Category Archives: Performance

Anticipation: Igor Levit’s new CD

First off, I can’t believe that I haven’t posted anything here since May. Perhaps I need to add stuff here rather than use emails.

Anyway, I have a definite reason for adding this post, because of the increasing excitement behind the release next month of Igor Levit’s new CD. Well, actually, it’s 3 CDs, each to contain a major work from the Variations repertory. In an inspired move, this brilliant young pianist has decided to couple the Goldberg, Diabelli and ‘People United’ Variations.

Igor Levit

‘People United?’, you ask. Yes, Frederic Rzewski’s monster work The People United Will Never Be Defeated! is well worthy of appearing in the same company as Bach and Beethoven. I’ve written about it here before (can it really be over five years ago?), and make no apologies for doing so again. In fact, I’ve recently added a sixth recording to my collection, and will soon add Igor Levit’s new recording as my seventh.

Just as with Rzewski, I’ve also mentioned Igor Levit before, though not here. I was blown away by his first recording (of late Beethoven piano sonatas) and raved about it either by email or at one of our sessions. I remember that Peadar was disappointed when he followed my advice and bought that CD, but I remain a firm fan (hint: you may see why when next I take a presentation slot), and would dearly love to hear him in the flesh.

My fandom is reinforced by an interview which he gave to Qobuz, one of my favourite download sites, during the making of the new release. He comes across as a lovely guy, full of youthful enthusiasm, as I hope you’ll agree when you see the interview.

First BSO recording from Andris Nelsons

Nelsons BSO

A bit of a milestone, this. Andris Nelsons began his tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in September, and this is the first recording (available lon the orchestra’s own label) to be released featuring the new partnership. This is the blurb on the BSO’s site:

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons are very pleased to announce their first compact disc recording, a BSO Classics release pairing the overture to Wagner’s Tannhäuser and the Symphony No. 2 of Jean Sibelius. Both works are taken from concert performances earlier this season at Symphony Hall-the Wagner from Maestro Nelsons’ inaugural concert as music director on September 27, 2014, the Sibelius from his BSO program of November 6-11. The selections are particularly meaningful. It was hearing Wagner’s opera when he was just five years old that made Andris Nelsons want to be a conductor; the Sibelius reflects his strong interest in music of the Scandinavian and Slavic countries, and also builds upon the BSO’s distinguished history of past Sibelius recordings.

Why didn’t we know about this production?

I’ve been searching for images of the Wexford Opera House (as you do), and that’s how I came across this photo of the 2011 production of Mercadante’s  Virginia. It looks like we would have been in our element, n’est-ce pas?

Mercadante's Virginia at wexford

The photo comes from an NPR page which gives in-depth background about a broadcast of the opera. You can click on the image to see the photo full size if you like.

Kristian Bezuidenhout

I keep on mentioning him and praising his recordings on fortepiano of concertos by Mendelssohn and Mozart, so it’s good to be able to feature a video of the man himself taking about his instrument and his love of Mozart. Kristian is one of the ten musicians on the final list for Gramophone Artist of the Year. I’ll be happy if he gets the award.

By the way, I’d really appreciate it if someone could tell me the correct pronunciation of Kristian’s name. He introduces himself on the video, but does so too quickly for me to catch it.


I’ve included Alex Ross’s blog The Rest is Noise on the Links list here, but I’ve lifted this video performance of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau from there just in case it’s missed your notice. Much has been written about the great baritone since his death, but no amount of words can convey his rare artistry as well as this short clip of Der Leiermann, the final song from Winterreise.

Alex Ross’s blog entry also includes the following links to other tributes: Worth reading are a Guardian obituary by the late Alan Blyth; a memorial from Ian Bostridge; appreciations by Tony Tommasini and Leo Carey; and Martin Kettle's quietly heartbreaking 2005 interview with the singer, in which he wonders if he will be forgotten. He will not.

Video wonders!

RTÉ, and yes, even the once-great BBC, should be ashamed of themselves. Mediocre coverage of the Dublin Piano Competition every three years if we’re lucky here at home, and a few Proms on BBC4 (provided they’re not too challenging, of course), and that’s about the extent of serious music on TV from these two broadcasters.

And then just look to our Continental neighbours and see what’s on offer there! Ron regularly keeps us in touch with the content he has access to thanks to his satellite and the Arte channel, and it’s difficult not to feel just a little bit jealous of what he can watch while we’re stuck with the likes of Strictly Come Dancing. Well now, thanks to the dear old internet, we can rid ourselves of some at least of our jealous feelings thanks to Arte’s web presence at Arte Live Web.

The site is only available in French and German, but that’s a small price to pay for such wonderful material so readily available. Among current offerings are the following: Veronique Gens in a concert titled Romantic Heroines (a promo tie-in to her CD of the same name); the gala performance of Russlan and Ludmilla from the refurbished Bolshoi Theatre, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in a programme of works by Rossini, Berlioz and Mendelssohn, and even a complete Ring cycle (a ‘pared-down’ version, with just 18 musicians rather than a full symphony orchestra).

I’ve only just stumbled on this myself, and haven’t had time to do any more than dip into a few of the offerings, but I thought it right to share with you guys. Well worth a look, and perhaps an address to add to your browser bookmarks.

An audio-visual experiment

I thought we had something like this here before, but I haven’t been able to find anything in the archives (perhaps I just sent a link in an email the time I’m thinking of). Anyway, I found out about this through Classical Archives (a site I’d recommend in general terms also — perhaps you’d like to have a look around it while you’re at it).

I could just as well give you a link to the Classical Archives (CA) page I found this on, but that would involve first bringing you here and then sending you away again, and I don’t want you all to get any dizzier than you already are. So, this is the intro CA provide to this video —

This latest noteworthy video features two experiments: first, a musical adaptation by the ZRI Ensemble of Johannes Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet in B minor, op. 115; and second, an imaginative visual representation of this performance in real time. ZRI is a London-based quintet dedicated to re-examining the gypsy roots of Brahms’s music by bringing them more explicitly into focus than otherwise heard in the original scores. ZRI stands for Zum Roten Igel (the Red Hedgehog Tavern), a Viennese pub where Brahms came to drink and socialize, and the ensemble consists of clarinet, violin, cello, accordion, and santouri (a type of hammered cymbalom). Their performance of the Andante from Brahms’s Quintet adapts not only the instrumentation but the actual music, as ZRI mixes his original work with improvisation and dances from the Carpathian mountains. Joining this musical performance is a visual “dance” realized by Stephen Malinowski (check out his Youtube channel or his website), where each instrument is rhythmically and melodically represented as it moves from one note to the next (based on a MIDI realization) which quickly becomes hypnotic.

See what you think guys. For the best experience, may I recommend that you view the video full-screen.