The Supreme Mr Pisarenko
Vitaly Pisarenko at Parliament Chamber,Inner Temple
It is Sir Geoffrey Nice that the Keyboard must thank for his just insistence that an important presence from the KCT stable should be part of this prestigious institution : Temple Music
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, long term friend of the founders of the Keyboard Trust was happy to introduce them this evening to a very select audience in the hallowed hall of Parliament Chamber,Inner Temple.
Sir Geoffrey was also very happy to tell them about the very first concert of the KCT that was a surprise 60th birthday gift to Noretta Conci-Leech from her husband John Leech.
That was 27 years ago today as today is amazingly Noretta Conci-Leech‘s 87th birthday.
Noretta found to her complete surprise three concert grand pianos on stage of an institution similar to todays august surroundings.
Seven of her pupils from her star studded studio were there to celebrate the official founding of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
A birthday gift from her husband to cement what Noretta had already been doing for a long time .
Leslie Howard at the helm with Andrew Wilde ,Maria Garzon amongst the pianist gathered to say thank you for all the help and encouragement that they had received and continue to this day to receive.
Both Leslie Howard and Sir Geoffrey Nice are founder members and long term trustees.
It was 33 years ago too that Noretta and John accompanied Leslie Howard to play in the theatre that I had created with my wife Ileana Ghione in the centre of Rome.
It was John’s retirement present from Noretta for “his” 60th birthday!
I had of course known and admired Leslie Howard since our Siena days where he was very much admired and helped by Guido Agosti who was notoriously famous for seeing only the composer and the score and heaven help anyone who thought they could get away with less!
Claudio Abbado had agreed to head a body of Trustees which enabled Alfred Brendel to announce the official creation of the Keyboard Charitable Trust .
The funds created from a concert at the RFH in London two years later with Claudio Abbado ,Evgeny Kissin,Mark Wigglesworth and the ECYO allowed it to be registered with the Charity Commission.
Alas Claudio Abbado is no longer with us but his spirit very much remains in the principles that he had so readily accepted from his lifelong friends.
What could be more fitting than to have at the helm now Sir Antonio Pappano as Patron and with Evgeny Kissin happily joining the rank of Trustee for an institution created by his friends that he had until now admired only from afar.
Friends and admirers have been only too happy to accept the founders request to take on much of the workload and responsibility of what has become a welcoming and helpful stepping stone for over 200 aspiring young musicians in the 50 venues offered worldwide.
The aim being to help give a platform and much needed experience to the enormous amount of exceptional talent that abounds these days.
An MBE from the Queen for our founders ,a just recognition for all they have been doing for so many young artists for over a quarter of a century.
Many friends and admirers present today were happy to join the founders in this first joint venture between Temple Music and the KCT.
The renowned critic Bryce Morrison and the authoress Claire Packenham were amongst many of the friends who had followed the progress of the KCT as it has inevitably grown over this past quarter century.
What better way to start than with a star indeed .
Noretta and I had heard this young Russian pianist during a special weekend devised by Valentina Lo Surdo in L’Aquila.
A weekend to give hope and encouragement to the people so cruelly marked by a recent earthquake.
So it was in this noble city reduced to a ghost town that three top pianists from the KCT stable:Pablo Rossi,Mei Yi Fou and Vitaly Pisarenko were invited to give morning concerts that were introduced by the well known critic and radio broadcaster Guido Barbieri.
A very moving occasion that will be remembered for a long time by all those who gathered to receive some relief from the strife that had so unexpectedly hit them.
Pablo Rossi I knew well as he was the first of a series of young artists to play in Rome since cementing the partnership between the Ghione Theatre and the KCT.
Vitaly Pisarenko we had not heard before but when he started the Prelude in B minor by Bach/ Siloti Noretta and I looked at each other and it was love at first sight.
Such a extraordinarily subtle sense of balance on the wonderful Fabbrini Steinway Concert Grand that had been donated to this hall that Claudio Abbado had so wished for this cruelly tarnished city.
Designed by Renzo Piano it had been donated by the city of Trento to this strife torn city and built outside the city gate.
If Music be the food of love………….music can enter where words are just not enough.
Vitaly has since gone on to win recognition from his performances worldwide.
Winner at only 20 of the Utrecht Liszt Competition he was a top prize winner in the last Leeds international Piano Competition.
Recognition too from the Royal College of Music where he completed his studies with Dmitri Alexeev and where he is now combining a busy concert career with a doctorate in Anton Rubinstein.
A new Steinway piano,a beautifully appointed intimate hall and an audience suitably welcomed with a glass of much appreciated nectar on this very cold winters day.
Not a spare seat in the house for a programme of Schubert and Liszt.
From the very first note Noretta and I looked at each other as we had done in L’Aquila .
Schubert’s very elusive 12 German Dances that can so easily in the wrong hands sound heavy and ungrateful were here give a performance of such subtle colours and shaping. The viennese lilt to them was quite irresistible.
The most noticeable thing of course was that every note was given a life of its own.
You could almost see on his face how a great story teller was sharing this intimate tale with us.
The music spoke as only music can in the hands of a great interpreter.
A great lesson learnt from our illustrious founder member and trustee Alfred Brendel.
I was not expecting to hear in this repertoire such a refined sensibility with so few notes from this extraordinarily sensitive artist.
Artist he certainly is as the two impromptus that followed confirmed.
Has the G flat impromptu ever been played with a such aristocratic sense of line?
A very loud new piano did not allow for all the subtleties that he was striving for but it was nevertheless a performance to cherish.
The wash of sound given to the opening of the fourth impromptu sounded just like a very gentle wash of water contrasting with the chordal interruptions.
An almost superhuman sense of touch allowed this sheen of sound to glisten as it has rarely done in lesser hands.
The passionate middle section played with just the right amount of feeling that held this elite audience in complete silence enthralled by what was unfolding before them.
Liszt filled the rest of this short one hour programme.
Leslie Howard pointed out in his very informative programme note quoting from the editors Zoltan Gardonyi and Istvan Szelenyi in the introduction to the Neue Liszt- Ausgabe:
“…it is intended to put and end to the various and often completely contradictory interpretations of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies,,,,,,,,,,,,to this day these works are principally but erroneously looked on as more or less trivial products …the reason for the general inaccuracy in performance and the tendency to indulge in vivid though rough showmanship……….despite all the virtuosity they demand,mere technical bravura should never predominate”.
Who better to describe what we heard this evening.
A revelatory Liszt.
Leslie Howard long time mentor to Vitaly since he was on the jury of the Utrecht Liszt Competition that he won ten years ago .
It is hardly surprising that we were completely overwhelmed by the performances not only of the Hungarian Rhapsodies n.10 and 13 but also by the two Ballades that have lain in the shadow of Chopin’s four masterpieces for too long.
A respect for the score that we all learnt to appreciate via Busoni in the studio at the Chigiana in Siena where musicians flocked to hear the equally revelatory performances of Guido Agosti.
It is hard to believe that the first Ballade is very rarely,if ever heard, in concert .
Together with its partner it showed to the full the musicianship but also the supreme command of the keyboard and just that right amount of showmanship that could bring these masterpieces to life.
Octaves played with such an overall sense of line and colour one was not aware of the transcendental technique required to interpret and really make these pieces speak.
Claudio Arrau and Alfred Brendel were our two models in my youth that restored Liszt to his rightful place amongst the giants of all time.
And tonight there were so many wonderful things to admire.
One was never aware of the superlative technical control and digital brilliance because there was a musical mind of such overpowering authority one was completely absorbed in the story that this artist was imparting.
Of course the triumphant metamorphosis of the simple melody in the second ballade was quite overwhelming in its power and sheer sumptuousness.
The amazing control of the glissandi in the 10th Rhapsody or the enormous full but never hard sounds in the 13th were all things one can think about in retrospect.
The fact was that here was an artist with a story to tell and the means to hold us spellbound whilst he shared it with us.
How we would have like to have more but the lawyers have to have supper and an early night to do battle for us all early next day.
Happy to realise that it is the quality not the quantity that counts !
However Mr Pisarenko can be heard again for the KCT with the Manchester Camerata on the 17th April in Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio and in June in Cadogan Hall with Ravel G major Piano Concerto and The London Mozart Players.
Having made his debut at the Wigmore Hall at the KCT’s annual prizewinners concert two year ago .
We await this years winner Mark Viner on the 2nd March .
Another eclectic programme of Liszt,Alkan and Thalberg from the chairman of the Alkan and Liszt Societies and like his mentor Leslie Howard only in his twenties he already shares the accolade with him of being a world authority on Alkan to Leslie Howard‘s undisputed authority on Liszt.