Just as his new CD “Tango Rhapsody” is about to be released, Inverne Price is thrilled to announce the signing of the leading pianist Sergio Tiempo for general management and associated PR. Venezuelan-born Tiempo, a former protégé and now frequent playing partner of Martha Argerich, has played with many of the great conductors of our day, among them Claudio Abbado, Gustavo Dudamel, Christoph Eschenbach and Marin Alsop. His recent concert, with frequent collaborator Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl, playing Ginastera’s First Piano Concerto, was hailed by Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times as “sensational”. Tiempo frequently sells out venues where he appears and some of his YouTube videos have topped 650,000 views.
Indeed, Tiempo’s very individual interpretations and dazzling technique have won him effusive reviews. His recording of Liszt’s Totantanz and Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto earlier this year was named Editor’s Choice by Gramophone, where Bryce Morrison wrote, “it is no exaggeration to say that he may well be the most dazzling and spontaneous pianist of his generation. At every point he turns the heat up to near boiling point…his octave technique is superhuman…every bar sparks with a fearless, vivid and audacious life, and no other recent version of the Tchaikovsky comes within distance of this…a record in a thousand.” Similarly, the Sunday Times wrote of that disc, “A pianist of electrifying brilliance.”
His new recording, for Avanti Classics, is with his sister and fellow-pianist Karin Lechner (of their last recording together, Gramophone’s Jeremy Nicholas commented, “without doubt one of the most electrifying recordings of four-hand piano music I have ever heard”). The new disc, called Tango Rhapsody, takes its title from a new work by Federico Jusid that actually uses choreography as well as music – the pianists act as much as they play, as can be seen in a free bonus DVD, and from the taster video attached to this email. Watch this space for details of live performances of that work in 2012.
Now, for the latest in Inverne Price’s “Artists In Conversation” series, Sergio Tiempo discusses the links between dance and music with James Inverne…
JI: There’s an historical link between dance and music – I remember when Steven Isserlis released his famous Bach Suites recording on Hyperion he talked about how those suites were all about dance forms. Your new album is called Tango Rhapsody and is dedicated to that dance form. But before we talk about that specifically, I wonder if being born in Venezuela means that you have dance hardwired into your musical psyche?
ST: It’s inevitable, when you live in Venezuela you listen to salsa and merengue all day long, on the radio, whenever you go out it’s playing somewhere, it’s a big part of the day-to-day culture. You almost feel embarrassed if you can’t dance a bit! Actually when I was much younger and had my first girlfriend, this is when I was living in Brussels, I felt so bad that I didn’t know how to dance. So she was the one who taught me to dance salsa and merengue and it was exhilarating! Because it was fun, yes, but also I felt I was finally going back to my roots somehow. I never learnt to dance the tango though, despite taking some classes. It’s ways more difficult.
JI: Does that awareness of those dances spill over into your piano playing, even when you’re not playing Latin music? You play a lot of Chopin, for instance.
ST: It probably does spill over, not consciously but subconsciously. The rhythmic intuition that one has is mostly influenced by the way you move. And this is certainly linked to dancing. I’ve always been amazed at how many classical musicians just can’t dance! But even those who can’t dance are very drawn to it in some way or another. There’s an inevitable link to the body.
JI: You mean while you’re playing, you feel it in your body? Physically?
ST: Definitely. For me, there are several forms of pleasure that you have when playing. One of them is the physical aspect. There are pieces that are physically pleasurable to play because they feel right in your body. Of course the big difference with this and dance is that we’re sitting down as pianists. But it is, still, a different form of dance. Playing the Rachmaninov Third Piano Concerto is intensely pleasurable physically, for example. Although his Second Concerto much less so. I don’t know why there’s that difference between two pieces by the same composer. The Third just falls more comfortably into place. I suppose also a physiological thing, and I’m sure it’s not the same for everyone. The way I’m physically built, it makes a better marriage somehow.
JI: How far can we push this dancing link?
ST: It depends on the piece. With Bach, even though the Cello Suites which you mentioned may have been conceived as dances originally, it’s very difficult for us living in this day and age to actually feel the dance in it, as we dance different kinds of dances now. But when you play pieces that use dance forms which people are actually still dancing nowadays, you are obviously influenced by what you have seen and heard.
And yet in Piazzolla, for one, we have a composer who in a way went beyond the traditional dance kind of tango, so the dance in it is already sublimated. In which case that whole link to dancing is almost indirect. It’s like in Ravel’s La valse. Of course it’s based on a waltz, but there’s nothing particularly dance-like about it, in terms of the kind of waltz we whirl around the floor to. So you never lose the link to dance and probably the rhythmic framework is always there, but the way in which it’s danced – I mean the musical language itself - keeps evolving.
JI: On the new disc you and your sister, the pianist Karin Lechner, play – and act, as you dramatically interact with each other, slamming your hands down on each other’s piano strings, she storms out at one point – a new tango work, the titular Tango Rhapsody. What was the idea with composer Federico Jusid. Is it dance or is it music or is it drama or all three?
ST: Federico wrote Tango Rhapsody to go beyond what we know of tango in the most popular sense, to make it a real dramatic interpretation. Of course, he keeps the link with pop culture, but the thing with pop culture in general is that the strength of symbols within it have to do with your own experience of life. Which is why it’s so interesting when you see the very different ways people interpret the idea of tango in different parts of the world, the images it evokes. For a Dane, the tango may be passion and sensuality and fire, whereas for an Argentinian it will be anger and betrayal and almost misogyny. I stereotype, but the point is it’s different in every place, and this work delves into many of those associations.
JI: So context is vital?
ST: The real content of the music is purely emotional. The framework and the context is very influential but the content is, and I think should be, always emotional. So every performer and the circumstances of every performance will influence it.
JI: Just how influential is the context in terms of the performance? For you, the performer, I mean.
ST: When you play, you are your own world. There is no context anymore. It doesn’t matter where, though it can matter with whom. Playing Ginastera’s First Piano Concerto at the Hollywood Bowl recently was a huge feeling for me, because of the artistic relationship I have with Gustavo and the orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was unbelievable. But it was huge not because of where I was or even who they were, but for what they were doing and the link we had between us. That influenced me hugely. The audience is important of course, but even there, of course you are always aware of the feeling in the audience, but it’s amazing to what point one connects to something so deep inside yourself – while you are playing, it makes you almost impermeable.
Sergio Tiempo is represented by Inverne Price for general management and PR (except in the case of China, which until the end of spring 2013 will be handled by Intermusica). For enquiries please contact James Inverne (email@example.com Tel: +44 -0- 7870 203181) or Patricia Price (firstname.lastname@example.org).