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Igor Stravinsky

Friday, July 21, 2017


My Classical Notes

June 26

Music for a Summer Night, with Renee Fleming

My Classical NotesSummer Night Concert 2017 This recorded outdoor concert featured the following music: Dvorak: Carnival Overture, Op. 92 Za tihlou Gazelou (from Armida), with Renée Fleming (soprano) Mesícku na nebi hlubokém ‘Song to the Moon’ (from Rusalka), with Renée Fleming (soprano) Humperdinck: Hanse & Gretel Overture Rachmaninov: Twilight, Op.21 No. 3, with Renée Fleming (soprano) Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne, Op. 4 No. 4, with Renée Fleming (soprano) Spring torrents, Op. 14 No.11, with Renée Fleming (soprano) Stravinsky: The Firebird: Danse infernale du roi Kastchei Berceuse from The Firebird Finale from The Firebird Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66 – Pas d’action Waltz from Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66 Williams, John: Hedwig’s Theme (from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) All performed by the Wiener Philharmoniker, Christoph Eschenbach conducting. Fairytales and myths have inspired composers from time immemorial, and audiences, too, have invariably been entertained by the unending struggle between good and evil. Central to the Vienna Philharmonic’s 2017 Summer Night Concert are German, French, Russian and Czech fairytales as well as a contemporary fantasy figure that is Anglo-Saxon in origin. In 2017 the Summer Night Concert will again be conducted by one of the most distinguished musicians of our time. Christoph Eschenbach, who also conducted the 2014 Summer Night Concert, is in demand as a guest conductor for prominent orchestras and opera houses worldwide. Since 2010 he has been musical director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. Having begun his career as a pianist, he learned conducting under George Szell and Herbert von Karajan. Since making his debut as a conductor in 1972, he has led renowned orchestras, including the Tonhalle-Orchester in Zurich, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

ArtsJournal: music

July 5

Music Academy Of The West Returns To Business - Music Of Our Time

"We have started to make music of today part of our normal way of doing business. We’re not restricting music of living composers to a far corner of the summer and calling it 'new music week.' That sort of new-music ghetto is, to me, not the best way to present it. It suggests that new music is its own thing, and not connected with anything else. We think this music belongs on the same concert as Beethoven, Dvorak, and Stravinsky."






Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

June 2

On Italian men in their underpants

Our weekly diary from violinist Anthea Kreston: It’s one A.M. and I have just gotten back to my room in the River Countess, a sumptuous river boat which is transporting the Performance Today (American Public Media with host Fred Child) Italy tour, for which I am the guest soloist. I can hear the water of the Guidecca canal lapping below my windows. My room has gold-lined fabric wallpaper, slippers and bathrobe, a seating area with a cafe table and vintage chairs, a desk, and a gorgeous bathroom. There are three levels of cabins, housekeeping service every time I leave my room, four-course dinners, a library, chandeliers, waitstaff in white gloves, a sun-deck with a huge chess set, a variety of cafes, bars, exercise rooms and a full service spa. And, it is full to the brim with classical music fans. Heaven on earth. I first met Fred Child, the witty and inclusively knowledgeable host of Performance Today, in 2013, when my piano trio (Amelia) was invited to be Young Artists in Residence at their headquarters in Washington, D.C. What followed was a series of live performances interwoven with interviews. It was simultaneously frightening and comfortable – Fred remains the best interviewer I have ever had. Fred and I had a plan to wake early today and go to San Michele, the cemetery island, to find Stravinsky’s grave. We picked up some fresh flowers, and got on the vaporetto heading to Murano, the glass island. It was crowded – surprising for so early in the morning – and we noticed several widows in all black, clutching bouquets and walking sticks. Stravinsky is buried next to his wife, Vera, along a tall brick wall which offers shade. Their stones are not flashy – simple slabs – but the lettering of their names is Picasso-like -hand-laid in vibrant blue stone. We came back to Venice, had a gondola experience, and were back on the boat for lunch. Tonight I had the pleasure of performing the Four Seasons with the Interpreti Veneziani in the Chiesa San Vidal in Venice, which dates back to the 16th century. The Interpreti is a baroque orchestra which tours internationally, and because of complex scheduling, we had only one hour to put the Seasons together before the concert. When I arrived (of course after getting lost), I was struck by the sight of an orchestra made up entirely of men. I was unsure of how the group dynamic would play out – not only do I play about as un-baroque as a person can, but I was going to be conducting as well as playing. I could feel a bit of resistance when we started to rehearse, but by the end all was well and we were all game for a spontaneous, if lightly rehearsed, energetic and colorful evening. Fred Child was going to read the sonnets before each season, and we were ready to go. The back stage area was one room – and I was surprised, but very happy, when the whole orchestra began to change. They were treating me as one of their own – I stared intently at my phone, trying to avert my eyes to an entire orchestra of Italian men in their underpants. Kind-of fun, truth be told. Next up on the docket is an unaccompanied recital (Bach Chaconne, Ysaye Second Sonata and Biber Passacaglia) in Vicenza (tomorrow), two more recitals, interviews, lots of social activities, and I even get to go to La Fenice and see the Barber of Seville! This time next week I will be back in Quartet swing, as we have several concerts and a new piece to learn. So far, it has been quite an eventful quartet “Sabbatical”. Ciao!

Classical iconoclast

May 25

Sublimated sex : Messiaen Turangalîla-Symphonie, Oramo BBCSO

Sakari Oramo conducted the BBC SO in Messiaen Turangalîla-Symphonie at the Barbican,  yesterday. Sandwiched between Bernard Haitink's Mahler and Bruckner concerts this week, tickets didn't sell as well as they should have. Luckily, the  broadcast is on BBC Radio 3.  With Cynthia Millar playing the ondes martenot and Steven Osbormne on piano, this was class.  How I wished I hadn't chickened out of the long commute and returned my tickets.  This is an extraordinarily "visual" piece: you can't know it if you haven't, at least once, participated in performance, even if you're just listening.  It's a communal event, like a Pagan Mass.   One of Sakari Oramo's many strengths is his sense of humour, so this Turangalîla-Symphonie was wonderfully zany, capturing the crazy free spirits in the piece without losing the tension that keeps the whole, sprawling panorama together through ten sections, each clearly distinct.  A vivacious performance, the BBCSO on message and lively.   The seeds of Turangalîla were planted when Messiaen and Yvonne  Loriod fell desperately in love, but, being strictly religious, they didn't sleep together til they married decades later.  Turangalîla-Symphonie, the fruit of their passion, is sex, sublimated in music. Not for nothing the two principal solo parts are written for ondes martenot and piano, the piece operating as a dialogue for two poles united in a dazzling landscape.  Boulez adored Messiaen, and vice versa, but this was the one piece that Boulez could not bring himself to conduct. "Brothel music", he quipped, which is true, for the piece is explicitly erotic.  Since Messiaen was Boulez's father figure, it must have felt like watching your parents at it. You know it happened, or you wouldn't have been born, but...... When Turangalîla premiered in 1948, one writer  referred to its “fundamental emptiness… appalling melodic tawdriness…..a tune for Dorothy Lamour in a sarong, a dance for Hindu hillbillies”. He had a point. If ever there was music in Technicolor, this is it, complete with cinematic swirls of the ondes martenot.  These days, when we hear the ondes martenot, we don’t necessarily associate it with cutting-edge Varèse, but with Béla Lugosi. They don’t even make movies like that anymore. Not even B movies.   Perhaps Turangalîla suffers from having been premiered in the wrong time and place. In 1948, Messiaen was largely unknown in the United States, so Koussevitsky's commission was very high profile indeed. The premiere was given by Leonard Bernstein, who probably relished the Hollywoodesque extravagance of the piece. But there's a hidden background.  Bernstein was influenced, indirectly, by Nadia Boulanger, who thought music ended with mid-period Stravinsky, and even turned her back on him when he deviated from diktat.  She could not stand Messiaen: they operated rival salons, hers catering mainly to English speakers, his more liberal and "European".   Yvonne Loriod was originally a Boulanger protégé, but when she took up with Messiaen, Boulanger cut her dead.  So perhaps the world wasn't ready for Turangalîla  in 1948. For Turangalîla-Symphonie is a shockingly modern work. If at times it seems to parody the idea of Romantic Music as defined by Hollywood, why not? Messiaen's values stemmed from medieval traditions of religious ecstasy, which gave 19th-century French Romanticism a particular flavour, different to Austro-German tradition.   Messiaen was not "doing Hollywood".   Like other Europeans emerging from the hardships of war and rationing,  Messaien was responding to the liberating idea of uninhibited exuberance. Turangalîla-Symphonie would have seemed like an explosion of blinding colour after years of repression. The sensuality also connected to long-standing French fascination  with exotic, non-European cultures. Wild as the piece is, though, it is also sophisticated. Its complex rhythms need to be played with vigorous precision, so the textures stay vividly bright and clear.  In Messiaen, colour is essential.  The best performances I've heard have had a taut savagery that brings out the muscular energy in the piece. Bad performances are chemically coloured soup.  Fortunately, the BBC SO can let their hair down without losing their innate stylishness. Fundamental to this piece, and to Messiaen's work in general, is the powerful pulse, often expressed in craggy ostinato.   Geology in music, maybe: it represents a life force, nature itself and, for Messiaen, derived from God.  Thus Oramo shaped the crazy flights of wild abandon without losing sight of their place in the structure.  Messiaen didn't use the ondes martenot by accident: it's an instrument that plays with unseen forces of physics and sound.  The protagonists in Turangalîla-Symphonie  are ecstatic because they've found release. They wouldn't be transformed if they hadn't had something to be liberated from in the first place. Lovely L'Ascension beforehand, too, demonstrating how far  Turangalîla-Symphonie propels Messiaen forward. 

Igor Stravinsky
(1882 – 1971)

Igor Stravinsky (17 June 1882 - 6 April 1971) was a Russian-born, naturalized French, later naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely acknowledged as one of the most important and influential composers of 20th century music. He was a quintessentially cosmopolitan Russian who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the century. He became a naturalized French citizen in 1934 and a naturalized US citizen in 1945. In addition to the recognition he received for his compositions, he also achieved fame as a pianist and a conductor, often at the premieres of his works. Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911/1947), and The Rite of Spring (1913). The Rite, whose premiere provoked a riot, transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure, and was largely responsible for Stravinsky's enduring reputation as a musical revolutionary, pushing the boundaries of musical design. In the 1950s he adopted serial procedures, using the new techniques over his last twenty years. Stravinsky's compositions of this period share traits with examples of his earlier output: rhythmic energy, the construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few two- or three-note cells, and clarity of form, of instrumentation, and of utterance.



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