Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Daniel Barenboim: 70th Birthday Concert Mr. Barenboim performs the following on this DVD: Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 Carter, E: Dialogues II Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23 All performed by Daniel Barenboim (piano), with the Staatskapelle Berlin, Zubin Mehta conducting. This concert was held to celebrate the leading conductor’s 70th birthday. Barenboim is presently the music director of La Scala in Milan, the Berlin State Opera and the Staatskapelle Berlin and is joined onstage by a number of colleagues and friends from his long career in classical music. In my view, Mr. Barenboim is one of the most thought provoking musicians of our generation. And he has devoted his life to furthering the appreciation, teaching, and performances of orchestral, instrumental music, as well as Opera. Here is a section of this concert, where Mr. Barenboim accepts the tribute by the audience:
The Hungarian conductor will step down as music director of Berlin’s Konzerthaus orchestra in 2018, when he’s 65. Says he wants to conducts less. He has raised the orchestra’s profile to the extent that he was ranked with Rattle and Barenboim at state events.
New York´s Metropolitan Opera is recognized as the most important in the world, and its satellite transmissions, with excellent sound and image, have been a major contribution to opera in many countries. Fortunately, the Fundación Beethoven took up the challenge and we have had many seasons at the Teatro El Nacional, generally with packed audiences, who know that many of the artists heard and seen don´t come to our city, for the Colón is far from being what it was. However, there has been a downside more and more evident: the Met used to be a guarantee of productions where not only the music but also the libretto were respected. As one great European house after another fell under the evil trend of disregarding the very essence of opera as a genre that allows us to explore different epochs, supplanting it with incongruous and often insulting changes, it finally reached the Met, and its current Director Peter Gelb is responsible for that, as he is in the positive side of the worldwide transmissions. So now we have a Nazi "Manon Lescaut" or a "Rigoletto" in Las Vegas. This year his choice for the opening was curious: generally the Met offers a grand production of operas that have a spectacular side, such as "Aida" or "Turandot", and of course with the most famous singers. Wagner´s "Tristan and Isolde" certainly isn´t that: an intimate story of love, vengeance and death between Medieval Celtic reigns, with few choir interventions and no massive scenes. But apart from the distortion of taste and common sense, there´s another general problem: even if tickets are quite expensive, costs are very substantial; at the Met salaries of orchestra and choir are exaggerated and productions have gone sky high. So the Met complies with reality: this "Tristan" is a coproduction with Festival Hall Baden-Baden, Teatr Wielki-Polish National Opera and China National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing. So you can see the same stage conception in four cities; and the HD live process extends this to two thousand venues in 69 countries. Wonderful if the production is good, but deeply destructive if it is bad. And this one is. The producer is Mariusz Trelinski, Director of the Teatr Wielki; stage design by Boris Kudlicka; lighting by Mark Heinz; projections design, Bartek Macias. Director of HD live: Gary Halvorson. And an inexplicable item, for there isn´t any: choreography, Tomasz Wygoda. In the cast I find two characters that don´t exist in Wagner: young (in fact, boy), Tristan; the other isn´t even seen: a Doctor. Now let me stress the musical side, for it was very worthwhile. I didn´t know Sir Simon Rattle as a Wagnerian, and I was pleasantly surprised: his reading was intense, coherent and intelligent, and of course the Met Orchestra is first-rate, so we had the intercrossing of Leitmotiven admirably expressed. And the singers were of undoubted quality. Nina Stemme probably is the best Isolde nowadays, of the Behrens rather than the Nilsson mold: a solid firm voice, but foremost a psychological insight that makes riveting every passage she sings. She recorded it with Plácido Domingo. Stuart Skelton, a new name for me, is tall and portly; his timbre is of the Windgassen rather than the Melchior tradition: it is clear, well projected and of ample register, though lacking in the volume and baritone richness of the ideal Tristan. He sings musically, with no nasality, and has the stamina to arrive fresh to the end of his part (the Third Act has terrible demands). And he is reasonably good as an actor. Ekaterina Gubanova was an expressive and well-sung Brangäne, and Evgeny Nikitin a bluff and forthright Kurwenal. We know the exceptional King Marke of René Pape, for he made his Colón debut two years ago singing the Second Act in the concert version conducted by Barenboim. The production: a) We were robbed of hearing the Preludes concentrated on the music, for a big periscope circle center stage showed confused images of mostly inextricable meaning. b) Costumes were modern and revolvers were used. No sense of Medieval values. c) Clumsy final minutes: you don´t see King Marke´s retinue nor the clash between Kurwenal and Melot, only lights with no people; and in what should be a sublime Isolde Love-death goodbye, she cuts her veins. And so on... For Buenos Aires Herald
Among her many qualities pianist Martha Noguera has perseverance and the courage to tackle difficult tasks. Long before she created Chopiniana, the pianistic Festival that has brought many great talents to Argentina, she did here in 1998 the integral Beethoven sonatas (32) and all Chopin´s works with opus number in 1999. Her ample career started when she was eleven and she is now in her early seventies, along with Argerich, Gelber and Barenboim. So we have a formidable Argentine school of piano playing. And although they are no longer active, let us not forget such names as Sylvia Kersenbaum and Elsa Púppulo. Her yearly recitals for Chopiniana are always long and difficult, never less than 95 minutes of music. But in recent seasons I felt that she is asking too much from herself, and that her programmes are exhausting for any pianist. Her memory has been proverbial for many decades and her technique is up to almost any hurdle, but now there are occasional fissures in both, although the level remains high. The recital at the Palacio Paz began with Schubert´s last Sonata, Nº21, D.960, surely the most played but not part of her repertoire until recently. Schubert is beautiful but needs patience; days ago I mentioned concerning his Octet the Schumann phrase about him, "heavenly length", and it certainly applies to this 40-minute Sonata. Noguera showed that patience in her faithful, detailed and solid account of the first two movements, never rushing in the slow one, admittedly repetitive. The scherzo was a bit too fast though it held. But the Finale was uneven, with some fine passages followed by others who were, yes, rushed; and at a certain point she wavered and for some seconds didn´t find her way. The Second Part started with one of the most problematic Beethoven Sonatas, Nº28, op.101. The lovely lyrical First movement was done with much sensibility and style, and the brusque "Vivace alla marcia" was tackled with energy. The Finale is the complicated movement: it starts with a morose "Lento", quotes the first movement, and then turbulently falls into a tremendous Fugue, almost as hard to play as that of the "Hammerklavier" Sonata though not so long. But Beethoven states: "not so fast", and pianists should comply, for Noguera started too fast and then had to keep that pace as the music became more and more arduous; apart from some slips, again it happened that suddenly a figuration didn´t come out well and she repeated it for some seconds until resuming the progress of the music. Then she played Chopin: two youthful works, the Rondo op.16 and the rarely done First Sonata op.4. The Introduction and Rondo, to give its proper name, was written in 1832, when he was 22, a brilliant showpiece light in content: Chopin as a virtuoso. As I have no score, I can´t vouchsafe that everything was played as written, but Noguera produced plenty of fireworks. The Sonata is a strange work, written as a teenager (18). The initial Allegro maestoso is based on a chromatic subject, and its course provides many surprises, although with a feeling of immaturity. The Larghetto is melodic but rather tame, and the Menuetto has charm, although this form is certainly not Romantic. The Finale is speedy, ample and rather entangled. Was it this last characteristic that troubled Noguera? For she skipped four whole pages of score in what seemed a memory lapse. Up to then she had played quite well. The hall was full, for Noguera has a large following, and Poland´s Ambassador was present and gave her a public homage. Her encores were temerary but surprisingly were among the best interpretations of the evening: a murderous arrangement by György Cziffra of Rimsky-Korsakov´s "Flight of the Bumblebee"; and the ultrafamous Chopin "Heroic" Polonaise, in a strong and assured performance full of the adequate contrasts. May I venture a suggestion for next year? Be a little less ambitious and play a shorter and not so arduous programme. For Buenos Aires Herald
From a typically honest interview with Peter Donohoe: What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 1 Taking the plunge in my early 20s and deciding after all to be a solo pianist. 2 Maintaining the natural sense of British taste and reserve at the same as learning to be emotionally open, and keeping the balance between the two. 3 Playing Bach. 4 Standing in for Daniel Barenboim playing Bach. Read the full interview here.
Johannes Martin Kränzle, Corinne Winters, Alessio Arduini in Jan Philipp Gloger’s Così fan tutte © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Stephen Cummiskey ‘Come scoglio’ is an aria from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ’s 1790 opera Così fan tutte , ossia La scuola degli amanti. It takes place in Act I and is sung by Fiordiligi, a young woman who is unwittingly participating in the ‘school for lovers’ of the opera’s subtitle. Like much of Mozart’s writing for this character, the aria covers an unusually wide range and mixes together forceful, held sections with heavily ornamented passages, requiring a voice that brings together agility and power. The aria is designed to impress (which it certainly does) but it also has an element of parody, as Mozart mimics and mocks the opera conventions of his time – a thread that runs throughout Così fan tutte. Where does it take place in the opera? ‘Come scoglio’ occurs at the end of Act I scene 11. The opera opens in the midst of an argument between the young men Ferrando and Guglielmo and the older Don Alfonso. Alfonso claims that no woman can be faithful; the young men hotly contest that their girlfriends – Dorabella and Fiordiligi, respectively – are as faithful as they are beautiful. The men agree to put their loves to the test, and pretend to go to war, only to return, disguised, to woo the women as strangers. The women are devastated by their fiancés’ departure. Their maid Despina recommends they use this opportunity to take a lover – and lo and behold, the disguised Ferrando and Guglielmo appear. Fiordiligi, sternly resistant to their advances, sings ‘Come scoglio’ (like a rock). But as the opera goes on even she will yield. What do the lyrics mean? Read our line-by-line translation of librettist Lorenzo da Ponte ’s original Italian text, created in 2016 by musicologist Roger Parker: Recitative: ‘Temerari, sortite’ Temerari, sortite Fuori di questo loco, e non profani L’alito infausto degli infami detti Nostro cor, nostro orecchio e nostri affetti! Invan per voi, per gli altri invan si cerca Le nostr'alme sedur: I’intatta fede Che per noi già si diede ai cari amanti, Saprem loro serbar infino a morte, A dispetto del mondo e della sorte. Reckless youths, leave at once! Don’t profane with such words our hearts, our ears and our affections! In vain will you, or any other, try to seduce our hearts. We’ll keep sacred even unto death the trust we pledged to our lovers in the face of the world and destiny. Aria: ‘Come scoglio’ Come scoglio immoto resta Contro i venti e la tempesta, Così ognor quest’alma è forte Nella fede e nell’amor. Con noi nacque quella face Che ci piace, e ci consola, E potrà la morte sola Far che cangi affetto il cor. Rispettate, anime ingrate, Quest’esempio di costanza; E una barbara speranza Non vi renda audaci ancor! Like a rock, unmoving in wind and storm, my soul remains strong in its faith and love. Within us burns a fire that strengthens and consoles. Death alone will change the feelings in our hearts. Respect my constancy, you ignoble souls. Never again let vile expectations make you so bold. What makes the music so memorable? Fiordiligi is a force to be reckoned with, as ‘Come scoglio’ makes more than clear. Unlike Dorabella, who seems to take to infidelity quite happily, Fiordiligi will wrestle with strong emotions that tear her between her two loves. The determined leaps and resolute rhythms in ‘Come scoglio’ are crucial in establishing this character. Yet Mozart doesn’t seem to take Fiordiligi quite as seriously as she does. There is more than a hint of parody in ‘Come scoglio’ – the leaps are so huge, the range so large and the ornamentation on the repeated first stanza thickly florid. Fiordiligi dominates the music to an absurd extent, even at one point singing the bass line. So the aria serves a straightforward function, of delineating the character and moving the story forwards – but it also, like so much of the music in Così fan tutte, provides a further commentary on the characters and their emotions, an extra level that can provide a deeper insight. Take a look at the full score of ‘Come scoglio’ (from p.112 for the aria and p.110 for the recitative) on IMSLP . Così fan tutte’s other musical highlights Mozart's third collaboration with Lorenzo Da Ponte sees the composer lavish miniature masterpieces on pretty much every scene. Despina and the four lovers all receive at least one stand-out aria: Ferrando’s ‘Un’aura amorosa’, Guglielmo’s ‘Donne mie la fate’, Dorabella’s ‘È amore un ladroncello’, Despina’s ‘In uomini’ – the list could go on. An unusual proportion of the music, though, is constructed in duets and ensembles, all ingeniously formed: there’s the terzetto ‘Soave sia il vento’, probably the opera’s most well-known number, but also many gems besides, including the opening trio between the three men, the brilliant Act I finale, Dorabella and Guglielmo’s seduction duet ‘Il core vi dono’ and the rapturous multi-movement duet between Fiordiligi and Ferrando, ‘Fra gli amplessi’. As ever with Mozart, taken as a whole the entire opera is constructed in a highly sophisticated manner, the pace of numbers and the use of recitative all coming together to impart nuanced and compelling characterization to all of the cast. Classic recordings Fortunately, the world is not short on excellent Così recordings, so you’re in with a good chance of finding the one that suits you perfectly. Broadly speaking, the range spans from classic recordings with big voices and slow tempos (probably the most famous being Karl Böhm ’s 1962 recording with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as Fiordiligi) to recordings by period-instrument bands at fleeter speeds and with lighter voices (such as René Jacobs ’s with Véronique Gens as Fiordiligi) – with everything in between. Particular recordings to look out for include Daniel Barenboim ’s recording with Lella Cuberli as Fiordiligi, Yannick Nézet-Séguin ’s with Miah Persson and Teodor Currentzis ’s with Simone Kermes . More to discover The obvious next step is Mozart’s other operas – from Mitridate, re di Ponto (written when he was just 14 through to La clemenza di Tito , via Lucio Silla , La finta giardiniera , Idomeneo , Le nozze di Figaro , Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte , there is so much to enjoy from this opera master. If you’re looking for even more Mozart with a particular accent on virtuoso soprano writing then try his Mass in C minor as well. Where to go next? Fiordiligi has cousins in the strong-willed Leonore in Beethoven ’s Fidelio , and in many of Verdi ’s heroines, including Violetta from La traviata , Hélène from Les Vêpres siciliennes and Elisabetta from Don Carlo – or for strong female characters whose music is written with more than a hint of a smile try Rosina in Rossini ’s Il barbiere di Siviglia or Adina in Donizetti ’s L’elisir d’amore . Così fan tutte runs until 19 October 2016. Tickets are still available . The production will be broadcast to cinemas around the world on 17 October 2016. Find your nearest cinema screening .