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31.5.13

John Adams Back with the NSO

available at Amazon
J. Adams, City Noir (inter alia), Los Angeles Philharmonic, G. Dudamel
(2009)
John Adams is coming to the end of his latest visit to Washington: after a four-day residency at the Library of Congress, he is taking the podium of the National Symphony Orchestra this week. As with previous guest stints in the area, with the NSO in 2010 and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2007, he paired one of his own pieces with music by other composers. The results fell out in similar ways last night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, with the expertise of the composer conducting his own work being of interest but his limitations as a conductor leaving a mixed impression.

The highlight was the chance to hear Adams conduct his relatively new piece, City Noir, composed for and premiered by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009 and performed here by the NSO for the first time. Adams conducted the piece last summer at the Proms, and he tried to wring every ounce of energy he could from it here. Taking the microphone, he described the work as an homage to Hollywood and film noir scores, but where film composers have to write compactly, to create an entire atmosphere in a brief time, Adams luxuriates in each texture, seeming to do less with more, as it were, much of it forgettable. One could imagine stock movie scenes corresponding to each section: the big sweep of the opening for the opening credits; a jazz section with hot saxophone solo, drums, and pizzicato bass setting the tone; a tender theme for violins con sordini for the entrance of the heroine; a murder in the dark of night in the second movement, against a backdrop of sirens and wailing horns; a California cool trumpet solo and the chug-chug-chugging of a locomotive in the third movement. With such a large orchestra, it seemed like the score should have had greater variation of color, but there was a busy sameness to it -- for all the percussion crammed at the back (20 tuned gongs!), one noticed it almost not at all.


Other Reviews:

Anne Midgette, John Adams roots himself in tradition, but on his own terms (Washington Post, May 31)
Although it ended with Los Angeles, the concert opened with Rome, in a suave performance of Ottorino Respighi's Fontane di Roma. Four of the city's most famous fountains were evoked, from the placid, rolling, slightly lazy sound of the Valle Giulia, with its lush strings, to the crashing swell of the Triton, the celesta twinkles of the Trevi, and the tolling bell in the distance behind the Villa Medici as the sun sets. Respighi used his large orchestra more brilliantly than Adams did, and there are many effects in there that were stolen by later Hollywood composers. In between was Ravel's bluesy, saccharine G major piano concerto, with Jeremy Denk as soloist (last heard, inevitably, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet). The concerto was probably the work most at risk of causing trouble for a sub-standard conductor, and there were a few slipshod moments. Mostly the piece lacked an edge, a distinctive vision, other than what Denk and the musicians worked out together. The tender second movement seems easy on the surface but is difficult to pull off -- is it emotions on the sleeve or something enigmatic like Satie's Gnossiennes? Whatever it might have been, this performance left me bored, even the "dizzy fingers" stuff in the third movement, given plenty of improvisatory spin by Denk.

This concert repeats tonight and tomorrow night (May 31 and June 1), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

30.5.13

Briefly Noted: Egarr's English Suites

available at Amazon
J. S. Bach, English Suites,
R. Egarr (harpsichord)

(released on February 12, 2013)
HMU 907591.92 | 141'23"
We always want to hear Richard Egarr play, and the recordings in his ongoing series of the works of J. S. Bach are guaranteed to find their way to my ears. In the latest installment, the six English suites, Egarr uses the same Joel Katzman harpsichord (Amsterdam, 1991, after a 1638 Ruckers instrument built in Antwerp), to beautiful effect. Here he has declined, however, to use Bradley Lehman's unequal temperament, derived from the squiggle on the front page of the manuscript of The Well-Tempered Clavier, preferring instead his own temperament, "based on 18th-century models" (A=409). Egarr approaches these pieces with a much less academic touch than the more abstract Goldberg Variations and Well-Tempered Clavier, perhaps because as he states in his liner notes, those pieces invite a more "analytical approach," the English suites "seem to delight in purely keyboard pleasure and imagination that is often absent from the later works." Egarr gives the pieces plenty of sparkle, with some lithe tempos, not dizzying, little that drags, and particularly effusive and decorative ornamentation.

Unfortunately, in his notes Egarr also drags himself into numerological analysis, which is the downfall of many analysts of Bach's music -- e.g., the "opening theme of 3 notes (with a noticeable descending 3rd) has 7 entries, followed by a long sequence based on seventh-chord harmonies, with the first musical paragraph ending in bar 33." I have a feeling that one could find any numbers one wanted in any music, and the temptation to read significance into such things is particularly strong with Bach, whose music is often so abstract but so appealing that one craves some hidden explanation as to what it might mean. Take what you will from Egarr's description of the cycle of suites as a journey from lightness into "deformities and feelings of distraction which infect the music," so that in the final movement "diabolic trills infest the helpless long notes around which incessantly restless demons dance." For Egarr, it adds up to "a musical journey to a most fearful place," with the order of the key centers -- Egarr wisely keeps the suites in Bach's intended order (A,a, g, F, e, d) -- spelling out the beginning of the chorale tune Jesu, meine Freude, pointing the way toward redemption. I don't know about all that, but you can put this set on the shelf with the best recordings for harpsichord (Christophe Rousset, Gustav Leonhardt) and updated to the piano (Angela Hewitt, Piotr Anderszewski, Glenn Gould, Murray Perahia, András Schiff).


available at Amazon
Goldbergs
(2006)
[READ REVIEW]
available at Amazon
WTC 1
(2007)
[READ REVIEW]
available at Amazon
WTC 2
(2010)

29.5.13

Bezuidenhout's Mozart Continues

available at Amazon
Mozart, Keyboard Music, Vol. 4, K. Bezuidenhout (fortepiano)

(released on January 8, 2013)
HMU 907528 | 71'29"
Kristian Bezuidenhout, in an excellent traversal of the keyboard works of Mozart, continues to furnish jewel-like renditions of pieces you thought you knew but hear in different ways now, as well as others you did not really know and now wonder why not. We have admired the earlier volumes of this series, as well as live performanes by the South African-born fortepianist -- at Dumbarton Oaks in 2008, and the Dresden Music Festival last spring. He generally plays on historical instruments, or modern ones made in imitation of them, appropriate to the music he plays, like the 1837 Erard with which he accompanied Mark Padmore in Schumann's Dichterliebe. For Mozart, Bezuidenhout chose a fortepiano built by Paul McNulty in 2009, modeled on an instrument built by Anton Walther & Sohn, in Vienna in 1805, loaned to him by Aleander Skeaping and tuned in an unequal temperament at A=430. Informative program notes by John Irving, Professor of Music History and Performance Practice at the University of Bristol, note an eyewitness account of what was likely Mozart's first encounter with a fortepiano, when he performed during a visit to Munich in 1774-75 on a concert with Ignaz von Beecke. The young man lacked "a command of subtle gradations of volume and balance that could be achieved on this touch-sensitive instrument." Irving also notes that in keyboard pieces from around the time of that visit and after, Mozart's manuscripts bear the dynamic markings and other nuances indicating the composer working out the possibilities of the new instrument.

available at Amazon
Vol. 1
available at Amazon
Vol. 2

[READ REVIEW]
available at Amazon
Vol. 3
This program is centered on two sonatas (K. 311 and 283) and a decorative but meaty set of variations (K. 354) on Je suis Lindor, a tune from Antoine-Laurent Baudron's Le Barbier de Séville Mozart heard on his visit to Paris in 1778. Two smaller pieces join them together, a rather high-minded Prelude and Fugue in C major (K. 394) and two versions of the D minor fantasia, K. 397 -- one ending on a V7 chord, as Mozart had it printed, used as an improvisatory intonatio to the D major sonata (K. 311), and the other with the final bars tacked on to the work by August Eberhard Müller. Bezuidenhout makes an expressive case for some of the things that Mozart may have had in mind in these pieces: raucous fortes contrasted with wan, almost whispered pianos; the use of the sustaining pedal to create clouds of sound; tangy chromatic grace-note accents and many other improvised ornaments. Even if you cannot imagine listening to Mozart on anything other than a modern piano, you should have a listen.

28.5.13

'Show Boat', Now That It's Over

It is no secret that Francesca Zambello's decision to include Washington National Opera in her experiments with the American musical, by bringing her production of Show Boat here, struck me as a mistake. Some people think that musicals will somehow usher in a revitalizing audience boom for opera houses: Anne Midgette and Tim Smith both wrote highly about Zambello's production, praising the venture into musical theater. Nina Totenberg even chimed in on NPR. Others, especially those who write primarily about theater, balked at the racist attitudes of the show and saw the production as not really ground-breaking or theatrically interesting. Many informal reviews and comments that came my way from theater folks who saw the production agreed that the show was a huge spectacle, the dancing was generally excellent, the singing often good but not always, but that in terms of theater it was static and dull.

This gets at the heart of why I think Show Boat was such a waste of WNO's resources. Not out of some high-minded purism over "the sullying of the operatic temple," as Anne put it in her review, although I would not be upset if WNO did not stage Die Fledermaus or Daughter of the Regiment again either. The American musical was not made to be produced by a grand opera company. It is a specialized form of theater that went against the historical tendencies of opera. When Kurt Weill was writing for the American stage, he understood that, consciously seeking to conquer Broadway instead of the Metropolitan Opera. In Washington, there are lots of companies that specialize in musicals and do them much better than WNO has done, but only WNO really has the budget and history to mount grand operas. Why would the company waste part of its precious budget -- according to one estimation, Show Boat was the longest-running production ever mounted by WNO -- on something that was not really intended to be done by a company like it?

Zambello has claimed that she sees Show Boat as the first great American opera, but such a claim ignores much of the early history of actual American opera. Seeking to restore that lost part of music history could well be something that would be worthy of the "National" moniker in the company's name -- rather than making a false claim that Show Boat has something to do with the early history of American opera. We have no idea what the operas of William Henry Fry (1815-1864) sounded like, because they remain unperformed and unrecorded. He is generally recognized as America's first homegrown opera composer, and it would be helpful to know what his operas Leonora, Aurelia the Vestal, and Notre-Dame of Paris (based on the novel by Victor Hugo) are all about. The same goes for operas by George W. Chadwick (1854-1931), Harry Lawrence Freeman (1875-1954), Henry Kimball Hadley (1871-1937), G. F. Bristow (1825-1898), Reginald De Koven (1859-1920), Louis Gruenberg (1884-1964), Frederick Shepherd Converse (1871-1940), Charles Wakefield Cadman (1881-1946), Mary Carr Moore (1873-1957), Walter Damrosch (1862-1950), John Knowles Paine (1839-1906), and even John Laurence Seymour (1893-1986) and Douglas Moore (1893-1969).

The only opera from this part of music history I have actually heard and written about is Howard Hanson's Merry Mount, from 1934, because pretty much everything else has been swept under the rug of history -- and so many of the operas by that list of composers look interesting, and most would not be any more stylistically challenging for audiences than Show Boat. We could perhaps argue about the first great American opera, when we have some early American operas on which to base our judgment.

SVILUPPO:
Today from Peter Mark, At the National, a new song in the air (Washington Post, May 29):

If there’s a stairway to musical-theater heaven, it will be winding through Washington next season.

With the announcement Tuesday of a bold new four-show Broadway subscription series at the soon-to-be spruced-up National Theatre, the number of announced musicals for 2013-14 at nine theaters around the Washington area stands at a whopping 27.

And counting.
The National Theater, by the way, is where Show Boat had its local premiere, in 1927.

27.5.13

Collard with the BSO



Charles T. Downey, Guest BSO conductor Carlos Kalmar provides expert leadership
Washington Post, May 27, 2013

available at Amazon
Saint-Saëns, Piano Concertos, J.-P. Collard, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, A. Previn
In the battle of the area’s major orchestras, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra often outplays the National Symphony Orchestra, section for section. In the past few years, however, the BSO’s programming and leadership at the podium have sometimes been disappointing. When given a strong conductor and some meaty music to play, as it had on Saturday night in the Music Center at Strathmore, the orchestra can be a wondrous thing to hear, especially since both its regular venues have superior acoustics.
[Continue reading]
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
With Carlos Kalmar (conductor) and Jean-Philippe Collard (piano)
Music Center at Strathmore

SEE ALSO:
Tim Smith, Carlos Kalmar makes welcome return to BSO podium (Baltimore Sun, May 24)

Andrew Lindemann Malone, Saint-Saëns Sings: Jean-Philippe Collard and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Music Center at Strathmore (DMV Classical, May 25)

Frédéric Trudel, Know your strengths and weaknesses -- Interview with Jean-Philippe Collard (La Scena Musicale, May 10, 2004)

26.5.13

In Brief: Rite of What Edition

Here is your regular Sunday selection of links to online audio, online video, and other good things in Blogville and Beyond. (After clicking to an audio or video stream, press the "Play" button to start the broadcast.) Now you know what to do with your day off tomorrow.


  • Philippe Herreweghe conducts four Bach cantatas (BWV 73, 44, 48, and 109) plus the motet Komm, Jesu, komm (Johann Schelle, 1684) with his ensemble Collegium Vocale Gent and a group of soloists led by soprano Dorothee Mields, recorded last January in Bruges. [France Musique]

  • Watch the classic choreography of Minkus's La Bayadère, by Marius Petipa and updated by Yuri Grigorovich, from the Bolshoi Ballet. [Medici.tv]

  • From the Internationale Barocktage Stift Melk, the Hilliard Ensemble performs responsories by Carlo Gesualdo. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • Marc Minkowski conducts the Vienna Philharmonic at the Wiener Festwochen, in Beethoven's third symphony, Haydn's "La Reine" symphony, and Gluck's ballet music for Don Juan. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • Omer Meir Wellber conducts the Arnold Schoenberg Chor and Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien in Verdi's Il Trovatore, starring Artur Rucinski (Count di Luna), Carmen Giannattasio (Leonora), Mara Mastalir (Inez), and Marina Prudenskaya (Azucena). [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • A performance of Gustav Albert Lortzing's comic opera Der Wildschütz at the Volksoper Wien, conducted by Alfred Eschwé, starring Daniel Ochoa (Graf von Eberbach), Alexandra Kloose (Die Gräfin), Mirko Roschkowski (Baron Kronthal), and others. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • To commemorate the passing of French composer Henri Dutilleux, here is his string quartet Ainsi la nuit on a concert performed by the Quatuor Arcanto at the Théâtre du Châtelet in 2010, plus four mélodies from 1942, performed by baritone Marc Calahen and pianist Fériel Kadour, recorded in 2009. [France Musique]

  • Radio France also put together a mini-retrospective of Dutilleux's music, including Citations (1985-1990), Timbres espaces Mouvement (1976-1978), Métaboles (1962-1964), The Shadows of Time (1995–1997), Correspondances (2003), and Le Temps L’Horloge (2007-2009). [France Musique]

  • Plus this survey of Dutilleux's symphonic music: the first symphony (1951), Deux sonnets de Jean Cassou (orchestral version and piano version with the composer at the piano, 1954), and the second symphony (1957), in historical recordings. [France Musique]

  • Thomas Larcher conducts the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic in songs by Ravel, Takemitsu, Stravinsky, Larcher, and others, with soprano Christina Landhamer, recorded at the Musik im Riesen festival earlier this month. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • Valery Gergiev leads the chorus and orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater at the Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele with bass Mikhail Petrenko and violinist Vadim Repin, in music by Gubaidulina (Offertorium) and Shostakovich (Symphony No. 13). [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • From the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Jérémie Rhorer leads his ensemble Le Cercle de l’Harmonie in Mozart's "Jupiter" symphony and the Requiem Mass with soloists including soprano Miah Persson. [France Musique]

  • Christoph Hammer leads the Concerto Stella Matutina in E in Arcadia sum, a 'pasticcio of concertos and cantatas by Giuseppe Valentini, Alessandro Scarlatti, Giuseppe Torelli, Francesco Gasparini, and Handel, with soprano Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli at the Internationale Barocktage Stift Melk last week. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • Listen to Riccardo Chailly lead the Berlin Philharmonic last January, with Mendelssohn's "Italian" symphony and Bruckner's sixth, at the Philharmonie. [France Musique]

  • From last month, Ivor Bolton leads the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, with violinist Gidon Kremer and flutist Maria Fedotova, in a concert of music by Mozart, Haydn, Sofia Gubaidulina, and others at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. [France Musique]

  • John Wilson leads the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in a concert in Glasgow last March, with William Walton's Portsmouth Point overture, Gerald Finzi's cello concerto (with Paul Watkins as soloist), Holst's ballet music The Perfect Fool, and Arnold Bax's The Garden of Fand. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • Herbert Blomstedt led the Czech Philharmonic last December in Prague, with pianist Yulianna Avdeeva in Mozart's 17th piano concerto, plus Dvořák's seventh symphony. [France Musique]

  • From the Collégiale St-Marc-la-Lande, a program of Italian cantatas and sonatas from the 17th century (Frescobaldi, Barbara Strozzi, and others), performed by countertenor Damien Guillon, cellist Ageet Zweistra, theorbist Eric Bellocq, and harpsichordist Kevin Manent. [France Musique]

  • From the Internationalen Barocktage Stift Melk earlier this month, chamber music of the 17th century performed by violinist Veronika Skuplik, lutenist Evangelina Mascardi, and harpist Lincoln Almada. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • Nikolaj Znaider conducts the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in music of Martinsson, Bruch, and Tchaikovsky, with violinist Vilde Frang as soloist. [GSO-Play]

  • Contemporary Egyptian composers were featured at the Festival Présences last January in Aix-en-Provence, including this concert by the Egyptian Contemporary Music Ensemble and friends in the Grand Théâtre de Provence. [France Musique]

  • A concert from last summer's Salzburg Festival by violinist Joshua Bell, violist Lawrence Power, cellist Steven Isserlis, and pianist Dénes Várjon, with music by Josef Suk, Dvořák, and Martinů. [France Musique]

  • Listen to Igor Levit's recital at the Wigmore Hall last February, including Prokofiev's seventh piano sonata. [France Musique]

  • From the Pesaro Festival, a performance of Rossini's Armida conducted by Daniele Gatti in 1993. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • The Artemis Quartet playing music of Beethoven and Schubert, recorded at the Wiener Konzerthaus in 2008. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

25.5.13

John Adams Residency, Day 3

available at Amazon
Adams, Son of Chamber Symphony, ICE, J. Adams
(2011)
[REVIEW]
John Adams has not done himself any favors during his residency this week at the Library of Congress. In his programming of the first three concerts, he has put his own music up against the titans of the 20th century: Béla Bartók and Leoš Janáček for Road Movies, and last night it was Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg sandwiching his Son of Chamber Symphony. On one hand, as Adams himself acknowledged, only a fool would give himself that kind of competition, but on the other hand setting a high bar made the overall result of these concerts that much better.

Adams has been particularly blessed in his choice of performers, especially Jennifer Koh and last night's featured group, the International Contemporary Ensemble. Adams did the honors at the podium, but frankly these expert musicians could likely have done just as well in this repertoire without a conductor. They turned in thrilling accounts of two gigantic masterpieces of the modern period, beginning with Stravinsky's Grande Suite, the music for L'Histoire du Soldat. It is in many ways the preferable way to listen to this work, without the possibly silly story of the devil and the soldier, as in the last performance of the work under review. Certainly, this was a superior performance musically, too, with the fine violinist Jennifer Curtis taming the demanding solo part in the "Trois Danses" movement, the mesmerizing pairing of clarinet and bassoon in the "Pastorale," and a careful attention to balance and the scope of the room's acoustic throughout. The acerbic triumph of the march movements was rendered with plenty of clatter, right down to the chilling all-percussion conclusion.

Schoenberg's first Kammersymphonie (op. 9), which featured on the notorious Skandalkonzert on March 31, 1913, in Vienna, was the other giant in the room. It is hard to imagine this often urbane, even harmonically lush work causing protests or a brawl -- Alban Berg's Altenberg-Lieder were apparently the straw that broke the camel's back -- because now one admires it principally for its range of textures, harmony, tempo, and character and for the symphonic scope that Schoenberg achieved with just fifteen solo instruments and no percussion. Its principal theme -- a series of rising fourths that often resolve into (gasp!) a major chord -- these days always sounds like perhaps the most famous appropriation of quartal writing, the theme for the television series Star Trek by Alexander Courage.

My estimation of the Adams work featured here, Son of Chamber Symphony, has not changed much since I reviewed the recording made by John Adams and the ICE a few years ago. My reservations were brought into relief here by the juxtaposition with the Schoenberg, which Adams acknowledged was the inspiration for his two chamber symphonies. The Adams is a virtuosic tour de force, which the ICE nails firmly on the head in an often brain-spinning way, but it achieves much less in terms of color and variation. Lots of noodling around, lots of accents that shift the sense of meter (Stravinsky's influence is more important there), and a seemingly breathless continuity in the outer movements. It is thrilling to hear in a performance this good, but like a meringue it ends up leaving one with little substance or nourishment.


Other Reviews:

Anne Midgette, Composer John Adams leads an evening of music for the mind, if not the heart (Washington Post, May 27)
Even less impressive was the new work, La forma dello spazio by Canadian composer Zosha di Castri (b. 1985), a trifle of less than ten minutes that played around with the performance space, I guess, by having the clarinetist and flutist placed at the back of the auditorium. Clusters of various kinds arose at the front and were taken up behind the listener, with some instrumental effects (plucked piano, a credit card used on the cello's strings, air blown through the flute tonelessly, a rattle of some kind attached to the pianist's ankle) layered on top of them. Some hair-raising microtonal sounds and glissandi were mildly interesting, and there was an early entrance by the violinist (corrected by Adams, although it didn't really make any difference), but in the one end one wondered exactly what Adams heard in the piece to champion it in this way.

Dip Your Ears, No. 139 (Mozart's Many Requiems)


available at Amazon
W.A.Mozart, Requiem
S.Cleopbury / The Choir of the King’s College
KGS 002

The Choir of the King’s College has been taken into the publishing-boat of the LSO Live recording specialists who are already producing the eponymous LSO Live label and that of the Mariinsky Orchestra. Their first shot was a double CD of “Nine Lessons & Carols” which featured several new commissions, a small Rautavaara world premiere, and a John Rutter piece to run away from. It is a statement to their tradition and of chiefly local and niche interest.

This, second release is a different matter. Not the recording of the Mozart Requiem in its Süssmayr edition itself. That’s been done before and—though this performance certainly can hold its own—in a variety of more exciting versions and with finer soloists. It’s the seeming bonus material that becomes the exciting main ingredient: a collection of various non-Süssmayr realizations appended,

If you just listen to the music in the background, you might miss the end of the Requiem proper and listen right on to the excerpts. Unperturbed by the Fugue on “Amen” that C.R.F. Maunder tacked on to the Lacrimosa in his version. Robert Levin’s Sanctus—with Franz Beyer’s Fugue, might also sail by without creating the necessary ripples of disparity because it confirms just close enough to our Süssmayr-shaped expectations. But Duncan Druce Benedictus should give the game away, with some wholesale re-composed parts that are not within the liberal margin of error our ears accept when they are on auto-pilot. Or finally in Michael Finnissy’s Lacrimosa, which sounds—if you are not expecting it—as though something has gone horribly wrong. (It also strikes me as the only incident on disc where the performance standards are not impeccable… something the chromatically more challenging elements, toying with ambiguity, expose at once.)

There are more completions to Mozart’s Requiem than this disc features with its five excerpts, and I would have been plenty intrigued if a disc had been dedicated just to comparing and contrasting different approaches to the same problems. The second disc of this release is instead dedicated to Cliff Eisen’s essay—and audio documentary—that goes through the Mozart Requiem like a puzzle-piece, identifying the music on which it was based, which inspired Mozart, or with which it has coincidental—but always striking—parallels… all of which are illustrated with musical examples. It turns out to be a fascinating journey of how Mozart put this puzzle together from seemingly all pre-existing pieces, and came up with something genial, completely original. A minor blip, easily overcome after a second listening, is the narration by Elin Manahan Thomas (also the soprano of the musical performance), who reads the essay chipper like a dim beagle (in Creature Comfort terms), happily mispronouncing her way through every German title she comes across.


For more (and pithier) CD reviews get ye a copy of the current Listen Magazine.

24.5.13

John Adams Residency, Day 2

available at Amazon
E.-P. Salonen, Lachen verlernt (inter alia), J. Koh
(2009)

available at Amazon
Adams, Road Movies (inter alia), J. Koh, R. Uchida
(2010)
Half of the concerts in the Library of Congress's residency with composer John Adams are in the Coolidge Auditorium, with the other half at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, including last night's recital by violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Reiko Uchida. The only apparent benefit gained by doing this is that one does not have to go through a security check at the Atlas, a tradeoff probably not worth the loss in acoustics. The audience being mostly the same as the one that shows up at the Library of Congress, it seems unlikely that anyone who would go hear Jennifer Koh at the Atlas would not, for whatever reason, go to hear her at the Library of Congress, where it is both easier to park and closer to a Metro stop. Not that I mind one way or the other, since both venues are about the same distance from me, but it does seem like the Atlas venture is mostly about adopting some kind of hip appeal.

Adams explained the concept of this program as centered on "what's ethnic about a work of art," combining music that had some "connection with the demotic, with the daily culture" of a place. That included a diptych of two central European composers both known for their absorption of folk music and the rhythms of their languages. Koh gave Janáček's violin sonata a compelling sense of narrative, a speech-like fluidity, with a beautifully limpid tone on the violin, especially velvety and soft in the striking second movement ("Ballada"). At the keyboard Uchida was also best here, creating a misty veil of sound with the rolled piano chords, although there was some stickiness in her octaves in the first movement. The third movement had a folk-like heartiness, with Koh drawing out a raucous tone through the mute in the B section. Bartók's 1944 sonata for solo violin, on the second half, was the highlight of this excellent program, strikingly different in its folk sublimation from the Janáček. Each phrase and idea was so clearly etched, all the more remarkable because Koh played without a score, making some vicious sounds but also playing with many colors and exceptional suavity. The fuga, with all of its demanding double stops, was so clear and clean in the overlaying of contrapuntal voices, with almost faultless intonation. The last two movements featured a symphonic conception of sound, with solo sections answered by fuller textures as in a sort of concerto, and the nocturnal serenade section marked by ghostly echos in harmonics. A tour de force performance all around.

Where Koh and Uchida sounded best together was in the oldest piece on the program, Schubert's A major sonata (D. 574), the almost banal A theme of the first movement treated guilelessly, with Koh's radiant simplicity of tone and Uchida's light, lovely touch serving this tuneful music so well. It is a happy-go-lucky sort of piece, its rollicking scherzo second movement playful more than mischievous and a tender-hearted trio -- unfortunately, the return to the scherzo caught the page-turner by surprise, the first of two such gaffes. Uchida's consummate professionalism kicked in and she recovered expertly in spite of it all. The slow movement had no whiff of tragedy about it, just avian trills and twittering traded between the instruments, while in the finale the piece finally cut loose and danced its way home. The contemporary slot was filled by Esa-Pekka Salonen's Lachen verlernt, a chaconne composed in 2002, which Koh also played at Strathmore last December. As an unaccompanied piece it demanded comparison with the Bartók, against which it held its own both formally and in terms of virtuosity, music that is enjoyable both to listen to and to reflect on afterward, again impressing by Koh's pure intonation, even in double stops.


Other Reviews:

Stephen Brookes, At Atlas, Jennifer Koh offers an unforgettable whirlwind of sound (Washington Post, May 25)
Finally it was time for some Adams, represented here by Road Movies, an homage to the delights of driving on the open road in the American West, written for a commission from the Library of Congress's McKim Fund in 1995. The composer described his connection to the "ethnic" in music as represented by blues, country fiddling, and the American music of Stravinsky. Adams once described the thing he disliked most about the serial, academic styles of composition was that "rhythm was atomized," a trend that his infectiously metrical, syncopated music -- and Road Movies is a prime example -- shows as a dead end. The first movement, in spite of that second page-turning mishap, flowed and turned in a mesmerizing way, down to the high flautando violin note that ends it. The second movement, a "desert landscape" as Adams put it, with its many blue notes, was punctuated by the croaking low F of Koh's scordatura tuning -- Adams calls for the G string to be tuned a whole step down. The wild ride of the third movement was breath-suspending in its quickness, prickling on jabs of sound from the keyboard.

Whitsun Salzburg: Stravinsky for Dummies



Instigated by little more than mood and circumstance, I’d taken a little sabbatical from concert-going—abstaining for the first time in about ten years from live musical stimuli for any extended amount of time. What better way to end the self-imposed drought than to hop down to Salzburg for a day, to catch a performance at the Whitsun Festival.

The topic this year was “OPFER/SACRIFICE”, with thematic and linguistic links which had to include the two most famous ‘sacrifices’ in music: Bach’s Musical Offering and of course Le sacre du printemps. It was the latter I went to see—a Stravinsky triple bill of Les noces (“The Wedding”), Sacre, and L'oiseau de feu (“The Firebird”), with Gergiev at the helm of the Mariinsky troupe… both orchestra and ballet.

The kicker for these performances, not unique but rare and attractive enough to make it special, was the as-faithful-as-possible reconstruction of the original Ballets Russes choreographies by Bronislava Nijinska (Noces; sets Natalia Gontcharova), Vaslav Nijinsky (Sacre; sets Nicholas Roerich) and Michel Fokin (L’oiseau; sets and costumes Fokin, Golovin, and Bakst).

What you get in Les noces is a piece that celebrates abstraction, a depiction of the mechanistic age; a set of tableaux, arranged and full of deliberate artifice, symbolism. It’s visibly modern dance, but an early version of it… and the aesthetic will strike as familiar anyone who has seen Soviet propaganda films on the healthy peasant life in the Chernozem belt and early Fritz Lang films. It’s no coincidence that Les noces is only four years younger than Metropolis: they speak the same language. It’s a strange thing to behold, ahead of its time yet very much of its time… and now behind it; a live reel of an old film… an aesthetic that played self-referentially with ironic distance even at the time.

Now it’s twice more removed, viewing with the distance that 2013 provides for something that already played with distancing 90 years ago. The choreography elicited a few boos; perhaps because it was deemed boring or somewhat unattractive… I wouldn’t argue, but the boos strike me as rather odd all the same: A bit like going to a museum and booing the Guercino on exhibition, because it wasn’t what one expected after seeing it on TV with Sister Wendy. What the boos really amounted to was: ‘We didn’t read the program notes’.

Listening to the music, meanwhile, with its choral outbursts and faux-naïve rhythmic structures, you can’t help but wonder during Les noces if DSCH stole from Carl Orff or vice versa. If you know that Les noces was premiered about half a decade before Orff came out with Carmina Burana, you reckon that the latter would get the blame, were you to assume that any impropriety was involved.


available at Amazon
Stravinsky, Debussy, Dukas: Les Ballets Russes v.1
S.Cambreling / SWRSO Baden-Baden & Freiburg
Hänssler

Intermission. Rain outside the Festspielhaus, with people crowding into that four-foot strip of dryness under the awning, smoking and chatting. Almost like Salzburg in the summer, but with more affordable tickets. Now Le sacre, in a recreation of its original guise: The mocking quality in the multiple layers of historicism, the faux-nativist, the naïve, the height of sophistication masquerading as primitive, in part to rile, in part to mock, in part to delight perhaps, and certainly to perplex. The spectacle, which I’ve once heard described as burlap-clad troglodytes, one leg shorter than the other, dragging themselves around in joyless circles, wasn’t so well received at its premiere. (A fact impossible not to mention, unless you do it in some terribly clever, self-referential way). That was a blip, apparently, because a fortnight later it was already a huge critical, popular, and social success. Was this ballet, too, ahead of its time? “Yes. Evidently two weeks ahead of its time” as a friend remarked with quick wit.

The costumes are garish, but at least they’re busy now, simplistic yet elaborate, and with ghastly mustard-colored beards straight out of a Wodehousean farce. Clown make-up and funny hats, ugly in a beautiful way (or maybe the other way ‘round) and only four eagle feathers and two tomahawks away from being incredibly offensive to the more politically correct among us. The main achievement of the evening really wasn’t the choreography or the primitivist dancing of Daria Pavlenko (Chosen One) and colleagues, but what the choreography did to the music.

The wildness on stage untamed the music, made Gergiev’s reading appear raw and wild. It made Le sacre sound more cacophonic than ever and placed it further away from the high octane, well oiled, perfected and groomed machine of an orchestral showpiece it has become in concert halls around the world. That impression didn’t even rely on the actual musical performance being more than simply very creditable.

The Festspielhaus suffered a good deal of audience attrition after the second intermission. Those AWOL missed out on the Firebird, danced with all the grace of a road-runner cartoon. (Alexandra Iosifidi as the boid, Ivan Sitnikov as the silly prince.) This was uncomfortable watching, because unlike the other two ballets, modern at the time and still visibly so, to our eyes and imaginations, the Firebird choreography looks rather like it might mean it. In which case it’s not an ironic wink-wink about ballet tradition, but just a campy, dusty bit of costume-hopping and the very cliché the other two pieces set about to destroy once and for all. Capes and costumes, phosphorous paint on crude skeletons… a sort of A Midsummer Night's Dream scene for the daft. It made me think of the theory that with rising intelligence, something quite clever in 1910/12, made by and for people with, say, an IQ of 110 (the equivalent of college graduates and above), would now be by and for people with an adjusted IQ of 80—elementary school dropouts and below…

Well, at least the Salzburg audience—minus a minority of quickly out-bravoed booers—liked it.


23.5.13

John Adams Residency, Day 1

available at Amazon
Fellow Traveler: Complete String Quartet Works of John Adams, Attacca Quartet

(released on March 26, 2013)
Azica ACD-71280 | 65'

available at Amazon
Beethoven, String Quartets, op. 18/2+3, Quatuor Mosaïques
John Adams is in town for a couple weeks, curating a residency at the Library of Congress this week and then serving as guest conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra next week. The first concert organized by the celebrated American composer at the Library, last night, featured the Attacca Quartet, a young string quartet that has recently recorded everything Adams has written for their combination of instruments. In charmingly self-deprecating comments before a full house, Adams described the program as a "Best Hits" selection from that disc.

These four musicians are suited to the Adams style, playing with a bristling energy, often sharp with jabbed elbows but sometimes short on reserve and subtlety. They began with seven of the nine movements, slightly reordered, from John's Book of Alleged Dances, a gutsy piece from 1994. Some of these pieces are synchronized with prerecorded tracks of music for prepared piano, which makes for an unsettling effect at times, a sort of modernist metronome that steals away the flexibility otherwise available to the performers. That seems to be part of what Adams was after, a tribute to the mechanization of music at the hands of John Cage, the piano's clicks and rattles like a "pygmy gamelan," as the composer once put it. In Alligator escalator the strings drew out scratchy tones near their bridges, with the many syncopated rhythms jarring and dance-like. The hoedown of Dogjam seemed to get a little disjointed from the recording, eventually righting itself, while the high cello passages in Pavane: She's So Fine were precariously sketchy. The compelling rhythm -- the rock anthem of Toot Nipple, and the bluesy roll of Judah to Ocean -- is impossible not to like.

The more classically oriented String Quartet, from 2008, is one of Adams's most skilful accomplishments (see my review of the recording by the St. Lawrence Quartet). The Attaccas gave each of the long first movement's contrasting sections its own zing -- singing melodies, pinging notes over repeating motifs (reminiscent of Adams's piano piece Phrygian Gates), a buzzing scherzo, a floating pianissimo passage, endless drive, glassy and serene slow bits, the delightful conclusion with mutes on, some notes glinting out of the murk. The second movement, a cranked-up wild ride, was right in the group's wheelhouse, and they gave it all the zip they could muster.


Other Reviews:

Robert Battey, Attacca Quartet delivers first concert in John Adams series at Library of Congress (Washington Post, May 24)
While the Adams pieces were top-notch, the other two selections felt much less lived in. Adams was instrumental in organizing a commission for composer Timothy Andres, heard at the Library just last month, from the Dina Koston and Roger Shapiro Fund for New Music. Andres's compact string quartet, called Early to Rise, did not all that much with a theme drawn from Robert Schumann's Gesänge der Frühe, lots of ideas with little for the ear to take hold of and with surprisingly little variation of texture (the slow section essentially just a series of vaguely tonal homophonic chords, for example). I am always glad to hear new music, but if my first hearing of this piece was also my last, I would be neither surprised nor disappointed. In a Beethoven string quartet, op. 18/2, the group had a much stronger score, of which their overly hasty and abrasive interpretation drew forth relatively little. Intonation issues and crazy elisions of the fastest passages abounded, with one bad clunker somewhere in the cello or viola in the third movement, and the second movement, which rests entirely on the cantilena of the first violinist, was just not all that lovely. Not surprisingly, a brash and athletic finale had plenty of spunk but little wry humor, ultimately sounding quite hollow.

The John Adams residency at the Library of Congress continues through Saturday, with performances at the Library and at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, all free.

22.5.13

Briefly Noted: Colin Davis's 'Der Freischütz'

available at Amazon
Weber, Der Freischütz, C. Brewer, S. Matthews, S. O'Neill, L. Woldt, London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, C. Davis

(released on May 14, 2013)
LSO Live LS00726 | 122'43"
One way to celebrate the Richard Wagner bicentenary -- he was born on this day in 1813 -- is to spend the day listening to one of the composers from whom he stole shamelessly. Wagner was only eight years old when Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz was premiered in Berlin, in June 1821, but the work, generally thought of as the first great German Romantic opera, had a powerful influence on the young Wagner. The score is an odd mixture of the spine-shivering (the Wolf's Glen scene, to be sure, but also some gorgeous soprano writing for the role of Agathe) and the oom-pah-pah banal (the waltz scene and, as fun as it is, the lusty hunters' chorus). It happened to be one of the last projects of the late conductor Colin Davis, whose live recording with the London Symphony Orchestra was released last week.

It is a flawed product in many ways, beginning with the omission of the German dialogue, meaning that right off the bat one is not expected to experience it as a dramatic narrative. (On the other hand, those who do not understand German or want to follow a translation can just focus on the music.) Tenor Simon O'Neill is quite fine as Max, although the occasionally nasal sound, tendency to scoop, and accented German makes him seem like a rube, while Lars Woldt has a pleasing dark snarl as the doomed Kaspar. Christine Brewer is strong in the role of Agathe, but with a few edges unburnished, the price of live recording. The same goes for some sketchy moments here and there in the playing of the LSO, meaning that this version is unlikely to unseat the general favorite, the incendiary studio recording made by Carlos Kleiber and the Dresden Staatskapelle in the 1970s (watch Kleiber rehearsing the opera, in a different performance, on YouTube), and now available in re-release at a budget price. Still, as I listened with headphones, the occasional humming and singing of Colin Davis seemed captured on the recording, adding an unclassifiable element of nostalgia to this 2-CD set.

If only Wagner will do today, tune in for the broadcast of the gala concert from the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, conducted by Christian Thielemann, which starts at 4:25 pm EDT. Yesterday, Thielemann led another Wagner gala in Dresden, with tenor Jonas Kaufmann, which at some point will be available for online streaming.

21.5.13

Picturing --- Pictures


Lens time with Mona
The Louvre, one of the greatest collections of art in the world, is one of the most difficult to visit. The museum is the most popular attraction in France, hands down, and many think they have the secret to a stress-less entry. The Pyramid entrance after 2 pm, or the Carousel entrance -- they both have benefits, but Carousel is my preferred passage.

The energy created by the masses of people is intense, worry of pick-pockets included, and this is to view art! Or is it? It is also a phenomenon I've been watching for some time: I call it picturing -- pictures. In any museum with a lenient photography policy -- and often even when not allowed -- museum visitors are snapping away instead of just looking, just being with the art. One of the oddest developments is the iPad shooters. Taking selfies in front of iconic works of art -- now imagine that with an iPad.



I don't have a particular gripe about taking photos in museums. I do it, for my posts here and at press previews. I also don't have a problem with the bucket list mentality of art tourism. The more art viewing, the better. I'm just not sure how much of this I can take. Maybe until someone backs into a priceless work, knocking it to the floor.

It seems I'm not the only one thinking about this either: more thoughts here and here.



Just do it!

Apollo Ensemble's Jewish Baroque

This review, which somehow had disappeared into the Intertube ether, covers a concert heard last week.


Solomon Alexander Hart, The Feast of the Rejoicing of the Law at the Synagogue in Leghorn, Italy, 1850 (The Jewish Museum, New York)
The architecture and decoration of Jewish synagogues was often similar in style to Christian or Islamic structures: Roman-style frescoes in Dura-Europos, the horseshoe arches of the Ibn Shushan Synagogue in Toledo, the Gothic ribbed vault at the Altneuschul in Prague. A parallel situation exists in the history of Jewish liturgical music, a history that is still being pieced together, not least because of the efforts of the Apollo Ensemble from Amsterdam, an early music group that has brought to light many unpublished, forgotten works from the Ets Haim Library in Amsterdam.

Their work has gained enough notoriety that scholar and harpsichordist Ton Koopman stepped in to help with the transcription and arrangement of three pieces heard on May 13, in a concert of Jewish Baroque music presented by Pro Musica Hebraica in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. The program combined music for Jewish liturgical services, as well as chamber music by Jewish composers, paired with music by Christian composers to show the similarity of styles. In most cases, composers whose music is already widely known won the comparison, especially in the case of Handel's G minor trio sonata (op. 2/5), which eclipsed similar pieces by Salomone Rossi and Marco Uccellini. The only complaint to be made was the decision to alternate instrumental and vocal pieces strictly, requiring far too many time-extending set changes.


Other Articles:

Robert Battey, Baroque music of Jewish composers is lively and pretty, but it fails to stand out (Washington Post, May 15)

Emily Cary, The Apollo Ensemble performs Jewish musical gems (Washington Examiner, May 12)
The playing was generally fine, with two nicely matched violins on the many paired treble lines, slightly tremulous cello and perky bassoon on the bass line, and harpsichord and theorbo providing the continuo accompaniment. At full bore it was just slightly too much sound for the delicate, violet-hued soprano of Siri Thornhill, but in the more delicate moments of these scores, there were some exquisite balances supporting a voice that is by no means large but with limpid beauty. Although some of the liturgical pieces were a little dull, Hebrew-text discoveries by Mani, Lidarti, and an anonymous composer were well worth the effort, in particular one of Mani's settings of Le-el nora, a joyous text for the celebration of Simchat Torah, marking the end of the yearly cycle of readings from the Torah, ending with Deuteronomy and beginning again with Genesis (see the depiction in the painting above). Two settings of Kol Haneshama, the text of Psalm 150 with its melismatic "Hallelujah" section and appropriate vocal pyrotechnics, were reminiscent of Catholic settings of the Laudate dominum, like that by Mozart, with their flashy concluding Alleluias.

Pro Musica Hebraica returns in the fall with another season of Jewish music, including a headliner concert by the duo of Evgeny Kissin and Maxim Vengerov (February 24, 2014), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

20.5.13

Classical Month in Washington: July/August

Last month | Next month
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!

July 4, 2013 (Thu)
8 pm
A Capitol Fourth
National Symphony Orchestra
U.S. Capitol, West Lawn

July 6, 2013 (Sat)
4 pm
Castleton Chamber Players
Music of Mahler
Castleton Festival

July 6, 2013 (Sat)
7 pm
Puccini, La Fanciulla del West
With Lorin Maazel, conductor
Castleton Festival

July 7, 2013 (Sun)
2 pm
Castleton Festival Orchestra
Music of Mahler, Mendelssohn
Castleton Festival

July 11, 2013 (Thu)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Music by Baroque composers
Music Center at Strathmore

July 12, 2013 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Music by Baroque composers
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

July 12, 2013 (Fri)
8 pm
Puccini, La Fanciulla del West
With Lorin Maazel, conductor
Castleton Festival

July 12, 2013 (Fri)
8:15 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
Orff, Carmina Burana
With Emil de Cou, conductor
Filene Center, Wolf Trap

July 13, 2013 (Sat)
3 pm
Poulenc, La voix humaine
With Cocteau play
Castleton Festival

July 13, 2013 (Sat)
7 pm
Verdi, Otello
With Lorin Maazel, conductor
Castleton Festival

July 13, 2013 (Sat)
8 pm
National Youth Orchestra of the U.S.A.
With Valery Gergiev (conductor) and Joshua Bell (violin)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

July 13, 2013 (Sat)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Screening of The Matrix with live music
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

July 13, 2013 (Sat)
8:30 pm
National Symphony Orchestra: Video Games Live
With Emil de Cou, conductor
Filene Center, Wolf Trap

July 14, 2013 (Sun)
11 am
Castleton Chamber Players
Music by Handel, Kodály, Beethoven
Castleton Festival

July 14, 2013 (Sun)
2 pm
Castleton Festival Orchestra
Music by Mahler, Charles Peck
Castleton Festival

July 14, 2013 (Sun)
6 pm
NSO Summer Music Institute Orchestra [FREE]
With Elizabeth Schulze, conductor
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

July 18, 2013 (Thu)
8 pm
Castleton Festival Orchestra
Music by Mahler, Mendelssohn
Hylton Center (Manassas, Va.)

July 19, 2013 (Fri)
8 pm
Verdi, Otello
With Lorin Maazel, conductor
Castleton Festival

July 19, 2013 (Fri)
8:15 pm
Verdi, La Traviata
National Symphony Orchestra
Filene Center, Wolf Trap

July 20, 2013 (Sat)
11 am
Castleton Young Artists
Opera scenes
Castleton Festival

July 20, 2013 (Sat)
3 pm
Poulenc, La voix humaine
With Cocteau play
Castleton Festival

July 20, 2013 (Sat)
7 pm
Castleton Festival Orchestra
Music by Barber
With Dmitri Berlinsky, violin
Castleton Festival

July 21, 2013 (Sun)
11 am
Castleton Chamber Players
Music by Fauré, Prokofiev, Chausson
Castleton Festival

July 21, 2013 (Sun)
2 pm
Puccini, La Fanciulla del West
With Lorin Maazel, conductor
Castleton Festival

July 26, 2013 (Fri)
8 pm
Verdi, Otello
With Lorin Maazel, conductor
Castleton Festival

July 26, 2013 (Fri)
8:15 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
With Ankush Kumar Bahl, conductor
Filene Center, Wolf Trap

July 27, 2013 (Sat)
11 am
Castleton Young Artists
Opera scenes
Castleton Festival

July 27, 2013 (Sat)
3 pm
Poulenc, La voix humaine
With Cocteau play
Castleton Festival

July 27, 2013 (Sat)
7 pm
Salute to Britten and Tchaikovsky
With Neil Shicoff, tenor
Castleton Festival

July 27, 2013 (Sat)
8:30 pm
Chris and Dave Brubeck, Ansel Adams: America
National Symphony Orchestra
With Emil de Cou, conductor
Filene Center, Wolf Trap

July 28, 2013 (Sun)
11 am
Castleton Young Artists
Lieder by Mahler
Castleton Festival

July 28, 2013 (Sun)
2 pm
Verdi, Otello
With Lorin Maazel, conductor
Castleton Festival

July 28, 2013 (Sun)
6 pm
NSO Summer Music Institute Orchestra [FREE]
With Elizabeth Schulze, conductor
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

July 30, 2013 (Tue)
8:30 pm
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
Filene Center, Wolf Trap

August 1, 2013 (Thu)
8:30 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II
Filene Center, Wolf Trap

August 2, 2013 (Fri)
8:30 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II
Filene Center, Wolf Trap

August 9, 2013 (Fri)
8 pm
Verdi, Falstaff
Wolf Trap Opera
Barns, Wolf Trap

August 11, 2013 (Sun)
3 pm
Verdi, Falstaff
Wolf Trap Opera
Barns, Wolf Trap

August 14, 2013 (Wed)
8 pm
Verdi, Falstaff
Wolf Trap Opera
Barns, Wolf Trap

August 17, 2013 (Sat)
7 pm
Verdi, Falstaff
Wolf Trap Opera
Barns, Wolf Trap

La Maledizione, Hon



Charles T. Downey, Lyric Opera of Baltimore presents a worthwhile ‘Rigoletto’
Washington Post, May 20, 2013

available at Amazon
Verdi, Rigoletto, D. Damrau, J. D. Flórez, Ž. Lučić, Semperoper Dresden, F. Luisi
(Virgin, 2010)
[READ REVIEW / YouTube]
The world celebrates the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth this October, but opera companies hardly need any encouragement to stage the Italian composer’s works. Lyric Opera of Baltimore’s staging of “Rigoletto,” heard on Friday night at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, offered another chance to appreciate the mastery of Verdi’s first great achievement, given its premiere at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice in 1851.

This Baltimore production offered many excellent qualities, beginning with the powerful and emotionally intense performance of baritone Stephen Powell in the title role. Verdi’s masterful characterization of Rigoletto makes the viewer both dislike and sympathize with the spiteful court jester, and Powell captured both sides of this complex role. As the loathsome Duke of Mantua, tenor Bryan Hymel, a recent winner of both the Beverly Sills and Olivier awards, displayed a ringing top, if not always quite so much elegance at the bottom, and he also drew out the role’s hard-to-find sympathetic qualities.
[Continue reading]
Verdi, Rigoletto
Lyric Opera of Baltimore
Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric

SEE ALSO:
Tim Smith, Lyric Opera offers sterling cast in 'Rigoletto' (Baltimore Sun, May 19)

2008 production, Washington National Opera (plus second cast)

19.5.13

In Brief: Almost Wagner's Birthday Edition

Here is your regular Sunday selection of links to online audio, online video, and other good things in Blogville and Beyond. (After clicking to an audio or video stream, press the "Play" button to start the broadcast.)


  • From the Musikverein in Vienna (video embedded at right), Daniele Gatti leads a performance of Rossini's Petite Messe Solenelle with the Orchestre National de France and the Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien, plus soloists Barbara Frittoli, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Saimir Pirgu, and Carlo Colombara. [France Musique]

  • To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Paul Hindemith, Markus Poschner conducts the Munich Radio Orchestra and Chorus in the composer's When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd. [BR-Klassik]

  • Here is a concert of music by Bach and Telemann performed by Concerto Köln, recorded last summer in the Kirche Orp-le-Grand in Orp-Jauche. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • Alexandre Tharaud plays Ravel's piano concerto for the left hand with the Orchestra National de France, with Daniele Gatti also conducting performances of Stravinsky's Petrushka (the 1947 version) and Ravel's second suite from Daphnis et Chloé, recorded last month at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. [France Musique]

  • Watch Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic at the Dresden Music Festival, where they performed Christopher Rouse's Prospero's Rooms and Magnus Lindberg's Kraft in Volkswagen's Die Gläserne Manufaktur. [Medici.tv]

  • Riccardo Chailly leads the Bavarian Radio Orchestra and Chorus in Liszt's Faust-Symphony and Edgard Varèse's Arcana. [BR-Klassik]

  • Soprano Juliane Banse joins the Quatuor Voce for Berg's Seven Early Songs and the world premiere of Graciane Finzi's Mademoiselle Else, a chamber opera for string quartet and voice, plus quartets by Mendelssohn and Berg. [France Musique]

  • Hans-Christoph Rademann leads the Dresdner Barockorchester and Dresdner Kammerchor in a performance of Heinrich Schütz's Psalmen Davids, with soloists Dorothee Mields, David Erler, George Poplutz, and Stephan MacLeod, recorded last October in the Frauenkirche in Dresden. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • At the Conservatoire de Boulogne-Billancourt, the Maîtrise de Radio France performs some recent choral music by Patrick Burgan, Alain Louvier, Bernard de Vienne, Vincent Bouchot, Gabriel Sivak, and Guillaume Connesson, with Denis Comtet at the piano and organ. [France Musique]

  • Paavo Järvi leads the HR-Sinfonieorchester in Nielsen's fourth symphony, Edvard Grieg's Norwegian Dances, and Tchaikovsky's violin concerto with Janine Jansen as soloist, recorded last month in the Alten Oper Frankfurt. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • A recital of songs by Fauré, Hahn, Koechlin, and Duparc with mezzo-soprano Marie-Nicole Lemieux and pianist Roger Vignoles, recorded in the auditorium of the Musée d’Orsay. [France Musique]

  • Tenor Mauro Peter and pianist Helmut Deutsch perform a song recital, including music by Schubert, Beethoven (An die ferne Geliebte), and Robert Schumann (Dichterliebe), recorded earlier this month in Hohenems. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • The Belcea Quartet, pianist Fazil Say, and friends perform a benefit concert in memory of Mihaela Ursuleasa, recorded last month at the Wiener Konzerthaus. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • Mezzo-soprano Wilke te Brummelstroete joins the Brussels Philharmonic for a program of music by Stravinsky and Schoenberg, recorded at the Cité de la Musique last month. [France Musique]

  • A rebroadcast of Handel's Giulio Cesare from the Metropolitan Opera with Natalie Dessay, David Daniels, and Alice Coote. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • Leonardo García Alarcón conducts his ensemble Cappella Mediterranea in a program of early Baroque music by Sigismondo d'India and others, recorded in February at Ambronay. [France Musique]

  • The Irish Baroque Orchestra and friends perform at the Internationale Barocktage Stift Melk, with music by Corelli, Torelli, Bertali, and others. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • From the Festival of Chopin and His Europe in 2011, Michal Szymanowski joins the Wroclaw Philahrmonic Orchestra for a concerto and other pieces by Paderewski, plus some other music. [France Musique]

  • Listen to this 1984 recording of Ferenc Erkel's opera Hunyadi László, starring Andras Molnar, Sylvia Sass, and Denes Gulyas (Hunyadi Laszlo), with the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Janos Kovács. [Österreichischer Rundfunk]

  • Listen to the concert featuring the winners of the Concours de musique de chambre de Lyon, recorded last month. [France Musique]