Legal struggle over Wagner table piano
5 June 2013
One wouldn’t expect a battle over the piano on which Richard
Wagner composed parts of the Ring to be anything but epic. The Bechstein table
piano, a gift to the composer from King Ludwig II in 1864, is the subject of a
prolonged lawsuit in which Iris Wagner, one of several great-granddaughters,
has opposed both the city of Leipzig and the Richard Wagner Foundation over
The instrument sat peacefully in the Villa Wahnfried until the end of the Second World War when it was shipped to Leipzig, the composer’s city of birth. A decade after German reunification, Sven Friedrich, director of the Richard Wagner Museum in Bayreuth, discovered the piano at Leipzig’s Stadtgeschichtliches Museum (State History Museum). It returned to Bayreuth in 1998 under a rental contract, but Leipzig terminated the agreement upon its expiration a decade later.
The city emerged victorious as owner by acquisition from the first round of dispute in district court. The piano was granted long-term loans to the Wagner abode. However, Iris made a legal intervention in 2011. The battle came to a near close in March of this year when both the Wagner Foundation and Iris recognised Leipzig as the official owner. But the following month, when the piano was scheduled to return to Bayreuth on loan, Iris again revoked the ruling. With ownership still up in the air, the instrument was on view at the exhibit Wagner Lust & Last (Wagner Desire and Burden) dedicated to the composer’s bicentenary in Leipzig, which ran from March through late May.
The Wagner dynasty has Ludwig II to thank not just for the
table piano but a significant portion of its estate. The 18-year-old Ludwig,
enamoured of operas such as Tannhäuser and Lohengrin paid off the composer’s
debt and granted him a lakeside abode following their first meeting. Wagner
received the table piano for his 51st birthday, composing works such as Die
Meistersinger, Parsifal, Götterdämmerung, and the third act of Siegfried.
Birmingham Conservatoire to host Delius and Ireland celebration
22 May 2013
De-Wet Lee will peform John Ireland's Piano Concerto
Birmingham Conservatoire will host a five-day festival during 17–21 June to showcase the work of Delius and Ireland, including performances of the complete solo piano works and piano concerto by John Ireland.
Pianist and British music specialist Mark Bebbington, who has recorded the complete solo piano works of John Ireland for SOMM, and in many ways inspired the Festival as a piano tutor at the Conservatoire, will open the inaugural recital with two of Ireland’s most significant works; the Sonata and Rhapsody.
'It seems to me that the piano music of John Ireland is not only one of the most substantial, but also one of the most neglected legacies of any twentieth-century British composer', he explains.
'Ireland wrote for the piano throughout his life and from the outset, his natural kinship with the instrument is self-evident; whether drawing the last measure of tonal splendour from a masterpiece such as Sarnia, or evoking his beloved West Sussex countryside in his miniature Amberley Wild Brooks, Ireland's keyboard works are an unparalleled achievement in British pianism.
'John Ireland was alive to wider influences, as well – French Impressionism and the Expressionist works of Alban Berg, for example – but he evolved a bitter-sweet musical language that was all his own. Above all, though, his piano writing conveys an undertow of wistful melancholy that lends these works a quite unique expressive intensity.'
There will be the opportunity to hear more about Ireland’s piano music when Bruce Phillips, Chairman of the John Ireland Charitable Trust, gives an informative lecture on 19 June in the Arena Foyer.
Other pianists taking part include Katharine Lam, Duncan Honeybourne, John Thwaites, Victor Sangorgio, Yu-Fen Lin, and stalwart of the keyboard, Margaret Fingerhut, who will be performing Ireland's London Pieces.
Tickets will be available on the door and full details of the
programme can be found here
The Elgar Society releases free online archive of The Journal
10 April 2013
Back issues of The Journal published by the Elgar Society are now available online and free of charge at
www.elgar.org, opening up a 15-year archive of articles, essays and research papers to all those with an interest in Elgar and his legacy.
The Elgar Society first issued The Journal as a stand-alone publication in 1999, since when it has been circulated three times a year to members of the society together with selected academic institutions. Content ranges from the findings of Elgar-related research to reviews of books and CDs. The most recent issue, edited by Elgar Society member Martin Bird, includes articles entitled ‘Thoughts on The Music Makers – a conductor’s viewpoint’ by Dr Donald Hunt and ‘Edward Elgar – a medical enigma?’ by Dr John Harcup OBE: the editorial closes with extracts from Elgar’s own diary of 100 years ago.
‘We’re delighted to make back issues of The Journal so readily accessible as a single archive for the first time,’ says Elgar Society Vice-Chair Stuart Freed. ‘They make fascinating reading and we’re sure they will prove particularly useful to students and academics both in the UK and overseas whilst adding to the body of public knowledge about Elgar’s works, life and historical context.’
Formed in 1951 to encourage the study, performance and appreciation of the music of Sir Edward Elgar and to foster research into his life and works, the Elgar Society brings members together at branch, national and international levels through meetings, lectures, recitals and visits. In addition to The Journal, all members also receive the thrice-yearly Elgar Society News, where delightful snippets of Elgar-related trivia combine with news from members, concert reports, diary dates and readers’ letters.
Barry Collett, winner of the Elgar Society Medal, wrote an article on Elgar's piano music in the September/October 13 edition of IP, issue 15.
Martha Argerich set to perform at Manchester International Festival
1 April 2013
World-renowned Argentinean pianist Martha Argerich is set to give a rare performance at the Bridgewater Hall on 12 July, as part of the Manchester International Festival (MIF).
Argerich will join Gábor Takács-Nagy, David Guerrier and Manchester Camerata for Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 1. French pianist David Kadouch will perform Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste, and Arvo Pärt’s Lamentate.
Argerich is known for her selective concert appearances. Widely regarded as one of the greatest living concert pianists, her MIF concert is likely to be one of the pianistic highlights of the year.
Tickets £36, £30, £26, £20 (no per ticket booking fee; transaction charge applies). Concessions available. Box Office: www.mif.co.uk / Quaytickets +44 (0)844 375 2013
£12 tickets for Greater Manchester residents on a lower wage, available on a first come first served honesty basis
American pianist Van Cliburn dies aged 78
28 February 2013
Van Cliburn, pianist, 12 July 1934-27 February 2013
By Alex Stevens
Van Cliburn, the American pianist, has died aged 78. He was awarded the US’s National Medal of Arts in 2010 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003, and was one of the world’s best-known performers of classical music.In 2004, he received the Order of Friendship of the Russian Federation from Russian president Vladimir Putin, reflecting the cultural impact of his playing throughout his career. He was a popular figure on both sides of the Pacific for most of the second half of the 20th century, a rare feat during the Cold War. Cliburn was taught by his mother, Rildia Bee Cliburn who in turn had been taught by Arthur Friedheim, a pupil of Franz Liszt and Anton Rubenstein and she was his sole teacher before, at the age of 17, he began studies at the Juilliard School in New York, where he studied with the great Rosina Lhevinne. At 20, he had played with the New York Philharmonic and most of the country’s major orchestras.
The quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was organised by a group of music teachers and citizens from Fort Worth, Texas in 1962 to commemorate Cliburn’s victory at the 1958 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow, at the age of 23. Speaking at its 50th anniversary in September 2012, he said to the crowd: ‘Never forget: I love you all from the bottom of my heart, for ever’. It was his last public appearance.
The Tchaikovsky victory, coming in the middle of the Cold War, was a historic achievement which led him to be nicknamed ‘the American Sputnik’ by US media. He was honoured on his return to the country by a ticker-tape parade in New York. It was this success, rather than particularly strong support from the pianist himself, which allowed the competition to become the well-funded and prestigious institution it is today.
After the initial flurry of success, Cliburn’s career did not progress so easily. Doubts about classical music prompted forays into jazz and conducting which were not wholly successful and he underwent a self-imposed exile from public life from 1978 to 1987. His high-profile return to the stage saw him performing to presidents Gorbachev and Reagan at the White House, but in the subsequent decades the number of his appearances, despite being well attended, went steadily downhill. After collapsing on stage in 1998 at the inaugural concert of the new Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, Texas, he appeared even less.
‘Van Cliburn was an international legend for over five decades,
a great humanitarian and a brilliant musician whose light will continue to
shine through his extraordinary legacy,’ said his publicist and friend, Mary
Lou Falcone. ‘He will be missed by all who knew and admired him, and by
countless people he never met.’
Pianist Stephen Hough told the BBC that Cliburn was ‘one of the most charming and lovely men’ he had known. ‘He was very modest, gracious and generous. He was very tall, very imposing, and all of this came through in the playing and he was a major personality when he played, and he really towered over the stage in every sense.’
Harvey Lavan Van Cliburn, 12 July 1934-27 February 2013
In-depth assessments of Van Cliburn's contribution to pianism will be published in upcoming editions of International Piano magazine