Saturday, 18 October 2008
Friday, 17 October 2008
Today's Birthdays in Music: October 17 (Panerai, Howells)
Rolando Panerai and Margherita Rinaldi sing "Sì, vendetta" from Verdi's Rigoletto (1969)
1892 - Herbert Howells, Lydney, England; composer, organist, teacher
Short biography and picture
"Saviour of the World" and "Eternal Rest" from Howells's Requiem (Segovia, Spain, 2007)
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Today's Birthdays in Music: October 16 (Alsop, Hvorostovsky)
"The Maestra Begins" (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra webumentary)
1962 - Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Krasnoyarsk, Siberia; opera and concert baritone
Dmitri Hvorostovsky sings "In the silence of the night" by Rachmaninov
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Norgard: String Quartets 7, 8, 9 and 10
Dacapo 8.226059 (70 min 54 s)
La notion de postmodernisme musical est immanquablement liée, dans l’esprit des mélomanes comme des professionnels, aux diverses musiques « néo-modales » récentes de Glass, Pärt ou Gorecki. Mais d’autres compositeurs relativement faciles d'écoute et indéniablement postmodernes se réclament de l’avant-garde post-sérielle dont ils sont issus. Pensons à Vivier, Ligeti ou Takemitsu dans leurs œuvres tardives. Per Norgard est de ceux-là. Quarts de tons, glissandi continus, intervalles disjoints, doubles-cordes sul ponticello, voix doublant les instruments, voilà autant de techniques modernistes auxquelles il a recours dans ces Quatuors. Pourtant, cette musique dégage un calme étrange, mi-introspectif mi-résigné, qui s’avère aussi touchant que typique. Et les talentueux Kroger travaillant en étroite collaboration avec Norgard depuis des années, les difficultés techniques de ces pages de musique se sont transmuées en poésie.
- René Bricault
Today's Birthday in Music: October 15 (K. Richter)
Biography and pictures
Karl Richter plays:
J.S. Bach's Toccata in G minor, BWV 915
Excerpt from Handel's Organ Concerto, Op. 4, No. 1 (with the Munich Bach Orchestra, 1971)
Karl Richter directs the Munich Bach Choir and Orchestra in "Kommt, ihr Töchter" from J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Tavener: Piano music
Naxos 8.570442 (61 min)
Les oeuvres pour piano de Tavener, malgré l'extrême diversité qu'elles présentent à l'égard de la durée, du style, de la forme, et même de la qualité, ont des traits typiquement surexploités à notre époque: absence de développement macrocosmique, pastiche, répétitions, références néo-tonales. Palin fait exception. De loin la plus intéressante pièce du recueil, et la plus ancienne, elle joue non seulement avec une forme palindromique (« en miroir », d’où le titre), mais aussi avec le contraste entre d’obsessifs unissons répétés et des nuages d’accords atonaux délicatement arpégés. Pour ceux qui apprécient l’approche pianistique du jeune van Raat, sachez qu’il se trouve au sommet de sa forme, et offre sans doute là sa meilleure prestation sur disque à ce jour.
Bach : Motets BWV 225-230
Today's Birthday in Music: October 14 (Zemlinsky)
Alexander Zemlinsky Foundation website
Sonata for Cello and Piano in A minor, 2nd mvt. (Norman Fischer, cello and Jeanne Kierman, piano at Rice University)
Extract from Zemlinsky's opera Es War Einmal
Frühlingsbegräbnis, cantata for soprano, baritone, mixed chorus and orchestra (Junge Philharmonie Zentralschweiz, Akademiechor Luzern, conductor Thüring Bräm, Zug, Switzerland, 2006)
Monday, 13 October 2008
Met in HD: Salome
Karita Mattila as Salome frolicking with the head of Jochanaan in the Final Scene
Photo: Marty Sohl
Following the glittery opening gala with Renee Fleming, the Met in HD season came up with a real blockbuster - Karita Mattila in the title role of Salome. The Finnish soprano created a sensation at the Met in 2004 when she took it all off at the end of the Dance of the Seven Veils. Reportedly videotaped for telecast at the time, it never made it to the home screen, nor anywhere else for that matter. Given that nudity is such a big deal in America - remember the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction"? - perhaps one shouldn't be too surprised that management had cold feet.
So when it was announced that the 2008-9 Met in HD season included a reprise of Mattila as Salome, I for one was curious to see how the Met would handle the nudity issue. Peter Gelb announced beforehand that there would be no nudity shown to the movie audience. The opera house audience, on the other hand, got to see a split second of Mattila in the buff, before attendants hastily wrapped her up in a black robe. For a nanosecond, the cinema audience caught her bare back, before she turned around coyly covering her bosom. The camera lens then discreetly switched to focus on something much less interesting. Frankly, what's the big fuss all about? Afterall this is the 21st Century, and nudity in opera is old news! Both Deborah Voigt and Catherine Malfitano as Salome took it all off, albeit with a flesh coloured body suit. Maria Ewing did them one better, ie., no body suit. Just last July at the Munich Opera Festival, I saw Angela Denoke sang a good five minutes or longer completely topless, and the audience didn't blink an eye....
What of the actual performance? In a single word - stupendous. Mattila fully embodies Salome musically and dramatically. Strauss was quoted as saying the ideal Salome should have the body of a 16 year old and the voice of an Isolde. No fortysomething can be expected to look like a teenager, and Mattila, now considerably more zaftig than four years ago when she last sang the Judean princess at the Met, certainly does not. It makes no difference - one is blown away by her total commitment to the role. I have never seen a more fearless and unselfconscious Salome. She was not shy to show off her flexibility, at one point doing the split like she did in Manon Lescaut last February. At one point in the Dance, with Mattila being hoisted by chorus boys, I felt like I was watching a Broadway musical. There were no holding back vocally by Mattila either. This kind of " singing with one's capital" is a little worrisome, but the voice is in such remarkable shape that there's never any fear that she would not make it. Her Salome was a complex and endlessly fascinating mix of the worldly and the naive, the calculating and the innocent. It was a performance for the ages.
Others in the cast rose to the occasion as well. I was particularly impressed with the Herod of Kim Begley, who sang the role with more beauty of tone than I have encountered previously. Herod is one of those roles often assigned to long-in-the-tooth tenors in the downside of a career, so it was good to hear it sung, not yelled. However at one point he did sound tired, but fortunately, a long rest during the Final Scene allowed him to rally and end impressively. Finnish bass-baritone Juha Uusitalo used his burly voice and equally rugged appearance to good effect. Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser was a clarion-voiced and unusually involved Narraboth in his several scenes with Mattila. Dressed to kill, Hungarian mezzo Ildiko Komlosi did well in the thankless role of Herodias. All the smaller roles were well taken. The conducting of Patrick Summers was impressive, bringing out all the fire and brimstone in the score while not overlooking the quieter, truly spine-tingling moments. His conducting here was equal to the spectacular Salome I saw with Kent Nagano last July. The "updated" sets and costumes are sort of par for the course when it comes to Regietheater productions these days, although some of the action contradict the text. The ending has an unusual twist - when Herod commands "Kill that woman", Salome willingly submits to the sword.
Because it was a single act piece, there were no intermission features, only a short intro by Deborah Voigt. I thought it was a little bizarre that Mattila didn't respond at first to attempts by Voigt for a pre-curtain interview - was this real or a set-up? In any case, I don't blame Mattila- who wants to talk moments before singing such a grueling role? I saw the show at the Cinema #1 Scotiabank Theatres in downtown Toronto. Everything went off without a hitch. Next up - Doctor Atomic with Canada's own Gerald Finley on November 8th.
Le Cabaret du soir qui penche
Gala Records Gal-111 (67 min 56 s)
Ravel: Shéhérazade / Debussy: Proses Lyriques / Dvorak: Song to the Moon, Rusalka
Orchestre de la francophonie canadienne / Jean-Philippe Tremblay
Analekta AN2 8761 (45m 38s)
Schubert : Sehnsucht
Harmonia Mundi HMC901988 (65 min 05 s)
Vivaldi : Orlando Furioso
Coro da Camera Italiano & Modo Antiquo / Federico Maria Sardelli
Cpo 777 095-2 (3CD : 166 min 53 s)
The man who said **** to TV
Reich-Ranicki, 88, is Germany's foremost literary critic and, as a result of his hour-long weekly discussion programme on the screen, a national figure. No respecter of reputations, he has fallen out with every leading author from Gunter Grass down when their books fell below his exalted standards. Now he has publicly bitten the hand that fed him - and the result is an attack of rabies panic among German media bosses.
In an effort to mitigate the shock of rejection, the awards show host Thomas Gottschalk offered to stage a televised debate between Reich-Ranicki and the heads of public television - an offer accepted with alacrity by the executives and, after appropriate reflection, by the critic himself. That is going to be one fun show.
The focus of Reich-Ranicki's attack was on the dumbing down of public broadcasting, the reliance on reality shows, talent contests and talentless celebrities. Gottschalk admitted in a subsequent interview that if television were made to the critic's rules, he would be unemployed.
Beyond the confines of a German spat, however, this has lessons for all of us who ply a trade in the creative arts. All my writing life, I have accepted persuasion from publishers and career makers to go on TV whenever asked, and on the BBC without a second thought. Now, I hardly ever accept without strict guarantees.
Television has become a dishonest medium, distorting facts to fit the visual image and contorting ideas into cliche. Information programmes, so called, are voyeuristic garbage and even sport has been subsumed by the cult of celebrity.
The time has come for all creative people to join the Reich-Ranicki rally and denounce public television for the rubbish it is - until the dustcarts come along and the act is cleaned up.
Let's all say No to TV.
Sign below to join the rally.
Today's Birthday in Music: October 13 (L. Mitchell)
Sunday, 12 October 2008
Capital Brassworks : Gabriel’s Sister
Capital Brassworks Records
Formé d'une quinzaine de musiciens, dont bon nombre font partie de l’Orchestre du Centre national des arts (CNA), l’ensemble de cuivres Capital Brassworks est devenu depuis sa création en 1999 une institution musicale importante à Ottawa.
Debussy : Complete Works for Piano, Volume 3
Chandos CHAN 10467 (71 min 54 s)
Mahler: Symphony no. 6
CSO-Resound SACD 901807 (2 CD : 90 min 41 s)
Mahler: Symphony No. 7
Artek AR00432 (76 min)
Anthem Challenge Winner is Canadian Gold
Obertst's final version was produced by Bob Rock who added the celtic bagpipe opening. Some commenters expressed dissatisfaction with the Rock's version. Listening to both the final and original versions, I find that the original without the bagpipe intro more effective.
HNIC Anthem Challenge Themes Not up to the Original
Today's Birthdays in Music: October 12 (Vaughan Williams, Pavarotti)
Ralph Vaughan Williams Society webpage
VaughanWilliams Symphony No. 6. Colin Davis conducts the Juillard Orchestra and the Royal Academy of Music Orchestra (BBC Promenade Concert, 2005)
"The Lark Ascending" (Jean Pougnet, violin; London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult; 1950 recording)
1935 - Luciano Pavarotti, Modena, Italy; opera and concert tenor
Luciano Pavarotti sings:
"Ah mes amis" from Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment (live Metropolitan Opera performance, 1972/73 season)
"Marechiare" by Tosti (with James Levine at the piano; recorded at the Metropolitan Opera House, 1988)