Helmuth Rilling conducts Bach for a Christmas concert

Last concert of the year, after having doubted I would manage to go up to almost the last day…
Maestro Helmuth Rilling, one among the most renowned Bach specialists, was conducting 3 works of the Cantor, at 2 successive evenings in Baden-Württemberg, The 2nd evening took place at the Schönblick Christliches Gästezentrum Württemberg in Schwäbisch Gmünd.
The maestro was conducting the Bach Ensemble Helmuth Rilling, the Purcell Choir Budapest, which had been prepared by György Vashegyi – who was playing the organ in the continuo – and soloists Julia Sophie Wagner (soprano), Ingeborg Danz (alto), Lothar Odinius (tenor), Michael Nagy (baritone).

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Evgeni Koroliov and Grigory Sokolov: 2 Russian titanic pianists to finish the year with perfection!

Evgeni Koroliov and Grigory Sokolov: 2 Russian titanic pianists to finish the year with perfection!

Koroliov, an outstanding Bach performer, programmed the “Goldberg Variations” at the Maison de la Radio. He recorded the work 2 decades ago, and has played it many times (I heard at least 2 concert broadcasts on the radio, and there is also a DVD from 2008) but not in Paris as far as I know.

The 1st time I saw him in the concert hall was at the TCE for an exceptional “Art of the Fugue”, and he has graced us with remarkable concerts each and every time ever since, including another all Bach recital on a Sunday morning something like 5 years ago which was as close to perfection as you can get.

György Ligeti said of Koroliov’s Bach: « … but if I am to be allowed only one musical work on my desert island, then I should choose Koroliov’s Bach, because forsaken, starving and dying of thirst, I would listen to it right up to my last breath ».

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The Belcea Quartet, Sunday morning, Paris

The Belcea Quartet, one of the world leading string quartets, was at the TCE to play last Sunday morning.

They had chosen 2 late works – by Bartók and Mendelssohn – which share several characteristics:
– they are both their Quartet #6
– they are both the last quartet they composed, even though the composers had plans for a #7
– they both relate to loss: the imminent loss of his mother and his homeland for Bartók, who could not stand the idea of his country being an ally of Nazi Germany and felt that war was unavoidable ; the loss of his sister Fanny for Mendelssohn – she was very supportive of her brother and a highly gifted pianist and composer in her own right.

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Jean-Efflam Bavouzet plays Haydn and Debussy

French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet was playing Haydn and Debussy at the Auditorium du Louvre.

Bavouzet was trained by no less than Pierre Sancan, Paul Badura-Skoda, Nikita Magaloff and György Sándor, and worked with Pierre Boulez, Valeri Gergiev, Neeme Järvi, Ingo Metzmacher and Andris Nelsons, among others. One of Bavouzet first major concerts in Paris was planned with the great Georg Solti, to play Bartók, but the old maestro died shortly before.

Though Bavouzet has a large repertoire – which includes contemporary music – he is particularly noted in Ravel, Debussy and Haydn.

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The Wanderer Trio at the TCE

A few days ago, the Wanderer Trio was at the TCE.

The 3 musicians had chosen 3 works of very different tone and mood.

They opened with Beethoven’s “Kakadu Variations”, a piece which is not so common in the concert hall, then moved to Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Trio #2”. Violinist Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian briefly introduced the work with a few keys for a better understanding. These had been transmitted to the Trio by Rostislav Dubinsky, the first primarius in the Borodin Quartet, and mostly related to World War II and to the gulag. The Trio’s performance was breathtaking, in particular the 3rd movement.

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Fazıl Say and Beethoven

Fazıl Say gave an all Beethoven recital at the TCE, with Sonatas spanning over 2 decades and a half.

He opened with the famous No. 8 “Pathétique” from 1798. Say is a pianist and a composer, which gives a very interesting view of Beethoven’s work.
As a matter of fact, I had the same impression the 1st time I heard Say play the German master – and it was the same with Russian pianist Andrei Korobeinikov who is also a composer.

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David Fray, carte blanche at the TCE

A few days ago, David Fray and his former professor Jacques Rouvier, along with 2 other pianists, Emmanuel Christien and Audrey Vigoureux, were performing Bach Concertos for 2, 3 or 4 keyboards (on modern piano) at the TCE.

The concert program was indeed similar to their latest recording, with the same soloists and – small – orchestra, the string ensemble from the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, one of French leading orchestras. I had decided not to listen to the CD beforehand, not to “spoil” the evening. But Fray’s recordings of Bach talk for themselves and I was pretty sure I would not be disappointed.

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Paul McCartney at the Paris La Défense Arena

The legendary Paul McCartney was playing the Paris La Défense Arena, formerly known as the U Arena – the largest concert hall in Europe, which hosted the Rolling Stones concerts in 2017 and Roger Waters gigs last June.

The Beatles were the 1st pop/rock band I listened to as a teenager, starting with their album “Revolver” – I won’t mention that a song like “Taxman” is as relevant as ever today…

I had not initially planned to attend the concert, being a fan of the Beatles but not a fan of Paul’s later output – not that I don’t like it but that I don’t know it, apart from a fistful of Wings or solo songs.

I made up my mind after checking the set lists of his recent concerts in Japan, and crossing my fingers hoping I would not be disappointed, knowing that Paul was not the Beatles and that he is 76!

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Elisabeth Leonskaja plays Schubert at the TCE

Soviet Union was undoubtedly the land which “produced” the largest number of first importance female pianists: Maria Yudina, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Viktoria Postnikova, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Eliso Virsaladze, Ludmila Berlinskaja to name but a few.

Leonskaja was in recital at the TCE in a program that was supposed to be Schubert only, but she had planned some surprises.

The first piece was Sonata No. 3 D. 459: it was a chance to hear such a great performer in one of the early sonatas which are far too neglected today.

She then addressed the audience explaining that she would play Arnold Schoenberg’s “6 Little Piano Pieces”, Op.19, and what a performance that was!

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Jethro Tull, 50th anniversary in Paris

Jethro Tull, with its leader and only permanent member, Ian Anderson, were celebrating the 50 years of the band in Paris, at the Salle Pleyel.

Jethro Tull’s music, which has been classified as blues rock, progressive rock, folk rock, hard rock and electronic rock, is nonetheless easy to identify with Anderson’s distinctive flute playing and singing.

It was my first live experience with them – watching videos of concerts surely does not count. Ian Anderson’s energy on stage is still clear, even though he is now 71.

In between some songs, the concert included short videos of interviews of some previous band members, friends or famous fans (Jeffrey Hammond, Mick Abrahams, Tony Iommi, Claude Nobs…) talking about the band, their favourite song or some anecdote. Anderson also introduced some songs and the different videos, with a great sense of humour.

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