Thursday, December 8, 2016
"Masterworks of French Modernism", the title of Daniele Gatti's concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker. Debussy La Mer, the key piece that opened new horizons, a magical work which, like the ocean keeps changing, revealing its depths in good performance. "God is in the detail" said Gatti in the interval interview, explaining how the arc of a performance is built upon many layers of detail. The term "Impressionism" is a tag that's stuck because it does describe the idea of creating a whole made up of tiny cells of pure colour. Impressionist paintings shocked viewers because they seemed to shine from within, because each stroke of paint seemed to glow with inner light. Now, perhaps The Shock of The New has worn off with millions of reproductions on coffee mugs, t shirts and so on. But in music, every good performance is new, an original recreation in its own right. Daniele Gatti is too good to do routine, and with an orchestra as good as the Berliner Philharmoniker, there was no way this performance would fail. There are so many brilliant La Mers around that we've all heard better, but also even more that are infinitely worse, and that's something to be glad about in a world where mediocrity is increasingly prized over excellence. Not a "coffee mug" performance by any means, even if the real revelations on this occasion came in Honegger and Dutilleux. Arthur Honegger's Symphony no 3 and Henri Dutilleux Métaboles have both been part of the Berlin Philharmonic's repertoire for some years. Simon Rattle conducted Métaboles as recently as 2013, with more or less the same musicians. Although much of Dutilleux's best work lies in miniatures and chamber pieces, Métaboles is scored for large orchestra. It flows over five movements each wiuth a distinctive personality : not variations but a series of developments, characterized by meticulous detail - a kind of refined embroidery. To borrow metaphors from painting, Pointillism, as opposed to Impressionism. Gatti's approach is softer grained than Rattle's, which may be more authentic but which might appeal to the already converted than to those coming new to the composer. There is a powerful Dutilleux lobby, so influential that it could demand chapters on Dutilleux in books about Messiaen. A bit petty, since both composers are very different indeed, and there's no need to play silly status games. Better to absorb the music on its own terms. A few years ago, I attended a Dutilleux recital at the Wigmore Hall (read more here). The composer, then aged 92, was present, enjoying himself hugely because Jan Pascal Tortelier's father was a close personal friend. Afterwards, my friend and I had a long dinner, leaving close to midnight. And who should we see but Henri Dutilleux, walking back to his hotel around the block. We waved. He beamed. Herbert Karajan conducted Honegger's Symphony no 3 (Symphonie Liturgique) with the Berliners in 1969, so long ago that it's pointless to compare. Whoever uploaded the performance to YT knew what they were doing by illustrating it with a drawing by George Rouault. Connections to painting again. No pretty pointillism for Rouault : his work is marked by ferocious dark outlines, defining the images within . The colours in his famous series of paintings of Christ seem to glow like stained glass even though they are oppressed by savage framework, which is utterly appropriate. Written in the winter of 1945/6, Honegger's piece deals explicitly with the horrors of war, and the challenges of a new era. The Dies Irae with its ferocious outcries, expresses anguish. Rouault's suffering Christ, depicted in sound. Honegger, being Swiss was a neutral in occupied France, but no less involved with what was going on around him. The second movement, De profundis clamavi, is a slow, but not peaceful meditation. What must we do that to counter violence and hate ? Slower, more amorphous figures, long lines that seem to float on a stream of mysterious detail. Gatti's unhurried attentiveness works well: we cannot afford to gloss over these complexities. This is the dark soul of the whole symphony. The movement concludes with intense outbursts from the brass, angular shapes against the horizontal keening in the strings. The last movement, Dona Nobis Pacem, doesn't, however, "grant us peace". Instead, it moves in the form of a solemn procession, lit with violent alarums from brass. One could visualize a cortege marching at night, the darkness broken by malevolent flames, whipped by turbulent winds. Obvious connections with Honegger's masterpiece Jeanne d'Arc au Bûcher written in 1938, when Honegger was well aware of the threat posed by Hitler. Joan of Arc stands up to invaders, but is martyred. As the flames rise round her, though, she sees visions of saints and angels, and the voices who lead her return at last, taking her up to heaven. Peace, of a sort, is achieved but only through confronting evil and suffering : no avoidance, no prettying up. Honegger's Symphony no 3 isn't just a masterwork of modernism but a powerful document of how music can inspire the mind and soul. Please read my other work on Honegger and especially on Jeanne d'Arc au Bûcher by following the links below and on the right.
ORCHESTRAL CONDUCTING Age limit: 35 years Elimination tests: a) evaluation of certificates: after May 15 b) practical test with the Orchestra: August 1 / 10:30 am To be admitted to the Course, candidates must pass two elimination tests: a) evaluation of certificates; b) practical test with the Orchestra. a) Evaluation of certificates For this first […]
The Conducting Master Class will focus on three orchestral compositions. Four young, highly gifted conductors will study and rehearse these works with Daniele Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The goal will be to develop the participants’ ability to listen to the orchestra and to communicate both verbally and non-verbally with the musicians. The three […]
The first volume of Frits Zwart’s comprehensive biography of the formative and controversial Dutch condcutor appeared in 1999. The second volume, long awaited, covers his collaboration with the Nazi occupation during the second world war. The new book was presented yesterday at the Concertgebouw, with a copy given to music director Daniele Gatti (who must be learning to read Dutch very fast indeed). Who is going to be first to present a summary of its findings on Slipped Disc?
By now the annual Ars Ballet Galas at the Coliseo are as much a fixture as the rival Gala of the Colón, which will be seen eight days later. Ars is a society formed by Martín Boschet, Liana Vinacur and Diego Radivoy. From the start they have striven to give a balance between the traditional ballets and the contemporary dances, and have invited for the first time many artists of value coming from widely spread companies and aesthetics. And they have always included some Argentine dancers either living here or abroad. Each Gala has left some outstanding memories. This year two Momix dancers and a free-lance artist with the pseudonym of Lil Buck were the most stimulating, plus the inventive multimedia choreographies of David Middendorp. Decades ago our city received visits of a fascinating group called Pilobolus. Its founder and choreographer was Moses Pendleton, and he concocted exhilarating shows of great speed and precision as well as healthy humor. In 1980 he created Momix, a company of illusionist dance (it is thus defined in the hand programme), and it is still going strong. Apparently Momix holds a special attraction for its dancers, as they tend to stay for many years. Such is the case of the two that came here: Steven Ezra Marshall entered the company at 18 in 2003; and Rebecca Joy Rasmussen is there since 2006. Both are exceptional artists, as they revealed in duets from"Tuu" and "Dream Catcher". Pendleton works with other choreographers: Tin Acito and Solveig Olsen in the first, Craig Berman and Brian Sanders in the second. Pop music accompanies both. In "Tuu" both bodies are in close contact for several minutes and assume different shapes giving the illusion of abstract forms; the millimetric coordination and physical condition were astonishing. In "Dream Catcher" they mimetize with a geometrically complex sculpture (by Alan Boeding); they constantly interact with it with perilous climbs, at the end throwing it from one end of the stage to another with uncanny exactitude. Beautiful and intriguing. Lil Buck is really Charles Riley, a 28-year-old Chicagoan who has created a sui generis sort of street dancing. He doesn´t belong to any group. He has an incredible muscular control and his whole body seems to ripple. And he uses big white sneakers with which he performs prodigies of feet elasticity. Naturally he is his own choreographer (no one else does what he does). I don´t know what "Brostjour" means but that´s the name of his solo in the First Part, with completely monotonous cello music by Olafur Arnalds. In the Second Part we saw a strange hybrid: the famous Saint-Saëns "Death of the Swan" where one sees the (uncredited) Fokin choreography (with some changes) by Carolina Basualdo (from Bahía Blanca´s Ballet del Sur) interspersed with Lil Buck´s own version; the final thirty seconds are danced by both, each with a different choreography. I felt it was more a curiosity than a viable alternative, but it isn´t a parody, like last year´s Trockadero spoof. Good dancing by Basualdo, and in the only live performance of the evening, fine playing by cellist Lucas Caballero, accompanied by pianist Joaquín Panisse. And now, the Middendorp choreographies, both danced well by Violet Broersma and Antonino Milazzo: on unattractive pop music, the intense duets "Blue Journey" and "Flyland 2" got an extra dimension with admirable multimedia projections combining aerial dancing with imaginative elements from nature or geometrical forms , giving dynamism to the images. Lucio Vidal is an Argentine dancer who worked with Nacho Duato in Madrid, and now the choreographer has invited him to be a member of Duato´s new post, the Staatsballett Berlin. Vidal´s personality has no affinity with traditional ballet, as he showed in Duato´s "Herrumbre" ("Rust"), a tense duet with Japanese dancer Kayoko Everhart (from the Compañía Nacional de España, run by Duato during a long period, 1990 to 2010). Although I disliked the music (Pedro Alcalde, Sergio Caballero and David Darling), the piece has impact and the dancers responded with solid command and contemporary awareness (though the presumed connexion with the Atocha massacre escaped me). Vidal is his own choreographer on a solo, "Alien", on grating music by Mikey Woodbridge, with video projections. Unremittingly harsh, the dancer is strongly expressive and reflects the current disconcerted Europe. Two Colón artists, Gabriela Alberti, danced (in inverted order of what the hand programme said; no one announced it) the adagio Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky´s "Swan Lake" (the Prince merely assists the Swan, interpreted with excellent technique) and a curious tango by Piazzolla, "Quicho", where the star is the bass (homage to Quicho Díaz); the artists did well in the adequate Julio López choreography. The "Carmen" Pas de Deux (Bizet arranged by Shchedrin) comes from the famous Alberto Alonso choreography in which Plisetskaya shone; based on the Flower Aria, it isn´t the best fragment and was routinely danced by Adiarys Almeida (from the Cuban Alicia Alonso technique) and Joseph Gatti (from the Orlando Ballet). Finally, two hoary and celebrated Petipa items: the lovely Second Act Pas de Deux from Adam´s "Giselle", poetically danced by Julieta Paul (of the Teatro Argentino) and Matthew Golding, a tall Canadian of the Royal Ballet. And the spectacular Trio from "The Corsair" (music by Adam and Drigo), where Almeida and Gatti were very good and Golding a bit less. A Gala with plenty of renovation. For Buenos Aires Herald
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Harding (Harmonia Mundi)We usually think of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique in the context of the Romanticism burgeoning all around it at its 1830 premiere. Conductor Daniel Harding instead suggests, brilliantly, that we hear it as part of an ongoing French tradition exemplified only a century earlier by the swagger of the high baroque. Rameau’s suite of dances from Hippolyte et Aricie is an exuberant upbeat to a performance of the Symphonie that delights in the raw sonic capabilities of the orchestra. Harding’s own Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra are stylish in both. There’s some brazen playing to enjoy – the low brass in March to the Scaffold sound like a foghorn – but the impression of a lack of refinement is deceptive: the balance and pace are always tautly in check. Another Symphonie Fantastique, by the Concertgebouw, under Daniele Gatti, is released this month, but next to Harding’s it sounds grey. Continue reading...