Barenboim launches new piano
26 May 2015, London, UK
Barenboim-Maene Concert Grand
(Photos: Chris Maene)
Report by Katy Wright
Daniel Barenboim has unveiled a new piano at the Royal Festival Hall, London. The Barenboim-Maene Concert Grand was conceived and commissioned by Barenboim, and built by the Belgian instrument maker Chris Maene with support from Steinway & Sons.
Barenboim explained that the model reconciles the quality of a Steinway with the varied colour registers of 19th-century instruments. The distinguishing features of the instrument are its straight strings, double bridge and horizontal soundboard veins.
The project began after Barenboim played Franz Liszt’s restored grand piano in Siena, and was struck by its transparency and clarity. Barenboim collaborated with Maene, using parts from Steinway, to realise his vision. Only two of the instruments currently exist, with the creation process taking 18 months and approximately 4,000 hours of labour.
Barenboim has already performed publicly on the instrument, having played complete Schubert cycles in Paris and Vienna. He performs the Schubert cycles in London between 27 May and 2 June 2015. Barenboim took pains to emphasise that the new model is not in any way better than any other, but merely an alternative. Barenboim said: ’It’s like falling in love – you want to go everywhere with that person!’
Barenboim will perform a complete cycle of Schubert’s piano sonatas over four concerts at the Southbank centre between 27 May and 2 June. He will perform both Brahms concertos on the instrument at Royal Festival Hall in January 2016.
Find fame and fortune with Yamaha’s ‘b in the Movies’ video competition
15 May 2015
2015 marks the 10th Anniversary of Yamaha’s award-winning b series pianos. To celebrate this milestone the company has launched ‘b in the movies’, a fun and entertaining video competition with ten prizes of £800 up for grabs.
To enter, just upload a short video of yourself enjoying and playing a b series piano. The clip can be shot anywhere: in a music shop, in a school, at home or at one of a number of locations up and down the country where Yamaha will be installing pianos during the competition. Upload your video, get your friends and family voting, and you could win £800 as well as gaining hundreds of new fans! There's even an extra £800 on offer for the video that receives the most public votes.
The top 20 most entertaining entries, selected by the public, will be whittled down to 10 winners by Yamaha's panel of judges. The panel includes Yamaha artist Jamie Cullum, who said: 'This is a brilliant competition that not only encourages people to play the piano but for others to interact by watching. The more fans and views people get playing their Yamaha b series, all the better for encouraging children, beginners or even accomplished players to share their performances.'
The competition closes on 1st October, so there's plenty of time to capture your video, upload it to YouTube or Vimeo and enter at www.facebook.com/YamahaPianosEurope.
4 EASY STEPS TO ENTER
1 | FIND a b Series
You'll most likely find one at your local piano store, or music school. You might have one at home and they've even been found at train stations! There are three models in the b Series range to choose from (b1, b2 and b3) and you can use any one of them to take part in this competition.
2 | SHOOT your video
It's your 'b' movie so film yourself or others having fun, giving a solo performance or with other musicians. It's entirely up to you – just remember to include a b Series piano and keep it under 5 minutes.
3| UPLOAD and ENTER
Once you've captured your video, upload it to YouTube or Vimeo and then find us at www.facebook.com/YamahaPianosEurope. At the top of our wall you'll see the competition entry post. Simply follow the link to enter, complete you details on our registration page and then paste the URL from your YouTube or Vimeo upload. Deadline for video entries is 1st October 2015 and the sooner you enter, the sooner you can be building up votes!
4 | SHARE with friends and family
Want to win? Ask your friends and family to vote for you by sharing your video entry online – we'll send you a link to give them.
John Broadwood & Sons relocates head office and primary workshop to North Yorkshire
5 May 2015, Whitby, UK
John Broadwood & Sons, which holds the Royal Warrant as manufacturer of pianos to Queen Elizabeth II, has relocated its head office and primary workshop from Kent to two buildings on the Mulgrave Estate in Lythe, near Whitby, North Yorkshire.
Commenting on the relocation, Dr Alastair Laurence, director of John Broadwood & Sons said: 'We looked around the area and the two buildings we now occupy on the Mulgrave Estate were ideal for our needs. We also felt that the Estate had a long tradition of encouraging arts and crafts and so it seemed like a natural fit. We expect to thrive in the new premises and are looking to expand and to take on local employees.' He added: 'I’m a proud Yorkshireman so am very excited to move the headquarters of the business here.'
John Broadwood & Sons has held the Royal Warrant for nearly 300 years and has made instruments for every British monarch since George II. The company's pianos have also been played by Mozart, Haydn, Chopin, Beethoven and Liszt, including the six-octave Broadwood famously gifted to Beethoven in 1817 which bears the inscription "Hoc Instrumentum est Thomae Broadwood (Londrini) donum propter ingenium illustrissime Beethoven." [This instrument is a proper gift from Thomas Broadwood of London to the great Beethoven.]
The Mulgrave Estate totals over 15,000 acres and includes four miles of coastline between Sandsend and Runswick Bay. The Estate comprises agricultural land, woodland, residential and commercial properties including seven letting cottages, hotels, shops, pubs and restaurants and is the major property stakeholder within the local area. The Estate is managed from the Estate Office which is located in Lythe, one mile north-west of Sandsend.
Toronto Symphony Orchestra cancels scheduled performance by Valentina Lisitsa
8 April 2015
Ukrainian-born US-based pianist Valentina Lisitsa has had an engagement with Canada’s Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) cancelled, allegedly because the soloist has expressed political views on the situation in Ukraine.
Lisitsa appealed to fans online and asked them to ‘tell Toronto Symphony that music can’t be silenced’. ‘If they do it once, they will do it again and again, until the artists are intimidated into voluntary censorship,’ she wrote. ‘Our future will be bleak if we allow this to happen. Please stand with me.’
Lisitsa claims that the TSO offered to cover her entire fee for the cancelled appearance – but only if she kept quiet about the circumstances: ‘Toronto Symphony is going TO PAY ME NOT TO PLAY because I exercised the right to free speech. Yes, they will pay my fee but they are going to announce that I will be unable to play and they already found a substitute. And they even threatened me against saying anything about the cause of the cancelation. Seriously. And I thought things like this only happen in Turkey to Fazil Say?’ [In reference to the Turkish pianist who was convicted of insulting Islam in comments published via Twitter.]
A campaign ‘#LetValentinaPlay’ has attracted online support. Twitter user @JC_Artists wrote ‘If you can'’t have freedom to be an artist, then your freedom is an illusion’ and @ogunacik tweeted ‘#LetValentinaPlay Even The Holocaust wasn’t able to silence a pianist.’
Lisitsa was born in Kiev into a Russian-Polish family. She immigrated to the US in the 1990s. Lisitsa was ‘spotted’ online and now records for Decca. Over the last year she has been ‘living a double life’ as a pianist and activist, and tweets under the nickname NedoUkraïnka (‘sub-Ukrainian’), which she came up with after the Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk published a statement calling the supporters of eastern Ukrainian militia forces ‘subhumans’. Her comments are often controversial, for example she has compared governmental actions to those of Nazi Germany.
The composer and pianist Ronald Stevenson has died
1 April 2015
Ronald Stevenson, the composer and pianist best known for Passacaglia on DSCH, reckoned to be the longest single-movement work in the whole of piano literature, has died.
Ronald Stevenson was a polymath composer, pianist and writer who will always be remembered for his mammoth Passacaglia on DSCH, composed in 1960-62 and at c.80 minutes still reckoned to be the longest single-movement work in the whole of piano literature. Paradoxically, this masterpiece was not truly representative of the rest of his colossal output (Toccata Press’s catalogue covered 78 pages and took three years to compile) but it is by far his best-known creation.
Stevenson was in the great line of composer-pianists that includes Liszt, Busoni, Paderewski (his personal idol), Godowsky and Sorabji. He was an extraordinarily gifted pianist with an individual touch (and what a touch!) and tone. For evidence, look no further than the two available recordings he made of the Passacaglia. Travelling the world as a touring virtuoso, though, was not for him. It was too much of a sacrifice given his family and the need to sit and compose music – which he did in his small study christened ‘the Den of Musiquity’.
His comparative lack of worldly, commercial success seemed not to bother him. He did what he had to do despite limited interest from the powers that be in the musical world. While recognition went to the likes of Maxwell Davies and Boulez, he scoffed at their composition techniques. ‘In Music Ho!, Constant Lambert said that the way forward in music was going to Sibelius, not Stravinsky,’ Stevenson once remarked. ‘He was wrong, of course, but I think it would have been a damn sight better if he had been right.’
In many senses, Stevenson was born out of his time. The composer-pianist tradition had virtually died out with the advent of recordings (now it is making a comeback) but that was of no consequence. He espoused unfashionable causes, not only an outsider but an outsider who promoted other outsiders such as Havergal Brian, Percy Grainger, Norman Dett, Bernard Stevens and John Foulds. ‘I feel very strongly,’ he once said, ‘that my aesthetic belongs to two circles of composers who were satellites round Busoni and Delius.’ He named Peter Warlock, Bernard van Dieren, and Sorabji. A one-time Marxist, his pacifism landed him in gaol while his concomitant refusal to do military service led him to work in a colliery school in County Durham.
He was born into a working-class family in Blackburn, Lancashire, but in essence he was a true Celt: his father was a Scottish railway fireman, his mother a Welsh cotton-weaver. At heart he was a Scot. He spoke with a gentle Scottish burr. He had Scotland in his soul and, though a true cosmopolitan, he was a Scottish composer. Since 1955, he made his home in West Linton on the Scottish borders, half and hour’s bus ride from Edinburgh.
Stevenson was composing and giving recitals from his early teens and at 17 began studies at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now the RNCM) with Iso Ellinson who himself had been a pupil of Felix Blumenfeld and Alexander Glazunov. After graduating he spent six months in Rome studying orchestration with Guido Guerrini at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia.
In 1952 he married his long-time sweetheart Marjorie Spedding. Anyone who knew Ronald also knew what a debt he owed to her devotion and support throughout his long career. With little money filling the coffers at times, it was she who kept the Stevenson boat afloat by her work as a district nurse. Among his landmarks as a composer are the song cycle Border Boyhood (with Peter Pears, Aldeburgh 1971); Piano Concerto No 1 (with the Scottish National Orchestra under Sir Alexander Gibson, 1966); the Violin Concerto ‘The Gypsy’ (commissioned by Yehudi Menuhin) and a Cello Concerto written in memory of Jacqueline du Pré (premiered in 1995 by Moray Welsh).
On a personal note, I have never forgotten his kindness and generosity when I was researching my biography of Leopold Godowsky. We first met in 1972 at London’s Roundhouse during a rehearsal break for the world premiere (at the Proms) of his Second Piano Concerto ‘The Continents’ – the only time, incidentally, that any of his music has been heard at the Proms. Somehow, when he had a thousand other pressing concerns, he found time to answer my questions, and provide me with advice, names and contacts as though there was all the time in the world. I learned afterwards that this was typical. I treasure the letters in his idiosyncratic calligraphy, and especially the dedication in the copy he sent me of Song in Gold Pavilions (the collection of his writings published by Sun Press): ‘In unison of friendship and harmony of aesthetic’. Ronald Stevenson was unique. How lucky we were to have him in our midst. How sad his great talent was not more widely acknowledged while he was alive. His time will come.
Ronald Stevenson: 6 March 1928 – 28 March 2015