Saturday, March 25, 2017
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 6 in A major, Op. 30 No. 1 Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major, Op. 47 ‘Kreutzer’ Performed by James Ehnes (violin), Andrew Armstrong (piano) The duo of old friends, James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong, has established itself as one of the most exciting of our times. Their albums of violin sonatas by Franck and Strauss, and Debussy, Elgar and Respighi have been praised by critics worldwide. For this new album they turn to Beethoven and two A major sonatas with very different moods. The 9th, ‘Kreutzer’ sonata, is a huge work, heroic and turbulent in character – a kind of concerto for violin and piano. It is middle period Beethoven at its most dramatic. By contrast, the 6th sonata is a serene, introspective work of great beauty which has tended to be overlooked by its more outward-looking siblings. The intimacy of this sonata – especially the slow movement – is all the more surprising as the original finale was removed by the composer, to become the finale of the ‘Kreutzer’. Beethoven wrote the gentle variations to conclude the 6th sonata. The Guardian wrote last month: “There’s a clarity of ideas that means they never have to overstate…For some listeners, the featherweight diction won’t be brawny or volatile enough for mid-period Beethoven, but it would be wrong to mistake cleanliness for lack of emotional heft…The uncluttered, conversational generosity of this duo speaks volumes.” Here is James Ehnes performing the Bach Chaconne for violin alone:
OVERVIEW This 2-week intensive workshop features epic repertoire (music by Beethoven, Debussy, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss, Brahms, Mussorgsky, and Dvorak) and outstanding faculty (Maestros Neil Varon, Kirk Trevor, and Tomáš Netopil), and takes place in the charming UNESCO-preserved city of Kromeríž. With great repertoire, amazing teachers, 2 weeks in beautiful hotels, 100+ minutes of […]
Milton Court, London In a set of new bespoke compositions for saxophone, the veteran musician is best on the pieces that highlight his bel canto lines and soulful sideThe saxophone has always been a mongrel instrument – half woodwind, half brass – which is possibly why it is so heavily associated with a mongrel music such as jazz. Conversely, John Harle has tended to explore a non-jazz canon of music for the instrument, from Debussy to Michael Nyman, via Marc Almond, Elvis Costello and countless soundtracks. Tonight’s concert at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama – where he is visiting professor – launches Harle’s new Faber book (a heavily illustrated technical tome called The Saxophone). It also belatedly celebrates his 60th birthday, for which he’s invited several modern composers to write something for him. “I think some of them thought they were writing for a youthful 16 year old,” he said, referring to the fast, spiky, mischievous and, frankly, ugly pieces by Graham Fitkin and Sally Beamish. Continue reading...
Wigmore Hall, London The composer-in-residence’s compact new piano concerto of glittering sonorities was premiered by Huw Watkins, Oliver Knussen and the Birmingham Contemporary Music GroupThe first work to come from Helen Grime’s composer residency at Wigmore Hall is a Piano Concerto for her husband, composer-pianist Huw Watkins, and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. It’s a compact work of glittering sonorities carefully applied, with a hectic finale that explodes and then vanishes into thin air. Another composer, looking back to Debussy, might have called it Fireworks. Related: Facing the music: Helen Grime Continue reading...
Coliseum, London; Theatre Royal, Glasgow A top ENO cast and orchestra do justice to Ryan Wigglesworth’s The Winter’s Tale. Plus Debussy to die for at Scottish OperaPaddling palms and pinching fingers… I’ll have thy beauty scratch’d with briers… When you do dance, I wish you a wave o’ the sea… The Winter’s Tale has so much music of its own, refined in the fire of Shakespeare’s strange late play, it is hard to think an operatic version could add more. Surely it would shrink instead of grow. Instead, Ryan Wigglesworth (b1979) has made a thoughtful and lyrical case, not smaller or bigger but different, in his first opera, commissioned by English National Opera and premiered at the Coliseum last Monday.He also wrote the libretto and conducted the performance. No mad egoist – really not, though as it happens he is also a virtuoso pianist – Wigglesworth left the designing to Vicki Mortimer and, as a wild shot, invited the actor Rory Kinnear to make his debut as a stage director. In a clever set whose two halves split and reunite, the action has been updated to contrasting military regimes, two versions of fragile power. Leontes’s Sicilia is all medals and peaked caps, Polixenes’s Bohemia khaki, shades and black berets: you’ll have seen them before at the opera if not in life. ENO has gathered a wonderful cast of British singers. Led by Iain Paterson (Leontes), Leigh Melrose (Polixenes), Susan Bickley (Paulina) and Sophie Bevan (Hermione), who is also the work’s dedicatee, they honoured this new score. Continue reading...
Sir John Eliot Gardiner with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks at the notorious Gasteig in Munich last week. Gardiner isn't getting any younger, but he's greatly loved. Every opportunity to hear him live is worth cherishing. This time he conducted Emmanuel Chabrier and Claude Debussy. A delightful programme, elegantly constructed. Playful, even, sparked with Gardiner's characteristic wit. Setting the scene, the concert began with Chabrier's Overture to Gewendoline, (1886), much better known than the opera itself. Gwendoline is a fantasy on early medieval Britain, set in an Anglo-Saxon village being raided by Danes. The opera wasn't a huge success, neither comic nor grand enough for Parisian taste, yet not over the top enough for Wagnerian audiences. Nonetheless, it probably deserves revival these days, when the ideal of unified Europe is under threat. Much better Chabrier's civilized if slightly dotty romance than the rumblings of nationalist extremism. Perhaps in those sweeping strings, we can imagine the swelling waves of the North Sea, and winds blowing the Vikings ashore. Mock medievalism in glory: neither mayhem nor pillage on the horion.The winds suggest Tristan und Isolde, and the finale explodes, trumpets and trombones ablaze, and giant crashing percussion. True MGM richness! Rather more elegant, Chabrier's Suite Pastorale (1888) orchestrating four of the composer's 10 Pièces pittoresques (1881) Gardiner's lightness of touch was ideal : these pieces charm because they're light and aphoristic. Then the Fête polonaise from Chabrier's opera Le roi malgré lui. (1887). It's not kitsch "Polish", though the last movement is part waltz and part polka, almost a parody of Vienna and the Johann Strausses. But it's echt Chabrier. Gardiner and the BRSO executed the piece stylishly, the scherzo-valse executed with vivacious flair. Last year, Chabrier's L'étoile was staged at the Royal Opera House. Chabrier's idiom doesn't fit into neat operatic categories. Its warm hearted, unpretentious cheerfulness expresses itself in a taste for absurd whimsy. The key to understanding L'étoile was, I think, understanding his orchestral music, and his ironic style. So if the opera didn't go down well with London audiences that says as much about them as it does about Chabrier. Thus, Chabrier's "greatest hit" España (1883). A delicious performance, like a tourist's memory of an ideal holiday in Spain. The strings whirr like strumming "guitars" and flamenco rhythms add spice. And, like a tourist fantasy, it doesn't last. In this case, six minutes! Chabrier's "travelogues" complemented Debussy's Images, in the sense that the most famous section, Ibérica, has a Spanish context. Gardiner began, though, with the Rondes du Printemps. Rounds: hence the cyclic feel of the piece, reminiscent of the "waves" in La Mer, written at roughly the same period, the folk melodies flowing like undertow. Gardiner followed this with Gigues to reinforce the idea of abstract form as opposed to pictorial colour. True, Ibérica incorporates features that might evoke Spanish flavour, but it is also a "round" in itself, being made up of three inner sections, the outer two inspired by abstract form.The core, Les parfums de la Nuit is mysterious. Its beauty needs no ostensible title. Listen to the rebroadcast of this concert here on BR Klassik.
Claude Debussy (August 22, 1862 - March 25, 1918) was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions. Debussy is among the most important of all French composers, and a central figure in European music of the turn of the 20th century. He was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1903. His music is noted for its sensory component and for not often forming around one key or pitch. Often Debussy's work reflected the activities or turbulence in his own life. His music virtually defines the transition from late-Romantic music to 20th century modernist music. In French literary circles, the style of this period was known as symbolism, a movement that directly inspired Debussy both as a composer and as an active cultural participant.
Great composers of classical music