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Recent pianists…

15 April 2014

Ambiguous Schubert and human Beethoven from Mitsuko Uchida, 9 April

With piano rarities, Hough examines Romanticism, 13 April

In Brahms, a welcome change from showy-but-vapid, 14 April

Recent Reviews…

8 April 2014

A busker’s Platée from Les Arts Florissants in New York, 2 April

Otto Schenk’s Arabella is dusted down at the Met, 3 April

Virtuosic but puzzling recital from Buniatishvili, 7 April

Above, Buniatishvili’s better, less pounding side: Wilhelm Kempff’s transcription of the Minuet from HWV 434/4.

Quite the Bruckner 9 from Honeck and the Philharmonic, plus, Vivier’s Orion

31 March 2014

Just a few months after his one-night-only turn upstaging Anne-Sophie Mutter in Dvořák, this last-minute substitute job on behalf of a flu-stricken Gustavo Dudamel again showed Manfred Honeck to be a vastly underrated conductor. Honeck, who is a former member of the Vienna Philharmonic, a pupil of Claudio Abbado, and presently music director in Pittsburgh, has an innate ability that is simply in another league, compared to any other conductor who regularly guests here. He turns the Philharmonic into something they really ought to be anyway: the orchestra of Mahler, Mengelberg, and Walter. Can we keep him?

Read the rest of my review of Vivier’s Orion and Bruckner 9 from Honeck and the Phil here.

Paul Lewis at Zankel: Bach-Busoni, Beethoven, Liszt, and Mussorgsky

28 March 2014

I had no qualms whatsoever with the second half. It opened with a Liszt triptych that showed how truly great Lewis can be. Beethoven’s answers had been all too easy, but Liszt’s were far less clear, if there were answers to be found at all in this very late music. Schlaflos, Frage und Antwort was restless indeed, centreless and neurotic, its time breaking down through myriad pauses. Through clever pedalling there were ominous clashes to be found even in unison octaves in Unstern! Sinistre, disastro, its crashing dissonances later on rivalling late Mahler, perhaps beyond. And there was barely controlled anger in R. W.–Venezia, Liszt’s lament for his great friend, its fanfares hollow among slithering lines that recalled Tristan.

Read the rest of my review of Paul Lewis’s latest New York date at Bachtrack here.

Goerne’s Wozzeck, Part Two

11 March 2014

Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera

It has been a tale of two Wozzecks this past week in New York, a rare occurrence born of scheduling coincidence. There was a concert performance at Carnegie Hall from the Vienna State Opera and Franz Welser-Möst, and then six days later this, the opening night of a revival of Mark Lamos’ production at the Metropolitan Opera, under the steady hand of James Levine.

Two Wozzecks, but one Wozzeck. Having distinguished himself at Carnegie, both in Wozzeck and in Die schöne Müllerin with Christoph Eschenbach, Matthias Goerne generously stepped in for an indisposed Thomas Hampson, who came down with bronchitis.

A slight delay in posting this owing to travel, but read the rest of my review of the Metropolitan Opera’s Wozzeck at Bachtrack here.

Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach in Die schöne Müllerin

7 March 2014

Marco Borggreve

In the final song, “Des Baches Wiegenlied,” the lullaby enveloped the miller, the brook and its music dragging him in ineluctably, each verse slowing gently, getting quieter, until time entirely dissolved at the mention of the eternal heavens above. It had seduced once, and it entranced one last time.

It was bewitchingly gentle, coaxed to a duration half as long again as any other version of this song I have heard. The paradox was that Goerne and Eschenbach wove the spell so beautifully that, as the beat slackened, one’s heart raced, ever more loudly, eventually hanging on as all that was left.

This was exquisite. Read the rest of my review at Bachtrack here.

Andris Nelsons’ first season with the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced…

5 March 2014

BSO / Marco Borggreve

… and it looks pretty good. Nelsons himself will be in town for ten weeks, which is apparently a problem for some, although I cannot work out why. Certainly this kind of stability will be a welcome change from years of three-week rotations of guest conductors, enabling all kinds of improvements to the orchestra, as well as a sense of direction.

Nelsons gets going with a gala event that also features his wife, Kristīne Opolais, and Jonas Kaufmann. But more importantly, he has littered his first season with tributes to local composers, whether local to Boston or local to him in Latvia. Gunther Schuller, John Harbison, and Michael Gandolfi all receive prime billing, while there are premieres for Brett Dean and Ēriks Ešenvalds, plus Sofia Gubaidulina’s Offertorium. (Further contemporary music comes from Vladimir Jurowski and Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who present Harrison Birtwistle’s new piano concerto, Responses, an unmissable event.) Nelsons will also play to his strengths, of course: Bartók, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Stravinsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Brahms, Haydn, Strauss, Mozart, Bruckner, Shostakovich, Mahler, and Beethoven all feature. Particular highlights ought to be the Rite and Mahler 6, the latter to be performed at Carnegie Hall, and a European tour that will do the usual festival stops.

There is plenty else to whet the appetite in the most exciting season the BSO has put together in years. Bernard Haitink rounds off the season with two programmes, one featuring Maria Joăo Pires in Mozart, the other quite oddly pairing Ravel (Ma Mère l’Oye and the piano concerto) with Mozart and Thomas Adès. Charles Dutoit leads an enticing performance of Szymanowski’s Król Roger, while Stéphane Denève returns with Milhaud, Stravinsky, and Poulenc. Alas, after having to cancel this year’s sole concert with the orchestra, Daniele Gatti does not return.

For far more, see the BSO’s website.

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