Monday, October 24, 2016
When it comes to expressing emotion, Cellist Gautier Capucon has no equal. Now he is out with a new recording: Beethoven: Cello Sonatas and Variations Beethoven: Cello Sonatas Nos. 1-5 (complete) Variations (12) on “See the conquering hero comes” for Cello and Piano, WoO 45 Variations (7) on “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen”, for Cello and Piano, WoO 46 Variations (12) on “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” for Cello and Piano, Op. 66 All performed by Gautier Capuçon (cello) and Frank Braley (piano) Following after last year’s live recording of the Shostakovich cello concertos, this album sees Gautier return to the studio with his friend and recital partner of many years, Frank Braley, in a program of Beethoven’s Sonatas for Cello and Piano. In addition the album includes Beethoven’s wonderful variations on three different themes – two on arias from Mozart’s opera Die Zauberflöte, and the other from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus. Here is Mr. Capucon in Beethoven’s Cello Sonata number 2:
It’s 16 November, 2015: I am seated at my father’s old piano in tranquil, uneventful Kansas City, Missouri, with a pile of 60 obscure Neapolitan arias. I’m researching music for my new album, music by composers such as Niccolò Jomelli and Leonardo Leo, who wrote in a post-classical, pre-bel canto world that is sorely underrepresented today on recordings and concert platforms. My task is to select 10 of these obscure arias to feature on my album and perform on a world tour. Just the day before I had been in glossy Dallas, Texas singing the final emotion-filled performance of a new opera written for me by Jake Heggie titled Great Scott, which asks the pressing question, “Does art matter?” …. a question I often contemplate on my own. My phone was propped up on the music rack of the piano – never a good idea for concentrated focus – but I was breaking my self-imposed rule because I was waiting for texts and postings from friends and colleagues in Paris who were dealing with the harrowing aftermath of the Paris attacks, which had rocked that city three days earlier. My head swirled. My heart wept. My artistic soul searched. Yet my deadline was looming and I had music in front of me, waiting to be discovered. It was music that was novel, to be sure, but it was striking me as hollow. How could I devote immense, intensive personal and professional resources to this project and dare to bring it to 20 cities, when the music sitting in front of me felt – apologies to these fine composers – like a gimmick while the world around me continued to surge out of control? And then, from the pile of my own music, Dido majestically appeared. And then Sesto, in his wartorn desperation; and then the prisoner Almirena’s haunting Lascia ch’io pianga emerged, almost begging to be heard. I wrote to my Paris-based record company. “How is everyone?” I pleaded to know first. And then, “Don’t yell at me, but I need to change the project. I want to sing about war and peace.” And to their credit, they abandoned our previously agreed theme and let me record a different album . Three of the original Neopolitan arias made the final cut. Many of the 15 pieces are masterpieces that I have wanted to record for a long time – Handel’s Lascia ch’io Pianga, Sesto’s arias, and Dido’s Lament. Other Purcell arias – from the Indian Queen and Bonduca – were exciting discoveries for me, and often contrast war and peace within the same aria. But as the new theme sat with me, it became clear I couldn’t simply present these two faces of our humanity and walk away. As a belligerent optimist, I wanted to not only offer a message of hope, but to engage my listeners in a more visceral way and show that this music (which has been heard and contemplated, in some cases, for over 400 years), is an animated, pleading mirror into each of our troubled hearts, and challenge the listener to examine their contribution to our whacked-out world. I decided on war and peace because it’s imperative that we see the darkness, the turmoil and the chaos, as well as the yearning and searching for peace and tranquility. We have a choice for our own experience, but it needs to be an active choice – one that isn’t arbitrary, but is informed by the darkness. I believe that we have the power to first affect change in ourselves – then, with a bit of fortitude and determination, that change may grow outward to our partner, our family, our street, our community … our world. Knowing that music holds the astonishing power to be both an intensely individual as well as a communal experience, I saw the potential to connect with each listener and invite them for one blissful moment to stop looking outside and pointing fingers at each other. So I decided to pose a question: “In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?” I wanted to ask people from all walks of life and so I simply sent out requests, contacting people I know, and others via friends or colleagues: reaching out to people I’ve met during my travels. I randomly wrote to Patrick Stewart, who, to my great delight, answered immediately. While some requests went unanswered, I have had answers from a huge range of people. From prisoners at Sing Sing I have worked with, to supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – an opera lover and friend. The Rwandan fighter I met while on safari, and the Indian children came to me from an author whose work I admire. I essentially reached out to people from every corner of the globe that I knew, as well as asking people I meet every day: the British Sufi taxi driver and the American teacher who works in Istanbul and is connected to revolutionaries there. In truth, many of their answers have found me. A homeless woman wrote: “I imagine a small globe of light growing larger from my center until I am surrounded by light and peace.” A young Indian boy who attends a school for children with leprosy replied: “When surrounded by chaos, I see people in need and then I find myself among the most fortunate, blessed people.” I’m aware that there could be a danger in viewing the chaos of today through a daringly innocent lens – and then I hear the music of Purcell and it is simplicity incarnate: instantly, it brings calm. Handel soothes with his total serenity of harmony. And a compass towards peace immediately returns. I have often declared that music can heal. Perhaps it is time to remember that this incredible power is where we are at our best, and how truly simple it is to return there – if we are brave and determined enough. The solace music provides can restore. I can think of no better time to put my money where my mouth is. The preliminary, glorious conclusion I am reaching is that the key to peace is utter simplicity. ~~~ *Originally posted in the Guardian Newspaper
Anna Prohaska (soprano), Il Giardino Armonico/Antonini (Alpha Classics)Another stunner from soprano Anna Prohaska. Following her wonderful disc of war-related music, she now turns her attention to two tragic heroines, Dido and Cleopatra. Both have inspired great music across the centuries, but Prohaska resists the attention to go as far as Berlioz, and frames this baroque collection with the start and finish of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. There are well-known Cleopatra arias – a devastating, piercing Se pietà di me non senti from Handel’s Giulio Cesare – and very little-known ones by Castrovillari, Sartorio, Cavalli and Graupner (a bizarre bilingual scene). It’s all beautifully planned and paced, with riveting instrumental interludes from Il Giardino Armonico, including Matthew Locke’s astonishingly modern Curtain Tune. Continue reading...
Our weekly bulletin from Anthea Kreston of the award-winning Artemis Quartet: We have had a week of illness – first me, then our first violinist was ordered to stay in bed for the week) and now our violist (standing next to me, waiting for security at the airport). Most immediate family members are down as well. A week of cancelled rehearsals buttress the Echo Awards (European Grammys) and performances. A member falls into a desperate, heavy sleep during intermission of our concert, to be gently shaken awake for the second half of the program. The last to fall (or not to fall) is our cellist, who has surrounded himself with ginger tea. In the thick of all this – a behind-the-scene look at the glamorous and magical Echo Awards – from my first red carpet walk to rubbing elbows with classical music’s elite. Pre-show, abundant emails and detail-checking set my expectations high – this was going to be a spectacle – visually, musically, and star-studded. Because of security, we were asked to arrive first one hour, then an hour and a half early, with official identification. A car was sent to my apartment 2 hours before we were to be seated, and my sister, visiting from Berkeley, accompanied me as my plus-one. She came prepared – floor-length black gown with jewelled turquoise straps crisscrossing the just-appropriately low back of the dress. I wore my latest dress – a purple straight lined floor-length dress, covered in teeny glittering beads, and a diamond cut-out in the back. As we giggled in the back of the car, wondering out loud if we were going to have an “entrance” from the car, we rounded the corner to see a magnificently lit Konzerthaus at the Gendarmenmarkt. As we approached the drop-off, we quickly realized that a push of reporters was indeed filming and taking pictures as people were helped from the car. We removed our coats – my sister held mine as I exited the car, doing my best to mimic those countless videos we have all seen of the glamorous limo exits. Red carpet spanned the Lincoln-memorial-sized stairs, and snaked its way through the press photo-tent, television interview area, and along throngs (can this even be possible) of die-hard classical music fans, waiting to glimpse their favorite classical music star. As we exited security, we were ushered aside by our ever-fabulous Publicist, Maren Borchers of “For Artists”. In a straight black woolen coat, cut at an angle, a purple feathered boa, and an ear piece connected to on-and back-stage, she orchestrated her artists, first sending one and then another ahead to the carpet. She sometimes repeated a snippet here or there “lost wardrobe, trouble with moving camera above stage, drink areas ready to go…..”. As all four Artemis arrived, their plus-ones gathered as well, and were ushered around to a side carpet, to reconvene with us later. First we strolled to the photo area, where a blizzard of flashes came from the wall of photographers – first one, then the other grabbed our attention, calling for us to look their way next. Then, to the corner where the TV reporter asked specific questions as to our award and repertoire represented on the CD. It is at this point that I must say that this award belongs not even a hair to me – this was an award for a glorious cd of Brahms released by the Artemis. It belongs to Vineta, Gregor, Friedemann and Eckart. Nonetheless, they included me in these festivities, toasting to the next Echo – for the four of us. As we entered the already-packed building, in which the rectangular hall is surrounded by wide, marble hallways, we were greeted by musicians, managers, record companies, and a seemingly endless line of crisply-dressed wait-staff, holding everything from molecular-gastronomy smoking test-tubes filled with neon-green delicious substances to traditional hearty German food, albeit in amuse-bouche form. Also making the rounds was an updated form of the cigarette girl – with the same tray and neck-ribbon, but in her tray, a dizzying array of top-tier chocolates. Oh my. I took three. As quartet fanned out, each person looking for any number of people with whom Quartet has had business, is in negotiation for business, or wishes to begin a new venture, I again saw these people in their finest – able to talk with anyone on any subject – charming, succinct, creative. I met our manager, the inimitable Sonia Simmenauer, our photo-makeup artist, a reporter in the midst of writing a large article about the quartet. We were ushered into the hall – a large rectangle with velvet chairs, and a full two balconies. I felt like I was in one of those period books – looking around at those in the boxes, trying to recognize the stars. The ceiling was covered in many large, matching chandeliers, camera people roamed the aisles, and a large camera on a pulley spanned the entire hall. We were seated close to the front, where winners were placed to facilitate easy access to the stage. The moderator, Thomas Gottschalk, (their version of Letterman) was charming and witty as he lead us through the basics – allowing us three different dynamics of clapping, and even singling out specific audience members with a funny comment here or there. The next three hours were filled with dazzling performances (unfortunately Jonas Kaufmann – be still my fluttering heart – was unable to sing due to recent health issues – but he spoke and I got to see his dimple from a distance of inches!), from vocal to instrumental to orchestral. I had never heard Philippe Jaroussky before, and I was floored by his rendition of Handel. After his performance, my sister and I turned to each other and said “what the **** was that” – we were without words. Guest speakers from Cold Play’s Chris Martin to author Donna Leon rounded out the show. As we were called to the stage, each of us immediately assuming a larger-than-life persona, I was again struck by the strength of this group. Through thick and thin, they rise and meet the day with hand outstretched, ready to tackle any problem and grateful for the support given them. My sister and I returned home, heads to pillows around 2 am. The after party, with its amazing array of foods and drinks, was like being in a Top Chef episode. A full 11 hour extravaganza – and I couldn’t for the life of me get a wink of sleep.
Results have been published of the autopsy into the death of Kwon Hyuk-joo , who was found unconscious in the back of a taxi-cab in Busan yesterday. Kwon Hyuk-joo, winner of the 2004 Nielsen competition and a graduate of the Moscow Central Music School, had called the taxi to take him back to his hotel after drinking with friends the night before a concert. The autopsy found that he died of sudden cardiac arrest. He was carrying pills for a suspected heart condition. A friend said: ‘He had symptoms of arrhythmia but I assume his health has deteriorated recently due to fatigue from a heavy schedule.’ He was a popular performer in South Korea and Vietnam, appeared with Ida Haendel in Keshet Eilon and made several tours of Europe, recording Ravel and Schumann for Universal’s Korean offshoot. Tragic loss.
1 Mozart piano concert 27, K595 (Brendel) 2 Vivaldi Four Seasons, 1958 L’Oiseau Lyre 3 Elgar: Enigma Variations, with Sospiri 4 Barber Adagio 5 Mozart Requiem 6 Cosi fan tutte 7 Handel Messiah 8 Rossini: Messe solonelle 9 Schumann symphonies (SWR Stuttgart) 10 Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue (Philharmonia)
Great composers of classical music