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Deutsche Grammophon invites leading international pianists to mark World Piano Day at global virtual festival
Source: Deutsche Grammophon

Deutsche Grammophon has invited 17 pianists from a dozen different countries to celebrate this year’s World Piano Day with a scintillating global virtual festival streamed live on Sunday 28 March. Reflecting its worldwide scope, the festival will be shown as World Piano Day is dawning on 29 March in the Asia-Pacific region.
“It was very special for me last year, when everything was closing down and the world was gripped by fear of a new virus, to sit at my piano and record Beethoven’s ‘Pathétique’ Sonata for Deutsche Grammophon’s virtual festival,” recalls Maria João Pires. “I felt then that we could send a message of compassion to the world through music. I believe our performances will offer comfort this year and hope they lead people to reflect on how we might build a better, fairer, more sustainable future.”
Viewers will be able to watch the programme performed by the Yellow Label’s keyboard masters and other Universal Music artists from 3pm (CET) and for a further 72 hours on DG’s YouTube channel. It offers a compelling showcase of the piano’s glorious past and thrilling present through favourite classics andfresh contemporary scores.
This year’s event follows the success of DG’s first online Piano Day festival, which reached more than 5 million people.
Deutsche Grammophon’s second virtual celebration of World Piano Day marks a bittersweet anniversary, with this year’s theme – “Abandoned Pianos” – evoking the closure of concert halls and music venues during the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the pianists taking part in this year’s festival have opted to return to these abandoned instruments and awaken them for their performances. All involved want to send out an uplifting message of hope that pianos, pianists and audiences will soon be reunited.
“Music-lovers worldwide will be able to explore the piano’s infinite expressive qualities, characters and moods throughout DG’s virtual festival,” comments Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “With so many great artists performing such a broad range of music, this programme has a real festival feel about it. We’re delighted to be part of World Piano Day and share its vision of spreading joy through playing and listening to piano music.”
Since its invention over three hundred years ago, the piano has become the go-to instrument for composers and the entry point to music-making for millions around the world. In so many ways, it is the ultimate solo instrument, as satisfying to play at home as it is to hear in concert or on record. Deutsche Grammophon’s festival explores the many ways in which musicians have channelled their innermost feelings through the piano and used it to create deeply personal, profoundly moving compositions.
The programme’s highlights include keyboard classics performed by outstanding artists. The charismatic Maria João Pires opens the festival, directing her insights and long experience to Mozart’s Piano Sonata K 332. Conductor and pianist Yannick Nézet-Séguin then explores the instrument’s lyrical side in Rachmaninoff’s nostalgic Moment Musical Op. 16 no. 3, before turning to French-Canadian composer Éric Champagne’s D’après Hopper. Alice Sara Ott tooopts for lyricism, performing a transcription of Richard Strauss’s moving song “Morgen”. Jan Lisiecki, one of today’s great Chopin interpreters, presents two of the composer’s Nocturnes, while Lang Lang plays Wilhelm Kempff’s sublime transcription for solo piano of the Siciliano from J.S. Bach’s Second Flute Sonata, a work included on his recently released Goldberg Variations Extended Edition.
Rudolf Buchbinder gives us Alfred Grünfeld’s spectacular paraphrase of music from Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus, after which Kit Armstrong plays his own Études de dessin(2017). Kirill Gerstein’s performance, featuring works by Thomas Adès, the late Chick Corea and female Brazilian composer Chiquinha Gonzaga, is followed by that of GRAMMY-winner Daniil Trifonovwho presents Bach’s “Jesu, joy of man’s desiring”. The spirit of virtuosity rises in Seong-Jin Cho’s choice of Chopin’s Impromptu No. 1, while the Labèque sistersKatia and Marielle, couple the intense passion of “Are you in love, Agathe?” with the intimate and quietly mesmerising “Terrible Interlude”, both from Philip Glass’s Les enfants terribles.
As in the past, the piano remains the chief instrument for musical invention today. The virtual festival therefore also includes a selection of contemporary works performed by their composers, all of whom are part of the Universal Music family of artists. Joep Bevingpresents three enchanting pieces: “Losar” (released by DG as an e-single on 29 March), the piano version of “September”, and “Sleeping Lotus”. Chad Lawson plays “Stay” and Prelude in D major from his 2020 solo piano album You Finally Knew, and Rob Lowe of Balmorheaperforms “Rose in Abstract” and “Evening” from the duo’s DG debut album The Wind (2021), as well as Time in the Hand (Sonata “Pathétique” No. 8, Op. 13) – Beethoven RecomposedRui Massena plays tracks from his forthcoming DG album 20 Perception and from the chart-topping Ensemble (2016); and Yiruma offers three pieces, including the romantic “Room with a View”.
World Piano Day was founded by German composer, performer and record producer Nils Frahm in 2015. It takes place annually on the 88th day of the year, symbolic of the number of keys on a full‑sized piano. 
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