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Making the world safe for small pianists

The Stretto Piano Festival and other forthcoming events, including the Verbier, Berkshire High Peaks, Presteigne and Oxford International Song festivals


Jerome Rose's International Keyboard Institute & Festival presents its Masters Series Concerts, 9-14 July 2023 at Merkin Hall, Kaufman Music Center, 129 West 67 Street, New York City, NY 10023, USA.

IKIF Masters Series Concerts, 9-14 July 2023

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Stretto Piano Concerts will host its annual International Stretto Piano Festival, from 15-23 July 2023, at the Engelman Recital Hall, Baruch Performing Arts Center, New York City, USA, and via free online performances from stages, universities, and studios around the globe. The festival celebrates the Stretto piano, which has narrower than conventional keys and makes piano playing more equitable, comfortable and easy for all hand sizes.

In-person concerts in New York City will be ticketed events from 18-22 July and will feature distinguished artists such as Christopher O'Riley, Roger Lord, Ran Feng, Steve Sangberg, Luiz Simas, Paul Sheftel, Anna Arazi, and internationally renowned composer, David Amram. Programs will include solo piano works, chamber groups, and various genres, from Bach to Joni Mitchell - plus a Music Lover's Concert for our community of pianists wanting to try the piano. The full line-up of artists - from North and South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore - and program information can be found via the URL below.

Since the standardization of the piano in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, pianists with smaller hands - predominantly women - have found this conventional size challenging to play, and have even experienced playing-related injuries. Today, artists have realized that one size does not fit all and are using the narrow key to reach their true musical potential. This unique festival shines a light on this growing, international community of artists who play and/or own Stretto pianos.

The International Stretto Piano Festival is the brainchild of New York multi-genre pianist and singer, Hannah Reimann, twentieth century 'Stretto' pioneer who, in 1997, independently rebuilt her Steinway with narrow keys to accommodate her hand size. She was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal as a 'musician on a mission to make the world safe for small pianists'.

The International Stretto Piano Festival, 15-23 July 2023
The International Stretto Piano Festival, 15-23 July 2023

The festival has quickly become a unique global performance phenomenon due to the collaboration of fellow pioneers and stretto experts, Carol Leone, classical virtuoso and Professor of Piano at SMU in Dallas, and Pianists for Alternately Sized Keyboards (PASK) coordinator, Australian Rhonda Boyle. World-renowned pianist Roland Pöntinen, who participated in the 2022 festival, reflected on Hannah Reimann's Stretto piano when he said: 'I tried this piano in 1998 and used the Schumann Toccata as my first test piece. This is a particularly taxing piece for normal-sized hands and I was amazed!'

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Founded thirty years ago by Martin Engstroem, at the end of a dead-end road in the mountains of Switzerland, Verbier Festival is a classical music festival committed to excellence in music performance and education through its highly respected artistic programme, its Academy and Orchestra programs, and UNLTD, its cultural engagement laboratory. Audiences from around the globe come to experience music-making at the highest level in an intimate setting that provides them unmatched access to star performers, rising talents and a completely transparent process of learning, rehearsal and performance. For the last two weeks of every July, the worlds' top artists clear their schedules and dwell in the atmosphere of music at Verbier.

Publicity for the Verbier Festival, 14-30 July 2023
Publicity for the Verbier Festival, 14-30 July 2023

Taking place from 14-30 July 2023, highlights of the thirtieth anniversary season include the Verbier Festival debuts of Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming and Wynton Marsalis; new combinations of superstar artists such as Bryn Terfel and pianist Daniil Trifonov for the first time; Yuja Wang with Klaus Mäkelä playing cello; and more than sixty concerts and a hundred free masterclasses, pop-up concerts, buskers, mountaintop musical yoga, pre-concert talks in two languages - French and English - and more. Some of the greatest pianists of our time - Yefim Bronfman, Mao Fujita, Richard Goode, Maria João Pires, Mikhaïl Pletnev and Brad Mehldau - will appear in concert, as well as the fourteen-year-old prodigy, Tsotne Zedginidze.

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Close Encounters with Music presents the Berkshire High Peaks Festival, which will mount its fourteenth annual season on the bucolic campus of Berkshire School, Sheffield, Massachusetts, USA, from 20-30 July 2023, welcoming back string players and pianists from around the globe and adding a vocal department.

At the core of the festival are fifty international students of exceptional promise and demonstrated accomplishment who gather for intensive study, are coached as part of performing ensembles and enjoy discussions and workshops by prominent composers, renowned pedagogues and notable figures in the music world as they prepare for professional lives.

Music-making at the Berkshire High Peaks Festival
Music-making at the Berkshire High Peaks Festival

This year's theme is 'Pathways'. At a time when the music business is fraught with uncertainties and career paths aren't as prescribed and predictable as previously, faculty will give a series of talks about how they found their individual places in the music world. All concerts, masterclasses and talks will be open and free to the public.

The ten-day festival, directed by internationally acclaimed cellist Yehuda Hanani, will continue to make its offerings of 'Moonlight Sonatas' concerts - faculty and participants perform - plus lectures and master classes open to the public. Hanani and his colleagues infuse students with love and enthusiasm for their musical vocation, instilling them with an appreciation for past traditions and a spirit of adventure and discovery - as well as connecting them to the Berkshire community and beyond with daily events. Highlights include a faculty concert on Tuesday 25 July and a wall-to-wall farewell concert on 30 July 2023.

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The 2023 Presteigne Festival - 24-28 August 2023 at and around the town of Presteigne in Powys, UK - features the music of one of the most prophetic voices of the twentieth century, Leoš Janáček. In the translation by Nobel prize-winner Seamus Heaney, Janáček's darkly atmospheric song-cycle/opera, The Diary of one who disappeared, will take centre stage on the opening night of the festival.

Chamber music in St Andrew's Church as part of the 2017 Presteigne Festival. St Andrew's Church, at which most of the festival's evening concerts take place, has a beautiful acoustic, and is a stone's throw from the Welsh/English border, marked by the River Lugg, which flows from Radnorshire into the River Wye near Hereford, in beautiful border marches countryside. Photo © 2017 Liz Isles
Chamber music in St Andrew's Church
as part of the 2017 Presteigne Festival.
St Andrew's Church, at which most of the
festival's evening concerts take place,
has a beautiful acoustic, and is a stone's
throw from the Welsh/English border, marked
by the River Lugg, which flows from
Radnorshire into the Wye near Hereford,
in beautiful border marches countryside.
Photo © 2017 Liz Isles

Major birthdays are celebrated for the Festival's long-serving President, Michael Berkeley (seventy-five) and octogenarian British symphonist, David Matthews.

The Festival is also hugely excited to be welcoming Roxanna Panufnik as composer-in-residence, recently described by The Observer as 'a gifted composer with a fast-growing reputation for heart, spunk and individuality ... distinctive in voice, serious, bold and appealing'.

Presteigne's important tradition of commissioning and premiering new music continues to be central to its ethos. Eleven new works from Panufnik, Berkeley, Charlotte Bray, Edward Gregson, Thomas Hyde, Sarah Frances Jenkins, Claire Victoria Roberts, Adrian Williams, James B Wilson and Electra Perivolaris - 2023 Royal Philharmonic Society composer - receive first performances.

Extant music from other living composers - including Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Edmund Finnis, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Huw Watkins and Judith Weir - is programmed alongside pieces by Bartók, Beethoven, Brahms, Britten, Debussy, Fauré, Holst, Poulenc, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky.

A truly world-class artist roster includes the Solem Quartet, Ivana Gavrić (piano), Rachel Roberts (viola), Mathilde Milwidsky (violin), Robert Plane (clarinet), Mark Wilde (tenor), Julien Van Mellaerts (baritone), Zoe Drummond (soprano), Alexei Watkins (horn), Chris Hopkins and Timothy End (piano), the Choir of King's College, London under Joseph Fort and the popular Festival Orchestra and Ensemble are conducted by artistic director George Vass.

Also included is poetry from Rhiannon Hooson, Christopher Reid on Seamus Heaney, Sioned Davies on The Mabinogion, a literary talk by Gavin Plumley, Stephen Johnson on Janáček, a new Barrie Gavin film celebrating David Matthews' eightieth birthday, three recent Wales-produced films (The Toll, Dream Horse and Donna), together with exhibitions and the popular Presteigne 'Open Studios' weekend, which celebrates the work of outstanding local artists and makers.

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Well established as one of the world's leading song festivals and the biggest in the UK, the Oxford Lieder Festival has been renamed, and is now called the Oxford International Song Festival. The new name better reflects the organisation's activities: bringing song and singing to every part of the local and wider community through performance, participation, and learning, while emphasising music that is exciting, profound and accessible to all.

Oxford International Song Festival

The Oxford International Song Festival (13-28 October 2023) will celebrate its first festival with its new identity in a fortnight that explores the rich connections between song, poetry and visual arts. An astonishing array of artists will appear in seventy-six events, encompassing the great works of the repertoire together with new works and exciting discoveries.

Alongside the roster of world-renowned singers and pianists, audiences can expect colour, fashion, musical manuscripts that are themselves artworks, artist-poets, artist-composers, programmes inspired by artworks, opportunities to create musically inspired art, and much more. A vast range of repertoire will be heard in nearly twenty venues around the city centre, from the iconic Holywell Music Room to the medieval crypt of St Edmund Hall and Freud's cocktail bar.

World-leading artists appearing at the Festival include Sarah Connolly and Imogen Cooper (giving the opening-night concert on 13 October), Graham Johnson, Christopher Maltman, Christine Rice, Miah Persson, Roderick Williams, Thomas Oliemans, Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha, Benjamin Appl, Jacques Imbrailo and Toby Spence. Singers appearing for the first time include Samuel Hasselhorn, Bethany Horak-Hallet, Laurence Kilsby, Francesca Chiejina, Karola Pavone and Andrei Kymach. The Festival's first foray into dance is Schubert's Winterreise, performed by Juliane Banse and Alexander Krichel with dancer István Simon, choreographed by Andreas Heise. Away from the classical song canon, artists include the Marcus Roberts Trio with Anush Hovhannisyan, and a return of Schubert-based band The Erlkings.

British-Chinese composer Alex Ho will conclude his two-year tenure as Associate Composer, and the first performance of his The Glass Eye, a major new song cycle with a text by Elayce Ismail, commissioned by Oxford International Song Festival, will be given by Hugh Cutting and Dylan Perez. Masterclasses will be led by Wolfgang Holzmair, and study events will be given by Stefano Evangelista, Natasha Loges, David Owen Norris, Philip Ross Bullock and others. A lunchtime series at the Holywell Music Room includes the first performance of a new work by Héloïse Werner, one of the most exciting new voices in classical music, which has been commissioned by the BBC and performed by BBC New Generation Artist Helen Charlston and Oxford International Song Festival Director Sholto Kynoch.

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Posted 25 June 2023 and last updated 11 July 2023 by Keith Bramich



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