Stefano Greco at the Presidents Palace – Quirinale in Rome this morning .
I first heard Stefano in London giving a masterclass on Bach for Alberto Portugheis in a small venue to a few enthusiastic souls .
His talk and performance of the Art of Fugue after an intensive class was nothing short of inspiring .
So this year I was happy to be able to hear him do a much more amplified lecture recital to a packed S.Cecilia Hall in Rome where he is rightly revered as a Bach scholar of singular importance . It was fascinating to hear him reasoning as to why Bach had left this work incomplete and much more beside. The performance ,all from memory ,a feat in itself ,was quite superb.
Later at the request of Mrs Maazel,as were her late husband’s wishes , he flew under the auspices of the Keyboard Trust and Nicola Bulgari to play the Goldberg Variations at Lorin Maazels Memorial Concert at his home in Castletown Virginia.( Where by coincidence another Keyboard Trust artist Bolai Cao was playing today).
So it was with great interest that I tuned into the 3rd Programme to listen to the live broadcast from the Cappella Paolina at the Quirinale in Rome.
An all french programme that I was not expecting from this renowned Bach specialist . But it was from the French Baroque of Rameau to their revisitation by Debussy and Ravel. Not only could Stefano talk so calmly and intelligently before affronting such an intricate programme but also inbetween works too.Specifying that he wanted to dedicate this recital to Aldo Ciccolini his recently deceased teacher and renowned specialist in the french repertoire .
Remarkably crystal clear playing in the Rameau with some really stylish ornamentation that only added to the expressive line and allowed him to maintain such rythmic energy without ever resorting to making us realise that this was other than an instrument that Rameau would have totally approved of. No mean feat ,but one that Stefano had explained in his short interview beforehand that a modern piano can and should be used for baroque music but only when one has fully understood the original sound world.Fascinating to hear his words mirrored by his performance and to realise that he can bring it off as he has acquired the right to a Baroque driving license!(As Graham Johnson said to me one day when I asked how he got away with playing with the piano lid fully open ,an unusual occurence with singers who more often than not travel with their” book”to prop the lid open at a suitable height.It’s alright if you know how to drive ,was the simple and proven reply!
Not sure what the piano was but I would guess from the remarkably clear beautiful sounds produced that it may have been a Fazioli.
Of course a completely different sound world for Debussy’s Hommage a Rameau from Images . As he explained this is Debussy’s impression on visiting the tomb of Rameau.Much slower that I am used to hearing had me running to the score to find exactly as Stefano had played Lent e grave.
Finishing with Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin again explaining that it was written during the first world war and every movement is dedicated to a friend of the composer who had fallen in the war.The first performance by Marguerite Long in 1919 to whose husband,also fallen in the war is dedicated the final Toccata. Ravel played with that aristocratic french sound typical of a Rubinstein or Ciccolini.Clear with expression and sentiment but never with sentimentality . Strange that the ornaments were not so convincing in the little Menuet but fascinating to be taken on such a journey from Rameau to Ravel by Stefano . The presenter of the programme was hoping that as an encore Stefano would offer again his superb rendering of Le Rappel des Oiseaux from the Rameau Suite in E minor(1724) but he had a different idea and so we were treated to the 13th variation from the Goldbergs. Stefano in his introductory interview had spoken so eloquently about his study of the Goldberg Variations and his video programmes one a week dedicated to each variation in turn.
I believe there is also a Facebook opened by Stefano entitled Goldberg Variations that I for one will be scouring for information immediately.
A remarkable morning that I was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy in the shadow of Mount Circeo in the wonderful Italian countryside with only the spring song of the birds to add to the wonders from the Radio………..Rappel des Oiseaux indeed!