Monday, December 5, 2016
The composer’s finished manuscript of the second symphony sold this morning at Sotheby’s for £3.9 million ($4.5), to which the buyer will have to add a premium of around 15%. The total paid was £4,546,250. This is by far the highest sum ever paid for a music manuscript. The previous record was held by a Schumann symphony, sold for £1.5 million in 1994. The Mahler score was owned by Gilbert Kaplan, a New York publisher who conducted the symphony many times around the world. It was sold to a phone bidder, presently unidentified.
The Herald inaugurates today a new era of weekly Friday appearance and it will continue to cover the relevant news in classical music: opera, ballet and concerts. This first review concerns (paradoxically) the last concerts of the Mozarteum Argentino´s season. As it has done in some earlier years, it said goodbye with masterpieces of the choral-symphonic repertoire, in this case presented by two Berlin visitors: the Rundfunkchor (Radio Choir) and -curiously with an Italian appellation- the Orchestra L´Arte del Mondo. It is a pity that this review only covers the first of the two different programmes, but as will be apparent to readers, this is due to the clash of the second (Tuesday) concert with no less than the Bach great Mass at another venue. On Monday the Colón heard Brahms´ "A German Requiem" ; on Tuesday the "pièce de résistance" was Mozart´s Requiem, and as it lasts one hour, it was heard preceded by a Brahms motet, "Warum ist das Licht gegeben" ("Why is light given") and a curious a cappella arrangement of Mahler´s Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony. The Rundfunkchor was founded in 1925 and has had an important trajectory; its current Director (since last year) is Gijs Leenaars, born 1978 in Nijmegen, Holland, succeeding a famous choral specialist, Simon Halsey. L´Arte del Mondo is much younger; it was founded by Werner Ehrhardt in 2004. As they came in this tour, the choir lists 51 singers, among them the two soloists we heard, soprano Anne Bretschneider (a native Berliner) and baritone Artem Nesterenko (born 1989, Novosibirsk), whose surname is the same as that of a famous bass heard at the Colón in 1982. And the orchestra came with 53 players (among them Ehrhardt as violinist, he is generally conductor) plus two invited BA musicians (tuba, harp). Leenaars conducted. Brahms´ very particular Requiem lasts about seventy minutes and discards the habitual text used by Mozart or Verdi, for it uses versicles from the Old and the New Testaments in the Luther translation; "German" simply because Brahms uses that language. Brahms was incited by both Robert Schumann and his wife Clara Wieck to write a requiem, though they didn´t imagine it would be so original. Also, its progress wasn´t linear; e.g., the second of its seven parts was the reelaboration of a movement from a two-piano sonata that was never finished; other five parts were written later, and the work had a first première in three parts in Vienna (1867) and in six in Bremen (1868); later he added the lovely part with soprano, and it was only in 1869 that the whole score was heard at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. It was soon recognised as a masterpiece and both in length and quality his most valuable contribution to the choral-symphonic repertoire. In 1869 he was 35 and had already written such major works as the First Piano Concerto and the First Sextet. In modern times there has been a plethora of marvelous recordings (Karajan, Klemperer, Sinopoli, et al) and the work has been done quite often in our city; sample: between 1955 and 1968 the Asociación Wagneriana, then a basic institution, presented it three times with its own choir and orchestra. Since that already remote time, it has lost none of its attraction. This year it was offered in BA at the Auditorio de Belgrano (conductor Domínguez) and at La Plata´s Argentino (Vieu). It is a work that shows Brahms´ best qualities: sustained melodic inspiration, sensitivity to the meaning of the words (from the Psalms, epistles of Paul and Peter, Revelation, Isaiah, Matthew, St.James, Proverbs), total counterpoint mastery, an unerring sense of contrast. There´s not a banal or weak moment though it requires total concentration from artists and audience, for it is tryingly dense. The music goes from consoling and serene to stark and granitic, and requires very firm intonation both orchestral and choral. The version we heard was honorable and at times more than that, but it had flaws at various points. I found the choir more even in their performance than the orchestra, who had some maladjustments and doubtful attacks. The speeds were correct but at times the necessary tension wasn´t achieved. The solo singers were musical and pleasant, though the parts can be sung with more personality. And Leenaars, although well-schooled, isn´t yet commanding enough for such powerful music. For Buenos Aires Herald
Enrique Arturo Diemecke has been at the helm of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic for twelve years, a long period, and maybe it´s time to evaluate globally his good and bad points. For some people feel –and I agree- that it would be fruitful to change Principal Conductor. On the plus side: fantastic memory; technical capacity; affinity with the Postromantic repertoire, particularly Mahler. On the minus side: a clownish personality aggravated each year by irritating and often mediocre and unnecessary comments; programming that isn´t inclusive enough ( some examples: almost no Schönberg-Berg-Webern; few good after WWII choices; neglect of composers such as Hindemith, Martinu or Milhaud; almost no relevant USA music, although he has worked there for decades); less subscription concerts than we should have (not 15 but at least 18); too much hogging: this year nine out of fifteen concerts are conducted by him; and too little presence of important colleagues, Argentine and foreign. In this visual and light society, many like the showman aspects that trivialize concertgoing; but such recent visits as the mature Nagano and the young Bringuier demonstrate that you can be vital, perceptive and communicative without lowering standards of behavior. I believe we need another sort of Principal Conductor: one with Diemecke´s strong points but one that corrects the weak ones. There are a lot of fine conductors nowadays and a hunt should be on to find somebody that accepts the experience of working here. Diemecke has led the Flint, Mich, Orchestra for 27 years; doesn´t anyone wonder why a man of such technical capacity hasn´t moved to a higher-rank USA orchestra? Or to a good European one? I do, and think that his personality is the problem. Let him come as guest, for he has quite a following, and his better concerts are quite enjoyable. The tenth subscription concert was rather good, though it started with a crossover Mexican piece too often played here, the Danzón Nº 2 by Arturo Márquez, "danced" by Diemecke on the podium (he premièred it here fifteen years ago). Then, an homage to Ginastera by one of his historic interpreters, the veteran pianist Luis Ascot: the Concerto Nº1, Op.28, a tough score of his Neo-expressionist period, premièred in 1961 both in Washington and BA by Joao Carlos Martins and conductor Howard Mitchell. Ascot has always been a Ginastera champion and has played this concerto often in his international career. Now there´s a sense of strain and intent concentration, but by and large his was a true voice, and was well supported by the conductor. Feted by the audience, he played two quiet encores: Liszt´s Consolation Nº3 and Ginastera´s "Canción al árbol del olvido" ("Song to the tree of oblivion"). The concert ended with a very good reading of Mussorgsky´s "Pictures from an exhibition" in Ravel´s unparalleled orchestration. Here Diemecke was at his best, giving its true character to every fragment of this extraordinary score, and there were brilliant solos (saxophone, trumpet) as well as powerful brass ensembles. I wasn´t happy with the following concert, too short and strangely made up of two concerti and a famous Ravel piece, "La Valse". I love Poulenc´s Two-Piano Concerto, one of his best scores, particularly as they are played by the Labèque sisters; the artists brought over on this occasion are first-rate: Jean-Philippe Collard, a masterful French pianist whose white mane tells of a long career documented by splendid records, such as the two Ravel Concertos; and our Marcela Roggeri, who lives in Paris and visits us regularly. The concerto hardly lasts twenty minutes; in what was an exciting interpretation, I question some harshness from the orchestra and an excessively brusque rhythmic accent, almost machinistic at times, though played with stamina and clarity, apart from minor misadjustments. The charming encore was Poulenc´s waltz-musette "L´embarquement pour Cythère" ("The embarkation for Cytherea"), vaguely based on Watteau´s lovely painting. I didn´t enjoy the South-American première of Pascal Dusapin´s Cello Concerto, of course well played by the Finnish specialist Anssi Karttunen, who was the first to execute 135 contemporary pieces! I found the music arid, though in some moments there are interesting sonic effects. There was an encore which I couldn´t place. Finally, "La Valse" was played grossly, without the refinement that most of it needs; this was Diemecke in poor form. For Buenos Aires Herald
Hamilton/Vejzović/Lindsley/RSO Wien/ORF-Chor/Steinberg (Orfeo, two CDs)Only two of Ernst Krenek’s operas, Jonny Spielt Auf and Karl V, maintain even the tiniest toeholds in the repertory. But he wrote more than 20, composed over almost half a century, of which Orpheus und Eurydike was the third to be performed – in 1926. It was received very warmly at its premiere, but was soon eclipsed by the huge success of the “jazz opera” Jonny Spielt Auf, which premiered three months later.The libretto of Orpheus is adapted from a play by Oskar Kokoschka, written during the first world war, when the artist was coming to terms with the ending of his turbulent affair with Alma Mahler. Those circumstances no doubt account for the sour and cynical tone of this post-Freudian take on the legend, which carries through into Krenek’s adaptation. The composer had become part of Alma’s circle in the 1920s; she had asked him to complete Mahler’s 10th Symphony, which he declined to do, and in 1924 he married her daughter Anna, though the marriage lasted less than a year. By then, Krenek had already made his adaptation of Kokoschka’s text; the opera was completed in 1923. Continue reading...
Royal Festival Hall, London Conducting from the piano, Uchida’s alert phrasing and integration with the other instruments was totally absorbing, allowing the Mahler’s players to shineIn 2015, the elite players of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra set the bar high in a much-lauded Beethoven concerto project, with Leif Ove Andsnes directing from the keyboard. A similar combination of the MCO and Mitsuko Uchida promised Mozart concertos of equally high distinction and in this outstanding concert they were, if anything, even better. Few pianists are better exponents of the modern style in Mozart than Uchida, with her constantly alert phrasing and crystalline touch, while the responsiveness of the MCO, playing on mainly modern instruments but in a historically informed manner, was never less than absorbing. With her back to the audience, and directing the orchestra as though she was playing some enormous piano, Uchida had the woodwinds in her direct line of sight in Mozart’s G major Concerto K453 and the more grandly conceived and orchestrated C major K503. The rewards were fabulous, as Uchida combined with Chiara Tonelli’s flute, Mizuho Yoshii-Smith’s oboe and Fredrik Ekdahl’s bassoon so compellingly that the surrounding string playing felt at times almost incidental. Continue reading...
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