Spotlight: H_lne Grimaud Tames It, Susan Graham Outdraws Football, Matt Haimovitz Bucks the Concerto

Classic Arts News   Spotlight: H_lne Grimaud Tames It, Susan Graham Outdraws Football, Matt Haimovitz Bucks the Concerto
 
What the stars are up to, on stage and off.


H_lne Grimaud is one of today's brightest young keyboard stars. But music isn't her only passion — the 36-year-old pianist is famous for her devotion to studying and nurturing wolves. Grimaud is the founder of the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, New York, a preserve, about an hour north of Manhattan, that houses 17 animals and aims to promote study and understanding of the creatures. Grimaud's fascination figures prominently in her autobiography, Wild Harmonies: A Life of Music and Wolves, which just came out in English.

Grimaud, a one-time prodigy who entered the Paris Conservatory at age 13, displays considerable writing talent in the book, which she completed without a co-author. In it, she goes to bat for the canines, describing their role in maintaining the ecological balance and asserting that they are far from being the big, bad predators that humans make them out to be.

Grimaud first became interested in wolves in 1991 when she was living in Florida. An eccentric neighbor kept a pet wolf and the pianist discovered a special bond with the animal. She believes that her work with wolves has influenced her playing: "Performing and handling the wolves both require the same kind of concentration," Grimaud tells Newsweek. "You have to be present 100 percent — intellectually, emotionally and spiritually."

The release of Grimaud's book coincides with the appearance of a new CD that contains works by Brahms and Robert and Clara Schumann (but, ahem, no Hugo Wolf). This month, she also embarked on a United States tour that will take her to Los Angeles, Boston, New York and four other cities.

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High school football is king in West Texas, but one city there has made an opera star its queen, at least for a day. Midland, Texas last month held a Susan Graham Day to honor the mezzo-soprano who still extols the virtues of her modest hometown as she travels to the world's opera capitals.

Graham returned to Midland on September 5, fresh from a triumph at the BBC Proms in London, to meet her fans at a reception in the city's planetarium. Her friends and relatives, many of whom still live in the Midland area, were on hand for the event, which included a showing of a video of Massenet's Werther starring Graham and Thomas Hampson.

"America's favorite mezzo," as Graham has been dubbed by Gramophone magazine, moved to Midland from New Mexico as an eighth grader and says she started down the road to a stage career after she starred as Maria in a high school production of West Side Story.

A regular performer at the Metropolitan Opera, Graham is now in Chicago, singling the lead role in Gluck's Iphig_nie en Tauride under conductor Louis Langr_e. She took a brief break from Chicago earlier this month to visit Florida for a concert with pianist and composer Jake Heggie, who wrote the lead role in his opera Dead Man Walking for Graham's voice. Her busy season also includes a recital tour with pianist Malcolm Martineau that begins in January and concludes at Carnegie Hall, where Graham gives her first solo recital since 2003.

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Cellist Matt Haimovitz's own Oxingale record label has released what is being billed as the first major classical work to be inspired by Hurricane Katrina — Aprs Moi, le D_luge by Luna Pearl Woolf. The work, a lament for solo cello and choir, was recorded by Haimovitz with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Concert Choir. Haimovitz will tour with the piece throughout this season, beginning in November with concerts in New Orleans and across Texas, where he will perform for refugees and survivors of Katrina and others who have worked to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. He will also perform the work in Montreal in February and New York in March.

The piece is part of the iconoclastic cellist's Buck the Concerto commission series, which supports the creation of works for cello and unusual ensembles. Two more Buck the Concerto works will bow this season, in recordings and concerts: David Sanford's Scherzo Grosso for cello and big band a new Tod Machover work for cello, DJ and wired audience.

Haimovitz, known for promoting new music and performing in unusual venues such as coffeehouses and nightclubs, also plans to perform the world premieres of more conventional concertos for cello and orchestra by Nicolas Gilbert, Laura Schwendinger, Chris Paul Harman and James Yannatos.

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The legendary Spanish soprano Montserrat Caball_ was the featured performer at the recent opening of the Palace of Peace and Accord in Astana, Kazakhstan, a Norman Foster-designed pyramid filled with art and sculpture — and with a 1,500-seat opera house in the basement — that is supposed bolster the central Asian country's image as a tolerant, multi-ethnic society. The appearance of Caball_, 73, was part of Kazakhstan's ongoing efforts to fight perceptions that it is a Stalinist backwater. The country's image hasn't been helped latelyby the popularity of the English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, whose Kazakh character Borat depicts the country as a nation of superstition, intolerance, rabid misogyny and goats.

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Pianist Leon Fleisher is again playing with two hands, thanks to his stunning recovery from a neurological problem that nearly derailed his career more than 40 years ago. But he hasn't abandoned the left-hand repertory that allowed him to keep performing during his illness. In a November 30 appearance with members of the New York Philharmonic, he will play both a two-hand concerto — Mozart's K. 414 — and a work for left hand alone, the New York premiere of Hindemith's Klaviermusik for piano and chamber orchestra ... National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Saturday recently inaugurated an ongoing feature, "Marin on Music," which features conductor Marin Alsop discussing music with interviewer Scott Simon and playing recorded examples.


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