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Pianist Inon Barnatan Makes Mostly Mozart Debut with a Program That Reimagines the Suite

Pianist Inon Barnatan – “a true poet of the keyboard, refined, searching [and] unfailingly communicative” (Evening Standard) – enraptured audiences with his “lively and wonderfully expressive” (LA Times) Disney Hall debut in May, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. Now the pianist looks forward to a host of high-profile summer festival appearances, including North Carolina’s Brevard Music Festival; the Seattle, Santa Fe and Delft Chamber Festivals; and the Aspen Music Festival; all capped by a solo recital that marks his festival debut at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart in August.

Barnatan has long been known as a particularly thoughtful programmer, and in choosing repertoire for his Mostly Mozart debut he took his cue from the kind of dance suite popular in the Baroque, with movements including a chaconne, allemande, courante, fuga, and others. What distinguishes the concert-length suite Barnatan assembled is that each movement is by a different composer, and the composers themselves span periods from the Baroque to the 21st century. Thus, the opening chaconne is by Handel, the closing fuga by Barber, and the movements in between move freely between centuries. The pianist gives his program an organic unity partially by keeping the periods in dialogue with each other: he pivots from Couperin’s polished miniature L’Atalante to a movement from Ravel’s tribute, Le tombeau de Couperin, and plays the last two movements of Ligeti’s Musica ricercata, one of which is an homage to Italian Baroque master Frescobaldi. Also featured on the program is the New York premiere of Variations For Blanca by Thomas Adès, who himself has a penchant for musical dialogue with past eras: his deconstruction of a Dowland song serves as the title track on Barnatan’s album Darknesse Visible, which earned the pianist a coveted spot on the “Best of 2012” list in the New York Times.

Five days after his Mostly Mozart debut, Barnatan performs an almost entirely different solo recital at the Aspen Music Festival. Already a favorite in Aspen, he launched the festival’s orchestral concerts last summer with Tchaikovsky’s iconic First Piano Concerto, and has been heard in both solo and chamber settings in past seasons. This summer’s program includes Ravel’s notoriously difficult Gaspard de la nuit, also recorded on Darknesse Visible, as well as the U.S. premiere of Grawemeyer Award-winning composer Sebastian Currier’s Glow. Currier’s piece was another Barnatan commission, and the pianist gave the world premiere in London’s Wigmore Hall a year ago.

Barnatan embarks in the fall on his third and final year as the New York Philharmonic’s  inaugural Artist-in-Association, and his summer recitals make abundantly clear what the orchestra’s Music Director Alan Gilbert said of him when that appointment was announced, calling him “the complete artist: a wonderful pianist, a probing intellect, passionately committed, and a capable contemporary-music pianist as well.” His versatility and elegant virtuosity have also earned him consistently high marks from the critics. When Barnatan and his frequent duo partner, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, released Rachmaninov & Chopin: Cello Sonatas on Decca last October, Sinfini Music named the disc an “Album of the Week,” Voix des Arts called it “a ravishing recording of fantastic music,” and Barnatan was singled out for his “great musical insight,” “marvelous variety of tone” and “irresistibly mercurial lightness of touch” by BBC Music. More recently the pianist turned his attention to America’s homegrown tradition, joining Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony in Carnegie Hall this past spring to perform Copland’s jazzy 1926 Piano Concerto. The New York Times called Barnatan’s playing “brilliant,”  saying “it was hard to imagine a better performance than this.”

High-resolution photos can be downloaded here.


Inon Barnatan’s summer engagements:

July 8
Brevard, NC
Brevard Music Center
Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 3

July 11
Seattle, WA
Seattle Chamber Music Society
BEETHOVEN: Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano in D, Op. 70, No. 1, “Ghost”
With Amy Schwartz Moretti, violin; and Efe Baltacigil, cello

July 13
Seattle, WA
Seattle Chamber Music Society
MOZART: Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano in G, K. 496
With Jun Iwasaki, violin; and Efe Baltacigil, cello

July 15
Seattle, WA
Seattle Chamber Music Society
SCHUBERT: Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano in B-flat, D. 898
With James Ehnes, violin; and Clive Greensmith, cello

July 28-31
Delft, Netherlands
Delft Chamber Music Festival

Aug 4
Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
Solo Recital
BACH: Chaconne in D minor (Arr. Brahms)
LIGETI: Musica ricercata
BRAHMS: Variations and Fugue on a theme by Handel, Op. 24

Aug 7-8
Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
SCHUBERT: Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667, “Trout”

Aug 9
Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
BEETHOVEN: Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 1, No. 3

Aug 13
New York, NY
Mostly Mozart Festival: A Little Night Music
Solo Recital (Festival debut)
HANDEL: Chaconne in G, HWV 435
BACH: Allemande, from Partita No. 4, BWV 828
RAMEAU: Courante, from Premier livre de pièces de clavecin
COUPERIN: L’Atalante
RAVEL: Rigaudon, from Le tombeau de Couperin
Thomas ADÈS: Variations For Blanca (New York premiere)
LIGETI: Musica ricercata Nos. 11 and 10
BARBER: Fuga: Allegro con spirito, from Sonata, Op. 26

Aug 18
Aspen, CO
Aspen Music Festival
Solo Recital
HANDEL: Chaconne in G, HWV 435
BRAHMS: Variations and Fugue on a Theme by G. F. Handel in B-flat, Op. 24
RAVEL: Gaspard de la nuit

Aug 24-27
New York, NY
Mostly Mozart Festival
MOZART: Sonata in D for Two Pianos, K. 448
With Garrick Ohlsson, piano; Mark Morris Dance Group

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© 21C Media Group, June 2016

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