Tuesday, June 28, 2016
James Gilchrist and Anna Tilbrook at the Wigmore Hall, London with Sally Beamish's West Wind. Gilchrist has been one of the most determined advocates of English song, almost from the beginning of his career. Although his core repertoire is built on solid foundations of Handel, Purcell, RVW, Britten, and especially Gerald Finzi of whom he is a great exponent, Gilchrist has always made a point of promoting composers who should be more in the mainstream, like Hugh Wood, Lennox Berkeley and John Jeffreys and others whom he's performed live but not recorded. . By commissioning Beamish, one of the most prominent British composers for voice, Gilchrist is again making a valuable contribution to British music. Beamish's West Wind is based on Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ode to the West Wind, which everyone knows as a poem, but which has hardly ever been set to music, at least not in full. English poets dominate world literature - Shakespeare, the Restoration poets, Wordsworth, Keats - but this heritage is hardly reflected in music. History might explain things. The Industrial Revolution transformed British society, making it more urban and centralized than was the case elsewhere in Europe. British and European Romanticism were very different, in ways too complex to describe here. Furthermore, the British choral tradition was so strong that other forms of music making didn't get much attention. Perhaps the very nature of English Romantic poetry is relevant. The style is fulsome and elegaic, lending itself to oratorio rather than to art song. It's significant that Hubert Parry was one of the first to create art song from English poetry. Read here about the ground breaking series of Parry's songs to English texts from Somm Records (Gilchrist, Roderick Williams and Susan Gritton.) Rolling, circular figures introduce Beamish's West Wind the voice entering from a distance as if it were being blown in by the "pestilence stricken multitudes". Soon, though, the voice asserts itself., Gilchrist dings the words "Cold and low.....the corpse within its grave". A slow, penetrating chill descends, but, like the wind, the music changes direction, at turns capricious, rhen still, then rushing forth. The third section is particularly beautiful. Delicate piano figures lead into curling, keening vocal phrases that seem to hover in the air, "Lull'd by the coil of his crystalline streams". In the lower register of the piano, perhaps we can detect sonorous "lungs" . Suddenly lightness returns. "If I were a dead leaf", Gilchrist sings, almost unaccompanied, suggesting fragility. His touch is delicate, yet perfectly poised. The phrasing suits his voice. Gilchrist has the strange esoteric timbre of a typical English tenor, but also direct, almost conversational naturalness. From vulnerable sensitivity to the ferocity of the last poem. "Make me thy lyre" Gilchrist growls at the bottom of his timbre. Now Tilbrook's playing flutters weightlessly, like falling leaves. "Scatter, scatter, scatter" Gilchrist sings, each word on a slightly different level. "O.. O...O " he sang, mimicking the sound of wind, the word "Wind" pitched and held so high that it floated, rarified, into air. Beamish's West Wind is quirky, underlining the disturbing undercurrents in a poem ostensibly about Nature, but too malign to be a "nature poem". I kept thinking of Peter Warlock's The Curlew, another cycle well suited to Gilchrist's style. I also remembered Gilchrist's Die Schöne Müllerin. There are hundreds of recordings, but his stood out out from the competition because it was an interpretation derived as if from clinical observation of the miller's psychology. In this Wigmore Hall recital, Gilchrist and Tilbrook included songs by Mendelssohn,and Liszt and Schumann's Liederkreis op 39. Eichendorff's poems are less overtly ironic than Heine's, which formed the basis of Schumann's Leiderkreis Op 24. but are perhaps closer to,the spirit of the very early Romantic period. After hearing this performance, I've decided to grt Gilchrist's recent recording of the Schumann song cycles on Linn. photo credit operomnia.uk/Hazard Chase Management
5-day INTERNATIONAL CONDUCTING MASTERCLASS with Maestro LIOR SHAMBADAL ( the Chief Conductor of the Berliner Symphoniker) & KARLOVY VARY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (Carlsbad Symphony Orchestra) 22-26 August 2016, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), Czech Republic. Program: J. Brahms, Symphony No. 1, Op. 68, P. I. Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6, Op. 74, F. Mendelssohn, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Op. […]
Simon Halsey has given 15 years of his life to the Berlin radio chorus, working closely with his ex-Birmingham partner Simon Rattle at the Berlin Philharmonic. But all good things must end, and Simon’s is ending with the award of the estimable Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn Medal, presented (below) by Berlin’s tieless culture secretary, Tim Renner. photo © Robert Lehmann The two Simons are now resuming their double-act at the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.
In our ample and variegated musical life sometimes we get interesting visitors from places little known here and we get agreeable surprises. Such was the case recently, as I had the acquaintance of the Capella Vocalis Reutlingen, The Memphis Second Presbyterian Church Choir and the St. Olaf Orchestra. The Bach Academy organized the presentation of the Reutlingen group as a non-subscription concert on Monday (not Saturday, their usual day) at the Central Methodist Church, the Academy´s venue for decades, with warm acoustics. Reutlingen is a charming city at the Black Forest, south of Stuttgart and Tübingen. The Capella Vocalis was founded in 1992 by Eckhard Weyand and since 2012 it is directed by Christian Bonath. It is made up of children sopranos and contraltos and young tenors and basses. At home the choir is really big, 120-strong, but here they came as a chamber choir. Germany has a great choral tradition, and the Reutlingen is a good example of it. They came in singing a lovely Italian Lauda (Medieval), "Alta Trinita beata", and after the concert they came out doing it again. The severe though beautiful programme was all sacred, except for the surprise of two Händel pieces sung by Jan Jerlitschka. And all German, apart from Charpentier´s "Stabat Mater for nuns", a spare Motet sung by only six voices and accompanied by organ (Bonath). It was interesting to hear an imaginative motet by a Bach that died before Johann Sebastian was born: Johann Christoph (1604-73). Both in this and in the famous chorale from Cantata Nº 147 by J.S., "Jesu joy of men´s desiring", Mario Videla ("alma pater" of the Academy), collaborated at the organ. Mendelssohn´s command of counterpoint and fluid inspiration was evident in three scores: "Psalm 43" for double choir, a motet for four-voiced men´s chorus in Latin, and the "Three spiritual songs" concluding the concert. Two barely known XIXth century composers were represented by motets: Moritz Hauptmann and Bernhard Klein; well-wrought music from Romantics that assimilated the Baroque and Classicist traditions. A nd J.S.Bach´s short and difficult motet "Lobet den Herrn" ("Praise the Lord), also with Videla. All this music was heard in accomplished interpretations that showed both the skill of the director and the fine discipline and pleasant voices of the choir. I was stunned by the participation of Jerlitschka, for he was born in 1998 and I have never heard before a boy soprano of that age; fact is he keeps the crystalline timbre of a child and he sang with fine line the beautiful Händel aria "Where´er you walk" from the oratorio "Semele" and the melodic sacred song "Süsse Stille, sanfte Quelle" ("Sweet silence, soft spring"), accompanied by Bonath. Unfortunately San Benito, a Neo-Romanic church, looks splendid but has terribly reverberant acoustics. We heard there a Johann Sebastian Bach programme called The Life of Christ with the Chancel Choir of the Second Presbyterian Church from Memphis, Tennessee, led by Gabriel Statom. As I read the listing of scores I thought it was enormously long; and three things happened: of many pieces of ABA structure we only heard A; others were cancelled (no announcement); and two works were eliminated wholly: Cantata Nº 4, "Christ lag in Todesbanden" ("Christ lay in Death´s bonds") and the "Ascension Oratorio" (called so in the Bach catalogue, but really Cantata Nº 11); this was announced. The accompaniment wasn´t mentioned in the hand programme; but the parson told the audience that they were members of the National Symphony (about 15 players). This chamber choir is probably as big as that of Bach´s St. Thomas Church: 23 voices; but with two differences: the sopranos and contraltos were boys; and there was a more balanced distribution than in this instance (8 sopranos, 8 contraltos, 3 tenors and 4 basses). A curiosity: one of the tenors was Maico Hsiao, a Taiwanese living in BA. The vocal soloists came from the choir, plus an Argentine, tenor Osvaldo Peroni as the Evangelist. We heard fragments of the Christmas Oratorio, the St.John Passion, the Easter Oratorio and Cantata Nº 140, wonderful and well-contrasted Bachian music. The brilliance of the chosen numbers of the oratorios was based on the first-rate playing of the trumpeters. As far as the acoustics permitted, Statom obtained good results from his assembled forces, with the sonorous voices of tenor Tucker Williams and bass Neil Sherouse in particular. The Mozarteum Midday Concerts moved for just one date to the Coliseo instead of the Gran Rex, and greatly gained due to much better acoustics (it would be nice if future cycles could be done there). Once again the USA university orchestras amazed by their quality: the St.Olaf Orchestra of the homonymous college depends on the University of the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Minnesota and is more than centenarian (founded in 1908). Splendidly conducted by Steven Amundson for the last thirty years, it is big (92 players) and all sectors proved their worth in an attractive programme. After a homage to Ginastera (the powerful second movement from his Pampeana Nº3) we heard valuable and rarely heard USA music: three parts of the Suite from the opera "The Tender Land", a prime example of his "prairie style"; and Barber´s closely argued and dramatic "Second Essay". Then, Ravel´s extra-difficult "Tzigane" was played well by Francesca Anderegg. The rousing Overture from Bernstein´s "West Side Story" was the fitting end. For Buenos Aires Herald
The star German violinist, who is being sued for $20m by his porn star ex-girlfriend in New York, finds an unexpected source of comfort in the gentle editorial pages of Die Welt. The defence? Violinists are there to behave badly. Paganini showed the way. The violinist is an ‘erotic phenomenon’. Nothing is hotter than the Mendelssohn concerto. Garrett belongs to a strong tradition. They seem to be missing the point. Sexy is not the same as bizarre. From the case notes: Youdan says the violinist’s “behaviour began to take a dark turn for the worse” on their first Christmas together, when [Garrett] responded to a Craiglist ad for a “sex slave,” hoping he could keep this person in a cage. An erotic phenomenon?
Recordings in the CD format will soon be obsolete. In the future, all music will be downloaded or heard on-line. As such, Marketing firms are struggling to get attention for their classical music recordings. It is getting a bit weird out there…. Here is one recent example, as seen below. The late violinist Nathan Milstein died in his 80’s. He was one terrific performer, with style and skills that stood the test of time. On this 2-CD collection. He performs the best known violin concerti by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Max Bruch. Here is Nathan Milstein, playing the violin concerto by Peter Tchaikovsky:
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.
Great composers of classical music