Saturday, October 22, 2016
After hearing Gabriela Montero Monday afternoon in Sanders Theater, I went home, and before my mystical feelings passed, sat down to play better piano than I had any right to expect. Montero had played and advocated as guest of Lespau, a Harvard affiliate celebrating 50 years of connecting Latin America and the Caribbean with opportunities for quality higher education. Montero’s the total package. She reveals a monster-scary technique, but that’s not what you take away. She’s about the music, being in the moment, with an unreal level of concentration (Barenboim-like, but with more piano coloring). She generates more warmth from her right little finger than a nuclear reactor, along with gorgeous sound, and extended musical arcs of lyric melody. That’s what you take away. She is known as much for her improvising as for her improvisatory takes on standard repertoire. In the latter halves of many of her recitals she fills in the blanks after asking the audience to supply a theme—it must be sung, not simply named—then she goes to town. Remarkable, the way she can incorporate so many classical musical styles and periods into a single creation on a theme, totally on the fly. Jazzy, too. Leading into this program, I was most excited about the improvisations promised. And she delivered, on all two of them. Just Two? I forgave her on the spot (of course), because I couldn’t imagine a better, or more satisfying, performance of the Schubert or Schumann that the first part of her program comprised. But more on that little finger. Trust me, eyes and ears were trained on that finger, mostly during the four Schubert Impromptus, Op. 90, D. 899, where said finger got a considerable share of the music’s focus, particularly in the 3rd Impromptu. She must have started learning these pieces at age six. Such old friends they seemed. Not that they sounded old, like early 19th century German period pieces, which would have been just fine. They were fresh, universal sounding. Though I usually find these impromptus in need of whittling down, with so much repetition of musical ideas, Montero made these not-so-small pieces hum (vibrate), and dance, with grace, mass, and (importantly) structure. Again, I’m reminded of Barenboim, relentless in the loud, aggressive sections Beethoven’s last movement of the Waldstein, while so quiet throughout the initial theme and its returns, but as a result, bringing structure to the work, making us hear the movement (and work) as a whole. Montero brought scale to the set of four with blood-pulsing life. She is a master of subdivision on a minute (emphasis on second syllable) scale, and her Impromptus unfolded rhythmically from so many different temporal gears that it gave her, almost paradoxically, the power to bend time, if she so wished. And so wish she did, but not initially. That would come with time, because she indulged in only the barest rhythmic nuance in the opener. This was not Brendel’s Schubert. It was classically structured all the same, but with more: more power, more sectional contrast, more drama, more quiet, more breadth, more noble sorrow, and more singing. Such singing! And when that ever-slight nuance came, she made the works her own. If you wished, you could hear increments of four, sixteen, and 32 between the larger musical pulse. You could almost see humming birds drawn to and hovering above. There’s a lot of reverb in Sanders. My colleague found some of Montero’s playing to be just a little over-legato, but not over-pedaled. I hadn’t noticed. It was certainly never brittle. Triplets in the 2nd and 4th impromptu shimmered, with all the repetition serving to mesmerize rather than sound like repetition. Both impromptus danced, bounced lightly (with all that de-emphasis of the 3rd beat), and melodies (be it played with right little finger or left thumb) soared. In the 3rd impromptu we marveled at her rubato. Montero could extract as much time between those right little finger melodic notes as she wanted, and it all worked because she was (as were we) so much in the moment as the piece pulsed. Before the close, double-forte drama had unfolded with the same gorgeous sound as her floating pianissimos. Carnival had all the stop-start-accelerate-turn-get loud-get soft-spin-on-a-dime Sturm und Drang one could desire. It was much like Matsuev’s marvelous rendition at Sanders two years before, but perhaps imbued more warmth, and more ache. Big, tiny, and intimate at once. Gabriela Montero (Shelly Mosman photo) Her virtuoso arsenal included joyous bursts of sound, whisper quiet octaves then huge washes of sound, left hand leaping over the keyboard (much fun to watch), orchestral playing but über-pianistic. Her piano pleaded and waltzed about with wit and wackiness—no shying away from those Schumann-ic schizophrenic shifts of character; extra pronounced they were—all leading to an exultant, joyous close. After the Schumann, Montero announced she would be playing two improvisations. One on an audience-provided theme, the other on a theme she would introduce based on her homeland. It took all of two moments for her to get her bearings with Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind.” She played the theme, then launched into a Mozart variation, then riffed into a dizzying array of styles, moods, and modes on the Dylan theme, adding and dispensing with her own creative supporting material along the way. It was a hoot! And an audience delight. An ardent activist and spokesperson for her native Venezuela, Montero spoke briefly of her country’s descent into lawlessness, corruption, and violence. But, she said, she is absolutely convinced things will get better. Her improvisation, she said, would start from fear and despair, but would end with quiet triumph. A dark and haunting theme emerged, quietly. It, too, descended into violence, before rising from tones of despair to sounds of hope. If there was some slight self-indulgence in this improvisation, it was entirely warranted. Montero has blood in her veins, marrow in her bones, and age in her soul. She played with passion and sinew while projecting great composure. I was the one to have had a fine meltdown. Jim McDonald has masters degrees in arts administration and piano performance from the University of Iowa, where he studied with John Simms. He has presented chamber music for 25 years. The post A Committed Montero Triumphs appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .
By Jacob Stockinger By any measure the opening concert last Friday night of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) under music director Andrew Sewell was a complete and compelling success. It left The Ear with several big lessons: The same piece played by a chamber orchestra and a symphony orchestra is not the same piece. The Ear remembers hearing one of the first Compact Discs commercially available: a recording of the famous “Eroica” Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven performed by the popular chamber orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under its recently deceased founder and longtime conductor Sir Neville Marriner . Was it going to be Beethoven Lite after all the versions from the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein and the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan ? Not at all. It turned out that symphony orchestras are about power while chamber orchestras are about subtlety. The same work sounds very different when performed by the two different kinds of ensembles. So it was with the Violin Concerto by Peter Tchaikovsky with Russian prize-winning soloist Ilya Kaler and conductor Andrew Sewell. The WCO players performed beautifully, and with the chamber orchestra you felt a balance and an intimacy between the soloist, the orchestra and conductor Sewell (below). You could hear with more clarity or transparency the structure of the concerto and the dialogue of the violin with various orchestral sections – the flutes and clarinet stood out – that often get drowned out by bigger accompanying forces. So when you see the same work programmed by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, do not think of them as duplications you have to choose between. Go hear both. Listen for the differences. You will not be disappointed. That’s what The Ear did and he came away enthralled and enchanted with this smaller-scale Tchaikovsky. There are many great and more affordable soloists whose names we do not recognize. But don’t underestimate them just because you haven’t heard of them. The world has more first-rate musical talent than ever. Ilya Kaler (below), the only violinist ever to win gold medals at the Tchaikovsky, Paganini and Sibelius competitions, is a case in point. We owe a big thanks to the WCO for finding and booking him. He is right up there with the American violinist Benjamin Beilman, whom the WCO booked last season. Kaler’s playing was first-rate and world-class: virtuosic, both lyrical and dramatic, but also nuanced. His tone was beautiful and his volume impressive – and all this was done on a contemporary American violin made in Ann Arbor, Michigan . (You can hear Kaler play in the YouTube video at the bottom.) The Ear says: Bring Kaler back – the sooner, the better. The Ear wants to hear him in violin concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach , Georg Philipp Telemann, Antonio Vivaldi and other Italian Baroque masters like Francesco Geminiani and Arcangelo Corelli. Classical-era concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would be wonderful. More Romantic concertos by Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn, Nicolo Paganini , Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann would also be great. And how about the Violin Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Prokofiev and the neo-Classical Violin Concerto by Igor Stravinsky? But anything will do. Kaler is a violinist – he records for the Naxos label — we should hear more often. These days, we need fewer big stars and more fine talent that makes attendance affordable. The Ear will take young and talented cellists Alisa Weilerstein and Joshua Roman over such an overpriced celebrity as Yo-Yo Ma, great as he is. Second-tier composers can teach you about great composers. The WCO opened with a rarely heard eight-minute work, the Symphony No. 5 in D Major, by Baroque English composer William Boyce (below top). It was enjoyable and The Ear is happy he heard it. True, it comes off as second-rate Handel (below bottom). Why? Because as composer John Harbison explained so succinctly at the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival he co-directs here every summer, the music by George Frideric Handel has a hard-to-explain “heft.” Just a few notes by Handel make memorable music that somehow sticks in your memory. So The Ear heard the pleasantness of Boyce and ended up appreciating even more the greatness of Handel. What a two-fer! Concerts should end on a high note, even if they also start on a high note. The rarely played Symphony No. 4 “Tragic” by Franz Schubert received an outstanding reading. But it ended the concert and left the audience sitting in its seats. The Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, by contrast, got an immediate standing ovation and an encore – a wonderful rendition of an unaccompanied Gavotte by Johann Sebastian Bach — and they ended the first half triumphantly. Maybe the Schubert and Tchaikovsky should have been reversed in order. Or else, what about programming a really energetic symphony by Mozart or Beethoven to end the concert on an upbeat note. Just a thought. If you went to the season-opener by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, what thoughts and impressions did you have? Do you agree or disagree with The Ear? The Ear wants to hear. Tagged: Alisa Weilerstein , Antonio Vivaldi , Arcangelo Corelli , Artistic director , Arts , Bach , Baroque , Beethoven , Boyce , Chamber music , Classical music , Compact Disc , concerto , Franz Schubert , Gavotte , Geminiani , Georg Philipp Telemann , George Frideric Handel , Igor Stravinsky , Jacob Stockinger , Johann Sebastian Bach , Johannes Brahms , John Harbison , Joshua Roman , Ludwig van Beethoven , Madison , Madison Symphony Orchestra , Mendelssohn , Mozart , Music , Niccolo Paganini , Orchestra , Sergei Prokofiev , solo , symphony , unaccompanied , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Violin , Violin concerto , Wisconsin , Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra , Yo-Yo Ma , YouTube
Opening night of this season at the 92Y featured its two rather contrasting highlights in the first half of the evening: George Tsontakis’ New York premiere of O MIKROS, O MEGAS, and Mozart’s Concerto No.23 in A major with pianist extraordinaire, MacArthur Fellow Jeremy Denk, performing as soloist with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO). Photos: Ilona Oltuski In its 58th season, the SPCO certainly may be regarded as a very remarkable chamber ensemble of its kind, consisting of a virtuoso cast of musicians of vast versatility primarily performing without a conductor. The ensemble is devoted to a broad spectrum of repertoire, possessing a dynamic and much-lauded interest in innovative contemporary works (to date, the SPCO has commissioned 146 new works). This affinity shone in Tsontakis’ adventurous four-part composition, which the composer himself described as: “…a reflection on recent world circumstances including the tumbling world, loss of friends and [his] own personal advancement into the foothills of an ageless maturity.” The American-born Greek composer is currently composer-in-residence at the Bard Conservatory and Aspen Music Festival, and has formerly been affiliated with Oxford Philomusica, Albany Symphony and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The virulent showcased piece, the title of which while announced personally by Tsontakis sounded vaguely more like an antioxidant remedy than a contemporary composition, offered a vibrant sonic spectrum of all strings within a life-affirming cosmic cycle. The title is in fact loosely inspired by the opening lines of Axion Esti, by contemporary Greek poet Odysseus Elytis: “Attos O Kosmos, O Mikros, O Megas,” (This tiny world, this enormous world). Says Tsontakis: “It is to me that within the quietest and most inwardly moments of the work, the world seems to fully impose its power and enormity. At the same time, the figurative ‘flip-side’ of my work’s title could well be ‘This tiny fleeting life, this huge eternal life…’ There are faster movements among the four and imploding episodes, but the heart and largeness of the work are made manifest in the second and last. All movements end quietly, and the last with my most preferred ending, an [open ended] ‘dot dot dot’ figure…” SPCO has previously collaborated with the composer on three of his works’ world premieres, earning a 2005 international Grawemeyer Award and Grammy nomination. It is this kind of artistic continuum – a special mark of the ensemble and fundamental criteria of its creative outlook, as well as a pursuit of mutual growth with its associated artists – that has inspired many musicians, and has in turn had a significant impact on the ensemble’s advancement. Artistic partners of the ensemble throughout the years have included renowned soloists like Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Christian Zacharias, Joshua Bell and Dawn Upshaw. Among the current flock of collaborating artistic partners are Martin Fröst, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Thomas Zehetmayer and Jeremy Denk, who, in a most sparkling interaction brought out the full range of Mozart’s concerto to the stage – very different from Tsontakis’ piece, yet equal in energy and power. The intense and gratifying interface between the pianist and the ensemble’s own Alexander Fiterstein is particularly worthy of note; Denk often leaned in sideways to listen closely to the essential clarinet part. The musicians know each other well. Since 2014 the pianist partners with SPCO in collaborative performances. Named one of the best of 2012 by The New Yorker, his debut recording for Nonesuch paired old and new masterworks; Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.32, Op.111, with Gyŏrgy Ligeti’s Études. This juxta-positioning tends to not only highlight the immense differences between two worlds, but brings out many new sounding idioms in the traditional pieces, while giving gravity to the new. It seem to lend the listener a different perspective and outlook, leading to a deeper understanding of both – a comparative listening course. As was felt in the evening’s performance, there were connecting elements but also keen differences, sharpening the ear and mind. What comes before matters, setting up a different mood for what is to follow; programming matters. And if what follows is as lively and refined as it was here, that also impacts how one feels about what had come before – making this a complete experience. Touring nationally and internationally, SPCO has recently fortified its local presence with its own Ordway Concert Hall, but the orchestra’s dedication to community outreach, evidenced by its educational and family-oriented programming and notably affordable ticket subscriptions, has also motivated the organization to program accessible concerts in venues throughout the various neighborhoods of the Twin cities’ metropolitan area. Rather than investing in a grandiose orchestral format requiring highly-funded conductor posts, under the leadership of Managing Director and President Jon Limbacher, SPCO invests into its instrumental performers and nourishes wider audiences, “expanding accessibility even further by inviting children and students to attend unlimited SPCO concerts for free.” This, of course, is an approach shared by the 92Y with its many benefits and special offers like the “Majors for Minors” program, which allows for kids and teens aged 8-18 to attend concerts for free with only one adult ticket purchase. It has been five years since SPCO performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and the orchestra was welcomed to the 92Y enthusiastically by a sold out hall; only few audience members left after intermission before the Schubert Symphony, No.2 in B-flat major, which while proficiently performed, did not live up fully to the elated exhilaration of the evening’s first half.
HRobert Schumann composed some amazing music. Not only four wonderful symphonies, but also chamber music, sonatas, piano pieces, music for violin, Viola, and more. Today I want to tell you about his Lieder. Specifically his song cycle called Dichterliebe, German for Poet’s Love. Schumann: Dichterliebe & Selected Songs Schumann: Dichterliebe, Op. 48 Lieder (5), Op. 40 Der arme Peter, Op. 53 No. 3 Abends am Strand, Op. 45 No. 3 Dein Angesicht, Op. 127 No. 2 Lehn deine Wang’ Op. 142 No. 2 Es leuchtet meine Liebe, Op. 127 No. 3 Mein Wagen rollet langsam, Op. 142 No. 4 Belsazar, Op. 57 Tragödie Op. 64 No. 3 All performed by Mauro Peter (tenor), with Helmut Deutsch (piano) Born in Lucerne, Switzerland, the young tenor Mauro Peter studied in Munich/Germany. He was winner of the first prize and the audience award at the 2012 International Robert Schumann Competition in Zwickau. He had a sensational debut in 2012 with Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin, accompanied by Helmut Deutsch, at the Schubertiade in Schwarzenberg. From that moment on Mauro Peter has been a regular guest at international concert halls and opera houses. Helmut Deutsch is one of the most sought-after pianists for chamber music and vocal accompaniment. He studied piano, composition, and musicology at the Vienna Music Academy, where he was awarded the Vienna Composition Prize. On this CD they join together to record ‘A Poet’s Love’ and selected music of Robert Schumann (1810-1856). Here’s is Mauro Peter, singing the music of Franz Schubert:
Kent Nagano is one of the most complete conductors and some years ago vividly impressed the Mozarteum audiences when he came with the Montreal Symphony. Now he was back with the Hamburg Philharmonic at the Colón with two programmes focussed on German/Austrian Postromantics and they became a major event of the season. Nagano has had a great European career which in principle one wouldn´t expect from a Californian of Japanese ascendance, but he explains that he was trained by a German teacher who imbued him with the very essence of style in the greatest symphonic repertoire. In his DNA there was an innate musicality and it was nurtured by an intelligent guide. A brief résumé. He has held main posts at Lyon Opera (a very innovative tenure), the Hallé Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera, Deutsche Symphonie Berlin, the Bavarian Opera (Munich). And since September 2015 he is Musical Director of the Hamburg State Opera, whose Philharmonic Orchestra gives two hundred performances of opera and ballet plus thirty symphonic and chamber concerts, a tremendous amount of work. I recall that this orchestra came here decades ago led by Aldo Ceccato and for the Mozarteum: a solid ensemble, though not as important as it was on this year´s visit. They trace their origins to as far back as 1828, and during the Twentieth Century they had illustrious conductors: Muck, E.Jochum, Keilberth, Sawallisch and G.Albrecht. Then Ceccato, and afterwards Metzmacher and for ten years before Nagano, Simone Young, the outstanding Australian lady conductress. As it came in this tour they numbered 96 players, big enough for Strauss. They really have 130 players because their enormous yearly task necessitates some rotation of players. And with them came two admirable artists: cellist Gautier Capuçon, who with his violinist brother Renaud played a memorable Brahms Double Concerto here in one of the Argerich Festivals; and Japanese mezzosoprano Mihoko Fujimura, unknown here but very appreciated in Germany, particularly in Wagner. Richard Strauss´ "Don Quixote" (1897) demonstrates his inexhaustible orchestral imagination, who had only one possible match in the late Nineteenth Century: Gustav Mahler. "Don Quixote" has a subtitle, "Fantastic variations on a chivalric subject". The cello is the Don and the viola is Sancho. Between the Introduction and the Finale there are ten variations, some of them with astounding orchestral effects (the sheep sound like advanced atonalism, and flying is cunningly imitated). But it is also a warm portrait of character. It needs a crack orchestra and an inspired cellist: it had both this time. True, Capuçon was somewhat arbitrary as to note values, but his interpretation was expressive and convincing, with beautiful timbre and fine technique. Nagano and the orchestra were stalwart throughout, with perfectly chosen tempi and immaculate playing of the very difficult music, as well as intensity and sustained concentration. Naomi Seiler (viola) and Konradin Seitzer, the concertino of imposing presence and virtuoso quality, made fine contributions. Brahms´ Symphony Nº 1 is probably the best First in history; to say that what we heard was outstanding in the myriad versions we have heard through several decades is no exaggeration. The composer was born in Hamburg and was homaged by the players fully and excitingly. The encores were the subtle Entr´acte from Schubert´s "Rosamunde", lovingly done, and curiously with no hiatus, a fascinating movement from Ligeti´s "Concert Romanesc", as wild a piece as can be imagined, where conductor and orchestra showed that the moderns have no secrets for them. The second programme was very coherent. Before the interval, Wagner´s Prelude to Act One and Love-Death from "Tristan and Isolde", the latter in the orchestral arrangement of the composer; and the five "Wesendonck Lieder", arranged by Felix Mottl the first four and the fifth by Wagner from the original for voice and piano. As two of them have melodies that reappear in "Tristan...", it was a good idea to programme the songs on the poems of Wagner´s muse, Mathilde Wesendonck. Nagano proved a fine Wagnerian, and Fujimura sang with powerful voice and clear understanding of the style. Bruckner´s Sixth Symphony (1881) isn´t as long as the following ones (55 minutes); I find it more technical and less attractive than the Seventh or Eighth, but quite representative of his distinctive personality. Again Nagano and the orchestra showed conclusive professionalism, energy and power of communication. There were no encores. For Buenos Aires Herald
Among her many qualities pianist Martha Noguera has perseverance and the courage to tackle difficult tasks. Long before she created Chopiniana, the pianistic Festival that has brought many great talents to Argentina, she did here in 1998 the integral Beethoven sonatas (32) and all Chopin´s works with opus number in 1999. Her ample career started when she was eleven and she is now in her early seventies, along with Argerich, Gelber and Barenboim. So we have a formidable Argentine school of piano playing. And although they are no longer active, let us not forget such names as Sylvia Kersenbaum and Elsa Púppulo. Her yearly recitals for Chopiniana are always long and difficult, never less than 95 minutes of music. But in recent seasons I felt that she is asking too much from herself, and that her programmes are exhausting for any pianist. Her memory has been proverbial for many decades and her technique is up to almost any hurdle, but now there are occasional fissures in both, although the level remains high. The recital at the Palacio Paz began with Schubert´s last Sonata, Nº21, D.960, surely the most played but not part of her repertoire until recently. Schubert is beautiful but needs patience; days ago I mentioned concerning his Octet the Schumann phrase about him, "heavenly length", and it certainly applies to this 40-minute Sonata. Noguera showed that patience in her faithful, detailed and solid account of the first two movements, never rushing in the slow one, admittedly repetitive. The scherzo was a bit too fast though it held. But the Finale was uneven, with some fine passages followed by others who were, yes, rushed; and at a certain point she wavered and for some seconds didn´t find her way. The Second Part started with one of the most problematic Beethoven Sonatas, Nº28, op.101. The lovely lyrical First movement was done with much sensibility and style, and the brusque "Vivace alla marcia" was tackled with energy. The Finale is the complicated movement: it starts with a morose "Lento", quotes the first movement, and then turbulently falls into a tremendous Fugue, almost as hard to play as that of the "Hammerklavier" Sonata though not so long. But Beethoven states: "not so fast", and pianists should comply, for Noguera started too fast and then had to keep that pace as the music became more and more arduous; apart from some slips, again it happened that suddenly a figuration didn´t come out well and she repeated it for some seconds until resuming the progress of the music. Then she played Chopin: two youthful works, the Rondo op.16 and the rarely done First Sonata op.4. The Introduction and Rondo, to give its proper name, was written in 1832, when he was 22, a brilliant showpiece light in content: Chopin as a virtuoso. As I have no score, I can´t vouchsafe that everything was played as written, but Noguera produced plenty of fireworks. The Sonata is a strange work, written as a teenager (18). The initial Allegro maestoso is based on a chromatic subject, and its course provides many surprises, although with a feeling of immaturity. The Larghetto is melodic but rather tame, and the Menuetto has charm, although this form is certainly not Romantic. The Finale is speedy, ample and rather entangled. Was it this last characteristic that troubled Noguera? For she skipped four whole pages of score in what seemed a memory lapse. Up to then she had played quite well. The hall was full, for Noguera has a large following, and Poland´s Ambassador was present and gave her a public homage. Her encores were temerary but surprisingly were among the best interpretations of the evening: a murderous arrangement by György Cziffra of Rimsky-Korsakov´s "Flight of the Bumblebee"; and the ultrafamous Chopin "Heroic" Polonaise, in a strong and assured performance full of the adequate contrasts. May I venture a suggestion for next year? Be a little less ambitious and play a shorter and not so arduous programme. For Buenos Aires Herald
Franz Schubert (January 31, 1797 November 19, 1828) was an Austrian composer. Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies (including the famous "Unfinished Symphony"), liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. Appreciation of his music during his lifetime was limited, but interest in Schubert's work increased dramatically in the decades following his death at the age of 31. Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn, among others, discovered and championed his works in the 19th Century. Today, Schubert is admired as one of the leading exponents of the early Romantic era in music and he remains one of the most frequently performed composers.
Great composers of classical music