Friday, October 28, 2016
This past week brought the first installment of the new “Renee Fleming’s VOICES!” series at the Kennedy Center. The bad news is that this is not the name of a new drag revue she is curating. The good news is that the first concert was devoted to the exceptional artistry of Lawrence Brownlee. Brownlee has been a regular presence in DC over the years since participating in the Wolf Trap young artist program, and this appearance comes in advance of a string of performances of La Fille du Regiment at WNO next month. The timing was fortuitous in another way as well: earlier in the day, he had performed for vice president Joe Biden, the visiting prime minister of Italy, and other Washington dignitaries, in what sounds like an episode of West Wing specially engineered to get me choked up. Sometimes the sign of a good vocal recital is feeling like you’ve learned valuable information about the art song tradition. This was the other kind, where you go long stretches forgetting the translations exist because you keep getting distracted by the voice in front of you. Brownlee’s light, golden timbre, hummingbird vibrato, and effortless upper extension were all in evidence here, though the middle range seems to have an earthier edge now, that elegant touch of sob perhaps a bit more prominent. Three Liszt songs on texts by Victor Hugo made for a solid warm-up set. The wistful “Oh! Quand je dors” (yet another Liszt joint about Petrarch) was especially fine, with a beautiful limpid high note on the final cry of “Laura.” The following “Seul sur la terre” from Donizetti’s Dom Sebastien signalled that Brownlee would not be stingy with the operatic red meat here, unfurling a series of laser-focused high C’s and a D-flat. An extended group of Richard Strauss songs were the furthest afield from Brownlee’s familiar rep, especially the involved “Heimliche Aufforderung,” which felt like a bit of a chore, and the expansive, bordering on overwrought, “Cacilie” which tested the credibility of Brownlee’s Bacchus impression in a few spots before coming to a confident conclusion. The more focused inner selections were lovely, including the seductive “Breit’ uber mein Haupt” and a thoughtful, mysterious “Die Nacht.” The second half opened with Brownlee taking on the daunting “Terra amica” from Rossini rarity Zelmira. Witnessing an artist of Brownlee’s caliber wrestle one of these showpieces to the ground at close range is a rare thrill. It was also a reminder that he is a very physical singer, something that can get lost in the back of the Met. Though he dispatched the knotty passagework with fierce determination, at times it felt more effortful than one would expect from him. Top notes were blazingly secure. The meat of the second half was devoted to a series of Bellini songs. Brownlee handled the wide gamut of colors and moods in “Torna, vezzosa Fillide” with consummate style, from the lilting legato lines of the middle section to the stormy conclusion. Arrestingly beautiful readings of the miniatures “Ma rendi pur contento” and “Per pieta, bell’idol mio” elicited a collective swoon from the crowd, and in “La ricordanza,” Brownlee unleashed full, unapologetic crooner mode for a winning finale. Brownlee’s affection for the final group of spirituals by H.T Burleigh elevated this set above the perfunctory feeling that can attend the English chaser part of the recital. His light, lyrical sound is a welcome alternative to the pummeling similar pieces can suffer at the hands of heavier operatic voices, though he had trouble with some of the lower notes. The final rendition of “Give Me Jesus” was especially moving. Brownlee’s collaborator at the piano, Justina Lee, certainly demonstrated the sympathetic touch needed for these pieces, though, perhaps due to quickly assembling the evening, her contribution was noticeably routine in places and a few of the more demanding passages felt tentative. The generous spirit of the evening’s programming extended to the single encore, a finely wrought “Una furtiva lagrima,” announced to squeals of glee from the weeknight crowd of vocal nerds.
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, at the First Unitarian Society of Madison , 900 University Bay Drive, features sopranos Susan Savage Day, Rebekah Demure and Arianna Day in music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , John Corigliano , Ottorino Respighi , Richard Strauss and others. It runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m. By Jacob Stockinger Edgewood College will present its Fall Choral Concert at 2:30 p.m. this Sunday in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. Admission is FREE. The Women’s Choir and the Chamber Singers , under the direction of Kathleen Otterson (below top) and Sergei Pavlov (below bottom), will feature a wide variety of musical selections. is The eclectic program includes the Johann Sebastian Bach -Charles Gounod setting of “Ave Maria,” heard in the YouTube video at the bottom; Sydney Carter’s beautiful arrangement of “Lord of the Dance”; and music of Pentatonix. The Chamber Singers is the College’s premier a cappella choral ensemble, open to students of all majors. The choir performs literature from the medieval period to the 21st century, participating in multiple concerts throughout the school year. The Women’s Choir performs a wide variety of traditional and modern music specifically for women’s voices. Tagged: a cappella , Arts , Ave Maria , Bach , Chamber music , chamber singers , Charles Gounod , Choir , choral music , Classical music , Edgewood College , fall , First Unitarian Society of Madison , Jacob Stockinger , Johann Sebastian Bach , John Corigliano , Kathleen Otterson , Lord of the Dance , Madison , Medieval , Mozart , Music , musicale , Ottorino Respighi , Pentatonix , Richard Strauss , Sergei Pavlov , singer , singers , soprano , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , vocal music , Wisconsin , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , women , women;s choir , YouTube
Kent Nagano is one of the most complete conductors and some years ago vividly impressed the Mozarteum audiences when he came with the Montreal Symphony. Now he was back with the Hamburg Philharmonic at the Colón with two programmes focussed on German/Austrian Postromantics and they became a major event of the season. Nagano has had a great European career which in principle one wouldn´t expect from a Californian of Japanese ascendance, but he explains that he was trained by a German teacher who imbued him with the very essence of style in the greatest symphonic repertoire. In his DNA there was an innate musicality and it was nurtured by an intelligent guide. A brief résumé. He has held main posts at Lyon Opera (a very innovative tenure), the Hallé Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera, Deutsche Symphonie Berlin, the Bavarian Opera (Munich). And since September 2015 he is Musical Director of the Hamburg State Opera, whose Philharmonic Orchestra gives two hundred performances of opera and ballet plus thirty symphonic and chamber concerts, a tremendous amount of work. I recall that this orchestra came here decades ago led by Aldo Ceccato and for the Mozarteum: a solid ensemble, though not as important as it was on this year´s visit. They trace their origins to as far back as 1828, and during the Twentieth Century they had illustrious conductors: Muck, E.Jochum, Keilberth, Sawallisch and G.Albrecht. Then Ceccato, and afterwards Metzmacher and for ten years before Nagano, Simone Young, the outstanding Australian lady conductress. As it came in this tour they numbered 96 players, big enough for Strauss. They really have 130 players because their enormous yearly task necessitates some rotation of players. And with them came two admirable artists: cellist Gautier Capuçon, who with his violinist brother Renaud played a memorable Brahms Double Concerto here in one of the Argerich Festivals; and Japanese mezzosoprano Mihoko Fujimura, unknown here but very appreciated in Germany, particularly in Wagner. Richard Strauss´ "Don Quixote" (1897) demonstrates his inexhaustible orchestral imagination, who had only one possible match in the late Nineteenth Century: Gustav Mahler. "Don Quixote" has a subtitle, "Fantastic variations on a chivalric subject". The cello is the Don and the viola is Sancho. Between the Introduction and the Finale there are ten variations, some of them with astounding orchestral effects (the sheep sound like advanced atonalism, and flying is cunningly imitated). But it is also a warm portrait of character. It needs a crack orchestra and an inspired cellist: it had both this time. True, Capuçon was somewhat arbitrary as to note values, but his interpretation was expressive and convincing, with beautiful timbre and fine technique. Nagano and the orchestra were stalwart throughout, with perfectly chosen tempi and immaculate playing of the very difficult music, as well as intensity and sustained concentration. Naomi Seiler (viola) and Konradin Seitzer, the concertino of imposing presence and virtuoso quality, made fine contributions. Brahms´ Symphony Nº 1 is probably the best First in history; to say that what we heard was outstanding in the myriad versions we have heard through several decades is no exaggeration. The composer was born in Hamburg and was homaged by the players fully and excitingly. The encores were the subtle Entr´acte from Schubert´s "Rosamunde", lovingly done, and curiously with no hiatus, a fascinating movement from Ligeti´s "Concert Romanesc", as wild a piece as can be imagined, where conductor and orchestra showed that the moderns have no secrets for them. The second programme was very coherent. Before the interval, Wagner´s Prelude to Act One and Love-Death from "Tristan and Isolde", the latter in the orchestral arrangement of the composer; and the five "Wesendonck Lieder", arranged by Felix Mottl the first four and the fifth by Wagner from the original for voice and piano. As two of them have melodies that reappear in "Tristan...", it was a good idea to programme the songs on the poems of Wagner´s muse, Mathilde Wesendonck. Nagano proved a fine Wagnerian, and Fujimura sang with powerful voice and clear understanding of the style. Bruckner´s Sixth Symphony (1881) isn´t as long as the following ones (55 minutes); I find it more technical and less attractive than the Seventh or Eighth, but quite representative of his distinctive personality. Again Nagano and the orchestra showed conclusive professionalism, energy and power of communication. There were no encores. For Buenos Aires Herald
For several decades Carlos López Puccio has led a celebrated double life as member of Les Luthiers and the recognised master of the best chamber choir we have, the Estudio Coral de Buenos Aires. What´s relevant isn´t only the high quality of picked professional singers and the expressive and stylish interpretations that the conductor always obtains: what matters equally is the unfailing interest of the pieces that his avid curiosity unveils for us. Last Wednesday they gave an outstanding recital for the Mozarteum´s Midday Concerts at the Gran Rex, called "Postromanticism and Modernity in the Twentieth Century". Although many of the pieces had been heard at the Colón last year, some were not, very especially a fantastic Richard Strauss score, "Hymne", sung however in other venues, and for me the main attraction. As he always does, López Puccio, with his nervous, fast humor, presented some of the most complex choices. Naturally "Hymne" (1938) closed the concert. On a Friedrich Rückert text about the biblical story of Joseph and his brethren Strauss builds a colossal edifice for twelve different voices plus a soloists quartet, not only a technical tour de force but, as the conductor said, "a beautiful piece of work". The sixteen parts meshed to perfection and arrived to an overpowering climax before subsiding. The solid soloists were Pol González, Paula Riestra, Silvina Sadoly and Pablo Zartmann. Earlier we had heard another of Strauss´ rare scores for choir, heard at the Colón, the sarcastic and witty "Die Göttin im Putzzimmer" ("The Goddess at the boudoir"), 1936, in a Rückert text on an entirely contrasting subject with that of "Hymne". This "Goddess" isn´t easy at all, for eight skillfully managed voices (of course several singers per voice: the Estudio numbers thirty people) Two items were folk-inspired: two of Janácek´s songs for mixed choir, a slow melodic one ("The wild duck") and a fast, rhythmic piece ("Our song"), both very attractive; but here López Puccio chose with poetic licence, for they are from 1885 and 1890. The "Four Slovak folksongs" (1917) by Bartók are short and close to the originals collected by himself; charming and vigorous, they show why this great creator was so attracted by folklore. The interpretations were fresh and rhythmic. The other two scores were from notable USA composers. Copland´s "Lark" (1938) is an inspired song for baritone and choir; the fine soloist was Martín Caltabiano. Surely the most advanced choice was Charles Ives´ "General Booth enters into Heaven", written in 1914 on a text by Vachel Lindsay extolling the figure of Booth, founder of the Salvation Army; his entry is followed by a choir of indigent people. The firm voice of González was the Narrator; the choir quoted the hymn "Cleansing fountain" (1823) by Lowell Mason; and the piano played atonal chords. As usual, Ives experimented, with talent and a personal touch. Both here and in Bartók, Diego Ruiz accompanied. For Buenos Aires Herald
Opera loves its anniversary years, and works inspired by William Shakespeare are everywhere in 2016, marking 400th since his death. Since January I have posted adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, Falstaff, Othello, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This week, I am happy to add two of the newest crop of nods to the Bard of Avon: Lear by Aribert Reimann, and Hamlet by Anno Schreier. A quick glace around the Internet revealed some 49 operas inspired by Shakespeare, from Henry Purcell’s The Fairy-Queen to Thomas Adés’ The Tempest. I’m not counting West Side Story or Re Lear, for which a libretto was completed by Antonio Somma but Giuseppe Verdi unfortunately never got around to finishing the score. Reimann’s opera, set to a libretto by Claus H. Henneberg, famously premiered at the Bayerische Staatsoper in 1978 as a vehicle for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s original production soon transferred to the San Francisco Opera where it was performed in English starring Thomas Stewart. Productions in Paris and London followed shortly thereafter. In addition to a Deutsche Gramophon studio recording, a 1982 telecast from Munich with many members of the original cast can be found on pirated DVDs; a broadcast from San Francisco also exists. Post-Mozart and Billy Budd, Bo Skovhus has morphed into a champion of New Music and has sung Lear in Hamburg (the source of this week’s performance) and most recently in Paris. Reimann does like his coloraturas (the music for the heroine of his most recent opera, Medea, is a marathon written with Marlis Petersen in mind; she returns to sing it at Wiener Staatsoper this season), and newcomer Siobhan Stagg tackles Cordelia’s difficult music in a 2014 performance led by Simone Young. Schreier, a 37-year-old composer from Aachen, Germany, was commissioned by Theater an der Wien to compose an opera for its ongoing Shakespeare celebration, which also includes Antonio Salieri’s Falstaff, Verdi’s Macbeth in both its original 1847 version and 1865 revision, The Fairy-Queen, and in concert Johann Adolph Hasse’s Piramo e Tisbe. Schreier’s Hamlet, a critical success at its world premiere on 14 September 2016 in a production by Christof Loy, diverges from a strict, linear adaptation of the play. Thomas Jonigk uses not only Shakespeare for his libretto, but sources which Shakespeare possibly cinsulted, such as Saxo Grammaticus’ Historia Danica and François de Belleforest’s Histoires tragiques. The opera presents a series of 24 episodes in Hamlet’s life concentrating on interpersonal relationships, such as the prince’s incestuous relationship with his mother, Gertrud. Musically, I find it to be influenced by the Three B’s: Bartók, Berg, and Britten, with a touch of Richard Strauss for irony. In perhaps a nod to Reimann, who assigned Lear’s Fool to an actor, Schreier created the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father as a speaking role, here performed by veteran countertenor Jochen Kowalski. One of the many choices which I find fascinating in this opera is the decision for the chorus to perform the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, as if so many voices speaking inside Hamlet’s head. Sporting ripped jeans, a T-shirt and a man bun, young baritone Andrè Schuen scored a triumph in the title role. Marlis Petersen plays his sex-crazed mum, memorably letting her son’s hair cascade from the top of his head as she strokes his face. Bo Skovhus is here, too, creating the role of Claudius. Michael Boder leads the ever-adventurous ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien and the Arnold Schoenberg Chor in this broadcast of the world premiere. Hamlet was subsequently streamed online, and will be telecast by ORF in November. Post scriptum – In case these passed you by in a busy week, I posted several performances which have been hot topics in recent weeks on Parterre: Der Rosenkavalier from the Boston Symphony with Andris Nelsons leading Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, and Franz Hawlata; a concert performance from Berlin of Act I of Die Walküre with Anja Harteros in her role debut as Sieglinde, along with Peter Seiffert and basso-of-the moment Georg Zeppenfeld; and finally Harteros’ first Tosca in Wien, in the less-than-stellar company of Jorge de León and Marco Vratogna. As always, they can be found at https://www.mixcloud.com/Jungfer_Marianne_Leizmetzerin/ . It’s been a while since I saw a truly demented Tosca and Harteros did not disappoint: lines growled rather than sung, ample dips into chest voice, an actual cackle as she rips the safe-conduct from Scarpia’s corpse, and an A+ in cape-waving (including some Julie-Andrews-as-Maria-von-Trapp 360° twirls in Act III). Her loose cannon approach made my last Tosca, Angela “they made me wait so I make them wait” Gheorghiu, seem downright schoolmarmish.
By Jacob Stockinger It has been a busy weekend for music, and tomorrow, Sunday, Oct. 16, it continues. For fans of band and choral music, a lot of choices are on tap at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and Edgewood College . Here is the lineup: At 1 p.m. in Mills Hall, the University Bands (below top) at the UW-Madison will perform under conductors Darin Olson (below bottom), Nathan Froebe, Justin Lindgre. Sorry, no word on the program. At 2:30 p.m. St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood College Concert Band presents its Fall concert. Admission is FREE with a free will offering to benefit the Luke House Community Meal Program. The program, under the direction of Walter Rich (below, in a photo by Edgewood College) will perform music by John Williams, Leonard Bernstein and Richard Strauss. The program combines those three legendary names with a selection of new music by three young composers: Brian Balmages , Sean O’Loughlin and the emerging American star Daniel Elder. The Edgewood College Concert Band provides students and Madison-area community musicians with the opportunity to perform outstanding wind literature. The band has performed a variety of works, ranging from classic British band literature of the early 20th century to transcriptions, marches, and modern compositions. The group charges no admission for concerts, but often collects a freewill offering for Luke House, a local community meal program. The group rehearses on Wednesday evenings from 7-9 p.m. At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music will host the FREE Choral Collage Concert. The concert features many groups: the Concert Choir (below top), Chorale, Madrigal Singers, Women’s Choir (below bottom), University Chorus and Master Singers. The program, drawn from the Baroque, Classical and Modern eras, includes music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (the beautiful “Ave Verum Corpus ,” which you can hear with Leonard Bernstein conducting, in the YouTube video at the bottom), Benjamin Britten, Johann Schein, Arvo Part (below), Orlando di Lasso and others. For more information and a link to the complete program, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/uw-choral-collage/ Tagged: Arts , Arvo Part , Ave Verum Corpus , band , Baroque , Benjamin Britten , brass , Brian Balmages , British , choral music , Chorale , Classical , Classical music , Concert Band , Concert Choir , conductor , Daniel Elder , Edgewood College , Jacob Stockinger , Johann Schein , John Williams , Leonard Bernstein , Luke House , Madison , madrigal , Madrigal Singers , march , marches , Master Singers , modern , Mozart , Music , New Music , Orlando di Lasso , Richard Strauss , Sean O'Loughlin , singer , transcriptions , United States , University Chorus , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , vocal music , Walter Rich , Wisconsin , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , women , women;s choir , YouTube
Great composers of classical music