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2nd of September

Settimane Musicali di Ascona – Hommage à Schwarzkopf


Ascona

It is almost two years ago that I have been asked to become the new artistic director of the distinguished music festival „Settimane Musicali di Ascona“. I gladly accepted, not only because it is my home town, but also because I liked the idea of getting to know the other side of the music business, actually without knowing exactly what lay ahead. Moreover I felt tempted by the opportunity to promote artists of great integrity: Due to the complete independence of the “Settimane” it was possible to design a program that is wholly untouched of well-known illustrious promotion schemes, and guarantees only the highest artistic quality.

A leap into the present – Three days ago the first festival’s edition under my responsibility was opened with an excellent concert: The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Andris Nelson gave us a brilliant performance of Dvorak’s 8th Symphony, after accompanying Latvian Soprano Kristine Opolais who sang Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder. Her wonderful interpretation revealed these famous pieces in a different light. She is capable of great dramatic expression and instinctiveness at the same time, and the composition benefits from her effortlessly powerful high register.

It is no coincidence that songs were performed at the opening concert: The focus of this year’s Festival is on the German Lied. This can be understood as an Hommage to legendary German Soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, who gave Lied Recitals at the “Settimane Musicali” several times, and even resided in Ascona for many years. The program aims to honor her memory. Therefore I’m particularly glad that I managed to engage two of Schwarzkopf’s own students: Christiane Oelze with Strauss’ „Four last Songs“, together with Junge Deutsche Philharmonie under David Afkham, and Matthias Goerne with Mahler’s „Rückert Lieder“ under Daniele Gatti conducting the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Also the final concert of the whole season in October is going to be devoted to the fine art of Lieder singing: Together with Juliane Banse I will give a Recital with songs of Mendelssohn, Schubert, Liszt and Britten.

Of course there are many other concerts worth listening to: Guests will be amongst others Andras Schiff, the Emerson String Quartett, Alfred Brendel, Renaud Capucon, Christian Zacharias, Jonathan Biss, Truls Mork, Daniel Müller-Schott, Fabio Biondi and the Hilliard Ensemble. The full program can be found here:

http://www.settimane-musicali.ch/

Finally, for all lovers of distinguished singing here is a wonderful recording of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Gerald Moore – at the Settimane Musicali in 1967! We can see here that the emergence of great music does not necessarily depend on the circumstances: At that time the concerts were held in a non-conditioned municipal gymnasium…

25th of August

59th F. Busoni Competition


Busoni

After my New York Recitals I flew directly to Italy – I feel very honored that I’ve been asked to be a Jury member at the International Busoni Competition in Bozano. Live Stream, Results and further details can be found on the official website of Busoni Foundation:

http://www.concorsobusoni.it/

Furthermore, this is an appropriate opportunity to continue my series of precious historical recordings -  with Ferruccio Busoni himself! Many contemporary witnesses adored his virtuoso skills and his great sophistication. This recording can give us an idea of what they have meant with that.

7th of August

Mostly Mozart… and some Debussy!


Many years ago, my teacher Cécile Ousset revealed to me that she is the owner of her teacher’s copy of Debussy’s Préludes. She was a student of Marcel Ciampi at the Conservatoire in Paris, who worked on this pieces with the composer himself.

This score is simply overwhelming: Remarks, phrasings, fingerings are written in different colors and layers over every note and every chord, with comments and remarks on even the tiniest details, and in some places there are fine, black letters almost impossible to decipher – apparently the handwriting of Claude Debussy.

For me as a young musician this has been an important lesson on how details need to be taken seriously. I have the feeling that especially the music of „Monsieur Croche“ unfolds only when this subtlety is being achieved. This might be the central reason why he is not widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of piano music – in my opinion a major mistake!

Not only that his influence on the development of modernity has been just as important as Schönberg’s, and for postmodern music probably even more. Also, his works challenge the performer in a manifold way: They are technically demanding, but in addition to virtuosic pianism, he requires an equally virtuosic handling of colors, shading and character. In 20th century music not a matter of course.

My recording session of the complete Préludes for Naive Classique is scheduled for Spring 2014. However, I’m very happy to present a selection of them already at Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, alongside with Brahms’ Händel Variations, and, of course, some Mozart.

And finally, for anyone interested in historic recordings, I’d like to recommend Debussy as a performer of his own works. While listening I can’t help but admire his unique sense of timing and his dazzling use of the upper register.

23rd of July

Frederiksvaerk – Gstaad – Duszniki Zdroj


Gstaad

Since my first visit in Denmark, I have felt admiration for this beautiful, free and tolerant country. This time, I am looking forward to a marvelous chamber music concert with three outstanding musicians in Frederiksvaerk: Alexander Sitkovetsky, Lawrence Power and Torleif Thedeen. The program may seem challenging, but the listener will be rewarded for the effort. Mahlers erratic Quartet Movement and Schumann vigorous E-flat Major Quartet will be combined with Brahms G Minor Quartet – a masterwork full with dark poetry.

Alfred Brendel once showed me a live recording of this piece played by his teacher Edwin Fischer, which I found deeply impressive. Although the sound quality of this recording is poor, Fischer’s subtly nuanced playing unfolds intriguing magic:

Since I have been long connected with both Gstaad, where I have performed many times, and with the International Chopin Piano Festival Duszniki Zdroj, I feel happy to be present in this year’s editions again. The Menuhin-Festival shows that Gstaad is not only an expensive resort, but also offers highest musical culture. In my recital, I will combine works by Debussy and Liszt (from the Swiss year of Années de pèlerinage) that are especially important to me.

In Duszniki, the wonderful nature and the very warm and friendly atmosphere create a unique spirit. My program is all about water: Schulz-Evler’s transcription of the Blue Danube Waltz encounters Liszt’s Au bord d’une source, Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie and Chopin’s delightful Barcarole.

28th of June

Lugano and Sceaux


The heat is almost unbearable in Berlin these days, and I am looking forward to the next two performances, who happen to take place in a more arcadian sourrounding: Lugano and Sceaux.

Early Summer is the best time of the year to spend a few days at home in Ticino, and with „Progetto Martha Argerich“ I feel connected for many years. It is a pleasure for me to perform in this edition the rarely programmed Respighi Sonata together with Renaud Capuçon.

The famous garden of Sceaux is a masterpiece of the great Andre Le Nôtre. One aspect of his art which fascinates me most is of philosophical nature: The world consists of mathematics, although it seems disordered. Le Nôtre, like most garden architects of the baroque, shares the idea of a harmonic order, which must be rediscovered in the earthly chaos.

At the Festival de l’Orangerie I will perform a.o. Schulz-Evler’s “Arabesques” on Strauß’ Blue Danube Waltz – by coincidence a sounding image of all the types of fountains and cascades which can be found in that magnificent garden.

 

cascades_sceaux

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