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Richard Strauss

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


parterre box

July 21

“Troppo” notte

parterre boxThanks to the generosity of a parterre reader, “Trove Thursday” presents a rare recording from the famed Carnegie Hall series curated by Matthew Epstein to commemorate Handel’s tercentenary: Tatiana Troyanos and June Anderson in Ariodante conducted by Raymond Leppard. For more than 60 years, New York City has been fortunate to host organizations dedicated to showcasing prominent singers performing less-often heard operas in concert. From 1950 to 1970, there was the American Opera Society, and right after its demise Eve Queler founded Opera Orchestra of New York. Each season both groups would feature two or three operas, most often chosen according to the availability (and whim) of its featured stars. However, in the mid-1980s Epstein and Carnegie, partnering with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, attempted something different—an annual series of operas-in-concert focused on a single singer or composer—or both. The first season featured Marilyn Horne in three serious Rossini operas: a “pirate” recording of the 1982 opening night La Donna del Lago is still available from its posting here last fall. French operas by Offenbach, Thomas and Massenet starring Frederica von Stade followed, while the fourth and final season spotlighted rarely mounted operas by Richard Strauss. Handel’s 300th birthday fell during 1984-1985, and its three programmed masterpieces (with a bonus of Alessandro imported from Stephen Simon’s Handel Festival in Washington, DC) became among the most eagerly awaited events of the season. Horne’s first-ever Orlando opened the series and a recording of it can be found in a “Trove Thursday” posting from February. The legendary Semele with Kathleen Battle, Horne, Rockwell Blake and Samuel Ramey, presented on February 23rd, the actual birthday, was broadcast live on NPR, so recordings of it have always been easy to find. But this stirring Ariodante seemed to disappear, and until I listened to today’s superb-sounding recording I hadn’t heard it since the concert I attended over 31 years ago. Troyanos first sang the demanding title role written for the great castrato Carestini in 1971, replacing Shirley Verrett during the opening weeks of the Kennedy Center. Her wonderfully fresh and eager portrayal opposite a high-flying Beverly Sills was captured by a “pirate” and has long been easily available. Unfortunately, its much-cut and transposed musical edition makes the entire performance an unsatisfactory representation of this great opera. I recall two jarring aspects of that evening at Carnegie in January 1985, both attributable to Troyanos. Ordinarily when a female singer performs a male role in concert, she appears in a chic pants-suit, but Troyanos grandly entered instead in an elaborate concert gown. And while the rest of the cast sang from memory, she often had her head stuck in the score placed on the music stand in front of her. Even with this aid, she still got lost during one of her duets with Anderson madly flipping through the music to find her place! Ariodante remained in her repertoire for several more years; she sang it in Geneva and then at Santa Fe in 1987. Beginning in the early 1980s Troyanos also took on the title role of Handel’s Giulio Cesare (she had already recorded Cleopatra in that immensely lugubrious Karl Richter set years earlier). She performed Cesare in San Francisco, Geneva and in an ill-starred run at the Met opposite Battle. The last time I heard Troyanos in person was in another trouser role: a concert of Mozart’s Mitridate, Re di Ponto at Alice Tully Hall in the summer of 1992, about a year before her tragically premature death. That sadly off-form Farnace is not how I want to remember her. However, this absolutely note-complete Ariodante is a particularly gratifying souvenir of a fascinating artist. This opera’s rewarding title role, recorded by Janet Baker (also with Leppard), Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Anne-Sofie von Otter, retains its allure for star mezzos. Alice Coote sings it this fall in Toronto in Richard Jones’s Aix production, while Joyce DiDonato who recorded the work in 2010 with the late Alan Curtis returns to it next year for an extended world tour with The English Concert which visits Carnegie Hall in April. And Cecilia Bartoli who has never before sung a Handel hero appears as Ariodante at next June’s Salzburg Pfingsten Festival in a new staging by Christoph Loy. Handel: Ariodante Carnegie Hall 27 January 1985 In-house recording Ginevra: June Anderson Dalinda: Erie Mills Ariodante: Tatiana Troyanos Polinesso: James Bowman Lurcanio: Neil Rosenshein King of Scotland: Dmitri Kavrakos Odoardo: Frank Lopardo Orpheon Chorale Orchestra of St. Luke’s Conductor: Raymond Leppard “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, this Ariodante, last week’s Leonora and all previous fare remain available from iTunes or via any RSS reader.

My Classical Notes

July 14

Carlos Kleiber, Rest in Peace

Conductor Carlos Kleiber was born on July 3, 1930, in Berlin, where his Viennese father conducted the Berlin State Opera. The elder Kleiber, opposed to the Nazi regime and its restrictions on performances of modern musical works, left Germany in 1935 and moved his family to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Carlos Kleiber learned English from his American mother and from English-language schools in Argentina and New York. His father discouraged Carlos’ interest in music, so he studied chemistry at a college in Zurich, but he had begun to compose music at age 9 and by 20 was studying conducting in earnest. “What a pity he is musical,” his father wrote in a letter in 1954. Mr. Kleiber, who lived most of his adult life in Zurich surrounded by thousands of recordings and books, was fluent in six languages and had a strong interest in literature and politics. Mr. Kleiber died on July 13 2004 in Switzerland. As a conductor, he demanded double or triple the typical number of rehearsals. And he rarely announced what he would conduct in advance, deciding on repertory when he showed up for rehearsals. Despite his vast knowledge of the music repertory, he only conducted a handful of symphonies, concertos and operas. In my view, his somewhat limited conducting repertoire led to his amazing excellence. I treasure listening to his interpretation of the Brahms symphonies and a few symphonies by Mozart. He is amazing in leading Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. And one of his greatest strengths is the style he brings to the music on Johann Strauss. As one watches old rehearsals, you can see Kleiber’s whole body moving elegantly with the rhythm of a Strauss waltz, or with the music of Die Fledermaus. Let me show you how Carlos Kleiber conducted Strauss:




Tribuna musical

July 12

Renée Fleming returns: the autumnal charm of a great artist

August 18, 1991. First performance at the Colón of the revival of Mozart´s "The Marriage of Figaro" in a new production by Sergio Renán. An Argentine-Spanish cast except for the Countess: a beautiful young American called Renée Fleming at the start of her international career. With a crystalline lyric soprano timbre and impeccable line, she proved to be a charming actress as well. Unfortunately, that was her only operatic role in BA. We missed her in such operas as Massenet´s "Thaïs" and Dvorák´s "Rusalka", but especially in Straussian parts (the Marschallin in "Der Rosenkavalier", Arabella, the Countess in "Capriccio"), for she was a leading interpreter of all the mentioned operas. It´s useless to speculate about the reasons, but the Colón has had strong ups and downs and established artists want reliable theatres. After two decades, she finally came back during the García Caffi years; however, it was for a recital. It was quite successful and varied, and the voice was still in good condition. And now she came back, inaugurating the so-called Abono Verde. This time the charm and the savvy are still there, but her career has entered the autumnal phase, as demonstrated by what´s happening at New York´s Met, her home for so many years: last season she didn´t sing a difficult opera but an operetta, Lehár´s "The Merry Widow"; and now she has announced her goodbye to opera, with May 2017 performances at the Met of "Der Rosenkavalier" (fortunately it will be seen here on the Met´s direct transmissions at the Teatro El Nacional organized by the Fundación Beethoven). In this recital she was admirably accompanied by Gerald Martin Moore (debut), an expert singing teacher who has worked with Fleming for many years (and with several other famous artists) and has prepared operas for the Met, Covent Garden, Opéra Bastille, La Scala, and such festivals as Glyndebourne and Aix-en-Provence. What a coincidence that his first name and his surname should be the same as those of the ultra-famous Gerald Moore, the greatest accompanist during golden decades. Anyway, G.M.M. gave precious support during the Colón evening. I have my reservations about some of the choices in the programme. First, I was sorry that there were no Lieder, not even from Richard Strauss. Second, I believe that singers in recitals should stick to their sexes: a woman should sing texts clearly designed for women, and a man those that are evidently masculine; self-evident, the reader may think, but often disregarded by artists; and there were several instances in this case. Third, she is a singer for joyful or melancholy music, but not for stark drama: the terrible content of "L´altra notte in fondo al mare", from Boito´s "Mefistofele", in which the mad Margherita , imprisoned, says that she was wrongly accused of killing her baby and her mother, needs a true tragedian such as Callas was. Finally, there was a bit too much Broadway in her gestures on certain pieces, in themselves rather crossover. A moot point is whether you like or not that artists should speak to the audience; I think it is a wrong trend, concerts are just that, music played or sung. She talked a good deal in a very American way (like Joyce Di Donato). She started with, yes, "Porgi amor", the initial aria of the Countess in "The Marriage of Figaro", in evident reminiscence of her Colón debut; the result was tasteful but the voice was not settled yet. Two Händel arias followed: a fast, humoristic one from "Agrippina", early and Venetian-influenced; and the lovely "V´adoro pupille" sung by Cleopatra in "Giulio Cesare in Egitto"; she did well in both. Then, two welcome Massenet items: "C´est Thaïs, l´idole fragile" from the homonymous opera (neglected by the Colón since 1952), and the sad "Adieu, notrre petite table" (with its previous recitative) from "Manon". She felt quite comfortable in both. Saint-Saëns wrote 120 songs but they are little-known; "Soirée en mer", strophic, on a Victor Hugo text, seemed to me beautiful and fluid; both artists were fine. And then, a tribute to that delicious 1930s singer, Yvonne Printemps: the sensual "Je t´aime quand même" from the operetta "Les trois valses"; in it Fleming waltzed, singing with abandon. The pithiest part of the night was the fine selection of Neo-Romantic songs by Rachmaninov, who deserve wider recognition; of the five songs I mention three: "Oh cease thy singing, maiden fair", an orientalised melody (I have the recording of tenor John McCormack); "Lilac" contrasts a fast piano segment with an airy soprano tune, and "Spring waters" is expansive and better-known as a Russian miniballet. Fleming was really good in all this group, her voice firm and brilliant. Apart from the Boito, the Italian pieces were light and though agreeably sung not idiomatic: "O del mio amato ben" (Donaudy), "Aprile" (Tosti) and "Mattinata" (Leoncavallo). I liked Fleming in the famous song "Estrellita" by the Mexican Manuel Ponce (the tune fits her like a glove) but she was over the top in "La morena de mi copla" by Carlos Castellano Gómez. Encores: lovely in the "Moon aria" from Dvorák´s "Rusalka" and melting in "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini´s "Gianni Schicchi", but not convincing in "I could have danced all night" from Loewe´s "My fair lady" (Julie Andrews was the right one for this). A nice sweet evening. For Buenos Aires Herald



parterre box

June 28

No saints in two acts

The 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 .

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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