It was Noretta Conci-Leech,founder of the Keyboard Charitable Trust who on hearing Mihai strike up the first few notes of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata leant over to me and said this is the one.
It was the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe Intercollegiate Competition that we had been asked to judge together with Piers Lane.
I had already heard Mihai a few years earlier in a masterclass with Richard Goode and from then on had been following his progress with Joan Havill at the Guildhall with much interest.
He ,of course, was awarded the Gold Medal and later graduated with honours from the Guildhall and was accepted by the Keyboard Charitable Trust where he was invited to give a special concert in the Reform Club in the presence of Sir Antonio Pappano.
He has since been selected by the City Music Foundation who presented him at Cadogan Hall with the English Chamber Orchestra under Michael Collins.
They also have produced a CD of piano works by Liszt,Franck and Enescu that has been highly acclaimed by the critics.
He has appeared many times in Romania and as a laureate of the George Enescu International Piano competition his performance of Shostakovich n.1 last autumn with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra was broadcast live on Romanian television.
This is his second appearance that I have heard for Hugh Mather and on this occasion he was standing in at very short notice for an indisposed Mishka Rushdie Momen.
In fact it was such last minute we thought as the clock struck two that we might have to send out a search party for him.
We need not have worried for Mihai is a great professional and having had some difficulty in arriving on time just two minutes late he arrived and sat at the piano and took us immediately into his own special magic world.
It was my teacher Sidney Harrison who first said he did not teach children but when I auditioned for him he immediately saw that the piano and I were made for each other and thankfully changed his mind !
And so it was the first time I saw Mihai in masterclasses of Richard Goode and it was this that Noretta Conci immediately noticed.
Once again today it was obvious that Mihai and the piano are just made for each other.
From the very first notes there was a luminosity of sound that made one realise what Busoni meant when he said the pedal was the soul of the piano.
The Sonata in A major K24 that can so often sound like an exercise was here shaped with very subtle use of the sustaining pedal and a touch of a thousand gradations that gave a living shape and form to Scarlatti’s magic weave.
In the beautifully contrasting sonata in C sharp minor K247 the luminosity of sound was even more apparent.
I have heard many recitals on this piano but rarely have I been aware of the glow and subtle sheen of sound that was hidden within.
It is easy for a professional pianist to make a magnificent instrument sing but it is only a pianist who really listens to himself that can do the same on a piano which has seen better days.
In fact it was Richter who was quite happy to have the challenge of searching for the secrets in an unknown instrument.
The impeccable musicianship of Mihai he has inherited from his mentor at the Guildhall Joan Havill.
It was apparent yet again in an engaging performance of Beethoven’s Les Adieux Sonata A great sense of style and telling use of the bass notes at just the crucial moment.
The great fanfare in the last movement played quite fearlessly and with great rhythmic impetus.
The opening of the Farewell was even more moving for the total respect he had for the score without a trace of sentimentality but with great inner feeling.
A performance that one can put side by side with his remarkable Appassionata that won him the Gold Medal of the Beethoven Society a few years ago.
The fleeting moods of Chopin’s 3 Mazukas op 59 were magically portrayed.The second in particular dissolving into the air.And the more assertive third mazurka played with all the vigour of a native .
The sheen that he gave to the sound of the piano especially in the Liszt was quite remarkable.
The Fminor trancendental study was shaped and given a Ballade type form and any trace of rhetoric or showmanship was subordinate to the passionate sense of urgency and forward movement that swept us along to the exciting finish.
The genial “Au bord d’une source” was given a glistening performance in which we could almost see the stream bubbling along with such nostalgia of charm and peace.
This is an absolute gem and all too rarely heard these days in concert.
Throwing himself fearlessly into the Rigoletto Paraphrase this was the world of Liszt the showman.
Mihai was well aware of this and gave a truly virtuoso performance .
The sumptuousness of the melody and the delicate accompaniment were followed by great gusts of octaves that swept us along to a tumultuous end that was greeted by a true ovation from a discerning public that had been totally captivated by the great musicianship of this young artist.
Little were we expecting an encore of such subtle colouring as we were offered with Claire de lune by Debussy.
Such a wonderful delicate sense of balance that colours appeared like jewels in a magic box gleaming like a kaleidoscope with a thousand different shades.
There was pure magic in this fantasy world of Mihai Ritivoiu to which we were admitted so unexpectedly today.