Saturday, August 27, 2016
The successor to Yannick Nézet-Séguin in 2018 will be Lahav Shani. A bold, high-risk appointment for a major international orchestra, the youngest in the field. Lahav Shani said: ‘I am over the moon. From the first moment, I felt a rare click with this orchestra. It is so easy to communicate with these musicians, they respond to the smallest sign. Everything I ask of them, I get, and more. And they love to take risks, just like me: never play it safe, always take it to the limit. The possibilities are endless. It doesn’t get any better than that as a conductor.’ Lahav Shani won first prize at the 2013 Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition in Bamberg, following in the footsteps of Gustavo Dudamel. He stood in last December with the Vienna Philharmonic, winning ovations for Mahler’s first symphony and much respect from the players. But a trial with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra did not go well, players citing temperamental differences. With Rotterdam, it was all smiles. Here’s the Rotterdam Phil’s announcement video:
“What is disappearing, some say, are the light classics that once were staples of mainstream classical concerts that, around the middle of the last century, migrated to pops” and which pops orchestras have now abandoned in favor of classic rock and the like. Says conductor John Mauceri, “If you’re going to do a Mahler symphony as the centerpiece of a concert, you don’t have any room for von Suppé or Offenbach.”
Today is the birthday of Leonard Bernstein. He was born in 1918, and he died in 1990. For most of his adult musical life, Leonard Bernstein was a champion of the music by Gustav Mahler. Like Bernstein, Mahler himself was also the conductor of the New York Philharmonic for a few seasons at the beginning of the 1900’s. Bernstein became the authority on Mahler works. On at least one occasion he said “…some times I feel like I AM Mahler…” While Bernstein often conducted the Vienna Philharmonic, he was on occasion frustrated with them, saying “This is not Mahler…. He was among you , yet you do not bring the passion, the bitterness, the raw energy to his music…” The Symphony number 9 was Mahler’s last completed work. Here is Leonard Bernstein conducting and speaking to the orchestra about this amazing piece of music: Rest in Peace, Leonard Bernstein.
Proms 46 and 48 with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra making their welcome annual visit to the Royal Albert Hall, London. Since the BBC SSO is second only to the BBC SO in the BBC stable of orchestras, this pair of Proms were special occasions. This year, they played not with their usual Chief but with Ivan Volkov, Chief Emeritus and Matthias Pintscher. Those familiar with these conductors would be on alert, since Volkov and Pintscher are both leading specialists in contemporary music. Hence the unusual programmes : Grisey with Mahler and Mozart, Pintscher and Mendelssohn. Volkov is passionate about Gérard Grisey, one of the most iconic figures in modern music, who left work of strikingly original quality. For more, read Liam Cagney's informative piece on Grisey here and lots more on this blog, if you click the label "Grisey" below. Grisey himself described Dérives (1974/5) as the movement of a boat, adapting to waves and currents, its trajectory identifiable by points of juncture between the small ensembles . "Ces différentes dérives reflètent une même intention : composer non plus l’objet, mais le passage d’un objet à un autre et son évolution. Ceci n’empêche nullement de contrôler la nature de l’objet sonore que l’on manipule, mais il ne prend son sens que dans le temps, inséré dans un contexte qui le définit. Le chemin parcouru est plus important que le véhicule." Dérives began with long, searching planes, tiny incidents in the background gradually coming into prominence. This sense of inner stillness operates on your mind much in the way that deep meditation releases you from the detritus of noise that passes for much of life. Gradually a rocking rhythm emerges, intercepted by a crashing sound, not sufficient t disrupt the calm equilibrium. More extended chords, so rarified they seem to flow into each other like liquids, interjecting chords adding spiky definition. The pace picks up suddenly, whips of angular sound, then darker longer chords but the crystalline serenity continues, as if the orchestra were creating an invisible nbeing levitaing itself above the stage. is less complex than Les espaces acoutiques, written soon after but the germ of the idea is already present. Wonderfully restrained, glistening playing The BBCSSOare second only to the BBC SO in the BBC stable of orchestras , but they're unique in smaller scale, intense and esoteric works like this. I wish they'd do more. Pity the Proms don't do justice to really fine music like this, but at least they bring Grisey to the attention of a mass audience. While this performance of Mahler's Rückert-Lieder was more routine than rewarding, it concluded with Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, linking to Grisey's luminous Dérives. Haunted still by thoughts of Grisey, I could not help feeling a frisson . Grisey's final masterpiece, Quatre chants for fraîchir la seule deals with a similar kind of ethereal transcendance. The soloist was Tania Ariane Baumgartner, whom I've heard only once before, she's quite young. Volkov and the BBC SSO concluded with Mozart's Mass in C minor, or rather a new completion thereof. It's Mass-lite, breezy and youthful. Baumgartner was joined by Louise Alder, Carolyn Sampson, Benjamin Hulett, Matthew Rose and the BBC Symphony Chorus.
This is a sad review, for after calling the preceding concert (Barenboim/Argerich/WEDO) the event of the year, readers may expect a rather enthusiastic response to the last session of the Festival. But I went to the Colón in morose mood, for three facts were inexorable: the programme was too short; it presented the famous tenor in baritone repertoire; and it´s simply and irrevocably unethical to repeat a major score in the same subscription series. What drove me mad was the fact that the season programme, distributed in March, says: "we will present the dashing debut of German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, who will delight our public with the music of Richard Wagner, avid to know one the maximal lyric expressions of our time". And this is what we got: the Prelude to the Third Act of Wagner´s "The Mastersingers"; Gustav Mahler´s "Songs of a Wayfarer"; and Mozart´s Symphony Nº41, "Jupiter". I can accept the first item (it was the encore of Concert Nº5; the encore, not one of the announced fragments). But baritone Mahler? And the repetition of Mozart´s "Jupiter" (played in the initial concert along with Nos. 39 and 40)? Sorry, there´s a limit to arbitrariness, even coming from world figures like Kaufmann and Barenboim. About Mahler: was it the tenor´s wish? Or did he propose something else and Barenboim vetoed it? I don´t know, but I give you a piece of news: Kaufmann will sing in Santiago de Chile a programme of operatic arias from Italian and French composers: "Tosca", "Aida", "Carmen", "Cavalleria Rusticana", "Le Cid", "Andrea Chenier" and "Turandot". Mouth-watering indeed, although it has no Wagner. Two ways to have done a decent programme: a) change the Wagner symphonic pieces in the concert with Argerich with, say, Brahms´ Fourth Symphony, and play the same symphonic fragments around Kaufmann, singing arias from "Lohengrin", "Die Walküre" and "The Mastersingers" (he has just sung the complete "Mastersingers" in Munich). b) Do the same programme as in Santiago, adding symphonic opera music to round it off. I have perused the CD R.E.R. catalogue of 2000 in the entry: Mahler: "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen" ("Songs of a wayfarer"). The character of the songs is clearly manly, but several ladies of great career haven´t resisted the temptation and have recorded the lovely music. But not one tenor risked recording it and for good reason: hear the young Fischer-Dieskau with Furtwängler and then recollect what you heard at the Colón with Kaufmann, and what a falling off! Is it an experiment and he decided to try it here? For I read that he has an even stranger idea: to sing both the tenor and the baritone parts in Mahler´s masterpiece "Das Lied von der Erde" (Song of the Earth"); and that lasts an hour! The voice sounded veiled and out of register, but the man is an artist and of course he phrased with expression and taste, splendidly accompanied by Barenboim and his WEDO (West-Eastern Divan Orchestra). Then came the very partial saving grace, after just 18 minutes of singing: the lovely "Winsterstürme", Siegmund´s aria from "Die Walküre". There his real voice appeared. And then, helpers moved the piano and Barenboim accompanied him in the Tristanesque "Träume", last of the Five Wesendonk Lieder: beautifully done, though he was poaching in soprano repertoire. At least in this case Kaufmann has two antecedents: Melchior and Kollo, but both with orchestrations not done by Wagner. Readers may remember that two years ago I wrote enthusiastically about his Alvaro ("La Forza del Destino") in Munich: even in a horrid staging there was no doubt about his exalted category. So he owes us a second visit singing opera and has shown bad judgment in his debut. I do hold great hopes for his forthcoming Lieder recital. It transpired that both Argerich and Barenboim were affected by the flu, markedly so when they repeated the fifth programme, in which there were no encores; and that Barenboim wasn´t cured on the concert with Kaufmann. There was no encore after the "Jupiter", to my mind played with less rhythmic bite than on the first concert (of course everyone was fresher then). I do hope that next year Barenboim will be more careful and ethical: he owes it not just to the public, but to himself. This is a very expensive series, and two concerts in it were clearly below par; a third one is a controversial decision, that of Arabic music. Let´s have a real Festival where everything is topnotch. A personal desire: he has expressed his enthusiasm with Elgar: wouldn´t it be a great contribution to bring the powerful Second Symphony? For Buenos Aires Herald
There has been general consternation abroad at the decision by Zurich’s Tonhalle orchestra to sack its young music director , Lionel Bringuier, after just one four-year term. Musicians tell us they found his rehearsals boring and unstructured and decided it was time for him to go. Is that so? The most boring rehearsal conductor in recent memory was Claudio Abbado, who drove most of the London Symphony Orchestra and some in the Berlin Philharmonic to despair. But the players persisted until they got used to his methods and eventually they reaped great rewards. Bringuier has been assistant to Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel, both of whom vouch for his talent. What he didn’t learn from them should have been augmented by experienced musicians in the Tonhalle orchestra. But they showed no patience or sympathy for a conductor on a learning curve and let it be known that they’d had enough. A weak manager and a dumb board of bankers and local worthies simply did their bidding. That’s how the Swiss run their orchestras. In Geneva, where two managers walked out of the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande, they still don’t know if Jonathan Nott will sign his contract as music director. If he sees what’s happening in Zurich, he should decline. Zurich and Geneva are the two premier orchestras in Switzerland and their clockwork has broken down. Happily, the Lucerne Festival has saved the nations reputation. Its new music director Riccardo Chailly has begun with a Mahler Eighth blast and the orchestra is the envy of the continent. Bringuier, meanwhile, made his Salzburg Festival debut this week.
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 uvre 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.
Great composers of classical music