Tag Archives: mahler

Lucerne Festival Shake-Up: Mahler Out, Mozart and Beethoven In

I’m hugely disappointed:

Change of program:
LUCERNE FESTIVAL hereby announces that on 8 August as well as on 10 and 11 August, Claudio Abbado will conduct Beethoven’s Incidental music to “Egmont” and Mozart’s Requiem. For artistic reasons, this program replaces the originally scheduled Eighth Symphony by Gustav Mahler.

I had been planning to attend what was to be the culmination of Abbado’s Lucerne Mahler symphony cycle. Interesting that as of the hour of this post lucernefestival.ch seems to be having technical problems (style sheets and javascript are offline). I will post more information as soon as I know more.

A “Das Lied” That Was Well Worth the Wait

I’m listening to a recording of Das Lied von der Erde that has been much awaited among Mahlerphiles: the concert recording of June 14, 1968 with Fritz Wunderlich, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and the Vienna Symphony conducted by Josef Krips. Back when I was with Andante there had been talk about attempting to release the recording; alas, those plans did not come to pass. The good news is that it’s finally been given an “official” release by Deutsche Grammophon. To say the extrovert, characterful performance transcends the boxy sonority (that sounds to these ears to have come from a true “taped off the Telefunken receiver” aircheck and not from a broadcast or archival master) is an understatement – the singing is stunning, and what a treat to hear Krips get such evocative playing from the Vienna Symphony. It’s the most edifying and satisfying vocal release I’ve heard so far this year. Highly recommended.

Deryck Cooke Lives

The voice of legendary critic and musicologist Deryck Cooke has officially been recovered from the depths of the BBC’s tape archives.

On December 10, 1960, the Third Programme (now Radio 3) aired Cooke’s lecture-demonstration on his first realization (with the assistance of composer Berthold Goldschmidt) of Mahler’s Symphony No. 10 followed by a performance of the near-complete realization by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Goldschmidt. This program has long circulated privately among Mahler enthusiasts. Testament Records has just released a newly remastered edition of the broadcast under license from the Beeb — along with a live Proms performance of the completed first realization (with further assistance from David and Colin Matthews) on August 13, 1964 by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Goldschmidt.

I’ve just put disc one on the CD player, and can attest to a huge improvement in sound quality over any privately circulated version I’ve run across. I will have much more to say about this release in the next few days. And here’s something else Mahlerites and admirers of Cooke might find interesting.

 

Maddening Mahler

I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating: conductor Valery Gergiev is uneven, arguably the most inconsistent major conductor on the international scene. When he’s at his best, he’s sensational.

And yes, I can understand that Gergiev + Mahler + the London Symphony Orchestra = sold-out venue, in this case Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center this afternoon. The problem is that the formula is not necessarily good for the music itself. And though the LSO played brilliantly for teh most part, Gergiev’s sometimes micromanaged, sometimes messy, and completely erratic way with Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 undermined the work’s fury, made too elegant outbursts of rage in the third movement, and completely missed the Kubler-Ross-like home stretch from grief to acceptance. I’ve seen memorable performances of this work under Maazel (with the Cleveland Orchestra during my college years) and Haitink (with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra), but if anything, the present performance made me miss the great Klaus Tennstedt more than ever.

Mahler 8 — Gergiev / Mariinsky Orchestra et al @ Carnegie Hall

Performances of Mahler’s Symphony No.8 used to be a rarity anywhere; nowadays, hardly a season passes in New York City without at least one performance, this one being part of a series of Mahler concerts at Carnegie Hall featuring the Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev.

Orfeón Pamplonés and the Choral Arts Society of Washington dominated the present performance, and both of these solidly prepared ensembles’ unanimity of elocution and pitch, well-matched timbre, and stamina left a very strong impression, although there was a notable absence of a genuine pianissimo (let alone the double-pianissimo that opens the final choral section). The very fine Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy sang with enthusiasm and excellent intonation, but were often overpowered by the grown-ups and had to resort to cupping their hands around their mouths to project a little more. A larger ensemble of children was needed; this was a serious miscalculation on the part of Gergiev.

One detail that did work was Gergiev’s decision to position the seven vocal soloists on the far left of the stage – and a selection of singers that was for the most part outstanding. The ensemble singing was satisfying, especially the women’s trio about two-thirds of the way through the second-movement “Faust” scene. I wasn’t so impressed with tenor Sergei Shimishkur’s – issues with his vibrato and intonation were a bit distracting – but his characterization of Doctor Marianus was on target. Anastasia Kalagina’s surprisingly warm soprano was excellently suited to the role of Una Poenitentium, and Alexei Markov’s Pater Ecstaticus was sung with the proper measure of passion and mystery.

It’s a pity I can’t be as enthusiastic about the Mariinsky Orchestra. Gergiev was using a smaller-than-usual string section (only seven double basses), but it was still able to deliver impressive louder passages without the least hint of edge. The strings have a warmer, deeper sound than one has come to expect from Russian orchestras, rock-solid ensemble and intonation, and stunningly precise pizzicatos. Principal violinist Kiril Terentyev played the brief solo melodies with incisive character and real beauty. It was all a marvel of gorgeous sound, and that was one of the largest problems: Mahler’s characterful music often calls for less-than-pretty sonorities, and everything coming from this orchestra was sumptuous – too much so. The string playing in particular (excepting the pizzicatos) was so legato-laden and smoothed-out that accents and strongly rhythmic passages were blunted. And the only true pianissimos were achieved at the beginning of “Faust” movement; all of the other quiet music was one or two dynamic degrees too loud. The woodwinds sounded a bit anaemic and sometimes buried in the texture, particularly in louder passages. Gergiev reined in the brass far too much, and the soft-focus articulation robbed too many passages of declamatory power. There were a handful of intonation issues in the horn section during the first movement.

Gergiev seemed intent on keeping the transitions in the opening ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’ smooth and efficient, which robbed the music of its rhetorical character. Sections of the second movement were a bit better delineated, but Gergiev’s willful failure to heed many of Mahler’s tempo instructions – not to mention a number of unsanctioned rallentandos, tempo shifts, and fermatas – was simply baffling.

The result was a performance that sounded more like a generic late-romantic cantata than the music of Gustav Mahler. Based on this disappointing performance, one could easily conclude that Gergiev has no feel – or respect – for this composer’s music.


Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major

Viktoria Yastrebova, Anastasia Kalagina & Liudmila Dudinova (sopranos: Magna Peccatrix, Una Poenitentium, Mater Gloriosa), Olga Savova & Zlata Bulycheva (mezzo-sopranos: Mulier Samaritana, Maria Aegyptiaca), Avgust Amonov (tenor: Doctor Marianus), Alexei Markov (baritone: Pater Ecstaticus) and Evgeny Nikitin (bass: Pater Profundus)

Orfeón Pamplonés
The Choral Arts Society of Washington
Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy
Mariinsky OrchestraMahler
Symphony No.8


Viktoria Yastrebova, Anastasia Kalagina & Liudmila Dudinova (sopranos: Magna Peccatrix, Una Poenitentium, Mater Gloriosa), Olga Savova & Zlata Bulycheva (mezzo-sopranos: Mulier Samaritana, Maria Aegyptiaca), Avgust Amonov (tenor: Doctor Marianus), Alexei Markov (baritone: Pater Ecstaticus) and Evgeny Nikitin (bass: Pater Profundus)

Orfeón Pamplonés
The Choral Arts Society of Washington
Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy

Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev


Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Valery Gergiev

Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City
Thursday, October 21, 2010


[Originally published at Classical Source]