The Pollini Project – Stockhausen, Schumann, Chopin, Royal Festival Hall May 25, 2011

More years ago than I care to remember (OK, about ten), Edward Moore, my piano teacher at university, told me he used to be a great fan of Maurizio Pollini, but had grown disenchanted with him because he thought his playing had become completely dry, overly safe and devoid of emotion. Perhaps because he was by far the best teacher I’d ever had, I took this opinion seriously and allowed it to influence my perception of Pollini ever after, remaining a devout sceptic despite his evidently immense popularity.

Sitting under the piano…

It is a dark object that keeps its softness, a ponderous roof, and a gentle. When you sit under the piano, you must be small. From there the world is a theatre. You watch unobserved, the darkness is a cushion, the piano is a mother. Can you remember being held in its arms and looking out ? Music comes out of it. The music is always played by your mother. Its sounds are too complex to offer a play opportunity to a child. No questions are asked about where the music comes from. All you can see of your mama is her feet on the pedals, and any kid knows that they don’t make any music. So where does it come from?

At Tannery Pond: Joan Kwuon, violin, and Teddy Robie, pianist, in Copland, Ravel, and Franck

In spite of all the excitement over Simone Dinnerstein’s Bach recital in Great Barrington, Tannery Pond attracted an impressive crowd for one of the great concerts of the season, an America-French program played by two splendid young musicians, violinist Joan Kwuon and pianist Teddy Robie. The unique, richly varied tone she brought forth from her magnificent 1734 ‘Spagnoletti’ Guarneri del Gesù (lent by Elliott and Mona Golub), her astonishing technique, her mature musicality, and deep feeling give her all the qualities of a truly great musician. Joan Kwuon is the rare sort of violinist who commands the highest virtuosity, but uses it without the slightest sense of slickness or display for its own sake.

Bach on the Piano: Simone Dinnerstein plays for the Berkshire Bach Society

The superb pianist Simone Dinnerstein offered her highly personal view of Bach in a comprehensive manner on Saturday night at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in a program sponsored by the Berkshire Bach Society. (Full disclosure: this writer is a member of the board of the society.) Playing a modern Hamburg Steinway concert grand, Ms Dinnerstein displayed complete and consistent command over all aspects of piano performance, making liberal use of the coloristic possibilities of touch and pedals, and employing a dramatically wide dynamic range. The presentation included regular displays of keyboard virtuosity that clearly took the collective breath away from the adoring audience. The evening was an overt triumph for all concerned, and the Bach Society demonstrated Bach’s adaptability to modern instruments and contemporary musical circumstances.

Russell Sherman, pianist, at Williams and on DVD: Liszt, Transcendental Etudes

Williams has had an exceptionally strong recital program this fall, from its Messaïen tributes, medieval and renaissance music, and Ani Kavafian and Mihae Lee early on to the splendid Brahms violin sonatas of Williams’ own Joanna Kurkowicz and Doris Stevenson (soon to be reviewed) and, in November, the great Russell Sherman. I’m used to driving to Peterborough or Boston to hear him play, and it would be a great thing to be able to rejoice in the convenience of hearing him at home, if it weren’t for the unfortunate combination of Chapin Hall’s acoustics and the Williams Bösendorfer. I’ve never heard any musicians, especially pianists, realize their potential under these circumstances. However, one undeniable advantage was the opportunity to talk with Mr. Sherman during his visit, which included a master class the following day.

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