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Johann Sebastian Bach

Monday, May 22, 2017


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

May 14

Emmanuel Macron: My favourite composer

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discHere’s the original text of the French president’s reply about his musical preferences to Classiquenews.com. He has great admiration for Rossini – ‘he completely reinvented the lyric art’. However, as a trained pianist, he is most affected by the music of Schumann and Liszt, ‘that major European’. J’ai une grande admiration pour Rossini. Il occupe à mes yeux une place essentielle dans l’histoire de la musique. Sa liberté, sa propre vie et son génie m’ont toujours impressionné. Il a sorti l’opéra de son carcan en offrant une liberté nouvelle à la voix : il a totalement réinventé le chant lyrique. Du Barbier au Voyage à Reims en passant par Cenerentola, il a créé un style irrésistible – mais je suis sensible aussi à ses opéras sérieux, comme Moïse ou Maometto II, qu’on donne si rarement. Dans un tout autre genre, j’accorde un prix tout particulier à Bach. Il a beaucoup compté pour moi. Son oeuvre pour clavier (orgue, clavecin) et pour violoncelle est d’une précision qui n’empêche pas l’élévation spirituelle, mais pour ainsi dire la favorise. J’entends moins une froideur mathématique qu’un discours musical charriant toutes les émotions possibles. Bach est un passeur entre plusieurs mondes, indéfinissable et génial. Comme vous le savez peut-être, je suis particulièrement sensible à la musique pour piano – j’en ai moi-même beaucoup joué et tente d’en jouer encore dès que j’ai le temps. L’oeuvre de Schumann occupe une place à part : elle porte des images et des sentiments que je ne trouve nulle part ailleurs, avec une variété de tons unique. J’ai également un grand attachement à Liszt, cet Européen majeur, moderne résolu ancré dans la grande tradition : l’incandescence des Années de Pèlerinage reste intacte après tant d’années.

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

May 17

Label news: Chandos signs a winning pianist

Barely is the ink dry on Ivan Ilic’s contract than the UK boutique label has snapped up another interesting artist. The Italian Federico Colli, winner of the 2012 Leeds competition, has signed a multi-album deal, starting with Scarlatti sonatas and followed by Bach-Busoni.




Royal Opera House

May 16

Six of the best: Ballets by William Forsythe

Marcelino Sambé in rehearsal for The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Royal Ballet © 2017 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper Very few choreographers have changed ballet as greatly as choreographer William Forsythe , whose radical works in the 1980s and beyond have brought a fiercely contemporary perspective to an art form often defined by its traditions. Crystal Pite has said that working with Forsythe at Ballet Frankfurt ‘changed everything’ , citing his recklessness and commitment to pursuing new choreographic ideas. We've picked six of his most vital works and what makes them so important: Artifact ‘Step inside’, says our host, wearing a Baroque dress. ‘Welcome to what you think you see.’ Forsythe’s first work for Ballet Frankfurt, created in 1984, was a prodigious beginning. Music by Bach , Ballet Frankfurt’s rehearsal pianist Eva Crossman-Hecht and Forsythe himself accompanies a work that glances back at tradition – not just to the Baroque but also to the more recent choreographic age of George Balanchine and his influential abstract dance – while also reinventing it. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated His directorship of Ballet Frankfurt put Forsythe on the map, but the work that became his international breakthrough was made for another company. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was a 1987 creation for Rudolf Nureyev ’s Paris Opera Ballet , including a young star dancer of the company, Sylvie Guillem . To a propulsive electronic score by Thom Willems , In the Middle… sends its nine dancers through an astonishing series of variations, rearranging recognizably classical steps in strikingly modern combinations. Impressing the Czar ‘You can’t make a full-length ballet any more, because that’s something that was made in another era’, Forsythe once claimed in an interview about Impressing the Czar. So what to do instead? ‘You make something that looks like a full-length ballet!’ This ‘fake’ work was created for Ballet Frankfurt in 1988. In three highly contrasting sections, the work begins with a lavish look at ballet history before In the Middle… returns as the central section. It closes with ‘Bongo Bongo Nageela’ , a pounding piece for 40 dancers dressed as Catholic schoolgirls storming around the stage. Choreographic Objects As well as choreographing stage works, Forsythe has been highly active in the creation of what he calls ‘Choreographic Objects’. More like art installations than works for theatrical performance, the choreography is created as objects and viewers interact. A chestnut tree in a town square vibrates as people sit beneath ; a bouncy castle joyously destabilizes its visitors . ‘You have to move to know’ , said Forsythe of an exhibition of his in Frankfurt: movement remains at the heart of his work, but this is movement that’s not just for professionals. Quintett https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dlFx2cXuNc ‘Bill is Balanchine on steroids’, said Forsythe dancer and stager Thomas McManus . In a longer abstract work like Quintett the similarities come out quite clearly: it is a poetic celebration of both the dancers and the music, which in this case is Gavin Bryars’s Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Forsythe made Quintett for Ballet Frankfurt in 1993, and Bryars’s music – containing a melody sung by an anonymous homeless man, repeated many times – creates a deeply emotive context in which the five dancers move in and out of partnerships and solos. The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude The cultured classicism of Schubert ’s Ninth Symphony is a contrast to some of Forsythe’s other musical choices, but its joyful finale provides the basis for The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude , a 1996 work for five dancers created for Ballet Frankfurt. ‘Apparently it has a reputation of being extremely difficult to dance’, Forsythe innocently admits – but that is part of its point, as it at once challenges its dancers and celebrates the breathtaking extremes to which classical technique can be pushed. Rigid, circular tutus, designed by former Forsythe dancer Stephen Galloway , are the perfect complement to this playfully radical revision of ballet tradition. The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude runs 18–31 May 2017. Tickets are still available.

On An Overgrown Path

May 8

The universe is a symphony of vibrating strings

The subatomic particles we see in nature, the quarks, the electrons are nothing but musical notes on a tiny vibrating string... Physics is nothing but the laws of harmony that you can write on vibrating strings... The universe is a symphony of vibrating strings."That extract comes from a talk by the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. It is quoted in the recently published The Jazz of Physics by Stephon Alexander, who is a theoretical physicist specializing in string theory and loop quantum gravity and also an accomplished jazz saxophonist. (Stephon Alexander is an African American and senior black physicists are as rare as senior black conductors: when he was a PhD student at Brown University in the late 1990s Alexander was one of just three black physics students at PhD level in the U.S.) String theory abandons the dogma of traditional physics that a hyper-microscopic view of a vibrating string would show atoms, and instead identifies that there is a fundamental level beyond the atoms which comprises an interlinked network of vibrating strings of energy. String theory is of major importance because it does not just apply to vibrating strings but applies to all matter; which is why it has been dubbed 'the theory of everything'. Stephon Alexander's book is pivotal because it moves the teachings of master veena player and spiritual teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan on the axiomatic role of vibrations - which have influenced many composers including Karlheinz Stockhausen and Jonathan Harvey - from the arena of fuzzy science into scientifically rigorous and peer reviewed academia. In The Jazz of Physics Stephon Alexander links musical forms to cosmology, pointing out that the millions of stars within galaxies are organised into self-similar fractals, just like the fractal structures found in the compositions of Bach and Ligeti, and he uses variants of Feynman diagrams to explain phenomena such as the symmetrical chords that invoke ambivalence in the music of Ravel and others. Words such as cosmology are not the stuff of which click bait is made. But those who still believe that the way to save classical music is to reduce it to yet another tawdry entertainment should ponder on these wise words from Stephon Alexander: What I had first seen as psychobabble had become an avenue of productivity. [Wolfgang] Pauli's conversations with Jung, were, after all, what led Pauli to discover a new property of matter and a new law of nature. Since my college days, ideas connecting music and cosmology had been stirring in the back of my brain, and now I was digging them out of my unconscious, facing them, and thinking they were not quite as outlandish as they seemed.No review sample used. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.



My Classical Notes

May 4

More on the Magic of Bach

Today’s topic at My Classical Notes is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and specifically his Cantatas for Soprano: Bach, J S: Cantata BWV202 ‘Weichet Nur, betrübte Schatten’ (Wedding Cantata) Cantata BWV152 ‘Tritt auf die Glaubenbahn’ Andreas Wolf (bass-baritone) Cantata BWV199 ‘Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut’ Performed by Carolyn Sampson (soprano), with the Freiburger Barockorchester, Petra Müllejans conducting. Bach’s period as organist to the Duke of Weimar (1708-17) was the time of his early mastery. Nowhere is this more evident than in the small but highly distinguished body of cantatas he wrote there, whether for the court chapel – the Himmelsburg or ‘Castle of Heaven’ – or for some clearly very joyful wedding (BWV202). From the amazing duets for soprano and oboe of the latter to the penitential strains of BWV199, the radiant voice of Carolyn Sampson and the virtuosos of the Freiburger Barockorchester do full justice to Bach’s inventiveness. Soprano Carolyn Sampson has been proclaimed “the best British early music soprano by some distance” by the editors of Gramophone. A native of Bedford, she studied voice with Richard Smart at the University of Birmingham, and made her debut with the English National Opera in a production of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea and continues to appear with this company with regularity in addition to appearances at the Paris Opera. Here is Carolyn Sampson in music by Haendel:

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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