A series of concerts with British pianist James Lisney, exploring the late piano music of Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin

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What is ‘Late Style’? It’s a question that has preoccupied writers and thinkers, from Theodor Adorno, who coined the term in relation to Beethoven’s late music, to Edward Said, whose book ‘On Late Style’ explores the output of composer, artists and writers in the later years of their creative lives.

We expect the late works of composers (and writers and artists) to be concerned with valedictory thoughts, of resolution and acceptance, that age and ill-health bring a state of serenity or resignation. Yet many composers’  late work is often intransigent, challenging and contradictory, inventive and transcendent.

Late style is also associated with an aesthetic mastery and a distillation of what matters most, as if an awareness that the end may be near has the effect of really concentrating the artistic focus. Beethoven, for example, reveals in his late piano sonatas an intense heroism, otherworldliness and non-conformity. For Adorno, Beethoven’s late works are an emphatic and triumphant assertion of his refusal to resolve life’s exigencies peacefully, a view which Edward Said endorses, regarding it as a strength in its own right, rather than a negative factor in Beethoven’s late music.

For Schubert and Chopin, both of whom died young (by today’s standards), lateness is relative, almost a philosophical construct. The “late” works of these composers demonstrate that lateness is not just about physical or creative maturity, but also an attitude of mind. In their music there is the sense of life lived with intensity, that time is finite and there is much more to say, and this seems to have focused these composers’ imaginations in a very specific way.

‘Endgame’, a new series of concerts by British pianist James Lisney, at venues in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic, explores the notion of Late Style through the lens of four composers who are particularly close to Lisney’s heart – Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin. These recitals include some of the best-loved, most intriguing and satisfying music of these composers’ late output.

Full details on James Lisney’s website

Meet the Artist interview with James Lisney

 

I have nothing but praise for James Lisney`s piano playing; he combines velvet touch and wide range of colour with complete understanding of phrasing and dynamic shading. This is someone who can really give the mechanical box of wires and wood a singing soul.

The Telegraph

 

On a single staff, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and the most powerful feelings. If I were to imagine how I might have made, conceived the piece, I know for certain that the overwhelming excitement and awe would have driven me mad

Thus wrote Johannes Brahms of the Chaconne, composed by J S Bach as the final movement of the Partita No. 2 for solo violin. Throughout much of its three-hundred year existence, the Chaconne has been a source of fascination for composers and performers on instruments other than the violin, inspiring numerous transcriptions by composers as varied as Johannes Brahms, Feruccio Busoni and Leopold Stokowski.

A tour-de-force of instrumental ingenuity, musicianship and virtuosity, cellist and composer Joy Lisney’s own arrangement is the latest response to the Chaconne and attempts to illuminate Bach’s music through the cello, occasionally taking inspiration from the instrument itself but mostly staying as close as possible to the original.

The monumental Chaconne is the centrepiece of a programme including works by Chopin and Brahms, performed by one of the UK’s most exciting cello and piano duos, Joy and James Lisney.

The programme concludes with Brahms’  Regensonate in D; an intensely nostalgic work that Clara Schumann described as “blissful” and “melancholic” – music that she wanted to accompany her “at that passage from here to eternity”.

8 June – London, Purcell Room, Southbank Centre

Joy appeared on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune on Monday 6 May

 

 

 


Praised for her stylish playing, musical maturity, formidable technical finesse and keen advocacy for new music, Joy Lisney is one of the most exciting young musicians to emerge in recent years in a busy career combining the cello with composing and conducting.

She has been performing internationally since her teens, at leading venues including the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Queen’s Hall Edinburgh, St. George’s Bristol and the Southbank Centre, in concerts featuring some of the best known works for cello as well as specially-commissioned new music and her own compositions. Her first string quartet was premiered by the Arditti Quartet in 2015 and she premiered her own composition ‘ScordaturA’ for solo cello in 2017 at St John’s Smith Square as part of the Park Lane Group concert series. Joy has also given world premieres of works by Judith Weir and Cecilia McDowall.

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James Lisney’s website

 

Artist photos by Krisztian Sipos and Suzie Maeder