Composer, pianist and conductor George Benjamin turned 50 on January 30 and will be celebrating that important milestone with a concert at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall on Sunday, February 7. The day before his birthday he recorded his 2004 composition Piano Figures , "ten short pieces for piano solo" at Nimbus's Wyastone Concert Hall in Monmouth. One hundred CDs will be pressed – each is numbered and signed by the composer – and will be made available at the QEH concert.
This year's Grammys, presented in Los Angeles last night, offered an eclectic and at times surprising line-up of winners. The overall prize, the Best Classical Album, went to Michael Tilson Thomas's SFSO Mahler Eighth, a recording which also took the Award for the Best Engineered Album and the Choral award. The Orchestral category was secured by James Levine's Boston Symphony disc of Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé on the orchestra's own label.
The Teatro San Carlo, Naples's historic opera house, formally opened its doors to the public after restructuring work with a performance of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito yesterday evening, the 254th anniversary of the composer's birth. A capacity audience of 1400, including the Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, witnessed the austere but elegant spectacle of Luca Ronconi's production, conducted by the theatre's current musical director Jeffrey Tate, with Gregory Kunde in the title role.
The Midem Classical Awards were presented at a gala event in Cannes last night and were broadcast live from the Palais des Féstivals by radio stations in France, Luxembourg, Russia and Poland. The Canadian mezzo Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Gramophone 's editor-in-chief James Jolly hosted the event which featured live music played by Sinfonietta Cracovia conducted by John Axelrod. Joining the orchestra were singers Christian Gerhaher and Elina Garanca.
Chinese pianist Lang Lang has signed to Sony Music. The 27-year-old moves from Deutsche Grammophon, the label he joined in 2003. In the years since, his virtuoso talent and media appeal have propelled him to the status of one of classical music’s highest-profile stars, not least in China where he has become a figurehead for the country’s burgeoning enthusiasm for classical music.
Earl Wild was one of the greatest pianists in history. In many ways he may be said to be unique. His omnivorous repertoire took in the works of more composers than almost any other pianist – from Buxtehude, Bach and Mozart through all the great pianist-composers of the 19th century (and a few more besides) to Hindemith, Copland, Menotti, Creston and Gould.
Anne Sofie von Otter has signed a deal with French label Naïve. The Swedish mezzo-soprano leaves Deutsche Grammophon, which this month releases her album of Baroque arias, entitled “Ombre de mon amant”, on its Archiv label. Von Otter’s first album for Naïve will be a jazz collaboration with Brad Mehldau, including jazz standards, jazz versions of Beatles songs and some pieces specially composed for her by Mehldau. The programme will be based on repertoire which can be heard at Wigmore Hall on June 2.
The Sixteen, directed by Harry Christophers, will be setting out on The Choral Pilgrimage in February, a tour that takes in cathedrals and churches throughout England, Wales and Scotland. The programme features three leading Tudor composers, William Byrd, Thomas Tallis and John Sheppard. As Christophers says in his introduction to the Pilgrimage "All three composers lived through decades of religious turmoil in sixteenth-century England and expressed in different ways their devotion to the Catholic faith."
Simone Dinnerstein, who rocketed to fame in 2007 with her Goldberg Variations recording for which she had raised the money herself, has been signed by Sony Classical. The New York-based pianist was previously signed to Telarc, who released both the Bach and her follow-up disc “The Berlin Concert”. Both recordings reached No 1 on the US Billboard Classical chart.
Otmar Suitner, one of the unsung masters of the baton, died in Berlin on January 8 at the age of 87. The Austrian conductor could seduce his listeners with his elegant, warm-hearted Mozart or inspire awe with his handling of a Bruckner symphony, and happily for us he left fine recordings of both. Suitner studied piano at the Innsbruck Conservatory and, during the Second World War, at the Salzburg Mozarteum. He also studied under Clemens Krauss, whose feeling for precisely the “right” phrase or tempo was an obvious influence.