GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 25, 2013

Supreme solo pianist comes to Shalin Liu

By Gail McCarthy
Staff Writer

---- — Lars Vogt, one of the leading keyboard artists of his generation and a man described as an “explosively expressive pianist,” comes to Rockport’s waterfront music hall in a concert Friday night.

The stop in the tiny seaside town is just one of dozens as he tours North America and Europe. The German pianist comes to Rockport from Ottawa, and after which he travels to New York City and then back to Europe with his first stops in Spain and Sweden.

David Deveau, Rockport Music’s artistic director, said this will be a memorable concert of a musician who became the first ever Pianist in Residence for the Berliner Philharmoniker.

“Lars Vogt is at the peak of his powers, and fully established worldwide as a probing and compelling artist. I personally cannot wait for this close-up performance, and can assure you it will be unforgettable,” he said. “His seriousness as a musician, his breadth of repertoire, his appealing stage persona have earned him a special place with the Berlin Philharmonic.”

The 42-year-old Vogt talked in a phone interview this week about his unique program, which he performs on Friday at 8 p.m. at the Shalin Liu Performance Center. It includes masterpieces as well as children’s pieces.

His program is expected to include Bartok’s “Excerpts from For Children (1908-10, rev. 1943); Schubert’s “Sonata in G Major, D.894” (1826); Larcher’s “Poems: 12 Pieces for Pianists and Other Children” (2009) and Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme by Paganini,” Book 1, Op. 35 (1862-63).

”Two of the pieces are real highlights of the piano repertoire, and two are slightly unusual pieces that I find really wonderful,” he said.

Vogt said that, in his great love of piano repertoire, Schubert’s is a miraculous sonata, one which Schumann called one of his best works.

“It has lots of riddles to be solved by the performer, which is really true. It has a lot of peaceful sides to it, but within that piece it also somehow manically circles around itself. There is something quite philosophical about it,” said Vogt of the Austrian composer who died around the age of 30. “He had a particular way of saying what life is about, even when he was very ill.”

Of the work by Brahms, Vogt said it is one of the most virtuosic pieces of the Romantic time. This piece will close the concert.

“The variations on the same theme are horrendously difficult but Brahms really makes it a work of his own. It has immense depth and drama and poetry of the time,” he said.

In addition to these two works, Vogt has chosen two sets of children’s pieces that open the two halves of the program.

He says he has extensive experience with the Bartok pieces because he used to play them when he was about 7 years old. He started playing piano at the age of 6. Although his parents did not play, there was a piano in the house that his grandmother played. She lived with the family and she taught her grandson his first notes on the keyboard.

”I remember I used to love these small Bartok pieces. They were folksy and so full of poetry. I thought it would be interesting to play these pieces that great composers have written for children and how they are written in a very immediate way, in a a very direct and emotional way,” said Vogt, who is involved in educational work for children.

The second half the program opens with the work of a living composer, Thomas Larcher of Austria. Larcher wrote these pieces for a successful chamber music festival that Vogt started in Germany 15 years ago.

”These poems I’m going to play are pieces for children that Larcher wrote for the festival,” said Vogt, who lives in London and Berlin.

Vogt, who has made 15 critically acclaimed recordings with EMI, first came to prominence when he won second place at the 1990 Leeds International Piano Competition. He has since gone on to perform around the world, throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and North and South America.

Deveau, a senior lecturer in music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Vogt enjoys a major career as a soloist with the world’s greatest orchestras, including the Concertgebeow (Amsterdam), New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, London Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus, in addition to the Berlin Philharmonic.

For tickets and information, visit rockportmusic.org.

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.

If you go ... Who: Acclaimed pianist Lars Vogt When: Friday, 8 p.m. Where: Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport