Sunday, March 09, 2003


Talking of keyboards, the Piano Festival 2003 features 17 days of performance and celebrates the 150th anniversary of iconic manufaturers Steinway & Sons. Curated by Kathryn Stott, the Festival runs at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall from 14 - 30 March. The full guide and programme is at Manchester Online. Russian music (including Prokofiev's three piano concertos) features prominently, partly because Manchester is twinned with St Petersburg, coinciding with the great city's 300th anniversary. Alongside the BBC Philarmonic, St Petersburg Philharmonic and Halle Orchestras are a host of famous classical performers - Nikolai Demidenko, Peter Donohoe, Barry Douglas, Angela Hewitt, Jin Ju, Piers Lane, Aleksander Madzar, Alexander Melnikov, Martin Roscoe, Kathryn Stott herself, Grigory Sokolov and the legendary Krystian Zimmerman. There are masterclasses with students from Chetham's and the Royal Northern College of Music.

Sadly there is little new music on show. Graham Fitkin is the only contemporary British composer given any significant space with the premiere of 'Circus For Two Pianos' on 21 March. Talented jazz pianist Julian Joseph, who pioneered the introduction of jazz to the otherwise rather traditionalist London chamber venue the Wigmore Hall a few years ago, has two showcases - one with Des'ree and the Halle. On 25 March Takashi Yoshimatsu’s extraordinary 'Concerto for Saxophone, Piano and Percussion-Cyberbird' makes an appearance. And the Pablo Ziegler Quintet for New Tango makes an entrance the next day. Apart from that it's high quality but traditional fayre. No Joanna MacGregor, no Nancarrow, no Ligeti... ... Still, with a dozen pianos, 28 international pianists, 68 events, a red Ferrari grand and top-flight musicians, the Piano Festival 2003 is undoubtedly an adventurous enterprise.

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