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Johann Sebastian Bach

Saturday, August 27, 2016


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

Yesterday

Cellist who saved a BBC Prom with minutes to spare

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discAt 0935 yesterday the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic were informed that their Proms soloist Truls Mork was sick. At 1529 his replacement Alexey Stadler flew into Heathrow, little-known and 25 years old. At 1640 he was rehearsing on stage. At 1930 he made his Proms debut. No announcement was made to the audience. So how did he do? Ariane Todes was there: …This was an intelligent performance of Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, with long lines and beautiful phrasing. If it was under-rehearsed, there was little evidence … Stadler holds his cello quite low, reminiscent of Rostropovich, but as yet he lacks the weight of sound and depth of vibrato of that master. There might have been a little more ugliness and anger in the characters of Shostakovich’s acerbic concerto, but no doubt that will come with age. Indeed, the Bach (the Sarabande from the Suite no.2) suited him better, beautifully conceived, simple and unmannered, but expressive and meaningful. It certainly made me want to hear more from him, and I’m sure we will. Read the full review here. photo: Chris Christodoulou/Lebrecht

My Classical Notes

August 23

Overtures To Bach

Performing artists are continuing to explore new ways to present their music. We have seen works by a contemporary composer joined with compositions from the 1700’s. We have seen works by Schoenberg presented along with music by Brahms. Now there is a new recording called “Overtures to Bach”. These are compositions that anticipate and interlude each of the Bach Cello Suites. 1. Overture 2. Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: I. Prélude 3. The Veronica 4. Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1008: I. Prélude 5. Run 6. Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009: I. Prélude 7. La memoria 8. Cello Suite No. 4 in E-Flat Major, BWV 1010: I. Prélude 9. Es War 10. Cello Suite No. 5 in C Minor, BWV 1011: I. Prélude 11. Lili’uokalani 12. Cello Suite No. 6 in D Major, BWV 1012: I. Prélude Performed by Matt Haimovitz (cello & cello piccolo) Matt Haimovitz’s continuously-evolving and intense engagement with the Bach Cello Suites reaches new hights with ‘Overtures to Bach’, six new commissions that anticipate and reflect each of the cello suites. The new overtures expand upon the multitude of spiritual, cross-cultural, and vernacular references found in the Bach, building a bridge from the master’s time to our own. The new album, Overtures to Bach, pairs each new work with the Prélude from the suite it introduces, with Haimovitz performing on cello and cello piccolo. Composer Philip Glass simply and eloquently prepares the audience for the first Suite with his Overture, encouraging an open and calm frame of mind. For the second suite, Du Yun creates a heartbreaking quilt of cries in The Veronica, mingling a Russian Orthodox prayer for the dead, Serbian chant, and central European gypsy fiddle music. Vijay Iyer’s Run responds to Bach’s third suite with infectious energy and kinesthetic rhythms that celebrate the natural resonance of the instrument as well as the composer’s jazz roots. Then, Roberto Sierra’s La memoria plays on our memory of Bach’s Suite IV, seamlessly referencing motivic fragments and creating a kaleidoscopic mirage with the exotic flavors of Caribbean bass lines and salsa rhythms. David Sanford’s Es War, a response to the fifth suite, opens with a tour de force of pizzicato, then wrestles with Bach’s epic fugue with a saxophone’s wails. For the sixth and final suite, Luna Pearl Woolf is inspired by pre-Western Hawaiian chant, taking full advantage of the virtuosic properties of the cello piccolo and treating it operatically, from the low bass to the soprano stratosphere. Here is Matt Haimovitz playing the music of Bach:




Tribuna musical

August 22

Lang Lang´s return: true to form, dazzling but controversial

Lang Lang is certainly the most mediatic pianist in the world. As you read the biography in the hand programme, you find precious little about music, but plenty of kudos about his influence; and he´s only 32. He played at the 2008 Beijing Olympics for four thousand million people; he collaborated with pop dancer Marquese "Nonstop" Scott, Julio Iglesias and Herbie Hancock. He is a Messenger for Peace of the United Nations and he has his own Lang Lang International Music Foundation with stress on giving children access to good music through education. Steinway even designed the Lang Lang piano for China. He is a staple in presentations before Presidents and is chosen for commemorative concerts such as the one for Queen Elizabeth II´s Diamond Jubilee at Buckingham Palace. He was one of the Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum (a musician!). But no mention is made about his training or his recordings or his early appearances. Lang Lang has been coming regularly during the last decade, so he seems to find the Colón attractive. In this recital of the Abono Verde (Green Subscription Series) the audience was quite varied, for apart from music lovers you had the mediatic seekers. The premices were full and increasingly enthusiastic; by the time the encores were played, the response was almost delirious; and he, as the showman he also is, saluted with charm and signed programmes. It helps that he is personable and very cordial. Now to the music. Lang Lang is realistic and he only squeezes small Chinese pieces in the encores. I have often wondered about the Oriental capacity to adapt to the Occidental world, for it doesn´t work the other way around. From this artist´s teens critics have recognised his amazing dexterity with something of the acrobatic mixed in; well, the best acrobats are Chinese. Apparently he can play faultlessly anything written for the piano, no matter how difficult. That´s the dazzling side, always present. But of course style matters and the success of the interpretation depends on it. In the same piece with Lang Lang you can hear a beguiling passage and seconds later a distorted view of the score, though note-perfect. That has been so in every visit, and there´s no sign that the problem will disappear. Nevertheless, the experience of hearing him is always interesting and worthwhile, and a good many minutes will be of very high rank. His recitals have always brought different programmes and sometimes his choices were intriguing. E.g., being such a virtuoso, why choose an easy Mozart sonata? He can also bring over some beautiful music very rarely heard, as he did this time with Tchaikovsky´s "The seasons". And he can disconcert playing it before, not after, Johann Sebastian Bach´s "Italian Concerto". "The seasons" is a misnomer for what should be called "The months". It was the result of monthly pieces written for a Saint Petersburg music magazine, afterwards edited by Jurgenson as Op.37a (Op.37 is the Great Piano Sonata in G). Beginning of course in January, an intimate piece called "Close to the chimney", each month has different character and title, sometimes brilliant and fast ("Carnival", "The Hunt") but more frequently melodic in the inimitable tchaikovskian way ("Barcarolle", "The lark´s song"). The last two are November ("Troika") and December ("The salon waltz"). In my long years of concert going I had never heard the whole suite in one concert, and Lang Lang is to be thanked for this discovery, though of course there are recordings (Ashkenazy, Bronfman, Pletnev; Ilona Prunyi plays them very nicely). Exciting but exaggerated in the fast ones, Lang Lang showed the subtility of his touch in the melodies, molded delicately and phrased with taste. His memory always seems excellent, you never see or hear a hesitation; you may disagree with some of his decisions, but he never improvises: he is sure of himself at all times. Bach´s marvelous Italian Concerto (called thus although written for one instrument) is of course a staple of the repertoire of harpsichordists (preferable) and pianists. Lang Lang uses the full resources of the modern piano but he doesn´t abuse the pedals and he has the sort of total independence of hands needed to keep the constant counterpoint clear. So, although slightly fast, he kept a steady rhythmic pulse. The four Chopin Scherzi are among his most important creations, wholly his in conception and technique, and equally mature from op.20 to Op.54. They all have a main Presto and a contrasting slow, moody melody. They can be played quite fast but not willfully, such as Orozco, Argerich or Rubinstein did; but Lang Lang suddenly sprints off when he resumes the Presto material at a double-fast clip not asked for by the composer, and the balance deteriorates. The perfection of the playing survives, but not the spirit. However, how lovely and contained were the quiet moments. In two of the encores he was at his worst: a wild, brutal "Fire Dance" from Falla´s "Love the Magician" ("El Amor Brujo") and a disheveled "Danza cubana" by Lecuona.(Listen respectively to Rubinstein and the author to know how they should sound). And in the middle, an inocuous slow Chinese melody, nicely done. Will he change in the future? I bet he won´t. He will remain fascinating and irritating. He likes things his way and that´s that. For Buenos Aires Herald

Tribuna musical

August 22

Strasnoy´s pastiche of Bach and Kafka proves to be tricky

The CETC ( Colón Center for Experimentation) has organized an audacious cycle of what might be called Argentine New Opera (within chamber limitations). Miguel Galperin, its Director, had to recur to several venues, for the CETC´s cellar couldn´t possibly shelter the six selected works. Nor can any reviewer cover all six. In fact, collisions with other events made it impossible for me to see "Av. De los Incas", music and libretto by Fernando Fiszbein, at the Sala Argentina of the CCK. And I couldn´t see "Genealogías"; it isn´t an opera but a scenic concert made up of pieces of "emblematic XXth Century works that marked the way to the new opera": Svetlichny, Schwitters, Schnebel, Berio, Duchamp, Cage, Kagel and Aperghis, with the peculiar Swiss duo UMS´n JIP (voice, flute, electronics). This happened at the UNSAM Center of the Arts. I was able to be present at the Usina del Arte´s Auditorium; it offered the Argentine première of a staged version of a vocal work by Oscar Strasnoy with the troublesome German original denomination "Hochzeitsvorbereitungen (mit B und K)", which translated in Spanish as "Preparativos de bodas" and in English "Preparations for a wedding". Strasnoy has premièred two operas here: one I found revulsive, "Cachafaz" on Copi´s text; the other, a full-fledged opera, was presented with success at the Colón: "Requiem", on Faulkner. In what is indeed a strange conflation, Strasnoy in his libretto takes texts by Franz Kafka (K) and contrasts them with Johann Sebastian Bach´s (B) lovely Cantata Nº 202, one of his most tuneful and happy scores and the best of several cantatas of that sort. It was premièred in December 2000 at Edenkoben, Germany, conducted by the composer. Curiously it was a command to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Bach´s death. There were two other versions in 2002 at Stuttgart, and in 2005 at Paris´ Auditorium of Radio France, a definitive revised version. Says Strasnoy: "Stylistic purity has no sense in our time. There´s nothing more antimodern than dogma". The first phrase is wrong: purity isn´t easy but it is possible and desirable. I agree with the second phrase; the problem is that so many don´t know what is modern and create according to trends. Neither Stravinsky nor Schönberg followed trends: they found new roads. But there are no geniuses nowadays: competent technicians galore, instead. Strasnoy is one of them: he has skill. But he can´t do what Stravinsky did in "·Pulcinella": convert Pergolesi (or fake Pergolesi) into Stravinsky so perfectly that the fusion gives us both worlds. Here the wonderful Bach arias are merely retouched but suddenly we have yuxtaposed Strasnoy, and need I say it? Bach 1, Strasnoy zero. Yes, pastiche is tricky. This badly assorted musical couple, however, does mirror what we are seeing: increasing signs that this bride and bridegroom won´t make it to the wedding. I´m not an expert on Kafka but I venture to say that the choice of material could have been more relevant to the story Strasnoy wanted to tell; anyway the bridegroom seems more hysteric than the bride. Soprano Chantal Santon was impressive, veering easily from fine Bach singing to increasingly distempered Strasnoy. The choice of a countertenor (not a tenor or baritone) tends to underline the growing tension of the relationship, though that doesn´t justify the frequent harsh timbre of Daniel Gloger, very Expressionist in singing and gesture. The stage direction by Edgardo Mercado and Mariana Ciolfi is probably responsible for the intervention of a dancer who is simultaneously the one that brings things and removes them according to the needs. This was done brilliantly by Carla Di Grazia, agile, personal and impish, on good choreographic steps by Mercado. The stage design is basically an enormous white tissue that initially veils the bridegroom and will eventually disappear by bits. Is the obsession with a wedding cake of both protagonists Strasnoy´s or Mercado´s idea? I don´t know, but they end up with a whipped-cream (or meringue?) masque. In the final stretch of this 50-minute piece comes a surprise: the producer taking advantage of the hall´s architecture, 45 girls in white wedding suits slowly climb the right-side ramp, proceed to the far back of the stage and then start going down the left-side ramp. In the strange ending, the man covers himself (he is in underpants) with female garb and jumps into the procession, whilst the bride does the same...Bad marriage ahead, no doubt. Eleven excellent players (such as oboist Michelle Wong or violinist Lucía Luque) were conducted metronomically by Annunziata Tomaro. Good costumes by Magda Banach and lighting by Claudio del Bianco and David Seldes. Anecdote: the CETC sent a mail weeks ago looking for volunteers to participate in this production; among the takers was the daughter of a friend of mine. For Buenos Aires Herald



Tribuna musical

August 22

Andriessen´s “De Materie”, rare conflation of dissimilar things

As I commented recently, La Plata´s Teatro Argentino is now run by Martín Bauer, known for the Colón Contemporáneo cycle and for two decades the November Cycle of contemporary music centered on the Teatro San Martín. Now he has followed his bent for current trends presenting Louis Andriessen´s "De Materie", a scenic concert, not an opera; an Argentine première. Louis Andriessen was born in 1939 and is the son of distinguished Dutch composer Hendrik Andriessen. The Dutch school of composition has been important during almost the whole of last century, but very little of its vast output has been known in Argentina. Those of us who believe in the power of records cherish the Donemus collection, in which the recordings were accompanied by the scores. Louis Andriessen has delved in many styles and from a minimalist base has added many other conceptions of sound, a trend that in good hands can lead to interesting results, such as Tippett´s profane oratorio "A child of our time", but also to unpalatable jumbles such as Bernstein´s Mass. Well, for me "De Materie" is half-and-half. The composer has had singular accolades in recent years, such as festivals dedicated to his music at London´s Southbank and Barbican, or New York´s Lincoln Center. But Philip Glass has also been much promoted and a lot of what he does isn´t good. However, mixtures of all kinds are the rage also in popular music during the last three decades and "purity" is looked upon as passé. However, some of us deplore it, and I´m not even elaborating about the lack of true theatre or of great easel painting. In the case of "De Materie", I´m surprised that there exists a recording of just the music by Reinbert De Leeuw, for a lot of it means very little by itself. It is long, about 110 minutes, and there are parts of it so basic that you can doze for three minutes and wake up and you would be hearing the same boring chords. But why is it called "De Materie" ("Matter")? Well, this 1988 work is a series of episodes with scenic but not argumental continuity. As the hand programme says, Andriessen incorporates noisism (yes, noise as a style), impressionist orchestral textures, influences of Bach and Stravinsky, traditional Dutch song and rock (here I differ, I heard jazz but not rock). "Built in four different parts, for soprano, tenor, two speakers, eight voices and atypical orchestra, it reflects on the connexions between matter and spirit". Tall order, indeed. As the action progresses, we will have as materials "the 1581 Dutch declaration of Independence, a 1690 book on naval construction, a 1651 philosophical and scientific essay, the religious and erotic vision of a XIIIth Century nun, a manifest on the History of Art, a private note on Piet Mondrian and the diary of Marie Curie" (mixed with fragments of her Nobel Prize speech). There are elevated intellectual aims in this choice of materials; their yuxtaposition sometimes worked but also could seem quite incongruous. This is the second production of the work, and I can´t compare Heiner Goebbels´ views with those of his predecessor. I haven´t seen a score and don´t know which visuals are indicated by the author and which are not. But I surmise that many things are Goebbels´ aesthetic views. Those that saw in March his strange "Stifters´ Dinge" at the Colón know that he likes to relate wildly divergent things, and as this seems to be Andriessen´s own credo, I suppose the composer probably agrees with Goebbels´ inventions. We have choreography, projections, a strange filming that looks like old mute cinema in very poor condition but with modern cars...; and aggressive lighting directed to the spectator whose effect is to make unintelligible the supertitles. I disliked most of Part I because it is based on wretchedly repetitive fortissimo chords, but one element was worth hearing: the brilliant tenor Robin Trichter (a Mozartian) singing perched on high the texts of Gorlaeus (1591-1612, strangely short life) about the atomic structure of matter. Part II was enjoyable: after a long string introduction, the nun sings Hadewych´s Seventh Vision, an ample vocal line that gets very high and has emotional intensity. It was beautifully sung by Oriana Favaro. With low candlelight it had the proper climate, and especially it veered from the stated idea. Part III mixes Mondrian with mathematician Schoenmaekers´ thoughts about "the pure straight line", and as the music gets jazzy with the admirable Spanish Sigma Project ensemble of four saxophones, we have a choeography by Edgardo Mercado for six Teatro Argentino dancers. The music and the dancing were quite pleasant but I fail to see the relationship with Mondrian. Part IV: as in Part I, the excellent Nonsense Vocal Ensemble of Soloists (eight-strong) gave their contribution, this time more rewarding musically, with sonnets by Dutch poet Willem Kloos. But the Madame Curie final episode is hardly helped by the aforementioned film, as dim in its looks as in its meaning, so the ending is anticlimactic, even with the good actress Analía Couceyro. Specialised conductor Peter Rundel (debut) led a 62-piece orchestra that included two synthesizers, two electric guitars and an electric bass, metal boxes, three marimbas, three pianos and a celesta. Minou Maguna and Andrés Denegri collaborated with Goebbels in the projections. Something different, with a couple of high points. For Buenos Aires Herald

Johann Sebastian Bach
(1685 – 1750)

Johann Sebastian Bach (21 March 1685, - 28 July 1750) was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity. Although J.S. Bach did not introduce new forms, he enriched the prevailing German style with a robust contrapuntal technique, an unrivalled control of harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the main composers of the Baroque style, and as one of the greatest composers of all time. Revered for their intellectual depth, technical command and artistic beauty, Bach's works include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Partitas, The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Mass in B minor, the St Matthew Passion, the St John Passion, the Magnificat, A Musical Offering, The Art of Fugue, the English and French Suites, the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, the Cello Suites, more than 200 surviving cantatas, and a similar number of organ works, including the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor and Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, as well as the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes and Organ Mass.



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