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29.7.04

Redemption the Redeemer 



A Parsifal at Bayreuth is always an event. Wagner's Bühnenweihfestspiel is—together with the Ring—the most important opera on the "Green Hill" in Bayreuth, and this year the direction of the new production fell to the hands of opera neophyte Christoph Schlingensief.

In a response to (just) criticism about his autocratic and inflexible leadership, Wolfgang Wagner (the master's grandson and brother of the wonderful director Wieland) surprised Wagnerites by handing the 2004 Parsifal and the 2005 Ring to relatively young newcomers to the world of opera: theater director Schlingensief and filmmaker Lars von Trier (Zentropa, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville), respectively. The latter, very unfortunately, gave up on the daunting project, apologizing for not feeling that he would be up to the challenge (see post on June 7). Schlingensief, infamous for having staged a Hamlet in Zurich with a cast made up entirely of neo-Nazis and skinheads, however, did pull his vision through and—A. C. Douglas's opinion notwithstanding—succeeded.

His Parsifal was calmly hailed by the press (see post on June 26) and many viewers alike as being interesting, bold, attractive, and at the very least a Parsifal that does not allow the viewer to nod off at any moment during the production. "Interesting" could be interpreted as damning it with faint praise, but Schlingensief's production is not one to be reacted to with blasé, mild approval. His cluttered, ethnically enriched, video-enhanced Parsifal was provocative (as good opera should be), generally considered "difficult" and laden with symbols—probably (and forgivably, for a novice) far too many of them. Parsifal was Jesus-like, with the blood of representatives of the world's religions on his garb. Klingsor was demonic, in a costume that befitted a villain in computer RPGs with a heavy part black voodoo magician. Video projections, many of them done by Schlingensief for other works of his in the past, added another, sometimes confusing, layer on top of the singers and their surroundings. Set with very dim lighting (a Bayreuth tradition, almost), the colorful costumes could not be appreciated until curtain, and at times it was apparently difficult to distinguish between singers and "stuff" on stage. But it did sweep away the 70-year-old tradition of offering minimalist, geometrically designed sets off the Bayreuth stage that had been the opera's hallmark. (This is only the seventh new production of Parsifal in Bayreuth since its premiere in 1882.)
Christian Schlingenseif, 2004
Christoph Schlingensief, director of Parsifal
Parsifal, Bayreuth Festival, 2004
Parsifal, Bayreuth Festival, 2004
Endrik Wottrich as Parsifal, 2004
Endrik Wottrich as Parsifal, Bayreuth Festival, 2004

An art cemetery, Andy Warhol's Cans, Albrecht Dürer's hare (see post on September 5, 2003) make cameos—and that's just Act 3. Scenic reductionism is not what this Parsifal is about, then. The scandal that many expected and even more had hoped for did not occur. The fairly decent amount of boos were predictable and premeditated, the applause generous. For all the hoopla of bringing a directing novice to the sacred Wagner temple, Wolfgang Wagner wanted to be safe on the musical side and brought in Wagner veteran, l'enfant terrible-turned-Keeper-of-the-Grail Pierre Boulez to conduct the affair. His Wagner conducting—fast, crisp, ascetic, with heavy accents—was radical when he had the musical direction of the Patrice Chereau Ring (1976) or Parsifal in 1966; it isn't anymore, though. The press reacted differently to the music: the German press was reserved and indifferent to critical, referring to Boulez's own words on his approach to Wagner rather than bothering to explain, and the foreign press was more enthused about the musical quality. The Bayreuth choir, everyone agreed, was in top form. The singing, and agreement, here, too was barely up to Bayreuth standards, however. Boulez's thin approach to the score helped, in that it meant that the singers did not have to yell. Endrik Wottrich (Parsifal) did it anyway, Eleonore Büning from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wryly remarked. Alexander Marco-Buhrmester and Kwangchul Youn (Amfortas and Titurel, respectively) were the only ones to get high marks in her book.

But who cares about the performance when—also a Bayreuth tradition—there is a scandal to talk about, after all. Not about the direction or the singing, but involving the director and a singer. The first tremors were felt when Endrik Wottrich (Parsifal) panned the production in an interview a few days before the premiere (mentioned by A. C. Douglas at sounds & fury). Wolfgang Wagner was surprisingly lenient, though that might just have something to do with the fact that his daughter and scheduled successor to his position, Katharina Wagner, is "good friends with" Wottrich. Wottrich having his own opinion about a production is fine, but he wasn't very diplomatic about it. Schlingensief, of course, not averse to a good exchange on artistic visions, had his way of getting back, mentioning that Wottrich had problems with the African elements of the opera (he had said so himself) and objected to "Negroes" running about the stage. Schlingensief went on to say that he didn't share Wottrich's concept of "purity" for Germany—which, if you know anything about Germany, is tantamount to firing the silver bullet without looking vicious yourself. Wottrich fired back. He was not going to let someone like Schlingensief dictate whether he could say "Negro" (the German Neger, which isn't a terribly bad thing to say, but politically incorrect for at least a decade and a half) and anyway he didn't have a problem with blacks but would equally object if white homeless bums were on stage. At any rate, it was dragging Wagner down into the dirt and Western Civilization was far too good for that. Finally it was really Schlingensief who was the racist and Nazi, because he put blacks into roles associated with serving others in Parsifal.

If Wottrich, the archetype of a cultural conservative with a lack for subtleties in public perception, helped himself much with the rebuttal is for others to decide, but it made and still makes for a juicy little éclat. In the end he called Schlingensief's production "dirt" and "trash" and vowed not to sing it again next year. Which, just from the position of someone appreciating good singing, is probably not so terrible a loss. But who will provide the scandal?

More reading on this Parsifal can be found on Alex Ross' splendid blog "The Rest is Noise" - especially his Bayreuth Pilgrimage (Tannhäuser, anyone? The redemtption theme linking it back to Parsifal) Part 1, 2 and 3. You would not want to miss his reporting on the 'statues' of Wagner's dog Russ that populate Bayreuth, though.

23.7.04

The Legacy of Carlos Kleiber on Disc 


Available at Amazon:
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L. van Beethoven, Symphonies No. 5 and 7, VPO
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Hybrid SACD
L. van Beethoven, Symphonies No. 5 and 7, VPO

Carlos Kleiber was notoriously difficult to lure to the recording studio. Whenever he did record, however, something magical was sure to come out. His Beethoven 5th (and 7th) Symphony are unanimously hailed as the versions to measure all others against. They continue to stand the test of time, and re-released as SACDs, this Deutsche Grammophone Originals disc ought to be the cornerstone of every music-lover's library. It will continue to outshine, outsell, outlive all other rivals. Forget 'historically informed', forget discussions about tempo... under Kleiber this work is everything you can imagine it to be, and all along it will always sound 'just right'. Never forced, never willful, there is not a hint of 'interpretation' - just music at its most frightening, at its most beautiful, lyrical... Enjoy!



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J. Brahms, Symphony No.4, VPO
His Brahms 2nd was a staple of his painfully narrow repertoire. Unfortunately, he did not record it for DG. Instead, we have a splendid Brahms 4th from him. "Swaggering gait" is attested to in the stupendous Scherzo, and the playing from the Vienna forces (the recording is from 1981 and sounds great, still!) is impeccable. Not the most lyrical of accounts, but one of the most important. It is Carlos Kleiber on record, at mid-price, so we are not asking for a coupling... petty questions reserved for lesser gods of the recording industry. I am still a sucker for my Brahms symphonies with the late Günter Wand (RCA, Brahms Symphonies 1-4), but I would not want to be without this one, either.




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R. Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Staatskapelle Dresden
Tristan und Isolde took a special place in his musical life, and it should, in ours, as well. Alas, his DG recording from Dresden with Margaret Price as Isolde, Brigitte Fassbaender as Brangäne, René Kollo as Tristan, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Kurwenal, and Kurt Moll as King Marke is not without fault. The interpretation is lithe and gorgeous, and the balance and the remastered sound are superb, though some describe it as a bit metallic. Margaret Price is not the dramatic soprano usually tackling Isolde, but her voice is beautiful and works well for most of the opera's length. Gramophone's Alan Blythe thought that Brigitte Fassbaender would have made a better coupling with a different Isolde, but I am taken by her Brangäne entirely. Kollo and Dieskau are not the backbone of this recording, while Kurt Moll is his usual flawless, moving, exceptional self as Marke. With Furtwängler, Barenboim, Böhm, the endless Bernstein, perhaps even the new Thielemann (see Dip Your Ears, No. 7), this is not the natural first choice.

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R. Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, 1974 Bayreuth
There is, however, a recording of the most sublime Tristan moment in Kleiber's life, his 1974 Bayreuth performance. Helge Brilioth as Tristan is no Wolfgang Windgassen, and he seems to be concerned about economy at times, but it pays off in Act II, I am told. Catarina Ligendza is strange in a good way: naive, childlike, and at the same time threatening. Donald McIntyre was past his prime, but Yvonne Minton made for one of the finest performances of a Brangäne. For Kurt Moll the usual statement applies. The Melodram recording (less expensive than one might expect because this Tristan fits on three CDs) captures the sound of Bayreuth well enough, and magic happens as Kleiber conducts with fire, unearthing little nuances that others throw away, always in the interest of the piece at large. For the Kleiber-Tristan experience, this is the recording to get... though I would still want to own a studio Tristan besides it.

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C. M. von Weber, Der Freischütz, Staatskapelle Dresden
Sticking with opera, Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz, often considered to be the first true German opera, with Kleiber—recorded in 1973 with excellent sound—has few rivals (Rafael Kubelik on Decca being the only serious available one) and has garnered much praise. Gramophone's John Warrack feels that some of the tempi are not as he would want them but underscores how interesting and full of insight this recording is. (His colleague Alan Blyth, however, does not care for the whole thing much.) The cast is fairly impeccable with Gundula Janowitz as Agathe, Peter Schreier as Max, Bernd Weikl as Ottokar, Theo Adam as Caspar, etc., and the result is delectable to my ears. For anyone with a hankering for German Romantic opera, this is an ought-to-have.

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G. Verdi, La Traviata , Bayerisches Staatsorchester
Opera yet again, this time Verdi's La Traviata, one of Kleiber's staples. Available in three different versions (apart from the regular issue also as Centenary Collection, and SACD!) it is famous for Ileanas Cotrubas—a light, fragile, and wholly believable Violetta, not a showstopper but a woman, now sick, albeit with amazing vocal control. Quibbles about tempi among critics occur, but this is still a wonderfully well-judged performance that, due to a few cuts, none of which are disconcerting to me, conveniently fits on two CDs. Placido Domingo as Alfredo and Sherill Milnes as Germont don't hurt either... and for anyone wanting a dramatic and moving Traviata rather than purest vocal fireworks, this would be the set to go to.

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J. Strauss, Jr., Die Fledermaus, Bayerisches Staatsorchester
Die Fledermaus (The Bat), the light and fun operetta by Johann Strauss, Jr., was another favorite of Carlos Kleiber's - and it 'hears' on this recording, perhaps the finest Fledermaus on disc. What saddens me, who is used to seeing the operetta in full, with all the dialog, is that the latter is cut. A particular shame since the direction was with the incomparable August Everding. Everyone else, it seems, takes objection to Ivan Rebroff singing the role of Prince Orlofsky in falsetto, a 'trouser-role' for mezzo soprano. Amidst Julia Varady (Rosalinde), Lucia Popp (Adele), Hermann Prey (Eisenstein), René Kollo (Alfred), Bernd Weikl (Doctor Falke), et al., this doesn't quite concern me as much, though—especially since I am not convinced by a real mezzo as Prince Orlofsky either. A minor annoyance can be that changing discs takes place more or less mid-Act II finale. Alas, anyone with a disc changer and no desire to hear funny German (oxymoron?) dialogue has no excuse but to own this version.

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F. Schubert, Symphonies No. 3 and 8 ("Unfinished"), VPO
Schubert, alas, including the 3rd Symphony he conducted so often. But neither the 3rd nor the 8th, the "Unfinished," convince 100%. "Hard driven" is a term rightly ascribed to the unduly fast tempi that Kleiber employs, especially in the 8th. The musicianship is still extant, and amply so... the Vienna Philharmonic plays superbly, and the sonics are good. The spirit of Schubert, however, might have been AWOL. Perhaps this isn't so bad, if for no other reason than that Kleiber probably has something to say, even if we don't find it fitting our expectations. Still, Solti (also with the VPO) on Decca or Günter Wand on RCA are likely to get more playtime at home.


20.7.04

In Memoriam Carlos Kleiber 


Carlos Kleiber, 1930-2004
On July 13th, in a little Slovenian village named Konjsica, died one of the most exciting, one of the greatest conductors that classical music ever knew. To lump Carlos Kleiber together with others by saying "one of the..." is already doing him injustice - too unique was this son of the conducting great Erich Kleiber. To describe his repertoire as narrow would be euphemistic - he conducted the same works over and over, to the point of obsession. Brahms' 2nd, Beethoven's 5th, Schubert's 3rd, Tristan, Die Fledermaus, La Traviata and Der Rosenkavalier. Not because he had to (from the 70s on he didn't hold fix positions as conductor of an orchestra or opera house) - but because he wanted to.

Herbert von Karajan, who thought Carlos Kleiber to be a genius, said once - not entirely without malice - that it is sad that such an artist doesn't really like music. This was a comment on the notorious difficulties that were involved in getting Kleiber to conduct at all. Allegedly, responding to Karajan asking him why he did not conduct more, Kleiber said that he conducted only when his freezer had become all empty. Kleiber's genius had him recognized as the most exciting conductor of his time, especially after Bernstein was dead. He was offered almost anything (unlimited rehearsals, any amount of money) to conduct - and seldom did.

Kleiber was difficult, gratuitously so, it seemed - and he was almost autistic in his shyness (Wolfgang Sawallisch reports having almost to push timid Carlos unto the podium, wherefrom on, however, everything being just fine) - and he undoubtedly was influenced by his Über-Father, Erich, who did everything to discourage his son from a conducting career. Like many a musical genius (and some who think they are), Carlos Kleiber seemed driven to "non-functionality", as Joachim Kaiser from the Süddeutsche Zeitung puts it. Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and, to a lesser degree, Glenn Gould come to mind.

Claudio Abbado thought Kleiber the best Tristan conductor, even before Bayreuth, in 1974, got to see, hear, breathe the magic that Kleiber unfolded on the 'Green Hill'. Tristan & Isolde transfigured Kleiber, Wolfgang Sander from the Frankfurter Allgemeine(n) Zeitung reports of Kleiber being described as suddenly growing during a an Elektra or Tristan performance, his limbs seemingly extending; Kleiber transfigured. And the Wagner Opera he so loved brought him to the brink of collapse on several reported occasions.

If Bernstein knew how to begin a work, Kleiber knew how to end one. Which, with his unsurpassed sense of musical architecture, was one of the reasons why critics were so effusive in finding neologisms of praise for him (or leaving their column blank, declaring a Brahms e-minor symphony so 'complete' that they were at a loss for words). The end of a work, the beginning of memory and the point from which a successful journey can be judged... Now we are with Carlos Kleiber himself at that point. He died and was buried on his mothers' estate in Konjsica, age 74. Blessed those with memories of live performances, but even those who rely on the handful of outstanding recordings available can look back and see that this, for all the incongruencies, was one of the most successful journeys any musician had ever undertaken.



19.7.04

Dip Your Ears... ( 7 ) 

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R. Wagner,
Tristan und Isolde (live),
Christian Thielemann
Another Tristan from Universal Classics, this time the May 2003 (live) account from the Vienna State Opera that was rightly hailed for the debut of Deborah Voigt as the first American Isolde in Vienna. The cast is, for modern times, quite outstanding - Petra Lang is a most splendid Brangäne, Thomas Moser not a strong but convincing Tristan, Robert Holl a very fine Marke. But more than anything else, this is about Thielemann and his relationship with the Vienna forces that respond with their best playing to this conductor who has few equals in the late German romantic repertoire. Munich must be sallivating to have him take on their Philharmonic, continuing the tradition that had its sumptuous glory honed by the late Celibidache before James Levine (now in Boston) took over. Thielemann has Wagner glow and bristle that it is a joy. The recording, live as it is, is marred by some uneven balances - the choir especially is set rather far back compared to all studio recordings and other live accounts - and the stage noises, contributing at times, can be distracting at other times. The fine Tristan this is, it does not replace among modern recordings my cherished Barenboim version with Waltraud Meier, Siegfried Jerusalem, Marijana Lipovsek etc. - and as far as live versions go, Karl Böhm's recording (also on three CD's) with Birgit Nielsson and Wolfgang Windgassen holds out. Furtwängler's, too, is still a Tristan to listen to, despite its age - especially in its new cheap EMI edition. To explore either Thielemann's or Voigt's artistry though, this is a great set to have - and if you have only this Tristan in your collection, you aren't off badly at all, either. ƒƒ


16.7.04

Dip your Ears... ( 6 ) 

Short comments on recently acquired discs.


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L.v. Beethoven,
Piano Concerto no.4, Symphony no.2 (chamber versions),
Robert Levin

Another disc of standard Beethoven repertoire? Geeez, what could be so special about the n'th recording of a 2nd Symphony and the 4th Piano Concerto? Well, for starters, the fact that these are the Beethoven transcribed versions for piano trio and piano sextet! An acquaintance had said some time ago, that if the 2nd Symphony had never been written, this piano trio version of it would be a regular guest in concert halls around the world, hailed as one of the finest trios ever written - together with the Archduke and the Ghost. Beethoven himself had a hand in finishing that transcription–and the Piano Concerto was transcribed entirely by him.
The playing is impeccable with Robert Levin, a period performance specialist, on a Fortepiano and the first chairs of the Orchestre Revolutionnaire e Romantique backing him up. (Robert Levin was also the soloist for the highly acclaimed Gardiner/ORR survey of Beethoven's complete piano concertos.) This is joyous chambermusic that sounds eerily familiar, it adds both to the smaller, more intimate genre as well as adding to ones understanding and appreciation of the larger works that stood model for them. These are not the make-shift transcriptions that were common in times where larger works could hardly be heard by a wider public–and they sure deserve a listen. ƒƒ






12.7.04

Dip Your Ears... ( 5 ) 

Short comments on recently acquired discs.

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J. Haydn,
Piano Sonatas (Vol.7),
Jenő Jandó

Trusty Joseph Haydn, one of the greatest composers of all time, yet too humble and tame even 200 years after his death (1809). His symphonies get plenty of play, his string quartets, too, are hailed, but for a man who hasn't had a weak spot in his entire œuvre (well, some of those operas are not outright brilliant, one could argue), it should be surprising that his piano sonatas are not better known. Fifty-five piano sonatas flowed from his pen, most of them every bit as good and engaging as W. A. Mozart's, perhaps less "pretty"... but ultimately overshadowed by Beethoven's output. Piano sonatas nos. 29, 33, 34, and 35 get a wonderful outing here from Jenö Jandó on Naxos. Volume 7 in his survey of Haydn's entire piano sonata output, this is a particularly well-played disc, rivalling other wonderful recordings by Emanuel Ax, Leif Ove Andsnes, or Sviatoslav Richter, without overlapping with them in the selection of sonatas. His touch—for example, in the Andante of no. 29 in E-flat major, Hob. XVI:45 (delightfully confusing)—is fleet without being precious, and the playing is admirably straightforward, without pomp where there belongs none. A tad more emotional wallowing might be desired by some, but I don't find it lacking in depth or enjoyment. On occasion methinks I can hear Mr. Jandó hum along ever so slightly, but it can't compare to the out-of-kilter Gould humming in his highly interesting if overly idiosyncratic five last Haydn sonatas. At the Naxos price it is a wonderful, if not essential, addition to one's library. ƒƒ





9.7.04

Dip Your Ears... ( 4 ) 

Short comments on recently acquired discs.

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J. S. Bach,
Six Suites for Violoncello,
Pieter Wispelwey
Bach—in solo works again—this time the equally famous Six Suites for Unaccompanied Violoncello, played by Pieter Wispelwey on a Baroque cello and a violoncello piccolo. Like his colleague on Channel Classics, Rachel Podger (see post on July 7), Mr. Wispelwey (who is Dutch) has a knack for historical performance practices but is considered a "generalist specialist" with a wide-ranging repertoire from Baroque to contemporary music. Just as Nathan Milstein's DG recording looms over the solo violin sonatas and partitas, the patrician accounts of Pierre Fournier (Archiv—DG Originals) soar above and beyond the competition. Fournier has modest tempi (unlike the unfortunately bland and rushed Rostropovich [EMI]) and compared to the exciting if decidedly un-Baroque and idiosyncratic second Mischa Maisky recording (DG)—see the Ionarts double review of Maisky's recent concert in Washington, from June 10—Fournier is a veritable Baroque specialist. With tension aplenty, Fournier is always profound, persuasive, musical like few others and completely excels in the dance movements, especially the "French" ones. But, of course, Pieter Wispelwey is the true Baroque specialist, and as such, it is stunning how much energy he musters. More exciting than all but a few competitors, he doesn't have to sacrifice structure, tone, or rhythm to achieve it. Though far from hasty, he can be fleet on occasion, and Bach is meaningful for every second of the two hours and twenty minutes of music. With first-rate sound from the Channel Classics engineers, this makes a natural first choice for period performances and will be a standard bearer. The Fournier, with its surprisingly good sound, however, must also be had, and as the "anti-Fournier," the lovingly crazy Maisky deserves two ears. ƒƒ



7.7.04

Dip Your Ears... ( 3 ) 

Short comments on recently acquired discs.

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D. Scarlatti,
Sonatas,
Ivo Pogorelich
When Ivo Pogorelich is described as a "unique" pianist, it isn't always laude that carries with that description. But he's always got something to say - and I, for one, rather like his Chopin Préludes op.28 and his Liszt Sonata in b-minor. What a surprise then, to hear him in these Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas, recorded over a decade ago, where Pogorelich is one of the least indulgent players in the slow sonatas. Scarlatti's 555 (!) keyboard sonatas, written for the harpsichord and clavicembalo, work marvelously on the modern grand piano (although it took me some time to get used to it) and sound eerily modern at times. One of Vladimir Horowitz's best recordings is one with Scarlatti sonatas and Mikhail Pletnev's two-disc recording of Scarlatti Sonatas was just re-issued at budget price. Pogorelich's one-hour recording seems to overlap more with Pletnev's than it actually does, and he is every bit as good as his compatriot. Unlike Pletnev, he doesn't exaggerate every contrast in the sonatas - and he has funny ideas about the meaning of Allegro in Sonata K 8, but all in all, his playing is more like Pletnev's than it is different. I find both superb - and am tempted to give a slight edge to Pletnev over Pogorelich. It is a great Scarlatti CD to have, but at twice the price with half the music of the Pletnev re-issue (Virgin Classics), it can't be a first choice. ƒƒ





5.7.04

Dip Your Ears... ( 2 ) 

Short comments on recently acquired discs.

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J.S. Bach,
Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin,
Rachel Podger

Rachel Podger's Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin BWV 1001-1006 are another true delight. "Authentic baroque" again, with Mme. Podger who is a professor of Baroque Violin in London and Bremen. Now issued conveniently as a two-disc set (for the price of one) by Channel Classics, this is a truly outstanding effort and showered with critical acclaim as it was (like above Saul), it isn't difficult to recommend this recording of some of Bach's finest works. Rachel Podger is convincing, stellar even, and always interesting in her tackling of these seminal works that continue to cast their shadow over any composer writing for solo violin. With brio and her technical prowess, she gets the most out of the rhythm, the jagged corners, the arresting double stops and all the other elements that make these six works so great. In her energy and tension, she rivals my favorite account of these works, Nathan Milstein’s 1975 recording for DG... and Milstein was by no means playing on a baroque violin nor going for authenticity in style. Thick and positively grading at times, Rachel Podger (or rather, her tone!) is energetic like one would not assume in a 'historically informed' performance and the lack of a creamy vibrato and a strong rubato does not affect the enjoyability one bit. For modern and period recordings, this goes straight to the top of my list - and meets all-time favorites Nathan Milstein, Arthur Grumiaux, the mellifluous Shlomo Mintz, the sweetly melodic Itzhak Perlman, or even the wilful Jascha Heifetz. ƒƒ







4.7.04

Anyone for Tennis? 


A little occursion to the greens of Wimbledon. Defending champion Roger Federer and Andy Roddick, the number one and two seats respectively met each other in the final - and what a final it was. Splendid tennis at the highest level, both players giving it their best and Roger Federer with the better end after (yet another) rain break. Not only was it wonderful to see Federer's excellent playing... truly one of the best players on the tour these days, with tennis to kindle excitement even among those spoiled by the tennis played by the likes of Borg, Stich, Edberg et al., it was also good to see Roddick play well and act even finer. Little consolation as it must be to him, losing the Wimbledon final, this loss and his demeanor are certain to make him grow and even better liked among tennis-aficionados around the world. The young man who started as a power-playing, cocky American youngster is maturing quickly into one of the finest additions to tennis. A few more losses like that and he'll be well on his way to becoming a tennis-great. Federer might already be there... and tennis fans rightfully hope for theirs to become a rivalry for years to come.

P.S. Now we just need a Murat Safin at the top of his game to re-enter the scene!

3.7.04

Dip Your Ears... ( 1 ) 

Short comments on recently acquired discs.

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G. F. Handel,
Saul,
Paul McCreesh


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J. S. Bach,
St. Matthew Passion,
Paul McCreesh
Saul is a magnificent work. Indeed, it is one of Handel's best works, even if less well known than the more static Messiah or his incidental orchestral or organ music. In this new recording, to top it off, the best case is made for an already so exciting work. Paul McCreesh and his authentic instrument troupe, the Gabrieli Consort & Players—just back from a stunning Bach St. Matthew Passion—get into it with their typical freshness and joviality that will have you get the jitterbug. The size of the orchestral forces is rather big, for Handel at any rate, and diverse. Organ, timpani (plenty!), carillion* (yay!), harp, and lots of other things. In fact, it's already as big as if Otto Klemperer himself had reorchestrated it. The complete thing, on three discs, lasting over two and a half fun hours, has the superb singing of countertenor Andreas Scholl (David), as well as Neal Davies (Saul), Susan Gritton (Merab), et al., and comes with the usual informative booklet and libretto in French, English, and German. A vocal baroque delight par excellence and not to be missed. ƒƒ

* CARILLON:

From medieval Latin
quadrillionem, which refers to four stationary bells commonly used in France to indicate the time. Three high-pitched bells chimed the quarter-hours, while a fourth and deeper-toned one tolled the hour.

A set of cast bronze bells arranged in chromatic order and so tuned as to be capable of concordant harmony. They are normally played from a clavier of wooden keys and pedals but may also be played from an ivory keyboard with electric action.





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