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

Ilya Kondratiev at Temple Music “A Man for all Seasons”

“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.

Ilya in the Parliament Chamber,Inner Temple
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 distinguished audience in this beautiful warm atmosphere and a welcome from The Chairman of Temple Music Foundation Guy Beringer CBE,QC
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.

Ilya being congratulated by Noretta Conci-Leech
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.”

Noretta and John Leech with Mr and Mrs Rabut arrived from Frankfurt especially for the concert of an artist that they have hosted and admired in their concert series in Germany
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.

Celebrations in the Bank of England afterwards …next to the Old Bailey

The Bank of England celebrations in the foreground  Roy Emerson the eminent sound engineer who so generously records the concerts for the Keyboard Trust and Jessie Harrington the renowned chronicler of the most important events in London

Mark Viner at St Mary’s

Mark Viner at St Mary’s
An astonishing display of virtuosity,scholarship and musicianship by Mark Viner in the musical mecca of Dr Hugh Mather who has long been a promoter of this quite unique figure that has appeared on the musical horizon.
Since his debut at the Wigmore Hall promoted by the Keyboard Trust his numerous CD’s
of a repertoire that was long forgotten except for a few passionately courageous advocates has been acclaimed by the most discerning of critics.
With so many successful performances to his name it was typical of his probing mind to present a completely new programme of his extraordinary discoveries in Perivale.

Presenting his programme with Dr Mather
Of course the first piece hardly needed any introduction as it was the so called “Moonlight” Sonata op 27 n.2 by Beethoven.
A scrupulously refreshing look at a score so well known to so many.
Even the Allegretto had me re-looking at the phrasing which was  adhered to with such care and attention.
The Adagio played at just the right tempo that allowed the melodic line to flow without any exaggerations.
”Moonlight” was certainly not Beethoven’s idea and the idea of a slow dreamy piece was far from Beethoven’s most revolutionary mind.
A great sense of forward propulsion in the Presto was helped by his attention to the bass.
A change of programme had brought in place of the Schumann Fantasy the Fantasy by Thalberg on themes from Lucrezia Borgia.
This almost unknown fantasy was by far the happier choice and gave us a chance for this most eclectic of pianists to show us one of his most recent additions to his repertoire.
Amazingly learnt for this occasion in only three weeks it showed off all his extraordinary virtuosity and subtle sense of colour.
He made the piano sound like the truly”Grand”piano that it was in the hands of Liszt`s greatest rival.
A quite astonishing display of virtuosity thrown off with all the ease of the great pianists of a bygone age.
But this was just the prelude to the Grande Sonata op.33 “Les quatre ages” by the elusive figure that is Charles-Valentin Alkan.
A remarkable work lasting forty minutes and divided into four movements depicting 20/30/40/50 years.
Introduced so eloquently by this young man who is a passionate advocate of this legendary figure.
Alkan first appeared on the programmes of Raymond Lewenthal who took London by storm with his programmes of Liszt and Alkan.
It was then taken up by Ronald Smith who made many recordings and wrote books about Alkan.
In recent times it has been Marc-Andre Hamelin who has kept the flame going but it has fallen very much on Mark Viner’s shoulders to delve even deeper into this fascinating character and his times.

Preface by Alkan to the first edition
Winner of the International Alkan -Zimmerman Competition in Athens , chairman of the Alkan Society in the UK and with a superb CD of Alkan’s studies op.35 enthusiastically reviewed who better to lead us into the fray!
Looking at the score after the concert one can see why it has not been a regular part of the repertoire.
It is of extraordinary difficulty and ungrateful looking on the page.
But translated into sound by this passionate and highly gifted young musician one wonders why and how it could have been ignored for so long.
“Everything about Alkan is strange;his life,his death,his music and its fate during his life and after his death”thus writes Raymond Lewenthal who took London by storm in the 60`s but like Busoni or Petri before him it was a momentary not permanent thing.
Chopin and Liszt both frequented Alkan`s concerts.When Chopin died most of his pupils went over to Alkan.His son Elie Miriam Delaborde taught at the Paris Conservatoire.
A complete excentric like his father but he could count Olga Samaroff Stokowski as one of his pupils, but for some inexplicable reason he never played his father`s large works in public.

extraordinary fingering on every single note
The Sonata op 33 is a very long work that hopefully Mark Viner will add to his CD repertoire before long.
Delving into the score afterwards one could appreciate the amount of work that has gone into preparing it for public performance.Fingerings scrupulously added with a scientific like eye.But also the ingenious construction of the piece allied to the over all picture- leit motif- of “Le quatre ages”

The tolling bell of 10 had a great significance for Alkan .Even in mid speech he would stop and leave  at ten o’clock.
After the complete concentration of Mark who played this mammoth piece without the score the numerous public who listened in fascinated silence were rewarded with a delicate salon piece lasting barely three minutes by the elusive Monsieur Alkan



Miracles in Perugia- Dame Mitsuko plays Schubert

Miracles in Perugia- Dame Mitsuko Uchida plays Schubert
This is what I wrote about the same concert in London last december.
It had become but a beautiful memory ……until today …..who says that miracles never strike twice?
It is many years ago that I was in Perugia for the course of Lydia Agosti .
Invited by Eugenio De Rosa director of the Conservatory in Perugia and like me an ex- disciple of Guido Agosti.
I was invited to help Lydia train her young actors and direct from the keyboard in a semi staged performance,the first in Italy, of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti.
It was the year of the Royal Wedding between Charles and Diana.
All scandal broke out when the stage director Alvisi decided to dress the actors as Nazi’s!
Luckily he was persuaded to change his mind and the performances went ahead successfully with our revered Maestro Agosti obliged by his wife to attend!
I came back a year later to accompany a brilliant young schoolboy ‘cellist in an audition with Alba Buitoni.
Tonino Lysy was the son of Alberto Lysy assistant to Menuhin in Gstadt.
We had played together in the theatre in Rome and also for the married couple at Villa Volkonsky,the British Ambassadors residence in Rome, on their honeymoon in Italy.

Teatro Morlacchi
Tonino was also grandson of Dame Iris Origo a great heroin for her work during the war of helping people flee the fascist tyrany that had been inflicted on them especially around her estate of” La Foce” in Tuscany.
Her book: “The War in Val D’Orcia” is a monument to her courage and endurance.
I remember the house of Alba Buitoni and her piano with fotos of Serkin and Rubinstein and many other illustrious musicians all with dedications and thanks to her for inviting them to play in Perugia.

Perugia central fountain
Antonio Lysy has since become a renowned cellist and although living and working in America comes back to “La Foce” during the summer months for a festival of chamber music with his friends and colleagues that include the Ashkenazy’s,Pascal Roge,Alessio Bax,Joshua Bell.
“Incontro In Terra di Siena “ is the name of the festival that has become a much awaited annual event in one of the most beautiful parts of Tuscany.
(I used to take Rosalyn Tureck to the hot springs in Bagno Vignoni overlooking the Val D‘Orcia during her winter tours of Italy and she would regularly give a little after dinner concert for the astonished guests!)
Having heard the same Schubert recital in the Festival Hall in London I was delighted to have an excuse to return to Perugia to visit dear friends and to be able to hear again the sublime performance of the Schubert B flat and share with them what in Mitsuko Uchida’s own words had become but a “beautiful memory.”
In fact talking afterwards in the green room she exclaimed that she was a twentieth century lady , the social media or instant communication has no place in her life.
A concert should remain in the memory as a beautiful experience forever.

The historic curtain of Mariano Piervittori(1818-1888 )
It was certainly that today and as she said dedicated to friend who was no longer with us.
Dame Mitsuko has reserved space in her worldwide travels to play every season for her friends Ilaria Borlotti and her husband the late Franco Buitoni.She has been a trustee since the founding of the Borlotti- Buitoni Trust in 2003.It was created to help and promote young musical talent.
But today with the Schubert B flat sonata written only a few months before his own death she and we could all feel a special presence that only music on special occasions can provide.
The simplicity and perfection of the slow movement of Mozart’s Sonata in C K.330 offered as a thank you to her adoring public spoke much more eloquently than words.
In fact it left us all speechless as this miracle bore wings and filled every crevace of this magnificent theatre.
In London with her Mahler Chamber Orchestra that she brought to her friends in Perugia two years ago

Who says Brexit does not exist