A post about the Warsaw Competition winner Bruce Liu by the leading Canadian Chopinist Janina Fialkowska:

My heartfelt congratulations to fellow Canadian Xiaoyu Liu, the winner of the 2021 Chopin Competition and a young pianist in whom I always strongly believed since I first heard him in 2013. That year I was invited to judge the finals of a National Canadian competition in Halifax. The standard was high and I was enjoying myself thoroughly when suddenly, out of the blue, this young pianist from Montreal, who was only thirteen, came and played the Liszt Spanish Rhapsody incredibly well on every level. I was impressed. This boy was Xiaoyu Liu and, of course, he won the first prize easily.

He was a charming boy and we were in touch with each other over the next few years. I observed him from a distance as I am always suspicious of these very young mega-talents .The question is always if they can maintain their technical abilities and develop into something genuinely worthwhile.

So it was with great interest that I heard him again when he was by far the youngest competitor in the 2014 Montreal International piano competition. I was very pleased with his progress which was immense, but he was still very young and inexperienced mainly in terms of projection and certain other interpretive aspects. That particular competition really belonged to his elder colleague Charles Richard-Hamelin who seems to be always one competition ahead of Xiaoyu! Charles’ performance in Montreal blew me away and then he, of course, went on to win top prize the next year at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw.

But then we come to 2017 where I next heard Xiaoyu representing Canada at the Rubinstein competition in Israel (photo with the two of us). Here, suddenly, was a huge talent that had blossomed into something very special. For me he was something unique; his playing so subtle, so honest, so elegant and I was not the only juror who loved his playing. Sitting next to me was no less than Chamber Music guru Menahem Pressler who was hugely impressed by Xiaoyu’s performance of the Fauré C minor Piano quartet in the Chamber Music section. I admit, although Xiaoyu was a finalist, I was simply furious that he hadn’t won a top prize so, from then on, I became his champion.

Xiaoyu had always wanted to participate in my “Akademie” in Marktoberdorf, Bavaria, where I invite young pianists who I feel are somehow overlooked or unfairly treated in competitions and who deserve to be heard and perhaps would benefit from encouragement and a little advice from an older colleague. So it was with great joy that I welcomed him to Marktoberdorf in 2019 and we had a chance to really work together and to get to know each other. And there were other opportunities as well. In fact he was due to come back to Marktoberdorf this year in September, but he had to cancel at short notice because of Covid worries.

Xiaoyu proved to me over and over again the following years that my faith in his immense talent and my admiration for him was well placed … and now he has won one of, if not THE most important piano competitions in the world and I am thrilled. And it is important to note, that this young man is also a good and delightful human being which is not always the case with super-talents.

 

1 The winner Bruce Liu is a major talent. The audience loved him and the judges had no doubts.

2 He played a Fazioli piano, as did the Italian runner up, Alexander Gadjiev. The age of Steinway is almost over.

3 Canada is now a world piano power, ahead of France, the UK and Germany in its ceaseless talent production: Hewitt, Lortie, Lisiecki, Hamelin (x2), Parker (x2), Goodyear and now Bruce Liu.

4 Pianists of Chinese origin are proving remarkably diverse.

5 It is unacceptable in 2021 for a competition jury to contain teachers of top contestants. Warsaw does not allow teachers to vote for their pupils. However, a juror has access to those who do vote and is also in a position to feed their likes and dislikes back to his student. Seven other jurors had students among the competitors. The non-voting room must have got quite crowded at times.

Liu’s teacher Dang Thai Son won the Chopin in 1980. He was on the jury by right. But once it became clear that Liu was a strong contender he should have been asked to step down. The rules need revision.

 

A former principal dancer at English National Ballet has been jailed for nine years after being convicted by a London jury of 12 counts of sexual assault of young dancers.

Cuban-born Yat-Sen Chang, 49, danced with ENB for 18 years, up to 2011.

Based in Germany, he denied all the charges. Court report here.

The Royal Opera House has announced that it will review its repertoire to take account of ‘cultural sensitivities’.

It said in a statement: Our repertory contains a raft of work both contemporary and historical. To ensure we present these stories in a way that is suitable and enjoyable for modern audiences, both our artistic companies consult widely to ensure that the Royal Opera House takes account of all cultural sensitivities in its staging, casting and presentation of much-loved historic works.

So Carmen won’t be a Roma, Otello is colour-neutral, Don Giovanni is a chaste mentor to young women and Peter Grimes is just … nice.

That live stage prop is also not full of it.

 

The French classical station and its assciated website have been severely disrupted by another national slowdown.

Regular programming has been replaced by recordings. Here’s the message:

En raison d’un appel à la grève illimitée de la CGT Radio France, inquiète pour les métiers de la radio dans le cadre d’une expérimentation lancée par la direction, nous ne sommes pas en mesure de diffuser l’intégralité de nos programmes habituels. Nous vous prions de nous en excuser.

The conductor Martin Haselböck has announced the death of his esteemed father Hans Haselböck, organist at Vienna’s Dominikanerkirche for 65 years and an international soloist.

After one recital at the Royal Albert Hall, the Times critic wrote : ‘The audience applauded as if Bach had risen from his grave to play his D minor toccata once more.’

 

Domingo’s Moscow-based talent competition has reached the final round.
All but one of the contestants are either American or from part of the former Soviet Union. The exception is a Korean. There is also a counter-tenor (pictured) for light relief.
Ivan Ayon-Rivas, tenor, Peru
Dmitry Cheblykov, baritone, Russia
Bekhzod Davronov, tenor, Uzbekistan
Mané Galoyan, soprano, Armenia
Jonah Hoskins, tenor, USA
Victoria Karkacheva, mezzo-soprano, Russia
Valery Makarov, tenor, Russia
Keymon Murrah, countertenor, USA
Edward Nelson, baritone, USA
Jusung Park, bass-baritone, South Korea
Emily Pogorelc, soprano, USA

The Canadian pianist Bruce Liu was announced in the small hours of the night as winner of the 18th Chopin Competition in Warsaw.

Liu, who entered under the name Bruce Xiaoyu Liu, is 24.

A graduate of the Montreal Conservatoire, he is continuing his studies with the Vietnamese-Canadian Dang Thai Son, who won the 1980 Chopin Competition and was a member of this year’s jury.

Joint second place was awarded to the Italian Alexander Gadjiev and the Japanese Kyohei Sorita.

A Pole, Jakub Kuszlik, won a special prize for the performance of Mazurkas.

Bruce Liu is now assured of an international career.

See also: Lessons to be learned from the Chopin Competition.

 An Inconvenient Black History of British Musical Theatre – Wigmore Hall
Click here to watch  :Free

 

I’m not sure I would have survived the pandemic without the livestreams and online concerts from Wigmore Hall. Several times a week during the past 18 months, despairing of ever again hearing a live concert in a real concert hall, I tuned into this miracle venue’s website and listened to something, often something wonderful.

I always clicked on the Donate button, and gave them whatever I thought I could afford that day, even though the Hall offered the music free, just to ensure that the musicians were paid a bit and the Hall continued to make the concerts available. They still do. A vast eclectic panoply of music and occasional conversation is available which range from Andras Schiff playing Schubert sonatas, to Jane Glover discussing Mozart with Simon Callow, to an unknown string quartet playing a brand new contemporary composition by a young composer.

When I have a free evening, I always check what’s available from Wigmore Hall and I recommend you do the same because there are so many possibilities. The conventional wisdom is that it’s all traditional 18th and 19th century chamber music and, while there’s plenty of that, there are many other presentations that are very far from that.

This is one of the evenings that makes Wigmore Hall different. This concert celebrates the heritage and importance of Black music and performance to Wigmore Hall and the wider British musical theatre. This concert is also a book launch for An Inconvenient Black History of British Musical Theatre 1900-1950 by Sean Mayes and Sarah Whitfield. In a hybrid concert and discussion, Mayes and Whitfield discuss the hidden history their book uncovers, the urgency of uncovering the work of Black creative practitioners, and what it means for the future.

West End performer Jonathan Andrew Hume and emerging soprano Esme Sears with Sean Mayes on piano, perform songs and repertoire that re-centre Black musical experience in the UK from 1900-1950. It’s a bit didactic and academic and the singing could be better, but it uncovers a world of music and song with which even musical theatre mavens like me will find unfamiliar and therefore exciting.

Read more

The Germany baritone is asking friends to donate to London’s Wigmore Hall.

This year I’m asking you to donate to Wigmore Hall on my birthday. I have selected this nonprofit because I care deeply about their concern. I hope you celebrate my birthday with a donation to this organization. Any amount that small helps to reach my goal. Find more information about Wigmore Hall here.
Wigmore Hall is the home of chamber music. We are dedicated to programming internationally acclaimed musicians of the highest standards and nurturing the artistic talent of the future. Our Edwardian recital hall is an intimate space where we welcome audiences of all ages and ability – the curious and the knowledgeable – to share the unifying and transformative effect of music up-close. We celebrate and reimagine the diverse repertoire of chamber music, “the music of friends”, as a creative conversation we can all join.
Facebook covers all processing fees to make sure your donation goes 100 % directly to the nonprofit organization. Also, Facebook has checked this nonprofit for authenticity.
Click here to make this a happy birthday.

The Festival Opera has posted tragic news of the death of Emma Kerr, a young Scottish member of the chorus.

Artistic director Stephen Langridge said: ‘Glyndebourne is a close-knit family, and the loss of Emma has been deeply felt across the whole company, in particular amongst her chorus colleagues. Many of us have beautiful memories of this outstanding young artist, on and off stage, and we hold these close as a constant inspiration as we continue making opera, the art form she excelled in and loved.’

Edinburgh born, Emma made her debut in the Glyndebourne Chorus in 2013, and returned in 2015 as a Jerwood Young Artist, singing the role of the Shepherd in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges. In 2018 and 2019 she took on the roles of Flora in the Tour 2018 production of La traviata and Siren 2 in Rinaldo. In 2020 she returned for In the Market for Love, a creative response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She was a popular and cherished member of the ensemble.


Photo: James Bellorini

A letter in today’s Wall Street Journal about the scandalous sacking of the Arts Institute’s trained docents:

The foolish and shortsighted firing of volunteer docents at the Art Institute of Chicago will destroy decades of enlightened outreach to the public-school children of this major city. I know this because I owe my entire career as an art historian to the docents of the Art Institute of Chicago.

My parents never took us to art museums — “those are for rich people” — so my first introduction to Chicago’s art treasures was on a 7th-grade public-school field trip, when our rowdy busload of of racially diverse, working-class kids was met by a brave young docent who took us through the institute’s awe-inspiring galleries. I’ve never forgotten that day. It was akin to Harry Potter’s first visit to Hogwarts. We floated up the marble staircases gazing at the enormous paintings of Greek myths, and walked through galleries of Impressionist works beyond compare.

Our docent told us: “You live in Chicago, so this is your art. This building and everything in it belong to you. Like your library, you can come here anytime you want. All of this beauty belongs to you.” At the end of our tour, she got us onto our bus to the South Side and waved us a rueful goodbye. Her face showed that she already knew that not a single one of us had listened to her, that none of these kids really cared.

But she was wrong: My 12-year-old self was listening and her words set me on a path that shaped my professional life. I credit the docent program of the Art Institute of Chicago, with its highly educated women volunteers, for providing this invaluable outreach to city kids, who would never have known it without them.

True, the volunteers, like my unknown docent, were mostly white women of privilege, often graduates of the elite Seven Sisters colleges and recently married to wealthy professional men. But to me, that day, this volunteer was an intellectual wizard, pointing me toward a life beyond my childhood schooling in Chicago’s slums. She took us into one aspect of our civilizational past and made us heirs of the beauty of humanist culture.

Certainly the docent program should be updated to reflect current research and cultural sensitivities, but it would be a shame to cast aside the contribution of decades of women-led public outreach to Chicago’s school children.

Lauren Arnold
Montain View, California