Someone must have shot the pianist

Someone must have shot the pianist


norman lebrecht

February 12, 2018

This is the cover of Kian Soltani’s debut disc on DG.


He is pictured with two cellos.

But where is his partner on the album, the pianist Aaron Pilsan?


  • Kelvin Grout says:

    Nothing new here. My Brahms CD just managed to squeeze my name in, beneath the full photo of the singer. That’s life for an accompanist!

  • I_LIKE_MUSIC says:

    I don’t understand DG’s semantic concept.

    Picture, ok, main purpose twofold. Attract attention of the customer and express the content in a correlated visual message. Make people pick it up and have a closer look. That’s it, roughly.

    But the semantics of the text information are strange.
    After the general layout, picture and iconic yellow badge, grabbed your initial attention, now you want to know more. Text, semantics, what is it?
    Content of the product is recorded music.
    By Schubert, Schumann, Vali. Most important information.
    Interpreted by Soltani and Pilsan. Secondary most important information.
    It’s a concept album, themed ‘Home’. Least important information of the three, and not self-explanatory(!).

    But DG uses font size and bold letters in the counterintuitive way.
    I suppose, that reflects more the narcissistic relation of the layouter and the people who had the concept album idea to the product, than the understanding for what the customer needs and wants.

    Me as a customer, do I want to buy something as vague as a CD called ‘Home’? Which HOME? Who’s (idea of) HOME? Architectural Digest Home? (looks like it with the fancy glass balcony)
    Or do I want to buy recorded music, played by X and Y? I step back from the shelf and leave the store confused. Maybe I pick up a Fischer-Dieskau recording of Schubert Winterreise on the way out. That’s a musical concept I can relate to.

    After more thinking (in the subway heading HOME) about the title, I suppose DG wanted to make this an album about Kian Soltani curating some music under a concept title, his musical home, bicultural, Persian and German classical heartland. But that was neither apparent semantically in the picture or the text.
    On top, the picture feels cold and shows a generic backdrop that could be almost anywhere on the planet, contrary to something supposed to feel as specific as ‘home’. Nothing uniquely Austrian/German or Persian to see or to read. They lost me at the point of sale…

    And why the need for putting a vague concept as the main title in the first place? DG doesn’t believe in the power of classical music itself, interpreted by the best musicians, recorded state of the art, anymore?

    Do people buy concept albums, are they looking for it?
    “Hey, I’m looking for some nice classical album as a present in the ‘HOME’ category. What do you recommend? Or should I also look in the ‘LOVE’ or in the ‘BEAUTY’ category? Uh, maybe not, it’s for my brother. How about you give me a recommendation for the ‘SOMETHING ODD’ category?”

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Good point. Some quite insipid titles (no judgement about the real contents) on DG, appart from Home: Journey to Mozart, Transcedental, Visions of Prokofiev, Chopin Evocations, Preghiera, Transformation. Note that even Composer names are misused. I really dislike those album covers, but old regular costumers like me are surely not the target. I wonder how this marketing strategy is doing.

    • AlexS says:

      Excellent trail of thought. Should be posted in a separate article! Shame on DG for such primitive mentality.

  • Robert Roy says:

    I appreciate the frustration ‘accompanists’ must feel but, frankly, I don’t buy recordings by star soloists recordings for the piano playing. I work on the premise that anyone who is working with Anne-Sophie Mutter, Gil Shaham or Maxim Vengarov is going to be pretty damn good!

    Occasionally, there are recordings of repertoire that combine stars, (Kavakos and Yuja Wang’s Brahms sonatas cd comes to mind), but for many people, the name of the accompanist isn’t going to sway whether they buy an album or not.

    • John Borstlap says:

      …. and that is not so clever, since in chamber music duos with piano, the ‘accompaniment’ is not that at all but a worthy partner in the whole.

      • Nik says:

        Yes, very much so. In fact Beethoven sonatas are usually designated as “Sonata for piano and …”

      • Robert Roy says:

        I don’t disagree but unless all solo pianists are prepared to give up their time and solo dates to play chamber music with others then these others will have to rely on ‘accompanists’. And these ‘accompanists’ names are not selling tickets. When I go to hear, for example, Anne-Sophie Mutter play a recital I really don’t care whose playing the piano. I take it for granted, as I said before, that anyone sharing a platform with a top class artist is going to be pretty good since they wouldn’t be there in the first! I’m not going to buy a ticket or not because Lambert Orkis is playing or not. I mean, it’s not as if Mutter is going to share the platform with a mediocre musician!

        • Nik says:

          Last week I saw Martha Argerich “accompanying” Mischa Maisky in Beethoven’s cello sonata no.5 and Janine Jansen in Schumann’s violin sonata no.1. I don’t think anyone present would have perceived her role as subordinated – in fact she seemed firmly in charge of proceedings.

    • Una says:

      Well if the pianist isn’t up to.much, the whole thing falls down. They can all play the right notes at the right time with the right dynamic. I only bought Pears singing Schubert, as a singer, to hear Britten accpmpany him! And no reflection on Pears at all as an artist. Unless you want to play Bach unaccompanied, it’s a partnership and they should always get half the concert fee too. An outstanding accompanist is worth their weight in gold.

  • Gene says:

    Pianist Susan Tomes wrote an article years ago for the Guardian entitled “Want to make a pianist disappear? Put them in a duo.” My experience in chamber music pretty much bears this out. It’s risible to see cellists and violinists play Brahms, Franck, and Beethoven sonatas wailing away as if in full concerto mode. The pianist might as well be in another room.

  • JohnG says:

    In fairness both Soltani and Aaron Pilson (who to DG’s credit gets equal billing, same font, on the cover) look thoroughly uncomfortable in the silly photo on p. 10 – a couple of Mafia hoods whose transport has broken down in the middle of the field? Everything that’s daft about DG these days.

    So far thoroughly enjoying the disc, though; excellent Schubert.

  • Shirley Denwood says:

    The British entertainer Joyce Grenfell was awarded an OBE for performing to the troops in WW2 in North Africa, the middle East and India. Her accompanist Viola Tunnard, who of course must have had to deal with some less than ideal instruments, received nothing.

    • Anon says:

      This gets to the nub of it though. Grenfell was the entertainment factor. She could have done it with a variety of pianists. If she had turned up and the pianist was delayed, Grenfell would most likely have made a similarly strong impact. I’m sure Ms. Tunnard could play the piano well, but not in a way which would entertain the troops on her own in the way that Grenfell could. Tunnard, in other words, was more easily replaceable. Just as the General or Admiral picks up the gong for the performance of the troops, so does the star in this scenario.

  • Shirley says:

    That is beside the point. Viola Tunnard did the job, with all the travelling and hard work that Grenfell did, and the act wouldn’t have been the same without her songs. The disparity in recognition of their efforts is unfair.

  • Nathan says:

    Nevertheless its an amazing CD!!! 🙂