Debussy

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The Thinking Virtuoso Pianists play in New York, Part I: Hamelin and Hough

There was a time when the virtuosity of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries seemed on the wane. Vladimir Horowitz was perhaps the one who ushered it out slowly, over more than one temporary withdrawal from performing and growing criticism of his magisterial approach, as it fell out of fashion. On the other hand, pianists of his generation, like Louis Kentner, and younger pianists like Alfred Brendel and Leon Fleisher, who were technically the equals of Horowitz, chose to focus on purely musical values, using their powerful techniques to bring difficult, but less pyrotechnic works to audiences, for example, the more serious Liszt, Schubert’s late sonatas, and Beethoven’s Op. 106, the “Hammerklavier,”
Music

Originality and Humanity: Anthony Marwood, Violin, Aleksandar Madžar, Piano, Play Beethoven, Debussy and Schubert

Huntley Dent has written on these pages “two musical instruments rise above all others in their humanity — the violin, because it comes closest to imitating the singing voice, and the piano, because it comes closest to conveying human nature.” So in the simple pairing of the two, a pair of thoughtful and sensitive musicians can ‘say’ more while ‘speaking’ less than many symphonies. Such are Anthony Marwood and Aleksandar Madžar, who play with such humanity to a listener, with originality and directness, with much thought and care. They play with emotional directness even while bravely and generously plumbing the emotional complexity and ambiguity of the difficult music they have chosen.

Music

The Philadelphia Orchestra at Davies Hall — A Great Legend Intact — Two Concerts

The Philadelphia Orchestra always WAS the sexiest! Back in the publicity heyday of art music and the aftermath of Toscanini, Americans knew their five orchestras. It went like this: in Boston you listened to Charles Munch for Gallic excitability. In Chicago, Reiner ruled with a heart of stone but turned out warmer central European renditions than Toscanini had. You flocked to Bernstein for eruptive passion and disreputable energy in New York. And at Severance Hall, in a state of penance, you submitted to the owlish purges of George Szell. But nothing seduced the listener so much as The Philadelphia Orchestra, under the direction of Eugene Ormandy.
Music

The Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle at Carnegie Hall: Debussy, Dvořák, Schoenberg, Elgar, Bruckner, Wolf, and Mahler

A U.S. tour by one of the great European orchestras is a a costly endeavor—for everyone concerned—and, even if it is a biennial occurrence, it should be nothing less than an important event, especially in New York. I find it a severe disappointment when an orchestra offers routine programming on tour, no matter how well it shows off their glories. These are missed opportunities. The Berlin Philharmonic and their Director, Sir Simon Rattle, therefore deserve our thanks for sticking with the “curated” programming which made their last visit to Carnegie Hall such a memorable esperience. Back then, they combined a cycle of Brahms symphonies with works by Arnold Schoenberg. This year they have taken a step forward and a step back, narrowing their range, to explore the origins of the modern in music in the 1890s. On the way, they have also managed to include some of Sir Simon's signature repertoire in Elgar's "Enigma" Variations and Mahler's Second Symphony, both among the works with which he made his reputation early in his career.
Music

Prom 26: Debussy, Dutilleux, Ravel – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, cond. Donald Runnicles, Lynn Harrell, cello

First off, a confession. Such, such are the joys of London transport that I arrived too late for the start of the Debussy, and was therefore not admitted till after the Prélude had finished. I have heard tell that there is a species of journalist that in this situation would confer with its fellow hacks and evaluate the consensus on the missed performance, before compiling a description along these party lines as though it were its own opinion. Fortunately, I am not that kind of journalist and would therefore not have the effrontery to hoodwink my innocent readers in this way. (Those of a political disposition have my full permission to consider the preceding sentences trenchant topical satire rather than pointless filler.) At least I can confirm that wherever the sound dissipates to in the Albert Hall's less-than-princely acoustic, it is not through its double set of side doors off the auditorium, which yielded up nary a note in the five minutes-plus I was stood outside awaiting entry.
Music

The Pollini Project: Chopin, Debussy, Boulez, Royal Festival Hall, June 28, 2011

This was originally intended to be the penultimate programme of Pollini's five-concert Project spanning the gamut of keyboard repertoire from Bach to Boulez (albeit with a large Classical Period-sized gap), but has been postponed for a couple of months due to illness. In my opinion this has made for a more fitting end to the series, not only following chronological order but also concluding by challenging the audience with something 'modern' rather than the obvious crowd-pleasing Chopin of what became the fourth Project concert. Appropriately, this concert in fact draws a connection, perhaps not immediately obvious, between the hugely different Chopin and Boulez.
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