Friday, October 28, 2016
When two musical giants get together to perform, then good things happen. And on this recording, Martha Argerich and Itzhak Perlman show us the wonderful results, which include the following: Bach, J S: Sonata for Violin & Harpsichord No. 4 in C minor, BWV1017 Brahms: Sonatensatz (Scherzo from the F.A.E. sonata), WoO 2 Schumann: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105 Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 All performed by Martha Argerich (piano) and Itzhak Perlman (violin) It has been 18 years since Itzhak Perlman and Martha Argerich have recorded their last studio album together. On that occasion in 1998, they performed Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata, the Franck Violin Sonata and Schumann’s Violin Sonata No.1 Mr. Perlman said: “Working with Martha was a unique experience for me … Her brilliance and the colors she uses when she plays are recognizeable as soon as you hear them – it’s her; nobody else sounds like that… I am so excited that we were actually able to record together again… When this possibility came along that she might be able to have a couple of days free to record I said, ‘I’ll go any place!’” Martha Argerich added: “I feel so stimulated to play with Itzhak, it’s really a feast – fantastic! It’s a very special relationship, I am completely enchanted.” Here are these two amazing artists in Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata:
Kent Nagano is one of the most complete conductors and some years ago vividly impressed the Mozarteum audiences when he came with the Montreal Symphony. Now he was back with the Hamburg Philharmonic at the Colón with two programmes focussed on German/Austrian Postromantics and they became a major event of the season. Nagano has had a great European career which in principle one wouldn´t expect from a Californian of Japanese ascendance, but he explains that he was trained by a German teacher who imbued him with the very essence of style in the greatest symphonic repertoire. In his DNA there was an innate musicality and it was nurtured by an intelligent guide. A brief résumé. He has held main posts at Lyon Opera (a very innovative tenure), the Hallé Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera, Deutsche Symphonie Berlin, the Bavarian Opera (Munich). And since September 2015 he is Musical Director of the Hamburg State Opera, whose Philharmonic Orchestra gives two hundred performances of opera and ballet plus thirty symphonic and chamber concerts, a tremendous amount of work. I recall that this orchestra came here decades ago led by Aldo Ceccato and for the Mozarteum: a solid ensemble, though not as important as it was on this year´s visit. They trace their origins to as far back as 1828, and during the Twentieth Century they had illustrious conductors: Muck, E.Jochum, Keilberth, Sawallisch and G.Albrecht. Then Ceccato, and afterwards Metzmacher and for ten years before Nagano, Simone Young, the outstanding Australian lady conductress. As it came in this tour they numbered 96 players, big enough for Strauss. They really have 130 players because their enormous yearly task necessitates some rotation of players. And with them came two admirable artists: cellist Gautier Capuçon, who with his violinist brother Renaud played a memorable Brahms Double Concerto here in one of the Argerich Festivals; and Japanese mezzosoprano Mihoko Fujimura, unknown here but very appreciated in Germany, particularly in Wagner. Richard Strauss´ "Don Quixote" (1897) demonstrates his inexhaustible orchestral imagination, who had only one possible match in the late Nineteenth Century: Gustav Mahler. "Don Quixote" has a subtitle, "Fantastic variations on a chivalric subject". The cello is the Don and the viola is Sancho. Between the Introduction and the Finale there are ten variations, some of them with astounding orchestral effects (the sheep sound like advanced atonalism, and flying is cunningly imitated). But it is also a warm portrait of character. It needs a crack orchestra and an inspired cellist: it had both this time. True, Capuçon was somewhat arbitrary as to note values, but his interpretation was expressive and convincing, with beautiful timbre and fine technique. Nagano and the orchestra were stalwart throughout, with perfectly chosen tempi and immaculate playing of the very difficult music, as well as intensity and sustained concentration. Naomi Seiler (viola) and Konradin Seitzer, the concertino of imposing presence and virtuoso quality, made fine contributions. Brahms´ Symphony Nº 1 is probably the best First in history; to say that what we heard was outstanding in the myriad versions we have heard through several decades is no exaggeration. The composer was born in Hamburg and was homaged by the players fully and excitingly. The encores were the subtle Entr´acte from Schubert´s "Rosamunde", lovingly done, and curiously with no hiatus, a fascinating movement from Ligeti´s "Concert Romanesc", as wild a piece as can be imagined, where conductor and orchestra showed that the moderns have no secrets for them. The second programme was very coherent. Before the interval, Wagner´s Prelude to Act One and Love-Death from "Tristan and Isolde", the latter in the orchestral arrangement of the composer; and the five "Wesendonck Lieder", arranged by Felix Mottl the first four and the fifth by Wagner from the original for voice and piano. As two of them have melodies that reappear in "Tristan...", it was a good idea to programme the songs on the poems of Wagner´s muse, Mathilde Wesendonck. Nagano proved a fine Wagnerian, and Fujimura sang with powerful voice and clear understanding of the style. Bruckner´s Sixth Symphony (1881) isn´t as long as the following ones (55 minutes); I find it more technical and less attractive than the Seventh or Eighth, but quite representative of his distinctive personality. Again Nagano and the orchestra showed conclusive professionalism, energy and power of communication. There were no encores. For Buenos Aires Herald
Among her many qualities pianist Martha Noguera has perseverance and the courage to tackle difficult tasks. Long before she created Chopiniana, the pianistic Festival that has brought many great talents to Argentina, she did here in 1998 the integral Beethoven sonatas (32) and all Chopin´s works with opus number in 1999. Her ample career started when she was eleven and she is now in her early seventies, along with Argerich, Gelber and Barenboim. So we have a formidable Argentine school of piano playing. And although they are no longer active, let us not forget such names as Sylvia Kersenbaum and Elsa Púppulo. Her yearly recitals for Chopiniana are always long and difficult, never less than 95 minutes of music. But in recent seasons I felt that she is asking too much from herself, and that her programmes are exhausting for any pianist. Her memory has been proverbial for many decades and her technique is up to almost any hurdle, but now there are occasional fissures in both, although the level remains high. The recital at the Palacio Paz began with Schubert´s last Sonata, Nº21, D.960, surely the most played but not part of her repertoire until recently. Schubert is beautiful but needs patience; days ago I mentioned concerning his Octet the Schumann phrase about him, "heavenly length", and it certainly applies to this 40-minute Sonata. Noguera showed that patience in her faithful, detailed and solid account of the first two movements, never rushing in the slow one, admittedly repetitive. The scherzo was a bit too fast though it held. But the Finale was uneven, with some fine passages followed by others who were, yes, rushed; and at a certain point she wavered and for some seconds didn´t find her way. The Second Part started with one of the most problematic Beethoven Sonatas, Nº28, op.101. The lovely lyrical First movement was done with much sensibility and style, and the brusque "Vivace alla marcia" was tackled with energy. The Finale is the complicated movement: it starts with a morose "Lento", quotes the first movement, and then turbulently falls into a tremendous Fugue, almost as hard to play as that of the "Hammerklavier" Sonata though not so long. But Beethoven states: "not so fast", and pianists should comply, for Noguera started too fast and then had to keep that pace as the music became more and more arduous; apart from some slips, again it happened that suddenly a figuration didn´t come out well and she repeated it for some seconds until resuming the progress of the music. Then she played Chopin: two youthful works, the Rondo op.16 and the rarely done First Sonata op.4. The Introduction and Rondo, to give its proper name, was written in 1832, when he was 22, a brilliant showpiece light in content: Chopin as a virtuoso. As I have no score, I can´t vouchsafe that everything was played as written, but Noguera produced plenty of fireworks. The Sonata is a strange work, written as a teenager (18). The initial Allegro maestoso is based on a chromatic subject, and its course provides many surprises, although with a feeling of immaturity. The Larghetto is melodic but rather tame, and the Menuetto has charm, although this form is certainly not Romantic. The Finale is speedy, ample and rather entangled. Was it this last characteristic that troubled Noguera? For she skipped four whole pages of score in what seemed a memory lapse. Up to then she had played quite well. The hall was full, for Noguera has a large following, and Poland´s Ambassador was present and gave her a public homage. Her encores were temerary but surprisingly were among the best interpretations of the evening: a murderous arrangement by György Cziffra of Rimsky-Korsakov´s "Flight of the Bumblebee"; and the ultrafamous Chopin "Heroic" Polonaise, in a strong and assured performance full of the adequate contrasts. May I venture a suggestion for next year? Be a little less ambitious and play a shorter and not so arduous programme. For Buenos Aires Herald
Perlman/Argerich (Warner Classics)Here is a meeting of great musical minds. Itzhak Perlman and Martha Argerich came together for a single recital in Saratoga in 1998, two thirds of which was released – their only previous disc together. Now we have the other sonata from that concert, Schumann’s No 1 in A minor. From the start, Argerich’s piano playing is supremely alive, moving under Perlman’s muscular melody in ebbing, tugging waves. Perlman spins out the second movement into a single, seamless phrase; his tone is a bit crunchy in the agitated finale, but the exhilaration of a live performance is all there. Even more intriguing are the new studio versions of Schumann’s Drei Fantasiestücke, Brahms’s FAE Scherzo and Bach’s C minor Sonata. Perlman’s tone may be fractionally less sweet than it was nearly two decades ago, but the sense of line in his playing remains supreme, and Argerich’s Bach accompaniments are like a sprung dancefloor underneath him. Continue reading...
The venerable Charles Dutoit, 80 years old today, tells Rodrigo Carrizo Couto in a rare interview that next summer will be his last as music director of the Verbier Festival. swissinfo.ch: Usted dirige la Orquesta del Festival de Verbier, en Suiza. C.D.: Sí, una semana al año. Pero la próxima edición será la última, pues tengo ya una edad respetable, y el trabajo diario con una orquesta de jóvenes me agota. Los he dirigido durante nueve años y considero que es suficiente. Verbier tiene mucha suerte de contar con el talento de un director, Martin Engstroem, que supo hacer este festival conocido mundialmente. The full interview, which will be published in English and German versions tonight, contains lovely tales of his short marriage to Martha Argerich and their long friendship. Click here for the extra languages.
Study in contrasts: in the same Wednesday I witnessed the presentation of two very different pianists: I have already reviewed Alexander Ullman´s refined Chopin at the Gran Rex, too big and matte a hall for him. And now, the comeback of veteran Argentine pianist Eduardo Delgado, for Chopiniana at the Palacio Paz, an artist of very powerful sound in a resonant small hall. Born in Rosario, the mere mention of his teachers reveals his generation, that of Argerich, a good friend of his: Vicente Scaramuzza here, Sergio Lorenzi in Venice, Rosina Lhevinne at the Juilliard. His career as a pianist has been chequered, but he has long been an esteemed teacher (twenty years at California´s State University, Fullerton) and member of the jury of numerous international competitions. He has collaborated with José Cura in two records and committed to CDs Ginastera´s complete piano music. (By the way, his biography in the hand programme was horridly translated, probably Google´s). Although he has visited his hometown (Rosario) often, he played rarely in Buenos Aires. I was told that he wanted very much to give a recital here. I heard him when he was young (1965) and once with Argerich in one of her festivals, so I was quite interested in this live contact. The first thing that struck me was that the programme was enormous, as if to compensate for his long absence. Also, the wrong lack of information about the two Domenico Scarlatti pieces he played: there are over 560 of them! And all we were told was "Two sonatas"; you need the Kk (Kirkpatrick) number, the catalogue that superseded Longo´s. And finally, the lack of stylistic affinity mixing Schumann and Ravel in the First Part when the latter should have begun the Second Part, particularly because the chosen piece, the "Alborada del Gracioso", is a good companion to Granados. Such criteria from a veteran teacher pianist surprised me, for they mean poor judgment. But of course the playing is the main thing, and after the First Part there were colliding opinions. Not about Scarlatti, which seemed correct in style and well played: a slow and a fast one, both rather well-known. But Schumann´s "Fantasia" is his most difficult score, and probably the best, even harder than "Carnaval" or the "Symphonic Etudes". There was no gainsaying about the artist´s concentration and involvement, really intense, but I felt (and others concurred) that much was arbitrary and his touch was too massive, that there were numerous smudges and that he fell often in that irritating fault of anticipating the left hand in chords so that they sounded like arpeggios. Others minimized these problems and were carried away by the pianist´s Romantic impulse. Ravel´s "Pavane for a dead Infanta" (not just "Pavane", as the programme said) needs flow and charm; I didn´t find these qualities. But the "Alborada del Gracioso", cheeky, Spanish and advanced both in harmony and rhythm, was quite good, perhaps his best playing in the recital; he solved perfectly passages of very fast repetition of a single note. The Second Part was presented by Delgado, who said that it commemorated the centenary of both Granados´ death and Ginastera´s birth. Also, it was announced that Chopin´s "Fantasia", Op.49, was a mistake in the programme and wouldn´t be played; not so, Delgado had ceded to an opinion stressing that there was too much music in the evening. "La maja y el ruiseñor" and "El amor y la muerte" are two intricate and long pieces from Granados´ "Goyescas" suite, certainly his most elaborate and important music. They need the light touch and the Spanish character that Alicia de Larrocha knew how to communicate; Delgado was much too loud and blocky. Ginastera´s concise "Suite de Danzas criollas" Op.15 and the Sonata Nº3, his very last piano piece (1982), are joined by devotion to the malambo (in fact the one-movement five-minute Sonata should be called so, or Toccata). This is rustic and rhythmic Ginastera, one that tolerates Delgado´s energetic approach. Encores: after a bad start in Chopin´s Etude Op.10 Nº 11 (all arpeggios) he did it reasonably well; and the subtle Ginastera of the "Danza de la moza donosa" showed that Delgado can play lightly when he wants. For Buenos Aires Herald