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Ludwig van Beethoven

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


My Classical Notes

Yesterday

Playlist: Scenes from Nature

My Classical NotesComposers have frequently found their inspiration to write great music based on having experienced a variety of scenes in Nature. For some it was the Vienna Forrest; for others, it was a stream or a lake. Yet other composers wanted to use music to paint their experience of a majestic river. Ludwig van Beethoven composed his Symphony number 6 which was devoted to many scenes: A storm, country folk dancing outdoors, and more. I have a playlist for you with some examples: Gustav Mahler, in his Symphony #4, paints for us a scene from a meadow, where cows are grazing and the Bells around their necks are gently clanging sound. Richard Strauss created his “Alpensinfonie” to describe an ascent into a very high mountain in the Alps. Smetana described in a Tone Poem his experience of the Czech river, the Moldau. And Franz Schubert watched a fisherman, as he disturbed the beauty of a mountain stream by capturing a trout in the stream’s murky waters. Here is my playlist for you that I call “Scenes from Nature”

My Classical Notes

May 29

Faust’s Personal Beethoven

The Violin Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven has been performed for more than 200 years. As such, it is an artistic challenge to bring something new to the performance of this work. Violinist Isabelle Faust rises to that occasion with this DVD recording. The program of this recorded concert is: Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 ‘Pastoral’ Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 Performed by Isabelle Faust (violin), with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Bernard Haitink conducting. Under the baton of Bernard Haitink, who is regarded as an authority on the music of Beethoven, they played the famous Symphony No. 6, “Pastorale”. Ms. Faust has previously shown us beautiful interpretations of the Beethoven sonatas for piano and violin on earlier recordings. For the Violin Concerto, the Berliner Philharmoniker in a reduced number of players were joined by Isabelle Faust, whose tone captivated in equal measure with her “passion, grit, … warmth and sweetness” (The New York Times). The BBC Music Magazine wrote: “Faust makes light of the technical difficulties of Beethoven’s sometimes awkwardly-written Violin Concerto. The quiet warmth of her playing, particularly in such moments as the mysterious ending to the first stage of the opening movement, and the new theme that so unexpectedly emerges at the mid-point of the slow movement, is a constant pleasure” Here is Ms. Faust, performing the concerto under the direction of Bernard Haitink:




Tribuna musical

May 29

Admirable veteran pianist and Mahler´s overwhelming “Resurrection Symphony”

We have just lived a rich symphonic week, led by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic and the Teatro Argentino. The first, conducted by Enrique Arturo Diemecke, gave us the long-awaited return of Philippe Entremont, still active and technically in shape weeks away from his 82nd birthday, playing Beethoven´s First Concerto. And to boot, the hour-long magnificent Fourth Symphony ("Romantic") by Bruckner. As to the Argentino, their musical director Carlos Vieu tackled no less than the overwhelming "Resurrection Symphony" (Nº2) by Mahler. Entremont has had an enormous career, for this Frenchman born at Reims started at l8 when he played Jolivet and Liszt concerti at Carnegie Hall with great success. During the last thirty years he added conducting, and as such he came here at least twice at the front of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra ( he was also Chief Conductor of the Denver Symphony). When he was 80, a box of 19 CDs compiled all his recordings of concerti. I was lucky enough to hear him twice in recitals back in 1957 at Washington, where I was studying, but I don´t remember when he was here as a pianist; such information should be in his hand programme biography but it isn´t. He is still very much worth hearing: the playing was clean and stylish, with fine timbre and clever use of the pedal. A minor misadjustment at the coda of the last movement matters little. In the first movement he played the shorter of the three cadenzas left by Beethoven, but he added some extra music that might be his. Diemecke and the Phil accompanied well. Entremont ´s encore was Chopin, the brief and charming Three Écossaises that I used to relish when played by Brailowsky. Entremont´s interpretation was airy and rhythmically free. Diemecke has demonstrated before that the great symphonic challenges are for him; he has confronted Bruckner´s heavenly lengths before and has managed to give this controversial composer the necessary coherence, the care for its chamber moments and the immense power of the abundant climaxes. The Fourth, "Romantic", has been done often in our city and under first-rate maestros such as Moralt, Van Otterloo or Decker. In fact, it is the most often played, along with the Seventh and Eighth, and with good reason, for it has lovely melodies, stirring impact, feats of counterpoint, and an ambience of its own in Bruckner´s peculiar evocation from a Romantic point of view of Medieval castles, cities, knights and hunts. We generally hear the revised version; the original was heard here only once, by Rozhdestvensky and the Vienna Symphony. The Phil was at its very best, with unfailing work from that most dicey section, the horns, and a high degree of concentration from all concerned. And again there was that irritating contradiction in Diemecke´s personality: his inane and unnecessary comments and his world-class conducting. Again after the applause the orchestra protested with placards saying "carrera 2012?". To decode it, the players are showing their anger because they are claiming since 2012 that their "career" be recognised with money added to their salary; in other words, e.g., a first violin with 25 years of experience in the Phil deserves better payment than one that entered last year. Seems fair to me. Mahler´s Second has marked my musical life so stromngly that I have to declare my very special predilection for a score so elevated and masterful that it restores my faith in humanity...at least whilst I´m listening to it. It was one of my very early vinyl albums back in 1951, when I was twelve: the wonderful Klemperer/Vienna Symphony recording. But the first live performance in BA was only during the Illia presidency, led by A.C. Paita. From then on it was heard with some frequency: Calderón, Bodmer (at the Bombonera!), Decker, even Mehta with the Israel Philharmonic! (wonderful), and last year´s high point with Diemecke and the National Symphony at the Blue Whale. At La Plata Luis Gorelik did an interesting Nº2 some years ago. Currently the Argentino goes through a difficult period marked by budget restrictions and plans of building restoration. But there are stalwart facts in their concert life: a big orchestra of good standard conducted by Vieu, one of our most able artists; and a splendid chorus well prepared by Sánchez Arteaga. So the basic conditions are there, and if we add the positive spirit with which they worked, and an enthusiastic big audience, plus two talented soloists, mezzosoprano Florencia Machado and soprano Daniela Tabernig, things had to go well, and they did. Foremost, Vieu commanded the extremely complex and fascinating score, and had lucid phrasing ideas. Not all players were perfect but only one thing jarred, the ugly bells (they must be changed), after all not the fault of the instrumentalist. But so much was right that, after a tremendous First Movement (the huge Funeral March) and the fantasy of the following two, the mezzo sang "Urlicht" ("Original Light") from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" as the moving interlude before the gigantic Fifth movement, and we were ready for the total catharsis of the greatest choral-symphonic music, on Klopstock´s Resurrection ode, but only after almost twenty minutes of traversing the most contrasting moods imaginable. The chorus enters "pianissimo" and from then on the music grows and grows (adding the two soloists) until the most glorious final minutes in history. For Buenos Aires Herald

Tribuna musical

May 29

“Fidelio”, Beethoven´s unique opera, in a delirious production

Few operas have had such a troubled initial history as "Fidelio", Beethoven´s only and unique opera. Unique because stylistically it has no predecessors and no imitators. Two "fs" define it: freedom and fidelity. Formally it is a Singspiel (spoken and sung fragments alternate). And it´s a member of a trend of those times: the "rescue opera". It is based on a true story told by Jean-Nicolas Bouilly, who transported it to a prison in the suburbs of Seville to avoid French censorship. His "Léonore, ou l´amour conjugal" was translated and adapted by Joseph Sonnleithner and as "Leonore" and in three acts, the opera was premièred at Vienna´s Theater and der Wien on November 20, 1805, just a week after the city had been invaded by Napoleon, hardly the appropriate time. No other opera in history has had four overtures: Leonore 1 was discarded and has remained as a symphonic piece; Leonore 2, longer than Leonore 3 but with similar material, opened the three-act "Leonore", but when it was reduced to two acts by Stephan Von Breuning, Leonore 3 was played. This was on March 29, 1806. The opera we know as "Fidelio" was premièred in May 23, 1814, but the homonymous overture (with different material from the three Leonores) was finally heard three days later. And at that time the opera triumphed; Napoleon was vanquished, a new Europe existed. This version had numerous changes and a new libretto by Georg Friedrich Treitschke, and it´s the one heard nowadays. Nevertheless there have been revivals of "Leonore", I suppose in its 1806 revision, and there are recordings such as the one conducted by Blomstedt; I have it and two things strike me: the longer time assigned to Singspiel Romantic aspects such as the Marzelline-Jaquino relationship, and the much more expanded monologue of Florestan. The ideal (will we ever see it?) would be to offer staged "Fidelio" and in succesive nights a concert version of "Leonore" and the four overtures. The main dramatic problem is that suspension of disbelief is carried to the extreme, for Fidelio is Leonore and we are supposed to accept that the jailer Rocco, his assistant Jaquino and his daughter Marzelline are convinced that Fidelio, Rocco´s new helper, is a young man (of course, for spectators it´s even harder for she-he is a dramatic soprano, generally of Wagnerian size). The main musical problem is Beethoven´s essence: he is an instrumental rather than a vocal composer, and his lines are often uncomfortable and very high-ranged (as they are for both chorus and soloists in the Choral Symphony and the Missa Solemnis). But Beethoven´s impetus, imagination and individuality are inimitable, and we would all be poorer if "Fidelio" didn´t exist. I am sorry to say that the current "Fidelio" has one of the weakest casts and conductor and by far the worst production I ever saw (this is my "Fidelio" Nº 16 and the eighth at the Colón). The cast first. The yearly booklet announced Elisabete Matos but it was later changed: Nadja Michael (the admirable Kundry of last December) came, rehearsed but quit for mysterious "personal reasons". And Carla Filipcic Holm, of the second cast, was promoted to the first. She had sung the part at Buenos Aires Lírica in 2010 rather well. This time I found her uneven, with powerful moments followed by others of little vocal and dramatic presence. Serbian tenor Zoran Todorovitch (debut) was metallic and forced in his big monologue but later was better, as he found a more agreeable timbre and phrasing. The two basses were the best: Manfred Hemm (Rocco, debut) gave a well-practiced performance with a serviceable voice, and Hernán Iturralde was his usual assured self as Don Fernando, the Minister whose timely appearance puts things right. The villain Pizarro was sung with little focus to his tone by Homero Pérez Miranda, who didn´t transmit the evilness of his character. I was disappointed by the shrillness that has invaded the high notes of Jaquelina Livieri, whose Marzelline was far from the quality of last year´s Sophie in "Werther". Santiago Bürgi was a correct Jaquino. But the real heroes were the members of the Chorus under Miguel Martínez, with singing that according to requirements was fresh and full-voiced or subtle and soft. And Francisco Rettig, a conductor I usually admire, for some reason got questionable results from the orchestra (poor horns, crucial in the Leonore scene) and there were misadjustments with the stage. Also, he committed a serious mistake: Mahler instituted the practice of playing Leonore 3 between the two tableaux of the Second Act, and there it works perfectly, for the trumpet signal reiterates the arrival of Fernando heard some minutes before. But Rettig put it in the worst possible place, just before the anguished Prelude to Florestan´s monologue. Eugenio Zanetti did almost all: production, stage, costume and multimedia design. (The lighting was by Rubén Conde). "Fidelio" needs starkness and simplicity. Here we got delirious ideas packed together. A short list: endless comings and goings during the overtures, which are meant for listening; an ugly, bloody drop; witnesses where there shouldn´t be any (voyeurism); Florestan singing inside a luminous tube when he is exclaiming "God! How dark it is!" ; Pizarro clad in XVIIth century attire at the top of a small tank; prisoners that don´t come out of jails; and a big etcetera. For Buenos Aires Herald



Tribuna musical

May 29

Our three main orchestras are in good shape

In just two weeks our three main orchestras offered free concerts at the Usina del Arte (two) and at the Blue Whale (one). And all three were in pretty good shape. C Let´s start with the Usina and its slow transition with a new team led by Marcelo Panozzo, substituting Gustavo Mozzi who is working at the CCK. He has had important former posts: BAFICI´s Artistic Director (2012-5), editor of Penguin Random House and of La Nación´s ADN magazine, as well as Entertainment editor of Clarín. But nothing that indicates an interest in classical concerts. Of course, in this case the change of guard is within the same political party, which should make it easy, but up to now things are going very slowly and the logistics leave much to be desired. Item: you will look in vain in their Internet site for a telephone or a mail address. As to programming, up to now the Usina is saved by the Colón, which may have many faults but it has a yearly programme and a booklet giving all details. What´s relevant and positive is that the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, apart from its subscription series at the Colón, is giving no less than eleven programmes at the Usina, with completely different programmes than the ones at the Colón (last year they were similar, so the new policy is quite a gain). No less commendable is the fact that the Estable (Resident) Colón Orchestra is taken out of the operatic pit and will offer seven concerts at the Usina. The Usina hand programmes , except for one line that reads "Usina del Arte", are clearly the Colón´s: its authorities are stated there, not the Usina´s, a mere venue. (By the way, they are very poor, with no commentaries on the music played). I had recourse to the Colón to obtain my press tickets for the concert of April 30. Once I arrived at the Usina, I finally got the press contact and the telephone I needed and now things are normal, but it´s an ABC of communication whenever there´s a team change to send a presentation mail to habitual newspaper reviewers. One of the great mistakes of the Usina in preceding years was that it didn´t have a year schedule: you got the information one month at a time, and generally you were informed, say, about June in May´s last week; hardly the right way to run a concert-giving institution. Up to now, things haven´t changed, and the other non-Colón activities haven´t been interesting in the field of classical music. Meanwhile, a useful piece of news: a parking lot has just opened. There should also be a system at the Usina to be able to call for cabs, they are quite absent in that zone . And more security: Caffarena is very dark. But now to the good things. On April 30 Francisco Rettig conducted an attractive combination: Richard Strauss´ "Duetto-Concertino for clarinet, bassoon and orchestra" and the Fantastic Symphony by Berlioz. The Duetto, rarely played here (though it has at least nine recordings), is a charming piece written in 1947 when the composer was 83; completely tonal and nostalgic, it has no pretensions: just pleasant but individual writing, a bit too repetitive. It was beautifully played by Carlos Céspedes (clarinet) and Ezequiel Fainguersch (bassoon). As to the "Fantastic", created in 1830 just three years after Beethoven´s death, after dozens of performances I remain amazed: it opened a new world of sound both in the richness of its ideas and the ceaselessly innovative orchestration. The Chilean conductor showed his mettle in a faithful rendition of the score´s many moods, and the Orchestra responded with considerable virtuosity. On May 12 it was the turn of the Phil under Javier Logioia Orbe and with the return of a much loved pianist: Ralph Votapek. By now he must be seventy and he has lost none of his splendid musicality and command; also, he looks 55. Prokofiev´s Third Concerto (his best) is notoriously a great challenge, with its mixture of lyricism and savagery. The pianist gave us impeccably the relentless dynamism of the climactic passages and the delicacy of its dreamy bits. Logioia is a firm and studious conductor, though he has a tendency to force the sound and this was felt both in Prokofiev (he also conducted the short March from "The Love for Three Oranges") and in Elgar´s wonderful "Enigma Variations", certainly well understood and expressed, but at times too clangorous. However, my seat in the very last row and under a roof may have had an acoustic influence on what I heard. Finally, the National Symphony at the Blue Whale gave a splendid concert on April 13. Two valuable works were played with a degree of technical accomplishment and artistic comprehension that speaks highly of the orchestra, their conductor Günter Neuhold (who has come several times to BA in preceding seasons) and the pianist of the orchestra, Marcelo Balat. Ginastera´s Piano Concerto Op.28 (1961) is extremely difficult; its aesthetics are Expressionistic with a touch of Argentine rhythms. Balat played marvelously. Shostakovich wrote a 55-minute masterpiece in his astonishing Tenth Symphony (1953, the year of Stalin´s death). Neuhold showed an admirable grip on the phrasing of chamber passages and the buildup of climaxes, and the Orchestra responded with stunning impact. For Buenos Aires Herald

Tribuna musical

May 29

The Rome Santa Cecilia Orchestra visits us for the first time

Italy has three main symphony orchestras. Two have come to BA in earlier seasons: Milan´s La Scala with Gavazzeni and later with Muti, and that of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with Maazel. And now, to complete the trilogy, the Mozarteum Argentino brought us from Rome the Orchestra dell´Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Sir Antonio Pappano and with Beatrice Rana (piano). All made their local debuts. The three are of high quality and can compete internationally. La Scala´s has a special regime: during Autumn it is a concert orchestra, but come Winter they go to the pit for the operatic season. That of the MMF of course is the basis for the homonymous yearly Festival in which such great names as Bartoletti and Mehta have presented interesting opera programmes, but they also offer many concerts during the year and they are the pit orchestra for the Teatro Comunale´s opera season. The Santa Cecilia, instead, is a concert orchestra with weekly activity from October to June at the magnificent new Parco della Musica. Each concert is given three times. However, it has recently recorded "Aida" with a starry cast (Kaufmann/Harteros/Schrott) and "Madama Butterfly" with Gheorghiu. The Accademia also supports a Chorus, and so the choral-symphonic repertoire often appears during the season. It is the oldest Italian organism dedicated almost exclusively to concert music. It was founded in 1908 as Orchestra dell´Augusteo di Roma. Bernardino Molinari had a long tenure as Principal Conductor from 1912 to 1944. Later the Orchestra was called Santa Cecilia (she is the patroness of music) and had eminent Principal conductors: Fernando Previtali (1953-73), Igor Markevich (1973-5), Giuseppe Sinopoli (1983-7), Daniele Gatti (1992-7), Myung-Whun Chung (1997-2005) and now Pappano. To their appellation they later added Nazionale (I would have thought more adequate to add "di Roma"). The Academy was established by papal bull as "Congregazione" in 1585, and became Academy in the Nineteenth Century. Nowadays it also has a Conservatory, what they call a "Bibliomediateca" and a Museum of musical instruments. Vinyl lovers will recall that the orchestra, though a concert outfit, was employed in dozens of famous operatic recordings in the 1950s and 1960s. Anyway, I can vouchsafe that in concert the Santa Cecilia was first-rate even in the Fifties, when I heard in Rome a wonderful evening with Previtali and the greatest pianist in my experience, Wilhelm Backhaus, who played both Beethoven´s Concerto Nº4 and Brahms´ First in the same evening! (February 6, 1954). And now to Sir Antonio Pappano (why Antonio and not Anthony? He´s British!). Born 56 years ago, he studied in the United States, he was Musical Director of the Norwegian Opera at Oslo and at Brussels´ Théâtre de la Monnaie prior to taking over the main post at London´s Covent Garden in 2002. So he divides his time between opera and concerts. The programmes he brought over for the Mozarteum´s two cycles played safe, too safe. On the tour came Beatrice Rana, a 23-year-old Italian pianist who recorded Tchaikovsky´s First Concerto and Prokofiev´s Second with Pappano and the Santa Cecilia. If she had played Prokofiev on Tuesday 12 and Tchaikovsky on Wednesday 13, it would have been much better, but no, it was Tchaikovsky both days. Or if the Russian composer´s Fifth Symphony on the 12th would have been replaced by a symphony of, say, Shostakovich, there would have been a good balance. But no, we had both Tchaikovskys together on the first night, and one hopes to hear something more varied from a visiting orchestra, especially if it´s their first time here. But apart from that caveat, everything went swimmingly. The conductor was right in starting both evenings with Verdi: the Overture to "La Forza del destino" and the following day, the Sinfonia (another name for overture) to "Luisa Miller". The phrasing was unfailing, showing Pappano´s knack for dramatic music, and the Orchestra sounded admirable (as listed in the hand programme it is huge, 117 players, but surely fewer came). Rana is a find: a fantastic and effortless technique that combines a big sound without harshness and impeccable digitation at all speeds. Just one reservation: in the first movement she slowed down too much in certain passages, though generally she dazzled in the virtuosic passages. The accompaniment was very professional. Her encore on Wednesday was beautiful: a Schumann song from "Frauenliebe und Leben" as arranged admirably by Liszt. But on Tuesday her Gigue from Bach´s First Partita sounded like a perfectly executed cross-hands etude rather than a dance. The symphonies showed both Pappano´s mettle and the orchestra´s quality; except for some horn fluffs the playing was very firm, with attractive solos from the woodwinds and the strings and a warm, in tune, brilliant overall sound. The conductor was orthodox and gave sure readings of both the Tchaikovsky Fifth and that strange and fascinating symphony, Saint-Saëns´ Nº3. The final minutes of the latter were thrilling; organist Daniele Rossi played on the Colón electric organ placed on the avant-scène loge and it sounded good, though never replacing a true pipe organ (impossible at the Colón). Encores: on Tuesday, "Nimrod" from Elgar´s Enigma Variations, and the last part of Rossini´s "Guillaume Tell". On Wednesday, a marvelous interpretation of Puccini´s Intermezzo from "Manon Lescaut" and a romping close with the galop-like ending to Ponchielli´s "Dance of the Hours" from "La Gioconda". For Buenos Aires Herald

Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770 – 1827)

Ludwig van Beethoven (baptised 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. The crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time. Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in present-day Germany, Beethoven moved to Vienna in his early 20s, studying with Joseph Haydn and quickly gaining a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. Beethoven's hearing began to deteriorate in the late 1790s, yet he continued to compose, conduct, and perform, even after becoming completely deaf.



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