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 .
Q.E.D.
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.

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