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Splendeurs mélancoliques de Severin von Eckardstein à Paris
Le 1 février 2020 par Vincent Guillemin

Invité au Concertgebouw ou dans les plus grandes salles en Allemagne, Severin von Eckardstein fait une apparition en France cette saison dans un lieu beaucoup plus confidentiel, à l’Église Saint-Jean de Montmartre, dans laquelle il porte avec splendeur deux cycles de Dupont et Schumann.

En musique comme en art en général, le talent n’est qu’un élément parmi d’autres pour réussir à remplir des salles de concerts. Et si Severin von Eckardstein ne manque clairement pas du premier élément, son unique récital en France cette saison ne bénéficie malheureusement que d’une salle d’église à forte réverbération, devant un public d’à peine une centaine d’amateurs.

Pourtant, le récent enregistrement du cycle La Maison dans les Dunes de Gabriel Dupont, mort en 1914, couplé aux Images de Debussy, mort en 1918, prouve l’exceptionnel maîtrise de discours de l’artiste. Dans l’Église Saint-Jean de Montmartre, chaleureuse par ses dorures mais froide par sa température de ce soir d’hiver, le pianiste a gardé de son dernier album le cycle de Dupont, pour le coupler à la Polonaise-fantaisie opus 61 de Chopin, puis à un cycle rarement interprété de Schumann, Danses de la Communauté de David, (Davidsbündlertänze) opus 6.

Pour celui qui ne connaît pas l’œuvre de Dupont, surtout pour ceux passionnés par la musique du début du XIXe siècle français et plus particulièrement par Debussy, le seul conseil à donner est de foncer sur l’enregistrement du pianiste paru en 2018. Car dès la première des dix pièces, Dans les dunes, par un clair matin, l’expressivité et la pâte d’un compositeur de trente ans déjà totalement mature transparait. Le geste d’Eckardstein délivre à l’ouvrage toute sa puissance, d’une rare intensité et d’une splendide intelligence, pour un ouvrage qu’il joue sans partition. Le froid l’oblige à se réchauffer les doigts en soufflant dessus entre les parties, et si le Voile sur l’eau ne touche pas d’une superbe mélancolie, la main droite se crispe sur le passage animé Mon frère le vent et ma sœur la pluie en milieu de cycle. Toutes les pièces modérées, de la Mélancolie du bonheur aux Houles finales, montrent la même arche et la même puissance, pleine d’une délicatesse tout juste altérée dans le grave par les sons brouillés de l’acoustique, malgré un piano Bechstein à la sonorité particulièrement chaude.

La Polonaise-fantaisie de Chopin débute avec la même humilité, celle d’un pianiste particulièrement agile sans se montrer jamais démonstratif. Pourtant il utilise tous les moyens qui s’offrent à lui, à commencer par les deux pédales, jusqu’à de discrets accelerandos, pour développer un message que l’on aurait particulièrement aimé entendre dans une autre salle. Puis il aborde le Davidsbündlertänze, introduit par un Lebhaft déjà parfaitement canalisé, qui glisse vers une nouvelle mélancolie, moins directe mais tout aussi forte que celle de Dupont, avec la pièce n°II, Innig. Les parties « Mit Humor » montrent la capacité d’Eckardstein à bien différentier chaque danse de cet opus 6 de Schumann, jusqu’à une douce Wie aus der ferne puis à une tendre danse finale, Nicht schnell (Pas rapide).

Une pièce de Tchaïkovski en bis achève une soirée musicalement splendide, mais d’une froide mélancolie en pensant à ce qu’elle aurait dû et pu être dans une acoustique comme celle de Gaveau ou de la Cité de la Musique.

 

Warm pleidooi voor vergeten componist Dupont
door Christo Lelie, 28-01-2020,

Recitals in de serie Meesterpianisten worden in de regel gekenmerkt door programma’s, bestaande uit louter bekende werken uit de klavierliteratuur. Omdat dit repertoire door toppianisten wordt uitgevoerd zijn deze concerten alleszins interessant en voorzien ze in een behoefte. Er is echter een massa pianomuziek gecomponeerd die nooit de status van ijzeren repertoire heeft bereikt en daardoor zelden in grote zalen klinkt, maar die zeker de moeite waard is.

Juist zulke onbekende composities kunnen alleen maar ‘landen’ in de beste vertolkingen door grote, voor deze composities bevlogen musici. Die wagen zich daar echter zelden aan, wetend dat concertorganisatoren er niet erg happig op zijn: onbekend maakt onbemind bij het grote publiek en een lege zaal is ene dure grap.

Severin von Eckardstein is een van de weinige pianomeesters die het wél aandurft om regelmatig totaal onbekende stukken op zijn recitals te spelen. Dat deed hij ook zondag 26 januari in Amsterdam. En ja, de Grote Zaal van het Concertgebouw was wat minder goed bezet dan gewoonlijk, maar de thuisblijvers hadden ook dit keer ongelijk.

Het onbekende werk dat een groot deel van zijn programma besloeg, was de omvangrijke, tiendelige cyclus ‘La maison dans les dunes’ (Het huis in de duinen) van Gabriel Dupont (1878-1914). De naam van deze Franse componist zegt zelfs vele echte muziekkenners helemaal niets. Hij lijkt totaal vergeten. Dat komt deels doordat de jong gestorven Dupont een zeer zwakke gezondheid had, waardoor hij nauwelijks in de openbaarheid kon treden. Bovendien zijn Duponts technisch en muzikaal veeleisende composities minder vernieuwend én toegankelijk dan die van zijn tijdgenoten, zoals bijvoorbeeld Debussy, Ravel of Rachmaninov. Ze komen alleen tot hun recht onder de handen van een virtuoos die in staat is ze alle kleur en emotionele lading te geven die erin verborgen ligt. Zo’n gedreven en inlevende ambassadeur voor Dupont is Severin von Eckardstein, zo bleek in zijn indrukwekkende recital.

Duponts cyclus is een tegelijk impressionistisch én expressionistisch egodocument waarin hij, zelf constant strijdend tegen de dood een dag beschrijft die hij doorbrengt in een huis aan de duinen te Arachon, een plaatsje aan de zuidwestkust van Frankrijk. In de tien delen, die poëtische titels hebben, verklankt hij prachtig wat hij mee- en doormaakt, vanaf een heldere morgen tot en met de nachtelijke sterrenpracht en de door de wind opgestuwde golven (‘Houles’). Duponts stijl neigt naar het impressionisme van Debussy, maar wortelt nog meer in de late romantiek, zoals die ook te vinden is in de werken van de Rus Nikolai Medtner. Tot de verbeelding sprekende, zingbare melodieën, zijn niet zijn terrein. Des te meer gebeurt er in de harmonieën en pianistische kleuren. Het was werkelijk geweldig hoe fraai Von Eckardstein Duponts verhalen als het ware wist na te vertellen. Prachtig waren bijvoorbeeld de verschillende soorten regenbuien die te horen waren in ‘Mont frère le Vent en ma soeur la Pluie’ (Mijn broer de Wind en mijn zuster de Regen). Von Eckardsteins gelaagde pianospel wekte de indruk dat hij met gekleurde spots steeds andere facetten van Duponts muziek uitlichtte. Te midden van de pianistisch complexe delen, was de klare, lyrische zanglijn in deel 9, ‘Clair d’étoiles’, een moment van immense schoonheid.

Severin von Eckardstein was zijn recital begonnen met muziek die wél erg beroemd is, maar niet in deze versie voor pianosolo: de ‘Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune’, het verrukkelijke orkestwerk van Claude Debussy. Hij speelde het in de pianotranscriptie van Vyacheslav Gryaznov. Hoe geraffineerd deze het werk ook vertaald heeft naar de piano en hoe gedifferentieerd Von Eckardstein het ook speelde, deze bewerking kan niet tippen aan de kleurrijke en zinderende instrumentatie die deze statische muziek in de oorspronkelijke orkestversie zo toverachtig en bekoorlijk maakt.

Na de pauze greep Von Eckardstein terug naar bekend, romantisch repertoire. Chopins Polonaise-Fantasie in As, opus 61, speelde hij overwegend in een lyrische, improvisatorische en lichte toon. Des te overweldigender waren de dynamische climaxen, waarin de polonaise in volle kracht opbloeit.

Heel veel te beleven en genieten was er ten slotte in Von Eckardsteins gave uitvoering van de complete ‘Davidsbündler Tänze’, opus 6 van Robert Schumann. Hierin, maar ook in al het andere wat hij deze avond ten gehore had gebracht, demonstreerde Severin von Eckardstein dat bij hem techniek, fantasie en noblesse hand in hand gaan.

Toegiften waren het dansante ‘Lyrical fragment’, opus 23 nr. 3 van Medtner en Prokofjevs hamerende ‘Suggestion diabolique’, opus 4 nr. 4, de laatste toevalligerwijs hetzelfde hartige toetje waarop eerder in dit seizoen ook Boris Giltburg zijn publiek getrakteerd had in deze serie.

 

Magische musiceerkunst van meesterpianist Von Eckardstein in Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, Mai 2019
Cornélie Hoendervanger 10-05-19, 00:55 Laatste update: 09:32 Bron: Eindhovens Dagblad

EINDHOVEN – Als je een hele avond in je dooie eentje aan de vleugel muziek zo spannend kunt laten klinken dat het publiek ademloos móét luisteren, behoor je tot de wereldtop. Een plaats in deze eredivisie bezet de Duitse grootmeester Severin von Eckardstein, die donderdag met zijn magische musiceerkunst voor zijn derde recital weer naar Eindhoven kwam. 

Hij kent geen technische beperkingen en stelt zijn fantasievolle creativiteit altijd in dienst van de componisten. Zijn toverformules zijn timing, een lichtvoetig toucher en een hypnotische verhaaltrant. Steeds zorgt hij voor een mooi panorama op de pianoliteratuur en wijdt zich aan wat er achter de noten staat. Zo klonk Schuberts Fantasiesonate prachtig, met een verstilde intimiteit. Licht als een veertje liet hij Schubert naar de hemel stijgen en een gedurfd zeer langzaam tempo in het eerste deel deed de spanning tot een hoogtepunt stijgen. 

Indrukwekkend. In opus 119 van Brahms peilde Von Eckardstein naar de diepte met een unieke persoonlijke visie. In vier van de allermoeilijkste Etudes van Liszt liet hij horen zich gemakkelijk te kunnen meten met de vele notenvretende virtuozen van deze eeuw en overtrof zelfs die collega’s met een extra dimensie: een verbijsterende verbeeldingskracht die in de Liszt-acrobatiek verscholen ligt. Wat een hallucinerende Dwaallichtjes en een zwoele Ricordanza, alles gedompeld in een demonische gloed: een fantastische belevenis. Na de toegift, Liszts Petrarca-sonnet, vroegen de pianofans dan ook: ,,Wanneer komt Von Eckardstein wéér naar het Muziekgebouw?”

 

New York, Park Avenue Armory
Susan Hall – Nov 15, 2018, Berkshire Fine Arts

Severin von Eckardstein, the young German pianist, trailing multiple awards, arrived in New York for two concerts featuring Robert Schumann, for whom he has a clear affinity.  If the composer were with us, he would have reciprocated.

The second concert was bracketed by Schumann’s Fantasie in C Minor, which the composer dedicated to Franz Liszt, and Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor, which he in turn dedicated to Schumann. Schumann actually bracketed the entire evening and both programs, as the final encore was also the composer’s. 

Von Eckardstein is a tall, handsome man with big hands, capable of grasping massive chords.  He chooses not to blow dry his hair, or rock to and fro on the piano bench in the style of a divo.  Instead, like his compelling and sensitive contemporary counterparts, Inon Barnatan and Conrad Tao, he is fixed on the music. His performance enchants with his attention to the sounds.  He listens carefully to the keyboard’s receipt of his fingers, hearing notes echo through the sounding board, giving the audience a chance to appreciate the overtones.

The sweetness of the soft melodies in the upper register is palpable.  Long melodies drawn forth quietly and with seeming ease are one end of von Eckardstein’s spectrum. They are strikingly delicate in contrast with the other end of the pianist’s palette, violent passions. 

When von Eckardstein wants his notes to forcefully ring out, he listens and responds to the sounding boards’ overtones, whether he is playing notes lightly in the melody or crashing down on chords.

Among the orchestra’s he has performed with is Dallas, then under the direction of Jaap van Zweden, now Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. This concert in the beautiful Officer’s Room of the Thompson Art Center at the Park Avenue Armory is a calling card left for New York.  Surely von Eckardstein will return.

Von Eckardstein likes contemporary music.  He performed a delightful piece by Martin Heckenroder [“Herchenröder”], Paul Klee, Blatt IV.  The pianist alternated between sitting at the keyboard, and standing to pluck the strings of the piano’s sounding board.  He drew notes that  suggested Klee’s own dots and lines. Klee was a trained musician and his strokes in brush and pen have a musical lilt. [ … ]

 

Von Eckardstein leverde pure acrobatiek en soepel samenspel met dirigent en orkest.
De Volkskrant  (5 sterren), 17 juli 2018, FRITS VAN DER WAA

De juiste balans tussen passie en precisie is in muziek meer dan eens lastig te vinden. De troepen die zondag het podium van het Concertgebouw bezetten hadden daar evenwel geen last van. Samen met chefdirigent Ed Spanjaard koorddanste het Orkest van het Oosten trefzeker over de scheidslijn tussen hartstocht en hersenwerk.

Al in de muzikale miniatuurtjes van Debussy’s Children’s Corner liet het orkest uit Enschede allerbekoorlijkste staaltjes van kleurmenging horen. Dat was nog maar een voorproefje van de baaierd aan tinten die het gezelschap vervolgens, samen met pianist Severin von Eckardstein, uitstortte in Ravels Pianoconcert in G. De solist leverde pure acrobatiek en soepel samenspel met dirigent en orkest, die tussen de directe plaagstoten en pianistische parelkettinkjes van tijd tot tijd het doek opentrokken voor klanken met een ruimtelijke illusie, als wazige vergezichten. Subliem was de beheerste baldadigheid in het slotdeel.

Tsjaikovski’s Zesde Symfonie, de ‘Pathétique’ kreeg een overtuigende vertolking, met grote aandacht voor de lange lijn. Maar het ware genoegen zat ook hier in de details. De verschillende instrumentengroepen glorieerden in zinderende maar homogene harmonieën, voorop de bijzonder transparante groep bassen, maar later ook het koperkoor. Wat heeft de oude rot Spanjaard, die nog geen jaar voor het orkest staat, het al zeer fatsoenlijke niveau geweldig opgekrikt. Spijtig dat het over een jaar alweer moet gaan fuseren met het Gelders Orkest. Ook een goed orkest, daar niet van, maar als je twee verschillende gerechten door elkaar roert wordt het resultaat niet per definitie lekkerder.

 

Le paradis du pianophile est en Allemagne
30/08/2016 – Critiques, Par Bertrand Boissard,

 « Festival des raretés pianistiques » : tout est dit. A Husum, petite ville côtière du Nord de l’Allemagne, Chopin et Beethoven ne sont pas forcément les bienvenus, à moins d’un arrangement acrobatique pour l’un, d’une page méconnue pour l’autre. Ici, règnent en maîtres ceux qui n’ont jamais été considérés comme tel de leur vivant, les obscurs, les sans-grades, les oubliés du dictionnaire. Tout cela par la grâce de Peter Froundjian, bon génie qui, depuis trente ans, fait le bonheur des pianistes les plus aventureux et des pianophiles les plus curieux, lassés des sempiternels « classiques favoris », alors que le répertoire pour clavier est d’une ampleur et d’une diversité gigantesques.

Outre les récitals, des quizz convient les auditeurs à des joutes ludiques : à qui sera le plus incollable à reconnaitre telle cadence de Wilhelm Kempff ou tel concerto d’Anton Rubinstein. L’ambiance est à la camaraderie : une sorte de club ouvert réunissant des amateurs passionnés venus des Etats-Unis, du Japon, d’Europe… Autant dire que lors des récitals au château d’Husum, on entend une mouche voler.

[ … ] Quant à Severin von Eckardstein, c’est un maître, avare de ses apparitions. Après deux Barcarolles de Fauré (certes pas des raretés) qui serpentent avec toute l’ambigüité espérée, sept Préludes de Robert Casadesus donnent une image inédite de l’interprète. Le Dithyrambe op. 10 n°2 de Medtner prend les allures d’un cauchemar lascif, la Polonaise de Scriabine jaillit tel un diable de sa boîte. Puis c’est la Sonate op. 72 de York Bowen – le “Rachmaninov anglais” – jouée sans partition (l’œuvre est longue, complexe, torrentielle), menée avec un brio à couper le souffle, une science sonore et une finesse confondantes. L’apothéose d’un festival certainement unique au monde.  [ … ]

 

Severin von Eckardstein : un pianiste flamboyant
Parlons Piano, Bertrand Boissard, Paris, 6.4.2016

Pour leur deuxième édition, les Nuits Oxygène ont convoqué pendant près d’une semaine quelques remarquables jeunes pianistes, avec comme point d’orgue la venue du rare Severin von Eckardstein. Sa réputation, enviable, s’appuie sur sa victoire en 2003 au Concours Reine Elisabeth et plusieurs disques consacrés à Medtner, Schubert, Wagner… Son programme est un modèle de fine originalité. Magnifiées par un splendide Steinway, les Barcarolles n°1 et 8 de Fauré, souples mais solidement arrimées, regorgent de sonorités irisées. Place ensuite à une découverte : sept des vingt-quatre Préludes op. 5 (1924) de Robert Casadesus, le célèbre interprète. Des pages plus qu’anecdotiques où passe l’ombre de Debussy et Ravel. Vient ensuite le tour de Chopin. Sous les doigts de l’artiste allemand de trente-sept ans, l’héroïsme de la Polonaise op. 53 n’est pas un vain mot : enlevée de mains de fer, elle vibre de toutes ses composantes sonores.

Massage et annonce en gare

A l’entracte, voilà qu’on me propose un « massage concertant »… Une charmante attention, que j’ai malheureusement dû refuser : un critique musical ne saurait être distrait de sa mission. Auparavant, la « voix de la SNCF » – alias Simone Hérault -, celle aussi de la radio FIP de la grande époque, avait retentie pour annoncer le concert. Tout cela dans une église – certes évangélique allemande, mais tout de même…  Effet incongru assuré.

Mais retour à la musique. Après les Fantasiestücke op. 111 de Schumann, auxquelles la réverbération généreuse du lieu accentue l’impression de maelström, place aux transcriptions wagnériennes signées Stradal, Brassin et Moszkowski. Si Parsifal perd en spiritualité ce qu’il gagne en puissance et noblesse – basses telluriques -, le Feuerzauber crépite en un feu de joie ardent et la Chevauchée des Walkyries exulte. Dans cette dernière, Infatigable, trouvant des ressources cachées pour aller toujours crescendo, usant d’un subtil jeu de pédales, d’une virtuosité ravageuse, Severin von Eckardstein fait l’effet d’un sorcier, convoquant des forces secrètes pour une glorification grandiose du génie wagnérien – et des possibilités du piano. La sensualité capiteuse de la Mort d’Isolde, qui n’exclue pas une certaine délicatesse, nous fait rester sur les sommets.

Un formidable récital. Les organisateurs de concerts seraient bien inspirés de suivre l’exemple des Nuits Oxygène et d’inviter ce pianiste doté d’un répertoire d’une variété réjouissante, sans doute un des plus accomplis de sa génération.

(Übersetzung: “Ein fulminanter Pianist…Sein Programm besticht durch seine feine Originalität … Konzertmanager wären gut beraten, diesen mit einem wunderbar abwechslungsreichen Repertoire faszinierenden Pianisten zu engagieren, der sicherlich zu den herausragenden seiner Generation gehört.”)

 

“Severin von Eckardstein is great”,
Concertgebouw Amsterdam, March 09, 2014
Trouw, March 11, 2014, by Sandra Kooke

Connoisseurs know that von Eckardstein is an ingenious pianist, but in the general public this First Prize winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition 2003 is not yet as well-known as his peers such as Lang Lang, Denis Matsuev or Yuja Wang. He doesn’t have a contract with a big record company and he doesn’t do photo-shootings in New York or Venice.
That also could have some good aspects, because now he can make his own choices and he doesn’t have to follow the demands of the record markets as playing faster, harder and more sensationally.
On Sunday evening this German pianist surprised the audience at the Concertgebouw with works of Beethoven, Liszt and Wagner that do not really belong to the standard repertoire, with music of Dafydd Llewelyn and finally with the Third Sonata of Scrjabin.
The evening was a kind of dialogue between composer and pianist. Von Eckardstein plays as he believes that a piece should sound. He does not make the music to be more beautiful or more exciting; there are no concessions to any wishes that do not serve the music itself.
This attitude might result from his feeling for the architecture of music and for the relations within it. That was convincingly to be heard already in the “32 variations on a theme” of Beethoven. He dives into the music, but he always keeps the balance. The “Legende no. 2, St. Francois de Paule marchant sur les flots” was played fully in control. And that means a lot with a piece in which trace can be lost so easily . Also Wagners’ “Isoldes Liebestod” – ten minutes of ecstasy, which can be pretty annoying when being played by a moderate pianist – was perfectly constructed. Scrjabin’s sonata sounded like a summary of this evening: Von Eckardstein made the sonata shine like a diamond, always lighting up another facet. A flaming combination of poetry and passion, yet in total harmony.
Too bad that the public only got really excited when hearing an absolute hit: the First Ballade of Chopin as an encore, played with extreme virtuosity . As if he wanted the audience to hear that he definitively can play sensationally, just as he wants to.

 

Wilful Master Pianist (Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 09. March, 2014)
Telegraaf, March 11, 2014, Review by Eddy Vetter

[ … ] Severin von Eckardstein is different to all the others, in his interpretations and in his programmes. This time he played a long fragment from the extensive oeuvre of Dafydd Llwelyn, a friend of him, who passed away last year and who, so to hear, was a fan of Messiaen. Also quite unusual for a piano recital: transcriptions of parts of Wagner’s music dramas. The 35-year old German has recently dedicated an entire CD to these Wagner transcriptions. On the piano keys, he seems to conduct an entire mammoth orchestra, with all its excitement. Even such a sound magician can’t hide the fact that the strings of a piano are not made to suggest the magical sound of a string orchestra.
The deepest satisfaction was given by von Eckardstein with music originally composed for the piano. In Beethoven’s “32 variations on a theme”, he expressively showed all the different facets. Then, in the two pieces of Liszt, he dedicated his extraordinary dynamism to a poetic and dramatic expressiveness, a power that was carried through to the extreme in the Third Sonata of Scrjabin, as if a volcano erupted.
But the enthusiasm in the main hall increased particularly with the encores: a very delicately played “Dying Swan” of Saint-Saëns in the arrangement of Leopold Godowsky and the First Ballade of Chopin performed with passionate devotion. Indeed, a Master Pianist.

 

New Wagner – CD by Severin v. Eckardstein,
“An extraordinary Recital of Transriptions”
SA-CD.net, 18. Mai 2013,  by Polly Nomial

[…] the playing is simply stunning – the consummate virtuosity is placed entirely at the service of the music and, astonishingly, one almost forgets that a full orchestra should be playing this.[…]

 

Dallas Symphony Orchestra with Jaap van Zweden
Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto
Classical Music Review, 17 February 2012

“…Again, van Zweden got amazing attention and focus from the orchestra, and plenty of rhythmic energy. After a surprisingly gentle entrance, German pianist Severin von Eckardstein supplied all the rhythmic drive and chiseled clarity one could want, but no hint of the banging often heard in this piece. Reflective passages were graciously handled…”

 

More a superior musician at the piano than a showy pianist Concertgebouw
Amsterdam, June 13, 2010, Trouw, June 16, 2010, Review by Christo Lelie

 […] He showed great virtuosity, but played without ostentation, with an exceptionally rich pianistic pallet of color and a deep-rooted musicality, together with a certain nobility. Because his primary commitment is to uncover the deeper layers of the music and not to show off with beautiful sounds and technique, you could see him more as a superior musician at the piano, than as a showy pianist. […]

 

Eckardstein opens Piano Festival with Power and Poetry
South Florida Classical Review, 15 May 2009

[…] This young German pianist, winner at the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition and recipient of numerous awards, provided much pleasure with a challenging and intellectually stimulating program to open the weekend festival in fine style.

[…] His group of three Chopin Nocturnes was as delicate and stormy as one could wish. He uses rubato freely, and is not afraid of bringing the volume level down to a whisper. This was Chopin playing at its best, with just the right amount of lyrical sentiment and emotional control.

Eckardstein’s performance of Scriabin’s perfumed and seductive Op. 32 Poems and the Poeme-Nocturne of Op. 61 showed masterly use of pedal and an ability to color the textures to a remarkable degree. […] Eckardstein’s journey was full of detail, performed with a wild but controlled fantasy that richly conveyed Scriabin’s world with a sense of ease and wonderment.

The Ballade in G minor by Edvard Grieg is a substantial work that is rarely encountered in the recital hall. It has all of the composer’s familiar characteristics, including the Norwegian folk element, and passages of splashy virtuosity. At nearly twenty minutes, it is Grieg’s most ambitious work for solo piano with all of the composer’s imagination being utilized in fourteen variations. Imagination was also the key element of Eckardstein’s performance. The technical passages were incorporated into the structure of the music with a beguiling array of Grieg’s rich harmonies and palette of colors.

[…] Closing with Liszt’s monumental Sonata in B minor brought us once again into the world of the sublime. This epic work was composed years after Liszt had given up his career as a virtuoso and reflects the composer’s more spiritual elements. Although still fiercely difficult, it shies away from empty display and turns its back on the Hungarian’s stock-in-trade glitter meant only to dazzle.

Eckardstein brought a strong musicality, structural grasp, and concentrated power to the intensely demanding sonata. Following an almost inevitable standing ovation, several encores were played until the house lights were turned up. […]

 

Highlight with Eckardstein
Tageblatt Luxembourg, June 18, 2008, Review by Alain Steffen (Translation)
Orchestre Symphonique de la Monnaie, conducted by Kazushi Ono

 […] Appearing on stage next was one of the most talented younger pianists of our time, Severin von Eckardstein. The not yet 30-year-old musician’s interpretation of the exceptionally rewarding 5th piano concerto by Camille Saint-Saens enraptured the audience. This concert has everything a good pianist needs to delight his public. The particularly vivid and fanciful first movement is followed by a quite original andante, reminiscent of Egyptian or North African music. The concerto closes with a very virtuoso and powerful molto allegro. However, unlike the apparently computer-driven king of the keyboard, Lang Lang, Severin von Eckardstein avoided being drawn in by the superficial glow of the music. Instead he was actively looking for a dialogue with Ono and the musicians, harmonizing musical shades and dynamics with the orchestral image. He redirected the music back onto itself by uncovering many intimate and very sensitively sculpted moments in the first two movements. The rapturous applause was more than justified and Severin von Eckardstein, who definitely delivered one of these season’s interpretational and performance climaxes, expressed his gratitude with an encore by Nikolai Medtner […]

 

A Certain Place in the Piano Pantheon
(Final Concert “Artist in Residence”, Arnheim, April 21, 2008)
De Volkskrant, April 24, 2008, Review by Bela Luttmer (Translation)

Once in a blue moon it happens: you enter a concert hall as your own usual self and you leave a changed person, richer and stronger. In the Musis Sacrum hall in Arnhem (Holland) the German pianist Severin von Eckardstein (29) offered a programme of Variations for the piano. In successive order we heard the modest, almost ornamental variations of Joseph Haydn (Andante con variazioni Hob. 17/6), the high pressure variations of Anton Webern, the laid back Papillons of Schumann and finally as the ‘pièce de résistance’, the 33 variations Beethoven invented to a simple tune by Diabelli. Von Eckardstein set to work as the Pied Piper of Hamelin. He first sharpened the senses with gratifyingly gentle ornaments, then challenged the audience to join him in his intellectual approach of the precision work of Webern and at last he let us relax and recline comfortably. Then after the interval, during the Diabelli variations, all frames of mind came together in an exciting culmination. Pianists who dare to take on Beethoven’s mega-composition are rare. Whoever is capable of creating suspense until the very last note competes for a place in the pantheon of the piano elite. With Von Eckardstein, the complexity of the piece passed entirely unnoticed. What we heard, primarily, was Beethoven, and his increasingly rich powers of reason that towards the end of his life culminated in otherworldly string quartets, a late sonata and the gigantic cycle of variations. With his accurate structure, sparse use of pedal and no frills, Von Eckardstein came very close to a pure rendition of Beethoven. He will certainly not have to worry about his place in the pantheon.[…]

  

New Medtner CD Recording
Pianist Magazine February/March 2008, Review by Marius Dawn

“The Russian composer Nicholas Medtner has been accused of being impenetrable and lacking the good tunes with which Rachmaninov so lavishly iced his compositions. As with all serious music from composers who are not out to make immediate impressions, repeated listening of Medtner’s music will give full value. SEVERIN von ECKARDSTEIN catapulted himself to fame through the Leeds Piano Competition, and his new release of two Medtner sonatas, plus a handful of the smaller compositions from the early to middle part of the oeuvre, is without doubt the most important Medtner release to come my way since the pioneering Geoffrey Madge recordings. The short concentrated Sonata tragica receives a whiplash performance that leaves you breathless – in fact I will gladly part with my old Madge account of this sonata. The main work, the ‘Winter Wind’ Sonata, is simply a triumph from beginning to end. If there is to be only one Medtner recording in your collection, make it this one!”

 

“Hats off, Gentlemen”
Huffington Post November 14, 2007, review by Ivan Katz

[…] I have waited for a very, very long time to hear a young pianist who combined a first rate technique, a probing intellect, an instinctive grasp for the feel of the music, and taste. […]

At this evening’s concert at Sprague Hall at Yale (part of the 2007-2008 Horowitz Piano Series at Yale), Severin von Eckardstein, with the daring of youth, opened the program with Franz Schubert’s Sonata in A Major (D 959), a work completed in the last week of Schubert’s life. […]

A performer approaching this work needs a few things that are in short supply these days: Relentless focus, a first rate lyrical sense, the ability to illuminate the dead ends […] exceedingly clean articulation and a steadfast refusal to accent the piece for cheap effect.[…]

Von Eckardstein took a cerebral approach to this sonata, keeping the heart-on-sleeve emotion roiling just below the surface, and when it broke out it did so with full force. It cooed, it caressed, and then it exploded. It was a very good thing that this was the only work performed before the intermission, as the audience needed the interval to recover its wits.

The second half opened with Franz Liszt’s Sonetto 123 del Petrarca from Années de Pélerinage. Von Eckardstein took it slowly and with the utmost restraint, producing an effect that was haunting. After the briefest of pauses he launched immediately into Liszt’s Ballade No. 2. […]

The contrast with the introspective Petrarch Sonata could not have been greater. This was music let loose with a torrent of notes that had the impact of a cannon shot off in the room next door. It was Liszt at his gaudy, heaven-storming best, but wonder to behold it was devoid of vulgarity or cheap effects. […]

What I can tell you was that I walked into Sprague Hall expecting to hear yet another cookie-cutter pianist with great fingers, few brains and no taste … and I walked out stunned to realize that Severin von Eckardstein has the goods. The reviewer says “Let’s hold the evaluation until we hear more of him.” The music lover is a bit less circumspect. Hats off gentlemen, a genius!

 

Severin Von Eckardstein at Yale; Gentle Poet of Pianism
The Hartford Courant, November 15, 2007, by Jeffrey Johnson

 […] He came onstage quietly and after about 20 seconds of meditation began the Schubert Sonata in A Major, D. 959 that comprised the first half of the program. He took the opening Allegro in a relaxed tempo very much on the slow side. After the opening six-bar phrase he unleashed his secret weapon; a warm quiet playing with wide varieties of touch and nuance. […]

The extension of the quieter possibilities of playing were also central to his “Appassionata” but von Eckardstein also voiced the extraordinary rage demanded by this work, which culminated in the Presto codetta to the final movement, where he contrasted his loudest and quietest playing at top speed to seal an instantaneous standing ovation. Von Eckardsteins musical thinking recasts the sonic balances of familiar repertoire, and while they may not have universal appeal, the possibilities seem rich with potential. Throughout the evening a distinctive interpretive personality was transmitted.

 

“Pianist shines in varied programtxt”
Miami Herald, May 12, 2007

“… His appearance at the International Piano Festival represents a first for this artist, and by the playing heard from the stage of the Lincoln Theatre on Saturday night, we have waited too long to encounter this extraordinary player.

In one of the most interesting programs of the season, Eckardstein began with Beethoven’s Sonata No. 21 dedicated to the composer’s early benefactor Count Ferdinand von Waldstein. Although the work is clearly cast in a virtuosic mold, there was little that was showy about this performance. Tempos were never pushed, and the relentlessly loud dynamics heard in many performances were kept well under control. At first it seemed a bit remote, but Eckardstein has a broader view of Beethoven’s creation and the final Rondo served as catharsis for what preceded it. It was a different perspective, and one which saved most cumulative energy for the final coda, with glissandos executed so well.

A grouping of four Mendelssohn Songs without Words, and his ebullient Rondo Capriccioso, were light and airy with feathery execution. The not-so-miniature miniatures were a joy to experience in such beautifully rendered readings.

The Sonata Tragica by Russian composer Nicolai Medtner is the final movement from his second volume of Forgotten Melodies. It’s a brief, turbulent episode that begins and ends with a hammer stroke of fate. As befits the music, Eckardstein held nothing back as the stormy shower of notes resounded throughout the auditorium. This outstanding pianist showed his ability to generate a large volume of sound when needed and still handle barely audible contrasts within an awesome dynamic range.
[…]
This remarkable concert concluded with the Sonata No. 3 by Alexander Scriabin. Once again, the pianist showed his mastery of dynamic contrast in one of the composer’s most tender and lyrical works, Eckardstein giving an extra expressive lift and yearning to the Drammatico opening movement.”

 

“Genius piece of forging “
De Volkskrant, April 24, 2007, (translation of a review, recital Severin v. Eckardstein April 22, series Meesterpianisten, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam)

This has never been shown before: a transition from ‘Ellis’- 3 Nachtstücke (1961) by Heinz Holliger to the masterly Sonata in B minor by Liszt. Severin von Eckardstein (Düsseldorf, 1978) did it during his second performance in the Master Pianist Series.

Flowing clouds of sound came to a halt in Liszt’s soft, dull blows and so Von Eckardstein delivered a genius piece of welding. The well-known and the unknown, twilight and reality, entered a relationship beneficial to both. The atmospherical pieces by Holliger gained in depth afterwards, and the Sonata sounded fresher and less charged with the heritage of generations of piano-lions who celebrate the virtuosity of the piece more than anything else.

Musical power play does not come first with Von Eckardstein. He interprets the composition as a great novel, with main characters in ever changing contexts. The characters immerse in their surroundings and are influenced by them but keep their individual traits. Von Eckardstein does not spare them. He pulls them through the showering storms of Liszt’s octaves and offers them comfort with the solace of a feathery touch.

His regally rich tone and his astonishing insight in musical structures were mind blowing. Even concert promoter Marco Riaskoff, no stranger to pianists of the heaviest calibre, had tears in his eyes recovering from Von Eckardstein’s story. But the young master had more surprises in store.

After the interval he continued his course of Elis. The nocturnal atmosphere was extended in the Sixth Sonata by Prokofiev. In combination with well known repertoire he had chosen a new work by composer Martin Herchenröder, who has dedicated to him his third piano etude Paul-Klee-Blatt IV: Geröll. Herchenröder (1961) researches the opposition between soft hues and rhythmic compositions in the work of Klee. These were translated to jazzy rhythms and mild tones of different colours, varying between softly plucked strings and tender keys played in the traditional way. The composition from 2007 does not stand out in its innovative form or spectacular timbres but presents itself profoundly as a musical atmospheric piece.

In that sense the piece fits Von Eckardstein perfectly. He is not a flamboyant media figure. He presents himself without pomp, also in minor concert halls, and through small, carefully operating record labels. But his musical interests are so wide and the power of his message is so urgent that this period of shelter cannot last for long. He belongs to the most fascinating pianists of his generation.

NRC Handelsblad, 23 April 2007 wrote about the same concert    

[…..] The deeply sensitive Von Eckardstein puts his heart and soul into every note he plays, thus creating moments of sublime beauty. His refined, intense, poetic and highly individual playing recalls great pianists from the past, like Wilhelm Kempff. Pure romance and centuries of European civilisation can be heard in his playing. The depth with which Von Eckardstein played six Lieder ohne Worte by Mendelssohn, both touching and impressive, lifted the pieces from the level of alleged elegant pastime. By colouring even the most abstract passages with emotional depth, Von Eckardstein reached out to the audience with his interpretation of ‘Ellis’- 3 Nachtstücke für Klavier (1961) by Heinz Holliger and the European premiere of Paul-Klee-Blatt IV: Geröll (2007) by Martin Herchenröder.

Grand and compelling was the Sonata in B minor by Liszt with its flaming passion and lyricism. The highlight was Von Eckardstein’s ‘orchestral’ interpretation of the Sixth Sonata by Prokofiev, in which he dreamt of heaven and hell and all that is in between. “

 

Bliss of the Beginning
Kölner Stadtanzeiger, August, 21st, 2006

” A well disposed Guerzenich-Orchestra and a remarkably young soloist presented the first concert of the season of the subscription concert series in the Cologne Philharmonic Hall. The success of Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto depends to a large extent upon the excitement created by the soloist’s chords in the first five bars. Failing this, the rest of the work can almost be forgotten.

The 28 year old Severin von Eckardstein plays and triumphs in his exquisitely poetic opening. The young man with the noble name is a highly sensitive artist. He demonstrates a passionate intention to give everything a meaning without airs and graces or exaggerations. In his forte he is never ostentatiously forceful and with a discriminating finely-tuned, at times Chopin-like touch and a highly developed sense of the lyrical qualities of the score, he creates pure Beethoven bliss… “

 

 “An elegant and attractive phrasing “
Musicanova, Japan, April 2006 issue

” …We could find his unique elegance in the phrase starting from Mendelssohn. The sonority was full of sensitive and fragile beauty, and the phrasing had a silky and continuous attractiveness. In every piece, we could find the well-balanced dynamics and accuracy of the structure of the music. He is certainly an exciting pianist of talent. With the coolness he has within himself, we look forward to his deep thoughtful music and dignified attitude even more. “

 

“Von Eckardstein: A Real Earful”
Washington Post, 17. Oktober 2005

“The German pianist Severin von Eckardstein, who played a rapt and deeply poetic Washington debut recital at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater Saturday afternoon, has already been dubbed the “new Horowitz” by one Dutch critic. In reality, he is much better than that: He is the first and only Severin von Eckardstein — and that is plenty.

I do think I would have exactly reversed the order of his program, however. Eckardstein began with Robert Schumann’s Fantasie in C (Op. 17), a masterpiece of such profound intimacy and wondering tenderness that nothing should follow it but tears. It was a terrific performance, too, played with infinite gentleness: Eckardstein doesn’t proclaim, he confides , a quality that was especially welcome in the finale, a slowly unfolding ecstatic delirium unmatched in music before Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde.” Yet the 27-year-old pianist has the chops to whiz through the leaps and skips in the closing bars of the middle movement, one of the most terrifying minutes for pianists in the entire repertoire… “

 

Piano, 5/2005: “CD of the …month”
Severin von Eckardstein (piano)

Alexander Scriabin: Sonatas 3 and 8,  Préludes op. 11

” …Already von Eckardstein’s deep understanding becomes apparent in the early Préludes Op. 11. He possesses the verve and grandiose sensibility necessary to translate the numerous sighing motifs into sound whilst never missing the explosions which are so much part of Skrjabin’s music (and personality) and which become progressively more important in his music. Take Préludes No. 4: Here von Eckardstein takes the ending and sculpts it almost into disappearance even while threading carefully through the dramatic cycle. Préludes No. 20 is taken to its appropriately understood “Appassionato” climax. It is his instincive feeling for the unspoken idea of a new creation of harmonic relationships, as well as his structural mastery of the movements, which give von Eckardstein the competence to interpret sonata No. 3 and the late sonata No. 8 to perfection. Yet it is especially sonata No. 3 Op. 23 in f sharp minor which ends up as a statment of a young pianist in possession of rarely found abilites. Severin von Eckardstein paces through the wildness of the first movement with perfect conclusion and with instinctive knowledge of its central statement and cohesion, whilst showing the necessary calm for the sensitive moments of the last movement which still he ends grandiously in a state which can only be described as ecstatic. This Skrjabin CD must be counted amongst the very best of its kind and it’s been a long time since I’ve heard such an outstanding interpretation of the composer’s work. This still very young pianist surely is one of those rare talents which promise to show in future that great musicians come from Germany, too. “

 

“A New Horowitz”
Eindhovens Dagblad, 26. April 2005 (Translation)

” Many music lover’s ears still resound the sublime playing of the young German Severin von Eckardstein during the final of the Queen Elisabeth Competition 2003 in Brussels. With surprising interpretations of Beethoven and Prokofiev, he not only won the competition but also, and especially, the hearts of the listeners.

On Sunday evening the 26 year old pianist descended the long stairs of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw to make his debut in Riaskoff’s prestigious concert series with a unique, historical performance. From the moment the introverted young man, sitting crookedly and concentrated behind the piano, touched the keys, a miracle took place. Immediately a musical spark jumped.

The secret of a great artist usually lies in a special fusion of the creator with the transformer, in which both identities can be maintained, with the score being the centre……”

 

“Severin von Eckardstein: Pianist that has everything”
Haagsche Courant, 19-04-2005 (Übersetzung)

“…The recital that he gave in Utrecht last night was breathtaking and often moving, but never oversensitive, let alone sentimental.
Besides poetic sensitivity his playing also conveys a high level of intellectuality. Eckardstein possesses a profundity with which he sometimes reaches the height of his older Russian colleague Sokolov. He also can surely play César Franck’s “Prelude, Choral et Fugue” as masterfully.
Moreover, the in 1978 German born pianist is able to evoke a truly magical sound, as in Schubert and Skriabin, in the manner of another great Russian, Volodos.
In ten pieces from Prokofiev’s ballet music “Romeo and Juliet” Eckardstein did justice to the percussive style of the composer. Neither the way in which he played the distressing farewell music, nor his performance of a movement from Messiaen’s “Catalogue d’oiseaux” will easily be forgotten.”

 

“Von Eckardstein reikt naar Olympus”…
De Telegraaf, 18. Maart 2005:

“Het is bij pianisten als bij schaatsers: specialisten lopen er bij bosjes rond, naar allrounders moet je met een lampje zoeken. De jonge Severin von Eckardstein reikte deze week met een spectaculair recital in het Arnhemse Musis Sacrum meteen maar naar de Olympus van het algemeen klassement. Hij heeft alle mogelijkheden die ook daadwerkelijk te bereiken…”   

 

Diapason, Paris, octobre 2004 :

“Après une Fantasie de Schumann adolescente et puissante, ce qui n’est pas si fréquent, Eckardstein laissa s’exprimer son sens du rythme et de la couleur en cajolant l’un des Oiseaux de Messiaen, le Coulis cendré accompagnant ainsi, pour une fois les cigales de Provence. Le jeune homme à l’allure d’un héros balzacien conclut ensuite avec un Gaspard de la nuit étonnant car sanguin et romantique, mais parfaitement dosé et immédiatement captivant. A suivre, vraiment. “

 

” Severin von Eckardstein, un virtuose au répertoire sans frontières “
L’Orient – Le Jour, Beirut, le 4 mars 2004 :

 

‘Severin v. Eckardstein, poète et artiste’
Le Soir, Belgique, le 2 février, 2004

 

Financial Times, Jan. 26, 2004 

“Young Eckardstein, 26 this year, is a special pianist. He came third in the 2000 Leeds Competition, which many thought he should have won, as he’s done in others since then. At the Wigmore (London) he offered a programme that displayed his full range in several different modes and scored a triumph…Eckardstein’s piano playing is unique through his infinitely precise gradations of touch and timbre. His pedalling is ultra-deft. Different levels in his chosen pieces all get their own distinctive climates, hectic or serene, lending astonishing depth. And his playing is always crystalline: sparkling even at some coolly judged distance or other, transparent and tingling. Everything is ultra-lucid, without bluster or dramatic fudge…”