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Cue Sheet – February 2007


    Bits of the latest issue of Strings magazine are online, including my profile of violinist Jennifer Koh:

    You’ve got to love Jennifer Koh for more than just her brain. Oh, sure, at age 17, when she won the top violin prize in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, she nixed the idea of becoming an instant touring virtuoso and high-tailed it back to Oberlin College to finish her degree—in English literature. And, yes, she had the idea of recording a disc of Szymanowski, Martinü, and Bartók concertos after reading the complete works of Czech novelist and essayist Milan Kundera.
    Yet Koh is most certainly not the sort of person to intellectualize all the emotion out of music. Says her mentor, violinist Jaime Laredo, “She’s very outgoing, almost flamboyant, but in a very good way, not in an ostentatious way. And she really touches the heart, because she plays from the heart.”
    The full article rests here. The issue also contains my interview with violinist Vincent Skowronski about the right way (in his opinion) to play the first-movement cadenza in Mendelssohn’s E-minor violin concerto. Now, unless you’re planning to perform the concerto yourself sometime soon, this may not seem like compelling reading, but Skowronski does have some colorful things to say. F’rinstance: “[Mendelssohn] was refined. Even his physiognomy was refined. What he wrote was refined. So why brutalize the concerto? Among violinists, if you like to chop wood and you want to play Mendelssohn, you have to compromise in the middle and not beat the hell out of it.” If you’re interested, you can find the rest here.

Classical Music,


    Now that the head of the English label Concert Artist/Fidelio has admitted that he plagiarized up to a hundred recordings and passed them off as the work of his late wife, Joyce Hatto, what are we to make of the Concert Artist recordings featuring Tucson musicians? Will Ozan Marsh’s Liszt turn out to be by Lazar Berman? Nicholas Zumbro’s Granados by Alicia de Larrocha? John Denman’s everything by Reginald Kell? I seriously, seriously doubt it, but I also wonder if Zumbro and the late Marsh would somehow feel slighted if their recordings weren’t deemed worthy to be passed off as Hatto’s. At least then Concert Artist would be using its own master tapes.

Classical Music,


    Of the five days I was recently off the air, four of them were due to illness. At first I thought I had a cold, then it seemed like the flu, and my doctor ultimately diagnosed it as a bacterial infection in my lungs, for which he prescribed antibiotics that gradually got me back in action. (By the way, last Wednesday, when I finally admitted that the nastiness wasn’t going away on its own, I called my doctor’s office, got an appointment for that afternoon, saw the doctor without waiting once I arrived, and was out again 30 minutes after I pulled up in front of the door, even though the doc took time for a little friendly chit-chat. It’s worth the extra money to take the PPO option! Who needs HMOs?)
    Yesterday, although I wasn’t quite 100 percent better as my doctor had promised, I drove up to the far north of Scottsdale to interview Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Anne-Marie McDermott (and the little dog she carries in a bag) for a magazine article. The dog didn’t have much to say, but the musicians, both of whom I’ve interviewed by phone in years past, were open and refreshingly unjaded and not given to tiresome, oft-repeated soundbites.
    McDermott, by the way, is shopping for a label to release her Prokofiev sonata cycle, which she recorded for Arabesque but then bought from the company when it entered a financially troubled period of dormancy. McDermott recorded the sonatas well east of here, but she first performed them as a cycle in Tucson, via a weeklong series of UApresents concerts. I’m sure many people here have fond memories of those performances, and would gladly buy McDermott’s CDs of the works.

Classical Music,


    No, I’m not on vacation; I’m one of the dozens of people hereabouts felled by the flu. (I dutifully got a flu shot in November, but it was apparently for the wrong strain.) Before succumbing, I did manage to catch a play for review in today’s Tucson Weekly:

    Whose story is it, anyway? Elizabeth Diggs' Close Ties is billed as a drama about a family coming to grips with how to deal with its increasingly senile matriarch. Eight characters vie for prominence in this 1981 work, presented by Catalina Players; some must inevitably be nudged aside by a few others whose personalities and conflicts command our attention--and the author's.
    So which characters take possession of this story? The answer is a bit surprising, but it's the natural result of Diggs' own interests, and certain strengths of casting in the local production.
    Read the rest here. And then wash your hands.



    I have no further comment on the Joyce Hatto Affair, but I will direct you to two useful sites. First, David Hurwitz of Classics Today describes how the story broke (it wasn't all sleuthing by Gramophone) here, with the continuation here. And Jessica Duchen is compiling links to articles and discussions at her site.

Classical Music,


    During the past year, critics have been all a-twitter over a slew of recordings featuring a reclusive and now dead British pianist named Joyce Hatto. According to legend, health problems caused her to stop concertizing in the 1970s, but she spend the remaining three decades of her life in the studio, recording her entire repertory. The CDs, most of them thrust into the market with great fanfare over the past several months, have been greeted as among the finest performances of this music in recorded history (especially astonishing as they were made by a sickly 70-year-old woman).
    Well, they may be among the finest in recorded history, but it seems they aren't by Joyce Hatto. Looks like her husband, who owns the little recording company that's been issuing the discs, has been pirating recordings by other pianists, some obscure, some not, including Yefim Bronfman and Vladimir Ashkenazy. Here's the New York Times article inspired by the original Gramophone news item, and here's a site, with waveforms and audio clips, that links Hatto's recordings to specific releases by other pianists.
    If Gramophone hadn't launched the investigation, I would take this opportunity to sneer at British boosterism gone bad, because it was mainly the British press that launched the Hatto adulation, with Americans then going along with it. But really, given that almost nobody has turned up who actually heard Hatto play in concert, and that an elderly, cancer-stricken woman was purported to be making top-quality recordings of very difficult piano music, how could everybody have been so credulous?

Classical Music,

About Cue Sheet

James Reel's cranky consideration of the fine arts and public radio in Tucson and beyond.