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Daniele Gatti

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Classical iconoclast

April 22

Formula saves the BBC Proms !

Classical iconoclast Formula saves the BBC Proms 2017!  This may be the beginning of the end for Sir Henry Wood's dreams of the Proms as serious music. Fortunately The Formula, perfected by much-maligned Roger Wright, is strong enough to withstand the anti-music agendas of the suits and robots who now run the Proms.  Shame on those who rely on formula instead of talent, but in dire straits, autopilot can save things from falling apart.  So, sift through the detritus of gimmick and gameshow to find things worth saving   (Read here what I wrote about The Formula)   Danierl Barenboim is a Proms perennial, for good reason, so we can rely on his two Elgar Proms (16 and 17 July) especially the Sunday one which features a new work by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Deep Time, which at 25 minutes should be substantial  Pascal Dusapin's Outscape on 19/7, 28 minutes, also substantial Anotherr "regular" Proms opera, Fidelio on 21/7, with a superlative cast headed by Stuart Skelton and Ricarda Merbeth, tho' Juanjo Mena conducts  Ilan Volkov conducts Julian Anderson's new Piano Concerto on 26/7 , tho's the rest of the programme, though good isn't neccesarily Volkov's forte  On 29/7 Mark Wigglesworth conducts David Sawer's The Greatest Happiness Principle  On 31/7, Monteverdi Vespers with French baroque specialists Pygmalion   On 1/8, William Christie conducts the OAE in Handel Israel in Egypt and on 2/8, John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists do Bach and my beloved Heinrich Schütz.  On 8/8 Gardiner returns with Berlioz The Damnation of Faust, with Michael Spyres. First of this year's four Mahlers is Mahler's Tenth (Cooke) with  Thomas Dausgaard and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra  Robin Ticciati, back with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on 15/8 with an interesting pairing, Thomas Larcher Nocturne-Insomnia with Schumann Symphony no 2.   Throughout this season, there are odd mismatches between repertoire and performers, good conductors doing routine material, less good conductors doing safe and indestructable. Fortunately, baroque and specialist  music seem immune.  See above ! and also the Prom featuring Lalo, Délibes and Saint-Saëns with François Xavier-Roth and Les Siècles on 16/8   Perhaps these Proms attract  audiences who care what they're listening to  Schoenberg's Gurrelieder on 19/8 with Simon Rattle, whose recording many years back remains a classic but may not be known to whoever described the piece in the programme "Gurrelieder is Schoenberg’s Tristan and Isolde, an opulent, late-Romantic giant."  Possibly the same folk who dreamed up the tag "Reformation Day" like Nigel Faarage's "Independence Day" Nothing in life is that simplistic  The music's OK, but notn the marketing. Sakari Oramo conducts the BBC SO in Elgar Symphony no 3 (Anthony Payne) on 22/8   Potentially this will be even bigger than the Barenboim Elgar symphonies, since Oramo is particularly good with this symphony, which may not be as high profile but is certainly highly regarded by those who love Elgar   On 26/8, Jakub Hrůša conducts the BBC SO in an extremely well chosen programme of Suk, Smetana, Martinů, Janáček and Dvorák   More BBCSO on 31/8 when Semyon Bychkov conducts a Russian programme  Marketing guff seems to make a big deal of national stereotypes, which is short sighted  These programmes cohere musically, but that's perhaps too much to expect from the new Proms mindset On 1/9,  Daniele Gatti conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Bruckner and Wolfgang Rihm  An odd pairing but one which will come off well since these musicians know what they're doing They are back again on 2/9 with  Haydn "The Bear" and Mahler Fourth  which isn't "sunny" or "song-filled".  It's Mahler,  not a musical.  Gergiev brings the Mariinsky on 3/9 with Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich Symphony no 5.  Another huge highlight on 7/9 : The Wiener Philharmoniker, with Daniel Harding in Mahler Symphony no 6 - so powerful that nothing else needs to be added to sugar the pill   For me, and for many others, that will be the real :Last Night of the Proms   Party time the next day, with Nina Stemme as star guest     

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

June 23

Concertgebouw goes free as video policy fails

As of today, you can watch concert videos on the Concertgebouw site after the orchestra decided there was no point in charging for them. The RCO has also abandoned all further releases on RCO editions, according to its press release. You can watch the free videos here. They include concerts by Jansons, Gatti, Fischer, Nelsons and Blomstedt.

Classical iconoclast

April 8

Mahler 8s I have known and loved

Mahler rehearsing his Symphony no 8Vladimir Jurowski conducts Mahler Symphony no 8 with the LPO at the Royal Festival Hall. Time to reflect on M8's past!  Organizing the logistics of performance are daunting, so Mahler 8s don't come along as often as other symphonies, but live M8s are by no means rare. Indeed  there was a Mahler 8 at the Royal Festival Hall only two years ago, with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Philharmonia.  For some reason that concert wasn't as heavily promoted as the Jurowski concert has been this time round.  "South Bank Mahler" is a strange beast, conjured up by hype and the South Bank management's downgrading of serious music - even their website's a nightmare to navigate.  That might fit in with the dumbing down of government arts policy, but it isn't necessarily a good thing, because it creates false expectations. Mahler's 8th has been cursed from birth by false assumptions that it should be a "Symphony of a Thousand", that quantity is better than quality, that volume matters more than art.  In any case, the Royal Festival Hall couldn't physically accommodate 1000 musicians,. Besides everyone's hearing would be damaged. . Twice, I've heard Mahler Symphony no 8 live at the Royal Albert Hall which is big enough, but the results haven't been worth the effort. Once I heard it live in a sports stadium in Paris which seats 8000 (see more here). That, surprisingly, was a good experience because the crowd was relaxed, having a good time. No illusions about music as status symbol!  The whole thing was being filmed, and there were screens round the stadium so people could see the musicians close up.  They were having a whale of  time, too.  The sound was amplified, but properly done, so the music wasn't lost. That concert was a one-off, never to be repeated extravaganza.  Extremely enjoyable, because the atmosphere was so cheerful. Later, when I heard the tapes and saw the film, they proved that it wasn't a bad musical experience, either  (Eschenbach, Orchestre de Paris). Two years ago, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia did M8 in the RFH. I wasn't convinced that some in the audience were really listening since there were problems with one of the choirs and some of the soloists. What a relief it was when Salonen and the Philharmonia got to the long, hushed section at the beginning of the Second Part!  Holding the vast forces of M8 together is a challenge. Twice, I've heard performances go awry because the choirs came apart. Once, the First Violin saved the day, leading the orchestra while the conductor (Daniele Gatti) brought the choirs back in line.  Even Bernard Haitink had problems, in the notorious performance where Dame Gywneth Jones's voice cracked and then went progressively into meltdown. No one's fault! Jones was the diva of her day, and very, very good.  She struggled on until the end and probably has never lived that down. Ive also been to a M8 where the choirs were astonishingly good, compensating for a non-idiomatic orchestra (oddly, the same band that did so well for Salonen). That was at the Three Choirs Festival last year in Gloucester Cathedral. The choirs at Three Choirs are a phenomenom, arguably the best large-scale choral ensemble in the world. They sing together, and in their own Cathedrals all year round, and inherit a tradition of excellence that goes back 300 years. No way is there any comparison with other choirs, no matter how good.  That M8 was truly memorable. Read more about it HERE.   Another interesting thing about Mahler 8 is that it is not operatic, though it employs multiple voices.  The various "names" don't sing "parts" or really interact. Mahler, and Goethe before him, were inspired by medieval paintings where modern perspective doesn't apply. Exquisitely detailed figures stand proud of one-dimensional landscapes. They don't interact, like roles in an opera. Mahler's Eight is a symphony, employing voices to extend the instrumental palette.  The structure is bizarre, but that, too, reflects the idea of unworldly non-realism.  Good music should stretch the soul, always opening out new possibilities. Otherwise why listen?  Even when you're listening to a recording, when the sound is fixed, you yourself are different to what you were the last time you heard it.  Revelatory isn't a word to be used lightly, but the two most revelatory performances  I've ever heard expanded my understanding of the music, the composer and of myself.  Of all the many M8s Ive heard, these two stand out. Both are game changers, so might come as a shock to anyone who thinks they know everything there is to know. But these two are immensely rewarding, for they engage with the spirit of creative illumination that runs so powerfully through this symphony. Light, illumination, the coming down of divine wisdom through creative growth. Pierre Boulez, with the Staatskapelle Berlin at the Philharmonie, Berlin. Prof Henry-Louis de La Grange was in the audience, and wrote the notes to the recording, made a few days later at the Marienkirche.  Read more about that performance HERE.    Riccardo Chailly, with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.  The M8 that Claudio Abbado never got to conduct. The more I listened to it, it felt like a mystical experience of great emotional depth.  Truly in line with the "Poetic thoughts" which Mahler was referring to.  Read more about that performance HERE.  


December 19

Concertgebouw/Gatti review – superlative orchestra thrill and challenge

Barbican, London Under their new chief conductor Daniele Gatti, the orchestra demonstrated why the RCO remains one of the world’s truly recognisable ensemblesWhile the UK tugs at the European laces, others try to tie them more snugly. Under its new Italian chief conductor Daniele Gatti, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is on a two-year project of mini-residencies, working with youth orchestras in each of the EU’s 28 member states. And so, following a more standard RCO programme the night before, its Saturday afternoon concert began with half the seats on stage empty, waiting to be filled for the first work by 36 members of the National Youth Orchestra. In an introductory speech interrupted by loud audience applause whenever she said the word “Europe”, NYO chief executive Sarah Alexander stressed the importance to the NYO players of feeling close to European excellence. Bittersweet words for these teenagers, many of them headed for orchestral careers, who found in June that their potential working world may have got smaller.Still, the sweetness of performing with the orchestra many consider the world’s best will surely have blown the bitterness away, for now. The work they collaborated on was Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger – which, in a similar handing-on of expertise, NYO players were due to perform alongside east London school musicians the following day. Continue reading...

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