Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Christopher Rouse's Requiem at Carnegie Hall

On May 5, Carnegie Hall launches the fourth and final season of its Spring for Music festival with a massive staging of Requiem, a work commissioned by the international sacred music foundation Soli Deo Gloria from the Pulitzer Prize-winning current composer-in-residence of the New York Philharmonic, Christopher Rouse.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Herman
The innovative series Spring for Music presents unusual programs for one-evening-only performances by visiting North American Orchestras, realizing, as Alan Gilbert puts it: “A week-long celebration of what symphonic music can bring to all our lives.”
Requiem’s New York premiere comprises the evening’s entire 90-minute concert program; Alan Gilbert will lead the New York Philharmonic through Rouse’s tour de force, alongside baritone Jaques Imbrailo, the Westminster Symphonic Chorus directed by Joe Miller, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus directed by Dianne Berkun-Menaker.
Christopher Rouse himself describes Requiem as “unquestionably, [his] magnum opus.” The work was commissioned by Soli Deo Gloria under its Founding Artistic Director, Grammy award-winning conductor John Nelson, in honor of the 2003 Hector Berlioz bicentennial, and Rouse completed the piece while attending the 2002 Aspen Music Festival in Colorado.  The internationally operating institution Soli Deo Gloria is recognized for its worldwide sponsorship of sacred music concerts, presenting opulent choral/orchestral arrangements and idiosyncratic commissions since 1996. Nelson and Rouse had met and worked together in 1985, and bonded in particular over their shared love for Berlioz, to whose work Rouse feels especially connected. He says: “If I had to choose one of all his wonderful masterpieces as my island work, it would have to be, objectively speaking, his Damnation of Faust.”
Despite his profound admiration and intimate respect for Berlioz’ strong sense of harmony, rhythm, and orchestration, Rouse, in his requiem, refrained from referencing Berlioz’ own “mighty and most stupendous and unique example of the genre,” as he describes it. “I did not use any direct quotes. I did, however, follow him in placing the text where he had set it, refashioning the Latin, and using the same separations.” Like Berlioz, Rouse adapted the Latin text liturgically read at the Requiem Mass for the Dead, interspersing it, like Berlioz, with poetry in a variety of languages, and restricting the Latin liturgical text to the chorus. This structure achieves an artistic transformation from the source material’s liturgical use, conveying the theme of death on different levels of experience: through the Baritone’s voice, heard on a personal level, and through the chorus, portraying the philosophical idea of mortality as it applies to all mankind. Rouse prefers not to analyze meaning in music to the point where the listener closes his or her mind to the experience. After all, the purpose of music for Rouse, as he explained in an interview with Bruce Duffie, is “to convey something meaningful, nourishing, and enlightening for the human spirit that speaks of the creator of the work to the listener…and how you organize your material is really just a means of making that expressive or emotive meaning coherent, more logical.”
In the case of Requiem, his own work by which he “wants to stand or fall,” he followed some of Berlioz’ emotional concepts, expressed in the music, but some he created in exact opposition, for example, “in Berlioz’ opening section of Dies irae, there is this serenity, austere mood - in mine, all hell is breaking loose,” he says. Given the fact that Requiem was composed in the aftermath of 9/11, an interesting fact, especially for New Yorkers, is that although there is a minor reference to 9/11, Rouse’s hope with this work is to provide a more general source of solace, a more “Schumanesque approach,” as he puts it, and in terms of the religious aspect, he says: “The use of poetry would preclude the score from its liturgical use and staying away from any symbolic characteristic of some ‘byzantine icon.’” Rouse, whose work has been performed internationally since the mid-eighties, is after “the hyper and expressive urgency of the emotional experience, a musical answer to the cry of anguish, the shriek of universal agony.” His Requiem was coined: “The first great traditional American Requiem,” and praised as “an extraordinary score” by the Los Angeles Times upon its 2007 performance by the Los Angeles Master Chorale.Photo Credit : Christian Steiner
Teaching composition at Juilliard, Rouse is juggling his busy composing career with his pedagogical efforts, “which take a lot of energy,” he says. In order to give his students the intensive attention they deserve, he only composes on the days that he does not teach.
In 2012, Rouse was offered the position as composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic’s Marie-Josée Kravis program, which began under Alan Gilbert’s leadership in 2009 with composer Magnus Lindberg’s three-year residency; the program was just recently extended to incorporate Rouse’s third and last year of collaboration with the orchestra into the 2014/15 season. “We inspire each other,” says Rouse.  Gilbert follows: “There was just more work to do.” Rouse’s collaboration with the orchestra began in 1984 with a performance of his work The Infernal Machine, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, marking a sort of breakthrough in his career. In October 2014, the world premiere of Rouse’s new work: Thunderstuck, a rock-inspired Philharmonic-commissioned orchestral work, will be performed under Gilbert’s baton, bringing his experience with the New York Philharmonic full-circle. Rouse, not an instrumentalist himself, knew even as a six year-old boy, listening to a recording of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony that his mother had put on, that writing music was what he was born to do. Growing up with Rock n’ Roll rather than with Jazz, like George Crumb, one of his most influential teachers, Rouse feels naturally connected to the music of his youth. Thunderstuck pays homage to the idiom of some of his Rock favorites, like The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Chicago, naturally absorbing the stylistically variant soundscapes of his ‘coming of age’ time.                                                                                                                                                                                     
For the moment, though, Rouse is already working on the last movement of an organ concerto for organist Paul Jacobs, co-commissioned by several orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra.
The May 5th concert will be broadcast live from Carnegie Hall on WQXR, hosted by Elliott Forrest and David Garland, and will be available for on-demand listening and streaming on wqxr.org.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Lavrova-Primakov Duo - Rachmaninoff- Duo Repertoire Concert And CD Release

The Lavrova-Primakov Piano Duo will release their latest recording on their own LP Classics label just in time to celebrate Sergei Rachmaninoff’s birthday on April 1st; the recording will include both of Rachmaninoff’s monumental two-piano suites, written earlier in his life while he still lived in Russia (1893 & 1901 respectively).  The CD release paves the way for the duo’s much-anticipated May 20th concert at Merkin Hall. The concert will also include works by Franz Liszt, Alexander Scriabin, and two premieres: a New York premiere by renowned composer Lowell Liebermann, and a world premiere of a work by South African composer Braam van Eeden, whose sensitive talent for the piano has been previously introduced on a recent LP Classics disc: Opus 13, the debut recording of pianist David Aladashvili.
Rachmaninoff's precious suites will be featured on the disc, titled Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943)Music for Two Pianos Lavrova-Primakov Piano Duo LP CLASSICS 1019  (Total Time 79:16)(Available on www.lpclassics.net; Amazon.com; iTunes; cdbaby.com; ArkivMusic), alongside his last and quite complex work, The Symphonic Dances (1940), which was composed while he lived the United States.
“We are incredibly thrilled to present our readings of Rachmaninoff’s music for Two Pianos to our listeners. It is always a humbling experience to play his music, one might say an even treacherously nerve-racking one, at times,” Primakov said, right after the  recording took place, at a private home in Stratton, Vermont.

Presented by GetClassical, the duo’s concert at Merkin Hall on May 20th promises to give an exciting outlook on both artists’ individual pianistic talent as well as their balanced duo playing.
I noticed the duo’s remarkable communication when both artists performed for GetClassical at the Gramercy Park Hotel Rose Bar, and again just recently at the latest GetClassical Salon event, which took place on March 25th at the historic India House.
It is a huge honor for me to present Lavrova and Primakov yet again at the Kaufman Music Center’s welcoming Merkin Hall. While GetClassical aims to open the classical concert forum not just to audiences already familiar with classical performance, but to new audiences through intimate Salon-style presentations, the duo clearly deserves the attention of the greater music community.
It has been nearly 4 years since the two long-time friends and co-founders of their label, LP Classics, ventured into performing as a piano duo, and just recently have they mustered the courage to enter the wondrous soundscape of Rachmaninoff.
“Actually, all of it happened sort of by accident,” explains Primakov. “Originally, we weren’t intending to learn both of the suites and The Symphonic Dances. We had the 2nd suite under our belt and started performing it extensively, and at the time…actually had thought that it would be enough for a while. Well, it turned out the universe had other plans for us. Next thing we knew, we were invited to perform at a very prestigious festival, with one condition – Symphonic Dances had to be on the program. So we learned that rather quickly.”
Another Rachmaninoff four-hand piece entered their repertoire when they decided to learn the Fantaisie-Tableaux, Rachmaninoff’s first suite, which the pair needed to learn for a duo-piano competition last year.
“After all this, we started entertaining the notion and brewing up some plans to attempt recording all of this someday, but were initially convinced that it would not happen for a while,” adds Primakov.
But then, something unexpected happened: LP Classics had booked recording time and space for a project that fell apart, leaving the duo with the dilemma of creating a different program in just two weeks, or losing those planned days and the wonderful space set aside for their label. “Needless to say, we were stressed and a little heartbroken, but we did some quick thinking and apparently decided that we were crazy enough to get ready and record Rachmaninoff in TWO WEEKS’ TIME!”
Says Lavrova after the completion of the formidable undertaking: “We had a blast! And I think that those extreme circumstances worked in our favor, because despite the intensity of it all, endless hours of practicing, sleepless nights…it became a real passion project, filled with our craving for Rachmaninoff and our mutual Russian culture.”
Dedicating their work to their friends, collaborators, and supporters, the Lavrova–Primakov Duo describes the program with the following liner notes:
 Suite No.1(Fantaisie-Tableaux), Op.5
  1. Barcarolle. Allegretto
  2. II.       La nuit… L’amour. Adagio sostenuto
  3. III.      Les Larmes. Largo di molto
  4. IV. Pâques. Allegro maestoso
Suite No.2, Op.17
  1. Introduction. Alla Marcia
  2. II. Valse. Presto
  3. III. Romance. Andantino
  4. IV. Tarantelle. Presto
Symphonic Dances, Op.45
  1. Non allegro
  2. II. Andante con moto (Tempo di valse)
  3. III.  Lento assai – Allegro vivace
Rachmaninoff’s First Suite, Op. 5, called Fantaisie-Tableaux for two pianos, was written in the summer of 1893, when the composer was just twenty years old.  He spent the summer with friends on a country estate near Kharkov.  After he returned to Moscow, he paid a visit to his former teacher, the great composer Sergey Taneyev, where he encountered another friend, adviser and ardent supporter – P.I. Tchaikovsky.  What transpired at that meeting is in Rachmaninoff’s Recollections, as told to Oskar von Riesemann.  Tchaikovsky was much impressed with the success of the Prelude (the famous C # Minor Prelude Op.3, that was written two years prior), as well as with the considerable amount of music his young colleague had managed to compose up to that point. “And I, miserable wretch,” he remarked, “have only written one Symphony!” That symphony, the last work to come from his pen, was the Pathétique.
At that meeting, Rachmaninoff told Tchaikovsky that he was dedicating his Fantasie for Two Pianos to him and the plan was set for Rachmaninoff to premiere it and Tchaikovsky was to attend that concert.  Unfortunately, that never took place for later that year, Tchaikovsky passed away.
The Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos represents Rachmaninoff’s first attempt at writing program music.  Maybe the definitive Rachmaninoff stamp is not yet affixed to this work, but there are many passages which are unmistakably characteristic and prophetic, while the technical, tonal and interpretive resources of the two keyboards have been employed with masterly insight. The work is in four movements, headed by verses from Lermontov, Byron, Tyoutchev and Khomiakov. The movements are entitled, respectively, Barcarolle, La nuit... L'amour... (The Night…The Love…), Les Larmes (The Tears) and Pâques (Easter).  The first movement is full of warmth and romanticism; the second and third are rather nostalgic, full of longing and melancholy, and the finale is a short, exuberant imitation of the bells of the Kremlin ringing out on Easter morning. Rachmaninoff and Mussorgsky must have heard those bells with ears similarly attuned, for there is definite similarities between the Easter movement of this Suite and the sound of the bells in the great Coronation Scene from “Boris Godunov”, which also takes place before the Kremlin.
“Barcarolle” (Lermontov)
At dusk half-heard the chill wave laps/ Beneath the gondola’s slow oaronce more a song! once more the twanged guitar!now sad, now gaily ringing, The barcarolle comes winging.The boat slid by, the water clove: So time glides oer the surge of love;The water will grow smooth again, But what can rouse a passion slain!
“It is the hour” (Byron, from Parisina)
It is the hour when from the boughs/ The nightingale’s high note is heard; It is the hour — when lover’s vows/ Seem sweet in every whisper’d word; And gentle winds and waters near, / Make music to the lonely ear. Each flower the dews have lightly wet, / And in the sky the stars are met, And on the wave is deeper blue, / And on the leaf a browner hue, And in the Heaven that clear obscure / So softly dark, and darkly pure, That follows the decline of day/ As twilight melts beneath the moon away.
“Tears” (Tyutchev)
Tears, human tears that pour forth beyond telling, Early and late, in the dark, out of sight, While the world goes on its way all unwittingly, Numberless, stintless, you fall unremittingly, Pouring like rain, the long rain that is welling Endlessly, late in the autumn at night.
“Easter” (Khomyakov)
Across the earth a mighty peal is sweeping Till all the booming air rocks like a sea, As silver thunders carol forth the tidings, Exulting in that holy victory…
If the First Suite was inspired by a stay in the Russian countryside, the Second Suite, Op. 17, may be said to have been born in a psychiatrist’s office.  Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony, bearing the fateful opus number 13, had been a failure at its premiere in St. Petersburg in 1897, and he immediately suppressed it, hiding the score and parts.  The work was not performed again until two years after his death, but its failure left an indelible imprint upon the sensitive young composer.  He fell into a state of melancholy brooding and apathy, which lasted for three years, during which time he composed nothing.
Finally, his cousins, the Satins, with whom he was living, induced Rachmaninoff to visit Dr. Nicolai Dahl, a practitioner in the science of hypnosis and auto-suggestion, and himself an amateur musician. Between January and April, 1900, he paid daily visits to the doctor’s office where, sitting half-asleep in a chair, he listened to the same words, repeated over and over again: “You will begin to write your Concerto …, You will work with great facility …, The Concerto will be of an excellent quality …” The reason for the insistence upon a concerto was that Rachmaninoff had promised to compose his Second Piano Concerto for presentation in London, but had been unable to make any progress of it.
The plan worked. Dr. Dahl’s psychiatric treatment started Rachmaninoff back on the road to creating new music. Before long, he not only had enough ideas for his Concerto but there was sufficient material left over for his Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos, which was completed in 1901 and published before the Concerto. Other works came in quick succession as well. These included the Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 19; the Cantata Spring, Op. 20; Twelve songs, Op. 21; the Variations for Piano on a Theme of Chopin, Op. 22, and Ten Preludes, Op. 23.
Considering the fact that it took root in Rachmaninoff’s mind simultaneously with the Second Piano Concerto, it is not at all surprising that the Second Suite for Two Pianos sounds as if it had been cut from the same cloth. Like the Fantasie, it is also in four movements: the first movement is a robust Introduction; the second – and most popular – is  a vivacious and quite exhilarating Valse; the third is a beautiful, poetic Romance; and the fourth is a brilliant Tarantella, which recalls more than any of its companion sections the style and mood of the Second Concerto.

Rachmaninoff wrote an arrangement of his Symphonic Dances for two pianos simultaneously with the orchestral version. The first performance of this arrangement was famously performed by the composer, along with Vladimir Horowitz, at a private party in Beverly Hills, California in August 1942.  Rachmaninoff began to work on this piece, (his final composition) in the summer of 1940.  The premiere, with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, took place on January 3rd, 1941. It received a rather negative reception that crushed Rachmaninoff.  The last 25 years or so have witnessed a strong growth in appreciation of this moody, many-layered and spectacularly orchestrated work, as testified by numerous recordings and live performances.
Symphonic Dances continued Rachmaninoff’s obsession with the Dies irae, a somber melody drawn from the medieval plainchant Mass for the Dead.  He had previously quoted it in several works.  The Dies irae appears several times in veiled form in the first movement of the Symphonic Dances.  This movement (Non Allegro) begins quietly, expectantly, before introducing its bold, thrusting main subject.  The long, floating melody of the central section is probably one of Rachmaninoff’s most amazing lyrical creations.
Within the framework of a symphonic waltz, the second dance (Andante con moto: Tempo di valse) presents a haunted vision of the ballroom.  It lies closer in spirit to Ravel’s La valse or the Valse triste of Sibelius than the joyous dance-poems of the Strauss family.  Introduced by eerie, muted fanfares, it turns on a troubled waltz tune. The spirit of the dance never maintains itself for long.  The music regularly slows almost to a halt, as if in nervous anticipation of impending catastrophe, or shadowed by memories of past horrors.  A mood of nostalgic reverie attempts to assert itself mid-way through, only to be shattered by the return of the opening fanfares.  The tempo accelerates through a passage of mounting hysteria, only to peak quickly, then end with equal abruptness.
The final movement is a grand witches’ sabbath that would make Berlioz or Mussorgsky proud.  Pervaded from the opening bars by the Dies irae, it seethes with manic, diabolical energy. A  reflective and lamenting middle section provides contrast. With the return of the opening material, a furious conflict breaks out between the Dies irae and a traditional Russian religious chant, Blessed is the Lord.  The chant finally gains the upper hand, and an Alleluia theme drawn from Rachmaninoff’s choral work Vespers rings out triumphantly.  On that note, Rachmaninoff concluded his career as a composer – and made his final musical/ philosophical statement – with a representation of the victory of his deeply held religious faith over the powers of darkness and death.  At the end of the manuscript score, he inscribed, “I thank Thee, Lord.”
Read about the artists here and in the following description:
In the few short years since the Lavrova/Primakov Duo was established—in 2010—the duo has performed extensively throughout the United States and has attracted superlative reviews. In 2011 the Duo established its own record label, LP Classics, an initiative committed to unearthing lost historical gems, presenting never-before released recordings, and enriching the discographies of emerging stars of a new generation.
Reviewing the Duo’s first release, Anton Arensky’s Suites for Two Pianos, veteran Fanfare critic Jerry Dubins wrote:
”Lavrova and Primakov take turns playing the Piano I and Piano II parts, but technically and tonally they are so well-matched, you wouldn’t know who was on first and who was on second unless you read the disc’s track listing. ... Strongly recommended then for a dazzling display of two-piano works by two phenomenal pianists.”

Natalia Lavrova has deftly combined an international performing career as piano soloist with a variety of pedagogical and arts administrative positions. Her riveting performances enhanced by her beguiling charm on the platform as well as her impeccable technical grounding have won the hearts of audiences around the world.
Solo and orchestral performances have taken Ms. Lavrova throughout her native Russia to Canada, France, Hungary, Italy, United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States, to include notable New York venues such as Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and Steinway Hall. Ms. Lavrova has captured top prizes at the New Orleans, Isabel Scionti, Frinna Auerbach, Heidi Hermanns, Music Academy of the West, Silver Lake, and Senigallia International Piano Competitions. Upon her debut at the Leeds International Piano Competition, Ms. Lavrova was the youngest performer of 1996 admitted to the quarterfinal round. In her repertoire, she has over 30 concertos and extensive solo recital programs, as well as a substantial chamber music repertoire, including an ongoing partnership with her duo partner, pianist, Vassily Primakov. Her repertoire includes works of Arensky, Clementi, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Schubert, Liszt, Debussy, Milhaud, Godowsky, Saint-Saens, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Corigliano, Liebermann, Barber, van Eeden and many others.
Born in Moscow, Ms. Lavrova entered the prestigious preparatory division of the Moscow Conservatory at the age of five and was subsequently accepted by The Juilliard School Pre-College Division as a pupil in the studio of Herbert Stessin. Ms. Lavrova went on to earn her Bachelor of Music and Masters of Music degrees at Juilliard, under the tutelage of Jerome Lowenthal. Ms. Lavrova is the founder and president of a very successful private school, Music School of New York City. She is a Yamaha Artist in Education.
In recent years, Vassily Primakov has been hailed as a pianist of world class importance. In the words of Gramophone, "Primakov's empathy with Chopin's spirit could hardly be more complete," and the American Record Guide stated: "Since Gilels, how many pianists have the right touch? In Chopin, no one currently playing sounds as good as this! This is a great Chopin pianist." Music Web-International called Primakov's Chopin concertos CD "one of the great Chopin recordings of recent times. These are performances of extraordinary power and beauty." In 1999, as a teen-aged prizewinner of the Cleveland International Piano Competition, Primakov was praised by veteran music critic Donald Rosenberg in the Cleveland’s Plain Dealer: "How many pianists can make a line sing as the Moscow native did on this occasion? Every poignant phrase took ethereal wing. Elsewhere the music soared with all of the turbulence and poetic vibrancy it possesses. We will be hearing much from this remarkable musician."
His first piano studies were with his mother, Marina Primakova. He entered Moscow's Central Special Music School at the age of eleven as a pupil of Vera Gornostaeva, and at 17 came to New York to pursue studies at the Juilliard School with the noted pianist, Jerome Lowenthal. At Juilliard Mr. Primakov won the William Petschek Piano Recital Award, which presented his debut recital at Alice Tully Hall, and while at Juilliard, aided by a Susan W. Rose Career Grant, he won both the Silver Medal and the Audience Prize in the 2002 Gina Bachauer International Artists Piano Competition. Later that year Primakov won First Prize in the 2002 Young Concert Artists (YCA) International Auditions. In 2007 he was named the Classical Recording Foundation's "Young Artist of the Year." In 2009, Primakov's Chopin Mazurkas recording was named "Best of the Year" by National Public Radio. BBC Music Magazine praised the first volume of Primakov's Mozart concertos: "The piano playing is of exceptional quality: refined, multi-coloured, elegant of phrase and immaculately balanced, both in itself and in relation to the effortlessly stylish orchestra. The rhythm is both shapely and dynamic, the articulation a model of subtlety. By almost every objective criterion, Vassily Primakov is a Mozartian to the manner born, fit to stand as a role model to a new generation."
Mr. Primakov has released numerous recordings for Bridge Records that include works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Chopin, Dvorak, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Philip Glass, Arlene Sierra, and Poul Ruders. Most recently, LP Classics released a Live in Concert album that includes works by Medtner, Schumann, Brahms's Handel Variations and Ravel's La Valse, and a Chopin Two-Disc Album of Three Sonatas, Four Ballades, and Four Scherzos. In 2012 Mr. Primakov became a Yamaha Artist.
An added bonus will be the fancyful concert attire of the Lavrova/Primakov Duo, provided by talented fashion designer Madeline Gruen. A graduate of the Pratt Institute, whose senior collection received the "Liz Clairborne Award - Concept du Product," funded by the Liz Claireborne and Art Ortenberg Foudation, she is renowned for her romantic silhouettes and intricate embelishments. She currently works as one of the young, freelancing designers out of the Pratt Design Incubator, at her studio at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
All photo credits : Alex Fedorov

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Philadelphia International Music Festival has offers for musicians and music students

Colleagues or interested music students the information below are: Openings in the 2014 Philadelphia International Music Festival (June 21 - July 4) featuring principal players and other members of The Philadelphia Orchestra.I am passing this information along!

Two-Week Session: June 21 - July 4, 2014
One-Week Sessions: June 21~June 27 | June 28 - July 4, 2014

Six Dynamic Program Options: 
For Students of All Levels ages 10-18
Two-Week Session: June 21 - July 4, 2014
One Week Sessions: June 21 - June 27 and June 28 -  July 4
Includes private lessons, master classes, and faculty recitals  with members of The Philadelphia Orchestra; daily orchestra and   chamber music rehearsals; daily music courses including: theory, music history, sight reading, conducting, or composition; optional daily choir rehearsals; daily private practice; off-campus outing to Philadelphia Orchestra concert(s)... READ MORE 
Ages 13 - 18
Only 1 Opening (June 21 - July 4)
Includes up to five weekly private lessons with members of The Philadelphia Orchestra; daily, 30-minute accompanist workouts; daily chamber music rehearsals; daily performance class; four hours required, daily private practice; master classes and faculty recitals with members of The Philadelphia Orchestra... READ MORE
Ages 8-18.  All Skill Levels.
Two-Week Session Only: June 21 - July 4, 2014

Would you like to introduce your children to the wonderful world of opera? Now is your chance! The "Discover Opera" program at PIMF will include first-time opera participants as well as talented intermediate and advanced students! There are parts for the seasoned singer as well as for the child who has not yet discovered the joys of singing! Participants will present the moving opera, Brundibar, by Hans Krasa, originally performed during World War II ....... READ MORE
Ages 10-18.  Only 2 Openings (Session B: June 28 - July 4)
Includes up to six lessons with faculty pianist; daily music theory, four-hand literature, or sight reading classes; daily chamber music program; four hours of required, daily private practice, master classes...... READ MORE
For Students of All Levels ages 10-18
Two-Week Session: June 21 - July 4, 2014
One Week Sessions: June 21 - June 27 and June 28 -  July 4

Featuring members of the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Concert Band Program offers an enriching curriculum including daily wind ensemble or concert band rehearsals (students choose), daily choir rehearsals, daily music theory class, late afternoon sporting activities, weekly private lessons, master classes, off-campus trip to a Philadelphia Orchestra concert...... READ MORE 
For Vocalists of All Ages. All Skill Levels.
Two-Week Session: June 21 - July 4, 2014
One Week Sessions: June 21 - June 27 and June 28 -  July 4

Includes Chorus, Chamber Ensemble, Mixed Choir, and Show Choir; Daily Sight Reading for Singers Class; Master Classes; Beginner Piano; Solo Vocal Training in Classical Performance; and more... 

http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001XObamqTNBb4aq-LT6FFDPoGqxZj7KUMvIkwCa6aaHuNO0SoMNxz7Za0YQCVsc2F4s7fgbcIIxHU5OdjcbtaG_UKvjkC_4AAZjWNgF0psAS73Ubnnyx0-DWk3MzI1MCSXw6hsuI9IDPol9isdHRfkRv9YPecmVAhMvLH0Bma20PIrTizGbkb5TzdzcUMryNKA2pqeKzzgbA5_7vLnCp_vFEgLRSQhRpGp&c=tKWUvUBBblVcH-QYsh5R9B1AljISGnYGDQLFTgIY8gSv4GgeJXsKxA==&ch=QEXXRfAmUrMOWz5MF-InrcSyMm6PJdVxkfGt7h3rB4m0Mx7yEW5xPw==          http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001XObamqTNBb4aq-LT6FFDPoGqxZj7KUMvIkwCa6aaHuNO0SoMNxz7ZaL5kcW8X-l0-2WsOysBDe19K4CtjNUAhlnG7Ecl0tDjxXij77i2wO8UWToLu6V_yHbojt_Um9fe4QwoYIFqPlcHzJJYSZGfYJ5CruYlXEZENWRUr3PP6b347PRZd_KCFl2J-54lJMQj&c=tKWUvUBBblVcH-QYsh5R9B1AljISGnYGDQLFTgIY8gSv4GgeJXsKxA==&ch=QEXXRfAmUrMOWz5MF-InrcSyMm6PJdVxkfGt7h3rB4m0Mx7yEW5xPw==          http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001XObamqTNBb4aq-LT6FFDPoGqxZj7KUMvIkwCa6aaHuNO0SoMNxz7Zf0J8VKMdPqe6z77wJjUa0NUDP0cX10KGCdWIEe0J_IVS6U2ZMY4S9yPawfQe_qGpSgSNITVMsanslnWABf6aCW_PwThB0iQT5UiCbDSR5lEM_BUsEaOCsljreJpZJ1QpQ==&c=tKWUvUBBblVcH-QYsh5R9B1AljISGnYGDQLFTgIY8gSv4GgeJXsKxA==&ch=QEXXRfAmUrMOWz5MF-InrcSyMm6PJdVxkfGt7h3rB4m0Mx7yEW5xPw==          http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001XObamqTNBb4aq-LT6FFDPoGqxZj7KUMvIkwCa6aaHuNO0SoMNxz7Zf0J8VKMdPqekYmqwjQED22PtMANKCw4Ri95J8TRkJ_gGG4_IUSasu7NAfsw0urAQdILceHqy_WKjZS78L7m2GCMcGNeL368Y9xrDa-I2SJQ6vOjFxMDv3otHzCqxS4Nmelz3UUM0tc5&c=tKWUvUBBblVcH-QYsh5R9B1AljISGnYGDQLFTgIY8gSv4GgeJXsKxA==&ch=QEXXRfAmUrMOWz5MF-InrcSyMm6PJdVxkfGt7h3rB4m0Mx7yEW5xPw==          http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001XObamqTNBb4aq-LT6FFDPoGqxZj7KUMvIkwCa6aaHuNO0SoMNxz7Zdv_9V-3ocyFu_ZWHJx8pyWhYbBvCAqB2MkZsyuLBUpRdj9Srh7jZoLywNWXP-yhyucYZuKHoGoLFqzcUvecPPMNNyS1RlIma5Ze8zy6tpDrVUYoP8SCc3P5oyrDIfEKPAEEdnyFjz7RJsXlzhAM5AQ=&c=tKWUvUBBblVcH-QYsh5R9B1AljISGnYGDQLFTgIY8gSv4GgeJXsKxA==&ch=QEXXRfAmUrMOWz5MF-InrcSyMm6PJdVxkfGt7h3rB4m0Mx7yEW5xPw==
Sandy LeClare Marcucci
Philadelphia International Music Festival sandy.marcucci@pimf.org


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gary Graffman – keeping fascinated with discovery

When the esteemed pianist Radu Lupo fell ill and a replacement had to be found for his People’s Symphony Concert recital at Town Hall, on January 12th, 2014, the series’ presenter, Frank Solomon chose Kuok-Wai Lio, a young pianist largely unknown to New Yorker audiences, in lieu of the legendary maestro. Lio came equipped not only with a formidable stylistic approach to the romantic repertoire, not unlike Lupo’s own, lucide pianism, but with recommendations from presenters of his previous recitals as well; Lio’s performances, especially his Schubert and Schumann interpretations had gained him high regards. The fact that Lio was a talented student of Gary Graffman was certainly another worthy credential, the kind that opens doors to the pianistic performance stage. After all, Graffman; President and Director of the Curtis Institute of Music for over two decades with a famed reputation as pianist and pedagogue, under whose tutelage some of today’s international pianistic super-stars: Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Ignat Solzhenitsyn, and Haochen Zhang have emerged, may very well intersperse his magic in the making of yet another prodigal pianist.
Photo: Gary Graffman  Ilona Oltuski-GetClassical
Lio’s performance, albeit starting out a little timid, gained increasingly in momentum as he took the historic town hall stage and its audience with his lyrical and eloquent interpretations of Franz Schubert’s Four Impromptus, D.935 and Robert Schumann’s Davidsbündler-Tänze, Op.6. As he admitted winningly, he had “giant shoes to fill,” substituting for the much admired Radu Lupo- the  distinguished poet of the keyboard-  whom he described with reverence as a ‘pianistic god’, on a short time notice.”I grew up listening to, and loving his recordings,” he said, and while Lio did not, as he explained, have ample time to prepare mentally – he was called upon just two days prior to the concert – he offered:”In a way you have to be always ready.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                             Photo: Kuok-Wai Lio  Ilona Oltuski-GetClassical
His bi-monthly lessons with Graffman, Lio describes in comparison with his previous experiences in his native Hong Kong, as a different, but formidable learning experience. “While it was all about discipline in Hong Kong, it became all about freedom at Curtis,” he says and describes Graffman, as “one of the most supportive and encouraging teachers, one could imagine,” stressing the fact that Graffman does not imply that his ways are the only possible truth to consider. Rather, Graffman instills a confidence in his pupils, giving them the tools to develop their own voice and the courage to trust their judgment. This approach is supported by introducing them to a variety of teachers, and different methods and styles. “Still it’s hard to find a balance, sometimes,” says Lio, as he remembers his last year at Curtis, when he worked excessively and Graffman saved him from pushing himself too hard, by saying:”You don’t have to play as if you perform it tonight.” Equally important for the successful learning process is the fact that Graffman himself is a superb pianist, whose authority comes from the greatest of the pianistic tradition, seemingly interwoven with his persona. A prodigal student of Curtis’ own Isabella Vengerova and later Vladimir Horowitz, Graffman had befriended a slew of musicians, examining the traditions of the Golden Age of the piano first hand, and attended concerts by the likes of Hofmann, Rachmaninoff and Kapell. What stands out in Lio’s descriptions of Graffman is his joy de vivre; his enthusiasm for anything new and different and his uplifting spirit and optimism:”These are essential qualities an artist and mentor should have,” says Lio, “he personifies that boundlessness of spirit, and if you let him inspire you, you feel as if there is nothing you cannot do” – in the hands of great talent no small thing to empower.
As Gary Graffman and his wife, Naomi, come backstage to see Lio after the concert, it becomes clear how personally involved the Graffmans are with Gary’s students’ lives, beyond their careers. Graffman continuously keeps in touch with all of his students, past and present, keeps up with lessons and attends many of their concerts. Remarkable is the loyalty some of his star- pupils maintain, which includes his close connection to Lang Lang, who, irritated by the fact that his great mentor was out of sync with the latest technology, had just recently provided him the latest cell phone model. “They all call, text or email,” he says. The Graffman’s elegantly curated residence on West 57th Street, houses an expansive art collection, boasting a conglomerate of Asian artifacts of varying geographical regions and historic provenance, and equipped with a professionally grade bar, often hosts ‘his musicians’ and visiting performers after a concert performance across the street, at Carnegie Hall, including Yuja Wang and artists like Evgeny Kissin. Quite the charmer, Graffman, while mixing drinks behind the counter of his bar, shares some anecdotes about his family’s heritage, his pianistic legacy and his worldwide travel- and teaching experiences that kept his spirits high, even after his performance career had come to an abrupt halt. Similarly to his colleague, the esteemed pianist, turned conductor and pedagogue Leon Fleisher in 1964, Graffman, in 1979, suffered an affliction to his right hand’s extensor muscles with the ring finger and the two small fingers weakening and curling with uncontrollable spasms, which prevented the continuation of a pianistic career based on two-hand repertoire. The condition also generally known as focal dystonia became a major game changer within the pianist’s life, when it became clear that merely changing fingerings within scores would not suffice and Graffman had to adjust his life, affording a great deal of courage, vision, and humility, and his ability to see the positive in things:”At that point it looked like it was the end of the world, but it turned out it was ok,” he says. “Otherwise I would have never become the head of Curtis,” he adds; and he certainly would not have established one of the greatest legacies as a mentor for the next generation of pianists, many of whom do not only admire him for giving on the treasures of a great pianistic tradition but for opening their minds for the significance of culture in our civilization in general. Yuja Wang was impressed how much she was able to absorb from Graffman’s great knowledge about her own, Chinese culture, coming as a young girl to Curtis. (see my article about Yuja Wang )
In his auto-biography Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story Lang Lang describes in great detail, how Graffman’s mentorship was always geared to address and inspire the whole person, not just the pianist in him; an experience he truly treasured and that stayed with him. Graffman especially fostered individuality in his students, avoiding the pitfall of sameness in sound or manirism, as a result of rigid teaching formulas. To him, each of his students plays unique, with a distinct expression recognizable as their own. Graffman’s own fascination with Asian culture may have been – as he calls it – an innate interest. “When going to a museum, they would always loose me in one of the Indian, Japanese or Chinese Galleries, “he recalls, “I literally got lost there – they had to come back for me. Later, when we moved to this apartment, my good friend the pianist Julius Katchen, who lived in Paris, married to a Vietnamese-born French woman, had started collecting Asian art during his concert tours and had put me on to it. At the time, there were only 3 major antique shops in Paris, dealing with Asian Art, it was inexpensive and I bought and bought. After my hand problems had started, I got more involved and wanted to learn more, taking courses at Columbia University. In 1981 I went for the first time on a Far East group excursion. At that time the Chinese started to welcome such groups, and we would go to remote areas within the Hunan and Szechuan provinces. When a good friend of mine became the director of Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, I would visit and get tours with the experts, seeing the best pieces, not just what was on display in the windows,” says Graffman, who does not seem to have lost any of his great sense of a worthy find – discovering something special that may be worth one’s while, interest and dedication.
Honoring his pianistic legacy, Sony has released the complete recordings of Gary Graffman in October, 2013, on the occasion of his 85th Birthday.
Ilona Oltuski - GetClassical