Bocheng Wang at Farm Street Church

Bocheng Wang at Farm Street Church
Another memorable concert at Farm Street Church in Mayfair for the collaboration with the young artists from The Keyboard Charitable Trust
On Saturday, 7 December, Bocheng Wang gave the Keyboard Trust’s final UK concert of 2019, as we return to the magnificent Farm Street Church.
This mid-afternoon concert also included short spoken Advent Reflections.
Farm Street Church – 114 Mount Street, London, W1K 3AH
I unfortunately was not able to be present as I am in Italy for Kissin tomorrow together with the final of the International Piano Competition that Yuanfan Yang won last year.
However my esteemed colleagues were at the concert and here are some of their comments:
”Tremendous technique with beautiful sound and many colours.A thorough control of the instrument and balanced musicality…-.he should go far” Elena Vorotko
”Such a wonderful technique that some times if he could control his faster tempi it could be better related to the character of the music.”Noretta Conci-Leech

Bocheng Wang with Trustee c/o Artistic Director of the KCT Elena Vorotko and son
PROGRAMME
Bach / Busoni – Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 645)
Chopin – Preludes, Op.28
BIOGRAPHY
British-Chinese concert pianist Bocheng Wang was born in Lanzhou, China and is currently studying with Professor Christopher Elton for a Bachelor’s Degree at the Royal Academy of Music. His study is generously supported by the Violet Irene Strutton Award with a full scholarship and he is an artist with the Talent Unlimited Foundation.
Bocheng’s competition successes include first prize at Grand Prize Virtuoso “Salzburg” International Music Competition (2019), first prize at Croydon Concerto Competition (2015), second prize at Liszt International Society Piano Competition (2015), third prize at the ‘Young Pianist of the North’ International Piano Competition (2012). In 2018, he was a semi finalist at the prestigious Santander International Piano Competition and performed with the Cuarteto Quiroga. In recent years, he has performed with many orchestras such as the Dulwich Symphony, London Mozart Players and Purcell Symphony. He has also worked with conductors including Leigh O’Hara, Dominic Peckham, and Robin O’Neil. In addition, he has appeared in many international festivals such as Konzertarbeitswochen Goslar, PianoTexas, Ferrara, and Dartington.
In June 2016, he was invited to play for a celebratory concert in honour of HM The Queen Elizabeth II ‘s 90th birthday and honoured to meet Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. Since then, he performed in prestigious venues such as the Fazioli Hall in Sacile, Italy, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, London’s Kings Place, Wigmore Hall, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Fairfield Hall and Watford Colosseum. In 2017, he toured in North England.
Bocheng has also participated in many masterclasses worldwide with maestros such as Professor Dmitri Bashkirov, Arie Vardi, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Andrzej Jasinski, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Pascal Rogé, Pascal Devoyon, and Dmitry Alexeev.

Bocheng Wang Noretta Conci Leech Sarah Biggs John Leech

The return of the rebel..Pogorelich is back in town

The return of the rebel-Pogorelich is back in town
Warming up…..Pogorelich is back in town………
It was very interesting to be able to hear Pogorelich again after his disastrous recital in London three years ago.
A renowned critic who was one of the few to remain to the bitter end (most fled in the interval) declared it to be the worst concert he had ever heard in the Festival Hall.
Pogorelich has always been a controversial figure from that moment when he was eliminated from the first round of the Chopin competition and Martha Argerich resigned, quite rightly,in disgust.
‘Cause célèbre’ indeed.
He has never fitted into any convenient box but the most notable thing today was that whatever he did- and he did a lot of unusual things- he played with a beauty of sound and with an obvious love of teasing magical sounds out of the piano just as that other enigmatic figure De Pachmann might have done at the turn of last century.
Pogorelich far from being a revolutionary has become a historic figure of the past……………….
He appeared on the vast stage of the S.Ceclia auditorium in his glad rags to warm up as the public entered the hall ……..
He returned at the start of the concert looking like the Richter we had known in his Indian Summer, who also chose to play with the score .

Pogorelich looking ever like Richter
I well remember Vlado Perlemuter telling me that DG had sent a demo recording of his Ravel for approval and consideration.
Hoping for some words from a historic figure who had studied Ravel’s works with the composer.
Vlado simply replied “Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça”!
Fou Ts’ong was playing in my theatre for our Euromusica series the day after Pogorelich was being promoted in the theatre by the agent Proshinsky.I explained to Ts’ong that he might not appreciate the concert, two Mozart Sonatas and the Chopin 4 Scherzi, as Pogorelich could be very capricious like Shura Cherkassky.
Ts’ong listened to the concert and rebuked me afterwards with ” but Shura loves the piano …this man hates it!”
The only words that Pogorelich uttered to me that evening were that he had in his contract(which was not with me as I had innocently hired the theatre out for a series that included mostly great singers ) that he should have a key to the green room and that he did not believe that we would get the stage ready as per contract after an afternoon performance of Old Times !
There was the famous confrontation with Karajan – two divos indeed.
Sparks were flying when the Tchaikowsky concerto recording was suddenly taken over by Claudio Abbado.
Karajan’s recording with Richter though is still the beacon by which we measure all others.
There were stories as well about a piano having some blood stains on the keys after a recording session with Zimerman and Bernstein!
All went to making a reputation but sometimes forgetting that here was a pianist with a unique technical command that Argerich had immediately noticed .His musicianship or lack of it has always been in discussion.
And so the controversy raged until the tragic death of his wife ,teacher and mentor Alisa Kezeradze led obviously to a complete breakdown.
So it is good news that he has come through and is playing as he used to again.
The difference is that now he plays with the score, although rarely looks at it, with an evident love of piano sonorities that is quite beguiling.
In the end though it is without any architectural shape or musical direction and ultimately becomes boring.
All song and no dance!
It was interesting to see this figure at the keyboard just very quietly playing parts of the Bach that we were allowed to overhear while entering the hall.Really beautiful sounds with every so often a very precise accent like a bell similar to when one had to turn the page on the old typewriter.No score in view all played by someone who was just experimenting with the sounds that he would share with us in the concert later.

pre concert musings
He then disappeared about five minutes before the beginning of the concert reappearing in very distinguished evening dress looking ever more like the Richter in his latter years when he too would appear with the score and very subdued lighting.
With the page turner very discreetly seated on a stool beside him, the scores for the next performances thrown casually onto the floor behind the piano.
A ritual had been performed and we were ready to begin the concert.
A very fine, if individual, account of Bach’s English Suite n.3 in G minor.
The Prelude opened with great rhythmic impetus and very telling voicing.
An Allemande beautifully flowing and sung with a whispered repeat of touching beauty.
A beguiling Courante full of half shades and a very dramatic final cadence.
It opened the door to a very noble Sarabande of great significance dissolving to create some truly magical moments.
In lesser hands it could have seemed grotesque but this was a heartfelt statement of great weight.
An impishly pointed Gavotte with La Musette played almost without pedal was a true tour de force of digital control.
The final Gigue was played with almost hammered rhythmic insistence.
It was an opening of great weight and importance that immediately signified the return of the warrior of yore.
In the Beethoven Sonata op 22 that followed this very individual approach was much more problematic and hard to understand or digest.
Beethoven’s undercurrent of rhythmic energy is not so openly linked to the dance form of the Bach Suites but nevertheless is an energy that should carry us along from the beginning to the end.An achitectural sense of line that takes in Beethoven’s tempestuous changes of mood.
In the first movement there was great insistence on the bass almost submerging the treble melodic line that had to fight to be heard.
Beethoven’s florid rhythmic arpeggios were thrown off like romantic arbesques which did lead eventually to a very effective bass melodic line.A series of rather romantic episodes that broke the magic line that Beethoven so clearly indicates.
A beautiful cantabile in the ‘Adagio con molta espressione’ leading to a ‘Menuetto’ of very capricious sotto voce sounds almost jeux perlé of yesteryear.
A truly hammered middle section dying away to a whisper.
A strange non legato melodic line for the Rondo with some very strange colourings like the great romantic pianists of a past era playing with teasing sonorities.There was great drama in the minor section with enormous contrast which was completely out of context but also very impressive.
A Beethoven that seemed much longer than the actual thirty minutes of musings that we were treated to.
After the interval a Chopin that received a real ovation from his fans but that I found very grotesque indeed.
It is as though Rubinstein had never existed and the old Chopin tradition had continued for another century.
The great nobility and lack of sentimentality together with great respect for the composer wishes is substituted with someone who enjoys taking the notes and playing with them.
Beautiful sonorities that titivate the senses and show off their great range of sounds without any real sense of line or shape.
There is a school of pianists from the East who enjoy using the masterworks of composers to show off their superb technical command.
The opposite of a true interpreter who places their complete technical command to the use of interpreting the composers wishes as expressed in their scores.There is a following of people who have reacted,quite understandably to the overclinical dry respect for the score and have lost the magic that can be created seemingly only with total freedom.
A true interpreter is he that can combine both and they are very few and far between.
Perahia and Zimerman are the supreme examples of course of our day.
It is not just by chance that Perahia was mentored by Horowitz  and Zimerman by Rubinstein!

The S.Cecilia Symphony Hall of Renzo Piano at the Parco della Musica Rome
Pogorelich opened the Barcarolle with two hands and then spent time adjusting the stool before entering with the very swaying barcarolle rhythm.A series of episodes some extremely beautiful and others extremely angular but on the whole without any real shape of architectural direction or purpose.It was rather boring.
The Prelude op 45 was played with a superb sense of control with two completely separate layers of sound .The arpeggios that sweep across the keyboard were played with a crystal clear pianissimo which showed off a quite transcendental control of sound.The second layer was a beautifully chiselled melody that was in a completely separate compartment instead of growing out of the flowing arpreggios which Chopin asks for.
Ravel ‘Gaspard de la Nuit’ completed the programme.
It has long been his ‘cavallo di battagia’ much admired by fellow pianists on that famous Ravel disc of thirty years ago.
A beautifully florid ‘Ondine’ showed that Pogorelich has lost nothing of his superb digital control of precision and sound.Some wonderful washes of sound and projection of the melodic line.
‘Le gibet’ was more problematic in that there were a series of very beautiful sounds seemingly totally unrelated to each other.
It reminded me of another work on that famous Ravel disc: ‘Valses Nobles e Sentimentales.’
I remember listening and being somehow reminded of the Valses I knew very well.
I was reminded of what my old teacher Perlemuter had remarked. Such was the disjointed nature of the notes that it sounded like someone in a period of study before piecing them together to make a coherant whole.
This was just the same impression as ‘Le Gibet’ tonight.
’Scarbo’ ,of course showed off all the transcendental technique of which he is still master.Some very pointed sounds on the repeated notes but also some very evocative sounds of great passionate outbursts and enormous sonorities.
The ending was one of the most successful that I have every heard in public.
No encores offered even though the  public were on their feet deliriously welcoming back their warrior all over again.
Dan Danielli “when he was eliminated from the first round of the Chopin competition and Martha Argerich resigned, quite rightly,in disgust.” Quite rightly? – are you sure, Christopher? Pogo’s 1980 Warsaw performances are on youtube, and they amply demonstrate why the jury didn’t pass him into the finals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0GVaJq_CTM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwMnYP91tMo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gzu1TPaTTmw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTpeMgEs0CU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWMbhNM4mQM
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Pogorelich: Chopin Sonata No.2 (live from Chopin Competition)
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Pogorelich: Chopin Sonata No.2 (live from Chopin Competition)

Pogorelich: Chopin Sonata No.2 (live from Chopin Competition)

  • Christopher Axworthy Thanks Danny sure you are right but then why did she resign?She obviously saw what a talent he was ………….and competitions do not know how to deal with that type of talent .Should it be immediately eliminated as Agosti would have done or allow his supersonic technical gifts to thrill audiences world wide as happened in this case.Remember Martha was the only student of Friedrich Gulda who gave his last disco in my theatre!!!!Bonkers all of them but my God how they can tickle the keys!!!!!!!And what a thrill they have given to vast audiences.They are ( non Gulda of course in the beginning) more entertainers ,circus acts,than Serkin type interpreters.
    So you are right and wrong just like Pirandello depends on how you look in the prism.
    ‘Cosi è,se vi pare’ indeed !(“Thats how it is,if you like it.”)

Liszt comes to Perivale

The Liszt Society Annual Day and Competition

1.00 Recital by Corbin Beisner (1st prize in the 2018 competition)

https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/liszt-comes-to-st-marys/10156117991422309/

Programme of Corbin Beisner today
Some superb playing from Corbin Beisner left no doubt about the standards that are expected from such experts as Leslie Howard,Mark Viner and Melvyn Cooper for the annual Liszt Society International Competition.
This year Corbin was invited on the jury to help seek outthe winner from the six superb pianists that had come from Italy, Russia,Korea and the UK to compete.
Corbin opened with a beautiful account of Beethoven’s rarely heard six variations on an original theme op 34.
A work that I have not heard since Richter played it in London.
It is the work that precedes the much better known Eroica Variations op 35.
It was strange that Corbin had played the theme in four instead of two but the moment that Beethoven wrote in the elaborate embellishments in the variations the music was allowed to flow so naturally in Corbin’s expert hands. A superb shape and dynamic range but above all a sense of style that left no doubt about Corbin’s remarkable musicianship.
It was obvious from the opening C sharp of the Chopin Barcarolle that here was a pianist who listens attently and plays with superb musicianship and sense of control.
It allowed Chopin’s outpouring of continuous song to flow with a pulse that ebbed and flowed with a very subtle sense of rubato.
Never exaggerating but allowing the music to speak so naturally.
Slightly more pedal would have given even more sheen to the melodic line but it was the absolute clarity and musical intelligence that was so refreshing to hear in a work that too often is reduced to a showpiece for virtuosi!
Of course we come to the Liszt Society to hear the enormous number of works that are very rarely or ever heard in the concert hall.
To be informed and entertained.
The only piece I have heard in the concert hall before in Corbin’s interesting programme was the first of the Valse Oubliées which is often played at as an encore.
Of course the mellifluous works of Liszt are much more accessable than the intellectual Busoni type works that abound in Liszt’s gigantic output .Here Corbin was an ideal interpreter of some of these lesser known works .They were played with an intelligence in totally convincing interpretations that made one, like contemporary scores, want to hear them all over again.
Liszt was like a shining beacon looking into the future and it is this Liszt that we have to thank a pioneer like Leslie Howard for bringing to the world’s attention.
It should also be pointed out that Leslie has recorded all the known works of Liszt in a series of 100 CD’s that has gained Liszt a notice in the Guinness book or records!
With all but one of the contestants we were then treated to some of the better known works of Liszt.
The Third book of Années de Pèlerinage and the fourth Mephisto Waltz was indeed a courageous programme for Stephen Gott from Yorkshire.
Other contestants chose the better known works of Liszt such as the Spanish Rhapsody,Dante Sonata,Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude,Variations on Weinen,Klagen,Sorgen,Zagen.St Francis walking on the waves or Feux Follets.
However as Leslie Howard said as he announced their final decision each contestant had played so well that it had created a magnificent day of music to the glory of Liszt.

Dr Hugh Mather welcoming the Liszt Society and Keyboard Charitable Trust to his beloved St Mary’s
I think our host Dr Hugh Mather agreed that it had been a memorable day for the many people present and also those ,like me ,tuning in to the excellent streaming system that is unique to any concert hall that I know.
Dr Hugh Mather had very spiritedly said in his welcoming introduction that after all this Liszt we would probably be craving for a Bach Prelude and Fugue or a bit of Mozart at the end of the day.
I think even Hugh would agree that such was the level and variety of music heard that on the contrary we were all quite exhilarated and satisfied at the end.
Liszt had won us all over thanks to the extraordinarily serious and learned work of the Liszt Society.
2.45 – 6.00 pm : The Liszt Society International Competition 2019
I have added some of my own personal observations that I made listening to this superb day of music making from the log fire blazing in the Italian countryside.
As they are exactly in line with the juries final assessment I add them here for those that may be interested to compare notes.
2.45 pm Svyatoslav Antipov

Svyatosalv Antipov
Ab irato – Etude de perfectionnement de la Méthode des méthodes, S143
Douze Études d’exécution trascendante, S139: 5: Feux-follets
Rapsodie espagnole – Folies d’Espagne et Jota aragonesa , S254 –
Some very fine playing from a born pianist.The precision of detail was not always evident though and sometimes it led to a lack of real rhythmic control especially in the Spanish Rhapsody.

3.15 pm Mario Cuva

Légendes, S175: 2: St. François de Paule marchant sur les flots
Rapsodie espagnole – Folies d’Espagne et Jota aragonesa , S254 .
Some very musicianly playing with a fine sense of control and intelligence.A great sense of drama brought the music vividly to life.
That last ounce of extra technical skill was missing in the more arduous parts of the Spanish Rhapsody where he very intelligently slowed down to accomodate the enormous difficulties that Liszt asks for.It led to a  loss of rhythmic tension that is so important and exhilarating in this work.
It is that tension that I will never forget that was created relentlessly by Emil Gilels in London years ago.
3.45 pm Stephen Gott

Années de pèlerinage – Troisième année – Italie, S163:
1: Angelus! Prière aux anges gardiens
2: Aux cyprès de la Villa d’Este – Thrénodie I
3: Aux cyprès de la Villa d’Este – Thrénodie II
Vierter Mephisto-Walzer, S696

Some fine musicianly playing of works that I have very rarely if ever heard .A more intellectual approach that did not quite ignite or convince.Hats off though for presenting such an adventurous programme and for such serious preparation.

4.25 pm Connor Heraghty-
Some very beautiful playing .Great control and technically accomplished.The Dante Sonata was give a very dramatic and vivid performance that was really totally convincing and quite remarkable

Schwanengesang – Vierzehn Lieder von Franz Schubert, S560: 7: Ständchen – Leise flehen
Années de pèlerinage – Deuxième année – Italie, S161: 7: Après une lecture de Dante – Fantasia quasi sonata

4.55 pm Minkyu Kim
A quite extraordinary sense of colour and balance was immediately apparent from the very first notes of the beautiful Hymn to St Cecilia A work that he convinced me should be more often played.
The Variations were played with a mastery that goes with a very early training that gives such  flexibility and freedom to express his remarkable musicianship without a moments doubt of his complete command of the keyboard.

Hymne à Sainte Cécile de Charles Gounod, S491
Variationen über das Motiv von J. S. Bach: Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen , S180

5.25 pm Connor Fogel
Looking like the Abbé Liszt with a frock coat and long hair he played most beautifully.
The ‘Bénédiction’ and the ‘Jeux d’eau’ were played with beauty and sensitivity.One did not quite feel that he was in total contact with the keys as Kim but he gave some very musical performancs that were much appreciated coming as they did at the end of almost four hours of music making today.

Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S173:3: Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude
Années de pèlerinage – Troisième année – Italie, S163: 4: Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este

The distinguished jury Corbin Beisner Melvyn Cooper Leslie Howard Mark Viner

Leslie Howard announcing the winner Minkyu Kim (Korea) with second prize to the two Connors Heraghty(Hayes UK) and Fogel(Wales) and a special commendation for Mario Cuva (Sicily)

Sasha Grynyuk – an unexpected visit from a Master pianist

Sasha Grynyuk an unexpected visit from a Master pianist

Beethoven: 7 Bagatelles Op 33
Brahms: Variations and Fugue on theme of Handel Op 24

  • Born in Kyiv- Ukraine, Sasha Grynyuk studied at the National Music Academy of Ukraine and later at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London with Ronan O’Hora. After graduation he also benefited from artistic guidance of such great musicians as Alfred Brendel and Murray Perahia. Sasha was described by legendary Charles Rosen as “an impressive artist with remarkable, unfailing musicality always moving with the most natural, electrifying, and satisfying interpretations”. He regularly performs in most renowned concert halls throughout Europe, South and North America, Far East and Asia including Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Salle Cortot, Bridgewater Hall, Barbican Hall, Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall. Winner of over ten International competitions, prizes and awards Sasha was chosen as a Rising Star for BBC Music Magazine and International Piano Magazine. His recent successes also include 1st prizes of Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition, Grieg International Piano Competition and Guildhall School’s most prestigious award – the Gold Medal – previously won by such artists as Jacqueline Du Pre and Bryn Terfel.

Sasha Grynyuk
I think it is only in Dr Hugh Mathers stable of pianists that one great artist could immediately substitute another.
It was just the case today that Jianing Kong had to leave for China on urgent family business but Sasha Grynyuk was in the wings happy to play in his place.

with Dr Hugh Mather
  • I have heard Sasha play many times and have long admired his command of the keyboard and absolute faithfulness to the letter of the score.

Noretta at 89 and her husband John Leech 95 today with a surprise visit from Rome Rai radio presenter Valentina Lo Surdo
His mentor Noretta Conci-Leech to whom he plays every week had told me about a memorable Brahms Handel that he had brought to her.
I was doubly happy then to be able to listen so unexpectedly to his performance today.
I was not disappointed on the contrary, like Noretta, I was quite exhilarated.
Week after week she listens in awe to his 32 Beethoven Sonatas ,five Concertos,Bagatelles sprinkled with Scriabin 5th and many other works by Rachmaninov and all.
After hearing Sasha play a Beethoven recital in Steinway Hall Stephen Kovacevich (who had been mentored by Myra Hess) wanted to know who his teacher was,such was his acute intelligence and understanding of Beethoven’s musical world.
A programme today that included Beethoven’s early 7 Bagatelles op 33 and finished with the Brahms 24 Variations and Fugue op 24.
The 7 Bagatelles were like 7 little tone poems each one with a story to tell with a great sense of character and subtle sense of colour.
A simple musicianship in which the music was allowed to unfold so naturally.
From the charm of the Andante grazioso to the deliciously playful Scherzo where the legato melody over a typical early Beethoven rolling bass in the middle section was immediately contrasted to the playfulness at the end.
Beethoven having such fun with the acciacturas in the beautifully shaped legato melody followed by a lied with beautiful trills played with a simplicity and innocence that opened the way to the most lovely of farewells.
The rolling arpeggios in the fifth were thrown off with such precision in the Allegro ma non troppo followed by a subtle cantabile contrasting section with Beethoven having the last laugh at the end.
The sixth bagatelle dissolving into nothing as it prepared the field for the insistent energy of the last Presto played with exhilarating physical participation.
Sasha gave a voice to each bagatelle allowing them to speak so naturally and beguilingly to a rapt appreciative audience.
An exemplary performance followed of Brahms Handel Variations.
From the very clearly stated theme with finely articulated trills there was a continous forward movement in the twenty four variations that followed.
They led to the final unusually clearly defined final statement before the explosion of the fugue.
A rhythmic and playful first variation was followed by the beautiful legato of the second played with great expression and with a very telling staccato left hand contrasting with the legato right. The very deliberate overlapping of the third was deliciously underplayed and followed by very rhythmic octaves that were never allowed to exit from the overall architectural frame.
A very florid cantabile beautifully shaped leading to legato octaves mirroring each other in a superb display of true legato.
The entry in the seventh of staccato signals the start of the rhythmic march that will take us through to the final triumphant ending.
A gradual build up magnificently controlled.
The beautiful music box in the twenty second sparkled in such refined hands leading to a relentless gear change for the final statement of the theme.
The explosion of energy in the fugue was played with a driving, relentless insistence.
Any slight mishap on the way was washed to one side on this tidal wave of energy that led the final triumphant chords.
A Rachmaninov encore just showed the subtle versatility of this remarkable young artist.

The Hills of Rome are ringing to the sound of music – Donchev in Velletri and Taddei-Ciammarughi in Ariccia

The Hills of Rome are ringing with the sound of music- Donchev in Velletri and Taddei- Ciammarughi in Ariccia
It is amazing the amount of music that is still to be found in the hills around Rome.Of course in the 18th century the great villas on the Castelli Hills were part of the grand tour and were frequented by Mozart,Liszt and many other renowned figures of the day.
Today just by chance I looked at what music there might be over the weekend and found Ivan Donchev’s second recital in his complete Beethoven Sonata cycle in Velletri and Luca Ciammarughi dedicating a duo recital with Jacopo Taddei to Picasso.
https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/beatrice-rana-in-rome-the-supreme-stylist/10156944005732309/ Some truly unexpected delights especially coming after Beatrice Rana’s superb recital in Rome a few days73 before to be followed on the 1st December by an unexpected return of Ivo Pogorelich!
And the Rome International Piano Competition from 29 November until 9th December about to begin.
I had heard Ivan Donchev last April in Villa Mondragone playing on an 1879 Erard piano the ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ by Berlioz transcribed by Liszt.A superb performance played without the score which included also a detailed and intelligent preparatory description.
I was told by the artistic director Giancarlo Tammaro that in this Beethoven year Ivan will play the Pastoral Symphony in a series that will include all the Symphonies on the historic Erard piano in the Villa Mondragone.

Artistic director Giancarlo Tammaro
The same artistic director was responsable for inviting Ivan to play the 32 sonatas by Beethoven in a series of 10 recitals over three years Starting a year before the 250th anniversary year and finishing a year later.
Playing this time on a fine modern Pleyel piano in the beautifully restored house of culture and music in the historic centre of Velletri.
A real oasis in this town which is the pivotal hub for Latina, Frascati,Appia, Genzano,Lariano and Castelgandolfo.
Infact the traffic that abounds gives no idea of the tranquility and peace that is to be found in this restored monastery in a quiet tree line cobbled street, one of the few where cars are not allowed to tread!Finding it of course was like finding the needle in the proverbial haystack especially for a town in holiday mood with a local festa in full swing.
This was the second concert in the series and included the two Sonatas op 14 together with the Sonata op 7.
The two little sonatas op 14 are two jewels and were often to be found in the programmes of Sviatoslav Richter and Annie Fischer.
The E major op 14 n.1 was played with a great sense of contrasts and rhythmic drive. Absolute clarity was a hallmark of these two sonatas and it was good to see Ivan using the Arrau edition.It showed in his performances of great respect for the score allied to a real feeling for the remarkable contrasts and changes of mood that Beethoven demands.
A beautifully fluid sense of direction with the fast passages that sparkled like jewels in the first movement contrasted with, in Ivans own words, the “Brahms like” lyrical second movement.
A Rondo that showed off all the contrasting sudden changes of mood and accents and florid outbursts that already in these early sonatas were the signs of the direction that Beethoven was taking the sonatas which would span almost an entire lifetime.
The beautifully lyrical opening of the G major sonata was contrasted with the ‘sturm und drang’ of the development section.
As Ivan had said in his introdution let us not forget that Beethoven wrote some 200 lieder too.
It led quite unexpectedly to the innocent reappearance of the opening theme and the coda disappearing into the distance.
There were beautiful contrasts between the staccato and legato in the Andante that followed with the sudden accents very well judged.
Beautifully florid variations again disappearing with piano and pianissimo chords to be rudely interrupted by Beethoven’s final fortissimo slam of the door.
The scherzo final movement was played with great spirit and charm.The lyrical second subject floated so easily on the rhythmic waves created in the left hand The question and answer between bass and treble was charmingly characterised leading so naturally to the impish piano ending.

Ivan introducing the sonatas before performing them
Ivan had explained in his concise but very informative introductions that the key of E flat, which was that of the Sonata op 7, was of great significance for Beethoven.Having used the same key for his Emperor Concerto,Les Adieux op 81a Sonata and the Eroica Symphony.
In fact this is one of the bigger sonatas of Beethoven’s early period and can be placed with op 2 n.3 and op 10 n.3 where Beethoven was expanding the Sonata to almost symphonic proportions.
There was a great sense of forward movement with great contrasts from the very opening.
An almost Brahmsian second subject with outbursts of great virtuosity and a startling development section.
The profound ‘Largo,con gran espressione’ was a pointer to that of op 10.n.3 for its great weight and orchestral contrasts.
As Ivan had pointed out, the silences are so poignant and to live through the silence to keep the musical line was beatifully realised particularly in the recapitulation.
The ‘pastoral’ Allegro emerged almost out of the last utterances of the Largo.A beautiful shape of moving harmonies in the ‘minore’ middle section with some almost menacing accents that dissolved so beautifully into the repeat of the Allegro.
The lyrical Rondo was interrupted by great dramatic rhythmic outbursts where each of the demisemiquavers could have had a separate bow to give even more energy to this unexpected outburst.
The ending was allowed to float away quite magically in Ivans very sensitive hands.
The last movement of the “Moonlight” Sonata op 27 n.2 was played with great energy and lyricism as an encore.
And by great demand Ivan ended with the beautifully lyrical waltz in A minor op 34 n.2 by Chopin.
The next recital in this series will be in the spring of 2020.
In the meantime Giancarlo Tammaro was proud to announce the Beethoven Symphony Series on the historic Erard piano in Villa Mondragone from mid January with the pianist Michelangelo Carbonara opening with the Eroica Symphony.
Some remarkable music in Ariccia too.
With the famous square inspired by Bernini and the sumptuous Palazzo Chigi.Together with thier famous roast suckling pig and’ Lovers Leap’ bridge
I had recently heard the Roma 3 Orchestra in a collaboration between Roma 3 Music directed by Valerio Vicari and Coop Art Cestem Manci/Fasolo now celebrating its 50th year of activity
Today was a concert :’ The Sound of Picasso’ with Jacopo Taddei and Luca Ciammarughi

Lorenzo Ciammarughi and Picasso
This was a very unexpected but totally absorbing recital at Palazzo Chigi.
Jacopo Taddei, saxophone and Luca Ciammarughi pianoforte in a programme dedicated to Picasso.
It had been prepared for and exhibition at the Palazzo Reale in Milan under the title ‘Picasso Metamorfosi.’
A concert of music associated with Picasso and introduced very eloquently by Luca together with slides of some of Picasso ‘s works.
But the real revelation was the sheer virtuosity and sense of style of both.
An evening of entertainment in which we were informed ,entertained and thrilled by such virtuoso performances.
Two saxophone solos revealed the extraordinary virtuosity of this 23 year old musician.
A true “sax hero” as he has been defined by the Corriere della Sera.He was totally transfixed and inspired as he made us believe that we were listening to a whole orchestra such was the range of sounds and colours that this young ‘giant’ could conjure up out of this very innocent looking instrument.
His infectious rhythm in ‘Fragmentango’ by Girotto was overwhelmingly hypnotic.
The second solo showed off all the extraordinary technical inventions of sounds that I had never even imagined possible.
His saxophone was indeed a revelation.
Luca Ciammarughi too in his solos showed an extraordinary range of colours allied to a total technical command that held us all spellbound.
His Debussy ‘The snow is dancing’ was quiteremarkably evocative and the rhythmic precision and spontaneous energy in the’ Golliwogg’s cakewalk’ and Stravinsky’s ‘Piano Rag Music’ was quite exhilarating.
The Stravinsky was infact written for Rubinstein who refused to play it saying that he disagreed with his friend over the piano being presented as only a percussive instrument .Jose Iturbi gave the first performance in Lausanne in 1919.
Stravinsky later dedicated his piano suite ‘Petrushka’ to Rubinstein and peace was made !
It is so rare to hear any of Cécile Chaminade’s charming music (Mark Viner has just recorded her works which have been greeted by the critics as a revelation).Luca played her ‘Le Retour’ with the same charm that he brought to Albeniz’s ‘Tango’(here in the original version as opposed to Godowsky’s famous transcription).
There were true fireworks when these two virtuosi teamed up to play the ‘Carmen Fantasy’ by Francois Borne that concluded todays programme.
Letting their hair down each one trying to out do the other.
It was such an exciting and truly scintillating performance.
They even had to repeat the final after the ovation they received from a public not imagining that they would be treated to such a display of febrile virtuosity.
Of course there had been other memorable performances during the course of the concert.
Granados,Satie and Poulenc too.
Luca’s extraordinary ability to listen and create a musical conversation had me thinking of that great accompanist Dalton Baldwin who turns out to have been one of Luca’s mentors!
The ‘Romanza’ from the Poulenc Sonata for clarinet and piano was played with such a perfect feeling of unity of style.It allowed both players to relax and bask in the sounds that they were producing together.
It was similar to their last encore a piece called ‘Vacanze’ by a living composer whose name I did not know.
It was played with such a sumptuous unified sound that summed up the refined virtuosity that we had experienced from these two very fine artists.

Luca Ciammarughi Giovanna Manci Jacopo Taddei Giacomo Fasola
A party feeling had been created as the public gathered around the two artists exhilarated and excited and in no hurry to leave this beautiful hall without thanking them personally.

Luca Ciammarughi’s best selling book

CD signing after the concert

Two masters in performance

Beatrice Rana in Rome The Supreme Stylist

Beatrice Rana in Rome – The supreme stylist
Beatrice Rana the supreme stylist …..triumph of sublime sounds rarely heard in the concert hall these days.
Chopin studies even better than I remember from London.
Each one a miniature tone poem that amazingly seemed to grow one out of the other until the overwhelming tumultuous waves of the last study.
Albeniz full of ravishing colours and sudden changes of mood.
Alicia de Larrocha has always been my rule by which I compare all others.
After tonight it will be Beatrice Rana.
I remember Pollini`s Petrushka from his two debut recitals in London forty years ago.
Wonderful though it was the layers of sounds that were revealed tonight were of another world completely.
With Pollini we were astonished tonight we were seduced.
Overwhelmed indeed by this waif of an unasuming young girl who is already one of the greatest artists before the public today.
The sublime beauty of Chopins 13th Prelude played as an encore for the 2000 people in delirium was matched by the simple but very subtle clarity of Bach`s Gigue from the 1st Partita.
The studies together with her miraculous Ravel Miroirs can be heard live from the Wigmore Hall in London on  Sunday 1st December at 11.30.And at the Wigmore again on the 7th February at 19.30 Bach Italian Concerto,Schumann Sonata op 14 1836 version( Concerto senza orchestra) Iberia Bk 3 ,Petrushka.
Overwhelmed again by the 5th study with the middle melodic section shaped as I have only heard from the hands of Rubinstein.
The opening played sottovoce but finishing like a great drama.Out of the mist appeared as if magic the sixth in double thirds that were seemless streams of gold in which the left hand melody was hinted at with a subtlety that was a revelation as Perlemuter had shown us years ago.The seventh too entered almost unnoticed with such beauty that the duet between the right hand and left was a true revelation for its sublime tenderness.
Never any hardness with the usual battle between the hands or of Cortot’s choice to give the stage to the left hand alone.
The eighth slipped in with a velocity of washes of sound with a supreme sense of legato.
The “butterfly” fluttered in on this wash of sound and how it fluttered away at the end was nothing short of miraculous.
Enormous sonorities for the mighty octave study but with hidden inner sounds that seemed to emerge and disappear like a ‘will- 0’ -the wisp.’
The extreme calm at the opening of the ‘Winter wind’ study with an almost inaudible pianissimo made the entry of the left hand polonaise rhythm even more overwhelming.
An overpowering ending in which the tumultuous waves in C minor swept us all away on a sea of passionate emotions.
But even here there were very subtle changes of dynamic that allowed a gradual increase in sound without any hardness.
A sense of balance quite unique in these days where the modern Steinway can accomodate ,and too often does, sledgehammer sensibilities.
Here the piano sound was always of supreme beauty and never allowed to harden or become a showpiece and excuse for empty showmanship.
An Albeniz full of nostalgia and ravishing Spanish atmospheres.
Sudden changes of mood too took us by surprise in El Albaicin in the final few bars with a sudden return to the festa.
A wonderful luminosity of sound in El Polo and a frenzied sense of dance in Lavapié full of the joy and subtle colours and rhythms of Spain.
The layers of sound in Petrushka were played with a relentless rhythmic drive .One could  see the characters entering the stage in the second movement that began almost before the Danse russe had finished.
The Semaine Grasse was full of extraordinary colours and explosions of sound.
A full orchestra from the magic hands of this waif of a girl that has been truly blessed with a unique gift of communication that I have only heard similar from another beautiful lady of the name of Martha Argerich.
This is what I wrote about her studies in London recently:click the link below to see full article with photos(That did not reproduce in what is opened below)
Beatrice Rana takes London by storm
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“Wonderful ………..one of the most beautiful performances of things we have heard so often but tonight they glittered like the jewels that Chopin must have imagined”
That I wrote in the interval ..”.lovely surprise to be in London again to hear you……”
I have heard Beatrice Rana play many times in Italy also at the Wigmore Hall in London.
I remember her Goldberg Variations in London broadcast live from the Wigmore Hall but also in Rome a year later which was televised .A remarkable enough performance in London that Stephen Kovacevich particularly admired.The later performance in Rome was even more extraordinary for its maturity and rock like sense of direction.I was told by Prof.Pieralbero Biondi that her final exam performance at S.Cecilia had the jury members cheering at the end.
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After all her successes worldwide she had returned home to her original teacher Benedetto Lupo with whom she had studied as a child at the Monopoli Conservatory in Puglia She returned to his class at the Academy of S. Cecilia inspite of his insistence that she should branch out on her own now.
But between Benedetto Lupo,Sir Antonio Pappano and the Academy of S. Cecilia she had returned home to work on her scores in peace and serenity and delve ever more deeply into the music to which she was destined since her birth in Puglia of a family of musicians.
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Facsimile of Chopin manuscript
And so it was today that we heard the Chopin Studies op 25 played as the composer had indicated.Each of the 12 studies was a miniature tone poem.Bathed in the sunlight that Chopin’s own pedal indications had asked for she shaped each one with a luminosity and poetry that I have only heard similar on the old recording of Cortot. Completely different of course but the one thing- the most important thing in common was the poetry that is concealed in what are conceived also as studies.
The Aolian Harp of the first study showing exactly what Sir Charles Halle had described on hearing Chopin on his last tour in Manchester.
”Il faut graver bien distintemente les grandes e les petites notes” writes Chopin at the bottom of the first page .Long pedal markings overlapping the bar lines and the pianissimo asked for by Chopin so perfectly played by Beatrice. The long held pedal at the end gave such an etherial magical sound.
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Study n,2
The second study too like silk.Not the usual note for note performances we are used to but washes of sound perfectly articulated of course but with the poetry and music utmost in mind.The final three long “C’s” which can sound out of place were here of a magic that one never wanted them to stop.
The third and fourth to contrast were played with great clarity with some suprising inner notes that gave such substance and depth to the sound.Here was not only a supreme interpreter but also a great personality.The end of the fifth that linked up to the 6th.It grew out of the final crescendo flourish that always had seemed out of place .Here in Beatrice’s hands it is exactly as Chopin in his own hand has indicated.
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Study 5 to 6 link that Chopin indicates in his own hand
Here too one must mention the sumptuous middle melody of the fifth played with a wonderful sense of balance and also a flexibility of pulse that again showed the hands of a great musical personality.I have only heard a similar sense of “rubato” live from Rubinstein although Murray Perahia on CD is pure magic too.
The technically difficult double thirds accompanied the left hand melodic line with a subtle sense of sound like a wind passing over the grave indeed !The absolute clarity and jeux perle of the “double” double thirds was just the relief and contrast that was needed.
Beautiful sense of colour in the Lento that is the 7th study where Chopin marks so clearly that the melody is in the left hand with only counterpoint comments from the right( Cortot and Perlemuter are the only others that I have heard make this distinction so clearly)The 8th played very much molto legato and sotto voce to contrast with the absolute clarity of the “ Butterfly” study that is n.9.The ending that can sound so abrupt in some hands here was perfectly and so naturally shaped
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The “Winter Wind” study n.11
The great octave study entered like a mist as Chopin indicates poco a poco crescendo .Bathed in pedal too even though not indicated so precisely by Chopin.Such was her identification with this sound world she had seen this study as great wedges of sound interrupted only by the extreme legato cantabile of the middle Lento section. Chopin marks very precisely here the fingering he wants to obtain this effect.
The great “Winter Wind” study n. 11 where there were great washes of sound ,again as Chopin so clearly indicates .The final great scale played unusually cleanly with a very precise final note.Of course all clearly indicated in Chopin’s own hand .
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Study n. 12.
The final 12th study was played with enormous sonority and very clear melodic line as Chopin indicates very clearly .The ending marked “ il piu forte possibile” and a final crescendo to “fff”. It brought this revelatory performance to a breathtaking ending.
We had been taken on such an unexpected journey that my original thought was a first half of only 30 minutes?But such a performance and vision could not have been shared with anything else and quite rightly was presented by a master as the absolute masterpiece it is.
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After the interval Miroirs played with all the magical sounds and complete mastery that is rarely heard in concert these days.The beauty and variation of colour was again a revelation.But coming after the Chopin I could not appreciate fully all the detail that she was outlining as she spun her delicate web of sound.Maybe here a more classical approach less fussy might have led to more clarity?Too many hairpins that the long line was not what I was used to hearing from the aristocratic french school. But hearing my colleagues who had come to hear a Master I realise that the unease was with me not with her!
We were soon woken out of the cocoon of sound by Agosti’s extraordinary transcription of Stravinsky Firebird.
It was written in 1928 and a fellow student of Agosti,Peter Bithell, told me that it was Stravinsky himself that had had it published.
Agosti and his wife were great friends of my wife and I , and the sounds that he could conjure from the piano in private I have never forgotten.His crippling stage fright meant that the vast public were robbed of hearing one of the greatest musicians – a disciple of Busoni. We managed to bully him into playing Beethoven op 111 and op 110 in public in our theatre but he always had to precede it with a spoken introduction .It is one of the few recordings of this genius that we have .
I never heard him play the Firebird although I suspect he taught it in Siena where the world used to flock to his studio in the summer months to hear sounds that will never be forgotten.
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I am sure that had he heard Beatrice play today he would have been filled with pride as to how she could realise the sounds that are transformed from the orchestra to the piano so magically.
A standing ovation and two encores from the Preludes by Chopin op 28.
Again even more of a revelation with the F sharp major prelude n.13 that can sound so disjointed in lesser hands. Here was allowed to sing with a simplicity and a sense of line that so often is disrupted by a less than flowing left hand.Here is the true rubato that Chopin described to his aristocratic pupils.The trees with the roots firmly in the ground and the branches free to sway simply and naturally above .The piu lento middle section was played as from afar but with such a magical sound projected as only a true master could have judged.The final few notes were played so naturally and with such gradations of sound that allowed the prelude to disappear to nothing as it had appeared
It led one of those rare moments of silence where no one dared even breath.
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A magisterial account of the Prelude in B flat minor broke the spell and showed us just what a virtuoso we had in our midst.Digging deep into the bass to give depth to the swirling sounds that she was spinning with such passion
in the right hand.
Of course many of the finest pianist were present and above all her greatest admirer Stephen Kovachevich and she greeted us all with a simplicity gladly signing her CD’s and talking to her friends and admirers.
At 26 we have a great master in our midst and it is lovely to know that she is from Puglia.That part of Italy blessed indeed for so many magnificent things .The land of Riccardo Muti, Benedetto Lupu,Nino Rota,Gioconda de Vito,Paolo Grassi , Tito Schipa,burrata,focaccia,vino di Locorotondo and the Spanish baroque of the Vallee D’Itria- Martina Franca and Lecce,of course at the very heel -the Florence of the south.
It can now be proud to boast Beatrice Rana.
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Greeting her public and signing CD’s after the recital
 
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Simone Tavoni at Steinway Hall for the Keyboard Trust

Simone Tavoni at Steinway Hall
Simone Tavoni at Steinway Hall for the Keyboard Trust
Illustrious company for Simone Tavoni`s debut recital for The Keyboard Trust.
The founder fathers John Leech and Noretta Conci-Leech were joined by artistic directors Leslie Howard and Elena Vorotko.
Canan Maxton from Talent unlimited of which Simone is disciple was also present.
Deniz Arman Gelenbe had flown in from Paris to hear Simone whom she had prepared for his Artists diploma at Trinity Laban.
It was interesting to see that he had acquired his Masters at the RCM with Andrew Ball.

Simone with Canan Maxton of Talent Unlimited
A whispered Mozart Variations on “La Belle Francoise “and the dramatic declarations of Liszt`s great homage to Dante.A delicate and intricate Paysages by Mompou led to one of the most lyrical of Prokofiev`s Sonatas.
Number 5 is the calm before the storm of the War Trilogy that followed.
I quote from Leslie Howard :” Simone Tavoni played like a man possessed, and it was spellbinding! Best Prokofiev 5th Sonata I’ve ever heard!
By the way, Christopher, Simone played the revised version of the 5th Sonata – opus 135 rather than opus 38 – which was the last opus number that Prokofiev completed – so some years after the 9th Sonata!!”
A surprise encore of a short piece that had come to Simone during the night!
Inspired by Mompou it showed off all the subtle colours that flow from Simone`s hands.
The second student that I had heard this week of that evident magician Andrew Ball.I had just heard at St Mary`s the day before Thomas Kelly searching for the same sounds as Simone today.
Some of the most beautiful Mozart I have ever heard came from the hands of his other former teacher Deniz Arman Gelenbe.https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/all-about-mozart-with-deniz-arman-gelenbe-and-friends/10154687162992309/

Simone looks on whilst the masters speak- Noretta Conci and Leslie Howard
His mentor Leslie Howard overseeing his studies away from his/our beloved homeland of Italy.
Mention should be made of a very remarkable man in Italy with whom both Simone and Jonathan Ferrucci had studied in their youth in Florence.Anyone who has had the fortune to read conversations with Giovanni Carmassi with Prof Ferrucci will realise where the seed of great talent was sown.https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/hii-am-jonathan-i-have-no-planb-jonathan-ferrucci-in-london-for-the-keyboard-tru/10156554619947309/

A pianist’s bible
As with so many things the world of civilisation starts in Florence.
A book easily on a par with the pianist`s bible of Neuhaus.
Noretta Conci was enthusiastic for Simone`s range of sound.
She was the assistant for many years of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli who was one of the first to have discovered the rare scores of the recluse Mompou.
Simone asking forgiveness from Leslie Howard for one or two blemishes in the Prokofiev that only he would have noticed was glad and visibly relieved to hear of Leslie`s unqualified enthusiasm for his performance.

The great beast baring its teeth in the newly renovated Steinway Concert Room
Having arrived to help with an acoustic rehearsal,Leslie insisted on the Steinway lid being fully open where Simone had been somewhat intimidated by the great sounds in this small hall.
Leslie of course with his great experience was right to insist and after some slight tip toeing in Mozart Simone came into his own during the great Dante Sonata.https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/tea-for-two-leslie-howard-45th-wigmore-celebration-and-burnett-thompson-the-age-/10156917413147309/
Leslie who I heard in Siena almost 50 years ago in Agostis class where the world flocked to learn from this great Italian master, disciple of Busoni.
I reminded him of a canadian student Jack Krichaf who had brought a piece by Mompou to play.
Red rag to a bull indeed,and Agosti put the score in the waste bin with “now play me some music”!!
If only he had heard the delicacy and intelligence with which Simone played Paysages today!

A full house for the newly renovated Steinway Hall Concert Room

Noretta Conci  Leech     Deniz ArmanGelenbe    John Leech    Simone Tavoni