Sunday, March 26, 2017
We present, by popular request, a revised Slipped Disc power list: 1 Anna Netrebko and Yusuf Eyvazov 2 Minnesota music director Osmo Vänskä and concertmaster Erin Keefe 3 Powerhouse Daniel Barenboim, pianist and festival director Elena Bashkirova 4 LSO chief Sir Simon Rattle, mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena 5 Boston chief Andris Nelsons, hyper soprano Kristine Opolais 6 Trumpeter Alison Balsom and new husband, director Sam Mendes 7 Tenor Roberto Alagna, soprano Aleksandra Kurzak 8 Soprano Sonya Yoncheva, conductor Domingo Hindoyan 9 Soprano Elina Garanca, conductor Karel Mark Chichon 10 Conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky and pianist Viktoria Postnikova, together since 1969 11 Conductor David Robertson and pianist Orli Shaham 12 Composers Kaija Saariaho and Jean-Baptiste Barrière 13 Cellist Alisa Weilerstein, conductor Rafael Payare 14 Glyndebourne hosts Gus Christie and Danielle DeNiese 15 Violinist Nicola Benedetti, cellist Leonard Elschenbroich 16 Composer György Kurtág, pianist Marta Kurtág 17 Israeli composers Noam Sherriff and Ella Sheriff 18 Met boss Peter Gelb, conductor Kerry-Lynn Wilson 19 Pianist David Fray, director Chiara Muti 20 Cellist David Finckel and pianistWu Han, chamber music entrepreneurs
Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished"). The Barbican Centre is built over the remains of a much older London, which still exists in hidden corners. During the week, the metropolis is manic, but on a Sunday night, a quiet calm descends, and once more you can feel the presence of the past amid the high tech towers and traffic. Under the Barbican Hall itself, was a cemetery where my companion's ancestors were interred. An atmospheric way in which to experience Brahms German Requiem, which commemorates the endurance of the human spirit across boundaries of time and place. Not for nothing did Brahms blend together verses from the Old and New Testaments, evidence of an upbringing steeped in North German Lutheran tradition, even though he rejected conventional piety, and lived much of his life in staunchly Catholic Vienna. . The voices of the London Symphony Chorus rose beautifully from the hushed opening chords. "Selig sind, die da Lied tragen", for those who go forth weeping bearing precious seed will return "Mit Freuden und bringen ihre Garben". Death is a not an end, but a process. With Sir Simon Rattle as Music Director of the LSO, Londoners get another advantage : Simon Halsey, Rattle's choral counterpart through the years at Birmingham and in Berlin. The LSO Chorus sounded luminous, voices carefully blended. If anything, the LSO Chorus sounded even richer in the second movement Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras though this brought the orchestra to the fore. The "march" theme was particularly well defined, with a good sense of surge underlying the solemn, deliberate pace, so when the lyrical motif appeared, it suggested light and hope. The fanfare at the end of the movement was understated but confident. Simon Keenlyside sang the baritone part, which he has taken many times before. Experience showed. Brahms quotes Psalm 9 (verses 4 to 7), where a man contemplates his fate : humility is of the essence, surrounded as he is by the tumult in the orchestra. Yet the assured, unforced timbre of Keenlyside's singing highlighted the inner strength that comes from faith, whatever the source of that faith. When the chorus joined in, the protagonist was no longer alone, in every sense. Perhaps for this reason the song with soprano (Julia Kleiter) Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit was added, for it is a moment of illumination, before the mood turns sombre yet again. The solemn processional of the second movement echoes in the sixth. Forceful chords from the orchestra, and a blazing fanfare of brass, strings and percussion, and the chorus in full swell , for momentous changes are to come. The trumpets rang out, as in the Book of Revelation, a trumpet will herald the End of Time, when the dead of past ages will be raised to life again. Keenlyside's voice rang out "Wir werden verwandelt werden" and the chorus entered, forcefully "Hölle, wo ist dein Sieg!" A thunderous finale, after which it took some moments to recover. Fabio Luisi and the London Symphony Orchestra were impressive, and their Schubert Symphony no 8 was excellent, well poised and stylish. But the full honours went to the London Symphony Chorus, for Brahms's German Requiem is one of the high points in the choral repertoire. "Selig sind die Toten.....daß sie ruhen von ihrer Arbeit". Rich, fulsome playing from the LSO, luminous singing from the LSO Chorus. The German Requiem concluded in transcendance. . This review will also appear in Opera Today
When the Berlin Philharmonic selected a successor to Sir Simon Rattle two years ago, the players shortlisted the three most successful conductors in Germany, judged by their summer performances in Bayreuth. Kirill Petrenko defeated Christian Thielemann in a close ballot. The third man, Andris Nelsons, picked up the Gewandhaus orchestra and Boston Symphony as runner-up prizes. All agreed that the orchestra had gone about the search in the most musical possible way. When the New York Philharmonic needed to replace Alan Gilbert as music director, the players were presented with a choice of Jaap Van Zweden of Houston and Manfred Honeck of Pittsburgh. Neither ranked among the rainmakers in US orchestras. The buzz conductors – Dudamel (LA), Muti (Chicago), Nezet-Seguin (Philadelphia) and Nelsons (Boston) – were not auditioned. This was not a musical process. However, when it came to picking a manager for the floundering NY Phil, the board went unerringly after the best orchestra boss in America – and yesterday got her. What does that tell you about the NY Phil? That it prizes a great manager above a great conductor.
In a further sign of disarray at fortress Gelb, Marita Altman, who has been Director of Major Gifts at the Metropolitan Opera since 2008, is leaving to join Opera Philadelphia as v-p of development. She starts the new job this week. Great catch for Philly, but who’ll rattle the big begging bowl for the Met? press release: Monday, March 13, 2017: David B. Devan, General Director & President of Opera Philadelphia, announced today the appointment of Marita Altman as Vice President of Development. Ms. Altman begins her tenure in Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 15, after stepping down from her post as Director of Major Gifts at the Metropolitan Opera, where she has worked since 2008. Altman will manage all of the company’s fundraising operations while working alongside members of Opera Philadelphia’s senior management team. In announcing Altman’s appointment, Devan said: “Marita Altman has a distinguished record of accomplishment as a fundraiser, a passion for opera’s history and possibilities, and a deep commitment to innovation. She has proven very successful in helping to shape institutional plans and goals, and to build the resources needed to support them. At Opera Philadelphia, she will bring the strategic leadership skills, technical expertise, and passion for our mission that we value and need in the time ahead. She will lead a Development team that is committed to the mission of inspiring artists and audiences and creating opera for the 21st century. We are very pleased to welcome Marita to theOpera Philadelphia family.”
The Opening Concert of the Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin's new hall for chamber recitals. Daniel Barenboim did the honours in the Mozart Piano Quartet KV 493, with his son, Michael, the violinist, beside him. No way would a concert as significant as this have been complete without a star like Barenboim. The invisible star, nonetheless was Pierre Boulez, for whom the hall is named. Fittingly, the concert began and ended with Boulez: Initiale initiating proceedings, with Sur Incises as the grand highlight. Both pieces also demonstrated the acoustic and flexibility of this new hall. It's more than a recital hall, since it can be adapted for larger ensembles and even, potentially, for chamber opera. Seating seems generous, so backstage facilities might also be of the same high standard. Coffin-shaped concert halls are dead. London, wake up! Barenboim will also be remembered for posterity because he nurtures young musicians, just as he himself was nurtured when he was a child prodigy. It was good to hear Karim Said, whom Barenboim has mentored since childhood. Please see my article Why we need to know who Karim Said Is from 2008. Said has matured nicely. He was the soloist in Alban Berg's Kammerkonzert for piano, violin and thirteen winds, with Barenboim as conductor. Later, Said was the lead pianist in Sur Incises. Jörg Widmann appeared, both as clarinettist and as composer, performing his own Fantasie. The whole concert can be heard on repeat here, a good idea since you can fast forward past the inordinately long breaks between pieces. You can see who's in the audience, too - Simon Rattle. Being a Lieder person, I was keen to hear Schubert Der Hirt auf dem Felsen D 965 with Barenboim, Widmann and the incomparable Anna Prohaska. Pauline Anna Milder-Hauptmann, the celebrity coloratura of her day, wanted a showpiece that would test her range and artistry. Der Hirt auf dem Felsen is a challenge, even for the finest performers. The piano part is dense, "rock-like" in its complexity, and the clarinet part equally daunting. But the soprano is the star. The piece runs for twelve minutes, connecting three different poems (Wilhelm Müller and Karl August Vernhagen). Schubert's setting replicates the imagery in the first poem, Müller's Der Berghirt, whiuch describes a young shepherd, sitting high on a rock on a mountain, looking down on the valley below, where his beloved lives, far away. Thus the extremes of height and depth,the soprano's voice soaring upwards, while the clarinet's lower register floats seductively around her, sometimes in duet. In the early part of the 19th century, there was a craze for "Alpine" music connecting the Romantic concepts of Nature, purity and freedom with picturesque mountain scenery and peasant simplicity. Weber's Der Freischütz premiered in 1821 and Rossini's William Tell in 1829, the year after Schubert wrote this remarkable song. Tragically, it was his last completed work., but it might indicate how Schubert might have progressed had he survived. Later in the century,"Alpine opera", such as La Wally came into vogue. Strauss and Mahler wrote music in which mountains appear, figuratively. Indeed, the whole genre of Bergfilm is an adaptation of the style. Lots on this site about mountains in music and Bergfilme. Although the soprano in Der Hirt auf dem Felsen certainly does not yodel, the idea of a song designed to carry over long distances applies, and requires good breath control (as do pan pipes and Alpenhorn), Milder-Hauptmann and Schubert no doubt realized the piece would be a tour de force. Prohaska was wonderful, singing with mellifluous grace. Her words rang clear and true. "Je weiter meine Stimme dringt, Je heller sie mir wieder klingt Von unten". In the last section, Prohaska's voice trilled deliciousl, .duetting with Widmann's clarinet. Tricky phrasing, but joyously agile, like a mountain spirit. "Der Frühling will kommen, Der Frühling, meine Freud', Nun mach' ich mich fertig Zum Wandern bereit" It might seem trivial, but I loved the outfit Prohaska wore: cropped trousers, knee-high boots and a long jacket. Very elegant, yet also reminiscent of a 19th century traveller, a poet or a wanderer.
Dale/London Symphony Orchestra/Adès (LSO Live, SACD and BD)Though they were conceived independently and intended as standalone pieces, Thomas Adès’s three large-scale orchestral works to date form a trilogy of sorts. All of them have the heft and range of symphonic arguments and, composed across 14 years from the mid-1990s onwards, they also provide an orchestral timeline through Adès’s development as a composer and the way his musical preoccupations have shifted. It’s by no means a comprehensive guide – the three operas, Powder Her Face, The Tempest and The Exterminating Angel, inevitably offer an alternative, parallel perspective – but the journey from the brittleness and brilliance of Asyla, which Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony introduced in 1997, to the majestic harmonic rotations of Polaris, composed for the New York Philharmonic in 2010, is an utterly compelling one. The centrepiece of this triptych is Tevot, the enigmatic single movement Adès wrote for Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic in 2007. It’s always seemed a strangely open-ended piece to me, as if the point at which the music stops is almost provisional. Here, in this LSO performance under the composer in which not a single scrap of the scoring seems to be overlooked, it is followed by Polaris, which brings a much more sure sense of closure. Tevot’s irresistible weight and beauty, its shining descents and dark upwellings, the flaring Janáček-like trumpet writing and Mahlerian wistfulness, can be appreciated for what they are, and they combine with an absolute refusal to rush or take any shortcuts through the musical argument. It’s a score that knows the space and time it needs, and its pacing is totally sure. Continue reading...