Sunday Times | October 2016
The Festival links all aspects of the piano together, from traditional recitals to a family concert and jazz-fusion. The inaugural festival last year was met with critical acclaim and enthusiasm from audiences in particular for the spirited Two-Piano Marathon, which saw multiple pianists grouping in different configurations with colleagues.
“This year’s concerts promise to build upon the excitement of the previous festival with many more superb artists, all of whom will perform music with which they feel a special affinity”
Charles Owen and Katya Apekisheva, co-Artistic Directors
On the opening night Charles Owen performs music by Brahms, Schumann-Liszt, Liszt and Wagner-Liszt, and Katya Apekisheva performs Tchaikovsky and Weinberg, followed by a second-half duo recital of Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2 and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances.On Friday 6 October, Argentine pianist Nelson Goerner will give a solo recital of Chopin, Albéniz and Liszt. Goerner states that “Chopin is one of the closest composers to my heart […] he played an important role in my destiny as a musician”. As a contrast, Goerner has chosen to pair the Chopin Nocturnes with music by Albéniz and Liszt.
To kick off Saturday’s daytime, bite-size recitals, Austrian-Russian pianist Lisa Smirnova brings a programme of Scarlatti, Mozart and Handel to Kings Place at 11:30am. Smirnova has chosen repertoire by Scarlatti and Handel, who she described as “two of the most amazing keyboard virtuosos of their time” and pairs them with her favourite composer, Mozart.
Melvyn Tan’s afternoon recital on 7 October is centered around the world premiere of South-African composer Kevin Volans’ L’Africaine. Tan explains that the piece “will spike the listener with vigorous rhythms and chants from the Continent”. Tan has paired the premiere with Weber’s Invitation to the Dance and Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales and Miroirs.
Described by the New York Times as “a brilliantly insightful pianist”, Russian pianist Ilya Itin has put together a programme of Schubert and Rachmaninoff for his afternoon recital. As Itin states “there is an unusually grand scope and great sense of a journey into uncharted territory for both composers”, which he feels will be both challenging and rewarding for the audience. Itin won the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1996.
For the Two-Piano Marathon, Saturday recitalists come together with Owen, Apekisheva and Danny Driver for an evening of duets in different combinations. With a programme of John Adams, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Schumann, Shostakovich, Lutoslawski and the world premiere of Kandinsky by Elena Langer, the evening promises to be very special for both performers and audience alike. Kandinsky is inspired by a selection of Kandinsky paintings to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution (8 March – 7 November 1917). This follows last year’s commission of Nico Muhly’s Fast Patterns (watch here). The Telegraph stated that last year’s Two Piano Marathon was “a reminder of what a fabulous variety of sound can be conjured from two pianos“.
Elena Langer wrote that “Katya and Charles asked me to write a short piece for their Festival. They wanted something connected to the 1917 Revolution. I was looking at pictures by Wassily Kandinsky from the same year: colourful, bold works which are very Russian, but also strange and unique. None of them actually depicts the Revolution, as if it weren’t happening! I would like my piano piece to achieve something similar in spirit.”
Owen and Apekisheva want the Festival to appeal to piano lovers of all ages. Following the success of last year’s family concert with Noriko Ogawa, Owen, Apekshieva and Driver present a children’s programme of Poulenc’s Babar the Elephant and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, narrated by actor Simon Callow (subject to availability).
The Festival finishes with a performance by jazz-fusion artist Jason Rebello. Rebello has explained “I like to think that when you come to hear me play, you come on a journey with me and we both arrive at a joyful place together”. He will perform material from his recent album ‘Held’ which won the Best British Jazz Album award in 2016, in addition to music from Sting to Errol Garner and beyond.
Critics’ response to inaugural London Piano Festival in 2016
***** “A reminder of what a fabulous variety of sound can be conjured from two pianos” Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph
***** “A remarkable evening of exceptionally fine pianism and inventive programming, hugely enjoyable and highly engaging” Frances Wilson (The Cross-Eyed Pianist), Bachtrack
“This piano day was altogether exemplary” Paul Driver, The Sunday Times
[Source: Nicky Thomas Media]