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Schumann, Szymanowski, Scriabin Alberto Nosè, piano, Teatro della Pergola (Saloncino), Florence, Italy, Thursday, September 30th, 2004 (GF)


The little hall (Saloncino) of the Teatro della Pergola in Florence is a beautiful, middle-sized room in white with gold ornamentation and deep-red seats and curtains. The small stage is a built-in box in the wall, not unlike the Wigmore Hallís, but smaller; in fact, it barely houses a full-sized Steinway. The audience this night (events in Italy usually start at 9 p.m.) is small but full of expectation. Some of them obviously know the artist, others have no doubt read the text on the programme-leaflet, which gives an impressive list of merits for the 25-year-old Veronese pianist, Alberto Nosè. He has had great success in several important international piano competitions, winning first prizes in Paris (2000), Helsinki (2002) and Pordenose (2002) and a second prize in the "World Piano Competition" in London (2002). The list of pianists he has attended master classes with reads like a pianistsí "Whoís who?", topped by Murray Perahia, who was to have given a recital in this same theatre two days later but had to cancel due to illness. When Signore Nosè enters the stage we immediately notice that he is good-looking, too, and during the good old LP-days he might have been a bestselling recording artist with the help of the LP-cover-pictures.


He started with Schumann, the Symphonic Studies, Op 13 Ė music that is testing in more than one way, and definitely not "self-playing." From the start we notice several good things. That he has an impeccable technique is something you can almost take for granted in a young, well-trained pianist; that he has a rich palette of colours and dynamic nuances at his disposal is also obvious; and he works hard, also visually with body-movements and facial expressions, to interpret the music. This is a serious musician and if there is anything at all that he wants to "show off" itís his pianissimos. Still, as the first part of the recital went on, I had a growing feeling that the music didnít touch me, I was unmoved and longing for the interval. And whose fault was it? The pianistís? Ė mine? Ė maybe even Schumannís? I got the answer, immediately after the long and very warm applause, from my wife, who loves piano music and has a very keen ear: "Wasnít that very ugly? It was just banging and rattling sounds!" So maybe it was the instrument. Definitely it was unlovable.


We moved to a position in the middle of the hall for the second part and the difference was amazing. Alberto Nosè started the second part with Szymanowski, and the choice of repertoire showed a serious mind. This was early Szymanowski, his Four Studies Op 4, written 1902Ė04 when he had just turned twenty and was still a romantic. The playing was so lovely, so beautiful, so flexible that at thirty metersí distance from the stage it was like hearing a new instrument. It became difficult not to admire Mr Nosè, not because of his playing as such but because of the obvious affection with which he unfolded page after page of this lovely music and invited me Ė just me! Ė to share his affection. He also showed how Szymanowski in these four little pieces gradually developed a personal style, how he moved from the world of a Schumann or Chopin, past the late romantics to touch the impressionistic world of Scriabin and especially in the third piece, Andante in modo díuna canzone, showed a voice of his own, pointing forward not least to his later vocal music.


He very appropriately rounded off the recital with a substantial helping of Scriabin, middle-period to late Scriabin, that is. "Chopin without the melodies" a commentator once memorably described Scriabinís music. I donít fully agree, for Scriabin has a melodic world all of his own, which, once youíve got into it, is just as enchanting. And Alberto Nosè played it marvellously. If there is a criticism it is that these short pieces, a total of thirteen, gave no natural centre of gravity to the second part of the recital. One of his sonatas would have provided that. But, never mind, the playing was superior and, was it only my imagination or didnít the pianist relax more, didnít he make less faces, didnít he crouch less over the keyboard? It felt as if he didnít need external attributes to bring out the music; it all came from within.


The applause was intense from so small an audience. Walking back to our hotel, through dark alleys in the warm Italian night, we remained more aware of the wonderful music and the marvellous playing of this young pianist than we were of our selves. This is a pianist definitely worth hearing.


Göran Forsling

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