Spotlight: Brendel Won't Tell, Bostridge Doesn't Sell, But Biss Does Kvell

Classic Arts News   Spotlight: Brendel Won't Tell, Bostridge Doesn't Sell, But Biss Does Kvell
What the stars are up to, on stage and off.

Alfred Brendel fans, catch him while you can. Although he still tours extensively, the London-based pianist is hinting that, at age 76, it may soon be time to start cutting back on his travels. Brendel, who is currently touring the United States with a program of works by Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Mozart, was evasive when The Los Angeles Times asked him if he would return to L.A. following his concerts there this week.

"I have to see how I feel ... my physique and my mind and my ears," Brendel said. Pressed for a former answer, he conceded that his mid-March performances could be his last in L.A., but he became agitated by the question. "I don't want to talk about it. Please!" he said. "Don't you understand? I don't want to do 'farewell concerts' or anything of that sort. If I stop, I shall stop. But unannounced."

One thing on which Brendel didn't mind commenting on was the Joyce Hatto scandal. He was especially amused by the fact that so many critics accepted the idea that an obscure, infirm pianist was able to record more than 100 albums of diverse and demanding music. "The whole thing is so ridiculous," Brendel said.


Ian Bostridge wants you to remember that musicians don't actually sell the tickets for their concerts. The tenor posted an entry on a music blog operated by London's Guardian newspaper after one of its writers complained about ticketing for a Bostridge concert at the Barbican Centre. The concert in question is a performance, with pianist Mitsuko Uchida, of Schubert's Winterreise — in October 2008. The Guardian writer wondered why tickets would be on sale so far in advance and he fretted that wealthy patrons would snap them up early, leaving common folk unable to attend. Bostridge in his blog entry notes that "musicians and singers don't usually get involved in these logistics." He goes to say that he hopes new audiences are not excluded and he believes the Barbican is big enough to hold well-heeled subscribers and single-ticket buyers.

The Barbican concert is part of an extensive residency for Bostridge at the London hall in 2007-08. The tenor programmed nine concerts featuring a range of music and artists whom he admires. In the more immediate future, EMI plans to release the fourth and last installment of Bostridge's Schubert collaboration with pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. The disc, due out in Europe this month and in the United States in April, features the dramatic C minor Sonata, D. 958, and selected lieder. It also includes six fragments — three songs and three piano works that Schubert never completed. Andsnes and Bostridge have been performing these fragments in concerts together.


The young pianist Jonathan Biss must have found it especially gratifying when his new all-Schumann CD cracked the classical charts: One of the works on the disc, Kreisleriana, is especially dear to him. In the notes for the disc (his first under an exclusive deal with EMI), Biss writes that he always feels as if performing Kreisleriana is a life-altering experience: "Playing Schumann has always felt to me like having an x-ray of my soul." was scheduled to perform Kreisleriana, along with music by Mozart, Beethoven, and Webern, at a mid-March recital at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A rising star at 26, Biss gave his first performances in Asia earlier this year, visiting Nagoya and Tokyo. This season he performs Schumann's Piano Concerto on a five-city West Coast tour with the Pittsburgh Symphony and conductor Andrew Davis and gives recitals in Amsterdam, Boston, Istanbul, Kansas City, London, San Francisco, and Perugia. In the summer, he visits festivals at Ravinia, Vail, the Hollywood Bowl, Lucerne, Caramoor, and Jerusalem.

In addition, Biss still performs from time to time with his mother, the violinist Miriam Fried. Indeed, he comes from a distinguished line of musicians: his father is the violist/violinist Paul Biss and his grandmother was cellist Raya Garbousova, the dedicatee of Samuel Barber's Cello Concerto.


Speaking of mothers and sons, conductor Alan Gilbert got another chance to perform with his mom this month. The 40-year-old Gilbert came back to his hometown to lead the New York Philharmonic in three concerts. His mother, Yoko Takebe, is a violinist in the orchestra. (His father, Michael Gilbert, is retired from the Philharmonic).

The program for Gilbert's three concerts features music by Bach (as arranged by Webern and Leopold Stokowski), Ligeti's Violin Concerto with soloist Christian Tetzlaff, and Schumann's Symphony No. 3, the "Rhenish." Gilbert last led the Philharmonic earlier this year and he returns in each of the next two seasons under a special agreement with the orchestra.

After this month's concerts in New York, Gilbert returns to the Cleveland Orchestra for the first time since April 2004, for three concerts featuring music by Stravinsky, Mozart and Dvoršk. Then, after an Eastern European swing in the spring with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic (of which he is music director), Gilbert heads back to the U.S. for a nine-concert residency with the Chicago Symphony.


A knee injury forced Anne Sofie von Otter to drop out of the Royal Danish Opera's new production of Debussy's Pell_as et M_lisande, which runs through the end of March. Her replacement in the title role is the young Swedish mezzo-soprano Elisabeth Jansen ... In May, Sarah Chang visits her parents' birthplace, South Korea, on tour with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; she'll be the featured soloist in Vivaldi's Four Seasons. In June she travels to Pittsburgh to perform the world premiere of a violin concerto by 39-year-old Christopher Theofanidis. His Rainbow Body, written for the Houston Symphony, won the 2003 BBC Masterprize and has been a hit in concert for a number of orchestras ... Emma Kirkby is the only active, full-time singer to make the top 10 on a list of the greatest sopranos of all time (or at least in the history of recordings), as chosen for BBC Music magazine by a panel of 21 British critics, music writers and radio presenters. Two other active singers, Karita Mattila and Christine Brewer, make the second 10. Maria Callas comes in at No. 1, followed by Joan Sutherland. Kirkby, who came in 10th on the list, celebrated her 58th birthday last month ... Montserrat Caball_, who was ranked at no. 6 on the same list, does still give a limited number of concerts, and she takes the non-singing role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp next month (when she turns 74) in a production of Donizetti's La Fille du r_giment starring Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Fl‹rez at the Vienna State Opera.

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