Jessica Zhu at St James’s Piccadilly

Jessica Zhu at St James’s Piccadilly
Jessica Zhu at St James`s Piccadilly .
Beethoven Sonata on F op10 n.2
Brahms Handel Variations op 24
The young Chinese-American pianist Jessica Zhu a graduate of the University of Houston and with a Marshall Scholarship completing her studies at the Guildhall in London with Joan Havill.Awarded a Fellowship by the Guildhall she is now on the doctoral programme studying with Paul Roberts and Ronan O’Hora.
A very serious programme of just two works for this lunchtime concert in one of the most beautiful churches in London.
Lovely summer atmosphere outside with all the lunchtime offers of delights from various parts of the world on the stalls in the church coutyard just a stones throw from Piccadilly Circus.
Some very musicianly playing as was to be expected from the very distinguished teachers she has been working with .
The Brahms Handel Variations that can so often sound fragmented and just a series of contrasting episodes .
Here in Jessica Zhu’s hands were given a relentless chaconne like sense of structure.
A constant driving rhythm that underlay even the most delicate variations .
The rhythmic drive in the final few variations leading to the triumphant return of Handel’s little innocent seeming melody was remarkably exciting .
Her great temperament drove her to risk sometimes not totally successfully but such was the intelligence of her musicianship that it was only in retrospect that one was aware of a few blemishes on her inexorable frenzied journey forward.
The trumphant appearance of the theme before the release of the fugue could in my opinion have been more grandiose and maestoso .
Enjoying the triumphant arrival a little more.
But hats off to her for maintaining the tempo in such a relentless and transcendental way.
The Fugue too allowing a little respite at first from the variations was driven forward to its exciting conclusion.
Wonderful to hear this work restored to its great place in the piano literature.
I sense the hand of that great teacher Joan Havill in particular here. This is a work that can only come to life as it did today in the hands of a real musician .
Recently I listened rather bored to Yuja Wang play the same work in the Festival Hall where she reduced this masterpiece to a series of beautiful episodes without any sense of the architecture or structure that is so much part of the Classical Romantic world that is Brahms in his larger works.
Rewarded with an encore of Gnomenreigen by Liszt played with all the intelligence and subtle virtuosity that can bring this little jewel so tantilizingly back to life .
The early Beethoven Sonata  op 10 n.2 that opened the programme  was played with the same intelligent musicianship with great sense of style and colour.
Always very clearly played never forcing the sound which can be so easy to do on this rather bright Fazioli in a church acoustic.
The final movement- Presto – was very exciting but maybe her considerable temperament pushed her a shade too fast to allow all the detail to tell .
Played as was the whole programme with an assurance and great technical command that kept the packed audience under her spell .
Little did the people in the courtyard realise what real treats they were missing inside this hallowed beautiful church.

Stephen Hough at the Proms

Stephen Hough at the Proms
Stephen Hough at the Proms with Brahms n.1 with the BBC Philharmonic under Mark Wigglesworth and David Sawer`s The Greatest Happiness Principle and Haydn Symphony n.99 in E flat.
Interesting to hear Stephen Hough’s splendid account of Brahms in this hallowed hall where I well remember Claudio Arrau in a memorable evening that included Weber`s Konzertstuck.
Living up to the prediction that Cherkassky saw in him all those years ago as the only pianist of the younger generation who actually listens to himself and has a “sound”.
He has since taken the world by storm with amongst other things his live recordings of the complete Rachmaninoff and Saint Saens concertos.
A refined palate of a bygone age that of Rosenthal,Lhevine,Godowsky or Cherkassky.
In fact anyone who has heard his own tantalizing bon bons at the end of his recitals might think they had gone back in time to the Golden Age of piano playing.
However he is also a distinguished composer and learned commentator on musical and world affairs.
Anyone who has heard his classes at the Royal Academy will realise what a serious modest artist he is .…/…
A truly renaissance man who after his early training with our never forgotten Gordon Green went on to perfect his studies in the USA.
His Brahms today did not have the weight of Arrau ,the frenzy of Serkin,the grandiose aristocracy of Rubinstein or the struggle of a Curzon.
This was the Brahms of a Hough the great english pianist.
A beautifully thought out Brahms of great simple lines stated with a pure and golden tone.
Never lacking in great rhythmic energy and real assurance in the tumultuous struggles between piano and orchestra that Brahms demands in the first movement of this early first concerto.
Great volume of sound from the first outbreak of octaves combined with a touching lyricism in the two solo cadenzas where his innate sense of balance led to some truly magical moments.
The slow movement too played with great authority.
The central section played with unusually great passion which only made the choral like return even more moving.
The great march like last movement played with a clarity and rhythmic energy that made the typical lyrical Brahmsian second subject even more regal and imperiously lyrical.
A very fine performance indeed greeted by an ovation from an audience that had followed the almost hour long journey in total silence.
Lacking only in that final touch of genius that is almost undefinable .
A question of sound colours maybe or of rhythmic energy behind the notes even in the most quietly lyrical passages.
That indefinable something that did not allow the atmosphere to stand still as it can on certain special occasions in the slow movement or to sweep us totally off our feet as it can on the great occasions.
Truly one of the finest pianist before the public today Cherkassky’s prediction was certainly spot on.
No encore possible after such a performance and the capacity audience was just happy to acknowledge it with a standing ovation.

Asagi Nakata at St Mary’s Perivale

Asagi Nakata at St Mary’s Perivale
Asagi Nakata at St Mary`s Perivale
The final concert before the Summer break in Hugh Mather’s remarkable series and with even more marvels promised for next season.
And here are three more chronicles about recent events Chez Dr Hugh Mather:
Some very musicianly playing from this young english trained japanese pianist .
One of the two english trained pianists to be accepted for the Utrecht Liszt Competition in October after worldwide auditions to select the best handful of competitiors .
A competition that Vitaly Pisarenko(See above chronicle n.3) won at the age of 20!
The other british pianist selected Alexander Ullman has already won the Liszt Bartok competition when he too was 20.
So hats off to Asagi Nakata for winning a place amongst such prestigious competition.
Having moved to the UK at only eight months she wasted no time in seeking out and studying with the finest teachers at the Royal Academy Junior and Senior Departments.
Ian Jones,Tatiana Sarkissova and Christopher Elton are a formidable group indeed.
They have helped Asagi acquire a solid musicianship looking intently into the scores to find the true meaning of the composers intentions but also maintaining her own fantasy and originality added to  an accomplished technical command of the instrument.
What they could not do was to give Asagi a bigger hand !
But like that other pianist with small hands Alicia De Larrocha- where there is a will there is always a way.
A very interesting programme all intelligently and charmingly introduced to a full hall for the final concert of the season.
The best performance in a very fine,intelligent Liszt recital was kept for the encore .
It was infact Beethoven .
The slow movement from the Pathetique Sonata played with sentiment but without sentimentality .
A fraction on the fast side for my taste that made the triplet accompaniment appear a little too agitated for the Adagio Cantabile indication of Beethoven.
However some beautifully shaped phrasing and very delicate tone colours .
The all Liszt programme started with Sposalizio and Sonnetto del Petrarca n.47 from the Deuxieme de Annee de Pelerinage Italie .
Some beautiful musicianly shaped performances especially in the delicate sections of these two extraordinary pieces.
Sposalizio inspired by Raphael’s “The Marriage of the Virgin” housed in the Pinacoteca di Brera.
Starting and ending very quietly building to a climax with a left hand accompaniment of octaves that Asagi never allowed to overpower the melodic line .
It was the same sense of line combined with passionate involvement that was so convincing in the Sonetto n.47 that followed.
The great tone poem that is Vallee d’Obermann from book One of the Annees and based on the Poem by Senancour with the great romantic questions:”Who am I ,what do I want,what do I ask of nature ” .
Some beautiful things especially in the quieter sections.
The stormy octaves and the great climax were a little strained due to the size of Asagi’s hand .
The driving rhythm on which the melody floats triumphantly to its inevitable rhetorical end was not allowed to flow as naturally as it could in the hands of a great virtuoso.
This is the music of a Horowitz or an Arrau .
Strange that Rubinstein begged his prize protegee never to play it in public….he too realised that this was music that could only be unleashed by a chosen few.
Inspite of this limitation Asagi gave a very accomplished and musicianly performance .
The Reminiscences des Puritains S.390 was played with great flair and evident enjoyment.
The slightly coquettish rubato did not convince entirely as I feel she was not totally convinced herself.
Some beautifully shaped Bellinian melodies with a great sense of balance and colour .
A tumultuous totally convincing ending brought a standing ovation and a suitable ending to Dr Mathers very remarkable mosaic of some of the finest talents in the land .
If anyone wants to find a kaleidoscope of pianistic talent in London they should head straight for this beautiful little church in Perivale so passionately programmed by Dr Mather and his team of real music lovers intent on helping great young talents to take another step up the ladder in their quest for recognition and appreciative audiences.
Heaven helps those who help themselves and the sense of enjoyment and concentration in these afternoon concerts is indeed very unusual and a joy to behold.
“A lifes work nobly done” is the very apt inscription on one of the stones outside in this oasis in the middle of Ealing Golf Course just 30 minutes from the centre of London . Q.E.D.

The remarkable Maestro Gnocchi and his happy band

The remarkable Maestro Gnocchi and his happy band .
Serious fun and games for the students of Giovanni Gnocchi’s Masterclass in Sermoneta
I knew after last Sunday’s recital by Giovanni Gnocchi that the lucky students to work with such a dedicated artist for a week in the magical atmosphere of Sermoneta would result in an extraordinary evening of music making .
And so it was last night in the stables of the castle as we entered for all to see were all the empty ‘cello cases orderly parked with their precious contents in the hands of their young guardians ready to go into action.
Giovanni Gnocchi ready to encourage them from his own place in the ensemble that they had created during a week of intensive study together.
I well remember a similar concert some years ago in Fossanova when Architect Cerocchi invited Alberto Lysy (the original founder of the Festival in 1963) with his magnificent Camerata from Gstaad .
It was a real lesson in dedicated passionate professionalism with each of the superb young virtuosi taking it in turns to lead and be led by their colleagues in a series of chamber concertos for string instruments.
I have only since seen something similar with Sandor Vegh and his colleagues .
This is the great lesson that has been left to us by artists such as Casals and Segovia and the following they created of dedicated disciples .
The inventors of the Guitar and Cello as we know it today in the concert hall.
With the same passion and dedication determined to play the great works of Bach and others on their instruments.
Inventing the so called modern technique
They all have something in common though a passion for making music together at the highest level without any thought of self advancement.
This of course is the same message that the S.Cecilia Orchestra in Rome have received from another passionately involved musician Antony Pappano.
Orchestral musicians playing regularly chamber music together and learning to listen intently to each other to create a whole that has made this orchestra one of the very best ensembles admired worldwide.
It was the same passionate involvement that I received from watching Sir John Barbirolli who used to conduct the orchestra at the Royal Academy walking around the young intrumentalists egging them on to play with more passion and involvement.
“More ,more” he would exclaim or whisper in the ear of particularly attractive young ladies !
It was he who when Jaqueline Du Pre (who had frequented Sermoneta for the courses of Maurice Gendron in the 60’s) was criticised for throwing herself around on the cello with too much red hot passion ,exclaimed how he loved it .
”If you do not play with passion at that age what do you pare down when you get to maturity!”
So tonight  here were a group of ten young cellists all listening intently
 to the other.
Ages ranging from 14 to early 20’s .
Playing with the same passonate involvement and enjoyment in a programme devised by this extraordinarily dedicated musician ,already at his young age giving classes at the Mozarteum in Saltzburg.
Sometimes giving space to the superb solo playing of Mauro Paolo Monopoli or Stefano Bruno ….or the extraordinary ensemble together in Verdi’s Nabucco.
Too numerous to mention all the remarkable things in a long and enjoyable journey of real Haus musik.
With the same enviable passion of his own solo recital last week Giovanni Gnocchi explained that the first half would be dedicated to the orchestral or solo music for cello which included Popper,Glazunov,Piatti,Ravel and Strauss.
Whereas the second half would be dedicated to opera with William Tell Overture opening the proceedings. Including Verdi ,Mascagni,Puccini,Wagner and Weber.
Grand finale together with famous film music from Burt Bacharach and Ennio Morricone.
All the young passionate cellists playing together with evident joy and satisfaction .
A week of music making that they will remember for a long time to come ,as we certainly will.
Generous as ever Giovanni Gnocchi shared and even incorporated into his cello evening the verses of Renato Gabriele valiantly read by the author .
Hats off to the Pontine Festival for reminding us yet again of the great musical heritage that has been in these hills since the time of Roffredo Caetani and Franz Liszt.
Foto courtesy of Mario Scerbo

Gnocchi even on Sunday at Fossanova

Gnocchi even on Sunday in Fossanova
Giovanni Gnocchi and Eugenia Tamburri at Fossanova Abbey
Wonderful to return to the Cistercian Abbey complex at Fossanova.
Founded in 1135 and based on its sister in Hautecombe in France.
The Dominican scholastic Thomas Aquinas died here in 1274 and his chapel can be visited as well as the magnificent cloister and the imposing simplicity of the Abbey itself.
The granary too has been transformed by Architect Cerocchi ,Honorary President and founder of the Campus Musicale di Latina ,into one of the most beautiful and magical of concert halls.
I remember hearing Alicia De Larrocha play here before the restoration in 1985 ,when her changing room was a caravan in the field outside this historic but rather rustic hall.
Now tastefully restored by someone who really understands music.
With a raised wooden platform that allows the sound to be projected into the furthest corners of the hall ,allowing also a complete vision of the artists.
Tasteful drapes and air conditioning with lighting especially studied to create the intimate atmosphere of the hall.
The Cerocchi’s a lifetime together often frequenting the festivals of Saltzburg and Gstaad with the intent of bringing the same serious music making to their native Latina.
The very first Festivals at the Caetani Castle in Sermoneta in the 60’s with artists such as Alberto Lysy,Yehudi Menuhin,Joseph Szigeti,Sandor Vegh,Walter Trampler,Bruno Giuranna,Gaspar Cassado,Andre Navarra,Rocco Filippini,Franco Petracchi,Nikita Magaloff,Bruno Canino,Aldo Ciccolini,Charles Rosen.
All happy to breathe in the same magical atmosphere that was so congenial to Franz Liszt during his long sojourns to the composer Roffredo Caetani.
Goffredo Petrassi was the Honorary President and Architect Cerocchi the active President for so many years.
Architect has now at the age of 90 handed over the reigns to his daughter Elisa .
He now fills the Honorary role that the illustrious composer held for so many years.
Judging from the programmes this year I think we can safely say the serious heritage she has inherited is certainly being splendidly maintained .
After a magnificent recital and a week of masterclasses last week from Elisso Virsaladze ,one of the most highly esteemed pianists of our time.
We were treated last saturday to one of the most renowned Chamber Orchestras in Europe that of Padua and the Veneto .
With a programme of not only Beethoven’s 7th Symphony but also included the world premiere of a manuscript by Petrassi of a cello concerto written for Arturo Bonucci in 1955.
The score of which is housed in the archive of the Campus together with many other precious manuscripts I am told by Mrs Cerocchi.
The programme was completed by a work by Ennio Morricone “Immobile n.2” for Harmonica and strings.
The distinguished soloist,Gianluca Littera, giving rare Harmonica Masterclasses for the Campus too.
So it was hardly surprising to find Giovanni Gnocchi ,a young ‘cellist with a very distinguished curriculum and already a Professor at the Mozarteum in Salzburg giving a recital with Eugenia Tamburri in the Granary at Fossanova.
Explaining to a full hall that rather than the printed programme of Variations by Beethoven as a prelude to his second sonata he had chosen to play two song transcriptions by Schubert and Schumann that he felt would prepare us better for the journey of the revolutionary early sonata op 5 n.2 that was the main work in the programme.
Explaining with such enviable passion and evident joy that this was the first of two sonatas in which the piano was for the first time an equal partner to the cello.
In fact the first movement is even longer than that of the Eroica Symphony.
In a programme devised especially for us this evening on the eve of his week of masterclasses that he will hold in the Castle in Sermoneta.
Many of his students have followed him from Saltzburg I am sure and will give a concert in their own right on Friday evening.
It was evident from the very first notes that we were in presence of a very rare artist.
The simple song by Schubert played with such poignancy,almost as if we were being drawn in to overhear the secrets that he was about to reveal.
Great fluidity in which the melodic line was allowed to breathe so naturally showing us the real meaning of tempo rubato.With the roots firmly in the ground allowing the branches to move so naturally in the breeze.
The piano too seemed to be on the same wave created by this artist and it created together with the Schumann Lied a tension that made the remarkable opening of the G minor Sonata even more astonishing.
Some really energetic playing of great virtuosity from both artists in which Beethoven’s tempestuous temperament was contrasted with the most delicately shaped cantabile passages. A great sense of character too in the Rondo Allegro bringing this revolutionary work to a tumultuous end.
So many beautiful things to admire but sometimes at the expense of the great architectural line that is so much part of Beethoven’s world.
All the wondrous things so lovingly presented but also at the expense of the rhythmic impulse that carries us on the journey from the beginning to the end .
A small price to pay for such artistry that I am sure will be a true inspiration to all those lucky enough to share this week together in his masterclasses.
The second half dedicated to “lollypops” from the cello repertoire.
Played with great virtuosity and impeccable style every movement followed by the ever attentive Eugenia Tamburri.
Hair raising virtuosity in Heinrich Schiff’s transcription of the famous violin showpiece of the Scherzo Tarantella by Wieniawski .
Some beautiful cantabile in the pieces by Tchaikowsky just a little too self indulgent for my taste but more than compensated for by a very acrobatic Waltz in C sharp minor by Chopin in the Davidov transcription for cello.
A great Spanish finale of breathtaking brilliance from both players in an almost perfect ensemble.
A great reception from this audience held in a spell by the true musicianship and artistry of these two remarkable artists.
And it was again the poet that was allowed to speak at the end through two songs of Schubert .
Standchen the well known Serenade and again the little song that had opened the programme and allowed us to enter so easily into the magic world created for us this evening .

The Nobility of Elisso’Virsaladze

The Nobility of Elisso’Virsaladze
The Nobility of Elisso’Virsaladze in Latina for the Pontine Festival
A new venue for Elisso’s much awaited annual recital for the Pontine Festival where for some years now her students have flocked to the castle in Sermoneta for one of the few mastercourses she holds in Europe.
The courtyard of the town hall in Latina sold out for the promised recital of Schumann and Chopin.
Enhanced too by the presence of Architect Cerocchi and his wife Maria Teresa the “founding fathers ” of this magnificent festival held every year in the shadow of Caetani Castle in Sermoneta .
The story of its origins told in the Architects biography “L’Ottuagenario Innamorato”.
A multi faceted love story for music,art and above all his beloved home town of Latina and its magnificent surrounds.
Lelia Caetani was the last in line of the Caetani family.
Roffredo being her father and Lord Hubert Howard her husband and first president of the Foundation in her fathers memory having expressed their wish to open their house to art and culture.
Maria Teresa told me of the forty years passed at the Menuhin Festival at Gstadt and of asking Alberto Lysy assistant of Menuhin and very fine Argentinian violinist in his own right to take part in the first festival in 1963.
Alberto Lysy married to Benedetta Origo the daughter of the extraordinary Dame Iris Origo whose book “The War in Val D’Orcia” recently republished,tells her remarkable story of courage and resilience during the occupation of Italy during the second world war.
Antonio Lysy the son of Alberto and Benedetta was a young school boy in Rome when I was asked by his teacher Marika Razza of the Righi School if this remarkable young cellist could give a recital in my theatre.
He was indeed remarkable and we played many times in Rome together even for Prince Charles and Diana in a special honeymoon concert at Villa Volkonsky,the British Ambassadors magnificent residence in Rome.
Tonino after his studies at the Royal Academy in London has gone on to magnificent things in the musical world like his father .
Based mainly in the USA he has also like our Ottuagenario Innamorato never forgotten his roots.
Every year he returns for a magnificent chamber music festival in and around the Origo Family Estate “La Foccia” in Val D’Orcia under the name Musica In Terra di Siena.
The first time for Elisso’ in this new venue.
We normally all struggle up the many cobbled steets to the magic courtyard of the Castle in Sermoneta or to the granary in Fossanova restored under the direction of Architect Cerocchi into one of the most magnificent concert halls.
On this occasion it was a privilege indeed to be able to have the Cerocchi’s with us again (both remarkably in their 90’s ) and for me to be able to hear at first hand the story that had led to one of the world’s finest pianists playing here tonight in what were once malerial swamps and one of the most backward areas in Italy.
A very interesting juxtaposition of works by Schumann and Chopin.
Elisso’s rather forbidding appearance belies the romantic heart of refined gold that beats within in all that she does.
Her love of animals gives only a small clue to the the sensibility of this lady who has dedicated her life to helping her young aspiring colleagues to understand the dedication and discipline needed to interpret the masterworks that are set before them.
In fact wonderful to see all her disciples in the back row intent on listening to this extraordinarily humane master’s own interpretations after a week of intense work together that culminated in the students own concert only two days before.
After her eight hours or so of Masterclasses each day she would lock herself away with a keyboard in her hotel to prepare for her own performances.
A great lesson indeed.
And what music!
A magnificent Steinway “D” with Mauro Buccitti as always on hand to reorder the piano in this rather humid atmosphere.
Opening with the Schumann Arabesque op 18 and the Novelette op 21 n. 8 one was immediately aware of the passionate nobility of the music making.
Never descending into sentimentality but with all the heartfelt passionate outpourings of the young Schumann.
Some wonderful sounds always given the space and time to reach the furthest corner of this courtyard.
An aristocratic sense of sound that Richter himself had noted so admiringly in Rubinstein.
This made even more impact when in the coda” Zum Schluss” of the Arabesque op 18 there is a magical transition reminiscent of course of the coda of that magnifcent song cycle Liedekreis op 24 which was to follow on immediately after.
The half light of the Minore 1 “Etwas Langsamer” was most telling with the acciacaturas thrown off with the ease and meaning of a great lieder singer.
The rhythmic interruption of the Minore 11 always kept in style with the recurring melodic theme “leicht und zart” in its ever varied reappearances in this musicians magically expressive hands.
All through these works we were aware of ” the song without words” element such was the projection of sound that was so immediate and simply direct.
Des Abends from the Fantasiestucke op 12 played with the same disarming simplicity of the Chopin Nocturne in D flat op 27 n.2 that was to follow after the interval.
Drawing us in to overhear the most intimate confessions after the seemingly simple cantabile that had projected the two composers melodies so nobly to her very attentive audience and had made any superfluous noises from a town on holiday so irrelevant.
Magic indeed in the air and the passionate outpouring of the longest of the eight novelletes that make up op 21,was indeed overpowering for it being so unexpected.
The Trio 1 “noch lebhafter” with a playful charm that made Schumann’s dotted rhythms so full of shape and ease led to the Trio 11 played indeed” Hell and lustig”which allowed a great contrast with the beautifully shaped “fortsetzung” – “simple and singing” as Schumann indicates.
A final section of great passion and technical brilliance brought this work ,once a favourite of Sviatoslav Richter,to a exhilarating end that had the audience absolutely under her spell.
A spell indeed that was maintained for the Fantasiestucke op 12.
The sheer magic of Des Abends was matched by the exhilarating impetus of Aufschwung where rarely the melodic line has been so clearly defined.
This of course due to a very careful use of the sustaining pedal which was very telling in the scintillating performance of Traumes Wirren that was to follow.
Warum? Indeed showed a beautiful sense of balance with a wonderful sense of line that bewitched us as we were drawn into the various strands that magically appeared in every part of the keyboard.
This of course just showed what a wonderful sense of colour and control this master musician has over her instrument.
Winner at an early age of the Schumann Competition in Zwickau and noted by her peers as one of the major talents of her generation.
It is hardly surprising that after a distinguished career spanning many decades she has the same mastery that we used to admire so much in the first appearances in the west of Sviatoslav Richter.
In fact as a child I well remember the enormous impact on me of one of the first Richter recitals broadcast live from the Festival Hall of the works of Schumann and Chopin . The same impact I am sure of all those privileged to be present this evening.
The second half after a careful re order of the piano ordered by the ever watchful Mrs Cerocchi from the hands of her very loyal and ever grateful disciple Mauro Buccitti .
A Chopin that Elisso’ wanted to share with us in one long breath .
Starting with two Nocturnes op 27 .
The ever mysterious almost Debussian opening of the C sharp minor Nocturne touchingly disolving into its D flat sister of Bellinian bel canto.
The passionate outpouring of a young Chopin in the Revolutionary Study where the rage of a Polish exile a long way from his country in a time of need brought forth this outburst that ends his early studies op 10.
Studies that had brought him such fame from his peers Liszt,Thalberg and Alkan in the salons of Paris where he had come to seek his fortune as an artist in exile.
Played this evening with all the impetus of someone who had entered fully into the extraordinary world of this genius of the piano.
The Nocturnes op 48 together with the Berceuse op 57 and the Barcarolle op 60 showed us all the aristocratic distillation of a genius yearning for his homeland .
The 3rd Scherzo op 39 played with an overpowering virtuosity combined with a rare sense of line in the long chorals interrupted by such refined filigree comments of real magic.
A coda of transcendental pianism brought the audience to its feet and was awarded by our visibly moved and exhausted master with two encores.
Widmung the beautiful song by Schumann trascribed so magnificently for the piano by Liszt .
Played with a simplicity and wonderful sense of line with such sumptuous sounds that somehow linked the sound world of these great Romantic virtuosi to the magic atmosphere that no doubt Liszt himself had found in Ninfa with the Caetani’s over a century ago.
The rarely played ” Maidens Wish” by Chopin transcribed by Liszt played with all the teasing easy virtuosity of a past era .
In fact neither of us were surprised that none of her students knew of these magical transcriptions of the songs of Chopin that Arrau ,Rachmaninov and Rosenthal had beguiled us with in the so called Golden Romantic Era of piano playing .
An era of real Gold that our Elisso’ had reminded us of in the long wonderful journey she had taken us on this evening .

Sermoneta ….the Sound of Music Elisso’ is back in town

Elisso’ is back in town……… and the hills are resounding to the Sound of Music
Hats off Elisso’ is back in town
The highight of the Pontine Festival has always been in its students that have flocked to the magical town of Sermoneta since the very first festival in the 60’s founded by Szigeti and Menuhin.
Some of the very finest musicians have been present including Alberto Lysy,Sandor Veghi,Corrado Romano,Walter Trampler,Arrigo Pellicia,Bruno Giuranna,Gaspar Cassado,Andre Navarra ,Rocco Filippini,Nikita Magaloff,Bruno Canino,Aldo Ciccolini,Vincenzo Vitale,Charles Rosen,Wilhelm Kempff,Andras Schiff,Bruno Mezzena,Sergio Cafaro with Honorary President Goffredo Petrassi.
Under the eagle eye of Architect Riccardo Cerocchi as president since the 1970’s maintaining the musical values of one of the most important summer music academies in the world.
Now passing to Honorary President and leaving the President’s chair to his daughter Elisa Cerocchi .
Having recently published his remarkable story of bringing culture to these parts that were for decades malerial swamps.
It was Mussolini that brought the workers down from the Venetian regions to drain the swamps and turn this unhospitable area into the most fertile land capable of producing all the fruit and vegetables for Rome.
The Noble Caetani family have long owned vast areas of this land and the castle at Sermoneta was often the home for Franz Liszt who would visit Roffredo Caetani a composer in his own right.
The piano in the famous Gardens of Ninfa at the foot of Sermoneta belonged to Liszt himself .
So an area steeped in poverty and history that Riccardo Cerocchi recounts in his biography “L’Ottuagenario Innamorato”.
The tradition of maintaining the highest musical values now falls to his daughter and judging from last nights performances she has risen magnificently to the challenge.
Of course a Summer School is only as good as its Maestri personified in  Elisso Virsaladze,since her first invitation from Roberto Prosseda (a product of Sermoneta too and fast making a name for himself on the International Circuit as an expert in Mendelssohn amongst many other remarkable activities).
It is quite some years the Madam Virsaladze has been the draw for the finest young talents to these hills to continue their studies with not only one of the worlds great pianists,much admired by Sviatoslav Richter, but also more importantly for Sermoneta a teacher of vast experience,culture and humanity .
Madam Virsaladze leaving the floor today to her students in what were the stables of the castle and are now a thankfully cool space with a very fine acoustic.
A Steinway cured with loving care by Mauro Buccitti ,that very fine technician who is also on the faculty with a course on tuning.
Two hours of very fine playing that one would only hope to find in the most renowned International Piano Competitions where many of these young musicians will be appearing I am sure.
Ryutaro Susuki with Schumann Etudes Symphoniques op 13.
None of the extra variations fitted in or the variants that have appeared recently from earlier editions.
Here was the work played as Schumann no doubt intended it . Played with a rigour and rhythmic propulsion together with an extraordinary sound palate.
Never effects for their own sake but a sense of line and direction that gave an architectural shape to this masterpiece epitomised in the penultimate variation that Agosti likened to a Gothic Cathedral.
Here it was just that but with some very refined tone colouring that made it sound so naturally right.
A remarkable technical control too in some of the most trecherous variations.
A great sense of musicianship that in fact was a hallmark of all the students today.
With op 13 it was hardly surprising as Elisso’ Virsaladze was winner many years ago of the Schumann competition and whose playing of that composer was held up as an example by Sviatoslav Richter considered as the greatest Schumann player of his time.
A very dynamic totally secure performance of Prokofieff’s one movement 3rd Sonata from Daria Parkhomenko . A rhythmic control that was electric even in the most quiet almost murmured passages.
Marina Vasilyeva in the first three of the Klavierstucke op 118 by Brahms showed us just what an orchestra she had in her hands.
Obviously very early training has given her an orchestra of ten wonderful players in her two hands. The sumptuous sounds that she was able to produce without any forcing was really very impressive as was her complete musical command of these very well known and too often played( badly) masterpieces .
Written by Brahms late in life almost as a distillation of all that was surplus and giving us back a music that was at once so direct,simple and for that moving.
Of course what course could there be without Liszt and two transcriptions were the order of the day with Davide Di Rienzo‘s finely shaped Rigoletto Paraphrase and The Tannhauser Overture that Marco Clavora’Braulin ended the concert with and brought the house down in a never ending succession of diabolic piano playing .
A totally convinced and convincing performance of Copland’s Theme and Variations played by Yukiko Sekino whose sister has been attending these summer course inbetween her own notable activities with Peter Frankl at Yale and now herself teaching at the University of North Carollna .
Leaving the platform this year to her equally remarkable sister.
Philipp Richardsen too a frequent visitor to Sermoneta in a break from his considerable activities in Korea gave some lovely performances of Liszt Liebestraum and the charming Etude op 35 n.2 by Cecile Chaminade .
I have not heard either piece since Cherkassky’s inimitable performances .(Cherkassky a regular visitor to these parts too although he complained that Sabaudia in the summer was not hot enough for him!)
Hats off to Philipp and the Sekino sisters that take time in their holiday period to come and regenerate their musical curiosity with one of the worlds most exhilarating musical personalities.
Minjae Kim gave a remarkable performance of Rachmaninoff’s Momenti musicali n.1 and 4 .
Number 4 a tour de force for any pianist but in this young mans hands it really was a lesson in control and technical prowess. The first Moment musical needed a much more sumptuous piano to do it full justice .
Yoshio Hamano on the other hand found some extraordinary sounds in Scriabin’s revolutionary White Mass Sonata n.10.
A fragmentary work not easy to hold together ,was here given a sense of line and direction that made such musical sense to what was in its day a quite revolutionary sound world.
Elisso’ called to the stage by her doting young disciples decided as always to leave the stage to them .
Her work was done to the satisfaction of all concerned.
A remarkable lesson of humility and total dedication above all to the music but importantly to each individual musician that had come seeking help and advice and each one leaving this magic moment  playing better than when they came.
Unfortunately this is not the norm and is quite extraordinarily moving to see in action.
It reminds me of a saying in one of those old church yards in the English countryside:
A life’s work nobly done .
Thank you Elisso’,Elisa Cerocchi, the ever present soldier in commandTiziana Cherubini and all at the castle of Sermoneta that have given so much to so many over the past century or so.