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Richard Strauss

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


My Classical Notes

June 21

June 19: Great Concert by St. Lawrence Quartet

My Classical NotesEvery year, during the summer, the resident string quartet at Stanford University holds a Chamber Music seminar. This year, the seminar runs from June 19th to the 26th. I attended a terrific concert this afternoon, at which the Quartet performed the following: Haydn: String quartet Op. 20, number 2 Richard Strauss: Sextet from the Opera Capriccio Darius Milhaud: Scaramouche for duo pianos I enjoyed the concert thoroughly. There was music for every taste, dating from the 1700 for Haydn, 1942 for Strauss, and 1937 for the Scaramouche by Milhaud. For me, the Haydn was at the very top. I am always amazed by the originality, innovation, and creativity of chamber music by Haydn. The Op. 20 quartet begins with solo cello, and later movements continue to feature a lovely warm melody for violin. Yet something occurs in Haydn’s music that foreshadows the emergence of revolutionary quartets by Beethoven very late in Beethoven’s life. THAT is the mark of amazing genius. Haydn was Beethoven’s teacher, and when Beethoven died in 1827, one could hear the amazing impact that Haydn had on his student. Here is a section of the Hadn Quartet Op. 20 number 2:

My Classical Notes

June 20

June 24+29, Rosenkavalier at La Scala Milano

Venue: La Scala Opera, Milano, Italy Dates/ times June 29 2016 and various other dates (see below) Performance: Richard Strauss : Der Rosenkavalier 24, 29 Jun 2016; 2 July 2016 Conductor: Zubin Mehta Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau: Günther Groissböck Octavian: Sophie Koch Sophie is sung by Christiane Karg, soprano. I have heard recorded performances by Christiane Karg, and I love her singing of Lieder. Wish I could be in Milano to hear her in Strauss’ Rosenkavalier. Here is Chritiane Karg, singing the music of Richard Strauss:




Classical iconoclast

June 7

Male Elgar Sea Pictures : Roderick Williams Three Choirs Festival

At the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford last year,  Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams, but with typical flair, Roderick Williams and Susie Allan  presented them with a difference.  Listen here on BBC Radio 3 Williams started with RVW Four Last Songs. Divest oneself of notions of  Richard Strauss.  RVW's songs aren't nearly such masterpieces,  but a loose compilation of ideas left unfinished upon the composer's death. Procris is based on a poem by Ursula Vaughan Williams, Menelaus on the Odyssey. The last two last poems are more personal .The contemplative mood of Tired suggests a man assessing his past without rancour, and Hands, eyes and heart suggests inward, private emotions. Stylistically, they connect more to very early RVW, even pre-Ravel RVW, than to his finest works, but are still worth hearing, especially for English song specialists. I first heard them from the Ludlow English Song Weekend in May 2015. Elgar is an essential feature of the Three Choirs Festival, which this year takes place in Gloucester.  But large-scale Elgar, rarely Elgar piano song.  Again, Roderick Williams to the rescue ! Elgar's  Sea Pictures  is usually heard with full orchestra, though Elgar himself transcribed the piano song version, and played it privately.  Elgar's art songs  are somewhat eclipsed by the fame of RVW, Quilter, Butterworth et al,  for in many ways they hark back to an earlier era. Sea Pictures, however, was conceived with grand orchestral flourish, so this version is rather more than Elgar's other songs for voice and piano. Sea Pictures is also mezzo and contralto territory, so hearing it with a baritone makes it even more unusual.  Most of us are imprinted with memories of Janet Baker singing  "Yet, I the mother mild, hush thee, O my child" but the mother figure in the poem fades as the vision of Elfin Land emerges. The lower tessitura suits the last strophes, where  "Sea sounds, like violins"  lead the descent into slumber.  The maritime references in Sabbath Morning at Sea become more prominent: most sailors in Elgar's time were male, after all. The piano part in this song is distinctively Elgarian.  When RW sings "He shall assist me to look higher", you can almost feel the ship's sails billow in the wind.  A male voice works best with The Swimmer and its muscular, athletic swagger: very macho.  A pity that the BBC miked the piano too closely. When I heard Williams sing Sea Pictures in recital at the Oxford Lieder Festival with  Andrew West  five years ago, the balance was much more natural. Coming up soon, from the same concert last year, two settings of texts by lesser-known poets of the First World War.  Rhian Samuel's A Swift Radiant Morning, (2015)  a setting of five poems by Charles Hamilton Sorley, a Marlborough man who died, aged only 20, at the Battle of Loos in October 1915 and Tim Torry's The Voice of Grief (2003), settings of Charlotte Mew (1869-1928)



Tribuna musical

May 29

Our three main orchestras are in good shape

In just two weeks our three main orchestras offered free concerts at the Usina del Arte (two) and at the Blue Whale (one). And all three were in pretty good shape. C Let´s start with the Usina and its slow transition with a new team led by Marcelo Panozzo, substituting Gustavo Mozzi who is working at the CCK. He has had important former posts: BAFICI´s Artistic Director (2012-5), editor of Penguin Random House and of La Nación´s ADN magazine, as well as Entertainment editor of Clarín. But nothing that indicates an interest in classical concerts. Of course, in this case the change of guard is within the same political party, which should make it easy, but up to now things are going very slowly and the logistics leave much to be desired. Item: you will look in vain in their Internet site for a telephone or a mail address. As to programming, up to now the Usina is saved by the Colón, which may have many faults but it has a yearly programme and a booklet giving all details. What´s relevant and positive is that the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, apart from its subscription series at the Colón, is giving no less than eleven programmes at the Usina, with completely different programmes than the ones at the Colón (last year they were similar, so the new policy is quite a gain). No less commendable is the fact that the Estable (Resident) Colón Orchestra is taken out of the operatic pit and will offer seven concerts at the Usina. The Usina hand programmes , except for one line that reads "Usina del Arte", are clearly the Colón´s: its authorities are stated there, not the Usina´s, a mere venue. (By the way, they are very poor, with no commentaries on the music played). I had recourse to the Colón to obtain my press tickets for the concert of April 30. Once I arrived at the Usina, I finally got the press contact and the telephone I needed and now things are normal, but it´s an ABC of communication whenever there´s a team change to send a presentation mail to habitual newspaper reviewers. One of the great mistakes of the Usina in preceding years was that it didn´t have a year schedule: you got the information one month at a time, and generally you were informed, say, about June in May´s last week; hardly the right way to run a concert-giving institution. Up to now, things haven´t changed, and the other non-Colón activities haven´t been interesting in the field of classical music. Meanwhile, a useful piece of news: a parking lot has just opened. There should also be a system at the Usina to be able to call for cabs, they are quite absent in that zone . And more security: Caffarena is very dark. But now to the good things. On April 30 Francisco Rettig conducted an attractive combination: Richard Strauss´ "Duetto-Concertino for clarinet, bassoon and orchestra" and the Fantastic Symphony by Berlioz. The Duetto, rarely played here (though it has at least nine recordings), is a charming piece written in 1947 when the composer was 83; completely tonal and nostalgic, it has no pretensions: just pleasant but individual writing, a bit too repetitive. It was beautifully played by Carlos Céspedes (clarinet) and Ezequiel Fainguersch (bassoon). As to the "Fantastic", created in 1830 just three years after Beethoven´s death, after dozens of performances I remain amazed: it opened a new world of sound both in the richness of its ideas and the ceaselessly innovative orchestration. The Chilean conductor showed his mettle in a faithful rendition of the score´s many moods, and the Orchestra responded with considerable virtuosity. On May 12 it was the turn of the Phil under Javier Logioia Orbe and with the return of a much loved pianist: Ralph Votapek. By now he must be seventy and he has lost none of his splendid musicality and command; also, he looks 55. Prokofiev´s Third Concerto (his best) is notoriously a great challenge, with its mixture of lyricism and savagery. The pianist gave us impeccably the relentless dynamism of the climactic passages and the delicacy of its dreamy bits. Logioia is a firm and studious conductor, though he has a tendency to force the sound and this was felt both in Prokofiev (he also conducted the short March from "The Love for Three Oranges") and in Elgar´s wonderful "Enigma Variations", certainly well understood and expressed, but at times too clangorous. However, my seat in the very last row and under a roof may have had an acoustic influence on what I heard. Finally, the National Symphony at the Blue Whale gave a splendid concert on April 13. Two valuable works were played with a degree of technical accomplishment and artistic comprehension that speaks highly of the orchestra, their conductor Günter Neuhold (who has come several times to BA in preceding seasons) and the pianist of the orchestra, Marcelo Balat. Ginastera´s Piano Concerto Op.28 (1961) is extremely difficult; its aesthetics are Expressionistic with a touch of Argentine rhythms. Balat played marvelously. Shostakovich wrote a 55-minute masterpiece in his astonishing Tenth Symphony (1953, the year of Stalin´s death). Neuhold showed an admirable grip on the phrasing of chamber passages and the buildup of climaxes, and the Orchestra responded with stunning impact. For Buenos Aires Herald

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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