Ten Years of Rapture

This is where the story began: In autumn 2009 I started practising the first movement of Nikolai Medtner‘s Sonata-Ballade, Op. 27, and was immediately captivated by the refined textures, formal balance, and intellectual depth of the music. It was this composition that sustainably connected my mind to Medtner’s art, resulting in a kind of fascination that kept me busy for years and is unlikely to ever cease.

A decade later, having absorbed the music in numerous papers, presentations, and a dissertation, destiny finds me tackling this intriguing work as a pianist again. I am excited to present a lecture recital on the Sonata-Ballade on two different occasions: The first one is to be held in German language this Friday, September 27 (matching the opus number!), starting around 7 pm at a private venue in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg—in case you want to attend, please get in touch for directions to Ekaterine Khvedelidze‘s place. The second appearance will be in English, forming part of the MedtnerFest XXI festival and symposium, taking place next Friday, October 4, 11 am, at the Small Hall of the Odessa National Music Academy, Ukraine. As always, your graceful company is considered a most convenient reward for my humble efforts.

A Seminal Festival by the Lake

Attended the Detect Classic Festival in Neubrandenburg, a three-day event developed and curated by Konstantin Udert and Joseph Varschen. Beautifully situated at the edge of the Tollense lake, the festival sported a versatile line-up with classical and electronic music, live performed in industrial halls formerly used for military purposes. Despite the stylistic diversity (which I appreciated very much, even though contemporary classical music was absent), my impression was that the classical and EDM audiences did not really join together. The main orchestral concerts, appearances of the Junge Norddeutsche Philharmonie, Ensemble Reflektor, and the fabulous Stegreif.Orchester, attracted far more and different people than most other performances, probably due to the advertisements by Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern who provided the framework for the festival. This raises the question if traditional classical music marketing is the best way to promote an event that aims to transcend the borders of genres and audiences. A successful transition between concert hall and club culture seems unlikely to be achieved by music management, but depends on the efforts and open-mindedness of the artists themselves. In this regard, I particularly enjoyed the performances of Alexej Gerassimez, Deep Strings, and AFAR. Regardless of my slight doubts, the festival has been a rewarding experience as a whole, widening my perspective of what can—and should—be done in today’s music programming.

Music from Szczecin

Greetings from Szczecin, where I attended an orchestral concert at the five-year-old Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic Hall tonight. This place is an acoustic and architectural delight! I nearly feel ashamed to have never previously heard of it. Maybe this is due to my personal ignorance, but I am unaware of German media to have adequately covered the inauguration of the new Szczecin hall in 2014 (which might have been unjustly overshadowed by the subsequent openings of Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and Pierre Boulez Saal). Dear Berliners: Do consider the trip of barely 150 kilometres, and take the opportunity to visit this venue. They offer a diverse schedule, including an elaborate and low-threshold education program, and Rune Bergmann serves as an inspiring principal conductor. The aspect I liked best: In a cooperation with local music schools, they have young children perform selected pieces in the upper foyer during intermissions, giving them the chance to present themselves in front of a large and appreciative audience. What a beautiful synergy of cultural policy and music-educational effort!

Ivory Tower Conference in Freiburg

Time for a brief retrospect to a beautiful trip to Freiburg im Breisgau where I attended the initial conference of the recently founded Music Research and Teaching Centre, hosted by Musikhochschule Freiburg and co-organised by University of Freiburg (April 10–12, 2019). The title »Between Ivory Tower and Employability« suggested a topical focus on musicians’ career perspectives, but the event rather turned out to be a self-presentation of interdisciplinary work at the two institutions. This is highly valuable in itself, and I witnessed several impressive lectures, performances, and demonstrations—but a limited perspective and lack of stimuli from outside was also noticeable. In my opinion, the current state of professional music education in Germany suffers from two severe misdevelopments: (1) the extreme difficulty to make a living as an employed or freelance musician, partially caused by the inability (or unreadiness) of universities to help their graduates enter the job market; and (2) the declining educational level and dwindling prospects for domestic applicants, leading to absurdly high rates of international students. Neither of these problems was addressed in the Freiburg conference. The next meeting of this kind clearly requires an open call for contributions, and its range of topics should also investigate and discuss career paths before and after university.

PhD Defence Ahead

Dear Viennese people, I have the pleasure to announce the public defence of my PhD thesis, a musicological study of the piano sonatas of Russian composer Nikolai Karlovich Medtner. Attendance will require your early bird virtues—but in case you are willing to take up this challenge, I’d be delighted if you joined me next Friday, 5 April, 9 am, in the Rectorate Meeting Room of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. The presentation will see me giving a 20-minute talk, followed by a 40-minute disputation, both held in German language.

A bilingual abstract of the dissertation is available here.
Get more information on my research related to Medtner’s music.