Dudamel in Rome – The Joy of Music

Dudamel in Rome with the Orchestra of the Accademia di S.Cecilia……
Beethoven Egmont
Symphonies 4&7
The joy of music was written all over his face and his humility to be one of the boys in the band.
He refused to mount the podium once his job was done.
Obviously the orchestra loved him as did the audience.
What he lacks in refinement he makes up for with his infectious love for music.
Real Latin temperament that favours the drums rather than the distilling of rarefied sounds.
Ten years at the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic have put them on the map so the PR boys chant in the programme.
Maybe they forgot Giulini who was there in his final glorious years before moving back to Milan!
Some silver sheen to the curly mop that took the world by storm with his Bolivar Orchestra with their gloriously outragious S.American music and attire.
Discovered by Abbado in Venezuela and invited to Europe.
When they arrived in Rome for the first time,the aristocratic season ticket audience went crazy for them.
Lights off.
A quick change into track suits and they were throwing their instruments in the air whilst playing!
Certainly not the refined music making in dress suits that we were used to!
This is the raw music making of the exilarating discovery of music rather than the rough dangerous world on the streets.
A passion and something to strive for that is far removed from the hunger and crime that was their birthright.
I was at a party in London when they were invited for the first time to the proms.
Some of the guests were coming on after the concert.
One of them the leader of the LSO.
Well they arrived at the party with such wondrous tales and such exilaration.

Sala S.Cecilia Rome
Dudamel and his band of the Experiment had spun their web and taken London by storm.
The spell was set and now in middle age the same wondrous joy of music making has remained in tact.
When you come from such a deprived background your fairy godfather you never forget.

Benedetto Lupo’s final Diploma recitals for the Accademia di S.Cecilia in Rome

Benedetto Lupo’s final diploma recitals of the Corso di Perfezionamento in Rome
Some great piano playing from the final diploma concerts of the class of Benedetto Lupo for the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
Nice to see Andrea Padova as one of the judges.
Some very fine playing from 20 year old Francesco Granata His beautifully relaxed arms and agile fingers brought the two Scarlatti sonatas to life with some magical phrasing and dynamics.
Strange fingering in the B minor but what enjoyment he was transmitting.
Schumann Carnaval and above all Mussorgsky “Pictures” showed of his beautifully wide ranging sound palette.

Francesco Granata greeted by an admirer after his recital
Always beautiful sounds due to his completely natural technical mastery.
As he matures he will allow the music to speak more naturally and simply and not feel he has to “do things”as Brendel would say.
Matteo Londero at 30 has a more mature musicianship.
Some very solid playing with some really sumptuous colours in Prokofiev 2nd Sonata.
Some beautiful things in the Schumann 8th Novelette but I would have not have stopped after each section but tried to join as one .
Not having the same flexibility as Granata but some very refined serious musicianship.He also brought great weight to his “Waldstein” sonata.
Axel Trolese had both the flexibility of Granata and the solid musicianship of Londero.
He also had that sense of fantasy that allowed him to whisper and roar when needed.

Matteo Londero with Francesco Granata
Just what was needed for the beautiful opening of Beethoven`s op 27 n.1 …..the poor relation of the so called “Moonlight”‘.
Here it was treated as the great work it was in the hands of Arrau or Cherkassky.
Beautifully played the three pieces that make up Albeniz Iberia.
A great sense of balance and delicacy allied to a rhythmic precision which is so essential in these evocative tone poems.

Axel Trolese
I have heard his Chopin B minor Sonata a month ago in Benedetto’s class concert and Axel rose to the occasion today and was awarded the highest honours.
Speaking to Costanza Principe afterwards I told her about Axels Chopin and how I hoped he might slow it down a bit.
“Lucky him who can play so well” was her just reply.

Costanza Principe applauding her colleagues .Her turn will come next year
The set pieces by Fabio Vacchi played with the score showed off the digital and fantasy of each pianist.
Crisp and clean from Granata,more.cerebral and deep from Londero and full of colour and fantasy from Axel.
Three full recitals from very fine pianists endowed with the musical values that Benedetto Lupo has so generously shared in their time together at the Accademia in Rome.

Matteo Londero

Axel Trolese

Francesco Granata

Ivan Moshchuk did not play todayl

Sala Sinopoli in Rome Parco della Musica

Andrea Padova – left Benedetto Lupo – right

Tyler Hay at Hatchlands for the Cobbe Collection

Tyler Hay at Hatchlands for the Cobbe Collection

The original programme changed to accomodate Liszt Valse Oubliee n.1
Tyler just played at Hatchlands on Thalberg’s 1845 Erard.
He had to change Jeux d`eau a la Villa d`Este as the keyboard was shorter than Liszt`s later Erard.You can read about Liszt’s piano and the Villa D’Este here:
He played Valse oubliee n.1….worked up in the half hour before the concert.
Introducing the programme he showed a mastery and control not only on the Keyboard but like Mark Viner he can explain and enthuse so well his unique scholarship.
Never having played a historic instrument before he soon became aware of controlling his tone from mezzo forte upwards and played the big Schubert A minor in a masterly fashion.

Thalberg’s 1845 Erard
I have often found this sonata a bit long on the modern piano but today that was not the case due to his continual drive and the mellow but full cantabile that is not of the modern day pianos.
His performance of the Kalkbrenner variations on Chopin`s B flat mazurka was introduced in such an enticing manner.

A great charmer full of unique anecdotes and information
We were ready for a scintillating performance where the great difficulties passed unnoticed such was the charm and nonchalance with which he threw off the really extraordinary difficulties.
Just like Mark in this music they are pretty unique.
Neither look the part but does that matter when you can play like that.
An encore of a Kalkbrenner study op 143 n.13 played with such charm and subtle rubato I am sure his recording shortly to be issued will receive the same praise as Mark Viner’s are of Thalberg and Alkan.

Hi,I am Jonathan I have no plan “B”- Ferrucci in London for the Keyboard Trust

 Jonathan Ferrucci in London for the Keyboard Trust
He played the Bartok sonata magnificently.
Crystal clear decisive rhythms.
Deeply expressive second movement.
Spontaneous applause after the first movement and cheers at the end of the last.
The Bach/Kempff played with a clarity that took me by surprise as I have become used to more romantic overpedalled performances.
This was startlingly shorn of rhetoric and sugary rubatos but so much more expressive because of it.
He introduced the Schumann Fantasie himself and gave a very fine performance as you would expect from a disciple of Joan Havill
A great sense of rhythmic drive and overall sense of line.
I would have tried to link the second movement to the third.
But this is a real thinking musician like Ivan Krpan that does not move if not convinced.
The coda of the second movement was very secure and musically shaped.
Slightly missing the magic that this fine but small Steinway just did not have.
The ending was beautifully controlled and the final crescendo/accelerando well judged.
It is rare to find such a well thought out and finely planned performance of this much maligned masterpiece.
An encore.
Two for the price of one!
Scriabin nocturne op.9 became the study op. 42 n.5.
He had reworked the study in a day at my request not having played it for some time.
He has more than confirmed the successes that Jacques Samuel, Guildhall and Padua have already demonstrated.
Helped and admired by Angela Hewitt he is a major player in an overfull profession.
He is also very intelligent and simpatico.
His father is a writer of psychology in Florence ….his mother is Australian.
This is what I wrote about him in Padua which also talks about his first remarkable teacher in Florence.

The Price of Genius- Trifonov at the Barbican London

The Price of Genius – Trifonov at the Barbican London
Interesting to note how the PR boys deal with Genius.
A programme full of Vogue model type fotos but in reality it was the same distracted genius of yore.
It cannot be easy to live with genius which is consuming you alive.
Such is Trifonov as he has been I imagine from his very early youth.
I remember meeting Trifonov at his 21st birthday party after he had just played Rachmaninov 1st Piano concerto at the Festival Hall on the same Fazioli piano that he used today.
The problem was that whilst at the rehearsal everything sounded well, with the notorious acoustic of the RFH the sound did not seem to reach into the crevaces of which there are many.
The audience were kept waiting whilst urgent discussions were in progress.
The concert of course was a great success but the audience at home got a better picture from listening on the radio than a lot of us got in the hall.

The same old Danil- a true genius ……..the PR boys have tried to smarten him up but they really have not understood that it is the contents not the container that counts
A beautiful private party afterwards where we were seated around a table of some 30 people.
Trifonov was very silent, quietly enjoying the party that his wonderful benefactress had arranged for him .
I was seated next to a man who was preparing a video about this young man long before he became world famous.
I seemed to recognise his voice although we had not been introduced.
It turned out to be Christopher Nupen who had made all those wonderful films years before about Ashkenazy,Barenboim,Jaqueline Dupre and many others in that truly golden era in London.
Our hostess announced that Danil had to leave early as he had to catch an early flight to his next destination.
I left at the same time together with Christopher and I just casually asked Danil what he thought of the piano.
Talk about a red rag to the bull.
He kept us in the street for two hours talking passionately about the piano and the music in a stream of breathless words with the passion of a man possessed.
He had been quietly waiting for an opportunity to talk about his passion,his life blood- Music.
I remember our hostess telling us off for keeping his taxi waiting and stopping him from getting an early night!
Christopher had written to our hostess to ask who I was “who was that man with a ‘shock ‘ of white hair “.
He was most amused when I quoted his words to him in an E mail correspondence later!
All this to say that it was the same Danil who appeared before us last night.
Crumpled suit ,towseled hair,tie skew- whiff – but his passion for music still intact.
He looked tired.
Consumed no doubt by his own passionate total dedication to music.
And it was the music that he shared with us last night.
Breathless,disordered,desperate,passionate.Genius does not always come lightly .
There is always the element of hit and miss in a constant voyage of discovery- of possibility.
Richter too had this superhuman self consuming talent that was ignited the moment he reached the keyboard.
He threw himself at the piano just as Trifonov did tonight.
Fou Ts’ong is the only other person I have met who was totally consumed and dedicated to music in this way.
He mused with himself in an almost private conversation in which it was the music not he that counted.
It is not always pleasant and can sometimes seem out of control and disorderly.
But as Gilels used to say about recording in comparison to live performance that it is the difference between canned or fresh food.
A programme that could have been played without a break such was his communion with the instrument once
he had arrived at its feet.
The Andante Favori led without a break into the Sonata op 31 n.3 .
It was a Beethoven both beautiful and bewitched.
It was a continual voyage of discovery which of course missed the very backbone of the work.
But what did it matter these were new eyes and ears searching desperately for the substance that was within.
It was not easy to accept – was Richter’s Appassionata?
But you could not take your eyes off it ‘s remarkable meanderings.
Bunte Blatter op 99 by Schumann were down as a selection but tonight he chose to play all twelve pieces .This too leading without a break into the Presto Passionato op 22.
It is interesting to note, and I am sure it is not just by chance, that the two rejected movements were included in tonight’s programme Andante Favori was to be the slow movement of the Waldstein Sonata as the Presto Passionatao was to be the final of the G minor Sonata.
Nothing is down to chance with a musician with such a searching mind.
The Bunte Blatter were both extremely beautiful and extremely dispersive.
The search was on and I must say on this occasion I did not think he had found the link that could bind these “Coloured Leaves” together.
Some wonderful subtle colouring and some gigantic plunges into an ocean of sound but some meandering without a strict sense of pulse and direction.
Talk about technical perfection or colour or sound is superfluous.This was a man who had thrown himself into the ocean and was swimming his way to survival.
Sink or swim indeed.
A first half that lasted almost 90 minutes !
He was not at all exhausted but we certainly were.
But then we are not superhuman.
After the interval came a remarkable performance of Prokofiev’s 8th Sonata.
It was as though the other works had been leading up to this performance.
I would have preferred a more sumptuous sound especially at the seductive opening. Gilels gave the first performance so I could just imagine that creamy rich sound.
More bite ,more edge ,more backbone .
But who am I to say.
This was a man creating the work afresh on the spot.
A work that Sviatoslav Richter described as a tree heavy with fruit.
Such sensous sounds and subtle colours not because he was seraching for them but because the music was speaking directly to him and he transmitting them to us.
Je joue,je ecoute je trasmet indeed.
The Vocalise was the single encore offered to an audience on their feet shouting for more.
He looked tired now and probably had not even realised himself the marathon that he had run this evening.
A unique artist.
Not always pleasant to listen to.
But someone who brings a breath of fresh air into what is fast becoming a rather artificial world of perfectly reproduced performances.
Like the piano in Steinways that you press a button and you can have any number of great pianists playing in your living room.
Press it again and it will repeat exactly the same.
With Trifonov that could never be.

The Euphoria of Rokas Valuntonis

The Euphoria of Rokas Valuntonis
St Andrew Holborn
After his superb recital for the City Music Foundation last month at St Bartholemew the Great in Smithfields https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/presenting-the-impeccable-maestro-valuntonis/10156459912307309/
Just a month later we were able to hear him in another of the great churches in the centre of London that dedicate themselves also to classical music :St Andrew Holborn.
Playing the great warhorse that Nikolai Rubinstein had declared worthless and unplayable.
Tchaikowsky deeply offended refused to change a note.
It was Hans von Bulow to whom Tchaikowsky dedicated the score and who gave the first performance in Boston in 1875 of a work that he described :” The ideas are so original,so noble,so powerful.The details so interesting;though there are many of them ,they do not impair the clearness and unity of the work .The form is mature,ripe,and distinguished in style.”
Bulow sent what is thought to be the first cable ever dispatched from Boston to Moscow telling Tchaikowsky of the concerto’s undisputed triumph with the Boston public.
The superb programme notes had me wanting to know more about this concerto that I have heard all my life.
From the very first performance with Jerome Rose at the Albert Hall on their Tchaikowsky nights to Rokas Valuntonis and Alice Sarah Ott’s performances this week.
Via such notable performances by Byron Janis,Artur Rubinstein,Beatrice Rana,Shura Cherkassky,Van Cliburn,Martha Argerich,Peter Katin,Yuja Wang but above all Clifford Curzon………………
The first performance of the original version took place on October 25, 1875, in Boston, conducted by Benjamin Johnson Lang and with Bülow as soloist. Bülow had initially engaged a different conductor, but they quarrelled, and Lang was brought in on short notice.
According to Alan Walker, the concerto was so popular that Bülow was obliged to repeat the Finale, a fact that Tchaikovsky found astonishing. Although the premiere was a success with the audience, the critics were not so impressed.
One wrote that the concerto was “hardly destined ..to become classical”.

Superb programme notes that had me searching for more information
George Whitefield Chadwick, who was in the audience, recalled in a memoir years later: “They had not rehearsed much and the trombones got in wrong in the ‘tutti’ in the middle of the first movement, whereupon Bülow sang out in a perfectly audible voice, The brass may go to hell“.(sic)
However, the work fared much better at its performance in New York City on November 22, under Leopold Damrosch.Benjamin Johnson Lang appeared as soloist in a complete performance of the concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on February 20, 1885, under Wilhelm Gericke. Lang previously performed the first movement with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in March 1883, conducted by Georg Henschel, in a concert in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
The Russian premiere took place on November 1/13, 1875 in Saint Petersburg, with the Russian pianist Gustav Kross and the Czech conductor Eduard Nápravník. In Tchaikovsky’s estimation, Kross reduced the work to “an atrocious cacophony”.

Rokas Valuntonis playing Tchaikowsky with Dario Peluso
The Moscow premiere took place on November 21/December 3, 1875, with Sergei Taneyev as soloist.
The conductor was none other than Nikolai Rubinstein, the same man who had comprehensively criticised the work less than a year earlier.
Rubinstein had come to see its merits, and he played the solo part many times throughout Europe. He even insisted that Tchaikovsky entrust the premiere of his Second Piano Concerto to him, and the composer would have done so had Rubinstein not died.
At that time, Tchaikovsky considered rededicating the work to Taneyev, who had performed it splendidly, but ultimately the dedication went to Bülow.
Tchaikovsky published the work in its original form, but in 1876 he happily accepted advice on improving the piano writing from German pianist Edward Dannreuther, who had given the London premiere of the work, and from Russian pianist Alexander Siloti several years later.
The solid chords played by the soloist at the opening of the concerto may in fact have been Siloti’s idea, as they appear in the first (1875) edition as rolled chords, somewhat extended by the addition of one or sometimes two notes which made them more inconvenient to play but without significantly altering the sound of the passage.
Various other slight simplifications were also incorporated into the published 1879 version. Further small revisions were undertaken for a new edition published in 1890.
The American pianist Malcolm Frager unearthed and performed the original version of the concerto and in 2015, Kirill Gerstein made the world premiere recording of the 1879 version. It received an ECHO Klassik award in the Concerto Recording of the Year category. Based on Tchaikovsky’s own conducting score from his last public concert, the new critical Urtext edition was published in 2015 by the Tchaikovsky Museum in Klin, tying in with Tchaikovsky’s 175th anniversary and marking 140 years since the concerto’s world premiere in Boston in 1875.
For the recording, Kirill Gerstein was granted special pre-publication access to the new Urtext edition.
Yuja Wang recently played this version too and Julian Trevelyan is playing this early version this same evening in St Albans
Rokas chose to play the established 1890 version with this newly formed orchestra created in December 2012 by Dario Peluso and Celia Talbot.

LEO under Dario Peluso at St Andrew Holborn
Infact it is thanks to Celia Talbot that we were give an exemplary programme free of the usual empty PR tactics.
Both financial sector professionals they share a passion for the performing arts.
L ondon E uphonia O rchestra
– LEO is made up of a dedicated group of people from varied backgrounds:from full time musicians to students,doctors,lawyers,policemen,charity workers,bankers,teachers,scientists and journalists ,all with musical talent and passion in common.

Professor Bithell with Linn Rothstein
Dario as Rokas Valuntonis both receive guidance from Professor Peter Bithell who was present with Linn Rothstein to admire and encourage this new formation.
A very fine performance for Rokas Valuntonis on his first outing with this old warhorse.
Some beautiful things not least the wonderful sense of balance that allows the melodic line to shine through no matter what!

Professor Bithell in discussion with Dario Peluso
There were one of two moments where Rokas’s “liquidity of sound and devillish performance skill” managed to shine through thick and thin from one or two moments where the brass and woodwind were also at their virgin state with Tchaikowsky’s complex scoring.
There was no doubt about which edition was being used as the great chords rang out above some very radiant and expressive string playing.

Discussions with Linn Rothstein
Some truly superb playing especially in the cadenza where the bell like appearance of the melodic line was wonderfully realised.
The octaves of course were dispatched not only as a great virtuoso but also given a shape a direction that only a mature artist of stature could perceive.
The slow movement after some initial confusion from the orchestra was lit by the the magical sounds from the piano.
If the “devillish” playing of the prestissimo section caught the orchestra slightly off balance it was a small price to pay for the sheer beauty of shape and sound that they all brought to this moment of peace and simplicity.

Friends and colleagues celebrating after this ” first” performance of Tchaikowsky.
The Russian dance derived from a Ukranian melody in the last movement was played with great rhythmic energy leading to the majestic sweep and passionate outpouring for which this concerto has become the symbol of the great romantic concerto repertoire .

Discussussion with colleague Joon Yoon winner of the Guildhall Gold Medal last year

Jonathan Ferrucci in London for a recital supporting his friend and colleague from the Guildhall

The Courage of Alice Sara Ott

The courage of Alice Sara Ott
Alice Sara Ott plays Tchaikowsky.
A very courageous performance indeed ……
Searching for information about the pianist on Google as information was sadly lacking from the programme as is so often the case these days
due to PR packaging, I was taken aback to find not only details of her studies and family but also a declaration that she has been diagnosed with MS .One is reminded of Jaqueline Du Pre all those years ago stricken with MS at the height of her fame at almost the same age as Alice.
Born in 1988 of Japanese mother and father a German civil engineer…. she and her sister,Mona Asuka Ott studied with Karl Heinz Kammerling at the Saltzburg Mozarteum.
I then found this declaration that filled me with great admiration for the dedication to her great artistry that we had witnessed tonight from this waif like shoeless pianist.
Playing with a range of sound from the almost inaudible to sounds that could easily compete with the magnificent London Symphony Orchestra under the even more petite Elim Chan,winner of the 2015 Donatella Flick LSO conducting Competition:

Donatella Flick applauding the winner of her competition of 2015
“Today I would like to share something very personal with you.
As some of you may know, I have recently had some issues with my health which raised concerns and impacted upon my work. After many medical appointments and examinations, I was finally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on 15th January this year.
When the doctors first raised the possibility of it last year, I felt as if the world had collapsed around me. I went through a roller-coaster of feelings of panic, fear and devastation. I had many, many questions. How would this impact my life? My work?
I have since spent a lot of time researching multiple sclerosis and its implications and have met with many doctors. With each new piece of information, I realise I previously had a false image of this disease. Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system and, while no known cure exists, thanks to huge medical advances over the years a large majority of people affected by it are able to live full and fulfilling lives.
It’s going to take me a while to get to know this condition and how I will manage it for myself. There will come times when I will have to face challenges and make adjustments, but in finding the right balance of treatment I am confident and optimistic that I will continue to live my life – and travel and perform – as before. I’m looking forward to continuing my season as planned.

A standing ovation for Alice after a magnificent Tchaikowsky concerto at the Barbican
Sharing this with everybody was not an easy decision, but I believe it is the right one. MS is a very misunderstood disease in our society and by being open about it I hope I can encourage others (especially those who are diagnosed with it when they think their lives have only just begun) to do the same.

Generosity of applause and congratulations from the pianist to her colleagues
An acknowledgement is not a weakness, but a way to protect and gain strength, both for oneself and for those around us. I am grateful to my loved ones who have shown me so much support and love over the past few months. They have not only had their own emotions to deal with but have also had to face questions about my welfare. In clarifying my situation, I also hope to relieve them and give them the time and space to process this.
Sometimes life leads you on an unexpected path, and I am at the very beginning of this new one for me. However I strongly believe it is up to us to make the best out of it.”

Elim Chan and the LSO at the end of Scheheradzade

Linn Rothstein talking to one of the orchestra after the concert.Linn with her husband Jack Rothstein had been close companions of Jaqueline Du Pre in her long fight with MS .