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Paul Badura-Skoda plays Schubert at the Musée Jacquemart-André

Paul Badura-Skoda is still active at 91, and a faithful participant in the series of concerts organized by Hervé Archambeau at Jacquemart-André.

The great Austrian master chose Franz Schubert’s last 2 Sonatas, written in the very last months of the composer’s short life.

Badura-Skoda enjoys giving keys to the audience before playing, and he did so in French, in detail for Sonata D. 959 – playing the different themes and key passages -, and less in detail for Sonata D. 960. If both Sonatas share many aspects, they also differ strongly.

Badura-Skoda explained that D. 959 is very modern (50 years ahead of its time), and he naturally spoke of the Andantino and the sudden outburst in its center which he compared to an eruption or a tsunami, linked to Schubert’s knowledge of his fatal illness. To me, this part is one of the most deeply moving of all classical music (along with a similar section in Mozart’s 8th Sonata K. 310 Andante cantabile con espressione, composed in Paris at the time of his mother’s death). Badura-Skoda later explained that D. 960 is on the other hand a work where Schubert is resigned to his fate.

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Folle Journée de Nantes: Mozart in Paris and French vocal music

A short high-speed train trip to Nantes, pleasant blue skies to walk around the Château and Cathedral, and it was time for the 1st concert. Once inside the Cité des Congrès, passing through the Great Hall at lunch time, I spotted the Sirba Octet giving a free concert.

Violinist Régis Pasquier and pianist Jean-Claude Pennetier, long time musical partners, had chosen a Mozart program centered on compositions from his second Paris stay in 1778.

The musicians started with Sonata K 304, Mozart’s only work using the E minor key, a choice reflecting his mood, as his beloved mother, Anna Maria, who was travelling with him, got sick and died. This personal drama, as well as Mozart’s failure to get a job to escape from Salzburg, are also reflected in his most remarkable Piano Sonata No. 8 K 310 in A minor, which Pennetier had included in a solo fellow-concert in Nantes. K 304 is in 2 movements: a tragic and tense Allegro followed by a Minuetto, the music including tense moments but also more gentle or melancholic passages. A big thank you to the 2 musicians for selecting this haunting Sonata.

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Organ: a tribute to the great André Isoir

Organists Michel Bouvard and François Espinasse both studied with André Isoir, one of the giants of the French golden generation, along with Marie-Claire Alain, Michel Chapuis and Jean Guillou.

They wanted to pay a tribute to their master, who died in 2016, by playing a selection of pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach transcribed by Isoir. During a short introduction, Michel Bouvard dedicated the concert also to Michel Chapuis, who died in 2017 and Jean Guillou who died the previous weekend, and was still active at 88. The concert took place in the Radio France Auditorium, one of Paris concert halls which hosts an organ.

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Pierre-Laurent Aimard and the Goldberg Variations

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who studied with Yvonne Loriod and worked with Olivier Messiaen and György Kurtág, was chosen by Pierre Boulez to become the pianist of the Ensemble Intercontemporain when he was just 19.

With such a background Aimard was naturally considered a contemporary music specialist, but he always liked to confront older music with modern works, and to share insight on the music, talking to audiences about the pieces before playing them.

Over the last 2 decades, he has kept on recording and playing contemporary music (Elliott Carter, Ligeti, Messiaen, George Benjamin…) as well as the modern masters (Debussy, Ravel, Berg, Bartók, Liszt…), and baroque or classical music by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, occasionally extending his musical activities to conducting.

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Richard Goode, at the Sunday Morning Concerts

Richard Goode was at the TCE in the series of the Sunday Morning Concerts. The American pianist, who studied with no less than Rudolf Serkin and Mieczysław (Mieicio) Horszowski at the Curtis Institute, won the 1st prize at the Clara Haskil Competition and the Avery Fisher price. He was the 1st American-born pianist to record the complete Beethoven Sonatas, and is one of the Artistic Directors of the famous Marlboro Music School and Festival.

Particularly noted in Mozart and Beethoven, he had chosen a beautiful program, starting with Alban Berg Sonata. It is in one movement (of sonata form), and uses chromaticism giving tonality an unstable feel.

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Chailly, Vengerov and two 20th century masterworks

The Philharmonie de Paris hosted a 20th century music concert with the Filarmonica della Scala under the baton of Riccardo Chailly and the participation of violinist Maxim Vengerov.

Chailly had chosen 2 works from the 1940s, from composers who are rarely played in the same program: Shostakovich and Bartók.

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The Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra plays Tchaikovsky

Strange day… I had pre-selected 3 concerts which were taking place on the same date: the great Dutch pianist Daniel Wayenberg at Gaveau, the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra with its conductor Yuri Temirkanov at the TCE and Radu Lupu with Paavo Järvi and the Orchestre de Paris at the Philharmonie.

Daniel Wayenberg had to undergo some surgery and cancelled the concert, Radu Lupu was ill and so was Yuri Temirkanov… Wishing a prompt recovery to them all, I finally decided to attend the Russian concert, which was conducted by Vassily Sinaisky in the end.

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Andris Nelsons, Hélène Grimaud and the Gewandhaus Leipzig in a romantic programme

Andris Nelsons, Hélène Grimaud and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig were at the Philharmonie in an all romantic programme.

Nelsons and his orchestra gave an outstanding performance of Mendelssohn’s Overture Meerestille und glückliche Fahrt, the quality of the sound of the orchestra – obvious form the 1st bar of the “still sea” episode – reminding me of what Carlo Maria Giulini achieved in Debussy’s La mer.

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Bartók and Schubert by the Diotima Quartet (2/3)

A few days ago, the Diotima Quartet played the 2nd of their 3 concerts including all of Bartók Quartets and Schubert last 3.

In April 2017, they had realized a tour de force, playing all 6 Bartók Quartets during the same evening. In a more usual approach, they are playing them over 3 concerts. What is a bit more unusual is their choice to couple them with Schubert late Quartets – many string quartets choose Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, or sometimes the 2nd Viennese school (it is quite interesting to confront the Hungarian masterpieces with Berg, Webern or Schoenberg works).

At the last minute, the Diotimas decided to change the order of the pieces, and play both Bartók before the intermission, the Schubert after.

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Neeme Järvi conducts the ONF in a Russian programme

Neeme Järvi was conducting the Orchestre National de France at the Maison de la Radio.

The conductor, who likes playing lesser known works, had chosen Rachmaninov 1st Symphony for the 1st part of the concert. Its creation was a major failure, an important setback for the young composer who was shaken by the poor reception, linked to poor performance. The original score was lost had to be rebuilt using orchestral parts. Though I am not a fan of Rachmaninov music, I found the work quite interesting, with its energetic and dark mood.

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