Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Many years ago I met pianist Vladimir Feltsman, as he was resting outdoors prior to a concert in Aspen, Colorado. I found him to be a thoughtful, expressive person, and I loved his playing of the Bach Goldberg Variations once the concert began. Today I have for you a new recording by Mr. Feltsman which allows us to listen to music by Robert Schumann: Vladimir Feltsman plays Schumann Piano Works Schumann: Kinderszenen, Op. 15 Arabeske in C major, Op. 18 Blumenstück, Op. 19 Kreisleriana, Op. 16 Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26 Waldszenen, Op. 82 Fantasie in C major, Op. 17 Albumblatter, Op. 124 Carnaval, Op. 9 Bunte Blätter, Op. 99 Bunte Blätter, Op. 99: Stücklein Romance in F sharp major, Op. 28 No. 2 plus: Albumblätter (I-V) Performed by Vladimir Feltsman (piano) Pianist and conductor Vladimir Feltsman is one of the most versatile and constantly interesting musicians of our time. His vast repertoire encompasses music from the Baroque to 20 th-century composers. A regular guest soloist with leading symphony orchestras in the United States and abroad, he appears in the most prestigious concert series and music festivals all over the world. Mr. Feltsman’s extensive discography has been released on the Melodiya, Sony Classical, and Nimbus labels. His discography includes eight albums of clavier works of J.S. Bach, recordings of Beethoven’s last five piano sonatas, solo piano works of Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Messiaen and Silvestrov, as well as concerti by Bach, Brahms, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Prokofiev. Here is Mr. Feltsman in a performance of the wonderful Arabesque Op. 18 by Schumann:
Maxim Vengerov, born 1974, was a child prodigy who won great competitions at an early age: the Wieniawski at ten and the Carl Flesch at fifteen. He went on to have a great career and be recognised as one of the leading violinists of our times, fortunately prodigal in this specialty. Nowadays he is also a conductor and teacher, and has his own Festival. An interesting point: during the recent decade he took a three-year sabbatical from playing; during that time he studied conducting . He came to Buenos Aires several times, the last playing a Chinese concerto with the Shanghai Symphony; although his playing was admirable, the work was subpar and hardly up to his capacities. But late in 2011 he gave a splendid recital of sustained quality, blending ideally intellectual comprehension with virtuoso realisation. Unfortunately I don´t keep archives and can´t vouchsafe if his pianist was Roustem Saitkoulov, but he is Vengerov´s habitual partner, it might have been him. Hand programme biographies should provide information about earlier visits to BA, but they are always mere translations of a standard international biography. I remember that years ago the Mozarteum made it a point of mentioning previous contacts with the artists; I wish they did that again in the future. Saitkoulov is a distinguished pianist in his own right; also,H he does a lot of chamber work. Born at Kazan, Russia, he studied with the great Elisso Virsaladze at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory (she came twice here) and then completed his training in Munich. He won important competitions: the Ferruccio Busoni (Bolzano), Géza Anda (Zürich), Marguerite Long (Paris). He has played with important orchestras and given recitals throughout the world. By the way, he accepts the French version of his name and surname; for us or for Great Britain and USA, it should be Rustem Saitkulov (we write Mussorgsky, not Moussorgsky). So there were good reasons to expect from this Mozarteum concert (repeated with the same programme) a very high level. Technically it was of course impeccable, but the interpretations began coldly, more so in the case of Vengerov. The sonatas chosen were enticing: Schubert´s Sonata in A, D.574, pompously called "Grand Duet"; and Beethoven´s marvelous Sonata Nº 7, in C minor, Op.30 Nº2. Schubert´s sonata was written young, at 20, but his personality is clear from the very beginning, a delicious Allegro moderato. Who else wrote such melodies or was so subtle in the harmonic modulations? He also wrote three other sonatas, a bit less inspired and developed, called Sonatinas by the editor. All of them were published posthumously, the same sad destiny of his symphonies 8 and 9. I fell in love with the sonata in my youth with the wonderful recording by Kreisler and Rachmaninov, for it has charm and beauty: Kreisler sings with captivating timbre, and the great Russian virtuoso adapts to the intimate style perfectly.Too much sliding from Kreisler? Agreed, but he is irresistible. And that´s contrary to what I felt from Vengerov: an academic, correct reading with no involvement. During the interval, a veteran friend said: "it´s as if he were afraid of producing any sound that isn´t round and smooth". Yes, all exact but with little energy and attack. Saitkoulov was better; however, the final result was placid in the wrong sense. As Claudia Guzmán rightly says in her comments referring to Beethoven´s Seventh Sonata: "never until then a work for piano and violin had displayed such dramatic intensity nor had required similar temporal proportions". It is a C minor masterpiece in the same rank as the "Pathetic" Piano Sonata and the Third Piano Concerto. No namby-pamby approach can deal with such a score. Things went gradually better, fired by the greater intensity and virtuoso playing of Soutkulov, but only got to the desirable grade of electricity from both in the last movement. Said my friend: "there I found Beethoven". But things changed, and the whole Second Part, as well as the four encores, went swimmingly. Both showed complete identification with that peculiar Ravel Second Sonata: he believed that piano and violin are incompatible and the music echoes that idea: the players oppose each other instead of being complemental. And you know, it works! The Blues is the best movement and it was played with ideal sinuosity. And then came a final virtuoso section starting with a violin solo piece: Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst´s Variations on "The Last Rose of Summer", Nº 6 of the Polyphonic Etudes for solo violin. The piece on the lovely Irish tune is the devil to play and rarely done; Vengerov at twelve presented it at the Tchaikovsky International Competition. Here he showed the complete range of his fantastic technique. A quiet and reflexive Paganini, the Cantabile Op.17, originally for violin and guitar, was done in a transcription for violin and piano. The final score was the Kreisler arrangement for violin and piano of Paganini´s "I palpiti" for violin and orchestra, Introduction and Variations on a theme from Rossini´s "Tancredi" (the aria "Di tanti palpiti"), a true catalogue of Paganini´s technical innovations, splendidly played. Four encores: two of those inimitable Kreisler pieces that Beecham would have called "lollipops": the famous "Viennese Caprice" and the dynamic "Chinese tambourine". Rachmaninov´s beautiful Vocalise, transcribed from the original for orchestra. And Brahms´ ever so popular Hungarian Dance Nº5, in the Joachim arrangement. All done with panache by the artists. For Buenos Aires Herald
I won´t mince words: the most important tenor chamber recital in more than four decades. Jonas Kaufmann, a week after the ill-planned ending of the Barenboim Festival, came back for a song session (mainly Lieder) with his longtime accompanist, Helmut Deutsch. And this time he sang a perfect programme with groups of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Duparc, Liszt and Richard Strauss. This was at the Colón on last Sunday´s afternoon and for the Abono Verde. He had the support from the beginning of an anxious, knowledgeable and packed audience, who grew more and more enthusiastic. What happened after the last note of Strauss was an euphoric delirium as an incredible string of seven encores, proof not only of generosity but also of joy and gratitude, allowed us to hear him in opera and operetta. Kaufmann had conquered Buenos Aires with the highest vocal art; he demonstrated that, here as in Europe, the audience discriminates and not only reacts to tenors with splendid high Cs. Kaufmann is a linguist: Munich-born, his Italian is quite good and his French admirable. His memory is faultless: I followed with a score the majority of the songs and his always clear diction never missed a syllable; and, like that ideal baritone, the young Fischer-Dieskau, he gives dramatic sense to all he sings without ever going overboard, and the musical values are exact, following carefully every nuance indicated by the composer. By the way, if you are intrigued by who sang an impeccable recital more than forty years ago, he was Nicolai Gedda, but he did it at the Metro, not the Colón. His stance is revealing: he stands close to the piano and he concentrates totally in the song, scarcely moving, giving occasionally emphasis with the hands with sober gestures. His timbre is particular, hardly the typical tenor; it is never totally open. Don´t expect from him the stratospheric highs of Alfredo Kraus, he of the purest bel canto. But Kaufmann is the consumate master of the chiaroscuro, his breath control is amazing, and no other tenor in my experience has his ability to sing "piano-pianissimo" a "normal" high note and grow it to "forte". A special paragraph on the Viennese Helmut Deutsch, the veteran and still wonderful accompanist, whose work throughout was simply ideal. Mind you, he was the accompanist for twelve years of Hermann Prey, the only baritone that could match Fischer-Dieskau. Later, at Munich, he was professor of vocal interpretation for 28 years and taught and accompanied not only Kaufmann but first-rate artists as Diana Damrau and Michael Volle. He has recorded over a hundred CDs. Nobody has told me but I have no doubt that the programme was designed by both singer and pianist. It was unfailingly right. The Schubert started with two joyful pieces: "Der Musensohn" ("The Son of the Muses", on a Goethe text), all merry jumping, and the famous "Die Forelle" ("The Trout"). Then, the delightful watery "Der Jüngling an der Quelle" ("The young man at the source"), sung subtly and softly (but his projection is such that you hear him well if you are in the Gallery). And that "Lindenbaum" ( "Linden tree") whose melody seems folkish but is part of the stark "Die Winterreise" ("The Winter Voyage"). Then came the Schumann group, a selection of the "Twelve poems by Justinus Kerner" Op.35, very attractive and with the best schumannesque style. Of the chosen five I would single out the dramatic power of "Lust der Sturmnacht" ("Lust of the stormy night") and the Romantic impulse of "Stille Tränen" ("Silent tears"). Kaufmann gave us each mood with moving sensibility. And then, the so special case of Henri Duparc, born in 1848 and by 1885 no longer a composer after having produced some of the most exquisite "chansons d´art"; a strange mental condition cut off his creativity until his death in 1933. The four sung by our tenor are gems: the exquisite "L´invitation au voyage" ("The invitation to travel") on that often quoted text by Baudelaire that includes "order and beauty, luxury, calm and lust"; the dramatic "Le manoir de Rosemonde" ("Rosemonde´s country house"); the "Chanson triste" ("Sad song"), which mirrors that feeling admirably; and "Phidylé", a love song. I have long believed that these songs had their definitive interpretations by baritone Gérard Souzay; now I realize that a German tenor can be just as persuasive. But the best was yet to come. Most know Liszt´s "Petrarch Sonnets" in their piano transcription, but they were born as elaborate, refined songs. You will never hear them in such subjugating interpretations as Kaufmann gave us: with unbelievable feats of subtle vocality he went higher and sweeter, and higher...until you were convinced that this was an unmatched experience. And then, the Strauss group, in which I have my sole complaint: "Ich liebe dich" and "Freundliche vision" were changed and we were not told. Anyway, the expansive writing let him free his voice in "Heimliche Aufforderung" ("Secret Invitation") and the final "Cäcilie", and the composer´s humour came forward on two Von Schack songs, Op.19, where the tenor showed that he had also mastered that style. The encores were a separate recital and destroyed any doubt that might be left. For once in your life you heard the final phrase of Bizet´s "Flower aria" from "Carmen" and the Verdian "Celeste Aida" as they are written, ascending to a pianissimo; but his Radames lacked no power. Then, Verista expression in "L´anima ho stanca" from Cilea´s "Adriana Lecouvreur"; a Refice song, "Ombra di nube". "Nessun dorma" from Puccini´s "Turandot", where the tenor showed the solidity of his means and the audience officiated admirably as choir in the fragment where Calaf doesn´t sing. Then, like a born Neapolitan, "Core ´ngrato" ("Catarí") by Cardillo. And finally, that glorious Lehár aria from "The Land of Smiles", "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" ("Yours is my whole heart"), as beautifully sung as Tauber. Please come back with an operatic recital with the Colón´s Orquesta Estable! For Buenos Aires Herald
From the classical archive, 13 September 1947: Neville Cardus reviews Walter and the Vienna Philharmonic in Schubert, and - with singers Kathleen Ferrier and Peter Pears - Mahler’s Das Lied von der ErdeEdinburgh, Friday This week at Edinburgh Bruno Walter has conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra again after years of a separation that, not so very long ago, seemed beyond repair. The occasion has naturally been moving, and last night a poignant interpretation of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde brought the festival to an appropriately autumnal end, at least as far as the present writer is concerned. Not immediately could I share the high praise given by my critical colleagues to the Vienna Philharmonic of to-day: in the Pastoral Symphony of Beethoven, played on Tuesday night, there were grave technical flaws in the horns and much of the general texture seemed without colour. Bruno Walter himself lacked the large urgeful rhythm and line; the string figuration of the first movement of the Pastoral sounded self-conscious, almost rococo. This was a very refined and sedentary conception based upon beautiful strings. But as soon as Walter came to the masters of the Austrian romantic school we were visited by an act of grace, by the felicity which is born of the feeling that this is exactly right, and created without effort or self-consciousness. The Unfinished Symphony of Schubert passed by us in a lovely dream of tone shaded by sorrow and at times shaken by terror. The blend and eloquence of all the instruments were of voices calling to voices.The conducting, so quiet, so unobtrusive, so suggestive, was that of a man for whom tone and a technical control of tone are matters that pass naturally his being, through all his experience and love, into music. Then, after the interval, we modulated to the extreme of Schubert, to Mahler, who sought with an ache that became poetic for the beauty that ran to meet Schubert more than half-way. The orchestra was as sensitive to Bruno Walter’s gentlest nuance, to the most delicate and whispering flickers of Mahler’s woodwind as a glass on a late autumn morning to the patterns woven by a brief frost. And in the reckless tumult of the opening of the Trinklied Bruno Walter so fine-tempered the restless orchestration that Peter Pears could be heard expressively - even during the terrible frustrate climax at the passage beginning “Seht dort hinab” (“See yonder in the moonlight on the graves sits a ghostly shape”). Pears has seldom sung with so much directness and aptness of tone. Continue reading...
From the 5* Lebrecht Album of the Week: The symbiosis of singer and pianist is evident throughout, nowhere more so than in the desperate appeal of Ständchen, where mutual anticipation alternates with appropriate deference. XX, who is 50, is not a newcomer. But I don’t think I have enjoyed a baritone Schubert album more since… oh, since Bryn Terfel’s debut on DG, and this will bear many returns for relistening. Read the full review here and here .
Royal Albert Hall, London Oliver Knussen led a wonderfully assured UK premiere of Reinbert de Leeuw’s epic symphonic poemDer Nächtliche Wanderer, first performed in 2014, is the work with which Reinbert de Leeuw – nowadays best known as a pianist-conductor – ended a 40-year compositional silence, previously broken only by a series of chamber versions and recompositions of music by Mahler, Zemlinsky, Schubert and Schumann.The work – given its UK premiere by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Oliver Knussen – was inspired by a Friedrich Hölderlin poem and written for colossal forces. It’s an immense, single-movement piece that revisits and reimagines the shadowy side of Austro-German post-romanticism. The nightly wanderer of the title is the owl, whose cry portends death: the score forms a long and at times disquieting confrontation with mortality. Continue reading...
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