AGIMUS is a musical organisation started in Rome in 1949.
Although it’s main office is in Rome it stretches from Ragusa in Sicily to Venice with many local branches scattered all over Italy.
Bringing music to the people and helping young artists to gain experience and also help in the understanding of Italian music.
Not necessarily all Italian artists as glancing at the Padua branch list over the past 25 years shows.
We notice artists from 32 different countries with 200 contestants in the International Prize for soloists and orchestra named after this one of the most beautiful of Italian cities “Citta’di Padova”.
Past winners include Kiril Rodin,who went on to win the Tchaikowsky Competition in Moscow ,as Martin Helmchen who went on to win the Clara Haskil and is fast becoming a favourite in London for his great musicianship.
It was nice after all these years for the Keyboard Trust to take a role alongside many distinguished jury members.
Amongst whom the brave conductor Maffeo Scarpis who helped these sometimes inexperienced players to play their best with very little rehearsal time.
It was a great joy to meet the President of Agimus Salvatore Silivestro,now living in Perugia and exchanging so many stories of the people we both had known in our 50 years of music in Italy.
So many wonderful people to remember from Carlo Zecchi and Franco Ferrara to Franco Mannino and Francesco Siciliani.The Agosti’s and De Rosa’s and my much missed duo partner Lya De Barberiis.
All key figures in forming music in Italy in the past half century.
Nice to know too that Andrew Starling is back in Perugia where he was for years the right hand man of Mrs Alba Buitoni (yes of pasta origins).
A Foundation in her name Buitoni/Borlotti has been created to help young musicians and is directed by Mitsuko Uchida.
Alba Buitoni a truly remarkable lady regularly inviting Rubinstein,Serkin,Karajan to play in Perugia and enjoy being at home with her .
As they were with Count Chigi in Siena and also in L’Aquila.
All major music centres created by wealthy music lovers and shared with their home towns.
Rubinstein was an honorary citizen in L’ Aquila . That noble city horribly damaged by an earthquake and still reduced to a “ghost” town thanks to the slowness of the Italian bureaucracy
Of course there was great joy in the hall tonight to discover that an Italian had been chosen for the final.
Sarah Giannetti gave a heroic performance of Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto.
Playing it for the first time with orchestra on only one rehearsal.
Still only 22, mother of darling little Arianna,after her early studies with that very fine pianist Alberto Nose’ she has just started her climb to the top with Magarius at the famous school in Imola.
Cheered to the rafters she shared first prize with a very fine swedish violinist Philip Zuckermann.
Very good name for a violinist and it was apparent from the first notes of the Bruch Concerto that here was an important artist who played with real ” peso”.
We heard afterwards that he had studied at Julliard with Itzhak Perlman for eight years!
Irina Vaterl from Austria got the short straw and opened the final with Mozart D minor K.466 .
A born musician with a very fluid touch having studied in Graz she is now involved in chamber music in Berne where she lives .
A slight memory slip at the beginning did not ruin what was a finely shaped performance although somewhat lacking in that forward propulsion that is so necessary when playing with an orchestra.
She had I am told played her solo round magnificently which did not surprise me at all. She was rightly awarded second prize and everyone was justly rewarded for an afternoon of real music making.
Pictured afterwards with her Italian violinist companion as Sarah was with her colleague and fellow student from Imola Nicola Losito,who will play for Agimus Padua on the 25th March and for the Keyboard Trust in London in June.
It is always refreshing to see all these wonderfully talented young musicians enjoying each others company and music making without the slightest rivalry.
A lesson that Barenboim is rightly using as a secret weapon with his wonderful West Divan Orchestra .
“If music be the food of love ,play on “………..indeed….. The Bard never got it wrong
Sunday Music with the Amici della Musica of Padua Carlotta Dalia guitar
Wonderful to know that Filippo Juvarra after his dedication to the piano for so many years is opening up the Amici della Musica di Padova to the much neglected world of the guitar.
After the opening concerts of the season dedicated to the piano we were now treated to another of the eight musicians featured in this series of Sunday morning concerts that gives a much needed platform to young competition winners
The wonderfully resonant acoustic of the historic Sala Dei Giganti are just perfect for these plucked instruments and I am much looking forward to hearing that dynamic young harpsichordist, Jean Rondeau, playing the Goldberg’s in this wonderful setting later in the season here too.
It was obviously no coincidence that today the eighteen year old guitarist Carlotta Dalia from Grosseto should present a programme of composers ranging from 1685 to 1872- Scarlatti,Sor and Regondi.
Finishing only with a final flurry into the 20th century with Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Hollywood style indeed for Castelnuovo -Tedesco born in Florence in 1895 emigrated to Hollywood in 1939 and wrote music for over 200 films for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
He did though also find time to write concertos for his neighbours Heifetz and Piatigorsky as well as being a prolific composer for the guitar.
Nice to read that Carlotta is now studying with Frederic Zigante one of the many very fine guitarist who played in the Ghione Theatre in Rome.
Many now famous names were given a platform in Rome in seasons that still unbelievably neglect the guitar .
We had in Rome such artists as Oscar Ghiglia, Manuel Barrueco,Duo Assad,John Williams,David Russell ,Julian Bream,Yamashita,Andrea Vetoretti …..the list of great artists is endless and I just hope that here in Padua at least they might start to find a platform as they have in a little private theatre in Rome.
Frederic Zigante introduced to me in Rome by Griselda Ponce de Leon who organised for us memorable concerts and masterclasses with Zigante and Russell before being struck down by a banal minor operation where she never recovered from the anethestic.
How could I forget Zigante’s moving recital in her memory.
She will not be forgotten.
Some beautifully musical playing from Carlotta today that will grow in stature as her fingers mature and obtain that weight that is so essential, especially in the fast moving figures that alternate with touchingly expressive cantabile.
The guitar has a way of being even more expressive than the piano and could that have been the reason of the myth that has grown around Schubert and Berloz writing with a guitar by their side?
Carlotta Dalia already at her tender age winner of First Prizes in the Giulio Rospigliosi and Uppsala Competitions last year showed all her professionality as we battled with a persistent cougher throughout the first half of the programme.
Thankfully we were able to listen without this interruption after an irate Filippo Juvarra asked the offending young lady to control or leave.
Some beautiful shading in the three Scarlatti Sonatas and a great sense of line in the Gran Solo op 14 by Fernando Sor.
Some very pleasing variations by Giulio Regondi a composer much appreciated by Sor when his father brought him as a child prodigy to Paris.
The Fantasia op 46 “Souvenir d’Amitie'” by Sor is dedicated to him.
His picture looks remarkably like David Russell with whom I was at the Royal Academy in London and who regularly came to the Ghione theatre in Rome for concerts and masterclasses.
Regondi abandoned by his father in 1831 fled to London and probably as a reaction took to the concertina!
The Castelnuovo- Tedesco of course showed off the remarkable credentials of this young player to the full.
Greeted by a peal of bells as she went into overtime she offered a single encore to an insistent and by now silenced audience! I look forward to hearing this young artist in the great music that abounds for this delicate instrument.
Even if she can turn baubles into gems it is sometimes nice in a programme to have a real genuine gem too.
A wonderful pork sandwich and glass of Merlot in the beautiful square was a sad farewell to Padua sharing the tables with the pigeons and our persistent cougher who seemed to have been miraculously cured by the sublime sounds from Carlotta Dalia‘s guitar.#
Andre Gallo Domenica in Musica Amici della Musica di Padua
Wonderful to be back in the Sala dei Giganti in Padua with our old friend Filippo Juvarra.
It was he ,in 1984 ( the year I was married to the famous actress Ileana Ghione) who rang me in our theatre in Rome having seen that Vlado Perlemuter was about to make his Italian debut at the age of 81.
Would he come and play in Padua too?
We shared Vlado for the next ten years together with many other places in Italy too.
Another shared favourite with Padua was Annie Fischer who Perlemuter adored too.
That was the first time I saw this magnificent historic hall accompanying Vlado together with his inseparable companion Joan Booth
Joan passed away the same day as my wife (12 years on) last December 3rd at the age of 104 and a half and without whom he never would have played in public until the ripe old age of 90.
We have a lot to thank her for!
The same wonderful piano.
A magnificent Steinway from 1952.
Favourite of Richter who used to prepare for his recordings in Mantua on it.
As that master piano technician Mr Manta says they do not make them like that any more.
He explained that the soundboard of a Steinway is 9+ mm and the hammers made of real wool .
The difference from other makes that have a thinner soundboard and use synthetic material for the hammers. Of course that is why a Stradivarius matures with age?
The trial and errors that go into the search for absolute perfection before finding just the right materials and craftsmanship.
It is alway stimulating talking to artists of such intelligence and sensibility as Andre Gallo.
That great critic and writer Bryce Morrison on hearing Andre play for the Keyboard Trust in London summed up just what we were about to experience in Padua for the series of Sunday morning concerts for exceptionally talented young artists at the beginning of their career:
“Now this really is fascinating. I have heard very few pianists in Noretta’s (at the most three) series at Steinways over the years who I feel could seriously consider a career as a pianist. But Andre Gallo is a very remarkable exception. and hearing this again on CD in much better sound than in Steinways was a special experience.
For a start the programme was so enterprising, a real exploration suggesting all sorts of relationships and he has such a strong, audacious personality.
Of course, I can just hear the french brigade exclaiming in horror over his determinedly ‘different’ Debussy (tres rather than un peu sentimentale for the likes of Cecile Ousset, a French literalist if ever there was one).
At the same time I am puzzled by someone who bears down so heavily on Debussy’s early evanescent magic (all that push-pull rubato). He doesn’t believe in under-statement and, provocatively, everything is inflated beyond its natural perspective.
At the same time the pianism is masterly and the Dutilleux is superb (this should go on record with, for example, the Sonata).
Loved the Marco di Baris and the Vecsey/Cziffra, again suggests a superb pianist.
I have not heard playing of this quality for a long time in this series and I would go anywhere to hear him.
If you need a quote from me, you could perhaps use the following:
‘A masterly pianist with a bold and intriguing personality.’
Again with so much anodyne playing around, carefully trained for the exam room or the competition circuit (the reverse of what is required on the public platform), this is very exciting.”
Great words indeed from someone who has made the study of the piano and performance a lifetime mission.
Fascinating to watch the sheer beauty of the movement of his whole body whilst playing.
“Moulding” indeed as Dame Fanny would have exclaimed.
Like a great sculptor shaping the sounds with the same shape as his hands were making.
As Agosti used to say fingers like steel but wrists and arms like rubber.
Starting as a youth in Imola with Lazar Berman that great disciple of Goldenweiser as was his great compatriot Tatyana Nikolaeva.
Always so fundamentally important the early training.
Andre tells me he was always insistent that his shoulders should be completely relaxed and in a natural position. How many pianist seize up in later life without these principals established from the beginning?
In fact Andrea sits back like Radu Lupu with the arms outstretched looking ever like the caricature of Brahms at the keyboard.
What it gives them is complete control of sound through really feeling the sound through the fingers.
Je sens ,Je trasmet indeed!
Certainly it is this that gives Andre such freedom and such a pure unforced kaleidoscopic sense of colour .
I asked him if he used the middle pedal at all and he replied not only did he not use it but he never uses the soft pedal either . Preferring to use his ultra sensitive fingers to produce the refined sounds that he likes.
The slightly nasal sound of the soft pedal that Perlemuter and Arrau chose to use to such effect is not of his taste .
I defied him to maintain his word today in Padua and he certainly did!
The ravishing subtle pianissimi always with a resonance produced totally by his transcendental command of the keyboard sonorities.
Particularly noticeable was the beauty of sound in the final encore of Debussy’s First Arabesque.
Has the coda of the Schumann Arabeske op 18 ever sounded so beautiful?
A real Dichterliebe indeed.
The supreme subtle colouring in Claire de Lune one could almost feel the glowing rays that Debussy was depicting in sound.
Indeed some real passionate playing in the Passepied.Andre is a real artist with a soul which also has something personal to say and who is not afraid to speak out .
So many beautiful things in the Five Romanze senza parole op 62 by Mendelssohn offered today .From the jeux perle and delectable shaping of Mendelssohn’s melodies to the beautiful Spring Song played with an aristocratic sense of shape and an irresistible elasticity.A real “song” without words .
The childlike simplicity; of the opening of Poulenc’s rarely heard Suite Francaise played with such mesmerising rhythmic energy .
The same energy that he had saved for the Danzas Argentinas op 2 by Ginastera that closed this all too short Sunday morning recital.
He had been warned to finish like Cinderella before 12 when all the wonderful pandemonium of bells of Padua broke out in full voice.
It was of no importance for his totally hypnotised audience.
The extreme beauty of the Danza de la moza donosa had been encompassed by an absolutely sintilating almost whispered Danza de viejo bovero and an absolutely extraordinary tour de force of Danza del gaucho matrero .
Pealing bells or no after such a transcendental performance of this old warhorse the public insisted on more and Andre was only too delighted to share his unique musicianship with them in an all too rarely experienced intimate two way conversation.
A little piece by Mompou was the only thing possible after such a tumultuous performance of Ginastera and the beautiful Debussy Arabesque that followed bodes well for his recording of the complete works of Debussy that is being recorded in these very days.
As Bryce Morrison rightly says :”A masterly pianist with a bold and intriguing personality”
The young British born virtuoso on tour in Italy for the Keyboard Charitable Trust .
Only half way through a tour that started in Viterbo last Saturday and has taken in Rome,Vicenza,Venice,Padua and will finish in Abano Terme on Monday.
He has already registered a remarkable success with all CD’s sold in the first concerts in Rome in the Ghione Theatre.
Reopening its doors once again to great music after its amazing record of historic performances from artists such as:Perlemuter,Agosti,Fischer,Cherkassky,Tureck,Sandor,Lympany,
De Larocha,Mannino,Foldes,Frankl,Kovacevich,Pletnev,Pogorelich,FouTs-ong,Alexeev,Katin Fialkowska, Hewitt,Howard and many young talents now making a name for themselves such as Prosedda,Cabassi,Baldocci,Ullman,Romanovsky,Gillham,Pisarenko,Rossi etc .
It is not just a coincidence that he has this month received rave reviews for his new recording of Alkan’s studies in the major keys .
Five stars in the Guardian with Gramophone and Sunday Times following suit.
I well remember over 50 years ago the excitement generated by the arrival of Raymond Lewenthal in London with queues around the Wigmore Hall after word had got around about his extraordinary performances of Liszt and Alkan.
It was just the same excitement that had ignited a teenage student at the Purcell school when an enlightened William Fong had given the exceptionally talented young pianists in his care the project of each one preparing a study from Chopin op 25 and Alkan op 35.
Mark a late starter when at the relatively late age if 11 he fell madly in love with the piano.
Self taught but already at the age of 12 he was accepted to the Purcell school for exceptionally talented children.
One of the three schools :Menuhin,Purcell and Chethams that specifically had been created on the lines of what had long been the norm in the eastern countries and USA.
Lucky from the age of 12 to 17 to be under the expert guidance of Tessa Nicholson who gave him the basis of the technique that is now astounding the public and critics alike. Another six years perfecting these early skills from Niel Immelman,star student in my day of that great English virtuoso Cyril Smith, sadly too often forgotten inspite of Guilgud’s wonderful portrayal in “Shine”.
Mark Viner was winner of the first international Alkan Zimmerman Competition in Athens in 2012 whilst still perfecting his studies at the Royal College of Music where he obtained his Masters in 2013 with the highest votes ever recorded.
Since then he has already been voted President of the Alkan Society in the UK and recently also to the chairmanship of the Liszt society of which Leslie Howard is President
With highly praised recordings of Liszt,Thalberg and Alkan already to his name he is now being helped by the Keyboard Charitable with tours in the USA and Italy all leading up to the Prizewinners debut recital at the Wigmore Hall in London on 2nd March.
Immersed in this period when the piano was just evolving and taking the world by storm in the fashionable salons in Paris and many Royal Courts throughout Europe including that of Queen Victoria in London.
There is the famous story of Liszt, feted like a pop star , playing to the Tsar Nicolas 1st in 1840 .
Arriving late and talking, Liszt stopped playing and sat motionless with his head bowed.
The Tsar enquired why the music had stopped.
To which Liszt replied coolly: “Music herself should be silent when Nicholas speaks”.
These stories abound in this Romantic period and many a legend has grown up since. One such legend has persisted and it is that of the mysterious figure of Charles-Valentin Alkan.
A recluse who in his rare performances in public both Chopin and Liszt would be present to hear what Liszt considered the most perfect technique -apart from his own of course.
Music so difficult that it was for a long time considered unplayable.
Legend has it that he died from the Talmud falling on him.
Thalberg too a virtuoso and rival of Liszt .
Stories of the famous duel between these two giants of the keyboard in the Salon of the Princess Belgiojoso in the spring of 1837.
People standing on their seats in the hope of discovering the secrets of Thalberg’s seemingly impossible performances that sounded like many more than two hands at one keyboard .
“Old Arpeggio”Sigismond Thalberg with the incomparable “Il penseroso “Franz Liszt . The Princess declaring at the end that Thalberg is the first pianist in the world but Liszt is unique!
Thalberg played, of course, at the court of Queen Victoria too and amassed a vast fortune before retiring to Naples where he founded the famous Neapolitan School of Piano Playing still very much present amongst the great pianists playing today ……….Martha Argerich for example direct from the Neapolitan school in Buenos Aires of Vincenzo Scaramuzza.
Liszt erected a statue to Thalberg which still stands in one of the main squares of Naples.
His tomb recently desecrated by some enlightened grave robbers who had obviously done their homework.
A direct descendant of his the Donna Ferrara Pignatelli di Strongoli was present at Mark’s Rome concert and was enormously enthusiastic as were the entire audience lucky to be present.
Not always the greatest music as with any composer but as Mark says he could make the piano sound sumptuous and the gorgeous sonorities could easily seduce the senses even today.
Like the great Bel Canto operas that need the unique artistry of a Callas or Sutherland to make them re live.
Today there are only a few who are passionate advocates of this music and Mark certainly joins the ranks of people like Raymond Lewenthal,Ronald Smith and Mark Andre Hamelin.
Starting his recitals with the Benediction et Serment- deux motifs de Benvenuto Cellini de Berloz S.396.
We were immediately aware of the wide range of sounds that were conjured out of the instrument .From the barely whispered opening motif to the enormous sonorities of the climax.
Always with a great sense of balance giving an almost orchestral effect to this rather sombre rarely performed work.
The three pieces by Alkan that make up his op 15 “Souvenirs – trois morceaux dans le genre pathetique ” showed off all the originality and breathtaking virtuosity of these little tone poems.
The heartrending opening almost Bellinian melody of “Aime -moi” that was to be hinted at at the end of the last piece “Morte” almost like the disintegration or nostalgic look over the shoulder at the end of Schubert’s great A major sonata .
It made one aware of the importance of playing the three pieces as a whole .
The extraordinarily delicate virtuosity in Alkan’s almost impossibly difficult depiction of the wind.”Le vent” the second piece of the Souvenirs where even here the sheer beauty of the left hand melodic line just barely hinted at was a true feat of virtuosity .
Not the passionate arpeggios of Thalberg or Liszt but a much more subtle virtuosity of a mind that is listening intently to every sound and has the capability to control each sound whether the left hand be in impossible tenths or the breathtaking velocity of the chromatic scales in the right hand.
The great Dies Irae of the last piece played or rather hinted at to the accompaniment of gong like sounds from deep in the heart of the instrument.
A critic in Vicenza asked me why this suite is not more often played until I showed her the score with a million fingerings written in the score by Mark with the same precision of a brain surgeon !
Quod erat demonstrandum!
The Fantasie sur des themes de l’opera Moise de G Rossini op 33 by Thalberg opened the second half of this fascinating journey into a past magical world.
A short but very learned introduction given by this expert was of a great help in understanding this almost unexplored world of the birth of the modern piano as we know it today.
Two of the the themes used were not by Rossini at all but in the “style of”, according to Mark who not only plays these pieces but goes into very detailed research of every aspect of the music in the archives and is fast becoming a world authority.
But when the famous theme does appear with such delicate and intricate embellishments played with an almost irresistible ,teasing sense of rubato with the same astonishing clarity of a great bel canto singer .
The build up of this seemingly innocent theme was quite exhilarating as it was surely meant to be in Thalberg’s own astonishing performances .
Sometimes reminiscent of course of the embellishments and the same technique that his rival Liszt uses in his surely undisputed masterpiece that is the “Reminiscences de Norma.”
Some truly amazing risks taken and handsomely won by this young man who is fast becoming the reincarnation of his great forebears.
A standing ovation and a rush to buy the three remarkable CD’s to take home and prolong the exultation that was generated live in the recital hall.
More than a mention should be made of his exemplary Chopin Nocturnes op 48 .
Played with a simple but very flexible aristocratic sense of rubato.
The great build up in the C minor nocturne played by a master architect who knows how the building is constructed.
A very telling almost nonchalant jeux perle in the central section of the F sharp minor nocturne suddenly made sense of this rather elusive partner.
A single encore only in Rome so far from a more than insistent public many of whom professional pianists and illustrious colleagues .
Luckily announced by the pianist himself and was by that other shadowy figure from the past Cecile Chaminade: “Meditation” op 76 n.6 and one of the pieces that will figure on a new CD of the works of this little known pianist composer and another for this more than inquisitive young virtuoso to champion.