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31.8.08

In Brief: Labor Day Edition

LinksHere is your regular Sunday selection of links to good things in Blogville and Beyond.

  • With hat tip to Bryant Manning, the flamboyant Cameron Carpenter plays Chopin's Revolutionary Etude. On the organ. [YouTube]

  • Everything you wanted to know about the renovated Salle Pleyel in Paris. Pictures, too. [Intermezzo]

  • Ha! My dislike of Rachmaninov puts me in distinguished company. Alfred Brendel on the subject: "The piano repertoire is vast, and Rachmaninov to me seems a waste of time." John Gibbons valiantly tries to change my mind but leaves me unconvinced. [Holde Kunst]

  • With hat tip to Daniel Felsenfeld, composer Mark Adamo has a blog. In it, we learn that we need to congratulate him and John Corigliano, who were married in California earlier this month. [Mark Adamo Online]

  • Marie-Noëlle Tranchant reports on an interesting stop in the upcoming apostolic visit of Pope Benedict XVI to France (for the 150th anniversary of the Lourdes apparition). During that trip, he will deliver an address at the newly renovated and about to be rededicated Collège des Bernardins in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. The audience will be composed of representatives from the various domains of the arts and culture in France, and the pope will speak about the relationship of the church and the arts. [Le Figaro]

À mon chevet: The Dying Animal

Philip Roth, The Professor of Desire
À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
We had once enacted just such a tableau in the flesh, so I was as much remembering as imagining. I had asked her if she would take off her clothes and let me look at her while I played the Mozart Sonata in C Minor, and she obliged. I don't know that I played it any better than I ordinarily did, but that was never the point. In another recurring fantasy, I am telling her, "This is a metronome. The little light flashes and it makes a periodic noise. That's all it does. You adjust the pace to what you want. Not only amateurs like me but professionals, even great concert pianists, have the problem of what's called rushing." Once again, I envision her standing by the piano with her clothes at her feet, as on the night when, fully dressed, I played the C Minor Sonata, serenading her nudity with the slow movement. (Sometimes she would come to me in a dream identified, like a spy, only as "K. 457.")

-- Philip Roth, The Dying Animal (2001), pp. 100-101
This is the third of Roth's books about David Kepesh, and it was the basis of Isabel Coixet's new film Elegy. Embedded below is a video of Friedrich Gulda playing the slow movement of K. 457, which will provide the musical component of the excerpt.

30.8.08

Ionarts at Large: Cleveland Orchestra at the Salzburg Festival

The chill of the surrounding rock in the refreshingly cool and coolly lit Felsenreitschule necessitated a fastening of shawls and pashminas. With a few pieces of the Romeo & Juliet set dangling, Damocles sword-like, above the Cleveland Orchestra’s double bass section (it would be such a pity), Franz Welser-Möst got to show the international audience at the Salzburg Festival what he can do with his “other”, American orchestra in direct comparison to the Vienna Philharmonic’s performances. Judging from their second of three programs on August 24th and their performance week before when they were on opera-duty for Rusalka, America’s youngest of the “Great Five” orchestras can teach their Old Europe counterparts lessons in nuance, luminosity, subtlety, transparency, and delicacy. At least this is true compared to the Vienna Philharmonic’s operatic guise as the Vienna State Opera Orchestra which I last heard under Thielemann (Parsifal: brilliant, though sloppy) and Segerstam (Tristan: very modest).

The Cleveland Orchestra, at least under Welser-Möst – is not a terribly exciting orchestra and it won’t likely be caught probing the emotional extremes of any given score. But boy, do they sound splendid in what they do. The music they play is made to sound its very best, whether the Andante of the 10th Symphony of Franz Schubert (performing version by Brian Newbould), Bela Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin, Bartók’s Viola Concerto, or Johann Strauss’ Emperor Waltz.


--> Full article on www.ClassicalWETA.org


29.8.08

Carl Nielsen's String Quartets

available at Amazon
Nielsen, String Quartets, Vol 2, Young Danish String Quartet

(released May 27, 2008)
Dacapo 6.220522

available at Amazon
Vol. 1
Dacapo Records continues its mission to raise awareness of the music of Danish composers, with the Young Danish String Quartet's set of Carl Nielsen's string quartets. The first volume, from 2007, combined the first and fourth of the numbered quartets with the string quintet, for which the YDSQ was joined on second viola by their teacher and mentor, Tim Frederiksen, first violinist of the (Old) Danish String Quartet. The second volume brings together the remaining two of Nielsen's numbered quartets, no. 2 in F minor and no. 3 in E-flat major, both composed in the 1890s. These are certainly not the only recordings of the Danish composer's string quartets, but it is the first time they have made their way into my ears.

The good news is that they make for good listening, especially when played with the kind of vigor and attention to color and dynamic range as in these performances. The E-flat quartet (no. 3, op. 14) has a particularly striking, somber second movement, which incorporates some daring dissonance and adventurous harmonic progressions. Nielsen later recounted the story of how he lost his first version of this quartet, while he helped a driver who was struggling to get one of his horses up from where it had fallen in the mud. The composer, riding his bike to take the score to the music copyist, left his manuscript with a boy standing by, who ran off with it. If that score is still out there somewhere, it would be very interesting to compare it with the final version of the quartet heard here, which Nielsen had to reconstruct from memory and his sketches.

Other Reviews:

New York Times (Anthony Tommasini)
One could probably pass off the F minor quartet (no. 2, op. 5) as a Brahms quartet, which depending on your inclinations could be a good or a bad thing. The similarity is not surprising as Nielsen composed most of the work while on a government travel grant in Germany in his 20s. The hemiola patterns in the first movement, for example, are somewhat if not exactly Brahmsian, and there is a similar tendency toward deeper registers. Its second movement is also noteworthy for its gloomy beauty, and the outer movements pulsate with a restlessly Romantic agitation. The quartets are not far enough along in Nielsen's compositional development to rank with his more daring orchestral scores, for example, but they have remarkable appeal. The sound of this disc, captured in the Danish Radio Concert Hall last summer, is warm and mellow.

63'59"

Krenek Beyond Jonny

If the Salzburg Hagen Quartet excels in fastidious precision and extraordinary detail, the Petersen Quartet(t) might broadly be considered their Berlin analogue for grit and drive. Once you have heard them in concert or on one of their CDs it is difficult not to be enthralled by them.

Had the Petersen Quartet a bigger, more international record company behind them, they would be better known outside Germany – although two tours in the US in 2005 (including a stop in Washington) have spread the word about their mix of technical excellence, emotional commitment, and challenging, stimulating programming.

Most unfortunately their label of 16 years, Capriccio, has just been dragged into bankruptcy by its parent company Delta Music. One can only hope that the unofficial successor label to Capriccio, Phoenix Edition (apt name), will continue to record them*, make available back catalog**, and perhaps even finish their Beethoven cycle-in-progress.



The second-to-last recording the Petersen Quartet issued on Capriccio is indicative of their strengths: It’s the second part of an unofficial Ernst Krenek String Quartet cycle containing Quartets Nos. 3 and 5. And although the music takes getting used to for all but those ears deeply steeped in the harsher examples of 20th century string quartet writing, it whets the appetite for the other 4 Quartets of Krenek they have not yet been recorded.

Krenek is a composer who has achieved a permanent place in the pantheon of music through historic importance, more so than awareness of his work. His opera “Jonny Spielt Auf” defined a musical schism in Europe and rang in a new era of music when it shocked and fascinated audiences in 1927. “Jonny” was pitched against Korngold’s sumptuous, romantic opera “Das Wunder der Heliane”, a cigarette (still available) was named after it, and it plays a prominent role in the chapter on Berlin in the 20s of Alex Ross’ “The Rest is Noise”. All that makes seem Krenek a far-away composer, part of the pre-World War II past in the way Korngold or Joseph Marx or Franz Mittler are thought of – not a composer who lived until 1991 and who covers about as many musical styles as the 20th century offered (including experiments with electronic music), and who retraced the musical development of pre-War Europe in a post-Schubertian sort of Winterreise (Reisebuch, op.62, 1929).

On the Petersen Quartet’s recording we are faced with Krenek the youthful composer of string quartets, starting with his Third Quartet from 1921, written in a time when he was (briefly) married to Anna Mahler and moving away from the “mercilessly dissonant style of [his] youth” (Krenek). It Superficially resembles the Bartók quartets, but without the whipping, driving rhythms of his Hungarian colleague. There is not much that would remind of his teacher Schreker or his mentor Zemlinsky, who was fascinated when he heard this work premiered by the dedicatee Hindemith’s Amor Quartet.

For ears less attuned to structural and compositional qualities in ‘difficult’ music than Zemlinsky’s, it will take repeat listening to unlock the severe beauty and the wealth of ideas that the Peterson Quartet so arduously advocates. Perhaps better turn to the Fifth Quartet first: “The highpoint of Krenek’s use of the Schubertian aesthetic” is a (apparently) common description of his op.65, but not terribly meaningful to these ears. What I do hear is a highly chromatic lament and farewell to tonality. It’s a bear of a quartet, about 40 minutes long, opening with a sonata-form Allegro, meandering through 10 thematic variations for its second movement and closing with a 12 minute Phantasie. This is wistful, intense stuff and sounds more than three years apart from Krenek’s first dodecaphonic opera Karl V that would follow in 1933 (preceding Lulu by one year). Jarring and sweet, lyrical and wondrously twisted, these 40 minutes are like a last panoply of a dying musical style. A beached whale of tonality, strange and out of place and continually fascinating: another example that Krenek cannot be pinned down to any style or even stylistic trajectory.

The first Krenek disc of Conrad Muck & Daniel Bell (violin), Friedemann Weigle (viola), and Henry-David Varema (cello) – was a prize winning effort. This one should be prize-winning, too.



* Apparently they do: A disc with Schoenberg's 2nd String Quartet, Webern's incredibly beautiful Langsamer Satz, and Berg's Lyric Suite (with none less than Christine Schäfer taking the soprano parts) has just been issued. [Update: WETA review here.] And more good news: Since Phoenix/Capriccio is distributed by NAXOS, their discs should be widely available in the US, which was not the case when Capriccio was still part of Delta Music.

** The fate of Capriccio's catalog has yet to be decided by the liquidators. [Update: Capriccio was also sold and thus salvaged to its founder, J.Kernmayer, and is thriving again.]

28.8.08

Feast of St. Augustine


Christophe Cochet (attrib.), Didon, Musée du Louvre (17th c.)
The Latin I loved; not what my first masters, but what the so-called grammarians taught me. For those first lessons, reading, writing and arithmetic, I thought as great a burden and penalty as any Greek. And yet whence was this too, but from the sin and vanity of this life, because I was flesh, and a breath that passes away and comes not again? For those first lessons were better certainly, because more certain; by them I obtained, and still retain, the power of reading what I find written, and myself writing what I will; whereas in the others, I was forced to learn the wanderings of one Aeneas, forgetful of my own, and to weep for dead Dido, because she killed herself for love; the while, with dry eyes, I endured my miserable self dying among these things, far from Thee, O God my life.

For what more miserable than a miserable being who commiserates not himself; weeping the death of Dido for love of Aeneas, but weeping not his own death for want of love of Thee, O God. Thou light of my heart, Thou bread of my inmost soul, Thou Power who gives vigor to my mind, who quickens my thoughts, I loved Thee not. I committed fornication against Thee, and all around me thus fornicating there echoed “Well done! well done!” for the friendship of this world is fornication against Thee; and “Well done! well done!” echoes on till one is ashamed not to he thus a man. And for all this I wept not, I who wept for Dido slain, and “seeking by the sword a stroke and wound extreme,” myself seeking the while a worse extreme, the extremest and lowest of Thy creatures, having forsaken Thee, earth passing into the earth. And if forbidden to read all this, I was grieved that I might not read what grieved me. Madness like this is thought a higher and a richer learning, than that by which I learned to read and write.

[...] Let not either buyers or sellers of grammar-learning cry out against me. For if I question them whether it be true that Aeneas came on a time to Carthage, as the poet tells, the less learned will reply that they know not, the more learned that he never did. But should I ask with what letters the name “Aeneas” is written, every one who has learnt this will answer me aright, as to the signs which men have conventionally settled. If, again, I should ask which might be forgotten with least detriment to the concerns of life, reading and writing or these poetic fictions? who does not foresee what all must answer who have not wholly forgotten themselves? I sinned, then, when as a boy I preferred those empty to those more profitable studies, or rather loved the one and hated the other. “One and one, two”; “two and two, four”; this was to me a hateful singsong: “the wooden horse lined with armed men,” and “the burning of Troy,” and “Creusa's shade and sad similitude,” were the choice spectacle of my vanity.

-- Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book 1 (A.D. 397-398), trans. Albert C. Outler
Today is the feast day of Saint Augustine, which is very appropriate for the opening of school. The above is the saint's account of how he loved literature as a youth, especially the story of Dido and Aeneas in the great epic of Vergil.

Owen Wingrave

available at Amazon
Britten, Owen Wingrave, P. Coleman-Wright, J. Watson, R. Leggate, City of London Sinfonia, R. Hickox

(released June 24, 2008)
Chandos CHAN 10473(2)

available at Amazon
DVD


available at Amazon
Cond. Britten
Lorin Maazel will hopefully get around to staging Owen Wingrave at the Châteauville Foundation eventually: it is one of the Britten operas I have yet to see on stage. A recent film version came under review on DVD last year (the only one available on DVD), and the only recording available was the remastered one conducted by Britten himself. That is, until Richard Hickox released this new 2-CD set as the latest in his fine series of Britten operas on the Chandos label. Owen Wingrave was conceived for television broadcast in 1971, and the libretto often reads in a way that presumes the medium of television rather than the stage, which explains at least part of its subsequent neglect.

Myfanwy Piper adapted the libretto from a short story by Henry James, published in 1893. The plot resonated strongly with Britten's own pacifist convictions, as it concerns the son of a military family who decides to break the cycle and not take up a career in the army. The specter of father-son conflict hovers over the family estate, Paramore, in the legend of an ancestor who angrily killed his son because the boy refused to act with violence. That Owen's decision will mean his doom seems clear from the Ballad of Paramore, which the boys' chorus sings to open the second act ("Trumpet blow, trumpet blow, / Paramore shall welcome woe"). In fact, the house itself is haunted by that father and son: in Act I, scene 4, the women in the house sing about Owen's impending arrival, "The very house seems to groan. Surely, when he comes he will listen to the house."

The score is vivid and ethereally beautiful, with percussive harp and string effects and gamelan-like percussion predominant. Chamber-ensemble assortments of winds and solo strings make it more like a subtle watercolor than a grand oil canvas. Much of the detail is hard to pick up via recording, making a live performance in a small theater probably the best place to experience it. The work is often described as a failure, and it is true that, as one of Britten's last operas, many themes seem to recycle bits from previous operas (snatches from Rape of Lucretia, Turn of the Screw stand out to my ears). What this opera lacks is some gripping aria moments, as found in most of the great Britten operas. Even Owen's big monologue in the second act ("Now you may save your scornful looks"), although it has a promising, tingly accompaniment and some dramatic peaks, falls flat. Much of Owen is dry dialogue, in that sort of Britten recitative that is found, in mostly undistinguishable form, in most of his operas.

Other Reviews:

Musical Criticism (Dominic McHugh)

The Guardian (Andrew Clements)
In a podcast interview this summer, conductor Richard Hickox spoke about this recording project. Hickox said he prefers to take long takes when recording, after meticulous rehearsal and, preferably, a concert performance (which he had with Owen Wingrave). While admitting that the opera is "elusive," Hickox says that it "repays repeated hearings." It certainly does in this fine reading by the City of London Sinfonia, the orchestra founded by Hickox, who sound in top form, always responsive to the profound understanding of Hickox, who is likely today's leading Britten conductor. The only flaw, at least in my copy, is a minor tracking error in the last track of the first disc, resulting in several seconds of silence (not consistently the same ones, but generally around 8:20).

Hickox put together a good cast, beginning with the warm baritone of Peter Coleman-Wright as Owen and the rougher one of Alan Opie as Spencer Coyle, the concerned teacher of the military academy. The female voices go deeper, from the imperious Elizabeth Connell as Owen's aunt, to the maternal Janice Watson as Mrs Coyle (the teacher's caring wife), to the shrewish Pamela Helen Stephen as Kate, who dares Owen to the action that leads to his death. The cast, without major stars, excels especially in the ensemble numbers, of which this opera has several fine examples. Ultimately, however, the work's flaws limit this recording's appeal. Hickox says that his next project in the Britten series for Chandos will be Britten's version of The Beggar's Opera (set for February 2009), which will likely reach a wider audience.

107'18"

27.8.08

Ludus Danielis

available at Amazon
Ludus Danielis, Dufay Collective, W. Lyons

(released August 12, 2008)
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907479
One of the great achievements in the genre of liturgical drama is the so-called Ludus Danielis (.PDF file), the Play of Daniel, one of the plays known to have been performed at the Cathedral of Beauvais in the 13th century. The music was notated in a manuscript, Egerton MS 2615, now in the British Museum in London, generally dated to the early 13th century, probably between 1227 and 1234. That is around the time at which the bishop of Beauvais undertook the building of a new, but ultimately ill-fated Gothic cathedral to replace his Romanesque one, which had suffered a series of fires. Plans to give Beauvais the highest Gothic vault in Europe proved disastrous, as repeated collapses of the structure halted the building process shortly after the choir was completed. In any case, performances of the Ludus Danielis probably took place first in the old cathedral, now known as Notre-Dame-de-la-Basse-Œuvre, parts of which are still standing on the site where the new enormous nave was planned.

David Hiley, in his landmark book Western Plainchant: A Handbook, notes the unique qualities of the Ludus Danielis, that it is not made up mostly of recombined pieces of traditional chant, that it is not as repetitive as the Sponsus play or miracle plays, that its text is "rhymed with regular rhythm, set in music of admirable directness. Whereas much of the Tours and Fleury music moves at the leisurely pace of traditional chant, Daniel often slips into syllabic, patterned phrases (p. 271)." The work's appeal lies in its eclectic mix of styles:
No other work of the period moves with such directness and energy. Even in its time it must have seemed extravagant, not least musically. Little of the liturgical spirit informs it, although it ends with Te Deum. It stands at the opposite end of the scale from the Peregrinus ceremonies, with their copious use of biblical and liturgical material. It seems to have had no successors, and indeed, the composition of new dramatic liturgical ceremonies of any kind fell off rapidly after the thirteenth century (p. 273).
The work has been recorded with incredible frequency, by the Harp Consort, the Clemencic Consort, Schola Hungarica, Ensemble Venance Fortunat, Hortus Musicus, and several others. This new recording by the Dufay Collective reflects the oh-so-quirky style of that early music ensemble, which has really created a modern adaptation of the work rather than a historically minded recreation. In Egerton 2615, the music is notated monophonically and for voice alone (see this image of the play's first folio in the manuscript), meaning that the accompaniment of drones and other instrumental parts is the invention of the Dufay Collective. (Their director, William Lyons, has stated that those parts were created "during rehearsal, and the element of improvisation was constant.") While these parts are fanciful in many details, there is textual justification: in the Latin text, the singers refer to the sounds of strings, drums, harps in polyphony joining with the voices.

How to transcribe the vocal parts rhythmically is, as always, fraught with interpretative difficulties, especially in the rhymed passages like "Astra tenenti." Lyons writes in his liner notes that "the transcription of the music allowed both rhythmic and free interpretations but the basic rule established was that all choruses were rhythmic, and all solos unmeasured. This allowed for dramatic declamation in the solo sections, and for a strong processional impetus to the conductus." There is no real evidence to support it, but the sound of the grouop's exultant voices, propelled by strong rhythm, is compelling, as are the occasional vocal harmonies they add to the texture.


Dufay Collective
The singers appear to leave out or elide over some of the notes in the manuscript, as if it were the basis for a quasi-improvisatory performance. Another strange quality of this recording is that the pronunciation appears to be an attempt to make the Latin closer to French, leaving out most final consonants and using French vowels. As parts of the play are macaronic, mixing Latin with Old French, giving the Beauvais play a broad, nonclerical appeal, this makes some sense. The group uses some strange, rather modern instrumental effects to underscore the more mystical moments of the story, such as playing behind the bridge on the strings for the mystical hand "writing on the wall" and clashing dissonance in the instrumental improvisation describing Daniel's private worship of God in his house, which leads to his downfall. To introduce a moment in the second half of play, when the false counsellors are themselves thrown to the lions, the instruments play an (unintentional?) quoptation of the first part of the Dies Irae sequence (this piece is actually one of the rare quotations of pre-existing chant in the play, the responsory Merito hec patimur).

The feast of St. Daniel was celebrated on July 21 in the Catholic calendar, but the play was most certainly associated with the so-called Feast of Fools, a time at the end of the calendar year when the subdeacons and young people took over many cathedrals (from December 30 to January 1 -- references in the play to Christmas, in the conductus for Daniel of the Darius half, for example, confirm this). The voices used were presumably all male, something that this recording does not follow (not that it has to). The casting of solo parts misses one of the big jokes in the play by having soprano Vivien Ellis sing the role of the queen. That the role was sung by a male voice seems certain, and the comic effect was probably heightened in the faux-solemn conductus that hails her arrival, identifying the cross-dressed actor as "prudens styrpe" (the chaste stem) and "haec virago" (that virago, or large, domineering woman). A similar ironic tone is heard in the conductus for the queen's exit.

The choristers of Southwell Minster, where the recording was made, do an excellent job on the boys' parts, which do capture the likely character of the Beauvais original. At the end of play, which seems to coincide with the arrival of Christmas (or, rather, its octave), the Te Deum is beautifully accompanied by the bells of Southwell Minster. This may not be the version of the Ludus Danielis to own (more listening will be required for me to form an opinion on that matter), but with the above reservations in mind, it is a worthy adaptation.

68'23"

26.8.08

Pancrace Royer by Christophe Rousset

available at Amazon
Pancrace Royer, Premier Livre de Pièces pour clavecin, C. Rousset

(released July 29, 2008)
Ambroisie (Naïve) AM 151

Online scores
Christophe Rousset surely needs no introduction, as conductor or as harpsichordist. Jens has already raved about Rousset's startling recording of Bach's Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann, and Rousset continues to release beautiful discs in a series for Ambroisie. The latest one is more esoteric, the first book of keyboard pieces by Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer (1705-1755), published in 1746. As he so often does, Rousset went out of his way to find a gorgeous and historically appropriate instrument, a Jean-Claude Goujon harpsichord updated (ravalé) by Jacques Joachim Swanen in 1784, borrowed from the collection of the Musée de la Musique. It produces and is recorded in ravishing sound.

Thanks to the online edition by Hermann Hinsch, this is a set of pieces I plan on getting to know on my own little harpsichord. Some of the pieces are easier than others, and the difficult ones sparkle with daring brio under Rousset's hands. He plays the "Tambourin des Matelots" with a ruffian's gusto, using more or less clipped articulation to make differences on repeats and with drone-like evenness to the repeated left-hand chords. The crazy toccata of "Le Vertigo" features a colorful succession of panicky repeated chords and flighty runs, and the tour de force of the final movement, "La Marche des Scythes," is an arrogant, forceful returning theme alternating with a wild extravagance of frenetic arpeggiation. Rousset judiciously applies historically informed performance ideas, like double-dotting in the "Allemande" and notes inégales in "L'Incertaine" (Rousset may have interpreted the indication of "Marqué" as dotted rhythms, since he plays it pretty smoothly otherwise).

"Les Tendres Sentiments" is perhaps a little too schmaltzy, with beat-obscuring rubato stretching out the movement to over seven minutes. By contrast, the playful "Bagatelle" is a high point, with Rousset's giocose treatment of the movement's recurring joke, short notes that displace the downbeat, enhanced by some echo effects by manual switching (he also adds nice rhythmic arpeggiations of the final chords in the "Suite de la Bagatelle"). If anything, Rousset is stingy with ornamentation, although all of Royer's marked embellishments are handled scrupulously. It would be nice to hear more embellishments added, especially in the several rondeau pieces, where the A section is repeated so many times. A good example of what this might have yielded is the little graceful cadenza interpolated by Rousset at the Lent marking in "L'Aimable," just before the final return of A section. The only possible change made by Rousset is the addition of repeats to "La Rémouleuse" (at least they are not indicated in Hinsch's edition). That movement has the only title that might be too obscure for most English readers: the word refers to someone whose business is to sharpen knives and other utensils.

58'46"


Pancrace Royer's Premier Livre de Pièces pour clavecin
(Alessandra Iovino, harpsichord -- see the other movements)

25.8.08

Moon-Lee Piano Duo

The concert on Saturday night in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater was a public event motivated by some very personal concerns. Vivian Kim, the National Chair of the National Association of Professional Asian-American Women, organizes an annual memorial concert in honor of her daughter, Susanna "Susie" Kim, who died of cancer in 2000. This year's concert ended with the conferral of a Lifetime Achievement Award on the headline performers, the Korean-born piano duo of Yong Hi Moon and Dai Uk Lee, as well as several other awards.

The evening began with an introductory program that hovered uneasily between memorial service, with several pop music tributes, and concert. The high point was the fluffy, fluty soubrette voice of soprano Amy K. Kwon, who gave reputable performances of Violetta's Act I scena from La Traviata and "Mein Herr Marquis" from Die Fledermaus. Tenor Daniel Heyk Chae had a heroic but overly shouty tone in his selections, with occasional scratchiness that seemed connected to his frequent exits between numbers, presumably to drink water.


Yong Hi Moon, pianist
After intermission, the Moon-Lee duo presented a varied program of unusual repertoire for two pianos. What follows is an appreciation, rather than a review, of their performance, because of a conflict of interest (Ms. Moon had the misfortune to have me as an undergraduate piano student at Michigan State University 20-some years ago). She and her husband are a well-regarded piano duo, and her practical instruction, while recital partners and I worked on four-hands or two-piano pieces, is among the best memories of my work with her. Moon and Lee's coordinated, finely tooled rendition of the first suite for two pianos (op. 5) was even able to make me love Rachmaninoff. As Ms. Moon explained in her introduction, each of the movements is based on a poem, read to the audience by Mr. Lee. Dedicated to Tchaikovsky, the piece was conceived by Rachmaninoff as "a fantasy for two pianos consisting of a series of musical pictures," although it has since been known simply as a suite rather than by the title he chose originally, "Fantaisie-Tableaux."

The Barcarolle was a languid, gently rocking voyage, with well-timed hand-crossings coordinated by the two players. The second movement ("Night for Love") took its epigraph from Lord Byron as inspiration, depicting a mixture of sighs and the trills of nightingales (the piece would make a nice comparison to Messiaen's birdsong music), rising to a heaving climax. Omitting the third movement ("Les Larmes"), the duo gave an ecstatic, hammered performance of the final movement ("Pâques"), taken at an exceptionally rapid tempo, with the clammering tintinnabulation of ringing church bells echoing the Easter chant "Christ Is Risen." Two final selections were introduced simply as "dance pieces," beginning with a sultry Tango by Stravinsky and concluding with a stately "Grand Waltz" from Eugene Onegin, both arranged for two pianos by Victor Babin.


Martha Argerich and Lilya Zilberstein play Rachmaninoff's Suite
for Two Pianos No. 1, Op. 5 (I. Barcarolle), Lugano, June 11, 2008
(watch the other movements)

24.8.08

Les Journaux: Port of Theodosius I

A few years ago, archeological authorities in Istanbul discovered the ancient port built by Theodosius I in the 4th century, a few hundred meters from the Marmara Sea at Yenikapi. It is still being excavated in the dig begun during the ill-fated construction of the Marmaray, the rail project to connect the European and Asian parts of Turkey by a tunnel under the Bosporus Strait. The latest news is that thirty-two ships have been discovered there and much more is likely to be uncovered, as described in an article by Laure Marchand (La flotte de Théodose Ier refait surface à Istanbul, August 6) in Le Figaro (my translation):

"This is the first time that research has taken place on an area this vast in Istanbul," explains Aksel Tibet, an archeologist and co-author of a report for Unesco on the impact of the Marmaray on historical sites. "We already have good written topographic sources, but the main city, capital of several empires, has always presented a very dense habitat: what we have now is a unique opportunity to verify what we know about the terrain."

In the holds [of the ships], the cargo has confirmed the paths of maritime mercantile routes followed at the time. The wheat was imported from Alexandria, because the Byzantine emperor distributed 100,000 loaves of bread daily to the needy. The ceramics came from Milet [in Anatolia] and from the Iberian peninsula. Oblong or long-end amphoras, to keep dried fish or vinegar... The presence of hundreds of vessels made with all the techniques used along the Mediterranean basin is the proof of prosperous commerce.
How did so many ships end up being preserved near the port like this, with their cargo intact? "A tsunami is one of the hypotheses," says Metin Gökçay, which would explain some of the damage to the remains. There were apparently violent earthquakes in the 6th, 9th, and 11th centuries, and the boats may have been encased rapidly in sand, explaining why the precious cargo was never recovered. Silt from the Lycos River, which dumps into the bay, eventually caused the port to be abandoned in the 12th century. Other discoveries in the area include a section of the Walls of Constantinople, built by Constantine, and a 12th-century church. Researchers have also dug down far enough to discover neolithic graves with skeletons. For now, the continuing excavation has almost completely halted the completion of the Marmaray Project, which is costing the Turkish government big bucks. See some pictures here.

In Brief: Back to School

LinksHere is your regular Sunday selection of links to good things in Blogville and Beyond. There is not much activity out there, it being summer and all, but a few people are still posting.

  • La Cieca tells us that Rufus Wainwright's opera, Prima Donna, will actually not, to my great surprise, receive its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera. Why? Because the libretto is in French, which is somehow a problem for the "American opera" slot of Peter Gelb's American house. [Parterre Box]

  • Meanwhile, Nico Muhly, whose opera is still slated to be premiered at the Met (well, at Lincoln Center), has hit the press jackpot in the coverage of his new album, Mothertongue. Even I reviewed his music for the Post last spring. If he gets this kind of attention in the mainstream press, Nico Muhly must be the promised savior of supposedly dying classical music, right? [Washington Post]

  • From Bart Collins, whose blog is a new read around here, a nice article in the Boston Globe on Laury Gutiérrez and her HIP ensemble, La Donna Musicale, who are dedicated to the rediscovery of women composers in the Baroque period. [The Well-Tempered Blog]

  • Put me down as a fan of the film composer Bernard Herrmann, whose opera Wuthering Heights is one of the great, underappreciated American stage works. (Hopefully, someone at Washington National Opera is reading?) Another new blog read for me, Elaine Fine, adds a layer to my appreciation of Herrmann by pointing out that the composer used a viola d'amore in his score for the 1951 Ida Lupino film On Dangerous Ground. The player, Virginia Majewski, got solo billing in the credits. [Musical Assumptions]

  • Ilan Volkov will be in Washington this winter, conducting a very interesting program with the National Symphony in January, as well as making his Washington National Opera debut in their production of Peter Grimes. Andrew Clements says that when Volkov steps down as chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra next month, British music will lose "by far the most enterprising [programs] of any of the BBC orchestras." [The Guardian]

  • Although she was in Salzburg, a certain Denmark-based blogger has some reports about Daniel Barenboim's collapse at the podium during a Copenhagen concert by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Scary stuff. [Mostly Opera]

23.8.08

Classical Month in Washington (November)

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Classical Month in Washington is a monthly feature. If there are concerts you would like to see included on our schedule, send your suggestions by e-mail (ionarts at gmail dot com). Happy listening!

November 1, 2008 (Sat)
7 pm
Donizetti, Lucrezia Borgia
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 1, 2008 (Sat)
7:30 pm
Post-Classical Ensemble: Voice of Mexico [FREE]
With Georgetown University Chamber Singers
Georgetown University, McNeir Hall

November 1, 2008 (Sat)
7:30 pm
D.C. A Cappella Festival
Georgetown University, Gaston Hall

November 1, 2008 (Sat)
7:30 pm
Puccini, La Bohème
Catholic University School of Music

November 1, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
All-Wagner program (Iván Fischer, conductor)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 1, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
Tony Arnold (soprano) and Jacob Greenberg (piano) [FREE]
Messiaen Centennial Concert
Library of Congress

November 1, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra
Clarice Smith Center

November 1, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
Shaun Tirrell, piano
Washington Conservatory
Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ (Bethesda, Md.)

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
2 pm
Puccini, La Bohème
Catholic University School of Music

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
2 and 4 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
Children's Concert (Iván Fischer, conductor)
Kennedy Center Family Theater

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
Verdi, Requiem Mass
Choral Arts Society of Washington
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
Soheil Nasseri, piano
Mansion at Strathmore

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
Pan American Symphony
Lisner Auditorium

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
4 pm
Midori (violin) and Robert McDonald (piano)
Music by Schumann, Beethoven, Cage, Enescu
WPAS
Music Center at Strathmore

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
4 pm
Janice Fehlauer, piano [FREE]
Phillips Collection

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
5:15 pm
Christopher Jacobson, organ (My Dancing Day) [FREE]
Washington National Cathedral

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
5:30 pm
Guarneri String Quartet
Shriver Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
6:30 pm
NGA Vocal Arts Ensemble [FREE]
17th-century Dutch music
National Gallery of Art

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
7 pm
Keyboard Conversation with Jeffrey Siegel: Basking In Beethoven
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
7:30 pm
Haydn, Armida Abbandonata / Arianna a Naxos
Opera Lafayette
La Maison Française

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
7:30 pm
Kronos Quartet: Alternative Radio
Clarice Smith Center

November 2, 2008 (Sun)
7:30 pm
Brillaner Duo with Amit Peled (cello)
Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (Rockville, Md.)

November 3, 2008 (Mon)
7:30 pm
Friday Morning Music Club Orchestra
With Wayne Weng, piano [FREE]
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

November 4, 2008 (Tue)
12:10 pm
Noontime Cantata: Lobe den Herren (BWV 137) [FREE]
Members of Washington Bach Consort
Church of the Epiphany (1317 G St. NW)

November 5, 2008 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Emerson String Quartet
Shostakovich quartets no. 9-12
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

November 5, 2008 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Donizetti, Lucrezia Borgia
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 6, 2008 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Emerson String Quartet
Shostakovich quartets no. 13-15
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

November 6, 2008 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Post-Classical Ensemble: The Mexican Odyssey
With Georgetown University Chamber Singers
Harman Center for the Arts

November 6, 2008 (Thu)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
With Leonard Slatkin, guest conductor
Music Center at Strathmore

November 7, 2008 (Fri)
1:15 pm
Osiris Molina, clarinet
Friday Music Series [FREE]
Georgetown University, McNeir Hall

November 7, 2008 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Donizetti, Lucrezia Borgia
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 7, 2008 (Fri)
8 pm
Jeremy Denk, piano
Sonatas by Ives (Concord) and Beethoven (Hammerklavier)
Barns at Wolf Trap

November 7, 2008 (Fri)
8 pm
Tetzlaff Quartet [FREE]
Library of Congress

November 8, 2008 (Sat)
7 pm
Bizet, Carmen
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 8, 2008 (Sat)
7:30 pm
Tara-Louise Montour (violin) and Timothy Long (piano)
National Museum of the American Indian

November 8, 2008 (Sat)
7:30 pm
D.C. A Cappella Festival
Georgetown University, Gaston Hall

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
2 pm
Donizetti, Lucrezia Borgia
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
2 pm
GMU Chamber Ensembles [FREE]
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra
Music by Vivaldi, Pärt, Tüür
Clarice Smith Center

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
Left Bank Concert Society
Music by Dallapiccola, Ravel, Moss
Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
BWV 50, 80, 207
Washington Bach Consort
Harman Center for the Arts

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
Diane Walsh, piano [FREE]
Music by Schubert, Ravel, Beethoven
National Academy of Science

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
Georgetown Chamber Music Ensembles
Georgetown University, McNeir Hall

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
Curtis Institute Contemporary Music Festival
Music by Messiaen and Varèse
La Maison Française

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
American Youth Philharmonic
George Mason University Center for the Fine Arts

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
4 pm
ArcoVoce [FREE]
Phillips Collection

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
4 pm
Amadeus Virtuosi, A Sylvan Landscape
With Jessica Swink, soprano
Music by Britten, Ravel, Handel
St. Francis Episcopal Church (Great Falls, Va.)

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
5 pm
Takács Quartet
Corcoran Gallery of Art

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
6 pm
Donizetti, Maria Padilla
Washington Concert Opera
Lisner Auditorium

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
6:30 pm
The Coast Orchestra [FREE]
Silent film, In the Land of the Head Hunters, with live music
National Gallery of Art

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
7 pm
GMU Percussion Ensemble [FREE]
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 9, 2008 (Sun)
7:30 pm
Stephanie Jeong (violin) and Jie Chen (piano)
Korean Concert Society
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

November 10, 2008 (Mon)
7 pm
Bizet, Carmen
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 11, 2008 (Tue)
7:30 pm
Donizetti, Lucrezia Borgia
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 11, 2008 (Tue)
7:30 pm
Emanuele Arciuli, piano
National Museum of the American Indian

November 11, 2008 (Tue)
8 pm
GMU Symphonic Band
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 12, 2008 (Wed)
7 pm
Reading: John Adams on Hallelujah Junction
Politcs and Prose

November 12, 2008 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Bizet, Carmen
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 12, 2008 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Perlman-Schmidt-Bailey Trio
Fortas Chamber Music Series
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

November 12, 2008 (Wed)
7:30 pm
The King's Mistress (French Baroque music)
Les Paladins, with Jérôme Corréas
With Isabelle Poulenard (soprano)
La Maison Française

November 12, 2008 (Wed)
8 pm
Stanley Curtis, trumpet [FREE]
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 13, 2008 (Thu)
7 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
With Jennifer Koh (violin) and Michael Christie (conductor)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 13, 2008 (Thu)
8 pm
Kuss Quartet [FREE]
Library of Congress

November 14, 2008 (Fri)
1:15 pm
Marcolivia Duo
Friday Music Series [FREE]
Georgetown University, McNeir Hall

November 14, 2008 (Fri)
1:30 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
With Jennifer Koh (violin) and Michael Christie (conductor)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 14, 2008 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Bizet, Carmen
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 14, 2008 (Fri)
7:30 pm
New York Festival of Song
With Kate Lindsey (mezzo-soprano) and Joseph Kaiser (tenor)
Vocal Arts Society
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

November 14, 2008 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Levine School: Music of Messiaen
Atlas Performing Arts Center

November 14, 2008 (Fri)
8 pm
Takács Quartet and Muzsikás [FREE]
With Márta Sebestyén
Library of Congress

November 14, 2008 (Fri)
8 pm
Kirov Orchestra (with Valery Gergiev, Alexei Volodin)
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 14, 2008 (Fri)
8 pm
Alienated Artists — Determined Voices
University of Maryland Music Faculty
Music by Amy Beach, Insang Yun, Tchaikovsky
Clarice Smith Center

November 14, 2008 (Fri)
8 pm
Glenn Smith (GMU faculty) and guest Steven Nachmonvich [FREE]
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 15, 2008 (Sat)
11:30 am
Family Look-In: Carmen
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 15, 2008 (Sat)
2 pm
Daria Rabotkina, piano
WPAS
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

November 15, 2008 (Sat)
4 pm
Vadim Repin (violin) and Nikolai Lugansky (piano)
WPAS
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 15, 2008 (Sat)
7 pm
Donizetti, Lucrezia Borgia
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 15, 2008 (Sat)
7:30 pm
Anders Lundegård (saxophone) and Monika Mockovčáková (piano)
The Lyceum (Alexandria, Va.)

November 15, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
With Stefan Jackiw (violin)
Music Center at Strathmore

November 15, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
With Jennifer Koh (violin) and Michael Christie (conductor)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 15, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
Bellini, Norma
With Hasmik Papian and Ruth Ann Swenson
Baltimore Opera

November 15, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
Alexandria Symphony Orchestra
Schlesinger Hall (Alexandria, Va.)

November 16, 2008 (Sun)
2 pm
Bizet, Carmen
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 16, 2008 (Sun)
2 pm
Bach, Mass in B Minor
Washington Chorus
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 16, 2008 (Sun)
4 pm
Verdehr Trio [FREE]
Phillips Collection

November 16, 2008 (Sun)
5 pm
Inscape Chamber Music Project with Abigail Haynes Lennox (soprano)
Music by Ravel, Hindemith, Hallman
Church of the Redeemer (Bethesda, Md.)

November 16, 2008 (Sun)
6:30 pm
Euclid String Quartet [FREE]
Quartets by Ades, Beethoven, and Chernin
National Gallery of Art

November 16, 2008 (Sun)
7 pm
Wind Soloists of New York
Dumbarton Oaks

November 16, 2008 (Sun)
7:30 pm
Washington Youth Foundation: Youth Symphony Orchestra Annual Concert
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

November 16, 2008 (Sun)
7:30 pm
Smithsonian Chamber Music Society
Piano trios by Mendelssohn
Renwick Gallery

November 17, 2008 (Mon)
7:30 pm
Donizetti, Lucrezia Borgia
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 17, 2008 (Mon)
8 pm
Wind Soloists of New York
Dumbarton Oaks

November 18, 2008 (Tue)
12:10 pm
Marie-Claude Montplaisir, piano [FREE]
Church of the Epiphany (1317 G St. NW)

November 18, 2008 (Tue)
7:30 pm
Bizet, Carmen
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 18, 2008 (Tue)
7:30 pm
ARC Ensemble
Pro Musica Hebraica
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

November 18, 2008 (Tue)
7:30 pm
Pierre Hantaï, harpsichord
Music by Bach, Scarlatti
La Maison Française

November 18, 2008 (Tue)
8 pm
Israel Philharmonic
With Gustavo Dudamel, conductor
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 18, 2008 (Tue)
8 pm
Fessenden Ensemble
All-Dvořák program
St. Columba's Episcopal Church

November 18, 2008 (Tue)
8 pm
M3E (Mason Modern Music Ensemble) [FREE]
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 19, 2008 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Bellini, Norma
With Hasmik Papian and Ruth Ann Swenson
Baltimore Opera

November 19, 2008 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Tanya Bannister, piano
With commentary by Rob Kapilow (Chopin, Etudes and Preludes)
Freer Gallery of Art

November 19, 2008 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Bizet, Carmen
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 19, 2008 (Wed)
8 pm
Georgetown University Concert Choir
Georgetown University, Dahlgren Chapel

November 20, 2008 (Thu)
7 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
With Lars Vogt (piano) and Yakov Kreizberg (conductor)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 20, 2008 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Britten, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Maryland Opera Studio
Clarice Smith Center

November 20, 2008 (Thu)
7:30 pm
James Weaver (baritone) and Joanne Kong (piano)
Schubert, Winterreise
Mansion at Strathmore

November 20, 2008 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Washington Musica Viva
Embassy of the Czech Republic

November 20, 2008 (Thu)
8 pm
Georgetown University Wind Ensemble
Georgetown University, Gaston Hall

November 21, 2008 (Fri)
6 pm
Solemn Vespers for Feast of St. Cecilia
Catholic University School of Music
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

November 21, 2008 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Capuçon/Angelich Trio
WPAS
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

November 21, 2008 (Fri)
8 pm
Bellini, Norma
With Hasmik Papian and Ruth Ann Swenson
Baltimore Opera

November 21, 2008 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Rossini, Petite Messe Solenelle
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 21, 2008 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Britten, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Maryland Opera Studio
Clarice Smith Center

November 21, 2008 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Musical Miniatures, with Rachel Franlkin and Airi Yoshioka
Mansion at Strathmore

November 21, 2008 (Fri)
8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
With Lars Vogt (piano) and Yakov Kreizberg (conductor)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 21, 2008 (Fri)
8 pm
Warsaw Philharmonic
With Valentina Lisitsa, piano
Music Center at Strathmore

November 22, 2008 (Sat)
7 pm
Rossini, Petite Messe Solenelle
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

November 22, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
With Lars Vogt (piano) and Yakov Kreizberg (conductor)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 22, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
Music for St. Cecilia (Purcell, Britten, Howells)
Cantate Chamber Singers
St. John's Norwood Paris (Chevy Chase, Md.)

November 22, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
Handel, Israel in Egypt
City Choir of Washington
Schlesinger Hall (Alexandria, Va.)

November 22, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
Fairfax Symphony Orchestra
George Mason University Center for the Fine Arts

November 22, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
National Philharmonic
Orff, Carmina Burana
Music Center at Strathmore

November 23, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
Britten, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Maryland Opera Studio
Clarice Smith Center

November 23, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
Bellini, Norma
With Hasmik Papian and Ruth Ann Swenson
Baltimore Opera

November 23, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
Mendelssohn, Elijah
Master Chorale of Washington
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

November 23, 2008 (Sun)
3 pm
GMU Chamber Ensembles [FREE]
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 23, 2008 (Sun)
4 pm
Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman, piano duo
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 23, 2008 (Sun)
4 pm
Leonid Sushansky (violin) and Paul Shaw (piano) [FREE]
Phillips Collection

November 23, 2008 (Sun)
5:15 pm
Scott Dettra, organ (Bach and Beyond) [FREE]
Washington National Cathedral

November 23, 2008 (Sun)
6:30 pm
The Singers’ Companye [FREE]
Music by American composers
National Gallery of Art

November 23, 2008 (Sun)
7 pm
GMU Saxophone Ensemble [FREE]
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 23, 2008 (Sun)
7:30 pm
University of Maryland Chorale and Chamber Singers
Clarice Smith Center

November 24, 2008 (Mon)
7:30 pm
Britten, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Maryland Opera Studio
Clarice Smith Center

November 25, 2008 (Tue)
12:10 pm
Friends of Fasch, with Tom McCracken (recorder) [FREE]
Church of the Epiphany (1317 G St. NW)

November 29, 2008 (Sat)
8 pm
A Chanticleer Christmas
George Mason University Center for the Arts

November 30, 2008 (Sun)
4 pm
Su Jeon, piano [FREE]
Phillips Collection

November 30, 2008 (Sun)
8 pm
A Chanticleer Christmas
George Mason University Center for the Arts

Salzburg Debut of the Quatuor Ébène

The Quatuor Ébène impressed audiences around the world, not the least since their winning the ARD Competition in 2004. In Washington Pierre Colombet (first violin), Gabriel Le Magadure (second violin), Mathieu Herzog (viola), and Raphaël Merlin (cello) last played in 2006 where they offered repertoire staples (Bartók, Haydn, Ravel) at the Corcoran and examples of their other passion – Jazz – at the Library of Congress. On March 6th, they will embark on their first big North American tour, starting in Boston, criss-crossing the country by hitting Oklahoma, Gainsville, Portland, Seattle, New York’s Carnegie Hall, and – fortunately – Washington DC at the Library of Congress on March 13th. Even for a town spoiled with great chamber music, this recital of Debussy, Fauré, and Ravel should be circled in all music enthusiasts’ calendards.


On August 18th this year, they gave their Salzburg Festival debut at the gorgeous Large Concert Hall of the Mozarteum. Their last concert before a months worth of vacation, it was at first a nervous, then free-wheeling, and on the whole triumphant debut.



--> Full article on www.ClassicalWETA.org

The Quatuor Ébène Between Salzburg and Washington


The Quatuor Ébène impressed audiences around the world, not the least since their winning the ARD Competition in 2004. In Washington Pierre Colombet (first violin), Gabriel Le Magadure (second violin), Mathieu Herzog (viola), and Raphaël Merlin (cello) last played in 2006 where they offered repertoire staples (Bartók, Haydn, Ravel) at the Corcoranand examples of their other passion – Jazz – at the Library of Congress. On March 6th, they will embark on their first big North American tour, starting in Boston, criss-crossing the country by hitting Oklahoma, Gainsville, Portland, Seattle, New York’s Carnegie Hall, and – fortunately – Washington DC at the Library of Congress on March 13th. Even for a town spoiled with great chamber music, this recital of Debussy, Fauré, and Ravel should be circled in all music enthusiasts’ calendars.

Meanwhile, on August 18th this year, they gave their Salzburg Festival debut at the gorgeous Large Concert Hall of the Mozarteum. Their last concert before a months worth of vacation, it was at first a nervous, then free-wheeling, and on the whole triumphant debut.


available at Amazon
J.Haydn, 3 Quartets,
Quatuor Ébène
Mirare



available at Amazon
B.Bartók, Quartets 1 - 3,
Quatuor Ébène
Mirare



available at Amazon
A.Webern, A.Berg, A.Schoenberg, Langsamer Satz, Lyric Suite, SQ4t.#4,
Quatuor Psophos
Zig Zag

That they played a program of those works they are the most familiar with did not that they were playing it safe. The opening Debussy showed the ambient acoustic of the hall, blending the strings’ sound nicely – and, though on first impression only – perhaps even a little too much. In the French quartet’s hands the 1893 op.10 in g-minor was a modern, torn affair, played with the greatest urgency and vehemence. The pizzicato-happyAssez vif et bein rythmé cannot fail to thrill in any case, but the playful and nuance-rich way of the Ébène showed their great familiarity and equally great joy of performing the Debussy. The gentleness and rich glow of the Andantino was milked for dreamy loveliness and the Très modéréfinale equal parts delirium and exuberance, but somehow the inner tension had slacked and the music lost a bit of its compelling cohesion.

The searching first movement Lento of Bartók’s First String Quartet op.7 (1908, Szöllözy 40) doesn’t make it particularly easy to find one’s way into, but the ardor especially of the lower strings had the interested, if lamentably sparse audience engaged from beginning to end – when the quartet has reached the riveting Allegro vivace by way of (Allegro) Introduzione. From the very audibly cosseted Beethoven reminiscences right through the middle movement to the finale where Bartók’s freewheeling sprit and the “Peacock” folk-tune fly about and around our ears: This was an assault on all the senses in the most invigorating, stimulating way. If a quartet can’t let it rip during Bartók, then when?

During intermission a few people fled from Anton Webern’s name staring at them from the program. This might have been more understandable – though still lamentable – had the Quatuor Ébène programmed his String Quartet op.28 or Six Bagatelles op.9 which are admittedly ‘difficult’ listening. But on the menu was Webern’s Langsamer Satz (Slow Movement for String Quartet). The filigreed, high-romantic chromaticism is one of the most searing pieces of music ‘per square inch’ there is. It’s Tristan & Isolde condensed into 9 minutes. Magnificent the Ébène’s lush reading: a better case for Webern could scarcely have been made. Easily the highlight of this excellent recital, this was one of those examples where words fail and only music can continue to speak. The atmosphere of a whole hall collectively holding its breath during the most exquisite pianissimopassages alone elevated the recital to one of those rarest of moments that can instill, further, or restore one’s faith in music. Quiet ecstasy!

Back to earth for Ravel: a more gritty type of fun and joy – and the official twin of the Debussy Quartet. Not the elation of Webern or the exhaustive bursts of energy of the Bartók, but just the thing to deliver a kick and quicken one’s step on the way from the Mozarteum out into the awaiting Salzburg night. The first two movements were a display of the most nimble delicacy and wit, putting smiles on faces all around. The third movement was surprisingly dark and hovering, though lacking a little tension again. No matter: the Vif et agité finale ripped forth from their instruments like a bat out of hell. Instrument abuse in the service of music. This was music as entertainment – which is precisely what music is and what it should be. Three unconventional encores – Chick Corea’s “Spain”, Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue”, and a Piazzola-esque rendition of the Pulp Fiction soundtrack underlined the aspect of brilliant entertainment.



Anton Webern, Langsamer Satz (excerpt), Quatuor Psophos, Zig Zag Territoires




Early October the Quatuor Ébène will issue their first recording on their new label, Virgin, with Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel.