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Severin von Eckardstein

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Severin von Eckardstein press reviews

Trouw, June 16, 2010

Translation of a Review by Christo Lelie, excerpt
(Concertgebouw Amsterdam, June 13, 2010)

More a superior musician at the piano than a showy pianist

[…] 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. […]

South Florida Classical Review, 15 May 2009

Eckardstein opens Piano Festival with Power and Poetry

[…] 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. […]

Tageblatt Luxembourg, June 18, 2008

Translation of a Review by Alain Steffen, (excerpt)

Orchestre Symphonique de la Monnaie
conducted by Kazushi Ono

Highlight with Eckardstein […] 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 […]

De Volkskrant April 24, 2008

Translation of a Review by Bela Luttmer
(Final Concert "Artist in Residence", Arnheim, April 21, 2008)

A Certain Place in the Piano Pantheon

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.[…]

Pianist Magazine February/March 2008
Marius Dawn
Review new Medtner CD Recording, pubished by Dabringhaus u. Grimm

"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!"

Huffington Post November 14, 2007

"Hats off, Gentlemen" (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!

The Hartford Courant, November 15, 2007
wrote about the same concert (by Jeffrey Johnson)

"Severin Von Eckardstein at Yale; Gentle Poet of Pianism"

[…] 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.

Miami Herald, May 12, 2007

Pianist shines in varied programtxt

"... 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."

De Volkskrant, April 24, 2007

Genius piece of forging

(translation of a review about the 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.