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Gustav Mahler

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


My Classical Notes

September 9

Anna Netrebko: New Recording

My Classical NotesThis new recording titled “Romanza: Anna Netrebko” features a whole lot of music performed by Ms. Netrebko and her husband, Tenor Yusuf Eyvnzov. The selections are as follows: Bellini: Eccomi in lieta vesta…Oh! quante volte (from I Capuleti e I Montecchi) Dvorak: Mesícku na nebi hlubokém ‘Song to the Moon’ (from Rusalka) Songs My Mother Taught Me, Op. 55 No. 4 Grieg: Peer Gynt: Solveig’s Song Kalman: Heia, in den Bergen from Die Csárdásfürstin Krutoy: Forse non fu Cantami Mi fa male Credo L’amour Russe Gioia Il nastro blu La fantasia Odna Lyubov Ricomincero Tango mio Pioggia d’aprile Se tu almeno fossi qui Seguire me Unico L’istante prima dell’amore Angels pass away Musica con noi Session Orchestra London, Ben Foster Lehár: Meine Lippen sie Kussen so heiss (from Giuditta) Mozart: La ci darem la mano (from Don Giovanni) Offenbach: Barcarolle (from Les Contes d’Hoffmann ) Puccini: O mio babbino caro (from Gianni Schicchi) Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado Si, mi chiamano Mimi (from La Bohème) Un bel di vedremo (from Madama Butterfly) Vissi d’arte (from Tosca) Rachmaninov: How fair this spot, Op. 21 No. 7 Strauss, R: Wiegenlied, Op. 41 No. 1 Tchaikovsky: Octgo eto prezde ne znala ni toski ya (from Iolanta) Verdi: Follie! Follie! Delirio vano è questo…Sempre libera (from La traviata) Saimir Pirgu (tenor) Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado Oh ben s’addice questo torbido cielo … Sempre all’alba ed alla sera (from Giovanna d’Arco) All performed by Anna Netrebko (soprano), and Yusif Eyvazov (tenor). Anna Netrebko and her husband, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, released a new duet album of love songs, Romanza, on September 1, 2017. Eighteen original romantic love songs were written and composed specially for the couple by Russian producer Igor Krutoy. Romanza is not only Anna Netrebko’s first duet album with husband Yusif, but also her first foray out of the realm of traditional core repertoire. Producer Igor Krutoy wrote all 18 album tracks with Anna and Yusif in mind. Many years of working together closely and a one of a kind friendship that stems from his collaboration with Anna and Yusif allowed Igor to write love songs that not only perfectly match their voices, but also are an homage to love in general. Anna met her husband, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, when they starred together in Manon Lescaut at the Rome Opera in March 2014. Since their wedding in December 2015, the couple has appeared in concert and on the opera stage together worldwide. She and Yusif open La Scala’s season on December 7, 2017 in Andrea Chénier; it will be her role debut as Maddalena. Here are Ms. Neterebko and her husband in an extended trailer from this recording:

My Classical Notes

September 15

Sept. 22-23: NY Philharmonic Concerts

Here is an event you might really enjoy: Venue: Lincoln Center for the performing arts 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023 Dates: September 22 and 23, at 8:00 PM PROGRAM: Philip Glass Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (New York Premiere) Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 5 Artists: New York Philharmonic Orchestra Jaap van Zweden, Conductor Katia and Marielle Labèque, Pianos




Classical iconoclast

September 15

National Treasures : Simon Rattle LSO Elgar Birtwistle Knussen Adès

Sir Simon Rattle conducting the LSO. photo Tristram Kenton, courtesy LSO "This is Rattle" the title of a ten-day Barbican festival inaugurating Sir Simon Rattle as new Music Director at the London Symphony Orchestra.  There's a lot more to being Music Director than conducting.  Rattle is a brilliant communicator whose enthusiasm fires up those around him.  He's the best possible ambassador for the LSO, the Barbican and for British music all round. This concert could mark an historic occasion.  Will Rattle revitalize the LSO and London, as  he transformed the City of Birmingham and its Symphony Orchestra ?  Will Rattle succeed single handedly in reversing the insular philistinism that's plaguing this nation?   In our celebrity-obsessed age, you need a celebrity to reach the masses.  If the new concert hall for London is ever built - and it should be  - somehow Rattle's role should be recognized. This inaugural concert of the new LSO and Barbican season might, in time, prove an historic occasion.And now, to the music! An all-British programme proving that British music is alive and thriving.  When Sir Edward Elgar was "Britain's Greatest Living Composer", his music was often associated with Birmingham.  Rattle's Elgar credentials go way back  Thus the Enigma Variations, its cheerful geniality matching the occasion.  Once Elgar was "new music". But good music keeps evolving. Britain's "Greatest Living Composer" is now Sir Harrison Birtwistle, so original that his contemporaries, alive or not, don't come close.Birtwistle's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (2010-11) is classic Birtwistle. It operates on several simultaneous layers, moving in well defined patterns, proceeding with the deliberation of ritual magic. It also connects to Birtwistle's operas and music theatre. The soloist, Christian Tetzlaff, for whom it was commissioned, always hold centre stage, the orchestra acting like a  chorus.  A rumbling introduction, suggesting portent.  Almost immediately the violin spins into life - quirky, angular figures - characteristic Birtwistle zig-zags, lit by sudden explosions in the orchestra - high strings, then low winds, and an underlying pulse which emerges in bursts of ostinato.  Five "dialogues" in which the violin discourses with individual instruments.  Unlike Greek drama where the chorus comments on proceedings, the orchestra follows the soloist, interacting with the inventiveness in the violin part. Frequent exclamation points - a gong,  bell-like marimba like a laugh of recognition,  exotic sounds whose meaning may be unclear but significant, nonetheless.  Wild outbursts and delicate, wayward passages.  The violin sings at the top of its register, tantalizingly beyond and above the orchestra, which responds with groaning blasts. Inventive, richly rewarding and enlivened by Birtwistle's whimsical wit.  An excellent companion piece to Elgar's Enigma Variations: the pair should be heard together more often.Simon Rattle's associations with Oliver Knussen and Thomas Adès are even closer.  Rattle premiered Adès's Asyla in 1995 in Birmingham and recorded it with the CBSO and later with the  Berliner Philharmoniker.  Indeed, he included it in his inaugural concert in Berlin in 2002.  The title "Asyla" refers to asylums, places of refuge as well as incarceration.  It's pertinent, since it's a piece of incessant variations. Inspired by techno music and the idea of repeated mechanical patterns, it channels obsession into energy. Though the famous third movement allegedly depicts swarming hordes bobbing up and down in a crowded nightclub, probably high on drugs, the same could apply to shamanistic dance, where shamans, often high on peyote, dance themselves into oblivion, thereby releasing their subconscious.  Asylum as escape and refuge, yet also dangerous.  Thus the grand Hollywoodesque climax, an ejaculation in many ways.  Asyla can be read as a series of variations, though, unlike Birtwistle and Elgar, these variations are tinged with insanity and desperation.   Adès's finest work feeds off this primal energy. Perhaps it needs challenge to keep the sparkplugs firing.  Some of his later work isn't as good as Asyla, or The Tempest, or America: a Prophecy, but he's still an important composer.  Pointedly, Rattle included Oliver Knussen in his pantheon. Knussen has been a regular at the Barbican, so Rattle could hardly fail to acknowledge his role in promoting new music, in London, in Birmingham and at Aldeburgh.   But their relationship is closer than that : Rattle conducted Knussen when Knussen was barely out of his teens.  Knussen's Symphony no 3 (1973-79) takes its cue from Shakespeare's Ophelia, distraught with grief, singing "mad songs" in Hamlet.  For more background, please read the description  on Faber, who are Knussen's publishers.  The piece has been in Rattle's repertoire since CBSO days. It's a pity that the only recording of this work was not by Rattle, who reveals Knussen's Symphony in its full glory:  (Knussen's conducted it lots, too). It's an amazing work, at turns quirky, magical, demented and inspired. Knussen's Third Symphony is wordless, but its sinuous figures suggest curving, swaying movement, like a dancer turning in circles. Knussen has referred to its "cinematic" nature and "the potential relationship in film between a tough and fluid narrative form and detail which can be frozen or 'blown up' at any point." Without words, Knussen creates drama, in the shifting layers and tempi. Each permutation unfolds like a frenzied dance, or perhaps processional, given the size of these orchestral forces. The orchestra is huge - especially for a piece that lasts 15 minutes, but at its heart lie just three players, a sub unit of celeste, harp and guitar (alternating mandolin). Does that suggest Mahler's Seventh Symphony, and its strange Nachtmusik? Knussen and Mahler don't sound the least bit similar, but the comparison is fruitful, because both symphonies evoke contradictory responses. That's part of their enigmatic power.  Knussen's symphony "dances" with grave dignity, strong tutti chords suggesting fractured intensity. Darkness and blinding bright light. Yet at the heart, quiet, simple sounds suggesting the fragile human soul within. A wonderful performance - let's hope Rattle and the LSO do it again, in tribute, for Knussen is very much "more" than a composer, just as Rattle is "more" than a conductor. Knussen's a towering figure in every way, who has done more than most for music in this country.  Because his energies have found so many outlets, he hasn't written as much as he might have, but almost everything he does write is top notch, top rank. Among the many composers Knussen has nurtured is Helen Grime.  Appropriately, Rattle chose her for the the piece with which the concert began - Fanfare - from a much larger work still in progress.  Another excellent choice, linking the past to the future, proof that music in Britain is alive and well and deserves to thrive. 



On An Overgrown Path

September 13

Mahlerian in scope yet denied to audiences

Composer anniversary celebrations are another of classical music's big new ideas that has been quietly dropped. Which is a good thing: because in their ham-fisted execution they did no more than further expose grossly over-exposed composers such as Shostakovich and Mahler. But if handled with flair and finesse they could have done the valuable job of showcasing little-known and deserving composers. Such as Richard Arnell, the centenary of whose birth falls on 15th September. Even at a time when just a few composers dominate the concert repertoire Arnell's neglect is puzzling. He wrote big meaty symphonies that would surely appeal to today's Mahler-saturated audiences, and his trans-Atlantic provenance frees him from the dreaded 'English composer' label. Despite this there were no Arnell symphonies at the BBC Proms in this his centenary year, nor have any of his symphonies ever been performed at the Proms. And in his centenary week he does not qualify for the BBC Radio 3 composer of the week slot, nor do the station's schedules list broadcasts of any of his music. Instead Radio 3 broadcasts two more Mahler symphonies conducted by the omnipresent Simon Rattle. But all is not lost, because, as ever, those on the fringes are treading where the mainstream classical media is too myopic to tread. WWFM broadcasting in the New Jersey area and online is running an Arnell marathon on September 14 from 6.00 to 11.00 AM presented by Ross Amico. Conductor Warren Cohen, who knew Arnell, is being interviewed on WWFM between 8.00 and 9.00 AM local time tomorrow September 14th. Born in London in 1917, Richard Arnell followed Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Sir Arthur Bliss to the States in the late 1930s, and, like Bliss, found himself marooned on the wrong side of the Atlantic when war was declared. He settled in New York for the duration, and became a member of the Greenwich Village circle that included Virgil Thomson and Mark Rothko. Among the works that Arnell composed in New York before he returned to England in 1947 were his first three symphonies (plus much of his Fourth) and a film score for the US Departure of Agriculture documentary The Land. Paths auspiciously converge here as the suite from The Land was given its premiered by African American conductor Dean Dixon and the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1942. Among others who championed Arnell's music in America were Léon Barzin, who gave the first performance of the Fourth Symphony with the New York Philharmonic in 1948, Leopold Stokowski, who gave the premiere of the Black Mountain Prelude with the New York Philharmonic in 1949, and Bernard Hermann. In the UK Arnell's advocates included Sir John Barbirolli and Sir Thomas Beecham. Despite advocacy by these musical luminaries, concert performances of Richard Arnell's symphonies are today as rare as the proverbial hen's teeth. But we are very fortunate to have a magnificently played and recorded cycle of the symphonies by Martin Yates - who is doing so much for neglected music - and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on the independent Dutton label. Passing on Arnell's monumental wartime Third Symphony for the 2017 Proms season was a huge missed opportunity. It is late-Romantic in tone, Mahlerian in scope and duration with a fifteen minute slow movement that Visconti would have adored, while hints of Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, David Diamond and William Schuman betray its Stateside genesis. But perhaps it is good that it did not receive a Proms outing; because its dedication to "the political courage of the British people" would almost certainly have triggered yet another battle of the flag-waving loonies. Also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

On An Overgrown Path

September 12

Why you should never trust marketing experts

In a typically perceptive comment on Facebook about my classical music is not a lifestyle accessory post Joshua Cheek muses "...how do we recruit potential listeners and patrons to the current resources that are already available? Between streaming services like Spotify, Naxos Music Library and Primephonic, damned near the entirety of the Western classical canon is available..." Which prompts me to suggest that we are using a too narrow definition when discussing new audiences in particular and classical music in general. Recently there has been considerable focus on Classic FM prompted by the station's success in attracting a young audience. In their haste to spread the misguided dogma that the future of mainstream classical depends on a crossover from smooth classics, the experts overlooked the following statement in a Guardian interview by Classic FM's managing editor Sam Jackson: "There is a far bigger audience crossover between us and Radio 1 than there is between us and Radio 3". This leads to a hypothesis that deserves serious consideration; namely that the audience crossover from outside classical music is more important than crossover within classical. Sam Jackson highlights the crossover between BBC Radio 1's rock audience and Classic FM. Which may explain Classic FM's success in attracting a younger audience, as 41% of Radio 1's audience is in the age group 15-29, compared with the UK population average of 21.5%. There have been attempts by the BBC to leverage this crossover in recent Proms seasons with a Pet Shop Boys commission and an Ibiza anthems concert. But the results were were so cringe-inducing that these projects quickly joined the Strictly Come Dancing and Sherlock Holmes Proms on the scrapheap of classical music's next big things. Executed with more finesse was a 1970 Prom that brought together rock/jazz band Soft Machine and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a concert which included music by Terry Riley and exponent of electronica Tim Souster, and by members of the band. In his comment Joshua Cheek refers to the riches contained in the libraries of Spotify, Naxos Music Library and Primephonic. One of the many disappointments of the digital age is that the music industry has singularly failed to capitalise on the huge opportunity offered by this breadth of on-demand music. Instead of the promised long tail of music we now have a short head which is the fiefdom of a few celebrity composers and musicians. This hegemony is reinforced by a music press which is in the service of those who profit most from the short head, the corporate labels and other music establishment institutions. They have the Mahler, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Kaufmann and Rattle bases very well covered. But what our brave new digital world lacks are the mavericks who relish the challenge of going against the flow on the margins of art music. Like former West Coast Editor of DownBeat magazine, mean guitarist and champion of minority genres Lee Underwood who co-authored jazz flautist and genre-busting improviser Paul Horn's acclaimed autobiography Inside Paul Horn. Inside Paul Horn tells the story of the album seen above. This was an unplanned recording which in 1968 captured Paul Horn's spontaneous solo improvisations under the dome of the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra. His improvisations explored the dome's 28 second reverberation time, a unique acoustic created in the 17th century to enhance Qu'ranic recitations. When he returned to the States with the tapes Horn took them to Dick Bock, the founder of Pacific Jazz Records. Dick Bock was, unlike recent senior figures in Univeral Music and other corporate labels, no philistine; in fact he had been the driver behind Paul Horn's groundbreaking India and Kashmir albums. But when confronted with Horn's oddball Taj Mahal improvisations his response was "Let me run it by my marketing people and see what they think". The opinion of the marketing experts was "The music's too sparse and low-keyed, not exciting enough... go into the studio and add a few percussion sounds, maybe some bells, gongs, a few finger cymbals-you know, jazz it up a little, make it more commercial". But Paul Horn was not prepared to jazz it up a little. So he took the album to Columbia's subsidiary label Epic which released it unaltered as Inside the Taj Mahal*. Those sparse and low-keyed sounds pioneered the New Age music genre which despite commercial exploitation and consequent devaluing has influenced the development of art music. Inside the Taj Mahal was in the vanguard of the music therapy movement, was one of the first essays in soundscape recording and a precursor of the now fashionable 'slow radio' movement. The album went on to sell more than 750,000 copies, and in a CD coupling with Inside Taj Mahal 2 (which was recorded in 1989) remains in the catalogue today. That is just one of many reasons why you should never trust music marketing experts. And yes, I have to confess that in another life I was a marketing expert in EMI's International Classical Division. * The album was originally released with the title Inside, but this was later qualified with Taj Mahal as Paul Horn built up a catalogue of 'Inside' projects including Inside the Great Pyramid. 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.

Gustav Mahler
(1860 – 1911)

Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 - 18 May 1911) was a late-Romantic Austrian-Bohemian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer, he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect which included a ban on its performance in much of Europe during the Nazi era. After 1945 the music was discovered and championed by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers. After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, Malherhe held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper). During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press. Late in his life he was briefly director of New York's Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Mahler's œuvre is relatively small and is confined to the genres of symphony and song, except for one piano quartet. Most of his ten symphonies are very large-scale works. These works were often controversial when first performed. Mahler's immediate musical successors were the composers Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten are among later 20th-century composers who admired and were influenced by Mahler. The International Gustav Mahler Institute was established in 1955, to honour the composer's life and work.



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