The library of The British Institute of Florence is a wonderful room, on the piano nobile of the 16th-century Palazzo Lanfredini. Its beautifully restored high wooden ceiling is reached by mountainous book stacks on three sides, with the fourth offering a huge window with a majestic view across the Arno to Palazzo Corsini. The dimensions of the room and the books create marvellous acoustics for the Institute’s grand old Bechstein piano; and the miraculous hands of Florentine piano technician/composer Michele Padovano have restored voice to this 1896 bauble, turning it into a gem that had Angela Hewitt exclaim that it was so perfect for this beautiful library, when she played there recently.
This is the setting for the fruitful partnership that The Keyboard Charitable Trust has enjoyed with The British Institute for the past couple of years, presenting a series of exquisite piano recitals. We have been able to enjoy masterworks such as the Bach Goldberg Variations performed by Jonathan Ferrucci or the Trilogy of Beethoven’s last Piano Sonatas by Cristian Sandrin, together with other delights from brilliant young musicians at the start of their journey.
The Keyboard Trust was founded by Noretta Conci and her husband, John Leech, 30 years ago. They created the trust, with funds from a concert by Noretta’s great friend, Claudio Abbado, to consolidate their lifetime work of helping exceptionally talented young pianists gain the essential experience of concerts. Noretta had been a concert pianist in her own right and knew that, at a certain stage in their formation, only by playing in public and listening to themselves together with an audience would young pianists grow and mature. Noretta has been particularly associated with the Busoni Competition in Bolzano, one of the most important international piano competitions in the world. Being from Trento, Noretta has frequented every competition since its start in 1949.
In collaboration with its partners worldwide, the Keyboard Trust has developed a circuit of 50 venues internationally and has presented nearly 300 young musicians in over 900 concerts. A Keyboard Trust Prize is given to the winner of the competition, offering a concert in London at Steinway Hall and much more besides.
To celebrate the trust’s 30th anniversary, two recent Busoni winners will play at The British Institute in March: Ivan Krpan (2017) on March 2, followed by Emanuil Ivanov (2019) on March 30.