The Classical Music Network (English) Mon, 15 Jul 2019 20:03:58 +0200 <![CDATA[New York - The Ulysses Quartet]]>
Ulysses Quartet in Taiwan (© Courtesy of the Artists)

The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring.
James Joyce (1882-1941), from Ulysses, Episode Nine, Scylla and Charybdis

The program announced by the Ulysses Quartet did sound Homeric. This promised to be an epic afternoon including Schubert’s last (and probably longest) string quartet, an equally heroic Shostakovich quartet, Ravel’s magical String Quartet, and an unknown work by the Leos Janácek’s student Pavel Haas, whose career came to an end at the age of 45 in the gas]]>...
Sun, 14 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist J. Biegel]]>
J. Biegel at BargeMusic (© Samuel A. Dog)

I have drunken deep of joy, And I will taste no other wine tonight.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

If Jeffrey Biegel is not a household name, Jeffrey Biegel is a name held in esteem throughout conservatories, concert halls, pianists and the most unerring listeners throughout the world. He is also–oh, direful frightening words–known as a “pianist’s pianist.”

Such a phrase summons up hobgoblins of authority, originalism, pedantic precision. What it does not kindle is the joy with which Mr. Biegel lit up ever]]>...
Fri, 12 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist O. Vinokur]]>
O. Vinokur at BargeMusic (© Samuel A.Dog)

The way to write American music is simple. All you have to do is be American and then write any kind of music you wish.
Virgil Thomson (1896-1989)

Olga Vinokur, always a welcome artist at BargeMusic, dedicated her post Fourth-of-July concert to American composers. And while her choices didn’t have the fearsome attitude of D.C’s gasless motionless tanks or an oration by a gasbag illiterate, she had enough rare pieces to make the concert memorable.

The only real liability here was that Ms. Vinokur presented bits and ]]>...
Fri, 05 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Prague - Revival of Tosca]]>
B. Haveman (© Patrik Borecký)

This Prague production of Tosca opts for a change of epoch, from Napoleon’s invasion of Italy (and the Papal States) in 1800, to Rome at the time of Mussolini’s ascent to power in 1923, but with mixed results. We were subjected to a seven minute idiotic pantomime at the Headquarters of the Secret Police: clerks typing away, stiff officers parading in and out, and prisoners being interrogated and brutalized. This was meant to set an ambiance of tension. All it produced was widespread yawning. In Puccini’s two-hour opera, seven minutes of non-musical nonsense is an eternity.

Wed, 03 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Prague - Revival of Carmen]]> For over a century, Carmen has been one of the most popular operas in the repertoire. Dramatically intense and with plenty of catchy music, it is hard not to want to hum along to the music of the Habanera or to dance to Seguidilla, the Toreador’s Song or the Chanson bohème (“Les tringles des sistres tintaient”). Its melodies have inspired paraphrases for the piano (Horowitz), the violin (Pablo de Sarasate, Franz Waxman) and the guitar. Its ballabile (“danceable”) quality has inspired a successful ballet by the Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin, and flamenco ballets by the various dance companies.

Various films have been made based on Carmen, from the 1915 movie with Geraldine Farrar to Otto Pr]]>...
Mon, 01 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - La Fille du régiment]]>
K. Futterer & S. Ballerini with Saratoga Chorus members
(© Gary David Gold)

“I only wish that I could have composed Donizetti’s operas.”
Felix Mendelssohn, reportedly commenting on La Fille du régiment

Mendelssohn could no more have written Donizetti’s comic opera than Emily Dickinson could have written The 120 Days of Sodom. Donizetti’s genius was his alone.

On the other hand, even as farce, not even Verdi could have composed the trio near the beginning of Act II. When the aristocratic Marquise of Berkenfield starts to teach her hoyden nie]]>...
Sat, 29 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Voyage Sonique Ensemble]]>
Voyage Sonique (© Augusta McKay Lodge)

Funerals all over the world everywhere every minute.
Shovelling them under by the cartload doublequick.
Thousands every hour. Too many in the world.

― James Joyce, from Hades (Episode Six) from Ulysses

Andrew Ousley’s introduction to last night’s “Angel’s Share” program noted that the concerts were not for mourning “but for remembrances.” Which is not easy to do in the Catacombs of 180-year-old Greenwood Cemetery. Each of the alcoves in this dimly-lit cave is a family tomb, outside are tens of thousands of ]]>...
Mon, 24 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Istanbul - The Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic]]>
Y. Avdeeva (© Christine Schneider)

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto is possibly the least performed of his mature orchestral works. Composed in 1803-1804 and dedicated to his royal pupil and benefactor Archduke Rudolf, it is less profound than Beethoven’s works from the same period, such as his Piano Concerto No. 4, the Symphony No. 4 or his opera, Fidelio. The work was premiered four years later in Vienna, with the composer as pianist, in one of his final performances, as he had grown deaf.

More than a true concerto for three instruments, it is a piano trio with orchestral acco]]>...
Sat, 22 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Chicago - R. Muti conducts Aida]]>
A. Rachvelishvili (© Todd Rosenberg)

In a season marred by a major strike by the musicians of the vaunted Chicago Symphony, hardly a note of discord emerged in this orchestrally stunning performance of Verdi’s monumental masterpiece. Over the past decade, the CSO’s celebrity conductor Riccardo Muti has led a discreet series of Verdi performances in concert, beginning with Otello in 2011 (performed here and also at New York’s Carnegie Hall) and continuing with Macbeth and Falstaff. A much longer and grander affair, I wondered if ]]>...
Fri, 21 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Philadelphia - Bernstein’s Candide]]>
(© Jessica Griffin)

Divo buff in a tight blue jersey, Yannick Nézet-Séguin looked pumped as he bounded on the Verizon Hall stage to conduct Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. His swagger even upstaging Hollywood stars Bradley Cooper and Cary Mulligan who were the ringer narrators that helped make this concert staging of Lenny’s operetta – Bernstein’s lusty musical version of Voltaire’s dizzying satire of war, sex, philosophy, sin, politics and – oh, lest we forget love – the hottest ticket in town.

Opera director Kevin Newbury collaborated with Nézet-Séguin on Bernstein’s Mass (2015) an]]>...
Thu, 20 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The Orchestra of St. Luke’s]]>
B. Labadie

The Goldbergs... is a text reflecting on itself, satisfied in its own world, suggesting that everything you would ever want to know is contained within... Despite this, Bach's smile wins through. The piece is a lesson in many things, but primarily in wonder: the way that the tragic variations fuse seamlessly into the breathlessly comic, the way that simple scales become energy, joy, enthusiasm, the celebration of the most fundamental elements of music...
Jeremy Denk (1970– ) quoted in The Guardian

Torrents are lulled in brooks serene,
“Ill-tempered clavierists take merry]]>...
Thu, 20 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Milano - New Production of Verdi’s I masnadieri]]>
(© Brescia/Amisano - Teatro alla Scala)

I masnadieri is one of Verdi’s weakest opera. The music is typical early Verdi with the bandmaster’s son Umpapa rhythms and ubiquitous tempo di Walzer that he mercifully managed to gradually shed to become Italy’s greatest opera composer. The libretto, based on Schiller’s play Die Räuber, is by the forgettable Andrea Maffei, a competent translator and a salon revolutionary patriot in the days of Italian Risorgimento, but far from an ingenious librettist. The work’s claim to fame was that it was Verdi’s only opera written for London. The role of Amalia, writ]]>...
Tue, 18 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Genova - Madama Butterfly]]>
K. Alkema, R. El Din (© Marcello Orselli)

Of Puccini’s most frequently performed operas (Manon Lescaut, La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Turandot), Madama Butterfly is the opera that has fared the poorest over time. The “Orientalist” view of the victimized Asian girl was not considered patronizing at the time of the opera’s creation. Even after European countries lost their colonial empires in Africa and Asia, this view prevailed for much of the second half of twentieth century. The Korean and Vietnam Wars continued to confirm this cultural distortion. However, these ideas are]]>...
Fri, 14 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Shanghai - The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra]]>
L. Shani (© Marco Borggreve)

If the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s 18/19 brochure announced Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto as the beginning piece for the concert, it seems that the artistic team eventually picked a “safer” choice, programming Tchaikovsky’s ever so famous and beloved Violin Concerto – which might counterbalance the modernity of Shostakovich’s following symphony. Nonetheless, the audience was not disappointed with that change, Renaud Capuçon and Lahav Shani having managed to avoid an over-emphasis on the concerto’s lyricism and present instead all its nuances.

From the b]]>...
Fri, 14 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The MET Orchestra]]>
E. Garanca (© Karina Schwarz/Deutsche Grammophon)

“For Mahler’s second year, the Philharmonic decided that it had better drop the Beethoven and historical cycles.”
Philharmonic, Howard Shanet

One of the Rückert-Lieder is a frozen depiction of a memory, so delicate in its construction that it appears to be almost a double haiku (Rückert was a professor of Oriental literature). The corresponding song, Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft, was written as another love song to Alma and is usually dismissed as the weakest of the lot. Actually it is a brilliant contrast of two images of a]]>...
Fri, 14 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Founders Quintet]]>
B. Russell, H. Berry, G. Chudzik, Y. Kim, B. Ridenour
(© Samuel A. Dog)

...There’s music in all things if men had ears;/Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.
Lord George Byron (1788-1824)

I give bird songs to those who dwell in cities and have never heard them, make rhythms for those who know only military marches or jazz, and paint colors for those who see none.
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)

Ha! So that defiant, brilliant, virtuosic quintet called Founders think that they can “out-syncretic” the greatest musical syncreticist of the]]>...
Thu, 13 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - ICE, Adapter & City of Tomorrow]]>
The City of Tomorrow (© Courtesy of the Artists)

While musically fascinating, last night’s program at Roulette left listeners with a plethora of questions.

Who, for instance, were the International Contemporary Ensemble musicians that did such a stunning job? (No credits listed.) Who were the two percussionists that played a virtual Whole Earth Catalogue of paraphernalia during Felipe Lara’s Brutal Mirrors? (Ditto, anonymous.) It was nice to have a “German Icelandic” group of winds and percussionists, but one had no idea who they were, or how they were differentiated from the (fi]]>...
Mon, 10 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Berlin - Revival of Otello]]>
(© Barbara Aumüller)

Andreas Kriegenburg’s stark and distracting production of Verdi’s penultimate opera has returned to the Deutsche Oper stage for a discreet revival run of three performances. Having premiered in 2010, its depiction of the opera’s Cyprus setting as a refugee camp for what looks like World War II-era people is now submerged among many similar tropes in stage production, mostly driven by the refugee crisis that emerged in the Levant with the advent of the Arab Spring and subsequent conflicts. Curiously, this crisis never touched Cyprus, and who knows what Kriegenburg was thinking of when he designed the pro]]>...
Sat, 08 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The Philadelphia Orchestra]]>
Y. Nézet-Séguin (© Hans van der Woerd)

I feel like a ghost wandering in a world proven alien. I cannot cast out the old way of writing, and I cannot acquire the new. I have made intense efforts to feel the musical manner of today. But it will not come to me.
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Since French was the lingua franca of Tsarist Russia, nobody would look askance that Yannick Nézet-Séguin should shift gears from his MET Orchestra all-French program three nights ago to last night’s all-Russian music last nigh]]>...
Fri, 07 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Philadelphia - The Philadelphia Orchestra]]>
B. Rana (© Nicolas Bets)

The Philadelphia Orchestra returned from their China tour in May to conclude home season in Philly sounding as charged as ever with a ‘Russian Masters’ program that included an early work by Stravinsky, a stalwart showpiece by Rachmaninoff and the Prokofiev’s groundbreaking piano Concerto No. 3 by soloist Beatrice Rana, who made a stunning debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2015 at Saratoga Performing Arts Center and now appearing in her subscription debut performances with the Philadelphians in Verizon Hall.

Rana’s appearance was exciting as the news that Hollywo]]>...
Thu, 06 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Washington - The National Symphony Orchestra]]>
G. Noseda (© Jati Lindsay)

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Thursday’s NSO concert was the quality of the playing, which was here at least as good as it had been all season: generally quite robust, unified, and agile. The familiarity of repertoire (the majority of it, at least) could not have hurt. As Noseda—in the last program he conducts in Washington this season—admitted in his introductory remarks, the orchestra knew the opener, the suite from Copland’s ballet Billy the Kid, better than he, who was conducting it for the first time. Certainly there was nothing at all tentative about the performance, which b]]>...
Thu, 06 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - D. Lang’s prisoner of the state]]>
D.Lang/J. van Zweden (© Peter Serling/HK Phil)

“While there is a lower class I am in it. While there is a criminal element I am of it. While there is a soul in prison I am not free.”
Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926)
“Seeing yourself as separate from the universe is a delusional prison.”
Alfred Einstein (1880-1952)

David Lang’s consistent inconsistency has frequently depended on the originality of others. Whether The Little Match Girl Passion or Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser, Mr. Lang’s adoration of words is transformed to new, daring, and somehow ]]>...
Thu, 06 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Da Capo Chamber Players and Guests]]>
Da Capo Chamber Players (© Jill LeVine)

Living up to their name last night, the Da Capo Chamber Players took six pieces, most written a few decades ago–and like the “da capo” repeats of Baroque music–repeated them for our enlightenment, our elucidation, and for our joy.

This isn’t to say that the audience at Merkin Concert Hall hadn’t necessarily heard the works from Cambodia, Korea, ancient Peru and Brazil before. But the Da Capo Chamber Players–with over 150 pieces written specifically for their talents–have a habit of waking audiences to an eclectic assortment which can awe or amaze o]]>...
Wed, 05 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Geneva - New Production of Un ballo in maschera]]>
(© GTG/Carole Parodi)

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, composed in 1859 after the triumph of Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata, is possibly the Italian composer’s most dramatically compact opera. Unlike most operas, it doesn’t have one superfluous note. Even more than some of his greater masterpieces, it represents a perfect marriage between music and lyrics. Given this privileged position, it offers the stage director a wealth of possibilities. Giancarlo del Monaco’s staging for Geneva’s Grand Theatre reveals a cynical vision. Indeed, the idea of disguise is more prevalent than the obvious co]]>...
Tue, 04 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The MET Orchestra]]>
Y. Nézet-Séguin (© Hans van der Woerd)

Music is the expression of the movement of the waters, the play of curves described by changing breezes.
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Time to get drunk! Don’t be martryed slaes of Time: Get drunk! Stay drunk! On wine, virtue, poetry whatever!
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)

Stickless and scoreless and high-spirited, Yannick Nézet-Séguin transcended a program of French music last night into a laudation of music itself. The young conductor has inherited an orchestra which had become a technical phenomenon under James Levi]]>...
Mon, 03 Jun 2019 00:00:00 +0200