Tessa Uys at St Lawrence Jewry and with Ben Schoeman in Beethoven 5th and 9th Symphonies
Tessa Uys at St Lawrence Jewry
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 our adorable never 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 at the Tricycle Theatre.
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!
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.
And what a performance it was ……………Superb playing televised for TV.
The tension from the first to the last note was electric Tessa discovered the transcriptions by Scharwenka of the Beethoven Symphonies amongst her mothers scores.
An encore by great demand with Ben at the top in Brahms Hungarian Dance n.1 brought the house down……….what an evening!
Helga Bassel ,Tessa’s mother was her first teacher in Cape town before winning an Associated Board Scholarship at the age of 16 coming to study with Gordon Green.
She won all the top prizes and was elected Associate of the RAM in 1994.
Sorry to miss our dear friend Shura Cherkassky in Highgate Cemetery but lovely to see everyone enjoying themselves on Hampstead Heath on this wonderful golden Summers day