Great celebrations at the Wigmore Hall for the 25th anniversary of the Keyboard Charitable Trust. What better way to celebrate than with the composer who understood the piano better than any other….Frederik Chopin. A programme of some of his greatest works performed by the remarkable British pianist Alexander Ullman. Trained from an early age at the Purcell School followed by some intense training in Philadelphia with Leon Fleischer.Only still barely in his 24th year with first prize at the Liszt Bartok Competition under his belt he is now perfecting his studies under the remarkable eye of Dmitri Alexeev and Ian Jones at the RCM. A prime example of the supreme talent that the KCT is able to spot and help bring to the fore. There are very few young musicians that could hold a packed out Wigmore Hall in their hands for almost two hours and then regale them with one of the most subtle and poetic performances of the nocturne op 55n.2 that I can recall. And this after some masterly performances of some of Chopins greatest works. Rarely has Chopins funeral march in the B flat minor sonata,sounded so grandiloquent and the final wind over the grave so inevitable. Enviable his grip of structure in the first movement with the repeat so inevitably right. The fourth ballade too tightly held together leading to the most passionate outpouring in the coda that is all too often thrown off like a trascendental exercise. Never for a moment letting us forget that this was a young passionate mans view of Chopin , also never letting us forget the poetic content but also allowing us to share in his sheer relish in performing these so perfectly written pieces. The second Scherzo with dazzling virtuosity every much a young virtuosos performance. I remember back in 1976 Rubinsteins last performance in public with this very scherzo that he had to forsake as his failing eyesight would not allow him to take those treacherous leaps that Maestro Ullman ,70 years his junior took with such aplomb tonight in the very same hall. Deeply felt mazukas ,the very heart of Chopin,with such subtle colouring and understatement. Very unsentimental performance of the nocturne op 27 n.1 reminded us that the nocturnes are true tone poems as Rubinstein made so clearly his own. Opening with the great Polonaise Fantasy ,one of Chopin’s hardest works to play in one long line and truly a gem amongst the polonaises and very much canons covered in flowers Standing ovation,of course,for this tour de force . Three encores and a bottle of champagne greeted by a kiss from the beautiful young lady that presented it to him from the KCT. Great celebrations with speeches and a toast from our remarkable hostess,Gabriella Bassatne, to the two founders of the Keyboard Trust~ John and Noretta Leech and a touching speech from John declaring the act of love for his wife ,Noretta, in founding the trust for her sixtieth birthday……incredibly 25 years ago.
Remarkable story telling at the St James Theatre now in Victoria.The original was where Oscar Wilde did many of his first performances…long ago pulled down in the name of progress. Beautiful theatre and Brasserie but the most remarkable thing was the story that Mona Golabek had to tell about her mother fleeing Vienna on the Kindertransport that saved so many children bravely sent to safety by their parents sacrifice. A remarkable pianist,student of Fleisher I believe,kept us spellbound telling the story of her mother realising in turn her mothers dream for her of becoming a concert pianist and performing the Grieg concerto. And what a virtuoso performance it was.The hardest thing to play and at the same time recount a story. Last performance tomorrow…..I got a return and wish all who would not want to miss this my good fortune.
21 year old polish pianist Artur Haftman ……….justly a standing ovation and foto shoot with encores long after the official concert was over.
Never has this Fazioli piano sounded so sumptuous .
All due of course to this young artists awareness of the roots in the bass.Just as his compatriot Chopin pointed out to his pupils .Also this young artists way of leaning expressively on the upbeat in a way that recalls another compatriot Artur Rubinstein.
Mozart`s almost operatic sonata K281 a shade too fast to allow each character to stand on his own ground.The impish last movement could have been relished even more than his remarkably assured performance would allow.
The unjustly neglected Szymanowski Theme and variations op 3 ,now like Medtner and now Schumann ,were given a masterly performance ~ never has this difficult piano been allowed to sing and seduce as today.
Of course the Polonaise Heroique slightly on the fast side but with some truly masterly strokes ,was in his blood .Maybe more aristocratic nobility will come with age as it did with Rubinstein. Schumann`s also much neglected Romance in F sharp major can rarely have been given a more beautiful performance.
A truly transcendental performance of Liszt`s Hungarian Rhapsody n.6 brought the concert to what we thought was the end.
Such was the ovation that an encore of the rarely heard old war horse Moszkowski`s Caprice Espagnol played with all the subtle pianism that we came to expect in the “Golden Age” of Rosenthal and Lhevine.
This unexpectedly led to an excerpt from the Funeral March sonata during a foto pose that from a public craving for more turned into a Chopin Waltz op 34 . We will be hearing a lot more from this young man who seems to relish and need the public just as his compatriot did. Another star from the RCM so magnificently directed by Vanessa Latarche……this time from the stable of Dmitri Alexeev…..one of my favourite pianists,winner of the Leeds when Uchida and Schiff were runners up.Often used to play for us in Rome thanks to the lovely Donatella Brizio,an old style agent that they do not make like that any more.Lucky students to have such a valuable mentor at their side.
Another pianist from Norma Fisher`s remarkable stable from the RCM . Aleksandar Pavlović the young Serbian pianist on Elton Johns piano in the Elgar Room of the Royal Albert Hall today. Originally known as the West Theatre where the first performance ever was given by an RCM student: Mr Barton in1884. And now 130 years later still a venue for some of the remarkable talent being trained at the RCM . From the first note on this not easy piano Aleksandar demonstrated his musical credentials with a beautiful cantabile sound revealing a true ear for balance as well as the real meaning of “peso”. Youthful feelings were at the fore sometimes sacrificing simplicity for youthful passion.The Schumann Kinderszenen deeply felt and some magical moments .Some unexpected slow tempi and fluctuations revealed also a real thinking musician but with a real heart With maturity he will learn how to let his heart beat without interfering with the tempo or fundamental pulse.Not an easy lesson for a young and passionate youth.To let your heart beat in time to the music. Sounds so simple but believe me it is not! Was it not Sir John Barbirolli ,on hearing of criticism of Jacqueline Dupre’s youthful passion ,exclaiming that if you don’t play with passion when you are young what do you pare off later in life. This most improbable looking romantic exclaiming how he loved it………..and so did her adoring public …….it was all we were destined to have.Che meraviglia. Some really beautiful moments in the Schumann but where the problem of the pedals was not always happily resolved. The youthful Brahms F minor Sonata again partly suffered from youthful passion at the expense of allowing the music to unfold simply by this exceptionally talented young man. In the coda of the slow movement the two youths met~Brahms and Pavlovic ,and it was a moment of sheer magic,stage managed with consumate skill. We await with great anticipation what maturity of this already remarkable artist will bring us. Always so admirable how Norma Fisher instills in these superb young pianists ,the importance of roots firmly planted in the ground,allowing the branches to flow in their own particular manner without interfering with their own unique personality. Was it not Chopin who explained this very idea to his own pupils. How lucky these great talents are to have such an expert adviser in their formative years that are so fundamental for a young artist. Hats off!
What a wonderful surprise in Chinatown today in full celebration for the recent new year ~ the year of the monkey. Here in the centre in what looks like the town hall and is infact the China Exchange where Costanza Principe was giving a lunchtime recital in collaboration with the RAM . Last seen a few days ago in Milan where she was fresh from her Beethoven marathon with our great friend Federico Mondelci ,world famous saxophonist and very fine conductor of the Orchestra Regionale Marchegiana . And here she was on a surprisingly good Boston piano (Steinway) in works by Beethoven ,Janacek abd Schubert. Nice big hall unfortunately not full for an exceptionally musical recital. The rarely heard variations by Beethoven from Das Waldmadchen .Last heard in the hands of Richter forty years ago at the Festival Hall. How right he and now Costanza were to play these beautifully constructed variations .Some beautifully shaped playing never lacking in Beethovens inevitable rhythmic energy. Unjustly neglected Janacek Sonata 1905 .Some really beautifully suggestive sounds and unmistakable musical personality made this a really refreshing and intelligent breath of fresh air between the two works of Beethoven and Schubert. The drei Klavierstucke followed. Conceived as a whole but never missing the nuances and intricate detail in the three long movements. Usually one of the most difficult of Schuberts major works to digest such was the innate musicality and intelligence of Costanza `s subtle piano playing the work seemed much shorter than usual. In fact the hour recital seemed to pass so quickly such was the concentration on purely musical details offered that the enthusiatic audience would have gladly listened to more. No encore offered and we will just have to wait for the next occasion to hear this beautiful young pianist again.
Menahem Pressler at the Royal Academy today to receive their highest award. Of course what was of even more importance was what he had to share with the two young trios who played Beethoven op1 n2 and Mendelssohn D minor. Thanking him afterwards I said how wonderful it was to see him in such magnificent form after his miraculous rebirth from an aneurism recently. I said I was looking forward to seeing him and Dame Fanny in Oxford again this summer.He said she is ahead of me in years 95 to his mere 91.But as I told him they are both very rare examples of people that actually listen to every note with musical ears And so it was at the RAM today what a revelation to be reminded that the most important thing for a musician is to really listen to themselves with heart ,soul and intelligence.
Can thank you ever be enough.Pressler with Lady Weidenfeld and Alberto Portugheis
Just made it to the Wigmore for the Musicians Company Concert withYoon Kyung Cho ,cello and Anna Szalucka ,piano. Some very fine duo playing in Prokofievs sonata op 119 .The unexpected lyricism of this sonata, written for Rostropovich and Richter and first performed in 1950,was matched by some beautifully characterised playing with both artists totally absorbed in their music making together .Some beautiful rich cello sounds matched by some equally fine playing from the piano,both totally identifying with Prokofievs sound world.I was just sorry to have missed their Debussy Sonata having been detained for an equally rewarding musical experience at the RAM with some fine trio playing.Anna too is from the RAM as I was years ago . Four mazukas for solo piano were beatifully played by Anna who totally identified with her fellow Polish compatriot Karol Szymanowski. I well remember Artur Rubinstein adding these four mazurkas in the middle of an all Chopin programme.And so it was with Annas other solo work Chopin`s fourth ballade. But wheras Rubinstein taught us that the true way to the heart of Chopin is simplicity and nobility it was here that Annas total identification did not allow the music to talk with the simplicity that can make this work the monument that the composer intended The encore the famous Melodie from Thais was played with great style , here never allowing the music to become sentimental and the glorious sounds from the cello were matched by the subtlety of the piano and was greeted by great approval from a numerous enthusiastic public.
What better way to spend Valentines day than a coffee concert in the Elgar room at the Royal Albert Hall. Everything red starting with Elton Johns Red Piano Tour piano right down to the red coffee cups. Luka Okras just married playing a superb programme of Debussy,Rachmaninoff,Schumann and Liszt. The silence that greeted the end of the Kinderscenen said it all.The Poet Speaks and thus it was .Such was the way he let every piece speak in a deceptively simple way ,the packed out Elgar Room were mesmerised by this poet of the piano. Right from the first work Childrens Corner it was clear that we were in for a very special concert from a real musician.Little were the public aware,quite rightly so,of his mastery of the pedals on this not easy piano bequethed to the hall by Marksons Pianos. We were not without fireworks too in Rachmaninoffs scintilating Moment Musicaux n.4 or the virtuosity in Liszts old warhorse of Second Hungarian Rhapsody…no idea who the cadenza was by ,but it brought the house down and I think a smile of approval from Elgar. I was hoping indeed for Salut D`Amour today of all days . Instead we got a magical performance of Bach/Siloti Prelude in B minor . Wonderful choice of programme much appreciated by all present and indeed having been a bit perplexed by a previous performance of Luka s of much bigger works now I am completely won over .Not only the choice of repertoire but maybe the choice of a companion for life has made all the difference. I like to think so on today of all days as I rush to lunch with my much adored 103 year old Valentine today! Once again Canan Maxton always present to support in person another from her remarkable stable. They do say that birds of a feather flock together.
Hin -Yat Tsang`s Birthday Concert. I well remember Eleanor Wong`s rigorous Beethoven all those years ago at the RAM when she in her final year sought out a fresher to try out her programmes on. Eleanor was Hin Yats first teacher in Hong Kong where she founded and runs the International Piano Competition. Her teacher,and my mentor and admirer ,Frederick Jackson.A remarkably complete musician whose dream was to conduct the Verdi Requiem. As our contemporary Graham Johnson reminded me recently a dream come only partly true as he suffered a heart attack during his performance in the Dukes Hall.
Some remarkably beautiful sounds in the Sonata op101. If the clockwork precision was not perfect it was a remarkably mature and much felt interpretation. Impresiones Intimas by Mompou and the Scriabin third sonata sounded like another pianist . Such were the ravishing sounds in Mompou where every note had a heartbreaking meaning . The very attentive audience were taken completely by surprise by the sheer onslaught of the Scriabin. Sumptuous rich,never harsh sounds mingled with the most liquid of languid cantabile made for a truly demonic performance. Almost as a benediction ,an encore of the sublime sarabande from the fifth French Suite by Bach. How I remember the performances of Bach that his teacher shared to a young eighteen year old student in one of the lonely practise studios at the RAM. What nostalgia for the RAM…..and.Freddie …………listening to this young artist on his birthday. They may not make them like that any more but what remarkable talent there is these days.
Some remarkable Hausmusik in the noblest of traditions at St Barnabas in Ealing today. A retired doctor shared his tireless enthusiasm with his numerous and discerning public in this very large church with an amazingly good acoustic. Hugh Mather recently celebrated his one thousandth concert in St Barnabas and St Marys in Ealing and Perivale .Both venues very well known to all the great young aspiring talents that Dott Mather has taken under his wing during his retirement from medicine. On his beautiful Bosendorfer grand Dott Mather caressed the opening melody of Schubert`s Arpeggione that left no doubt to his considerable musical skills.Skills that were matched on this occasion by Jamal Aliyev one of the finest young cellists of his generation.A real musical conversation where the quite considerable musical problems of this masterpiece were swept aside in music making of such immediacy and mastery that it was a privilege to be present on such an intimate occasion. The last movement played with such charm and wit one almost wanted it never to stop.How much he enjoys playing with Dott.Mather Jamal confided afterwards swept along by his irresistible passion for music. In Dott Mathers charming introduction to Beethoven’s monumental last cello sonata he let slip that after one of the most sublime Adagios ever written Beethoven decided to end with one of his most treacherous fugues. Confiding in the more than fifty year difference in age between he and Jamal he said he would give it a go and hope for the best. He need not have mentioned it because so carried along by their real music making we were not aware of the enormous terror that this work holds for all that attempt to conquer its secrets. Another tireless supporter of young talents Canan Maxton was present as always for her stars from the stable of her Talent Unlimited a charity she founded to help all these amazing young talents that seek only an audience. Charity begins at home they say and this is very much the home of Dott.Mather and his remarkable team dedicated to providing just such a platform. In fact invigorated by his Beethoven he enthusiastically announced next friday the annual concert of the intercollegiate Beethoven Competition winner,Ilya Kondratiev .Another wonderful way to spend lunchtime in this remarkable musical oasis and like Jamal another of the stars helped by Talent Unlimited. How much these young artists owe to these two indefatigable promoters of great talent in the making.