Saturday, July 30, 2016
At Prom 15, the world premiere of Anthony Payne's Of Land, Sea and Sky, with Andrew Davis and the BBC SO. A strange, but fascinating piece with clear antecedents in the British choral and orchestral tradition, yet, like Payne himself, utterly individual, even idiosyncratic. A landscapoe of visual images described in sound, yet also a landscape intuitively felt and interpreted. It begins quietly, eddying ripples of sound, a woodwind calling us forward, and then the words, "Of land and sea...." from the male chorus and "and sea and sky, and water" from the women. Immediately I felt a sense of confluence, of swirling forces separate yet moving together. "Calling, calling" the voices sing. But in the percussion we can hear the thud of thundering hooves. "Galloping, galloping" sing the chorus. The image apparently is of wild horses in the Camargue, running through waves on a windswept beach. For a moment the music stills and changes direction. This time bright, clear shards of sound dissipating into smaller, shining fragments. The voices create swathes of shimmering sound: a pity that diction smothered words but that added to a sense of mystery. Brasses thrust us along swiftly, then tense, pumping ostinato, swept away by trumpets, contrasted with circular pools of resonant sound, swelling and rising like a giant wave. .As an impressionistic piece Of Land, Sea and Sky engages the imagination, which is more than can be said for many works. Phrases such as "like symphony" pop out like signposts in a landscape of shadows and illusions. Towards the end, the choruses sing "Of land and sea", but I don't think we're back at the beginning at all. Like the landscape, something has changed in us, if we've been paying attention. Ralph Vaughan Williams Toward the Unknown Region (1906-7) reaffirmed Payne's connection to very deep roots in the English tradition, which perhaps spring from the transcendentalist poets of the 17th and 18th centuries, where conceptual ideas - not necessarily religious - underpin expression. "Walk out with me " wrote Walt Whitman, "Towards the Unknown Region, where neither ground is for feet, nor any path to follow". Mystical concepts, yet ideas which very much connect to the music of our own times. Luigi Nono, for example, might have understood. In 1906/7, RVW was setting forth, too, leaving behind the stolid certainities of Charles Stanford, and finding his own voice via Ravel. Andrew Davis, the BBC SO and the BBC Symphony Chorus at their finest. Prom 15 might have been an opportunity for the BBC to explore this strand in music in greater depth. Tchaikovsky's The Tempest actually worked very well, with its magical romance, beautifully realized. But the Powers That Be want Box Office rather than challenge. Hence Max Bruch's Violin Concerto noi 1 in G minor, which never fails to delight, even in a non-challenging generic performance. Maybe Ray Chen and his followers are the future of classical music, but folks like me would prefer accounts with more character.
Fischer/Müller-Schott (Orfeo)The two instruments may be cornerstones of orchestral and chamber music, and both have such significant solo repertories of their own, but the music composed for violin and cello together remains inexplicably scanty. Composers shy away from such an exposed medium, which gives them neither the option of writing a bravura showpiece for a solo instrument, or of taking refuge in the more complex textures that adding extra instruments would provide. Some are facing up to the challenge – both Jörg Widmann and Mark-Anthony Turnage have recently written duos, for instance – but when putting together programmes for a recital or a disc, the starting point remains the two 20th-century masterpieces for violin and cello, Zoltán Kodály’s Duo and Maurice Ravel’s Sonata. Continue reading...
From the classical archive, 22 October 1928: a review of a performance in London by the composer and pianist who ‘transcends his limitations’ London, Sunday Mr Gordon Bryan was fortunate in having induced Monsieur Maurice Ravel, who is in England to receive the degree of Mus.Doc from Oxford on Tuesday, to appear in person at a concert entirely devoted to his work, the first of an interesting series to be given by Mr Bryan during the winter. Ravel is now clearly one of London’s pets, for not only was the Aeolian Hall entirely sold out, but so many people were turned away at the door that a repetition of the concert was arranged on the spot for next January.The programme was representative of various phases of the composer’s art, and showed his qualities and defects in a way that was fair both to him, and the audience. With him, indeed, merits and demerits are almost one. They unite with a singular felicity into the distinctive features of one of the most strongly marked personalities in contemporary music. His limitations are such that they would be irritating but for the nearly always surpassing mastery with which they are – one must almost say – turned to account. As it is, they so nearly amount to advantages that they may be discussed without the risk of undue disparagement. Continue reading...
Isokoski/Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Lintu (Ondine)Erkki Melartin was an important figure in Finnish music history, but he was only 10 years Sibelius’s junior, and until recently his music has been languishing in the shadows. Traumgesicht, the 1910 orchestral tone poem with which this disc begins, is an atmospheric, dreamy score conjuring up night-time visions, with hints of Strauss and, in places, pre-echoes of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. It gets a darkly glowing performance here from the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu – as does the suite Lintu has put together from The Blue Pearl, the first complete ballet by a Finnish composer. Continue reading...
Valery Gergiev in a happy, sunny mood at BBC Prom 4 Grergiev always springs surprises but this was a surprise beyond expectation. When Gergiev is good, he's very good but when he's bad, he's very, very bad. This "new" Gergiev.should come out more often. The programme was fairly standard - Ravel, Rachmaninov, Strauss and Ustvolskaya, but Gergiev animated it by emphasizing each composer's individuality. Fidelity to idiom does matter ! Gergiev is musician enough to know that the score does count, however his more extremist fans might think. Thus the discipline with which he conducted Ravel Boléro, observing the progressions as they unfold. New elements enter as the music builds up until it reaches its climax. Each element adds new flavours, but fundamentally the traverse is defined by the steady beat of the drum, reflected in the strumming pizzicato. In flamenco, rigid rhythmic discipline is part of the style creating a ritualized tension that makes the brief flourishes seem even more like explosive release. As the piece progresses, the energy builds up as a natural result iof what's gone before. Just as dancers and athletes train hard to build muscle, Gergiev shows how disciplined conducting serves music much better than fake, flashy "excitement". Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no 3 has a reputation for flamboyant display, but its wonders lie in the piano part. Gergiev wisely gave Behzod Abduraimov pride of place. Abduramov isn't the most spectacular of players, so the restraint Gergiev brought to the orchestra was sensitive, supporting the soloist. Galina Ustvolskaya's Symphony no 3 Jesus Messaih, save us ! was based on the life of a 11th century monk, Hermann of Reichenau, aka "Hermann the cripple" who was born with so many birth defects that he lived in constant pain and had speech defects. Nonetheless, he became a theologian, an astronomer, a mathematician and write a treatise on the science of music. He lived to age 44, ancient by the standards of the time and was canonized in 1863. A paralysed musician without a voice ? What a metaphor for a composer in the Soviet era ! Ustvolskaya's music is certainly very different from conventional Soviet music, but it does have deeper antecedents and connections. Pounding blocks of form, percussion led rough hewn sounds and spoken narrative that speaks fire and brimstone (speaker Alexei Petrenko) Its "primitivism" is deliberate for it evokes the idea of strength in times of hardship. Petrenko recites so forcefully that it hardly matters whether you speak Russian or not : you can imagine the monk/saint defying the odds stacked against him, firm in his faith in God. Ustovskaya didn't fit in with Soviet convention but her music does have antecedents. She may or may not have know Janáček's Glagolitic Mass but she would have known Stravinsky's Rite of Spring which evokes even older beliefs. She would also have known of Orthodox Church music and the Russian hermit tradition. The "primitivism" in this symphony also connects to Futurism, which flourished in the early years after the Revolution, and produced works like Alexander Mosolov's The Iron Foundry (1925-6) and also influenced film makers like Sergei Eisenstein. By 1983, when this symphony was written, Ustvolskaya would also have been aware of music in the west,, particularly Messiaen, who also had a thing for huge blocks of rock-solid sound and ecstatic visions of the glory of God. Ustvolskaya's Third Symnphony is highly individual, and shows that Shostakovich was by no means the only modernist in town Gergiev still lives in one of the several oligarch enclaves in London, from which he can jetset with ease. Munich is a smaller city, so chances are he'll spend even less time with the Munich Philharmonic than he did with the LSO, but if he has good rehearsal conductors and musicians he can add the finishing touches. Like the LSO,the Munich Philharmonic is one of several top notch orchestras working in close proximity and stimulating each other. In recent years it's been somewhat outshone, but if this prom with Gergiev is anything to go by, good things lie ahead. And judging from their performance of this Suite from Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, they are teaching Gergiev to be lyrical.
The Royal Albert Hall © David Samuel 2012 Prom 2: Mussorgsky – Boris Godunov (16 July) Boris is back - and conveniently for us, compiling this list in date order means the Royal Opera House Prom comes out on top. With a cast led by bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and conducted by Antonio Pappano , this concert performance of Mussorgsky ’s operatic masterpiece tells the tragic tale of a Russian Tsar plagued by guilt. The semi-staged performance is preceded by a workshop from the BBC Singers , where aspiring performers can join in with some of the opera’s choruses. Prom 5: Beethoven — Missa Solemnis (19 July) Fresh from conducting Verdi ’s epic Il trovatore on the Covent Garden stage, Gianandrea Noseda is at the helm of – if possible – an even larger masterpiece. Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis was composed over four years towards the end of the composer’s life and is considered to be is one of his supreme achievements. With a stellar cast of singers including soprano Camilla Nylund, mezzo-soprano Birgit Remmert, tenor Stuart Skelton, bass Hanno Müller-Brachmann, the Hallé Choir , Manchester Chamber Choir and BBC Philharmonic , the effect is sure to be breathtaking. Proms 10 and 11: Wagner and Tippett (23 July) A full day of Wagner may feel relatively short for those attuned to his lengthy operas – but for newcomers to this composer’s work, 11 July should serve as an introduction. Prom 10 at 11am showcases the 'Ride of the Valkyries' from Die Walküre in a family-friendly performance, alongside other classical staples from the BBC’s Ten Pieces series – music designed to open up the world of classical music to children and young people. The evening’s Prom 11 includes the final scene from Die Walküre, alongside Tippett ’s contemplative oratorio, A Child of Our Time. Prom 14: Rossini – The Barber of Seville (25 July) There’s something of a Rossini focus at this year’s BBC Proms, and who better to celebrate the 200th anniversary of The Barber of Seville than our friends at Glyndebourne ? Danielle de Niese leads the cast as Rosina, a young girl eager to escape the elderly Count Almaviva’s affection, with comic consequences. There’s also a pre-concert talk for those wanting to learn more about the role and politics of hair-styling in 18th- and 19th-century Europe (!) with Alun Withey and historian Kathryn Hughes. Proms 27 and 30: Stravinsky (5 and 7 August) Fans of Stravinsky ’s ballet scores won’t be disappointed with this Proms Season: over the weekend of 5, 6 and 7 August, audiences will be treated to Petrushka (1947 version) , The Firebird , and The Rite of Spring , complete with pre-performance talks. Those looking to collect all the performances of Stravinsky’s works over the 58 day-long festival should also save the date for the Pulcinella Suite on 20 July . Proms at … Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare's Globe (13 August) A suitably Shakespearean recommendation in the 400th anniversary of his death. This performance takes regular Prommers away from the familiar surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall to an altogether smaller performance space: the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe . Expect English Baroque music in spades, with music by Purcell , Blow , Locke and Draghi , as well as incidental music for Shakespeare’s The Tempest . Prom 41: The Hallé – Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (16 August) Tenor Gregory Kunde stars alongside mezzo-soprano Alice Coote and the Hallé in Mahler ’s synthesis of song and symphony, Das Lied von der Erde, conducted by Mark Elder . Continuing the Season’s focus on cello music, (kicking off on the First Night with a digital light projection from Sol Gabetta), Leonard Elschenbroich will perform a London premiere: Colin Matthews’s Berceuse for Dresden, which takes inspiration from the eight bells of the Dresden church at which it was premiered. Prom 45: Janáček — The Makropulos Affair (19 August) A dream team of singers assemble for a concert performance of Janáček ’s tragic satire, The Makropulos Affair, performed under the baton of Czech conductor Jiří Běhlohlávek . Finnish soprano Karita Mattila — acclaimed for her portrayal of the opera’s heroine at New York’s Metropolitan Opera — leads the cast. Prom 59: (More) Beethoven (29 August) A rare treat to hear music from Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio . Despite his prolific musical output, the composer appeared to struggle with the overture, eventually writing four versions. This version (Leonore No. 2) is the first attempt and is thought to have been composed for the 1805 premiere – but nowadays the final version, Leonore No. 1, much lighter in style and with fresh musical material, is often heard in performance. This Prom also features András Schiff playing the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, 'Emperor', and the Symphony No. 7, performed by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and conducted by Herbert Blomstedt . Prom 67: Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel (4 September) The conductor affectionately dubbed ‘The Dude’ is back, conducting the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra in their first Proms appearance since 2011. In this Olympic year, the Proms is celebrating South American music and musicians with a premiere of Venezuelan composer Paul Desenne ’s Hipnosis mariposa, alongside Villa-Lobos ’s effervescent orchestral tribute to J. S. Bach, Bachianas Brasileiras No 2. For ballet fans, the performance ends with two dizzying works by Ravel : La Valse , originally conceived as a ballet but now frequently heard as a concert work, and the Suite No. 2 from Daphnis and Chloe . Prom 75: The Last Night of the Proms (10 September) There’s much more to the Last Night than tub-thumping Elgar and flag-waving pomp (although if that’s your cup of tea, you won’t be disappointed). Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez is the star soloist for a diverse evening of music, including 'Una furtiva lagrima’ from Donizetti’s L'elisir d'amore , 'Ah ! mes amis' from La fille du regiment , as well as a generous helping of lush English song. Jette Parker Young Artist Lauren Fagan is also set to perform in a jewel in the evening’s programme, Vaughan Williams ’ Serenade to Music, scored for 16 soloists, alongside the BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo. Don your black tie and get queuing! What are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s BBC Proms? Let us know via the comments below. Tickets for the BBC Proms 2016 can be purchased from the Royal Albert Hall website . All Proms will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 , with a selection available to watch on BBC Four .
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