The Swiss conductor and pedagogue Johannes Schlaefli has developed a distinguished name during the relatively short time he has led the Orchestral Conducting Program at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich School of the Arts).
Johannes Schlaefli worked for many years as a teacher on the “Symphonic Workshops” courses, has been a visiting professor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, at Rice University in Houston, the University of Sao Paulo and as part of the Deutsche Dirigirentenforum. The center of his teaching activities is the conducting class at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste. As a conductor, he has directed many orchestras (Tonhalle Zurich, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, orchestra della svizzera italiana, Philharmonia Prag, Kammerorchester Basel among many others). He is the Principal Conductor of the Berner Kammerorchester www.bko.ch and also directs the orchestral ensembles at the Universität Zürich (University of Zurich). www.aoz.ethz.ch, www.alumniorchester.ch, www.ako.ethz.ch
In the courses he utilizes a multifaceted teaching method: often there are discussions (Analysis, Rehearsal Technique, Technical Conducting Details) with the entire group, sometimes detailed video reviews in small groups or individually and of course, where and when required, he demonstrates examples with the orchestra. It is a major concern of his to sharpen the awareness and eye of each student and to create a learning atmosphere within the group, whereby students eagerly learn from one another.
Prizewinner in international conducting competitions, James Lowe is Chief Conductor of the Prussian Chamber Orchestra, Germany and the Vaasa Sinfonia, Finland. His work as Artistic Director of the Hallé Harmony Youth Orchestra was featured in a four-part documentary shown in the UK on Channel 4 in 2010.
Educated at the University of Edinburgh, Lowe continued his development as Benjamin Zander Conducting Fellow with the Boston Philharmonic, and has studied with leading conductors in masterclasses, including Jorma Panula, Neeme Järvi, Bernard Haitink and with Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra. He has worked as Assistant Conductor to Haitink in performances with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.
One of two prizewinners in the Tokyo International Competition for Conductors and special prize winner in the Jorma Panula International Competition, he has appeared in performance with the Osaka and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestras, the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, the St. Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra, the New Japan Philharmonic, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Hallé Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, Scottish Ballet, the orchestra of Welsh National Opera, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as working with numerous other ensembles in many European countries, South Africa and the USA.
Genova and Dimitrov is one of the most internationally sought- after piano duos today. Already as a two-months-young ensemble, the today’s ECHO CLASSIC awardees caused a real sensation by winning the Grand Slam of piano duo competitions within only two years, namely the «ARD» (Munich),
Since then, Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov have been celebrated by audiences and the press, performing on the most important concert and festival stages in numerous countries on all continents, such as the Library of Congress and the National Gallery in Washington, the Schleswig-Holstein, Rheingau, Ludwigsburg and Schwetzingen Festivals, the City Hall in Cape Town, the Herkulessaal Munich, the Liederhalle Stuttgart, the Gstaad Music Festival, MDR Music Summer, at the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Beethovenhalle Bonn, the Cologne Philharmonic Hall, the Passau European Music Weeks, the Varna Summer Festival, Sofia Music Weeks, and the March Music days Russe, the La Roque d’Antheron and the Al Bustan Music Festival Beirut, Casals Hall Tokyo, Poly Theatre Beijing, and the Teatro Municipal Rio de Janeiro, as well as at the Ravello Festival, the Woodstock Mozart Festival, the Festival Miami and the Chopin Piano Festival Duszniki, just to mention a few.
Upon the invitation of the Olympic Committee, the duo appeared at the opening concerts for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, and at the 2010 Volleyball World Championships in Trieste. Their concerts could be enjoyed at the 2000 EXPO in Hanover, at the opening concert of the 2010 Paderewski Piano Competition in Poland, and in 2013 at the musical inauguration of Bacardi’s America Headquarters in Miami. In the same year Genova & Dimitrov appeared at the WDR Cologne Radio Day «1913-2013» and were celebrated on board of the new luxury cruise liner «Europe 2» on the way to Dubai within the framework of its opening season. 2014 they were Artists in Residence and Mentors of the International Festival Sommets Musicaux in Gstaad. In addition, they have appeared in numerous international TV and radio broadcasts. The portrayal TV documentary movie about the Duo «Etude for Two Pianos» which has been produced and broadcasted by the BNT Bulgarian National Television, enjoys worldwide greatest interest.
Under the direction of conductors such as Eiji Oue, Ari Rasilainen, Hannu Lintu, Stefan Blunier, Yuri Bashmet, John Carewe, Emil Tabakov, Ulf Schirmer, Alun Francis, Yordan Kamdzhalov, Robin Gritton, Alexander Kalajdzic, Gabriel Feltz, Alexander Rudin, Andreas Herrmann, and Johannes Schlaefli, Genova & Dimitrov have played worldwide with leading orchestras and choirs, for example in Munich, Los Angeles, Miami, Hamburg, Johannesburg, Durban, Hanover, Bonn, Beijing, Stuttgart, Cape Town, Sofia, Kiev, and Bucharest.
Among the season’s highlights are the release of the new CD with the BNR Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Genesis Orchestra led by Yordan Kamdzhalov («cpo Records»); numerous recitals and concerts with orchestra in Europe, Asia, America and Africa; studio recordings of the new recital CD project at WDR Radio Cologne; the Master Courses at Cloister Michaelstein (Germany) and at ISA «Allegra» in Russe (Bulgaria).
Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov can look back at an impressive discography – 14 CDs of the duo have been released by «cpo Records» and «Gega New», and given glowing reviews and top ratings by international record magazines and radio stations.
In 2017 the Artists have been awarded the ECHO CLASSIC Prize for their CD «Bela Bartok & Victor Babin – Concertos for Two Pianos» with the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra led by Yordan Kamdzhalov («cpo Records»). The same CD has been nominated also for the German Record Critics’ Award. In addition to a number of world premiere recordings, such as Victor Babin’s Concerto, the complete piano duo works of Dmitri Shostakovitch, Johann Christian Bach, Muzio Clementi, and Pantcho Vladigerov, recordings such as «America for Two» (Gershwin, Copland, Bernstein) and «Maurice Ravel – Favourite Flavors» are greatly appreciated worldwide. A particular emphasis in their discography are the recordings with orchestra «Martinu and Schnittke – Concertos for 2 pianos» (NDR Radio Philharmonic/Eiji Oue), «French Concertos – Milhaud, Poulenc, Casadesus» (SWR Radio Orchestra/Alun Francis) and «Mendelssohn – Concertos for Two Pianos No 1 & 2» (Munich Radio Orchestra/Ulf Schirmer). The CD «Arensky – Five Suites for Two Pianos», which the Artists dedicated to the memory of their teacher Vladimir Krainev, was designated by the media worldwide even as «trend-setting». The CD «Franz Liszt – Works for 2 Pianos» was praised by the international press as «A pure celebration of the 2 piano music, a celebration of Liszt’s music». In occasion of the Duo’s 20th birthday anniversary in 2015 «cpo» has released the Special Edition CD «Genova & Dimitrov – 20 Years», which has caused furore among the radios around the world.
Genova and Dimitrov serve regularly as jurors of significant international piano solo and duo competitions, such as the «ARD» Competition in Munich, at the Almaty Piano Competition, the «Franz Schubert» Competition in Russe, and were appointed in 2010 Artistic Directors of the «Dranoff» International Two Piano Competition in Miami.
The artists give master classes worldwide, as e.g. the annual Piano Duo & Solo Academy in Cloister Michaelstein (Germany) in January, as well as the ISA «Allegra» Summer Academy for Piano Solo & Duo, in Russe (Bulgaria). Since 2009, they have been appointed Heads of Piano Duo Studies at the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media. In 2011 they established the piano duo forum «Twin Pack Piano».
The similarities between them reach far into their past: Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov, both of Bulgarian-Greek descent, both began piano lessons at the age of five, and as 9-year-olds, both had their first public appearances as soloists with orchestra. During their piano solo training at special music high schools for highly talented youngsters, and then at the Sofia Conservatory with Julia and Konstantin Ganev each won multiple prizes at international competitions. Following the personal invitation from their mentor, the legendary pianist Vladimir Krainev, they finished their post-graduate studies in his class at the Hanover University of Music.
«One afternoon, shortly before leaving for a solo piano competition in Seoul, Korea, there was only one available rehearsal room at the Hanover University of Music and it was with two pianos. We spontaneously decided to start to play Chopin’s Etude 25/11 in sync. It was as if we had been given wings. Only few months later we had won our first competition prize as a duo», remember Aglika and Liuben.
Today the Artists live in Hanover, Miami and Sofia.
Violinist Bartek Niziol was born in Stettin, Poland, in 1974 and studied under the supervision of Jadwiga Kliszewska in Poznan and Pierre Amoyal in Lausanne. He attended Masterclass courses led by Zachar Bron, Ruggiero Ricci, Mauricio Fuks and Michael Frischenschlager.
Whilst still studying in Poznań in 1991 he won first prize at the International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition, as well as first prize at the International Violin Competition in Adelaide. In the following year he also won first prize at the International Violin Competition in Pretoria, Eurovision in Brussels, and the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition in Paris.
These awards enabled him to debut as soloist with orchestras such as English Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, NDR Hamburg, New Japan Philharmonic, Sinfonia Varsovia and Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. Conductors with whom he has worked as soloist include Yehudi Menuhin, David Zinman, Marek Janowski, Heinrich Schiff and Krzysztof Penderecki.
Concert tours have taken Bartek Niziol to Asia, Africa, South America and throughout Europe. The New York Times has described his playing as having masterful control and a beautifully singing tone.
As a passionate chamber musician he has appeared alongside such Musicians as Pinchas Zuckermann, Elisabeth Leonskaja and Sol Gabetta, and in August 2011 he was invited to perform with Martha Argerich at the famous “Chopin and his Europe” festival in Warsaw.
Bartek Niziol is the leader of the Valentin Berlinsky Quartet (founded in Zürich in 2010)
Bartek Niziolʼs CD recordings of Wieniawski, Bacewicz and the 6 Ysaye Solo Sonatas have won him the prestigious “Fryderyk Prize” at Polandʼs recording industry awards. Since September 2008 Bartek Niziol has been a professor of violin at the Bern Hochschule der Künste. He also sits on the Jury for the International Henryk Wieniawski Competition in Poznan, the Instrumental Competition of Migros Culture in Zürich, the Boris Goldstein Violin Competition in Bern, the Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy and the Beijing International Music Competition.
Bartek Niziol plays a 1727 violin by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu.