Sunday, August 28, 2016
The weekly diary of Anthea Kreston, violinist of the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet: This week we are back to quartet. Several concerts of old repertoire allow us the rehearsal time to build new repertoire – this week we begin Haydn Op. 76 #1, Schumann 3 and Rihm 3. This next week we gather for a festival at a lake – Bebersee – where we play quartet concerts. Jason and I stay for another week of mixed chamber music – from Beethoven to Schnittke. I returned this week to lend a hand at the Mit Macht Musik program for refugees. This time I was able to see a bit more of the facility – a community garden and a large courtyard with bicycles and children playing is nestled in between the horse-shoe shaped government building. As I walked up to the entrance I took a deep breath in – the smells of cooking hit me with a pungent wall of yum. I wanted to continue up another flight of stairs just to take a look at what was on the stove. I was greeted with hugs from a couple of the students, all of whom respond enthusiastically to the music – the pieces being taught are familiar songs from the home countries – Afghanistan, Syria, Chechnya. I was happy to see more parents this time – coming to pick up kids and ask questions. I learned that there is a hierarchy of cultures even in this small refugee village – prejudices and long-standing clashes of cultures. Some countries have a history of an established educational system, and some not. Many of the women from particular countries have never attended a school themselves – do not know how to read or write, or the importance of regular attendance. The teachers try to impart this need to them – consistent attendance is a must – a difficult concept for a parent who has never been in a formal learning environment. Some of the things I observed gave me heavy pause – and made me think that music is indeed a tool which can help bridge cultures, all of which have different priorities. To give a child a voice – a child who may have never had the opportunity to speak her (his) mind before, is a gift which can be given through music in a somewhat gentle way. Each person who had made it all the way from their homes to that village in Potsdam has courage the likes of which we will never be able to understand. And yet, the courage to find your own voice, the pride of discovery and creativity – of collaboration between people of different genders, ages, languages – with no hierarchy – these are things that happen in music – things that you do not realize you are teaching, or doing. Some families allow their children this freedom, and some are still struggling with this new-found freedom of choice. With love and support of the teachers, I believe they will come to that music room and allow their children the choice to discover their own voices.
I won´t mince words: the most important tenor chamber recital in more than four decades. Jonas Kaufmann, a week after the ill-planned ending of the Barenboim Festival, came back for a song session (mainly Lieder) with his longtime accompanist, Helmut Deutsch. And this time he sang a perfect programme with groups of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Duparc, Liszt and Richard Strauss. This was at the Colón on last Sunday´s afternoon and for the Abono Verde. He had the support from the beginning of an anxious, knowledgeable and packed audience, who grew more and more enthusiastic. What happened after the last note of Strauss was an euphoric delirium as an incredible string of seven encores, proof not only of generosity but also of joy and gratitude, allowed us to hear him in opera and operetta. Kaufmann had conquered Buenos Aires with the highest vocal art; he demonstrated that, here as in Europe, the audience discriminates and not only reacts to tenors with splendid high Cs. Kaufmann is a linguist: Munich-born, his Italian is quite good and his French admirable. His memory is faultless: I followed with a score the majority of the songs and his always clear diction never missed a syllable; and, like that ideal baritone, the young Fischer-Dieskau, he gives dramatic sense to all he sings without ever going overboard, and the musical values are exact, following carefully every nuance indicated by the composer. By the way, if you are intrigued by who sang an impeccable recital more than forty years ago, he was Nicolai Gedda, but he did it at the Metro, not the Colón. His stance is revealing: he stands close to the piano and he concentrates totally in the song, scarcely moving, giving occasionally emphasis with the hands with sober gestures. His timbre is particular, hardly the typical tenor; it is never totally open. Don´t expect from him the stratospheric highs of Alfredo Kraus, he of the purest bel canto. But Kaufmann is the consumate master of the chiaroscuro, his breath control is amazing, and no other tenor in my experience has his ability to sing "piano-pianissimo" a "normal" high note and grow it to "forte". A special paragraph on the Viennese Helmut Deutsch, the veteran and still wonderful accompanist, whose work throughout was simply ideal. Mind you, he was the accompanist for twelve years of Hermann Prey, the only baritone that could match Fischer-Dieskau. Later, at Munich, he was professor of vocal interpretation for 28 years and taught and accompanied not only Kaufmann but first-rate artists as Diana Damrau and Michael Volle. He has recorded over a hundred CDs. Nobody has told me but I have no doubt that the programme was designed by both singer and pianist. It was unfailingly right. The Schubert started with two joyful pieces: "Der Musensohn" ("The Son of the Muses", on a Goethe text), all merry jumping, and the famous "Die Forelle" ("The Trout"). Then, the delightful watery "Der Jüngling an der Quelle" ("The young man at the source"), sung subtly and softly (but his projection is such that you hear him well if you are in the Gallery). And that "Lindenbaum" ( "Linden tree") whose melody seems folkish but is part of the stark "Die Winterreise" ("The Winter Voyage"). Then came the Schumann group, a selection of the "Twelve poems by Justinus Kerner" Op.35, very attractive and with the best schumannesque style. Of the chosen five I would single out the dramatic power of "Lust der Sturmnacht" ("Lust of the stormy night") and the Romantic impulse of "Stille Tränen" ("Silent tears"). Kaufmann gave us each mood with moving sensibility. And then, the so special case of Henri Duparc, born in 1848 and by 1885 no longer a composer after having produced some of the most exquisite "chansons d´art"; a strange mental condition cut off his creativity until his death in 1933. The four sung by our tenor are gems: the exquisite "L´invitation au voyage" ("The invitation to travel") on that often quoted text by Baudelaire that includes "order and beauty, luxury, calm and lust"; the dramatic "Le manoir de Rosemonde" ("Rosemonde´s country house"); the "Chanson triste" ("Sad song"), which mirrors that feeling admirably; and "Phidylé", a love song. I have long believed that these songs had their definitive interpretations by baritone Gérard Souzay; now I realize that a German tenor can be just as persuasive. But the best was yet to come. Most know Liszt´s "Petrarch Sonnets" in their piano transcription, but they were born as elaborate, refined songs. You will never hear them in such subjugating interpretations as Kaufmann gave us: with unbelievable feats of subtle vocality he went higher and sweeter, and higher...until you were convinced that this was an unmatched experience. And then, the Strauss group, in which I have my sole complaint: "Ich liebe dich" and "Freundliche vision" were changed and we were not told. Anyway, the expansive writing let him free his voice in "Heimliche Aufforderung" ("Secret Invitation") and the final "Cäcilie", and the composer´s humour came forward on two Von Schack songs, Op.19, where the tenor showed that he had also mastered that style. The encores were a separate recital and destroyed any doubt that might be left. For once in your life you heard the final phrase of Bizet´s "Flower aria" from "Carmen" and the Verdian "Celeste Aida" as they are written, ascending to a pianissimo; but his Radames lacked no power. Then, Verista expression in "L´anima ho stanca" from Cilea´s "Adriana Lecouvreur"; a Refice song, "Ombra di nube". "Nessun dorma" from Puccini´s "Turandot", where the tenor showed the solidity of his means and the audience officiated admirably as choir in the fragment where Calaf doesn´t sing. Then, like a born Neapolitan, "Core ´ngrato" ("Catarí") by Cardillo. And finally, that glorious Lehár aria from "The Land of Smiles", "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" ("Yours is my whole heart"), as beautifully sung as Tauber. Please come back with an operatic recital with the Colón´s Orquesta Estable! For Buenos Aires Herald
The Colón concert of Thursday, August 4th, was truly memorable. It was the fifth of the Abono Azul (Blue Subscription Series) and was repeated the following day (Función Extraordinaria, non-subscription). The artists were Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim leading the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO). This time the programme was long and satisfying, and all concerned were at their best. One general conclusion: Argerich and Barenboim are at the top of their profession and in their early seventies they show no decline. And the WEDO has improved greatly: it is astonishing that young people on a seasonal (not permanent) orchestra should show such maturity, both in the command of their instruments and in the integration of a common concept. There´s real talent in all of them, though of course they have the privilege of a great conductor that gives them style and unity. The concert began with a première: "Con brio" by Jörg Widmann. Barenboim had already promoted him in two chamber concerts with different programming of the Mozarteum Argentino (in the second he also played clarinet). This score for full orchestra lasts 11 minutes and although it isn´t divided into two parts it changes sharply after the first minutes, characterised by violent attacks followed by deep silences and by the mixture of musical sounds with noise as defined by Britannica: sound that interferes with other sounds that are being listened to. I wasn´t attracted so far, but later we hear recognisable melodies as well as fanfares and the mix becomes intriguing. My wife´s imaginative phrase accords with my reaction: "noises, echoes and resonances of bellicose actions in an inhospitable jungle". Barenboim led the piece with strong impact and the WEDO responded with exemplary discipline. The author made his bow and was warmly applauded. Franz Liszt´s Piano Concerto Nº1 is the most innovative and personal of Romantic concerti. In it (as in the Sonata) rhetorics are never vain; the ideas are substantial, moving and coherent. It is terribly difficult to play: Liszt did for piano technique what Paganini had done for the violin: an extraordinary expansion of the possibilities of each instrument. And his orchestration gives lovely solos for diverse players dialoguing with the piano. You need a true virtuoso that is also a great artist, and a very attentive and collaborative conductor: Sviatoslav Richter and Kyrill Kondrashin are a good reference, and so is Argerich on record with Abbado; live with Barenboim on this occasion will long be in the memories of those who were at this concert. I heard Argerich with Dutoit and the National Symphony in this concerto back in 1969; she was young and an amazing powerhouse. Forty-seven years later her incredible technique and stamina remain untouched (if I except her rushed and not altogether clean first entrance). The final minutes were as exciting as they were musical, always abetted by the best collaboration from the WEDO and Barenboim. There was a wonderful surprise: her encore wasn´t a short and easy piece from Schumann´s "Scenes from childhood" as she generally does, but an ideal performance of the best of Ravel: "Ondine", first number of "Gaspard de la Nuit". The fluidity of the playing in this devilishly intricate piece and the subtlety of her touch were an object lesson of Impressionism (as is her recording of 1974). The second part was simply the best Wagner playing heard here in a very long time. Maybe as far back as Leitner and Leinsdorf in the Sixties. Barenboim conducted at the Bayreuth Festival from 1981 to 1999, and he did the unparelleled feat of doing the ten great operas in a period of a few weeks in Berlin. Wagner is perfect for him: music of enormous technical accomplishment in which the system of Leitmotiven proves to be an astonishingly flexible array of moods and emotions. Wagner´s continuity imbricates easily with Barenboim´s rich intellect. The chosen 45 minutes are among the greatest orchestral music of the Nineteenth Century and had glorious performances: the interpretations were simply beyond reproach and the playing proved that the WEDO is strong in all departments, very minor smudges apart: the mellowness and musicality of the brass, the fine woodwind solos, the mahogany-hued strings always disciplined and intense, all made for a constant state of direct communication with the music. The "Tannhäuser" Overture (Dresden version) went swimmingly both in the solemn pilgrim melodies and in the bacchanical frenzy of the Venusberg. The most dramatically complex music came from "The Twilight of the Gods": the Dawn after the Norns´ scene is joined in the concert adaptation with the final pages of the Siegfried-Brünnhilde duet and goes straight on to the jubilant "Siegfried´s Rhine Journey". But Barenboim cunningly omitted the brilliant coda and went on as in the opera, where the atmosphere becomes gloomy as the hero approaches the Gibichung Palace, for in it looms Hagen, who will kill him in the Third Act; and this version even adds a transformed fragment from the end of the Second Act, that terrible conspiratorial Trio. It would have been better to go on without applause to "Siegfried´s Funeral Music" but that was not to be; anyway, that magnificent evokation was spine-tingling in this version. And the best possible conclusion for the programme, the Overture to "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg", to my mind the greatest ever written. The encore was complementary: the serene and sad Prelude to the Third Act of the same opera. For Buenos Aires Herald
Classical musicians aren’t in it for the money; aimless practice does more harm than good; it takes a genius to recognise one … Schumann’s Advice to Young Musicians is key, writes Steven IsserlisI grew up loving Schumann the man as well as Schumann the composer. I still remember where I was when I first came across a volume of his letters (No 42 Ladbroke Grove, in west London, to be precise). The beauty of his character shone through every word he wrote. Later, I came across his Advice for Young Musicians, written as a companion to his famous piano pieces for children, Album for the Young. I loved the Advice, too; but it seemed dated. Coming back to it more recently, however, I realised that only the language is old-fashioned; the advice itself is as valuable as ever – it just needs some interpretation for today’s musicians and music lovers: Related: Facing the music: Steven Isserlis Continue reading...
Many years ago I met pianist Vladimir Feltsman, as he was resting outdoors prior to a concert in Aspen, Colorado. I found him to be a thoughtful, expressive person, and I loved his playing of the Bach Goldberg Variations once the concert began. Today I have for you a new recording by Mr. Feltsman which allows us to listen to music by Robert Schumann: Vladimir Feltsman plays Schumann Piano Works Schumann: Kinderszenen, Op. 15 Arabeske in C major, Op. 18 Blumenstück, Op. 19 Kreisleriana, Op. 16 Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26 Waldszenen, Op. 82 Fantasie in C major, Op. 17 Albumblatter, Op. 124 Carnaval, Op. 9 Bunte Blätter, Op. 99 Bunte Blätter, Op. 99: Stücklein Romance in F sharp major, Op. 28 No. 2 plus: Albumblätter (I-V) Performed by Vladimir Feltsman (piano) Pianist and conductor Vladimir Feltsman is one of the most versatile and constantly interesting musicians of our time. His vast repertoire encompasses music from the Baroque to 20 th-century composers. A regular guest soloist with leading symphony orchestras in the United States and abroad, he appears in the most prestigious concert series and music festivals all over the world. Mr. Feltsman’s extensive discography has been released on the Melodiya, Sony Classical, and Nimbus labels. His discography includes eight albums of clavier works of J.S. Bach, recordings of Beethoven’s last five piano sonatas, solo piano works of Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Messiaen and Silvestrov, as well as concerti by Bach, Brahms, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Prokofiev. Here is Mr. Feltsman in a performance of the wonderful Arabesque Op. 18 by Schumann:
Santa Cecilia Orchestra/Pappano (ICA Classics)Though Italian orchestras don’t often figure prominently in lists of the world’s greatest orchestras, two of them are currently on a rapid upward trajectory. Riccardo Chailly’s project with the Orchestra of La Scala Milan is still in its early stages, but Antonio Pappano’s creative journey with the Rome-based Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia is much farther advanced. Pappano has been its music director since 2005, and a measure of just how good that band is now is shown by two new discs taken from performances recorded live in Rome over the last five years. There’s a pairing of Schumann symphonies, the second and the fourth, and this account of Elgar’s First Symphony, which is coupled with his Mediterranean travelogue, the overture In the South, taken from concerts in 2012 and 2013, respectively.As the Elgar performances demonstrate, Pappano has created a very fine orchestra indeed, one of true international quality. Its playing is not particularly Italianate, but then nowadays it’s rare for one of the world’s great orchestras to have an instantly identifiable sound. There’s nothing specifically recognisable about, for instance, the sound of the Royal Concertgebouw, the Berlin Philharmonic or the Cleveland Orchestra, and of today’s outstanding bands perhaps only the Staatskapelle Berlin and, on a good day, the Vienna Philharmonic, have a sound that is truly their own. Continue reading...
Robert Schumann (8 June 1810 - 29 July 1856) was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era. Schumann left the study of law to return to music, intending to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist. He had been assured by his teacher, Friedrich Wieck, that he could become the finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury caused by a device he created with the false belief that it would help increase the size of his hands prevented that. One of the most promising careers as a pianist had thus come to an end. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing. Schumann's published compositions were written exclusively for the piano until 1840; he later composed works for piano and orchestra; many lieder (songs for voice and piano); four symphonies; an opera; and other orchestral, choral, and chamber works. His writings about music appeared mostly in the New Journal for Music, a Leipzig-based publication which he jointly founded. In 1840, Schumann married pianist Clara Wieck when she was of age, following a long and acrimonious legal battle with her father, his former teacher, to gain his approval of the match. Clara also composed music and had a considerable concert career. For the last two years of his life, after an attempted suicide, Schumann was confined to a mental institution, at his own request.
Great composers of classical music