Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beethoven Journey with Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes

“You never know what’s waiting around the corner,” says Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes about Beethoven, as he tries to describe his personal outlook on his so-called ‘Beethoven Journey’ to the intimate audience gathering at WQRX’s Greene Space Studio.
Beethoven builds up a large structure based on very simple motives that, while very organic, holds many melodic surprises. Andsnes has discovered a sort of obsession with resonance in Beethoven’s work, which is evident in Beethoven's use of extremely long trills and long pedal markings, which on the modern piano ring even longer than they did on instruments in Beethoven’s time. Andsnes wonders if perhaps these preferences were caused by Beethoven’s eventual loss of hearing.
In an interview with Jeff Spurgeon following his performance at Greene Space last Saturday afternoon, Andsnes mentioned the handwritten score of Beethoven’s famous Sonata no. 21, op. 53 (Waldstein) – a piece Andsnes is about to perform along with Sonata no. 22, op. 54. In this score of one of Beethoven’s longest sonatas, Andsnes first recognizes Beethoven’s high-energy writing, which is expressed in the speed of the composition as well as the extensive, vehement building of contrast in this oeuvre. As one of the master’s longest works, Andsnes explains that it also contains lengthy passages featuring transformations of repeating fragments that occur throughout the text, a part of a journey filled with haunting motives and building expectations; expectations that are ultimately fulfilled in the inseparably connected finale of the Waldstein.
Just three days before his webcasted performance at The Greene Space, Andsnes, whose piano skills were recently lauded by Blogcritics’ Jon Sobel, opened the New York Philharmonic’s season with Gy├Ârgy Kurtag, Op. 27, No. 1 (called quasi una fantasia / for Piano and Groups of Instruments) and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3.Answering Jeff Spurgeon’s somewhat rhetorical questions rather animatedly, Andsnes recalls how his interest in Beethoven initially began: ”I was in Sao Paulo, performing and staying in a hotel, whereupon entering the elevator the first and second Beethoven concerto were played repeatedly on end. At first I thought, oh no – but it inspired a new take on Beethoven, who has not really been the real center of my repertoire. I thought to myself: ‘it is time to grow up… and do some Beethoven!’”
Of course Andsnes had studied some Beethoven in the past. At age seven he played the Moonlight Sonata, which he found felt pianistically foreign, but he did recognize in it an important dramatic element. He says, “Beethoven’s music does not have the obvious sensual elements like Chopin or Grieg… but there is such an incredible sincerity.”Andsnes sometimes likes to compensate for Beethoven’s excessive reliance on the resonating properties of the piano, and does not play some of the pedal markings quite as long as the score calls for, which he believes adapts the music better to today’s piano. He feels “the music is large enough for different approaches.” I personally loved his liberal approach, and found it very effective.
Andsnes plans to feature Beethoven’s oeuvre as part of an upcoming project that he is working on for Sony, which will contain recordings of Beethoven concertos alongside the Gustav Mahler Orchestra. Andsnes will also be directing an extensive series of international performances stretching through the 2014/15 season in conjunction with the Norwegian Stiftelsen Kristian Gerhard Jebsen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Story Of Naxos – Klaus Heymann Attends Book Signing At The Juilliard Store This Friday September 14th, at 5 PM.

“Naxos looks forward to our 25th anniversary festivities in New York with a special signing of The Story of Naxos at the Juilliard Bookstore, a party at Steinway Hall, and several meetings with media and partners,” says Klaus Heymann, founder of Naxos and, even at 75 years old, the heartbeat of the record label empire he built.
Heymann will be present at the Julliard Store for the public book signing this Friday, September 14th, at 5 pm.
Loaded with enlightening background stories about the recording industry, The Story of Naxos, written by former classical music journalist and Naxos AudioBooks’ specialist Nicolas Soames, tells the remarkable story of Naxos’ success. The book goes into great detail about Heymann, the self-made man and music lover, as well as the rollercoaster ride of victories and setbacks that Naxos experienced as it grew, and ultimately reinvented the recording business. What started in 1987 as a Hong Kong-based budget record label has become a global institution in the classical recording industry, and the leading distribution network of classical music worldwide.
In his foreword, Klaus Heymann reflects on how Naxos has “changed the culture and industry of classical music,” and applauds the skills of those who made that happen by finding new and innovative ways of approaching their tasks, often in the face of adversity. Heymann’s words ring true to me personally, particularly when he discusses how he was only able to complete his most successful accomplishments with the help of those who believed in his goals. True entrepreneurial vision must begin with innovation, but it also requires support from a committed community and personal relations; as Heymann modestly states: “They just had faith in what I was trying to achieve.” (Photo: Sean Hickey, Composer and Naxos USA National Sales and Business Development Manager since 2002- Steinway Hall reception)
Heymann’s successful pursuit of his goals is certainly due to his own conviction, but he largely credits his triumphs to his “life inside the music” with his wife, violinist Takako Nishizaki, whose Naxos recording career is perhaps his true inspiration. I suppose it is true what they say; behind every great man is a great woman! And Heymann supported me in that by saying:”Indeed, yet even a much better woman!”

Photo: Mr. and Mrs. Klaus Heymann (Violinist Takako Nishizaki) at Steinway Hall reception for Naxos.