Friday, August 21, 2015

Sebastian Knauer wows his Zweisimmen audience

I came to the Menuhin Festival in Switzerland to hear Jonas Kaufman sing but on the way I have discovered another fantastic musician, a pianist called Sebastian Knauer.
Zweisimmen Church
I bought my ticket to Knauer's concert (Tribute to Wilhelm Kempf) because it was on the day before the Kaufmann concert and would be held in Zweisimmen Church which is a couple of streets from my hotel.

Stumbling over something remarkable quite by accident is such a joy. I had no idea who Wilhelm Kempf was (so much in music passed me by during my scientist years) nor Sebastian Knauer but you only have to listen to Knauer play for a few minutes to realise that he is one of a kind and I was fortunate enough to hear him at practise at the church for a little while in the morning. His playing sent me into a different dimension and I immediately went off to find out more about both he and Kempf.
Split in pole holding up
The balcony
Zweisimmen church

They are both from Hamburg (I studied there and still love the place), Knauer was something of a child protegy and Wilhelm Kempf was a renowned interpreter of Beethoven. So my ears had not deceived me; this was something special.

I have a feeling that Knauer must have learned from Kempf because during his performance of Beethoven in the evening it felt as if he was channelling the composer. He took us by the hand and led us on an emotional journey and you could have sworn Beethoven was in the room. I suppose that is how Kempf must have played and I was reminded of a piano teacher I knew in Hamburg who traced his lineage directly back to Mozart through a series of teachers. That sort of pedigree does make a difference.

Sebastian Knauer has the build of a sportsman and his playing is muscular while at the same time delicate and nuanced.

At the concert in Zweisimmen Church he played mostly Beethoven for the first half then included several Schubert pieces in the second. Two hours of playing to an audience that was captivated from the first moment and which gave him a heartfelt standing ovation.  There were several piles of his CDs available to purchase and every one was sold. I think that is the first time I have seen that happen and the audience was not particularly large. I bought his Schubert compilation so, like many, I am taking a little bit of Knauer home with me.

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