It was a great honour for me to accompany Marcella Crudeli to Sorrento where for her 80th birthday celebrations she had be given the prestigious Premio Sorrento Classica 2021.She had already been honoured last April by President Mattarella of Italy with the Grande Ufficiale della Repubblica Italian and received a few years ago from President Ciampi the Gold medal for her dedicated service to education.But it is thirty years that Marcella has been at the helm of the Rome International Piano Competition that she created knowing that Rome had been lacking one for too long .Like Fanny Waterman in Leeds,who with the same indomitable spirit and unrelenting search for excellence had created in the 60’s one of the first piano competitions to stand side by side with Warsaw and Moscow.There are now hundreds of competitions but the Rome Competition stands out for the presence of the founder controlling with her eagle eye and with a directness that is missing from many similar state run events.
Paolo Scibilia the deus ex machina of Sorrento who fills this unique city with music involving the great Hotels and sponsors partecipating in the events of great cultural value.
I have known Paolo from the first time that Lya De Barberiis asked me to play four hands with her on a Sunday morning in the museum of ceramics.Later Paolo had invited my wife Ileana Ghione and I to give a recital at the Grand Hotel Coccamella.Paolo’s father had been president of the school where Fausto Zadra housed the students for his Masterclasses that he together with Wilhelm Kempff (who lived just down the road in Positano) Nikita Magaloff and many other renowned musicians held for many years in Sorrento.
I had taken Shura Cherkassky to play in the Cloister of S.Francesco many years previously.I had also found Rosalyn Tureck there and persuaded her to come to my theatre in Rome where she created a sensation with her return to the concert platform.And so it was a great honour to be able to accompany Marcella Crudeli to give a recital in the very cloister where so much great music had been heard in the past.
A Chopin recital and a Tribute for the 210 anniversary of the death of Fryderyk Chopin ( 1810 – 2020) with a mixture of works from the earliest Variations Brillantes op.12 through the Andante Spianato e Grande Polonaise Brillante op 22 and Scherzo n.2 op 31 to the Fantasie Impromptu op 66 and the crowning glory of the Fourth Ballade in F minor op 52.
I had listened to a masterclass by Marcella this winter in which she had complained that the young pianists of today do not seem to breathe enough to give time and depth for the music to evolve naturally.This was .of course,the great poetic lesson that she had learnt from her mentor Alfred Cortot and it was indeed this that stood out in her recital of much loved classics of Chopin.Nowhere was it more apparent than in the opening variations not often played since Nikita Magaloff who could thrown them off with a charm and jeux perlé of another age.
Marcella showed us too her absolute control and the sense of character that she gave to each of the variations leading to a finale of scintillating and beguiling charm.It was the same charm and intense character that she gave to the well known Fantasie Impromptu with the opening intricate web of notes given all the time needed to shape them into a seamless stream of golden sounds .The middle section was allowed to sing with grandeur and eloquence before the passionate outpouring and gradual dying away of the finale.
The Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise was played with great style and not a trace of sentimentality.There were moments when the music seemed to stop as Marcella would underline a particularly beautiful passage or cadence.The Fourth Ballade too was given a very robust performance leading to the passionate outcry before the transcendental coda.The highlight of the evening though was the B flat minor Scherzo played with great energy and rhythmic elan together with passages of heart rending cantabile.
Having received with great joy the Premio Sorrento Classica from the hands of Paolo Scibilia one would have thought that Marcella might have been tired and ready to stop.Little do they know ‘our’ Marcella who has superhuman energy and curiosity and was very happy to play three encores to the very enthusiastic audience that by now had invaded the stage.
A song without words by Mendelssohn (Marcella tells me she has recorded them all on CD),the Chopin Study op 10.n.3 (How sweet is your heart) and a Scarlatti sonata in D that she confided afterwards she had not played for some years but that this evening she had played it in a new way that even surprised her.
A constant voyage of discovery and an honour indeed to pay homage to this remarkable artist.
Here are my first impressions that I shared with his mentor Norma Fisher immediately after the live recording …………’ Even in Ginastera,a piece of great effect,he brought his sense of colour and discovery to the first movement …the slow movement was even more remarkable for his control of sound. But in a great masterpiece like the Schumann I was completely mesmerised and thought of De Larrocha or Pires where the musical journey is so absorbing as every note has a meaning . My thought of slightly over phrasing in the second and third and counterpoints could verge on gimmick if taken a step further but his intelligence and musicianship never allow that.Maybe it was missing the sweep and abandonment which will come as he plays it more often.The last one was quite remarkable for its clarity and the added octave in the final passionate episode was judged as only a great artist could do.Just once but at that crucial moment like Rubinstein could do. I will write more fully when it is streamed to the public but just wanted to thank you for all you are doing with these wonderful young artists.Sidney Harrison,’our piano daddy’,would be rubbing his nose in agreement and it is so important that we hear these young artists in masterworks and not just their party pieces of great effect.Pedro has both but it was the Schumann that marks him for me as a true artist and musician’
I was even more impressed by this recital on a second hearing.It was in fact Schumann’s Kreisleriana that stood out as a quite remarkable performance.It was Murray Perahia who had reduced some of the jury in Leeds to tears with his performance of Schumann’s Davidsbundler op 6 .It was remarkable for his absolute fidelity to the composer’s indications together with his sense of poetry and technical command which gave a simplicity and directness to everything he did.It was exactly this that Pedro brought to his performance of Kreisleriana.I was even more convinced on second hearing of the sweep and colour he did actually bring to all that he played but with such simplicity and subtle artistry.It is hardly surprising that he won the coveted Schumann prize at the RCM, bequeathed by that much missed critic Joan Chissell whose admiration for Artur Rubinstein knew no bounds.Her phrase that Mr Rubinstein,the Prince of Pianists ,turned baubles into gems was in itself an unforgettable turn of phrase.It was also exactly what Pedro did with Ginastera and Albeniz today as Rubinstein had done with Villa Lobos all those years ago.
Rondena is from Albeniz’s best-known work Iberia which was highly praised by Debussy and Messiaen who said: “Iberia is the wonder for the piano; it is perhaps on the highest place among the more brilliant pieces for the king of instruments”. As one critic put it ‘ there is really nothing in Isaac Albeniz’s Iberia that a good three-handed pianist could not master, given unlimited years of practice and permission to play at half tempo’.Rondeña is named after the Andalusian town of Ronda and is a variant of the fandango .It is from the second of the four books of twelve pieces that make up this suite and is full of subtle insinuating rhythms and energy.It was played with jewel like precision that did not preclude sultry atmosphere and passion.Pedro had a teasing rubato that was most beguiling and a sense of balance that created the magic world of Spain.The ecstatic duet between the hands was played with great poetry and artistry,a real tone poem of wondrous story telling and obviously only a dream as we were rudely awoken by the final scintillating bars.
The first four of Scriabin’s set of 24 Preludes op 22 were played with a great sense of colour with a very delicately shaped musical line full of luminous fluidity.There was a subtle sense of rubato and an understatement of sublime sensuality
Contrasting with the Kapustin Toccatina full of clarity and rhythmic precision with the jazz idioms brilliantly brought to life.There was a remarkable agility and relentless forward movement to the scintillating final bars.
Schumann Kreisleriana was given a remarkable performance of aristocratic simplicity from the very first notes with a melodic line of subtle shape and colour.A magic change of colour for the B flat section was played with great sensitivity and the subtle pointing of the left hand just before the return of the opening episode created a magic atmosphere of rare beauty.The second piece was played with a simplicity and aristocratic sense of line with some beautiful colouring from the left hand .I would have ignored the bar lines completely as his hesitations slightly disturbed the absolute simplicity that his subtle sense of legato was creating.There was a real sense of contrast with the Sehr lebhaft and it was so beautiful how he allowed the Etwas bewegte to just creep in with its romantic sweep and deep bass counterpoints.His remarkable sense of legato in the Langsamer return created a sense of improvised stillness to the magical ending.There was absolute clarity and nobility in the third piece contrasting with the sumptuous melodic line of the etwas langsamer which was of an almost whispered confession of great intimacy.Nobility was restored and turned into passionate frenzy beautifully controlled and sustained by the deep bass notes.There was beauty and simplicity in the fourth played with a beseeching calm and truly sublime sounds arriving at the bewegter that unfolded with an intensity that was very moving.The pianissimo just showed his searching musicianship so often overlooked but here scrupulously noted.Schumann’s dotted rhythms in the Sehr lebhaft were given a melodic shape with a sense of delicacy and colour that was remarkable.A song of heartfelt simplicity was followed by the frenzy and romantic fervour of the Sehr rasch.There was a very deliberate tempo to the last piece but he had a vision that was so clear and convincing for one of the most elusive of endings,There was great sweep and passion in the two intervening episodes where I have already spoken of the great effect of the added bass note before the absolute stillness and clarity of the long bass notes over which the staccato right hand disappeared into the distance.
Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22, is in four movements and Ginastera was commissioned by the Carnegie Institute and the Pennsylvania College for Women to write a piano sonata for the Pittsburgh International Contemporary Music Festival. The first performance in 1952 was given by pianist Johana Harris, wife of American composer Roy Harris, and Ginastera’s intention for the piece was to capture the spirit of Argentine folk music without relying on explicit quotations from existing folk songs.There was playing of rhythmic precision and driving Latin fever mixed with episodes of ravishing colour.The legato meanderings of the second movement were of Chopinesque mystery.There was startling intensity in the Adagio with its atmospheric calm and crystalline melodic interruptions and a final toccata played with great rhythmic fervour of great effect which brought this showcase recital to a brilliant conclusion .
‘Enormous confidence and great capacity of the young pianist to endow Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.2 with expressivity and poetry’ – El Correo de Sevilla. ‘Perfect blend of musicality, personality and brilliantly polished technique’ – La Tribuna. ‘Three encores, a standing audience and a long queue of spectators to congratulate the young Spanish pianist. Pedro López Salas brightened up the evening in Milan’ – Cultura di Milano. ‘More than an excellent pianist, he has the makings of a soloist and almost a conductor, judging by his stage performance’ – Ritmo Magazine
Pedro López Salas was born in 1997 in Spain. He is currently studying with Norma Fisher at the Royal College of Music on a full Leverhulme Arts Scholarship. He has recently completed his studies with Professor Mariana Gurkova at the CSKG (Centro Superior Katarina Gurska) in Madrid, receiving an Honours Degree in piano, an Extraordinary National Education Award and an Exemplary and Academic Merit Award from the Rotary Club. López Salas has won numerous prizes in national and international competitions, including First Prizes in the following international piano competitions: Malta; Compositores de España CIPCE; Madrid; ‘César Franck’, Brussels; ‘Ciudad de Leganés’; Granada’s ‘María Herrero’; Villa de Xábia; International Music Competition of Panticosa ‘FIP’; Wiener Klassiker in Hungary, Franz Liszt Center in Spain and the ‘Iscart’ Lugano International Music Competition in Switzerland, among others. He has recently received an invitation to participate in the prestigious International Piano Competition ‘Vendome Prize’ in New York which will take place in October 2021. López Salas has participated in masterclasses with such internationally renowned pianists as Dimitri Baskirov, Dmitri Alexeev, Alexander Kobrin, Pavel Nerssesian, Pascal Nemirovsky, Pavel Gililov and Ludmil Angelov. He has also studied on piano performance courses in Austria, Germany, Malta and Italy. He has performed all over Spain and Europe in auditoriums such as the Manuel de Falla in Granada, the Teatro Circo in Albacete, the Aachen Theatre, the Wiener Saal in Salzburg and as a soloist with the Valencia Orchestra (OV) in the Palau de la Música in Valencia and with the Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla (ROSS) in the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville. He has performed with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León and with the GSKG Orchestra in performances of concertos by Chopin and Liszt. He also performed Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin in the ADDA in Alicante and the Auditorio Internacional de Torrevieja with the OST (Orquesta Sinfónica de Torrevieja).
Here is your free link to watch the concert, which comes from the Steinway Hall, London:
Immediately followed by an interview with co-artistic director, Dr Elena Vorotko, talking about Pedro’s life and his choice of music.
The Keyboard Trust is entirely dependent on donations from our friends for its work in supporting outstandingly talented young musicians and so we’d be especially grateful to you for your support of this venture.Please feel free to make a donation via this website.
This is the third time that Alfonso Alberti has shared his searing intellectual curiosity and masterly playing with a public that had taken life into their hands ( with a little help from google maps ) to find the well hidden magic realm of Ninfa.
A mediaeval city that was the toll cross roads from one region to another to avoid the plague and other mishaps.It fell into ruin for a long and difficult conflict and remained in ruins around the saving lymph of constant water from the fast flowing river Ninfa.It took Lelia Caetani ,the last of the noble dynasty,to turn it into a fairy tale garden of pure magic.Much as Susana Walton had done many years later at La Mortella on Ischia.
Infact Sir William often used to stop over in Ninfa to compare notes!It took the American wives of the two composers to turn history into a fairy tale dream………a New World indeed.Sir William Walton is now well known and his home on Ischia has been transformed into a foundation to help young musicians delve deep into the mysterious world of music ‘far from the maddening crowd’.Sermoneta that overlooks Ninfa – it’s backyard you might say- has been doing that since Menuhin and Szigeti were invited by the Caetani/Howard family to use the castle and grounds to share their knowledge with the next generation.
Something that continues to this day with the Campus Musicale created in the 70’s by an enlightened architect from Latina,Riccardo Cerocchi
His daughter Elisa Cerocchi is valiantly keeping the flame ignited,with not a little help from Tiziana Cherubini and her sons.And it was they that had managed to fill the concert last night on a balmy Saturday night where the unenlightened had mostly spent a glorious summer day at the nearby seaside of Circeo.
The first President of the Campus was the composer Goffredo Petrassi whose precious scores are now kept in the Campus archive.The new honorary president is another distinguished composer Luis de Pablo whose reduction of Ravel’s piano work Valses Nobles for string quartet will receive it’s world premiere,in it’s complete form,tonight in the Castle grounds of Sermoneta.
A fascinating journey devised by Alfonso Alberti for the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri and the 150th of the birth of Roffredo Caetani.As Alfonso so eloquently explained many musicians have been inspired by the great poet not least Liszt,who often frequented Ninfa- where his piano is housed to this day.He would come to give lessons to his godson Roffredo Caetani (1871-1961) a gifted composers who’s works are housed in the Caetani Foundation archives.Liszt reflected on the ‘Divina Commedia’which inspired amongst other things his Dante Symphony and his fantasia quasi sonata ‘Après une lecture de Dante’.Works that confront passion ,damnation and salvation even though the later much underlined in crucial moments needs to be questioned and clarified!Liszt’s religious beliefs are certainly not necessarily always serene!Francesca da Rimini by Tchaikowsky in this elaboration by a pupil of Liszt, Karl Klindworth, there is no doubt that it was inspired by the 5th canto ,‘Inferno’ and amongst the numerous sinners emerge the lovers Paolo and Francesca.Verdi was added by Alfonso in his own piano reduction especially made for tonight’s concert.From Paradiso the 33rd canto with the ecstatic words of San Bernardo ‘Laudi alla Vergine Maria’ which in the original are scored for female voices and are from Verdi’s 4 Sacred Pieces.Ingenius too was how Alfonso had found in the Caetani archive a piece with the title :La commedia di un musicista,’Il viaggio immaginario’.He related it to the fact that the Pope Bonifacio VIII was a Caetani and was in Dante’s’Inferno’ and now ironically the last Caetani duke takes up the journey as he too becomes part of the story.As if not enough a Prelude by the elusive figure Alkan (one of his set of 25 !!) which Alfonso has always played as an encore here as it is well suited to this very particular atmosphere (no doubt tongue in cheek too )op 31 n.8 ‘Le chanson de la folle au bord de la mer’!
Some fine totally assured playing from this eclectic artist.The all intrusive I pad nowhere to be seen.This was an artist who had delved deep into the meaning not only of each individual piece but also the overall picture and had the music deep inside him ready to be shared with his very attentive audience.
Roffredo Caetani does not seem to belong to any school as I was trying to place it as the music evolved in a magisterial performance of gripping intensity and conviction.Could it be that it is a music well crafted but from a craftsman with little to say.Food for thought and I will seek out the recordings that Roberto Prosseda,a local boy made good,has made here in Ninfa on Liszt’s own piano.Roberto Prosseda born in nearby Latina is very much a product of the great musicians invited every year to Sermoneta and was for a brief period artistic director with Fabrizio von Arx before both their distinguished careers took them to different parts of the globe.
The Liszt ‘Dante’ Sonata was given a very assured performance although professional care occasionally took over from the passionate funabulistic outbursts that Liszt demands in this piece written at the height of his fame as a virtuoso.The Dante Sonata was originally a small piece entitled Fragment after Dante, consisting of two thematically related movements , which Liszt composed in the late 1830s.He gave the first public performance in Vienna, during November 1839 but when he settled in Weimar in 1849, he revised the work along with others in the volume, and gave it its present title derived from Victor Hugo’s own work of the same name and it was published in 1856 as part of Années de pèlerinage.
There was indeed a beautiful stillness to the Verdi ‘Laudi alla Vergine Maria’ even incorporating a hand wound music box to create the atmosphere which was one of purity and serenity played with a disarming simplicity in his own elaboration.
The Francesca da Rimini was a tour de force of memory and transcendental piano playing.I found it hard to follow the musical line which I put down to the transcription of Klindworth who was better known as a music publisher than pianist or composer.As Alfonso added ,with a twinkle in his eye, no doubt he had his eye on revenues from a transcription for piano of this popular overture!
A fascinating evening …Food for thought indeed whilst all those after the beach were stuffing themselves with food for their already overfull stomachs,the magnificent Pontine Festival had once again provided nutriment for the soul !Long may it prosper.
A luminosity and clarity from the very opening simplicity of the Prelude in C to the perpetual movement of the second and the graceful elegance of the third.There was an absolute simplicity to the great C sharp minor Prelude and a monumental inevitability to the five part fugue that follows.Delicacy and virtuosity in the D major Prelude and absolutely no doubt about the French overture dotted rhythm of the fugue.There was a sense of mystery and buoyancy of the D minor Prelude and a beautifully shaped E flat was followed by the joyful playfulness of the fugue.There was absolute stillness and mature serenity followed by a haunting fugue in E flat minor.A pastoral simplicity to the E major with its fugue of real ‘knotty twine’ to use the words of Delius.There was gentleness in the E minor with a luminous melodic line over a continuous stream of mellifluous sounds like a continual gentle flow of water followed by the frantic contrast of the fugue.Simplicity in F major with its continual gentle movement followed by the bucolic fun of the fugue.And to end a gentle melodic line in F minor and the stillness of the fugue .Hopefully this is just the beginning of a complete survey of Bach’s ‘48 from the hands of this master musician.
In 2014 Daniel Lebhardt won 1st Prize at the Young Concert Artists International auditions in Paris and New York. A year later he was invited to record music by Bartók for Decca and in 2016 won the “Geoffrey Tozer Most Promising Pianist” prize at the Sydney International Competition. In 2018 he has been signed for commercial management by Askonas Holt. March 2020 saw Daniel make his debut with The Hallé, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5 – a work he has also performed at the Barbican, London and Symphony Hall, Birmingham. The last two concert seasons have also witnessed recital debuts in Dublin and Kiev, and at the Lucerne International, Tallinn International and Miami International Piano festivals. He has received reinvitations to Wigmore Hall, London, the Auditorium du Louvre, Paris and Merkin Concert Hall in New York (‘He brought narrative sweep and youthful abandon to [Liszt’s B minor Sonata], along with power, poetry and formidable technique’ – The New York Times). Other recent highlights include a return to Paris for a recital at L’Église Saint-Germain-des-Près, as part of the festival ‘Un week-end à l’Est’; an appearance as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 21 at the Royal Festival Hall, London; and tours in China, South America and the USA. Born in Hungary, Daniel studied at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest with István Gulyás and Gyöngyi Keveházi, then with Pascal Nemirovski at the Royal Academy of Music and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He was a prizewinner at the Young Classical Artists Trust auditions in 2015 and currently lives in Birmingham.
Bach gave the title Das Wohltemperierte Klavier to a book of preludes and fugues in all twenty-four major and minor keys, dated 1722, composed “for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study”. Some twenty years later Bach compiled Book 2, completed in 1742, which was intended as a complement to Book 1. It is generally far more difficult than Book 1, with greater technical and structural difficulty for the performer. It was the ultimate work book, open to constant change and refining by Bach himself.Busoni famously said the first book was for performers and the second for composers. Each set contains twenty-four pairs of preludes and fugues.The first pair is in C major, the second in C minor, the third in C sharp major, the fourth in C sharp minor, and so on. The rising chromatic pattern continues until every key has been represented, finishing with a B minor fugue. The first set was compiled in 1722 during Bach’s appointment in Köthen; the second followed 20 years later in 1742 while he was in Leipzig. Book 2 was written during a period of Bach’s life when many keyboard works appeared including the Klavierübungen Parts 2 and 3, the ‘Goldberg’ Variations of 1741 and the first version of The Art of Fugue. As with these other works, it exemplifies Bach’s inexhaustible musical appetite for different styles.Bach recycled some of the preludes and fugues from earlier sources: the 1720 Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, J.S.B’s son, for instance, contains versions of eleven of the preludes of the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier. The C sharp major prelude and fugue in Book 1 was originally in C major. Bach’s title suggests that he had written for a (12-note) well-tempered tuning system in which all keys sounded in tune (also known as “circular temperament”). The opposing system in Bach’s day was “meantone temperament” in which keys with many accidentals sound out of tune.Bach would have been familiar with different tuning systems, and in particular as an organist would have played instruments tuned to a meantone system. It is sometimes assumed that by “well-tempered” Bach intended equal temperament which had been described by theorists and musicians for at least a century before Bach’s birth. Evidence for this may be seen in the fact that in Book 1 Bach paired the E flat minor prelude (six flats) with its enharmonic key of D sharp minor (six sharps) for the fugue. This represents an equation of the most tonally remote enharmonic keys where the flat and sharp arms of the circle of fifths cross each other opposite to C major. Any performance of this pair would have required both of these enharmonic keys to sound identically tuned, thus implying equal temperament in the one pair, as the entire work implies as a whole.Forkel, Bach’s first biographer, reports that Bach tuned his own instruments and found other people’s tunings unsatisfactory; his own allowed him to play in all keys and to modulate into distant keys almost without the listener noticing it. More recently there has been a series of proposals of temperaments derived from the handwritten pattern of loops on Bach’s 1722 title page.
These loops (though truncated by a later clipping of the page) can be seen at the top of the title page of the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier, 1722, showing the handwritten loops which some have interpreted as tuning instructions:Each prelude is followed by a fugue in the same key. In each book the first prelude and fugue is in C major, followed by a prelude and fugue in its parallel minor key C minor. Then all keys, each major key followed by its parallel minor key, are followed through, each time moving up a half tone:C → C♯ → D → E♭ → E → F → F♯ … →ending with … → B♭ → B.The two major primary sources for the collection of preludes and fugues in Book 2 are the “London Original” manuscript, dated between 1739 and 1742, with scribes including Bach, his wife Anna Magdalena and his eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann, which is the basis for Version A. Version B is the version published by the nineteenth-century Bach-Gesellschaft, a 1744 copy primarily written by Johann Christoph Altnickol (Bach’s son-in-law), with some corrections by Bach himself, and later also by Altnickol and others.Mozart transcribed seven of the fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2 for string ensemble showing the influence that the Well-Tempered Clavier had on him. Beethoven played the entire Well-Tempered Clavier by the time he was eleven, and produced an arrangement of BWV 867 no. 22 in B flat minor Book 1, for string quintet.Hans von Bulow, Liszt’s son in law, called The Well-Tempered Clavier the “Old Testament” where Beethoven’s sonatas were the “New Testament”. Von Bülow gave the first performance of Tchaikovsky’s famous piano concerto and also Liszt’s B minor Sonata, but had a distaste for the endless insistence for encores. He would raise his hand, saying “Ladies and Gentlemen! If you do not stop this immediately I shall play you Bach’s forty-eight preludes and fugues from beginning to end!” The audience laughed but also stopped applauding as they knew von Bülow was able to perform the work from memory.Bach’s example inspired numerous composers of the nineteenth century. For instance, in 1835, Chopin composed his 24 Preludes op. 28;
Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his 24 Preludes and Fugues after he had been inspired by Tatyana Nikolayeva’s Gold Medal performances at the Bach Competition in Leipzig in 1950 marking the bicentennial of J.S.Bach’s death.Inspired by the competition and impressed by Nikolayeva’s playing, Shostakovich returned to Moscow and started composing his own cycle of 24 preludes and fugues. He worked quickly, taking only three days on average to write each piece. The cycle was dedicated to Nikolayeva on completion in 1951.Musically, the structural regularities of the Well-Tempered Clavier encompass an extraordinarily wide range of styles, more so than most pieces. The preludes are formally free, although many of them exhibit typical Baroque melodic forms, often coupled to an extended free coda.The preludes are also notable for their odd or irregular numbers of measures, in terms of both the phrases and the total number of measures in a given prelude.Each fugue is marked with the number of voices, three or four only in Book 2. There are ten binary movements among the preludes (double bar in the middle, with repeats and written in the new ‘sonata form’) which is the most obvious innovation in Book 2, though ‘sonata’ here is close to Scarlatti’s conception, not Mozart’s. This gives the preludes much greater size and stature on average than they had in Book 1.Book 2 shows very clearly Bach’s integration of European styles, in particular between the Italian tradition for display and French dance forms that we see also in the partitas.It is interesting to note Rosalyn Tureck’s observation that Bach writes in his own ornamentation for Book 2 whereas the ornamentation for Book 1 was left to the artist’s discretion, much to Bach’s dissatisfaction.
It is interesting to note the figure of Ebenezer Prout (1 March 1835 – 5 December 1909) who was an English musical theorist, writer, music teacher and composer, whose instruction has been embodied in a series of standard works still used today, and underpins the work of many British classical musicians of succeeding generations.He has one rather unexpectedly appealing trait: he added words to the fugue subjects of Bach’s ‘48’ to help his pupils remember them. The idea being that not only did the words help them memorise the fugue subject but they also helped delineate when the fugue subject started and finished.
He went to town in a hat that made all the people stare.
John Sebastian Bach sat upon a tack, but he soon got up again with a howl!
O what a very jolly thing it is to kiss a pretty girl!
Broad beans and bacon…(1st countersubject)…make an excellent good dinner for a man who hasn’t anything to eat.(2nd countersubject)…with half a pint of stout.
(Subject) Gin a body meet a body Comin’ through the rye, (Answer) Gin a body kiss a body, Need a body cry?
He trod upon my corns with heavy boots—I yelled!
When I get aboard a Channel steamer I begin to feel sick.
You dirty boy! Just look at your face! Ain’t you ashamed?
Hallo! Why, what the devil is the matter with the thing?
Half a dozen dirty little beggar boys are playing with a puppy at the bottom of the street.
The Bishop of Exeter was a most energetic man.
The slimy worm was writhing on the footpath.
Old Abram Brown was plagued with fleas, which caused him great alarm.
As I sat at the organ, the wretched blower went and let the wind out.
O Isabella Jane! Isabella Jane! Hold your jaw! Don’t make such a fuss! Shut up! Here’s a pretty row! What’s it all about?
He spent his money, like a stupid ass.
Put me in my little bed.
How sad our state by nature is! What beastly fools we be!
There! I have given too much to the cabman!
On a bank of mud in the river Nile, upon a summer morning, a little hippopotamus was eating bread and jam.
A little three-part fugue, which a gentleman named Bach composed, there’s a lot of triple counterpoint about it, and it isn’t very difficult to play.
Brethren, the time is short!
He went and slept under a bathing-machine at Margate.
The man was very drunk, as to and fro, from left to right, across the road he staggered.
It was in 1991 that I had invited both Rosalyn Tureck and Tatyana Nikokaeva to perform the Goldberg Variations within a month of each other in my series of ‘Euromusica -Teatro Ghione’ in Rome.I was fascinated by the different approach of these two master musicians.Tureck like an unmovable rock on which Bach was carved in stone.Nikolaeva where the natural flexibility of the song and dance was somewhat reminiscent of Edwin Fischer.Tureck had been studying the A minor fugue from book 1 n.20 during her studies at Juilliard with Olga Samaroff ( Lucy Hickenlooper ,wife of Leopold Stokowski (Leonard Stokes),when she had a revelation that rather than change instrument she would renew the pianistic style to suit Bach.It created quite a revolution that much influenced Glenn Gould which he later brought to rockstar proportions.
Rosalyn Tureck retired to Oxford to study in depth the more scientific aspects of the genius of Bach with the creation of her Tureck Bach Research Institute.After I had persuaded her to return to public performance she had a true Indian summer and became at the age of 78 a star shining brightly again in Italy and elsewhere.I was invited to be a trustee of her Oxford Institute where she would hold symposia for mathematicians,scientists and musicians to delve deep into the different aspects of the genius of Bach.Alas at the age of 85 her friend and long time sponsor died and she had to provide documents and details for his foundation that had been sustaining her research,which she found too onerous at her age.She fled to Marbella and got the Queen Elisabeth to return to New York in style.She had be diagnosed with cancer years before but it had remained stationary until now.She arrived back in New York on 9/11 much to everyone’s deep concern for her safety.She took a house overlooking the Hudson in Riverdale much as Toscanini had done before her and the very day she died she had been celebrated with a special award for her life’s work.Michael Cherry her lifelong friend and founder of her American Bach Institute hurried to take it to her in person but she had died half an hour before.
It was also interesting to hear another young musician ,Andrea Bacchetti,playing Book 2 in Genoa during the lockdown and I include some notes that I made that will be included in the CD that is being published shortly .
Ferschtman-Gnocchi-Lucchesini Trio in Sermoneta Giovanni Gnocchi’s selfless dedication to music and his quest to help talented young musicians by playing together with them gave us a very welcome unannounced addition to the programme with a Requiem by David Popper dedicated to the great cellist Rocco Filippini who passed away earlier this year. Gnocchi too had taken part in a concert in 1995 when he was in the masterclasses of Rocco Filippini who together with Bruno Canino,Bruno Giuranna,Mariana Sirbu,Franco Petracchi and many other distinguished musicians maintained the great principles of Sermoneta as laid down in stone in the 60’s by Menuhin and Szigeti.
Involving Andrea Lucchesini too with the glorious intense sounds of the three cellos of Giovanni Gnocchi,Leonardo Notarangelo ,Luigi Visco and the piano resounding around the Stables of the Castle that Filippini knew so well for so many years.
Liszt recommended Popper for a teaching position at the newly opened string department at the Conservatory in Budapest where he participated in the Budapest Quartet with Jeno Hubay.He and Hubay performed chamber music on more than one occasion with Brahms including the premiere of Brahms’s Piano Trio in C minor op 101 in Budapest, on December 20, 1886.Popper was a prolific composer of cello music, writing four concertos a Requiem for three cellos and orchestra (1891) and a number of smaller pieces which are still played today.He was born in Prague in 1843 and was one of the last great cellists who did not use an endpin
Three pieces from the suite by Glière( born in Kiev in 1875)for violin and cello opened the announced programme.From the intense tone in the Prelude of Gnocchi’s cello resounding in this atmospheric space and with the searing beauty of Liza Ferschtman’s violin in the Berceuse disappearing to a whisper as the final mellifluous duet of the Canzonetta took over.
This was just a prelude to the great Kodaly duo that like his solo cello sonata is a remarkable monument to this much neglected Hungarian composer.I remember hearing André Navarra in 1985 give an unforgettable performance in Sermoneta of the Kodaly monumental solo sonata.Bartók and Kodály cultivated a distinct Hungarian musical identity, deeply rooted in folk sources. Bartók later extolled his colleague: “If I were to name the composer whose works are the most perfect embodiment of the Hungarian spirit, I would answer Kodály”.Violin and cello seems barely sufficient to contain the work’s muscular content, as though Kodály were dressing a giant in tight- fitting clothes. Though a relatively early work in Kodály’s broad oeuvre (a catalogue including some twenty chamber works, yet more exten- sive in the realms of vocal, choral, and pedagogical music), the duo nevertheless illustrates the essence of the composer’s mature musical language. Primacy of melody is on display throughout the work. The cello begins the first movement with a proud, folk-like theme, proclaimed forte, risoluto; the violin comments with equally assertive double- and triple-stopped chords. A lyrical second theme appears, piano, tranquillo, paced by steady pizzicati. From the grandiose awakening of the Allegro serioso to the deep lament of the Adagio and the sheer exhilaration and trancendental mastery of the Presto it was a masterly performance played as one.
It was the demonstration that Sermoneta’s noble musical values are in good hands with musicians dedicated to the musical principles that have always been the emblem of Sermoneta maintained so faithfully by the Cerocchi family. From father Riccardo to daughter Elisa the flame ignited by the enlightened Caetani- Howard family in the 60’s is still shining brightly.
It was demonstrated with the inclusion of Andrea Lucchesini into this select group.A pianist who had impressed the legendary Shura Cherkassky when he was invited to listen to a young boy in Luciano Berio’s house in Tuscany.I had accompanied Shura to play in Empoli,the birthplace of Busoni, in the ‘90’s and he was most impressed by this student of Maria Tipo. Lucchesini has gone on to have an illustrious career but always allied to the highest musical principles that have brought him to direct the renowned Academy in Fiesole and now the Filarmonica in Rome. And so it was fitting that he should be passing on his knowledge to the next generation in the renowned courses in Sermoneta that have left such a sign and formed so many great musicians in the past.
It was the pure magic of the Archduke Trio that filled the air with refined music making from three great musicians listening so attentively to each other in a musical conversation of the highest calibre.How we are being bombarded in the Mass media by vulgarity and ignorance as virtuosi of the football pitch are passed the microphone and whose views are treated as gospel!It was a relief to hear the eloquence of the opening statement of one of Beethoven’s greatest works played with such aristocratic nobility on the piano and answered by the refined,passionate involvement of violin and cello.It created such magic from the outset.The interplay between the cello and violin in the Scherzo erupting into a mellifluous outpouring of glorious exhilaration before the deeply contemplative Andante cantabile leading to the exhuberance of the final Allegro moderato.
An extraordinary performance by three great musicians who after such an exhilarating performance insisted on sharing their ovation with the two young musicians who had opened this evening of sublime music making . An evening dedicated to the memory of Rocco Filippini where the walls of this castle have absorbed so many of his masterly performances in the past.
Schubert: Sonata in A minor D 537 Allegro / Allegretto / Allegro
Brahms: Rhapsody in B minor Op 79 no 1
Granados: ‘The Maiden and the Nightingale’ from ‘Goyescas’
Rachmaninov: Sonata no 2 in B flat minor Op 36 Allegro / Lento / Allegro
Some superb musicianly playing from Jamie Bergin as you might expect from the assistant of the heroic Lars Vogt.
An early A minor sonata of Schubert was played with extraordinary orchestral texturing that brought everything he did vividly to life.His sense of dance and rhythmic energy allied to some truly magical colouring brought eloquence and shape to this comparatively rarely played sonata. Even the Allegretto,that Schubert was later to use in his penultimate sonata,was embellished with such charm and subtlety.The beautiful legato melody shaped with such loving care as the left hand staccato was so delicately traced.There was a wonderful sense of improvisation in the Allegro vivace last movement with delicate fragments united by a beautifully shaped ascending scale and comments of almost Mendelssohnian lightness and agility.
His superb musicianship shone out in the Brahms Rhapsody where his attention to every minute indication led to a refreshingly mellifluous opening which contrasted so well with the ravishing fluidity of the middle section.The way he led from one episode to another was real poetry and of a true artist who seemed to have the same vision that Brahms had tried to capture with pencil on paper. The final exciting climax was always within the framework of his architectural vision and made its gradual disappearance a hypnotic succession of magical sounds.
There was beauty and simplicity in the Maiden and the Nightingale with a melodic line accompanied by sumptuous colours played with great sensitivity.Barely whispered confessions mingled with outbursts of passion and a tenor who suddenly made his voluptuous appearance.A truly magical moment was the reappearance of the Maiden with heart rending simplicity answered by the eloquence of the nightingale as it disappeared into the distance with infinite nostalgia.
Rachmaninov’s powerful B flat minor sonata was rarely played until Horowitz introduced it into his last performances. From that moment it has become in too many cases a show case of barn storming passion and flamboyant virtuosity. Today in Jamie’s musicianly hands it was restored to the remarkable work that Horowitz indeed had reminded us of. Jamie has a transcendental technical prowess;a powerful machine that is directed by his poetic sensibility and musicianly sense of architectural shape.His wonderful sense of balance allowed the melodic line to sing out always so clearly.There was of course the sumptuous passionate final outpouring of voluptuous sounds and the breathtaking feats of agility in the coda.But there was also such beauty and gentleness in the meno mosso and a beautiful purity of sound in the non allegro with an extraordinary palette of colours from the underlying harmonies.The enormous amount of notes ,that the great virtuoso Rachmaninov did not spare himself,were however shaped into a seamless stream of quicksilver sounds of ravishing beauty. A remarkable work of passion, beauty and excitement restored so eloquently by Jamie today to its rightful place in the piano repertoire
Jamie Bergin was born in 1989 and comes from Great Britain. He attended Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester where he studied with Murray McLachlan and completed his Bachelor of Music degree at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London where he studied with Joan Havill. He recently completed the Soloklasse (artist diploma) degree at the University of Music in Hannover where he studied with Karl-Heinz Kämmerling and Lars Vogt. In October 2016, Jamie became the assistant of Lars Vogt’s class in Hannover.He has won various prestigious prizes at international competitions including First Prize, Audience Prize and the prize for best interpretation of the commissioned work at the Europäische Klavierwettbewerb Bremen 2012, and Second Prize and the Carl Nielsen Prize at the ‘Bang and Olufsen’ Piano-RAMA International Competition 2011 in Denmark. In 2014, he won the Chopin Wettbewerb (Stiftung Kurd Aschenbrenner) in Cologne, Germany. He has received major scholarships from the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund, the Countess of Munster Musical Trust and Spannungen Chamber Music Festival in Heimbach. Over the past few years, Jamie has performed solo recitals and concertos throughout Europe at internationally renowned halls including the Bridgewater Hall, St Martin-in-the-fields, The Barbican, the Sage Gateshead, Berliner Philharmonie and die Glocke in Bremen. He has made appearances with distinguished orchestras including the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Manchester Camerata, Bremen Philharmonic and Aarhus Symphony Orchestra. Jamie has appeared at international festivals such as ‘Klavier Festival Ruhr’ (Essen), Schumann (Bonn) and ‘Spannungen’ (Heimbach). He was also featured in a documentary broadcast several times on Channel 4. His performances have been broadcast on radio stations including Radio Bremen and Deutschlandradio Kultur. In June 2016, Cavi-music released an album of chamber music taken from live performances at the Spannungen Kammermusikfest in Heimbach where Jamie plays works by Klughardt and Saint-Saëns.
A fascinating concert from the opening provocative chord of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto.The pianist was the 24 year old Jacopo Feresin who in 2018 was voted an honorary member of Roma 3 and is now perfecting his studies with the distinguished pianofile and musicologist Piero Rattalino.
I was intrigued to hear the opening spread chord and also the arpeggiated chords in the slow movement. Jacopo gave a fine performance despite a mishap in the first movement that he happily was able to risolve in a professional way.He did,however,sometimes play with too much youthful passion that overwhelmed the perfection of Beethoven’s most pastoral of Concertos. It is a great responsibility to play with this orchestra under a Massimiliano Caldi who like Enrico Bronzi is turning this student orchestra into a professional body to be reckoned with.
But it is interesting to note how many musicians are playing Beethoven 4 not only with arpeggiando chords as in the clamorous case of Juan Perez Florestan,winner of the Rubinstein Competition.He not only opened the final round of this prestigiius tournament with a great flourish but then went on to embellish Beethoven’s own magical web of delicate elaborations in the first movement – where infact Jacopo came unstuck this evening. Igor Levit too ,the other day,did the same.Angela Hewitt tells me that Jeffrey Tate had found evidence that this is what Beethoven intended. Steven Kovacevich was the first over twenty years ago to spread the opening chord in his Australian recording of the complete Beethoven’s that he gave me one year as a present on his annual recital at the Ghione theatre.He too told me of the evidence in Beethoven’s correspondence that gave weight to this theory .But Stephen had studied the concerto with Myra Hess who certainly never spread the chords.He was her true heir playing the concerto on tour with Boulez and the BBC Symphony Orchestra together with that other golden talent under Madam Tillett management,Jaqueline Du Pre.They were the young much feted soloists,long before the arrival of Daniel Barenboim. I was in the Festival Hall when Rubinstein played it ( recorded live on video) with Antal Dorati without any sign of arpeggiando chords or added embellishments.Serkin,Backhaus,Schnabel,Arrau,Gilels,Fleischer and Perahia never spread them and they were all artists who delved deep into the scores and original editions to get as close to the composers intentions as possible.So why should there be the increasingly prevelant habit of adding embellishments especially amongst the new generation?
Could it be the case that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing? I remember Tortelier saying he would play Bach on a baroque instrument when they managed to find a baroque recording studio ! The early instruments had very little sustaining power (with the gut strings and less powerful instruments) especially in the big concert halls of today.To prolong the sound one had to embellish or arpeggiate in order to be heard and produce a coherent musical line. But today we are playing on instruments that are far more capable of sustaining sounds (and metal strings )and of projecting the sound above or at least within the orchestra ,projecting it into halls that are far bigger than those previously known in the composers lifetime. It is a question of taste and integrity and there are some performers who can add just a magic touch to Mozart’s long lines and there are others that think that Mozart’s sublime simplicity is enough. All this passed through my mind until I heard Jacopo add his own cadenza in the last movement.It may be historically accurate but as I say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and it is a pity to blemish what is probably Beethoven’s most perfect work for piano and orchestra.
Widmung by Schumann/Liszt gave this talented young man the opportunity to seduce and ignite with Schumann’s passionate outpourings.
Tonight Schumann Piano Concerto in this remarkable series of concerts for young performers that the enlightened Valerio Vicari has envisaged and encouraged for the past 15 years helping endless numbers of great young talents to find the experience and an audience which is the only way to grow as an artist learning the greatest art of all :listening to yourself!
A competition amongst recent solista saw Ruben Micieli declared the unanimous winner and he will be invited next year to play with this prestigious orchestra.
Masterly playing from Gabriele Strata for the final concert of the remarkable season of Roma 3 Orchestra under the title of Evening Harmonies at Teatro Palladium. Very assured playing of Schumann piano concerto hardly surprising when you realise that this young pianist from Padua is finishing his studies under a master at Yale University. Boris Berman a pianist who has played many times at the Ghione Theatre as has his colleague Peter Frankl.They have been passing on their knowledge and skill to the next generation for some years. Boris adores Italy and every opportunity he is here to enjoy the sea,the sunshine but above all the culture. As Rostropovich declared :Italy is the museum of the world .
A performance of great assurance and clarity and although hard hitting at times there were moments of great sensibility and poetry.A young man with a powerful engine in his hands that now with maturity will find the elegance and time to allow the music to unfold naturally. In the Andantino grazioso Intermezzo he found the ideal tempo to be able to dialogue with the orchestra without loosing the rhythmic impetus which he had slightly forsaken in the first movement’s beautiful central episode even though marked Andante espressivo.The last movement Allegro vivace was played with great authority that could have had a stronger blend of charm and grace.Nevertheless a remarkable performance very much in command of the situation. As an encore he chose the beautiful Abendlied by Schumann exquisitely played but even here he could have taken more time to allow this most beautiful page of music to speak with even more intensity.
Beethoven 7th Symphony was given a driving performance of unrelenting rhythmic energy.Even the famous Allegretto was at a tempo that at first seemed rather fast but as the music unfolded in the masterly hands of Massimiliano Cialdi it became totally convincing as did his driving rhythms in the Presto and Allegro con brio. A tournée is announced in the next few weeks in Puglia and Calabria. Is there no stopping the passionate dedication to help young musicians of the remarkable Roma 3 Orchestra in the hands of Prof Roberto Pujia and his star ex student ,now Artistic director Valerio Vicari?
Some ravishing playing from Li Siqian with a luminosity of sound from the first deep D flat of Chopin’s Funeral March Sonata to the voluptuous sounds of the hair raising transcription of Ravel’s La Valse.
The ravishing beauty of the più lento in the Scherzo of the Sonata was indeed to cherish as was the supreme stillness of the Trio section of the Funeral March. Her total command of the keyboard allowed her to shape the great first movement with all the intelligent musicianship that we have come to expect from the Norma Fisher studio. But there was much more besides with the meltingly sensitive sounds and scrupulous attention to the shaping of every phrase.I was surprised she left out the repeat of the first movement and that the great bass notes in the development were underplayed but her overall architectural understanding and the clarity she brought to the most demanding passages was remarkable.
The beautiful D major Prelude suited her remarkably sensitive palette of sounds.It contrasted so well with the technical prowess and energy that she brought to the G minor Prelude where the middle section was simply a sumptuous succession of ravishing sounds
She brought colours to Estampes by Debussy that I have only ever heard from the hands of Richter in his first recitals in London.The subtle shaping of La Soirée Dans Grenade reminded me of our old ‘piano daddy’ Sidney Harrison who could sometimes make the music speak as eloquently as any singer. Her agility and clarity in the Jardins was allied to a disarming simplicity and extraordinary dexterity and rhythmic impetus.
But it was the extraordinary pyrotechnics not only of agility but also with her kaleidoscopic sense of colour that was truly breathtaking in La Valse.To see with what flexibility her hands could play glissandi was even more extraordinary when the sounds she produced were of pure glistening streams of gold.
Born in 1992, Chinese pianist Siqian Li started her musical education at the age of four. She studied with Madame Huiqiao Bao, received her Bachelor of Music Degree at the Central Conservatory of Music (Beijing) and became the first pianist to be awarded the “Best of the Best – Top and Innovative Talent” diploma and scholarship from China’s Ministry of Culture. As a student of Professor Alexander Korsantia, she obtained a Master of Music Degree with Academic Honors and a Graduate Diploma at the New England Conservatory (Boston). She continues to pursue an Artist Diploma at the Royal College of Music (London) under the tutelage of Professor Norma Fisher. Her performances have taken place across China, USA, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Egypt, Japan, and South Korea at venues including Tokyo Yamaha Ginza Concert Hall, Beijing Forbidden City Concert Hall, Beijing Concert Hall, New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, Egypt Cairo Opera House, Shenzhen Grand Theatre, London School of Economics, and Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hannover. She also frequents the festival circuit, with recent performances at the Annecy Classic Festival, Festival d’Auvers sur-Oise, Dinard Festival International de Musique, Shanghai International Music Festival, and BNP Paribas Rising Star Piano Festival. As a young musician, Siqian was invited to join charity concerts to support children’s musical education in China. As a soloist, she has collaborated on a wide range of repertoire with international chamber musicians, and has appeared in concerts with Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra, Xiamen Opera Symphony Orchestra, Kiev Philharmonic Orchestra, Ukraine State Symphony Orchestra, and the Central Conservatory of Music Youth Symphony Orchestra, amongst others.
In 2020, Siqian won the first prize at the Chappell Medal Piano Competition, the Royal College of Music’s top award for pianists. She is the silver medalist and a special prize winner of the San Jose International Piano Competition 2019, a semi-finalist of the Leeds International Piano Competition 2018, the Grand Prix and a special prize winner of Vladimir Krainev International Piano Competition. She was also awarded first prize at the Imola International Piano Competition, Yamaha China Piano Competition Conservatoire, Puigcerda International Festival Competition, the Conservatorie Diploma at Tbilisi International Piano Competition, and prizes at Vladimir Horowitz International Piano Competition, Shanghai International Piano Competition, Chopin International Piano Competition in ASIA, International Music Competition Jeunesses Musicales Bucharest, China National Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, and the Guangren Zhou Pianist Award. Meanwhile, Siqian is a Yamaha Young Artist, Drake Calleja Trust Scholar (London), the recipient of the Lansum Music Scholarship (Los Angeles), the Chengxian Fu Music Scholarship (Taiwan), and generously supported by the Talent Unlimited Foundation (London). Siqian is a nominated contestant of both the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition (Brussels 2020) and the 16th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition (Tel Aviv 2020). Both competitions have had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
While Italy awaits the battle in London at Wimbledon and Wembley the hub town of Velletri is full of surprises . Diabelli variations on a piano similar to Liszt’s Erard piano restored to perfection by Giancarlo Tammaro of ‘il ‘suono’ di Liszt a Villa D’Este’ played magnificently by Ivan Donchev.
Even more surprising though was his magical account of Brahms Intermezzi op 117. Where Beethoven’s demonic rhythmic combinations in Diabelli were more rounded than we are used to, the Brahms was infinitely more bitter sweet from this beautiful instrument.
A Cathedral of such beauty the side door left open for my delection in a town abandoned by people searching for the sea in this scorching heat. Different ways of waiting for the party tonight…. all leading to the same goal hopefully .
JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897) Tre Intermezzi per pianoforte op.117 n.1 Andante moderato (Mi bemolle maggiore) n.2 Andante non troppo e con molto espressione (Si bemolle minore) n.3 Andante con moto (Do diesis minore)
The Three Intermezzi for piano, Op. 117 ,composed in 1892,were described by the critic Eduard Hanslick as “monologues”… pieces of a “thoroughly personal and subjective character” striking a “pensive, graceful, dreamy, resigned, and elegiac note.”The first intermezzo, in E♭ major, is prefaced in the score by two lines from an old Scottish ballad, Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament: Balow, my babe, lie still and sleep!It grieves me sore to see thee weep.The middle section of the second intermezzo, in B♭ minor, seems to Brahms’ biographer Walter Niemann to portray a “man as he stands with the bleak, gusty autumn wind eddying round him.”The final intermezzo, in C♯ minor, has an autumnal and stressful quality also, suggesting the cold wind sighing through the trees as leaves are falling.Ivan tells me that Prof Atanas Kurtev had given these titles : ‘ un lontano ricordo’ a distant memory -‘Il labirinti della vita’ the intrigues of life – ‘Salmo delle riscossione dell’anima’- the corpse of the recovery of the soul .
They were beautifully played with an unusual radiance to the sound.From the very first notes there was a luminous quality that added to Ivan’s sensitivity and sense of architectural shape and created just the atmosphere where this piano sound was quite unique.A luminous radiance but with a mellow non percussive sound that was pure magic.If the B flat minor Intermezzo could have been allowed more sweep it was more than compensated for by the sumptuous middle section that rarely can have spoken so eloquently.Ivan creating an ending of a rare dream like atmosphere which led to the bare open notes of the C sharp minor Intermezzo where there was a sweetness and amalgam of sound that was quite unique.
The 33 Variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120, was written between 1819 and 1823 by Ludwig van Beethoven on a waltz by Anton Diabelli . It is often considered to be one of the greatest sets of variations for keyboard along with Bach’s Goldberg Variations .Donald Tovey called it “the greatest set of variations ever written”and Alfred Brendel has described it as “the greatest of all piano works”.It also comprises, in the words of Hans von Bulow “a microcosm of Beethoven’s art” and in his Structural Functions of Harmony, Arnold Schoenberg writes that the Diabelli Variations“in respect of its harmony, deserves to be called the most adventurous work by Beethoven”.
I have heard many performances of the Diabelli variations but the two that will remain with me always are those of Brendel and Serkin.With both performances there was an electric current of energy from the first to the last note.Even in the most mellifluous variations there was always this undercurrent of energy which in the end erupts with the Fugue of the penultimate variation dissolving in the last ,like in his sonata op 111,into a celestial place that only Beethoven could truly experience with his private ear.
Ivan started with a burst of energy in the bucolic waltz played with great precision and sense of forward movement that spilt over into the nobility of the Alla Marcia and delicate syncopation of the second.There was sumptuous sound in the third and a great sense of mystery in the fourth.Great precision too in the fifth and trills that passed from one hand to the other in the sixth leading to the call to arms of the seventh.There was the same luminous sound ,that was so evident in the Brahms,in the poco vivace that flowed with such mellifluous ease.The acciaccaturas of the ninth we’re like springs jumping from one to the other .Great feats of virtuosity in the tenth were complemented by the ravishing beauty of the Grave of the fourteenth .The build up of energy with the fifteenth,sixteenth and seventeenth was not quite as dynamic on this very soft sounding instrument hampered too by Ivan trying to accommodate this with unrequested ritardandi at the end of each variation .The beautiful mellifluous sounds of this piano seem to exclude the very rhythmic percussive energy that is driving Beethoven to enormous technical feats as in his Sonata op 106 The Hammerklavier (sic).There was almost Mozartian playfulness in the twenty second variation before the extreme agility of the Allegro assai .The fughetta of the twenty fourth was played with luminous clarity before the bucolic enjoyment of the twenty fifth.I remember the poignancy of the rests in André Tchaikowsky’s performance of the twenty ninth that Ivan and many others choose to ignore in their quest for profundity.It was in the thirty first variation Largo molto espressivo that this piano came into its own in the very sensitive and intelligent hands of Ivan.If the frenzy like water boiling at 100 degrees was missing from the penultimate Fuga the luminosity and innocence of the last variations were of a clarity very rarely heard.
Two encores from a very enthusiastic public were awarded a beautiful Gluck Sgambati transcription of ravishing beauty and a Ritual fire dance that prepared us for the furnace that awaited outside!
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Trentatre variazioni per pianoforte in Do maggiore su un Valzer di Anton Diabelli op.120 (1819-23) Tema: Vivace – Variazioni: 1. Alla marcia maestoso; 2. Poco allegro; 3. L’istesso tempo; 4. Un poco più vivace; 5. Allegro vivace; 6. Allegro ma non troppo e serioso; 7. Un poco più allegro; 8. Poco vivace; 9. Allegro pesante e risoluto;Presto; 11. Allegretto; 12. Un poco più moto; 13. Vivace; 14. Grave e maestoso; 15. Presto scherzando; 16. Allegro; 17. Allegro; 18. Poco moderato; 19. Presto; 20. Andante;Allegro con brio-Meno allegro-Tempo primo; 22. Allegro molto, alla “Notte e giorno faticar” di Mozart; 23. Allegro assai; 24. Fughetta (Andante); 25. Allegro; 26. Adagio ma non troppo; 27. Vivace; 28. Allegro; 29. Adagio ma non troppo; 30. Andante, sempre cantabile; 31. Largo, molto espressivo; 32. Fuga: Allegro; 33. Tempo di Menuetto moderato IVAN DONCHEV pianoforte
Restava, infine, il pianoforte a concludere ancor più intimamente l’esperienza artistica e spirituale del maestro amburghese; il pianoforte che era stato il suo strumento prediletto, la sua voce iniziale, quella delle Sonate, delle prime variazioni, delle Ballate. L’arco, dunque, stava per chiudersi. Le quattro raccolte di pezzi op. 116, 117, 118 e 119 costituiscono il messaggio più alto della musica pianistica tardoromantica: le uniche pagine degne di continuare l’interrotta tradizione di Chopin e di Schumann.” (aa. vv. da: I Grandi Musicisti – ed. Fratelli Fabbri 1967) “La strada che porta all’estrema fioritura pianistica del nuovo secolo, al pianismo di Debussy, di Ravel e di Bartók, non passa soltanto attraverso Liszt, ma presuppone l’incredibile primavera delle sette Fantasie, dei tre Intermezzi, dei sei e quattro Klavierstücke op.116-119, tutti germogliati nel sessantesimo anno di vita del compositore. … E del resto, la vecchiaia degli artisti non consiste nel numero degli anni trascorsi, ma nella prossimità della morte. A Brahms non restavano più che quattro anni da vivere quando dal cuore gli fiorì l’ultima primavera creativa: il nuovo pianoforte. Non più Sonate, non più Variazioni, ma Fantasie, Intermezzi, Capricci. Klavierstücke, e basta. La sua arte era cresciuta nel segno della disciplina. Ora la visitò l’ultima dea: la Libertà.” (Massimo Mila: “Brahms …” in “Musica e Dossier” anno III n.19- ed. Giunti, giugno 1988) “La forma variazione si unisce dunque alla fuga come uno dei tratti più caratteristici dell’ultimo stile beethoveniano, e tempi in forma di variazione compaiono in molti degli ultimi capolavori… L’opera cruciale di questa nuova problematica va individuata nelle Trentatre variazioni su un valzer di Diabelli. …È forse preferibile considerare le Variazioni Diabelli come un gigantesco ciclo di bagatelle, che abbraccia l’intero ambito della fantasia e dell’inventiva beethoveniana… troviamo fianco a fianco un’arcigna rozzezza e una celestiale serenità, passione selvaggia e nobile maestà, lazzi senza nesso e delicato incanto, involuzioni tortuose e limpida semplicità. … Le Variazioni Diabelli furono l’ultima importante opera di Beethoven per pianoforte.” (Maynard Solomon: “Beethoven” – ed. Marsilio 2002) “Con quest’opera capitale, talmente avanzata e visionaria da risultare ancora oggi sconcertante per la maggior parte degli ascoltatori, Beethoven mette in discussione il principio stesso della variazione. …L’idea rivoluzionaria del compositore è quella di scrivere trentatre brani totalmente diversi tra loro che però ripensano e ricreano ogni volta lo schema di base, l’”archetipo” musicale incarnato dal valzer. …è chiara la volontà di Beethoven di ricercare la massima varietà di atteggiamenti e di caratteri. Anche in questo caso basta leggere la stupefacente ricchezza nelle indicazioni di tempo tra i diversi brani…” (Giovanni Bietti: “Ascoltare Beethoven” – ed. Laterza 2016)
IVAN DONCHEV è stato definito da Aldo Ciccolini “artista di eccezionali qualità musicali” e dalla critica internazionale come “raffinato”(Qobuz Magazine), “pieno di temperamento”(Darmstadter Echo), dotato di “tec- nica impeccabile e incredibile capacità di emozionare”(Il Cittadino). Nato nella città di Burgas (Bulgaria), intraprende lo studio del pianoforte all’e- tà di 5 anni con Julia Nenova e dopo tre anni tiene il primo recital. A 12 anni vince il 1°premio al Concorso Nazionale “Svetoslav Obretenov” e debutta con l’Orchestra Filarmonica di Burgas. Nel 1996 è finalista al Concorso EMCY di Dublino. A 16 anni vince il 1° premio al Conc. Intern. di Musica Austro-Tedesca a Burgas, cui segue il debutto internazionale alla Gasteig Saal di Monaco di Baviera, ed anche il prestigioso Premio della Società “Chopin” di Darmstadt e una Menzione Speciale per la sua composizione nell’ambito del Conc. Intern. “Carl Filtsch” in Romania.
È regolarmente invitato a suonare in tutta Europa, Russia, Stati Uni- ti e Asia. Tiene concerti alla Merkin Hall di New York, al Conservatorio Ciajkowskij di Mosca, alla Geumanrae Hall di Seoul, alla Bösendorfer Saal di Vienna, per la Società Chopin di Darmstadt, alla Holst Hall di Lon- dra, alla Sala dell’Accademia Nazionale di Sofia e poi ancora a Berlino, Oslo, Varsavia e molte città della Corea del Sud e del Giappone. Par- tecipa a importanti Festival europei, tra cui Festival de Radio France e La Folle Journée in Francia, Seiler Klavier Festival in Germania, Krakow Piano Festival in Polonia, Apollonia Music Festival in Bulgaria. In Italia suona a Milano (Sala Verdi per la Società dei concerti; Università Bocconi per Kawai in concerto), Roma (IUC e Filarmonica Romana), Pesaro (Te- atro Rossini), Bologna (Fondazione Liszt), Firenze (Orsanmichele), Na- poli (Concerti di Primavera), Messina (Sala Laudamo), Taranto (Teatro Orfeo), Osimo Piano Festival (Teatro La Nuova Fenice), Civitanova Piano Festival, Festival dei Due Mondi di Spoleto e altri. Suona regolarmente con orchestre internazionali: New York Festival Orch., Sinfonica Rossini, Filarmonica Marchigiana, Roma3, Sinfonica di Bari, Orch. della Magna Grecia, Orch. da Camera Fiorentina, Burgas Philharmonic, Kronstadt Philharmoniker, Pleven Philharmonic, Nis Sym- phony, Pazardzhik Symphony, Jeonju Philharmonic, Solisti di Zagabria, Bryansk Symphony. InItaliahainoltrevintoiconcorsi:CittàdiStresa;GranPrizeEcomusic 31 (Monopoli 2000), Premio Seiler (Palermo 2001), Migliori Diplomati (Castrocaro 2003), Premio Sergio Fiorentino (Morcone 2004), Premio Pianistico Giuseppe Terracciano (Giffoni 2005). L’esecuzione a 19 anni della Sonata in Si min. di Liszt gli vale il Premio Speciale al Concorso Europeo a Villafranca Tirrena. Nel 2008 vince il XVIII Concorso Società Umanitaria di Milano. Incide i concerti di Ciajkowskij e, in prima mondiale, il Quadro sinfonico concertante di Vito Palumbo, a lui dedicato. Pubblica per le etichette Rai Trade, Sheva Collection e Gega New. Sue registrazioni sono trasmesse dalle Radio France, Classica, Vaticana, Radio3 e BNR. Il CD con il violinista Ivo Stankov delle sonate di Beethoven riceve il 5 stars award della rivista Musical Opinion. Nel 2017 pubblica il CD “Live in Montpellier”, giudicato dalla critica come il recital più interessante del Festival de Radio Fran- ce. Con la violinista Annabelle Berthomé incide per MUSO le sonate di G.Bacewicz e il loro disco riceve 4 stars del BBC Music Magazine. Invitato in giuria di concorsi internazionali, ha tenuto masterclass al Conservatorio di Mosca, Brooklyn College di New York, Whitgift School a Londra, in Giappone e in Corea del Sud. Dal 2018 intraprende l’esecuzione integrale delle 32 Sonate di Beethoven. Fondamentale è stato il pluriennale perfezionamento con A.Ciccolini dal quale riceve il premio “Sorrento Classica” e con il quale ha suonato in piano duo al Festival de Fenetrange in Francia.
Some impressive playing of great clarity and weight from the very opening of Beethoven’s last thoughts on the piano sonata.Scrupulous attention to detail and extraordinary technical command allowed Beethoven’s words to speak on their own without any personal intervention.The end of the first movement led so naturally into the Arietta and variations played with string quartet intensity with some very beautiful counterpoints in evidence in the second variation before the explosion of the l’istesso tempo.His great technical control and musicianship allowed this to be the natural climax before the final variation with fragments floating magically on a vibration of murmured sounds with its gradual passionate build up and the final disintegration of celestial sounds which could though have had a more improvisatory feel to it.Even Beethoven was searching in un chartered territory that only he could hear in his private ear and a feeling of discovery and mystery are part of this search.Something of the magic was missing but his unrelenting forward movement and clarity gave great weight and authority to this great monument that I am sure he would not normally programme as an opener.
It was in Chasse Neige that Dominic revealed his sense of colour and passionate involvement that he had denied himself in Beethoven.The beautiful opening melody led to a passionate outpouring of ravishing sounds played with remarkable technical control and sense of architectural shape.
It was the same clarity and passion that he brought to the last of Rachmaninov’s preludes op.32.A sense of nobility contrasting with extraordinary flights of virtuosity culminating in the glorious outpouring of triumphant sounds of grandeur and nobility.
The piece by Zev Gordon reminded me very much of the modern work that Cherkassky would add to his standard repertoire every year.I well remember the glee and the twinkle in his eye as he grappled with Copland’s El salon Mexico much as Dominic did today.Some very complicated cross rhythms played with amazing agility and rhythmic impetus contrasting with long held pedal notes.The final slam of the door was played by Dominic with the same mischievous joy that I remember brought the house down for Cherkassky.
The beautiful Scriabin fourth sonata was given a superb performance where Dominic’s sense of balance was allied to his scintillating clarity even in the most capricious passages but all starting from the gentle opening star burning so brightly at the end amid passion and ferocity as ecstasy has been reached.Some very fine playing from a true musician and master pianist.
Dominic Doutney is a London-based pianist, studying for his Artist Diploma at the Royal College of Music in London, with professors Ian Jones, Dmitri Alexeev and Sofya Gulyak. He is the current recipient of the prestigious Fishmongers’ Company Beckwith Scholarship. Dominic is the 2020 winner of the ROSL Award for Keyboard. In summer 2019, Dominic studied at the Aspen Festival and School in Colorado, on a Polonsky Foundation Fellowship, having previously taken part in the piano masterclass programme at the Banff Centre in Canada (thanks to the English-Speaking Union’s Yehudi Menuhin scholarship). Dominic is a former joint winner of the EPTA UK Piano Competition and winner of the Royal College of Music’s Teresa Carreño (2013) and Constance Poupard (2014) prizes. In 2017, Dominic was placed third in the Joan Chissell Schumann Prize, and in 2016, second at the Isidor Bajic Memorial Competition (category B). Dominic is becoming a seasoned recitalist and concerto soloist. In October last year he performed Schumann’s Piano Concerto in St John’s Smith Square with the Young Musician’s Symphony Orchestra and Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in November with the Dorset Chamber Orchestra. In June the previous year he performed Brahms Piano Concerto no. 1 with the Leipziger-symphonieorchester in the Mendelssohn-Saal at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, to critical acclaim. Other concerto performances have included Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments (with Martyn Brabbins and the Royal College of Music symphony orchestra), Brahms’ Piano Concerto no. 2, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos nos. 2 & 3, Grieg’s Piano Concerto, and Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto no. 1. Solo appearances have included recitals at the prestigious Beaumaris and Beaujolais music festivals (France), the Poros Piano Festival (Greece), the Banff Centre (Alberta, Canada), and in Moscow (at the invitation of the Spivakov Foundation). Closer to home, Dominic has performed at the Bolivar Hall, Cadogan Hall, Wigmore Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields, the Elgar Room (at the Royal Albert Hall) and at 22 Mansfield Street (for the Nicholas Boas Foundation). Dominic has made appearances on BBC Radio 3 (performing Chopin and discussing the art of virtuosity) and on CNBC (discussing the experience of participating in a masterclass with Lang Lang). Dominic is also a keen jazz pianist and arranger. Outside of the piano, Dominic’s interests include theatre, art and literature, and he is a fan of Harlequins rugby club.