Maurizio Pollini burst onto the scene in 1960 with a victory in the prestigious Chopin Competition, but for the first time in his long and distinguished career, the piano virtuoso is taking on a new role — conductor. In his next recording for Deutsche Grammophon, Pollini leads the Vienna Philharmonic from the keyboard in two perennially popular Mozart concertos, K. 453 and K. 467. The CD, due out worldwide in September, comes on the heels of Pollini's critically acclaimed recital performances this summer at the Salzburg Festival. This fall, he's off to the Far East: In October, he is scheduled to play recitals at the Beijing Festival and in Tokyo. Then in November he returns to Italy for a recital in Cremona and a chamber concert in his hometown, Milan.
Conductor Donald Runnicles made an impressive Boston Symphony Orchestra debut with a series of concerts at Tanglewood this month. The bearded Scot — who, incidentally, conducts left-handed — won praise for energizing the orchestra in performances of Mozart, Beethoven, Elgar and Richard Strauss as well as the premiere of Azul, an Osvaldo Golijov work that featured Yo-Yo Ma. The stint in the Berkshires followed four successful weeks of concerts at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming, where Runnicles completed his first season as music director.
Those triumphs were no doubt tempered somewhat by the disappointment of missing out on chances to conduct at the Edinburgh Festival and the BBC Proms — Runnicles and the New York-based Orchestra of St. Luke's were forced to cancel those engagements when baggage restrictions and other security concerns made it impossible for the musicians to fly. Still, Runnicles remains quite busy, with gigs as music director of the San Francisco Opera, principal conductor of St. Luke's and principal guest conductor of the Atlanta Symphony. With his summer festival engagements winding down, Runnicles returns to San Francisco to open the opera company's season on September 9 with a performance of Die Fledermaus.
To begin 2007, Runnicles makes his Dallas Symphony Orchestra debut, conducting concerts that featuring the Mahler Symphony No. 5 and Bruch's First Violin Concerto with rising star Janine Jansen. He then travels to Berlin, where he will lead two complete Ring cycles at the Deutsche Oper.
Luciano Pavarotti says he's trying to remain upbeat as he battles pancreatic cancer. But the superstar tenor's latest statements betray signs that the fight is taking a toll. Pavarotti, in a recent interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della sera, said he felt that his cancer was a punishment for his prosperity. "I was a fortunate and happy man," the 70-year-old singer said. "And now I am paying the price for this for this fortune and happiness." Pavarotti, who had difficulty remaining alert during the interview, also said he is no longer interested in hearing his old recordings. Nevertheless, Pavarotti insisted that he remains optimistic and he believes God is helping overcome his illness. Pavarotti was considerably more positive-sounding several weeks ago, when he told interviewers that he was determined to resume performing. Pavarotti was diagnosed with cancer last month as he was preparing to leave New York for a farewell tour.
Latvian-born Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman will have a chance to work with one of his idols at a concert next spring. The first time Gluzman ever heard a live orchestra, the conductor was Vassily Sinaisky, a family friend. Many years later, Gluzman was able to fulfill a dream and perform with Sinaisky. In March, the two will be reunited for a performance of Mozart's Fourth Violin Concerto with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
The concert is part of a 2006-07 season that will see Gluzman undertake several special projects and cut two discs for the BIS label. He will perform the European premeiere of Russian-American composer Lera Auerbach's Violin Concerto No. 2 in Riga and he will perform two Auerbach world premieres, among them the Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra. Gluzman also plans to perform Sofia Gubaidulina's music in Berlin, Norway and Vancouver.
Other projects of Gluzman's include recordings of the Tchaikovsky and Glazunov concertos with Andrew Litton and Norway's Bergen Philharmonic and the Barber Concerto and the Bernstein Serenade with the Sê£o Paolo State Symphony under John Neschling.
This month's Salzburg Festival was a triumph for a number of artists. Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozenš's August 7 recital with pianist Malcolm Martineau was hailed as "a magic moment" by local critics. Elina Garanca, another mezzo, was said to have "ennobled the morning" in an all-Mozart program with Roger Norrington and the Vienna Philharmonic ... Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes is the soloist of choice for two major American orchestras in September. Both the St. Louis Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra will open their 2006-07 seasons with the noteworthy Norwegian. Andsnes will also join the Cleveland on tour in October, including a stop in Carnegie Hall ... Conductor Ivšn Fischer will be steeped in Mahler this fall. He leads the second annual Budapest Mahlerfest September 7-10 and his recording of the composer's Second Symphony will be released in the United States in October.