Chloe Mun at Rome University ,winner of the 2015 Busoni Competition

Chloe Mun at Rome University
At last able to hear the winner of the 2015 Busoni Competition and winner also of the Geneva competition. Not since Martha Argerich has a woman won both.
Only now 21 Chloe Mun has begun her international career.
A musicians programme of the Mozart Sonata K333,three pieces from Iberia by Albeniz followed after the interval by Schumann Blumenstuck op 19 and the Fantasie op 17.
Some really exquisite piano playing and wonderful musicianship in fact almost perfection from this petite Corean girl.
But is playing to absolute pianistic perfection enough?
Surely in Mozart we know from his operas that his music is full of drama and a whole gambit of emotion that every note should speak and tell a story as Pires and Brendel have taught us over the years.
Is it enough just to play in perfect style never exceeding mezzo forte and with exquisite phrasing ? For this is what Chloe Mun presented to us this evening
.Some really remarkable control and beauty of sound but I in the end was bored to tears. The three pieces from Iberia :Rondena,Almeria and Triana were played with great taste and sense of balance .
Rarely exceeding forte even in the most passionate climaxes.
I know from hearing that other woman pianist Alicia de Larrocha that I come out of her recitals of Spanish music stamping my feet and clicking my heels.
So why was it that there was no reaction from such a numerous audience?
Great admiration for this tiny young girl who played in such a beautifully musical way.
Never being drawn into conflict with trying to please or play down to her audience.
A sign of this was apparent in the round of spontaneous applause that awaited her after the second movement of the Schumann Fantasie where she had shown her quite considerable technical skill and had finally given us a real fortissimo .
The first movement of course was exquisitely controlled but hardly an outpouring of love for Schumann’s beloved Clara.
The last movement too that finishes in a passionate crescendo leading to the final three quiet chords .
Although extremely beautiful I am sure it was not what the composer intended when he dedicated this most passionate work to Liszt who famously sight read it.
I am quite sure with passionate projection and feeling for
his adoring public in mind.
The beautiful Blumenstuck surely the most song like of Schumann’s shorter pieces where every note should have a different word and thus inflection as Horowitz in his famous recording has shown us in our time.
Even in her encore of Schumann’s Widmung arranged by Liszt we were able to admire the extreme beauty of her musicianship but of showmanship there was not a single sign.
This remarkable young lady who coming from a very poor family and against all odds not even possessing a piano ,but practising in the local church,has arrived at a stage of winning two International Piano Competitions .And she is only now 21.
I feel that this should have been the beginning of growing up and having life experiences and having time to listen to as much music and as many different performances as possible instead of being launched into an International career.
It is generally recognised these days as one of the problems with the competition circuit that it is usually the perfect pianist and musician that is chosen quite rightly by an illustrious jury without taking into account that to play the great masterworks to a vast audience you must have something to say which can only come with experience.
Hats off indeed to Paul Lewis who in accepting the direction of the Leeds Competition has announced the other day ,in the Wigmore Hall launch and via a very interesting article in the Guardian, his intention to try to rectify this situation with the intent of helping the enormously talented young artists before them to enjoy a long and satisfying career instead of burning themselves out too soon in an effort to keep up an impossible pace.

Beethoven at the Filarmonica

Beethoven at the Filarmonica
Magnificent Beethoven from Leonora Armellini for the Filarmonica Romana to finish off this feast of Beethoven this weekend.What a great idea of Matteo D’Amico composer and artistic director with a project of Andrea Lucchesini of all the Beethoven Sonatas played by some of the finest young pianists around.
Matteo wrote many years ago the sound track for the play by Pirandello “Cosi e’ se Vi pare” one of the last productions by the great director Orazio Costa Giovangigli in our theatre in Rome. We took on tour all over Italy and also in South America. A long and difficult piano piece that we had great fun recording together – me on the piano! Also recording with Giovanna Manci Accademia Sfaccendati of Paisiello’s” Non piu che sento” that Matteo’s piece was based on .
Now Matteo D’Amico is the Artistic Director of the renowned Filarmonica Romana transforming the small Sala Casella into a perfect setting for the complete Beethoven Sonata Series which includes a piece by a contemporary composer in each of the five concerts that make up the first part of the series from 9th October to the 18 December.
The piano in the centre of the hall with seating all around on three sides gave everyone the chance to really savour the performances.
A very learned and interesting introduction from that voice so well known to us here in Italy on the Rai radio 3 – Guido Zaccagnini.
And so on to the music by pianists Federico Colli(9/10),Leonora Armellini(23/10 ),Giovanni Nesi- Leonardo Pierdomenico(13/11 both from the master course at the Accademia di S.Cecilia of Benedetto Lupo- the teacher of Beatrice Rana amongst other distinguished past students of this remarkable pianist) ,Leonardo Colafelice(27/11),Gloria Campaner(18/12). All pianists very well known on the International Piano Competition Circuit and all Italian and very young.
Hats off to the Filarmonica for letting us hear some of these remarkable young musicians
Leonora Armellini I had not heard before although I know that she and Costanza Principe played the entire Beethoven Piano Concerto Cycle with the Orchestra Marchegiana following on from our (Keyboard Charitable Trust) highly successful complete Rachmaninov Concerto Cycle with Jayson Gillham,Vitaly Pisarenko,Alexander Ullman and Marcos Madrigal.
Some remarkably fine Beethoven playing had me really riveted for two hours by the intelligence and perfect control of her performances of op 101 and op 2 n.3. Combined with such temperament ,sense colour and style these were exceptional performances by any standard and luckily were recorded for later transmission by the Radio.
A very interesting piece by Roberta Vacca who introduced her piece together in a short discussion with with Guido Zaccagnini,giving our pianist time to have a well earned break Based on fragments of Mendelssohn that Roberto Prosseda had found and commissioned this piece “Codicevoluto” ,beautifully played from the score by Leonora Armellini.
.In fact whether Beethoven or Vacca the thing that was most evident in the whole recital was the always beautiful sound from this magnificent Steinway “D” in Leonora Armellini magnificent performances.
Much looking forward to the other three concerts 13/27 November and 18th December . (Sorry to have missed Federico Colli last week- both he and Armellini are students of Boris Petrushansky at that remarkable Accademy in Imola founded by Franco Scala)

Playing with influenza and a collapse after the triumph

The Emperor speaks

The Emperor speaks Carlo Grante – Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese directed by Marcello Bufalini
It must be over twenty five years ago that Vittorio Antonellini asked me if his orchestra could give Sunday morning concerts in my theatre in Rome . And so for many Sundays we had the Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese anxious to have a prestigious presence also in Rome apart from their home city of L’Aquila where they had their own hall.
Many memorable concerts in spite of the difficulty to get an orchestra on stage when in the afternoon there was a stage performance of a play.
But where there is a will there is a way and we succeeded as indeed the orchestra have now in their earthquake torn city.
They have re- emerged to offer comfort as only music can to their strong but shaken citizens . In the Ridotto of the Teatro Comunale the Orchestra has found its home whilst the actual Theatre next door is being reconstructed after the terrible earthquake seven years ago that almost flattened this very important city.
By coincidence ,two young artists that were performing regularly in my theatre in the same period were Carlo Grante and Luisa Prayer.
Carlo born in L’Aquila gave several series of concerts playing a large part of the piano repertoire of which he was already master.
Luisa too a student of our near neighbour that magnificent musician Sergio Cafaro ,played many concerts demonstrating, as all Sergio’s students did, a rare musicality .
Another of his students to find a home in my theatre was in fact Roberto Prosseda.who recently recorded Mendelssohn’s third piano concerto with Riccardo Chailly ,performing it also with the LPO at the Festival Hall in London and many other prestigious venues throughout the world
So it was a great joy to hear Carlo Grante play the Emperor Concerto at the inaugural concert of the Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese of which the new artistic director is Luisa Prayer. Directed by Marcello Bufalini the musician who had in fact recently completed from fragments Mendelssohn’s third piano concerto mentioned above. (Another coincidence was listening on the radio on my long trip back to Rome the opening concert from La Scala which was directed by Riccardo Chailly with Benjamin Grosvenor the much applauded soloist in Liszt’s first piano concerto)
.The world of great music making is very small indeed !
A splendid performance of the Emperor played with that great Beethovenian energy (that Pappano had too in Fidelio that was awaiting me on my return this evening on the television transmitted from the opening concert of S.Cecilia that I had attended the day before).
Some very fine playing form Carlo not least for his utmost attention to the bass – the very roots of the Beethoven sound.
It much reminded me ,in his mature innate musicianship,of that other renowned musician Paul Badura Skoda (who has just been performing in Carlo’s new Piano Festival Cristofori in Padua). The same clarity but at the same time extreme attention to detail as was obvious from a magical account of the slow movement.
The opening had all the majesty and command together with an impetus that propelled the music forward and swept us along with it too.
The Orchestra very well directed by Bufalini had found the same impetus that was also very well projected into the final Allegro con spirito that was in fact repeated as an encore from a very numerous and insistent audience.
An appeal from Carlo from citizen to citizen to spread the word about this wonderful music making in this strife ridden city and remind their friends that there was still time to buy a season ticket and thus give the maximum support to this splendid venture so ably directed by Luisa Prayer.
I should add also that three years ago we at the Keyboard Charitable Trust were invited by Guido Barbieri,the renowned critic,and artistic director of the Amici della Musica, a music society that goes back more than a century and where Rubinstein and many other illustrious musicians would return  year  after year.
Rubinstein was in fact an honorary citizen of this once noble city.
We too were invited to bring three young pianists to play and talk about our activity of encouraging and helping young musicians in the very difficult period between the end of studying and starting a career .
We performed in a new hall,designed by Renzo Piano(The Shard,Parco della Musica)and given to the L’Aquila by another earthquake torn city,that of Trento.
Claudio Abbado had agreed to give the inaugural concert donating also his services as a sign of solidarity and encouragement .
And so it was shortly afterwards that three very fine young pianists Pablo Rossi,Vitaly Pisarenko and Mei Yi Fou were chosen to come L’Aquila together with the founders of the Keyboard Charitable Trust –Noretta Conci-Leech and her husband John Leech.We all came to give comfort and a message of hope for the future to these very strong,courageous people .
What was it that Shakespeare said :” If music be the food of love … on …”
For music arrives where words are just not enough .

Carlo Grante with Elisabeta Carciga ,fan


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► 3:22 Gilels plays the Prelude in B minor (Bach / Siloti) – YouTube Gilels for me too with Rubinstein was the greatest I have ever heard. An empty festival hall for Schubert and Shostakovich.The most magical Schubert imaginable-Moments Musicaux and the little A minor Sonata . Big memory lapse in Shostakovich 2nd Sonata….off with his head from the regime but what a performance . Probably the greatest performance of Brahms 2 and Tchaikowsky 3…great fight with Boult in the rehearsal about the opening horn in the Tchaikowsky. Boult was very impatient with Gilels who could not explain what he would like the horn player horn play to do exactly!Gilels was very silent after that rebuke.I felt sorry for him . His complete Beethoven with Boult of which number 2 will remain with me forever the simple ascending and discending arpeggio in the first movement was magic. Unbelievable Spanish Rhapsody in another recital ,that opened with Weber Sonata in A flat , had us all on our feet. Literally swept away by the unrelenting rhythmic energy and sheer beauty of this very grand piano. His Bach Siloti is probably one of the greatest performances on you tube with his Scarlatti…….. and Bach Busoni D major Organ Prelude and Fugue. It was Rubinstein who when he was dragged to hear the little boy Gilels by his teacher exclaimed that when he came to the west he would pack up his things and leave The Italian radio last night dedicated and hour to him with a rare interview in the Victoria Hotel where all the pianist in Rome went to use Mr Wird’s piano .I remember taking Vlado Perlemuter ,Annie Fischer and Shura Cherkassky there and hearing from the delightful Mr Wird (of Swiss origin as were nearly all the Hotel owners) about Serkin calling the doctor because he needed someone to talk to and calm him down. They played a wonderful Beethoven Waldstein from the Seattle recital.
And spoke about the Queen Elizabeth Competition in 1938 when Gilels won first prize, Moura Lympany second and Michelangeli seventh. I remember Moura telling me that Michelangeli practised so much that he completely blocked and could not play. Gilels used to play dance music for them all. And she learnt years later from Rospropovich that Yacob Flier who she was very keen on at the time was keen on her too and she never knew! I remember his last recital in Rome shortly before he died …….. the artistic director of S Cecilia being surprised at the liberty and freedom of Gilels ……..he just threw himself into the Schumann op13 and Brahms Paganini like a man possessed…to hell with the right notes ………..absolutely unforgettable . The grand manner as perhaps only Arrau could approach. It was the last time I heard him. He recorded the Mozart Double with his daughter……..she entered the Leeds Competition many years ago ….of course Emil was unique she was not. Gilels plays the Prelude in B minor (Bach / Siloti) Emil Gilels plays the Prelude in B minor (Bach / Siloti) From the recital at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory I didn’t find this on youtube so I dec… YOUTUBE.COM

Dario Llanos Janvierre at St Mary’s

Dario Llanos Javierre at St Mary’s in Hugh Mathers remarkable series
Darío Llanos Javierre at St Mary`s Perivale .Beethoven,Turina,Liszt in collaboration with the Liszt Society and Keyboard Charitable Trust
Interesting recital by the winner of the 2014 Liszt Society International Piano Prize.
Fine musicianly playing of Beethoven’s op 26 Sonata “Funeral March” in which his rather dry precise playing was in many ways ideally suited although the beautiful andante and variations that opens the sonata could have had more colours and be allowed to sing as in fact Michelangeli demonstrated when he made this sonata indelibly his own.
Very finely etched Scherzo and Funeral March led to a very fluid Allegro final movement. The Beethoven in general , however ,suffered from this rather vertical way of playing that did not allow for a real blending of the sounds and a fuller more orchestral sound in the forte passages that abound .
Some very interesting rarely performed pieces by Liszt , introduced by Dario in which he explained that the Grosses Konzertsolo was a precursor of the great B minor one movement Sonata .
The Romancero espagnol,S695c  according to Dario was only discovered ten years ago amongst Liszt’s papers in Weimar.It was reconstructed by Leslie Howard and not only published by the Liszt Society but also included in the remarkable complete Liszt recordings for Hyperion that earned Leslie Howard an entry in the Guiness Book of Records .
Some remarkable dexterity in the Grosses Konzertsolo but again in his intellectual and musicianly playing in the search for the utmost clarity he missed the sumptuous sounds that abound in the Liszt’s revolutionary use of the sustaining pedal to make truly orchestral sounds and as in the works of Thalberg make us believe that there are many more than two hands at work on the keyboard.
Was in not Anton Rubinstein who said the pedal is the “soul of the piano”.
A magic trick that ‘eluded Dario even though he showed the most remarkable command of the keyboard.
However it was a real tour de force that reminded me of that other remarkable pianist Roger Woodwood championed some years ago by Sir William Glock ,head of the BBC ,and who could give the utmost clarity to the most impossibly difficult scores but in his intellectual pursuit could not seduce or intoxicate his audience with perfumed sounds as could an Ashkenazy or his illustrious contemporaries. The Five Gypsy Dances op 55 by Turina were given fine performances and what they lacked in colour and suggestive sounds made up for with great rhythmic control and spanish fire which was obviously in his blood.
The charming La Romanesca and the beautiful Liszt transcription of Schubert’s La Litanei offered as an encore revealed a more tender side to Darios remarkable pianistic skills .

Florian Heinisch at the Wigmore Hall

Florian Heinisch at the Wigmore Hall
Florian Heinisch at the Wigmore Hall today in a programme of Beethoven ,Schoenberg,Liszt. A fine musicianly account of Beethoven`s Appassionata immediately established this young German pianist`s credentials.
How many times has the Wigmore resounded to this much performed old war horse?But I do not think that many could have matched the solemn musicianship that was in evidence throughout the Andante con moto. An ideal tempo that allowed the string quartet type writing to procede without the usual disturbing variants in tempo.In fact it was Guido Agosti who likened this movement to a corteo. Florian within this framework was able to imbue the notes with great meaning ,showing off a notable musical personality.
Of course the first and last movements were played with all the accomplishment that today goes without saying. However even in the first movement he showed a rare awareness of Beethoven’s precise indications of dynamic and his extraordinary effects of pedal.No ritardando at the end led perfectly into the extraordinary Andante.
The final Allegro ma non troppo was just that with a measured tempo,showing great control and a mature understanding of this masterpiece that was after all the precursor of the sublime fourth concerto . Five pieces op.23 by Schoenberg were given a very clear and rhythmic performance in which the many colours of this multi strand work were beautifully realised. Very careful and sparse use of the pedal allowed this mixture of sounds to work together never loosing sight of the overall line of this remarkable work. This complicated score played with great conviction was also a tour de force of memory.
Of course the fireworks in the final work by Liszt were played with great aplomb. The Spanish Rhapsody was a great favourite of Gilels and recently also Murray Perahia (in his Horowitz period) and its continual exuberance needs not only great control but above all a variety of touch which in Florians youthful exuberance was sometimes too overpowering. More variety of sound and less pedal would have given even more effect to the great final climax. This ,of course will come with maturity when the pianists undoubted temperamental fire can be kept under control and unleashed when the intellect demands it. However a very exciting if overpowering end to a fine recital.
By great demand an encore of one of Mendelssohn`s most melodious songs without words where a more subtle sense of balance would have allowed this heart-rending melody to reach even deeper into our soul. +9

Melvyn Tan 60th birthday recital

Melvyn Tan 60th Birthday Concert
Melvyn Tan 60th Birthday concert at the Wigmore Hall and Radio 3.
Great celebrations for this hugely popular musician at the Wigmore Hall today. Arriving on the platform with an almost innocent modesty to share his casket of jewels with us. A pupil at the Menuhin School of Vlado Perlemuter . It was such a coincidence to receive a telephone call from Vlado’s 104 year old companion to tell me that a pupil of his was playing on the radio.I know Joan because I am actually in the hall curious to hear this ex pupil of my old piano teacher. I remember Vlado telling me about Melvyn Tan at the Menuhin School and in the same breath telling me about another notable student of his in that period: Christian Zacharias. Let me say immediately that rarely have I heard such beautiful sounds and such fluidity of touch from both.
But the shock was that all the works that Melvyn Tan played were treated as a free fantasy to his romantic imagination. Whilst that can work wonders with such works as Czerny” Rode” Variations or his very interesting “Funeral March on the death of Beethoven” op 146. A very effective work completely new to me which made a perfect introduction to the Liszt B minor Sonata. The problem for me was with this free romantic liberty when applied to such master works as Beethoven op.109 and 126 or the monumental Liszt sonata . It can seem like a parody in the style of the “great”eccentric virtuosi of the 19th century.De Pachman type masters who would have their own particular interpretations especially of the smaller salon type pieces of Chopin,Liszt or Mendelssohn. Whilst there may be some wonderful things to savour and even admire after a while this self expression at the expense of what is written in the the score and liberty with the tempo and pulse becomes very hard to bear.
Having been brought up in the Schnabel/Pollini era where respect of the composers intentions are paramount and it only when these are mastered that a real interpretation can begin. Perlemuter and Agosti drummed this in to me as a student and so I can only beg to differ with what I heard this evening. I am very anxious to hear how the actual BBC live recording came across and I shall the first to re live this experience ,ready to be convinced . A perplexing evening that needs resolving. BBC.COM RADIO 3 for all those with the courage to listen to what I have this evening .