Umberto Jacopo Laureti in Rome

Umberto Jacopo Laureti at Rome 3 University

Today’s programme in the Aula Magna Roma Tre
A journey in “Italian Keyboard Music” was the title given to this remarkable recital by Umberto Jacopo Laureti.
It was in the Young Artists- Piano Solo Series for the Roma Tre University directed by Roberto Pujia ,President and Valerio Vicari ,Artistic Director.
Apart from the Toccata that I had heard Serkin play years ago in London all the other pieces were new to me.
Quite a voyage of discovery to hear the young Busoni op 33. Schumannesque type pieces (I am thinking of Kinderscenen) compared to the enormous almost abstract music of the later Toccata.
To hear Respighi too in Busonian transcription mode with the Frescobaldi Passacaglia and his own version for piano of the Antiche arie e danze P114 (better known in its occasionally performed orchestral version.)
As if that was not enough we even got an encore by great demand of Umberto’s own transcription of a famous song by the well known italian cabaret singer Mina.

Umberto introducing the programme
Quite an afternoon!
I was sorry to miss Alexander Romanovsky at the other university of Rome – La Sapienza- who was performing a Chopin programme including the Studies op 10 and 25.
I hope he will forgive me!
I was however very pleased to have heard some music new to me and meticulously prepared and introduced by a young musician from the remarkable school of Benedetto Lupo.
He had also studied with Ian Fountain (the only British pianist to have won the Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv ) obtaining his “Masters” at my old Alma Mater ,the Royal Academy in London.
Umberto is being helped by the Keyboard Charitable Trust in this formative period as Romanovsky was before he became the great established artist that the world knows today.
He will be performing for the KCT in the newly founded collaboration with the Festival in Grosseto of Gala Chistiakova and her husband Diego Benocci on the 26th May.
It was on S.Cecilia’s day 2017 that I last heard Umberto play in London in an impressive recital that included Schubert’s great C minor Sonata ……..but nothing had prepared me for the artistry and professionalism that I heard today almost two years on.

with the artistic director of Roma 3 Valerio Vicari
A new programme of some very complex ,rarely (if ever) performed music.
Unjustly neglected pieces from two key Italian composers of the 20 century.
Respighi we know from his often performed orchestral showpiece Trilogy “The Pines of Rome.”
Busoni is sometimes referred to as Mr Bach/Busoni but to more expert musicians his Fantasia Contrappuntistica, or his unfinished opera Doktor Faust are recognised masterpieces.
In fact Umberto is preparing his thesis at the Royal Academy in London for a doctorate on Busoni and from his very learned introductions it was obvious that we had expert guidance and introduction to Busoni’s world.

explaining about the Busoni Toccata having taken off his jacket before plunging into this very dense virtuosistic score
The concert opened with the six pieces that make up the “Macchiette mediovali” op 33 by Busoni.
Each piece only a few minutes long but full of differing character.
From the salon type charm of “Dama” to the robust sounds and rhythmic energy of “Cavaliere.” The great sense of colour and horn calls echoing one another of “Paggio.” The ostinato bass of “Guerriero”; the almost fugato texture of “Astrologo” or the great ceremonial opening of “Trovatore” on which the beautiful melodic line rides.
So reminiscent of the little tone poems that make up so many of the early works of Schumann (op 6/12/15 in particular)
Beautifully realised and played with such conviction and style.
Always ravishing sound from this Schimmel concert grand.
Some very subtle colouring and wonderfully robust but never hard tone in the louder passages.
Having heard such a fine performance one only wonders why these pieces are not played more often in concert.
Of course they need fine musicianship and sense of style and colour but above all the scrupulous preparation that we were witness to today.

Umberto with early Busoni before rolling up his sleeves for the transcendental Toccata
There followed a grandiose transcription by Respighi of the Passacaglia P111 by Girolamo Frescobaldi.
A truly virtuoso transcription with some full rich sonorities very reminiscent of the great Busoni organ transcriptions that are much better known.
Listening though to Respighi’s own piano version of his orchestral suite “Antiche arie e danze” P114 one could perceive a certain repetitive formula to his approach to the piano.Very impressive as it was in the Passacaglia it did wane as we heard many of the “tricks of the trade” applied to his own work.
The Grandeur of the Balletto “Il Conte Orlando” again with great sonority and the very sensitive doubling of the melodic line in the middle register in “Villanella” that gave it such sense of depth.
The marked rhythmic character of the scherzando “Gagliardo” with musette type pedal effects especially in the trio section.
The beautiful legato melodic line with the staccato left hand gently accompanying of the “Italiana”.
The equally telling long lines of the traditional melody of the “Siciliana” with its great scale variants and the grandiloquence of the “Passacaglia” final sixth piece.
All perfectly performed with such a sense of overall line and conviction that was indeed remarkable for a piece learnt especially for this all Italian programme.

Shirt sleeves for Busoni’s transcendental Toccata
The final work was Busoni’s extraordinary Toccata BV287 that I had heard Serkin play together with the Berceuse many years ago in London.A programme that had included a mammouth work too by Reger together with Schumann Carnaval op 9 and Beethoven op 111.A memorable evening indeed for one of his all too rare visits to Europe.
The toccata is a very complex work in three parts Preludio,Fantasia and Chaconne requiring great physical drive and complete mastery of the keyboard.
All things that Umberto had in abundance as he launched himself in shirtsleeves into this final work.
Here was the great Busoni sonority that Respighi had tried to mirror but also with great dynamic contrasts and sense of colour .Some of Busoni’s very personal meanderings that Hindemith was to mirror later.
A voyage of discovery in the presence of a master of the keyboard who had dedicated himself to revealing the secrets of this still very little known repertoire.

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