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On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.
Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.
It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre
Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances
dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed
at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in
the present case.)
I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the
annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I
heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It
was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at
As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.
A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to
life on stage
‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.
Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s
L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed
follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high.
The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution
of the CBSO to this concert.
When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities,
upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court
during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined
that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the
opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in
service of his God and his monarch.
Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.
The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.
There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.
The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.
First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.
With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.
Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.
Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).
What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question.
Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although
already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.
22 Sep 2005
SCHOENBERG: Accentus | Ensemble intercontemporain
Schoenberg, born in Vienna in 1874, is remembered as a composer and a music theorist. He held strong attitudes toward the craft of composition and its pedagogy, which have been received as the beginnings of a theory of music, though Schoenberg denied ever attempting to create a systematic theory.
Schoenberg believed that music had an evolutional history that included the development and perfection of tonal systems in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Schoenberg deeply respected tonal music and he trained his composition pupils thoroughly in tonality and traditional counterpoint; however, he viewed the increasing use of chromaticism and non-diatonic chords in the later nineteenth century as a teleological process leading to the necessary—if uncomfortable—abandonment of tonality in the twentieth century. The pieces on this album illustrate Schoenberg’s compositional development and his strange position as both conservative and herald of “the music of the future.”
Two powerhouse ensembles specializing in modernist music performance joined together on this album. The result of this collaboration is an outstanding collection of some of Arnold Schoenberg’s lesser-known pieces along with better-known classics from his oeuvre. Ensemble Intercontemporain—a group of 31 soloists—has been an institution since its founding in 1976 by Pierre Boulez. And, in 1991, Laurence Equilbey brought together 32 professional singers to form the choir Accentus. Equilbey’s primary goal was the revival of an a capella choir tradition, and his group tackles a largely modernist repertoire. In addition to a capella performances, Accentus collaborates with instrumental groups in order to perform and record mixed ensemble pieces, and this is not the first time they’ve worked with Ensemble Intercontemporain.
Particularly exceptional about this recording is the inclusion of two versions of Schoenberg’s choral work, Frieden Auf Erden. Track 1 is the version with the orchestral accompaniment that Schoenberg write in 1911 because the original a capella version was declared “unperformable.” Time and many performances have proven that Frieden Auf Erden is indeed performable, though I think rarely with such grace and confidence as displayed by Accentus on this recording.
Also of note is a transcription of the third movement of Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchetra by Franck Krawczyk completed in 2002. According to the liner notes, Krawczyk was motivated to do this transcription by the Second Viennese School’s practice of doing transcriptions in order to “shed light” on someone else’s musical composition. What Krawczyk and Accentus accomplish is an extraordinary piece of music.
Nestled among the less frequently performed choral works is the Schoenberg Kammersymphonie, opus 9 (1906) performed by Ensemble Intercontemporain. Although this piece is available on other high-quality recordings, its inclusion adds variety and interest to this assortment of pieces.
Schoenberg’s music was met with great resistance and little understanding from critics and audiences. At the end of his life, having been exiled from the very country whose music he had hoped to progress and forced to teach lower-level courses to UCLA undergraduates, it is probably fair to say that Schoenberg was disillusioned by the future of music in general, and his music in particular.
While popular opinion may have it that Schoenberg brought ruin to classical music with his “emancipation of the dissonance,” sensitive and smart performances like those by Accentus and Ensemble Intercontemporain prove that Schoenberg’s output contains more than just theoretical pieces; rather, his music is rich, varied, and emotionally compelling as well as intellectually challenging.
CUNY – The Graduate Center