Saturday, July 30, 2016
Crisis in the Middle East. The principal bassoonist in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has broken her finger hours before a major international tour. The orchestra is heading for a weeklong Buenos Aires residency with Martha Argerich as soloist, followed by visits to limelight festivals at Salzburg, Berlin, Lucerne and London(BBC Proms). Without a bassoon. Brains were racked, databases raided. Barenboim knew who he wanted. David McGill, former principal bassoon at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, now professor at Northwestern U. It so happened that David was home – just home, in fact. He had been playing the Mozart bassoon concerto with Riccardo Muti and his Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini in Italy. As we write this, David is repacking his bags. Then he will work on his reeds, ‘raising my pitch up to about A-444. Not easy for a 440 American player!’ And off to the airport. David adds: ‘I have often said that I would do this only for two people in the world, Muti and Barenboim. And they both requested me this summer!’
The symphony #5 by Franz Schubert has been one of my favorite works by this composer for many years. I find myself listening so closely, that I quickly become disappointed if an interpretation does not measure up to what I expect. My “gold standard” for this masterpiece is the performance by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Georg Solti. The reason that I am stuck on this particular performance is how the performers do the second movement titled Andante con motto. Solti does this like a piece of chamber music. There is singing everywhere: In the flutes, in the strings, in the cello. And the players do a Tenuto here, or a diminuendo there, or a sight Riterdando. Each player is listening to someone else, and the results are astounding. I will illustrate for you: Here is Solti: Next, let’s explore Riccardo Muti. Finally, here is Lorin Maazel: Music interpretation is a highly personal thing. Please tell me your own preference…
Carlo Fontana, sovrintendente of La Scala from 1990 to 2005 until claiming that ‘Muti stabbed me in the back’, is still a player on the park. Today Fontana, 69 and looking good, was re-elected President of AGIS, the Italian Association of Performing Arts.
San Diego Opera has been notified by the family that the Italian conductor Edoardo Muller passed away yesterday at the age of 78. Edoardo Muller (or Müller) made his San Diego Opera debut in 1980, conducting the West Coast premiere of Giovanna d’Arco. Over the years he conducted over 30 San Diego Opera productions until ill-health forced his retirement in 2011. Trieste born, he made his way as assistant to Serafin, Gui, Votto, Böhm, Molinari-Pradelli, Abbado, Kleiber and Muti, getting his breakthrough jumping in for Georges Pretre in Rossini’s Mosè at the 1973 inauguration of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. He went on to conduct at La Scala, Paris, Munich, Barcelona, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago de Chile, Montreal and most Italian opera houses. In the US he worked at the Met, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, Washington, Dallas, Detroit and more. He was a frequent recital partner with Renata Tebaldi, Carreras, Obraszova, Bruson, Bergonzi and Caballé. In San Diego he is remembered for his humour, warmth, passion, and incredible repertoire knowledge. He had been ill for some time, and was in a coma in his final days.
“Mr. van Zweden, a Dutch-born maestro with a growing reputation, received more that year than any other orchestra conductor in America, including Gustavo Dudamel at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and his total pay was more than twice that of the nearest runner-up, Riccardo Muti at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.” Michael Cooper explains how this came to pass.
Berliner Philharmoniker/ Abbado/ Barenboim/ Boulez/ Dudamel/ Haitink/ Mehta/ Muti/ Rattle (Warner Classics, 25 DVDs)The Berlin Philharmonic gave its first ever concert in 1892, on 1 May. Since 1991, it has been marking that anniversary with a one-off May Day concert, which is given in a different historical-cultural centre in Europe each year, and which is televised live widely across Europe, though not in the UK. This set of DVDs documenting the first 25-year history of the Europa Concerts has been taken from these broadcasts. Though some of the performances are far more memorable than others, it makes for a fascinating collection. The recordings are generally first-rate, and are blissfully free of video gimmicks, voiceover introductions or commentaries, though there are no subtitles or printed texts for the vocal works. It’s the performances pure and simple, though a few of the discs include additional short documentary films about the cities in which the concerts took place. Those venues range from St Petersburg to Palermo, Istanbul to Oxford, with no fewer than three of them, for some reason, having been in Prague.Concerts under nine conductors are included in the set. As you might expect, the Berlin Philharmonic’s two principal conductors over the quarter century concerned, Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle, feature most prominently, but Daniel Barenboim conducts five concerts, as well as making two appearances as a soloist. Programmes tend to be determinedly populist and mainstream – there’s lots of Mozart and Beethoven, and quite a bit of Brahms; even the one concert that Pierre Boulez conducts, in the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Lisbon, in 2003, includes a Mozart piano concerto, the D minor, K466, with Maria João Pires as the wonderfully fluent soloist. Continue reading...