Andrei Iliushkin at St Martin in the Fields for The Beethoven Piano Society of Europe and The Worshipful Company of Musicians
Andrei Iliushkin at St Martin in the Fields ,winner of the Intercollegiate Beethoven Piano Society of Europe Competition and Winner of the Worshipful Company of Musicians Beethoven Medal
All in the family you might say today.
Andrei Iliushkin having completed his early studies in Moscow has been studying for the past four years at the RAM with the renowned teacher Christopher Elton ,disciple as we all were in that period of our dearly beloved Gordon Green.
The Worshipful Company of Musicians was founded in 1350 and the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe has as its International President Paul Badura Skoda and as Honorary UK President Sir Andras Schiff so it was a decided honour for a young pianist of only 22 to be recognised by such noble institutions .
Julian Jacobson the chairman of the Beethoven society and Alberto Portugheis founder member together with Andrew Morris and many other distinguished colleagues were present today for the winners recital and presentation of the Beethoven Medal.
Three works in the programme which showed off ever facet of this young man’s remarkable talent. Bach/Busoni Chaconne,Beethoven Sonata in E minor op 90 and Scriabin’s 3rd Sonata.
It was immediately apparent from the first notes of the Chaconne the intelligence and musicality that was allied to his complete control of the piano.
Obviously early training in Moscow has given him a security and sense of dynamic control that can only come from this early preparation.
Fingers of steel and wrists of rubber Agosti used to say.
But fingers of steel that allow you to play with more colours and dynamic range ,never hitting the piano but caressing the sounds that are there to be found .
He brought a great nobility to the Chaconne thinking always from the bass upwards as indeed he did in the other two works in the programme.
Not afraid to take liberties with the tempo where his personality thought it necessary but never loosing sight of the great architectural line that Bach designs so masterly for solo violin and which Busoni is able to transform in an almost equally masterly way for the piano .
His great range of dynamics brought this work into the realm of the modern piano but never forgetting its origin.
The tranquillo middle section played with a delicacy and clarity.
The seemingly violin like texture played with a precision leading to a tumultuous climax that gave way to a heart rending calm -quasi tromboni writes Busoni – but rarely have I heard such beautiful trombones as today.
An equally delicate calm before the storm in the Piu sostenuto and piu espressivo leading inexorably to the great climax and final triumphant statement of the Chaconne .
Agosti would have had a fit to hear the great bass notes played as canons.
They are marked staccato and are there just give more sonority to the great final statement of the theme.
It is a trick of the great pianists especially of the past that playing in great halls they would add very judiciously bass notes that would allow the sonority of the piano to carry across the vast opera houses where they would often be expected to play to their doting public.
Nelson Freire still does this to great effect and I remember him playing a very subtle bass note before the entry in the treble of the piano in Chopin’s Second Concerto.
Tricks of the Trade my old piano teacher Sidney Harrison used to call them and indeed they are .
But if you are playing in public you must also sometimes be a showman.
Rubinstein and Horowitz were of course the prime examples in my day.
Before them there was Rachmaninov,Rosenthal,Lhevine ,Godowsky etc in the Golden era of Romantic piano playing of which Busoni in a certain sense was part of.
It all of course was born with the greatest showman ever Franz Liszt.
Busoni was a disciple of Liszt as Agosti was a disciple of Busoni .
This was an impressive opening for Andrei and confirmed his credentials as the just winner of the honours that were bestowed on him at the end of a very revealing programme.
Beethoven’s beautiful little E minor Sonata op 90- the calm before the storm you might say.
Perhaps the most Schubertian of all Beethoven’s Sonatas was given here a loving performance .
The beautiful second movement entering almost unnoticed as indeed it does in the last movement of Schubert’ s great A major Sonata.
This is of course Beethoven and the great contrasts were very clearly marked with great rhythmic clarity.
Rarely have I heard the left hand semiquavers in the first movement played so clearly without pedal allowing the legato right hand to be so telling.
The great delicacy in the middle section somewhat reminiscent of the opening of Liszt’s great tone poem Vallee d’Oberman.And the gentle disintegration of the first movement disolving into the Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen.
The Third Sonata by Scriabin was given a very fine performance indeed.
His sense of colour and inner rhythmic propulsion allowed the hypnotic opening motif to spring to life in all its multitude of forms as if by magic.
The long slow movement played with a great sense of line and the rhythmic impulse in the last movement and heroic statement of the main theme brought this sonata and the recital to a magnificent conclusion.