December 1, 2016

“One of the most admired pianists of his generation” (New York Times)

When he played Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto for his Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra debut last month, Inon Barnatan’s ability to “transform this early Beethoven into a perfect Classical masterpiece” saw him hailed as “the perfect pianist” (Leipziger Volkzeitung). This February, the Avery Fisher Career Grant-winner turns to another of the master composer’s early piano concertos – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 – for the final subscription concerts of his three-year tenure as the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural Artist-in-Association (Feb 15–18). Following performances with the New Jersey Symphony in November, winter also sees Barnatan reunite with MacArthur Award-winning cellist Alisa Weilerstein, his regular recital partner, and New York Philharmonic principal clarinetist, Anthony McGill, for a nine-city U.S. recital tour (Jan 18–29). Kicking off in Princeton, where the trio presents the world premiere of short stories by 2014 Grammy nominee Joseph Hallman (Jan 18), the tour includes dates at Washington’s Kennedy Center (Jan 19) and New York’s Alice Tully Hall (Jan 24).

Beethoven in final subscription concerts of New York Philharmonic tenure

New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert created the position of Artist-in-Association expressly for Barnatan, whom he has described as “the complete artist: a wonderful pianist, a probing intellect, passionately committed, and a capable contemporary-music pianist as well.” The three-season partnership – which has seen the Israeli pianist appear as concerto soloist in subscription concerts, take part in regular chamber performances, and act as ambassador for the orchestra – has proven an especially fruitful one. Barnatan explains:

“Being able to explore with the same orchestra – with the same wonderful people – different pieces and different concertos: it means people can get a sense of what I am interested in and I can get to know the musicians. So when we do play together, it really does feel like a partnership and there is really the feeling of family. For me, one of the joys of playing music with other people is the give and take, and the conversation. To walk on stage with a bunch of people that I not only admire, but have gotten to know musically and who have gotten to know me, changes so much about the way we interact and the way that we make music together. I have learned so much about about the soloist/orchestra relationship during this residency.”

To conclude the third and final season of his appointment, Barnatan will play Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto under the leadership of Manfred Honeck. He says:

“The Beethoven concerto is the bedrock, the core, of the repertoire for piano and orchestra. I have been living with these pieces all my life, from the very beginning. So my relationship with them has been not only constant, but also ever changing. One of the things that makes a work of art great is that it never stops surprising you. You never get sick of staring at it. … It’s the same way that Shakespeare is important to actors.”

The pianist’s way with Beethoven, especially the less familiar early concertos, made a profound impression at his recent Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra debut, prompting the Leipziger Volkzeitung to marvel:

“Barnatan is the perfect pianist: the delicacy of his touch, the richness of the palette that he applies with orchestral variety yet without allowing the colors to spill into one another, the elegant phrasing with which he makes even the liveliest passages and cascades sing subtly out, the resourceful sophistication with which he continually brings beguiling details to light without inhibiting the flow – these are the tools with which he transforms this early Beethoven into a perfect Classical masterpiece. … It would be wonderful to see this pianist back at the Gewandhaus soon.”

His conductor in Leipzig was Gilbert, one of his most frequent collaborators at the New York Philharmonic and beyond. He says:

“Alan is in some ways a musical soulmate because he really shares – very deeply and very meaningfully – curiosity about different repertoire and about how different repertoire connects to the things outside of music – visual arts, literature. No one else has as passionately demonstrated and exemplified that, which is what I find most interesting about Alan. So we share a bond through being very curious about a lot of different things but also kind of wanting to explore them together, and wanting to do it properly.”

High-profile performances of Beethoven in the U.S. have also received enthusiastic acclaim, with the Washington Post calling Barnatan’s performance of the Third Concerto with the Baltimore Symphony “endlessly beautiful music,” and the Seattle Times describing his interpretation of the same work with the Seattle Symphony as “never mannered”; the same review found that “Barnatan’s hallmark gossamer touch deepened the sense of soulful introspection.”  To round out a fall filled with Beethoven, Barnatan will play all five concertos over the course of two concerts with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille under Lawrence Foster (Dec 1 & 2).

Barnatan recently played the formidable piano part on Gilbert’s live recording of Messiaen’s epic Des canyons aux étoiles… at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and the two look forward to reuniting later this season to finish recording the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields’ first complete Beethoven concerto cycle together. The London orchestra is one with which Barnatan has established a close artistic connection, and in the coming spring he looks forward to leading his third U.S. tour with the ensemble, playing and conducting Mozart and Shostakovich concertos from the keyboard, and premiering a newly commissioned concerto by British composer Alasdair Nicolson (March 18–April 2).

Trio recital tour with Alisa Weilerstein and Anthony McGill

For his upcoming trio recital tour, Barnatan rejoins two of the instrumentalists with whom he shares an especially close musical rapport. His work with clarinetist Anthony McGill includes a recent account of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time by members of the New York Philharmonic – Alan Gilbert, on violin, among them – at New York’s Metropolitan Musuem of Art, while cellist Alisa Weilerstein is the pianist’s longtime recital partner. Their recent Decca recording, Rachmaninov & Chopin: Cello Sonatas, drew comparisons with Rostropovich and Argerich; Voix des Arts admired their “level of musical symbiosis that transcends casual partnership,” and called the disc “a ravishing recording of fantastic music.” Sinfini Music named the recording its Album of the Week, the New York Times praised the duo’s “poise and their passion,” and BBC Music singled out the pianist’s “great musical insight and a marvellous variety of tone.”

With a program juxtaposing Beethoven’s Piano Trio in B-flat and Brahms’s Clarinet Trio in A minor with the world premiere of short stories by Joseph Hallman (b.1979), the tour represents Barnatan’s first time collaborating concurrently with McGill and Weilerstein.

Barnatan and Weilerstein also reconvene for a pair of duo recital tours, appearing together at European venues including the Mozarteum Salzburg and London’s Wigmore Hall (Feb 27–March 7), and undertaking U.S. engagements in California, Connecticut, and New Jersey with a program showcasing another Hallman piece, Dreamlog, and their own new transcription of Schubert’s Fantasia in C (April 25–30).

Triumphant recent debuts

Barnatan’s first appearance with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, which was followed by a special “talk and performance” event for which he and Alan Gilbert joined German TV personality Malte Arkona, was one of three triumphant recent debuts. After a solo recital that marked the pianist’s first appearance at New York’s Mostly Mozart festival, the New York Times’ Anthony Tommasini declared:

“Mr. Barnatan showed why he is one of the most admired pianists of his generation. … He played everything brilliantly. By bringing together composers from Bach to Barber who spanned three centuries, Mr. Barnatan created an historical public domain for his rapt listeners.”

Similarly, of Barnatan’s debut with San Francisco’s New Century Chamber Orchestra, for which he played Mozart to launch the ensemble’s 25th anniversary season, San Francisco Classical Voice observed:

“From his first entrance, Barnatan’s fluid and elegant playing let Mozart’s music sing. In the first movement, he played up the humorous appoggiatura figures without being hammy, and he imbued the second movement’s melodies with a natural sensitivity. In the third movement’s jarring diversions to C minor – salvaged fragments of that abandoned slow movement – he seemed to draw new depths out of the piano.”

High-resolution photos can be downloaded here.

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Inon Barnatan: winter engagements

Dec 1
Marseille, France
Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille / Lawrence Foster
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 2
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 3
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 4

Dec 2
Marseille, France
Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille / Lawrence Foster
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 1
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5

Jan 6 & 8
San Diego, CA
San Diego Symphony / Andrew Gourlay
American Festival
ANDREW NORMAN: Suspend (piano concerto)
COPLAND: Piano Concerto

Jan 18–29
Trio tour with Alisa Weilerstein and Anthony McGill
BEETHOVEN: Clarinet Trio in B-flat, Op. 11
JOSEPH HALLMAN: short stories (world premiere)
BRAHMS: Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op. 114

 Jan 18: Princeton, NJ (McCarter Theatre Center)

Jan 19: Washington, D.C. (Fortas Chamber Music Series; Kennedy Center Family Theater)

Jan 21: Durham, NC (Duke Performances; Baldwin Auditorium)

Jan 22: Baltimore, MD (Shriver Hall Concert Series; Shriver Hall)

Jan 23: University Park, PA (Pennsylvania State University; Schwab Auditorium)

Jan 24: New York, NY (Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Alice Tully Hall)

Jan 26: Urbana, IL (Krannert Center for the Performing Arts)

Jan 27: Kalamazoo, MI (Fontana Chamber Arts; Dalton Center Recital Hall)

Jan 29: Ann Arbor, MI (University Musical Society)

Feb 3–5
Fort Worth, TX
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra / Christoph König
Bass Performance Hall
BARTÓK: Piano Concerto No. 3

Feb 11
Asheville, NC
Asheville Symphony / Daniel Meyer
SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Concerto No. 2

Feb 15–18
New York, NY
New York Philharmonic / Manfred Honeck
David Geffen Hall
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 1

Feb 27–March 7
European Recitals with Alisa Weilerstein
HALLMAN: Dreamlog
SCHUBERT: Fantasia in C (transc. Barnatan and Weilerstein)

Feb 27: Elmau, Germany (Schloss Elmau)

Feb 28: Salzburg, Austria (Mozarteum Salzburg)

March 6: Alicante, Spain (Sociedad de Conciertos de Alicante)

March 7: London, UK (Wigmore Hall)

March 18–April 2
U.S. tour with Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (as pianist and conductor)
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 9
NICOLSON: new commission for piano & orchestra
SHOSTAKOVICH: Concerto in C minor for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra

March 18: Miami, FL

March 19: West Palm Beach, FL

March 23: Joplin, MO

March 25: Huntsville, AL

March 26: Athens, GA (UGA Performing Arts Center)

March 31: Santa Monica, CA

April 1: Aliso Viejo, CA

April 2: Stanford, CA

April 25–30
Duo recital tour with Alisa Weilerstein
HALLMAN: Dreamlog
SCHUBERT: Fantasia in C (transcr. Barnatan and Weilerstein)

April 25: Sacramento, CA (California State University)

April 26: Stanford, CA (Bing Concert Hall)

April 29: Stamford, CT (Stamford Symphony Orchestra; Palace Theatre)

April 30: Englewood, NJ (Bergen Performing Arts Center)

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© 21C Media Group, November 2016