Recent concerts

Here is a review from my concert in Vienna (28 January):

British pianist Jonathan Powell shines with late Romantic piano music
Vienna – it needed an English pianist to come to teach the Austrians a lesson in their own recent music history. Jonathan Powell is known for his recordings of rare piano music. He discovered, for example, the piano music of Sorabji (1892–1988), a British pianist of Parsi origin, whose four-hour-long work Opus Clavicembalisticum is almost forgotten today. Since Sorabji was an ardent admirer of Joseph Marx (1882–1964) and Richard Strauss, the programme played by Powell in the Baroque Hall of the Altes Rathaus consisted primarily of works by these three composers.

Of particular interest were the piano works by Joseph Marx, which remain partly unpublished and were re-discovered by Powell. Marx’s rich late-Romanticism is still impressive. The great formal freedom and harmonies streaked with colours mark the swelling and waning of his emotions in pieces with lyrical titles such as Albumblatt (Album Leaf), Von alter Sehnsucht (About an Old Longing), Nachtstück (Nocturne) or Herbstlegende (Autumn Legend). And this music is especially impressive when its emotional qualities were realised with so much empathy and great technical bravura by Jonathan Powell. These qualities were also in evidence in the Romance by Franz Schmidt, Ernst Ludwig Uray’s Melodisch-harmonischer Studie and Felix Petyrek’s Variations and Fugue.

A Hothouse of Sensations
And it was with astonishment one realised that Powell’s bravura could even be increased in the Schlußszene of Richard Strauss’ Salome, reworked into a pianistic bonfire by Sorabji. And with respect one noticed that Johannes Maria Staud, with whom Powell has established artistic contact, could also thrive in this steam bath of emotions with his Peras: Musik für Klavier, with its subtle becoming and decaying of single tones.

Peter Vujica, Der Standard (Vienna), 31 January 2008 (Peter Vujica is a respected writer and composer, and actually studied with Joseph Marx). I am indebted to Gijs van der Meijden and Vasilios Tsokis for their great help in providing this translation.

A review of my concert in London (25 January) can be found here – it also mentions the rumours that Kissin was present.

In Moscow (3 February) I played in a small private hall situated in the Palace where the Jurgenson publishing house worked in the pre-Revolutionary era. The concert took place in a room in a part of the building where the Jurgenson family lived, and where Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin (all of whose music was published by Jurgenson). I believe the Jurgenson family bought back this part of the building and established a music society there, and so I met many of the current members of the family. Also in the audience were composer Igor Rekhin, opera director Neil McGowan (both of whom helped organise the event), pianist Victor Bunin (one of Feinberg’s last pupils), conductor Vladislav Bulakhov, composer, writer and professor of the Moscow Conservatoire Fyodor Sofronov, and photographer Sveta Grekova, among others. It was also a delight to meet and work with mezzo-soprano Ksenia Vyaznikova who took part in the concert – we performed Grusha the Gypsy, an explosive excerpt from a recent opera by Rodion Shchedrin.

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