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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
60th Anniversary concert of Uto Ughi at La Sapienza Rome with Michail Lifits
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
It is hard to know where to begin in describing the concert by Hin-Yat Tsang in Perivale today.
I think the one word uttered by our master of ceremonies the philanthropic Dr Mather just about sums it all up:”sensational.”
I just hope that his teacher and my colleague at the RAM almost 50 years ago was listening with pride in Hong Kong.
Eleanor Wong was studying with “Freddy “ Jackson and inherited from him his masterly musicianship, absolute respect for the score and above all the rhythmic impetus that lies within the notes on the printed page.
All these qualities were apparent in a Liszt Sonata that rarely has been heard in such a powerfully projected performance where intelligence and respect for the composer were of paramount importance.
Something that is all too rare in this work that is considered the pinnacle of the Romantic repertoire and so often an excuse for self indulgence and rhetoric.
The Schubert “big” A minor sonata D 845 was played as only a true musician following in the footsteps of Kempff or Brendel could have matched .
An encore of the Second Sonata by Scriabin played with such fantasy and amazing technical prowess that the miracles of sumptuous sound that filled this unique venue belied the mastery that we were witnessing.
Hin-Yat Tsang above all has the abilty/sensibility that allows the music to talk so coherently as though on every note there was a different word in a musical conversation that ranges from the deepest of confessions to the most demonic excesses.
It was the absolute control in the Schubert Sonata that gave this complex work such an architectural shape and sense of direction that for once Schubert’s heavenly length was justified!The rhythmic control from the very outset of the first movement allied to contrasts of character and sound made for a fascinating journey indeed.
The Andante had all the charm of the master of song.The florid variations played with a sense of ease and shape leading to the etherial magic sounds of the distant horn.
The scherzo almost orchestral in sound with very strict rhythmic control.A charming lilt and complete change of colour brought a great contrast to the trio of an almost pastoral nostalgia.
The last movement slipped in almost unnoticed before the trumpet call to arms and wending its way in an ever more transcendental web.
A long pause before embarking on the lonely journey of Liszt’s great Sonata.
Great character to the opening statement of the three main motifs.
From the absolute stillness of the single isolated bass notes and wonderfully shaped mysterious melodic line.
The understatement of the opening octaves and the demonic appearance of the left hand menacing motif.
This made the transition to the first main appearance of the octaves even more powerful and of great grandiloquence.
An almost orchestral diminuendo led to the transformation from Florestan to Eusebius but always with the nagging demonic rhythmic throbbing deep in the bass.
The sublime melodic transformation where the most liquid of sounds revealed his true mastery of the pedal.
Magical sounds from every part of the piano led to overwhelming feats of virtuosity all the more startling for the absolute control and spare use of the pedal.Great dramatic statements were interrupted with recitative type comments of great poetic but virile sounds.Three magical chords heralded the melodic middle section played with almost string quartet type voicing The passionate throbbing at the centre of this middle section where vast sounds were unleashed were very similar to the wonders that I remember from the studio in Siena of Guido Agosti.
A mastery of balance that meant there was never any hardness to the sounds but a sumptuous fullness that was overpowering.
The fugato slipped in and led to the triumphant appearance of the recapitulation and the great climax of double octaves played with great technical command .
It led to an almost aching silence that made the entrance to the magical coda even more memorable.
The silence that greeted the final deep bass note spoke wonders for the total concentration and atmosphere that had been created.
A quite remarkable performance in which this much maligned work was once again placed at the very pinnacle of the innovative genius that was Liszt.
Time had indeed stood still with these remarkable performances and a request for more was gladly accepted with the promise of the first movement of the Fantasy Sonata by Scriabin.
Some wonderfully liquid sounds, a completely different sound world from the Schubert or the Liszt.An atmospheric opening leading to the most sumptuous climax before dissolving to a marvel of subtle liquid sounds.
Such was the total absorption of the artist and public alike it was obvious that the second movement should slip in on the crest of this magnificent wave.
Some startling feats of transcendental virtuosity in the second movement with swirls of subtle sounds on which the melodic line rides with such passionate involvement.A remarkable performance from a true poet of the piano.
Totally absorbed too was Andrew Yiangou a colleague from when they were both studying at the Royal College in London .A pianist who has played many times in Perivale and was overcome as we all were today by the poetic mastery of this young musician.
I have heard and admired Dinara Klinton many times and am always astonished at the beauty of sound and clarity of thought of this amazing young artist.
Even more so today knowing – only after the concert- that she had shut her finger in the bus door on the way to the concert!
It meant a painful time for her but such is her professionality we were never aware of anything except the sumptuous feast of music that she treated us to today.
Starting this full length afternoon recital at St Mary’s Perivale with a twenty five minute feast of Tchaikowsky.The famous Humoresque op 10 I have heard before but never the Nocturne that precedes it.
From the very first notes there was a magical liquid sound and some very subtle counterpoints to the poignant flexibility of the melodic line in the Nocturne.
Ending in a whisper it paved the way for the famous Humoresque.
With a teasing sense of rhythm and a kaleidoscope of subtle colours and pianissimi of exquisite charm ending in a veritable puff of smoke.
The Valse Sentimentale op 51 n.6 is full of that typical yearning ,nostalgia that is so much part of the Russian spirit.This too was played with a quite irresistible charm.
The deep lament of the Meditation op 72 was played with such subtle colouring.
Great rhetorical sentiment and a quite magical trill to end.
The Andante-Maestoso from the “Nutcracker Suite” in the Pletnev arrangement closed this group of pieces by Tchaikowsky.A great virtuoso transcription in which Dinara with her noble sense of balance and fearless virtuosity swept up and down the keyboard with breathtaking splashes of sound.Her complete control of balance and sumptuous sense of colour brought this group of salon pieces to an astonishing end in the style of the great pianists of a bygone age.
The first half closed with the Sonata n.4 in C minor op 29 by Prokofiev.
The absolute clarity and control from the first sinister bass notes took us so clearly to the final burst of startling mettalic final chords of the first movement .The relentless throbbing of the second movement in which the magical melodic line is allowed to float led to a frenzied climax.The diabolic virtuosity of Prokofiev in the last movement with its scherzo type melody ,so typical of these early sonatas .was played with a drive and startling sense of inevitability.Dinara had guided us through this maze of sounds with an unusual clarity and sense of direction.
Three Scarlatti sonatas followed after the interval.
Such clarity and crystal clear ornaments that glistened in the serenity of K. 11 in C minor.
K 545 in B flat was played with a rhythmic propulsion and such subtle dynamic contrasts.The beating of the drum in the left hand and the playful syncopation gave a great ‘joie de vivre’ to this little gem.K.208 in A was played with a gloriously delicate melodic line.
The Sonata in A op 101 by Beethoven opened in a most pastoral way her great sense of balance allowing the melody to sing but always integrated into the harmonic structure of the whole.The first movement had a great sense of serenity and space due to her very subtle use of pedal and the flexibility of the simple melodic line.The second movement had a relentles rhythmic drive with a great sense of control.Beethoven’s pedal markings meticulously interpreted and integrated into dynamic contrasts to startling effect.The Adagio was allowed to sing so beautifully and the return of the first theme that heralds the finale was pure magic.The Allegro was played with great rhythmic energy like water bubbling in the brook.
A great sense of forward impetus and a startling sense of contrast starting almost inaudibly with an impressive left hand in the fugato that built up gradually to a very convincing climax.A performance in which she had seen the great architectutal shape that Beethoven had intended and her sumptuous sound world allowed her to shape it from the first to the last note so simply.
Two Transcendental studies of Liszt closed the programme.
Dinara has recored all twelve of the transcendental studies that have long been acclaimed by the press.
In n.9 ”Ricordanza”from the very first notes we were taken to the world of the Romantic salons.Seemless scales played with a delicacy that accompanied the elegance of the melodic line.A sense of style that reminded one of the old recordings of Egon Petri or Nikita Magaloff.
The study in F minor n.10 was played with diabolical virtuosity and great sense of passion.
A grandeur that reminded us of how grand the piano can sound in the hands of a master.
No encores possible as she told us the remarkable story of her finger that was injured in the bus just a few minutes before she had to play.
A sensational recital for the City Music Foundation by the impeccable Mr Valuntonis.
In the magnificence of St Bartholomew the Great the scene was set for some remarkable music making from this young Lithuanian born pianist Rokas Valuntonis.
Multi award winning pianist, having studied in his homeland with Alksandra Zvirblyte before venturing to the Sibelius Academy in Finland.
Eugen Indjic followed in Paris and now completing his studies at the Guildhall with Peter Bithell.
A recent winner of the Campillos International Competition and since 2017 an artist singled out by the City Music Foundation.
If the CMF’s mission is to turn ‘talent into success’ judging by this recital last night they certainly succeeded and I suspect exceeded all expectations!
Here is what I wrote when he played in that Mecca for pianists that is St Mary’s Perivale in 2017……….. today he even exceeded that prediction.
The CMF had pulled out all the stops for this young pianist and above all providing a Steinway Concert Grand which they had mounted especially in the middle of this vast and glorious edifice on a special podium.
The seats in a semi circle with special lighting created a uniquely warm atmosphere where the public and pianist alike were united in the glory of this wonderful building.
But then the CMF do not leave any stone unturned in their quest to help these exceptionally talented musicians.
Dinara Klinton,Mihai Ritivoiu are just two others that I know that have benefited from their help and guidance.
The CMF help these young artists by supporting them with a comprehensive career development programme Arranging mentoring,run workshops,provide agency and management,make CDs,videos and websites,commission new music,secure airtime on BBC Radio 3 and promotion through online ,print and social media.Finally the most important part to put on their own recitals and concerts:
A very distinguished gathering for the concert that included three ex students of Gordon Green, that much missed mentor of so many of the finest pianists playing today.
Bryce Morrison that supreme expert on all things to do with the piano and many others that filled so generously this vast space in the centre of London just a stone’s throw from Smithfield Market and the Barbican Centre.
Immediately creating a unique sound world from the first notes of the Dumka by Tchaikowsky that opened this very interesting programme.
A very particular order to the programme that allowed us to enter an unusually magical sound world.
A similar sound world that Guiomar Novaes created in her famous Schumann recordings that as students we discovered and savoured.
A sumptuous sound in which the colours and variations in dynamics never for a second allowed us to forget the fuller vision of the architectural shape of the works.
Never a hard or brittle sound but a full sound that made this fine piano sound very grand indeed!
Notes that seemed to glisten as they wove their web around the melodic line in the Scriabin Sonata Fantasy op 19 that opened the second half.
The first movement like a dream that gradually unravels leading to the main climax before drifting back to the sublime slumbers with which it had opened.
But even here almost lifted from the seat ( as Rubinstein used to do in crucial moments) in the climax but never for a second leaving the sumptuous sound world that he had created.It was more a rhythmic impetus at just the right moment.
The second movement too, more transcendentally difficult, was spun as a web of sound from which grew inexorably the melody which was in later Scriabin to become his”star”.A “Star” that would gleam brightly and ecstatically as the climax of his fragmented type musical invention.
This was followed by three Scarlatti Sonatas.
Showing off the rhythmic sometimes almost savage dance combined with the most intricate finger articulation K.487 and K.79.And in particular in the G minor Sonata K.8 with an almost operatic shaping of the melodic line.
A sense of colour allied to an unrelenting rhythmic pulse that led the way so well to the “Images” as depicted by Debussy.
“Reflets dans l’eau” was just that ,with washes of sound but allied to a clarity and sense of overall direction that gave a great virility to this work that can in lesser hands seem rather pale and opaque.
“Hommage a Rameau” was played with a much more subtle sound palate than the aristocratic french sound that we are used to in the hands of a Rubinstein.
But there was magic in the air and some quite sublime moments of a feeling serenity in between bursts of great grandeur.
Mouvement could have been slightly clearer and more driven at the beginning but when he reached the great climax his reasoning became at once clear.
He had seen the great shape of this technically trying piece and as with the Scriabin had led to the climax before disappearing as it had begun as if from afar.
The programme finished with Liszt’s famous Mephisto Waltz n. 1.
A savage dance indeed that was apparent from the very first appearance of the melody.
Always within the sound world that had been created it carried us along with him in an ever more startling world of transcendental virtuosity that had made of Liszt the “pop” idol of his age .
From the seductive melody of the middle section to the gradual re-awakening of the drunken party.It led to the most exciting playing that almost took our breath away just as I am sure it must have done for Liszt’s audences.
Almost throwing himself from on high at the most dramatic moment it brought this devilish piece to an enthralling end.
It was apparent from the very opening of the evening
the enjoyment that he was obviously having from playing to such an attentive audience.
It was the same enjoyment of a given few that live for that moment of sharing their music with others without the slightest outward sign of strain or fear.
Fearless indeed as he offered to a totally won over audience the Carmen Fantasy by Horowtiz.
Thrown off with a fearless charm and enjoyment that the great man himself used to electrify his audiences with.
Just as Liszt himself had done in the salons of the aristocracy reducing the most refined gentry to animal like fervour by his devilish artistry.
Rokas introducing the pieces he was to play explained that he had chosen four early Mazukas op 6 by Chopin before Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques op 13.
It was Schumann himself that had first recognised the genius of Chopin in his early work ( op 2 to be precise) with his famous “Hats off a genius.”
Having studied n Paris with Eugen Indjic one of the top prize winners of the first Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv.Rokas had obviously been made aware of the very unique world of the Chopin Mazukas.
Some of the most subtle and poetic musings of Chopin.But also the most elusive.
Each one is a little tone poem that tells a story and is full of the subtle rhythms of his native dance.It was a world that Rokas has absorbed so well and that gave us the subtle almost musette type sounds of the C sharp minor Mazuka or the spirited almost playful question and answer of the E major.
The sublime melodic line of the F sharp minor in which the sense of elastic rubato was so naturally felt.
The main work in the first half were the Etudes symphoniques op 13 by Schumann.
A work dedicated to William Sterndale Bennett ,who was Principal of the Royal Academy in London and a fine pianist and composer who championed the work in England.
A work that Robert Schumann had advised Clara was not worth playing!
Interesting that the theme was by an amateur musician Baron von Fricken whose daughter Ernestina had been a love of Schumann. She is depicted as Estrella in his Carnaval op 9!
Sterndale Bennett was the teacher of that great pedagogue Tobias Matthay who had in turn created a famous school of piano playing, based on extreme sensitivity of touch.
The “Matthay” school from which were born Dame Myra Hess and Dame Moura Lympany amongst many other very great artists.
A remarkable performance and it was here that I was reminded of that Novaes sound that had impressed me as a student with her recording of Carnaval and Papillons.
A sumptuous rather subdued sound in the little theme of Baron von Fricken that was immediately enlivened with the very precise rhythm of the first variation.
From the sumptuous melodic line in the following variations with alternating butterfly like accompaniment and virtuoso splitting of hands .To the almost Mendelssohn like lightness of great dexterity with all the time a great build up to the 8th variation.
Agosti likened this to the grandeur of a Gothic Cathedral.
It was the supreme the stillness in th central section that created the atmosphere within this variation that was even more moving for being able to evesdrop in this noble building.
The beautiful nocturne like variation n.11 where the counterpoints were so clearly painted by the right hand with only a murmur of sustenence from the left.
A relentless finale of great clarity and sense of balance brought this first half to a close.
Dumka by Tchaikowsky was the opening work that is so rarely heard in the concert hall these days.
It was the work that Rokas so rightly chose to open his recital.
A true gem of a tone poem where every facet of tonal colour and virtuosity was at the service of the story that Tchaikowsky wanted to tell.
It was a piece that immediately created the atmosphere for a memorable evening where surely his great love of performing together with his unique poetry and artistry are the hallmarks of an important career that awaits.
“Chapeau” indeed to the City Music Foundation and their prodigal son, Rokas Valuntonis