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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Daniel Barenboim plays Beethoven sonatas

It has been a long while since a major pianist planned to play Beethoven 32 Sonatas in Paris – I remember the series of concerts given by Alfred Brendel and Maurizio Pollini in Pleyel, but that was in the 90s!

The 2nd concert played by Barenboim at the Philharmonie covered a large scope, with 4 Sonatas from different periods. Some artists prefer to play the works chronologically, others prefer to select pieces as they see fit, and both choices have their charm.

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Celebrating Ivry Gitlis

The Philharmonie de Paris wished to celebrate Ivry Gitlis. The evening mixed music and some talks with the old master. I should immediately mention that if he is old of age (96), Gitlis is young at heart and full of wit.

After a brief introduction, the 1st part of the evening was dedicated to music, mainly classical, with a long list of friends or former pupils queuing to play. Some of them said a few words to the audience or more privately just to Ivry, and one even wrote some sort of a poem.

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