REVIEW: Benjamin Grosvenor at Wigmore Hall, London
17 October 2013
The Wigmore Hall’s acoustic sometimes constricts pianists with 3000-seater tones – but it shows off Benjamin Grosvenor’s infinitely nuanced sound at its luminous best. Here the 21-year-old British star proved beyond a doubt the pure-gold quality of his sonic imagination and his ability to realise it. He can transport his listeners to new dimensions in a way that this reviewer can compare only to a young Krystian Zimerman – palpable in his sublimely controlled Schubert G flat Impromptu, or Mompou’s sensuous Paisajes, where the voicing reached extraordinary levels of mastery.
Schumann’s Humoresque was a bold choice: a baffling work
that is too rarely performed. Grosvenor rose to all its challenges. Though
notorious for ‘not hanging together’, it cohered brilliantly; he created rapt
atmospheres, kept busy textures airy, yet defined the character of each
episode, his clarity of touch illuminating the intricate contrapuntal writing.
Medtner’s Two Fairytales needed extra earthiness, but never lacked charm; and after a shimmering account of Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales, Liszt’s Paraphrase on the Waltz from Gounod’s Faust found Grosvenor swashbuckling with the finest virtuosi, delivering enough schwung to floor every Fledermaus in town. Mendelssohn’s Andante and Rondo Capriccioso was an engaging opener, risking all at quicksilver tempo; the Albeniz/Godowsky Tango made a tasty encore. Once Grosvenor also controls the silences at his conclusions, he’ll get the standing ovations he deserves.
Documentary about composer and pianist Michael Hersch to receive first screening
11 October 2013
The Sudden Pianist, a documentary by Richard Anderson about composer and pianist Michael Hersch, will be screened at the New York City Independent Film Festival on 19 October at the Producers’ Club. The film, which was also an official selection for the 2013 American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs, presents an intimate depiction of Hersch, who now rarely performs in public. A trailer of the film is available here.
The documentary features exclusive interviews and footage of Hersch performing his music, from his 1999 Carnegie Hall recital debut through to the present day. Directly after the screening, Hersch will play selections from The Vanishing Pavilions, a piece featured in the film, in the Michael Hersch Portrait Concert at the DiMenna Center for the Arts, marking his second public performance in New York in the last ten years.
Lang Lang wins International Artist of the Year at Classic Brits
3 October 2013
Lang Lang: International Artist of the Year© JM Enternational
Lang Lang has won International Artist of the Year at the Classic Brit Awards 2013, held at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
The pianist – who opened the ceremony with a rousing rendition of Khachaturian’s ‘Sabre Dance’ from Gayane, with violinist Nicola Benedetti – was praised for his efforts in broadening the popularity of the piano. Through his volunteer work with children he is said to have encouraged more than 40 million children in China to learn to play the instrument.
Dressed in a deep red suit, Lang Lang accepted the accolade with obvious enthusiasm and took to the stage again for a solo performance of Chopin’s Grand valse brilliant Op 18, complete with the flashing lights and abstract visuals that often accompany his artistry.
Pianists were to the fore at this year’s event: Daniel Barenboim received Male Artist of the Year, and sent a video acceptance message in his absence. Ludovico Einaudi performed Experience from In a Time Lapse and was nominated for Composer of the Year, but missed out to Hans Zimmer, who performed a medley of his recent film scores at the piano, supported by the London Chamber Orchestra.
Elsewhere, Nicola Benedetti triumphed as the winner of Female Artist of the Year and German operatic tenor Jonas Kaufmann won the Critic’s Award. The event closed with a tribute to Luciano Pavarotti, whose posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to his widow Nicoletta Mantovani by one of the remaining Three Tenors, José Carreras.
The Classic Brits – formally ‘Classical Brits’ – have been dubbed 'unashamedly populist' and ‘fundamentally tacky’ by cultural commentators. Last year the critic Paul Morley wrote that ‘the ceremony was the bewildered, if sparkly love child, of the Eurovision song contest and the Last Night of the Proms, with somehow a dash of the 1970s Miss World, Brucie’s Strictly Come Dancing, and William and Kate’s wedding’. Benedetti used her award acceptance speech to urge viewers to listen beyond the music on offer at the ceremony.
The awards will be broadcast on ITV, Sunday 6 October at 10:20pm
Centenary celebrations for the Pianoforte Tuners’ Association
2 October 2013
Delegates at this year's PTA convention, held in Bournemouth
The Pianoforte Tuners’ Association (PTA) marks its 100th birthday this month.
The PTA was formed in October 1913, during the heyday of
piano manufacturing, to protect the interests of tuners and to offer
instruction to apprentices. Today, the association promotes the importance of
regular, skilled tuning and servicing while bringing together piano tuners and
Planned centenary celebrations include a Fazioli training day at Jaques Samuel Pianos in London and a Kawai technical class followed by the Scottish Autumn Dinner in Stirling. Earlier this year, the PTA convention was held in Bournemouth. It provided technical seminars, sponsored by Steinway & Sons, Kawai and Morley Pianos. The convention concluded with a gala dinner and charity auction that raised £1,800 divided between the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund and the Association’s Student Fund.
There are currently around 230 PTA Members in the UK and members use the letters MPTA after their names which helps the public to identify competent tuners in their area. Entry to the Association is achieved by passing three examinations to very high standards. Students must work for at least two years after their college training, completing a minimum of five years in total, before being eligible to apply for PTA membership.
For further information, membership enquiries or a list of
PTA members in your area, click here
Keys and words collide as novel about piano prodigy is turned into a concert series
30 September 2013
Author Jessica Duchen reads from Alicia's Gift
Viv Mclean performs works from the novel
IP contributor Jessica Duchen will embark on an unusual book
tour this winter; her musically inspired novel, Alicia’s Gift, has been turned
into a concert.
The story follows the piano prodigy Alicia Bradley and her embattled parents from the revelation of her talent aged three through to her adulthood and her participation in the Leeds International Piano Competition.
This is not the first time Duchen has dabbled with words and music. Her novel Hungarian Dances was turned into a narrated concert to great acclaim, and the featured music is available on a dedicated CD on the Onyx label. Duchen is the author of four novels, biographies of Gabriel Fauré and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and writes for the Independent and many specialist magazines, including International Piano.
The Alicia’s Gift concert explores its heroine’s story
with the help of some of the music in her life, alternating a narrative based
on the book with a variety of engaging illustrative piano works, performed by
Viv McLean (piano winner of the Royal Over-seas League Music Competition, First Prize
at the 2002 Maria Canals International Piano Competition in Barcelona).
Alicia’s passion for Chopin is reflected in selections
ranging from the Third Ballade to the stormy Etude Op 25 No 12. Her emotional
growth is mirrored in the atmospheric worlds of Granados and Ravel, among
others. Her search for the perfect teacher carries her
through a roller coaster of Czerny, Debussy and Gershwin.
‘The idea of my concerts-of-the-novel is
that these performances should be more than just alternating words and music,’
explains Duchen. ‘The two must be so closely integrated in terms of
appropriateness and emotional content that they effectively unite in a
different form of storytelling that becomes a genre in its own right.
‘I’m not sure whose idea it was that we should end the concert with a piano duet. We’ve picked the final number of Ravel’s ‘Mother Goose’ Suite and I get to play the glissandi, which should be fun – at least, I hope so. Playing the piano in public terrifies me, so I’m not sure what I’m letting myself in for!’
Alicia’s Gift: The Concert of the Novel is premiered at the Musical Museum, Brentford, on 9 November
9 November 2013: Musical Museum, Brentford, near Kew Bridge
13 November 2013: Kensington & Chelsea Music Society, Leighton House, Holland Park, London W11
27 November 2013: Vernon Ellis Foundation, 49 Queen’s Gate Terrace, London SW7
8 December 2013, 3pm: St Mary’s, Perivale
15 December 2013: Burgh House, Hampstead, London NW3
18 January 2014: Soirées at Breinton, near Woking, Surrey