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Johann Sebastian Bach

Sunday, August 28, 2016


My Classical Notes

August 23

Overtures To Bach

My Classical NotesPerforming artists are continuing to explore new ways to present their music. We have seen works by a contemporary composer joined with compositions from the 1700’s. We have seen works by Schoenberg presented along with music by Brahms. Now there is a new recording called “Overtures to Bach”. These are compositions that anticipate and interlude each of the Bach Cello Suites. 1. Overture 2. Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: I. Prélude 3. The Veronica 4. Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1008: I. Prélude 5. Run 6. Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009: I. Prélude 7. La memoria 8. Cello Suite No. 4 in E-Flat Major, BWV 1010: I. Prélude 9. Es War 10. Cello Suite No. 5 in C Minor, BWV 1011: I. Prélude 11. Lili’uokalani 12. Cello Suite No. 6 in D Major, BWV 1012: I. Prélude Performed by Matt Haimovitz (cello & cello piccolo) Matt Haimovitz’s continuously-evolving and intense engagement with the Bach Cello Suites reaches new hights with ‘Overtures to Bach’, six new commissions that anticipate and reflect each of the cello suites. The new overtures expand upon the multitude of spiritual, cross-cultural, and vernacular references found in the Bach, building a bridge from the master’s time to our own. The new album, Overtures to Bach, pairs each new work with the Prélude from the suite it introduces, with Haimovitz performing on cello and cello piccolo. Composer Philip Glass simply and eloquently prepares the audience for the first Suite with his Overture, encouraging an open and calm frame of mind. For the second suite, Du Yun creates a heartbreaking quilt of cries in The Veronica, mingling a Russian Orthodox prayer for the dead, Serbian chant, and central European gypsy fiddle music. Vijay Iyer’s Run responds to Bach’s third suite with infectious energy and kinesthetic rhythms that celebrate the natural resonance of the instrument as well as the composer’s jazz roots. Then, Roberto Sierra’s La memoria plays on our memory of Bach’s Suite IV, seamlessly referencing motivic fragments and creating a kaleidoscopic mirage with the exotic flavors of Caribbean bass lines and salsa rhythms. David Sanford’s Es War, a response to the fifth suite, opens with a tour de force of pizzicato, then wrestles with Bach’s epic fugue with a saxophone’s wails. For the sixth and final suite, Luna Pearl Woolf is inspired by pre-Western Hawaiian chant, taking full advantage of the virtuosic properties of the cello piccolo and treating it operatically, from the low bass to the soprano stratosphere. Here is Matt Haimovitz playing the music of Bach:

The Boston Musical Intelligencer

August 23

Portlandiana Rewards Again

César Franck The third of the four concerts of the Portland Chamber Music Festival got going Thursday with No. 12 of the op. 1 set of trio sonatas by Vivaldi for two violins and continuo. This particular one is formally distinct, as it is really a set of variations on that most protean of musical sources, the 15th century Spanish or Portuguese tune “La Folía,” which by one account has been set, varied or otherwise used in at least 521 compositions, by composers (other than the prolific “anonymous”) ranging from Lully through Rachmaninoff and down to another composer on this evening’s program. It is probably no longer necessary (as it would have been a generation ago) to point out that Vivaldi was no mere note-spinner, the fellow who wrote one concerto 500 times, but a composer of infinite variety, wit and depth, who fully justified the high regard in which J.S. Bach and others from the next generation held him. His variations sparkle and delight with a wide variety of moods, tempi and rhythms; they often veer far from the confines of the original tune in very proto-modern ways. The violins in this performance, Harumi Rhodes and Jennifer Elowitch, were light-footed and full of life and fire. The continuo was realized by Susannah Chapman, cello, whose line was nearly as complex as those of the violins, and made a bit intrusive by less-than-optimum volume control, and Peter Sykes on the harpsichord, whose elegant and restrained playing was too often obscured. The first half concluded with Three Yiddish Dances, a 2010 composition for piano trio by David Ludwig, who has also, it turns out, written a piece based on “La Folía.” Ludwig’s music was new to these ears, but best to rack that up to not getting out enough. He represents the fourth generation of a remarkable family of musicians, from Adolph Busch through Rudolf Serkin and Peter Serkin (Ludwig’s uncle), and the first among them known primarily as a composer. In introducing his work from the stage, Ludwig noted that, although he himself was raised as a Quaker, by descent he is 87.5% Jewish, so his interest in the Ashkenazic musical heritage reflected in his piece was legitimately personal. His remarks cast some doubt on whether the musical language he employed in this trio is typical of his work; but a quick sampling from his website shows him to be an artist of wide-ranging expressive techniques that generally blend and cross-reference tonal and non-tonal idioms. The first movement, “Crooked Dance” (tipsy dance is more or less what is implied) is dominated by emphatic rhythms (the principal motif is a 13-beat phrase) and percussive effects, not just on the piano (Henry Kramer), but by the actual percussion of that and the other instruments (Katherine Fong, violin, and Chapman). The ensemble gave it a brash and forward performance, just right. The slow movement, called “Slow Hora” (it turns out that “hora” isn’t a specific dance, but the generic word for dance), and is in triple meter. Ludwig uses the plucked piano strings to provide a charming cembalo effect, with evocative harmonics in the strings. The effect is like a sarabande, dignified and stately. The finale, “Bulgar,” is klezmer, of the familiar type, but with an interesting twist. Whereas one expects a standard klezmer rhythm of seven beats to the bar, divided into four and three, the Bulgarian type Ludwig used seems to divide the bar into three plus four. When questioned about this after the concert, he noted that he had actually written it in quintuple meter, but combining the bars into 3+2 and 2+3, etc., produces the effect of 3+4. This frenetic fast music, in which the piano right hand is very often given over to cluster chords, alternates with poignant slow episodes. It received a high-stepping, spirited performance. The Piano Quartet in F Minor, M.7, of César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck was the first work he completed after his conversion to Wagnerism, and in some respects is more giddily chromatic than his later works. It is also the work in which Franck first displayed his use of cyclical form, with a motif from the second subject of the first movement becoming an idée fixe for the whole composition. The PCMF ensemble performing it was Kramer, Rhodes, Fong, Dov Scheindlin, viola, and Brant Taylor, cello. In the opening movement, with its long introduction before the Allegro, the strings’ impassioned outburst is answered gently by the piano. Rhodes and Fong were on remarkably equal terms, owing both to Franck’s solicitude for the second violin and the players’ splendid coordination. Kramer was dark and mysterious in the allegro, and the ensemble build excellent momentum shaped by superior dynamic contrasts. In the slow movement Rhodes began tentatively and questioningly, with the players working up to passionate intensity in a well-paced and -calculated progression. Kramer provided a Chopinesque delicacy of touch. The finale (Franck must have figured that such earnest music can’t abide a scherzo) lurches on dark and turbulent seas—this ensemble’s take was even a bit rougher than some others—with a few shining rays premonitory of Debussy’s La mer giving a few seconds’ relief from the intensity, before the sudden ending of octaves announces that yes, by gum, we’ve gotten back to F. After 35 minutes of roiling chromaticism one might wish for a drop of Dramamine, but all in all it was a great ride. Vance R. Koven studied music at Queens College and New England Conservatory, and law at Harvard. A composer and practicing attorney, he was for many years the chairman of Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble. The post Portlandiana Rewards Again appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .




parterre box

August 22

It happened one knight

My dual goal of posting at least one performance of every opera in today’s standard repertoire as well as the complete operas of several composers gets one step closer this week with Falstaff, Verdi’s totally unexpected, final, great comedic roar. While many performances were available, I chose one from Teatro Colón in 1965 with an amazing ensemble led by Geraint Evans, Raina Kabaivanska, Sesto Bruscantini, Oralia Domínguez, Jeanette Scovotti, and Luigi Alva. Evans was my first Falstaff, making his Met debut in the fifth performance of the now-legendary 1964 Franco Zeffirelli production. In eight seasons, he proved his versatility by alternating performances as Verdi’s fat knight with Mozart’s Figaro, Don Pizarro with Leporello, Captain Balstrode with Beckmesser, and a few Wozzecks thrown in for good measure. He is also the star of George Solti’s magnificent RCA recording of Falstaff, notable for many reasons including then-unknown kids named Mirella Freni and Alfredo Kraus. Kabaivanska, who also sang Alice Ford in the Zeffirelli production, is one of your alte Jungfer’s favorites, and was introduced to my Mixcloud site as Desdemona in a Solti-led Covent Garden Otello with Mario Del Monaco and Tito Gobbi. Bruscantini had a long career, eventually settling comfortably into the basso buffo repertoire, making an overdue Met debut at the age of 61 in L’italiana in Algeri in 1981. His other Met appearances included Dr. Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Dulcamara, which he sang in a telecast performance of L’elisir d’amore with Luciano Pavarotti and Kathleen Battle. Domínguez became – and remains – a sensation with her show-stealing, smoldering Amneris in the infamous 1951 Mexico City Aida with Maria Meneghini Callas and Del Monaco. A little known – and totally amazing – fact is that she was just 25 when she gave that legendary performance, and had made her operatic debut only one year before. An incredibly versatile artist, she was as comfortable in all the great Verdi mezzo roles including the Requiem (check out the 1954 EMI recording led by Victor de Sabata with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf) as she was in Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Bach, Rossini, Brahms, Mahler, Stravinsky, and, rather surprisingly, was Herbert von Karajan’s Erda in his Osterfestspiele Salzburg Ring Cycle and the subsequent DG recordings. Another surprise was her Covent Garden debut in 1955 as Madame Sosostris in the world premiere of Michael Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage, learned by rote (she spoke no English), alongside the 28-year-old Joan Sutherland. Performing until 1982, she died in Milano less than three years ago at age 88. Our Nannetta and Fenton, who also appeared together in the Zeffirelli production, are still with us. Scovotti, Zerbinetta in my Mixcloud upload of a 1967 Wiener Staatsoper Ariadne auf Naxos, sang over 80 Met performances covering the coloratura/soubrette repertoire. Alva, who sang over 100 Met performances in a decade, was as close to a true tenore di grazia as was to be heard in the 1960s and 1970s (post-Cesare Valletti), specializing in lighter repertoire which prolonged his career into his mid-60s. Maestro Fernando Previtali, a pupil of Franco Alfano and Vittorio Gui, was known as a Verdi specialist and led a cycle of the composer’s operas in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his death. Among his many recordings is the beloved RCA La traviata with Anna Moffo, Richard Tucker, and Robert Merrill. While he held various positions in his native Italy, he was music director of the Teatro Colón in the 1960s, and later at the Teatro Regio in Torino and the Teatro Comunale in Genova. At the risk of being jumped on, I’d like to posit one of my rhetorical questions: has any other opera composer concluded a lengthy career with such a quicksilver masterpiece, so full of light and joy? Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires Fernando Previtali, conductor Sir John Falstaff – Geraint Evans Alice Ford – Raina Kabaivanska Ford – Sesto Bruscantini Dame Quickly – Oralia Domínguez Nannetta – Jeanette Scovotti Fenton – Luigi Alva Meg Page – Carmen Burelio Dottore Cajus – Italo Pasini Bardolfo – Nino Falzetti Pistola – Andres Huc-Santana

The Well-Tempered Ear

August 22

Classical music: This year’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival celebrates local ecological restoration with “water music”

By Jacob Stockinger Here is an overview of the upcoming 27th Token Creek Chamber Music Festival , which starts this Saturday, Aug. 27, and runs through Sunday, Sept. 4. TOKEN CREEK, WIS. – Years in the planning, summer 2016 marks the completion of a major ecological restoration project on the Token Creek Festival property in the northeast corner of Dane County , part of the watersheds vital to the hydrology of Madison and southeastern Wisconsin . During the 1930s, one of the most important feeder streams in the area, and its only cold-water trout stream, was ruined when it was widened to support short-lived commercial interests and development. Now, decades later, in a monumental effort, that stream has at long last been relocated, restored and rescued. Festival-goers will be able to experience the project firsthand on the opening weekend, when each concert is preceded by an optional stroll along the new stream, with conversation guided by restoration ecologists and project managers. Celebrating this monumental ecological project, the season theme of this year’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival is: Water Music . Virtually all of the works programmed evoke brooks and streams and rivers and water in its many forms, with its ritual meanings, associations, allusions, and as metaphor. In keeping with the theme, the Festival has adopted Franz Schubert (below) as the summer’s featured composer. His poetic, melancholic, ultimately organic and inevitable relationship to the natural world was expressed in composition after composition, wedded to his intense involvement with the poetry of his era, itself so infatuated with birds, fields, clouds and streams. The second program emphasis continues the festival’s most persistent theme: the music of Johann Sebastian Bach . Three strands of Bach’s music previously explored at Token Creek will be taken up again. We will present our third complete cantata performance, O heiliges Geist und Wasserbad, a mysterious and poetic piece from early in the composer’s career, with soloists from the Madison Choral Project (below). We will conclude our survey of the three Bach violin concertos, this year the E major, co-artistic director Rose Mary Harbison (below top) again as soloist. And we take up our sequence of fugues from The Art of Fugue , co-artistic director and composer John Harbison (below bottom), who has won the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur “genius grant,” adding three more to his personal odyssey with this work, due to conclude in 2030. NEW ARTISTS Token Creek is pleased to introduce several new artists this season, including Grammy Award -nominated mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimore, who has been praised for her “glorious instrument” and dubbed an “undisputed star…who has it all – looks, intelligence, musicianship, personality, technique, and a voice of bewitching amber color.” Ms. Lattimore will offer works of Franz Schubert and John Harbison on the Festival’s opening concerts, By the Brook (August 27 and 28), where she will be joined by pianist Molly Morkoski. www.margaretlattimore.net Ms. Morkoski (below), who last appeared at Token Creek in 2013, consistently garners praise for her refined virtuosity and “the bold confidence and interactive grace one wants in a devoted chamber music maker.” In addition to the opening program, Morkoski will also be heard on the season finale in Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet (Sept. 2 and 4). http://www.mollymorkoski.com/ On that same concert, tenor William Hite and pianist Kayo Iwama join forces in Schubert’s devastating and tragic song cycle, Die Schöne Müllerin (The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter), in which a brook functions prominently as the protagonist’s confidante. (You can hear the legendary baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau sing “The Miller and the Brook” from the flowing song cycle in the YouTube video at the bottom.) New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini has called Hite (below) a “breathtaking communicator of spoken nuance” for his ability to reveal the meaning and emotion embodied in the text and the music, solidifying his reputation as an engaging and expressive artist. http://www.williamhitetenor.com/ Kayo Iwama (below) is associate director of the Bard College Conservatory of Music graduate vocal arts program, the master’s degree program for classical singers, and she also coordinates the vocal studies program at the Tanglewood Music Center. Her frequent concert partners include Dawn Upshaw and Lucy Shelton. http://www.bard.edu/academics/faculty/details/?action=details&id=1838 VIOLS AND WILLIAM WARTMANN Finally, the “technically faultless and consistently sensitive and expressive,” consort of viols, Second City Musick (below), based in Chicago, will offer a guest recital on Tuesday, Aug. 30, anchored by John Harbison’s The Cross of Snow. Craig Trompeter, Russell Wagner, Anna Steinhoff at the Planetarium, Chicago, May 30, 2013 Commissioned by local businessman and philanthropist William John Wartmann (below) in memory of his wife, mezzo-soprano Joyce Wartmann, this evocative new piece, on texts of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, blends the ethereal lushness of violas da gamba with the haunting clarity of the countertenor voice, here Nathan Medley (below bottom), to explore the emotions of grief, loss and love. At its first performance in Chicago last May, a local critic praised both the work and the musicians: “The Chicago-based ensemble was ideally suited to premiere this profoundly affecting work, and the shared sensibility between composer and performers was noticeable.” Tuesday’s program will also include works of Henry Purcell, William Byrd, John Jenkins and Johann Sebastian Bach. www.secondcitymusick.org Other festival artists this season include vocalists Rachel Warricke, Sarah Leuwerke, Daniel O’Dea, and Nathan Krueger; violinists Rose Mary Harbison, Laura Burns, and Isabella Lippi; Jen Paulson, viola; Karl Lavine, cello; Ross Gilliland, bass; Linda Kimball, horn; and John Harbison, piano. HERE ARE FESTIVAL PROGRAMS AT A GLANCE: Program 1: By the Brook – Schubert, Bach and Harbison Saturday, Aug. 27: 6:45 p.m. – optional guided stream stroll*; 8 p.m. – concert Sunday, Aug. 28: 2:45 p.m. – optional guided stream stroll*; 4 p.m. – concert *(The stream stroll is free, but reservations are recommended) Program 2: Music for Viols, Then & Now Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 7:30 p.m. Program 3: Water Colors = Two Schubert Masterworks Friday, Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4 at 4 p.m. Concert tickets are $32 (students $12). The preview stream stroll on opening weekend is free to concertgoers, but advance reservations are recommended. Reservations can be made in several ways: Online: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/token-creek-chamber-music-festival-2016-tickets-26070692142 Website (printable order form): www.tokencreekfestival.org Phone: 608-241-2525 (voicemail only, please leave a message) Email: info@tokencreekfestival.org U.S. mail: P.O. Box 5201, Madison WI, 53705 Performances take place at the Festival Barn, on Highway 19 near the hamlet of Token Creek (10 minutes north of Madison) with ample parking available. The venue, indoors and air-conditioned, is invitingly small—early reservations are recommended. More information about the Token Creek Festival and all events and artists can be found at the website, www.tokencreekfestival.org or by calling 608 241-2525. Tagged: accompaniment , accompany , allusion , Art of Fugue , Arts , association , Bach , Bard College , baritone , Baroque , bass , birds , Byrd , Cantata , Cello , Chamber music , Chicago , choral music , Classical music , clouds , commission , composer , concerto , countertenor , Dane County , Dawn Upshaw , development , Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau , Early music , ecology , fields , Franz Schubert , fugue , genius grant , Grammy , grief , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow , Horn , Jacob Stockinger , Jenkins , Johann Sebastian Bach , John Harbison , John Jenkins , Kayo Iwama , lieder , loss , Love , Lucy Shelton , MacArthur Fellow , Madison , Madison Choral Project , Margaret Lattimore , metaphor , Mezzo-soprano , Molly Morkoski , Music , natural world , nature , New York Times , organic , Piano , poetic , Poetry , premiere , Pulitzer Prize , Purcell , restoration , Rose Mary Harbison , Second City Musick , sing , singer , solo , Sonata , song , song cycle , stream , streams , Tanglewood Festival , tenor , Token Creek Chamber Music Festival , Trout , Trout Quintet , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Viol , Viola , Violin , vocal music , vocalist , water , Water Music , watershed , William Hite , William Wattmann , Wisconsin , YouTube



Tribuna musical

August 22

Lang Lang´s return: true to form, dazzling but controversial

Lang Lang is certainly the most mediatic pianist in the world. As you read the biography in the hand programme, you find precious little about music, but plenty of kudos about his influence; and he´s only 32. He played at the 2008 Beijing Olympics for four thousand million people; he collaborated with pop dancer Marquese "Nonstop" Scott, Julio Iglesias and Herbie Hancock. He is a Messenger for Peace of the United Nations and he has his own Lang Lang International Music Foundation with stress on giving children access to good music through education. Steinway even designed the Lang Lang piano for China. He is a staple in presentations before Presidents and is chosen for commemorative concerts such as the one for Queen Elizabeth II´s Diamond Jubilee at Buckingham Palace. He was one of the Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum (a musician!). But no mention is made about his training or his recordings or his early appearances. Lang Lang has been coming regularly during the last decade, so he seems to find the Colón attractive. In this recital of the Abono Verde (Green Subscription Series) the audience was quite varied, for apart from music lovers you had the mediatic seekers. The premices were full and increasingly enthusiastic; by the time the encores were played, the response was almost delirious; and he, as the showman he also is, saluted with charm and signed programmes. It helps that he is personable and very cordial. Now to the music. Lang Lang is realistic and he only squeezes small Chinese pieces in the encores. I have often wondered about the Oriental capacity to adapt to the Occidental world, for it doesn´t work the other way around. From this artist´s teens critics have recognised his amazing dexterity with something of the acrobatic mixed in; well, the best acrobats are Chinese. Apparently he can play faultlessly anything written for the piano, no matter how difficult. That´s the dazzling side, always present. But of course style matters and the success of the interpretation depends on it. In the same piece with Lang Lang you can hear a beguiling passage and seconds later a distorted view of the score, though note-perfect. That has been so in every visit, and there´s no sign that the problem will disappear. Nevertheless, the experience of hearing him is always interesting and worthwhile, and a good many minutes will be of very high rank. His recitals have always brought different programmes and sometimes his choices were intriguing. E.g., being such a virtuoso, why choose an easy Mozart sonata? He can also bring over some beautiful music very rarely heard, as he did this time with Tchaikovsky´s "The seasons". And he can disconcert playing it before, not after, Johann Sebastian Bach´s "Italian Concerto". "The seasons" is a misnomer for what should be called "The months". It was the result of monthly pieces written for a Saint Petersburg music magazine, afterwards edited by Jurgenson as Op.37a (Op.37 is the Great Piano Sonata in G). Beginning of course in January, an intimate piece called "Close to the chimney", each month has different character and title, sometimes brilliant and fast ("Carnival", "The Hunt") but more frequently melodic in the inimitable tchaikovskian way ("Barcarolle", "The lark´s song"). The last two are November ("Troika") and December ("The salon waltz"). In my long years of concert going I had never heard the whole suite in one concert, and Lang Lang is to be thanked for this discovery, though of course there are recordings (Ashkenazy, Bronfman, Pletnev; Ilona Prunyi plays them very nicely). Exciting but exaggerated in the fast ones, Lang Lang showed the subtility of his touch in the melodies, molded delicately and phrased with taste. His memory always seems excellent, you never see or hear a hesitation; you may disagree with some of his decisions, but he never improvises: he is sure of himself at all times. Bach´s marvelous Italian Concerto (called thus although written for one instrument) is of course a staple of the repertoire of harpsichordists (preferable) and pianists. Lang Lang uses the full resources of the modern piano but he doesn´t abuse the pedals and he has the sort of total independence of hands needed to keep the constant counterpoint clear. So, although slightly fast, he kept a steady rhythmic pulse. The four Chopin Scherzi are among his most important creations, wholly his in conception and technique, and equally mature from op.20 to Op.54. They all have a main Presto and a contrasting slow, moody melody. They can be played quite fast but not willfully, such as Orozco, Argerich or Rubinstein did; but Lang Lang suddenly sprints off when he resumes the Presto material at a double-fast clip not asked for by the composer, and the balance deteriorates. The perfection of the playing survives, but not the spirit. However, how lovely and contained were the quiet moments. In two of the encores he was at his worst: a wild, brutal "Fire Dance" from Falla´s "Love the Magician" ("El Amor Brujo") and a disheveled "Danza cubana" by Lecuona.(Listen respectively to Rubinstein and the author to know how they should sound). And in the middle, an inocuous slow Chinese melody, nicely done. Will he change in the future? I bet he won´t. He will remain fascinating and irritating. He likes things his way and that´s that. For Buenos Aires Herald

Tribuna musical

August 22

Strasnoy´s pastiche of Bach and Kafka proves to be tricky

The CETC ( Colón Center for Experimentation) has organized an audacious cycle of what might be called Argentine New Opera (within chamber limitations). Miguel Galperin, its Director, had to recur to several venues, for the CETC´s cellar couldn´t possibly shelter the six selected works. Nor can any reviewer cover all six. In fact, collisions with other events made it impossible for me to see "Av. De los Incas", music and libretto by Fernando Fiszbein, at the Sala Argentina of the CCK. And I couldn´t see "Genealogías"; it isn´t an opera but a scenic concert made up of pieces of "emblematic XXth Century works that marked the way to the new opera": Svetlichny, Schwitters, Schnebel, Berio, Duchamp, Cage, Kagel and Aperghis, with the peculiar Swiss duo UMS´n JIP (voice, flute, electronics). This happened at the UNSAM Center of the Arts. I was able to be present at the Usina del Arte´s Auditorium; it offered the Argentine première of a staged version of a vocal work by Oscar Strasnoy with the troublesome German original denomination "Hochzeitsvorbereitungen (mit B und K)", which translated in Spanish as "Preparativos de bodas" and in English "Preparations for a wedding". Strasnoy has premièred two operas here: one I found revulsive, "Cachafaz" on Copi´s text; the other, a full-fledged opera, was presented with success at the Colón: "Requiem", on Faulkner. In what is indeed a strange conflation, Strasnoy in his libretto takes texts by Franz Kafka (K) and contrasts them with Johann Sebastian Bach´s (B) lovely Cantata Nº 202, one of his most tuneful and happy scores and the best of several cantatas of that sort. It was premièred in December 2000 at Edenkoben, Germany, conducted by the composer. Curiously it was a command to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Bach´s death. There were two other versions in 2002 at Stuttgart, and in 2005 at Paris´ Auditorium of Radio France, a definitive revised version. Says Strasnoy: "Stylistic purity has no sense in our time. There´s nothing more antimodern than dogma". The first phrase is wrong: purity isn´t easy but it is possible and desirable. I agree with the second phrase; the problem is that so many don´t know what is modern and create according to trends. Neither Stravinsky nor Schönberg followed trends: they found new roads. But there are no geniuses nowadays: competent technicians galore, instead. Strasnoy is one of them: he has skill. But he can´t do what Stravinsky did in "·Pulcinella": convert Pergolesi (or fake Pergolesi) into Stravinsky so perfectly that the fusion gives us both worlds. Here the wonderful Bach arias are merely retouched but suddenly we have yuxtaposed Strasnoy, and need I say it? Bach 1, Strasnoy zero. Yes, pastiche is tricky. This badly assorted musical couple, however, does mirror what we are seeing: increasing signs that this bride and bridegroom won´t make it to the wedding. I´m not an expert on Kafka but I venture to say that the choice of material could have been more relevant to the story Strasnoy wanted to tell; anyway the bridegroom seems more hysteric than the bride. Soprano Chantal Santon was impressive, veering easily from fine Bach singing to increasingly distempered Strasnoy. The choice of a countertenor (not a tenor or baritone) tends to underline the growing tension of the relationship, though that doesn´t justify the frequent harsh timbre of Daniel Gloger, very Expressionist in singing and gesture. The stage direction by Edgardo Mercado and Mariana Ciolfi is probably responsible for the intervention of a dancer who is simultaneously the one that brings things and removes them according to the needs. This was done brilliantly by Carla Di Grazia, agile, personal and impish, on good choreographic steps by Mercado. The stage design is basically an enormous white tissue that initially veils the bridegroom and will eventually disappear by bits. Is the obsession with a wedding cake of both protagonists Strasnoy´s or Mercado´s idea? I don´t know, but they end up with a whipped-cream (or meringue?) masque. In the final stretch of this 50-minute piece comes a surprise: the producer taking advantage of the hall´s architecture, 45 girls in white wedding suits slowly climb the right-side ramp, proceed to the far back of the stage and then start going down the left-side ramp. In the strange ending, the man covers himself (he is in underpants) with female garb and jumps into the procession, whilst the bride does the same...Bad marriage ahead, no doubt. Eleven excellent players (such as oboist Michelle Wong or violinist Lucía Luque) were conducted metronomically by Annunziata Tomaro. Good costumes by Magda Banach and lighting by Claudio del Bianco and David Seldes. Anecdote: the CETC sent a mail weeks ago looking for volunteers to participate in this production; among the takers was the daughter of a friend of mine. For Buenos Aires Herald

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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