The Great French Organ Tradition With Paul Jacobs on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at 7:30pm in Paul Hall

November 2012

New York Arts

Un Vaisseau fantôme inoubliable à Montréal…mais comment tuer Senta?

Le but principal de cet article et de louer jusqu’au cieux une représentation tout à fait remarquable—inoubliable, dirais-je—du premier oeuvre canonique de Wagner, mais c’est bien une mise-en-scène contemporaine—une mise-en-scène laquelle rend justice aussi bien à la problématique sociale de 1840 qu’a celle de nos jours—surtout à propos de la rôle des femmes dans la famille, le mariage, les moeurs bourgeois, et l’argent. Dans ce contexte le problème qui me frappe d’abord est celui de la mort de Senta, parce qu’il semble que les metteurs en scène de nos jours se sentent fort mal à leur aise avec sa mort telle que Wagner l'avait conçue, où elle se jette dans les flots tourbillants nordiques. S’agit-il de la vraisemblance, du goût, ou bien des frais toujours montants de l’assurance qui découragent la saute d’une soprano importante même d’une distance de deux mètres? Voyons.
Music

Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony’s Tchaikovsky Mini Festival Opens with Manfred and Rachmaninoff’s Fourth Piano Concerto, Scott Davie, Piano

Rachmaninoff’s 4th Piano Concerto didn’t deserve to be cut. It seems to have received, in any version, the homeric epithet “Rachmaninoff’s least popular” since it wasn’t popular at the première (1927) and wasn’t much more loved after the revisions (1928 and 1941), but this is perhaps as much due to the immense and perennial popularity of the 2nd and 3rd as any intrinsic quality of the 4th, and the unpopular label seems now to be beginning to give the original version a little bit of underdog cred. The original longer version was only published in 2000, and this performance, according to the Sydney Symphony, is the first of this version in Australia. It is a fascinating case of audience expectations based on a composer’s perceived style and the composer worrying too much about pleasing them. Luckily the original was not lost. Even so it is not very long, though it does have a leisurely, operatic quality to its pacing, almost a Mahlerian pace, but with its drama turned in, more psychological and untidy than the other concerti, and so it is not as exciting as the other concerti. It does not have too solid a form holding it together, it doesn’t tell a ‘story’ with beginning middle and end as the others do more obviously. It is not linear, or at least it is taller than it is long with all those enormous, thick, rich chords which defy a simple analysis and the long runs of impossibly fast notes which are not exactly melodic — maybe more harmonic as they ring in that resonant Steinway piano — but the melodies in the piece with the exception of the opening one are more like fragments of leitmotif without staging to help explain them. The opening theme returns here and there but it seems odd in its return, almost an interruption of the of the pensive, contemplative revery of the music, almost like the sudden landing of an eagle, or an angel, or a strange golden shaft of light. But the 20th century romantic music doesn’t need a strict form since Rachmaninoff’s concept is not architectural or plastic. The wonderful thing about music is that you don’t have to worry whether it will stand up.
Music

Mozart’s Requiem Revealed: Georg Friedrich Haas’s 7 Klangräume zu Mozarts Requiem played by the Argento Contemporary Ensemble, Michel Galante, conductor, with the Andante for flute and orchestra, K. 315 with Paula Robison

Performances that are enlightening to the point of changing our attitudes about the textual and performative conventions of a major work or transforming the way we listen to it are extremely rare. That's a good thing, in fact, because audiences, who really should be more open to innovation than they are, need and are even entitled to at least some of the comfort tradition offers—not forgetting Otto Klemperer's famous dictum on the subject...Certain performance traditions change every generation, others perhaps twice as often, yet others less often. The Argento Chamber Ensemble's recent performance of Georg Friedrich Haas's 7 Klangräume zu den unvollendeten Fragmenten des Requiems von W. A. Mozart was just such a performance. The composer responsible for the 7 Klangräume, or Seven Soundspaces, Herr Haas, the Argento musicians, and their brilliant conductor, Michael Galante, can share the honors for bringing us Mozart's Requiem in a new form, adopting a principle which should be even obvious, but which seemed unthinkable because of the consolatory nature of the work and the comforting influence of tradition in its reception. Both the editorial treatment and the performance came together to create an exhilarating new image of the work.
Music

The American Symphony Orchestra’s 50th Birthday Celebration: Leon Botstein Conducts Ives’ Fourth and Mahler’s Eighth

Leopold Stokowski seemed to float in and out of Carnegie Hall last Saturday evening, as Leon Botstein led the American Symphony Orchestra in their festive—and massive—50th birthday celebration. In fact Maestro Botstein made it perfectly clear that the concert was as much about the founder as it was about the orchestra in his introductory talk and in his important program note, available on the ASO site. The American Symphony Orchestra was the fruit of over twenty-two years of short-lived attempts by Stokowski to found orchestras which put into practice a few ideals that were dear to his heart: bringing American-born and -trained musicians into the mainstream of classical music, to make orchestral concerts easily and inexpensively available to working people, and to play repertory outside the most familiar classics.
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