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Trifonov and Lang Lang Celebrate DG 120 Years in C Minor

“The Yellow Label”, Deutsche Grammophon celebrates its 120th anniversary this year with events all around the globe. Today,  November 6, pianist Lang Lang performs Mozart’s C Minor Concerto in a live streamed gala concert in the Berlin Philharmonie.

Among festivities marking the anniversary of Deutsche Grammophon, a spectacular concert was held on October 10 in the Forbidden City in Beijing, where soloist Daniil Trifonov and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra under Long Yu, delighted classical music fans in a worldwide livestream of Rachmaninoff’s second Piano Concerto.

10 October: Daniil Trifonov

The festivities now continue on November 6 in Berlin, when Lang Lang and Anne-Sophie Mutter together with the Staatskapelle Berlin under the direction of Manfred Honeck perform on the stage of the Berlin Philharmonie. This is an occasion to celebrate the history and the future of the world’s oldest record company, founded in 1898 by Emil Berliner as ”Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft”.
The concert program includes Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio, Romance for Violin and Orchestra in F Major, Leonore Overture No. 3 in C Major, Mozart’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in C Minor K. 491 and John Williams’ Markings for violin, strings and harp.

TODAY 6 November: Lang Lang

The festival concert will be on the Arte livestream at 8 PM Berlin time (3 pm EST):

If you are in Germany or France, watch it here instead >>

Read more about Deutsche Grammophon’s twelve decades.


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The Pleyel Piano: A Key to Genuine Chopin Sound?

Hubert Rutkowski’s new CD is a portrait not only of Chopin, but of the composer’s favourite instrument: Rutkowski plays a Pleyel piano from 1847. In his search for a genuine Chopin/Pleyel sound he has also turned to historical recordings of Raul Koczalski and Moritz Rosenthal, students of Karol Mikuli, who was in turn a student of Chopin himself.

Chopin’s own Pleyel piano from 1848

Songful and spontaneous

The album offers a well-rounded view of Chopin the lyricist, and the selection of pieces presents the whole spectrum of sound possibilities available to the Pleyel. The piano has a songful tone, but without the density and weight of a modern instrument, which allows you to hear all the different layers of sound very clearly. Rutkowski also manages to create a big sound in the G minor ballade, but in the coda it’s clear that the Pleyel is approaching the limit of what it can convey in terms of power.

In spite of the great focus on history, there is a sense of fresh spontaneity in Rutkowski’s performances. From his early-20th century role models he has picked up a special sense of freedom, and a rubato that can be surprising to modern ears, accustomed to 21st century ‘standard Chopin playing’. So, is this the only true and genuine Chopin? Well, we might want to look at different portrait pictures of Chopin to get a sense of what he really looked like. In much the same way, historically informed performances like these can certainly give us a more nuanced picture.

A highly sensitive instrument

The Pleyel has a so-called single escapement — a type of action which is less flexible than modern ones, but which at the same time offers a greater feeling of touch control. Rutkowski, in his detailed liner notes, agrees with Chopin that to play legato and with a singing tone on the Pleyel “is quite a challenge for the pianist. This instrument is highly sensitive to the smallest detail […] one might get the impression of a direct contact with the strings.”

From a modern perspective one is easily tempted to view the evolution of the piano in the 19th century as the steady progress towards the modern Steinway. Of course, romantic composers didn’t see it that way. Each of the major piano makes that existed in Chopin’s time had its distinct qualities, which could be used for different musical purposes. Chopin himself used to say:

“When i feel out of sorts, I play on an Érard piano where I easily find a ready-made tone. But when I feel in good form, and strong enough to find my own individual sound, then I need a Pleyel piano.”

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Album content

(Click the links for piano sheet music to download and print.)

Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23
Mazurka No. 2 in C Major, Op. 24
Étude No. 5 in G-Flat Major, Op. 10
Nocturne No. 2 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 48
Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 66
Mazurka No. 4 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 24
Scherzo in B Minor, Op. 20
Mazurka No. 1 in B-Flat Major, Op. 7
Nocturne No. 1 in D-Flat Major, Op. 27
Polonaise in B-Flat Major, Op. 71
Mazurka No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 68
Waltz No. 1 in D-Flat Major, Op. 64


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Destination: Rachmaninov – Departure

Destination: Rachmaninov – Departure, the first installment of a two-part journey, explores Rachmaninov’s Second and Fourth Piano Concertos. In his seventh title as an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist, Daniil Trifonov reunites with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the leadership of music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Watch the accompanying short music film of the Fourth Concerto’s opening movement. Directed by Michael Joseph McQuilken, the film features Daniil playing aboard a train as it navigates through the breathtaking Colorado Rockies.

Listen to the album:


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Chopin In a Box? Dumond Plays the Nocturnes

For anyone seeking the quintessential Chopin, his twenty-one Nocturnes are a study of the seal of compositional genius. They also define the complex and refined qualities of the composer’s unique understanding of the piano during a lifetime. This music is born of silence and improvisation and allowed Chopin to combine the finest elements of his melodic, harmonic and dramatic world. The element of loneliness, the inner secret monologue, seems to have stimulated the most authentic and inimitable inspiration of the Polish composer.

Piano Sheet Music: Chopin Nocturne in C Minor

A noted and awarded international Chopin interpreter, French pianist François Dumont is an excellent musician who can make the rich elements and contrasts come to life, balancing cantabiles with the dramatic outbursts in a stylistically fine and controlled way. With Dumont’s clear understanding of simplicity and complexity this AVEA album (2017) will offer an appealing and intriguing experience for any listener.

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The Nocturne, originally an intimate salon piece was in Chopin’s hands turned into a masterful landscape, sometimes extremely dramatic, with poignant intensity.

We can also call them opera arias for the piano as their delicate, ornamented melodies are underpinned by beautifully balanced accompaniments. The Nocturnes share, besides their title and an obsession with a cantabile line (a Chopin trademark) the relatively short duration and their very moderate tempo. Yet the moods of these works are widely divergent. This is also illustrated by a great variety of tonalities: no less than sixteen different tonalities, with almost the same proportion of major and minor keys.


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Hands-on Piano Experiences in Cremona

During the last weekend of September, Piano Experience – the Italian meeting point for the world of black and white keys – reached its 8th edition. Piano Street‘s David Wärn was present in Cremona, where piano brands such as Steinway, Fazioli, Yamaha, Bösendorfer, and Steingraeber met with international pianists and representatives of the music media.

A prestigious meeting point for the piano sector

Piano Experience prides itself of being the only exhibition in Europe dedicated to pianos and keyboards. On the other hand, as a visitor to Cremona – birthplace of Antonio Stradivari and a number of other legendary musicians and violin makers – you don’t have to limit yourself to pianos. Piano Experience is held simultaneously with Cremona Musica, a gigantic trade fair for the entire music sector, with a traditional emphasis on string instruments.

Piano experiences on all levels

Piano Experience has been created in response to instrument makers, distributors, buyers and musicians, as a meeting point to exchange ideas and develop new business. As the name suggests, it offers hands-on piano experiences on a number of levels. Visitors have a chance to try out a large selection of high quality instruments, and a rich events programme organized by Cremona Musica in cooperation with the exhibitors offers many musical performances by Italian and international artists. Among the 160 events of the 2018 edition were recitals and book presentations with Boris Berman, Jura Margulis, Louis Lortie, Vanessa Benelli Mosell, Sandro Ivo Bartoli, Stuart Isacoff, and many others.

Interviews and articles to follow

Watch this space to get more reports from Cremona. Interviews will follow with, among others, Boris Berman — about the new multimedia edition of his Notes from the Pianist’s Bench — and Jura Margulis, about his collaboration with Steingraeber & Söhne, reinventing the sordino pedal and incorporating it into a modern grand piano.


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