La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: April 30 (Lehár, Homer)

1870 - Franz Lehár, Komárom, Austria-Hungary; composer

Wiki entry
Short bio

Fritz Wunderlich sings "Dein Ist Mein Ganzes Herz" from Lehár's Das Land Des Lächelns (The Land of Smiles)

The Merry Widow, Act I finale (Royal Opera House production, Felicity Lott and Thomas Allen, ROH Chorus and Orchestra under Dietfried Bernet, 1997)

1871 - Louise Homer, Pittsburgh, U.S.A., opera contralto


Louise Homer (Amneris) and Enrico Caruso (Radames) in Verdi's Aida

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Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: April 29 (Beecham, Mehta)

1879 - Thomas Beecham, St. Helens, England; conductor

Wiki entry
Short Bio/Pictures
Beecham Quotes

1936 - Zubin Mehta, Mumbai (Bombay), India; conductor

Wiki entry

A video tribute celebrating the life of conductor Zubin Mehta, from the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors program, where he was an honoree ((MC is Itzhak Perlman): Part 1

Video tribute to Zubin Mehta: Part 2

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Monday, 28 April 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: April 28 (LeFanu, Tate)

1947 - Nicola LeFanu, Wickham Bishops, England; composer, pedagogue

Wiki entry
Short Bio

1943 - Jeffrey Tate, Salisbury, England; conductor

Wiki entry
Inspired Minds

Jeffrey Tate conducts the English Chamber Orchestra in the second movement of the Mozart's Symphony No. 41 (The Jupiter)

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Sunday, 27 April 2008

Met Opera in HD: La fille du Regiment

The highly successful second season of the Metropolitan Opera at the Movies concluded with Donizetti's La fille du Regiment, starring Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez, two of the greatest bel canto singers of our generation.
Peruvian tenor Florez is certainly at the height of his powers, his reputation as the best in the bel canto repertoire well nigh unassailable. On opening night a few days earlier, after prolonged and vociferous applause from a deliriously enthusiastic Met audience, he repeated "Ah. mes amis" with its 9 high Cs, for a total of 18. This was a break with the Met tradition - other than "Va pensiero" - a choral piece, no soloist at the Met have encored an aria for many, many decades. It was clear that Signor Florez is back and in terrific form. There were some trepidations regarding his vocal health, after a much publicized, month-long cancellation (late Feb. to late March) as a result of having swallowed a fish bone(!) that required a surgical procedure. It was to our great good fortune that the irreplaceable Florez have recovered completely from this accident, and is now singing as well as ever. He also put his hiatus to good use by marrying his German fiancee Julia Trapp in his home town of Lima, Peru at the end of March. His performance yesterday (April 26) was extraordinary in every way. Rarely have we heard such vocal ease, particularly his complete freedom at the top of his range, and his total command of the bel canto style. Besides the vocal fireworks in "Ah! mes amis", his legto and overall stylish vocalism in the "quiet" Act 2 aria was extraordinary. It was a performance to cherish.
With such a high power Tonio, "la fille" had to be special, and French soprano Natalie Dessay fits the bill perfectly. After having sung almost twenty years at the highest level, Dessay has transformed herself from a specialist in the stratospheric soprano roles - Olympia, Zerbinetta, Koenigin de Nacht - to a somewhat lower fach that includes Lucia, Manon, Amina, even Pamina (these last two roles I heard in Santa Fe a few years back), and of course Marie. Melisande is another role that she has sung to great acclaim, a vocally non-flashy - completely lacking in high notes - but supremely effective acting vehicle for her. Rumour has it that a vocal crisis several years ago led to laser vocal cord surgery which necessitated the change in fach. She has actually discussed her vocal problems frankly with journalists. Now it appears that her problems are a thing of the past and she is once again singing beautifully. The voice has greater warmth in the middle and the top is secure, if not with quite the beauty of tone as before. And she remains a singing actress non-pareil. Her Marie was a spitfire, full of energy and spirit. Some might find it a bit too manic, but given the Laurent Pelly delightfully zany conception of the piece, her acting was spot on.
More about Pelly. His previous productions - an incredible La belle Helene and an equally terrific Cendrillon - turned me into a fan. In my mind his La fille is a very fine piece of work but at a somewhat lower level. Perhaps it's me, but I find this French farce not all that funny, and musically it is rather thin, despite a few nice arias. Part of the problem was the excessive amount of dialogue, spoken in French - not all of it translated in the subtitles - that just didn't have the same impact on an English speaking audience. Thankfully with great singers the likes of Florez and Dessay, they managed to lift the musically lightweight material to a high level. On this occasion, they were supported by Felicity Palmer and Alessandro Corbelli, two veterans of the opera stage. Both acquitted themselves with distinction. The only downside was a singularly un-funny Duchess of Krakenthorp by Marian Seldes . Thankfully her contribution was reduced in this revival when compared to previous, more starry Duchesses, such as Montserrat Caballe, in the Vienna revival of this production a couple of years ago.
Conductor Marco Armiliato is becoming more and more a Met fixture, and it is all to the good. He is a singer friendly conductor, and his work, though middle of the road, is always at a consistently high level. He brought much energy and verve to the proceedings this afternoon. The male chorus under Donald Palumbo sounded great. There was only one intermission feature, with the ever solicitous but totally predictable Renee Fleming interviewing the two leads plus Palmer and Corbelli. Dessay's English has improved by leaps and bounds, almost completely accent-free, except for her pronunciation of the word "character". The picture quality was once again on the dark side, likely limited by the projection equipment. I just hope this will be remedied as technology improves in the near future. Three cinemas were put into service at the Sheppard Grande. Despite a totally unexpected, last-minute transit strike, the cinemas were just about full. Likely patrons who had purchased tickets were unable to show up due to the transit strike. The transmission was once again glitch free. Now that the Met in HD season has come to an end, we can look forward to next season, with an expanded list of 10 operas plus a gala opening. I for one can't wait!

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Today's Birthdays in Music: April 27 (Prokofiev, Oistrakh)

1891 - Sergei Prokofiev, Sontsovka, Ukraine; composer (several sources give d.o.b. as April 23)

Wiki entry
Prokofiev Page

Prokofiev - Romeo & Juliet (Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris)

Prokofiev's 7th piano sonata, 1st mvt. (Glenn Gould, 1961)

1931 - Igor Oistrakh, Odessa, Ukraine; violinist

Wiki entry
Interview (2003)

Igor and David Oistrakh play Prokofiev's Sonata for Two Violins, 2nd mvt.

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Saturday, 26 April 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: April 26 (Podleś, Lipp)

1952 - Ewa Podleś, Warsaw, Poland; opera and concert contralto

Wiki entry
Interview (1998)

Ewa Podleś sings Berlioz's scène lyrique "La mort de Cléopâtre" (Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, conducted by Charles Dutoit, 2003)

1925 - Wilma Lipp, Vienna, Austria; opera soprano

Short bio

Wilma Lipp as The Queen of the Night in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (1950)

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Friday, 25 April 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: April 25 (Varnay)

1918 - Astrid Varnay, Stockholm, Sweden; opera soprano and mezzo-soprano

Wiki entry

Astrid Varnay as Kostelnicka in Janáček's Jenufa (Munich, 1970)

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Thursday, 24 April 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: April 24 (Archer, Williams)

1913 - Violet Archer, Montreal, Canada; composer, pianist, teacher

Wiki entry
Obituary (La Scena Musicale, 2000)

1941 - John C. Williams, Melbourne, Australia; guitarist

Wiki entry

John Williams and Julian Bream play Debussy's Clair de Lune

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Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: April 23 (Smyth, Leoncavallo)

1858 - Ethel Smyth, London, England; composer

Wiki entry
The Wreckers

Extract from Act 1 of The Wreckers (2006 Duchy Opera production)

1857 - Ruggero Leoncavallo, Naples, Italy; composer (Pagliacci)

Wiki entry

Sherrill Milnes sings The Prologue from Pagliacci (Metropolitan Opera 1978)

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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: April 22 (Ferrier, Menuhin)

1912 - Kathleen Ferrier, Higher Walton, England; contralto

Wiki entry

Kathleen Ferrier sings "Come to me, soothing sleep" from Handel's Ottone

1916 - Yehudi Menuhin, New York City, USA; violinist, conductor

Wiki entry
Short bio
Yehudi Menuhin (La Scena Musicale, April 2000)

Yehudi Menuhin and Glenn Gould play Bach's Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor (BWV 1017), Adagio

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Monday, 21 April 2008

Canadian baritone Napoléon Bisson dies at age 85

We have just been advised that Canadian baritone Napoléon Bisson died on April 17, 2008 at age 85. Here is the obituary notice in the Montreal Gazette on April 19, 2008:
Napoleon Bisson
BISSON, Napoleon. 1922-2008. In Chambly on April 17, 2008 at the age of eighty-five years passed away M. Napole Bisson. He leaves to mourn his children the late Pierre (Johanne Champagne), Marie (Pierre LeBlanc), Michel (ArleLeclerc), Mascha, (Christian Medawar), Sophie (Spiro Tsovras), his grandchildren Karel, VeAlexis, Paris and Lucas, his brother Paul, sisters-in-law, numerous other relatives and friends. Resting at: Visitation Tuesday from 7 to 10 p.m., Wednesday from 2 to 5 and 7 to 10 p.m. and Thursday from 9 a.m. The funeral will be held on Thursday, April 24 at 11 a.m. in St-Joseph de Chambly Church followed by burial in Notre Dame des Neiges cemetery.
Here is the Guest Book page to leave a message

Canadian Press has an obituary in French today.
Biography in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada

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Bebe Barron (1925 - 2008)

American composer Bebe Barron passed away on April 20, 2008 at 82. I received the following obituary from Barry Schrader (

Bebe Barron (1925 - 2008)

It is with great sadness that I report the death of Bebe Barron on April 20, 2008 at the age of 82, of natural causes. Bebe was the last of the pioneering composers of classical studio electronic music. She was a close friend, an enthusiastic colleague, and a most gracious lady.

Bebe Barron was born Charlotte Wind in Minneapolis, on June 16, 1925. She received an MA in political science from the University of Minnesota, where she studied composition with Roque Cordero, and she also spent a year studying composition and ethnomusicology at the University of Mexico. In 1947 she moved to New York and, while working as a researcher for Time-Life, studied composition with Wallingford Reigger and Henry Cowell. That same year, she met and married Louis Barron (1920 - 1989). Shortly thereafter, the Barrons began their experiments with the recording and manipulation of sound material by means of a tape recorder that they received as a wedding gift. They created a private studio in New York and, in 1955, composed the first electronic music score for a commercial film, Forbidden Planet. In 1962 the Barrons moved to Los Angeles; they divorced in 1970. In 1973, Bebe married Leonard Neubauer, a screen writer. Bebe became the first Secretary of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) in 1985, and also served on the Board of Directors. In 1997 Bebe was presented the SEAMUS Award for the Barrons life work in the field of electro-acoustic music. She is survived by her husband, Leonard, and her son, Adam.

Bebe's last public appearance was on January 12, 2008, at an event held at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, celebrating the work of her good friend, Anais Nin. Bebe was too ill to speak in public at this point, but she agreed to be interviewed for a video piece that was shown at the event. This is her final interview, and you can see it on YouTube.

Bebe's final composition, Mixed Emotions (2000) was composed in the CREATE studios of the University of California at Santa Barbara. I'll be putting this work up on the Downloads 2 page of my website, along with some photos of Bebe and myself taken in 2005 at her home on the Photos page within the next week.

I first met Bebe Barron in the middle 1970s; I don't remember exactly when, but I think it was around 1975. I had asked Bebe and her former husband and composing partner Louis to attend a showing of Forbidden Planet that I had arranged as part of a class at CalArts. They agreed to do it, and I quickly became good friends with Bebe and we remained close over the years.

In writing about Bebe Barron, it's impossible not to focus on the pioneering work that she and Louis did in electronic music. They began their experiments in 1948, shortly after they were married. This early work was done using a tape recorder, preceding the work of Luening and Ussachevsky and the switch from disks to tape by Pierre Schaeffer and the GRM. But, to my knowledge, the Barrons' early experiments did not result in any completed works, a state of affairs not uncommon with early pioneers in the field. In 1949 they set up one of the earliest private electro-acoustic music studios and began their experiments with electronically generated sounds. They built their own circuits which they viewed as cybernetic organisms, having been influenced by Norbert Weiner's work on cybernetics. The circuits, built with vacuum tubes, would exhibit characteristic qualities of pitch, timbre, and rhythm, and had a sort of life cycle from their beginnings until they burned out. The Barrons recorded the sounds from the amplification of these circuits and this formed the basis of their working library. They also employed tape manipulation techniques as part of their compositional procedures. The sound qualities of these various amplified tube circuits and the tape manipulations that they underwent formed the musical language that the Barrons created in their studio. Unlike some of the work being done elsewhere, the Barrons' music reveals long phrases, often stated in tape-delayed rhythms, with the stark finesse of the tube circuit timbres. They created a style that was uniquely their own yet married to the technology they were using.

The Barrons earliest finished work, Heavenly Menagerie (1951) does not seem to have survived in a complete form. But their score for Ian Hugo's film Bells of Atlantis (1952), based on a poem by Anais Nin, who appears on screen, does exist on the film sound track. This may be the earliest extant work of the Barrons and presages what was to come with Forbidden Planet, the music for which was composed in 1955, the film being released the
next year.
The music for Forbidden Planet is truly a landmark in electro-acoustic music. This was the first commercial film to use only electronic music, and the score for the movie displays an attitude towards film scoring that was different from anything that had happened before. In Forbidden Planet, while there are themes for characters and events in the film, as was traditional in the scoring of that day, the themes are composed and perceived as gestalts, rather than as melodies in traditional movie music. Even more important is the fact that the scoring of Forbidden Planet breaks down the traditional line between music and sound effects since the Barrons' electronic material is used for both. This not only creates a new type of unity in the film sound world, but also allows for a continuum between these two areas that the Barrons exploit in various ways. At some points it's actually impossible to say whether or not what you're hearing is music, sound effect, or both. In doing this, they foreshadowed by decades the now common role of the sound designer in modern film and video.

The Barrons composed many other works for tape, film, and the theater in the 1950s. Their studio became the home for John Cage's Project of Music for Magnetic Tape, and they assisted in the creation of Cage's first chance piece Williams Mix (1951-52), as well as works by other members of the group such as Earle Brown and Morton Feldman. As a studio for the creation of their own and other composers' works, the Barrons' studio served as a functioning center for electro-acoustic music at a time when there was no institutional support of the medium in the United States. It's curious, then, that, for many years, the Barrons, their studio, and their works were largely overlooked by composers and historians in the field. Fortunately, that injustice has since been corrected, and, in 1997, it was my great honor to present to Bebe and, posthumously, to Louis, the SEAMUS Lifetime Achievement Award. Bebe was involved with SEAMUS from the very beginning of the organization. She was one of the ten original members who responded to my organizational call and met at CalArts in November of 1984 to form the group, and she was SEAMUS's first secretary. There may have been a little strong-arming on my part to get her to be involved so actively, but Bebe was always ready to support the cause of electro-acoustic music in whatever way she could.

Bebe created a firm legacy in her music. If the importance of one's work is to be judged in any regard by it's influence, acceptance, longevity, and innovative qualities, then the score for Forbidden Planet is an enormous success. It remains the most widely known electro-acoustic music work on this planet. For me, Bebe Barron will always be the First Lady of electronic music.

-- Barry Schrader

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Schubert : Drei Klavierstücke / Rachmaninov : Neuf Études-Tableaux, op. 39

Alain Lefèvre, piano
Analekta AN 2 9278 (75 min 2 s)
**** $$$

Alain Lefèvre habite avec intensité le redoutable opus 39 de Rachmaninov, trois quarts d’heure d’émotion communicative. Il manque cependant des couleurs et des ailes à son interprétation. Le pianiste a voulu, dit-il, privilégier l’aspect « tableaux » plutôt que le côté « études » de ces compositions, mais il y fait régner une atmosphère trop uniment sombre pour rendre la variété des climats, l’« histoire » que raconte chacune de ces neuf pièces. La pâte sonore dégagée à fond de clavier, sans tricherie, ne libère pas les divers plans où s’entrecroisent chant, contre-chant et accompagnement, tandis que les tempos, plutôt lents, ne maintiennent pas toujours l’intérêt, en particulier dans les numéros cinq et sept. Un peu plus d’allant et de pianisme ludique aurait été tout à fait approprié ici ! Les magnifiques Trois Pièces posthumes D. 496 de Schubert souffrent de la même pesanteur à la fois émotive et digitale et en deviennent brahmsiennes avant la lettre. L’omission de l’épisode andante dans le premier morceau est regrettable : il contribue à équilibrer la véhémence du thème principal, même si Schubert l’a biffé sur le manuscrit.

-Alexandre Lazaridès

See more info on this product at

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Linus Roth : naissance d’un (très) Grand…

Lorsqu’Anne-Sophie Mutter écrit de ce jeune violoniste allemand, qu’il est un « artiste dont la sensibilité musicale et la virtuosité ne font pas de doute » et dont « l’éventail stylistique, le caractère et le charisme se sont largement développés et l’ont toujours convaincue », elle ne fait que confirmer une impression largement positive issue des scènes de concert et d’un enregistrement remarquable parue chez EMI…

Né en 1977 à Ravensburg, Linus Roth découvrit le violon à l’âge de six ans. Dès ses 12 ans, il fut admis à la classe préparatoire du Professeur Nicolas Chumachenco au Conservatoire de Fribourg en Brisgau. Dès 1993, il étudia au Conservatoire de Lübeck auprès du célèbre Professeur Zakhar Bron jusqu’à l’obtention de son diplôme artistique en 1999. En 2000, il rejoignit le Conservatoire de Musique et de Théâtre de Zurich et le Professeur Ana Chumachenco et obtint son diplôme de soliste. Depuis, Ana Chumachenco suit toujours son développement artistique. De 1998 jusqu’à la fin de ses études, Linus Roth fut boursier de la fondation «Freundeskreis Anne-Sophie Mutter» et profita également des conseils de Josef Rissin, Yuri Bashmet, Herman Krebbers, et Salvatore Accardo à l’Academia Chigiana de Sienne.

Premier prix au Concours international de Violon de Novosibirsk (1995), Prix des boursiers du Music Forum – Young Classic World d’Allemagne (1999), Premier Prix du Concours de Berlin (2003), Linus Roth joue le violon « Dancla » sorti de l’atelier d’Antonio Stradivarius en 1703, qui lui est gracieusement prêté par la Fondation pour la Musique de la Landesbank Baden- Württemberg.

Audrey Roncigli : Linus, comment décririez-vous la source de votre inspiration ?
Linus Roth :
Je peux être inspiré par des choses très différentes : une relation avec un être aimé, ou un concert d’un collègue artiste. Une œuvre picturale peut aussi fournir une intense inspiration : on pourrait par exemple dire que l’on trouve les couleurs, la lumière et le style d’un tableau de Monet dans la musique de Debussy. Mais je peux aussi être inspiré par un lever de soleil vu d’avion… Je dirais en fait que chaque chose que je vis devient une partie de ce que j’exprime dans la musique.

Audrey Roncigli : Vous avez travaillé avec Anne-Sophie Mutter. Comment et dans quel sens vous a-t-elle influencé ?
Linus Roth :
Durant mes études à sa Fondation en tant qu’élève boursier, j’ai eu la chance de jouer très régulièrement pour elle. Elle voulait observer comment je me développais artistiquement. Vous pouvez imaginer que je prenais chacune de nos rencontres très au sérieux, car c’est une immense artiste et je l’admire énormément. Elle ne parlait pas vraiment beaucoup, mais ce qu’elle disait était toujours très important, profond, et ses conseils musicaux me guident toujours.

Audrey Roncigli : Vous avez un vaste répertoire, s’étendant de Bach à Hartmann en passant par Piazzola. Comment un jeune artiste comme vous choisit et construit son répertoire ? Pourquoi jouer des pièces rares comme le Concerto funèbre d’Hartmann ?
Linus Roth :
il faut des années pour se constituer un vaste répertoire. On peut apprendre la partition en quelques jours, mais plus vous pratiquez la pièce, plus vous la jouez depuis longtemps, et plus vous vous en sentez proche. Quelquefois, j’apprends un concerto simplement parce que l’orchestre ou le chef le demande, comme ce fut le cas pour Hartmann. Et quelquefois, il apparaît que je veuille jouer une pièce particulière. Par exemple, je viens, enfin, de trouver quelques chefs d’orchestre acceptant de diriger le Concerto de Schumann, une pièce que j’avais envie de jouer depuis longtemps. Mon répertoire se développe constamment : en parallèle du Concerto de Schumann, je vais bientôt jouer le Concerto de Barber, puis celui de Britten. J’aimerais aussi ajouter des pièces de musique contemporaine, comme Dutilleux, Gubaidulina… Je pense que je ne m’ennuierai pas !

Audrey Roncigli : Vos débuts discographiques avec Jose Gallardo chez EMI ont remporté le Prix ECHO. Comment ce rêve fabuleux d’enregistrer chez EMI s’est-il réalisé ?
Linus Roth :
J’avais envoyé un enregistrement de concert à EMI, car je savais qu’ils avaient une collection dédiée aux « Jeunes Artistes ». Après quelques mois, j’ai reçu un email de leurs bureaux de Londres ; le producteur est venu me voir en concert, et il m’a invité à enregistrer ce disque. Le prochain disque sortira en juin, avec les Sonates pour Violon de Schumann, ainsi que des Lieder arrangés pour violon et piano par Jose Gallardo.

Audrey Roncigli : Qu’est-ce qui rend une pièce difficile pour vous ? Avez-vous des pièces favorites ?
Linus Roth :
Je ne peux pas dire avoir une pièce préférée, car c’est souvent celle que je suis en train de travailler pour le prochain concert. De plus, chaque pièce est difficile en elle-même, avec ses propres difficultés. Mais la difficulté s’amenuise au fur et à mesure que je travaille !

Audrey Roncigli : Comment travaillez-vous une nouvelle pièce ? Directement dans la partition, par des enregistrements, des lectures ?
Linus Roth
: Quand je travaille l’aspect technique, j’étudie intensément et profondément la partition. Il est important de la connaître entièrement très rapidement. Connaître le compositeur aide toujours, et si de grands enregistrements existent, j’aime aussi être inspiré par le passé. Enfin, j’aime aussi connaître les autres pièces du compositeur, que ce soit les symphonies, ou la musique de chambre.

Audrey Roncigli : Quelques mots sur l’extraordinaire Stradivarius Dancla que vous jouez…
Linus Roth :
J’ai une relation très particulière avec ce violon, car c’est exactement le violon que j’attendais. Je suis très reconnaissant à la Banque d’Etat de Bade-Wurtemberg qui m’a permis de choisir le violon qui me correspondait le plus : elle l’a acheté et me le prête. Je l’ai cherché pendant plus d’un an ! J’ai su que le Dancla serait le violon idéal dès que je l’ai accordé ! C’était en quelque sorte un « coup de foudre »… La couleur, la variété de sons me semblent infinies… Je trouve quelque chose de nouveau chaque jour dans ce violon…
Charles Dancla a possédé pendant trente ans ce violon : c’était un célèbre professeur de violon à Paris. Puis Nathan Milstein l’a aussi beaucoup joué.

Audrey Roncigli : Quels sont vos rêves musicaux et vos ambitions ?
Linus Roth : Être sur scène, jouer, est ce qui me rend le plus heureux… Aussi longtemps que je peux exercer cette activité, je réaliserai mon rêve. J’essaie bien entendu de m’améliorer chaque jour, mais… entre nous, la quête pour le (plus) beau son est quasi infinie…

Audrey Roncigli : Quels sont les musiciens que vous admirez le plus actuellement ?
Linus Roth :
J’admire beaucoup de collègues pour leur musicalité, il y en a trop pour les citer. Ce que j’apprécie particulièrement chez un musicien, c’est lorsqu’il ou elle réussit à réunir des personnes autour de la musique, des personnes quelquefois séparées par le passé. Je pense à Yehudi Menuhin, qui fut le premier artiste juif à jouer en Allemagne après la guerre. Ou à Daniel Barenboim, qui grâce au West Eastern Divan Orchestra, réunit des musiciens palestiniens et israéliens. Je pense sincèrement que la musique a beaucoup plus de pouvoir et de puissance que ce que l’on pense, et qu’elle peut aider à changer le monde… positivement, à l’améliorer !

Audrey Roncigli : Quelles sont vos passions à part le violon ?
Linus Roth :
J’aime le sport. Le jogging, la natation, la musculation – mais je ne peux pas utiliser des poids, pour ne pas blesser mes bras et mes mains… De plus, j’aime cuisiner. Partout où je vais, j’essaie de trouver un livre de cuisine avec des recettes typiques ! Je rêve depuis toujours de faire de la voile… Peut-être l’été prochain ? Et enfin, j’aimerais vraiment pouvoir piloter un avion un jour !!!

Visitez le site web de Linus Roth
Crédit photographique : ©
Audrey Roncigli

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Today's Birthday in Music: April 21 (Warren)

1911 - Leonard Warren, New York City, U.S.A.; opera baritone

Wiki entry
Brief bio/pictures

Leonard Warren sings:

"Il balen del suo sorriso" from Verdi's Il Trovatore

"Eri tu" from Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera (PBS 1952)

In Russia, May 1958, the song "o del mio amato ben" by Donaudy (Willard Sektberg, piano)

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Sunday, 20 April 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: April 20 (Gardiner)

1943 - John Eliot Gardiner, Fontmell Magna, England; conductor

Wiki entry

John Eliot Gardiner in discussion and rehearsal of J.S. Bach's Cantata BWV 63 (The English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir, 1999)

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Saturday, 19 April 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: April 19 (Tailleferre, Perahia)

1892 - Germaine Tailleferre, Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, France; composer

Wiki entry
Women of Note

1947 - Murray Perahia, New York City, USA; pianist

Wiki entry
Official website

Murray Perahia plays Schubert's Impromptu in A flat major, Op.90 No.4 (1988)

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Friday, 18 April 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: April 18 (Stokowski, Malfitano)

1882 - Leopold Stokowski, London, England; conductor and arranger

Wiki entry
Short bio/pictures

90-year-old Stokowski conducts Debussy's L'après-midi d'une faune (London Symphony Orchestra, 1972)

1948 - Catherine Malfitano, New York City, U.S.A., opera soprano

Wiki entry
Short bio

Catherine Malfitano as Jenny in Rise And Fall of Mahagonny by Kurt Weil and Bertolt Brecht (Salzburg 1998)

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Thursday, 17 April 2008

Todays' Birthdays in Music: April 17 (Piatigorsky, Jerusalem)

1903 - Gregor Piatigorsky, Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk), Ukraine; cellist

Wiki entry

Piatigorsky plays Fauré's Elegie (Bell Telephone Hour, 1959-61)

1940 - Siegfried Jerusalem, Oberhausen, Germany; opera tenor

Wiki entry

Siegfried Jerusalem in concert singing "Winterstuerme" from Wagner's Die Walküre (1979)

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Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Forqueray : Pièces de clavecin

Blandine Rannou, clavecin
Zig-Zag ZZT080301.2
***** $$$$ (2 CD : 159 min)

Du violiste virtuose Antoine Forqueray, il ne reste hélas que vingt-neuf pièces, auxquelles s’ajoutent les trois que composa son fils dans un style très semblable. Pour être réduit, l’ensemble n’en constitue pas moins un des sommets de la musique baroque française. Dans le registre tendre comme dans l’expression des sentiments les plus fougueux, tout porte ici la marque du génie le plus sublime et le plus singulier. Quasi injouables à la viole tant elles sont difficiles, ces œuvres furent aussi proposées par Forqueray fils dans d’admirables transcriptions pour le clavecin qui exploitent à fond le registre grave de l’instrument. Reconnue pour son toucher sensible, Blandine Rannou se montre l’interprète idéale de ce répertoire. Certes, à trop vouloir émouvoir, il lui arrive d’oser des tempos d’une lenteur discutable : la Mandoline manque de rebond et d’humour, le Carillon de Passy paraît sonner le glas et la Sylva se fige quand elle devrait couler tendrement. Mais pour ces quelques déceptions, que de merveilles ! Quel sens du théâtre ! Totalement engagée, la claveciniste s’illustre particulièrement dans les pièces les plus spectaculaires, rendant très bien le caractère à la fois noble et emporté de la Jupiter ou de la Portugaise, mieux que ne l’avait fait naguère Christophe Rousset, handicapé par un instrument sans éclat. En attendant une intégrale satisfaisante à la viole, voici donc un disque passionnant, qui pourrait bien faire aimer le clavecin aux plus réticents.

-Philippe Gervais

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Giacomo Puccini : La Bohème

« Simulcast » du Metropolitan Opera House de New York
Le samedi 5 avril 2008, à 13 h 30
Distribution (en ordre d'apparition vocale) : Ludovic Tézier (Marcello), Ramon Vargas (Rodolfo), Oren Gradus (Colline), Quinn Kelsey (Schaunard), Paul Plishka (Benoît), Angela Gheorghiu (Mimi), Meredith Derr (Parpignol), Paul Plishka (Alcindoro), Ainhoa Arteta (Musetta), Robert Maher (sergent des douanes), Richard Pearson (agent des douanes).
Production, mise en scène et décors : Franco Zeffirelli
Costumes : Peter J. Hall
Éclairages : Gil Wechsler
Chœurs et Orchestre du Metropolitan Opera House de New York dirigés par Nicola Luisotti
On murmure entre les branches que le film du simulcast de la représentation de La Bohème de samedi dernier est destiné à remplacer le DVD maison, qui date de 1982 : il s’agit de la version mettant en vedette Teresa Stratas, Renata Scotto et José Carreras, sous la direction de James Levine (Pioneer, indisponible). Sans doute est-il permis de préférer la distribution de 1982 qui, entre autres choses, comportait davantage de « grands noms » ou, en tout cas, de noms connus (en plus de ceux qu’on a déjà mentionnés : Richard Stilwell, Allan Monk, James Morris) que celle de 2008, où il n’y a guère que le Rodolfo et la Mimi qui soient des vedettes internationales.
Le divo, Ramon Vargas, a la voix de Rodolfo, mais pas le physique de l’emploi, au contraire de Carreras qui avait les deux. Mais cela on l’oublie vite, tant il est sincère, entier et au sommet de sa forme vocale. Certains lui ont reproché un contre-ut un peu trop prudent, dans le duo de la fin du premier acte, mais ce ne sont là que des vétilles. Il existe entre lui et sa diva une chimie particulière et qui se manifeste, avec splendeur, lorsque, ensemble, ils traversent divers états de la passion, les joies et les douleurs de l’amour.
Angela Gheorghiu, par ailleurs, a à la fois le physique et la voix de Mimi. Son instrument est un peu petit, mais elle compense ce défaut par sa maîtrise vocale et l’intelligence et l’intensité de son jeu de comédienne. À cet égard, elle rappelle Stratas, à cette différence près que le style dramatique de la chanteuse canadienne était beaucoup plus spontané, beaucoup moins calculé que le sien. Alors même que Mme Gheorghiu exécute le moindre geste, chante la moindre note à la perfection, elle nous laisse toujours un peu un retrait de l’illusion. C’est notamment le cas dans la scène finale où, alors que les autres personnages, bouleversés, se pressent autour de son cadavre, étendu sur le lit, elle seule n’a pas l’air de croire qu’elle est vraiment morte.
Le soprano Ainhoa Arteta n’a pas les moyens vocaux de Renato Scotto et ne sera jamais une artiste du même calibre. Mais elle a ce qui a toujours un peu manqué à Scotto : une sensualité authentique. Et quelle fougue ! À partir du moment où elle fait son entrée au deuxième acte, la scène lui appartient, et elle ne la lâchera pas, demeurant l’objet de l’attention universelle jusqu’au tout dernier moment, au risque même de compromettre la mise en scène.
Le public new-yorkais a réservé un accueil enthousiaste aux détenteurs de rôles « mineurs » (si tant est qu’il y en ait dans cette œuvre) qu’il connaissait déjà, tels le vétéran Paul Plishka, en Benoît et Alcidoro, et Quinn Kelsey, en Schaunard, et ce, en dépit de son physique pachydermique. Par contre, on s’est montré beaucoup plus réservé envers Oren Gradus. Le chanteur auquel on risque de s’intéresser de plus en plus, c’est le Français Ludovic Tézier, très admiré en Europe et même au-delà, grâce au DVD, mais encore inconnu de la plupart des opéraphiles américains. Or, il vient de démontrer ce qu’une voix splendide alliée à un solide métier d’acteur peut contribuer à un rôle comme celui de Marcello et, partant, à La Bohème tout entière, dont c’est l’un des rôles pivots. Il faut s’attendre à le revoir à nouveau, et dans des emplois de plus en plus importants, sur la scène du Met.
Au podium, Nicola Luisotti dirigeait comme s’il était en amour avec la partition.
Le jeune maestro (45 ans), originaire de Lucques en Toscane, s’impose depuis quelques années comme l’un des grands chefs italiens de sa génération. Il vient d’être nommé directeur artistique de l’Opéra de San Francisco pour la saison 2008-2009 et il faut s’attendre à ce qu’il devienne lui aussi un habitué du Met et de ses simulcasts, d’autant plus que son répertoire de prédilection est constitué en partie d’ouvrages qui laissent James Levine indifférent, en partie d’œuvres qui ont cessé de l’intéresser.
La mise en scène était celle de Franco Zeffirelli dans – il faut le préciser – sa version new-yorkaise, car c’est un fait que lorsque, en 1981, le Met a invité le metteur en scène florentin à monter une nouvelle production de La Bohème, il y avait déjà près de vingt ans qu’il travaillait à mettre au point son « concept » de l’œuvre, et il n’a pas cessé d’expérimenter depuis. En conséquence, vingt-sept ans après, « sa » mise en scène existe en de multiples variantes dont plusieurs ont mérité les honneurs de la vidéo, et dans certains cas plus d’une fois, comme c’est le cas de celle du Met. À force d’être trimballlée et imitée aux quatre coins du monde, elle est devenue « classique », la vision canonique, si l’on peut dire, d’un opéra qui lui-même l’emporte en popularité sur tous les autres. Le troisième acte a toujours été très admiré. Le premier, par contre, est un peu sombre, un défaut particulièrement accentué au Met samedi dernier. C’était alors exactement la 349e fois qu’on y montait la production en question. L’événement avait déjà, un peu plus tôt dans la semaine, donné lieu à une célébration qui marquait aussi la fin d’une ère. Zeffirelli a quatre-vingt-cinq ans et, quand il n’est pas occupé à prodiguer des conseils vestimentaires au pape Benoît XVI, consacre les énergies qui lui restent à tenter de convaincre l’industrie cinématographique de lui donner les moyens de compléter son dernier film, une suite à son grand succès des années 1970, François et les chemins du soleil.
-Pierre Marc Bellemare

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Today's Birthdays in Music: April 16 (Bradshaw, Collier)

1944 - Richard Bradshaw, Rugby, England; conductor, administrator (Canadian Opera Co.)

Wiki entry
COC bio
Remembering Richard Bradshaw (La Scena Musicale, August 2007)

1942 - Leo Nucci, Castiglione dei Pepoli, Bologna, Italy; opera baritone

Leo Nucci website

Leo Nucci sings "Largo al factotum" from Rossini's Barber of Seville (Metropolitan Opera production)

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Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Mademoiselle: Nadia Boulanger

A film by Bruno Monsaingeon
Ideale Audience International DVD5DM41 (79 min, B&W)
****** $$$$

Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) is arguably the most celebrated teacher of composition - and certainly the best known – of the 20th century. Her list of students, running into the thousands, reads like the Who’s Who of classical music, among them Aaron Copland, Elliot Carter, Roger Sessions, Phillip Glass, Virgil Thompson, Ned Rorem, Marc Blitzstein, Thea Mugrave, and Leonard Bernstein – although in the film, Bernstein claims he never had formal studies with her. Boulanger’s influence on the development of 20th-century classical music was profound, though with the rise of serialism in the 1950’s, her adherence to tonal style was considered passé. This documentary was made in 1977 by filmmaker Bruno Monsaingeon, when Boulanger was already 90. It was Monsaingeon’s first film, and he has since gone on to make numerous important documentaries on musicians the likes of Menuhin, Gould, Richter, Perahia, Oistrakh, Tortelier and Fischer-Dieskau.

Titled Mademoiselle (as she liked to be addressed), Monsaingeon focuses entirely on Boulanger the teacher. Even at such a grand age, with her voice shaking and hands gnarled by age and arthritis, Boulanger remains in full possession of her faculties. She comes across as quite formidable but not unkind. The extended footage of her weekly composition lessons held in her salon, with dozens of students, famous and obscure, crammed into every nook and cranny, is fascinating. This footage is interspersed with interviews by Monsaingeon of Igor Markevitch, Bernstein, and Boulanger herself, where she goes into detail about her pedagogical style and her philosophy on music in general.

Astoundingly, in one of her group classes, she has her students sing the opening lines of Schumann’s “Davidsbünder”, with pianist Charles Fisk at the keyboard, all the while adding her pearls of wisdom. One also gets to see Bulgarian child prodigy Emile Naumoff demonstrating at the piano. Both students went on to significant performing, teaching and composing careers. The most poignant moment for me is not in the film, but rather in the accompanying booklet, wherein Bernstein recounts his last visit to the dying Boulanger. Gravely ill and in a coma, Boulanger miraculously responded to Bernstein and the two actually had a brief exchange that absolutely gives me the shivers. At 54 minutes, the film itself is lamentably short, so a performance of Mozart’s Prague Symphony conducted by Markevitch is tagged on, but for no good reason. The picture quality is vintage black and white, and the sound only so-so. Despite these limitations, Mademoiselle is an indispensable historical document and a must-see for students of music theory and composition.

-Joseph K. So

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Letter From Member of the CBC Radio Orchestra

An open letter by Gene Ramsbottom, principal clarinet for the CBC Radio Orchestra.
gene.jpgThe CBC Radio Orchestra had flourished for 67 years as a studio broadcast recording orchestra, with occasional public concerts and important tours of Canada’s far North. Radio broadcasting provides a viable alternative to transporting an orchestra around this vast country. CBC Radio reaches every community in Canada, whereas moving an orchestra around by float plane would be absurdly expensive.
Over the past thirty years, CBC Radio’s overseas service has coordinated live-to-satellite orchestra broadcasts in simulcast events to 36 or 38 countries. Canadian composing and performing talent has been fostered through CBC’s many broadcast programmes, festivals and competitions. The CBC Radio Orchestra is internationally renowned for its innovative programming and devoted listener base - statistics that don’t show up in Canada-only surveys.
Only three years ago, the current CBC administration obliged the orchestra to move from its less expensive studio broadcast environment to the public stage. Costs of theatre rental, ticket sales, promotions, flyers, programmes, and higher artists’ airplay fees, together with a restrictive no-fundraising policy, resulted in an operating deficit. At  the same time, new internet-broadcast fees and royalties added to the CBC’s financial woes. Management responded by declaring the orchestra too expensive to sustain.
Lost in the corporate spin was the fact that it was far cheaper to feature the orchestra from the CBC Vancouver Studio One broadcasting facility. Rather than return the orchestra to its former studio broadcast business model, management succumbed to another outside agenda - that of independent producers. The $50,000 Globe and Mail ad a few weeks ago showed the wholehearted endorsement of the international music industry, which stands to benefit in the short term from the changing agenda of the CBC executives responsible for axing the CBC RAdio Orchestra.
Sadly, by September, the devolution of CBC Radio Two programming will probably end up in a catastrophic loss of audience, culminating in a nationwide listener boycott.  CBC Radio Two will have become just another pop-jazz, blues, world-fusion-roots, light accessible classics forgettable music station. The damage will take years to unravel, as the CBC’s core audience becomes lost to commercial stations, ipods and CDs. True, the “concerts-on-demand” proposed by the CBC executives are an interesting delicatessan salad-bar approach to allowing audiences to make their own listening choices. But so is putting on earphones and dialing one’s ipod selections.
Many other countries are proud of their national radio orchestras. Canada, however, is joining the United States in not having one. Consider how many performers’  voices will be silenced as a result of the commercial music industry’s lobbying. The loss of the CBC Radio Orchestra strips away a piece of Canada’s national heritage.  This is cultural bullying, cultural vandalism, cultural terrorism. What of the investment, across so many decades, of the funds and energies of so many groups of people?   The Canada Council, provincial and local arts councils, national, provincial and local music festivals and competitions, public and private scholarships, estate gifts, bursaries  to universities and colleges, and countless others have helped build the multi-faceted infrastructure necessary to to foster the “non-vogue” musical art forms, which have been focused through the artistic prism of the national radio orchestra. A huge part of Canada’s heritage will be demolished by the smashing of this cultural jewel, and the fundamental nature of Canada’s public broadcaster transformed into a confederation of independent regional productions.
Try to imagine the Roman Catholic Church eliminating the office of a central figure, such as the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) as “too expensive to susatin.” Imagine the Church  deliberately eliminating its central representative, its focusing spiritual force. This is not so different from what the CBC executives have decided to do.
Becoming a CBC-commissioned composer or guest soloist or conductor featured with the CBC Radio Orchestra requires running a complex selection gauntlet. Those selected are adjudged the best the country has to offer. Many young composers and performers launched by the CBC Radio Orchestra have gone on to illustrious careers. Generations of children have been introduced or exposed to CBC Radio’s classical programming before and after school. To elide that a five-hour, mid-day segment of classical music now constitutes sufficient programming severely delimits the next generation’s interest in and knowledge of the “non-vogue” art forms. Symphony managers across the country should take notice - theor jobs, for the next twenty years or more, are about to become far more difficult.
If the same triumvirate of CBC executives got hold of the funding reins of the symphonies across Canada, they would no doubt soon argue that it was too expensive to sustain 30 various-sized orchestras, and that federal and provincial funding would best be concentrated in one orchestra, most likely based in Toronto. Through a series of regional programming initiatives coordinated by the cabal, that singular symphony would be able to serve the entire country.  Just as the CBC budget inexorably shrinks by a million dollars each year, the budget for that single symphony would also contract. The cabal’s cost-benefit analysis would further reduce this fictional Toronto National Orchestra,   to avoid obvious redundancies in manpower. Too soon, that fictional Torontonian orchestra would go the way of television shows and commercials, its strings sections reduced to a stack of synthesisers. Those executives would readily concur, after another budget cut, that the whole orchestra could be rendered by synthesisers, and that a sole cultural performance resource could be operated, like the CBC’s digital radio service, out of a single, computer-filled room. There would be no need for concert halls, so  the real estate could be sold to developers. The perfect music would come from the CBC’s synthesiser orchestra. Virtual orchestras are already a reality. The executives would win big bonuses for meeting the country’s diverse musical cultural needs with an ever-diminishing budget. Unexpected windfalls could be had as zealous administrators  realized that university music schools, conservatories, and public/private school music education programmes were unnecessary. There would be no point in a career in music  in Canada. The one one job, the only job left in a once struggling industry would be that of a lone soul running the computers and synthesisers in the CBC’s basement.
And so would end the Music of the Brave New Night.
Yours truly,
Gene Ramsbottom,
former Arts Commissioner for Music,
North Shore Arts Commission
principal clarinet,
CBC Radio Orchestra
member (1974-2008)
producer, co-sponsor,
Out For Lunch noonhour concert series

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Today's Birthdays in Music: April 15 (Marriner, St. John)

1924 - Neville Marriner, Lincoln, England; conductor

Short bio/pictures
Beyond the Academy (La Scena Musicale, June 2000)
Master Marriner (La Scena Musicale, May 2005)

Neville Marriner conducts The Academy of St. Martin's in the Fields in the overture to Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro (Carnegie Hall, 1994)

1971 - Lara St. John, London, Canada; violinist

Wiki entry
Lara St. John website
Lara St. John's Passion (La Scena Musicale, April 2000)
Lara St. John sur l'intonation (La Scena Musicale, April 2000)

Lara St. John plays the 1st movement of Beethoven´s Violin Sonata in c minor

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Monday, 14 April 2008

Bach : Magnificat / Handel : Dixit dominus

Natalie Dessay; Karine Deshayes; Philippe Jaroussky; Toby Spence; Larent Naouri; Le Concert d'Astrée/Emmanuelle Haïm
Virgin Classics 00946395241 2 9 (56 min 6 s)
***** $$$

Leur latinité, leur contemporanéité, une certaine construction en boucle, leur durée équivalente, la large part accordée aux chœurs, l'absence de récitatifs : tout cela justifie amplement la juxtaposition discographique de ces deux oratorios. Le Magnificat débute joyeusement, tel un concerto brandebourgeois, mais retrouve vite la solennité caractéristique des œuvres sacrées du cantor de Leipzig. Sans atteindre les sommets architectoniques de la Messe en si ou de la Passion selon saint Matthieu, le Magnificat renferme des moments de pure grâce, comme le Quia respexit, où soprano et hautbois entretiennent un dialogue mélodique délicieux – ah ! le hautbois chez Bach ! Œuvre de jeunesse, Dixit dominus déborde d'une vitalité contagieuse. Inspiré par le psaume, Haendel a su exploiter au mieux les effectifs vocaux et orchestraux utilisés. Ce disque est une belle réussite. Fondé en 2000 par Emmanuelle Haïm, Le Concert d'Astrée a connu une progression fulgurante et figure aujourd'hui parmi les meilleurs orchestres baroques. De l'excellente équipe de solistes ici réunis, se distingue le contre-ténor Philippe Jaroussky et sa voix céleste. En insérant le CD dans son ordi, on peut, via Internet, accéder au club de Virgin Classics et EMI et avoir droit à des exclusivités, de la musique en ligne et autres privilèges.

-Pierre Demers

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Today's Birthdays in Music: April 14 (Vivier, Lloyd Webber)

1948 - Claude Vivier, Montreal, Canada; composer

Wiki entry
Analyse de Zipangu (La Scena Musicale, March 2008)

1951 - Julian Lloyd Webber, London, England; cellist

Wiki entry

Julian Lloyd Webber plays Bach's 'Arioso'

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Sunday, 13 April 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: April 13 (Bennett, Price)

1816 - William Sterndale Bennett, Sheffield, England; conductor, composer, pianist


William Sterndale Bennett: 3 Impromptus Op. 12: No. 1 - Andante espressivo (Phillip Sear, pianist)

1941 - Margaret Price, Blackwood, Wales; opera and lieder soprano

Wiki entry
BBC bio

Margaret Price sings "Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder" from Mahler's Rückert Lieder

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Saturday, 12 April 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: April 12 (Caballé, Holst)

1907 - Imogen Holst, Richmond, England; conductor, composer

Wiki entry
Musical style

1933 - Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona, Spain; opera soprano

Wiki entry
Singing divas

BellinMontserrat Caballé sings "Casta Diva" from Bellini's Norma (Théâtre Antique d'Orange, 1974)

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Friday, 11 April 2008

Carl Nielsen: Maskarade

Stephen Milling, Susanne Resmark, Niels Jørgen Riis, Johan Reuter, Ole Hedegaard, Poul Elming, Gisella Stille, Hanne Fischer, Sten Byriel, Anders Jabosson, Jakob Bloch Jespersen, Royal Danish Orchestra and Opera Choir/Michael Schønwandt
Stage Directors: Kasper Bech Holten and Morgan Alling
Video Director: Thorlief Hoppe
Dacapo 2110-407 (138 min)
*** $$$

Get to know a Danish male of middle years and he will eventually let down the guard of self-deprecation and false modesty to confide on the subject of the absolute necessity of his country’s regional role: “Denmark exists to provide culture and polite refinement in what would otherwise be a jumble of barren rocky coastlines. The Norwegians are drunk most of the time and the Swedes devoid of any sense of humour. And if the other Scandinavians tend to neglect their women folk, the Danes can fix that too!” Asked for substantiation of these claims, the Dane will invariably reply, “We gave Carl Nielsen and Victor Borge to the world…” This element of subversive cheekiness is integral to Nielsen’s Maskarade in the general sense and very much to this production in particular.

The opera is set in 1723 and based on a simple story of forlorn love winning out in the end. Nielsen’s pre-Lenten frolic is brimful of marvelous music and song best delivered at a high rate of buffa. Stage director Kasper Bech Holten decided to override traditional staging to produce a modern-dress madcap spectacle. In doing so, much of the charm – and menace – of the text is wasted. References to, “Coachmen and horses; arranged marriage and thrashing the servants,” really lose any meaning in the context of a swinging-sixties setting without any vestige of class struggle. But with an enthusiastic cast and motivated audience, Holten gets away with it – up to a point.

The tone is set during the overture. A quartet of tumbling acrobats takes the stage in front of the curtain. Funny stuff, but not quite as amusing when they return in the third act to monopolize the dance numbers. The male leads, Leander (Nils Jørgen Riis), and his manservant, Hendrik (Johan Reuter), are duly propelled through the curtain which, when raised, reveals them to be pinned to the wall. Danes can sing well when vertically suspended (a ruse to present an overhead view of Leander’s sleeping chamber) and they go on to demonstrate equal facility while shaving and showering. The rest of Act I is just as unconventionally brilliant but this level of inspiration is not sustained. Act II is built on a bad idea and the final act is turned inside-out by Holten with too much time spent standing around gaping at acrobats. The director’s premise from the start was to have the characters wear the carnival masks (masks of probity?) all of the time. When they turn up for the pseudo-psychedelic ball in Act III, the masks are solemnly collected and the entire cast assumes the persona that they have dreamed of and are costumed accordingly. This development should permit Leander to identify his true love (as the girl selected by his family) forty minutes earlier than he does. It is by no means a bad performance but the opera is better than what we get here after the first act.

Michael Schønwandt directs a splendid account of the score. The musical performance is no doubt reinforced by the frequency with which video director Thorlief Hoppe drops into the pit for random shots of the players and conductor. The DVD offers worthwhile extra features and Dacapo provides first-class booklet notes.

More Nielsen from Dacapo: Admirers of the music of Carl Nielsen should also check out the economically priced Dacapo 3-DVD box of his symphonies performed by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Michael Schønwandt (2110403-05). The third disc contains The Light and Darkness: On Carl Nielsen’s Life and Music by Karl Aage Rasmussen. The documentary reveals the surprisingly turbulent life of this lovable composer and the astonishing extent of his works.

-Stephen Habington

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Today's Birthdays in Music: April 11 (Moll, Hallé)

1938 - Kurt Moll, Buir, near Köln, Germany; opera bass

Short bio

Kurt Moll sings "In Diesen Heil'gen Hallen" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (Metropolitan Opera, 1991)

1819 - Charles Hallé, Hagen, Germany; pianist, conductor (Hallé Orchestra)

Wiki entry
Hallé Orchestra: Short History
Hallé Orchestra: 150th anniv.

Rossini's William Tell Overture (conclusion) performed by the Hallé Orchestra, conducted by Mark Elder, at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 2004

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Thursday, 10 April 2008

A collection is not just for life

Doctors who receive a rush of middle-aged men presenting with breathing difficulties can trace the source to a full-page article in this morning's Guardian, reporting that an Oxfam charity shop in rural Devon has been given a prime collection of 4,000 classical LPs.
The total value is tentatively reckoned at £25,000 ($49,000) and items go on sale today priced from £1.99 to £150.
A windfall for the starving masses in Sudan? Relief for the suffering Palestinians? Gimme a break. Give your old clothes and knick-knacks to Oxfam if you like. This is a man's life being broken up, down in the knacker's yard of Tavistock.
Some poor soul had built up this collection with care, balancing the familiar with the esoteric, Furtwaengler's Beethoven with Stockhausen's Stimmung, Mozart from Bruno Walter and Machaut from whoever recorded it first in the 1950's or 1960s. This was a person of taste and discrimination whose aesthetic take on life is being scattered to the four corners of the earth.
For you can be sure that collectors will be on the 0915 out of Paddington and the 1130 from Berlin to scavenge what scraps they can in a vulture rush that is also a form of homage to the former owner. My late mate Richard Bebb used to hotfoot it off to Italy at the first rattle of a dying record collector, cheerfully spending £25,000 to preserve the integrity of the archive - which is to say, keeping the choice rarities for himself and selling on the rest at profit.
A collection, let's be clear, is not just for life. To many men - forgive me, this is not a feminine thing - a collection is life itself.
And in Devon a life has been extinguished. The manager of the Oxfam store 'had a phone call from a lady, after what I understand was a bereavement; she was ready to move on with her life...'
Widow or daughter, it hardly matters whom. Move on, dear, move on. C'est la vie. My condolences. I do understand (the hell I do...).
My wife, seeing me asphyxiate on a spoonful of muesli on reading this, dispensed sage advice. 'Sell up while you're alive, sweetie,' she said. 'I can't be responsible what happens after.'
What time's the next train to Tavistock?

Source: Artsjournal