Miracles at the Guildhall

Miracles at the Guildhall Ming Xie and Jonathan Ferrucci
Some magnificent playing and a remarkable performance of Chopin 24 Preludes ……………two exhilarating encores of a Liszt transcription of a Schubert Lied and Rachmaninov’s transcription of the Scherzo from a Midsummer Nights Dream. An important debut of which Ronan and Hannah O’Hora were justly proud ……………
Ming Xie studied from an early age in China before going on to Julliard where he studied with Sergei Babayan and Emanuel Ax. He is now completing his studies with Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall .
Starting the day at my old Alma Mater of the RAM with the Piano Festival that started at 10 am with Haydn Sonatas and continued with Mozart Concertos,Haydn Trios,Multimedia two handed Card Games culminating in a performance of Ligeti’s Piano Concerto 8 hours later.
Little was I expecting what awaited at the Wigmore Hall at the end of the day.
” Phenomenal” as described by Martha Argerich and she should know!
It was from the very first note the most phenomenal natural talent that spread itself across the piano like liquid gold.
A cross between Trifonov and Mustonnen where everything is possible ,with a total command of the keyboard and keyboard sonorities that is of the very few.
Under the eagle eye of Ronan O’Hora the programme consisted of Ravel Gaspard de la Nuit and Chopin 24 Preludes both pillars of the piano repertoire but also of great technical difficulty .
Enough to say that Fou Ts’ong calls the Preludes 24 problems!
Ronan a student of Vlado Perlemuter was able to control and give a very definite shape to this talent that can very easily get out of control in the sheer almost animal like euphoria of playing in front of an audience.
Bounding on stage with his gold bow tie glistening in the lights and commencing the concert with two of Granados’s Goyescas that immediately allowed us to enter into this extraordinary sound world.
El Amor y la muerte Bk 2 and El Fandango de Candil.
A wonderful world full of colour and excitement played with the same natural almost improvisatory virtuosity of the composer himself.
It was at the specific request of President Woodrow Wilson for Granados to perform at the White House after the enormous success of his opera Goyescas ( based on melodies from his piano suite) at the Met that lead to he and his wife boarding the later boat back to Spain that was torpedoed in the Channel on 24 March 1916 by a German U boat.
No Haydn Sonata but we were plunged immediately into this world of Ming Xie.
Steering well clear of the classical repertoire we entered a magic multi coloured world where anything is possible very similar to his teachers other famous pupil Danil Trifonov.
A real voyage of discovery .
Of course the greatest interpreter of Spanish music in our time was Alicia De Larrocha and it was she that showed us the nobility and kaleidoscopic colours allied to a strictly classical approach in a music that can so easily slip into salon music.She was too one of the great interpreters of Mozart and Beethoven .
We amazed at the sounds and flexibility she could produce with such a small hand.
From the Frank Marshall school of which she later became Principal.
I am sure she would have been amazed by Ming Xie’s performance just as that other great lady pianist Martha Argerich was, judging from the publicity.
Gaspard de la Nuit ,that evocative suite by Ravel, was an ideal choice for tonights pianist.
Ondine was full of magic sounds kept firmly under control allowing the music to speak for itself with a sense of balance that allowed the melody to emerge accompanied by the most florid and perfectly executed arabesques.
The tolling bell in Le Gibet was indeed tolling for Ming Xie .
Scarbo that Ravel had written with the intent of writing one of the most difficult pieces for the piano since Liszt or Balakirev was played with amazing agility and sense of colour that was quite breathtaking.
No doubt that Ronan O’Hora’s musicianship from his own studies with Perlemuter a disciple of Ravel,played a large part in keeping this young virtuoso under control and focusing on the great architectural lines that Ravel so vividly draws. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2018/03/05/ronan-ohora-at-the-wigmore-hall/
Changing to a more sober bow tie for the second half we were treated to the 24 Preludes of Chopin.
Each of the Preludes was treated as a miniature tone poem .
The sombre Lento in A minor n.2 was menacing as the Vivace that followed was refreshingly simple like a fresh breeze .The Largo in E minor was played with a very subtle sense of balance that allowed this simple melody to sing out so poignantly.
N.12 in G sharp minor was overwhelming in its’ euphoric technical command and lead to the most poetic lento in F sharp minor .
The “Raindrop” prelude was not quite a dramatic as Sokolov but was simply played before his truly phenomenal display of virtuosity in the B flat minor Presto con Fuoco .
The deep tolling bells and the shimmering melodic line that was allowed to emerge in n.17 in A flat made one aware of the similarity between Ravel and Chopin’s bell ringing. The vivace in E flat where the treacherous leaps were played with an ease that allowed the melodic line to be so clearly shaped.
The great C minor Largo played with all the nobility dissolving into almost nothing.
The charming little F major was indeed “delicatissimo”.
The calm before the storm one might say.
And what a storm!
In the final Allegro Appassionato that I have rarely heard played with such power and infallible accuracy.
For Ming Xie these were certainly not twenty four problems but jewels allowed to shimmer and shine in his hands. All that was missing was a feeling of a whole cycle where a more constant less dramatically changing sound world would have had the effect of unifying the Preludes into a more cohesive whole.
The publicity talks quite rightly of “ phenomenal” fast establishing himself as a rising star in Classical music.I hope that now he has established his credentials we can appreciate his amazing talent in the Classical repertoire.
A classical Repertoire that was certainly on show the next day in Milton Court in an Artist Diploma Final Recital performance by a young Italo Australian pianist Jonathan Ferrucci.
Very few people in the audience but when that includes such musicians as Joan Havill,Martin Roscoe and Ronan O’Hora I was glad to catch the first part of this recital dedicated to Bach.
Two Preludes and Fugues in G major bk 2 and C sharp minor bk 1 and completing the sandwich was the English Suite in G minor.
All beautifully played with great sense of style and unwavering rhythmic pulse that is the very core of Bach.
I remember every time that Rosalyn Tureck came to Rome she would ask me for a metronome to create this rhythm pulse in which the Bachian miracles could appear.
Her English Suite was much slower and more deliberate than Jonathans lacking slightly in the grandiosita that I well remember from Wilhelm Kempff.
But when this young man started the great C sharp minor five part fugue the miracle occurred .
One might have thought it was a Busoni transciption such were the colours and architectural shape he was able to give to Bach’s sparse notes.
It was quite overwhelming and one of the finest performances of a Bach Fugue that I have ever heard.
How I would have liked to stay for his Chopin 24 Preludes too but the Gurrelieder and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s 60th birthday awaited.
I could not help thinking that with all the thousands of people on stage for the Gurrelieder that included choirs from the four major music Academies too that the young man alone with his big black Steinway had created the same overwhelming impression for me.
I have a sneaking feeling that Schoenberg would have thought so too!

Happy Birthday to Esa-Pekka Salonen after a magnificent GurreIieder at the RFH

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