in St Mary’s Perivale and it was here that we were able to hear him in recital.
Some very refined playing of great style in works by Debussy,Beethoven and Liszt.
A very well oiled technique ,that I mean as a great compliment and it is something that one often notices in Hungarian born pianists.
I am thinking of course of Geza Anda, who had a very clean and clear sound capable of many colours but always very incisive.
His performances of Schumann Davidsbundler,Chopin Studies ,Beethoven op 110 or the Brahms B flat Concerto are some of the finest on record.
He was a disciple of Ernst von Dohnanyi.

Keishi with Dr Hugh Mather introducing his programme
It is then no coincidence that Keishi Suzuki is preparing for his doctorate on Dohnanyi and it is obviously this influence that has very much shaped his musical taste for sound.
It was obvious from the first of two Preludes by Debussy that opened the programme
”Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest” was played with a clarity that is very rare to hear in this particular prelude.The pedal at a minimum but just the right amount to create the atmosphere of the slow rising of the west wind building to a tumultuous climax showing off all his remarkable command of the keyboard.
General Lavine was truly” eccentic” and played with a great sense of style that really brought the title to life.
It is interesting to note that Debussy gave titles to the preludes at the end of each prelude.
It is the music that talks and suggests the title.
The mighty Sonata in D op 10 n.3 by Beethoven was given an incisive performance in which Beethoven’s precise indications were scrupulously noted.
A rhythmic drive that did not exclude the many surprises that Beethoven has in store in the first movement.
Great attention to the bass especially in the development section gave a weight and importance to the arresting chord before the reappearance of the first theme.
The beautiful second subject was played with a lyricism that did not interfere with the continual drive that is starting to be so characteristic of Beethoven from this early sonata from op 10 onwards.
The mighty Largo e mesto that followed had a perfect sense of both weight and balance that allowed the melodic line to sing out in a most subtle way with the sudden outbursts played with a rarely heard precision and clarity.
Beethoven’s very particular pedal effects over a long held note were beautifully managed and the lead up to the climax was quite overwhelming in its intensity that made the final notes disappearing into thin air so extraordinary.
The Trio section of the Menuetto -Allegro that followed was played with a quite infectious sense of bucolic fun all the more so for his scrupulous attention to Beethoven’s legato and staccato markings.
The Rondo too was remarkable for his absolute attention to the rests which are every bit as important as the actual notes especially in this surprising movement.
The disappearance of the final notes in a haze of chromatic scales and arpreggios was even more remarkable for his ability to maintain the tempo to the very end with some very subtle colouring and balance between the hands.
The second half of the programme was dedicated to Liszt.Some beautifully poetic playing in the rarely heard Faribolo Pasteur S 236 n.1 and the Schubert /Liszt “Der Muller und der Bach.”
The Hungarian Rhapsodies n.12 and 13 were played with superb virtuosity and sense of style.
The climax of the 12th Rhapsody was played with all the passionate involvement that these bravura showpieces demand and the repeated notes in the 13th played in true virtuoso style.
Widmung by Schumann/Liszt was the beautiful encore offered to a very enthusiastic audience.
Wonderfully shaped with a subtle clarity leading to a sumptuous climax before dying away to a murmur .It showed of all the artistic qualities of this remarkable young pianist