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Piano Masterclass with Oscar Wilde and Dr. House

“Piano Masterclass” sketch from “Hysteria! Hysteria! Hysteria!” AIDS benefit, featuring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in 1988.

Fry and Laurie are Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, a successful English comedy double act mostly active in the 1980s and 1990s. Having met in 1980 through mutual friend Emma Thompson (whilst all attended the University of Cambridge), Fry and Laurie have since collaborated on numerous projects together, including Jeeves and Wooster in which Laurie portrayed Bertie Wooster and Fry portrayed Wooster’s valet Jeeves. They have also gained prominence through their performances in Blackadder, as well as their own sketch show A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Although they have accomplished numerous successful solo projects (in the fields of acting and writing, among others), and it has been a while since they have actively collaborated, both have expressed interest in a continued partnership.


A Piano Spectacular for 80 Fingers – $1.6 Million Worth of Piano on Stage

After sell-out performances in 2008 at the Melbourne Concert Hall, the Sydney Opera House and QPAC Brisbane, The Steinway Spectacular returns for an extraordinary music event in Sidney today, Friday October 8 2010 at City Recital Hall Angel Place and on Sunday, October 17 at the Melbourne Town Hall.

The eight pianists will work as an ensemble to perform new arrangements of classical favourites, including Ravel’s Bolero, Rhapsody in Blue, Percy Grainger’s Merriment, Pictures at an Exhibition, Handel Medley, the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony and a new 80-finger version of Chopsticks!

Led by conductor and host Guy Noble, renowned musical director and former presenter of ABC Classic FM’s Breakfast show, The Steinway Spectacular is an once-in-a-lifetime musical event.

“It’s a very large affair,” says Noble. “Logistically, it’s a nightmare.”
The piano technician Ara Vartoukian will spend hours tuning the instruments. For past concerts in Melbourne the process sometimes took all night. “The pianos all, in essence, sound the same, so they have to be absolutely in tune with each other.” Even after the most careful tuning, things can go awry.

Conductor Guy Noble said, “This is one of the enjoyable concerts I’ve ever conducted – the sound of eight grand pianos all powering along together is amazing! We have a lot of fun and the audiences whoop for more. Eight pianos playing Ravel’s Bolero makes more noise than an orchestra!”


Piano Played by Mozart Discovered in Germany

An early piano believed to have been played by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has surfaced in Germany and could be worth millions of euros, a radio station reported.

Public broadcaster SWR said the instrument was built in 1775 and acquired in the 1980s by piano manufacturer Martin Becker in the southern German city of Baden-Baden from an antiques dealer in Strasbourg, eastern France. When Becker decided to auction off the fortepiano, a music historian noticed the offer and “had a hunch that it could be the same long-lost instrument that Mozart played whenever he was in Strasbourg,” SWR said. “I had the idea to offer it on (online auction site) eBay and maybe get between 30,000 and 40,000 euros for it,” Becker told the radio station.

A historic oil painting in Vienna shows the composer Joseph Haydn, a Mozart contemporary, playing what may be the same instrument. The fortepiano, built by Christian Baumann, is one of eight known examples. Mozart was known to be a fan of Baumann’s work, SWR said. SWR said auction house Christie’s confirmed the piano’s provenance in 2003, but a company spokesman told AFP that its US-based musical instrument specialists had never examined it. Experts said the piano could be worth millions if its illustrious pedigree is established.


Qualifications to the 16th International Chopin Competition in October 2010

After initial selection based DVD recordings of the compulsory repertoire, the jury chose 215 contestants to take part in further auditions in Warsaw. The group features 24 Poles, 23 Chinese representatives, one person from Hong Kong, five pianists representing Taipei, 22 from Russia and 20 from the USA. The most numerous group – 40 pianists – comes from Japan. The performances will be evaluated by a 17-member international jury. On April 24th, they are going to announce the names of around 80 pianists to compete in the actual competition from October 2nd to 23rd, 2010, in Warsaw. The qualifications’ rules have it that each participant has to play three Fryderyk Chopin’s etudes, one mazurka, and one other composition – a nocturne, ballade, fantasy, barcarolle or etude – chosen from a separate list.

The 16th International Chopin Competition website
The list of competitors


Poland throws bash for Chopin’s 200th

Reporting from Warsaw — The stirring strains of Frederic Chopin‘s music are reverberating across the world as music lovers celebrate the composer’s 200th birthday this year — from the château of his French lover to Egypt’s pyramids and even into space.
But nowhere do celebrations carry the powerful sense of national feeling as they do in Poland, the land of his birth, where his heroic, tragic piano compositions are credited with capturing the country’s soul.

Poland is going all out to display its best “product,” as officials bluntly put it, staging bicentennial concerts and other events in and around Warsaw, the city where the composer — known here as Fryderyk Chopin — spent the first half of his life.
“Fryderyk Chopin is a Polish icon,” said Andrzej Sulek, director of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw. “In Polish culture there is no other figure who is as well-known in the world and who represents Polish culture so well.”
Perhaps nothing better conveys Chopin’s importance — literally — than his heart. It is preserved like a relic in an urn of alcohol in a Warsaw church.
Just before his death at age 39 of what was probably tuberculosis, Chopin, fearful of being buried alive, asked that his heart be separated from his body and returned to his beloved homeland. His body is buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where Chopin spent the second half of his life.
Chopin was born in 1810 at a country estate in Zelazowa Wola, near Warsaw, to a Polish mother and French Ă©migrĂ© father. Historical sources suggest two possible dates of birth — either February 22, as noted in church records, or March 1, which was mentioned in letters between him and his mother and is considered the more probable date.
Since no one is sure, Poland is marking both. A series of concerts in Warsaw and Zelazowa Wola are taking place over those eight days featuring such world-class musicians as Daniel Barenboim, Evgeny Kissin, Garrick Ohlsson, Martha Argerich and Krystian Zimerman.
Then, a refurbished museum opens in Warsaw on Monday displaying Chopin’s personal letters and musical manuscripts along with a narration of his life.
Celebrations span the globe, from Austria to concerts at Cairo’s pyramids and across Asia.
The astronauts who blasted into orbit on the Endeavor space shuttle February 8 carried with them a CD of Chopin’s music and a copy of a manuscript of his Prelude Opus 28, No. 7 — gifts from the Polish government.


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