York Daily Record - Mike Argento writes......Robin Spielberg was looking forward to a good 2020. The pianist and composer was working on her 19th record and had a tour scheduled with legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb, who penned such iconic songs as "By the Time I Get to Pheonix," "Galveston," "Wichita Lineman," "Up, Up and Away" and countless other timeless tunes.
She had toured with Webb before – her husband, producer and talent agent Larry Kosson represents Webb, among other artists – and it was always a great time. "I'm Jimmy's driver, shoe-shiner, everything," Spielberg said. "I always joke with him in the car, telling him, ‘You're an icon." And he would say, ‘Say that one more time and I'll slap you in the face.' So then, I'd have to say it over and over again."
She was also eager to get back on the road to promote her new record, "Love Story," released Feb. 7, her 19th record and first to be pressed on vinyl - bright red vinyl at that.
They played one date of the 20-city tour and were scheduled to play in her adopted home, York County, on March 28. Then the pandemic began. And everything changed.
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The Korea Times - Kwon Mee-yoo writes.....Pianist Cho Seong-jin will premiere an unheard piece by Mozart in Salzburg on the occasion of the classical composer's 265th birthday. Cho will play Mozart's "Allegro in D K626b/16" at the Great Hall of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation, Wednesday, which mark's the Austrian composer's birthday as well as the opening date of the first-ever virtual edition of Mozartwoche, or Mozart Week, festival. "It is a great honor to be invited to give the premiere of a formerly unknown work by Mozart in the city of Salzburg, where the composer was born," Cho wrote on his Twitter, Friday.
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Multi Grammy & Emmy nominated recording artist, TV star and activist Jon Batiste announces a new single "I Need You" from his forthcoming ‘black pop' album WE ARE. The album is set for worldwide release on March 19 (Verve Records). On "I Need You" Batiste showcases his vocal range, accompanied by his once-in-a-generation musicianship. Produced and written in collaboration with songwriter Autumn Rowe and producer Kizzo, the song is communal and deceptively sophisticated. It fuses the sound of early 20th century black social music, with modern pop production and a hint of hip-hop storytelling. He expertly alternates between belting high notes in full voice, to singing harmony with himself on the choruses, to delivering the verses in a ‘farm rap' style. Batiste then dives into two killer instrumental breaks on both piano and saxophone - all in less than 3 minutes. Says Batiste, "This song is a vibe cleanse. After 2020, this is like a warm hug," says Batiste. "Let's bring the vibes back!"
Watch Batiste Lindy Hop his way through new single on the attached video. About the video, boingboing's GARETH BRANWYN writes.... "Jon Batiste everybody." One of the upsides of COVID-19 isolation has been getting to know Stephen Colbert and his musical director, Jon Batiste, a lot better. During the Trump Virus shit-show, Jon has been a little nightly dose of heartfelt music and unwavering positivity. In this video, the single to his forthcoming record, We Are, a group of Lindy Hoppers in a gallery photograph come to life and dance with him and another female patron. Sadly, upon seeing this, my first thought was: Where are their masks?
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textura writes.....A Quiet Madness is somewhat of a curious title for William Susman's latest release. The composer's music is seldom hushed, and neither is it deranged-not that there's any suggestion the title should be taken literally anyway.
The influence of classical minimalism on Susman's melodious music is undeniable, but he uses it as a foundation upon which to construct his own distinctive edifice. These settings enchant as they wend their way through different instrumental groupings, from the violin-and-piano serenity of the opening Aria on through the wholly transporting Seven Scenes for Four Flutes and beyond. Though its material was written between 2006 and 2013 and recorded on two continents, a cohesive impression forms due to the through-line of the composer's voice and the smart sequencing. By distributing three parts of the solo piano work Quiet Rhythms in amongst the other pieces, the album conveys a unified character capable of accommodating dramatic contrasts between the earthy and the ethereal.
For now, the forty-eight minutes of A Quiet Madness offer more than their fair share of listening rewards as a representative sampling of his artistry.
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Iconic NYC jazz club rallies to stay open amid pandemic.
WPIX11's Magee Hickey writes....Like so many jazz clubs and music venues across the city, 'Birdland' has been shuttered on West 44th Street since the pandemic began last March, except for a brief reopening last month. What better way to open the Save Birdland fundraiser than hearing the legendary Catherine Russell sing its anthem: the lullaby of Birdland. Birdland, the jazz corner of the world, has been around for longer than most of us can remember. It first opened in 1949 on 52nd Street with big names, including Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Billie Holiday. They performed regularly with Billy Taylor as the house pianist.
Owner Gianni Valenti feared would have to close permanently until producer Tom D'Angora held a successful fundraising telethon to save the West Bank Café on Christmas Day. "After a very successful West Bank Café campaign, some of my friends said 'can you do the same for Birdland,'" D'Angira told PIX11 News. "Birdland can't close. We can't have a New York without Birdland. That's impossible."
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For Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson's debut album on Deutsche Grammophon, he is performing selections of Philip Glass's Piano Etudes. Ólafsson's fascination with reinterpreting the Piano Etudes grew as he toured and performed the works with Glass himself. Released for the composer's 80th birthday, the pianist says; "On the surface, they seem to be filled with repetitions. But the more one plays and thinks about them, the more their narratives seem to travel along in a spiral," he explains. "My approach to each of the etudes is to enable the listener to create his or her own personal space of reflection."
The Guardian's Killian Fox writes.....We got this as a Christmas present from my father-in-law, who's a pianist and musicologist, and I think it's one of his favourite records. Ólafsson is an Icelandic pianist and here he's playing works by Philip Glass, for whom repetition is a big thing. The album has a simplicity that for me becomes almost majestic in the end. It's so precise and so clear – it feels almost mathematical but also very soulful. You listen to it for a little while and new details keep emerging. I've been playing it all the time since we got it. Photograph: Antonio Olmos
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The Daily Freeman's Diane Pineiro-Zucker writes......The Ashokan Center has always focused on hands-on outdoor education and the environment, so when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early March, 2020, it immediately became clear that things were about to change drastically, said Jay Ungar, the center's president and chief executive officer.
The Ashokan Center, at 477 Beaverkill Road in Olivebridge, has served about 5,000 schoolchildren annually during academic years since 1967 and has offered on-site dance camps for adults and families each spring and summer since 1980. But it saw enrollment drop and then disappear as the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing made it difficult if not impossible to continue business as usual.
"We leapt into the world of what's now called virtual programming," Ungar said. "I rebel against that word because virtual reality is not real, but online programming is real. It's the real thing, only it's online."
COVID "has been devastating to many non-profits and commercial businesses and small businesses. It's rewriting the world as we know it," Ungar said. "Who knows what the world will be like when we reach whatever the next step is? But for this particular organization, the Ashokan Center, while it's been a struggle and it's been difficult, it has opened possibilities that we never thought of before.
"So, our world is going to continue to include some of this virtual programming in the future and we never would have embarked on it if we hadn't essentially been forced."
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An ensemble that attracts rave reviews and sell-out crowds at prestigious venues everywhere from Vienna to New York, the sensational SIGNUM saxophone quartet are now set to present their first Deutsche Grammophon album.
Igor Levit says; 'Fur Elise' is one of the most beautiful pieces I know' / The New York Times
Posted: January 7, 2021 12:00 AM
| By: Admin
The New York Times - Joshua Barone writes......Beethoven's ‘Für Elise' Doesn't Deserve Your Eye Rolls. It is overplayed all over pop culture. But the pianist Igor Levit says it is "one of the most beautiful pieces I know."
A bagatelle the length of a pop song, Beethoven's trifle is recognizable from the start: a wobble between E and D sharp that gives way to a tune you've heard virtually everywhere. Ringing from cellphones and children's toys; sampled in rap and featured on Baby Einstein albums; as likely to appear in a serious drama as in a Peanuts cartoon, "Für Elise" is shorthand for classical music itself. In "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure," it's used to identify Beethoven without even saying his name.
Beethoven's 250th Birthday: Here's Everything You Need to Know
But you probably haven't heard "Für Elise" in a concert hall. More likely to inspire eye rolls than awe among the cognoscenti, it's rarely programmed - unlike, say, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, with its famous dun-dun-dun-DUN fate motif, or his Ninth, which ends with the omnipresent "Ode to Joy."
I've been thinking about the puzzling absence of "Für Elise" from professional recitals since I first met the pianist Igor Levit for a concert and interview we conducted over Facebook Live in 2017. He offered the piece as a surprise at the end of the broadcast, withholding the title but saying, "I will play one of the most beautiful pieces I know."
Hearing the opening bars, I was caught so off guard I nearly laughed. "Für Elise" occasionally pops up in mainstream recordings; Paul Lewis released an aching account on an album of Beethoven bagatelles last summer. But it's so rarely heard live - outside student concerts, at least - that for a moment I didn't know how to respond.
Nearly four years later, and using the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth a few weeks ago as an excuse, I asked Mr. Levit whether he could explain the beauty of "Für Elise" in more detail, and make a case for why it warrants deep attention rather than reflexive exasperation.
"It's not a piece you actually hear," he said in a video call from his home in Berlin. "It became in a way unperformable, which I think is a shame."
Mr. Levit added that when he plays it as an encore, people tend to giggle or look visibly confused. Serious musicians aren't expected to build their careers on this piece, and audiences don't rush to concert halls for it.
The ubiquity of "Für Elise" - like Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" - doesn't void its masterly craft, nor does it preclude the possibility of performances on the level of Mr. Levit's. Yet the eye rolls continue. In his biography "Beethoven: A Life," which was recently translated into English, Jan Caeyers writes that the work "has assumed a significance in Beethoven's oeuvre that is utterly disproportionate to its musical import."
That may be true, but it's a severe judgment nevertheless. For the outsize reputation, we can thank the catchy title, an abbreviation of the dedication: "For Elise on 27 April as a remembrance of L. v. Bthvn." If the piece had come down in history merely as Bagatelle in A minor (WoO 59, from the "Werke ohne Opuszahl" catalog of Beethoven works without official opus numbers), it likely would have remained a lovely obscurity.
Beethoven drafted and dedicated it in 1810, though it remained unpublished in his lifetime. He is thought to have revisited it in the early 1820s, most likely with an eye toward including it in his Op. 119 Bagatelles, but he ultimately left it out. The scholar Ludwig Nohl eventually discovered and published it in the mid-1860s, igniting a debate over the identity of "Elise" that continues to this day.
Becoming a fixture of music lessons, spreading with the rise of mass media, finding new audiences as the line between high and low culture blurred: All led to the ultra-ubiquity of "Für Elise." By the time I was a toddler, in the early 1990s, all I had to do was push a piano-shaped button on a toy to hear the opening theme. It was so entrenched in my memory that I could play it, crudely, before I could read a note of music.
Mr. Levit recalled similar experiences; he too learned "Für Elise" by ear. Then he became fascinated by, for example, a fleeting dissonance or a passage of enveloping tenderness. "This piece is an absolute jewel," he said.
I asked him to expand on that, using his copy of the score from G. Henle Verlag. Mr. Levit has remained busy during the pandemic: He streamed a long series of daily concerts from his apartment, put on a marathon performance of Erik Satie's "Vexations" and appeared around Europe. But like everyone, he has also been unusually homebound, lately baking challah and playing guitar. So he had time to dive deeply into the three pages of "Für Elise." (All audio clips are excerpted from Mr. Levit's Sony recording.)
"Für Elise" is in A minor, but it doesn't declare its key right away. The first five notes remind Mr. Levit of a later piece, Schumann's song cycle "Dichterliebe," which begins dissonantly with a C sharp quickly followed by a D two octaves lower.
In the Beethoven, the notes are an E and a D sharp, a half-step lower. Toggling between them, with an improvisatory feel and the extreme softness of pianissimo, creates a sense of mystery. For a moment, "Für Elise" could go anywhere.
A more solid sense of the piece's direction comes once the left hand enters, trading notes with the right hand in upward arpeggios. It has the lure of a fairy tale, Mr. Levit said - or at least that's how it sounded to him when he once found himself "fooling around" and doubling the tempo of these measures, rendering them flowing and dreamlike.
"You have this almost nondirectional beginning," he said, "but then this feeling of ‘A long, long time ago. …'"
A musical hug
After the opening repeats, the piece continues with phrases that gently rise and fall, like breathing. Mr. Levit also sees them as a musical hug: "When it goes up you open the arms, and when it goes down you close them."
The chord progression here, he added, is practically guaranteed to make you melt. "It's very beautiful," Mr. Levit said, "but in the simplest way." It's the stuff of the Beatles and Elton John - and reminiscent of Pachelbel, whose Baroque-era Canon in D also echoes through pop music today, one of the few challengers to "Für Elise" among overplayed chestnuts.
A glimpse of late style
The opening theme returns by way of a transition of shocking economy: the note E, played repeatedly but given the illusion of variety by jumping octaves. It's a flash of late Beethoven, his music at its most elemental. And it's the kind of moment that appears in subsequent piano repertoire: Mr. Levit pointed to the opening of Liszt's "La Campanella" and the Marc-André Hamelin étude Liszt inspired.
One of Beethoven's feats here, Mr. Levit added, is how simplicity is made theatrical by passing those E's back and forth between the left and right hands. "It's just emptiness," he said. "How great must a composer be to allow himself to write about nothing?"
Melody, at last
Mr. Levit argues there is no true melody in "Für Elise" until about a minute into the piece. The opening, he said, is not something that could be easily mimicked by the human voice; it's more about Beethoven creating space. Then comes a more traditionally constructed passage, with a lyrical right-hand line above left-hand accompaniment.
"I don't think the beginning is espressivo," he said. "So when the F major comes in, this allows you to really sing it out. It's in a way easier to play."
Easier, that is, until an étude-like dash of notes - perhaps the most difficult four measures of the score - leading abruptly back into the opening theme. The transition, or lack thereof, is characteristic of Beethoven; Mr. Levit described it as "a car crash moment."
A dramatic interlude
After revisiting the opening theme, Beethoven suddenly changes the temperature of the piece with a tempestuous interlude of right-hand chords over a rumbling floor of repeated low notes. Mr. Levit often uses the word "tender" to describe "Für Elise," but not here.
"It's quite dramatic," he said. "And it's automatically loud because if you use the pedal, just because of the way the piano is built, it gets louder. It's intense."
The wind machine
But the drama comes to a quick end with another "car crash" transition: two measures of barely held chords, then a run of triplet 16th notes rising and falling over a span of more than three octaves. It can be easy to read this as a climax - either to the stormy middle section, or the piece as a whole - but Beethoven marks these notes as pianissimo, exactly as soft as the opening. "It's ghostlike," Mr. Levit said, "a pianissimo wind machine."
Closing the book
The opening theme returns one last time, quietly, with no changes in tempo or dynamics that would have given it the grandeur of an ending. The only addition is a single note - a low A - in the brief final chord. If "Für Elise" is a fairy tale, this is its tidy conclusion.
"It's very touching," Mr. Levit said. "This is what happened, that's how it was. The story was told, and now the end. The book is closed." PHOTO: Eleanor Davis
A very personal double album marked by a desire for encounter and togetherness. The program includes rarely played arrangements of Bach and Brahms by Ferruccio Busoni and Max Reger, as well as Palais de Mari – Morton Feldman's final work for piano.
Longing and its fulfilment at the same time: Igor Levit's new double album "Encounter" is the pianist's sixth disc released on the Sony Classical label and conveys the urgent desire for encounter and human togetherness – at a time when isolation is the order of the day. The result is a very personal recital. While speaking touchingly of the hardships and unexpected feelings of liberty resulting from social distancing, musically the recital stands out for the objective spirit of its carefully crafted form.
Igor Levit's work on the 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas has been the most important endeavour of the past 15 years of his life. This autumn will see his new studio recording of the complete sonata cycle released on Sony Classical on September 13 and represents the recorded testament to almost half his life spent in the study and performance of these sonatas. The release of this momentous 9-album cycle is one of the most eagerly awaited recordings for the 250-year Beethoven anniversary.
No other composer has had such an important influence on Igor Levit's life as that of Ludwig van Beethoven. He admits that this composer's music is around him practically every day and in almost everything he does. The profound impact of Beethoven's music- since his first emotional point-of-no-return with the Missa solemnis at age 13, followed by his first dedicated work on Sonata op. 2/2–has subsequently shaped Levit's approach to almost all music, whether he is playing Liszt, Shostakovich or Rzewski.
Sparked by the tragic death of a close friend in an accident, Igor Levit's piano playing reflects upon an experience of loss encompassing grief, despair, resignation and solace. He concentrates on works whose gloomy grandeur and melancholy beauty have occupied him for years. Each of them pays tribute to the virtuoso possibilities of the piano. Poetic moments of contemplative silence blend with life-affirming and extremely sensual music with a direct physical fascination. ...
Sony Classical announces the release of Pianist Igor Levit's third album - Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski. Available October 30, the album includes Bach's Goldberg Variations and Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, long considered acid tests of the performer's art, plus Frederic Rzewski's gigantic cycle on the Chilean revolutionary song ¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!, which has the reputation of being nearly unplayable. Not content with canonized masterpieces, Levit is equally drawn to the physical challenge of Rzewski's virtuosic tightrope walks.
38 NEW 43 Total
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Igor Levit has recorded the Partitas by this incommensurable Bach, BWV 825-830: it's the second release by the 27-year-old pianist, whom many regard as the greatest talent of his time. With his debut album, featuring the late Beethoven sonatas, Levit already enjoyed great success and international critical acclaim: the album rose to no. 46 in Germany's Top 100 album charts.
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"Unlike those technically brilliant young pianists who dazzle briefly and disappear, Levit is pre-eminently a real musician who seems built to last." – The Guardian
For the last three years, Igor Levit's name has been the first to be mentioned whenever there has been talk of the most exciting of the younger generation of pianists. What is so surprising about Levit is not only the maturity of his interpretations, but his boundless appetite for new repertoire of works as difficult and demanding as possible. For his long awaited debut album, the twenty-six-year-old Levit has chosen some of the most challenging repertoire ever written for piano: Beethoven's last five piano sonatas. On his two-CD debut set, Levit is not just another young aspiring pianist releasing his debut album, but rather an outstanding artist who meets the exceptionally high demands of this extraordinary music. Levit's technical and artististic command in the difficult "Hammerklaviersonate" op. 106 is sure to be recognized as one of the most astounding accomplishments in recent history of Beethoven recordings.