Friday, December 9, 2016
It’s the Lebrecht Album of the Week , a rare five-star find. We’ve omitted the soloist’s name from the sample text below to keep you guessing: In this live concert with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle, ****** is more languorous and, one suspects, more herself. The opening phrases are so leisurely you can imagine half the orchestra taking an illicit sip of tea from an under-chair flask, knowing there is plenty of time before they have to come in. But her tempo is immediately convincing and musically coherent. It pays off with a transcendent pair of inner movements in which beauty is never defeated by melancholy, and the tremors of an old man’s regrets are laid to rest with a blessing. So who? Click here to find out. Or here. And here. The cellist in the picture is Beatrice Harrison, who gave the first performance of the concerto outside London.
Gustavo Dudamel, Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Jordi Savall and Joyce DiDonato are among the leading musicians who have performed in the Gulf States in recent years, and the the inaugural BBC Proms Dubai festival takes place in March 2017. So, given classical music's ongoing love affair with social media, the launch of the 140 Characters website deserves a heads up. This is the work of Human Rights Watch, and in recognition of Twitter’s 140-character limit, the interactive website profiles 140 prominent Bahraini, Kuwaiti, Omani, Qatari, Saudi, and Emirati social and political rights activists and dissidents - see images above - and describes their struggles to resist government efforts to silence them. All 140 have faced government retaliation for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and many have been arrested, tried, and sentenced to fines or prison. Dubai, which is hosting the BBC Proms, is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, and Abu Dhabi, which has a high profile classical music festival, is the capital of the Emirates. Seventeen of the activists are from the UAE; the profile on 140 Characters of just one of them says it all:Osama al-Najer is a social media activist and the son of the political detainee Hussain Ali al-Najer al-Hammadi. Al-Najer used Twitter to campaign for the release of his father and other political detainees in Abu Dhabi and to criticize the conviction of 69 Emirati nationals in the "UAE 94" trial in July 2013. In September 2012 al-Najer was quoted in a Human Rights Watch news release that contained credible allegations that detainees had been tortured during interrogations. Authorities arrested al-Najer on March 17, 2014 and in November 2014 the Federal Supreme Court sentenced him to three years in prison under the 2012 cybercrimes law on charges including "damaging institutions" and "communicating with external organizations to provide misleading information." Authorities also fined him 500,000 AED ($US 136,127), confiscated his electronic devices, and ordered the closure of his Twitter account.Classical music at celebrity level is cash hungry, and it is unrealistic to expect a boycott of the cash rich but ethically tainted Gulf States. But in these days when Twitter is the communication channel of choice of even the US president-elect, is it too much to ask that Gustavo Dudamel, Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Jordi Savall, Joyce DiDonato and the BBC put the 140 Characters website in their pipe and tweet it? Before any clever clogs points out that there are 119 and not 140 faces in the header image, the reason is that photos of the other 21 activists are not available. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.
Gabetta/Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle/Urbański(Sony Classical)Sol Gabetta’s first recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto, with the Danish National Symphony, was much admired when it appeared six years ago. This one, taken from a concert in the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus in 2014, is a far glossier affair orchestrally. Simon Rattle’s tendency to overmould the phrasing is sometimes too obvious, but Gabetta’s playing is intense and searching, less introspective than some performances in the Adagio, perhaps, but epic in scale in the outer movements, and always keenly responsive. Those who possess her earlier disc might not think they need to invest in this one, but would then miss Gabetta’s vivid, pulsating account of the Martinů concerto, which went through a quarter of a century of revisions before the definitive 1955 version she plays here, with Krysztof Urbański conducting. She finds real depth and intensity in it, both in the slow movement and in the introspective episode that interrupts the finale’s headlong rush. Continue reading...
The salaries of Daniel Barenboim and Sir Simon Rattle as heads of the Staatsoper and the Berlin Philharmonic are not a matter of public record, as they would be in the US. The incoming culture senator Klaus Lederer, a member of the Left party, intends to share the information when he takes office in ten days’ time, according to local reports. Will anyone be shocked?
This is a rare sighting of Andreas Knapp, Sir Simon’s assistant at the Berlin Philharmonic, who is also a professional photographer and does not like to come out much from behind the camera. Andreas (left in the picture) is active with Hangar Music (hangarmusik.de), a program that gives refugees coming to Germany the chance to learn an instrument and become involved in music. On the Berlin Phil’s current US tour – Rattle’s last – Andreas arranged with Professor Mark Clague to stage a photo exhibition of his work with dispossessed children and their families, at Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Plans for a new London concert hall are in doubt because of a lack of state funds, but Britain used to have a tradition of wealthy donors underpinning the artsSkirmishes between classical music lovers over a yearned-for new London concert hall, intended to welcome conductor Simon Rattle back to our shores, have grown alarmingly ferocious this year. Should it be a sleek, City-funded adjunct to the Barbican or a new Queen’s Hall, perched dramatically on the edge of the Thames? Accusations of empire-building or, even worse, of a failure to appreciate acoustic science have been traded with increasing passion.Suddenly, it all looks like wasted energy. The £5.5m promised by George Osborne vanished, it has just been confirmed, when the former chancellor’s grip was wrenched off the exchequer in May. And, as Walsall’s New Art Gallery and Inverleith House in Edinburgh have recently joined those museums and libraries also fighting for survival in a tough funding environment, it is harder than ever to make a case for funding another place in which to listen to classical music in London. Continue reading...