Nicolas Altstaedt

Nicolas Altstaedt
Nicolas Altstaedt, cellist (b. 1982). Photo by Marco Borggreve

Friday, January 05, 2018

Lorin Maazel / Richard Wagner: Ring Without Words | Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat major | Britta Byström: Many, Yet One – Stephen Hough, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, James Gaffigan – Sunday, January 7, 2018, 03:00 PM EST (UTC-5) / 10:00 PM EET (UTC+2) – Live on Livestream

Stephen Hough

















Fantasy kingdoms, scandalous love affairs, dwarfs, giants, and powerful music. Game of Thrones? Tolkien? Actually, both are predated by the Ring Cycle, Richard Wagner's master achievement in his quest to create an all-encompassing theatrical experience. Gods, mortals, and mythical creatures scheme to gain the magic ring that endows its possessor power over the world. Through the late Maestro Lorin Maazel's compilation Ring Without Words, premiered by the New York Philharmonic, Wagner's four operatic installments of Der Ring des Nibelungen are presented together in concert.

Sunday, January 7
Los Angeles: 12:00 PM
Detroit, New York, Toronto: 03:00 PM
London: 08:00 PM
Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Rome: 09:00 PM
Kiev, Jerusalem, Athens: 10:00 PM
Moscow: 11:00 PM

Monday, January 8
Beijing: 04:00 AM
Tokyo: 05:00 AM

Find in my time zone

Live on Livestream



Britta Byström (b. 1977)

♪ Many, Yet One (2016) (World Premiere)


Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

♪ Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat major, S.124 (1835-1856)


i. Allegro maestoso

ii. Quasi adagio
iii. Allegretto vivace. Allegro animato
iv. Allegro marziale animato

Stephen Hough, piano


Lorin Maazel (1930-2014) / Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

♪ Ring Without Words (1987) / Der Ring des Nibelungen, WWV 86 (1848-1874)

i. Das Rheingold
ii. Die Walküre
iii. Siegfried
iv. Götterdämmerung


Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: James Gaffigan

(HD 720p)

Live from Orchestra Hall, Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit


Sunday, January 7, 2018, 03:00 PM EST (UTC-5) / 10:00 PM EET (UTC+2)

Live on Livestream


Britta Byström (b. 1977) is one of Sweden's most gifted composing talents. She has written opera, choral works and chamber music, but her homeground is orchestral music. The result has been a long succession of original orchestral works and solo con­certos written for young, striking Nordic soloists such as the trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth and the violist Ellen Nisbeth. Britta Byström's orchestral works have been performed by a number of prominent Nordic orchestras – the Royal Philharmonic in Stockholm, the Swedish Radio Orchestra, the Norwegian Radio Orchestra KORK and others.

While Britta Byström herself says that the concert hall and the symphony orchestra are where she feels most comfortable, alongside the orchestral works stand a number of fine chamber music works: the string sextet Ramble Through my Countryside (2007), the quartet Letter in April (2011), the piano trio Symphony in Yellow (2003) or the short horn trio Kinderszenen (2011).


Her approach to writing music is poetic and is determined by impressions. Britta Byström's special ear for musical qualities such as instrumentation and timbre mean that her music can perhaps best be characterized as impressionistic. She herself says, "I try to create poetic, beautiful music that can invite the listener to an experience of beauty".


Britta Byström's works often have titles that are borrowed from or send a friendly greeting to literary classics or film titles such as Invisible Cities (2013), Picnic at Hanging Rock (2010), to music like Der Vogel der Nacht (2010) with reference to Mahler, or Farewell Variations (2005) with reference to Haydn. However, the titles should not be understood simply as programmes or contents for the works; rather they are evo­ca­tive titles which poetically set the scene for the musical experience.


Source: Hjarne Fessel, 2014 (musicsalesclassical.com)



Stephen Hough (b. 1961) is regarded as a renaissance man of his time. Over the course of his career he has distinguished himself as a true polymath, not only securing a reputation as a uniquely insightful concert pianist, but also as a writer and composer. Mr. Hough is commended for his mastery of the instrument along with an individual and inquisitive mind which has earned him a multitude of prestigious awards and a long-standing international following.

In 2001 Mr. Hough was the first classical performing artist to win a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. He was awarded Northwestern University's 2008 Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano, won the Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist Award in 2010 and in January 2014 was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in the New Year's Honors List. He has appeared with most of the major European and American orchestras and plays recitals regularly in major halls and concert series around the world. His recent engagements include recitals in Chicago, Hong Kong, London, New York's Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Paris, Boston, San Francisco, the Kennedy Center and Sydney; performances with the Czech, London and New York Philharmonics, the Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, St Louis, National, Detroit, Dallas, Atlanta and Toronto symphonies, and the Philadelphia, Minnesota, Budapest Festival and Russian National Orchestras; and a performance televised worldwide with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle. He is also a regular guest at festivals such as Aldeburgh, Aspen, Blossom, Edinburgh, Hollywood Bowl, Mostly Mozart, Salzburg, Tanglewood, Verbier, Chicago's Grant Park, Blossom, and the BBC Proms, where he has made over 20 concerto appearances, including playing all of the works written by Tchaikovsky for piano and orchestra over the summer of 2009, a series he later repeated with the Chicago Symphony.


Many of Mr. Hough's catalogue of over 50 albums have garnered international prizes including the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Diapason d'Or, Monde de la Musique, several Grammy nominations, eight Gramophone Magazine Awards including "Record of the Year" in 1996 and 2003, and the Gramophone "Gold Disc" Award in 2008, which named his complete Saint-Saens Piano Concertos as the best recording of the past 30 years. His 2012 recording of the complete Chopin Waltzes received the Diapason d'Or de l'Annee, France's most prestigious recording award. His 2005 live recording of the Rachmaninov Piano Concertos was the fastest selling recording in Hyperion's history, while his 1987 recording of the Hummel concertos remains Chandos' best-selling disc to date. His most recent releases, all for Hyperion, include Grieg Lyric Pieces; a recording of his mass, "Missa Mirabilis", with the Colorado Symphony and Andrew Litton; a recital disc with Steven Isserlis including Mr. Hough's Sonata for cello and piano (Les Adieux); a solo recital of Scriabin and Janacek; and the Dvorak and Schumann concertos with the CBSO and Andris Nelsons.


Mr. Hough is also the featured artist in an iPad app about the Liszt Piano Sonata, which includes a fully-filmed performance and was released by the cutting-edge, award-winning company Touch Press.


Published by Josef Weinberger, Mr. Hough has composed works for orchestra, choir, chamber ensemble and solo piano. His "Mass of Innocence and Experience" and "Missa Mirabilis" were respectively commissioned by and performed at London's Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral. In 2012, the Indianapolis Symphony commissioned and performed Mr. Hough's own orchestration of "Missa Mirabilis", which was subsequently performed by the BBC Symphony as part of Mr. Hough's residency with the orchestra. Mr. Hough has also been commissioned by the musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Gilmore Foundation, London's National Gallery, Wigmore Hall, Le Musée de Louvre and Musica Viva Australia among others.


A noted writer, Mr. Hough regularly contributes articles for The Guardian, The Times, The Tablet, Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine and wrote a blog for The Telegraph for seven years which became one of the most popular and influential forums for cultural discussion and for which he wrote over six hundred articles. His book, The Bible as Prayer, was published by Continuum and Paulist Press in 2007, and his first novel, The Final Retreat, will be published in early 2018 by Sylph Editions. Mr. Hough resides in London where he is a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music and holds the International Chair of Piano Studies at his alma mater, the Royal Northern College in Manchester. He is also a member of the faculty at The Juilliard School.


Source: stephenhough.com



Photo by Daniela Kienzler
Hailed for the natural ease of his conducting and the compelling insight of his musicianship, James Gaffigan (b. 1979) continues to attract international attention and is one of the most outstanding American conductors working today. James Gaffigan is currently the Chief Conductor of the Luzerner Sinfonieorchester. Since taking up this position, he has made a very significant impact on the Orchestra's profile both nationally and internationally with a number of highly successful tours and recordings. In recognition of this success, James' contract has been further extended until 2022. He also holds positions as Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and he was appointed the first Principal Guest Conductor of the Gürzenich Orchestra, Cologne in September 2013, a position that was created for him.

In addition to these titled positions, James Gaffigan is in high demand working with leading Orchestras and opera houses throughout Europe, the United States and Asia. In recent seasons, James Gaffigan has also enjoyed guest engagements with the London, Dresden, Czech and Rotterdam Philharmonics, Wiener Symphoniker, Dresden Staatskapelle, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Konzerthaus Berlin, Zurich Tonhalle, Gothenburg, Tokyo Metropolitan and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Leipzig, Berlin and Stuttgart Radio Orchestras. In the US, he has additionally worked with the Philadelphia Orchestra, St Louis, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and National Symphony Orchestras. The 2015-2016 season included concerts with the New York Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Dallas Symphony. In the 2016-2017 season, James conducted the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Detroit, BBC, Bournemouth and Sydney Symphonies; the Oslo, Seoul and Los Angeles Philharmonics; in Paris he visited the Orchestre de Paris and Orchestre National de France, and he made his debut with the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra.

In opera, James Gaffigan has worked with the Wiener Staatsoper (La Boheme, Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro), Glyndebourne Festival (Così Fan Tutte, La Cenerentola, Falstaff), Norwegian Opera (La Traviata), Staatsoper Hamburg (Salome) and the Bayerische Staatsoper (Don Giovanni).

In the 2017-2018 season James will appear with the Chicago Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic and the Concertgebouw Orchestra in addition to commitments with the Luzerner Sinfonieorchester and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. He will also make his debuts with both the Chicago Lyric Opera with a production of Così Fan Tutte , and with Santa Fe Opera in a production of Ariadne on Naxos. He will return to the Wiener Staatsoper for La Traviata. Further ahead James makes his debuts with both the Netherlands Opera and Metropolitan Opera.

James Gaffigan was a conducting fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and was part of American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival. In 2009, he completed a three-year tenure as Associate Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony in a position specially created for him by Michael Tilson Thomas. Prior to that appointment, he was the Assistant Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra where he worked under Music Director Franz Welser Möst from 2003 through 2006. James Gaffigan was also named a first prize winner at the 2004 Sir Georg Solti International Conducting Competition.

Source: jamesgaffigan.com


Stephen Hough (Photo by Sim Canetty-Clarke)
















Britta Byström: Many, Yet One

"Many, yet one" is a piece consisting of seven different "musical pictures" with small bridges between them. In these bridges, the orchestra strives against an unisono (everybody plays the same thing), and the last picture consists of all the small bridges put together. The title comes from the Indonesian national motto: Bhinneka Tunggal Ika ("Unity in Diversity" literally, "many, yet one"), which seemed suitable both because of the unisono parts – many voices sounding like one! – and because there are traces of Indonesian Gamelan music in the piece. This could be heard both in some of the musical intervals, but also in the instrumentation: I have used a lot of bells – glockenspiel, mostly – and gongs, and the bright colours of the orchestra might sometimes remind of the sound of a Gamelan ensemble. This piece – suitable for this occasion, I think! – is a kind of tribute to the orchestra, which consists of so many different voices, but yet, for me as a composer, is one big instrument. — Britta Byström

Source: musicsalesclassical.com



Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat major, S.124

The genesis of Franz Liszt's Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat major dates to 1830, when the composer sketched out the main theme in a notebook. It wasn't until the 1840s, however, that Liszt actually commenced work on the concerto. As a neophyte in the art of orchestration – his output to that point consisted almost entirely of keyboard music – Liszt enlisted the assistance of his pupil Joachim Raff in providing the work an instrumental skin. Liszt completed the concerto in 1849 but made a number of revisions over the next several years. The final version of the work dates from 1856.

Source: Robert Cummings (allmusic.com)



It premiered in Weimar on February 17, 1855, with Liszt at the piano and Hector Berlioz conducting.


Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, cymbals, triangle, strings, and solo piano.




The hot Liszt

By Stephen Hough, January 2011 (theguardian.com)

Franz Liszt invented the whole concept of the pianist as star: a virtuoso who takes centre stage for an entire evening, playing in profile to a concentrated, adoring, enraptured audience. In fact, his mere presence on stage caused women to swoon. They would keep his discarded cigar butts nestled in their cleavages.

Before Liszt, pianists would perform perhaps just one item on a mixed bill of concert programmes. But the Hungarian composer didn't just invent the piano recital. He was also one of the greatest composer-pianists ever, becoming the most important influence in the instrument's creation, development and journey towards its modern form. Next year will see the 200th anniversary of his birth: it seems like a misprint – given that his impact on the 20th century was as great as his influence on the 19th.

We tend to forget that, as a general rule in earlier times, composers either played their own music or it just didn't get performed. But Liszt would habitually programme music by other composers in his concerts. He pretty much created the idea of the masterclass, too: piano teacher as guru in a set-up that would lure students from all over the world to the cigar-saturated rooms of Weimar, where they would learn as much from the atmosphere as from the maestro.

Liszt also pioneered the idea of conductor as performer. Until Liszt, and later his son-in-law Hans von Bülow, conductors generally only raised a baton on their own compositions. And then there is the custom of playing from memory. Again, before Liszt, putting aside the score was thought to show a lack of seriousness – as if the performer were merely improvising. After Liszt, it became customary. Indeed, his influence on over a century of concert life is hard to overestimate.

But if Liszt as pianist, teacher and conductor exists now only as memory, anecdote and influence, Liszt as a composer is with us as never before. The view of his music as superficial was abandoned as the 20th century progressed. Wagner learned more from Liszt's early experimentation with chromatic harmony than he liked to admit, and the Hungarian laid out the vocabulary of stark rhythmic primitivism that Bartók, his compatriot, would build on so fruitfully: some of Liszt's final piano works, such as the Csárdás Macabre, create textures and colours that Bartók used unaltered. Their percussive atonality opened a door for a whole century of piano music.


His last word on Earth

I visited the Liszt Museum when I was in Budapest last year. Although Liszt never really lived in the city, he rented three modest rooms that now form the museum. Used to receive students, they are a monument to his simplicity – more monk's cell than prince's palace. I wasn't permitted to try any of the pianos (two Chickerings and a Bösendorfer), but if I had been, what might I have played? Possibly the first two bars of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, not just because the Cornish knight's name was the last word Liszt spoke, but because Wagner was as much a musical son of the Hungarian as a legal one, through marriage to Liszt's daughter Cosima.

But if Liszt was the fountainhead of so much musical life in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, where did he himself come from? There are two main sources for his earlier musical style: his teacher Carl Czerny's generation of post-classical, pre-Romantic, fast-fingered pianist-composers; and the demonic virtuosity and mysterious personality of Paganini. Liszt married the dexterity of the first to the flamboyance of the second and created a new style. Where a composer like Hummel had filled pages with double-thirds and awkward skips, Liszt went further, widening the skips and thickening the double notes – often including both hands in the acrobatic display.

This amplification can be seen in the impossibly complex early versions of his Etudes. But Liszt's genius lies in the way he later pared down these excesses, while still finding ways to make such passagework – the parts that allow a performer to make a display of their technique – sound harder. It's like halving a computer's size while increasing its capacity 10-fold. Liszt's instinct for what sounds effective on the piano has never been equalled.

But the question remains: with all these achievements, why was Liszt so underrated for so long? Why does he remain a closed book for many music lovers? And why will this 200th anniversary be surrounded with qualifications and caveats, unlike Chopin's, which was celebrated this year? His genius rivals Chopin's in many areas, and certainly outstrips his for innovation and variety. Chopin was fastidious: he presented the world with a select number of treasures all carefully mined and polished, whereas Liszt gave us a vast jumble of works ranging from the masterpiece of formal perfection, the B minor Sonata, to pieces of utter dross and banality.


A plunge into third-class travel

If Chopin had been awarded a medal for achievement, it would have ended up in a display case for all his visitors to admire; with Liszt, it would probably have been given away or lost. There is enough wheat in Liszt's work to secure his place as one of the great composers, but enough chaff to risk distracting us from that recognition. It's not so much that he lacked judgment, he just didn't feel the need to discriminate. He was a man of monumental talents, of teeming ideas, of burning passions, and it is unfair for lesser mortals to criticise him for not being able to settle on just one. He scattered too much seed for all of it to grow to maturity.

Because Liszt's life was lived on a stage, it is easy for us to see him merely as an actor: someone who lacked honesty and integrity, who did things merely for show. There's no doubt his life was one of theatrical display in public – but of personal conflict in private. His affair with Marie d'Agoult, with whom he had three children, including Cosima, was the source of wild gossip in Paris salons and caused him much anguish; but I think it was, in fact, his honesty and integrity that meant he chose not to hide the turmoil within, to live and work publically through any inconsistencies.

He cared little what people thought, in music or in morals. When he abandoned the path of a travelling virtuoso pianist in his mid-30s to dedicate himself to composition and teaching, refusing payment and regularly travelling in third-class carriages, it was a firm decision to deepen his life and to explore its more serious implications. His taking of minor orders in the church was all part of this quest.

While it would be a mistake to see Liszt as a saint, it would be even more inaccurate to view him as a fraud. And those of us who spend time with him at the piano usually end up thinking of him as a friend.



Lorin Maazel / Richard Wagner: Ring Without Words / Der Ring des Nibelungen, WWV 86

"The ‘Ring’ Without Words" has been one of Lorin Maazel's showpieces since 1987, when he assembled this orchestral overview of Wagner's four "Ring" operas for a recording project with the Berlin Philharmonic on Telarc Records. He has performed it in New York with the Pittsburgh Symphony (in 1990) and the New York Philharmonic (in 2000) [...]

This is a project that comes with a built-in debate about dramatic expansiveness and cohesion, and no doubt most "Ring" fans harbor some queasiness about squeezing Wagner's 17-hour epic into 75 minutes (up from 70 in Lorin Maazel's earlier performances). Situations that unfold inexorably over an hour or more in the opera house just pop into view here, and as smooth as Lorin Maazel's transitions often are, it is jolting to cruise from the arpeggiated proto-Minimalism of the "Rheingold" Prelude to the "Ride of the Valkyries" in less than half an hour.

But maybe Lorin Maazel should be given a break here. When Telarc proposed this condensation, he could have demurred. Many conductors make CDs of "Ring" excerpts and win unstinting praise, but stitching these big orchestral pieces together, with stretches of music meant to accompany vocal lines, is asking for an argument. The job he agreed to was that of a Hollywood scriptwriter asked to turn a complicated novel into a two-hour screenplay, and his solutions were sensible.

Wagner's "Ring" lends itself to this approach in a way that, say, Verdi or Donizetti operas could not. The orchestration here, even when accompanying voices, stands alone magnificently, and the leitmotifs that suffuse the score, representing characters and qualities (mostly), outline the relationships and tell the story even in the absence of the libretto.

"The ‘Ring’ Without Words" is also a fantastic playground for a virtuoso orchestra [...] In the excerpts from the start of "Die Walküre", the string sound morphs from a parched tone that evokes Siegmund's hounded flight to the lushness and warmth of his encounter with Sieglinde, and then the acidity of Wotan's wrath. [...]

Source: Allan Kozinn, 2008 (nytimes.com)












More photos


See also

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major "Emperor" – Stephen Hough, New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert (HD 1080p)


Sergei Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini – Stephen Hough, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo (HD 1080p)


Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat major – Lang Lang, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Edward Gardner

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