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.
Anna Fedorova literally flew into LSE today and swept everything in her way off their feet. What progress since her very fine recital here last year as a promising student to the transformation into a great artist.
The four ballades of Chopin played with a very decided musical personality that restored the nobility and sentiment that so often can turn into sentimentality. The contrast in the second ballade between the almost beseeching,searching opening melodic line to the tumultuous outbursts led to as fiery a coda as I have ever heard .The return of the quiet opening few bars was quite magical. The third and fourth ballades given a new and fresh hearing.The fourth in particular with some unusually convincing passion in parts that so easily can fall into sentimentality. So the four ballades conceived as a whole monumental masterpiece that in her hands it surely is. Three Scarlatti sonatas delightfully introduced by Ann who certainly showed herself more at home at the piano than with the mechanics of a microphone. No encores were offered or expected after that exhilarating lunchtime. Much looking forward to more Chopin on the 25th from another remarkable pianist from the Keyboard Charitable Trust Stable Alexander Ullman
Concert at the Romanian Culturale Institute in Belgrave Square,packed out for the first collaboration with the Keyboard Charitable Trust in a concert billed as a Piano Tour de Force to celebrate that remarkable musician George Enescu. Two of the KCT`s finest pianists Evgeny Genchev and Mihai Ritivoiu in a real feast of virtuoso piano works by Bach,Chopin,Liszt ,Vine ,Silvestri and,of course Enescu. The majestic Overture in a French style with Evgeny that opened the concert contrasted well with Carl Vine`s Toccatissimo with Mihai,written as a trial of fire for the Sydney International Piano Competition. The sharp well defined rhythms brought to life by the two young virtuosi with a real sense of urgency and impulse but never lacking in sharp dynamic contrasts. The overt virtuosity of the Vine superbly brought to life with real feats of dexterity from delicate pianissimi to overpowering fortissimi ,never a harsh sound from this young musician always with a clear sense of line . The virtuosity was less evident in the Bach of Evgeny ,but anyone who knows these pieces will have appreciated the real tour de force needed to bring this neglected masterpiece to life. Two Enescu pieces: Mihai with the Pavane and Evgeny with the unpublished Regrets ,gratefully sent for the occasion by the Enescu Foundation. The music has much in common with that other polyhedric genius Ferruccio Busoni and reflects very much the period it was written . Evgenys beautifully suggestive sound palate suited Regrets and led to some very refined music making and for us with the wish to hear some more of these much neglected works. Mihais Pavane was more down to earth which may have been indeed a later less romantic piece. And now the two great romantic works on the programme Chopin`s Polonaise Fantasie op 61 and Liszt`s Dante . In this beautiful house in one of London’s most elegant squares it must have been reminiscent of the duel between the great virtuosi of Liszt`s day. Mihais Chopin perhaps more fantasy than polonaise but playing of such refinement as to be reminded that these masterworks are indeed canons covered in flowers . Evgenys Dante had all the diavolism that Liszt himself must have demonstrated coupled with some sublime contrasts that put the much played work into its true perspective as one of Liszt` s true masterpieces. The duel now over the fun could begin with our two young virtuosi joining forces,four hands on one piano for Constantin Silvestri`s Romanian Dances from Transylvania. Reminiscent of Bartok I well remember Silvestri as conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and at the RFH and it was interesting to be reminded of what a real musician meant in days not so far away every bit as reminiscent of the kappelmeister of Bachs time. These dances played with real” joie de vivre” now the concert was drawing to a close and a very insistent public were rewarded with a repeat performance of one of the more energetic dances. Great success was crowned with drinks in the beautiful wood panelled library of this magnificent Romanian Institute We look forward to many more such enjoyable and instructive evenings in the future
More surprises in London today at St James`s with the Malaysian pianist Hao Zi Yoh. A waif of a young girl in a flaming red dress came floating on to open up a real Pandoras box infront of an attentive and delighted audience. A real conjuring trick on a not easy Fazioli piano. In her hands Beethoven`s op 109 was restored to its rightful place at the pinnacle of the piano repertoire.The form,as we have come to expect from her much admired teacher Christopher Elton ,strictly adhered to but with just the right flexibility and sound that is the stuff of only a chosen few. One of those that springs to mind immediately is Alicia deLarocha .Often I would sit in the wings of my theatre during her recitals and would marvel not only at her composure and complete command but at the ravishing sounds that such a small hand could conjure up from a box of hammers and strings .Infact turning baubels into gems just as Hai Zi Yoh did today with Albeniz Rondena and Triana . Szymanowski`s DonJuan Serenade from Masques proceeded this and she made just as persuasive a case as Richter in restoring this pianistic masterpiece to the repertoire. Of couse it takes a trascendental technique to be able to do justice to this amazingly intricate web of sounds Almost as an encore we got some pure jazz with Kapustin`s Oscar Peterson like Blue Bossa Paraphrase. And here as with all seasoned jazz players we were treated to some very refined and exhilarating piano playing. Let us not forget this extraordinary prize winner of the Jaques Samuel Piano Competition
Vitaly Pisarenko’s triumph with Rach 3 at the RCM today . It was almost 50 years ago since I heard the much publicised debut of an 18 year old John Lill at the RCM in this same work with the student orchestra under Sir Adrian Boult. The work was that was then considered the almost impossibly difficult Rachmaninov third piano concerto. I spent most of my after school time at the free concerts offered by the RCM . The much publicised film Shine was based on this very debut of John Lill. Confusing David Helfgott with John Lill .And Angus Morrison his teacher with the much more well known Cyril Smith . So it was with great nostalgia that I returned today to hear this young virtuoso in the same work.A work that has become almost standard repertoire for most advanced students these days. But can this concerto have ever received such an impassioned and involved performance as today.Only once have I heard a similar participation and that was with Vitalys teacher,Dmitri Alexeev in Rome thirty years ago with the radio orchestra . Maybe now Vitaly could take more time and let the impassioned lines stand in their own noble space.But one must note he was not helped by an orchestra that was obviously not used to playing with an artist of this calibre and sounded as though they needed to listen more attentively to the lesson that was lain before them by this remarkable young musician. However a roar of approval justly greeted this remarkable performance. Beseeched for an encore ,that was understandably not conceded, as he had given this performance absolutely every ounce of energy and concentration that he could muster. Next time,dear Vitaly, for this is just the thrilling beginning to an illustrious career as was John Lill all those years ago.