Friday, October 21, 2016
Ludwig van Beethoven died in 1827 in Vienna. Dmitri Shostakovich died in 1975 in Moscow. As such, their deaths are separated by almost 150 years. The Armida Quartet members saw some sort of association between these two composers, so they gave us two of their works on a brand new recording. Armida Quartett play Beethoven & Shostakovich Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet No. 7 in F Major, Op. 50, No. 1 I. Allegro II. Allegretto vivace e sempre scherzando III. Adagio molto e mesto IV. Allegro Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 10 in A-Flat Major, Op. 118 I. Andante II. Allegretto furioso III. Adagio IV. Allegretto Here is the Shostakovich quartet number 10:
For decades the Mozarteum Argentino has been the main force in bringing us important orchestras from all over the world. Back in 1978 we had the first Argentine visit of the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra, conducted by their Principal Conductor Gerd Albrecht. The presence of the Tonhalle confirmed its European prestige. Then, in 1988 they returned with Hiroshi Wakasugi, their PC at the time, with pianist Rudolf Buchbinder; another positive experience. The venue was then and now the Colón. And this season they returned with their new PC, Lionel Bringuier, and the violinist Lisa Batiashvili. And the results were nothing short of stunning. The artists have youth in common: Bringuier is only 30, born in Nice, and was named PC at 28! And the violinist looks a similar age, though the biography gives no details about age; nor her place of birth, but her surname is Georgian. However it does inform about her career, and it is quite impressive, for she has played with the best orchestras and conductors of the world. As to Bringuier, he studied at the Paris Conservatory, where he received the influence of conductor and composer Peter Eötvös, for long the leader of the famous Ensemble Intercontemporain; now Eötvös has been named Creative Chair of the Tonhalle during this season, and several works of his will be played, one of them in BA. The other essential influence came from his six years as Resident Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, first with Salonen and then with Dudamel. About the Tonhalle: it started in 1862; after World War II it had eminent artists as PC: Vokmae Andreae ended his dilated tenure in 1949 and was succeeded by Rosbaud, Kempe, Dutoit, Albrecht, Eschenbach, Wakasugi, and before Bringuier, by David Zinman from 1995 to 2014. There´s a mistake in their hand programme biography: it isn´t the orchestra of the Zürich Opera, and it could hardly be: the Opera´s orchestra, called the Philharmonic, plays 250 performances a year! The 2016-17 season of the Tonhalle Orchestra boasts such names as Haitink, P.Järvi, Nagano, Ch.Von Dohnányi, Dutoit, Blomstedt, Zinman , Eötvös and Runnicles. They play at their New Hall, 1600 capacity. Their South American tour started at BA and continued at Montevideo, Sao Paulo and Rio, where the soloist was pianist Nelson Freire. Here they played two programmes, both having Batiashvili in Tchaikovsky´s Concerto. From the moment she started playing, there was no doubt that we were hearing an exceptional violinist: the timbre was as beautiful as she is, the phrasing was exact, the impulse and excitement were contagious, and when she had an ample melody she sang it as the best opera singer. She is also consistent, for on Tuesday she was as splendid as on Monday. And the Orchestra under Bringuier never lost pace nor technical perfection. The encore was unusual and welcome: the Kreisler arrangement for violin and orchestra of the principal melody of Dvorák´s Second Movement from the New World Symphony, interpreted as meltingly as can be. Two symphonies were heard: on Monday, Shostakovich ´s Sixth; on Tuesday, Mahler´s First. Before Shostakovich, a seven minute score by Ötvös with a particular title: "The gliding of the Eagle in the skies" (première). Written for the National Basque Orchestra in 2012, it features a big orchestra with much percussion, especially a "caja" (drum case), and flighty sounds from the flutes. I found the music evocative and interesting . The Sixth was premièred just as World War II started, and as it ends with a sarcastic Presto it was rejected at the time, but it starts with a desolate Adagio in the best stark mood of the author, and it is an important score. Apart from being overfast in the second movement, Bringuier was impeccable, and the orchestra, a round hundred players, showed first-rate quality in all sections. Mahler´s First was heard for the third time this year, but the music resists repetition as few others, for it is immensely creative and atractive throughout. Bringuier´s reading was quite satisfactory, and the playing had many moments of moving communication. Encores: on Monday, a sprightly rendition of Rossini´s Overture for "L´Italiana in Algeri". On Tuesday, a surprise: Florian Walser, the Tonhalle´s clarinettist, composed a funny showpiece with no name on traditional Swiss tunes, featuring characteristic wether bells, played with gusto by his colleagues. For Buenos Aires Herald
“He wrote The Nose from the unguarded standpoint of a young composer using his entire box of tricks at a time when the liberated Russian intelligentsia had free rein to experiment and revel in the avant garde. The first Stalinist crackdown was still around the corner. The result is almost a catalogue of all the devices and gestures that would become standard practice for mid-to‑late 20th-century modernist iconoclasm.”
With its cast of 80, a new English version of Shostakovich’s satirical opera The Nose is set to bring mayhem to Covent Garden, as its translator David Pountney explainsShostakovich’s The Nose, composed in his early 20s, is a fabulously exaggerated, cacophonous, insanely over-the-top satirical fantasy written by a young man wholly and exuberantly indulging in his role as enfant terrible. The story comes from Gogol, whose masterly output of short stories can be crudely divided into rural and urban. In his collection of Ukrainian tales, Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka, he used a romanticised background of village life to tell a series of vivid stories richly peopled with devils, rusalki (mermaids) and ghosts set against a marvellous gallery of village characters: grumpy elders, strutting peasant lads and simpering dark-eyed maidens. This colourful collection of stories would inspire several operas by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky, and is a close cousin of the Jewish folktales from the shtetl that were lovingly recorded by Sholem Aleichem. Related: My hero: Dmitri Shostakovich by Julian Barnes Everything is faster, slower, louder or, in the case of the screaming police inspector, higher than you'd think possible Continue reading...
Soviet poster dedicated to the 5th anniversary of the October Revolution and IV Congress of the Communist International, 1922. By Ivan Vasilyevich Simakov (1877–1925) Shostakovich was excited about beginning work on The Nose in 1927. He was only 20 years old, but he had been itching for some time to throw himself into the composition of his first opera. Following the triumphant first performance of his precocious First Symphony in May 1926, Shostakovich was well placed to lead the charge in the ‘Sovietization’ of an art form that was considered outdated, a miraculous survivor of the ravages of revolution and civil war. It was the perfect time to be embarking on a career as an opera composer, or so Shostakovich thought. As an artistic revolutionary who also supported the regime, he had every right to feel confident in its promise of a bright new future. Utopian dreams, coupled with the relative liberalism which accompanied the temporary return to capitalism, fuelled a period of extraordinary creative ferment across all the arts, of which Shostakovich’s debut opera The Nose was one of its most remarkable products. Shostakovich came of age just at the time when extensive cultural contacts were renewed with the West. His sudden exposure to the latest developments in contemporary Western music in the new permissive climate of the 1920s had an explosive effect. As he was the first to acknowledge, it was his study of the music of Schoenberg , Bartók , Hindemith and Krenek in 1926 that enabled him to break free of the academic bonds of his conservatory education. Of equal importance were the Soviet stagings of daring contemporary operas which European theatres were reluctant to tackle, including Berg ’s Wozzeck . Although the music for the three acts of The Nose was composed rapidly, the score had to be completed in a series of intermittent bursts while Shostakovich juggled other commitments. These included a spell working as a pianist at the Meyerhold Theatre in Moscow. As one of Russia’s first artistic revolutionaries to embrace the Bolshevik cause, Vsevolod Meyerhold had been given his own theatre in Moscow, where he proceeded to deconstruct both the works he staged, and the very edifice of theatrical art. Shostakovich, who had always loved the theatre, and considered Meyerhold to be a stage director of genius, was mesmerized. The shadow of Meyerhold can be seen behind Shostakovich’s sophisticated libretto for The Nose (produced partially in tandem with Georgy Ionin, Alexander Preis, and, to a lesser extent, Evgeny Zamyatin ). Language was important to Shostakovich. Like Musorgsky before him, he sought to defy operatic convention by graphically reproducing the particular rhythms and intonations of Gogol ’s language, musicalizing its pronunciation, and matching its baroque extravagance in his score with declamatory and often nasal recitative and extreme changes in register. Like other progressive members of the creative intelligentsia, Shostakovich did not stop to question his artistic path; but as he was completing The Nose, just months before Stalin inaugurated the first Five Year Plan , the debates about contemporary opera in the Soviet Union became more charged. According to one article in May 1928, staging modernist operas was like bringing cake to a minority and ignoring the masses, whose need was for black bread. With its 78 sung roles and nine spoken roles, for which at least thirty soloists were needed, it is not surprising that The Nose required 150 piano rehearsals and 50 orchestra rehearsals before it finally reached its stage premiere in January 1930. By this time, art had been included in the Five Year Plan, and shock brigades of theatre employees were being dragooned into going to the collective farm ‘front’. An opposition had been marshalled which was set to condemn The Nose as insufficiently politically engaged, and too subservient to Western avant-garde forms, but critic Sollertinsky argued valiantly that Shostakovich had revolutionized the staid genre of opera and created a new musical language. The Nose runs 20 October–9 November 2016. Tickets are still available . The production is a co-production with Komische Oper Berlin and Opera Australia and is staged with generous philanthropic support from Hamish and Sophie Forsyth, The Tsukanov Family Foundation and The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund . This is an edited excerpt from Rosamund Bartlett’s article ‘The Creation of The Nose’ for The Royal Opera’s programme book for The Nose, available during performances.
Cellist Alisa Weilerstein is out with a new CD for your enjoyment, and it is the Cd of the month for October, 2016. Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 107 Cello Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 126 Performed by Alisa Weilerstein (cello), with the Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting. It was in Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto that ‘cellist Alisa Weilerstein prompted the Los Angeles Times to write: “Weilerstein’s cello is her id… She and the cello seem simply to be one and the same.” Ms. Weilerstein now returns with Shostakovich’s cello Concertos 1 and 2. Composed for the virtuosic cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, the coupling and contrasting of these two amazing works is irresistible: the anti-heroic, relentless, emotionally suppressed First Concerto set alongside the sarcasm and isolation of the Second. Weilerstein’s interpretation is likely influenced by her meeting Rostropovich –a close friend of the composer – when she was 22, playing Shostakovich for him and absorbing his advice and wisdom. The Sunday Times wrote last month: “Weilerstein follows outstanding Decca recordings of the Elgar and Dvorak concertos with this pairing, which illustrates her depth and range…Heras-Casado and the Bavarians match the sardonic bite of her playing: this is one of the best accounts ever recorded of a work we don’t hear often enough in concert.” Here is Ms. Weilerstein in an album sampler:
Dmitri Shostakovich (25 September 1906 - 9 August 1975) was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century. Shostakovich achieved fame in the Soviet Union under the patronage of Leon Trotsky's chief of staff, but later had a complex and difficult relationship with the Stalinist bureaucracy. In 1936, the government, most probably under orders from Stalin, harshly criticized his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, causing him to withdraw the Fourth Symphony during its rehearsal stages. Shostakovich's music was officially denounced twice, in 1936 and 1948, and was periodically banned. After a period influenced by Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky, Shostakovich developed a hybrid style, as exemplified by Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1934). This single work juxtaposed a wide variety of trends, including the neo-classical style (showing the influence of Stravinsky) and post-Romanticism (after Gustav Mahler). Shostakovich's orchestral works include 15 symphonies and six concerti. His symphonic work is typically complex and requires large scale orchestras. Music for chamber ensembles includes 15 string quartets, a piano quintet, two pieces for a string octet, and two piano trios. For the piano he composed two solo sonatas, an early set of preludes, and a later set of 24 preludes and fugues. Other works include two operas, and a substantial quantity of film music.
Great composers of classical music