Friday, March 7, 2014

Sea Urchin Spaghetti

It has been no secret that I am very passionate about food and cooking. However, in the last year or so, I was approached by a lot of people telling me how much they liked my "food" blog! Now, I do occasionally post about food, but looking at my blog, I never thought that it would be mistaken for one about food! Here I am, fixing this, the only way one can... by starting to post my own recipes. Yes, I am giving a few secrets away, and this first one is really not much of a secret. Spaghetti ai ricci, sea urchin spaghetti, uni pasta, call it as you wish, but this dish has been a long-time favorite of mine, and of my guests, whether they were obsessively in love with sea urchin, or whether they previously despised it, this very simple dish seems to always do the trick.

It was photographed by Bonjwing Lee of The Ulterior Epicure,  whom I credit for the photos below, and mentioned in the New York Times' Diner's Journal by Jeff Gordiner. I have made it at home for lots and lots of musicians, friends, and food lovers.
No big secret in this recipe, except for cooking perfectly the pasta, and getting the freshest Santa Barbara sea urchin. I love the rich creaminess of the Santa Barbara sea urchin, which somehow magically creates a creamy sauce, very much like a carbonara (don't ever think about adding cream to either dishes!!)
It is a very rich dish, so small portions are recommended.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 large box of Santa Barbara sea urchin (I recommend the Lobster Place, if in New York, at Chelsea Market. A bit pricey, but consistently good quality. You can look elsewhere for better deals, but be careful!)
1/2 bunch of chives
1/2 bunch of Italian flat parsley
1 clove of garlic
250 grams of De Cecco spaghetti (my favorite, as they hold "al dente" perfectly well. I wouldn't waste time or money in fancier brands for this dish)
4-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil


Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta. It should be firm to the bite, but not crunchy. Salt to taste. It needs to taste good enough to be eaten on its own. Also you won't be cooking this in any sauce, so it needs to be boiled to the final firmness. Save same pasta water for the sauce.

While boiling the pasta, heat the oil with the peeled, but not crushed (!), garlic clove. As soon as it starts to sizzle, turn it off and toss away the garlic, or it will overpower the sauce.

In a large metal bowl, pour most of the sea urchin in, saving four or more pieces for decoration. add the oil, the super finely chopped chives and chopped parsley and start whipping it with a fork.

Add the cooked pasta as soon as it's ready. I like to use tongs to pull it out straight from the boiling pot, which will have the added benefit of including some pasta water.

Keep whipping the whole think with a fork for a few seconds until it is all amalgamated into a creamy texture. If it seems too dry, add a bit of the pasta water, but don't make the dish liquid. It should be creamy.

Dish the pasta in four bowls and decorate with the pieces of sea urchin, and a little fresh chives and parsley.

Buon appetito!




Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Blog Entry on the Huffington Post


I was asked to write a blog for the prestigious Huffington Post on a beloved piece of mine: Stravinsky's Petrouchka. I have had a love affair with this fantastic work since I was a little boy. It was great to put into words years and years of emotions.



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cruising Along....


Lucille and I were recently invited to join a group from the stellar Verbier Festival on board of the ultra-luxurious MSEuropa cruise ship. The cruise went from Dubai to Istanbul, but we had to get off at Sharm-el-Sheik because of prior commitments. It was our first cruise ever. Being extremely prone to sea-sickness I never dreamed to go on a cruise, but this opportunity seemed just too good to pass.
We joined a fantastic team of musicians on board, pianists Yevgeny Sudbin, and his wife Sally Wei, violinist Sayaka Shoji, violist David Aaron Carpenter and cellist Adrian Brendel. Verbier Festival director, Martin Engstroem and his lovely wife, violinist Blythe Teh joined us at the beginning of the cruise. The relationships you can create when stuck in a place for a long time are nothing short of exceptional and we made some wonderful friends.
The ship was fantastic, the sights stunning, but at the end of the day, as it usually happens, it came down to friendship, playing wonderful music together and simply just having a good old time.
For a link to my cruise pictures click here


Monday, May 14, 2012

One of a Kind, and the Right Kind


It’s amazing how one learns on stage. Sometimes, actually most of the times, you learn by mistakes. Something doesn’t work during a concert and you swear not to repeat the mistake again. A few lucky times, you learn from something that goes really well. Something that magically works on the spot and you swear to repeat again at the earliest opportunity. And some other times you have an experience so intense that you need a long time to process all the information you collect during the concert.
I recently had the good fortune to play Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto with the amazing Yuri Temirkanov and his St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra on two different occasions. The first was at the Rostropovich Festival in Moscow and the second in Nizhni Novgorod. From the first phrase I realized that I was in for an inspiring collaboration, of course, but I also knew this was going to be a life lesson. I had constantly the feeling that every phrase, gesture and sound will continue to inspire me for years to come. The flexibility, sound, and sheer beauty of Maestro Temirkanov’s vision and the stunning delivery of every single musician of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic was truly one of a kind, and for this concerto it was beyond any doubt the right kind.
I always said that if I had to put together my dream team for any Rachmaninov concerto it would be Temirkanov and St. Petersburg, but this truly exceeded all my expectations.
I am so excited that I was immediately asked to open Temirkanov’s Arts Square Winter Festival in St. Petersburg this December with Mozart’s KV 491, and can’t wait to hear what these amazing musicians will bring to this fantastic concerto.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Food Food and Food

So by now, if anyone has been reading this blog, you must know of my passion for food. I recently had the honor to have a dinner for a few foodie friends including my friend Bonjwing,  who's an amazing photographer and food blogger, aka Ulterior Epicure. He snapped some amazing shots of my food right HERE.

Monday, January 9, 2012

European January


After an incredibly exciting New Year's Eve spent playing Liszt First Concerto at the Seoul Arts Center and greeting 2012 with a breathtaking post-concert fireworks display , I flew back to New York for just a day in order to repack my bags, organize my thoughts and head for the first of two European trips in January. 
Check out the celebration HERE

After having spent a lot of 2011 in the wonderful company of Johannes Brahms, I decided it was time to record a solo album dedicated to him. So I flew to London and made my way to the Welsh border and the wonderful Wyastone facility, where I had previously made my Rachmaninov: Preludes and Melodies disc, also for Signum. It's an idyllic place with no distractions, seemingly removed from the rest of the world. The "dream team" was there once again from London: producer Anna Barry and sound engineer Mike Hatch. I have been lucky to have had them for my last three CDs and I cannot think of a better team, artistically and humanly! The works I recorded are very dear to me. They are perhaps not the "obvious" choices for a Brahms disc, but they are incredibly personal and extremely powerful: the dark, gorgeous and experimental Four Ballades op. 10, the "perfect" Eight Pieces op. 76, both books of the fiendishly difficult Variations on a Theme of Paganini, op. 35 as well as my own version of Cziffra's crazy transcription of the Fifth Hungarian Dance.

Now I am in Berlin for a couple of days, then off to gorgeous Schloss Elmau for their chamber music week for a Beethoven recital with violinist Alina Ibragimova. Then to New York, briefly, for my debut at the 92nd Street Y playing Mendelssohn with cellist Steven Isserlis and violinist Stefan Jackiw, and next day back to Europe, for three  performances of Rach 2 in Spain and two Mozart KV491 in London. Now, if only I could shake this Korean cold off.....

Monday, August 8, 2011

Music@Menlo Carte Blanche Program Notes

Once again one of my summer's highlights has been a Carte Blanche recital at the wonderful Music@Menlo Festival. This year's festival was focused on Brahms, and so was my program. I did stray away, though, into a very specific direction with a couple of interesting addition to the Brahmsfest! Thanks to Music@Menlo for the opportunity and to its wonderful audience for having the patience to sit through 3 hours of music on a beautiful Sunday morning.
To read more about the program, check out the PROGRAM NOTES I wrote to justify my selection.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

JUNE BUG

The month of June begs for a blog entry. I very proudly managed to squeeze in some of my favorite destinations into our touring schedule and had a wonderful “working” holiday.
We ended the month of May with a dream of mine. For very obvious reasons I always wanted to add a visual element to Lucille's and my performance of Stravinsky's own four hand version of the complete Petrouchka ballet. The classical ballet production is an obvious choice, but maybe not the most practical one. So thanks to our dear friend Geraldina Baca-Spross, a true visionary and our long time partner at the Bravissimo Festival in Guatemala City, we worked with Bit's 'n Pieces puppet theater in a beautiful production of the complete Petrouchka, a story about puppets, with puppets, marionettes and shadow theater. It was truly enchanting. 
So we left to Chicago for a now ritual performance at the wonderful Myra Hess Series and embarked on a month long tour of Europe that brought us to some unusual, but unforgettable destinations.
Schloss Elmau
We started off in my home town in Bari, where we had a great time visiting my parents and taking care of some fun tailoring needs (my first ever white jacket for the US summer festival season and a new performance outfit for Lucille), then left to stunning Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian alps. Schloss Elmau has gladly become a fixed destination during the year, and it's truly a magical place. The beauty of the nature, as well as the all too pleasant level of pampering one gets quickly accustomed to and, last but not least, an ideal performance space, make Schloss Elmau a paradise for musicians, music lovers, spa aficionados and just about anyone on earth, really. We spent ten days with our friends Karen Gomyo and Christian Poltera in three programs of solo, piano duos, sonatas and trios. Our residency ended in beauty with a stunning concert with the incredible pianist Grigory Sokolov. What a treat!  I can't wait to be back in January for their wonderful Chamber Music Week.




Beautiful Harpa Concert Hall in Rejkyavik



From the breathtaking Alps we left for a new destination for us. We had been invited to the Við Djúpið festival in the West Fjords of Iceland. Traveling to a totally new country is something that doesn't happen too often nowadays, so it's always exciting. After spending a week in the West Fjords I can safely say that all future travel is now officially spoiled for us. I can't think of any place that could take my breath away in quite the same way that this amazing country has. The fjords, the mountains, the black sand, the 24 hour daylight and the amazing light constantly worked their magic on us. We literally felt in the most beautiful of dreams. As usual, I took an interest in the local food. Whale meat was very interesting, and the halibut and catfish was by far the best I have ever tasted. The texture and taste of Icelandic fish is unlike anything else. The food, the warmth of the people, the great music making, Iceland's stimulating cultural life and the constant feeling that we were in a beautiful new and unspoiled world made it an unforgettable experience all together.
Sunbathing in the Midnight Sun
4am on the Fjords
Stunning views on Iceland
We then left Ísafjörður for the furthest place in Europe we could think of: the beautiful island of Cyprus. I had been to Cyprus a few times before and was always overwhelmed by the beauty of the nature, the concentrated Mediterranean-ity of the place (think southern Italy on steroids) and most importantly the amazing cultural and human environment created by our friend Garo Keheyan and his Pharos Trust. Garo is one of those amazing human beings for whom beauty and art is not only a necessity of life, but life itself. We performed a four hand program in the gorgeous “Shoe Factory” and spent countless happy hours at the “Olive Grove”, two stunning places Garo built not only to satisfy his need for beauty, but mainly to serve the arts. All our meals in Nicosia were outstanding, and made me feel right at home. A particularly familiar dish, made with fava been puree and chicory leaves, an Apulian dish hard to find outside a 100-mile radius from my home town of Bari, happens to be a staple in Cypriot cooking. It was utterly delicious and just tasted of my childhood.
The Shoe Factory
The Olive Grove
I don't know when we'll have have a chance to have a month like this past June, but I can guarantee I will definitely try!
After Cyprus, I started a back-to-back summer festival schedule, which will end only at the end of August and will let me visit home just for a week this summer. We left Cyprus for Long Island, for the Stony Brook International Piano Festival, then the wonderful Mimir Festival in Fort Worth (for my 9th year in a row!), and the Young Artist World Piano Festival in Minneapolis, where I played my first ever (!) Beethoven 1 and met over 60 incredibly talented piano students. It was a beautiful event that really made me believe in a bright future for our beloved art form. I also taped my first “Performance Today” at MPR/APM with classical music royalty Fred Child (a super-cool guy). I have to say it was probably one of the most stimulating and interesting interviews I have done in a very long time. It will be out in August in two different segments, mixed with quite a bit of playing I did in their studio.
Icelandic Horse
Now, Lucille and I are on a flight to San Francisco, on the way to my second year at Music@Menlo, the wonderful and exemplary festival run by David Finckel and Wu Han. I will be presenting my second big Carte Blanche, with over two and a half hour of music by mostly Brahms (op. 10, 35, 39 and 76) but also Bartok's Dance Suite and Enescu's Third violin sonata on the same program, as well as three more concerts spanning from Brahms own two piano version of his Piano Quintet with Lucille and my debut on the harpsichord with music of Vivaldi and Bach. Music@Menlo has very quickly become one of my summer's favorite destinations, so I can hardly wait. Then off to the Dakota Sky Piano Festival and my fifth year at the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington before I embark on a rather poorly devised itinerary for September-October (New York-Rome-Taipei-Tokyo-Dallas-New York-China-New York). Right now, all I can think about the American Airlines miles. Oh, and Menlo's Carte Blanche's program, of course...
As always, you can follow the links to my Picasa's Web album for more pictures from Elmau 1Elmau 2Cyprus, and Iceland

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Early Inspirations

I was recently asked to provide some artist's notes on the "Early Inspirations"  program at Alice Tully Hall on March 25th hosted by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center I will be joined by a wonderful group of musicians (Ani and Ida Kavafian, Paul Neubauer, Anne-Marie McDermott and Nicolas Alsteadt) in some great early works by Mahler, Berg, Shostakovich and Bartok.
Here's my two cents. As you can see this program strikes a very special chord with me.


The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is well known for its enterprising and illuminating programs and tonight's selection is no exception.
I have to say that I was always incredibly fascinated by a composer's early works. These works are often dismissed as being derivative, but I believe that all great art needs to come from somewhere. No artist can create a masterpiece from scratch, for great art needs not only inspiration and vision, but also history and knowledge. 
In a composer's early output we can clearly see two elements at play: the culture and traditions in which the composer was raised and his/her trajectory in creating a unique voice. 
As a performer I find early works to be exciting and particularly revealing. For instance, there is a possibility that Bartok never completely abandoned the romanticism of his youth, and that we need to be aware of that side of him to make sense of his more abstract works. Or that perhaps Berg's later works could be just as extreme, passionate and aching as his Sonata op. 1. Most importantly, being exposed to these early works gives us a key to the composers' psyche and their world. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

An Amazing Journey, and gut feelings.....

Here we are, unbelievably, at the end of the Canadian Prairies Tour for Prairie Debut. We started in October, went back in December and now, for the last and longest leg, in February/March for 11 concerts in 12 days. Tonight, in Brandon, Manitoba, Lucille and I will play the last concert, our 25th event on this long tour. We gave a masterclass this morning at Brandon University, hosted by pianist Michael Kim, in which we heard six young promising students in a variety of repertoire.
Tomorrow we'll drive two and a half hours to Winnipeg airport, catch a flight to Toronto, then one to La Guardia and will be home, yes home, at night. Two days at home and we're off again to Italy, France, Lucille goes to Morocco and I go to Michigan. Yes, we'll have our beloved crazy life back.
Not that touring the prairies of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba was not crazy...
This last segment was very intense, with concert after concert, and long travels in between, but we had an advantage this time. Wonderful Lynne Bailey, Praire Debut's executive director came along and drove us everywhere. Not having to worry about where to go, when to leave, where to park etc... made things so much easier. It was really a blessing to have her with us on this long stretch. She drove about 2500km all together, and I have to say she kept spirits high throughout the trip.
Also, having Lynn drive us meant that I was free to bring my big DSLR along and indulge in one of my hobbies. I took about 300 pictures, mainly of white snow, immense plains, and unbelievable sky. We've never seen such sky in our lives, and so much of it. I will edit the pictures as soon as possible and post a link on this blog, so I can share this amazing experience with others.
Day after day, we met the most amazing and generous people, in bigger cities, and tiny communities. Once again music was the great unifier.
I have extensively chronicled a very different voyage through Russia and across Siberia HERE.
Yes it was a very different trip, but once on stage everything is always the same. In front of music we are all equal, and I do firmly believe that deep down, at a very basic level, people react to music in the exact same way. Education does play a major role in understanding music, but when I think of the gut feelings that great music triggers, I have discovered that people in New York react in the same way that audiences in Khabarovsk, Chita, Ulan-Ude,  Luseland, Weyburn or Snow Lake. Only after that, a series of "learned" concepts filters the music and lets us appreciate it and understand it to a higher or lesser degree.
Sometimes I do think that the "gut feeling" is really what it's all about though, and what needs to prevail.
If there is something I've learnt from these various self-imposed musical "expeditions" of the last few years (two Trans-Siberian tours and three Canadian Prairies tours), this is precisely it.
An invaluable lesson of what is REALLY important, in music, or life for that matter, and what at the end of the day our  ultimate goal should be in music making. Beauty, simplicity, immediacy is what makes music so universal. I've been lucky to experience that feeling in some of the most remote corners of the globe and see first hand the amazing effect that music has on people. No matter how long we work on every single minuscule detail, we should never forget that gut feeling, that visceral emotion that inhabits great music and is able to touch every soul in the exact same way, regardless of geographical, religious or cultural differences.

Pictures of a lot of sky coming soon.......

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Back to the South (Winnipeg !)

We're on a flight back to Winnipeg, after our Northern adventure in Thompson and Snow Lake. Internet-less and phone-less for two days we would have felt completely disconnected from the world were not for the warmth of the locals. We had a great time. The two and a half hour drive through a forest reminiscent of the Siberian taiga, was pretty uneventful until we got closer to Snow Lake and a beautiful landscape started to form. The flat land become more hilly and lots of (frozen) mini lakes appeared. We stayed at an amazing hunting and fishing lodge by the Wekusko Falls and it was breathtaking. Our private cabin was literally ON the falls. As it usually happens we had time to drop our suitcases and leave for the performance venue. We had two performances: one for local kids, who behaved exemplarily well, and the evening recital. The venue was an unusual one, the beautiful home of David Hart, a wonderful man, art collector with impeccable taste who owns five pianos (including a wonderful Yamaha Concert Grand) and a beautiful harpsichord.
He is an avid music and art lover, and we started spending some time watching wonderful videos, while waiting for lunch. The highlights included an interview with Arthur Rubinstein at age 90 and a quirky Canadian cartoon entitled Getting Started. David is the proud owner of a wonderful Elektra espresso machine, and I have to say he spent most of his time making me what seemed to be an obscene amount of delicious espressos and cappuccinos!

The kids were just amazing, and seemed to really get into the core of the music we played for them, and formulated very deep thoughts about the program. The evening audience was also wonderful. We met them after the concert and there was a wonderful feeling of having played our program directly to each one of them. A delightful reception hosted by David, the perfect host followed. We sipped rare tea served in two beautiful antique Russian samovars. I had another coffee, I think. To think that we were in Snow Lake, a small mining town in Northern Manitoba, surrounded by Russian samovars, beautiful art, Persian carpets and sipping espresso from an Elektra machine was mind blowing!
We drove our 10 miles back to the cabin, and woke up early to take a short walk around the property and the falls before going into town for yet another feast (breakfast, this time) at David's.
We will cherish our memories of Snow Lake for a long time to come. Back at Thompson airport I finally received all my e-mails for the past two days. About 100 emails, half of them junk, many serious ones and about a dozen of them with pressing questions needing to be answered, oh well, yesterday. Really? Now, really? How urgent can these be? Looking at Canada's vast forests from our plane now, and thinking about all the roads we still have to cover, it all seems relative. These tours seem to be a time to reflect on music, ourselves, and how small we are after all in this world, regardless of how big our preoccupations might seem back home. Kipling, Langenburg, Yorkton and Wynyard left on this segment of the Prairie Debut tour.
Oh, I will miss the Elektra in the next few days.

our cabin on the Falls

the Elektra!!!

Petting zoo

the Falls from our cabin

 Lucille and I on the property

southern Italian playing with snow

amazing falls


 the falls from the suspended bridge

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Canadian Tour 2 - part 1

Greetings from Thompson, Manitoba. Check it out on this MAP
We were greeted by a a balmy -26C (-15F) at the Thompson airport. The air brought me back to our Trans-siberian tours. You can read my first long diary from that amazing trip HERE.
The air is cold and dry and as soon as you step out you feel your nose hair starting to freeze. I have to say it is much more pleasant than the relatively warmer but more humid Winnipeg, where last night we started the second of three legs of our Praire Debut Tour. The tour will cover about thirty towns across Saskatchewan and Manitoba in three segments: the first was last October, this current one in December and the longest final leg will take place in February.
Winnipeg was fun. Lucille and I played as part of the Virtuosi Concerts Series, the major recital series in town. We were chosen as poster children for the season brochure and it was nice to see our faces at the Winnipeg airport. We played to a wonderful sold out house, on an old Steinway D, signed by none other than Claudio Arrau!
So we boarded a small ATR-42 propeller jet flown by Calm Air to Thompson, picked up our monstrous Dodge Ram 5.7L 4X4 pick-up truck and drove to our hotel. We were warned by the tour manager not to go out, as apparently the town can be dangerous, and only to eat at the restaurant recommended by the hotel. We left for the restaurant just to find out that they are closed on Sunday, we tried another establishment, but after looking at the "way-too-cozy" atmosphere and noticing a smell of cheap alcohol (at 5pm), we decided to drive through an A&W and eat burgers in our room.
Tomorrow, we leave for the charming town, appropriately called Snow Lake, a mining town in which just last year the largest Canadian deposit of gold was discovered! We have a school program and an evening concert there tomorrow, and it will be by far the most remote destination of this tour.
Oh, I almost forgot. I need to plug in the Dodge's battery to an outlet in the parking lot, so that the battery won't freeze over night and the car will start in the morning. I have never done this before. I hope I do it right, or we might end up staying in Thompson and eating at A&W again...
Welcome to Thompson airport

Typing the destination on the GPS 
Driving in the Prairies


Sweet ride


 Calm Air Pamphlet 

 Winnipeg Program



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Canadian tour #2

Tonight is the last concert of the first portion of Canadian "Prairie Debut" tour. At 1600km of driving through Saskatchewan and 6 concerts in 6 days, this is the shortest of three tours. The next one will be in December and the last one in February, for a total of almost 30 concerts and a few workshops. The program is a healthy mix of four hand works with my wife, Lucille Chung, by Mozart, Brahms, Schmidt (a Canadian composer we commissioned a work from), and Piazzolla. It's been an interesting tour, mainly because of the various small and enthusiastic communities we brought our programs to and some really vast landscapes. I don't think we've ever seen so much sky in our lives!
So we left the "Korean" Travelodge in Melfort. The food was really outstanding! And it included a Ukrainian brunch on the morning we left town. Since Melfort we played to sold out houses, made up with locals, piano teacher(s), and lots of piano students. It was really heart warming to see and talk to these special audiences. And God knows, we needed some warming. Although the temperatures became more friendly and most of the ice melted, we had a bit of an adventure last night in Manitou Beach. We assumed most of the Prairies would be totally flat, but this beautiful spot, a nice lake surrounded by cliffs was not! Last night, coming back from the concert in Watrous, I took a wrong turn, and got ourselves stuck on ice on a winding hill, far away from the main road, and with no phone connection. A ditch was just inches away, while I tried to wiggle the car out of the ice for a good half an hour. It was quite an experience for a Southern Italian like myself. We kind of gave up, when I tried one last time, we somehow magically got out. We were pretty lost, and I just followed the only path my car let me go on, until we ran into some civilization and asked for directions. We got to the main road, finally, but again totally lost. We saw a deer, but didn't want to ask for directions.... and right at that time our phone somehow miraculously got enough connection to log onto Google Maps to get us out.
We asked Lynne Bailey, Executive Directore of PD to rent us a 4X4 car in December!
So tonight is our last concert of this first segment, then a 2 hour drive to Regina airport and two flights to get back home in New York, just in time for my debut recital at the Metropolitan Museum on Nov. 5 .

NYC, and especially our home, will feel very good, I think!

Tough competition, in Melfort

Amazing views

Our dirty car at the end of the tour

no hurry....

Watrous




Prairie life

Friday, October 29, 2010

Canadian Prairies Tour #1

Oct. 29, 2010

It's the second day of our Canadian "Prairie Debut" tour. We flew into Saskatoon, spent the night and embarked on our drive to Hudson Bay, SK. 330km away, but the roads were so icy already that slow traffic made the journey last about five hours. The scenery is quite stunning. Winter has already started, and we have continuous views of the white prairies, and an enormous sky. It's wonderful to have 360 degrees views at all times. Living in NYC, we definitely appreciate this.
The ice on the road is no fun, especially as it forces us to drive at a snail's pace.
We stayed at a cozy B&B last night located on a ranch. Part hunting lodge and part horse riding destination, the B&B felt very comfortable and its owners went out of their way to make us feel welcome. We played the concert to a mixed crowd of young piano students and local older couples, whom seemed thrilled to have a classical "act" in town.
After an amazing breakfast of local oats, wild Saskatoon berry jams, eggs, bacon, and, to my request, moose steaks, we took the road to Melfort, about 155km back on the way to Saskatoon. The second part of the journey was pretty rough, but I am still in awe of the colorless vast landscape. I wish I didn't have to drive and just take pictures. I am feeling immersed in an amazing black and white painting!
We checked in at the Travelodge in Melfort. The place has been owned by Korean nationals for the last two years and its restaurant serves Korean food! Needless to say, they were thrilled to see Lucille whom in Korean negotiated for us to have a Korean lunch today, even though it is usually reserved only for dinner here.
I have been wanting to compare this tour to our previous trans-siberian tours, but I have had some difficulties so far. Now, I am driving, so unfortunately am not able to soak in the surroundings as well as I did in Russia, and also, as much as we felt detached from our world in Russia, we were visiting all the major cities, whereas so far on this tour we are in really rural areas. Hudson Bay's populations is 1600, to put things into perspective.  Second concert in a few hours, but not before a Korean lunch! Moose Kalbi, anyone?




saskatoon jam

moose steak b-fast


our vehicle...




View Larger Map

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's been a while: a mid-summer night's story


It's been a while since my last post. It's about 1230am now, but summer is going by so fast that I suddenly felt the need to jot the first part of it down.
This is a wonderfully hectic summer. Six festivals, a Rachmaninov Solo CD for Signum, a three-week long tour of Japan, a couple of recitals and a concerto performance are just the musical part of this crazy summer. Lucille and I also sold our condo in New York last month and just moved to a brand new one fives blocks away. Two separate trips to Asia and two to Europe are somehow providing me with lots of hours of much needed mental rest on the plane. As it happens,  I had to fly from Wales to NYC for two nights to close on our sale and move all our belongings (including two pianos!) to storage, then went on to my Japan tour and three weeks later started rehearsals in Fort Worth. Lucille managed among many difficulties, and performances (including a Mozart recording for Universal) to close on our purchase of the new condo AND move in during her two day stay in New York. She then joined me to the Mimir Chamber Festival in Fort Worth. We just got back to NYC and are unpacking. It's really exciting. I am looking forward to lots of dinner parties.




I was really happy to be back at beautiful Schloss Elmau, in Bavaria for the second time.  It is really heaven on earth! This time I put together  three concerts with Lucille, and my friends (and amazing musicians) Nicolas Alstaedt and Joseph Lin. We really had a great time playing wonderful music, enjoying the spectacular surroundings and taking full advantage of the most beautiful spa I have ever seen. Highly recommended!

I am really excited also about the new Rachmaninov recording for Signum Records. We chose the beautiful facilities at Wyastone, in Wales, for this project, and I couldn't have been happier. My producer Anna Barry and Mike Hatch were their amazing selves. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them on my last three recordings, starting with Warner Classics' Baroque Reflections. It went so well that we finished the recording early. I can't wait to hear the final edit, and for the  recording to be out next year! It will feature the complete preludes op. 23, quite a few transcriptions (including my own version of Vocalise), and a rarity: some charming student works by Rachmaninov.


I then moved out of our old place and  I got ready for the long tour in Japan with violinist Sayako Kusaka, an old friend from my SMU, who is now concertmaster of the Berlin Konzerthaus Orchestra.  We played three programs, including my first ever Franck Sonata (!) among other things. But the highlight of the tour for me was performing  Busoni's amazing Second Violin Sonata. It is such a special, unique and powerful work, and it was a pleasure to perform it in such great concert halls and on great pianos with her.
I thing I have probably been to Japan about 15-20 times, but this summer I finally had time to visit Tsukiji, Tokyo's famous fish market for the first time. Our tour manager picked us up at 330am to be in line for the tuna auction at 4. It was really an amazing experience. Of course the 6am  sushi omakase at the market was the best part! I also had the opportunity to visit the beautiful city of Nara, Japan's oldest, and to meet a lot of warm people all over Japan. All in all it was a great trip, and a very unusual one, since  I had a bit of free time and met with a few friends while in Tokyo! I have to confess that Tokyo has become over the years one of my favorite destinations. I can't wait to go back!






A yearly summer appointment, the Mimir Festival in Fort Worth, followed Japan right away. This was a fun year, as I was playing two amazing works. Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time (it was my first performance ever!) and Korngold's Suite for two violins, cello and piano left hand alone! Mimir is always a lot of fun, and after about ten years, I feel like I know a lot of the audience, and that we are all a big family. 

Now, I am back in NYC, in my beautiful new home, and with Lucille. Off to Westport, CT, for a four hand concert with Lucille on July 24th , then back home and off to Menlo for my debut at the wonderful Music@Menlo Festival. At that point, musically, I will only be half way through my summer. It's going to be a long and wonderful one!