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Patreon Project

After months of preparation, I am happy to announce the wholehearted launch of my Patreon Project (click to visit page). This is my first time making use of any crowd funding platform, and I do not jump on it lightly. But Patreon is one I really believe is changing the way art is made for the better, by democratizing patronage and allowing anyone to "subscribe" to the creator and provide reliable, regular support to fulfill serious, long term projects. Beyond the necessary financial support it provides, it is also designed to give the artist’s backers an opportunity to be part of an artist’s close family of friends and fans, with an up-close view of the entire artistic process from concept to full realization. Backers can communicate with the artist easily and are an integral part of the project.

My primary drive for this Patreon Project is my desire to make great recordings on my terms, with the addition of multi-disciplinary collaborations that are critical to my vision. This is personal for me, in the sense that it is about expressing my passions and creativity as a musician in a way that fully reflects who I am. I’ve always had a curious mind, and I’ve pursued a multi-faceted path of creative exploration and cultural activism my whole life. I love history, and I’ve always wanted to build upon tradition to innovate in the service of a more beautiful and peaceful world. I see my relationship to classical music, art history, and contemporary culture as intertwined. For me, art is humanity, and without art, there is no humanity.

If you are interested in my work, I strongly encourage you to support me on this Patreon Project (click here to find out how). Your support, in recurring monthly installments of your choice (as little as $1), will have a direct impact on my ability to produce the projects listed below. They include my planned recordings of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Beethoven’s Sonatas, Debussy’s Preludes, and a multitude of additional creative expressions layered onto the music in some form or another (visual art, film, dance, theater, literature, poetry…). This is meaningful to me and my vision, but will also help the music reach a much wider audience over time. I don’t want to just run in and out of the studio, make a recording, release it, promote it, then move on to the next in a hurry. Instead, I want it to be a deep and meaningful artistic journey of philosophical questioning and discovery. Only your support will make this possible. Patrons will be kept abreast of the project’s progress and have rare access to each stage of this adventure. There are also specific rewards for each level of support.

Click here to learn how to join my Patreon Project.

 

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The Well-Tempered Clavier Project

I am embarking on the monumental task of exploring, performing, and recording the complete Well-Tempered Clavier of Johann Sebastian Bach. The Well-Tempered Clavier consists of a Prelude and Fugue in each major and minor key of the western scale, of which there are twenty-four. Because Bach tried this experiment twice, twenty years apart, there are two books of twenty-four Preludes and Fugues, each one brilliant in its own way, like the two testaments of the Bible. Performing or even recording these is not part of the typical piano player's path, because of their technical difficulty and length (an average complete performance takes nearly five hours). But predictably for me, I’m not interested in doing things the usual way: I am exploring this work in both traditional ways (a straight-up piano recording) and untraditional ways (remixing some of the music with electronic sounds; adding dancers, actors, performance artists, and set designs to live performances; turning parts and the entirety of the work into films and video art; and generally exploring the intellectual, philosophical, and poetic elements of the piece and its parallels to other works of art, literature, and music. 

This is a project I have been very slowly maturing for at least ten years. I have recently launched a Patreon page to help grow the support I now need to bring this concept into the world over the next few years. Each element of the project will be released to supporters of the Patreon first before the wider public gets access, so get on board! Because Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier represents, in so many ways, the alpha and omega of all music, Bach will not be the only composer I will be exploring, performing, and recording, but will be the soil from which all other music I play during this time will grow. 

Join my Patreon Project now. 
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Beethoven in my life

For me, Beethoven is the composer who most fully represents all aspects of human life in his music. I think in that way Bach and Beethoven have a lot in common. But Beethoven is more colorful, as witty as he is dramatic, and as bawdy as he is godly. Beethoven, even more than Bach, takes detours and takes time, analyses himself, the people and circumstances around him, and reaches for the heavens as much as he partakes in the good and the bad of existence. It could be said that Beethoven relishes the human condition, as much as he seeks to commune with higher powers. And there is an unabashed sexuality to Beethoven's music that, unlike that of Mozart's, is not coy, and is not hidden behind fans, lace and powdered wigs. Sex is woven into his music as a life force, but so is humanity's drive to overcome its own animalistic urges. 

Beethoven has permeated my life as a musician from my very first years studying piano, more deeply than even the music of Bach. Not only did I study Beethoven's music (sonatinas and bagatelles first, then sonatas and concertos) from the moment I could read music and without interruption since, but I connected with the story of his life, which seemed so vivid, in a way no other composer, as I could tell, was. It helped that his personal story was well known, that his portraits really gave a good idea of what he looked like, and that his music was plentiful and so evocative. It was easy for me to imagine stories for each of his pieces. My love of Beethoven led me to launch my career with his music, performing two of his sonatas for my first public recital in Paris when I was ten. 

I have performed more than half of his 32 Sonatas for Piano, his Diabelli and Eroica Variations, and most of his great chamber music for piano and strings. I have performed his 4th and 5th Piano Concertos many times and know his other three well. I have performed his Triple Concerto. I have dedicated many beautiful hours of my life listening, live and in recordings, to his string quartets and symphonies, to his opera and ballet, to his masses, to his lieder, and to all the other great and even insignificant pieces he wrote. I even had the honor of performing a world premiere of a piano trio that resurfaced nearly ten years ago (a recording of which is available here). 

Besides the above mentioned recording, and despite my lifelong passion and frequent performance of Beethoven's music, I have not yet launched any recording projects of his solo piano music, but that is about to change. Interestingly, it is through my Bach Well-Tempered Clavier Project that this is made possible. Beethoven was an ardent "believer" in Bach and spent his childhood studying the Well-Tempered Clavier, which had a tremendous influence on his writing. For me, it is as if, without first digging deeper into Bach, I could not find the clarity of thinking I was looking for in order to address Beethoven the way I knew I wanted. Spending so much time with Bach recently has somehow unlocked a magic door into Beethoven's world that, as I crack it open, is revealing sounds and rhythms I had not noticed before. I therefore look forward to working on and recording Beethoven's Sonatas while I continue to explore Bach. It is a pairing I am really excited about. 

Like all of my projects, they require support to see the light of day. Join me on Patreon.
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Debussy Project

Claude Achille Debussy is a composer who lives side by side with Bach and Beethoven in my personal pantheon of greatest composers. To most American, Anglo-Saxon, and Germanic people, the culture that made a Debussy possible is so foreign, in a way so exotic, that the reaction to most of his music with a few key exceptions (who does not like "The Girl with the Flaxen Hair" or "Clair de lune") is one of incomprehension or puzzlement. Many people don't hate Debussy, but neither do they fall under the spell of Debussy. Perhaps it is because we listen to Debussy through the lens of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms (or even Wagner), which constitutes the daily diet of classical music with which most people grew up with (if classical music was their diet). Perhaps we mentally sprinkle some of Monet's waterlilies onto our sonic interpretation of Debussy, or perhaps it is because the French-inflected greco-latin character in Debussy is lacking in the more full-blooded nature of the British Isles and lands north of the Rhine. But whatever the reason, Debussy is generally misunderstood and misheard. A shame considering the passionate depth of his soundscaped world, which is far from superficial and dainty. Not only that but Debussy in his own life even fought the application of the term "impressionist" to his music, aligned as he was with the symbolist poets and visual artists rather than with the more popular impressionists. Categories aside, I adore Debussy for the worlds he brings to life, for the internal conflicts he reveals, the constant uncertainties of life, and the occasional ripping of the heart, and the idea, expressed in his music, that time is both impossibly limited, and of no bearing. The limits and the limitlessness of the universe are all part of Debussy's world and he leads us to new, unexplored corners of our own selves if we give ourselves up to him.

I have recorded Debussy's Preludes once before, in 2007, with a camera crew filming as I went. You can hear some small extraneous noises in that recording if you listen carefully. The sound recording is available at the moment for streaming on SoundCloud, but I do plan on making a new recording of this masterpiece as well as recordings of more Debussy in the near future. I also plan to write a number of articles about Debussy, and about the French musical tradition.

Help make this possible by supporting me on Patreon!
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And then there's all this other music...

To be a classical musician takes a lifetime of dedication. There's no way around it, it's tremendously hard to make it as a concert pianist, and daily practice, hours at a time, is key to that success. But the world is so full of great music in other styles, from other cultures, from past and present. It is hard to be unmoved by it all and, as a musician, to be untempted by its riches. As a teenager, I explored the worlds of jazz and blues, even taking a summer course at the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston and private lessons from one of Bill Evans' pupils. But in more recent years I dug deep into the world of Flamenco, and more recently have been exploring cabaret and pop, traditional Chinese music, Persian, and classical Indian music. Although I do not hope to ever be an expert in any of these other genres in the way that I am in my Western classical genre, I do love to experiment and be inspired by some of these other traditions. My hope is to develop more non-classical projects and perhaps release some original material inspired by all of these at some point in the future.

Stayed tuned, and join my Patreon, to see where this takes me (it's a refrain, now!).
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The Podcast

Perhaps because my mother started her career as a journalist, it has always been in me to ask questions of interesting people. Right out of grad school, I launched a quarterly print magazine, The Journal of a Musician, which only made it through 5 issues before going on an indefinite hiatus. But during that time, amazing interviews with classical music luminaries were included, all original material, with people such as Hilary Hahn, Yefim Bronfman, Natalie Dessay, Mischa Maisky, James Conlon... You can consult it at the Library of Congress (and at Northwestern University Library as well). Times have changed, and in 2007 when the magazine was created, the podcasting revolution had not yet overtaken the world. But here we are, and podcasting is a most wonderful way to dig deep into the brilliant minds of musicians and artists working today. This podcast project will build on my experience interviewing for the magazine and bring it to countless more people through the magic of free podcast distribution channels! More information on that soon as episodes become available. 

I am always interested in your suggestions as to potential interview guests. Drop me a note if you have ideas! 

You can listen to all available episodes at www.ThroughTheStageDoor.org

And support my Patreon so that I can continue doing this work.
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The International Beethoven Project

I founded the International Beethoven Project (IBP) as a non-profit in 2009 in Chicago, with the goal of building a platform to make classical music more relevant to the world and its cultural zeitgeist, to awaken the interest of new audiences and to showcase the most creative and collaborative musicians of our time. Beethoven serves as the organization's masthead because he represents the ideal, forward-thinking artist who also seeks inspiration in the masters of the past; Beethoven's music is also intended to serve humanity and inspire a more perfect world. Furthermore, I have always been deeply moved by Beethoven's perseverance in the face of terrible adversity in his personal and professional life, and that grit also drives forth this ambitious and challenging project.

With Beethoven's upcoming 250th birthday in 2020, it is the organization's stated mission to leverage that opportunity to give classical music a major boost in this 21st century. 

As President and Artistic Director of IBP since 2009, I am proud to say that the organization has served as the platform for the world premiere of two recently discovered works of Beethoven; of nearly 100 new works of music by living composers (many of which IBP commissioned); as the producer of the annual Beethoven Birthday Bashes every December 16th since 2010; and as producer of the legendary and critically-acclaimed Beethoven Festivals and Unfestivals since 2011 every September. All of that has been made possible by a massive collaborative spirit between hundreds of musicians, visual artists, dancers, volunteers and generous donors who together have created something magical and memorable. I could not be more proud. IBP, in all its forms, multi-genre and pluri-disciplinary explorations, has always been true to the spirit of its namesake and to the idea of artistic freedom. Throughout this adventure, there have been big highs and a faire share of challenges, but the intent has remained the same throughout. It is my hope that more people will join as audience members, as administrative team members, and as patrons, so that IBP can continue its rise and serve an increasingly wider audience. 

Learn more about the International Beethoven Project on its own website by clicking here. 

 

 

 

Thank you for your interest in the varied aspects of my work, all expressions of my passion for music, for art, and for the world.

I'd love your support on my Patreon Page! Check it out.