Gulsin Onay for Talent Unlimited

A beautiful evening in the company of some remarkable Turkish friends.
After a day listening to some wonderful young talents at their graduation recitals in the Royal College of Music I never thought that in the evening I would be swept off my feet by the very fine Turkish pianist Gulsin Onay.
Such nostalgia to be reminded of my duo partner of many years the great Italian pianist Lya de Barberiis,with whom I played until her death a few years ago at the age of 93.

But here was a real professional pianist the like of whom is very rare these days .
Of such assurance and absolute authority but with a tiny hand that through absolute determination could do anything she set her mind to.(Did not Alicia deLarrocha have the smallest hands too).
From a great tradition of Turkish musicians for whom the Turkish government passed a special law to oversee their early training.The first of whom our great friend Idil Biret who as a child was allowed to study with Nadia Boulanger and Wilhelm Kempff.I well remember her debut ,sponsored by the Turkish government in London with Rachmaninov`s third piano concerto at the RFH with the LSO under Pierre Monteaux.
And so Gulsin tells me she too followed in Idils footsteps.

Hardly surprising then the quality of the music of the hour of music that she offered in the private house of that other remarkable co-national the much loved and ever generous Canan Maxton founder of Talent Unlimited that aims to give a platform and all sorts of support to great young up and coming musicians.

Mendelssohn Variations serieuses played with a rhythmic energy and assurance that I certainly was not expecting even in Canan Maxton `s beautifully hospitable home.
Following with the Andante Favori (the original slow movement of Beethovens Waldstein Sonata ) and a most orginal performance of Chopin Ballade n.3
A very strenous sonata by her former teacher Ahmed Adnan Saygun a cross between Alwyn and Prokofiev which would have left any lesser pianist in need of a break was followed ,by this remarkable artist ,by a totally cohesively brilliant performance of that warhorse Prelude,Choral and Fugue by Cesar Franck.

A well deserved rest after a charming introduction to two artists that she via Talent Unlimited are fostering and it was left to them to offer to the very enthusiastic audience the well deserved encores that she had earned.

Samson Tsoy with a virtuoso account of Pletnev `s waltz from the Nutcracker Suite and another fine turkish student of Dmitri Alexeev of Schumann’s Theme and Variations from the Sonata op 14 (Concerto senza orchestra).

What more generous way to help young musicians than to share the platform with them.An example of the reply to the International Piano Competition circuit that two other great generous ladies of the keyboard, Pires and Argerich ,have decided to adopt

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.

Imogen Cooper at St.John’s Smith Square

To say Imogen Cooper`s programme at St John`s today was very unusual would be a great understatement.
Anyone who begins a recital with Schumann`s Geister variations and ends with Liszt`s Bagatelle sans tonalite` would be undertaking a hazardous task that is for all but the greatest of musicians and so it was the ovation that she received from a rapt public that decreed in which category Imogen Cooper can lay claim today.
Of course daughter of that great musicologist Martin Cooper author of a definitive book on French piano music and much feared but revered critic from a bygone age.
I can remember as a teenager Imogen playing Ravel’s Valses Nobles to Vlado Perlemuter in Dartington in 1968 to be greeted by such praise from the very man who had studied the works of Ravel with the composer.
Not only praise for her musicianship especially in the elusive Epilogue but also praise for her perfect french.Not surprising for someone who had studied with Yvonne Lefebure in Paris,no doubt on her father’s authoritative advice.
All the serious musicianship was there and a Chopin Mazurka too brought great admiration from one of the great Chopin interpreters of our time.
Not a pianist in the fiery virtuoso mold but more of a rather rigid ,serious, demeanour at the piano much as  her great forebear Myra Hess .
In fact it is very much in the mold of Myra Hess that we were regaled with two hours of pure music this evening.
Like Myra Hess her technical prowess is sufficient if not overwhelming but what is remarkable is her music making where every note has its just meaning .
Beginning with Schumann’s last work the Geister Variations a very elusive work on a theme ,so it goes,sent to him by the angels.
A work rarely played but recently taken up by the great Menahem Pressler in his 90th year.
If she had not immediately come to grips with the over resonance of the hall she created the atmosphere necessary for what would have been,as she announced, Schumann’s 206th birthday.
And so the scene was set for a work that Rubinstein considered not effective enough to play in public the same opinion shared by Clara and voiced to her future husband.
But since the historic recording of the simple ,musicianly performance by Gieseking and the extraordinarily mellifluous performances of Geza Anda times have changed and the Davidsbundlertanze op 6 has become an important part of the repertoire of great musician pianists.
Murray Perahia won the Leeds competition in the early 70’s with this and the almost unknown Mendelssohn Sonata op.6 .
It takes a great musician to tackle such works on the major London stage and so it was that Imogen Cooper kept the audience spellbound for the 30 minutes it takes to unfold all Schumann’s fantasy world.
Nowhere more evident of the complete understanding in this performance was the final dance where Floristan and Eusebius share the stage and impish humour is mingled with a nostalgia at the thought of saying goodbye to a beautiful evening .
Infact all through the eighteen dances the impish almost Viennese charm of Floristan shared the stage with the beautiful introspection of Eusebius.
The 14th dance sang so exquisitely in Imogen Cooper hands as did the 17th” as if from afar”,as Schumann indicates .
If the Balladenmassig and Frisch found the artist at her limit it was the same price that the public worldwide had accepted in their unbound admiration for Myra Hess .
Very interesting second half of Wagner Liszt and Liszt Wagner.
Four short works from Liszt’s Annees de Pelerinage from his travels in Italy .
A wonderfully atmospheric Sposalizio and Penseroso and a very jaunty Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa based,in fact ,on a skipping tune by Bononcini.The Sonetto n.123 by Petrarca was imbued with a beautiful cantabile and passionate outbursts that this poetic tone poem depicts.
The thirteen bar Elegy that was a jotting that Wagner penned whilst composing Tristan and finished at the completion of Parsifal in Palermo led without a break into the prelude from Tristan in the transcription of Zoltan Kocsis.A beautifully realised transcription by this hungarian pianist one of a trio of great pianist musicians to appear under the spell of their mentor Annie Fischer ,that includes  Andras Schiff  and Deszo Ranki.
And again in this musicianly designed programme the Lugubre Gondola written by Liszt on visiting the ailing composer in Venice ( where Liszt had a premonition of the composers death that ,infact, happened six weeks later in this very city) leading directly into Liszt’s own renowned Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde.
Imogen Cooper created such an atmosphere that there were many moments of silence before the audience burst into spontaneous applause and cheers were heard from her many admirers.

A virtuoso encore of Liszt’s rarely performed Bagatelle sans tonalite brought this evening of pure music to a brilliant ending after a second half of almost unbearably searing emotions.

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.

The Loves of Picasso- written and directed by Terry d’Alfonso

The triumph of Picassos Loves in London today.
The first screening of Terry d’Alfonso’s disturbingly beautiful film about Picasso the man and his relationship with his loves and his work.

Remarkable performance by Peter Tate who one believes in immediately so complete is his immersion in the part under Terry d’Alfonso‘s extraordinary direction that he held the packed audience under his spell for the twenty eight extraordinarily intense minutes .

Superb performances also from Milena Vukotic and Margot Sikabonyi.Filmed mainly on Capri it was the result of a long study of Picasso the man by the director ,instigated by her directing a play many years ago  from the lovers point of view.

She realised that an in depth study of the man Picasso and his disturbing relationship with the many women in his life and the relationship they had on him and his work was a much more interesting point of view.

Seen already in New York and Berlin this was to have been the directors chance to present her film personally in London too.

A very sad task then for Peter Tate to have to tell the enthusiastic audience  at the end of the screening that Terry D’Alfonso had fainted on Capri only three weeks ago , whilst in discussion with future producers .
Flown to Naples in 9 minutes by helicopter and two days later to her doctors in Lugano she never regained consciousness and infact was allowed to die peacefully yesterday only one day before todays screening.

Her funeral will be in Lugano on Wednesday .It is where she lived and worked for the Italian Swiss Television for many years ,also helping the great Italian director Giorgio Strehler to mount many of his most famous productions in Milan at his famous Piccolo Teatro.

Milena Vukotic too worked for many years with that other great director Fellini and after today’s screening I think there can be no doubt of the link between Terry D’Alfonso and the great tradition of Italian directors from Visconti,Strehler,Zeffirelli to Fellini .

No doubt that this intense study of Picasso will be shown in many corners of the world and am sure that Milena Vukotic and Peter Tate will allow it to grow and develop naturally into the full length stage play that Terry had in her vision of this very complex and cruel genius.
What greater legacy could a real artist leave .

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.

Mark Viner – Virtuoso

When I was a schoolboy many years ago I well remember the late night programmes on the BBC of the recently discovered piano rolls in Frank Holland’s piano museum in Brentford.Phenomenal performances from the Golden Age of piano playing.

Pianists that we had read about but never heard:Rosenthal,Lhevine,Godowsky,Levitski,Chaloff,Munz,Dohnanyi etc presented by Deryck Cooke. I waited anxiously every week to hear this unbelievably subtle display of virtuoso piano playing.

Shortly after, Raymond Lewenthal arrived on the scene with music of Alkan,another legendary pianist/composer, contemporary of Chopin and Liszt that we had only read about .This mysterious figure,killed when the Talmud fell on him , had written music of such difficulty that it was rumoured to be impossible to play.

Raymond Lewenthal appeared on the scene ,a romantic figure from a bygone age, with programmes of Liszt Hexameron and the Norma paraphrase together with pieces of hair raising difficulty by Alkan.There were queues all night at the Wigmore Hall to get a return for his sold out recitals.

Then came Ronald Smith with his performances and learned books on the legendary figure of Alkan.

In our time now Marc-Andre Hamelin is that pianist with the reserves of technique to play this repertoire .

The next in line waiting in the wings is Mark Viner there can be no doubt after the phenomenal display this afternoon in Hugh Mathers remarkable series in Ealing that he is ready to fly into the limelight to astonish the vast public that awaits  him.

Place of honour always to Nina Walker the legendary repetiteur at Covent Garden who worked on the historic performances of Norma with Monserrat Caballe and Grace Bumbry.(I had actually been present at the first Festival of  Valle D’Itria in Martina Franca where Grace Bumbry had come to sing Norma for the first time as she was about to alternate her usual role of Adalgisa with Norma .Of course in the end Monserrat refused to sing anything but the title role  and the two divas fought it out bravely).

So Nina Walker certainly was able to appreciate the absolute rhythmic control and sheer sense of theatre and excitement in a superlative performance of the Reminiscences de Norma that I doubt has ever been bettered.
Never has this Bosendorfer piano sounded so grand with the magnificent bass allowing the middle and upper sections to glisten in the amazing pyrotechnics that Liszt requires of the performer.

Opening this remarkable concert with a piece completely unknown to me and I expect to most : A la Chapelle Sixtine S.461ii by Liszt.
Such amazing contrasts from the extreme virtuosity of the opening to the serene reference to Mozart Ave Verum .Beautifully projected cantabile playing combined with a virtuosity that took ones breath away.

Following with five of the Douze etudes dans tous les tons majeurs op 35 by Alkan .A real discovery.A cross between the original op 1 version of the Liszt transcendental studies and Chopin or Mendelssohn.Someone even suggested Mendelssohn in a drunken rage! Certainly pieces of hair raising difficulty but also with great character.From the ferocity of the Allegro barbaro to the refined cantabile of the Allegramente reminiscent of Chopin’s own op 10 n.10 study only technically much more difficult. There seemed even to be some scottish reference in one of them .It was fascinating to hear this whole new world open up in such a totally convincing manner by the winner of the first Alkan- Zimmerman International Piano Competition and not surprisingly President of the Alkan Society.

A total surprise considering this rather gentlemanly figure ( was not Jorge Bolet also out of character with the utmost romantic sounds he produced )of the British born and trained virtuoso.
Hats off to his two teachers Tessa Nicholson of the Purcell School and Niel Immelman at the Royal College of Music showing the results of the remarkable early training that our musicians can now count on.Something that was once only available in the Eastern countries or the USA but now through institutions such as the Purcell or Menuhin School our superlative young musicians receive the early training to allow them to compete on the world stage .

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.

Serghiu Tuhutiu at the Romanian Institute

Number one Belgrave Square signifies Romanian Culture,thus the cultural attache opened his welcoming speech to the numerous public .
Pointing out the enormous success of Enescu at the Royal Opera House with his masterpiece Oedipus and presenting Sergiu Tuhutziu(top prize winner at the Manhattan International Piano Competition recently) ,substituting an indisposed pianist at only two days notice for the highly successful Enescu Concert Season.

A programme of romantic masterpieces by Chopin and Schumann that also included the Pavane from Enescu`s Piano Suite n.2 op 10.Good to get to know the music of this very fine but until now neglected composer.Full of evocative sounds beautifully realised on a difficult piano.
Finely controlled first Ballade by Chopin played with a simplicity that allowed this well known work to unfold in a direct and unrhetorical way .

All the technical challenges in the Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante were finely resolved and the public were swept along in a performance in which the sense of balance of the Andante was matched by the fine filigree fingerwork in the Polonaise .
A finely held together Symphonic Studies by Schumann showed off all the technical control allied to a real sense of colour and poetry.
A delicate piece of a famous melody by Sting brought this successful recital to an end.

Now looking forward to hearing the amazingly  versatile Sergiu  Tuhutiu with the American singer Peisha Mc Phee   in their fabulous cabaret “Chopin meets Broadway”

 Very interesting exhibition of many of the productions of Oedipe from the very first in 1936.Infact the “Cultural” Institute is not only a magnificent building but is a showcase for all the magnificent musicians that have come from that beautiful but misunderstood country.

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.

Andre’Gallo for the Keyboard Trust

Some remarkable music making at Steinways last night from Andre Gallo.
Quite a discovery for the Keyboard Charitable Trust, and to see our founders Noretta Conci-Leech and John Leech so enthusiatic was a rare sight indeed.
A packed out hall that included a very enthusiastic Bryce Morrison for this 26 year old Italian pianist.
A family of musicians all brass or wind players in major orchestras.Andre the only pianist something of a child prodigy taken under the wing, at a very early age ,of Franco Scala and Lazar Berman.
Performing all the Chopin studies at La Scala at  16 he has a maturity beyond his years.

From the very first notes ,watching the beauty of his remarkable handsand the absolute assurance of what he wanted to say was very rare indeed .
Refusing to join the circus mentality of the International Piano Circuit he revealed in a very original programme all his remarkable qualities.
A programme made up of Debussy Ballade and Arbesques,Poulenc Novellette and Improvisations,Satie Gnoisienne n. 1 and Je te veux,Dutilleux 7 short pieces,Scriabin 2 mazurkas
op 3,and a surprising contemporary friend and colleague from Imola by Marco di Bari( not the Nicola as attributed in the programme who in fact is the patron saint of Bari known to us as Father Christmas!).A remarkably evocative piece using only the upper register of the piano but showing a mastery of sound that was very much the school of Berio their mentor.Ending with a surprising encore by Cziffra !
We will be hearing a great deal of this young man that is for sure.

All this on a day when we learn magnificent  news of  two of the young musicians helped by the KCT .

Emanuel Rimoldi won first prize and Carnegie Hall recital in the first Manhatten International Piano Competition and Lukas Vondracek first prize at Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition .

Hats off to Noretta and John Leech for spotting and being ready  to make the journey a little easier for  these remarkable young musicians  to reach their goal.

foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.
foto di Christopher Axworthy.