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Serguei Rachmaninoff

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

May 29

I won at 20 competitions and came away with tendonitis

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discDmitri Levkovich, a Canadian-Ukrainian pianist, won the Cleveland, Jose Iturbi, Gina Bachauer, and other international competitions and received top prizes in many more. His career is on the upswing, with a highly praised Rachmaninov recording, despite a struggle with crippling tendonitis. Daniel, uncommonly composed, talks philosophically about coping with whatever adversities life brings his way. ‘All my life, I play with my eyes closed,’ he says. Watch Zsolt Bognar’s sensitive interview here:

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

June 2

Concert pianist launches her own brand of bags

The German pianist Alice Sara Ott has announced a signature line of travel bags with the German accessories label, JOST. Next Thursday at the Royal Festival Hall, Samantha Cameron will play the Rachmaninov D minor concerto.




Classical iconoclast

May 18

CédricTiberghien Saint-Saëns, CBSO Franck Rachmaninov

At the Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Karina Canellakis made her debut conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Given that orchestra's knack for finding exceptionally good young conductors to liven up the stable, this concert deserved attention.  Canellakis was a violinist with the Berlin Philharmonic's junior ensemble, the Orchester-Akademie, where she became a protégé of Simon Rattle, like Dudamel and others before. His agents, Askonas Holt, have taken her onto their books, which should launch her career very nicely. In 2014 she stepped in for Jap van Zweden in Dallas.  This concert with the CBSO is so far her highest-profile European gig, broadcast on BBC Radio 3. César Franck's Le chasseur maudit is a show stopper, almost guaranteed to blast audiences out of their seats.  It's inherently dramatic. A fanfare of horns announces a hunt: but no ordinary, pastoral hunt.  Percussion rings out, suggesting the tolling of church bells in the distance.  This Sunday, though, the Huntsman's off to the woods instead, killing animals.  The tale goes way back in European folklore. Think, for starters, Goethe's Die wandelnde Glock, set by Loewe, and Schoenberg's Gurrelieder and much else Gothic and demonic. Thus the piece ends with a loud sudden bang. It's not a rarity: I last heard it live barely 18 months ago.  It's effects come from its being pictorial: not a great deal of musical imagination needed. Thus it needs more punch in performance to compensate, and here needed more vivid character. Another surefire crowd pleaser: Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances op 45, also vividly pictorial.  It's as if we see dancers swirl before us, as if in an elusive dream.  Certainly, in this performance the dreamlike quality prevailed,  but there are darker, more nightmarish depths to the piece.  That repeated pounding motif and its quieter echo, can be disturbing.  Towards the end of his life, Rachmaninov was looking back on a lost world, and a life spent in exile, sometimes in creative impasse.  The waltzes can seem haunted. The violin plays alone, for a reason.  The horns can be strident, and the winds can  be sinister.  But for all we know, Rachmaninov might have been writing to soothe himself. The CBSO is a such a good orchestra that it can convince whatever it does.  So, perhaps the fluid smoothness had purpose.  An undemanding though enjoyable performance. Picturesque music sometimes plays itself, though it works best when better thought through. The highlight was Camille Saint-Saëns Piano concerto no.5 in F major Op.103 (Egyptian) (1896) with Cédric Tiberghien.  Much is made of the "Egyptian" aspects of the piece, since it was written in Luxor, but it is fundamentally an example of Belle Époque syncretism.  For men of Saint-Saëns's generation, European civilization was the height of progress, and that civilization encompassed the world.  Napoleon's conquest of Egypt differed from the British conquest of India, just as French and British colonialism followed different models.  The French fascination with "The East" was long standing : think Les Indes galantes, where the "natives" are Frenchmen in disguise.  Or Lakmé, or The Pearl Fishers.   Ultimately, Saint-Saëns Piano concerto no.5 is far more than picturesque travelogue. It's not "light music". It's a work of  bold musical inventiveness and originality.  Perhaps that's why the piano part is so strong : the soloist as pioneer, very much the leader. Tiberghien faces the fearsome technical challenges : arpeggios fly with faultless confidence and elegance, and the frequent changes of imagery flow naturally.   Like the Nile, with its confluent tributaries!  Vaguely Arabic motifs blend into harmonies that are "modern" and European. Thundering passages suggest constant flux,with swirling diminuendos and passages of flamboyant brilliance. Nothing backward here, though the references may come from things remembered.  Tiberghien played with highly individual flourish.  Perhaps his enthusiasm invigorated the orchestra, who were playing at their best at this point in the concert.

Royal Opera House

May 8

Ballet Essentials: The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude / Tarantella / Strapless / Symphonic Dances

Natalia Osipova as Amélie Gautreau and Matthew Ball as Albert de Belleroche in Strapless, The Royal Ballet © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper A mix of dances Four contrasting works show the breadth of contemporary ballet in The Royal Ballet’s mixed programme . Two classic 20th-century shorts from American choreographers precede longer works by Royal Ballet associated choreographers Christopher Wheeldon and Liam Scarlett . The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude William Forsythe has played a crucial role in re-shaping ballet for the 21st century; alumni of his Ballet Frankfurt company include choreographers David Dawson and Crystal Pite . The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude was created in 1996 for Ballett Frankfurt and is set to the final movement of Schubert ’s Ninth Symphony. While it is notoriously difficult to dance, The Vertiginous Thrill is always perfectly in tune with Schubert’s graceful score. ‘People get involved with the steps’, Forsythe comments, ‘which are finally of absolutely no value without musicality.’ Tarantella George Balanchine ’s Tarantella packs a lot into its six minutes. This dizzyingly fast miniature, set to Louis Moreau Gottschalk ’s delightful Grande Tarantelle, makes huge demands of its two dancers’ stamina even while they make it look as easy as a walk in the park. They flirt, leap, spin and even beat a tambourine before they scamper off again, arm-in-arm, as suddenly as they arrived. Strapless When Amélie Gautreau commissioned John Singer Sargent to paint her portrait in 1883, both artist and sitter believed the work would ensure their fame. But Sargent’s painting of the glamorous socialite daringly depicted her with one strap fallen from her shoulder, which scandalized polite society. Amélie was ruined. Christopher Wheeldon’s 2016 ballet, revived here for the first time, re-creates the belle époque era of Amélie and Sargent, as well as their respective lovers. With a commissioned score by Anna Nicole composer Mark-Anthony Turnage , Strapless is the story of a scandal that rocked the art world. Symphonic Dances Liam Scarlett has been drawn to Rachmaninoff ’s music several times before – including for his 2012 work Sweet Violets for The Royal Ballet. ‘The more you listen to it, the more you realize its complexity’ , he says, and for his latest Royal Ballet commission the choreographer has chosen to set the Russian composer’s magisterial Symphonic Dances as an abstract ballet for a large group of dancers. The key central role is shared by Zenaida Yanowsky , soon to retire from the Royal Opera House main stage , and Scarlett’s regular collaborator Laura Morera . The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude / Tarantella / Strapless / Symphonic Dances runs 18–31 May 2017. Tickets are still available. The mixed programme is staged with generous philanthropic support from The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund . Symphonic Dances is given with generous philanthropic support from Simon and Virginia Robertson, Victoria Robey and the New Scarlett Production Syndicate , with additional philanthropic support from the JP Jacobs Charitable Trust. Christopher Wheeldon’s Position as Artistic Associate is generously supported by Kenneth and Susan Green, and Strapless is given with generous philanthropic support from Mr and Mrs Edward Atkin CBE.



Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

May 7

Reports of a new Joyce Hatto

Remember the British pianist whose highly-praised recordings turned out to be husband-made home copies of releases by major artists? It appears she may have an Italian fan. The pianist Marc Pantillon, professor at the Conservatoire of Lausanne, Switzerland, has drawn attention to a CD of solo Brahms by Maurizio Moretti, professor at Calgiari and at the Schola Cantorum, Paris. Pantillon alleges that Moretti’s new recording is identical to his 2005 release. An Italian pianist, Luca Ciammarughi, supports his contention with comparisons here: Moretti’s release was withdrawn last week by the label, Inviolata, and the label’s owner issued an apology to Pantillon. Moretti has also deleted all of his own postings about the recording. But there’s more. A sound engineer, Alexander Kalashnikov, now claims that Moretti’s release of Tchaikovsky’s Seasons is identical to a 2002 recording that he produced with the pianist Victor Ryabchikov. Moretti’s version appeared on Decca. UPDATE: A third concern relates to his recording of the Rachmaninov 2nd concerto and Paganini Variations with ‘the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, conductor Alexander Petrov’. Ciammarughi finds alarming affinities with the EMI recording by Mikhail Rudy and Mariss Jansons. Professor Moretti is a respected pianist with an international career. He makes frequent appearances on competition juries. We have asked him to respond to these mysterious coincidences. It is possible he is the unwitting victim of some third party fraud, as was the unfortunate Hatto herself. In any event, we await Moretti’s explanation.

Serguei Rachmaninoff
(1873 – 1943)

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1 April 1873 – 28 March 1943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music. Early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and other Russian composers gave way to a thoroughly personal idiom that included a pronounced lyricism, expressive breadth, structural ingenuity, and a tonal palette of rich, distinctive orchestral colors. The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff's compositional output. He made a point of using his own skills as a performer to explore fully the expressive possibilities of the instrument. Even in his earliest works he revealed a sure grasp of idiomatic piano writing and a striking gift for melody.



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