Leeds comes to London

Leeds comes to London

                              Sunwook Kim at the Wigmore Hall
Leeds comes to London  with three Wigmore lunchtime concerts of past winners of the Leeds International Piano Competition :Lars Vogt (1990), Sunwook Kim(2006) and Alessio Bax(2000)
A refreshing air of change for the Leeds International Piano Competition.
Dame Fanny Waterman that fearless and intrepid doctors wife who decided over 50 years ago that her home city of Leeds should be put on the musical map.
Together with Marion Stein the Countess of Harewood they instigated and ran almost single-handedly the very first competition in 1963.
Benjamin Britten provided the set piece: a wonderfully evocative Notturno.
Musical values were to be upheld and were the very core of this competition .
As Dame Fanny would say in her very down to earth manner: “People do not mould any more”- and how right she is!

                    Dame Fanny Waterman with Menahem Pressler
With the chairman Sir Arthur Bliss and his jury of great musicians who were happy to join Dame Fanny in her adventure. Hans Keller,Geza Anda,Badura Skoda,Jacob Flier,Yvonne Lefebure ,Nikita Magaloff,John Pritchard were some of the prestigious names that voted Michael Roll,a student of Dame Fanny,the winner. Vladimir Krainiev came in second.
Ileana Ghione with Dmitri Alexeev                     Craig Sheppard with Murray Perahia
A competition is only as good as its competitors as Dame Fanny would famously say and her dream has come true and the competition has gone from strength to strength thanks to Rafael Orozco,Radu Lupu,Murray Perahia ,Dmitri Alexeev going on to win the first competitions with world famous names like Mitsuko Uchida ,Victoria Postnikova and Andras Schiff gaining their first International recognition.

                                   Sunwook Kim at the Wigmore Hall
Now Dame Fanny in her 97th year has become Life President Founder and Director Emeritus and leaves the day to day running to Paul Lewis and Adam Gatehouse.
With Paul Lewis ,one of the finest musicians this country has produced, and the organisational and administrative skills of Adam Gatehouse by his side they will be ensuring that the values on which it was born will endure .
Values that have made of the Leeds one of the most highly esteemed competitions in a market that is now saturated by competitions of all sorts!
And so it was refreshing with this announced wind of change to see that the first round of the competition was given in three different countries with heats in Berlin,Singapore and New York .
Giving the opportunity to many more applicants to be heard before arriving in Leeds for the actual competition in September.
Twenty four pianists have been selected and will arrive in Dame Fanny’s beloved Leeds in September.

                               Alessio Bax at the Wigmore Hall
The whole competition will be streamed this time and broadcast live.
An innovation for the competition that will give us all an opportunity to hear every performer and not just the few top prize winners.
I believe the heats too will be available from late August in an attempt to give a platform to many of the enormously talented young musicians,more than at any previous time I would imagine.
If some of the individual talents do not have yet all the facets necessary to start an international career, which is what the few top prizes would imply, it will allow their talent and potential to be spotted and helped from an early stage.
And now the Leeds has come home in preparation for the Festival in September.
A piano Festival in London and Leeds with three of the previous  prize winners .
A beautiful new brochure and concerts alternating between the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds and the Wigmore Hall in London.
Lars Vogt (1990),Sunwook Kim (2006) and Alessio Bax(2000) and also three young scholars from the Lang Lang International Music Foundation .
Lang Lang who calls Dame Fanny his piano “mummy” and like Dame Fanny has done so much to promote and help young talent .
He is in fact described as the Global Ambassador for the Leeds.
In his own words:”She shares my passion for nurturing young talent and reaching out to encourage kids to engage in music”.
The Honorary Patron Murray Perahia was one of the first winners of the Leeds and one of the most distinguished musicians of our time .
In his own words:” Leeds gave me undreamt of opportunities that I am forever grateful for,not only important concerts but also the chance of meeting leading musicians and people I much admired”.

                          Alessio Bax at the Wigmore Hall
And so I was very pleased this week to be in London able to hear two of these concerts with Alessio Bax and Sunwook Kim.
Of course there are teething problems and the problem with marketing is that essential information is sometimes left out at the expense of selling a super product.
This magnificent programme is a case in point with many inaccuracies and essential details missing about where and with whom these artist have received their first education.
Of course there are lists of their engagements past and present in the most prestigious world venues with famous orchestras and conductors.
What really interests us on the threshold of such a prestigious competition is where did they receive their own early training that was obviously so crucial for their future development.
Some silly mistakes that never would have passed the eagle eye of Dame Fanny had concerts listed in the Wigmore that in fact will take place in Leeds.
However some really enlightened programme notes by Katy Hamilton more than made up for these silly errors.
Sunwook Kim the youngest winner of the Leeds in 2006 and the only Asian to have won it too.
Now only 30 having received his early training from that magician Daejin Kim at the University of Seoul in South Korea.(I had heard about him and his remarkable students at the Busoni Competition where his student Chloe Mun was the winner in 2015)
I learn (from Google n.b.) that he has lived in London and after his success in Leeds and at the Clara Haskil Competition he studied for an MA in conducting at the Royal Academy in London in 2013.

                                Sunwook Kim at the Wigmore Hall
Many recordings and prestigious concerts to his name and still only 30 this year.
A programme of the three “B’s” Bach,Beethoven and Beethoven very much in line with Dame Fanny’s ideals of starting with the classics.
I remember a few year ago in Oxford at Marios Papadopoulos’s Piano Festival introducing tongue in cheek to Dame Fanny the future winner of the Leeds Competition. She was immediately intrigued and whisked this young Russian pianist off to a room. “Play me something classical” she said .
He played the Beethoven Pathetique to her.
She listened to every note more intently than anyone I know with the sole exception of Menahem Pressler.
The young man did in fact become a top prize winner in the competition the following year!
So it was very interesting to find the Pathetique in the programme for this first Leeds Festival.

                                      Sunwook Kim at the Wigmore Hall
Some exemplary playing of course but also a lack of rhythmic tension in the opening Grave that I am sure Dame Fanny would have put right.
It made for some rather fragmented playing in which the contrasts between forte,fortissimo and piano were rather exaggerated and did not allow for the natural flow.
Some rather individual liberties with the tempo too whilst giving a refreshing youthful feel to this well known classic lost some of the power that this work should have.
It was apparent from the first passionately played notes of the great Busoni transcription of Bach’s Toccata,Adagio and Fugue in C major BWV 564.
Unfairly it immediately came to mind that this is a typical youthful winner on the competition circuit.
Overpowering forte opening statement came like an electric shock as it had also in certain of the Brahms Handel Variations.
Some beautiful playing in the Adagio made one realise that here was a real master.
But again it seemed as though they were fragments not entirely envisaged as a whole.
Superbly assured playing of the Fugue with some really transcendentally accomplished feats of piano playing and also wonderful layers of colour.
One just wished that it could have been envisaged more as a whole as obviously Bach and Busoni had intended.
The Brahms Handel Variations showed off some wonderful colouring and trascendental piano playing but I found that the search for something new in the repeat of every variation was rather irritating because it did not allow for the continual forward movement of the whole work to its inexorable climax and mighty fugue.
This was a young man’s Brahms lacking in the grandeur of Arrau or the introspection of a Lupu or the supreme intelligence of a Perahia .
It reminded me of the superb youthful passion of Rafael Orozco and his playing of Brahms op 5 Sonata or his prizewinning performance of the D minor Concerto.
He swept the board with his youthful passion and brilliance much as this young man obviously did 12 years ago in Leeds.
Annie Fischer who was on that second jury asked me about him when she came to Rome where he lived. She had never forgotten the excitement and the battle between him and Victoria Postnikova in Leeds.
He died much too early and is much missed.
Sunwook Kim is obviously gaining in maturity and experience and his onward musical journey is a very exciting prospect. His beautiful encore of a passionately played Intermezzo in A major was a gentle reminder of what we have in store from this young man.

                       Alessio Bax with John Leech and Noretta Conci- Leech
Alessio Bax I have  only heard in a remarkable recital on the radio recently.
I am very happy to hear him live at last.
Always a good sign when John and Noretta Conci-Leech are in the audience.
It was Alessio who the Keyboard Trust befriended and helped before going on to be recognised in Leeds.
Noretta had told me about his mentor Joaquin Achucarro ( the first person I heard play at the RFH when I was a child in Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto with Charles Mackerras ) whom he met in Siena and in 1994 transferred to Texas to study with him .

                             Alessio Bax at the Wigmore Hall
Referring again to Google I learn that Alessio was the youngest person to graduate with honours from his home Conservatory in Bari at only 14.
Studying with Angela Montemurro and later with Francois Joel Thiollier in France.
At only 19 he won the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition .
In 2000 he won the Leeds and now lives in New York with his wife Lucille Chung with whom he has a piano duo.
He also has a blog “Have piano,will travel” talking about music and food!
He is now also artistic director of Antonio Lysy’s Festival in Tonino’s grandmothers’ house in the Val D’Orcia :”In Terra di Siena”.
Dame Iris Origo writes famously about La Foce in her book “The War in Val D’Orcia.”
Tonino was a schoolboy in Rome,the son of Alberto Lysy the violinist,and we played together many times in my theatre and also in Villa Volkonsky for the newly wed Prince Charles and Diana.
Charles had been a cellist and many composers had written pieces for his studies which the enlightened arts officer of the British Council,Jack Buckley, thought would be nice to hear on that occasion!
Rehearsing in Tonino’s family home in the centre of Rome I parked my car in the drive only to find a rather irate note from Dame Iris saying my tyres would be punctured if I did that again!
I had no idea at the time that his grandmother was the woman whom I had admired from a distance for so long via her memorable books.
To find that note was indeed an honour!

                Noretta Conci-Leech and John Leech in the audience
The same beautiful playing that I had heard on the radio .
The Adagio from the Oboe Concerto by Marcello in Bach’s transcription was memorable for the beauty of the melody and the perfect sense of balance.
The outer movements had the same liquid sound and maybe in the over resonant Wigmore Hall could have had some of Sunwook Kims clean crisp clarity.
A musicianly sense of style and shape that made one understand where Busoni got his inspiration for transcriptions from .
As Katy Hamilton quotes in her excellent programme notes:” by cleansing them of the dust of tradition…attempt to make them young,the way they were at the moment when they emerged from the head and pen of the composer”.
In fact in Alessio’s hands the spirit and joie de vivre allowed this music to bubble over and was indeed an infectious opening work.

                               Alessio Bax at the Wigmore Hall
By the time of the Rachmaninov Corelli Variations Alessio had judged perfectly the complex acoustic that Pletnev describes as “playing unter ze vater”.
Again quoting Katy Hamilton who informs us that this work was not on a theme by Corelli at all but on a Portuguese dance melody known simply as La Folia .
Rachmaninov had been recording with Fritz Kreisler in 1928 Corelli’s own variations on this theme – hence the confusion.
Rachmaninov’s work is dedicated to Kreisler.
Some truly magical sounds and sense of character . A sumptuous full piano sound and a superb use of the pedals allowed us to appreciate this work put together by Rachmaninov in only three weeks whilst on holiday in France.
The simple theme returning after such transformations as if in a dream on a cloud of sound that in Alessio’s magical hands was opium for the ears.
The Quaderno musicale di Annalibera by his compatriot Luigi Dallapiccola allowed us to appreciate his enormous range of sound as he picked his way through this prickly complex score.
The Dante Sonata by Liszt was given a truly monumentally fearless performance showing off both his supreme virtuosity combined with a poetic sensitivity that made one realise why he had won the Leeds in 2000.
A Prelude for the Left Hand by Scriabin was his way of thanking the small but very appreciative audience at the Wigmore Hall this lunchtime.

Andreas Haefliger at the Wigmore Hall

Andreas Haefliger at the Wigmore Hall
On a balmy Summers evening after a visit to the new Temperate House in Kew and a guided tour of the newly housed Brentford Piano Museum.
What better way to finish the day than the “Hammerklavier” played by the distinguished German/Swiss pianist Andreas Haefliger.
Dearly missed today both Frank Holland and Sidney Harrison the founders of the original museum that was housed for many years in the leaky,cold church just down the road.
Frank lived in the presbytery – the pianos were his life. Now the church is transformed into luxury flats at astronomical prices……….
Not sure Frank would approve as he refused to have his “babies” housed under the more secure roof of the V&A as suggested by Sidney Harrison.
He did not want to be separated from them for a second.

              The mighty Wurlitzer in its new home
This remarkable collection is now securely housed in a brand new building complete with concert hall where the mighty Wurlitzer can be seen emerging from the depths with all its lights flashing as it would have done in numerous cinemas throughout the world.
On such a wonderfully warm evening it was a pleasure to prolong the day with music of Mozart and Beethoven in the warm surroundings of the Wigmore Hall.
Andreas Haefliger,son of the renowned swiss tenor Ernst Haefliger was Julliard trained and since his Wigmore Hall debut in 1993 has played throughout the world .
His renowned” Perspectives” CD series based around Beethoven is in its 7th volume.
Just a glance at the programme and one could see that we were in the presence of a real thinking musician.
Beethoven’s late sonatas op 101 and 106 introduced by Mozart Fantasia in C minor and his Adagio in B minor.
It was immediately apparent from the opening Mozart Fantasie and the Adagio in B minor that opened the second half the attention to detail and balance and a very luminous legato somewhat reminiscent of Wilhelm Kempf.
This was most apparent in the opening of the Beethoven Sonata op 101 beautifully shaped and dissolving into nothing.
The second movement march very securely played as was the Fugue from the Hammerklavier but in both cases it seemed like another pianist and seemed to exit from the fantasie world that had been created.
Almost like a Floristan and Eusebius whereas the extreme contrasts in Beethoven are one and the same person.
The Adagio of the Sonata op101 as with that of op106 extremely beautifully played with great feeling but always with a view of the great architectural line .
The opening of the Hammerklavier played with great control and clarity as with the finale of op 101 the contrasts in this case admirably held within Beethoven’s own framework.
The mighty Fugue from the Hammerklavier was a true tour de force and although feeling slightly divorced from the rest of the Sonata brought this recital to a magnificent conclusion.
Of course no encore was possible as the very appreciative Wigmore audience were fully aware.

Vitaly Pisarenko at Hatchlands

Vitaly Pisarenko at Hatchlands
Vitaly Pisarenko at Hatchlands.
A beautiful recital on a Steinway of 1864 in the truly magnificent setting of Hatchlands in East Clandon in Surrey for the Cobbe Collection Trust in collaboration with the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
The second concert for the KCT with the remarkable Mr Alec Cobbe and his collection of unique historic instruments.
A collaboration welded together by Dr Elena Vorotko Honorary Research Fellow of historic instruments at the Royal Academy and one of the artistic directors and trustees of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
After the remarkable recital by Jean Rondeau of the Goldberg Variations on an historic english harpsichord of 1787,today it was the turn of a star pianist of the Keyboard Charitable Trust,Vitaly Pisarenko.
Winner of the Liszt International Competition in Utrecht at the age of twenty and recently a top prize winner in the Leeds International Piano Competition.
He has already performed at the Wigmore Hall as KCT Prize Winner and recently gave a showcase recital in the Parliament Chamber in the prestigious Inner Temple in London. He has also performed for the KCT Rachmaninov 2nd and 3rd piano concertos in the series of Rachmaninov’s complete works for piano and orchestra for the Amici della Musica di Ancona with the Orchestra Marchigiana performing in Ancona Fabriano and the Teatro Rossini di Pesaro.
Performing today on the most modern instrument in this historic collection- A New York Steinway of 1864.
A programme similar to the recent performance in the Inner Temple but with the inclusion of Schubert Drei Klavierstucke D.946 and two Scherzi by Chopin :n.1 in B minor and n.2 in B flat minor.
It was immediately apparent that although this piano did not have the strength and brilliance of the modern day Steinway it did have a very mellow sound ideally suited to the more sublime melodic invention of which Schubert was master.
Starting with the 12 German Dances D.790 as already outlined below he included in Hatchlands the 3 Klavierstucke that can sometimes be so problematical in the concert hall.
Here the mellow piano sound in a smaller and more refined space was the ideal location for these three late pieces.
Probably a similar place where Schubert and his contemporaries were used to sharing their music in an intimate setting amongst friends.
The long songlike Allegretto that makes up the second piece in this trilogy sang in a way that is rare to find on a modern day piano.
A sound both rich and yet melodic.
Limited and delicate but at the same time a robust sound that did not allow for sentimentality such was the directness of the sound produced by this historic instrument.
Beautifully shaped where even the tempestuous middle section that is marked fortissimo with bass sforzandi was in the same sound world.
It was interesting to note that the limitations of the instrument were in fact to the advantage of the music that on modern instruments can sound too Beethovenian in the sense of symphonic instead of purely instrumental.
The sublime A flat minor episode was given a completely different meaning.
The melodic invention allowed to sing out so naturally and poignantly as never before and the passionate outbursts always interrupting in a seemingly more reserved gentlemanly way than we are normally accustomed.
No histrionics but emotions kept under perfect control.
The return of the Allegretto came like a beam of light that disintegrated before our very eyes with the final five chords played with an amazing control in an ever more expressive pianissimo.
Great rhythmic control in the opening Allegro assai contrasting with the beautiful cantabile of the middle Andante.
The pianissimo flourishes thrown off like a delicate breeze embellishing the melodic line.
Alec Cobbe was interested to know that Vitaly played the second section that Schubert had in fact crossed out in the later autograph edition.
That great Schubertian Alfred Brendel does not include it in his performances but here it was included as the simple landler of great contrast before the urgency of the final return of the Allegro assai.

Vitaly Pisarenko in discussion with Alec Cobbe
The technical challenges in the final Allegro were thrown off with great aplomb and brilliance showing that even a piano with limited sound can in the right hands achieve great rhythmic urgency.
The beautiful D flat section was allowed to pulsate with an onward momentum and sense of colour that gave great contrast to the brilliance of the great virtuosity expected in the final exciting pages.
After the interval we were introduced to the world of Chopin and Liszt.
The Ballade n.2 and the Hungarian Rhapsody n.10 displaying great feats of virtuosity.
The famous glissandi in the Rhapsody were thrown off with great charm and ease as befits this famous showpiece.
The Ballade n.2 displayed all the virtuosity that one would expect from the winner of the International Liszt Competition and although the piano did not have the reserves of sound that a modern day piano could provide it did give an overall sense of line and structure in a work that can so often sound fragmented.
The transformation of the delicate opening melody into a tumultuous passionate outpouring sounded a more natural evolution that one normally expects on the modern instrument in the hands of barn storming virtuosi.
Of course Vitaly although a remarkable virtuoso is also a remarkable musician as was no more clearly demonstrated than in the two Chopin Scherzi.
The opening declamation in the first scherzo was of the same sound as the great virtuosistic flourishes that evolve from it.
The beautiful Polish Folk Song that makes up the central section was beautifully and simply shaped and the tumultuous coda was truly breathtaking.
The opening triplet of the B flat minor Scherzo was so clear and when at the repeat it is held it became really quite startling as never before.
The great virtuoso demands were thrown off with great passion and elan and the coda was a remarkable tour de force and showed that once entering into this limited tone world a true musician and virtuoso can shape and in many ways make the musical line more apparent.
A long programme on a balmy summers evening with the smell of the lilacs wafting into the room from the magnificent surrounds of this unique stately home the residence of the remarkable Cobbe Collection housing more than 50 unique instruments.

Ashley Fripp an Emperor comes to Chiswick

Ashley Fripp- an Emperor comes to Chiswick
Ashley Fripp‘s first Emperor in Chiswick with the West London Sinfonia and Philip Hesketh conducting.
Singing in the rain indeed !
One of our first really typical summer days !
A little church just around the corner from my old Alma Marta in Chiswick and a stones throw from Sidney Harrison’s house on the river where I used to spend my teens in wonder at the marvels of music revealed to me under the magical guide of that extraordinary man.
Today in St Michael’s Church in Elmwood Road just around the corner from Radu Lupu’s old abode.
Handel used to have soirees in the little house that Lord Burlington in  his Chiswick  Grounds had copied from a villa that he rather liked in Vicenza:La Rotonda.
And now the “Emperor” had come to Chiswick.

Philip Hesketh and Ashley Fripp
The West London Sinfonia led by Iwona Boesche and conducted by Philip Hesketh turned an orchestra of amateur musicians into a body of people gathered together for the joy of making music together .
It was this passion and joy that combined to give a fine if not note perfect performance of the Beethoven Egmont Overture and the Concerto n.5 for piano and orchestra “Emperor”.
I have heard Ashley Fripp many times and followed his career from winner of the Gold Medal at the Guildhall to playing in the masterclasses of Elisso Virsaladze in Sermoneta near to my home town in Italy.
He is greatly esteemed by this great russian pianist and pedagogue.
Ashley Fripp arrived to play the Emperor today with his suitcase packed to rush off to Florence to play it for her the next day and to receive her invaluable suggestions in his search to delve ever more deeply into the score before his next performance in Germany.
A small Yamaha piano donated to the church with funds from a generous benefactor and local parishioner Ida Dodderidge to whom the concert was dedicated.
In Ashley’s hands it was truly an Emperors’ gift and sang out beautifully above the orchestra but also blended in so well with them when Beethoven deems it necessary.
The development section for example at bar 292 was played with the same rhythmic impulse as the opening flourish but gave such urgency and nobility leading to the great chordal interchange between piano and orchestra and the mighty imperial octaves that follow.
Played with superb command and clarity never allowing the sound to become hard but a full almost symphonic sound where each note was given its true weight.
Disolving into the espressivo interchange between piano and orchestra with some really beautiful cantabile playing which anticipates the sublime slow movement that is to follow.
These great contrasts between the nobility and the sublime were beautifully realised by Ashley Fripp and even inspired these musicians to heights they surely had not expected to reach.
The sheer beauty and stillness of the pianissimo leggiermente at bar 151 was quite magical and Ashleys way of caressing the keys so noticeable as it was also in the Adagio.
It was of true Matthay proportions.
So rare these days to see the beauty of the hand movement translated into sound.
It has been most noticeable in Andrea Gallo’s playing for the KCT recently in Tuscany.
As it was also with Sasha Grynyuk for the KCT at Steinway Hall this week.
It reminds me of Myra Hess or Moura Lympany who Uncle Tobbs had encouraged to listen and to feel the sound in the keys almost like squeezing the sound out of each key. With a loose and flexible wrist and arm movement just like a great artist painting or conductor shaping the sounds in the air- Giulini was perhaps the most beautiful to behold .
It is no coincidence that both Sasha and Ashley have been students of Ronan O’Hora,a disciple of Vlado Perlemuter, at the Guildhall where both had also been awarded the prestigious Gold Medal.
The very difficult triplets in double thirds were played with absolute authority and the marcato triplets in the left hand were played with exemplary clarity.
The pianissimo leggiermente chromatic scales beautifully shaped and leading to the final triumphant exchange between piano and full orchestra where the rhythm thanks to the understanding between pianist and conductor did not flag for a moment and swept us on to the triumphant coda.
A wrong turning taken by Ashley was concealed with the sang froid of a real professional and brought back into line with only those who really knew the score aware of what could have been a major mishap in lesser hands.
The Adagio played un poco mosso and allowed to sing even though pianissimo with a projection of sound that drew the audience into the magic world that Ashley was able to convey.
A magical transition to the Rondo where Beethoven’s scales and arpeggios took on a new meaning with a rhythmic drive and joy in the interchange between soloist and orchestra The poco ritard and staccato octaves most telling before the explosion and the joyous melody on the piano bustling into the most powerful broken octaves before the return of the rondo.
Some beautiful exchanges between piano and orchestra and some real magic at bar 189.
The final chords kept alive between conductor and pianist and not allowed to flag until the final cadence marked Adagio.
It made the explosion and piu allegro even more startling and brought this Emperor to a noble and exciting end that had the audience on their feet.

Sasha Grynyuk and the Max Grunebaum Foundation,Cottbus

Sasha Grynyuk and the Grunebaum Foundation,Cottbus.

                                Sasha Grynyuk with John Leech
A very special celebration as John Leech the founder of the Keyboard Trust outlined in his welcoming speech to the Trustees of the Max Grunbaum Foundation Cottbus.
“The Keyboard Trust in London owes as much of its existence to the hard work and generosity of Marion and Ellen Frank,as the creation of the magnificent Theatre in Cottbus, that you help to sustain, did to their grandfather Max Grunebaum.”

                     John Gumbel of the Max Grunebaum Foundation
Their son John Gumbel explained that the family Foundation was established with restitution funds in 1997 to celebrate and nurture young talent in both theatre and technical university by awarding annual prizes and travel bursaries to outstanding students.
Also to foster close cultural links between the City of Cottbus and the United Kingdom.

                            Sasha Grynyuk with Noretta Conci- Leech
Hence the first collective visit of the Foundation Trustees to London for a concert likewise showcasing exceptional young talent,supported and nurtured by a UK charity.
What better way to cement a consolidated friendship than with music.
And what music!
In John Gumbel’s own words: “May it herald a bright future of collaboration.

                Noretta Conci- Leech with Bryce Morrison and Lisa Peacock
A magnificent recital by an established Keyboard Trust Artist Sasha Grynyuk already winner a few years ago of the KCT Annual Prizewinner Wigmore Recital and whose mentor is the founder of the Keyboard Trust Noretta Conci-Leech
Now in her late eighties she was excited and delighted to discuss afterwards about Sasha’s artistry in the concert we had just heard.
An extraordinary sense of colour in this small hall with a magnificent but what can so often seem an overpowering Steinway “D”.
We have heard many recitals in this hall which is a true trial for the many very talented musicians who are invited to give recitals here for the KCT.
It takes a true musician who really listens intently to be able to adapt this concert instrument to such a confined space.
Not only was Sasha able to adapt but the layers of sound that he produced were quite remarkable.

                                Fervid discussions about the recital
“Layers” thats it exclaimed Noretta .
I wonder if anyone else had noticed!
We were both so excited by what we had heard that the magnificent reception offered was put to one side in an explosion of enthusiasm and of the excitement of discovery to describe something so beautiful.
We not only noticed but he held our attention playing with a clarity where every note spoke with extraordinary musicality.
Occasionally one could see in a gesture or the facial expression of the story that he was telling but in a very refined a restrained way not at all the exhibitionism that we are sometimes used to seeing on the concert platform these days.

                    Sasha with John Gumbel at the end of the recital
It was all in the music.
A very careful use of the pedal which of course Noretta Conci had passed on from her master Benedetti Michelangeli of whom she was not only a disciple but also assistant for many years.
She had just told me that the soft pedal should rarely be used in the classics and the gradations of sound should all be found by a subtle control and digital sensitivity which requires a truly virtuoso technique and it does not hurt to also have a magnificent instrument.
How many times I had queued to hear Michelangeli in London who would cancel his concerts because the piano had suffered too much humidity and would not allow him to even strive for his keyboard perfection!

Sasha Grynyuk with the distinguished authoress Claire Packenham
Sasha Grynyuk was born in Kiev and after his early studies he moved to London to study with Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall where he graduated with the prestigious Gold Medal
He has since been helped by the KCT and has gone on to win many International prizes and awards.
His CD of Gould and Gulda was chosen as record of the month by Piano News.
His recent performance of the original piano score by Shostakovich for the 1929 silent film The New Babylon by Kozintsev and Trauberg was hailed as a tour de force by the critics.
Today’s works included Bach ,Mozart,Beethoven ,Prokoviev and Gulda.
A short lunchtime programme that nevertheless showed off many of the remarkable facets of his considerable artistry.

               Sasha with Bryce Morrison and Noretta Conci -Leech
I have heard Sasha many times and much admired his Mozart K 331 at his Wigmore Prizewinners concert.
A programme that was notable for how it had been conceived as a whole.
Starting and finishing with an atmospheric piece by Arvo Part.
It was as though he was preparing the listener and trying to draw them into his own very particular sound world.
I was even on stage with him for the marathon Shostakovich but nothing had prepared me for the musical and technical perfection that was in store today.
The same framework though this time of Bach.
Starting and ending with two very evocative transcriptions .
Not the usual bombastic ones we are used to hearing in the concert hall but a very subtle Siciliano from a flute sonata transcribed by that other pianistic magician/musician Wilhelm Kempff.
Finishing his programme with the magical Prelude in B minor in the transcription by Alexander Siloti that framed so perfectly the whole picture on display.
From the very outset the liquidity of the melody in the Siciliano was complimented by a very subtle staccato accompaniment and also very deep bass notes that gave a sumptuousness that Bach could only have imagined .
It was Idil Biret,a student of Kempff that used to play it as an encore for us on her many visits to Rome.
My wife remembered it and incorporated it into her performance in the last heartrending moments of “Whose afraid of Virginia Wolff”.
Idil never knew this as my wife died shortly after and when I told her recently at a recital in London for the Chopin Society she played it as an encore in memory of a dear friend. We were both in tears …only we knew why!
Both the Mozart little D major Sonata K331 and Beethoven’s unjustly neglected partner to the so called “Moonlight” Sonata from op 27,were played with exemplary intelligence and respect for the score.
A true sense of layers of colours and sounds joined inexorably together.
Sudden pianos and legato and staccato phrasing interpreted as he brought exactly what he saw in the score to vivid life.
Truly recreating these works as is rarely heard these days in our thirst to either ignore completely what the composer wrote in the style of the so called “Golden Age” of piano playing or to reproduce dryly without imagination or colour.
To interpret exactly the intentions of what the composer wrote and bring the notes to life is the realm of a true artist of the calibre of Annie Fischer,Artur Schnabel ,Murray Perahia or Krystian Zimmerman .
The sense of balance too was notable and gave a wonderful singing sound to the Andante con espressione of Mozart and the Adagio con espressione of Beethoven.
Some things had me searching in the score afterwards to see if the sometimes revolutionary phrasing was actually there.
For example in the Allegro molto e vivace of the Beethoven.
Rarely have I heard the phrasing in three so tellingly interpreted.
Or Beethoven’s pianissimo indications in the first movement especially in the coda.
The sudden piano after the forte outbursts was especially surprising.
This precise attention to the minutest detail allowed us to appreciate the layers of sound almost as if for the first time.
A magical orchestra in the hands of a Kleiber.

                   John Leech ,Sasha Grynyuk and German colleague
Six of the Visions Fugitives by Prokofiev ,not quite the ones that Rubinstein plays from Carnegie Hall where each one as today was made to speak and shine like the true gems they are.
The 3rd and 11th deliciously playful with just that sense of charm that even Prokofiev was capable of once all the barnstorming virtuosity was out of the way.
Could n.11 have been ever more ridiculous – ridicolosamente the composer truly asks for?
The beautiful sense of line and cantabile of n.8 was contrasted with the full blooded Dolente of n.16.
So much pedal and played with a really heavy legato touch brought the pathos of this remarkable piece to life as I have never before been aware.
Choosing the same final as Rubinstein n.14 played with all the ferocity and rhythmic energy of that young man that Rubinstein always was.
Leading without a break into the jazz idioms of Friedrich Gulda.
Played with all that nonchalant charm and chameleon type rubber rubato that is so much part of this idiom .
I well remember the last recital of Friedrich Gulda in my theatre.
A Mozart recital announced that in fact was a rock show with Mozart personified in a wig and playing a synthesizer.
Not much Mozart but when all the public had left in dismay he sat down and played one of his Play piano so beautifully I just wished he had done that earlier.
He left way after midnight and I took him to the Alexanderplatz jazz club where he stayed all night.
A remarkable man whose only student was Martha Argerich both known not only as the greatest of pianists but also two of the most individual and seemingly capricious people that refuse to be labelled and marketed.
Much to talk about then with our distinguished guests over the canapes and drinks that were offered to celebrate this collaboration.
Bryce Morrison and Lisa Peacock two beacons on the London concert scene were celebrating with us together with the founders of the Keyboard Charitable Trust and our German friends of the Grunebaum Foundation.

        Elena Vorotko one of the artistic directors and trustee of the KCT
But the real celebration had been the hour of music to which we had all been treated to . https://allaboutpiano.co/lis…/the-keyboard-charitable-trust/

Jayson Gillham with the RPO

Jayson Gillham and Alexander Shelley with the RPO at Cadogan Hall
Jayson Gillham at Cadogan Hall in Chopin F minor concerto with the RPO under Alexander Shelley.
Some magnificent playing from Jayson Gillham much appreciated by Noretta Conci-Leech who had come with me to applaud “Sunny “Jayson who she has supported since his student days.
Wonderful to see the son of Howard Shelley contemporary of mine whose Chopin Preludes at his Wigmore debut 45 years ago are still talked about.

Jayson Gillham with Noretta Conci Leech
I had heard great things about Alexander Shelley from Filippo Juvarra of the Amici della Musica di Padua all amply confirmed tonight .
A very robust unsentimental Chopin with a Maestoso rather on the fast side soon to be calmed by the soothing balm of Chopin’s filigree figurations on the piano so beautifully spun by Jayson.
No sentimentality but with heartfelt sentiment and even some robust passion as befits a young man on the crest a wave as was Chopin and is proving Jayson.
“The Angel” op 1 n.1 by Medtner was the thank you from Jayson for the ovation he received
I have heard Jayson over many years ,he even gave a memorable recital in my theatre in Rome for the Keyboard Trust as he did his extraordinary recital debut in the Wigmore Hall a few years ago.
Prevailed on by Leslie Howard to learn the original version of Rachmaninov’s Fourth Piano Concerto for the KCT series in collaboration with the Amici della Musica di Ancona of the complete works for piano and orchestra .
He performed it superbly three times in Ancona.Fabriano and the famous Teatro Rossini in Pesaro.
Since then he has gone on to win the Montreal International Piano Competition and his playing has matured and deepened to reveal not only a real thinking musician but a profound artistic personality
Signing his new CD’s of the Medtner Ist Piano Concerto and Rachmaninoff 2nd  with the Melborne Symphony Orchestra ( which includes tonights encore and also Rachmaninoff Prelude in D  op 23 n.4) and Beethoven 4th Piano Concerto with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra .Noretta’s “Sunny” Jayson has certainly come a long way since he was spotted by the founder of the KCT .

Jayson Gillham with Noretta Conci Leech and admirer

Jayson Gillham with Alexander Shelley

Victor Maslov – Eileen Rowe Trust Holder

Victor Maslov at St Mary’s The Eileen Rowe Musical Award Holder
Victor Maslov at Perivale

                                   Dr Mather with Victor Maslov
Some beautiful words from our host of ceremonies Dr Hugh Mather to present this twenty one year old russian pianist to his faithful public at St Mary’s for the second time. He is the recipient of many distinguished awards but the most significant one is that he is supported in his studies with Dmitri Alexeev by the Eileen Rowe Musical Trust.
That Queen of Piano Teachers in Ealing for over 60 years who left her worldly goods to set up this Trust that helps talented young pianists to continue their training.
I was reminded to look back to my thoughts a year ago when I heard this young man play Brahms and Rachmaninov.
It was also nice to hear Victor Maslov talk with such affection and thanks to the people of Ealing who are supporting him in his long journey to become a professional musician.
His teacher Dmitri Alexeev, since winning the 1966 Leeds Piano Competition has been a long time resident in Ealing.
Some very astute comments of presentation too.
He pointed out that the two works in programme: Beethoven Sonata op 109 and Schubert Sonata in C minor D958 were both written at the end of the composers lives and were the first of their last trilogy of Sonatas for piano.
Already his performances of the Russian virtuoso repertoire are much appreciated and he was chosen at the age of only 19 to play with the RCM Philharmonic the Tchaikowsky Concerto n.1 as winner of their prestigeous concerto competition.
So today was it was interesting to see him venturing into the world of the German classics.
It is only in this enlightened series devised by Dr Hugh Mather and his faithful followers that we are able to chart and appreciate week after week the progress and talent of some of the most remarkable young musicians who have come to London to perfect their skills.
Concerts four times a week divided between St Mary’s and St Barnabas in Ealing give the opportunity to these young musicians not only to share their music with a discerning audience but also to receive a well needed fee to keep the wolves from the door whilst preparing for their first ventures into the vast professional world that awaits.
Dr Hugh Mather is not content with just these already established series but at the end of each year on these beautiful balmy nights he devises a weekend series which incorporates all the sonatas of Beethoven or this year all the major works of Chopin.
The Festival from 15-17 June will hear 21 pianists,many of whom have already appeared in the normal series ,playing over 12 hours of music over 5 sessions.
The remarkable Dr Mather may be a retired physician but as he shows there is no such thing as retirement for a musician .
Explaining that his children too were taught by the remarkable Eileen Rowe whereas whilst training to become a distinguished physician he was being coached by the distinguished pianist James Gibb.
With all this activity in helping young musicians he even has time to play Chamber music and will include a recital at St Barnabas on Friday 18th May with Yume Fujise in a difficult programme that includes the Brahms D minor Sonata and Ravel’s strepitoso Tzigane !
Some fine playing from Victor Maskov even considering that this was an entirely new programme of a new world that he is exploring of the great German classics.
Beethoven op 109 is together with its partners op 110 and op 111 a monument of the piano repertoire.
I had just come from a morning Masterclass at the RAM by the distinguished pianist Richard Goode in which he had been explaining and demonstrating this very sonata to another fine pianist Inna Montesclaros.
A stimulating exchange of ideas that made it even more refreshing to now hear a complete performance of this masterpiece.
Some beautiful playing especially good in the busier parts of the sonatas.
An exhilarating performance of great clarity and rhythmic propulsion of the Prestissimo.
Also the scintillating third variation of the theme and variations that makes up the last movement.
A beautifully shaped theme especially in the almost whispered repeat.
Beethoven’s magical trills that are so much part of his last trilogy were very well performed but could have had more magic as they descend into the final moving statement.
In fact this was a young man’s Beethoven where the underlying propulsion was not deeply enough felt in his effort to shape the individual melodic lines.
Forgetting that this is above all symphonic music that must have a definite structure. Like a Greek Temple where the base and columns are absolutely fundamental even though the freeze and individual ornaments may be of sublime beauty.
They are of a classical beauty .
Not that of the great romantic works where feelings and atmospheres are paramount and sometimes the actual structure is of secondary importance.
The first movement of the Beethoven suffered from this lack of overall architectural shape and became a series of sometimes exquisite episodes interrupted by Beethoven’s explosive temperament.

                             Richard Goode Masterclass on op 109
It was Richard Goode that showed us the way of producing a sound that would amalgamate this seemingly episodical first movement and make it even more astonishingly into one overall shape.
Strangely enough it was to eliminate the individual bar lines and to feel the energy and growth in big lines and phrases.
That one chain would link to another as Moura Lympany used to say.
The great Schubert C minor was felt so well.
The dramatic opening giving way to the meltingly beautiful second subject but again loosing on the way the inner propulsion that would have given more power and shape to the whole.
The Allegro last movement was beautifully shaped as a real dance instead of the usually dramatic tarantella.
The sublime middle section again divorced from its surroundings.
These are just some pointers to this very talented young musician who is venturing into new territory.
They were nevertheless very professional performances much appreciated by the audience that instead of the promised Etudes Tableaux op 39 by Rachmaninov had been treated to one of the great monuments of the German piano literature.
A little piece from Visions Fugitives – N.10 was strangely played at half tempo but it worked so well and was made to talk directly to this enthusiastic audience.
It is more fun like that exclaimed Victor who was now ready to let his hair down and return to home territory!
Victor is supported by another remarkable lady Canan Maxton who has created Talent Unlimited that helps very talented young musicians to give concerts and study in London.

        Christopher Axworthy with Hugh Mather taken by Roger Nellist

      The beautiful surrounds of St Mary’s in Ealing Golf Course