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 .