Monday, April 23, 2012

Mischa Maisky and Yuri Bashmet with the Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra

Famed Latvian-born, Israeli cellist Mischa Maisky will join
the Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra with violist and conductor Yuri Bashmet
in a United States tour that will include one stop in Toronto, Canada.(
New Yorkers will have the opportunity to hear these
virtuosos at their Avery Fisher Hall performance on April 28th, 2012
at 3 pm.

Photo: Mischa Maisky and Yuri Bashmet

I had the great pleasure of
experiencing last summer’s rehearsal and performance of both Bashmet and
Maischky, along with Evgeny Kissin and Vadim Repin – all regular guests at the
prestigious Verbier Festival and one of my much cherished musical experiences.

Because of this wonderful experience,
I am looking forward to attending the performance on April 28th. In an interview with the BBC, in June 2011, Maisky conveys his
thoughts about the “full education” he received growing up in the former Soviet
Union. On one side he received a brilliant musical education at the Moscow
conservatory under Mstislav Rostropovich, who consequently called him one of
the most outstanding talents of the younger generation of cellists.
Contiguously, he also experienced personally the complete terror of political
oppression and persecution. In 1970 he was convicted for the crime of attempting
to buy a tape recorder on the black market and was imprisoned in a labor camp
for 18 months, following 2 months of mental hospitalization. He was branded a
troublemaker when his sister left Riga for Israel. He followed her after his
release, never to return until the 1990s. In 2011 Maisky and other outstanding
musicians (Martha Argerich, Gidon Kremer, Evgeny Kissin) gave a concert in
Strasbourg in protest of human rights abuses in Russia, in support of and
calling for the release of the jailed Russian oligarch Mikail Khordokovsy. This
summer in Verbier, Maisky convincingly described to me the power of music and
the momentum gained in united voices who are - as he is - willing to dedicate
themselves to support human rights.
Maestro Maisky and Ilona Oltuski of GetClassical at the Verbier Festival

With over 30 recordings as an exclusive Deutsche Gramophone
artist for the past 25 years, Maisky has become a household-name in
longstanding partnerships with artists like Martha Argerich, Radu Lupu, Gidon
Kramer and Janine Jansen, as well as conductors like Zubin Mehta, Vladimir
Ashkenazy and Daniel Barenboim and orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic,
London Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris and others.

Yuri Bashmet
Founded by Bashmet in 1992, Moscow Soloists Chamber
Orchestra made its debut in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire. Working as Principal Director of the ‘Novaya
Rossiya’ State Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of the December White
Nights Festival (Moscow), Bashmet appears throughout the world in his dual role
as conductor and soloist. In the US he has recently toured to high acclaim as a
violist with Anne Sophie Mutter and Lynn Harrell, as well as appearing in
recital with Evgeny Kissin.

With his enormous amount of acclaim ( the London Times wrote
about Bashmet, “Without a doubt, one of the world’s greatest living musicians”),
he has given the viola a new prominence. There are over 25 viola-concertos
dedicated to Bashmet by composers including Schnittke and Gubaidulina.

The Moscow Soloists’ vivid character and great variety of
programming stand out because of their interesting premieres of new music and
excellent soloists. Their concerts are broadcast and recorded by BBC, Bavarian
Radio, Radio France and Radio Japan’s NHK Corporation and their recordings have
received several nominations and a Grammy Award for their Stravinsky-Prokofiev
disc of 2007.

In addition, the orchestra has performed and recorded
worldwide with a long list of internationally renowned soloists that includes
Gidon Kremer, Mytislav Rostropovich, Vadim Repin, Sarah Chang, James Galway and
Thomas Quasthoff. They intend to celebrate their 20th anniversary
with works by Schubert, Haydn, Tchaikovsky and Brahms.

Promoted by Maestro Artist Management, who are focused on
presenting international artists in the US, there is a special limited time
offer available for this concert: code MAESTRO will save 10$ on any price
ticket at 20$
-Student tickets are also available at the Box office with a valid Student ID.

The 2012 US tour’s performance will also include one
performance in Toronto, Canada:

April 26th Chicago, IL – Orchestra Hall
April 27th Bethesda, MD- Strathmore Hall
April 28th New York, NY – Avery Fisher Hall
April 29th Boston, MA – Symphony Hall
May 3rd Toronto, Canada – Roy Thomson Hall
May 4th
San Francisco, CA – Herbst Theatre
May 5th
Los Angeles, CA – Wilshire Ebell Theatre (sans Mischa Maisky)
May 6th
Seattle, WA - Benaroya Hall

Monday, April 16, 2012

Get Classical at the Rose Bar - update WQXR’s acclaimed radio host Terrance McKnight joins as emcee on May 6th

Where: Gramercy Park Hotel, Rose Bar (one drink min.required)

When: May 6th, 6 pm.


The launch of Get Classical at the Rose Bar, an intimate evening of classical performance and commentary over aperitifs, brings the grandeur of the 19th-century salon to the 21st-century lounge.

Hosted by Ilona Oltuski of, Get Classical reflects a changing cultural landscape within the classical scene and reaches out to a new listener, creating a bridge between the relaxed sophistication of the wet bar and the formality of the concert hall.

WQXR’s acclaimed radio host Terrance McKnight leads you through the evening’s program, which features pianists Vassily Primakov, Natalia Lavrova, David Aladashvili, Marika Bournaki and members of the Salome Chamber Orchestra and ETHEL.

Merging the contemporary and traditional classical worlds, Get Classical carves out a new space, revitalizing this very important part of our city’s culture.

Many thanks to Yamaha for providing the piano and to the Gramercy Park Hotel and the Rose Bar for providing a stage for Get Classical’s vision. (Photo: Rose Bar)

Ilona Oltuski is a music journalist who, inspired by interviews and friendships with great musicians, founded the music blog GetClassical and her website,, in 2009. Featuring intimate portraits of classical performers and their stories, and written by a blogger who is herself a lay musician, GetClassical prides itself on peering into the inner world of the artist and some of the developing trends within the world of music.

Terrance McKnight is the award-winning weekday evening host for Classical 105.9 FM WQXR as well as the Saturday night radio show, All Ears with Terrance McKnight. A pianist himself, and a former professor of music at Morehouse College, McKnight brings true expertise and personal enthusiasm to his discussions of music of all genres.

Marika Bournaki’s flourishing career as a concert pianist was the subject of the recent documentary I Am Not a Rock Star by Bobbi Jo Hart. Her ability to connect to audiences and present on stage as well as in front of the camera has led her to a variety of national and international broadcasts, such as NPR’s From the Top. Her DVD, Happy Birthday, Mr. Schumann, released in 2010, features her as soloist performing the Schumann Piano Concerto with the St. Petersburg Symphony and explores Marika’s feelings about being on the road as a performer.

Vassily Primakov and Natalia Lavrova founded their classical music record label, LP Classics, last year, focusing on both revivals of buried historical recordings and premiers of new, yet unknown performers. With an expansive recording history and a successful competition track record, Primakov enjoys a strong following and was honored with the 2007 Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year Award. His recording of 21 Mazurkas by Chopin was names a “Best of Year” by NPR in 2009. Lavrova, who has been his close friend since they met at Julliard and recently began collaborating with Primakov, is the founder of Music School of New York City, where she integrates her expertise in both the Russian and American piano traditions.

David Aladashvili’s extraordinarily connecting personality both on and off stage has already landed the young performer in the spotlight. Deeply inspired by his teachers, Jerome Lowenthal and Matti Raekallio, Aladashvili is a master’s degree piano student at The Julliard School and has performed in a variety of venues both in New York and in his native country, Georgia. Also a talented event coordinator—a talent he willingly brought to Get Classical at the Rose Bar—Aladashvili has acted as Julliard’s social chair on more than one occasion, as he did for Jerome Lowenthal’s 80th birthday celebration concert and an evening of Georgian music at Julliard’s Paul Hall.

Violinist Angelia Cho of Salome Chamber Orchestra brings a young and sexy sound—and look—to classical music. A conductor-less string ensemble with a wide-ranging repertoire, Salome Chamber Orchestra changes shape often, its constellations transforming from duo to full orchestra depending on the concert. They will be featured in Alice Tully Hall’s May gala, hosted by Sting. Cho stays open minded and curious about music’s borderless reach beyond genres and geographic distinctions.

Violinist Jennifer Choi joined ETHEL a year ago. A post-classical String quartet, with a reputation for cutting edge performances of America’s contemporary composers, it has carved out a distinct resonance of their own. Choi was hailed by Time Out New York as "one of New York's most reliably adventurous performers".

Monday, April 9, 2012

ETHEL’s CD release Heavy at Joe’s Pub April 24th.

Exactly a year ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing violinist/composer
Cornelius Duffalo of ETHEL. The string quartet is a forerunner of the current
movement interested in transforming how we experience classical music in the 21st century, questioning boundaries between tradition and technology, performer and audience. (See also my article:
Made up of traditionally trained, classical musicians, ETHEL
has taken a post-classical personal approach to broadening the spectrum of
their music making which the New Yorker
calls “vital and brilliant.”

Their music represents a Pan-American exploration- reaching from Jazz and Native American
influences, to New York’s contemporary responses to 9/11. Performing at
alternative venues has also become part of ETHEL’s performance style, playing
for younger audiences, who rather frequent pubs, than concert halls.Photo: James Ewing
Their latest album Heavy
(in answer to the previous Light) for
the Innova-recordings label, recorded on April 24th at Joe’s Pub, feels
like a celebration of the group’s longstanding and personal collaboration with
composers of the contemporary New York music scene.
Dorothy Lawson, ETHEL’s cellist and founding member, describes
the development of the group and shares her observation on the different
aspects of this album. “We clearly have grown as a group; it is interesting for
me to observe how different this album is compared to our first ones. The very
first recording called Ethel we did after six years of performing together and we were still forming ourselves.
It was a document of the composers who helped us to get started as a group, like John
King or Evan Zipporin. Four years later, Light was much more relaxed and lighthearted, more imbued with pop colors and rock.
But this one now, Heavy, represents the post-classical world fully. It’s related to classical in its architectural way
of designing music, in its generation through processes rather than stanzas.
The classical mindset is about taking you on a journey or inquiry of some sort,
taking the time for the problems and the solutions that the composer finds. The
influences or composers we are pulling from do not convey traditional styles,
or mainstream classical layers. We could call it a blend, which of course still
does not really describe anything specific and we often did struggle with words
to describe our personal style. But we clearly went through a transition – now
people say this sounds like ETHEL. We are opening our platform to other cultures
and it’s a process of true cultural exchange and a way to live with music in a
special way.”
Some of the material on Heavy was performed by ETHEL beforehand, long before they were committed to the
recording’s eighteen months long process. The recording includes works by Julia Wolfe,
John Halle, John King, David Lang, Kenji Bunch, Marcelo Zarvos and Don Byron.
The group’s longstanding member, violinist Mary Rowell, is featured on the
release, but left ETHEL last year. She will make a guest appearance with ETHEL for
John King’s No Nickel Blues featured on Heavy, at the release to be held at
Joe’s pub.

But it is now violinist Jennifer Choi’s part, who has since become the
newest ETHEL member, to perform all other works featured on the CD. “Being with
ETHEL this past year, has been an eye opening experience for me,” says Choi,
who describes herself as a big improviser and is immensely attracted to ETHEL’s
multicultural approach to music, thereby supplying her with much added,
creative stimulus. “It is new music to many people; the new album pays homage
to New York City, but it’s not really limited to the New York experience. It is
quite refreshing and people all over the United States can relate. And there is
always a meaning behind our programs. As the newbie I was attracted to its
American mix. For so many years we brought all the European composers over. Now
there is a big wave of fresh, contemporary American music that should be interesting internationally, now.”
Supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for
the Arts, and The Greenwall foundation, Heavy,
according to ETHEL co-founder, violist Ralph Farris, serves as “homage to New
York City, its people and its music.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pianists Natalia Lavrova and Vassily Primakov Sharing a deep connection -- four-hands together

Vassily Primakov and Natalia Lavrova Photo:Alex Fedorov
Pianists Vassily Primakov and Natalia Lavrova are very much their own acts. But they became close partners when they debuted their Arensky CD and, in the process, founded their own record label, LP Classics, Inc. Since then, they’ve performed as a duo, as they will on May 6 at Get Classical’s inaugural concert series event at New York’s Rose Bar.But their friendship began much earlier, back in 1999, when the two pianists were freshmen at Julliard.

They instantly connected over their shared Russian heritage, but on top of that,
their personalities just clicked. “Of course, we have had our share of fights, regular stuff that happens when two egos are involved…and we have our own
lives,” volunteers Lavrova, during our animated interview over dinner with
Primakov. “But we love each other.”
Photo: Alex Fedorov

Married to photographer Alex Fedorov, Lavrova often brings her husband on board withher projects.Fedorov is responsible for all of the photographic work featured on the Arensky CD, which Lavrova and Primakov recorded to great reviews. James Harrington of the American Record Guide wrote that the two “capture the essence of each suite, and through their considerable talents, share with us some of the most enjoyable almost unknown music I have heard in quite a while.”

Artistic collaboration was a natural extension of Lavrova and Primakov’s friendship,
says Primakov. “We do think alike; there is a spiritual connection and a
feeling for the music that just got more serious over the last two years, when
we decided to get involved with recording the Arensky’s suites,” he says,
reminiscent of their past years spent under teacher Jerome Lowenthal at
Juilliard’s chamber music program (where they spend more time partying then
practicing, they admit). “We were both excited, when we heard this music and
started to perform it in concert to great reviews and decided we needed to
record this interesting, yet virtually unknown program,” says Primakov. “We had
two options—either pitch it to an established label or try to do it on our own.
As we were thinking about this music, we both realized we wanted to have more
control of the process, and it became a project that started so many things for
the both of us. It also brought us even closer.”

While Primakov has already catalogued a number of recordings with Bridge Records, the
Arensky CD was a first for Lavrova, who spends most of her time, when not
performing, managing her own music school program. As the director of Music
School of New York City, she teaches pianists of all levels and ages, applying
her passion for music education that she inherited from her own teacher, Zalina
Gurevich, who, many years ago, recognized their shared enthusiasm for teaching
and kids in a young Lavrova. “She allowed me to sit in her lessons and
gradually take over teaching some of her kids,” says Lavrova. “At first she
would monitor the lessons and then give me feedback. It made all the difference
in my learning how to become a good teacher.”

A very important factor in Lavrova’s teacher selections is a teacher’s performance
experience. “That inspires students in a way nothing else can,” she says. One
of her favorite teachers at her school, no wonder then, is Primakov, even
though, between his busy performance and recording schedules, he can only take
on a limited number of students.

But despite both of the artists’ busy daily routines, they are committed to and
infatuated with their newest project, LP Classics. From the initial excitement
over finding the pianos and dealing with tuners and sound engineers, they are
both planning on fully integrating the record label into their careers. “We had
turned to our friend Sarah Faust of Faust-Harrison Pianos to obtain two matching
pianos for the recording.
Photo: Alex Fedorov
She had a new Yamaha CFX in her vast studio, which we loved, and then put us in touch
with Bonnie Barrett, the director of Yamaha Artist Services, to find another.
We tried it, and it sounded great, and this developed our future relationship
with Yamaha.” Primakov and Lavrova are now Yamaha artists. Their Arensky CD was
the first ever recording on two Yamaha CFX model pianos, and their CD release
performance was live-streamed from the Yamaha showroom. Right now, the two are
working on a lot of four-hand, one-instrument repertoire—an easier and more
economical setup—exploring less-played pieces such as the Czerny Sonatas and
works by Milhaud and John Corigliano, which they plan to perform at Get
Classical at the Rose Bar.

In the future, Primakov says, they want to open up their record label to young artists
looking to produce resume-building and career-launching first CDs. They also
want to unbury historical, undiscovered past recordings of great, established
performers, introducing old, forgotten gems to the public, as they did with
Vera Gornostaeva Vol. 1 Chopin, a historical recording found through archived
tapes in a Moscow library. “We obtained the rights and re-mastered the tapes of
this amazing recording,” explains Primakov. “Another hidden secret we are now
releasing is our teacher Jerry Lowenthal’s playing, which we both grew up on,
and there are so many more to come.”

Very important to their mission is their ability to rely on efficient and passionate
Photo: Alex Fedorov

music professionals involved in the recording process. “You are so exposed as a
performer, you have to be able to trust the people you work with to make you
look your best,” says Primakov. “We have built a wonderful little family that
includes Charlie Post, who became sound engineer, editor and producer in one,
and technician Terry Flynn, who can achieve the most amazing results in the
short in-betweens of the recording process. As soon as he hears just a slight
irregularity in tone voicing, he informs the sound engineer and matches up
everything in the matter of minutes while we step out for a glass of water.”

Also important to Primakov and Lavrova’s goals is the opportunity to constantly
engage with new audiences, which they will have the opportunity to do this May
6, when the two perform excerpts of their four-hand program as well as some
solo repertoire at Get Classical’s music series launch at the trendy Gramercy
Park Hotel’s Rose Bar in New York. Primakov and Lavrova will be two of four
pianists presenting a program geared to new and old classical fans, including readers, by bringing 19th-century salon-type performances to
the 21st-century lounge. Hosted by the Gramercy Park Hotel and myself, your
devoted blogger, Get Classical at the Rose Bar hopes to bring
classical music to audiences that might prefer listening in the comfort of an
armchair, aperitif in hand, to the formality of the concert hall. The series
will give listeners the chance to meet artists in the intimacy of the cool Rose
Bar and hear them talk about their music and lives as concert artists. And it
is exactly this exchange that performers like Primakov and Lavrova, as well as
David Aladashvili and Marika Bournaki, the two performers featured alongside
them in the evening’s program, are looking forward to—to play and relate to
both staying fans and interested spectators in a personal way. “We always want
to test drive our program with new audiences. It’s one of the most exciting
things one can do as a performer,” Primakov says.