Cooper’s London


At a private concert in London I managed to discover the members of the Loewenberg Piano Trio playing Beethoven, Shostakovich and Bloch. The young musicians had met at the Royal College of Music in London, and formed an ensemble about a year ago.

Individually brilliant musicians, they work together not by blending but by carrying on an intense and utterly captivating conversation or debate in music, exchanging ideas, sometimes agreeing, sometimes almost disagreeing, but always keeping up a high level of musicianship and intensity. Their intonation, ensemble and tone are all of the highest quality. They are multi-national: Hannah Loewenberg-Harnest, the pianist and founder, is German; Ilya Movchan, the violinist, Russian; and Jordan Gregoris, the cellist, French. They all bring youthful energy, enthusiasm and individuality to their work together. My only quibble was that they should have ended the evening not with Bloch’s Three Nocturnes for Piano Trio, but with the Shostakovich E Minor Piano Trio, op 67, because their reading of the Shostakovich was so strong and true that it seemed a shame to move on to anything after that, even the Bloch, lovely as it was.

They have been invited to perform at a private event in New York in early February, but you can also hear them play the music I heard, plus a Schumann Trio, on February 5 at 2:00 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Center for Jewish History (15 West 16 Street), near Union Square.

I recommend you be there! And if you want, you can go up afterwards and tell that Mel suggested you come.

Their London concert was one of several by-invitation-only events given every year by Florian Leonhard to promote young up-and-coming musicians, especially string players. Florian Leonhard’s core business is restoring fine instruments. His home also houses his workshops; and his little concert hall is dedicated to the display of excellence. He also gets friends such as Steven Isserlis to give Master Classes there from time to time. The concerts are by invitation only so you either have to lobby a friend who knows Florian Leonhard, get to know him yourself somehow,or, I suppose, buy a Stradivarius from him. A Guarneri may, of course, also do. leonhard


Michael Sheen has just closed in a three-month run of what I believe will become one of those legendary possessions of the role of Hamlet. Every line was delivered with intelligence, nuance, rich subtext and, in his long, intense rendering of the character there was not a moment when he flagged, or when the audience’s attention flagged. The setting, about which I have my quibbles, was in a madhouse; so Sheen’s was without a doubt the craziest Hamlet in a while. But he’s also one of the wittiest, one of the slyest. Funny a lot of the time, he often bordered on scary as well. You could feel the barely controlled rage and despair along with a brilliant mind constantly analyzing and trying to come to terms with an intolerable situation. It was a complex, physical, high-energy turn.

You may know him from his film work (he’s “done” Tony Blair three times), but his Hamlet was a performance to cherish; a real touchstone in the same league as Gielgud’s, Olivier’s, Burton’s, or David Tennant’s.

Although I have been following his plays ever since he did Henry V at the Royal Shakespeare Company some years ago, and still remember vividly his Mozart in a revival of Amadeus and his Caligula, in particular, rediscovering Sheen as a stage animal was truly thrilling! So I have questions: was, or will, Hamlet be filmed or broadcast in HD? Are there any plans to make it happen so that the world beyond London and the Young Vic can share the experience? Without a definitive answer, we can but live in hope…..


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