\"\"

Piano Street's Classical Piano News

- your guide to the classical piano world.
State Of the Art Innovations – The 102 keys Stephen Paulello Grand Piano

For more than 30 years, Stephen Paulello has systematically studied all the components of the piano, including the instruments of previous eras. But as a pianist dreaming of more complex and expressive sonorities, he doesn’t content himself with a cult of the past. Instead, he has often used his findings to challenge generally accepted ideas. His unique grand pianos are constructed to order in his workshop-laboratory 100 kms south of Paris, where there is also a recording studio. Piano Street’s Patrick Jovell has interviewed Stephen Paulello about his visions and achievements.

Piano maker Stephen Paulello

Piano Street: Many a professional and famous musician have spoken of you, and your instruments are frequently used for recordings. Vienna has ordered one Opus 102 instrument from you. What can you tell us about this ”sounding” part of the Stephen Paulello, for those who cannot come and visit your workshop in Villethierry outside Paris?

Stephen Paulello: An Opus 102 was sold to a Viennese dealer who would like to sell it to a great concert hall or recording studio in Vienna. The Opus 102 has a great equality of sound in all registers, a great power, a great dynamic, an infinite variety of colours, great clarity, very deep bass, very bright treble, an exceptional sustain that allows a true legato. However, it is difficult to describe the sound of a piano in words. It is better to come to us and taste this instrument. This experience usually does not leave one indifferent.

Stephen Paulello - 102 keys grand piano

PS: Instrument makers are artists with an additional dimension. They do not only know what they are looking for sound wise, but they also know how to achieve it in terms of construction. All artists are driven by an initial source or inspiration. Which was your trigger in wanting to create your own piano brand?

SP: I made my first concert grand piano (2m87) thirty years ago. At this time, I was a concert pianist and piano teacher and there was no question of creating a brand but of making an instrument that would allow me to do what I could not do with usual commercial instruments. I used to play this instrument for my concerts and recordings and often lent it to some of my friends. In 1996, I developed a new way of stringing pianos – “hybrid stringing” – by creating my own plain steel wires, which are now marketed all over the world. In 2004, I decided to give up my career as a pianist and piano teacher in order to devote myself to the manufacture in very small series, extremely meticulous, of non-standard instruments. I wanted to rethink piano building in all its details.

PS: The construction of your grand instrument with 102 notes stresses the use and importance of parallel oblique strings and a barless frame. What can you tell us about this specific relationship including the extra 4th?

SP: Our three piano models (SP190, SP230, SP300) have 102 keys: 9 extra notes in the low register (a sixth) and 5 extra notes (a fourth) in the high register. Several reasons led me to add notes to the usual 88-note keyboard:

    The evolution of piano making ceased when the range of the keyboard stopped expanding. Extending again the keyboard, is a symbol that piano history moves ahead again
    The additional notes, especially in the low register, enriches the whole piano sound.
    Today’s composers have at their disposal an instrument that broadens their scope. Until today, more than 10 works were written especially for Opus 102, including extra-notes.

Regarding the barless frame, the aim was to avoid the change of sound quality that is usually noticeable around each frame bar. Removing them brings additional homogeneity and equality to the whole. Parallel strings significantly increase the legibility, intelligibility and articulation of musical phrases especially in the lower-middle and bass ranges. I made them oblique so as to allow as long speaking lengths as those of a cross stringed instrument.

In the piano workshop

PS: Many a discussion on piano construction and re-thinking comes down to the wooden case – quality and best sound design – as well as the strings. Which are your thoughts on this?

SP: As I mentioned earlier, I have developed another way of stringing pianos by producing and marketing SP strings. The plain strings of our pianos are covered with an electrolytic nickel coating. The bass strings are spun with nickel-plated soft iron and nickel-plated bronze. The soundboard, the bridge, the striking line, the action, the keyboard deserve according to me a priority attention before taking care of the wooden case and external finish, even if we worked on it as well.

One recent recording made in Studio Stephen Paulello is an album of Bach Toccatas played by Laurent Cabasso, who says of the instrument:

– The first time I tried Stephen Paulello’s Opus 102, I was immediately struck by three things, three qualities which we rarely encounter together in a piano: an exceptional length of sound, perfect clarity of the registers due to its parallel strings, and a clear, bright tone… A tenacious doubt often plagued me whenever I played Bach on the piano. This sensation is radically different on Stephen Paulello’s instrument, which brings a remarkable clarity to the polyphony and the tone, so essential to this music.


/patrick

Leave a comment here >

 
     

Lowell Liebermann’s Personal Demons

In this exclusive digital encounter with the praised and enigmatic composer Lowell Liebermann on his premiere recording as a solo pianist on the Steinway & Sons label, Piano Street’s Patrick Jovell meets the pianist behind the composer and the composer behind the pianist.

Clearly, Liebermann’s latest album release is in a way an attempt to measure a time span and it’s not only a 60-year celebration but a very personal way to – and by means of the piano – let us follow the composer’s ways into his musical universe. The album contains music “he wish he wrote” and also offers music that he actually has written. Liebermann follows Stravinsky’s dictum; “my music is about the notes themselves and nothing more”, but it still leaves us with the question about the communicating qualities of the composer’s music.

Click the album cover to listen to the complete album.
This feature is available for Gold members of pianostreet.com

Play album >>

Personal Demons – album content:
Liebermann: Gargoyles, Op. 29
Kabeláč: 8 Preludes, Op. 30
Liszt: Totentanz, S525/R188
Liebermann: 4 Apparitions, Op. 17
Schubert: 13 Variations on a theme by Anselm Hüttenbrenner in A Minor, D. 576
Busoni: Fantasia contrappuntistica
Liebermann: Nocturne No. 10, Op. 99


Piano Street: Thank you for letting us talk to you about your latest recording “Personal Demons”. Your album contains composers rooted in tradition yet with a strong urge to develop contemporary concepts. They are all solitaires, I wouldn’t say misfits, but persevering despite a lack of understanding in their times. Schubert, one of many working in the total shadow of the great LvB, Busoni, the omni genius without a homeland, Kabelac, rejected by the Czech communist regime and Abbé Liszt, exploring inner, spiritual development and thus new harmonic territories – away from the extravagant superstar showmanship of his early years. In a way the mentioned composers carry personal demons too (Busoni “cannibalizing” on Bach for example) and suggest that this is a way how music can develop through time.
Lowell, you are a pianist and have therefore played vast amounts of music. If you were to extend your list of fascinations – not necessarily demons – which would these be and why?

LL: You are right that the composers on this album are all, in one way or another, outliers, and that is part of their attraction. There are certainly other composers, more mainstream, who have had an even greater influence on my development as a musician. It was Bach who first made me fall in love with music. I was actually first exposed to Bach’s music through “Switched On Bach,” the synthesized versions by Wendy Carlos that have held up remarkably well, I think. But perhaps the most profound influence on my musical growth was Beethoven. My first composition teacher at Juilliard, David Diamond, had me follow a Beethovenian model of keeping sketchbooks and rigorously working out musical materials. And my piano teacher, Jacob Lateiner, was a Beethoven specialist. It was through working on the Beethoven Sonatas with him that I first fully appreciated the interconnectedness of every element of those scores: that the articulations, dynamics, etc, were inseparable from the musical content and development, and not to be altered at a performer’s whimsy. And then there is Ravel, who set a standard of musical perfection that is something to strive for.

Liszt’s Totentanz

PS: Let’s turn to the macabre part on your album and Liszt’s Totentanz, a work he re-wrote as a solo piece from originally being composed for piano with orchestra.
The work is variations on the gregorian chant Dires Irae (the Day of Wrath), a theme used by many a composer. For instance, it appears in Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Rhapsody where it merges with the original theme. You also wrote a Variations on a theme by Paganini for piano and orchestra along with three piano concertos. What do you win or lose when composing for piano with orchestra compared to piano solo?

LL: Of course, when composing with orchestra one gains all the orchestral colors and an enormous amount of creative flexibility that comes with all those added instruments. And I think there is also a special dynamic in the dialogue between a solo piano and orchestra that creates a unique kind of musical tension that also opens up all kinds of possibilities.

PS: What did Liszt gain in the solo version?

LL: Going from the orchestral version of Totentanz to the solo piano version is a very special case, I think. I think the piece gains a certain kind of austerity in the piano solo version that is entirely appropriate and beneficial. At this point, I prefer the solo version. Liszt made a cut in the coda in the solo version which takes some getting used to one is familiar with the orchestral version. Several pianists have reinstated this cut, transcribing those few measures themselves. I can understand the impulse to do so, but I prefer to leave the work it as Liszt saw fit.

Performing own compositions

PS: It’s a joyous favor being able to talk to a composer who is also the performer and history has given us so much amazing music from creators with this combination of function and skill. On the album you give us two of your own works; the immensely popular Gargoyles Op. 29 and your chosen 10th Nocturne Op. 99 (out of eleven, first Nocturne composed in 1987). This poses the question about person vs. persona. When performing your own repertoire, which works do you choose and – to add an even more pathologic dimension – are you interpreting the work or are you performing/projecting yourself?

LL: The composing and performing are two very different functions that require different focus and utilize different parts of one’s brain and psyche. There is a real danger in performing one’s own works that one thinks one knows them better than one in fact does. The kind of learning that you need to do as a performer is much different from the knowledge and memory you have of a piece from having written it. A very high percentage of the memory needed for performance is muscle memory rather than intellectual memory. And so, when learning one of my own pieces for performance, I have to forget that I wrote it, and approach it as if it had been written by someone else. And that includes studying all the dynamic and expressive markings anew, because one can forget one’s own intentions and get sloppy. And this also brings up what I think is a bit of a cliché, that a composer’s music is a direct reflection of their personality, or a reflection their emotional life at the time of writing the piece. This is simply not true. A composer can write a tragic piece at the happiest point in their life and vice versa. It is often more like acting via music rather than writing an autobiography in music.

A desirable pianistic style

PS: You are one of the few contemporary composers who can out the big names and take place in traditional pianist recital programs worldwide. What makes your music so desirable for pianists? Would you mind if I ask for a pianistic self-analysis?

LL: I’ve always felt that it is important for me, as a composer, to keep in contact with the act of performance. It informs my writing in so many ways, even just experiencing the sheer physical joy of playing certain things. I think keeping awareness of the fact that music is an act of communication in real time is very important, and it is easy to lose track of that when one has one’s head buried in the notes. One aspect of my music that, perhaps, has helped its popularity is that, no matter what is going on harmonically, my music is almost always melodically based. My music mixes tonality (usually not in a traditionally functional sense, though), atonality, octatonic or other synthetic scales, etc., basically anything that I feel fits the material at hand. Some critics have called my music neo-romantic (a label I disagree with) and I think what most of them are reacting to is the fact that it is melodically based. It’s just an element of music that I find has to be there to keep my own interest.

Composing for flute

PS: Melodic quality must be a key for any composer but after a look in your works list we very often see works for or/and including the flute. What is your story with this instrument?

LL: My very first commission for flute was a Sonata for Flute and Piano, which was commissioned by the Spoleto Chamber Music Festival for Paula Robison and Jean-Yves Thibaudet back in the late 80s. That piece “took off” in a really big way and started to be played all over the world. One flautist who included it in his repertoire was James Galway, who asked if I would orchestrate it for him so he could perform it with orchestra. I told him I would much rather just write a new Concerto for him, and that led to the commission for my Flute Concerto. Things escalated from there, and there were further commissions from him and other flautists: a Flute and Harp Concerto, a Piccolo Concerto, Flute Trios, etc. The flute community as a whole is one of the most enthusiastic groups of instrumentalists out there, who are constantly on the lookout for new pieces and perform them frequently. They share information and share new pieces. Flute works have indeed become an important part of my catalogue but, contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, I do not play the flute myself.

The post-pandemic period

PS: We wish to congratulate you on your 60th birthday which took place on February 22! In terms of time spans and trajectories and in reference to composers in retrospective, will you now enter a new compositional period?

LL: I think those questions of composer’s “periods” are best left to musicologists after a composer has died, and I’m not intending to do that for a while! What I can say is that, although I don’t know what period I will be entering, I do feel that there will be some sort of tectonic shift in my composition, not so much because of this particular anniversary, but because of the circumstances we have all been living through. At the beginning of the present pandemic, all of my commissions were put on hold, which enabled me to focus on my piano playing and this new recording “Personal Demons”. But this has meant that I have not actually written anything new for the better part of a year, the longest amount of time I have ever spent without finishing a composition. Now that there are flickers of light at the end of the tunnel, the commissions are being rekindled, and I do now have to start writing again. But I think the time away from writing will have a natural effect of reassessment. How that will manifest itself, I can’t really tell until I do start writing again, which should be any day now…


/patrick

Leave a comment here >

 
     

Piano Day 2021

Piano Day is an annual worldwide event originally founded in 2015 by Nils Frahm and a group of likeminded people and takes place on the 88th day of the year – in 2021 it’s the 29th March, explained by the number of keys on the instrument being celebrated.

“Why does the world need a Piano Day? For many reasons. But mostly, because it doesn’t hurt to celebrate the piano and everything around it: performers, composers, piano builders, tuners, movers and most important, the listener.”
– Nils Frahm

Official website: pianoday.org

Exclusive broadcasts from ARTE

The artist lineup at the Théâtre de l’Épée de Bois in Paris displays a a rich and varied palette of piano music. The different spaces of the theatre will welcome live performances by Alexandre Kantorow, Sofiane Pamart, Macha Gharibian, Etienne Jaumet & Fabrizio Rat, and last but not least Françoiz Breut & Marc Melià.

DG Global Livestream

[The livestream has ended.]

Deutsche Grammophon again marks #WorldPianoDay March 28, 3pm CET, with an international virtual festival featuring performances by members of its family of artists, live-streamed on their YouTube channel. The programme includes keyboard classics on the one hand and a selection of contemporary works performed by their composers on the other. The artists, featuring DG, further UMG and guest pianists, include (in order of appearance): Maria João Pires, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Alice Sara Ott, Jan Lisiecki, Lang Lang, Rudolf Buchbinder, Kit Armstrong, Kirill Gerstein, Daniil Trifonov, Seong-Jin Cho, Katia & Marielle Labèque, Joep Beving, Chad Lawson, Balmorhea, Rui Massena and Yiruma.

As in the past, the piano remains the chief instrument for musical invention today. The virtual festival therefore also includes a selection of contemporary works performed by their composers, all of whom are part of the Universal Music family of artists. In particular Joep Beving will perform a special track which he has created for World Piano Day and which will be releasd worldwide across all digital retail partners. The piece is called Losar, which is the name of the Tibetan New Year festivities. The composer and pianist was inspired by the way the Tibetans celebrate the coming of a new cycle.


/patrick

Leave a comment here >

 
     

The Transcription – Zlata Chochieva

Zlata Chochieva is one of the most interesting musicians of her generation, with her breathtaking technique and musicality as well as with her choice of repertoire. “(re)creations”, her latest CD, offers an exquisite collection of transcriptions by her great heroes, Rachmaninoff, Liszt and Friedman, and in the title lies the secret of this special art form, so closely related to the piano.

Please tell me how you are coping with these challenging times…

It is very difficult not being able to communicate with your audience, but it would be even more pity not to use that time as productive as possible. And I am happy and lucky to say that I have been busy! I took part in several online-concerts, and projects such as “Concerts in Quarantine” of the great film director Jan Schmidt-Garre, from the Schinkel Pavillon in Berlin, saved us, musicians, from silence. I also had a chance to focus my mind on my new CD project starting my collaboration with the Accentus label. It is always different and special to work in a recording studio, which is a completely different world, without audience. You are alone playing for microphones. In that moment you realize how important is to have another pair of ears behind the wall – the sound- producer. As you work on creating the sound together, as well as developing the most powerful and interesting interpretation. Working with Tonmeister Philipp Nedel became one of the most remarkable experiences I ever had.

Do you feel the arts in general are appreciated enough for the vital role they play in our society?

Not by many unfortunately. Especially nowadays culture has being put in a sleeping, silent mode. But one of the organizations which doesn’t allow musicians to feel forgotten is the Funk Stiftung that made my CD-project happen and generously supported the Berliner Klavierfestival digital edition where I was invited to play online in the Konzerthaus Berlin last May. Especially to Robert Funk I would like to express my deepest gratitude, as with his such a sincere and dedicated work he brings to music its true meaning and importance into this world.

The lockdown seemed to have influenced you also in the choice of repertoire.

Yes, this is an uncertain, lonely time when we became even more fragile and sensitive than we ever were before. I found my inner voice with the Schubert songs transcribed for piano by Liszt and it became the main impulse for creating a program which became very special to me. There is a stereotype that transcription is rather a virtuoso brilliant piano piece. But I wanted to show the genre Transcription from all different sides, and mainly as a re-creation of an original work that we know from before, putting it into a new concept that would make us find something different in it.

Transcriptions should sound like an original written for piano?

Yes, I want transcriptions to sound that way, because the piano has its own magical sound, and it would be a sad not to fully express it. There is no intention from my side to copy the sound of original works. Rather to make it sound as a true piano piece. You can compare it with poems in translation – Shakespeare, Pushkin. It will sound different but the meaning will remain the same.

With songs it often seems as if the expression is stronger in the piano version.

Yes, that is my feeling too, the vocal line always remained in the transcription, but the meaning of the text is being replaced by the musical expression itself. For instance, Rachmaninoff with the Tchaikovsky’s lullaby enriches the original accompaniment on such an extent that it becomes a magical solo, that sounds even darker in atmosphere than the original song.
The human voice has always been your starting point, and you make Siciliano by Bach, original for flute, sound like a song.
Indeed, the voice has always been the most important teacher for me. For Horowitz, one of the pianists I admire most, the cantabile was one of the qualities he wanted to convey most, and he was greatly inspired by the great singers of his time.

Do transcriptions influence your interpretation of original works for piano, of Chopin or Beethoven, for example?

In transcriptions, you almost automatically develop a feeling of being like a composer. There is more room for imagination and you learn a lot about the pianism of the transcribers. I have recorded all of Chopin and Rachmaninoff’s etudes, but I can hardly recall anything as difficult as Liszt transcriptions of Schubert’s songs or some of Friedman’s or Rachmaninoff’s transcriptions such as for example Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s Midsummer night’s dream. There are so many layers, each with its own color, sense of timing and we have just two hands to make it all sound as rich but light and natural as possible.

It sounds fantastic on your CD, and you take very fast tempo!

She laughs. It’s funny, in that Scherzo I’m only two seconds faster than Rachmaninoff himself. So I do have an alibi for that pace!

Tell me a little please about Liszt, Friedman and Rachmaninoff, the three transcribers on your CD.

All three have their own characteristics. Robert Schumann considered Liszt’s transcriptions as “new” works. But in his adaptation of Schubert and Mendelssohn songs Liszt tries to preserve the special authentic world of the songs. His work on Schubert’s songs is extremely delicate, as the power of that music lies in its vulnerability. Here Liszt is very faithful to the world of the original, whereas with the most of his transcriptions he usually presents himself more as the main character.
Friedman in his transcriptions was profoundly influenced by Busoni, to whom he even dedicated his transcription of the Tempo di Menuetto from Mahler’s Third Symphony. And especially in his transcriptions of baroque music, for example the Brandenburg Concerto on the CD, you can clearly hear the shadow of Busoni in the manner Friedman symphonically expands the sound and the ideas of the rather minimalistic original. Whereas Rachmaninoff modifies original works much more than Friedman does, he is more a coauthor and the chemistry between himself and a composer of an original is always very strong. He is never too massive but refined, as his pianism also was.

The last piece on the CD, a waltz by Eduard Gärtner in the piano version by Friedman, sounds like a nostalgic farewell.

As I mentioned before this program shows transcriptions from different sides and sometimes as an inner intimate piece. Also this program is very much related to what is known as the Golden Age of the Piano, when the piano world was so different from the general aesthetics of our time. Ignaz Friedman was as one of the greatest representatives of that special era that personally deeply influenced me too. This waltz would be one of the Friedmans typical encores and with its special warmth and nostalgia it reflects a very special way of story telling – when every listener feels the piano “speaks” privately, intimately to him only.

Author: Eric Schoones


Click the album cover to listen to the complete album.
This feature is available for Gold members of pianostreet.com

Play album >>

Read more:
www.zlatachochieva.com
www.accentus.com
www.funk-stiftung.org

This article is a contribution from the German and Dutch magazine Pianist through Piano Street’s International Media Exchange Initiative and the Cremona Media Lounge.


Pianist_FC_LPianist Magazine is published in seven countries, in two different editions: in German (for Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxemburg and Liechtenstein) and in Dutch (for Holland and Belgium).
The magazine is for the amateur and professional alike, and offers a wide range of topics connected to the piano, with interviews, articles on piano manufacturers, music, technique, competitions, sheetmusic, cd’s, books, news on festivals, competitions, etc.
For a preview please check: pianist-magazin.de or www.pianistmagazine.nl


/nilsjohan

Leave a comment here >

 
     

New Piano Piece by Mozart Discovered: Allegro in D K626

Today is W.A. Mozart’s 265th birthday and Salzburg and Austria celebrate this with the world premiere of one of his compositions.
At Piano Street we celebrate by releasing the score of the composition, the recently discovered piano piece “Allegro in D K626b/16“.
Download it for free below and celebrate Mozart yourself by playing the piece today!

A hidden treasure

So, how could this manuscript have hidden from public attention? Evidently, after passing from the estate of Mozart’s youngest son into the collection owned by Austrian civil servant and amateur musician Aloys Fuchs, it was mistakenly given away and vanished off the musical map. Owned by an antiquarian book and art dealer in Vienna in the 1880s, the manuscript was brought to auction in 1899. By this time The Köchel catalogue – listing the composer’s works – started mentioning it even though the manuscript itself kept going in and out of auction houses.

In 2018, the ‘unknown’ Allegro was offered for sale to the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation on behalf of the family of its owner, a French-Dutch engineer who had bought the manuscript from a dealer in Paris in the late 1920s. The Foundation’s staff and experts from the USA and Germany confirmed that the unattributed piano piece was undeniably by Mozart.

The Allegro in D major, K. 626b/16 fills the front and back of a single sheet of music paper in oblong format. The handwriting is hasty, but error-free. The undated composition stems in all likelihood from the first months 1773, according to the Mozarteum Foundation; it thus originated either during Mozart’s third journey to Italy or immediately after his return to Salzburg. Peculiarities of style suggest that this three-part dance movement is not an original piano piece, but a keyboard arrangement in Mozart’s own hand of an unknown orchestral work.

Free download!

Download the PDF-score and play the piece today to celebrate Mozart’s 265th birthday!

The World Premiere in Salzburg

A facsimile edition of the Allegro in D, complete with extensive introduction and bibliography, has been published by Mozarteum Foundation Salzburg and pianist Seong-Jin Cho will perform the piece in the official world premiere in Saltzburg on 27 January.

Pianist Seong-Jin Cho is the unique performer in the Great Hall of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation which is also the opening day of the Foundation’s first virtual Mozartwoche festival. Cho plays a stimulating selection of works by the Great Master, including the Piano Sonata No. 12, the Allegro in C Major and 94 seconds of an Allegro in D-major, performed for the very first time.

“The Allegro in D major K. 626b/16 is a highly attractive and charming piano piece, that adds yet another facet to the affectionate relationship of Mozart to his sister. How wonderful, that we are now able to participate in this relationship after such a long period of time.”
— Dr. Ulrich Leisinger, director of research of the Mozarteum Foundation,

“The rediscovery of this new work by Mozart is a real gift, not just for the Foundation but for friends of the Mozartwoche all over the world! We are very pleased to be able to fulfil the mission of the Foundation in such wonderful style, together with Seong-Jin Cho and Deutsche Grammophon, our aim being to enable people of all ages to find out more about Mozart’s music, life and personality.”
— Dr Johannes Honsig-Erlenburg, President of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation

“It is a great honour to be invited to give the premiere of a formerly unknown work by Mozart, in the city where he was born and where it may have been written,”
— Seong-Jin Cho, pianist


Resources:

Read more at the press page:
Mozarteum.at

Watch a recording of the official world premiere that will by published here 27 January at 18.00 GMT:
DG YouTube channel


/nilsjohan

Leave a comment here >

 
     



Privacy Policy | FAQ | Contact