Saturday, October 22, 2016
I love the two piano concerto by Johannes Brahms, and now there is a new recording out in which these two great works are performed by Rudolf Buchbinder, with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta. Vienna’s local paper, the Wiener Kurier, was delighted with this music, and published the following, as seen below: Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15 Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83 Performed by Rudolf Buchbinder (piano), with the Wiener Philharmoniker, Zubin Mehta conducting. “It is not every day that Brahms sounds so perfect as this,” wrote the Kurier newspaper, describing Buchbinder’s performance with the Vienna Philharmonic. The “phenomenal piano virtuoso” (Kurier) plays the First and Second Piano Concertos of Johannes Brahms in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein with Maestro Zubin Mehta, who has long been intensively associated both with the orchestra and with soloist Rudolf Buchbinder. Brahms’ piano concertos constantly demand from the pianist a wide range of interpretational refinement alongside a very high level of concentration and considerable technical skill. A challenge which Rudolf Buchbinder easily achieves: “Buchbinder’s tour de force earned him cheers” (Die Presse). Many years ago I got to experience a concert at the large Golden Hall where the Vienna Philharmonic performs Here is a one minute opportunity for you to see this spectacular place:
As a teenage virtuoso pianist from Odessa, Gilels was thrust forward as a propaganda torchbearer for Soviet ideals. A hundred years after the great musician’s birth, though, many believe the association wasn’t so straightforwardTake care if you refer to Emil Gilels, whose centenary falls this week, as a “Soviet” pianist. How dare you, a fellow pianophile will say, pointing out that Gilels’s authoritative and inspired readings of Beethoven, Brahms and Prokofiev, immortalised on the most prestigious western recording labels, represent the acme of Russian spirit and European culture and that tainting him by association with Stalin’s murderous regime is the ultimate injustice. “Soviet” is a dirty word for what remains of Russian intelligentsia for a very good reason. Gilels is undoubtedly a timeless genius, but few artists are as inextricably and fascinatingly entwined with political history as the pianist of whom Stalin said in the late 1930s that “Hitler has his Goebbels, I have my Gilels.” Continue reading...
Kent Nagano is one of the most complete conductors and some years ago vividly impressed the Mozarteum audiences when he came with the Montreal Symphony. Now he was back with the Hamburg Philharmonic at the Colón with two programmes focussed on German/Austrian Postromantics and they became a major event of the season. Nagano has had a great European career which in principle one wouldn´t expect from a Californian of Japanese ascendance, but he explains that he was trained by a German teacher who imbued him with the very essence of style in the greatest symphonic repertoire. In his DNA there was an innate musicality and it was nurtured by an intelligent guide. A brief résumé. He has held main posts at Lyon Opera (a very innovative tenure), the Hallé Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera, Deutsche Symphonie Berlin, the Bavarian Opera (Munich). And since September 2015 he is Musical Director of the Hamburg State Opera, whose Philharmonic Orchestra gives two hundred performances of opera and ballet plus thirty symphonic and chamber concerts, a tremendous amount of work. I recall that this orchestra came here decades ago led by Aldo Ceccato and for the Mozarteum: a solid ensemble, though not as important as it was on this year´s visit. They trace their origins to as far back as 1828, and during the Twentieth Century they had illustrious conductors: Muck, E.Jochum, Keilberth, Sawallisch and G.Albrecht. Then Ceccato, and afterwards Metzmacher and for ten years before Nagano, Simone Young, the outstanding Australian lady conductress. As it came in this tour they numbered 96 players, big enough for Strauss. They really have 130 players because their enormous yearly task necessitates some rotation of players. And with them came two admirable artists: cellist Gautier Capuçon, who with his violinist brother Renaud played a memorable Brahms Double Concerto here in one of the Argerich Festivals; and Japanese mezzosoprano Mihoko Fujimura, unknown here but very appreciated in Germany, particularly in Wagner. Richard Strauss´ "Don Quixote" (1897) demonstrates his inexhaustible orchestral imagination, who had only one possible match in the late Nineteenth Century: Gustav Mahler. "Don Quixote" has a subtitle, "Fantastic variations on a chivalric subject". The cello is the Don and the viola is Sancho. Between the Introduction and the Finale there are ten variations, some of them with astounding orchestral effects (the sheep sound like advanced atonalism, and flying is cunningly imitated). But it is also a warm portrait of character. It needs a crack orchestra and an inspired cellist: it had both this time. True, Capuçon was somewhat arbitrary as to note values, but his interpretation was expressive and convincing, with beautiful timbre and fine technique. Nagano and the orchestra were stalwart throughout, with perfectly chosen tempi and immaculate playing of the very difficult music, as well as intensity and sustained concentration. Naomi Seiler (viola) and Konradin Seitzer, the concertino of imposing presence and virtuoso quality, made fine contributions. Brahms´ Symphony Nº 1 is probably the best First in history; to say that what we heard was outstanding in the myriad versions we have heard through several decades is no exaggeration. The composer was born in Hamburg and was homaged by the players fully and excitingly. The encores were the subtle Entr´acte from Schubert´s "Rosamunde", lovingly done, and curiously with no hiatus, a fascinating movement from Ligeti´s "Concert Romanesc", as wild a piece as can be imagined, where conductor and orchestra showed that the moderns have no secrets for them. The second programme was very coherent. Before the interval, Wagner´s Prelude to Act One and Love-Death from "Tristan and Isolde", the latter in the orchestral arrangement of the composer; and the five "Wesendonck Lieder", arranged by Felix Mottl the first four and the fifth by Wagner from the original for voice and piano. As two of them have melodies that reappear in "Tristan...", it was a good idea to programme the songs on the poems of Wagner´s muse, Mathilde Wesendonck. Nagano proved a fine Wagnerian, and Fujimura sang with powerful voice and clear understanding of the style. Bruckner´s Sixth Symphony (1881) isn´t as long as the following ones (55 minutes); I find it more technical and less attractive than the Seventh or Eighth, but quite representative of his distinctive personality. Again Nagano and the orchestra showed conclusive professionalism, energy and power of communication. There were no encores. For Buenos Aires Herald
Our weekly bulletin from Anthea Kreston of the award-winning Artemis Quartet: We have had a week of illness – first me, then our first violinist was ordered to stay in bed for the week) and now our violist (standing next to me, waiting for security at the airport). Most immediate family members are down as well. A week of cancelled rehearsals buttress the Echo Awards (European Grammys) and performances. A member falls into a desperate, heavy sleep during intermission of our concert, to be gently shaken awake for the second half of the program. The last to fall (or not to fall) is our cellist, who has surrounded himself with ginger tea. In the thick of all this – a behind-the-scene look at the glamorous and magical Echo Awards – from my first red carpet walk to rubbing elbows with classical music’s elite. Pre-show, abundant emails and detail-checking set my expectations high – this was going to be a spectacle – visually, musically, and star-studded. Because of security, we were asked to arrive first one hour, then an hour and a half early, with official identification. A car was sent to my apartment 2 hours before we were to be seated, and my sister, visiting from Berkeley, accompanied me as my plus-one. She came prepared – floor-length black gown with jewelled turquoise straps crisscrossing the just-appropriately low back of the dress. I wore my latest dress – a purple straight lined floor-length dress, covered in teeny glittering beads, and a diamond cut-out in the back. As we giggled in the back of the car, wondering out loud if we were going to have an “entrance” from the car, we rounded the corner to see a magnificently lit Konzerthaus at the Gendarmenmarkt. As we approached the drop-off, we quickly realized that a push of reporters was indeed filming and taking pictures as people were helped from the car. We removed our coats – my sister held mine as I exited the car, doing my best to mimic those countless videos we have all seen of the glamorous limo exits. Red carpet spanned the Lincoln-memorial-sized stairs, and snaked its way through the press photo-tent, television interview area, and along throngs (can this even be possible) of die-hard classical music fans, waiting to glimpse their favorite classical music star. As we exited security, we were ushered aside by our ever-fabulous Publicist, Maren Borchers of “For Artists”. In a straight black woolen coat, cut at an angle, a purple feathered boa, and an ear piece connected to on-and back-stage, she orchestrated her artists, first sending one and then another ahead to the carpet. She sometimes repeated a snippet here or there “lost wardrobe, trouble with moving camera above stage, drink areas ready to go…..”. As all four Artemis arrived, their plus-ones gathered as well, and were ushered around to a side carpet, to reconvene with us later. First we strolled to the photo area, where a blizzard of flashes came from the wall of photographers – first one, then the other grabbed our attention, calling for us to look their way next. Then, to the corner where the TV reporter asked specific questions as to our award and repertoire represented on the CD. It is at this point that I must say that this award belongs not even a hair to me – this was an award for a glorious cd of Brahms released by the Artemis. It belongs to Vineta, Gregor, Friedemann and Eckart. Nonetheless, they included me in these festivities, toasting to the next Echo – for the four of us. As we entered the already-packed building, in which the rectangular hall is surrounded by wide, marble hallways, we were greeted by musicians, managers, record companies, and a seemingly endless line of crisply-dressed wait-staff, holding everything from molecular-gastronomy smoking test-tubes filled with neon-green delicious substances to traditional hearty German food, albeit in amuse-bouche form. Also making the rounds was an updated form of the cigarette girl – with the same tray and neck-ribbon, but in her tray, a dizzying array of top-tier chocolates. Oh my. I took three. As quartet fanned out, each person looking for any number of people with whom Quartet has had business, is in negotiation for business, or wishes to begin a new venture, I again saw these people in their finest – able to talk with anyone on any subject – charming, succinct, creative. I met our manager, the inimitable Sonia Simmenauer, our photo-makeup artist, a reporter in the midst of writing a large article about the quartet. We were ushered into the hall – a large rectangle with velvet chairs, and a full two balconies. I felt like I was in one of those period books – looking around at those in the boxes, trying to recognize the stars. The ceiling was covered in many large, matching chandeliers, camera people roamed the aisles, and a large camera on a pulley spanned the entire hall. We were seated close to the front, where winners were placed to facilitate easy access to the stage. The moderator, Thomas Gottschalk, (their version of Letterman) was charming and witty as he lead us through the basics – allowing us three different dynamics of clapping, and even singling out specific audience members with a funny comment here or there. The next three hours were filled with dazzling performances (unfortunately Jonas Kaufmann – be still my fluttering heart – was unable to sing due to recent health issues – but he spoke and I got to see his dimple from a distance of inches!), from vocal to instrumental to orchestral. I had never heard Philippe Jaroussky before, and I was floored by his rendition of Handel. After his performance, my sister and I turned to each other and said “what the **** was that” – we were without words. Guest speakers from Cold Play’s Chris Martin to author Donna Leon rounded out the show. As we were called to the stage, each of us immediately assuming a larger-than-life persona, I was again struck by the strength of this group. Through thick and thin, they rise and meet the day with hand outstretched, ready to tackle any problem and grateful for the support given them. My sister and I returned home, heads to pillows around 2 am. The after party, with its amazing array of foods and drinks, was like being in a Top Chef episode. A full 11 hour extravaganza – and I couldn’t for the life of me get a wink of sleep.
Perlman/Argerich (Warner Classics)Here is a meeting of great musical minds. Itzhak Perlman and Martha Argerich came together for a single recital in Saratoga in 1998, two thirds of which was released – their only previous disc together. Now we have the other sonata from that concert, Schumann’s No 1 in A minor. From the start, Argerich’s piano playing is supremely alive, moving under Perlman’s muscular melody in ebbing, tugging waves. Perlman spins out the second movement into a single, seamless phrase; his tone is a bit crunchy in the agitated finale, but the exhilaration of a live performance is all there. Even more intriguing are the new studio versions of Schumann’s Drei Fantasiestücke, Brahms’s FAE Scherzo and Bach’s C minor Sonata. Perlman’s tone may be fractionally less sweet than it was nearly two decades ago, but the sense of line in his playing remains supreme, and Argerich’s Bach accompaniments are like a sprung dancefloor underneath him. Continue reading...
When two musical giants get together to perform, then good things happen. And on this recording, Martha Argerich and Itzhak Perlman show us the wonderful results, which include the following: Bach, J S: Sonata for Violin & Harpsichord No. 4 in C minor, BWV1017 Brahms: Sonatensatz (Scherzo from the F.A.E. sonata), WoO 2 Schumann: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105 Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 All performed by Martha Argerich (piano) and Itzhak Perlman (violin) It has been 18 years since Itzhak Perlman and Martha Argerich have recorded their last studio album together. On that occasion in 1998, they performed Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata, the Franck Violin Sonata and Schumann’s Violin Sonata No.1 Mr. Perlman said: “Working with Martha was a unique experience for me … Her brilliance and the colors she uses when she plays are recognizeable as soon as you hear them – it’s her; nobody else sounds like that… I am so excited that we were actually able to record together again… When this possibility came along that she might be able to have a couple of days free to record I said, ‘I’ll go any place!’” Martha Argerich added: “I feel so stimulated to play with Itzhak, it’s really a feast – fantastic! It’s a very special relationship, I am completely enchanted.” Here are these two amazing artists in Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata:
Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 - 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene. In his lifetime, Brahms' popularity and influence were considerable; following a comment by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow, he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the Three Bs. Brahms composed for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, and for voice and chorus. A virtuoso pianist, he premiered many of his own works; he also worked with some of the leading performers of his time, including the pianist Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed many of his works and left some of them unpublished. Brahms is often considered both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters. He was a master of counterpoint, the complex and highly disciplined method of composition for which Bach is famous, and also of development, a compositional ethos pioneered by J. Haydn, W.A. Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Brahms aimed to honour the "purity" of these venerable "German" structures and advance them into a Romantic idiom, in the process creating bold new approaches to harmony and melody. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by subsequent figures as diverse as the progressive Arnold Schoenberg and the conservative Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature of Brahms's works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers.
Great composers of classical music