samedi 15 octobre 2011

"Tragic" and fascinating Documentary on Elisabeth Schwarzkopf on Arte

The French-German cultural TV station Arte showed last week a fascinating documentary on Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. It may still be available on their site so I would recommend it.

I heard her last recital in Paris back in 1976 and yes her voice was just unique.

In this documentary emerges an artist always in pain never in peace and never happy. Her famous outbursts during masterclasses are those she may have had with herself although to be fair, the two singers she had to work with should not have been put in front of her.

I was not aware of her negative reaction towards Karajan. Maybe what she felt was that by redoing many of the works he had done with her, he was not paying her the respects she would have expected. The Rosenkavalier excerpt was just stunning and for all her artistry, Tomowa-Sintow could never achieve anything like this but then who could ?

Was this excerpt moving ? Thinking about it, probably not but the work on words, colours, projection was of such intensity. In a way, she always sang for herself and probably for her husband but was not a communicator like many of her peers. To make a parallel, I remember eating at a famous restaurant where the chef had the habit of visiting all of his clients. When he would come, he would never ask the question: "Are you enjoying your meal ?", he said "do you appreciate it ?", ie, my meals are really good but can you really appreciate it ? This was Schwarzkopf ...

dimanche 2 octobre 2011

François-René Duchable

I was yesterday at Victoria Hall to hear the "Orchestre de Ribaupierre" play Brahms Piano Concerto, the soloist in the first being the French pianist François-René Duchable.

International readers may not have heard of him but worked with Artur Rubinstein, played Bartok's third Piano Concerto with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic in Salzbourg (I still have the tapes and they are just superb), developed a career then but decided to stop playing in mainstream concert performances in 2003. He actually dropped his piano in a lake ...

He lives near Annecy and performs very rarely at small events. He is recognizable with a trademark red shirt. In fact, I could not believe that I would have a chance to hear him since 2003 and until I saw him on stage was not even sure he was going to be there.

It is difficult to know exactly what prompted him to stop from playing. There are some artists who keep performing probably because they just need it: Gergiev, Barenboim, Domingo, Levine before his health problems ... For others, the act of performing must be a big challenge, physical as well as emotional as well as a deeply unsatisfying one.

Playing with a sympathetic but second-rate orchestra must be a way to relieve from the stress of appearing. Playing rarely must also ensure that routine does not come in. But when he played, it just spoke with eloquence and freshness. Five minutes of Duchable have more content than five hours of Lang Lang ...