Pianist Martha Argerich is among the latest crop of distinguished artists to win a prestigious award in Japan. Argerich is one of five winners of the Japan Art Association's Praemium Imperiale, which carries a $135,000 prize and is awarded in categories not recognized by the Nobel Prize committee. The Argentine-born pianist is in good company—this year's other winners are choreographer Merce Cunningham, painter Robert Ryman, fashion designer Issey Miyake, and architect Yoshio Taniguchi. Previous winners of the award include Frank Gehry, Arthur Miller, Leonard Bernstein, and Akira Kurosawa.
Argerich has strong ties to Japan: The city of Beppu is home to one of several music festivals designed to cultivate young artists that bear her name. Argerich is due to receive the award in Tokyo this month in a ceremony that will be attended by Prince and Princess Hitachi, but whether the pianist will show up is unknown. Argerich is notorious for canceling engagements, in part because of continuing health problems. Citing personal reasons, she reportedly withdrew from the jury of this month's Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw. Last month, the Argerich Festival in Buenos Aires was sharply curtailed, but this time it was because of union difficulties at the festival's home, the Teatro Colon. Argerich is still scheduled to perform Beethoven in Rotterdam at the end of October and her Dutch appearances will also include a benefit concert for a treatment center for children with serious medical problems.
Conductor Charles Mackerras turns 80 in November but the birthday celebrations are already underway. In early October, Mackerras, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's conductor laureate, led that orchestra in a celebratory concert performance of Beethoven's Fidelio in London. The Times of London gave the performance five stars while the Guardian called it "thrilling." On his actual birthday, November 17, Mackerras will conduct Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at Covent Garden. A few days later, he will receive the first Queen's Medal for Music, having been selected by a panel led by composer Peter Maxwell Davies, the Master of the Queen's Music. This is not the first time Mackerras has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II; he was knighted in 1979.
The American-born Mackerras grew up in Australia, moved to England as an adult, and studied in Prague, and his background is reflected in his musical interests: although he has a broad repertory, he is especially known for his interpretations of Handel and Janšcek.
Jean-Yves Thibaudet didn't appeared on camera in this year's screen adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, but the pianist had an important role nonetheless. Dario Marianelli's score for the picture featured a prominent piano part, which was performed by Thibaudet. Thibaudet's recording of the score, made with the English Chamber Orchestra, is due in stores in November.
Thibaudet was on hand earlier this month when James Levine and the Boston Symphony ventured to Carnegie Hall for a set of concerts that drew unanimous praise from the New York critics. The French pianist was the soloist in Gershwin's Piano Concert in F, the final work on an all-American program that also included the New York premiere of a work by Elliott Carter. Thibaudet is scheduled to perform concertos and chamber music in the United States and Europe until May, when he embarks on a 10-day, seven-city tour of China along with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and conductor Matthias Bamert.
Anne-Sofie von Otter is touring the United States this month, singing orchestral songs by Scandinavian composers. If you miss her dates in Berkeley, California, and New York, take heart—you can still eat like her. Von Otter has posted a couple of her favorite recipes on her web site. Apparently, the Swedish mezzo-soprano likes to snack on knack (Swedish Christmas butterscotch) and pepparakor (Swedish pepper biscuits). But beware: these recipes are not for the diet-conscious. Kn‹ck is heavy on sugar and syrup; von Otter's pepperakor recipe (which makes 300-400 biscuits!) starts with three-quarters of a pound of butter. Von Otter raised eyebrows in recent years with her forays into pop music, including an album she recorded with Elvis Costello. This winter, her record label, Deutsche Grammophon, will offer a reminder of her roots as a Baroque diva when it reissues a recording of Handel's Messiah featuring von Otter and Arlene Auger under the direction of Trevor Pinnock.