MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

An Interview with Beatrice Rana

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Beatrice Rana: photo (c) Nicolas Bets

Beatrice Rana was in town recently to perform with the Seattle Symphony. I was fortunate to have a chance to interview this remarkable young pianist — Silver Medalist at the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition — who has become known for her consistently soulful, honest performances and probing musical intelligence.

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Beatrice Rana has just released a new album of Ravel and Stravinsky. Excerpts here.

Filed under: pianists, profile

Clara Schumann, Music’s Unsung Renaissance Woman

The 200th anniversary of Clara Schumann’s birth is quickly approaching. Here’s a story on her legacy I wrote for The New York Times:

Schumann is among the most celebrated names in the classical music canon — for most people conjuring the poetic and intense work of Robert Schumann, the Romantic master.

But when the Schumann in question is his wife, Clara, the name should remind us most of the frustrating lack of recognition still accorded female composers.

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Filed under: chamber music, Clara Schumann, New York Times, pianists

Brahms Times 2: Hamelin Displays Mettle And Might

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Marc-André Hamelin performed both Brahms piano concertos at the Bellingham Festival. (Photo: Catherine Fowler)

I spent a lovely day in Bellingham on Sunday. Here’s my review of Marc-André Hamelin’s program of the two Brahms piano concertos at the Bellingham Festival of Music for Classical Voice North America.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Rhapsodizing about his summer getaway in the lakeside resort of Pörtschach, Brahms observed that “the melodies fly so thick you must watch out not to step on one.” It’s easy to imagine the composer armed with a melody-catching butterfly net and setting out for a stroll through the idyllic campus in coastal Washington, where the Bellingham Festival of Music takes place over three weeks each July.

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Filed under: Brahms, festivals, pianists, review

Late-Night Liszt

I’d never heard Till Fellner live before but am now a convert. He played this as an encore after his rainwater-clear account of Mozart’s K. 503 C major Concerto on the first half of the finale concert of the 2019 Easter Festival in Lucerne on Palm Sunday.

Filed under: Franz Liszt, Lucerne Festival, Mozart, pianists

Caroline Shaw’s New Piano Concerto Premieres in Seattle

Very excited–especially after getting a foretaste in rehearsal–to hear the world premiere tonight of super-talented Caroline Shaw’s Watermark, her piano concerto for Jonathan Biss.

Check out the video above for the composer in a master class on her own music. And here’s an interview from yesterday with KING-FM’s Dave Beck on Watermark.

Filed under: Caroline Shaw, commissions, pianists, Seattle Symphony

RIP Randolph Hokanson

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Last night, at the age of 103, the pianist Randolph H. Hokanson died in Seattle. Randy’s passing marks the end of an era, but he lives on in the artistry and creative spirit he imparted to generations of pianists.

I was incredibly fortunate to get to know him in his final years, starting with my interviews to prepare this profile in 2014 — when he was a young buck of 98:

“I’ve seen it all!” announces Randolph Hokanson before losing himself in a mischievous gale of laughter. With someone else, you might be tempted to indulge that as hyperbole. With Hokanson, who was born in 1915 in Bellingham, it’s tempting to take it literally.

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Filed under: pianists, Randolph Hokanson

A Weekend at Tippet Rise

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Jeffrey Kahane playing the “Goldberg” Variations. Credit: photo is by Emily Rund, courtesy of Tippet Rise Art Center

My report for Musical America on my recent trip to the Tippet Rise Art Center for a weekend of chamber music, sculpture, and nature has now been posted. PDF version here: Tippet Rise-pdf-07.30.18_MusicalAmerica

FISHTAIL, Montana–Lots of music festivals beckon with the prospect of a temporary retreat from the mundane. Tippet Rise Art Center takes this to a remarkable extreme, thanks to its geography. Located on a 10,260-acre working ranch in rural south-central Montana, Tippet Rise requires nothing less than a pilgrimage just to take in one of the musical weekends of this year’s summer festival season, spread over eight weeks between July and September.

Filed under: Bach, John Luther Adams, Musical America, pianists, review, travel

Igor Levit Is the 2018 Gilmore Artist

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Congratulations to Igor Levit for winning the 2018 Gilmore Artist Award, a distinction conferred to recognize “extraordinary piano artistry with some of the most generous financial support given in the musical arts. The $300,000 award is conferred every four years to an international pianist of any age and nationality following a rigorous and confidential selection process.”

The Gilmore Artist Award “is made through a non-competitive process. Pianists are nominated by a large and diverse group of international music professionals.” Past recipients include Rafał Blechacz (2014), Kirill Gerstein (2010), Ingrid Fliter (2006), Piotr Anderszewski (2002), Leif Ove Andsnes (1998), Ralf Gothóni (1994), and David Owen Norris (1991).

I met Levit when the Republican presidential primaries were still in progress and the idea of Donald Trump winning the election seemed absurd, but even then I recall his very serious concern about the awful possibility. As Michael Cooper puts it in this first-rate New York Times profile, Levit “has stood out by emerging as the de facto pianist of the resistance.”

My profile of Levit for Steinway & Sons from 2016:

It’s early February, over lunch before his Seattle debut later in the evening, and Igor Levit can’t stop talking about how thrilled he is to be touring the United States.”

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Filed under: music news, pianists

Conrad Tao: Leaving the Comfort Zone

My new profile of pianist and composer Conrad Tao for Steinway  is now online:

HIS NAME HASN’T changed, but mentally splicing the twenty-three-year-old Conrad Tao with the child prodigy who first came before the general public more than a decade ago is likely to make you do a double take.

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Filed under: Conrad Tao, pianists, profile

Kavakos and Wang on Tour

 

kavakos-wangOn Friday Leonidas Kavakos and Yuja Wang come to Seattle as part of their current tour. My interview with the Greek violinist for The Seattle Times:

Forget about art for art’s sake.

The virtuoso violinist Leonidas Kavakos staunchly believes that artistic creativity is vital for a fully human life — and even for our survival.

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Filed under: pianists, Seattle Times, violinists

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