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Leif Ove Andsnes - Pictures Reframed Queen Elizabeth Hall, UK
David Fray: Schubert
Honens International Piano Competition
- Sheet music
Martinu - Puppets
- View list of all reviews in the current issue of International Piano
Concert - Leif Ove Andsnes - Pictures Reframed
Queen Elizabeth Hall, UK
Mussorgsky Memories of Childhood: Nurse and I; (First Punishment: Nurse shuts me in a dark room). Schumann Kinderszenen op.15. Larcher What becomes. Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition.
Leif Ove Andsnes (pf), Robin Rhode (artist), David Weiner (lighting designer).
4 December 2009
The CD of the Pictures Reframed project was reviewed in the last issue (IP Nov/Dec 2009). Here was an opportunity to experience the full multimedia event first hand. Incidentally, the CD omits the 20-minute Thomas Larcher piece.
The collaboration between Andsnes and the South African Robin Rhode was explored in detail in the interview last issue. The setting is impressive: five panels surround the pianist, while a screen directly behind him shows Rhode’s images. As if this were not enough of a reframe (a re-examination of the traditional concert pianist), the ‘reframed’ images of Pictures themselves veer from the thought provoking to the startling. Are we supposed to feel shock at the drowning of a Ibach grand? There is also the dissonance between the Hartmann paintings that inspired Mussorgsky and Rhode’s images. We are brought up to date, in the sense that ‘Bydlo’ is depicted by a train pulling out of an empty railway station, and sequences of bank logos refer to the two Polish Jews. Elsewhere, the idea of abstract lines anthropomorphising is not new but still casts its spell.
It is fascinating, but maybe too distracting. Meanwhile, the music itself takes second place rather than being enhanced. It was all too easy to miss Andsnes’s subtleties. He alters the score, too, which sometimes adds to the sense of ‘Pictures Rethought’ but which also makes one wonder if we have not promenaded a little too far.
Larcher’s What becomes is a fascinating work, identifiably Cageian. Like Kinderszenen and Pictures, it is a multi-movement piece and sits in well with the theme of childhood. There are Mussorgskian dark octaves and bell imitations to link to Pictures in Larcher’s relatively modernist sound world; there are also moments of great beauty. Schumann’s Kinderszenen provided the finest musical experience of the evening, with Andsnes perfectly attuned to each movement and yet seeing the piece as a single line.
CD - David Fray: Schubert
Schubert 6 Moments musicaux D780. Allegretto in C minor D915. 4 Impromptus D899.
David Fray (pf).
Virgin 6 94489 0, 73 minutes
The English musicologist Donald Francis Tovey succinctly set the scene on Schubert’s posthumous reputation when he recalled a popular music dictionary of the 1830s that contained ‘five Schuberts, but Franz Schubert was not among them’. Typical of the unpredictable situation regarding publication during Schubert’s lifetime, all six Moments musicaux and the first two D899 Impromptus hit the presses almost as soon as the ink was dry on his manuscript copies (1828 and 1827 respectively), whereas the remaining Impromptus had to wait until 1857, and the C minor Allegretto was virtually unknown before its publication in 1870, nearly half a century after it was written.
The prevailing interpretative tendency is to treat Schubert’s late miniatures as poetic extensions of the Classical tradition, whereas uses a Pogorelich-like palette of tonal colours and enhanced dynamics (most startlingly at the lower end of the aural spectrum) to enhance Schubert’s status as the first of the great Romantics. He is at his most daring and revelatory in the F minor Third Moment musicale, which on paper appears almost straightjacketed by its rhythmic profiles and Janissary-like echoes. Yet, without disrupting the music’s natural flow, Fray liquefies its metronomic pulse and gently loosens its phrasal outlines so that it appears to emerge swathed in David Caspar Friedrich-like mountain mists. No less revelatory is the second F minor Moment musicale (no.5), which is invariably played as a stormy outburst of Appassionata-like fist-pounding, but is here given time to reveal innumerable subtleties of multi-layered voice leading.
Fray’s extreme sensitivity to mood and atmosphere reaches its apex in the first of the D899 Impromptus, throughout which he subtly colours with exquisite hues and shadings. On occasion he appears to have reached the limit of the piano mechanism’s quiescence only to take us to some magical, distant point of near-inaudibility. Such fine-tuned musical reflexes are rare enough; to hear them employed as insightfully as here is a unique experience. Not everyone will agree with everything Fray does, but this is a phenomenon that all piano-lovers should experience at least once.
Competition: Honens International Piano Competition
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
22 October-6 November 2009
‘We are not in the business of making stars. We are not expecting overnight success.’ Stephen McHolm, executive director of the Honens International Piano Competition, is emphatic, stressing that the aim of Canada’s pre-eminent contest, staged in Calgary every three years, is more about ‘helping young musicians forge a career, to find a voice, to find a niche’. Nevertheless, the finals of the sixth competition, held in the city’s packed Jack Singer Concert Hall on 5 and 6 November 2009, by no means stinted on the excitement and suspense that these occasions traditionally generate. There were gasps of surprise when Natacha Kudritskaya, one of the five finalists, failed to find a place in the top three, but equally there was pretty widespread consensus that the jury had got it right by declaring the 21-year-old Georgy Tchaidze from Russia as first laureate and the recipient of a CA$35,000 (£20,165) cash prize. Russia’s Evgeny Starodubtsev (27) was voted second laureate and received CA$25,000 (£14,400); Switzerland’s Gilles Vonsattel (28) was third with CA$17,500 (£10,000). Kudritskaya (26) from the Ukraine and the other non-placed finalist, Kirill Zwegintsov (25), also Ukrainian, each received CA$10,000 (£5,761), and all the remaining seven semifinalists were awarded CA$1,000 (£576).
But Honens is not all about money, either in the competition itself or in its wider cultural context. Think Calgary, think oil, think downtown skyscrapers of steel, concrete and glass, but then think of the Rocky Mountains, the artistic inspiration fostered by the Banff Centre and the breathtaking Lake Louise, probably Canada’s most photographed view, situated only a modest car ride away. Calgary and its relationship to its environs are somehow an analogy of the city’s own diverse nature. Yes, there is wealth, serious business, a hub of banking and a raft of corporate head offices, but there is also vigorous artistic activity, embracing music, opera, ballet, puppetry, poetry, indie bands and almost any other speciality you can think of, many of them featuring major seasons and festivals and all of them blessed with a rare degree of inter-disciplinary cooperation and collaboration within Calgary’s amicable organisational web.
Sheet Music - Martinu - Puppets
Short Pieces for Piano 1-3.
Bärenreiter, ISMN 979-0-2601-0420-4
The 50th anniversary of the death of Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu was marked in 2009, so it is entirely appropriate that a new collection of his complete set of 14 ‘Puppet’ pieces should finally be available in one freshly edited and beautifully presented volume. These charming and pianistically persuasive miniatures have long been popular with young players, but this is the first time they have all appeared in one volume in an edition based on the sources and first editions. The music is inspired by puppet characters from the Commedia dell’arte - Columbine, Pierrot and Harlequin - and marks an important stage in Martinu’s development towards maturity as a composer (the works were written from 1912-25).
Book 1, containing five memorable and exquisite miniatures, is especially attractive: grade 6 pianists will enjoy the charming grace of the first number, ‘Columbine dances’ (close to Fauré in terms of refinement), while ‘Shimmy’ (no.2) is not much more demanding technically, though closer to the March from Prokofiev’s Love of Three Oranges than anything from the French repertoire. ‘The Shy Puppet’ and ‘Fairy Tale’ are more harmonically conservative, looking back to Schumann’s Album for the Young, while the concluding movement, ‘The Puppet’s Dance’, again reminds one of Fauré - this time evoking the harmonies and rhythms of ‘Kitty-Valse’ from Dolly for piano duet. Books 2 and 3 of Martinu’s ‘Puppet’ pieces are equally persuasive, with strong echoes also of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces and Tchiakovsky’s Nutcracker in numbers such as ‘Columbine Sings’ and ‘Puppet’s Ball’.
An indispensable volume for all piano teachers and lovers of early 20th-century piano miniatures.
To read all the reviews, see the January/February issue of International Piano.
Rediscovering Hummel (Andrew Brownell)
Pictures Reframed (Leif Ove Andsnes
Honens International Piano Competition
Shanghai International Piano Competition
Dudley International Piano Competition
* Inventions BWV772–786, Sinfonias BWV787-801, French Suite no.5 BWV816
* Partitas - nos.1, 5 & 6
* Piano Concerto, Dream Dancing, Reflections on a Theme of William Walton, Party Piece
* Sonatas nos.1–3, 5 & 6, Short Sonata in C sharp minor op.35 no.1
* Ballade no.2 op.87, 3 Songs without Words op.94, 3 Preludes op.81 nos.2 & 3, Short Sonata in C sharp minor op.35 no.1, Three Miniatures op.44, etc
* Various works
Fou T’song, Ka Ling Colleen Lee, Nelson Goerner, Dang Thai Son, Tatiana Shebanova, Wojciech Switala, Janusz Olejniczak, Kevin Kenner
* Complete Waltzes
* Piano Concertos nos.1 & 2
* Etudes-tableaux op.39, Variations on a Theme of Corelli op.42
* 3 gymnopédies, 3 morceaux en forme de poire, Gnossienne, 3 gnossiennes, 3 petites pièces montées, Embryons desséchés, Avant-dernières pensées, etc
Katia & Marielle Labèque
* Moments musicaux D780, Allegretto D899, Impromptus D899
* Allegro in A minor D947 ‘Lebensstürme’, Rondo in A major D951, etc
Waka Hasegawa, Joseph Tong
* 24 Preludes and Fugues
* Beethoven, Brahms, Ravel, Ginastera, Constantinescu
* Chopin, Beethoven, Liszt, Musto
* Mathieu, Shostakovich, Mendelssohn
* Kapustin, D. Scarlatti, Albéniz, Moszkowski, Chopin, Brahms-Cziffra,
J. Strauss II-Cziffra, Gershwin-Grainger
* Medtner, Rachmaninoff
* Liebmann, Moe, Sehested
* Ravel, Debussy, Franck
* Andrea Bacchetti
* Anna Vinnitskaya
* Eileen Joyce
Anderszewski: Unquiet Traveller
* The Triumph of Music: Composers, Musicians and their Audiences, 1700 to the Present
* Music, Wit, and Wisdom: The Autobiography of Artur Schnabel
* Bach (trans. Karol Beffa) - ‘Erbarme dich, mein Gott’
* Martinu - Puppets
* Riu - R&B Collection
* Szymanowski - Romantic Waltz