Sunday, October 23, 2016
Zalenka The Cantata Singers’ exploration of Jan Dismas Zelenka continued at Jordan Hall alongside Johann Sebastian Bach. In pairing works of two composers who were friends and admirers of each other’s work, Saturday’s thoughtful program focused on 1722-1723, when Bach first arrived at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. He wrote BWV 147 and 109 in this period of arrival, while trying to justify his position at the prestigious church. Zelenka’s starkly emotive Hebdomania Responsoria (ZWV 55), from which the chorus sang his Tenebrae factae sunt, came from roughly the same time, a mere day’s journey away in the Dresden Hofkapelle. The evening also featured the American premiere of Zelenka’s A Major Laetatus Sum. True to expectation, the Cantata Singers opened its season with an intelligent program and engrossing performances. Zelenka’s 1722 Tenebrae factae sunt seemed the evening’s the most accessible by far, but also the most emotionally complex. The work starts innocently enough with a simple chorale for four voices doubled by strings. The harmonies begin to wander and the piece quickly crescendos to the climax, exclamavit Jesus voce magna (Jesus cried out in a loud voice). A haunting trio of soprano Bonnie Gleason, alto Kim Leeds, and tenor Stephen Williams) answers the chorus: “my God, why have you forsaken me”? As Christ begins to die, the homophony of the first half of the motet becomes fragmented in delicate imitative choral lines that tenderly tug at alien dissonances. A meditative, featuring a silvery string section supported an exquisitely balanced choir, which responded well to Hoose’s sensitivity. Zelenka’s A Major Laetatus Sum (ZWV 90) is much larger in scope. The six-movement setting of Psalm 122 springs to life in exuberant dance with flaring string lines and boisterous solos and duets for soprano and alto. The anthem takes a pensive twist in the in the middle three movements, but pulls the stops out in an ebullient final movement. As exciting as the music is to hear, it stretches the musicians to extremes. As the printed notes speculated, Zelenka either had a virtuosic ensemble at his command, was writing without regard for human capabilities or, as a lowly violone player, took pleasure in listening stratospheric, boastful voices earn their supper. This American premiere proved that the three are not mutually exclusive. Undaunted by Hoose’s exhilarating tempo, fiery violins opened the anthem, supported by a vigorous string section throwing all caution to the wind. Soloists Karyl Ryczek (soprano) and Emily Marvosh (alto) met the challenges of Zelenka’s score with unflagging energy, Ryczek approaching the flamboyant coloratura of the second movement with startling ease; Marvosh’s contemplative Fiat pax in virtute tua, much more than being elegantly beautiful, was intelligent and moving. In duets throughout the anthem, Marvosh’s reserved alto blended well with Ryczek’s dramatic soprano both in the treacherous melismas that were exquisitely coordinated, and in the more reserved movements: an exquisitely controlled messa di voce at the beginning of the Doxology was the haunting highlight of the thrilling performance. Two of Bach’s cantatas sandwiched Zelenka’s works. Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben (BWV 109) , the opener, was composed in October 1723, a few months after Bach assumed the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig. The six-movement work takes its theme from John 4:46-54, which tasks a father’s faith to cure his son; the text takes doubt and fear as its core themes. Hoose emphasized clear enunciation and well-balanced choral sounds, subtly supported by a precise and carefully shaped orchestra, leaving the brunt of the drama to the soloists. Tenor William Hite’s opening recit declamed and expressively, channeling the evangelists Bach would soon employ in his Matthew and John Passions. Hite reveled in the thorny aria that followed, cleanly negotiating the tortured melismas and massive range with an ease that emphasized the almost-operatic drama. Mezzo-soprano Kim Leeds’s offered sweeter fare, fortifying the listener against doubt with the courage afforded by faith. Although her reassuring aria (memorably accompanied by chattering bassoon and oboes by Adrian Morejon, Peggy Pearson, and Jennifer Slowik) was plagued with the occasional mis-step, Leed’s pleasing voice lent a pleasing fragility to the aria. Bach wrote Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (BWV 147) for Advent during his time in Weimar. It went unperformed, but was expanded and repurposed in 1723 upon his arrival in Leipzig in preparation for the Feast of the Visitation. The text is far more optimistic than BWV 109, looking forward to the birth of Christ. The work is composed in two parts: the first half celebrates the imminent arrival of the Messiah, while the second half reflects on the miracles associated with the arrival. Both end with a harmonization of the famous Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring chorale melody. Performing BWV 147 at the end of the concert shapes the evening in a nice progression from doubt to expectant hope. However, the cantata was also the most difficult of the music performed in the concert, and resulted in a chorus flagging in energy at the end of the evening. While Hoose managed a nice balance between the orchestra and chorus, the opening counterpoint in voices was not as crisp as in BWV 109. Solo arias and recits, however, were consistently strong. After the choral introduction, tenor Eric Perry delivered an oratorical recitative; his welcome return in the second half showcased a sweetly lyrical side to his voice. Bass Mark Andrew Cleveland astonished with the musical fire and brimstone of his opening recitative, his profound baritone deeply satisfying to hear in Jordan Hall. Cleveland returned later in jubilant duet with a resounding trumpet played by Terry Everson. Alto Lynn Torgove was reserved in her uplifting aria and eloquent in her awestruck recitative. Lisa Lynch’s charming soprano paired well with Danielle Maddon’s florid violin. After theology and drama from the soloists, the final chorale arrived as a much-needed salve. The simple interplay of a hymn-like choral part gently underscored by the nodding, pastoral orchestra felt strangely satisfying after the evening’s emotional trials. Sudeep Agarwala has performed with the Cantata Singers and other choruses. The post Cantata Singers Paired Bach and Zelenka appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .
I heard Mr. Tharaud play the music of Chopin this morning. It was direct, sensitive, fluid, musical, and satisfying. Then I did some searching and located his playing of Schubert’s Impromptus. That is when I decided that I must share his music with y’all… There are few recordings by this artist available right now. I found Bach, Rachmaninov, and one more. I like what I heard… Here is Mr. Tharaud playing Schubert:
By Jacob Stockinger Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud plays beautifully, even flawlessly, but always expressively. You can hear that for yourself tonight, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon when he solos in the popular Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor by Max Bruch with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under the baton of John DeMain . (The famous Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” by Ludwig van Beethoven is also on the program.) Here is a link to more about the MSO concerts: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/classical-music-madison-symphony-orchestra-and-violinist-henning-kraggerud-perform-music-by-beethoven-bruch-elgar-and-kraggerud-this-weekend/ But Kraggerud is also a serious thinker about music and musicians. He recently appeared in a blog posting. There he praised the use of improvising and composing as ways to explore and expand one’s musicality. And he practices what he preaches: three of his own compositions are on the MSO program this weekend. (You can hear more about his own training in the YouTube interview with Henning Kraggerud at the bottom.) He also improved Thursday afternoon on The Midday program of Wisconsin Public Radio . Kraggerud laments the loss of well-rounded musicians who know more about the world than music. He puts the use of metronome markings in a subjective perspective by quoting famous composers like Johannes Brahms and Claude Debussy . He believes that expression, rather than precision, should be the ultimate goal. And he condemned various practices, including teaching methods, recordings and competitions, that place technical perfection above personal, subjective interpretation as a goal. He praises the use of informed interpretative freedom from Johann Sebastian Bach onwards. Here is a link to Kraggerud’s remarks and observations, which take on added interest and relevance from his appearances in Madison this weekend: http://www.classical-music.com/blog/problem-perfection?source=techstories.org Tagged: Artistic director , Arts , Baroque , Beethoven , Chamber music , Classical music , Compact Disc , Competition , compose , concerto , Debussy , Edward Elgar , expression , freedom , Henning Kraggerud , improvisation , improvise , interpretation , interview , Jacob Stockinger , Johann Sebastian Bach , Johannes Brahms , John DeMain , Ludwig van Beethoven , Madison , Madison Symphony Orchestra , Max Bruch , metronome , Music , Norway , Norwegian , Ole Bull , Orchestra , Overture Center , pastoral , Pastorale , precision , recording , symphony , teaching , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Viola , Violin , Wisconsin , wisconsin public radio , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , YouTube
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, at the First Unitarian Society of Madison , 900 University Bay Drive, features sopranos Susan Savage Day, Rebekah Demure and Arianna Day in music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , John Corigliano , Ottorino Respighi , Richard Strauss and others. It runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m. By Jacob Stockinger Edgewood College will present its Fall Choral Concert at 2:30 p.m. this Sunday in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. Admission is FREE. The Women’s Choir and the Chamber Singers , under the direction of Kathleen Otterson (below top) and Sergei Pavlov (below bottom), will feature a wide variety of musical selections. is The eclectic program includes the Johann Sebastian Bach -Charles Gounod setting of “Ave Maria,” heard in the YouTube video at the bottom; Sydney Carter’s beautiful arrangement of “Lord of the Dance”; and music of Pentatonix. The Chamber Singers is the College’s premier a cappella choral ensemble, open to students of all majors. The choir performs literature from the medieval period to the 21st century, participating in multiple concerts throughout the school year. The Women’s Choir performs a wide variety of traditional and modern music specifically for women’s voices. Tagged: a cappella , Arts , Ave Maria , Bach , Chamber music , chamber singers , Charles Gounod , Choir , choral music , Classical music , Edgewood College , fall , First Unitarian Society of Madison , Jacob Stockinger , Johann Sebastian Bach , John Corigliano , Kathleen Otterson , Lord of the Dance , Madison , Medieval , Mozart , Music , musicale , Ottorino Respighi , Pentatonix , Richard Strauss , Sergei Pavlov , singer , singers , soprano , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , vocal music , Wisconsin , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , women , women;s choir , YouTube
By Jacob Stockinger By any measure the opening concert last Friday night of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) under music director Andrew Sewell was a complete and compelling success. It left The Ear with several big lessons: The same piece played by a chamber orchestra and a symphony orchestra is not the same piece. The Ear remembers hearing one of the first Compact Discs commercially available: a recording of the famous “Eroica” Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven performed by the popular chamber orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under its recently deceased founder and longtime conductor Sir Neville Marriner . Was it going to be Beethoven Lite after all the versions from the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein and the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan ? Not at all. It turned out that symphony orchestras are about power while chamber orchestras are about subtlety. The same work sounds very different when performed by the two different kinds of ensembles. So it was with the Violin Concerto by Peter Tchaikovsky with Russian prize-winning soloist Ilya Kaler and conductor Andrew Sewell. The WCO players performed beautifully, and with the chamber orchestra you felt a balance and an intimacy between the soloist, the orchestra and conductor Sewell (below). You could hear with more clarity or transparency the structure of the concerto and the dialogue of the violin with various orchestral sections – the flutes and clarinet stood out – that often get drowned out by bigger accompanying forces. So when you see the same work programmed by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, do not think of them as duplications you have to choose between. Go hear both. Listen for the differences. You will not be disappointed. That’s what The Ear did and he came away enthralled and enchanted with this smaller-scale Tchaikovsky. There are many great and more affordable soloists whose names we do not recognize. But don’t underestimate them just because you haven’t heard of them. The world has more first-rate musical talent than ever. Ilya Kaler (below), the only violinist ever to win gold medals at the Tchaikovsky, Paganini and Sibelius competitions, is a case in point. We owe a big thanks to the WCO for finding and booking him. He is right up there with the American violinist Benjamin Beilman, whom the WCO booked last season. Kaler’s playing was first-rate and world-class: virtuosic, both lyrical and dramatic, but also nuanced. His tone was beautiful and his volume impressive – and all this was done on a contemporary American violin made in Ann Arbor, Michigan . (You can hear Kaler play in the YouTube video at the bottom.) The Ear says: Bring Kaler back – the sooner, the better. The Ear wants to hear him in violin concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach , Georg Philipp Telemann, Antonio Vivaldi and other Italian Baroque masters like Francesco Geminiani and Arcangelo Corelli. Classical-era concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would be wonderful. More Romantic concertos by Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn, Nicolo Paganini , Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann would also be great. And how about the Violin Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Prokofiev and the neo-Classical Violin Concerto by Igor Stravinsky? But anything will do. Kaler is a violinist – he records for the Naxos label — we should hear more often. These days, we need fewer big stars and more fine talent that makes attendance affordable. The Ear will take young and talented cellists Alisa Weilerstein and Joshua Roman over such an overpriced celebrity as Yo-Yo Ma, great as he is. Second-tier composers can teach you about great composers. The WCO opened with a rarely heard eight-minute work, the Symphony No. 5 in D Major, by Baroque English composer William Boyce (below top). It was enjoyable and The Ear is happy he heard it. True, it comes off as second-rate Handel (below bottom). Why? Because as composer John Harbison explained so succinctly at the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival he co-directs here every summer, the music by George Frideric Handel has a hard-to-explain “heft.” Just a few notes by Handel make memorable music that somehow sticks in your memory. So The Ear heard the pleasantness of Boyce and ended up appreciating even more the greatness of Handel. What a two-fer! Concerts should end on a high note, even if they also start on a high note. The rarely played Symphony No. 4 “Tragic” by Franz Schubert received an outstanding reading. But it ended the concert and left the audience sitting in its seats. The Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, by contrast, got an immediate standing ovation and an encore – a wonderful rendition of an unaccompanied Gavotte by Johann Sebastian Bach — and they ended the first half triumphantly. Maybe the Schubert and Tchaikovsky should have been reversed in order. Or else, what about programming a really energetic symphony by Mozart or Beethoven to end the concert on an upbeat note. Just a thought. If you went to the season-opener by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, what thoughts and impressions did you have? Do you agree or disagree with The Ear? The Ear wants to hear. Tagged: Alisa Weilerstein , Antonio Vivaldi , Arcangelo Corelli , Artistic director , Arts , Bach , Baroque , Beethoven , Boyce , Chamber music , Classical music , Compact Disc , concerto , Franz Schubert , Gavotte , Geminiani , Georg Philipp Telemann , George Frideric Handel , Igor Stravinsky , Jacob Stockinger , Johann Sebastian Bach , Johannes Brahms , John Harbison , Joshua Roman , Ludwig van Beethoven , Madison , Madison Symphony Orchestra , Mendelssohn , Mozart , Music , Niccolo Paganini , Orchestra , Sergei Prokofiev , solo , symphony , unaccompanied , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Violin , Violin concerto , Wisconsin , Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra , Yo-Yo Ma , YouTube
The Klais organ at the Blue Whale is spectacular and dominates the perspective from the hall. As I wrote in other reviews, it is enormously powerful and much more adapted to what is called symphonic organ, the school derived from the Cavaillé-Coll organs and that bred the production of Franck, Widor and many others. It isn´t a Baroque-style organ, and that is a problem. For undoubtedly if you think of organ music your mind goes first and foremost to Bach and Buxtehude. I heard the Klais organ no less than three times before reviewing the concert I´m referring to. Once at the very start, when the CCK was opened; then, at the end of 2015, late in November; and more recently played by Innocenzi. But the marketing of this concert mentioned it as the "inauguration" of the Klais. The structure of the programme was unusual: two scores for organ; one for organ and orchestra; interval; two works for orchestra. On this occasion, two German artists were brought over: the organist Hans-Dieter Meyer Moortgat (debut) and conductor Bernhard Wulff, who has worked with the National Symphony before. Also a pianist, the veteran organist Mayer-Moortgat has had what is usual in this line of work: long tenure at a determinate post. He is organist of the Braunschweig Saint Magni Church since 1973, and since September 2013 also of the Bad Gandersheim Basilica, two Lower Saxony towns. As did Mario Videla last year, he chose the ultra-famous Toccata and fugue in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, perhaps his most celebrated youthful work; it probably dates from 1706 or 1707, when he came back from Lübeck fascinated by Buxtehude´s improvisations in the vast church of St Mary´s. It is very free, has wide contrasts and impressive command of the organ´s possibilities. Mayer-Moortgat proved to be a good professional, apart from minor smudges and hesitations, but he certainly knows that a full organ chord in Bach can never sound like it surged from the Klais, a behemoth of sound. My intrigue, for with Videla, our greatest Bachian, something similar happened: is it impossible in the Klais to play down the volume, or do they succumb to the temptation? For if it is, it proves that the Baroque isn´t for this instrument. Naturally, Ginastera´s only creation for organ, the "Toccata, villancico y fuga" (1947) was much more amenable to the Klais, with the massive passages in the first and third pieces sounding out with powerful dissonant glory; but the villancico was the opposite, charming and delicate, and here the Klais proved its versatility. Now Meyer-Moortgat descended from his high perch to the stage, and played Bach´s Organ Concerto in D minor at the console (of course, connected to the Klais) with the National Symphony conducted by Wulff. The orchestra was rather big for Bach, though it had to contend with the organ. I am disconcerted by this Concerto: it doesn´t have a single catalogue number, but the following: 1052, 1052a, 146 and 188. Well, the first two coincide with the First Concerto for harpsichord, and the other two with cantatas, but the music I heard sounded like an augmented transcription of the Concerto; and I found only one recorded performance, where it says "reconstructed by Schureck". It was, as heard, rather long and prolix, with ample cadenzas and endless strings of semiquavers. Again, the organist played well rather than magisterially; the orchestra accompanied in kind. Nowadays you rarely encounter Stokowski arrangements of Bach, they are supposed to be démodé; but "Komm, süsser Tod" ("Come, sweet Death") is Nº 40 of the Schemelli Musical Song Book as harmonized by Bach, a short, discreet sacred song orchestrated by Stokowski with taste and containment, even if with some instruments that Bach wouldn´t have used; it was nicely played. And then, what for me was the best choice of the evening: after a long silence, Buenos Aires finally heard again Hindemith´s Suite "Nobilissima visione", extracted from the 1938 Massine ballet on the life of St Francis of Assisi. This is beautiful Neoclassic music, of enormous contrapuntal ability and fresh inspiration, in its parts "Introduction and rondo; March and Pastorale"; and a marvelous final "Passacaglia". Wulff and the orchestra offered a fine performance both globally and in refined solos like those of flutist Patricia Da Dalt. For Buenos Aires Herald
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