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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 31st, 2008

Chopin News, Views, Reviews, and Previews:

"All Robbins" is all pleasure at PNB
Seattle Times - United States

The Jerome Robbins Chopin-dance fever juggurnaut rumbles on in Seattle, with acclaimed productions by Pacific Northwest Ballet of "The Concert" and "In The Night."

Making its PNB premiere, Robbins' 1956 comic work "The Concert" is set to sedate piano works by Chopin, played onstage by Dianne Chilgren and witnessed by a motley crowd in pale-blue leotards. The ballerina (a funny, loose Miranda Weese) practically embraces the piano in her joy, while a pair of hatted ladies (Lesley Rausch, Maria Chapman) cross their legs in exaggerated precision. A wife (Carrie Imler) scolds her cigar-chomping husband (Jonathan Porretta) — not noticing that his eye is on the ballerina.

And from these character vignettes, Robbins sweeps us into fantasy: a dimly lit umbrella dance that's both melancholy and lovely; a cast transformed into gossamer-winged butterflies, suddenly lighter and sillier than air. It's a wacky dream ballet, performed with airy precision, and the giggling opening-night audience rewarded it with a standing ovation.

"In the Night" is also set to Chopin (also played beautifully by Chilgren), but its velvet mood is a world away: three romantic pas de deux on a starry night. As the most tempestuous of the couples, Louise Nadeau and Karel Cruz were mesmerizing; though they initially seemed physically mismatched (he looks at least a foot taller than she), their shared recklessness and dramatic ardor cast a powerful spell. Ariana Lallone and Stanko Milov, arms reaching to the sky, brought regal strength to their more formal dance. Noelani Pantastico and Olivier Wevers, in their effortless lifts, personified youthful, sparkling love.

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Chopin Downloads of Apparent Legality:

Free Download of the Week: Chopin's Nocturne No. 1 in B Flat Minor ...
By Laura(Michael)

From the new site Musopen, boasting "copyright free classical music."

In the mood for a more melancholy tune? Take advantage of music in the public domain and download this beautiful piece by Chopin, courtesy of Musopen.com. Click to download Chopin's Nocturne No.1 in B Flat Minor, Op.9 ...

Fastcase - Accelerated Legal Research - http://fastcase.blogspot.com/

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 30th, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

'Forever' captures architecture, 'personality' of French cemetery
Deseret News - Salt Lake City,UT,USA

"To be honest, a 90-minute documentary about a cemetery sounds — at least on paper — about as exciting as spending 90 minutes in a cemetery. But surprisingly, Forever turns out to be a much-better film than that would suggest....."

Director Heddy Honigmann and cinematographer Robert Alazraki spend much of the 90 minutes capturing the architecture and "personality" of said cemetery, which turns out to be Pere-Lachaise in France.

For those who don't know, the cemetery is the final resting place of such luminaries as Doors frontman Jim Morrison, composer Frederic Chopin, cinematic trickster Georges Melies, actress Simone Signoret, author and critic Marcel Proust, and many, many others.

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Chopin-related Downloads:

9. PIANO FILLS—CHOPIN INTRO 2.aif by hammerklavier

From the Free Sound Project website, a Chopin-flavored offering...

Another improvised opening (by me) in the style of Chopin or Liszt. Very florid and purposely fiery. Recorded some years back---has some tinniness and distortions. Slightly processed to overcome them...

The Freesound Project - http://freesound.iua.upf.edu/

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 29th, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

The scared boy who dreamed... and the man who triumphed
Yorkshire Post - Leeds,England,UK

Approving profile of Yorkshire pianist-turned-textile-magnate-turned-arts- developer-turned-philanthropist Sir Ernest Hall, developer of the renowned Dean Clough arts and business complex, upon the publication of his memoir "How to Be a Failure and Succeed." What lies ahead for him conquer? A certain composer...

The story of Dean Clough (he retired as chairman this year) will be told in a second book, which he hopes to finish by the end of the year. "But I'm very busy. I've still got the Chopin project," he says, with enthusiasm. It has long been his ambition to record the complete works of Chopin – 14 CDs in all, of which he has so far recorded seven. He plans to complete the project in time for the bicentenary of Chopin's birth, in 1810. "I shall be 80 years old," he says. At 78, he's still reaching, still transcending boundaries. "Dreams of achievement have an amazing power in your life," he says. "You find that you are elevated by ambition itself."
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Concerts at the Cadillac: "Piano for the People" by Chris Hess
Beyond Chron - San Francisco,CA,USA

If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to visit the Cadillac Hotel, for a concert called "Piano for the People: a Classical Piano Concert for Non-Classical Listeners."

Chris will connect music written from 1840-1960 with the present day Tenderloin to excite and educate a general audience. Chris will play Chopin, Rachmaninoff and other romantic composers, interspersed with personal stories. For example, he will syncopate different rhythms in the right and left hands, show you how, and explain why it builds community.
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MKM Attila ilhan Hall / Ingrid Fliter / 8:00 pm
Turkish Daily News (subscription) - Ankara,Turkey

No day is complete her at the Chopin Currency without an Ingrid Fliter posting, today in advance of an appearance at the Caddebostan Culture Center with the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra...

"Chopin's music has been one of the great standards of the classical repertoire for generations, and many audiences have enjoyed hearing it played well; however, and especially in this unique class of the art, there is to be found a rare, untouchable nuance that speaks directly to the heart," as Fliter says, "and it is truly an extremely rare artist who can well demonstrate this treasure." She is in love with her work, and it is her love that gives life to her art, so much appreciated by the public.
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Kapell Rediscovered: The Australian Broadcasts - 2-CD set
Audiophile Audition - USA

Typically thoughtful (if a bit wordy!) review from esteemed online publication that nonetheless pithily summarizes the new-old release from the late William Kapell: "Collectors will listen to it often, in spite of the sonic defects that make some moments almost unbearable...

Kapell always performed Chopin as a strong suit, and I remain fond of the B Minor Sonata and several of his mazurkas, the Op. 50, No. 3 in particular. His Barcarolle opens with massive chords and flamboyant ornaments; nothing effeminate in those trills. The gondolier’s waves become Charybdis and could swallow the world. The comeliness and confidence of the piece--the ease of period transitions--shine through despite grim sonic reproduction. The E-flat Major Nocturne has Ignaz Friedman as its champion, but Kapell finds his own treasures in its pearly, unhurried elegance, several times hinting at the E Minor Nocturne, Op. 72, No. 1. Brilliance and blazing speed of the Horowitz order for the pounding Scherzo in B Minor, whose middle section lullaby Kapell softens the entire ethos, permitting the polyphonic voices their blessed, embowered noels. The two stunning da capo chords and the final pages are Kapell’s version of the Atomic Bomb.

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Ed Harcourt: Revolution Of The Heart MP3
Filter Magazine - Los Angeles,CA,USA

New Chopin-themed download from piano-playing UK singer-songwriter....

"Revolution Of The Heart" is Harcourt at his best: pouring his heart and soul out over Chopin piano progressions and delightful sha-na-nas, sung by members ...
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Chopin in the Blogosphere:

Soloist and Friends
By Stephen Smoliar(Stephen Smoliar)

San Francisco writer blogs about a noontime concert by pianist William Corbett-Jones featuring new Preludes by Roger Nixon, and not Preludes, but polonaises, by Chopin...

There was at least one "Chopin connection" in the conception of the overall program: Liszt preceded the selections by Nixon and Mechem and Chopin followed them. The program concluded with two polonaises, Opus 40, Number 1 in C minor and Opus 53 in A-flat major. The latter is sometimes known as the "Heroic" polonaise, although, as the most familiar in the collection of polonaises that Chopin composed, it might better be called the "War-Horse!" Like the earlier "Military" polonaise, Opus 53 performs an interesting experiment with an ostinato pattern subjected to a gradual crescendo; and Corbett-Jones did a wonderful job of making that crescendo the backbone of the middle section of the work.

The Rehearsal Studio - http://therehearsalstudio.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 28th, 2008

Chopin News, Views, Previews, and Reviews:

Benjamin Grosvenor: Teenage Prodigy Comes of Age
Telegraph.co.uk - United Kingdom

An object lesson in how to nuture a burgeoning concert career... resulting in "a beguiling, stylish and richly rewarding performance of Chopin's E minor Piano Concerto played by the 15-year-old Benjamin Grosvenor."

Many will recall that he won the keyboard final of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2004, when it was clear that he possessed a talent beyond mere technical accomplishment. Sensibly, in the years since, his gifts have neither been sensationalised nor exploited for short-term gain or fame. [...]

In this performance of the E minor Concerto, no allowances needed to be made for Grosvenor's age. You could shut your eyes and readily imagine that it was someone of far greater years, though at the same time a pianist who had not let familiarity with the music dull its freshness, exuberance and lyrical grace. His was an interpretation with a personality and impulse of its own, while remaining true to Chopin's spirit.

One crucial aspect of the music that Grosvenor had absorbed was the fine balance that exists between whim and structural security, the way in which Chopin's decorative filigree can seem impromptu or relaxed, while having an architectural purpose that fuels and sustains the overall shape and momentum.

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A season for Chopin
Warsaw Business Journal - Poland

"It wouldn't be summer in Warsaw without the echo of Frederic Chopin's music..."
The Sunday All-Chopin Recitals are a Warsaw tradition
The Sunday All-Chopin Recitals are a Warsaw tradition

Hundreds of people lounging on the lawn by the Frederic Chopin monument in the Royal Łazienki Park, listening as the Polish master's work is performed live by world-renowned artists - this is one of the fundamental Warsaw experiences. The charm of the Sunday All-Chopin Recitals, of which these concerts are part, has been captivating audiences for almost 50 years. The recitals are held every Sunday between May and August....

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 27th, 2008

Vaguely Chopin-connected News, Previews, and Reviews:

At Piano Showdown, Hard Choices
Washington Post - United States

"Year after year, standards of piano playing seem to improve, subtly yet perceptibly. The latest demonstration was Sunday afternoon in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, where a half-dozen spectacularly talented young pianists performed before a distinguished jury and a large, enthusiastic audience."....and, it appears, a rather disinterested critic....

Esther Park, a 23-year-old American, was extraordinarily polished, with deft balances and voice-leading. Yet the sultry perfume of Granados and drama of a Chopin sonata seemed to elude her. [...]

At age 28, the Russian Sofya Gulyak was the oldest of the finalists. Her Mozart Rondo in A-Minor was the most satisfying classical playing of the afternoon. In her sensational performance of Liszt's evocation of little bells in "La Campanella," fierce technical demands took the back seat to flights of aural imagination and exquisite musicality. Gulyak was last year's first-prize winner in the Kappell International Piano Competition. [...]

The Takemitsu was the only piece written since World War II, and it seemed almost an anomaly. It is in the romantic (Chopin, Schumann, Liszt) and early modern (Ravel, Prokofiev) repertoires in which these young players are most at home. After an hour's deliberation by the judges, competition chairman Immanuela Gruenberg read the results, including the tally of audience ballots.

First prize: none awarded. Second prize: Gulyak. Third prize: none awarded. Audience prize: Wayne Weng.

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Concert to aid quake victims
Independent Community Newspaper - Bay of Plenty,New Zealand

Kiwis call on Chopin and other composers to aid Chinese quake victims...

A charity concert for victims of the devastating earthquake in China will be held in the Concert Chamber on Saturday.

The concert is being organised by the Rotorua Music Federation and will raise funds to aid the victims.

Well-known Rotorua musicians taking part include baritone John Bond, soprano Charlotte Christmas, and pianists Jim McGregor and Li Can Wei.

The programme ranges from Mozart, Chopin and Debussy to songs from the shows. Entry is by donation at the door.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 26th, 2008

Chopin News, Views, Previews, and Reviews:

Piano Archives: Arturo Benedetti Michelangelo = SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54; LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major; RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 40; CHOPIN: Waltz

Audiophile Audition - USA

Piano Archives: Arturo Benedetti Michelangelo = SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54; LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major; RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 40; CHOPIN: Waltz - Tahra

Chopin plays a bit part in this reissue CD that has this critic reaching for superlatives...
When you purchase this magnificent CD, better have asbestos gloves on and a fireproof CD player! Rarely have I heard even the great Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (1920- 1995) in such blistering form, his tensile strength and febrile temperament thoroughly in accord in all three collaborations, 1953-1956. For the collector, the Rachmaninov Fourth Concerto ( 12 May 1956), previously unpublished, with Franco Caracciolo (1944-1992) will more than complement Michelangeli’s commercial recording with Gracis for EMI. [...]
The posthumous waltz by Chopin hardly qualifies as “charming,” but it has a granite-like glitter thoroughly in keeping with the Rachmaninov lusters.

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BBCSO/Belohlávek at the Barbican
Times Online - UK

Today's Ingrid Fliter installment finds our heroine at the piano bench at the Barbican...

Turning up to a concert hall to find that Chopin has been substituted for Szymanowski is a bit like turning up to a dinner party to find that the roast beef has been swapped for crème brulée. But for the young Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter, Chopin is a serious business. And just moments into her dynamic performance of the Piano Concerto No 2 I had stopped missing the indisposed Piotr Anderszewski (originally down for Szymanowksi's Sinfonia Concertante) and was hooked.

Yes, there was a rich sweetness to Fliter's playing - you cannot have Chopin without sugar, not least in the luscious larghetto - but plenty of fibre and muscle as well. Not for nothing has Fliter been compared to her great compatriot Martha Argerich: there's a similar vitality, an engaging restlessness that imbued some of Chopin's most dreamy sub-plots with enough snappiness and tang to keep us on our toes.
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 25, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

Ingrid Fliter: 'In the middle of my salad, he told me I'd won'
Telegraph.co.uk - United Kingdom

A "Get To Know Her" introduction to UK readers of It Girl Ingrid Fliter ...

Born in Argentina and now living in Milan, Fliter (pronounced Fleeter) has in the past toured Japan and the US and won the silver medal in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 2000. But the Gilmore was an important catalyst, bringing her an EMI contract, management in the US and Europe, and a place on the BBC's New Generation Artists scheme. And now a series of dates in the UK will introduce her to wider audiences, with a Wigmore Hall recital and appearances at the Cheltenham and City of London Festivals.

"The Gilmore changed my life deeply, completely," she says. "In the beginning I had to deal with a lot of pressure and expectations," she admits. "But after two years I'm now really starting to enjoy this very hectic, intense concert life." Her London debut last year, together with her first disc of Chopin for EMI, confirmed her phenomenal technique and the spontaneity of expression she brings to music. There is also a fluent, singing quality to her playing. [...]

"Chopin made me discover the beauty of piano-playing," she says. "I was very lucky to be introduced to his music from the very beginning. Pianistically speaking, it develops the imagination and good taste as regards rubato - where to give and where to take, in a natural way that a singer would do. Rubato in Chopin is very often exaggerated, but I imagine him as a Classical composer, not as a Romantic, though that doesn't restrain you from being dramatic and dark. Sometimes the music reaches moments of deep sorrow."

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The Chopin Experience, Radio 3
Independent - London,England,UK

More musings on the effect of the BBC's Chopin Experience...

In conversation with the pianist Nikolai Demidenko, the latter revealed that Chopin knew his limitations as a composer, but said that he knew that his work appealed particularly to women. "A short, direct line straight to the heart," he said, and Walker said "Mmm", and I was reminded of a friend of mine who said that the only time he really "got" Chopin was when he was in love. So, if you were in love during the weekend of 17-18 May, then you will have enjoyed The Chopin Experience immensely.

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Who needs Rudolf Nureyev?
The Observer - UK

No question what's the hot dance ticket in London town....this UK scribe says the current production of "Dances at a Gathering" (bodies by Robbins, soul by Chopin) is on par with the best ever...

Jerome Robbins's Dances at a Gathering (1969) is a plotless work set to piano pieces by Chopin. Tender, dreamy and shot through with a sense of long-ago love affairs, the piece acquires a different dynamic with every cast. When the Royal Ballet danced it in the 1970s, it became a signature piece, a group portrait of an unforgettable constellation of stars. When the company performs Robbins's piece today, the layers of allusion are dense. But in a good way: the new cast has new things to tell us and is not about to be crowded off the stage by ghosts....

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Chopin News from Outside of London:

After the Good Die Young
Wall Street Journal - USA

Beautifully-written article on the tragically short-lived pianist William Kapell, occasioned by the release of a just-discovered 1953 live concert performance in Australia that turned out to be Kapell's last recording...

You'd think that Kapell's youthful and spectacular demise would have captured the imagination of the listening public and ensured his lasting fame. Charlie Parker, who died two years later at the equally untimely age of 34, remains to this day a cultural icon. Likewise Jackson Pollock and James Dean, whose lives were cut short around the same time. Why, then, did Kapell slip through the cracks of renown? [...]

Kapell died too soon to record more than a handful of the large-scale works in his repertoire, but in recent years a fair number of live recordings have surfaced. RCA, his old label, has just released "Kapell Rediscovered," a two-CD set of radio broadcasts made during a 1953 tour of Australia. They are his last recordings -- he was killed flying home from that tour -- and they include a number of pieces that he never recorded in the studio, among them Chopin's B Minor Scherzo, Debussy's "Suite Bergamasque" and Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata. The sound is only fair, but the performances are pure Kapell, headlong, vital and crackling with a vibrant immediacy that makes you feel as though he were playing in your very own living room.

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Chopin in the Blogosphere:

Chopin Nocturne in E MinorDedicated to Two Individuals
By Jeremiah Jones(Jeremiah Jones)

Chopin's Nocturne in E-minor is one of my favorite Nocturnes. It is a short, yet profound work of art that takes the listener through several of life's most important emotions. It can stir the soul and awaken the spirit. ...
- http://www.signmypiano.com/

Jack Conte’s Video Song - The Giant, Radiohead/Chopin

By robkwok
A VideoSong is a new Medium with two rules:. 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). The Giant. Radiohead and Chopin Combination ...
Unquality: Retarded Videos for... - http://www.unquality.com

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 24th, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

New Classical Tracks: The allure and the thrill of Chopin
Minnesota Public Radio - Saint Paul,MN,USA

Radio review of Gilmore Prize winner Ingrid Fliter's new CD...

The young Argentine musician Ingrid Fliter is one of the brightest rising stars in the piano world. The composer she's most identified with is Chopin, and his music is the focus of her latest disc.

For her part, Ingrid Fliter has just released a new solo recording featuring works by Chopin, a composer she believes she was born to play.

"It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that if it had not been for Chopin's music, I wouldn't have been born," she explained. "My mother noticed my father for the first time while he was playing some Chopin waltzes during a party!

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Ingrid Fliter replaces Anderszewski
Thenews.pl - Warsaw,Poland

Speaking of the Gilmore, one winner subs for another at the Barbican in London...

Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski was forced to cancel his appearance at London’s Barbican Centre tonight on the advice of his doctor. He is replaced by the Argentine pianist Ingrid Fliter, Second Prize winner at the Chopin International Competition in Warsaw in 2000. ...

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Royal Ballet Double Bill, Royal Opera House, London
Independent - London,England,UK

Rave review for the Royal Ballet revival of the Chopin-centric "Dances at a Gathering...."

Dances at a Gathering looks simple. Jerome Robbins' 1969 ballet puts 10 dancers on a bare stage, with a blue backdrop, set to Chopin piano pieces. The numbers are full of invention, yet they have to look easy. Robbins demands clean musicality and a sense of atmosphere. They're all there in this wonderfully fresh performance.

It's more than 30 years since the Royal Ballet put on Dances at a Gathering. People who saw it in its early years still go dreamy over it. The ballet's atmosphere is fragile. This revival, staged by Susan Hendl and Ben Huys, has real warmth....

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Chopin in the Blogosphere:

Mostly having to do with fallout and feedback from the BBC's Chopin Experience:

The Chopin Experience
By vhk10
I listened to bits of this all-Chopin weekend on Radio 3. (I used to listen to and indeed play Chopin’s music a lot, and though it has retreated a bit in my musical consciousness he is still a favourite of mine). ...

The best aspect was hearing recordings from different eras and with different interpretations, rather than just good recent performances.

I recommend trying the Chopin Audio Quiz, which is not trivial, mainly because the extracts are from the middle of pieces.

VHK's singing - http://vhkssinging.wordpress.com

Bad to the bone
By Sawyl(Sawyl)
I like to think of Radio 3 as the rebel of the BBC family, hanging back while the others chase after listeners, growing its toenails and listening to Chopin. A classical music-fancying rebel; every family needs one. ...
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - http://sawyl.livejournal.com

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 23rd, 2008

Chopin in the Blogosphere:

Chopin’s Pianos

From the blog earideas, a chance to listen to one of the programs from the BBC's Chopin Experience programs. (The BBC's rather maddening policy is to pull all of their audio after 7 days). The audio is a bit distorted and "swimmy" and of a rather low bandwidth, but still worth a listen...listen for a performance of the Barcarolle, Op. 60, on the Pleyel piano to your left, from collector Alex Cobbe's house in Surrey, England...

Catherine Bott, Radio 3’s early music guru, presents a programme about Chopin’s pianos, part of the station’s ‘Chopin Experience‘ from last weekend. Fascinating social and economic history plus loads of music. ...

- http://earideas.com

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 22nd, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

Young Cuban Pianist Jorge Gonzalez Buajasan Awarded win the Prize "Cle d Or" of Superior level in France.Young Cuban Pianist Jorge Gonzalez Buajasan Awarded win the Prize ...
Cuba Headlines - Ciudad Habana,Habana,Cuba

Our first dispatch from the island's news agency....

Virtuous interpretations of "Nocturne" by Frederic Chopin and Concert Studies of Franz Liszt made possible for the young Cuban pianist Jorge Gonzalez Buajasan to win the Prize "Cle d Or" of Superior level in France.

Gonzalez Buajasan, only 13, performed this Sunday in "Les Cles d Or" (Gold Keys) piano contest in the superior category, in Ile de France region, carried out in the Parisian locality of Villemomble.

He played "Nocturne Opus 27", number two of Chopin and "A Sigh", from Concert Studies of Liszt, with meticulous elegance.

He is a very talented-boy and plays with exquisite loudness, although he should involve slow movements when playing "Un suspiro", members of the jury told the student of the Caribbean island when congratulating him for the prize obtained, Prensa Latina corroborated.

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Actions speak louder in dance story
This is London - London,England,UK

Jerome Robbins may say "no plot, no roles" in his hour-long "Dances At A Gathering," but critic nonetheless finds plenty of story lines in his Chopin-based dance...

The solos, duets and group dances that follow may be an evocation of his past or just dances, as Robbins said. Either way Chopin’s music, and Robbins’s gestures and steps, evoke people falling happily in and resignedly out of love. There are flirtations and friendship, and the comforts and misunderstandings of each. The style is polite — these are pretty steps and tidy tears — but in showing us what we long for, Robbins reveals all that we don’t have.
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The Kirov Ballet - Chopiniana/The Kingdom of Shades/Le Spectre de ...
Stage - London,England,UK

More Chopin on the dance stage in the UK...

The second splendid programme, presented by the Kirov, is an excellent example of the diversity of this prestigious company. Chopiniana, with Fokine’s classical choreography set to Chopin’s music, is a superb showcase for the superior corps de ballet, which danced with precision timing but retained the important lyrical feel. Principals Anastasia Kolegova and Evgeny Ivanchenko also made a mark.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 21st, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews

Must male pianists be pin-ups?
guardian.co.uk - UK

Provocative column from Guardian blogger about "making glamourpusses out of pianists..." The readers think it's more of a generation gap...

In the crisis-laden economy of classical music concerts, pianists today are often marketed as "hunka hunka burnin' loves," however inappropriately. A few years ago, I interviewed the talented, poetic young Chinese pianist Yundi Li in his New York manager's office. Then in his early 20s, gawky and skinny, with tousled hair under a baseball cap, Yundi looked like the provincial Chinese youth he was. I was amazed to see how his recording company packaged his remarkable CDs of Chopin and Liszt, adding heavy makeup and swooning poses for an androgynous look. Yundi Li's artistry was the same, but he became a different artist to look at.....
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Piano Lessons
Voice of San Diego - San Diego,CA,USA

Review of the San Diego premiere of "Beethoven As I Knew Him," the latest installment in Hershey Felder's trilogy of composer portraits....

First, Hershey Felder presented his fantastic one-man show, "George Gershwin Alone," and urged theater-goers to join in on a sing-along of Gershwin hits. It was like drawing flies to honey; the enthusiastic Felder inspired gleeful audience members young and old to sing their hearts out. It was a sight (and sound) to behold.

Then came Felder's portrayal of the emotionally intense Fredéric Chopin which gave audiences a peek into the cultural sophistication of the 19th century Parisian salon.

Now, the Old Globe presents the final installation (and world premiere) of Hershey Felder's "Composer Sonata" trilogy of one-man performances based on famous composers' lives with "Beethoven, As I Knew Him." [...]

A natural and engrossing storyteller, Felder was at his best during "Beethoven" at the piano bench. Using discourse and music, Felder took the audience through pieces like Beethoven's Fifth symphony, expounding on the famous fate-at-the-door theme. The "Moonlight" sonata rendering was exquisite. Throughout the night, Felder used anecdotes and visuals (conducting to the night sky of stars!) to enhance the overall musical performance.

Though starker and narrated at a more measured pace than both "Gershwin" and "Chopin," "Beethoven, As I Knew Him" offers a poignant introspection into the austere composer's beloved music....
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Prometheus celebrates a distinctive vision
Boston Globe - United States

20th-anniversary production by the Promotheus Dance Company of Boston gets high marks for everything but a Chopin-based performance...

The world premiere on the program, "Lignage," seems disappointingly tame in comparison. A work for eight women set to a series of Chopin preludes, it contrasts slow floor work with flurries of sweeping movement - swirling turns with arms outstretched, legs carving great arcs. The women roll, cradle one another, then rise in rushes about the stage. There are a lot of stops and starts, and it has the crowded, slightly aimless feel of a work created to showcase young dancers.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 20th, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

A Country in the Moon, by Michael Moran
Independent - London,England,UK

Review declares Michael Moran's new book about Poland to be an "absorbing, exasperating and ultimately rewarding travelogue."

Moran emerges from these pages as a romantic, a bon viveur, a music lover and a film buff, equally versed in the polonaises of Chopin, the novels of Joseph Conrad and the movies of Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Kieslowski. He conducts a clandestine affair with unhappily married Zosia, and together they explore the historic cities of her country. His sojourn comes to a premature end when the project's rackety finances expire. The last chapters briskly fast-forward up to the death of Pope John Paul II. As for his romance with Zosia, reader, I wouldn't dream of giving the game away.

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Chopin master returns to Barboursville
Orange County Review - Orange,VA,USA

Somewhat confusing review of young Polish pianist Jacek Kortus' performance in Virginia Wine Country....

Kortus’ return engagement was the fourth in a series of benefit concerts for the Chopin Foundation. This year’s event was hosted by Barboursville Winery and sponsored again by Premier Virginia Properties. As a special treat, Washington National Opera Conductor Maestro Giovanni Reggioli introduced Kortus and the Chopin pieces he would perform in the first half of Thursday’s concert. [...]

Joking aside, the maestro described Chopin as “good music of the people” and said the composer’s works were “good for the first-time person or for the person who studies it for life.”

Kortus, a serious and intense young man of supreme focus, opened the program with Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne in C Minor Op. 48, No. 1. He followed with Waltz in A Flat Major Op. 34, No. 1 that conjured images of a gilded 19th century ballroom full of lords and ladies that finished with such an uplifting flourish everyone in the audience was smiling.

The third selection was Mazurkas in B Flat Major Op. 18, No. 1 and No. 4 in A Minor which began rather chillingly sad only to finish with an offer of hope. In his last selection before the intermission, he performed Chopin’s Sonata in B Flat Minor, Op. 35 where he balanced the emotion of the piece with his technical skill in moments both fiercely fast and smoothly slow. At times the piece sounded otherworldly with such vibrations it seemed the piano might simply explode from the music.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

The Chopin Currency - The Accordion Edition: May 19th, 2008

Virtuoso introducing America toclassical music on the accordion
Las Vegas Sun - Las Vegas,NV,USA

No, I don’t play polkas,” says Lidia Kaminska, "the first and still the only accordionist in the United States who has a doctorate in accordion (received from the University of Missouri, Kansas City). The Polish native is a proud graduate of the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw....

“I can play a four-voice fugue, no problem,” Kaminska says playfully with a thick accent, speaking from her home in Philadelphia. “But nobody asked me to play polka music in Poland.”

That’s probably because in Poland the accordion is accepted as a serious medium for classical music, particularly Baroque. And if you haven’t heard someone knock out a Bach chaconne on accordion, now is your chance...

As it turns out, there is a slew of original literature for accordion, composed mostly by Europeans. What isn’t written for the accordion can usually be transcribed. Same sonatas and concertos, vastly different instrument.

Breaking Boundaries,” Kaminska’s debut CD, released in 2005, includes selections from Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” two pieces by Argentine tango composer Piazzolla and a sonata by Italian Baroque composer Scarlatti. Its mission was educational: Convince listeners, particularly those in America, that the accordion is a serious classical music instrument. It’s been an ongoing effort since she first stepped off the plane.

“We were not sure what was going on in America about accordion because I had not seen students from America in competitions,” Kaminska says. “So there were a lot of questions and I had a one-way ticket.”

She’s since performed with chamber orchestras, contemporary ensembles, dance groups and orchestras, and is a virtuoso unlike any other....

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 18th, 2008

Chopin News, Views, Reviews, & Previews:

'Carmen' reincarnated
Jerusalem Post - Israel

Russian-Israeli choreographer (and Kirov vet) Valery Panov's dance company offers a twin-bill of Carmen and Chopin in Tel Aviv...

Les Sylphides, set to the music of Chopin by Russian choreographer Mikhail Fokine in 1908, is a Romantic, dreamlike piece, featuring 20 women and one man. For ballet enthusiasts, this will be a dream come true, as the male role is performed by Panov's electrifying principal dancer Valery Kuklachov.

The May 18 performance will be attended by several dignitaries, Panov adds proudly. Among the invited guests are the ambassadors of the US, Lithuania, Germany and Belgium.

Another source of pride for Panov is the financial support he is receiving from the Ministry of Culture. "My dance company is growing like the cosmos," he says.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 17th, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

A Chopin extravaganza
Times Online - UK

Nice Times of London summation of the BBC Radio 3 Chopin Experience:

After the Beethoven and Tchaikovsky Experiences and the Bach Christmas it’s time for Frédéric Chopin to sit in a deckchair in the Elysian Fields, sip a piña colada and wince as Radio 3 exposes every recorded note he ever wrote (including the bad ones, as only a mediocre talent is always at its best).

What’s different about The Chopin Experience (from today, 7am) is that Radio 3 has not redrawn its usual programme schedule to accommodate it. Which throws up a few apparent anomalies. Take, for example, The Early Music Show (today, 1pm). Or, in this instance, the Earlier Music than Now Show, since Chopin, era-wise, is no John Dowland.

That aside, it’s a fascinating listen in which three piano performances are compared – one Chopin’s, one by a pupil of his, and one given on a restoration of a Pleyel square piano similar to one that he might have played.

The cultural documentary strand World Routes (today, 3pm) is a better fit, in that Lucy Duran is in Warsaw, exploring some of the traditional folk forms associated with Chopin. Then, in programming guaranteed to further enrage those listeners who tune in to Radio 3 only to be enraged by it, Jazz Lineup (today, 4pm) includes a talk with the foremost proponent of classics-to-jazz, Jacques Loussier. He’s best known for reinterpreting Bach, but his trio has dabbled with Chopin, and his thoughts are illuminating.

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Fancy a Romantic weekend with Frederic Chopin?
Times Online - UK

Accompanying sidebar essay about "why many pianists find him too weepy." Worth a read! And check out the recommended recordings (Perahia, Cortot, Rubinstein, etc) at the bottom...

Is the man worth this much fuss? In principle, yes. Chopin may not have had any imitators, but that’s only because his individuality as a composer is so strong. His melodies curl about and stick in the mind like no one else’s. His harmonies waft a pungent perfume all their own, and invite you into an imaginative, mercurial world unique in music history.

True, he wrote no epic symphonies, no operas, no oratorios, no sacred passions – none of the period’s usual outlets for lofty musical thoughts. But he used his preferred short forms with such a degree of innovation and imagination that even people who feel distaste at his music’s emotional atmosphere respect Chopin for his craft.

Well, not everyone respects him. In a 1981 radio interview the notoriously eccentric Canadian pianist Glenn Gould brashly announced that Chopin (and Liszt and Schu-bert) “had no idea of how to write for the piano”. On another occasion, Gould called Chopin “not a very good composer”. Heavens above, you might think, if those keyboard composers couldn’t get past Gould’s pearly gates who could?

Such idiosyncratic opinions should not be rejected completely. Chopin, for all his wide popularity, remains a complex, often misunderstood, figure, and if this weekend’s bonanza helps us to peer into his many-sided character and find a man who wrote much more than pretty music, the world will be a better place.

The truth is, Chopin is a tricky customer. Even pianists in full sympathy with him approach his music with some trepidation. The British pianist Stephen Hough, the veteran of a fine CD of the Ballades, declares his music to be so fearfully perfect, so polished, lacking a single ugly bar, that “if a piece doesn’t naturally sound beautiful it can only be the performer’s fault”.

For Simon Trpceski, responsible for one of the most volcanic of recent CD Chopin recitals, playing this composer also carries risks. “There’s a Macedonian saying,” he says, “about going with your hat to break a wall.” And we should remember Tamás Vásáry’s comment to Jeremy Siepmann in the 1990s about Chopin leaving nowhere to hide. “With Chopin,” he said, “you often feel quite naked.”

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Friday, May 16, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 16th, 2008

Chopin Videos:

The Film - "None of Us Are Free"

How "current" is Chopin? Look no further for powerful testimony than from this current PSA produced on commission from MTV networks to raise awareness for disaster relief in Myanmar (a/k/a Burma). First, watch the film, which uses Chopin's music (beginning with the Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 48, No. 1) to compelling effect:

Now, some details as to how Fryderyk C's music got involved, courtesy of motiongrapher.com:

When and how the music was incorporated?
The music played a huge role in setting the tone and pacing of the piece. We knew that it would be huge in setting the right mood so it had to be perfect. We listened to a lot of tracks when we were cutting the first previz [sic] edits and when we heard Chopin’s nocturnes, we knew we found the right music. It had all the right elements, movement, and form. [Ed. note: - it's actually one nocturne and the Fantaisie-Impromptu.]

Dante Nou who was working in—house with us took the two pieces we had roughly cut together and started tweaking them. Nate, our editor had some ideas about cadence and drawing out notes and keys and we just started fucking with it. By the time we finished the edit, the music had developed equally—it was then the foundation of what we took to Good Sounds. They replayed the original pieces and put their own loveliness in the mix—more sound design and tweaking, and by the time we finished the picture the music had finished as well.

There's more about the "making of" the PSA on Gossipfeast.com as well, quoting from the MTV Press Release: "
With the powerful melody from the feted virtuoso pianist Chopin, viewers will watch the beautiful red flowers float and dance towards Burmese soil."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Chopin Currency - May 13, 2008

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

Gilmore artist Ingrid Fliter, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra team up ...
Kalamazoo Gazette - MLive.com - Kalamazoo,MI,USA

The penultimate performance at the Gilmore Fest draws raves...

One might consider Mozart as Fliter's specialty -- until she played Chopin.

Chopin's "Concerto No. 2 in F Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 21," the evening's final work, offered Fliter the perfect vehicle for her numerous keyboard strengths. Here, she cultivated a different musical voice. Controlled rubato throughout lent effective freshness and variety. Fliter was born to perform Chopin.

Her runs at first sounded overly fast but not for long. Pianissimos were a favorite for Fliter, who possessed a magical light touch. Yet the opening "Maestoso" also could reflect intense drama.

"Larghetto" became a personal cadenza for Fliter, she massaged malleable passages into her personal vision of Chopin's intents. Runs were pearly smooth, and limitless technique helped master filigreed passages. The music here was mesmerizing.

The closing "Allegro Vivace" became a frolicking dance comprised of continuous runs soaring across the keyboard. The KSO kept pace, as baton deferred to soloist. A standing ovation and six callbacks from the audience only hints at the ardor felt for Fliter.

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Bill Holm named McKnight Distinguished Artist
Minnesota Public Radio - Saint Paul,MN,USA

Radio piece about Minnesota poet and essayist Bill Holm, $50,000 richer thanks to an award from the McKnight Foundation. The author reveals that his immediate plans include reconsidering (and mastering) Chopin:

Listen to feature audio

Holm also has a book of poetry about Iceland to finish. In fact, he said he has a goal of writing better poetry and improving his skills at the piano, particularly with the works of Bach.

"And I've started another project that pianists shouldn't avoid for too long, and that is trying to play Chopin decently. I used to make fun of Chopin, but now, the more I play him, the better he gets," said Holm. "He's an extraordinary genius. So I am going to see if I can play a half dozen Chopin pieces decently before I can't remember who Chopin was."

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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.