Sunday, June 26, 2016
Blaming international sanctions and domestic economic difficulties, the Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky has abandoned his attempt to purchase the composer’s Swiss lakeside home, named Senar, for the Russian nation. The purchase had been ordered by President Putin on the advice of the pianist Denis Matsuev, at an estimated price of 17 million Swiss francs. Vladimir Medinsky had also talked of repatriating Rachmaninov’s remains from America. But after all the huff and puff, it appears that both plans are unrealistic, Medinsky said today. The rouble has fallen, the cost of Lucerne property has risen, the ownership structure is ‘complex’ and sanctions are really starting to bite. Rest in peace, Sergei Vasilievitch.
Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, Fifth Av, NY/John Scott (Resonus)The untimely death last year of the celebrated organist and conductor John Scott robbed the choral world of a major figure. Now, in his memory, Resonus Classics is releasing a series of six recordings made over his 11-year tenure as director of music at St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, beginning with an intensely dramatic reading of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Op 37 Vespers from 1915, a piece that is as much an affirmation of Russian nationalism as a work of devotion. Scott and his magnificent choir capture the fervent writing in all its rich variety, with the basses plunging to the depth of their register in true Orthodox style. Recommended. Continue reading...
That’s what it says here: DJ PETE TONG PLAYS SCHUBERT REMIX ON BBC RADIO 1 The greatest classical composers meet the world’s most innovative electronic music artists. And this is what it sounds like. Re:works is the result of a groundbreaking project that sees the rich catalogue of Decca Classics being opened to some of the world’s foremost electronic producers, including Mr Scruff, Starkey, Henrik Schwarz, Fort Romeau, Patrice Bamuel, Martin Buttrich and Kate Simko. Their classical remixes are already being played in clubs from XOYO to DC10 in Ibiza. Vast improvement, right? Over the last few years, the lines between classical and contemporary electronic music have been blurred more than ever before. High-profile orchestral collaborations from some of the scene’s leading figures have brought the compatibility of these seemingly disparate genres into sharp focus, opening doors to new avenues of musical exploration. Re:works seeks to further establish the common ground between the historic and modern day aspects of musical composition, opening the hallowed Decca vaults to a selection of seminal electronic artists. Composers including Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Satie and Reich created some of the most timeless classic music ever made: remixing these compositions is no small undertaking, but the results are nothing short of breathtaking. Take my breath away.
Boris Giltburg (piano) (Naxos)Rachmaninov wrote two sets of études-tableaux, literally study-pictures. Outside the sphere of pianists and Rachmaninov fans, they remain a fairly well hidden secret. The Russian-Israeli Boris Giltburg, in his CD note to the later set, Op 39, describes them as short stories: “captivating, meticulously crafted to trim all excess… movies with accomplished cinematography and lighting”. Each of the nine jewel-like miniatures in the cycle – mostly under five minutes in length – possesses a beguiling ambiguity, from brooding to pitch black, interrupted by flashes of light. Giltburg, a natural Rachmaninov interpreter, plays with technical fluidity and honed musicality. Continue reading...
The pianist Peter Donohoe, a judge at last month’s Queen Elisabeth Competition, is distressed at the low attention received by this historic and prestigious event. He writes: That the Queen Elisabeth Competition ends up being described as ‘low-key’, as a result of the shamefully thin media coverage this great event has received is sad. I realise that the main thrust of this is to observe that it was not covered so much outside Belgium, which when one is in Belgium is quite difficult to detect or otherwise. Within Belgium, however, it was as major as any classical music event could be. I did, however, realise that the coverage of this event by the British media was almost zero. If the same applies to Germany and France and elsewhere, that is also a shame. Time after time I find myself feeling concerned that my own country’s media only seems interested in a music competition – please don’t mention the depressing unmentionables as an example of my being wrong – if there is a chance of a scandal – (as they always seem to expect in Moscow, only to be disappointed in recent years.) Even the coverage of our own Leeds competition has been relegated to a shadow of its former self; one would have expected that the colourful personality of Dame Fanny Waterman would have kept things interesting enough for the competition to be deemed a major event, but not so. And now, DFW has retired from the competition. Even BBC Young Musician of the Year seems sidelined in the present anti-cultural and anti-intellectual climate. Anyway, readers will be happy to hear that the competition was completely without scandal, exceptionally well supported by Belgian TV, radio and press, attended consistently by members of the Belgian Royal Family – in particular Queen Mathilde, who showed an interest in the competition that far exceeded token Royal support – and very large numbers of the Belgian public were glued to it from the word ‘go’. There was of course an increase in coughing and fidgeting from the audience during the last night, indicating that we had amongst us a large contingent of the sort of people who only wanted to be there at the climax. However, no competition in the world could hope for more community-spirit than this, and I was very happy and honoured to have been involved. As far as the final result is concerned, nothing happened that isn’t inevitable at competitions. Everyone knows that no jury can – or at least, should – enter into any post-competition public discussion of the various candidates. However, I, too, was very sad at the absence of a prize for certain competitors. In one case, in conversation later I did not find a single jury member who did not feel the same way. To those who have never experienced competitions from the inside, this seems impossible, but it happens more often than not; it is therefore something about the system that needs to be constantly re-thought. It is agonised over by many of those running competitions – certainly the organisers in Brussels did so. As stated many times before, the jury did not ‘see fit’ to ignore the talent of certain people; such an absurd, although oft-trotted-out statement, implies the usual assumption that everyone on the jury felt the same way – they did not and never could. No musician has the same opinion; if that were possible, we would be involved in a dead art. What is possible is to be respectful of each other, and we were. No, we did not cynically remove good pianists from earlier rounds, in order to eliminate any threat that they might pose to the expected winner; we are grown-ups. If it is true that anyone has ever succeeded in doing that, they form a disgrace to their profession; however, I don’t know of it.
The company they brought back from the dead is showing vital signs of life. Next season, its first since returning from bankruptcy, New York City Opera will stage six productions. They include a Harold Prince production of Bernstein’s Candide; a double bill of Rachmaninov’s esoteric Aleko with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci; Respighi’s La Campana Sommersa (The Sunken Bell); and the New York premieres of Peter Eotvos’s Angels in America, based on the Tony Kushner play, and Tobin Stokes’ Iraq War saga, Fallujah. In addition, the company has commissioned a supermodel bio-opera, American Venus, from Tobias Picker for 2019. All this on a budget of $6.4 million. It’s fresh, it’s different, it’s not the Met. What’s not to like? A cautionary word: it was a supermodel opera, Anna Nicole, that sank City Opera last time round.
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.
Great composers of classical music