Brahme, Vine, Liszt, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov
Photo: Benjamin Ealovega
Variations on a Theme of Paganini Op.35
Visions Fugitives (selection)
Six Moments Musicaux Op.16: No.3 in B minor
Sonata No.2 in B flat minor
Grace Francis, a graduate from the Yehudi Menuhin music school and the Royal College of Music where she won the prestigious Chappell Gold Medal, promised us an impressive programme from the repertoire of virtuoso piano compositions.
Who but a supremely assured pianist would commence the evening with the Brahm`s "Variations on a Theme of Paganini" op.35, include Liszt`s great " Dante Sonata" written in 1849 depicting scenes from Hell and Heaven and conclude with the 2nd. Sonata of Rachmaninov! And this is not overlooking the modern Australian Carl Vine`s "Bagatelles", some Prokofiev and more Rachmaninov in between!
Grace`s playing cast a wondrous spell over the astounded audience. Her phenomenal technique and incredible control of colour and dynamics from mighty sonorous fortes to gossamer pianissimos produced an extraordinary effect, the like of which we had not heard before. Surely this seemingly shy and modest young woman is possessed of a sublime gift and must sooner or later be recognised as being graced with a divine spark. She is well named!
Grace Francis was born in London and attended the Yehudi Menuhin School before studying with Irina Zaritskaya at the Royal College of Music. There she won the Chappell Gold Medal, the highest award for a pianist. She continued her studies with a Wingate Scholarship, also receiving the Hattori Foundation Award and winning in international competition the Negrada Piano House Award at Zagreb.
Grace has given many concerts in the UK: Barbican; Reform Club, Pall Mall; Purcell Room; Wigmore Hall (for the Kirckman Society); St John’s, Smith Square; Rosehill Theatre, Cumbria; Warwick University; the City Music Society (where she performed Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’).
Grace made her New York debut at the Weill Hall playing Brahms Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, Prokofiev Visions fugitives and Liszt’s Vallée d’Obermann, Sposalizio and Mephisto Waltz as part of Carnegie Hall’s Distinctive Debuts series.
Broadcasts include Liszt’s ‘Hungarian Rhapsody’ with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and a BBC Radio 3 programme of works by Chopin, John Field and Viteslav Novak. Grace’s repertoire is wide-ranging: from Haydn to Chopin, Brahms, Liszt and Bartok.
Leading performers such as Mitsuko Uchida and Stephen Hough have praised Grace’s outstanding talent and the leading critic, David Cairns, revealed her to the world in the Sunday Times as a ‘phenomenon… of uncommon fire and energy.’
Quartz Music has released two CDs by Grace. The first, Brahms & Liszt, features Brahms’ Variations on a theme of Paganini, Book II, Brahms Sonata No I, Liszt Funerailles, Ave Maria, Sonetto del Petrarca 104 and Tarantella from Venezia e Napoli. The second, Mussorgsky & Rachmaninov, offers Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition coupled with two pieces by Rachmaninov: Variations on a Theme of Corelli and Sonata No. 2.
These recordings are available as CDs or mp3 downloads directly from Quartz and from major classical CD suppliers. Currently only the first album is available on iTunes.
Chappell Gold Medal, Royal College of Music 1992 (RCM’s highest piano award)
Hattori Foundation Award 1996
Wingate Foundation Scholarship 1997 – 1998
Zagrev Nagarada Heserer Pianohouse Award