Martha Argerich & friends gather at Lugano for her annual feast of chamber music
Two days after her 75th birthday concert in Berlin with Daniel Barenboim, the indefatiguable pianist Martha Argerich has returned to the Swiss city of Lugano, home to her annual chamber music festival, the Progetto Martha Argerich.
This year's highly-anticipated event marks the festival's 15th anniversary and gathers some 70 superlative musicians from 7 until 30 June. Argerich will be joined by an impressive line-up of her friends and longtime collaborators including pianists Nicholas Angelich, Stephen Kovacevich and Dong Hyek Lim, violinists Renaud Capuçon and Vilde Frang, cellist Mischa Maisky, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli and the Orchestra della Svizzera italiana. The opening night this evening celebrates the music of Bach.
For years, the concerts have been recorded by Warner Classics for the annual Lugano triple-album release. The 2015 edition is available now. Highlights from the current series of concerts will include, undoubtedly, Argerich's Ravel Concerto in G Major and her mercurial Gaspard de la nuit, as well as arias with Cecilia Bartoli.
The 2016 Progetto Martha Argerich (Martha Argerich & Friends at Lugano) runs until 30 June.
The Guardian Album of the Week: Martha Argerich's latest offering from Lugano
"The releases of recordings from the Progetto Martha Argerich, the festival over which the great lady presides each June in the Swiss resort of Lugano, have become one of the most reliable annual fixtures in the CD calendar," declares The Guardian in a four-star review of the latest three-album edition of Martha Argerich and Friends: Live from Lugano, out now.
The latest offering features Argerich live in concert with regular and longstanding duo-partners (Stephen Kovacevich, Ilya Gringolts, Gautier Capuçon, Nicholas Angelich) and a new generation of artists she has personally mentored. The delightfully eclectic repertoire across the festival ranges from Brahms to Ginastera to Philip Glass.
"Argerich fans are always looking for additions to her personal discography, too, and they get a couple here. She joins Lilya Zilberstein in Debussy’s two-piano arrangement of Schumann’s Six Canonic Studies Op 56, originally written for pedal piano; and with Eduardo Hubert as the other soloist and the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana under Alexander Vedernikov, she takes on Porteña (Latitude 34° 36° 30°), for two pianos and orchestra."
It is equally fascinating to hear Argerich and her close collaborators revisit music they have explored together previously. On this album she and Kovacevich give "a rather stormy, fierce account of Debussy’s En Blanc et Noir, a work they recorded together in the 1970s."
The Guardian's verdict: "There is still the sense of occasion and uniqueness that you seem to get with everything that comes out of these Lugano gatherings."
Martha Argerich & Friends: Live from Lugano 2015 is out 13 May, 2016.
Angelich explores the deeply personal link between Chopin, Liszt and Schumann
On his new album Dedication, Nicholas Angelich explores the mutual admiration of three composers in a golden circle of inspired homage: Liszt dedicated his Piano Sonata in B minor to Schumann; Schumann's Kreisleriana was dedicated to Chopin, and Chopin's Etudes Op.10 bears a dedication to Liszt, bringing this inspired journey through the Romantic piano full circle.
The group of composers born in or within a few years of 1810 - Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Berlioz - is one of the most gifted generations in musical history. In the words of Théophile Gautier, all these composers strove - each in their own particular way - “for the ideal, the poetry and the freedom of art”, in the process upsetting the equilibrium between heart and head in a way that seems the very embodiment of the Romantic spirit. Despite hailing from several different countries, they rubbed shoulders with each other, admired, applauded and occasionally criticised each other.
“Hats off, gentlemen - a genius!” It was with this famous exclamation, published in an article in the 49th issue of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung on 7 December 1831, that the young Schumann brought the attention of the musical world to Frédéric Chopin, who had just published his Là ci darem la mano set of variations for piano and orchestra, Op.2 (based on a theme from Mozart’s Don Giovanni), in Vienna. This article also marked the first occasion on which Schumann adopted the dual persona of the dreamy Eusebius and the energetic Florestan. From then on, Schumann lost no opportunity to express his admiration for Chopin’s “amazing talent”, though the latter made little effort to repay the compliment.
According to the pianists Stephen Heller and Georges Mathias (a pupil of Chopin’s), the Polish composer had in his possession a fine edition ofSchumann’s Carnaval, Op.9, but was surprisingly indifferent towards the piece and used to maintain that it was about everything apart from music. And yet Schumann had named the twelfth piece of the set after Chopin.
The two composers were totally different in terms of aesthetic outlook: Schumann, having been torn in his youth between his musical vocation and his poetic aspirations, was passionately interested in Romantic literature, while Chopin loathed programme music and strongly resisted any attempt to persuade him to give fanciful subtitles to his piano works.
Despite this, in 1838 Schumann dedicated his Kreisleriana, Op.16, to his “friend” Chopin. Kreisleriana also reflects the“resolutely untamed” love, both passionate and anguished, that the composer felt for the accomplished pianist Clara Wieck: in 1838, during a period that was troubled yet at the same time prolific, Schumann had been waiting three years to marry Clara and still had to hold on for another two, as they were not able to celebrate their marriage until 12 September 1840.
In April 1839, Schumann published (with a dedication to Franz Liszt) the definitive version of his Fantasy in C major, Op.17 - a work that is a sonata in all but name. Fifteen years later, in 1854, Liszt -who was by then Kapellmeister to the court of Weimar - returned the compliment by dedicating his Sonata in B minor to Schumann. Already by then seriously ill and confined to an asylum in Endenich, Schumann was never aware of Liszt’s act of homage. Though Liszt profoundly admired Schumann, the feeling was far from being mutual, especially among Schumann’s immediate associates.
The Sonata in B minor is a monumental, mould-breaking work cast in a single movement that does not correspond to any conventional formal structure. The Sonata underwent a lengthy gestation period and was first performed by Hans von Bülow in Berlin in 1857. Wagner regarded it as a sublime work, but Clara Schumann, to whom Liszt had dedicated his Six Studies after Paganini, thought it a terrible piece, too confused and full of noise. Brahms reputedly fell asleep during a performance of this landmark work given by the composer himself at Weimar.
Following a meeting in Dresden and then in Leipzig in 1835, Liszt and Schumann corresponded regularly, but Schumann had a higher regard for Liszt the dazzling virtuoso than he had for the composer. For many years after the death of her husband, Clara continued to view Liszt’s music withsome suspicion, regarding it as tedious and banal - the work of a composer who in her eyes was a dangerous role model for the young. But for her too, as a pianist he was in a class of his own.
Despite his affinity with the Romantic school, his openness of spirit and his natural generosity, Liszt only rarely played the music of Schumann. However, the two composers did have some things incommon, notably the fact that they were both outstanding critics and commentators on the musical scene: Schumann in the magazine that he founded in 1834, the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, and Liszt in the Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris. It was in this publication, on 12 November 1837, that Liszt included Schumann’s pieces among those works of art that are “long hidden in the shade, whose veiled beauties are only visible to the watchful eye of him who seeks lovingly and perseveringly, but which the fickle and absent crowd pass coldly by”. He concluded that “no cultivated mind could fail to perceive at a glance their superior merit and rare beauty”.
Liszt once said that “Schumann has breadth, but Chopin has greater height”. Chopin did not really understand Liszt’s music and rarely played it, though Liszt delighted in playing Chopin’s Studies. Though the two men initially enjoyed a warm friendship and admired each other, their different personalities eventually led to a rupture, which may also have had something to do with a disagreement between Chopin’s mistress George Sand and Liszt’s partner Marie d’Agoult.
For Heinrich Heine, Chopin - who had an aversion to performing in public - was “the kindest, the mostreserved and the most modest of men of genius”, in contrast to the fiery and flamboyant Liszt, whom he once described as “lightning-flashing, volcanic, [and] ready to storm the heavens”.
It was to Liszt that Chopin dedicated his first volume of piano Studies, Op.10, which he published in 1833. The performance of these studies requires incredible power and virtuosity, though with Chopin virtuosity always serves the poetic essence of the music, eschewing superfluous display.
In 1852, three years after the Polish composer’s death, Liszt published a monograph devoted to hisfriend and colleague which began with the words “Chopin! Gentle and harmonious genius!” -Adélaïde de Place
Nicholas Angelich's Dedication is out 29 April 2016.
Renaud Capuçon leads all-star tribute to Adolf Busch at Philharmonie de Paris
On 19 January in Paris, violinist Renaud Capuçon inaugurates a series of six concerts paying hommage to German violinist Adolf Busch (1891-1952), the mentor of Yehudi Menuhin and a devoted chamber musician.
"Adolf Busch was one of the very greatest musicians of the 20th century," says Capuçon. "He was a violinist of countless qualities and a man of exceptional musical integrity and humanity. He stands as a role model for generations of musicians seeking their artistic identity."
Fittingly, Capuçon is joined next week at the Philharmonie de Paris by some of his frequent chamber music partners, including brilliant 21-year-old cellist Edgar Moeau, and American pianist Nicholas Angelich, in a programme of Beethoven (String Quartet No.14) and Brahms (Piano Quintet Op.34): heartland repertoire for Busch, who recorded the same Brahms Piano Quintet with Rudolf Serkin in 1938.
Although the image that is most often associated with Renaud Capuçon is that of the dazzling soloist, the star in front of the orchestra, he is also an enthusiastic exponent of chamber music, often performing with his cellist brother Gautier, with pianist Martha Argerich, or with Khatia Buniatishvili with whom he recorded Franck, Grieg and Dvorak violin sonatas in 2014.
Celebrated for his unique style of phrasing and his belief that musical expression should be prized above technical showmanship, Busch was one of the first leading artists of his day to embrace the recording process, following the birth of the 78rpm disc. A rich and significant catalogue ensued: from solo and duo works to some of chamber music’s most famous masterpieces.
A 16-CD boxed set released last year presents Adolf Busch and The Busch Quartet's complete recordings now in the Warner Classics catalogue – interpretations of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and more, many of which remain unsurpassed to this day.
Renaud Capuçon releases his new album of violin concertos, recorded at the Philharmonie de Paris, late January 2016 to celebrate his 40th birthday.
Three leading pianists pay tribute to Aldo Ciccolini
I met Aldo Ciccolini when I was 17, and for me he really was the kind of teacher we all dream of, the kind we all hope to be lucky enough to meet at some point in our lives.
He taught me the piano, of course, but his teachings went way beyond music; he was universal. His lessons weren’t just piano lessons, they were lessons in living. People so supremely cultured, so at ease in every possible field, are very rare nowadays. His considerable experience of professional music-making has also been a great inspiration to me.
Aldo Ciccolini has truly helped me to become myself. At age 13, I arrived from the United States and entered his class at the Paris Conservatoire. But it was only when around my thirties that I realised how much he had influenced me.
Every Tuesday and Friday between 2pm and 8pm we would meet Aldo. Not only to perform, but also to listen to one another. It was almost like a concert performance and not just a lesson in the traditional sense. Besides his comments, he took his part in the event by playing for us himself. It was a privilege to share his experience as a musician and to discover such an extensive repertoire ranging from Scarlatti to Rachmaninov.
During these afternoons spent in his company, he used to recall musicians he deeply respected: Artur Schnabel, Wilhelm Backhaus or Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. He insisted on the fact that as musicians, we had a huge responsibility towards the works we were playing: respecting the composer’s intentions as expressed in the musical score, showing great care for quality of sound and harmonics, and avoiding all cheap effects.
Today, having become a professor myself at the Conservatoire, I try in my own way to pass on these musical and, in a sense, philosophical principles.
For twenty years, until about 2000, I was unable to go to any of Ciccolini’s recitals. I had memories of him as a virtuoso of distinction, elegant, yet with a tinge of distance due to the restraint he observed even in Liszt’s epic showpieces, of which he was a justly celebrated interpreter.
Then, in 2001, quite probably prompted by my friend Jean-Yves Thibaudet, I invited Ciccolini to the Estivales de Gerberoy, a festival I started in Normandy, not far from Rouen. Right from the outset I was touched by his kindness and straightforward friendliness (even though we didn’t know each other, as soon as we got talking on the phone he said we should use the familiar tu, not the formal vous, because ‘we are colleagues’), then I was completely blown away by the beauty, the breadth, the risks he took during the recital.
In a number of rarely heard works (a Clementi sonata, Poulenc’s Napoli, the Verdi/Liszt Aïda finale) his tone ‘opened up’ like a bottle of exquisite wine after fifty years in a cellar, his cantabile soared with infinite generosity and flexibility, and the lofty virtuosity of the past became purely abstract, even more impressive because of the subtlety, depth and aptness of the musical discourse. It was like hearing once again the leonine touch of my teacher Nikita Magaloff, together with the exuberance, the pugnacious, almost frenetic joy that are the signs of the true epicurean, putting the younger generations to shame!
These three tributes were collected in 2010 for the release of Aldo Ciccolini's complete recordings 1950-1991.
Les Victoires de la Musique Classique award for Nicholas Angelich
Nicholas Angelich in the grand west
Xu Zhong, Orchestre de Paris
Philharmonie de Paris
Xu Zhong, Orchestre de Paris
Philharmonie de Paris
Philharmonie de Paris
Théâtre des Champs-Elysées