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Herbert von Karajan

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

January 13

Berlin Philharmonic violinist gets an agent

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discTanja Dorn’s boutique agency has signed Stanley Dodds, a Berlin Philharmonic violinist with conducting ambitions. Dodds has assisted Simon Rattle on various projects and is principal conductor of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, playing seven times a year in the Philharmonie. His bio: Stanley Chia-Ming Dodds was born in Canada, grew up in Australia and as a dual German-Australian citizen is now based in Berlin. He began playin violin and piano in Adelaide at age four, attended the Bruckner Conservatorium and Musik High School in Linz before studying violin and conducting at Lucerne Conservatorium. He continued violin studies at the Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic before receiving tenure as a violinist in the orchestra in 1994. He studied conducting in Australia, Switzerland and Germany, his most important mentor being the acclaimed Finnish professor Jorma Panula.

On An Overgrown Path

January 9

How Maestro Dudamel is saving classical music

Newsweek's 2012 profile headlined "Bravo, Gustavo! How Maestro Dudamel is saving classical music" was remarkably prophetic. As his latest property transaction seen above and Rolex brand ambassador role seen below confirm, Gustavo Dudamel has indeed saved classical music. He has saved the celebrity culture with its top-heavy reward structure, he has saved the vital skill of staying onside with the media, and has saved the fine art of embracing just enough new music to stay cool. Moreover he has saved venerable and highly lucrative star vehicles such as the Rolex sponsored Neujahrskonzert der Wiener Philharmoniker, and has saved the casuistry of running with the humanitarian hounds while hunting with an ethically compromised regime. In fact Gustavo Dudamel has saved classical music's elitist and privileged status quo. Dudamel's many apologists will argue that rich rewards for celebrity conductors are nothing new. Which is quite true. But Herbert von Karajan - famed for his private jet - was in his 50s when he reaped his rewards, while Leopold Stokowski - famed for his intimacy with Hollywood leading ladies - was into his fourth decade before he rose to stardom, and both conductors had served long apprenticeships. By contrast Gustavo Dudamel made his high profile debut in 2005 and became music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic just four years later aged 27. In the 2012/13 season his salary in LA was $1.5 million. He was already a Rolex brand ambassador when he became music director, and CNN recently reported that a celebrity watch endorsement contract is worth $3 million. Just two years after starting his tenure in LA Dudamel bought his first property in Hollywood Hills for $1.85 million, following this with the one seen above valued at $3.1 million. Yes, the maestros of the past had their peccadilloes. But we live in very different times and scarcely a day passes without news of yet another savage cut to arts funding. The classical music establishment has created a convenient myth that music funding is separated into hermetically sealed and unconnected compartments, with celebrities isolated in one compartment and grass roots musicians in another. This is disingenuous nonsense. Funding does indeed come from many different sources; but just as all rivers lead to one ocean, so all funding ultimately comes from one contracting pot. Chaos theory applies to classical music. So, just as a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico can cause a hurricane in China, so a dude ranch changing hands in the Hollywood Hills can threaten the future of an arts centre in Birmingham, England. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also reluctantly on Facebook and Twitter.




Royal Opera House

December 21

Der Rosenkavalier musical highlight: ‘Hab mir’s gelobt’

Andris Nelsons © 2016 Marco Borggreve. Photo by Marco Borggreve Composer Richard Strauss saw the trio ‘Hab mir’s gelobt’ as Der Rosenkavalier 's emotional highpoint. He loved this particular composition so much in fact, that it was sung at his funeral. The trio is sung by the love triangle at the opera’s heart: the Marschallin and Sophie, the sopranos, and Octavian, a young man played by a mezzo-soprano. Strauss was so enamoured with his composition that it was sung at his funeral – a performance which saw each of the three singers break down in tears with emotion. So what makes it tick, and so worthy of such adulation from its composer? Where does it take place in the opera? ‘Hab mir’s gelobt’ is sung towards the end of the opera, in Act III. Octavian’s successful plot to shame the womanizing Baron Ochs – and so save the young Sophie from a ghastly marriage – has caused considerable confusion. Octavian’s lover the Marschallin arrives, and persuades her cousin Ochs to give up his engagement. Sophie becomes aware of Octavian and the Marschallin’s relationship. She is distressed, and Octavian hesitates to choose between his old and his new love. The Marschallin realizes how much the young couple care for each other, and decides to release Octavian so he can marry Sophie. What do the lyrics mean? Each character initially expresses separate thoughts. The Marschallin recalls that she promised to give up Octavian when he fell in love with a younger woman, but regrets that it’s happened so fast; Octavian feels strangely remorseful and confused; Sophie is bewildered by the situation, and overcome by awe of the Marschallin. As the trio builds to its musical climax, the characters’ thoughts become more unified. Octavian and Sophie forget everything but their overwhelming love for each other, while the Marschallin hopes for their happiness and blesses their union. What makes the music so memorable? Strauss’s versatile writing for the soprano voice inspired him to wonderfully acute characterization in this trio. The Marschallin’s seamless lyrical phrases illustrate her nobility and thoughtfulness; Sophie’s soaring silvery voice reveals her innocent idealism; while Strauss conveys Octavian’s impetuosity and passion through quicker, shorter phrases, rising in pitch as his emotions intensify. Other memorable aspects of the trio include its beautiful melody – a noble reinterpretation of the comic waltz sung by Octavian earlier in Act III in his disguise as a maidservant – and the rich textures, soaring lines for Sophie and the Marschallin and sensual shift of key as the music reaches its climax. Finally, Strauss’s use of a host of motifs from earlier in the opera makes us feel that the characters have gained emotional wisdom through their experiences. Der Rosenkavalier’s other musical highlights Strauss adored the soprano voice, so it’s not surprising that some of the greatest highlights from the opera include Octavian and the Marschallin’s love duet in Act I, the Marschallin’s delicately-scored Act I monologue on the passing of time and Octavian and Sophie’s rapturous Act II love duet. However, there’s also plenty of good comic music, particularly Baron Ochs’s hedonistic monologue and rapid trio with the Marschallin and Octavian in Act I, and the farcical supper scene in Act III. And, this being Vienna, one shouldn’t forget Der Rosenkavalier’s glorious waltzes, above all Ochs’s ‘Mit mir’, which brings Act II to a brilliantly-scored, exuberant close. Classic recordings Der Rosenkavalier is Strauss’s most popular opera, so there’s a glut of excellent recordings. For an authentically Viennese experience, try Erich Kleiber ’s 1954 recording with the Vienna Philharmonic and the ardent Octavian of Sena Jurinac on Naxos. Other classic options include Herbert von Karajan ’s 1956 recording for EMI, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as a dignified, lyrical Marschallin and Otto Edelmann as a wonderfully sleazy Baron Ochs; or Georg Solti ’s 1968 Decca recording with a rather more passionate Marschallin from Régine Crespin , Helen Donath ’s exquisite Sophie and a cameo appearance from Luciano Pavarotti as the Italian Tenor. For a more contemporary take you can’t do better than Strauss expert Christian Thielemann ’s 2009 Decca recording with the perfect casting of Renée Fleming as the Marschallin, Sophie Koch as Octavian and Diana Damrau as Sophie. The wide range of DVD recordings includes John Schlesinger ’s Royal Opera production with the sublime Marschallin of Kiri Te Kanawa . More to discover Your best starting point is to sample some of Strauss’s other 14 operas. Ariadne auf Naxos shares Rosenkavalier’s mixture of comedy and profundity, but with a chamber orchestra scoring, and characters drawn from myth and commedia dell’arte. Arabella , set in 19th-century Vienna, contains some of Strauss’s loveliest duets. If you like your operas short and intense there’s much to enjoy in Salome and Elektra : emotionally charged interpretations of a biblical story and a Classical tragedy respectively. Other operatic treats include the sumptuous fairytale opera Die Frau ohne Schatten , and Strauss’s final sublime testimony to the power of music, Capriccio . Outside of opera, other wonderful Strauss works include a host of songs, several tone poems and the reflective Oboe Concerto . Looking further afield, Mozart ’s Le nozze di Figaro manifests much of the same wit and humanity as Der Rosenkavalier, while Wagner ’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg also tackles the theme of a charismatic older character who relinquishes the younger one they love, and contains a quintet equivalent to Rosenkavalier’s trio in beauty and intensity. There are also wonderful operas by Strauss’s lesser-known contemporaries: Humperdinck ’s beautiful Königskinder or Schreker ’s wild and passionate Die Gezeichneten to take but two examples. Der Rosenkavalier runs 19 December 2016–24 January 2017. Tickets are still available. The production is a co-production with the Metropolitan Opera, New York , and Teatro Regio, Turin , and is given with generous philanthropic support from The Monument Trust, Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, Simon and Virginia Robertson, Susan and John Singer, the Friends of Covent Garden and The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund .

On An Overgrown Path

December 13

Harrowing photo archive has classical music connection

All these photos are from a collection of negatives held at the the Eastman Museum Rochester, NY, the world's oldest museum dedicated to photography and one of the world's oldest film archives. I first came across them when researching an Overgrown Path post in April 2005. The 41 contact strips were identified as the 'Siegfried Lauterwasser Collection', but the Eastman Museum web site then attributed them to 'An unknown Nazi photographer', and still does so. My interest was piqued because Siegfried Lauterwasser was Herbert von Karajan's personal photographer, so reader Carol Murchie in the States researched the provenance of the photos for me. Carol was able to confirm that the photographer was indeed Siegfried Lauterwasser, and uncovered a lot more valuable background from Andy Eskind who had researched the collection at the Eastman Museum. My posts of April 19 and April 29 2005 quote in detail Andy's commentary on the photos, but the following from one of his explanatory emails is worth reprising: In brief, Lauterwasser would have been about 22 in 1935 when he did this work which technically isn't very proficient. Sadly, he never - even at the end of his life - revealed much about how he was engaged to cover the Borman outing to Unteruhldingen in May 1935, the Parteitag Rally that September, nor the subsequent small jobs over the next couple of years. What we do know is that he served in the German Army and survived the War - establishing a reputation as a successful photographer specializing in musicians. Returning home to a French Occupation zone, he apparently feared that possession of these pre-War negatives could get him in trouble. So he simply threw out roughly half of them. The match between the half he kept (which today are in the hands of his family), and the half he threw away (those now at GEH [George Eastman House]) doesn't superficially appear to have much rhyme or reason. Perhaps he did it in haste; perhaps he returned to such a clutter after VE day that they had been accidentally scrambled into 2 batches. Further study may or may not clarify this. All photos are reproductions of images available on the Eastman Museum Siegfried Lauterwasser Collection web page. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.



Tribuna musical

December 1

Mozarteum closes season with choral-symphonic Berlin artists

The Herald inaugurates today a new era of weekly Friday appearance and it will continue to cover the relevant news in classical music: opera, ballet and concerts. This first review concerns (paradoxically) the last concerts of the Mozarteum Argentino´s season. As it has done in some earlier years, it said goodbye with masterpieces of the choral-symphonic repertoire, in this case presented by two Berlin visitors: the Rundfunkchor (Radio Choir) and -curiously with an Italian appellation- the Orchestra L´Arte del Mondo. It is a pity that this review only covers the first of the two different programmes, but as will be apparent to readers, this is due to the clash of the second (Tuesday) concert with no less than the Bach great Mass at another venue. On Monday the Colón heard Brahms´ "A German Requiem" ; on Tuesday the "pièce de résistance" was Mozart´s Requiem, and as it lasts one hour, it was heard preceded by a Brahms motet, "Warum ist das Licht gegeben" ("Why is light given") and a curious a cappella arrangement of Mahler´s Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony. The Rundfunkchor was founded in 1925 and has had an important trajectory; its current Director (since last year) is Gijs Leenaars, born 1978 in Nijmegen, Holland, succeeding a famous choral specialist, Simon Halsey. L´Arte del Mondo is much younger; it was founded by Werner Ehrhardt in 2004. As they came in this tour, the choir lists 51 singers, among them the two soloists we heard, soprano Anne Bretschneider (a native Berliner) and baritone Artem Nesterenko (born 1989, Novosibirsk), whose surname is the same as that of a famous bass heard at the Colón in 1982. And the orchestra came with 53 players (among them Ehrhardt as violinist, he is generally conductor) plus two invited BA musicians (tuba, harp). Leenaars conducted. Brahms´ very particular Requiem lasts about seventy minutes and discards the habitual text used by Mozart or Verdi, for it uses versicles from the Old and the New Testaments in the Luther translation; "German" simply because Brahms uses that language. Brahms was incited by both Robert Schumann and his wife Clara Wieck to write a requiem, though they didn´t imagine it would be so original. Also, its progress wasn´t linear; e.g., the second of its seven parts was the reelaboration of a movement from a two-piano sonata that was never finished; other five parts were written later, and the work had a first première in three parts in Vienna (1867) and in six in Bremen (1868); later he added the lovely part with soprano, and it was only in 1869 that the whole score was heard at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. It was soon recognised as a masterpiece and both in length and quality his most valuable contribution to the choral-symphonic repertoire. In 1869 he was 35 and had already written such major works as the First Piano Concerto and the First Sextet. In modern times there has been a plethora of marvelous recordings (Karajan, Klemperer, Sinopoli, et al) and the work has been done quite often in our city; sample: between 1955 and 1968 the Asociación Wagneriana, then a basic institution, presented it three times with its own choir and orchestra. Since that already remote time, it has lost none of its attraction. This year it was offered in BA at the Auditorio de Belgrano (conductor Domínguez) and at La Plata´s Argentino (Vieu). It is a work that shows Brahms´ best qualities: sustained melodic inspiration, sensitivity to the meaning of the words (from the Psalms, epistles of Paul and Peter, Revelation, Isaiah, Matthew, St.James, Proverbs), total counterpoint mastery, an unerring sense of contrast. There´s not a banal or weak moment though it requires total concentration from artists and audience, for it is tryingly dense. The music goes from consoling and serene to stark and granitic, and requires very firm intonation both orchestral and choral. The version we heard was honorable and at times more than that, but it had flaws at various points. I found the choir more even in their performance than the orchestra, who had some maladjustments and doubtful attacks. The speeds were correct but at times the necessary tension wasn´t achieved. The solo singers were musical and pleasant, though the parts can be sung with more personality. And Leenaars, although well-schooled, isn´t yet commanding enough for such powerful music. For Buenos Aires Herald

Herbert von Karajan
(1908 – 1989)

Herbert von Karajan (5 April 1908 - 16 July 1989) was an Austrian orchestra and opera conductor. To the wider world he was perhaps most famously associated with the Berlin Philharmonic of which he was principal conductor for 35 years. Although he was not without criticism, he is generally considered to have been one of the greatest conductors of all time, and he was a dominant figure in European classical music from the 1960s until his death. Part of the reason for this was the large number of recordings he made and their prominence during his lifetime. By one estimate he was the top-selling classical music recording artist of all time, having sold an estimated 200 million records.



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