Lara Melda at St Mary’s Perivale
And so Hugh Mather’s amazing season just gets better and better.
With Hugh at the helm and Roger Nellist directing the video recording in the organ loft and Lara Melda at the piano not even the terrible weather could keep a capacity crowd from coming on a very cold and wet Tuesday afternoon.
We were indeed warmed by Lara Melda’s very simple beautiful playing of Chopin Four Ballades .
The Liszt Ballade n.2 acting as contrast between 1/2 and 3/4.
Simplicity is the hardest thing to acquire for a real interpreter and so it is with real admiration that I congratulated and thanked her at the end of the recital.
I have never had an opportunity to listen to Lara before and asked her if she was receiving guidance still .
Oh yes she modestly replied :with Alfred Brendel.
Of course it all fitted into place.
As students we used to buy the Turnabout recordings for 50 pence of a virtually unknown pianist to hear such illuminated , intelligent and simple performances of Beethoven and Liszt.
That pianist was of course the now legendary Alfred Brendel.
At Dartington in 1968 at the masterclasses of Perlemuter I well remember the young daughter of the critic Martin Cooper playing Valses Nobles by Ravel to this disciple of Ravel.
I was a first year student at the RAM but I have never forgotten that exceptionally he had nothing to say except to compliment her not only on her superb musicianship but also on her perfect French!
Imogen Cooper was also taken under the wing of Alfred Brendel and not only has gone on to a worldwide career but has found time to share her knowledge with others by forming the Imogen Cooper Trust of which Lara is the first scholarship holder
I read too that Lara graduated from the RCM with first class honours in 2016 where she studied with Ian Jones.
Already before entering the RCM she had won the BBC Young Musician 2010 Competition.
Only in her mid- twenties she already has an enviable curriculum of playing with some of the finest orchestras and in the finest venues.
It is this experience and supreme professionalism that shone through a recital that reminded me of the Matthay school as exemplified by Dame Myra Hess and even more of Dame Moura Lympany.
Moura Lympany I knew well and when she could no longer play or travel away from her home in Montecarlo I used to send her a video recording of our concerts in Rome and we would discuss the performances on the telephone.
On hearing Peter Frankl play the Liszt Sonata magnificently as only a true musician could, she even wrote to him personally to thank him.
He of course had not known that Dame Moura was present!
All this to say that Lara plays with that same beautiful simplicity that is so hard to achieve especially at such a young age and especially with Chopin and Liszt.
So often the red hot passion of youth in these romantic masterpieces can lead to exaggerations where the heart takes precedence over the mind.
Where the passion of the moment takes over from the absolute control that is necessary and is evident with the experience gained by more mature players.
Here were the four ballades played beautifully and simply.
There was delicacy, feeling and passion too but a control and sense of musical command that is unusual in someone so young.
This was also the hallmark of the young Imogen Cooper and why she received such praise from a mature master as Perlemuter.
The overall architecture and shape were so clear.
Some small blemishes were of no importance on a musical journey of this stature.
Technically she is not of the dynamic Russian school but like Moura and Myra she has a real technical command and can produce the sounds that she hears.
One of the rare occasions of a pianist that actually listens to herself whilst she is playing
Cherkassky often used to say after listening to the latest whizz kid “ but I don’t think they are listening to themselves.”
Mention should be made of the beautiful and intelligent performance of the Liszt Ballade n.2 in B minor.
A true masterpiece revealed in her intelligent hands with sumptuous sounds of delicacy and grandeur just as I remember Brendel all those years ago.
She will choose her repertoire carefully as Imogen Cooper ,Paul Lewis and Alfred Brendel do to share their discovery of music with us.
The Realm of the Gods indeed !
The recital can be heard on BBC radio 3 on the 3rd December at 1 am live from the Wigmore Hall.
The next concert in Hugh Mathers series will be a day dedicated to Liszt on Saturday 24th November at 1.pm and onwards .