Adrian Brendle at St Giles’ Cripplegate The Myra Hess National Gallery Concert
The National Gallery Myra Hess Lunchtime Piano Recital with Adrian Brendle.
It was Ian Maclay and Jenny Robinson of Kestrel Music Promotions that approached the Keyboard Charitable Trust to recommend two pianists from their star roster for two entirely different Summer Concerts in London.
One was the Parisian Summer Nights in Cadogan Hall with the London Mozart Players in a programme that included the Faure Pavane and Requiem with the City of London Choir under its resident conductor Hilary Davan Wetton.
The Ravel G major piano concerto was also in the programme and a pianist of refined ,aristocratic taste was needed.
Who better than Vitaly Pisarenko who had given a magical account of Ravel’s Miroirs at his Wigmore Hall debut a year ago which was much admired by Graham Johnson who was present at this exquisite performance of the Piano Concerto a month ago.
The hunt was also on for a pianist who could perform the same programme that Myra Hess had performed in 1939.
A pianist with the same musical pedigree and pianistic sensibility for the classical repertoire.
“A festival of beautiful music and words in stunning historic churches,marking one hundred years since the end of the Great War.” under the title ” Swords and Ploughshares”.
It just so happened that a young German pianist had just been publicly auditioned for the KCT and had given a remarkably fine performance of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata.
Here was a true musician that could indeed pay homage to Dame Myra Hess and justify Kenneth Clark’s remark on that first recital in a National Gallery at the beginning of the Second World War.
“The moment when she played the opening bars of the Appassionata” Clark reflected,” will always remain for me one of the great experiences of my life”.
“Every picture had been taken away” he later reflected,” but the frames remained and multiplied the general emptiness with a series of smaller emptinesses”.
When he returned to the Gallery,after the first all absorbing task of evacuation, he walked around those large ,dirty,ill-proportioned rooms,in deep depression.
It was out of this overwhelming sense of despair that grew a deep conviction that the Gallery had to find alternative ways of staying “alive” and of being of service to the people.
And so it was on the 10th October 1939 that Myra Hess had volunteered to give the inaugural concert thinking only a few family and friends would show up.
In the morning of this lunchtime concert queues started to form and it was only the lucky first thousand that could enter what was to become the first of many memorable war concerts.
Myra Hess had been a pupil of Uncle Tobbs (Tobias Matthay) at the Royal Academy and had become a celebrated artist in England and in America.
Her fee in America was the same as Jasha Heifetz such was the demand for this much loved British pianist.
It is no coincidence,I learn after,that in Ian Fountain’s studio in the RAM is a large portrait of Myra Hess.
I too used to have lessons in Room 28 next to the Tobias Matthay room that still had the famous triangle on show.
Matthay was renowned for his method of extreme flexibility of the hand and sensibility to touch and sounds produced and for his attention to musical values.
Two busts of his two most famous students Dame Myra Hess and Dame Moura Lympany sit proudly in the vestibule of the RAM.
A Brendle too has certain serious ring to it !
Alfred Brendel was indeed amused a few years ago to see an A.Brendle listed alongside his in a concert calendar in Vienna .
Adrian Brendle the pianist not to be confused with Adrian Brendel ,Alfred’s cellist son, is studying with Ian Fountain at the Royal Academy in London.Having graduated from the University of Karlsruhe under the guidance of that renowned pianist and pedagogue Sontraud Speidel (also the teacher of another KCT artist Florian Heinisch).
He has only ever had two teachers but both with impeccable credentials .
Ian Fountain the only British pianist to have won the Rubinstein Competition tells me he is now editing the Diabelli variations for the Henle Edition.
A true thinking musician following and monitoring his young colleague.
Listening intently to the concert it was indeed refreshing and rare to see a Master following and encouraging his young disciple .
A Bechstein Concert Grand was especially on loan from Jaques Samuel Pianos Ltd and it is to be remembered that Bechstein at one stage was the preferred instrument of so many famous musicians.
Enough to say that the original name of the Wigmore Hall was Bechstein Hall .
I remember Rosalyn Tureck confiding that her preferred piano was the old mellow sounding Bechstein.
I like to think that the Bechstein was also a very touching tribute to Dame Myra Hess today.
The main work on the programme was the Appassionata Sonata played as only a true musician can.
With the eagle eye of Ian Fountain making sure that Beethoven’s every intention was scrupulously followed.
No splitting of the hands in the great arpeggios as many ” pianists” see fit to do to give more power and assurance .
But the sweeping lines that Beethoven draws were played with just the assurance but with a sense of struggle that is also an integral part of the music.
The contrasts in the first movement can be so startling with Beethoven’s personality already verging on the schizophrenic that was to become so apparent in his later works as his struggle against physical problems became ever more unrelenting.
Here the contrasts were even more apparent for the very subtle silences that were added by a pianist who was actually listening so attentively to the sounds that he was producing and the effect that they were having on the whole.
Very impressive were the enormous washes of sound before the final explosion of the coda and the dying away to almost nothing without any rallentando but with a scrupulous attention to the ” meaning” of Beethoven’s pedal indications.
A second movement con moto and not an inch of sentimentality that can so easily enter in lesser hands.
The last movement played at just the right tempo that allowed the Presto and arpeggios to be so full of excitement and inevitably final.
The great C sharp minor five part fugue is one of the great miracles of music and was given a fine if rather too carefully respectful performance.
This is Bach- Busoni but without Busoni and there can be a whole world in this Fugue of which I am sure Dame Myra would have been well aware.
The three Intermezzi by Brahms from op 119 were exquisitely played .This Bechstein piano allowing a noble but cream rich cantabile that was so right for Brahms’s such intimate utterings .
The great F sharp Nocturne op 15 was played with aristocratic good taste and if the Waltz in E flat op 18 was a little too fast it was because this young man was enjoying himself and allowing himself a little fun too.
“Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” ,the piece that Myra Hess will always be known for was played with great respect and sense of balance that allowed the melody from Bach’s Cantata n.147 to sing encircled by the most subtle harmonic counterpoint.
A fitting end for this concert in St Giles’ Cripplegate ,the church that had survived two wars and sits the other side of the Barbican lake in the centre of London.
A true ovation from an enthusiastic public was rewarded with a quite beautiful performance of the Prelude in G sharp minor op 32 n.12 by Rachmaninov .
Not sure that Dame Myra would have approved but we certainly did!
It is by strange coincidence that I am going to the National Gallery Lunchtime Piano recital for the festival Swords and Ploughshares where Dame Myra Hess will be remembered for her memorable wartime recitals.
A coincidence because it is Myra Hess that springs to mind when one listens to Imogen Cooper.
All the same values of integrity and musicianship allied to a simplicity that allows the music to speak so naturally.
In this era where virtuosity or fingerfertigkeit seems to draw in the crowds it is refreshing to hear two great English pianists Imogen Cooper and Paul Lewis where their virtuosity is hidden,steeped in musical understanding.
A virtuosity that by searching for a real musical meaning they have found sounds that very rarely we hear in the more bombastic recitals that today are prevalent.
Both from the school of Alfred Brendel and in the case of Imogen also Clifford Curzon.
I remember a young student playing in Vlado Perlemuter’s class in Dartington in 1968.Where most of us in the class were concerned with playing the more technically difficult works of Chopin and Ravel this young girl played Valses Nobles e Sentimentales with such mature poise and musicianship that Perlemuter himself declared that he had nothing to add.
She was the daughter of that great critic Martin Cooper whose book on French Music together with the Classical Style of Rosen have become a standard work for students.
She was studying in Paris with Yvonne Lefebure and much to Perlemuter’s surprise spoke perfect french.
No Chopin studies for her but a mazuka played with such intelligence and musicianship that I remember Perlemuter being amazed not only by her musicianship but by her perfect french accent.
Not following the usual competition circuit but instead seeking out help for a better musical understanding from the greatest musicians of our time.
As she herself says she is indebted to Alfred Brendel,Arthur Rubinstein,The Amadeus Quartet and Clifford Curzon who have helped her to understand the very meaning of music.
Now fifty years on and with a great devoted following she has created a Trust to help other young musicians to give them the very things that she realises were so important to her formation.
As she says :”they must possess only three things :talent,potential and a deep thirst for improvement”.
Her sincere wish:”is to help them in their aspirations”
I see from the first information sheet of her Trust the fotos of Mishka MomenRushdie,Samson Tsoy and Pavel Kolesnikov.
Three young pianists well known for their musical ideals.
It was refreshing too to see Pavel ,a Young Generation Artist and student of Norma Fisher, in the audience tonight standing at the back no doubt determined not to miss the extraordinary performance of Beethoven’s mammoth Diabelli Variations.
It was her mentor Alfred Brendel that remains in my memory together with Rudolf Serkin of the Diabelli variations many years ago at the RFH in London.
One of Beethoven’s last great works for piano and a real tour de force not only of stamina and a true command of the keyboard but above all of musicianship.
Richter was announced to play it in London but changed the programme at the last minute obviously realising that there could be no half measures with a work of such stature.
We were lucky all those that travelled down to Brighton to hear his extraordinary interpretation.
He realised that it is not the sort of work that can be played on tour day after day but can only be played on very special occasions.
And so it was tonight with a performance that even Imogen’s great poise gave way to great flamboyance and much more physical participation than usual.
Playing with the score though did not allow the frenzy and almost animal like attack of Serkin that caught you by the throat.
It was an unforgettable experience where he and all the audience came out dripping and totally exhausted at the end.
Brendel’s nervous energy allied to a great musical intellect too was just as memorable.
Tonight we were treated to a less frenetic performance but one of great rhythmic drive. The great trills being thrown around the piano like a great tennis star would hit the ball over the net.
Even Imogen had to let her hair down for the great fugato and although it lost something of its dance character and became rather too martellato it was a great contrast to the sublime colours and buoyancy that she had found in the previous variations.
The final so reminiscent of op 111 was played with such magic that the final chord was greeted by minutes of silence before erupting in an ovation from this very appreciative audience.
From the very first notes the little waltz by Diabelli was given such character that was later dissected and put under Beethoven’s genial microscope.
Scrupulous attention to detail and a sense of orchestral colour were the hallmarks of this remarkable performance.
Courage is now needed to throw away the score and allow a more total animal like commitment.
It is indeed a savage work from a composer angry that he could no longer hear his work.
The concert had opened with the Beethoven Bagatelles op 119 .
Eleven jewels made to sparkle and shine in a way that brought laughter and tears to these miniature tone poems.
A wondrous sense of colour and real understanding of their character with an immediately apparent luminosity of sound.
From the music box sonorities to the absolute legato and sense of balance that I have only heard from Kempff.
Great Beethovenian energy allied to the charming scherzando of n.6 that brought a smile to our cheeks.
The final was almost Schumanesque in its sumptuousness.
Each one spoke with such an expressive voice it was so refreshing to hear the variety of sounds that she was able to conjure up in her effort to allow Beethoven to converse with his audience.
It was the same conversation that she treated us too with Schoenbergs 6 little pieces op 11 that followed.
The sheer desolation of the first followed by the complete isolation of the second was complimented by the massive sonorities of the third .The final dissolving into nothing that left the door open for the more down to earth Mr Haydn.
Without a break we were brought back into the real world again with a Haydn of great contrasts.
The rather mundane opening made the magical music box sounds even more startling.
The slow movement was laid before us like a great opera singer arriving on the platform with the the melodic line so operatic in its very refined way.
The impish good humour of the finale was shaped with such tonal finesse and brought the first half to a very good humoured close.
A concert in which we had been treated to a real music journey where the little bagatelles op 119 had been so integrated almost as a continuation into the sound world of Schoenberg.
The Haydn sonata preparing us for the great journey in C that we were about to embark on after the interval.
So refreshing to be reminded of the great musical values of the school of Matthay where the infinite gradations of tone can be found by those that seek it .
From this box of hammers and strings a true magician can allow the music to speak as well as any orchestra or singer.
A real lesson and “Hats off “to Imogen that via her Trust will share her secret with talented young musicians in search of a voice of their own.
The Manchester Camerata “probably Britain’s most adventurous orchestra” so says the Times.
I think we could leave out “probably” as the partnership with the Keyboard Charitable Trust is fast proving.
“The Manchester Camerata- the experimental orchestra” exclaims the Manchester Evening News.
Venues have so far included the Whitworth Art Gallery;Home- an Arts centre where once stood a leather factory;Manchester Cathedral;the magnificent Stoller Hall ,part of Chethams Music School;The Anthony Burgess Foundation – an ex rubber factory; and now the very imposing Albert Square.
The very hub of Manchester and the repeal of the cruel corn laws that levied an enormous tax on imported goods and lead to famine in some poor quarters whilst the rich were getting richer. In 1846 Sir Robert Peel won a reform in Parliament despite his own party’s opposition .
Rings a bell.
Some things never change!
This square created in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband Albert who died of typhoid in 1861.
The imposing Gothic town hall is Manchester’s largest Grade 1 building designed by Alfred Waterhouse and completed in ten years in 1877 with bricks donated by the workers.
Statues of John Bright,Oliver Heywood,William Gladstone and James Fraser, all instrumental in the repeal of the corn laws, adorn every corner of this square.
But of course pride of place goes to the Albert Memorial in the centre.
Interesting to know that in another corner stands the old Free Trade Hall .
The original home of the Halle Orchestra founded by Sir Charles Halle in 1858.
It was reopened in 1951 after being so cruelly bombed during the second world war.
The re opening was with the Halle under it’s conductor Sir John Barbirolli with Kathleen Ferrier who sang “Land of Hope and Glory” for the one and only time in her all too short career.
Now music has transferred to the splendid new Bridgewater Hall just a stones’ throw away and this historic building has become a Radisson luxury hotel!
But the Manchester Camerata have now brought classical music back into the square as part of the Gobe Fest.
A three day Hungarian-Transylvanian celebration.
Having spent the summer in the glorious surrounds of Transylvania – the land of magic castles,folk music and Count Dracula I could fully realise the choice of music very aptly exorcising the” Ghost” of Beethoven with his magnificent trio in D major op 70 n.1.
In the hands of Vitaly Pisarenko,Caroline Pether and Hannah Roberts they performed to a crowd of people all set to enjoy what was on offer in the beautiful Mancunian sunshine.
Stalls full of the most wondrous foods and beers with trestle tables laid out in front of a large open air stage where the events were to take place.
The Festival had been opened by the Lord Mayor of Manchester and the charming lady organiser in traditional Hungarian costume had arranged for the original Hungarian Folk song to be sung, that had inspired Bartok in the first piece that out players were to offer as an entree to the Beethoven.
A very fine amplification system allowed the music to carry and penetrate the very hearts of the revellers who were voluntarily silenced by the magic of a music they were not expecting.
And what music!
The Camerata is indeed the most adventurous orchestra that takes music to the most unexpected places.
Allowing people from all walks of life to discover the magic world that maybe the were not aware of .
Bringing music to the people …….or is it the people to the music ……….whatever it is ,however different the venue ..the superb music making is always the same.
The Camerata “spot” opened with works by Bartok and Kodaly.
“An Evening from the Village “and “Three Hungarian Folk Dances from Czik” by Bartok were performed as a trio in an arrangement specially commissioned from Simon Parkin.
Some superbly idiomatic playing that opened the door for two remarkable performances of the mammoth Duo for Violin and Cello by Kodaly and the Romanian Folk Dances in the well known arrangement for violin and piano by Szekely.
Almost 30 minutes of virtuoso playing from Hannah Roberts and Caroline Pether in the solo duo by Kodaly. The violin of Caroline soaring into the air as she conversed with Hannah’s expressive cello playing. A tension that held the audience entranced from the first to the last note in this not easily digested score.
Similar ,of course, to the great solo cello sonata .
This much more rarely heard duo needs two true virtuosi to conquer the difficulties both musical and technical that Kodaly demands.
Now fully warmed up and having won over this vast crowd assembled that were ready to appreciate fully the artistry of the performers that had been persuaded to play in this very unusual ” pop” type venue .
An adventure indeed for all concerned but everyone was able to appreciate the magnificent performances that were so unexpectedly on offer.
The Romanian Dances with Caroline Pether and Vitaly Pisarenko were played with such verve and sense of colour and style that the final flourishes were greeted by a wave of appreciation.
Just time for Geoffrey Schindler and Bob Riley Honorary Chairman and General manager respectively of the Camerata ,to top up their drinks before the Beethoven, on this welcoming summers’ day .
The main work was the trio in D major op 70 n.1 nicknamed by Beethoven’s pupil Czerny “Ghost” as the slow movement reminded him of the opening scene of Hamlet.
A superbly integrated performance where the contact between the players was electric. Each player watching intently the other ready to guide or be guided in a continual give and take that is at the very heart of true chamber music.
The rhythmic energy of the opening and the question and answer between the piano and strings was quite riveting.
The piano scales so subtly integrated into the sounds produced by the violin and cello.
The so called Ghost” movement played with such a subtle sense of colour and atmosphere even in this vast space a magic was cast over the revellers in the square below.
The truly exhilarating energy in the final Presto brought this unexpected performance to an end.
It made one wish to hear it all over again in one of Manchester’s new halls where the subtle artistry of this newly formed trio could be truly appreciated.
The two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Beethoven in 2020 gives food for thought for an integral performance of these masterpieces by this newly born trio. An adventure indeed for Britain’s most adventurous ensemble.
The fourth of October will see two KCT artists with the Camerata again.André Gallo and Gala Chistiakova will perform Saint Saens Carnival of the Animals and Schumann’s rarely performed Andante and variations in the original version for two pianos,two cellos and horn.Mozart D major sonata will open the programme at the Stoller Hall.
Interesting to note that Vitaly Pisarenko is godfather to Gala’s son Leonardo …………….Small world !
The young Italian pianist Nicola Losito gave his debut recital in London for the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
Still only 22 he was noted a few years ago by Moritz von Bredow one of the KCT Trustees who was on the jury of the International Piano Competition in Osimo when Nicola took first prize.
Having graduated with highest honours from the Tartini Conservatory in Trieste where he studied with Massimo Gon. He is now perfecting his studies at the International Piano Academy in Imola under Leonid Magarius .
Already two CD’s to his name and a string of successes in International Competitions he played under the eagle eye of Paderewski in the magnificent Steinway Hall of Fame.
With all the greatest pianists alive and dead looking on, undaunted he played a programme of Chopin.Haydn and Schumann to a very discerning audience.
Thanking him in his inimitable way, Moritz von Bredow at the end of an exhilarating recital he touched on the very point that was so evident from the very first notes of the recital.
The Chopin studies played with great assurance but above all each one was shaped and coloured like a miniature tone poem.
A true musician with a virtuoso technique that knows no difficulties and can concentrate on the true musical values with all his youthful exuberance and passionate involvement.
Seven studies from op 10 and 25 by Chopin opened the programme.
The first two studies op 10 notorious for the technical challenge they pose were played with a real sense of architectural shape.
The imposing majesty of the left hand in the first study with the arpeggios adding only shape to the melodic line .Very subtly played with some great contrasts always following the melodic line of the majestic bass notes.
The second study of chromatic scales in the right hand was played with a teasing charm worthy of that great disciple of Godowsky ,Jan Smeterlin who was looking on from the wall much bemused.
The third study op 10 was beautifully shaped with a refined sense of rubato and a great sense of direction that made the return of the melody so touching. It was the same sense of style that he brought to the slow op 25 n.7 building up to the great climax before dying away to almost nothing.
I felt op 10.n.4 could have been more scherzando as I well remember in Perlemuter’s hands with the call to changing from one hand to another so clearly marked.
The last two studies from op 10 and op 25 were played with the same passion of the young Chopin who had written them.
The famous Revolutionary Study with Chopin’s dynamics well understood with his yearning from afar for his home land under siege.
The final study op 25 was given a tumultuous performance and this very fine Steinway Grand Piano was made to sound very noble and grand indeed.
The Haydn Sonata in C n.50 Hob XV1 was given a very rhythmic performance but a slightly less Beethovenian sound would have allowed for more character in this Sonata where Haydn’s impish good humour can be so telling.
This was a fine performance of a young man who was enjoying the wondrous sounds of an instrument that Haydn would not have known.
Noretta Conci-Leech and her husband John,the founding fathers of the KCT had flown in especially for the recital. I expect knowing that Nicola was going to play the Carnaval Jest of Vienna by Schumann that was a speciality of Michelangeli who was Noretta Conci-Leech‘s mentor for many years and she became his assistant too.
Some beautiful things played with youthful passion and a great sense of forward propulsion. Never allowing the tension to flag for a minute .It lacked the subtle inimitable colouring of Michelangeli’s famous performance but had something of the same electric exuberance that Richter treated us to in those very first recitals he gave in London.
Noretta Conci-Leech is often telling me of the care that Michelangeli took over the pedal and fingering.
Almost no pedal in the classics where it is the fingers that have to find the sounds and clarity.And only a little more in the romantics.
A little less pedal in this rather resonant hall tonight would have allowed us to appreciate Nicola’s very subtle rubato and detail .But as one critic present said it was indeed a very “sensuous” performance .
It was that of a very talented young man on the crest of the wave and it was in the passionate Intermezzo that his true personality was fully revealed more than the rather seriously played Scherzino.
A beautiful performance of Chopin’s first nocturne was a fitting way to close this very successful recital in the magnificent space that is The Steinway Hall of Fame .
Moritz was only too happy to thank Steinways for allowing the Keyboard Trust to have a platform in many parts of the world for the extraordinarily talented pianists who only yearn for an audience to share their music with after years of dedication and intensive study.
Many of those associated with the KCT were in fact looking on from the hallowed walls tonight.
Alfred Brendel,Evgeny Kissin,Leslie Howard all Trustees of the KCT are just a few that were looking on today and I am sure we will see many more KCT artists adorn these walls in the future.
There was a very interesting discussion after the concert with Moritz von Bredow,Elena Vorotko and our founders about the
creation of an Alumni Association.
One that would unite many of the artists that have been helped by the KCT in an exchange of invaluable ideas and experiences in the music profession.
As Tessa said after her superb performance of Beethoven’s Appassionata she still had the score with our old teacher Gordon Green’s markings from 50 years ago….she said it not me!
We met in the early seventies when we were both in the class of our adorable never to be forgotten mentor Gordon Green at the Royal Academy in London.
Playing in his Friday afternoon masterclass were Philip Fowke,Ann Shasby,Richard McMahon,John Blakley,Simon Rattle,Peter Bithell and Tessa Uys.
Tessa was already playing regularly in her home country of South Africa where she had an established career and would often play through her programmes to us on Friday afternoon.
I remember very well her exquisite performances of Mozart concertos in particular K.291 ,the Schumann Humoresque and indeed the Appassionata that we were to hear today.
I also accompanied her and Josef Frohlich to Harry Blech ( founder of the London Mozart Players ) to play the Cesar Franck Sonata to him.
About fifteen years ago she came to play for us in Rome and what fun we had together with my wife and our entourage of animals that we kept at home.
She gave a memorable recital in our theatre and met up with an old school friend of hers from SA and now our neighbour in Rome.
She reminded me too of the rabbits and host of animals that we had in our house and even after all these years gave me some foto mementos that she had she had kept
Since then I have not heard from Tessa who I presumed must have a big career in her home country that took her away from us.
It is very often the case that many musicians that live in London do not actually perform there.
That is until I saw four recitals announced in St Lawrence Jewry in the centre of London and also a performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with organ instead of the orchestra.
I was very curious to hear her after all these years and managed to catch one of these recitals last Monday.
It was very refreshing to see that all her impeccable musicianship and technical command were still intact. A very particular musicianship that like Imogen Cooper is very rare in these times of bombastic virtuosity in the place of simple intelligent musicianship.
Myra Hess and Moura Lympany raised by “Uncle Tobbs” – Tobias Matthay even though never lacking in technical ability could make the piano sing with a sense of balance and a seeming simplicity that today can seem so rare.
It is a great lesson when one can hear the music speak and tell a the story that the great composers had imparted to us via their world of sound.
The beautiful Menuett in G minor by Handel in the arrangement of Wilhelm Kempff was allowed to speak with such simplicity.
Anyone who heard Kempff in his later years were made immediately aware of his ability to convince us that the piano could actually sing when in the hands of a true magician and poet.
Radu Lupu is the prime example now of course.
It was this very piece that my wife had chosen in the moving closing moments of “Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolff ” when the wife breaks down as she realised that her child had died.
We used the performance of Idil Biret recorded in one of her recitals in our theatre but we could just as well have used the beautiful performance that Tessa offered us today.
The 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs by Bartok were dispatched with an amazing range of colour and the drone created in the final song was so reminiscent of the peasant bagpipes that fill the street of Rome as the Shepherds come down from the hills at Christmas Time.
So many evocative moments played with a true understanding and fantasy that was quite riveting.
The mighty Appassionata was seen as one whole. From the very opening to the tumultuous final there was a rhythmic propulsion that swept the music on in its inevitability.
Not sure purists would agree with her splitting the hands in the opening semiquaver passages but it did give a strength and assurance that is rarely heard.
Strangely enough the final arpeggiandi in the first movement were played almost as Beethoven had written them and were very assured indeed.
There was not a moment in the whole sonata that did not hold your attention .
Even the Andante con moto was kept very much with a forward looking movement that made the amazing interruption before the Allegro ma non troppo even more astonishing.
I had forgotten that Tessa too had studied in Siena with that great musician Guido Agosti and I could in fact feel his influence in the sonata today.
Tessa had sent me later a foto of her at the final concert in Siena with Agosti and other colleagues Peter Bithell , Ursula Oppens and Yoko Li. She even told me that Lydia Agosti had lent her a concert dress to wear as she had not thought she would be chosen for the final concert of Agosti’s prestigious class.
Agosti was a great musician and could certainly recognise first and foremost the real musicians…..and not!…. in his midst.
Nice to remember her brother the famous political satirist Peter Dirk Uys whose character of Lady Evita Bezuidenhout took London by storm a few years ago in the Tricycle Theatre.
On Saturday 30th at St Michael’s Church in Highgate they will perform an even rarer 9th Symphony always in the transcription of Franz Xaver Scharwenka.
Tessa Uys and Ben Schoeman receive a standing ovation for a superlative performance of Beethoven`s Fifth Symphony in Scharwenka`s transcription for piano duet.
Superb sense of balance and great urgency from Ben`s bass added to the clarity of Tessa`s treble united in a passionate performance that swept all away before it.
Lebenssturme by Schubert was played with equal passion and delicacy but the question of balance was not fully resolved .
Schubert`s dense writing can lead to such murky waters where the simplicity of Schubert’s unending melodic invention was somewhat submerged.
Swopping seats for the Beethoven the problem was miraculously resolved…….and how!
Here at Cadogan Hall now for the first collaboration between the London Mozart Players and the Keyboard Charitable Trust for Kestrel Music Promotions.
The Ravel Concerto beautifully framed by the Faure Pavane and Requiem with the veteran conductor Hilary Davan Wetton with his magnificent City of London Choir of which he has been at the helm since 1989.
On only one full rehearsal in the afternoon they went on to give a superb performance of the Concerto in the very delicate sound world of Ravel .
It was hard to believe after such a performance that it was in fact a first performance for everyone concerned .
The magical sound world into which we are immediately plunged after the crack of the whip with which it begins was beautifully shaped by the pianist in duo with the magical sounds of the harp.
The slightly jazzy melodic sounds that followed the rhythmic opening were realised with the refined good taste of which Ravel was absolute master.
A real chamber music atmosphere was created and the magical cadenza continuing the atmosphere so perfectly with the etherial trills adding that same magic that was so much part of the world of the harp.
The entry of the orchestra after the cadenza was perfectly judged leading to a hint of almost Rachmaninovian grandeur after a movement in which magic was in the air.
The long slow solo by the pianist at the opening of the Adagio was beautifully judged and shaped with a delicacy that drew the audience into these almost intimate confessions and set the atmosphere .
The interplay between orchestral soloists and pianist could have been enjoyed even more.The atmosphere so beautifully created was just waiting for a slightly bolder musical line from the orchestral soloists which would have made the magical interweaving of the piano even more ravishing.
The last movement was spectacular with some astonishing virtuosity from the soloist and a real rhythmic drive that was indeed breathtaking and brought this amazing work to its abrupt close.
An ovation from the audience but also from the orchestra for tonight’s soloist Vitaly Pisarenko
And so it was on a balmy night in June that Hugh Mather’s Chopin Festival got under way
Some glorious playing from three very fine pianists of some rare works by Chopin mingled with old favourites.
An illuminating introductory talk by Amit Yahav set the scene for this extraordinary festival that our host had devised to give a platform to 21 young artists who have been part of his stable for some time .
In fact Hugh Mather ,a retired physician ,is now able to dedicate himself to his real passion that has always been music.
Not only a distinguished medical career but also an ex student of the distinguished pianist James Gibb .
In his retirement from the medical profession he can dedicate himself, with that same passion, to organising and giving concerts in St Mary’s and St Barnabas in Ealing where he is also resident organist.
Aided and abetted by his wife Felicity ,also a doctor, and some dedicated helpers he has created a loyal public for the many enormously talented young musicians who after years of dedicated studies yearn only to find a discerning public at the start of their professional careers.
Knowing the difficulties, Dr Mather offers as many professional engagements as he can in this beautiful historic, redundant church of St Mary’s and the much bigger St Barnabas .
He also administers with Vanessa Latarche,head of Keyboard Studies at the RCM and former pupil of Eileen Rowe, the estate of that dedicated teacher and helper of so many distinguished pianist in over 60 years of activity in Ealing.
The Eileen Rowe scholarship fund has been set up with all her worldly goods to help extraordinary young musicians with their advanced studies.
And so after his Complete Beethoven Sonata Festival two years ago Dr Mather has devised this Chopin Festival with more than 12 hours of Chopin’s music. Including the major works mingled with some refreshing surprises from Chopin’s early years as a refined piano virtuoso.
As Amit Yahav pointed out,Chopin found playing in public distasteful and became a society piano teacher on his arrival in Paris at the age of 22 rather than the performing animal that were to become Liszt and Paganini.
His trip to winter in the warmer climes of Spain with George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin) leaving Paris as Liszt had done with Countess D’Agoult amid the gossiping tongues of the Parisian Salons.
Chopin was already ill when he went on his ill fated trip to winter in the warmer climes of Majorca.Interesting to know that it was the tempestuous Second Ballade and the Third Scherzo that were composed there .
Diagnosed with tuberculosis on arrival on the mainland in Marseille he spent the next seven years with Sand at her country home outside Paris at Nohant.
These were his happiest and most productive years (op 55/58 etc)with their relationship ending ten years later in 1848 the year of his death.
He was destined to die at the age of 39 weighing only 48 kilos.
A fear of being buried alive lead to his body being buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris but his heart was taken where it had always belonged….. to his beloved Poland.
A fascinating introduction from the pianist Amit Yahav who in turn will be playing on Sunday.
Dr Mather had sent around a wish list to his numerous young musicians of the works of Chopin to see who could propose what and when .
An enormous labour of love that has produced a programme of three days of music with some of the finest young pianists around .
Only two defections caused by tours in America and India offered to two of Hugh’s young star prodigies . Of course there was no doubt that they should be left free with blessings but this left the opening space free for a colleague to fill .
Colin Stone ,fellow student of James Gibb and Edith Vogel. Despite his youthful looks he is a distinguish professor at the Royal Academy and the Royal Northern College in Manchester and also head of keyboard at Harrow School – the teacher in fact of Aristo Sham a young pianist who is fast making a name for himself in International Competitions.
And so he was able to maintain the very opening work of the Festival with the extraordinarily original Polonaise- Fantasie op 61.
A distinguished performance of refined taste as with all three pianists in this first session. The same piano but all with completely different sounds which is the magic trick of balance and a sign of a real listening musician.
The famous Grand Valse brillante op 18 stylishly shaped and played.The colours and relish of a real musician played in between two Nocturnes.
The famous F sharp op 15 .n.2 and the lesser known op 37 n.2 beautifully shaped as were the four rarely performed mazurkas op 41.
Leading to the commanding opening performance of the Polonaise Fantasie.
Chopin’s fantasy world held strictly in reign with a sense of line and rhythmic propulsion that allowed the music to unfold so naturally. It lead so inevitably to the glorious final declamation somewhat reminiscent of the much lesser known Allegro de Concert that will be heard in a later performance by Iyad Sughayer
A completely different sound from Mihai Ritivoiu of secret colours and a velvet sound that was so impressive in the three opening Mazukas op 59. Such subtle colouring of the almost whispered secrets of these real gems of Chopin in which all his yearning for his homeland were so poignantly portrayed.
A scintillating performance of the very rarely performed Variations on a German air “Der Schweizerbub”- Swiss Boy Waltz- with which the sixteen year old Chopin would have astounded his audiences in the salons in Poland .
The same jeux perle of Nikita Magaloff the only other person I have known programme this charming little bauble.
The same charm from Mihai’s hands allowed us to marvel at this neglected bauble that in a real artists hands can be transformed into a gem.
Mihai tells me he learnt it when he too was a teenager and worked on it again for Dr Mather with much more difficulty than in his youth!
A marvellous sense of colour shaped the famous waltz in A flat op 42 and it was the same velvet sound that enveloped the famous Ballade in G minor op 23 that closed his performance.
Some really remarkable sounds not least in the final scales that became washes of sound in his hands interrupting Chopin’s final question and answer.The sign of a true artist that can make an over performed piece sound refreshingly new.
His new CD was on sale of works by Liszt,Enescu and Franck promoted by the City Music Foundation and were snatched up in the interval in between sips of wine and excited conversation.
Julian Trevelyan was the last to perform having flown in from Paris where he performed in the morning.
Winner at only 16 of the Long-Thibaud-Crespin a few years ago he is a favourite performer at St Mary’s .
Still continuing his studies in Paris he is fast forging an important career.
An intelligent thinking musician he opened his concert with the three rarely heard Polonaises op 72 . Published after Chopin’s death they were very early works even earlier than the variations that Mihai had played before.
Full of the same charm and easy jeux perle of the teenager Chopin.Nevertheless one could see in Julian’s hands the same outline that was to be shaped into the great polonaises of his later years.
A great sense of clarity and scintillating virtuosity together with an absolute control of line and rhythmic propulsion were the hall marks of these extraordinary performances.
Three little Polonaises that I have only ever heard as encores in the days of the Chopin recitals of Stefan Askenase or Jan Smeterlin .
Indeed it was the same rigour and absolute sense of architectural shape that was the hallmark of a quite riveting performance of the B minor ( yes not B major as was advertised!) Sonata.
The second subject allowed to sing with such majesty .
No sentimentality but real masculine passion.
The Scherzo played with a most impressive jeux perle and the middle section integrated into the whole as is rarely the case.
The great Largo immediately erupting out of the final notes of the Scherzo gave such power and held the audiences attention as is rarely the case.
The virtuosity and excitement of the Finale was breathtaking as was the study op 10 n.1 offered as an encore to a public that could have happily listened all night. Today 18 more pianist to go …..cannot wait!
Eight more pianists at the second day of the Chopin Festival at St Mary`s .
What a line up today with nearly seven hours of music making from these extraordinarily talented young musicians .
One can only select at random from the enormous amount of music heard today.
A beautiful Nocturne in F op 15 from Yuanfan Yang in which his superb sense of balance and beauty of sound made one realise why he has received already such recognition at such an early age.
Just back from a three week tour of China where he performed his own Piano Concerto.
Two bourrees and the Cantabile in B flat were refreshingly played and quite new to me.
Ke Ma presented the 24 Preludes op 28 .
Twentyfour problems as Fou Ts’ong would describe them but they were certainly no problem for Ke Ma who played with passionate involvement.
The Prelude n.16 in B flat minor was dispatched as very few could manage in a public performance.
Some very musicianly playing managing to keep the architectural line from the first to the tumultuous last prelude.
Mikhail Shilyaev covering at the last minute for an indisposed Florian Mitrea but maintaining the same programme.
Some beautifully evocative sounds with the melodic line emerging almost Debussian from the mysterious bass murmurings in the Nocturne op 27 n.1.
Beautifully shaped melodic line in the Nocturne in F minor op 55 n.1 (a Cherkassy favourite)and a subtle sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing out completely unforced.
It lead to an extremely beautiful Andante Spianato with the orchestra at a minimum leading into the Grande Polonaise played with great style and command.
An early Polonaise in B flat minor was the opening work for Iyad Sughayer beautifully shaped and played with great style.
Following the Mazurkas op 33 with a specially requested performance by Dr Mather of the Allegro de concert op 46.
A rather awkward piece that was the initial workings for a never to be completed third piano concerto.
Iyad had learnt this very taxing and rather ungrateful piece especially for the occasion.
Hats off to Iyad Sughayer and for finding many beautiful things in this rather orchestral score.
I remember it being a speciality of Claudio Arrau and more recently of Louis Lortie.
Philip Fowke brought it to Gordon Green’s class and how they delighted in finding the beauty and style together in this almost unknown showpiece.
This second session ended with a superb performance by Ashley Fripp of the Fourth Scherzo The first time he had performed it in public and it showed off his great musicianship and wonderful sense of balance which allowed the sense of melodic line to create a unified whole.
This followed a magical account of the Berceuse and the wonderfully teasing three early waltzes op 70 .
The third Ballade was played with all his consummate artistry followed by the nocturnes op 48 n.2 and op 55 n.2 and made up the programme that brought this session to a close .
The final session n.3 of the day saw two past students of Tessa Nicholson, that renowned teacher from the Purcell School and the Royal Academy. Kausikan Rajeshkumar ( called in at the last minute to substitute for Dinara Klinton on tour in India)
It appears that the double bar exists but not the repeat sign.
Some feel that as the Grave uses material that forms the bass element of the development section it makes sense to repeat it in the exposition repeat.Others beg to differ where Chopin’s intentions are not clear.
Superb clarity and musicianship in the Studies op 10 . Tyler Hay showing off his quite superb technical equipment but never forgetting the musical content in these quite extraordinary early studies.
The two slow melodic studies n.3 and 6 were superbly shaped .The first and last studies were dispatched with quite amazingly effortless virtuosity as were the second,fourth and the famous Black Key study n.5.
A beautifully shaped melancholic waltz in B minor op 69.n.2 was preceded by the Nocturne in G minor op 15 n.3 and a very heartfelt throbbing performance of the Polonaise in E flat minor op 26 n.2.
Luka Okras closed this third session with a quite superb account of the fourth Ballade, a masterpiece of the romantic repertoire.
It was hardly surprising to all those present that Luka has won already first prize in five International Piano Competitions.
The Ballade seemed to enter as if a window had been opened and then proceeded to unravel its opening melody culminating in the great romantic climax and coda played with great passion and superb technical assurance.
The famous little waltz in C sharp minor op 64 n.2 ,a favourite encore of Rubinstein, was played with all the colour and half lights of the master himself.
Ending with the First Scherzo in B minor op 20 played with great rhythmic energy throwing himself into a coda of great excitement.It made a great contrast to the little polish melody in the central section that sang so nostalgically in Luka Okros‘s sensitive hands.
Today the last two sessions at 14h and 19h culminating in a performance by Ilya Kondratiev of the Polonaise Heroique op 53 that will bring this remarkable weekend to a fitting close.
I remember being at the Royal Albert Hall in London to hear Pappano conducting “his” orchestra in the Schumann Piano Concerto with a very young unknown Canadian pianist a few years ago.
Jan Lisiecki and he had just recorded it with the S.Cecilia Orchestra.
A great talent indeed but at only eighteen he could not possibly have had the experience or weight to fill this vast hall with the sound that would have come from the hands of an Arrau or Rubinstein.
However helped and encouraged by that master musician Pappano they gave a fine if very miniature performance that came over much better on the CD than in this vast cavern full of 6000 eager faces.
I have since heard two recitals in the Wigmore Hall.
The first was magnificent and really showed off the artistry, technical command and authority of this young man blessed not only with model good looks but with the same glorious talent that his Canadian colleagues possess.
A remarkable school of piano playing born on the wings of that musical genius Glenn Gould .
I am thinking of Oscar Peterson,Mark Andre Hammelin,Janina Fialkowska,Angela Hewitt Louis Lortie to name but a few that have been enthusiastically received on the world stage
All have in common their simple pure intelligent musicianship allied to a total technical command of the instrument.
Whether in the Jazz or classical idiom.
The second recital at the Wigmore Hall was of a star marketed more for his youthful good looks than his serious piano playing.
It was such a delusion to hear some very professional playing but without the musical spark that had been so much the hallmark of his earlier performances.
Obviously this young man was looking for something which I am glad to say that after last nights performance he is now well on the verge of finding thanks to the infectious music making of Sir Antonio Pappano.
At the ripe old age of 23 here they were in Rome together again to play Chopin’s 2nd Piano Concerto.
The sublime beauty of the Moment Musical in D flat op 16. n.5 offered as an encore was one of the things I will treasure for a long time.
Here was the music that was allowed to unfold with the most subtle rubato and a projection of sound that was of such beauty that I could imagine the sounds wafting to the top of this enormous Symphony hall as they arrived to me in the nearest seat I could find to the piano.
That is the secret that only true masters discover on their long search for perfection.
The door has now been opened for this young man and will obviously lead to a voyage of discovery that will fill the hearts and souls of the public for a very long time to come.
The last movement of the Chopin Concerto so expertly abetted by Pappano and an orchestra that plays as one following his expressive hands and body movements.
This was real chamber music on a large scale where each of the solo instruments were allowed their own artistic freedom but within a whole that were following so attentively the soloist as he spun his magical web.
This dance like Finale:Allegro vivace thrown of with a real jeux perle that is so rare in these days where most soloists seem to relish in the resilience of the instrument and much less in that of our ears!
The teasing play between soloist and orchestra was a reminder of the days of a Magaloff or Rubinstein where the dance rhythm had an infectious charm of the true polish dance
Some beautiful understated things in the slow movement that sometimes however missed the weight that gives a greater sense of line to what is in fact one of the most expressive of songs from that true young poet Chopin who had just burst on the Parisian scene at around the same age as our soloist tonight.
The magical fioriture played with such subtle colouring but somehow not part of the whole song.
Surely in the hands of Rubinstein it was as if every note had a word that could breath and colour the magical melodic line as in the Schubert lieder.
The first movement with some wonderful internal colouring from the orchestra in the opening tutti and the authority of the opening notes from the piano left no doubt as to the pianists authority and the unity of purpose of Pappano and Lisiecki.
This was a young man’s vision of Chopin similar to those early recordings of Rubinstein with Barbirolli full or youthful passion and great verve.
In his later years,as no doubt with this young man, he took more time and every note sang with the same passion but with a meaning that allowed the music speak so eloquently.
This transformation all thanks to Sir Antonio Pappano who has taken yet another young musician under his wing (as Barenboim did with him and Rubinstein with Barenboim before that) to show both Jan Lisiecki and Beatrice Rana the path of a true interpreter.
J’ecoute,je sens je trasmet indeed .
I once said to Dame Fanny Waterman that I thought Pappano was the Barbirolli of today. Much better dear,she immediately replied!
Dame Fanny is rarely wrong!
A difficult lesson to learn with the impatience of youth but with such truly impassioned music making it involves them and all around them in this wish to communicate the essence of the music via a true virtuosity that does not bring itself in se to the listeners attention.
The concert had opened with an impassioned account of the G minor Symphony by Mozart.
A real voyage of discovery as the whispered opening was transformed in so many magical ways.
The Andante had never before tonight appeared as the “Pastoral” of Beethoven you could almost see nature unfolding.
Some great rhythmic energy in the opening development of the first movement and also in the Minuetto.
I felt the tension could have relaxed a bit more in the last movement with its gracious question and answer somewhat too overpowering.
A magnificent full blooded performance of Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra of which the pianist Sviatolslav Richter must have heard the first performance .
Reading his remarkably entertaining and perceptive diaries he notes……
“I heard his Concerto under Rowicki .It seems to me that he occupies a leading position among contemporary composers.I met him in Warsaw,of course,and at the Britten Festival in Aldeburgh.He struck me as a deeply serious person,a man of an uncommunicative and ascetic bent who conceals within him a delicate,fragile soul.”
and his final comment could very well be applied to today’s performance indeed:
“The musicians gave an incomparable performance of this extraordinarily captivating concerto.Bravissimi!”