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Saturday, 22 March 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: March 22 (Rosa, Mödl)

1842 - Carl Rosa, Hamburg, Germany; conductor, violinist, impresario (Carl Rosa Opera Co.)

Wiki entry
Carl Rosa Opera Co.



1912 - Martha Mödl, Nuremberg, Germany; opera soprano and mezzo-soprano

Wiki entry
N.Y. Times obit 2001
In Memoriam

Martha Mödl as The Countess from Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades (1981)


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Friday, 21 March 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: March 21 (Bach, Mussorgsky)

1685 - Johann Sebastian Bach, Eisenach, Germany; composer and organist

Wiki entry
Homepage
Detailed bio

Glenn Gould plays J.S.Bach Piano Concerto No.7 in G minor BWV1058


Extract from The St. John Passion (1971 - Munich Bach Choir and Orchestra, conductor Karl Richter; soloists Kieth Engen, Siegmund Nimsgern, Peter Schreier)




1839 - Modest Mussorgsky, Karevo, Russia; composer

Wiki entry

Evgenij Kissin plays "The Great Gate at Kiev" from Pictures at an Exhibition


Ukrainian bass Mark Reizen makes his 1st act entrance as Dosifey, leader of the Old Believers, in Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina (1950s Mosfilm production)

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Thursday, 20 March 2008

Today's Birthdays in Mucic: March 20 (Gigli, Melchior)

1890 - Beniamino Gigli, Recanati, Italy; opera tenor

Wiki entry
Bio

Gigli sings "Celeste Aida" (Rome 1946)



1890 - Lauritz Melchior, Copenhagen, Denmark; opera tenor

Wiki entry
Bio & more

Lauritz Melchior sings Walther's Prize Song from Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1939)

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Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: March 19 (Maconchy, Reger)

1907 - Elizabeth Maconchy, Broxbourne, England; composer



Wiki entry
Profile
Our Finest Lost Composer


1873 - Max Reger, Brand, Bavaria, Germany; composer

Bio/pictures
Max Reger Institute

Reger's Suite for Viola, 2nd movement (Yuri Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists)

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Tuesday, 18 March 2008

No prizes for coming third

The German magazine Partituren has asked 52 critics to name their current hottie. Top of the singers is Juan Diego Florez, best composer is Hans Werner Henze and fastest up-and-coming is Gustavo Dudamel. No surprises, there.

But when it comes to favourite orchestra, a large majority of critics plump for the Freiburg Baroque ensemble, followed at some distance by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie of Bremen. In third place, with just three votes, stands the Berlin Philharmonic, supposedly champions of the world.

Well, a poll is a poll is a good way to fill six pages. But what jumped out at me from this survey was the breakdown which showed that critics who live in Berlin voted more than 2-1 for Freiburg against their local ensemble. These are people who hear Rattle & Co perform week in, week out. They don't seem too impressed. Perhaps they ought to tell us why.

Elsewhere in the mag, there is a long piece of hagiolatry on Herbert von Karajan by one of his misty-eyed biographers. Say what you like about the K brand, but in his time no German magazine would have dared to place his orchestra third to some baroque outfit and a chamber phil - not without Herbie's lawyers having the issue injuncted before it hit the newsstands. Those were the days...

Here's the survey, for those that read German.

Source: Artsjournal

Roma Triumphans

Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal/Christopher Jackson
Atma SACD22507 (61 min 34 s)
***** $$$

Roma triumphans est un recueil de motets (mis à part un Gloria de Benevoli et un Offertoire de Giorgi) composés entre la fin de la Renaissance et la fin du baroque. Les premiers chantés a capella, les derniers accompagnés d’un continuo sobre et subtil (théorbe, violoncelle, orgue positif), ils ont été captés à l’Église de la Nativité de la Sainte-Vierge à La Prairie. L’acoustique offre une réverbération rendant la compréhension du texte un tantinet ardue, mais aussi une somptuosité telle qu’on tombe néanmoins sous le charme. Il faut dire que les troupes de Christopher Jackson maîtrisent parfaitement leur art et font honneur aux œuvres présentées.

-René Bricault

Buy this CD at amazon.com

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Today's Birthdays in Music: March 18 (Rimsky-Korsakov)

1844 - Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Tikhvin, Russia; composer

Wiki entry
Homepage

Extract from Sheherazade (Kirov Orchestra, Valery Gergiev conducting, c. 2003)



Olga Trifonova sings the Queen of Shemakha's aria "The Hymn to the Sun" from Le Coq d'Or (Kent Nagano conducts the Orchestre de Paris)



Rachmaninov playing his piano arrangement of "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Rimsky-Korsakov (1929)

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Monday, 17 March 2008

Breaking News- Montreal Reverses Decision on Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur

The City of Montreal has announced today that it will continue to ensure the programming la Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur. See below for the press release. Consequently, according to Marie-Chantal Leclair, founder of the Facebook group to save the CHBP, Tuesday's schedule protest will no longer be necessary.

Official statement: MONTREAL, March 17 - At the end of a meeting with the representatives of the Québécois Council of music, the mayor of Montreal, Mr. Gérald Tremblay and Mrs. Catherine Sévigny, advisor associated with Culture and the Downtown area, reiterated the intention of the city of maintain the accessibility of the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur. They also gave assurance that the programming of the venue will be maintained. "I am sensitive to the concerns of the cultural community and the importance which it has for this place of diffusion. We will take all the time required to examine [the issue] with all the stakeholders, and more particularly with the Quebec Music Council on how we can ensure the continuity of the mission of the Chapelle", declared the mayor Gérald Tremblay.

Original French language news release:

MONTREAL, le 17 mars - Au terme d'une rencontre avec les représentants du Conseil québécois de la musique, le maire de Montréal, M. Gérald Tremblay et Mme Catherine Sévigny, conseillère associée à la Culture et au Centre-ville, ont réitéré l'intention de la Ville de maintenir accessible la Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur. Ils ont également donné l'assurance que la programmation de la Chapelle sera maintenue. "Je suis sensible aux préoccupations du milieu culturel et à l'importance qu'il accorde à ce lieu de diffusion. Nous allons prendre le temps nécessaire pour examiner avec toutes les personnes intéressées et plus particulièrement avec le Conseil québécois de la musique de quelle manière nous pouvons assurer la pérennité de la mission de la Chapelle", a déclaré le maire Gérald Tremblay.


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Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur : la protestation se poursuit mardi

Le mouvement pour sauver la Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur (CHBP) se poursuivra mardi 18 mars à 11 heures avant la cérémonie de remise du Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal 2007 qui vise à reconnaître annuellement l’excellence d’une production ou d’un événement réalisé sur le territoire de la Ville de Montréal. La manifestation est dirigée par Marie-Chantal Leclair dont le groupe « Sauvons la programmation de la Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur » sur Facebook s’est enrichi de 800 membres en 5 jours. Ceux qui ne sont pas membres de Facebook peuvent visiter le site de La Scena Musicale et commenter le sujet.

Le groupe a implanté vendredi dernier la base de sa protestation en attirant 100 personnes à une rencontre entre les représentants de la Direction du développement culturel de la Ville de Montréal et les membres du Conseil québécois de la musique (CQM) qui ont tenté de renverser la décision d’annuler la programmation à la Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur. Les membres du CQM ont refusé à l’unanimité cette coupure de budget dans un équipement qui fonctionne très bien et qui offre au public tous les styles musicaux, ainsi qu’une ambiance qu’on ne retrouve nulle part ailleurs. La prochaine action prévue par le CQM est une rencontre officielle avec le maire Gérald Tremblay pour présenter son point de vue.

Détails de la protestation :

Prochaine action : MANIFESTATION

MARDI 18 MARS, dès 11h, à l'entrée de l'Hôtel Sheraton Centre-Ville, 1201 boul. René-Lévesque Ouest.
Cette manifestation se déroule dans le cadre du dîner du Conseil des Arts de Montréal, afin de sensibiliser la population, le milieu musical et culturel ainsi que les élus et les médias.

Informations détaillées sur Facebook et sur le site de La Scena Musicale : http://bonpasteur.scena.org

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Today's Birthday in Music: March 17 (Jacquet de la Guerre)

1665 - Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Paris, France; composer and harpsichordist (baptized March 17)

Wiki entry
Baroque Women

"La Flamande" and "Sarabande" from Suite in d minor (1707) by Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

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Sunday, 16 March 2008

Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur Protest Continues Tuesday

The movement to save the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur (CHBP) will continue on Tuesday, March 18 at 11 AM at the downtown Sheraton Hotel in Montreal before the Montreal Board of Trade's luncheon celebrating the Conseil des Arts de Montréal's 2007 Grand Prix which recognizes the best arts organization of the year. The demonstration is being led by Marie-Chantal Leclair whose FACEBOOK group "Sauvons la programmation de la Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur!" has grown to over 800 members in 5 days.

Last Friday morning, the group organized its first grass-roots protest drawing about 100 to a meeting between Montreal Cultural Services officials and members of the Conseil québecois de la musique (CQM), which has also mounted its own efforts to reverse the decision to cancel programming at the Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur. The consensus of the CQM members at the meeting was that they did not accept the idea of cuts to things that are extraordinary, and that the CHBP was extraordinary in the way it functions and in it presents diverse musical styles to the public. The CQM's next step is a formal meeting with Mayor Gerald Tremblay to present its case.

The details of the protest are:
  • Prochaine action : MANIFESTATION
    MARDI 18 MARS, dès 11h, à l'entrée de l'Hôtel Sheraton Centre-Ville, 1201 boul. René-Lévesque Ouest.
    Cette manifestation se déroule dans le cadre du dîner du Conseil des Arts de Montréal, afin de sensibiliser la population, le milieu musical et culturel ainsi que les élus et les médias.
    More info at Facebook.

> For more about the developing story, visit http://bonpasteur.scena.org

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Met in HD: Peter Grimes



The Met in HD season continued yesterday with a telecast of a new production of Peter Grimes. It replaced the 40-year old, completely realistic Tyrone Guthrie production that had served the Company well over the years. Some of my most memorable opera-going experiences involved that old production - Vickers as Grimes and Johanna Meier as Ellen Orford in 1984, and later performances involving Anthony Rolfe-Johnson and Ben Heppner. But stylistically the Guthrie production was really showing its age, so it was time that the Met retired it with a new one. The originally announced Grimes was tenor Neil Shicoff, whom I believe has sung it in Vienna. But somewhere along the way, Shicoff was replaced by the young American tenor Anthony Dean Griffey. Since I had not seen Shicoff as Grimes I can't say with authority, but frankly I can't imagine that he would be better than Griffey, who as far as I am concerned, was born to sing this role. I saw Griffey as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at Glimmgerglass in 1997, and I count that as one of the most transcendent operatic experiences of my life.




So it was with great anticipation that I attended the show yesterday. In a nutshell, the musical values were equal to, if not surpassing, my expectations. Griffey was magnificent as Grimes. Having seen Vickers in this role, I must say the Canadian set the standard by which I measure all subsequent Grimes. Griffey is certainly more youthful, more likable and less menacing - less savage - than Vickers. Griffey's high, clear, sweet tenor is simply a joy to the ear, his top more secure than Vickers, and head and shoulders above that of Robert Brubaker who sang it in Toronto a few years ago. Griffey's Grimes reminds me more of Heppner than Vickers's - beautifully sung and affectingly acted, and unusually sympathetic for an anti-hero.


Partnering Griffey was soprano Patricia Racette as Ellen Orford. Having seen her in a half dozen roles - among them Blanche, Tatiana and Elisabetta, I must say Ellen is probably her very best role. She totally embodies the character - I like her quiet strength and her humanity. Again, a rather youthful character that plays well against Griffey's youth. Vocally, other than a loss of focus at the extreme top once or twice, Racette sang wonderfully, her Embroidery Aria was exquisite.


The third principal, Balstrode, was assumed by baritone Anthony Michaels-Moore. I was slightly disappointed by him. I find an older singer works better in this role, in the mode of a Thomas Stewart for example. Physically and dramatically, Michaels-Moore lacked a commanding presence and vocally he didn't make a big impression. He was outsung by another baritone, the debuting Teddy Tahu Rhodes, whose golden-voiced Ned Keene and handsome stage presence oozed charisma at every turn. Grimes is really an ensemble opera, with some wonderfully detailed characterizations. Standouts in this production included Felicity Palmer, who sang strongly and was perfectly cast as Mrs. Sedley. Also excelelnt was the Auntie of Jill Grove, and John De Carlo as Swallow. The quartet for the women was a highlight of the performance. Donald Runnicles proved masterful on the podium, his conducting was a perfect balance of power and lyricism, achieving great clarity in the orchestration. The Storm music in Act One was incredible (if only it were matched by the action on stage, but more about that later). And I must say I haven't heard the Met chorus sounding so good in a very long time. For years, this chorus - particularly the women - had been the Achilles heel of the Company. With the arrival of Donald Palumbo, it has slowly but surely undergone a significant and long overdue transformation.


With its superb musical values, this Grimes would have been definitive if only the production itself measured up. I am sorry to say that it did not. Set designer Scott Pask's unit set is basically a soaring wall of wood panels that moves upstage and downstage, a structure that serves all three acts. It is placed quite far downstage throughout the opera, leaving a relatively small staging area, creating (perhaps deliberately) a claustrophobic and oppressive feeling. The problem with this design is its two-dimensionality. Despite the basic realism inherent in the structure, there is little that is truly realistic in the way it is used. During the storm scene for example, there is no suggestion of wind nor rain - not one person get wet! No howling of wind, no ruffled dresses. It stretches the imagination that this "wall" represents the town hall, the pub, and Grimes hut - it's really quite confusing for those new to the opera. The suggestion of scene change comes really only from the text and not from what one sees on stage. The singers and the large chorus are clustered close together up front, or perched behind various windows and doors on the multi-level structure - visually it creates a flatness that is much like a typical broadway musical, ultimately robbing the piece of its potential dramatic power. I couldn't help but compare the Doyle production with the excellent Tim Albery production for ENO that was also staged in Toronto several years ago. The latter has much more clever use of multimedia tricks to suggest the storm, and the staging for Grimes' hut - and the tragic fall of the apprentice - is much more effective. From this regard, the Doyle production falls flat, literally and figuratively. The saving grace is that the strong music values makes one overlook the design shortcomings. Perhaps some of the directorial and design elements could be altered for future revivals, although I am not holding my breath.


On to the telecast itself. Shown in only two cinemas at the Sheppard Grande - and the second cinema was not full - the size of the audience was probably the smallest of all the Met telecasts so far at this venue. It was hosted by Natalie Dessay, who spoke with an accent, but she was totally intelligible. And frankly, it was a nice break from the over-exposed Renee Fleming. The interviews were pretty much standard fare - principals, director, and designer. The most interesting segment was a live relay to Aldeburgh, England - Britten's hometown - where 250 people were watching the live telecast. The transmission itself had two very minor glitches - frozen picture, each lasting about two or three seconds, one occuring at a crucial moment when Grimes struck Ellen. The audience let out a collective gasp but fortunately the transmission resumed. There were the usual ads for upcoming telecasts, and understandably Ben Heppner's name was nowhere to be seen, now that he has officially withdrawn from the March 22 performance. Let's hope the Met finds a decent replacement for Heppner. We will soon find out in a week's time!



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Today's Birthdays in Music: March 16 (Ludwig, Berganza)

1928 - Christa Ludwig, Berlin, Germany; opera and lieder mezzo-soprano

Wiki entry
Brief bio/pictures
Looking Back (La Scena Musicale)

Christa Ludwig sings "Der Abschied" from Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Leonard Bernstein)



1935 - Teresa Berganza, Madrid, Spain; opera and concert mezzo-soprano

Wiki entry
Official website

Teresa Berganza sings "L´amour est un oiseau rebelle"(Habañera) from Bizet´s Carmen (Paris Opéra Production, 1980)

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