The recent press coverage of Daniel Barenboim‘s leadership style is somewhat surprising to me. An article in VAN Magazin implicitly claims to reveal truths or new ›insights‹ into Berlin’s classical music scene, while other commenters play down the issue, purport that the discussion has only just begun, or even defend Barenboim in the sense of an outdated cult of genius. However, I am pretty sure that anybody involved with Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Staatskapelle Berlin, or Barenboim-Said Akademie could tell similar stories as anonymously reported in VAN. It is obvious here that somebody possesses too much power—but the main problem is not Barenboim himself but the system that empowered him, provided him with enormous amounts of money, paid court to him for decades, and allowed him to take control of three public institutions. Barenboim must doubtlessly be blamed for creating suppressive working conditions and for establishing feudalistic structures in his environment. Still, the responsibility for these maldevelopments lies with the German government and Berlin Senate who continue to afford an alleged world-class conductor at any cost, as a beacon figure to make the Staatsoper great again. The current criticism seems fair enough, but is pointless as long as large parts of Berlin’s cultural politics hinge so much on Barenboim. His case is only a symptom of the corrupted classical music business which appears, in institutions as well as in education, essentially based on hierarchy, authority, and exercise of power.
With sorrow and compassion I learned that my former teacher Lajos Papp (1935–2019), the most influential figure in the musical education of my early youth, has passed away on January 17. As a composer and committed piano pedagogue who served at Oldenburg music school for decades, Papp has significantly formed my personality, and I consider myself lucky to have enjoyed his tuition. Even though he taught me for only about three years, I continue to draw on his undogmatic and sensitive approach, fostering the creativity and individuality of students at any time, in my own teaching and music-making. A native of Debrecen, he was rooted in the Hungarian school of music education, acquainting me with the works of Béla Bartók and his own fine compositions that remain to be a source of inspiration for me to this day. May he rest in peace, and may his legacy continue to shape the education of auspicious young musicians!
Excited to share with you the latest results of my comparatively rare (but however passionate) activity as a performer. Here are two documents of my involvement with Nikolai Medtner‘s piano and chamber music, taken from a concert in November 2018 at Villa Oppenheim Berlin, which formed part of the first-ever festival in Germany exclusively dedicated to that composer. Both pieces belong, in my opinion, to the foremost achievements of Medtner’s musical expression: The Sonata-Vocalise, Op. 41 No. 1, an outstanding example of his treatment of the textless voice, holds a unique position in genre history, whereas the Sonata-Elegy, Op. 11 No. 2, pioneers in terms of formal architecture and thus stands out from most other single-movement piano sonatas of the early twentieth century. Since these are live recordings with only a few minor edits and digital improvements, the outcome is far from being technically perfect. Nonetheless I feel lucky to underpin my research on Medtner with a thorough interpretive approach to his music, and I am particularly grateful to soprano Anna Hofmann who, through her beautiful performance, made this concert one of my dearest memories on stage. Hope you will enjoy this as much as I did.
Today my adorable daughter sang her first vocal solo in a christmas concert with the Berlin Girls Choir as she performed the song »Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen« at Lindenkirche Berlin. Many thanks to Eleni Irakleous, Stelios Chatziktoris, and Sabine Wüsthoff for presenting such a beautiful and inspiring programme!