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Beethoven 250: Krystian Zimerman performs the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos

Renowned Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman joins forces with the London Symphony Orchestra and its Music Director Simon Rattle at LSO St Luke’s for a three-concert cycle of the five piano concertos. The stream will take place on DG Stage, a new video music service for classical concert streams from Deutsche Grammophon.

Streamed on the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, this opening concert begins with Concerto No.1, written after No.2 but published first. Brimming with bold melodic and harmonic writing, No.1 reveals the emergence of Beethoven’s own inimitable voice. Second on the programme is Concerto No.3, in the key of C minor, associated in Beethoven’s work with a sense of drama and foreboding.


Ludwig van Beethoven
– Piano Concerto No.1 in C major, op.15
– Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, op.37

Krystian Zimerman, London Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle

Stream starts Thursday 17 December, 19:00 GMT and can be watched on demand until 2020-12-19

Get your ticket on www.dg-premium.com (9.90 EUR)

The remaining three concertos will be streamed on December 19 & 21.

Free tickets for Piano Street’s members

Deutsche Grammophon cordially invites the Piano Street members to this unique online concert experience on DG Stage. A limited number of free tickets are available for Gold members.

Log in to your Piano Street account and visit this special page to get your free online ticket for DG Stage. First come, first served!

The new platform DG Stage

DG Stage – The Classical Concert Hall, is a new online platform featuring exclusively produced classical concert streams by the world’s leading artists. The pioneering online venture, developed within the DG Premium platform, expands Deutsche Grammophon’s commitment to great music, inspirational artists and new technology. International audiences will be able to watch a broad range of classical concerts, including piano recitals, chamber music sessions and orchestra and opera performances, exclusively produced live on tape for DG Stage.


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Cyprien Katsaris – Beethoven in a New Light

Beethoven – a Chronological Odyssey is a set of six surprising CDs that must count as one of the most original new releases in the Beethoven year. Cyprien Katsaris has gained renown as a Beethoven interpreter not least because he is one of the few pianists to have recorded Liszt’s transcriptions of the symphonies – and also because he has a solo piano version of the Emperor Concerto in his repertoire. But to this French master of Greek Cypriot origin, adding a further complete recording of the piano sonatas to the seventy that are already on the market did not seem to be a good idea. Instead, with his Beethoven Odyssey, Cyprien Katsaris takes us on a fascinating foray through the composer’s output – which we may know rather less thoroughly than we had imagined.

While musical life is suffering profound disruption as the coronavirus crisis causes havoc, Katsaris works at home in Paris with his piano. He is in good spirits and can even see the positive sides of this enforced house arrest: less pollution, less CO2, good air quality. ‘It seems that nature has taken on the task of restoring balance.’ Fortunately pianists – with their many hours of practice per day – are used to social isolation in the company of their pianos, and this applies to Katsaris too, who does not partake of holidays or weekend trips even in normal circumstances. ‘I’m always practising, except the day of a concert, because I want to be fresh and natural. You might compare it to a rendezvous, a dinner with a much admired, beautiful lady; you wouldn’t meet up with another woman earlier the same day.’
Our interview is highly stimulating – and, with the exception of a conversation I had long ago with the (now deceased) Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers, the only one out of many hundreds in which I myself had to answer questions. We frequently deviated from the topic of Beethoven, touching on the coronavirus, mutual acquaintances such as Eliane Reyes and the Liszt specialist Koos Groen, and also Frits Philips, who passed away at the age of 100 on the very day that Katsaris gave a concert with the Brabant Orchestra in his Philips’ birth town, Eindhoven.


For a long time Katsaris had no idea what contribution he could make to the Beethoven year. Finally now he presents a very personal selection from Beethoven’s complete works, arranged chronologically from his first attempts up to the very last notes he committed to paper. Here sonatas, bagatelles and variations alternate with a total of fifteen transcriptions, mainly of chamber music – either by Beethoven himself or by contemporaries or later colleagues such as Liszt, Wagner and Mussorgsky. Over the years Katsaris has collected so many scores that he himself lost track of what was piling up at home. ‘It started twenty years ago. Michael Ladenburger from the Beethovenhaus in Bonn gave me a photocopy of Czerny’s solo piano transcription of the second movement of the Kreutzer Sonata. it sounded good!’
Concerning the piano sonatas, specifically the Appassionata, Katsaris remarks that many virtuosos are tempted into making errors. ‘They play the third movement much too fast. Beethoven writes Allegro ma non troppo; only the coda is Presto!’


The most interesting Beethoven transcriptions are still Liszt’s arrangements of the nine symphonies. ‘Young pianists might not regard it as helpful, but whether they believe it or not: you understand Beethoven much better if you start with the symphonies rather than the sonatas. In an interview from 1988, Horowitz called the symphonies the “greatest piano works ever written”. Of course they are very difficult; I myself worked for ten years on my Teldec recordings from the 1980s.’
The new CDs also include Wagner’s arrangement of the slow movement of the Ninth Symphony. ‘Liszt’s arrangement is in every way superior, but I wanted to include Wagner if only because nobody would have expected to find him here. Beethoven was Wagner’s idol even when he was a child. Wagner claimed Beethoven and Shakespeare appeared to him in a dream when he was a teenager. He copied the scores of the Fifth and Ninth Symphonies and his piano arrangement of the Ninth retains the singers and choir in the finale, as does the one by Friedrich Kalkbrenner, which was recorded by Etsuko Hirose, one of the finest pianists of her generation. Nobody knows these transcriptions, but there is so much repertoire out there! A Berlin musicologist once told me that we modern pianists play only two per cent of the music that was composed in the nineteenth century!’


Should a transcription make you forget the original? ‘No, an arrangement is something totally different. It’s like comparing a black-and-white photo with a colour one. I myself can better understand an orchestral work by playing it on the piano. Arrangements are as old as the hills; the fables of Lafontaine are often nothing more than adaptations in beautiful French language of fables by Æsop, the poet from ancient Greece.’
Busoni once said that every composition is actually a transcription – of the original idea that was in the composer’s mind when he conceived the work. ‘For me there’s hardly any difference between my approach to an original piano composition and the way I tackle an arrangement. Perhaps I feel a little freer if the composer himself was a great improviser. It’s all about the spontaneous creation in the moment. Chopin never played repeated passages in exactly the same way. It’s a question of remaining true to the composition whilst at the same time contributing something personal to it. If I, as a jury member in a competition find someone’s playing convincing, then I agree with him inwardly, even if I myself wouldn’t play it the same way.’


The fire, the enthusiasm and the grandeur with which Katsaris plays Beethoven are reminiscent of his old mentor György Cziffra. ‘I never heard him play the symphonies, but he played Beethoven’s and Mozart’s sonatas very beautifully and elegantly. I once presented his very refined recordings of Scarlatti sonatas on French radio without saying in advance who was playing, and everyone was surprised, because they know him only as a virtuoso. Nowadays his genius is finding greater recognition. We appear together in some TV show from 1975 – you can find it on YouTube if you search for “Cziffra Katsaris”. He gave me his original arrangement of the Flight of the Bumble Bee. It’s even harder than the official version. Cziffra was the greatest pianist I have ever heard.’


The new edition was recorded on two Bechstein grand pianos. Is there a connection with Artur Schnabel’s historic recordings in the combination of Beethoven and Bechstein? ‘I don’t know; in any case before World War II Bechstein was out in front – Rachmaninov, for example, composed his first two concertos at a Bechstein. What I find very good with Bechstein is that they never sound hard, even if you play very loudly. In any case, though, I have never confined myself to a single type of piano. I want to maintain the absolute freedom to be able to play on all good pianos, and I’m keen to help all the major manufacturers – Steingraeber, Steinway, Yamaha or Bechstein. The first grand piano I had at home, when I was a teenager, was a Steingraeber. For 35 years now I’ve owned a Steinway D. I also enjoy playing on a Yamaha CFX, especially when I’m in Japan. In general the piano technicians are better there too. I don’t agree with those who say that in principle you need to use a different instrument for Debussy than for Haydn. You have to be able to make music on every piano. A lot of what we believe is largely in our minds, in our heads. A blind test often produces surprising results.’


In the course of his career Katsaris has worked with a large number or famous conductors: Leonard Bernstein, Mstislav Rostropovich, Neville Marriner, Simon Rattle, Myung-Whun Chung, Christoph von Dohnányi, Charles Dutoit, Antal Doráti, Iván Fischer, Kent Nagano, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Charles Mackerras, to name but a few. Exceptional even in this illustrious company was his collaboration with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, with whom Katsaris played Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, which of course they recorded with the composer himself. They had first become acquainted a year earlier at the first CD recording of Liszt’s Concerto in the Hungarian Style, a work that was completed by Tchaikovsky. ‘I’ll never forget that. A day before the recording, Ormandy invited me to his apartment, for a single rehearsal on his piano. When I told him that I was intimidated he answered he had the same feeling when, as a young man, he had to conduct Rachmaninoff with the Paganini Rhapsody and during the concert Rachmaninoff had a memory problem. Ormandy thought that he caused the mistake, and looked at Rachmaninoff who was very angry and who told him in his deep bass voice: “Play!”
Afterwards Ormandy, terrified went to Rachmaninoff in his dressing room, who told him: “I was not angry with you, but with myself!”
The famous New York Times emeritus critic Harold Schoenberg later told me how Ormandy once, in Beijing at a rehearsal of the state orchestra there, was asked by the conductor to lead to orchestra for a few minutes and without him even needing to utter a single word, the orchestra suddenly sounded totally different. I believe in this magic, in spiritual communication at a high level. Why can someone who plays perfectly leave you cold, and why is the playing of Horowitz or Cortot – who also made mistakes – so fascinating? It’s a mystery, something spiritual, something that is detached from the physical world. There’s something similar between composers as well. Franz Xaver Mozart composed Polonaises mélancholiques that remind of the early polonaises by Chopin, but Chopin was only five years old at the time. The same with the scherzo from one of Czerny’s sonatas, that sounds like Schumann, although it was written while Schumann was still a child.’

Respect and tolerance

A lot has been said about Beethoven’s humanitarian message. ‘Of course that all culminates in his Ninth Symphony. But the idea itself underpins many of his works. All these sforzati are like a protest against social injustice. In his time wars were raging incessantly and, alongside the protest, we hear the clarity in many works – the full gamut of emotions from fear, rage, strong interest and enthusiasm all the way to the ultimate, to serenity, to zen.’
Katsaris regards himself as a citizen of the world. ‘Beethoven wanted us to become brothers and sisters, but that is the message of every great composer: respect and tolerance. Without any chauvinism, I can see a parallel to the great philosophers of ancient Greece. They have the same universal and humanitarian message that people of all cultures, all over the world, can perceive and understand, whether they are in Korea or Argentina. People everywhere have tears in their eyes when they listen to music by Mozart, Chopin or Beethoven.’

Author: Eric Schoones
Photo credit: Jean-Baptiste Millot

Ludwig van Beethoven | A Chronological Odyssey
Cyprien Katsaris, piano – 6 CD | PIANO 21
Listen to samples at willowhaynerecords.com

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: www.pianist-magazin.de or www.pianistmagazine.nl


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The World of Piano Competitions – issue 2 2020

As a collaborating partner Piano Street is proud to present the fourth issue of The World of Piano Competitions, a magazine initiated by PIANIST Magazine (Netherlands and Germany) and its Editor-in-Chief Eric Schoones. Here we get a rich insight into the world of international piano competitions through the eyes of its producers and participants.

Click cover to download:

Contributing Editors: Gustav Alink (Alink-Argerich Foundation), Gerrit Glaner (Steinway), Patrick Jovell (Piano Street), Maria Nikiforov, Florian Riem (WFIMC)

Free download!

Piano Street is happy to share the fourth issue of WOPC with our readers free of charge: The-World-of-Piano-Competitions-issue-2-2020.pdf


Yang Yang Cai | Let the music guide you
Jacques Rouvier | A question of character
Nelson Goerner | The long way

Competition Report
Liszt Competition | Labour of love
Pianolink | The more friendly alternative

In Profile
Queen Elisabeth Competition
The Robert Schumann Competition for young pianists
Brahms Piano Competition
Young Pianist Foundation
ARD International Music Competition
International Carl Maria von Weber Competition for Young Pianists
Rencontres Internationales des Jeunes Pianistes
International Telekom Beethoven Competition Bonn
International German Piano Award
International Piano Competition Memorijal Jurica Murai
The International Schubert-Competition Dortmund

Behind the Scenes
WFIMC | Piano Competitions on five continents
More and more Online Competitions
Ruhr Piano Festival | Rising Stars
Column | The Power of Visualisation

The Piano
Steingraeber anniversary
Mutual Love, Admiration and Fascination


The piano enjoys a tremendous popularity worldwide and has the universal quality to be able to communicate through cultures, history and geographical borders. The value of piano competitions cannot be overestimated in terms of focus on the piano as an instrument and piano playing. The competition industry engages a multiplicity of concerns including hi-end piano manufacturing, media coverage and broadcast, repertoire spotlight and pedagogy, concert and lecture production and not least, career opportunity and exposure for laureates and non-laureates. All this contributes to a richer cultural life and can powerfully promote the aim we all share: to spread the joy and riches of the art of piano playing.

”Piano music, especially live, is incomparable and can be a great source of joy for players and listeners. We all should strive to allow as many people benefit from it as possible. For that, this edition of The World of Piano Competition is an excellent form of encouragement. I hope its message spreads widely! I wish everyone much joy reading it and, later on, attending a concert!”
— Guido Zimmermann, President Steinway & Sons Europe

is published twice a year by PIANIST, as a part of the regular edition, and also worldwide as a separate magazine.

PIANIST (regular edition) is published four times a year in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands and Belgium.


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The Goldberg Variations Streamed from Bach’s Church in Leipzig

November 19-22 all fans of great piano music have the opportunity to hear a once in a lifetime live concert with Lang Lang performing the Goldberg Variations streamed from J.S. Bach’s Leipzig church. The stream will take place on DG Stage, a new video music service for classical concert streams from Deutsche Grammophon.

Stream starts Thursday 2020-11-19, 19:00 and can be watched on demand until 2020-11-22, 19:00 (GMT).
Get your ticket on www.dg-premium.com (9.90 EUR)

Free tickets for Piano Street’s members

Deutsche Grammophon cordially invites the Piano Street members to this unique online concert experience on DG Stage. 100 free tickets are available.

Log in to your Piano Street account and visit this special page to get your free online ticket for DG Stage. First come, first served.

An Extensive Album Release

The Goldberg Variations album with Lang Lang was released on September 4 on DG. Also available is a super deluxe edition featuring not only Lang Lang’s studio recording but a performance captured live in concert at Leipzig, where the composer worked and is buried. This coupling of studio and live recordings, a world first for the “Goldbergs”, offers fascinating insights into the art of interpretation.

The concert which took place in Leipzig’s Thomaskirche in March 2020 was Lang Lang’s second ever live performance of the work. Although he was very aware of the composer’s long association with the church, the emotional impact of playing this monumental work just metres from Bach’s grave still took him by surprise. Lang Lang is now giving fans the chance to experience the unique atmosphere of this recital, through a special streamed concert on DG Stage.

“The more time I spent with the Goldberg Variations, the more I wanted to know about Bach, his contemporaries and the composers he later inspired,” explains Lang Lang. “From a vocal number by Stölzel that was obviously popular in the Bach household and a work by the young Goldberg himself, to a beautiful miniature by Schumann – who loved and studied Bach throughout his life – via solo piano arrangements of some of Bach’s loveliest vocal and instrumental writing, all seven of the pieces I’ve just recorded as part of this project have added to my understanding of his music.”

The new platform DG Stage

DG Stage – The Classical Concert Hall, is a new online platform featuring exclusively produced classical concert streams by the world’s leading artists. The pioneering online venture, developed within the DG Premium platform, expands Deutsche Grammophon’s commitment to great music, inspirational artists and new technology. International audiences will be able to watch a broad range of classical concerts, including piano recitals, chamber music sessions and orchestra and opera performances, exclusively produced live on tape for DG Stage.


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A Scottish-Viennese Odyssey

When Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigam was in Sweden in September to play two piano concertos with Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, we talked with the performer in the midst of rehearsal. The concert was recorded for Helsingborg Concert Hall Play series and – according to Brautigam – Sally Beamish’s 1st piano concerto named ”Hill Stanzas” and Mozart’s 17th, make a very fine musical combination in a concert program.

Piano Street: You are here in Sweden to perform two piano concertos with Helsingborg Symphony and conductor David Nieman. We are all familiar with piano concertos but not so much with one of its composers; contemporary British Sally Beamish. What has nourished your interest in her music?

Ronald Brautigam: I Met Sally in Manchester when I was playing with the BBC Philharmonic with Andrew Manze who used to be the conductor here in Helsingborg, and they were playing a premiere of a piece she’d written and I liked her music. I knew her music because a lot of it has come out on the same company where I record with, and it’s a sort of music that appeals to me and especially the fact that she is Scottish and my wife being Scottish too. I’ve always had a very strong relationship with the country. That was actually why I contacted her and asked if she was interested in writing a piano concerto for me, and she immediately said yes, and we met up. She came to Amsterdam, we met and talked about what sort of music and what kind of ideas I had and in the end we both came up with the idea of something inspired by the landscape of the Grampian Mountains which is the central part of the Scottish Highlands where I spend lots of time during the summer, and she went there and composed the piece in the middle of this nature between all the birds and the deer and waterfalls. And so a lot of that is incorporated into the music.

PS: So it’s basically nature based?

RB: It’s actually based on a book by a Scottish author, Nan Shepherd, who writes about her walk through the Cairngorms, and she incorporated this into the music. And in the third and fourth movement, we are suddenly tucked into Scottish Folk history and folk stories about ghosts, violinists and things. When you walk in Scotland and you’ve had a few glasses of whiskey, this sort of horror stories come naturally to you.

PS: Beamish has composed concertos for other instruments such as viola, cello, trumpet and flute and has herself a background as an orchestral (violist) musician. How would you describe this quality when it comes to writing for the piano?

RB: Well, apart from being a viola player, I think she’s a very capable pianist, although she would deny that herself, so she knows exactly what’s possible and what’s not possible. It’s a challenging piano part but all playable. I think she even tried to play it herself and that’s always a good sign. She knows how to write for the piano and after this concerto she has written two other piano concertos. There are three concertos which were written in quite a short time, a triptych where one is about the waters of Scotland, their storms and danger spots for ships and fishing and the way you can really go down. The other one is more about Scottish cities. So it’s a Scottish triptych, these three piano concertos. Nature, the water and the cities.

PS: The piano concerto you’re playing today, did you make it in a collaboration or in conversation?

RB: I always find you should let a composer do whatever they want to do and don’t interfere, just play what they write. Sally knew my playing and I think she mentioned somewhere my lovely sound and beautiful touch, and a lot of that is to be found in the music, so it’s written with the performer in mind.

PS: We mostly know you in the Viennese Classical repertoire – both on period instruments and on modern. Which are your personal thoughts on the second concerto this evening; Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17.

RB: I find it being one of Mozart’s most spectacular piano concertos. It’s so beautiful. The first movement is this almost like it’s got a bit of shyness the way it starts. As if Mozart opens the door and says is it safe to come in… If you compare that to the final part of the last movement which is pure joy, and almost like slapstick throwing pies at each other. I mean it’s got all his character traits in one piano concerto, a very serious slow movement. So it’s great music to play. I absolutely love it!

PS: Is it often played, this concerto?

Not as often as for instance the big A major or the C and D Minor Concertos. Those are the war horses on stage. There’s such an enormous amount of Mozart Concertos to choose from. This was actually the same piano concerto that I played at all the premiere concerts and the Beamish Concerto in combination with this Mozart piano concerto makes a very nice combo.

Watch the recorded livestream:


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