I have heard Mihai many times over the last five or six years but never have I heard him blaze a trail as he did today with Rachmaninov.The Etude Tableau op 39 n.5 in E flat minor was taken by storm in an impassioned fearless performance that knew no limits.A technical command that allowed him the liberty to throw himself into the fray as Richter used to do with total abandon at the service of his magisterial vision.
It came at the end of a very beautiful but serious programme of two of the most important works of Chopin and Beethoven.
The 24 Preludes op 28 and the Sonata op 110.
I first heard Mihai many years ago in a masterclass with Richard Goode.He had just started his studies at the Guildhall with Joan Havill and I was immediately struck by his intelligence allied to a poetic sensibility in one of the most complex works of Chopin ,the Polonaise Fantasie op 61.
In fact I asked Ronan o ‘Hora,head of keyboard studies, who he was.
Ronan and I had both studied with Vlado Perlemuter who was guided in his youth by Alfred Cortot and so had that poetic sensibility that is so necessary for Chopin.
It is so easy to slip into the so called Chopin tradition of disregarding the composers intentions for what passes for nostalgic patriotism.
Mihai has had the fortune too to be guided by that great pedagogue Joan Havill whose knowledge of the scores is second to none.
I notice too that he has been helped by Valentin Gheorghiu a great Romanian pianist whose recordings of Chopin were some of the first performances of Chopin that I had ever heard.
It was evident today from the very first notes of the Preludes that here was someone who had completely undertood the sound world of Chopin.
Fou Ts’ong used to called the 24 Preludes 24 problems, as each one poses a different challenge whilst architecturally being part of a whole.
As in Beethoven there are some very precise pedal markings that can seem at first sight exaggerated but in the hands of a true artist can reveal secrets that are of the very few.
The first prelude was played as if it had already begun offstage. Beautiful, full sonorous sound with some very telling phrasing in the final few bars.
There was a wonderful sense of balance in the second prelude that allowed the melody to sing with such noble nostalgia.
The trecherous left hand in the third prelude (like the right hand at the beginning of Ravel’s Ondine)needs a perfect instrument to bring it off to perfection but Mihai concentrating on the melodic line managed to shape it so beautifully.
The fifth Prelude wafted in like a magic wind separating two of Chopin’s most poetic utterences.
I would have trusted Chopin’s pedal marking at the end of number six (as Mihai had trusted Beethoven in the Sonata op 110) which would have allowed Chopin’s magical waltz to drift in seemingly unnoticed.
Great passionate involvement in the eighth without ever loosing sight of the line and the nobility of the ninth before the jeux perlé of the tenth thrown off with great nonchalance and delicacy.
The eleventh was played as a great song like the third Impromptu before the onslaught of the twelfth.The great Polonaise type rhythms played with enviable insistence.
The thirteenth floated in with a disarming simplicity on a magic wave that never faltered for a moment ending in a subtle question mark out of which the wind came blowing in on a sequence of overwelming sounds that disappeared to nothing with the disarmingly simple appearance of the so called ‘raindrop’prelude.
Played with a flexible simplicity and a middle section of sudued menace.
The great B flat minor prelude was thrown of with superb assurance and passionate involvement and was the ideal contrast between the
melifluous fifteenth in D flat and the seventeenth in A flat where a wonderful flowing tempo allowed an artistocratic sense of shape without any sentimentality.
The mist of A flat on which the melody returns was beautifully judged even if it might have been better to allow the music to flow more naturally.
The great declamation of the eighteenth was followed by the simple liquid cantabile that followed in one of the most transcendentally difficult of all the preludes.
The great C minor prelude (used by other composers, such as Busoni and Racmaninov, as the theme for their variations) was played with great nobility with full sumptuous sound that gradually melted away to a whisper.The final few bars played with an exquisite almost non legato and a crescendo that led unusually to a delicately positioned final chord exactly as Chopin had indicated.
A beautiful sense of balance in the following prelude that led to great virtuosity with the left hand octaves in the twenty second prelude.
The gentle flow of the penultimate was almost” au bord d’une source.”
The last great Prelude in D minor was played in a very measured way that allowed all of Chopin’s passionate outpourings ,with his yearning for his beloved homeland spread over the whole keyboard, to find their true place in a relentless surge to the last three mighty D’s.
An extraordinary performance from a true Chopin player.
The concert had begun with a performance of Beethoven’s penultimate sonata op 110.
As one would expect from a disciple of Joan Havill it was an exemplary performance in which all of Beethoven’s most precise indications had been totally absorbed and incorporated in a very fine performance.
It was in the Arioso that the Sonata suddenly became part of him and the fluidity and intelligence with which he interpreted Beethoven’s very precise indications led to a magic return of the fugue leading to the impassioned exultant final flourish.
Mihai Ritivoiu was born in Bucharest and began piano lessons at the age of 6. In 2012 he graduated with the highest honours from the National University of Music in Bucharest, the piano class of Professor Viniciu Moroianu, and is currently studying at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, with Professor Joan Havill. He also participated in masterclasses with Dimitri Bashkirov, Dominique Merlet, Richard Goode and Emmanuel Ax, and benefited from the advice and guidance of Romanian pianist Valentin Gheorghiu.
Mihai won the Dinu Lipatti National Competition in Bucharest in 2010 and was a laureate of the George Enescu International Piano Competition in 2011. Following these achievements he was invited to record the Second Piano Concerto by Rachmaninoff for the Romanian Broadcasting Corporation, with the Romanian Radio Orchestra conducted by Gheorghe Costin.
He has since played as a soloist and chamber musician throughout Romania, England, France, Portugal, Switzerland and Italy, performing in such venues as the Romanian Athenaeum, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre, West Road Concert Hall and the Ernest Ansermet Studio. His performances have been broadcast by Radio România Muzical, Radio Suisse Romande – Espace 2 and has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s ‘In Tune’.
Most recently, Mihai was awarded the Gold Medal in the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe Intercollegiate Competition, and his future engagements include recitals at St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Steinway Hall, as well as concerto performances with the Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra and the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra.
Mihai’s studies at the Guildhall School are generously supported by Noswad Charity. He is also grateful for having received awards from the Liliana and Peter Ilica Foundation for the Endowment of the Arts and the Erbiceanu Cultural Foundation, for being the best ranked Romanian competitor in the 2011 Enescu Competition, and, in 2013, being offered a grant by the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation.
It was nice to hear Dr Hugh Mather describe the first part of the concert today as ‘sensational’.
At the end of the recital his mentioning so enthusiastically the carisma and flair of Evie and that she sounds as though she is improvising such is her complete command of the keyboard.
Evelyne Berezovsky had stood in at short notice for an indisposed Lara Melda in a season that includes many of the finest young musicians in the land and it was nice to have the opinion of a real expert.
Infact the only person that one could compare her with is the young Argerich for her improvisatory style where communication and love for music hold you enthralled from the first note to the last.
You may not agree with all that she does but she convinces you in that moment with the way she can make every note speak so directly to every member of the audience.
I had recently heard her in a similar programme and my views coincide completely with Dr Hugh Mather today.
The second half I had heard before and I am glad that the slight cuts I had suggested in the Messiaen brought to perfection her extraordinarily moving performance today.
An encore of the Scarlatti Sonata in D minor L 413 was played with a freedom and flexibility that was exactly like an improvisation with such sparkling embellishments.
The first half was new to me and there was indeed some superbly stylish playing.
Some really exquisite shading in the Schubert Impromptu in B flat that opened the programme.
A jeux perlé of such delicacy and subtle rubato .Every note spoke so eloquently and the ending was pure magic.
Beethoven’s so called poor relation to the “Moonlight” Sonata was given a reading that immediately put it back on the unique pedestal that Arrau would demonstrate to us.
A very beautiful opening that in this Sonata op 27 n.1 it immediately became apparent the title of Sonata – ‘quasi una fantasia.’
A great attention to the detail and dynamic contrasts that Beethoven asks for created the same magic as the “Moonlight” sister sonata op 27 n.2.
The Allegro middle section was played with great rhythmic drive and absolute attention to the dynamic contrasts that made the reappearance of the main theme even more poignant.
The final few bars were played with such subtle artistry that the sheer beauty created belies the few notes that Beethoven spreads over the whole keyboard.
The Allegro molto e vivace was played with the great Beethovenian rhythmic contrasts and if she quite unintentionally mislaid a section it had no importance when she played the Adagio con espressione with the same heartfelt beauty as Beethoven’s third concerto.
The Allegro vivace immediately burst out of this magic bubble that had been created.
Full of sudden telling contrasts in dynamics and a rhythmic foreward movement that was quite infectious.
The emergence of the Adagio before the coda made us realise in her sensitive hands what a genius Beethoven was already in these early works.
It was in the Scherzo n.2 by Chopin that one was reminded of the early performances of Argerich.
I remember in the first concerto with Argerich where one could marvel at the colour,control and fire but could also feel that the aristocratic nobility of Rubinstein was too often substituted by an improvisatory style that was on occasion a little too wayward.
I found the middle section a little slow but when it is played with such poetry and deep nostalgia how could one not be totally capitivated. Her technical command and total authority were overwhelming.
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. She has performed with London Musical Arts Orchestra, Enschede Symphony Orchestra, Hulencourt Soloists Chamber Orchestra, Tokyo Mozart Players, Musica Viva, Thailand Symphony Orchestra and North Czech Philharmonic, and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra.
Mahler 4th Symphony in a chamber version by Claudio Brizi
Mahler’s 4th Symphony with just ten players would not seem possible but nevertheless in Claudio Brizi’s hands it was a quite moving experience.
In the magnificence of Teatro di Villa Torlonia we were able to appreciate all the poetry and musical invention in what must be one of Mahlers most pastoral of Symphonies.
Stripped of all the magnificent excess that abounds in Mahler scores we were taken to the core of the music and it was a revelation.
Das Himmlischen Leben (The Celestial Life) in the last movement was beautifully sung by Ilaria Vanacore.
A chamber music version played by the superb players from the Ensemlbe Roma Tre Orchestra.
It was the first collaboration with the Accademia degli Sfaccendati based in Aricia and run for years by Giacomo Fasola and Giovanna Manci.( this year celebrating 50 years of music with Coop Art Cesten)
Giovanna I have known for over thirty years.From when her father,my bank manager,spoke about his daughter who he thought had quite a nice voice!
Would I listen to her?
She had one of the most beautiful voices that I have heard and I immediately put her in touch with the singing expert and musicologist Michael Aspinall who took her under his wing.
We gave many concerts together and even recorded the music of Paisiello for Orazio Costa’s last work as director with ‘Cosi è se vi pare’ by Pirandello with my wife Ileana Ghione, Carlo Simoni and Mario Maranzana.
Our production that sold out in Rome and Milan and was even seen in Argentina.
Hats off to Valerio Vicari,artistic director of Roma 3 for having the courage to include them in his most varied series of concerts for Roma Tre Orchestra.
A great success for a new collaboration between Rome University Roma 3 and the Keyboard Charitable Trust in London.
Jonathan Ferrucci had been invited by Valerio Vicari the artistic director of Roma 3 to perform in the Aula Magna.
I had spoken to Valerio Vicari about Jonathan Ferrucci and when he heard his CD from a live performance in the Wigmore Hall he not only wanted to include him in his prestigious series but he also wanted to listen live to much that was on the CD.
His programme also included a work new to his repertoire the Theme and Variations op 73 by Fauré.
The Theme and Variations op 73 by Fauré is a work that my old teacher Vlado Perlemuter used to play showing us what a masterpiece it can be when played with intelligence and nobility .Faurè can so easily slip into a rather romantic sentimentalism that has no place with a composer where everything is indicated with such precise detail.
Perlemuter had me tell the public in Rome that the nocturnes he was about to play had been passed down by Faure,with the ink still wet, to try out.
They lived in the same house in Paris and it is fascinating to see Perlemuter’s scores covered in fingerings in all different colours trying to find the perfect fingering for a cantabile with weight that is so much part of an organist’s technique where a sustaining pedal does not exist.
In fact it is the sustaining pedal that can be so damaging to the works of Fauré for piano. It was refreshing to see Jonathan’s scrupulous attention to detail.
The very precise attention to the rests in the left hand accompanying the nobility of the theme gave an almost orchestral feel to the whole and the sudden piano with pianissimo accompaniment was played with the utmost simplicity without any added ritardandi or excess of rubato.
It created the same nobility that I well remember from Perlemuter’s own performance.
Nobility without sentimentality.
I found the first variation a little slow with the theme singing so well in the bass with delicate filigree accompaniment in the treble.Looking at the score I see that Jonathan was absolutely right as Fauré states quite clearly the same tempo even giving a metronome marking.
Well composers are not always right look at Beethoven or Schumann !
I think here Fauré did not want the variation to be played in a virtuoso fashion so he indicated that it was the bass theme that was so important and not the continual semiquavers above!
It just feels as though it should move a little more to arrive at the next variation that is marked faster.It was played very clearly with superb organists’ sense of legato and staccato.Even the third variation is marked slightly faster and it was was played so beautifully with the staccato marcato interrupted by a very flexible expressive legato.
The fourth variation will always stay in my memory for how Perlemuter well into his 80’s would suddenly throw himself into the fray.
Jonathan too today.
Not quite the sumptuous sound that I remember from Perlemuter that was not possible on this rather bright Schimell Concert Grand.
So many beautiful things were revealed though in Jonathan’s sensitive hands.
The great sense of balance in the ‘eery’ sixth variation marked molto adagio, and scrupulous attention to the minute detail of the ninth.
The great sense of syncopated legato with staccato accompaniment in the tenth was technically quite extraordinary and the build up to the great climax was overwhelming.
It left us with one of Fauré’s most poignant statements in his last variation.
A heart rending question mark played with all the passionate involvement today that I remember from Perlemuter.
It is similar in many ways to Ravel Valses Nobles et Sentimentales in which the last epilogue seems to sum up all that has gone before in a great journey of a multitude of mixed feelings.
Fauré seems to have foreseen already in 1895 the extraordinary language of his last great Nocturne n.13 in B minor of 1921.
There was all the tragedy of the first world war between them.
It was a sign of a great artist who decided in the atmosphere created to allow Bach to enter almost unnoticed on the wave of C sharp.
The C sharp minor Prelude and Fugue Book 1 (a rare fugue in five voices one of only two in the 48)
This is a monumental performance that I had heard last summer in London and described above.
The sublime prelude and a fugue of such proportions that a whole world is revealed in only a few intense minutes.It is probably one of the finest performances of a fugue that I have heard (with apologies to Tureck,Nikolaeva,Richter and Angela Hewitt– who is infact an important mentor to Jonathan).
I remember Sydney Harrison who both Angela and I knew and loved so well in our student days,saying that his dream was for one of his pupils to play better than he could.Sydney was not one of the most modest of men but I think here we certainly get his meaning loud and clear.
The Fourth Partita I had heard before in Padua(see above) and on that occasion I had found it a little too fast to allow space for the nobility and above all the sense of dance and song that is so much part of the music as Angela Hewitt has so rightly indicated.
Today nine months later (sic) he had found the ideal tempi ( except maybe for the Gigue that he kept miraculously under control even at breakneck speed!)
The opening had a nobility and sense of precision with superlative ornamentation that only added to the expression and were essential parts of the line and not as is so often the case added because one is supposed to!
The heartrending Sarabande was quite sublime as was the crystal clear Menuet that followed before the magnificent onslaught of the Gigue.
A remarkable performance I like to think in some way inspired by the Fauré that had preceeded it today.
Both Valerio and I had heard the CD of Jonathan’s Wigmore Hall Prize Winners concert two years ago.We had both been struck by the sublime beauty and rigorously authorative performance of Cesar Franck Prelude ,Choral and Fugue but I do not think either of us expected to be swept off our feet as we were today.
Jonathan too rising to the occasion in every sense when in moments of passionate involvement he rose from the seat just as Rubinstein used to do on many memorable occasions.
It was quite breathtaking at the climax of all that had gone before to suddenly have an electric shock injection of energy (of course Serkin was absolute master of this too).
It is not exhibitionism it is a question of being so involved that anything goes to get the maximum expression from this wooden box full of hammers and strings!
It is always inspirational and one can never tire of reading Alfred Cortot’s words (Perlemuter was a teenage pupil of his):
“the most expressive of his pianistic production,was to recall the musicians’ attention to the classical disposition of the Prelude and of the Fugue which had been almost forsaken by the composers of his generation after the brilliant realisations of Mendelssohn.
It only happened later that he thought to join the Prelude and Fugue by means of a Choral….a stroke of genius that humanises without taking away any of its innate dignity but gives it that emotive power……….The expressive beauty of the Prelude,from which,for two times ,rises a fervant and painful supplication overflowing from the heart of the man and from the inspiration of the musician.
The Choral an uninterrupted lament to the eternal imploration of a humanity going to the research of justice and consolation.
The Fugue which crowns the work and seems to emanate more from a psychic necessity than from a principle of musical composition.When ,after the ardour of the crescendo that leads to the paroxysm of a true cry of anguish,the sweet comforting theme of the choral contained in the fluid murmuring of the heavenly harps,appears again,everybody will feel a suggestive impression of repose,of recovered personal tranquility…..
The sonorous exaltation which mixes in a brilliant peroration the triumphant voices proclaiming the divine word to the bronze thrills of the exultant bells will appear as the repercussion of our own emotion.
This is the ideological feeling to which the interpretation should conform of this work of grave and noble expression of a Christian soul inspired by her own God”
Alfred Cortot(conference of 1933)
Cortot had a wonderful way of expressing the spritual content in music.
I remember Perlemuter writing in my score of the Chopin 4th Ballade at the return of the introduction” avec un sentiment de regret” that just illuminated the whole interpretation.
Jonathans’ performance was everything that Cortot outlines in his introduction to his edition.We were immediatley plunged into a magic world of tenderness and nobility – a fatal combination. Waves of sound engulfed us as we were mesmerised by the architectural control allied to extreme beauty of the performance.
There was magic in the air indeed.
After much imploring this young man of deceptively slight build swept us all away on a relentless wave of sounds in the Toccata by Ravel from Le Tombeau de Couperin .
A truly transcendental performance of enormous power,colour and tendresse.
I believe the entire performance of this work is included on his CD.
Ravel wrote it dedicating each movement to a friend who had not returned from the first world war.
In fact a whole generation wiped out…Ravel was lucky to escape as he was an ambulance driver during the war too.
Valerio Vicari was visibly moved today as we all were and he is looking forward to hearing the next pianist Yuanfan Yang from the remarkable roster of the Keyboard Trust in Teatro Torlonia on the 29th January.
A city in love – Cremona Music Festival Part 1,2 and 3
Arriving late in Cremona last night I was immediately struck by the presence of Stradivarius in every shop window and on every street corner .
The next morning in the light of day I was equally surprised to see pianos in many of the colonades in the centre with signs asking to be played!
A short bus ride away and in the exhibition centre there is Cremona Music a three day festival of exhibitions and concerts.
I had been invited by that amazingly versatile young musician Roberto Prosseda who after organising the Festival in Barga this summer had since toured India with his wife with whom he not only shares their three children but also artistically they share their music together.
He has found time to coordinate this festival in Cremona that is seething with energy and talent that I was able to admire on the first day of this incredible journey.
I could admire all the instruments of every type on show and the people that make them ready to help the hundreds of people from all parts of the world that had flocked to play,hear and learn about all these instruments.
There was the managing director of Music Lane in Bangalore who had come to acquire instruments to introduce to the people in his country.
This is his second year and he was sure there would be a market for accordians !
There were many young oriental people choosing wood to make instruments with and in the Piano Experience a series of small concert halls each one housing a Yamaha.Bosendorfer,Steinway,Fazioli and a beautiful Steingraeber,unknown to me even though established in 1852, with a mechanism that can make the keys shallower(Mozart) to resemble the touch of a period instrument.
My first stop though today was in the Sala Monteverdi for a superb concert by Andrea Bressan ,one of the finest of all bassoonists, with a remarkable Igor Roma on a Steinway piano.A perfect partnership that had Igor Roma abandoning the music and playing from “heart” the final pieces by Egberto Gismondi in a give and take between instruments that was nothing short of miraculous.
Jed Distler too in the Sala Cristofori had played so beautifully his own works and arrangements of Thelonius Monk in a series of pieces that seemed to have endless possibilities of colour and subtle shading.
Maurizio Baglini had a full house in the Guarneri del Gesu hall where a very grand Fazioli 308 took centre stage.
Roberto Prosseda had introduced his friend and colleague and explained that the Fazioli piano had the gift of being able to change its character with each different pianist that played on it.
And it was indeed an earth shattering performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition that took centre stage today. The little Arabesque by Schumann that opened the concert was played in a way that mirrored perfectly the “Pictures” that were to follow.
Paolo Fazioli looking on proudly to see his piano roaring like a lion and whispering like an angel in Maurizio’s hands.
It was a joy after such an overwhelming performance to go into the Zelioli Lanzini Hall and hear Bach played so simply and beautifully by Massimo Mercelli on the flute with Ramin Bahrami on the beautiful Steingraeber concert grand.
It was on this same piano that a few hours earlier the 18 year old winner of the Marco Bramanti National Piano competition. Edoardo Mossali had astonished us with his superbly assured performances of Chopin Studies op 10 and the Brahms Paganini Variations Book 2.
Introduced by an ever more genial Riccardo Risaliti.In the presence of the Bramanti family who had dedicated themselves to founding a competition in Marco’s name who had been killed in a car accident at the age of only 23.in 1985.Music was his passion and so what better way to remember him that to found a Piano Competition in his name.Music can give passion and sensitivity to the young and it is to them that the competition in Forte dei Marmi is directed.
The family are convinced that music has the means to bring love and sensibility into young people’s lives.
What better memorial could there be?
A sumptuous Gala dinner after a quick tour of the Stradivarius museum and look at the amazing concert hall where all the instruments are regularly played.
Around my table congregated Richard Stoltzman ,Konstatin Sherbakov,Inna Faliks,Roland Pontinen,Ivan Krpan ,Ramin Bahrami and of course our host Roberto Prosseda ………so who knows what lies ahead in the next two days!
Today the presentation of Valentina Lo Surdo’s book the “Art of Success “….this is the place to be !
Cremona Festival day 2 starting well…..
Fantastic playing from Risto- Matti Marin who unlocked pandoras box of the Steingraeber Concert Grand and showered us with glistening jewels.
A very interesting juxtaposition of Wagner Tristan and Isolde in the transcriptions of Ernest Schelling and Franz Liszt.
Sumptuous sounds and colours that only a real musician could have discovered.
From glistening pianissimi to red hot passion in the span of only a few minutes was pure magic.
The Schelling transcription was very interesting and deserves to be heard more often but it was the Liszt that had distilled the essential essence of Wagner that created the real magical atmosphere where Schelling had been slightly more literal and in the end did not have the perfect shape of the Liszt transcription.
The “Leaves of Grass “ were a series of 12 Preludes after Walt Whitman written by the Canadian composer Matthew Whittall in 2009.Three of these (6/8/9) were played with an amazing range of sound .
The beautiful verses so poetically conveyed in sound.
Here was a full orchestra and the repetative motiv in “Thou orb aloft full- dazzling” was like a beam of light with Steve Reich type insistence but with great bass notes added that gave such meaning to the urgent relentless chime of bells.
A quite transcendental display of technical control and musicianship.
The “Rigoletto”paraphrase was played with ravishing subtle virtuosity .It was wonderful to see the way he caressed the keys in a superlative display of musicianship where the melody sang out with the most extraordinary weaving of magical notes all around.
A quite remarkable display of how a complete technical control of sound and colour can allow an undemonstrative musician to hold the audience captivated in such a well worn work.
An encore of the Romance in D flat by Sibelius revealed all the wonderful secrets of this very fine piano that until today had been concealed.
A rush to the other side of this vast pavillion to hear about the Art of Success from Valentina Lo Surdo.
Success is indeed assured with Valentina …..her book a wonder of very sensitive good sense advice gathered from the past 25 years of mixing with crazy but dedicated musicians.
How to distill but not destroy the very passion that drives musicians to sacrifice hours to their art.
But it is also a profession and needs to take its place in a consumer world .
What place?How to market what you are producing?Never talk badly of your colleagues and they will never talk badly of you!
Enlightened comments from Roberto Prosseda who is an example of how to manage ones talent to the benefit of all.
Immediately after in another hall Valentina was presenting the “Violins of Hope.”
A concert dedicated to Amnon Weinstein who was awarded the Cremona Music Award.
It is a harrowing story of jewish prisoners who had played in the concentration camps during the terrible Holocaust.
Since 1961 he has dedicated his life to restoring the instruments some of which were used to play whilst the prisoners were lining up to enter the gas chambers.
These same instruments are now being used in some of the most important theatres in the world.
He not only restores the instruments but also collects their story convinced that music is the only way to remember.
”The Holocaust is a story of death,but aso of hope,because many people survived and the music was a part of that survival.When one knows the story behind the violins ,you become aware of how they carry within them the same hope.”
A short concert of mainly jewish traditional music that also included the Largo ma non tanto from Bach’s Concerto for two violins.
I managed to catch only a small part of the recital by Eliane Reyes in the Guarneri Room where Fazioli holds court.
Jeux d’eau by Ravel and L’isle joyeuse by Debussy showed how true Roberto Prosseda’s words were when he said the Fazioli had the possibility to completely change character with differing pianist.
In fact it was a very delicate piano that we heard today.
It hardly seemed possible that it could be the same instrument that roared like a lion in Baglini’s Mussorgsky yesterday.
An exquisite performance of a little Waltz op posth by Chopin played as an encore made my dash from one venue to another so worthwhile.
An all too brief appearance to hear the first few minutes of Luca Ciammarughi’s book on the Last Sonatas of Schubert was enough to make me want to buy it especially after reading his last fascinating book about pianists from Michelangeli to Argerich.
An interesting introduction from Roberto Prosseda who talked about the reasoning of Andras Schiff for adhering to the “heavenly “ length of Schuberts sonatas.
I wish I could have stayed but Konstantin Scherbakov was about to play in the Cristofori Room where Steinway held court.
A pianist I had not heard before but of course his reputation was well known to me.
His Tchaikowsky was extraordinarily expressive and noble.
His hands like Gilels seemed to belong to the keys and produce sounds of a purity with a total command but at once of a sensitivity and extraordinary clarity even in the most whispered of passages.
Wonderfully passionate playing in the climaxes but never a harsh sound due to his wonderful sense of balance.
A Chopin both noble and tender,rythmic and free with a great sense of architecture that gave great form to the F minor Fantasie.
A very refined third Ballade, the most gentle of the four great stories that Chopin was to share with us.
A sense of control and balance brought great authority to the climax.
An Andante spianato played with two hands was a surprise but what did it matter when the melodic line was then allowed to float on this magic wave of sound.The mazurka like middle section was played with a naive charm before the return of the Andante spianato.Taking us gently into the Grande Polonaise with a subtle use of the left hand pedal in the orchestral introduction and leading to a Polonaise of great virtuosity allied to a subtle flexibility of tempo but never loosing sight of the overall shape.ù
A quite extraordinary display of playing from a great artist.
It was no coincidence I think that I found both Risto-Matti Marin and Konstatin Sherbakov in animated conversation in the exhibition hall as I was on my way to catch only a too short a time unfortunately of Richard Stoltzman’s clarinet masterclass.
An animated discussion on Best Practices and Innovation in Live Music Organisation brought together a prestigious group of organisers and musicians coordinated by Roberto Prosseda.
Carmelo Di Gennaro, coordinatore artistico Stresa Festival, già direttore artistico Teatro Real di Madrid- Carlo Hruby, presidente dell’Associazione “Musica con le Ali”- Jan Latham-Koenig, direttore d’orchestra, direttore musicale del Novaya Opera Theater di Mosca- Christopher Axworthy, direttore artistico del Keyboard Charitable Trust di Londra standing in for the indisposed founder John Leech – Gyorgy Rath, direttore d’orchestra, direttore principale della Philharmonique de Nice- Frederik Styns, sovrintendente della Flanders Symphony Orchestra- Juljen Toepoel, direttore artistico del Parkstad Limburg Theaters . A lively exchange of ideas that lasted over two hours and was stimulating and useful. ……………
PART 3 – The final day THE DAY OF RECKONING
Cremona Musica last day
An unexpectedly lovely supper with Clare Pakenham the renowned writer and long time friend of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
As I have learnt from experience in Padua on Saturday night all the restaurants are full as are the squares and bars.
We were lucky to find a modest beer and wine bar in front of my hotel where we were given royal treatment and a sumptuous meal with wonderful wine was conjured up in an intimate atmosphere without music!
Clare Pakenham,the sister in law of the late Harold Pinter had come to hear Ivan Krpan and to join her lifelong friends John and Noretta Leech,the founders of the keyboard trust who are helping Ivan at the start of his career,having won quite unexpectedly but very deservedly the 2017 Busoni competition.
As Valentina Lo Surdo pointed out in her brief but ever stimulating presentation, Ivan Krpan although still only 22, is a very serious thinking artist who had pieced together a very serious programme for this morning’s concert in Cremona.
When asked if he would be happy to play on a Fazioli piano he exclaimed ” But I love Fazioli pianos!”
The last eight of Chopin`s 24 Preludes opened the recital.
As with Busoni`s own performance(that alas we only have a fragment of on piano rolls) each one isolated in a world where each prelude was a tone poem in its own right.
It was fascinating how he had dissected each one following scrupulously Chopin`s own indications but where the so called Chopin tradition had no place.
He is a thinking musician and takes you with him on a journey that makes you think afresh about much loved works that have in many ways been smothered by a tradition and style that we take for granted.
The C minor Prelude was played with great nobility and the layers of sound plastered like stones gradually sinking into the sand.
The little 23rd Prelude was less convincing as surely it is a companion to the last great D minor.
Played in a very deliberate unrelenting way with an authority and control that was of a mature Arrau.
A surprisingly excessive use of the sustaining pedal in the 17th prelude in A flat did not quite create the effect of a mist or tolling bell on which floats Chopins magical dream revisitation.
The great octave Prelude and the recitativo were played with a detached passion that made an exhilarating contrast to the chiselled beauty of the others.
His ‘Raindrop’ Prelude n.15 offered as an encore was every bit as monumental as Sokolov’s famous vision.
It was interesting to hear Brahms’ Schumann Variations op 9 where each was most beautifully played with attention to the most intricate indications of the young Brahms.
But I felt that on this occasion it did lack an overall architectural shape and underlying rhythmic direction where the sumptuous liquid sounds of Brahms were not for Ivan’s clarity of vision today.
I remember well Louis Lortie playing the Brahms F minor sonata op 5 in London and in Rome pointing to the Boesendorfer label after an equally masterly performance but with magnificent sonorous and voluptuous sound.
He then went on to play Chopin pointing to the Fazioli label saying that this though is the ideal piano for Chopin!
It was good to see Liszt`s ‘Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude’ rightly consigned to its place as the masterpiece it really is.
It was Arrau who played Liszt following his indications scrupulously and placing Liszt so rightly at the pinnacle of the romantic era.
It was the same seriousness and minute attention to detail that Ivan offered as the last work in his recital today.
A beautiful sense of balance and colour played with passionate involvement but also intelligent sensibility.
Maybe even here the individual episodes should be moulded into a whole which I am sure he would do in a bigger hall with more resonance.
I remember being swept away by his superlative performance of the Dante Sonata last year in London and Rome.
The magnificent Fazioli pianos are ideally suited to the clarity and precision of Bach as we know from Angela Hewitt’s performances world wide.
And it was today the last encore offered to very enthusiastic audience at this coffee concert when Ivan chose to play so superbly the Prelude from the First Partita in B flat by J.S. Bach.
There are no words necessary for all those that were present to see how Bach,Fazioli and Ivan are a partnership made in heaven!
But this was only the start of the adventure that Roberto Prosseda had in store for us on the last day.
Immediately following this recital Roland Poentinen was playing in the other prestigious hall -the Zelioli Lanzini Room -on a very fine Steingraeber concert grand.
It is the hall where I heard Risto-Matti Marin playing so magnificently the day before.
Maestro Poentinen had been in the audience too as Rito Matti was today to hear his colleague conjuring up the same magic sounds in Debussy and Ravel and also in his own etude ergonomique,like Ravel,à la manière de Thomas Newman.
A kaleidoscope of subtle sounds which had immediately ignited this piano in the Debussy study and carried to the end with an encore of the most magical of Rachmaninov Preludes, that in G sharp minor.
As Fazioli is the ideal piano for the clarity of Bach the Steingraeber is ideal for the more impressionistic repertoire.
And this is of course the luxury that we were treated to.
So many great interpreters and pianos together in Cremona in a feast of music.
Exchanging ideas and ideals in the space of only three days in an atmosphere where the passion for music took precendence over any other considerations.
In the same hall just half an hour later I was interested to hear the Chinese pianist Jin Ju who I had heard such wonders from our never forgotten friend Constance Channon Douglass.
Jin Ju is the wife of Stefano Fiuzzi of the Accademia Cristofori in Florence which houses many fine historic instruments.
It was where I found Rosalyn Tureck in 1991 just a few days before she took the world by storm again in Rome with a sensational performance of the Goldberg Variations.
Stefano and I shared Rosalyn for many years as she began so unexpectedly her Indian summer all over Italy when she was amazingly in her late 70’s.
I was glad to be able to whisper into Stefano’s ear after the Chopin Barcarolle and two nocturnes op 55 that Connie had been right when she told me what a great pianist he had married!
I do not know how she managed the clarity and subtle colours on this Steingraeber that had been so ungrateful to other pianists.
Maybe it was her clockwork precision that allowed her great intelligence and sense of style to dominate the rather muffled velvety sounds.Such beautiful things especially in the Barcarolle and such ecstasy in the E flat nocturne.
Of course always allied to an intelligence that allowed her to do the ritornello in the first movement of the B minor Sonata integrating it into the architecture of one of the very few works of this length by Chopin, who was essentially a ‘miniaturist’
The middle section of the Scherzo was so beautifully shaped and the outer sections glistened so clearly now the sun had come out.
The immediate entry without a break into the slow movement was absolutely overwhelming as was the beauty of her cantabile and the shimmering sounds that she found in the Largo without ever loosing sight of the great architectural shape.
The first few octaves of the last movement was all I was allowed before running to the taxi but it was enough to see what a great musician she is listening so attently with a refined intelligence even in the most transcendentally difficult passages.
It brings great nobility to the works of the so called “miniaturist” Chopin just as Rubinstein had taught us.
Unfortunately a problem with the closure of one of the airports in Milan meant I had the minutes counted and could only take in one more pianist Jin Ju, before being whisked off on the two hour journey to Milan..I had to miss Ingolf Wunder in the Steinway room and the award ceremony for Salvatore Accardo and much else too……………
Next year I will be back with the sounds of the missed Finale Presto non tanto ringing in my ears…..
The similarity between Tyler Hay and Jorge Bolet does not stop only at their military bearing.It is also their transcendental playing of great clarity and beauty allied to a sensibility that belies their outward appearance.
Of course their early training gave them both the possibility to follow their own musical paths without limits.
Bolet with the school of David Stapleton and Tyler with that of Tessa Nicholson.
I do not think it a coincidence that Mark Viner ,who is fast making a great name for himself with his recordings of Thalberg,Alkan ,Chaminade and other virtuosi from a lost age, was also from the same school as is that other up and coming virtuoso Alim Beisembayev.
And a few weeks later a homage to John Ogdon, playing works from his new CD of the inedited compositions of a genius who is only now gaining recognition as a composer with the 200 or more compositions still in manuscript housed in the Royal Northern College of Music archives.
It is quite remarkable the versatily and ease with which he not only dispatches the most transcendentally difficult scores but also the beauty and style he brings to those well trodden and much loved too.
In St James’s ,one of the most intimate and inviting of all London churches, Tyler was invited by the Park Lane Group to perform works by Beethoven,Kalkbrenner and Gershwin ending with an exhilarating and liberating performance of “Kitten on the Keys” by Zez Confrey .
From the very first imposing chords of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata op 13 it was quite clear that we were in presence of a great musical personality.The aristocratic use of the silences to make each chord so much more poignant added to a most delicate sense of balance.
I would have taken a little more time over the turns before the chromatic scale that takes us into the Allegro di molto e con brio.
Played with a clarity and unrelenting forward movement even if the duet between bass and treble could have been a little more pointed and relaxed,it was this forward almost Serkin type drive that was so convincing.
The famous Adagio cantabile was indeed played on “wings of song” with such a beautiful sense of balance with a wonderful sense of legato.
He managed to keep the rhythmic flow but with a flexibility and expressiveness that never became sentimental.
Infact the flow lasted right until the final notes without any ritardando or sugary rubato.
The Rondo was played with an almost Mozartian purity and simplicity.The contrasting episodes played with an ease and sense of melodic legato,the spiky staccato breaking the spell in true Beethovenian style.
The Kalkbrenner Variations based on the B flat mazurka of Chopin I had heard from Tyler on a period instrument that lacked the luminosity and grandeur that today we were treated to on a fine modern day Fazioli concert grand.
The sheer beauty of the cantabile and the delicious fiortiore that cascaded like drops of water around the sumptuous melodic line was something to marvel at indeed.
He made the piano sound like a truly‘Grand’ piano with such a wonderfully warm and rich sonority from which emerged the Chopin mazurka as never before.
The different variations of transcendental difficulty were played with a charm and ease that was quite ravishing.
Maybe Kalkbrenner was right when he suggested that Chopin should study with him for three years to acquire a true technique!
He was after all Chopin’s favourite pianist that he dedicated his Concerto in E minor op 11 to.
Such were the thoughts that passed through my mind as I was seduced and ravished by this young man’s performance as I had been years ago by Bolet and Cherkassky.
The precision of the repeated notes in an explosion of fireworks that brought us to the conclusion was quite breathtaking.
Well now the cat was let out of the bag and the sleezy opening trill and insinuating melody at the opening of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue had an unusually full hall hanging on to every one of the magical notes that Tyler was throwing in their direction.
From the sumptuous big band sounds to the most intimate it was a continuous kaleidoscope of jewels one after the other that held us all spellbound.
Such control and infectious sense of rhythm and the added bass notes at the end were of piano playing of another era.
An ovation from an audience that had not been expecting such wondrous fun.
It led to the cat well and truly being let out of the bag with a racy performance of Zez Confrey’s 1921 classic “Kitten on the Keys.”
I doubt Art Tatum himself could have matched this and the glissandi up and down the keyboard had the audience on their feet in spontaneous admiration for this remarkable young man
This is the third occasion that Tommaso Carlini has been invited to St Mary’s but the first time I have had a chance to hear him play.
He even played all the Liszt Transcendental Studies in Rome ….when I was in the UK!
A very interesting mainly virtuoso programme very well introduced to a public sadly diminished as the skies opened up today and Summer suddenly became Winter.
It was however the encore that showed off his best qualities, where beauty and range of sound combined with a sense of architecture were poetically portrayed in the first of Liszt’s Years of Pilgrimage in Swizerland – La Chappelle de Guillaume Tell (William Tell‘s Chapel) in C major – For this depiction of the Swiss struggle for liberation Liszt chooses a motto from Schiller as caption, “All for one – one for all.” A noble passage marked lento opens the piece, followed by the main melody of the freedom fighters. A horn call rouses the troops, echoes down the valleys, and mixes with the sound of the heroic struggle.
Some full rich sounds allied to a beautiful sense of shape and colour.
The recital had begun with a little known sonata by C.P.E Bach.
Three short movements played very clearly with some imitation from a telling use of the soft pedal .Very sparse use of the sustaining pedal meant there was very little actual colour or real weight or shape although there was scintillating passage work played with great elan like with a Scarlatti Sonata.
Thalberg’s Gran Caprice sur “La Sonnambula” op 47 is one of the finest of all of Thalberg’s vast output.Clara Schumann noted in her diary:”On Monday Thalberg visited usand played to the delightment beautiful on my piano. An even more accomplished mechanism than his does not exist, and many of his piano effects must ravish the connoisseurs. He does not fail a single note, his passagescan be compared to rows of pearls, his octaves are the most beautiful ones I ever heard. Mendelssohn’s student Horsley wrote of the meeting of his teacher and Thalberg:”We were a trio, and after dinner Mendelssohn asked Thalberg if he had written anything new, whereupon Thalberg sat down to the piano and played his Fantasia from the “Sonnambula” … At the close there are several runs of Chromatique Octaves, which at that time had not previously heard, and of which peculiar passages Thalberg was undoubtedly the inventor. Mendelssohn was much struck with the novel effect produced, and greatly admired its ingenuity … he told me to be with him the next afternoon at 2 o’clock. When I arrived at his study door I heard him playing to himself, and practising continually this passage which had so struck him the previous day. I waited for at least half an hour listening in wonderment to the facility with which heapplied his own thoughts to the cleverness of Thalberg’s mechanism, and then went into the room. He laughed and said: ‘Listen to this, is it not almost like Thalberg?”
A fascinating world that Tommaso Carlini showed us today as he took us into the era of the great Parisian salons where Chopin,Liszt,Alkan and Thalberg were treated with much adulation from an aristocratic public looking for ravishment and excitement.
There was even a duel between Liszt and Thalberg where each tried to outshine the other in Princess Belgiojoso’s salon where she declared:” Thalberg is the greatest pianist but there is only one Liszt.”
Tommaso played with great authority, Bellini’s beautiful melody played with a great sense of balance and colour with cascading embellishments of great delicacy.Some really transcendental playing at the end played with great rhythmical urgency and sense of line.
This led very nicely to what the programme describes as a Nocturne on Bellini’s “I Puritani”.It is infact the most poetic piece in a work called “Hexameron” which was pieced together by Liszt with many of the great virtuosi of the day contributing each a variation.
Princess Belgiojoso commissioned Hexaméron–the title refers to the Biblical six days of creation–for a benefit concert for the poor on 31 March 1837 at the princess’s salon in Paris. The musicians did not complete the piece on time, but the concert was held as scheduled. The concert’s highlight was a piano “duel” between Thalberg and Liszt for the title of “greatest pianist in the world.” Princess Belgiojoso announced her diplomatic judgment: “Thalberg is the first pianist in the world–Liszt is unique.”
Beautifully played by Tommaso Carlini with a sonorous bass and a magical melodic line
In fact it was in the more melodic Mazukas op 41 that followed that the 2nd in E minor and 4th in A flat sang so beautifully with great shape and style.
The first in C sharp minor and third in B minor needed more rhythmic drive for this the dance of Chopin’s longed for homeland.
The Vallée d’Obermann followed from the same book of Pilgrimage as William Tell.
A great romantic outpouring inspired by the novel of Senancour “Obermann”, which includes the crucial questions, “What do I want? Who am I? What do I ask of nature?”that preface the score of Liszt’s magnificent tone poem.
Beautifully played with some quite magical moments especially of the appearance of the melody high in the treble register.
Great drama in the first transcendental climax and after the pleading recitativo a gradual build up to the sumptuous climax and explosion of octaves.
The famous Hungarian Rhapsody 6 in D flat was played with all the scintillating virtuosity for which it has become the war horse of the great pianists of past and present.Repeated octaves at breakneck speed
fearlessly played by Tommaso with great panache and technical assurance brought the recital to a exciting conclusion.