Sunday, June 25, 2017
Two of my grandsons visited me this week. One of them is a serious music student at age 13. I am proud of all of my six grandkids! My grandson is studying the Sonata number 2, Opus 2, number 2 by Beethoven. So… while he was at my home, l put of a DVD of none other than Daniel Barenboim performing this same Sonata. It is actually astounding what level of originality and maturity that Beethoven brought out in this music. Small wonder: Beethoven composed this music at age 25, when he went to Vienna with the intent to study with either Mozart or Haydn. On this DVD, Daniel Barenboim performed the complete Beethoven piano sonatas over eight concerts in two weeks at the Staatsoper in Berlin. The performances were beautifully captured on film. In addition to four DVD releases, each covering two of the concerts, the master classes are released in a separate 2 DVD set – these feature Mr. Barenboim imparting his wisdom to the next generation, featuring some of the world’s most notable young pianists. My grandson ran out to grab his music, and he followed the artist as he performed this amazing music,
Detail from The Boy Mozart, 1763. Anonymous, possibly by Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni Mozart had reached the grand old age of 14 when he came to write Mitridate and had three operas under his belt already. This was his first opera seria , giving him with the opportunity to try the genre’s conventions on for size. It also brought him head to head with star singers and their many demands. So the music of Mitridate is the young Mozart’s response to these two challenges – but certain movements also reveal the maturing composer’s remarkable genius for emotional truth through music. Sifare’s aria ‘Lungi da te’, from Act II, is one of them. The story of Mitridate has all the trappings Mozart’s audience would have expected from an opera seria, with its tale of a noble family from a distant time torn between love and duty. ‘Lungi da te’ arises from one such conflict: Sifare and Aspasia have fallen in love, but Aspasia is engaged to Sifare’s father, King Mitridate. To preserve both their honours the prince determines to leave his love, and in ‘Lungi da te’ bids his poignant farewell to a distraught Aspasia. The first Sifare was Pietro Benedetti, a soprano castrato who gave everyone the jitters by turning up several weeks late for rehearsal. Mozart’s father, Leopold , wrote of how his son was holding off composing Benedetti’s arias as ‘he doesn’t want to do the work twice… it is better to wait until he arrives in order to measure the suit correctly on the body’. There are three different surviving versions of ‘Lungi da te’, suggesting that this Sifare’s third aria needed extra tailoring. (Another Leopold letter indicates the castrato was happy with the results: ‘The primo uomo said that if [his duet with Aspasia] did not please the public, he would have himself castrated a second time.’) ‘Lungi da te’ accordingly allows its singer (now sung by a female soprano or mezzo-soprano) plenty of opportunity to show off. The aria requires extraordinary breath control and a vocal range that happily covers two octaves. Across that range the singer must be able to sing with both agility and lyricism. There are two opportunities for cadenzas , and the ‘da capo ’ format, where the opening part of the aria is repeated after a contrasting middle section, demands additional ornamentation. The aria is also written with a striking horn obbligato or solo, allowing the singer’s voice to intertwine and play off a virtuoso soloist from the orchestra. And yet, as you would expect from Mozart, ‘Lungi da te’ is so much more than a show-off aria. Every element that fulfils the demands of the opera seria genre, or that Benedetti might have made, also serves a precise and effective dramatic purpose. The horn obbligato imparts the aria both a sense of melancholy and a luminous beauty: the sorrow of parting, the sweetness of love. Sifare’s long lines draw this out further, while the wide range and extensive ornamentation enhance both Sifare’s heroic character and the anguish he suffers. Most striking is Mozart’s response to the text within the da capo structure, in which he uses the obligatory contrasting middle section and repeated opening section to sharpen the aria’s dramatic intention. The middle section is very different from what has gone before: tempo, key and time signature are all changed. In a few short phrases Sifare delivers the text of the second section, firmly telling himself that if he stays with Aspasia any longer he will forget his duty. And then… The music and text of the first part return, Sifare urging Aspasia not to think of the torments she might suffer as he leaves in long-spun and mellifluous music. As he warned himself in the middle section, he has stayed and forgot his duty. Mitridate satisfied the audience at its 1770 premiere, with the opera famously repeated a further 21 times that season. Now, nearly 350 years on, we can also savour ‘Lungi da te’ and the rest of Mitridate for what it is: an insightful response to the operatic structures of the day from a composer just at the beginning of his remarkable opera journey. Mitridate, re di Ponto runs 26 June–7 July 2017. Tickets are still available. The production is given with generous philanthropic support from Hélène and Jean Peters.
Juan Diego Flórez in La fille du régiment © Bill Cooper Whether cast as heroic warriors, ardent lovers, romantic poets or revolutionary outsiders, tenors are the undisputed kings of opera. We look at a few of the greatest – and most challenging – tenor roles: Idomeneo – Mozart ’s Idomeneo Idomeneo is a rare example of a tenor role with no love interest. However, Mozart more than makes up for it by giving the eponymous King of Crete one of the greatest virtuoso arias in the tenor repertory, 'Fuor del mar', and through his moving musical representation of Idomeneo's struggle to reconcile paternal love and religious duty. Arnold – Rossini ’s Guillaume Tell Arnold famously led to the birth of the ‘modern tenor’ , when his first interpreter, Gilbert Duprez , sang the high C in the Act IV cabaletta ‘Amis, amis’ in full voice rather than the customary falsetto. From the flamboyance of this stirring cabaletta to the lyricism of Arnold’s Act II duet with his beloved Mathilde and his mournful Act IV aria ‘Asile héréditaire’, there are plenty of vocal delights for any tenor bold enough to take on the challenge. Arturo – Bellini ’s I puritani Luciano Pavarotti described the role of the heroic monarchist Arturo, caught between love and political duty during England’s Civil War, as ‘pure tightrope walking’. Particularly demanding episodes include the Act I aria ‘A te, o cara’ and the Act III ensemble ‘Credeasi misera’, in which the courageous Arturo has to sing some of the highest notes ever written for tenor. Aeneas (Enée) – Berlioz ’s Les Troyens Stamina and versatility are the key skills for interpreters of Berlioz’s Trojan hero. Aeneas bursts onto the stage in Act I with high, declamatory music – but the role also calls for a singer capable of delicate lyricism, particularly in the sublime Act IV duet with Dido, ‘Nuit d’ivresse’. Keeping back enough energy for Act V’s heroic and despairing aria ‘Inutile regrets’, with its huge vocal range, is also crucial. Siegfried – Wagner ’s Der Ring des Nibelungen Wagner’s Siegfried is arguably the hardest role in the dramatic tenor repertory. Episodes such as the Forging Song require immense vocal power, easy top notes and boundless energy. But it’s not all about decibels: the singer also has to convince as the tender, sympathetic lover of Act III of Siegfried and of Götterdämmerung ’s death scene. Most importantly, he needs the stamina to keep going throughout two five-hour operas and still sound fresh at the end! Otello – Verdi ’s Otello Otello is perhaps Verdi’s most challenging tenor role. It requires a wide vocal range, and the singer needs to project over a powerful orchestra. Otello also presents a host of dramatic challenges: his interpreter must convince as Act I’s heroic commander, and as the troubled, ultimately broken man of the later acts – and remain sympathetic despite his appalling actions. Gherman – Tchaikovsky ’s The Queen of Spades The role of Gherman not only requires a singer of great stamina – he’s rarely offstage – but also one with the acting skills to convey the character’s mental instability and obsessiveness, while making us sympathize with him in his love for Liza and his loneliness. The rewards for the tenor are great, though: Plácido Domingo described Gherman as ‘dramatically one of the most interesting characters I have ever played’. Rodolfo – Puccini ’s La bohème Rodolfo is a character that many singers find it easy to empathize with: his enthusiasm for life, youthful romantic passion and fun-loving, humorous streak. The role also contains much glorious music, including ‘Che gelida manina’, one of opera’s most beautiful lyric tenor arias. No wonder that great tenors including Enrico Caruso , José Carreras and Pavarotti have listed Rodolfo among their favourite roles. The Emperor – Strauss ’s Die Frau ohne Schatten Strauss never gave tenors an easy time of it, and the Emperor outdoes even the role of Bacchus from Ariadne auf Naxos in its vocal difficulty. He makes his first appearance with a heroic aria set fiendishly high in the voice, and further challenges await in Act II when he sings a 12-minute monologue of almost unbearable intensity. Fortunately, the music is as consistently glorious as it is difficult! Peter Grimes – Britten ’s Peter Grimes Peter Grimes’s ambivalent nature makes him one of opera’s most dramatically interesting roles. Is he a hero or a villain? A murderer or a visionary? And how much should we sympathize with him? Jon Vickers saw him as a Christ-like figure, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson as ‘a dangerous, violent, quixotic and very valuable person for whom things go wrong’. But whoever Grimes is, there’s no doubting his wonderful music, including the Act I aria ‘Now the Great Bear and Pleiades’. Otello runs 21 June–15 July 2017. Tickets are still available. The production will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 28 June 2017. Find your nearest cinema. The production is generously supported by Rolex and is given with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, Mrs Susan A. Olde OBE, Alfiya and Timur Kuanyshev, Lord and Lady Laidlaw, Mr and Mrs Baha Bassatne, John G. Turner and Jerry G. Fischer, Ian and Helen Andrews, Mercedes T. Bass, Maggie Copus, Martin and Jane Houston, Mrs Trevor Swete, Beth Madison, John McGinn and Cary Davis, the Otello Production Syndicate, The American Friends of Covent Garden, The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund and an anonymous donor.
"In this environment, with museum directors under pressure to boost attendance, Holbein loses out to Damien Hirst, Manet to Christian Marclay, Braque to Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Klee to Jeff Koons. Even museums whose collections extend back to the ancients are stressing contemporary art. In the past few years, some museum directors and fundraisers have told me that it has become difficult to find money for exhibitions displaying what some are now calling ‘pre-contemporary art’. Sponsors, be they corporations, foundations or individuals, are simply uninterested. This is, as one art dealer remarked to me, like losing Mozart."
The Great Classics with Maestro Shambadal IMB Presents its 29th workshop and final concert for conductors in Berlin THE GREAT CLASSICS Intensive Workshop for Orchestra Conductors Maestro Lior Shambadal (IL) Berlin Sinfonietta Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven October 16th – 21st 2017 We are happy continue our collaboration with the Chief Conductor of the Berliner Symphoniker, Maestro Lior […]
Friends and students are sharing their sorrow at the death of Joan Krueger, owner of a private coaching studio in New York. Joan died today, aged 64, after a 13-year struggle with cancer. At New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival, she worked with Cecilia Bartoli, Sumi Jo, Vinson Cole and more. She was also assistant conductor at Sarasota Opera and music director for NYU’s Opera Workshop. Our sympathies to her family.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 - 5 December 1791), was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Mozart composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers. Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood in Salzburg. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of Mozart's death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons. Mozart learned voraciously from others, and developed a brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and graceful along with the dark and passionate. His influence on subsequent Western art music is profound. Beethoven wrote his own early compositions in the shadow of Mozart, of whom Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years."
Great composers of classical music