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Serguei Prokofiev

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


My Classical Notes

September 24

Gluzman Performs Prokofiev Concertos

My Classical NotesFor many years I have enjoyed the two violin concertos by Sergei Prokofiev. My sense is that it was a performance by David Oistrakh that first introduced me to this amazing music. Then much later I heard these works done by Gil Shaham, as well. On this recording we get to hear the following works: Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19, with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi conducting. Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63, with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi conducting. Sonata in D major for solo violin, Op. 115 The violin soloist in all of the above works is Vadim Gluzman (violin) Nathan Milstein once described Sergei Prokofiev’s first violin concerto as ‘one of the best modern violin concertos… a brilliant piece, perhaps the finest of all Prokofiev’s works’, while the second concerto was later taken up by violinists such as David Oistrakh and Jascha Heifetz. Here the two works are interpreted by the Ukrainian-born Vadim Gluzman, who as many critics have remarked is firmly based in the glorious tradition of these and other virtuosos of the 19th and 20th centuries. Guzman rounds off the program with Prokofiev’s only solo work for the violin, the Sonata in D major, Op.115 – one of the composer’s less familiar compositions for the instrument. Strictly speaking it is a sonata for several violins: Prokofiev wrote the piece in 1947 to be played in unison by violin students. Here is the concerto number two, with Gluzman and the Berlin Philharmonic:

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

September 23

Illegal state issues composer stamp

The Russian-sponsored breakaway state of Donetsk has issued its first postal stamps. The first issue marks the 125th birthday of Sergei Prokofiev, a native of the region. Do not be tempted to buy the stamp. It contravenes international law.




Tribuna musical

September 15

The Juvenil San Martín sparkles in Benzecry and Sibelius

As readers know, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional José de San Martín is having an important season. The concert they offered last Sunday morning at the Blue Whale confirms it. It had attractive traits on paper, and they became reality at the hands of Venezuelan clarinetist Valdemar Rodríguez and conductor Pablo Boggiano. And the programme was enticing: the première of Esteban Benzecry´s Concerto for clarinet, and Sibelius´ marvelous First Symphony. Boggiano studied with Mario Benzecry, founder of the Juvenil, and at the Catholic University. He went on to Europe where he had several teachers, especially the Finnish Jorma Panula. He made an early debut at 18 in BA, and in Europe has had vast activity in Bosnia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. But Vienna and other Austrian cities are. his principal working ground. He also conducted in Slovakia and with a first-rate orchestra in London: the Royal Philharmonic. And since 2010 he is invited by our National Symphony. Esteban Benzecry is Argentine (son of Mario); he has carved a place for himself in Paris with his personal style based on a mixture of Latin-American roots with contemporary procedures, specially emphasizing orchestral variety. The Pasdeloup Orchestra is playing this season no less than eight of his works! But some of his scores have been heard in BA, so we know what to expect. A clarinet concerto generally has little to do with the telluric; his is an exception, and the titles of the movements are the evidence: "Ecos del Horizonte", "Danzas Volcánicas", "Baguala Enigmática" and "Toccata caribeña". The orchestra is rather big with lots of percussion featuring typically American instruments. The Concerto starts with an introspective clarinet solo and has a big slow cadenza in the middle of the final hectic Toccata. There is an influence of the Ginastera of such scores as "Cantata para la América mágica" or "Popol Vuh", but Benzecry has something of his own to say and by now has a thorough command of his craft. Although there are colorful and loud episodes, the clarinet is never swamped, and the music feels American and modern. Rodríguez has an impressive curriculum; among his teachers were no less than Gervase de Peyer and Guy Deplus. Apart from an intense concert life as First Desk of the famous Simón Bolívar Orchestra and as soloist, plus chamber music, he is also a distinguished teacher (Director General of the Bolívar Conservatory). Here he premièred the original version for clarinet "di bassetto" (lower than the normal one) of Mozart´s Clarinet Concerto. Predictably, his playing was impeccable in every sense: a master of his art. And Boggiano (after a correct Overture to Mozart´s "The Marriage of Figaro") showed his mettle with a clear and intense interpretation; the orchestra collaborated with full concentration. The Second Part was pure pleasure: Sibelius´ is among the very best First Symphonies in History, along with Brahms, Shostakovich , Prokofiev and Mahler. Written in 1899, the same year of "Finlandia", when at 34 his technical command was quite mature, it is personal from the very beginning and maintains tension, variety and fresh imagination throughout its almost 40 minutes. I don´t believe in Tchaikovsky´s influence: Sibelius had a style of his own and is a major figure in the evolution of the symphony. This is quite a challenge for a conductor, and Boggiano showed he is ready: the speeds were logical, there was contrast and cohesion, admirable playing particularly from the brass and the tympani, and that sense of desolate drama that can only be Nordic, but also energy and excitement. An enthralling trip into a unique sound world. A final comment: if you sit around the tenth row the acoustics are much better than farther upstairs, where stridency appears. For Buenos Aires Herald



Tribuna musical

September 15

The Colón Ballet Gala: renovated repertoire and great dancing

Every year during recent seasons the Colón does in late August or early September an international Ballet Gala and it always combines it with a ballet of the Colón repertoire. The choices have mostly been very conservative, and it was time for a degree of renovation. This time Maximiliano Guerra chose well the Colón Ballet presentation: an attractive Nacho Duato ballet seen in June, "Por vos muero", reviewed for the Herald: Renaissance Spanish music selected by Jordi Savall and played by his group plus texts by Garcilaso de la Vega spoken by Miguel Bosé. Beautiful music and fine stylisation of old Spanish dances with attractive staging. And thirteen Colón dancers, mostly quite young and very able, in a kaleidoscope of groups and duets. The basic idea of Maximiliano Guerra, the Colón Ballet´s Director, was to ask famous companies to send couples in representative pieces of their repertoire, instead of calling on dancers picked by Guerra. That was the procedure except in one special case: the return of that magical "étoile", Alessandra Ferri, to the theatre where she danced often in memorable performances, particularly the Prokofiev/MacMillan complete "Romeo and Juliet" with Julio Bocca, certainly a unique experience for any ballet lover. And with her partner since she came back to the stage after a six-year sabbatical: Herman Cornejo; we saw both in the intimate "Chéri" at the Maipo. (You probably read days ago the detailed articles by Cristiana Visan on this fascinating conjunction of artists). The guests started with two artists from the Hamburg Ballet, ruled for decades by John Neumeier, a prolific choreographer born in 1942 and author of more than a hundred ballets. Anna Laudere, born 1983 in Latvia, and Edvin Revazov, an Ucranian of the same age, gave us two samples of Neumeier´s creativity. First, a rather disconcerting updating of "Hamlet" premièred in 1985 and revised in 1997, using music by Michael Tippett (two "ts", not one as in the hand programme). What we saw was Ophelia´s goodbye to Hamlet, for he is going away to study. But frankly, I would never have guessed that the awkward encounter was between these characters unless I was told. By the way, Tippett´s music is unfortunately rarely played here; the piece we heard was the 1954 "Divertimento on Sellinger´s Round" for chamber orchestra. Two points: all the music of the gala was recorded ; some with good sound, others with gritty, noisy reproduction. And no information was given about the works; biographies of the artists, yes. Laudere and Revazov were equally at home in this curious "Hamlet" and in the expressive view of the choreographer on "The Lady of the Camelias"; the "Pas de Deux Blanc" from Act II has Chopin´s Largo from Piano Sonata Nº3 as the meditative background. Laudere showed flexibility in portraying that declining moment of the protagonist´s life, with her whole body seeming to lose all strength. And Revazov supported her with sensibility and dramatic presence. Marianela Núñez is the Argentine "prima ballerina" of the London Royal Ballet and will shortly be Tatiana in "Onieguin". Partnered by the Colón´s Alejandro Parente, she danced the Pas de deux of the White Swan (Odette) from Tchaikovsky´s "Swan Lake", changing the announced "Black Swan" Pas de deux, certainly because in the Second Part she danced the "Tchaikovsky Pas de deux" by Balanchine, which uses music for the Black Swan (Odile) that wasn´t used in the 1877 première; discovered in the Bolshoi archives in 1953, Balanchine asked permission to do a ballet on it, and it was granted. She was admirable in both, her pure classical technique and noble demeanor ideal for Odette and the added variety on the Black Swan interpretation distinguishing Odile´s character. Parente´s Prince is basically a porteur, but the Prince is much more active in Act III, in which we appreciated the command and style of the Italian Federico Bonelli, also from the Royal Ballet. Elisa Badenes, Spanish, and Pablo von Sternenfels (Mexican of German descent) were brilliant interpreters of a Pas de deux from the funny and energetic ballet concocted by John Cranko on Shakespeare´s "The Taming of the Shrew" (Domenico Scarlatti sonatas much altered by Kurt-Heinz Stolze). Both have the humor and command of their body to solve the pirouettes of their amorous duel. They come from the Stuttgart Ballet, ruled by Cranko for decades until his early death. The Paris Opera Ballet sent the Pas de Deux from Nureyev´s vision of Prokofiev´s "Cinderella" danced by Laura Hecquet and Mathieu Ganio. They are accomplished dancers but –dare I say it- I found the choreography rather pale, and the music sounded harsh in a bad recording, when it is in fact very poetic. Ending both parts, Ferri and Cornejo did two contrasting pieces. "Rhapsody" is an Ashton ballet on Rachmaninov´s "Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini"; we saw a solo by Cornejo showing his splendid technique (he is First Dancer at the American Ballet Theatre) and then a duet with Ferri, in which the 53-year-old ballerina showed the same remarkable resilience of Fonteyn or Plisetskaya at similar ages. Finally, "Le Parc", on Mozart´s marvelous Adagio from Piano concerto Nº 23, is Angelin Preljocaj´s body contact duet, almost without formal steps, culminating in a kiss in which Ferri girated wildly until she seemed to be flying. Her plasticity and expressiveness found an ideal partner in Cornejo. For Buenos Aires Herald

Tribuna musical

September 15

Triumphant return of Krzysztof Penderecki at the Blue Whale

An old friend of our city came back after a long period and got an ovation at the packed Blue Whale of the CCK: Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, aged 82. In the Seventies two scores of his made a vivid impression here: the Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, and the St.Luke Passion (conducted by Henryk Czyz, and unfortunately not played since). Later Penderecki came here in several seasons conducting his own works, and in one visit with a Hamburg orchestra, the standard repertoire. He became a respected and admired artist in Buenos Aires. Along with Witold Lutoslawski, Penderecki was clearly at the head of the astonishing Polish composers of the period after World War II. Having gone through terrible experiences during the war, they and many others found the sounds for a new era. They did it in parallel to the great film makers led by Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Kawalerowicz and Roman Polanski, who communicated the transformation of an injured society in unforgettable images. Unfortunately the hand programmes of the National Symphony contain no information on the scores, which is unfair to both the audience and the composer. So I did some research. Picture the young years of Penderecki after his musical studies at Cracovia (Poland´s most lovely city) during the Iron Curtain. Even in those years the Occidental avantgarde creeped in, and Penderecki knew Stockhausen, Nono and Boulez. After having a traditional musical education, he decided to experiment with sound and soon he was producing some of the most radical and imaginative works of what an analyst called "Sonorism": "Fluorescences", "Polymorphia", "De Natura Sonoris" I and II, represented his position at the time; he wrote in 1962: "all I´m interested is liberating sound beyond all tradition". But by the time he was forty he felt differently, and when he was a professor at the Yale School of Music (the same institution that was illustrated decades before by the presence of no less than Hindemith) he said: "This experimentation and formal speculation is more destructive than constructive. I was saved from the avantgarde snare of formalism by a return to tradition". How curious that he should attack Occident for formalism, the same grave fault according to the Soviets of composers that were very different indeed from the avantgardists: Prokofiev and Shostakovich. My own idea is that, after being genuinely innovative, he didn´t burn the past as others did but incorporated it, for our present is the summing up of all our pasts. And he felt, as others did, that you can give a personal stamp to tonal music. Indeed, Penderecki´s music of all his styles is intense, dramatic and searching. When tonal it has plenty of dissonant climaxes, and dense, complicated textures. But his experimental music obviously touched a nerve, for such film makers as Kubrick, Lynch and Scorsese used it. And the later Penderecki wrote the music for the tremendous Wajda film on Katyn, the Soviet massacre of Polish officers. The composer´s ability to create dramatic music shows in his operas "The Devils of Loudun" (on witchcraft) and "Ubu Rex" (premièred at the Colón in 2004), an antecedent of surrealism and the theater of the absurd. The results of his new views on music showed on many fields. Penderecki is a devout Catholic and has written many important works apart from the mentioned Passion (Magnificat, Stabat Mater, etc.). But he has been equally prolific in writing concerti and symphonies, and that´s the field he showed in this visit. He started with the Adagio movement from his Third Symphony, in the arrangement he made for strings. The score has several other movements. The Adagio is very tonal and shows a perfect command of textures. It lasts ten minutes and grows gradually to a potent climax before subsiding into calmer fields. The Concerto grosso is a sui generis work written for three cellos and big orchestra, a combination I´ve never heard before. Baroque Concerti grossi are generally for two violins, cello and string ensemble, and Stravinsky´s Neoclassic one is for strings and short. Instead, Penderecki wrote six movements all joined to each other and in contrasting speeds, where the three cellos combine their phrases but find themselves in dialogue with multiple soloists from the orchestra: violin, viola, cello, bass, winds. The contrapunctal writing is masterly and the variety of colors fascinates. It was admirably played by Eduardo Vasallo, Jorge Pérez Tedesco and José Araujo. Vasallo was a guest for although he is Argentine he has been first cello of the Birmingham Symphony since 1989. The National Symphony collaborated with great concentration and good solos and Penderecki showed that at 82 he maintains his fine control as conductor. He has written eight symphonies by now, although the Sixth is still in progress. The Fourth is named "Adagio", for that is the principal tempo, but it contrasts with two long faster movements (II, Più animato; IV, Allegro). The five movements again form a continuous block, 35 minutes of coherent and powerful music in which I felt a Shostakovich influence though with Penderecki´s personal character. Three trumpets were placed far from the orchestra at the entrance of the hall and gave intense interventions with the main orchestra, of continuous variety of moods and colors. The orchestra responded well to the composer´s firm indications. Welcome back, Krysztof Penderecki premièring his own creations. For Buenos Aires Herald

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