Wednesday, August 24, 2016
When I listen to the music of Frederick Chopin, I seek diversity. I prefer not to hear 12 waltzes, or 17 Etudes (if he wrote that many). My preference is to get some of each. In this recording there are 4 Nocturnes, but happily the other piece is the Piano Concerto #2. Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21, performed by the Sinfonia Varsovia, Christopher Warren-Green Nocturnes (2), Op. 27 Nocturne No. 14 in F sharp minor, Op. 48 No. 2 Nocturnes (3) Op. 9 Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor, Op. post. Performed by Maria João Pires (piano) The recordings on this album come from Ms. Pires’ concerts in 2010 (when she performed the Piano Concerto in F minor op. 21 with the Sinfonia Varsovia orchestra under the baton of Christopher Warren-Green) and 2014 (when she performed a recital including, among other items, the Nocturnes presented here). Here is Ms. Pires, performing the Fantasia Op. 49 by Chopin:
The Portuguese pianist will be taking part in a concert celebrating the philosophy of Krishnamurti. She will perform Beethoven’s opus 111 at London’s Cadogan Hall. Very quietly. Details here. In this interview, she says Claudio Abbado held similar views.
Berliner Philharmoniker/ Abbado/ Barenboim/ Boulez/ Dudamel/ Haitink/ Mehta/ Muti/ Rattle (Warner Classics, 25 DVDs)The Berlin Philharmonic gave its first ever concert in 1892, on 1 May. Since 1991, it has been marking that anniversary with a one-off May Day concert, which is given in a different historical-cultural centre in Europe each year, and which is televised live widely across Europe, though not in the UK. This set of DVDs documenting the first 25-year history of the Europa Concerts has been taken from these broadcasts. Though some of the performances are far more memorable than others, it makes for a fascinating collection. The recordings are generally first-rate, and are blissfully free of video gimmicks, voiceover introductions or commentaries, though there are no subtitles or printed texts for the vocal works. It’s the performances pure and simple, though a few of the discs include additional short documentary films about the cities in which the concerts took place. Those venues range from St Petersburg to Palermo, Istanbul to Oxford, with no fewer than three of them, for some reason, having been in Prague.Concerts under nine conductors are included in the set. As you might expect, the Berlin Philharmonic’s two principal conductors over the quarter century concerned, Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle, feature most prominently, but Daniel Barenboim conducts five concerts, as well as making two appearances as a soloist. Programmes tend to be determinedly populist and mainstream – there’s lots of Mozart and Beethoven, and quite a bit of Brahms; even the one concert that Pierre Boulez conducts, in the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Lisbon, in 2003, includes a Mozart piano concerto, the D minor, K466, with Maria João Pires as the wonderfully fluent soloist. Continue reading...
Pianist Maria Joao Pires has a new CD out that you might want to explore: Chopin: Piano Concerto and Nocturnes Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21, with the Sinfonia Varsovia, Christopher Warren-Green conducting. Nocturnes (2), Op. 27 Nocturne No. 14 in F sharp minor, Op. 48 No. 2 Nocturnes (3) Op. 9 Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor, Op. post. Performed by Maria João Pires (piano) This well-known performer in the piano world, has an extraordinarily modest, charming personality – focused on the music, devoted to deeply understanding it – has performed three times during the ‘Chopin and His Europe Festival’ at the invitation of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute. The recordings on this album include selections and 2014 performed at a recital including, among other items, the Nocturnes presented here. I like a presentation of completely different compositions, which nonetheless form an extraordinarily coherent artistic whole. These are wonderful creations displaying the most beautiful side of pianistic art. Here is Ms Pires, performing the second movement from Chopin’s piano concerto number 2:
Alan Wilkinson, who founded Music in Country Churches in 1989, has died at the age of 86. An English gentleman of the old school, unfailingly courteous and polite, and backed by a formidable knowledge of music and musicians, over 27 years he arranged an annual series of high class concert weekends in some of the finest English rural churches. Names such as Bartoli, te Kanawa, Brendel, Rostropovich, Zukerman, Perahia, Lang Lang, Marriner, Kissin, Pires and von Otter, together with equally fine orchestras and ensembles, were drawn in by Wilkinson’s charm and persistence, and ensured a loyal and knowledgeable audience, raising along the way well in excess of half a million pounds to support the upkeep of English rural churches. The series will continue, but English music has lost a unique and much-loved figure.
Our latest diary instalment from Anthea Kreston, wide-eyed American violinist in the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet. This week the teaching part of my job with the Artemis began. In addition to playing concerts, the position came with two teaching positions – one at the Universität der Künste Berlin (University of the Arts), and the other is the Queen Elizabeth Music Chapel in Brussels. The UdK is the largest art school in Europe and is known to be one of the most diverse arts schools world-wide. Past teachers include Feuermann, Joachim, Clara Schumann, and Schoenberg. The Artemis is on faculty – we each have responsibility for 6 chamber groups, and in addition we share 8 “master groups” amongst us, helping to prepare them for international competitions and the day-to-day details of beginning a career as a professional quartet. There are also open master classes and concerts to attend. This week we got the names of our groups and have begin to set up the schedule. Chapel is located in a beautiful little town just south of the main Brussels airport. The Artemis Quartet is the Master Quartet in Residence, and is in charge of all chamber music that happens in this highly usual place. There are a handful of teachers – Gary Hoffman for cello, Augustin Dumay violin, Miguel da Silva viola, Maria João Pires piano, Alfred Brendel piano, and the Artemis. The Artemis each visit Chapel individually several times per year for a handful of days for intense work with the chamber groups which we have selected from live auditions. The facilities are incredible – a historic building houses the staff and many Curtis-style practice/teaching/performing rooms. The new wing is state-of-the-art with three concert venues, 10 studios for the 10 selected solo artists/students, and a fully-staffed kitchen and rec area. The groups which I coached were all in the midst of healthy careers – having won international competitions, with management, and recording contracts. It felt a little like being back at Curtis – when I landed there at age 18 it seemed like everyone was already completely established with full careers. The groups themselves mainly travel to Chapel for our coachings – several are based in Paris. I met for three-hour sessions with each group, in the wooden concert hall with a backdrop of a full glass wall looking out to a forest with passing deer. If it sounds unbelievable, it felt unbelievable. Outside the main entrance was a reflecting pool with the requisite mold-covered Greek goddess sculpture. Just paradise. And there were lots of cappuccino machines sprinkled throughout the buildings. On more than one occasion I was steered away from one machine by a student, with the advice of finding a better one in the next room. I liked that. The groups I worked with were Trio Busch (preparing for a possible manager), Trio Zadig (now at the Fischoff Competition), Quartuor Hermès (winners of Young Concert Artists and preparing for a recording of the Ravel Quartet), Quartour Arod (getting ready for ARD) and Trio Medici (competition the following day). All of the groups were focused, exquisite, and open to my suggestions. The repertoire was – for trio – Beethoven Op. 1/1, Op. 1/3, Mendelssohn 1 and 2, Shostakovich, Ravel – for quartet Beethoven 132, Ravel, Bartok 3, and Haydn 76/1. Lots to have on hand, especially since I have had to get 12 quartets up and running for the Artemis. But – luckily I had played all the trios and all but one quartet. On the final day I was miked and readied for a video 2 hour masterclass. It might already be up on the Chapel website, not sure. The groups were Arod and Zadig and I think we had a great time. We were loose but serious – I pushed but was supportive. In the end, we had an audience singalong to the Beethoven 132. See – late Beethoven isn’t scary! Speaking of rep – guess what is on the docket for me coming up? Am I the luckiest girl alive – pinch me I must be dreaming! Schubert Quintet in Istanbul with Gautier Capuçon, then Beethoven 135, 130, 133, Mozart Dissonance, Schubert G Major, Bartok 2, Shostakovich 7 and the quintet, Mendelssohn 44/1, and Schumann 1 and 3. Recording for Warner – probably Shostakovich and beginning of Bartok box. Aaaaaaaand we have water in the kitchen now. For the love of all things Good and Mighty I have clean socks and don’t have to do the dishes in the bathtub anymore. Last piece of advice – don’t try to dump the leftover oatmeal down the tub drain. It doesn’t really work.