JWR Articles: Preview - Lucerne Festival at the Piano (Featured composer: Johannes Brahms) - October 9, 2010

Lucerne Festival at the Piano

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All manner of keyboards take centre stage

With the highly successful summer season still in fond memory, the Lucerne Festival will soon be presenting its week-long (November 22-28, 2010) celebration of piano repertoire of all genres.

This year’s special feature is Brahms. Conductor Bernard Haitink and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe will team up with Emanuel Ax to perform both of the master composer’s piano concertos. In a deft mark of programming, the two Serenades for Orchestra (Op. 11, Op. 16) will precede their same-numbered “symphonies with piano.”

For those who appreciate more contemporary works, Nicolas Hodges is presenting a fascinating selection of music by Brice Pauset (the Switzerland première of Canons für Klavier), Karlheinz Stockhausen (Klavierstück X—built around the central value of 7, with the 8th section compressing the previous phrases into one thought, it’s a marvellous essay on “order and disorder”) and Helmut Lachenmann (Serynade für Klavier).

The piano duo of Yaara Tal and Andreas Groethuysen will make something old new again with their performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, arranged for two pianos by Josef Rheinberger in 1883 then revised by Max Reger in 1915. Considering the instrument used in Bach’s day, the increased decibel count will be an ongoing variation of its own.

Bach (Partita No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 826) and Brahms (Fantasien, Op. 116) share the same bill for veteran Grigory Sokolov’s recital. With both composers being masters of music that has virtually unceasing flow, there will be as much contrast in technique as similarity in approach.

A survey of the French repertoire will be conducted by Pierre-Laurent Aimard (including Ravel’s Miroirs, which was also on Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s menu a few weeks back—cross-reference below).

András Schiff returns to Lucerne to bring his singular style to lesser-performed works by Mendelssohn (Variations sérieuses, Op. 54; Fantasy in F-sharp Minor, Op. 28) and Schumann (Sonata No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 11; Symphonic Studies, Op. 13).

Schumann performed on a period instrument (Hammerflügel) is the focus of Andreas Staier’s program which includes the magical Scenes from Childhood, Op. 15. The day before, Evgeny Kissin celebrates both Schumann (Fantasiestücke, Op. 12; Novellette in F-sharp Minor, Op. 2, No. 8) and Chopin (Ballades, Nos. 1-4)—the anniversary year of both just keeps on going!

A special event is the afternoon workshop where writer/editor Martin Meyer will share his insights about Brahms after which Alfred Brendel will discuss three of the composer’s finest proponents (Alfred Cortot, Edwin Fischer and Wilhelm Kempff), employing words and musical examples to illustrate his observations.

While the evening concerts take place in the halls of the Kultur and Kongresszentrum Luzern, every noontime the Début series brings tomorrow’s artists to the forefront at Lukaskirche.

The 2010 line-up includes Jinsang Lee (Chopin and Schumann), Jean Frédéric Neuburger (an eclectic assemblage of Bach, Liszt, Messiaen, Neuburger and Ravel), and Alice Sara Ott (the sole Beethoven offering: Sonata in C Major, Op. 53 “Waldstein” Liszt and Chopin).

While classical repertoire dominates the programming, those with a hankering for the “other side of the street” can get their fill of jazz thanks to the Piano Off-Stage series. Ten pianists from Europe and the United States (Gerald Clayton, Jon Davis, Jean-Baptiste Franc, Anke Helfrich, Christina Jaccard—who agrees with Diane Schuur that “I’m not Ashamed to Sing the Blues,” Bernd Lhotzky, Jan Luley, Ricardo Regidor, Martin Sasse and Mark Tenger) will set up shop in the city’s most elegant bars and keep toes a tappin’ long after the final cadence of the “serious” offerings have sounded. But make no mistake, the talent level is equally high, it’s only the mode of expression that changes. Better still: there’s never a cover charge.

With so much variety and top practitioners set to demonstrate the current state of their various arts in Lucerne, those lucky enough to have tickets will be the envy of the concert-going public. JWR

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