I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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Dazzling Rollercoaster

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 39/4-6; Elegy, Op. 3/1
Gabriel Fauré: Ballade, Op. 19
Alexander Scriabin: Sonata #5
Johannes Brahms: 7 Fantasies, Op. 116
Isaac Albéniz: Triana (from Iberia)
Claude Debussy: La soirée dans Grenade (from Estampes)
Vladimir Horowitz: Variations on a Theme from G. Bizet’s “Carmen”

Yuja Wang, piano
Brussels Conservatory, 20 March 2012

The acclaimed Chinese pianist Yuja Wang made her debut in Belgium with the kind of disparate program that would have made giants like Sviatoslav Richter think twice, yet which seems designed primarily to demonstrate how dazzling a virtuoso she is. (Richter played what he felt like playing at a particular moment, but that’s another story.) Wang’s Brussels recital was largely culled from her coinciding new CD-release, imponderably titled “Fantasia” and sounded in spite of the hyped promise of “a poetic evening” for the most part like a no-brainer, rollercoaster collection of miniatures and bravura transcriptions by Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Debussy, Albeniz and Horowitz, wherein the difference between the official program and the encores eventually went completely adrift. The bits of late Brahms and Fauré thrown in for weight couldn’t dispel the frustrating feeling that this evening we only heard part of her talent. Or didn’t we?
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Gergiev Reunited with Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw

Henri Dutilleux: Métaboles
Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47
Sergei Prokofieff: Symphony #5 in B Flat Major, Op. 100

Leonidas Kavakos, violin
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, March 18, 2012

For being one of the world’s most sought-after conductors whose budding career moreover got a serious boost in the Netherlands back in the late 1980s with among others televised concerts, Valery Gergiev hasn’t been seen much at the helm of the country’s most illustrious ensemble, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He got firm ground in Rotterdam, crowned by an annual “Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival”, but Amsterdam has reportedly always been a love/hate affair. The short tour this March with a program of 20th-century music and concerts in Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels reunited the Russian maestro with the Concertgebouw Orchestra after a break of more than 15 years.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Youthful Impetuosity and Poetic Sensitivity

Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita #3 in A minor, BWV 827
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata #7 in D Major, Op. 10/3
Frédéric Chopin: Ballade #1 in G minor, Op. 23; 2 Polonaises, Op. 26
Karol Szymanowski: Piano Sonata #1 in C minor, Op. 8

Rafał Blechacz, piano
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, March 14, 2012

Coinciding with the international release of his Debussy-Szymanowski CD reviewed here, I caught the young Polish pianist and 2005 Warsaw Competition winner Rafał Blechacz in a solo recital in Brussels. The culminating point of the evening was without doubt his performance of the 1st Piano Sonata by Karol Szymanowski, which sounded even more impressive live than on disc. Blechacz has long been championing the music of his little-performed compatriot and here again he gave the kind of revelatory rendition to win anybody over to Szymanowski. Judging by the enthusiastic audience reaction, Blechacz made his point. But then again before arriving there, he had treated us to some stunning pianism, sufficient to win all present over… to Rafał Blechacz.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Inspired Programming from Salonen and the Philharmonia

Jean Sibelius: Symphonic Fantasy “Pohjola’s Daughter”
Esa-Pekka Salonen: Violin Concerto
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony #7

Leila Josefowicz, violin
Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen
Brussels, Center for Fine Arts, March 6, 2012

As part of the European Galas series hosted by the Center for Fine Arts in Brussels and the Flanders Festival, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London under its current music director Esa-Pekka Salonen brought a remarkable evening, covering no less than two centuries of music. Starting with Jean Sibelius’ rarely heard Pohjola’s Daughter from 1906, they fast-forwarded us to 2009 with Salonen’s own Violin Concerto, before bringing us back to 1813 with the Beethoven Seventh. And although these compositions might as well have originated on different planets, rhythmic drive is a prominent feature in all three. By juxtaposing Beethoven with contemporary music, Salonen replicates his “Beethoven Unbound” project from 2005/06 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Inspired concert programming like this is all too rarely found, and it’s still most welcome.
Read the full review on Classical Net