Browsing: Piano

Universally popular in the first half of the 20th century, the music of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari has vanished into thin air. A Venetian of German ancestry and education, Wolf-Ferrari rejected modernism and allowed himself to become – along with Mascagni, Repighi, Malipiero and most Italian composers – a cultural poster-boy for the Mussolini regime. This affiliation accelerated his reputational decline after 1945; he died three years later. But there is nothing ideological about his music. Nor is it in any sense reactionary. On the contrary, Wolf-Ferrari wrote romantic music because that is all he was equipped to do and he did…

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Joliette, August 7, 2018 – It was in the full heat of summer that the 41st season of Festival de Lanaudière concluded Sunday. To the delight of festival-goers, however, the performance by Orchestre Métropolitain (conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin with soloist Marc-André Hamelin) was more than refreshing! The concert featured Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Symphony No. 7, “Leningrad”. With his usual flamboyance, Nézet-Séguin masterfully led his orchestra to a grandiose finale. This year, the Festival’s Artistic Director Gregory Charles built the Festival program around the evocative theme “All is fair in love and war”, giving audiences at the…

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Santander, August 5th 2018.- This evening has been held the Closing Gala and Awards Ceremony of the 19th Paloma O’Shea Santander International Piano Competition. The event has been attended by the President of the Government of Cantabria, Miguel Ángel Revilla; the Mayoress of Santander, Gema Igual; and the President of the Albéniz Foundation and of the Santander Piano Competition, Paloma O’Shea. The Gala, presented by Eva Sandoval, has begun with the six finalists’ performance of Khachaturian’s “Sabre dance” (arrangement by Walden Hughes for 2 pianos and 12 hands). After Mrs. Paloma O’Shea’s brief speech, Miguel Ángel Revilla has handed in…

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The problem with Clementi is that there are no standout works. Where most famous composers write a couple of pieces that are gripping enough to be an entry point to their output, the London-based Italian just wrote and wrote more and more sonatas at roughly the same level of invention, leaving the new listener no idea where to start. Opus 33, published by Longman and Broderip in 1794, is not a bad door-knocker. Clementi employs many of the same devices as Mozart – a seductive melody, a secondary detour and several strong teases before he delivers a resolution. There’s nothing…

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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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