The Joy of Music -Adam Heron and friends at St Mary at Hill

The Joy of Music – Adam Heron and Friends at St Mary – at -Hill

Lovat Lane the home of St Mary at Hill
On a beautiful spring day what a treat to be in the City and to see such crowds congregated in shirts sleeves during the lunch hour outside the many historic pubs that abound in this part of the city……….
but in almost every church in London music is ringing out too .And it was indeed refreshing to see a crowd of young musicians in their early twenties sharing their superb talent and evident love of music with us at St Mary at Hill.
Joined together from the Royal Academy of Music and united around Adam Heron for the first of a series to include all the Symphonies of the “local lad” William Boyce (1711-1779).
In a programme today that included Mozart Concerto in C K.415 with Aïda Lahlou as soloist.
Last week it had been Adam Heron who had given a superb solo recital in this church St Mary at Hill.
Aïda Lahlou I had heard too a few months ago in another beautiful church: St James’s Piccadilly where she performed under the eagle eye of Canan Maxton and her Talent Unlimited which aims to give a platform to some of the most talented musicians in London.

Thibault Charrin A man for all seasons composer pianist,recording engineer
Thibault Charrin who gave the world premiere of his violin sonata in the shared recital at St James’s was  the expert recording engineer of today’s concert
A very full church for this first concert of the newly born Boyce Camerata.
Today Adam Heron was wearing his conducting hat and at the piano was his charming companion Aïda Lahlou who gave a beautiful performance of Mozart’s C major Concerto.
One of a trilogy of concerti K 413/414/415 that I still remember in
a magical evening with Fou Ts’ong and the Allegri quartet of the much missed Hugh Maguire.
A beautiful performance in which the sublime slow movement and the slow central section of the final Allegro were realised with great simplicity and sense of style.
Beautifully accompanied by the Camerata and Adam Heron who were listening to every note.
The final Allegro was played with all the charm of the young Mozart and the opening Allegro played with great rhythmic energy and sense of character.
The cadenzas showed off all the command of this very talented young pianist from the Menuhin School (a studentof Marcel Baudet) and now an undergraduate in Cambridge
continuing her studies with Caroline Palmer.
The concert began with Elgar’s very personal tribute to his friend August Jaeger.
A beautifully judged performance in which Adam abandoned the conductor’s baton preferring the much more expressive use of his natural arm and hand movements.
We had actually discussed this a few days earlier at the concert conducted by Vasily Petrenko and we had both agreed on our admiration for his beautiful natural movements .Adam had likened it to Kleiber and I to Giulini.
The brilliant sun light that penetrated the beautiful tall windows of the church seemed to illuminate quite by chance the score that Adam was using.
It was indeed very illuminating to see with what intelligence and passion this young man has created his own ensemble and brought them so happily together with such “joie de vivre” for the simple joy of sharing music with us.
This is something we never ever hear about in the mass media where Brexit or even worse seem to be the only name of the game!
A young engineer too had come to the concert with the urtext edition of the Boyce Symphonies and told me that he was studying conducting and music for the sheer joy of enjoyment!

the musical engineer following with the score
The first Symphony by Boyce seemed very familiar to me, no idea why.But it was full of Handelian charm and boyancy.
This young ensemble under their conductor played with such sense of enjoyment Listening to each other their ensemble was really quite remarkable .
The Moderato e dolce of the first Symphony was most beautifully shaped.
The Symphony in three short movements lasted about ten minutes – what a difference from the Shostakovich Symphony I had sat through the night before that lasted almost an hour!
The Symphony n. 4 in F completed the programme.
The strange indication noted in the programme by a colleague of Vivace ma non troppo was infact in the urtext as we assertained from our musical engineer!
What a wonderful surprise to find this oasis where people had gathered for the pure joy of sharing the experience of music together.
Hats off to Adam Heron and his friends for showing us what many of our youths are also up to in these bleak days of only terrible reports in the press.
I am reminded of the extraordinary “experiment” in Venezuela and the magic qualities of music for all those that dare to enter.

Jun Lin Wu- A star is born

Jaques Samuel Prize Winner’s Wigmore Hall recital.
An extraordinary debut recital by this 21 year old winner of the Jaques Samuel Intercollegiate Piano Competition .
I was at the final of the competition last November when this young man amongst some very fine contestants took us all by storm with a sensational account of Rachmaninov’s Sonata in B flat minor.
We saw each other again when he was in the audience for the extraordinary recital at the Chopin Society of his present teacher Dmitri Alexeev at the RCM in London.
I remember Craig Sheppard telling me about this remarkable young man when still in his teens he won the International Piano Competition in Seattle.
He has much in common with his mentor with his total involvement when he is seated at the piano and great sense of balance and colour.
A technique that like Alexeev knows no boundaries and is at the service of their search for the true musical meaning of the works that they transmit so fervently to us.

St Mary’s Perivale
Amazingly this young man was playing at the Wigmore Hall in the evening and the following morning playing in that mecca for pianists of Dr Hugh Mather at St Mary’s in Perivale.
A completely different programme comprising the Liszt Sonata and Haydn Sonata in B minor Hob XVI:32

Jun Lin Wu at the Wigmore Hall
And so it was that Jun Lin presented in the Wigmore Hall a very varied programme that demonstrated his remarkable musicianship and vast range of sound.
From the arresting opening of Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy,through the most poetical musings of late Chopin.The radiant scents of the Spain of Albeniz to the sublime colours and pyrotechnics of Ravel.
Chopin’s nocturne in F sharp op.15 played as his last encore made it quite clear that we were in the presence of a true poet of the piano.
It was nice to see Terry Lewis of Jaques Samuels that indefatigable sustainer of young musicians giving this chance of a major debut in London to a young pianist.
He has recently been honoured by the RCM from the hands of Prince Charles in recognition of all that he does for music in London via his studio of Fazioli and Bechstein pianos in the centre of London.
It was also nice to see Dmitri Alexeev’s wife the distinguished teacher Tanya Sarkissova and his assistant the pianist Jianing Kong both supporting Jun Lin whilst his mentor was on tour in Germany.https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/jianing-kong-in-perivale/10154253331762309/
The concert manager Lisa Peacock and vice head of Keyboard at the RCM: Ian Jones were all present to sustain this young artist as he revealed his remarkable artistry to a musical world that awaits.

Jun Lin Wu at the Wigmore Hall
It was nice to see at last a Bechstein Concert Grand returning to it’s rightful home “Bechstein Hall” as Wigmore Hall was originally known from its opening in 1901.
In 1914 like all German businesses in Britain it was put into the hands of an official Receiver and Manager.
In November 1916 the hall was acquired at auction by Debenham and Freebody and was reopened on January 16 1917 renamed Wigmore Hall that we know today.
Artur Rubinstein gave the last concert of his life in May 1976 ( 75 years since his first appearance there) to persuade people not to allow the threatened demolition of one of London’s most cherished halls.
Since then the Wigmore Hall has gone from strength to strength and is today considered one of the most loved chamber music venues in the world.

Jun Lin Wu at the Wigmore Hall
And so it was thanks to our most generous benefactors Terry Lewis and Hugh Mather who gave us the opportunity to hear this remarkable young pianist twice in a range of repertoire in the span of only 24 hours.
The simplicity and youthful freshness with which this young man presents himself belies the profound subtlety of his art.
The extreme delicacy and range of expression in the quietest of passages is of Richter/Lupu proportions.
The two Chopin nocturnes op 62 amongst the last utterings of Chopin were played at the Wigmore and repeated in Perivale.
They say miracles do not occur twice but here we heard sounds as one would imagine only a mature aristocratic artist would be able to transmit.
Such finesse and flexibility of pulse whilst shaping the great melodic lines in a great arch surrounded by the most subtle counterpoints .

The completely natural simplicity of this young man in Perivale today
The sweeping ornaments were like great swells of sound in particular in op 62 n.1 that just enhanced the magic atmosphere that he was creating.
This is a true gift of the Gods and not something that can be taught .
The Chopin Scherzo op 54 was given a scintillating performance at the Wigmore Hall.With such astonishing technical command allied to his extreme sensibilty to sound he gave one of the finest performances that I have heard of this the most elusive of Chopin’s four Scherzi.
The Schubert Wanderer Fantasy at the Wigmore Hall was matched by Liszt’s masterpiece of the Romantic era :the Sonata in B minor.
The Schubert that opened the Wigmore Hall recital was in Jun Lin’s own words :” It is always a good choice for the beginning of a big recital,the Cmajor chords give strong expression to reflect the power of the performer”
Well it certainly did that but much much more besides.
The complete technical command meant that he could abandon himself to the almost savage demands that Schubert places on the performer.
With the great passion and energy of a young man he threw himself into the fray in a very exciting and sweeping performance.But here too was the beautiful shaping and sense of balance in the long lyrical passages that shows so poignantly the path that Schubert was to take as his short life neared its end.
His sense of balance in accompanying the melodic lines was quite superb especially when he had a fast pianissimo accompaniment played almost without a hint of pedal.

Jun Lin Wu in Perivale
It was in the great Sonata by Liszt that closed his recital in Perivale that it was the quieter more introspective passages that were so remarkable.
In Liszt his sparing use of pedal meant it lacked something of the grandeur in the passionate outbursts that abound.
Amazing technical control but I found right from the opening triplet declaration there could have been more weight.This of course is only a detail in a performance that had so many memorable moments.
The build up in the slow middle movement was quite breathtaking with sumptuous rich sounds.
The ending too built up to the eruption of the great octaves that were dispatched with all the ease of a young virtuoso.It was though in the final notes that his complete control of sound and colour were quite unique and will remain with me for a long time.

Jun Lin Wu introducing his programme in Perivale
The Sonata in B minor by Haydn with which he opened his Perivale recital was played with a great sense of style as he entered into the sound world that Haydn demands.
Extreme clarity allied to the most subtle phrasing were the hallmarks of a refreshingly simple performance.The Minuet was played with such beautiful colouring and the last movement was played with great energy maybe just a shade too fast for Haydn’s wit to shine through completely.
The Albeniz that he presented in the Wigmore Hall showed off all his extraordinary sense of colours and subtle shadings.The Prelude from the Cantos de Espana op 232 was played with such fibrile energy you could almost imagine the savage flamenco in course but with such exquisite interruptions of complete contrast.
El Albaicin and Triana were played with all the charm and exhilaration of Spain.His sense of balance was quite extraordinary as the melodic line passed from one part of the piano to another.
Cordoba that he also played as an encore in Perivale had such an irresistible sense of nostalgia mixed with charm I am amazed it is not heard more often in the concert hall.

Jun Lin Wu at the Wigmore Hall
His ravishing performances of Ravel will remain with me for a long time.
The beauty of sound and perfection of the Pavane was matched by the shimmering sounds that he regaled us with in Jeux d’eau.
La Valse was a tour de force of bravura.Starting with barely a murmur and leading to glissandi and the most trancendentally difficult passages dispatched as only a true virtuoso could.
It brought the Wigmore Hall concert to a breathtaking close.
A little piece of such subtle beauty by Sibelius was his way of thanking us and reminding us of the poet that we have in our midst today.

Programme in Perivale

Julian Trevelyan plays the Diabelli Variations at St Mary’s

JulianTrevelyan plays the Diabelli Variations at St Mary’s
An notable achievement is how Dr Hugh Mather described Julian Trevelyan’s Diabelli Variations today.
Miracles do not happen every day but I am certain that today we were all hypnotised by this extraordinary first outing of Beethoven’s final thoughts for the piano.
It will now grow even more in stature until Julian has the courage to abandon the written score and enter even more fully into Beethoven`s universe with the same frenzy and total dedication of Rudolf Serkin in his unforgettable performances of op.106 and 120 in the RFH in the early 70’s.Alfred Brendel too was unforgettable.
A performance marked by the great rhythmic energy from the first to the last note of a fifty minute span in which all the range of emotions were exposed in one of Beethoven’s last works for piano.
Later in op 126 the same emotions were filtered and distilled as he had indicated already in these 33 variations on the simple little waltz by Anton Diabelli.
The 33 Variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120, was written between 1819 and 1823 and is considered to be one of the greatest sets of variations for keyboard along with Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
Donald Tovey called it “the greatest set of variations ever written”.
Alfred Brendel has described it as “the greatest of all piano works”.
It also comprises, in the words of Hans von Bülow, “a microcosm of Beethoven’s art”.
In Beethoven: The Last Decade 1817–1827, Martin Cooper writes, “The variety of treatment is almost without parallel, so that the work represents a book of advanced studies in Beethoven’s manner of expression and his use of the keyboard, as well as a monumental work in its own right”
( It is interesting to note that his daughter Imogen has just recorded the Diabelli on Chandos CHAN 2005 to great critical acclaim)
Arnold Schoenberg writes that the Diabelli Variations “in respect of its harmony, deserves to be called the most adventurous work by Beethoven”.
Beethoven’s approach to the theme is to take some of its smallest elements – the opening turn, the descending fourth and fifth, the repeated notes – and build upon them pieces of great imagination, power and subtlety.
Alfred Brendel wrote, “The theme has ceased to reign over its unruly offspring. Rather, the variations decide what the theme may have to offer them. Instead of being confirmed, adorned and glorified, it is improved, parodied, ridiculed, disclaimed, transfigured, mourned, stamped out and finally uplifted”
And so undaunted this young musician,Julian Trevelyan, approached for the first time in public this masterpiece trusting in Dr Mather’s discerning audience to find the right ears for the beginning of his great voyage of discovery.
It shows the great intellectual searching mind of this young pianist who has already taken the musical world by storm at the age of only 16 when he was the top prize winner in the Marguerite Long (Thibaud-Crespin) International Piano Competition in Paris.
Now at 19 and studying at Oxford he chooses to play this monumental work instead of the more usual fare of Liszt,Chopin,Rachmaninov that we are used to hearing from the young lions that roar at us from every angle of the planet.
Andras Schiff played both the Diabelli and Goldberg in his 60th birthday recital a few years ago.
It is a pure coincidence that this week in London he gave a revelatory account of the two Brahms concerti on a Bluthner of 1860,the same one that he uses for his most recent recording of the Diabelli variations.
A performance at once marked from the outset by a rhythmic drive that took us unrelentingly through the fifty minutes in which Beethoven spans all the human emotions via this disarmingly simple little waltz.
Great contrasts at once apparent between the maestoso Alla Marcia of the first variation and the lightweight scamperings of the second.All played with the minimum of pedal that allowed for great clarity of detail.Subtle shadings being made by his very sensitive touch.
The striking beauty of the following variations to the chorus of great trills in every part of the piano.Great contrast of dynamics with great foreward impetus in the 7th and the clarity and beautiful legato “dolce e teneramente” of the 8th.We were not spared Beethoven’s snarling acciacaturas and the technical precision of the 10th was breathtaking.
The delicate beseeching of the melodic line spread over the whole range of the keyboard was followed by some very telling finger legato which allowed the bass to become even more menacing.
The great Beethovenian contrasts were superbly realised in the following variation leading to the first of the most intense statements of number 14 which was played with great depth of feeling.
It is a profound statement that finds a parallel only in Bach’s great set of Variations dedicated to Goldberg.
A slight release of tension in the scherzando’s playful sense of rhythm before the great outburst and forward movement of the 16th and 17th. A great sense of mystery in the 18th before the superbly cascading notes of the 19th.The 20th so reminiscent of Beethovens last Sonata op 111 with his deepest anguished lament ending in paradise and superbly judged by Trevelyan.
The spell rudely awakened as always by Beethoven with the trills once again appearing all over the keyboard.
Beethoven at his most playful immediately followed by great feats of virtuosity with impertinant interruptions .Contrasting with the peace and pastoral feel of the fughetta.The bubbling left hand played all so clearly and leggiermente on which the chords were allowed to bounce so playfully.The beautiful liquid sounds “piacevole” leading to great feats of virtuosity and the angular chords played with an obtuse sense of bewilderment.
Gradually leading into the very heart of this work from variation 29.
I had admired so much Andre Tchaikowsky here in the way the very specifically marked rests were allowed to give a passionate almost gasping feel to this long sustained melodic line.
The most profound 31st variation so similar to the slow movement of the Hammerklavier in it’s almost Bellinian embellishments led to the frenzied outburts of the ferocious Fugato.
It was here that the animal like frenzy of Serkin will never be forgotten by all those that could feel the electricity generated by this simple professorial looking man.
It is impossible to abandon oneself to the animal like instincts and frustrations that Beethoven demands reading from the score.
The disarming innocense and eventual disintigration of Diabelli’s little melody in the final variation was superbly realised by Julian Trevelyan
I look forward to hearing Julian Trevelyan again in this work that will grow in stature and evolve as he too will as he learns to live with it.
The birth of the great artist he is revealing himself to be via living with these masterworks and sharing them with a world that awaits.

Adam Heron at St Mary-at-Hill

London rings with the sound of music Adam Heron at St Mary-at-Hill

St Mary at Hill
How wonderful to hear many of the most important churches in London ringing with the sound of music.
Many of the more discerning city workers can take refuge at lunchtime and have their souls replenished by the magnificent music that young musicians are only to happy to share with them.
With the historic pubs overflowing at lunchtime too,others might find different, but in my opinion, much less satisfying ways of replenishing themselves!
I did not know this church which is just a stone’s throw from the Monument.

The Monument
I remember visiting The Monument with my mother and sister as a child in the interminably long summer holidays from school.
St Mary at Hill in Lovat Lane is an expansive 14th century Episcopal church that hosts weekly discussions and musical recitals.
A real welcoming oasis where coffee and sandwiches are offered together with music on their very fine baby grand Bluthner piano.
I was very happy to discover this new venue and be able to hear at last the young Adam Heron about whom I had heard many good things.
He is still ony 20 and in his second year at the Royal Academy in London where he is studying with Christopher Elton a fellow student in my youth when we both were disciples of Gordon Green.
He is now a renowned musician and teacher of some of the finest pianists in the land.
And it was a true musician that we heard today.
The Bach French Suite n.3 in B minor and the very complex A minor Sonata by Schubert written when he was close to death and just before the final trilogy that he penned before dying at the age of only 31.
A great sense of directness and simplicity were the hallmarks of the fine musicianship that he allowed to transmit in such a natural way.
He looks so right at the piano.No excesses or exhibitionism but sitting back with his arms outstretched letting the fingers find their way through the maze of notes that he played impeccably.
The Bach Suite was played with a great sense style the different dance movements beautifully judged.
It was, though, in the A minor Sonata by Schubert that his sense of architecture and overall understanding allowed him to hold the attention of the audience for the forty minute journey that Schubert takes us on.
A bigger piano would ,of course, have allowed him more range of colour to delve into the magic sounds of this very elusive sonata.
Next week this remarkable young musician returns as conductor with his Royal Academy of Music Camerata renamed the Boyce Camerata as they embark on a series of all eight Symphonies of the much neglected English composer William Boyce (1711-1779) who lived and is buried nearby.

Haessler made by Bluthner I suppose like Essex or Boston made by Steinway

Lovat Lane entrance

Adam Heron presenting the Schubert Sonata

Bobby Chen in Paradise Andata e Ritorno

Bobby Chen in Paradise Andata e ritorno
Two recitals by Bobby Chen on the 9th and 23rd March in Farm Street Church Mayfair.
It was great news to see that the superb recital by Bobby Chen of the 9th March was repeated on the 23rd with yet another programme .With short Lenten Reflections in both that just added to the beauty of what we were about to hear.
I have never seen a church so well kept and it is an absolute oasis of peace especially on Saturday the 23rd that was dedicated to the big BrExit !
A programme that included a Bach- Busoni transcription but also the famous transcription of Myra Hess “ Jesu Joy of man’s desiring.”
Liszt of course was present again with the great B minor Ballade.
But it was the opening work that took us by surprise with such a fresh and intelligently simple vision of the Beethoven Pathetique Sonata.
Simplicity is the hardest state to reach in Art especially in an area where all too many people have “trampled” before.
From the arresting opening where the rests play such an important part there was the freedom with which he descended to a completely new orchestral colour ,so rudely interrupted by Beethoven only to continue unperturbed on it’s journey.
There was all this and it was only the beginning of the moving story that Bobby was to recount.
A crystal clear Allegro molto in which the ornaments were so crisply played in answer to the questioning bass.In a true musicians hands even the most well known of pieces can be brought to life and made to speak anew.
The slow movement was allowed to sing thanks to his great sense of balance and the fact that it flowed in two even though Adagio.
The clarity and differentiation between the voices was remarkable and there was just enough give and take to make us feel that he was accompanying a singer and not just playing rather lazily a piano sonata.The Rondo showed off all his great attention to detail without loosing sight of the rhythmic energy that fills Beethoven’s early works.
A beautiful liquid sound was the hallmark of Myra Hess’s famous Bach transcription.Never forcing the tone but allowing this sublime melody to emerge so naturally.
Busoni’s sombre transcription of Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland BWV 659 was played with the true devotion of a believer.
In fact this is Bobby Chen’s church where he comes to worship every week.He is in good company as the founders of the Keyboard Charitable Trust have chosen this oasis too as their weekly shrine.
The Ballade in B minor by Liszt closed this short teatime concert and brought some sumptuous sounds from the piano with great feats of virtuosity.But always that of a musician totally in control as he recounted the great story of Hero and Leander that Liszt penned so magnificently in this miniature tone poem.
From the almost La Valse like rumble of the beginning with the beautiful liquidity of the alternating quiet episodes.The sublime melody in the middle register of the piano and the rumbustuous scales and chordal declamations were all perfectly judged and only made one wonder why this work is not more frequently heard in the concert hall.
Some superb playing on the 9th March from Bobby Chen in this wonderful church in the heart of Mayfair.Church of the Immaculate Conception known simply as Farm Street Church.
Surrounded by beautiful gardens, with the Connaught Hotel on its doorstep.And today a Maclaren casually parked outside
Inside a sumptuous feast of music for tea.
The two legends by Liszt so clearly played with a real sense of line and total commitment.You could almost see the birds of St Francis of Assisi and the total belief of St Francis of Paola traversing the waves.
It reminded me of Robert Levin in his residency at the Guildhall this week explaining that to play what the composer actually wrote really is the best option!
I have rarely heard these very beautiful pieces in the concert hall but a magical recording of Wilhelm Kempff has always remained in my heart.
A very fine new Yamaha allowed him to play the Petrarca sonnet 104 with such clarity and little pedal that allowed this most beautiful of sonnets to resound so impressively in this sumptuous haven that is Farm Street Church.
Busoni’s transcription of the organ prelude “Ich ruf’ zu dir,Herr Jesu Christ” was a wonderfully moving transition into the more bombastic world of the Bach Chaconne.
I have heard Bobby play this before in Perivale and it is a very musicianly reading.
Starting piano and finishing fortissimo but with the great organ bass notes that Agosti,a disciple of Busoni,was aghast at the bomb like treatment they are usually treated to by great “virtuosi”.
Here Agosti would have cheered the superb musicianship of Bobby.
He might not have been persuaded though by his romantic fluctuations in tempo as this was for him a true rock on which all music was constructed.
Infact he likened the penultimate of Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques to a Gothic Cathedral.
But Agosti was not a true believer as Bobby obviously is.
For Agosti music was his God.
For Bobby music and God go together as they were today. Prefaced with short Lenten reflections that only added to the music that could continue where words are just not enough. The next tea-time concert is on Saturday 23rd March at 4.40.I for one will not miss it.

The Maclaren casually parked outside the Connaught

The Amazing Ming Xie for City Music Society

The amazing Ming Xie for City Music Society

St Bartholomew the Great
The amazing Ming Xie at St Bartholomew the Great with his extraordinary recording technician Thibault Charrin.
A mouthwatering account of Brahms Paganini Book 1 was a magnificent finish to his lunchtime recital for the City Music Society.
A very fine performance of great clarity due to his careful use of the sustaining pedal in which his finger legato was quite incredible.
The 6th variation with very little pedal made the difference between staccato left hand and portamento right so clean and clear as is rarely the case in lesser hands.
His sense of balance was quite extraordinary and nowhere more than in the sublime 12th variation where the melodic line in the left hand was embelished by the right with such delicacy.
The glissandi that followed were thrown off with an ease that would have had any other pianists in tears.
The power of the final variation was quite breathtaking.
It was preceded by Beethoven’s Sonata op 31 n.3 which in his hands has never sounded so “pastoral”.Even more so than the “official” Pastoral Sonata op 28 .
A continuous bubbling over of energy like water running over a brook.
It had me rushing to the score too to check some of the details that were so originally and rightly observed.
Not sure about the opening ritardando that was the only place that sounded rather ponderous in a performance that had us almost dancing in the aisles.
The first movement leading into the second without a break was so perfectly right one wonders why others have not done the same..
The Menuetto and even more famous Trio were played with such beautiful tone and heartfelt shaping,rarely has this little Menuetto sounded so wonderfully mellifluous.
The Scherzo from a Midsummer Night’s Dream in the famous transcription by Rachmaninov was played with such ” joie de vivre” that we were not even aware of the feats of piano playing that were being conjured before our very eyes.
A little waltz by Tchaikowsky: “Natha- Valse” op 51 n.4 was thrown off with all the charm and ease of the great virtuosi of the past.
His magnificent Brahms only included Book one so it left time for two encores.
Ravel “Ondine” that was the most beautiful account I ever wish to hear.It was played with the clarity and ease of Jeux d’eau but of course much more transcendentally difficult.
A wonderful sense of balance in which the water nymph flitted in waters that were so crystal clean and clear it was almost beyond belief.The final melody was so beautifully judged as she drowned in a mist of pedal only to be reawakened by cascades of sounds that disappeared as they had begun.
His second encore was Chopin’s study op 25 n.6 in double thirds that we learnt incredulously afterwards he had not played for two years!
Martha Argerich was not joking when she said he was a phenomenon.

congratulated by friends after his recital

St Bartholomew the Great

Teresa de la Escalera and Melina Karagianni at St James’s Piccadilly

Teresa de la Escalera and Melina Karagianni at St James’s Piccadilly
“Birds of a Feather” with two highly talented pianists from the school of Tessa Nicholson all gathered together today at St James`s under the affectionate eagle eye of Canan Maxton for Talent Unlimited.
” A thing of beauty is a joy for ever” and so it was today with four beautiful women in search of beauty.
At St James’s Piccadilly this true oasis of peace and beauty with the struggle and turmoil of the great city on its doorstep.
The two performers Teresa Escalera Calderón and Melina Karagianni both included a major work of Chopin in their shared recital.

with Tessa Nicholson and Canan Maxton
But there were also two very important ladies in the audience who were also responsible for the wonderful music that we were treated to.
Tessa Nicholson the renowned pianist and teacher who was following her two students and enjoying the fruits of their labour together.
Canan Maxton,the indefatigable promoter of young musicians via her Talent Unlimited.

Teresa de la Escalera
Immediately in the Scarlatti Sonatas Teresa showed her great temperament and sense of rhythmic drive that was to be such a hallmark in her performances.
Her beautiful sense of phrasing and cantabile in the sonata K.213 was even more apparent in the Chopin nocturne op.9 n.3.Here in Chopin was a beautiful flexibility, a true rubato always with the bass firmly rooted that gave great sonority to the cantabile melodic line above.
It was only disturbed as in the mazuka by a rather too literal staccato that broke this wonderful arch that she had created.
The Scherzo n.3 was given a very fine performance. The opening octaves played with great assurance and technical command.A slightly slower tempo might have given her more chance in this resonant church to allow her amazing technical ability more space to breathe with more nobility.
The chorale and cascading comments were superb even more so for maintaing the same tempo that allowed her to shape the melodic line with such finesse.
The deep bass notes were beautifully judged and gave a sumptuous sound to the notes that evolved from them. The final appearance of the chorale in the minor was pure magic and the coda showed off all her remarkable command of the keyboard and extraordinary temperament.

Melina Karagianni
Melina Karagianni a student from an early age with Tessa Nicholson.First at the Purcell School and now continuing her studies with her for a B mus degree at the Royal Academy.
Immediately apparent was the same authority that Teresa too had shown from the very first notes. Here in the Mozart Fantasia in C minor K.396 the beauty and naturalness of her movements in the opening flourish was mirrored by the beauty of sound that she produced.
Great authority and wonderful contrasts in sound were the hallmark of this very fine performance.
The sublime Mazuka op 63. n.2 by Chopin was played with a sumptuous sound helped too by the deep bass note that she so delicately added .A wonderful sense of rubato allied to a sense of colour that after the final notes no one dared move in the hall such was the spell cast.
It was fitting too that applause did not break the spell for one of Chopin’s greatest works,the Fantasie op 49 that was to close her recital.
A beautiful very assured performance notable for the beauty of sound.
A great sense of weight in the bass allowed the piano to sing without any hardness in a passionately committed performance.
The tumultuous finale was only slightly marred by slightly clipped phrasing but it led with such impetus to the end that was allowed to dissolve to a mere murmur.The finale magical strands of melody so movingly isolated before the liquid almost ravelian arpeggios transported us to the final two chords played with such weight and nobility.
Hats off indeed to these two fine beautiful young artists surrounded by admirers at the end of a magical lunchtime experience.
Nice to see both Tessa and Canan letting their hair down too and enjoying in the success and enjoyment of such serious musicians who are now only in need of an audience such as Talent Unlimited provided at St James’s today.

Melina Karagianni Tessa Nicholson Teresa de la Escalera

Lukasz Krupinski at St Mary’s

Lukasz Krupinski at St Mary’s
Another very fine pianist presented to the world via the streaming that is now in place in Dr Mather`s St Mary`s in Perivale.
Winner of the 7th International Piano Competition in San Marino in 2016 and finalist in the 2017 Busoni Competition in Bolzano.
He graduated from the Frederic Chopin University of Warsaw and from 2016/18 he was a student of Arie Vardi in Hannover University.
He is now at the RCM in London studying for his Artist`s Diploma with Dmitri Alexeev.
Finishing this hour long recital with a sumptuous performance of La Valse by Ravel, full of the lanquid colours of this sultry waltz.Some astonishing feats of virtuosity all played with the element of the waltz in its evolution from a mere murmur to an explosion of kaleidoscopic sounds combined with the most funabulistic pianistic acrobatics.
This was undoubtedly the highlight of the recital which had started with a very beguiling opening to the Bach Prelude andFugue in C sharp BWV 872 .His long arms stretched out as though floating on water gave a very alluring opening that then became rather less interesting , played as the fine musician he is but with that opening promise of fantasy forsaken for a respectfulness that is too often the norm.

The complete programme at St Mary’s streamed live worldwide
Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata was given a refreshingly clean and clear interpretation where all Beethoven’s indications were scrupulously observed.
The last movement was a shade too fast and became rather too pianistic to allow any real shaping of the fast triplets that abound.
There were some beautiful things though in the first movement the staccato and legato question and answer was perfectly judged and the ornaments played with extraodinary clarity.
A beautiful legato and great sense of balance in the Adagio cantabile and a very clear sense of phrasing brought this movement to life as rarely heard.
The overall impression though was of a work beautifully prepared and played that needed now to be lived with and in a certain sense given a free reign.
Of course the Chopin Nocturne op 48 n.1 and the two Waltzes op.18 and op 64 n.2 were played as only a true native could .
A subtle sense of rubato allied to a beautiful sense of line and balance were greatly appreciated by the large audience who knew this very fine pianist from his previous two appearances.

Hamelin at the Wigmore Hall The Pied Piper calls the tune

The Pied Piper calls the tune Hamelin at the Wigmore Hall
Marc-Andre Hamelin at the Wigmore Hall.
An amazing coincidence to find the two major advocates of Alkan playing in London on the same day.
Mark Viner in Perivale and Hamelin at the Wigmore.
Even more of a coincidence was that both had programmed the Schumann Fantasy.
Mark had infact substituted his Schumann with the much rarer Fantasy of Thalberg on themes from Lucrezia Borgia.
Hamelin is from the amazing Canadian school of pianists born on the wave of that other eclectic and reclusive figure of genius that was Glenn Gould.
I remember my old “piano daddy” Sidney Harrison telling me, after adjudicating festivals in Canada, about this young boy whose teacher had told him had spent hours just playing the first chord of Beethoven 4.
And subsequently in later years Glenn Gould even on the hottest day of the year would be clad in a thick overcoat and gloves.
Something that was later copied by pianists thinking that this is what made a genius!
Well Oscar Peterson was a piano genius in the style of Art Tatum that even Horowitz used to admire for his astounding natural gifts.
Louis Lortie,Janina Fialkowska,Angela Hewitt ,John Kimura Parker are all astounding the public worldwide with their natural musicianship.
But the most enigmatic of them all is Marc-Andre Hamelin for his searching mind and extraordinary technique like the past giants of the Golden Age of piano playing.
His only serious rival being Arcadi Volodos but who does not have the same seaching mind or the wish to delve deep into the archives to discover music that has been inexplicably neglected.
Hamlin and Mark Vinerare indeed the only serious advocates today for Alkan and his times.
Although Hamelin on this occasion presented a more conventional programme it was certainly played with a refreshingly intelligent and enquiring mind that shed much new light on works from the more standard repertoire.
A great clarity of intent made one aware of the Floristan and Eusebius elements in the Schumann Fantasy.A passionate performance.
Indeed an outpouring of love for his Clara (who has had quite an outing here in London this week.Her piano concerto with Mariam Batsashvili on the BBC and a full immersion day at the RCM).
The quote from “An die Ferne Geliebte” was quite exquisitely played and the arpeggio at the end thrown off without the usual long drawn out traditional way of ending this desperate declaration of love.
Always a great sense of architecture and line of which details are details and can be exquisite but never at the expense of the overall sense of shape of the work.
The second movement played with a real sense of almost symphonic texture that turned what can seem rather tiresome dotted rhythms into a relentless driving force that leads to the infamous final leaps before dissolving into one of the most beautiful of all Schumann’s creations.
Slightly misjudging the “Massig” and gradual crescendo of the main theme in the second movement he found the only solution possible was to add great bass notes on its final appearance.His sense of architecture had demanded a solution that corrected his initial too passionate temperament!
The sumptuous shading and delicacy in the last movement held us spellbound and the final appearance of the theme was allowed to rise to a climax so naturally before dying away to a whisper on the final three chords.This was made even more effective by his almost drawing to a halt on the theme before the reawakening of the coda.
A remarkably fine performance from a master musician.
It just had me wishing for a more generously warm cantabile sound such has remained with me all these years of Rubinstein’s memorable account on the very first occasion that I heard him in the Festival Hall in the 60`s
Starting the recital with the rarely heard Cipressi op 17 of Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
A work written in 1920 long before he fled the fascist persecution and found a refuge in Hollywood alongside Korngold,Waxman,Schoenberg .
Heifetz introduced him to MGM studios and he became a prolific composer of film scores.He also taught at Los Angeles Conservatory and could boast the late Andre Previn as one of his students.
This early piece was full of impressionist colours and showed off Hamelins vast palete of colours.Some exquisite sounds but always with the utmost clarity and rhythmic precision.
Letting his hair down after the interval with 6 song arrangements of Charles Trenet songs. They were thrown off with an infectuous nonchalance and ease with a kaleidoscope of sounds appearing from every angle.
Weissenberg was a great Bulgarian virtuoso a favourite of Karajan.
His recording of Petroushka is listened to in awe by his peers.
I heard one of his last recitals when we all travelled out to Croydon with Maria Curcio to hear his Bach Fourth Partita,Schumann Fantasie and Chopin B minor sonata.
He was already having difficulty and showed signs of fatigue at the end of the Chopin.
I will never forget though the beauty of his encore Lilacs by Rachmaninov , whom he much resembled.
Hamelin had heard his “Mr Nobody” and spent a month transcribing these unpublished arrangements from Weissenberg’s own recording.
It is worth quoting Hamelin`s own words in order to understand the uncontaminated curiosity of this extraordinary artist:
“Anyone who is familiar with Trenet`s songs in their original form is bound to be delightfully surprised by what Weissenberg has done with them.Unusual touches abound:in “Coin de rue”,an evocation of the narrator’s childhood,the listener is treated to the sounds of a barrel organ.The `oom-pah` rhythm of “Boum!”becomes a foxtrot;”Vous oubliez votre cheval” acquires elements of the Charleston;the opening of “En Avril a Paris” evokes a carousel,while the leisurely-paced “Menilmontant” is transformed into a headlong moto perpetuo.”
All this before entering into the refined world of Faure.The beautiful stillness of the Nocturne n.6 was played with unusual freedom and great sense of direction and it was eactly the link that was needed between the Paris of the early 20th century and that of the aristocratic Paris of the 19th century.
Chopin in Paris, the exile from his homeland of Poland that was in his blood but denied him since his youth.
Two works from the last years ended this fascinating recital.
The Polonaise -Fantasie op.61 and the Fourth Scherzo op.54.
The opening of the Polonaise in which the long string of notes after the arresting.chords seemed to grow out of them like a long reverberation.The long middle section was played with an unusual sense of direction and the big double trill was played so clearly but totally in the context of the long lines that were held together in such a masterly fashion. The middle section of the Scherzo was played without a hint of sentimentality and the long lines were allowed to ring out as Chopin had obviously intended.The final outburst was played with great grandeur and brought this recital to its official close.
The Schubert Moment Musicaux in A flat and Schumann`s Prophet bird from Waldscenen were played with exquisite delicacy only broken by Hamelin’s own piece commisioned by the Van Cliburn Competition to put young aspiring virtuosi through their paces.
Extraodinary feats of virtuosity abounded all played with that ease of a great master.

Maurizio Pollini at the Royal Festival Hall London Salutes a Master

Maurizio Pollini at the Festival Hall in London All on their feet at the end to salute a great master.
He may not get around the piano with quite the energy and amazing technical command of yore,but I for one,and I was obviously not alone last night, was able to experience his almost symphonic approach to Chopin.
Only with the Berceuse were we made aware of the bel canto in Chopin but in the Nocturnes we were immediately more in the world of Schubert and the solid harmonic structure on which these masterpieces are founded.
Amazing and startling similarity ,that I have never been aware of before today, between the Nocturne op 62 n.2 and the Polonaise in F sharp minor that was programmed side by side.
I do not think this was just a casual choice.
This great master who has lived with these scores for a lifetime was even now 60 or so years on more involved with his probing mind to delve into the hidden meaning of the structure of these works.
In the same way he has delved into the most modern works of Nono,Boulez or Stockhausen in a worldwide career that was launched at 18 with his winning of the Chopin Competition in Warsaw and the accolades that he received from the greatest of all Chopin players Artur Rubinstein.
The Debussy Preludes Book 1 ‘ like Book 2 last year were in a completely different sound world but still with the harmonic structure upper most in his mind.
Even the Feux D’Artifice,offered as an encore, was shrouded in a clouded sound where the line became so much part of the atmosphere.
Chopin’s First Ballade of course a most generous second encore brought the entire audience to their feet to salute this great master that despite obvious physical difficulties still has so much to share with us.
Long may it last!

Angelo Fabbrini with his piano especially prepared for Maurizio Pollini
His faithful piano technician Angelo Fabbrini who provides a Rolls Royce of piano to so many great musicians exclaimed to Noretta Conci-Leech an assistant for many years to Michelangeli and a lifelong friend of Maurizio Pollini: “I think even M°Michelangeli would have been pleased tonight.”
As the noted pianist Julian Jacobson told me today:” The first time I played a Fabbrini Steinway it was as if I was driving a Rolls Royce having never driven anything grander than a Mini before!”
This is what I wrote last year as Pollini celebrated his 75th birthday with us in London where his concerts over the past half century have been highlights of every season.

Noretta Conci Leech and husband John founders of the Keyboard CharitableTrust with Sasha Grynyuk and Katya Gorbatiouk

A standing ovation from his adoring London public after his last encore of Chopin Ballade n.1