Thursday, May 31, 2007

And more Schumann...

Here's a super little promotional video from EMI about Jonathan Biss's Schumann album, which gives a good taster of his playing and personality and has handily found its way onto Youtube.

Shoo, man

My poor old piano has been a bit neglected lately. Last week my editor (novels) went on holiday for half term and I can't make much progress on the revision of Hungarian Dances until I have her feedback. Instead, with an hour or two to spare, and Tom safely shooed away to Glyndebourne, I took the plunge and opened the lid.

The great thing about being an official amateur - no concerts, no lessons, no exams, no pressure - is that nobody can tell you what to do, or, more importantly, what not to do. No-one can say, "Don't you dare touch the Schumann Fantasie, it's too hard for you!" So I dare. I touched the Schumann Fantasie. I read through the first and last movements and as much of the March as I could manage without going cross-eyed, and nobody could hear me or stop me. And it's heaven. Surely no piece represents pure romanticism more than this one. To touch Schumann is to hold starlight in your hands, even if only for a second.

Here are two favourite recordings: Marc-Andre Hamelin (Hyperion), full of wonder and tenderness and fleetness; and Jonathan Biss (EMI), replete with good sense, empathy and a deep, pure humility in the representation of genius.

Achtung, piano fans: Jonathan Biss is playing the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Sunday afternoon, 3 June. Beethoven, Webern and Mozart, and guess what? The Schumann Fantasie.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hough rejected from Vietnam

The other day, the Telegraph revealed that the pianist Stephen Hough has been forced to cancel a performance in Vietnam because the authorities 'could not guarantee his personal safety'. The report suggests that Hough's writings about the Catholic church's attitude to homosexuality may have sparked this extremely unfortunate reaction. The Telegraph's site has a video clip where you can see Hough playing some Mompou and talking about the incident. Frankly, it's Vietnam's loss. Stephen is one of the finest British pianists ever. End of story.

Go west, young woman

One of the most excellent people in the UK recording business is about to join the brain drain and head for the US. Melanne Mueller, who's been the marketing and PR half of Avie Records with her partner Simon Foster, is off to NY this weekend to become vice-president of the core classical division of Universal. Melanne is a real musician - she started out as an oboist and played professionally in the States before going into the record industry. Nice to know that a big label is still capable of taking on someone who knows something about music, musicians and people as well as products. She'll be much missed in the London scene.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Erich Wolfgang Korngold: born 29 May 1897 in Brno. A nice round 110 for a nice round composer! The 'unofficial' Korngold website has a very good front page full of 2007 events commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death, and if you're a fan it is well worth exploring. I have just finished listening to a super new double CD set about to be released on Naxos of the complete music from The Sea Hawk, plus hefty chunks of Deception: William Stromberg conducts the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.