All those that remember that very distinguished musician Kendall Taylor will be pleased to know of the Beethoven Competition at the Royal College of Music in his name .And I think Kendall Taylor in his turn would be very glad and proud to know that this year it is in the extraordinary hands of Alex Ullman.
Beethoven Prize – Chopin recital ………has no importance what is played when it is played like this .
All the sounds of the Golden Age of piano playing were here and the kaleidoscope of sounds extracted from this wooden box of strings and hammers was nothing short of magical.Actually a beautiful Steinway “D” but not always as evident as on this happy occasion.
Strange but very effective choice of opener with the so called ” Cat ” Waltz op.34 n.3 .Its fanfare type opening actually the perfect foil for what was to come.” Kitten on the Keys” came to mind for the velocity of the opening but that was soon put to rights with the total contrast and the refined,subtle colours that he found in the middle section .
Canons covered in flowers comes to mind as the Polonaise Fantasie was unveiled and given its true place as one of Chopin’s greatest works.. Grandure,nobility,virtuosity was all here and the subtlety of the return of the main theme revealed the true meaning of Cortots'” avec un sentiment de regret” so clearly written in my copy years ago by his disciple Vlado Perlemuter.
The great A flat Polonaise at the end was given a young mans’ performance full of verve and passion and the left hand octaves beautifully played allowing the right hand to sing as so rarely heard since Rubinstein.Missing perhaps the aristocratic heroism and timing that will come with maturity.
The B flat minor Scherzo too given a thrilling account with such subtle contrasts.Infact all through the concert his wonderful sense of balance was apparent allowing the piano to sing as only a great singer could do .The Berceuse and two nocturnes were remarkable for this and many other reasons notably the nobility and strength in the nocturnes.
Golden Age of Piano Playing live and well and one is reminded of that other great english pianist Stephen Hough so admired by Shura Cherkassky the master of them all for subtlety,nuance and colour .
Book soon for Alex’s Chopin recital at the Wigmore Hall on Sunday the 28th February for the Keyboard CharityTrusts’ Prizewinners concert, before the word spreads .