Followers of Rhinegold LIVE who attended our recent International Piano recital at London’s Conway Hall were treated to an exceptional evening of music-making by the Portuguese piano virtuoso Artur Pizarro. This was made all the more memorable by its unconventional format: as well as charming the audience with childhood memories of his larger-than-life piano-playing grandmother, Pizarro presented three distinct groups of repertoire within the space of a hour. This, he informed us, was an attempt to hark back to concert programmes of yesteryear, which would often feature three parts: Classical, Romantic and light music. Moreover, says Pizarro, the reverential two-part programme we now accept as ‘normal’ at concert halls around the world is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Audiences for classical music are becoming ever harder to attract, as venues face mounting competition from other forms of entertainment. Adopting innovative programming formats that incorporate informal repartee and a diverse range of repertoire can be one way of appealing to listeners. Yet promoters and artists who adopt this approach run the risk of being dubbed ‘gimmicky’ or ‘populist’, making it difficult to challenge tradition without alienating the core classical music audience.
For a pianist who truly breaks the mould when it comes to programming, look no further than our cover artist this month, the extraordinary French-Cypriot virtuoso Cyprien Katsaris. A unique personality, both on and off the platform, Katsaris has gone as far as setting up his own label, giving him the freedom to record whatever he likes. His five-CD collection Piano Hits 111 serves as the perfect introduction to Katsaris’s vast appetite for music, including everything from Scarlatti to his own arrangement of the Pink Panther theme tune – with no qualms about the surprising juxtapositions this entails.
Katsaris’s approach is both refreshing and deliberately provocative. His website proudly proclaims that ‘music belongs to everyone, is made for everyone and should be able to bring pleasure to everyone’ rather than being ‘confined to classical orthodoxy’. The irony is that this boldly inclusive approach has made Katsaris something of an outsider: a respected maverick, too unconventional for some promoters.
Elsewhere in this issue, we examine the legacy of Van Cliburn and the quadrennial competition he founded in 1962. More competition coverage comes from Leeds and Calgary, together with a calendar of 2016 competition dates for your diaries. Our last issue of 2015 also celebrates two significant birthdays from the worlds of classical music and jazz: Stephen Kovacevich, 75 this year, reveals how he nearly came off the rails twice during his long and prestigious career, and we offer an assessment of the best albums by Keith Jarrett, who recently turned 70.