The amazing Monsieur Tharaud in Rome

Tharaud in Rome
This is the third time I have listened to a concert by this”youthful” looking pianist whose looks belie his anagraphical age (1968).
Having heard him the first time a few years ago with a very small audience in the very big church that is St Johns Smith Square in London.
The Goldberg Variations were announced promoted by Steinway & Sons.
So it was curious to see a Yamaha on stage and even more worrying to see the score on the piano stand!
Something made me stay to listen and Thank God I did because it was one of the finest performances that I had heard for a long long time.
I even ended up buying his video of the preparation and performance of the Bach that I gave to a well known critic in London to demonstrate the foundation for my enthusiasm .

Programme of todays performance February 2019
I saw a recital announced a year or so later in Rome with the “Appassionata” on the programme and thought I would like to see if on this occasion he played with the score which these days is becoming almost the norm.
Zimerman in Beethoven 4 with Rattle,Richard Goode with a Schubert recital in the RFH are accepted and not even commented on by the critics!
Ogdon too in his last years use the score when he was severely disturbed .It is rumoured that a mistake by his page turner cost him a black eye!
Pogorelich recently too in a long awaited return to London arrived with a page turner who was allowed to sit only three or four paces behind him!
It is true that Curzon and Richter both played with the score in their later years.
It was better than not hearing them at all but they were certainly not the performances of yore
Could one imagine Serkin,Rubinstein or Horowitz with a page turner in tow!
Perlemuter up until his last performance at the age of 90 used to say walking on to the platform was like going to the guillotine!
Myra Hess too in her later years used to play Brahms 2 with the score and get completely lost.
Cortot was advised to leave the score of the Liszt Sonata open at the page where he always lost his way but to no avail – memory was not the problem!
That lonely walk on stage to face an admiring and expectant audience is not for the faint hearted and is only for the chosen few.
The solution of course  as  Glenn Gould found is in the recording studio where it is quite the norm to have the score open.
My wife Ileana Ghione,the renowned actress, when she was studying at the Academy of Dramatic Art  in Rome did something different from what her famous actor teacher had told her.Exclaiming how sorry she was, Tofono told her there is no such thing as right or wrong in Art …….convince me!
I too waited to be convinced by Tharaud

Ileana Ghione at home with Rosalyn Tureck whose return to the platform in 1991 with the Goldberg Variations in the Ghione Theatre in Rome created a sensation throughout the concert world.
……and in fact as you can see he certainly did that and gave one of the finest performances of Beethoven that I have heard ……….that is until this evening.
Such is the PR way of providing very little information about the artists before our eyes that I was forced to consult yet again my dear friend Mr Google to find out more of the elusive Monsieur Tharaud.
I am glad to share with all those like me that might be wondering about his formation:
“Tharaud refuses to keep a piano in his residence because of his belief that he will begin to prefer the pleasure of improvisation to the necessity of rigorous work. He prefers to practice on different instruments at friends’ residences. He composes, but is usually discreet regarding this activity. Before each recording he goes and lays flowers at the tomb of Chabrier in the Montparnasse Cemetery. When asked what a camera would record if it were present at his recording sessions, he replied that he sings, shouts, dances, and argues with the piano (“absurd behaviour – comportements ridicules”).

Tharaud in the Sala Sinopoli Parco della Musica Rome
In 2012, Tharaud took part in the French film Amour by Michael Haneke where he played himself, alongside Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva and Isabelle Huppert, although he said that it would not be the start of a film career for him.
Born in Paris, Tharaud discovered the music scene through his mother who was a dance teacher at the Opéra de Paris, and his father, an amateur director and singer of operettas. Tharaud thus appeared as a child in theatres around northern France, where the family spent many weekends. His grandfather was a violinist in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. At the initiative of his parents, Alexandre started his piano studies at the age of five, and he entered Conservatory of the 14th Arrondissement, where his teacher was Carmen Taccon-Devenat, a student of Marguerite Long.
He entered the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of 14 where he won first prize for piano in the class of Germaine Mounier when he was 17 years old. With Theodor Paraskivesco, he mastered the piano, and he sought and received advice from Claude Helffer, Leon Fleisher and Nikita Magaloff. In 1987, he won third prize at the International Maria Canals Competition in Barcelona[1] and, a year later, the Senigallia Competition in Italy. In 1989, he was awarded 2nd prize at the Munich International Competition. His career developed quickly in Europe as well as in North America and Japan.
In 2009, he took part in a show devoted to Erik Satie with actor François Morel. Alongside the singer Juliette, he organised a Satie Day at the Cité de la musique, recorded for France Télévisions. He has also worked with the French composer Thierry Pécou, performing the première of his first piano concerto in October 2006 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and later recording it.”
And so to today ……..third time was indeed an even happier experience with Scarlatti/ Beethoven op 109- Rameau /Beethoven op 110.

Exemplary programme notes by Lorenzo Tozzi,critic of Il Tempo who wrote this about the Ghione Theatre in the 1990’s
The Scarlatti sonatas as rarely heard with such style these days – the nearest was Horowitz on his famous recordings in the ‘60’s.
Here was such a startling sense colour and variety of register.The sudden rhythmic impulses reminded me of the legendary recordings of Landowska.
A very interesting choice from the 550 sonatas and introduced so well by Lorenzo Tozzi’s exemplary programme notes.
Opening with two sonatas in D minor.
K 64 that showed immediately his startling sense of colour and purity of sound.
The well known K 9 was played with such enchanting magical trills with slight hesitations followed by sudden rhythmic impulses like electric shocks.
The magic box sounds in the C major K 132 held the audience’s attention with bated breath.
The famous E major K 380 had a telling echo effect with such pauses that gave this piece real space and allowed it to speak at last so eloquently.
K 3 ,the very first of Scarlatti’s sonatas, and the one in which Tharaud delighted in the cat like leaps up and down the keyboard.
Leading to the startling contrasts of K 514 with its virtuosistic figurations and very telling flexibility.
His final choice K.481 in F minor fell to an Andante Cantabile in which his sublime singing touch and extraordinary sense of balance was allowed full reign to seduce us all.
The Rameau too that was a prelude to late Beethoven was played with such fantasy and such liquid pure sound.The “Rappel des Oiseaux”from the Suite in E minor that we are used to hearing in the perfection of Sokolov was here given with such a sense of colour.
The same precision (or almost) of Sokolov but here we could almost see the birds fluttering around the piano.
Four pieces from the Suite in A minor finishing with the well known Gavotte et Doubles where the startling difference between Scarlatti and Rameau ,so eloquently described by Lorenzo Tozzi, were brought vividly to life by this great artist.

Piero Rattalino’s four star review for Tharaud’s new CD.
We were invited after the concert to a CD signing with Tharaud for his new recording of Beethoven’s last great trilogy. They crown his 32 Sonatas that span his life from the youthful innocence op 1 to the profound simplicity of op 111.
Today we were treated to op 109 and op 110 .
Op 111 hopefully next time.
I was interested to hear in the extraodinary music shop before the concert a performance of op 110 that I assumed must be Tharaud.
On asking I was told by the very informed record salesman that it was Gilels!
I had heard Gilels many times in London and will never forget his Beethoven Concerto Series.His Brahms 2 coupled with Tchaikowsky 3 had Gilels and Sir Adrian Boult at logger heads in the rehearsal during the cold war period.
A recital of Schubert Moment Musicaux and little A minor Sonata followed by Shostakovich 2nd Sonata was a deadly combination for drawing  an audience which missed one of the most beautiful recitals I have ever heard.
Of all the Russian school Gilels was the one with his Princely feet firmly placed on the ground and it was very interesting to hear Tharaud just an hour later.
Tharaud’s Beethoven was full of fantasy allied to an intelligence that led to exemplary performances.
Op.109 in particular was full of fantasy whereas like Gilels in op 110  he had his feet much more firmly on the ground.
I found the first movement of 109 a shade too fast but on consulting the score it does in fact say “Vivace” in the original score…..”ma non troppo” was added only to the original edition as though Beethoven too wanted a fluid but calm flow.
The end of the Prestissimo was played with a Serkin like urgency.
It led to the sublime Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo where Tharaud’s magical touch allowed one of Beethoven’s most profound utterings to sing with tenderness and feeling but without a trace of sentimentality.A performance of great serenity even though never missing the urgency in the Allegro vivace or Allegro ma non troppo variations.
Op 110 on the other hand was played with much more passion and I found some of the chordal outburts a little too overpowering for the great melodic line that Beethoven shares with us from beginning to the end.
It was interesting to note that Gilels too had given me the same impression but playing at a much more sedate tempo it seemed to work so well.
A little waltz by Schubert played with the same colour and subtle rubato that allowed us to eavesdrop on this most intimate of performances.
The spell was broken by the drums and wild dance in the Scarlatti Sonata in D K 141.
The famous “Argerich” repeated notes were given a shape and colour as with “Sokolov’s” Rameau that brought this remarkable recital to a breathtaking close.
I just hope that he will now put away his scores until old age and take that ultimate plunge into a world that is already very much his own.

Artur Haftman at St Mary’s

Artur Haftman at St Mary’s
Yet another surprise to be able to be in two places at the same time and at last able to hear this young musician again.
I was overwhelmed by his recital in 2016 at St James’s Piccadilly in his very first year of studies in London with Dmitri Alexeev at the R.C.M.
As you can see from my notes above some extraordinary playing with a lunchtime public that did not want to let him go and infact it was almost teatime when we were asked to leave!

CD for the 100th Anniversary of the Indepedence of Poland
Now with a CD in hand and in his final year of Masters Degree from the RCM I was very interested to hear his playing three years on.
Chopin’s Polonaises were described as “canons covered in flowers.”
His studies could also be similarly described.
In the right hands we should not be aware that they were written with technical problems in mind. These are indeed hidden behind such poetry and passion that only the performer should know the hurdles that need be surmounted.
You can see what I mean in more detail from my notes on another young pianist,Beatrice Rana, who also played the Etudes op 25 recently.
I was sorry to hear of a last minute change that robbed me of the chance to hear this young Polish man’s studies op 25.
Important engagements in the USA with different repertoire led to this change .
However it did not rob us completely of a chance to hear other pieces from his repertoire of Polish composers.
In fact the concert ended with Chopin’s Polonaise Heroique op 53 and included the Waltz in A flat op 34 and the Nocturne in D flat op 27 n.2.
All pieces that his compatriot and namesake Artur (Rubinstein) would regularly include in his programmes.
But we had to wait to the very last piece before we heard the style and verve of that young fellow who had so impressed me at St James’s three years ago.
The Moszkowski “Caprice Espagnole” op 37 played with all the grace and charm of the great pianists of the past.
Not many people know that my old teacher Vlado Perlemuter studied with Moszkowski,both being of Polish origin before Perlemuter was befriended as a teenager by Alfred Cortot.
A beautiful liquid sound in the D flat nocturne that was bathed in the sunlight that the pedal and an acute sense of balance can give to a true artist.
The waltz in A flat too played with a great flexibility and subtle sense of style.The filigree passage in the coda was as irrisistable today as it was in Rubinsteins hands.
Two Mazukas from op 24 played with such subtle rhythm and sense of dance that only the Polish seem to understand.
Fou Ts’ong of course is the great exception to that although he did study in Warsaw!
Two pieces from op.14 by that great statesman and pianist- composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski completed this “Polish” part of his programme.
The famous Minuet in G and the lesser known Cracovienne Fantastique the first and last pieces from op 14.
The concert started with Schubert’s Impromptu in G flat op 90 n.3 a piece that Rubinstein too would often include in his programmes together with n.4.
Here immediately established the beautiful tone and sense of balance allied to a flexibile beat that was the hallmark of much of the recital today.
The Sonata on B flat K 281 by Mozart was played with great precision and rhythmic energy but just missed the “stile galante” that this early piece needs.
The Rondo was a shade too fast to allow Mozart’s impish sense of humour to shine through as it would have in Curzon or Uchida’s hands.
The first movement could have had some of the same flexibility that he had demonstrated to such effect in his compatriots music.
The Andante amoroso of course was bathed in the same beautiful sound that had shone through so beautifully here in Circeo where I was privileged to have Artur Haftman play in my home whilst seated in front of the log fire thanks to the wonderful dedication and expertise of Hugh Mather and his colleagues in the all too distant Perivale.

St Mary’s Perivale

Lago di Paola Circeo
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Yuanfan Yang at St Mary’s Perivale

Yuanfan Yang at St Mary’s Perivale
It may seem strange to see a foto of St Peter’s Basilica here but thanks to the skill of Hugh Mather ,Roger Nellist and their superb team in Perivale I have been able to listen to the recital by Yuanfan Yang here in the theatre where he will be performing for the Keyboard Trust in January 2020.

Teatro Ghione St Peters Square Rome
I am very proud after listening today to announce his Italian Tour that will include Venice,Padua,Vicenza,Viterbo and Rome – The tour that another of Hugh Mathers star pianists,Ilya Kondratiev completed just a month ago.
I have heard Yuanfan Yang many times since that first occasion when he won the Liszt Society UK Competition with a superbly poetic account of Vallee d’Obermann.
He was just coming to the end of his studies with Murray McLachlan at Chetham’s and in 2015 was about to start his first term at the Royal Academy studying with Christopher Elton.

Yuanfan Yang
He swept the board last november in Rome winning first prize at the Rome International Piano Competition directed by the indomitable Marcella Crudeli (the Fanny Waterman of Italy)
I had indicated to the Jury that they might like Yuanfan to improvise an encore after his superb prize winning performance of Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto.
He did just that and created the same sensation that he did today for Hugh in Perivale with an incredible display of musicianship and virtuosity that is very rare these days.
Gabriela Montero is the only other pianist I know that can do that and quite rightly has a great following for her improvisations .

recording studio
It is good to see how a young talented musician can mature and gradually acquire a true depth of sound.Spending all the hours needed at the keyboard but with superb musicians at his side making sure that no damage is done to his natural musicality on the long journey to becoming a great professional.
Today as we were aware Yuanfan Yang’s musicality is not only intact but of an intelligence and with a sense of style of someone much older.
The Brahms Handel Variations op 24 that closed the programme I have written about recently in his superb performance for Canan Maxton’s Talent Unlimited Showcase Concert:
It was infact one of the finest performances I have heard in public of this monumental work.Today it was just as fine but maybe slightly less perfect than his previous performance.
The overall architectutal line and sense of colour though was even more remarkable.
The repeat of the variations very delicately coloured with some new counterpoint that could in lesser hands sound like a gimmick or at worse rather superficial.
Here is was so subtly done it was an absolute revelation in a work that too often can sound rather heavy and ponderous.
It is one of those works that is given to students together with the Wanderer Fantasy and 32 Variations to acquire a technical assurance too often at the expense of the music!
The opening work was Schumann Carnaval op 9 and I think this may be new to Yuanfan’s repertoire because it received a magnificent performance of such overall perfection that it will now with future performances mature into one of the very finest performances that one could wish to hear.
Such a great sense of style and a rubato and flexibility of the melodic line that was so compelling.
A work I have heard many many times from all the greatest pianists over the years but today listening on the stream from Perivale I was absolutely captivated.
A great sense of cantabile for “Chiarina” that led to a beautifully fluid “Chopin” where the sotto voce repeat was absolute magic.
Such variations in sound from the spiky “Pantalon e Colombine” to the aristocratic “Estrella”.
The superb legato in “Reconnaissance” where the repeated note accompaniment was only evident to us that knew it was there.
Pity not to include “Replique” as some pianists do, like Rachmaninov who added it with great effect.
Beautiful counterpoint alla Cortot in “Valse Noble” and a fleetingly nimble “Papillons”. “Lettres Dansantes” were just that as Coquette was equally beguiling if not over simple.
The grandeur of the “Valse Allemande” only rudely interrupted by the appearance of “Paganini.”So demonic and technically assured I have certainly never heard it played with such assurance in public before.
The final chord illuminated by the pedal so perfectly.Not an easy feat on a Yamaha piano.
A touching sense of rubato in “Aveu” before the total control of the arrival of the Davisbundler.Played with passionate involvement and great sense of grandeur but with tone so full but never hard.
It was just this beauty of sound and sense of balance that was quite breathtaking in the Litanei in Liszt’s arrangement of Schubert’s most perfect melody.
A truly sumptuous sound that came over magnificently on the streaming that I was privileged to hear in Rome today .

A bouquet from an admirer at the end of the concert
A lovely bouquet from a little girl who was invited to play a few notes that Yuanfan then astonished us all with his superb improvisation.
The great sense of ease and enjoyment he comunicated to us was only the confirmation of a major talent arising from this still very young Scottish pianist composer.
The sound on the streaming was superb.Infact I do not ever remember the sound being so full and beautiful in Perivale as it was in Rome today.
Of course the arrival of a major talent played its part too.
Hats off to all those in Perivale that allows the world to share some of the major talents that for many years have been invited to play in this musical Mecca .

St Mary’s Perivale

St Peters Square in Rome

A Woman for All Seasons in Frascati

A Woman for All Seasons in Frascati
The very imposing Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati .Built in 1598 it can boast frescos of Cavalier d’Arpino and Domenichino.

Villa Aldobrandini Frascati
The scene of many noble visitors on the “Grand Tour” in the 18th Century including Liszt,Marie d`Agoult,George Sand and many others.
Today scene of a chamber music concert directed by Marylene Mouquet with Aldo D`Amico and Adele Auriol.
A programme of Mozart Beethoven and Brahms.
Some beautiful sounds from the Steinway in the hands of Marylene Mouquet in the Mozart Divertimento K:254 which opened the concert.
A graduate from the Paris Conservatoire, Ecole Normale and the Brussels Conservatory.She continued her Studies at the Chigiana in Siena with Michelangeli.
She has been living for many years in Frascati and is a distinguished professor at the Rome Conservatory.
She is the Founder and President of the Musical Association named after Michelangeli in Frascati
Some very fine playing from Adele Auriol whose beautiful violin sound shaped the Spring Sonata so well and together with Marylene gave a very convincing performance in which the melodic line was passed from one instrument to the other in a real musical conversation.

FouTs’ong       Duda           Ileana Ghione     Linda Alberti and Students
Joined by the distinguished cellist Aldo D’Amico they gave a very fine performance of Brahms Trio op 114.Played with great involvement and each player listening intently to the other giving great sweep to the long passionate lines in this late trio of Brahms.
It is the Scuderie where I played many times with our much missed Lya de Barberiis.
A quick visit to Danuta(Du da) and her husband Ezio Alovisi .
Duda a close friend from her Warsaw days with Krystian Zimmerman and Fou Ts`ong and teacher of many fine musicians including Michelangelo Carbonara,Mattia Ometto and Abha Valentina Lo Surdo.

Duda and Ezio Alovisi with Brando
Ezio was the stage director for Lydia Agosti`s production of Trouble in Tahiti that I directed from the keyboard in Perugia in the `80`s
An afternoon of very fine playing from these very distinguished players.

Aldo D’Amico Marylene Mouquet Adele Auriol

Ivan the Conqueror…Rome debut of Ivan Krpan

Ivan the conqueror…… Ivan Krpan at La Sapienza University Rome
Hats off to the University of Rome for inviting year after year the winners of the Busoni Competition to their Concert season in the Aula Magna of La Sapienza.
With the magnificent frescos of Manzu overlooking the scene, this season alone includes Roberto Cominati (1993),Alexander Romanovsky(2001) past winners and the most recent winner in 2017: Ivan Krpan.
It also includes the Cremona Quartet who so valiantly performed in the semi final stage in Bolzano with the contestants and awarded their own prize to Anna Geniushene, who was invited to give concerts with the Quartet throughout Italy.

La Sapienza Campus in the centre of Rome
Chloe Jiyeong Mun(2014) was invited to the Sapienza IUC series in the previous season

Ivan Krpan
The Keyboard Charitable Trust via their founders have been supporters for many years of the Competition that is held in Bolzano.
For some years a career development prize has been offered by the Trust to the most talented pianist from each competition.
They are invited to perform in London and elsewhere helping them on their long journey to establishing a career.
Michail Lifits  (2008) ,Alexander Romanovsky(2001),Chloe Jiyeong Mun(2014) have all benefited from this and now it is the turn of Ivan Krpan.(2017)
Ivan recently played in London the same programme that was heard in Rome today ……….here are my thoughts on this unexpectedly mature musician.
Three encores by great demand for a public completely convinced by this young musician just as the enlightened jury of the Busoni competition had been two years ago.
The same Bach Busoni choral prelude as in London but then a crystal clear account of the Praeludium from Bach’s first Partita.
Such an intelligent reading of great colour and clarity it had us all wishing we could hear the entire work.
That will be next time for sure.
The last encore was by Chopin: a Prelude from op. 28 , which he has recently recorded together with the Schumann Fantasie op. 17 for the Busoni Foundation.
The prelude op. 28 n.15 (Raindrop) played with such a beautiful liquid sound.
Seemingly all the time in the world given to the ornaments as a great singer would do.
The time taken at the end was of such beauty and timelessness he had the audience hanging on to each note.
The long silence at the end was only broken by someone wishing to be heard on the Vatican Radio recording.
No doubt the same person who had interrupted the flow at the end of the Busoni Second Sonatina and with great authority was hushed by our young knight in shining armour.
Talking to this young man one is struck by his authority and conviction not only in his interpretations but also of the programmes that he has so carefully crafted together.
The Busoni Sonatina led imperceptedly (except for one!) into Liszt’s extraordinary “Pensee des morts” which in its turn became the “Dante Sonata.”
The two Beethoven sonatas taken from his last six sonatas of thirty two.
But the two sharing the same tonality of E .
The little two movement E minor op 90 with its seemingly innocent Schubertian second movement contrasting with one of Beethovens’ greatest statements of a theme and variations in op 109.
A fascinating journey from a real thinking musician.

Ivan greeting the Croatian Ambassador
I had asked Ivan if he did not find it tiring to play the same programme over and over again.
His reply was the same as Sokolov: that every time there was something new to see and this way he could delve deeper into the heart of these great works.
It was certainly not boring but totally stimulating!
For us too dear Ivan …….and thanks to an enlightened jury in Bolzano and the Keyboard Charitable Trust the world is a little closer to embracing a great interpreter.

An admirer and fellow musician who had followed Ivans success in Bolzano

A distinguished public at the University.Michele Sforzo of La Barcaccia fame in the foreground

A well earned Florentine Steak for the conqueror as he moves on to Avezzano on his long tour organised by the Busoni Foundation.

The famous frescos of Manzu in the Great Hall of the Sapienza University in Rome

Vive la France Brocal and Bavouzet in London

Vive la France …..Brocal and Bavouzet in London
Julien Brocal at the Chopin Society London.
A real French infusion today .
Julien for Lady Rose and Jean- Efflam at Wigmore.
Some wonderful clear luminous playing from both.
Also an overlap of waves from Miroirs.
Julien Brocal at Westminster Hall at 16.30 on Sunday afternoon for the The Chopin Society UK
I first heard Julien Brocal in Monza when I was on the jury of the Rina Sala Gallo International Piano Competition-I do not accept invitations to judge my betters but on this occasion my dearest friend Constance Channon-Douglass was too ill to be present and asked me to step in for her.

Connie with Shura after one of his many recitals at the Ghione theatre and the bedspread from Monza
She has since passed on to a better life with her beloved husband Cesare and her adored Shura and many many other friends who loved her joie de vivre,intelligence and warmth.
A young french pianist played an extraordinary Schumann Carnaval in one of the rounds and although he did not make the final I had noted his quite exceptional artistry.
He asked me what advice I could give him but it was Maria Jose Pires who answered that by taking him under her wing and sharing the concert platform with him in her ever generous way.
I heard them play Mozart Double together in Oxford and I went back to thank her for all that she was doing to help these remarkably talented young pianists reach a public and start a career.
She said that it was she that should thank them for all that they gave her with their youthful enthusiasm and dedication!

Julien at the Chopin Society
I bought his first CD on line and when he found out that it was me he wrote this beautiful inscription.
So pleased he is doing well….but I did tell you so!!!!!
The beautiful red and gold background here is the bedspread that I bought with the fee they very generously gave me in Monza for having such a wonderful time…….so all is well that ends well ……..sweet dreams indeed!
Wonderful cantabile sound from Julien and very beautiful Mompou Variations on Chopin op 28 n.7.
Superb Chopin Nocturnes op 15 too, even if rather fast the G minor n.3 .
His wonderful Miroirs have been encapsulated for posterity on his new CD (see below.)
Raindrop as an encore where you could have heard a pin drop.
The moments of silence at the end spoke much louder than any applause.
Jean- Efflam’s amusing and informed introduction to Boulez Notations was a revelation.I will Always remind myself of the signposts when taking up the driving seat in foreign parts!
Magical Jeux d’eau.
The same clarity of Julien in the two Miroirs offered – Une Barque sur l’ocean and Alborada del gracioso.
An astonishing op 14 Schumann …..which is on on his new CD in the Horowitz edition to whom he played it.
A quite extraordinarily rhythmic performance of Prokofiev’s 3rd Sonata .
With a clockwork precision that Ravel would have much admired.Allied to a great sense of colour and above all a clarity and sense of direction.
Feux d’Artifice was the encore.
La Marseillaise a mere vision in the distance!
Vive la France indeed.

Jean Efflam Bavouzet at the Wigmore Hall

Julien Brocal with Lady Rose Cholmondeley

Mitsuko Uchida plays Mozart in London

Mitsuko Uchida plays Mozart
An evening of pure magic with Mitsuko Uchida …..
Mozart crowned with a sublime encore of the Schubert Minuet and Trio from the G major sonata.
From the doll like perfection of the concerto in F K 459
………………………………………….to the dark whispered hues of the D minor K 466……..
Perfection cannot be defined but by God it hits hard when it strikes as it did tonight.
A superb Mahler Chamber Orchestra was the perfect foil for such beauty.

The Indian Summer of a Giant Radu Lupu plays Beethoven

I first heard Radu Lupu in Leeds at the first round when he played the little Schubert A minor sonata that was a revelation.
We had never heard such beauty.
It was of course the very Russian school of absolute control of pianissimo to mezzo forte.
He had all the passion in the forte too but never a hard sound.
It was like Richter …..slightly missing that sense of line of the great cantabile that was so much part of the Rubinstein school (that Gilels of all the Russian school was also absolute master of.)
It was an extreme exploration of the whispered tones that the piano is capable of.
Curzon of course was not convinced and did not vote him into the final.
Well he made it and Curzon eating his own words exclaimed :”Thank God I lived to hear that”.
It was Beethoven n.3.
Radu was then helped in London by Maria Curcio and found friends that helped him overcome his stage fright and extreme introspection.
Fou Ts’ong and he used to share their nervous pills.
They were once stolen with Ts’ongs bag at Rome station.
He did not care about the clothes but the pills what was he to do?
Kabos was at his London debut at the Proms where he not only played a superb Emperor but also the Choral Fantasia.
The horn players did not come in so he played their parts for them.
It was a gigantic performance.
A true Emperor had arrived.
Andre Tchaikowsky persuaded him to practice more and learn the Liszt Sonata which is a truly legendary performance.
A great friendship of playing chess together and he even learnt the Andre Tchaikowsky piano concerto that he gave a one off performance at the RFH for his friend.
He had won Van Cliburn before Leeds but could not cope with the success and had a nervous breakdown.
Always there was this Schumannesque personality between Florestan and Eusebius.
He lived in Chiswick and managed to have a life with other musicians that gave him courage to continue.
His ex wife,the daughter of the British Ambassador to Moscow, wrote a magnificent book about their friend Jaqueline Du Pre.
Recently he looked like Brahms at the piano but played like Eusebius ….Florestan was now a mere onlooker.
He was never my favourite performer but I was never indifferent to his performances or his total dedication to his art.
I think we should always remember that and thank him for all that he has given us and if there are only glimpses of that now at least it gives us lesser mortals a chance to thank him for all that his art has meant for us over the years.

Beatrice Rana spins her magic web in London

Beatrice Rana takes London by storm
“Wonderful ………..one of the most beautiful performances of  things we have heard so often but tonight they glittered like the jewels that Chopin must have imagined”
That I wrote in the interval ..”.lovely.suprise to be in London again to hear you……”
I have heard Beatrice Rana play many times in Italy also at the Wigmore Hall in London.
I remember her Goldberg Variations in London broadcast live from the Wigmore Hall but also in Rome a year later which was televised.
A remarkable enough performance in London that Stephen Kovacevich particularly admired.
The later performance in Rome was even more extraordinary for its maturity and rock like sense of direction.
I was told by Prof.Pieralbero Biondi that her final exam performance at S.Cecilia had the jury members cheering at the end.
After all her successes worldwide she had returned home to her original teacher Benedetto Lupo with whom she had studied as a child at the Monopoli Conservatory in Puglia.
She returned to his class at the Academy of S. Cecilia inspite of his insistence that she should branch out on her own now.
But between Benedetto Lupo,Sir Antonio Pappano and the Academy of S. Cecilia she had returned home to work on her scores in  peace and serenity and delve ever more deeply in the music to which she was destined since her birth in Puglia of a family of musicians.

Facsimile of Chopin manuscript
And so it was today that we heard the Chopin Studies op 25 played as the composer had indicated.
Each of the 12 studies was a miniature tone poem.
Bathed in the sunlight that Chopin’s own pedal indications had asked for she shaped each one with a luminosity and poetry that I have only heard similar on the old recording of Cortot.
Completely different of course but the one thing- the most important thing in common was the poetry that is concealed in what are conceived also as studies.
The Aolian Harp of the first study showing exactly what Sir Charles Halle had described on hearing Chopin on his last tour in Manchester.
”Il faut graver bien distintemente les grandes e les petites notes” writes Chopin at the bottom of the first page.
Long pedal markings overlapping the bar lines and the pianissimo asked for by Chopin so perfectly played by Beatrice. The long held pedal  at the end gave such an etherial magical sound.

Study n.2
The second study too like silk.
Not the usual note for note performances we are used to but washes of sound perfectly articulated of course but with the poetry and music utmost in mind.
The final three long “C’s” which can sound out of place were here of a magic that one never wanted them to stop.
The third and fourth to contrast were played with great clarity with some surprising inner notes that gave such substance and depth to the sound.
Here was not only a supreme interpreter but also a great personality.
The end of the fifth that linked up to the 6th.It grew out of the final crescendo flourish that always had seemed out of place.
Here in Beatrice’s hands it is exactly as Chopin in his own hand has indicated.

Study 5 to 6 link that Chopin indicates in his own hand
Here too one must mention the sumptuous middle melody of the fifth played with wonderful sense of balance and also a flexibility of pulse that again showed the hands of a great musical personality.
I have only heard similar sense of “rubato” live from Rubinstein although Murray Perahia on CD is pure magic too.
The technically difficult double thirds accompanied the left hand melodic line with a subtle sense of sound like a wind passing over the grave indeed !
The absolute clarity and jeux perle of the “double” double thirds was just the relief and contrast that was needed.
Beautiful sense of colour in the Lento that is the 7th study where Chopin marks so clearly that the melody is in the left hand with only counterpoint comments from the right( Cortot and Perlemuter are the only others that I have heard make this distinction so clearly)
The 8th played very much molto legato and sotto voce to contrast with the absolute clarity of the “ Butterfly” study that is n.9.
The ending that can sound so abrupt in some hands here was perfectly and so naturally shaped

The “Winter Wind” study n.11
The great octave study entered like a mist as Chopin indicates poco a poco crescendo .Bathed in pedal too even though not indicated so precisely by Chopin.
Such was her identification with this sound world she had seen this study as great wedges of sound interrupted only by the extreme legato cantabile of the middle Lento section.
Chopin marks very precisely here the fingering he wants to obtain this effect.
The great “Winter Wind” study n. 11 where there were great washes of sound ,again as Chopin so clearly indicates .The final great scale played unusually cleanly with a very precise final note.
Of course all clearly indicated in Chopin’s own hand .

Study n. 12.
The final 12th study was played with enormous sonority and very clear melodic line as Chopin indicates very clearly. The ending marked “ il piu forte possibile” and a final crescendo to “fff”.
It brought this revelatory performance to a breathtaking ending.
We had been taken on such an unexpected journey that my original thought was a first half of only 30 minutes?
But such a performance and vision could not have been shared with anything else and quite rightly was presented by a master as the absolute masterpiece it is.
After the interval Miroirs played with all the magical sounds and complete mastery that is rarely heard from others.
The beauty and variation of colour was again a revelation.
But coming after the Chopin I could not appreciate fully all the detail that she was outlining as she spun her delicate web of sound.
Maybe here a more classical approach less fussy might have led to more clarity?Too many hairpins that the long line was not what I was used to hearing from the aristocratic french school.
But hearing my colleagues who had come to hear a Master I realise that the unease was with me not with her!
We were soon woken out of the cocoon of sound by Agosti’s extraordinary transcription of Stravinsky Firebird.
It was written in 1928 and a fellow student of Agosti,Peter Bithell, told me that it was Stravinsky himself that had had it published.
Agosti and his wife were great friends of my wife and I , and the sounds that he could conjure from the piano in private I have never forgotten.
His crippling stage fright meant that the vast public were robbed of hearing one of the greatest musicians – a disciple of Busoni.
We managed to bully him into playing Beethoven op 111 and op 110 in public in our theatre but he always had to precede it with a spoken introduction.
It is one of the few recordings of this genius that we have.
I never heard him play the Firebird although I suspect he taught it in Siena where the world used to flock to his studio in the summer months to hear sounds that will never be forgotten.
I am sure that had he heard Beatrice play today he would have been filled with pride as to how she could realise the sounds that are transformed from the orchestra to the piano so magically.
A standing ovation and two encores from the Preludes by Chopin op 28.
Again even more of a revelation with the F sharp major prelude n.13 that can sound so disjointed in lesser hands. Here  it was allowed to sing with a simplicity and a sense of the big line that so often is disrupted by a less than flowing left hand.
Here is the true rubato that Chopin described to his aristocratic pupils.The trees with the roots firmly in the ground and the branches free to sway simply and naturally above.
The piu lento middle section was played as from afar but with such a magical sound projected as only a true master could judge.
The final few notes were played so naturally and with such gradations of sound that allowed the prelude to disappear to nothing as it had appeared.
It led  to one of those rare moments of silence where no one dared even breath.
A magisterial account of the Prelude in B flat minor broke the spell and showed us just what a virtuoso we had in our midst.
Digging deep into the bass to give depth to the swirling sounds that she was spinning with such passion in the right hand.
Of course many of the finest pianist were present and above all her greatest admirer Stephen Kovacevich.
She greeted us all with a simplicity gladly signing her CD’s and talking to her friends and admirers.
At 26 we have a great master in our midst and it is lovely to know that she is from Puglia.
That part of Italy blessed indeed for so many magnificent things.
The land of Riccardo Muti, Benedetto Lupu,Nino Rota,Gioconda de Vito,Paolo Grassi , Tito Schipa,burrata,focaccia,vino di Locorotondo and the Spanish baroque of the Vallee D’Itria- Martina Franca and Lecce,of course at the very heel -the Florence of the south.
It can now be proud to boast Beatrice Rana.

Greeting her public and signing CD’s after the recital
 

Hollywood comes to Rome Conrad Tao with Sir Tony and his Merry Band

Conrad Tao takes Rome by storm aided and abetted by Sir Tony and his merry band.
Very interesting juxtaposition of Schonberg with Gershwin at S.Cecilia last night.
They were great friends “Gershowitz” having helped Schonberg settle in the USA when he fled  the nazi persecution in Europe in 1933.
They often used to play tennis together, the 61 year old Schonberg with the 38 year old Gershwin in Beverley Hills in California where Gershwin had moved to work in Hollywood.
Keeping in contact via their mutual friend Oscar Levant,the pianist.
They even painted each others portrait and when Gershwin died tragically young in 1937 Schonberg was the first to celebrate his friend on the American radio.
”What he has reached is not only of benefit to America but is a great contribution to music worldwide.”

Gershwin portrait of Schonberg
It was Nadia Boulanger,the great French pedagoge,advisor to so many composers from Copland to Boulez, that when approached by Gershwin for lessons she turned him away saying she did not want to ruin his great natural talent.
And so it was that after a sumptuous performance by the strings of Sir Antonio Pappano’s magnificent orchestra we were treated to the big band.
These magnificently versatile musicians were led on by Conrad Tao who let us have the full works with no holes barred.
The scene was set by a superlative Alessandro Carbonare,whose cat like wail on the clarinet that opens the Rhapsody in Blue far outshone the legendary Benny Goodman.
Aided and abetted of course by Sir “Tony” who after his superb West Side Story that opened the season could not wait to show us what his “band” could do when they were allowed to let their hair down.
Rockin’ in the aisles indeed!
This magnificent orchestra one of the few where all the players listen to each other and are only guided by the conductor who allows them all the freedom that great artists need.
Sir Antonio overseeing the whole picture with his superbly expressive gestures.
This early work Verklarte Nacht by Schonberg was written at the age of 25 and later revised in 1917 and 1942.The first performance was in 1902 and its 30 minutes of sumptuous music in five parts is based on the poem by Richard Dehmal.
A real showpiece for string orchestra and in this orchestra’s hands it was a real show of chamber music on a grand scale.
The extraordinary performance by Simone Briatore on the viola cannot go unnoticed even though Carlo Maria Pezzoli and Luigi Piovano were superb too.
Thirty minutes of music wonderfully shaped into an expressive whole by Sir Antonio Pappano.
And so after the interval we are transported to the world of Hollywood.
A young american came flying on stage looking like one of the characters out of the Bronx in West Side Story.
I do not know this pianist but after hearing him tear through Rhapsody in Blue with such electricity and dynamic participation I was eager to go on his web site to see who this slender young man is who  can send such shock waves through the hall.
“Ferociously talented”……. “probing intellect and open hearted vision” is how he is rightly described by the American press.
The former was evident from tonight’s “tiger on the keys”performance.The sublime encore of the Largo from the 3rd suite for solo violin by J.S, Bach showed the latter ,I can only imagine in his own transcription?
He was awarded the prestigious Gilmore Young Artists prize in 2011 ( a prize that is given by a board that listen unknown to artists over a season and give a large sum to further a career to the chosen one that they consider exceptional)
He was born in Urbana Illinois in 1994 and studied piano in Chicago with Emilio de Rosario and in New York with Yoleved Kaplinsky and composition with Christropher Teofanidis.

Leonard Bernstein an exhibition of photos taken in Rome where he was a favourite for many years via his lifelong friendship with Francesco Siciliani who launched him with Callas in the 50’s and after directing the Maggio Musicale for so many years returned home to Rome to be artistic director of S.Cecilia.
It was obvious that piano was a means to express his very individual musicianship that was bubbling inside him and that he just could not wait to share the excitement of discovery with us.
He threw himself into the music just as Bernstein used to.
With a total involvement and showmanship that is unique ………….it maybe too much for some but the electricity that is generated in the hall is very invigorating and a change from the more sedate performances that we are too often used to.
Of course the piano was in shreds at the end but the Gladiator had won.
His beautiful Bach encore brought us down to earth and a wish to hear more of this young man.
The piano was already out of tune,of course from his superb onslaught in Rhapsody in Blue.
Genius is hard to define but when it strikes it hits hard.
Not always convenient or under control it is a vital flame of total dedication that is eating inside the chosen few .Of course with the right training it can be channeled and kept under control but it is not easy to live with!

Tao introducing his encore
Mustonen,Cascioli,Trifonov all have this “nasty illness”in Carmassi’s wise words.
Trifonov has managed to keep his under control in public performance and is a great pianist as well as being a composer .If you talk to him about music his mind goes faster than his words though.
Richter of course had that sacred flame as did Bernstein , Rostpropovich or Callas.
Technically Conrad Tao does not have the mastery of Richter or Trifonov.He lacks that weight or real depth of sound that he substitutes with his cat like energy and total conviction.
I fear hours at the piano are not for the likes of him where total absorbtion with all forms of music are evidently what interest him as you can see below.
But when you let the cat out of the bag in the right repertoire as tonight he is ready to pounce and it is enthralling.
Conrad Tao begins his 2018-19 season on September 27 & 28 with the World Premiere of Everything Must Go, commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic. Written as a “curtain raiser” before Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8, the commission is a continuation of years of collaboration between Conrad and the Phil’s new music director, Jaap van Zweden.
Conrad also inaugurates Nightcap, a new series at the Philharmonic where performers curate a late-night concert in the Kaplan Penthouse. He’ll be joined by dancer-choreographer Caleb Teicher and Charmaine Lee for an evening of multidisciplinary performances.
Conrad makes his LA Opera debut in the West Coast premiere of David Lang’s new work, the loser, where he plays the onstage role of the apparition and memory of Glenn Gould. Continuing to expand his multidisciplinary projects, Conrad and dancer-choreographer Caleb Teicher will continue to develop More Forever, their evening-length work, for a premiere in January 2019, exploring American vernacular dance traditions with Conrad performing his new score for piano and electronics. The work will be previewed this fall as part of Guggenheim’s Works & Process series.
Throughout the season, Conrad continues to perform concertos with orchestras around the world, including returns to the Swedish Radio Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia with Antonio Pappano. Conrad also performs duo chamber music concerts with violinist Stefan Jackiw, including a debut performance at 92Y, ensemble engagements with the JCT Trio in Seoul, South Korea, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Interlochen, Michigan, as well as solo recital programs.
A magnificent performance of An American in Paris from this superb orchestra played with such energy and real sense of swing.An orchestra that with Sir Antonio at the helm for years has become one of the finest orchestras on the world stage.
Not only conducting but also playing chamber music with them has created a bond between them of friends making music together.
Quite unique in this age where orchestras are used to playing with so many different conductors with allarming regularity .

Sir Antonio ever generous with his friends and colleagues.