Saturday, October 22, 2016
One year into his contract, the NHK symphony orchestra have asked Paavo Järvi to extend it by three years, to 2021. Paavo says: ‘I have enjoyed my first season with the NHK Symphony Orchestra immensely and am delighted to extend the contract knowing that I will have the opportunity to work with these fine musicians over an extended period of time. We have much to look forward to in the upcoming year including both our first European tour in Spring 2017 and our first CD release with a focus on the orchestra works of Richard Strauss. This season is especially important as the orchestra celebrates its 90th birthday and tonight we celebrate an additional birthday by having the honour to perform as a part of Suntory Hall’s 30th anniversary celebrations here in Tokyo.’
The epic mezzo, now 77, has announced she is stepping down as head of the Richard Strauss festival at the composer’s Garmisch home next summer, her last official role. But she has put together a farewell programme that includes such Strauss luminaries as Gundula Janowitz, Marlis Petersen, Christiane Karg, Angelika Kirchschlager, Krassimira Stoyanova, Michelle Breedt and Juliane Banse. No-one says no to Brigitte. Details here.
Kent Nagano is one of the most complete conductors and some years ago vividly impressed the Mozarteum audiences when he came with the Montreal Symphony. Now he was back with the Hamburg Philharmonic at the Colón with two programmes focussed on German/Austrian Postromantics and they became a major event of the season. Nagano has had a great European career which in principle one wouldn´t expect from a Californian of Japanese ascendance, but he explains that he was trained by a German teacher who imbued him with the very essence of style in the greatest symphonic repertoire. In his DNA there was an innate musicality and it was nurtured by an intelligent guide. A brief résumé. He has held main posts at Lyon Opera (a very innovative tenure), the Hallé Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera, Deutsche Symphonie Berlin, the Bavarian Opera (Munich). And since September 2015 he is Musical Director of the Hamburg State Opera, whose Philharmonic Orchestra gives two hundred performances of opera and ballet plus thirty symphonic and chamber concerts, a tremendous amount of work. I recall that this orchestra came here decades ago led by Aldo Ceccato and for the Mozarteum: a solid ensemble, though not as important as it was on this year´s visit. They trace their origins to as far back as 1828, and during the Twentieth Century they had illustrious conductors: Muck, E.Jochum, Keilberth, Sawallisch and G.Albrecht. Then Ceccato, and afterwards Metzmacher and for ten years before Nagano, Simone Young, the outstanding Australian lady conductress. As it came in this tour they numbered 96 players, big enough for Strauss. They really have 130 players because their enormous yearly task necessitates some rotation of players. And with them came two admirable artists: cellist Gautier Capuçon, who with his violinist brother Renaud played a memorable Brahms Double Concerto here in one of the Argerich Festivals; and Japanese mezzosoprano Mihoko Fujimura, unknown here but very appreciated in Germany, particularly in Wagner. Richard Strauss´ "Don Quixote" (1897) demonstrates his inexhaustible orchestral imagination, who had only one possible match in the late Nineteenth Century: Gustav Mahler. "Don Quixote" has a subtitle, "Fantastic variations on a chivalric subject". The cello is the Don and the viola is Sancho. Between the Introduction and the Finale there are ten variations, some of them with astounding orchestral effects (the sheep sound like advanced atonalism, and flying is cunningly imitated). But it is also a warm portrait of character. It needs a crack orchestra and an inspired cellist: it had both this time. True, Capuçon was somewhat arbitrary as to note values, but his interpretation was expressive and convincing, with beautiful timbre and fine technique. Nagano and the orchestra were stalwart throughout, with perfectly chosen tempi and immaculate playing of the very difficult music, as well as intensity and sustained concentration. Naomi Seiler (viola) and Konradin Seitzer, the concertino of imposing presence and virtuoso quality, made fine contributions. Brahms´ Symphony Nº 1 is probably the best First in history; to say that what we heard was outstanding in the myriad versions we have heard through several decades is no exaggeration. The composer was born in Hamburg and was homaged by the players fully and excitingly. The encores were the subtle Entr´acte from Schubert´s "Rosamunde", lovingly done, and curiously with no hiatus, a fascinating movement from Ligeti´s "Concert Romanesc", as wild a piece as can be imagined, where conductor and orchestra showed that the moderns have no secrets for them. The second programme was very coherent. Before the interval, Wagner´s Prelude to Act One and Love-Death from "Tristan and Isolde", the latter in the orchestral arrangement of the composer; and the five "Wesendonck Lieder", arranged by Felix Mottl the first four and the fifth by Wagner from the original for voice and piano. As two of them have melodies that reappear in "Tristan...", it was a good idea to programme the songs on the poems of Wagner´s muse, Mathilde Wesendonck. Nagano proved a fine Wagnerian, and Fujimura sang with powerful voice and clear understanding of the style. Bruckner´s Sixth Symphony (1881) isn´t as long as the following ones (55 minutes); I find it more technical and less attractive than the Seventh or Eighth, but quite representative of his distinctive personality. Again Nagano and the orchestra showed conclusive professionalism, energy and power of communication. There were no encores. For Buenos Aires Herald
For several decades Carlos López Puccio has led a celebrated double life as member of Les Luthiers and the recognised master of the best chamber choir we have, the Estudio Coral de Buenos Aires. What´s relevant isn´t only the high quality of picked professional singers and the expressive and stylish interpretations that the conductor always obtains: what matters equally is the unfailing interest of the pieces that his avid curiosity unveils for us. Last Wednesday they gave an outstanding recital for the Mozarteum´s Midday Concerts at the Gran Rex, called "Postromanticism and Modernity in the Twentieth Century". Although many of the pieces had been heard at the Colón last year, some were not, very especially a fantastic Richard Strauss score, "Hymne", sung however in other venues, and for me the main attraction. As he always does, López Puccio, with his nervous, fast humor, presented some of the most complex choices. Naturally "Hymne" (1938) closed the concert. On a Friedrich Rückert text about the biblical story of Joseph and his brethren Strauss builds a colossal edifice for twelve different voices plus a soloists quartet, not only a technical tour de force but, as the conductor said, "a beautiful piece of work". The sixteen parts meshed to perfection and arrived to an overpowering climax before subsiding. The solid soloists were Pol González, Paula Riestra, Silvina Sadoly and Pablo Zartmann. Earlier we had heard another of Strauss´ rare scores for choir, heard at the Colón, the sarcastic and witty "Die Göttin im Putzzimmer" ("The Goddess at the boudoir"), 1936, in a Rückert text on an entirely contrasting subject with that of "Hymne". This "Goddess" isn´t easy at all, for eight skillfully managed voices (of course several singers per voice: the Estudio numbers thirty people) Two items were folk-inspired: two of Janácek´s songs for mixed choir, a slow melodic one ("The wild duck") and a fast, rhythmic piece ("Our song"), both very attractive; but here López Puccio chose with poetic licence, for they are from 1885 and 1890. The "Four Slovak folksongs" (1917) by Bartók are short and close to the originals collected by himself; charming and vigorous, they show why this great creator was so attracted by folklore. The interpretations were fresh and rhythmic. The other two scores were from notable USA composers. Copland´s "Lark" (1938) is an inspired song for baritone and choir; the fine soloist was Martín Caltabiano. Surely the most advanced choice was Charles Ives´ "General Booth enters into Heaven", written in 1914 on a text by Vachel Lindsay extolling the figure of Booth, founder of the Salvation Army; his entry is followed by a choir of indigent people. The firm voice of González was the Narrator; the choir quoted the hymn "Cleansing fountain" (1823) by Lowell Mason; and the piano played atonal chords. As usual, Ives experimented, with talent and a personal touch. Both here and in Bartók, Diego Ruiz accompanied. For Buenos Aires Herald
From the classical archive, 8 August 1912: The Guardian reports on Richard Strauss’s latest compositionRichard Strauss has just finished his latest composition – incidental music to Moliere’s comedy Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, in the German version by H. von Hofmannsthal. It was generally known that Strauss had written the one-act opera Ariadne on Naxos, which should follow the Bourgeois comedy, according to the intentions of Molière. In the comedy, however, the playwright leaves many opportunities for music, and as the comedy must always be given before the Ariadne, Strauss found himself obliged to write incidental music to it. This music will shortly be published, together with the opera.Hugo von Hofmannsthal has condensed the Molière comedy, which in the original is in five acts, into two acts, in order to keep the comedy and the opera within reasonable length. This condensation was easily made without mutilating the main idea of the work, by leaving out the many bits of topical satire, which time has made unintelligible. Continue reading...
Katherine Broderick (soprano), James Baillieu (piano), Heath Quartet, Adam Walker (flute), Tim Lowe (cello) (Champs Hill)Capable of big Wagnerian roles (she has sung Brünnhilde) as well as Richard Strauss and Tchaikovsky, Katherine Broderick here turns her attention to intimate French songs with string quartet, flute or cello as well as piano. Her powers of expression, so vivid and telling on stage, communicate well in this rewarding recital disc of Gaubert, Berlioz, Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Chausson and Caplet. Ravel’s Chansons madécasses – songs of Madagascan life, with flute, cello and piano, burst with exotic drama, and contrast beautifully with the strange inventions of his animal poem settings, Histoires naturelles. Broderick turns every song into a miniature drama, delivered with elegance of line, sensuality and sharp wit, well supported by her excellent colleagues. Continue reading...
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