Arabella Steinbacher in conversation with Michael Cookson, Dresden 2016

My first exposure to the playing of Munich born violinist Arabella Steinbacher was in 2011 when reviewing her recording of the Shostakovich violin concertos on Orfeo.

A child prodigy on the violin Steinbacher started lessons aged 3 and 5 years later became the youngest violin student of Ana Chumachenko at the Munich Academy of Music. In 2000 Steinbacher won the Joseph-Joachim-Violinwettbewerbes Hannover when she was 19 and the Förderpreis des Freistaates Bayern a year later. In 2004 she made her concert debut playing at short notice for an indisposed soloist with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France under Sir Neville Marriner in Paris.

Certainly a thrilling musician, Steinbacher has made an impressive reputation for herself with several excellent recordings under her belt. One of the finest violinists around compared to a group of talented soloists of her generation, curiously, she is not as well known as her talent deserves; especially in the U.K.   

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Jan Vogler in conversation with Michael Cookson

Jan Vogler © Jim Rakete
Jan Vogler © Jim Rakete

Not only is Jan Vogler a renowned cellist on the international stage but driven by his insatiable appetite for music he also serves as Intendant of the Dresden Music Festival; with his contract recently extended until 2021. I have attended the festival for several years and under Vogler’s management the festival has grown to one of international renown attracting the world’s finest artists.

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Piotr Beczała in conversation with Michael Cookson

Piotr Beczala © Jean-Baptiste Millot (1)
Piotr Beczala © Jean-Baptiste Millot

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to interview star international tenor Piotr Beczała whom I met in the lounge of his Dresden hotel. There was a great feeling of anticipation in the city for the revival of Christine Mielitz’s Lohengrin at the Semperoper as in few days time. Piotr was to sing the title role with Anna Netrebko as Elsa; their first Wagner roles.

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The Pursuit of Discovery: An Interview with Conductor John Storgårds

CanadaCanada The Pursuit of Discovery: An Interview with Conductor John Storgårds

John Storgårds © Heikki Tuuli
John Storgårds © Heikki Tuuli

Over the last five years or so, Finnish conductor John Storgårds has seemed to be everywhere: his compelling performances with the BBC Philharmonic, his Proms appearances, his recent recordings of the complete Sibelius and Nielsen symphonies for Chandos, and many other recordings on Ondine, including his new Zemlinsky. Yet Maestro Storgårds, now 52, really only picked up a baton some twenty years ago, having spent most of his early career as a violinist and concertmaster. Even his early focus as a conductor was hardly standard: he endlessly sought out the scores of hitherto-neglected Finnish and Nordic composers, often premiering their works and recording them for the first time. These projects are still ongoing, perhaps even accelerating, and have been sufficiently extensive that the conductor already has over fifty recordings to his name.

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‘Between Two Worlds’: An Interview With Violinist Tianwa Yang


Tianwa Yang

The dramatic growth in the number of talented artists of Asian origin has been one of the outstanding features of classical music today, indeed sufficiently important to influence the focus of major recording companies and media. Traditionally, the road to exposure for young Asian artists, and violinists in particular, has been straightforward: move to America, gain entrance into Juilliard or Curtis from an early age, and let their budding musical and technical skills be honed by the great teachers. This was the route taken by Kyung Wha Chung originally, and later Cho Liang Lin and Sarah Chang, among many others.

If one looks at the career of 28-year-old Chinese violinist Tianwa Yang, one would think that she must be cut from standard cloth. After all, her virtuoso skills are pristine and her recordings for Naxos, the most enterprising being the complete violin compositions of Pablo Sarasate, have received the highest praise. They have often been cited as a model of ‘the art of the violin’ for their technical accuracy, perception and emotional commitment. Of her more than 20 recordings, she has also received the ECHO Klassic 2015 award as Violin Instrumentalist of the Year for Ysaÿe’s Sonatas for Solo Violin. Yet Ms Yang did all her early studies in China, and in fact did not want to study in America. She recoils at the term ‘virtuoso’ being used to describe her talents, showing almost no interest in the ‘International Violin Olympiad’, as she aptly calls it.  Rather, her dream from her teens was to study German chamber music in Germany, and that is eventually what she did. It is a long jump from Schubert to Sarasate or Paganini, so when she visited Vancouver to play Paganini’s 2nd Concerto, I was more than a little intrigued, especially since she apparently had not touched the work for over a decade.

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