Friday, February 27, 2015

Just in: BBC Young Musician piano winner leads the charge in Warsaw

We've just received the list of 160 pianists who have qualified for this year's "elimination rounds" at the Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw. Among the initial 160 contestants are five from the UK. Most familiar to our audiences is Yuanfan Yang, winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year piano final in 2012. The others are Otis William Beasley, Ashley Fripp, Kausikan Rajeshkumar and Alexander Ullman.

Those interested in statistics might like to know that Warsaw will host a total of 26 candidates from China, 25 from Japan, 24 from South Korea and 21 from Poland. Russia and the US are each the home of 11 contestants, there are six from France, five from Italy, four each from Canada and Ukraine and two each from the Czech Republic and Taiwan. Further competitors are from Austria, Belarus, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Latvia, Mongolia, Romania, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and Uzbekistan.

Note, though, that this is just the "elimination round". From these, 80 will be chosen to go forward to the actual competition. Five candidates are being allowed to "bypass" the elimination round, having won other big competitions before.

Last time the Chopin Competition revealed an extraordinary number of fine young artists, with Yulianna Avdeeva, Ingolf Wunder and Daniil Trifonov placed respectively first, second and third.

Good luck, guys. Full list here.

Here is Yuanfan in a spot of Chopin.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"This is a period of mass intimidation"

I went to visit rehearsals for The Indian Queen at ENO's West Hampstead studios and found the one and only Peter Sellars, who's directing it, tackling the ongoing situation with hugs.

Substantial interview with him proved fascinating and provocative.

"This is a period of mass intimidation, one where it's no accident that governments are not only cutting the arts but destroying education...They want a frightened, docile population that's easily manipulated – and the arts are about thinking for yourself..." 

Read more of it today in the Independent.

Here's more about the music - "A sadness so deep it's life-giving," says Sellars.

Monday, February 23, 2015

When is a hall not a hall?

When it's a political football. In The Amati Magazine today, my thoughts on the mooted new venue for London and what it is perhaps really about...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chopin around

It's the sort of documentary I didn't think they'd allow any more: a fabulously filmed celebration of a genuinely special artist, focusing on its subject, not some "celebrity" presenter, and with plenty of music. There's a certain poetic justice to the fact that Christopher Nupen, who captured the likes of Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim on film in the 1960s, is still around to document the talent of Daniil Trifonov. This mesmerising documentary captures the poetic fire of the young Russian pianist, who talks about "boiling" himself in the music. The film went out the other day on BBC4 and can be watched on the iPlayer for 28 days thereafter. Today is Chopin's birthday and one could do worse than celebrate by watching it. The whole thing is here.

Just one thing: the clips in the film of Trifonov's own Piano Concerto seem absolutely wonderful. I think we ought to have the whole thing as an adjunct - it is a substantial work that sounds well worth hearing.

Trifonov, though, has now gone off sick, having to drop out of a tour with the Kremerata Baltica. The search for a replacement artist for the remaining performances proved so dispiriting, according to Norman Lebrecht, that Kremer appears to have decided to cancel the rest of the tour and take a well-earned rest. In an open letter, Kremer blamed recalcitrant promoters who he says refused to accept any of his suggestions for a pianist who could take over the task of playing both the Chopin concerti on a substantial tour at short notice.

One artist they allegedly refused was Yulianna Avdeeva, the Russian pianist who took first prize at the Chopin Competition at which Trifonov himself pulled in third. Highly recommended by many musicians including Krystian Zimerman and Martha Argerich. A superb artist who by rights should be far too busy to be free to step in to such a thing. Here is what they're missing.