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Gustav Mahler

Saturday, June 25, 2016


My Classical Notes

June 22

Mahler’s Amazing Symphony #5

My Classical NotesThis is a recording of the Mahler Symphony No. 5 and Selected Songs from Mahler’s song cycle ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’ Performed at the Lucerne Festival with Matthias Goerne, Baritone. The selections are as follows: Mahler: Symphony No. 5 Rheinlegendchen (Des Knaben Wunderhorn) Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen (Des Knaben Wunderhorn) Das irdische Leben (Des Knaben Wunderhorn) Urlicht (Des Knaben Wunderhorn) Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt Revelge (Des Knaben Wunderhorn) Der Tambourg’sell (Des Knaben Wunderhorn) The first half of this concert was immediately a delight: The baritone Matthias Goerne seems completely at home in a selection of songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. His warm, dark voice allows him to capture the somber and tragic atmosphere of this music like no one else. Conductor Andriss Nelsons finds a unique approach to Mahler’s Fifth. His Mahler is fiery, expansive, and powerful. In spite of the introductory funeral march, his reading is more positive than tragic, radiating an intense vitality. It is breathtaking to observe the orchestra’s response to Nelsons’s energetic, physical, and emotional conducting style. Here is Andriss Nelsons conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Mahler’s Symphony #5

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

June 21

Six women make the cut for elite conducting course

Dallas Opera is setting the pace for young women conductors. Out of 156 applicants for the next course, six have been selected. They are: ELIZABETH ASKREN (USA) Elizabeth Askren has worked as Assistant Music Director in leading European venues (Théâtre des Champs Elysées, The Concertgebouw, etc.) and has guest conducted orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Débuts for the 2015-16 season include concerts with the Romanian National Opera in Cluj and the Opera Orchestra of Toulon. Ms. Askren is a laureate of France’s ADAMI, and has received fellowships from the Salzburg Mozarteum, the Royaumont Foundation, and the Aldeburgh Festival. A finalist candidate for the Mahler Competition, she was invited by Lorin Maazel as “Apprentice Conductor” for the inaugural season of the Castleton Festival in Virginia. She is the subject of several radio and press interviews, and is currently a Young Leader of the French American Foundation. Ms. Askren holds diplomas in piano and conducting from the Juilliard School, Oberlin Conservatory, and the Conducting Institute of Bard in the United States, and the Schola Cantorum and the Ecole Normale de Musique in France. MIHAELA CESA-GOJE (ROMANIA) Mihaela Cesa-Goje gained widespread attention in 2009 as the winner of the Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship founded by Marin Alsop and in 2010, a Conducting Grant from the League of American Orchestras. In 2011, she was awarded the Dudamel Fellowship from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and later that same year, was selected from a field of 160 candidates for a masterclass with Bernard Haitink and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Earlier in her career, Ms. Cesa-Goje received the “Sandor Vegh Prize” from the Romanian Mozart Society for an outstanding performance of Mozart’s “Der Schauspiele Direktor” at the Cluj National Opera, Romania. In 2005, she completed her Conducting Diploma at the Royal Academy of Music in London and was awarded the Irene Burcher Prize. In 2013, she earned a graduate degree in conducting from Gh Dima Music Academy in Cluj, Romania, where she studied with Florentin Mihaescu. She also studied with Harold Farberman, Gustav Meier, Patrick Russill and Roland Börger. Ms. Cesa-Goje is regularly invited to Cluj National Opera. In her first season (2014) she conducted eight different titles. ALEXANDRA CRAVERO (FRANCE) As a musician of many talents with a charismatic personality and artistic sensibility, Alexandra Cravero has quickly earned the reputation of being one of this generation’s conductors to watch. With a National Diploma and Masters in viola and conducting from the National French Conservatory, Alexandra was also finalist at the Besancon, Pedrotti, and Cadaques competitions. She has assisted Pierre Boulez, Kurt Masur, Tito Ceccherini, Patrick Davin and directed the BBC, the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, the Sofia Radio, the Theatre de La Monnaie and the Opera National du Rhin Orchestras. On the operatic stage, she has directed, among others, Annick Massis, Michael Spyres, Magdalena Kožená, and Etienne Dupuis. Her vast operatic repertoire spans many centuries: Carmen, The Pearl Fishers, Norma, Faust, Porgy and Bess, The Cunning LittleVixen, Reigen, and Doctor Atomic, to name a few. Upcoming engagements will see Alexandra Cravero direct The Tales of Hoffmann, Tosca, La traviata, and the Orchestre National de Lille at the Paris Philharmonic Hall. TIANYI LU (NEW ZEALAND) Now based in the United Kingdom, Tianyi Liu is the Junior Fellow in Conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Music Director Designate of the Bristol Metropolitan Orchestra. She has been assistant conductor toThomas Søndergård with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Sir Mark Elder with the Hallé, Alice Farnham with the Welsh National Youth Opera and Carlo Rizzi at the RWMCD. She is regularly engaged by orchestras throughout Wales and New Zealand and was Music Director of The Magic Flute with Opera Otago. Ms. Liu has studied with David Jones, John Hopkins and Uwe Grodd and has attended masterclasses with Bernard Haitink, Neemi Järvi, Sian Edwards, Alexander Polynichko, Marin Alsop and Kenneth Kiesler. She was voted as a finalist at the twelfth ‘Interaktion’ conducting workshop by players of the Berlin Philharmonic and professional players in Germany. CHAOWEN TING (Taiwan) Winner of the 2009 International Conductors’ Workshop and Competition, Chaowen Ting currently serves as Conductor of the Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra. A protégé of Bernard Haitink, Ting studied with the maestro at Lucerne Festival and was later invited by Haitink to observe his work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Outside of the U.S., she has conducted the Lucerne Festival Strings (Switzerland), Mihail Jora Bacău Philharmonic (Romania), Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra (Croatia), St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic (Russia), and Orquesta Filarmónica de Honduras (Honduras). She won the 2013 Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship and was a Conducting Fellow at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. In addition to her symphonic repertoire, opera productions she directed received honors from National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competitions for two consecutive years. ZOE ZENIODI (GREECE) Zoe Zeniodi has conducted productions at the Florida Grand Opera, Greek National Opera, the Onassis Cultural Center and guest conducted all the major Greek orchestras as well as Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra, the Brno Philharmonic, Palm Beach Symphony, New Florida Philhamornic, and JONDE, among others. She is currently the Music Director of Broward Symphony Orchestra, Momentum Athens Chamber Orchestra and the Associate Music Director of the Festival of the Aegean. Previous positions include: Chief Conductor of MOYSA, Assistant/Cover Conductor for Florida Grand Opera, Music Director of Alhambra Orchestra and Associate Conductor of Frost Symphony Orchestra. She has released five CD recordings of contemporary music. Ms. Zeniodi holds a DMA in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Miami and also studied at the Royal College of Music and the Mozarteum, Salzburg.




Classical iconoclast

June 14

Time travel Aldeburgh : François-Xavier Roth Rameau Ravel

François-Xavier Roth brought Aldeburgh "through the centuries" when  Les Siècles played Rameau and Ravel on Saturday, the first in a series by this most fascinating of ensembles. Roth and Les Siècles are innovative, dispensing with the whole idea of boxing music into stereotypes of period and genre.  For them, music is a life force so vital that it transcends boundaries.  Period performance isn't just about instruments or even style. It's a whole new way of thinking, which respects the music itself, as opposed to received tradition.  In his own time, Jean-Philippe Rameau was avant garde, so shockingly different that he was lucky to have patrons in high places.  Rameau changed music.  Thus Roth and Les Siècles paired Rameau and Ravel, innovators across the centuries, both working on themes from classical antiquity.  Time travel on every level ! Significantly, both Rameau and Ravel were writing for dance.  Dancing is a physical activity, which requires co-operation. Dancers co-ordinate with music, and with each other. Rameau's music takes its very structure from the discipline of dance, with its intricate formal patterns and abstract expressiveness. In 1722,  Rameau wrote the Traité de l'harmonie réduite à ses principes naturels, building firm theoretical foundations for musical creativity.  The baroque aesthetic "contained the world" to borrow a phrase from Mahler, encompassing worlds beyond time and place. Rameau's Daphnis et Eglé (1753) illustrates the composer's basic ideas.  It was created for Louis XV at Fontainebleau, as entertainment after days spent in the forests hunting animals for sport.  This context matters.  The dancers, singers and musicians act out a fantasy which has little bearing on real life. Yet it's so beautiful that it takes on a logic of its own.  Think about baroque gardens, where the abundance of nature is channeled into formal parterres, though woodlands flourish beyond, and birds fly freely.This tension between nature and artifice livens the spirit: gods mix with mortals, improbable plots seem perfectly plausible.  We enjoy the music as abstract art.  The whole  Daphnis et Eglé unfolds over 16 separate tableaux each of which illustrates a type of dance, the whole piece thus forming an intricate unity of patterns and sub-patterns.   I've seen the piece choreographed which reveals the way the music reflects physical form: a wonderful experience !   At Aldeburgh, Roth and  Les Siècles don't have the resources of Les Arts Florissants to hand, and also dispensed with the sections for voice, but this hardly mattered.   By focusing on the purely musical aspects of the piece, they brought out its innate energy, its liveliness deriving from its origins in dance. This performance was even more muscular than when Christie and Les Arts Flo did it in 2014,  bringing out the forceful, physical quality in the music to great effect.   Baroque dancing, particularly before Louis XIV, was more athletics than ballet as we know it now.  Like fencing, it was physical fitness for aristocrats, training the mind as well as the body.  In this superb performance,  Roth and Les Siècles proved, if any further  proof were needed, that period performance is not for wimps ! This performance of Daphnis et Chloé was even more revealing.  So often the piece is heard as dreamy colorwash, for it is so beautiful,  but its foundations are much firmer. Ravel was writing for the Ballets Russe, for larger and more opulent orchestras than Rameau.   Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé is a descendant of Debussy La Mer, an impressionistic fantasy, yet it is very much a work created for dance.  Ravel gave more room to characterize the narrative, but the spirit of the work is deliberately alien. Thus Ravel's wind instruments and strings evoke otherworldly atmospheres. The solo parts are exquisite, suggesting pan pipes and delphic voices.  . There's even a suggestion of a wind machine (though it's done by more conventional means).  The offstage horns, trumpets and voices evoke mystery, suggesting states beyond mortal comprehension (that's why the singing is wordless).  Yet the aesthetic of Ravel's period embraced modernity, the stylization of art nouveau, where plants, flowers and people were depicted in twirling, twining contrast, influenced heavily by art from beyond central and western Europe. As in the baroque, nature cannot really be tamed even in an era when people lived in cities lit by electricity and rode in tramcars.  Fokine's angular choreography horrified audiences used to mid-19th century ballet, where ballerinas fluttered in tulle.  Bakst's designs for this ballet were decidedly "modern" in comparison, evoking the formality of ancient Greek art.  This superb performance seemed informed by insight into the context of the piece.  Roth and Les Siècles  brought out the innate energy in the piece, reminding us of the angular, "primitive" style of the Ballets Russe, inspired by prehistory and ancient myth.  A vivid performance, bristling with verve and physicality.  Listen again here on BBC Radio 3.



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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