Monday, February 20, 2017
More than two years ago on Slipped Disc , the violinist Aaron Rosand accused the late Isaac Stern of sabotaging his career. ‘I offended him early on when I refused his offers to coach me,’ wrote Rosand, proceeding to list a number of occasions when his path had been blocked by his senior colleague. Now, correspondence has come to light in the Stern papers at the Library of Congress which shows Stern, late in life, heaping effusive praise on Rosand in letters to the Los Angeles patron and Heifetz friend, Richard Colburn. Asking Colburn for a copy of a Rosand recording of the Ysaye sonatas he had heard in Colburn’s office in 1993, Stern writes: ‘From what I could hear briefly it was playing of an extraordinary quality. I have known him for many years and would like to congratulate him personally.’ After hearing the record, Stern wrote again to Colburn: ‘I found the playing extraordinary, particularly in the virtuoso works by Ysaye and others. The Bach is well played but somewhat romanticised. But it is played with so much authority, thought and cleanliness that it makes its own valid points.’ These do not sound like the comments of a lifelong adversary. But then life is seldom cast in black and white. vs
Assembly Rooms, Bath Peter Phillips drew full-blooded but ethereal sound from Scholars with a memorable programme than ran from De Lassus to JS BachThis programme given by Peter Phillips’ Tallis Scholars in Bath’s annual BachFest traced the German tradition of sacred polyphony, beginning with Orlande de Lassus and culminating in JS Bach.The very secular Assembly Rooms might not seem the natural context for such a performance, but such was the gloriously golden tone of the Scholars – immediately apparent in the word-painting of Lassus’ Omnes de Saba – that this was forgotten. Indeed, in the Missa Octava by Hassler and the Deutsches Magnificat by Schütz, where the music was divided into two choirs, lines tossed gently back and fore from one to the other conjured the illusion of the double galleries of St Mark’s cathedral in Venice, underlining the formative influence of Gabrieli on his German pupils. Continue reading...
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh The nimble ensemble delivered pithy Mendelssohn and Pärt, while the commanding Ibragimova added ferocious Hartmann and exuberant BachThe Scottish Ensembles’s default setting is flux and dynamism: that’s the mission of this string orchestra, and it makes for nimble conversations within the group. So it was a thrill to hear what happened when they were joined by Alina Ibragimova – a violinist of uncompromising focus and intensity who made the sparring go deeper, quieter, fiercer. Ibragimova is a chamber musician as well as a soloist, acutely attentive to group texture and counterpoint, but there was no question who was in control. She didn’t so much invite as command their attention, and ours. The programme was billed as “Music is Power”, a loose theme through works variously banned, self-censored, emphatically spiritual or plain joyous. A pair of early Mendelssohn string symphonies (the sixth and 10th) were delivered as pithy, boisterous dramas, full of light, shade and bravado. Arvo Pärt’s Silouan’s Song and Pēteris Vasks’s Viatore sounded flinty and serene: the holy minimalism thing can feel tokenistic when plonked into a concert as if to provide a quick hit of transcendence, but this performance didn’t overstoke the meaningfulness. Continue reading...
Frank Martin’s chamber opera about the tragic lovers is the polar opposite of Wagner’s opulent extravaganza. The director of a new production explains how less is becoming moreFrank Martin’s opera about Tristan and Iseult - the tragic couple of Celtic legend whose love for each other is awakened when they drink a potion – is, in many respects, the polar opposite of Wagner’s celebrated version of the same myth. Wagner’s work is famous for being one of the most influential and ground-breaking operas of all time. His five-hour, opulent extravaganza exalts erotic love to a transcendental, epic level, and extensively explores the metaphysics of love. Commanding the forces of super human singers and an enormous orchestra, it is a huge undertaking for any opera company.Swiss composer Frank Martin was born in 1890 – 25 years after the première of Wagner’s Tristan. His treatment of the medieval legend is for eight instruments and 12 singers, written between 1938 and 1941. Though he admitted to being influenced by the German composer (and you can hear echoes of Wagner’s Tristan quoted at moments in Le Vin herbé), it was Bach, not Wagner, whom he described as his greatest artistic influence “yesterday, today, forever”. Continue reading...
Last week I published the first part of my interview with violinist Esther Abrami. That first part covered her background, upcoming concerts, the story of her instrument, her family, and more. If you missed part 1, click here to read it now . As the interview continued, I asked Esther about several other aspects of her career: HZ: I am curious whether social media plays a role in the way that you are promoting your career? EA: Yes, it has been wonderful, really! The main Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 25. When I post violin pieces that I play, I often hear from people who like it, and I receive very nice messages. In fact, I had met one person who lives in Paris and we have become good friends, even though we have not met in person… HZ: Do you have any non-musical hobbies such has running outdoors? EA: No, the main activity that I like to do is Yoga, and it helps a lot in my violin playing. HZ: Do you use a shoulder rest when you play the violin? EA: No, I do not use anything now. In the past, I experimented with many things, and I found that playing with nothing is best for me. I can feel more of the instrument’s vibration that way. HZ: In Part 1 of the interview, we spoke briefly about your concert that is without orchestral accompaniment. Please tell us more about how that feels to play? EA: In a concert where a violinist plays alone, one typically hears a Bach Solo Sonata, or music by Paganini. And I decided that I wanted a different program. As I told you, I am going to play the Khachaturian Sonata for violin alone, and also another 20th century piece, the Prokofiev solo Sonata. My third selection is by Heinrich Biber, who was born in 1644. HZ: Let’s talk more about the Khachaturian piece. As I recall, he was an Armenian composer, so his music may actually be filled with some Middle Eastern sounds. Would you play some of this Sonata for me, please? EA: Yes, this piece contains a lot of glissandos and Gypsy sounds. I feel as though it is an improvisation. In addition, the composer instructed the performer to use the metal end of the violin bow to tap on the violin’s chin rest, and this adds a percussive aspect to this composition. I will demonstrate… HZ: I have one last question. I am always interested in people’s last names. Perhaps the reason is because of my own somewhat unique last name. Could you describe the origins of your last name? EA: My father’s family came from North Africa, and they settled in Marseilles, France many years ago, probably two generations ago. HZ: It is always interesting how people and families move around all over the globe. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me and my readers, and I hope that I might have the pleasure to meet you personally one day soon. And best of success to you in your career! In part 1 of the interview, we discussed the Blackfriars Camerata, which Ms. Aberami now leads. Here is a recent promotional video about the group. …and finally, one more video that Esther just made available on her YouTube channel – showing a wonderful glimpse of Esther and the Blackfriars Camerata playing the Gluck Melodie for solo violin and string orchestra.
Nonesuch have announced the release in April of a set of Bach trio sonatas. The players are: Chris Thile, a recent chart-topper. Yo Yo Ma, a perennial favourite. And Edgar Meyer, the go-to bassist. Should be a smash. But in today’s market, who knows?
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.
Great composers of classical music