In Praise of Max

Dejan Bogdanovich,violin Gabriele Maria Vianello,piano Virtuosity and Meditation at Kings Place
A concert dedicated to the memory of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
A concert in the splendid Kings Place dedicated to Max by his close friend of 45 years standing .
Sylvia Junge promoted and introduced this violin recital by the distinguished Croatian violinist Dejan Bogdanovich.
Now based in Italy it was hardly suprising that he was sharing the platform with a very fine Italian pianist Gabriele Maria Vianello, from the splendidly efficient Neapolitan school of Maria Tipo.
Some very fine playing for a master violinist who regularly gives masterclasses and has many highly successful students. On the jury of  many International Competitions it was hardly surprising to find the very distinguished viola player Ian Jewel seated next to me.
He tells me he had been on the jury with Dejan in Fermo in Italy.
As Sylvia Junge had pointed out in her brief but heartfelt introduction,the Sonatina for solo violin of 2015 ,was written when Max knew that he had only a short time to live.
Fitting to remember too that the final few months of his life were spent preparing his  Symphony n.10  in Rome with Antonio Pappano and the S.Cecilia Orchestra .
Repeated in London with Pappano and the LSO.
Max loved Italy having studied in Rome with Goffredo Petrassi and returned as often as possible .
His Symphony is in fact inspired by Borromini
Jack Buckley from Rome was in the audience too to pay homage to his great friend who he had done so much to promote in Italy when he was Arts Officer at the British Council.
The Sonatina was first performed in June 2015 in St Magnus Cathedral at the Festival that he had founded on the Scottish Island where he had found the peace and solitude to compose.
It is dedicated to the memory of his great friend on Hoy ,Jack Rendall.
It is a work conceived by Fenella Hunphreys as a way of commissioning six leading British composers to write a companion piece to one of the Bach solo Sonatas or Partitas.
Tonight it was preceded by the Adagio from the Sonata in C that was Max’s chosen Bach. A very fine performance full of shade and colour and I would have loved to hear it again as an encore instead of the Soiree de Vienne in the Oistrach transcription that was offered to a very enthusiastic audience.
The final two pieces on the programme: Tchaikowsky Meditation and Valse Scherzo played with all the charm and verve of someone who had liberated himself at last from the score and could at last turn baubles into gems.
Fine performance of the Schubert Grand Duo and Saint- Saens’ overlong and rambling Sonata in D.
Very much tied to the score they did not quite find that amalgam and freedom that they found later.
Some beautiful things of course from the beautiful bass opening of the Schubert to the soaring melodic lines of the Saint Saens.
Max must have been looking on though – in fact there was magic in the air for this much loved composer,- the finest most moving performance of the evening was infact his own Sonatina.

Gadjiev in London War and Peace

Alexander Gadjiev at Steinway Hall for the Keyboard Charitable Trust

Winner of the Hamamatsu Competition in 2015 he gave an impassioned account of Schumann Kreisleriana which is on his new CD “Literary Fantasies” due for release later this month on Acousence Records.
A crystalline account of the Bach French Suite n.3 in B minor BWV 814 was followed by the first of Prokofievs 3 “War Sonatas” n.6 op 82,
And war it was with a massive onslaught into the savage world that Prokofiev so vividly portrays.

After such a physically exciting performance it was no wonder he did not quite find the calm for the love that dear Isolde exclaims in Liszt’s famous transcription .

Still only 22 here is indeed a talent to be reckoned with and Hats off to the Keyboard Trust for inviting him to play in London for the first time to a such discerning public that included Noretta Conci-Leech and her husband John founders of the Trust,

Leslie Howard,Vitaly Pisarenko Sasha Grynuk Iya I. Sughayer ,Sulamita Aranowska were just a few of the distinguished pianists that came to welcome this delightful young man to London.

L'immagine può contenere: una o più persone, persone sedute e spazio al chiuso
L'immagine può contenere: una o più persone, persone sedute e spazio al chiuso
L'immagine può contenere: una o più persone, persone sedute e spazio al chiuso
L'immagine può contenere: una o più persone, persone sedute e spazio al chiuso

Erzhan Kulibaev Homage to George Enescu

Homage to George Enescu Erzhan Kulibaev
Erzhan Kulibaev winner of the 2016 Enescu International Competition
in recital with Iulian Ochescu in Sibiu for the Enescu Festival.
An amazing line up of violinists at the Enescu Festival this year.
Including :Kavakos,Mutter,F.P.Zimmerman,Zuckerman,Chen, Vengerov,Bell,Repin,Tetzlaff,Znaider,Sitkovetsky,,Garrett,Capucon,Grimal,M.Barenboim Rachlin,Azoitei,Kopatchinskaja.
A wonderful tribute to that remarkable musician George Enescu the much loved mentor of Yehudi Menuhin and much more to discover besides.
It is a great tribute to a Festival that can leave space too for the names of the future.
The three winners of the 2016 Enescu Competition:Viktoria Vassilenko,piano; Zlatomir Fung,cello and Erzhan Kulibaev, violin have been given a space within a programme which in only two weeks has included some of the worlds greatest orchestras and soloists.
Tonight it was the turn of Erzhan Kulibaev having already played with The Royal Camerata in Bucharest last Saturday.
In Sibiu he could be heard in a very distinguished recital of music by Medtner,Prokofiev,Schubert,Ravel and Bizet
A recital that recalls the natural musicianship of Yehudi Menuhin .
No histrionics but just pure subtle music poured out of this young musician ably partnered by Iulian Ochescu.
Some very interesting pieces by Medtner:Two Canzonas with Dances op 43.
Unknown to me it was clear from the very first phrase that we were in the hands of a real musician .
The piano lid fully opened as our young Rumanian pianist knew how to listen carefully and was able to match the subtle sounds that Erzhan was able to find on his beautiful sounding instrument .
The first Sonata by Prokofiev was given too a very subtle performance with a great sense of the architectural shape in this long and sometimes meandering early work.
A perfect match between the two artists that had now found their ease in this rather dry hall.
If the first half had been rather subdued that was not the case after the interval.
A very beautiful performance of Schuberts Duo in A .
Such subtle phrasing from the violin throwing off  exquisite sounds into a packed auditorium that try as he did Ilulian could not quite match the rapport that Rachmaninov  had with his partner Kreisler!
However the pianist came into his own with a very fine performance of the Ravel Sonata for Violin and piano.
Rarely have I heard such liquid sounds from the piano that the violinist could comment on .
The final jazz like final played with all the verve and typical Ravelian style that brought this work to a very exciting ending.
Leading from this point onwards to some real fireworks in the form of the famous Bizet/Waxman showpiece of Carmen Fantasy.
Here Erzhan’s transcendental technique came more obviously out into the open and we could appreciate in full his total command of the instrument that had obviously lead to him taking the Enecu Competition by storm in 2016.
Now public and musicians totally at their ease they could let their hair down with two ravishing encores of Bernstein’s” Summertime” and “It ain’t necessarily so”.
A student at the Central Music School for special talent and later with Zakhar Bron in Madrid where he too now teaches .
Perfecting his studies with Pierre Amoyal at the Mozarteum in Salzburg
Erzhan Kulibaev can be heard in London at St James’s Piccadilly on the 30th November for that remarkable promoter of great young artists Canan Maxton of Talent Unlimited.
Looking forward this Friday to hearing Maxim Vengerov again after all these years.
At his debut in London at the age of only 14 (25 years ago) all the most important violinists were present for his recital at the Wigmore Hall.
Cheering to the rafters this young man from the same remarkable school of Zakhar Bron. His performance of the Carmen Fantasy was even more unbelievable than this evening.
But then he is now Yehudi Menuhin visiting Professor at my old Alma Mater in London.
It is only fitting that they should all be present in this shrine to George Enescu.

Homage to George Enescu The Enescu Festival 2017 Viktoria Vassilenko

Homage to George Enescu Recital of Viktoria Vassilenko
Victoria Vassilenko ,winner of the 2016 George Enescu International Piano Competition in the Sala Thalia,Sibiu as part of the Enescu Festival 2017
An amazing series of concerts in the George Enescu Festival in Rumania from 2 until 24 September.
A line up of of Orchestras and artists that would do any of the great musical centres in the world proud in an entire season let alone in two weeks.
Sometimes even three concerts a day with Orchestras that include the Czech,Munich and Israel Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony,S Cecilia ,
Royal Philharmonic,Philharmonia di Londra,Camerata Salzburg,
Russian National,Orchestra National de France
under Pappano,Gergiev,Dutoit,Ashkenazy and Honorary President Zubin Mehta
with Trifonov,Argerich,Chen,Terfel,Vengerov,Zukerman,Kaufmann etc etc ……….
The list is too long to include all the wonders on offer in a homage to that great Rumanian musician George Enescu.
(Much remembered in England as the inspirational mentor of Yehudi Menuhin)
Most of the concerts are in Bucharest but there are concerts in other important cities too .
It was in Sibiu that I managed to hear last Sunday Philippe Jaroussky and Celine Scheen with Christina Pluhars Arpeggiata Ensemble in the magnificent Evangelistic Cathedral in the centre of this beautiful city .
A programme based on Monteverdi that treated the packed out church to an hour an half of absolutely sublime music making .
The two solists completely at their ease .
So much so they even on occasion abandoned their scores to make their ensemble more intimate and united.
Christina Pluhar leading her renowned group founded in 2000 .
Antique intruments played with all the abandonment and virtuosity that these instruments can have in the hands of real dedicated musicians.
Rarely can this music have sounded so alive and immediate as this evening.
Taking turns to sing from the pulpit and even together in a very amusing encore that was given after a standing ovation from a public that had listened in raptures in total silence.
Nearly all the concerts are broadcast live on the radio and streamed too and I managed to hear part of the Saturday afternoon concert from Bucharest with the Chamber Orchestra of Lausanne with Mihai Ritivoiu and Tine Thing Helseth under Joshua Weilerstein give a very fine account of Shostakovich’s Concerto n.1 for trumpet and piano.
Next week just in one day there is Vengerov/Papian in Sibiu whilst Pappano is performing in Bucharest the Resurrection Symphony with his Orchestra and Chorus from Rome ( a magnificent performance that I had heard this winter in Rome)
and later that very evening Jordi Savall.
So it was hardly surprising to find Ray Chen playing some magnificent solo Bach (a simple direct musicality reminiscent of Sandor Vegh) on the car radio from the five o’clock concert in Bucharest whilst on my way to the recently restored Sala Thalia in Sibiu to hear the winner of the 2016 Enescu International Competition for the seven o’clock concert .
At eight in Bucharest Martha Argerich and Charles Dutoit were playing their Ravel concerto ( their first performance of the concert was together many years ago when they were married and had a child together) united in their later years after a stormy marriage (he just celebrated his 80th birthday and her 76th, I do not think one dare use the word ” old age” in this case) with the RPO in a concert streamed live into the George Enescu Square .
Nel 1972, incontro d’eccezione con la pianista Martha Argerich e suo marito il direttore d’orchestra Charles Dutoit. Fermamente indipendente, Martha ha già scelto di condurre una carriera alla sua immagine, imprevedibile e affascinante.
Amongst all these international “stars” the festival under the enlightened artistic direction of Vladimir Jurowski has found time for the next generation of musicians filtered through the Enescu International Competition .
Artist that include Erzhan Kulibaev,violin 18/9,Mihai Ritivoiu 10/9,Zhitomir Fung,cello 13/9 and Viktoria Vassilenko ,piano 12/9.
And so it was that the discerning public did not desert this 25 year old Bulgarian pianist in a programme of mostly Russian music (hardly surprising from the class of Dmitri Bashkirov at the Regina Sofia Academy in Madrid).
The first of the “war” sonatas n.6 op 82 , Debussy Pour Le Piano ,Tchaikowsky “Dumka” op 5 ,Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition .
An imperious appearance alla Gina Bachauer or Oxana Yablonskaya with all the assuredness of someone who was totally in command both musically and technically.
In the opening Debussy she gave her heart strings too much reign and in general it suffered from an over romantic approach where a more simple and refined palate as Rubinstein and Perlemuter have shown us is needed if this music is to retain its elegance without sentimentality .
How many times I have heard Rubinstein in those opening glissandi leading so simply and inevitably to the chordal fanfares .
The heartfelt yearning of the Sarabande where Perlemuter used to obtain a very special sound with the soft pedal down but playing with a stronger touch than would seem necessary for such poignant music.There was more passion in the notes rather than having to resort to out of place rubato.
Here we are in the land of the Hommage a Rameau from the same early period of this French genius composer.
Of course she played it very well but just a little too keen to make too many hairpins that it seemed to loose its impetus and very aristocratic Frenchness.
It was a completely different thing in the Russian music.
Here was a superb performance of the 6th Sonata by Prokofiev.
Played with just that driving rhythm and unshakeable sense of being anchored to the ground .
Some remarkable sounds from the ferocious to the most tender .
The war like motto theme (in many ways reminiscent of Mahler 6) played with the threatening menace that made its reappearance in the final movement so chilling.
“Avec un sentiment de regret” indeed.
The dance like second movement Allegretto played with all the lilt that Prokofiev is capable of without conceding for a second the rhythmic impetus behind the notes .
The Tempo di Valzer slow movement played with all the sounds of a sumptuous Russian Symphony Orchestra.
The relentless last movement only interrupted by the opening motto but driven to its inexorable end in a performance that had the audience holding their breath until the last
Dumka was played very beautifully but again  as in Debussy she allowed the rhythm to slacken when her heart took over.
Mussorgsky Pictures on the other hand received one of the finest readings I have ever heard in concert.
A truly wonderful range of sound allied to an impeccable sense of balance.
The menacing Gnomus dissolving into a most beautifully shaped Old Castle.
An unrelenting Bydlo lead to all the charm of the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks.
Some transcendental playing of great control in Limoges Market and the sublime magic created at the end of Catacombae was only broken by the unsually quiet entry of Baba Yaga.
Quiet before the storm indeed and such was her sense of balance and control she knew exactly how to pace herself as the old masters of the past used to.
The tolling bells of the Great Gate of Kiev were allowed to sing out in all their glory instead of vying for attention in the battle between the hands as is normally the case.
A tumultuous ending and only now slightly giving any sign of tiredness for what we had all been through.
It brought the audience to their feet to show their appreciation of this superb young artist.
No encore was possible after this and the seriousness of this artist was once again proven in not giving in to such insistent applause.

The Busoni Competition All the fun of the Circus

All the fun of the Circus -The Busoni Competition
Busoni winner the young Croatian outsider Ivan Krpan ;
second Jaeyeon Won;
third Anna Geniushene ;
fourth Eun Seong Kim;
fifth Xingyu Lu;
sixth Dmytro Choni…………….all of whom received monetary prizes
Anna Geniushene also won the Quartet and audience prize.
All the fun of the Circus at the 61st Busoni Competition in Bolzano.
On tenterhooks right until the last moment the enlightened jury led us to a result that is of fairy story proportions.
A young Croation that from his first appearance had shown his natural talent but also lack of experience compared to some of his remarkably well trained colleagues.
I followed his progress and was so sorry to hear the muddle he got into in the Chopin Funeral March Sonata.
Very apt title and presumed that that would be the end of him .
Little did I expect to see him accepted to the next round.
But then the surprise here at the Busoni this year is a jury that are not only counting the notes but above all the real talent behind them.
And so it was that this very unassuming young man just made music as he obviously was born to do.
Up against some of the most remarkably well prepared and experienced performers his talent swept the board and was so rightly awarded last night the Busoni prize to the delight of the audience of his fellow competitors and adoring public .
We had lived the dream with him and the Busoni jury too had not let us down.
A competition that shares its wares so generously with the world is indeed an arena to be cherished.
The superb streaming allowed us all to share in every minute of some remarkable performances that for one reason or another did not proceed to the final.
I heard from my own home some very fine things from Julian Trevelyan ,the 18 year old english pianist ,winner to everyone’s astonishment at the age of 16 of the Marguerite Long Competition .
A Haydn sonata that was noted as one of the finest performances in the competition by Maria Tipo from her home in Florence .
Another twenty year old Julius Asal gave some remarkable performances notably a very fine Bach Chaconne and of four Rachmaninov Preludes.Ravishing indeed.
Leonora Armellini already and established artist and a refined stylist gave a beautiful performance of Chopin’s Fourth Ballade and a very subtle quite marvellous account of Beethoven’s very allusive Sonata op 101.
Anna Geniushene gave a magnificent performance of Prokofiev 8th Sonata and was considered by many the favourite to win .
Her Schuman Quintet with the marvellous Cremona Quartet was a highlight and justly awarded the Quartets own prize of a series of future concerts with them.
Anna is now a post graduate student at my old Alma Mater the Royal Academy in London ,guided by Christopher Elton, that very fine musician and trainer of so many fine pianist before the public today.
For me the greatest talent of all was a young Korean boy ( student of the same teacher as the last Busoni Winner Chloe Mun) Eun Seong Kim .
His performance of Beethoven’s last Sonata was memorable for its control and intelligent musicianship as we have come to expect from the school of Dae Jin Kim .
Now studying with Minsoo Sohn, 1999 winner of third prize in Bolzano and sharing his experience at the same University in Corea.
Eun Seong has that God given gift that cannot be taught but can be nurtured and helped to grow as is the case here but it can also so easily be destroyed .
His Scriabin fifth was one of the most intelligent and exciting that I have ever heard.
These are just a few of the performances that will remain in my memory.
That there can only be one winner is the Circus aspect of an International Piano Competition.
But as the amazing Murray MacLachlan said the other day in another competition in Manchester :”all the competitors are winners for the joy of making music at such a level.”
Unfortunately there are prizes to be won and sponsors to be cherished and prize money to be awarded.
Who fell at the first hurdle.
Who survived to the second but was then knocked off the pedestal for one reason or another .
The jury always gets blamed for what the public may consider a lack of consideration for their favourite performance or performer.
That is part of the Circus aspect but it draws people into the fray sometimes unfortunately in the heat of the moment lacking in kind words towards a jury that has a near impossible task.
But do the same people ever consider that the performer too is not always right and can have some good performances mingled with less too?
I had noted Krpan from the beginning but had also noted his youthful inexperience .
Allowing him into the Chamber Music round he came into his own and stood the ground with our favourite charming Russian and a very experienced 29 year old Corean who up until that moment I had not heard .
Our own Eun Seong Kim unfortunately fell at this hurdle to Krpan.
That classical music can generate such excitement and partecipation is the phenomena of the event called International Piano Competition of which there are an abundance these days.
Gone is the passive acceptance so often found in classical music concerts .
Here it is a real almost animal partecipation that can reach the same frenzied following that is so much part of sporting events.
Great day by day – blow by blow – account from a very informed young correspondent from the Amadeus magazine – Alessandro Tommasi and his charming companion Sofia .Two faces designed to light up every day with youthful exuberance and down to earth intelligence .
There are an abundance of competitions because there is so much more talent around that ever before .
Such magnificent teaching and encouragement for the arts at an early age .
The fact that these young people have dedicated their youth in search of beauty is something the mass media never talk about in their pursuit to give us the most detailed accounts of all the disasters and scandals worldwide .
All the competitiors have now been give a stage worldwide by the Busoni Competition Streaming .
The Italian Radio and Television have broadcast the final evening and prize giving .
The world awaits and what an exciting platform it has been and will be in the future for many of these young musicians.
Hats off to Peter Paul Kainrath and his dedicated colleagues who have shown just what it means and what responsability it is to be called the BUSONI Competition.
They have risen magnificently to the challenge and I know that it has not been an easy path to follow.
Looking through the very interesting programme I notice the following that puts the Circus aspect of a competition into perspective:
1949 Alfred Brendel 4th prize;
1952 Ingrid Habler and Walter Klien 4th prize ex aequo;
1956 Bruno Canino and Michael Ponti 4th prize ex aequo ;
1960 John Ogdon 5th prize etc etc
No more words are needed