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Inon Barnatan’s Beethoven Year Includes New Album, Recreation of Legendary 1808 “Akademie” Concert with Cincinnati Symphony (Feb 29-Mar 1)

Pianist Inon Barnatan – honored over the past year as one of WQXR’s “19 for 19” influential musicians to watch and a longtime critical favorite in the works of Beethoven – celebrates the 250th anniversary of the revolutionary Classical master’s birth this winter and spring with performances on three continents and a new double album. In what may be the most adventurous pair of concerts in the worldwide anniversary celebration, Barnatan joins Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony for Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and Fourth Piano Concerto, as well as an improvisation he will create on the spot, in a re-creation of Beethoven’s legendary 1808 “Akademie” concert (Feb 29-Mar 1). Barnatan reprises the Fourth Concerto with the Stuttgart Philharmonic and Tokyo Symphony, and, with cellist Alisa Weilerstein and violinist Guy Braunstein, he plays Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Barcelona Symphony. Also with Weilerstein, he tours a program of Beethoven’s complete cello sonatas to San Francisco and other cities around the U.S. On disc, Barnatan released Part One of a complete cycle of Beethoven concertos in October, with Alan Gilbert conducting London’s Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and Part Two is slated to follow in the spring. Other high-profile winter and spring performances for the pianist include Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Ravel’s G-major Concerto with the Chicago Symphony, Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic led by Gilbert, a tour with the New Jersey Symphony playing Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto, solo recitals in Tokyo’s Toppan Hall and London’s Wigmore Hall, and his Baltimore recital debut in the Shriver Concert Hall Series.

The program for Beethoven’s “Akademie” concert in Vienna in 1808 included not only the premieres of his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies but, with the composer himself as soloist in his last public appearance as a concert pianist, the premieres of his Fourth Piano Concerto and Choral Fantasy, the works that Barnatan undertakes with the Cincinnati Symphony led by Louis Langrée. The nearly deaf Beethoven was in a race against time, as the litany of obstacles suggests: the four-hour marathon concert took place in an unheated theater in the wintertime, with a scarcely rehearsed orchestra, a last-minute substitute soprano soloist, and the volatile composer himself having been barred from orchestra rehearsals for his constant interference. Yet the Akademie concert has assumed mythological proportions for giving birth to four monumental masterworks of the repertoire, not to mention what is probably the world’s most recognizable four-note motif.

As Barnatan says:

“For me, coming between my two concerto releases, the recreation of the Akademie concert – one of the most iconic concerts in history – symbolizes the epic nature of Beethoven and my own immersion in his music. It is hard to imagine what it was like to hear all these masterpieces for the first time, but trying to recreate that feeling is thrilling. It’s an epic-proportioned concert, but we’re including a long interval during which there will be a beer garden and dinner set up in the ballroom. It’s a real Beethoven happening!”

The versatile Barnatan will not only play what Beethoven played during the Akademie concert, he will also follow the master’s example by performing a newly improvised work. The enduring fame of Beethoven’s large-scale works makes it easy to forget that his earliest reputation was as a piano virtuoso, for which improvisatory ability was an indispensable ingredient. Barnatan will hearken back to this lost chapter in classical music history by improvising a fantasia on themes from the evening’s concert.

Barnatan’s winter and spring Beethoven performances are rounded out by renditions of the Second Concerto with Florida’s Naples Philharmonic led by Ludovic Morlot; a U.S. tour of all five cello sonatas with recital partner Alisa Weilerstein, with whom Voix des Arts declares him to have “a level of musical symbiosis that transcends casual partnership”; the Triple Concerto at Barcelona’s Beethoven250 Festival with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra under Kazushi Ono, joined by Weilerstein and violinist Guy Braunstein; the Fourth Concerto with the Stuttgart Philharmonic; and the Third Concerto with the Tokyo Symphony in both Tokyo and Kawasaki. When the pianist performed the Fourth Concerto with composer and conductor Thomas Adès leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood last summer, the Boston Globe raved that “Inon Barnatan was an absolute delight,” and the New York Times wrote: “The superb Inon Barnatan … [captured] both the majestic and mercurial elements of this great work.”

Barnatan and Alan Gilbert – a longstanding collaborator who chose the pianist as the inaugural Artist-in-Association with the New York Philharmonic during the last three years of his tenure as conductor – released Part One of their recording of Beethoven’s complete piano concertos on the Pentatone label with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields last October, and will release Part Two in the spring. For Barnatan, each of the participants in the recording, from conductor to orchestra to fellow soloists to producer Adam Abeshouse, are a “musical family” with a years-long history of multiple and meaningful collaborations. The set itself represents the culmination of years of work, and includes all five concertos, plus the Triple Concerto with Weilerstein and violinist Stefan Jackiw, the Choral Fantasy, and Beethoven’s own transcription of his violin concerto for piano and orchestra. In January Barnatan reunites with Gilbert at the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic for a performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto.

In the midst of his focus on Beethoven, Barnatan continues to demonstrate the range of expertise that made the New York Times declare him to be “one of the most admired pianists of his generation.” In March he joins conductor André de Ridder and the Chicago Symphony for performances of both Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Ravel’s jazz-inflected Piano Concerto in G, which he also reprises later in the season with the San Diego Symphony. His Chicago Symphony debut was with Gershwin’s Concerto in F, about which the Chicago Tribune raved:

“His fingers were like perfectly timed pistons as he attacked coiled-spring rhythms, two-fisted chords and insidiously hummable tunes straight out of a smoke-filled Jazz Age night club. Brilliant pianistic technique served an utterly natural command of the Gershwin style: … pure delight.”

Gershwin also features in spring recitals in London’s Wigmore Hall and Tokyo’s Toppan Hall, as well as in Barnatan’s Baltimore recital debut in the Shriver Hall Concert Series. The programs, titled “Songs Without Words,” combine selections from Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words, Ronald Stevenson’s Peter Grimes Fantasy, and Schubert’s Sonata in B-flat with Gershwin’s Prelude No. 2 and “I Got Rhythm.”

High-resolution photos can be downloaded here.


Inon Barnatan: 2020 winter/spring engagements

Jan 3-5
Tour with New Jersey Symphony Orchestra / Xian Zhang
CLARA SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto
Jan 3: Newark, NJ (New Jersey Performing Arts Center)
Jan 4: Red Bank, NJ (Count Basie Center for the Arts)
Jan 5: Morristown, NJ (Mayo Performing Arts Center) 

Jan 24
Stuttgart, Germany
Stuttgarter Philharmoniker / Dan Ettinger
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 4

Jan 30
Stockholm, Sweden
Konserthuset Stockholm
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic / Alan Gilbert
RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 3

Feb 6-8
Barcelona, Spain
Beethoven250 Festival
Barcelona Symphony Orchestra / Kazushi Ono
BEETHOVEN: Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C, Op. 56
With Alisa Weilerstein, cello; Guy Braunstein, violin

Feb 14-15
Grand Rapids, MI
DeVos Performance Hall
Grand Rapids Symphony / Marcelo Lehninger
ANDREW NORMAN: Suspend, a fantasy for piano and orchestra

Feb 20 & 22
Naples, FL
Hayes Hall
Naples Philharmonic / Ludovic Morlot
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 2

Feb 29-Mar 1
Cincinnati, OH
Music Hall
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra / Louis Langrée
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 4
BEETHOVEN: Choral Fantasy

Mar 4
Oxford, UK
St. John the Evangelist Church
MENDELSSOHN: Selections from Songs Without Words
STEVENSON: Peter Grimes Fantasy
GERSHWIN: Prelude No. 2 in C-sharp minor
GERSHWIN: “I Got Rhythm” (arr. Earl Wild)
SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in B-flat, D. 960

Mar 5
London, UK
Wigmore Hall
MENDELSSOHN: Selections from Songs Without Words
STEVENSON: Peter Grimes Fantasy
GERSHWIN: Prelude No. 2 in C-sharp minor
GERSHWIN: “I Got Rhythm” (arr. Earl Wild)
SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in B-flat, D. 960

Mar 12, 14 & 17
Chicago, IL
Symphony Center
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / André de Ridder
GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue
RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G

Mar 28
Beverly Hills, MI
Seligman Performing Arts Center
Chamber Music Society of Detroit
Recital with Alisa Weilerstein
BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata No. 1 in F Major, Op. 5 No. 1
BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 5 No. 2
BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69
BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata No. 4 in C major, Op. 102, No. 1
BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonata No. 5 in D major, Op. 102, No. 2

Mar 29
St. Louis, MO
Department of Music, Washington University in St. Louis
Recital with Alisa Weilerstein
BEETHOVEN: complete cello sonatas

Apr 1
Denver, CO
Gates Hall – Newman Center
Friends of Chamber Music
Recital with Alisa Weilerstein
BEETHOVEN: complete cello sonatas

Apr 4
San Francisco, CA
Herbst Theatre
Chamber Music San Francisco
Recital with Alisa Weilerstein

Apr 5
Walnut Creek, CA
Lesher Center
Chamber Music San Francisco
Recital with Alisa Weilerstein 

Apr 6
Palo Alto, CA
Oshman Family JCC
Chamber Music San Francisco
Recital with Alisa Weilerstein

Apr 24
New York, NY
Alice Tully Hall
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
BEETHOVEN: Sonata in D for Violin and Piano, Op. 12, No. 1
SHOSTAKOVICH: Quintet in G minor for Piano, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello, Op. 57
MENDELSSOHN: Trio No. 1 in D minor for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 49
With Alexander Sitkovetsky, violin; Angelo Xiang Yu, violin; Paul Neubauer, viola; Paul Watkins, cello

May 3
Baltimore, MD
Shriver Concert Hall Series
MENDELSSOHN: Selections from Songs Without Words
ADÈS: Concert Paraphrase on Powder Her Face
GERSHWIN: Prelude No. 2
GERSHWIN: “I Got Rhythm” (arr. Wild)
SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in B-flat, D. 960

May 16-17
San Diego, CA
Copley Symphony Hall
San Diego Symphony / Rafael Payare
RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G

May 28 & 30
Rochester, NY
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra / Ward Stare
SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Concerto No. 1

June 12-13
Calgary, AB
Jack Singer Concert Hall
Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra / Rune Bergmann
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat, Op. 73 (“Emperor”) 

June 25
Kyoto, Japan
Solo recital 

June 26
Tokyo, Japan
Suntory Hall
Tokyo Symphony Orchestra
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 3 

June 27
Tokyo, Japan
Toppan Hall
Solo recital 

June 28
Kawasaki, Japan
Muza Kawasaki Symphony Hall
Tokyo Symphony Orchestra
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 3

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© 21C Media Group, December 2019

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