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Richard Strauss

Thursday, June 30, 2016


parterre box

June 28

No saints in two acts

parterre boxThe cast of Wiener Staatsoper’s first-ever performance of Lulu in 1968 reads like a Who’s Who of then-contemporary Austro-German opera: the 28-year-old Anja Silja, Martha Mödl, Waldemar Kmentt, Hans Hotter, Hilde Konetzni, Manfred Jungwirth, Heinz Zednik, and Karl Böhm presiding over a production by Otto Schenk. Silja, who is still active in opera today at age 76, sang the title role in Wien 19perform Schigolch around the world into his 80s, memorably singing the part again in San Francisco in 1989. This is, of course, the original two-act version given until the death of the Widow Berg (who, some claim, was visited by Alban in her dreams and he told her not to release the third act of Lulu), which cleared the way for the discovery of exactly how much of the third act Berg did compose. This turned out to be considerably more than anyone thought and Viennese composer Frederic Cerha was engaged to complete the scoring according to Berg’s notes and fill in the missing bits. Unfortunately this was not completed in time for the Met’s premiere of the work, and—as in this performance—was concluded with the suite of the opera. With his music—particularly Wozzeck—deemed entartete Kunst (degerate art) by the Third Reich, Berg lost the will to complete the opera, turning his attention to his heartbreaking Violin Concerto, and instead composed a stand-alone concert suite which served as the finale to the opera until the legendary 1979 Paris premiere of Cerha’s edition. While the third act substantially alters the opera, turning it into a musical and dramatic palindrome, there is still much to admire in this truncated edition and serves as a showcase for the versatility of singers with reputations grounded in Wagner and Richard Strauss. Böhm’s clear, crisp conducting remains revelatory. Hereinspaziert! Alban Berg: Lulu Original Two Act Version Wiener Staatsoper Karl Böhm, conductor 16 December 1968 Lulu: Anja Silja Dr. Schön: Ernst Gutstein Alwa: Waldemar Kmentt Gräfin Geschwitz: Martha Mödl Schigolch: Hans Hotter Der Maler: William Blankenship Der Tierbändiger: Gerd Nienstedt Rodrigo: Oskar Czerwenka Der Prinz: Mario Guggia Der Theaterdirektor: Manfred Jungwirth Die Garderobiere: Hilde Konetzni Der Gymnasiast: Rohangiz Yachmi Der Kammerdiener: Heinz Zednik Der Medizinalrat: Hans Brand In case you missed it, last week I uploaded Anna Netrebko‘s performance of Richard Strauss’ Vier letzte Lieder from a concert in Wien on 09 June conducted by Christian Thielemann. As always, you can find it here on my Mixcloud page.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer

June 27

Fab Foursome +1 To Highlight Second Tanglewood Week

Chamber music aficionados look beyond Tanglewood opening night with Joshua Bell on July 8th to the Emerson String Quartet’s 40th-anniversary gala four and five days later. The ensemble’s concert at Seiji Ozawa Hall on Tuesday July 12th features the complete Haydn Op. 76 quartets. On Wednesday July 13th legendary soprano Renée Fleming joins for very different works, by Berg, Brahms, and Wellesz. The Emerson stands out in the history of string quartets with an unsurpassed list of achievements over three decades: more than 30 recordings, nine Grammys including two for Best Classical Album, three Gramophone Awards, and collaborations with many of the great artists of the time. The arrival of new cellist Paul Watkins, in 2013, has had a profound effect on the Emerson Quartet. A distinguished soloist and conductor as well, Watkins joined the ensemble in its 37th season and infused the Quartet with a warmer, richer tone and joy in the collaboration. BMInt emailed questions to violinist Eugene Drucker. FLE: The Emerson’s two Tanglewood nights could not be more different. Why you are programming the six quartets of Haydn’s Op 76 on the first night? Are you recording them? We can’t ever get enough Haydn, but what does the marketing department say? E D: We have no immediate plans to record those Haydn quartets (one we already have recorded). But we like to align the thematic programming for our series or even single appearances in major cities and venues. We’ve programmed a lot of late Haydn and early Beethoven this past season and also for the summer. At the Ravinia Festival a week before we come to Tanglewood, we’ll play the Opus 76; at Chamber Music Northwest in Portland, we’ll play it interspersed with Beethoven’s Opus 18, in three concerts, just as we did at Lincoln Center except within three days. Called “Passing the Torch,” the title of the series refers to Beethoven’s legacy from the older composer. The concert on the 13th clearly results from the recording project you did with Fleming which pairs the rarely performed and recorded soprano version of the Berg Lyric Suite with the rather obscure Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning for soprano and string quartet by Berg’s contemporary Egon Wellesz. The PR for the disc mentions the ravishing qualities Fleming brought to these pieces. We know the Lyric Suite in its quartet-only version to be a rewarding challenge, but is it sexier and more accessible and personal when we hear Baudelaire’s words sung by a great communicator? There are differing opinions about the validity of offering the vocal version of the final movement of the Lyric Suite, since we know that Berg never intended it to be performed this way. But he had a lot to lose if his secret love affair with Hanna Fuchs would come to light. So maybe the security of his marriage was a higher priority to him than his ideal artistic vision. We feel that both ways are valid; for decades it was performed without voice and we still sometimes play it that way. We offered both accounts of the last movement in our CD. But we do feel that to have a great artist like Renée Fleming join us in the last movement adds a lot; first of all, there is the intensity of despair expressed by the text, the German translation of which blends so perfectly with Berg’s aesthetic. Then there is a climactic moment, a high G for the voice, which is simply left blank (an eighth rest) in the quartet-only version. Yes, I think that audiences might find it more accessible when they can follow the text, or read it just before the performance, especially when that text is delivered with such vocal beauty by a great communicator, as you say. Do we really have to wait for the last movement to hear the diva sing? Fleming sits to one side, out of the spotlight, during the first five movements. When is Berg’s 12-tone music more abstract and when is it more emotional, either impressionistic or expressionistic? Personally, I never find Berg’s music abstract. Some of the Lyric Suite is 12-tone, or serial, and some isn’t. I usually don’t remember which movements or sections are strictly serial and which aren’t, because for me it doesn’t matter: they are woven so convincingly into an expressive whole. The music is very emotional—stylistically much closer to German Expressionism (or the Austrian secessionist movement) than to French Impressionism. Wellesz was luckier in love than Berg and did not have a misfortune with a cheapskate wife who acted as his surgeon to save money. Lucky to be away from Austria during the Nazi annexation, he did not suffer the consequences of Jewish ancestry or being a so-called degenerate composer. He lived long enough to write over 100 works in a variety of forms and styles. Tell how the Browning Suite fits in. It’s hard to imagine that he knew this poet before he reached England. The Browning settings were published in Vienna in 1935. Rilke’s translations of her sonnets (far more than the five that Wellesz set to music) must have made her work accessible to a German-speaking public. Did this project originate with Fleming or the quartet? Fleming invited us to appear with her at the final concert of her “Perspectives” series at Carnegie Hall. in May 2013. We performed a wide variety of repertoire centered on the theme of Vienna at the turn of—and from the first few decades of—the 20th century. The fifth Wellesz sonnet setting was featured on the program, in which we also performed vocal works by Karl Weigl and Eric Zeisl, as well as Schoenberg’s string sextet Verklaerte Nacht. We like much of the repertoire that adds singers to a string quartet. Will there be more from the Emerson? How about the Schoenberg No. 2? Is that too high for Fleming? Fleming has not chosen to sing the Schoenberg Second Quartet, but we performed it last September at the Berlin Festival with Barbara Hannigan, with whom we’ll perform it again in Germany this coming November. How does the Second Viennese School sell in Spillville Iowa, for instance? We’ve never played in Spillville, but I imagine that they prefer Dvořák there. If you mean how does the Second Viennese School’s brand of musical modernism go over in general, far from the major urban centers: it’s true that the name Schoenberg can have an inhibiting effect on concert ticket and CD sales. We think that a lot, if perhaps not all, of the music from the Second Viennese School is truly great, and has a strong emotional content. It’s true that the harmonic / melodic language can sometimes be bracing and takes some getting used to, but we hope that audiences will be open to (still) new possibilities. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has huge numbers of visitors; we’re aware of the difference between the experiences of going to a museum and listening to a concert, but the aesthetic aims and content of, say, Kandinsky or Klee and the whole German Expressionist movement are not that different from those of Schoenberg and the composers whom he inspired. People should open their ears as well as their eyes. Some quartets become associated with particular repertoire, to the frustration of longstanding members. I remember that the St. Petersburg Quartet, for instance, applies a surcharge if the presenter demands the Borodin No. 2. After 40 years before the public, what pieces do the foursome never want to play again? Nothing comes to mind immediately; I’m sure I could come up with some pieces if I thought about it, but I have no desire to: we have enough to keep us busy and, I hope, the public stimulated. Emerson Quartet (file photo) Emerson Quartet and Renée Fleming at Ozawa Hall JULY 12, 8pm Haydn: Quartet in G Major, Op. 76 no. 1 Quartet in D Minor, Op. 76 no. 2 Quinten Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 76 no. 4 Sunrise Quartet in C Major, Op. 76 no. 3 Emperor Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 76 no. 6 Quartet in D Major, Op. 76 no. 5 JULY 13, 8pm Brahms: Quartet in A minor, Op. 51 no. 2 Wellesz: Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Op. 52, for soprano and string quartet Berg: Lyric Suite for string quartet and soprano Fleming will appear with the BSO in Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs, in the Koussevitzky Shed on July 16th. The post Fab Foursome +1 To Highlight Second Tanglewood Week appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .






parterre box

June 16

Plate spinning

In January “Trove Thursday” took a break from longer full-length offerings and served up a trio of “small plates”: Elina Garanca, Jonas Kaufmann and Anu Komsi singing Berio, Mahler and Sibelius. Another edition arrives this week with Genia Kühmeier, Christian Gerhaher and Phyllis Bryn-Julson performing works by Richard Strauss, Mahler and Berg. It’s been nearly nine years since Kühmeier’s Met debut as a radiant Pamina, one of the best I’ve ever heard. Sadly she hasn’t returned to the Met nor sung much opera in recent years due to the severe illness of her husband who died two years ago. The Austrian soprano has made relatively few recordings but she does occasionally appear in concert and this live Vier Letzte Lieder from 2014 provides a glimpse of her artistry. (That my beloved maternal grandmother’s middle name was Genia—and most people called her that—might partly explain why I’m pre-disposed to admire the lovely Kühmeier.) Two years ago baritone Gerhaher appeared as the distant, grave Jesus in Peter Sellars’s chic and high-priced Berlin Philharmonic production of Bach’s Matthäus-Passion at the Park Avenue Armory. In recent seasons he has sung more and more opera, roles ranging from Wagner’s Wolfram and Pelléas to Wozzeck and Monteverdi’s Orfeo. Unfortunately he has yet to sing opera in the U.S. where he remains known as an acclaimed recitalist and concert singer. His Mahler performances are particularly striking as one may experience in this version of the Rücker-Lieder from last year conducted by Bernard Haitink. Now retired, American soprano Bryn-Julson was best known for her fierce advocacy of 20th century vocal music. Mostly a concert singer, she did occasionally appear in opera; for example, she was Malinche in Sarah Caldwell’s U.S. premiere of Session’s Montezuma in 1976. A favorite of Michael Gielen’s during his tenure at the Cincinnati Symphony. I heard them collaborate in 1984 in Schoenberg’s Erwartung. However, I missed this performance two years later of Berg’s lush concert-aria Der Wein which shows off her insouciant confidence in the most demanding music. Did she ever sing Lulu complete? Strauss: Vier letzte Lieder Berlin 8. September 2014 Genia Kühmeier Bamberger Symphony Jonathan Nott Mahler: Rückert Lieder Munich 6 February 2015 Christian Gerhaher Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra Bernard Haitink Berg: Der Wein Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra January 25, 1986 Phyllis Bryn-Julson soprano Michael Gielen conductor “Trove Thursday” offerings can be downloaded via the audio-player above. Just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory. In addition, each of these three pieces, last week’s Olivero Fanciulla, and all previous fare remain available from iTunes or via any RSS reader.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer

June 14

Ben Capps Sets Ben Britten Aglow

Benjamin Capps (file photo) Curly of mop and intense of countenance, the freshly minted cello comer Ben Capps sauntered onto the Shalin Liu stage, brightened, adjusted his end pin, and proceeded to dig in for a reference account of Britten’s Solo Cello Suite No. 1. The composer’s tribute to Bach and Rostropovich inspired probity and fantasy in equal measures from this fearless soloist. For the next 20 minutes we closed our eyes on the $1 million view to concentrate on larger spheres. Had I been the presenter, the stage would have been draped and the house dark except for a pinspot on the artist. Because he knew he could deliver, Capps demanded our full focus without warming us up with preliminaries. His steady control made as much of Britten’s brilliant astringencies as his woeful consolations. Capps distinctly characterized each narrative, as breath and bow felt completely conjoined. His chiseled dynamics and well-judged colorations made something almost existential of Britten’s episodic figures. His strokes at the threshold of audibility commanded us in. His representations of the fourth Canto battling for dominance with the Presto left us in staggered disbelief. His cello did not so much speak with a human voice as it took on the breath of Britten’s muse. The usually flamboyant and voluble Russian pianist Vassily Primakov diligently partnered for the rest of the evening, beginning with Straussian juvenilia, his Cello Sonata in F Major, Op. 4. As a teenager, Richard Strauss resembled a German Arensky much more than the composer of Rosenkavalier. His lyrical surges certainly pleased the Saturday night crowd in a performance that argued for every speck of molten drama to be found. The slow movement in particular elicited theatrical despair from the well-matched partners as the cello sang baritonal songs without words and the piano agreed in chords. Surprisingly, most of Capps’s expression came from the bow, little from the lefthand. The final Allegro: vivo came in an alert and whimsical caper, conjuring something like a Freedonian national anthem seasoned with sparklers by David Popper. Vassily Primakov (file photo) One can sympathize with players whose instrument’s repertories are not as large as those of pianists and violinists. Still, did Capps really need to offer two transcriptions for the second half of this debut recital? Capps simply took Schumann’s Violin Sonata in A Minor Op. 105 down an octave and plodded through the normally more spirited work. And because the cello found itself in the same registers as the piano, Primakov had to dull his usual high polish. The Franck Sonata may qualify as the most performed chamberwork in the violin-piano canon; it also attracts the attentions of cellists, flutists, violists, and while Wikipedia reminds us that saxophones and tubas have also essayed it, little did we know that versions existed both for organ and violin and violin with orchestra. Capps apparently tweaked Jules Delsart’s authorized cello version by reversing some of the latter’s octave-downward transpositions and playing much in the violinist range. This liberated Primakov from his earlier enforced reticence and allowed his personality to bloom into miracles of expression. On the other hand, Capps’s insistence on playing much of the sonata on the upper reaches of the A string made his contribution sometimes spooky and vague of pitch. Absolution was granted after the sumptuous encore, the Andante from the Rachmaninoff cello sonata. Its collaborative delicatesse and warmth of sentiment set us aglow. Lee Eiseman is the publisher of the Intelligencer. The post Ben Capps Sets Ben Britten Aglow appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .

Richard Strauss
(1864 – 1949)

Richard Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra, An Alpine Symphony, and Metamorphosen. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria. Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.



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