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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Strauss’

Thumbnail : MTT Conducts Johann Strauss Jr., Richard Strauss, Charles Ives, Lukas Foss, and György Ligeti

MTT Conducts Johann Strauss Jr., Richard Strauss, Charles Ives, Lukas Foss, and György Ligeti

It would be hard to peg with certainty the guiding concept in Michael Tilson Thomas’ recent choral program for the San Francisco Symphony. As so often with MTT, the selections appear a sophisticated grab bag. But intuition suggests the topic of nature and the metaphysics which spring from appreciating it. Thomas’ introductory remarks for each piece certainly leaned in this direction. Mounting the podium, he reached for his mike and held it like a weapon overhead. This can often result in a verbal concert and the disapproval of old ladies in the audience. But the nature of the music was such that his remarks were appreciated and not too long.

Thumbnail : No matter how you slice it…Andris Nelsons’ BSO Salome, plus other Boston treats

No matter how you slice it…Andris Nelsons’ BSO Salome, plus other Boston treats

I was part of the capacity crowd at Boston’s Symphony Hall (March 6) that rose to its collective feet to cheer BSO music director designate Andris Nelson’s first opera with his new orchestral family. Richard Strauss is one of his favorite composers, and at the press conference the day before he announced that among the ten relatively conservative programs he’s doing in his upcoming first season as music director, he’s scheduled two familiar Strauss tone poems, Don Quixote and Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life—“Not about myself,” he joked). The BSO’s only opera next season, one of its few daring choices of repertoire, will be Charles Dutoit leading the first BSO performance of Szymanowski’s King Roger, with Polish baritone Marius Kwiecień repeating his Paris and Santa Fe triumphs in the title role.

Thumbnail : Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra visit New York with Bartók, Mahler, Richard Strauss, and Bruckner, with Leonidas Kavakos

Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra visit New York with Bartók, Mahler, Richard Strauss, and Bruckner, with Leonidas Kavakos

When the Concertgebouw play at Carnegie, it is hard to imagine that any other orchestra could be as good or better. Then we hear Vienna and Dresden (we we shall this season), and we realize that the great Central European orchestras flourish in spheres all their own, and that it is a fool’s errand to attempt to rank them. Still, when it comes to communicating what a composer wrote, rather than a particular tradition of playing, the Concertgebouw remain unsurpassed. And if one refers back to the magnificent legacy of recorded performances under conductors associated with other orchestras—Walter, Klemperer, Szell, Monteux, and others—one consistently finds that their performances with the Concertgebouw represent their very best work. This year’s visit went right to the mark.

Thumbnail : Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Strauss’ Zarathustra, Brahms’ Violin Concerto with Lisa Batiashvili, Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony

Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Strauss’ Zarathustra, Brahms’ Violin Concerto with Lisa Batiashvili, Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony

The concert pulled us away from a particularly beautiful sunset over Sydney with Cray-Pas pink-crimson streaks and squiggles and a new moon following closely behind the sun, sparing us the feeling of mono no aware of a finished sunset. Zarathustra gave us maybe a more conventional sunset’s “riot of color”, or rather sunrise, to complete Vladimir Ashkenazy’s three concert series of Germanic music which opened the Sydney Symphony’s 2012 season. This small selection of major Strauss symphonies if not totally satisfying and complete in itself, gives one an urge to seek out more Strauss in order to seek out more in Strauss. Then again symphonic music can be enjoyed as a riot of marvelous sounds. Ashkenazy’s pairings in the three concerts of a tightly formed Beethoven piece — The Ninth Symphony, the Fourth Piano Concerto and the Coriolan Overture, respectively — with a more spread-out Strauss piece (with the exception of Metamorphosen), perhaps more fun to conduct than to listen to at times, and the music with Vladimir Ashkenazy’s enthusiasm for it, speaks for itself and justifies itself. Anyway, it is hard to speak generally about Strauss since he is quite varied even within one piece.

Thumbnail : Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Strauss’ Zarathustra, Brahms’ Violin Concerto with Lisa Batiashvili, Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony

Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Strauss’ Zarathustra, Brahms’ Violin Concerto with Lisa Batiashvili, Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony

The concert pulled us away from a particularly beautiful sunset over Sydney with Cray-Pas pink-crimson streaks and squiggles and a new moon following closely behind the sun, sparing us the feeling of mono no aware of a finished sunset. Zarathustra gave us maybe a more conventional sunset’s “riot of color”, or rather sunrise, to complete Vladimir Ashkenazy’s three concert series of Germanic music which opened the Sydney Symphony’s 2012 season. This small selection of major Strauss symphonies if not totally satisfying and complete in itself, gives one an urge to seek out more Strauss in order to seek out more in Strauss. Then again symphonic music can be enjoyed as a riot of marvelous sounds. Ashkenazy’s pairings in the three concerts of a tightly formed Beethoven piece — The Ninth Symphony, the Fourth Piano Concerto and the Coriolan Overture, respectively — with a more spread-out Strauss piece (with the exception of Metamorphosen), perhaps more fun to conduct than to listen to at times, and the music with Vladimir Ashkenazy’s enthusiasm for it, speaks for itself and justifies itself. Anyway, it is hard to speak generally about Strauss since he is quite varied even within one piece.

Thumbnail : Vladimir Ashkenazy, the Sydney Symphony and Stephen Kovacevich Play Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto and Strauss’ Alpensinfonie

Vladimir Ashkenazy, the Sydney Symphony and Stephen Kovacevich Play Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto and Strauss’ Alpensinfonie

Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra continue with the second in their triptych of Beethoven-Richard Strauss concerts which opens their 2012 season. Maestro Ashkenazy, their artistic director for the past few years who usually conducts himself several concerts at the beginning and end of the season (the Eternal Summer!), and the SSO seem to have established a warm and close rapport and respect, to judge from the jocular, playful exchanges and inaudible banter he shares with the orchestra members after the music, shaking hands with all the front-row strings after every concert, as well as from the fine and detailed interpretations they create together. Stephen Kovacevich brought a remarkable like-mindedness to this partnership. He also brought a complimentary attitude so that the concerto was a conversation beyond words between individual beings. The sound of his piano and what Kovacevich expressed therein had a remarkably immediate, very close presence, where often there is a wider gap between a guest soloist-virtuoso and the audience. Similarly the orchestra had a generous and open pellucid quality — not ever quite the homogeneously mixed and integrated sound of cogs in the the romantic-orchestral apparatus, nor exactly a contrasty orchestra of soloists, but something in-between those extremes and something else entirely which preserved the instruments’ characteristic timbres, at least section-wise, in an even-handed balance, a sound which can speak coherently in many different ways all at once. Kovacevich got through his childhood concert début some 60 years ago and so has nothing to prove, and his performance with Ashkenazy, himself a pianist, and now a conductor, of great experience, had deep maturity, but also at the same time a playful child-like quality, a surface insouciance rather more interested in the details and problems in the music which matter.

Thumbnail : Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Embark On Their 2012 Season with Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Strauss’ Metamorphosen

Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Embark On Their 2012 Season with Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Strauss’ Metamorphosen

To open the Sydney Symphony’s 2012 season and the year of their 80th birthday, Vladimir Ashkenazy. artistic director and chief conductor, has put together a generous program of powerful German music. Beethoven’s Ninth finds itself played to mark great occasions, the reopening of Bayreuth in 1953 comes to mind and its own creation came at the end of decades of war in Europe. The Sydney Symphony has not played it for five years — for their 75th anniversary — so it would feel now about due for their attention. The piece is so famous and familiar, though, even as an occasional performance, there is the risk of over familiarity. With so much wonderful inherited music and worthy current music and music which would potentially exist given the opportunity of performance, should the Ninth, or any piece, be played if the performance cannot discover anything new in the piece? For the listeners, they can always seek out new aspects of the piece since one’s disposition and experience in life effect one’s ears so strongly, but it helps to have musicians, like Ashkenazy, full of ideas. “Occasion” implies some shared new experience anyway. But on the other hand, the earthly specificity of an occasion can in a way put a drag on a sublime performance of the Ninth. It is such spiritual, metaphysical music, rooted in itself, in this way a universal piece, somehow worldly events seem to anchor it in time and space in an uncomfortable way, paradoxically perhaps. As a birthday party for a very fine and healthy symphony orchestra with surely many more anniversaries ahead of it, the occasion here did not “get in the way,” as it were, very much, rather the music tended to come first, as it should. A symphony orchestra is after all a selfless crew in many ways.

Thumbnail : Golden Bough: Richard Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae

Golden Bough: Richard Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae

In my preview of this opera, I maintained that Die Liebe der Danae (more properly, Danaë, emphasizing the “ahh-aay” of the last two vowels), is a rarely performed treasure from the last years of Richard Strauss. Based on Maestro Botstein’s wonderful recording a decade ago, I wondered whether an actual stage production could do justice to the music. Joseph Gregor’s libretto seemed wayward to me, so that seemed the biggest obstacle for a felicitous live production. In fact, this new production at Bard’s Summerscape, directed by Kevin Newbury, lived up to, and exceeded all my expectations. Musically, it turns out as one of Strauss’s most attractive works; and the libretto, while quirky and vapid at times, inspired a humorous, imaginative and completely enchanting production.

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    Michael Miller
  • A Singer’s Notes 97: It’s Hot Outside—Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Clicks at Oldcastle Theatre, Bennington
    Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is an obsessive work which makes wildly different demands on its actors. Renata Eastlick as Maggie starts us off which what amounts to a twenty-five to thirty-minute monologue. She did this superbly. It was just overbearing enough. Listening to her was the excellent Loren Dunn who played her husband […]
    Keith Kibler