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Obituary: Krzysztof Penderecki
classical-music.com Monday, 30 March 2020 18:44:49
The Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki has died aged 86.
Penderecki was a revered avant-garde composer, who, as well as writing operas, symphonies and concertos, was committed to sacred music, using sacred texts as the basis for many of his choral works. Venturing beyond the concert hall, his music was also used in films including The Shining, The Exorcist and Wild at Heart.
Having initially studied as a violinist, Penderecki went on to focus on composition at Krakow's Academy of Music in 1954. With Stalinism overthrown in Poland in the 1950s and the end of censorship, it was an exciting decade to be a young composer. Penderecki's early works were avant-garde in style, incorporating extended technique, note clusters and experimental sounds and textures.
Penderecki reached an international audience following the success of his 1960 work for strings Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, written as a response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 and a reminder of the horrors of nuclear warfare. The piece went on to be featured in BBC Music Magazine’s list of 20 works that defined a century.
He was the composer most commonly associated with 'sonorism', a style of music used by avant-garde Polish composers which focuses on the qualities of the sound itself: textures, timbres and contrasts. This was often linked to the creation of new sounds from traditional instruments using extended techniques and graphic notation, a prominent feature of Penderecki's compositions.
Citing his two greatest influences as JS Bach and Monteverdi, Penderecki went on to explore choral music, marked by the St Luke Passion, the first large-scale oratorio by a Polish composer since the 19th century. This was later followed by his Credo andPolish Requiem, the latter of which was dedicated to the heroes and victims of Polish history.
Later in his career, his avant-garde approach developed into more of a focus on neoromanticism. His First Violin Concerto was the first major example of this, with a soaring violin part.
Speaking to BBC Music Magazine in 2019, he said, ‘I was using the elements of different music – always in a form in which I was very much connected to the tradition, although the sounds were different. I was inventing new sounds – using old instruments to make them, particularly stringed instruments because I was a string player.’ He is known for his string works, with his first violin concerto dedicated to and premiered by Isaac Stern, and his second for Anne-Sophie Mutter, a violinist with whom he worked and recorded many times over the years.
Despite never having had any formal training, he conducted many of his own orchestral works in concert and on recordings.
Penderecki's other great passion was his arboretum, located 60 miles outside Krakow and the largest in Eastern Europe, with 1700 different species of tree. 'I go there, to the big trees and put my arms round one of them for a while,' he told James Naughtie in BBC Music Magazine last year. 'It is a huge. That gives me a feeling of power, and peace too.'
The best works by Krzysztof Penderecki
classical-music.com Monday, 30 March 2020 16:32:24
St Luke Passion (1962-66)
Penderecki’s epic work for three solo voices, narrator, three choirs, boys’ choir and orchestra is undeniably dramatic. Its power comes partly from a bold mix of styles, from the avant garde to its nods to the traditions of Bach and Palestrina.
Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (1960)
This nine-minute scream doesn’t make for easy listening, but its clusters, almost nausea-including pitch changes, and thudding pizzicato and knocking effects are frightening evocations of nuclear annihilation. Original and brave.
The composer’s most ambitious symphony calls for tubaphones – percussion instruments made from gigantic horizontal pipes. Its Carmina Burana-esque opening gives way to music of great beauty, including the breathtaking choral De profundis.
String Quartets Nos 1 & 2 (1962/68)
Penderecki’s uncompromising chamber works explore the sonic capabilities of the quartet – bizarre but totally arresting, and important milestones in Polish music.
Premiered by Isaac Stern, the First Violin Concerto marked a turn towards a more post-Romantic, almost modernist style. Frequently recalling Bartók, Penderecki inserts enthralling musical effects alongside a plaintive, soaring solo violin part.
20 of the best Beethoven recordings of all time
classical-music.com Monday, 30 March 2020 16:00:00
1) For the symphonies, go for Karajan’s refined 1962 version with the Berlin Phil (DG).
2) Otherwise, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe offer freshness (Warner).
20) Nina Stemme, Jonas Kaufmann, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and Abbado offer a thrilling Fidelio (Decca).
How to watch concerts from home: the concerts and operas available to stream online during the coronavirus pandemic
classical-music.com Monday, 30 March 2020 14:38:40
(@ericchristian). He primarily plays original material, but also takes musical requests.
. Devine performed Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 Part 1.
Friday 20 March
The Swiss festival - running from 17 July to 6 September - will also be running a digital platform on which audiences can watch concert highlights and backstage interviews. Videos are already available to view, including masterclasses from pianist András Schiff and violinists Sol Gabetta and Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who performed at last year's festival.
Turner Sims concert hall in Southampton is hosting a free online family concert at 3pm. Pianist and composer Sarah Nicholls plays the Inside-Out Piano, a grand piano opened up so the audience can see right inside it.
Deutsche Grammophon’s pianists are joining forces for World Piano Day via the record label’s YouTube and Facebook platforms. Pianists set to feature in the recital include Víkingur Ólafsson, Daniil Trifonov, Maria João Pires, Evgeny Kissin, Jan Lisiecki, Rudolf Buchbinder, Kit Armstrong, Simon Ghraichy and Joep Beving. The stream will begin at 3pm CET and will be available for a limited time afterwards.
On Sunday, Sonoraspace is hosting a virtual piano festival on its website at 7pm CET, with 10 pianists performing. To join the event as a viewer, click 'Join the Virtual Piano Festival' and you will receive a direct link to the livestream.
Pianist Igor Levit is broadcasting nightly ‘House Concerts’ on Twitter.
A message from the editor of BBC Music Magazine
classical-music.com Friday, 27 March 2020 21:08:58
In just a few short weeks, Coronavirus has delivered a blow to all aspects of our lives. Schools closed, hospitals overwhelmed, lockdowns imposed and, at the time of writing, cases on the rise. Our hearts go out to anyone affected by this terrible disease.
In the arts world, concert series, festivals and all manner of live music-making have been halted… The arts world is reeling from thousands of cancelled events and many are struggling to come to terms with life off the road.
Musicians, however, are responding with good spirit, many of them performing programmes to vast online audiences via the wonders of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more. Armed with little more than a smartphone, tripod, broadband connection and a little imagination, many have brought heart-warming concerts direct to our houses.
You can read about some of these in the May issue of BBC Music Magazine, sent to press on 26 March and on sale from 16 April – the first issue in our 30-year history to have been produced entirely remotely.
Many of you will have trouble getting hold of your magazine from the shops – which is why we’ve set up a no-strings way for you to guarantee you get the next few issues. With a small one-off payment, we can send you next three issues to your house – and delivery will be on us. You'll still make a saving on the shop price, and you won't have to set up a Direct Debit, so this is absolutely risk-free. If you order by 29 March, you'll get our May issue, so you won't miss out.
If you live in the UK and are happy to set up a Direct Debit, however, we can offer you even greater saving on your first six issues.
Operas, documentaries and theatre programmes announced for BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine
classical-music.com Thursday, 26 March 2020 18:44:43
From this month, BBC Arts will be hosting the Culture in Quarantine initiative across TV, radio and digital platforms. Its aim is to bring arts to people at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The following programmes have been introduced by BBC Arts as part of this new initiative:
The initiative will include broadcasts of recent dance and theatre productions from across the UK. This will include a new play by David Greig on BBC Radio 3, as well as a new work from Balletboyz and six Shakespeare productions from the RSC on BBC Four.
Beethoven’s Fidelio on BBC Four The Royal Opera’s recent performance of Beethoven’s only opera is a new staging by Tobias Kratzner and was recorded just a few days before the outbreak of the virus in the UK. The cast includes soprano Lise Davidsen and tenor David Philip Butt. Antonio Pappano conducts.
Balletboyz: Deluxe on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer With the remaining performances of its 20th anniversary UK tour now cancelled, BalletBoyz has decided to share the production with audiences at home.
Northern Ballet: Dracula on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer Choreographed by David Nixon and with music by Schnittke, Rachmaninov, Arvo Pärt and Michael Daugherty, Northern Ballet’s interpretation of Bram Stoker’s legendary novel was filmed for cinema back in 2014 and will now be broadcast across the BBC.
The Royal Shakespeare Company on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer Productions include Hamlet (2016), Macbeth (2018), Much Ado About Nothing (2014), Othello (2015), Romeo and Juliet (2018) and The Merchant of Venice (2015).
How to Play Leading artists from the classical music world take turns in introducing audiences to an iconic piece of music, including Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. They discuss the challenges of such works, and how they approach playing them. Artists featured include cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and violinist Nicola Benedetti.
Black Music in Europe The third series of this programme explores the history of black music in Europe in the period between the end of WWII and the late 70s.
Culture in Quarantine Fund:
In collaboration with Arts Council England, 25 new works by independent arts will be commissioned and distributed. The works will respond to the coronavirus crisis and self-isolation. For more information on how to apply for the fund, click here.
Exhibitions and galleries across the UK which have been forced to close because of the pandemic will be opening their doors online to give audiences virtual access to the art.
Museums in Quarantine on BBC Four This programme goes behind the scenes at several museums and galleries across the UK: the British Museum, the Warhol exhibition at the Tate Modern and the Young Rembrandt exhibition at the Ashmolean in Oxford.
Scandal and Beauty: Mark Gatiss on Aubrey Beardsley on BBC Four Actor Mark Gatiss explores the life of artist Aubrey Beardsley, in conjunction with the Tate Britain’s major exhibition of Beardsley’s work.
Titian: Behind Closed Doors on BBC Four The National Gallery’s exhibition on the Renaissance master Titian brought together the artist’s paintings for the first time in 300 years. This programme explores Titian’s fascinating life and artistic triumphs.
The three-day virtual books festival will include video interviews and panel discussions with authors who were scheduled to appear at various British literary festivals, which have now been cancelled. The festival will take place across the first bank holiday weekend in May.
Front Row Late:
From her study at home, Mary Beard presents a new series of Front Row Late on BBC Two with guests including author Margaret Atwood.
Free Download: Julien Libeer plays Bartók’s Suite for Piano
classical-music.com Tuesday, 24 March 2020 17:57:50
‘It’s almost impossible to fault his playing’
This week’s free download is the first movement, Allegretto, from Bartók’s Suite for Piano, performed by Julien Libeer and recorded on the Harmonia Mundi label.
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classical-music.com Friday, 20 March 2020 23:27:23
BBC Arts has launched a new intiative, 'Culture in Quarantine', a virtual festival of arts for the foreseeable future as the coronavirus pandemic forces concert halls, theatres and festivals to close. It will run across the BBC's radio, television and digital platforms.
The new initiative will include performances from musicians and comedians, new plays created for broadcast, author talks and guides to exhibitions at galleries which have been forced to close their doors. It also will broadcast quarantine diaries from artists and creatives, as well as archive broadcasts of theatre and dance performances.
Jonty Claypole, director of BBC Arts, described the current pandemic and its impact on the art world, saying, 'Historically, artists thrive on periods of isolation and it seems certain that the current period will result in new plays, poems, books, films, paintings, sculptures and all other forms of art that might not otherwise occur’.
10 of the best books about Beethoven
classical-music.com Thursday, 19 March 2020 22:44:45
1) Anton Schindler wrote one of the earliest Beethoven biographies, published in 1840, but its veracity was soon questioned.
2) Alexander Wheelock Thayer was the next to take up the challenge, with three volumes published from 1866-79.
3) Of the other biographies, Lewis Lockwood’s Beethoven: The Music and the Life remains a classic.
4) As does Maynard Solomon’s Beethoven.
8) Novelist Sanford Friedman also turns to Beethoven’s discussions, this time fictionalised, in his Conversations with Beethoven.
9) Poet Ruth Padel’s Beethoven Variations: Poems on a Life was released earlier this year.
10 Jessica Duchen’s Immortal looks at Beethoven’s mysterious immortal beloved, and will be published in 2020.