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Maurice Ravel

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Classical iconoclast

August 15

Bubbling brew : Turnage Hibiki, Prom Ravel Debussy Kazushi Ono

Classical iconoclast Mark-Anthony Turnage Hibiki (2014) at the BBC Proms, with Kazushi Ono and the BBC SO, Sally Matthews, Mihoko Fujimura, the New London Children's Choir and the Finchley Music Group, preceded by Debussy and Ravel Piano Concerto in G major with Inon Barnatan, so beautifully played that even someone like me, more into voice and orchestra, could throroughly enjoy. . Ono conducted the premiere of Turnage's Hibiki in Tokyo in December 2016 with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra of which is is Music Director.  Hibiki is a substantial work for large orchestra, two soloists and childrens' choir. According to the publishers Boosey & Hawkes, it "offers consolation after loss – whether from war, earthquake or tsunami". That's a tall order, almost impossible to fulfill.  Consolation is trivial band aid in the face of such extreme horror.   It's meaningless unless we reflect on the causes of catastrophe and resolve that such things should never, as far as possible, happen again. Numerous Japanese writers, composers, film makers and artists have reflected and examined the issues arising from war and nuclear annihilation.  Indeed, you probably can't be an East Asian  intellectual and not ponder 150 years of war and traumatic social change, not only in Japan but in China and the rest of Asia.  Masao Ohki's Hiroshima Symphony, written only 7 years after the bombs fell, is graphically descriptive (read more here) . Ikuma Dan's Hiroshima Symphony (1985) is even more sophisticated.  It's an important piece of world significance. Please read more here) There's no reason why western composers shouldn't engage with these subjects. We're all part of humanity.  But it's difficult to approach specifically Japanese aspects without an understanding of the cultural, social and historical background.  Mark-Anthony Turnage is good on music with social conscience. Once I got over the shock value of Anna Nicole, I grew to love its insights into consumer obsessed society and the degradation of those who buy into the scam. Read more HERE  But Anna Nicole is a western icon, and Turnage likes Americana. That doesn't necessarily mean he can't write about other cultures, but I'm not sure how to take Hibiki. Does it penetrate much beneath the surface ? Is it enough to address the many long term implications of Fukushima simply by repeating the name over and over ? I'm no composer but I'd rather that the music itself spoke, not the words.  No disrespect to Turnage. Benjamin Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem had so little to do with Japan that he really should not have compromised himself by taking the money.  It would probably take a Beethoven or Bach to write something truly transcendant. "Consolation" isn't enough. Kazushi Ono did Turnage's Hibiki more than justice. From the BBCSO he drew some very committed playing. They don't do as much Turnage as they should and this is a bit more than typical Turnage, so all honours to them.  Hibiki unfolds over seven sections, like a postcard book..  But Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn't actually lead to Tohoku or the Tsumai or to Fukushima.  Natural disasters aren't man made or specific to any one country.  Nuclear power on its own isn't evil, it's misused and abused. As anyone who's ever watched Japanese movies should know.  See my piece on Godzilla and the Tsunami,  The seven parts together don't cohere. This weakens the impact of the whole and undercuts the claim that it's an act of consolation.  Wisely, Ono marked the breaks with long silences, so each section can be heard alone, without a thread.  Unfortunately, this year's Proms audiences are obsessed with clapping any chance they get. They don't care enough about music to pay attention and listen. The first two sections are named after Iwate and Miyaga, two of the areas hit by the 2011 Tsunami.  Blocks of sound bubble in the first movement, in jerky ostinato with nice jazzy trumpet calls, high pitched winds and swathes of strings. Oddly cheerful ! A long ominous wail marks the start of the second section, suggesting perhaps the flow of the waves rolling onto land. No-one will ever forget the footage caught on film or the frightening silence, broken only by crushing debris.  The timpani pound, brasses wail and the orchestra plays a long line of multiple fragments and layers.  Fearsome growls and the sound of a bell.   There certainly is scope for a piece in which music could translate the idea of multiple fragments and layers of density, flowing and churning in different sequence, but Turnage can't develop the concept in the space of a few minutes.   . The third section "Running" represents a poem "Mother Burning" by Sou Sakon which describes the poet running from flames. But the mother, foillowing behind, is engulfed.  Rapid fragments of words and sound, the two soloists singing lines that intersect rather than connect.  Turnage's thing for percussion and screaming brass used to good effect, the vocal lines more choppily employed : but that;s what happens when you're running for your life and can't take long breaths.  The childrens choirs sing an adaptation of a Japanese children's song similar to "Twinkle, twinkle Little Star" Thee English accents of the young singers, singing in Japanese, add a surreal touch, more poignant than if they were singing in a language they'd normally speak.  The melody is taken up by the mezzo, Mihoku Fujimura, a much welcome regular visitor to the UK.  Suntory Dance , the central movement, makes a striking diversion from the threnodies before and after.  It's also the best section, so good that it could act as a stand alone concert piece.  Here, Turnage's facility for strong brass and percussion comes to the fore : quirky, wayward rhythms, angular blocks and more busy, bubbling figures from which the idea of "dance" might come.  I don't know why "Suntory", which is the name of the concert hall and of the company that financed it.  They brew alcohol, and one of their big brands is named Hibiki, "Japanese Harmony". The piece is so lively that it could be an  anthem for the company, used in encores and social occasions. So much for the BBC translation that Hibiki just  "beautiful sound". After this interlude, darkness returns. Brooding timpani and moaning brass, string lines shining with metallic edge. Lovely woodwind passages: Fujimura sings lines from texts from Monzaemon Chikamatsu’s The Love Suicides at Sonezaki, a  Bunraku drama from 1703. it's such a classic that it's been adapted for cinema , its tale of doomed love a recurrent meme, though what connection this has to Hiroshima or to the Tsunami, I don't know.  Much has been made in the publicity material for Tyurnage;'s Hibiki about the Mahler connection, but frankly I cannot hear any resemblance. Das Lied von der Erde,.  But the real subject of Das Lied von der Erde is Mahler himself, and his metaphysics  The orientalism in that piece reflects the original poems Mahler used and adapted for his own purposes. And in any case, they weren't Japanese but Chinese.  No doubt much will be made of this in the media by those who don't really know Das Lied von der Erde.  Double dose cultural appropriation. The final section, for orchestra and children's voices, is swirling abstraction, the word "Fukushima" repeated, almost mechanically.  Turnage's Hibiki is good listening but it  doesn't really hold together. The parts are greater than the sum, aside from the vivacious Suntory Dance.   It's not nearly near the level of Turnage's Remembering : in memoriam Evan Scofield, a work of genuine sincerity. (Read more about that HERE)

Tribuna musical

August 9

Festival Barenboim en Buenos Aires: Primera parte

Conocí los valores de Daniel Barenboim ya desde su adolescencia y festejé que tras un amplio período de ausencia (provocado por haber decidido no presentarse cuando lo convocaron para el servicio militar y en consecuencia ser considerado desertor; tras largas gestiones se lo disculpó) volviera convocado por el Mozarteum al frente de la Orquesta de París en 1980. De allí en más volvió como pianista o como director para esa institución en 1989, 1995 (con la Staatskapelle de Berlín, de la que es director vitalicio), 2.000 (con la Sinfónica de Chicago, habiendo sucedido a Solti), 2002 (ciclo completo de las sonatas de Beethoven compartido entre el Mozarteum y el Colón), 2004, 2005 (primera visita de la Orquesta West-Eastern Divan), 2008 (con la Staatskapelle y fuera del Colón, en restauración) y 2010. Todo esto antes de sus Festivales.             Por otro lado, escuché a Martha Argerich a partir de 1965; hasta 1970 la pude apreciar en nueve conciertos en Buenos Aires y uno en Praga, donde luego compartí un souper con ella, Dutoit (entonces su marido) y Antonio Pini, gran amigo con quien luego trabajé en 1973 cuando fue nombrado Director Artístico del Colón (fue echado en Agosto por Jacovella, Krieger y Zubillaga). 1965 fue el primer año de mi revista y le hice una entrevista; tanto en esa como en el souper la encontré espontánea, simpática, bella y ajena a todo divismo. Vinieron luego años en los que no quiso volver debido a la dictadura, pero eventualmente le pasó lo mismo que a Barenboim; los recuerdos de infancia y de juventud hicieron que ella, cuya popularidad mundial era inmensa, quisiera acercarse a sus raíces, e influida por su amigo el pianista Hubert, surgió la idea de hacer en Buenos Aires Festivales Argerich semejantes a los que había armado en otros lados. Martha, personalidad gregaria con una multitud de amigos músicos, y única entre los grandes pianistas, para entonces tocando sólo cámara o con orquesta, presentó su primer Festival en 1999 incluyendo un Concurso Internacional (donde integré el jurado de selección, convocado por su gran amiga María Rosa Oubiña de Castro). Siguieron los Festivales hasta 2005, cuando fue ignominiosamente echada por la Orquesta Filarmónica; naturalmente esto provocó un hiato en su presencia en nuestra ciudad. Pero años después, tras una transición donde actuó en Rosario invitada por músicos amigos, supo García Caffi del acercamiento entre ella y Barenboim y se logró convencerla que retornara, y así los Festivales Barenboim la tuvieron como muy especial gran figura en varios años recientes, con enorme repercusión. foto: Arnaldo Corombaroli             Curiosamente, el amplio programa de mano incluye biografías de ella, de Barenboim y de la WEDO (West-Eastern Divan Orchestra), pero no hace referencia a los festivales Barenboim. La primera condición de un crítico es no cegarse, y debo decir que la gigantesca carrera de este artista excepcional no implica que sus decisiones sean siempre correctas, y hubo a veces altibajos. Como hice notar en el Herald, no quedé contento con el Festival del año pasado, donde sólo tres de los seis conciertos me parecieron a la altura, sobre todo teniendo en cuenta su alto costo. Este año son cuatro los conciertos del festival, y están mucho más equilibrados. Claro está que Barenboim sigue siendo un “workaholic” (obsesionado por el trabajo intenso), y con repeticiones en funciones no de abono sino extraordinarias, más dos para el Mozarteum (que siempre lo contrató paralelamente a los festivales, y que el Colón no se digna mencionarlo en su gacetilla semanal pese a que los conciertos se hacen allí), más la mala idea de un concierto al aire libre en la Plaza Vaticano, gratis (que se hubiera podido frustrar por mal tiempo y al que no fui), Barenboim participó en nueve conciertos en diez días (y Argerich en cinco, en cinco días). No hubo esta vez charlas de reflexión con Felipe González (curioso addendum en un festival musical).  Y mi mujer, enclaustrada en nuestro departamento por un problema de salud, sufrió los problemas del streaming: dos anunciados pero no emitidos, y uno donde toda la primera parte tuvo el sonido desfasado: si tan mal dominan el tema, mejor no hacerlo.             Barenboim ofreció una conferencia de prensa el lunes anterior al sábado en el que empezó el festival, en el Salón Blanco del Colón. Estuve allí y sólo quiero mencionar algunas cosas. Por supuesto, se desarrolló con la inteligencia de un músico pensante y abarcador. Ante todo, algunas noticias importantes: a)      En el Festival del año próximo no vendrán ni Argerich ni la WEDO. En cambio, la Orquesta de la Staatsoper Berlin retornará y será orquesta de foso en “Tristán e Isolda” de Wagner (no sólo para el festival sino también para la temporada lírica), pero además dará conciertos. b)      Para 2019 volverá Argerich para festejar los 70 años de su primer concierto en el Colón. Y para 2020, cuando Barenboim tenga 78 años, hará lo propio con su primer concierto en el Colón. Y unas frases interesantes: Martha parece sólo intuitiva pero no lo es; Nadia Boulanger decía: hay que llenar la estructura con emoción y viceversa; refiriéndose al Festival: yo me ocupo del por supuesto, Diemecke del presupuesto…; ante una pregunta de Varacalli, defiende la gran calidad de las sinfonías de Elgar; para él el mejor beethoveniano fue Arrau; no hay un sentimiento europeo ahora, no hay cultura común ni suficiente educación; siempre se habla de los derechos humanos;¿y las responsabilidades?; la nueva sala redonda de Berlín logra una gran unidad comunitaria.             En este artículo me referiré a los dos primeros conciertos del Festival (los cuatro sería demasiado largo).      PRIMER CONCIERTO             El año próximo se conmemora el centenario del fallecimiento de Debussy, pero como no vendrá Argerich, decidieron hacerle un homenaje anticipado con un programa todo Debussy, con obras originales para dos pianos y piano a cuatro manos pero también con transcripciones de obras orquestales del creador francés y una curiosidad, la que hizo de la obertura “El Holandés errante” de Wagner. El resultado me resultó variable, ya que esta última es un trabajo mediocre de transcripción; un tipo de tarea que Liszt hacía mucho mejor. Y además distó de ser perfecta la ejecución (sí, hasta con los grandes pasa).             Creo que ambos tocaron en pianos Barenboim, de los cuales no estoy del todo convencido, sobre todo en graves (me suenan borrosos) y agudos (demasiado faltos de cuerpo), aunque en las octavas centrales los timbres me resultan mucho más gratos, sobre todo cuando se requiere transparencia. El dato no está en el programa pero no me sonaron a los pianos habituales. foto: Arnaldo Corombaroli             Pero con los refinados y tardíos Seis Epígrafes Antiguos (cuatro manos) volvió la magia de estos intérpretes excepcionales, tocando con una sutileza y un buen gusto que valorizaron cada fragmento al máximo. Y fueron extraordinarios en la obra para dos pianos “En blanco y negro”, también de 1915, la época de los Doce estudios y de un estilo más seco, menos impresionista, impactado por la guerra; esta música a veces áspera y muy virtuosística tuvo una versión ideal.             La breve y raramente ejecutada “Lindaraja” (1901) inició la Segunda Parte; dominada por un motivo exótico, con ostinatos y ritmos hispánicos, fue cabalmente ejecutada. Luego, y aunque la transcripción es fina y elegante, extrañé el sonido de la flauta durante el “Preludio a la siesta de un fauno”, por más que la melodía fuera moldeada admirablemente por Barenboim y Argerich diera el máximo color a los acompañamientos. Y finalmente, el fantástico mundo de “La Mer”, nuevamente en una notable transcripción muy difícil e intrincada,  para dos pianos, pero yo escuchaba en mi mente la miríada de colores de la orquesta.  Los pianistas lograron una notable versión.             Lamenté que haya tres transcripciones, ya que se hubieran podido escuchar de Debussy la muy temprana  Sinfonía para dos pianos en un movimiento, o la Balada para piano a cuatro manos, y también a cuatro manos, la Pequeña Suite. O la Marcha Escocesa para cuatro manos, que luego orquestó.             La inesperada yapa fue el Bailecito de Guastavino, tocado con nostalgia y refinamiento por estos dos veteranos y talentosos argentinos. En todo el programa, ella intuitiva e imaginativa, de impresionante naturalidad y facilidad, él siempre estructurado y claro; pero estos temperamentos diferentes saben amalgamarse, más allá de algún detalle no del todo exacto.                                                 SEGUNDO CONCIERTO             Fue valioso el concierto de la WEDO, pero no por Argerich sino por las dúctiles y sensitivas versiones de dos espléndidas obras de Ravel y por  lograr resolver satisfactoriamente las tremendas vallas de las Tres Piezas de Berg.  No está de más recordar que la WEDO no es una orquesta estable, sino que se reúne anualmente durante el verano europeo para ensayar desde su sede andaluza y luego dar conciertos en distintos lugares. Sigue formada por artistas israelíes y palestinos, más algunos otros de países árabes y cierta cantidad de españoles, y siendo una orquesta que pone el acento en artistas jóvenes, renueva parcialmente sus filas cada año. Muchos de ellos  forman parte de otras orquestas durante el resto del año.  Y bajo la égida firme pero afectuosa de Barenboim logran un espíritu de compañerismo que aleja las diferencias de la política. Son un símbolo de la convivencia y de la paz pero también han logrado una calidad que los lleva al Festival de Salzburgo. foto: Arnaldo Corombaroli             En “Le Tombeau de Couperin” el sentido de la palabra “tombeau” no es “tumba” sino “homenaje”, ya que así se usaba el término en el siglo XVIII. El original de la obra raveliana es para piano y consta de seis fragmentos, pero la orquestación conservó sólo cuatro, de una exquisita factura y poder de evocación. Una orquesta liviana y transparente manejada con mano sutil por Barenboim y con solos de una belleza poco común en manos del oboísta. Y aquí una queja: como en otros años, no hay nómina de la orquesta, de modo que uno aplaude a  anónimos cuando el director los invita a pararse para recibir el aplauso del público. Dan (no oficialmente) un motivo de seguridad (quizá ligado a presuntas represalias contra sus familias si no están de acuerdo ciertos grupos acérrimos con las ideas pacíficas de Barenboim) pero también podría ocurrir que el público esté en riesgo, ya que ir a verlos es un tácito sí a ese ideal. Y bien, el mundo de hoy es peligroso, pero anonimizar a artistas no me parece justo hacia sus carreras. Sobre todo cuando, como ocurrió el año pasado, hubo ese concierto de música árabe que identificaba a todos los que tocaban: ¿seguridad para algunos pero no para otros?             Hace diez años Argerich tocó el Concierto Nº1 de Shostakovich en su último Festival, que se hizo en el Gran Rex, y estuve en desacuerdo con su interpretación; ella no cambió y yo tampoco. Conozco muy bien ese concierto y tengo tres grabaciones: todas respetan los tempi marcados por el autor, pero no Argerich, que convierte al Allegro moderato en un Allegro Molto en dos cruciales puntos de la obra y causa aprietos en la orquesta de cuerdas y en el trompeta solista que la acompaña en ciertos momentos. Es increíble que a sus 76 años pueda tocar con  tan asombrosa soltura y exactitud a esas velocidades vertiginosas, pero cambia el sentido de la obra; además, como es capaz de producir un volumen no menos asombroso, relegó a las cuerdas, que incluso con un director como Barenboim sonaron como un lejano y endeble acompañamiento. Quien merece un aplauso especial es el trompetista Bassam Massud, que tocó admirablemente, afinado y a ritmo; no fue identificado en el programa pero el colega Pablo Gianera obtuvo el dato y lo publicó en La Nación.             Se sabe de la reticencia de Argerich a tocar sola, de modo que Barenboim se unió en la pieza extra (mal llamada aquí bis) para ejecutar a cuatro manos el fragmento final de la obra que iniciaría la Segunda Parte, la Suite de “Ma Mère l´Oye”, “Le jardin féérique” (“El jardín feérico”), interpretado con luminosa claridad por los pianistas.             La Segunda Parte nos regaló la referida Suite en sus cinco fragmentos, detallados con refinamiento e impecable gusto por un director que no en vano fue el titular de la Orquesta de París durante muchos años,  que sabe llegar al fortissimo sin violencia y dar matices instrumentales impresionistas. Y su orquesta, que nada tiene de francesa, lo pareció.             Pero lo importante no sólo de este concierto sino del Festival fue la segunda ejecución en Buenos Aires de una esencial obra de la Segunda Escuela de Viena: las Tres piezas op.6 de Alban Berg, sólo ejecutadas hará unas cuatro décadas (no tengo el dato exacto) en un fabuloso concierto de la Orquesta de Cleveland dirigida por Lorin Maazel para el Mozarteum en el Colón que además incluyó otro estreno local, nada menos que “Three places in New England” de Charles Ives.  Sólo Alejo Pérez dirigiendo a la Orquesta del Teatro Argentino en La Plata se les animó: ni la Sinfónica Nacional ni la Orquesta Filarmónica de Buenos Aires las tocaron. Dí este dato a Barenboim en la conferencia de prensa con Diemecke presente. foto: Arnaldo Corombaroli              Berg las escribió entre 1913 y 1915, y retocó la orquestación en 1923 y 1930. Si bien sólo conozco la versión definitiva, no me cabe duda de sus tremendas innovaciones y apabullante dificultad. Hay en ellas un evidente homenaje a las Cinco piezas de su maestro Schönberg y a los famosos martillazos del último movimiento de la Sexta de Mahler, pero mucho más es sólo de Berg, en una partitura densísima y fuertemente expresionista. El Präludium nace y muere en el mero ruido pero en sus cinco minutos hay una superposición de timbres y de instrumentos y se necesita coordinar temas, motivos y ritmos. Sigue “Reigen” (“Rondas”, seis minutos), muy variado en sus texturas y que incluye un vals “a la Berg”. Y finaliza con “Marsch”, casi diez minutos, la más ardua marcha que yo conozca, como la describe Boulez “una casi demente intoxicación del gesto dramático” que llega a un climax de extremo poder. Sólo una orquesta de calidad preparada por un experto convencido puede hacerle justicia a una obra de tanta complejidad e impacto emocional que parece escrita ayer, y ello tras muy intensos ensayos. Y eso es lo que supieron plasmar Barenboim y la WEDO. Mientras la escuchaba me surgían imágenes de Edvard Munch o de Egon Schiele, pintores de la angustia existencial. Por supuesto, tras esta música no cabe tocar nada más.  Pablo Bardin




On An Overgrown Path

August 5

We have created a cat video culture

In a supportive Facebook comment about my post lamenting the sanitising of social media, world music maven Joshua Cheek recommends "When in doubt, post cat videos. That's all that is expected of you." Joshua's comment is much more than an amusing throw away line. 'Cat video' can be used as a surrogate for any content that attracts an audience by slavishly respecting established comfort zones. And it not just social media that is stuffed full of cat video content: our concert halls are full of the music equivalent, as is the broadcast media. Everywhere the mantra has become, when in doubt, create cat video content, that's all that is expected of you. Classic FM is a perfect example of cat video content. A recent Classic FM press release spinning a "huge increase in under-35 listeners" has been used by those with a vested interest in defending the establishment's stranglehold on classical music to prove that the art form is in rude health. The RAJAR figures quoted by Classic FM and its boosters are undoubtedly accurate. But a quick scan of this Classic FM chart - which is a good measure of the station's playlists - for the week in which the news was announced, shows that the light at the end of the tunnel is no more than yet another dumbing down train coming the other way. Classic FM Chart: July 30th 2017 1 Dunkirk soundtrack Hans Zimmer 2 Islands - Essential Einaudu, Ludovico Einaudi 3 War for the Planet of the Apes soundtrack - Michael Giacchino 4 The 50 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music, LPO/PARRY 5 Peaceful Piano, various artists 6 Believe, Jonathan Antoine 7 Singing My Dreams, Carly Paoli 8 Game of Thrones, Season 6 soundtrack - Ramin Djawadi 9 Gladiator soundtrack - Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard 10 Spider-Man, Homecoming soundtrack - Michael Giacchino 11 Elements - Ludovico Einaudi 12 Elgar/Dream of Gerontius - Staatskapelle Berlin/Barenboim 13 New Greatest Hits 1969-1999 - John Williams 14 Three Worlds - Music from Woolf Works - Max Richter 15 Wonder Woman - Rupert Gregson Williams 16 The Little Mermaid soundtrack - Alan Menken 17 40 Most Beautiful British Classics - Paillard/BBC SO 18 Summertime - Craig Ogden 19 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy soundtrack - Howard Shore 20 The Blue Notebooks - Max Richter Of course we need film sountracks in moderation, just as we need cat videos in moderation. But if you feed young children nothing other than baby food they don't develop teeth and as result become dependant on baby food. Similarly if you feed audiences - young or old - a diet of Hans Zimmer, Max Richer and Ludovico Einaudi they do not develop an appetite for anything more chewy. It is a common fallacy that Peaceful Piano by various artists is the first step towards appreciating Schoenberg. In fact the Peaceful Piano virus results in risk-averse audiences; as the empty seats at the recent Salonen Stravinsky/Ravel/John Adams BBC Prom and - even more surprisingly - at the Barenboim Birtwitle/Elgar Prom prove. Attracting a new audience by dumbing down does nothing more than encourage yet more dumbing down to retain that prized new audience. The result is lose, lose. As we see at the struggling BBC Radio 3, which is now too dumb for its once-loyal core audience but not dumb enough for the Classic FM market. One of the music establishment's social media mullahs gleefully re-tweeted Classic FM's news of young audience growth with the ironic comment "Death of classical music: latest". Yes, it is indeed true that classical music is not dead. But if the cure is Classic FM, we should be considering euthanasia. 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

July 27

More than Pictures at an Exhibition - Volkov Julian Anderson Liszt

Ilan Volkov photo: Alastair Miles, courtesy Maestro ArtsThe Imaginary Museum - Julian Anderson's Piano Concerto at Ilan Volkov's Prom 16 with the BBC SSO, the most innovative Prom programme so far, and possibly the best performance, too.  Music doesn't exist in a vacuum, but in a continuum. Volkjov's eclectic programme showed how visual images and music connect : a cross fertilization that reflects the panorama of human experience.  Though the Prom was billed "Pictures at an Exhibition" because Mussorgsky sells, the heart of the programme was Franz Liszt';s tome poem From the Cradle to the Grave (Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe.  In April 1881,  Liszt received a drawing from the Hungarian artist Mihály Zichy. Zichy was preparing a book of illustrations tracing the role of music in life, from birth to death and the afterlife, and wished to portray Liszt as the Muse of Music on its title page.  Liszt was delighted. "Celebrated Artist!", he wrote "Your drawing about the Genius of Music is a miraculous symphony! I am trying to set it to music and shall offer it to you". Though composed as a symphonic poem in one movement, Liszt's From the Cradle to the Grave unfolds in a series of vignettes, like the illustrations in Zichy's volume. The gentle first phase suggests, perhaps, innocence, though there's no obvious lullaby melody.  Gradually  textures develop, the tessitura growing higher until, ornamented by rich, shimmering strings and a trumpet, one might imagine the fullness of time. Then, silence and rarified calm. Although this piece isn't nearly as flamboyant as Liszt's Hamlet S104 from  1858, it's interesting because it's more inward, almost impressionistc in its abstraction. Hamlet, though, is a jolly showpiece full of colour and drama. An excellent opening piece, setting the stage, so to speak, and a counterbalance to Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, (orchestrated by Ravel), where each "picture" tells a story.  An ebullient performance though nicely detailed. The BBC SSO are an excellent band, and have worked so long with Volkov that orchestra and conductor understand each other well.    Julian Anderson is a composer whose visual imagination has stimulated and inspired his music for the last 25 years. Think Poetry Nearing Silence,  Imagin'd Corners, The Book of Hours, the Alhambra Fantasy, Eden (sparked off by Brancusi's The Kiss) and even Symphony, which, despite its non-committal title, is vividly graphic, like a fast flowing mountain stream such as in paintings by Sibelius's friend Axel Gallen-Kallela.  Or, more recently, Incantesimi (at the Proms last year, with its multi-level layers in perpetual orbit, reflecting early machines used to explain the universe.  Indeed, I think Anderson's best work springs from ideas sparked by visual, stimuli, as opposed to literary sources. Thebans, for example, though I liked it (review here) isn't at all typical of his work. The Imagined Museum isn't typical Anderson, either, but it's a successful new departure for a composer who writes more for orchestra than for single instrument, and this is very much a piece where the soloist (Steven Osborne) is alone, in the foreground. On the Radio 3 broadcast, Anderson explained how moved he was by a B flat which Steven Osborne played at the end of his encore at the Proms last year, the note echoing into the vastness of the Royal Albert Hall.   That note is thus the "found object" that starts this imaginary voyage.  Thus the title of the first of the six sections is "The World is a Window"  tiny single notes, stretch outwards in space, awakening the flute, then other instruments.  Suddenly, the piano strikes off in a new direction, Osborne playing long fast moving lines, darker sounds in the orchestra suggesting vertiginous depth. Anderson says the idea came from Janáček's study of wells in Hukvaldy.  Thus time the "echo" is the sound of an object hurtling down a well, into inner space. Another transformation and were once again in the open, the orchestra surguing as if on the high seas, the piano flying over the waves.  The strings introduce a sea change, and the piano once more defines single note patterns against a backdrop of silence. Where are we ? Although there's a programme - of sorts - you listen with your mind. In the fluttering figures in the piano line do we hear a bird, or clear water, or winds in an empty desert ?   Poetry is often more evocative than prose.  You could listen to Anderson in purely functional ways,  but I think it's rewarding to listen with an inner ear and wonder how the sounds act in relation to each other, processed through the effect that they have on your imagination. 



ArtsJournal: music

July 25

Boston Philharmonic Seeks Skilled Development Director

The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra seeks a skilled fundraiser who is passionate about music to lead its comprehensive development program. POSITION SUMMARY: The Director of Development works closely with the Maestro Benjamin Zander, the Managing Director, and Board to meet the development needs of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO), whose annual operating budget is approximately $3 million. This full-time position works out of the BPO office and reports to the Managing Director. The Director of Development takes the lead on development initiatives, coordinating and collaborating with the Maestro, staff and Board to develop and strengthen the donor base for the organization. The ideal candidate for this position is someone with experience in major gifts, a passion for classical music, and a creative and flexible mindset, someone who enjoys enabling others to express their enthusiasm for the Boston Philharmonic by contributing financial resources. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are essential. ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION: Website: www.bostonphil.org The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, founded by the dynamic conductor Benjamin Zander in 1979, features 96 student, professional, and amateur musicians. One of Boston's premier orchestras, the BPO follows its vision of "passionate music making without boundaries," presenting top-notch performances in a manner that both music aficionados and the casual listener can enjoy. A hallmark of its presentations are innovative pre-concert talks with Maestro Zander. He has a unique approach to explaining classical music, and his intense passion for the art form attracts hundreds of attendees for each talk, leading audiences to describe the Boston Philharmonic as "passionate," "inspiring," "unique," and "un-stuffy." The BPO message rings loud and clear: music making is a privilege and a joy, and above all, a collaborative adventure. The season includes performances at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, and often Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall. The Philharmonic performs with a wide range of soloists from highly gifted performers at the start of their international careers to world-famous artists and legendary masters. The Philharmonic has released five critically acclaimed recordings, including works by Stravinsky, Beethoven, Mahler, Shostakovich and Ravel. Its commitment to reaching and educating a wide audience is maintained by its Music Without Boundaries program, which allows access to concerts for school groups and other community members who receive free tickets. To further accommodate new and uninitiated listeners, the BPO hosts a long-running weeknight Discovery Series, which incorporates Benjamin Zander’s lecture into the concert itself. In 2012, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra was formed under the auspices of the BPO. Conducted by Benjamin Zander, the BPYO embodies its motto, "Shaping Future Leaders Through Music," and its 120 members range in age from 12 to 21. BPYO offers a unique opportunity for young instrumentalists who want to study great orchestral repertoire in a musically dynamic and intellectually challenging community. DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: Design and implement development activities in close collaboration with the Managing Director, Maestro, and Board, focusing especially on high-level donor cultivation and solicitation. Oversee the preparation and dissemination of individual solicitations and appeals in all their forms. Work closely with the Board's Development Committee to develop fundraising strategies, plans and specific initiatives for achieving and maximizing individual, corporate, and foundation donations. Coordinate with all Board members to leverage their business and social contacts to support fundraising initiatives. Proactively communicate with and support Maestro Zander to maximize the impact of his contacts. Follow up with connections he makes, cultivate local prospects, work with his Personal Assistant to capture information about prospective donors and other contacts. Create call lists and check in regularly to troubleshoot and follow through. Coordinate donor outreach, including inviting existing donors to concerts and events and cultivating relationships with stakeholders. Create organizational development calendar and timeline. Proactively communicate with staff, Board, and external vendors to ensure timely production and review of materials to meet deadlines. Serve as staff liaison with Board of Directors and Board of Overseers. Prepare reports and materials for board review. Attend meetings of the board, prepare board minutes, actively track board prospects and support board committees as needed. Work directly with Development and Gala committees. Serve as staff point-person for Annual Gala (working with external event planning company), Annual Meeting, pre- and post-concert donor receptions, cultivation events, board meetings, etc. Coordinate with external graphic design/marketing team to create and disseminate solicitation materials and collateral for fundraising events and activities. Prepare donor lists for concert programs. Manage the gift entry and acknowledgement process, ensuring accuracy and efficiency. Reconcile records with bookkeeping staff. Manage part-time grant writer to facilitate the corporate and foundation solicitation process. Attend and staff concerts and events. Other duties as assigned. QUALIFICATIONS, SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE: 5+ years’ experience in development at another non-profit (including major gifts experience) and college degree in related field or equivalent Excellent verbal and written communication skills Ability to manage multiple projects at once, and to respond thoughtfully and calmly to shifting priorities Passion for classical music highly desirable Proficiency in Microsoft Office suite and Google Docs preferred Experience managing data and generating reports using PatronManager or other patron databases highly desirable Experience with Basecamp, Mailchimp, or Hubspot a plus Respect for and ability to maintain confidentiality of sensitive information Availability to work frequent evenings and weekends EXCELLENT BENEFITS PACKAGE INCLUDES: Fully paid HMO medical, dental, and vision coverage 403(b) retirement plan with company match Four weeks’ paid vacation Short- and long-term disability coverage and life insurance APPLICATION PROCESS: Please send cover letter, resume, and salary requirements before August 25, 2017, to Charlie Owens, Executive Search Consultant, Resonate Search Group: cowens@resonatesearchgroup.com The BPO is committed to nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in employment.

Maurice Ravel
(1875 – 1937)

Maurice Ravel (March 7, 1875 – December 28, 1937) was a French composer of Impressionist music known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects. Much of his piano music, chamber music, vocal music and orchestral music has entered the standard concert repertoire. Ravel's piano compositions, such as Jeux d'eau, Miroirs, Le tombeau de Couperin and Gaspard de la nuit, demand considerable virtuosity from the performer, and his orchestral music, including Daphnis et Chloé and his arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, uses a variety of sound and instrumentation. Ravel is perhaps known best for his orchestral work Boléro (1928), which he considered trivial and once described as "a piece for orchestra without music."



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