Thursday, August 25, 2016
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
At the Salzburg Festival this afternoon, Riccardo Muti gave both concertmaster Rainer Küchl (pictured) and first violinist Eckhard Seifert solo bows after the concert, which appears to be their last. The first half was Richard Strauss Le bourgeois gentilhomme, apparently programmed for Rainer to float his trademark solos. Second half was Bruckner 2nd symphony.
Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh The NYO and Edward Gardner paid homage to Einstein and the cosmos in a programme that was graceful and evocativeThe National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain sets its sights high and in this programme, conceived on a cosmic scale, it took the Snape Proms audience on a space odyssey. Accepting that Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra will never shake off the associations acquired through Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001 and the lunar pioneers, the NYO and conductor Edward Gardner set it alongside Gustav Holst’s The Planets. In both works, the 160-plus forces achieved a depth and richness of sound that belied their youth. There was never such a good night to be a tuba player or a double bassist.Out of Strauss’s initial epic monumentality came grace and verve; leader Millie Ashton delivering the questing solo violin lines. Following a glowingly dynamic account of the Holst, Gardner went on to argue the strongest possible case for Colin Matthews’s Pluto, written for the millennium. Growing out of mystic Neptune’s dying notes – sung by the girls of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra youth choir – the feeling here was of an implicit and organic connection with the original suite. Moreover, the shimmering solar winds of Pluto took the ear back, orbit completed, to the work specially commissioned to launch the evening. 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.
Conductor Carlos Kleiber was born on July 3, 1930, in Berlin, where his Viennese father conducted the Berlin State Opera. The elder Kleiber, opposed to the Nazi regime and its restrictions on performances of modern musical works, left Germany in 1935 and moved his family to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Carlos Kleiber learned English from his American mother and from English-language schools in Argentina and New York. His father discouraged Carlos’ interest in music, so he studied chemistry at a college in Zurich, but he had begun to compose music at age 9 and by 20 was studying conducting in earnest. “What a pity he is musical,” his father wrote in a letter in 1954. Mr. Kleiber, who lived most of his adult life in Zurich surrounded by thousands of recordings and books, was fluent in six languages and had a strong interest in literature and politics. Mr. Kleiber died on July 13 2004 in Switzerland. As a conductor, he demanded double or triple the typical number of rehearsals. And he rarely announced what he would conduct in advance, deciding on repertory when he showed up for rehearsals. Despite his vast knowledge of the music repertory, he only conducted a handful of symphonies, concertos and operas. In my view, his somewhat limited conducting repertoire led to his amazing excellence. I treasure listening to his interpretation of the Brahms symphonies and a few symphonies by Mozart. He is amazing in leading Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. And one of his greatest strengths is the style he brings to the music on Johann Strauss. As one watches old rehearsals, you can see Kleiber’s whole body moving elegantly with the rhythm of a Strauss waltz, or with the music of Die Fledermaus. Let me show you how Carlos Kleiber conducted Strauss:
Great composers of classical music