Regular followers will know that I am always keen to hear
new music so, when I received details of a new release from Auditewww.audite.de of music by the German composer, Moritz Eggert, I was extremely interested
to hear the disc.
Moritz Eggert was
born in 1965 in Heidelberg and studied piano and composition with Wolfgang
Wagenhaeuser and Claus Kuehnl at Dr.Hoch´s Konservatorium in Frankfurt, with
Leonard Hokanson at the Musikhochschule Frankfurt and with Wilhelm Killmayer in
Munich at the Musikhochschule Muenchen. He also played keyboard in various
bands, together with guitarist Marcus Deml.
Later he continued his piano studies with Raymund Havenith
and Dieter Lallinger, and composition with Hans-Jürgen von Bose in Munich. In
1992 he spent a year in London as a post-graduate composition student with
Robert Saxton at the Guildhall School for Music and Drama.
In 1996 he played the complete works for piano solo by Hans
Werner Henze for the first time in one concert and, in 1989, he was a prize-winner
at the International Gaudeamus Competition for Performers of Contemporary
Music. He is a regular guest artist at festivals around the world and has been
commissioning composers for various chamber music projects. He lives in Munich.
As a composer, Moritz Eggert has been awarded prizes such as
the composition prize of the Salzburger Osterfestspiele, the
Schneider/Schott-prize, the ‘Ad Referendum’ prize in Montréal, the Siemens
Förderpreis for young composers, and the Zemlinsky Prize.
Moritz Eggert has covered all genres of music in his work
which includes nine operas as well as ballets and works for dance and music
theatre, often with unusual performance elements. His concert-length cycle for
piano solo, ‘Haemmerklavier’, is among his best known works and has been
performed around the world. In 1997 German TV produced a feature-length film
portrait about his music.
In1991, together with Sandeep Bhagwati, he founded the
A*Devantgarde Festival for new musicwww.adevantgarde.deand, in 2003, became a member of the ‘Bayerische Akademie der Schoenen
Kuenste’.In October 2010 he became professor of Music and Theatre at Munich University.
I had not heard any
music by Moritz Eggert until receiving a copy of this new CD from Audite
Recordswww.audite.de Entitled The Raven Nevermore this new release features six works by the composer
written between 1985 and 2010.
Ich bin der Welt
abhanden gekommen(I am lost to the
world) for voice, electric guitar, piano and strings (2010) was a
collaboration with the singer Inga Humpe from the pop band 2raumwohnung with
the idea of designing a musical concept around Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and its
associated Rückert lieder that provides the title and text of this work. Inga
Humpe improvised a melody around which Moritz Eggert provided harmonies. The
work, that is hauntingly quiet, has a gentle jazz quality to it which is
strangely attractive. The haunting vocals are provided by Inga Humpe herself.
Tetragrammatonfor string orchestra (2009) refers to
the Hebrew theonym (or proper noun) that refers to a deity, transliterated to
the Latin letters YHWH or Yahweh meaning God. In some of his works Eggert has
chosen mysterious titles in order to ‘focus on the unspeakable.’ At nearly
twenty one minutes this is the longest work on this disc.
The work opens with harmonic sounds that are reminiscent of
the Hardanger fiddle used in Norwegian folk music. I love this sound and, as
this work progressed, I was attracted to the different effects that Eggert
draws from the strings. There is a feeling, during the earlier stages of the
work, that the music is moving but yet not going forward – perhaps this is what
Eggert calls ‘…circling around something that isn’t definite.’
The music at times becomes more strident before the return
of the harmonies of the opening.At
times Eggert seems to be playing with the effects that he can obtain from the
strings, with increasing dissonance. Later pizzicato strings provide contrast
before the string sound becomes richer and the music seems to gain more
direction. The piece ends quietly with a solo violin over hushed strings before
a sudden chord ends the work. This is a lovely work and I am thankful that
Audite has recorded it.
Der Rabe Nimmermehr
Ouverture (The Raven Nevermore Overture) for chamber orchestra (1991), that gives this disc its title,
concerns itself with the idea of transience and decline as does the Edgar Allan
Poe poem of that name. There is certainly a narrative in this more strident and
rapidly varying piece but it is difficult to follow at one hearing. In
subsequent hearings I felt I could detect a struggle between quiet harmony and
Adagio – An Answered
Question(1994/2011) for string
orchestra is a more static work that nevertheless has moments of drama to
avoid any lack of interest. Musical phrases seem to emerge from the static
background and the piece rises to a rich climax before the quiet coda.
Der ewige Gesange(The eternal song) for strings (1985/89)
is a short, but effective piece lasting less than three minutes where the
string orchestra opens, rises to a climax where there is a simple descending
motif, then falls back again.
The final piece on this disc is Drei seelen(Three Souls) for
violin and piano (2002). There are three movements: the first rapidly
changing between a melody for the violin and a more strident theme. Here again
Eggert uses the harmonics of the violin to great effect. After a second
movement that has a melody that seemingly revolves around itself in a
quasi-minimalistic way, there comes a final that mixes Eggert’s contemporary
style with a more traditional classical sound.
So is there a distinctive voice at work here? I certainly
think there is with his use of strange harmonies and harmonics and his sudden
flights of fancy where themes appear out of a seemingly static background or
where the music suddenly changes direction.
Tetragrammaton could easily take its place in the repertoire of works for
The performances are first rate and the booklet notes very
informative. Sadly there are no texts provided for Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen but there are many on-line sources
for Friedrich Rückert’s poem.
If you are open to hearing contemporary music that is
endlessly fascinating, sometimes challenging, but often very beautiful then you
should try this CD.
This has been a good year for Beethoven with Daniel
Barenboim performing all of the symphonies at the BBC Proms www.bbc.co.uk/proms and a feast of
Beethoven at Symphony Hall and the Town Hall Birmingham with Andris Nelsons and
the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra doing a complete Beethoven Symphony
cycle as well as the complete piano concertos from Leif Ove Andsnes and Angela Hewitt.
At Birmingham there will also be Piano Sonatas and
Bagatelles, Triple Concerto, Overtures, the Mass in C and some of the Quartets
with such artists as Stephen Kovacevich, Steven Osborne, Angela Hewitt and the Belcea
Beethoven has so many different emotional levels and moods
to explore that every performance has potentially something new to offer. It isn’t
many years ago that cynics were saying that we no longer needed new recordings
of Beethoven and the other major classical composers. The new format of CD
meant that music lovers could buy a recording and it would last for ever so
what need of endless new recordings. This narrow minded view was extremely
Thankfully, despite a short period when there were fewer new
recordings of the great masterpieces of classical music, recent years have seen
a resurgence of new interpretations. Surely the issue is that we need to record
the fresh ideas of new artists never mind how many of the older generation have
put their ideas down.
Leif Ove Andnes
has not rushed into recording Beethoven indeed a new release from Sony Classicalwww.sonymasterworks.com is his first.
Andsnes has taken the time to allow his thoughts to develop before commencing
on what he describes as a ‘journey’.
Directing the Mahler
Chamber Orchestra from the keyboard, Leif Ove Andsnes plays Beethoven’s Piano
Concerto No.1 in C Major Op.15 and Piano Concerto No.3 in C Minor. I
deliberately took my time over reviewing this issue as I wanted to allow myself
to get to know the performances. I should say at the outset that these are
deeply probing and distinguished performances.
The C Major Concerto
opens with nicely crisp playing from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and, as the
piano enters, there is a terrific forward momentum. There is an altogether
Mozartian feel to the performance, yet there is an underlying tension even in
the most simple scales just as in the later concertos. You can imagine the
young Beethoven full of drive straining at the classical form he is trying to
break out of. There is a real feeling of partnership between the pianist and
The second movement Largo has a thoughtful feel, almost as
though Andsnes were improvising and having a conversation with the orchestra.
At times there is something almost confessional about the way this movement is
The finale almost comes as a shock as we are thrust headlong
into the Rondo allegro with Beethoven trying all manner of ways of presenting
his theme. Again the playing is beautifully crisp and purposeful with a great
rhythmic balance which is a sheer joy. The second subject really dances along
with interplay between piano and orchestra.
I heard a degree of period style to the strings in the
opening of the C Minor Concerto
where there was immediately more expressiveness. As the piano enters there is
more assertiveness that in the first concerto. As the music moves on, there is
again that feeling of unstoppable forward thrust. At times Andsnes seems to be
able to build a tension whilst seemingly just holding back and playing at a
The first movement cadenza is thrilling in its freedom and
fluency again as if Andsnes is improvising and wondering what to surprise us
with next. What wonderful tension there is as the movement ends.
When the piano enters in the middle movement Largo, it is
almost languid in its feel with Andsnes carefully revealing every phrase and
nuance. The rising scales are exceptionally moving and, in the throbbing motif
near the end, one feels a strong sense of grief.
In the finale, another Rondo allegro, the orchestra
beautifully weaves around the piano. Andsnes knows just how to use quiet
passages to build up expectation whilst at other times the music just skips
along with such fluency and freedom. Towards the end the piano seems to be playing
games with the orchestra.
The more you listen to these performances the more the
subtle details and depth of feeling you hear.
Over the next four seasons Leif Ove Andnes will devote the
majority of his performing and recording activities to Beethoven. During the
spring of 2013 and 2014 he will be touring with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. We will have to wait until Autumn 2013 for
Concertos 2 and 4 and Autumn 2014 for Concerto No.5 and the Choral Fantasy.
In the mean time I will continue to enjoy these wonderful
performances whilst waiting with anticipation for the next issue. The recording
is excellent with good piano tone and, although there are no conventional notes
on the music, there is an interview with Leif Ove Andnes in which he talks
about the works.
Delius first met Grieg in 1887. In 1886 he had started
studying at the Leipzig Conservatorium where he had got to know a group of
Norwegian students. It was with some of these students that he undertook a
walking holiday of Norway in the summer of 1887.
Whilst there, his Norwegian friends introduced him to
Christian Sinding and Edvard Grieg. Grieg gave a party, inviting Delius,
Sinding and the composer and violinist, Johan Halvorsen. Thus began a
friendship between the two composers.
Raphael Wallfisch (cello) and John York (piano) have made a
number of recordings for Nimbus featuring such diverse composers as Zemlinsky,
Korngold, Goldmark, Beethoven and Chopin. I also have an earlier recording on
Marco Polo of this duo playing the Rubbra, Moeran and Ireland cello sonatas, a
disc that is one of the gems of that catalogue. http://www.naxos.com/labels/marco_polo.htm
Cello and Piano (1916), dedicated to the cellist Beatrice Harrison, is
fairly short at just under 14 minutes. In this performance Raphael Wallfisch
and John York capture perfectly the fleeting ebb and flow of Delius’
creation.What a wonderful partnership Wallfisch
and York make, instinctively weaving the sound around each other.
The wistful flow of the Lento molto tranquillo is
beautifully played by Wallfisch with John York wonderfully fluent. There is
hardly a break in the flow of melody making this a demanding work for the
There are four other works by Delius either side of the
Sonata. Romance (1896) is a
relatively early work and, in this performance, it is delightful with hints of
the mature Delius to come. Raphael Wallfisch produces a really passionate and
anguished tone in the climaxes. Chanson
d’Automne (1911) has been transcribed by John York for Cello and Piano from
one of Delius’ songs. This brief piece results in something of a gem and is
Caprice (1930) is
an austere piece with little of Delius’ warmth and sumptuousness whilst Elegy (1930) seems to be a version of
Delius’ Caprice and Elegy for Cello and
Chamber Orchestra written in 1930 for Beatrice Harrison who had visited
Delius at home in Grez-sur-Loing in rural France and wanted a work for her
forthcoming tour of America.
Grieg’s Sonata for
Cello and Piano in A minor Op.36 (1883) is dedicated to his cellist brother
John Grieg and was first performed on 27th October 1883 in Leipzig
by Julius Klengel with the composer at the piano.
The sonata explores all the depth and expressiveness that
the cello can offer and in this recording there is some terrific playing from
both Wallfisch and York, particularly as the first movement heads to a brief
cadenza.The first movement ends with
what is almost a direct quote from the first movement of the A minor Piano Concerto.
The second movement brings some really expressive playing with another
recognisable melody, this time from Grieg’s incidental music to Bjornsterne
Bjornson’s historical drama Sigurd Jorsalfar.
from Grieg’s incidental music to Ibsen’s Peer
Gynt is alluded to in the finale which has some intensely passionate playing
from the duo. Their playing is wonderfully nuanced and this movement never
outstays its welcome, as it does some times in other performances, having a
natural flow and inevitability.
Two short pieces by Grieg precede his Cello Sonata, Intermezzo (1866), a strange, dark work
that concentrates much on the lower register of the cello and Allegretto in E (1887) a particularly attractive work, taken
from the slow movement of his Violin Sonata and written for his brother John.
Both receive first rate, sensitive performances.
The recording is excellent and there are excellent notes by
John York. This is a lovely disc.
After the immense success of I Fagiolini’s recording of the
Striggio 40 part mass last year it would be asking a lot to expect a repeat of
that success with their latest offering. www.ifagiolini.com
However, their new release from Decca, entitled 1612 Italian
Vespers, is another wonderful recording of exciting and little known repertoire
that is likely to prove just as popular. www.deccaclassics.com
Directed by Robert Hollingworth, 1612 Italian Vespers features
no less than seven works by the lesser known Parmesan composer Lodovico Grossi
da Viadana (c.1560-1627), as well as works by Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli
(1532/3-1585) and (1554/7-1612) respectively, Bartolomeo Barbarino
(c.1568-c.1617), Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina 1525/6-1594), Claudio
Monteverdi (1567-1643) and Francesco Soriano (1548/9-1621).
This new recording also marks the 400th
anniversary of the death of Giovanni Gabrieli and the 400th
anniversary of the publication of a collection of Vespers music by Viadana.
All of the various settings are drawn together to create
what the Second Vespers of the feast of Our Lady and the Most Holy Rosary might
have sounded like at a North Italian cathedral or church in the early 17th
century on the anniversary of the victory against the Turks at Lepanto.
Viadana proves to be a striking composer with certain
influences from Monteverdi with whom he worked for a while in Mantua. His
Psalm settings, of which there are five on this disc, are particularly
attractive. In particular his setting of Psalm 109‘Dixit Dominus’ has some wonderful
sonorities, Psalm 112 ‘Laudate, pueri’ has superb countertenor contribution and
Psalm 147 ‘Lauda, Ierusalem’ is full
of interest, with singing of breadth and colour reinforced by the
All of the settings by Viadana and, indeed the opening Versicle
and Response ‘Deus, in adiutorium meum’ are of great quality and really stand
Barbarino’s short motet ‘Exaudi, Deus’ has some wonderful
playing by Gawain Glenton (cornet) and David Roblou (organ). It is good to hear
David Roblou again, whom I first heard quite a while ago in an interesting
radio broadcast featuring the pedal-board harpsichord.
Andrea Gabrieli is represented by his ‘Benedictus Dominus
Deus Sabaoth’ and an attractive little Toccata del 9. Tono.
The Hymn ‘Ave, Maris Stella’ comprises of music from
Monteverdi and Soriano in a hybrid form that apparently was not an unusual
practice at the time. Monteverdi’s contribution is, as you would expect,
glorious, but what really struck me was the really unusual music of Soriano
with long lines and expressive themes and wonderful instrumental
Monteverdi’s Motet ‘Ab aeterno ordinate sum’, has some first
rate, flexible, singing from the bass Jonathan Sells accompanied by David
Roblou (organ) and David Miller (theorbo).
Hugh Keyte, who provided the editions for Striggio’s 40 part
motet ‘Ecce beatam lucem’and Tallis’s
40 part motet ‘Spem in alium’ on I Fagiolini’s Striggio recording, has
reconstructed Giovanni Gabrieli’s Magnificat ‘Con il sicutlocutus, In ecco’
and Extraliturgical Motet ‘In ecclesiis.’
It is said that the Magnificat, attributed to Gabrieli, was
played at the court chapel of Archduke Ferdinand at Graz. Originally thought to
be three-choir works, they were later expanded to become seven-choir works and
may have later been made for performance at two of the lavish afternoon
concerts at one of the Venetian charitable confraternities, the Scuola Grande
di San Rocco. These concerts must have been extremely lavish affairs given the
grand nature of this work.
Towards the end of the Magnificat, Keyte has used a rest
marked in the music to include a brass fanfare where the probable use of a
fanfare would have been and added cannon fire that may well have been part of
the anniversary celebrations of the victory over the Turks forty-one years
previously. The resulting bells, trumpets and cannon fire all making an
impressive sound. The manuscripts of the Magnificat only survive incomplete and
Hugh Keyte has done a wonderful job bringing this terrific work to completion.
Equally, in Giovanni Gabrieli’s Extraliturgical Motet ‘In
ecclesiis’, Hugh Keyte has done us a great service in reconstructing the full
version of the work, only previously known in a reduced form. This has restored
the Motet to its glorious, four-choir, full grandeur as one of Gabrieli’s great
Most of the works are preceded by plainchant and there are
bells at the appropriate moments in the Vespers. But this liturgical setting works
far better than many of the reconstructed liturgical settings that have
appeared in other recordings with a sequence of music that flows naturally with
choral pieces interspersed with occasional instrumental works.
The performances here are superb with the instrumentalists
finely balanced with the choir, never overshadowing them. The detailed and
informative notes by Hugh Keyte are excellent.
This is another winner from Robert Hollingworth and I
Sir Mark and the Hallé Orchestra and Choir have enjoyed
great success with their previous Elgar choral recordings of The Dream of Gerontius which took an
Award in 2009 and The Kingdom, which received the 2011Gramophone Award in the
choral category. Sir Mark’s recording of The
Kingdom was described by the Gramophone as ‘a Kingdom to stand alongside
the classic Boult recording’.
It is a pity that The
Dream of Gerontius has always tended to overshadow Elgar’s two great choral
works since, in many ways The Apostles
and The Kingdom have finer moments.
Indeed, Sir Adrian Boult once heard a great friend of Elgar’s defend The Kingdom by saying to a critic of it
‘My dear boy, beside The Kingdom, Gerontius is the work of a raw amateur.’
Something of an overstatement perhaps but surely meant as a strong defence of The Kingdom.
The seed to write a choral work around the Apostles was sown
right back as far as Elgar’s childhood when his teacher, Francis Reeve, at
Littleton House School on the edge of Worcester, spoke about the Apostles as
ordinary men that ‘…before the descent of the Holy Ghost (were) not cleverer
than some of you here.’ It was very much with the image of the Apostles as
ordinary men that Elgar conceived his great work. Even Judas is portrayed as
misguided rather than iniquitous.
It was not until 1902 that Elgar started work on The Apostles. Initially The Apostles and The Kingdom were intended as a single work but such was the scope
of his vision, and the pressures to deliver the new work in time for the 1903 Birmingham
Festival, that it eventually became two works, with Part 3 of the Apostles
becoming The Kingdom. A planned third
choral work, provisionally called The Last Judgment, intended to be the final
part of a triptych, was never written.
The first performance of The
Apostles was on 14th October 1903 at Birmingham Town Hall.
Interestingly most of the players in
the Festival orchestra, conducted by the composer, were members of the Hallé Orchestra.
Perhaps with such terrific advocacy as brought by Sir Mark
Elder and the Hallé, these two great choral works will now get the attention
and recognition they deserve.
What struck me most about the finals of the 2012 Leeds
International Piano Competition held last night (Saturday 15th
September 2012) and on Friday night (14th September 2012) was how
easy it was to just get caught up in the music and forget that this was a competition.
But surely that is exactly how it should be.
This must have been an incredible event for all the jury
members that committed so much time to the competition that ran from 29 August
to 15th September.
Such was the calibre of artists in the final that the two
evenings became a wonderful musical event. It was also appropriate that the
other six competitors that reached the semi-finals were called onto the platform.
Whilst there has to be winners, no one competing in this
event will have had less than a great musical experience and many will gain
much from the public exposure the competition has brought.
It isn’t just the bursaries given to all first stage
competitors, nor the prizes given to the second stage competitors and semi-finalists
or the prize money that is awarded to the finalists that is the most important
thing, thought that will be a welcome help to many. It is the public exposure
and engagements that can follow and, indeed in the case of the finalists, will
Just go to the Leeds International Piano Competition websitewww.leedspiano.comto see the range of UK
and International engagements that Final Round prize winners will be offered.
The overwhelming message from this important competition
must be that the music comes first and certainly all the competitors that I
heard seemed to make it do just that.
There was not one artist in the final that I would not pay
good money to hear and I’m sure that we will hear a lot more from all of them –
and probably from many that didn’t make the final.
BBC4 are starting a six week television series covering this
year’s competition. It commences on Friday 21st September 2012.www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour I shall certainly be watching it.
First prize winner of
the 2012 Leeds International Piano Competition www.leedspiano.com and Aung San Suu Kyi Gold Medal isFederico Colli, aged 24 years, from Italy
The other finalists were awarded prizes as follows:
The Winner of the
Terence Judd Award voted for by the members of the Halle Orchestra was Andrew Tyson.
Federico Colli gave a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano
Concerto that had a wonderfully sprung lightness and an underlying tension that
brought out a real Beethovenian feel. His was a performance that was
beautifully poised and shaped.
My own choice, as it was of the Hallé Orchestra, was Andrew
Tyson, and we will surely hear much more of him. But Federico Colli is
certainly a worthy winner in a final that must have been the closest for a long
We should not forget the wonderful contribution by Sir Mark
Elder and the Hallé Orchestra who seemed to perfectly tailor their playing to
each performer’s interpretation. They truly added a great deal to the
These performances will be included by the BBC4 in a 6 week series
starting on Friday 21st September 2012, with one concerto played
every Friday. www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour
Tonight’s (Saturday 15th September 2012) performances
by the final three competitors of this year’s final of the Leeds International
Piano Competition 2012www.leedspiano.combrought Latvia’s Andrejs Osokins in
Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 with poised articulate
playing that revealed many details. He had a full grasp of Prokofiev’s rhythmic
style but also a delicacy in the quieter moments that created a stillness that
was the perfect foil for Prokofiev’s virtuoso demands.
Colli played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 with
a touch that gave a wonderfully sprung lightness to the music. In the slow
movement he kept a flow and underlying tension that brought out the real
Beethovenian feel, whilst the finale was beautifully poised and shaped with
those sprung rhythms wonderfully lifting the music.
After the interval, Andrew
Tyson, from the USA, performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D
minor, Op. 30 in a performance of tremendous freedom and character. This performance,
for me, had everything, so many little details and captivating touches, such
individuality. At times this performance had an improvisatory feel with new
thoughts at every turn.
So have I a clear favourite? Well my own choice by far is
Andrew Tyson, not just for his mesmerising Rachmaninov, but for his captivating
Chopin Preludes in the semi-final recital stage.
But Louis Schwizebel who gave us a performance of Beethoven’s
Piano Concerto No.4 that was full of poetry, poise and depth as well as his
recital performance of Haydn’s Piano Sonata No.50 and Andrejs Osokins with his
revealing and rhythmically commanding Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 and
recital performance of Beethoven’s last Piano Sonata op.111 are high on my
Dame Fanny Waterman once said that ‘There are no losers at
Leeds.’ This year’s competition has certainly proved that to be the case,
especially when you see the enormous talent showcased in this terrific final.
It’s now over to the jury who, this year, have an incredibly
difficult task with such a line-up of talented pianists. Hopefully the result
will come before 10.30pm
I will be giving the result in a blog later this evening.
Leeds International Piano Competition 2012. The Finals Part
After all the preliminary rounds during late August and
early September 2012, we now come to the finals of the Competition. www.leedspiano.com
Last night (Friday, 14th September 2012) saw the first three
of the finalists give their concerto performances with Sir Mark Elder and the
Hallé Orchestra whilst the remaining three perform tonight, (Saturday 15th
On Friday, Louis
Schwizgebel, from Switzerland chose to play Beethoven’s Concerto No. 4 in G
major, Op. 58 in a performance of crystalline purity. There was always an
underlying emotional tension right throughout. This was a performance of
poetry, poise and depth.
China’s Jiayan Sun
performed Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16 in which he showed the
fantasy in this work. There was clarity of phrasing and, in the final movement
cadenza, some wonderful colouring. This was an entrancing performance.
After the interval we heard Jayson Gillham, from Australia, in Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5 in E
flat major, Op. 73. Gillham’s directness of approach produced some lovely sounds
and in the slow movement there was playing of fine sensitivity. Whilst there
were individual touches in the last movement I would have preferred a little
more individuality overall. Nevertheless this was a very enjoyable performance
with many fine moments.
Overall, the performance standard in this first half of the
final was extremely high and we still have the three remaining finalists to
hear tonight, Latvia’s Andrejs Osokins in Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3, Italy’s Federico
Colli, playing Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5, Op. 73 and the USA’s Andrew Tyson, performing
Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 3.
The Leeds International Piano Competitionwww.leedspiano.com/home was founded in 1961 by Dame Fanny Waterman and
Marion Thorpe CBE. Held every three years, past winners have been Michael Roll
(1961), Rafael Orozco (1966), Radu Lupu (1969), Murray Perahia (1972), Dimitri
Alexeev (1975), Michel Dalberto (1978), Ian Hobson (1981), Jon Kimura Parker
(1984), Vladimir Ovchinnikov (1987), Artur Pizarro (1990), Ricardo Castro
(1993) and Ilya Itin (1996), Alessio Bax (2000), Antti Siirala (2003), Sunwook
Kim (2006) and the Competition’s first ever female First prize-winner, Sofya
Gulyak in 2009.
It is not only the first prize winners that have gone on to
have great careers, but also many of its runners-up. Second to Orozco in 1966
was the Russian pianist Viktoria Postnikova, and in 1969, George Pludermacher
to Radu Lupu.
1975 was a particularly outstanding year in the history of
the Competition, when the finals featured not only Dimitri Alexeev but also
celebrated pianists of today Mitsuko Uchida, Andras Schiff, Pascal Devoyon and
now world-famous conductor Myung-Whun Chung. Other runner-ups have included
Kathryn Stott, Peter Donohoe, Louis Lortie, Ian Munro, Noriko Ogawa, Lars Vogt,
Leon McCawley and Ashley Wass.
The Leeds Competition attracts distinguished jurors from all
around the world and this year, in addition to Dame Fanny (Chairman), there is
Christopher Elton, Adam Gatehouse, Pavel Gililov, Bao Huiqiao, Daejin Kim, Robert
Levin, Robert McDonald and John O’Conor.
Stage one of the competition took place between 29th,
30th, and 31st August, 1st and 2nd September
2012 when fifty nine competitors performed for the jury. Thirty pianists
appeared in stage two, on 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th
September 2012.The semi-finals held on
9th, 10th and 11th September 2012, had reduced
this number to just twelve.
Last night on BBC Radio 3 we were allowed to hear extracts
from the recital rounds of the six remaining finalists who will go on to
perform concertos with Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra on Friday 14th
and Saturday 15th September 2012 broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Jayson Gillham, aged
26 years from Australia, gave a thoughtful but slightly literal performance
of Brahms’ Handel Variations. He had great fluency and this was a good
performance, but I felt that he needed less restraint. Jiayan Sun, aged 22 years from China, made a marked contrast by
giving four pieces from Ligeti’s Musica ricercata in playing of great verve and
imagination. His Debussy Prelude ‘Fireworks’ equally showed strength and
dynamic playing full of personality.
aged 24 years from Switzerland, played Haydn’s sonata No.50 in D major a
choice that showed his grace and charm with crisp playing in the Allegro con
brio. Though a little slow, the largo e sostenuto was extremely beautiful whilst
there was a fresh and sparkling finale. Federico
Colli, aged 24 years from Italy, gave us a Scriabin Tenth Sonata that
brought out the strange rhythms but, perhaps because I did not hear this in the
hall, it seems that much of the colour did not emerge. Certainly this was a
very individual view of the sonata.
Andrew Tyson, aged 25
years from the USA, played Chopin’s Preludes Op.28 in a performance that
left no doubt as to his maturity and depth. He showed that he could produce
that wonderful billowing sound that Chopin can sometimes need combined with a
wonderful rubato. This was a wonderful performance. Andrejs Osokins, aged 27 years from Latvia, played Beethoven’s last
Piano Sonata op.111. There was fiery playing in the first movement and, though there
was a certain tentativeness in the second movement, there much was poetry. This
pianist certainly felt the depth of this sonata.
So is there a clear favourite? Well the problem for those,
like me, who have not sat through every round of this competition is that the
judgment must be based on all of the competitors playing – and there is the concerto
finale to go.
However, Andrew Tyson must stand out at this stage as must
Jiayan Sun and Louis Schwizgebel. From what I have heard so far, the standard
for 2012 seems to be very high, so who can tell.
Leeds International Piano Competition 2012. The Finals Part
(1862-1918) is surely one of the great composers and undoubtedly one of the
greatest ever to come out of France. Whilst his output is not vast, his achievement
is colossal and his influence widespread.
This year is the 150th anniversary of his birth
bringing with it new releases and re-releases of recordings of his music.
Central to Debussy’s output were his works for piano and central to these were his
Preludes Book 1 (1909-1910) and Book 2 (1912-1913).
The names of these preludes are not really titles as such
since they are hidden away at the end of each work in parentheses. Debussy had
tired of the constant debate about musical ‘impressionism’ and had moved on,
calling these works preludes in an apparent attempt to connect himself to the
musical forms of the past. It may be considered that, by placing the titles at
the end of each prelude, Debussy wanted performers to form their own feelings
about the music before reading his descriptions.
With the exception of Les
tierces alternées (Alternating Thirds)
in Book 2, these works, whether overtly descriptive or not, summon up in the
most remarkable way fleeting moods and images. By the time of Book 2 Debussy
had been influenced by Stravinsky, whom he had met in 1910, and there appear
more dissonant harmonies.
Pierre-Laurent Aimard brings great authority to these works
and from the start shows superb control of dynamics and tempi. He gives a
breadth and feel that is just right in Danseuses
de Delphes(Dancers of Delphi) whilstin Voiles
(Sails)phrasing is beautifully
done, full of atmosphere, yet never too vague and dreamy. His delicacy of
playing is simply entrancing.
Le vent dans la plaine
(The Wind in the Plain) is finely controlled yet at the same time sounds spontaneous.
sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir
(The sounds and
fragrances swirl through the evening air) creates a perfectly judged
atmosphere and Les collines d'Anacapri(The Hills of Anacapri) is wonderfully
controlled and perfectly judged in some of the finest Debussy playing I have
In Des pas sur la
neige (Footsteps in the Snow) Aimard again creates a complete sound world
to perfection with phrasing and tempi perfect. As the piece progresses his
sensitive playing subtly allows a little warmth to enter.
Aimard conjures richly intense sounds in Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest (What the West
Wind has seen) as he slowly builds the western wind. With La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with
the Flaxen Hair) he plays this well-known prelude in what at first appears
to be a straight and direct way but such is his sensitive phrasing that one hears
a new depth to the piece.
After the brilliant Latin rhythms of La sérénade interrompue (Interrupted Serenade), Aimard’s 'La cathédrale engloutie (The Submerged Cathedral) provides great
atmosphere and feeling as it builds to a stunning climax as the Cathedral appears.
It isdifficult to bring off the elusive La
danse de Puck (Puck's Dance) with its rapid tempi changes but Aimard does
so wonderfully whilst topping off Book 1 with a delightful ‘Minstrels’ that conjures up Parisian delight.
In Book 2 Brouillards
(Mists) brings some beautifully delicate touches, the rippling phrases
showing Aimard’s superb fluency. In Feuilles mortes (Dead Leaves) there is a
real depth with so many layers of feeling, autumnal, funereal, tolling bells
and an air of stately desolation.
La puerta del Vino
(The Gate of Wine) has lovely flourishes of rhythm combined with Aimard’s
beautifully rich tone and Les fées sont
d'exquises danseuses (The Fairies are exquisite dancers), another of the
more famous preludes, here given a beautifully drawn performance, fleet and
is a particularly lovely prelude to which Aimard gives a light and spontaneous
feel, so French, so light and fleeting. Such was the marvellous playing in this
prelude that I went immediately back to my benchmark recording of the work. Not
Zimmerman, not Ogawa, not even Gieseking, but Martino Tirimo. As fine as his
are, it is the inspired phrasing, the knowing how to hold back just enough to
lift the music’s poise, that marks out the genius of Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s
Great fun is brought to General
Lavine whilst La terrasse des
audiences du clair de lune (The Terrace of Moonlit Audiences) has the
wonderful harmonic shifts perfectly judged to give mood and feel to the music.
Another particular high point which had me running back to Tirimo’s recording
is Ondine with its changes of moods
and rhythm beautifully handled.
Hommage à S. Pickwick
Esq. P.P.M.P.C. (Homage to S. Pickwick), Debussy’s joke at the expense of the
English is wonderfully tongue in cheek whilst the elusive Canope (Canopic vase), another prelude
difficult to pull off, is so brilliantly done. Les Tierces alternees is brilliantly balanced by Aimard.
With Feux d'artifice
(Fireworks), the final preludes, we get superb playing of stunning
brilliance, but with Aimard never forgetting the underlying musical intent.
What a finale to superb performances of such fluency, such panache. Formidable
By now you will have gathered that I admire these
performances immensely. With excellent sound they must go to the top of any
list of recommended recordings of these works.
It is easy to allow the works played in the first part of
the Last Night of the Proms www.bbc.co.uk/promsto be overshadowed by the festive nature of the
Where else could you hear in one concert a newly commissioned
work by the young award winning composer Mark Simpson, Delius’ Songs of
Farewell, Bruch’s First Violin Concerto and works by Suk and Dvorak, not to
mention all the last night favourites such as Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British
Sea Songs and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1.
Mark Simpson’s new work ‘Sparks’ was a striking piece that
packs a lot into its short length. I would like to hear more from this obviously
Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jiri Belohlavek
conducted a short patriotic piece by Czech composer Joseph Suk ‘Towards a New
Life’ in a rare opportunity to hear this work. He later conducted Dvorak’s Carnival
Overture in a beautifully idiomatic performance. I don’t think there can be anyone
better in this repertoire.
Belohlavek seemed equally at home in Delius’ late choral
work Songs of Farewell, a setting of Walt Whitman played with rapt concentration.
What a pity the audience decided to clap at the end of each part somewhat
breaking the spell.
Joseph Calleja proved to be a fine tenor in arias by Verdi,
Massenet and Puccini showing a richness of tone and a beautifully controlled
In Bruch’s ever popular Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor Nicola
Benedetti brought out the varying timbres of the violin in playing of richness
and depth. She displayed playing of fabulous technical security and a sparkling
finale concluded this fine performance.
It is a tribute to the Promenaders how quiet and attentive
they always are during the works before the festive part of the evening.
Before the usual last night fare there was John Williams’
Olympic Fanfare and Theme written for the 1984 Olympics, Nicola Benedetti playing Shostakovich’s slight
but beautiful Romance from ‘The Gadfly’ and the novelty of an arrangement of
Leoncavallo’s Mattinata for solo violin, tenor and orchestra which brought back
both Nicola Benedetti and Joseph Calleja to perform together.
Jiri Belohlavek again proved himself a natural last night
conductor having immense fun bringing the whole audience to sing Richard Rodgers’
You’ll Never Walk Alone and really engaging with the audience.
Joseph Calleja ran on to the platform dressed in tracksuit
and trainers to reveal a T shirt bearing the Maltese Cross before singing Rule Britannia.
Towards the end Britain’s Gold and Silver Medal winning athletes made a
surprise appearance reminding us of Team GB’s achievements this year.
With the number of flags from other nations being waved
surely no one can any longer look on this as a jingoistic British only event. This
was a worthy end to a great season of concerts.
See other Prom reviews:
A Memorable Concert from Bernard Haitink and the Vienna
Philharmonic at the BBC Proms
This season has seen many wonderful visiting orchestras such
as the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
under Daniel Barenboim, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Riccardo Chailly
and the St Louis Symphony Orchestra under David Robertson.
But it was an inspired choice to have the Vienna Philharmonic
Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink bring the BBC Proms towards its
conclusion in the penultimate concert of the season last night (7th
September 2012). www.bbc.co.uk/proms www.wienerphilharmoniker.at
The Vienna Philharmonic brought their wonderful string sound
to Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 in an affectionate performance conducted by Bernard
Haitink. Even in the rustic third movement menuetto there was a civilised sound
to the music making.
In the finale the orchestra surged forward in a truly
spirited allegro spritoso giving a wonderful conclusion to the work. Haitink
certainly knows how to bring out the humour and joy of Haydn’s last symphony.
For all the enjoyment of this beautiful performance I still
had a nagging feeling that Haydn should have a little more grit, but perhaps
that’s just my personal taste affected by the period instrument movement. Nevertheless
this was a lovely performance.
The VPO really came into their own in Richard Strauss’
Alpine Symphony where those wonderful strings brought a warm glow to Strauss’
writing. The horn section was really something to hear, particularly in ‘On the
Summit’ where the orchestra made an overwhelming sound.
There were beautiful woodwind sounds just before ‘Thunder
and Storm’ and what a storm it was. As the work drew to a close those beautiful
Vienna strings brought the most wonderful glow of sunset to a magical
Haitink’s concept was largely broad but it allowed the
orchestra the freedom to do their best in bringing out all of Strauss’
Another Strauss, this time Johann Strauss II, gave us the
encore in one of his waltzes as only the VPO could do. A memorable concert.