Spotlight: Jean-Yves's High Fashion, Jeremy's High Thinking, David's High Range

Classic Arts News   Spotlight: Jean-Yves's High Fashion, Jeremy's High Thinking, David's High Range
 
What the stars are up to, on stage and off.


The pianist once known for his striking red socks is sporting fancier threads these days. Jean-Yves Thibaudet has partnered with the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, a designer known for her distinctive, and occasionally flamboyant, designs. On tour, the French pianist exclusively wears Westwood — his press releases even make note of his "fashionable performance ensembles." Reviewing a recent concert at Washington's Kennedy Center, The Washington Times described Thibaudet taking the stage "in fitting pants with a distinctive stripe down the side and a tie something like a bolo, but much more modern."

Thibaudet is one of a growing number of classical musicians who are teaming up with designers in an effort to create a distinctive identity and shake up classical music's staid performance traditions. Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes has a working relationship with Japanese designer Issey Miyake. And pianist Angela Hewitt will have a design sponsor for her upcoming 25-country Bach tour — Richard Robinson, who, like Hewitt, is Canadian.

If you want to check out what Thibaudet is wearing, you'll have to travel a bit. After finishing up a series of mid-June concerts in Hamburg and L‹beck, Germany, Thibaudet heads to Israel this month, where he will play with the Israel Philharmonic six times in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Then it's back to Europe for July performances in Germany, France and Denmark.

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The life of a virtuoso isn't all glitz, glamour and high fashion — just ask Jeremy Denk. The pianist, whose is achieving a growing reputation as both a soloist and as violinist Joshua Bell's recital partner, chronicles the frustrations of everyday life as a touring musician in his blog, Think Denk (jeremydenk.blogspot.com). For instance, Denk has an ongoing issue with electrical wires — his cell phone and laptop charger have become hopelessly tangled, forcing airport security personnel to run through the x-ray machines together, much to their chagrin. Then there are the neighbors in his New York building. Denk reports: "The woman down the hall is angry. She believes I have allowed someone else into my apartment: someone incompetent at best, perhaps a child or a murderer. 'No,' I say, 'it's Anton Webern, the composer of the Second Viennese School,' but she does not relish the information." And there are issues with the relatives: "I had some family in Houston for my concerts, and relative X apparently asked after the concert, 'Why is everything so long?' Oh, lovable family."

Denk's blog isn't entirely about his woes. Mixed in with the mundane and inane are insights into the music he is playing, including a thoughtful recent essay on Ives's "Concord" Sonata, which Denk performed at one of his two Carnegie Hall appearances this month. Denk is heading west in July, to perform a Mozart concerto with the San Francisco Symphony at the Stern Grove Festival. After a recital appearance in Portland, Oregon, Denk makes festival appearances in August in Bridgehampton, New York and in Santa Fe.

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Last month Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg marked the 25th anniversary of her solo recital debut with a free performance in New York, and the violinist demonstrated that she is still quirky after all these years. Salerno-Sonnenberg — a tough-talking tomboy often described by her fans as a "free spirit" — played all three Brahms Violin Sonatas, with pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, as part of the Free for All at Town Hall series. Salerno-Sonnenberg (in glittery, striped slacks) on a couple of occasions scolded members of the audience on their manners. According to The New York Times, she loudly said, "wow, some people are really late," as a few tardy arrivals slunk to their seats between movements. Later on, she lectured a patron in the first row who was either recording the concert or taking pictures. The recital was Salerno-Sonnenberg's only New York appearance of the season and it marked the Free for All series's fifth anniversary. Salerno-Sonnenberg is taking the summer off before launching her 2007-08 performance schedule.

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Maybe those journeys to the underworld were a little taxing for David Daniels. The star countertenor, who was a huge hit in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice at the Metropolitan Opera this spring, called in sick late last month before his appearance at the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra's annual gala. The concert will be rescheduled so that Daniels can appear, and there are no indications that the singer was suffering from anything serious. He is still scheduled to sing Handel at the Festival del Sole in California's Napa Valley in mid-July and to take the title role in Handel's Orlando at the Munich Opera Festival later that month.

Daniels, one of the biggest names in countertenordom, was tapped to sing Orfeo after the untimely death of the beloved Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. The Times described him in the opera as "a wonder, with a warm, virile voice of enormous expressivity." After a quiet summer, Daniels is next scheduled to return to a U.S. stage this fall, when he sings eight performances of Handel's Giulio Cesare with Lyric Opera of Chicago in November and December.

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Music director Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra are in the midst of a 10-day Prokofiev festival that features a rare opportunity to hear all five of the Russian composer's piano concertos, performed by four different soloists. The pianists are Yefim Bronfman, Vladimir Feltsman, Ilya Yakushev, and Mikhail Rudy.

Tilson Thomas has also picked up a New York outlet for his latest radio endeavor. WNYC-FM is airing The MTT Files, an eight-week series hosted by the conductor. The program, which features MTT's ruminations on music, musicians and art, is the radio component of the San Francisco's Symphony's acclaimed Keeping Score music education project.

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