Pianist Murray Perahia Q&A with piano studios at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance
UMS Staff Picks: The Cripple of Inishmaan selected by Sara Billmann, Director of Marketing & Communications
SN: The multi-award winning Druid and Atlantic Theater co-production of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan has been described as “a break-your-heart, cruelly funny evening” – what kind of theatrical journey can audience members expect to experience when they see this production?
SB: I don’t want to spoil the story, but suffice it to say that it will be quite an emotional ride.
I’ve seen two of Martin McDonagh’s plays when they were produced in New York in the mid-late 1990s, and they are simply brilliant pieces, in part because of the way they force you to re-examine your own morals. He sets up these outrageous scenes that are absolutely hilarious, then delivers the knock-out punch that makes you realize you’ve been laughing at something that is, in fact, incredibly tragic. The June issue of <i>Opera News</i> put it perfectly: “As anyone who’s ever sat through a Martin McDonagh play can attest, sometimes the only response we can muster when confronted with the searing emotional or physical pain of others is a laugh.”
I read this play poolside while visiting my in-laws in San Antonio and found myself laughing out loud on any number of occasions. Let’s face it, there are many plays where you chuckle inwardly, but something that produces a spontaneous outburst while reading to yourself is extraordinary in its own sense. And based on every production I’ve seen of McDonagh’s work, the live production will far exceed what’s on the page.
So that we could all familiarize ourselves with the play, about a dozen members of the UMS staff did a “read-through” this summer. I hope that some audience members will be interested in doing the same — we’d be interested in putting together play-reading groups for others and loaning the scripts. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the dialects and turns of language that really bring the piece alive. And, of course, a great way to meet new people too.
SN: What are you most looking forward to about this UMS debut performance?
SB: It’s pretty simple, really – I just can’t wait to see what they do with the production to bring it alive. I have friends who saw this production when it was on Broadway a few years ago and raved about it. Having grown up in a small town, I recognize some of the quirky characters and look forward to seeing how they are realized on stage.
SB: Just about everything! As a trained classical musician, I’m particularly interested in the big orchestras and piano recitals. I was turned on to Denis Matsuev about two years ago by someone who had heard his recording in Gramophone magazine. His playing is really quite extraordinary. I also adore Schubert and am looking forward to the three Tákacs concerts, as well as the Scharoun Ensemble performance of the Schubert Octet. I’m also looking forward to Grupo Corpo – what a great company! I could go on and on. The beauty of being the marketing director for UMS is that I start to research all of the artists we’re presenting long before we announce the season, and I always get turned on to things I never would have thought I’d enjoy…which ultimately means that the entire season becomes a “must see” for me.
SN: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
SB: I have two kids – Elisabeth is 8 and going into 4th grade, and Harry is 6 and going into 1st grade – who keep me plenty busy. I was about to respond that I do laundry outside of work, until I saw the word “enjoy” in the question. Elisabeth loves to play baseball, so I think I’ve spent the better part of July attending her games and taking her to see the Tigers when time permits. I’m also hopelessly addicted to The New Yorker and steal moments here and there to try to stay caught up. Other hobbies include wine tasting and walking the dog – we acquired a boxer/pointer mix from the Humane Society three months ago, and I’ve become the family’s designated dog walker, which fills up a shocking amount of time each day.
SN: What have you been listening to on your iPod?
SB: Ha! The day I get to listen to my iPod will be a great day indeed. Lately my kids have been torturing me, making me listen to “Stayin’ Alive” and 1980s dance tunes (oh, to return to the days when my daughter would watch “The Barber of Seville” by choice…). But when I can wrestle it away from them, I mostly listen to Schubert lieder, Maria Joao Pires performing Schubert and Chopin, Denis Matsuev playing Rachmaninoff, and Mahler, though truth be told, the iPod doesn’t do Mahler justice. Murray Perahia‘s recital in 2000 of the Bach/Busoni Chorale Preludes and the Goldberg Variations will always rank among my top UMS performances, and I often bring back that memory with the recording “Songs Without Words” released around the same time. Angelika Kirchschlager and Fritz Wunderlich are among my favorite singers, though I will confess that I also enjoy Pink Martini in my less serious moments. And I recently loaded on a CD by a wonderful Iranian group called Ghazal.
UMS Announces 10/11 Choral Union Series & Piano Series
The University Musical Society is pleased to announce its 132nd Annual Choral Union Series, with 10 concerts in Hill Auditorium. The series includes:
Valery Gergiev, conductor
Denis Matsuev, piano
Sunday, October 10 | 4 pm
Gergiev’s long association with the Mariinsky Theatre — including 10 UMS appearances, most recently the five-concert cycle of Shostakovich symphonies —has raised the ensemble’s profile to the point where it is now widely regarded one of the most dynamic and exciting ensembles on the world stage today. The fiery Russian pianist Denis Matsuev has received worldwide acclaim for his rare combination of technical virtuosity and deep musicality since his stunning victory at the 11th International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1998. “His technique is phenomenal: blistering passagework, steely chords. Perhaps he is the new Horowitz.” (London Times)
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in d minor, Op. 30
Mahler Symphony No. 5
Venice Baroque Orchestra
Robert McDuffie, violin
Wednesday, October 27 | 8 pm
The Venice Baroque Orchestra was founded in 1997 by harpsichordist Andrea Marcon and is recognized as one of Europe’s premier ensembles devoted to period instrument performance. For this UMS debut, they perform music of their home city — Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons — paired with an “American Four Seasons” by Philip Glass featuring violinist Robert McDuffie, who has worked closely with Glass over the years and who made his UMS debut with the Jerusalem Symphony in 2008.
Vivaldi The Four Seasons, Op. 8 (1723)
Glass Violin Concerto No. 2: “The American Four Seasons”
Murray Perahia, piano
Wednesday, November 10 | 8 pm
Anyone who has heard one of Murray’s Perahia’s previous 11 UMS appearances would have to agree with the assessment of The Los Angeles Times: “Perahia is a marvel.” In the more than 35 years he has been performing on the concert stage, he has become one of the most cherished pianists of our time. “Perahia may be the closest thing to a pure conduit of music — one in which the imagination and skill of the player are entirely at the service of the composer, not the player’s ego…The soul of a poet, the mind of a thinker, the hands of a virtuoso: No wonder audiences love this guy.” (The Seattle Times)
Program to be announced.
Sunday, January 16 | 4 pm
One of the most beloved and celebrated musical ambassadors of our time, soprano Renée Fleming captivates audiences with her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry, and compelling stage presence. In addition to commanding the stages of the great opera houses of the world, she hosts the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD Series for movie theaters and television with behind-the-scenes interviews. Her fame is such that perfumes, desserts, and flowers have all been named after her, but those superficial accolades pale in comparison to her devoted following of opera lovers around the world. This great American soprano returns to UMS after her 1997 recital and her 2005 appearance in a concert version of Richard Strauss’s Daphne.
The Cleveland Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano
Tuesday, February 1 | 8 pm
Founded shortly after the end of World War I, the Cleveland Orchestra has been guided by seven music directors, each of whom has left his mark on the widely admired “Cleveland” sound: Nikolai Sokoloff, Artur Rodzinski, Erich Leinsdorf, George Szell, Lorin Maazel, Christoph von Dohnányi, and Franz Welser-Möst, who leads the ensemble and the French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard in this performance.
Bartók Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste, Sz. 106, BB 114
Schumann Piano Concerto in a minor, Op. 54
Wagner Overture to Tannhäuser
Rafał Blechacz, piano
Friday, February 11 | 8 pm
In October 2005, the 20-year-old Rafał Blechacz, an unassuming young man from a small town in northern Poland, arrived in Warsaw for the 15th International Chopin Competition. His sensational performance won not only the competition, but also all four special prizes for the polonaise, mazurka, sonata, and concerto performance — in fact, one of the judges remarked that he “so outclassed the remaining finalists that no second prize could actually be awarded.” Blechacz was the first Pole to win the prize since Krystian Zimerman 30 years earlier. Notwithstanding his young age, his playing offers poetry, maturity, poise and concentration, as well as a phenomenal and luminous technique. “How reassuring it is to see one so young putting poetry first…we were all on another planet.” (Financial Times)
Program to be announced.
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
UMS Choral Union
U-M Chamber Choir
U-M University Choir
U-M Orpheus Singers
MSU Children’s Choir
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Saturday, March 19 | 8 pm
In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s birth and the 100th anniversary of his death, UMS is collaborating with the DSO and Michigan Opera Theatre to present a spectacular, not-to-be-missed performance of Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 8, also known as “Symphony of a Thousand.” The first performance of this “choral symphony” featured a chorus of about 850, with an orchestra of 171, leading Mahler’s agent to dub to the work “Symphony of a Thousand.” While Mahler himself did not approve of the title, it nevertheless remains associated with this work, which is rarely preformed due to the massive forces required to do it justice.
Bach’s Mass in b minor
Bach Collegium Japan
Masaaki Suzuki, conductor
Thursday, March 24 | 8 pm
Founded in 1990 by Masaaki Suzuki with the aim of introducing Japanese audiences to period instrument performance of great works of the Baroque period, the Bach Collegium Japan comprises both orchestra and chorus. The group has developed a formidable reputation through its recordings of J.S. Bach’s church cantatas, and returns to Ann Arbor after its 2003 St. Matthew Passion in St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. Widely regarded as one of the supreme achievements in classical music, the Mass in b minor was composed over a period of 25 years and assembled in its present form in 1749, the year before Bach died. “I have never heard period instruments played with such purity of tone, so reliably in tune. The small, precise, dramatically alert chorus breathed fire but also revealed a heartbreaking tenderness.” (The Los Angeles Times)
St. Petersburg Philharmonic
Yuri Temirkanov, conductor
Nikolai Lugansky, piano
Saturday, April 2 | 8 pm
The Russian city of St. Petersburg boasts two world-class orchestras, and UMS has enjoyed a long relationship with each. The St. Petersburg Philharmonic has appeared in Ann Arbor five times under Yuri Temirkanov’s leadership. With a history dating back more than 200 years, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic is embedded with musical history, performing the world premiere of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in 1824, as well as Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1, and many works by Shostakovich. Pianist Nikolai Lugansky, who won the 1994 Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, makes his UMS debut. A Russian newspaper said of his performance in the final round of competition: “It was like getting sunstroke, a musical shock. Nobody could imagine that the soul of this unpretentious, modest young man, with his ascetic, but also poetic appearance, held such a volcano inside with inspired and resolute control.”
Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade, Op. 35
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in c minor, Op. 18
Genia Kühmeier, soprano
Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano
Michael Schade, tenor
Thomas Quasthoff, bass-baritone
Malcolm Martineau, piano
Justus Zeyen, piano
Saturday, April 23 | 8 pm
After nearly a decade in which he composed no vocal music at all, Schumann made a striking return to the genre with the Spanisches Liebeslieder song collection, which combines songs for solo voice with duets and quartets. A generation later, Brahms took the same instrumentation — vocal quartet plus four-hand piano —and composed the Liebeslieder and Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes. These three works serve the centerpiece of a program that also includes Brahms’ composition for vocal quartet and piano, performed by a brilliant quartet of musicians, including bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff, who last appeared at UMS in a Lydia Mendessohn Theatre recital in 2000.
Schumann Spanische Liebeslieder, Op. 138
Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 52
Brahms Four Songs from Quartets for Four Voices and Pianos, Ops. 64 & 92
Brahms Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 65
Tickets for the 10-concert series range from $100-$650. Subscription renewal packets and brochures will be mailed in early May.
In addition to the 10-concert Choral Union Series, five events listed above will be packaged as a Piano Series (Kirov Orchestra with Denis Matsuev, Murray Perahia, Cleveland Orchestra with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Rafał Blechacz, and St. Petersburg Philharmonic with Nikolai Lugansky). Prices for the five-concert Piano Series range from $50-$310.
Tickets to individual events on the series go on sale on Monday, August 23 (via www.ums.org) and Wednesday, August 25 (in person and by phone).