Tuesday, October 25, 2016
A memoir by the Swedish pianist, Lars Jönsson: When I studied in Moscow from 1990 to 1993, there were many people with personal memories of Gilels, and the love and admiration for his art was still very much felt. One of the most surprising things to me, though, was that Gilels’ name was not on the ‘golden wall’ outside the small hall of the conservatory. That wall showed the names of students who passing their exams with distinction, such as Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Richter etc. – an intimidating list when you are a student. Strangely, Gilels is not on that list. I asked my professor, Lev Naumov, himself a student of Heinrich Neuhaus. He said he had never thought about it. One of the theories offered to me was that Gilels, due to his early success, never finished his studies at the conservatory. Another rumour was the strained relationship with Neuhaus, who was fascinated by Richter, leaving Gilels – to some people’s opinion – hurt and jealous. But in what way this had, or hadn’t to do with his name not being mentioned, no one could tell. I personally think he didn’t do his exam due to all his concert obligations. As a teacher in the conservatory, he was famous and feared for his strictness and austerity. This side of his personality obviously affected his fellow teachers. Because of this, he wasn’t very popular ‘v kons’. His recollections about his own studies in Odessa with his first, and as he says, only teacher are very touching. He believed that one should either teach, or perform. Teaching requires full commitment to the student, something he had with his own teacher, and performing would always be in conflict with this. But he was required to teach in Moscow, and so he did. * A colleague of mine once saw him some minutes before he was to go on stage for a recital in Moscow. He told me Gilels was standing behind the stagedoor, pale and with closed eyes mumbling “ne mogu, ne mogu” (I can’t, I can’t). Gilels and the other great musicians of his time and place faced constant demands and threats from the Soviet regime, often making them play concerts they didn’t want to play.
I heard Mr. Tharaud play the music of Chopin this morning. It was direct, sensitive, fluid, musical, and satisfying. Then I did some searching and located his playing of Schubert’s Impromptus. That is when I decided that I must share his music with y’all… There are few recordings by this artist available right now. I found Bach, Rachmaninov, and one more. I like what I heard… Here is Mr. Tharaud playing Schubert:
Semyon Bychkov's Tchaikovsky Project "Beloved Friend" continues this week at the Barbican Centre, London. It's an ambitious series connected to a series of recordings with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, with concerts taking place oin London with the BBC SO and in New York with the New York Philharmonic, next year. The concerts (at least in London) were augmented with a play by Ronald Harwood on the relationship between Tchaikovsky and Madame von Meck, the "beloved friends" in question. Major publicity, too : flyers were distributed at the Royal Albert Hall during the Proms, almost guaranteed to get attention. So, why are so many tickets still unsold, even for Monday's concert at the Barbican ? Tchaikovsky should sell out, particularly with upmarket stars like Bychkov and Kirill Gerstein, and interesting programmes which lesser known but important choices like the original 1879 version of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto no 2. Although the London music scene is unusually quiet at the moment there doesn't seem to have been much public reaction. Even Friday's concert with the Symphony Pathetique and Rachmaninov The Bells hasn't sold out. It doesn't make much sense, since the first concert, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 was pretty good. Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony op 58 is a huge beast, nearly an hour long, and full of dynamic full of extremes. Inspired by Byron's poem Manfred it tells of a hero confronting supernatural demonic forces in a cosmic struggle that takes place in the Alps. In Byron's time, the Alps symbolized danger, the vastness of nature dwarfing humankind. Schumann's Manfred is Romantic in the true, wild Germanic sense. Tchaikovsky, however. was Russian and a man of the theatre, so Bychkov's approach emphasized the expansiveness that gives the piece context. Bychkov's a great opera conductor, he knows how music can "speak"on its own terms. Bychov created the panoramic backdrop to the drama vividly : generous, sweeping lines suggesting limitless horizons. As the tempo quickened, the orchestra soared upward, : searching lines contrasting well with the sudden crashing climax with which the first movement ends. Perhaps this is the moment when Manfred meets his mysterious half sister Astarte. What is the nature of their relationship (bearing in mind Byron's unnatural relationship with his own half sister) ? And, why the mountains ? The second movement, marked vivace con spirito describes a mountain spirit, one of the elementals who haunt Alpine lore. They are fairies, but also signify danger, their elusiveness defying human control. Thus the high violin melody that flies above, and away, from the main orchestral foundation. . The third movement describes the mountain folk, who carve out marginal lives in harsh conditions, yet seem happy as they dance, presumably in pure, open air festivals. They're tough folk and down to earth, while Manfred, though a hero, is rather more quixotic. Like Byron himself, maybe, a towering figure but one with dark complexes. Tolling bells suggest danger. The music descends into a stranger mood, sounds crashing against each other as if the earth itself was imploding,"fire" pouring forth from the rapid rivulets of sound. Manfred fights off the evil spirits who tempt him, but chooses to die on his own terms. What might Tchaikovsky have made of this ? The finale was grand, the pace brisk, craggy peaks and descents sharply defined, dizzying figures suggesting turbulence. Not mountain breezes, but perhaps something more demonic. The organ underlined the cosmological nature of Manfred's predicament. Bychkov recently conducted a magnificent Strauss Alpine Symphony. Read my review here - Mordwand ! Bychkov's Manfred Symphony, like his Alpine Symphony were definitely not "tourist trail". Although the drama dissipates at the end of the symphony, textures are more refined, more esoteric, one feels that perhaps Manfred is entering a new frontier, beyond the ken of mankind. hence details, like the horn calling the hero on, and the dizzying upwards rush towards a serene conclusion that might suggest spiritual sublimation. This programme began with Kirill Gerstein and the Piano Concerto no 2, in the much longer original version, like Manfred, monumental in its traverse. Maybe audiences take Tchaikovsky - and Bychkov and the BBC SO - for granted and don't realize how much goes into performance at this level of excellence. things like this don't just "happen". So get to Monday's concert if you can, which features "Three faces of Tchaikovsky: the graceful, elegant Serenade with its stunning melodies; the single finished movement of the unfinished Third Piano Concerto, the composer’s last work; and the Dante-inspired tone-poem Francesca de Rimini with its portrayal of a forbidden love" to quote the Barbican ad, and Taneyev's Overture to Oresteia. Perhaps the most intriguing of all three concerts in Bychkov's Beloved Friends Tchaikovsky Project.
A long time has passed since I wrote about this amazing pianist. Now is a great time to correct this, because is has completed a new recording: Transcendental: Daniil Trifonov plays Franz Liszt Liszt: Transcendental Studies, S139 Nos. 1-12 Two Concert Studies, S145/R6: Gnomenreigen; Waldesrauschen Three Concert Studies, S144/R5: Un lamento; La leggierezza; Un sospiro Grandes Études de Paganini (6), S. 141 Performed by Daniil Trifonov (piano) Daniil Trifonov has been described by The Times as “the finest young pianist of our age”. After his successful “Rachmaninov Variations” last year, he has now created another statement to define his extraordinary and growing legacy. It is dedicated to the greatest pianist of his own century: Franz Liszt. The repertoire is Liszt’s Complete Concert Etudes. These Etudes remain amongst the most challenging piano pieces ever composed – and are rarely recorded or performed. This is the first time that the Complete Liszt Etudes have been recorded as a whole for DG. And Daniil Trifonov is one of the few pianists to have recorded them all in one go – in an unbelievable five days. Beyond his phenomenal technique, Daniil Trifonov is a distinctly Russian artist: an intense, soulful musician in the great Russian tradition whose presentation and repertoire set him apart from all other young piano stars of today. The Gurdian wrote in September, 2016: “Trifonov is already an exceptionally thoughtful interpreter, with musicianship that more than matches his technical gifts…while there is never any doubting the brilliance of Trifonov’s playing, that is only the starting point; the delicacy and transparency of his performances are often more striking than their moments of rampaging virtuosity.” Here is Daniil Trifonov in Liszt’s La Campanella:
Pianist Vladimir Horowitz was born on October 1, 1903, in Kiev, Ukraine. His mother, a pianist herself, provided him with piano lessons at an early age—marking the start of his lifelong love of the piano. Horowitz enrolled at the Kiev Conservatory in 1912. He studied there until 1919, and upon graduation, performed the Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 by Sergei Rachmaninov. Many years later Horowitz left the Soviet Union, and he ultimately came to the US. After a distinguished performance career, what followed was an extensive period where Horowitz did not perform at all. Vladimir Horowitz ended a twelve-year absence from the concert stage in May, 1965, with a Carnegie Hall recital that included Schumann’s Fantasy and various works by Scriabin and Chopin. The performance earned great acclaim, and the subsequent recording of that concert proved immensely successful. Horowitz died on November 5, 1989, in New York City. He was 86 years old. Here is Mr. Horowitz playing Chopin in Vienna:
Lincoln Trio (çedille)The Lincoln Trio give shapely and impassioned performances of these three unfamiliar 20th-century chamber works. The Trio in F sharp minor by the Armenian-Soviet composer Arno Babajanian draws on folk styles, but the lyrical mood is close to Rachmaninov. The poetic, song-like violin solo in the slow movement is beautifully captured by violinist Desirée Ruhstrat, with warm support from David Cunliffe (cello) and Marta Aznavoorian (piano). Frank Martin’s Trio on Popular Irish Melodies is alive with rhythmically catchy, jazzy writing. Most elusive is the trio by Rebecca Clarke, a mix of dissonance and passion that seems to exist in a musical world of its own. Continue reading...
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1 April 1873 28 March 1943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music. Early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and other Russian composers gave way to a thoroughly personal idiom that included a pronounced lyricism, expressive breadth, structural ingenuity, and a tonal palette of rich, distinctive orchestral colors. The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff's compositional output. He made a point of using his own skills as a performer to explore fully the expressive possibilities of the instrument. Even in his earliest works he revealed a sure grasp of idiomatic piano writing and a striking gift for melody.
Great composers of classical music