Inon Barnatan Plays All Five Beethoven Concertos; Recitals in London, Seattle and Boston; and Chamber Music at Carnegie and Beyond in 2018-19
Inon Barnatan – “one of the most admired pianists of his generation” (New York Times) –punctuates his 2018-19 season with key performances of monumental works from the Classical repertoire. In October he joins frequent collaborator Alan Gilbert at the conductor’s new post in Hamburg with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra for Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto, following August and September performances of the “Emperor” Concerto at New York’s Skaneateles Festival and with the Des Moines Symphony. Later in October, the pianist joins New Jersey’s Princeton Symphony to play all five Beethoven concertos under the baton of Marcelo Lehninger, who leads the Skaneateles performance as well; and in November and December he plays Beethoven’s Third Concerto with the Colorado Symphony led by Hans Graf. Three Mozart concertos are also on the bill this season: No. 22 with the Houston Symphony and David Danzmayr, No. 12 in New York’s Alice Tully Hall with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and No. 20 with Northern Ireland’s Ulster Orchestra under Rafael Payare. Other orchestral performances include Rachmaninov’s First and Second Concertos, respectively, with the Pittsburgh Symphony under the baton of Long Yu and the Israel Philharmonicled by Gilbert; and Copland’s jazz-inflected Piano Concerto – a work Barnatan played in 2016 with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony in Carnegie Hall, when the New York Times raved that it was “hard to imagine a better performance” – with the Oregon Symphony. Chamber performances this season include two concerts of Shostakovich with the St. Lawrence Quartet, one in Carnegie Hall; Brahms with the Dover Quartet; and an all-Bach program on a U.S. tour with the Calidore Quartet. The pianist also tours the U.S. and Europe with his longstanding collaborator, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, joined by violinist Sergey Khachatryan and percussionist Colin Currie for a program of Beethoven, Shostakovich, and Schoenberg. Finally, Barnatan gives a number of high-profile solo performances this season, making his International Piano Series debut with a recital of Ravel and Mussorgsky at London’s Southbank Centre, and performing at the Seattle Symphony’s Benaroya Hall; in Boston’s Celebrity Series; at the Bienen School of Music in Evanston, Illinois; and in Alabama, Virginia, and Portland, Maine.
A consistent critical favorite in the works of Beethoven, Barnatan recently recorded all five of the master’s piano concertos with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Alan Gilbert, who has praised the pianist as “the complete artist” and conducts him this season in Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto with Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie Orchestra and with Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra. Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto was the vehicle for Barnatan’s London Philharmonic debut last season, and this past spring he performed the Third Concerto for his Helsinki Philharmonic debut. When he played the same work in his Baltimore Symphony debut under Vasily Petrenko in 2016, the Washington Postdeclared that the “brilliant” performance “surpassed all expectations,” and “the poignant solos brought tears to the eyes because they were so tenderly wrought.” The pianist’s Rachmaninov performances have likewise earned him great acclaim. He plays the First Concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony this season. After hearing him perform the same piece with the Minnesota Orchestra in the spring of 2016, Minnesota’s Pioneer Press named the concert “best of season,” and found that while the pianist was more than a match for the “flamboyance and spectacle” of the piece, “he never pushed the schmaltz meter into the red, as he found welcome gentleness in the slow movement – engaging in heartfelt dialogues with the winds – and bubbling delicately on the flowing finale.”
The versatile Barnatan has also long been a sought-after chamber musician. His skills in that more intimate setting are used to full potential this season in collaborations with the St. Lawrence String Quartet, with which he performs Shostakovich’s stunning G minor Piano Quintet at Denver’s Newman Center and in Carnegie Hall; the Calidore Quartet, which he joins for a three-stop U.S. tour to Alabama, Ohio and San Francisco’s Herbst Theater of an all-Bach program, playing selections from The Art of the Fugue and four keyboard concertos; and the Dover Quartet, with which he plays Brahms’s Piano Quintet in F minor at Georgia’s Clayton State University. The pianist collaborated with the Dovers on two other recent occasions as well: at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival in summer 2017 and last spring in La Jolla, California, where Barnatan has just been appointed the new Music Director of the La Jolla Music Society Summerfest.
In solo recitals this season, Barnatan plays two different programs. His debut recital in the International Piano Series at London’s Southbank Centre comprises four pieces by Ravel: Le tombeau de Couperin, Jeux d'eau, Pavane pour une infante défunte, and the virtuosic tour-de-force La valse in its rarely performed one-piano transcription, followed by Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. For other high-profile recitals this season, at the Seattle Symphony’s Benaroya Hall and in Boston’s Celebrity Series, where he has been appearing in various chamber and solo configurations since 2008, Barnatan lends his versatility to a program that takes its cue from the kind of dance suite popular in the Baroque, with movements including a chaconne, allemande, courante, fuga, and others. What distinguishes the concert-length suite Barnatan has assembled is that each movement is by a different composer, and the composers themselves span periods from the Baroque to the 21st century. Thus, the opening chaconne is by Handel, the closing fuga by Barber, and the movements in between move freely between centuries. The pianist gives his program an organic unity partially by keeping the periods in dialogue with each other: he pivots from Couperin’s polished miniature L’Atalante to a movement from Ravel’s tribute, Le tombeau de Couperin, and plays the last two movements of Ligeti’s Musica ricercata, and Variations for Blanca by Thomas Adès.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has said of Barnatan that his “breathtaking charisma … comes from gorgeously turned out technique, a masterly sense of color, and an expressiveness that can question, weep, or shout joy from the rooftops.” That expressiveness perfectly complements his longstanding collaborator, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, with whom he released a critically lauded album of Rachmaninov and Chopin sonatas in 2015. As Gramophone said in its review, “It’s a bold musician who dares to duet with Alisa Weilerstein. So much is out of the question: complacency, clichés, safety nets … Inon Barnatan fits the bill.” In the spring the two embark on a tour titled “Transfigured Night,” after Schoenberg’s early and atmospheric piece Verklärte Nacht. Originally scored for string sextet and then expanded to string orchestra, a version that Weilerstein just recorded on a new album, the work will be heard on the tour in Edward Steuermann’s piano trio setting, joined by Armenian violinist Sergey Khachatryan. An exploration of the concept of transformation, the trio will be augmented by Scottish percussionist Colin Currie – who also plays Rolf Wallin’s solo marimba piece Realismos mágicos – for a trio and percussion version of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15. The arranger for that work is famed Russian pianist and pedagogue Victor Derevianko, one of Barnatan’s earliest teachers. Beethoven’s “Ghost” Trio rounds out the program. The tour begins with performances in Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw and London’s Wigmore Hall, before continuing in the U.S. at Chicago’s Harris Theater, the Virginia Arts Festival, Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center, and Kansas City’s Folly Theater.