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Second Angela Hewitt International Piano Masterclass, Spoleto (2014-07-22)

For the first time since 2010, I gave a week of masterclasses, organized by the Trasimeno Music Festival, in Umbria--this time in Spoleto. It's not something my schedule allows me to do every summer, and it was totally exhausting to do it immediately after the festival ended (also because I've had a throat infection for the past three weeks through all of this....), but the rewards turned out to be great. Nine students from around the world (Australia, France, Italy, Israel, USA, Ukraine, Taiwan) came for the week of intense work, bringing the large body of repertoire I had requested. We worked for a full six hours every day, and the students were expected to attend most of the lessons other than their own. We had one day only on Bach; one day on classical sonatas; and two days on Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, French music and own choice pieces (everything from de Falla to Smetena, but no Rachmaninoff--hurrah!); and one day on Bach/Mozart/Beethoven concertos. Then we put on an afternoon recital in a stunning church in Spoleto--San Salvatore (UNESCO world heritage site). The acoustics were terrific, Fazioli Pianos provided a beautiful F278 which the kids were thrilled to play; and the people of Spoleto filled the church! They did me proud. I'm not sure when the next one will be, but for sure sometime in the future.

Tonight's concert from Assisi live on RAI Radio 3 Suite! (2014-07-05)

The formal opening of the 2014 Trasimeno Music Festival is in a few hours. It will be great to perform in the Basilica Superiore of San Francesco in Assisi. The rehearsals took place in the past few days in Milan, and we are all anxiously awaiting the adventure! Please tune in on RAI Radio 3 Suite to listen live at 9 pm in Italy (3 pm EDT). Last night we had a lovely pre-festival concert with some terrific young musicians: Bryan and Silvie Cheng from Ottawa (cello and piano duo); Roope Gröndahl from Finland (piano), and Riccardo Cellacchi from Rome (flute). Now I must get ready for the concert!

The 10th Trasimeno Music Festival is starting soon! (2014-06-26)

Oh, I'm swamped. You have no idea. I have several full-time jobs. It's almost festival time and we're working flat out. I have a staff of 5 (counting myself). Most festivals like this would have a staff of at least 20. They are all great workers (most of us do it for free) and we have fun...good thing! Not only am I playing 7 huge programmes in 7 days (actually the repertoire for me is all now "under control" or "sotto controllo" as they say in Italy), but I'm working as much at the computer as at the piano. Our first pre-festival concert is this Saturday in Panicale where they have a jewel of a tiny theatre--the Caporali. The Quartetto di Cremona and myself will give a great programme of Mozart, Brahms, and Schumann. It's the first time we're doing a concert there. We added it because all the concerts at the Castle of the Knights of Malta in Magione were mostly sold out already in January (if you look on the festival website, there are still a few seats left, but hurry!). So Panicale, and also my solo recital in Solomeo at Brunello Cucinelli's own theatre (yes, the cashmere designer!) on July 12th (see photo) were added so that especially the local residents can attend. Still tickets left for those. The big churches where we have lots of space--Assisi, Perugia, Foligno--will all be very special. To book for all these concerts, please visit our website. It's our tenth festival, and the programme I've chosen is a special one indeed. Dame Felicity Lott, actor Roger Allam, conductor Jeffrey Tate...not to be missed!

Live Stream coming up NOW from Toronto!! (2014-06-11)

In a few hours, the "show" I'm doing tonight for Toronto's Luminato Festival will be streamed live on the internet. It's a Luminato creation called Keys on the Street and features myself, playing my own Fazioli concert grand piano, and some great urban dancers, with choreography by Tre Armstrong. Watch and see something different! I play steadily for 70 minutes: Bach, Couperin, Messiaen, Debussy, Ravel, Schubert and then the entire Goldberg Variations. I was apprehensive about it at first, but hey....good to do something "out of the box" and the kids are very talented and I like dancers, having been one myself. It was the idea of Jorn Weisbrodt, Luminato's Artistic Director, and husband of Rufus Wainwright.

New Messiaen recording released today! (2014-06-02)

I am very excited about the release of the Hybrid SACD recording of Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony which is out today! That's the one I recorded last January with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conductor Hannu Lintu and Valerie Hartmann-Claverie on the ondes martenot. Many of you watched the live performance over the internet. If you thought that was exciting, listen to this! Now available in my online shop. Just click on the word "shop" in the left hand side of this page.

Liszt recording for Hyperion (2014-05-29)

Here I am again--finally. There is so much computer work to do at the moment with my Trasimeno Music Festival beginning in just over a month's time in Italy. Not to mention the work at the piano as well. Since I last wrote, I have given two more recitals in the UK in beautiful country churches (Wendover and Chipping Camden); went to Berlin and recorded a Liszt CD for Hyperion; gave recitals at the Konzerthaus there and also in the Black Forest area of Germany (where I had never been), and tonight played Mozart's G major Concerto K453 with the London Mozart Players and conductor Gerard Korsten at St. John's Smith Square. We repeat that lovely programme tomorrow in Croydon at the Fairfield Halls. But back to Liszt. Another dream has come true: i had always wanted to record the Sonata in B minor, the 3 Petrarch Sonnets and the "Dante" Sonata--my favourite Liszt (indeed some of my all-time favourite music, period!). And now it's done. I can't begin to explain what that means to me. I find those pieces really transcendental, and they have such memories for me from my younger years. Thank you Hyperion for giving me the chance to record it. I am forever grateful.

The Art of Fugue at Glyndebourne and in London (2014-05-07)

It was very moving to walk out on stage in the Glyndebourne Opera House last Sunday afternoon and see the place packed to the rafters (1200 seats). The recital was part of the Brighton Festival which holds one event there every year. A long time ago I had attended an opera there, but never thought it would be my turn on stage! I'm sure a lot of the audience didn't realize what they were letting themselves in for when they booked to hear Bach's Art of Fugue....but they certainly received it rapturously at the end of the 90 minutes (non-stop). And at least I got out in the fields for a few minutes afterwards to see the sheep. Last night I repeated it at London's Wigmore Hall--again to a capacity crowd. Today I am whacked and needed 90 minutes at the massage therapist just to get going again. Nothing demands more concentration, and that all goes into the muscles, especially in the neck and shoulders (and head).

The deadline for applications to my masterclass this summer in Spoleto is May 15th. If you want to apply as a full-time student (age 18-30) then do so now! Auditors are welcome without application, of course. For more details, please click on the link below. I'm not doing this again for four years, so here's your chance!

Taiwan and Cambridge (2014-04-28)

For the past few days I have been in Cambridge where I was made a Visiting Fellow of Peterhouse college last Wednesday. A great honour, done with suitable pomp and ceremony! I am the visiting professor this week for CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) at the University of Cambridge. I have already given a lecture on Bach Performance on the Piano; did a masteclass with students on Franck (cello sonata), Liszt (Dante Sonata), Ravel (Trio) and Beethoven ("Ghost" Trio); today I do a symposium with Bach scholar John Butt on The Art of Fugue; and tomorrow I give a full performance of it. They are keeping me busy. I also attended Evensong at the famous King's College (see photo) which was beautiful; went to the Fitzwilliam Museum yesterday; Chapel at Peterhouse; and various dinners and other events. Plus I'm trying to finish the notes for my Art of Fugue recording on Hyperion which will be released in October. At least I have a very quiet room here at college in order to work. It's a different life in academia, but very nice to experience it for a week!

Before that I was in Taiwan for one concert with the National Taiwanese Symphony Orchestra, playing Beethoven's "Emperor" under conductor Michal Nesterowicz. A long way to go for one concert, but they very much appreciated it. At least I had two days of peace in Umbria after that to recover. I also did a private concert at Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex which is owned by Queen's University of Kingston, Ontario. Another beautiful place, and there were lots of friends there from home, including the intrepid Dr. Agnes Herzberg who organizes this conference every year. Plus I gave a recital, before leaving for Taiwan, in a beautiful country church in Painswick in the Cotswolds. I'll be back in that area soon to play the same programme at the Chipping Camden Festival. For now I must return to my writing and finish those notes!

Italy and Copenhagen (2014-04-11)

The rest of the tour with the Camerata Salzburg (Florence, Pavia, Treviso) was pure joy. As I always tour alone, it’s nice sometimes to have the company of other musicians. I admit, however, that I travelled alone by train from one town to the next whereas they went by coach because that gave me two more hours to sleep every morning (and I still usually arrived before them—their bus driver kept getting lost!). The great thing was that they took my heavy suitcase with them, so I just travelled with hand luggage. If only it were always the case! Audiences love the Bach concertos, and rightly so. Then I carried on alone to Vicenza and Verona for two performances of the complete Art of Fugue. I am always happy to be in Vicenza, one of the most beautiful Italian towns with its Palladian architecture, but was a bit fed up with the coughing from the audience. Bach deserved better. In Verona in the newly-restored Teatro Ristori, it was much better. No doubt the venue played a part—one too large and impersonal, the other much more intimate. But not only. If only people would actually turn off their mobile phones when asked to do so—not just put them in silent mode. A Canadian friend in the audience in Vicenza said it was appalling how many white screens she saw during the concert. In any case, I was happy to be there. Two free days in my schedule (free to practise) had me working at the Fazioli factory in Sacile near Venice as I was in the region and didn’t want to waste time going home for only one day. It was wonderful to be able to practise on a brand new Fazioli concert grand in their Concert Hall and to speak with Mr. Fazioli and his staff about their great plans for the future. They can’t make enough pianos at the moment for the demand. Good! After that I flew to Copenhagen to play once more in the Mogens Dahl Concert Hall—a very intimate space which attracts an excellent public. My first performance of Liszt’s “Dante” Sonata in 15 years went pretty well! I still seem to have the muscle for it. Good thing because I’ll be recording it in May for Hyperion. The photo, by the way, is of my new ipad stand, a prototype from Crescendo srl in Milan. Great design! Of course I still play most things from memory, but when I'm conducting from the piano in certain pieces, or for chamber music, or contemporary stuff, it's great to have!

Toronto, Salzburg, and Italy.... (2014-03-31)

It was indeed very special to play Beethoven's "Emperor" with the Toronto Symphony in Roy Thomson Hall. Although I gave a recital there 4 years ago, it had been more like seven years since my last appearance with the orchestra. It was also a great pleasure to have Hannu Lintu conducting as he's so good with LvB. Along with Sibelius 5, he conducted the North American premiere of "Solen" by Canadian/Finnish composer Matthew Whittall. I hope we will hear more of Matt's work in the future. My round-the-world plane ticket came to an end after five weeks, but the cruel thing is that I only had 48 hours at home in London before I was off again--having unpacked and repacked my suitcases. This time it was to Salzburg--my first time there since I was 12 years old, travelling around Europe with my parents. I did a marathon rehearsal of all nine Bach Keyboard Concertos in one day (in under six hours) with the Camerata Salzburg--our first time working together. That was something. And now here we are on tour in Italy--last night in Como; tonight in Florence (with Pavia and Treviso coming up). The Bach Concertos are such joyous pieces which surely contain some of the greatest music ever written. If the collaboration is a good one (which in this case it is!), then it is impossible not to come out of such a concert feeling elated. I got more jet-lag last night without even leaving my hotel room, as Europe put the clocks ahead a few weeks after North America. Why can't they all do that at the same time? Now it's 2:30 am and I should go to bed.

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