Making of a Modern Musician

In her lecture at the Golandsky Institute’s Summer Symposium at Princeton University, Director of Yamaha Artist Services, Bonnie Barrett gave some great career advice for musicians, clearly inviting them to “think out of the box.”

Photo: Bonnie Barrett at Princeton’s Golandsky Summer Symposium July, 2014.

“Due to the shrinking market for traditional classical music, its “graying” audience and overall lack of funding for costly productions, the generation of the great impresarios and dedicated press coverage has vanished. Because of all this, the solo-piano virtuoso is all but dead,” she commented. “However,” she continued, “where there is crisis – there is opportunity.”

In her commitment to promoting new approaches to music performance and presentation, Barrett introduced a selection of entrepreneurial efforts within the classical- and jazz music-environment. The creative approach and reinventing of alternative forms of representation is now being widely recognized.

Ms. Barrett gave examples making use of  efficient collaboratives and giving a new angle to the concert experience which includes unusual settings, means and combinations of skills and genres. Some of these innovative undertakings are based on technical advances, some on recognition of the need to instill different marketing aspects. Barrett introduced an award winning, animated movie which,  based on the personal story of the Bulgarian pianist Nadejda Vlaeva, introduced her pianistic soundtrack in a most endearing way. Another novel example mentioned by Barrett was the classical series Music by the Glass,” which combines music- performances at Soho’s “Louis Meisel Gallery” with Wine tastings, paired to associate each performance’s musical syllabus.  Photo: Music by the glass at the Louis Meisel Gallery in Soho

Founded by the accomplished pianist-duo couple, Soyeon Kate Lee and Ran Dank, the series aims to develop new audiences who will respond to an experience of classical music, up close and personal, in a relaxed and communal atmosphere.

The need to identify the “personal touch” of classical music presentations beyond its usual concert hall existence is also the mission of “GetClassical,” which takes its classical music happenings to different localities, including extravagant hotspots like the Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose Bar.

Barrett showed the documentary of GetClassical’s last June-event at “India House.” Photo: Alex Fedorov: GetClassical at India House 2014, Natalia Lavrova, David Aladashvili, Ilona Oltuski, Vassily Primakov

The film, made by Hilan Warshaw, watch video here  harked back to the series’ essential model of the19th century Salon made relevant today, by integrating innovative programs in diverse, social environments. In the film,  GetClassical founder Ilona Oltuski, pianists Vassily Primakov, Natalia Lavrova, and David Aladashvili explain the key ingredients of the series: personal closeness and direct interaction with the audience and with each other, bridging the divide between the performer and the listener, which does not happen in traditional venues, often remarked on as a “disconnect.” Works presented by GetClassical were chosen from the highly original “Opus 13,” Aladashvili’s debut recording on the LP-Classics label and a preview of the Lavrova-Primakov piano duo’s Rachmaninoff recital and recording.

Founded by the Lavrova/Primakov musical team, LP-Classics was discussed as an empowering answer to the difficult market situation for new artists, who are struggling to sign onto established recording labels for their debut recordings which they, in turn, can use as a calling card, necessary to land performance engagements. LP- Classics gives an opportunity to both its founding artists to manufacture their own recordings, with a now rapidly growing repertoire, as well as open their prospects for collaboration with artists they discover and admire.

Technology has always had its impact of re-defining our culture, and with no exception here, an improved and facilitated technical recording process opens the door to professionally graded recordings, and for savvy self-made producers.

Another astonishing and innovative result of technological refinement was demonstrated with Barrett’s introduction of Yamaha’s Disklavier Digital Player Piano. “One possible answer to the challenge of overcoming great distances and responding to educational needs is tapping into the renewed thirst for remote piano lessons, through the digital connectivity of the Disklavier,” says Barrett. It allows teachers to connect with their students throughout the world. “With its sophisticated nuances of 256 pedal strokes and thousands of keystrokes, the Disklavier recreates pianistic action with an extreme exactitude, transforming the landscape of piano pedagogy. Many top universities and conservatories like UCLA already have signed on and some, including the Juilliard School of Music, are just about to,” says Barrett. The program also enables re-creating the concerto-experience, superior to the simple  music minus one, for example, a recording of the orchestral score performed without its piano part, to be filled in by the performer.

Photo: Ilona Oltuski  Bonnie Barrett “Through the exceptional capacity of adjustment of the Disklavier to the keystrokes by the individual performer and chosen instrumentalisation, the technology is able to follow the performer’s tempi, and yes, even recognize the performer’s wrong notes. Playback and repetitions are simply accomplished, making the Disklavier a preferred platform for many artists in a variety of educational programs, like Simone Dinnerstein’s high school outreach program watch it here, or Dan Tepfner’s imaginative jazz piano-playback arrangements. It remains to be seen if the apt description of his demonstration so far and yet so near, will truly win over fans, or just point to the one ingredient missing that would make the experience more than an experiment. Does the student need the actual stage presence of the performer or the teacher’s commending pat on the shoulder, the truly human touch – perhaps not superior in action, but not quite to be superseded by any technology either?     Photo: Dan Tepfner

Venerable musicians like Jerome Rose and Byron Janis have embraced the fascinating possibilities that Disklavier offers, using it in the service of special workshops and teaching presentations.

The only condition, of course, is to have access to two Disklavier pianos, a laptop and the internet, and off you go readily creating complex multi-track arrangements, recording your own performance and playing them back.  But, fortunately, some musical talent still needed.



Mostly Martha – The Progetto Martha Argerich in Lugano

“Martha needs to play concerts, at least a good amount of them; she can never be without music,” says Piccardi, who seems to know this from a place in his heart that understands her. He adds: “chamber music is like a life elixir for her,” and when one sees her in action, one has to believe him. Her playing has remains unchanged: her tone is natural, highly imaginative, and brilliant, and it is exciting to watch her pour all of herself into the piano.

Adrienne Haan – channels dynamite energy and freethinking zest into Cabaret and American Art Song

“Within those melodies and lyrics lays the sort of dark humor that enabled people to assimilate the pain caused by war, loss and death, but also share the humor, joy and sorrow of emotions expressed in love and human relationships.”

Cellist Yoed Nir- Living the musician’s dream

These days, Nir’s composition process happens very fast and freely. The creation of each track does not take longer than a few hours: “I never come back and change things around. That’s how I work; I spontaneously bring all my ideas with me, and then take them down, without restrictions or boundaries. I believe that’s a very powerful tool, but of course that did not happen out of the blue. There was a long learning experience, and I did my share of over thinking, but I found myself limited in creating then – it was not quite me. It’s the most difficult thing to find it in you, what you have to say as an artist. The first part is knowing that you want to express yourself, the second – endless – part is to search and find what exactly that is. Now I am at a point where I’ve found myself in my music. It’s all there – all you have to do is listen.”

The joyous spirit of sound – cellist Ani Aznavoorian

It was, after all, the first time the cellist had had the opportunity to hear the full piece as a whole; a complex moment, certainly, even for an intuitive and sensitive musician like Aznavoorian, whose most pervasive passion is chamber music. “I love everything about it, most of all the music, but also the whole process of rehearsing together and then being on stage together with friends. I sometimes laugh hysterically and say to myself – I can’t believe this is my job!” Indeed, watching Aznavoorian’s ways with her cello, one realizes instantly the great joy she feels connecting with her instrument.

Pianist/Composer Michael Brown – Music’s Wingman

“They are funny, indeed,” says Michael, who feels the model for their Conversations is somewhat based on the humor in Zack Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns. “But, they also are great musicians. If that would not be the case, no one would really take them seriously. Their shows work because the music works; it allows them to be wacky.” And that is the thing Michael wants to be known for: being the wingman, in all kind of collaborations, and making great “music he loves.”

Musicians of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra at LPR

  It seemed like a fun trip to New York City for the Seattle Symphony, who came as one of the visiting orchestras to Carnegie Hall’s Spring for Music Festival and decided to include a preamble, late-night gig at lePoisson Rouge, yesterday evening. Ludovic Morlot, the orchestra’s conductor, led musicians of the orchestra in mixed [...]

Christopher Rouse’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall

In 2012, Rouse was offered the position as composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic’s Marie-Josée Kravis program, which began under Alan Gilbert’s leadership in 2009 with composer Magnus Lindberg’s three-year residency; the program was just recently extended to incorporate Rouse’s third and last year of collaboration with the orchestra into the 2014/15 season. “We inspire each other,” says Rouse. Gilbert follows: “There was just more work to do.” Rouse’s collaboration with the orchestra began in 1984 with a performance of his work The Infernal Machine, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, marking a sort of breakthrough in his career. In October 2014, the world premiere of Rouse’s new work: Thunderstuck, a rock-inspired Philharmonic-commissioned orchestral work, will be performed under Gilbert’s baton, bringing his experience with the New York Philharmonic full-circle.

Lavrova-Primakov Duo – Rachmaninoff- Duo Repertoire Concert And CD Release

I noticed the duo’s remarkable communication when both artists performed for GetClassical at the Gramercy Park Hotel Rose Bar, and again just recently at the latest GetClassical Salon event, which took place on March 25th at the historic India House.

Gary Graffman – keeping fascinated with discovery

In his auto-biography Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story Lang Lang describes in great detail, how Graffman’s mentorship was always geared to address and inspire the whole person, not just the pianist in him; an experience he truly treasured and that stayed with him. Graffman especially fostered individuality in his students, avoiding the pitfall of sameness in sound or manirism, as a result of rigid teaching formulas. To him, each of his students plays unique, with a distinct expression recognizable as their own.