Tag Archive: Beethoven

Marek Janowski Leads the San Francisco Symphony in Pfitzner’s “Palestrina” Preludes and the Beethoven Fourth and Eighth Symphonies

Marek Janowski. Photo © CAMI.

Marek Janowski always brings a convincing German something to our orchestra. Polish born, Janowski was raised in Germany and reigns at the Berlin Radio Symphony–indeed is known throughout Europe for his Wagner, Bruckner, Schumann and Beethoven. He’s even managed to elicit convincing Bruckner from the Suisse Romande in Geneva–that alone surely worth some nation’s Legion of Honor–and every so often does the rounds instructively with us. This time Pfitzner was the centerpiece.

A Crop of Recordings II: Elgar, Rachmaninoff, Strauss, Schmitt, Magnard, and Beethoven

Conductor Ernest Ansermet (1883 Vevey - 1969 Geneva)

About a year ago Sarah Connolly, Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony brought us rich rolling Sea Pictures as part of their Gerontius CD set for Chandos. In that voluptuous traversal Sarah Connolly sings like the golden girl who would be queen. This is grand Elgar in the tradition of Janet Baker, where soft low notes yearn and consecrate. At times the “r”s roll and things veer imperial. But there is another, more intimate way to woo these chords. It struck me immediately. Alice Coote nearly whispers the music to you like a woman in love. It isn’t a question of volume, of course. Coote sings all the dynamics as written. It’s her manner, so personal, so confessional. It matters less that her voice is slightly lighter than Connolly’s or that the orchestra’s pulse is less nautical. This isn’t tourist Elgar. This is three o’clock in the morning Elgar. And at that hour intimate tears are welcome.

Richard Goode Plays Beethoven’s Last Three Sonatas and Bagatelles, Op. 119 at Jordan Hall, Boston

Richard Goode

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.

The great Composers? Part V: Schickele Mixed Up

Reverence for the Great Composer

It has been observed that there are only two kinds of music, good and bad. Duke Ellington said that if it sounds good it probably is good. Peter Schickele, the well-known avatar of P. D. Q. Bach (1807-1742), dedicated his weekly radio programme, Schickele Mix, to the principle that all musics are created equal, so you might think that he doesn’t believe in the good and the bad. Each episode is a light-hearted, although somewhat heavy-humored, presentation of diverse musical excerpts loosely connected by a musical, historical or literary thread.

Charles Dutoit triumphs in Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony with the San Francisco Symphony, with Kirill Gerstein in Beethoven

Charles Dutoit

There’s no question that the San Francisco Symphony is one of our great American orchestras. I go to as many of their Carnegie Hall concerts as I can, and if these are not a consistent joy, it has nothing to do with the musicians’ capabilities, rather with the vagaries of Michael Tilson Thomas’s talents and tastes—of which more later. The concert I am reporting on had little to do with MTT beyond his successful maintenance of Herbert Blomstedt’s discipline.

Stephen Porter played late works by Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and Debussy at the House of the Redeemer in Manhattan, Thursday May 1, at 7.30 pm—a presentation of New York Arts

Stephen Porter, pianist

We were extremely proud to present, as our single concert of this season, a piano recital by Stephen Porter, a musician of supreme intelligence, sensitivity, and learning. His pianism is equally developed on the fortepiano as on the modern fortepiano, and we are fortunate that his curious ear for historical instruments has drawn him to the unique qualities of the House of the Redeemer’s Grotrian-Steinweg grand in the intimate acoustics of its Library.

The Great Composers? Part IV: Scherzo

Beethoven the perfectionist, selon Liebig

Since one of my aims is to try to find out why, for some people, “classical” music is so much more potent than other kinds of music, and as a connected question, why these people form only a small proportion of the population, I’ll give some examples of the pitfalls that await the unwary “classical” missionary who speaks to high school students or innocent adults. Most of what follows is drawn from real life. The speaker, Juan Torescramiento, is introducing a performance of one of Beethoven’s Rasumovsky Quartets by the Pro Classico String Quartet. Mr. Torescramiento is not Spanish, but the fake-Spanish name I have given him is more appropriate to the character of his discourse than anything printable in English. He is actually a conflation of several musical missionaries (all of white European extraction) whose effusions I was unlucky enough to have to sit through during the thirty-two years of my tenure as a high school teacher in New York City. Some were faculty members. After giving a few details of Beethoven’s birth and early life he gets to the real stuff. First we get some of the old horse-feathers… Oops! I meant to say “conventional wisdom.”

“Vienna, City of Dreams” in New York: Four Orchestral Concerts by the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall

Diana Damrau closes the final concert of "Vienna, City of Dreams," while maestro Mehta looks on.

Nowadays, visiting orchestras often play two or three concerts in New York, and, best of all, these are sometimes “curated” into themed series, like the VPO’s under Boulez and Barenboim a few years ago. This year, Carnegie Hall is presenting an exceptionally ambitious event, Vienna, City of Dreams, which goes beyond the Vienna Philharmonic’s unprecedented seven-concert series of symphonic and operatic works, and includes chamber music concerts, contemporary music, symposia, film screenings, and a few events including the visual arts, including Vienna Complex, a contemporary group exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum, which has organized most of the events outside Carnegie Hall itself, although no significant exhibitions of the art of the periods represented by the concerts at Carnegie Hall. (The other piece of Vienna in New York, the Neue Galerie, is offering nothing but limited free tours for ticket holders and discounts in their gift shop.) Theater and literature went virtually unrepresented. (A Viennese theater festival, including the Burgtheater, would have been welcome—magnificent, even.) A language barrier in our day of ubiquitous supertitles?

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