mardi 27 septembre 2011

mardi 20 septembre 2011

Evocative music

My review of the latest CD of the OSR is on line. One of the work played is Vincent d'Indy's Symphonie sur un chant montagnard. While I avoided any references to D'Indy antisemitic postures but pointed out the uniqueness of its music which resembles none other.

Stepping back, I am struck how a handful of composers manage to create sounds which are evocative of the landscape of their country. Not in a Mahler 3 way, which is an intellectual recreation but in a physical way. D'Indy would be one but so would be Sibelius or Copland with Appalachian Springs. I think that these are unique and would not exist in other, ie non classical, forms of music.

lundi 19 septembre 2011

Mendelssohn's Orchestra

... the Leipzig Gewandhaus was in Geneva last week.

Just a few lines to mention how uniquely Germanic and old-fashioned this orchestra is. String tone is firmer and warmer while with more darker tones than say the Vienna Philh or more brilliant ensembles from the US. This enables the line to be maintained while bringing out inner voices very naturally. Who said that all orchestras sound the same and that all are mimicking baroque techniques ? Chailly played these works with Italaniesque fire and used an edition of the Reformation Symphony I had not heard before.

As usual, this concert was under-marketed. There were not even a single poster outside of Victoria Hall but Chailly and the Orchestra were perhaps there for the first time since the last 10 years or so. The hall was not full but on the other hand, silence and concentration were there and we all felt that Chailly and the musicians enjoyed the performance.

lundi 5 septembre 2011

André Chénier in Geneva and the importance of Subtitles

I was yesterday at the dress rehearsal of André Chénier at the Grand Théâtre de Genève. While it is unfair to make a comment on singers who were marking their roles, J Fiore's conducting was easy and fluid and John Dew staged a lively first part full of ideas with great costumes (there were an integral part of the staging ...) , lightning, ... clear action without sacrificing ideas.

I also surprised myself realising that the work is stronger than I remembered. My last encounter with this work was in 1985 while I was studying in London. The three principals were Domingo, Tomowa-Sintow and Zancanaro ... so singing could not but have been exceptional. But there were no subtitles at this time and this means that appreciating the work had to be limited. Giordano's music is often there to accompany the action and strongly so but one can only appreciate it if one can follow it very tightly.

This should apply to works where words and action are complex. Would the appreciation by modern audiences of say by Janacek be that great if subtitles had not made ease of following librettos far easier ?

BBC reaction to the anti-Israel disruptions

 ...has been posted ... so this means that my earlier comment on their silence is no longer valid. It would be nice to hear mention of future invitations of the IPO accepted and confirmed.

Thiking about it, I have had some kind of experience like this. In March 2003, the Vienna Philharmonic visited Paris to play Brahms 3rd and Second Symphony under Ozawa at the Théatre des Champs-Elysees. This came after Haider's reults at the Austrian election. At the end of a good but not so special third, D Meyer (I think it was him but am ot 100% sure) came to ask the audience to leave the Theater becuase of a bomb scare after an anonymous phone call. In spite of the cold, the vast majority of the audience waited outside, many of us actually chatting with the musicians.  We could resume a solid 40 minutes after. The orchestra got a massive ovation and played a stunning second half. The orchestra spokesperson Dr Hellsberg, addressed in spotless French the audience to speak about doing extraordinary music under extraordinary circumstances. Maybe the proms audience experienced the same thing.

vendredi 2 septembre 2011

Kit Armstrong Documentary

Arte has put on their web site a one hour fascinating documentary on Kit Armstrong working with Alfred Brendel. Do spend the time and try to hear this pianist if he plays close to you. In the meanwhile, this is highly recommended:

Listen in particular to them working on Schubert D 958, great comments on tempis, pedalling, even emotions, ..., as well as the physical exercise on the shoulders which we all pianists know how fundamental this is for liberating the sound.

Listen also to the continuity of the Bach concerto at the hand ...

Anti-Israeli protests at the proms

News are spreading in the music world of last night disturbance by Palestinian activists at the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra concert at the London Proms. The BBC report is here. Several amateur videos can be seen including this one below:

There are various comments on this.

The first one is on the Palestinian situation for which these guys are protesting. While I admit at having my clear allegiances (known to many) and that this would not be the topic of this blog on classical music, just let me mention that too many in Europe do not perceive the complexity of the situation in the Middle East, too many do not realise that Hamas is not the most extreme of the fractions, ie, there are some much more radical ones and that the topology of the land of Israel makes the danger caused by rockets and worse, a genuine reality.

The other comments should be related to music so in bullet point (if I may):
  • Sabotaging a concert is terrible for musicians. When one realises what it takes to perform, wrecking a concert is an act of barbary.
  • I have read several posts where the IPO is positionned against the West-Divan Orchestra. This is nonensense. Barenboim himself performs regularly with them, the last time being in July. Listen also at Zubin Mehta's coments on the openess of the IPO. Artists are as always more forward-looking than most other groups in any country.
  • Why has not anyone protested to the Simon Bolivar whose regime is a dictatorship ? (and by the way, the IPO has better string sound than the SBYO ...)
  • I have gone through various sites of the BBC and have not seen one single line of condamnation of the incident by anyone from the Proms or the BBC. If I am wrong, let me know and I will amend this immediately but this BBC-esque silence is deafening.
  • Finally, I have often criticised Norman Lebrecht's articles as many of you know. This time, his coverage has been spot on, including the one post where he analyses that Radio 3 was right to interrupt the live program.
 No one got any cause advanced by what happended yesterday, quite the opposite.

jeudi 1 septembre 2011

Very quick bullet points on my 2011 Salzbourg stay

My day work has forced me to shorten my stay in Salzburg very significantly. I managed though to pack 4 performances in two days as well as see many friends from across the world and basically had a great time.

For the sake of swiftness, here are my quick takes on bullet point format just like last year:

  • I love my blackberry ... It has something which Iphone afficionados do not have which is push technology (for the Iphone, you have to ask for your mail). So I got a mail informing me of the open rehearsal of the Rossignol/Iolanta open for booking and rushed to get tickets for family and friends. The Rossignol was somewhat tentative but the Iolanta, a one act Tchaikowsky Opera about a blind girl was simply stunning. Strong and varied music and vocal writing of the highest order. Netrebko sang the title role and gave one of her best performance I have had with her. Her tenor partner was P Beczala whom she shared a wonderful duo culminating with a genuine crescendo. There were three bass-barytones roles, each important and each getting a full aria. Of them, Alexey Markov is one to watch out for.
  • After this, I have to confess being somewhat disappointed by the Salonen - Marthaler  "The Makropolous case". A Denoke has vocal chords made of steel and singing was very strong overall. The Orchestra played beautifully, perhaps too beautifully ... but the Marthaler staging did not work as his Katya did. Action was muddy with too many secondary characters disturbing the flow.
  • Think of this, however. A friend told me that the Easter Festival Peter Grimes was far from being sold out whereas there were many "Suche Karte" on display for this more demanding work.
  • Muti delivered his usual magic in the Verdi Requiem performance in the matinee concert. Wait, magic or craft ? Balance, color, rubatos, phrasing ... was present in ample abundance. So much to admire but a little less to experience. Stoyanova had an uneasy start but rose to her usual self, Borodina is impressive, ..., perhaps too much, Pirgu was a little light - is not this work a little too much for him, Abdrazakov was solid ( in the program notes, it was revealed that he is sponsored by the company that manaufactures his suits, no name there but does this really work ?). 
  • Tons of applaudes. Muti knows exactly when to enter the stage a good 10 seconds after his soloists so that everyone can be aware of the specific greetings he gets. Also, when Karajan and Abbado played this work, were not there Austrian silence after this religious work ?
  • I ended my 2 days with a concert by the ORF Radio Orchestra playing Hans Rott's Symphony. Yes, this work has been played in Salzbourg and deserves more hearing. For French readers, my comments on Concertonet.
  • Needless to say, Salzbourg is much more than the music, it is the ability to see so many friends and take leisury time to discuss and enjoy their company. I hope I have more time next year.