We apologize for the issues that occurred in our livestream of this performance Thursday night. While we could not continue with the livestream, we recorded this performance and will stream it Friday, July 3 at 7:00pm complete with a live, remote Q&A with Inon Barnatan and Kathy Schuman, VP Artistic Programming & Executive Producer.
The New York Times has hailed Inon Barnatan as “one of the most admired pianists of his generation,” and we are thrilled to have him present a livestream performance from the Music Room.
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Inon Barnatan, piano
Schubert Sonata in A Major, D959
Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances (World Premiere of solo piano arrangement by I. Barnatan)
All artists and dates are subject to change and cancellation without notice as we work closely with local health experts and officials.
Inon Barnatan, piano
“One of the most admired pianists of his generation” (New York Times), Inon Barnatan is celebrated for his poetic sensibility, musical intelligence, and consummate artistry. He inaugurated his tenure as Music Director of California’s La Jolla Music Society SummerFest in July 2019. He has recently released a two-volume set of Beethoven’s complete piano concertos, which he recorded for Pentatone with Alan Gilbert and London’s Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Barnatan’s 2019-2020 concerto collaborations included Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 with Nicholas McGegan and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Ravel’s G-major Concerto with the Chicago Symphony, Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto with Gilbert and the Royal Stockholm Symphony, Clara Schumann’s Concerto with the New Jersey Symphony, and a recreation of Beethoven’s legendary 1808 concert, which featured the world premieres of his Fourth Piano Concerto, Choral Fantasy, and Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, with Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony. Barnatan also played Mendelssohn, Gershwin, and Thomas Adès for his solo recital debut at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall and reunited with his frequent recital partner, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, for tours to London’s Wigmore Hall and other venues in England, and the Netherlands and Italy for Brahms and Shostakovich. In May 2020 Barnatan was presented in a virtual recital by Shriver Hall Concert Series. The concert was streamed to audiences around the world.
Barnatan’s 2018-2019 orchestral highlights included Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto with Gilbert and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, a complete Beethoven concerto cycle with New Jersey’s Princeton Symphony, Rachmaninov with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Israel Philharmonic, Copland with the Oregon Symphony, and Mozart with the Houston Symphony and the Australian Chamber Orchestra at Lincoln Center. Solo recitals took him to Boston’s Celebrity Series, Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, and London’s Southbank Centre, where he made his International Piano Series debut with a program of Ravel and Mussorgsky.
In addition to performances with the Dover Quartet and St. Lawrence Quartet at Carnegie Hall, his chamber highlights included national tours with the Calidore Quartet and with Alisa Weilerstein, violinist Sergey Khachatryan, and percussionist Colin Currie.
Last summer, in his first season as Music Director of the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest, Barnatan explored the theme of transformation through programs which explored evolution in music, and collaborated with Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, visionary director and visual artist Doug Fitch, the Mark Morris Dance Group, and other artistic luminaries in a series devoted to cross-disciplinary exploration.
A regular performer with many of the world’s foremost orchestras and conductors, Barnatan served from 2014-2017 as the inaugural Artist-in-Association of the New York Philharmonic. In summer 2017, he made his BBC Proms debut with the BBC Symphony at London’s Royal Albert Hall and gave the Aspen world premiere of a new piano concerto by Alan Fletcher, which he went on to reprise with the Atlanta Symphony and in a season-opening concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Recent orchestral debuts include the Chicago, Baltimore, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Nashville, San Diego, and Seattle Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the London, Helsinki, Hong Kong, and Royal Stockholm Philharmonics. Other recent highlights include a complete Beethoven concerto cycle in Marseilles; performances of Copland’s Piano Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas in San Francisco and at Carnegie Hall; and a U.S. tour with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, playing and conducting Mozart and Shostakovich from the keyboard and premiering a newly commissioned concerto by Alasdair Nicolson. With the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä, Barnatan played Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto on New Year’s Eve, followed by a Midwest tour that culminated in Chicago, and a return to the BBC Proms in summer 2018.
Barnatan is the recipient of both a prestigious 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant and Lincoln Center’s 2015 Martin E. Segal Award, which recognizes “young artists of exceptional accomplishment.” A sought-after chamber musician, he was a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s CMS Two program from 2006 to 2009, and continues to make regular CMS appearances in New York and on tour. His passion for contemporary music sees him commission and perform many works by living composers, including premieres of pieces by Thomas Adès, Sebastian Currier, Avner Dorman, Alan Fletcher, Joseph Hallman, Alasdair Nicolson, Andrew Norman, Matthias Pintscher, and others. He has given multiple solo recitals at internationally acclaimed venues including New York’s 92nd Street Y, the Celebrity Series of Boston, Chicago’s Harris Theater, the Vancouver Recital Society, and London’s Southbank Centre and Wigmore Hall. Last season, he gave collaborative recitals at Carnegie Hall and Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center with soprano Renée Fleming, and in both 2016 and 2018 he collaborated with the Mark Morris Dance Group at New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival.
Barnatan’s most recent album release is a two-volume set of Beethoven’s complete piano concertos, recorded with Alan Gilbert and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields on Pentatone. He has also released a live recording of Messiaen’s 90-minute masterpiece Des canyons aux étoiles (From the Canyons to the Stars), in which he played the exceptionally challenging solo piano part at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. In 2015 he released Rachmaninov & Chopin: Cello Sonatas on Decca Classics with Alisa Weilerstein, earning rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. His most recent solo recording, of Schubert’s late piano sonatas, was released by Avie in September 2013, winning praise from such publications as Gramophone and BBC Music, while his account of the great A-major Sonata (D. 959) was chosen by BBC Radio 3 as one of the all-time best recordings of the piece. His 2012 album, Darknesse Visible, debuted in the Top 25 on the Billboard Traditional Classical chart and received universal critical acclaim, being named BBC Music’s “Instrumentalist CD of the Month” and winning a coveted place on the New York Times’ “Best of 2012” list. He made his solo recording debut with a Schubert album, released by Bridge Records in 2006, that prompted Gramophone to hail him as “a born Schubertian” and London’s Evening Standard to call him “a true poet of the keyboard: refined, searching, unfailingly communicative.”
Born in Tel Aviv in 1979, Inon Barnatan started playing the piano at the age of three, when his parents discovered his perfect pitch, and made his orchestral debut at eleven. His musical education connects him to some of the 20th century’s most illustrious pianists and teachers: he studied first with Professor Victor Derevianko, a student of the Russian master Heinrich Neuhaus, before moving to London in 1997 to study at the Royal Academy of Music with Christopher Elton and Maria Curcio, a student of the legendary Artur Schnabel. Leon Fleisher has also been an influential teacher and mentor. Barnatan currently resides in New York City.
About the Music.
At a Glance
In the eyes of his contemporaries, Schubert loomed far larger as a composer of vocal than of instrumental music. Only toward the end of his tragically foreshortened life did audiences and critics grow to appreciate his rich trove of orchestral and chamber masterpieces. (All but a fraction of his major works in these genres — including just three of his 21 piano sonatas — were published posthumously.) The Sonata in A Major was drafted in the spring and summer of 1828 and completed that September, just weeks before his untimely death. This magisterial masterpiece reveals a new vista of piano writing that Liszt and others would explore.
Composed in 1940, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances is another valedictory work: the suite of three dances was conceived as the score for a ballet that never materialized. Fortunately, the music more than stands on its own in the composer’s alternative versions for orchestra and piano duet, to which Inon Barnatan has now added his own arrangement for solo piano. One of the greatest virtuosos in history, Rachmaninoff’s conception of the piano was essentially symphonic, and the keyboard versions of the Symphonic Dances are no less captivating than the colorfully orchestrated original.
Piano Sonata in A Major, D. 959
About the Composer
Unlike the great composer-pianists of the 19th century, Schubert was by all reports a less-than-stellar keyboard player. Yet according to his brother Ferdinand, “although Schubert never represented himself as a virtuoso, any connoisseur who had the chance of hearing him in private circles will nevertheless attest that he knew how to treat the instrument with mastery and in a quite peculiar manner, so that a great specialist in music, to whom he once played his last sonatas, exclaimed: ‘Schubert, I almost admire your playing even more than your compositions!’”
The same qualities that made Schubert a great song composer — his seemingly bottomless stockpile of melody, his ability to invest the simplest of musical phrases with dramatic significance, his quicksilver changes of keys and moods — are equally apparent in his solo piano music. If Schubert’s impromptus, moments musicaux, ländler, and other short piano pieces distill the essence of his lyrical genius in its purest and most concentrated form, his mature piano sonatas combine the intimacy of the salon with an almost symphonic breadth.
About the Work
Schubert intended to dedicate his last three piano sonatas (D.958–960) to the pianist-composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel, whom he had met in Vienna in the spring of 1827. In the event, the sonatas were not published until 1838 by Anton Diabelli, who felt no compunction about overriding the composer’s wishes. He changed the dedicatee to Robert Schumann, who, together with Franz Liszt, played a key role in building Schubert’s posthumous reputation. Schubert completed the great A-Major Sonata in September 1828, some two months before his death. Earlier that fall, belatedly heeding his doctor’s advice, he had relinquished his apartment in Vienna and moved in with his brother in the supposedly more salubrious suburbs. There, despite his rapidly deteriorating health, he composed both his great C-Major String Quintet and the radiant Shepherd on the Rock for soprano, clarinet, and piano, as well as putting the finishing touches on three piano sonatas that he had been working on since the spring. These valedictory masterpieces are remarkable for the grandeur of their conception, the richness and complexity of their tonal relationships, and their intricate interweaving of lyricism and drama.
A Deeper Listen
The Allegro’s main theme — a peremptory, pouncing figure offset by cascading triplets — morphs into a second theme of a smoother, more placid character. In teasing out the implications of these two ideas, Schubert demonstrates his mastery of both melodic variation and tonal shading. The music periodically shifts into tragic gear, but these dark interludes seldom last long: Schubert seems content to let us peer into the abyss without tumbling in. The emotional landscape abruptly changes in the lugubrious Andantino in F-sharp minor; its intense chromatic harmonies, restless, unstable rhythms, and violent dynamic contrasts recall Beethoven’s late piano sonatas and string quartets. As if to make amends, the fleet, rambunctious Scherzo flaunts its high spirits. In the final Rondo, a warm, expansive melody — Schubert had used it earlier in his A-Minor Sonata, D. 537 — alternates with variation-like episodes in which elements of the theme are isolated and explored. A brief echo of the opening Allegro at the tail end of the sonata brings us full circle.
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45
(World Premiere of solo piano arrangement by I. Barnatan)
About the Composer
Rachmaninoff’s prowess as a pianist has tended to eclipse his considerable compositional accomplishments. As a 15-year-old wunderkind at the Moscow Conservatory, he was singled out for greatness by no less a judge than Tchaikovsky. Shortly after graduating in 1892, he composed the Prelude in C-sharp Minor for solo piano that would become his calling card on recitals. Unfortunately, this precocious success led to a prolonged period of debilitating lethargy and depression, during which Rachmaninoff found it almost impossible to compose.
It was not until 1900, after he consulted a physician specializing in hypnosis, that his creative juices started flowing freely again. Reveling in the rediscovery of what he called “the joy of creating,” he produced a string of confidently outgoing works, including the Second Piano Concerto, the Cello Sonata, and the Ten Piano Preludes, Op. 23. After emigrating from Russia in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, Rachmaninoff concentrated on his lucrative career as a concert pianist, dividing his time between Europe and the United States until the outbreak of World War II.
About the Work
By the time he wrote his Symphonic Dances in 1940, Rachmaninoff’s dual career was winding down. Disheartened by critics’ cool reception of his recent works, he hadn’t composed anything new since the Third Symphony of 1936. The impetus to break his self-imposed vow of silence seems to have been provided by Michel Fokine, who lived near the Rachmaninoffs on Long Island. In 1939 the choreographer had created a successful ballet based on Rachmaninoff’s popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Although Fokine’s death in 1942 would scotch the two men’s plans for an encore, the composer forged ahead with the “new symphonic piece” he had promised to Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The opulent orchestration that dazzled audiences at the 1941 premiere (including four horns, two harps, piano, and a battery of percussion) is implicit in Rachmaninoff’s two-piano version —which he reportedly performed with Vladimir Horowitz at a private party in Beverly Hills, California, the following year — and in Inon Barnatan’s freshly minted arrangement for solo piano.
A Deeper Listen
The first of the three Symphonic Dances — somewhat cryptically marked Non allegro (not allegro) — thematizes a swooping three-note motif whose jaunty swagger is reminiscent of Prokofiev’s ballets. Despite its comparatively monochromatic timbral palette, the music’s bracing kinetic energy survives intact in the versions for one and two pianos, though listeners familiar with the orchestral score will miss such untranslatable features as the brassy brilliance of the opening fanfares and the solo saxophone’s plangent arioso in the central slow section. On the other hand, the piano’s brittle sound effectively highlights the nervous, throbbing pulse of the second-movement waltz, in which swirling chromatic passagework offsets the insistent lilt of the underlying 6/8 meter. The short, sharp shocks that herald the beginning of the propulsive finale unmistakably mark it as a dance of death, a reference that Rachmaninoff later makes explicit by quoting the famous Dies irae plainchant from the Orthodox Requiem Mass. Both here and in the first dance, he incorporates music he had written many years earlier, as if recognizing that the Symphonic Dances would be his swan song.
— Harry Haskell