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Serguei Rachmaninoff

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My Classical Notes

July 15

More from Argerich and her Friends

My Classical NotesOn this interesting DVD, we have an opportunity to listen to music by Saint-Saens as well as joyous sounds of two piano music by Poulenc. The recorded concert features the following: Berlioz: Le carnaval romain Overture, Op. 9 Bizet: Carmen: Prelude to Act I Poulenc: Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos & Orchestra Rachmaninov: Romance in A major (6 hands) Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 ‘Organ Symphony’, with Christophe Henry (organ) The other performers are Martha Argerich (piano), Nicholas Angelich (piano) and Myung-Whun Chung (piano & conductor) of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France Martha Argerich and Nicholas Angelich join Myung-Whun Chung for a concert homage by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France to its conductor in the magical setting of the Théâtre Antique. The concert begins with Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, composed in 1844 and ends with Saint-Saëns’s Third Symphony in C minor. Between these two works, Martha Argerich and Nicholas Angelich join to interpret Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, a joyous score in the musical spirit of the 1930s. Here is Ms. Argerich in Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos:

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc


Watch: Overnight piano star plays Rach 2

Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev, grandson of the indelible Russian pianist Tatiana Nikolayeva, only came second in the Sydney International Piano Competition. But he’s the one spotted by the music biz for future stardom. Watch him play Rachmaninov’s second concerto (ff to 45′ on the video).

Classical iconoclast

July 19

Gergiev smiles Prom 4 Ravel Ustvolskaya

Valery Gergiev in a happy, sunny mood at BBC Prom 4  Grergiev always springs surprises but this was a surprise beyond expectation. When Gergiev is good, he's very good but when he's bad, he's very, very bad.  This "new" Gergiev.should come out more often. The programme was fairly standard - Ravel, Rachmaninov, Strauss and Ustvolskaya, but Gergiev animated it by emphasizing each composer's individuality.  Fidelity to idiom does matter !  Gergiev is musician enough to know that the score does count, however his  more extremist fans might think.  Thus the discipline with which he conducted Ravel Boléro, observing the progressions as they unfold.  New elements enter as the music builds up until it reaches its climax. Each element adds new flavours, but fundamentally the traverse is defined by the steady beat of the drum, reflected in the strumming pizzicato. In flamenco, rigid rhythmic discipline is part of the style creating a ritualized tension that makes the brief flourishes seem even more like explosive release.  As the piece progresses, the energy builds up as a natural result iof what's gone before. Just as dancers and athletes train hard to build muscle, Gergiev shows how disciplined conducting serves music much better than fake, flashy "excitement". Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no 3 has a reputation for flamboyant display, but its wonders lie in the piano part. Gergiev wisely gave Behzod Abduraimov pride of place. Abduramov isn't the most spectacular of players, so the restraint Gergiev brought to the orchestra was sensitive, supporting the soloist. Galina Ustvolskaya's Symphony no 3 Jesus Messaih, save us !  was based on the life of a 11th century monk, Hermann of Reichenau, aka "Hermann the cripple" who was born with so many birth defects that he lived in constant pain and had speech defects. Nonetheless, he became a theologian, an astronomer, a mathematician and write a treatise on the science of music. He lived to age 44, ancient by the standards of the time and was canonized in 1863.  A paralysed musician without a voice ? What a metaphor for a composer in the Soviet era !  Ustvolskaya's music is certainly very different from conventional Soviet music, but it does have deeper antecedents and connections.  Pounding blocks of form, percussion led  rough hewn sounds and spoken narrative that speaks fire and brimstone (speaker Alexei Petrenko)   Its "primitivism" is deliberate for it evokes the idea of  strength in times of hardship. Petrenko recites so forcefully that it hardly matters whether you speak Russian or not : you can imagine the monk/saint defying the odds stacked against him, firm in his faith in God.  Ustovskaya didn't fit in with Soviet convention but her music does have antecedents. She may or may not have know Janáček's Glagolitic Mass but she would have known Stravinsky's Rite of Spring which evokes even older beliefs. She would also have known of Orthodox Church music and the Russian hermit tradition. The "primitivism" in this symphony also connects to Futurism, which flourished in the early years after the Revolution, and produced works like Alexander Mosolov's The Iron Foundry (1925-6) and also influenced film makers like Sergei Eisenstein.  By 1983, when this symphony was written, Ustvolskaya would also have been aware of music in the west,, particularly Messiaen, who also had a thing for huge blocks of rock-solid sound and ecstatic visions of the glory of God.  Ustvolskaya's Third Symnphony is highly individual, and shows that Shostakovich was by no means the only modernist in town Gergiev still lives in one of the several oligarch enclaves in London, from which he can jetset with ease. Munich is a smaller city,  so chances are he'll spend even less time with the Munich Philharmonic than he did with the LSO, but if he has good rehearsal conductors and musicians he can add the finishing touches.  Like the LSO,the Munich Philharmonic is one of several top notch orchestras working in close proximity and stimulating each other.  In recent years it's been somewhat outshone, but if this prom with Gergiev is anything to go by, good things lie ahead.  And judging from their performance of this Suite from Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, they are teaching Gergiev to be lyrical.

Tribuna musical

July 12

Renée Fleming returns: the autumnal charm of a great artist

August 18, 1991. First performance at the Colón of the revival of Mozart´s "The Marriage of Figaro" in a new production by Sergio Renán. An Argentine-Spanish cast except for the Countess: a beautiful young American called Renée Fleming at the start of her international career. With a crystalline lyric soprano timbre and impeccable line, she proved to be a charming actress as well. Unfortunately, that was her only operatic role in BA. We missed her in such operas as Massenet´s "Thaïs" and Dvorák´s "Rusalka", but especially in Straussian parts (the Marschallin in "Der Rosenkavalier", Arabella, the Countess in "Capriccio"), for she was a leading interpreter of all the mentioned operas. It´s useless to speculate about the reasons, but the Colón has had strong ups and downs and established artists want reliable theatres. After two decades, she finally came back during the García Caffi years; however, it was for a recital. It was quite successful and varied, and the voice was still in good condition. And now she came back, inaugurating the so-called Abono Verde. This time the charm and the savvy are still there, but her career has entered the autumnal phase, as demonstrated by what´s happening at New York´s Met, her home for so many years: last season she didn´t sing a difficult opera but an operetta, Lehár´s "The Merry Widow"; and now she has announced her goodbye to opera, with May 2017 performances at the Met of "Der Rosenkavalier" (fortunately it will be seen here on the Met´s direct transmissions at the Teatro El Nacional organized by the Fundación Beethoven). In this recital she was admirably accompanied by Gerald Martin Moore (debut), an expert singing teacher who has worked with Fleming for many years (and with several other famous artists) and has prepared operas for the Met, Covent Garden, Opéra Bastille, La Scala, and such festivals as Glyndebourne and Aix-en-Provence. What a coincidence that his first name and his surname should be the same as those of the ultra-famous Gerald Moore, the greatest accompanist during golden decades. Anyway, G.M.M. gave precious support during the Colón evening. I have my reservations about some of the choices in the programme. First, I was sorry that there were no Lieder, not even from Richard Strauss. Second, I believe that singers in recitals should stick to their sexes: a woman should sing texts clearly designed for women, and a man those that are evidently masculine; self-evident, the reader may think, but often disregarded by artists; and there were several instances in this case. Third, she is a singer for joyful or melancholy music, but not for stark drama: the terrible content of "L´altra notte in fondo al mare", from Boito´s "Mefistofele", in which the mad Margherita , imprisoned, says that she was wrongly accused of killing her baby and her mother, needs a true tragedian such as Callas was. Finally, there was a bit too much Broadway in her gestures on certain pieces, in themselves rather crossover. A moot point is whether you like or not that artists should speak to the audience; I think it is a wrong trend, concerts are just that, music played or sung. She talked a good deal in a very American way (like Joyce Di Donato). She started with, yes, "Porgi amor", the initial aria of the Countess in "The Marriage of Figaro", in evident reminiscence of her Colón debut; the result was tasteful but the voice was not settled yet. Two Händel arias followed: a fast, humoristic one from "Agrippina", early and Venetian-influenced; and the lovely "V´adoro pupille" sung by Cleopatra in "Giulio Cesare in Egitto"; she did well in both. Then, two welcome Massenet items: "C´est Thaïs, l´idole fragile" from the homonymous opera (neglected by the Colón since 1952), and the sad "Adieu, notrre petite table" (with its previous recitative) from "Manon". She felt quite comfortable in both. Saint-Saëns wrote 120 songs but they are little-known; "Soirée en mer", strophic, on a Victor Hugo text, seemed to me beautiful and fluid; both artists were fine. And then, a tribute to that delicious 1930s singer, Yvonne Printemps: the sensual "Je t´aime quand même" from the operetta "Les trois valses"; in it Fleming waltzed, singing with abandon. The pithiest part of the night was the fine selection of Neo-Romantic songs by Rachmaninov, who deserve wider recognition; of the five songs I mention three: "Oh cease thy singing, maiden fair", an orientalised melody (I have the recording of tenor John McCormack); "Lilac" contrasts a fast piano segment with an airy soprano tune, and "Spring waters" is expansive and better-known as a Russian miniballet. Fleming was really good in all this group, her voice firm and brilliant. Apart from the Boito, the Italian pieces were light and though agreeably sung not idiomatic: "O del mio amato ben" (Donaudy), "Aprile" (Tosti) and "Mattinata" (Leoncavallo). I liked Fleming in the famous song "Estrellita" by the Mexican Manuel Ponce (the tune fits her like a glove) but she was over the top in "La morena de mi copla" by Carlos Castellano Gómez. Encores: lovely in the "Moon aria" from Dvorák´s "Rusalka" and melting in "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini´s "Gianni Schicchi", but not convincing in "I could have danced all night" from Loewe´s "My fair lady" (Julie Andrews was the right one for this). A nice sweet evening. For Buenos Aires Herald

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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