Aleksandar Madžar at Plush: Haydn, Schubert, Ravel and Schoenberg
Pianist Aleksandar Madžar's recital at the 2008 Music at Plush festival in Dorset had his audience on the edge of their seats...
"Seek him out. He should be a household name." Guardian 2009
Includes HD Video & Audio files, and 24 bit audio
- Information and credits
- Aleksandar Madžar
- Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 19
- Schoenberg: Suite for piano
- Haydn: Piano Sonata No. 31
- Ravel: piano works
A concert at St. John the Baptist church, Plush on 5 September 2008. Part of the Music at Plush festival.
Schoenberg: Suite for piano, Op.25
2b. Musette, da capo Gavotte
4. Menuet: Moderato, Trio
Schubert: Piano Sonata No.19 in C minor, D.958
3. Menuetto (Allegro)
Haydn: Piano Sonata No.31 Hob.XVI:46
1. Allegretto moderato
3. Finale: Presto
Ravel: Menuet sur le nom de Haydn
Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales
1. Modéré – très franc
2. Assez lent – avec une expression intense
4. Assez animé
5. Presque lent – dans un sentiment intime
6. Assez vif
7. Moins vif
8. Epilogue (Lent)
Ravel: La Valse (encore)
HD Video and Audio – 1 hour 40 minutes
Directed by Mark Kidel
Cameras by Tom Swindell, Amy Rose and Tom Maine
Audio recorded and mastered by Eric James for URM Audio
Video editing by Emily West
Produced by Matthew Jolly
Born in Belgrade in 1968, Aleksandar Madžar first studied piano with Gordana Matinovic, Arbo Valdma and Eliso Virsaladze in Belgrade and Moscow, then with Edouard Mirzoian at the Strasbourg Conservatory and in Brussels with Daniel Blumenthal. He now holds professorships at the Royal Flemish Conservatoire, Brussels and the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Bern.
In 2008-09 Madžar maintains his schedule of diverse performance activities taking him worldwide: in recital he returns to Tokyo, as also to Paris, Theatre de la Ville, Cardiff and the Vlaanders Festival. With Stuttgart Philharmonic he performs in Milan’s Conservatorio G Verdi, and returns to the Irish Chamber Orchestra, BBC Belfast Symphony and Belgrade Philharmonic.
Various select partnerships are key to Aleksandar Madžar’s current performance schedule. His partnership with violinist Ilya Gringolts sees them next perform a complete Beethoven cycle at the 2008 Verbier Festival and, following the world premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' Violin Sonata at St Magnus and Cheltenham Festivals in summer 2008, recitals at Prague and Beethovenfest Bonn Festivals. His partnership with soprano Juliane Banse continues next season with a tour of Spain to Bilbao, Valencia, Leon and Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Foundation. After a successfull cooperation with the Irish Chamber Orchestra's 2007 summer festival, under the artistic leadership of colleague Anthony Marwood, the two further collaborate in recital in Edinburgh. Future plans include a cycle at the Wigmore Hall. Other notable highlights will include his recital debut in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw Hall and a return in recital to the Wigmore Hall, London.
Of his prize in the 1996 Leeds Piano Competition Gerald Larner of The Times described Madžar as 'the most imaginative musician among the 1996 finalists'. The Leeds competition propelled Madžar onto the UK scene where he also became a sought after soloist with the Royal and BBC Philharmonics, BBC Scottish Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, as well as throughout Europe and Asia, working with Paavo Berglund, Ivan Fischer, Paavo Järvi, Carlos Kalmar, John Nelson, Libor Pesek, André Previn, Andris Nelsons and the late Marcello Viotti.
Aleksandar Madžar has given solo recitals in Berlin, London, Rome, Florence, Milan, Hamburg, Duisburg and in 2007-08 his US recital debut on the Miami International Piano Festival was an astounding success. He is a regular guest artist at the festivals of Bad Kissingen, Schleswig Holstein, the Ivo Pogorelich Festival at Bad Wörishofen, Klavier Festival Ruhr, Davos, Roque d’Antheron, Salzburg, Sintra and Aldeburgh.
His discography includes the two Chopin piano concertos, with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony and Dmitri Kitaenko for BMG/Classic FM (1997), for the French label Arion (1999) a disc of Chabrier’s music for two pianos and, working regularly with cellist Louise Hopkins, a disc of Elliot Carter, Rachmaninov and Schnittke for the Swedish label Intim Musik.
Schubert's last three sonatas were completed in a flurry of activity between May and September 1828, and the first fair copies were made scant weeks before the composer's death from typhoid. But these pieces are not 'last works' in the usual, grandiloquent sense. Audiences of Schubert's song cycle Winterreise, written around the same time, might be forgiven for detecting a last message and a pretty clear intimation of fast-looming mortality about his late music – but the composer of Sonata No. 19 seems oblivious.
Oblivious, but not immune: pianist Aleksandar Madžar has given no little thought to the problem of presenting a work so inextricably bound up – by critics and hagiographers alike – with Schubert's miserable, syphilitic end. He writes:
"Compared to its companions [the posthumous sonatas in A and B-flat], the Sonata in C minor is almost disappointingly 'normal' and well balanced. The first movement is a fairly clear and reasonable structure of impeccable proportions; it doesn't replace a development with a hallucinatory intermezzo, and it doesn't need 20 minutes to make its point. The Adagio seems to grow out of the second subject of the previous movement (probably a good idea in a large-scale structure!), and spares us the (unconvincing?) nervous breakdown present in the A-Major sonata. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite offer the sublime resolution of the slow movement of the B-flat, either. Still, this is a haunting, complex affair that, once again, is executed on exactly on the right scale. The Menuett is both brief and substantial, with more than just a whiff of Chopin about it, both in texture and harmony. The finale is often called a tarantella, but since most tarantellas are decorative or flippant (or both) we should probably try to fight this association. It deposits us very much in the galloping world of the 'Erlkoenig', and is probably the most striking feature of the whole sonata. In spite of its (enormous) dimensions, the clarity and balance of the entire structure is worthy of Mozart. Mix this with a musical content which is unambiguously one of passion, anguish, fever and battle, and you get a truly toxic mix, and one to relish."
Never judge a piece of music by its titles: people who imagine something primly neo-classical to emerge from these gigues and gavottes and wot-not are in for a nasty schock.
Born in Vienna in 1874, the composer and painter Arnold Schoenberg spent his early career in Berlin. Some of that city's cultural iconoclasm and arch humour certainly found its way into the Piano Suite: it is one long, brilliantly calculated assault to classical sensibilities – never mind that its difficulty has dealt the killer blow to many a pianist's self-confidence.
The Belgrade-born pianist Aleksandar Madžar knows that this is not a piece of music you can ever get the better of. "The writing is extremely polyphonic and ambitious, and the technical demands on the pianist are considerable. This is nothing, though, compared to the immensity of the purely musical demands – the performer is supposed to suggest intimacy, drama, exaltation, create something 'in the style of a Brahmsian intermezzo', be deeply lyrical – in other words, supply the usual affective ingredients of a Schoenberg masterpiece, all without a single major or minor chord!"
Alexander Madžar maintains a dizzyingly diverse performance schedule that takes him all over the world. His discography includes the two Chopin piano concertos (with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony and Dmitri Kitaenko) and a disc of Chabrier’s music for two pianos. He also works regularly for for the Swedish label Intim Musik. And at Plush in 2008, he was tackling music from Schubert to Ravel. It was the Suite, however, that captured the most attention. Madžar modestly gives full credit to the score itself, speaking enthusiastically of the composer's ambitions for the piece: 'It is a fairly widespread view that his new dodecaphonic language [a musical language based on a somewhat random serial arrangement of 12 different notes, and a definitive farewell to the familiar tonal language with its recognisable minor and major modes] made Schoenberg choose ancient dance forms in order to have a certain frame of reference – something 'to hang onto'." Just how readily the composer let go, and just how far into the deep end of his own musical world he swam, it was Madžar's purpose to communicate. That and not crashing.
It ought not to spoil the plot to say, here and now, that he succeeded.
During his stay at the 2008 Plush Music Festival, the Serbian pianist Aleksandar Madžar recalled a recent heated argument "in the heaviness of a Belgrade evening. It had a rather unusual subject (there's a lot of pent-up aggression in the world, not least in the Balkans!) – whether or not Joseph Haydn's A-flat Major sonata could be called atypical. One side furiously claimed so, the other thought it somehow mean, or at least unfair, that one of his most inspired (and effortless) pieces should be considered an intruder."
There are, in fact, strong biographical reasons why Haydn should have been enjoying a particularly confident patch around the years 1767 and 1768, when the sonata was written. To start with, Gregor Werner was dead.
His obstructive and underhand boss had done the Esterhazy family's new Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn no favours. Indeed, we owe the good order of Hayden's musical catalogue to the record-keeping the young man had to resort to, in order to refute Werner's criticisms of his slackness and laziness.
Haydn, the son of a wheelwright, was far too much the natural gentleman to hold a grudge (in his own old age he published "six introductions and fugues for string quartet, taken from Werner’s oratorios") but it is tempting to detect, in the sublime level-headedness of Haydn's music of this period, a sense of the composer's blessed relief and sense of new freedom. And the feeling lasted: Haydn was to remain in the same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life. A court musician on a remote estate and isolated, for the most part of his life, from other composers he was, as he put it, "forced to become original".
For his own part, Madžar considers the A-flat sonata "a surprisingly unfunny, unnaive and untragic jewel of a sonata; all of it lofty, serene, beyond ordinary human concern. The three movements are in sonata form, (rather unusual, possibly unique with Haydn, rare even with Beethoven) and the three developments do bring in a fair amount of shadow, and even drama. However, all invariably ends well, for this music seems to speak of a world where things are as they ought to be."
Born in Belgrade in 1968, Aleksandar Madžar first came to the notice of British audiences at the 1996 Leeds Piano Competition. The Leeds competition propelled Madžar onto the UK scene where he became a sought after soloist with the Royal and BBC Philharmonics, BBC Scottish Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales. These days his European and Asian schedules are hardly less frenetic, and his diverse performance activities take him worldwide. His discography includes the two Chopin piano concertos with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony and Dmitri Kitaenko, and a disc of Chabrier’s music for two pianos. He works regularly for for the Swedish label Intim Musik.
Born in Belgrade in 1968, Aleksandar Madžar first came to the notice of British audiences at the 1996 Leeds Piano Competition. Success in Leeds propelled Madžar onto the UK scene where he became a sought-after soloist with the Royal and BBC Philharmonics, BBC Scottish Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales. These days his European and Asian schedules are hardly less frenetic, and his diverse performance activities take him worldwide. His discography includes the two Chopin piano concertos with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony and Dmitri Kitaenko, and a disc of Chabrier’s music for two pianos. He works regularly for for the Swedish label Intim Musik.
Of Maurice Ravel's 'Menuet sur le nom de Haydn', written in 1909 to commemorate the centenary of the composer’s death, Madžar writes: "The theme of this brief piece is made of the 'musical' letters of Haydn’s name – H the equivalent of a B-natural in German-speaking countries; A and D; and the Y and the N are the equivalent of a D and a G if we were to continue the alphabet along a larger stretch of the keyboard. It is a charming piece and another brilliantly solved problem by the composer who thrived on challenge and limitations.
"Ravel rarely moved unmasked – many of his major pieces are either demonstrations of how much can be achieved with as little as possible (Bolero, Concerto for the left hand, Duo for violin and cello etc.). Others are elaborate hommages to a composer or style, and this is the case with a lot of his piano music (Gaspard de la nuit – Liszt and the Russians; La Valse – Johan Strauss; Le Tombeau de Well, Couperin; Sonatine – Mozart and so on). The Valses Nobles et Sentimentales is a bow in Schubert's direction. The seven Valses (waltzes) are dazzling in every sense, but most of all in harmony. After a festive, 'orchestral' overture they subtly work themselves from mourning and melancholy into frenzy and towards an ecstatic climax: a moment of hedonistic passion that is very rare in his music after 1914. The unique 'Epilogue' features all but one of the waltzes in a state of decay, or maybe memory; a Proustian finale."