Thursday, May 25, 2017
Branimir Pofuk reports for Slipped Disc: Last night (21 May) I was in Skopje, capital of FYR Macedonia, attending very solemn opening of the new (and after 70 years of existence the first) Macedonia Philharmonic Orchestra concert hall. Vladimir Ashkenazy conducted Labin and Dojrana, a ballet suite by the Macedonian composer Trajko Prokofiev, followed by Prokofiev’s third piano concerto with the Macedonian virtuoso Simon Trpčeski and Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony. > Despite many political troubles and a poor economic situation in Macedonia this is the first concert hall built after disintegration of Socialist Yugoslava in any of its former republics. Capacity is 1000, there is also a smaller chamber hall for 400 people. Construction began in 2009, and was delayed when the building company went broke. The final cost, according to the director, is 37 milion Euros. Until now, the Makedonska filharmonija has been playing in the totally inadequate acoustic of a military building.
The superb cellist Natalia Shakhovskaya, first winner of the cello section of the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962, has died in Moscow at the age of 81. A student of Mstislav Rostropovich, she taught at the Moscow Conservatoire from 1974 and at the Queen Sofía School of Music in Madrid from 1994.
The Beyond the Baton Conducting Workshop focuses on improving and expanding each conductor’s technique through a variety of exercises and concepts from the book “Baton Basics” and also focuses on discussions of artistic leadership and concepts from the book “Beyond the Baton” by Diane Wittry. The repertoire for the workshop is: Tchaikovsky – String […]
Liszt in concert, 1842 by Theodor Hosemann The enduring image of Liszt as a long-haired piano virtuoso dies hard. His playing met with frenzied responses across Europe in the 1830s and 40s, bringing him wealth and fame. His scandalous love affairs have only cemented our impressions of him as a 19th-century rock star – so much so that Ken Russell could cast lead singer of The Who Roger Daltrey as Liszt in his extravagant biopic Lisztomania . But in fact this phase of Liszt’s career ended early: he was only 35 when in 1847 he abruptly gave up public concertizing and settled in Weimar, a provincial German town. To his contemporaries, this decision seemed bizarre. What made him leave it all behind? Liszt had a definite agenda when he quit: he wanted to make his mark as a composer. And while it was perplexing to his friends, it was this very decision to stop performing which has cemented his legend and ensured he is more than a historical footnote today. In an era before recorded sound, Liszt’s pianistic abilities could only be appreciated by those who heard him live – whereas a composer could achieve a kind of immortality. Not that Liszt had waited until his pianistic retirement to start composing. In his era, every performer customarily wrote music for his or her own use. Many of Liszt’s works that are most popular today – including the fiendishly demanding Hungarian Rhapsodies and Transcendental Studies – were first composed before he left the concert trail. But the versions we hear today were actually extensively revised by Liszt after his retirement. The differences can be startling: for example, one of the Twelve Great Studies was repackaged as Mazeppa , the new title an allusion to Victor Hugo ’s poem . This new association with a story about a rebellious Ukrainian count, strapped to the back of a wild horse and driven out into the wilderness to die, puts the piece’s thrilling virtuosity in an evocative new context. In addition to these revisions, the entirely new works that Liszt wrote for the piano transformed the genre, and would influence composers for generations to come. Liszt’s masterpiece for solo piano is undoubtedly the Sonata in B minor , a ground-breaking work that astonishingly unites the variety of the Classical multi-movement sonata with the formal coherence and grandeur of a single-movement work. Liszt takes a handful of short ideas and brilliantly combines, reshapes and transforms them into a 30-minute unbroken whole. The music moves from barnstorming virtuosity to the most inward-looking tenderness, with everything in between. Liszt’s innovations were by no means confined to works for solo piano. As early as 1839 he had envisaged writing an orchestral work based on what he considered to be one of the supreme works of literature: Goethe ’s Faust . The Faust-Symphonie is a tour de force of imagination that powerfully draws the drama’s three chief characters, who are each described in a complete movement (Faust – Gretchen – Mephistopheles). Alongside the Faust-Symphonie Liszt can be credited with the invention of the symphonic poem : single-movement works with a title and preface linking them to extra-musical subject matter. By focussing on such story-telling, ‘programmatic’ music, Liszt placed himself at the vanguard of musical progress. The symphonic poem was later taken up by composers as diverse as Dvořák , Tchaikovsky , Strauss and Sibelius . For all his innovations, Liszt’s new career was not easy. In contrast to the acclaim he had met with as a pianist, the experimentalism of his compositions remained controversial, and even today his orchestral music is rarely heard live. But his many advances – in the vocabulary of the solo piano, in harmony, in crafting dramatic music for the concert hall – ensure that Liszt’s legacy as one of the most dynamic figures of the 19th century is secure. Marguerite and Armand , set to Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, runs 2–10 June 2017 in a mixed programme with The Dream and Symphonic Variations . Tickets are still available.
Richard Rodzinski was given a lifetime achievement award today by the World Federation of International Music Competitions, a body not altogether above suspicion. Richard, however, is. He built up the Van Cliburn competition over 24 years int an international powerhouse and then transformed Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Competition into a model of transparency. His first prize is well deserved.
The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional (National Symphony, NS) is one of the two top symphonic ensembles we have in our concert life; the other, of course, is the Buenos Aires Philharmonic. The latter has its home at the Colón and is costly; the NS plays at the CCK, at the Blue Whale and is always free. The Phil has solid financial backing, the NS depends on the Culture Ministry´s capricious and ineffective bureaucracy with its constant problem of non-payment of conductors and soloists and just as harmful, of orchestral material. Plus the CCK´s absurd policy of being totally free (no worthy orchestra in the world plays under such conditions) and allowing babies. And being a cultural centre, it depends on the Media chief, Hernán Lombardi, instead of the Culture Minister, Pablo Avelluto. And Lombardi doesn´t give the NS what it needs to feel at home, including appropriate offices and rehearsal times. So the NS season proceeds with constant alarms. And the orchestra is playing sometimes below expectations. But one thing holds fast: the audience fills the vast hall; is it only because they love the orchestra or because it´s free? Well, the Phil is expensive and generally has a close to full house. And is it because it´s free that the CCK seems unable to provide reservations to reviewers? A February night of Chinese music was postponed to a later date with a different conductor, and celebrated the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Argentina. Much later, in September, the NS might visit China and Korea if both Ministries (Cultural and Foreign Relations) understand the importance of giving the NS a foreign tour after so many years without that experience. The NS has programmed both the artists and the repertoire. Zhang Zheng was the conductor, and the soloists were Yuan Yi (violin), Duan Biyan (piano) and Yang Yue (erhu); all made their debut. The music was all Chinese except for Bernstein´s "Candide" Overture. To my Occidental ears the adaptation of Chinese culture to an European product such as the symphony orchestra sounds forced and superficial. It seems to veer between the bombastic and the excessive sweetness, and significantly I only found interesting ideas in the final piece, the tone poem "The Hani minority" by Shao En (the Hani are Tibeto-Burmese). The concert started with three short works by Bao Yuankai and was followed by the fourth movement of the Erhu Concerto "The Chinese Wall´s capriccio"; the erhu is the two-string Chinese violin and it´s amazing how varied and beautiful are the sounds that come from this apparently limited instrument, played with virtuoso panache by Yang Yue. But apart from the very professional Yuan Yi and Duan Biya, I found little to like in the fragments from the Violin Concerto "The butterfly lovers" by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, and the third and fourth movements of the Piano Concerto written by six composers (!) based on the cantata "The Yellow River" by Xian Xinghai. The efficient conductor got decent playing from the NS in this repertoire almost wholly new to them. I skipped the next concert, too crossover for me (symphonic rock -Emerson- and tango –Schissi), and went on to the following one, in which Günther Pichler made his BA debut as a conductor, though we knew him as a member of the marvelous Berg Quartet decades ago. The programme couldn´t be more divergent with the two mentioned, and I enjoyed it a lot, for Pichler is a master of style and clarity, even in the score I would have thought not quite up his aisle: the splendid Overture to "Guillaume Tell" by Rossini. But otherwise we heard Mozart, and Pichler´s phrasing was a lesson to all: the NS did its best to assimilate his teaching and accompanied beautifully that early masterpiece, Concerto Nº9, and afterwards gave us an admirable "Jupiter" (Symphony Nº41). There was a further pleasure: the debut of Japanese pianist Yoko Kikuchi, utterly refined and precise, with interesting cadenzas. And equally notable in a contrasting encore: Liszt´s transcription of Paganini´s "La Campanella". Finally, after many years, the return of Yeruham Scharovsky to where he was born, after decades of professional conducting in Israel and from there to other 50 countries. The programme started with a favorite overture of mine, Weber´s "Oberon", in a middling version. But things promptly picked up when the twin clarinet players Daniel and Alexander Gurfinkel showed their fantastic technique and beautiful timbre in two works (both wrongly called in the hand programme, and as usual, with no comments on the music – another bad thing of the CCK). First, the Concert Piece (not Concerto) Nº 1, op.113, by Mendelssohn (originally for clarinet and corno di bassetto –a clarinet a third lower- and piano), a charming and typical score fast-slow-fast. The orchestration may be by Mendelssohn and at least in this version the music was a BA première. And so was the following work (both unannounced...): "De mis raíces" ("From my roots"), Concert variations (not a concerto) for two clarinets and orchestra, Op.41, by Aby Rojze, who was a violinist of the NS during more than four decades until his retirement some years back and during his mature years decided to start a parallel career as a composer. It's only fair that his beloved orchestra should give him a place in their programming. These variations are tonal and pleasant, with a curious orchestration of strings, trumpets and percussion and virtuoso interventions for the clarinets. The music indeed refers to his roots, which are Jewish and Argentine, so we hear a milonga but also parts that refer to the klezmer tradition, and the main melody sounds solemn and religious both at the beginning and the end. Wonderful playing by the twins, who added as encores two klezmer pieces, and committed accompaniment by conductor and orchestra. Rojze saluted the audience. Tchaikovsky created not only the six numbered symphonies but also the very impressive programmatic symphony "Manfred", on Lord Byron´s antihero (who also inspired Schumann). His Op.58 (1885), the score is huge, about 55 minutes, dominated by the ominous melody of the very start, which reappears in all movements (as its model, the "idée fixe" in the Fantastic Symphony by Berlioz). It is the doomed Manfred that is portrayed, he who has loved Astarte and lost her, he who has been damned and is in the deepest despair as he recollects stages of his life. But in the second movement , a scherzo with trio, the Alps Fairy appears under a cascade in exquisite balletic music later interrupted by Manfred´s theme. A charming Pastorale is an interlude before the terrible, devilish bacchanale of the fourth movement, until the spìrit of Astarte is evoked with solemn organ chords and Manfred dies. The orchestral imagination is prodigious almost throughout, and the work is very difficult though fascinating. Scharovsky had a brave go at it with some ups and downs but certainly with much expressive power; warts and all, this was a worthwhile occasion to meet a major Tchaikovsky creation. And the Klais organ certainly made a difference. The concert was dedicated to the clarinet player Eduardo Prado, who died recently and was member of the SN for decades. For Buenos Aires Herald
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