Having just made a late summer debut at the BBC Proms playing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G with conductor Kazushi Ono and the BBC Symphony, Inon Barnatan – “one of the most admired pianists of his generation” (New York Times) – opens the 2017-18 season performing a new concerto by Alan Fletcher with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Barnatan gave the world premiere of the piece earlier in the summer at the Aspen Music Festival, and later in the season he will play it again with the Atlanta Symphony. On New Year’s Eve the pianist performs Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto in Minneapolis with the Minnesota Orchestra led by Osmo Vänskä; a Midwest tour follows, culminating at Chicago‘s Symphony Center. Barnatan also returns to London in October for a debut with the London Philharmonic playing Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, and plays Beethoven’s Third Concerto for his debut with the Helsinki Philharmonic. He returns to the Cincinnati Orchestra to perform the notoriously difficult Barber Piano Concerto; plays a complete cycle of Beethoven Concertos in Columbus; and plays Schumann in Denmark, Rachmaninov in Norway and Brahms in the Netherlands, among other orchestral appearances. Among his solo recital destinations are Aspen, London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s 92nd Street Y, and the Vancouver Recital Society. As a chamber musician he will curate and perform in a three-concert Schubert festival for La Jolla Music Society; play two concerts with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York and Chicago; and tour the U.S. and Europe with his frequent recital partner, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, including concerts at Carnegie Hall and Wigmore Hall. Finally, he joins soprano Renée Fleming in recital at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center and at Carnegie Hall, with the latter concert featuring the world premiere of a Carnegie-commissioned work by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw.
Barnatan’s passion for contemporary music is on display this season as he plays the new piano concerto written for him by Alan Fletcher in three separate performances: the world premiere which he gave in August at the Aspen Music Festival, of which Fletcher is President and CEO; a season-opening account of the work with the commissioning Los Angeles Philharmonic led by Ken-David Masur at the Hollywood Bowl; and a performance with the Atlanta Symphony conducted by Robert Spano, who also conducted the Aspen Festival Orchestra for the piece’s premiere. The pianist has commissioned and performed many works by living composers, including premieres of works by Thomas Adès, Sebastian Currier, Avner Dorman, Matthias Pintscher, Alasdair Nicolson, Andrew Norman and others. Former New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert, under whose leadership Barnatan recently recorded the exceptionally challenging solo piano part in Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles, considers him “the complete artist: a wonderful pianist, a probing intellect, passionately committed, and a capable contemporary-music pianist as well.”
When Barnatan played Rachmaninov’s First Concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra in the spring of 2016, Minnesota’s Pioneer Press declared the concert “best of season,” and found that while the pianist was more than a match for the “flamboyance and spectacle” of the piece, “he never pushed the schmaltz meter into the red, as he found welcome gentleness in the slow movement — engaging in heartfelt dialogues with the winds — and bubbling delicately on the flowing finale.” For his return engagement this season he plays another staple of the Russian repertoire, Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, in aNew Year’s Eve performance led by Osmo Vänskä, before joining the orchestra for atour in Indiana and Illinois that culminates at Chicago’s Symphony Center.
A consistent critical favorite in the works of Beethoven, Barnatan is in the midst of recording all five of the master’s piano concertos with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Alan Gilbert. He debuts with the London Philharmonic this season with two performances of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, first in London under the baton of Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the next day led by Eugene Tzigane in Brighton. This is part of a big season of London appearances for the pianist: besides his BBC Proms and London Philharmonic debuts, he appears three times at Wigmore Hall, in both solo and collaborative recitals. The pianist also performs Beethoven’s Third Concerto in his debut with the Helsinki Philharmonic, conducted by Alexander Shelley. In the words of the Washington Post, his performance of the latter piece last season for his “brilliant” Baltimore Symphony debut under Vasily Petrenko “surpassed all expectations,” and the “poignant solos brought tears to the eyes because they were so tenderly wrought.”
Barnatan’s longstanding collaboration with cellist Alisa Weilerstein yielded a critically lauded album of Rachmaninov and Chopin sonatas in 2015. As Gramophone said in its review, “It’s a bold musician who dares to duet with Alisa Weilerstein. So much is out of the question: complacency, clichés, safety nets … Inon Barnatan fits the bill.” This fall the two embark on a duo recital tour, juxtaposing the world premiere of Through Your Fingers, a Carnegie co-commission from Grammy Award-winner Steven Mackey, with Mendelssohn’s impassioned cello sonata. At Carnegie Hall and in Texas, they complete the program with the sole cello sonatas of Britten and Rachmaninoff; at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, with those of Chopin and Debussy. European dates follow in November, including a recital at London’s Wigmore Hall that again features the Mackey, along with both of Brahms’s cello sonatas and the Suite italienne from Stravinsky’s Pulcinella.
Barnatan has also developed a reputation as an especially inventive programmer of solo recitals. He performs a centuries-spanning recital program with repertoire from Bach and Handel to Ligeti and Thomas Adès at the Vancouver Recital Society this season, as well as a series of recitals comprising three works all titled Moments Musicaux by Schubert, Rachmaninov and contemporary Israeli composer Avner Dorman. Barnatan performs this program in several U.S. venues, highlighted by a stop at the Kaufmann Concert Hall in New York’s 92nd Street Y. In the spring he returns to La Jolla, California, where he played the La Jolla Music Society Summerfest this past summer, to curate and perform three concerts in March, April and May exploring the late works of Franz Schubert. Barnatan plays one of Schubert’s late piano sonatas on each program, along with a selection of chamber music for which he will be joined by a roster of stellar musicians including violinist Benjamin Beilman, cellists Carter Brey and Clive Greensmith, pianist Garrick Ohlsson, and the Dover Quartet, with which he also collaborated last summer, at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Tenor Robin Tritschler rounds out the list of collaborators, joining Barnatan for Schubert’s posthumously published song collection, Schwanengesang. In the midst of that series, Greensmith and Barnatan also perform in New York and Chicago with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in concerts of Fauré and Beethoven, joined by violinistAugustin Hadelich and violist Matthew Lipman.