Wednesday, March 29, 2017
We present, by popular request, a revised Slipped Disc power list: 1 Anna Netrebko and Yusuf Eyvazov 2 Minnesota music director Osmo Vänskä and concertmaster Erin Keefe 3 Powerhouse Daniel Barenboim, pianist and festival director Elena Bashkirova 4 LSO chief Sir Simon Rattle, mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena 5 Boston chief Andris Nelsons, hyper soprano Kristine Opolais 6 Trumpeter Alison Balsom and new husband, director Sam Mendes 7 Tenor Roberto Alagna, soprano Aleksandra Kurzak 8 Soprano Sonya Yoncheva, conductor Domingo Hindoyan 9 Soprano Elina Garanca, conductor Karel Mark Chichon 10 Conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky and pianist Viktoria Postnikova, together since 1969 11 Conductor David Robertson and pianist Orli Shaham 12 Composers Kaija Saariaho and Jean-Baptiste Barrière 13 Cellist Alisa Weilerstein, conductor Rafael Payare 14 Glyndebourne hosts Gus Christie and Danielle DeNiese 15 Violinist Nicola Benedetti, cellist Leonard Elschenbroich 16 Composer György Kurtág, pianist Marta Kurtág 17 Israeli composers Noam Sherriff and Ella Sheriff 18 Met boss Peter Gelb, conductor Kerry-Lynn Wilson 19 Pianist David Fray, director Chiara Muti 20 Cellist David Finckel and pianistWu Han, chamber music entrepreneurs
The Colón Theatre has always been a tough nut to crack throughout its long history. Even when it was well run (Valenti Ferro, Renán) each day was a fight against obstacles either true or perverse. To be General and Artistic Director is a full-time job that takes its toll on health and demands deep knowledge of many ample and difficult fields, firm ethical decisions, ability to control and delegate as well as to plan ahead no less than two years, preferably three. As a cultured member of the audience consider what it takes to put on a fine interpretation of, e.g., a Wagnerian opera such as "Lohengrin" in a new production. First the dates for five performances, four of them by subscription: even a ten-title season is an extremely complex puzzle (although Valenti Ferro managed to present eighteen!). Crucial aspects: how many rehearsals the choir needs to memorize the music and the German text (calculated by the Choir Director); how many for the orchestra to learn the music and play it with exactitude and style (the conductor´s evaluation); nowadays productions have stage, costume and lighting designers unified by the producer´s vision: how many weeks the artisans and artists of the Colón need to realize the ideas of the production team in time for the scheduled dates? Plus the costs according to budget, the contracts, the proper cast or casts… Multiply all this by the total number of operas, plus similar requirements for the ballet season; add the subscription concerts of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic and its availability for the ballet nights. Add the concerts planned by the Colón in separate series, such as the Barenboim/Argerich festival; and the twenty dates of the Mozarteum Argentino plus a couple of Nuova Harmonia, and you have the legitimate work of a great integrated theatre. Unfortunately more and more intrusions alien to classical music have been given dates, denaturing the purpose of this theatre sometimes to ridiculous extremes (weddings, rock, pop, cinema stars, tango, folklore): there are other venues for all this and only a lack of clear thinking and a desire for juicy returns explain (not justify) these aberrations. During the Macri years as Chief of Government something essential was sanctioned by the Legislature: a very flawed Autarchy Law invented an absurd five-Director structure: General, Executive and three other members supposed to have "recognised cultural trajectory", one of them representing the Colón workers either from the artistic or the technical sectors. No mention of the Artistic Director (!?). Well, lawyers and accountants were named as members in flagrant violation, and the election of the representative of the Colón was delayed for years until Director General García Caffi could be sure that he had the votes for someone who wouldn´t be an independent voice. During the GC tenure happened two things: a) after six very confused and controversial years the Colón reopened in 2010: it had gone through a massive restoration; unfortunately it was incomplete (and still is: the Institute of Art went to a separate building, and many workshops work at La Nube, an insufficient Belgrano building); b) obeying Macri´s gravest mistake, four hundred people were summarily either transferred or left in a limbo without any rational previous evaluation: the 1300 people were reduced to 900 (they couldn´t be fired under the stability law); now we are back at the previous number if you sum the tercerized employees. Come January 2015 and out of the blue GC resigned, invoking private reasons. In this surreal Colón he had been both General and Artistic Direct. Implicitly recognising that an Artistic Director is essential, Rodríguez Larreta chose Darío Lopérfido as General and Artistic Director;he was a very negative Secretary of Culture during the De la Rúa stints as our city´s Chief of Government and then as President. To add to Surrealistic behaviour, later Lopérfido was named Culture Minister retaining the Colón but only as Artistic Director. María Victoria Alcaraz, for some years a low profile Director of the Centro Cultural San Martín, was named the Colón´s General Director. So she was Lopérfido´s superior at the Colón but reported to him as Minister! More Surrealism of bad quality. But Lopérfido resigned as Culture Minister for spurious reasons and came back to the Colón. And now he was offered by the Nation "an irresistible job" at Berlin (no details!) and resigned. Three candidates were evaluated and Enrique Arturo Diemecke was chosen as replacement, though changing the description of the job: not Artistic Director but Director of Programming and Artistic Production. Diemecke, of course, has been the Principal Conductor of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic for twelve years, and he will keep this position during 2017; in 2018 he will leave the post, previously choosing two conductors who will share the Principal Conducting. Lopérfido was a caretaker Artistic Director in 2015, for he respected García Caffi´s programming (only changing conductor and producer for "Parsifal"). 2016 was programmed fully by Lopérfido, and already last November he announced 2017 in every detail, published in a booklet. The press release states that the season will take place as programmed, but Diemecke says that there might be changes in the second semester! And although Lopérfido had advanced a lot with programming 2018, if there aren´t contracts everything can change. He says that he will continue to lead Ópera Latinoamérica and hold "an international representation of the Colón", Alcaraz doubts that this will be so. Our colleague La Nación had interviews with Diemecke, Paloma Herrera (who takes over as Directress of the Ballet due to Maximiliano Guerra´s resignation) and Alcaraz. The latter makes two interesting statements: with reference to Lopérfido: "it wasn´t an easy relationship because we didn´t share ethical criteria concerning management and other subjects". And about the Colón use for shows outside its vocation: "Diemecke and I will decide to whom we will rent the theatre. I have my differences about how it was used recently". It´s worth mentioning what is known about the Lopérfido 2018 opera season. The term used in the information, "comprometido", is rather "firm offer accepted by the artist", it isn´t the same as "under contract". "Tristan and Isolde" conducted by Barenboim; "Simone Boccanegra" with Domingo; Berg´s Lulu" (conductor Brönnimann); "Aida"; "The Tales of Hoffmann" (both conducted by Ranzani and the latter produced by Zanetti); Martinu´s "Julietta", premiere (conductor Kuerti) and Janácek´s "Jenufa". As the operas will be ten, three are missing from this list (one could be an Argentine opera by Matalón, as rumor has it). Says Diemecke: he likes the proposals but doubts if the budget for it will be available. In a recent article I mentioned that Guerra´s job was in danger due to great discontent with his tenure. Paloma Herrera, now 41, seems a good choice. She, like Bocca, is a product of both the Colón Art Institute and the American Ballet Theatre. As she expresses in the interviews, she will apply the same principles of discipline and perseverance of her own career to better the level of our Ballet. She wants more performances either at the Colón or elsewhere. She accepts the programming left by Guerra but wants to add to it. Both she and Diemecke believe in being present as much as they can, but this year they have previous engagements to honour, they will need efficient Subdirectors. And both as well as Alcaraz will have to tackle organisational reforms completely "forgotten" by García Caffi and Lopérfido: pensions, regulations, rehearsal times, and a big etc.For Buenos Aires Herald
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra/Barenboim/Boulez (Deutsche Grammophon)Since Pierre Boulez’s death at the beginning of 2016, Daniel Barenboim’s tribute to his friend and musical collaborator for more than half a century has been heartfelt and wide-ranging. Two weeks ago, the Pierre Boulez Saal, the chamber-music hall designed by Frank Gehry for the Barenboim-Said Akademie, was inaugurated in Berlin, with the first concert by the newly formed Boulez Ensemble, and this album of Boulez’s music has been released to coincide with the opening. The three works on the first disc – dominated by a fabulously lucid account of the tangled, challenging Dérive 2, for 11 instruments – are from the 2012 Proms in London, while the second disc includes recordings from the Berlin Staatsoper in 2010.There’s Messagesquisses, for solo cello and six other cellos, and Anthèmes 2 for violin and live electronics, played by Michael Barenboim, thus echoing his recent solo disc, but the main work is Le Marteau Sans Maître, conducted by Boulez himself with Hilary Summers as the contralto soloist. By my reckoning, this is Boulez’s fifth recording of the work that defines his own music better than any other; it’s perhaps more expressively flexible than earlier ones, but just as precise, and Summers makes a compelling soloist. Continue reading...
The Opening Concert of the Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin's new hall for chamber recitals. Daniel Barenboim did the honours in the Mozart Piano Quartet KV 493, with his son, Michael, the violinist, beside him. No way would a concert as significant as this have been complete without a star like Barenboim. The invisible star, nonetheless was Pierre Boulez, for whom the hall is named. Fittingly, the concert began and ended with Boulez: Initiale initiating proceedings, with Sur Incises as the grand highlight. Both pieces also demonstrated the acoustic and flexibility of this new hall. It's more than a recital hall, since it can be adapted for larger ensembles and even, potentially, for chamber opera. Seating seems generous, so backstage facilities might also be of the same high standard. Coffin-shaped concert halls are dead. London, wake up! Barenboim will also be remembered for posterity because he nurtures young musicians, just as he himself was nurtured when he was a child prodigy. It was good to hear Karim Said, whom Barenboim has mentored since childhood. Please see my article Why we need to know who Karim Said Is from 2008. Said has matured nicely. He was the soloist in Alban Berg's Kammerkonzert for piano, violin and thirteen winds, with Barenboim as conductor. Later, Said was the lead pianist in Sur Incises. Jörg Widmann appeared, both as clarinettist and as composer, performing his own Fantasie. The whole concert can be heard on repeat here, a good idea since you can fast forward past the inordinately long breaks between pieces. You can see who's in the audience, too - Simon Rattle. Being a Lieder person, I was keen to hear Schubert Der Hirt auf dem Felsen D 965 with Barenboim, Widmann and the incomparable Anna Prohaska. Pauline Anna Milder-Hauptmann, the celebrity coloratura of her day, wanted a showpiece that would test her range and artistry. Der Hirt auf dem Felsen is a challenge, even for the finest performers. The piano part is dense, "rock-like" in its complexity, and the clarinet part equally daunting. But the soprano is the star. The piece runs for twelve minutes, connecting three different poems (Wilhelm Müller and Karl August Vernhagen). Schubert's setting replicates the imagery in the first poem, Müller's Der Berghirt, whiuch describes a young shepherd, sitting high on a rock on a mountain, looking down on the valley below, where his beloved lives, far away. Thus the extremes of height and depth,the soprano's voice soaring upwards, while the clarinet's lower register floats seductively around her, sometimes in duet. In the early part of the 19th century, there was a craze for "Alpine" music connecting the Romantic concepts of Nature, purity and freedom with picturesque mountain scenery and peasant simplicity. Weber's Der Freischütz premiered in 1821 and Rossini's William Tell in 1829, the year after Schubert wrote this remarkable song. Tragically, it was his last completed work., but it might indicate how Schubert might have progressed had he survived. Later in the century,"Alpine opera", such as La Wally came into vogue. Strauss and Mahler wrote music in which mountains appear, figuratively. Indeed, the whole genre of Bergfilm is an adaptation of the style. Lots on this site about mountains in music and Bergfilme. Although the soprano in Der Hirt auf dem Felsen certainly does not yodel, the idea of a song designed to carry over long distances applies, and requires good breath control (as do pan pipes and Alpenhorn), Milder-Hauptmann and Schubert no doubt realized the piece would be a tour de force. Prohaska was wonderful, singing with mellifluous grace. Her words rang clear and true. "Je weiter meine Stimme dringt, Je heller sie mir wieder klingt Von unten". In the last section, Prohaska's voice trilled deliciousl, .duetting with Widmann's clarinet. Tricky phrasing, but joyously agile, like a mountain spirit. "Der Frühling will kommen, Der Frühling, meine Freud', Nun mach' ich mich fertig Zum Wandern bereit" It might seem trivial, but I loved the outfit Prohaska wore: cropped trousers, knee-high boots and a long jacket. Very elegant, yet also reminiscent of a 19th century traveller, a poet or a wanderer.
(Accentus)Michael Barenboim’s debut recording as a solo violinist seems very much a statement of artistic intent. He has clearly inherited his father Daniel’s enthusiasm for Boulez’s music, and frames this disc with the two versions of Anthèmes from the 1990s, the first purely acoustic, the second using IRCAM’s digital hardware to elaborate and multiply the same capricious material through real-time transformations and reflections.Both versions get high-voltage performances from Barenboim, and his accounts of Bartók’s immense and immensely difficult Sonata and the third of Bach’s solo sonatas that come between them have the same crackling intensity. Bartók composed his sonata after hearing Yehudi Menuhin play Bach’s C major sonata, and Barenboim emphasises the similarities between the two works, perhaps making the Bach just a little too unremittingly intense in the process. More light and shade in its opening Adagio and a lighter, springier touch to the rhythms of the fugue and in the rather breathless final Allegro might have worked wonders, but the whole sequence makes an impressive collection nevertheless. Continue reading...
It’s on Saturday evening and Arte are streaming the concert live. Click here . Programme: Pierre Boulez: Initiale Franz Schubert: Der Hirt auf dem Felsen D 965 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Klavierquartett Es-Dur KV 493 Alban Berg: Kammerkonzert für Klavier und Geige mit 13 Bläsern Jörg Widmann: Fantasie für Klarinette solo Pierre Boulez: sur Incises