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Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.
The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.
On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.
On Thursday 19th January, opera lovers around the world started bidding online for rare and prized items made available for the first time from Opera Rara’s collection. In addition to the 26 lots auctioned online, 6 more items will be made available on 7 February - when online bidding closes - at Opera Rara’s gala dinner marking the final night of the auction. The gala will be held at London’s Caledonian Club and will feature guest appearances from Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury.
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
15 Sep 2009
Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 4 in G major
The legacy of the late conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli includes a number of fine recordings of Mahler’s music, and among them is his Deutsche Grammophon recording of the composer’s Fourth Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra and the soprano Edita Gruberova.
While that recording dates from the early 1990s, Sinopoli performed the work later in his career with different forces, and that resulted in an impressive reading of the Fourth Symphony with the Staatskapelle Dresden. The performance of the Fourth Symphony was part of the 1999 Dresden Music Festival, specifically a concert given on 29 May 1999. With this recent issue by Hänssler in its Profil series in the Edition Staatskapelle Dresden, a fine recording of that performance is now available.
This later recording is notable in several way, since it is an impressive performance of the work and involves a fine interpretation of the Song-Finale “Das himmlische Leben” by the soprano Juliane Banse. In addition, the recording also preserves a seventeen-minute talk by Sinopoli, which serves as an introduction to the work. (The talk is given in German, with a transcription by Eberhard Steindorf included in the program notes.)
As a respected interpreter of Mahler’s music, Sinopoli brings a fine sense of style to his conception of this work. The first movement is conceived well, with a deft sensitivity to the form of the movement and its scoring. From the opening moments of the movement, Sinopoli conveys a dynamism, which allows the work to move forward. His tempo for the opening gesture, the so-called *Schellenkappe *- the jangling bells of the fool’s cap - are perfunctory, so that Sinopoli can give a more nuanced shape to the main theme. This kind of fluidity is characteristic of the entire movement is carefully structured, without seeming calculated. Such attention to details is consistent throughout, and includes a well-conceived tempo for the coda, which has the appropriate sense of underscoring the music that came before it.
With the Scherzo, Sinopli offers a similarly structured approach to the work, so that the passages for the *scordatura *solo violin emerged easily. A similar expansiveness occurs later, when other solo instruments are part of the structure, and the latitude Sinopoli gave those entrances fits well into the overall . His sense of drama at eh climax of the movement stands out from other performances, because of the breadth Sinopoli adds to the music at this point. The cadence into the section suggests, momentarily a sense of rubato, which the strings take up in an exemplary rendering of the portamento Mahler indicated in the score.
The third movement contains an emotional pitch which needs the expression Sinopoli used in this performance. From the opening measures, which evoke the ensemble “Mir ist so wunderbar” in the quartet from the first act of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, Sinopoli offers a clear vision of this tightly structured movement. A set of double variations, the performance also has a sense of spontaneity which comes from the intense playing of the Staatskapelle Dresden. The sustained pitches of the violins never flag, while the wind sonorities intersect without becoming overbearing. Without seeing the performance, it is possible to perceive an intensity in the interactions of the members of the orchestra in this recording. In some of the passages of the slow movement, the players seems attuned to the score, such that the give-and-take which necessarily occurs in professional ensembles like this one is even more acute. Midway through the movement, in the passage for solo oboe, the slightly slower tempo that Sinopoli used, allows details to emerge, like the written-out ornaments and the horn figures which response to each other distinctively. While it is nowhere rushed, the movement contains a well-considered intensity that solidly sets up the coda, the famous fanfare, which anticipates the concluding movement found in the song “Das himmlische Leben.” As elsewhere in this performance, no details have escaped Sinopoli, and his attention to the final measures of the coda demonstrate his knowledge of Mahler’s works in the way he brought out the motivic relationship to the song “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”in the thematic content, while simultaneously rendered the texture so that it has a timbral affinity to the scoring, which anticipates the *Adagietto *of the Fifth Symphony.
In the concluding movement, Juliane Banse offers a sensitive reading of the Song-Finale, with exemplary diction and expression. Her phrasing makes sense of both the poetry and its musical setting, a combination which is lauded, but rarely executed. That stated, Banse offers here a moving and insightful reading of the song. The balance between the lower and upper registers of her voice is nicely even, and complemented by a fine tone in the sustained pitches, which Banse takes to the full values of the notation. It is difficult to point to any single passage without slighting others, but the phrase “Sanct Ursula dazu lacht” evinces the dynamic tension and insightful musicality of Banse’s performance, with the portamento reinforcing the cadence and the change of mood in the song. This is but one passage in a performance which is consistently satisfying on various levels. Moreover, in conceiving the Song-Finale, Sinopoli has taken the movement a little more slowly than some other conductors, and this brings out certain elements, which connect the song to the movements which precede it. It is, ultimately, a convincing performance because of the intensity, which emerges in the various details that come together brilliantly.
This performance is a fine addition to the discography of the composer, and especially that of the Fourth Symphony. While a number of fine recordings of this work exist, the execution of the score in this particular performance offer perspectives which demonstrate the perennial appeal of this work. Without displacing the other fine recording of the Fourth Symphony which Sinopoli released, those who appreciate his intelligent and exciting art will not be disappointed in this extraordinary performance from the latter part of his career. Moreover, Sinopoli’s introduction to the work, the last band of the CD, affords the opportunity of hearing the late conductor talk about this music in person, and this is a welcome bonus on this outstanding recording.
James L. Zychowicz