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Interview July 2017: 10 Questions with P. Malan

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Petronel Malan: Official Sites
Petronel Malan Site: Petronel Malan
Petronel Malan: Petronel Malan (Hänssler Classic)
Petronel Malan: Petronel Malan (Blüthner Pianos)
Petronel Malan: Petronel Malan (Twitter)
Petronel Malan: Petronel Malan (Facebook)
Petronel Malan: Petronel Malan (YouTube)

Petronel Malan: CD Albums
Petronel Malan: Transfigured Mozart
Petronel Malan: Transfigured Beethoven
Petronel Malan: Transfigured Bach


1. In 2006 and in 2008 you produced two beautiful, interesting and critically acclaimed CD Albums on Mozart and Beethoven: Transfigured Mozart and Transfigured Beethoven. What can you tell us about the origin and the story of these two CD Albums?

The Transfigured Bach recording was given to me as a project and I practiced and recorded it.

I did not do the research for that album.

When Hänssler Classic suggested I record a second CD, I started researching all the music and options to continue with transcriptions – and I found all the scores for Transfigured Mozart.

It happened to fall on the 2006 anniversary for Mozart and we decided to release in time for the anniversary.

I have always loved transcriptions, so it was a natural idea to record this music and since I discovered so many world premiere recordings, that happened almost naturally also.

As I was researching the Mozart, I started saving scores for future projects. I have a huge database of scores now.

So for my last 4 recordings, I did all the research for each recording.

I still have many lesser-known scores saved for future use for other recording projects. People also give me rare scores after concerts. So many scores I just received as a gift from a stranger after a concert!

… It is almost funny the two things people bring me most after concerts: Vintage dresses from their grandmothers… and rare scores. I love both things so I am always happy when people give this to me!

Petronel Malan plays Glinka’s Transfigured Mozart.

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2. We know you have in your concert repertoire also piano works by Haydn. What’s your relation with the compositions for piano by Haydn?

I have always loved playing Haydn.

It falls well on the hand and I think there are some absolutely beautiful music available.

People always know about Mozart, but the average person sadly doesn’t always know about Haydn.

Then I make sure to tell them that Beethoven studied with Haydn a bit, since he wanted to study with Mozart but Mozart had died. And Schubert was a pallbearer at Beethoven’s funeral. They are all connected.

What an amazing time to be alive and think that they all, all those great composers, had met each other!

Petronel Malan plays Haydn’s Sonata in C major Hob XVI/50, Mvt. I
Petronel Malan plays Haydn’s Sonata in C major Hob XVI/50, Mvt. II & III

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3. You are an official Artist of the most famous Leipzig firm Julius Blüthner Pianofortefabrik GmbH, one of the Big Four. What can you tell us about the distinctive quality of this piano manufacturer. And why and how did you choose their pianos? And what’s your story of collaboration with Blüthner?

When I walked into Skywalker Studios (George Lucas’ estate in California) to record my first CD, there were 2 pianos to choose from.

There was one of the most beautiful Blüthner Model 1 pianos and also another piano – which was also quite beautiful, but it didn’t have the sound and colour of the Blüthner.

So, I chose the Blüthner for my recording.

It was almost by accident that this happened.

After my first recording was nominated for the Grammy awards, they made me an official Blüthner Artist.

I then recorded my next 4 recordings in Leipzig, so that I would have easier access to Blüthner pianos.

They supplied not only the pianos but also the technicians for every recording.

Pianists will know how very important this is! I was really spoiled – and very lucky.

By recording in Leipzig, I now had choices of up to 5 Blüthners before every recording session!!

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4. You regularly organize Piano Masterclasses. What’s your approach in teaching to your students?

I don’t organize the Master classes… they happen mostly in conjunction with my concerts.

Usually, after a concert, I teach classes for local students.

I do not teach on a regular basis since I am usually traveling for concerts, so I have these classes to teach younger students.

When I was a child, I always asked every pianist I heard if I could get a lesson, but they mostly could not fit lessons into their schedule… which disappointed me greatly as a child.

So I made a point of being available for younger students after my concerts.
I’ve met some wonderful young talents and they have kept in touch through the years.

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5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

For Mozart, it would have to be operas, but since I can’t sing at all and only listen to the operas, I’ll say the piano concerti… Absolute genius music.

For Haydn, probably string quartets, but again, I can’t play them so piano sonatas or variations?

I want to be able to play my favourite music myself, so it is hard to have something as my favourite when I can’t play it. That’s one of the reasons I love transcriptions so much – I can play almost everything and anything – even if it wasn’t written for me.

There are some exceptions, however: Second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony might be one example of something that doesn’t work on the piano… I have a few transcriptions of that movement but the solo piano doesn’t do it justice.

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

No one specific comes to mind, but it is not something I am actively searching for.

For me, personally, I would say that great transcriptions based on music of this era would be something that I am always looking for.

I have fantastic friends who also collect lesser-known scores and we are always exchanging scores we find.

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7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

Transcriptions of works from the 18th Century!

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

I usually read something about the composer as I am preparing for a recording project.

Before I recorded Transfigured Brahms, I read Jan Swafford’s book about Brahms. While I was researching and preparing for Transfigured Beethoven, I read The Last Master by John Suchet (@johnsuchet1 on Twitter!)…

I warn everybody before you read these books, that it will forever change how you view Beethoven not only as a musician, but also as a person.

I absolutely LOVED these books.

You will always look at Beethoven in a different way. The books are in 3 volumes and I hesitated starting volume 3, because I knew Beethoven was going to die and it made me quite sad. It is written as historic fiction – so the facts are always correct, but the conversations are made up.

I can not recommend these books enough to anyone working on Beethoven in depth.

Suchet writes with so much love and empathy about Beethoven, that it was only after reading these books that I truly realized Beethoven’s as a human being and not just as this historic figure who wrote great music.

Highly recommended.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

I will always love Amadeus, but you have to be aware what is legend and what is fact.

I did not really like Immortal Beloved but I need to see it again perhaps. It has been years.

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

I try to visit composers’ graves whenever I travel.

Beethoven is easy because he is right next to Schubert and Brahms and Strauss in Vienna.

You can also visit one of the many places where Beethoven lived while he was in Vienna. I think in total he stayed in almost 40 different places because he was always having problems with his neighbours and landlords.

I visited Mozart’s houses in Salzburg.

I visited Bach’s grave in Leipzig and Chopin’s grave in Paris and Rachmaninoff’s in NY.

I went to Liszt’s apartment in Budapest and was allowed to play on his pianos.

I think these type of visits, are always good for how you view a certain composer.

And you can take them flowers and say thank you for enhancing our lives for the better!

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2017 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use

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CD Spotlight June 2017: Vanhal: Piano & Clarinet Complete Works

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Clarinet & Piano Works

Complete Works for Clarinet & Piano.
Sonata No.1, No.2, No. 3
6 English Dances
& Sonatina No. 10 (1801-1810).Vanhal was a friend of Mozart
& Mozart used his Symphonies,
Concertos & Chamber Music
as Style reference.

John Irving
Jane Booth
Sfz Music

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Interview January 2017: 10 Questions with L. McCawley

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Leon McCawley: Official Links
Leon McCawley Official Site: Leon McCawley
Leon McCawley: Leon McCawley at RCM
Leon McCawley: Leon McCawley Twitter (Official)
Leon McCawley: Leon McCawley Facebook (Official)

Leon McCawley: CD Haydn Sonatas & Variations
Leon McCawley: CD Mozart: The Piano Sonatas

Leon McCawley: Next Concert: Beethoven Concerto No. 3 (Gijon: 19 January 2017)
Leon McCawley: Next Concert: Beethoven Concerto No. 3 (Oviedo: 20 January 2017)

Leon McCawley: Next Concert: Mozart Concerto K. 491 (London – RPO: 23 March 2017)
Leon McCawley: Next Concert: Mozart & Schubert & Liszt (Grieg Museum: 26 March 2017)


1. Which considerations led you to publish a CD Album of piano music by J. Haydn and which criteria you followed in choosing the piano works by Haydn to be featured in your CD Album? What do you find particularly attractive and pleasing in the style and music by J. Haydn?

Haydn is a composer that I have always felt connected to.

I have been drawn to his piano music since childhood and performed his Sonatas and Variations in recital many times over the years. Since I had already recorded piano music of Mozart and Beethoven, I felt that it was the right time to add some of Haydn’s repertory to my discography.

On my recently released CD on SOMM recordings, I feature four Sonatas that demonstrate the myriad of possibilities for the 18th century keyboard and also include his most profound and deeply felt keyboard composition (in my opinion), the F minor Variations.

What pleases me most though about Haydn is his wit, humour and sunny optimism.

There is so much fun in his work and he explores extremities of the keyboard with great variety of dynamics and unexpected harmonic shifts.

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2. You have recorded piano works by Mozart, by Beethoven and by Haydn, works which have also long been part of your recital repertoire. In your opinion and according to your experience, what are the real elements of continuity and of innovation in the music and in the pianism developed and used by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven?

It is always interesting to make comparisons with these great composers and whether this is a distinctly natural progression.

Haydn was a great innovator for his time and without doubt paved the way for Beethoven, his pupil. The extremes of register, dynamic, tempo and unconventional treatment of sonata form were of a huge influence to Beethoven and you can see this with striking vividness in Beethoven’s Sonatas in comparison to Haydn.

Mozart perfected the sonata form that Haydn had mapped out so effectively so that every work published is a compositional gem; I would not want to alter a note of Mozart’s and his wonderful gift for melody inspired the great keyboard melodists of Schubert and later Chopin and Schumann in the Romantic period.

I feel his piano music strikes a perfect middle ground between the two composers. In his dramatic C minor Sonata K457 you can hear a youthful Beethoven (think of the Pathétique Op. 13) and his early Sonata K282 was surely an influence on Haydn’s charming late Sonata No. 59 Hob. XVI/49.

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BEETHOVEN CDs (Leon McCawley)
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Beethoven: Works for piano, 32 Variations, Patéthique & Les Adieux

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Beethoven: Choral Fantasia

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3. In 1993 you won the highly prestigious 1st Prize in the International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna. What are your memories and impressions linked to that experience and what did it mean to you and your career, to win such a prize in the very city of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven?

I have enormously happy memories of my time in Vienna. At nineteen, to win a competition as prestigious as this meant so much to me.

I had not expected to win as I was one of the youngest competitors but was very grateful for such a wonderful experience, performing Beethoven 1st Piano Concerto in the Concerto Final in the beautiful surroundings of the Musikverein.

The competition prize included a Bösendorfer Grand Piano which I still cherish today in my practice studio some 23 years later.

Preparing for the competition really propelled my interest in Beethoven further and the added icing on the cake of taking 1st Prize was a boost to my career as a concert pianist.

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4. You have produced a marvellous CD recording of the complete edition of Mozart’s piano sonatas 2005/2006 and in 2011 you have also performed the complete Mozart’s sonatas over one weekend at King’s Place (London) with great audience and critical acclaim. What led you to produce such magnificent Mozartian events in such a challenging context for a pianist and what are your pieces of advice and tips to those pianists who want to approach the repertoire of Haydn and Mozart and want to build a personal repertoire on their works?

The main reason for recording the Complete Mozart Piano Sonatas in 2005/6 was the desire to offer my own personal dedication and celebration of Mozart’s Bi-centenary of his birth.

It was also a timely dedication and admiration for my mentor of over ten years, the Russian pianist and fine Mozartian, Nina Milkina, who passed away in 2006 and had been a great source of inspiration to me, in particular for Mozart; incidentally she shares the same birthday as Mozart, January 27th.

Performing the complete Mozart sonatas five years later in London was tremendous undertaking; I enjoyed the challenge very much but I think will spread the performances over a season or two next time, that is if the opportunity arises again!

My tips to young pianists would be not to be afraid of projecting when performing Haydn and Mozart and try to have more of an operatic approach when dealing with cantabile and melodic line.

Also don’t treat this music with too much fragility; a full-bodied sound that is fully spirited and fully expressive will help to illuminate any interpretation of a classical sonata.

Learn all the repertoire, or as much as you can!

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5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

It’s difficult to choose only one of each but here goes: Mozart’s Piano Concerto K466 and Haydn’s F Minor Variations.

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6. Vanhal, Hummel, F.X.Duschek, J.L.Duschek, L.Kozeluch, J.G.Albrechtsberger… Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of piano music of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

Not yet! I don’t find as much inspiration here as the three greats that we have been discussing.

There is so much to explore here that I feel I don’t need to delve any further just yet as I am endlessly fascinated by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

That said, I do like Hummel’s Piano Concertos and will be performing Hummel’s cadenzas when I play Mozart Piano Concerto K491 with Royal Philharmonic in London on March 23rd at Cadogan Hall.

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7. Name a neglected piece of piano music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

I adore Mozart’s Duport Variations and you don’t often hear them in concert.

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

The Letters of Mozart are fascinating… but for full comprehension the best place to visit is the music where the worlds of these marvellous composers open up in your hands.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

Miloš Forman’s Amadeus in 1984 was a wonderful film adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s play and the use of Mozart’s Requiem in the movie was particularly striking.

But again, I turn to the music and the scores for comprehension first and foremost.

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century piano music?

Undoubtedly Vienna!

… as this was the centre of keyboard development in the 18th century.

And it also was a significant place for my pianistic development too!

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THE NEW BÖSENDORFER-SAAL IM MOZARTHAUS VIENNA
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Bösendorfer-Saal in Mozarthaus
Since October 2010 the new Bösendorfer-Saal im Mozarthaus Vienna is running. It is the third one in the history of Bösendorfer and it is situated in the Mozarthaus Vienna. It’s a beautifully designed hall in the vaulted cellar of the very building of Mozart’s flat in Vienna, near St. Stephan’s Cathedral.

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

Copyright © 2016 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

Impossible Interviews December 2016: Mozart’s Friend A. Stadler

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Who is Anton Stadler?

Called by Mozart Nàtschibinìtschibi (nickname probably meaning poor miserable young man of follies), Anton Stadler was one of the best close friends of Mozart: among them also Gottfried von Jacquin (called HinkitiHonky) and his sister Franziska (Sigra. Dinimininimi).

Friendship in 1781
Anton Stadler and his brother Johann Nepomuk Franz, with the Bohemian players Anton David and Vincent Springer, were considered the best clarinet players in Vienna in 1780s and 1790s. Mozart befriended them in 1781/1782 and in the following years wrote an important series of works (more than 15) for clarinets, basset horns and basset clarinets.

Freemasonry and The Grotto secret society
27 September 1785 Anton Stadler became a freemason and this situation helped to create a special relationship and a closer friendship with Mozart. Sources are not always very clear on this subject, but it seems that Anton Stadler became a sort of vice- (possibly a Papageno working for Tamino?) of Mozart on various matters, especially on money, pawnshops and secret societies. In fact, Mozart and A. Stadler decided to create a new reformed Freemason Lodge or a completely new Secret Society, called The Grotto, and A. Stadler was writing down the rules of this new Secret Society. Constanze Mozart had still the manual of this new Society The Grotto at the end of 18th century. After her letters on this subject, the Mozart-Stadler’s manual of the new Secret Society disappeared and is today considered lost.

Pawnshops, loss of money and debts
The activity of A.Stadler with pawnshops, carried on also on behalf of Mozart, led to the loss of a considerable amount of money: important precious watches, money (at least ca. $1500 or more in modern values), almost all the silverware and other valuable goods which belonged to Mozart. Due to such facts, Constanze Mozart and the other relatives of Mozart always considered A.Stadler just a vulgar irresponsible jester and the story of the new Secret Society The Grotto probably was used by Constanze Mozart against A.Stadler, who didn’t want to be involved any more in stories of Secret Societies after the French Revolution. Moreover, A.Stadler in 1791 received from Mozart the sum of ca. $3000 (modern value) for his Tour of Concerts across Europe and, as far as we know, not only never paid that sum back to Mozart’s family, but never paid for the famous Concert K.622 and for the new instruments built for him by Theodor Lotz.

Inventor of new instruments?
A.Stadler attributed to himself the very invention of various instruments: the basset clarinet and probably a better extended design of the basset horn. We know that, technically speaking, instead, at least the basset clarinet was, in reality, designed and built by Theodor Lotz. So A.Stadler’s inventions are, at this moment, matter of controversy.

His activity as theorist
After the death of Mozart, A.Stadler kept playing clarinet, basset clarinet and basset horn at high levels, working for the Imperial Court and receiving new music by good composers like Kozeluch, Eybler and Süssmayr, all somehow linked to Mozart as friends or adversaries. Then A.Stadler distinguished himself most as theorist, thanks principally to his highly regarded Musick Plan (1800). Nonetheless, his incapability in dealing with money continuously led him into losses of money and debts and he poorly died in 1812.

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WORKS BY ANTON STADLER
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A) Theory works:
• Klarinett-Schule
• Musick Plan (1800; for Count Festetics on how to organize a School of Music)

B) Compositions by Stadler:

• Partitas for 6 wind instruments (1785)
• 18 Terzetten for 3 basset horns
• 3 caprices for clarinet (1808)
• 3 fantaisies ou potpourris for clarinet (1809)
• Variations sur différents themes favorites for clarinet (1810)
• 6 Duettinos progressives for 2 Clarinets (1808)
• 6 Duettinos concertantes for 2 Clarinets
• 12 ländlerische Tänze for 2 Clarinets (lost)
• 10 Variations über Müsst ma nix in übel aufnehma for Clarinet (lost)
• 2 Märsche for Wind Ensemble (lost)
• 12 deutsche Tänze mit Trios for Wind Ensemble (lost)
• 6 Duettinos for 2 Csákans or Csákan & Violon (1808)
• 7 Variations for Csákan (1812)
• 9 Variations über Müsst ma nix in übel aufnehma for Csákan (lost)
• 3 Caprices for Csákan or Double flute (lost)

Copyright © 2016 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

Interview October 2016: 10 Questions with K. Woods

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Kenneth Woods: Official Links
Kenneth Woods Official Site: Kenneth Woods
Kenneth Woods & ESO Official Site: English Symphony Orchestra (ESO)
Kenneth Woods: Kenneth Woods at ESO
Kenneth Woods: Colorado MahlerFest
Kenneth Woods: Kenneth Woods Twitter (Official)
Kenneth Woods: ESO Twitter (Official)
Kenneth Woods: Kenneth Woods Facebook (Official)
Kenneth Woods: ESO Facebook (Official)

Kenneth Woods: CD Elgar Piano Quintet – Sea Pictures Top 10 Best Seller
Kenneth Woods: CD Hans Gal & Mozart Piano Concertos

Kenneth Woods: Next Concert: Haydn & Mozart (11 December 2016)
Kenneth Woods: Next Concert: Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven (21 December 2016)


1. Your recent CD Elgar: Orchestrated By Donald Fraser, Piano Quintet, Sea Pictures reached the Amazon Best Seller Top 10 last June! In his youth, in 1870s, Elgar himself arranged many works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven for quintet and wrote his Harmony Music and Shed Pieces, which had a strong, yet personal, Mozartian writing, do you think that the influence of those composers on his music still emerges from his later works? And if yes, how?

Elgar is an interesting figure, because his own compositional voice is so strong and so consistent across his entire maturity. Composers like Shostakovich or Beethoven, or even Mozart, went through huge changes of style in their careers, while the differences between early Elgar and late Elgar are pretty small. The only composer I can think of who has such a consistent and recognizable voice is Brahms. Elgar’s voice was so strong, that even his orchestrations of other composers sound like Elgar.

This means it’s quite hard to spot the influence of other composers in Elgar’s music. His knowledge of Brahms, Beethoven, Wagner, Schumann, Mozart, Haydn and Bach (I’d say those are the composers who shaped his language and technique the most) is so deeply assimilated and integrated into his own musical world that one almost never thinks «Oh, that sounds a bit like…».

What Elgar ultimately learned from the Austro-German masters is a multi-layered approach to motivic development. There are thematic connections in his music that are very obvious, and there are those that are almost undetectable. In a piece like the Piano Quintet, there are obvious moments of cyclical structure, where whole themes return at the end of the piece which we know from the beginning and which are easy for anyone to spot, and then are tiny, microscopic relationships of intervals and ideas that are very important to the musical logic, which one can only really dig out with lots of analysis while looking at the score.

Haydn and Schumann were the greatest masters of this kind of layering, but Mozart excelled at it too.

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2. You are a well known promoter of Haydn’s music, also through your own blog A View from the Podium, what are your considerations on your activity on Haydn and on the importance of building a wider knowledge of his music, still, unfortunately, a bit neglected? In September you have conducted the beautiful Symphony no. 80 by Haydn, what have been your thoughts, while preparing your performance? Written in 1784, 2 years before Mozart’s Prague K504 and 1 after Linz, do you think this Symphony by Haydn somehow influenced Mozart’s late symphonic writing?

I think there are two main reasons why Haydn’s music is still mostly misunderstood or underappreciated by the general public. First, I think he’s been very badly served by performers and writers who have tried to tame him as both a human being and a musician. The banal image of the benevolent Papa Haydn is only a tiny portion of a complex and fascinating personality – he was a man of tremendous temperament, great tenacity, capable of great anger and passion, and someone who took great personal and professional risks throughout his career. He must have been a genius at dealing with people – think of what it took to keep that incredible orchestra together at Esterháza with all those great artists and strong personalities. The musical manifestation of this problem is that we keep Haydn’s music behind glass. Too many Haydn performances are too bland – everything is made polite and genteel. I think his music is overflowing with madness and genius. It’s not just gently witty.

Of course, Haydn, even well performed and well curated, asks a lot of listeners. It’s very sophisticated and endlessly modern music.

But I’ve found that if you strip away all the accrued politeness and gentility that has become attached to his music and play it with real commitment and total abandon, audiences hear it and are just stunned.

As far as Haydn’s influence on Mozart, it’s not an easy thing to describe in a few words. They were writing during an era in which the language of music was as standardized and codified as pretty much any time I can think of – the only parallels I can think of are movements in popular music, where certain formulae completely dominate the discourse for a while, like doo-wop, rockabilly or ragtime. Mozart and Haydn were fairly unique in taking a system of stock musical gestures and using them to create incredibly expressive and completely radical music. Both of them understood the power of expectation – how to create it and how to undermine it. Haydn provided the structural framework for Mozart by creating or perfecting the forms in which Mozart would excel: sonata form, the string quartet and the symphony.

But by the time you get to Mozart’s earliest mature symphonies like 25 or 29, you can see he’s a totally different character than Haydn. There’s a melodic brilliance and emotional directness one almost never finds in Haydn, but it lacks Haydn’s wildness and technical genius.

What’s touching is that they clearly understood and loved each other’s music without any hint of jealousy or condescension.

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HAYDN & A VIEW FROM THE PODIUM (by Kenneth Woods)
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Haydn’s Music- Bathed in Fire and Blood
Haydn in The Oregonian
Haydn the Yurodivy
Reading Haydn from Beginning to End
Haydn- more talented than Mozart
Haydn- smarter than Brahms
Controversy over Haydn and magic with Schumann
RCCO- Schubert and Haydn
Haydn the Subversive
Podcast- The “true” story of Haydn 59
Listen Again- Haydn Trumpet Concerto
Haydn- More fun than Mahler!
More Haydn
Haydn’s on- let’s cancel the concert and rehearse
Haydn

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3. You have published also a really beautiful series of CDs with music by the Austrian-British composer Hans Gál. Among them, Gál’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra and, in the same album, Mozart’s Piano Concerto K482: what led you to create this special combination? You have in your repertoire also a few rare works from 18th/19th century like the Harmoniemusik after Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Figaro by Triebensee and Wendt: do you think this special charming type of works, which had also a specific social value when written, should receive more attention in Concert Seasons, in order to enrich them?

Gál is a special case.

Throughout the decade or so I’ve been working on his music with the Gál Society, one thing I got from them was their deep conviction that his music shouldn’t be assessed too much in terms of his biography.

There has been a lot of long-overdue interest in composers like Gál, whose lives were disrupted (or worse) by the Nazis. It’s important that we let their music be assessed on merit, and not presented with too much special pleading because of their personal tragedies.

With that in mind, we’ve always coupled his works (with a few exceptions, like our disc of string trios by Gál and Krása) alongside works from the Austro-German tradition that he saw himself belonging to. Generationally, he was closer (by far) to Mozart and Schubert than I am to Shostakovich or Mahler.

Hopefully placing his music next to Mozart’s helps us to better understand both composers.

As for the Harmoniemusiks– I think they’re wonderful!

I’m a great fan of arrangements in general. Mozart was, too!

Audiences love these arrangements, and it’s wonderful that one can showcase one’s woodwind section using some of the greatest music ever written.

Orchestras don’t feature their wind sections enough!

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4. When you work with the orchestra, preparing a new series of concerts, what are your pieces of advice and tips to the musicians on approaching Mozart and on approaching Haydn?

On a technical level, I don’t think musicians think as deeply about meter and metric structure as they perhaps should in Baroque and Classical repertoire!

Understanding all the nuances of different kinds of impulses and strong and weak beats and bars is absolutely essential for giving this repertoire the right sense of variety and elegance. When you work with a good orchestra over time, you try to develop a shared understanding about how meter works in Mozart and Haydn (and Bach and Handel).

On a more spiritual level, Classical repertoire seems to bring out musicians’ worst tendencies to imitate other people’s performances and mannerisms. The HIP movement has made the problem even more common… it’s become shorthand for a set of performance habits which are mostly the result of a very contemporary aesthetic.

If I’m feeling naughty, I occasionally point out that the aesthetics of Ikea furniture and many period instrument recordings are basically the same. It’s all about clean lines, bright textures, standardized approaches. I would hope the study of performance practice would lead us to be more questioning and more radical, not to simply recycle the interpretations of a conspicuously brilliant generation of other conductors, whose aesthetics were obviously shaped by the British Cathedral choral tradition as much as anything else.

Why do so many performers ignore or downplay Haydn’s use of fortissimo… a dynamic he uses very sparingly? Why do so many performers end every phrase in Mozart with a diminuendo, even when it precedes a subito piano? Surely these kinds of habits are very destructive to the music… it robs it of drama, intensity, contrast and expression.

I felt like I started to blossom as a Haydn interpreter when I freed myself of any worry about whether other people would approve of what I was up to, or whether anyone else had done it before the way I thought it should go.

You’ve got to be honest with yourself about what you find in the score and try to be true to what you learn from it. Once an orchestra feels free to try different things, to make different, more dangerous sounds, everyone’s creativity and energy starts to flow.

Mozart and Haydn come to life when the performers are letting themselves really give their all to the music, instead of trying to imitate the sound of historic instruments, or conform to some emasculated idea of this music being terribly prim and proper.

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5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

Mozart… It has to be the Requiem, which is a work I’ve been immersed in most of my life!

Haydn… It’s harder to pick one piece with him than perhaps any other composer, as there are so many works of such staggering originality and beauty, and whatever Haydn symphony I’ve just played always seems the most miraculous. If I had to pick one work, maybe the Oxford Symphony (no. 92): it’s a work particularly close to my heart and a piece I learned a great deal from studying.

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

Franz Danzi!

I was always fond of his Cello Concerto and it, and his other music, seem due for a re-appraisal.

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7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

Any Haydn symphony before no. 92 that doesn’t have a nickname!

8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

Maynard Solomon’s biography of Mozart is both an impressive piece of scholarship and a touchingly human piece of writing.

I find it very moving.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

Malcolm Bilson’s documentary Knowing the Score is a great, compact introduction to the world of performance practice.

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

Vienna!
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HAYDN, MOZART & BEETHOVEN IN VIENNA
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  • Haydnhaus
Haydn’s final Vienna home, here Creation & Seasons were written.
Mozarthaus
Mozart’s only surviving Vienna home (1784-1787). Here the Piano Concertos K.466, K.467, K.482, K.488, K.491, the Haydn Quartets, Davidde Penitente & Nozze di Figaro were written.
Beethoven’s Eroicahaus
Here Eroica was written.
Beethoven’s Pasqualatihaus
Here 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th & Fidelio were written.
Beethoven’s Wohnung Heiligenstadt
Here 1802 works (ie. Tempest, The Hunt, Eroica Variations, Kreutzer) were written.

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2016 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

 

Interview August 2016: 10 Questions with The Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet

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The Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet: Official Links
RDRQuartet Official Site: The Revolutionary Drawing Room
New CD Album 2016 Release (Uppernote): Revolutionary Flute Quartets
Butterfield Official Site: Adrian Butterfield
Butterfield (Royal College of Music): Adrian Butterfield (RCM)
RDRQuartet: RDRQuartet Twitter
RDRQuartet: RDRQuartet YouTube
RDRQuartet: CD A Viennese Quartet Party
RDRQuartet: CD Mozart Clarinet Quintet with C.Lawson


1. Haydn, Mozart, Dittersdorf and Vanhal: four composers with four well defined characters! How did you come up with the idea of re-uniting them together again in the same Album? How do their different characters emerge from their very music? And also how and when did you decide to choose the name The Revolutionary Drawing Room for your group, a name which truly represents the spirit of 18th century?

R. Alford (cello): The name of the group was thought of by the founding cellist of the ensemble, Angela East.

A. Butterfield (violin): It is a rather distinctive name which arouses a lot of attention! The Drawing Room part derives from the withdrawing room found in the houses of the patrons of musicians in the Georgian era in England in the 18th century, a room to which families and their guests retired after dinner. Revolutionary refers to the years spanning approximately 1789-1848 during which there were many upheavals in Europe.

The idea of our Viennese Quartet Party programme was suggested to me by an audience member who came up to me many years ago after a concert and asked if we knew about the story of these four composers playing together in Vienna in 1784.

R. Stott (viola): I have loved reading the Reminiscences of Michael Kelly, the Irish tenor who sang in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, in which he relates the Quartet Party story. He was quite a character!

A. Butterfield (violin): It’s true, these four composers were possessed of very differing temperaments.

Haydn is well known for his joy and sense of humour and that is reflected in the false ending of his quartet Op.50 No.1 which was designed to tease his audience. He was, though, also possessed of such wonderful originality in his use of musical ideas and form.

Mozart overflowed with beautiful melodies but Haydn’s Op.33 quartets inspired him to write music of great imagination and complexity and the opening of the Dissonance quartet is a particularly extraordinary example of this.

Dittersdorf wrote some interesting programmatic music and his A major quartet seems to us to have moments of story-telling too, especially the Minuet movement which feels very much like party music!

Vanhal, a pupil of Dittersdorf, comes across as a more serious character. The slow movement of his E flat major quartet is especially beautiful and close in style to Haydn.

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2. You, as single performing musicians (I mean you four members of the RDR Quartet), recorded also a wonderful Series of CDs devoted to many other authors of the first and second half of the 18th century from Jean-Marie Leclair to Handel to C.P.E.Bach to Luigi Boccherini. According to your opinion, who, among those composers, really exerted a strong musical influence on the composers of the First Viennese Group, Haydn, Mozart, Dittersdorf, Vanhal etc. and then Beethoven and so on?

A. Butterfield (violin): Our individual experience of performing a vast range of baroque repertoire has had a great influence on our performance of Haydn and Mozart.

J.S. Bach’s two most famous sons, Carl Philipp Emmanuel and Johann Christian, were especially influential!

K. Parry (violin): For example, J.C. Bach looked after Mozart when he came to London as a boy and his tuneful, rococo style can often be heard in Mozart’s music.

Handel and J.S. Bach became stronger influences later thanks to the encouragement of one of their patrons, Gottfried van Swieten.

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3. In October 2016, you are going to launch your The Beethoven Cycle, a series of peformances featuring all the Beethoven Quartets, and this also by underlining the strong philological association, which exists among the last Quartets by Haydn and the first ones by Beethoven: how do you feel, in their music, the Revolutionary character from an old Innovator (Haydn) and to a new Innovator (Beethoven)? And many anecdotes exist on this peculiar situation directly from those times!

A. Butterfield (violin): The relationship between Haydn and Beethoven is a fascinating one.

Beethoven asked Haydn for some lessons but these took place at a time when Haydn was preparing for his second visit to England in 1794 and it seems that Beethoven became frustrated that he didn’t have his teacher’s undivided attention.

The fact that Beethoven’s first set of quartets were being written at the same time as Haydn’s final set and that they were commissioned by the same person, Prince Lobkovitz, is intriguing, especially since Haydn only managed to write 2-and-a-half of his set of six. He wrote in the manuscript of the third quartet, «Old and weak am I; all my strength is gone.» and yet he went on to write The Creation and The Seasons after this so the pressure from his pupil clearly got to him.
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R. Alford (cello): The revolutionary character of Beethoven’s music is unmistakeable, especially his use of sforzando accents and other surprise dynamics as well as shocking harmonic shifts.

It is easy to forget, though, how innovative Haydn and Mozart were and that so many of the devices that Beethoven used had already been pioneered by his predecessors.

The Overture to Mozart’s Don Giovanni, for example, contains dramatic crescendos that lead to sudden pianos, a device that Beethoven was to develop on a grand scale and Beethoven’s scherzos were a clear development of the myriad examples written by Haydn.

As a young man in the 1790s Beethoven probably saw Haydn as old-fashioned but he wrote his Op.74 quartet just after Haydn’s death in 1809 almost as a tribute to his former teacher and perhaps he had come to realise that he had learned rather a lot from him.
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K. Parry (violin): Our Beethoven quartet cycle starts in October 2016 at St. John’s Smith Square in London and we will perform his complete quartets there over a period of three years.

It is still quite rare to hear Beethoven quartets on period instruments and this is a very exciting project for us.

There is plenty of standard 19th century repertoire by composers such as Mendelssohn and Schubert that we want to explore, but we like to mix that with much more rarely performed works by composers like Boccherini, Spohr, Viotti, Donizetti and even Coleridge-Taylor.

A. Butterfield (violin): We work regularly with wind players and piano and our new recording of the flute quartets of Mozart as well as those of his contemporaries in Mannheim and Paris, with Rachel Brown, is due for release in August 2016 on Rachel’s Uppernote label.

K. Parry (violin): However a composer we always come back to is Haydn. Maybe one day we will work our way through all of his wonderful quartets!

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4. You, both as a quartet and as single performers, are also an important example of musicians and entrepreneurs, creating and founding your own Ensembles and Musical Seasons, what’s your very first advice to those young musicians who want to follow this particular type of path? What can you say from your experience?

A. Butterfield (violin): Being an entrepreneurial classical musician certainly doesn’t become any easier!

But if you love the music you want to perform enough and are prepared to work incredibly hard you can still do well. One needs to be innovative and imaginative in terms of the way one presents programmes.

Our Viennese Quartet Party idea is a good example of that!

So many audience members have told me how much they appreciate being given some explanation of the context of the music I am performing for them and this is particularly true of music from long ago.

R. Alford (cello): With so much studio-recorded music available these days it is vital that concerts offer more than just perfection of ensemble and intonation, important though those are. Live performance should be dangerous and spontaneous so that audiences go away having been so thrilled and moved that they will be inspired to go to more concerts in the future.

5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

A. Butterfield (violin): Favourite compositions are such an impossible question! I tend to have favourites that are the pieces I am working on at that moment!

R. Stott (viola): Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro will always be a highly treasured piece and it happens to be very relevant to our Quartet Party programme.

A. Butterfield (violin): The slow movement of Haydn’s last completed quartet, the F major Op.77 No.2, is always one we love to come back to. It has an almost prayerful, elegiac quality to it that never fails to move us.

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

R. Stott (viola): Alessandro Rolla (1757-1841) is an interesting musician who is little known. We have played one of his quartets and we think his music deserves more exposure.

A. Butterfield (violin): I have championed Jean-Marie Leclair‘s music for some years now. He was a French baroque violinist/composer (1697-1764), who wrote a large amount of wonderful violin and chamber music as well as an opera

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7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

R. Stott (viola): Telemann’s Die Donnerode (TWV 6:3a/6:3b).

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

K. Parry (violin): Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style is a very important book and Paul GriffithsThe String Quartet, A History contains much useful information. And I know you want to add another book.

A. Butterfield (violin): I met and was coached by Hans Keller many years ago. He was a controversial figure who made people think by challenging received ideas. I refer regularly to his book The Great Haydn Quartets.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

K. Parry (violin): In search of Haydn (Seventh Art Productions), The Genius of Mozart and The Genius of Beethoven (top documentary films), excellent introductions to the lives and times of three extraordinary composers.

And for fun: Amadeus – the remarkable film of Peter Shaffer’s play.

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

K. Parry (violin): Surely Vienna? Mozart and Haydn even played quartets together here! And what about Mannheim?

A. Butterfield (violin):Vienna is obviously a good choice, but I wonder whether Mannheim would be a bit different and an opportunity to remind the reader about our new recording that is just coming out of Flute Quartets by Mozart and some of his colleagues in that city.

K. Parry (violin): Oh, yes! Certainly!

A. Butterfield (violin):The Mannheim orchestra was famous for its meticulous discipline and for numerous novel and strikingly dramatic effects such as the Mannheim crescendo (a passage that started very softly and built up very gradually to a great fortissimo), the Mannheim rocket (a rapid rising arpeggio figure across a wide range with crescendo) and the Mannheim sigh (an affettuoso use of slurs as aspirating figures with diminuendo). Mozart spent a number of months in Mannheim getting to know the talented musicians there especially the flautist, Wendling, who brought about the commissions for Mozart’s flute quartets and concertos. Mozart desperately wanted a job at the court there yet sadly it wasn’t to be, but his later music was greatly influenced by the musicians that he got to know in that orchestra. Our recording of Mozart’s flute quartets, with the flautist Rachel Brown, which she has to intermingle with works by his contemporaries in both Mannheim and Paris (such as Wendling, Gluck, Viotti and Danzi) is due for release on Rachel’s own Uppernote label in the next few weeks.

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So, dear MozartEra fans, with this new CD Album Revolutionary Flute Quartets – Mozart, Mannheim & Paris, this summer another musical gem will be added to the exquisite and magnificent recordings by The Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet! Dear Adrian, dear Kathryn, dear Rachel and dear Ruth, thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2016 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.