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New Beethoven review!

“I can also report that fans of Sviatoslav Richter’s “live” 1975 London “Hammerklavier” will find a kindred spirit in Sivelöv. His tempos, timings, and “Romantic” approach are quite similar to Richter’s.”.. Jerry Dubins Fanfare Magazine 2018

Interview in Fanfare magazine.

Niklas Sivelöv, Pianist and Composer BY MARTIN ANDERSON A century ago one could find a plethora of musicians like Niklas Sivelöv, where one couldn’t draw a line between composer and executant: Rachmaninoff is the example we remember today, but there were dozens, even hundreds, of composers who made their living on the concert platform and wrote new pieces to feed their own repertoire. These days the composer who is also a performing musician is a rarety, which makes the dual career of the Swede Niklas Sivelöv all the more remarkable—and with three symphonies under his belt and a fifth piano concerto underway, the parallel with Rachmaninoff is hard to ignore. Sivelöv’s discography encompasses his own music (improvisation as well as formal compositions), works by Bach, Englund, Schumann, Skryabin, Stenhammar and others, two of Liszt’s transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies, and much more. His scaling of one of the summits of the pianist’s repertoire—the last six sonatas of Beethoven, on the label AMC Classical—was the prompt for a lengthy Skype conversation where we discussed the major strands of his musical life. Let’s start at the beginning. What were the beginnings of your life in music? I started playing the organ. I didn’t read music until I was maybe fourteen, and even then very slowly. I was a student in the Academy in Stockholm when I presented a program of the pieces I could play. I was playing by ear, and improvising, playing very slowly as I was learning from the score. I had a kind of resistance to learning things, I wouldn’t say properly, but I felt it was a very stiff way where the notes were in the way of the music somehow. I was very young, and I had these ideas about music just coming, as a kind of divine inspiration. And I kept that: I feel that I need a fresh drop of blood whatever I do. When I play, when I compose, I’m over-eager, and so I have to think about balance and restraining myself. Well, maybe not now, now that I have turned 50, but before it was always a problem. I have to remember when I compose that people have to play this, that this guy has to play it and not hate me too much; I have to make it understandable. So it’s always a process of cleaning up after myself. When you sit down to compose, do you already know where the music is going, or do you just let it take you where it wants? More and more, I get the music as a whole piece, quite fast. I have the piece in my head—I can sense it, I can feel it, I can see it—and then I start to compose. Sometimes I go in a little bit of a different direction, but somehow the piece was already finished. It’s really a struggle for me to finish it, because I felt it was already finished when I initiated it. Does that initial impulse come as a harmonic outline? What is it that you first perceive? The mood—and I can even see the notes, I can see my fingers playing certain notes. It comes to me like an idea, and then the editing process starts. It’s like sculpture—as Rodin said, he has a piece of marble or stone, and the sculpture is already in there; all I have to do is remove the other bits. It’s something like this. I’m quite rough in the beginning. Very fast, I have a feeling of everything, and I skip details. I have to remind myself to be patient and pay attention to the details. It takes a long time anyway for me to finish things, really finish the scores, to make it proper. It’s also part of being a composer. It comes from improvisation. I did a lot of improvisatory CDs. If I’m in the mood, I can record a whole CD—and interestingly, really sparkling, not just repeating something that I have in my fingers, really inventing something; a whole CD in a couple of hours, and it’s done. This is good; it’s also bad. It’s so fast sometimes, but you need to be able to digest things. I had to learn to take time—for example, in my Beethoven recording, and not only because some files were corrupt and we had to re-record the “Hammerklavier.” It took time, but that’s good, because it gave me time to reflect on what to do and it was not hasty work. Let’s discuss the Beethoven recordings now, since you’ve brought them up. I was surprised to discover how much of an outdoor quality they had, rather than the Innigkeit that everyone else seems to go after. It’s not the interiorized approach that I was expecting—it has more energy than introspection. I understand what you mean. It might be late Beethoven, but he is still very much alive, and even if his health is very bad, he still has strength and willpower and crazy ideas. And sometimes they are far out, not even in the realms of beautiful or ugly, but something else, without filter. He’s building something that just collides, as in the late quartets. There’s a lot of energy—as, of course, there should be. I think I also have these philosophical moments, but I don’t see the late Sonatas as something where we are already in heaven and we should treat it as something “brainy.” You hear that kind of version a lot—people are afraid of touching this material. I have a little bit more of a hands-on approach: I studied these compositions very much as a composer, and I was surprised how much of this material is straightforward. Were you thinking of individual sonatas or of the approach as a whole? The general approach—it’s vigorous rather than contemplative. In the “Hammerlavier” he’s really trying to do something monumental. There’s no doubt he had a lot of problems in his life during that time. There was the business…
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London: (Barbican Hall) “ a pianist of utmost sensational quality” Geneve: (Prokofiev 3) “ Niklas Sivelov est un pianiste dont l’intelligenc e sait explorer toutes les ressources de son instrument…et avec un virtuosité pe ́tillante.” Copenhagen: (Tivoli) “With an intense brilliance, a finely controlled touch, exquisitely formed detail and an impeccable sense of style” Aalborg : (The Art Museum) “The Renoir of the piano. One of the most interesting pianists of our time.” As one of the leading Scandinavian pianists, the award winning pianist and composer, Niklas Sivelöv has taken his career to new international heights with an extensive catalogue of recordings for such labels as BIS, Caprice, Dacapo, Naxos ,Toccata Classics and AMC Classical, some of which have been awarded the Diapason d’or, CHOK and the Penguin Rosette and concert activity over 4 continents including venues such as Gewandthaus, Barbican Centre, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Tivoli Copenhagen and Atheneum in Bucharest. He won critical acclaim and enchanted audiences for his artistic temperament, impeccable technique and spellbinding stage presence. His wide-ranging concert repertoire covers Bach to Skryabin, Scandinavian composers and beyond, and includes approximately 50 piano concerti including 4 of his own, and the catalogue of works includes 3 Symphonies, 24 Preludes for piano and several Chamber music pieces. Niklas Sivelöv is also a notable improviser with several successful recordings and collaborations: the CD Improvisational 1 winning The Independent Music Awards, where he as the first Scandinavian ever won the prize for the best classical album and was elected Winner of Vox Populi. The leading orchestras with which Niklas Sivelöv has performed include the Stockholm Philharmonic, Tonhalle (Zürich), Suisse Romande (Geneva), The MDR Orchestra (Leipzig) and Prague Radio Symphony under the baton of many distinguished conductors, among them Alan Gilbert, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kristjan Järvi, Sakari Oramo, Mario Venzago, Jukka-Pekka Saraste , Janos Fürst and Leif Segerstam The instrumentalists with whom he has performed include the Swedish clarinettist Martin Fröst, cellist Leonid Gorokhov, flautist Patrick Gallois and violinist Zachar Bron. Niklas Sivelöv grew up in Skellefteå in northern Sweden, where he began playing the organ as a six-year-old; his first compositions followed soon after. He played by ear until he was 14, when he began traditional piano instruction and learned to read music. He studied with, among others, Gabriel Amiras and Maria Curcio Diamond, students of the famed Heinrich Neuhaus and Artur Schnabel and today Niklas Sivelöv is modern representative for magic piano art where spiritual immersion and artistic courage bind together in higher unity. He was recently Knighted by the Queen of Denmark to Knight of the Order of Dannebrog and he is professor at the Royal Danish Music Academy in Copenhagen.

Rachmanninov Concerto no 1

Beethoven opus 111-Arietta

live from Piano Visions in Stockholm April 2019

New release!

Songs & Collaborations