Thursday, April 29, 2010

Opera is Alive & Well in Metrowest Boston

Opera is alive & well in Metrowest suburbs of Boston.  On Saturday night, April 24th, we attended the Metrowest opera which performed "The Magic Flute" by W.,A. Mozart. at the Theater at Weston Town Hall at 11 Townhouse Road in Weston, MA.  The Metrowest opera collaborative was established in 2007 and is now in its 3rd season.  My daughter, Elana works with Erin Smith who was singing Pamina that night.  It indeed turned out to be a marvelous evening.  The enture cast and production team deserve a lot of credit for a superlative performance.  There was a small orchestra with 22 players who were able to fill the hall with joyous music.  Most notable were the 2 flutes including picollo and the typanist who doubled on the keybord for the accompanied solos for Papageno.  The Queen of the Night played by Rebecca Hains was terrific with soaring coloratura on her solo parts. 

The most refreshing part of the evening was viewing an updated version of the well known opera cast in a 1920's boarding school.  Minimalist sets included a few benches and a large desk on forboding blackboard complete with math equations.  The costumes ranged from janitor's overalls, knickers to a beguiling flapper dress complete with arm length gloves.  The three ladies were dressed in simple black dresses with knee socks.  Papageno played with a music box, rather than the traditional mouth organ.  The music was perhaps a tad loud at times forcing the singers to notch up their volume, but they really had so few instruments that they needed to be quite robust in their interpretation. 

My wife, Paula, daughter Elana and her boyfriend Michael Pistorio started off the eveing with a wonderful Japanese dinner at Oga's in Natick  The meal was simply delicious with very good service. 
We even had time for a quick dessert at Park Street Ice Cream in Natick a local legend.

This establishment opposite the Natick Common is a family run business that makes their own ice cream and is well known and supported. 

If you have the chance - go see the Magic Flute on Saturday, May 1st at 7:30pm or Sunday, May 2nd at the 3pm at the Weston Town Hall and you will be sure to have a great time.  One suggestion though - sit downstairs as the balcony tended to be quite warm.  Light refreshments are served at the intermission and you are allowed to bring them into the hall.

One only had to attend to see the joy in the performers faces at the performance to know that they had done their job well and the audience applauded enthusiastically. 

Yes, this is the future of opera - our youth and aspiring artists.  There are many challenging hurdles ahead of these young performers, but they have done a spectacular job of continued nurturing of this wonderful artform. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Together with you

I rented a wonderful DVD from netflix entitled "Together" which exemplifies the power of music and the bond shared among people who unselfishly try to help one another.  My words can not effectively capture the simplicity and power of this movie that was filmed in Beijing and the country side in china.  Rather than spoil the fun for the viewer, I shall simply add only the terse summary from Netflix. 

Together(He Ni Zai Yi Qi / Together with You)

2002PG119 minutes

A young boy, Xiao Chun (Tang Yun), proves to be a massive talent when it comes to the violin, so his father (Liu Peigi) helps him find the best teacher in Beijing, far away from their hometown. There, Xiao Chun meets a nightclub worker with a heart of gold and finds true friendship

The music is masterful with many memorable selections from Bruch, Tchaikovsky, Mendelsohn, Vivaldi and others.  Go watch the movie for a touching story for all ages to enjoy.

DiDonato & Juan Diego Florez in Barber of Seville

As many of you have now heard, our celebrated American Diva (or better yet - Yankee Diva) has just released her new DVD of the Barber of Seville with Juan Diego Florez from the 2009 season at the Royal Opera House.  It is now legend, since the diva sang her role from a wheel  chair.  In the opening night production she slipped back stage after her famous aria, "Una voce poco fa" in the first act and broke a bone in her lower leg.  She finished the opera on crutches. 

At the beginning of the DVD, the conductor Antonio Pappano, the conductor comes on stage to announce to the audience that Joyce has agreed to sing the role of Rosina from a wheel chair.  The audience responded with a rousing round of applause as Pappno scurried down to the pit.  As you can imagine, when she sang the aria that night from wheel chair, the audience literally erupted in a thunderous round of applause.  Her cast was entirely visible and she literally lifted hersel out of the chair at moments to express her full emotional impact of singing.  She was all smiles ear to ear. 

The viewer was treated to a superb cast of Juan Diego Florez, the ultimate Rossini tenor of our generation.  They both sing with ease and grace.  DiDonato excells in coloratura adornments with ease and grace and reminds me of Elina Garanca in La Cenerentola at the MET.

One only needs to ponder DiDonato's background stamina, determination and style that has brought her the pinnacle of her career.  A modest girl from a blue collar family in Kansas who worked a long time without getting a break in her to a celebrated mezzo. 

Among her most recent recordings, a tribute CD to Colibran.  It contains some of Rossini's best music.  Her singing her is just fabulous, and one only wishes that the MET would have used her rather than Renee Fleming, who by all accounts gave a very lackluster performance at the MET in Armida.  (Rossini also wrote Armida's role for a mezzo soprano)  The world needs more people like "The Yankee Diva" who gives so much back to their audience in return for their patronage or support.  All we haer about today is about Gheorghiu, Garanca, Netrebko, Villazon bailouts on performances and here is a stunning example of an artist who truly enjoys what she is doing on stage.  I cannot truly imagine, the challenge and constraints of performing from a wheelchair, but this performance will go down in history and I highly recommend it to the readers. 

Although the sets are spartan and minimalist, they allow one to truly concentrate on the singing, scting and dialogue - which is what opera is all about.  The costumes range from period costumes to

Juan Diego Florez, an elegant tenor who is a Rossini specialist in the Bel Canto repetoire is perhaps best known for his expressive legato manner.  His portrayal in La Cenerentolla (Rossini) and La Fille de Regiment by Donizetti is famous for his nine high C's that rival Pavarotti's legendary tenure.  He even had an unheard of encore in La Scala that created quite a stir in the media.  This is truly a DVD that needs to become part of one's library. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Musings about music & blog comments.

While driving to work, I was listenting to Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony conducted by Valery Gergiev.  This is the epitome of romantic music.  The music is dreamy, expansive and leads one on  journey in 4 movements.  I truly recommend it to my readers.

I am somewhat surprised reading comments to articles in magazines and blogs.  Readers can be alarmingly arrogant, homophobic and downright rude at times.  Everyone is entitled to leave comments or personal reviews as this is of interest to the audience.  We need more activists if we embrace change.  While commenting on an article regarding the accomplishments or lack therof of Peter Gelb, I was struck by the animosity of people towards Gelb and the MET.  Gelb can not fix no-shows from Prima Donna's.  It simply is a fact of life.  Singers bail out for their own reasons. 

While Peter Gelb is trying to bring opera to the masses, he is also trying to change the artistic face of the MET opera company.  He has done marvels with HD broadcasts to movie theaters, promoting school attendance, allowing last minute Rush tickets, etc,  Unforunately, he is running a large business with unions, special interests, and a profound lack of an artistic (musical) director.  James Levine's impact on the MET is waning owing to his ill health, BSO committments, etc.  Music on this side of the pond does not get large measures of government support.

Some of Gelb's artistic choices have fallen short, e.g. Mary Zimmerman's La Sonambula and Armida.  Renee Fleming's performance was by all accounts notably undistinguishing.    Renee Fleming had her moment in the sun years ago with this opera, but is not able to deliver the goods today.  The MET hyped this as the signature New Production of the Season with its American Diva, Fleming.  The public and Gelb would have been better served by Joyce DiDonato.  One must remember that Rossini also scored Armida's role for a mezzo. 

Thrilled to hear that Placido  Domingo is on the mend and looking forward to seeing his masterclass program on HBO in the near future.  We only wish that Ozawa has a similar outcome.  Seiji had a long and enduring tenure at the BSO.

In closing, music is an international language that transcends borders.  Enjoy it for where it takes you.  Valerie Gergiev once said that most orchestras can play well, but it is not often that one hears an interesting performance.  The operative point here is that we as listeners have to digest music and allow it to penetrate our thought process and release new meanings and interpretations.  One need not to be a student of music to reach this level of appreciation

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another poor review of MET & Peter Gelb

Flickering Vision

Peter Gelb’s first full season at the Met produced one shining moment—and a lot of fizzles.

From the Met's new production of The Nose.  

In the first production of Rossini’s Armida to reach the Metropolitan Opera (and New York), Renée Fleming flicks a wand and transforms a creature-infested grotto into a palace of sensual delights. The Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, must crave that trick right now to restore the health of his budget, his music director, and his aesthetic agenda, all of which are ailing. Yet Fleming’s wand couldn’t even jolt the opening-night performance out of its sloppy lassitude.

Gelb has been running the company for more than three years, but this is the first full season he planned, paid for, and delivered—a rollout of eight new productions, culminating with Armida and laying out a program of modernization that is supposed to save the art form. Always a couple of decades behind, the Met is only now junking its collection of ponderously pseudo-realistic sets in favor of the kinds of lean, abstract productions that seemed startling in the nineties. The strategy is fine, but its execution needs more muscle and judgment. Gelb has, for example, anointed the director Mary Zimmerman the doyenne of bel canto, and so far, she has turned in a Lucia di Lammermoor as a B-movie hoot, an incoherent La Sonnambula, and now an Armida that distills the worst of the Met’s current weaknesses: blind worship of unreliable stars, theatrical gimmicks that supplant dramatic conviction, and a flickering supply of musical electricity.

Rossini was a wizard of froth, but in this work, he slathered lacework vocalism on a putatively serious romance. The beautiful Armida bewitches the crusader Rinaldo, until his trusty officers deprogram him by appealing to his martial honor: Make war, not love. Zimmerman doesn’t know what to make of this material, except to encrust it with whimsy: Cue the red-garbed cherub descending from the ceiling. Add a twenty-minute dance of the demons, a field of plastic poppies, a phalanx of shiny helmets, and a fistful of forgettable tenors, and you have an overlong show that exists for one reason only: to glorify the name of Renée Fleming. Armida is a stage-scorching role, and she had great success with it in the mid-nineties, but the opera is better suited for a lighter voice, a smaller house, and a diva with fewer distracting affectations.

The current letdown follows a string of half-successes: Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, a wheezing touring vehicle for the marvelous baritone Simon Keenlyside; a visually laughable, musically exquisite Attila; and dutiful revivals of Simon Boccanegra and Stiffelio. Partly, the problem is that Gelb is a fervent expansionist in a time of contraction. If he had been able to power ahead with the projects he has had to cancel—expensive revivals of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini, John Corigliano’s Ghosts of Versailles, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and Strauss’s Die Frau Ohne Schatten—the Met would feel less like a woozy Leviathan. He has also leaned on a roster of box-office stars who can’t be counted on to show up. Angela Gheorghiu, Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, and Natalie Dessay all backed out of Met appearances. And the usually impeccably professional Leonard Slatkin, who had originally signed on to conduct the Corigliano, made a hash of La Traviata and skipped out after one performance. Sometimes Gelb’s spirit of innovation looks indistinguishable from confusion.

Gelb’s ambition to recruit creative minds from other fields is another good idea that has proven a wobbly cornerstone for the new Met. It did, however, pay off splendidly in Shostakovich’s The Nose, an acid comedy about a Moscow bureaucrat whose proboscis escapes and, worse, achieves a higher rank than its erstwhile owner. In a brilliant managerial stroke, Gelb assigned this work of immature, erratic genius to the artist William Kentridge and coordinated it with a major Kentridge retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The event looped the Met into the art-world circuit, lured a fresh audience, and tossed opera into the center of New York’s intellectual life. This is exactly what the Met should be doing.

Kentridge responded to Shostakovich’s hectic, jangling score with a constructivist dream, a collage of shadows, ramps, three-dimensional puzzle pieces, headlines, and projections. Valery Gergiev led a biting, bristling performance, and if the volley of sounds and images occasionally felt like more than a brain could manage, the overload was strategic. At times, the score seemed less like the main event than a soundtrack for the staging, but The Nose can tolerate a slight rearrangement of operatic hierarchy.

The Met needs Gelb’s marketing savvy, but Gelb also needs a full partner, an artistic director as powerful and engaged as he is. For four decades, James Levine has kept the Met in a state of high musical readiness. He shaped the repertoire, led about 65 to 70 performances each season, cultivated singers, honed the orchestra, and left his thumbprint even on shows he didn’t conduct. The Met was Jimmy’s house.

Levine is only 66, but a series of illnesses and another job, as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, have interfered so seriously that his grip here has gone limp. He’s spent just a dozen nights on the podium since September and delegated the few big hits. Next month, he’ll miss his cherished revival of Berg’s Lulu. Next season—his 40th—he’s scheduled to conduct six operas, beginning with the opening-night inauguration of the new production of Wagner’s Ring. Now the festivities are tainted by doubt. Maybe back surgery will cure his suffering; maybe he’ll give up his Boston gig; maybe he’ll wrest back a greater chunk of his company’s aesthetic agenda. But for now, it’s just not Levine’s company any more. If Gelb is really the house visionary, he must know that it’s time to talk succession.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Anna Netrebko’s new repertoire

Anna Netrebko’s new repertoire

Apr 16, 2010 14:57 Moscow Time
Anna Netrebko. Photo: EPA
Russian opera star Anna Netrebko has once again been nominated for the Classical Brit Awards, the most prestigious British prize for classical music. Anna Netrebko twice received this prize in the category "Female Singer of the Year" in 2007 and 2008. Due to her amazing popularity, the Russian diva is literally heaped with numerous awards. After the birth of her son a year-and-a-half ago, Anna Netrebko started appearing in new roles. Her program of romances by Russian classics Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov became a sensation. Together with maestro Daniel Barenboim, the singer first presented the program at the Saltsburg Festival.
When visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg as part of the tour, she gave an interview to Russian journalists. “Given that Tchaikovsky’s romances are extremely difficult to sing, one should spend many years training and accumulate wide vocal experience. And this is not only my impression; many musicians are of the same opinion,” said Anna. When asked about the major problems for Russian signers on their way to the world-wide fame, Anna Netrebko said that Russian musicians are in high demand in the West. Generally, they perform Russian music, and only few of them sing in Italian, German, French. The reason is that it is too hard for them to master the pronunciation, and only those who succeed in this respect can move on. And others play Russian music, which is extremely popular abroad, with Russian operas performed almost in every theatre, the diva says. 
Anna Netrebko, the soloist of the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre, has been invited to sing with the leading opera companies of the world. Among her latest performances has been “La Boheme” staged by Franco Zeffirelli at the Metropolitan Opera. “The next season will be marked with a new role for me - Anne Boleyn in the opera of the same name by Gaetano Donizetti. This music is rather hard and I have never performed it before, unfortunately. Later, I will sing Tatyana’s part in “Yevgeny Onegin”, and the part of Leonora in “Il Trovatore” together with maestro Barenboim. Thus, I am slowly changing my repertoire for a “stronger” soprano, which is very suitable for me. I have to give up singing parts of young girls,” says Anna Netrebko.  
The singer will also assume new roles in the Mariinsky Theatre. “When discussing our plans, I proposed to maestro Valery Gergiyev to stage Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore”. We have talented young tenors in out theatre, who will surely cope with the performance,” the singer said.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In the Still of the Night

I have been listening to "In the Still of the Night" with Anna Netrebko and Daniel Barenboim. One has to realize that Anna only a few years ago was indeed afraid of recital performances (ala Carnegie Hall with Dmitri Hvorostovsky) that she canceled. This performer has grown and matured and now has begun to bear her soul with poignant, impassioned singing. Only in a solo recital can one begin to truly embrace the audience with a poignancy and warmth that are not distracted by acting, sets and other performers.

The initial track can be found at

and sets the stage for what must have been a wonderful evening.

This CD recorded in Salzburg with Maestro Barenboim at the piano has been repeated a number of times throughout Europe with Barenboim and another pianist. Although not available yet in the US, I procured my copy from Crotchet Music in UK.

The singing is breathtaking in its style and intimacy. Barenboim's place on the piano is simply astonishing in the fluidity and support for the soprano. Anna shines in many of the slower songs and sings with fierceness in the more rapid selections. The CD was recorded from a live audience. As one listens to the music of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844 - 1908) and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893), one realizes that these giants offer much more symphonic and piano repitoire respectfully. These are emotionally laden songs of joy and lament. I suggest that you all buy a copy to enjoy and cherish as I am emotionally thrilled by this recording. As a glimpse of the music, please go to the ePlayer at DG for a glimpse of 4 tracks.

It will be available in the US on 4/27/10 and can be ordered from Amazon

Barenboim is a master at the piano and suggested these songs to Netrebko. It was indeed a wise choice and the CD and live performances throughout Europe have been enthusiastically received. Barenboim plays with sensitivity and supports the singer graciously. It indeed is a marriage made in musical heaven. The more one listens to these, mostly unfamilar songs, it illustrates how a fine artist can draw in the audience with warmth, solitude and a true communication straight from the heart. Netrebko has learned her skill well and now has mastered the art of digging deep into her soul to communicate passion and drama through her artistry.

The ablum closes with 2 special tracks, the first being Als die alte Mutter op.55 No.4 (Dvorak) which Netrebko announces to the audience with some laughs as she says that she will sing it in Czech. This is most beautiful and has been sung very well by others like Magdalena Kozena in her album, Songs My Mother Taught Me. It has been terribly butchered by the likes of Charlotte Church who simply denegrate the art form. The last track closing the album is
RICHARD STRAUSS (1864–1949)Cäcilie op. 27 no. 2 Heinrich Hart, a touching lullaby.

No doubt, I am very partial to her singing and acting ability. I must share with you a rather funny anecdote on how I discovered this wonderful artist. Some years ago, I was working in New Jersey for a struggling biotech/pharmaceutical company. I lived in Natick, MA at the time, but spent my working week in NJ, living in hotels, etc. I had much spare time that I spent in the gym or at Barnes & Nobles listening to CD's in my ever expanding collection. One night, I picked up one of Netrebko's early CDs, Sempre Libera and admired an usual voice.

I brought in to work the next day to share with a colleague who also enjoyed classical music. He lent me her other recording, Opera Arias. He told me that she was recently on "60 minutes"

From that time forward, my wife, Paula and I have enjoyed many of her performances in the US (Traviata, L'Elisir d'Amore , I Puritani, Romeo & Juliet, La Boheme, Don Pasquale and Lucia, Rigoletto) and a concert in Abu Dhabi with Elina Garanca and Erwin Schrott.

While these are wonderful albums, they only give a glimpse of some of her capabilities. I suspect that many of you know that her avante garde performance of La Traviata from Salzburg with Rolando Villazon and Thomas Hampson set her career on fire. It features only a red couch and clock on an otherwise stark empty stage. The quality of the singing and acting are fabulous. You will either love or hate this version. I cherish it immensely, but others of an older generation have said it is a travesty.

You may be able to rent any of these in a substantial library, but they are worth adding to your collection. There are two additional recommendations that I offer to you. The first is her Russian Album. It is thrilling to hear a singer in her native language.

The last recommendation for this post is Bellini's: I Capuleti e i Montecchi with Elina Garanca and Joseph Calleja. Anyone familar with Bel Canto (beautiful singing) will certainly love this recording. Calleja, a rising star from Malta has sung with Netrebko in the MET's performance of the Tales of Hoffman.

The only recording that I am ambivalent about is the filmed version of La Boheme with Rolando Villazon.

This is a lipsynched and shot completely on sets with fake snow. Many of the historical contexts are lost here. Mimi wearing red lipstick is preposterous as was the swing in Rodolfo's bedroom in the loft. What one does get at the end of the film is a gripping sense of grief by Rodolfo (Villazon) as Mimi (Netrebko) dies of consumption (TB). This type of heightened drama does not quite rise to that level in a live performance. We just saw Netrebko and Piotr Beczala, a wonderful Polish tenor in Zeferelli's production at the MET. Although Netrebko has matured since the birth of her child, her voice has grown in intensity and color. Both she and Piotr amply filled the MET with glorious sound to over 3500 seats.

When I met Anna in San Francisco after a performance of La Traviata, she told me that the music of I Capuleti e i Montecchi was beautiful and wonderful to sing. The voices meld together like honey and ice cream. She is a remarkable singer who now is married to Erwin Schrott with and has a son, Tiago. I cannot imagine how she keeps up such a pace without extraordinary help.

We should all thank Valery Gergiev for discovering and nurturing this talent. He brought her to San Francisco some years ago for her US debut and the rest is history. I won't bore you with the details which are like a fairy tale come true.

In closing, I must pay tribute and ultimate compliments to Carlos in Barcelona who maintains an impeccable and wonderful blog dedicated to Anna. Carlos is a gentleman and avid opera lover with impeccable taste. He has done a spectacular job in following and annotating her career with both pubslished reviews as well as those from his loyal following. He welcomes comments, photos, reviews and has a wonderful recollection of many of her performances. I urge you all to take a look

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Handel & Haydn Society Concert

Today we went to a wonderful concert given by the Handel & Haydn Society. Prior to the concert there was a pre-concert reception & discussion by the conductor, Sir Roger Norrington. This was held across the street at the offices of the Handel & Haydn Society located in the Massachusetts Horticultural Society Building. The staff of the H&H society provided a warm and intimate setting to introduce themselves to loyal patrons. Refreshments were wonderful and added to the elgance of the reception. Most people were very well dressed and all loved music.

Sir Roger Norrington arrived in a casual long sleeve sport shirt and sat down on the steps and talked to a crowd of about 50 people in the lobby of the building. The maestro said that he would elect to sit as he would do much standing later. He also joked that conducting is much simpler than it looks. The conductor indicated that there are only 2 period orchestras in the US; the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston and one in San Francisco. The one in Boston is nearly 200 years old. He explained the balance of the orchestra, seating arrangements and overall size of the orchestra are fundamentally different than traditional moderm orchestras. Norrington also went one to say that his earlier recordings of the Beethoven symphonies from a period orchestra (London Classical Orchestra) on EMI (which I own and cherish) were highly criticized when they were first issued becauase of unusually fast tempi. He ignored the critics and over the years these have becone accepted as critically acclaimed performances.

I had a chance to speak with him directly prior to the concert and asked if the furor over the tempi had died down, and he acknowledged that they had. He further indicated that composer/conductors such as Bernstein or greats such as Karajan or Furtwangle had fundamentally different view towards these symphonies and were much slower and dramatic in their interpretation. He indicated that folklore indicates that Beethoven's metronome was likley faulty and tempo notations are notariously inaccurate. One of the characteristics of period orchestras is that they omit the vibrato which tends to meld the orchestra into a unifying tone. I also asked his opinion of Valery Gergiev, the esteemed Maestro of the Marinsky Opera and chorus and he indicated that he thought he was "old fashioned".

The concert started with Beethoven's 4th Symphony. One must look at the nature of the diminutive orchestra, its seating arrangment and indeed the nature of period instruments. Violins are seated opposite each other. Bass fiddles are on the conductor's left. Trumpets (2) without valves and elongated bells are seated to the back right next to the trombones (2). The French horn's again without valves are seated to the conductors left. The woodwinds 2 each of clarinets, bassoons amd 1 flute and 1 piccolo are seated right in back of the cellos. It is of interest to note that these period instrumenst have no "spit valves" requiring removal of tuning sections during the performance to remove condensed liquid. This was particularly dramatic for one of the trombone players. The only percussionist is a lone tympany player who played with rather bright rigid sticks that gave a rather focused percussive sound.

At any rate, back to the 4th symphony, one had to imagine that this was played as parlor music in a small venue unlike today's halls. One did not really get the impression that this was Beethoven until well into the piece. The conductor had explained that the 4th symphony was one of stark contrasts in intensity and unlike the 6th symphony which conveyed a story of the environment and its notable streams and storm so highly beloved in the 6th. The audience was thoroughly engaged and some small sector applauded between movments. This gave latecomers a chance to be seated and enjoy the performance. The piece ended with a rousing movement of the conductor's arms gesturing to the audience which was met with a rousing round of applause.

The intermission had a youth choir singing in the 2nd floor lounge as part of the H&H outreach program. These 5-7th grade performers were dressed in red shirts and black skirts or slacks and sangel from spirtuals, Handel and a Ghanese children's folk song with accompanied claps and outstreatched arms. It was wonderful to see their enthusiasm and charisma. Undoubtedly there were many proud parents and grandparents assembled to enjoy the brief concert. The pianist was skilled and let the young performers shine.

The 6th Symphony, one of the warhorses of the Classical repetoire was stunning in its freshness. One had to be there to understand the different texture and quality of sound that allows the viewere to glaen individual solosits with great precision. As the conducor explianed in his pre-concert lecture there is little or no vibrato used in this type of orchaestra which leads to great intensity and uniqueness to this sound. Only here can you truly hear that tonal qualities of the period bassoon sounding totally different than a modern instrument. The playing was gorgeous, very musical and refreshingly different. This pastoral symphony (the only Beethoven symphony given a name) was the forbearer of Mendelsohn or Schubert who had many of their symphony's named. The symphony was conducted with sheer beauty and elegance by Norrington. He did not use score or baton for either piece and was able to nuance great variety in dimension, intensity and color from the orchestra. There were notable solos by the bassoon, clarinet and flute players. It ended with a rousing standing ovation by a thrilled audience.

The conducor graciously signed a limite number of available CD's and programs after the performance. Alas, he is not coming back to Tanglewood this summer so we cherished this concert as one that will be very memorable.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Classical Music Recollections

I am starting this blog today to provoke interest, commentary and education among fellow music lovers.

Today's topic will include some of my memorable, and some not so memorable performances. I welcome your commentary and reactions.

First introduction to classical music: listening to opera on LP's in my grandmother's house in rural upstate New York.

First introduction to opers: I went to old MET with my grandmother when I was 13 years old (Il Trovatore and stayed with her at Edison Hotel.

Memorable performances (good & bad):

  • Leonard Bernstein's last conducting performance at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass.
  • Terrible performance by Van Cliburn at Tanglewood in which he lsot his place in the Emperor Concerto (My daughter commented that her piano teacher said ...just play the right hand)
  • All Beethoven concert at Muskaverin in Vienna in which conductor, Christian Thielman was given 3 standing ovations after orchestra left stage.
  • Meeting Alfred Brendel backstage at BSO after a fabulous concert
  • Meeting Anna Netrebko after La Traviata in San Francisco 2009.
  • Attending a concert with Anna Netrebko, Elina Garanca and Erwin Schrott in Abu Dhabi
  • Recital by Cecilia Bartoli at Carnegie Hall
  • Attending concert at Marlboro in which it rained so hard on metal roof of gymnasium that performers could not her themselves
  • Attending a lecture at Sanders theter at Harvard with Alfred Brendel in which he dissected parts of Beethoven's piano sonatas with exquisite playing and commentary

My wife and I both love classical music and especially opera. I have become very passionate about my likes and dislikes on various performers and would like to share some of these with you for discussion.

Like List:

  1. Anna Netrebko
  2. Elina Garanca
  3. Diana Damrau
  4. Joseph Calleja
  5. Rene Pape
  6. Dmitri Hvorostovsky
  7. Piotr Beczala
  8. Cecilia Bartoli
  9. Kathleen Kim
  10. Sumi Jo

Don't care for List:

  1. Maria Guleghina
  2. Ewa Podles
  3. Kate Lindsey
  4. Bryn Terfel
  5. Renee Fleming
  6. Jennifer Larmore
  7. Marlis Peterson

Recollections of classical music from my youth:

Hearing Brahms 1st symphony at my orthodontist office in Middletown, NY

Recommendations for your CD/DVD collection

  1. In The Still of the Night - Netrebko-Barenboim
  2. Traviata Netrebko-Villazon Salzburg
  3. Gergiev "The Right of Spring" by Stravinsky
  4. Netrebko Russian Album
  5. Coloratura - Diana Damrau
  6. Gergiev Tschaikovsky Symphonies 4-6
  7. Mahler Symphonies - Leonard Bernstein
  8. Glenn Gould 32 Short Films
  9. Glenn Gould Goldberg Variations
  10. La Cenerentola with Elina Garanca

I welcolm your commentary and ramblings. This blog is devoted to you and for you to enjoy