Ke Ma and the Worshipful Company

Ke Ma and the Worshipful Company at St Lawrence Jewry
Ke Ma at St Lawrence Jewry
I have had the pleasure of listening to Ke Ma on numerous occasions for Canan Maxton‘s Talent Unlimited and for the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
Playing now as part of a scheme for young prizewinners of the Worshipful Company of Musicians.
She performed today at St Lawrence Jewry on the Steinway that used to belong to Sir Thomas Beecham.
I remember playing op 111 on it too forty years ago when it was housed in St Martin in the Fields.
To say that it had seen better days would be putting it mildly but today in Ke Ma’s hands it was totally transformed as she herself has been transformed from being an exceptionally talent student into a mature artist.
An exceptionally intelligent musician as one would expect from her studies with Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy where she graduated last year with honours with a Masters Degree.
Winner of many important prizes and scholarships she is now presenting herself to the public as a very talented artist on the crest of the wave and at the start of an undoubted important career.
Her programme of Bach Partita n.1 in B flat,Beethoven’s last Sonata op 111 and the Variations op 3 by Szymanowski was enough to establish her credentials but then she took us all by surprise with an encore with a quite extraordinary performance of the Brahms Paganini Variations Book 2 op 35 .
Very subtle and telling ornamentation in the Bach Partita BWV 825 especially enjoyable in the Menuet 1 even changing register in the Menuet 2 .
Done with great skill and taste it gave even more sense of colour and variety on a piano that really had very little left of its own.
The rhythmic pulse in the Allemande and Corrente was quite infectious and I could quite appreciate her non legato touch on this instrument finding some very subtle dynamic changes as she might have done on a harpsichord.
The beautifully crystal clear opening of the Prelude was the immediate hallmark of a seriously studied performance of great weight.
The Sarabande could have perhaps been even more rhythmic and more monumental The final Gigue was superbly played apart from the final two bars alla Busoni that I feel was a bit out of place in such an exemplary performance as this.
A very impressive performance of Beethoven’s last piano Sonata op 111.
The rock solid inevitability of the Maestoso was perfectly conveyed and the Allegro con brio ed appassionato had a great sense of drama and was technically impeccable.
The Adagio molto was held strictly in three with the upbeat perfectly leading to the first.
It gave a forward propulsion and poise to what Beethoven just implors to be semplice and cantabile.
The variations that evolve became a natural consequence in Ke Ma’s hands leading to the dramatic outburst of the third variation.
Some very subtle colouring of the left hand in the second was especially interesting.
The slow disintegration of the fourth variation could have been even more held back and sostenuto as it slowly descends into the triumphant appearance of the theme in turn evolving into another sphere.
The trills perfectly managed and the final pages where the theme returns in a magical ethereal world was perfectly conveyed.
Szymanowski’s early 12 variations in B flat minor op 3 were an ideal way to finish a recital and makes one wonder why this piece dedicated to his friend Artur Rubinstein is not more often heard in the concert hall.
A favourite piece of many past pianists it shows the influence of Rachmaninov,Medtner,Chopin and Brahms but there is already the distinctive voice of Szymanowski shining through.
A tour de force of bravura for the pianist to which Ke Ma rose splendidly to the challenge.
We thought this was the end of the recital but the best was still to come.
A really stunning performance of Brahms Paganini Book 2 .
Even more remarkable in that in Ke Ma’s hands we were not aware of her surmounting the not few difficulties on a fine old Steinway where this supreme challenge for a pianist was not made any easier .
Outside this beautiful Wren Church rebuilt twice after the great fire and after the second world war there stands the Guildhall.
A very moving garden with letters from soldiers to their dear ones from the trenches where they were destined never to return.
Another scheme for the Worshipful Company……of Gardeners with the Lord Mayor’s Annual Big Curry Lunch to raise funds for the forces that have and are still protecting our values today .
The garden designed to flower and give beauty where there was such devastation and sacrifice was a very moving ending to an unexpected morning in London.

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