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Gustav Mahler

Saturday, June 24, 2017


My Classical Notes

June 12

Friedrich Gulda Plays Mozart

My Classical NotesAustrian pianist Friedrich Gulda died on January 27, 2000. He died at his home which was located at Steinbach am Attersee, in Austria, the same town where Gustav Mahler had a home and spent several summers composing there. Gulda loved the music of Mozart, as do I and millions of musicians like me. In some sense this Cd is dedicated to Gulda’s memory. The selections on this recording are as follows: Gulda: Improvisation 1 + 2, a live recording of a concert on June 27, 1982 at the Munich “Klaviersommer” with the jazz pianist Chick Corea Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 12 in F major, K332, a live recording of a concert on June 27, 1982 at the Munich “Klaviersommer” with the jazz pianist Chick Corea Rondo for Piano & Orchestra in A major, K386 Rondo for Piano & Orchestra in D major, K382 All performed by Friedrich Gulda (piano) Friedrich Gulda repeatedly played Mozart’s piano music in his concerts and had it recorded. In so doing, this classically-trained musician, who had already played successfully in jazz bands at a young age, ignored the strict limits imposed by genres: he wanted to show audiences that there are no distinctions between musical styles whenever good music is played honestly and conscientiously. Gulda proves to be a highly gifted interpreter of Mozart as well as a mischievous improviser on the piano – who also wants to entertain and can do so on a high level. The recording begins and ends with Mozart’s rarely-heard Rondos for Piano and Orchestra in A Major KV 386 and D Major KV 382. Gulda played them on October 4, 1969 in the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residenz, accompanied by the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks under Leopold Hager. Gulda plays cheerfully without the slightest audible effort, combining Mozart with the finesse of a grandiose performer who is in fact laughing up his sleeve. Here is Friedrich Gulda in Mozart’s Piano Concerto number 20:

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

June 18

Paint me a concert? OK, let’s try…

We’re not quite sure what to make of this electronic painting venture by the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, but (as Mahler said of Schoenberg) maybe it’s the future. See what you think. Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras from Isobar U.S. on Vimeo .




On An Overgrown Path

June 6

In search of the lost chord

In his book Vinyl Adventures from Istanbul to San Francisco the lead singer of The Charlatans Tim Burgess recounts how: I've always thought that I was defined by records. Not just ones I've been involved in recording but every one I've ever loved, bought, fallen out of love with or that has soundtracked a particular chapter of my life. They are like punctuation marks. If I need to think back to an event in my life, it's easiest to do it with singles and albums.This theme of music as punctuation marks in our lives is taken up by Earle H. Waugh's study of the mystical chanters of Morocco's Sufi brotherhoods titled Memory, Music and Religion, in which he proposes that music functions as a grounding tool by subconsciously reclaiming the past. It is a view I subscribe to, and during the 1960s and '70s albums from the psychedelic rock band the Moody Blues punctuated my life, with their set at my university in 1969 providing a never-to-be-forgotten example of the power of live music. Much emphasis is now placed on attracting a new young classical music audience. But little importance is placed on understanding how the much-derided ageing core audience - of which I am proud to be a member - came to classical music. Music education for young people is vitally important. But also important yet overlooked, is that many - if not the majority - of the current core audience came via rock music and popular culture. In 1971 two albums spent much time on my Pioneer PL-12D turntable: one was the soundtrack album for Visconti's newly-released Death in Venice movie which introduced many of us to Mahler through the Adagietto of the Fifth Symphony, the other was the new Moody Blues album Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. But today social media's bubble filters and the internet's infinite possibilities for personalisation have all but eliminated serendipitous cross-genre and cross-media grazing. Gone are the days when Visconti's Death in Venice, Ken Russell's Music Lovers, Martin Scorses's The Last Temptation of Christ and Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Pictures At An Exhibition could add a new diacritic to young lives. Instead the mantra of our digital age is 'more of the same please' driven by the insidious dynamic of social media approval. As can be seen from the accompanying artwork by Philip Travers, the Moody Blues' albums were a truly immersive experience, unlike today's stripped-of-everything-but-binary-data audio files. So much attention has been paid to decoding their albums' lyrics - including a book from a New Age publisher - that the band's bassist John Lodge composed I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band) for their 1972 Seventh Sojourn album to refute suggestions of hidden meanings. Among those obsessed with these chimerical hidden meanings was American arch-criminal and cult-leader Charles Manson who banned all music in his commune except the Beatles' White Album - notably the Helter Skelter track - and Moody Blues' albums. That infamous connection introduces the dark side of the psychedelic movement. In the 1960s and '70s an extremist fringe of young people who felt alienated from an increasingly materialistic and arguably decadent Western society expressed their alienation by acts of horrendous violence against innocent people. This alienation spawned the abhorrent terrors of the Manson Family, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the Weathermen and the Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski. Philosopher and essayist George Santayana told us that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. It is imperative that the roots of the current wave of global terror are identified and eliminated. But crucial to that process is both the eradication of the current hate-filled extremism, and remembering and learning from past terror movements. As the French political scientist and commentator on radical Islam Olivier Roy explains: ...contemporary jihadism, at least in the West – as well as in the Maghreb and in Turkey – is a youth movement that is not only constructed independently of parental religion and culture, but is also rooted in wider youth culture. This aspect of modern-day jihadism is fundamental.On the track Legend of a Mind from their 1968 In Search of a Lost Chord album, the Moody Blues sing that "Timothy Leary's dead/No, no, no, no, He's outside looking in". In just the same way the root causes of those terror outrages of the 1960s and '70s are not dead, they are just outside looking in as history repeats itself. 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).



Classical iconoclast

June 6

Andris Nelsons Leipzig Gewandhausorchester Mahler 6 listening link

Andris Nelsons outside the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra hall Andris Nelsons, new Kappellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester in Mahler Symphony no 6, available here on MDR Kultur.  A powerful performance , ull of vitality and insight . This orchestra is one of the oldest in the world, and easily one oif the best, with a highly individual sound. Also a highly individual ethos - this was Mendelssohn's orchestra.l When the Nazis wanted his statue pilled down, the then Mayor Carl Friedrich Goerdeler defied the Nazis and paid the price. In 1989,Leipzig again stood for freedom, when the then Kapellmesiter Kurt Masur led the orchestra in performances of Beethoven which helped topple the East German regime. You don't mess with Leipzig !  Inn the years after the fall of the DDR the orchestra, like so many institutions at the time, underwent a period of readjustment. When Riccardo Chailly took over in 2005, Leipzig was revitalized, eager to take off on a new era.  I remember their first keynote concert together (Mendelssohn)  and the sense of energy that was generated.  This time round, only the evidence of an audio broadcast, but wow ! a performance so invigorating, and so electric that it could well signal even greater things to come.  With Thielemann in Dresden and Bayreuth and Nelsons in Leipzig and Lucerne, things are looking up.  I haven't got time to write the performance up in full, but suffice to say, this was an inspired approach, which captured the vitality in the piece, very much in line with ehat we know of Mahler the man and of the traverse of his symphonies as a whole. Sure it's "tragic", but without abundant life beforehand, would the loss thereof be so horrific ?  Muscular, energetic playing, wonderfully together - tho' listen to the percussion thumping like a heartbeat.  Yet also the elusive, sensuous waltz, suggesting softer feelings and the haunted, ghost-like passages.  Altogether an intelligent performance, full of intelligent insight, and musicianship of the highest order.  The Leipzigers know what they want and do it perhaps better than anyone else.  With Nelsons, they're a dream team.  BTW, it's ridiculous to knock Nelsons for "doing too much". His schedule is no different to anyone else. Even in the past, conductors moved round, and some of the best weren't stuck to any one orchestra at all.   

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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