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Franz Liszt

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


getClassical (Ilona Oltuski)

May 21

Evgeny Kissin’s Well-Tempered Departure

getClassical (Ilona Oltuski) Pianist Evgeny Kissin , concluding thePerspectives series at Carnegie Hall’s 125th anniversary season – which also celebrated his illustrious pianistic solo debut here 25 years ago – wooed audiences once more with Rachmaninoff’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 2, before taking a previously announced leave of absence from concertizing in the USA. The concert amounted to a farewell observation on the series’ narrative, revealing the artist’s uniquely personal artistic journey. Capture by Simone Massoni This article was published by the author on Blogcritics Magazine Since that memorable Carnegie Hall debut, with people waving hundred-dollar bills to scalp a ticket on mobbed street blocks around the sold-out concert hall, New Yorkers’ enthusiasm for Kissin does not seem to have diminished in the least. Coming out of the Soviet Union as a prodigal talent with staggering musicality, his reputation had preceded his eagerly awaited appearances before both Russian and world audiences; and perhaps like no other, this pure Romantic has united them in an ecstatic communal sense. It was Carnegie Hall’s centennial season, 1990-91, and Kissin, age 19, was – as in the current season – the notable opening act, one of the very few artists who had never had to ask, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” He simply arrived, and performed annually from then on. “What makes a performance great?” I once asked him, and he simply remarked: “It has to be convincing.” Carnegie Hall initiated its Perspectives series in 1999 to further explore the complexity of what makes an artist great by showcasing leading artists’ individual interests and bringing in their musical friends. The previous pianist the series focused on was Sir Andràs Schiff in 2011-12. This season’s in-depth close-up opened channels of discovery into Kissin’s enigmatic persona and vocation on stage, in five different programs. Beyond bringing some of the musical milestones of Kissin’s career full circle, the series portrayed the artist who at 44, unabashed by the persistent trail of Wunderkind status, has proven he can carve out new paths of artistic growth and a remarkable personal departure. His choices of programs are always “a matter of love,” and it is the kind of intimate, sanctified love that does not warrant further conversation. Notwithstanding his free spirit he feels: “Talking about all kind of things including sex, is great fun – talking about music seems vulgar.” Knowing how close to his heart his programs are – he usually spends a full touring season with each one – one had to wonder why Chopin, with whose concertos the pianist skyrocketed to stardom and who, as Kissin confesses when pressed on the subject, is the closest to his heart, would not appear in any of his featured programs. Bookending the series with two of the arch-romantic Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff concerts, Kissin instead curated his classical solo recitals with works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms in conjunction with the Spanish composers Albéniz and Larregla. Highlighting his extraordinary temperament en galore with the Spanish rhythmic idiom added a most welcome geographic twist to the Germanic precursors. The recital program, which was performed twice that same week in November, was legendary not only because his “Appassionata” was nothing short of a revelation, but because a repeat performance of the same repertoire, selling out the house twice in a row, had till then been a feat achieved only by Vladimir Horowitz, in 1979. No one present at Kissin’s concerts, least of all the performer himself, would suspect that concert halls are scrambling to fill their seats at many other quality concerts. Least of all at the truly stirring season’s opening concert, with red carpets rolled out for the occasion all across 57th street. Opening of Carnegie Hall’s 125th season. Photo: Ilona Oltuski If Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the New York Philharmonic and its departing director Alan Gilbert was meant to be associated with one of Kissin’s own, most triumphant historic performances of the same concerto in 1987, given with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic when the pianist was just 16, Kissin certainly stood the test of time. While one can’t say if Gilbert was as touched by Kissin’s brilliance as was Karajan, who, according to Karajan’s wife was moved to tears by the genial talent of his chosen young performer, their engagement certainly carried its own merit of excellence, making it also one of Gilbert’s rather gallant collaborations to remember. On the day following his evening of Yiddish music and poetry, Carnegie’s Executive and Artistic Director Clive Gillinson moderated – at the associates’ level ticket price – a public tête-à-tête on stage, where Kissin appeared relaxed and personable. He humored the audience with anecdotes about Prokofiev and his first meeting with Karajan, as well as his strong-mindedness when it comes to conductors who don’t share his vision. He also recalled some of his earlier years, when his revered only mentor through all these years, Anna Kantor, moved in with the Kissins, following them on their path from Moscow to New York to London. Turning 93 now, Kantor stays a vibrant member of Kissin’s family, and hers continue to be the ears he trusts the most; until recently she was an integral part of his concert touring entourage and it speaks for their deeply reverent relationship that the pianist continues to play new repertoire through for her. Evgeny Kissin with Anna Kantor. Photo: Ilona Oltuski A first was Kissin’s public opening up about becoming inspired and re-inventing himself: “As we live and develop we discover new things in ourselves, of which we were not aware earlier,” he says. “A few years ago, I would have never been able to imagine that I would be writing my own poetry in Yiddish and have it published…I have always hoped and continue to hope that I will always keep improving.” Almost no trace remains of the admitted former “painfully shy” mannerisms of his younger years. No matter how long the line of beleaguering fans may be, he happily obliges with oddly composed courtesy and at times touching generosity. Evgeny Kissin swarmed by his fans at Carnegie Hall after Rachmaninoff concerto performance. Photo: Ilona Oltuski Perhaps the least successful program of the series was Kissin’s much anticipated novel partnership with violinist Itzhak Perlman in a trio performance with Kissin’s longtime collaborator, cellist Misha Maisky. It was almost surprising that the performance lacked a persuasive harmonious flow of leadership and balance, given the great musicianship of all these artists individually. Perlman’s melodic lines especially seemed to get lost at times acoustically, flanked by Maisky’s and Kissin’s powerful virtuosity. In contrast, Kissin’s Yiddish evening was in some ways the most significant program of the series. Kissin’s passion project of Yiddish poetry recitation and music by rarely performed Jewish composers illuminated the deeply personal context of his engagement with Jewish culture. The fascinating presentation touched audiences on many levels, highlighting Kissin’s capacity and courage to explore new artistic frontiers. This was the case with works by Ernest Bloch, Alexander Veprik, Alexander Klein, and Mikhail Milner, with which Kissin ventured into modernist and folklore-inspired tunes off the beaten path. Carnegie Hall Green Room moment: the author with Mischa Maisky and Evgeny Kissin after their collaborative concert With his nuanced and melodic declamation of poems in the Yiddish idiom of Yitzhak-Leybush Peretz, Kissin captured the lyrical elements and aura of the language with its particular humor and spirit, transporting the transfixed audience into the bygone era of the shtetl. Soulfully baring his heart in every syllable, the magnetic performer – stripped of all his virtuoso veneer – sufficed to fill the hall, momentarily halting time. As in Kissin’s own poem, the evening’s credo points to celebrating our intrinsic individualism, which, if painful to bear at times, brings fulfillment through truth to ourselves. Ani maymin Credo Translation by Barrnett Zumoff Shoyn Terekh hot gezogt zayn kleynem zun mit shrek: After Terah* said fearfully to his young son: “Far vos bist nit aza, vi ale?”. “Why are you not like all the others?” Un s’iz geven azoy in yedn kant un ek, into which our brutal fate cast us.and it was so vuhin di dolye undzere brutale in every nook and cranny flegt undz nit varfn. S’iz dokh undzer koved, It’s to our honor, after all, vos tomid zaynen mir geven getray tsu zikh that we have always been faithful to ourselves, un hobm ot di khokhme oysgekovet: and have forged this wise saying: “Ven ikh vel zayn vi yener, ver vet zayn vi ikh?”. “If I am like the others, who will be like me?” *Abraham’s father This bent of Kissin’s talent was earlier introduced on a smaller scale at New York’s Yivo Institute and at his momentous debut at Charles and Robyn Krauthammer’s Pro Musica Hebraica series, at Washington’s Kennedy Center in 2014; but it was a first at Carnegie Hall, drawing New Yorkers into Kissin’s other personal passion. (See my article about Evgeny Kissin on a mission to celebrate his Jewish heritage. ) Evgeny Kissin at Pro Musica Hebraica. Photo: Ilona Oltuski For the very first time in 2002, during Verbier’s prestigious festival in the Suisse Alps, the festival’s director Martin Engstroem encouraged Kissin to recite Russian and Yiddish poetry as an extracurricular presentation on stage. Kissin agreed, but only if other artists would participate as well. The ones who had confirmed, among them Zubin Mehta, had to pull out at the last minute leaving Kissin “to wet his feet,” as he recalled. What a happy coincidence it turned out to be, bringing his previously private predilection into the spotlight. For Kissin, the Yiddish language represents an important cultural territory of the Jewish people. On a personal level it became a reminiscence of his childhood, and peaceful summer months spent at his Yiddish-speaking maternal grandparents’ datshka. During his childhood, Kissin was made aware of anti-Semitic sentiments. Aggressive slurs were not unusual. Thugs in the neighborhood would call out to him: “Why don’t you go to Birobidzhan?” – the Russian territory with an official Jewish status, which became a center of Jewish culture at the time it was founded under Stalin, in 1934. Evgeny Kissin with Martin Engstroem in Verbier. Photo: Ilona Oltuski Kissin’s interest in his native Russian poetry and literature were closely followed by his interest in Yiddish culture and its language, which he had initially taught himself. Even though he grew up completely assimilated into Soviet society, he felt a strong connection to his ethnic heritage and always had a special place in his heart for Israel. After being in the public eye for a long time, he deployed his voice not only for numerous humanitarian causes, but also to protest a growing anti-Israel sentiment he observed living in London and Paris. In December 2009, his open letter to the BBC in protest of its perceived biased reporting made headlines. In 2010 he explained to me why he had spoken out: “I just felt that it was no longer possible to remain silent and not protest….my motivation came from the dramatic increase of anti-Israel slander.” (See my article, “The Artist as Citizen .”) His fan-website features a broad selection of sources in support of Israel. When we met at his first solo concert in Jerusalem the following year during his commanding Liszt tour, he was engulfed in the topic. (In 1988 he went on his very first trip to Israel with the Moscow Virtuosi Orchestra.) Performing in Jerusalem meant the world to him and he matched his sentiment with a dramatic biblical stance: “Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim Tishkach Yimini (If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten).” Despite not living in the Promised Land himself, he initiated action to fully demonstrate his allegiance: in December of 2013 Kissin took on Israeli citizenship. His evolving sense of Jewish identity certainly plays a decisive role in his creative discoveries within its history, language and music and beyond that in Israel’s modern-day crisis. During one summer at the Verbier festival, Anna Kantor, concerned about this (to her mind) superfluous extracurricular activity, turned to me, remarking: “Ah politics, who needs politics…he should sit and play the piano.” I am certain the sentiment is shared by many, who would prefer an artist being removed from anything that could view the man and citizen behind the artist. Alas, despite his performance schedule of about 40 concerts a year worldwide, Kissin’s creativity obviously requires many different stimulating outlets, certainly feeding his extraordinary imagination at the piano. Just some days after his Yiddish recital, we met over tea and he brought the newest chapter of his novel. In his steadfast timbre, Kissin read it out loud in one sitting. He did not touch his tea. He was excited to share his modern-day drama depicting an opera-inspired Russian heroine’s suffering with deep sentiment, in a pictorial and captivating style. Here is an excerpt: From the novel by Evgeny Kissin, translated by Barrnett Zumoff Book 1: Outside It Was Snowing The smoke from the cigarette was beginning to mix with the emanations from the Indian aromatic sticks. There was no ashtray in the house, so the cigarette ash fell on the floor immediately after each light tap of her finger. She kept slowly and deeply inhaling the smoke, filling her entire body with the mild poison; oh well – the deed is already done, so relax and calm down. Three thoughts kept drilling into her mind: “Sasha, my darling”…”I’ll get the money as fast as I can!” …and “Now I‘ve really become a whore – I’ve lived to see the day!” “Man proposes and God disposes,” her wise grandmother Chana used to say. Her grandmother’s words had sounded convincing to her even then, though she was still a child and of course couldn’t understand what they meant. Now, in the past few days, she somehow understood them with her whole being, from the tips of her fingers to the depths of her soul, perhaps as never before in her life. When she was still a young girl and had just begun to discover the world of pleasure, she used to fantasize about taking money for love. For instance, a nice man she liked would come to her and propose to spend time with her, and she would answer him playfully: “If you pay!” Now, however, she didn’t get to choose only nice clients… Five months did go by after the Russian heroine of his novel appeared, and reverberations of sentiments stirred by Kissin’s Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 slowly filtered through the hall. Nothing less had been expected from a moving farewell concert by Kissin, with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. For this final concert of the series, Kissin reunited with his longtime friend, colleague and frequent collaborator James Levine, who, as the Met’s leading force for 45 years, has just announced his final bow as music director. Photo: NPR.org, Maestro James Levine The eminent conductor, winner of 10 Grammy awards, entered in his wheelchair, elevated by a special mechanism onto a towering conductor’s podium. Kissin – and Levine – fans had witnessed this somewhat involved process in the hall already in 2013 when the artists collaborated on Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, when Levine, returning to the concert stage after injury and two years of absence, was greeted with a standing ovation. Kissin has played the world over with an extraordinary number of first-rate conductors, but Maestro Levine, the pianist once told me, is among those he really loves the most. For several years, Kissin and Levine were both at home in New York. Together they recorded Beethoven’s Second and Fifth Concertos in 1997. As a special highlight their all-Schubert piano duo program, recorded live at Carnegie Hall in 2005, speaks volumes of their alliance in temperament and artistic perception. It is also among Levine’s most favorite recordings, he told Kissin (even though for acoustic reasons and perhaps also to facilitate unrestrained physical motions, the music intended for one piano four hands was performed on two separate grand pianos). While Kissin’s beautiful singing lines where at times marred just slightly by the piano’s dry acoustics, the strong personal connection was palpable in their take on Rachmaninoff, on a beautiful night in May for Kissin’s last concert of the series. Familiar with Kissin’s 1989 recording of the concerto with Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra, I had never before heard this all-time favorite concerto played live by Kissin. Rachmaninoff himself gave the premiere of the work composed in 1901, which established his fame and marked the end of a severe depression he had suffered. While Gergiev’s recording is certainly notable, already the entrance, just so slightly off, speaks of a much less deeply rooted musical bond than that between Kissin and Levine. In the recording Gergiev paints – at times more daringly – with a bigger brush, but Levine is a master at bringing out all the hidden nuances. If his Spanish repertoire already was full of vitality and rejoicing in the intricacy of mischievous rhythmic skill, in Rachmaninoff the drama got taken further. But despite the constant shifts between tender palettes and multiple climaxes there was nothing mise-en-scene, only a profound myriad of fine-tuned dexterity. If Carnegie Hall’s Perspective series set out to convey different angles of the performer’s aptitude with multiple genres and composers’ objectives, we witnessed it all. The blissful melancholy projected in this last Russian gem was matched only by his intimate poetry recitation, with a bared soulfulness that brought one closer into the world of this artist, and perhaps with one’s own humanity. With unrelenting inquisitiveness and willingness to challenge the status quo, Kissin does not rest on his laurels, which indicates there is much more to come; and how happy he looks. New York will feel the absence of this remarkable individual whose innermost workings can be found in his art. In the meantime, I am sure all his fans will join me in wishing him bon voyage as he spreads his artistic inspiration abroad.

Guardian

May 12

Nadine Koutcher review – impressive technique, delicacy and drama

Middle Temple Hall, London The Cardiff Singer of the World moved fluently between Liszt, Berg, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov in a confident London recital debutLast June Nadine Koutcher took the 2015 Cardiff Singer of the World title by storm. Now, nearly a year on, the Temple Music Foundation pulled off the notable coup of presenting her London recital debut in Middle Temple Hall, with its artistic director Julius Drake as her considerable accompanist. Related: BBC Cardiff Singer of the World review – exceptional technique and instinctive musicality shine through in a strong final Continue reading...




Classical iconoclast

May 10

Berlioz Roméo et Juliette - Boulez

Perceptions of  Hector Berlioz Roméo et Julette Op17 1839. have been shaped by performance practice filtered through recordings which is fair enough, since recordings reach more than live performasnces. Given Berlioz's fascination with Shakespeare and other things English, it's perhaps not so surprising either that English conductors dominate recordings.   Everyone's grown up with Colin Davis, for example. Over the years, though, my feelings about Berlioz have been developing on different lines, thanks, probably to getting immersed in John Eliot Gardiner,  Historically informed performance isn't about instruments so much as about understanding a composer on his own terms, and imagining whathe might have envisaged. In Berlioz's own time, he was very much avant garde.  His Grand Treatise on Orchestration (1843)  championed among other things the saxophone, invented only three years before and still very much experimental.  The picture above shows Berlioz conducting to the horror of his audience, the figures in the foreground supposedly include Franz Liszt .Recently a friend recommended listening to Pierre Boulez's Roméo et Juliette, with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestras, recorded live in 1970, though not issued until some years later.  How distinctive it sounds !  Boulez wasn't conducting a period orchestra but he seems to have understood why Berlioz used instruments like the ophicliede. They aren't timid ! Hence the fanfare in the introduction, the quirky trumpets and bassoons. the lushness of the harps  and above all the sassy punch of the strings, pulling everything pulling together with dramatic forward thrust.  We hear the wayward dance figures, and the sinister, almost demonic undercurrents. Roméo et Juliette is neither a stage play nor conventional opera but an innovation : music theatre for orchestra. Shakespeare carried no cultural baggage for continental European audiences in Berlioz's time, so the composer could do pretty much his own take on the story, using the Garrick version of the play brought to Paris in 1827 by Charles Kemble, which  Berlioz attended and where he became infatuated with Harriet Smithson.  The picture at left shows Smithson and Kemble in a production in the 1840's. In an age before close-ups and amplification, theatre practice would have to have been more exaggerated than we're used to now. Perhaps Berlioz, a theatre critic, intuited that good orchestral writing had the potential to express feelings in greater complexity than most actors at the time were capable of. The extremes in this music reflect stage practice, yet modified by the sophistication that orchestral subtlety can provide.  This is an intense performance, made all the more powerful because Boulez draws from the dramatic tension inherent in the music itself : a composer's insight into interpretation, that springs from within. Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette isn't about the lovers so much but about cross currents : feuding families, , crowds versus individuals, beauty versus violence and in the midst of all this, an element of supernatural magic that is more "Gothic" than Shakespeare.  Structurally it's tight, the Prince holding forth in the beginning and the brilliant Friar Laurence monologue at the end.  Montagues and Capiults rip each other apart,  but Friar Laurence's intelligence and humanity give Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette its power.

My Classical Notes

May 6

Dedication by Nicholas Angelich

Mr. Angelich explores music by three composers who are quite different in their styles. His album is titled “Dedication”. The selections are as follows: Chopin: Étude Op. 10 No. 10 in A flat major, dedicated to Liszt Étude Op. 10 No. 12 in C minor ‘Revolutionary’, dedicated to Liszt Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor, S178, dedicated to Robert Schumann Schumann: Kreisleriana, Op. 16, dedicated to Frédéric Chopin Performed by Nicholas Angelich (piano) In this recording Nicholas Angelich pays tribute to the relationships between three of Romanticism’s greatest composers for the piano. Schumann, Chopin and Liszt were born within 18 months of each other and knew each other personally. Schumann dedicated Kreisleriana to Chopin, who dedicated two of his Op.10 Etudes to Liszt, who, closing the circle, dedicated his B minor Piano Sonata to Schumann. In the first instance the name ‘La Ronde’ – meaning ‘round dance’ – might evoke the initially controversial play by Arthur Schnitzler (Reigen in German) that was most famously adapted by Max Ophüls for his 1950 French-language film. There is, however, nothing controversial about the programme for Angelich’s recital: uniting four highly contrasted landmarks of the Romantic piano repertoire, it emphasises the mutual respect between the three great pianist-composers: Schumann dedicated Kreisleriana to Chopin; Chopin in turn dedicated two of his Op.10 Etudes to Liszt, and Liszt in turn dedicated his B minor Piano Sonata to Schumann. Pianist Nicholas Angelich is American-born and French-trained. He is especially admired for his performances of the Central European repertoire of the 19th century. Here is Mr. Angelich, performing the Traumerei from Schumann’s Kinderszenen:



Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

April 28

The biggest hole in the heart of the BBC Proms

It has been a matter of pride for years at the BBC Proms that every major composer centenary and jubilee would be marked with at least one performance. It used to be the duty of the Controller’s assistant to supply a list, four years in advance, of all good composers to be celebrated in this way. Which makes it all the most distressing that this year’s season omits one of the most significant European composers of the past two centuries. I’m not pointing fingers at any individual or demanding official excuses. Call the omisson for what it is: a major shortcoming in this year’s Proms, an embarrassment for the BBC. I have written about the enduring importance of Ferruccio Busoni in the new issue of Standpoint: Ferruccio Busoni, born 150 years ago last month, (was) one of the most famous faces of his time. His leonine head led to him being often mistaken for Beethoven, while his hands made light work of Liszt. Busoni was a fearless pianist, a formidable thinker and a composer overstocked with good ideas. His character was so fascinating that Gustav Mahler, never a man to waste time on soloists, craved his rare visits to Vienna. Arnold Schoenberg (no fan of anyone but Mahler) craved his personal approval. Busoni was the teacher and mentor of Kurt Weill. In the early Weimar Republic, he moulded its culture. The 150th anniversary should have been a golden opportunity for the Proms to stage Busoni’s piano concerto, a behemoth with chorus. It’s a terrifying piece, but the British pianist Peter Donohoe has made it his own, as has the Canadian Marc-André Hamelin. If someone had offered it to Daniil Trifonov, he would have bitten their hand off. The Busoni concerto is made for the Proms, but not under present management. Failing that, they could have included the Berceuse élégiaque, a short work premiered by Gustav Mahler in the last concert of his life. But present management are dull to such sensitivities, deaf to Busoni. In a poor Proms season , this is the poorest decision. Read the full Standpoint article here.

Tribuna musical

April 22

Gounod´s “Faust”, a Gallic view of Goethe´s mighty opus

Faust is certainly one of the most famous characters in European literature. It seems that there was an alchemist named Johann Faust who lived between 1480 and 1540; he apparently died because his laboratory blew up. It was a time when science was attacked by superstition and religion, linking it to demonic powers. In 1592 Christopher Marlowe wrote "The tragic story of the life and death of Doctor Faustus", first important literary expression on the subject. On it Busoni wrote his best opera, "Doktor Faust", in 1925; it was premièred at the Colón in Italian in 1969. Liszt based several piano and orchestral pieces, especially the famous Mephisto Waltz, on Lenau´s "Faust", but it was Goethe´s fundamental "Faust" that inspired the composer his enormous and admirable "Faust Symphony". The sprawling literary mighty opus started with a long poem in 1790, to which the writer later added a tragedy in two parts (1808 and 1832). One side, the metaphysical in the purest sense, vividly comes to life in Mahler´s Eighth Symphony and in certain parts of the beautiful "Scenes from Faust" by Schumann. The other one, old age, love, youth and sin, and the pact between Satan´s servant Mephisto and Faust, is evoked in three powerful works: the most innovative and fantastic, "La Damnation de Faust" (1846) by Berlioz; the personal and intellectual "Mefistofele" (1868) by Boito includes the challenge to God by Mefistofele in the Prologue and the love of Faust with Helen of Troy. But by far the most famous is the Gallic view of librettists Michel Carré and Jules Barbier and composer Charles Gounod. First he wrote it as an opéra-comique (spoken alternating with sung text) in 1859, but in 1869, adding a Valentin aria and the ballet "La Nuit de Walpurgis", he converted it into an "opéra lyrique". It had an enormous success and by the end of the century was among the most staged operas in the world (not always in French). The Paris Opera staged it up to 1975 in 2.350 occasions! (and the Met, inaugurated in 1883, played it often). Here it was premièred in Italian in 1866 (Estanislao del Campo wrote then his satyric poem on the impressions of the gaucho Anastasio el Pollo; many decades later Ginastera wrote his "Obertura para el Fausto criollo" which we will hear next Thursday at the Philharmonic concert) ; and in French at the Colón in 1916. After WWII the reference interpretation in 1971 had a wonderful cast (Gedda, Ghiaurov, Harper, Massard), conductor (Gavazzeni) and stage designs (Schneider-Siemssen). The last Colón revival is far back, in 1998. Buenos Aires Lírica offered it in November 2006, and now it gives us a new staging by producer Pablo Maritano, with Enrique Bordolini as stage and lighting designer and Ramiro Sorrequieta designing the costumes. This version, as the earlier one, eliminates the Walpurgis scene, for two reasons (I surmise): the stage is rather small for a complicated witches Sabbath´s ballet, and it is expensive (dancers, costumes). Pity, the music is very good of its kind. And it also cancels the scene of the spinning wheel, in which Marguerite sadly remembers her love (Schubert´s famous Lied musicalizes the same situation). The melodies are still charming, though there is often some blandness; however, the Church scene, in which Marguerite´s prayer is interrupted by Méphistophéles´ "Be damned!" is quite impressive, and so is the Prison scene. There are fine choirs, and the waltz still captivates.The final minutes, however, feel more sanctimonious than sacred nowadays. Although the librettists place the action in Late Medieval Germany, there´s little in the text to pinpoint it. Maritano , apart from some unnecessary licenses (the joyous Soldiers Chorus is sung by very damaged guys; and again the silliness of replacing swords with guns in Valentin´s death duel) basically respects the libretto, though without special insights. Bordolini´s stage pictures are simple but effective, and his lighting adequate. The costumes seem to place the action in the 1920s, with nothing particularly German. But this is a very Gallic Goethe... (Nothing particularly French either). The same production was seen at Rosario´s Teatro El Círculo last year. The star of the evening was Hernán Iturralde as Satan´s envoy. Far from the traditional image, we saw a bald man in impeccable festive attire, acting with satiric courtesy, and singing with a splendidly responsive voice in all registers; his French was perfect, a rare thing here. Veteran Argentine tenor Darío Schmunck started very well, with an expressive old Faust, though as a young one he didn´t cut the ideal figure, but he acted and sang with great professionalism, apart from a couple of fixed high notes. Marina Silva has dramatic presence as Marguerite; however, vocally she shows some flaws both in florid passages (the Jewels aria) and in very high notes; she compensates by vivid acting and she conveys the meaning of the words. Marguerite´s brother Valentin was sung by Ernesto Bauer, rather nondescript in his aria but good in the death scene. Siebel, Marguerite´s young suitor, was nicely sung by Cecilia Pastawski. Virginia Correa Dupuy was an exaggeratedly grotesque Marthe, Marguerite´s wet nurse, probably marked so by Maritano. Juan Font completed well as Wagner, a friend of Valentin. The 47-strong Orchestra responded satisfactorily to Javier Logioia Orbe´s well considered reading, and the Chorus had an excellent night under the wise preparation of Juan Casasbellas. 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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