“Ten years ago the Borletti Buitoni Trust handed out its first awards to young professional musicians, arguing that financial support alone wasn’t enough…”
Erica Jeal, The Guardian, 20 May 2013
Ten years ago the Borletti Buitoni Trust handed out its first awards to young professional musicians, arguing that financial support alone wasn’t enough. Pianist Jonathan Biss and clarinettist Martin Fröst were among the first to benefit from the BBT’s balance of money and mentoring – and they, along with 17 other award-winners from the past decade, were back for this celebration weekend.
Alongside masterclasses, a debate and late-night foyer concerts came three main-stage programmes of chamber music, and if it was the participation of BBT’s founding trustee Mitsuko Uchida at the piano that ensured a packed hall, she was by no means the only star.
Friday’s concert closed with Schubert’s Piano Trio in B flat, with an energised Uchida joined by the perfectly balanced pairing of violinist Veronika Eberle and cellist Marie-Elisabeth Hecker. But the spotlight that night was on woodwind. Partnered with the Elias String Quartet, Fröst was consistently mesmerising in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, his tone silky and seamless, every note meaningful. Alexei Ogrintchouk – already principal oboe at the Concertgebouw Orchestra when he won his BBT award in 2007 – harnessed a huge range of tone colour for Britten’s Temporal Variations, ending with sustained notes that had a saxophone-like richness. Pianist Llŷr Williams was expressive but too reticent to match Ogrintchouk in Britten’s more aggressive passages.
The first half of Saturday evening’s programme changed due to artist illness, but as we got to hear Alina Ibragimova playing Bach and Uchida playing Schumann’s Waldszenen, disappointment was minimal.
Ibragimova’s E major Partita had the deceptive simplicity and vivid character – bordering on insouciance in this case – that are this violinist’s hallmarks in Bach. She was joined by Biss, Hélène Clément, Nicolas Altstaedt and Matthew McDonald, on piano, viola, cello and bass respectively, for Schubert’s Trout Quintet. It was buoyant and punchy – yet each irresistible melody was played unassumingly at first, almost as a thought in progress. That touch of understatement only added to the impact of the whole.
“Like spring flowers, young performing talents just keep appearing, unbidden. And every year the Borletti-Buitoni Trust picks a goodly handful, and helps them on their way…”
Ivan Hewett, The Daily Telegraph, 20 May 2013
Violinist Alina Ibragimova steps into the breach with an unscheduled performance of Bach’s E major solo Partita at the Southbank’s Borletti-Buitoni Trust concert.
Like spring flowers, young performing talents just keep appearing, unbidden. And every year the Borletti-Buitoni Trust picks a goodly handful, and helps them on their way with a grant to buy a recording session, a deposit on a new violin, or just time to think.
This weekend the Trust has been celebrating its tenth anniversary with a stream of concerts, master-classes and debates at the Southbank Centre. It must have been a tricky task, to pick a tiny fraction of the winners to represent the whole, and also to juggle the programme of the three evening concerts so the Trust’s co-founder and inspirer Mitsuko Uchida could appear in each.
These carefully laid plans were thrown into disarray on Saturday. Mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn and violist Antoine Tamestit were both ill, but fortunately the American pianist Jonathan Biss had brought along his viola-playing girlfriend Hélène Clément so the Schubert Trout Quintet was saved (another lesson of BBT; good genes attract). And violinist Alina Ibragimova stepped into the breach with an unscheduled performance of Bach’s E major solo artita.
This was a reminder that some BBT artists have been around long enough for their performances to season noticeably. Ibragimova’s performance had all its usual lightning grace and immaculate dancing tone, but the Loure sounded different, more Frenchified in its irregular lilt.
After the interval she was joined by Biss, Clément, cellist Nicholas Altstaedt and double-bass player Matthew McDonald for Schubert’s Trout Quintet. No dark side of Schubert here, just an unending stream of relaxed charm. But relaxation is one thing that doesn’t come naturally to youth. The players seemed on the edge of their seats, even in the rambling Variations, Biss playing the repeating chords as if he were bouncing a tennis ball. It was an astonishing display of collective virtuosity, but just a touch hectic.
After the main show, we all gathered in the foyer for a beer and some more music-making, compered by clarinetist Martin Fröst . He donned a mask to play and dance a piece by Anders Hillborg which should have been diabolical, but didn’t arouse even the faintest frisson in this onlooker. Trombonist Jörgen van Rijen’s performance of Slipstream, a groovy dance-flavoured number laden with pedal-controlled electronics, was much more fun. In all, youth acquitted itself well. But Uchida’s delicate and wise performance of Schumann’s Waldszenen in the main concert reminded us that experience can be a trump card.
“The Borletti-Buitoni Trust celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. This particular Trust bears the name of Ilaria Borletti-Buitoni who, together with her husband Franco Buitoni and others, manages the Trust. Since its foundation, 127 musicians have received awards…”
Frederike Berntsen, Trouw, 28 May 2013
A Springboard to the musical top
The Borletti-Buitoni Trust celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. This particular Trust bears the name of Ilaria Borletti-Buitoni who, together with her husband Franco Buitoni and others, manages the Trust. Since its foundation, 127 musicians have received awards including 35 Awards of £20000 (£30000 for quartets) and 38 Fellowships of £12000 (£15000 for quartets). BBT awards have funded 25 commissions and more than 60 CDs. And BBT musicians have toured to the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and the United States. Showcase concerts have taken place in London, Budapest, Paris and Vienna.
The Borletti-Buitoni Trust looks to support ‘musicians with depth’ rather than virtuosos. Musicality is at the very heart of this ten-year-old Trust, which has also benefitted many Dutch artists.
“Musicality: that, in one word, is the hallmark of our artists,” says the generous benefactor behind the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, Ilaria Borletti-Buitoni (Milan 1955), speaking with great conviction in composed English with an elegant Italian accent. “In many cases they go on to have wonderful careers. Our driving force, the reason why we support them, is the innate feeling they have for music, and that goes much further than just technical ability.”
The seed of the well-organised Borletti-Buitoni Trust (BBT) was sown ten years ago when she and pianist Mitsuko Uchida were sipping a good glass of white wine under the Tuscan sun. Signora Borletti – a highly intelligent woman – is married to a great music lover Franco Buitoni (who doesn’t know the rusks?) and a plan was hatched. Today the BBT is recognised as one of the most important vehicles for young classical musicians, with chamber music lying at the very heart of the organisation. Each year, the Trust selects artists – drawn from a large pool of talent worldwide – to receive an award; these come in three categories: an Award, a Fellowship or a Special Award, each of which has a specific sum of money attached.
How do young musicians get on in the world when they leave the conservatory, diploma in hand? For many a capital sum, to be spent on a CD recording, a photo shoot or a good instrument, is extremely welcome. In addition the BBT presides over a formidable network, knows the appropriate agents, and can offer a platform, particularly in England where the Trust is established. For each artist a personal plan is forged.
“Our aim is to help the musicians,” explains Ilaria Borletti-Buitoni in her classically furnished London house, with its bookcase full of bound volumes and a side table with gilded feet. Out of the corner of her eye she oversees the entire household. “A lot of things can change as time goes on. Someone may decide not to become a fulltime musician, but most of them are doing really well. For us musicality is the most important thing. The music world is flooded with young people who can play extremely well with impressive techniques. And yet I sometimes feel there’s something missing, the depth, it’s not just about the notes.
Form the artistic point of view Mitsuko Uchida is the Trust’s linchpin. She’s not interested in prodigies. On the few occasions that I’ve had experience of highly talented children, the situation was always very difficult, psychologically. That’s why I understand that Mitsuko prefers to work with people who have been chosen for their personalities, rather than for their talent, which requires an entirely different approach. I take my lead from her and support her. I’m not gifted artistically myself, that’s why I find it so thrilling to identify talent in other people. Talent is one of the greatest gifts you can have.”
Recently appointed Deputy Minister for Cultural Heritage in the Italian Government, Ilaria Borletti-Buitoni doesn’t get involved in selecting the musicians; she wants to keep the business and artistic sides of the Trust separate. “The roles must be clearly delineated, moreover I’ve not got sufficient knowledge to judge how someone plays, what he or she is really capable of. I just know when someone touches me with their playing, but that’s not enough.” She cites the example of a concert given by former award winners at Carnegie Hall in New York where, for her, the highlight was Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the End of Time’.
Pianists Ralph van Raat and Hannes Minnaar, baritone Henk Neven, mezzo soprano Christianne Stotijn, recorder player Erik Bosgraaf, are but some from among a longer list of Dutch musicians who have received BBT awards, partly due to Martijn Sanders, former director of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and also a member of the Trust’s artistic committee. They have used their awards to commission new work, record CDs, and give showcase concerts. This enabled them to gain added public profile. And in many cases the contact with the Trust is ongoing.
“Twenty per cent go their own way after the award, and that’s quite natural. But we still have contact with all the rest, even if it’s only once a year. The musicians also sometimes work together for a concert or a recording. In this way the Trust provides a network. That’s what it’s all about of course: creating a network. In Italy we’ve got the Mafia. It’s not just an illegal organisation, Mafia also means a way of keeping in contact with each other, it’s a link within a group. The word is wrong here, but the idea is the same.
Sometimes artists come to us years after their award because they need a bow, for example. Then we look to see whether the budget will cover it. Or we put them in contact with a particular instrument maker, and so on. Such a personal trust as ours, I don’t think exists anywhere else. Of course there are lots of foundations that help, but the personal contact, the tailor-made assistance, I’m not so sure about that.”
And all of this is borne out in London. During the celebratory weekend at the Southbank Centre – Borletti-Buitoni Trust Celebrated – Henk Neven, Alexei Ogrintchouk (principal oboist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra), Alina Ibragimova (violin), Jörgen van Rijen (principal trombonist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra), and many others all performed with and without Uchida, and then let their hair down after the evening concert. Clarinettist Martin Fröst is mesmerising in Anders Hillborg’s ‘Peacock Tales’, with his sinuous dancing body moving across the stage while still producing all the right notes at the right time. And Van Rijen gives a brilliant masterclass to students from London’s Royal Academy: first practice on the mouthpiece, then work on the sliding movement while still keeping an eye on the breath control. The result was immediately evident in ‘Improvisation No. 1’ by Enrique Crespo.
In the car on our way to the concert hall Ilaria Borletti-Buitoni sends one text after another on her iPhone; to the consternation of her maid back at the house (“Quanta?!”) she’s invited thirty people to brunch the next day. “Fortunately life is unpredictable. I’m also unpredictable, I’ve changed my life at least fifty-six times. The Trust is one of the few things that I don’t want to change, as long as I’m able and the right people remain willing to help me. The older you get the more you go for quality rather than quantity. There’s nothing worse than not being surrounded by the highest quality. I believe that the BBT is fulfilling an important role.”
(Translated from the original Dutch by Nicoline Gatehouse. Download original article here.)