BBC Music Magazine
Music to my ears
What the classical world has been listening to this month
Maria João Pires is a pianist I admire so much – for me, she is the interpreter of Mozart for today. I went to a festival concert last June in Hamburg where she was a guest of fellow pianist Martha Argerich. They played a Mozart sonata for two pianos, but the first half hour was just Pires. She played two pieces by Schubert, and it was incredible. To see those two phenomenal artists playing together is something I will remember for a long time.
I love Mahler, and recently we, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, got the opportunity to play his First Symphony. We had the great joy of playing it with Manfred Honeck as conductor. He brought all the Vienna traditions with him, and we had an amazing week. This symphony is really close to my heart; you can see landscapes, you can hear the tradition. It was the first time I had the chance to play it, but I’ve known it since I was a child.
A musician I admire so much is the cellist Steven Isserlis.i have been listening on Spotify to his recording of Schumann’s Concerto with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and conductor Christoph Eschenbach for weeks now. We were on tour recently in Europe and every time I was at the hotel, waiting for the concerts, I would listen to this recording. There is, alas, no harp in this concerto but Isserlis is so amazing. I have also been watching his masterclasses on Youtube, and he is so inspiring. And also…
Music is a huge part of my life, and I also dance a lot. I learned ballet for ten years then stopped for a bit, but am now taking classes again. We have an amazing company in Hamburg run by John Neumeier and it’s a goal of mine to have the courage and go to a class there, because he is amazing. I love watching ballet online as well. Anaëlle Tourret’s debut solo album ‘Perspectives’ is out now on the Es-dur label
Soprano Enargeia, the debut recording by the young Canadian mezzo Emily D’angelo, is a mesmerising and eclectic group of mainly newly composed songs – truly remarkable in its groundbreaking departure from standard repertoire. On it, I particularly enjoy Caritas by the American composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, which features text based on Hildegard von Bingen’s poetry. Inspiring and spiritual, the entire album is curated to be a journey, from one song to the next.
I’ve also been enjoying the Canadian/macedonian mezzo Ema Nikolovska’s virtual recital with pianist Jonathan Ware for the Vancouver Recital Series from June 2021, in which she sings Brahms, Amy Beach, Debussy, Wolf and Ravel. A born recitalist, Ema weaves together incredible programmes, often not pausing between Lieder or groups of Lieder. Her curiosity and imagination remind me of the mezzo Brigitte Fassbänder’s artistry, and her voice is rich and gorgeous.
Ana Sokolovi is an awardwinning composer whose music combines Serbian folk elements with playful rhythmic riffs and gibberish. We recently produced her 2011 opera Svadba (Wedding) at the Glenn Gould School of Music. It is written for six female voices who play their own ‘found’ instruments like cups, drums and ocarinas. The students rose admirably to this very complex score’s demands and the audiences
were thrilled – for many attendees, this was their first live opera in Toronto since March 2020.
I am currently reading a biography of the conductor Toscanini by Harvey Sachs. It is a huge tome which chronicles his life in great detail. I am fascinated to learn how differently opera was produced nearly 100 years ago – there were barely more than two weeks of rehearsals before a new production was unveiled – and Toscanini was often involved in costume and stage design as well as the dramatic staging himself.
Adrianne Pieczonka sings Clara Schumann Lieder on ‘Clara – Robert – Johannes: Lyrical Echoes’ on the Analekta label
Marta Gardoli ska Conductor Something new that has arrived in my life recently is a record player, so I’ve been buying my first vinyl. I discovered The Exciting
Sounds of Menahan Street Band by chance in a record shop in Dresden. It’s light jazz which makes you want to dance, has great instrumental solos and is the perfect record to play when you have people for dinner and want something in the background that’s not going to disturb the flow of conversation, but can also be the focus.
For my job, I have so much symphonic music to work through, so I tend to turn to other genres or instrumental music in my spare time. I recently discovered the piano sonatas of Roberto Sierra, a Puerto Rican composer. There aren’t many other contemporary composers of piano sonatas, and he infuses the form with a little Latin influence. It’s something I often listen to while I’m travelling.
I often listen to music when I read, because it’s become difficult for me to concentrate when in complete silence. My flat is very quiet, so I prefer to listen to the music of Agnes Obel – particularly her album Aventine – to focus my thoughts and help me relax. I first heard it in an empty coffee shop in
Warsaw a few years ago, and it was so serene I had to ask the barista what it was. It’s extremely calming and a little nostalgic, but neither depressing nor agitating.
I’m a huge coffee geek, so I always try and find a good barista in whatever city I’m in. It’s important for me to take time to do nothing and watch the city go by. My favourite is Balthasar Kaffee Bar in Vienna, where they do a ‘slayer shot’ of espresso, changing the pressure during extraction.
Marta Gardoli ska conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on 13 January (see p96)
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