Medici Concerts, the International Piano Masterworks Series held in the Conservatorium Theatre at Southbank in Brisbane throughout 2015, will present acclaimed pianists David Helfgott, Peter Serkin, Piers Lane, Benjamin Grosvenor and Garrick Ohlsson. They will all be sure to tinkle the ivories in scintillating style.
Helfgott is an artist who inspires passion, achieving wildly enthusiastic standing ovations because everyone is dazzled by his outstanding virtuosity. He lives a romantic life in a picturesque valley of New South Wales appropriately called The Promised Land.
He will perform works from the period of the Romantic Movement, which he excels in and is reflected in the works of Frideric Chopin (1810-1849), Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) and Franz Liszt (1811-1886).
He will also play the three-movement Grand Sonata No. 8 Op 13 ‘Pathetique’ by Ludwig van Beethoven (1712-1773).
The Pathetique, composed in 1798, is one of Beethoven’s most eloquent and tragically beautiful works, a reflection of noble melancholy, one in which he contrasts turmoil with tenderness; it’s a lament infused with love
Full of harmonic gestures, tonal colours, textures, emotive passion and the pursuit of pathos; that inner universe where we remain subject to the mystery of our positive and negative irrational feelings, The Pathetique goes along way in helping us to celebrate man’s heroic qualities in harmonious proportion.
Ann Thompson, who presents the Medici Concerts, says of David Helfgott that on stage he “… is simply, inimitably himself, his passion for music is absolute – his concerts are a celebration of life, a joyful experience long remembered after the last note is played.
I urge you to attend to experience David “live”
While you might find it hard to believe now in his youth during the 70’s, Serkin became renowned for wearing hippie garments.
He sported a goatee and showcased his stand by proving himself entirely ‘rebellious and unconventional’, which included his music.
He came from a musical family, his father Rudolf a well known and much admired pianist, and his German grandfather Adolf Busch a violinist.
Serkin was only twelve years of age when he began his stellar career winning many awards and working with other musical favourites such as Yo Yo Ma.
He is at home playing stimulating music from the past as he is with inspiring contemporary works.
Peter Serkin’s program features Schoenberg’s Three Pieces, Op 11, Nielsen’s Theme with Variations, Op 40, Mozart’s Sonata in A minor, K. 310, Reger Two Pieces from Aus meinem Tagebuch, Mozart Rondo in A minor, K. 511 and Beethoven’s Sonata No 30 in E major, Op 109
Renowned for his ‘interpetive touches’ Serkin will play a work by Danish composer Carl Nielson. Composed in 1917, Theme and Variations is an incisively rhythmic piece with dramatic passages and great fervor punctuated with sombre interludes.
Now an elder statesmen of the piano, while these days are often more conservative than during his youth, they are always interspersed with his own distinctive touches. Musicians put forward all sorts of theories when they are presenting innovative programs.
In July popular Australian born but London based player Piers Lane, who is much in demand nationally and internationally will be performing Mozart’s Sonata No 13 in B flat major, K.333, Beethoven’s Sonata No 23 in F minor, Op 57 ‘Appassionata’ and Chopin’s Four Scherzos.
Lane is the Artistic Director of the annual Myra Hess Day at the National Gallery, London, honouring Dame Myra Hess ( ) who kept inspiration alive and hopes high in London during World War II by holding piano recital concerts in the National Gallery.
Mary Hess’s ambition was to make the wonders of classical music easily accessible so that people from all walks of life and all backgrounds could know the joy and beauty of the music by some of the greatest composers the world has ever known.
When World War II finally came to an end in 1946, three quarters of a million people had attended one of the 1,698 concerts she had presented.
Piers will play Beethoven’s Sonata No 23 in F minor, Op 57 ‘Appassionata’, which is a reflective work about the composer’s life as an artist. Its format is inexorably embedded, as was the complexity of his life story, which was not only full of beauteous music but also marred and scarred by human tragedy.
Mozart’s Sonata on the other hand is one of many that reached a pinnacle of aesthetic-formal conception with sensuous beauty. Harmonically rhythmically and dynamically his works engaged the listener with melodies that spoke the language of music based on a transparent harmonic foundation.
He had a superb feeling for form and beauty of sound that is often infused with the sobriety, humour and irony that existed in the world in which he revolved.
While his works often sound simple they are in reality often intense and complex, relying on the logic of their construction.
Mozart’s strikingly rich colourful creations reflect not only his very full and short life and extraordinary output, but also the age in which he lived, one that had returned to embracing ‘classical thought’ and ideas of universality.
Youthful British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is renowned for pairing pieces that challenge his audience.s
He invites them to embrace a program that showcases traditional repertoire alongside the rare works he is personally enthusiastic about.
He is acclaimed as one of the new generation of sought after performers offering ‘fearless technique and innate musicality’.
Grosvenor first came prominence when he won the 2004 BBC Young Musician competition aged 11, and to date is the youngest British musician ever signed by Decca records.
Wonderful to see he will play Gavotte and Variations in A minor by seventeenth century French composer Jean-Phillippe Rameau (1683-1764), another adventurous artist like himself.
Famously known for his restraint of style in works full of emotion, Rameau’s compositions were vibrant, witty, full of light and volatile action.
Rameau’s understanding of late-Baroque harmony is known because he wrote a treatise that is an important research document for musicians reinterpreting his works today.
The final concert of the year in November 2015 will feature the American pianist Garrick Ohlsson.
He was the first American to win the Gold medal at the International Chopin competition.
Apart from a bevvy of works by Chopin, Ohlsson will play the Fantasie in C major, D 760 or so-called ‘Wanderer Fantasy’ by Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797- 1828) who today is best know for his art songs for voice and piano.
Schubert, a musicians musician, combined poetry with music appealing to romantic sensibilities, always providing performers with a formidable technical challenge. Of this work he observed ‘the devil may play it’ because he couldn’t.
Hungarian composer Franz Liszt a formidable pianist himself could, reflecting his incredible virtuosity.
He performed it’s complex four movements played without a break, moving from Allegro through Adagio to Scherzo presto and a finale that reaches a thunderous conclusion
Medici Concerts Masterworks Program 2015 to be held at the Conservatorium in Brisbane will allow its guest pianists to shine. Audiences will enjoy an extraordinary experience of music at its most glorious,, dazzled by their exceptional virtuosity, while playing piano in scintillating style.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014
Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University, Southbank, Brisbane QLD