sat 19/09/2020

Classical Interviews

theartsdesk Q&A: Pianist Idil Biret at 75

David Nice

Has any living pianist had a richer or more charmed life than Idil Biret? As a child prodigy she studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Alfred Cortot, and both there and in Germany with Wilhelm Kempff. At the age of four she was reproducing Bach Preludes and Fugues on the family piano in Ankara simply from hearing them on the radio. When she was seven the Turkish Parliament passed "Idil's Law", enabling not her but also other gifted children to study abroad.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter

David Nice

What's a world-renowned mezzo-soprano in her middle years to do? Slimline of voice, tall and handsome in person with piercing and slightly intimidating blue eyes, Stockholm-born Anne Sofie von Otter isn't likely to sing what is known in the operatic world as "all those old bag parts", though she's a good enough actress to have carried off a few.

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10 Questions for Conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Peter Quantrill

The Lobgesang "lies very near my heart," wrote Mendelssohn. And the composer was so self-critical that the published order of his symphonies bears no resemblance to their composition: this "Hymn of Praise", known as the Second, was the penultimate before his symphonic masterpiece, the "Scottish". It is more often performed in recording studios, to satisfy recording companies’ hunger for complete cycles, than in concert, at least outside the composer’s native Germany.

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10 Questions for Conductor Thomas Dausgaard

David Kettle

One of two Danish Thomases at the head of BBC bands (compatriot Thomas Søndergård is at the helm of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales), Thomas Dausgaard joins the Glasgow-based BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as chief conductor this season.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Violinist and Conductor Nikolaj Znaider

David Nice

Unquestionably one of the greats as a performer, Danish-Israeli violinist and conductor Nikolaj Znaider divides opinion over his forthright views in interview: either honourable and refreshingly candid, or troublingly indiscreet. After an hour and a half with him between the two finals of the Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition in Odense, I plump fervently for the former.

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Q&A Special: Sir Mark Elder on Dvořák

Jasper Rees

This May the Hallé is celebrating Dvořák. The orchestra’s music director Sir Mark Elder has previously mounted a festival of the Czech composer’s work in Chicago, but now brings him home to Manchester. Nature, Life and Love features seven concerts in under three weeks, and will obviously feature an outing for the big symphonies, nos 7, 8 and 9, and the hugely popular cello concerto. But it’s not just about the headlines of Dvořák’s music.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Pianist Boris Giltburg

David Nice

London has been missing out on Boris Giltburg for too long. He's been playing Shostakovich concertos back to back with Petrenko in Liverpool, and the big Rachmaninov works up in Scotland (see theartsdesk's review today of the latest Royal Scottish National Orchestra programme).

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theartsdesk Q&A: Composer Pierre Boulez

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

David Nice writes: it hardly seemed possible, but a pivotal figure in the 20th century music scene has died, two months short of his 91st birthday. As composer, Boulez now seems not so much a game-changer as a constant innovator in one of many strands among the possibilities of contemporary music. He even admitted in an Edinburgh Festival interview that he and his colleagues may have underestimated the role played by the audience in absorbing his avant-gardism.

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Jaap van Zweden: ‘A great orchestra needs to be a chameleon’

Gavin Dixon

Jaap van Zweden is going places. At 55, he is already 16 years into a second high-profile musical career. His first, as a violinist, saw him appointed leader of the Concertgebouw, the youngest ever to hold the position. From there, he moved to the conductor’s podium, and is now Music Director of the Dallas Symphony and the Hong Kong Philharmonic. According to some rumours, he is also under serious consideration for the New York Philharmonic.

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We Made It: Concert hall acoustics

David Kettle

Glasgow has a brand new concert hall, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra has a brand new home. A move for the Orchestra from Henry Wood Hall, a converted church in the city’s West End it has occupied since 1979, has been on the cards for several years, but few could have predicted the scale and intricacy of the final project.

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