The Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa has achieved the accolade of becoming the world’s most popular classical artist since her first YouTube recital in 2007. By leading the way to finding new audiences with sensational success, Lisitsa has gained a staggering 95 million views and almost 200,000 subscribers on YouTube.
Dénes Várjon in conversation with Sebastian Smallshaw
Dénes Várjon studied music at the Liszt Academy with Sándor Falvai, György Kurtág, and Ferenc Rados. Over the last 25 years, he has established an international career as a concert pianist and chamber musician, and is a regular guest at prestigious festivals in Europe and the United States. Since 2015, he has been artistic co-director of the chamber music festival kamara.hu, which he coordinates together with his wife, the pianist Izabella Simon. I spoke with Dénes Várjon in Budapest, just after he had performed in the second concert of this year’s kamara.hu.
American composer Margaret Brouwer will be premiering an oratorio, Voice of the Lake, on November 12 in Cleveland. Though she grew up in Michigan, the composer now lives near Lake Erie in Ohio, where she served as head of the composition department of the Cleveland Institute of Music until 2008. By her own reckoning, she has a special relationship with nature in general, and water in particular, which is reflected in many of her pieces.
For his first concerts as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the RIAS Chamber Choir, Justin Doyle finds himself very much in at the deep end: dual-venue performances of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers of the Blessed Virgin (at the Pierre Boulez Saal) and the Missa ‘In illo tempore’, with which it was published (just around the corner, at St Hedwig’s Cathedral). ‘Finds himself’, one might ask, or was he pushed? I was lucky enough to be able to do so, on the lunchtime in between the first, Friday evening performances, and the second ones on Saturday afternoon (the latter to be reviewed shortly).
I met Ton Koopman in his lovely home near Verteillac, France. Koopman’s festival, Itinéraire Baroque, had finished the night before; arriving at the house, there was a palpably convivial atmosphere, with artists featured in the festival relaxing alongside Koopman and his friends and family. The interview itself took place in a lovely, peaceful space away from the hubbub.
Angela Brownridge in Conversation with Robert Beattie
Angela Brownridge is one of the UK’s leading concert pianists. She has won rave reviews for her interpretations, being compared to giants of the piano such as Solomon, Cherkassky and Bolet. She was a child prodigy giving her first public recital at the age of 6 and her first concerto performance when she was 10 years old. She has performed with many of the world’s leading conductors and orchestras and she has an impressive and varied discography which includes the complete piano works of Barber and Gershwin. I spoke to her about her musical background and training, the pianists and artists whom she most admires, her love of jazz and improvisation, her view of piano competitions and her recording plans for the future.
There are few more celebrated musicians in the world right now than Manitoba-born violinist James Ehnes; and few listeners have failed to succumb to his tonal luster, silken lyrical lines and insightful virtuosity. After initial training with Francis Chaplin, the violinist made his solo debut at age 13 with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, followed by studies with Sally Thomas at Meadowmount and Juilliard (1993-97). Ehnes won the Peter Mennin Prize upon his Juilliard graduation, and subsequently received the first-ever Ivan Galamian Memorial Award and an Avery Fisher Career Grant, in addition to the highest Canadian honours. A turning point in Ehnes’ recording career came in 2006-2007 when his ‘homegrown’ recording of the Barber, Korngold and Walton concertos with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (under Bramwell Tovey) won both Juno and Grammy awards. This was followed by the widely-praised Onyx recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto with Sir Andrew Davis.
Kirill Gerstein has become an increasingly esteemed visitor to North American and European concert halls, moving quite a distance from his original Gilmore Young Artist’s Award in 2002, his debut recording for Oehms Classics, and the initial intrigue over his jazz training. Gerstein was awarded the coveted Gilmore Artist Award in 2010 and subsequently produced an enviable string of CD’s for the German company Myrios, virtually all of which have received strong acclaim. These include the Brahms Viola Sonatas with Tabea Zimmermann, the 1879 version of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto, the Liszt Sonata, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. His recording of Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes has just been released.