“A revelation!Ilya is the most exceptional of all….Never before did a pianist keep me locked on my seat,full of excitement from beginning to end.He is a fascinating artist.He makes the piano sound like a full orchestra”Yvonne Georgiadou Pharos Cultural Centre Cyprus.
Such an accolade from the Artistic Director of the Pharos Cultural Centre in Cyprus and fresh from his triumphant tour of Italy (see above) Ilya Kondratiev was invited to play for the Keyboard Charitable Trust in their annual collaboration with Temple Music in the beautiful Parliament Chamber in the Inner Temple.
This was to be the last concert in this hall for the time being due to the renovation that is planned for the next two years.
The very warm atmosphere created by illustrious judges and barristers will be transferred to the Temple Church just opposite.
Surprisingly I was told this hall dated only from 1950 ,the original building having been struck by an incendiary bomb during the blitz on London in the 1940s.
The Hon Philip Havers,QC, trustee of the Temple Music Foundation, tells me that in the original plans there was a third floor that was never constructed and it will now be added to create the much needed extra space for educational purposes.
I am sure though, that the same atmosphere will be ever present in this quite unique oasis in the centre of London.
These very prestigious concerts were the result of an invitation from Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, a founder trustee of the Keyboard Trust, that was created by his long term friend John Leech MBE as a 60th birthday present for his wife Noretta Conci-Leech the renowned concert pianist and assistant for many years to Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.
It was a present to consolidate the work that she had tirelessly dedicated herself to for a lifetime.
We were honoured to have Noretta Conci-Leech and John Leech with us on this special occasion , 28 years on !
Also pleased to welcome again Bryce Morrison, a long term friend of the KCT and one of the most revered (and sometimes feared) critics and experts of the piano of our day.
The programme was very similar to those that Ilya had played on tour in Italy that included a live radio broadcast on the RAI Italian Radio 3 listened to worldwide.
Today though Ilya had included two Schubert Impromptus op.90 n.1 and 4 as well as two transcriptions by Liszt of Schubert’s Lieder :Gretchen am Spinnrade and Standchen.
An addition too of Liszt’s 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody brought this short recital to a tumultuous close.
It was above all the encore of the Petrarch Sonnet 104 by Liszt that will long remain in our memory for its impassioned delicacy and sumptuous palette of sounds in which the minutes of silence at the end were a true sign that his extraordinary artistry had touched us all.
It was also a very poignant way to draw a curtain for the time being over the music that will be missing from this hall in the next few years.
A relation of Prof Deutsch,had noted that the Impromptus by Schubert did not contain the Deutsch number that her grandfather Otto Erich Deutsch had catalogued in 1951 and like Koechel for Mozart has become the norm in recognising their immense output in all too short lives. Small world!
The Impromptus op 90 D.899 were exquisitely played- and especially the fourth impromptu where the shimmering sounds cascaded like water and the melodic line played with an impassioned rich sound that complemented so well with the extreme delicacy of the opening.
The opening arresting octave in the first Impromptu like in the last movement of the great B flat sonata was given just the right time to dissolve before allowing the melody to appear as if out of the final reverberations.
The Gretchen am Spinnrade I have written about on his Italian tour as with the Dante Sonata.
Spinnrade starting and ending so delicately before building to a sumptuous impassioned climax.
The Dante Sonata too was give a very dramatic performance at once of great delicacy alternating with great feats of virtuosity.
One could see on his face his total identification with this romantic world of “sturm und drang.”
It was in fact after the interval that Ilya produced his finest playing.
Opening with an exquisite performance of Standchen by Schubert in the transcription by Liszt.
From the first notes the magic was set with Schubert’s sublime melody so beautifully and simply transcribed for piano by Liszt.Gone were the funambulistics of Liszt the greatest showman on earth and here replaced by the poet who was to become an absolute visionary in later life.
The accompaniment so simply played and on which was balanced the very delicate question and answer that Schubert poses between singer and partner.
The transcription into the bass “espressivo il canto quasi violoncello” in Ilya’s hands today, as it had been in Rachmaninov’s famous recording,was one of the highlights of today’s recital.
The Hungarian Rhapsody n.2 was a way of bringing us back to the world of the pop star “idol” that Liszt was in his youth.
Thrown off with great panache and participation Ilya also had a control that allowed him to shape this famous work as only a true artist can.
The final cadenza that is sometimes too drawn out was only hinted at as the last word was with the Master Liszt himself as this highly gifted young artist knew only too well.