Monday, January 23, 2017
British cellist Natalie Clein has built a distinguished career, regularly performing at major venues and with orchestras worldwide. She has recorded the two cello concertos by Camille Saint-Saëns as well as Bloch’s Schelomo and Bruch’s Kol Nidrei with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, to great critical acclaim. A keen recital and chamber performer, Natalie Clein regularly collaborates with artists including Martha Argerich, Ian Bostridge, Simon Keenlyside, Imogen Cooper, Leif Ove Andsnes, Lars Vogt and Isabelle Faust. In 2015 Natalie was appointed Artist in Residence and Director of Musical Performance at Oxford University. She is also a professor at the Royal College of Music, London. Natalie came to widespread attention at the age of sixteen when she won both the BBC Young Musician of the Year and the Eurovision Competition for Young Musicians. As a student she was awarded the Queen Mother Scholarship by the Royal College of Music. Here is Natalie Clein in a performance of the Haydn Cello Concerto in C Major:
By the time to read this the season will be over. So here are the parting shots divided in two articles each covering five events. A Monday benefit concert provided the unexpected pleasure of witnessing a piano recital by one of the remaining great veterans: the Brazilian Nelson Freire, an old friend of this theatre, in his middle seventies still a redoubtable virtuoso of magnificent technique and style. Presented by Dar Cultura, Fundación de Acción Social de Jabad, Freire gave a masterclass, so to speak, in his traversals of two fundamental Nineteenth Century Sonatas: Brahms´ Third, Op.5, and Chopin´s Second, Op.58. The Sonatas were played with scrupulous respect for the composers´ indications, readings of marvelous continuity, tonal beauty and control, which revealed the transcendent quality of both composers at their best. Before Brahms, some Bach (an Organ Prelude) arranged by Siloti; and before Chopin, Freire´s ideal way with the music of Villalobos: the beautiful Prelude from Bachianas Brasileiras Nº4 and three pieces from "A prole do bebé" ("The baby´s family"). Encores: a lovely performance of an especially expressive Chopin Mazurka (Op.17/4) and a brilliant one of Grieg´s "Wedding Day in Troldhaugen", one of his most joyous pieces (he lived there). The penultimate concert (Nº 14) of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic was one of the best. We had the revelation of a talented conductor, Carl St Clair, and the best Argentine pianist of his generation, Nelson Goerner, playing Tchaikovsky´s First concerto with amazing firmness. St Clair is a Texan disciple of Bernstein and in his early sixties (I believe) he conducts with the intensity and concentration of his mentor. His career has had two very different high points: Principal Conductor in Weimar and in Berlin´s Komische Oper; and for twenty years the PC of the Pacific Symphony; plus guest conductor with a host of first-rank orchestras. And he has recorded all the Villalobos symphonies. He started with what may be a local première, Bernstein´s "Slava!", subtitled "a political overture", a 4-minute dazzling homage to the composer´s great friend nicknamed Slava, cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, revered here in both capacities. Why political? Because his being named PC of Washington´s National Symphony was a way to recognize both his musical talent and courageous anti-Stalin attitude; and at the time the Cold War was still on. St Clair made the Phil sound like a top rank USA orchestra. Goerner, as unassuming and non-charismatic as ever, played a supervirtuoso concert with such aplomb and exactness that one could only hear open-mouthed at such a display, always very musical; in some passages the only thing lacking for perfection was the mercurial hobgoblin touch of Argerich. And St Clair galvanizing the Phil to offer Goerner the right give-and-take and rhythmic strength he needed to shine as he did. The encore was a beautiful performance of Chopin´s Nocturne Nº15, Op.55/1. St Clair talked to the audience after the interval, an impassioned defense of Shostakovich´s Tenth Symphony as the expression of his pent-up suffering during the Stalin years. And the conductor then proceeded to prove it with an enormously concentrated and beautifully played performance of what is arguably the composer´s most important symphony. The impact of this great work in St Clair´s reading was one of the great moments of the year. He should come back. An unfortunate medical delay allowed me to hear only the second part of Leonid Grin´s concert with the Phil (last of the season, Nº 15). So I missed Weber´s "Oberon" Overture and Tchaikovsky´s Concerto with the Phil´s concertino Pablo Saraví, but I could hear a thrilling interpretation of the best Glazunov Symphony, Nº 5 (1895), warm, melodic and admirably structured music. Grin is Ukrainian, a disciple of Kyril Kondrashin, now in his early sixties. He has held posts at Saarbrücken, Tampere (Finland), San José Symphony (California) and currently at Santiago de Chile. Two decades ago he visited the Phil repeatedly. His solid métier and natural empathy with the Russian repertoire provided an exhilarating ending to the symphonic year. The special interest of the National Symphony´s concert at the Blue Whale conducted by Christian Baldini was the inclusion of essential Sibelius: his last Symphony, Nº7 (1925), rarely done here; just one vast movement of consumate organic cohesion dominated by an unforgettable trombone theme, it crowns the career of the most eminent Nordic symphonist. After good performances of two standards (Beethoven´s Violin Concerto with the National´s concertino Luis Roggero and Sibelius´ "Finland"), Baldini showed his insight and fine technique in the Seventh, abetted by a great trombone player and a responsive orchestra. The final concert of the National Symphony was conducted by the Chilean Francisco Rettig, much appreciated as a Mahlerian. He closed the season with some of Mahler´s extraordinary Lieder with orchestra, certainly the best in history. The orchestral work and Rettig´s sensitive conducting gave much pleasure, but alas, the baritone Luciano Garay showed a startling decline of his vocal means both in the wonderful "Songs of a wayfarer" ("Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen") and in the songs allotted to him in the endlessly varied "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" ("The magic horn of youth"). Mezzo Alejandra Malvino was her reliable, musicianly self both in her participation in "DKW" and in the "Rückert Songs" that end with a marvel, "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" ("I have retired from the World"), though more volume came amiss at several points. A sour note: the unacceptable policies of having no comments on the hand programme and even worse, no subtitles; this is the CCK´s fault, not the NS´, and I hope it is revised next year. For Buenos Aires Herald
A hyper-rare television interview, released today. ‘It goes okay?’ she asks the journalist. ‘Music is wonderful,’ she says, ‘but the profession is not.’ Click here if the video is blocked in your region.
How many of the classical world’s comings and goings, openings and closings, bouquets and brickbats do you remember from the past 12 months? Try our quizWhich one of these pianistic partners did Martha Argerich not play duets with in London this year? Daniel Barenboim Stephen Kovacevich Alberto Portugheis Which mezzo-soprano lost her head as Holofernes in a staggering concert performance of Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans at the Barbican? Ann HallenbergMagdalena Kozena Delphine Galou‘A civilisation that conserves is one that will decay’ said which composer, whose life and music nonetheless were celebrated throughout the year? Pierre BoulezJohn CagePeter Maxwell DaviesWhich operatic anti-hero came to an unfortunate end in a disused sewer in Vienna in English Touring Opera’s new production? Don Giovanni RigolettoHarry LimeWhich one of these conductors pulled out of an engagement to conduct in the Bayreuth Festival this year in as yet unexplained circumstances? Christian ThielemannAndris Nelsons Kirill PetrenkoWhich of these UK opera companies did not welcome a new music director or artistic director (or both) this year? Royal Opera HouseGlyndebourneEnglish National Opera Whose music was performed in a Peckham car park as one of this year’s Proms? David Bowie Benedict Mason Steve ReichThirty-year-old Latvian Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is the newly appointed chief conductor of which British orchestra?City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra London Symphony Orchestra Philharmonia OrchestraWhose opera debut, Pleasure, was set in the toilets of a gay nightclub? Colin Matthews Mark Simpson Anna MeredithSoprano Sarah Tynan sang Britten’s Les Illuminations at the Aldeburgh festival. Who did she perform alongside? A group of acrobats, clowns and aerialistsAn elephant and a camelA virtual reality projection of Britten accompanying her on the pianoIn May, Sheku Kanneh-Mason won the BBC Young Musician competition. Which cello concerto did the 17-year-old perform to take the title? Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minorShostakovich's Cello Concerto No 1 in E flat majorWitold Lutosławski's Cello ConcertoSofia Coppola directed an opera - her first - at Rome's Teatro dell'Opera. Which one?Verdi's La TraviataWagner's Tristan und IsoldeMark-Anthony Turnage's Anna Nicole Who threatened strike action at English National Opera? The boardThe stagehands The chorus Why was Philip Glass's music featured at this year's Glastonbury festival? There was an open-air screening of Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi with Glass's soundtrackEnglish National Opera took the opening act of Akhnaten to the Pyramid stage for a Sunday early afternoon performanceCharles Hazlewood and his Army of Generals performed Glass's Heroes Symphony, inspired by David Bowie's 1977 album.This year's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Kings College Chapel features - as it does every year - a specially commissioned carol. By who?Kanye WestMichael BerkeleyJudith Weir Continue reading...
Wigmore Hall, London Argerich’s uneasiness playing solo meant a programme of works for four hands that, due to her own exceptional skill and formidable technique, was unevenly balanced Every appearance by Martha Argerich is inescapably an event. She is such an exceptional pianist by any standard, and her visits anywhere were for many years such rarities that she long ago acquired a legendary status. But there is a problem.The problem with Argerich’s appearances is not, as it once was, whether she would actually turn up. These days, she plays in the UK a lot – steely Liszt at this summer’s Proms, the Schumann concerto a few weeks later, and this Wigmore Hall concert, only her third appearance at the venue in 40 years. Argerich is back in January too, playing Prokofiev. It’s a bumper period for her legions of admirers. Continue reading...