March 9, 2017

This spring, Inon Barnatan – “one of the most admired pianists of his generation” (New York Times) – embarks on an extensive twelve-city U.S. tour with London’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. At destinations from Miami to Stanford, he leads the orchestra from the keyboard in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 (“Jeunehomme”), Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and the U.S. premiere of Piano Concerto No. 2 (“The Haunted Ebb”), a new commission from Scotland’s Alasdair Nicolson (March 18–April 2). Spring also sees the Avery Fisher Career Grant-winner reunite with his regular recital partner, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, for another U.S. tour, this time playing duos by Schubert and Joseph Hallman (April 25–30). These engagement follow Barnatan’s final subscription concerts as the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural Artist-in-Association, in which role, “for the past three seasons, the pianist has done nothing but impress” (New York Classical Review).

The Israeli pianist has established a close artistic connection with London’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. He and New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert are presently in the process of recording Beethoven’s complete piano concertos with the ensemble, representing the first time the orchestra will have captured the full cycle on disc. About his relationship with the group, the pianist explains:

“We have the same values. There’s a 100% commitment to every concert. They never stop. Every concert is played like it’s their last. And there’s a sense of responsibility and flexibility with a chamber orchestra that you don’t get with large symphony orchestras, however great they are. My happiest moment was playing Mozart concertos with the Academy. I remember several times thinking, ‘This is as good as it gets.’”

Barnatan’s own way with Mozart’s concertos has “seemed to draw new depths out of the piano” (San Francisco Classical Voice). The master composer’s Ninth Concerto features in the pianist’s spring concerts with the ensemble, which mark their third U.S. tour together. Also figuring prominently in their tour programming is the newly commissioned Piano Concerto No. 2 (“The Haunted Ebb”) by Alasdair Nicolson, winner of the IBM Composers’ Prize and “an outsider whose music is exuberant, eclectic, and witty” (New York Times). After giving its world premiere at England’s Wiltshire Music Centre, Barnatan and the orchestra look forward to presenting the concerto’s first U.S. performances on their upcoming tour.

When Barnatan and his regular recital partner, MacArthur Award-winning cellist Alisa Weilerstein, released Rachmaninov & Chopin: Cello Sonatas on Decca last October, the Voix des Arts praised their “level of musical symbiosis that transcends casual partnership.” BBC Music singled out the pianist’s “great musical insight,” “marvelous variety of tone” and “irresistibly mercurial lightness of touch,” and Sinfini Music named the recording its “Album of the Week.” Barnatan and Weilerstein have already joined forces once this year, with a nine-city U.S. trio recital tour in company with New York Philharmonic principal clarinetist Anthony McGill, with whom they juxtaposed Beethoven and Brahms with a world premiere from Joseph Hallman (b. 1979). After their appearance at DC’s Kennedy Center, the Washington Post observed:

“The concert … was on the level one would expect from such illustrious names. … Barnatan was particularly imaginative in the rather foursquare Beethoven Op. 11 trio, a relatively slight piece that the pianist elevated with creative sound-worlds in each episode.”

The review continued: “Hallman is a talented composer who knows how to pull the ear along and leaves one wanting to hear more.”

The Grammy-nominated composer’s work will be on the program once again when Barnatan reunites with Weilerstein this spring. At recitals in California, Connecticut, and New Jersey, the two pair Hallman’s Dreamlog – a modular piece composed especially for them – with their own transcription of the Fantasia in C by Schubert. Barnatan’s account of Schubert’s great A-major sonata, D. 959 – as heard on his acclaimed 2013 Avie recording of the composer’s late solo piano works – was chosen by BBC Radio 3 as one of the best recordings of the piece of all time.

Barnatan has drawn similar accolades in his three-season appointment as the New York Philharmonic’s first Artist-in-Association, a position that was created for him by Alan Gilbert, who considers him “the complete artist: a wonderful pianist, a probing intellect, passionately committed, and a capable contemporary-music pianist as well.” The partnership has seen Barnatan take part in regular chamber performances and act as ambassador for the orchestra, in addition to appearing as concerto soloist in subscription concerts. Most recently, he joined the orchestra for Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto under the leadership of guest conductor Manfred Honeck. Admiring their “exceptional, integrated chops and sensibilities,” the New York Classical Review marveled:

“Barnatan delivered a vibrant performance, beautiful and thrilling. His technique is supreme, and he displayed it via an ultra-smooth legato that still allowed for clear articulation of each note in a phrase – and in this concerto, there are multiple ascending and descending sixteenth note phrases that extend across multiple measures. With playing like this, the music flowed like a river. …

“Barnatan played with a sense of velocity that was all the more exciting for his ease of control, and his steadiness brought out the structural invention in the music. Then his judicious modulations of tempo brought out the improvisational flair and depths that sounded as if they were coming straight out of Beethoven’s own hands. That feeling was consistent with Barnatan’s pianism: non-showy and dedicated to the music.”

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Inon Barnatan: spring engagements

March 14–April 2
UK concert and U.S. tour with Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (as pianist and conductor)
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 9 (“Jeunehomme”)
SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Concerto No. 1
ALASDAIR NICOLSON: Piano Concerto No. 2 (“The Haunted Ebb”) (new commission)
March 14: Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, UK (MOZART; NICOLSON: world premiere)
March 18: Miami, FL (MOZART; NICOLSON: U.S. premiere)
March 19: West Palm Beach, FL (MOZART; NICOLSON)
March 21: Columbia, MO (MOZART; SHOSTAKOVICH)
March 22: Cape Girardeau, MO (SHOSTAKOVICH; NICOLSON)
March 23: Joplin, MO (MOZART; SHOSTAKOVICH)
March 25: Huntsville, AL (MOZART; SHOSTAKOVICH)
March 26: Athens, GA (MOZART; SHOSTAKOVICH)
March 28: Tucson, AZ (SHOSTAKOVICH; NICOLSON)
March 29: Scottsdale, AZ (MOZART; NICOLSON)
March 31: Santa Monica, CA (MOZART; NICOLSON)
April 1: Aliso Viejo, CA (MOZART; NICOLSON)
April 2: Stanford, CA (MOZART; NICOLSON)

April 25–30
U.S. 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, March 2017