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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.

My round-the-world trip continues.... (2014-03-14)

Last night at New York's Le Poisson Rouge (where I performed the night Hurricane Sandy was approaching back in 2012!), I did two consecutive shows with author Julian Barnes--a programme of words and music (see photo). This is something we had done (in the company of other musicians as well) at my Trasimeno Music Festival last summer and subsequently decided to repeat. It was a huge hit! Julian is such a warm, elegant speaker and I chose music to match the excerpts from his own texts and those of others that he presented. Nice to do something different! The day before I gave a masterclass live on WQXR to students of the Third Street Music School which was streamed live. Then I ran to a fundraiser for my festival and taught another mini-masterclass and performed. That was an exhausting day! The day before that I was in Atlanta for another private fundraiser. The day before that I performed the Art of Fugue for a sold-out audience in San Francisco--a great evening, and I very much appreciated how silent the audience was. Hopping on a red-eye flight immediately following the performance was not the best thing, but the only choice. I have seen so many wonderful friends in the past week which has made it a huge pleasure, even if I am now a bit worn out. Only a few nights to recover, though. On Sunday I am playing in Montreal to another sold-out crowd, and then it's on to Toronto to do Beethoven with the TSO and Hannu Lintu. That will be special, I know.

Hong Kong, Taipei, Vancouver, and California.... (2014-03-07)

I very much enjoyed the remaining recitals in my Asia tour. At the University of Hong Kong I played in a new recital hall that has excellent acoustics (and about 800 seats) and the audience was great. I even inaugurated their new Steinway! In Taipei it was at the National Concert Hall (see photo)--a really terrific-sounding hall, though very large. It is always amazing to me how young the audience is in these places. Six-year-olds sitting through that difficult recital programme in total silence. There I played on a Fazioli that had only just arrived from the factory in Italy. I didn't have any time to look around there, but will be back in April to play with orchestra. Then the long trip backwards in time (with a 17-hour time change) to Vancouver. That was hard. I am still suffering from jet-lag five days later. For me it's easier to fly westwards than eastwards. A killer. And when you have to keep working as well.....In Vancouver it was great to see my dear friend, broadcaster and presenter Eric Friesen, with whom I did an hour-long interview for Music in the Morning. A packed house listened to us chat away, and I played a bit as well. Some people just make you feel better, and Eric is one of them. All this time there was drama in the background...the USCIS not issuing my new US work permit in time for my entry into the USA. I have never, in 35 years of performing around the world, had such troubles with this. They say they have a huge backlog (because of snow for one....!!!), and I had to pay an astronomical Premium Processing Fee even though I had applied months before. In short, I got it one hour before I had to check in at the airport. It's easier to get into any other country in the world, believe me. Last night I performed an all-Beethoven recital for the American Beethoven Society in San José, California--returning to them after a break of 7 years. They are the ones who have in their fascinating archive a lock of Beethoven's hair. No rest for the wicked. I have activities every day until my performance of the complete Art of Fugue by Bach in San Francisco on Sunday. Not to mention the practise I have to put in....

Here, there, and....South Korea! (2014-02-25)

All I’ve done in just over two weeks. No wonder I don’t have time to write. And there always seem to be 200 emails in my Inbox, no matter how much I attend to it. And yes, I now have a great personal assistant, at least for Italy and the festival. And yes I have great agents. OK, enough complaining. Since my last entry, I have given recitals in Harrogate, Edinburgh, yet again in London’s Wigmore Hall for the BBC Lunchtime series—live on Radio 3, Oxford (a new series in St. John the Evangelist church), Daejeon (South Korea) and, in a few hours, here in Seoul at the Seoul Arts Center for well over a thousand people. Plus I was given Honorary Citizenship of Magione (my town in Umbria, Italy) by the Mayor, Massimo Alunni Proietti (see photo). Thank you!! I wish I had more time to devote to the community, but it gives me great pleasure to bring so many people to this area from all over the world at the time of my Trasimeno Music Festival. I have also announced my second International Masterclass to be held in Spoleto from July 14-19. If you want details about that, please write to: or write me on the contact form of this website. Soon I will publish a link to the application form. Now I must get ready to go out to perform...yet again! The Liszt Sonata....always a huge emotional experience. Tomorrow I go on to Hong Kong and then Taipei--only 48 hours in each. Then around the world to Vancouver.

Beethoven recording; Bach chamber programme (2014-02-09)

It’s non-stop at the moment. As I’ve written before, if you want my news faster, best to go to Twitter or Facebook! Since my last post, I recorded my fifth album of Beethoven Sonatas (that makes a total of 17 now) for Hyperion in Berlin—always a wonderful few days, working so intensely with that music in the perfect setting. Then I locked myself in a hotel room there for a day and a half to write the CD notes for my upcoming Mozart Concerto disc (volume 3—to be released in the summer). That was the only way to get them done. Then I had a short time to prepare the programme I toured with during the past few days (it’s 5 concerts in 6 days this week with 2 completely different programmes), and a lot of it was new: a Bach chamber music programme with a flute sonata, a violin sonata, a solo keyboard Partita, the 2 Ricercari from The Musical Offering and its Trio Sonata as well. My wonderful soloists were flautist Andrea Oliva from Rome (with whom I have recorded Bach Flute Sonatas), and Julia Schröder from Basel (leader/director of the Basel Chamber Orchestra). They both have an excellent knowledge of Baroque style and played beautifully together (see photo). Last night’s sold out concert at Wigmore Hall in London was a particular joy. Now I’m on the train to Harrogate (and tonight will be in Edinburgh already) where I have to play my second Art of Fugue programme which I haven’t played since November. Oh dear! Am studying my scores.....

Concert and recording in Helsinki (2014-01-21)

My first concert of 2014 was in a favourite place: the new Musiikkitalo in Helsinki. The programme was a bit of a marathon: Mozart's Concerto K488 and the huge Turangalila Symphony by Messiaen. I suppose the concert would have been enough, but we also went on to record the Messiaen for the Ondine label. The CD should be available already sometime in the spring. It was great to do it with such a fine orchestra as the Finnish Radio Symphony which is playing so well under its new music director, Hannu Lintu. You can still listen to and watch the whole concert on the internet for another three weeks. Just follow the links below. Another dream realized. What is life without dreams? It was great to spend ten days in the same place, and it's such a lively musical community in Finland. I will be back there in August to appear in the Rauma Festival. They didn't have snow over Christmas, but it arrived the day I arrived, and so everything was beautifully white, even if cold. Reminded me of home. Now I'm in Berlin, about to record another Beethoven Sonata album for Hyperion. My Fazioli made it to Helsinki and should come ashore (off the boat) here in Germany in a few hours. For recordings I like to have it. Another intense few days now....

Mozart Concerto K488 FRSO/Lintu/Hewitt

Messiaen: Turangalila Symphony FRSO/Lintu/Hewitt/Hartmann-Claverie


Happy New Year!! (2014-01-01)

A Happy New Year to all! Another year has gone by in a flash. I ended the last one playing 4 fabulous Beethoven Sonatas for a group of five friends. This past week I needed the break--not from practising because I've been doing that like mad--but from all the rest. My e-mail crashed on Christmas Day and that threw me for a loop. After that I just wanted to switch off. At the moment I'm re-working Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony for my first concert of the year in Helsinki on January 15th (followed by a recording of it as well). That's a huge amount of work. The following week in Berlin I will be recording another Beethoven album for Hyperion (the fifth). I hope to see many of you in 2014 in Helsinki, London, Edinburgh, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, Vancouver, San Francisco, San José, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Florence, Vicenza, Verona, Copenhagen, Glyndebourne, Cambridge, Berlin, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Washington, DC....maybe even Tokyo again....and that's to name but a few. Funny thing: Air Canada sent me a map to celebrate 25 years of their mileage programme with a set of pins to put in: white ones for where I've been; red ones for where I want to go. I don't think they sent me enough pins.

Snowy Jerusalem! (2013-12-16)

Jerusalem hasn't had this much snow in years. The city came to a standstill over the weekend. This morning there was still no public transport and cars were abandoned everywhere. It was a gloriously sunny day, though, so I was determined to get out. Along with a member of staff from the Jerusalem Music Centre (where I will teach and perform this week), we walked through the snow and slush to the Old Town. I went into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we walked around in the markets, drank fresh pomegranate juice, went to the Wailing Wall, ate my favourite hummus near the Damascus Gate. Then I spent some hours with my friends (a man who studied organ with my father for many years in Ottawa), and then did my practise for the day. I was here before in 2005, but it's nice to be back!

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