Monday, February 02, 2009

A plethora of great pianists

We had no concerts this past weekend (a rare occurence during the regular season), but Spivey Hall's valiant and dedicated piano technicians, Craig Miller and Chuck Cook, were giving our two Steinways, Emilie and Walter, lots of special care and attention in anticipation of recitals by pianists Radu Lupu, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Yevgeny Sudbin in the next five weeks. Later in March, Murray Perahia gives the 2009 Spivey Memorial Concert and a piano master class; and in May, capping off the Spivey Hall 2009 Spring Bach Festival, Angela Hewitt will appear in duo recital and present a master class focusing on interpreting Bach at the piano. (More on these last two artists, plus pianist Jenny Lin, in a future post.)

These outstanding artists will perform some of the most magnificent works of the solo piano repertoire. Among the three Beethoven sonatas he's chosen for his recital this Friday, February 6, Radu Lupu will perform the dramatic "Pathetique" Sonata; after intermission, he will guide us into the other-worldly beauties of Schubert's last piano sonata, the B-flat Sonata, D.960. Mr. Lupu is renowned for his affinity with Schubert's works, and his Decca recording of this sonata won him a Grammy Award. He collaborates with the most distinguisihed orchestras and conductors internationally, and his recitals are always major musical events.

We are honored to be welcoming him back. "No pianist gets a lovelier tone out of the instrument. It glows from within," praises The New Yorker. I first met Mr. Lupu some 15 years ago when he performed a Mozart piano concerto with David Zinman and the Minnesota Orchestra. I've since heard him perform in Chicago, Amsterdam, New York and other cities. His understanding of his chosen repertoire seems to grow ever richer and more profound. I fully expect to be enthalled by hearing him reveal aspects of these familiar sonatas that I've never heard before. Such is the eloquence of great music intepreted by a truly distinguished artist.

Another internationally celebrated pianist and Decca recording artist, Jean-Yves Thibaudet is very well known to Atlanta, having performed many times with the Atlanta Symphony. He makes his Spivey Hall debut (at last!) on Saturday, February 21. A versatile artist who performs works by Chopin, Liszt, Brahms and Rachamaninov but also George Gershwin, Aram Khachaturian, Duke Ellington, virtuosic transcriptions of opera arias, and new works by contemporary composers such as Iranian-born Behzad Ranjbaran, he has also participated in creating music for films, including the Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning film, Atonement.

Mr. Thibaudet has consistently won superlatives for his interpretations of the music of French composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, whose immensely colorful and imaginative works are pillars of the solo piano repertoire. His program offers a feast of them. Book II of Debussy's Preludes, which explore wonderfully subtle and varied characters ending with the spectacular"Feux d'artifice" ("Fireworks"), comprises the first half of the program, followed by Ravel's wistfully exquisite Pavane for a Dead Princess, and culminating with Miroirs ("Mirrors"), including the popular "Alborada del gracioso" ("The Jester's Dawn Song"). If you've never heard this music before, you would want Jean-Yves Thibaudet to introduce you to it, for you are unlikely to hear more vivid, beautiful, insightful or persuasive performances of these Impressionist masterworks.

We're grateful to long-time subscribers, donors, and avid concert-goers Jeff Adams and Susan Hunter for being The Friends of Spivey Hall Concert Sponsors of this auspicious debut, and sincerely appreciate the assistance and collaboration of the French Consulate General in Atlanta in helping us welcome Mr. Thibaudet to Spivey Hall. A reception in his honor for the entire audience will follow the recital.

New to Atlanta and Spivey Hall is the brilliant young pianist Yevgeny Sudbin, who makes his debut on Sunday, March 8. Ten days ago, he gave a solo recital at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Anne Midgette, writing for The Washington Post, started her review with the following words:

With the insouciance born of ability and success, Yevgeny Sudbin, looking not unlike a young Rahm Emanuel -- dark-ringed eyes in a thin and handsome face -- sat at the piano at the Terrace Theater on Saturday afternoon and produced some formidable music.
The sound he made was thick and dark and rich: Russian-school virtuosity, but without cloying heaviness. In the first movement of Haydn's Sonata in B Minor, which opened the program, it also had a springy elasticity that conveyed the spirit of the music, as if the sound were informed by the lighter twang of Haydn's fortepiano, like a shadow on the wall behind him.
The Russian-born Sudbin, 28, projects a wunderkind persona: able to fling out technical fireworks, offer insightful and intimate Scarlatti, write articulate program notes that give an insight into what he thinks about what he is playing (something too often absent from the classical-music equation). He has been garnering critical raves, particularly in England, where he now lives; and his string of recordings on the Bis label (Scarlatti, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff) have picked up a slew of accolades and awards.

We, too, shall hear him perform a Haydn sonata (in E minor), preceded by two Domenico Scarlatti sonatas, followed by Chopin Mazurkas, two Fairy Tales by Nikolai Medtner, and to close the program, Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7, subtitled "War Sonata No. 2: Stalingrad" -- an emotional powerhouse that combines massive sonorities and incisive brilliance with delicacy and quicksilver changes of mood. As such, it's an excellent vehicle for Mr. Sudbin's impressive virtuosity.

Mr. Sudbin has been an especially popular guest artist at the BBC Proms in London. I first came to know his music-making through his CDs of Russian music; however, he's also in the process of recording all the Beethoven piano concertos. I'm proud to introduce him to Atlanta, and eagerly await the experience of hearing him in person.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sam, is there a good recording of
Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7, subtitled "War Sonata No. 2: Stalingrad"? I am not familiar with it

1:29 PM  
Blogger Spivey Hall said...

The recording I've known for years and admire is the Maurizio Pollini / Deutsche Grammophon recording, which is coupled with Stravinsky's "Three Scenes from 'Petrouchka'" plus works by Boulez and Webern. I also own Argerich's recording, but cannot say I know it. lists more than three dozen recordings of this work, which has attracted the interest of many a legendary pianist. If I were to collect a selection of them for comparative listening with Pollini's, I'd certainly be be curious to hear any by Richter, Ashkenazy, Argerich, Pletniev, Horowitz, Berman, Bronfman or Sokoloff. Perhaps other fans of the piece will recommend their favorites.

7:53 PM  

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