APRIL

APRIL started with a challenge: I was offered to step-in for an indisposed pianist in the Harrod's Series at the QEH in London. Something which, throughout my career always gave me a buzz, but this time with the slightest of hesitations: it was to happen the day after my return from an imminent tour in Australia! But at least the programme would be 'warm' from 4 performances! Of course I went for it, and it was great!

Were you there, by any chance?

 

 

MAY

MAY took me home to Brazil, where I had the pleasure of launching a new CD alongside Brazilian cellist , Antonio Meneses: The complete works for cello and piano by Villa-Lobos. We not only played for a full Sala Cecilia Meireles in Rio (it poured with rain!), but went on to perform in Brasília, for President Fernando Henrique, dona Ruth the First Lady, and a very select chosen-few guests, at the Palácio da Alvorada - the gorgeous residence designed by the late Oscar Niemeyer. Back in London, I was in the jury of the Finals of the BBC's Young Musician and had a lovely time sharing views on musical talent, with colleagues in the panel: one of the nicest things about adjudicating in Competitions, is the pleasure of discovering other respected musicians' approaches to music and performing. 

The month ended with a quick trip to Jersey, again to replace …. the same indisposed artist, with yet another recital. More buzz!

 

 

JUNE

In JUNE I had to worry a bit about something quite out of the ordinary, but which only happens every 4 years? You guessed it: the World Cup! And how very exciting! 
Already in the first week, as I was preparing for my first date in Switzerland, I was doing an ALL Brazilian recital, and reliving my roots with Brazil's sounds and rhythms HAD to mean victory! (more of that later). The second recital took me to Tallinn where in the programme I included some delightful short pieces by E.Tubin, Estonian composer: it's always useful to discover music. A touching surprise was the presence in the audience, of a most talented (native) conductor, Vello Pahn, whom I had met recently in Paris: whenever a colleague appears at a concert of mine, the fact that they make the effort makes my evening: why on earth should any musician, on his or her day off, want to go to a concert?! It is such a treat and performers go through some strangely lonely experiences, sometimes left to walk alone to the hotel. Can't you believe this? Well, do! 
Then in the last week, I was off to Fort Worth, home of the Van Cliburn Competition (of which I was its 3rd Gold medalist hundreds of years ago!): I had finally agreed to give 3 Master Classes at the TCU's Cliburn Institute, as part of their Summer Faculty as well as playing a recital. I must say that in recent years, teaching has taught me so much that, including Master Classes in my trips, is now almost a necessity ! 
And what a week it was: I had the time of my life, getting to know a bit about each young person, making them listen to their own sound, the use of pedal, strict respect of the score, all "con molta passione"! But the best, came when Brazil became World Champions for the 5th time! You couldn't really expect any lesser result after last time's flop, could you? 

Any music lover out there who also enjoys a good World Cup? It's only once every 4 years! Anyway, I was happy for Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho … oops! So-r-ry, England!

 

 

JULY

"Come JULY, I can usually look forward to a long break from civilization, literally. When my two girls were little, summer meant sacred quality time and space, and I remember how I tried to live their waking hours as if I weren't a pianist at all: swimming, sunbathing, baking (almost a cake a day!) then, when night fell and after dinner they would go to bed, I would start my hours of practice, happily so, sometimes until 2-3 in the morning! I felt that the normal lack of routine in our life at home, should not continue on holidays! Guilt ? Rather … fantasy! But that's a long time ago. Back to the present, talk of cancellations and guess what? YES: still while in Texas, busy with recital and Master Classes, I heard about the offer: all 5 Beethoven Concertos, in two nights, at the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, simply my favourite concert hall, in the world! Could I say no? What better way to spend a few hours a day, rediscovering this awesomely massive repertoire? I never dreamt I'd do it so unexpectedly! And unlike the first time I played all 5 with the RPO at London's Barbican Hall under my so-very-dear Charles Groves, this time is the real marathon:! How fabulous is that? Now, as for building up stamina: a lot of swimming and a bit of tennis now-and-then would come in nicely! The dates ? July 31st and August 1st! 

Come on and share my joy! Would you?

 

 

AUGUST

AUGUST then, takes me almost immediately to Oxford's Philomusica Festival where this time (third successive year) I will make a recital appearance and teach a couple of Master Classes: I do enjoy its uniquely cosy atmosphere! Oh yes: something amazing happened to me there, last year: my very first piano teacher Dirce Bauer (I went to her at 4ys of age!) with whom I have recently re-established contact, decided to enter as a participant and…you've guessed it: she came to play for me! It was such a moving experience, I will never forget it (and most of those present): the eagerness and humility (actually she's only in her early 70s) of a marvelous pianist who's willing to get the opinion of somebody whom SHE had musically-alphabetized! Hey, that must be a one-in-a-million, surely! Beat this! 

NOW can I have some time off? Thanks.

 

 

OCTOBER

Sometimes a good break makes it harder to get back to serious work, but with the onset of OCTOBER, I had to look forward to all sorts of new challenges: putting together a new all-Spanish recital programme from material I haven't touched for ages, and mainly sorting out millions of details for a forthcoming tour to my home country, Brazil - always a bit of a nerve-wracking pastime…and, until I actually step ON Brazilian ground (literally getting off the long plane-journey), I tend to doubt it will ever really happen! 

But before I'm off there, I look forward to going to Kuopio (in Finland), to play Liszt's Concerto # 2, after many a year: what a lot of stamina it requires: it didn't feel this way, in my twenties! But I adore the Finns and their warmth. Yes! Any of you out there, agree with me?

I have my reasons to feel this way. And one day soon I will tell it to you, promise!

The thrill of playing under the baton of V. Ashkenazy, apart from being an unfailing-unique experience, every time, will never happen often enough; so when K. Zimmerman had to cancel his concert at the RFH with few days to spare, the Philharmonia's decision to take Rachmaninov 1 instead of Bartok 3 , came with a sort of relief on my part: practically speaking, being away from home or on holiday, means access only to a limited amount of scores, and although I'd LOVE to have re-prepared the beautiful and haunting Bartok, each hour that passed , made me wonder whether I had lost all senses, to even wait for their decision! When it finally came, at 5.30pm on Friday (the first rehearsal was happening on the Sunday!) I felt absolutely on top of the world: although I hadn't played the Rachmaninov in concert, since last January with Hirokami, in Cincinnati, I had been teaching it to a very talented pupil of mine just a few days before, and knew that it was still very much on my fingers! Instead of rushing back to London, I could simply enjoy playing through that gorgeous and most fresh of all his Concertos, from memory, to my heart's content: I didn't even require a score. Did any of you happen to come on Oct.15th to hear Krystian maybe? Sorry!

But YES: it was incredibly especial: the buzz never fails!

By the way, when opening the site, you did recognise the music! Ashkenazy is conducting the RPO: nice memories.

 

 

NOVEMBER

he whole of November was taken by a tour of over 3 weeks in my home country Brazil. Months of oh-so-cool British-surroundings gets to be too much for a hot-blooded soul like me. And I also embarked on a sort of Crusade, by playing mainly recitals of music by Brazilian composers, a first on home-ground. It was meant to prove to many a sceptic mind that “our music”, if played with courage and my kind of passionate commitment, measures up to all others ! And how “my” public and critics became one, with me! It was most touching, I must admit, and gave me the strength to believe in myself, something I needed desperately, at this time in life…

Starting in Salvador, my birth town, what a joy it was to play for the great public of the Teatro Castro Alves, thanks Zilah! Mabel, Loló, Graça, Maria Teresa, Tatiana, meninas: viva o Pelourinho e o Sorriso da Dadá …

In São Paulo, I saw and said COURAGE! to Roberta Pais, a very especial and talented girl , who will get better from her difficulties, I’m sure!

Most touching was the reaction I got from all the young people I heard and advised, in the various Master Classes I gave (and their teachers’ unanimous appreciation, was even more exhilarating!), in two delightful southern towns: Florianopolis (thanks, Bernardete!) and Porto Alegre, where I stayed with Dirce, my 1st piano teacher –the lady who came to play for me at the Oxford Festival - see My Journal’s month of August… Here, apart from the discovery of a jewel: the São Pedro theatre -perfect acoustics, and its rightful owner and fabulous hostess dona Eva (she saved it from destruction!), un unfortunate accident, a near-fatal-over -enthusiastic hand-shake sent me into painful oblivion and doubts of any further career, let alone a recital that same evening! I shall never forget that moment…Or shake hands again! NOW, you know!

Lastly but not least, I got to Rio, the gorgeous town where I grew up, nowhere else will ever mean more to me. Then the prospect of playing with the OSB- the orchestra I first played with, aged 11ys – see Photo Gallery – sadly yet again, in dire financial trouble saved by more promises from a well-meaning Mayor, while I was in town- with half my share of “tools” and a heavy musical heart (no comments) well, was all extremely emotional to me. But the full standing and appreciatively screaming audience at the Teatro Municipal, was quite a rewarding sight for my efforts! Being with my family and friends is always a treat, then sharing Music with colleagues in more ways than one: I even offered to play for their benefit and did join some musicians in a Mozart Quartet (Piano and Strings) + Poulenc’s brilliant Clarinet Sonata, at the lovely Cesarina Riso’s charming residence in São Conrado, (thanks Laura and Fátima) in what, I hope, will become a chamber music-series of “the OSB’s and its visiting artists” … I must end by saying that I have never been through such an emotionally-charged visit, and the reaction I got to my music-making, everywhere I went, was amazing and unforgettable to me! Obrigada, meu Brasil! 

 

 

DECEMBER

meant no concerts for two weeks, and very welcome that time was too: I had to recover from that …“Handshake from Hell” - see November’s entry! Luckily that rest was long enough and happily I could breathe more freely, realizing that I had not ended my career… in Porto Alegre!

Then I re-prepared Shostakovich’s Concerto # 2 (its gorgeous slow movement is the opening-theme on my website…just in case some of you didn’t know) which I duly played at the launch of the Hacettepe University Symphony Orchestra, in Ankara, under the baton of Erol … Erdinç, not Flynn! 

Oh yes, I must tell you this: after the rehearsal I went out for a meal with some new friends: Lilian, a charming young Brazilian pianist newly married to Burak, a very handsome young Turk conductor, and his sister. The catch is that the couple had met, dated and married in Moscow… so it went like this, clockwise: anything I said in Portuguese to Lilian, was told in Russian to her husband, who then had to re-translate it into Turkish to Burdju, his sister, seated across from me. Then she would say something to him, he would tell Lilian in Russian and…enough of that! By the end of the evening, after a few glasses of the local full-bodied red wine, we understood each other perfectly! That evening was a real delight … Turkish, of course! 

Can you imagine the scene? Hilarious. 

© G.Staffetti (2017 - 2019)

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