MATTHIAS GOERNE AND JAN LISIECKI IN LYRICAL LIEDER RECITAL
“Ludwig van Beethoven: Lieder · Songs” to be released by Deutsche Grammophon on 20 March 2020
Over the years, many of the countless attempts to portray Beethoven have veered towards the one-dimensional: the hero, the titan, the free spirit, the rebel and non-conformist, the musical libertarian… While there may be some truth in one or more of these labels, the reality is infinitely more complex. To get to know the true Beethoven, one needs to look beyond the multitude of myths that have proliferated around him – and a good starting point is to focus on some of his vocal miniatures, works that have been unjustly eclipsed by the monumental status of his nine symphonies.
Beethoven revisited the Lied form continually throughout his entire life. Here, we encounter a poetically sensitive and insightful man, drawn to the humorous qualities of the genre as well as to the fundamental questions of human existence.
World-renowned artists baritone Matthias Goerne and pianist Jan Lisiecki reveal some of his rich and varied creations in this field on their first joint album, Ludwig van Beethoven: Lieder · Songs, scheduled for international release by Deutsche Grammophon on 20 March 2020.
It has long been one of Matthias Goerne’s main concerns to work not only with specialised Lied accompanists, but also with top-calibre concert pianists. He places great stock in exchanging ideas on interpretation and performance on an equal footing with his artistic partners. Christoph Eschenbach, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Leif Ove Andsnes… – the list of pianists with whom he has regularly performed continues. Now over fifty, and with almost twenty-five years’ experience of the opera and concert stages to his credit, Goerne has been seeking to shed fresh light on the repertoire by exploring the songs of selected composers with some of the most outstanding members of the younger generation.
As he notes, the pianist plays a particularly significant role in Beethoven’s Lieder: “The piano parts in Beethoven’s songs are relatively complex, calling for an instinctive virtuosity beyond the reach of many pianists.” The singer found just that quality in Canadian pianist and exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist Jan Lisiecki, whose exceptionally acclaimed recent recording of Beethoven’s five piano concertos is already being touted as a new reference, and whose playing is notable above all for its profound sensitivity and an interpretative maturity that belies the artist’s youth.
“The very first time we met, I noticed just how quick Jan was to grasp new ideas,” recalls Goerne, “not to mention the incredible ability he had to translate those ideas onto the keyboard.”
Goerne and Lisiecki selected twelve works for their album, including two song cycles: the Sechs Lieder, op.48 – settings of poems by Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715-69) – and An die ferne Geliebte (To the Distant Beloved), the best-known of Beethoven’s solo vocal compositions. Matthias Goerne believes the fact that the composer’s songs are often overlooked today is due to the towering stature of Schubert as a Lieder composer. “That’s why Beethoven’s achievements in this genre are overshadowed. The very concept of the Lied is so indelibly and permanently linked with the name of Schubert that everything that happened before him is seen as scarcely worthy of attention.”
With this release, Goerne and Lisiecki demonstrate in an impressive manner that there is still plenty to reconcile and discover about Beethoven.
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Jan Lisiecki – Beethoven: Complete Piano Concertos (DVD and Blu-ray)
While Jan Lisiecki does not believe that Beethoven conceived the piano concertos as a cycle of their own, he says: “in spite of this, they belong together because they reveal such a differentiated picture of Beethoven, starting with the first two, which still honour Mozart’s legacy. Then follow nos. 3 and 4, both so inherently different in character, and the majestic ‘Emperor’ Concerto forms the finale.” It is this wide-ranging variety that Lisiecki finds fascinating, as it “reveals all the significant and oftentimes contradictory aspects of Beethoven’s music”. Jan Lisiecki did not shy away from the challenge of recording all five in a short period - 3 concerts in five days - at the Berlin Konzerthaus, where he joined the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, leading all five concertos from the piano. The musicians of the Academy with their intimate knowledge of the scores proved to be ideal musical partners for Lisiecki.
Beethoven - Complete Piano Concertos (visual album)
Following the release of the complete concertos in audio Jan Liesecki presents a video performance of the 1st movement from Beethoven's piano concerto no.3. The release of the complete concertos in video is scheduled for January 31.
JAN LISIECKI – BEETHOVEN: COMPLETE PIANO CONCERTOS
“If one thinks of the Beethoven concerti as novels, each offers a deep spiritual journey. Performed together, this definitive anthology gives new light to the power of Beethoven’s genius.” – Jan Lisiecki
Beethoven has proved a serendipitous theme in Jan Lisiecki’s remarkable rise to international renown. In 2013, he performed the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 4 with Claudio Abbado and the Orchestra Mozart in Bologna, standing in at very short notice. It was this same concerto with which the young Canadian pianist made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin four years later, and his first Beethoven concerto to lead from the piano, at Suntory Hall in Tokyo.
On 13 September 2019, Deutsche Grammophon is set to release Beethoven: Complete Piano Concertos. The album follows Lisiecki’s acclaimed Mendelssohn concerto recording earlier this year and marks his sixth recording for the Yellow Label.
Lisiecki believes that the composer did not conceive the piano concertos as a cycle of their own. “In spite of this,” he adds, “they belong together because they reveal such a differentiated picture of Beethoven, starting with the first two, which still honour Mozart’s legacy. Then follow Nos. 3 and 4, both so inherently different in character, and the majestic ‘Emperor’ Concerto forms the finale.” It is this wide-ranging variety that Lisiecki finds fascinating, as it “reveals all the significant and oftentimes contradictory aspects of Beethoven’s music”. At the same time, the works signify a historic change: “Beethoven rewrote the rules of the classical piano concerto and completely reinvented the genre by breaking with traditions.”
The recording is a testament to both Lisiecki’s courage and his commitment: in late 2018, Murray Perahia was forced to pull out of a series of performances at short notice. Jan Lisiecki did not shy away from the challenge and joined the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, leading all five Beethoven concertos from the piano at the Berlin Konzerthaus – three concerts in five days. The musicians of the Academy, who have intimate knowledge of the scores and decades of experience ‘reading’ the collection of works, proved to be ideal musical partners for Lisiecki.
One of his guiding principles is clarity, both in terms of his communication with the orchestra, and as regards their joint interpretation of the works: “Beethoven’s music is the product of different ideas, which the listener should be able to retrace.”
The recording marks a milestone at the break of the Beethoven year 2020 and once again demonstrates that Lisiecki has long secured himself a place among the upper echelon of classical musicians.
An audiovisual release will follow in early 2020.