Sunday, February 26, 2017
So many Russian composers of the Shostakovich and post-DSCH era have suffered from the timidity of music directors – their reluctance to propose or perform great music by unfamiliar names. Weinberg is the premier casualty. Boris Tischchenko is another. From the Lebrecht Album of the Week: Try as I might, I can’t stop listening to these late works of a Russian composer who was close to Shostakovich but never tried, as others did, to imitate him. The eighth symphony, written in 2008 when Tishchenko was mortally ill, draws the ear into an eerie landscape of ghosts, trolls and spooks, weird and possibly political. The composer thought it might make a good companion piece to Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. He was right: it would. But where is the conductor or orchestra manager that dares to do such a thing in timid 2017? Read on here.
Hampson/Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Netherlands Female Youth Choir/Thompson (Channel Classics)It’s not only the singing of baritone Thomas Hampson, on top form, that makes this recital so enjoyable; it’s the affectionate new string arrangements, joyously played by the Amsterdam Sinfonietta – as leader Candida Thompson describes it, “a big string quartet” of two dozen players. All but one of the arrangements are by David Matthews, who adds texture and illumination to already radiant songs, refreshing these lilies without gilding them. Intertwining solo violins make the opening of Wolf’s song Anakreons Grab magical; squeaking strings conjure up the rodents in his Der Rattenfänger. Another highlight is Bob Zimmerman’s gossamer version of Schubert’s Ständchen (“Zögernd leise”), the echoes sung by a girls’ choir. Brahms’s Four Serious Songs find Matthews drawing on darker sonorities. Hampson, full of authority, ends on Barber’s masterly Dover Beach, which seems only to benefit from its quartet parts being lent the weight and security of a full string orchestra. Continue reading...
Venue: Prinzregententheater, Munich, Germany Address: Prinzregentenpl. 12, 81675 München, Germany Artist: Khatia Buniatishvili, pianist Date: Sunday, March 12th, 2017, 7:30 PM Program: Beethoven: Sonate Nr. 8 c-moll op. 13 „Pathétique“ Schubert: Vier Impromptus D 899 Beethoven: Sonate Nr. 23 f-moll op. 57 „Appassionata“ Liszt: Rhapsodie espagnole
The Empire Theatre in Hong Kong, where Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears did a gig on 3rd February 1956. The programme included songs by Dowland, Purcell, Schubert, and Britten's Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, plus Britten's folk song arrangements. On the 6th, the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Alexander Grantham, invited Britten and his party to,lunch at Government House. In the afternoon, Britten and Pears visited the studios of Radio Hong Kong, where they were inteviewed and gave a short recital,which was recorded, and is available below. On the 7th February, they gave another recital featuring Schumann Dichterliebe "in the private house of a curious man" as Britten wrote the following day to a friend. Britten's friend and travel companion, Prince Ludwig of Hesse, wrote about the concert "at the unpleasant finance manager's home. The clever and really very nice governor and his petite wife were also there. One cannot get rid of the feeling that the sinister nabob had harnessed famous English artists and foreign royalty in order to lure the important governor into his den" Somewhat bitchy, perhaps ? Grantham was not a particularly pleasant man, but the visitors weren't in a position to judge the local situation. There's no indication who the"finance manager" was, whether he was a government official, a businessman ir even British. That might be relevant. Since Britten and his party spent much of their time in Hong Kong in the company of the governor, it's possible that they would have been influenced by his views. Colonial society was a cliquey place. The Empire Theatre, built in 1952, was built to state of the art standards, with huge steel buttresses, (see pic above) and decorated in Shanghai art deco style. The owner was Harry OIdell, the local impressario, who had himself come from Shanghai. In 1957, the Empire was closed and re-opened as the State Theatre which became a Hong Kong landmark. Recently, it was shortlisted fo a heritage site for preservation.
Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey. Pathetic fallacy, through art, articulates complex emotions. Often there is more truth in poetry than in straightforward prose. Each image stimulates a response from the protagonist: visuals are so integral to this cycle that it's perfectly reasonable that Winterreise has inspired so many different presentations. As we listen, we reaffirm the connection between Nature and art. Matthew Rose's recording of Schubert Winterreise for Stone Records in 2012 is greatly admired. The authority in Rose's bass added savage grandeur, evoking the idea of a grand soul, brought down by fate. His Schwanengesang, also from Stone Records, is also rewarding. Live performance is subject to so many factors. A singer's instrument is his body, subject to the vicissitudes of life. So no single performance is be-all and end-all. Even though there were technical problems in the delivery, Rose is never boring. He's a born communicator, and those who know his voice and work hear things in context. Gary Matthewman gave Rose sensitive support. Winterreise is so well known that iy can be a pleasure to follow the pianist. Very accomplished playing, with many good moments. Matthewman's pedalling let the piano sing. At the end of "Der Leiermann", the reverberations of the piano lingered, haunting, in the silence. A wonderful image, so true to meaning. Because Winterreise lends itself so well to imagery, there have been numerous performances where visuals have added to impact. Some have been works of art in themselves, enhancing understanding and opening out new perspectives. For example, Ian Bostridge's Dark Mirror, a staging of Hans Zender's homage to Schubert at the Barbican, London, with Netia Jones's video projections drawing out disturbing depths. Please read my review here. And Matthias Goerne's Winterreise with pianist Markus Hinterhäuser at the Aix en Provence Festival with a background of projected images designed by Sabine Theunissen, directed by William Kentridge (Please read my review here). This included an image of the notorious "Hanging Tree" of the Thirty Years War, connecting the trauma of German history to the birth of the Romantic revolution. Schubert's Winterreise is so profound that it's pointless to decry interpretation. What matters is the quality of presentation. This performance was illustrated by Victoria Crowe's paintings of winter, created over a 40-year period. Some of these, like the picture of a huge oak tree, bereft of leaves, against a blue background, were immediately familiar since they were used in the booklet for Rose and Matthewman's Winterreise recording for Stone Records. While some of the illustrations used were inspired by Winterreise, others had different origins,which perhaps explains why some connected to the songs better than others did. Crowe's work can be eerily beautiful, like the flowers springing from the ground, drafted with great skill. The crows in the painting used for "Die Krähe" hung awkwardly, a fault of the mechanical means of projection, rather than the quality of the image itself. Whatever technology was used, it wasn't particularly effective, doing no justice either to the music or to Crowe's art. Although Winterreise is so well known, many in the audience were immersed in the printed text, rather than engaging with the performance, which may or may not be relevant to the impact of this presentation.
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