Showing posts with label Angelo Villani. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Angelo Villani. Show all posts

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday roundup from a very busy week

I've been burning the candle at both ends, to coin a phrase. It beats the hell out of sitting alone at home watching repeats of Midsomer Murders - something I have resolved never to do again.

Last Saturday, Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House. You wake up, the sun is shining, you're free, it's opening night at Covent Garden, Jonas is singing and you're not there? Unthinkable! I scooped a return and drank long and deep of the genius of Verdi. It was almost impossible to imagine a finer cast. Sometimes when Kaufmann is on stage, the rest can fade to insignificance, but here his peers matched him moment for moment.

This appears to be the one performance that the scheduled soprano, Anja Harteros, was able in the end to do, and the first time I've managed to hear her live. Her voice has an almost uncanny beauty along with extraordinary range of expression: the deepest levels enhanced by taut, dramatic diction, the uppermost soaring with rare 100-carat sheen. She's the perfect stage partner for Kaufmann, matching his sensitivity to nuance and blending with his multifaceted colourations, the final duet daringly hushed. Mariusz Kwiecien's double-edged charm and rich-flowing baritone, as Rodrigo, might otherwise have stolen the show, while Ferruccio Furlanetto's magnificently tortured and heartbreaking Philip II threatened to do likewise, with the type of voice and interpretation that brings every twist of phrase and fortune into close-up. Eric Halfvorsen's Grand Inquisitor rose to the challenge of one of Verdi's nastiest and truest personalities. In the pit, Tony Pappano and the orchestra plunged through the four-and-a-half hour span with passion undimmed; and the chorus was absolutely on fire for the auto da fe, a scene in which the confluence of symbol and drama could scarcely be finer.

Carlos is, after all, a German romantic hero - by Schiller - in all but moniker, a soul whose obsession with Elisabeth after one scant encounter in the forest can match that of Goethe's Werther for Charlotte. Flanders is Elisabeth; the burning heretics are the heart of Carlos, who burns inwardly for breaking the taboo of aching for his stepmother. Freud might have enjoyed that final moment of farewell when he addresses Elisabeth as 'mother'. What happened to Carlos's real mother anyway? We are not told.

Lianna Haroutounian has since stepped into Harteros's shoes, making her ROH debut; and the churlish anonymi grumbling on the ROH comments boxes that the house should have had a "name" as second cast may want to think again. Fiona Maddocks's review today declares: "Haroutounian seemed to pull forth ever-increasing vocal powers until you thought her heart, or yours, would burst."

On Tuesday we had the first run-through at home of the Hungarian Dances concert with the new team for the Ulverston and the St James Theatre June performances. David Le Page (violin) and Anthony Hewitt (piano) used to be duo partners in their teens, but hadn't met in 23 years...yet it was as if they'd last seen each other yesterday. And the intensity of their musical response to the story took me completely by surprise. It felt as these concerts probably should: we may be a reader and two musicians, but their engagement with the drama and the emotions in the narrative bounced different angles into the music, while their impassioned interpretations made me see new and darker corners in my own text. It was as if we all made music together, essentially. I'm hugely grateful to them and excited about sharing a stage with them. Ulverston is on 8 June, the St James Theatre Studio in central London is on 11 June, and booking is open.

On Wednesday, to St John's Smith Square to hear Angelo Villani in recital. Angelo, you remember, is the Italian-Australian pianist we talked to a little while back when he started to make his comeback after 20 years away from the concert platform due to a trapped nerve in his shoulder. He performs in white gloves. And there's something of the white gloves about his musicianship too, in the best sense: while some complained that the programme he chose consisted more of the slow and soft than the barnstorming so many people seem to expect of concert pianists these days, that was actually the point.

Whether in the freely-calibrated rubato of the Chopin Nocturnes Op.9, two of the Liszt Petrarch Sonnets and the Ballade No.2, or the Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, adapted from Wagner by various hands including Von Bulow, Liszt and Villani himself, his exceptional and microscopic sensitivity, the way he immerses us in sonority, allows us to soak up the edges of vibration as if letting subtle-coloured dye infiltrate and diffuse through our inner worlds. It's unusual and it may not be for everyone, but this is fine-art pianism and it is good to know that it hasn't been entirely lost in the outside welter of the (largely positive but often noisy) Lang Lang Effect.

There's a wonderful story about Daniel Guilet, the founding violinist of the Beaux Arts Trio, as a young lad meeting Fauré in the foyer of the Paris Conservatoire. Monsieur le Directeur, as Fauré was then (pictured right), said to Daniel: where are you going in such a hurry? "My violin lesson, sir." Ahh, said Fauré. You'll go to your lesson and you'll learn to play fast and loud. But to play slow and soft: that is really difficult.

On Thursday, my mates from the Culturekicks blog took me to the trendiest gig in town: The Knife, at the Roundhouse. I'll be writing about it more fully for them, but in brief, the experience was a polar opposite from Angelo's concert (=ear protectors) and in other ways just like the Proms, because if you're my height you can't see much. Music: Nordic Noir without the murders. More about it soon.

The great thing is that in this extraordinary world, and especially in this matchless city of ours, there's room for everything: music of different eras, angles, twists, turns, scale, substance and aspect. Try to do it all, if and when you have the chance. Because each experience feeds the next.

Last but not least, yesterday I went to a school reunion and saw friends I haven't seen since our A levels, more years ago than I'd like to admit, and they hadn't changed a bit. Time's a funny old thing. Just as an opera that is well over 100 years old can feel as fresh and relevant in terms of drama and emotional impact as an electro-post-pop band, the passing decades simply disappear when people's energies connect, reconnect and blossom. Yes, this was quite a week...


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Angelo Villani's back


   
   
   
   
   


.....well, THAT was Angelo's own transcription of the Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, played live in the BBC Radio 3 In Tune studio yesterday. Blimey. Come and hear him play it, Alkan, Liszt and more at St John's Smith Square tomorrow (Wednesday 8 May): http://www.sjss.org.uk/events/angelo-villani-piano-recital

If you missed our JDCMB Q&A with Angelo a few months back, here it is again. http://jessicamusic.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/a-remarkable-pianist-is-due-to-make-his.html

Monday, December 31, 2012

And JDCMB's top ten posts of 2012 are...

Here are the top ten stories on JDCMB this year. Good to see that among the matters that interested you most were some of the world's top conductors, several exciting young artists and quite a few of the quirky JDCMB pieces that you won't find anywhere else - not least, the April Fool's Day spectacular. Below, listed in reverse order.

Thank you, everyone, for joining me through the roller-coaster highs and lows of 2012 and here's hoping that in 2013 the comets shine bright!



10.  Socks for the Lilac Fairy?                                                  
 Why do balletomanes knit socks for their favourite dancers, but Lang Lang doesn't get gloves from the pianophiles?

Life-enhancing ways to behave at a concert.

That.

Introducing Angelo Villani.

In which I sit in on the great maestro's conducting masterclasses.

Italian romantic in cravat triumphs at the UK's premier piano competition.

You're a pragmatic lot, dear readers, and you know when you're on to a good thing.

Or can there? A look at this year's finalists.

1 April, and it looked like we might all have to play to Gergiev. Delightfully, a few of you fell for this, lock, stock and subsequent red ears.

And in first place...

The maestro gets it all off his chest.






Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Watch Angelo Villani's comeback concert right here

A couple of months ago, JDCMB had an e-interview with the Australian pianist Angelo Villani, who was due to make his London debut after an absence from the concert platform spanning two decades. Annoyingly, I couldn't make it to the concert, so invited him to do a runthrough in our front room, which was a treat of the first order. Now he has uploaded a film of the recital at St James's Church, Piccadilly, to Youtube, in HD. Here it is, in two parts. The acoustic is not the world's finest, but the white gloves are positively hypnotic. Enjoy.




Monday, September 17, 2012

A remarkable pianist is due to make his come-back after 25 years...

Here is a pianist who has absolutely nothing to do with Leeds.

Remember Tower Records at Piccadilly Circus? Many years ago, in the days when I edited a piano magazine, I used to love going into the classical department and having a good old browse in the historical piano section. One of the staff members there was exceptionally helpful and informative on this topic. He wore a red shirt and the name label ANGELO. Struck by his evident inside knowledge and love for the repertoire and its legendary exponents, I thought he was well named. And I always wondered what such a special guy was doing working in Tower Records in any case.

Now we know. Angelo Villani was a pianist himself - a remarkably talented one. He hails from an Italian family in Australia. A quarter-century ago he arrived at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow with high hopes, a week before it began. Disaster struck: a trapped nerve in his arm led to his withdrawal from the contest before the first round. He travelled the world looking for effective treatment, but since then has performed only sporadically, and has made a living by teaching - and, for seven years, working in Tower Records. 

And now he's making a come-back.

He'll be playing at St James, Piccadilly, on Saturday 6 October, with a programme of Grieg, Brahms and Liszt - nothing less than the 'Dante' Sonata. Box office: 020 7734 4511.

After listening to some of his performances on Youtube, I thought we'd better ask him for an e-interview.



JD: Angelo, what happened to you?

AV: Specialists have not been entirely sure how the nerve in my neck/shoulder came to be entrapped; some said it may have been an early sports injury or even carrying a heavy school bag on my shoulder.

JD: What has changed?

AV: About two or three years after the Tchaikovsky competition, it was finally diagnosed as calcified scar tissue impinging on the nerve. Many diverse treatments were tried and after a long while I finally began to see tangible results. My current specialist Andrew Croysdale has been working on my shoulder for the past 8 years or so. He is a Master with Tui-Na techniques, a Chinese method of deep tissue massage.

JD: Was it a difficult decision to make a come back?

AV: Well, truth be told, I have been waiting for this comeback for over 25 years.

JD: How do you feel about taking to the concert platform?

AV: For me, the idea of performing in public has always been a double-edged sword. So I guess it is as daunting as it is thrilling. I love this duality.

JD:  What repertoire is really you, and why?

AV: I feel very at home with the Romantics, but generally I love any music that is overtly expressive by nature. Mood and atmosphere can be just as potent as emotion.

JD: Who did you study with and who do you consider are your chief influences?
AV: In Melbourne, my first proper teacher was Stephen McIntyre (who was himself a pupil of Michelangeli). Also at the Victorian College of the Arts Technical School, I studied with Alexander Semetsky (a pupil of Gilels). From the age of ten, I started collecting LPs, not only of any Classical pianists but of opera singers and conductors. Before long, I was buying the same concertos and operas but with different artists. I was very keen to understand what set them apart.

JD: Who do you like listening to and what type of playing do you love the most?

AV: After listening and collecting recordings for so many years and then working at Tower Records I realized how extraordinary it was that one could revisit these old recordings repeatedly and always find something 'new' in them. Recently after I became engaged I had further cause to rediscover and share these old treasures with my fiancee, herself a sensitive amateur pianist.

When I first heard the playing of greats such as Horowitz, Richter and Cziffra, I became extremely curious of their predecessors and hungry to understand why they played the way they played. I guess it didn't take long to notice how highly faceted and multidimensional these artists were...

JD: Name a few favourite piano recordings and state why you have chosen them.

AV: Ignace Tiegerman's rendering of Chopin's 4th Ballade is miraculous, as is the heaven storming performance of the same work by Josef Hofmann. I am constantly amazed, no matter how many times I revisit these marvels.They are so different and yet so Polish' in their unique way.

Same goes for Ervin Nyiregyhazi's Liszt 2 Legends. He seems to not only underline the Hungarian elements in Liszt's music but also the metaphysical and visionary aspects to the point where a critical response becomes engulfed by an emotional one.

Walter Gieseking is largely remembered for his Ravel and Debussy ,but I find him at his most telling in Schumann especially in works like the 'Davidsbundlertanze'.Here we have a moving example of intensely overt lyricism juxtaposed with a striking personal intimacy :Tragic heartache beneath a cloak of sublime dignity and resignation...

JD: What are your plans now?

AV: To not drive the neighbours crazy with my Dante Sonata!



Here is Angelo playing Franck's Prelude, Chorale et Fugue. As you'd imagine from someone who names Tiegerman and Nyiregyhazi as favourites, this is not exactly usual playing. (Three parts.)