Matthew Gurewitsch
Matthew Gurewitsch
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Keyboard moments and more
Catch of the Day #26, revisited (airdate: January 7, 2018)

January 15, 2018

On air, the best single word of phrase I could come up with for the Polish virtuoso Krystian Zimerman in the last two piano sonatas of Franz Schubert (Deutsche Grammophon 4797588) was "respectful." In retrospect, I'll go with "self-effacing." From the very last of the series, the Piano Sonata in B Flat Major, D. 960, we heard the expansive opening Molto moderato, which undermines a prevailing serenity with tremors of cosmic unease. To catch the gradations of touch and timbre he was striving for, Zimerman outfitted a modern concert grand with a new keyboard built with his own hands. How many of his peers could carry out such a plan, even if they wanted to? Yet there is nothing finicky about the performance. My co-conspirator Paul Janes-Brown called the playing "clean." Faint, antiseptic praise indeed for music that glowed from within, free of any trace of ego.

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Gottfried von Einem at 100
Addenda from Vienna

January 5, 2018

No sooner had I posted my note on Gottfried von Einem's all-but-forgotten opera Kabale und Liebe, after the same Schiller play on which Verdi based Luisa Miller, than I heard from my old friend Wilhelm Sinkovicz, distinguished music critic of Die Presse, Vienna. He was delighted, he wrote, to find in me a fellow Einem enthusiast and wanted me to know that the Austrian capital would be commemorating the composer's centennial more extensively than I had indicated. In addition to Der Besuch der Alten Dame at what I called the "fashionable" Theater an der Wien (opening March 16), "the more fashionable Vienna State Opera is preparing, as its next premiere, Einem's Dantons Tod (premiere March 24). And on February 23, at the the Musikverein, the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra will perform his excellent cantata An die Nachgeborenen [To Future Generations], which was first performed in New York and then banned because of a misunderstanding. "Because a verse of a psalm was missing, Einem was accused of anti-Semitism. In fact, the Yad Vashem lists him with the Righteous Among the Nations."

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From the 12th century to the 21st
The year-end edition of "Catch of the Day," revisited

January 5, 2018

"We're famous." Thus, my co-conspirator and host Paul Janes-Brown brushed off my surprise at a personal note to me as host of Catch of the Day. The writer was Douglas Knehans, a composer previously unknown to me, hoping to drum up interest in his CD Unfinished Earth (Ablaze Records ar-00036), as yet in pre-release. What he said about the music intrigued me—so much so that I took a leap of faith and programmed not just a track or two, but an entire three-movement concerto for flute and orchestra, entitled Tempest, which runs a good 20 minutes.

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Gottfried von Einem goes toe-to-toe with Verdi
Kabale und Liebe, after Schiller, is quite a find

December 10, 2017

Gottfried von Einem (1918-96) is a composer of whom we hear little these days. True, there's a (modest) bar and reception area at the Musikverein in Vienna that bears his name. And the centennial of his birth next year will not go unobserved: the Musikverein has announced a concert in his honor in January, with a revival of one of his operas at the fashionable Theater an der Wien to follow in March. But outside Einem's native Austria, who remembers?

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Musical fantasies
A recap of Catch of the Day # 24 (December 3, 2017)

December 8, 2017

Some musical forms—the fugue, say, or the passacaglia—prescribe strict rules. Among those that do not, none wears its liberties more proudly on its sleeve than the fantasia. For a recent example, look to the title track of the new release from Anne Akiko Meyers, on Avie. The composer is the prolific Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016). Like his great countryman Jean Sibelius, Rautavaara knew how to conjure up, through grand as well as through sparse gestures, a sense of lonely, wide-open Nordic landscapes haunted by ancient memories. Against just such a background, the soloist in his symphonic "Fantasia" (2015) concentrates on the violin's middle to lower range to searching effect. Though the piece runs a quarter hour, the unanticipated shifts of mood that often characterize a fantasia come into play hardly at all. The mood is meditative, yet the momentum never falters. Joined by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Kristjan Järvi, Meyers weaves a potent spell. The balance of her program is given over to Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No. 1 and the Ravel showpiece "Tzigane."

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Books by Matthew Gurewitsch

Cover of Rafal Olbinski Women Cover of When Stars Blow Out

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