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I received my RLPO brochure for 2010/11 through the post yesterday and agree with you that it is very inviting: four Mahler symphonies, the Sixth together with Strauss's Four Last Songs, making an ideal concert. What the RLPO visit to the Shanghai Expo and Petrenko's return to the Proms this summer, we live in very interesting times - in the upbeat, not the ironic, and Chinese meaning of the term.
And of course that could be said of several other UK orchestras as well: a whole generation of young conductors has given a much- needed infusion of new life into music making
There's old age for you. Sorry Micos and Niklaus, I had you mixed up. It's you I'm envying, Micos, sunning yourself on Otterspool prom. Haven't you got Litton coming for a couple too? I like his feel for the Russian repertoire. Since Petrenko's doing the Shostakovich 4 I expect Naxos will release it in the next 12 months, and that's something I'm looking forward to. For my money there still isn't a version that comes within a 100 miles of the old Kondrashin. But though it's a brilliant performance, the recording is a catalogue of bloopers - tape wavers, huge balance shifts, and the engineers climbing all over the levels in the coda.
Nice to see your concert prices are still very reasonable.
Meanwhile the Bournemouth Symphony continue to offer good value down on the south coast. Latest star appearance was from Kate Royal featuring Berlioz 'Les Nuits d'Ete'. Wow isn't she tall! Like a super- model. Despite singing from the score there was so much commitment and emotion it was almost semi-staged! Possibly her next recording for EMI following in the illustrious steps of Janet Baker? Kees Bakels led the accompaniment and Beethoven's 7th after the interval; this is a great piece to watch as the strings furiously scurry along with the endlessly repeated themes in the last movement, players and audience alike all caught up in the excitement. Weber/Berlioz 'Invitation to the Dance' an appropriate starter to a well planned programme.
Tagalie, Watch out for the Petrenko Shostakovich 8th, released in the UK last Friday: I had the good fortune to go to the concert in which it featuired , a month before the recording was made. It fits quite comfortably alongside Mravinsky and Previn. The 6th was done a couple of weekend ago and the 15th is scheuled for the next season: might make an interesting coupling when they are recorded!
You have a good point about quality recordings. Personally, I find it to be a far richer experience to be in the room with the orchestra. Maybe it's a particular kind of love for music, I'm not sure. I am rarely disappointed by a live performance, imperfections and all. It can be exciting to see the performers, espcially featured soloists, and there is something to be said about enjoying music together with fellow enthusiasts. A video recording may come closer to this experience, but music loses its soul when it ceases to be performed - live.
Visit to the Philharmonie last week for a concert of the last three Sibelius symphonies was fascinating in the context of recent Gramophone correspondence concerning the emotional mood of his music. Sibelius was always Rattle's strongest suit in my view since his early Philharmonia Fifth and CBSO cycle. In an identical programme in the Eighties in London he placed the Fifth on it's own after the interval; now he plays them in sequence and after the manner of his old Bournemouth mentor Paavo Berglund plays 6 & 7 without a break. Is there a more underrated symphony than the Sixth? And with the Seventh appended like a great 'Ode to Joy' the concert came to a glorious uplifting conclusion. It was easy at that moment to see why the composer then fell silent. He could not follow it, and neither since has anyone else!
We went to see the Trio de Lutece performing at Great St Mary's Church and really enjoyed it. They have put some footage and recordings on their website which was a nice gesture - so you can judge for yourselves if you weren't there! Most enjoyable for me was the Pasacaille from Ravel's piano trio.
I just got home from a delightful evening with L'Arpeggiata at Zankel Hall in New York. (Zankel Hall is a mid-sized, modern space in the basement of Carnegie Hall.) The program consisted of jazz-tinted interpretations of early Italian Baroque music by Monteverdi and a bunch of lesser known (unknown to me, I confess) composers. If that sounds campy or just weird, all I can say is that that music did not ... until the three encores demanded by the audience, which L'Arpeggiata used as an opportunity to have some over-the-top fun and sent the audience home smiling. Countertenor Phillipe Jaroussky seemed to turn in a bunch of fine performances, though I am one who generally squirms when countertenors sing, so maybe I'm not a good judge. If you don't know L'Arpeggiatta (I didn't, the concert was on a subscription I have), they are led by Christina Pluhar, who plays the theorbo, and they have have released about 9 CDs, most of which have been favorably reviewed. Worth checking out.
I recently had the good fortune to hear two performances of Mahler 6 within about ten days. Alan Gilbert conducted the NY Phil at Avery Fisher in the first; Valery Gergiev conducted the Mariinsky at Carnegie Hall in the second. I was impressed by the Gilbert/NY Phil version when I heard it, but, although I am a deeply-dyed (indeed, one might say, chauvinistic) New Yorker, I preferred the Russians. Of course, the impression they made was facilitated by the stunningly superior acoustics of Carnegie Hall, but it also seemed that Gergiev brought out a richer range of emotions and ideas because he was not as pre-occupied in the first three movements with foreshadowing the tragedy in the fourth. Both conductors placed the scherzo after the andante, which seems to be the current trend, though, according to Wikipedia, noteworthy conductors who have put the scherzo before the andante far out number those who have chosen the other way. Also, both conductors opted for all three hammer blows in the fourth movement. On that element, by the way, I did think the New Yorkers surpassed the Russians. The hammer blows in the Mariinsky performance were too boomy; they sounded like very large bass drums. The hammer blows in he NY Phil rendition had more of a thwacking/cracking sound, which more effectively conveyed utter defeat and loss of hope.
As you can see, I've discovered this thread late and, although it appears already to have died a second death last spring, I hope it has at least one more life.
This report is about an outstanding bit of programming by Alan Gilbert with the NY Phil at Avery Fisher earlier this month: Debussy, Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun; Sibelius, Violin Concerto, with Joshua Bell; and Magnus Lindberg, Kraft. The Sibelius Violin Concerto is a favorite of mine and Bell and the orchestra did not disappoint, but I want to talk about Kraft. If you go Alex Ross's webpage on the New Yorker website, you can find a b&w clip of John Cage performing Water Walk ... on the old tv game show I've Got a Secret! Check it out. (Note how committed host Gary Moore seems to promoting this music to his audience. Bravo!) Now, imagine Water Walk on steriods with much larger objects "played" by a team of musicians, and add the composer at the piano, an orchestra, a bit of vocalizing by the conductor, and quite a bit more traditional musicality, and you might be prepared for Kraft. Gilbert introduced the evening by explaining that he saw a common theme running through the three pieces on the program. In each, he said, the composer is building up the music with "bits of pure sound." Now, Cage was certainly truer--or, at least, committed to a starker version of--that concept than Lindberg, but Kraft is more engaging for us philistines. (Needless to say, that goes in spades for the Debussy and Sibelius selections.) Lindberg combs junk yards for "instruments" to accompany the orchestra in each city where Kraft is performed, and there's a lot of banging--on gongs, pipes, nitrogen tanks ... you name it--but a good deal of color and emotion as well. As may be clear by now, it's not a soothing piece. I doubt that Kraft will ever be regarded on a par with Beethoven's Ninth--or even the other two pieces on the program that night--but if you ever have an opportunity to see Kraft performed live, I recommend that you go. You might not hate it as much as you'd expect; you might even walk out of the hall thinking about it. There's a CD, but I wonder whether Kraft could have half the impact on a recording.
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