As a supplement to Sunday's regular feature, Perchance to Stream, one of the concerts I missed is embedded above. It features mezzo-soprano Marie-Nicole Lemieux and I Musici de Montréal, conducted by Jean-Marie Zeitouni, recorded last July in Saint-Irénée, Québec. The program includes music by Respighi, Ravel, Berlioz, and Saint-Saëns.
N. Medtner, Complete Piano Sonatas / Forgotten Melodies, M.-A. Hamelin (Hyperion, 1998)
Debussy, Images / Préludes (Book 2), M.-A. Hamelin (Hyperion, 2014)
R. Rimm, The Composer-Pianists: Hamelin and the Eight (Amadeus Press, 2003)
The first half of this excellent recital was focused on Russian obscurities, beginning with two of Samuil Feinberg's short piano sonatas from the World War I years. Feinberg was one of the eight composer-pianists covered in Robert Rimm's book on the subject, a tradition in which Rimm included Hamelin, who plays his own inimitable pieces from time to time. Three of those composers (Rachmaninov, Medtner, and Scriabin), Feinberg once said (as quoted by Rimm), "were wonderful composers who came to their pianism through their own composition." One senses the same mechanism at work in Feinberg's music -- and in Hamelin as well -- in the meandering, longing melody of the second sonata (A minor, op. 2) buried almost beyond recognition in tangles of figuration, for example, or the extravagant harmonic vagaries of the first sonata (A major, op. 1). Hamelin voiced the melody of the second sonata with great care, making a right-hand raindrop-like motif shower over it.
These shorter works were paired with the mammoth second sonata of Nikolai Medtner (E minor, op. 25), a piece Hamelin also played at his Kennedy Center recital in 2013. Subtitled "Night Wind" after the poem of that title by Fyodor Tyutchev, it is a work of fearsome pianistic challenges, realized tempestuously in often thunderous cacophony by Hamelin, but it seduces because of the driven sense of melody and form. The piece never wanders, as Feinberg seems to do at times, at least not in Hamelin's hands.
Hamelin also played Book 1 of Debussy's Images again, and the interpretation was better than how I remembered it in his 2013 recital at Shriver Hall. Here the second movement (Hommage à Rameau) had much more rubato than I recalled and yet a greater delicacy, while the first movement (Reflets dans l'eau) still startled with its aquatic transparency, and the third (Mouvement) had an ultra-fast but still finely etched quality.
Patrick Rucker, A performance to restore the virtue of ‘virtuoso’ (Washington Post, October 6)
In response to enthusiastic ovations, Hamelin generously offered four encores, beginning with the first of Earl Wild's Seven Virtuoso Études on Popular Songs, based on George Gershwin's song Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away). This was followed by Liszt's arrangement of Chopin's song My Joys, Godowsky's mind-blowing transcription of Chopin's Revolutionary Etude for the left hand alone (!), and The Punch and Judy Show, a madcap miniature by Eugène Goossens (embedded below).
The next recital in the series honoring IPAM will feature Orion Weiss (December 3), at the Clarice Smith Center in College Park.
Wagner, Rienzi, R. Kollo, S. Wennberg, Staatskapelle Dresden, H. Hollreiser (Warner Classics)
The title character was a Roman politician, risen from humble beginnings to become the city's tribune in the mid-14th century. Rienzi tried unsuccessfully to negotiate the hazardous terrain between the papacy, then removed to Avignon, and the Holy Roman Emperor. Although lifted up for a time by the admiration of everyday Romans, Rienzi runs afoul of the Colonnas and other powerful aristocratic families and ends his days, in the opera, burned alive in a fire set by a mob on the Capitoline Hill. The story of the rise to power of a common man on the shoulders of the populace was a favorite of Adolf Hitler's, for obvious reasons, and the leader of the Nazi party came to own Wagner's manuscript of the opera, still in his possession when he died and so now lost.
Anne Midgette, ‘Rienzi,’ a Wagner work rarely performed, pleases at Strathmore (Washington Post, October 5)
David Rohde, The National Philharmonic’s ‘Rienzi, A Concert Opera’ at Strathmore (D.C. Metro Theater Arts, October 5)
Alex Baker, Rienzi with the National Philharmonic (Wellsung, October 6)
Here is your regular Sunday selection of links to online audio and online video from the week gone by. After clicking to an audio or video stream, you may need to press the "Play" button to start the broadcast. Some of these streams become unavailable after a few days.
- From the Vienna Staatsoper de Viena, a performance of The Tempest by Thomas Adès, starring Audrey Luna, David Daniels, and others. [Música Clásica]
- Friedemann Layer conducts Offenbach's Fantasio, recorded last July in Montpellier. [France Musique]
- Watch a staging of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'amore, conducted by Thomas Rösner and directed by Damiano Michieletto, from Brussels. [De Munt]
- Philippe Jordan conducts a performance of Chausson's King Arthur, from the Bastille Opera, starring Thomas Hampson, Sophie Koch, and Roberto Alagna. [ABC Classic]
- Watch the concert opening the 120th season of the Czech Philharmonic. [ARTE]
- From the Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège, a performance of Verdi's Ernani. [RTBF]
- Listen to Zubin Mehta lead the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Bruckner's eighth symphony, recorded in August at the Grafenegg Festival. [ORF]
- Andrey Boreyko leads the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and cellist Sol Gabetta in music by Dvorak and Saint-Saëns. [ORF]
- Listen to a performance of Rossini's La gazza ladra starring Nino Machaidze, Simone Alberghini, René Barbera, and others, recorded at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro. [ORF]
- Marzena Diakun leads the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in performances of Holst's The Planets and Rautavaara's Angels and Visitations. [France Musique]
- The Doric String Quartet plays music by Haydn, Bartok, and Schubert at the Festival du Lubéron. [France Musique]
- The Quatuor Zaïde plays quartets by Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven at the Festival international des Quatuors à cordes du Lubéron. [France Musique]
- Pianist Maria Joao Pires joins the Bremen Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and conductor Trevor Pinnock for music by Schubert, Chopin, and Haydn. [RTBF]
- Sébastien Daucé leads the Ensemble Correspondances in music of Henry du Mont at the Festival d'Ambronay. [France Musique]
- Academia Montis Regalis, under Alessandro De Marchi, perform Jommelli's opera Don Trastullo, starring Robin Johannsen, Francesco Castoro, and Federico Sacchi. [ORF]
- Franco Fagioli performs arias by Handel and Lully, accompanied by the Basel Chamber Orchestra. [France Musique]
- The Balthasar-Neumann-Chor and Ensemble perform music by Claudio Monteverdi, Henry Purcell, Sven-David Sandström, and Thomas Jennefelt, recorded last month at St. Pölten Cathedral. [ORF]
- Richard Tognetti leads the Australian Chamber Orchestra in music of Beethoven and Jonny Greenwood, recorded in 2014. [ABC Classic]
- From the Couvent des Capucins de Fribourg, a concert recorded last year by Les Passions de l'Ame, conducted by Meret Lüthi, with music by Schmelzer, Fux, and others. [RTBF]
- A recital by pianist Lisa Moore, recorded in August at Eugene Goossens Hall in Sydney, with music by Philip Glass and Robert Schumann. [ABC Classic]
- Listen to Giordano Bruno, an opera by Francesco Filidei, recorded at the Théâtre de Hautepierre for the Musica Festival. [France Musique]
- The Ensemble Gombert celebrates its 25th anniversary with a concert of music by Gombert, Byrd, Tallis, and others, recorded at Xavier College Chapel last month. [ABC Classic]
- Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Ligeti's Lontano, Beethoven's Triple Concerto, and Tchaikovsky's second symphony, recorded last March. [CSO]
- Jérôme Correas directs Les Paladins in a concert for the Festival Classique au Vert in Paris. [France Musique]
- Kristian Bezuidenhout plays a recital of music by Mozart on the pianoforte, recorded last year at the Festival de Wroclaw in Poland. [RTBF]
- Renaud Capuçon joins the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, with Cornelius Meister, for Busoni's violin concerto, plus Bruckner's sixth symphony. [ORF]
The rest of my weekend review schedule meant that this performance of Markus Stenz's first concert as the BSO's Principal Guest Conductor, focused on excerpts from Mozart's Don Giovanni, was my only option. Stenz was charming and generally informative in the half-hour lecture, an introduction of the opera's music and story with live orchestra examples, complete with Tcherman accent and amusing minor grammatical errors. His ideas about the opera seemed influenced by the René Jacobs recording, with some rather fast tempo choices, strings light on vibrato, crisp articulation over legato phrasing, and timpani and brass allowed to push into the foreground at loud moments.
Tim Smith, BSO offers kinetic Mozart program with Stenz, Meade (Baltimore Sun, October 2)
J.S.Bach, various transcriptions,
J.S.Bach, various transcriptions,
Recitals of little known transcriptions of less-than-famous pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach are just what excites me. Throw in Walter Braunfels with his sumptuous, quasi-orchestral rendition of the Prelude & Fugue BWV 536 as the recital opener, and I’m sold.
Almost: It takes Angelika Nebel’s stately, regal navigation of the liturgical year via the appropriate chorales that seals the deal on Metamorphosis. She does a similar thing in the follow-up album Illuminations, only that she adds her own transcriptions this time, which works out very nicely indeed.
Like Tzimon Barto’s Goldberg Variations [I love it; Charles’ review here], this CD ends with a transcription of the Chorale “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland”, but here for two pianos. I cry either way. Two more quality releases from the recently sold Hänssler label. [See Forbes: Merger Reunites Classical Music Labels Of Father And Son.]
Merger Reunites Classical Music Labels Of Father And Son
Because the Christian Media Foundation (“Stiftung Christliche Medien”, SCM) based in Holzgerlingen near Stuttgart, Germany, no longer cared for having a classical music label on their hands – which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly the type of business that would be raking in profits or even breaking even without considerable effort – they wanted to dump the storied and well-reputed hänssler CLASSIC label. Now SCM has found someone to take it off their hands that will continue the wonderful work the label has been doing for well over 40 years. The taker-over? The smallish label Profil, which publishes most of its releases in the “Edition Günter Hänssler“. As the name suggests, the latter label is run by Günter Hänssler. And yes, he is related to the Hänssler in “hänssler CLASSIC”: He is the son of the founder and has long worked with the former label before founding his own. Now the mothership is with the son; a classical family-reunion story, you might say...
Full review on Forbes.com.
R. Strauss, Four Last Songs (inter alia), J. Eaglen, London Symphony Orchestra, D. Runnicles (2000)
Elgar, Enigma Variations, London Symphony Orchestra, C. Davis (2007)
The overture to Mozart's The Magic Flute featured sharp ideas, with the beat crisply marked by the baton in Runnicles' left hand. All those critical "knock" chords, the Masonic signature, were clearly defined and unified, with beautifully balanced tutti sound, and all sections paid close attention to delineating the repeated-note theme of the fast section, which bubbled with energy, if some occasional ensemble disagreements, all minor.
Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko, who had to cancel her local debut with the Washington Concert Opera one year ago, made an exemplary NSO debut in Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs, a piece we would gladly hear once a year. We have been following her via online streaming, and the reports of our European correspondent have been enthusiastic. Little surprise, then, that this is a voice worth hearing, firm and earthy at the middle and bottom, clear and unrestrained at the top. The latter quality made the end of the third song, Beim Schlafengehen, particularly beautiful, as the soul yearns to soar in the magic wreath of the night. Runnicles, who made a fine recording of these songs with Jane Eaglen some years ago, here had a voice more uniformly up to the task (and an improvement over the last singer to perform them here, Renée Fleming in 2010). The NSO responded with intense violin solos, not overly lachrymose, from concertmaster Nurit Bar-Josef and a luscious, poignant horn solo from outstanding principal player Abel Pereira at the end of the second song, September.
Anne Midgette, The NSO starts its regular season with a promising debut (Washington Post, October 2)
Kate Molleson, BBCSSO/Runnicles review – warm, bold and incisive (The Guardian, September 30)
Edward Elgar and His World, ed. Byron Adams (Bard Music Festival, 2007)
This concert repeats tonight and tomorrow night, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Through a special promotion, $20 tickets on the orchestra level are available for both performances.
Gergiev Starts Munich Tenure With Mahler
On September 19th, Valery Gergiev began his tenure as Music Director with the Munich Philharmonic – more than two and a half years after he signed his contract. If the occasion – a performance of Mahler’s grand Second Symphony – didn’t quite feel like the event it was, it was perhaps because his extensive presence (to the extent that the elusive, fast-paced Gergiev can be said to be truly present anywhere) with the city of Munich’s orchestra in the previous years: He had a number of guest appearances in town, conducting a complete Shostakovich cycle, for example, but also helping the orchestra out when their last music director, Lorin Maazel, died before the end of his scheduled tenure...
Full review on Forbes.com.
The eleven heirs of the Count and Countess of Paris, descendants of Louis-Philippe (1773-1850), the last king of France, are letting go of furniture, paintings, and other family jewels during an exceptional sale on September 29 and 30. In the catalog, works signed by major artists of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Such as gouaches by the painter-decorator Louis Carrogis, known as Carmontelle; or Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié, royal portraitist, who affords an intimate glimpse of the French royal family. One of these canvases, depicting the Duke of Valois in his cradle [shown at right], the future Louis-Philippe, is particularly moving.The French Minister of Culture could oppose the sale of only three works (out of almost 250), which are not allowed to leave France: that includes the account book of the Château d'Amboise, portraits of Louis XIII by Philippe de Champaigne, and the portrait of the Duchesse d'Orléans by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. The government reportedly purchased these three items, secretly, a few days ago.
Update: On An Overgrown Path weighs in: Churnalism is destroying classical music
Update: A response from the Cremona Music Award's Paolo Bodini can be found in the comment section.
Update: A response from Norman Lebrecht, after two days of silence, also below.
Update: Gavin Dixon on the specific reasons behind Sokolov's distaste for Lebrecht.
Update: On An Overgrown Path delves into what the "Cremona Music Awards" actually are all about.
Because he shares a prize of the new Cremona Mondo Musica Awards with past (2014) winner Norman Lebrecht (check his tweets here), Grigory Sokolov refused his prize, calling it “a shame to appear on the same list”.
Grigory Sokolov refuses Cremona Music Award because "it's a shame to be on the same award-winners list w/@NLebrecht" pic.twitter.com/XG8x42D8yi— Jens F. Laurson (@ClassicalCritic) September 27, 2015
Translated into English, more or less, the text reads:
Dear Mr Bianchedi, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Artistic Committee of the Cremona Mondomusica Piano Experience
I refuse to receive the 2015 Cremona Music Award, because it goes against my ideas of elementary decency, and is [indeed] a shame to appear on the [same] list of winners with Lebrecht.
Original letter in Italian (above) and Russian below.
Spoiled by a masterful, cinematic production by Andreas Kriegenburg for the Munich State Opera, I was trying not to expect all that much – and certainly not something to supplant my experiences with Kriegenburg’s Wozzeck. And yet, the deceivingly simple production of the director (and Intendant of the Zurich Opera) Andreas Homoki did just that. Anchored by the set and costumes of Michael Levine (with further costume-help from Meta Bronski), it looked at first like a simple frame – yellow paint on black wood; the setup for a grim and grimy Punch & Judy show. As more and more frames opened behind the first one, revealing up to six layers, it became clear that it was a little cleverer than that, and wickedly effective to boot...
Full review on Forbes.com. Click on excerpted images below to find a higher resolution version of the full picture.