Angela Hewitt gives recital in memory of David Robson
25 March 2015
Grateful: Angela Hewitt© Keith Saunders
Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt has given a special recital in memory of promoter and arts advocate David Robson, who died last year
Robson (1934-2014) had a passion for music and had been active in the North East region for many years. He helped to promote Hewitt when she first came to the UK some 30 years ago, and this concert arose from her desire to honour his memory. At the outset of event, which was held on 15 March by the Darlington Piano Society, Hewitt spoke movingly of Robson’s influence.
The ensuing recital was transformed by the emotion of the occasion into something well beyond any routine. Angela began with the Partita No 5 in G major by JS Bach. Her performance blended beauty of line with a consummate clarity of intent. The Sarabande in particular was rich with emotion, and the Gigue buzzed with vigour. The scene was thus set for an emotional Les Adieux, Beethoven’s Sonata Op 81a.
After the interval a searching performance of Op 110 rose beyond the circumstances of the occasion to remind us of the transcendental power of Beethoven’s music. The recital concluded with further music by Bach including Alle Menschen mussen sterben – arranged by Hewitt – and the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor BWV 903. It was warmly received by the audience, who were rewarded by an exquisite performance of the Nocturne Op 9 No 2 by Chopin as an encore. Robson would have loved it.
National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy calls for research posters
3 March 2015
The Research Committee of the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP) is calling for proposals for presentations at the NCKP Research Poster Sessions in Lombard, Illinois, which take place 29 July to 1 August. The committee invites submissions from professional educators and college students. The submission deadline is 1 May.
The NCKP is interested in clearly articulated research that uses appropriate methodology. All aspects of keyboard pedagogy, music teaching, music learning and related subjects will be considered. Reviews of empirical literature related to music and music learning that yield new insights into the discipline are also of interest.
Click here for submission requirements and more information.
Chinese star pianist Yundi cancels upcoming European tour
25 February 2015
The Chinese pianist Yundi has had to withdraw from his tour of Europe this spring, meaning that he will not perform as part of the International Piano Series in April. His appearance at Symphony Hall Birmingham, slated for the same month, has also been cancelled.
Yundi’s management explained that a close member of Yundi's family is seriously ill and understandably the pianist does not want to travel at this time. All ticket holders will be contacted in due course.
Yundi’s Royal Festival Hall recital was due to take place on 13 April and his Birmingham performance was booked for 15 April. A replacement has not been indicated.
Italian-born pianist Aldo Ciccolini has died aged 89
15 February 2015
For me, studying with Aldo Ciccolini (1925-2015) was both an honour and a privilege. He was an immense artist who pursued an international performing career alongside considerable teaching responsibilities, without compromising his commitment to both. Until the late 1980s, Ciccolini remained the doyen of teachers at the Paris Conservatoire; students travelled from every corner of the globe to be part of ‘chez Ciccolini’ and both Jean Yves-Thibaudet and Nicholas Angelich readily testify to the special alchemy that informed his teaching during this period.
I first met Ciccolini in the late 1990s. By then he had established his own teaching Academy outside Milan and I found his blend of innate musical instinct, personal philosophy and understated charm to be revelatory. His own pianistic pedigree via Alfred Cortot and Marguerite Long placed emphasis on finger articulation and clarity, but music was infinitely more than this to him. For him, the act of performing and teaching became a quasi-religious rite and his selfless pursuit of the ‘message’ or ‘soul’ within the music was the centrepiece of his teaching.
Despite his early success in the 1949 Marguerite Long/Jacques Thibaud competition in Paris, Ciccolini was anything but an admirer of today’s international piano competition circuit. He could be a candid but disquieting jury member – on one occasion, frustrated that an erratic, but genuinely gifted pianist had been eliminated from the contest at the expense of a more mundane, but consistent player, he chilled the blood of the Organising Committee with the words: ‘I shall speak to the press...’
Although of an infinitely courteous and amenable disposition, he was subject to melancholic lows exacerbated by recurring bouts of insomnia. At times when life threatened to overwhelm him he seemed to slip into a character from one of the magical realism novels by Marquez that he so admired; only very recently I expressed concerns for his wellbeing as he maintained his predilection for practising at his Paris home during the dead of night. ‘Mon petit’, he replied, ‘at night I hear the counsels of the moon.’
Enigmatic, artistically original and with an unimpeachable musical and moral integrity, Ciccolini was the most discreet of virtuoso pianists. For his public who continued to flock to his sold-out recitals and orchestral concerts, his loss is great. But for his family of pupils it is incalculable; no teacher can have been so greatly loved.
Better late than never: Harriet Cohen works premiered in London – 100 years after their first publication
7 February 2015
Exactly 100 years after their publication by Augener in 1915, Harriet Cohen’s evocative Russian Impressions received a stirring first-known public performance by Mark Bebbington in a fascinating recital on 4 February. The recital, which also featured premieres of works by Felix Blumenfeld (Vladimir Horowitz’s teacher) and Castelnuovo-Tedesco, took place at the historic Central Synagogue near London’s Regents Park, and was part of an international series themed on music of the Jewish experience. Bebbington’s admirable passion for reviving neglected music also emerged in the framing works, Arthur Bliss’s Masks and Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Neapolitan Rhapsody Piedgotta, both from 1924, and both recently recorded (the Bliss due for release later this year on Somm).
Harriet Cohen is best-known as a pianistic muse who inspired geniuses such as Vaughan Williams, Ireland, Bliss, Bartók, Bloch and Bax, her lover; yet her own creativity, apart from some Bach transcriptions, is less familiar. It was thus a special treat to hear this first-known public rendition of her Russian Impressions, four miniatures whose distinctive allure and mystique resonate with a neo-Musorgskian and post-Scriabinesque pianistic idiom. Plangent delicacy sets the mood for Sunset on the Volga, warm melodies in different registers contrasting with a sprightlier central pastoral interlude. The Exile is a delicate pastel-shaded gem that resembles an improvisation on The Old Castle from Pictures at an Exhibition, while chorales from the Great Gates of Kiev seem to rise up in the bell-like dissonances of The Old Church at Wilna.
Yet more striking here are affinities with Debussy’s La Cathedrale Engloutie, played by Bebbington earlier alongside four more Preludes. The Tartars, the most extended piece, crowns the set: Bebbington projected its expressive lyricism and propulsive, often obdurate textures with panache. The whole set highlighted a creative compositional talent that appears to have been suppressed in favour of an international performing career that was to exert a notable influence on 20th century music.
One hopes that Bebbington’s expanding discography will soon include a premiere recording of Harriet Cohen’s gem.
By Malcolm Miller
A season of music; a journey into Jewishness is presented by Central Synagogue with Inverne Price Music Consultancy. The next recital – 'Exiles Cafe' features pianist Lara Downes and takes place on 25 March