The amazing ChiyanWong in Rome
Here in the beautiful Villa Wolkonsky in Rome music is resounding again thanks to enlightened insistence since 2016 of the Ambassador Jill Morris.
Guided by Sir Norman Rosenthal,known for the help he gives to young talented musicians to establish themselves and take their rightful place in the profession.
For many years his concerts in Valerie Soltis house in London have been followed with great enthusiasm by fellow music lovers.
It is many a year since I was invited to play here for the honeymoon concert of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Invited by the Arts Officer of the British Council,Jack Buckley, and Lady Susanna Walton to give a gala concert for them with Antonio Lysy which would include the short pieces written especially for Prince Charles when he was learning the cello.
Little did I know until today from Chiyan Wong about the provenence of the Bechstein grand that stands so proudly in the sumptuous ballroom of this Villa ,in it’s own park just a stones throw from the Basilica of S.Giovanni in the centre of Rome.
A Villa that had seen some terrible scenes when it had been occupied by the Nazi’s during the second world war.
It was fitting that Antonio Lysy should have have been invited by Lord Bridges (grandson of the poet Robert Bridges) the then Ambassador , to give a recital there to exorcise these terrible ghosts.
Antonio, the son of Benedetta Origo and Alberto Lysy ,a disciple of Menuhin and founder of the Academy in Gstadt ,his grandmother was Dame Iris Origo whose heroic story is so beautifully described in The War in Val D’Orcia .A famous book ,that has just been reprinted, by this remarkable lady who befriended so many people fleeing the tyrany that was imposed on them by the Fascist regime.
Antonio’s annual festival in Val D’Orcia- In Terra di Siena – is a just tribute to a great lady who will never be forgotten.
Music,after all,arrives where words are just not enough.
Such is the searching mind of Chiyan Wong that having only arrived the evening before the concert he had already found out about the piano from Gregor Willmes at Bechsteins .
It had been delivered to Robert von Mendelssohn at the Jagerstrasse in Berlin in 1905.
A banker member of the famous Mendelssohn family who married in 1898 the pianist daughter of the Italian painter Michele Gordigiani,Giulietta.
I am sure that even more news will shortly be forthcoming from this insatiably inquisitive young man.
“Beyond the dazzling technical polish he brings to these fiendishly challenging pieces,most striking is Wong’s sincerity of purpose” Gramophone Magazine 2017 greeting his CD dedicated to Liszt
“Jaw dropping and spine-tingling pianistic mayem.This is how legends are made”The Straits Times
In discussion after a superb recital in which many things took me by surprise,he confided that he despises the mundane, for music is a supernatural language .
His training from an early age from Norma Fisher has ensured his musical integrity to the full but it has not stopped that mind from delving where many fear to tread.
In fact it is no surprise to find that the two composers with whom he feels a close affinity are Franz Liszt and Ferruccio Busoni both of whom had a searching original mind foreseeing the many new directions that music was to take .
The programme opened with Bach Goldberg Variations BWV 988 in the Busoni edition and with a coda by Chiyan Wong after the Busoni edition!
I had heard this before last December in London and enclose my thoughts .
It was interesting to learn from Chiyan :”Goldbergs in Bach’s original and also the Busoni version have one problem that a lot of great plays have- the first half is really clear and driven,and once the line is established,the scene changes and ideas thrown about are sometimes so eccentric!Like Goethe’s Faust and then Strindberg’s Dream Play or Ghost Sonata(August Strindberg,who created plays inspired by the form of musical composition)”
In fact it is exactly in the second half that the Busoni version for me becomes overgrown and pompous as only Busoni knew how.
Wheras Bach maintains the utmost retraint allowing the music to speak for itself without having to resort to rhetoric or pianistic gimmicks .
I had, by the way, produced A Dolls House by Ibsen in Rome exactly 100 years since it was written in Rome in 1979 .
We played to sold out houses just a stones throw from Villa Wolkonsky at the Colloseum with my wife Ileana Ghione as Nora.
It is the exact opposite to Chiyan’s idea expressed above .
The actual setting up of the drama can be a little slow but the denoument comes in such a direct and revolutionary way that the audience are kept spellbound and astonished to the end.
The other three works on the programme ( that will be repeated in London on Thursday the 4th October) were by Busoni,Ades and Liszt.
The Busoni Second Sonatina BV 259 was followed by Thomas Ades variations on a traditional song “Lavaba la blanca nina” from his opera that Sir Norman told us afterwards he had seen twice “Exterminating Angel” in London and also in New York which it took by storm.
It was amazing how similar the two music worlds were.
Busoni and Ades with more than a century apart seemed to be speaking the same language.
Both were of course superb pianists as well as composers and the supreme colours that Chiyan found spread over the full length of the keyboard were indeed a marvel especially coming after the Goldberg variations.
They opened the way for Liszt’s “Dante “ Sonata (after the poem by Victor Hugo) “Apres une lecture du Dante”.
It was in Chiyan’s own words a Cinematic spectacle in sound .
A superb performance ,very individual but totally convincing .
He launched into the opening octaves with two hands explaining afterwards that it was to bring more colour to each of the notes .
”Can’t you just hear the horns and the strings” what could I say in front of such intelligent enthusiasm except of course he is right.
An extraordinary recital from and extraordinarily original thinking musician.
If anyone is in London next week I would rush to hear this recital at Barnes Music Society on Thursday 4th October at 19.30.
Much looking forward to Sir Norman’s future discoveries in Rome and in London .