Denis Kozhukhin at the Wigmore Hall and Stephen Hough at the RAM

Denis Kozhukhin at the Wigmore Hall and Stephen Hough at the RAM
Dancin`in the aisles with Kozhukhin after Stephen Hough`s surgery
So nice to go back quite regularly to my old Alma Mater where I graduated in 1972 having entered thanks to Sidney Harrison and left five years later with the Gold Medal having studied for my final two years with Gordon Green.
Listening to Stephen Hough referring with great affection to our mutual teacher I was brought back all those years to the common sense and unassuming humility of those hardy souls from the North.

                           Stephen Hough with Anna Geniushene
Gordon had studied with Petri ,a student of Busoni, and radiated a calm and professional preparation together with a warmth and friendliness that was more than repaid by the great pianists and pedagogues that came out of his studio.
Christopher Elton,Peter Donohue,Philip Fowke,Simon Rattle,Tessa Uys,Ann Shasby,Richard Mc Mahon,Peter Uppard,Peter Bithell.John Blakely and many many more all talk still with great affection for the Greens’ whose club in Liverpool was frequented by anyone in the know who was passing by.
Or students invited down as a special treat before an important competition when Gordon taught in Manchester and London but lived in Liverpool.
Never forgotten.
And of course his stories that he would repeat with such charm and glee one was always glad to hear again of Richter practising Bartok 2 and overheard on the house phone by a friend who called and sympathised with Gordon over having such a poor student!
And indeed Stephen today on being greeted by the Clementi Sonata in F sharp minor op 25 n.5 that he did not know was quite happy to recall our other teacher Vlado Perlemuter.
He would not teach any works that were not actually on his repertoire list and woe betide any one that dared .
Gordon on the other hand was happy to know new works and to work on them together with his students.
And so Stephen in what he calls his Surgery was happy to listen and offer some constructive advice to a remarkable student of Christopher Elton,Anna Geniushene.
A surgery that aims to sort out one or two problems of interpretation or technique with the good down to earth reasoning that in the half an hour allotted it would not be constructive or helpful to pretend to offer anything other than constructive criticism.
Something all too rare in public masterclasses that seem too often to be the showcase for the master not the student.
Watch out M.Bashkirov!
Anna Geniushene I had heard last autumn at the Busoni competition where she gave a remarkable performance of Prokofiev 6th Sonata and was one of the finalists in a competition that is fast regaining the recognition that it had lost in the past due to politics.
Today she played with great assurance and real sense of colour and the digital clarity of a Michelangeli.
Mozart himself had warned his sister of the technical difficulties of the over 100 Clementi Sonatas .
Horowitz took them into his repertoire when his wife brought a collection back from Italy.
Stephen was happy to admire the superb preparation but suggested that she had not fully understood the style .
Pointing out the bowing and breathing that a string complex would have given to allow more shaping and less pure digital delight.
Who has studied Gradus ad Parnassum would understand how easy it is to fall into this trap that Mozart had warned his sister about .
Thinking about this dimension and relating this work in an orchestral way was just the right suggestion to add another dimension to this remarkably fine performance.

                         Stephen Hough with Yundi Xu
Yundi Xu played the Fourth Ballade of Chopin .
One of the pillars of the Romantic repertoire .
Pointing out the three main elements in the Ballade and asking this fine young lady pianist to think of a story and to search for all the magical sounds that are in this masterpiece.
What greater story teller has there ever been that Shura Cherkassky who was also one of Stephen Hough’s greatest admirers!
Stephen has been recognised by the world for what Shura had seen and admired in him all those years ago.
The true heir to the great Romantic tradition when the piano was made to speak and tell a story just as the great lieder singers would do with the human voice.
Unfortunately I had to leave early in order to get to the Wigmore Hall for the recital by the winner in 2010 of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. A pianist I had heard a lot about from William Grant Nabore of the International Piano Academy in Como.
Now here was someone with all that remarkable ultra sensitivity to the sounds from pianissimo to mezzo forte.
Something that has rather glibly been described as the Russian sound .
Of course that is ridiculous but it does explain the very early training in the Eastern countries that gives fingers of steel with a flexibility of rubber that paradoxically can give a complete control of the quietest of sounds on the piano .
It can also lead to the most percussive loud sounds that only today’s pianos can take without exploding.
There are many examples of them too !
It was though the complete command of Richter that took us by surprise on his arrival in the west in the 60’s.
Gilels was remarkable and arrived in the west before Richter talking about his legendary colleague who was about to follow.
Richter was unique for his supreme intelligence and temperament combined with a superhuman control of sound .
It was good to be reminded from Denis Kozhukhin of those magical unearthly sounds that Richter astonished us with all those years ago.
The magical sounds in Debussy’s Preludes Book 1 for the centenary celebrations.
Voiles and Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir filled the air with rarefied sounds. As did the desolation of Des pas sur la neige or the supreme challenge of Ce qu’ a vu le vent d’ouest . The sheer tongue in cheek joy of Minstrels or La Danse de Puck.
The magic was there but what was missing and that had been so astonishing in Richter or Pollinis performance of the Debussy Preludes was the complete adherence to the minute indications that had been so meticulously put by the composer.
I remember the memorable performance of Agosti for his 80th birthday in Siena where each prelude he described in words before playing with such intelligence.
This is sometimes misunderstood by interpreters intent on finding the mood at the expense of the detailed indications left by a composer who had after all edited the works of Chopin.
Lumped together for historical convenience Ravel and Debussy as impressionist composers nothing could be further from the truth.
Debussy knew exactly what he wanted with the same precision as Ravel .
He was in a way just more modern in the sounds that he has visualised.
It was just this aspect that was missing in Kozhukhin’s performance .
It was in the masterclasses of Fou Ts’ong who whilst admiring the great pianist was most critical of Michelangeli’s freedom in the same works.
After the interval Kozhukhin really let his hair down and gave some extraordinary performances of Gershwin.
This was his real world .
Oscar Peterson,Art Tatum we were taken into their world with a fabulous technical control and just the right amount of showmanship in the Rhapsody in Blue that brought the house down.
The three little Preludes were played with such an irresistible sense of style I have only heard that slow middle prelude played with such an almost indecently sensuous languor from Byron Janis many moons ago.
Opening this second half of “songs from the shows” were the eighteen hits that Gershwin had put together in 1932 – George Gershwin’s Songbook .
They were all here opening with Swanee and including all the old favourites like Fascinating Rhythm,Lady be Good,’S Wonderful,The man I love ,I got Rhythm and many more .
All fabulously played … can keep the Debussy Centenary for another time ……this was quite extraordinary playing from someone who at last was having fun.
Nadia Boulanger was quite right to turn Gershwin down when he asked her for lessons in composition.
She realised she would just ruin his unique natural talent and flair …Lady be Good indeed.
It would have been so much more in style if instead of ending each piece with a full stop he could have run one into the other. As Stephen Hough had told us in the afternoon that the great pianists of the past would improvise from one piece to another a lost art these days.
An extraordinarily exhilarating second half from a great pianist and above all a great showman.

Maria Garzon at the Spanish Academy in Rome

Maria Garzon at the Spanish Academy in Rome
Maria Garzon at the Spanish Academy in Rome.
Many years ago Carla Bazzini,the agent of Paul Tortelier and Gyorgy Sandor spoke to me about a remarkable new recording of the original piano version of the Enigma Variations by Elgar together with his Concert Allegro and some other smaller pieces.
It was recorded by the young spanish pianist Maria Garzon.
Just recently I was reading an article in All about Piano
and was again reminded of this name.
She had taken part apparently in the surprise 60th birthday concert for Noretta Conci-Leech to consolidate all her work in helping young musicians at the start of their careers.
Seven grand pianos on the stage of a notable City Institution with Leslie Howard and Andrew Wilde at the helm with other well known musicians and students of Norettas including Maria Garzon.
This had been the official recognition of the Keyboard Charitable Trust organised as a surprise birthday gift from her husband John Leech.
So I was doubly surprised and delighted when I was rung up by a Maria Garzon who having got my number from her ex teacher and now great friendNoretta Conci-Leech , wondered if I could help her with a concert she had been invited to give at the Spanish Academy in Rome?
She had been invited to give a recital as a homage to her friend and composer colleague Alejandro Yague who had passed away last year.
A former Prix de Rome and thus resident at the Academy in 1976-78.
A composer and student of Goffredo Petrassi and assistant to Stockhausen both of whom I knew well from their performances in the theatre just a stones throw from the Spanish Academy.
On the programme of all Spanish music was the difficult Fandango by Soler which she was playing with the score and she needed someone she could trust to turn pages for her.
Although the authenticity of this piece is somewhat in doubt it is generally considered to be one of the major keyboard works of Padre Antonio Soler.
The concert opened with two keyboard sonatas in G major and F sharp major and closed with the Fandango.
Introduced by the pianist it included Halley by Yague dedicated to her as well as works by Albeniz,Granados and her friend Joaquin Rodrigo.
An informal concert for friends of the Academy.After a very warm appreciation of not only fine playing but her very informative introduction we were treated to two encores of the De Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance and a charming little piece that had been one of her first pieces learnt as a child. It was not only a great pleasure to meet Maria Garzon but also to be able to be invited to her Music Society in West Hampstead delighted in her turn to help the next generation to be heard as Noretta had done for her all those years ago.
And what a wonder this Spanish Academy is .
Situated in the Gianicolo ,just by the famous Fontanone the overlooks the whole of Rome.
The American Academy in the Medici Palace is just next door and boasts Liszt’s piano.
But here in S.Pietro in Montorio where the Academy is based in the famous Tempietto of Bramante and what a wonder it is.

Focus Baudelaire .The Filarmonica at the Teatro Argentina Rome

Focus Baudelaire the Filarmonica at Teatro Argentina in Rome
Focus Baudelaire at Teatro Argentina with Roberto Prosseda and Nicola Muschitiello
The Teatro Argentina where all the greatest musical events used to take place.
Rossini had the first performance of the Barber of Seville here and the Accademia di S.Cecilia had all their important concerts with conductors like Toscanini and Furtwangler here after Mussolini had pulled down the famous Augusteo in 1936…/
Not much music has been heard here since the move of S.Cecilia to the bigger Via della Conciliazione and now of course to its wonderful new Renzo Piano Complex at the Parco della Musica.

                            Francesca Benedetti and Company of Antigone
So it was good to see a Steinway “D” from the studio of Alfonsi on stage having only a few hours earlier followed Sofocles’ Antigone for the Teatro di Rome,whose home it is these days, with the insuperable veteran actressIsadora Duncan Francesca Benedetti.
The Filarmonica Romana directed by Matteo D’Amico have had the good idea to bring back music into this hallowed theatre with a programme of concerts with artists such as Sol Gabetta,Khatia Buniatishvili and Maxim Vengerov .
Tonight it was the second in a series of five concerts of poetry and music under the title of Focus Baudelaire.
A reading of the original 1857 edition of I Fiori del Male “Le fleurs du mal” in the new italian translation of the renowned poet Nicola Muschitiello.
A born poet of the “voice of truth” as described by Italo Calvino .
“A unique personality the last of the real bohemians on the Italian literary scene” .
It was Nicola Muschitiello who recited the poetry of Baudelaire in this theatre following in the shadow of the greatest Italian actors who have all trodden these sacred boards.

                                          Nicola Muschitiello
The music chosen was that which Baudelaire himself might have heard in 1857.
Five recital programmes dedicated to the music of Beethoven,Chopin ,Liszt and Wagner in the magnificent hands of Roberto Prosseda .
A finely tuned instrument by that magician of the keyboard Mauro Buccitti gave Roberto every opportunity to fill this hallowed hall with music by Liszt.
Nuages gris that strangely disturbing piece where Liszt was already looking into the future .
The beautiful Lento placido that is the third consolation in D flat was followed by two works from the Annees de Pelerinage :Il penseroso and Vallee d’Obermann.
These two pieces from the period that Liszt eloped to Switzerland with the Countess D’Agoult,the mother of his three children .
He was exiled from Paris Salons where he had been the undisputed star up until the scandal of eloping with a married woman.
Thalberg filled that role until the famous duel between them organised by the Princess Belgioioso who diplomatically declared that Thalberg was the greatest pianist in the world but Liszt was unique.
Liszt was,by the way, also one of her lovers together with Heine and others .
Harmonies du soir that Baudelaire actually refers too was a fitting end to some very fine expressive playing.
Roberto Prosseda was raised in the school of real musicians Cafaro/Martinelli just a stones throw from the Ghione theatre where he gave numerous recitals during his student days.
I remember the many recitals before going to play with great success in International Competitions when he was already studying at the famous International Piano Academy in Como with William Grant Nabore.
Fou Ts’ong was always delighted when Roberto could take part in the many masterclasses that were so much part of the Ghione Theatre in his formative days.
Born in Latina he had been raised and very much influenced by the Campus Musicale di Latina of Riccardo Cerocchi .
Since the time of Menuhin and Szigeti there have been summer masterclasses in Sermoneta by some of the most renowned musicians of our day.
Fabrizio von Arx,the violinist and Roberto were very much creatures of the Campus and their first duo recital was of course at the Ghione Theatre .
As was Cafaro’s surprise birthday concert with Roberto and Francesco Libetta Profilo Falso in one of Cafaro’s very amusing compositions for piano duo.
It was nice to see in the Feltrinelli book shop opposite the theatre the new CD’s of his Mozart Sonata series together with a DVD at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza of the Studies for Pedal piano by Alkan.
Regularly on the radio and very much in the forefront of the musical scene with not only CD’s but many books on piano technique and music appreciation to his name.
A real ” romantic man” multifaceted musician of extraordinary capacity.
A piano duo with his wife Alessandra Ammara whom he met in Como and now with many children to their name I just wish we could have heard a more equal distribution of piano and poetry than we were treated to tonight.
In this theatre of almost perfect acoustic the microphone really has no place .
The greatest actors have regaled us with their voice formed by a perfect diaphram that could allow them to say “I love you” arriving with the same intensity to the first row as it would to the last.
A poetry recital by Giorgio Albertazzi just a few years ago springs to mind.
The art of the real actor who does not hide himself behind a microphone is unfortunately being lost in this mechanical age in which we live.
I was shown around La Fenice Theatre in Venice just before the great fire that gutted it.
I was told that the Venetians had filled the earth under the orchestral pit with one and a half meters of glass because they knew that this would reflect the sound into the Royal box in the wonderful horseshoe shape of the Italian Opera Houses.
Today of course we have acoustically assisted sound which means microphones and we are thus reliant on artificial sound and the personal taste of someone to decide what we should hear!
Unfortunately this very learned literary professor had no place on the stage with a radio microphone and his overlong whisperings did not allow us to appreciate fully his very considerable literary skills.
A more equal distribution of music and poetry might have sent us all home much more fulfilled with an evening dedicated to the remarkable poetry of Baudelaire and even more of the genial premonitions of Liszt .

The Sublime Perfection of Sokolov

Pianistic Perfection of Sokolov in Rome tonight
It is always a guarantee of a special occasion when one sees Angelo Fabbrini in the audience.
Or even on stage as he was last time I saw him at Carnegie Hall preparing one of his marvellous instruments with meticulous attention to the artists wishes just as a great doctor would do for his patients.

                                         Sokolov with Angelo Fabbrini
On that occasion as with last night in London it was for Maurizio Pollini.
Tonight it was together with his faithful disciple Nino Bianchi for the recital by Grigory Sokolov in Rome.
Angelo who I had met forty years ago when I telephoned to dealers in Italy to buy a Steinway “D” for our newly opened theatre in Rome.
I drove over to Pescara where I was greeted by Angelo in his studio on the seafront in Pescara on the Adriatic coast – flat like Norfolk!
A studio full of fantastic instruments lovingly prepared by this man with an obvious passion.
The trusted friend of so many great pianists.
The trusted technician in his early years of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (who was also godfather to his children).
Michelangeli was notoriously meticulous not only about fine tuning and well being of pianos but also the fine tuning of his Ferraris !
Martha Argerich regularly locks herself into his studio all night to prepare for her concerts.

                                      In the green room with Sokolov
Of course I bought the most beautiful instrument at a very special price as he knew it was going to be in a our newly opened theatre in Rome.
We had the same passion and a bond was created then that has lasted all these years.
He would only give me the piano after he had spent a month fine tuning it especially for the theatre and then working on it when it had taken up residence.

                                                        Sokolov and Angelo Fabbrini
The piano has never moved from the theatre where it was inaugurated by my old teachers Guido Agosti and Vlado Perlemuter.
Followed over the years by names that have passed into history:Annie Fischer,Moura Lympany,Andor Foldes,Shura Cherkassky,Gyorgy Sandor,Tatyana Nikolaeva and many more not only established artists but those that were yet to establish themselves :Janina fialkowska Angela Hewitt,Leslie Howard and Roberto Prosseda are just a few.
I had heard Sokolov only on two other occasions.
Always in Rome as he avoids London and the UK since a problem arose with his visa.
Was it not Segovia who passing through passport control the innocent (not to say ignorant) official told his supervisor that this old man says he plays the banjo!
What a difficult life it can be to move freely for these artists that are requested world wide for their great unique artistry!
Brexit watch out indeed!
If you ask most very fine young pianists today who is the greatest of them all, many will reply Sokolov .
So it was with great anticipation that a few years ago I was glad to be able to hear him play Schumann Humoresque.
A very fine pianist but I was certainly not in agreement with my young friends.
He announced the Hammerklavier a year later and I thought I could not possibly miss any pianist who dares play this great monument in public.
It was one of the greatest performances that I have heard.
Easily on a par ,if very different from the recent ones of Murray Perahia or the past ones of Serkin,Richter,Pollini or Brendel.
So I was a bit perplexed when the programme this year was eventually announced,long after we had all bought our tickets.
                    Three Haydn Sonatas and the Schubert Impromptus op 142.
The public had trusted their idol and filled very generously this over two thousand seat hall .
In London they had been less generous for Gilels when he announced a programme of Schubert and Shostakovich in the Royal Festival Hall.
A programme that will remain with me for the rest of my life for the energy and sheer beauty in the Schubert Moments Musicaux and the little A minor Sonata .
Even a memory slip in Shostakovich’s mammouth 2nd Sonata could not dampen the aristocratic conviction and sheer animal energy of this much missed artist.
Hardly surprising that when Gilels’ early teacher had invited Rubinstein to hear a little red headed boy play he declared that if he ever came to Europe he may as well pack up his bags and leave!
Rubinstein and Gilels I would say could conjure such beauty from the piano that has rarely been equalled or surpassed………that is until tonight!
From the very first notes of the little G minor sonata n.32 ,that I have only heard in concert from Richter many years ago, to the final notes of the C sharp minor sonata n.49 Hob 36 forty five minutes passed in complete silence as we were all mesmerised by the sheer beauty of the sounds that were being conjured from the piano.
Every note was made to speak as one would not have thought possible.
All with a charm and grace that belies the appearance of this “gentle” giant.
Even the almost Beethovenian outburst in the B minor Sonata n.47 Hob 32 were included in a cocoon of sound.
A bubble that was never allowed to burst but was filled with all the character and personality that these neglected masterpieces can behold.
A heartrending question and answer between the hands with the gentle murmuring of sounds in the first of Schuberts’ last Impromptus was matched by the simplicity with which he sang the melody in the second .
A great wave of sound enveloped the middle section where we were not aware of notes just waves of the most beautiful sounds before the magical return in all its simplicity of the original melody.
The Theme and Variations that can in lesser hands seem rather out of place.
Here one was at last made aware of what is meant by Schubert’s heavenly length.
The Allegro scherzando of the fourth did not have the animal frenzy of Serkin or Fischer but it was a miracle to behold for the sheer perfect sense of balance between the hands.
I could not believe that forty minutes had passed .
Time had indeed stood still.
But Sokolov was warmed up and a magic had been created that no one wanted to dispel just yet.
The first of what were to be six encores followed in a seemingly marathon walk for Sokolov from the stage entrance to the lonely piano in this vast hall created by Renzo Piano.
Schubert’s fourth Impromptu from his earlier set op 90 was sheer magic.
Like water from a stream the notes that cascaded and alternated with the supremely delicate chords.
Can the central section ever have been played with more subdued passion?
A perfect sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to shine through over a passionately beating heart.
Rachmaninov came to mind in the old recordings that we have had to be content with all these years.
What can one say about the pianistic and musical perfection of his Rameau Les Sauvages and Le Rappel des Oiseaux.
These have long been marvelled at by a world that has been at Sokolov’s feet for many a year.
Little did I expect such an epic performance of Chopin’s little “Raindrop” Prelude.
The gradual build up in the central section was quite overpowering.
Always totally in context it allowed the innocent reappearance of the melody to shine through so delicately after such a vision of doom.
The last two encores from his Russian repertoire .
A little waltz so obviously a Chopin that had visited the vast spaces of the Russian steppes (Grigolis I think as I was told by the Maestro himself afterwards).
A whispered page of Scriabin sent us all home with an idea of what “Beauty in the eye of the beholder” really signifies

Ronan O’Hora at the Wigmore Hall

Ronan O`Hora at the Wigmore Hall
The Wigmore Hall was completely sold out for the recital by Ronan O’Hora whom I have known and admired for quite some time as The Head of Keyboard Studies at the Guildhall .
Ex students Sasha Grynyuk ,Thibault Charrin and others were lucky to find standing room in a hall that I have rarely seen so full.
I remember introducing myself at Richard Goodes masterclass as a fellow student of Vlado Perlemuter.
Ronan was also a former full time student of Ryszard Bakst at the Royal Northern College of Music.
Mihai Ritivoiu was playing the Polonaise Fantasie by Chopin and was later to join the Keyboard Trust playing in their special presentation concerts at the Reform Club and Romanian Centre and has now embarked on an important career.
I heard him recently with orchestra at the Enescu Festival in Bucharest
I knew and much admired Ronan O’Hora’s administrative and organisational skills at the Guildhall and I was often to be found at Masterclasses of some of the greatest musicians invited by him to share their skills and experience with the students. Murray Perahia,Richard Goode,Aquiles delle Vigne are just a few that I have heard recently.
This,however, was the first time that I was able to hear him live in concert in a programme of Brahms,Beethoven and Schubert.
I was not over enthusiastic to hear the Waldstein and Wanderer Fantasy as they are two rather overplayed works but by the juxtaposition of the two Brahms Intermezzi op 118 n.2 and n.6 one could see that this was a real musicians concert.
Seeing so many well known musicians in the audience I began to realise that we were perhaps in for something special.
It was obviously not just the coffee or sherry that had brought people out on a very wintery Sunday morning!
I was not disappointed and as I said backstage afterwards what a joy to hear these masterworks played in a masterly way at last.
A beautifully played Intermezzo in A op 118.n.2 opened the programme which by coincidence was the same piece that had closed the recital of Jeremy Denk the evening before at the Guildhalls’ Milton Court .
Here it was played with such sumptuous sound ,a full string quartet not just melody and accompaniment . It had a richness and at the same time an intimacy that is very hard to create from the first note in a major London recital with Joan Havill and Bryce Morrison in the audience too!.

                                  Joan Havill with Bryce Morrison
Infact Mr Denk had played it as an encore.preferring to start his recital with Prokofiev.
Then came the really big surprise of Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata.
Anyone who can create the same surprise that must have greeted Beethoven when the ink was still wet on the paper is a rare artist indeed.
The almost animal like energy of the pianissimo opening and the sudden outbursts without for a moment allowing the energy or tempo to sag were even for today’s audiences quite startling .
The energetic build up to the recapitulation was overwhelming as was the clarity and sense of line in the left hand before the coda.
The Introduction that replaced the original slow movement – later to appear separately as the Andante Favori- was just that.
A preparation for the magical opening of the Rondo.
All of Beethoven’s many indications not just played but really digested and interpreted and it gave such significance to the long held pedal notes that allow the bell like motif of the rondo to appear like magic.
Yes there was magic indeed .
How many fine pianists follow to the letter Beethoven’s revolutionary pedal markings but not many actually understand and try to recreate the effect that the composer intended.
The great virtuosistic outbursts were quite as startling in that they were not just notes but a swirling tempest of sound.
So often this work and the Wanderer are given to students to build up their technique as they are both full of scales and arpeggios and very often sound like it too!
Not today though and that was the real discovery that everything was in the context of the whole with all the details of Beethoven’s wishes meticulously noted and miraculously interpreted .
A sense of line and driving inner energy that kept this very discerning audience very much on their toes.

                                       Joan Havill with Ronan O’Hora
A cheeky bass note added in the last movement brought a wry smile on the face of Joan Havill one of the very finest trainers today of musician pianists – Paul Lewis and many others have a lot to thank her for.
There was obviously a reason that he added it as some people do in other works of Beethoven where the original instrument would not allow for certain patterns to be repeated in different keys.
It is a delicate question as is the of question of ornamentation in Mozart’s Keyboard works.
The main thing is that one is not aware of these interpretative problems from an artist if they can totally convince us and hold our attention.
The famous glissandi would have had all the pianists watching out but they were so much incorporated into the general interpretation they passed completely unnoticed.
For the record he did not split them between the hands but played them as Beethoven had intended on his much lighter pianos (Serkin used to surreptitiously lick his fingers before attempting them on our modern day pianos ).
The Prestissimo coda was played almost like the music box it is and the long pedals that Beethoven asks for wonderfully realised and lead to a most exhilarating end to a memorable musical journey.
The desolation of the Intermezzo in E flat minor has rarely been so poignant with the filigree ornamentation so delicately encompassing Brahms’ innermost feelings.
The Schubert Wanderer Fantasy was as fine as the Waldstein.
The richness of the sound and architectural cocoon in which Schuberts’ imagination was allowed to express itself, as only the greatest of all lieder composers can, gave a great sense of direction and energy to the whole.
The final Fugato eruption coming as a natural relief from all that had come before.
The beautiful “Wanderer” and the variants played like a true lieder singer would have sung them.
Every note simply played but poignant with meaning.
Abschied from Schumann’s Waldszenen was a magical way to thank his audience that had battled the elements to enjoy an hour of magic in this hallowed hall.
Coffee and Sherry were offered afterwards but many of the audience preferred to go backstage to hug the artist that had held us so spellbound on this cold Sunday morning.

with Bryce Morrison

with Thibaud Charin

A Genius at the Barbican

Jeremy Denk at Milton Court
I have listened to Jeremy Denk’s fascinating interviews on the radio and heard such good reports about the arrival and discovery in London of this extraordinary communicator of searing intelligence .
Similar to the arrival of another great presence in recent times at the Wigmore Hall .
That of Igor Levit.
Pure genius of course amazing capacity to present us the entire piano repertoire as it has never before been done so easily.
One asks  – no demands- where have they been all this time  arriving out of the blue it would seem and taking the intelligenza of London by storm?
Jeremy Denk was giving the final performance in his Residency at the Barbican.
It was good to see so many young musicians in the audience even Jayson Gillham winner of the Montreal Competition and fast making a name for himself- relatively of course- but not at the speed of light of these two master musicians.
His rather improvisatory approach was best suited to 20 of Prokofiev Visions op 22 that opened the recital.
Picturesque images vividly played with all the colour and fantasy that brought these miniature masterpieces to life as Rubinstein had in his historic Carnegie Hall recitals many years ago.
The performances by Richter and Gilels of course have passed into legend but  these little miniatures are very rarely played these days.
All the sonatas and the 2nd Concerto too played endlessly and so easily these days .
It was refreshing to hear such beautifully shaped performances of these little gems.
A change of programme had brought us the monumental last sonata of Schubert in place of the promised Fantasie op 17 by Schumann.
The Schumann would have been a fascinating choice as it was to have been played after the Liszt arrangement of Beethoven’s “An die ferne Geliebte” .
It is quoted in the final heartrending pages of the first movement of the piece that Schumann had written as an outpouring of love for his Clara .
“The most passionate thing I have ever composed- a profound lament for you .”
So as Jeremy Denk announced there would be three works on the programme .
Prokofiev,Beethoven op 109 and Schubert D.960.
His effortless playing of these two monuments of the piano literature lead to some rather uneasy performances where the very backbone of these masterpieces was missing on his long searching journey of discovery.
Some wonderful things but all sounding so easy and untroubled.
Even the beautiful Intermezzo in A by Brahms offered as an encore to a public demanding even more!
Effortless is something you could have never said about Curzon,Arrau or Serkin who would sweat blood and tears over every note .
The audience too would come out of their recitals as exhausted as they.
But uplifted and transformed by what they had experienced.
With these two newly arrived “Geni” it is all so wonderfully effortless.
Amazed by their capacity to consume and play the entire piano repertoire without a hair out of place.
Searingly intelligent performances.
Total command of the instrument .
A few months ago igor levit performed the last three Beethoven Sonatas at the end of his marathon Beethoven Cycle at the Wigmore Hall .
First performance at 19.30 and another identical at 22 due to public demand.
All broadcast live.
Absolute perfection.
 Arrau could never have done that.
It would have killed Curzon
Different times of course.
The era of jet setting and communications at the speed of light.
Pity this music was not written for this fast food era that we are obliged to”live” in.
I am sure the genius of Beethoven or Schubert would have risen to the challenge too.
“Hats off gentlemen .A Genius”.
Schumann jumped off the bridge at the end and Beethoven took a hammer to break up the piano in frustration …………
Not these boys ….we live in a different era ……….or do we?

Mark Viner takes London by storm

Mark Viner takes London by storm
Sensational is the only word for Mark Viners remarkable debut at the Wigmore Hall as winner of the Keyboard Charitable Trust Prizewinners concert.
Bryce Morrison on his feet cheering with the rest of us – a star is truly born tonight.
In memory of the distinguished friend and renowned critic Bill Newman who would have been so proud to see the legacy at work that he had left to Noretta and John Leech and their Keyboard Trust that he admired so much.
Wonderful celebration also of Noretta`s 87th in an after concert dinner party hosted by the indefatigable Gabriella Bassatne.

Gabriella Bassatne
 The same programme as his recent tour of Italy but with the ideal encore ,according to Bryce Morrison :Cecile Chaminade The Flatterer…………..which will appear on his new CD of the works of Cecile Chaminade

Noretta Conci Leech with Bryce Morrison

Moritz von Bredow Linn Rothstein

Alberto Chines with Clare Packenham

Richard and Elena Bridges

Mark Viner with John Leech

                                                  Moritz Von Bredow and Partner and  Sasha Grynuk

John Leech and Albert Portugheis

George Linardakos Mark Viner