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Johann Sebastian Bach

Friday, August 18, 2017


My Classical Notes

August 1

August DVD of the Month: Martha Argerich

My Classical NotesJS Bach Piano Concertos: Martha Argerich and friends The tracks on this recording are as follows: Improvisations I, performed by Gabriela Montero (piano) Improvisations II, performed by Gabriela Montero (piano) Bach, J S: Keyboard Concerto No. 3 in D major, BWV1054 Lilya Zilberstein (piano) Keyboard Concerto No. 4 in A major, BWV1055 Nelson Goerner (piano) Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F minor, BWV1056 Stephen Kovacevich (piano) Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G minor, BWV1058 Dong-Hyek Lim (piano) Concerto for Two Keyboards in C major, BWV1061 Dong-Hyek Lim & Frank Braley (pianos) Concerto for Two Keyboards in C minor, BWV1062 Khatia Buniatishvili, Gvantsa Buniatishvili (pianos) Concerto for Three Keyboards in D minor, BWV1063 Frank Braley, Michel Dalberto & David Kadouch (pianos) Concerto for Three Keyboards in C major, BWV1064 Dong-Hyek Lim, Mauricio Vallina & Akane Sakai (pianos) Concerto for Four Keyboards in A minor (after Vivaldi), BWV1065 Martha Argerich, Lilya Zilberstein, Mauricio Vallina & Dong-Hyek Lim (pianos) Concerto for Four Keyboards in A minor (after Vivaldi), BWV1065 Martha Argerich, Nicholas Angelich, Akane Sakai & Nelson Goerner (pianos) All selections are supported by the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne The great Martha Argerich and the Chamber Orchestra of Lausanne leads a team of amazing pianists from all around the world. These major figures and young soloists at the edge of a promising career are gathered to glorify Bach. These piano concertos are ideal for many combinations: one, two, three or even four pianists. This brilliant formation includes amongst others Nicholas Angelich and Frank Braley, the gifted Michel Dalberto and Nelson Goerner, the classic master Kovacevich, the great Russian pianist Lilya Zilberstein, the South Korean Dong-Hyek Lim as well as the talented David Kadouch. Here are Martha Argerich and her friends in music by Johann Sebastian Bach:

My Classical Notes

August 12

Simone Dinnerstein Plays Schubert

This morning I listened to pianist Simone Dinnerstein as she played the music of Franz Schubert. I was so delighted that I listened further. What followed was the music of J. S. Bach. Why say more? Here is one of the pieces that prompted me to write this:




On An Overgrown Path

August 3

If it was good enough for Gustav Mahler...

On the left is Charles Villiers Stanford. In 1910 Gustav Mahler conducted Stanford's Symphony No. 3 'Irish' in New York. Twenty-two years earlier the symphony had been played during the first season of the new Concertguebouw in Amsterdam*, and it was also conducted by Hans Bulow in Hamburg and Berlin and championed by Hans Richter. Yet quite inexplicably Stanford's Irish Symphony has only been played once at the Proms, and that was in 1895. Moreover none of Stanford's other six symphonies have ever had Proms outings. Although Charles Villier Stanford's symphonies have been resolutely ignored in the concert hall they have one distinguished advocate on record, the late and much missed Vernon Handley. His cycle of the complete symphonies with the Ulster Orchestra for Chandos is a triumph. If any evidence is needed that Stanford was not - as Elgar alleged - just a composer of rhapsodies, it is provided by Tod Handley's accounts of the terminally-forgotten sixth and seventh symphonies. Arguments about masterpieces or not are irrelevant. Because if Stanford's music was good enough for Gustav Mahler in New York it must be good enough for 21st century Proms audiences. If Mahler was around today I am sure he would paraphrase Carl Nielsen and declare that... The right of life is stronger than the most sublime art, and even if we reached agreement on the fact that now the best and most beautiful has been achieved, mankind thirsting more for life and adventure than perception, would rise and shout in one voice: give us something else, give us something new, indeed for Heaven's sake give us Stanford's 'Irish' Symphony, and let us feel that we are still alive, instead of constantly going around in deedless admiration for my First Symphony.* Many influential commentators, including Lewis Foreman in the Chandos booklet, state that Stanford's Irish Symphony was played at the opening concert of the Concertgebouw in 1888. This has passed into classical music folklore but is wrong. The Concertgebouw opening concert took place on 11 April 1888, and the programme was Beethoven, Bach and Sweelinck. Stanford's Irish Symphony was played in the Concertgebouw on 3 November 1888 for a different but still very distinguished occasion, the first concert of the newly-formed Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Kes. 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.

Tribuna musical

August 2

Wealth of symphonic and chamber music for all tastes

Foreign or local, the menu of symphonic and chamber music has remained enticing in recenty weeks. Let´s start with symphonic. The fourth item of Nuova Harmonia´s season was originally announced as the visit of the Prague Philharmonia, but it was later changed and instead we had the debut of the Istanbul State Symphony, although keeping the programmed conductor (Milan Turkovic), violinist (Vadim Repin) and repertoire. We never had a Turkish orchestra before. This one has a long history: in 1827 the Ottoman Sultan Mahmut II invited Giuseppe Donizetti (brother of Gaetano) to found the Muzika-i-Humayun, Ottoman Imperial Orchestra. Much later, during WWI, the orchestra did a tour of such cities as Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Budapest and Sofia. By 1945, at the end of WW2, it was the Istanbul Municipal Symphony, and finally it got its current "name" in 1972. We are not familiar with the Turkish composers or interpreters. I couldn´t trace any recordings of the orchestra in my CD catalogue, so I had no clear expectations, for ethnic Turkish music has little to do with Occidental tradition (I have some folk songs and Janissary pieces) and I know no classical pieces of that origin. Curiously the conductor´s name seems Turkish but isn´t, his family is Austro-Croatian; he was for several decades one of the best bassoonists in the world (200 CDs with Harnoncourt´s Concentus Musicus!). During the last twenty years his career veered towards conducting; this was his BA debut. He started the concert with the very brief suite "Telli Turna" by Nevit Kodalli (1924-2009), of course a première. Graduated in 1947 at the Ankara Conservatory (founded in 1936 and the oldest in Turkey), he also studied in Paris with Honegger and Nadia Boulanger. Among his works, the opera "Van Gogh" and the oratorio "Atatürk". The title of the suite is that of the so-called damsel crane and it was written in 1967 for the Presidential Symphony. The music is folk-inspired, melodic and rhythmical. Then, the return of Vadim Repin, born in Siberia in 1971, an artist much appreciated here, playing in his 1733 "Rode" Stradivari the overplayed Bruch Violin Concerto Nº1. Which he did with admirable technique and much elegance, though a bit too contained for this fiercely Romantic music. The encore was pure virtuoso display: Paganini`s version of the Carnival of Venice. Finally, the wonderful Eighth Symphony by Dvorák, fully the equal of the famed Ninth, "From the New World". The orchestra isn´t big as it came, only 59-strong, but they seemed more because they played with dynamism and full-bodied sound. Its members are all Turkish, and most violinists are women. Turkovic may be a little stiff in his gestures but he is very musical and I listened with much pleasure, for the whole orchestra is of a good standard. Two encores: a clean Overture to Mozart´s "Le nozze di Figaro", and a funny Scherzo by Ferit Tüzün (première), Nº 3 of his "Esintiler" ("Inspirations"), played with plenty of spirit. In what had been a rather weak Nuova Harmonia season, this was the best so far. And now, a grade A surprise: the marvelous BA debut of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra under its venerable founder Benjamin Zander at the Blue Whale. They came in full force, 101 players between 12 and 21 years-old, and their playing was tremendously assured and beautiful throughout. A stirring Sibelius "Finlandia" was followed by his Violin Concerto, played with astounding precision by the 21-year-old Korean In Mo Yang, a major talent confirmed in his encore, a Paganini piece. But what capped my feeling of exhilaration was a fantastic performance of Prokofiev´s Fifth Symphony, a masterpiece; I have strong memories of high-caliber interpretations (Mitropoulos-New York Phil; Szell with the same orchestra; Ormandy-Philadelphia) and I have no doubt that this one belongs in such distinguished company. Discipline, capacity and hard work guided by the sure hand of a wise conductor. Zander communicated with the packed house with enthusiastic speeches showing his other side (he has often given lectures at Davos on leadership), a life committed to peace and artistic accomplishment. Three encores: a perfect "Stars and Stripes Forever" (Sousa), queen of marches; Piazzolla´s "Oblivion" with solo flute; and Elgar´s noble "Nimrod" from the "Enigma variations". Decades ago the Zagreb Soloists under Antonio Janigro were the great rivals of I Musici and both ensembles visited us often. Now we had the debut of the Zagreb Philharmonic conducted by Alexander Rudin (also debut) at the Usina del Arte, but in fact it was a chamber orchestra of only 32 players. In its full garb it has a long trajectory, for it was born in 1871 and has had guest conductors such as Stokowski, Stravinsky and Maazel. Rudin is Russian and has made recordings with Musica Viva of scores by Sviridov, Tcherepnin and C.Ph.E.Bach; he is also a cellist of prestige. The special interest was the possibility of hearing the premières of two Croatian composers: the agreeable and succinct Third Symphony by Luca Sorkocevic (1734-89) and the charming "Idyll" by Blagoje Bersa (1873-1934), reminiscent of Delius in its understated refinement. Beethoven´s Fourth Piano Concerto showed our Carmen Piazzini, distinguished artist of long German career as player and teacher, especially in Darmstadt, with unexpected technical hesitations blemishing the result, notwithstanding some passages expressed with real style. The Orchestra had played well under Rudin, but they demonstrated their true ability in the final marvelous score, Mozart´s Symphony Nº41, "Jupiter". The disastrous hand programme gave no information on Rudin or the Croatian composers and didn´t specify the movements, but of course music lovers have long incorporated Nº41 in their hearts and intellect. This was a very honest and well-rehearsed performance by responsible musicians, though a bit short on impulse. And now, some chamber music. Pride of place to a concert at the Usina´s chamber hall , part of the Boulez focus planned by the Colón´s CETC: lectures, dialogues and installations, plus three concerts. I caught the second one, in which a Boulez première, "Messagesquisse" ("Messagesketch") was sandwiched between two Schönberg scores. I have never heard in concert the latter´s Trio for strings, op.45, and may be it was a première. Mosco Carner defines this late work thus: it "was written in 1946 after an almost fatal illness. Anxiety, agony and existential sadness, prompted by the utter solitude of man in extremis, mingle with a retrospect into a happy past". He also mentions "extreme registers and dynamics" and "an exploitation of special effects". I found it both harsh and lyric, an uncompromising creation. Boulez can sound too cerebral, long and experimental, but his "Messagesquisse" was brief (9 minutes) and convincing in its combination of a cello soloist with six accompanying cellos in music that was vital and made the most of the mahogany textures. And of course Schönberg´s "Verklärte Nacht" ("Transfigured Night"),written in 1899 before his atonal and twelve-tone phases, is a marvel of postromanticism with a strong expressionist touch; in fact, a rarity, a tone poem for string sextet. We were treated to admirable interpretations based on the Marmer Quartet (British, debut) with the addition of high-level foreign and local musicians, combining fine technique and savvy style. For Buenos Aires Herald ​​



Tribuna musical

August 2

The magic of Momix: unbounded imagination, fantastic technology

It´s been a long time since Momix visited us, although my appetite was whetted when last year one of their pieces was included in the Coliseo International Gala. I sorely missed them. It was created by Moses Pendleton in 1980. As an illusionist dance company, it combines acrobatic flexibility with lighting effects of astonishing inventiveness that transform reality into a dream world and adds artifacts with which the artists interact plus variegated costumes that become one with the bodies. Pendleton had been cofounder of Pilobolus in 1980, another marvelous group that visited us twice; one of the numbers was called Momix and it was presented in the Olympic Games of Lake Placid; it would give its name to the new project. Pendleton gets his inspiration from nature, and he lives and works with his company in the country. He chooses the music (generally popular) that he considers agrees with his idea for a work, and in this sense his taste isn´t impeccable. He has two essential and very talented collaborators whose own creativity fuses with Pendleton´s: technical director Woodrow Dick and stage director Fabrizio Pezzotti, plus several lighting, video and costume designers. Their professionalism is absolute. The four performances were shown at the Coliseo by Julio Álvarez and Grupo Ars. Nine dancers were brought in this tour: four men and five women; two shone with particular brilliance: Steven Ezra and Rebecca Rasmussen, but all were very good. The presentation was called Viva Momix Forever and was made up of creations from diverse shows, including some new ones. Part One started with "Pleiades", three girls playing with balloons that seemed to connect with a nocturnal sky with myriad stars; then, a prodigious "Dream catcher" where Rasmussen and Ezra mingled with a metal contraption of irregular form with a virtuosity that had to be seen to be believed; five girls gave us very red "Marigolds" simulations; three male dancers investigated athletically the ways poles can intermix with their bodies in "Pole Dance"; the incredible Ezra did amazing things in "Table talk"; five almost naked women gamboled in sensuous "Baths of Caracalla"; the same five then attached to their bodies neons in "Light reigns"; and the whole company vertiginously left "Paper trails" in the joyous final number. The Second Part started with "Echoes of Narcissus" where Sarah Nachbauer, helped by the technicians, did wonders with mirror effects; "Snow geese" was a compendium of beautiful aerial movements by the girls; then, that admirable number seen last year, "Tuu", in which the bodies of Ezra and Rasmussen fused and separated in myriad positions; the two following pieces were the weakest: in "Spawning" three women seemed to give birth to balloons, and in "Daddy long leg" three unconvincing gauchos got little humour out of stilts; but "Aqua flora" is a lovely solo number about the Victoria regia; and the exulting finale, "If you need some body" (which has the best music of the evening, the first movement of Bach´s Second Brandenburg Concerto with those glittering trumpet solos) was a masterful expression of how closely knit, positive and funny the whole company can be. For Buenos Aires Herald ​​

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

July 30

How frighteningly good do you have to be to get into Curtis?

Our violin diarist Anthea Kreston returned to the Curtis Institute this week as a teacher. She finds it’s even tougher now than it was in her day. I am sitting backstage at the Curtis Institute of Music, my Alma Mater, waiting for the concert to begin. I have spent a remarkable week here in Philadelphia – in awe of students, faculty, and the amazing school which has nurtured and inspired generations of musicians, and provided a welcome home to many of the past century’s finest performers, who found here a place to continue their life’s love of music through teaching, passing on their legacies to the next generations of musicians. Curtis is different now – they have a new building – with 5 levels of dorm rooms, a cafeteria, 3 floors of rehearsal/teaching space and a large concert hall. In addition there are the original buildings – three mansions which belonged to Mary Louis Curtis Bok Zimbalist. The only child, and heiress to a fortune built from the publishing industry, she purchased three neighboring mansions in the 1920’s to house a tuition-free school for musicians. The school she founded is still tuition-free to all 175 students – ensuring that artistic promise, and not financial situation, is the sole consideration for acceptance. With Leopold Stokowski, conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1912 to 1941, and the Polish pianist Josef Hoffmann, the Curtis Institute of Music was born. The violinist Carl Flesch and opera star Marcella Sembrich joined the faculty. From the first moment until closely before her death at age 93, Mary Luise Curtis Bok Zimbalist was a daily presence at Curtis – it was her vision which created this international, inclusive school where musicians learn by doing (over 200 concerts a year are produced at Curtis). Every morning, it is said, Mary was dropped off at Curtis in her maroon limousine, with her chauffeur decked out in matching colours. Her tradition of Wednesday Tea and the decadent Christmas Ball are still a beloved part of the Curtis experience. My time here has been spent teaching private lessons (the level is incredible – 120 students from age 14-22 who have been accepted into this three-week summer program) – these kids come in slinging the big guns – Brahms and Bartok concertos are no sweat for them. Afternoons are chamber music coaching, masterclasses and orchestra. This program is six years old. Only seven students have moved from this camp to being accepted as students at Curtis. It makes me wonder – how good do you really have to be – how can your Brahms Concerto rise above the others? Today, a young violinist from England asked me for advice on how to get into Curtis – this year there are only 2 violin openings. I encouraged him to continue to search for his truth – to follow his heart and find his voice. When I flew here to audition as a young woman, I was full of vim and vigor – having passed the first round (a video of Bach, Paganini, Mozart and Sibelius concerti), I was eager to play in person. I had experienced enough success to have confidence in my abilities – to know I knew how to prepare and be able to lay down a solid and passionate performance. It all turned out well – I got one of the few coveted spots, and was heading to Curtis in the fall, to work with Felix Galimir and be immersed in the true European traditions of classical music. Sitting here, backstage, talking to the other alumni and performers on tonight’s mixed program, I began to ask questions. As a student, the confidence that brought me through that audition process quickly disappeared. I felt lonely, isolated, insecure, and unworthy. Surrounded by a swath of seemingly larger-than-life superstars, who entered Curtis with recording contracts, management, first prizes from the Tchaikovsky Competition, I was frozen and unable to even practice at school, afraid that I would be exposed as a charlatan. It turns out that all of us backstage felt the same way – these incredible musicians with whom I have played and taught beside all week – they were crushed by self-doubt, overwhelmed by the newness. But, they said, maybe going through this then was good for us – toughened us up and gave us the tools we needed to succeed. Maybe everyone goes through this, but we just did it a little earlier than other people. They, like I, pushed through these feelings and forced ourselves to perform, to go out there, and learned to curb fear, to harness our doubts and use this to our advantage. You learn to stop caring what other people think at some point – you are forced to become a clearer and more defined and honest version of yourself. I guess, in the end, that is what Curtis is looking for. The germ of individuality, the determination, the ability to think for yourself. The concert is over – I have not been that nervous in many many years – my bow was even shaking at one point during the Janacek Sonata. But, I decided at that moment to use that sound, develop it – it was such a tender and frail sound, just as Janacek might have wanted at that moment. I owned my shaky bow, and was proud of it.

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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