Wednesday, February 22, 2017
How to make classical music fun without dumbing down ! Paris en fête,with François-Xavier Roth conducting Les Siècles at the Philharmonie de Paris this week, broadcast live HERE. Proof that "education" without genuine excellence, is counter productive. This should be compulsory viewing for bureaucrats and audiences who think culture must be forced down grimly like it were poison. Please read my article End the Missionary Position in Classical Music ! This concert was so good that I've listened several times over . presumably many in the audience want more, too. Roth is a wonderful communicator, whose enthusiasm inspires because he believes in what he does : he doesn't play games and doesn't ever, dumb down. Carmen, first. But "Who is Carmen?" asks Antoine Pecqeuer, another born communicator who doesn't need hype to do what he does. Carmen is popular the world over because she's a personality. Carmen lives forever : self centred Don Josés will never understand. Thus the essence of what opera should be : human emotions in universal, infinite variety. Which is why small minds do get art. As Pecqeuer reminded us, Carmen bombed at its premiere because it was ahead of its time. Isabelle Druet talks about Carmen so unaffectedly that the Habanera seems an extension of the personality. Part of the fun, too, is that the Choeur des Grand Ecoles is bigger than you'd ever get on an opera stage. Bizet, Saint-Saëns, Délibes, Berlioz, Offenbach, a programme of pieces familiar to French audience but with a twist to show that French repertoire is not parochial - the Bachannale from Samson et Delila. Pecqeuer talks about French tradition, from Lully to Boulez, and Roth expands. Dance is the foundation for rhythm, structure and inventiveness. Thus, Un bal from the Symphonie fantastique. From Berlioz, instrumental experiments and sophisticated colour. "What does Paris mean to you ?", Pecqeuer as the audience, many of whom are young children. "Le pain" says one, totally matter of fact. Then, the overture from La vie Parisienne, and the Infernal Gallop from Orphée aux Enfers. By now the audience are really getting into the spirit. The Infernal Gallop, "the can can", yet again, this time with the audience singing along, Roth speeding up the tempi. Everyone's exhilarated, high on the thrill. Is classical music elitist or dull? No way ! Those at this concert will come away feeling that music is a vital part of life.
St John’s Smith Square, London A programme marking the bicentenary of Étienne Méhul’s death made the case for the French composer’s originalityThis superb concert with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Jonathan Cohen marked the bicentenary of the death of Étienne Nicolas Méhul, one of the leading French composers in the decades following the revolution, and a figure to whom history has not always been kind. The first composer to be dubbed “Romantic”, he links the classicism of Gluck, whom he adored, with the extravagances of Berlioz, though his experiments with form, harmony and sonority in a quest to match sound with subject, make him, on occasion, difficult to pin down stylistically. Related: Étienne Méhul: Romantic vanguard who deserves a fresh revolution Continue reading...
Nicolai Gedda (1925–2017) had one of the most majestic voices of his generation. He had an exceptional ear for music and lyrics, singing fluently in seven languages. Added to this was a robust technique that kept his top register secure well into his later life. His long and illustrious stage career included many memorable appearances at Covent Garden. Gedda trained at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and made his professional debut in 1951 with the Royal Swedish Opera . In 1953 Gedda made his debut at La Scala, Milan , as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni . Further international debuts soon followed, including at Covent Garden, as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto , in 1954. After this sensational debut Gedda returned to sing the title role in La Damnation de Faust with the Company under Georg Solti at the Edinburgh Festival. But perhaps his most impressive work with The Royal Opera during this period were his performances in the testing title role of Benvenuto Cellini in 1966 and 1969 under John Pritchard and in 1976 under Colin Davis , in a production directed by John Dexter . His further roles with The Royal Opera included Alfredo (La traviata , opposite Montserrat Caballé ), Gustavus (Un ballo in maschera ) Lensky (Eugene Onegin ) and Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore ). He made his final Covent Garden appearance in 1997 as Abdisu in Pfitzner ’s Palestrina . Gedda had an immense vocal style, elegance and grace, which he brought to all his roles. His versatility – from Verdi, Berlioz and Lehár, to the composers for whom he created roles, including Barber and Orff – marked him out as a truly special musician. His colleague Luciano Pavarotti once remarked, ‘There is no tenor alive with a greater ease in the upper register than Gedda’. The Royal Opera’s Director of Opera, Kasper Holten , paid this tribute: ‘It is with great sadness we learn that Nicolai Gedda has passed away. For a long time he was a true giant of the opera world. He inspired and moved countless audiences, including at Covent Garden, with his extraordinary voice and artistry. The memory of this wonderful artist will never leave us.’
From the BSO: Due to the severe weather conditions forecasted for the greater Boston area tomorrow, the Thursday, February 9 Boston Symphony Orchestra concert, featuring BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, countertenor Bejun Mehta, and the Lorelei Ensemble, has been postponed. Programme: RAVEL Le Tombeau de Couperin (February 9 & 11) BENJAMIN Dream of the Song (BSO co-commission) BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique
Local arts groups dealing with homelessness as a subject or a source of activism meet the dilemmas that always attend the task of simultaneously doing social good and putting butts in seats. But they also face a paradox particular to Seattle. Our progressive zeal leads us to demand of any major institution: "What are the arts doing to address homelessness?" Our contrarian skepticism then leads to the follow-up question: "What can the arts do about homelessness?" Bore people to death with a Berlioz concerto? Photograph their prostration? Exploit them for grant money in a woke af marketing campaign? People who don't have housing need housing, not music appreciation classes. But complex problems require creative action.
Houben/Feilen/Carlson/Kumper (Wandelweiser)Eva-Maria Houben (b 1955) is a German composer/organist who epitomises the Wandelweiser aesthetic of sparseness, slowness, unwavering quiet, fastidious calm. “Music may exist ‘between’,” she writes. “In my music you will find sounds which seem to avoid the decision: appearing or disappearing?” She sets up situations as much as anything, lingering after a note has been struck in that space where anything might just happen. And because nothing does happen – the next note sounds as insistently serene as the previous – there’s a creeping tension, like someone holding a feather a millimetre from your nose. Houben’s Livres d’Heures is named after the medieval Christian devotional books and is delivered with exemplary control on this recording. The first book features tubular bells in warm unison with Houben’s piano; the second book inhabits the fragile upper harmonics of two violins; the third, a whispered panoply of bow scrapes and pizzicatos, spins off into the tantalising realm of Hector Berlioz’s marvellous instruction, “presque rien”. Continue reading...
Great composers of classical music