In February 2013 at the invitation of star conductor Christian Thielemann, the legendary Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini returned after almost 25 years to the Dresden Staatskapelle and gave his first performance at the Dresden Semperoper ever. The celebrated, 70-year-old pianist played Brahmsâ€™ 1st Piano Concerto in D minor, Op. 15.
For those who remember the Abbado/Pollini collaboration from 1999 and the BĂ¶hm/Pollini from the 1980s in that same work, the BĂ¶hm is considered the best in terms of balancing heroic pianism and confessional insight. The new Thielemann collaboration however, displays superior balance and tempi, richness of detail and greater substance in the piano part, often accomplished by PolliniÂ´s dynamically supportive and active left hand structures.
Brahms originally conceived the first piano concerto as his first major work for orchestra, what would have been his first symphony. After that proved unsatisfactory, he began molding it into a sonata for two pianos. Brahms ultimately decided that he had not sufficiently mastered the nuances of orchestral colour to sustain a symphony, and instead relied on his skills as a pianist and composer for the piano to complete the work as a concerto. It was first performed on January 22, 1859, in Hannover, Germany, when Brahms was just 25 years old. Five days later, in Leipzig, an unenthusiastic audience hissed at the concerto, while critics savaged it, labelling it “perfectly unorthodox, banal and horrid”. In a letter to his close personal friend, the renowned violinist Joseph Joachim, Brahms stated, “I am only experimenting and feeling my way”, adding sadly, “all the same, the hissing was rather too much”. Today it is considered one of the finest and most powerful concerto compositions of the Romantic period.
Brahms’ biographers often note that the first sketches for the dramatic opening movement followed quickly on the heels of the 1854 suicide attempt of the composer’s dear friend and mentor, Robert Schumann, an event which caused great anguish for Brahms.
Pianist AndrĂˇs Schiff’s latest recording was nominated for Grammy and gained international attention because of its lack of using the sustain pedal.
In this interview Schiff explains and demonstates his ideas on this widely discussed topic on how to play J. S. Bach’s music, and more specifically, the “Well Tempered Clavier” (BWV 846-893) on a modern piano.
British concert pianist Joyce Hatto had a breakdown on stage in 1976 and did not play again in public for 25 years. In her late 70s, she apparently made a miraculous comeback. She was playing complete cycles of Rachmaninoff concertos, Mozart sonatas, Beethoven sonatas, Liszt Transcendental Etudes, and many other compositions. She was hailed as the greatest British pianist of the 20th Century. After she had died in 2006, however, it came to light that not all was as it seemed. Watch and see how the situation developed.
The new year is rapidly approaching, so before the end of the Debussy-year 2012 we should take the chance to watch this film by Anthony Tobin, celebrating the genius of Debussy. It was shown by G. Henle Verlag during the Frankfurt Musik Messe, 2012, in connection with their release of three volumes of the complete piano works of Debussy.
“The World will Change in his Sound”
- The Light of Claude Debussy
This film is an exploration of the inspiration, imagination and visual influences behind Claude Debussy’s piano music from 1889-1915. It discusses how light, nature, and the visual stimulation Debussy experienced in Paris influenced his “vision” and the gestures and colors found in his piano works.
Consequently the footage is accompanied by Preludes for piano, Pagodes (filmed in Tokyo), Reflections on the Water, the First Arabesque, Clair de lune, Chansons de Bilitis and La Mer – works that will illustrate how Debussy changed the course of music.
Additionally, the film contains interviews with pianists Stewart Gordon and Daniel Pollack, Debussy scholars James Briscoe, Roy Howat, Marie Rolf, Richard Langham Smith, composer Manfred Bleffert and material with Austin Symphony Conductor Peter Bay, including discussion and demonstration of parts of the symphonic work La Mer.
Now in its 14th season, Carnegie Hallâ€™s Perspectives series is an artistic initiative in which select musicians are invited to explore their own musical individuality and create their own personal concert series through collaborations with other musicians and ensembles.
Schiff reveals his longtime friendship with IvĂˇn Fischer, and discusses the importance of having Hungarian musicians perform the music of BartĂłk in this video.
Among the many highlights of Schiffâ€™s series were performances of BartĂłkâ€™s three piano concertos, a celebration of his musical heritage with Hungarian group MuzsikĂˇs, the premiere of a Carnegie Hall commission by JĂ¶rg Widmann, and performances with the Salzburg Marionette Theater. In February he also held a Professional Training Workshop, focusing on the music of both BartĂłk and Bach.
G. Henle Publishers produced some unique and educational videos that will give you a insight into the traditional craft of music engraving, a process employed by Henle up until the 1990s. This movie was filmed in the year 2007 and produced in 2011 for NAMM and G. Henle Publishers, directed by Martin Marris. Henle still employ a variety of techniques in producing their beautiful scores, including software programs like Sibelius. But very few people know just how involved the art of music engraving was in the days before modern music printing technology.
French composer Olivier Messiaen was a synaesthete who experienced colours when he heard or imagined music. He devised his own system of modes (scales) based on his synaesthesia and in some scores he actually notated the colours, to help the performer in interpretation. Here is a unique video clip from one of his famous classes at the Paris Conservatoire.
A Naturalist’s Voice
From 1941 he became a teacher and lecturer at the Paris Conservatoire and held classes in analysis, theory, aesthetics and rhythm but it wasn’t until 1966 that he was officially appointed Professor of Composition (although he had in effect been teaching composition for years). Many famous names passed through these classes including Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, Alexander Goehr and later George Benjamin who Messiaen had a particular fondness and admiration of. Perhaps the one thing that rubbed off on all these composers is Messiaens’ avoidance of regular metre citing it as artificial (relating to marches and more popular music). Messiaen supports his argument by pointing out that in nature things are not even or regular. For example the branches of a tree and the waves of the sea are not even patterns. However, what is true is ‘natural resonance’, and this true phenomenon is what his music is based on.
“When I was 20 years old I met a Swiss painter who became a good friend by the name of Charles Blanc-Gatti, he was synaethesiac which is a disturbance of the optic and auditory nerves so when one hears sounds one also sees corresponding colours in the eye. I unfortunately didn’t have this. But intellectually like synaethesiacs I too see colours- if only in my mind – colours corresponding to sound. I try to incorporate this in my work, to pass on to the listener. It’s all very mobile. You’ve got to feel sound moving. Sounds are high, low, fast, slow etc. My colours do the same thing, they move in the same way. Like rainbows shifting from one hue to the next. It’s very fleeting and impossible to fix in any absolute way.
It’s true I see colours, it’s true they’re there. They’re musicianâ€™s colours, not to be confused with painter’s colours. They’re colours that go with music. If you tried to reproduce these colours on canvas it may produce something horrible. They’re not made for that, they’re musicians colours. What I’m saying is strange but it’s true. I believe in natural resonance, as I believe in all natural phenomena. Natural resonance is in exact agreement with the phenomena of complimentary colours. I have a red carpet that I often look at. Where this carpet meets the lighter coloured parquet next to it, I intermittently see marvelous greens that a painter couldn’t mix – natural colours created in the eye.”
Hedonist and altruist at the same time, favorite of the gods and philanthropist, melancholic and sanguine serious artist, a gifted musician and brilliant pianist, egomaniac and family pet. Arthur Rubinstein, a great character and great cosmopolitan, a man who loved life, the music and the people so much.
The recent documentary film (2010) about the life and work of Arthur Rubinstein, brings to life the personality of a great artist and demonstrates what his art is all about. Film maker Marie-Claire Margossian undertook a voyage through Rubinstein’s life with the help of his daughter Eva, a photographer and the participation of John and Alina Rubinstein as well as testimonies of friends like Jacques Chazal, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, Gustavo Dudamel and others.
Documentaries based on biographical data is one approach, but unless it is brought to life through pictures and memories it communicates very little. This is where the family archive and the hundreds of photographs comes in.
Margossian succeeds in creating a remarkably vivid and uniquely personal profile of one of the great pianist legends of the 20th century and recreates the various steps in Rubinstein’s career and gets to the persona behind the celebrity.
Rubinstein by the Rubinsteins
ARTE France, Zone d’Images, 52 min (subtitles in German)
In an age where Lady Gaga can sell hundreds of millions of albums and yet a CD of Beethoven sells a few thousand at best, Stephen Fry hosted this special event in the Barbican Hall, London, to discuss the role and perceived decline of classical music in today’s society and what can be done to keep its spirit alive.
Author of the best-selling An Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music, Stephen Fry is well placed to talk about why this great music continues to have such relevance today. A rising star of the classical world, concert pianist James Rhodes took part in the debate and performed some of the pieces talked about while Sir David Tang moderated questions from the audience.
In this interview Stephen Fry explains the reasons behind organising the event.