Saturday, December 3, 2016
I am very fond of music for wind instruments. There is some great music composed for the Oboe by many composers such as Mozart. And Albrecht Mayer has been playing principal Oboe for the Berlin Philharmonic for many years, as well. Now we have a new recording that features Mr. Mayer’s artistry. The album is called ‘Vocalise’, and the selections are as listed below: Bach, J S: Magnificat in D major, BWV243: Esurientes implevit bonis, arr. Andreas N. Tarkmann Sinfonia Varsovia Debussy: Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque), with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Fauré: Pavane, Op. 50, with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Hahn, R: A Chloris, with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Handel: Trio Sonata, HWV 393 in G minor, with Jakub Haufa (violin), and Monika Razynska (harpsichord) Lascia ch’io pianga (from Rinaldo), with the Sinfonia Varsovia Sarabande from Suite in D minor, HWV437 Solomon: Will the Sun Forget to Streak? Verdi prati (from Alcina) Humperdinck: Abendsegen ‘Abends will ich schlafen gehn’ (Hänsel und Gretel) Marcello, A: Adagio from Oboe Concerto in D minor, with the New Seasons Ensemble Marcello, B: Se morto mi brami Mozart: Ma che vi fece, o stelle…Sperai vicino il lido, K368, with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado conducting. Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte, with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Schumann: Romance in A major, Op. 94 No. 2, with Markus Becker (piano) Vivaldi: The Four Seasons: Winter, RV297: Largo Weismann, J: Variations for oboe and piano, Op. 39: Var. IV – Lento, molto tranquillo, with Markus Becker (piano) All performed by Albrecht Mayer (oboe) Here is Mr. Mayer in the Oboe concerto by Richard Strauss:
We’ve had a message from the Orchestra della Svizzera italiana, which is being cut off next year by its employer, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. It’s a message of hope and defiance: The termination of contracts to the Orchestra della Svizzera italiana, which is linked to the cancelling of the Convention with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation as of the end of 2017, is the first step toward an internal reorganization aimed at improving quality. The orchestra’s strategy, inspired by its glorious past, which can claim cooperation with figures like Stravinsky and Richard Strauss, wants to create a new musical entity, guided by its principal conductor, Markus Poschner. This will enable the orchestra to establish itself at international level, as recently shown during its tour in Austria and Germany. For the virtuosity of its performances, as well as for the boldness and sophistication of Poschner’s interpretation, OSI – Resident Orchestra at the new Sala Teatro LAC, Lugano Arte e Cultura – has been classified as one of Europe’s leading orchestras. The release in December of two DVDs with Brahms symphonies published by Sony is a further accomplishment along the orchestra’s path of growth under the direction of Markus Poschner”. The project Rereading Brahms will be carried on in the next months at many European festivals.
Too often we forget there are two sides in every war, and too often the great art works remembering humanitarian tragedies of war are the products of the victorious side. A recent post featuring Wilfred Josephs' Requiem led me back to a work commemorating one of the great tragedies of the Second World War. I first wrote about Rudolf Mauersberger's Dresden Requiem ten years ago, and in the week when we remember the war dead my revised appreciation of that overlooked masterwork is published below. Eleven young choristers from the famous Kreuzchor were among more than 25,000 who died in the British and American bombing of Dresden on February 13th 1945. As well as the terrible human loss of its choristers the famous choir also lost its its Neo-Gothic choir school on the Georgplatz, its library of sheet music and archive, and its very raison d'être, the beautiful Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross) which dated from the 13th century. The history of the Kreuzchor dates back to the 14th century, and its reputation grew through the Reformation and into the 20th century. In 1932 Rudolf Mauersberger was appointed cantor, and the choir's reputation spread through its acclaimed performances of Bach's choral music in the Mendelssohn-Bartholdy tradition, and the Kreuzchor made two tours of the USA in the 1930s. A year before he died in 1971 Rudolf Mauersberger recorded Bach's Matthäus Passion with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. The two choirs were the Kreuzchor and the Thomanerchoir directed by his brother Erhard Mauersberger from Bach's own Thomaskirche and the soloists included Peter Schreier and Theo Adam. The recording by Berlin Classics remains in the catalogue. Some may view it as inauthentic Bach, but for me it is a Desert Island disc. Following the destruction of Dresden, Rudolf Mauersberger was determined that music would literally rise from the ashes of the choir school and Kreuzkirche. His first response was the composition of the heartwrenching funeral motet Wir liegt die Stadt so wüst which was first performed by the Kreuzchor in the burnt-out shell of the Kreuzkirche in August 1945, with Mauersberger using the rubble of the ruined church as a podium. We use the adjective 'moving' so glibly these days, but what must the young choristers have felt as they sang this lament not just for their destroyed city, but also for eleven of their own friends who had been killed only six months before? The photo below shows the Kreuzchor singing in the burnt-out Kreuzkirche in May 1946. The composition of the choral cycle Dresden (RMWV 4/1), from which the funeral motet is taken, was followed by Mauersberger's masterpiece, his Dresden Requiem (RMWV 10). This was completed in 1948, but was revised several times with the final version dating from 1961. Although Mauersberger's reputation was built on his Bach interpretations the Requiem is not re-heated Bach, but is very much a work of the 20th century. Like Brahms' Requiem, which the Kreuzchor sings every year, the Dresden Requiem is sung in German. It draws heavily on Luther's translation and includes six Lutheran chorals which provide links back to Bach. The imaginative scoring is for three choirs (all SATB) in different locations in the church. Spatial effects are used with a distant choir of young voices representing the departed in a dreadfully moving way. The Agnus Dei is an alto solo written for the young Peter Schreier who was a chorister with the Kreuzchor at the time of the first performance. Much of the singing is a capella, but the score also uses a small ensemble of organ, celeste, trombones, double basses and percussion. These days war horse Requiems are trotted out for so many routine performances, but Rudolf Mauersberger's Dreden Requiem remains unknown. Which is unjust as it is a magnificent and poignant work which ranks alongside Britten's War Requiem in its use of music to reflect on the horrors of war. Perhaps its unjustified neglect is simply because it commemorates the bombing of Dresden, an episode that many on the victorious side would prefer to be written out of history. Fortunately there is a first class modern recording from 1994 by the Kreuzchor under its then cantor Matthias Jung. The recording, which is seen above, is on the Carus-Verlag label, and can be bought from the Carus website or Amazon Germany, and the Carus site has audio samples. Below is a session photo from the Requiem recording in the Lukaskirche in Dresden; the Lukaschirche was the venue for many celebrated recordings including EMI's 1970 Die Meistersinger with Karajan conducting the Dresden State Orchestra and Opera Chorus. The Kreuzkirche was rebuilt and reconsecrated in 1955. Every year since then the Dresden Requiem has been performed in the restored church. Following the performance a long procession of local people carrying lighted candles walks to the Frauenkirche. As well as remembering the dead the candlelit procession became a symbol of silent protest against the repressive East German regime until democracy returned in 1989. Rudolf Mauersberger was cantor of the Kreuzchor for forty years. Thirty-eight of these were under the tyranny and dictatorship of the Nazis and Communists, and during this time he successfully saved the choir from secularisation in the face of ideological and political pressures. Mauersberger lived to see the reopening of his beloved Kreuzkirche; but he died in 1971 some years before the fall of Communism and that other event which marked the final triumph of light over darkness in Dresden, the reconsecration of the Frauenkirche. The Dresden Requiem is preceeded in performance (and on the superb Carus recording) by Rudolf Mauersberger's motet Wir liegt die Stadt so wüst. This is a setting in German of the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Here are the words which are so horribly relevant to the tragedy that befell Dresden on the 13th February 1945. How lonely sits the city that was full of people. All her gates are desolate. The holy stones lie scattered at the head of every street. From on high he sent fire; into my bones he made it descend. Is this the city, which was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all earthThe exact death toll from the bombing of Dresden will never be known due to the large numbers of refugees in the city; but official estimates put the figure at more than 25,000. In the whole of the Second World War the death toll on the UK mainland from bombing of cities was 60,595, and in North America it was six. As well as the tragic loss of life in Dresden our cultural heritage suffered terrible loss. Among the buildings destroyed in the city by the British and American bombs were the Semper Opera House where eight of Richard Strauss' operas were given first performances, including Salome, Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier and Intermezzo, and where Wagner's Rienzi and Flying Dutchman were premiered. Also destroyed were the Königlich Sächsisches Hoftheater where Wagner's Tannhauser was first performed, and the Frauenkirche where Johann Sebastian Bach played in an organ recital in 1736, and where Wagner conducted the first performance of his Biblical scene Das Liebesmahl der Apostel in 1843. The human and cultural loss caused by the bombing of Dresen was terrible. Rudolf Mauersberger's forgotten Dresden Requiem serves as a poignant reminder that in war there is no winning side, just two losing sides. No review samples or other freebies used in this post. 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The veteran director David Pountney is the force behind Independent Opera’s staging next week of the UK première of Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Simplicius Simplicissimus, at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells. David, the opera’s translator, is director of Welsh National Opera. But he is passionate about restoring forgotten composers, such as Mieczyslaw Weinberg , Andre Tchaikovsky and Hartmann. As I have explained elsewhere, Hartmann was the only established composer in Germany who actively resisted the Nazi regime. In this article, written for Slipped Disc, David Pountney explains why Hartmann needs to be heard – and now. Karl Amadeus Hartmann was born in Munich in 1905 into a bohemian family of painters. Unlike his brothers and sister who became painters in turn, he turned towards music, eventually becoming a trombonist in the Munich Opera orchestra. In 1918 he witnessed the Bavarian workers revolt which broke out at the end of World War One and seemed for a time as if it might establish Bavaria as a separate, radical workers republic – a very curious thought now! The politics of this uprising were a lasting influence on Hartmann who continued to hold partly disguised Marxist views for the rest of his life. “Disguise” is a salient word however, as his participation in the Jazz influenced world of Weimar music came abruptly to an enforced halt with the election of the National Socialists in 1933. From this point on Hartmann became a prime exponent of what was later termed “inner immigration”. How did this work? He was careful neither to seek nor accept any commissions from the Reichsmusikkammer even though this body (under its President Richard Strauss!) continually demanded that he present proofs of his Aryan identity, and he studiously avoided performances of his works in the Third Reich, being able to rely on financial support from his wife’s family. Instead he focused on achieving performances abroad with some success, which calls for a little care in considering his “arms length” status in regard to the Reichsmusikkammer. He would not have been allowed to travel abroad without that body’s tacit approval, so he was by default a member though refusing any act of participation. None of us who have not experienced totalitarian rule should ever judge the means by which people managed their lives under these impossible circumstances, but nonetheless a degree of nuance suggests that we should not exaggerate heroism or be too quick to denounce small compromises. In artistic terms “inner immigration” manifested itself in very subtle, sometimes almost unreadable artistic signs embodied in his works, a technique described as “verdeckte schreibweise” (concealed ways of writing). Music, in this case, becomes a language to be de-coded, and as soon as we embark on this theme you will instantly recall the case of Shostakovich for whom this was also an essential but highly complex necessity. Simplicius contains many examples of this technique. Firstly the theme itself of an Ur-Deutsch story going back to the peasants revolt (adulated by the Nazis) and the 30 Years War shows Hartmann “repatriating” a fundamental item of German cultural heritage and using it for anti war, anti-heroic, and hence for silently anti-fascist purposes. Then he incorporates into the music of Simplicius themes that represent forbidden musical cultures, thereby repatriating these too. In the overture there is a Jewish melody on the violas, “Eliahu ha-navi”, which he also uses even more explicitly in his second quartet of 1933. Alongside this Jewish reference, at the end of the opera when the peasants are becoming radicalised, he uses a march theme from a Prokofiev piano work as if to invoke Soviet musical style, and furthermore includes a version of the traditional peasant protest song “Wir sind Geyer’s Schwarzer Haufen” which had in the meantime been mis-appropriated by the Nazis, and deliberately uses passages of “speech choir” which was a technique much used by “approved” Nazi composers. Secrecy in music was of course an aspect of musical fashion not solely dependent on totalitarian supervision. Alban Berg’s fascination with numerological codes led him to incorporate hidden messages in his music, as did Shostakovich. The 5th symphony, for instance, can be read as a searing parody of Soviet bombast, but just as you have satisfied yourself with this interpretation, it emerges that it also conceals quotations from Carmen which refer to a secret girl-friend. This reminds us that music is a hermetic language, and it may be reasonably questioned whether Hartmann’s secret protests incorporated into his Simplicius score could possibly be understood by anyone other than him. That is possibly the true meaning of inner immigration or “aesthetic resistance” as it is sometimes called: this is a secret dialogue with himself. After the war, Hartmann was one of the very few surviving musicians still in Germany untainted by direct association with the Nazis, and was appointed dramaturg of the Bavarian State Opera. In addition, he was generously patronised by the Americans, keen to re-establish German culture and hence, political stability. Hartmann carefully airbrushed out his Marxist past, and in return the Americans generously helped him to found his extremely influential Musica Viva series which was generous in repatriating many of the composers stamped out by the Nazis, as well as giving ample opportunities to younger talents like Hans Werner Henze. Hartmann’s subtle and intelligent ability to move with the wind enabled him to achieve significant cultural advances, and his open spirit re-invigorated post war musical life in Germany. Simplicius is in some ways at odds with this cultivated and sophisticated approach. The original story, a masterpiece from the 17th century, reflects a brutal history of violence unequalled in Europe until the catastrophic but brief Fascist era. (In between, Europe had exported its violent tendencies to its colonies!) This relentless horror is ironically seen though the eyes of a helpless innocent, through whom it is visible in all its naked fury. The humane and compassionate Hartmann here finds a voice through whom he can speak about the evils of war with unrestrained loathing and abhorrence. (c) David Pountney
City Halls, Glasgow Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra lent limpid refinement to Bruckner’s unrelentingly heavy Teutonic stodge in a compact concert“Symphonic boa constrictors” is how Brahms famously slated Bruckner’s symphonies. A century and a half of might-is-right Brucknerian performance practice taught us to brace for august cathedrals of sound if we’re lucky, bloated juggernauts of Teutonic stodge if we’re not. But does this music have to be unrelentingly hefty? Various conductors have asked the question. Robin Ticciati has made a habit of redressing big romantic orchestral works through the neat, lithe lens of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra – together they’ve unveiled ravishing colours in Berlioz and Brahms and now Bruckner, making his fourth symphony sound all sorts of un-Brucknerian adjectives like limpid, refined, nimble, inquisitive. Maybe it helped that the concert was inadvertently compact: the opening piece, Richard Strauss’s Oboe Concerto, was dropped at the last minute when soloist Maurice Bourgue was taken ill, leaving Bruckner alone on the bill. Funny how a single-work programme works wonders for concentration spans. And it wasn’t that Ticciati took tempos any faster than normal or did novelty things with the overall architecture – in fact, he made the pacing fairly expansive from the outset and took his time unfolding themes with a sense of exploratory awe. What was revelatory was the subtle textural stuff. The strings opened with a light-refracting shimmer; the solo lines of the bittersweet andante were tender and questioning, the Scherzo bounced along like pond skaters. In the finale the strings unleashed thick downbows for a moment, as though parodying classic Bruckner, reminding us of all that this performance was not. Continue reading...
Press release, just in: The great Siberian baritone Dimitri Hvorostovsky will give a rare recital this Remembrance Sunday, the 13th of November in the stunning surroundings of the Raphael Gallery at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Dimitri will perform songs by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Richard Strauss accompanied by Ivari Ilja on the piano. This gala evening is being given to raise funds for the ArtPointFoundation’s work providing bursaries at the Royal College of Musicians. To purchase tickets please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
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