Browsing: Piano

Numerous bids are being made in this centennial year to redeem Leonard Bernstein’s three symphonies from their fatal flaws. None that I have heard makes a better fist of it than Antonio Pappano’s new set with the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. Pappano, who met Bernstein as his would-be repetiteur on an opera production, has a keen empathy for the composer’s melting-pot background. From first note to last, he tones down gestural excesses and desperate self-borrowings. The Rome orchestra plays like a Broadway pick-up band – Broadway usually recruited the best players in New York – and the soloists…

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I need to declare an interest. I have described Steven Osborne elsewhere as the most interesting British pianist of his generatiom, a declaration which practically precludes me from reviewing his recordings, predisposed as I am to praise them. It’s a dilemma which I try to resolve by listening to everything that Osborne does and allowing at least a year to elapse between one enthusiastic review and the next. You’ve no idea how taxing this can be. That said, I am happily immersed in the two Rachmaninov sets of piano sketches, written in 1911 and 1916 and apparently not intended for…

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If I had to choose Elgar or VW for a desert island, I know which it would be. Elgar these days seems over-familiar, where Vaughan Williams loses none of his capacity to surprise. You would not automatically guess that from the opening item on this Toronto Symphony recording, the 1938 Serenade to Music, a flossy piece which is made up of bits of Shakespeare and broderie anglaise. Moving swiftly on, the 1944 oboe concerto is an exquisite wartime consolation, a promise of green fields and scones for tea when all the unpleasantness is over. Sarah Jeffrey’s reading is ideally serene,…

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There is no clear western pereception of Myaskovsky. We think we know Prokofiev and Shostakovitch, whether through their music or through their Stalin ordeals. But their senior contemporary barely flickers on our attention even though Stravinsky, among others, held him in high regard. In a fairly undramatic life, Myaskovsky simply got on with writing symphonies – 27 altogether – and piano sonatas, which serve as a kind of private commentary on the symphonic output. He taught for most of his life at the Moscow Conservatoire, where a successor professor, Mikhail Lidsky, has applied himself to recording the complete piano output…

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In the hands of anyone other than Stephen Hough, this album would be either a horrible indulgence or a public act of psychoanalysis. Hough is far too fastidious a pianist to be suspected of such temptations. What we have here are morsels by composers great and (mostly) small, work the evoke a trance-like state between sleep and wakefulness. I’m not sure about Hough’s opening setting of Strauss’s overworked Radetsky March, but thereafter he hardly puts a finger wrong. Das alte Lied by Henry Love will blow you away; Love was the pseudonym of Hilde Loewe, a Viennese refugee in London.…

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Domenico Scarlatti: Sonatas, volume 1 (Chandos) It feels dangerously transgressive, and thus all the more enjoyable, to listen to Scarlatti’s keyboard pieces on a full-throated Steinway D piano set up in an English country barn. Why musicians submit so readily to the tyranny of political correctness – composers to the imposition of serialism, performers to the doctrines of period practice – is a mystery to me. So to find a young pianist at the start of his path who is prepared to defy the professorial rule makers and play a Bach contemporary on a modern big banger of a concert…

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Montréal, May 9, 2018 – The Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC) presents the program of its annual Festival, from October 7 to 30, 2018, with a flurry of activities involving the king of instruments, around the theme “History and Modernity.” “The organ is one of the oldest instruments with more than 2,000 years of history, but it is also an instrument of the future,” states Jean-Willy Kunz, Artistic Director of the CIOC. Some 15 events will make up the CIOC program, including a musical for fans of history, music, and photography (Organ Trip, October 20, 10 am), a concert featuring…

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Grazyna Bacewicz: Quintets, quartets (Chandos) How many times have I told you not to buy a record for its cover? Well, this one justifies the purchase. The image shows the central square of a small town in Poland in the 1960s, a place where nothing ever happens yet everything is closely watched. The image has been colourised for added artificiality. It is stifling, cloying, vividly reminiscent of the oppressive dullness of Communism. The music is made to match. Bacewicz, who lived from 1909 to 1969, was a busy violinist who kept her head down and played well within the rules.…

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I’m no different than anybody else, except that I am,” Dmitri Kanovich chuckles over coffee on King Street East in Toronto. In one way he is quite individual: In 2015 he founded Looking at the Stars, a charity that brings world-class classical music performances into correctional facilities across Ontario. A former refugee who moved to Canada in 1983, Lithuanian-born Kanovich arrived with two kids and $300 in his pocket. He also came with his work ethic. After a short stint of odd jobs, he was hired by the “compassionate” owner of a small IT company he met at his synagogue.…

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World-renowned pianist Angela Hewitt says she is “on the mend” after having fallen down a set of stairs on Jan. 24 at a church in Oxford, England, 90 minutes before she was to perform Book 1 of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier for the first time in 10 years. Though the pain was “terrible,” she went on stage just the same, with the help of two strong men, ice and a wheelchair. She couldn’t use the left pedal or put any weight on her left foot, which she later learned was broken. “I don’t like to disappoint people,” Hewitt explained. By then, the crowd…

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