Leeds- Land of Hope and Glory

Leeds Land of Hope and Glory
Vitaly Pisarenko in Leeds
Great to see a full hall in the Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall in Leeds for the recital by Vitaly Pisarenko top prize winner at the last International Piano Competition in 2015.
The competition now in its fiftieth year,I believe, was created by that remarkable lady who believed so firmly that even in Leeds there could be major musical events.
With all the northern principles of common sense,down to earth intelligence and hard graft how could she fail?
How right she has been proven to be with some of the past top prize winners going on to glorious worldwide careers.Murray Perahia,Radu Lupu ,Andras Schiff,Mitsuko Uchida amongst many others that have gone on from Leeds to become the finest pianists of our era.
The most remarkable thing is that Dame Fanny Waterman at 97 is still very much participating in her brain child and it was wonderful to see her not only at the concert but also at the very interesting conversation and Q&A between Vitaly Pisarenko and the new co artistic director Adam Gatehouse.
Right from the very first competition it was made clear by Dame Fanny that this was a very special competition in which musical values were paramount together of course with complete mastery of the instrument.
And so this has been made very clear by the new nomination of Adam Gatehouse and his co partner as artistic director the pianist but above all much admired musician Paul Lewis.
It was clear right from the very first competition with the commissioning of a set piece by Benjamin Britten and juries that included the greatest musician pianists of our time: Clifford Curzon,Annie Fischer,Gina Bachauer,Rosalyn Tureck,Nadia Boulanger to mention only a few that rallied around this remarkable lady and were happy to give their time and services to create such a Eutopia in Leeds and realise Dame Fanny`s seemingly impossible dream for her beloved city
And so it was good to see this principal upheld today with the very musicianly  and beautifully shaped programme presented by Vitaly Pisarenko .
Beethoven Sonata op 26 Funeral March,
Schumann Fantasiestucke op.12 ,
Schubert Drei Klavierstucke D946
 Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies n.10 and 13.
The Beethoven op.26 was given a very musicianly performance in which the structure and overall shape were paramount.
The extraordinary opening Andante con variazioni was played with a delicacy and forward propulsion that showed an enviable mastery of all the colours that this beautiful Steinway could produce and it was clear that we were in the presence of not only a master pianist but also a formidable musician.
If the scherzo could have been more characterised it was however propelled forward with all Beethoven`s youthful energy and was the ideal foil for the extraordinary Marcia Funebre that followed.
Here all the dramatic contrasts were brought to the fore in a remarkable control of colour and texture.
The perpetuum mobile of the last movement that follows one of Beethoven`s most profound early statements was played with all the light hearted ease that only virtuosi such as Richter and Michelangeli have equalled in the past.
The eight evocative scenes that make up Schumann`s Fantasiestucke op.12 revealed all the sensitivity of this young musician.
The same sensitivity that had brought Janina Fialkowska to tears at his performance at her festival in Bavaria.
And the same tears that Rubinstein had shed when deeply moved by her own performance of the Liszt sonata at the competition dedicated to him.
There is an instant recognition by their peers when these artists can appreciate the same love and dedication to making Schumann`s remarkable fantasy re-live.
Des Abends played with an awesome control of sound that allowed us to immediately enter into Schumann`s private fantasy world of Eusebius.
Immediately awoken by the rude entrance of Florestan with a very romantically robust Aufschwung.
And soared it did with all the romantic ardour of this young lion.
To a meltingly and delicately touching Warum.
Why indeed ?
Who are we ,what are we ~ the great romantic dilemma was so candidly discussed with this very attentive audience by this young poet.
In front of the ever youthful Dame Fanny seated in the front row attentive to every single wondrous sound.
In fact she turned to me at the end ~”beautiful”~as always she had hit the nail on the head.
The trecherous difficulties of Traumes Wirren were thrown off with all the charm and lightness of virtuosi of the past.
Extraordinary misted vision of In der Nacht lead to a real story told in Fabel.
The gentle disintegration at the end of Ende vom Lied was remarkably moving.
After the interval Schuberts Drei Klavierstucke .
One of Schubert’s most elusive works to hold all the episodes together and draw them into a single whole.
This is a world that only great musicians such as Alfred Brendel or his disciple Paul Lewis dare to tread.
Here the early training in Moscow became apparent in his real legato playing without any percussiveness that allowed Schubert’s seamless melodic invention to sing as it can only do when you have acquired fingers of steel but a wrist and flexibility that are born from youthful sacrifice and total dedication.
It was indeed Clifford Curzon ,the supreme poet of this magical sound world ,that exclaimed quite candidly that it was made up of 90% hard work and 10% talent.
What he did not add was that 10% was a gift from the Gods.
It is just such a gift that Dame Fanny and Leeds have excelled in finding and encouraging over this past half a century.
The beauty of the cantabile in the second of the Klavierstucke dissolved into the most magical sounds from the most menacing to the most meltingly seductive.
The opening rhythmic motif of the first piece whispered its insistence as it separated the sublime melodic interruptions.
In the same way that the energetic and greatly virtuosistic interruptions in the final piece had brought this masterpiece to an exciting conclusion.
This young lion of the keyboard now could let his hair down in the company of Liszt as all the great virtuosi would have done in the past .
Two rarely played Hungarian Rhapsodies n.10 and 13 played as to the manner born.
Winner of the Liszt International Piano Competition in Utrecht at only twenty. Now almost ten years later here was a master showing off all the subtle colours,glissandi,funambulistic technical command and above all sense of style and real gipsy soul  which were all thrown off with just the right sense of showmanship with which Liszt himself would have astonished and seduced his adoring public in the aristocratic salons of his day.
A little early melody by Rachmaninov ,a whispered secret that Vitaly wanted to share with us to thank his very attentive audience on his long awaited return to Leeds.

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