Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Anthea Kreston, American violinist in the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet, is starting to get used to missing the best breakfasts in Europe. Here I am, in my hotel room across from the Konzerthaus in Vienna, packing and eating pistachios. It is 11:30 pm, and we leave for our flight at 6:00 am tomorrow. I am fortunate in so many ways, and one of them is to be a part of a string quartet which, in addition to a normal touring schedule, also has not one, but four different personal concert cycles. What this means, as a musician, is that you get to return many times each year, for years, to the same hall, the same audience, the same staff, the same hotel, and (my favorite) the same amazing breakfast buffet. Our four series are in Berlin (Philharmonie), Munich (Prince Regent Theater), Amsterdam (Concertgebouw), and Vienna (Konzerthaus, in conjunction with the Belcea Quartet). Although I have been here only 8 months, tonight was the 6th time I have had the honor of performing in this astoundingly gorgeous hall – impeccable acoustics in a large, rectangular hall decked in chandeliers with eggshell and baby blue accents on the walls. We perform two identical concerts, two nights in a row, to a packed hall. Our hotel is amazing – fluffy duvets, turn-down service, and a breakfast that runs the gamut from miso soup to roasted vegetables. We have to leave early tomorrow – before it opens – my only regret (ok – well, I did make a strange squeak on my open E during the Haydn tonight) of this trip. One of the highlights of these trips is being able to see members of the legendary Alban Berg String Quartet – Valentin Erben (cello) and Günter Pichler (first violin). The Alban Berg Quartet was a major part of the Artemis’ education – they worked together intensely for years. Valentin came to the concert last night, and afterwards he was happy to share his thoughts and opinions. He also came today to hear a cello that our cellist is trying out, and a little coaching session naturally evolved – I hope we can have a proper session soon with him – what an inspiration. The Vienna Konzerthaus is a Concertgebouw- or Carnegie- style venue. Several different halls, often with multiple events happening simultaneously, and a vigorous and creative outreach program. Today is the third of a 4 day festival in which 24 instrument makers are making a string quartet of instruments from scratch, on which a Beethoven String Quartet will be performed upon tomorrow. 4 teams of 6 makers from all over the world are hard at work, in the grand foyer of the Konzerthaus – their communal workshop surrounded by people young and old (groups of school children during the day, concert goers at night) observing and asking questions. I headed to the workshop after tonight’s performance – many of the makers had been to our concert and they had invited us to come down after. There was a buzz of excitement – the top of the cello was close to being able to be fitted tonight – pizza was being delivered and I think they will be working through the night tonight. The makers showed me their stations, piles of wood shavings covered the floor, and they all asked me about my violin. I spoke about my stolen Becker violin – although it is an unusual maker in Europe they all know and respect the Becker name. I took out my old Italian violin which is on loan, and it was like a pod of sharks circling an injured walrus. They all dropped what they were doing to inspect the violin – even sliding a felt-covered light strip inside to observe the inside of the bouts. I did a YouTube live streaming interview, and stayed to answer questions of audience members. If you are interested, go to Konzerthaus.at and look for “Quartett gebaut gehört”. Well – off to bed for me. Long day tomorrow!
What Symposium: Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra – Beethoven’s Ninth When November 18, 2016 at 9:15AM REGISTER NOW! $450 Discount extended to midnight on Friday, November 4, 2016 to save $50. Where Joseph Meyerhoff Hall November 18, 2016 Beethoven Ninth, and more, with Marin Alsop A note from Conductors Guild President, Dr. John […]
The American pianist on composers and mortality, having two violinist parents, and his lack of coordination in all things not piano-relatedIn his Late Style series, which he is playing across the US, Italy, the Netherlands and in London – at Milton Court, Barbican on 8 November, returning next year – the American pianist Jonathan Biss, 36, explores the music Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, Schumann and Kurtág wrote near the end of their lives.Life can be short or long, death lingering or sudden. Is there any common thread in the music you’re playing in this three-concert series? Actually, it’s the lack of a common thread that really interests me. Playing these works, I feel clearly that these composers are moving in new directions late in life, but those directions vary enormously, composer to composer. Schubert, who died at the impossibly young age of 31, faced mortality with a feverish intensity. In contrast, Mozart, who was almost as young, brought an almost naive but profound simplicity to his late works – think of the Clarinet Concerto, or the Clarinet Quintet. Bach, 65 when he died, became more abstract and austere – The Art of the Fugue is so extreme in that way. And Elgar, writing his final works around the same age, though he lived on into his 70s, became incredibly emotionally expansive – in the Piano Quintet, the String Quartet, the Violin Sonata. Continue reading...
Europe’s musical heart nurtured Beethoven, Schubert and the Strausses, but its second school changed music forever, and today, innovation sits alongside traditionalismI lazily plumped for Vienna as the latest stopping-off point on our tour of musical cities, thinking the sheer multiplicity of classical composers who have lived and worked there would make it easy. In fact, of course, it makes choosing which music to focus on very difficult. As the centre of Europe’s musical life for more two centuries, thanks to its status of capital of the Habsburg empire, many of the greats – notably Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven – gravitated to Vienna, and Schubert was born in the city.The trusty @abkquan suggests choosing “pieces that describe the city and evoke its atmosphere rather than great pieces written by Viennese composers”. He offers the nature-loving Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, a work we take for granted but which, if you listen to it afresh, is little short of miraculous. Continue reading...
When it comes to expressing emotion, Cellist Gautier Capucon has no equal. Now he is out with a new recording: Beethoven: Cello Sonatas and Variations Beethoven: Cello Sonatas Nos. 1-5 (complete) Variations (12) on “See the conquering hero comes” for Cello and Piano, WoO 45 Variations (7) on “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen”, for Cello and Piano, WoO 46 Variations (12) on “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” for Cello and Piano, Op. 66 All performed by Gautier Capuçon (cello) and Frank Braley (piano) Following after last year’s live recording of the Shostakovich cello concertos, this album sees Gautier return to the studio with his friend and recital partner of many years, Frank Braley, in a program of Beethoven’s Sonatas for Cello and Piano. In addition the album includes Beethoven’s wonderful variations on three different themes – two on arias from Mozart’s opera Die Zauberflöte, and the other from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus. Here is Mr. Capucon in Beethoven’s Cello Sonata number 2:
Some way beyond crossover, the former R. E. M. rock group bassist Mike Mills is going on tour with violinist Robert McDuffie and the chamber orchestra Fifth House Ensemble . The musicians are boyhood friends whose tastes are converging. Mills is reaching back to his symphony-going childhood while McDuffie says he’s bored of playing the circuit of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky concertos. There’s a very nice feature on them in Rolling Stone. Meantime, here’s a taster. For those in the biz, it’s a CAMI tour.
Great composers of classical music