Chopin is a mercurial visionary. Below is a small glimpse into a larger project that will evolve to trace his influence on a selection of statesmen and thinkers dedicating their lives to social justice and freedom of expression.
Rachmaninov songs live at the Sheremetev Palace in February 2020 with Mariinsky soloists Natalia Evstafyeva and Yekaterina Shimanovich:
Below is the first and second half of a live concert in Oxford. It weaved together Tchaikovsky's Seasons with miniatures of the Russian avant garde. These are rarities by Arthur Lourie, Nikolai Roslavets and Andrei Volkonsky.
Tchaikovsky's Seasons are often dismissed as salon pieces, and even he called them 'pancakes'. If so, they must have been written for some extremely accomplished amateurs - they are deceptively simply! The avant garde pieces really illuminate how visionary Tchaikovsky was.
All too often we try to separate things into styles. We focus on differences, on some kind of idea of 'progress'. We forget too often how art often exists in dialogue with other art - dissolving the boundaries of time with which we try to constrain it.
I was intrigued to put together a programme that put a spotlight on common motifs echoing between the Tchaikovsky and the avant garde pieces I put together. It inspired me to treat them as kindred spirits, rather than artistic creations separated by epochs.
Some of the distinct piano techniques in the Seasons for Change recital (above) were inspired by my work on Neuhaus and his attitude to the pedal. This is a clip of Beethoven's 'Tempest' Sonata in D minor Opus 31 no. 2. The recitative has a notoriously difficult pedal marking and this is a rather wonderful solution proposed by Heinrich Neuhaus - using the sympathetic resonance of the strings to create a warm halo of sound, or as Neuhaus would say 'the philosopher's voice rolling through the mountain peaks.'
Neuhaus's ideas about Beethoven and my own experiments with the Tchaikovsky Seasons found their outlet in my commercial recording of Mussorgsky's Pictures and an Exhibition and Tchaikovsky's Seasons. In the video below I hope to give you a bit of a sense of how this all came together.