Classic 107 - Winnipeg CAN Host Chris Wolf had the opportunity to Zoom chat with world renowned pianist Benjamin Grosvenor about his latest recording. A recoding featuring the music of Liszt.
The English pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is one of today's most sought after pianists. Ever since winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year at the age of 12 in 2004, Grosvenor has developed an International career that has seen him perform with the world's top Orchestras and make several award winning recordings on the Decca Record label.
Benjamin Grosvenor's latest release that comes today, February 19, 2021 features the music of Liszt…and not just any Liszt! Grosvenor has recorded some of the most difficult and monumental music that Liszt ever composed:
Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178
Berceuse, S. 174ii
Tre sonetti di Petrarca, S. 161/4-6
Réminiscences de Norma, S. 394 (after Bellini)
Ave Maria, S. 558/12 (after Schubert)
When asked why Grosvenor chose to record the music of Liszt Grosvenor says "He had so many sides to him as a person but also as a musician…some composers I suppose, if you were to devote and entire disc to them you might worry about a lack of variety, but with Liszt and his compositional output, there's such a lot of variety and there is also the fact he was such an incredible transcriber of other people's music. He had amazing gifts in taking a whole opera and summarizing it in to a paraphrase of 15 minutes."
What Grosvenor is referring to is his recording of the Reminiscences de Norma (after Bellini) that can be found on this latest disc. A piece that demands that the pianist is totally secure in his technique, and also that he has a clear idea of the narrative that Liszt is trying to get across in the music. Grosvenor succeeds in spades on both counts!
The centre-piece of his latest recording is the vast and expansive Liszt B minor sonata. This is a sonata that would send lesser mortal pianists running for the exit due to its technical requirements, intense interpretive demands, and need for sheer endurance needed by the pianist. The piece is in one large chunk that lasts roughly 30 minutes. As Grosvenor says "It's a piece to be consumed in its entirety" And what a feast! Grosvenor has shown that he is clearly up to the task. He has made a recording that is 30 minutes of sheer delight. The interpretation is engaging, and interesting; this combined with Grosvenor's technical perfection and innate ability to sing through the piano make this truly a musical banquet; complete with sides, tea and fine French pastries.
"It's an extraordinary journey filled with so many different emotions…throughout there is this kind of contrast between the divine and the diabolical," says Grosvenor. "There is this sort of devilish element which he sets out in the characters that we hear on the very first page...In terms of the structure, the whole piece is developed from material we hear in the first minute of the piece."
Throughout so many of his recordings and performances Benjamin Grosvenor has proven himself to be a master of lyricism and the ability to change tonal colors at the drop of a hat, as the music requires. This element of Grosvenor's playing comes shining through in his interpretations of the three Petracha Sonettos that come from Liszt's 2nd Book of Years of Pilgrimage. These pieces can also be found on the disc. "They are intimate works, they are inspired by poems of the 14th century poet Petrach," Grosvenor says. "They are all love poems essentially, and Liszt picks three that offer three contrasting visions of love." Here again Benjamin Grosvenor manages to bring out the tenderness and also the dramatic aspects of these three pieces.
This latest recording of the music of Liszt marks not only his latest triumph on record, but it also marks Grosvenor's renewal of his contract with Decca Records. "It's great to be continuing my partnership with them. I've recorded for Decca for ten years now, I signed when I was 18. I hope there will be many more years to come, and I look forward to the next few discs we have with this contract."
For us as listeners let's hope the partnership Grosvenor has with Decca is long and fruitful, because if this if this latest disc is anything to go by, it is going to fantastic partnership!
If you missed Chris Wolf's conversation with Benjamin Grosvenor, you can see the entire Zoom conversation here:
ClassicsToday Jed Distler writes.....Per Nørgård composed his first solo cello sonata between the ages of 19 and 21. His seriousness, sensitivity, and strong personality were clearly present early on. The first movement's brooding lyricism never turns on itself, while the microtonal gestures are expressively discreet and anything but gimmicky. The Allegro con brio finale is like a fragmented or interrupted gigue, where sudden double stops and pizzicato chords seemingly challenge the music's dance-like profile.
Wilhelmina Smith's lustrous sonority, wide dynamic range, and impeccable control in the highest registers bring forth the music's potential for color and drama. She conveys similar eloquence and sustaining power throughout No. 2, which consists of two pieces written nearly 27 years apart, and imparts an appropriately incantatory tone throughout the plaintive slides in the brief No. 3's "Prayer" outer movements.
Poul Ruders' Bravour-Studien is essentially a set of variations based on the Rennaissance era's greatest hit "L'homme armé". Ruders pushes the cellist's capabilities in many directions, from hard-to-voice pizzicato flourishes and sul ponticello effects to leaping chords and low-lying runs that must murmur without sounding muddy.
Smith's technical aplomb allows her to navigate Ruders' hurdles without difficulty. That said, I prefer Morten Zeuthen's more volatile and daring interpretation on Dacapo. His quavering vibrato in the opening Overture, for instance, immediately raises the emotional stakes, and the Etude boasts more abandon than in Smith's relatively careful reading, which, however, boasts more reliable intonation. While she nonchalantly dispatches the Intermezzo's arpeggiated chords, Zeuthen patiently spells them out, creating more of a contrast to the quiet pizzicato rejoinders. An unqualified recommendation for the Nørgård, but listeners interested in the Ruders should sample both Smith and Zeuthen.
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Beginning Monday, March 8 at 8 pm PT, Lara Downes will host "Evening Music with Lara Downes," a nightly program featuring classical music spanning centuries and styles, specially chosen and explored to reveal unique insights and context. Additionally, as the station's first-ever Resident Artist, Lara will curate and create new digital content that will engage the California community and give KDFC listeners a more in-depth look at the creativity and history that has shaped our musical lives.
Pianist Lara Downes is a sought-after performer, Billboard Chart-topping recording artist, producer, curator, activist, and arts advocate. Her dynamic work positions her as a cultural visionary on the national arts scene. Lara's musical roadmap seeks inspiration from the legacies of history, family, and collective memory, excavating the broad landscape of American music to create a series of acclaimed performance and recording projects that serve as gathering spaces for her listeners to find common ground and shared experience.
Current Host of the Evening Program, Rik Malone will still be featured as a host and continue to program the music for much of the KDFC schedule. Here's soem Q&A with Lara
AnalogPlanet's Michael Fremer writes.....Impulse! Records, founded in 1960 by Creed Taylor and home to some of the greatest jazz artists of all time including John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Quincy Jones, among many others, this year celebrates its 60th anniversary.
The orange-and-black imprint known as the "House That Trane Built" was a cultural beacon of progressivism, spiritualism, and activism throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Today, the label thrives with a new vanguard of jazz artists including Shabaka Hutchings, Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, Brandee Younger, Ted Poor and others.
Jamie Krents, EVP of Verve and Impulse! says, "Impulse! Records has an important and enduring legacy that we are proud to celebrate during this anniversary year. We are thrilled to unveil new music, visual content, merchandise, partnerships and more. The famous orange label has been the musical home to progressive artists that pushed the boundaries of music, thought, and culture. Impulse! continues this legacy with a commitment to our history, and our future with artists like Shabaka and Brandee, who both carry the torch and blaze new trails. We are proud to share the story of this remarkable label with the world in this, its 60th year."
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99.5CRB - Boston's Cathy Fuller writes.....Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor talks about his personal and passionate testament to the visionary spirit of Franz Liszt, prepared and recorded in the dark months of COVID. Grosvenor is twenty-eight, and yet his remarkable musicianship has been capturing the hearts of the public for a long time. He won the BBC Young Musician Competition at eleven, when his imagination and technical prowess were already producing an uncanny brand of maturity and sparkle.
Now, in isolation as the COVID lockdown drags on in London, he has focused on the kaleidoscopic output of Franz Liszt. In our conversation, he talks about being so close to Liszt, while remaining so distant from life as it used to be. (See a full transcript below.)
Building around the epic Sonata in B minor, Grosvenor includes the magical (and ferociously taxing) Reminiscences of Norma, as well as the three Petrarch Sonnets from the exquisite Years of Pilgrimage. Also included is a haunting account of a rarely-played version of the Berceuse and the beautiful reworking of Schubert's song Ave Maria. The result is a fresh and loving recording, dedicated to the grandfather he recently lost, who inspired Benjamin to play the piano in the first place.
The challenges in Liszt's music are many and monumental, like pacing the climaxes as they arrive one after another (as in his transcription of themes from Bellini's Norma), or getting a melody to sing out with your thumbs while the rest of your fingers are busy conjuring elaborate atmospheres (in the Ave Maria).
One of the greatest challenges is in the Sonata, keeping an immense, over-arching structure intact while moments of beauty erupt spontaneously. As Grosvenor said in our interview, "Only as time progresses do you realize that it's actually part of this great master plan that [Liszt] has, that goes over the massive breadth and length of this piece."
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British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is internationally recognized for his electrifying performances, distinctive sound, and insightful interpretations. The album Liszt signifies his most substantial solo recording to date, centered around the works of the Romantic piano virtuoso and composer Franz Liszt. Grosvenor says, "The music of Liszt has been central to my repertoire since I was introduced to it as a child, by my grandfather. I wanted with this recording to show the composer in his different aspects, including some of his original compositions, but also displaying the extraordinarily re-creative abilities he showed in his transcriptions."
For February 19, 2021 - Benjamin Grosvenor - Liszt is the WFMT: Chicago 'Featured New Release'
Classical WETA 90.9 FM showcases notable new (or newly reissued) albums each week. Hear selections from the album on-air throughout the week, and check online to learn more about the artist and the music.
We're pleased to resume Album of the Week during Black History Month by featuring the wonderfully talented family of musicians: the Kanneh-Masons. They recently released a recording of Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns, along with several other animal-themed classical works.
The Carnival of the Animals features a new text by author Michael Morpurgo, narrated by him and Academy Award-winning actor Olivia Colman (of The Crown fame). Listen all week for portions of the Carnival as well as several full performances.
Here is a note from the seven talented Kanneh-Masons who are featured in this recording:
The idea for this album grew from our special connection with music as young children. Music that speaks to the young, brought to life in the creative dialogue between narrative and sound has an impact that lasts a lifetime. As very young children, our parents introduced us to Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, and we listened to this obsessively every morning before Primary school. (We still love the way the music illustrates the words spoken in that recording by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Dame Edna Everage!)
We were all similarly fascinated by the magical world of story and music created in Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns. The drama, the picture-painting and the humour which is packed into the music has been brought into vivid colour by Michael Morpurgo's story poems, – also narrated by the extraordinary Olivia Colman – which are funny, exciting and at times incredibly moving.
Milan Records today announces the February 12 release of MINARI (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) with music by award-winning composer EMILE MOSSERI (The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Kajillionaire).
The third volume in David Korevaar's highly acclaimed series devoted to Lowell Liebermann's solo piano music (MSR Classics MS1688) continues his journey of recording all of Liebermann's works for the piano.
Grammy and Oscar-nominated songwriter and composer Stephan Moccio has released a brand new solo piano version of ‘Earned It', a track he co-wrote and co-produced with The Weeknd for the 2015 blockbuster film Fifty Shades of Grey.
This brand-new recording marks the continuation of Leipzig's Bruckner Cycle with Andris Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester
Andris Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig continue their award-winning Bruckner cycle.
Igor Levit says; 'Fur Elise' is one of the most beautiful pieces I know' / The New York Times
Posted: January 7, 2021 12:00 AM
| By: Admin
The New York Times - Joshua Barone writes......Beethoven's ‘Für Elise' Doesn't Deserve Your Eye Rolls. It is overplayed all over pop culture. But the pianist Igor Levit says it is "one of the most beautiful pieces I know."
A bagatelle the length of a pop song, Beethoven's trifle is recognizable from the start: a wobble between E and D sharp that gives way to a tune you've heard virtually everywhere. Ringing from cellphones and children's toys; sampled in rap and featured on Baby Einstein albums; as likely to appear in a serious drama as in a Peanuts cartoon, "Für Elise" is shorthand for classical music itself. In "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure," it's used to identify Beethoven without even saying his name.
Beethoven's 250th Birthday: Here's Everything You Need to Know
But you probably haven't heard "Für Elise" in a concert hall. More likely to inspire eye rolls than awe among the cognoscenti, it's rarely programmed - unlike, say, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, with its famous dun-dun-dun-DUN fate motif, or his Ninth, which ends with the omnipresent "Ode to Joy."
I've been thinking about the puzzling absence of "Für Elise" from professional recitals since I first met the pianist Igor Levit for a concert and interview we conducted over Facebook Live in 2017. He offered the piece as a surprise at the end of the broadcast, withholding the title but saying, "I will play one of the most beautiful pieces I know."
Hearing the opening bars, I was caught so off guard I nearly laughed. "Für Elise" occasionally pops up in mainstream recordings; Paul Lewis released an aching account on an album of Beethoven bagatelles last summer. But it's so rarely heard live - outside student concerts, at least - that for a moment I didn't know how to respond.
Nearly four years later, and using the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth a few weeks ago as an excuse, I asked Mr. Levit whether he could explain the beauty of "Für Elise" in more detail, and make a case for why it warrants deep attention rather than reflexive exasperation.
"It's not a piece you actually hear," he said in a video call from his home in Berlin. "It became in a way unperformable, which I think is a shame."
Mr. Levit added that when he plays it as an encore, people tend to giggle or look visibly confused. Serious musicians aren't expected to build their careers on this piece, and audiences don't rush to concert halls for it.
The ubiquity of "Für Elise" - like Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" - doesn't void its masterly craft, nor does it preclude the possibility of performances on the level of Mr. Levit's. Yet the eye rolls continue. In his biography "Beethoven: A Life," which was recently translated into English, Jan Caeyers writes that the work "has assumed a significance in Beethoven's oeuvre that is utterly disproportionate to its musical import."
That may be true, but it's a severe judgment nevertheless. For the outsize reputation, we can thank the catchy title, an abbreviation of the dedication: "For Elise on 27 April as a remembrance of L. v. Bthvn." If the piece had come down in history merely as Bagatelle in A minor (WoO 59, from the "Werke ohne Opuszahl" catalog of Beethoven works without official opus numbers), it likely would have remained a lovely obscurity.
Beethoven drafted and dedicated it in 1810, though it remained unpublished in his lifetime. He is thought to have revisited it in the early 1820s, most likely with an eye toward including it in his Op. 119 Bagatelles, but he ultimately left it out. The scholar Ludwig Nohl eventually discovered and published it in the mid-1860s, igniting a debate over the identity of "Elise" that continues to this day.
Becoming a fixture of music lessons, spreading with the rise of mass media, finding new audiences as the line between high and low culture blurred: All led to the ultra-ubiquity of "Für Elise." By the time I was a toddler, in the early 1990s, all I had to do was push a piano-shaped button on a toy to hear the opening theme. It was so entrenched in my memory that I could play it, crudely, before I could read a note of music.
Mr. Levit recalled similar experiences; he too learned "Für Elise" by ear. Then he became fascinated by, for example, a fleeting dissonance or a passage of enveloping tenderness. "This piece is an absolute jewel," he said.
I asked him to expand on that, using his copy of the score from G. Henle Verlag. Mr. Levit has remained busy during the pandemic: He streamed a long series of daily concerts from his apartment, put on a marathon performance of Erik Satie's "Vexations" and appeared around Europe. But like everyone, he has also been unusually homebound, lately baking challah and playing guitar. So he had time to dive deeply into the three pages of "Für Elise." (All audio clips are excerpted from Mr. Levit's Sony recording.)
"Für Elise" is in A minor, but it doesn't declare its key right away. The first five notes remind Mr. Levit of a later piece, Schumann's song cycle "Dichterliebe," which begins dissonantly with a C sharp quickly followed by a D two octaves lower.
In the Beethoven, the notes are an E and a D sharp, a half-step lower. Toggling between them, with an improvisatory feel and the extreme softness of pianissimo, creates a sense of mystery. For a moment, "Für Elise" could go anywhere.
A more solid sense of the piece's direction comes once the left hand enters, trading notes with the right hand in upward arpeggios. It has the lure of a fairy tale, Mr. Levit said - or at least that's how it sounded to him when he once found himself "fooling around" and doubling the tempo of these measures, rendering them flowing and dreamlike.
"You have this almost nondirectional beginning," he said, "but then this feeling of ‘A long, long time ago. …'"
A musical hug
After the opening repeats, the piece continues with phrases that gently rise and fall, like breathing. Mr. Levit also sees them as a musical hug: "When it goes up you open the arms, and when it goes down you close them."
The chord progression here, he added, is practically guaranteed to make you melt. "It's very beautiful," Mr. Levit said, "but in the simplest way." It's the stuff of the Beatles and Elton John - and reminiscent of Pachelbel, whose Baroque-era Canon in D also echoes through pop music today, one of the few challengers to "Für Elise" among overplayed chestnuts.
A glimpse of late style
The opening theme returns by way of a transition of shocking economy: the note E, played repeatedly but given the illusion of variety by jumping octaves. It's a flash of late Beethoven, his music at its most elemental. And it's the kind of moment that appears in subsequent piano repertoire: Mr. Levit pointed to the opening of Liszt's "La Campanella" and the Marc-André Hamelin étude Liszt inspired.
One of Beethoven's feats here, Mr. Levit added, is how simplicity is made theatrical by passing those E's back and forth between the left and right hands. "It's just emptiness," he said. "How great must a composer be to allow himself to write about nothing?"
Melody, at last
Mr. Levit argues there is no true melody in "Für Elise" until about a minute into the piece. The opening, he said, is not something that could be easily mimicked by the human voice; it's more about Beethoven creating space. Then comes a more traditionally constructed passage, with a lyrical right-hand line above left-hand accompaniment.
"I don't think the beginning is espressivo," he said. "So when the F major comes in, this allows you to really sing it out. It's in a way easier to play."
Easier, that is, until an étude-like dash of notes - perhaps the most difficult four measures of the score - leading abruptly back into the opening theme. The transition, or lack thereof, is characteristic of Beethoven; Mr. Levit described it as "a car crash moment."
A dramatic interlude
After revisiting the opening theme, Beethoven suddenly changes the temperature of the piece with a tempestuous interlude of right-hand chords over a rumbling floor of repeated low notes. Mr. Levit often uses the word "tender" to describe "Für Elise," but not here.
"It's quite dramatic," he said. "And it's automatically loud because if you use the pedal, just because of the way the piano is built, it gets louder. It's intense."
The wind machine
But the drama comes to a quick end with another "car crash" transition: two measures of barely held chords, then a run of triplet 16th notes rising and falling over a span of more than three octaves. It can be easy to read this as a climax - either to the stormy middle section, or the piece as a whole - but Beethoven marks these notes as pianissimo, exactly as soft as the opening. "It's ghostlike," Mr. Levit said, "a pianissimo wind machine."
Closing the book
The opening theme returns one last time, quietly, with no changes in tempo or dynamics that would have given it the grandeur of an ending. The only addition is a single note - a low A - in the brief final chord. If "Für Elise" is a fairy tale, this is its tidy conclusion.
"It's very touching," Mr. Levit said. "This is what happened, that's how it was. The story was told, and now the end. The book is closed." PHOTO: Eleanor Davis
A very personal double album marked by a desire for encounter and togetherness. The program includes rarely played arrangements of Bach and Brahms by Ferruccio Busoni and Max Reger, as well as Palais de Mari – Morton Feldman's final work for piano.
Longing and its fulfilment at the same time: Igor Levit's new double album "Encounter" is the pianist's sixth disc released on the Sony Classical label and conveys the urgent desire for encounter and human togetherness – at a time when isolation is the order of the day. The result is a very personal recital. While speaking touchingly of the hardships and unexpected feelings of liberty resulting from social distancing, musically the recital stands out for the objective spirit of its carefully crafted form.
Igor Levit's work on the 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas has been the most important endeavour of the past 15 years of his life. This autumn will see his new studio recording of the complete sonata cycle released on Sony Classical on September 13 and represents the recorded testament to almost half his life spent in the study and performance of these sonatas. The release of this momentous 9-album cycle is one of the most eagerly awaited recordings for the 250-year Beethoven anniversary.
No other composer has had such an important influence on Igor Levit's life as that of Ludwig van Beethoven. He admits that this composer's music is around him practically every day and in almost everything he does. The profound impact of Beethoven's music- since his first emotional point-of-no-return with the Missa solemnis at age 13, followed by his first dedicated work on Sonata op. 2/2–has subsequently shaped Levit's approach to almost all music, whether he is playing Liszt, Shostakovich or Rzewski.
Sparked by the tragic death of a close friend in an accident, Igor Levit's piano playing reflects upon an experience of loss encompassing grief, despair, resignation and solace. He concentrates on works whose gloomy grandeur and melancholy beauty have occupied him for years. Each of them pays tribute to the virtuoso possibilities of the piano. Poetic moments of contemplative silence blend with life-affirming and extremely sensual music with a direct physical fascination. ...
Sony Classical announces the release of Pianist Igor Levit's third album - Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski. Available October 30, the album includes Bach's Goldberg Variations and Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, long considered acid tests of the performer's art, plus Frederic Rzewski's gigantic cycle on the Chilean revolutionary song ¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!, which has the reputation of being nearly unplayable. Not content with canonized masterpieces, Levit is equally drawn to the physical challenge of Rzewski's virtuosic tightrope walks.
38 NEW 43 Total
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Igor Levit has recorded the Partitas by this incommensurable Bach, BWV 825-830: it's the second release by the 27-year-old pianist, whom many regard as the greatest talent of his time. With his debut album, featuring the late Beethoven sonatas, Levit already enjoyed great success and international critical acclaim: the album rose to no. 46 in Germany's Top 100 album charts.
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"Unlike those technically brilliant young pianists who dazzle briefly and disappear, Levit is pre-eminently a real musician who seems built to last." – The Guardian
For the last three years, Igor Levit's name has been the first to be mentioned whenever there has been talk of the most exciting of the younger generation of pianists. What is so surprising about Levit is not only the maturity of his interpretations, but his boundless appetite for new repertoire of works as difficult and demanding as possible. For his long awaited debut album, the twenty-six-year-old Levit has chosen some of the most challenging repertoire ever written for piano: Beethoven's last five piano sonatas. On his two-CD debut set, Levit is not just another young aspiring pianist releasing his debut album, but rather an outstanding artist who meets the exceptionally high demands of this extraordinary music. Levit's technical and artististic command in the difficult "Hammerklaviersonate" op. 106 is sure to be recognized as one of the most astounding accomplishments in recent history of Beethoven recordings.