The Classical Music Network (English) Sat, 25 Nov 2017 12:11:26 +0100 <![CDATA[New York - K. Larson plays Wollschleger]]>
K. Larson, S. Wollschleger at Spectrum (© Samuel A. Dog)

“...I was searching for a kind of music that would exist after the world ended.”
Scott Wollschleger, from Pages for Piano program notes.

Alas, Mr. Wollschleger was preempted by director Lars von Trier, whose end-of-world music for Melancholia was the Tristan Act I Prelude. But those notes came from a linear time where even stretched out tonics and dominants followed Newton’s exacting rules. (And, perhaps accidentally, Trier chose Tristans beginning to signal our end.)

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist K. Ishizaka]]>
K. Ishizaka

“There has been demonstration of the universal truth by fugue, and it may be that more wisdom is to be found in that than in the religions and religious books of all the world together.”
Sacheverell Sitwell
“There’s never been anything more beautiful in all of music.”
Glenn Gould

One of the insoluble problems in music history is whether or not Bach left the conclusion of The Art of Fugue simply unfinished or purposefully incomplete so that it could be resurrected by a new generation of composers and scholars. Clearly former Olympic weightlifter Kimiko Ishizaka subscribes to the theory that ]]>...
Sun, 19 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - J. Savall’s “Routes of Slavery”]]>
J. Savall, K. M. Diabaté, Ensemble (© Claire Xavier)

Just when you thought Jordi Savall had exhausted centuries, continents, religious, peoples, and music, he presented, for the final night of White Lights Festival, a typically ecumenical, gorgeously costumed, new discovery.

This, with the sponsorship of UNESCO was supposedly the music of slavery. And in his colorful ensemble, he uncovered the most surprising music to show us. Even if–and I hate to say it–this most meticulous musician stylized and re-arranged his selections, so they bore little relationship to the original. Or so I thought until reading the ]]>...
Wed, 15 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Melbourne - New production of The Merry Widow]]>
D. de Niese (© Jeff Busby)

Only rarely does the opportunity arise for an opera company to welcome home a compatriot who has “made it big” in the wider world. Even less frequent is the chance to realise this welcome as a company debut in a hometown. So it happened that Opera Australia’s inspired leadership by Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini secured the return to Australia of soprano Danielle de Niese for seasons this year in Melbourne and next year in Sydney. So too, the company took the huge decision to throw its extensive resources behind a lavish new production under the direction of much-lauded Australian Director]]>...
Wed, 15 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist T. Yun]]>
T. Yun

Tony Yun is a 16-year-old pianist of Chinese origin, born in Toronto and now studying in the Pre-College Division of the Juilliard School. Recently, as the winner of the Rosalyn Tureck International Bach Competition, he gave a recital at Steinway Hall in New York.

I am often prodded to attend a performance by yet another “young and talented competition winner” and sometimes my reluctance to do so is justified. That, however, was not the case in the recital by this young man whose playing already makes one’s proverbial “jaw drop”. Not having known the requirements of the competition I assumed them to be an entire J.S. Bach p]]>...
Tue, 14 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The Swedish Radio Choir]]>
Swedish Radio Choir (© Swedish Radio Choir)

“When I listen to hymns and canticles, I am moved more by the music than the words. I confess to being guilty of a great sin.”
St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.), Confessions

When the 32 voices of the Swedish Radio Choir finished Anders Hillborg’s Mouyayoum last night, I turned to a friend and whispered, “It must be a trick. Nobody can sing this way.”

And yes, the Mouyayoum, with its wordless diphthongs, its tonal clusters, its whispers and crescendos and almost unheard softness, was like being immersed in a]]>...
Tue, 14 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Montreal - La Cenerentola]]> Rossini’s opera is appropriately named La Cenerentola, ossia la bontà in trionfo: Cinderella, or the Triumph of Goodness. Rossini and Jacopo Ferretti, La Cenerentola’s librettist, opt for an Italian realistic view of the fairy tale. Gone are the fairy godmother, the magical transformation, the chimes at midnight and the glass shoe. Instead, it is an avuncular philosopher, Alidoro, who is Cinderella’s benefactor, and a bracelet she gives Prince Charming before leaving his ball that leads to her recognition. Cinderella’s goodness and Alidoro’s astuteness triumph in making the mistreated girl become the Prince’s betrothed. Stage director Joan Font chose to impose on this no-nonsense retelling of the story the supernatural “magical” ]]>... Sat, 11 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100 <![CDATA[Melbourne - Roberto Devereux]]>
H. Dix, H. Choo, P. Calcagno (© Melbourne Opera)

Full stage productions of Roberto Devereux are rare and rarer still are full “cycles” of Donizetti’s three Tudor operas. That it falls to the small, unsubsidised company of Melbourne Opera to premier two of the three operas in Australia and consequently premier the complete trio is something of a minor miracle. Not only have Melbourne Opera lived up to their charter to provide a wider choice of repertoire for the opera-going public, but they have done so in style and with considerable success. Both Maria Stuarda and Ana Bolena were creditable productions which dr]]>...
Sat, 11 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Miami - Lucia di Lammermoor]]>
H. Hong (© Ben Werley)

Sharing reactions of an opera performance can make one’s appreciation of it, whether positive or negative, more intense. I was lucky enough to dine with a group of people after a performance of one of opera’s most beloved pieces; one had seen it as long ago as with Lily Pons and some others had never heard of it before purchasing a ticket. Their reactions were unanimous in the fact that they loved the singing. The production, however, yielded conflicting reactions.

There is no question that the production’s concept was strong and honest. Scotland’s dreary climate of clouds and dark skie]]>...
Sat, 11 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - V. Thomson’s The Mother of Us All]]>
M. Martens, T. Buchholz (© Tobin del Cuore)

“The principle of self-government cannot be violated with impunity. The individual's right to it is sacred–regardless of class, caste, race, color, sex or any other accident or incident of birth.”
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

She was a great lady, far far ahead of her times, not only a suffragette, but a fighter for all those considered dross during America’s so-called Gilded Age. And while Susan B. Anthony’s life overlapped with Gertrude Stein (when she died, Stein was 31), they hopefully will live forever in The Mother of Us All.

Sat, 11 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - Clarinettist C. Neidich]]>
M. Furukawa, C. Neidich

In the New York musical scene, the name Charles Neidich seems almost synonymous with the clarinet. He is indeed a superb exponent of this instrument, and in addition to being one of the most active players around, he is also a well-known authority on historically informed performances (such as when he plays a specially constructed instrument). In addition, Mr. Neidich has set about to enlarge the existing repertoire for the clarinet; his last recital being an example of this attempt. And he is also a great advocate for music of our time; his next concert on December 16 will be devoted to works of Elliott Carter, whose music he ha]]>...
Fri, 10 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Toronto - B. Hannigan & R. de Leeuw]]>
B. Hannigan (© Raphaël Brand)

The truly outstanding feature of this recital was the apparent total identification of both performers with the songs performed. Barbara Hannigan and Reinbert de Leeuw have been collaborating for 20 years now and have truly honed a repertoire that demands ultimate finesse. De Leeuw’s accompaniment is subtle, delicate, self-effacing totally without mannerism, almost laconic - yet imbued with sensitive support.

I usually prefer variety in a song recital, but this program consisted of works all composed by people in their twenties in just one city, Vienna, between 1888 (Hugo Wolf) and ]]>...
Fri, 10 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The New York Philharmonic]]>
J. Irons/L.Slatkin (© J. Sherman)

“All our great Judaistic personalities ...Abraham...and Moses...and the Prophets all argued with God...The more you love someone, the more you can get angry with them, and when you have a reconciliation, the more close you become. Something like that happens in ‘Kaddish) and it takes an extraordinary actor to perform that.”
Leonard Bernstein (1919-1990)

Leonard Slatkin did indeed have an extraordinary actor to recite Leonard Bernstein’s angry exegesis on the Hebrew prayer for the dead last night. Jeremy Irons’ gorgeous voice had power and b]]>...
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The Israel Philharmonic ]]>
Z. Mehta (© Israel Philharmonic)

“I wondered if a memory was something you had or something you’d lost.”
Woody Allen, Another Woman

Here’s a game for Mahler aficionados: sing the posthorn solo from the Symphony #3. Can’t do it? Sounds a little off? Confused? Don’t quite remember which note goes where or what the rhythms should be? This is because this amazing representation of memory is slightly different each time that it appears. Although the listener’s perception is that the melody is repeated several times in the third movement, actually it is altered each time and Mahler’]]>...
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The New Juilliard Ensemble]]>
J. Sachs/New Juilliard Ensemble (© Hiroyuki Ito)

“Musicians don’t believe in God any more, but they all believe in Bach.”
Mauricio Kagel (1931-2008)

When listening to Mozart, I almost–almost!!–believe there may be a god.”
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

The estimable Kagel and Hitchens were almost wrong. If Giya Kancheli’s final measures of Exile, performed by the New Juilliard Ensemble last night, were not a reflection of God or a god or a moment of infinite holiness in a firmament parallel with our own, then no other proof would exist.

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Toronto - Lavallée’s The Widow]]>
J. Nesrallah (Courtesy of Toronto Operetta Theatre)

Calixa Lavallée’s The Widow (first performed in 1881) is an engaging oddity from the era when an array of musical works were churned out to help attract audiences to the countless “opera houses” that dotted North America in the 19th century. The Widow was taken up by impresario C.D. Hess and is known to have been performed in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, and Springfield, IL. A piano vocal score exists.

TOT has performed the piece before, back in 2004. This single semi-staged performance is one more event celebrating Canada’s 150th ]]>...
Sun, 05 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The Orchestra Now]]>
L. Botstein (© Matt Dine)

“We can’t have music in the middle of the ocean,” said Alfred Hitchcock. “Where does the orchestra come from?” “The same place,” replied composer Hugo Friedhofer, “where the camera comes from.”
Discussion about incidental music for Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.

First a confession. I’ve enjoyed Leon Botstein’s concerts with The American Symphony Orchestra only partly for the music. The real reason is that Mr. Botstein’s essays are more than informative and incisive. Forget his encyclopedic knowledge or his experience as conductor. His genius in taking the most disparate ]]>...
Fri, 03 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - American Modern Ensemble & Sybarite5]]>
A. Mencher/R. Paterson (© Courtesy of the Artists)

Thirteen years ago, a disused 19th Century sawdust factory/warehouse, was converted to abruptly soaring music auditorium, with towering spaces, room for about 300, futuristic lighting, and a restaurant/bar.

And National Sawdust today is not only part of trendy Williamsburg, but has been home to some of the world’s most illustrious contemporary composers and musicians, from Philip Glass to Terry Riley and John Zorn, with hosts like Esa-Pekka Salonen.

As well as–and this is the most important element– today’s young, dazzling, unknown, inv]]>...
Thu, 02 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist M.-A. Hamelin]]>
M.-A. Hamelin (© Sim Canetty-Clarke)

Years ago, when old-timers were still around, I would often ask them about their recollections of pianists such as Rachmaninov, Paderewski, Friedman, Moiseiwitsch or Hoffman. God, did I envy their luck in having been able to hearm that they were so lucky and heard all those masters livewere no longer around! Well, these days every time I hear the Canadian-born virtuoso Marc-André Hamelin, it seems to me that the future generations of piano enthusiasts will ask future old-timers (now belonging to my generation) a similar question such as “did you hear Hamelin live”? For there is no doubt that wh]]>...
Wed, 01 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist S. Osborne]]>
S. Osborne (©

“Please note that no fingers or piano wires were harmed in tonight’s execution of ‘Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus’”
Sign which should have been hoisted after Steven Osborne’s performance.

While New York’s eight-million apostates, pagans and blasphemers paraded their Satanic rites on Walpurgisnacht under a full moon last night, a few hundred of Manhattan’s religieux gathered in a penthouse far above the ghastly rituals to hear what is perhaps the most holy, sacrosanct and sheerly impossible piano work of the 20th Century.

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist D. Trifonov]]>
F. Chopin by Wodzinska/D. Trifonov (© Dario Acosta)

“Nothing is more meaningless than music without hidden meanings.”
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)

“It’s the chromatic nature of his language, always deeply emotional and poetic.
Daniil Trifonov (1991– )

Daniil Trifonov started the Halloween weekend with a festive series of masks atop the body of Frédéric Chopin. He fitted the Polish composer with musical masks from Spain, Germany, Norway, Poland, Russia and America, before unveiling the true Frédéric Chopin in all his glory.

For a recital]]>...
Sat, 28 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Toronto - Le nozze di Figaro]]>
M. Asselin & D. Williams (© Bruce Zinger)

This has to one of the most highly caffeinated productions of Mozart’s great work. Both the musical and dramatic trajectories were completely in synch, though, and every exchange between the characters made abundantly clear (for example the intricate plot points about notes and that problematic pin).

The notable speed of the performance does not mean that it careens heedlessly along. There are well-considered ritardandos (one near the end of Cherubino’s first aria, which brings forth the character’s isolation) and even pauses (such as before the Count’s heartfelt apolog]]>...
Thu, 26 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist S. Nehring]]>
S. Nehring (© Bruno Fidrych)

The young Polish pianist Szymon Nehring is the recent winner of the prestigious Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Tel Aviv, where in May of 2017 he took/was awarded First Prize and a Gold Medal. His New York recital debut in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall was sponsored by the American Friends of the Arthur Rubinstein International Music Society. Perhaps it was the sponsors’ idea to present a recital in the somewhat unusual format of a continuous performance lasting a little over an hour. Regardless of the recital’s brevity, Mr. Nehring offered a demanding program featuring two staples of the piano rep]]>...
Thu, 26 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra]]>
A. Watts (© BSO

After six decades on the concert stage, André Watts still has those young-man hands to tackle Mozart’s “Jeunehomme” Concerto in style. As he did last night with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

Mind you, Mozart never called the 9th Concerto “young man.” It was written actually for a young woman, and Mozart, at age 21 was relatively middle-aged. But the misunderstanding of a word in his letters gave the publisher leave for the current appellation. Audiences who expect a youthful picture, though, are bound to be disappointed.

Mr. Watts, though, has t]]>...
Thu, 26 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Juilliard415 Ensemble]]>
N. McGegan & Juilliard415 (© Juilliard School)

Following the final note of a Rameau Chaconne, conductor Nicholas McGegan and the entire Juilliard 415 ensemble raised the flags of a dozen nations around the world, as well as the Gay Liberation banner. It was a fitting tribute to an early Baroque treatment and tribute to the world of the early 18th Century, warts and all.

True, much of this music was kitschy, ersatz, counterfeit, a Baron Münchhausen vision of a domain that never was. At the same time, it ennobled the European composers who saw a world far outside of themselves. Mind you, Johann Sebasti]]>...
Wed, 25 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0200