Archive for the ‘Music’ Category
Wagner, Tannhäuser Overture. Sibelius, Symphony No. 2 – the BSO’s first recording under Andris Nelsons
I don’t think I have heard the Boston Symphony sound this full and deep since Koussevitzky. This CD inaugurates Andris Nelsons’ era at the helm of the BSO and signals a reinforcement of the orchestra’s considerable strengths in the more brooding side of the continental repertory.
The Bach Choir of Bethlehem’s Christmas Concert, a Review and Interview with Music Director Greg Funfgeld—to Air on Christmas Day at 8pm on WWFM
Where was the first documented performance of a Bach cantata in this country? Where were the St. John Passion, the Christmas Oratorio, the B Minor Mass, and the Art of Fugue first performed complete here? Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Susanna Mälkki conducts the San Francisco Symphony in Griffes, Bartók, and Brahms, with Jeremy Denk, Piano
I had several motives in attending this concert. Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki is a fast rising star in the classical world, recently appointed Music Director of the Helsinki Philharmonic. I was eager to hear the rarely performed Griffes tone poem, a brilliant programming move. (We need to experience more “A” pieces from obscure composers of the past, I frequently argue.) And I was curious to see how Jeremy Denk would interact with Mälkki, since both musicians are of the brisk, sparky sort. The concert did not disappoint.
One can be thankful that it really is possible to ignore the worst excesses of the Holiday Season if one stays away from Midtown and shuns the Media, but it is discouraging to realize that many of the traditional aspects of it which give us the reassuring glow of tradition are in fact clichés, worn-out, empty rituals we attend because there’s nothing better around. A few brass instruments and kettledrums in church don’t really make a difference. A recent weekend in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, however, showed how lively the Season can be, if one really understands its importance, like the Moravian Protestants who make the Star of Bethlehem their central symbol, celebrate with a gusto seldom found anywhere else, from earnest in the pews to some prodigious eating and drinking.
Pergolesi’s comic operas sound remarkably modern—which is to say, like Mozart. Recognizably human characters go through recognizable experiences, singing out their feelings very directly, which the music embodies in fluidly changing tempos and moods, stretching of harmony, changes of key and orchestral color. Much is accomplished through musically creative recitative—a half-spoken way of proceeding—as well as through song proper and duets (there are only two singers in each of these operas, though also some designated silent performers, to which this production added a few dancers). It is like Mozart, but sets the procedure for opera ever since, even Verdi’s with their heroic figures, Wagner’s with their gods and goddesses, Berg or Britten with their neurotics. Characters live, feel, and think—and sing—and the music moves quickly and supply and thinks, as it were, with them.
What is and what might have been: More Nelsons at the BSO, Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
I couldn’t have been more eager to hear Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra on their return visit to Boston, part of an American tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of the “Peaceful Revolution” that began in Leipzig in October 1989 and a month later led to the fall of the Berlin wall. Chailly continues to be one of most significant and enriching conductors of our time, and it was profoundly frustrating that, in January of 2012, heart problems prevented him from making his long overdue BSO debut (conducting, among other things, Stravinsky’s Sacre du printemps). This cancellation also put him out of the running as a possible replacement for James Levine as BSO music director. There was no way the BSO would risk hiring another music director with health problems. And yet, apparently recovered, here he was in Boston.
I have just recently learned about a different kind of music festival, pianoSonoma, which convenes annually in late July and early August at the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, under the benevolent guidance of Co-Founders and Co-Directors Michael and Jessica Chow Shinn, both faculty members at the Juilliard School.
People attend music festivals for different reasons, most of which are passive, unless they happen to be Tanglewood Music Center Fellows or “young professionals” at Marlboro. They go as members of the audience to hear star musicians they would not normally find in their area, or they like to continue their experiences at Carnegie or Davies Hall in some pleasant rural setting suitable for a summer holiday. Their active participation is usually limited to laying out a picnic, consuming it, a listless read of tedious program notes, uncritical applause, and coping with post-concert congestion in the parking lots, especially after a manifestation of Lang Lang or Yo-Yo Ma.
This was a great recital—almost. Richard Goode played the last three Beethoven piano Sonatas and a set of late Bagatelles, and was quite convincing, even revelatory, with all the material except the final Sonata, the forbidding Opus 111. This last came off well, it felt meant—and all those difficult notes were well articulated—but the full emotional daring of the piece was not quite there.