Monday, January 23, 2017
Pianist Lise de la Salle is one of my favorite pianists, and I do not listen to her play nearly enough. However…. I just came across a new recording by her that I would like to share with you: Rachmaninov: Piano Trios Rachmaninov: Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor, Op. post. Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D minor, Op. 9 Performed by Lise de la Salle (piano), Bartlomiej Niziol (violin), and Claudius Herrmann (cello) It was in devastation at the sudden death of his champion, idol and close friend Tchaikovsky that Sergei Rachmaninov wrote his Trio élégiaque No. 2 (op. 9) for piano, violin and cello in 1893. The work still clearly shows the young composer’s early artistic influences, while also featuring many of the key elements of his later masterly creations. As artist-in-residence with the Philharmonia Zurich, French pianist Lise de la Salle has already performed and recorded works by Rachmaninov for piano and orchestra, the latter on Philharmonia Records in 2015. She now follows this up with a studio recording of his Trio élégiaque No. 2 together with its smaller brother, Trio élégiaque No. 1. De la Salle interprets these rarely-recorded chamber music pieces together with Bartlomiej Niziol, first concertmaster and Claudius Herrmann, solo cellist of the Philharmonia Zurich. Here is Ms. de la Salle, playing the Prelude Op. 23 number 7 by Rachmaninov:
Jennifer Davis as Ines in Il trovatore, The Royal Opera © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Catherine Ashmore ‘Live acoustic sound does something special to humans. It just hits you. The mix of the orchestra playing incredible music with voices soaring over the top – no other art form gives you that. That’s why opera has such diehard fans, it’s raw emotion.’ As far as diehard fans are concerned, it’s clear that Irish soprano Jennifer Davis is one of them – as emphatic about watching an opera as she is about performing in one. As a Jette Parker Young Artist at the start of her career, Davis stares wide-eyed at the huge repertory that stands before her as a lyric soprano, eager to lap up all the learning she can while being at the Royal Opera House. Davis has recently finished performing the role of Ines in David Bösch ’s Il trovatore and has been inspired by working with the talented cast. ‘When you’re up close, standing next to someone who is ten or twenty years ahead of you in terms of career, you learn so much from watching how they work,’ reveals Davis. ‘This cast is phenomenal. There isn’t anything like hearing that sound from another human being, so close up. It’s other-worldly.’ Jennifer Davis as Ifigenia in Oreste, The Royal Opera and Jette Parker Young Artists © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Clive Barda Despite coming to the art form late, Davis has flourished during her time as an opera singer. Hailing from Tipperary, she grew up in a musical family but never intended to make her hobby her vocation. Her mother was a singing teacher, who once passed up the opportunity to audition at the Royal Opera House. ‘My mother has an incredible voice, but she wanted to have a family and teach. In the 1970s, travelling was more difficult and combining a family and a career as an opera singer was much harder.’ Much to her mother’s delight, Davis did decide to veer towards the stage, making the change after graduating from University College Dublin with a degree in English Literature, when she applied for a Masters in Singing at DIT’s Conservatory of Music and Drama . At that point, opera was as foreign to her as the many languages she’d be required to learn – but mastering Russian, German, French and Italian opened up a whole new way for the soprano to explore emotion. ‘Through another language you find a different kind of expression, it’s something quite remarkable. I’ve found Russian to be the most beautifully expressive language, containing such specific words for relaying emotions, and I wouldn’t have ever known that if I hadn’t learnt to sing it,’ she says. Davis’s love of literature has put her in good stead; of all the heroines in the repertory, she sees herself to be most like the bookworm Tatiana in Tchaikovsky ’s Eugine Onegin – an opera adapted from the novel by Alexander Pushkin . ‘I read a lot and I think that informs me as a performer. I think you’re more open to directors and speaking about different characters if you have a big frame of reference. I believe we are singing actresses,’ she says. Jennifer Davis, Gweneth-Ann Rand, Lucy Schaufer, Emily Edmonds and Clare Presland in 4.48 Psychosis © ROH 2016. Photograph by Stephen Cummiskey This love of literature and languages no doubt stands her in good stead for her role in Les Enfants Terribles , the upcoming production of Philip Glass ’s dance-opera, based on the French novel by Jean Cocteau. ‘It’s very wordy,' she explains. 'Usually you have a melody or a structure that’s easy to remember, but it’s not written that way. Every line is different so the work sounds very spontaneous and conversational.' 'The human voice singing at that level of virtuosity is utterly thrilling,' she adds, 'And we are the catalysts for the audience to feel these exciting highs and lows of human existence; you’ll learn something, you’ll question life – which is what great art does.’ And to those who say opera isn’t for them – Davis offers a simple resolution. ‘Just come and see one – it feeds your soul, especially when there’s so much unrest and uncertainty. To do something that’s going to make you come back feeling a bit better - you can’t put a price on that.’ Il trovatore runs 1 December 2016-8 February 2017 (now with Young Artist Francesca Chiejina singing Ines). Tickets are still available . The production is a co-production with Frankfurt Opera and is staged with generous philanthropic support from the Royal Opera House Endowment Fund. Les Enfants terribles runs 27 January – 29 January 2017 at Barbican Theatre. Tickets are available on the Barbican website . Davis will also perform in the Jette Parker Young Artists Lunchtime Recital on 13 February 2017 at 1pm at the Swiss Church in Endell Street. Find out more here .
"From today’s perspective, Tchaikovsky’s musical ideas—whether in the guise of symphonic bombast, or as a buoyant backdrop for dancing fairies and frolicking snowflakes—can seem like quaint artifacts. Why, then, do audiences still clamor for this composer?"
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Petrenko (Onyx) (2 CDs)The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and their Russian chief conductor Vasily Petrenko have an instinctive rapport, audible in the electrifying first volume in this series (Symphonies 1, 2, 5). It’s evident again here, importantly in the much-loved No 6 (“Pathetique”). From the soulful opening bassoon solo, warm strings and alert woodwind detail, this is a reading of depth and passion rather than surface angst. No 4 blazes, the RLPO brass in glowing form. The “Polish” No 3, with its constant answering phrases and sudden flowing melodies, is as satisfying as this slightly lopsided five-movement symphony can be. The lovely second movement, Alla tedesca, flutes nimble, cellos ardent, perfectly captures a mood of carefree rapture – rare in Tchaikovsky but all the more rewarding for it. Continue reading...
By the time to read this the season will be over. So here are the parting shots divided in two articles each covering five events. A Monday benefit concert provided the unexpected pleasure of witnessing a piano recital by one of the remaining great veterans: the Brazilian Nelson Freire, an old friend of this theatre, in his middle seventies still a redoubtable virtuoso of magnificent technique and style. Presented by Dar Cultura, Fundación de Acción Social de Jabad, Freire gave a masterclass, so to speak, in his traversals of two fundamental Nineteenth Century Sonatas: Brahms´ Third, Op.5, and Chopin´s Second, Op.58. The Sonatas were played with scrupulous respect for the composers´ indications, readings of marvelous continuity, tonal beauty and control, which revealed the transcendent quality of both composers at their best. Before Brahms, some Bach (an Organ Prelude) arranged by Siloti; and before Chopin, Freire´s ideal way with the music of Villalobos: the beautiful Prelude from Bachianas Brasileiras Nº4 and three pieces from "A prole do bebé" ("The baby´s family"). Encores: a lovely performance of an especially expressive Chopin Mazurka (Op.17/4) and a brilliant one of Grieg´s "Wedding Day in Troldhaugen", one of his most joyous pieces (he lived there). The penultimate concert (Nº 14) of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic was one of the best. We had the revelation of a talented conductor, Carl St Clair, and the best Argentine pianist of his generation, Nelson Goerner, playing Tchaikovsky´s First concerto with amazing firmness. St Clair is a Texan disciple of Bernstein and in his early sixties (I believe) he conducts with the intensity and concentration of his mentor. His career has had two very different high points: Principal Conductor in Weimar and in Berlin´s Komische Oper; and for twenty years the PC of the Pacific Symphony; plus guest conductor with a host of first-rank orchestras. And he has recorded all the Villalobos symphonies. He started with what may be a local première, Bernstein´s "Slava!", subtitled "a political overture", a 4-minute dazzling homage to the composer´s great friend nicknamed Slava, cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, revered here in both capacities. Why political? Because his being named PC of Washington´s National Symphony was a way to recognize both his musical talent and courageous anti-Stalin attitude; and at the time the Cold War was still on. St Clair made the Phil sound like a top rank USA orchestra. Goerner, as unassuming and non-charismatic as ever, played a supervirtuoso concert with such aplomb and exactness that one could only hear open-mouthed at such a display, always very musical; in some passages the only thing lacking for perfection was the mercurial hobgoblin touch of Argerich. And St Clair galvanizing the Phil to offer Goerner the right give-and-take and rhythmic strength he needed to shine as he did. The encore was a beautiful performance of Chopin´s Nocturne Nº15, Op.55/1. St Clair talked to the audience after the interval, an impassioned defense of Shostakovich´s Tenth Symphony as the expression of his pent-up suffering during the Stalin years. And the conductor then proceeded to prove it with an enormously concentrated and beautifully played performance of what is arguably the composer´s most important symphony. The impact of this great work in St Clair´s reading was one of the great moments of the year. He should come back. An unfortunate medical delay allowed me to hear only the second part of Leonid Grin´s concert with the Phil (last of the season, Nº 15). So I missed Weber´s "Oberon" Overture and Tchaikovsky´s Concerto with the Phil´s concertino Pablo Saraví, but I could hear a thrilling interpretation of the best Glazunov Symphony, Nº 5 (1895), warm, melodic and admirably structured music. Grin is Ukrainian, a disciple of Kyril Kondrashin, now in his early sixties. He has held posts at Saarbrücken, Tampere (Finland), San José Symphony (California) and currently at Santiago de Chile. Two decades ago he visited the Phil repeatedly. His solid métier and natural empathy with the Russian repertoire provided an exhilarating ending to the symphonic year. The special interest of the National Symphony´s concert at the Blue Whale conducted by Christian Baldini was the inclusion of essential Sibelius: his last Symphony, Nº7 (1925), rarely done here; just one vast movement of consumate organic cohesion dominated by an unforgettable trombone theme, it crowns the career of the most eminent Nordic symphonist. After good performances of two standards (Beethoven´s Violin Concerto with the National´s concertino Luis Roggero and Sibelius´ "Finland"), Baldini showed his insight and fine technique in the Seventh, abetted by a great trombone player and a responsive orchestra. The final concert of the National Symphony was conducted by the Chilean Francisco Rettig, much appreciated as a Mahlerian. He closed the season with some of Mahler´s extraordinary Lieder with orchestra, certainly the best in history. The orchestral work and Rettig´s sensitive conducting gave much pleasure, but alas, the baritone Luciano Garay showed a startling decline of his vocal means both in the wonderful "Songs of a wayfarer" ("Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen") and in the songs allotted to him in the endlessly varied "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" ("The magic horn of youth"). Mezzo Alejandra Malvino was her reliable, musicianly self both in her participation in "DKW" and in the "Rückert Songs" that end with a marvel, "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" ("I have retired from the World"), though more volume came amiss at several points. A sour note: the unacceptable policies of having no comments on the hand programme and even worse, no subtitles; this is the CCK´s fault, not the NS´, and I hope it is revised next year. For Buenos Aires Herald
Mari Kodama and Momo Kodama (piano) (Pentatone)The Japanese sisters Mari and Momo Kodama grew up hearing The Nutcracker. That deep familiarity gives their performance of the suite here, transcribed for two pianos by Arensky (1861-1906), particular sparkle and style. The Sugar Plum Fairy sounds as delicate on piano as for the celesta or the original orchestration, and the delicious Pas de deux loses nothing in translation. Rachmaninov’s version of Sleeping Beauty, made when he was still in his teens at Tchaikovsky’s request, sounds slightly smudgy in comparison, in need of more edge. The short suite from Swan Lake (arr. Langer) works well, as does Debussy’s for the same ballet – fascinatingly, still retaining Debussy’s distinctive voice. An enjoyable way to encounter these scores. Continue reading...
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (May 7, 1840 - November 6, 1893) was a Russian composer of the Romantic era. His wide ranging output includes symphonies, operas, ballets, instrumental and chamber music and songs. He wrote some of the most popular concert and theatrical music in the classical repertoire, including the ballets Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, the 1812 Overture, his First Piano Concerto, his last three numbered symphonies, and the opera Eugene Onegin. Born into a middle-class family, Tchaikovsky was educated for a career as a civil servant, despite his obvious musical precocity. He pursued a musical career against the wishes of his family, entering the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1862 and graduating in 1865. This formal, Western-oriented training set him apart from the contemporary nationalistic movement embodied by the influential group of young Russian composers known as The Five, with whom Tchaikovsky's professional relationship was mixed.
Great composers of classical music