Thursday, May 25, 2017
Robert Porco will end his tenure as Cleveland’s Director of Choruses in September 2018, after 19 years. ‘Bob Porco has been a great musical partner of the Cleveland Orchestra,” says Franz Welser-Möst, music director. ‘At home in Cleveland, and on tour, he has been a driving force in bringing our choral works to life. He has taken on challenging repertoire from Mozart to Mahler, from Beethoven to Stravinsky, and for our annual opera productions across multiple languages and styles – and all with a group of dedicated volunteers. He has inspired thousands of singers to perform at their best.’
"Where words fail, music speaks" These words were spoken by Gareth Davis, Chairman of the London Symphony Orchestra, before this performance of Mahler's Symphony no 9 with Bernard Haitink conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, at the Barbican Hall, London. These words will be repeated over and over, for so they should be. How can we respond, as decent people, to events like the bombing in Manchester? There are no quick-fix solutions. But in uncivilized times, having faith in the power of higher ideals may help, or at least offer the comfort of hope. We can, of course, listen to concerts with complete detachment, but emotional engagement adds to the experience. Our response to this performance could not but be coloured by events. Because the Ninth was Mahler's last completed symphony, connections are often made with imminent death. Yet from first to last, Mahler's symphonies chart transitions : from death to resurrection, from struggle to transcendence. Das Lied von der Erde, Mahler's "true" ninth, quite explicitly connects death with renewal on a different plane of existence. The "farewell" in Symphony no 9 is not annihilation but the journey from past to future. Bernard Haitink has probably conducted more Mahler in his long career than most, yet he continues to develop. Live perfomances are always "new", only recordings remain fixed, like specimens in a jar. Eight years ago, he conducted this symphony with the same orchestra : the notes were the same, but the performances quite distinctive. The gentle, palpitating motif at the beginning flowed into blazing, more expansive outbursts A constant sense of shifting movement, bright horns and trumpets contrasting with the measured "footsteps" in the strings, echoed in the percussion. The palpitating motif returned repeatedly, in different forms, ever moving forward. The connotations were less military march than purposeful traverse, as if the protagonist were trudging across mountains, toward a goal. Chills descended, nonetheless, but the melody leads on. Hearing the violin and flute (Roman Simovic and Gareth Davis) in dialogue, I thought of Siegfried and the woodbird. The second movement employs different dance forms. But why Ländler? Dance is physical movement, often in circles, with repetitions and small individual variation. And why the marking "Etwas täppisch und sehr derb"? (rustic, simple, earthy). Perhaps the allusion is to nature and to fertility. In Das Lied von der Erde, Nature does the work. In the Ninth Symphony, farmers toil. Harvests mean plenty. In the violin perhaps we hear village musicians, sometimes local, sometimes journeymen. But the rhythms are driven, with frenzy. all too soon winter comes and the ground lies fallow. Here the LSO, brilliant players, re-create the edgy, almost angular rhythms, which fade "into the mists", so to speak, of strings, harp and brass. The palpitating figures in the first movement returned, in new variation, and the "march" pulled urgently forward, percussion crashing, brass ablaze. The chill in the Rondo-Burleske was almost palpable, as if the strings were shivering. Has frost cut down the harvest? Dark bassoons murmured, the strings went quiet, yet again from this desolation a melodic line (violin) arose, rising upward. But the best was yet to come. The Finale was so refined that it seemed to come from another realm. The high tessitura shimmered so beautifully that the music seemed bathed in ethereal light. Upwards and upwards, the sounds levitated, counterbalanced by gentle diminuendos. How does Haitink get players to hold lines with such poise and refinement? He knows the LSO well, and they love him in return. It must be some kind of alchemy. When they performed this Finale in 2009, I could hardly hold my breath for fear of missing a moment. This time round, even more refined transparency. The music doesn't "end" so much as becomes rarified, transmuted onto another plane of existence, beyond what the human ear can comprehend. If Mahler's Ninth is a symphony of death, something happens along the way, which leads to total transfiguration. And so, back to the phrase "Where words fail, music speaks". Absolutely necessary in these times of hate and madness.
It can’t be hard. A brilliant phoney paper titled ‘The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct’ was accepted and published in a peer-reviewed, gender studies journal. It contained such beautiful formulations as ‘We conclude that penises are not best understood as the male sexual organ, or as a male reproductive organ, but instead as an enacted social construct that is both damaging and problematic for society and future generations’. Here’ s how it was done. Now let’s apply these enlightened ideas to contemporary musicology. Here are few gender themes for our creative readers to play around with as abstracts for academic papers: – Gender suppression as subtext in Schumann’s piano concerto – Intertextuality in the left hand part of Für Elise – Manspreading in Mahler – Penile aggression in Pli selon pli. Have fun! There will be a record prize for the winner. UPDATE: The advanced class may choose to write their papers in the style of (a) Richard Taruskin , (b) Carol Oja or (c) Joachim Kaiser .
I will always remember listening to Mahler’s Third at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, as directed by James Levine. What a thrill that was! Now there is a new recording out as conducted by Ivan Fischer: Mahler: Symphony No. 3 With Gerhild Romberger (alto), and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Cantemus Children’s Choir, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Iván Fischer conducting. Clemens Rominjn wrote: “Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony, lasting one and a half hours or more, is not only his longest work but at the same time an exuberant and sunny ode to nature, mankind, the world and indeed life itself. And for this song of praise the composer requires both room and lavish means. No less than six movements, the richest of orchestral forces, and a contralto soloist and boys’ and women’s choirs whose sung texts help to bring across the symphony’s message, as in the Second Symphony and later in the Fourth and Eighth as well.” Here is the Budapest Festival Orchestra performing the third and fourth movements from the Aymphony number 3 by Gustav Mahler:
Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings. Bruno Walter accompanies Ferrier in two Schubert and two Brahms songs. Walter was a major influence on Ferrier, developing her style and repertoire and bring her to international prominence. Reputedly, she was so overcome rehearsing for Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde that she wept inconsolably. Perhaps it was that emotional directness that Walter recognized that convinced him that the relatively unknown young singer had potential. In these songs, recorded in the Edinburgh studios of the BBC, Ferrier's sincerity shines, though her delivery is more enthusiastic than refined. But that was part of her charm. Walter responds in kind, his playing particularly free and invigorating. Ferrier's recordings of Mahler's Rückert Lieder and Kindertotenlieder are classics, but on this disc, she sings Urlicht, from Mahler's Symphony no 2. This recording was made on 28th September 1950. The following year, Ferrier sang the part with full orchestra in the recording of the symphony with Otto Klemperer and Jo Vincent in Amsterdam. Here she sings the version for piano and voice, so the closer focus concentrates attention on the voice and its distinctive colouring. Her vibrato is used to evoke fragility, in keeping with the nature of the piece. A worthwhile addition to the discography, since she didn't record this version for Decca. Apart from one track on this disc - C Hubert Parry's Love is a bable op 152/3 with Gerald Moore - all the other selections feature Ferrier with Frederick Stone. Ferrier sang a lot of Schubert and Wolf, her contralto richness is most effective in Brahms. Her Sonntag op 47/3 here, recorded in December 1949, is particularly impressive. Although Ferrier found fame, she was, at heart, down-to-earth and unaffected, rather like the "Das tausendschöne Jungfräulein" standing by her doorway, innocently capturing hearts. For this reason, perhaps, Ferrier is often most endearing when she sings traditional songs in the English language. This remastering makes Parry's Love is a Bable bright and shiny! On this SOMM disc, we have Edmund Rubbra's Three Psalms op 61, which Ferrier recorded for Decca with Ernest Lush, in performance with Frederick Stone, from 1947. The piano settings are minimal, displaying the voice unadorned, suggesting private prayer. In Psalm 150, Rubbra writes extravagant lines, which let Ferrier's voice fly exuberantly free. SOMM has also uncovered a special rarity: Maurice Jacobson's Song of Songs, quite probably the original recording, which has lain in the BBC sound archives long known but hitherto unreleased. The text comes from the Book of Solomon, and the setting makes clear reference to Jewish tradition.
Yoel Gamzou has been named music director in Bremen. Yoel – who is 29, not 30 as stated in German media – is a multi-talented, thoughtful composer who has created and recorded his own version of Mahler’s tenth symphony. He has previously been Kapellmeister in Kassel, where Mahler preceded him.
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