Piotr Beczała in conversation with Michael Cookson
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.
CanadaThe Pursuit of Discovery: An Interview with Conductor John Storgårds
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.
‘BETWEEN TWO WORLDS’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST 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.
For four decades, Bruce Dickey has almost single-handedly pioneered the resurgence of the cornetto, an instrument forgotten for centuries but absolutely essential to faithful historical performance. He has been a fixture at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, leading new students of the instrument forward. In 2000, the Historic Brass Society awarded him the prestigious Christopher Monk Award for ‘his monumental work in cornetto performance, historical performance practice and musicological scholarship’.
Canada The Great Canadian Artists: An Interview with Pianist Angela Hewitt
Angela Hewitt grew up in Ottawa and began her piano studies at the age of three. She gave her first full-length recital at the age of nine at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where she studied from 1964 to 1973.