The Glass Shō ~ Jenny Q. Chai on Her Forthcoming CD of Nils Vigeland Piano Music

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Pianist Jenny Q. Chai (whom you might be familiar with from here because she has been on this blog several times interviewed and reviewed–if not, you must know her because she’s a respected figure in both classical and new music) had some time to sit and do another great interview with me, this time for The Glass Shō podcast, and I asked her to discuss her yet-to-be-released Naxos disc Life Sketches: Piano Music of Nils Vigeland, and some details about the composer and his music. Below is an excerpt from our chat, but you can hear the interview in its entirety on the Glass Sho link below and at the top right of this page.

 
nilsvigeland“I’ve known Dr. Vigeland since I was 21, I was studying my first year of masters at MSM, and I think I just took a theory class of his. Back then I was a normal pianist that came out of Curtis Institute of Music and wanted to do horse-race type piano competitions. So my focus wasn’t on anything other than traditional classical repertoire, and just practicing a lot. I liked new music, and I had started playing it already at Curtis, but I wasn’t so serious–I wasn’t so sure about doing it full-time or really becoming a contemporary performer, but I was asked as a favor by a friend, John Slover, who ended up writing “Mallet Dance”, the 2-prepared piano piece I premiered in China. He was living on the same floor as the dorm, and he asked me if I could play this student piece of his, and I was like ‘Sure!’, and it didn’t take that much from me to work. The concert was great, and then I was asked to play for Dr. Vigeland because John Slover had studied with him. So that’s how we met–Later I took his theory class, and I guess he remembered me as a player. He was very warm, and he’d run into me in the library and hand me scores of Ives and Cage. He would just talk to me about new music, and then he eventually gave me the score for his own piece ‘Life Studies’. and I realized this was the first serious piano cycle I’ve ever received from a living composer, and I took it very seriously! I was also nervous because I felt my knowledge of new music wasn’t substantial enough to play it. but I practiced and worked with him, and it was great! He even offered to rewrite some passages because my hands were too small to play one particular page of the music, and I thought ‘Wow! How is that possible??’ That was my first real experience working with a living composer–I was someone who was used to playing classical composers like Beethoven and Mozart, and he was offering to rewrite a page for me–It was overwhelming! So that was the start of my longtime collaboration with Dr. Vigeland.”

The Glass Shō: Episode 7 (Jenny Q. Chai/Kristin Lee)

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Jenny Q. Chai (jennychai.com)

Beth Levin ~ On Beethoven and A Single Breath

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Pianist Beth Levin had a few minutes to discuss her thoughts on her current recordings of the last 3 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas titled A Single Breath. Please keep an eye on this wonderful soloist, she will be making some interesting music as well as some upcoming appearances, featuring even more performances of Beethoven.

You can purchase A Single Breath here or on the bottom link.

CM: Can you please talk about the significance of this recording of the last 3 Beethoven sonatas and why it’s titled “A Single Breath”?

Beth: Beethoven said that he wrote the three sonatas “in a single breath”. I think that when you perform them in one evening you get a sense of that.

CM: And you performed all 3 in a single program as well?

Beth: I’ve only performed them as a group six times now, most recently in Germany.

CM: And the 3 together represent the height of his creativity, like other late works of his?

blevinjulienjordas[Photo left, courtesy of Julien Jordas, NY Times]
Beth: Well, they may mark the end of the classical sonata form. After Op. 111, if you wanted to write a sonata you’d have to find another way.

CM: Yes, something he’d been trying to change all along.

Beth: It was so definitive, far-reaching, and as I said, an ending of a sort.

CM: The Arietta from the 32nd sonata–What are your thoughts about the “boogie-woogie” part?

Beth: Oh, I resist that comparison, I mean it’s an extreme dotted rhythm section…

CM: Well, it’s not jazz, but other pianists seem to think it’s like “proto-jazz”…

Beth: The last thing I think of is jazz when playing it, but it’s incredibly driving and needs to have precision…

CM: I guess the way he has it syncopated, it kind of has this swing to it.

Beth: I don’t quite see it.

CM: It isn’t quite jazz because he doesn’t have any blue notes in there, like Gershwin, but I’m sure some people would wonder if this was where that started.

CM: Do you have any special shows coming up next year?

Beth: First up, in Feb, I’ll be playing the Emperor Concerto with the Monmouth Symphony, then this coming March, I’m performing a cello/piano recital with Sam Magill at Bargemusic featuring a transcription for cello and piano of the Kreutzer Sonata, as well as selections by Barber, Rudin and Stubblefield.
Also next year I”m going to play OP. 109-111 in Philadelphia and South Carolina.

Click here to purchase Beth’s A Single Breath CD on iTunes

Her other CDs are here as well

Beth Levin (bethlevinpiano.com)

Battery ~ Randy Woolf and Kathleen Supove Kickstarting a Kickboxing Piece

Randall Woolf and Kathleen Supove–Photo courtesy of Randall Woolfrandywoolfkathysupove

Composer Randy Woolf and his wife pianist Kathleen Supove have made many interesting collaborative efforts together, but this one will probably be very hard to beat. They have been working on Battery, a concerto for piano and orchestra–a different kind of piano concerto that involves choreographed boxing. Sounds crazy in print, but if you take a look at what Kathleen does in the video link below, you’ll see she’s up for the boxing aspect of the task as well as the piano one.

The premiere of Battery will take place Feb 23, 2014, and the folks that are working with Randy and Kathy are choreographer Heidi Latsky and ensemble Le Train Bleu, with conductor Ransom Wilson. The funds of the campaign will be going to them.
Click here or on one of the bottom links to contribute.

Randy and Kathy had a minute to talk to us about it. Continue reading

Gregg Kallor at Subculture ~ Concert Preview

Photo courtesy of Steve PoolGregg Kallor - Steve Pool

Courtesy of Two Sheps That Pass

Gregg Kallor is the recipient of an Aaron Copland Award for composition. One of ten composers nationwide selected for this prestigious residency, Kallor composed a concerto for piano and orchestra during his time at the home of the late eminent American composer. He also began several chamber music pieces while he was there, including “Undercurrent” for cello and piano – which he will premiere at SubCulture tonight at 7:30 PM with Laura Metcalf (cello).

Kallor’s new album, A Single Noon, is a nine-movement piano suite – a musical tableau of life in New York City told through a combination of classical composition and improvisation. Kallor premiered the suite at Carnegie Hall in 2011. Five-time GRAMMY®-nominee Fred Hersch calls it “the work of an extraordinary pianist, a composer of great distinction and a true conceptualist… this ambitious and unique suite really takes us somewhere that is very deeply heartfelt and dazzlingly executed. This is 21st-century music that has clearly absorbed the past and looks to a bright and borderless musical future.”

Kallor’s first music video, “Espresso Nirvana” (think caffeinated hijinks), is set to the sixth movement of the suite. His new music video, “Broken Sentences” (set to the 2nd movement), will be released tonight at SubCulture. It celebrates one of the most exciting public arts programs in NYC: the Sing For Hope Pianos – 88 artist-designed pianos that were placed in public spaces all around the 5 boroughs for anyone to play. Art for all.

Trailer for “Broken Sentences”

Gregg Kallor
SubCulture, 45 Bleecker St, Downstairs
7:30pm
$20

Virtuosity matters: Evgeny Kissin in between the bar line

Sketch (on iPad) by Roman Rabinovich (pianist, visual artist)

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Written by Ilona Oltuski

Originally published on GetClassical.org

“Pure obsession!” commented a stage manager at the Berlin Philharmonic, when he almost had to escort Kissin off the stage, so it could be prepared for the concert later that night. “You would think he practiced enough by now.”  Such perplexed responses to his intensity when working at the piano are nothing new to Kissin; as a young boy coming home from school and rushing to the piano with his coat still on he already displayed the same kind of compelling drive: “I made it clear to my Mom even then that I was not to be held back,” remembers ‘Zhenya’, as those close to him call the 41-years-old Kissin.

It might well be that this passionate love for the piano, in combination with his indomitable spirit – have both contributed to making Kissin into the person he is today: an exceptional artist and virtuoso pianist who, undeterred by any potential for negative fall-out, neither shies away from calling his own shots, nor from speaking his mind on a range of issues some would consider not fit for a pianist to comment on. Continue reading

Cory Smythe ~ On the Recent Tour with Hilary Hahn and Related Things

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ICE‘s Cory Smythe, the lucky (He earned it because he is really THAT good; let’s just say fortunate) gentleman that just finished touring as a pianist with Hilary Hahn in Europe and the US (and a gig in Turkey as well), is here to discuss that experience with The Glass!

Cory is gearing up to preview a new work of his this Saturday at NY’s Dimenna Center, and he is planning to release a follow-up recording to 2011’s pluripotent this coming fall, which oddly enough, is when we can expect to finally see the release of Hilary Hahn’s In 27 Pieces encores CD, which Cory also happens to be featured on. Look out for these and more performances with ICE this season. But for now, we needed to ask him about working with HH. :) Continue reading