When you see such a fragment, it brings you slightly closer to the struggles of the composer

Yehuda Inbar

4260330917126-cover-zoomWhy did Schubert leave so much music unfinished? Was it the rapidity and volume of his compositional output that works were set aside, and not revisited? Did he feel dissatisifed or struggle with certain pieces? In this impressive debut disc, Israeli pianist Yehuda Inbar seeks to throw light on the conundrum of the unfinished piano sonatas by this most introspective composer by presenting the fragmentary Sonata in F-sharp minor, D571, and the ‘Reliquie’ Sonata in C major, D840 together with Michael Finnissy’s Vervollstandidung von Schuberts D840 (in effect the third and fourth movements of the Reliquie) and Jorg Widmann’s Idyll und Abgrund.

There have been some notable completions of the D571, enabling pianists to perform a “complete” sonata in concert, but Inbar chooses to present this work in its incomplete form, finishing without warning before the recapitulation, a fleeting 7 minutes of extraordinary, intimate poignancy. Inbar’s account is elegantly paced with a warm, richly-hued sound (recorded on a concert Bechstein as opposed to a Steinway). The highlighting of certain details, including interior voices and bass accents, reveals the Mozartian clarity of Schubert’s writing and his fondness for long-spun songlines.

By contrast the C major sonata, probably the most significant of Schubert’s unfinished works, is Beethovenian in its grander orchestral textures and gestures, yet always shot through with the most intimate, introspective writing, its ambiguity made even more explicit through Schubert’s fondness for unusual harmonies and unexpected modulations. The transition between the F-minor sonata and this one works here because the C major Sonata opens with a sense of uncertainty, a spare, haunting motif rather than an emphatic statement. Inbar’s account is robust when required, but he is also acutely sensitive to the mercurial nature of this music.

Michael Finnissy’s piece is a stand-alone work but also completes the D 840 and was written for Inbar, who premiered it in May 2017. Finnissy describes Schubert as someone who has been “heavily marketed by the media, whose personality has been very frequently discussed….We don’t know our last moments and we shouldn’t think we know Schubert’s last moments either…I didn’t want a slow decline into an autumnal coda. I just wanted it to stop, almost with a question mark. Has it finished, has it not finished? What more do we know about Schubert from listening to this?” The work intriguingly interleaves distinctly Schubertian idioms and motifs with instances of unexpectedly crunchy dissonances and dramatic outbursts. Like the D571, it ends ambiguously. If you half-listen you might think this is pure Schubert in a particularly idionsyncratic mood, and, taken with the Widmann which follows, it’s instructive in revealing the essence of Schubert’s writing and the influence and pull of that writing on composers who followed him. Here, the new shines a light on the old, and vice versa.

The extremes of Schubert’s emotional landscape are reflected and distorted in Jorg Widmann’s Idyll und Abgrund, six little Schubert ‘reminiscences’ which combine dreamscapes, brilliance, drama and violence with fragments of Viennese waltzes, raunchy Ländler, and even a child’s music box, complemented by a whistle by the pianist, all handled with immediacy and panache by Inbar.

Highly recommended


Yehuda Inbar: Schubert – Finnissy – Widmann is available on the Oehms Classics label

 

 

 

 

Who or what inspired you to take up piano and pursue a career in music?

Growing up, I was an avid collector of records (even cassettes, as they existed then!). I remember the first time listening to the Rachmaninoff concerti, and falling in love with the monumental scale of the music. I was also extremely fortunate to have an inspirational mentor during my early study – Emily Jeffrey, who made it possible for me to have a career.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

First, my teachers have been hugely important: Emily Jeffrey, as I already mentioned, and then Ronan O’Hora. I feel very lucky that both teachers allowed me to develop my own ideas. Masterclasses and performances with some wonderful masters have also been influential – in particular Richard Goode, Stephen Kovacevich, and Diego Masson. My family have also been incredibly supportive.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I think it is the things that affects most musicians – having to learn a great deal of repertoire at short notice, keeping your artistic integrity at the forefront, and finding time to deal with the business side of the career. On a side note, learning statistics for my doctorate (examining musical memorisation) was perhaps the most unusual challenge!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I hope that all of my performances have some kind of meaning or importance. There are a few that stand out. Performing recitals on consecutive days (with different programmes!) at the Barbican and Royal Festival Hall was an exhilarating – and exhausting – experience. At the end of my postgraduate study I also performed Messiaen’s vast tone poem Des Canyons aux Etoiles with the Guildhall Sinfonia in Milton Court – an absolute privilege!

My debut album is available now, featuring the solo works of Boulez, Dutilleux and Messiaen. It’s an exciting project supported by the City Music Foundation.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I have an affinity for French 20th-century repertoire: Boulez Notations, Messiaen Des Canyons aux Etoiles, Dutilleux Sonata. Beethoven Sonatas are also the works I return to the most. Variety is important!

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

There’s so much to choose! I generally try to pick one big work and try to build something interesting around it, often combining with some contemporary repertoire. Next up is Beethoven Op. 110.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I’m very fond of Milton Court – as it feels sort of like a second home from my study at Guildhall. The Bridgewater Hall and Wigmore Hall also.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Richard Goode, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Oliver Knussen, Paul Simon

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Performing Stravinsky’s Les Noces in a huge barn in France with some wonderful colleagues stands out. It was so cold that everyone had to wear thick coats, and there was grain and machinery everywhere. Despite this, it was a great concert!

From a listener’s perspective, Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s performance of Messiaen’s Vingt Regards at Milton Court in 2016 was indescribable.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Be comfortable in your own skin, and keep learning!

What is your most treasured possession?

Friends and family.

 


Praised as a pianist of “huge intensity” (The Telegraph), Alexander Soares is developing a reputation as an artist of formidable technique and virtuosity, with performances of “diamond clarity and authority” (BBC Radio 3 ‘In Tune’). In 2015, his performance in the BBCSO / BBC Radio 3 ‘Boulez at 90’ celebrations received widespread critical acclaim in the press, described as a “brilliantly unbuttoned account” (The Sunday Times) and “most memorable of all” (The Financial Times). The 2014-15 season began with a BBC Radio 3 broadcast of the rarely heard piano repertoire of John Tavener, and included Alexander’s debuts at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the latter performance applauded for its “explosive sound world, pulling out a rich array of colour and texture” (The Herald). He was awarded 1st prize and Gold Medal in the prestigious Royal Overseas League Competition, and was subsequently selected as a 2015 Artist by City Music Foundation. 2016-17 highlights include returns to Wigmore Hall, St-Martin-in-the-fields, St. James’s Piccadilly, and Alexander’s debut in the USA.

Contemporary French repertoire forms a major part of Alexander’s programming. Since a U.K. première of Tristan Murail’s work in the BBCSO Total Immersion series, he has performed this repertoire in his debut recitals in the Royal Festival Hall, the Purcell Room, and the Bridgewater Hall. In 2014, he collaborated with Diego Masson performing Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux Étoiles in Milton Court Concert Hall. The following year, he performed Boulez’s Dérive with David Corkhill in LSO St. Luke’s. He worked with the renowned recording producer Andrew Keener to record his debut album of solo works by Boulez, Dutilleux and Messiaen.

A keen chamber musician, Alexander has performed on numerous occasions in the Barbican, working with notable artists such as Boris Brovtsyn and Alexander Baillie. Collaborating with violinist Mihaela Martin, he debuted in Spain at the Palacio de Festivales, Sala Argenta. He has also toured France, in venues including Auditorium St. Germain and Opéra Rouen, performing Stravinsky’s Les Noces on Pleyel’s original double grand pianos, manufactured in the late nineteenth century. Alexander has greatly benefitted from the guidance of pianists including Richard Goode, Stephen Kovacevich, Stephen Hough, and Steven Osborne.

Alexander graduated with first class honours from Clare College, University of Cambridge. He then pursued postgraduate studies with Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, achieving a Master’s with Distinction. In 2015 he completed a doctorate investigating memorisation strategies for contemporary piano repertoire, under the supervision of Professor Daniel Leech-Wilkinson. He is most grateful for generous support from the Guildhall School Trust, Help Musicians UK, Countess of Munster Trust, Martin Musical Scholarship Foundation, Park Lane Group and Making Music. 

www.alexander-soares.com

Bela Bartók – Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm from Mikrokosmos
Paul Constantinescu – Cântec

Paul Constantinescu – Dobrogean dance: Toccata
Franz Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody No 5 in E minor
Franz Liszt – Mephisto – Waltz No 1

Florian Mitrea, piano

Tuesday 30th January 2018

St Martin’s in the Fields, an elegant neoclassical church in the heart of London, resonated to the colourful, earthy sounds and rhythms of Eastern Europe in Florian Mitrea’s lunchtime concert. In an interesting and contrasting programme he offered a “taster” of his debut disc ‘Following the River’ with works by Bela Bartok, Paul Constantinescu and Franz Liszt

Fresh from winning fourth prize in the inaugural International Music Competition in Harbin, China, Florian betrayed no sign of lingering jet lag (he flew back to London from China on Sunday) in an energetic and committed performance book-ended by dances by Bartok and Liszt. The vibrant sounds and asymmetrical rhythms of Bartok’s Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm were despatched with muscular verve and nimble articulation. Hearing Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz in the same programme as the Bulgarian Dances reminded us of Liszt’s eastern European heritage, and here this work was less a devilishly tricky crowd-pleasing virtuosic romp and more a fitting companion piece to Bartok’s dances which opened the concert. Equally, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 5 was given a noble grandeur, imbued with a sweeping romanticism but also deeply connected to the composer’s heritage.

The middle of the programme was occupied by two works by Romanian composer Paul Constantinescu (1909-63). Cântec, a set of variations on a Romanian folksong, was infused with a bittersweet nostalgia, while Dobrogean dance: Toccata recalled the off-beat folk rhythms of Bartok in a work which combined glittering virtuosity with poignant lyricism. Both works were beautifully paced, sensitively shaped, and highly evocative.

These two works appear on Florian’s debut disc, Following the River, inspired by childhood memories of “hot summer nights spent on a boat in the middle of a channel, deep in the heart of the Danube Delta” (FM). The Danube, the longest river within today’s European union, flows through 10 countries and four capital cities – Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade – and carries with it stories, folklore, memories and more. In Following the River we find quite a different version of the river from “An der schönen blauen Donau”, by the Austrian Johann Strauss II, which celebrates the great river in Vienna; this is a far more personal evocation. The selection of pieces by Bartok, Schubert and Liszt and Romanian composers Sigismund Toduta, Paul Constantinescu and Radu Paladi all call on the folk heritage and music of eastern Europe in works of rich textures, dynamic rhythms, piquant harmonies and simple yet haunting melodies. Schubert’s Hungarian Melody is given a more earthy treatment, with a strong focus on its offbeat rhythms which turns in from a salon piece into a true folk melody. The disc introduces listeners to the varied and intriguing piano music of lesser-known composers Toduta, Constantinescu and Paladi, complemented by well-known works by Liszt. This is a very personal and meaningful selection of music, elegantly presented and masterfully played, with a deep appreciation of and affinity with the folk heritage which lies at the heart of all this music.

Highly recommended

Following the river: Music along the Danube

Bela Bartok, Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm from Mikrokosmos Sz. 107
Sigismund Toduţă, Twelve Variations on a Romanian Christmas Carol
Franz Schubert, Hungarian Melody D 817
Paul Constantinescu, Variations on a Romanian Folksong
Paul Constantinescu, Joc Dobrogean. Toccata (Dobrogean dance)
Franz Liszt, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5 ‘Héroïde-élégiaque’ in E minor
Sigismund Toduţă, Suite of Romanian Songs and Dances
Radu Paludi, Rondo a capriccio
Sigismund Toduţă, Chorale on ‘God, have mercy’ and Toccata

© and ℗ 2017 ACOUSENCE records (ACO-CD 13317) www.acousence.de


Meet the Artist – Florian Mitrea

 

album_coverLucas Debargue: Scarlatti, Chopin, Liszt Ravel (Sony)

Escape all the noise and fall out of Brexit and the Conservative Party leadership wrangling with this exquisite debut disc by Lucas Debargue, the young French pianist who came fourth in the prestigious Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in 2015.

Weightless elegant Scarlatti opens this album which was recorded live at the Salle Cortot in Paris, Debargue’s first concert in his hometown after the competition. His sense of pacing, evident in the Scarlatti sonatas, really comes to the fore in his reading of Chopin’s Fourth Ballade, where he balances delicacy and poetry with drama to create a performance which is both intimate and expansive. The real impact comes when he holds the music in suspense: it feels natural and unpretentious. His performance of Gaspard de la Nuit, the work for which he received much enthusiastic acclaim during the competition, is equally impressive. His clarity of touch and tone combined with that wondrous pacing brings a silky sensuality to ‘Ondine”s watery arabesques while ‘Scarbo’ is less grotesque, more puckish and playful, though no less dark for it. In between these movements, ‘Le Gibet’ is seven minutes of restrained desolation. His Liszt is a proper waltz instead of the headlong frenzy some pianists give to this work. The Grieg is like an encore, a calming salve after Liszt’s twirling rhyhms. The Schubert is as intimate as you like, as if Debargue is playing just for you – and playful too, reminding us that Schubert was a composer of dances and Ländler. And in a neat piece of programming the album closes with Debargue’s variation on the Scarlatti Sonata in A which opens the album.

At the Tchaikovsky Competition, the Moscow Music Critics Association awarded him their prize for “the pianist whose incredible gift, artistic vision and creative freedom have impressed the critics as well as the audience”, and his debut disc demonstrates these attributes in spades.

Highly recommended.

Lucas Debargue’s performances at the Tchaikovsky Competition are still available to view on the Medici TV site

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