Saturday, August 27, 2016
Russell Platt is the twin brother of Maverick Concerts’ Music Director Alexander Platt. So it’s not surprising that Russell’s compositions occasionally show up on Maverick’s programs. But his pieces have been well-received here. And being the brother of a concert series’ music director wouldn’t in itself be enough to persuade an ensemble like the Borromeo String Quartet to learn and perform a world premiere performance of a substantial work like Platt’s Mountain Interval, a commission for the Maverick centennial. Judging from its first impression on one critic, as well as the cheering reception from the audience, we may have witnessed the debut of a piece of music that will last. Mountain Interval draws its title, the titles of its seven movements, and much of its inspiration from the work of Robert Frost. It’s also inspired by the seven movements of Beethoven’s Op. 131. Rather than attempt to follow the interplay between words and music, I decided to settle back and let the music make its impression on me without remaining aware of any extra-musical factors–although it was easy enough to notice the divisions between movements. So I can’t do a whole lot of “reporting” on this music. But I can tell you that this work had no uninvolving stretches; it grabbed my attention from the beginning and held on tight until the end 26 minutes later. I noticed things along the way like the glowing viola tone from Mai Motobuchi in the very first movement, the great excitement generated by the Presto sixth movement, and the way the composer’s description “inconsolable” suited the sadness of the slow finale. Sometimes the continuity of the music was mysterious but it still never failed to make sense. The style of the score ranges from a kind of lyrical atonality to tonal sections which could have been written decades ago, but there is nothing stale about this music. Obviously the advocacy of a group like the Borromeo String Quartet is a strong asset to any piece of music, whether Beethoven or Platt. And critics should know better than to predict the future. Still, the strong emotional quality of Platt’s work makes me suspect that it will be around for a while. I’m definitely planning to check out this ensemble’s livingarchive.org for a chance to hear the piece again and maybe next time I’ll try checking how each movement relates to its Frost title. For Haydn’s Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 76, No. 6, the playing was very sharply characterized from the very beginning, with strong dynamics, very precise without crispness, excellently balanced. I hope we’re finally getting over the long-held belief that Haydn is a kind of second-rate Mozart; that was the general opinion when I was growing up, but Mozart would not have thought it made any sense. When taken as seriously as in this performance, a great Haydn Quartet seems as substantial as Mozart’s best–although that seriousness did not preclude complete expression of Haydn’s humor, which came out so vividly in the Menuetto that it had members of the audience laughing out loud. The closer, Beethoven’s Op. 127, reminded me of an experience I had at a piano lesson with my revered teacher, the late Piero Weiss. I was playing a Beethoven Sonata and attempting to minimize the impact of arpeggio passages until I got to the “real stuff.” Weiss stopped me and said, “You have to take every note Beethoven wrote seriously. He did.” This was a performance which gave the impression that the musicians were taking every note Beethoven wrote seriously, including the passages which in other hands seem like just stuff that happens between the important moments. The opening movement, with its double-stops all around, sounded like a string orchestra. The third movement was extremely meticulous about dynamics, and the players really dug in on the heavy accents. These extreme contrasts are important to Beethoven, and it was a great pleasure to hear them taken so seriously in the midst of a truly great performance. The post A Star Is Born appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .
By Jacob Stockinger Sure, for a long time musicology has traced how musical styles , forms and instrumentation have changed. But now some researchers are using computers to investigate – and revive – an older keyboard technique from the 19th century that differs dramatically from the more modern technique generally in use. (Below is a photo by Alexander Refsum Jensenius .) It turns out not to be as outdated or useless as many assume. It changes not only how the music of Mozart , Haydn , Beethoven , Schubert and Chopin sounds but also the ease with which the performer can play it. Here is a story from The New York Times that the Ear had stashed from about a year ago. But he thinks it still seems timely – and fascinating. And he hopes you do too. Here is a link: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/science/playing-mozart-piano-pieces-as-mozart-did.html See what you think and leave a comment. The Ear wants to hear. Tagged: Arts , Austria , Beethoven , Beethoven and Mozart , Chamber music , Chopin , chords , Christina Kobb , Classical music , computer , Cornell University , England , etude , Finger , forearm , France , Franz Schubert , hand , Haydn , Hummel , Inge Godoy , Jacob Stockinger , Ludwig van Beethoven , Madison , Mozart , Music , musicology , New York Times , Norway , Norwegian Academy of Music , notes , Oslo , performer , Piano , posture , research , scales , sitting , technique , The New York Times , treatise , United States , university , University of Oslo , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Vienna , Wisconsin
“The scene: a crowded pub in the London district of Islington. Waitresses nudge through the crowd of about 100 people, carrying trays of hamburgers and cheesy fries, as patrons – East End hipsters, young professionals, students – saunter up to the bar to get more libations. Then one of the evening’s hosts asks for attention and introduces the live entertainment: a violinist, a violist and a cellist.”
By Jacob Stockinger Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison . He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide , and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. By John W. Barker On Friday evening, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO, below in a photo by John W. Barker) gave, in the Atrium Auditorium at the First Unitarian Society of Madison , the concert that concluded its sixth season. Founded in 2011, it has been a remarkable venture that has given student musicians of high-school level the chance to enjoy full-scale orchestral experience. But the group’s founder and director, the versatile and multi-talented Madison native Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below), is apparently irreplaceable in this effort; and he has found that he must move on in his career. So, this latest and 10th concert was also the orchestra’s last. To mark the occasion, Utevsky, who just graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , is an enthusiastic champion of new music, and the orchestra commissioned a new composition, which then received its world premiere on Friday night. The composer is the 25-year-old, Minneapolis -based avant-garde musician Ben Davis (below) who created a work with the not very helpful title of “is a is a is b is.” (I’m not making that up!) It is scored for a full ensemble of strings, winds and percussion plus an electronic screeching machine. It is, in truth, not a piece of music at all, but a 20-minute experiment in the kinds of unusual — and not particularly pleasant — sounds that a group of orchestral players can make with their instruments. There are passages of repeated unison notes (the same one over and over) at goodly volume. And the last three minutes or so is an unaccompanied solo for the screeching machine on a single, piercing tone. Whether this made a worthy valedictory salute to MAYCO’s audience and supporters is, I suppose, a matter of taste. Fortunately, this new work was cushioned on either side by much more familiar material. Opening the program was the beloved Overture to the opera The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini . This was brought off with full-steam-ahead momentum by the players under Utevsky’s enthusiastic leadership. And then, to conclude, came the same work that Utevsky included in the very first MAYCO program: Ludwig van Beethoven ’s Fifth Symphony . The players were clearly quite fired up at the chance to tackle this score and did themselves genuine credit. Utevsky provided fast and forceful leadership that stressed the dramatic power of this music—which was, in its day, as surprising and shocking as a lot of “new” music today, we must remember. The audience shared with the performers a rousing experience. Among his other functions, Utevsky also wrote admirably illuminating program notes for the Rossini and Beethoven works—contrasting with those contributed by Davis, which were as nose-thumbing as his composition. It is sad to think that MAYCO is now a thing of the past. What a wonderful idea it has been, something that testifies to the remarkable quantity and quality of young musical talent here. If his orchestra is now gone, we must certainly keep our eyes and ears open for what the gifted Utevsky moves on to next. Tagged: American Record Guide , Arts , avant-garde , Beethoven , Ben Davis , Cello , Chamber music , Classical music , commission , composer , Concert , conductor , contemporary music , Education , Fifth Symphony , First Unitarian Society of Madison , History , Isthmus , John Williams , lectures , Ludwig van Beethoven , Madison , Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra , Madison Early Music Festival , MAYCO , Medieval , Mikko Utevsky , Music , Music education , New Music , opera , Orchestra , Overture , professor , Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky , Rossini , symphony , The Barber of Seville , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Viola , Violin , world premiere , WORT-FM 89.9
Maxim Vengerov, born 1974, was a child prodigy who won great competitions at an early age: the Wieniawski at ten and the Carl Flesch at fifteen. He went on to have a great career and be recognised as one of the leading violinists of our times, fortunately prodigal in this specialty. Nowadays he is also a conductor and teacher, and has his own Festival. An interesting point: during the recent decade he took a three-year sabbatical from playing; during that time he studied conducting . He came to Buenos Aires several times, the last playing a Chinese concerto with the Shanghai Symphony; although his playing was admirable, the work was subpar and hardly up to his capacities. But late in 2011 he gave a splendid recital of sustained quality, blending ideally intellectual comprehension with virtuoso realisation. Unfortunately I don´t keep archives and can´t vouchsafe if his pianist was Roustem Saitkoulov, but he is Vengerov´s habitual partner, it might have been him. Hand programme biographies should provide information about earlier visits to BA, but they are always mere translations of a standard international biography. I remember that years ago the Mozarteum made it a point of mentioning previous contacts with the artists; I wish they did that again in the future. Saitkoulov is a distinguished pianist in his own right; also,H he does a lot of chamber work. Born at Kazan, Russia, he studied with the great Elisso Virsaladze at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory (she came twice here) and then completed his training in Munich. He won important competitions: the Ferruccio Busoni (Bolzano), Géza Anda (Zürich), Marguerite Long (Paris). He has played with important orchestras and given recitals throughout the world. By the way, he accepts the French version of his name and surname; for us or for Great Britain and USA, it should be Rustem Saitkulov (we write Mussorgsky, not Moussorgsky). So there were good reasons to expect from this Mozarteum concert (repeated with the same programme) a very high level. Technically it was of course impeccable, but the interpretations began coldly, more so in the case of Vengerov. The sonatas chosen were enticing: Schubert´s Sonata in A, D.574, pompously called "Grand Duet"; and Beethoven´s marvelous Sonata Nº 7, in C minor, Op.30 Nº2. Schubert´s sonata was written young, at 20, but his personality is clear from the very beginning, a delicious Allegro moderato. Who else wrote such melodies or was so subtle in the harmonic modulations? He also wrote three other sonatas, a bit less inspired and developed, called Sonatinas by the editor. All of them were published posthumously, the same sad destiny of his symphonies 8 and 9. I fell in love with the sonata in my youth with the wonderful recording by Kreisler and Rachmaninov, for it has charm and beauty: Kreisler sings with captivating timbre, and the great Russian virtuoso adapts to the intimate style perfectly.Too much sliding from Kreisler? Agreed, but he is irresistible. And that´s contrary to what I felt from Vengerov: an academic, correct reading with no involvement. During the interval, a veteran friend said: "it´s as if he were afraid of producing any sound that isn´t round and smooth". Yes, all exact but with little energy and attack. Saitkoulov was better; however, the final result was placid in the wrong sense. As Claudia Guzmán rightly says in her comments referring to Beethoven´s Seventh Sonata: "never until then a work for piano and violin had displayed such dramatic intensity nor had required similar temporal proportions". It is a C minor masterpiece in the same rank as the "Pathetic" Piano Sonata and the Third Piano Concerto. No namby-pamby approach can deal with such a score. Things went gradually better, fired by the greater intensity and virtuoso playing of Soutkulov, but only got to the desirable grade of electricity from both in the last movement. Said my friend: "there I found Beethoven". But things changed, and the whole Second Part, as well as the four encores, went swimmingly. Both showed complete identification with that peculiar Ravel Second Sonata: he believed that piano and violin are incompatible and the music echoes that idea: the players oppose each other instead of being complemental. And you know, it works! The Blues is the best movement and it was played with ideal sinuosity. And then came a final virtuoso section starting with a violin solo piece: Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst´s Variations on "The Last Rose of Summer", Nº 6 of the Polyphonic Etudes for solo violin. The piece on the lovely Irish tune is the devil to play and rarely done; Vengerov at twelve presented it at the Tchaikovsky International Competition. Here he showed the complete range of his fantastic technique. A quiet and reflexive Paganini, the Cantabile Op.17, originally for violin and guitar, was done in a transcription for violin and piano. The final score was the Kreisler arrangement for violin and piano of Paganini´s "I palpiti" for violin and orchestra, Introduction and Variations on a theme from Rossini´s "Tancredi" (the aria "Di tanti palpiti"), a true catalogue of Paganini´s technical innovations, splendidly played. Four encores: two of those inimitable Kreisler pieces that Beecham would have called "lollipops": the famous "Viennese Caprice" and the dynamic "Chinese tambourine". Rachmaninov´s beautiful Vocalise, transcribed from the original for orchestra. And Brahms´ ever so popular Hungarian Dance Nº5, in the Joachim arrangement. All done with panache by the artists. For Buenos Aires Herald
By Jacob Stockinger In less than a week from now, on this coming Friday night, Hungarian maestro Ivan Fischer (below) will make his debut at the famed British BBC Proms with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. In an age of jet-set, millionaire celebrity maestros, The Ear finds that the modest Fischer – a pianist by training who is also the music director of the Konzerthaus in Berlin, Germany — shows a refreshing lack of ego and ambition. Fisher — who has also challenged the conservative right-wing government of Hungary –seems to have a healthy perspective on making music, which depends on taking the long view, with the acclaimed Budapest Festival Orchestra (below), which he founded and still leads. Fischer is also extremely thoughtful and articulate in words as well as music, as you seen in his insightful remarks about the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven in the YouTube video at the bottom. Fischer is also well know for his recorded interpretations of Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Anton Bruckner, Antonin Dvorak , Peter Tchaikovsky , Bela Bartok and Sergei Rachmaninoff. In short, Ivan Fischer seems a model non-superstar musician. The Ear hopes you agree. Here is a terrific profile that appeared in The Guardian newspaper in the UK: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/aug/12/how-ivan-fischer-found-greatness-with-the-budapest-festival-orchestra Tagged: Arts , Bartok , BBC Proms , Beethoven , Berlin , Brahms , Bruckner , Budapest , Budapest Festival Orchestra , choral music , Classical music , concerto , conductor , Dvorak , Germany , Hungary , interview , Ivan Fischer , Jacob Stockinger , Johannes Brahms , Liszt , Ludwig van Beethoven , Maestro , Mahler , Music , Orchestra , Piano , Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky , Rachmaninoff , Rachmaninov , symphony , Tchaikovsky , The Guardian , UK , United Kingdom , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Wisconsin , YouTube
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