Michal Szymanowski at St Mary’s To be or not to be?

Michal Szymanowski at St Mary’s

St Mary’s superb streaming to Italy

Menuet in G major Op 14 no 1
Cracovienne fantastique Op 14 no 6
Nocturne in B flat Op 16 no 4
Legend in A flat Op 16 no 1
Mazurka in A minor Op 9 no 2
Polonaise in B major Op 9 no 6
Nocturne in F minor Op 55 no 1
Ballade no 2 in F major Op 38
Mazurkas Op 59
Polonaise in F sharp minor Op 44

A Polish pianist and conductor, Michał Karol Szymanowski was born in 1988 into a musical family. He graduated with honours from the Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz, where he studied piano with Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń and symphonic-operatic conducting under Zygmunt Rychert.
He honed his skills with Eldar Nebolsin at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin. At present works as an assistant lecturer at his alma mater. He has won top awards in a number of national and international piano competitions, including Chopin Competition in Darmstadt, Germany (2017), MozARTè Competition in Aachen, Germany (2016), Chopin Competition in Daegu, Korea (2015), Zarębski Competition in Warsaw (2012), Yamaha Competition in Katowice (2011), Paderewski Competition in Bydgoszcz, (2010), Horowitz Competition in Kiev (2007). In 2015 he was the highest placed quarter-finalist in the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.
Michał has performed in many concerts across Europe and throughout the world, including the Palace of Nations in Geneva, the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican (a concert for Pope Benedict XVI), at Warsaw’s Belvedere Palace for Polish President, numerous philharmonic halls as well as major festivals in Poland and abroad, among them Oficina de Música de Curitiba, Festival Chopiniana in Buenos Aires, Festival Europeo de Solistas in Caracas, Festival Pianistico di Roma, the Long Lake Festival in Lugano, and the Chopin and His Europe Festival in Warsaw, where he brilliantly performed piano concertos by Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Józef Wieniawski and Sigmunt Stojowski. He has performed under such eminent conductors as Alfredo Rugeles, Medardo Caisabanda, Juri Gilbo, Jacek Kaspszyk, Antoni Wit, Grzegorz Nowak and Marek Pijarowski with, among others, the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, the Symphonic Orchestra of the National Theatre in Brasilia, Daegu Symphony Orchestra, Russian Chamber Philharmonic St. Petersburg and all major polish orchestras.
Apart from solo repertoire, Michał also frequently performs chamber music. He has released two solo albums for CD Accord (Naxos), featuring compositions by Fryderyk Chopin, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Karol Szymanowski and Józef Wieniawski. The recordings were critically acclaimed. One reviewer wrote: “this is heartfelt music-making of the type one associates with such luminaries as Uchida, Schiff and Brendel”.
As Michał Szymanowski rather cheekily explained, Paderewski first and Chopin second to ensure there would not be a mass exodus in the interval!
He or Dr Hugh Mather need not have worried because the music was so beautifully and intelligently played it was a superb introduction to the genius that is Chopin.
We did however get more Paderewski by great demand, as an encore :The Melody op 16.

Enjoying my log fire with fine music in this rather unsettled month of May
One could say that the Paderewski was a curtain raiser that demonstrated the difference between a genius and a good craftsman.
Chopin ,though, had not been like Paderewski the Prime Minister of Poland or a pianist idol in America as Liszt had been in Europe a century before.
I think most pianists would have had a go at the Menuet in G probably in a shortened simpler version from the one that Michał Szymanowski opened his programme with this evening.
It immediately showed off the intelligent musicianship allied to a command of the keyboard that would be the envy of many.
Many of us will have struggled with the Menuet in G as children , but how many I wonder know the other five pieces that make up op 14 by Paderewski.
The last of these the Crakovienne Fantastique was given a crystal clear performance of hypnotic almost Gopak style dance rhythm.
The Nocturne op 16 n.4 was a completely different style from that of Chopin or Field.
In fact it owed more to Grieg or Tchaikowsky .
Full of nostalgia and charming atmosphere.The ending in Michal’s hands was quite magical.
The Legend op 16 n.1 was far removed from the Ballades of Chopin that had so inspired Liszt and Brahms.
A pleasing salon piece especially with Michal’s superb sense of balance made for a piece of great effect rather than Chopin’s inspired masterpieces of the poems of Mickiewicz.
The Mazurka op 9 where the typical dance was so apparent but far removed from the profound yearning for his homeland that made the 58 mazurkas of Chopin amongst his greatest works.
The Polonaise op 9 n.6 was superbly played with just the right amount of bravura and jeux perle of the great pianists of the past like Lhevine,Rosenthal Godowsky or Paderewski.
Michal’s thesis for his doctorate was indeed on Paderewski and it was very refreshing to be able to hear some of the works of a figure who is usually only thought of as a leggendary  virtuoso of the past and who in turn became the first Prime Minister of Poland.
What is in fact very interesting is to see the intelligent musicianly performances of this young polish pianist.Never falling into the trap of sentimentality or crowd pleasing nuances.

Mount Circeo said to be the silhouette of Mussolini
It was Rubinstein who was one of the first pianists to react to the rather free almost improvisatory performances of Chopin.
The salon composer, as he was in the hands of many of the great pianists of the so called Chopin tradition.
De Pachmann in particular but also Paderewski,Hoffman and many others.
Rubinstein brought Chopin back to the world of the great composers like Bach,Beethoven,Brahms etc .
Playing with a virility where there had been feminine delicacy.
With nobility where there had been flashy virtuosity.
But above all true sentiment were there had been sentimentality.
Today in fact it was refreshing to hear this modern school of playing in the hands of Michal Szymanowski interpreting the very works of Paderewski that had largely been to please his vast public on his concert tours.
Michal possesses that strong noble cantabile that was of his great compatriots such as Malcuzinski,Niedsielski or Stefan Askenase .Added to a great sense of style and intelligent musicianship he is a great advocate for his compatriots music.
The proof was in the applause that greeted him after his first half totally dedicated to Paderewski.
The second half was dedicated to the genius that is Chopin.
The nocturne op 55 n.1 (Cherkassky’s favourite nocturne) although beautifully played did not have the fluidity that we had so appreciated in that of Paderewski.
The ending of the Nocturne immediately leading into the magical notes of the Second Ballade where with his great sense of measure and style it immediately became evident the difference between the two Polish Composers.
The four Mazukas op 59 seemed to ignite in our pianist tonight a sense of colour and fantasy that turned what in Paderewski’s hands were baubles ,in Chopin’s were true gems.
The Polonaise in F sharp minor op 44 was given a masterly performance and the same sense that Rubinstein brought to the middle section was apparent here today.
I think this might be the case where these rhythms can only be fully understood by fellow compatriots.

Dr Szymanowski explaining so enjoyably his programme
The most beautiful performance of the evening was still to come in the encore offered by insistent demand.A public totally won over by this pianist now on his fourth visit to this Mecca of great young pianists.
Michal at the end asked who they thought the encore was by: Paderewski or Chopin?
They got it right thanks to this truly illuminating recital tonight.

Patrick Hemmerle’ at St Mary’s

Patrick Hemmerle’ at St Mary’s
If it had not been for the magnificent streaming that allowed me to have the best seat in the house at St Mary’s Perivale, transported to the National Park of Circeo in Italy ,I would have thought that we were in the realms of the Joyce Hatto scandal.

Patrick Hemmerle in my garden today transported by the magic stream carpet
Such was the superb stylistic and commanding performance of the Chopin Studies today I would have sworn it was Guiomar Novaes , Nikita Magaloff or Nelson Friere instead of a certain Monsieur Hemmerle’!
Completely bowled over by the beauty and totally absorbing musicality I was not even aware of the transcendental difficulty of these revolutionary pieces for piano.
As Hugh Mather so rightly said in his introduction, these studies were written by the twenty year old genius that was Chopin!
A recent performance of op 25 by Beatrice Rana took us all by surprise in London this season but that was only op 25 .https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/beatrice-rana-takes-london-by-storm/10156282660502309/
As Patrick rightly said in reply to the tumultuous applause that greeted the first set of 12 studies op 10:”we are only half way!”
This is what I discovered on the web site of St Mary’s about this extraordinary artist.
Patrick Hemmerlé is a French pianist based in Cambridge. He is a fellow commoner and musician in residence at Clare Hall, part of Cambridge University. His primary interest is for the music of the great Austro-German composers, mainly Bach, Beethoven, Schumann and Schubert. Patrick has developed a double concert format which allows him to put in perspective Bach’s Goldberg Variations with Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, the last three Sonatas of Schubert and Beethoven, or the 48 Preludes and Fugues of Bach. He devotes part of his time to composers who have remained relatively unknown and regularly includes in his concert programmes the works of Novak, Frank Martin, Emmanuel and many others.
Patrick has released two CDs, one for the Spanish Label Orpheus with works by Schumann, Brahms and Novak. The other for IndeSens with Novak’s Pan and Tchesnokov’s La Neige. A third CD with works by the French composer Jean Roger-Ducasse is in preparation. Patrick also gives lectures on music and also concert-lectures in which the works are discussed as well as played. He has given master classes in both England and France. He was trained in Paris, where he studied at the Conservatoire (CRR) with Billy Eidi winning first prize in 2002. He then continued his studies further, having private lessons with Nadine Wright, Joaquin Soriano, Ventislav Yankov and Eric Heidsieck.
Patrick is laureate of the International Competitions of Valencia, Toledo, Grosseto, Epinal and more recently CFRPM in Paris. He has received prizes for the best interpretation of works by Chopin, Albeniz, Beethoven ( Concerto Prize), Novak, Frank Martin and Tchesnokov.
Tuning in today rather sceptically I must say, I listened to the first study and although not the relentless passion of Richter all the hurdles,and there are many, were very well managed.
Infact it was in the second that I stopped counting the notes or at least forgot to because I was so involved in the music making that was opening up new horizons and perspectives.
The beautifully shaped left hand with the shimmering chromatic scales just adding a sheen to the proceedings.The crystal clear cantabile of the third study “How dear is my heart!”but also the beautifully singing top notes of the middle section that most amateurs are forced to leave out and that many professionals turn into a battle ground!
The fourth study had more to do with Rubinstein than with Richter’s impossibly fast video recording.Resolving all the technical challenges whilst shaping the music.The ending was every bit as exciting as Rubinstein’s inimitable performances.A slight pause before the final chord showed us the master we had in the driving seat today.
The playful “Black Key” study , Myra Hess used to play as an encore with an orange and two carrots.Childs play you might say, but today I was reminded of the aristocratic jeux perle’ of Magaloff in the way he highlighted very subtly certain harmonic comments from all directions.
I found the slow number six rather unstable rhythmically and feel it could be played more simply.
But he had such a persuasive cantabile that I almost forgave him!
The feather light alternate chords of the seventh could almost be called the butterfly study (like op 25 n.9) when played like this.
The shimmering cascading notes of the eighth beautifully phrased and ending somewhere between Horowitz’s charm and Novaes’s creamy rich legato.
A beautiful echo effect in the 9th that Rubinstein played with that aristocratic simplicity that was sometimes missing here.
A rather cheeky appogiatura at the end brought a smile of admiration for an artist who was really living the music so fearlessly.
The tenth seemed at first rather slower than we are used to hearing it.But it was so pregnant with meaning  and full of magical moments.Not least the change of colour on the modulation.The held bass note on which floats the final few bars was quite enchanting.
The “Arpeggio” study was a kaleidoscope of colours .A bass note added as Freire would often do too gave a sumptuous sense of colour to a seemingly timeless study.
A wonderful hesitation at the beginning of the “Revolutionary”study again showed just what personality this young man already has.
No fear of following the rules in his total understanding of the musical values of these remarkable pieces.
I have dwelt more on the first set of studies which I have always thought of as less poetic than the second.
Today Patrick has convinced me that they are just as poetic in the hands of a true poet!
Of course op 25 could only highlight all the wonderful things that this true musician could revel in today.
The beautiful bell like cantabile of the first study”Aeolian Harp”of which there is a detailed description by Sir Charles Halle of Chopin playing it in England.
Wonderful counter melodies in the bass that only added to the sumptuous sounds of Patrick’s magic harp.
Beautiful repeated notes at the end of the second led so well to the jogging of the third with all its various inflections.
Staccato and legato living so well together in the fourth dissolving hand in hand happily ever after at the end.
The fifth slipped in almost unnoticed.
The beautiful middle section played with the subtle inflections that Chopin actually writes into the notes.A final rising crescendo on which emerges the “will o’ the wisp” double thirds that shimmer above the left hand melodic line.
Strange that he plays the downward double third scale with two hands I have never noticed that before.Unusual fingering  too at the beginning of the slow seventh study.A telling rest in the left hand melody somehow took me by surprise.A wonderful surprise for the legato afterwards was even more telling.
A melodic line almost too flexible but by God I would not have changed a note today.
It was just so convincing and heartrending.
The silky legato of the eighth with very slight hesitations to such glorious effect.
A”Butterfly” every bit as featherweight as its partner op 10 n.7 disappearing like “scarbo” into thin air at the end.
The most thunderously legato octaves where the melodic line though was always to the fore.
A marvellously expressive middle section where the re emergence of the main theme was pure magic.
The final two studies were played with the aristocratic grandiosity of the great pianists of the past.
The added bass notes at crucial moments took our breath away as he plunged straight into the final C minor study.
What can one say?
I am tempted to use Schumann’s own words on the first appearance of Chopin in Paris:”Hats off gentlemen a genius.”
Looking at his CV and listening to his extraordinary performances today I would not be surprised at all.

Fausto Zadra The Last Recital

Fausto Zadra……The last recital
Wonderful to be reminded of Fausto Zadra and that fateful day in the Ghione Theatre when time stood still at the coda of the Chopin Nocturne op 27 n.2.
It had been a very busy few days before as Fausto wanted his son to recite the poems that had inspired Chopin in his Four Ballades.
My wife Ileana Ghione was with Fausto to prepare him for this special come back recital with father and son.
It had been postponed several times but finally the date had been set.
Strangely Fausto did not want to rehearse but wanted to help his son.
We spent much time chatting together.
Fausto was a great talker always.
On the evening of the concert there were so many friends,family and admirers that the box office was taken by assault.

Marco Zadra in his moving performance at the Teatro della Cometa in Rome
Half an hour late I went backstage to tell Fausto that we were ready at last.
Fausto was strangely quiet which I put down to nerves.
Something that I know all great artists suffer from in that moment before going on stage.
Perlemuter even in his 80’s used to say it was like going to the guillotine every time!
The video camera was on to capture this very special return to Rome for Fausto with his beloved son Marco.
Towards the end of the first piece I heard my wife’s voice over the intercome system calling for the lights to be switched on.
Fausto had fallen asleep at the coda of this most beautiful of all nocturnes.
As it turned out even with numerous doctors in the hall Fausto had already left us for a more beautiful place.

Newspaper report in the Repubblica
Someone had informed the press who were at the door wanting to take pictures.
The public were leaving in complete silence and only his family and close friends were there to console each other.
I would not allow the newspaper to take fotos and they threatened to sue me as it was their right!
No fotos were taken.
Only the family and I know that in the confusion the video camera was left on and now sits in the drawer of Marco Zadra.
Never watched but nice to know that it is all there.
All this was told so beautifully by Marco of the story of his family from the beginnings to that fateful day 17th May 2001 at Teatro Ghione.

Fausto in the hall of fame at the Ghione Theatre

Uto Ughi in Rome The Prince of violinists

Uto Ughi in Rome The Prince of violinists
60th Anniversary concert of Uto Ughi at La Sapienza Rome with Michail Lifits

Uto Ughi’s first concert in 1959
A concert to celebrate sixty years since Uto Ughi’s first concert at Rome University for Lina Fortuna in her remarkable series of concerts started just after the war.
A lifetime in which Uto Ughi has been ever present.
He used to come to listen to Ruggiero Ricci at Teatro Ghione and I remember him playing with FouTs’ong the Kreutzer Sonata for Alba Buitoni in Perugia in the 70’s.
He played often too for the Filarmonica of Adriana Panni and I remember the wonderful sounds of his violin resounding from behind the altar filling the magnficent church surrounded by Caravaggios at her sad farewell .He had come to pay a private tribute to the remarkable lady who had given him his first concerts as a child prodigy.
Now in his 75th year he was happy to celebrate with us his unblemished artistry on his “Kreutzer” Stradivarius of 1701 and the most beautiful of Guarneri Gesu of 1744 that once belonged to Arthur Grumiaux.
I had the fortune to sit next to a master violinist Maestro Leofreddi who had played with Licia Mancini in 1995 in the Ghione Theatre in a homage for the 10th anniversary of the death of Guido Agosti.He like me was astonished to hear such perfection from a violinist at an age when some physical aspects could have tarnished his artistry.

Ughi with Michail Lifits infront of the magnificent mural of Sironi
Playing the entire concert without the score too from the very first note to the last delicious notes of “Schon Rosmarin” we were treated to a concert of rare artistry.
Starting with the Chaconne by Vitali in which the subtle exquisite sounds from the bass continuo- piano sustained an ever more intense gradual build up from Uto Ughi’s magnificent instrument.
It immediately established a rapport between piano,violin and audience that was to be carried through to the very last notes of the strepitoso “Le ronde des Lutins” and “Schon Rosmarin” offered as a thank you to an audience on their feet.
The Brahms Sonata n.3 in D minor was a meeting of equals.
Lifits and Ughi never having played together before found themselves on a wonderful voyage of discovery.Each one revelling in the company and conversation between equals.
The sumptuous sounds from the piano never overpowering the violin .Listening so intently to each other and above all the musical line that they were sharing together.
That is not to say that there were not great symphonic sounds from the piano matched by the golden tone of the violin .
A shared glee between complices as the audience burst into spontaneous applause between movements.
The scherzo glided along like a well oiled train.The piano throwing off its embellishments with a subtle joie de vivre.Immediately attacking the Presto agitato and not giving the audience a chance to interrupt this time.
The final chord placed with just that slight wait of a duo that has been playing for a liftime togther.
Feeling the need to communicate also verbally with his audience Uto Ughi happily introduced the Suite Popular Espagnola to them.
Explaining that only six of the seven original pieces had been transcribed for violin by Paul Kochanski.
There was some extremely atmospheric playing from both artists.
Very subtle whispered sounds from the piano matched by some very idiomatic sounds on the violin and a final ” voila” from Ughi as if to say now you may applaude.
The party atmosphere was now set.
A very beautiful opening to the Introduction of the Rondo Capricioso by Saint Saens was contrasted with a scintillating Allegro of such subtle rubato interrupted only by great orchestral sounds from the piano
Following with the great show piece by Ravel :The Tzigane.
Dedicated to Jelly d’Aranyi who lived for many years in Ewelme in Oxford the same village that Perlemuter,a disciple of Ravel ,had chosen as his summer home too.
It is a great show piece for both piano and violin.The only work that Ughi chose to have the score for.
He need not have worried because violin and piano played as one in an electrifying performance that brought the concert to its official close.
“Le ronde des lutins” was the extraordinary piece that Ughi chose to thank his devoted public.
Great feats for the violin of both pizzicato and legato in quick succession.
The piano was played with such subtlety that made the combination quite intoxicating.
Kreisler’s “Schon Rosmarin” was played with all the subtlety of the great man himself.
A rubato that was so much part of this world of nostalgia and charm it was the perfect ending to an afternoon celebration of one of the greatest artists before the public today.

Michail signing the souvenir for Ughi’s 60th celebrations

Giulio Potenza – A master speaks

Giulio Potenza: A master speaks Young Artists Piano solo series for Roma Tre University.
Another remarkable concert in the series giving a platform to Young Pianists by the Roma Tre University in the Great Hall in via Ostiense in Rome.
Valerio Vicari,the enlightened artistic director has gathered together some of the finest young talents to demonstate in varied programmes the kaleidoscopic variety of the piano.
A few weeks ago it was “A Journey of Italian Keyboard Music” with Umberto Jacopo Laureti
Today it was the turn of Giulio Potenza with “A journey in the world of the 19th (and 20th!) century piano “
Ending with the mighty Appassionata but starting with some rarely heard works by Janacek,Grieg and Medtner.It was indeed a fascinating journey not least because we had a master guide this time too.
It is also interesting to note that these two Italian trained musicians received their Masters degrees from the Royal Academy and Trinity Laban in London.

Biography from Giulio’s new CD of Janacek
Giulio had received his final studies from Gabriele Baldocci and Deniz Arman Gelenbe.
Gabriele I know from when he was studying at the International Piano Academy in Como and made his Rome debut 20 years ago in the Teatro Ghione.
He has since gone on to be not only a duo partner with Martha Argerich but also a distinguished Professor at Trinity Laban in London.
Deniz Arman Gelenbe who was head of studies now dedicates herself more to her distinguished career as a chamber music musician.
So I was not suprised to find in the recital today many of the hallmarks of his illustrious mentors.
Above all a beautiful sound with infinite gradations that never allowed the tone to get hard due to his supreme sense of balance.
A very intelligent choice of programme in which each work seemed to lead into the next.
The sound at the end of the Janacek 1st Sonata(1905) “Smrt “(Death) ,reminiscent of Scriabin second sonata .
A supreme sense of colouring with the doubling of the melody and a very subtle use of the pedals to create a very particular atmosphere .
The opening movement “Predtucha” (Foreboding) where his extreme sense of balance and colour combined with a great sense of line and forward movement created so vividly this visionary atmosphere.
Two beautiful Lyric Pieces by Grieg so rarely played these days although both Rubinstein and Gilels were great admirers of these atmospheric pieces.
The “Notturno” op.54 n.4 was played with a beautifully flexible line and again his superb sense of balance created a magic that was crowned with the atmospheric bird song at the end.
The nostalgia of ”Vanished days op 57 n.1 where from a whisper we were transported to the sumptuous piano world of Rachmaninov which in turn led so beautifully to the “Sonata Reminiscenza in a minore” op 38 n.1 by Medtner.

Giulio Potenza introducing the programme
Medtner was a younger contemporary of Rachmaninov and Scriabin who came to live in London and is buried in Hendon Cemetery.
I remember hearing his pupil Edna Iles play in the Festival Hall in London.
This one movement sonata is one of his most poetic creations.Tinged with Russian nostalgia with such a subtle tenor melody line amidst streams of glistening sounds.
A real kaleidoscope of magical sounds.
After a short break we were taken into the completely different world of Beethoven with his “Appassionata” Sonata op 57.
Here we were immediately plunged into a performance of grandiose nobility.
A full symphonic sound where taught rhythms, clarity of melodic line,relentless sense of direction and scrupulous attention to Beethoven’s very precise markings gave a performance both dramatic and passionate.
Even Beethoven’s most original pedal indications were translated into sound on this modern instrument as a true artist should strive to do.
There was great weight too to the sound and nowhere more evident than in the Andante con moto that Agosti likened to a procession or corteo.Some extraordinarily beautiful sounds in the variations and great sense of always being anchored to the bass that allowed such sumptuous sounds elsewhere on the keyboard.
An Allegro ,ma non troppo taken at such an exciting pace.Maybe a little too fast to contrast fully with the Presto coda but played with such control and contrasts it had us on the edge of our seats until the final tumultuous outburst.

Giulio Potenza with Giancarlo Tammaro artistic director of “Liszt at Villa D’Este”
It was indeed a wildly exciting performance that as Giulio had said was inspired too by an audience that had been so attentive to every nuance.
One encore offered from Schumann’s Kinderscenen (Scenes of Childhood).
What better way to end than a magical performance of “Of Foreign Lands and Peoples.”

The extraordinary Talon Smith and the centenary of Lya De Barberiis

Presenting the extraordinary talent of sixteen year old Talon Smith and the centenary of Lya De Barberiis
It was thanks to Franco Buzzanca that we were able to hear the remarkable 16 year old Talon Smith in Rome.
In the noble surroundings of the Teatro di Villa Torlonia.
The Villa just a stone’s throw from the British Embassy which was the residence of Benito Mussolini until 1944 when after his fall it fell into disrepair and abandon.
Originally land owned by the Pamphilj family that passed into the hands of the banking family of Giovanni Raimondo Torlonia who built this sumptuous villa.
A villa that was the residence of Mussolini during his rise to power in the 1920’s.
Peppercorn rent was paid to the family Torlonia and as fate would have it Mussolini sought refuge during the bombardment of Rome in the jewish catacombs of the 3rd and 4th century that were underneath.
It passed into the hands of the Comune di Roma in 1978 as a public park but the actual villa was not restored until 1990’s.

Teatro di Villa Torlonia
The beautiful theatre that stands in the grounds has become a wonderful venue for music with an extraordinary acoustic.
It has much in common,although on a much smaller scale,with the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza.
Franco Buzzanca has for many years made the scenery for all the major theatres in Italy creating Scenografia Oggi a symbol for handfinished craftsmanship.
Now retired from the day to day workings of his firm he dedicates himself with his colleagues from the world of art and theatre to organising benefit concerts for the Association “Insieme per Aiutare.”

Franco Buzzanca thanking Talon Smith
And so it was that Franco came to the rescue when Bill Nabore asked me if there was any way that we could give Talon a platform in the three days that he was flying in from California for some coaching before playing in Geneva.
I first heard William Grant Nabore when I was a student in Rome when he gave a very fine performance of the Diabelli Variations in the historic Oratorio of Gonfalone.
He had been a prize student of Carlo Zecchi.I was studying at the time with Guido Agosti.

Bill Nabore with Talon’s mother
40 years on Bill has created the renowned “International Piano Academy- Lake Como” of which the Honorary President is Martha Argerich.
Eventually when I came back to Rome creating the Teatro Ghione with my wife Ileana Ghione ,I used to persuade the great almost unknown artists who played for us to spend a week with Bill’s students in Como living and working together.
Rosalyn Tureck was enthusiastic and full of astonishment at the standard of the students.
Fou Ts’ong soon became a favourite followed by Peter Frankl,Moura Lympany, Stephen Kovacevich,Alicia de Larrocha.
Adding over the years artist such as Murray Perahia,Dmitri Bashkirov,Alfred Brendel etc.
So when Bill said he had a truly phenomenal talent coming to Rome I moved mountains to be allowed to hear him.

100th anniversary celebration for Lya De Barberiis
The Ghione Theatre on that same day was busy with a concert dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of our beloved Lya De Barberiis.
Organised by the indomitable Massimiliano Negri who has done so much to keep alive my duo partner’s memory for so many years.
Our last concert together,Lya and I, was in 2012 for the newly born Circolo Culturale Lya De Barberiis.
Massimiliano has since brought out a book, after her death in 2013, dedicated to keeping her memory and legacy alive.
He even found time to perform Mendelssohn’s Violin and Piano Concerto splendidly on this occasion .
I attended the dress rehearsal and was able to enjoy the extreme sensitivity in Elgar’s Serenade for Strings of the String Orchestra from the Conservatory di Perugia under the guidance of Piero Caraba.

Liliana Bernardi,violino Massimiliano Negri,pianoforte with the string orchestra of the Conservatory di Perugia
The extraordinary playing of the violinist Liliana Bernardi together with Massimiliano Negri.Lya would have been happy to see what musicianship they brought to this rarely heard work of Mendelssohn.
But who is infact Talon Smith:
National & International Award-Winning Pianist & Composer & Distinguished Young Steinway Artist

Bill Nabore con Talon Smith
“Exhibiting an innate, passionate musicality and brilliant technical mastery well beyond his years, sixteen-year-old virtuoso pianist and composer Talon Smith has already won Gold at the Gina Bachauer International Junior Artists Piano Competition.
Talon’s inspiring musical performances display immense beauty and passion engaging his listeners in an unforgettable experience. He shares his feelings and vast musical gifts of authentic depth and rare sensitivity with emotionally touching musical performances that have ignited both tears and laughter with his audiences. He commands the piano with superb tone, remarkable timing, and poetic phrasing layered with amazing contrasts of stunning colors. According to the experts, “This young pianist is extraordinary in many ways – Talon is a passionate musical force with a special and huge talent. He has a distinct voice, a remarkable sense of musical structure, and intense poetry.”
Talon’s career is marked by an abundance of triumphant achievements. He has won many top prizes – 1st place almost exclusively – in numerous solo, concerto, and composition competitions. He continues to perform in many successful solo artist and orchestral concerts in front of sold-out crowds generating enthusiastic standing ovations by extremely inspired audiences.
Besides piano and composing, Talon enjoys spending time with family and friends; delicious food; reading the Bible, the classics, and books on theology and history; playing ultimate Frisbee; participating in choir; school; and spending time with his furry companion of 8 years – Browny – an Australian cattle dog. Talon states that some people have service dogs, but he has a “be served dog”— Browny is pampered. Talon’s ultimate goal in piano playing is to bring glory to God and to be used by Him as a minister of blessing to his audiences. Current Teachers: William Grant Naboré & Rufus Choi.”
From the very first notes of the early Beethoven Sonata op. 2 n.2 it was clear that we were in the hands of an unusually mature musician.
An unrelenting drive to the Allegro vivace was only alleviated by the almost orchestrally conceived interpretation of the Largo appassionato.
Chords that were crystal clear in the first movement suddenly became dense and pregnant with weight and meaning.
Scrupulous attention to detail showed off all the charm and drive of the Scherzo.
The Rondo played with a freedom that is implied in Beethoven’s almost Schubertian writing and was given full reign to contrast with the extraordinary percussive outbursts that were played with an almost obsessive insistence.
Nothing had prepared me though for the sudden change of colour and density of sound that immediatley filled the air with a passionately driven performance of the Allegro Maestoso of the Chopin Sonata in B minor.
Such forward movement and lack of sentimentality gave only greater density to the finesse and nobility that I was certainly not expecting from a sixteen year old.
A crystal clear Scherzo played indeed molto vivace .
Not the usual jeux perle but an incisive precision allied to a flexibility that for once led to a Trio with a shape and form that had grown out of the scherzo.
No break before the majestic opening chords of the Largo.
What a surprise to hear too Chopin’s own subtle pedal effects in a performance that had an architectural solidity allied to fantasy and deeply felt feeling.
Bill had recently told me about the pedal effects in the second Concerto that he is helping Marcos Madrigal master for a performance next week in Los Angeles.
How lucky Talon is to have someone that can point his way to what the composer actually wrote and intended.
Works that are so easily played in a beautiful but traditional way without actually paying heed to the very precise indications of this absolute innovator of the piano.

Interval Ave Maria for Brass filled the interval pause with our superbly interesting presenter Adriano Romano now at the french horn
The Finale certainly played Presto but also with the reserve of “non tanto” that allowed Talon to throw himself into the final pages with an excitement and extraordinary precision.
A quite exemplary performance from someone so young.
Breathing life into an old warhorse as seen through the eyes and ears of a real thinking musician was indeed a refreshing and exilarating experience.
An interval full of extraordinary brass music led beautifully into the second half of Bartok and Prokofiev.
“…The Suite op. 14 has no folk tunes. It is based entirely on original themes of my own invention. When this work was composed I had in mind the refining of piano technique, the changing of piano technique, into a more transparent style. A style more of bone and muscle opposing the heavy chordal style of the late, latter romantic period, that is, unessential ornaments like broken chords and other figures are omitted and it is more a simpler style.”
— Béla Bartók, radio interview with David Levita, July 2, 1944.
That in the words of the composer himself could have easily summed up tonight’s performance from Talon Smith.
The simple clear skeletal sounds driven with an inner energy that seemed to ignite the whole of this second half.
From the bare bones of the Scherzo through the plasmatic movement of the Allegro molto to the bleak isolation of the sostenuto.
It had a mesmerising effect on an audience caught unawares by the sudden chameleon like changes of this young musician.
Little were we expecting the onslaught that awaited with the second of Prokofiev’s War Sonatas.
The seventh Sonata op.83 was written 25 years after the Bartok receiving its first performance in 1943 from Sviatoslav Richter.
Like a man possessed Talon threw himself into the fray with a total abandon that made the few moments of serenity even more terrifying.
A wonderful palette of sounds drawn from this black box that had nothing to envy from a full symphony orchestra.
The subime Andante caloroso was played with an almost understated cantabile that made the climax even more heartrending and colouful.
The savage relentlessness of the Precipitato was breathtaking as it progressed in a seemingly endless crescendo until it’s final disintegration.
A true tour de force that brought an ovation from a public completely overcome by the virtuosity and musicianship of this young star.

Franco Buzzanca with Talon and the sculptor Massimo D’Aiuto
A sumptuous Etude Tableau op.39 n.1 played as an encore filled the hall with the grandest of sounds.
A fullness without ever hardness because of his supreme sense of balance anchored in the bass harmonies.
A public that would not let him go was offered one of his own compositions.
A beautiful Scriabin-Debussy type impressionistic piece with some hypnotic sounds that glistened in the treble whilst hinting at glories that lay in the middle register of the piano just waiting for this seducers caressing hands.
“Hats off” indeed to Bill Nabore for sharing with us in Rome this young musician heading for the stars.

Bill Nabore Talon Smith Franco Buzzanca

Anna Geniushene at the Royal Academy

Anna goes to war- Anna Geniushene plays Prokofiev 8th Sonata at the RAM
It was nice to be back in my old Alma Mater and be reminded of what a trial the final days can be.
Anna Geniushene`s mentor Christopher Elton was,like me, from the school of our much loved and respected Gordon Green.
I graduated with the MacFarren Gold Medal in 1972 – Christopher a year or two earlier after he had graduated from Cambridge.
No trial though for Anna as she threw herself fearlessly into the fray and gave a truly heroic performance of Prokofiev`s Eighth Sonata,the last of his trilogy of war sonatas.
I had heard her play it in the final of the Busoni Competition and was as astonished then as I was today by the relentless energy and total conviction with which she went to war.
This is the great Russian no nonsense school of Lazar Berman or Denis Matsuev.
Fingers like limpets that search deep into the keys to find the sonorities that Prokofiev demands.
Matthay has no part to play in this world where charm and subtle colours are banished to the horrors of war.
I did miss though the subtle charm and colours that Horowitz or Michelangeli regaled us with in their early discovery of Clementi`s sonatas.
But she brought to it a clarity, precision and control that were remarkable.
Some exquisite cantabile with brilliant interruptions rather than the embellishments of a great bel canto singer.
Debussy`s elusive “Berceuse heroique” was most beautifully shaped with some truly magical moments where her clarity and lack of sentimentality and spare use of pedal had found the ideal interpreter.
In Tchaikowky`s Romance op 51 n.5 she allowed herself to bask a little in subtle,languid sounds before throwing herself full throttle into the Scherzo a la russe as only a Russian can.
All best wishes to Anna for her career that has already taken her to many parts of the globe and also includes her CD of Rachmaninov op 33 and Prokofiev`s 8th Sonata to be issued in July .