Sunday, September 25, 2016
A few days ago we received a complaint from a Asian contestant that a well-known professor on the jury of an international competition in Europe had given top marks to his own son. Without shame. As a matter of routine. This happens all the time. Zakhar Bron is a notorious giver of high marks to his pupils, who are also promoted by his own agency. When they win, so does he – three times over. Boris Kushnir is another known offender for advancing his own proteges. Who cares? We do. Competition fixing is not a victimless crime. At the nepotistic contest cited above, 74 hopefuls had paid their way to a fashionable and expensive European location in the hope of winning a career boost. When the competition is rigged, the money they spent is effectively stolen from them by corruption. Those who care for young artists, as one Shanghai judge told me he did, must be aware that young artists and their families are being ripped off every time they enter a fixed competition. There is a simple solution: Judges cannot be allowed to vote for their own pupils. And teachers should be heavily outnumbered on juries by non-teachers. We commend those competitions which have cleaned up their act: Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Enescu , for instance. And we will continue to call out every known instance of teacher-pupil collusion, until the practice stops.
Barbican, London The Norwegian pianist’s performance was technically and musically, but lacked personality and riskLeif Ove Andsnes’s recital was a legacy from last season, when he featured in one of the LSO’s artist portraits. The solo appearance that was part of that residency had to be postponed, and rescheduling it now, Andsnes stuck more or less to his original programme, or at least to the same collection of composers: Beethoven, Sibelius, Debussy and Chopin.There was, though, something rather routine about it all. The Beethoven sonata with which Andsnes opened, the E flat Op 31 No 3, promised better in its clear outlines, clean textures and crisply sprung rhythms. It wasn’t especially characterful or witty, just a genial, well-mannered account of the most easygoing of the Op 31 sonatas. The piano pieces by Sibelius, though, needed something more than good manners to make them seem worthwhile. Andsnes had plundered several collections to make his sequence, from the Impromptus of the early 1890s to the weird, spiky Rondino of 1912, and the Schumann-like Elegiaco of a few years later, but there was never enough personality, in the music or the performances, to make them memorable. Continue reading...
Seong-Jin Cho, 22, will make his concerto debut with the Warsaw Philharmonic at the Lincoln Center on October 24, and his recital debut at Carnegie Hall next February. No less interesting, the orchestral concert will include the New York premiere of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s fourth symphony. Wish we were there.
From the classical archive, 20 May 1856: The Manchester Guardian reviews Clara Schumann’s ‘Soiree Musicale’ at the Town HallWe have already had occasion to advert to Madame Schumann’s piano forte playing. The concert of last night affords us another opportunity of noticing her claims to public support; and these can be summed up in a few words. Madame Schumann has mustered all the mechanical difficulties of the instrument, her touch is delicate and refined, and powerful when power is wanted. Her execution is even rapid and certain in scale passages; brilliant and sure in arpeggio ones. But, guiding and controlling all these lesser forces, she has a musical genius of the highest order. Beethoven and Mendelssohn never had an interpreter more sympathetic in feeling, nor more certain in expression. With the dreamy Chopin, she is not so much en rapport: and as regards the interpretation of her husband’s music, all we will venture to say at present is, fortunate the composer that has such an interpreter. Her playing of Beethoven’s sonata was superb: she seemed to have caught the very soul of that great musician and compelled him to re-utter himself. We are certain that the finale of the sonata in D minor never was, and never will be more perfectly rendered. Continue reading...
Wigmore Hall, London The Russian’s Wigmore debut demonstrated newfound warmth and generosity in her playing, while retaining a formidable concentrationIn 2010, when Yulianna Avdeeva gave her first London recital after winning the Warsaw Chopin piano competition critics heard too much steely dominance in her playing. One can only assume that something good must have happened to Avdeeva in the intervening years, because in this Wigmore debut recital her playing was generous and warm, though the concentration was absolutely formidable. She began with Bach’s second English suite, well controlled but without rigidity, the tone rich in the Russian manner, the forward propulsion infectious. In the ornate Sarabande Avdeeva showed she can contain the natural verve of her playing when she needs to, and the conversation between the hands had natural grace. The closing Gigue was grandly done, exhilarating and articulate. Continue reading...
Hugo Haas, brother of the composer Pavel Haas, about both of whom there's a lot on this website if you search. Please read my piece here: Strange Afterlives: Hugo and Pavel Haas. In their native Czechoslovakia, Hugo was a megastar, acting and directing in movies like White Plague (more here), a very explicit protest against the Nazis. Knowing he'd ge targetted, he got out quick. Pavel, with a much lower profile, died in Terezin. In Hollywood, Hugo had to start all over from scratch, but was too independent minded and too arty to be a success with the big studios. So he made B movies, but low-budget movies with high standards, like The Other Woman, Hit and Run and Pickup. The closest he came to commercial success was Strange Fascination (1952|) which was marketed as unadulterated schlock and probably sold because it flattered downmarket stereotypes about Europe. But like most of Haas's postwar work, it deals with the dilemma of exiles uprooted from Europe, trying to find a new life in America. "I feel like a displaced person" says Haas,quietly. In Strange Fascination, Haas plays Paul Marvan. "He's considered the finest exponent of Chopin in Europe, you know," gasps wealthy society matron Diana, who lionizes celebrity. Her friends snap back, acidly: "Strange that in America, he's completely unknown". Her kids hate him. "He's a stranger, you can't talk to him about baseball, or movies" (delicious irony!). Inadvertently he upsets Margo a nightclub singer who goes to his concert the next night hoping to heckle but is moved "by that stuff you play". Margo's played by Cleo Moore, who starred in most of Haas's late films. She wiggles her way into his life and they marry, Rich Diana isn't pleased and drops Paul, whose career doesn't flourish in America. The pianist who "plays" for him isn't very good. Financial worries: Paul has to sell his tuxedo and play mixed programmes in variety clubs He won't let Margo go back to show business. Diana won't help - she's jealous because Paul loves Margo. Desperate, Paul tries to cash in on his insurance by throwing his hand into a printing press. The insurance company won't pay out because it wasn't an accident. Paul comes home to find that Margo's left him. Paul is reduced to knocking out tunes in a shelter for homeless men. "Say, why can't you play something gay, you bum!" Quietly Paul beats out a boogie woogie with his remaining hand. Strange fascination isn't a particularly good movie compared with Haas's other woirk but it's a story that no doubt was lived by many. who didn't find fame or fortune.
Frédéric François Chopin (22 February 1810 / 1 March - 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer, virtuoso pianist, and music teacher, of French-Polish parentage. He was one of the great masters of Romantic music. Chopin is also known as "The poet of the Piano". Chopin was born in ?elazowa Wola, a village in the Duchy of Warsaw. A renowned child-prodigy pianist and composer, he grew up in Warsaw and completed his musical education there. Following the Russian suppression of the Polish November 1830 Uprising, Chopin settled in Paris as part of the Polish Great Emigration. He supported himself as a composer and piano teacher, giving few public performances. From 1837 to 1847 he carried on a relationship with the French woman writer George Sand. For most of his life, Chopin suffered from poor health; he died in Paris in 1849 at the age of 39. Most of Chopin's works involve the piano. They are technically demanding but emphasize nuance and expressive depth. Chopin invented the musical form known as the instrumental ballade and made major innovations to the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocturne, polonaise, étude, impromptu and prélude.
Great composers of classical music