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 ……… 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.