Twenty of the world’s most famous pianos brought together in new work
31 July 2014
Matthew Herbert’s 20 Pianos will be performed this Saturday (2 August) at Glasgow Concert Halls as part of the New Music Biennial, a celebration of new music in the UK led by the PRS for Music Foundation and linked to the closing weekend of the Commonwealth Games.
This new piece features the sounds of 20 pianos – from abandoned and ruined instruments to historic pieces such as an early square piano used by CPE Bach. The world’s most expensive piano is included – the upright Steinway used by John Lennon for composing Imagine, now encased in a Perspex shield in a museum in Arizona. From these recordings, including significant differences in the room acoustics and recording qualities, Herbert has created a new instrument, built by his colleague Yann Seznec.
Herbert is a celebrated composer, pianist, DJ and producer. Sound is his medium, and the sampler keyboard his main instrument. Recorded sound is, of course, separate from the vibrating object or body that makes it, so one of the first creative choices in using a sampled sound is whether to acknowledge the source – as a kind of ‘sound image’ – or to treat the it as abstract. The gap between the two positions offers a creative tension and an invitation for listeners to use their imagination, and it’s this that Herbert works with.
We’re all familiar with the distinction between a piano, a digital piano and a keyboard. Sampler keyboards basically use a piano-style keyboard as an interface for computer-stored sounds; in theory, they could just as easily be controlled and ‘played’ using a qwerty keyboard. 20 Pianos is fascinating not least because it uses a hybrid instrument, a sampler keyboard with recordings of 20 real pianos. It’s neither a piano, a virtual piano, nor a keyboard ersatz piano. In a way, it’s all of these together, simultaneously.
The piece introduces the sound of each instrument, but – without spoiling it for those attending the show – the real surprises are the sounds Herbert’s created combining the pianos together into different composite instruments, a kind of ‘meta-piano’ if you like. To make the point clearly and dramatically, the keyboard has been created and integrated into an ordinary table, creating a coup de theatre, a visual illusion. The result is a fascinating illusion, 20 pianos conjured into a new instrument.
Ed McKeon co-runs Third Ear, an independent agency that specialises in new music. Third Ear commissioned 20 Pianos for the New Music Biennial
New Music Biennial: 20 Pianos by Matthew Herbert
Saturday 2 August, 4.45pm
City of Music Studio, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Free to attend
Hyperion to launch new Classical Piano Concerto series
25 July 2014
Hyperion will build on the success of its Romantic Piano Concerto series with a new focus on Classical concertos
The Classical Piano Concerto series launches this month with Howard Shelley directing the Ulster Orchestra in works by Dušek
British record label Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series (RPC), which now tops 60 titles and has restored public knowledge in composers such as Sauer, Huss, Dreyschock and Benedict, is being joined by a Classical Piano Concerto series.
The RPC line has already produced offshoots in series themed on cello and violin concertos, but it is the original that has gained most momentum – and awards. 'Series do work for Hyperion,' says Simon Perry, the label's managing director.
The classical version launches this month with Howard Shelley directing the Ulster Orchestra in works by Dušek. A second volume, with the same performers focusing on Daniel Steibelt – who is principally known for losing out to Beethoven in a test of keyboard virtuosity – is in the can, but current plans are for one Classical Piano Concerto release a year. To ensure the series' appeal remains broad, performers will play on modern rather than period instruments. And Perry hopes it will attract new soloists to the label, as the Romantic series has.
He also believes there are riches to be rediscovered. 'If you look at the classical period, it is dominated by Haydn and Mozart, but there were a lot of others, such as Clementi and Dušek, who were performing, travelling and writing their own concertos. Dušek wrote 18 concertos!'
23 July 2014
Barry Douglas performs Brahms' piano concerto no.1 on Thursday 24 JulyKatya Kraynova
Louis Schwizgebel performs Prokofiev's piano concerto no.1 with the NYO on Sunday 10 AugustCaroline Doutre
International Piano editor, Claire Jackson, picks her top six piano Proms for the 2014 season:
PROM 9 - Thursday 24 July
Brahms Piano Concerto No 1 in D minor
London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
PROM 18 - Wednesday 30 July
Ravel Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
BBC Philharmonic, Juanjo Mena
PROM 29 - Friday 9 August
Chopin Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor
BBC Philharmonic, Gianandrea Noseda
PROM 33 - Sunday 10 August
Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 1 in D flat major
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Edward Gardner
PROM 39 - Friday 15 August
Bernard Rands Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (UK premiere)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Markus Stenz
PROM 67 - Sunday 7 September
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor
Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, Han-Na Chang
Tickets and more information: www.bbc.co.uk/proms
Montblanc dedicates latest pen to Steinway
17 July 2014
Montblanc has created a special fountain pen in honour of piano maker Henry E Steinway.
German-born Heinrich Engelhard Steinway (1797-1871) built his first pianos in his kitchen, before moving to the US to establish the now world-famous brand.
Available in two editions, the pen – or writing instrument, as Montblanc refers to its products – features the distinctive black and gold colour combination of a classic Steinway grand piano. The shape of the gold-plated clip references the once-patented screw clamps used for bending the grand piano rim into its distinctive sweeping curve. The gold nib is decorated with a filigree portrait of Steinway himself.
London’s Steinway Hall hosted a private reception to mark the occasion, featuring a recital given by Charles Owen, a Steinway artist.
The Steinway pen is part of Montblanc’s Patron of Art series, which launched in 1992. Prices available upon request.
Ansel Elgort to play the title role in upcoming biopic Van Cliburn
14 July 2014
Ansel ElgortJaguar PS / Shutterstock.com
The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent actor Ansel Elgort has been signed to play the title role in Van Cliburn, a film based on the book of the same name by Howard Reich.
The biopic will focus on American pianist Van Cliburn’s formative years, when he won the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958, at the height of the Cold War. Van Cliburn went on to become an international star, until he abruptly stopped publicly performing in 1978. He died last year of bone cancer at 78.
Teen-hit Elgort, a graduate of LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, started as a dancer and is an amateur pianist. In addition to this project, Elgort has been busy shooting the upcoming Divergent sequel, Insurgent. His next film will be alongside Adam Sandler in Men, Women and Children, due for release later this year.