Friday, September 26, 2014

Great young pianists come to Charlotte

Technically, only one of them is coming in person; the other's arriving on disc. But both these guys knock me out.

I saw Inon Barnatan this spring at Spoleto Festival USA, where he played a revelatory version of Mendelssohn's First Piano Trio with violinist Livia Sohn and cellist David Ying. After 40 years of listening to classical music, I seldom hear performances that make me rethink a familiar piece of music deeply; this one did. I couldn't find a video of it, so here's Barnatan playing the first movement of a late Schubert sonata.

The Israeli pianist wasn't supposed to come to Charlotte. But when Mandy Patinkin cancelled his season-ending appearance with Charlotte Concerts, the group snagged Barnatan and cellist Alisa Weilerstein (herself a Spoleto and Charlotte Symphony alum) for a duo evening. I can't imagine better fortune: We're getting one of the world's most in-demand cellists and the Israeli pianist who has become the New York Philharmonic's first Artist in Association, which means he has been booked there for three years' worth of concerts and recitals.

By the way, Charlotte Concerts opens its Halton Theater season Oct. 10 with a pair of pianists who reportedly cook up remarkable adaptations of the classics. I've never seen Anderson and Roe, except on YouTube. Here's their version of Astor Piazzola's "Libertango:"

And last but by no means least, the other keyboard whiz I've been listening to lately is Igor Levit, who's the youngest of the lot (27 to Barnatan's 35). I praised his late Beethoven sonatas in another post, and now I've been enjoying his set of Bach partitas. Here's a sampling of the first partita that shows his style: fluid, introspective, emotional (not a word I always associate with Bach, especially in the partitas) and warm:

The Russian-born, German-based pianist plays nowhere closer to Charlotte than Cincinnati in the 2014-15 season, so I'll have to be satisfied with the two recordings he has made for Sony Classics.

When I was in college in the early 1970s, a piano fan told me we were living in a Golden Age: not just the last moments of Artur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz but the rise of Murray Perahia, Maurizio Pollini, Alfred Brendel and many others. Another one seems to be on the way.