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Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


getClassical (Ilona Oltuski)

May 21

Evgeny Kissin’s Well-Tempered Departure

getClassical (Ilona Oltuski) Pianist Evgeny Kissin , concluding thePerspectives series at Carnegie Hall’s 125th anniversary season – which also celebrated his illustrious pianistic solo debut here 25 years ago – wooed audiences once more with Rachmaninoff’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 2, before taking a previously announced leave of absence from concertizing in the USA. The concert amounted to a farewell observation on the series’ narrative, revealing the artist’s uniquely personal artistic journey. Capture by Simone Massoni This article was published by the author on Blogcritics Magazine Since that memorable Carnegie Hall debut, with people waving hundred-dollar bills to scalp a ticket on mobbed street blocks around the sold-out concert hall, New Yorkers’ enthusiasm for Kissin does not seem to have diminished in the least. Coming out of the Soviet Union as a prodigal talent with staggering musicality, his reputation had preceded his eagerly awaited appearances before both Russian and world audiences; and perhaps like no other, this pure Romantic has united them in an ecstatic communal sense. It was Carnegie Hall’s centennial season, 1990-91, and Kissin, age 19, was – as in the current season – the notable opening act, one of the very few artists who had never had to ask, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” He simply arrived, and performed annually from then on. “What makes a performance great?” I once asked him, and he simply remarked: “It has to be convincing.” Carnegie Hall initiated its Perspectives series in 1999 to further explore the complexity of what makes an artist great by showcasing leading artists’ individual interests and bringing in their musical friends. The previous pianist the series focused on was Sir Andràs Schiff in 2011-12. This season’s in-depth close-up opened channels of discovery into Kissin’s enigmatic persona and vocation on stage, in five different programs. Beyond bringing some of the musical milestones of Kissin’s career full circle, the series portrayed the artist who at 44, unabashed by the persistent trail of Wunderkind status, has proven he can carve out new paths of artistic growth and a remarkable personal departure. His choices of programs are always “a matter of love,” and it is the kind of intimate, sanctified love that does not warrant further conversation. Notwithstanding his free spirit he feels: “Talking about all kind of things including sex, is great fun – talking about music seems vulgar.” Knowing how close to his heart his programs are – he usually spends a full touring season with each one – one had to wonder why Chopin, with whose concertos the pianist skyrocketed to stardom and who, as Kissin confesses when pressed on the subject, is the closest to his heart, would not appear in any of his featured programs. Bookending the series with two of the arch-romantic Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff concerts, Kissin instead curated his classical solo recitals with works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms in conjunction with the Spanish composers Albéniz and Larregla. Highlighting his extraordinary temperament en galore with the Spanish rhythmic idiom added a most welcome geographic twist to the Germanic precursors. The recital program, which was performed twice that same week in November, was legendary not only because his “Appassionata” was nothing short of a revelation, but because a repeat performance of the same repertoire, selling out the house twice in a row, had till then been a feat achieved only by Vladimir Horowitz, in 1979. No one present at Kissin’s concerts, least of all the performer himself, would suspect that concert halls are scrambling to fill their seats at many other quality concerts. Least of all at the truly stirring season’s opening concert, with red carpets rolled out for the occasion all across 57th street. Opening of Carnegie Hall’s 125th season. Photo: Ilona Oltuski If Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the New York Philharmonic and its departing director Alan Gilbert was meant to be associated with one of Kissin’s own, most triumphant historic performances of the same concerto in 1987, given with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic when the pianist was just 16, Kissin certainly stood the test of time. While one can’t say if Gilbert was as touched by Kissin’s brilliance as was Karajan, who, according to Karajan’s wife was moved to tears by the genial talent of his chosen young performer, their engagement certainly carried its own merit of excellence, making it also one of Gilbert’s rather gallant collaborations to remember. On the day following his evening of Yiddish music and poetry, Carnegie’s Executive and Artistic Director Clive Gillinson moderated – at the associates’ level ticket price – a public tête-à-tête on stage, where Kissin appeared relaxed and personable. He humored the audience with anecdotes about Prokofiev and his first meeting with Karajan, as well as his strong-mindedness when it comes to conductors who don’t share his vision. He also recalled some of his earlier years, when his revered only mentor through all these years, Anna Kantor, moved in with the Kissins, following them on their path from Moscow to New York to London. Turning 93 now, Kantor stays a vibrant member of Kissin’s family, and hers continue to be the ears he trusts the most; until recently she was an integral part of his concert touring entourage and it speaks for their deeply reverent relationship that the pianist continues to play new repertoire through for her. Evgeny Kissin with Anna Kantor. Photo: Ilona Oltuski A first was Kissin’s public opening up about becoming inspired and re-inventing himself: “As we live and develop we discover new things in ourselves, of which we were not aware earlier,” he says. “A few years ago, I would have never been able to imagine that I would be writing my own poetry in Yiddish and have it published…I have always hoped and continue to hope that I will always keep improving.” Almost no trace remains of the admitted former “painfully shy” mannerisms of his younger years. No matter how long the line of beleaguering fans may be, he happily obliges with oddly composed courtesy and at times touching generosity. Evgeny Kissin swarmed by his fans at Carnegie Hall after Rachmaninoff concerto performance. Photo: Ilona Oltuski Perhaps the least successful program of the series was Kissin’s much anticipated novel partnership with violinist Itzhak Perlman in a trio performance with Kissin’s longtime collaborator, cellist Misha Maisky. It was almost surprising that the performance lacked a persuasive harmonious flow of leadership and balance, given the great musicianship of all these artists individually. Perlman’s melodic lines especially seemed to get lost at times acoustically, flanked by Maisky’s and Kissin’s powerful virtuosity. In contrast, Kissin’s Yiddish evening was in some ways the most significant program of the series. Kissin’s passion project of Yiddish poetry recitation and music by rarely performed Jewish composers illuminated the deeply personal context of his engagement with Jewish culture. The fascinating presentation touched audiences on many levels, highlighting Kissin’s capacity and courage to explore new artistic frontiers. This was the case with works by Ernest Bloch, Alexander Veprik, Alexander Klein, and Mikhail Milner, with which Kissin ventured into modernist and folklore-inspired tunes off the beaten path. Carnegie Hall Green Room moment: the author with Mischa Maisky and Evgeny Kissin after their collaborative concert With his nuanced and melodic declamation of poems in the Yiddish idiom of Yitzhak-Leybush Peretz, Kissin captured the lyrical elements and aura of the language with its particular humor and spirit, transporting the transfixed audience into the bygone era of the shtetl. Soulfully baring his heart in every syllable, the magnetic performer – stripped of all his virtuoso veneer – sufficed to fill the hall, momentarily halting time. As in Kissin’s own poem, the evening’s credo points to celebrating our intrinsic individualism, which, if painful to bear at times, brings fulfillment through truth to ourselves. Ani maymin Credo Translation by Barrnett Zumoff Shoyn Terekh hot gezogt zayn kleynem zun mit shrek: After Terah* said fearfully to his young son: “Far vos bist nit aza, vi ale?”. “Why are you not like all the others?” Un s’iz geven azoy in yedn kant un ek, into which our brutal fate cast us.and it was so vuhin di dolye undzere brutale in every nook and cranny flegt undz nit varfn. S’iz dokh undzer koved, It’s to our honor, after all, vos tomid zaynen mir geven getray tsu zikh that we have always been faithful to ourselves, un hobm ot di khokhme oysgekovet: and have forged this wise saying: “Ven ikh vel zayn vi yener, ver vet zayn vi ikh?”. “If I am like the others, who will be like me?” *Abraham’s father This bent of Kissin’s talent was earlier introduced on a smaller scale at New York’s Yivo Institute and at his momentous debut at Charles and Robyn Krauthammer’s Pro Musica Hebraica series, at Washington’s Kennedy Center in 2014; but it was a first at Carnegie Hall, drawing New Yorkers into Kissin’s other personal passion. (See my article about Evgeny Kissin on a mission to celebrate his Jewish heritage. ) Evgeny Kissin at Pro Musica Hebraica. Photo: Ilona Oltuski For the very first time in 2002, during Verbier’s prestigious festival in the Suisse Alps, the festival’s director Martin Engstroem encouraged Kissin to recite Russian and Yiddish poetry as an extracurricular presentation on stage. Kissin agreed, but only if other artists would participate as well. The ones who had confirmed, among them Zubin Mehta, had to pull out at the last minute leaving Kissin “to wet his feet,” as he recalled. What a happy coincidence it turned out to be, bringing his previously private predilection into the spotlight. For Kissin, the Yiddish language represents an important cultural territory of the Jewish people. On a personal level it became a reminiscence of his childhood, and peaceful summer months spent at his Yiddish-speaking maternal grandparents’ datshka. During his childhood, Kissin was made aware of anti-Semitic sentiments. Aggressive slurs were not unusual. Thugs in the neighborhood would call out to him: “Why don’t you go to Birobidzhan?” – the Russian territory with an official Jewish status, which became a center of Jewish culture at the time it was founded under Stalin, in 1934. Evgeny Kissin with Martin Engstroem in Verbier. Photo: Ilona Oltuski Kissin’s interest in his native Russian poetry and literature were closely followed by his interest in Yiddish culture and its language, which he had initially taught himself. Even though he grew up completely assimilated into Soviet society, he felt a strong connection to his ethnic heritage and always had a special place in his heart for Israel. After being in the public eye for a long time, he deployed his voice not only for numerous humanitarian causes, but also to protest a growing anti-Israel sentiment he observed living in London and Paris. In December 2009, his open letter to the BBC in protest of its perceived biased reporting made headlines. In 2010 he explained to me why he had spoken out: “I just felt that it was no longer possible to remain silent and not protest….my motivation came from the dramatic increase of anti-Israel slander.” (See my article, “The Artist as Citizen .”) His fan-website features a broad selection of sources in support of Israel. When we met at his first solo concert in Jerusalem the following year during his commanding Liszt tour, he was engulfed in the topic. (In 1988 he went on his very first trip to Israel with the Moscow Virtuosi Orchestra.) Performing in Jerusalem meant the world to him and he matched his sentiment with a dramatic biblical stance: “Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim Tishkach Yimini (If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten).” Despite not living in the Promised Land himself, he initiated action to fully demonstrate his allegiance: in December of 2013 Kissin took on Israeli citizenship. His evolving sense of Jewish identity certainly plays a decisive role in his creative discoveries within its history, language and music and beyond that in Israel’s modern-day crisis. During one summer at the Verbier festival, Anna Kantor, concerned about this (to her mind) superfluous extracurricular activity, turned to me, remarking: “Ah politics, who needs politics…he should sit and play the piano.” I am certain the sentiment is shared by many, who would prefer an artist being removed from anything that could view the man and citizen behind the artist. Alas, despite his performance schedule of about 40 concerts a year worldwide, Kissin’s creativity obviously requires many different stimulating outlets, certainly feeding his extraordinary imagination at the piano. Just some days after his Yiddish recital, we met over tea and he brought the newest chapter of his novel. In his steadfast timbre, Kissin read it out loud in one sitting. He did not touch his tea. He was excited to share his modern-day drama depicting an opera-inspired Russian heroine’s suffering with deep sentiment, in a pictorial and captivating style. Here is an excerpt: From the novel by Evgeny Kissin, translated by Barrnett Zumoff Book 1: Outside It Was Snowing The smoke from the cigarette was beginning to mix with the emanations from the Indian aromatic sticks. There was no ashtray in the house, so the cigarette ash fell on the floor immediately after each light tap of her finger. She kept slowly and deeply inhaling the smoke, filling her entire body with the mild poison; oh well – the deed is already done, so relax and calm down. Three thoughts kept drilling into her mind: “Sasha, my darling”…”I’ll get the money as fast as I can!” …and “Now I‘ve really become a whore – I’ve lived to see the day!” “Man proposes and God disposes,” her wise grandmother Chana used to say. Her grandmother’s words had sounded convincing to her even then, though she was still a child and of course couldn’t understand what they meant. Now, in the past few days, she somehow understood them with her whole being, from the tips of her fingers to the depths of her soul, perhaps as never before in her life. When she was still a young girl and had just begun to discover the world of pleasure, she used to fantasize about taking money for love. For instance, a nice man she liked would come to her and propose to spend time with her, and she would answer him playfully: “If you pay!” Now, however, she didn’t get to choose only nice clients… Five months did go by after the Russian heroine of his novel appeared, and reverberations of sentiments stirred by Kissin’s Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 slowly filtered through the hall. Nothing less had been expected from a moving farewell concert by Kissin, with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. For this final concert of the series, Kissin reunited with his longtime friend, colleague and frequent collaborator James Levine, who, as the Met’s leading force for 45 years, has just announced his final bow as music director. Photo: NPR.org, Maestro James Levine The eminent conductor, winner of 10 Grammy awards, entered in his wheelchair, elevated by a special mechanism onto a towering conductor’s podium. Kissin – and Levine – fans had witnessed this somewhat involved process in the hall already in 2013 when the artists collaborated on Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, when Levine, returning to the concert stage after injury and two years of absence, was greeted with a standing ovation. Kissin has played the world over with an extraordinary number of first-rate conductors, but Maestro Levine, the pianist once told me, is among those he really loves the most. For several years, Kissin and Levine were both at home in New York. Together they recorded Beethoven’s Second and Fifth Concertos in 1997. As a special highlight their all-Schubert piano duo program, recorded live at Carnegie Hall in 2005, speaks volumes of their alliance in temperament and artistic perception. It is also among Levine’s most favorite recordings, he told Kissin (even though for acoustic reasons and perhaps also to facilitate unrestrained physical motions, the music intended for one piano four hands was performed on two separate grand pianos). While Kissin’s beautiful singing lines where at times marred just slightly by the piano’s dry acoustics, the strong personal connection was palpable in their take on Rachmaninoff, on a beautiful night in May for Kissin’s last concert of the series. Familiar with Kissin’s 1989 recording of the concerto with Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra, I had never before heard this all-time favorite concerto played live by Kissin. Rachmaninoff himself gave the premiere of the work composed in 1901, which established his fame and marked the end of a severe depression he had suffered. While Gergiev’s recording is certainly notable, already the entrance, just so slightly off, speaks of a much less deeply rooted musical bond than that between Kissin and Levine. In the recording Gergiev paints – at times more daringly – with a bigger brush, but Levine is a master at bringing out all the hidden nuances. If his Spanish repertoire already was full of vitality and rejoicing in the intricacy of mischievous rhythmic skill, in Rachmaninoff the drama got taken further. But despite the constant shifts between tender palettes and multiple climaxes there was nothing mise-en-scene, only a profound myriad of fine-tuned dexterity. If Carnegie Hall’s Perspective series set out to convey different angles of the performer’s aptitude with multiple genres and composers’ objectives, we witnessed it all. The blissful melancholy projected in this last Russian gem was matched only by his intimate poetry recitation, with a bared soulfulness that brought one closer into the world of this artist, and perhaps with one’s own humanity. With unrelenting inquisitiveness and willingness to challenge the status quo, Kissin does not rest on his laurels, which indicates there is much more to come; and how happy he looks. New York will feel the absence of this remarkable individual whose innermost workings can be found in his art. In the meantime, I am sure all his fans will join me in wishing him bon voyage as he spreads his artistic inspiration abroad.

Tribuna musical

May 13

“Don Quixote, dreamer of La Mancha”, Guerra´s Cervantes ballet

This is Cervantes´s 400th anniversary of his death, and as the same applies to Shakespeare, we are living a special year of literary evocation. In the field of ballet, "Don Quixote" has been very popular here after WWII, either in Marius Petipa´s version as revised by Alexander Gorsky or particularly in Zarko Prebil´s attractive and funny choreography. And now Maximiliano Guerra premières in BA his own concept, commissioned by the famous Stuttgart Ballet back in 2.000: his first choreography. Although there were several ballets before Petipa (the legendary Noverre, Vienna 1786, or the two Taglionis, Salvatore and Paolo), only his 1869 opus has survived. The French choreographer lived long decades in Russia and became the essential figure of their balletic tradition, but before that period he had worked in France and later in Spain, where he deeply enjoyed their folkloric dances. And he brought that experience to Russia. Moscow´s Bolshoi Theatre was then (and still is) their fundamental seat of opera and ballet. Of course there was (and there is) a pronounced rivalry with Saint Petersburg´s Maryinsky; both have presented the best of both genres. So the Bolshoi witnessed the première of "Don Quixote" on 14 December 1869. Petipa, as was his style, was very precise in requesting the composer exactly so many minutes for a dance or a narrative scene, and also what sort of music he needed. As happened later with Tchaikovsky, so it was with Ludwig Minkus, a skilled master of effective exoticism. His music is certainly light, but he has been attacked more than he deserves: he had a sense of melody, a talent for effective music that jells easily with dance steps and the ability to adapt folk idioms to the necessities of the choreographer. You´ll find nowhere the imagination of Tchaikovsky and Delibes, but Minkus´ music accompanies very well the show on stage. Petipa revived his ballet two years later, and decades afterwards, in 1900 Gorsky revised it; later still and during WWII (!) it was again revised by Rostislav Zakharov (1940). Rudolf Nureyev presented his own conception in Vienna, 1966. One fragment was and is hugely popular, the final Grand Pas de Deux, in this case revised by Anatol Obukhov. Two other "Don Quixotes" may be mentioned here: those of Ninette de Valois on Roberto Gerhard´s interesting music (1950) and of George Balanchine on music by Nicholas Nabokov (1965). In fact, Petipa´s ballet is centered on one specific episode of the Cervantes novel: "The Wedding of Camacho". And both Don Quixote (and Sancho Panza as comic relief) are decorative figures, for what matters is the love story of Basilio and Kitri and their stratagems to convince Kitri´s father, an innkeeper, from forcing her to marry the rich aristocratic Camacho. Both the First and the Third Acts are dominated by them, adding several torero dances to those of the people in the village square. However, in Act II we have two tableaux: one concerns a band of gypsies and the famous episode of the Don´s fight with a windmill; the other is his dream, a pure "ballet blanc" of academic equilibrium. Prebil told the story with great skill and genuine fun; his revision had a great success in BA, being present dozens of times during a long period. It was a Colón staple. Lidia Segni presented her own rather staid revision in recent years. And now Guerra offers his very different views. He feels that Petipa took too little notice of Quixote, and so he gives them more participation in different places. His Sancho is less funny than Prebil´s. But the real innovation is the presence of Cervantes, who identifies with Quixote (in fact, the same dancer), and the Don´s idealised love, Dulcinea, appears several times, particularly in the Dream Scene. Also, the Innkeeper is a boor throwing his weight around (not so in Prebil) and Camacho isn´t half as ridiculous and easily consoles himself with another woman. Some scenes are confused (the fight of the Innkeeper with the gypsies) and others add little (at the beginning, Kitri is Cervantes´ maid and Basilio his barber, and several characters from other Cervantes works appear briefly). As to the dances, they are generally good, though I found the toreros more convincing in Prebil, and the "ballet blanc", although clean and aesthetic, lacks the charm of Prebil´s with the little Cupids. A few musical fragments are adapted by Thomas Volk. The costumes are quite beautiful in texture and color; they are by Ramón Ivars. The stage designs of Enrique Bordolini were no more than functional. The correct lighting was by the Finnish Olli-Pekka Koivunen. Emmanuel Siffert conducted with fine sense of rhythm and give-and-take the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, in good shape. On the performance I saw (Friday) Basilio was the Argentine Emmanuel Vázquez (debut) from the Santiago Ballet. He gave a fine impression: his technique is very accurate and he has a pleasant presence. If he lacked some of the playful malice that, e.g., Julio Bocca used to give us, Prebil´s steps certainly had helped back then. Carla Vincelli was a professional Kitri, far from the level of the great ones. The torero José Antonio was correctly done by Juan Pablo Ledo. But in fact the one I liked best was Sergio Hochbaum as a virtuosic King of the Gypsies. Other good soloists: Natacha Bernabei, Julián Galván, Roberto Zarza, Ayelén Sánchez, Macarena Giménez, Luana Brunetti. And a disciplined Corps de Ballet. For Buenos Aires Herald






Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky
(1840 – 1893)

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.



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