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Franz Liszt

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


My Classical Notes

May 29

Shai Wosner Performs

My Classical NotesToday My Classical Notes features a new recording by pianist Shai Wosner. It is titled “Impromptu” The selections we hear are as follows: Beethoven: Fantasia in G minor, Op. 77 Chopin: Impromptu No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 29 Impromptu No. 2 in F sharp major, Op. 36 Impromptu No. 3 in G flat major, Op. 51 Dvorak: Impromptu in D minor, B129 Gershwin: Impromptu in two Keys Ives, C: Three Improvisation, Nos 1 & 3 Liszt: Impromptu S191 1872 Schubert: 4 Impromptus, D935 All performed by Shai Wosner (piano) After his highly praised Haydn and Ligeti album, Shai Wosner returns to solo piano repertoire for his next project. As always with this artist, there is something very different on offer – Impromptus by Chopin, Dvorak, Liszt, Gershwin, and Schubert rub shoulders with Beethoven’s Fantasy Op.77 – the nearest thing we have to a Beethoven ‘improvisation’. The composer did indeed improvise this work at a private house performance, then went home and wrote it down from memory! The pianist said: “There is a rush that comes with losing yourself in an improvisation – the liberating feeling you get when that thing you are making up on the spot seems to take on a life of its own while you are just tagging along (there is also the thrill in the risk that whole thing might fall flat at any moment). I have loved it ever since” Here is Mr. Wosner in the Impromptu Opus 36 by Chopin:

Royal Opera House

June 1

Catch The Royal Ballet's Ashton programme on BP Big Screens and in cinemas on 7 June 2017

The Dream © Dee Conway/ROH 2012 Frederick Ashton was The Royal Ballet 's Founder Choreographer and one of the most influential dance figures of the 20th century. As The Royal Ballet’s 70th Season at the Royal Opera House draws to a close, a mixed programme celebrating Ashton's contribution to the Company takes to the stage: The Dream , Symphonic Variations , and Marguerite and Armand . The mixed programme will be broadcast live from the Royal Opera House to BP Big Screens across the UK and cinemas across the world on 7 June 2017 at 7.30pm BST. To enhance your viewing experience, access our Ashton Digital Programme for free using the promo code FREEASHTON, and enjoy a range of specially selected films, articles, pictures and features to bring you closer to the production. The cinema relay will be presented by former Royal Ballet Principal Darcey Bussell and 'Strictly Come Dancing' winner Ore Oduba, while BP Big Screen audiences will see exclusive coverage presented by Soloist of The Royal Ballet Kristen McNally . The stories The Dream is an enchanting adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which captures the comic confusion that arises in the play as mortal and fairy worlds collide. Symphonic Variations is widely regarded as Ashton’s seminal masterpiece – the choreographer’s first ballet created for the enormous Royal Opera House main stage. Instead of following the tradition of grand narrative ballets, Ashton opted to create an abstract work on the beauty of pure movement. Marguerite and Armand tells a story of doomed love. The piece was inspired by the electric dance partnership of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev , and the final pas de deux – as Marguerite lies dying in Armand’s arms – is among the most moving moments in all of 20th century ballet. Read more: Our Ballet Essentials guide to the Mixed Programme The music The three ballets are performed to works by a variety of composers. The Dream is set to music by Mendelssohn , one of the greatest musical prodigies of his time. His score for A Midsummer Night's Dream has been used in many stage productions, and its witty melodies are the perfect accompaniment to Ashton's light-hearted ballet. Symphonic Variations provides a perfect response to César Franck ’s brooding Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra, and Marguerite and Armand is set to Franz Liszt ’s La lugubre gondola and his well-known Piano Sonata in B Minor. The productions The three pieces are very different from each other, brought together to showcase Ashton's ability to tell a story at the same time as offering an abstract response to music. The Dream and Marguerite and Armand are both narrative pieces, while Symphonic Variations is simply a celebration of dance. The cast The mixed programme will be performed by Principals and Soloists of The Royal Ballet including Akane Takada , Steven McRae , Marianela Nuñez , Marcelino Sambé , and Francesca Hayward . Add your review After the relay, we will publish a roundup of audience tweets, so share your thoughts with the hashtag #ROHashton If you're watching the performance at a BP Big Screen location, send us a selfie with the same hashtag for the chance to win a prize. The Royal Ballet's mixed programme of works by Frederick Ashton will be broadcast live BP Big Screens in the UK and to cinemas around the world on 7 June 2017. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list . The productions are staged with generous philanthropic support from Julia and Hans Rausing, Sarah and Lloyd Dorfman, Aud Jebsen, Lindsay and Sarah Tomlinson, Celia Blakey and Kristina Rogge.




Royal Opera House

May 24

How Fonteyn and Nureyev's electric partnership turned Marguerite and Armand into a ballet icon

Frederick Ashton, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev during rehearsals © 1962 Royal Opera House/Donald Southern Do certain roles ‘belong’ to certain artists? Are some ballets so intrinsically connected to their original dancers that it becomes almost too daunting for anyone else to step into their shoes? It certainly may have seemed that way when it came to Frederick Ashton ’s Marguerite and Armand . Ashton created this one-act ballet in 1963, for Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev as their famed partnership was beginning to soar. It was seen as a star vehicle for the lauded couple, and was performed by no one else for as long as the two dancers lived. The ballet’s story began in 1961, when Ashton had begun looking for a theme for a new creation for Fonteyn, the same year a blazingly talented young Soviet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev, defected to the West . Although at that stage, no one could have predicted that the partnership between the two dancers was to become so definitive. Ashton had been considering a ballet on the theme of Marguerite Gautier, the heroine of La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils (the son of the author of the same name who wrote The Three Musketeers). The 1848 novel, later a play, told the story of a courtesan who falls deeply in love with a young man, Armand, only for his disapproving father to thwart their romance. Marguerite, dying from consumption, is only reunited with her true love on her deathbed. It’s a story haunted by regret, which also inspired Verdi 's opera La traviata . But what to use as music? One evening in 1962, Liszt ’s Piano Sonata in B minor came on the radio and the ballet instantly materialized in the choreographer’s imagination. ‘Almost immediately I could visualize the whole thing in it’, said Ashton at the time. He called up the BBC to find out what the music was. As the choreographer researched the story, he discovered that the character of Gautier was based on a real woman, Marie Duplessis , who in her later years had an affair with Liszt . This seemed to Ashton more than just serendipity. The ballet took 15 rehearsals to create, although the process was interrupted by Nureyev having a foot injury, and the postponed premiere took place in March 1963, with stylized designs by Cecil Beaton . Rather than a full narrative, Ashton chose to focus on the essence of the story, reducing it to an intense concentration, like ‘a pillule’, he told Alexander Bland of The Observer. ‘But I would like it to be strong enough to kill.' The finished ballet capitalized on Fonteyn’s natural talents as an actress, and its depth lay less in the choreography than in the performances, the character and electric connection of the two lovers, played by the volatile 24-year-old in Nureyev, whose raw charisma unleashed a new wave of passion and freedom in the poised, 43-year-old English ballerina. In Secret Muses , Julie Kavanagh ’s biography of Ashton, the author recounts how the couple got carried away with the reckless lifts of the pas de deux, with Fonteyn being flung and swung around the studio by Nureyev. Fonteyn recalled an ‘electrical storm of emotion’ in the studio. Both dancers brought out something exceptional in each other. On opening night, the ballet was greeted with a rapturous response and 21 curtain calls, and it went on to become a signature piece for the couple and was performed around the world. Some doubted the value of the ballet without its stars – ‘Kitsch’, Nadia Nerina called it. Yet other dancers – among them Sylvie Guillem and Nicolas Le Riche , Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin , and Zenaida Yanowsky and Federico Bonelli – have since proved that there’s more to Marguerite and Armand than its original performers. For a new generation of dancers, and audiences, the genesis of the ballet has become part of its history, not its lifeblood. We no longer need ask how dancers compare to Fonteyn and Nureyev, but instead how they bring alive the passion, drama, magnetism and doomed love of Marguerite and Armand. This is an edited extract from Lyndsey Winship’s article ‘A Passionate History’, available to read in full in The Royal Ballet’s programme book for Marguerite and Armand. Marguerite and Armand runs 2–10 June 2017 as part of a mixed programme with The Dream and Symphonic Variations. The production will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 7 June 2017. Find your nearest cinema. It will also be broadcast live to Big Screens across the UK for free on 7 June 2017. Find your nearest screening. The mixed programme is staged with generous philanthropic support from Julia and Hans Rausing and Sarah and Lloyd Dorfman. Marguerite and Armand is staged with generous philanthropic support from Aud Jebsen and Lindsay and Sarah Tomlinson.



Royal Opera House

May 18

From proto-rock star to genre-defining artist: How Liszt reinvented himself

Liszt in concert, 1842 by Theodor Hosemann The enduring image of Liszt as a long-haired piano virtuoso dies hard. His playing met with frenzied responses across Europe in the 1830s and 40s, bringing him wealth and fame. His scandalous love affairs have only cemented our impressions of him as a 19th-century rock star – so much so that Ken Russell could cast lead singer of The Who Roger Daltrey as Liszt in his extravagant biopic Lisztomania . But in fact this phase of Liszt’s career ended early: he was only 35 when in 1847 he abruptly gave up public concertizing and settled in Weimar, a provincial German town. To his contemporaries, this decision seemed bizarre. What made him leave it all behind? Liszt had a definite agenda when he quit: he wanted to make his mark as a composer. And while it was perplexing to his friends, it was this very decision to stop performing which has cemented his legend and ensured he is more than a historical footnote today. In an era before recorded sound, Liszt’s pianistic abilities could only be appreciated by those who heard him live – whereas a composer could achieve a kind of immortality. Not that Liszt had waited until his pianistic retirement to start composing. In his era, every performer customarily wrote music for his or her own use. Many of Liszt’s works that are most popular today – including the fiendishly demanding Hungarian Rhapsodies and Transcendental Studies – were first composed before he left the concert trail. But the versions we hear today were actually extensively revised by Liszt after his retirement. The differences can be startling: for example, one of the Twelve Great Studies was repackaged as Mazeppa , the new title an allusion to Victor Hugo ’s poem . This new association with a story about a rebellious Ukrainian count, strapped to the back of a wild horse and driven out into the wilderness to die, puts the piece’s thrilling virtuosity in an evocative new context. In addition to these revisions, the entirely new works that Liszt wrote for the piano transformed the genre, and would influence composers for generations to come. Liszt’s masterpiece for solo piano is undoubtedly the Sonata in B minor , a ground-breaking work that astonishingly unites the variety of the Classical multi-movement sonata with the formal coherence and grandeur of a single-movement work. Liszt takes a handful of short ideas and brilliantly combines, reshapes and transforms them into a 30-minute unbroken whole. The music moves from barnstorming virtuosity to the most inward-looking tenderness, with everything in between. Liszt’s innovations were by no means confined to works for solo piano. As early as 1839 he had envisaged writing an orchestral work based on what he considered to be one of the supreme works of literature: Goethe ’s Faust . The Faust-Symphonie is a tour de force of imagination that powerfully draws the drama’s three chief characters, who are each described in a complete movement (Faust – Gretchen – Mephistopheles). Alongside the Faust-Symphonie Liszt can be credited with the invention of the symphonic poem : single-movement works with a title and preface linking them to extra-musical subject matter. By focussing on such story-telling, ‘programmatic’ music, Liszt placed himself at the vanguard of musical progress. The symphonic poem was later taken up by composers as diverse as Dvořák , Tchaikovsky , Strauss and Sibelius . For all his innovations, Liszt’s new career was not easy. In contrast to the acclaim he had met with as a pianist, the experimentalism of his compositions remained controversial, and even today his orchestral music is rarely heard live. But his many advances – in the vocabulary of the solo piano, in harmony, in crafting dramatic music for the concert hall – ensure that Liszt’s legacy as one of the most dynamic figures of the 19th century is secure. Marguerite and Armand , set to Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, runs 2–10 June 2017 in a mixed programme with The Dream and Symphonic Variations . Tickets are still available.

Tribuna musical

May 16

Ups and downs of National Symphony: Ministerial bureaucracy, CCK logistics

The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional (National Symphony, NS) is one of the two top symphonic ensembles we have in our concert life; the other, of course, is the Buenos Aires Philharmonic. The latter has its home at the Colón and is costly; the NS plays at the CCK, at the Blue Whale and is always free. The Phil has solid financial backing, the NS depends on the Culture Ministry´s capricious and ineffective bureaucracy with its constant problem of non-payment of conductors and soloists and just as harmful, of orchestral material. Plus the CCK´s absurd policy of being totally free (no worthy orchestra in the world plays under such conditions) and allowing babies. And being a cultural centre, it depends on the Media chief, Hernán Lombardi, instead of the Culture Minister, Pablo Avelluto. And Lombardi doesn´t give the NS what it needs to feel at home, including appropriate offices and rehearsal times. So the NS season proceeds with constant alarms. And the orchestra is playing sometimes below expectations. But one thing holds fast: the audience fills the vast hall; is it only because they love the orchestra or because it´s free? Well, the Phil is expensive and generally has a close to full house. And is it because it´s free that the CCK seems unable to provide reservations to reviewers? A February night of Chinese music was postponed to a later date with a different conductor, and celebrated the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Argentina. Much later, in September, the NS might visit China and Korea if both Ministries (Cultural and Foreign Relations) understand the importance of giving the NS a foreign tour after so many years without that experience. The NS has programmed both the artists and the repertoire. Zhang Zheng was the conductor, and the soloists were Yuan Yi (violin), Duan Biyan (piano) and Yang Yue (erhu); all made their debut. The music was all Chinese except for Bernstein´s "Candide" Overture. To my Occidental ears the adaptation of Chinese culture to an European product such as the symphony orchestra sounds forced and superficial. It seems to veer between the bombastic and the excessive sweetness, and significantly I only found interesting ideas in the final piece, the tone poem "The Hani minority" by Shao En (the Hani are Tibeto-Burmese). The concert started with three short works by Bao Yuankai and was followed by the fourth movement of the Erhu Concerto "The Chinese Wall´s capriccio"; the erhu is the two-string Chinese violin and it´s amazing how varied and beautiful are the sounds that come from this apparently limited instrument, played with virtuoso panache by Yang Yue. But apart from the very professional Yuan Yi and Duan Biya, I found little to like in the fragments from the Violin Concerto "The butterfly lovers" by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, and the third and fourth movements of the Piano Concerto written by six composers (!) based on the cantata "The Yellow River" by Xian Xinghai. The efficient conductor got decent playing from the NS in this repertoire almost wholly new to them. I skipped the next concert, too crossover for me (symphonic rock -Emerson- and tango –Schissi), and went on to the following one, in which Günther Pichler made his BA debut as a conductor, though we knew him as a member of the marvelous Berg Quartet decades ago. The programme couldn´t be more divergent with the two mentioned, and I enjoyed it a lot, for Pichler is a master of style and clarity, even in the score I would have thought not quite up his aisle: the splendid Overture to "Guillaume Tell" by Rossini. But otherwise we heard Mozart, and Pichler´s phrasing was a lesson to all: the NS did its best to assimilate his teaching and accompanied beautifully that early masterpiece, Concerto Nº9, and afterwards gave us an admirable "Jupiter" (Symphony Nº41). There was a further pleasure: the debut of Japanese pianist Yoko Kikuchi, utterly refined and precise, with interesting cadenzas. And equally notable in a contrasting encore: Liszt´s transcription of Paganini´s "La Campanella". Finally, after many years, the return of Yeruham Scharovsky to where he was born, after decades of professional conducting in Israel and from there to other 50 countries. The programme started with a favorite overture of mine, Weber´s "Oberon", in a middling version. But things promptly picked up when the twin clarinet players Daniel and Alexander Gurfinkel showed their fantastic technique and beautiful timbre in two works (both wrongly called in the hand programme, and as usual, with no comments on the music – another bad thing of the CCK). First, the Concert Piece (not Concerto) Nº 1, op.113, by Mendelssohn (originally for clarinet and corno di bassetto –a clarinet a third lower- and piano), a charming and typical score fast-slow-fast. The orchestration may be by Mendelssohn and at least in this version the music was a BA première. And so was the following work (both unannounced...): "De mis raíces" ("From my roots"), Concert variations (not a concerto) for two clarinets and orchestra, Op.41, by Aby Rojze, who was a violinist of the NS during more than four decades until his retirement some years back and during his mature years decided to start a parallel career as a composer. It's only fair that his beloved orchestra should give him a place in their programming. These variations are tonal and pleasant, with a curious orchestration of strings, trumpets and percussion and virtuoso interventions for the clarinets. The music indeed refers to his roots, which are Jewish and Argentine, so we hear a milonga but also parts that refer to the klezmer tradition, and the main melody sounds solemn and religious both at the beginning and the end. Wonderful playing by the twins, who added as encores two klezmer pieces, and committed accompaniment by conductor and orchestra. Rojze saluted the audience. Tchaikovsky created not only the six numbered symphonies but also the very impressive programmatic symphony "Manfred", on Lord Byron´s antihero (who also inspired Schumann). His Op.58 (1885), the score is huge, about 55 minutes, dominated by the ominous melody of the very start, which reappears in all movements (as its model, the "idée fixe" in the Fantastic Symphony by Berlioz). It is the doomed Manfred that is portrayed, he who has loved Astarte and lost her, he who has been damned and is in the deepest despair as he recollects stages of his life. But in the second movement , a scherzo with trio, the Alps Fairy appears under a cascade in exquisite balletic music later interrupted by Manfred´s theme. A charming Pastorale is an interlude before the terrible, devilish bacchanale of the fourth movement, until the spìrit of Astarte is evoked with solemn organ chords and Manfred dies. The orchestral imagination is prodigious almost throughout, and the work is very difficult though fascinating. Scharovsky had a brave go at it with some ups and downs but certainly with much expressive power; warts and all, this was a worthwhile occasion to meet a major Tchaikovsky creation. And the Klais organ certainly made a difference. The concert was dedicated to the clarinet player Eduardo Prado, who died recently and was member of the SN for decades. For Buenos Aires Herald

Franz Liszt
(1811 – 1886)

Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a 19th century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist and teacher. Liszt became renowned throughout Europe during the 19th century for his great skill as a performer. Liszt was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age and perhaps the greatest pianist of all time. Liszt was also an important and influential composer, a notable piano teacher, a conductor who contributed significantly to the modern development of the art, and a benefactor to other composers and performers, notably Richard Wagner, Hector Berlioz, Camille Saint-Saëns, Edvard Grieg and Alexander Borodin. As a composer, Franz Liszt was one of the most prominent representatives of the New German School. He left behind an extensive and diverse body of work, in which he influenced his forward-looking contemporaries and anticipated some 20th-century ideas and trends. Some of Liszt's most notable contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form and making radical departures in harmony.



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