BBC Radio 3 includes two pianists in latest line-up of New Generation Artists
10 September 2013
BBC Radio 3 has named pianists Louis Schwitzgebel and Zhang Zuo among its next batch of New Generation Artists.
The scheme, now in its fifteenth year, supports a group of
young artists via a series of BBC Radio 3 broadcasts, fronted by BBC Young
Musician of the Year presenter Clemency Burton-Hill. Previous participants
include Benjamin Grosvenor, Gwilym Simcock, Christian Ihle Hadland, Ashley Wass, Martin Helmchen and current IP cover artist Igor Levit.
Schwitzgebel secured second prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition, where his performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4 with the Hallé Orchestra under Sir Mark Elder in the final round was broadcast live on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3. At the age of 17 he was the winner of the Geneva International Music Competition.
Zhang Zuo (pictured) has garnered a host of awards, including first prizes at the 3rd Shanghai International Piano Competition, the 7th International Franz Liszt Piano Competition, and a ‘Vendome Virtuoso’ award from Vendome Prize competition. In 2013 she won fifth prize at the 2013 Queen Elisabeth International Piano Competition.
Martin Roscoe to perform the Beethoven piano concertos in one night for charity fundraiser
22 August 2013
Intrepid soloist Martin Roscoe© Eric Richmond
This October sees Martin Roscoe perform all five Beethoven Piano Concertos in a single evening, in aid of the Musicians Benevolent Fund. Conductor and organiser Daniel Parkinson explains why
About 18 months ago I came up with a idea for a charity fundraiser – to perform all five Beethoven Piano Concertos over two nights with five different pianists. I approached a couple of pianists with my idea. At this stage it was really only a concept and I wanted to do some research to see whether anyone would be interested in partaking in such an event. One of the pianists came back and suggested an alternative to the original idea: had I thought about doing all five concertos in one night, with one pianist? This person was none other than international concert pianist, Martin Roscoe. Sure, I thought it was a bit crackers – but – that’s me all over, and I pretty much said yes straight away.
Ever since then this event has been in the planning. I decided that the Musicians Benevolent Fund would be the recipient of the money we raised. The Musicians Benevolent Fund provide the highest quality help for musicians whenever they need it, with specialist programmes dedicated to supporting artists hit by crisis, life-changing circumstances or terminal illness, as well as those facing the challenges of growing old and emerging musicians entering the profession. The next thing was to create a brand. In some ways, putting on something like this is just the same as starting a company. I knew that the brand was going to be very important – you have to catch people’s attention. The Beethoven Piano Concerto Project was what I came up with. As some paint brand or other regularly states: it does what it says on the tin!
With the organisation well under way and a fantastic venue in the shape of the RNCM Concert Hall booked, it became apparent that with the scale of the event, we needed someone to host the evening and to act as a thread across all three parts. John Suchet immediately sprung to mind. Not only is John a high profile presenter for Classic FM, but he is also a Beethoven expert, having written several books on the composer and I was absolutely delighted when John agreed to be part of the project. The orchestra will be made up of past and present students of the RNCM – many have been helped by the Musicians Benevolent Fund and are doing their bit to give something back. We will be starting the first of three parts at 5pm, with the event finishing about 10pm! It is quite a marathon for all involved – but we are all there for one single reason – to raise money for a fantastic charity. It certainly promises to be an unforgettable evening of great music and we hope to see as many people there as possible!
The Beethoven Piano Concerto Project
RNCM Concerto Hall, 5 October
Part One: 5pm
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.1
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.2
Part Two: 7pm
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.3
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.4
Part Three: 9pm
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.5
Martin Roscoe, Piano
Daniel Parkinson, Conductor
John Suchet, Presenter
Tickets from £12
Former student of Denis Matthews (1919-1988) marks 25th anniversary of his death
19 August 2013
Young musicians deserve to be nurtured by responsible musical mentors,
writes pianist Sarah Beth Briggs, who has dedicated her latest recording
to the memory of her teacher Denis Matthews
It is hard to believe that the great pianist and
musicologist, Denis Matthews, died 25 years ago this Christmas Eve. There isn’t
a day when I sit down to play the piano that I don’t think of him, in my mind
hearing what he said when I played certain pieces (and being very aware of what
he would have said when playing others!) Although I was only 16 when he died, I
feel incredibly lucky to have benefitted from Denis’s breadth of musical
knowledge for eight of my formative years and to have grown so close to someone
who really awakened my love of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms, in
I am commemorating this anniversary by dedicating my fourth release for Semaphore to his memory. It includes Schubert’s final piano sonata – the only piece of solo piano music that Denis chose when he featured on Desert Island Discs in 1967. It was also the first piece of music to move me to tears (aged just nine) when Denis performed it in Newcastle.
He was a great scholar pianist, always more interested in serving the interests of the composer than the performing self. In him, one found not only an interpreter who brought pure magic and freshness to every performance, but also a brilliant, questioning musical mind. The combination was exhilarating.
Was Denis an exceptional teacher? In my case – without
reservation. An honest appraisal would probably suggest that he was superb if
one could get onto his wavelength. Compromise wasn’t something that he embraced
easily. For many a talented eight-year-old pianist, the notion of listening to
Mozart operas, Beethoven string quartets and Brahms symphonies in lessons and
relating them to what they were studying might seem odd, if not utterly
bewildering. For me, the idea of being brought into piano music from a wider musical
perspective worked extremely well. Denis was someone who refused to become too
bogged down by issues of technique. Asked whether he believed in scales and
exercises, he would simply say that one should make exercises within the
repertoire that one was studying. It was essential to have strong
self-discipline to work well with him. But for eight years, I was inspired by
him, shared his musical passions and was introduced to and guided through so
much of the music that has become central to my performing repertoire. He and
my family became very close friends and we shared the ups and the downs of his
Recent revelations about a small but significant number of disgraceful, irresponsible (albeit highly talented) people who have abused their role as mentors have inevitably made parents fearful of teaching situations like the one that I was fortunate enough to enjoy with Denis. It would be a travesty if these people’s misdemeanours ruined the possibility of children developing that very special guiding relationship with a mentor in the future. The foundations of artistry are built within this context and, to a musician, it is almost as significant as the bond with a parent or other close relative. A chaperone would certainly have been one person too many in my lessons. I can only hope that future generations are not prevented from experiencing that sort of artistic interplay.
When preparing the Schubert D960 for my recording, I looked back at my old Associated Board edition which I had studied the sonata from while learning with Denis. The tiny number of markings (Denis wasn’t one for writing on the music, preferring his students to process his thoughts and accept or reject them) were enough to remind me of the way he brought this, and so much other great music, to life for me. It is a great sadness that Denis’s account of this glorious piece wasn’t saved for posterity. I can only hope that this recording will be a fitting tribute to the memory of a truly great musical mentor.
Sarah’s CD of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert will be released in September
Sarah will give concerts commemorating the 25th anniversary of Denis’s death on 3 October at the King’s Hall, Newcastle University (where he was Professor of Music from 1971-1984) and on 8 December at The Craxton Studios, London, NW3. Particularly appropriately, the latter is the Craxton Memorial Trust Fund-Raising Concert so the concert will celebrate both Denis’s memory and that of his mentor, Harold Craxton
Kohlberg & Co drops Steinway bid after Paulson makes rival offer
14 August 2013
Private equity group Kohlberg & Co has dropped out of the bidding process for Steinway Musical Instruments, after it emerged that hedge fund manager John Paulson had made a higher offer for the grand piano maker, reports the Financial Times.
Kohlberg was notified by Steinway on 11 August that it had received a new cash offer of $38 a share, or $475m, topping the private equity group’s proposal of $35 a share announced in July.
The counter offer came during a ‘go-shop’ period of 45 days, during which Michael Sweeney, Steinway’s chief executive, had been soliciting rival bids.
Photographer Sussie Ahlburg's body found in Hampstead pond
7 August 2013
Nick van Bloss
IP is sad to report that the immensely talented photographer Sussie Ahlburg has died.
Ahlburg, 50, was found in the ladies’ bathing pond on Hampstead Heath, north-west London on Monday. She had gone swimming on Sunday and was reported missing by her family when she did not come home.
The BBC has reported that the death is being treated as ‘unexplained’ and that police are keen to speak to anyone who may have seen Ahlburg at the pond on Sunday.
Ahlburg’s distinctive portraits were widely used in
the classical music press. Her work frequently appeared in the pages of IP, and
she photographed many pianists including Ashley Wass, Benjamin Grosvenor, Nick
Van Bloss, Imogen Cooper, Nino Gvestadze and Peter Donohoe.
Opposite: Pianist portraits by Swedish photographer Sussie Ahlburg