The Rising Star of Chloe Jiyeong Mun

The rising star of Chloe Jiyeong Mun
Chloe Jiyeong Mun takes London by storm
With no one to share my thoughts with on the N.9  at 1 am I decided to write them down in the wake of
the complete euphoria after such a wonderful evening of music,humility and friendship.
Not a lot of takers on the night bus…….none actually!!!
“Unbelievably refined playing both tender.and passionate,intelligent but free.
Playing of such exquisite beauty that has rarely been heard in this hall since it changed its name………

C A congratulating Chloe after the concert (courtesy of G.Cox)
The serenity of op 110 was matched with the sublime simplicity of Schumann Humoresque.
Can Ravels moths ever have been so beguiling,birds more forlorn or bells so atmospheric?
Triana had us dancing in the aisles with sounds so sumptuous we could almost feel the impassioned spanish warmth envelope us.

Elena Vorotko ,co artistic director and trustee of KCT visibly moved by Chloe’s extraordinarily beautiful playing
Has the Autumn song of October ever been so full of nostalgia as in her hands today or Debussy`s rays of moonlight so full of sweet magic
Nothing like this has been heard in London for far too long.

After concert celebrations with members of the KCT and here with the founders Noretta Conci Leech and John Leech
It is thanks to John and Noretta Leech and their Keyboard Trust that we were able to hear for the first time in London this remarkable young musician, teenage winner of Geneva and Busoni Competitions as only Martha Argerich was before her!
Welcome to London the first of many more visits I am sure.”
It was with the opening of op 110 that we knew immediately there was something very special in store.
Like his fourth piano concerto it is so difficult with the very first notes of a concert to find the correct balance and a simplicity pregnant with significance and meaning.

Beethoven’s autograph score that sits on the wall in the Ghione Theatre donated by Guido Agosti on his mermorable performance of op 110 and 111 in 1983.It is the only recording of this student of Busoni that exists.We all used to flock to his studio in Siena for enlightenment and inspiration,
I remember Sidney Harrison telling me that judging the young Glenn Gould in Canada long before his celebrity he was told that he had spent hours only trying to balance the first chord.
”Who is that terrible student playing”exclaimed a friend on the other end of the line to my teacher Gordon Green in Liverpool.”Sviatloslav Richter” he replied.He had spent hours perfecting just one passage in Bartok’s 2nd that he was playing that evening with the Philharmonic.
It is the super sensibility of a selected few that can turn an old friend into a magical new experience.
Murray Perahia can do that with an intelligence that has us reaching for our scores each time we hear him play.
Chloe Jiyeong Mun is one of that select group as she demonstrated from the very first chord of op 110.
Perfectly balanced with the trill leading into the melodic line so naturally.
It created an atmosphere and bond with the audience that was to last until the final passionate explosion.

One of the greatest interpreters of our time who would share his knowledge of a lifetime studying masterworks with the musical world that flocked to his studio every summer in Siena and have never forgotten what they heard
We knew that we could trust her!
The sublime melody played as Beethoven indicates ‘cantabile molto espressivo’ but always with the left hand like a rock on which this celestial melody is allowed to float.The passionate outburst after the perfectly judged left hand trills – just reverberations leading to the final E flat- where the passion and total involvement were on a Serkin frenzied scale.
The swirling left hand in the development was superbly controlled.
Beethoven’s very precise crescendi and diminuendi were an integral part of her interpretation where the composers intentions had been absorbed so naturally.
The modulation in the recapitulation was breathtakingly magic as it must have seemed when the notes were still fresh on the page.
The Allegro molto was played not as the usual march but like a great song that the whole of this sonata really is.
A Hymn to life where technical difficulties just did not concern Jiyeong as she threw herself into the fray with such rhythmic impetus and with such a profound understanding that belied her 23 years.
The final arpeggiando left hand notes came as a great relief after the great sforzando disjointed chords.

The total concentration even in rehearsal listening so attently to every nuance
It led into the most magical of all Beethovens creations in his 32 sonatas.
The ‘Adagio ma non troppo’ with her careful use of the pedal that Beethoven indicates.
Hardly touching the keys to create the effect that the composer intended in the recitativo.We were unaware of the repeated notes, the so called bebung, which were simply made to vibrate before the Arioso dolente where Beethovens phrasing became her own.
This is the true meaning of interpreter where the composers wishes are translated into sounds in a totally convincing way.
The Fugue was at once innocent and menacing building to a climax that burst like a great bubble to reveal the Arioso as Beethoven says’ perdendo le forze,dolente.’
After the tempest- calm.
And what calm!
Revealing the absolute desolation in a song of almost unbearable beauty.
Her enormous concentration was ours as we were led into this magic final world that only Beethoven could hear but was still able to share with posterity .

Controlling a note with the piano technician before the concert
The gradual final build up at the end of this Arioso was overwelming, helped as it was by Beethoven’s own pedal which allowed the chords to disintegrate seemingly naturally.It led to the innocent purity of the return of the fugue this time inverted (upside down).
The gradual build up in note values ( written to be slower but with note values twice as fast) arriving triumphantly to the original tempo and Beethoven’s exhilarating shout from the rafters where his sforzandi were merely crescendi (not the usual blaring trumpets) so perfectly judged by Jiyeong.
One wonders why other pianists had not fully understood Beethovens’ intentions as he sang his heart out like the great Neapolitan tenors of the past.
The final cascade of notes came as such a relief from the tension that she had created and the world she had discovered and so magnificently revealed to us.
Serkin and Perahia are the only other pianist I have heard in concert who have reached the pinnacle of this great monument as she had done tonight.

A packed Wigmore Hall for the London debut of Jiyeong Mun
It was Horowitz who brought the Schumann Humoreske back into the concert hall as he did the Rachmaninov Second Sonata and many other neglected works too.
It needs a great musician who can weave their way through Schumann’s maze of different moods.
From the subtle introspective Eusebius to the outlandish jinks of Florestan.
It also needs such subtle changes of colour.
From the luminosity of sound of the introspective opening where Jiyeong’s subtle artisty knew just where to allowed the bass to reply to the treble in true liederistic fashion.

Jiyeong greeting her public in the green room after the concert
To the passionate outpourings of great technical brilliance.
The subtle legato of her octave playing was quite extraordinary as she built up the crescendo and diminuendo within the span of one episode like a camera zooming in and then retreating,
The most remarkable thing about the playing tonight was that however technically difficult there was always the subtle artistry of the voice in mind and never the guns and canons that I have so often experienced in this very complex work.
Her great sense of character where every note had a meaning was often allied to a passionate temperament that left one at times almost breathless.
Wonderful washes of colour where sounds wafted out of the pure air and were incorporated into a massive rhythmic drive.
Even great artists such as Sokolov or Richter have not been entirely innocent here.
It reminded me of the young Janina Fialkowska who had brought tears to Rubinsteins’ eyes at his first competition in Tel Aviv.
He had recognised a great poet and stylist who could make the piano sing as he had done for a lifetime.

In rehearsal a few hours before the concert
Hats off to this poet of the piano with her total concentration, listening so carefully to every sound with eyes that seem glued to the keys in a way I have rarely experienced in the concert hall.
Mention should be made in the Ravel ‘Miroirs’ where true feats of piano playing passed almost unnoticed……… except to the initiated.
Her superhuman control of sound was a revelation.
The sounds in ‘La vallèe des cloches’ were I expect, exactly as Ravel had imagined with his ‘tres doux et sans accentuation’ in pianissimo, ending pianississimo.With very precise indications of pianissimo ,mezzo piano and mezzo forte all so clearly incorporated in her realisation of Ravels’ vision of bells in the distance coming closer and then disappearing to nothing.
The lugubrious central section so beautifully sung in the middle register’largement chanté’ .Could it have ever sounded so sleepy and atmospheric as today?
The repeated notes and glissandi in thirds in Alborada were quite astonishing in the way they were thrown off as pure washes of sound. The spiky dance rhythm was played with velvet gloves and a real feeling of a frenzied dance.
It brought a spontaneous ovation from a public entranced and astonished even though there was still the ‘Vallée’ to come.
The supreme calm after the storm again.
Even more beguiling in this magic world that Ravel creates fifty years on from Beethoven.
One could write a book about what we heard tonight but I think it is enough to say that nearly all those present will not forget the magic and beauty that was created by this remarkable young lady.
It is surely no coincidence that she and Martha Argerich had both won Geneva and Busoni competitions as teenagers.
Both can create such magic as only great masters can with their total dedication to their art.
I had toured USA with her last year and am pleased to include s record of her reception and success on that memorable occasion.
After such a memorable occasion it was only fitting to have a suitable celebration with the friends of the Keyboard Trust and our founders Noretta and John Leech.

John greeting Jiyeong and her mother
John in his 95th year made a moving speech of warmth and appreciation for the debut of Chloe Jiyeong Mun as winner of the Career Development Prize offered to the most talented pianist at the Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano.
A competition that Noretta Conci-Leech has attended since the very first one in 1949 where Alfred Brendel took fourth prize! (He is an honourd Trustee of the KCT)
The Prizewinners Series held every year at the Wigmore Hll for the past decade was the idea of KCT founder member and trustee Dr Moritz von Bredow.
He has generously sponsored the concerts that from the very first with Lilija Zilberstein  have included since: Alexander Romanovsky,Michail Lifits,Jayson Gilham,Vitaly Pisarenko,Sasha Grynyuk,Alexander Ullman,Emanuel Rimoldi,Mark Viner .

Jiyeong with Mrs Jocelyne Fox in the green room

The many friends of the KCT including co artistic director Leslie Howard in the foreground

Affectionate ‘thank you’ to KCT founder father John Leech

Charles Whitehead Pianists of the World Series at St Martin’s

Charles Whitehead Pianists of the World Series at St Martin’s
Charles Whitehead at St Martin in the Fields
Some very assured playing from this American based pianist.
A luminosity of sound in the Scriabin 5th sonata ignited the atmosphere with a sensual sense of colour with great rhythmic impetus and chiselled sounds of great purity.
It was the clarity and purity of sounds together with a great sense of line that suited so well the fourth of Shostakovich`s Preludes and Fugues.A passionate almost obsessive climax to the fugue was very impressive if rather monochromatic.
Lovely to read in the programme of our adored Tatiana Nikolaeva who had been the inspiration for Shostakovich`s monumental 24 Preludes and Fugues when he heard her play in 1950 in the Leipzig J.S.Bach Centennial.
It was exactly this chiselled clarity that suited so well Messiaen’s expression of faith in the” Contemplation of the Son,the Word of God,looks upon the Son,the child Jesus.”
Sounds that wafted into the heights of this great edifice with pungent accuracy and insistence.
Wonderfully moving ending as the sounds gradually dispersed into oblivion.
The fifth of Messiaen`s twenty musical portraits of Christ child written in 1944,shortly before the liberation of Paris from the German occupation, are inspired expressions of his deep Catholic faith.
After this declaration of faith Liszt`s Spanish Rhapsody seemed rather too careful and laboured and could have been dispatched with more sense of improvisation and carnal enjoyment instead of rock solid reverence.
He paid the price forced to a hasty retreat at the end which he covered like the great professional he obviously is.
An ovation was offered by a public totally convinced and numerously gathered together to enjoy an hour`s respite from the confusion outside.
“Christmas is a comin!”
Only two months away today.

The glorious Bach of Angela Hewitt

The simple glorious Bach of Angela Hewitt
Three English suites that I hardly knew spoke like great friends as they flowed from Angela’s mellifluous hands in a stream of pure gold.
Wonderful to see how the young winner of the one and only Glenn Gould competition accompanied in the early 80’s to play in Rome by her parents has matured into a unique figure.
In a bleak world of false news she is the bringer of hope and glory.
With a visit to the National just before …..a real much needed soul cleansing day.
I added to my basket at the Wigmore as at the National to treasure a bit longer.

Dominic Degavino at St Mary’s

Dominic Degavino at St Mary’s
It was interesting to hear for the first time a pianist who has played many times in Dr Hugh Mather’s series.
A curriculum full of important prizes and recognition.
From an early age he was a student at Chetham’s studying with Helen Krizos and later continuing his studies with her at the RNCM in Manchester where he won the Gold Medal.Now completing his studies at the Guildhall in London with Charles Owen and Noriko Ogawa.
Three important works on the programme immediately established his pedigree even before he touched the piano.
Half term duties as grandfather called Dr Mather away leaving the master of cermonies to Roger Nellist who introduced this young man to the world so eloquently on their streaming system that I myself often listen to when unable to attend in person.
After such a serious programme so musically played I was pleasantly surprised that he offered as an encore a jazz improvisation of “ I fall in love with you.”At last he could let his hair down and produced the most sensuous sounds of the day with an abundance of pedal that gave such colour and shape to the well known melody.
The Chopin third ballade is the most radiant and untroubled of the four and there were many beautiful things.
His ultra sensitive touch in the quieter passages did not allow for a continuity of line though.
This is a piece where each section should grow out of the previous all leading to the final glorious outburst.
He missed the overall architectural shape which was subsituted by some beautiful episodes that did not link one to the other .
When he played louder he seemed to get more to grips with the keys and find the weight and projection that was not possible on this piano in the quieter passages.
Introducing the programme so eloquently he explained about the Great Exhibition in Paris in 1889 where many instruments like the gamelan were heard for the first time and was such an influence of composers of that period.
It was just this atmosphere that he caught so well in the three Estampes by Debussy.
Some beautiful sounds in “Pagodes” with the shimmering right hand adding such atmosphere to the melodic bass.It evokes images of East Asia, which Debussy first heard in the Paris World Conference Exhibition of 1889, and later again in 1900. It makes extensive use of pentatonic scales and mimics Indonesian traditional melodies by incorporating hints of Javanese gamelan percussion. As this is an Impressionistic work, the goal is not overt expressiveness but instead an emphasis on the wash of color presented by the texture of the work. Debussy marks in the text that “Pagodes” should be played “almost without nuance”. This rigidity of rhythm helps to reduce the natural inclination of pianists to add rubato and excessive expression. Rigidity of rhythm within measures though does not mean rigidity of tempo in the work; the tempo gradually fluxes quicker and slower throughout the piece, which is also common in gamelan compositions.
”La soirée dans Granade”was played with such alluring sounds. It uses the Arabic scale and mimics guitar strumming to evoke images of Granada. At the time of its writing, Debussy’s only personal experience with the country was a few hours spent near Madrid.
Despite this, the Spanish composer De Falla said : “There is not even one measure of this music borrowed from the Spanish folklore, and yet the entire composition in its most minute details, conveys admirably Spain.”
But it was in “Jardins sous la pluie” describing a garden in the Normandy town of Orbec during an extremely violent rainstorm,that he found great washes of sound combined with great rhythmic impetus for these French folk melodies “Nous n’irons plus aux bois” and “Dodo, l’enfant do” that Debussy had incorporated into his very expressive etchings.
The four impromptus op.90 D.899 were played with great attention to detail.The great climax in the first was followed by the exquisite jeux perlé of the second .The beautiful G flat major n.3 sang so beautifully even though it was hard to control the intricate accompaniment at such a sensitive whispered level .The fourth was thrown off with great ease and the passionate middle section was a remarkable contrast to the delicacy of its surrounds.

Cristina Ortiz – The Joy of Music

Cristina Ortiz at the Chopin Society The Joy of Music
A party atmosphere at the Chopin Society for the recital by Cristina Ortiz at Westminster Hall.
She has appeared there many times for Lady Rose Cholmondeley and the loyal members of her Chopin Society.
In fact it was a concert amongst friends at the unusual time of five o’clock.

Jazz on the Faz in Kew
I fear that the usual after concert tea and cakes were put to one side after such an exhilarating concert and I did notice many bottles being uncorked as I rushed of to Kew for Jazz  on the Faz with Jonny Liebeck.

The Chopin Society programme
The infectious “joie de vivre” transmitted from the first to the last note had created a special atmosphere that as Lady Rose pointed out is quite unique for a concert hall in London.The piano too had been especially prepared for the occasion by Ulrich Gerhardt the indisputed expert from Steinways.
But it was the passionate warmth that Cristina Ortiz had brought to a rather chilly hall (Lady Rose also apologised for the lack of heating) that ignited the atmosphere with sumptuous sounds and passionate participation.
Miss Ortiz had brought the Brazilian sun to shine on us on a rather wintery english sunday!
Born in Bahia, Brazil, Cristina Ortiz began her studies in her home country before moving to France to study with Magda Tagliaferro. Soon after finishing her studies in Paris, at the age of 19 she won the first prize of the third edition of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1969 She continued her training with Rudolf Serkin in Philadelphia at the Curtis Institute and later moved to London.A household name in the 70’s together with Vladimir Ashkenazy,Zubin Mehta and Andre Previn But even though she has been resident in Europe for many years, it is the passion, spontaneity and allure so characteristic to her Brazilian cultural heritage, which is central to her music making.
As a true Ambassador, she has started to perform classical music in the various Embassies of Brazil around the world, closely relating to the exclusive audiences by informally announcing what she chooses to play: be it Chopin or Lorenzo Fernandez; Schubert or Fructuoso Vianna; Brahms or Nepomuceno; Debussy or Villa-Lobos: all chosen composers, equally treasured by her.
It was infact the radiant beauty of three intermezzi by Brahms that truly showed her great artistry.
The sheer beauty of sound in the B flat minor op 117 n.2 with such subtle colouring and magical sense of balance The two intermezzi op 118 were played with a simplicity where Cristina Ortiz’s generous heart only added to the warmth of one of Brahms’ most intimate utterings in the A major Intermezzo op 118 n.2.
It was the same generous warmth that she had brought to one of Schubert’s most sublime outpourings in the Impromptu in G flat op 90.n.3.A great song that was allowed to float into the hall on a wave of sumptuous sounds helped by the richness of her left hand that gave great depth to the sounds and allowed infinite gradations of colour in the melodic line.
It was the same beauty that she had brought to the Chopin study op 25 n.1 that was offered by request as one of five encores demanded by an insistent public.
The Preludes of York Bowen were new to me and the six offered from the 24 op 102 showed a Romantic style very reminiscent of Rachmaninov.They ranged from the virtuosity of the first,the cantabile of the second .the great romantic sweep of the third in E flat with a typically Rachmaninovian ending.The scintillating jeux perlé of the E minor Scherzando all played with great command and driving energy.
It was Rudolf Serkin and later Murray Perahia who had rediscovered Mendelssohn and brought a classical approach to music that can often sound rather facile .
The Mendelssohn Variations Serieuses op 54 was full of beautifully things as in the Chopin Barcarolle and First Ballade that followed.
They suffered though from a rather too fluctuating tempo and romantic approach where her enormously warm temperament was allowed too much freedom at the expense of simplicity and the great architectural line.
The sublime Barcarolle was rather too passionate and tempestuous as Chopin’s artistocratic simplicity and poise were allowed too much latin passion.Such fluctuations of tempo that disturbed the magical line that Chopin creates in one of his greatest works.
The opening of the first Ballade was extremely beautifully played but later as the passion rose we lost sight of the great musical line and sweep .
But this was the generosity of spirit that had given such warmth and only added to the initimate atmosphere of the concert today.
Music making amongst friends.
After her beautiful performances of Debussy Arabesque n.1 and a justly passionate L’Isle joyeuse, visibly moved and exhausted she turned to her friends to ask them what they would like to hear next!
A sumptuous Maiden and the Nightingale by Granados was followed by two Brazilian pieces by Villa Lobos.
By great request she even had the energy for two Chopin studies op 25 n.7 and 1 played with great simplicty and controlled passion.
This was the unique atmosphere that Cristina Ortiz had been able to create amongst the usually rather sedate Chopin Society audience who were happy to shout out requests for their favourite works.
I was sorry to have to leave as I imagine the fun carried on for quite some time after the last notes had died away.

A knight in shining armour Drew Steanson at Farm Street Church

A knight in shining armour Drew Steanson at Farm Street Church
There was magic in the air for a programme of Medtner,Rachmaninov and Scriabin in the first recital in a collaboration between The Keyboard Trust and Bobby Chen for Farm Street Jesuit Church 0f the Immaculate Conception .The most beautiful of churches in the heart of Mayfair with Pugin’s magnificent High altar looking on to all those that enter.
AWN Pugin ,the eminent Victorian architect also designed the interiors of the Houses of Parliament.
The second recital in this series will be on the 7th December with Bocheng Wang playing Chopin Preludes op 28 and the Bach Busoni Prelude “Wachet auf,ruft uns die Stimme”
At last today  a Medtner that made sense as the sheer beauty of sounds wafted into the church under the persuasive hands of this British Australian pianist.
Remarkable to appreciate such mastery from someone who had started piano lessons only 12 years ago.
He finished his degree at the Guildhall under Philip Jenkins and went on to study at Trinity Laban under Peter Tuite and Sergio De Simone.
He is now completing his studies with Alessandra Brustia in Bolzano Conservatory.
Having recently been a finalist in the first International Nikolai Medtner Competition in St Petersburg it was hardly surprising that he presented an all Russian programme with Medtner taking pride of place.
Gone was the barnstorming piano playing that one is all too often offered in this repertoire but here it was replaced with music full of poetry and wondrous sounds.
A pianist that could conjure magic sounds that could fill every crevace and seduce us in this beautifully imposing edifice.
It was clear that from the very first piece, the Elegie op 59 n.1 ,that we were in the hands of a true musician.
The whole piano seemed to be illuminated by such liquid sounds helped by the acoustic but also by a careful attention to balance and sumptuous bass reminiscent of the great russian pianists of the past like Emil Gilels whose 103rd birthday it would have been today.

Drew presenting the programme today
In Drew’s hands the line was so clearly drawn that the similarity with Rachmaninov and Scriabin became so apparent as is very rarely the case in lesser hands.
Rachmaninov had in fact dedicated his 4th Piano concerto to Medtner as Medtner had dedicated his 2nd and 3rd concertos to Rachmaninov.
I have often described Medtner as Rachmaninov without the tunes but today that was certainly not the case as Drew managed to steer us through the maze of intricate sounds but always with a great sense of line and above all of song.
The piano seemed to glow as Medtner’s rather elusive melodic line was so clearly and sensitively chiselled.
The two little Arabesques op 7 n.1 and 2 were played like poems of Scriabin.
The first with such meltingly liquid sounds reminiscent of the sounds of that great magician Horowitz for whom this music seemed to pour out of his soul like some golden lava whose trail he traced with such devout delicacy and passion.
The insistent rhythmic pattern in the second one was beautifully maintained with a sumptuous passionate climax and a great final flourish thrown off with such delicacy and leaving a very impressive peaceful ending.
A great calm descended on this magnificent edifice with Rachmaninov’s simple Ave Maria op 37 n.6.
A beautifully simple melody that was allowed to sing with such subtle colours.
This little known work was added to the programme to mirror the reflection that had been offered to the public by the presiding priest.
The few meaningful words offered had been the ideal opening for the sumptuous music we were about to receive.
This short programme continued with 3 Moments Musicaux op 16.Written in 1896 when Rachmaninov had urgent need of money having had his stolen on the train.
Already they show the charcteristics of the later Rachmaninov .The second a study with great arches of sound and cascades of notes with a passionate sense of forward movement.Some really sumptuous sounds in the passionate outpouring which contrasted with the first.
A theme and variations played with a beautifully shaped melodic line thanks to Drew’s great sense of balance allied to a kaleidoscopic sense of colour.
The cascades of notes thrown off with great delicacy and ease led to the final peaceful chords being placed so perfectly.
The third Moment is a great elegie of nostalgic melancholy where the full chords were never harsh but pregnant with meaning.
The march in the left hand with the right hand legato was extremely effective after this typical Rachmaninov lament.
The two fairy tales op.34 n.2 and 4 were made to speak so eloquently too.
The swirling of the water around the lake in the first one was magically played.
And the story telling of the knight in the second was worthy of the greatest of story tellers.
It was quite exquisitely played where every note seemed to be speaking with so much meaning.
The Scriabin study op 42 n.4 offered as an encore revealed yet again a real poet of the piano as it opened up a true world of fantasy played with quite exceptional musicality and command of the keyboard.

Drew with a guest after the concert

Luke Jones reaching for the stars

Luke Jones at Steinway Hall London for the Keyboard Charitable Trust
I have heard Luke Jones many times since Carlo Grante used to send me recordings of a remarkable young boy who had come to study with him in Campobasso in the mid-south of Italy.
From an early age he was taught at Chethams by the Head of Keyboard Murray McLachlan.
A strange twist of fate that whilst Luke was playing for the KCT in London Iyad Sughayer was playing for them in Steinway Hall in New York.

Iyad Sughayer in New York
He too had studied from an early age with Murray McLachlan and like Luke had gone on to study at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

Luke Jones in London
Even more curious was that the daughter of the founder Caroline von Reitzenstein was celebrating Iyad Sughayer’s birthday as her father was celebrating mine in London.
In London Angela Ransley and Sasha Grynyuk had prepared a special Happy Birthday duet which incorporated Chopin,Debussy,Art Tatum and much else besides.
It followed their recent success in Angela Ransley’s ‘Echoes of Dead Voices ‘ at Foyles Performing Space

Sasha Grynyuk with Angela Ransley

after concert festivities in New York with Iyad,Mario Scerbo and Caroline von Reitzenstein
As Iyad was celebrating in New York after his ‘beautiful’ recital at Steinway Hall in New York

Overwhelmed in London
Whilst we were celebrating the equally beautiful recital of Luke Jones in London

Luke Jones at Steinway Hall in London
An evening of extraordinary piano playing from this now 24 year Welsh pianist from Wrexham.Perfecting his studies with that renowned pianist and pedagogue Dina Parakhina.
After a recital of absolute authority and total command of the keyboard she confided to me that in her opinion here was the next contender to the Tchaikowsky Gold Medal in Moscow.

Luke Jones Dina Parakhina and Mathew McLachlan one of three pianist children of the amazing Murray McLachlan clan!
I think there can be little doubt amongst those present in Steinway Hall that here was the infallible authority of a John Lill or a Peter Donohoe combined to the poetry of a Barry Douglas that had won them all the coveted Gold Medal in Moscow.
Not quite the sumptuous romantic sounds of a Van Cliburn………….but his performance of Mompou revealed colours and atmospheres of the most sensitive of stylists.
It was ‘The Landscapes’ by Mompou that opened Luke’s very original programme.
Full of intoxicating colours and hazy sounds realised with a seemingly infallible touch – the wrist held noticeably low and the fingers pointing at the keys as a pointilesse painter might have pointed his brush at a canvas.
It is hardly surprising that the French critic Emile Vuillermoz proclaimed Mompou “the only disciple and successor” to Claude Debussy. Mompou himself often performed his own compositions, but only at private soirees, never in public.
Mompou had heard Fauré perform in Barcelona when he was nine years old, and his music and performing style had made a powerful and lasting impression on him. He had a letter of introduction to Fauré from Enrique Granados, but it never reached its intended recipient.
He entered the Conservatoire (with another Spaniard, José Iturbi), but studied with Isidor Philipp ,head of the piano department. His extreme shyness, introspection and self-effacement meant that he could not pursue a solo career, but chose to devote himself to composition instead.
British pianist Martin Jones has recorded the complete piano works of Mompou for Nimbus, including those unpublished in Mompou’s lifetime, many of which were discovered when his apartment was cleared out in 2008.
Just last week Giancarlo Simonacci played for Roma 3 University the 28 pages of piano music of Mompou together with 28 pictures by Mirò.
I remember Guido Agosti looking aghast when Jack Krichaf dared bring a piece by Mompou to his masterclass in Siena!
How times have changed when here was a strapping young welsh man conjuring magic colours out of the air with the delicacy and icedrop precision of a Michelangeli.
The three pieces make up this suite written between 1942 and 1960 ( Mompou died in 1987 aged 94.)
In 1957, aged 64, he married the pianist Carmen Bravo (1923– 2007) She was 30 years his junior. It was the first marriage for both of them and they had no children.After her death in 2007 about 80 unpublished and hitherto unknown works were discovered in Mompou’s files at his home.
A fascinatimg discovery of almost unknown miniatures that when played with the intelligence, style and kaleidoscope of colours as tonight one can well understand the advocacy of an artist of the stature of Alicia de Larrocha programming his music long before Volodos or Trifonov.
It was fascinating to hear another rarely played piece immediately after with the Sonata n.9 op 30 by Medtner.
Here Luke’s absolute control and extraordinary sense of line was a very persuasive advocate for a Sonata that even Leslie Howard in his interval speech had to admit that it must be at least 20 years since he had heard this work.

Leslie Howard co artistic director of the KCT
It is thanks to Dina Parakhina that her students regularly play all the sonatas of Medtner.
I remember hearing Edna Iles his devoted pupil playing Medtner after a performance of the Liszt Sonata in the Festival Hall.
A younger contemporary of Sergei Rachmaninov and Alexander Scriabin, he wrote a substantial number of compositions, all of which include the piano. His works include fourteen piano sonatas, three violin sonatas, three piano concerti, a piano quintet, two works for two pianos, many shorter piano pieces, a few shorter works for violin and piano, and 108 songs including two substantial works for vocalise. His 38 Skazki (generally known as “Fairy Tales” in English but more correctly translated as “Tales”) for piano solo contain some of his most original music.
I have often described Medtner to people that ask me about him as Rachmaninov without the tunes!
As unjust as Agosti’s opinion of Mompou I am ashamed to say!

Dina Parakhina in discussion with Noretta Conci Leech
Esteemed in England, he and his wife settled in London in 1936, modestly teaching, playing and composing to a strict daily routine.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Medtner’s income from German publishers disappeared, and during this hardship ill-health became an increasing problem.
His devoted pupil Edna Iles gave him shelter in Warwickshire where he completed his Third Piano Concerto, first performed in 1944.
Medtner died at his home, 69 Wentworth Road, Golders Green, London in 1951, and is buried alongside his brother Emil in Hendon Cemetery.
It is curious to note that the one-movement Ninth Sonata in A minor, Op. 30, was published without a title but was known as the “War Sonata” among Medtner’s friends; a footnote “during the war 1914-1917” appeared in the 1959 Collected Edition.

Dina Parakhina with Sasha Grynyuk and Elena Vorotko,who had played the Prokofiev sonata many times on KCT tours before becoming a co artistic director of the KCT
The Sonata n.8 by Prokofiev which filled the second half of this fascinating programme is the last of the trilogy of “War Sonatas” – written during the second world war.
It is a monumental work which received its first performance from Emil Gilels in 1944.
Here was a meticulous attention to detail and the crystal clear clarity,sense of line and rhythmic impetus made up for any slight imperfections in this marathon work.Such was his architectural vision and sense of colour that any other considerations were swept away by his sheer conviction and total command of the keyboard.
Having heard Gilels many times I miss here and in the Medtner the sumptuous sound of a really grand piano that was so much part of the great russian school where the bass sustains the upper registers in an overall cocoon of voluptuous sounds.
But the extraordinary clarity and precision of Luke today made for a very persuasive case indeed.
In the newly renovated Steinway Hall this magnificent concert grand needed more space to breathe as its infinite possibilities are stifled by the distance the sound has to travel.
After all the art of a great actor is to use his diaphram to allow his voice to fly into the most distant crevaces long before the invention of acoustically assisted sound.
The Venetians of course knew the secret as I was told on a tour by the technicians of La Fenice before it was burnt to the ground.
Under the orchestral pit there are one and a half meters of glass.
The Venetians knew full well the value and quality of their glass !
It was infact a truly magical performance by Luke in Manchester of Brahms Paganini Variations that had me wishing for more space to allow the sounds to go on their journey unimpeded.
A Prelude in G from book 2 of the Well Tempered Klavier was like a lemon sorbet after a sumptuous meal.
What a treat to see a very talented young boy maturing into a great artist respected and groomed by his renowned mentor to aim for the stars.

Birthday boy in New York

Leslie Howard looking somewhat perplexed as Happy Birthday unraveled before him

An evesdropping Sarah Biggs,general manager of the KCT as Sasha and Angela unravel their unexpected birthday greetings

Simone Tavoni who will be performing in the next KCT concert on the 13th November …….In the foreground Federica Nardacci who wrote the Black Pearl the story of Callas as told by her butler with performances in London at the Playground Theatre in November…….Glass in hand now enjoying the fun Leslie Howard

Ilya Kondratiev and Andreas with Sarah Biggs

John Leech and Noretta Conci Leech with Luke