Roberto Prosseda and Oleg Caetani with the London Philharmonic in London

“Get Closer” Roberto Prosseda and Oleg Caetani at the Festival Hall
As always a fascinating journey of discovery with Roberto Prosseda with his appearance with the London Philharmonic introducing the pedal piano to London audiences.
The last time he was here was with the then unknown conductor Yannick Nezet Seguin with Mendelssohn’s 3rd piano concerto ( fragments of a third concerto never finished but assembled and completed by Marcello Bufalini).
Roberto went on to record it with Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for Decca.
(The unknown Nezet Seguin has since become director of the Philadelphia Orhestra after Riccardo Muti!)
And this time he brings to London Gounod’s Concerto for Pedal Piano in E flat -1889.
He was shown the then unpublished score in 2010 by Gerard Conde who explained that Gounod had given the original manuscript to Lucie Palicot for whom his four works were written.

The Pinchi system brought especially to London by Roberto Prosseda

The Pinchi pedal board
A student of the son of Alkan ,Elie Dalaborde It was her appearances in Paris at the Salle Pleyel in 1882 ,having also heard Alkan himself in 1875 , that inspired Gounod and he gave her sole rights to the concerto.
Unfortunately she retired from the concert stage in 1895 when she married for the second time and the manuscript disappeared.
A report from the musicologist Paul Landormy recalled :”I remember what a strange impression was produced by the sight of this graceful and dainty person perched on a huge case containg the lower strings of the pedal-board beneath a grand piano resting on it.What surprised us above all,pleasantly enough to be sure,was to see Mme Palicot wearing a short knee-length skirt ( entirely necessary but astonishing in those days),and her pretty legs darting most adroitly to reach the different pedals of the keyboard she had at her feet !”
Roberto Prosseda  has recorded all four works by Gounod for Hyperion directed by Howard Shelley in his Romantic Piano Concerto Series.
He had commisioned from the Italian organ builder Claudio Pinchi an innovative system so that a pedal piano can be created from any two grand pianos.
Two Steinway D pianos one on top of the other with the Pinchi system that allows them to be transformed into a pedal piano.
The problem is that the pedal technique used for the organ cannot be applied since it requires a particular sensitivity of touch,as the pedals control a piano with hammers and strings.

The artistic balancing act of Roberto Prosseda
So a more pianistic approach is required,using the weight of the leg and transferring the weight from one note to another in order to achieve a legato and enable a rich sonority and good control of dynamics.
The sustaining pedal is seldom used as both feet are often busy playing the pedal board.The hands are required to play differently than on a normal piano as the player’s balance and seating position are often altered by the constant movement of the legs!
No one was aware of all these difficulties listening to the superb performance of Gounod’s long lost concerto.
The outer movements were extremely rhythmically controlled in their question and answer between pianos and orchestra .
It was in the beautiful Adagio and in the Schumann encore – the fourth of the six Canonic studies for pedal piano – that one could appreciate to the full the supreme artistry and superb sense of style of Roberto Prosseda.

Roberto discussing the pedal piano  with his colleagues and sponsors after his superb  London premiere performance of Gounod’s Pedal Piano Concerto
Infact I was witness backstage to the orchestral players coming one by one to congratulate Roberto especially for the beauty of his performance of the Schumann encore.
Praise indeed coming from his colleagues in the London Philharmonic.
It is very nice to see the success of the young pianist who studied in the Sergio Cafaro/Martinelli household a stone’s throw from our theatre in Rome(Teatro Ghione) and was reared by the Campus Musicale in his home town of Latina.
He often used to play in our theatre in Rome as ” try outs ” for his appearances in International Competitions .
I well remember the joy of Fou Ts’ong on hearing that Roberto would be playing in his Masterclasses.
He also went on to study with Fou Ts’ong and William Grant  Nabore at the International Piano Academy in Como  created and run  by William Nabore a former disciple of Carlo Zecchi (Martha Argerich is honorary President).
For some years he was artistic director of the Pontine Festival together  with Fabrizio von Arx  continuing their great tradition by bringing Elisso Virsaladze,Charles Rosen  and many others to the summer festival in Sermoneta in the grounds of the Caetani Castle.
A festival started in the 60’ by Menuhin/Szigeti and Alberto Lysy.

Oleg Caetani son of Igor Markevitch one of the last of the noble Italian dynasty of  Caetani
By coincidence the concert was the symphonic debut with the LPO of Oleg Caetani.Renowned in the opera houses throughout the world he is one of the last surviving members of the noble Caetani family.
His father was Igor Markevitch and his mother was Donna Topazia Caetani from whom he chose to take his name to prolong the family lineage.
Not only  with a renowned father whom I heard many times on this very stage but also with a superb pedigree of studies with Nadia Boulanger and Franco Ferrara.
He gave some superb performances of Messiaen : Hymne and the Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz that I well remember his father performing with such electricity here all those years ago.
We await many new discoveries from Roberto Prosseda in London on his remarkable journey in the music world where he delves with such intelligence and artistry .

The rather complicated removal in the interval of the two Steinways and Pinchi system

Roberto explaining the Pinchi system during the interval backstage

The rapt attention of his colleagues in the LPO during the Schumann encore that Roberto very spiritedly introduced .

Rachel Cheung at St Mary’s Perivale

Rachel Cheung at St Mary’s Perivale
Not a week goes by without hearing another remarkable young pianist in the series of Tuesday afternoon piano recitals at St Mary’s in Perivale.
And Hugh Mather has struck gold again today with a young pianist from Hong Kong: Rachel Cheung.
Looking at her biography it was reassuring to see that her early training she had received from a fellow student of mine at the Royal Academy in London.
Eleanor Wong studied with Frederick Jackson a remarkable musician who died conducting the Verdi Requiem in the Dukes Hall of the RAM .His final words were to carry on as they carried him off in an ambulance.
Eleanor had won all the major prizes and also carried off silver medal at the Vercelli competition in Italy.
She used to knock on my door where I was practicing every evening to play through her programmes to this young first year student.
Of course I was very impressed but not nearly as impressed as seeing her forty years later on the jury of the Leeds International Piano Competition.
Great reports were coming from Hong Kong of this superb trainer of young pianists as we were to hear today from Rachel Cheung.

Rachel Cheung
It was nice to see also that after graduating from Hong Kong Academy with First Class Honours Rachel had gone on to complete her studies with the legendary hungarian pianist Peter Frankl at Yale University in America.
One of the youngest competitiors in the Leeds Competition in 2009 at the age of 17.
She was awarded fifth prize the year that Gulyak Sofya was awarded the Gold medal.
She went on to win prizes in many other major competitions and recently conducted from the keyboard Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris at the Play-Direct Academy led by Stephen Kovacevich.
It was hardly surprising that St Mary’s was packed to the rafters for the beautiful programme of Franck,Schumann and Liszt presented by this remarkable young musician.
Still only 26 she played with the authority and control of a master.
Starting with the hauntingly beautiful transcription by Harold Bauer of Cesar Franck Prelude,Fugue and Variation op 18 for organ.
It was clear from the beautiful liquid tone and the way that she moved so naturally at the piano that we were in the presence of a true musician and poet of the piano.
So often the works of Franck for solo piano and piano transcriptions from the organ can sound so thick and heavy and these days rather outdated.
Rachel managed to convey with an almost whispered appearance of the recurring melody a feeling that this was the only possible medium for this piece.
Even the Fugue was played with the same delicate tone colour and the reappearance of the melody at the end was quite magical.
She looked exactly as I remember Eleanor did at the piano all those years ago.
A beautiful natural way of almost conjuring the sounds out of the keyboard.
The main work on the programme was the Fantasy in C Major by Schumann.
Charmingly presented to the public explaining that it was an outpouring of love for his beloved Clara and there are many references to her throughout the work .

Rachel presenting her programme after the Franck
Not least the quote from Beethoven  :To the distant beloved – An die ferne geliebte at the end of the first movement.
It is dedicated to Liszt who in turn dedicated his B minor Sonata to Schumann.
The two pinnacles of the Romantic piano repertoire.
And it was to Liszt that Rachel turned to close the programme ;the Mephisto Waltz n.1.
I well remember Peter Frankl giving a masterclass in Oxford on the Schumann Fantasy and explaining the difficulty of keeping the structure of the first movement in mind amidst the continual fluctuations of tempo that Schumann asks for.
It was exactly this that marked Rachel’s performance as very special today.
All the passionate outpouring of love for Clara was there together with the extreme tenderness and subtle sense of colour and exquisite phrasing.
All this held tightly together to the final magical quote from Beethoven.
Ever more in diminuendo to the bell like final chords and the three final bass chords almost disappearing into the infinite.A remarkable control of sound completely mesmerised the audience.
The march of the second movement was played with great rhythmic impetus but I felt the dotted rhythms of Schumann could have been less clipped and more melodically shaped.
The middle section was beautifully shaped though.
Hampered I fear by a small hand but she managed to conquer the infamous difficulties of the coda magnificently.
The last movement was magically played managing to play with great feeling but always keeping the great melodic line in view architecturally.The melodic line in the bass in the coda was sublime and her control of sound remarkable.
The minutes of silence that greeted the final chords was evidence enough of the magic she had created this afternoon.
This was obviously the Eusebius side of Rachels’ character.
Now with the Mephisto Waltz n.1 we were treated to Floristan and a truly fearless performance of this virtuoso showpiece.
There was though a virtuosism of great subtlety with infinite shades of colour in the most transcendental scale passages.
A middle section of heartrending sentiment and a coda in which she threw herself completely at the infamous octave leaps that the virtuoso Liszt had conjured up.
The birdcalls at the end were played with a clarity and precision before throwing herself at the double octave ending.
One can understand why she won the Audience Award at the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
In fact it was by popular demand that she played Widmung by Schumann in the Liszt transcription where the two composers were at last consoled in a performance at once delicate,passionate and virtuosistic.
But above all it was the the poetic intelligence and complete command of the keyboard that kept us spellbound for this short recital in Hugh Mather’s remarkable series.
An immediate invitation for a return match was greeted with cheers from this very appreciative audience today.

Rachel Cheung

Rachel Cheung and CA

Graham Johnson and the Songmakers’ Almanac

On Wings of Song The Songmakers’ Almanac 40 years on
It was in 1976 under the enlightened management of William Lyne that the Wigmore Hall was relaunched.
He had persuaded Artur Rubinstein to give just one last concert in his long career in order to save the Wigmore Hall from the threat of demolition.
A concert on the 31st May 1976 when an almost blind Artur Rubinstein played for the very last time in public.
His final piece the B flat minor Scherzo by his beloved Chopin he abandoned as he could no longer see the great leaps involved.
He proceeded to play two studies op 10 n.4 and one we had never heard him play in public before op 25 n.2.
Both of which took our breath away.
It was a truly memorable recital that had included Schumann Carnaval,Beethoven op 31 n.3 Ravel Valses Nobles and Chopin Nocturne op 27 n.2 and Scherzo op 31.
An audience in delirium and Rubinstein with not the slightest sign of having played a recital that would have worn out much younger colleagues.
He turned to the audience and begged them not to allow the hall to be demolished.
He had started his career in 1912 in the Bechstein Hall and he was happy to finish it here in the newly named Wigmore Hall 54 years later.
He invited the audience to go backstage for this very last time.
He was being greeted by all when he could sense that there was someone very exceptional in front of him.
”I may be blind but not too blind to know when a beautiful lady is standing in front of me.”
Lauren Bacall was charmed of course as only Rubinstein knew how.
William Lyne not content with just Rubinstein devised in typical antipodean style a month of celebrations with concerts that included Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,Henryk Szeryng, Peter Pears with Julian Bream and Murray Perahia,Melos Ensemble,Parikian, Fleming,Roberts Trio and a concert in memory of David Munrow who was to have directed the Early Music Consort.
The Hall was reborn and has since under the enlightened antipodean Managements of William Lyne and now John Gilhooly become one of the most sought after and revered chamber music venues.
It has created its own audience who fill the hall night after night for artists such as Andras Schiff,Steven Isserlis,Angela Hewitt,Joshua Bell ,Graham Johnson etc etc .

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf on the 12th June 1976
Little could they have imagined that the hall was born on the wings of song.
For just down the road on the South Bank a young enthusiastic pianist was devising programmes for singers with themes under the name of the Songmakers’ Almanac.

A man in love
It took a little while for William Lyne and Graham Johnson to find each other and to realise that the ideal place for this new adventure was infact in the reborn Wigmore Hall.
With the first steps on stage of Graham with his colleagues from the RAM :Felicity Lott,Anthony Rolf Johnson,Richard Jackson,Ann Murray it was love at first sight.
A love affair that has lasted over 40 years.
Visibly moved as Graham Johnson remembered all those who had been on this long journey of discovery with him but were no longer with us.
The voice of “Tony”Rolfe Johnson brought a tear to his eyes as it still brought to us a tingle of excitement with the sublime exchange between voice and piano of this singer whose life was cut short much too early.
Sharing with us so generously his memories of 40 years of the almanac which he had idealised for these great young singers who were just happy to have programmes devised for them rather than jotting down their pieces on the back of a brown envelope.
Geoffrey Parsons was not immediately convinced.
Singers sing and accompanists follow !
He soon changed his tune and became an invaluable part of the Almanac as did the veteran Gerald Moore.
Officially retired in 1967 to tend his rose garden rather than darting from one continent to another.Gerald Moore took the Almanac audience by surprise one evening by joining Graham at the piano for a Schubertiade.
What greater endorsement could there be than that for a young man who had been seduced by song at the age of 21 playing with Felicity Lott in the class of Flora Nielson.
Graham and I had been contemporaries at the Royal Academy.
He had come on an Associated Board Scholarship from South Africa to study with Harry Isaacs .
I with Sidney Harrison but we shared chamber music coaching together with John Streets.
I well remember him telling Graham that he did not have to play every note as if someone was sticking a knife into him!
But Graham was already ultra sensitive to beautiful sound and he would also regularly quote the great poets to us in the student canteen much to our bewilderment.
Graham took part in the BBC Cello Competition directed at Dartington by Eleonor Warren.
He partnered Jonathan Williams a very fine cellist and the son of one of the Trimble sisters who had a well known piano duo at the time.
But when he struck up the Rococo Variations by Tchaikowsky it was the sheer beauty of the sound of Grahams’ orchestra that has remained with me all these years.
As Graham told us he was preparing the usual Concerto and Sonatas of a solo pianist ………………..that is until at the age of 21 he fell madly in love ………..with song.
Thanks to that great singing teacher Flora Nielson.
A lover he has never betrayed in fact it has become stronger as he delved deeper and came into contact in those early days with musicians of the calibre of Schwarzkopf,De Los Angeles,Pierre Bernac,Peter Pears,Gerald Moore,Walter Legge ,Hugh Cuenod etc etc.
He even helped Benjamin Britten write down his opera Death in Venice when he became physically too frail to write down the marvels that were still in his heart and mind.
This is just a small part of the fascinating journey that Graham shared with us on a Saturday morning here on his beloved stage.
Pointing to the spot where an already invalid Peter Pears had participated at an Almanac dedicated to him and had stated :
”The Wigmore hall is the place where singers can sing better than they ever thought possible”
How many programmes had been meticulously prepared and in preparing them how deeper his love had become.
His CD recording of the complete Schubert Songs has become a classic and his volume that accompanies it a reference for all that wish to know every detail of Schuberts heart and mind.
It was a story that Graham shared in is inimitable way.
With elegance,wit and above all intelligence in which his passionate involvement rang out so strongly.
A few years ago after one of his many recitals he was honoured with the Gold Medal of the Wigmore Hall.
He was presented too with a carriage clock.
Graham in thanking John Gilhooly immediately  quipped “but I have no intention of retiring!”
I introduced him via internet to Dame Fanny Waterman.
I had been listening in Italy over the radio to a recital transmitted from the Wigmore Hall.
Mesmerised by the beauty of Graham’s playing in writing to Dame Fanny with birthday greetings I mentioned that I had just been overwhelmed by the concert.
”But I was listening too in Leeds and he is the greatest accompanist alive .“
Fanny has chosen artists of the calibre of Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu to win her competition and is rarely wrong when it comes to playing the piano.
They have since become friends and mutual admirers.
I am involved too with helping to monitor and point in the right direction extraordinarily talented young pianists on the verge of important careers in music.And I often say to these Lions of the Keyboard if you want to learn how to make the piano sing listen to Graham Johnson.
Ever generous he came to one of the Keyboard Trusts’ Prize Winners Wigmore debut of a magnificent Russian pianist who had sought from Graham to find his secret of true legato hidden in that black box of hammers and strings.
A wonderful illuminating morning that I just hope will be recorded for posterity or at least published as an important document of someone who has changed the face of music appreciation.
Not content with all that he does he has just finished an important book on Poulenc which is about to be published in the UK.
The Green Room crowded by his friends and admirers after an hour and a half cut short only because time ran out.
“Am I too loud” his mentor Gerald Moore would ask.
No No dear Graham but much much “more” please.
The good news is that at the invitation of John Gilhooly,Graham has devised a new Songmakers’ Almanac series that begins on the 24th January 2019.
The Wigmore and Graham Johnson are indeed floating once again on Wings of Song.

Graham Johnson

Jamie Bergin for the Keyboard Trust

Jamie Bergin at St Mary’s Perivale
Hugh Mather and friends greet the Keyboard Charitable Trust

Programme of Jamie Bergin
Once again thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of Hugh Mather and Roger Nellist we were able to hear the superb young British pianist Jamie Bergin in London.
Having been selected by the Keyboard Charitable Trust to give a public audition / concert in Steinway Hall to find that due to rebuilding work the hall will not be available until the spring.
Jamie having studied from an early age with Murray McLachlan at Chethams and then at the Guildhall with Joan Havill has gone on to complete his studies with Lars Vogt in Hannover and since 2016 was invited to be his assistant.
Here was a pedigree of great musicianship and it was exactly this that was so evident from a programme of often heard works but in the hands of a true musician.
It was as though we were hearing them afresh for the first time.
The really refreshing surprise was the variety of sounds that he could  conjure out of a piano that we have heard so many times in lesser hands.
Here was a professionality where there was absolutely no doubt technically or musically of his intentions.
To start at the end with the encore of Granados: “A Maiden and the Nightingale” of such sublime beauty.
The almost whispered melodic layers of sound each one weaving a magic spell but with a quality of sound at once creamy rich but with undercurrents of harmonies of such subtle colour like a fabulous string orchestra that is barely audible.
The passionate outbursts were a consequence of the slow built up of sound.
The imitation bird calls would have had Messiaen green with envy.
They were played with clarity but also with just the right amount of pedal that blurred the edges to perfection.
This was after a Gaspard de la Nuit that I have never heard played so perfectly in a live performance.
Scarbo was quite fenomenal in it’s sheer brilliance and complete technical command.
The subtle indications of diminuendo and crescendo so often ignored were here wonderfully noted and the deep throbbing notes at the beginning and in the mysterious middle section were quite a revelation.
To hear what Ravel actually wrote was a technical and musical feat of but a chosen few.
The opening of Ondine was beautifully judged with the melody shaped so perfectly where the murmur of the water was never allowed to be distinct or invasive.
Of course there were great washes of sound and in the great double note climax I have never been so aware that they start piano and lead to a crescendo of great brilliance- a real technical feat indeed.
The tolling bell of Le Gibet was even more mysterious for its  understated clarity.
The concert had started with Les Adieux Sonata op 81a by Beethoven.
Of course as we would expect with a disciple of that great trainer of musician pianists, Joan Havill, every marking was scrupulously noted and incorporated into a very personal interpretation.
In fact it was immediately noticeable the differing liquid sounds that he managed to find within piano to mezzo piano.
This I imagine is the influence of that other great musician Lars Vogt who we know from his participation for many years with the Leeds Competition and conducting from the keyboard the orchestras in the north of England.

foto taken by Roger Nellist from the video camera hidden in the gallery
The whole of the first movement had an almost “pastoral” feel to it with some wonderful attention to the bass where I have never noticed such differing colours before.
Technically impeccable,of course, but almost too fussy for Beethoven with hairpin shaping and slight changes of tempo that disturbed a little the true Beethovenian rhythmic drive.
The slow movement was beautifully shaped and lead to the Vivacissimamente which had all the relentless drive that had been missing in the first movement.
It was indeed a very fine performance and was followed by Chopin’s great continuous melodic outpouring that is his Barcarolle.
Played with great taste never allowing the rubato to become vulgar but with that fexibility that is as Chopin describes: a tree with the roots in the ground but the branches  that are allowed to sway naturally in the wind.
Inner counterpoints so beautifully shaped as rarely heard with great aristocratic nobility but at the same time with a heart that beats so strongly from within.

Hugh Mather applauding Jamie Bergin
This remarkable young man, well on his way to a great career ,can be heard in London at St John’s Smith Square for the Kirckman Young Artists Series on the 24th January at 19.30 ………………
I for one shall not miss it!
Thank you Hugh Mather and your remarkable team for opening up not only your beautiful church but also sharing your informed enthusiasm with the Keyboard Charitable Trust on a friday night .

Hugh Mather Elena Vorotko co-artistic director of the KCT and Jamie Bergin

IYAD SUGHAYER at Conway Hall in Praise of Peace

Palmusic UK shakes hands with The Keyboard Charitable Trust

John Leech and his wife Noretta Conci,founders of the Keyboard Charitable Trust
I have followed the career of the young Jordanian pianist Iyad Sughayer for some years and it was a great pleasure to share in the celebration that Palmusic UK had organised together with the Keyboard Charitable Trust to celebrate his winning the Trinity Laban Gold Medal 2018.

John Leech with Iyad Sughayer
As John Leech proudly announced in the question and answer session that followed a remarkable recital.
The Keyboard Trust has been able to offer this young musician concerts in Germany and in Manchester Cathedral with the Manchester Camerata.
Other tours await this gifted young man in Italy and the USA in the future.

Wissam Boustany
Sharing the platform in the Q&A session was Wissam Boustany,the artistic adviser of Palmusic and  distinguished flutist (teaching at Trinity Laban and visiting Professor at the Edward Said Conservatory in Palestine)and above all an International Peace Campaigner.
Outlining the power of music in creating peace in the Middle East just as Edward Said together with Daniel Barenboim have demonstrated to the world with their East-West Divan Orchestra.
Creating dialogue between peoples with differing cultures can only be achieved by sharing something loved by all sides:MUSIC.
The words and actions of Politicians have proved to be futile if the dialogue is not shared and understood by the people that are suffering.
As John Leech rightly said the Keyboard Trust is proud to be associated with Palmusic on this and hopefully on many other occasions.
It was a short showcase recital that left plenty of time for discussion and celebration.
In the splendid acoustics of the Conway Hall in Holborn.
A Bosendorfer piano that had seen better days but still retained it’s unique voice.
It was ,infact this voice that was immediately noticeable in Iyad’s hands.
In the Q&A session he had been asked if he had a favourite composer.
Mozart without any doubt was the reply.
His Mozart showed remarkable clarity and control but it was above all the purity and beauty of the sound that struck us all and especially Noretta Conci-Leech,former assistant for many years of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.
No higher praise could be offered !
The first movement in particular had all the rhythmic drive together with the finesse and contrasts that mark this sonata in particular one of the most important of Mozart’s output and with the C minor almost forseeing what would come afterwards in Beethoven’s revolutionary hands.
The Andante cantabile is pure opera and here the dramatic contrasts are quite unique and should almost take us all by surprise.
A recent performance by Janina Fialkowska was really a lesson to us all and quite enthralling.
Iyad loves this music so much and played extremely beautifully but one felt that he was almost afraid to show us the jagged edges of Mozart’s teeth.
His performance will gain in depth as he matures and develops his already quite extraordinary gifts

Ilya Kondratiev in discussion with Noretta Conci Leech
The Presto was played in true sotto voce and the beautiful A major section was allowed to breathe to perfection.
The problem with this movement is the left hand that needs to be so precise as to allow the whispered right hand to really speak.
Iyad did wonders but it was Craig Sheppard who had pin pointed this in a masterclass at the RCM with Ilya Kondratiev.
Ilya had flown in especially from a German tour for the KCT to support his colleague and admire his Mozart .

Iyad with that other remarkable pianist and indefatigable peace campaigner Alberto Portugheis*
In his interview after the concert Iyad said he was very excited about recording all the works of Khachaturian.
Something that only Murray McLachlan had done previously.
It was with Murray that Iyad had studied since leaving Amman and the National Music Conservatory at the age of 14.
Studying first at Chetham’s and later at the RNCM always in Manchester.
Awarded a full scholarship to study at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music in London he continued his studies with Martino Tirimo .
Now having completed his studies there having been awarded the prestigious Gold Medal he returns to Manchester to complete his International Artists Diploma with McLachlan,Tirimo and Scott.
An exciting project to be invited to record for the Swedish label BIS the solo works of Khachaturian and  it was after a performance of the four Mazukas op 33 by Chopin  that we were treated to a transcendental performance of Khatchaturian’s 1961 Sonata.
Here was all the verve and drive of a young lion .
Not only.
But with a sense of colour and contrast that had ignited this young man’s imagination and that he transmitted to an audience mesmerised and overwhelmed by such authority.
A work in many ways reminiscent of Prokofiev with its liquid cantabile contrasting with passages of enormous velocity and power.
A remarkable performance that augers well not only for posterity in the recording but also in the performance with the BBC Philharmonic which is in programme shortly after in Manchester.

Wissam Boustany with Iyad
A very interesting Q&A with a capacity audience after the performance in which it was refreshing to see with what simplicity and joy this young man could share not only his music but also his views on music in the Middle East and the message that music can have for all those who have ears and the wish to listen.
A celebration afterwards was a fitting end to an uplifting evening dedicated to Art and Peace.
His next performance in Amman will be on the 23rd December with that other extraordinary Jordanian pianist Karim Said (a student at Purcell School of that other renowned trainer of young musicians Tessa Nicholson)
In programme Beethoven Concerto n. 2 .
* honoured to be corrected and enlightened by another extraordinary human being present in the audience:Alberto Portugheis
Dear Wissam Boustany (you can read what he wrote about me on the back cover of my first book, with John’s foreword) is a Peace lover and occasionally Peace searcher, but not a campaigner as such. He’s very spiritual and a wonderful musician. We have partnered each other on occasions. This, from his website, expresses in a clear way what his interests are:
Wissam’s experiences of the war in Lebanon have greatly influenced his outlook on both Life and Music, crystalizing into a burning intensity, commitment, deep sadness, and spirituality that find their wings in the sound of his flute. In 1995, he founded Towards Humanity, a multi-decade international initiative working with musicians and charities, helping communities who suffer from the tragedies of war.
You don’t mention his teaching at Trinity Laban; has Wissam retired ?
To me, outlining the power of music in the context of Peace work, is distracting and confusing. Many politicians and often the more warmongering ones, (Hitler included) listened to good music all their lives. Armed Forces have orchestras, bands, chamber music, choral music, etc. Many military murderers are excellent painters, sculptors, poets.
ART is used to celebrate good or evil, depending on who orders it.
Famous composers have written marches to encourage killing. The 5th verse of God Save The Queen says we must kill all the Scotts !!!
Daniel Barenboim has repeatedly said the East-West Divan Orchestra is not a Peace Project and he does not expect their concerts to do anything to advance the Peace process.  The Said-Barenboim Project’s aim is: show that communication between Jews and Muslims is possible. This however, is already know by everybody, but Militarism, Politics and money makes Peace impossible. In fact, we have so many wars because of the excellent communication, fluid dialogue between all the warrying parties.
You say Creating dialogue between peoples with differing cultures can only be achieved by sharing something loved by all sides:MUSIC.
In Spain, when the Civil War broke out, thousands of people who shared the music they were singing, in Church choirs all over the country, ended up killing each other, depending on which side of the conflict they belonged to. You also write The words and actions of Politicians have proved to be futile if the dialogue is not shared and understood by the people that are suffering..
In reality most people don’t understand what happens, because people are gullible and they believe politicians. People believe that we need Armed Forces for “Defense”. Politicians are ‘forced’ by the system to create ‘enemies’ so as to justify military expenditure. We force them to lie to us. They have to promote the military Trade (something impossible without creating the terrain for wars), so that they can tell us of their Peace efforts.
To the piano now !!!



The remarkable work of Palmusic UK

The distinguished audience in Conway Hall

Alberto Portugheis demonstrating his up and coming Beethoven Piano Concerto Masterclasses in St John’s Notting Hill on the 17th November

Iyad celebrating with us after his distinguished performances

Yuanfan Yang takes Rome by storm The XXVIII Rome International Piano Competition

Yuanfan Yang takes Rome by storm The XXVIII Rome International Piano Competition
It was in 1989 that Marcella Crudeli decided that Rome merited a competition like many of the other major cities.
With her enormous energy and indomitable spirit the first Rome National Competition was won by Roberto Prosseda and Enrico Camerini.
Two pianists that had been giving recitals from an early age in the Ghione Theatre which for years tried to give a platform to musicians who for one reason or another were not being invited to perform in Rome.
( Young and old alike included Vlado Perlemuter,Guido Agosti,Shura Cherkassky,Annie Fischer,Dame Moura Lympany,Fou Ts’ong,Peter Frankl,Rosalyn Tureck,Gyorgy Sandor,Alicia De Larrocha,Peter Katin,Ruggiero Ricci,Idil Biret,Dominique Merlet,Bruno Canino,Pina Carmirelli,Jeno Jando,Vadim Repin,Mikhail Pletnev,Tatiana Nikolaeva,Andor Foldes,Paul Tortelier,Janina Fialkowska,Angela Hewitt,Ivo Pogorelich,Friedrich Gulda,Jerome Rose,Dmitri Alexeev,Oxana Yablonskaya ,Boris Berman,Gervase De Peyer,Bary Tuckwell,Paul Badura-Skoda,Franco Mannino,Fausto Zadra,Lya De Barberiis,Martha Noguera,Alberto Portugheis.Alexander Romanovsky,Bruno Canino,

Teatro Ghione next to St.Peter’s Square in the heart of Rome
Karlheinz Stockhausen,Luciano Berio,Marilyn Horne,Lucia Valentini Terrani,Carlo Bergonzi,Jose Cura,Mariella Devia,Margaret Price,Dame Gweneth Jones,Olga Borodina,Dmitri Hvorosovsky,Nicolai Gedda,Giuseppe di Stefano,Goffredo Petrassi,Eliot Carter, Dame Eva Turner,Roberto Prosedda,Jayson Gillham,Alexander Ullman,Vitaly Pisarenko,Pablo Rossi,Leslie Howard,Carlo Grante,Enrico Camerini etc)
The Theatre was built and run by the distinguished actress (my wife) Ileana Ghione for over thirty years.
It is still going strong and is a just monument to her.
And as Marcella Crudeli said in her closing speech tonight at the end of its 28th edition: “This is the International Piano Competition of Rome” and not the Marcella Crudeli Competition as it is familiarly known.”It must carry on long after I have gone.”
The same sentiments of my wife who died on stage in her theatre 13 years ago.

Exhibition of Marcello Mastroianni at the Ara Pacis in the centre of Rome
It was a nice coincidence that in the interval between the Final and the gala concert at the Teatro Quirino – Vittorio Gassman I was able to visit an exhibition mounted for a colleague of that other famous Italian actor Vittorio Gassman- Marcello Mastroianni.
The final exhibit is a film where he quotes Kafka saying so poetically that the hill that had seemed so far away in his youth was now only a stone’s throw away.
It is truly admirable to see the strength of women ready to fight for what they believe in and to never give up until they succeed.
Such was the determination of Fanny Waterman with the International Competition that she brought to her city of Leeds.
Sulamita Aranowska did the same for her adopted city with the London Power Piano Competition.
Carla Grindea too founded EPTA(European Piano Teachers Association) with Perlemuter President and Sidney Harrison ,chairman.
It is now an organisation worldwide of which Marcella Crudeli is the Italian representative.

Marcella Crudeli after the Final the morning of the Gala Concert
The first competition was followed the following year by the first “International” Competition which has since seen 28 editions.
A list of prize winners over the years includes Dmytro Choni,Dmitry Masleev,Denis Zhdanov,Ilya Maximov,Luca Rasca,Boris Giltburg all of whom have gone on to distinguish themselves in competitions such as Van Cliburn,Tchaikowsky,Queen Elisabeth and forge great careers.
It was Enrico Camerini who won the very first Roma 1991 prize and was today on the jury of the competition together with Carles Lama( Spain),Martin Munch and Frank Wasser (Germany),Kathryn Page(UK),Arturo Stalteri(Italy).
The President of the jury was Enrica Ciccarelli,distinguished pianist and artistic director of the Societa dei Concerti in Milan.

The jury at the final round in Teatro Quirino
I was only able to listen to the Final round with orchestra of the three finalist selected during a week of sessions at the Confraternita di S Giovanni Battista de’ Genovesi.
.Soo Jin Cha from South Korea opened with Chopin First Concerto op 11.
Actually studying with Pavel Gililov in Salzburg whose assistant, Ilya Maximov, had won the Rome 2008 prize.

Soo Jin Cha
At 33 she was the eldest of the three finalists and was able to give a very fine beautifully shaped performance inspite of an orchestra and conductor who had not played this repertoire before.
The slow movement in particular was of ravishing beauty.
The outer movements equally beautiful but missing the drive and rhythmic energy that Rubinstein had taught us was so much part of Chopin’s personality.
She went on to win second prize and give some equally poetic solo performances in the gala concert.
Her Chopin Mazuka op 17 n.4 brought spontaneous applause for its poetry and complete understanding.
Debussy “Jardins sous la pluie” and Rachmaninov Etude Tableau op 39.n.5 were equally beautiful but here again missing that energy and drive that was missing too in the Concerto.
Some very fine professional performances under difficult circumstances from an artist of some experience

Gen Li
Gen Li at 27 ,who I have heard in London play Prokofiev superbly well (St John Smith Square celebration concert for his teacher Deniz Arman Gelenbe on her retirement from Trinity college).
He also studied with Bryce Morrison and now receives guidance from Dmitri Alexeev.
His choice of Mozart D minor Concerto K466 took me by surprise especially as he had played Prokofiev 7th Sonata and Liszt Mephisto Waltz n.1 in the previous rounds.
Very clean and clearly played with a rather cheeky little cadenza added to Beethoven’s,all perfectly in style.
Some beautiful playing but somehow missing that demonic spark that I know he possesses.
A little too in awe and respectful he gave a very solid musical account but as with Soo Jin Cha it missed that special spark that holds an audiences’ attention to every single note as with a Curzon or Serkin.
Gen Li was give third prize and went on to astonish us with his Mephisto Waltz at the final gala.
Although not note perfect as he was obviously drained after a gruelling week competing, it did have that spark that marks his performances out as “very special “in that piano expert Bryce Morrison’s words .

Yuanfan Yang with Kathryn Page after the results had been announced
Yuanfan Yang,the scottish pianist of chinese origin, at only 21 was the youngest of the three finalists.
Trained from an early age at Chethams with Murray McLachlanwhere he received that superb early training and support that is so important and that Chethams continues to surprise and provide in abundance.
Now with Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy in London he is not only a pianist but also a composer in his own right.Having played his own piano concerto all over China to audiences in their thousands.
He has also been accepted by the Keyboard Charitable Trust of which I am a co artistic director together with Leslie Howard and Elena Vorotko,for monitoring and guidance.

Yuanfan Yang morning Finals
He gave a very fine performance of Beethoven 3rd Concerto under very difficult circumstances indeed.
Enough said that every time he played a trill in the cadenza the conductor gave the up beat and brought the orchestra in.
There are many trills in the cadenza unfortunately and the magical coda was the sacrificial lamb to the conductor’s inexperience.
Far from being put off Yuanfan rose to the occasion with an injection of Beethovenian fervor that had been missing in a beautiful but rather lightweight performance.
It was the performance that gained him first prize and another performance of the entire concerto at the Gala Concert.
This time both orchestra and conductor were in almost complete syntony with our young soloist who had retained the same authority and Beethovenian rage acquired under duress that same morning.

Marcella Crudeli introducing the Cuomo Foundation prize to Yuanfan Yang
Receiving numerous prizes in particular the Medal from the President of the Republic,the Cuomo Foundation and the International Federation of Chopin Societies. Also generous sponsors glad to be associated with Marcella Crudeli and her crusade to bring youth into contact with culture in the name of the Eternal City.
In fact it is the Cuomo Foundation that prominently states:
“The Art of Education is Education of the Heart”
A very fine account of Beethoven’s 3rd Concerto followed where all the difficulties of the morning performance had been ironed out.
A charming speech of thanks from Yuanfan was followed by a very poetic account of La Campanella Study by Liszt.
And then the surprise of the evening which took us all by storm after an evening of prizes and performances that had started three hours earlier.
Yuanfan had been asked by some of the jury if he would give an example of his improvisations that they had heard about from me.
Marcella Crudeli provided the theme which was “La ci darem la mano” and there followed a transcendendal performance in which Marcella’s melody appeared in every part of the piano amidst the most amazing Lisztian or Thalbergian arabesques and octaves.
This is what we had been waiting for.
Someone born to play the piano fearlessly with that “goie de vivre” and authority that had up until now been lacking.
It brought the house down and as the cheering died down we realised that “our” Marcella had done it again!
Mention should be made of her beautiful performance of the Fantasie Impromptu by Chopin as accompaniment to the historic film archives of the past editions.

The Gala Concert Programme
A young Lithuanian at only 17 years old had won two categories and gave some very fine if rather lightweight performances of Rachmaninov and Tchaikowsky.
Kasparas Mikuzis is obviously a name to watch as he gains in experience and authority

Kasparas Mikuzis ,17 year old Lithuanian pianist double prize winner
A cheer from the audience for the piano duet team made in Italy of Giuseppe Carmine Atorino and Armando Sabbarese .

Piano duet team Atorino- Sabbarese
A performance of Petrouschka more remarkable for the fact that they played this very complex work without the score than for its lack of demonic rhythmic drive and colour.
I wish I could have heard more of this duo than the Stravinsky.
Obviously the jury had, and justly gave them first prize.
Remarkable though were the two piano team of Kyungchan Nahk and Jonghwa Park from South Korea.
A strepitoso performance of Lutoslawski’s Pagnini variations.
In which that spark that had been missing from many of the young pianists was ignited by the pianist with the lid to the piano and complimented by the composure of the one without.Sorry to say I do not know the names of each one individually but what does it matter when the sparks fly in such an exciting and intelligent performance

Two piano team Bahk and Park
Before the ceremony the National Hymn with orchestra and with a performance of the choir of young ladies with speaking impediments expressing the music so movingly with the movement of their hands.
As my wife would so often say “It is not only theatre but also a social service “
It can help so many express our true feelings in a world where we seem afraid of having them at all!
Words so eloquently expressed by the President of the Jury: Enrica Ciccarelli in her thank you speech to Marcella and her colleagues on the jury

The choir “singing” in their own very special way the National Hymn

Enrica Ciccarelli with Yuanfan Yang

First prize presented by Madam Cuomo

Christopher Axworthy Dip.RAM ,ARAM

Christopher Axworthy was born in London,but since 1980 has built and run the Ghione Theatre in the centre of Rome together with his wife the distinguished actress Ileana Ghione .

It was Stockhausen’s favourite theatre.He loved to direct the lighting
It has become one of the most important theatres in the city having created its own theatre company principally for young actors.
At the same time Euromusica of International standing was created with over 40 concerts each season.Not only famous musicians strangely neglected by Rome but also for young talented musicians seeking an important platform.
For this activity his wife was awarded one of the highest honours from the President of Italy –Grande Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana and he was made an Associate of the Royal Academy in London.

Letter from the President on hearing of Ileana’s death
Some of the artists who played and often gave masterclasses for young musicians too include:
Vlado Perlemuter,Guido Agosti,Shura Cherkassky,Annie Fischer,Dame Moura Lympany,Fou Ts’ong,Peter Frankl,Rosalyn Tureck,Gyorgy Sandor,Alicia De Larrocha,Peter Katin,Ruggiero Ricci,Idil Biret,Dominique Merlet,Bruno Canino,Pina Carmirelli,Jeno Jando,Vadim Repin,Mikhail Pletnev,Tatiana Nikolaeva,Andor Foldes,Paul Tortelier,Janina Fialkowska,Angela Hewitt,Ivo Pogorelich,Friedrich Gulda,Jerome Rose,Dmitri Alexeev,Oxana Yablonskaya ,Boris Berman,Gervase De Peyer,Bary Tuckwell,Paul Badura-Skoda,Franco Mannino,Fausto Zadra,Martha Noguera,Aquiles Delle Vigne,Lya De Barberiis,Alberto Portugheis,Alexander Romanovsky,Bruno Canino,Karlheinz Stockhausen,Luciano Berio,Marilyn Horne,Lucia Valentini Terrani,Carlo Bergonzi,Jose Cura,Mariella Devia,Margaret Price,Dame Gweneth Jones,Olga Borodina,Dmitri Hvorosovsky,Nicolai Gedda,Giuseppe di Stefano,Goffredo Petrassi,Eliot Carter, Dame Eva Turner,Roberto Prosedda,Jayson Gillham,Alexander Ullman,Vitaly Pisarenko,Pablo Rossi,Leslie Howard,Carlo Grante etc.

                             one of the many Master Concert Series
Christopher Axworthy has also been invited on the jury of many International Competitions in Italy including Enna,Monza and Sulmona.
He was for many years also and examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.
Christopher Axworthy studied in London from an early age with Sidney Harrison and continued his studies with him for three years at the Royal Academy of Music.
He also studied for a further two years with Gordon Green and Frederick Jackson receiving chamber music guidance together with Graham Johnson from John Streets.
He won all the major prizes which included:Liszt Open Scholarship,The Tobias Matthay Fellowship,RAM Student Fellowship and the Recital Diploma where he was awarded the MacFarren Gold Medal,the highest award of the RAM.

Agosti op 110 and 111. Op 110 was issued as a CD op 111 was lost and only a video remains
Leaving the Academy to study with Vlado Perlemuter in Paris and Guido Agosti in Rome and Siena on scholarships from the Italian Government,Leverhulme Trust (via Youth and Music),Countess of Munster Trust.
He also received guidance from Andre Tchaikowsky,Geza Anda,Ilona Kabos,Nadia Boulanger and Stephen Bishop Kovacevich.
He has played extensively throughout Italy and amongst many performances he gave the first performance in Italy, directing from the keyboard ,of Trouble in Tahiti by Bernstein.
He also gave a series of recitals of Benjamin Britten to mark his 60th birthday sponsored by the British Council and played at the British Embassy on the occasion of the visit to Rome of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Rosalyn Tureck with “her” Goldberg after an absence from the platform for 20 years
He was a trustee of the Tureck Bach Institute in Oxford and is actually a trustee and co- artistic director of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
His main activity has been running a major concert hall in Rome and for the past 40 years helping young musicians to find a platform.
He dedicates himself still to helping young musicians mainly via the Keyboard Charitable Trust based in London

Newspaper article that was published on the news of Ileana’s sudden death on stage

After Agosti and Perlemuter the only possible one was Annie Fischer

I took this foto of Paola Borboni ,famous actress ,the first to de robe for serious theatrical purpose for Pirandello.She loved the foto and asked me to have 100 copies made to give to her many admirers

Just some of the critics over the years .

A production that Ileana was proud of.We took it to Argentina too and it sold out in Milan and Rome

ArrigoTassinari first flute of Toscanini and next door neighbour to  the theatre
Canan Maxton A remarkable man, an inspirational visionary! I stand in awe of you, Chris!


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Denise Betts Lovely photo xx


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Christopher Axworthy It is for my passport


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Christopher Axworthy Lasts ten years so will not have the bother again


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Canan Maxton It is a seriously good photo. Lucky passport!


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Christopher Axworthy It was taken in my house in Italy with an I phone.Elisabeta took two or three following the on line instructions.Some could not be used because my white hair blended in with the neutral background and it was not clear how big my head is…….no comments please


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Canan Maxton Hahaha about the size of your head! It must have been the background that blended into your head and not the other way around!


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Eleanor Wong Lovely to know you, and very impressed for what you have done and the things you are doing now.I only knew the Chris 50 years ago!


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Clare Pakenham I am left speechless with awe! Wow! Amazing! I wish I’d heard you play. Great photo of you, too. And lovely tributes re your wife who must have been a very exceptional person. I so hope one day I’ll bet able to visit her & your theatre with you.


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Heather Turnham I am in awe of all that you have achieved. I have enjoyed reading this very much. You are an inspiration.


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Oxana Yablonskaya The best to You


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Christopher Axworthy I feel a bit like Friedrich Gulda who faked his death so he could read what people thought of him in his obituaries………when he actually died no one took much notice.His last concert was in our theatre.He wore a wig and declared he was Mozart!….and also got through a bottle or so of gin.


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Christopher Axworthy Long way to go yet ….no more birthdays but plenty of name days to celebrate ….so speak up freely there is plenty of time to get my own back……..


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