The concert in Padua in the historic Sala dei Giganti.
10 Sunday morning concerts in the series for the Amici della Musica di Padova dedicated to young Italian prize winners.
Today it was the turn of the 22 year old pianist from Verona,Giovanni Bertolazzi, who had made such an impression at the Busoni International Competition last summer.( see below)
I knew he was special but did not realise how special until Sig.Zanta the piano technician (who has been the guardian angel of such artists as Richter,Serkin,Fischer,Argerich and more recently Virsaladze,Goode,Romanovsky,Zilberstein etc)took me to one side to tell me that this young man today was really very special.
I knew that of course from Bolzano this summer which is where we met.
He took the competition by storm – in my opinion head and shoulders above all the other extraordinary young musicians that had chosen to enter the circus ring!
He fell at the final hurdle when he was unable to tame the magnificent but highly experienced unwielding quartet with whom the semi finalists had to play.
He chose Schumann where Franck and Shostakovich were more their cup of tea.
His sensitive artistry and sense of style was not given the time to breathe,swept along as he was by four magnificent winners of past Tchaikowsky competitions.
Pity but that is all part of being a professional musician and knowing how to fight for what you believe in so passionately.
However today on the piano that Richter loved so much he was given free reign to his quite considerable artistry.Playing to an audience depleted by the fear of Corona virus the news of which is being so amply and continuously described on the mass media.
For a real artist just one person is enough to ignite the touch paper that unleashes the passionate total dedication to comunicating the composers wishes.It is like a ‘sunami’ that takes hold of us and is the only thing that matters in that moment.
A great wave unleashed that carries us all along on a shared journey of discovery.
Serkin,of course,was one of the prime examples of this extraordinary energy that explodes from the very first note until long after the final note has been struck.
Who could ever forget the final chord of Serkin’s ‘Hammerklavier’ in the Festival Hall in London and seeing this slight seventy year old legendary figure spitting and kicking as he held on to the final chord after a truly towering performance.
And so it was that I was reminded of Serkin as the ‘Waldstein’ sonata unfolded like a spring being unleashed on this unsuspecting public.
A rhythmic drive but with such surprising colours especially with help from slight insinuating hints from the left hand thumb.
Remarkable how he managed to give the impression of rock solid tempo with such rhythmic urgency.
It showed off his transcendental control not only of the notes but of the very sound within their very soul.
The introduction to the last movement I have never heard with such intelligent deep understanding . Beautiful rich very masculine sound,Adagio molto but with a sense of line and direction that led via a great arch to the bell like first note of the Rondo.
Played’ moderato’ as Beethoven beseeches us – a pastoral calm before the ever more vigorous wind takes us into the helter skelter of the Prestissimo coda.
A calm on a wave of gentle sounds that Beethoven asks to be bathed in pedal as Giovanni interpreted so intelligently on this instrument that Beethoven would have never known except in his inner ear.
Interrupted by episodes of ever more rhythmic impetus.
Pure magic was the way he played the long pedal held chords on which the rondo theme was allowed to float before the final tumultuous episodes.
We were never aware of his transcendental technical assurance as we were swept along on such an exhilarating musical wave.
The treacherous glissandi were thrown off with an ease as he was obviously not aware of the transcendental hurdles he was surmounting on his journey of scaling the mountain.
I remember Serkin wetting his fingers to play the glissandi first in the right then the left.
Kissin just played them as very fast scales with a very deft magician’s slight of hand.
I mentioned it to Giovanni at the end and he just modestly shrugged and said he did the best he could.
But the point was that it was of no importance to him.
It was his nervous energy that swept all before it.
There were no hurdles but an unrelenting forward journey.
Sink or swim indeed.
And he is a survivor!
Mendelssohn ‘Variations Serieuses’ are just made for him with all his youthful passion and vigour.It is a young mans music that just seems to slip so easily out of ones sleeve.
I must say Saint- Saens owes much to this much neglected master.
It was Mendelssohn who discovered Bach but who is going to discover Mendelssohn?
Well Roberto Prosseda is flying the flag high and I think Giovanni will not be far behind in a year or two.
It is a new work to his repertoire and as he gradually worked his way in after one or two rather hasty variations his great poetic artistry shone through with a very beautiful sense of balance and astonishing range of colours.The physical excitemement he brought to the ending bodes well for future performances.
It is not only the playing of this young man that is so extraordinary but his sense of occasion and theatre too.
A programme must be shaped in a great arch as its components are within.
It was the sudden burst of power with the opening declamatory chords of the B minor scherzo by Chopin,following a slight pause after Beethoven and Mendelssohn that was so perfectly timed.It could not have been more subtley directed by Visconti!
Now we were in the realm of Rubinstein with a Chopin of such noble sentiment and of such delicacy contrasted with a virility that was at times breathtaking.
Florestan and Eusebius in the most aristocratic of company.
Even ‘Ondine’ a constant in Rubinstein’s recitals was played with the same creamy richness but with a savage dance like contrast that had me searching through the score afterwards.
‘Scintillant’ – ‘doux ‘..so that is what it means.
And in the mists of ‘Brouillards’ the chiselled sounds – ‘un peu en dehors’ – it is all there in the score for he who has the ultra sensitive intelligent soul.
Murray Perahia springs to mind!
How many Rubinstein recitals I have heard end with the 12th Hungarian Rhapsody.
Here was the same enormous rhythmic energy that had us on our seats cheering Rubinstein, at his triumphant end, when he was well into his 80’s.
It was the same energy that this 22 year old pianist had today.
The same irresistible sense of colour and charm and the wild gypsy passion.
Contrast of such breathtaking daring that only a true artist would be able to lead us to the end unscathed.
Bewitched bothered and not a little bewildered that we could witness something of such genuine aristocratic simplicity from someone sixty years younger.
I was not expecting an encore of the Chopin study op 10 n.1 that I doubt Rubinstein.would ever have dared play in public.
A breathtaking performance not only for the transcendental technical difficulties overcome with such ease .But he showed us the great melodic arch in the aristocratic bass line that the right hand arabesques just illuminate.
One interesting fingering I noted where the left hand very deftly came to the rescue of the right.
It was the sense of shape and colour that made us aware that this,the first of Chopin’s monumental 24 studies,is so similar to the last great arpeggios of the study op 25 n.12.
We will be hearing a lot more from this young lion of the keyboard and above all supreme poetic artist.Two of the discerning public had realised too when they asked Giovanni at the end for an autograph to add to their collection of great pianists that they have heard over the past 50 years in this hallowed hall.
The hall of giants indeed where I brought my beloved mentor Vlado Perlemuter to play all those years ago.