Posted inInterview

Walking the Path

In 2016, pianist Martin Helmchen took a step which many threaten but few follow through on: He left Berlin for the surrounding countryside of Brandenburg, his four daughters in tow. His new home is close to the town of Luckau, between the German capital and Dresden, where his wife, cellist Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, is a professor […]

Posted inInterview

The Time Remaining

On March 25, pianist Lars Vogt wrote on Twitter: “Today: fight against cancer, round 2 (chemo). Keep your fingers crossed for me…” A month and a half later, he’s made it to the cusp of round five. “Another six months like this, until October, 12 rounds in total, as long as my body holds up. […]

Posted inInterview

The Eternal Factor

New Year’s and third lockdown resolution: trying to listen to and rank every Schubert song. (I’m not done yet, but I attempted something similar for the Scarlatti sonatas.) Because my impressions are very subjective—not to say flat-out wrong—I also decided to get a more holistic view of this oeuvre, which numbers somewhere around 700 lieder, […]

Posted inHistory

The Pianist who Killed Stalin

In his 2017 film “The Death of Stalin,” Armando Iannucci links the titular event to a letter penned by pianist Maria Yudina: “Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, you have betrayed our nation and destroyed its people. I pray for your end and ask the Lord to forgive you. Tyrant.” In Iannucci’s history-as-farce, the dictator reads this note […]

Posted inPlaylist

A Goldberg Variations Playlist

Writing about my musical path for the New York Times last month, I noted that the one strand of continuity for me, between instruments and repertoires, was Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Part of that continuity was my dissatisfaction with the work. Don’t get me wrong, the Goldbergs are incredible. But, from piano to harpsichord to organ, […]

Posted inEssay

On the Other Hand

In the days following Leon Fleisher’s death, at the age of 92, I’ve found myself listening to his Bach. They’re few compared to the pianist’s more notable repertoire of Beethoven and Brahms, but two can be found on his 2004 album, “Two Hands.”   It was a recording that was also something of a rebirth (how […]

Posted inRankings & Roundups

Piano Entanglements

In the spring, while stuck at home avoiding the coronavirus, I read Lea Singer’s forthcoming novel, The Piano Student, which tells the story of Vladimir Horowitz’s affair with a 23-year-old male protege, Nico Kauffman. Drawing from Horowitz’s actual letters to Kauffman, Singer depicts a forbidden relationship in which Horowitz vacillates between ardently declaring his love […]

Posted inOpinion

Winner Takes All

A bit of Beethoven here, a recital there—that doesn’t interest me,” the pianist Igor Levit said five years ago. Instead he wanted to become a thought leader, like Bob Dylan. Levit was reading Greil Marcus’s Like a Rolling Stone. “People like [Dylan] didn’t see music as a separate reality,” Levit told me. “They arrived on […]