Ilya Kondratiev in Italy The Jewels in the crown
“Ilya is a gem….No matter how many years go by I will always remember his performance .He is a natural beast..” Yvonne Georgiadou Artistic director of the Pharos Arts Foundation in Cyprus.
The start of the Keyboard Charitable Trust 2019 annual tour of Italy.
The tour started in Venice at the Goethe Institute for the three concerts that make up part of AGIMUS Padova organised for many a year by Elia Modenese and his wife Elisabetta Gesuato.Concerts that include Palazzo Albrizzi in Venice,Palazzo Zacco-Armeni in Padua and the Sala dei Specchi of the Ritz Hotel in Abano Terme.
Moving on to the magnificent Teatro Comunale di Vicenza for the Incontro con la tastiera organised by Mariantonietta Righetto Squeglia and her daughter Raffaella.
It then moved on to Rome for a concert in the beautiful 300 year old Oratorio dell ‘Angelo Custode ,just a stones’ throw from the Trevi Fountains .
A benefit concert for the hospitals in Benin and the Ivory Coast opened by the missionary cardiologist Dr Vicenzo Mallamaci “Ti porto in Africa”-Onlus.
A very fine new Yamaha piano donated for the occasion by Alfonsi who I have known for the past 40 years …his daughter,who was present, now runs the well known business for her 92 year old father.
A live radio broadcast the next day for Radio 3 Suite directed by Stefano Roffi who wrote after the broadcast:”Many ,many thanks to you and Ilya.A great performance ,a chance for me to do a good job and do something good for the sake of music”
A final concert in Viterbo for the season of the Tuscia University directed by Prof. Franco Carlo Ricci in the Auditorium di S.Maria Gradi .
A programme dedicated to two of the greatest figures of the Romantic period both of whom were fundamental in establishing the solo piano as the supreme medium in the concert hall.Advancing the technical demands of the player with music that combined both poetry and virtuosity and advanced the possibility of the piano to express the utmost varieties of atmosphere and feelings via a wooden box of hammers and strings.To which, in Anton Rubinstein’s own words,the pedals became the very soul of the piano.
It was this world that Ilya Kondratiev shared with us on his Italian tour.
Starting his programme quite unusually but to great effect with the Polonaise “Heroique” op 53 by Chopin.It opened a first half of all Chopin continuing with the early four mazukas op 24 and the First and Third Scherzi.
The second half was dedicated to a single work of Liszt the 2nd Book of his Years of Pilgrimage.A year spent in Italy with Marie D’Agoult with whom the young romantic virtuoso had eloped fleeing Paris and scandal to be with the eventual mother of his two children.They were joined by Georges Sand who became the great love of Frederic Chopin.
“Following the tragic death of her daughter Louise, Marie d’Agoult found herself pregnant with Franz Liszt’s child. Since she was still married to Charles d’Agoult, it was impossible to stay in Paris. She wrote her husband in May 1835, telling him that their marriage was over. “When fate has joined two people as different as we are in mind and temperament, the constant effort and sacrifices made on both sides only serve to deepen the abyss between. I ask for your forgiveness on Luise’s grave. Your name will never leave my lips except when uttered with the respect and esteem which your character deserves. As for me, I ask only for your silence in the face of the world which is going to overwhelm me with insults.”
In order to avoid the scandal, which was hardly possible, the lovers made secret arrangements to elope to Switzerland. Parisian society was dumbfounded that a very prominent and beautiful Comtesse should leave her husband for a traveling pianist, and in the public eye the whole affair was branded a flagrant case of abduction.”
In 1836, George Sand arrived with her traveling companion Major Adolphe Pictet, and the couples toured Switzerland on mules. When they arrived in Chamonix, Liszt filled in the hotel registry as such: “Place of birth-Parnassus; Profession-Musician/Philosopher; Coming from-Doubt; Journeying towards-Truth.” Sand in turn wrote: Occupation-Loafer, Date of Passport-Eternity; Issued by-Public Opinion. Sand had always had amorous intentions towards Franz, and apparently towards Marie as well. All we know for sure is that Sand described themselves as “galley-slaves of love who don’t know the value of any chain.” Shortly thereafter, Liszt performed in Paris, and the friendship/affair between Marie and George rapidly turned to hate.”
Ilya Kondratiev’s tour programme consisted of Chopin :Polonaise op 53,4 Mazurkas op 24,Scherzo n.3 op 39 and n.1 op 20. – Deuxieme annee de pelerinage :Sposalizio,Il penseroso,Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa,Sonetti del Petrarca 47,104,123 and Apres une lecture de Dante – Fantasia quasi Sonata.
A strange choice to start with the Chopin A flat Polonaise but in Ilya’s hands it worked perfectly as an opening piece for his all Chopin first half.
It was played with the same simplicity that Rubinstein used to bring to this much played work that in the wrong hands can become a bed of rhetoric and bad taste.
Here there was a complete adherance to the composers indications with a sense of rhythm and line that left no room for the usual empty showmanship that this work can suffer from .
The left hand octaves were played like wind passing over the plain with just a slight crescendo that gave it such a telling shape and the right hand melodic line shaped with a true legato that did not have to do battle with the left hand as is so often the case.
The beautiful final melodic section before the coda reminded me of the Polonaise Fantasie where Chopin almost brings the music to a sublime halt with such subtle telling rubato before reigniting the forces and bringing the work to an ever more exciting conclusion.
The four early mazukas were played with a very telling rubato and sense of colour that was quite mesmerising.I begin to understand that the mazurka cannot be taught but has to be in your blood as it obviously was with Chopin with his nostalgic yearning for his homeland.
The clarity and sheer virtuosity that Ilya brought to the Scherzi has been mentioned in the review from Vicenza and it was also remarked on with great admiration by the director of the Rai 3 Programme.
The third scherzo was not only played with great rhythmic impetus but the filigree comments to the great chorale like melody were quite ravishing and even more so for maintaining the same tempo which gave a great sense of line to the interruptions or rather comments of the melodic line that Chopin is asking for.
Such delicacy and precision were indeed like jewels gleeming in Ilya’s hands.
I have never heard the first Scherzo played with such precision but also with such harmonic shape and the beautiful Polish folk song in the central section was most beautifully shaped with a sumptuously rich sound which was especially beautiful on the Bosendorfer in Vicenza.
The coda was indeed exciting and the weight,precision and shaping was of a true virtuoso but above all musician.
It brought the first half of the programme to a truly exhilarating end.
It was refreshing to hear the 2nd Book of Annee de Pelerinage complete.
The Dante Sonata is a regular visitor to concert programmes as is the Sonetto del Petrarca 104 but the other pieces are quite rare additions to programmes.
“Sposalizio” , inspired by the painting in Milan of Raffaello Sanzio ,is a very fine work on a par with Liszt’s better known “Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude.”
In Ilya’s hands it was played with a very delicate and ravishing sense of colour leading to an overwhelming climax of transcendental difficulty with double octaves in the left hand as an accompaniment to the melodic line in the right.
An extraordinary performance with the delicate shimmering ending closing so beautifully this perfect gem of the miniature tone poem that it so obviously is.
It had Stefano Roffi of the Rai searching for more information on his computer.
“The penseroso” was played with all the weight and seriousness that it demands .”The Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa” was played with the same wit that we normally associate with Percy Grainger.
A very strict rhythmic pulse kept the work joyfully alive to the last note.
The three Sonetti di Petrarca were played with an exquisite range of colour that sustained and allowed the melodic line to be shaped so expressively.A wonderful sense of balance between the hands and embelishments that were incorporated into the melodic line as only a true musician knows how.
This led into a magnificent performance of the Dante Sonata.
It was refreshing to note that with each performance it grew in stature until the final performance in Viterbo was quite overwhelming.
A wonderful theatricality just as Liszt himself might have performed it.
A great sense of drama and of course quite extraordinary technical control.
The Andante” quasi improvisato dolcissimo con intimo sentimento” was just that and the audience had to almost strain to overhear the secret confessions that Liszt confides.
The end of this passage after the recitativo where the keyboard seems to suddenly come alive, always in pianissimo, was pure magic with sounds in the middle register of the piano with the shimmering awakening of the right hand that I have never heard played so beautifully.
This combined with pyrotechnic feats of piano playing brought a standing ovation from a public totally captivated by this extraordinary work in the hands of a true artist.
Ilya maintained this magic with the etherial web of Gretchen Am Spinnrade in a quite extraordinary performance with the same the subtelty of the pianists of the past “Golden Era” of piano playing.
This transcription by Liszt of Schubert was Ilya’s way of thanking his public on this tour where he seminated such sparkling jewels from his magic carpet that swept him from Venice to Rome in the space of only one week.
Superb review from Vicenza in english translation
The young russian pianist opened the 2019 season of “Incontro sulla tastiera” Kondratiev technically perfect in Chopin but more convincing when playing Liszt The musician reveals great technical ease with his pyrotecnic showmanship. Eva Purell VICENZA Sometimes a detail can make all the difference.Like the two red socks of Soviet effect that were worn with graceful ease by a virtuoso of the keyboard who had demonstrated not only a tendency for theatricality but also remarkable interpretative insights. On the other hand the concert for the “Incontro sulla Tastiera”that opened the new season of 2019 was organised in partnership with “The Keyboard Charitable Trust of London”,an established preparation on the International music scene that is recognised as one of the finest.Founded and directed by the pianist Noretta Conci, formerly Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s assistant,and her husband John Leech.The Trust has as its main aim to help greatly talented young pianists by giving them important platforms and opportunities world wide. Thanks to this partnership in Vicenza with the “Incontro” presided over by Enrico Hullweck and directed by Mariantonietta Righetto Squeglia we have been able to appreciate many highly talented pianists. This year on Tuesday evening in the “Ridotto” of the Teatro Comunale it was the turn of the 31 year old Russian pianist Ilya Kondratiev.The biography of this young “dandyish” pianist showed his predilection ,which was well demonstrated, for Franz Liszt, the inventor of the piano as we know it today. The recital of Kondratiev opened with the Chopin Polonaise known as the “Heroique”,that for many is “THE” polonaise of Chopin as if he had not written any others.It is a work that suffers from its own popularity,that in every interpretation it can seem to be a rather overplayed showpiece and the Russian pianist did not shy away from the technical demands either. It is probably the Mazukas,more than the Polonaises ,in Chopin that express his love and longing for his homeland and are his most authentic testimony. The Russian in the first half of his programme dedicated to Chopin the four Mazukas op 24 amongst the least dense of the complete set.Adding to this hommage the Scherzo n.1 op 20 in B minor and n.3 op 39 in C sharp minor showing off all his technical baggage,in parts with a crystal clear clarity almost like in Scarlatti His touch was both refined and varied helped by the warm sound of a dear old friend that is Bosendorfer of which the listeners ears are not as accustomed as they are to the full and brilliant sound of a Steinway.A particular choice that was made by the interpreter which showed remarkable originality. From the expressive confessions of Chopin in the first part,Kondratiev passes to the virtuosistic showmanship and the full ,rhythmic sounds of Liszt.”Years of Pilgrimage Book 2” with his impressions after his travels in Italy.And with this interpretation our Russian is really convincing showing off his technical ease with a kaleidoscopic palate of sounds and loving contrasts especially in the Petrarc Sonnets . A brilliant performance greeted by an ovation from the numerous public present. As a thank you for a beautiful concert dedicated by the Incontro to the memory of the business woman Fernanda Muraro Detto,Ilya offered the Liszt transcription of a Lied by Schubert”Gretchen am Spinnrade.”