Sunday, August 28, 2016
From our colleague Vesa Siren in Helsinki: Valery Gergiev held a masterclass at Turku Music Festival yesterday. Two minutes before the concert he asked talented young Eero Lehtimäki to conduct the first piece in the concert, Mother Goose by Maurice Ravel. “Sure”, Lehtimäki agreed. Managing Director Liisa Ketomäki asked artistic director, conductor VIlle Matvejeff to double-check this with Gergiev. “I know he can do it. He has good hands and he knows the piece”, said Gergiev. One minute before the concert, the orchestra didn’t know. Lehtimäki walked on stage and conducted well, with Gergiev in the audience. “I told you”, Gergiev grinned and conducted the rest of the concert himself. Later Gergiev raised a toast “to my new colleague Eero”. Previously, Eero was the “artistic misleader” of well known humour band Retuperän WPK but also a conducting student in Vienna and Helsinki and the winner of international NWBC conducting competition. Next Finn on the block? Eero is 27. Short video of his performance here. UPDATE: From an observer who asks to remain anonymous: What Gergiev said before the concert, and what he even said in his speech to the orchestra after the reception was that he felt bad that Eero got so little podium time during the actual masterclass. He wanted to make it up by letting him conduct the piece he had prepared in the concert. Just to set the record straight.
Maxim Vengerov, born 1974, was a child prodigy who won great competitions at an early age: the Wieniawski at ten and the Carl Flesch at fifteen. He went on to have a great career and be recognised as one of the leading violinists of our times, fortunately prodigal in this specialty. Nowadays he is also a conductor and teacher, and has his own Festival. An interesting point: during the recent decade he took a three-year sabbatical from playing; during that time he studied conducting . He came to Buenos Aires several times, the last playing a Chinese concerto with the Shanghai Symphony; although his playing was admirable, the work was subpar and hardly up to his capacities. But late in 2011 he gave a splendid recital of sustained quality, blending ideally intellectual comprehension with virtuoso realisation. Unfortunately I don´t keep archives and can´t vouchsafe if his pianist was Roustem Saitkoulov, but he is Vengerov´s habitual partner, it might have been him. Hand programme biographies should provide information about earlier visits to BA, but they are always mere translations of a standard international biography. I remember that years ago the Mozarteum made it a point of mentioning previous contacts with the artists; I wish they did that again in the future. Saitkoulov is a distinguished pianist in his own right; also,H he does a lot of chamber work. Born at Kazan, Russia, he studied with the great Elisso Virsaladze at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory (she came twice here) and then completed his training in Munich. He won important competitions: the Ferruccio Busoni (Bolzano), Géza Anda (Zürich), Marguerite Long (Paris). He has played with important orchestras and given recitals throughout the world. By the way, he accepts the French version of his name and surname; for us or for Great Britain and USA, it should be Rustem Saitkulov (we write Mussorgsky, not Moussorgsky). So there were good reasons to expect from this Mozarteum concert (repeated with the same programme) a very high level. Technically it was of course impeccable, but the interpretations began coldly, more so in the case of Vengerov. The sonatas chosen were enticing: Schubert´s Sonata in A, D.574, pompously called "Grand Duet"; and Beethoven´s marvelous Sonata Nº 7, in C minor, Op.30 Nº2. Schubert´s sonata was written young, at 20, but his personality is clear from the very beginning, a delicious Allegro moderato. Who else wrote such melodies or was so subtle in the harmonic modulations? He also wrote three other sonatas, a bit less inspired and developed, called Sonatinas by the editor. All of them were published posthumously, the same sad destiny of his symphonies 8 and 9. I fell in love with the sonata in my youth with the wonderful recording by Kreisler and Rachmaninov, for it has charm and beauty: Kreisler sings with captivating timbre, and the great Russian virtuoso adapts to the intimate style perfectly.Too much sliding from Kreisler? Agreed, but he is irresistible. And that´s contrary to what I felt from Vengerov: an academic, correct reading with no involvement. During the interval, a veteran friend said: "it´s as if he were afraid of producing any sound that isn´t round and smooth". Yes, all exact but with little energy and attack. Saitkoulov was better; however, the final result was placid in the wrong sense. As Claudia Guzmán rightly says in her comments referring to Beethoven´s Seventh Sonata: "never until then a work for piano and violin had displayed such dramatic intensity nor had required similar temporal proportions". It is a C minor masterpiece in the same rank as the "Pathetic" Piano Sonata and the Third Piano Concerto. No namby-pamby approach can deal with such a score. Things went gradually better, fired by the greater intensity and virtuoso playing of Soutkulov, but only got to the desirable grade of electricity from both in the last movement. Said my friend: "there I found Beethoven". But things changed, and the whole Second Part, as well as the four encores, went swimmingly. Both showed complete identification with that peculiar Ravel Second Sonata: he believed that piano and violin are incompatible and the music echoes that idea: the players oppose each other instead of being complemental. And you know, it works! The Blues is the best movement and it was played with ideal sinuosity. And then came a final virtuoso section starting with a violin solo piece: Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst´s Variations on "The Last Rose of Summer", Nº 6 of the Polyphonic Etudes for solo violin. The piece on the lovely Irish tune is the devil to play and rarely done; Vengerov at twelve presented it at the Tchaikovsky International Competition. Here he showed the complete range of his fantastic technique. A quiet and reflexive Paganini, the Cantabile Op.17, originally for violin and guitar, was done in a transcription for violin and piano. The final score was the Kreisler arrangement for violin and piano of Paganini´s "I palpiti" for violin and orchestra, Introduction and Variations on a theme from Rossini´s "Tancredi" (the aria "Di tanti palpiti"), a true catalogue of Paganini´s technical innovations, splendidly played. Four encores: two of those inimitable Kreisler pieces that Beecham would have called "lollipops": the famous "Viennese Caprice" and the dynamic "Chinese tambourine". Rachmaninov´s beautiful Vocalise, transcribed from the original for orchestra. And Brahms´ ever so popular Hungarian Dance Nº5, in the Joachim arrangement. All done with panache by the artists. For Buenos Aires Herald
The Colón concert of Thursday, August 4th, was truly memorable. It was the fifth of the Abono Azul (Blue Subscription Series) and was repeated the following day (Función Extraordinaria, non-subscription). The artists were Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim leading the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO). This time the programme was long and satisfying, and all concerned were at their best. One general conclusion: Argerich and Barenboim are at the top of their profession and in their early seventies they show no decline. And the WEDO has improved greatly: it is astonishing that young people on a seasonal (not permanent) orchestra should show such maturity, both in the command of their instruments and in the integration of a common concept. There´s real talent in all of them, though of course they have the privilege of a great conductor that gives them style and unity. The concert began with a première: "Con brio" by Jörg Widmann. Barenboim had already promoted him in two chamber concerts with different programming of the Mozarteum Argentino (in the second he also played clarinet). This score for full orchestra lasts 11 minutes and although it isn´t divided into two parts it changes sharply after the first minutes, characterised by violent attacks followed by deep silences and by the mixture of musical sounds with noise as defined by Britannica: sound that interferes with other sounds that are being listened to. I wasn´t attracted so far, but later we hear recognisable melodies as well as fanfares and the mix becomes intriguing. My wife´s imaginative phrase accords with my reaction: "noises, echoes and resonances of bellicose actions in an inhospitable jungle". Barenboim led the piece with strong impact and the WEDO responded with exemplary discipline. The author made his bow and was warmly applauded. Franz Liszt´s Piano Concerto Nº1 is the most innovative and personal of Romantic concerti. In it (as in the Sonata) rhetorics are never vain; the ideas are substantial, moving and coherent. It is terribly difficult to play: Liszt did for piano technique what Paganini had done for the violin: an extraordinary expansion of the possibilities of each instrument. And his orchestration gives lovely solos for diverse players dialoguing with the piano. You need a true virtuoso that is also a great artist, and a very attentive and collaborative conductor: Sviatoslav Richter and Kyrill Kondrashin are a good reference, and so is Argerich on record with Abbado; live with Barenboim on this occasion will long be in the memories of those who were at this concert. I heard Argerich with Dutoit and the National Symphony in this concerto back in 1969; she was young and an amazing powerhouse. Forty-seven years later her incredible technique and stamina remain untouched (if I except her rushed and not altogether clean first entrance). The final minutes were as exciting as they were musical, always abetted by the best collaboration from the WEDO and Barenboim. There was a wonderful surprise: her encore wasn´t a short and easy piece from Schumann´s "Scenes from childhood" as she generally does, but an ideal performance of the best of Ravel: "Ondine", first number of "Gaspard de la Nuit". The fluidity of the playing in this devilishly intricate piece and the subtlety of her touch were an object lesson of Impressionism (as is her recording of 1974). The second part was simply the best Wagner playing heard here in a very long time. Maybe as far back as Leitner and Leinsdorf in the Sixties. Barenboim conducted at the Bayreuth Festival from 1981 to 1999, and he did the unparelleled feat of doing the ten great operas in a period of a few weeks in Berlin. Wagner is perfect for him: music of enormous technical accomplishment in which the system of Leitmotiven proves to be an astonishingly flexible array of moods and emotions. Wagner´s continuity imbricates easily with Barenboim´s rich intellect. The chosen 45 minutes are among the greatest orchestral music of the Nineteenth Century and had glorious performances: the interpretations were simply beyond reproach and the playing proved that the WEDO is strong in all departments, very minor smudges apart: the mellowness and musicality of the brass, the fine woodwind solos, the mahogany-hued strings always disciplined and intense, all made for a constant state of direct communication with the music. The "Tannhäuser" Overture (Dresden version) went swimmingly both in the solemn pilgrim melodies and in the bacchanical frenzy of the Venusberg. The most dramatically complex music came from "The Twilight of the Gods": the Dawn after the Norns´ scene is joined in the concert adaptation with the final pages of the Siegfried-Brünnhilde duet and goes straight on to the jubilant "Siegfried´s Rhine Journey". But Barenboim cunningly omitted the brilliant coda and went on as in the opera, where the atmosphere becomes gloomy as the hero approaches the Gibichung Palace, for in it looms Hagen, who will kill him in the Third Act; and this version even adds a transformed fragment from the end of the Second Act, that terrible conspiratorial Trio. It would have been better to go on without applause to "Siegfried´s Funeral Music" but that was not to be; anyway, that magnificent evokation was spine-tingling in this version. And the best possible conclusion for the programme, the Overture to "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg", to my mind the greatest ever written. The encore was complementary: the serene and sad Prelude to the Third Act of the same opera. For Buenos Aires Herald
The pianist and conductor who died suddenly last month, aged 43, was widely loved and is sorely missed. So friends are putting on a concert at the end of the month to share memories and celebrate his life. Details here. Come one, come all. Message from the One World Symphony: The musical Tribute will include music from Beethoven’s Fidelio and Pastoral Symphony, Arvo Part’s Fratres (“Brothers”), Joan Tower, Lawrence Rush (one of Lloyd’s many friends), and Lloyd himself. During the “Fellowship” (potluck reception), the Bob Page Jazz Trio will serenade all the guests. Like many musicians, One World Symphony’s Sung Jin Hong has been devastated and has been reeling from the unexpected loss of his dear friend Lloyd. With One World Symphony, Lloyd has performed as the featured soloist on Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in the sold-out Town Hall Debut and Ravel’s Piano Concerto. He was also the collaborative pianist for numerous auditions and rehearsals for many of our opera productions. Sung Jin has been working non-stop to reach out and gather artists to celebrate the life and spirit of Lloyd during this high summer. At this time, we’ll have more than 60 musicians at Lloyd’s Tribute and Fellowship. Many of our artists have shared their memories of Lloyd in the “Artists’ Opening Chords”: http://oneworldsymphony.org/concerts2016_LloydArriolaTribute_chords.shtml
Novus Quartet (Aparté)The debut disc from the South Korean-German Novus Quartet, who won the 2014 International Mozart quartet competition in Salzburg, frames Beethoven’s F minor work with early pieces by Webern and Isang Yun, neither of which was included in the composers’ own work lists. Webern’s Langsamer Satz is a gorgeous piece of late-romantic quartet writing, which seems to be close to becoming a repertory item now, but Yun’s First Quartet remains very little known. Completed in 1955, before he discovered serialism and moved from Korea to Europe to study, it shows the influence of Bartók and Ravel particularly, as well as the inflections of Asian pentatonic scales. The Novus players show in the Beethoven that they are a formidable unit, forthright and coherent, if perhaps just a little too relentless at times and not yet prepared to relax enough to allow movements such as the Allegretto of Op 95 the expressive space they really need. That makes the account of the Langsamer Satz a bit chilly and detached, too, and their most engaging playing comes in the work by their fellow countryman, and in the arrangement of Arirang, the Korean folk tune with which they end. Continue reading...
In my view, conductor Mariss Jansons has excellent skills in leading an orchestra. I sense that he is always prepared, knows the music cold, and has excellent eye contact with his players. Now you get to judge for yourself, via the new recording of his CD titled “Rhapsody” This is a Live-Recording, done in Munich, at the Herkulessaal, featuring the following music: Chabrier: España Enescu: Romanian Rhapsody in A major, Op. 11 No. 1 Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, with Denis Matsuev (piano) Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody, S244 No. 2 in C sharp minor Ravel: Rhapsodie Espagnole All performed by the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Mariss Jansons conducting. With his rhapsody “España” the Frenchman Emmanuel Chabrier focused on the Iberian music and folk music so popular at the time, as did his more famous compatriot Maurice Ravel with his “Rhapsodie espagnole”, the four-movement structure of which still harks back to long-outdated symphonic forms. From the Hungarian-born Franz Liszt we have the famous “Hungarian Rhapsody” No. 2, and from the Romanian composer George Enescu the scarcely less famous and popular “Romanian Rhapsody”. The American George Gershwin created what was probably the most famous example of the genre in the 20th century with his “Rhapsody in Blue” scored for piano and orchestra. Here is Mr Jansons, leading the orchestra in the Rumanian Rhapsody by Enescu:
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."
Great composers of classical music