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Felix Mendelssohn

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


My Classical Notes

June 17

My Interview with Violinist Joshua Bell

My Classical NotesInterview with Joshua Bell: June 16, 2017 On June 16, 2017 I conducted a telephone interview with violinist Joshua Bell, who is in San Francisco to perform the Sinfonie Espagnole by Eduard Lalo with the San Francisco Symphony on June 15-18. We talked about the following: HZ: I want to begin our chat by sharing with you my own sense that I actually see you as a very “complete musician”. What I mean by that is that: § I have heard you perform in a chamber music setting § I have heard you play as an orchestral leader § And certainly you have performed world-wide in a solo violin role. Have I left something out? Have you explored composing music? JB: Actually I want to venture more into composing. As an example, when I was 20 years old, I would play the traditional Yoachim cadenza for the Brahms concerto. But later I found it meaningful to compose my own music at the point when the composer offered the violin soloist an opportunity to play alone for a few minutes. Then I did the same for the Mendelssohn concerto and other music, as well. HZ: Do you find that your life in music is too busy with travel, rehearsals, performances, and more travel? Or have you been able to develop a formula to bring balance to your life? JB: Yes, it is a constant balancing act. While I try to find time for myself, I am fortunate to have many friends, as well as three kids in New York City with whom I like to Skype as often as possible when I am on the road. HZ: There surely are performance sites and cities where you are in high demand: New York City, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, and London. Are there places where YOU love to play for perhaps personal reasons? JB: Yes, I regularly perform in these cities. However, I do not travel very often to far away places such as Vietnam or Indonesia. HZ: When my own 7th birthday approached, I asked my parents for a violin. Was there such an event that first connected you with music in your own childhood? JB: My mother played piano. My sister plays, as well. As a child, I began by stretching rubber bands across the handles on my dresser, and exploring the different sound pitches I could create. My parents soon decided to get me a violin… HZ: My own family first came to what was then Palestine in 1939, and it was then that Bronislaw Huberman and Arturo Toscanini founded what later became the Israel Philharmonic. Now you OWN and perform on Huberman’s instrument. To me, this is one amazing spiritual connection, right? Do you play in Israel regularly? JB: My grandfather was born in what was then Palestine in 1906 or 1905, and I have family in Israel. I play there often. I just gave a recital there in April, and I also frequently play with the Philharmonic. HZ: How did you first become connected with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields? JB: When I was 18, I made my first recording with them, playing the Mendelssohn Concerto and the Bruch Concerto. We developed a relationship that led to my being able to conduct the orchestra. HZ: My recollection is that I met you first very briefly at the Aspen School of Music many years ago. It must have been around 1989. I love Aspen. Do you still return there periodically? JB: I was a student in the early 80’s at Indiana University. I did not attend Juilliard. As such, I was not part of the “DeLay gang” . However, I do travel to Colorado frequently. Recently I participated at the Bravo Festival at Vail, Colorado. HZ: I hear that you have been involved in a 14-CD project with Sony. Does this celebrate an event or anniversary? JB: Yes, a collection of my recordings is being issued soon HZ: Did you ever play under the direction of Carlos Kleiber? Or Claudio Abbado: JB: No, Carlos Kleiber did not perform with instrumental soloists. And unfortunately I did not perform under Claudio Abbado when he died a few years ago. HZ: Please accept my appreciation for spending the time with me and with my readers. This will appear at our site this weekend. You can find it by searching for My Classical Notes. Here is a video of the Brahms Violin Concerto, and you can hear Joshua Bell’s cadenza toward the end of the first movement:

My Classical Notes

June 29

Sept. 9th: Concert by the Saxon State Orchestra

Date: Saturday, 09. September 2017, at 19:30 Venue: Large Hall, Musikverein in Vienna Address: Musikvereinsplatz 1, 1010 Vienna, Austria Performers: Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, conducted by Christian Thielemann Soloist: Nikolaj Znaider, violinist Program: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Ouvertüre „Die Hebriden“, op. 26 Max Bruch Konzert für Violine und Orchester g-Moll, op. 26 – Intermission- Johannes Brahms Symphonie Nr. 2 D-Dur, op. 73




Royal Opera House

June 8

What happens when a man dances on pointe?

Jonathan Howells in The Dream © ROH/Johan Persson, 2012 It's not easy to transform a man into a donkey. Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with its fairies and mythical creatures, uses a healthy dose of magic to transform the hapless weaver, Bottom, into an ass. But in Frederick Ashton ’s ballet adaptation, The Dream , with a score by Mendelssohn , the solution is less obvious. The composer's answer in the Midsummer Night’s Dream score, is deservedly famous: a sudden, jolting musical motif seems to bray, just like a farmyard animal. And how to render this in ballet form? Frederick Ashton ’s solution in The Dream is just as remarkable as Mendelssohn’s: the transformed character, Bottom – a man – goes on pointe. ‘I think that this was probably the first time that a man had gone on pointe’, says Principal Guest Ballet Master Christopher Carr , who teaches the role. ‘It was done to represent hooves, and it’s very effective.’ Ashton returned to the effect a few years later, when he choreographed The Tales of Beatrix Potter (a film made in 1970, adapted for the stage in 1992), in which several male pigs, as well as the soloist playing Pigling Bland, go on pointe to evoke trotters. Jonathan Howells as Pigling Bland in Tales of Beatrix Potter, The Royal Ballet © ROH/Bill Cooper, 2010 Female dancers first go on pointe – that is, to dance on the very tips of their toes, in specially made hard shoes – at a young age , and over time their bodies learn to cope with this demanding challenge: it doesn’t become painless, but it is something they adapt to. So the shock for men, who don’t learn the technique at all until they are cast in a role that requires it, is quite something. ‘The first rehearsal is really painful’, says Jonathan Howells , one of the three Bottoms in the current revival of The Dream. ‘You haven’t had the pointe shoes on, and your skin’s soft.’ Howells and Bennet Gartside have both been dancing the role for some fifteen years, and have grown accustomed to its challenges. But the preparation work that goes into each performance remains unique for male dancers. ‘I take more time preparing my feet for it than I do in the shoes’, says Thomas Whitehead , performing Bottom this year for the second time. Whitehead tapes up every toe individually and adds multiple further layers between his foot and the shoe in order to soften the blow. Is preparation harder for men than for women? ‘I think we probably do the same [amount of preparation]’, says Gartside, ‘but it probably takes us twice as long to do it!’ For Gartside, a pair of pointe shoes takes an hour and a half to prepare, and that’s before applying tape and padding to the feet. Women’s feet are inherently better prepared, too, after so much training: ‘they’re so used to it’, Gartside adds, ‘their feet have strengthened, and their skin is also quite tough.’ Bottom has been a revelatory role for Whitehead: ‘It’s opened my eyes up to what the girls have to deal with… I wouldn’t want to have to do it all day every day.’ Bennet Gartside as Bottom and Akane Takada as Titania in The Dream, The Royal Ballet © 2017 ROH. Photograph by Tristram Kenton Despite all these demands, the role of Bottom is not just about pointework. This is also a role that requires experience as a character actor – especially later on, when the spell has been broken and the confused Bottom attempts to recall the strange events he has experienced. Carr describes this as ‘a very difficult mime sequence which needs a lot of artistry and a lot of experience’. This makes the role tough to cast – acting ability is just as important as having the strong ankles and pliable feet needed for pointework. Howells adds that the mask makes the section on pointe even harder from an acting perspective: ‘you are acting it underneath the mask as well’, he says – with the face obscured, all the nuance has to come through the body. Was Ashton being deliberately sadistic? ‘Of course not!’ says Carr. And all three Bottoms agree that it’s worth the effort: ‘I think it’s a magical piece’, says Whitehead. The choreographer was well aware of the difficulties of the role, though. Carr explains it simply: ‘It’s what he wanted. He wanted the effect, so that’s what it is.’ The Dream runs until 10 June 2017 in a mixed programme with Symphonic Variations and Marguerite and Armand .

Classical iconoclast

June 6

Andris Nelsons Leipzig Gewandhausorchester Mahler 6 listening link

Andris Nelsons outside the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra hall Andris Nelsons, new Kappellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester in Mahler Symphony no 6, available here on MDR Kultur.  A powerful performance , ull of vitality and insight . This orchestra is one of the oldest in the world, and easily one oif the best, with a highly individual sound. Also a highly individual ethos - this was Mendelssohn's orchestra.l When the Nazis wanted his statue pilled down, the then Mayor Carl Friedrich Goerdeler defied the Nazis and paid the price. In 1989,Leipzig again stood for freedom, when the then Kapellmesiter Kurt Masur led the orchestra in performances of Beethoven which helped topple the East German regime. You don't mess with Leipzig !  Inn the years after the fall of the DDR the orchestra, like so many institutions at the time, underwent a period of readjustment. When Riccardo Chailly took over in 2005, Leipzig was revitalized, eager to take off on a new era.  I remember their first keynote concert together (Mendelssohn)  and the sense of energy that was generated.  This time round, only the evidence of an audio broadcast, but wow ! a performance so invigorating, and so electric that it could well signal even greater things to come.  With Thielemann in Dresden and Bayreuth and Nelsons in Leipzig and Lucerne, things are looking up.  I haven't got time to write the performance up in full, but suffice to say, this was an inspired approach, which captured the vitality in the piece, very much in line with ehat we know of Mahler the man and of the traverse of his symphonies as a whole. Sure it's "tragic", but without abundant life beforehand, would the loss thereof be so horrific ?  Muscular, energetic playing, wonderfully together - tho' listen to the percussion thumping like a heartbeat.  Yet also the elusive, sensuous waltz, suggesting softer feelings and the haunted, ghost-like passages.  Altogether an intelligent performance, full of intelligent insight, and musicianship of the highest order.  The Leipzigers know what they want and do it perhaps better than anyone else.  With Nelsons, they're a dream team.  BTW, it's ridiculous to knock Nelsons for "doing too much". His schedule is no different to anyone else. Even in the past, conductors moved round, and some of the best weren't stuck to any one orchestra at all.   



Royal Opera House

June 1

Catch The Royal Ballet's Ashton programme on BP Big Screens and in cinemas on 7 June 2017

The Dream © Dee Conway/ROH 2012 Frederick Ashton was The Royal Ballet 's Founder Choreographer and one of the most influential dance figures of the 20th century. As The Royal Ballet’s 70th Season at the Royal Opera House draws to a close, a mixed programme celebrating Ashton's contribution to the Company takes to the stage: The Dream , Symphonic Variations , and Marguerite and Armand . The mixed programme will be broadcast live from the Royal Opera House to BP Big Screens across the UK and cinemas across the world on 7 June 2017 at 7.30pm BST. To enhance your viewing experience, access our Ashton Digital Programme for free using the promo code FREEASHTON, and enjoy a range of specially selected films, articles, pictures and features to bring you closer to the production. The cinema relay will be presented by former Royal Ballet Principal Darcey Bussell and 'Strictly Come Dancing' winner Ore Oduba, while BP Big Screen audiences will see exclusive coverage presented by Soloist of The Royal Ballet Kristen McNally . The stories The Dream is an enchanting adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which captures the comic confusion that arises in the play as mortal and fairy worlds collide. Symphonic Variations is widely regarded as Ashton’s seminal masterpiece – the choreographer’s first ballet created for the enormous Royal Opera House main stage. Instead of following the tradition of grand narrative ballets, Ashton opted to create an abstract work on the beauty of pure movement. Marguerite and Armand tells a story of doomed love. The piece was inspired by the electric dance partnership of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev , and the final pas de deux – as Marguerite lies dying in Armand’s arms – is among the most moving moments in all of 20th century ballet. Read more: Our Ballet Essentials guide to the Mixed Programme The music The three ballets are performed to works by a variety of composers. The Dream is set to music by Mendelssohn , one of the greatest musical prodigies of his time. His score for A Midsummer Night's Dream has been used in many stage productions, and its witty melodies are the perfect accompaniment to Ashton's light-hearted ballet. Symphonic Variations provides a perfect response to César Franck ’s brooding Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra, and Marguerite and Armand is set to Franz Liszt ’s La lugubre gondola and his well-known Piano Sonata in B Minor. The productions The three pieces are very different from each other, brought together to showcase Ashton's ability to tell a story at the same time as offering an abstract response to music. The Dream and Marguerite and Armand are both narrative pieces, while Symphonic Variations is simply a celebration of dance. The cast The mixed programme will be performed by Principals and Soloists of The Royal Ballet including Akane Takada , Steven McRae , Marianela Nuñez , Marcelino Sambé , and Francesca Hayward . Add your review After the relay, we will publish a roundup of audience tweets, so share your thoughts with the hashtag #ROHashton If you're watching the performance at a BP Big Screen location, send us a selfie with the same hashtag for the chance to win a prize. The Royal Ballet's mixed programme of works by Frederick Ashton will be broadcast live BP Big Screens in the UK and to cinemas around the world on 7 June 2017. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list . The productions are staged with generous philanthropic support from Julia and Hans Rausing, Sarah and Lloyd Dorfman, Aud Jebsen, Lindsay and Sarah Tomlinson, Celia Blakey and Kristina Rogge.

Felix Mendelssohn
(1809 – 1847)

Felix Mendelssohn (3 February 1809 - 4 November 1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. Felix Mendelssohn was recognised early as a musical prodigy, but his parents were cautious and did not seek to capitalise on his abilities. Early success in Germany, where he also revived interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, was followed by travel throughout Europe. Mendelssohn was particularly well-received in Britain as a composer, conductor and soloist. His essentially conservative musical tastes however set him apart from many of his more adventurous musical contemporaries such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Hector Berlioz. The Leipzig Conservatoire which he founded, became a bastion of this anti-radical outlook. Mendelssohn's work includes symphonies, concerti, oratorios, piano music and chamber music. His most-performed works include his Overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, the Hebrides Overture, his Violin Concerto, and his String Octet. After a long period of relative denigration due to changing musical tastes and anti-Semitism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, his creative originality has now been recognised and re-evaluated. He is now among the most popular composers of the Romantic era.



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