....a roundup of Chopiniana: current news, views, reviews, recordings and performances in the runup to the 200th birthday of the matchless Polish keyboard composer.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Chopin Currency: April 30, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews & Previews:

San Diego Jewish Journal - CA, USA

An interview with Hershey Felder in the run-up to a San Diego presentation of all three of his one-man shows: "Beethoven At I Knew Him," "Monsieur Chopin," and "George Gershswin Alone."

San Diego theater aficionados will certainly remember Felder for last year’s showstopper “George Gershwin Alone,” which sold out seats and kept audience members singing all the way home. Felder did more than portray the American music master, he became him.

He followed the same formula in his return months later with “Monsieur Chopin,” bringing the intensely emotional 19th century pianist to life in ways most audience members had never imagined.

At press time, he was neck-deep in rehearsals for the final piece in his composer trilogy, aptly titled, “Beethoven, As I Knew Him.”

“This is the completion,” Felder says over the phone. “We’re going backwards.”

All three parts of the trilogy are one-man shows, marked by Felder’s incredible ability to be both pianist and character actor. In order to provide both a show and an accurate history lesson, hours upon hours of research are required.
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Chosen by Chopin
Thanh Nien Daily - Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam

More press for Chopin Competition winner Dang Thai Son during his tour of his Vietnamese homeland....

When he was 12, his mother, one of the first Vietnamese pianists to graduate from the Prague Music Conservatory in what was then Czechoslovakia, brought him some CD’s featuring Chopin’s music from the International Chopin Competition she took part in.

The youngster was mesmerized by the master’s works.

His love affair with the piano and Chopin’s music had begun.

“Whenever I play his music, I feel as if it speaks about my own life and expresses my own thoughts and emotions,” Son says.

“The piano and Chopin’s works have kept me good company since I was young."...

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Chopin Downloads:

Wibi Soerjadi - Plays Chopin (1998)
By freebook

Free download of Chopin works by the Dutch pianist...

Wibi Soerjadi - Plays Chopin (1998). Classical | 1998 | FLAC (single files) | 293 MB. RS.com | 4 files | booklet scans | 01:17:22 | Philips. Wibi Soerjadi was born in 1970 in Leiden, Netherlands. After only four years of studying at the ...
Free Book Source - http://freebooksource.com

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Chopin Currency: April 29, 2008

Chopin Video of the Day:

Woody Woodpecker: "Musical Moments from Chopin"

Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda give a piano performance for an audience of barnyard animals. Soundtrack is provided by the duo-piano team of (Thomas) Saidenberg & (Edward) Rebner.

Revver Media RSS - http://revver.com

Chopin News, Reviews & Previews:

A Poet of the Piano, in the Company of His Forebears
New York Times - United States

Times critic finds "Listening to the pianist Richard Goode playing Bach and Chopin on Sunday was a perfect, soul-soothing tonic after a busy week..."

Both Chopin’s life and his music are sometimes overromanticized; his works are either imbued with a sickly sweet perfume and exaggerated rubato or used as Lisztian showpieces. But Chopin adored the music of Mozart and Bach and reportedly sometimes played “The Well-Tempered Clavier” to warm up before concerts.

When Mr. Goode played Chopin after works by Bach, it made musical sense, and each composer benefited from the diligence of his approach. He played with the clean articulation and voicing essential to Bach’s music, which also highlighted the intricacies and counterpoint of the Chopin selections.

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Young pianist enthralls
The Republican - MassLive.com - Springfield,MA,USA

18 year-old pianist Claire Huangci "brought the audience to its feet with her performance of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor. ..."

A recent Curtis Institute graduate and prize-winner in the 2006 Kosciusko Piano Competition, Huangci proved to be an elegant technician.

She controlled the piano with warm assertion, bringing a broad timbral palette to bear in her execution of Chopin's singular manipulations of the instrument. Neither the bravura passagework general to 19th century piano music nor the whimsical filigree so intimately identified with the Polish master posed any difficulty for Huangci's flying fingers.

The consistency of certain tiny details (mannerisms in the playing of triplets, for example) seemed to reveal a studied expression rather than the appearance of spontaneous extemporization that will surely settle in with ensuing years of immersion in this repertoire.

That said, the fact that composer and player were virtually the same age (Chopin was only 19 when he wrote the piece and 20 when he played the Warsaw premiere), speaks volumes for the value of youthful energy and ardor.

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Pianist Rafal Blechacz displays grace, versatility in thrilling ...
Kalamazoo Gazette - MLive.com - Kalamazoo,MI,USA

The Chopin Competition winner lives up to the hype at his debut at the prestigious Gilmore Festival....

But a Polish pianist is expected most to have natural affinity with Chopin's music. This proved true with Blechacz performing all 24 of Chopin's Preludes, Op. 28 (1836-1839) -- a "tour de force." The artist elicited totally unique, individual "personality" from each short piece. No. 4 in E Minor was the epitome of sadness, for example, as Blechacz wrung every ounce of wistfulness from the score.

Everyone in the audience had his favorites, and mine included the utterly charming No. 9 in E Major, featuring the pianist's stunning left hand trills, a glorious No. 15 in D-Flat Major and a highly dramatic, affecting last prelude in D Minor, with blistering left-hand playing and dramatic chromatic runs in the right hand.

A genuine surge of approval came afterwards from the audience, leading to a brilliant rendition of a Moszkowski showcase jewel. Clearly, Blechacz had won the hearts of his discerning Gilmore audience.

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Review: Brubeck Braid at Glamour Bar
Shanghaiist - Shanghai,China

Don't know their music, but after the description, of the this piano/cello jazz duo, you may want to check them out!

The two mainly performed pieces from their album twotet/deuxtet including Wash Away (inspired by a dream in which Chopin meets Ray Charles),
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Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Chopin Currency: April 27, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews & Previews:

A remarkable pianist on a curious quest
San Francisco Chronicle - CA, USA

SF Critic admires the passion, but is not enthralled with the substance of a "fascinating but frustrating demi-recital" presented
by Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin that is devoted to 19th-century pianist -composer Leopold Godowsky.....

Sometimes, as with someone who wants to show you his bottle-cap collection, you just have to smile and nod appreciatively.

For at least one listener, Hamelin's barnstorming run through Godowsky's splashy oeuvre - seven of his 53 famous Etudes based on Chopin, and the Symphonic Metamorphoses on Johann Strauss' "Wine, Women and Song" - was just such an occasion.

To be sure, Hamelin's execution was never short of amazing. Playing from memory, he tore through these intricate showpieces with dexterity and an extraordinary control of weight and voicing. Textures emerged from the thickets of notes with surprising clarity, and a few of the etudes - in particular the two for left hand alone - boasted a melancholy beauty that was striking.

But unless a listener is already committed to the cause, these are not pieces that benefit from being heard in large quantities. The approach is often similar - Chopin's music is adorned and then adorned again - and the ratio of notes to music can seem very high. The Strauss paraphrase, without even Chopin's genius underlying it, felt endless.

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Chopin in the Blogosphere:

Largo by Frederic Chopin
By Jeremiah Jones(Jeremiah K. Jones)

Advice for how to play Chopin in church...

This is another recording from the book, Classical Music for the Church Service: Volume 2. Although Frederic Chopin wasn't really known for writing music for worship (unlike Johann Sebastian Bach), you will understand why this selection was included in a volume of music for worship services. It has a very hymn-like feel and structure. It is a simple melody moving in a series of chords
Sign My Piano - http://www.signmypiano.com/

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Chopin Currency: April 26, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews & Previews:

Puzzle pieces of past fall into place when playing a baby grand
Anderson Independent Mail (subscription) - Anderson,SC,USA

"This is a story about a piano, and a middle-aged woman, and the thrill of rediscovering an old love...."

The piano is a little long in the tooth now. It’s out of tune. Some of the keys stick. The hammers need to be re-felted. Old memories have to be dusted off when you take them out.

I sit down on the bench, open a piece of sheet music and -- surprise! -- my hands float automatically to their places on the keyboard. Treble clef. Bass. Andante. Allegro. The words of a long-forgotten language come back to me, one by one.

I can’t play very well. But I’m so happy, sitting here, my fingers finding their way over the keys again. It feels like the puzzle pieces of my past are falling back into place.

My rendering of “Greensleeves” is tentative. Halting. I miss the C-sharp. Next, one of Chopin’s “Nocturnes.” Not much better. But it’s music....

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Chopin in the Blogosphere:

Shabbat morning at Hemdat Hayamim, or; Chopin atop
By homefris(homefris)

Touching entry about a piano recital in the rare air of the Promised Land...

Yitzak Tavior wants you to appreciate. Since he gathered his family on the mountaintop of Hemdat Yamim in the late 1960’s, Tavior has been striving to remember the obligation that comes with living in such a beautiful place. “What our job here is to bring culture, to bring music, to the surrounding area,” he says over sweetened mint lemonade at his family’s café. Along with a few scattered guesthouses and the family’s house itself, the café complex is the extent of Hemdat Yamim, a “farm,” (as Tavior calls it) in the upper Gallilee where we’ve found ourselves this Saturday morning.

We came for the morning piano concert, and found ourselves stepping up into the trees. Each Saturday morning, Tavior performs a “pluralistic” piano recital for a few guests inside his airily vaulted wooden attic studio....
homefrid ocean - http://homefris.blogspot.com/

Chopin in the Videosphere:

By rss@dailymotion.com (za0108)

A nice "print show" pairing of Polish landscapes and military scenes by Wojciech Kossak with FC's music.....

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Chopin Currency - April 25, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews & Previews:

Award-winning pianist to perform here
Vancouver Sun - British Columbia, Canada

Both a review (of a new DG CD) and a preview of the pending May 2 appearance in Vancouver by Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz...

This is a real coup. Blechacz, who is only 23, jumped into the spotlight overnight when he won all five top prizes in 2005's Frederic Chopin Competition in Warsaw. For the first time in history, the jury decided not to award a second prize. The Vancouver stop is the only Canadian one in his first American tour of only five concerts. [....]

This first recording is a very exciting one, consisting largely of the works he'll be performing in Vancouver, the revolutionary 24 Preludes of opus 28. This is amazing playing, remarkable for its clarity, directness and honesty. He makes what can be treacherous sound natural and simple. His playing evokes that supreme Brazilian pianist, Guiomar Novaes, who was very hard to equal in playing Chopin. This is a very special recording.

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Bit of a draught at bathtime
Brisbane Times - Brisbane,Queensland,Australia

An Aussie visitor to the Czech Republic discovers a delightful tradition in the Spa towns where Chopin once took the cure...

A beer bath may be an innovation here in west Bohemia but it's certainly not the first time the region has been visited for its spas. The neighbouring towns of Karlovy Vary and Marianske Lazne, once frequented by Chopin, Nietzsche and Freud, are famous in western Europe for their magnesium-rich waters. Thousands of tourists visit for thermal treatments at exclusive health spas. Chopin probably never bathed in beer, however.
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Proust Questionnaire: Eleanor McEvoy
Athlone Advertiser - Westmeath,Ireland

Irish singer-songwriter dishes on F.C...

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A: Listening to Chopin while sipping champagne in a hot bath filled with bubbles and the one I love.

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Composing while Computing

Princeton University The Daily Princetonian - NJ, United States

More on the "geometrical music theory" from Princeton scholar Dmitri Tymoczko....

In his analyses of different pieces of music, Tymoczko was particularly struck by the pictorial representations of two musically unusual pieces by Chopin — the E-minor prelude and Chopin's final composition, a mazurka in F minor.

"These are two pieces that people have really struggled to understand musically," Tymoczko said. "It turns out that they explore a very coherent space, a sort of necklace made with four-dimensional hypercube beads that are linked together by a shared vertex."

What's most alarming about this discovery is that Chopin composed during the first half of the 19th century, a time when mathematicians understood very little about conceptualizing four-dimensional space. Still, Tymoczko said, the incredibly close correlation between Chopin's music and four-dimensional geometry could not possibly be a coincidence. In other words, Chopin had some intuitive understanding of a branch of mathematics that would not be formally expressed or understood until decades after his death.

“It was an incredible point in history," Tymoczko said of the early 19th century. "Humanity's knowledge of the four-dimensional structure could only be expressed in the form of beautiful Romantic music."

It's a discovery that gives new meaning to the belief of mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz that "music is the pleasure the human soul experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting."

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Chopin Currency - April 24, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:
Piano Man on a Mission

Miami New Times - Miami,FL,USA

Fascinating story of the "self-taught classical pianist" Kristopher Hull, who's now taking his Chopin-heavy act to the streets of Miami as a "Pianist Errant"

This past February 27 would come to be known as Kristopher Hull's Worst Day Ever. Armed with a full-size upright piano, a repertoire of Chopin's etudes and nocturnes, and his nerves, the 33-year-old pianist planned to storm Lincoln Road, guerrilla-style. He was going to bring classical music out of the concert hall and into the streets.

Inspired by his fictional role model, Don Quixote, Hull was in the early days of his quest, which he called "pianist errantry." He was accompanied by a pal, Swedish-born photographer Victor Staaffe, who was documenting the whole thing. Together that sunny afternoon, they unloaded Hull's piano from the back of his aquamarine pickup truck....

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Concert will feature 'jazz on a classical guitar'
Post-Bulletin - Rochester,MN,USA

Jazz guitarist Gene Bertoncini is poised to showcase his classical chops with the Rochestra Symphony Orchestra...

He'll play three arrangements with the orchestra, two of them melding classical pieces with jazz tunes. The first combines Chopin's Prelude in E flat with Antonio Carlos Jobim's "How Insensitive." The second starts with Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez and becomes Chick Corea's "Spain."

The works fit the Latin theme of the concert. "You can't get more Latin than the title of 'Spain,'" Bertoncini said.

Jobim borrowed from Chopin's Prelude and added a bossanova beat for "How Insensitive."

"I heard a pianist do it the same way when I was on the 'Tonight Show,'" Bertoncini said. "I always remembered that." He simply transferred it to guitar.

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World-acclaimed Vietnamese pianist to release new CD
Viet Nam News - Hanoi,Vietnam

More about the Chopin-heavy CD-and-book releases in Vietnam by native son (and 1980 Chopin Competition winner) Dang Thai Son...

A CD compilation of Vietnamese high profile pianist Dang Thai Son’s favourite classical pieces hits the streets next Friday.

Distributed by the Phuong Nam Film Company, the collection includes 13 CDs, previously released by Japan’s Victor Entertainment Inc. (JVC). The CDs include Tchaikovsky, Men-delssohn, Liszt, Ravel and Debussy scores, and nine devoted entirely to Chopin.

According to director of Phuong Nam Film Phan Mong Thuy, the company has spent four months securing distribution rights from JVC.

"In presenting the CDs of famous pianist Dang Thai Son, our company is doing its utmost to bring Vietnamese audiences valued musical products," Thuy said.

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SFIFF: Ashes to ashes
San Francisco Bay Guardian - San Francisco,CA,USA

Another mention of the acclaimed indie documentary film Forever:

SFIFF One of the greatest pleasures of the 50th SF International Film Festival was Forever, Heddy Honigmann's 2006 study of the living among the dead at Paris' Père-Lachese cemetery. Between footage of the sun-dappled necropolis in all its hushed, springtime glory, Honigmann (who received last year's Persistence of Vision award) profiles several regular visitors, who in the course of discussing an attachment to a particular resident — whether that dweller be Frédéric Chopin or a deceased husband — reveal a great deal about how we commune with memory in our daily lives.

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Chopin in the Blogosphere:

Dancing about music
By Thomasina

A "distinterested plug" by a Down Under blogger for a quadruple-bill Jerome Robbins Celebration, by the Australian Ballet...

1. The Concert
This is one of the sweetest, funniest, most entertaining ballets I’ve ever seen. The pianist on stage performs a recital of Chopin. The dancers are the audience – behaving in all the ways that audiences do, including sitting in the wrong seats – and they dance out their fantasies in the most delightful ways. Did I mention I adore this ballet?

Thomasina’s last waltz - http://frindley.typepad.com/colophon/

Chopin and Callas worshippers
By Gillibrand(Gillibrand)

Can be found at the Church of St Julien le Pauvre in Paris. Since 1889, the home of the Melkites in Paris.

Catholic Church Conservation - http://cathcon.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Chopin Currency: April 22, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

Pianist Born to the Colors of Chopin
New York Times - United States

Veteran New York Times critic Bernard Holland isn't thrilled about Ingrid Fliter's Beethoven and Schubert, but is charmed by her Chopin:

The Ingrid Fliter who appeared after intermission was a different person. She was born to play Chopin, and she knows it. The colors are many and subtle, the range of loud to soft is unusually various, and she has the sensibility for Chopin’s graceful, linear give-and-take. The pieces were the Nocturne in B and the B minor Piano Sonata. The Met Museum’s audience liked both very much.

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Cliburn Gold Medal winner's performance "impeccable"
Montgomery Advertiser - Montgomery,AL,USA

Meanwhile, a Montgomery (Alabama) critic finds the Beethoven and Chopin performances by Van Cliburn Competition winner Alex Kobrin to be indistinguishable, which is a good thing...

Six Chopin pieces followed – the heroic G minor “Ballade” to start this section, the dramatic F minor “Ballade” to end it, and in between four “Impromptus,” the last of which was the familiar “Fantasie-Impromptu” best known for its lyrical second theme.

For a gold medal winner, there is no need to comment on technique. It was impeccable as expected. But what distinguished this pianist was his thoughtful approach to every phrase. In the most cerebral, expressive phrases he slowed the tempo but never lost the intensity of those phrases and found significance in each note. He saved speed for the most impassioned sections.

His program showed a special affinity for the Romantics, drawing flowing melodies and dramatic climaxes from both Beethoven and Chopin. Both composers had much the same style in Kobrin’s playing.

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Phuong Nam to release 13 albums by pianist Dang Thai Son
VietNamNet Bridge - Hanoi,Vietnam

Vietnamese press agency announces the release of the biography and a baker's dozen of recordings by Vietnamese favorite-son pianist, (winner of the 1980 Chopin Competition) as he prepares to return to his hometown of Ho Chi Minh City...

Victor Entertainment permitted Vietnam’s Phuong Nam Film to release this collection. These are high-quality products which bring listeners poetic melodies by Tchaikovsky and romantic rhythms by Mendelssohn, Liszt, the sophistication of Ravel, and especially, immortal melodies by Chopin, whose music works account for around nine of the 13 CDs.

For the first time, the book “A pianist loved by Chopin – the Dang Thai Son story”, published by Yahama Music Media Corporation in Japan in 2003, will be published in Vietnam. The book’s author is Japanese journalist Ikuma Yoshiko, who loves the Vietnamese pianist’s music.

Dang Thai Son is the first Asian artist to win first prize at the Concours Chopin and the pianist holds the highest number of sub-prizes in the history of this music award. American pianist Isaac Stern (1920-2001), who received a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 1987, said Dang Thai Son is a musical genius.

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Richard Goode's Gilmore Festival Prelude recital worth the wait ...
Kalamazoo Gazette - MLive.com - Kalamazoo,MI,USA

Goode plays great Chopin (among other things) at the Gilmore....

Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 48, No. 1, was first of several Chopin works. Goode's playing here showed superlative use of dynamics and miraculous control of octave runs. Of four Chopin Mazurkas performed, the E Minor, Op. 41, No. 2, most engaged the large audience by virtue of an ingratiating mellow effect. [...]

Three final Chopin pieces ended the program. Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54, was my favorite. Goode invested drama in a work that featured a steady thematic line surrounded by bustling musical ornaments. Goode's quick hands gloriously executed chromatic runs and challenging arpeggios. The other pieces, fine overall, were blemished by Goode's stomping foot. The encore -- what else?: another Chopin "bijou."

Goode's greatest strength was a consummate ability to convey beautiful musical sense, without injecting a performer's egoistic detractions.

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Chopin in the Blogosphere:

Cultured Tangos
Blogcritics.org - Aurora,OH,USA

Yesterday it was Enrique Granados being called "The Brazilian Chopin." Today a Blogcritics magazine writer likens Chopin to Argentinian tango-master Astor Piazzolla...

It may be that in musical retrospect, from a luxury of twenty-twenty critical hindsight, that Astor Piazzolla will be seen as having done in the twentieth century for the tango what Frederick Chopin did in the nineteenth for the waltz. It is perhaps already an accepted position. With the waltz, Chopin took an established popular form and stretched its boundaries so that what an audience might have expected to be a little ditty was recast to express heroism, sensuality, pride, or even occasional doubt. The little dance tune then, in Chopin's slender hands, became an elegant art form, highly expressive, utterly Romantic in its ability to convey human emotion....
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Fun With Chopin

The planned Chopin marathon on BBC Radio 3 prompts a Brit blogger's musings on Chopiniana...

I ask him if he’s seen the romantic comedy Impromptu, starring a pre-Richard Curtis Hugh Grant as the consumptive composer:


It’s one of my favourite movies that people haven’t heard of. The director is James Lapine, better known for the original stagings of Sondheim musicals like Sunday In The Park With George and Into The Woods, and it has the same sense of anachronistic wit in a period setting, not least Judy Davis’s constant exclamation of ‘Balls!’

In fact, it ties in with my theme of the other day - a romance between a butch woman (Ms Davis as the cross-dressing novelist George Sand) and a fragile, stuttering man with floppy hair (guess who). Add Emma Thompson as a dim aristocrat, and Mandy Patinkin in funny, swaggering Princess Bride mode, and it’s something of a gem. How much of the Chopin history is correct I have no idea, but I’d say the film could be compared with Moulin Rouge and the BBC version of Casanova (the one with David Tennant), in eschewing period accuracy in favour of unabashed fun.

Diary at the Centre of the Earth - http://dickonedwards.co.uk/diary

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Chopin Currency - April 21, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

The master songwriter turns maestro
Sydney Morning Herald - Sydney,New South Wales,Australia

Legendary (and remarkably durable) hitman Neil Sedaka is poised to "return to his classical roots" Down Under...

Sedaka was an acclaimed junior pianist studying at the Juilliard School before he became a teenage songwriter turning out tunes from the hit factory that was New York's Brill Building.

On the road in the 1990s he drew on that classical training to put his own lyrics to the work of composers such as Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Debussy and Chopin.

It is this work that will comprise the second half of his performances in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

"It's a very ambitious concert tour," Sedaka says. "I am going to perform with each symphony in the respective cities. I do my big hits over the years and then the classical portion of my concert.

"I had a classical album where I put my lyrics to classical music. The fans who know me for those early hit songs, they're surprised that I can play the classical piano and surprised that I can sing in the Andrea Bocelli-Mario Lanza style which I never did before."

He wrote the songs while touring, scribbling them on napkins in restaurants and during flights, relying on memories of the music he learned as a young piano student. "It was not until I got to a piano months later that I could play them and hear them," he says.

"I had to collaborate with Frederik Chopin and Schumann and Tchaikovsky - this was not an easy feat; if you slipped and went over the line it would be hackneyed and corny.

"It's a unique album. It is not for the aficionados who can sit through a whole classical concert or a whole opera, but for those people who love the arias and the melodies. So I did it for people who are not diehard classical fans.

"We're also doing the world premiere of my first symphonic piece, which is a 12-minute piece called Joie De Vivre, in four movements."

When his initial career foundered - "After a while I overdid a good thing," he confesses, "there were too many tra-la-las, and too many do-be-dos" - he learned that the taste of having a hit record does not leave you.

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Grammy winner to close Tuesday Musical season
Hudson Hub-Times - Hudson,Ohio,USA
Ohlsson will give this year's Margaret Baxtresser Annual Piano concert with a program featuring works by Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Joio, and Chopin. ...
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Chopin in the Blogosphere:

Olé! Cuban Pianist Rocks the Sottile
By Lindsay Koob

Cuban virtuoso Jorge Luis Prats plays an all-Spanish (and Brazilian) program at the College of Charleston but Chopinesque comparisions still abound....,

Called by some “The Spanish Chopin,” Granados crafted quite a bit of gorgeous piano music that recalls the Polish master’s sense of musical poetry as well as his technical sophistication. All of it was amazing – but the heart of the work was El Amor y la Muerte (Love and Death) – a particularly intense number that echoes the epic grandeur of Chopin’s famous Ballades. The final El Pelele was a tour-de-force of “caliente” spirit and passionate virtuosity – and Prats brought the house down with it.

Eargasms | Charleston City Paper - http://eargasm.ccpblogs.com

Frederic Chopin's Romances

From the online "interactive magazine" Suite101, a discussion of Konstancja Gladkowska, Maria Wodzinska, and George Sand...

While a student at the Warsaw Conservatory he became smitten with a young soprano, Konstancja Gladkowska (1810-1889). In a letter to his friend Titus Woyciechowski, dated October 3,1829, he says,"O, perhaps unfortunately, I already have my ideal, whom I have served faithfully, though silently, for half a year, of whom I dream, to thoughts of whom the adagio of my concerto [No.2] belongs, and who this morning inspired the little waltz [Op.70, No.3, in D flat major ] I am sending you...."

Suite101: Classical Music Articles - http://ClassicalMusic.suite101.com/

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Chopin Currency - April 20, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

'My Young Years': Rubinstein's Enchanting Prelude
Washington Post - United States

Book critic and columnist Jonathan Yardley's "Second Readings" series shines the spotlight on a long out-of-print autobiography by the Polish piano master...

It was written in English, one of several languages in which Rubinstein was fluent, and it is written remarkably well, with scarcely a trace of the diction of his native Polish or the other languages (Russian, German, French) he spoke during his youth. I first read it about 30 years ago -- my copy is the third printing of the 1973 paperback -- when I was in the midst of a Rubinstein binge, gobbling up his recordings of Chopin, his fellow Pole, one after the other. I make no claim to particular knowledge of classical music, but I was drawn then (as I am now) to the lyricism and abundant feeling of Rubinstein's Chopin, and I simply wanted to know more about the man who made the music. I was enchanted by the book then, and I remain enchanted by it today. [...]

He writes:

"Two major Beethoven sonatas, short pieces by Brahms and Schumann, and the great B minor Sonata of Chopin were added to it in less than two weeks. As before, and as would prove true for many years after, the processes of my means of approach to the music at hand were made up of a peculiar combination: a clear conception of the structure of a composition and complete empathy with the composer's intentions were always within my reach, but because of my lazy habits, I would neglect to pay attention to detail and to a finished and articulate performance of difficult passages that I hated to practice. I used to put the whole weight on the inner message of the music."

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Pianists Garrick Ohlsson and Craig Sheppard perform this week
Seattle Times - United States

Preview of pianist's appearance with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra...

The genial and good-natured Ohlsson, who also is a perennial favorite among his musical colleagues, has been at the top of his profession ever since a 1970 gold medal at the Chopin International Piano Competition. He's still a great Chopin interpreter, but now Ohlsson's repertoire includes more than 80 concertos from several centuries, which he plays with an array of top conductors and orchestras on several continents. A regular in the recording studio, Ohlsson recently won a 2008 Grammy for "Best Instrumental Soloist Performance" with the third of his recordings of Beethoven's complete piano sonatas for Bridge Records.
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Friday, April 18, 2008

The Chopin Currency - April 18th, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

When Fame Can’t Cross the Atlantic
New York Times - United States

Fascinating story (and review) of Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, lionized in Europe; barely known in America....

Classical music is supposedly universal. Language may still be a cultural barrier for writers and actors. Even visual artists, depending on the subjects they choose, won’t necessarily translate abroad.

That Mr. Sokolov, whose talent is beyond dispute, disproves this notion should remind us not only of our persistent parochialism but also of our delusions about technology. The Web, on which he can be found on YouTube, giving astonishing performances, clearly doesn’t substitute for hearing him live. Neither do discs, which, as a perfectionist, he stopped issuing in 1995 (this partly explains his American situation), although years ago Mr. Sokolov’s recordings sent me hunting for a chance to hear him in person. On one of those discs he played Chopin’s 24 Preludes with great sensitivity. He played them again the other night. It was, like all concerts likely to stay in the mind forever, nothing that could ever be captured digitally.

He gives about 60 solo recitals a year, so his manager told me; no chamber or orchestral music at the moment. He was born in Leningrad and won the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1966, at 16. Emil Gilels headed the jury. For a while Sol Hurok promoted him.

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Zimerman’s ovation in Rome
Thenews.pl - Warsaw,Poland

Returning to Rome, Krystian Zimerman surprises with a switch to Chopin...

The second part was taken up by an all-Chopin programme, instead of earlier-announced Brahms and Szymanowski.

The recital was Zimerman’s first appearance in Rome after a lapse of ten years. Some Poles in the audience remembered Zimerman’s concert and meeting with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican on Christmas Eve in 1980.

Fifty two year-old Krystian Zimerman is the winner of the Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1975. (mk)

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Yundi Li: Prokofiev/Ravel
Times Online - UK

Review (mostly positive) of Yundi Li's attempt to break out of his Chopin sterotype, along with the inevitable Lang Lang comparisions....

There comes a time in any young piano virtuoso’s life when the need mounts for breaking out of the core 19th-century repertoire into the wide, wild world beyond. You can’t always be wrapped around Chopin and Liszt. Alongside oriental trinkets, that smiling Chinese onslaught Lang Lang has become an improbable concert interpreter of the thickets of notes in Tippett’s Piano Concerto. For his second concerto CD, Yundi Li, Lang Lang’s compatriot (born the same year, too, 1982), has been more cautious. He has chosen Prokofiev No 2, in a Berlin live performance from May. [...]

The more Lang Lang’s performances drift into candelabra rhetoric – the Liberace style of playing – the greater the attraction of Yundi Li’s sobriety. Maybe this Prokofiev could be more tigerish, yet Yundi’s dizz dexterity and ability to shade colours within the composer’s dark and narrow band gave sufficient pleasure to me. To the Berlin audience also: the performance concludes with their roars of applause.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Chopin Currency - April 17, 2008

Chopin/Radiohead update:

The "Matchup" of a Chopin prelude with Radiohead's Exit Music for a Film is getting noticed all over the blogosphere (see the Chopin Currency for April 15), prompting this comment from ThisIsNotALabel Computer Music Blog :

This video is a terrific example of why current US copyright laws are industry-favoring pieces of trash that don't give creative people enough leeway to create. This artist could never make a dime off this piece in the US, without Radiohead's agreement. Personally, I think that's wrong. I think that artists should be encouraged both to create and to RE-create. This amalgam of Radiohead and Chopin is beautiful, and we should be encouraging musicians to find ways like this to reuse and reinvigorate the works of the past.

Other citations:

Radiohead/Chopin Matchup
By buck19
Effing Brilliant!!!!!!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0X-PR...chopin_matchup And one of his own written songs. YouTube - Jack Conte - Operation.
Tampa Forums - http://www.tampaforums.com/forums

VideoSong 4 - Radiohead/Chopin Matchup
1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice). 2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds). Radiohead's Exit Music for a Film matched with a prelude by Chopin, Op. 28, no. 4 ...
YETANOTHERMUSICWEBLOG - http://www.yetanothermusicweblog.com/

Chopin/Radiohead Mashup!
By rekcehcsopa
Has everybody seen this? http://youtube.com/watch?v=0X-PRpqj7N4 :jonny2: approves.
Mortigi Tempo - Radiohead Message Board - http://www.mortigitempo.com/too_bored

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

All over again
The Phoenix - Boston,MA,USA

Playing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Evgeny Kissin has dazzle if not depth, and puzzles with his choice of encores...

At the opening concert on April 8, however, the symphony plodded, and though Kissin played the late B-flat concerto, No. 2, with phenomenal dexterity and large-scale grandeur, he seemed to have no clue about the reflective and searching nature of the music. The piece sounded like Rachmaninov. The Andante is one of the glories of Brahms. It opens with a great cello solo, which Jules Eskin played with ravishing and glowing warmth. But in this most emotionally and intellectually but least technically challenging section of the concerto, Kissin merely hit all the notes. Still, he wowed the audience, and after being called back repeatedly, he played Chopin’s charming “Minute” Waltz (though with only the barest hint of charm). Did it matter that Chopin had no connection with the rest of the program? At least on the following night, I was told, one of his two encores was a Brahms waltz (along with a Chopin scherzo).


...the early D-minor concerto, No. 1, with which Brahms struggled so hard (should it be a piano piece, and if so, for how many pianos? should it be a symphony?), with its even greater bravura and fewer demands for “interpretation,” was more up Kissin’s alley.... His encores were more Chopin — both in C-sharp minor: the ambitious Scherzo (with its solemn chords and feathery descent of heavenly snowflakes played with so much emphasis on texture and color, it sounded more like Liszt) and the famous little Waltz (which had so little ¾-time “lift,” it sounded more like a nocturne).

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Emerging star keeps hitting the right notes
Fort Worth Star Telegram - Fort Worth,TX,USA

After the big-build up in Fort Worth (see the Chopin Currency for April 16th) Ingrid Fliter does not disappoint...

Her program began with the Impromptus Nos. 1 and 2 by Schubert. It was capped by Chopin -- his Nocturne in B major, Sonata No. 3 and, for her first encore piece, the Grand Valse Brilliante. Her style and approach seemed more natural on the Chopin and showcased her wonderful lyrical phrasing and a singing, golden tone. Her fine control of fingers and pedals created melodies chiseled in silver against an airy rainbow of lingering sound.

Fliter's playing sent thrills through the audience gathered under the Kimbell's vaulted ceiling. It heralded the emergence of a major piano star.

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Pianist André Laplante delivers grand recital
Barre Montpelier Times Argus - Barre,VT,USA

Canadian pianist plays South of the Border to great acclaim....

Laplante, one of Canada's great pianists, is first and foremost a romantic pianist in that he imbues a lot of personal emotion in his work. But unlike many romantic pianists, he is rhythmically disciplined and has great reverence for the composer's score as is the focus of more classical pianist.

Laplante's freely lyrical melody line, the hallmark of a romantic pianist, shone most in works of Chopin. The major work of the program was Chopin's Sonata in B-flat minor, Opus 35, a big, powerful work that runs the gamut of emotions, from unbridled passion in the first and second movements to the delicate tenderness of the third movement – dubbed "Funeral Match" – to the rapid and turgid finale. Throughout, though, Laplante projected the structure as well as the deep emotions of the work. Much the same could be said Chopin's Sonata in f minor, Opus 49....
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Chopin Currency - April 16, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, Previews, and Broadcasts:

BBC dedicates weekend to Chopin
BBC News - UK

BBC Radio 3 announces a blockbuster weekend dedicated to Chopin (May 17-18, 2008, including the launch of "a dedicated website, launched as part of the Chopin weekend, will feature video piano lessons by pianist David Owen Norris, for those who want to try their hand at some of Chopin's more approachable pieces."

BBC Radio 3 is to broadcast every note written by Frederic Chopin during a weekend dedicated to the Polish composer, who died in 1849 aged 39.

The Chopin Experience, which runs on 17-18 May, follows similiar tributes by the station to Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

The weekend will explore how Chopin revolutionised piano music, as well as his troubled personal life.

The weekend will also include the most famous recordings of Chopin's work.

His set of 24 Etudes will be aired in unbroken sequence featuring 24 different pianists.

Piano lessons

Dedicated programmes will look at the influence of Polish folk music on the composer - and how the composer continues to influence the Polish music scene....

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Radio 3 announces weekend of Chopin

The Press Association -
Every note written by Polish composer Frederic Chopin is to be broadcast in a single weekend on Radio 3. The Chopin Experience follows a Beethoven week, ...
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Washington Post - United States

Review of a DC recital by thirtysomething protege of Martha Argerich....critic finds his passion praiseworthy, the technical slips less so...

Sergio Tiempo, the immensely talented Venezuelan-born pianist, uses his colossal technique to produce a spectrum of colors and dynamic nuance from the piano. His program at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Saturday afternoon included Haydn's delightful Sonata in D, Hob. XVI: 37; Chopin's Sonata No. 3 in B Minor; Ravel's suite "Gaspard de la Nuit"; and the "Consolation" No. 3 and "Mephisto" Waltz No. 1 of Liszt....

Tiempo also possesses a golden singing sound, ravishingly displayed in the Chopin and Liszt pieces.... The same lyrical impulse pervaded the Haydn sonata, in an interpretation perhaps more operatic than symphonic.

Tiempo's great strength is his white-hot intensity. When combined with his cultivated musical intelligence, it achieves strikingly original results. Yet his passionate exuberance occasionally overflows into impetuousness. Hyperkinetic momentum resulted in memory slips in movements of the Haydn and Chopin sonatas. And structural integrity in the Chopin finale and the "Mephisto" Waltz was undermined by unchecked fortissimo power surges. But these missteps could not diminish the visceral excitement of the program.

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Alexander Kobrin, Skillful Pianist
Baltimore Sun - United States

Kobrin, The reigning Van Cliburn champ, comes to Bahlmore and gets a mixed review....

Alexander Kobrin, the Russian pianist who took the gold at the 2005 Van Cliburn Competition, breezed through Baltimore - and a Beethoven-Chopin program - Sunday at a packed Har Sinai Congregation in Owings Mills. The free recital, another generous gift to the music community from the Peggy and Yale Gordon Trust, reaffirmed the great technical fluency I observed from Kobrin during the Cliburn finals, but left me somewhat less impressed when it came to his stylistic and interpretive matters. (I wasn't too keen on the many restless and cell phone-ridden members of the audience, either.)


Kobrin, who is not yet out of his 20s, maintained a dry-eyed demeanor when he turned to Chopin, avoiding anything strikingly individualistic in the shaping of line or rhythmic pulse, and he continued to push things along when given half a chance. Still, there were elegant touches along the way, especially in a group of Impromptus. It will be interesting to see, and hear, how Kobrin's career unfolds.

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Cellist Jan Vogler finds voices
Philadelphia Inquirer - Philadelphia,PA,USA

A Jekyll-and-Hyde performance by the East German-born cellist in Philly, featuring boring Beethoven, but captivating Chopin....

He seemed, at first, like one kind of cellist, and then another. Until the end of his Sunday afternoon recital at Independence Seaport Museum, when you realized that Jan Vogler was intent on crafting stylistic approaches so different to each composer, you might have been left searching for the musician's core personality.

With sturdy and accommodating pianist Louis Lortie as his partner, the cellist with a sweet smile and a straight mop of sandy hair limited his range of colors in Beethoven's Sonata in A major (Op. 69), and even in Schumann's Opus 73 Fantasiestücke.

So much so that a certain monotony set in. Vogler's tone is rather nasal, which to these ears made him a considerably less interesting cellist than one usually hears at these Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concerts.

It made him less interesting, too, than the cellist he became after intermission, in Takemitsu's Orion (from 1984), Chopin's Sonata in G minor (Op. 65), and an encore of the Falla Ritual Fire Dance.

Who was that playing those beefy pizzicato notes in the Falla? In the Takemitsu, where Debussy was never too far harmonically, microtones and slides granted Vogler permission to become almost vocally expressive. And where had that cellist been who was now intensely searching each phrase for emotional meaning in the Chopin?

Beethoven can withstand that kind of treatment, too - happily so, though not on this day.

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Award gave Argentine's career a lift
Fort Worth Star Telegram - Fort Worth,TX,USA

Texas-sized profile and Q & A with Gilmore Award winner Ingrid Fliter, who reveals that literally owes her life to Chopin...

Why did you choose to feature pieces by Chopin on your new CD?

My father used to play the piano. That's the way my parents met at a party -- my mother noticed my father while he was playing on the piano some Chopin waltzes. So I have to say that I exist thanks to Chopin.

What do you love about Chopin's Sonata No. 3, which you'll play Tuesday at the Kimbell?

I think it is one of the most important and one of the most beautiful pieces Chopin wrote. That sonata gives you a very huge spectrum of Chopin's sound world. I have the feeling that all the human experiences are put in that sonata. It is very touching to me

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About Chopin2010

My photo
....is a roundup of all things Chopin leading up to the 200th anniversary of the matchless Polish composer for the piano in March 2010.