Yuanfan Yang at St Mary’s Perivale

Yuanfan Yang at St Mary’s Perivale
It may seem strange to see a foto of St Peter’s Basilica here but thanks to the skill of Hugh Mather ,Roger Nellist and their superb team in Perivale I have been able to listen to the recital by Yuanfan Yang here in the theatre where he will be performing for the Keyboard Trust in January 2020.

Teatro Ghione St Peters Square Rome
I am very proud after listening today to announce his Italian Tour that will include Venice,Padua,Vicenza,Viterbo and Rome – The tour that another of Hugh Mathers star pianists,Ilya Kondratiev completed just a month ago.
I have heard Yuanfan Yang many times since that first occasion when he won the Liszt Society UK Competition with a superbly poetic account of Vallee d’Obermann.
He was just coming to the end of his studies with Murray McLachlan at Chetham’s and in 2015 was about to start his first term at the Royal Academy studying with Christopher Elton.

Yuanfan Yang
He swept the board last november in Rome winning first prize at the Rome International Piano Competition directed by the indomitable Marcella Crudeli (the Fanny Waterman of Italy)
I had indicated to the Jury that they might like Yuanfan to improvise an encore after his superb prize winning performance of Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto.
He did just that and created the same sensation that he did today for Hugh in Perivale with an incredible display of musicianship and virtuosity that is very rare these days.
Gabriela Montero is the only other pianist I know that can do that and quite rightly has a great following for her improvisations .

recording studio
It is good to see how a young talented musician can mature and gradually acquire a true depth of sound.Spending all the hours needed at the keyboard but with superb musicians at his side making sure that no damage is done to his natural musicality on the long journey to becoming a great professional.
Today as we were aware Yuanfan Yang’s musicality is not only intact but of an intelligence and with a sense of style of someone much older.
The Brahms Handel Variations op 24 that closed the programme I have written about recently in his superb performance for Canan Maxton’s Talent Unlimited Showcase Concert:
It was infact one of the finest performances I have heard in public of this monumental work.Today it was just as fine but maybe slightly less perfect than his previous performance.
The overall architectutal line and sense of colour though was even more remarkable.
The repeat of the variations very delicately coloured with some new counterpoint that could in lesser hands sound like a gimmick or at worse rather superficial.
Here is was so subtly done it was an absolute revelation in a work that too often can sound rather heavy and ponderous.
It is one of those works that is given to students together with the Wanderer Fantasy and 32 Variations to acquire a technical assurance too often at the expense of the music!
The opening work was Schumann Carnaval op 9 and I think this may be new to Yuanfan’s repertoire because it received a magnificent performance of such overall perfection that it will now with future performances mature into one of the very finest performances that one could wish to hear.
Such a great sense of style and a rubato and flexibility of the melodic line that was so compelling.
A work I have heard many many times from all the greatest pianists over the years but today listening on the stream from Perivale I was absolutely captivated.
A great sense of cantabile for “Chiarina” that led to a beautifully fluid “Chopin” where the sotto voce repeat was absolute magic.
Such variations in sound from the spiky “Pantalon e Colombine” to the aristocratic “Estrella”.
The superb legato in “Reconnaissance” where the repeated note accompaniment was only evident to us that knew it was there.
Pity not to include “Replique” as some pianists do, like Rachmaninov who added it with great effect.
Beautiful counterpoint alla Cortot in “Valse Noble” and a fleetingly nimble “Papillons”. “Lettres Dansantes” were just that as Coquette was equally beguiling if not over simple.
The grandeur of the “Valse Allemande” only rudely interrupted by the appearance of “Paganini.”So demonic and technically assured I have certainly never heard it played with such assurance in public before.
The final chord illuminated by the pedal so perfectly.Not an easy feat on a Yamaha piano.
A touching sense of rubato in “Aveu” before the total control of the arrival of the Davisbundler.Played with passionate involvement and great sense of grandeur but with tone so full but never hard.
It was just this beauty of sound and sense of balance that was quite breathtaking in the Litanei in Liszt’s arrangement of Schubert’s most perfect melody.
A truly sumptuous sound that came over magnificently on the streaming that I was privileged to hear in Rome today .

A bouquet from an admirer at the end of the concert
A lovely bouquet from a little girl who was invited to play a few notes that Yuanfan then astonished us all with his superb improvisation.
The great sense of ease and enjoyment he comunicated to us was only the confirmation of a major talent arising from this still very young Scottish pianist composer.
The sound on the streaming was superb.Infact I do not ever remember the sound being so full and beautiful in Perivale as it was in Rome today.
Of course the arrival of a major talent played its part too.
Hats off to all those in Perivale that allows the world to share some of the major talents that for many years have been invited to play in this musical Mecca .

St Mary’s Perivale

St Peters Square in Rome

A Woman for All Seasons in Frascati

A Woman for All Seasons in Frascati
The very imposing Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati .Built in 1598 it can boast frescos of Cavalier d’Arpino and Domenichino.

Villa Aldobrandini Frascati
The scene of many noble visitors on the “Grand Tour” in the 18th Century including Liszt,Marie d`Agoult,George Sand and many others.
Today scene of a chamber music concert directed by Marylene Mouquet with Aldo D`Amico and Adele Auriol.
A programme of Mozart Beethoven and Brahms.
Some beautiful sounds from the Steinway in the hands of Marylene Mouquet in the Mozart Divertimento K:254 which opened the concert.
A graduate from the Paris Conservatoire, Ecole Normale and the Brussels Conservatory.She continued her Studies at the Chigiana in Siena with Michelangeli.
She has been living for many years in Frascati and is a distinguished professor at the Rome Conservatory.
She is the Founder and President of the Musical Association named after Michelangeli in Frascati
Some very fine playing from Adele Auriol whose beautiful violin sound shaped the Spring Sonata so well and together with Marylene gave a very convincing performance in which the melodic line was passed from one instrument to the other in a real musical conversation.

FouTs’ong       Duda           Ileana Ghione     Linda Alberti and Students
Joined by the distinguished cellist Aldo D’Amico they gave a very fine performance of Brahms Trio op 114.Played with great involvement and each player listening intently to the other giving great sweep to the long passionate lines in this late trio of Brahms.
It is the Scuderie where I played many times with our much missed Lya de Barberiis.
A quick visit to Danuta(Du da) and her husband Ezio Alovisi .
Duda a close friend from her Warsaw days with Krystian Zimmerman and Fou Ts`ong and teacher of many fine musicians including Michelangelo Carbonara,Mattia Ometto and Abha Valentina Lo Surdo.

Duda and Ezio Alovisi with Brando
Ezio was the stage director for Lydia Agosti`s production of Trouble in Tahiti that I directed from the keyboard in Perugia in the `80`s
An afternoon of very fine playing from these very distinguished players.

Aldo D’Amico Marylene Mouquet Adele Auriol

Ivan the Conqueror…Rome debut of Ivan Krpan

Ivan the conqueror…… Ivan Krpan at La Sapienza University Rome
Hats off to the University of Rome for inviting year after year the winners of the Busoni Competition to their Concert season in the Aula Magna of La Sapienza.
With the magnificent frescos of Manzu overlooking the scene, this season alone includes Roberto Cominati (1993),Alexander Romanovsky(2001) past winners and the most recent winner in 2017: Ivan Krpan.
It also includes the Cremona Quartet who so valiantly performed in the semi final stage in Bolzano with the contestants and awarded their own prize to Anna Geniushene, who was invited to give concerts with the Quartet throughout Italy.

La Sapienza Campus in the centre of Rome
Chloe Jiyeong Mun(2014) was invited to the Sapienza IUC series in the previous season

Ivan Krpan
The Keyboard Charitable Trust via their founders have been supporters for many years of the Competition that is held in Bolzano.
For some years a career development prize has been offered by the Trust to the most talented pianist from each competition.
They are invited to perform in London and elsewhere helping them on their long journey to establishing a career.
Michail Lifits  (2008) ,Alexander Romanovsky(2001),Chloe Jiyeong Mun(2014) have all benefited from this and now it is the turn of Ivan Krpan.(2017)
Ivan recently played in London the same programme that was heard in Rome today ……….here are my thoughts on this unexpectedly mature musician.
Three encores by great demand for a public completely convinced by this young musician just as the enlightened jury of the Busoni competition had been two years ago.
The same Bach Busoni choral prelude as in London but then a crystal clear account of the Praeludium from Bach’s first Partita.
Such an intelligent reading of great colour and clarity it had us all wishing we could hear the entire work.
That will be next time for sure.
The last encore was by Chopin: a Prelude from op. 28 , which he has recently recorded together with the Schumann Fantasie op. 17 for the Busoni Foundation.
The prelude op. 28 n.15 (Raindrop) played with such a beautiful liquid sound.
Seemingly all the time in the world given to the ornaments as a great singer would do.
The time taken at the end was of such beauty and timelessness he had the audience hanging on to each note.
The long silence at the end was only broken by someone wishing to be heard on the Vatican Radio recording.
No doubt the same person who had interrupted the flow at the end of the Busoni Second Sonatina and with great authority was hushed by our young knight in shining armour.
Talking to this young man one is struck by his authority and conviction not only in his interpretations but also of the programmes that he has so carefully crafted together.
The Busoni Sonatina led imperceptedly (except for one!) into Liszt’s extraordinary “Pensee des morts” which in its turn became the “Dante Sonata.”
The two Beethoven sonatas taken from his last six sonatas of thirty two.
But the two sharing the same tonality of E .
The little two movement E minor op 90 with its seemingly innocent Schubertian second movement contrasting with one of Beethovens’ greatest statements of a theme and variations in op 109.
A fascinating journey from a real thinking musician.

Ivan greeting the Croatian Ambassador
I had asked Ivan if he did not find it tiring to play the same programme over and over again.
His reply was the same as Sokolov: that every time there was something new to see and this way he could delve deeper into the heart of these great works.
It was certainly not boring but totally stimulating!
For us too dear Ivan …….and thanks to an enlightened jury in Bolzano and the Keyboard Charitable Trust the world is a little closer to embracing a great interpreter.

An admirer and fellow musician who had followed Ivans success in Bolzano

A distinguished public at the University.Michele Sforzo of La Barcaccia fame in the foreground

A well earned Florentine Steak for the conqueror as he moves on to Avezzano on his long tour organised by the Busoni Foundation.

The famous frescos of Manzu in the Great Hall of the Sapienza University in Rome

Vive la France Brocal and Bavouzet in London

Vive la France …..Brocal and Bavouzet in London
Julien Brocal at the Chopin Society London.
A real French infusion today .
Julien for Lady Rose and Jean- Efflam at Wigmore.
Some wonderful clear luminous playing from both.
Also an overlap of waves from Miroirs.
Julien Brocal at Westminster Hall at 16.30 on Sunday afternoon for the The Chopin Society UK
I first heard Julien Brocal in Monza when I was on the jury of the Rina Sala Gallo International Piano Competition-I do not accept invitations to judge my betters but on this occasion my dearest friend Constance Channon-Douglass was too ill to be present and asked me to step in for her.

Connie with Shura after one of his many recitals at the Ghione theatre and the bedspread from Monza
She has since passed on to a better life with her beloved husband Cesare and her adored Shura and many many other friends who loved her joie de vivre,intelligence and warmth.
A young french pianist played an extraordinary Schumann Carnaval in one of the rounds and although he did not make the final I had noted his quite exceptional artistry.
He asked me what advice I could give him but it was Maria Jose Pires who answered that by taking him under her wing and sharing the concert platform with him in her ever generous way.
I heard them play Mozart Double together in Oxford and I went back to thank her for all that she was doing to help these remarkably talented young pianists reach a public and start a career.
She said that it was she that should thank them for all that they gave her with their youthful enthusiasm and dedication!

Julien at the Chopin Society
I bought his first CD on line and when he found out that it was me he wrote this beautiful inscription.
So pleased he is doing well….but I did tell you so!!!!!
The beautiful red and gold background here is the bedspread that I bought with the fee they very generously gave me in Monza for having such a wonderful time…….so all is well that ends well ……..sweet dreams indeed!
Wonderful cantabile sound from Julien and very beautiful Mompou Variations on Chopin op 28 n.7.
Superb Chopin Nocturnes op 15 too, even if rather fast the G minor n.3 .
His wonderful Miroirs have been encapsulated for posterity on his new CD (see below.)
Raindrop as an encore where you could have heard a pin drop.
The moments of silence at the end spoke much louder than any applause.
Jean- Efflam’s amusing and informed introduction to Boulez Notations was a revelation.I will Always remind myself of the signposts when taking up the driving seat in foreign parts!
Magical Jeux d’eau.
The same clarity of Julien in the two Miroirs offered – Une Barque sur l’ocean and Alborada del gracioso.
An astonishing op 14 Schumann …..which is on on his new CD in the Horowitz edition to whom he played it.
A quite extraordinarily rhythmic performance of Prokofiev’s 3rd Sonata .
With a clockwork precision that Ravel would have much admired.Allied to a great sense of colour and above all a clarity and sense of direction.
Feux d’Artifice was the encore.
La Marseillaise a mere vision in the distance!
Vive la France indeed.

Jean Efflam Bavouzet at the Wigmore Hall

Julien Brocal with Lady Rose Cholmondeley

Mitsuko Uchida plays Mozart in London

Mitsuko Uchida plays Mozart
An evening of pure magic with Mitsuko Uchida …..
Mozart crowned with a sublime encore of the Schubert Minuet and Trio from the G major sonata.
From the doll like perfection of the concerto in F K 459
………………………………………….to the dark whispered hues of the D minor K 466……..
Perfection cannot be defined but by God it hits hard when it strikes as it did tonight.
A superb Mahler Chamber Orchestra was the perfect foil for such beauty.

The Indian Summer of a Giant Radu Lupu plays Beethoven

I first heard Radu Lupu in Leeds at the first round when he played the little Schubert A minor sonata that was a revelation.
We had never heard such beauty.
It was of course the very Russian school of absolute control of pianissimo to mezzo forte.
He had all the passion in the forte too but never a hard sound.
It was like Richter …..slightly missing that sense of line of the great cantabile that was so much part of the Rubinstein school (that Gilels of all the Russian school was also absolute master of.)
It was an extreme exploration of the whispered tones that the piano is capable of.
Curzon of course was not convinced and did not vote him into the final.
Well he made it and Curzon eating his own words exclaimed :”Thank God I lived to hear that”.
It was Beethoven n.3.
Radu was then helped in London by Maria Curcio and found friends that helped him overcome his stage fright and extreme introspection.
Fou Ts’ong and he used to share their nervous pills.
They were once stolen with Ts’ongs bag at Rome station.
He did not care about the clothes but the pills what was he to do?
Kabos was at his London debut at the Proms where he not only played a superb Emperor but also the Choral Fantasia.
The horn players did not come in so he played their parts for them.
It was a gigantic performance.
A true Emperor had arrived.
Andre Tchaikowsky persuaded him to practice more and learn the Liszt Sonata which is a truly legendary performance.
A great friendship of playing chess together and he even learnt the Andre Tchaikowsky piano concerto that he gave a one off performance at the RFH for his friend.
He had won Van Cliburn before Leeds but could not cope with the success and had a nervous breakdown.
Always there was this Schumannesque personality between Florestan and Eusebius.
He lived in Chiswick and managed to have a life with other musicians that gave him courage to continue.
His ex wife,the daughter of the British Ambassador to Moscow, wrote a magnificent book about their friend Jaqueline Du Pre.
Recently he looked like Brahms at the piano but played like Eusebius ….Florestan was now a mere onlooker.
He was never my favourite performer but I was never indifferent to his performances or his total dedication to his art.
I think we should always remember that and thank him for all that he has given us and if there are only glimpses of that now at least it gives us lesser mortals a chance to thank him for all that his art has meant for us over the years.

Beatrice Rana spins her magic web in London

Beatrice Rana takes London by storm
“Wonderful ………..one of the most beautiful performances of  things we have heard so often but tonight they glittered like the jewels that Chopin must have imagined”
That I wrote in the interval ..”.lovely.suprise to be in London again to hear you……”
I have heard Beatrice Rana play many times in Italy also at the Wigmore Hall in London.
I remember her Goldberg Variations in London broadcast live from the Wigmore Hall but also in Rome a year later which was televised.
A remarkable enough performance in London that Stephen Kovacevich particularly admired.
The later performance in Rome was even more extraordinary for its maturity and rock like sense of direction.
I was told by Prof.Pieralbero Biondi that her final exam performance at S.Cecilia had the jury members cheering at the end.
After all her successes worldwide she had returned home to her original teacher Benedetto Lupo with whom she had studied as a child at the Monopoli Conservatory in Puglia.
She returned to his class at the Academy of S. Cecilia inspite of his insistence that she should branch out on her own now.
But between Benedetto Lupo,Sir Antonio Pappano and the Academy of S. Cecilia she had returned home to work on her scores in  peace and serenity and delve ever more deeply in the music to which she was destined since her birth in Puglia of a family of musicians.

Facsimile of Chopin manuscript
And so it was today that we heard the Chopin Studies op 25 played as the composer had indicated.
Each of the 12 studies was a miniature tone poem.
Bathed in the sunlight that Chopin’s own pedal indications had asked for she shaped each one with a luminosity and poetry that I have only heard similar on the old recording of Cortot.
Completely different of course but the one thing- the most important thing in common was the poetry that is concealed in what are conceived also as studies.
The Aolian Harp of the first study showing exactly what Sir Charles Halle had described on hearing Chopin on his last tour in Manchester.
”Il faut graver bien distintemente les grandes e les petites notes” writes Chopin at the bottom of the first page.
Long pedal markings overlapping the bar lines and the pianissimo asked for by Chopin so perfectly played by Beatrice. The long held pedal  at the end gave such an etherial magical sound.

Study n.2
The second study too like silk.
Not the usual note for note performances we are used to but washes of sound perfectly articulated of course but with the poetry and music utmost in mind.
The final three long “C’s” which can sound out of place were here of a magic that one never wanted them to stop.
The third and fourth to contrast were played with great clarity with some surprising inner notes that gave such substance and depth to the sound.
Here was not only a supreme interpreter but also a great personality.
The end of the fifth that linked up to the 6th.It grew out of the final crescendo flourish that always had seemed out of place.
Here in Beatrice’s hands it is exactly as Chopin in his own hand has indicated.

Study 5 to 6 link that Chopin indicates in his own hand
Here too one must mention the sumptuous middle melody of the fifth played with wonderful sense of balance and also a flexibility of pulse that again showed the hands of a great musical personality.
I have only heard similar sense of “rubato” live from Rubinstein although Murray Perahia on CD is pure magic too.
The technically difficult double thirds accompanied the left hand melodic line with a subtle sense of sound like a wind passing over the grave indeed !
The absolute clarity and jeux perle of the “double” double thirds was just the relief and contrast that was needed.
Beautiful sense of colour in the Lento that is the 7th study where Chopin marks so clearly that the melody is in the left hand with only counterpoint comments from the right( Cortot and Perlemuter are the only others that I have heard make this distinction so clearly)
The 8th played very much molto legato and sotto voce to contrast with the absolute clarity of the “ Butterfly” study that is n.9.
The ending that can sound so abrupt in some hands here was perfectly and so naturally shaped

The “Winter Wind” study n.11
The great octave study entered like a mist as Chopin indicates poco a poco crescendo .Bathed in pedal too even though not indicated so precisely by Chopin.
Such was her identification with this sound world she had seen this study as great wedges of sound interrupted only by the extreme legato cantabile of the middle Lento section.
Chopin marks very precisely here the fingering he wants to obtain this effect.
The great “Winter Wind” study n. 11 where there were great washes of sound ,again as Chopin so clearly indicates .The final great scale played unusually cleanly with a very precise final note.
Of course all clearly indicated in Chopin’s own hand .

Study n. 12.
The final 12th study was played with enormous sonority and very clear melodic line as Chopin indicates very clearly. The ending marked “ il piu forte possibile” and a final crescendo to “fff”.
It brought this revelatory performance to a breathtaking ending.
We had been taken on such an unexpected journey that my original thought was a first half of only 30 minutes?
But such a performance and vision could not have been shared with anything else and quite rightly was presented by a master as the absolute masterpiece it is.
After the interval Miroirs played with all the magical sounds and complete mastery that is rarely heard from others.
The beauty and variation of colour was again a revelation.
But coming after the Chopin I could not appreciate fully all the detail that she was outlining as she spun her delicate web of sound.
Maybe here a more classical approach less fussy might have led to more clarity?Too many hairpins that the long line was not what I was used to hearing from the aristocratic french school.
But hearing my colleagues who had come to hear a Master I realise that the unease was with me not with her!
We were soon woken out of the cocoon of sound by Agosti’s extraordinary transcription of Stravinsky Firebird.
It was written in 1928 and a fellow student of Agosti,Peter Bithell, told me that it was Stravinsky himself that had had it published.
Agosti and his wife were great friends of my wife and I , and the sounds that he could conjure from the piano in private I have never forgotten.
His crippling stage fright meant that the vast public were robbed of hearing one of the greatest musicians – a disciple of Busoni.
We managed to bully him into playing Beethoven op 111 and op 110 in public in our theatre but he always had to precede it with a spoken introduction.
It is one of the few recordings of this genius that we have.
I never heard him play the Firebird although I suspect he taught it in Siena where the world used to flock to his studio in the summer months to hear sounds that will never be forgotten.
I am sure that had he heard Beatrice play today he would have been filled with pride as to how she could realise the sounds that are transformed from the orchestra to the piano so magically.
A standing ovation and two encores from the Preludes by Chopin op 28.
Again even more of a revelation with the F sharp major prelude n.13 that can sound so disjointed in lesser hands. Here  it was allowed to sing with a simplicity and a sense of the big line that so often is disrupted by a less than flowing left hand.
Here is the true rubato that Chopin described to his aristocratic pupils.The trees with the roots firmly in the ground and the branches free to sway simply and naturally above.
The piu lento middle section was played as from afar but with such a magical sound projected as only a true master could judge.
The final few notes were played so naturally and with such gradations of sound that allowed the prelude to disappear to nothing as it had appeared.
It led  to one of those rare moments of silence where no one dared even breath.
A magisterial account of the Prelude in B flat minor broke the spell and showed us just what a virtuoso we had in our midst.
Digging deep into the bass to give depth to the swirling sounds that she was spinning with such passion in the right hand.
Of course many of the finest pianist were present and above all her greatest admirer Stephen Kovacevich.
She greeted us all with a simplicity gladly signing her CD’s and talking to her friends and admirers.
At 26 we have a great master in our midst and it is lovely to know that she is from Puglia.
That part of Italy blessed indeed for so many magnificent things.
The land of Riccardo Muti, Benedetto Lupu,Nino Rota,Gioconda de Vito,Paolo Grassi , Tito Schipa,burrata,focaccia,vino di Locorotondo and the Spanish baroque of the Vallee D’Itria- Martina Franca and Lecce,of course at the very heel -the Florence of the south.
It can now be proud to boast Beatrice Rana.

Greeting her public and signing CD’s after the recital