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Richard Strauss

Friday, August 26, 2016


Royal Opera House

Yesterday

Royal Opera broadcasts for autumn and winter 2016/17 announced

Royal Opera HouseThe view from the main stage Orchestra Pit at the Royal Opera House © ROH/Sim Canetty-Clarke, 2014 Eight Royal Opera productions will be broadcast over the coming months on BBC Radio 3 . Each broadcast will be available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after broadcast. Details are as follows: Il barbiere di Siviglia LIVE - 17 September 2016 (6.30pm BST) Il barbiere di Siviglia, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mike Hoban 2011 Rossini ’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) has a score that fizzes with musical brilliance, from Figaro’s famous entrance aria ‘Largo al factotum’ to the frenzy of the Act I finale, when the five principal voices all pile on top of each other. Werther - 15 October 2016 (6.30pm BST) Joyce DiDonato as Charlotte and Vittorio Grigòlo as Werther in Werther, Royal Opera House © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper Werther's excellent libretto, written by Edouard Blau and Paul Milliet , distills Goethe ’s Romantic masterpiece and intensifies Goethe’s depiction of two passionate people, each intent on hurting the other. The score displays Massenet ’s gift for melody, with the ‘Clair de lune’, ‘Lied d’Ossian’ and Charlotte’s ‘Prière’ now some of the composer's most loved music. This broadcast offers another chance to hear two of the finest performances at Covent Garden last Season from Joyce DiDonato and Vittorio Grigòlo . Il trovatore - 22 October 2016 (6.30pm BST) Željko Lučić as Count di Luna in Il trovatore, The Royal Opera © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Clive Barda Verdi ’s Il trovatore is probably best known for its ‘gypsy’ music: the Anvil Chorus , Azucena’s ‘Stride la vampa’ and Manrico’s heroic ‘Di quella pira’ are key examples. But Verdi wrote wonderful music for all four of his leads and the score boasts a host of thrilling ensembles and chorus numbers including the Count's aristocratic aria ‘Il balen del suo sorriso’ and Leonora’s prayer. Norma - 5 November 2016 (6.30pm GMT) Norma. The Royal Opera 2016/17 Season Bellini ’s bel canto masterpiece Norma is perhaps most acclaimed as a vehicle for the lead soprano – key arias include ‘Casta diva’, Norma’s Act I hymn to the chaste moon; and Act II’s ‘Dormono entrambi’, as she contemplates the unthinkable act of killing her children. But the opera’s dramatic potency rests in its breathtaking ensembles, most strikingly in Norma’s duets with Pollione and Adalgisa, the Act I trio ‘Vanne, sì: mi lascia, indegno’ and the blistering Act II finale. Così fan tutte - 12 November 2016 (6.30pm GMT) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, posthumous portrait by Barbara Kraft, 1819 Mozart ’s final collaboration with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte followed Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni and exemplifies the heights opera can reach when the skills of composer and librettist are perfectly matched. But Così’s reception has always been more complex than that of the other Mozart/Da Ponte operas, with the opera variously considered immoral, unfinished, cruel or simply odd since its 1790 premiere. Now finally accepted as one of Mozart’s masterpieces, it is celebrated as much for its nuanced depiction of love as for its glorious music. Der Rosenkavalier LIVE - 14 January 2017 (5.45pm GMT) Richard Strauss conducts at the Royal Albert Hall, 1947 © Philharmonia Orchestra Der Rosenkavalier was Richard Strauss ’s first original collaboration with the playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal , following quickly on the heels of Strauss’s adaption of Hofmannsthal’s play Elektra . It marked the start of one of 20th century opera’s most important artistic partnerships. Renée Fleming takes on the role of Marschallin in this new production, one of the great soprano roles in the repertory. The Nose and Les Contes d'Hoffmann will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in the coming months. Details of these broadcasts will be released shortly. The Royal Opera House and the BBC are partners . Please note broadcast schedules are subject to change.

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

August 22

Rare Daniela Dessi: Beim Schlafengehen

The effulgent Italian soprano, who died this weekend at 59, sang mostly in her own language. Here, in Rome in April 2012, she performed Richard Strauss’s immortal valediction in German.




Tribuna musical

August 22

Jonas Kaufmann triumphant: the plenitude of a great artista

I won´t mince words: the most important tenor chamber recital in more than four decades. Jonas Kaufmann, a week after the ill-planned ending of the Barenboim Festival, came back for a song session (mainly Lieder) with his longtime accompanist, Helmut Deutsch. And this time he sang a perfect programme with groups of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Duparc, Liszt and Richard Strauss. This was at the Colón on last Sunday´s afternoon and for the Abono Verde. He had the support from the beginning of an anxious, knowledgeable and packed audience, who grew more and more enthusiastic. What happened after the last note of Strauss was an euphoric delirium as an incredible string of seven encores, proof not only of generosity but also of joy and gratitude, allowed us to hear him in opera and operetta. Kaufmann had conquered Buenos Aires with the highest vocal art; he demonstrated that, here as in Europe, the audience discriminates and not only reacts to tenors with splendid high Cs. Kaufmann is a linguist: Munich-born, his Italian is quite good and his French admirable. His memory is faultless: I followed with a score the majority of the songs and his always clear diction never missed a syllable; and, like that ideal baritone, the young Fischer-Dieskau, he gives dramatic sense to all he sings without ever going overboard, and the musical values are exact, following carefully every nuance indicated by the composer. By the way, if you are intrigued by who sang an impeccable recital more than forty years ago, he was Nicolai Gedda, but he did it at the Metro, not the Colón. His stance is revealing: he stands close to the piano and he concentrates totally in the song, scarcely moving, giving occasionally emphasis with the hands with sober gestures. His timbre is particular, hardly the typical tenor; it is never totally open. Don´t expect from him the stratospheric highs of Alfredo Kraus, he of the purest bel canto. But Kaufmann is the consumate master of the chiaroscuro, his breath control is amazing, and no other tenor in my experience has his ability to sing "piano-pianissimo" a "normal" high note and grow it to "forte". A special paragraph on the Viennese Helmut Deutsch, the veteran and still wonderful accompanist, whose work throughout was simply ideal. Mind you, he was the accompanist for twelve years of Hermann Prey, the only baritone that could match Fischer-Dieskau. Later, at Munich, he was professor of vocal interpretation for 28 years and taught and accompanied not only Kaufmann but first-rate artists as Diana Damrau and Michael Volle. He has recorded over a hundred CDs. Nobody has told me but I have no doubt that the programme was designed by both singer and pianist. It was unfailingly right. The Schubert started with two joyful pieces: "Der Musensohn" ("The Son of the Muses", on a Goethe text), all merry jumping, and the famous "Die Forelle" ("The Trout"). Then, the delightful watery "Der Jüngling an der Quelle" ("The young man at the source"), sung subtly and softly (but his projection is such that you hear him well if you are in the Gallery). And that "Lindenbaum" ( "Linden tree") whose melody seems folkish but is part of the stark "Die Winterreise" ("The Winter Voyage"). Then came the Schumann group, a selection of the "Twelve poems by Justinus Kerner" Op.35, very attractive and with the best schumannesque style. Of the chosen five I would single out the dramatic power of "Lust der Sturmnacht" ("Lust of the stormy night") and the Romantic impulse of "Stille Tränen" ("Silent tears"). Kaufmann gave us each mood with moving sensibility. And then, the so special case of Henri Duparc, born in 1848 and by 1885 no longer a composer after having produced some of the most exquisite "chansons d´art"; a strange mental condition cut off his creativity until his death in 1933. The four sung by our tenor are gems: the exquisite "L´invitation au voyage" ("The invitation to travel") on that often quoted text by Baudelaire that includes "order and beauty, luxury, calm and lust"; the dramatic "Le manoir de Rosemonde" ("Rosemonde´s country house"); the "Chanson triste" ("Sad song"), which mirrors that feeling admirably; and "Phidylé", a love song. I have long believed that these songs had their definitive interpretations by baritone Gérard Souzay; now I realize that a German tenor can be just as persuasive. But the best was yet to come. Most know Liszt´s "Petrarch Sonnets" in their piano transcription, but they were born as elaborate, refined songs. You will never hear them in such subjugating interpretations as Kaufmann gave us: with unbelievable feats of subtle vocality he went higher and sweeter, and higher...until you were convinced that this was an unmatched experience. And then, the Strauss group, in which I have my sole complaint: "Ich liebe dich" and "Freundliche vision" were changed and we were not told. Anyway, the expansive writing let him free his voice in "Heimliche Aufforderung" ("Secret Invitation") and the final "Cäcilie", and the composer´s humour came forward on two Von Schack songs, Op.19, where the tenor showed that he had also mastered that style. The encores were a separate recital and destroyed any doubt that might be left. For once in your life you heard the final phrase of Bizet´s "Flower aria" from "Carmen" and the Verdian "Celeste Aida" as they are written, ascending to a pianissimo; but his Radames lacked no power. Then, Verista expression in "L´anima ho stanca" from Cilea´s "Adriana Lecouvreur"; a Refice song, "Ombra di nube". "Nessun dorma" from Puccini´s "Turandot", where the tenor showed the solidity of his means and the audience officiated admirably as choir in the fragment where Calaf doesn´t sing. Then, like a born Neapolitan, "Core ´ngrato" ("Catarí") by Cardillo. And finally, that glorious Lehár aria from "The Land of Smiles", "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" ("Yours is my whole heart"), as beautifully sung as Tauber. Please come back with an operatic recital with the Colón´s Orquesta Estable! For Buenos Aires Herald



Classical iconoclast

July 19

Gergiev smiles Prom 4 Ravel Ustvolskaya

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.

Richard Strauss
(1864 – 1949)

Richard Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra, An Alpine Symphony, and Metamorphosen. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria. Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.



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