The rebirth of a global network in Cremona -If music be the food of love please please play on

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2019/09/30/a-city-in-love-cremona-music-festival-parts-12-and-3-the-day-of-reckoning/

It was wonderful to be back in Cremona after only the on-line edition last year due to the pandemic.Just to look at the programme and see the hundreds of people eager to partecipate whether constructing instruments or playing them was a signal that all was well with the world.It is right that the signal should come from Cremona the city of music where even the streets are named after the violin craftsmen that have given such lustre to this beautiful city.

At first glance into the pavilions one could see violins,violas,cellos guitars,lutes ,accordions and even the special woods that have given life to these carefully crafted instruments.

But in one corner there is a section dedicated to the Piano and it is here under the eagle eye of Roberto Prosseda that we could appreciate not only the most important piano manufacturers but also listen to some of the most important young musicians of our time.Conferences of new ways of presenting music and the technology that we have been forced to understand during the pandemic took place in the media lounge with streaming links to a worldwide audience.

The distinguished jury of the Pianolink competition

As if this was not enough there was also the Pianolink International Amateurs’ piano competition in the beautiful courtyard of Palazzo Trecchi in the city.It may be amateur but the illustrious jury included Michele Campanella,Sofia Gulyak,Jin Ju,Ramon Bahrami and Owen Mortimer of International Piano and it was also streamed live.

Valentina Lo Surdo with Roby Lakatos and Roberto Prosseda

Cremona music awards too were given to Roby Lakatos,Richard Danielpour,Enrico Pieranunzi,Susanna Azzi and Luciano Del Rio.There was a final farewell with an unannounced jam session that included Lakatos and Pieranunzi in a restaurant in the centre of the city.The cherry on the cake one might dare to say.https://www.facebook.com/1311561820/posts/10226945433444440/

And introducing these events with such intelligence and joie de vivre was Valentina Lo Surdo,the distinguished radio and television presenter.

A happy arrivederci with Valentina ,Massimo Fargnoli legendary organiser in Naples ( presenting his autobiography PergoLennon)with deus ex macchina Roberto Prosseda

In three days I managed to hear many fine performances and listen to some very informed discussions.I may have missed a lot but I certainly came away bewitched,bothered and bewildered by the meeting of so many extraordinary people from all parts of the globe.The informed experiences in the field of music with round table discussions and meetings even socially in Cremona will continue globally thanks to the new technology that is bringing us closer together.If this is what is known as networking – long may it last. And above all thanks to Cremona.

Fascinating round table on Hybrid Music Teaching

Here are just some of the more remarkable experiences I had over three days.

Day 1.I arrived late and almost missed a concert that had been added to the original programme.A programme that was being added to almost daily in the run up to the Fiera by the unstoppable Roberto Prosseda with his insatiable appetite to include as many experts as he could.

Valentina presenting Elia – un ballo in maschera indeed !

It was one of the most promising pianist of the younger generation Elia Cecino.Still only twenty having won the prestigious Premio Italia in Venice when he was a teenager.Now under the eagle eye of his mentor Maddalena de Facci he is beginning to make big waves on the concert scene. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/08/05/elia-cecino-in-grosseto-the-birth-of-an-artist/

Elia Cecino with his mentor Maddalena De Facci seated on the left with Aristo Sham- another star – behind her

This was in the Sala Cristofori or Steinway/Passadori studio as part of the Steinway & Sons Piano Festival .Some remarkably mature performances of Scriabin 3rd Sonata and Prokofiev’s 7th together with Schumann op 111 which unfortunately due to the queues at Malpensa I was not able to hear.Prokofiev 7 is one of his War trilogy and quite fitting for this situation of running from one wonderful performance to another.A magnificent performance that solicited encores of Tchaikowsky and Shostakovich which of course made me late for the ‘Imperdibili’in the Sala Guarneri or Fazioli Studio!

Maurizio Baglini with Paolo Fazioli

It was with this event that I had planned to start my survey in Cremona.A joint project by Maurizio Baglini and Roberto Prosseda,two of the most extraordinary artists in Italy who with their own important careers take time to nurture and help the next generation.’ Unmissables’ indeed and thanks to the continuous inventiveness of Roberto I did almost miss it!Andrea Mariani,a student of Roberto in Rovigo Conservatory showed his remarkably fluid technique in a Study by Silvio Omizzolo (Padua 1905-1991) that sounded like Moszkowski and which solicitated an encore of his equally enticing Mazurka.This was a composer I had never heard before played by a pianist with a transcendental technique who showed his true musical credentials in a very fine performance of Chopin’s first Scherzo op 20.

Andrea Mariani receiving Paolo Fazioli’s blessing!

With Paolo Fazioli jealously surveying the scene from the front row this was no easy platform for an aspiring pianist!

Simone Librale,a student of Maurizio Baglini was not able to play so at the last minute another of his students Lucrezia Liberati stood in with an even more eclectic programme.Schumann’s op 8 ,the rarely played Allegro in B minor that was to be the first movement of a Sonata that was never realised.Together with the extraordinary ‘Night music’ from Bartok’s Suite ‘Out of doors’.Works that are as much a trial for the piano as they are for the pianist.

Lucrezia Liberati under close scrutiny of the master piano maker Paolo Fazioli

Supremely musical performances as you would expect from a musician of Maurizio’s stature. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/03/08/lucrezia-liberati-at-roma-3-virtuosity-and-freedom-in-the-name-of-music/

Gaia Sokoli with a full house for Fanny Mendelssohn

I just managed to hear part of the fascinating programme of Gaia Sokoli with a preview of her CD dedicated to the sonatas of Fanny Mendelssohn!In the Sala Stradivari on a superb Yamaha piano it was yet another fascinating discovery here in Cremona – one of many!Fanny Mendelssohn (14 November 1805 – 14 May 1847), elder sister of Felix (whose complete works have been recorded by Roberto Prosseda) was known ,after her marriage, as Fanny Henkel and was a composer and pianist .Her compositions include a piano trio and quartet ,an orchestral overture, four cantatas , more than 125 pieces for the piano, and over 250 lieder,most of which went unpublished in her lifetime. Although praised for her piano technique, she rarely gave public performances outside her family circle.

Gaia Sokoli with her beautiful playing of the almost unknown Sonatas of Fanny Mendelssohn

At this point I had to run ,still with my suitcase,sadly missing the ChiesaCellos Cremona with Maurizio’s wife the distinguished cellist Silvia Chiesa.I think even she would have forgiven me as the Cremona Music Award was being given to Roby Lakatos the violinist most revered by his colleagues for his extraordinary natural technique and his amazing Zigane improvisations.Here too he improvised with Roberto Prosseda with one of his best loved performances.

Roberto with Roby

And at last a day that started in London and finished so wonderfully in Cremona.Or at least I thought it was over until I bumped into Sofya Gulyak (winner in 2009 of the prestigious Leeds Piano Competition and invited here on the jury of the Pianolink Competition) and together with Doctor Anna Maria Cevolani ( a GP in Pieve di Cento and organiser of a concert series and the Roberta Galinari International Piano Competition that could boast Vladimir Ashkenazy as chairman of the jury)we enjoyed sharing stories over a well deserved pizza.It was infact one of the best pizzas I have ever tasted ……but how could it be otherwise in a paradise like Cremona.

Roby Lakatos with Jed Distler

On the shuttle bus to the second day of the exhibition I heard a voice that I knew so well from his radio programmes in New York and from my visit two years ago in Cremona.Jed Distler pianist,composer and commentator knows more about pianos and pianists alive or dead (together with Bryce Morrison and Piero Rattalino).So even the journey to and fro was full of a fascinating exchange of information.We had fun at the farewell aperitivo in the Cathedral Square too.

Jed with two young Turkish musicians who report for Andante Classic Music Magazine.

Day 2

Round table discussion including live stream from Warsaw with Alexander Laskowski of the Chopin Institute and in the media lounge with Jed Distler,Cècile Prakken,Roman Berchenko,Eric Schoones and Owen Mortimer mediated by Roberto Prosseda

I would have liked to hear more of the round table discussion about streaming and on line performances that has been particularly relevant in this lockdown period.

Davide Cabassi though was giving a short recital .A top prize winner in the Van Cliburn competition in 2005 when he came to play in my theatre in Rome as part of a series organised by William Naboré and the International Piano Academy in Como.I remember vividly his wonderful warmth and humanity and of course an astonishing performance of Petroushka – a cross between Radu Lupu and Maurizio Pollini.

Davide Cabassi presented by an unmasked Valentina

We have lost touch but Cremona has united us.I have been following his remarkable career and have helped one of his students Alberto Chines via the Keyboard Trust.Davide is recording all the Beethoven Sonatas – I think he is up to his fourth CD and he played two sonatas op 27 n.2 ‘ Moonlight’ and op 31 n.2 ‘Tempest’.His amazingly wide range of sound has gained a maturity 20 years on but there is still very much the conflict between Floristan and Eusebius well suited to Beethoven’s tormented life .A standing ovation allowed him to present his wife Tatiana Larionova (who was giving a solo recital in the afternoon) and to play together Brahms’s 8th Hungarian Rhapsody …….a triumph was assured and well deserved.

Davide Cabassi and Tatiana Larionova

At midday I could not miss the recital of Aristo Sham mentored by Julia Mustonen , Artistic director of the Ingesund Piano Centre of excellence in Sweden .At 25 this young man has a degree in Economics from Harvard and a Masters degree in piano from New England conservatory.In 2019 he won the gold medal at the International Casagrande Competition in Terni .

Aristo Sham in concert under the eagle eye of Ing.Fazioli

Playing a magnificent Fazioli in the Guarneri room he gave some ravishing performances of Chopin ready to be presented in Warsaw at the Chopin competition in October.Four Mazurkas op 30 were played with a ravishing style and understanding that will surely seduce the jury as Fou Ts’ong had done fifty years ago.It was Ts’ong who told me that the sentiment or soul in Chinese poetry is very similar to the sentiment in the works of Chopin.Aristo’s performances of the Funeral March Sonata and the late Polonaise Fantasy were played with extraordinary intelligence and technical control but just missing the simplicity and intimacy that had seduced with his ‘canons covered in flowers ‘.

Aristo with Paolo Fazioli

I was sorry to miss Marco Rogliano presenting his new CD .I bumped into Marco in the shuttle bus back to the hotel and had not seen him in 20 years since he used to play in the Masterclasses that Ruggiero Ricci used to give in my theatre after his annual recitals.I will look forward to listening to his fascinating new CD.

A chance meeting with Marco Rogliano but Cremona is that sort of place

I was sorry to miss also the remote synchronised performance of four hands with Roberto and his wife ……….I was curious to see how Alessandra could play in Prato while Roberto played in Cremona……it made me wonder about their three wonderful children! https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/01/22/duo-prosedda-amara-french-women-composers-for-four-hands-from-palazetto-bruce-zane-in-venice/

There was just time to slip into the Amati room to listen to Luisa Imode give an immaculate performance of Scriabin’s Fantasy Sonata on a magnificent Steingraeber piano.Ravishing golden sounds from a piano that has its base in Bayreuth.After musicianly performances of Beethoven op 109 and Chopin Ballade n.2 ,the Chopin Nocturne op posth was pure magic and showed off the full range of this magnificent much overlooked instrument.Her new CD ‘Moon Rainbow’I will look forward to listening to.

However Jed Distler wanted me to hear Sandro Ivo Bartoli whose recordings he admired and was intrigued by his lockdown project of recording one Scarlatti sonata a day.There are 555 and ,as he explained ,his project should draw to a close at the end of October.In the meantime this imposing figure – an Abbé Liszt look alike – presented his very individual performances of five Scarlatti Sonatas and the six Moments musicaux D 780 by Schubert with such convincing charm

Sandro Ivo Bartoli

Performances that showed off his unique personality.I had in fact met him when he was a teenager in London and we were summoned by Shura Cherkassky to listen to a young pianist ( with the same long hair) playing two chamber concertos in St James’s Piccadilly.Shura never taught but I think Sandro may have played to him occasionally in return for helping him when he was in residence in his rooms in the White House a stone’s throw from the Royal Academy where he was studying.

Elia and Sandro for Steinway.

And now I really had to run to hear Alexander Gadjiev’s magnificent Chopin recital on the Fazioli piano.I had heard him play in London a few years ago for the Keyboard Trust and he has since gone on to be chosen as a BBC Artist and won both Hamamatsu and Montecarlo Competitions and recently the Gold medal at the International Competition in Sydney.

Here are a few thought that I jotted down :’Someone who loves the piano and listens to himself.A master of ravishing playing who illuminated the Fazioli Grand Piano with sumptuous refined sounds.Masterly performances that held us spellbound .Chopin’s fourth Ballade restored to the pinnacle of the romantic repertoire -a truly ravishing Barcarole and a second Ballade that had us on the edge of our seats.’His encore of his own improvisation just showed what a unique artist he has become.All best wishes at the competition in Warsaw.

Elia and Alexander -stars shining brightly in Cremona

Immediately next door in the Amati room I had promised to hear another of Julia Mustonen’s students KaJeng Wong.Some quite magnificent performances of Rachmaninov on a sumptuous Petrof piano.

KJ in the Amati room

The room was much too small for such a big player so he suggested I come to his graduation recital in London at Milton Court a few days later.A Hammerklavier at 10 am followed by Rachmaninov and Liszt was sensational and this is what I wrote https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/09/29/kajeng-wong-a-master-at-milton-court/

And finally the Cremona Music Award to Richard Danielpour with performances by Stefano Greco part of a CD that was recorded in Rome just last week.I was able to catch only the very tail end of this and was sorry not to be able to listen to more of Stefano’s magnificent playing .Richard I caught up with the next morning in the round table dedicated to Hybrid Music Teaching.His teacher was Leonard Bernstein and he has his same hypnotic charm as he explained how he had tried to help his students psychologically during the lockdown as music is about love and the connection between human beings .He had written a fifteen movement work ‘American Mosaic’that was performed on four grand pianos placed strategically in a cemetery as the performer moved from one to another.Here is his very moving story :

Richard Danielpour with Stefano Greco

Liner Notes by Richard Danielpour:

In April 2020, during the first wave of the COVID pandemic in America, I was informed by my pulmonologist that because of my asthma, my chances of surviving COVID-19 were about 30% if I were to contract the virus. I barely slept in that month. In those early hours of the morning, I managed to write the first draft of a libretto for a new opera. The only thing that was able to relax me enough to sleep (no amount of medication would do the trick) was listening to Simone Dinnerstein’s Bach recordings. Later in May, having witnessed the extraordinary heroism of so many valiant Americans who had struggled to combat this “invisible enemy”, which was the coronavirus, I thought it fitting at some point to compose a 15-movement cycle for solo piano that would be live streamed by the end of 2020. At that moment, I knew that the end of 2020 would be a challenging and terrible time in America, and my hope was that I could write a work that would somehow give comfort to those who had suffered and struggled through this unprecedented crisis. By mid-May, I was still listening to the recordings of Simone’s Bach to alleviate my anxieties, but I had also begun to think seriously about this new work that I hoped to compose for solo piano.I eventually spoke with Simone Dinnerstein, thanking her for the therapeutic effect of her playing and also mentioning my idea to her. She was enthusiastic, and a week later the Oregon Bach Festival, through the kindness and industry of their Director of Artistic Administration, Michael Anderson, commissioned the work which I titled An American Mosaic for a livestream premiere performance that would eventually take place on December 6th, 2020. I began work on An American Mosaic on June 5th, 2020 and completed the 15-movement cycle on August 6th of that summer.

Day 3 .An interesting round table with fascinating comments from Paolo Petrocelli talking about the extraordinary Stauffer Centre in Cremona and Antonio Artese getting to grips with new technology at the historic Chigiana Academy in Siena and the participation of Richard Danielpour spoken of above.Julia Mustonen talked about her remarkable work at the Ingesund Piano Center in Sweden.

Julia Mustonen of the Ingesund Piano Center in Sweden

It was time to listen to another fine pianist on the Fazioli Piano.Leonardo Pierdomenico on his way to the Chopin Competition in Warsaw too.

Paolo Fazioli and Sandro Cappelletto with Leonardo Pierdomenico

Some very fine performances of the First and Third Ballade were followed by a performance of the B minor Sonata that showed not only his superb clarity and intelligence ,as in the first Impromptu that had opened his programme , but in the slow movement there was an architectural line and ravishing sense of colour that was quite memorable.

By great demand after the sumptuously exciting Finale of the Sonata he played the study op 10 n.4 with remarkable brilliance contrasted with the exquisite charm of the waltz op 42.Another wonderful artist competing in the circus ring in Warsaw………..may the best man win.Career is ,after all,important for survival,but we in Cremona are just lucky to have heard three wonderful artists in these past few days giving such memorable performances without having to decide on a winner.They were all winners for us!

The Fazioli story told in a volume recently translated into English in which Sandro Cappelletto traces with Paolo Fazioli the rags to riches story of Fazioli pianos.

Roberto Prosseda- Paolo Fazioli – Sandro Cappelletto.

Paolo Fazioli was born in Rome in 1944, into a family of furniture makers. In 1969, he graduated from La Sapienza University in Rome with a degree in mechanical engineering, and received a diploma in piano at the G. Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro in 1971, where he studied under Sergio Cafaro. In the same period, he also earned a master’s degree in music composition at the Academy of St. Cecilia, where he studied with the composer Boris Porena.In the meantime, his older brothers took over the family business: a factory producing office furniture, using rare and exotic woods such as teak, mahogany and rosewood. Paolo Fazioli joined the company as well; however, he never gave up on pursuing his dream of building the world’s finest grand pianos. Thus, at the end of the 1970s, the Fazioli Piano Factory was realized within the furniture plant in Sacile, about 40 miles north of Venice.

Giovanni Bertolazzi with Paolo Fazioli

A fascinating story but one that had to be cut short as the final pianist to play today was one of the finest pianists of his generation having just been a top prize winner in the oldest of all piano competitions:the Liszt Competition in Budapest.The winner of the first piano competition in 1933 was Annie Fischer.And it was all Liszt that he offered today. Bhttps://youtu.be/IiQUTQEqv20

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2020/10/25/giovanni-bertolazzi-a-star-shining-brightly-at-the-presidents-palace-rome/. I have written many times about this remarkable young artist since I first heard him in the Busoni competition in 2019 and I immediately rang Roberto Prosseda to ask if he knew who he was and who he studied with.

Performances in which musicianship,intelligence,showmanship and total mastery combined to keep the audience enthralled.From the passionate outpourings and ravishing colours of Tristan to the the sheer exhilaration and theatricality of the Dante Sonata.The subtle colours of Chasse Neige and finally the pure animal excitement of the 12th Rhapsody.Encores of Vecsey/Cziffra :Valse Triste (it is Cziffra’s centenary year) and Bellini/Thalberg :Casta Diva (that he had learnt especially to play in Teatro Bellini last night)brought this final recital to brilliant end.

Giovanni’s remarkable teacher Epifanio Comis in Catania where he studies and where he was celebrated on Saturday with a recital in the magnificent Teatro Bellini

I wish I had had time to attend the Cremona Music Award to Enrico Pieranunzi or the presentation of Massimo Fargnoli’s autobiography or Sandro Cappelletto’s book of Mozart’s travels in Italy but there was only time left to hear the end of the presentation recital of the CD ‘Caro Bottesini

Some phenomenal unbelievable acrobatics and virtuosity on the double bass with Alberto Bocini.Together with Alessandra Ammara who followed every twist and turn with great artistry.They ravished excited and seduced us with all the style of the great bel canto singers of the past.Except this was just one double bass and one piano……….all the fun of the Circus but with what extraordinary artistry.A wonderful end to a weekend of pure magic.

Farewell aperitivo in the cathedral square fast turned into a farewell in music thanks to Roberto Prosseda and his remarkable friends.

A final farewell with an improvised jam session in our favourite restaurant with Roby Lakatos,Enrico Pieranunzi and friends letting their hair down at the end of a memorable weekend in Cremona

Damir Durmanovic the complete musician at Saint Olave Tower Hill

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/06/16/damir-durmanovic-a-musical-genius-at-work/

Damir Durmanovic playing at Saint Olave’s. I had forgotten what a unique musician Damir is.
Anyone that can add embellishments to Chopin’s D flat nocturne and convince you is someone to reckon with.
As he could even make some slight additions to Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz n.1 that like Horowitz were breathtaking.
Improvising between each piece as he linked them together via key relationships into a whole.
Daring to start with a twenty minute Sonata by Vorisek a pupil of Hummel and making you wonder why we have not seen it on other programmes before.


A wonderful sense of balance made this Bosendorfer happier than it has ever been in lesser hands.
And what hands!
Like a well oiled orchestra with sounds that poured effortlessly from his ten extraordinary fingers.A unique musical personality convinced as he is convincing -like a breath of fresh air in this rather overcrowded profession.
Not at all a showman as he ran on and off the platform as fast as he could but someone who comunes and lives in a world of music sharing his secret world with us

Jan Václav Hugo Voříšek 11 May 1791, in Vamberk Bohemia– 19 November 1825, in Vienna As a child prodigy he started to perform publicly in Bohemian towns at the age of nine.His father taught him music, encouraged his playing the piano and helped him get a scholarship to attend the University if Prague ,where he studied philosophy. He found it impossible to obtain sufficient work as a musician in Prague, so in 1813 at the age of 22, Voříšek moved to Vienna to study law and in Vienna he was able to greatly improve his piano technique under Hummel but once more failed to gain full-time employment as a musician.In 1814, as he was starting to compose, he did indeed meet Beethoven in Vienna. He also met other leading musicians there, including the composers Spohr,Moscheles,Hummel, and especially Schubert with whom he became fast friends.He completed his law studies in 1821 and was appointed barrister to the Court Military Privy Councillor, for whom he mainly drafted legal documents. But in 1822, he at last found musical employment as second court organist and ended his legal career. He was appointed first organist in 1824.The first recorded use of impromptu as a musical term occurred in 1817, in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, an idea of the publisher to describe a piano piece by Voříšek. His Impromptus Op. 7 were published in 1822, pieces known to his friend Schubert who subsequently used the description for several sets of music for piano, as did Chopin and numerous other composers.In 1823-24, like Schubert, he was one of the 50 composers to contribute a variation on the same waltz by Anton Diabelli for the on which Beethoven composed his 33 variations op 120.

The beautiful oasis of Saint Olave

KaJeng Wong – a master at Milton Court

Beethoven Sonata in B flat op 106 ‘Hammerklavier’ Allegro ; Scherzo,Assai vivace;Adagio sostenuto;Largo-Allegro-Allegro risoluto

Rachmaninoff.Etudes-tableaux op. 33 no. 2
Moment musicaux op. 16 no. 4
Preludes op. 32 no. 10
Preludes op. 32 no. 5
Moment musicaux op. 16 no. 6

Liszt Hungarian rhapsody no. 12

Rachmaninoff preludes op 32 no. 12
Preludes op. 32 no. 13

A master at Milton Court.Ka Jeng Wong astonished this morning in London having amazed in Cremona on Saturday
A Hammerklavier at 10 am to just a handful of people but he played with total concentration as the mammoth work was etched out with masterly control and sense of balance.With all his astonishing mastery I was surprised he opened with two hands but as it was 10 am all is overlooked with an understanding that Serkin would not have shared . But that is an obvious comment when the Adagio lasting almost twenty minutes was played with a stillness and range of colours that was overwhelming.It was the same sense of wonder and discovery that illuminated the B minor Prelude by Rachmaninov that followed.Amazing technical mastery but above all a musical intelligence with his youthful passion and even showmanship.It must have been what Liszt demonstrated as sedate society ladies were reduced to wild animals after such performances as today of the 12th Hungarian Rhaosody that ended his recital.
Well almost ended because he saved the poetic G sharp minor Prelude to close together with the mighty D flat major Prelude by Rachmaninov
We were only missing the op 3 n 2 that he had played in Cremona to show the remarkable transition that Rachmaninov had made from his first to the last prelude.
Unbelievable pyrotechnics in the two moments musicaux with his youthful passion and showmanship but above all musicianship.

Thoughts from my notebook:A Hammerklavier of heroic proportions – two hands at the beginning playing safe at 10am!This is not a play safe sonata and the leap gives you the tempo of the movement despite Beethoven’s seemingly impossible metronome mark (Schnabel almost makes it and I just wonder if he risked the treacherous leap too!).There was youthful passion with extraordinary rhythmic impetus and some quite magical contrasts …….maybe forte and fortissimo contrast would give greater clarity to the musical line.Scherzo : the lighter texture created a great contrast to the monumental first movement.A trio of moving harmonic blocks creating a timelessness before the frenzied reawakening and explosion.The silences we’re projected with meaning and menace!The Adagio sostenuto had great stillness and sublime colours as it shifted continuously with passionate outbursts contrasted with wondrous introspection and moments of absolute magic whilst always moving forward carried along on a great wave.A wonderful sense of improvisation as the false start leads to an ecstatic climax and instantly sublime peace reigns with some very interesting bass counterpoints leading to an truly wondrous ending.It suddenly comes to life again with startling contrasts where Beethoven is still coming to grips with his demons before finding peace in his final great trilogy of thanksgiving.There was astonishing rhythmic energy and precision in the Allegro risoluto fugue -a full orchestra at the limit of the possibilities of a mere piano.Some much welcome moments of fleeting lightness were short lived as Beethoven turns the fugue upside down and inside out much like the mastery of Bach in the Art of fugue.It is where no conclusion is possible as it is at the limit of genius pointing to the future.A tumultuous climax before absolute peace reigns with an amazingly evocative coda on cloud of resonant bass notes.

A remarkable performance that I will long remember for its unrelenting youthful passion and energy.I well remember too Richter repeating the fugue in London as he had not been happy with his performance.Annie Fischer standing in for an indisposed Kentner played the fugue as an encore.Serkin was still kicking and spitting long after he struck the last chord.It is a monument that one tries to scale ….some get further than others and KJ is up there with them.

Rachmaninov after that reveals a completely different world with KJ’s mastery of texture and balance combined with a sense of showmanship that really was quite sensational.Astonishment,beauty and magic after the Hammerklavier at 10 am was indeed a remarkable tour de force.The few people present were treated to unforgettable performances destined to be shared in the world’s great concert halls in the future.The wizardry and volume of rich full blooded sound in the Moments musicaux n.4 and 6 could not have been bettered by the sumptuous Philadelphia as was the great final prelude op 32.There was sublime beauty and simplicity too in the ravishing op 32 n.5 and 12.But it was op 32 n.10 that will remain in my memory for a long time – The return – Rachmaninov admitted to Moiseiwitch was the inspiration.And inspired it was today with a luminosity of sound and wondrous sense of balance building up the sonorities with masterly control that evaporated in a cloud of smoke before the beseeching sounds of the final heartbreaking nostalgia of return.The Liszt 12th Hungarian Rhapsody was played with all the showmanship heart-on-sleeve ravishment and animal excitement that had us cheering Rubinstein when he was well into his 80’s.KJ has many years ahead of him but I imagine the young Rubinstein would have had much in common with this remarkable young artist.

Biography

KaJeng Wong

KJ’s career has manifested beyond his training as a professional pianist. Besides performing music, he curates innovative programme at the annual Music Lab Festival as the Artistic Director, organises oversea tours, writes prolifically for publications, as well as hosting his own music programs. Largely due to his ambition to connect with others through music, he continues to surprise his audiences with ideas and projects.KJ rose to public’s attention due to an unexpected welcoming of his documentary “KJ: Music & Life” in 2009, which won Best Documentary at Golden Horse Awards. He spent four years studying under Prof. Emile Naoumoff at the Indiana University Bloomington (IUB) after trainings with Nancy Loo and Gabriel Kwok; participated in festivals such as PianoTexas and Verbier Festival Academy; received guidance from masters such as Menahem Pressler, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Claude Frank, John O’Conor; awarded twice as the concerto competition winner at IUB; proceeded to Semi-Finals at competitions such as Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition, PianoFerrol, Hong Kong International Piano Open Competition, awarded Special Prize at the Los Angeles International Piano Competition, advanced to Finals at the Young Concert Artist Audition in New York. Recently, he was voted first prize and chamber prize at the Alaska International E-Piano Competition in 2018, as well as Third Prize and Special Student Jury Prize at Maria Canals International Piano Competition 2019.At Music Lab, he built a creative hub where he can attempt for concerts of unconventional forms and ideas. Over the years, he has already presented solo programmes exploring themes such as “Seasons of Life”, “Tribute to Death”, “Fingerman – Fast & Difficult”, “Fingerman – God or No God”; chamber programmes such as “Freedom of Shadows”, “Beloved Clara”, “So French”. In 2017, he also founded the trio SMASH with saxophonist Timothy Sun and world harmonica champion, CY LEO. As a local creative force, Music Lab has grown its own festival, celebrating artists with creative thoughts and promoting cultural talents of Hong Kong. Approaching the third edition of Music Lab Festival, Music Lab and KJ continues to develop original programme as well as ambitiously touring cities in Taiwan, Macau, Malaysia and China.

With Prof Ronan O’Hora – head of keyboard studies at the Guildhall where KJ is a fellow
KJ at the Cremona Fiera with Prof Julia Mustonen-Dahlkvist
Prof.Julia Mustonen-Dahlkvist of the Ingesund Piano Centre Sweden
His flamboyant style as Barbirolli said of Jaqueline Du Pré ….’if you don’t play with passion when you are young what do you pare off in old age…………..’with Jackie we were never to know -her career was over at 28 -KJ has the world still at his feet .

Maxim Kinasov – the supreme story teller Steinway Hall – KCT New Artist recital

Maxim Kinasov – Streamed Recital

22nd September 2021 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Franck-Bauer Prelude, Fugue and Variation, op.18

Rachmaninov – Etude-tableau No. 2 in C Major, op.33
Etude-tableau No. 3 in C minor, op.33
Etude-tableau No. 9 in C-sharp minor, op.33

Liszt Après une lecture de Dante (Fantasia quasi sonata)

Barber Sonata for Piano, op. 26 Allegro energico – Allegro vivace e leggero – Adagio mesto – Fuga Allegro con spirito

From the very first notes of Bauer’s transcription of Franck’s Prelude Fugue and Variation it was obvious that here was an artist painting in colours and sounds.A transcendental technique at the service of allowing the music to speak with such subtle beauty and colour.It was a lesson in itself to see this Sokolov type figure hovering over the keys just as the great master himself does.Imperceptible continuous circular movements like a bee hovering around the hive waiting to bring home the nectar to make their unique honey.This was just as Rubinstein had likened style and personality in trying to explain the unexplainable to the very first young musicians competing in his competition.It is a God given gift – the search for beauty and to be able to tell a story in all it’s forms from the tempest,through inferno to paradise and sublime love.And it was all here in Maxim’s extraordinary performances .A vast bare canvas that he proceeded ,without any extrovert showmanship,to fill with the most subtle ravishing sounds.The fluidity of the haunting theme of the Franck was followed by the luminous clarity and full organ like sonorities in the fugue.A sense of balance that allows the musical line to be revealed without disturbing the shape and form of the underlying counterpoints.An orchestra in his hands led by someone who is listening so attentively to every strand as the music takes on its architectural shape and form.A continuous forward movement of absolute authority as he takes us by the hand and leads us through this magical landscape.The reappearance of the haunting theme is in this Bauer transcription even more beautiful than the Prelude chorale and fugue.An ethereal apparition of pure magic that gradually builds in intensity with its obsessive almost Scriabinesque insistence that blows itself out leaving a mere whisper of the magic land we have been allowed a glimpse.The work was written by Franck for organ in 1860/62 and dedicated to Saint Saens ,although originally conceived for piano and harmonium.Both Harold Bauer and Ignaz Friedman transcribed it for solo piano.Bauer was born in Kingston upon Thames in 1873 and Paderewski persuaded him to leave the violin and take up the piano which he did very successfully.He moved to the USA after having made his debut in Brahms n.1 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and giving the world premiere of Debussy Children’s Corner Suite in Paris in 1908. He was a very influential teacher at the Manhattan School of Music and Universities of Miami and Hartford – he died in Miami in 1951.

Maxim’s performance was indeed the sumptuous velvet sound of Ormandy’s Philadelphia but there is also a brass section to every orchestra that sometimes I felt Maxim neglected.Music is made of contrast and we had to wait until the glimpse of Dante’s inferno before Maxim chose to include the brass band too! ’Darkness to be able to perceive light ‘. It is not meant as a criticism and is obviously the choice and sensibility of the interpreter.Volodos indeed plays so beautifully that you sometime wish he would just throw himself occasionally into the piano like a sledgehammer – but can too much beauty ever be criticised ?It is a question of an introvert personality of a modesty and ultra sensitivity to sound allied to a transcendental technical mastery which is quite remarkable in a pianist still in only his 20’s .

The three Etudes Tableaux by Rachmaninov are described by the composer himself as pictures in sound – the fact that he never disclosed what the pictures were we might assume that he did not want to limit the listeners own fantasy.As he himself said:”I do not believe in the artist that discloses too much of his images. Let [the listener] paint for themselves what it most suggests.”Like Debussy where the name of each of his 24 Preludes is printed at the end not at the beginning of each one preceded by dots as though this is just a suggestion of something written in sand not stone!

Op.33 n.2 was of haunting beauty and a subtle sense of balance which gave such luminous sound to the melodic line and created an atmosphere in which the ending was simply a golden stream of sounds like smoke dissolving into thin air.An extraordinary technical feat of jeux perlé of fleeting lightness and colour not least helped by his mastery of the pedals.

There was menace in op 33 n.3 played with total concentration as the sumptuous arpeggios revealed the melodic line in their midst and was re used in the Largo of his Fourth piano concerto written fifteen years later.

Op 33 n.8 was played with turbulence and Scriabin like menace where his control of sound was quite extraordinary as he brought this miniature tone poem vividly to life.

Après une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata is also known as the Dante Sonata and is in one movement .It was completed in 1849 and first published in 1856 as part of the second volume of his Années de pèlerinage.It was inspired by the reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy and as Leslie Howard pointed out in his introduction it obviously depicts l’inferno with the souls of hell wailing in anguish.It received a remarkably vivid performance from Maxim with a great sense of character from the very first notes shaped with great care before the menacing scales in the base that herald the unveiling of events.There was a gradual build up of intensity shaped like a true musician with a transcendental control where technique and music are fused into one.There was utmost delicacy too in the central episode- Beatrice?-where his fingers barely touched the keys as the colours from the accompaniment we’re wondrously revealed like jewels sparkling as they caught the light.There was excitement,too,generated by an accumulation of sound that became quite overwhelming as the full orchestra – brass and all- was revealed.Octaves that were screams from hell dissolving into vibrant chords on which the melodic line was revealed as if on a magic cloud of sounds.He fearlessly plunged into the final few pages with a triumphant outpouring of sounds which knew no technical limitations.A remarkable performance in which every detail of the score had been scrupulously incorporated into a fantasy world that more than explains the composers own title of Fantasia quasi Sonata

The Piano Sonata in E flat minor Op.26 was written by Samuel Barber in 1949 for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the League of Composers aimed at promoting new American works . It was commissioned by Irving Berlin and Richard Rodgers and first performed by Vladimir Horowitz in Havana, Cuba, on December 9, 1949, followed by performances in Cleveland and Washington, DC,before presenting the work at Carnegie Hall on January 23, 1950.It was received with overwhelming critical acclaim and has been part of the piano repertoire ever since.It is a complex work in four movements and although extremely difficult technically , the sonata is much more than a virtuosic showpiece. Barber integrated many 20th century musical ideas into the sonata, including extended chromaticism and tone rows.Pungent rhythms alternate with mystery and menace in the first movement and the second, Allegro vivace a perpetuum mobile played with startling rhythmic energy to the final bars thrown off with transcendental lightness.The subtle beauty of the Adagio mesto was played with such extraordinary colouring and a sense of architectural shape constantly moving forward with great intensity .The Fugue showed all his amazing agility in a ceaselessly busy embroidery of notes of transcendental difficulty.

A New Artist recital is offered to selected young artists to introduce themselves to the Keyboard Trust and the public .A programme that is varied,imaginative and thought provoking is suggested which is exactly what Maxim so valiantly and superbly offered today.As Leslie Howard remarked in his after concert discussion with the artist it is a pity that there was no live audience to give him the standing ovation that he so obviously deserved.

Maxim Kinasov is an award-winning solo and chamber musician who performs a wide range of repertoire from Bach to Shostakovich. Born in Moscow, he began piano lessons at the age of five, making his concerto debut at the age of nine and his recital debut a year later.Awarded a scholarship, he obtained his Bachelor of Music degree with Distinction from Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Conservatoire. His teachers there included Sergei Dorensky, Nikolai Lugansky, Pavel Nersessian and Andrei Pisarev, who are his greatest musical influences.During his studies, he won several music competitions including Second Prize and Audience Prize at the 2015 International Gian Battista Viotti Piano Competition in Vercelli, Italy, Grand Prix and Special Cuomo Foundation Prize at the 2014 International Chopin Piano Competition in Rome and Grand Prix, First Prize and Special Prize ‘For the best performance of a work by Tchaikovsky’ at the 2013 International Konstantin Igumnov Piano Competition for Young Pianists in Lipetsk, Russia.In 2019 Maxim completed his Master of Music in Performance degree, also with Distinction, at the Royal Northern College of Music in the class of Ashley Wass, supported by a Leverhulme Arts Scholarship. Last year he studied on the International Artist Diploma course at the RNCM, supported by the FM Wright Piano Award. Now he is studying on the Postgraduate Diploma Advanced Studies course at the RNCM, supported by the Anderson Powell Prize, and the Helen Rachel Mackaness Charitable Trust.In 2018, Maxim won the RNCM’s most prestigious award, the Gold Medal and played in the Gold Medal Winners concert at Wigmore Hall in the Spring of 2019. He most recently won First Prize and Special Jury Mention at the Cantù International Piano and Orchestra Competition (Italy, 2019), Runner-up Prize at the Bromsgrove International Musicians Competition (2019, United Kingdom), and Second Prize and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Prize at the 2019 Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition.In April 2020 Maxim has been named as an Artist of the Month of the Talent Unlimited Music Charity and in May won an Ian Fleming Award at the Help Musicians Postgraduate Awards. Also, he was selected as a Kirckman Concert Society Artist for 2019-20 and played his full-length solo debut at Wigmore Hall in October 2019.Maxim has been a soloist of the St Petersburg House of Music since 2012 and has performed in prestigious venues across Russia, Italy, Spain, UK, Brazil and US, including Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Bridgewater Hall and the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire. He has performed internationally with orchestras including the St Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Teatro Carlo Felice, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and The Hallé, among others.At the invitation of Nikolai Lugansky Maxim took part in the 35th International Rachmaninov Music Festival in Tambov, Russia (2016). Other festival appearances include the ‘Gathering Friends’ International Music Festival at the Moscow Conservatory, South Downs Summer Music Festival in Alfriston, Chester Music Festival, Battle Festival and Hastings International Piano Digital Festival.As a chamber musician, Maxim won the 6th International Sergei Taneyev Chamber Ensembles Competition in Kaluga, Russia (First Prize, Special Tatiana Gaydamovich Award and Special Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory Prize ‘For the best performance of a work by Taneyev’, 2017) and has worked with Henk Guittart of the Schoenberg Quartet and Alexander Bonduriansky of the Moscow Trio.Maxim has broadcast on Italian TV channels TG2 RAI and TGVercelli, and on BBC Radio 3.

This is the free link to the concert please feel free to make a donation that will enable other remarkable musicians to perform in KCT venues

https://youtu.be/WyVos6oiQNQ

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.

https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/4535#!/DonationDetails

Any contributions will go towards creating new performing opportunities for these remarkable young musicians at the start of their careers,

Thank you and best wishes from The Keyboard Trust for Young Professional Performers
30th Anniversary Year
Patron: Sir Antonio Pappano

Rokas Valuntonis pianistic perfection at St Mary’s

Tuesday 28 September 3.00 pm

 

Schumann: Kinderszenen Op 15

Chopin: Etudes Op 10

Gershwin: 3 preludes

Here is the HD link https://youtu.be/MtUFETMWAgA

Miracles do not often occur but today at St Mary’s a light was shining brightly as we were treated to such wondrous playing of total mastery that I was reduced to tears by the sheer perfection and beauty.
Not since Geza Anda have I heard such luminous sound and technical mastery allied to a musical imagination that brought everything so vividly to life.
I sat mesmerised listening to pieces I have known all my life as though for the first time as streams of poetical sounds flowed from his fingers with such well oiled ease.
Kinderszenen was unbelievably beautiful as each of the thirteen episodes was revealed with a sheen of sound that bound them into a wondrous whole.Chopin studies,that as he said , were a collection of jewels hidden in technical difficulties.Poetry for those that can master the difficulties , full of colour and magical sounds.
Gershwin played like Art Tatum in some dive in New York where all the great pianist used to go to marvel.
And marvel we did today.
There is only one word to describe what we heard today …sensational.

First edition title page

Schumann wrote 30 movements for this work but chose 13 for the final version of 1838.The unused movements were later published in Bunte Blatter op.99 and Albumblatter op 124.He initially intended to publish Kinderszenen together with Novelletten op 21 where the shared literary theme is suggested by the original title Kindergeschichten (Children’s Tales). He told his wife Clara that the “thirty small, droll things”, most of them less than a page in length, were inspired by her comment that he sometimes seemed “like a child”. He described them in 1840 as “more cheerful, gentler, more melodic” than his earlier works.

From the very first liquid notes we were immediately transported into a magic world of wondrous sounds and eloquence.The final piece is called the Poet Speaks but it was apparent from the very first note,and throughout the recital of short pieces,that each one was a jewel that was made to sparkle and shine,whisper and shout with loving care, as this young man delved deeply into the soul of each piece with a transcendental mastery of sound that was mesmerising.I remember Shura Cherkassky telling me that he did not think that young pianists listen to themselves – I just wish he could have been here today! https://youtu.be/QsEfoSCfJ1s

‘Of foreign lands and peoples’was played very slowly and simply with his extraordinary sense of balance that let the melody shine out above a whispered flowing accompaniment – sometimes the melodic line and accompaniment get mixed up at the end of the phrase but not for an artist who is listening like a Gerald Moore as he accompanies a Schwarzkopf or a de Los Angeles!There was charm and character as he deliberately played with the dotted rhythm in such a teasing way – ‘a curious story’ indeed as it alternated with exquisite legato comments.The feather light jeux perlé of ‘Blind man’s bluff’was not the usual explosion we so often hear but a child creeping and peeping into every corner.It led so naturally into the gentle ‘Pleading child’ who was ‘Happy enough’as the child obviously awoke amidst magic colours and sounds.A pompous ‘Important event’ but always within the context of the overall architectural shape of this fairy story.It is,after all, a dream as his exquisite sense of meaning ,full of shape and style,gave great delicacy to this most beautiful of pieces-‘Traumerei’.Creeping in to be ‘by the Fireside’ with its wondrously delicate ending before being interrupted by the ‘Knight on the hobby horse’ so deliberately careful as it rocked gently to and fro.Things we’re now getting ‘Almost too serious’ with its wondrous syncopated melodic line – as he hinted at the beautiful tenor counterpoint at the end.His mastery of balance gave such meaning to the ‘frightening’ interruptions as the melodic line passed from treble to tenor then bass as if by magic.With such sublime beauty and delicacy it is hardly surprising that the ‘Child falls asleep ‘ was dreaming of all these wonders that have appeared from the opening magic of foreign lands to paradise .There was a sublime ending before leading quite simply to the ‘Poet speaks’ played such simple beauty and subtle wisdom.A quite extraordinary performance that I have only once heard equalled by Guiomar Novaes

The first set of Études was published in 1833 (although some had been written as early as 1829). Chopin was twenty-three years old and already famous as a composer and pianist in the salons of Paris, where he made the acquaintance of Franz Liszt. Subsequently, Chopin dedicated the entire opus to him – “à mon ami Franz Liszt” .They are generally thought to be not quite as poetic as the second book op 25.Rokas today showed us just how much poetry there is in this first book hidden behind transcendental technical difficulties.The difficulties just disappeared in Rokas’s hands as he himself had said that his lockdown project had made him realise just how much poetry there is in these 12 miniature tone poems.With a circle of tonality that links them into a whole ,making the 6th study the focal point in the complete architectural conception.And it was this study above all the others that received a quite remarkably poignant performance of aching beauty.In the key of E flat minor and played with a subtle sense of shape and flexibility as it spoke so eloquently with such luminosity and intensity.It is like the 16th variation of Bach’s Goldberg -the real centre point of a great arch.The first study was a series of shifting harmonies in which neither the great anchor of the bass or the filigree accompaniment of the treble were given a priority but the shifting harmonies they produced were shaped into great arches of sound.The second study of chromatic scales in the right hand was played with such delicacy with the same irresistible lilt that I have never forgotten from the hands of Jan Smeterlin over fifty years ago.

Smeterlin had studied with Godowsky who had written fifty three studies based upon Chopin’s studies.It is interesting to note in the introduction to these studies that their aim is to develop ‘the mechanical,technical and musical possibilities of piano playing,and to expand the peculiarly adapted nature of the instrument to polyphonic,polyrhythmic and polydynamic work ,and to widen the range of it’s possibilities in tone colouring’.Anyone who has had the fortune to hear Shura Cherkassky play the sixth study for the left hand alone will realise what subtle shading and colour can be found by true masters of the instrument.It was just this mastery that was quite breathtaking today from Rokas as one sparkling jewel linked with another to be crowned by the final great added octave C at the end of the final ‘Revolutionary’ study.In the eleventh there were sounds woven in the air with the melodic line floating on a continuous harp like accompaniment.The acciaccaturas so clear were helped by the resonance he gave to the deep bass notes as it drew to a coquettishly delicate ending.Chopin’s very meticulous phrasing in the tenth study I have only heard so clearly and poetically realised from Geza Anda.This was preceded by the dark seriousness of the ninth played with a wonderful sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to float on a wave of sound.The absolute clarity of the ornaments incorporated into the return of the opening melody had me searching in the score as I had never been aware of this delicate touch before.Murray Perahia often has me searching in the score as he too illuminates details in works that I have lived with for a lifetime but have passed over unaware of their significance.Rokas showed us today that he has the great gift of illuminating details in scores as he digs deep into their poetical content.The seventh was strangely non legato but contrasted so well with the lyricism of the middle section.The eighth just sprang out of his fingers with an ease as if turning on a tap.Streams of golden sounds accompanying the delicacy of the left hand melodic line .The beautiful third study,sometimes known as ‘Tristesse’ ,was shaped with aristocratic style of such flexibility and good taste.The technically challenging middle section was incorporated into the overall shape instead of seeming like a rude interruption before the continuation of the sublime opening melody.Number four and five were played with extraordinary agility.There was passion and excitement in the fourth and irresistible sparkle in the fifth -the famous black key study that Myra Hess used to play for fun with an orange and two carrots!A quite extraordinary performance from Rokas who restored these often misunderstood ‘studies’ to their true realm of tone poems every bit as poignant as the Mazurkas that Schumann so rightly described as cannons covered in flowers.

The three preludes by George Gershwin were first performed by the composer at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1926. Each prelude is a well-known example of early-20th-century American classical music as influenced by jazz.They were dedicated to friend and musical advisor Bill Daly.He originally planned to compose 24 preludes for this group of works but the \number was reduced to seven in manuscript form, and then reduced to five in public performance, and further decreased to three when first published in 1926.

What fun Rokas gave them as he let his hair down letting rip as he brought these three charmers vividly to life in great style.There was a full orchestra in the first one with rhythmic energy and a fantastic ending like a rocket taking off as he shot up to the top of the keyboard.Sleeze and decadence in the second, Rokas even added some of his own embellishments as he dug deep into the bass producing sounds of pure magic.A truly hypnotic sense of energy in the last famous prelude brought this short jazz interlude to a truly brilliant end.

Praised for his “liquidity of sound” and “devilish performances”, Lithuanian pianist Rokas Valuntonis has drawn admiration for his imaginative interpretations and striking virtuosity. A laureate of more than 20 international competitions, Valuntonis won 1st Prize at the 2018 Campillos International Piano Competition (Spain) and previous victories include both the International Music Competition “Societa Umanitaria” (Italy) and the Nordic Piano Competition (Sweden). Valuntonis has performed all over Europe, including Denmark, Finland, France, and Portugal, in venues such as Milton Court (Barbican Centre), La Sala Verdi, The Wallace Collection, Lithuanian National Philharmonic Hall, and La Sala Casella Accademia Filarmonica Romana. He has also performed with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, Lund Symphony Orchestra, St Christopher Chamber Orchestra, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, and Panevežys Chamber Orchestra. Aside from traditional concerts, Valuntonis has collaborated with both actors and presenters. His most recent collaboration, with the celebrated Lithuanian actor Kostas Smoriginas, explored the characters and emotional lives of great composers like Beethoven, Chopin, and Rachmaninov. The 2020/21 season sees Valuntonis present solo recitals around Europe in venues such as Lithuanian National Philharmonic (Lithuania), Klaipeda Concert Hall (Lithuania), Harpa Concert Hall (Iceland) and festivals such as Deal Arts and Music festival (UK), Barnes Music festival (UK), Summer of Piano music in Druskininkai (Lithuania). Growing up in Lithuania, Valuntonis studied at the Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy under Aleksandra Zvirblyte, before attending the Sibelius Academy (Finland), followed by studies with Eugen Indjic in Paris and Artist Diploma studies at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London under Peter Bithell. Rokas joined the City Music Foundation Artist Programme in 2017. For his many achievements, Valuntonis has been honoured with the prestigious Queen Morta Award and acknowledgements by two Lithuanian Presidents. This year Rokas was awarded with “Jung Artist Grant” by Lithuanian Ministry of culture.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2020/07/14/rokas-valuntonis-at-st-marys/

Cristian Sandrin – The Imogen Cooper Music Trust

Cristian Sandrin in concert for the Imogen Cooper Music Trust.In the sumptuous new concert venue in Knightsbridge that can boast a magnificent piano and unique atmosphere for chamber concerts.

It is a major addition to the London concert scene with its warm friendly atmosphere and perfect acoustic . Lord Burlington would take his guests after dinner ,to a concert with Handel performing ,to the copy he had made of La Rotonda of Vicenza transplanted into the countryside of Chiswick.Mozart tells us in his letters of going for a ride in the countryside of Chelsea!

This beautiful house just behind Harrods has just such an atmosphere of rare friendly elegance .
We were able to be ravished tonight by Chopin B minor Sonata and Beethoven op 111 separated by C.P.E Bach Sonata in C minor.

Dame Imogen Cooper presenting the concert

Great works that need a master musician to bring them to life and Cristian showed off his aristocratic good taste and intelligence in performances where the architectural line was of fundamental importance.


This in Chopin is no mean feat and it was enough to see how he linked the end of the Scherzo with the mighty opening of the Largo or how he opened the Finale with a crescendo to the rondo that grew ever more in intensity until it’s final ecstatic explosion and triumphant final declaration.
There was sublime beauty too with the intense simplicity of the first movement second subject or the ravishing nobility of the Largo.
The scintillating jeux perlé of the Scherzo was contrasted with the clarity of line in the trio.


Beethoven’s last Sonata was played with great clarity.The opening three mighty declarations played with such weight only to dissolve into magical vibrations before the startling arrival home to C. There were arresting contrasts between water at boiling point finding refuge in moments of sublime repose.The Arietta was played with a luminosity and simplicity out of which the variations evolved so naturally before exploding into rhythmic turmoil and disintegrating before our very eyes .It wound its way ever more on high in its ethereal journey lost in a magic stream of trills above which the angels had the last word.Beethoven after a tormented life had finally found peace.No ritardando at the end of either movement showed his remarkable intelligence as he followed the great architectural line to its inevitable conclusion.

Some of the distinguished audience

C.P.E Bach is a well constructed sonata for keyboard by a craftsman but not the genius of his father.It was played with a innocent simplicity.The seeming solo and tutti in the Andantino gave great character to an otherwise rather uninspired work.The rondo had grace and energy and all the character that Cristian was able to portray.A nice interlude between two master works just made us appreciate the genius of Chopin and Beethoven even more.
An encore of une barque sur l’océan from Ravel’s miraculous Miroirs allowed this magnificent piano to illuminate the room with scintillating colour and ravishing virtuosistic washes of sound.


In the whole recital one was aware of the natural way that Cristian could play with such clarity and simplicity.A technical mastery that knows no difficulties but gives him the possibility to conduct like a great maestro with his ten marvellous fingers replacing the magnificence of a full symphony orchestra.It was refreshing to see the way he sat at the piano and the way that his hands,arms and whole body would carve the great curves of sound out of the piano as a master sculptor would create such wonders out of a block of marble.
The next concert on the 14th October is another great young musician Ariel Lanyi who will be playing Beethoven’s mighty Hammerklavier Sonata op.106.

Dame Imogen after the concert with Cristian Sandrin

Master musicians playing master works is only to be expected with Dame Imogen Cooper at the helm!

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/06/06/sandrin-plays-mozart-simplicity-and-purity-in-bucharest/

Some young admirers after the concert
Celebrations in the sumptuous Stone Hall
Dame Imogen with Oliver Bowring the sound producer and Cristian with Sir Nicholas Stadlen chairman of the Trustees of the Imogen Cooper Music Trust
Mary the deus ex machina of the Imogen Cooper Trust
That after concert feeling

Aliyev -Mather duo at St Marys The joy of music

Jamal Aliyev (cello)
Hugh Mather (piano) 

A wonderful afternoon of music making .Two sublime masterpieces played with such unassuming humility and joy – music making as Jamal has often told me ‘to play with Hugh is the joy of being able to make music without any pressure – real Hausmusik’.

And what a treat for us to be able to hear Amal as he has matured over the years from an exceptionally talented young musician – one of the stars of the Royal College – to a great artist.Such refined artistry without any histrionics but with such deep meaning . I have rarely heard the Arpeggione played with such sublime beauty.Or the grandiose opening of Beethoven’s A major Sonata played with such aristocratic nobility.The sheer exhilaration and heart on sleeve emotion of the Popper Hungarian Rhapsody not to mention the supreme virtuosity in the perpetuum mobile was something to marvel at.I heard traces of Liszt’s Rhapsodies too – n.12 and n.6 so expect they were traditional Hungarian folk songs used by Popper in this showpiece for cello.

None of this would have been possible ,of course, without the superb collaboration of Hugh Mather.Always there with Jamal in every twist and turn – and there were many- in Popper.But his musicianship and beauty of sound in Schubert and Beethoven were something to marvel at.Amazing the activity of Dott Mather – from consultant physician at Ealing hospital to pianist,organist,organiser,father and grandfather.

Behind every great man,though,there is invariably a great woman .His wife Dott Felicity Mather is always there with her wonderful tea and cakes not to say so much more behind the scenes.What a pair they are and how lucky Ealing is to have them bring such glory as they help young musicians reach out to a world that awaits.

Schubert: Sonata in A minor D821 ‘Arpeggione’
Allegro / Adagio / Allegretto


Beethoven: Cello sonata in A Op 69
Allegro / Allegro / Adagio – Allegro


Popper: Hungarian Rhapsody Op 68

Jamal Aliyev was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School and at the Royal College of Music with Thomas Carroll, where he completed his Masters. He is currently undertaking an Artist Diploma at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. In 2017 Jamal made his BBC Proms debut and won the Arts Club – Sir Karl Jenkins Music Award. His debut CD Russian Masters was released by Champs Hill Records to critical acclaim. He was selected by Young Classical Artists Trust in 2017 and Concerts Artists Guild in New York in 2019. He has appeared as soloist with the City of Birmingham Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, London Mozart Players, CBSO Youth Orchestra, Istanbul Symphony, the Presidential Symphony Orchestra of Turkey and the Symphony Orchestra Simón Bolívar of Venezuela. Highlights include performances of the Elgar Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Tomsk Philharmonia, the latter as part of the Trans-Siberian Festival. He gives recitals throughout the UK including Wigmore Hall and Saffron Hall, and records with Fazil Say. 

Hugh Mather studied the piano and organ from an early age, gaining the FRCO and the ARCM piano performers diplomas. He then pursued a medical career and was Consultant Physician at Ealing Hospital from 1982 to 2006, before retiring to pursue his musical interests. He continued his piano studies with James Gibb for many years, and gave countless concerts at St Mary’s Perivale, St Barnabas and elsewhere, as concerto soloist, recitalist, accompanist and chamber musician. More recently he has concentrated on organizing concerts. He has been Chairman of the Friends of St Mary’s Perivale since 2005, and has organised over 1100 concerts there, as well as a further 600 at St Barnabas Church.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2020/11/25/dr-hugh-mather-1000-not-out/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/jamal-aliyev-and-daniel-hyun-woo-evans-at-the-wigmore-hall/

Evelyne Berezovsky at St Mary’s Turbulence and demons of a great artist.

Tuesday 21 September 3.00 pm

Evelyne Berezovsky (piano) 

I was on my way home from the airport sorry not to have been able to listen this time to Evie’s recital live from St Mary’s.I have heard her many times here and in Italy and have always been totally enraptured by her compelling magnetism and total concentration when she plays .She has that God given gift of living the music a fresh as though on a voyage of discovery.She shares her quite unique spontaneity with her astonishment for the beauty she can conjure out of the keys.’Je joue,je sens,je trasmet’ was the title of an article about Shura Cherkassky in Le Monde de la Musique – Martha Argerich was quoted as describing him as :’The man I love’. He often used to say that young pianists these days do not seem to listen to themselves! Cherkassky and Argerich certainly do or did! Evelyne Beresovsky is one of the few of the younger generation that listens to every note joining them together into a musical conversation of such conviction that can bring even the most popular works vividly back to life. I was surprised to receive a message as soon as I stepped off the plane saying she had not been happy with the recital and not to bother listening to it in play back. Red rag to the bull indeed! Bemused and intrigued I thought I would discreetly take a peek…………and this is what I found……………….

Mozart Piano Sonata in D K576
Allegro / Adagio / Allegretto

The last of Mozart’s 18 Sonatas opened the programme played with a clarity and simplicity,so difficult for many,that had Schnabel exclaim that Mozart was too easy for children and too difficult for adults.Here she allowed the music to speak so naturally with an exhilarating effervescence that gave such character to a work that was enacted before our very eyes as if on stage.There were some very subtle contrasts in dynamics and slight inflections that just brought the notes vividly to life.Such luminosity to the melodic line in the Adagio with some very delicate filigree passages played non legato that contrasted so well with the delicacy of the melodic line.There was sheer ‘joie de vivre’ in the Allegretto that was played with an hypnotic rhythmic energy and passages of such ebullience that could have come straight out of a Mozart Piano Concerto.

Scriabin: Feuillet d’album Op 45 no 1

Scriabin: Poème Op 32 no 1

Scriabin: Piano Sonata no 3 in F sharp minor Op 23
Drammatico / Allegretto / Andante / Presto

The little Feuillet d’Album op 45 by Scriabin was full of ravishing colours and sense of improvisatory wonder as was the Poème op 32 n.1 that followed.Played with less coquettish charm than Horowitz it was played with a sense of line and musical shape that was indeed refreshing. These were just two little ‘tasters’ of Scriabin’s world of the ravishment and torment of his 3rd Sonata as he reaches for that star which is his ultimate goal.The opening movement was imperious and brooding with a constant forward movement contrasted with moments of ravishing introspection and delicacy.The Allegretto was played with great rhythmic impetus with a momentary respite in the ‘con grazia’ soon overtaken by the driving rhythms of the return of the opening.An Andante of sumptuous beauty with the melodic line returning in the tenor register accompanied by magical streams of golden sounds.This led to the menace of the opening theme and furious driving rhythms of the Presto con fuoco before the radiant ecstasy of the star is revealed and its final imperious comments.

played with the score which she hardly glanced at,as opposed to Dr Mather who had his eyes glued onto the complex score with the very ungrateful task of finding the right moment to turn the pages!

Rachmaninov: 4 preludes
Op 23 no 4 in D Op 23 no 6 in E flat major Op 23 no 5 in G minor Op 32 no 5 in G major

There was ravishing beauty in the selection of four preludes by Rachmaninov.And if the sumptuous beauty of the D major was momentarily lost in a moment of panic it was nothing compared to the sheer romantic beauty and subtle flexibility that she brought to the following E flat minor Prelude.The restrained opening of impish good humour of the G minor made its climax even more exciting and the mellifluous middle section even more of a contrast.The ending was thrown of with the consummate ease that only a great artist could ever offer.The ravishing sounds of water in the G major Prelude was just the bed on which jewels were allowed to float with such magic.

Debussy: L’isle joyeuse

Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse was played with an alternation of dance and ecstasy.There was great rhythmic energy in the opening with layer upon layer of sound delicately added as a sumptuous melody appears.The dance builds gently ever more frenzied until the final climax of excitement and passion played with aristocratic grandeur until it final bursts into flames.

It may not have been the finest recital she has ever given but her artistry and God given gift of communication transcend any momentary defiance that to a true artist can be so unsettling .I was lucky enough to hear Rubinstein many times in his 15 final years on stage and his was the greatest lesson that could be offered as he would risk all for that magic moment of feeling that the audience was listening to the story you were discovering together.Today when we think we have to know and order everything in advance it is refreshing to live dangerously in the search for utopia. I enjoyed immensely my peek………what the butler saw indeed !

Evelyne Berezovsky was born in Moscow in 1991, the daughter of the eminent pianist Boris Berezovsky. She started playing the piano at the age of five and two years later joined the Purcell School of Music. She then studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London with Hamish Milne, in Italy with Elisso Virssaladze, and with Rena Shereshevskaya in Paris. She has played in public since she was 7 years old and appeared with the orchestra for the first time at the age of 11. Since then she has performed at major venues in London, including the Wigmore Hall, St. John’s Smith Square and the Southbank Centre, and at concert venues in Germany, Belgium, Holland, France, Norway, Russia and Japan, including a recital at the prestigious piano festival in La Roque d’Antheron. In February 2012 she won First Prize in the Lagny-sur-Marne International Piano Competition in France. Following this, she has been regularly invited to play on Radio France, including a performance at the Fête de la Musique which took place at the Olympia, Paris. Evelyne has given concerts and recitals in the UK, France, Belgium, Germany and the USA, including performances at Lorin Maazel’s Festival in Castelton, VA and Steinway Hall, New York.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2020/12/04/evelyne-berezovsky-at-st-marys-a-new-golden-age-takes-us-by-storm/

Bewitched and amazed by Vitaly Pisarenko in Colombia

A recital of refined intelligence and sumptuous piano playing.A pianistic perfection of kaleidoscopic colour and elegance that is a rarity indeed where mediocrity passes for the norm.Here is a unique example that sets a standard by which lesser mortals should be judged .



http://www.pisarenkovitaly.com
PROGRAMA
FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828)
Sonata in C minor D 958 Allegro-Adagio-Menuetto/Trio Allegro-Allegro
FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828) transcribed for piano by FRANZ LISZT
Gretchen am spinnrade Auf dem Wasser Zu singen
FRANZ LISZT (1811 – 1886)
Valse oubliée No. 1
Funérailles ( Harmonies poétiques et Religieuses)
Transcendental Etude No. 12, “Chasse neige” Faribolo pastour
Totentanz (piano solo version)
LUIS ANTONIO CALVO (1882 – 1945)
Arabesco

Some remarkable playing from Vitaly Pisarenko who I have heard many times over the past few years.But in this recital there was all the precision and pianistic perfection that one would expect from someone who had taken the Utrecht Liszt competition by storm at the age of twenty.But there was also a finesse and intelligence allied to a poetic intelligence that made his performance of Schubert’s C minor sonata quite riveting.From the very first opening declaration of intent there was a driving rhythmic force – an undercurrent that was ever present and which kept us mesmerised from the first note to the last.This did not preclude the absolute fidelity to the very precise phrasing and dynamic indications that Schubert had meticulously written into the score of the first of his last trilogy of Sonatas .It was written in the last year of his life when he was suffering the final fatal symptoms of syphilis .The last three sonatas D.958, 959 and 960, are his last major compositions for solo piano and were written during the last months of his life, between the spring and autumn of 1828.Schubert died on 19th November at the age of 31 but his Sonatas were not published until about ten years after his death.I have heard Vitaly’s fine performance of the Drei Klavierstucke also from the last period of Schubert’s all too short life but the performance of this most Beethovenian of Schubert’s Sonatas had the same rhythmic drive and finesse that I remember from Richter many years ago.It is like a tornado that even before the first mighty declaration in C minor you can feel the energy that is about to be released in the opening bars.I remember being overwhelmed by Richter’s performance in the Festival Hall in London and catching the Brighton Belle to hear him play it again the next day!

In Vitaly’s performance there was the same clarity and precision – the extraordinary phrasing in the menacingly quiet passage before the beauty of the second subject that Schubert writes ‘ligato’( his Italian like Beethoven’s was never perfect).The contrast was quite overwhelming as the beauty of the melody,like one of Schubert’s songs was allowed to sing with such eloquence .There was a scrupulous care of detail as it built up to a Beethovenian climax to die away to a mere whisper.The development explodes only to die away to a murmur with the melodic line in the bass so menacing as the seemless streams of chromatic scales accompany this force that leads into the recapitulation.Like Richter ,Vitaly has a phenomenal control of sound – a jeux perlé that was played with such poetic precision and clarity as it passed from piano to pianissimo and even pianississimo.The Adagio was played aristocratic poise with the brooding episodes played with an obsessive insistence that was almost orchestral in its sense of colour where every note had its just weight and place with an overbearing sense of desolation.The return of the theme after each menacing episode was ever more full of subtle radiant beauty with the legato melodic line accompanied so magically by the staccato left.The Menuetto was full of the same Beethovenian urgency of the first movement but mixed with uncertainty .It was followed by a trio of radiance and bucolic pastoral colour.The final tarantella was played with a continuous drive of great character and even humour.There was magic too in the sudden unexpected melodic outpouring in B major before the final relentless return of the tarantella to the final two mighty chords.

The transcriptions by Liszt of two of Schubert’s lieder were played with a sensitivity and a refined technical control .The sheer delicacy of the lapping water in Auf dem Wasser zu singen was something to marvel at.There was a sumptuous beauty of sound as it built to a climax with a wondrous sense of balance and unrelenting flow of mellifluous sounds.Played with the finesse of the virtuosi of another era,where fleeting lightness and subtle colours could bewitch and enchant an audience much more than barn storming octaves.Gretchen am spinnrade was played with the same wonderful sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to emerge above the continuous stream of accompanying notes . Building up to a sumptuous climax and the questioning start of the spinning wheel to the mighty final declamation before disappearing into the distance.

There was such grace too in the questioning Valse oubliée n. 1 played with scintillating rhythmic energy

Ravishing beauty in the shimmering scales of Chasse neige that just seemed to emerge from a distance where it eventually disappeared after passionate outpourings of romantic sounds of quite extraordinarily subtle virtuosity.

Faribolo pastour (‘Pastoral Whimsy’) is the title of a song by Jacques Jasmin (1798–1864) who wrote the dialect poem Françouneto in 1840 and may have invented the melody himself or else adapted it from a folk song. Liszt met Jasmin whilst touring at Agen in September 1844 and improvised upon Jasmin’s romance. Jasmin returned the compliment with an improvised poem which was later published with a dedication to Liszt.It is a beautifully delicate piece and was played with such ravishing charm and beauty before the extreme technical and emotional demands of Funerailles and Totentanz.

Funérailles subtitled October 1849,is the 7th and one of the most famous pieces in Poetic and Religious Harmonies.It was an elegy written in October 1849 in response to the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 by the Habsburgs .It is a great tone poem from the opening brooding Adagio played with truly devilish concentration -the bass notes resonating as it built to its inevitable climax and the call to arms on D flat -fortissimo and marcatissimo as Liszt marks.Expiring to leave the subtle colour and resonance of the bass melody,with the gently placed comment from the right hand chords.There was an aristocratic sumptuousness to the climax immediately giving way to the ravishing beauty of the lagrimoso and it’s passionate outpouring before the arrival of the troups . A central episode very similar to Chopin’s Polonaise Héroique op 53 which after a tumultuous display of octaves leads to the grandiose statement of the opening theme before dying away on a wave of distant memories .It was played with remarkable control and technical mastery,where musical values and architectural shape restored this work to one of the most original and perfect of Liszt’s vast output for the solo piano.

Some of the titles of Liszt’s pieces, such as Totentanz, Funérailles,La lugubre gondola and Pensée des morts show the composer’s fascination with death. In the young Liszt we can already observe manifestations of his obsession with death, with religion, and with heaven and hell. Liszt frequented Parisian “hospitals, gambling casinos and asylums” in the early 1830s, and he even went down into prison dungeons in order to see those condemned to die.

Totentanz in Liszt’s own arrangement for solo piano was originally written for piano and orchestra .I remember hearing Claudio Arrau play it in the Albert Hall with Weber Konzertstuck – both works absolute rarities these days.I do not know this version for solo piano but as played by Vitaly I am surprised it is not more often included in recital programmes . Totentanz (English: Dance of the Dead): Paraphrase on Dies irae, S.126 is based on the Gregorian plainchant melody Dies Iraeb. It was first planned in 1838, completed and published in 1849, and revised in 1853 and 1859.Every variation discloses some new character—“the earnest man, the flighty youth, the scornful doubter, the prayerful monk, the daring soldier, the tender maiden, the playful child.”A work of great technical difficulty played with such mastery and transcendental virtuosity .An ease and clarity that was remarkable with a sense of shape and colour of a true musician.An astonishing display of spectacular piano playing greeted by an ovation from an amazed and bewitched audience.

Luis Antonio Calvo (1882-1945) is one of the most celebrated Colombian composers. He wrote innumerable romantic works for piano in a “salon” style. Most of these works he wrote from the leper colony at which he was confined for most of his life. In the town where he was confined now stands a monument to his musical achievements.This beautiful arabesque was played by Vitaly as a homage and thank you for the series which is dedicated to him

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2019/07/01/vitaly-pisarenko-conquers-st-marys/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/the-supreme-mr-pisarenko/

Yuanfan Yang in paradise

Standing ovation in Paradise
Yuanfan Yang at La Mortella The Walton Foundation Ischia meets the Keyboard Charitable Trust

Miracles are rare but not when you are in the paradise that Susana Walton created in celebration of her husband.

William’s rock a volcanic rock housing the ashes of the great English composer


They are both here Sir William and Lady Susana Walton ,their ashes interred in the place that they created and shared together.
Susana after the death of Sir William in 1983 created a foundation so that their paradise could live on forever as a lasting legacy of their life together.

The Ninfeo housing the ashes of Susana Walton next to William’s rock -both overlooking the bay of Forio -‘Susana che ha amato teneramente,ha lavorato con passione ed ha creduto nell’immortalità’


Lady Walton died in 2010 and in the 27 years alone not only augmented La Mortella as a botanical garden but also built a concert hall where her series of concerts for young musicians is an inspiring venue for some of the finest young musicians of the day. All in the name of Sir William and a lasting testimony to one of the finest composers of the twentieth century.


She created an amphitheatre too overlooking the bay like in nearby Ravello where youth orchestras from around the world could also play.
A magnificent programme of music organised by the distinguished musician Lina Tufano with the whole amazing complex overseen by Alessandra Vinciguerra with her team of dedicated helpers that have all been inspired by the untiring dedication of Lady Walton.

Alessandra Vinciguerra,general manager of La Mortella presenting the concerts just as Susana,her teacher and inspiration,would have done
Lina Tufano,artistic director was trained under Susana is in discussione with Yuanfan and the distinguished Irish architect John O’Connell,a great friend of Susana Walton, who helped her realise all her numerous projects


There is a family atmosphere where every minute detail is treated with such loving care that creates a magic atmosphere from the moment one steps into the wondrous gardens of tropical plants .
The first collaboration with the Keyboard Trust allowed me to accompany Yuanfan Yang to give two afternoon recitals in the concert hall next to the music room where Sir William used to compose.I
had been to La Mortella several times when Susana was alive who was a close family friend.
Susana and my wife Ileana Ghione were both admirers of each other-birds of a feather you might even say.They both had the indomitable spirit that would never think anything was impossible as they reached for their seemingly impossible dream with a passion and business acumen that is rare indeed.
My wife created a theatre in Rome that became a cultural beacon in Europe as Susana had done likewise on Ischia.
Two remarkably courageous women in what was very much a man’s world!


It was in Yuanfan’s second recital that a miracle occurred as he had obviously been inspired by the atmosphere of this very special place.
From the exquisite delicacy of Debussy.La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune played with sounds that seemed to appear and disappear like magic as the radiance of sensual passion unwound in La puerta del vino.This was played with a kaleidoscopic sense of colour vanishing into thin air leaving the stillness and poignant chords of Canope Harmonies mingling in the refined air and the shrill comments of such aching nostalgia high in the distance so reminiscent of the atmosphere created in the sea preludes from Grimes by that other great British composer Benjamin Britten.
But the true miracle was yet to come.
After Yuanfan Yang’s own prize winning composition ‘The Waves’ he gave a truly inspired performance of Chopin’s 24 Preludes.

The Waves – written ten years ago describes in sound a rock thrown in the water that produces waves of ever growing intensity.There were such subtle colours and ravishing cascades of notes very much inspired by the sound world of Debussy with maybe even a touch of Messiaen.A remarkably descriptive work of great effect.

The autumn programme where Lina Tufano gives a platform to some of the finest young musicians at the start of their career


Indeed on the same crest of a wave the first prelude of Chopin created immediately an atmosphere that was to hold the audience spellbound through the long journey that Chopin too had been inspired to write on an island ,that of Majorca.There was such beauty in the second prelude with the brooding murmuring bass and the swirling left hand of the third on which the innocent melody rode unimpeded.The gentle inflections in the fourth just added to the ravishing atmosphere with it’s three sumptuous final chords.The busy meanderings of the fifth we’re played with fleeting lightness leading to the touching melancholy of the tenor melody with its gentle sighing accompaniment in the sixth.A pity he did not note Chopin’s final pedal marking which would have taken him to even more ravishing heights.Chopin knew best!There was grace and charm in the seventh played with a touching simplicity.The passion of the eighth was disguised in a haze of romantic sounds shaped with such care and breathing control and there was some wonderful tenor pointing that gave a subtle pregnant meaning to this sudden outpouring of romantic fervour.There was a rich sound from the very first notes of the ninth,with some wondrous changes of colour and it’s passionate build up of such aristocratic poise .The tenth ,as contrast was thrown off with consummate ease and charm leading to the radiant sounds of the eleventh.Passion and virtuosity combined in the twelfth played as a true musician with real control and shape -the final phrases played with moving dignity.There was poise in the thirteenth – a beautifully shaped melodic line and a middle section that shone like jewels as a subtle duet was allowed to play out so naturally.The fourteenth crept in with is gradual build up before blowing itself out and leaving the field to the heart melting beauty of the so called’Raindrop’prelude.I have never heard the middle section chorale played so poetically with almost religious dedication.

The treacherous sixteenth prelude was thrown of with great virtuosity , swirls or waves of sound of breathtaking brilliance led so inevitably to the two final mighty chords.It was the same virtuosity that he had brought earlier in the recital to the study op 10 n.1 with cascades of notes accompanying the deep bass melody .There were magical bass notes too in the seventeenth over which the melodic line reappeared as if in a dream ‘un sentiment de regret ‘as Cortot would have described it .A remarkably operatic recitativo followed that could have been straight out of a bel canto opera.The mellifluous melodic line of the nineteenth was allowed to hover over the ever changing harmonies as it had in the study op 10.n.11 that Yuanfan had also played earlier in the recital.There was majestic dignity to the great C minor prelude as it gradually died away to a whisper showing Yuanfan’s quite superb control of sound. Subtle rubato in the magical cantabile of the twenty first was followed by the octaves of the twenty second creeping in with passionate fervour.The gentle streams of pure gold in the twenty third only prepared the scene for the youthful passion of the great twenty fourth prelude.Wonderfully shaped the initial subdued passion boiling over with some extraordinary changes of colour before the final desperate ending.
The spirit of Chopin was evidently hovering in the air as each prelude revealed jewels that glittered and shone as they led to the crowning glory of the last prelude.
The final three mighty D’s deep in the bass resonated with an emotional force that was the culmination of this extraordinary journey that we had been treated to today.

https://youtu.be/et3nbeoVL-4


A standing ovation was greeted with Yuanfan asking the audience to take part themselves in this party atmosphere that had been created.
Fur Elise in Scott Joplin style was greeted by Night and Day in Straussian style .
Yuanfan proceeded to improvise on these themes that had the audience on their feet cheering this young musician and the miracles that he had created in this paradise…….

His first recital had included the Haydn’s sonata in E minor Hob XVI:34 played with great character and charm with crystal clear ornaments .The last movement played with impish good humour after an Adagio of great clarity and simplicity.Chopin’s Polonaise Fantasie the second Ballade and the F sharp minor Polonaise were given very robust performances of startling virtuosity and poetry.The Polonaise Fantasie one of Chopin’s last works was played with a vibrant sense of magical sounds from the very first great chords that were allowed to vibrate over the whole keyboard.The F sharp minor Polonaise was given a performance of heroic proportions and the contrasts between the gentle opening of the second Ballade and the tempestuous interruptions was quite overwhelming in its intensity and sheer brilliance.The four Mazurkas op 33 were played with touching simplicity and aristocratic control as was the Waltz op 42 with which he ended the programme.

And so on to the mainland and Sorrento,just an hours journey on the hydrofoil passing by the smaller island of Capri.The opening of a new series invented by the indefatigable deus ex macchina of all things musical in Sorrento – Paolo Scibilia.

‘Homage to Chopin’ on the terrace of the Villa Fondi de Sangro overlooking the bay of Naples.

This was the culmination of the short tour of the bay of Naples before Yuanfan flies off the Paris – the Salle Cortot and at the end of the month to Warsaw where he has been selected to take part in the International Chopin Competition presided over in by the legendary Martha Argerich astonishingly in her eightieth year.

The amazing Paolo Scibilia who fills the air of Sorrento with music ……’if music be the food of love ……..play on!’ and they do,in some of the most beautiful places that only Sorrento can boast.

Yuanfan’s Chopin is not the sickly delicate Chopin of a certain tradition but a Chopin of aristocratic strength.Delicacy,tenderness and nostalgia have their part to play but with vigour,strength and above all respect for what Chopin actually wrote.Rubinstein and Pollini have long been our guiding light out of a tradition of sickly charm and disrespect for the score and a thing called rubato that became,in many traditional hands, complete distortion!

Throwing down the gauntlet with the study op 10 n.3 .One of Chopin’s most played (excluding the transcendental middle section,of course) and best loved melodies ,which even became a best seller song.It was often given the title ‘Tristesse’ which was certainly not Chopin’s as is evident from his indications in the score – an invitation not to drawl indeed

Yuanfan played it with aristocratic beauty and simplicity and it created a special atmosphere on this balmy night with water all around!

There was no terror of the middle episode that grew so naturally out of the first,dissolving into the magic return of what Chopin himself considered one of his most beautiful melodies.The mellifluous study op 10 n.11, the melodic line was allowed to float over the gentle harp like harmonies similar to the study op 25 n.1.The study op 10.n.1 was played with astonishing clarity and a sense of musical line in the bass accompanied by arabesques thrown off with the sumptuous ease of a master musician.

The group of four Mazurkas op 33 are miniature tone poems and part of the 56 jewels that Chopin penned over his short life.Works where he could say so much in such a short space.The first, just disappearing into the heights followed by the stamping rhythms of one of his most popular mazurkas before the pure theatricality of the third (hardly surprising it was used for the ballet Les Sylphides) .The last of the set is one of the longest with it’s captivating melody that returns over and over again after each varying episode.

The three ‘major’ works on the programme included the Ballade n.2, op 38,the Polonaise Fantasie op 61 and the Polonaise in F sharp minor op 44.They were played with scrupulous attention to Chopin’s very precise indications and with an authority and transcendental command that never excluded the supreme poetry or ‘canons covered in flowers’ to quote Schumann.An exquisite flexibility that allowed this ‘bel canto’ to sing so naturally without any distortion or unrelated showmanship.These were great performances of pianistic masterpieces played with love,respect and passion.

The waltz in Aflat was played with scintillating jeux perlé of beguiling charm and grace – the same that was so unforgettable from the hands of Artur Rubinstein.The final comment in the bass just bringing this hour of music to a noble end.

By great demand a series of improvisations suggested by the audience – ‘O sole mio’ was an obvious choice as was ‘Torna a Surriento’.Astonishing ability to play in any style gave him another standing ovation.Ending with his own composition : ‘The Waves’ surrounded as we were in the magic Bay of Naples,surrendering to the sheer beauty of it all.-Torna a Surriento -yes please!……per la vita!

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/07/31/sorrento-crowns-marcella-crudeli-a-lifetime-in-music/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/yuanfan-yang-in-italy-part-1-vicenza-and-rai-radio-3-part-2-viterbofrascati-and-rome/