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Claude Debussy

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


My Classical Notes

September 4

Love for Martha Argerich

My Classical NotesIf I were to explore statistics (I am not), I likely would determine that pianist Martha Argerich is one of the instrumentalists that I write about most frequently. And in my view that is to be expected because of her amazing abilities to make us smile! In this new recording we get to enjoy more of Martha’s gifts: Martha Argerich & Friends: Live from Lugano 2016 Bach, J S: Sonata for Violin & Harpsichord No. 4 in C minor, BWV1017, with Tedi Papavrami (violin) Martha Argerich, piano Beethoven: Fantasia for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra in C minor, Op. 8 with Martha Argerich (piano), and the Orchestra e Coro della Svizzera italiana, Diego Fasolis conducting. Berg: Chamber Concerto for Piano and Violin with 13 Wind Instruments, with Nicholas Angelich (piano ) and Renaud Capuçon, violin Brahms: Horn Trio in E flat major, Op. 40, with Nicholas Angelich (piano ) Renaud Capuçon, violin David Guerrier, horn. Busoni: Violin Concerto, Op. 35a, withRenaud Capuçon (violin), and the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, Alexander Vedernikov conducting Debussy: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, with Stephen Kovacevich (piano) Martha Argerich, piano Falla: Danse Espagnole No. 1 (from La Vida Breve) Danse Espagnole No. 2 (from La Vida Breve) Performed by Sergio Tiempo (piano), and Karin Lechner (piano) Mozart: Sonata for 2 pianos in D major, K448, performed by Martha Argerich (piano), Sergey Babayan (piano) Nisinman: Hombre Tango, performed by Ensemble ReEncuentros Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit, performed by Martha Argerich (piano) Piano Concerto in G major The annual Progetto Martha Argerich at the Lugano Festival, is well-established as one of the world’s most important music festivals. The latest installment of highlights from the Martha Argerich Project at the Lugano Festival, this is the 14th annual 3-CD set celebrating the musical fruits of a project in which young artists join seasoned performers, including Martha Argerich herself, to explore wide-ranging chamber music and orchestral repertoire, both well-known and rarely heard. The 15th annual festival, which ran from 7-30 June 2016, featured international soloists such as Nicholas Angelich, Stephen Kovacevich, and Renaud Capuçon as well as many of her young protégés, including Karin Lechner and Sergio Tiempo, and her daughter Lyda Chen. The festival also celebrated the occasion of Martha’s 75th birthday, and she features on many of the performances on this highlights collection, including Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major. Here is Ms. Argerich in the music of Bach:

On An Overgrown Path

August 30

My first classical record

Publication of the Ultimate Classic FM Chart and a subsequent Guardian article has sparked some useful debate about what Kate Molleson terms in her article 'gateway drugs to classical music'. This debate prompts me to republish an article I wrote back in 2005 titled 'My first classical record' which I have conflated with a relevant extract from an even earlier post about collaborative filtering. Too little attention is paid to how people 'get' classical music. I hope republishing these somewhat discursive pieces from a more innocent time of music blogging may prompt others to usefully share the experience of their first classical record. What was the first classical record you bought? Mine was an LP of Herbert von Karajan conducting Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony, the 'Pathetique', with the Berlin Philharmonic on Deutsche Grammophon 13892SLPM. I bought it in 1969 from a music shop in Reading where I was at University. The shop had listening booths with acoustic tiles, and it sold sheet music, musical instruments, and classical records. The LP is playing as I write. I have just serviced my Thorens TD125 turntable with SME arm (a capacitor in the motor control circuit blew after 30 years) seen below. The LP sound through my Arcam Alpha 10 amplifier and B & W Nautilus 803 speakers is magnificent, when the planets are aligned beneficially vinyl can still deliver a musicality that surpasses CD. (Thankfully I have kept my LP collection, and the surfaces are immaculate apart from the inevitable pressing blemishes). What overgrown path led me to buy that LP of the 'Pathetique'? Well, I can answer that question quite easily. Some years previously (1961?) I had been taken by my parents, while on holiday, to hear Tchaikovsky 6th played by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the Winter Gardens in Bournemouth. The conductor was a dynamic young Singaporean maestro Choo Hoey. (Googling for Choo Hoey pulls up references to a conductor active in the Far East, could this be the same one? - I must have seeen him more than forty years ago). Did that early hearing of Tchaikovsky 6 burn irreversible patterns into my neural networks a la Mozart Effect? Did the B minor key signature programme me towards an near obsession for Masses in minor keys in general, and Bach's masterpiece in particular? Was it that adiogio lamentoso last movement that inclined me towards the melancholic of the Four Temparaments? (Post coming up, time permitting, on a CD called the Four Temparaments - no not Carl Nielsen - it is an excellent new release from the innovative viol consort Phantasm, and it includes a setting for viols of the Byrd Four Part Mass!) Could it have been that brooding Siegfried Lauterwasser cover photograph of Karajan (this link gives an interesting perspective on Lauterwasser, who was HvK's 'court' photographer) that headed me towards a career that took me from the BBC, and then to EMI where I worked on some of Karajan's projects including his recording of Debussy's operatic masterpiece Pelleas et Melisande? That project summed up the Karajan conundrum completely, sublime music making and an odious personality. My favourite Karajan story is about when he was conducting at Bayreuth with Hans Knappertsbusch. There were just two lavatories at the end of a long corridor backstage. Karajan's personal secretary, it is said, put a notice on one, 'For the exclusive use of Herr Karajan'. An hour later a notice appeared on the other one written by Knappertsbusch, 'For all the other arseholes'. I was also involved with others in the Karajan circle. When Walter Legge died in 1979 I created an exhiibition at short notice for the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall in London. Legge's wife Elizabeth Schwarzkopf (below) viewed the exhibition before a Philharmonia Orchestra memorial concert, and complained to me that I had described Legge in the display as an 'entrepreneur.' Now I have often been wrong in my choice of words, but in that instance I am convinced I was dead right. But the path didn't just lead me to Karajan and his circle . My second LP was Bernard Haitink conducting the London Philharmonic in Holst's Planet Suite (A strange choice, the reading with its odd tempi has long since been deleted). Haitink resoundingly disproves the rule that you need an odious personality to be a great conductor. (And also Colin Davis - interesting he has no 'personal' web site, this is a quote from the article I've linked to.. I detest all that charisma stuff. It leads to unmusical things like the pursuit of power. The older I get, the more wary I am of power. It is a beastly ingredient in our society - he said that in 1990!). I lunched once with Haitink in the staff refectory at Glyndebourne to seek approval for the cover design of his recording of the Brahms Double Concerto with Perlman and Rostropovich (approval was given without a hint of the vanity and petulance cultivated by Riccardo Muti and others). In those days conductors had cover approval in their contracts, nowadays they have to start their own record labels to make a recording. While driving down to Glyndebourne I had been listening to Previn's first (and by far the best) recording of Walton's First Symphony on RCA. I suggested that Haitink looked at the score, and he subsequently recorded it for EMI. It wasn't a great commercial success, it was a lesson in leaving A & R planning to the professionals. (But I do remember suggesting that Previn recorded the Korngold Violin Concerto and Symphony in F sharp in the 1980s, only to be told he wouldn't touch film music. It is amazing how principles adapt to economics). Haitink later did go on to record a fine cycle of the Vaughan Williams symphonies for EMI after I left. I am always puzzled as to why this fine conductor never plays or records Sibelius. With his achievements recording Bruckner I have always thought Haitink would be a natural Sibelian. Just recently I've been interested, used, and worked on the peripheries of collaborative filtering. Amazon's recommendations are both maddening and very useful, and I have to say I've bought or borrowed from the library many recommendations. Most of my knowledge of, and passion for classical music has come from the serendipity of switching on BBC's Radio 3 before it was dumbed-down to the commercial benchmark. [This was written in 2004!, hearing a piece of music, and following that thread onwards. Like many I came to Mahler through the serendipidity of Visconti's Death in Venice in the early-70's, a serendipity aided and abetted by the Mahlerian style being digestible by a graduate who had been living with the Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and the Moody Blues for a few years. That's why I'm interested in musicplasma which I mentioned in an early post, it offers spontaneous links from one musician to another. My dream is to be able to work back from a CD and produce a map of every thread that led me to play it, every piece of music on route, and most importantly every fork that I took to reach it, and equally importantly the forks that I didn't take. I selfishly think that recreating even parts of that route may lead readers to similar delights and discoveries to those that fill my days with sunshine. Article first published on April 1, 2005. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Now also on Facebook and Twitter.




Classical iconoclast

August 17

Adventures in exotic worlds - Cédric Tiberghien, François-Xavier Roth Prom

Adventures in exotic worlds ! A vibrant Prom, with François-Xavier Roth, Cédric Tiberghien, and Les Siècles, in an unusually stimulating programme of music by Saint-Saëns  Délibes, Lalo, and César Franck. The French fascination with exoticism wasn't mere decoration. By absorbing alien sounds and values, French composers were able to explore new ideas.  developing a genuinely original synthesis which would transform the French aesthetic. From the expansive worldview of Louis XIV to Rameau, to Debussy and beyond  -  limitless exploration of new horizons and ideas The music of Saint-Saëns is currently enjoying a revival.  François-Xavier Roth is a Saint-Saëns specialist - his father is the organist Daniel Roth - so it was good to hear the overture from Saint-Saëns' opera La princess Jaune op 30 (1872).  In this opera, a young man called Kornélis is obsessed with things Japanese. He experiments with opium and is transported to a fantasy land with a "Yellow Princess". Although the piece is entirely western,  Saint-Saëns shows an awareness of alien form quite remarkable in that the opera was written only two years after the World Exposition at Paris sensationally brought Asia to the West.  Recently, Roth conducted Saint-Saëns Le timbre d'argent written at about the same time as La Princess Jaune. a joint production between  l'Opéra-Comique, Paris and Palazetto Bru-Zane. (please read more about Le timbre d'argent HERE).  From Délibes Lakmé,  not The Bell Song which is so famous that it's even used on TV ads, but some of the ballet music.  It's possible that Délibes had an inkling of what Indian wind instruments may have sounded like, for the flute solo is decidedly un-western.  It's significant, too, that this was written for dancers, giving a firm rhythmic structure to the piece. Roth has conducted Saint-Saëns' Concerto for piano and orchestra no 5  (The "Eygptian"), numerous times with different orchestras, but hearing it here with Les Siècles and Cédric Tiberghien, also a passionate advocate of the piece, was a special occasion, made even more unique by the use of a period piano, an 1899 Bechstein, with a remarkably agile, almost bell-like voice. As Tiberghien says in the BBC Radio 3 rebroadcast, in this piece a modern concert grand would sound "ugly".  Certainly, this performance revealed the fragile beauty in the piece which is so  important to interpretation. Although it was written in Luxor, where the composer went on holiday, it is fundamentally an example of Belle Époque syncretism : Fantasy Egypt, not reality, an Egypt where the present is coloured by dreams of the past.  For men of Saint-Saëns' generation, European civilization was the height of progress, and that civilization encompassed the world.  Napoleon's conquest of Egypt differed from the British conquest of India, just as French and British colonialism followed different models.  The difference between French and British attitudes to colonialism affected music history : much more integration on many levels between the colonies and metropolitan France. Ultimately, Saint-Saëns' Piano concerto no.5 is not picturesque, and not "light music" to be kitsched out with fake palms and camels. It's a work of  bold musical inventiveness and originality.  Tiberghien faced the fearsome technical challenges : arpeggios flew with faultless confidence and elegance, making the frequent changes of imagery flow naturally, like the Nile Delta, with its confluent tributaries, building up a panorama of great richness and detail.  Vaguely Arabic motifs blend into harmonies that are "modern" and European. Thundering passages suggest constant flux,with swirling diminuendos and passages of flamboyant brilliance. Nothing backward here, though the references may come from things remembered. This is where the period piano and orchestra proved their value.  Saint-Saëns' Piano concerto no.5  isn't "about" Eygpt but about the experience of being in  place where you're only in temporary sojourn : tourists enjoying luxury, dreaming of a past that colours the present.   Hence the idea of fragility, so beautifully evoked in this lively yet delicate performance. The pyramids are evidence that even great pharoahs aren't immortal (except in legend). All too soon, the tourist will be gone,  notice the brisk, no nonsense ending!  Back to daily reality.Tiberghien   made the piano sing, almost like an Arabic string instrument, its plaintive voice much more in keeping with the flutes and other winds, and the horns and trumpets.  This piano wasn't a heavy-handed colonial barking orders at the natives, but one prepared to speak to the orchestra in terms of respect and familiarity.  A truly exquisite performance, spakling with light, but with great depths of insight. Tiberghien's encore solo was the Debussy Prelude for piano La Puerta del Vino L123/3, a reverie on Moorish Spain, nicely hushed and intimate.  Then, making the most of this unique combination of period piano and orchestra, the Prom continued with César Franck Les Djinns inspired by a poem by Victor Hugo about supernatural spirits in an Islamic fantasy.  Elaborate figures in the piano part, matched by inventiveness in the orchestral writing.  A strong sense of movement, the piano moving in and out from the orchestra, suggesting the sound of bells. Are the Djinns flying amongst clouds ? We use our imaginations and wonder. Namouna (Suites Nos. 1 and 2) (1881) comes from Lalo's ballet based on a poem by Alfred de Musset.  More supernatural spirits in Near Eastern fantasy !  Here, Roth and Les Siècles demonstrated the variety of their instruments.  Each of the ten sections depicts a scene, coloured by different sounds. Three sets of percussion - the "bass" with large side drum, the "baritone" with  wider, flat drums and the "tenor" beating a tambour whose sound can be adjusted by tightening the strings that hold the leather to the wood.   Timpani are thrilling, but these very individualistic voices sing with a warmer, more subtle tone. Plus they don't blast away other instruments, At one point the sound of a triangle rang out loud and clear.  Then to the blockbuster : the Bacchanal from Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila   so theatrically exotic and so famous that it's become synonymous with "oriental" music  in popular culture. What energy and what fun ! Ideally suited to Roth's sense of humour. Roth's a born communicator, who has been known to sing to his audience! (read more here), and often speaks to them.    When the Orchestra of SWR Freiburg Baden Baden was on the point of being disbanded, Roth made an impassioned speech at the 2015 Proms  in support of his players and the orchestra's traditions. This time he spoke about this Proms programme and the way music can break down walls between cultures. And thus the encore, a French arrangement (by Felix Roth, son of the conductor) of Get Lucky a song about America by Daft Punk with castanets and maracas, sassy and breezy and full of fun.

Classical iconoclast

August 15

Bubbling brew : Turnage Hibiki, Prom Ravel Debussy Kazushi Ono

Mark-Anthony Turnage Hibiki (2014) at the BBC Proms, with Kazushi Ono and the BBC SO, Sally Matthews, Mihoko Fujimura, the New London Children's Choir and the Finchley Music Group, preceded by Debussy and Ravel Piano Concerto in G major with Inon Barnatan, so beautifully played that even someone like me, more into voice and orchestra, could throroughly enjoy. . Ono conducted the premiere of Turnage's Hibiki in Tokyo in December 2016 with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra of which is is Music Director.  Hibiki is a substantial work for large orchestra, two soloists and childrens' choir. According to the publishers Boosey & Hawkes, it "offers consolation after loss – whether from war, earthquake or tsunami". That's a tall order, almost impossible to fulfill.  Consolation is trivial band aid in the face of such extreme horror.   It's meaningless unless we reflect on the causes of catastrophe and resolve that such things should never, as far as possible, happen again. Numerous Japanese writers, composers, film makers and artists have reflected and examined the issues arising from war and nuclear annihilation.  Indeed, you probably can't be an East Asian  intellectual and not ponder 150 years of war and traumatic social change, not only in Japan but in China and the rest of Asia.  Masao Ohki's Hiroshima Symphony, written only 7 years after the bombs fell, is graphically descriptive (read more here) . Ikuma Dan's Hiroshima Symphony (1985) is even more sophisticated.  It's an important piece of world significance. Please read more here) There's no reason why western composers shouldn't engage with these subjects. We're all part of humanity.  But it's difficult to approach specifically Japanese aspects without an understanding of the cultural, social and historical background.  Mark-Anthony Turnage is good on music with social conscience. Once I got over the shock value of Anna Nicole, I grew to love its insights into consumer obsessed society and the degradation of those who buy into the scam. Read more HERE  But Anna Nicole is a western icon, and Turnage likes Americana. That doesn't necessarily mean he can't write about other cultures, but I'm not sure how to take Hibiki. Does it penetrate much beneath the surface ? Is it enough to address the many long term implications of Fukushima simply by repeating the name over and over ? I'm no composer but I'd rather that the music itself spoke, not the words.  No disrespect to Turnage. Benjamin Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem had so little to do with Japan that he really should not have compromised himself by taking the money.  It would probably take a Beethoven or Bach to write something truly transcendant. "Consolation" isn't enough. Kazushi Ono did Turnage's Hibiki more than justice. From the BBCSO he drew some very committed playing. They don't do as much Turnage as they should and this is a bit more than typical Turnage, so all honours to them.  Hibiki unfolds over seven sections, like a postcard book..  But Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn't actually lead to Tohoku or the Tsumai or to Fukushima.  Natural disasters aren't man made or specific to any one country.  Nuclear power on its own isn't evil, it's misused and abused. As anyone who's ever watched Japanese movies should know.  See my piece on Godzilla and the Tsunami,  The seven parts together don't cohere. This weakens the impact of the whole and undercuts the claim that it's an act of consolation.  Wisely, Ono marked the breaks with long silences, so each section can be heard alone, without a thread.  Unfortunately, this year's Proms audiences are obsessed with clapping any chance they get. They don't care enough about music to pay attention and listen. The first two sections are named after Iwate and Miyaga, two of the areas hit by the 2011 Tsunami.  Blocks of sound bubble in the first movement, in jerky ostinato with nice jazzy trumpet calls, high pitched winds and swathes of strings. Oddly cheerful ! A long ominous wail marks the start of the second section, suggesting perhaps the flow of the waves rolling onto land. No-one will ever forget the footage caught on film or the frightening silence, broken only by crushing debris.  The timpani pound, brasses wail and the orchestra plays a long line of multiple fragments and layers.  Fearsome growls and the sound of a bell.   There certainly is scope for a piece in which music could translate the idea of multiple fragments and layers of density, flowing and churning in different sequence, but Turnage can't develop the concept in the space of a few minutes.   . The third section "Running" represents a poem "Mother Burning" by Sou Sakon which describes the poet running from flames. But the mother, foillowing behind, is engulfed.  Rapid fragments of words and sound, the two soloists singing lines that intersect rather than connect.  Turnage's thing for percussion and screaming brass used to good effect, the vocal lines more choppily employed : but that;s what happens when you're running for your life and can't take long breaths.  The childrens choirs sing an adaptation of a Japanese children's song similar to "Twinkle, twinkle Little Star" Thee English accents of the young singers, singing in Japanese, add a surreal touch, more poignant than if they were singing in a language they'd normally speak.  The melody is taken up by the mezzo, Mihoku Fujimura, a much welcome regular visitor to the UK.  Suntory Dance , the central movement, makes a striking diversion from the threnodies before and after.  It's also the best section, so good that it could act as a stand alone concert piece.  Here, Turnage's facility for strong brass and percussion comes to the fore : quirky, wayward rhythms, angular blocks and more busy, bubbling figures from which the idea of "dance" might come.  I don't know why "Suntory", which is the name of the concert hall and of the company that financed it.  They brew alcohol, and one of their big brands is named Hibiki, "Japanese Harmony". The piece is so lively that it could be an  anthem for the company, used in encores and social occasions. So much for the BBC translation that Hibiki just  "beautiful sound". After this interlude, darkness returns. Brooding timpani and moaning brass, string lines shining with metallic edge. Lovely woodwind passages: Fujimura sings lines from texts from Monzaemon Chikamatsu’s The Love Suicides at Sonezaki, a  Bunraku drama from 1703. it's such a classic that it's been adapted for cinema , its tale of doomed love a recurrent meme, though what connection this has to Hiroshima or to the Tsunami, I don't know.  Much has been made in the publicity material for Tyurnage;'s Hibiki about the Mahler connection, but frankly I cannot hear any resemblance. Das Lied von der Erde,.  But the real subject of Das Lied von der Erde is Mahler himself, and his metaphysics  The orientalism in that piece reflects the original poems Mahler used and adapted for his own purposes. And in any case, they weren't Japanese but Chinese.  No doubt much will be made of this in the media by those who don't really know Das Lied von der Erde.  Double dose cultural appropriation. The final section, for orchestra and children's voices, is swirling abstraction, the word "Fukushima" repeated, almost mechanically.  Turnage's Hibiki is good listening but it  doesn't really hold together. The parts are greater than the sum, aside from the vivacious Suntory Dance.   It's not nearly near the level of Turnage's Remembering : in memoriam Evan Scofield, a work of genuine sincerity. (Read more about that HERE)



Tribuna musical

August 9

Festival Barenboim en Buenos Aires: Primera parte

Conocí los valores de Daniel Barenboim ya desde su adolescencia y festejé que tras un amplio período de ausencia (provocado por haber decidido no presentarse cuando lo convocaron para el servicio militar y en consecuencia ser considerado desertor; tras largas gestiones se lo disculpó) volviera convocado por el Mozarteum al frente de la Orquesta de París en 1980. De allí en más volvió como pianista o como director para esa institución en 1989, 1995 (con la Staatskapelle de Berlín, de la que es director vitalicio), 2.000 (con la Sinfónica de Chicago, habiendo sucedido a Solti), 2002 (ciclo completo de las sonatas de Beethoven compartido entre el Mozarteum y el Colón), 2004, 2005 (primera visita de la Orquesta West-Eastern Divan), 2008 (con la Staatskapelle y fuera del Colón, en restauración) y 2010. Todo esto antes de sus Festivales.             Por otro lado, escuché a Martha Argerich a partir de 1965; hasta 1970 la pude apreciar en nueve conciertos en Buenos Aires y uno en Praga, donde luego compartí un souper con ella, Dutoit (entonces su marido) y Antonio Pini, gran amigo con quien luego trabajé en 1973 cuando fue nombrado Director Artístico del Colón (fue echado en Agosto por Jacovella, Krieger y Zubillaga). 1965 fue el primer año de mi revista y le hice una entrevista; tanto en esa como en el souper la encontré espontánea, simpática, bella y ajena a todo divismo. Vinieron luego años en los que no quiso volver debido a la dictadura, pero eventualmente le pasó lo mismo que a Barenboim; los recuerdos de infancia y de juventud hicieron que ella, cuya popularidad mundial era inmensa, quisiera acercarse a sus raíces, e influida por su amigo el pianista Hubert, surgió la idea de hacer en Buenos Aires Festivales Argerich semejantes a los que había armado en otros lados. Martha, personalidad gregaria con una multitud de amigos músicos, y única entre los grandes pianistas, para entonces tocando sólo cámara o con orquesta, presentó su primer Festival en 1999 incluyendo un Concurso Internacional (donde integré el jurado de selección, convocado por su gran amiga María Rosa Oubiña de Castro). Siguieron los Festivales hasta 2005, cuando fue ignominiosamente echada por la Orquesta Filarmónica; naturalmente esto provocó un hiato en su presencia en nuestra ciudad. Pero años después, tras una transición donde actuó en Rosario invitada por músicos amigos, supo García Caffi del acercamiento entre ella y Barenboim y se logró convencerla que retornara, y así los Festivales Barenboim la tuvieron como muy especial gran figura en varios años recientes, con enorme repercusión. foto: Arnaldo Corombaroli             Curiosamente, el amplio programa de mano incluye biografías de ella, de Barenboim y de la WEDO (West-Eastern Divan Orchestra), pero no hace referencia a los festivales Barenboim. La primera condición de un crítico es no cegarse, y debo decir que la gigantesca carrera de este artista excepcional no implica que sus decisiones sean siempre correctas, y hubo a veces altibajos. Como hice notar en el Herald, no quedé contento con el Festival del año pasado, donde sólo tres de los seis conciertos me parecieron a la altura, sobre todo teniendo en cuenta su alto costo. Este año son cuatro los conciertos del festival, y están mucho más equilibrados. Claro está que Barenboim sigue siendo un “workaholic” (obsesionado por el trabajo intenso), y con repeticiones en funciones no de abono sino extraordinarias, más dos para el Mozarteum (que siempre lo contrató paralelamente a los festivales, y que el Colón no se digna mencionarlo en su gacetilla semanal pese a que los conciertos se hacen allí), más la mala idea de un concierto al aire libre en la Plaza Vaticano, gratis (que se hubiera podido frustrar por mal tiempo y al que no fui), Barenboim participó en nueve conciertos en diez días (y Argerich en cinco, en cinco días). No hubo esta vez charlas de reflexión con Felipe González (curioso addendum en un festival musical).  Y mi mujer, enclaustrada en nuestro departamento por un problema de salud, sufrió los problemas del streaming: dos anunciados pero no emitidos, y uno donde toda la primera parte tuvo el sonido desfasado: si tan mal dominan el tema, mejor no hacerlo.             Barenboim ofreció una conferencia de prensa el lunes anterior al sábado en el que empezó el festival, en el Salón Blanco del Colón. Estuve allí y sólo quiero mencionar algunas cosas. Por supuesto, se desarrolló con la inteligencia de un músico pensante y abarcador. Ante todo, algunas noticias importantes: a)      En el Festival del año próximo no vendrán ni Argerich ni la WEDO. En cambio, la Orquesta de la Staatsoper Berlin retornará y será orquesta de foso en “Tristán e Isolda” de Wagner (no sólo para el festival sino también para la temporada lírica), pero además dará conciertos. b)      Para 2019 volverá Argerich para festejar los 70 años de su primer concierto en el Colón. Y para 2020, cuando Barenboim tenga 78 años, hará lo propio con su primer concierto en el Colón. Y unas frases interesantes: Martha parece sólo intuitiva pero no lo es; Nadia Boulanger decía: hay que llenar la estructura con emoción y viceversa; refiriéndose al Festival: yo me ocupo del por supuesto, Diemecke del presupuesto…; ante una pregunta de Varacalli, defiende la gran calidad de las sinfonías de Elgar; para él el mejor beethoveniano fue Arrau; no hay un sentimiento europeo ahora, no hay cultura común ni suficiente educación; siempre se habla de los derechos humanos;¿y las responsabilidades?; la nueva sala redonda de Berlín logra una gran unidad comunitaria.             En este artículo me referiré a los dos primeros conciertos del Festival (los cuatro sería demasiado largo).      PRIMER CONCIERTO             El año próximo se conmemora el centenario del fallecimiento de Debussy, pero como no vendrá Argerich, decidieron hacerle un homenaje anticipado con un programa todo Debussy, con obras originales para dos pianos y piano a cuatro manos pero también con transcripciones de obras orquestales del creador francés y una curiosidad, la que hizo de la obertura “El Holandés errante” de Wagner. El resultado me resultó variable, ya que esta última es un trabajo mediocre de transcripción; un tipo de tarea que Liszt hacía mucho mejor. Y además distó de ser perfecta la ejecución (sí, hasta con los grandes pasa).             Creo que ambos tocaron en pianos Barenboim, de los cuales no estoy del todo convencido, sobre todo en graves (me suenan borrosos) y agudos (demasiado faltos de cuerpo), aunque en las octavas centrales los timbres me resultan mucho más gratos, sobre todo cuando se requiere transparencia. El dato no está en el programa pero no me sonaron a los pianos habituales. foto: Arnaldo Corombaroli             Pero con los refinados y tardíos Seis Epígrafes Antiguos (cuatro manos) volvió la magia de estos intérpretes excepcionales, tocando con una sutileza y un buen gusto que valorizaron cada fragmento al máximo. Y fueron extraordinarios en la obra para dos pianos “En blanco y negro”, también de 1915, la época de los Doce estudios y de un estilo más seco, menos impresionista, impactado por la guerra; esta música a veces áspera y muy virtuosística tuvo una versión ideal.             La breve y raramente ejecutada “Lindaraja” (1901) inició la Segunda Parte; dominada por un motivo exótico, con ostinatos y ritmos hispánicos, fue cabalmente ejecutada. Luego, y aunque la transcripción es fina y elegante, extrañé el sonido de la flauta durante el “Preludio a la siesta de un fauno”, por más que la melodía fuera moldeada admirablemente por Barenboim y Argerich diera el máximo color a los acompañamientos. Y finalmente, el fantástico mundo de “La Mer”, nuevamente en una notable transcripción muy difícil e intrincada,  para dos pianos, pero yo escuchaba en mi mente la miríada de colores de la orquesta.  Los pianistas lograron una notable versión.             Lamenté que haya tres transcripciones, ya que se hubieran podido escuchar de Debussy la muy temprana  Sinfonía para dos pianos en un movimiento, o la Balada para piano a cuatro manos, y también a cuatro manos, la Pequeña Suite. O la Marcha Escocesa para cuatro manos, que luego orquestó.             La inesperada yapa fue el Bailecito de Guastavino, tocado con nostalgia y refinamiento por estos dos veteranos y talentosos argentinos. En todo el programa, ella intuitiva e imaginativa, de impresionante naturalidad y facilidad, él siempre estructurado y claro; pero estos temperamentos diferentes saben amalgamarse, más allá de algún detalle no del todo exacto.                                                 SEGUNDO CONCIERTO             Fue valioso el concierto de la WEDO, pero no por Argerich sino por las dúctiles y sensitivas versiones de dos espléndidas obras de Ravel y por  lograr resolver satisfactoriamente las tremendas vallas de las Tres Piezas de Berg.  No está de más recordar que la WEDO no es una orquesta estable, sino que se reúne anualmente durante el verano europeo para ensayar desde su sede andaluza y luego dar conciertos en distintos lugares. Sigue formada por artistas israelíes y palestinos, más algunos otros de países árabes y cierta cantidad de españoles, y siendo una orquesta que pone el acento en artistas jóvenes, renueva parcialmente sus filas cada año. Muchos de ellos  forman parte de otras orquestas durante el resto del año.  Y bajo la égida firme pero afectuosa de Barenboim logran un espíritu de compañerismo que aleja las diferencias de la política. Son un símbolo de la convivencia y de la paz pero también han logrado una calidad que los lleva al Festival de Salzburgo. foto: Arnaldo Corombaroli             En “Le Tombeau de Couperin” el sentido de la palabra “tombeau” no es “tumba” sino “homenaje”, ya que así se usaba el término en el siglo XVIII. El original de la obra raveliana es para piano y consta de seis fragmentos, pero la orquestación conservó sólo cuatro, de una exquisita factura y poder de evocación. Una orquesta liviana y transparente manejada con mano sutil por Barenboim y con solos de una belleza poco común en manos del oboísta. Y aquí una queja: como en otros años, no hay nómina de la orquesta, de modo que uno aplaude a  anónimos cuando el director los invita a pararse para recibir el aplauso del público. Dan (no oficialmente) un motivo de seguridad (quizá ligado a presuntas represalias contra sus familias si no están de acuerdo ciertos grupos acérrimos con las ideas pacíficas de Barenboim) pero también podría ocurrir que el público esté en riesgo, ya que ir a verlos es un tácito sí a ese ideal. Y bien, el mundo de hoy es peligroso, pero anonimizar a artistas no me parece justo hacia sus carreras. Sobre todo cuando, como ocurrió el año pasado, hubo ese concierto de música árabe que identificaba a todos los que tocaban: ¿seguridad para algunos pero no para otros?             Hace diez años Argerich tocó el Concierto Nº1 de Shostakovich en su último Festival, que se hizo en el Gran Rex, y estuve en desacuerdo con su interpretación; ella no cambió y yo tampoco. Conozco muy bien ese concierto y tengo tres grabaciones: todas respetan los tempi marcados por el autor, pero no Argerich, que convierte al Allegro moderato en un Allegro Molto en dos cruciales puntos de la obra y causa aprietos en la orquesta de cuerdas y en el trompeta solista que la acompaña en ciertos momentos. Es increíble que a sus 76 años pueda tocar con  tan asombrosa soltura y exactitud a esas velocidades vertiginosas, pero cambia el sentido de la obra; además, como es capaz de producir un volumen no menos asombroso, relegó a las cuerdas, que incluso con un director como Barenboim sonaron como un lejano y endeble acompañamiento. Quien merece un aplauso especial es el trompetista Bassam Massud, que tocó admirablemente, afinado y a ritmo; no fue identificado en el programa pero el colega Pablo Gianera obtuvo el dato y lo publicó en La Nación.             Se sabe de la reticencia de Argerich a tocar sola, de modo que Barenboim se unió en la pieza extra (mal llamada aquí bis) para ejecutar a cuatro manos el fragmento final de la obra que iniciaría la Segunda Parte, la Suite de “Ma Mère l´Oye”, “Le jardin féérique” (“El jardín feérico”), interpretado con luminosa claridad por los pianistas.             La Segunda Parte nos regaló la referida Suite en sus cinco fragmentos, detallados con refinamiento e impecable gusto por un director que no en vano fue el titular de la Orquesta de París durante muchos años,  que sabe llegar al fortissimo sin violencia y dar matices instrumentales impresionistas. Y su orquesta, que nada tiene de francesa, lo pareció.             Pero lo importante no sólo de este concierto sino del Festival fue la segunda ejecución en Buenos Aires de una esencial obra de la Segunda Escuela de Viena: las Tres piezas op.6 de Alban Berg, sólo ejecutadas hará unas cuatro décadas (no tengo el dato exacto) en un fabuloso concierto de la Orquesta de Cleveland dirigida por Lorin Maazel para el Mozarteum en el Colón que además incluyó otro estreno local, nada menos que “Three places in New England” de Charles Ives.  Sólo Alejo Pérez dirigiendo a la Orquesta del Teatro Argentino en La Plata se les animó: ni la Sinfónica Nacional ni la Orquesta Filarmónica de Buenos Aires las tocaron. Dí este dato a Barenboim en la conferencia de prensa con Diemecke presente. foto: Arnaldo Corombaroli              Berg las escribió entre 1913 y 1915, y retocó la orquestación en 1923 y 1930. Si bien sólo conozco la versión definitiva, no me cabe duda de sus tremendas innovaciones y apabullante dificultad. Hay en ellas un evidente homenaje a las Cinco piezas de su maestro Schönberg y a los famosos martillazos del último movimiento de la Sexta de Mahler, pero mucho más es sólo de Berg, en una partitura densísima y fuertemente expresionista. El Präludium nace y muere en el mero ruido pero en sus cinco minutos hay una superposición de timbres y de instrumentos y se necesita coordinar temas, motivos y ritmos. Sigue “Reigen” (“Rondas”, seis minutos), muy variado en sus texturas y que incluye un vals “a la Berg”. Y finaliza con “Marsch”, casi diez minutos, la más ardua marcha que yo conozca, como la describe Boulez “una casi demente intoxicación del gesto dramático” que llega a un climax de extremo poder. Sólo una orquesta de calidad preparada por un experto convencido puede hacerle justicia a una obra de tanta complejidad e impacto emocional que parece escrita ayer, y ello tras muy intensos ensayos. Y eso es lo que supieron plasmar Barenboim y la WEDO. Mientras la escuchaba me surgían imágenes de Edvard Munch o de Egon Schiele, pintores de la angustia existencial. Por supuesto, tras esta música no cabe tocar nada más.  Pablo Bardin

My Classical Notes

August 8

Performed by Piano Duet

Musical compositions for piano duet certainly exist, yet they are limited. As such, some performers have resorted to arranging colorful and rich orchestral works to be performed by duo pianos. Let me share with you one such new recording today: “Colors” brings us the following selections: Debussy: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune La Mer Strauss, Richard: Salome: Dance of the Seven Veils Der Rosenkavalier: Waltzes Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op. 28 All of the above works arr. for piano duet and performed by Tal and Groethuysen (piano duet) The piano duo Tal & Groethuysen has thrilled classical music audiences for more than 30 years. They have received innumerable accolades worldwide for their recordings with Sony Classical, including five ECHO Klassik Music Awards, nine German Record Critics’ Prizes, and the Cannes Classical Award. They have recorded Debussy’s famous orchestral works Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and La Mer in four-hand versions full of evocative colour, the first arranged by the composer himself and the second in a reduction for four hands by André Caplet. The duo also chose works by Richard Strauss for this album: the “Dance of the Seven Veils” from the opera Salome and the “Waltz Sequence” from the “Rosenkavalier” in arrangements by Johannes Doebber and Victor Babin. They have also recorded the famous symphonic poem Till Eulenspiegel by Strauss arranged for four hands by Otto Singer. A fascinating recording presenting well-known romantic pieces in amazing arrangements, allowing them to be heard in a new light. Here are the piano duo Tal & Groethuysen in the music of Brahms:

Claude Debussy
(1862 – 1918)

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.



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Piano Clair De Lune Twilight Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun La Mer Impressionism

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