Friday, August 26, 2016
press release: Montclair, NJ – A new orchestra has been established in the New York City suburb of Montclair, New Jersey. The Montclair Orchestra will be a semi-professional full orchestra, with players to include local area professional musicians, conservatory level students, as well as highly trained amateurs. An inaugural 2017-2018 season is in the planning, with full orchestral concert repertoire ranging from traditional classical works from Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms to modern pieces and film scores of twentieth century and contemporary composers. The Montclair Orchestra is the concept of Montclair resident Andre Weker, a classically trained pianist and former orchestral musician. “When our family recently relocated to Montclair, one of the things that drew us to the area was the incredible amount of culture and support for the arts we saw in town,” says Weker. “It was clear that an orchestra would be an ideal complement to the other diverse cultural offerings in Montclair, and people in town have been extremely enthusiastic in the support of the project.” The original “Montclair Orchestra” was established in 1922, with its first concert being held at the Montclair Art Museum. That ensemble merged with other groups in the region, eventually moving to Newark and becoming what is today the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Since then, there are many musical performances and concert series taking place regularly in venues throughout Montclair, but a permanent orchestra has never been re-established, until now. In addition to Weker, others involved in the startup include Robert Cart, the Director of the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, and Rose Cali, a patron of the arts who also has ties to the Montclair Art Museum and Montclair Film Festival. “One of the goals of The Montclair Orchestra is to become a permanent fixture within the community,” says Cart. “Our goal is to build ties with the residents of the town, in addition to collaborating with the other local institutions such as the Art Museum and the Film Festival. The Montclair Orchestra will also help MSU strengthen its ties to the community at large, with our students becoming more acquainted with residents and venues in town, and in response residents attending concerts at the University’s venues.” A search for a Music Director has begun, and auditions for musicians will be held in the spring of 2017. Apply here. No rush yet.
Usher Hall, Edinburgh The mid-west orchestra returned to the European stage with a thrilling new edge, while violinist Pekka Kuusisto proved he’s a rare performer for our timesTwo years ago, the Minnesota Orchestra emerged from a bitter lockout, during which its music director, Osmo Vänskä, resigned in protest. (He was later rehired.) Now here they all are, touring Europe again, and that plush, super-charged Minnesota sound is back with a new edge of tenacity. They played Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as if it were a resounding declaration, and Vänskä took big pride in those classic ringing trumpets, sleek winds and gloriously bottom-heavy strings. The match here has always been thrilling – the conductor’s dynamism on the podium plus the powerful engine of this band – and now there seems something irrepressibly triumphant about it. Sibelius’s brooding tone poem Pohjola’s Daughter opened the concert and the surging energy was immense. Also tremendously moving was the performance of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto by Pekka Kuusisto. His account was questioning and troubled: the opening phrase unfolded as if in mid-conversation, cadenzas were cracked and exploratory, the slow movement was plain and the finale unruly. Kuusisto made no pretence that the concerto should sound safe – in fact, he made it sound downright vulnerable, a brave antithesis to the romantic showpiece it often becomes. As an encore, he played a sad Swedish folk tune called We Sold Our Homes, with Vänskä duetting on clarinet and the orchestra humming the harmonies. He spoke of the lockout and about global homelessness and migration. Here is a classical performer who genuinely connects what goes on inside the concert hall with the world outside – and that makes him a rare and important performer for our times. Continue reading...
“The scene: a crowded pub in the London district of Islington. Waitresses nudge through the crowd of about 100 people, carrying trays of hamburgers and cheesy fries, as patrons – East End hipsters, young professionals, students – saunter up to the bar to get more libations. Then one of the evening’s hosts asks for attention and introduces the live entertainment: a violinist, a violist and a cellist.”
From the classical archive, 15 March 1982: Sir András Schiff returns to the Proms next week to perform Beethoven. How did we review the pianist performing the same composer nearly 35 years ago at the beginning of his career? No-one who heard Andras Schiff’s Sunday afternoon piano recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall could have left the hall cold to the sheer radiance of his technique, which was constantly a joy to hear, if not always to see. In performance, Schiff presents a curious physical response to the music. When he pours up the tempo or dynamic after a diminution in either, he draws his whole body up from the keyboard and down on to the next chord with a characteristically precise but somehow graceless articulation of movement. Continue reading...
Maxim Vengerov, born 1974, was a child prodigy who won great competitions at an early age: the Wieniawski at ten and the Carl Flesch at fifteen. He went on to have a great career and be recognised as one of the leading violinists of our times, fortunately prodigal in this specialty. Nowadays he is also a conductor and teacher, and has his own Festival. An interesting point: during the recent decade he took a three-year sabbatical from playing; during that time he studied conducting . He came to Buenos Aires several times, the last playing a Chinese concerto with the Shanghai Symphony; although his playing was admirable, the work was subpar and hardly up to his capacities. But late in 2011 he gave a splendid recital of sustained quality, blending ideally intellectual comprehension with virtuoso realisation. Unfortunately I don´t keep archives and can´t vouchsafe if his pianist was Roustem Saitkoulov, but he is Vengerov´s habitual partner, it might have been him. Hand programme biographies should provide information about earlier visits to BA, but they are always mere translations of a standard international biography. I remember that years ago the Mozarteum made it a point of mentioning previous contacts with the artists; I wish they did that again in the future. Saitkoulov is a distinguished pianist in his own right; also,H he does a lot of chamber work. Born at Kazan, Russia, he studied with the great Elisso Virsaladze at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory (she came twice here) and then completed his training in Munich. He won important competitions: the Ferruccio Busoni (Bolzano), Géza Anda (Zürich), Marguerite Long (Paris). He has played with important orchestras and given recitals throughout the world. By the way, he accepts the French version of his name and surname; for us or for Great Britain and USA, it should be Rustem Saitkulov (we write Mussorgsky, not Moussorgsky). So there were good reasons to expect from this Mozarteum concert (repeated with the same programme) a very high level. Technically it was of course impeccable, but the interpretations began coldly, more so in the case of Vengerov. The sonatas chosen were enticing: Schubert´s Sonata in A, D.574, pompously called "Grand Duet"; and Beethoven´s marvelous Sonata Nº 7, in C minor, Op.30 Nº2. Schubert´s sonata was written young, at 20, but his personality is clear from the very beginning, a delicious Allegro moderato. Who else wrote such melodies or was so subtle in the harmonic modulations? He also wrote three other sonatas, a bit less inspired and developed, called Sonatinas by the editor. All of them were published posthumously, the same sad destiny of his symphonies 8 and 9. I fell in love with the sonata in my youth with the wonderful recording by Kreisler and Rachmaninov, for it has charm and beauty: Kreisler sings with captivating timbre, and the great Russian virtuoso adapts to the intimate style perfectly.Too much sliding from Kreisler? Agreed, but he is irresistible. And that´s contrary to what I felt from Vengerov: an academic, correct reading with no involvement. During the interval, a veteran friend said: "it´s as if he were afraid of producing any sound that isn´t round and smooth". Yes, all exact but with little energy and attack. Saitkoulov was better; however, the final result was placid in the wrong sense. As Claudia Guzmán rightly says in her comments referring to Beethoven´s Seventh Sonata: "never until then a work for piano and violin had displayed such dramatic intensity nor had required similar temporal proportions". It is a C minor masterpiece in the same rank as the "Pathetic" Piano Sonata and the Third Piano Concerto. No namby-pamby approach can deal with such a score. Things went gradually better, fired by the greater intensity and virtuoso playing of Soutkulov, but only got to the desirable grade of electricity from both in the last movement. Said my friend: "there I found Beethoven". But things changed, and the whole Second Part, as well as the four encores, went swimmingly. Both showed complete identification with that peculiar Ravel Second Sonata: he believed that piano and violin are incompatible and the music echoes that idea: the players oppose each other instead of being complemental. And you know, it works! The Blues is the best movement and it was played with ideal sinuosity. And then came a final virtuoso section starting with a violin solo piece: Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst´s Variations on "The Last Rose of Summer", Nº 6 of the Polyphonic Etudes for solo violin. The piece on the lovely Irish tune is the devil to play and rarely done; Vengerov at twelve presented it at the Tchaikovsky International Competition. Here he showed the complete range of his fantastic technique. A quiet and reflexive Paganini, the Cantabile Op.17, originally for violin and guitar, was done in a transcription for violin and piano. The final score was the Kreisler arrangement for violin and piano of Paganini´s "I palpiti" for violin and orchestra, Introduction and Variations on a theme from Rossini´s "Tancredi" (the aria "Di tanti palpiti"), a true catalogue of Paganini´s technical innovations, splendidly played. Four encores: two of those inimitable Kreisler pieces that Beecham would have called "lollipops": the famous "Viennese Caprice" and the dynamic "Chinese tambourine". Rachmaninov´s beautiful Vocalise, transcribed from the original for orchestra. And Brahms´ ever so popular Hungarian Dance Nº5, in the Joachim arrangement. All done with panache by the artists. For Buenos Aires Herald
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.
Great composers of classical music