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Briefly Noted: Veracini's Sonate Accademiche

available at Amazon
F. M. Veracini, Complete Sonate Accademiche, Trio Settecento

(released on May 12, 2015)
Cedille CDR 90000 155 | 186'48"
The versatile American violinist Rachel Barton Pine leads an early music ensemble, Trio Settecento, heard at Dumbarton Oaks in 2011. The latest in the group's series of recordings of mostly 18th-century music for the Cedille label is a complete three-CD set of the Sonate Accademiche by Francesco Maria Veracini (1690-1768). The twelve sonatas in this set, published as opus 2 in 1744, are a mixture of the sonata da camera and sonata da chiesa varieties, including both dance movements and more serious contrapuntal movements Veracini designated as Capriccios. Veracini's love of counterpoint, noted by Charles Burney among others, makes him an interesting composer to compare to his near-contemporary, J.S. Bach.

Fabio Biondi and Rinaldo Alessandrini have already recorded these works (sample on YouTube -- the inclusion of theorbo on that recording is something missed here), as have the Locatelli Trio. Where Biondi favored a smooth and rhythmically stable style, Barton Pine and her colleagues play just a notch faster in most cases, and with an ear toward a slightly volatile, unpredictable way of playing with the tempo. In a particularly inspired move, she adds Scottish folk fiddle ornamentation to the Scozzese movement of no. 9 and gives a folksy color to other movements based on tunes Veracini likely took from John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, which he most certainly heard during his travels in Great Britain. Those Capriccio movements are probably the reason behind the identification of op. 2 as sonate accademiche, culminating in the studiously contrapuntal and excessively chromatic twelfth sonata (Passagallo, Capriccio Cromatico with two subjects, Adagio, and Ciaccona). The collection ends with a two-voice canon setting the text of a Latin epigram ("Ut relevet miserum fatum") for violin and cello set close together -- a rather Bach-like musical gesture.


À mon chevet: 'At Last'

À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.

book cover
Patrick drifted towards Nicholas and Annette, curious to see the outcome of his matchmaking. "Stand by the graveside or the furnace,' he heard Nicholas instructing Annette, 'and repeat these words, "Goodbye, old thing. One of us was bound to die first and I'm delighted it was you!" That's my spiritual practice, and you're welcome to adopt it and put it into your hilarious "spiritual tool box".'

'Your friend is absolutely priceless,' said Annette, seeing Patrick approaching. 'What he doesn't realize is that we live in a loving universe. And it loves you too, Nick,' she assured Nicholas, resting her hand on his recoiling shoulder.

'I've quoted Bibesco before,' snapped Nicholas, 'and I'll quote him again: "To a man of the world, the universe is a suburb".'

'Oh, he's got an answer to everything, hasn't he?' said Annette. 'I expect he'll joke his way into heaven. St. Peter loves a witty man.'

'Does he?' said Nicholas, surprisingly appeased. 'That's the best thing I've heard yet about that bungling social secretary. As if the Supreme Being would consent to spend eternity surrounded by a lot of nuns and paupers and par-boiled missionaries, having his lovely concerts ruined by the rattle of spiritual tool boxes and the screams of the faithful, boasting about their crucifixions! What a relief that an enlightened command has finally reached the concierge at the Pearly Gates: "For Heaven's sake, send Me a conversationalist!" '

-- Edward St. Aubyn, At Last, pp. 15-17
The trend of memoir-novels -- Elena Ferrante, Karl Ove Knausgaard -- includes the inimitable Patrick Melrose series by Edward St. Aubyn, now available in a complete set including the final book, At Last. It is typical of the series in that it takes place on one single, rather horrid day in the narrator's life, the funeral of his mother. Amid the encounters of the parts of his mother's sad life, many memories of other days flood into the story, in the minds and voices of several characters. Readers who treasure bitchy repartee will be relieved to know that the incorrigible character of Nicholas Pratt has a final turn in the spotlight. Here, he spars with Annette, the irrepressibly happy New Age apostle of the charlatans who trick Patrick's mother into giving them her family house in southern France.


Ernest Chausson's 'Le Roi Arthus'

Ernest Chausson (1855-1899) wrote only one opera, Le Roi Arthus, which received a rare performance as one of the centerpieces of the Opéra de Paris's season. The promise of the company's publicity photo, showing the ruins of the medieval Abbey of Glastonbury, where King Arthur is supposedly buried, shrouded in fog, was not borne out in the staging by Graham Vick. Marie-Aude Roux called it a "Scottish shower," running both cold and hot, in her review (Le Roi Arthus n’entrera pas dans la légende, May 19) for Le Monde (my translation):

[Vick] preferred to distance his approach and do without the Arthurian legend as much as he could. An unusual way of serving up a little-known work (even if Montpellier, in 1997, and Strasbourg, in 2014, presented staged versions of it), in any case never staged in Paris, where only a concert version was performed on Radiodiffusion française in 1949, then on Radio France in 1981. The duty of presenting the work for its baptism at the Opéra Bastille with, as godparent, a visual world that resonates with the music, should have prevailed.

Instead of which, we had to suffer through the sets of a model kit universe, with its snippets of buildings, its 1970s furniture, the pragmatic ugliness of odd costumes taken directly from a Ken Loach film on the homeless. King Arthur's half-built mobile home is dismantled bit by bit as his Arthurian ideal -- the spiritual harmony of the Knights of the Round Table -- crumbles and is destroyed, undermined by internal jealousies and the adulterous love of Queen Guinevere and Lancelot. The only relics: a circle of ropes held up by swords, a pathetic (low) round table, the silhouette of a castle tower at the top of a green hill (a subtle Wagnerian allusion?). Nothing in any case that takes into account the musical magic of Chausson, the great symphonist, whose abundant, refined, sensual orchestration clothes a harmonic language of fluid and elegant complexity, reinforced by the almost syllabic prosody of the accompanied recitative.
An excerpt of this beautiful score is embedded above. Chausson never got to hear the first performance, in 1903 in Brussels, because he died in a freak fall from a bicycle before it happened. Philippe Jordan conducts, drawing out the French flavors of this Wagner-influenced score, and Roberto Alagna, Thomas Hampson, and Sophie Koch star. Performance continue through June 14, with a broadcast on France Musique on June 6, so we will hopefully get the chance to hear it in rebroadcast.


How to Say Farewell to Aurélie Dupont

We wrote about Paris étoile Aurélie Dupont in 2012, the last time that the Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris came to the Kennedy Center. Shame on you if you missed it, because the French ballerina, 42, is set to retire from dancing this week, at least at the Garnier, going out on a performance of Kenneth MacMillan's L'Histoire de Manon, which will be filmed by Cédric Klapish and shown later in movie theaters. Ariane Bavelier has an appreciation (Aurélie Dupont, comment lui dire adieu?, May 18) for Le Figaro (my translation):

Aurélie justifies her choice by saying that dancing for her is about telling stories with gestures measured note for note. For her farewell, she wanted to dance with Hervé Moreau. Since she has had Manuel Legris for a partner, from when she was just a soloist in her debut, the search for a perfect match has always obsessed here. With Legris, as with Hervé Moreau, a look was enough, movements spontaneously were in dialogue. "I wanted to leave with Hervé: the work with him is always delicate, musical, stunning. But he is hurt, and I did not feel able to dance with someone from the company. So I asked Roberto Bolle, the star of La Scala. He is very demanding and he is 40 years old: it's a beautiful artistic balance," she says. At one time, Aurélie had dreamed of having Manuel Legris, today director of the Vienna State Ballet, as M. GM and Jérémie Bélingard, her husband, as Lescaut. But he will be in the hall to reassure their two sons, who are 4 and 7, for whom the ballet seems rather long, especially when things go bad for their mother.
Although she will not dance with the company anymore, she has plans to dance in other places, and Benjamin Millepied has given her a new role in Paris, naming her Maître de Ballet.


'Israel in Egypt' at National Presbyterian

available at Amazon
Handel, Israel in Egypt, Trinity Wall Street, J. Wachner
(Musica Omnia, 2012)
Charles T. Downey, Washington Chorus performance was like an ocean liner going up C&O Canal (Washington Post, May 18)
Handel performed his oratorios with relatively small orchestras and choirs. Later audiences heard these works with massive forces playing and singing, an anachronism that the historically informed performance movement stripped away by researching the practices in Handel’s lifetime. Although both approaches can work musically, it makes little sense to mix a small orchestra of period instruments with a nearly 200-voice choir, as the Washington Chorus did in its performance of Handel’s “Israel in Egypt” on Sunday at the National Presbyterian Church... [Continue reading]
Washington Chorus
Handel, Israel in Egypt
National Presbyterian Church


Perchance to Stream: Graduation Edition

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.

  • Watch the production of Szymanowski's Król Roger from London's Royal Opera House. [ARTE]

  • Cecilia Bartoli and Andreas Scholl star in a production of Handel's Giulio Cesar in Egitto, with Giovanni Antonini and Il Giardino Armonico, from the Salzburg Pentecost Festival. [ARTE]

  • The Orchestre National de France and Choeur de Radio France perform Verdi's Oberto Conte di San Bonifacio under Carlo Rizzi at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. [France Musique]

  • Listen to a performance of Darius Milhaud's opera La mère coupable, starring Markus Butter, Mireille Delunsch, and Angelika Kirchschlager, with the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien and conductor Leo Hussain at the Theater an der Wien earlier this month. [ORF]

  • Marc Minkowski conducts Les Musiciens du Louvre--Grenoble in a performance of Rameau's Les Boréades, recorded last year at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. [RTBF]

  • From the Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège, listen to a performance of Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles, recorded on April 25, with Paolo Arrivabeni conducting a cast starring Anne-Catherine Gillet (Leïla), Marc Laho (Nadir), and Lionel Lhote (Zurga). [RTBF]

  • Daniel Barenboim leads a performance of Beethoven's Fidelio at La Scala, starring Anja Kampe and Klaus Florian Vogt, recorded in Milan last year. [Radio Clásica]

  • Sandrine Piau and Marie-Nicole Lemieux perform duos by Handel, with Ricardo Minasi and Il Pomo d’Oro. [France Musique]

  • Listen to a performance of Solaris, the new opera by Dai Fujikura (b. 1977) on a libretto by Saburo Teshigawara, based on the novel by Stanislas Lem, recorded in March at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris), with the Ensemble Intercontemporain and others. [France Musique]


Filharmonia Szczecińska

The European Union's architectural award, given by the Mies van der Rohe Foundation, went earlier this week to the Filharmonia Szczecińska, the symphonic hall in the Polish city of Szczecin (shown above), created by the Italo-Spanish firm Barozzi Veiga. Covered in glass that is all white and translucent, it has the look of an ice cathedral or, as it struck me the first time, Superman's Fortress of Solitude. Jean-Jacques Larrochelle has a report on the hall (Le prix Mies van der Rohe attribué à la Filharmonia Szczecinska, May 9) for Le Monde (my translation):

The building, completed in 2014 after three years of construction, offers 13,000 square meters of functional space. It includes a 1,000-seat concert hall, a hall for chamber music that seats 200, a multipurpose space used for exhibits and conferences, and a large entry hall. Its cost: 30 million euros.

Built at the intersection of the historical site of the Konzerthaus, an old neighborhood bombed during the Second World War, then renconstructed, the Filharmonia Szczecinska is made up of vertical façades capped with pointed gables. Built up against the headquarters of the Wojewodzka police, made of brick and stone, it generously faces out on green spaces. The architects Barozzi and Veiga wanted to give it "a luminous element." The glass façade, illuminated from the inside by a stiff grill, offers a broad range of color scenarios that play with the architecture, especially at night. During the day, as shown in photographs, the contrast is just as striking between the stark whiteness of the new building and the lackluster environment that surrounds it.
Larrochelle also points that, although singular, the building does not stand out from its surrounding in other ways: its height is in keeping with its surroundings, for example. The architects even speak about its austerity, at least on the outside, because the interior is more colorful and varied.


Kavakos on the Podium and Beside It

available at Amazon
Sibelius, Pelléas et Mélisande (original version), Lahti Symphony Orchestra, O. Vänskä
(BIS, 1999)
Charles T. Downey, Kavakos ends two-week NSO residency by taking up the baton (Washington Post, May 15)
Leonidas Kavakos came to the end of a two-week residency with the National Symphony Orchestra by showing a third facet of his musical personality. After shining as a soloist in Sibelius’s violin concerto last week, he gave what was reportedly an excellent solo recital earlier this week with Christoph Eschenbach at the piano. As heard last night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Kavakos concluded by taking the podium for his conducting debut with the orchestra.

Most conductors begin their musical lives playing an instrument, switching later to conducting... [Continue reading]
National Symphony Orchestra
With Leonidas Kavakos, violinist and conductor
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

Robert Battey, Kavakos and Eschenbach combine to put on an inspired recital (Washington Post, May 13)

Charles T. Downey, Second Opinion: Eschenbach's Mahler 5 (Ionarts, May 9)

---, A cohesive-sounding conductorless New Century Chamber Orchestra at Strathmore (Washington Post, February 1, 2013)

---, Café Zimmermann (Ionarts, November 5, 2007)


Thierry Escaich @ Kennedy Center

available at Amazon
T. Escaich, Improvisations [live]
(Accord, 2008)
Charles T. Downey, Rubenstein Family Organ Recital Series ends second season with success (Washington Post, May 15)
The Rubenstein Family Organ Recital Series, hosted by the National Symphony Orchestra in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, has come to the end of its second season with admirable success. Once again on Wednesday night, for a recital by French organist Thierry Escaich, a crowd far larger than is generally associated with this specialized instrument showed up, stayed, and was enthusiastic.

As performer, Escaich was daring and brash in choice of tempo and unpredictable rubato... [Continue reading]
Thierry Escaich, organ
Rubenstein Family Organ Recital Series
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

There was not room in the review to mention that Escaich's encore was another improvisation. Some listeners may be wondering why the acoustical canopy was not raised out of the way, so as not to block the view or sound of the full organ. The NSO Press Office gave us the following response: "Although the canopy installation and its mechanisms were up-to-the minute when they were installed, that was in 1997, so the canopy is not terribly easy to adjust. It’s even more complicated when you factor in the other things going on in the hall for a given week. In this case, the hall has NSO concerts and rehearsals all week, and we have a microphone set-up in place for recording the NSO concerts, which means that a great deal of tech time would have been involved with the multiple canopy adjustments and the microphone strike and re-hang, during which the stage would not be accessible for anything else. We are looking at ways canopy adjustments might be implemented in the future."

Charles T. Downey, Et ecce terrae motus factus est (Ionarts, April 15, 2007)

Michael Lodico, Thierry Escaich at the National Shrine (Ionarts, April 17, 2007)

Iveta Apkalna (May 21, 2014)
Paul Jacobs (February 7, 2014)
Cameron Carpenter (October 18, 2013)

Tara Erraught's U.S. Debut

available at Amazon
Rossini, La Cenerentola, C. Bartoli, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, R. Chailly
(Decca, 1993)
Charles T. Downey, D.C. Cenerentola Weighs In With Splendid Singing
Classical Voice North America, May 13
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A decade after Deborah Voigt lost a role because of how she would look in a revealing black dress, have popular culture’s obsessions with youth and body image become the norm in the world of opera? The reaction of British critics to Tara Erraught’s performance a year ago, as Octavian in the Glyndebourne Festival’s production of Der Rosenkavalier, struck a chord around the world as taking the trend a step too far. The Irish-born mezzo-soprano’s American stage debut, in the second cast of Washington National Opera’s production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola on May 11, offered the chance to hear — and see — her for ourselves.

The fat-shaming critics, all men, were uncomfortably ad hominem — or ad mulierem — in their assessment of Erraught’s body...
[Continue reading]

Rossini, La Cenerentola
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

Robert R. Reilly, Second Opinion: 'Cenerentola' at WNO (Ionarts, May 13)


Second Opinion: 'Cenerentola' at WNO

Many thanks to Robert R. Reilly for this review from the Kennedy Center.

Tara Erraught (Angelina), David Portillo (Don Ramiro), and Cast in La Cenerentola, Washington National Opera, 2015
(photo by Scott Suchman)
I seldom go to operas “cold turkey,” i.e., without having seen a prior production or without even having heard the music, but one certainly gets a fresh look by doing so. I went to the Washington National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Cinderella, on the evening of May 11, 2015, on the strength of my great love for The Barber of Seville, perhaps the greatest comic opera ever written. I went expecting to be disappointed since nothing could be as great as The Barber, which Rossini wrote the year before Cinderella, which he dashed off in a matter of weeks. However, I was not disappointed. In fact, I was generally delighted. This opera is almost as musically funny as The Barber and, while the humor in it is very broad (and this production makes it even broader), it makes for a delightfully amusing evening. (This was the first performance of the company's second cast; see Charles's review of the first cast from opening night.)

The production actually looks more like Alice in Wonderland than Cinderella. The vivid costume designs are almost cartoonish, and the acting style is, at times, out of the silent movies, with a lot of mugging. That is not necessarily a criticism, but a description. The whole thing is done in such a lighthearted style, it is difficult to criticize. However, that is what critics do; so I shall express several reservations, along with lavish praise.

First of all, I should say that the singing was uniformly fine. As Cinderella, Tara Erraught was vocally strong (especially in the closing scene), but needed to show more fragility and vulnerability in her characterization of the role. She comes off as too tough, not one to be bossed around by the mean sisters or anyone else. She seemed to give as well as she got. This was a partial misstep that somewhat undermined the drama. She should at least seem to be needing rescue. As the Prince, David Portillo was spot on vocally and dramatically. His performance was stirring. The two wicked sisters, Deborah Nansteel and Jacqueline Echols, both gave robust performances, Echols particularly so.

In the key role of the stepfather, Don Magnifico, Italian baritone Paolo Bordogna gave a very flavorful, nearly histrionic rendition of his part, which was generally hilarious, especially the scene in the wine cellar, which he played to the hilt. Playing things over the top is not a problem in a production this broad, but Bordogna let us know once too often that he knew he was playing it over the top – which is a problem. It distracts and detracts to let the audience know that you know you are funny. In any case, he was a guilty pleasure.

Italian bass-baritone Simone Alberghini got the balance just right in his portrayal of the valet Dandini, who trades places with the Prince in order to deceive the mean sisters. Both his singing and comic timing were excellent. He was very funny, but not self-consciously so. He knew how to keep the humor within his character. He played very well with the Prince. A welcome note of gravitas, both in terms of singing and dramatic stage presence, was provided by bass-baritone Shenyang as Alidoro. He knows how to be still, and still command attention. He perfectly portrayed the overseeing providential presence that restores the place of goodness and steers all things to their desired consummation.

The ensemble singing was a particular pleasure throughout the evening. I cannot think of a vocal quartet, quintet, sextet or septet that was not delightfully done. The sextet with the Prince, Dandini, Don Magnifico, Cinderella and the two sisters early in the second act after the Prince’s carriage accident was a particular delight – like listening to a vocal version of popcorn.

The septet at the Prince’s banquet table was also well done, but the singers should not have had to compete with the downstage mice, who, in front of the banquet table, engaged in various gymnastics. By the way, these half-dozen rodent characters were close to omnipresent throughout the opera. They were charming and made sense in the baron’s rundown château, where it was logical that mice should be, but what were they doing in the Prince’s palace other than helping to move the props? For director Joan Font to have allowed for such a major distraction in the banquet scene tells us that he did not trust the material Rossini had given him for it. Regarding the mice, if the prince really loves Cinderella, the first thing he should do is call an exterminator.

Font, however, did a generally fine job of keeping things moving and lively. One minor error was his staging of Cinderella’s entrance at the ball, which should have been grander – probably through the large upstage doors. Instead, we see her sidestepping along an upper catwalk to get to the stage-right staircase, which she then descends. It was a bit anticlimactic. Also, I think the closing touch of presenting the opera as if it had been in a dream with poor Cinderella still sweeping the floor was gratuitous and an unnecessary downer. After all, the opera’s subtitle is Goodness Triumphant (a fact that goes unmentioned in any of the WNO program notes), not Cinderella’s escapist daydream and her return to serfdom. My reaction to the director’s note as to why he did this is: it is a mistake to over-interpret a soufflé.

Italian conductor Speranza Scappucci and the Washington National Opera Orchestra were on point throughout the performance, delivering very deft orchestral support. They played the overture with nuance and sparkle.

I noticed that there was a large group of young people (I would guess in the later stages of grade school) up in the third balcony. I cannot think of a better introduction for them to opera – except, of course, The Barber of Seville. I know that my 15-year-old son enjoyed it as much as I did.

This production runs through May 21, with next Saturday's performance (May 16, 7 pm) shown in simulcast at Nationals Park.


Elections in Berlin: No News is Some News

The Berlin Philharmonic votes, but comes to no result... and may not, for up to a year.

“We must continue this process and this election. That will have to take place within one year. We are very confident that we will come to a decision then. The process of this election will be continued, and the orchestra assembly will meet regularly, but we will take the time that is necessary. That can last one year.”

From the press release:

Voting for Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker Brings No Results
The voting for the Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker brought no results today.

Orchestra Board member Peter Riegelbauer said: “After an orchestra assembly which lasted 11 hours, we have unfortunately come to no decision. There were positive and lively discussions and several rounds of voting, but unfortunately we were unable to agree on a conductor.”

123 members of the orchestra who were eligible to vote were present.
Riegelbauer continued: “We must continue this process and this election. That will have to take place within one year. We are very confident that we will come to a decision then. The process of this election will be continued, and the orchestra assembly will meet regularly, but we will take the time that is necessary. That can last one year.”

The mood during the assembly was described by all participants as very constructive, cooperative and friendly.
May 11, 2015

I reckon the last sentence means there were yelling-matches but no fist-fights.

Continue to speculate, meanwhile, with my horse-racing odds:

The Berlin Philharmonic's Next Conductor: The Odds And Ends

The speculation has been running high for months, reaching fever-pitch in the days before May 11th: Who will be the new music director of the Berlin Philharmonic?!

It’s a smaller community that cares so much, than, say: the entire catholic world when the pope gets elected, but it feels a bit like that: The orchestra gets together and – this being fairly unique in the world of classical music – votes on who will lead them in the years to come. Not the least because the other most prestigious orchestra, the sloppy, occasionally inspired Vienna Philharmonic, has no permanent conductor, this position is arguably the most prestigious orchestral conducting job to have. Only the plume of smoke coming out of Hans Scharoun’s Philharmonic Hall will be missing, to give the full Vatican feeling.

Apparently betting isn’t prevalent enough in this cultural niche; otherwise Ladbrokes would give quotes on the different candidates. It might look something like this:

15/2 Daniel Barenboim (1942; pining for that job for decades now, but too old)....
Continue reading here, at


In Search of the Perfect Mousetrap: WNO's 'La Cenerentola'

La Cenerentola, Washington National Opera, 2015 (photo by Scott Suchman)

It turns out that Rossini's La Cenerentola is not a very good opera. It was moderately funny and cute the first time I saw it, but its charms have worn thinner with each subsequent viewing. Fortunately, it has come under review only twice before here -- from Wolf Trap in 2005 and from Opera Vivente in 2009 -- and the latest production, from Washington National Opera, did not change my mind at its opening on Saturday night in the Kennedy Center Opera House.

This was not for lack of beautiful singing, led by mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, whose Angelina was rapid-fire and laser-focused in runs, although her slightly nasal tone turned unpleasant as her breath support faded. The best buffo nonsense came from Italian bass-baritone Simone Alberghini's Dandini, who hammed up his delight in taking the role usually played by his master, the Prince, and lording it over everyone. Italian baritone Paolo Bordogna, in an uneven company debut as Angelina's abusive stepfather, went too far in his comic antics, not necessarily matched by vocal goods. Russian tenor Maxim Mironov had a more solid company debut as the actual Prince, Don Ramiro, with a rather light sound, even on the highest notes, matched by a sort of nondescript stage presence. Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists Jacqueline Echols and especially Deborah Nansteel, who was more present vocally, were moderately funny as the wicked stepsisters, while Shenyang's Alidoro was officious but robust.

Other Reviews:

Anne Midgette, In Washington National Opera’s ‘Cinderella,’ parts are better than sum (Washington Post, May 11)

Terry Ponick, WNO’s ‘Cinderella’: A longish evening of colorful family fun (Communities Digital News, May 11)
Part of what made the experience so tedious was the heavy-handed staging by Spanish director Joan Font, with rather bland sets (Joan Guillén, who also designed the obnoxiously over-colored costumes) lit and otherwise tarted up with raucous colors (lighting designed by Albert Faura). A team of supernumerary mice was a constant, nagging distraction, and by the end of a long evening I would have stood and cheered if some large traps had put an end to their shenanigans on stage. (I much prefer my regular encounters with Nibbles, the real-life KC Mouse, on those occasional late nights filing the overnight review of the National Symphony Orchestra.)

The other thing that goaded my ear was the inability or unwillingness of conductor Speranza Scappucci to reign in the singers on the platform: in most pieces in fast tempos, all evening long, the singers ran away with the tempo and Scappucci let them go, forcing the orchestra to keep up with them. Scappucci also accompanied the recitatives, capably enough, from a harpsichord mounted on a gigantic stand in front of her, although a piano or even just the cello by itself was more likely what accompanied the recitatives in 1817 when the opera premiered (the autograph score has only a cello line, with no chords or figures).

This production runs through May 21, with next Saturday's performance (May 16, 7 pm) shown in simulcast at Nationals Park.


Perchance to Stream: Call Your Mother Edition

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.

  • Listen to a harpsichord recital by Christophe Rousset, with music by François Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Antoine Forqueray, Jacques Duphly, and Claude Balbastre, recorded in the church of Saint-Maxime de Beuvrequen. [France Musique]

  • Jesús López-Cobos conducts a performance of Donizetti's Don Pasquale at the Wiener Staatsoper, starring Michele Pertusi, Juan Diego Flórez, and others. [France Musique]

  • From the Teatro Real in Madrid, watch the David McVicar production of Verdi's La Traviata. [ARTE]

  • Watch Herbert Blomstedt conduct the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Beethoven's seventh symphony and Nielsen's third symphony. [ARTE]

  • Andrea Marcon leads the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Bach cantatas, with soloists Carolyn Sampson, Julien Prégardien, and others, recorded in Munich in February, plus symphonies by C.P.E. Bach and Mozart. [ORF | Part 2]

  • Listen again to a performance of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress from the Metropolitan Opera, starring Paul Appleby (Tom Rakewell), Layla Claire (Anne Trulove), Gerald Finley (Nick Shadow), and Stephanie Blythe (Baba the Turk), and conducted by James Levine. [Radio Clásica]

  • Bach cantatas and concerti grossi by Georg Muffat performed by the Netherlands Bach Society, conducted by Fabio Bonizzoni, recorded last January in Utrecht. [ORF]

  • Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in music by Smetana and Schumann, plus Ravel's G major piano concerto with Hélène Grimaud as soloist. Don't miss her encore, a four-hands piece from Ma mère l'Oye where Grimaud is joined by Nézet-Séguin at the keyboard. [RTBF]

  • Russian songs by Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky, and Rachmaninoff performed by mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk and pianist Helmut Deutsch, recorded last month at the Wiener Konzerthaus. [ORF]

  • From St. David's Hall in Cardiff, Stephen Layton leads a performance of Haydn's Creation, with the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales. [BBC3]

  • Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder joins the Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France for the Brahms first piano concerto, under Mikko Franck, in a concert recorded last month at the Philharmonie de Paris. [France Musique]

  • From City Halls Glasgow, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Alpesh Chauhan perform Shostakovich's 15th symphony and first piano concerto, with Garrick Ohlsson as soloist. [BBC3]

  • The Trio Les Esprits, violinist Alexandra Soumm and violist Adrien Boisseau play chamber music by Gustav Mahler, Mauricio Kagel, and Franz Schubert at the Festival de Pâques in Deauville. [France Musique]

  • Kirill Karabits conducts Verdi's Messa da Requiem with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. [BBC3]

  • Chamber music for quintets and other groupings by Anton Reicha, Mozart, and Beethoven recorded at the Festival de Pâques in Deauville. [France Musique]

  • Pianists Lidija and Sanja Bizjak perform music by Honegger, Mozart, Falla, and Saint-Saëns with the Orchestre des Pays de Savoie conducted by Nicolas Chalvin. [France Musique]

  • Two of Nielsen's string quartets performed by the Danish String Quartet, recorded last March in Copenhagen, plus violinist Natalja Prischepenko and pianist Plamena Mangova in Prokofiev's second violin sonata, recorded in Bulgaria. [ORF]

  • The Quatuor Girard and friends perform music by André Caplet, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Ernest Chausson, and Francis Poulenc at the Festival de Pâques in Deauville. [France Musique]

  • From a concert recorded last January at the Maison de la Musique de Nanterre, the Cabaret Contemporain and singer Linda Olah perform music of the German electronic music band Kraftwerk. [France Musique]


On Forbes: The Berlin Philharmonic's Next Conductor: The Odds And Ends

The Berlin Philharmonic's Next Conductor: The Odds And Ends

The speculation has been running high for months, reaching fever-pitch in the days before May 11th: Who will be the new music director of the Berlin Philharmonic?!

It’s a smaller community that cares so much, than, say: the entire catholic world when the pope gets elected, but it feels a bit like that: The orchestra gets together and – this being fairly unique in the world of classical music – votes on who will lead them in the years to come. Not the least because the other most prestigious orchestra, the sloppy, occasionally inspired Vienna Philharmonic, has no permanent conductor, this position is arguably the most prestigious orchestral conducting job to have. Only the plume of smoke coming out of Hans Scharoun’s Philharmonic Hall will be missing, to give the full Vatican feeling.

Apparently betting isn’t prevalent enough in this cultural niche; otherwise Ladbrokes would give quotes on the different candidates. It might look something like this:

15/2 Daniel Barenboim (1942; pining for that job for decades now, but too old)....

Continue reading here, at

Second Opinion: Eschenbach's Mahler 5

Christoph Eschenbach will step down from the music directorship of the National Symphony Orchestra after the next two seasons. His influence will continue after that, through the musicians he has helped to engage during his tenure. This week's main attraction, Mahler's mammoth fifth symphony, seemed chosen at least in part to feature three of those recent arrivals -- principal trumpet William Gerlach and principal horn Abel Pereira, both appointed last year, and principal harpist Adriana Horne, appointed in 2013 -- heard at the Friday performance in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

Other Reviews:

Robert R. Reilly, Eschenbach and the NSO – Sibelius and Mahler (Ionarts, May 8)

Anne Midgette, Kavakos, Eschenbach offer ragged emotional truth in NSO concert (Washington Post, May 8)

Terry Ponick, The NSO’s industrial strength evening of Sibelius and Mahler (Communities Digital News, May 8)

Charles T. Downey, DCist Goes to the Symphony: NSO's Bright Future (DCist, October 16, 2010)

Jens F. Laurson, Too Few Witness Sibelius Greatness (Ionarts, March 9, 2007)

Mahler 5 on Ionarts:
Valery Gergiev | Juraj Valcuha | Alan Gilbert
Daniele Gatti | Daniel Barenboim
Christoph Eschenbach (Philadelphia Orchestra) | Marin Alsop
All three gave excellent renditions of the important solo parts in this symphony, receiving loud ovations when singled out by Eschenbach at the concert's end. The brass in general had a strong night all around, producing crushing power in the many booming crescendos of the piece. Gerlach's opening trumpet solo was assured, although Eschenbach, from the groan of low instruments in answer, set a somewhat uneven pace to the funeral march, wallowing a bit in his sentimental approach. Likewise, the second movement was a vast and wild tumult of sound, if a little crazy and not quite unified, with the violin section, three of whose retiring members were honored at Thursday night's concert, sounding especially ragged.

Eschenbach's tempo for the massive scherzo seemed too fast, but here the blazing horn calls from Pereira were a powerful propelling force. In a not unrelated way, Eschenbach did not take his time in the Adagietto either, where there were no swooning portamenti in the strings, although the ending was slowed down and taken to a complete fade al niente, with subtle contributions from Horne's harp. Impatience also came through in the finale, which seemed over-fast at times, especially in the string fugato sections, where the runs were often indistinct blurs. It was all in all a viscerally exciting yet not entirely coherent rendition of this puzzling piece.

Pairing Mahler's fifth with Sibelius's violin concerto was maybe a bit much, but as expected Leonidas Kavakos worked his magic on the solo part. He took a meditative approach to the first movement, his ruminative themes taken up in ecstatic commentaries by the amassed orchestra, held at bay by Eschenbach when Kavakos was playing. Kavakos had a gorgeous, loamy tone on the G string, but his high playing on the E string was much less reliable, with some intonation problems and other issues. The second movement was especially evanescent, from both soloists and orchestra in piano passages, with Kavakos joining the first violins in many of the tutti sections. The folksy gutsiness of Kavakos's style in the finale was memorable, but he often rushed in the more driven parts, forcing Eschenbach and the orchestra to scramble often to stay with him, which created an occasionally sloppy lack of ensemble. Loud ovations merited the encore that was not forthcoming on Thursday night, the Largo of Bach's third unaccompanied violin sonata, played with guileless simplicity.

This concert is repeated tonight.