Piano recital in Chingford

Comments from members of the audience:

“The D minor sonata was so beautifully played and in particular the crucial bars 143 – 148 and 153 – 158 in the first movement, which present much difficulty for we mere mortals in trying to convey the ghostly and spiritually contemplative atmosphere intended by the composer, were hauntingly beautiful. I have always felt the difficulty with these passages is more to do with the artist’s ability to empathise perfectly with Beethoven’s emotions than with technique; I felt your communion with Beethoven was at its height in those bars. You told me it was this sonata which set you on the road – at the age of nine, I think; certainly your special connection and affinity with it shone through. Your performance of the Hammerklavier was a tour-de force and your control, especially in the last movement, was astonishing. What a work that is! And what a challenge! Again, I’ve not heard this sonata played better than I did yesterday. We could not stop talking about it on the way home.”

“I was mesmerised by your magnificent playing on Saturday afternoon at Chingford.. I leaned closer to the keyboard because I could hardly believe what was happening! What a stupendous mind Beethoven must have had to write that fugue in the last Movement of the Hammerklavier and what a formidable technique and musical understanding you John must have to play it! Bravo and congratulations. I so enjoyed all three sonatas and  was especially captivated by the last lyrical and beautiful movement of the Tempest.”

Dr Ray Steadman-Allen: obituary

The obituary of Dr Ray Steadman-Allen in today’s Sunday Telegraph mentions his service as a Patron of the London Society for Musicological Research, which I founded in 2002. Ray was always ready to give his support to musicians, and has left a rich legacy as composer and arranger. He will be fondly remembered above all for his masterly works for brass band, one of which can be heard via the link below.


Recital at the Guild of Musicians and Singers, 17 May 2014

GMS newsletter coverGMS programmeA CD recording of this recital is now available from Romantic Discoveries Recordings.

Recital at the 41st General Meeting of the Guild of Musicians and Singers, 17 May 2014
John Kersey, piano

Audio samples:
Faure: Barcarolle no. 2
Faure: Barcarolle no. 3
Faure: Nocturne no. 6
Alkan Symphony: movt. 1; movt. 2; movt. 3; movt 4

Total time: 71 minutes 15 seconds

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924):
1. Barcarolle no. 2 in G major, op. 41 (1885) (6’16”)
2. Barcarolle no. 3 in G flat major, op. 42 (1885) (8’59”)
3. Barcarolle no. 4 in A flat major, op. 44 (1886) (4’06”)
4. Barcarolle no. 5 in F sharp major, op. 66 (1894) (6’28”)
5. Nocturne no. 6 in D flat major, op. 63 (1894) (+ applause) (10’32”)

Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-88):
Symphonie for solo piano, from 12 Etudes in the minor keys, op. 39 nos. 4-7
6. Allegro moderato (10’14”)
7. Marcia funebre: Andantino (6’27”)
8. Menuet (5’56”)
9. Finale: Presto (+ applause) (5’28”)

10. (encore) Faure: Nocturne no. 3 and concluding remarks by Master of the Guild Dr. David Bell (6’59”)

Recorded at the concert on 17 May 2014 and the rehearsal concert preceding it.

gms 1

Membership and other details of the Guild and Musicians and Singers can be found on the Guild’s website: www.musiciansandsingers.com.

New CD published

A new CD has been issued by Romantic Discoveries Recordings:

Franz von Holstein (1826-78): Piano Sonata in C minor, op. 28
John Kersey, piano

Total time: 76 minutes 54 seconds

Franz von Holstein (1826-78): Piano Sonata in C minor, op. 28
1. Allegro con brio, un poco maestoso (9’58”) 2. Andante (7’35”) 3. Allegro appassionato (8’43”)
Otto Klauwell (1851-1917): Drei Stücke in Kanonform, op. 38:
4. Praeludium (2’43”) 5. Scherzo (1’13”) 6. Romanze (2’30”)
7. Variations in D minor, op. 22 (10’36”)
Hans Seeling (1828-62):
8. Impromptu, op. 8 no. 1 (1’42”) 9. Romance, op. 8 no. 2 (6’18”)
Wilhelm Speidel (1826-99): Suite (quasi Sonata), op.111:
10. Praeludium (2’24”) 11. Andante espressivo (3’03”) 12. Scherzo (3’27”) 13. Marcia funebre (9’41”) 14. Finale (6’30”)

Our thanks to Klaus Zehnder-Tischendorf for supplying scores of these rare works.

Franz von Holstein was destined for an army career at the insistence of his father, but during his officer training he composed the opera ‘Zwei Nächte in Venedig’ as well as songs and ballads, and for a time, encouraged by his friendship with Griepenkerl, continued to compose in the free time allowed by his military duties. By 1853 he was free to pursue a musical career, and came to Leipzig where he studied with Moritz Hauptmann and, as a pianist, with Plaidy and Ignaz Moscheles. He then lived for a time in Rome, Berlin and Paris before becoming manager of the Leipzig Bach-Gesellschaft. Although chiefly known as a composer of songs, he was also responsible for several operas, orchestral works and chamber music, and wrote a significant amount of poetry. During his last six years he suffered with stomach cancer, and it was his wish that a bequest should establish a fund for impecunious musicians at the Leipzig Conservatoire. His Piano Sonata is a major composition of some ambition and achievement, with a clear influence of Schumann and Brahms evident.

Wilhelm Speidel is best remembered today as founder of the Stuttgart Music School. His father was a singer and composer and it was by him that his early musical talent was first nurtured. At Munich, he became a composition pupil of Ignaz Lachner and studied piano with Christian Wanner. After spending 1846-7 as a private teacher in Alsace, he returned to Munich, where he taught, also undertaking a tour throughout Germany as a pianist. He was known as an interpreter of Beethoven, who is also a major influence on his compositions. At Ulm, he founded and conducted the Liedertafel, and became active as a choral conductor. In 1857 he moved to Stuttgart where, together with Lebert, Stark, Faisst and others the Stuttgart Music School, today the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Stuttgart. Here he taught and conducted the Stuttgart Liederkranz; his pupils included the American composer Edgar Stillman Kelley. However, after a quarrel with Lebert in 1874 he resigned his post and started his own conservatoire. He accepted reinstatement at the Music School upon Lebert’s death in 1885. Speidel composed in almost every form and was chiefly known in his lifetime as a composer of songs and choral music, adopting the popular idioms of German folk song.

Hans Seeling was born and studied in Prague, and suffered from delicate health from an early age. In 1852 he made his first public appearance as a pianist, in Italy, and then toured the Orient in 1856, followed by concerts in Germany. In 1859 he came to Paris. The lung condition from which he was suffering worsened and he returned to his native town, where he died. Seeling’s youth means that his compositions, all of which are for piano, are relatively few in number, but merited comparison with Chopin and Henselt in his time.

Two new CDs published

Two new CDs have been issued by Romantic Discoveries Recordings:

Piano Music of Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916), volume 2
John Kersey, piano

Audio sample: Fantasie, op. 81 (from vol. 1)

Total time: 76 minutes 13 seconds

Sonata in F minor, op. 1
1. Langsam, getragen (7’49”) 2. Lebhaft (3’31”) 3. Leidenschaftlich bewegt (10’06”)
Zwei Klavierstücke, op. 39
4. Lied (4’34”) 5. Gavotte (4’40”)
Tondichtung, op. 72
6. Hymnus (3’11”) 7. Romanze (5’45”) 8. Intermezzo (6’25”) 9. Jubilate (5’18”)
10. Waltz, op. 70 (4’50”)
Symbole, op. 59
11. Nachtstück (5’13”) 12. Elegie (5’11”) 13. Im Schilf (3’36”) 14. Romanze (3’00”) 15. Aeolus (2’55”)

Piano Music of Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916), volume 1
John Kersey, piano

Total time: 72 minutes 16 seconds

1. Fantasie, op. 27 (21’04”)
Ins Stammbuch, op. 26
2. Andantino (1’49”) 3. Allegretto grazioso (1’40”) 4. Andante (3’39”) 5. Allegro con brio e giocoso (2’27”) 6. Andante espressivo (2’53”) 7. Allegro (6’34”) 8. Lento e sostenuto (2’57”)
9. Fantasie, op. 81 (8’11”)
10. Legende, op. 44 (12’06”)
11. Romanze, op. 15 (8’51”)

Friedrich Gernsheim was born of a Jewish family in Worms and studied there with Louis Liebe, who had been a pupil of Spohr. Following the 1848 revolutions, his father moved the family to Frankfurt, where he studied with Edward Rosenhain. His debut in 1850 was followed by two years of touring, before he undertook advanced studies with Moscheles. Between 1855-60 he was in Paris, where he met Lalo, Rossini and Saint-Saëns. In 1861 he succeeded Hermann Levi as music director in Saarbrücken, and in 1865 Hiller appointed him to the staff of the Cologne Conservatoire, where he taught Engelbert Humperdinck among others. In 1868 he met Brahms for the first time, and his compositions, which include four symphonies (the third based on the Jewish theme of the Song of Miriam), concertos and much chamber music, show a notable Brahmsian influence. He spent the years 1874-90 as director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Society, before joining the faculty of the Stern Conservatoire in Berlin, finally leaving to teach at the Academy of Arts in 1897, the year he was elected to the senate.

New CD published

A new CD has been published by Romantic Discoveries Recordings.

Piano Music of Sydney Smith (1839-89) volume 2
John Kersey, piano

Total time:

Total time: 76 minutes 47 seconds

1. Nadeshda, fantasia on the opera by Arthur Goring Thomas (1850-92), op. 211b 2. Aspiration (mélodie), op. 208 no. 1 3. Inquiétude (impromptu), op. 208 no. 2 4. Gavotte and Musette, op. 188 5. Vie orageuse (Deuxième ballade), op. 203 6. Chant de berceau, op. 156 7. Harmonies du soir (morceau élégant), op. 54 8. Menuet romantique, op. 174 9. Rayons d’or (Bagatelle), op. 176 10. Happy memories (morceau de salon), op. 77 11. Kermesse (Scène hollandaise), op. 181 12. Voix du coeur (Mélodie), op. 178 13. Zeffiretta (Morceau de salon), op. 159 14. Bacchanale, op. 170

Our thanks to the Sydney Smith Archive for supplying scores of these rare works.

Sydney Smith represents a lost generation of English composer-pianists who enjoyed both critical and commercial success in his heyday, only to be eclipsed by a rapid change in musical fashion that was compounded by his own ill-health. Born in Dorchester, in close proximity to Thomas Hardy, Smith won a place at the Leipzig Conservatoire aged seventeen and studied there for three years under Moscheles and Plaidy (piano) and Grutzmacher (cello). The Crown Prince of Prussia was apparently greatly impressed with his talent, and Smith’s move to London in 1859 marked the beginning of a career as a recitalist (notably at the Crystal Palace) and teacher. Added to this was the beginning of a prolific career as a melodic and effective composer of works for the salon and concert hall, many of which became included in popular anthologies of piano music of the day. This oeuvre made Smith one of the most famous musicians of his day, not only in England, but in Australia, America and continental Europe, and his name became a household word. Smith was particularly known for his virtuoso opera transcriptions, but as this album will show, was also gifted in a variety of short original forms, including characteristic dances and evocative mood-pieces. These works are written in a masterly way for the piano, showing a mature understanding of pianistic effect (with a good deal of influence from Chopin and Liszt) and providing a considerable technical challenge for the performer. The present recital offers probably the only opportunity at the moment to hear any of Arthur Goring Thomas’s last opera “Nadeshda” and is otherwise devoted to a varied selection of Smith’s original works, concentrating particularly on those from his later years.

New CD published

A new CD has been published by Romantic Discoveries Recordings.

Piano Music of Herrmann Scholtz (1845-1918)
John Kersey, piano

Total time: 74 minutes 50 seconds

1. Nocturne op 41 no 1. 2. Nocturne op 41 no 2. 3. Variationen über ein norwegisches Volklied, op 27. Traumbilder, op 22: 4. Langsam 5. Im mässigen Tempo 6. Langsam 7. Sehr rasch. 8. 14 Variationen über ein Original-Thema, op 31. Albumblätter, op 20: 9. Ziemlich langsam 10. Mässig bewegt 11. Innig bewegt 12. Ziemlich bewegt 13. Innig bewegt 14. Ziemlich langsam und äusserst zart zu spielen 15. Nicht zu langsam und etwas graziös 16. Ziemlich belebt und sehr gesangvoll zu spielen 17. Still und träumerisch 18. Ziemlich bewegt 19. Ziemlich langsam und mit innigem Ausdruck 20. Freudig bewegt.

Our thanks to Peter Cook for supplying scores of these rare works.

Herrmann Scholtz was born in Breslau and studied there with Brosig and subsequently at the Leipzig Conservatoire with Plaidy (1865-67). On the advice of Liszt, he completed his studies at Munich with von Bülow and Rheinberger. He taught at Munich for six years after graduation, before moving to Dresden where he was appointed Sächsischen Kammer-virtuose in 1880 and professor in 1910. Scholtz’s posthumous reputation rests upon his edition of the works of Chopin, but he was also a versatile composer. For piano, he composed a sonata and a piano concerto (unpublished) and a number of shorter works from which this disc presents a selection. There is also a piano trio and several orchestral Suites.

Scholtz’s American pupil Mary Y. Mann wrote in a reminiscence of him, “I wish it lay in my power to teach all here to appreciate and honor him in the same degree that all who know him do…so ever courteous, gentle and friendly, possessed of so great musical intelligence and feeling, yet so modest with all that it humbled one to think of one’s own diminutiveness…in every way Professor Scholtz is a most delightful teacher, and his music room where he always gives his lessons is enough to delight a musician’s heart so full of mementos of the old masters and music of all kinds; and to crown all two grand pianos, at one of which he always sits with a copy of the pupil’s lesson, thus sparing you the nervous feeling of having some-one “look over your shoulders,” and at times playing with you, imbuing you with his spirit and tempo.” Regarding Scholtz as a player, she tells us, “He plays rather seldom as his time is fully occupied and of late has had an affection of the hand aside from an injury to one of his fingers that has debarred him from overuse of them, but he is always a warmly-welcomed and a very sympathetic performer, and so generous to his brother-artists that one appreciates his greatness the more.”

New CD published

A new CD has been published by Romantic Discoveries Recordings.

The Little Russians
John Kersey, piano

Alexander Alexandrovich Kopylov (1854-1911): 1. Feuille d’album in G Gennari Ossipovich Karganov (1858-90): 2. Serenade, from “Album lyrique”, op 20 no 4 3. Menuet all’antico, op 20 no 5 4. Dans le gondole, op 20 no 6 5. Kopylov: Polka de salon on the theme B-la-F, op 16 6. Karganov: Reverie du soir, op 20 no 7 7. Scherzino, op 20 no 8 8. Berceuse, op 20 no 11 9. Kopylov: Album leaf in C minor, from “3 Album Leaves”, op 26 no 3 10. Karganov: Romance, op 20 no 9 11. Nocturne, op 18 no 1 12. Kopylov: Chanson sans paroles 13. Karganov: Valse-caprice, op 16 14. Kopylov: A drop of rain, op 13 no 4 15. Mazurka 16. Karganov: Capriccietto, op 20 no 10 17. Mazurka, op 20 no 12 18. Nocturne, op 18 no 2 19. Kopylov: Feuille d’album in C 20. Karganov: Berceuse, from “Aquarelles”, op 22 no 3 21. Polka, from “For the Youth”, op 21 no 7

Our thanks to Peter Cook for supplying scores of these rare works.

Gennari Ossipovich Karganov was born in Kvarely in Georgia in 1858 (or possibly 1852). He was of Armenian nationality but subsequently became a naturalized Russian. He was professor of piano at the conservatoire in Georgia and composed mainly for the piano, including many miniatures and some instructional works. He died at Rostov-on-Don in 1890, aged just 31.

Alexander Alexandrovich Kopylov studied privately with Rimsky-Korsakov and Liadov. Principally a singer and violinist, he taught at the Imperial Court Choir where he had formerly been a chorister. Composer of symphonies and string quartets, he also composed a number of miniatures for piano.