Monday, September 1, 2014

“Winter Journey” at the Greek Festival 2014

By Thanassis Vavlidas

14/7/2014, “Winter Journey” in the Summer (D. Mitropoulos Concert Hall at Megaron Moussikis of Athens – Greek Festival 2014)

In its summer program, Greek Festival 2014 included only a few concerts of classical and contemporary (not pop) music. However, all concerts were more or less of high quality as far as interpretation standards are concerned.

Hans Zender (Wiesbaden 1936 - ) is an esteemed German composer and conductor who composed, under the title “Winterreise - eine komponierte interpretation for tenor and small orchestra” (1993), a new version of the well-known song cycle composed by Franz Schubert in 1827, one year before his death. The cycle was published as Opus 89 in 1828 and was based on 24 poems written by Wilhelm Mueller, who followed the romantic style of his time, paying much attention to the inner self and its sentimental reflections to Nature. This cycle is considered as a “colossal peak in art song” and audiences always confirm its great appeal.

Hans Zender’s version managed to filter the romantic spirit of the cycle into a summary of the twentieth century’s conquests concerning the art of composition. He also managed to produce a transcription from piano to a small orchestra, although he changed a few key tones and created new sounds. One of Zender’s aims was the accurate description of natural, as well as psychological, phenomena through these new sounds. And although one might object to the need for such an expression of the original composer’s feelings, we must admit that these sounds revealed new paths to the wanderer of music. Zender’s composition was recorded for the first time by RCA with Hans Peter Blochwitz (tenor) and the Ensemble Modern, the composer himself conducting.

At the concert we attended in July, the famous Greek conductor Theodoros Kourentzis collaborated with the Afro–American tenor Keith Stonum and the music group “Kyklos Ensemble” which was founded in 2013 and consists of experienced Greek musicians. “Kyklos Ensemble” has already given performances of classical and avant–garde music and is taking part in educational programs. The conductor, Th. Kourentzis, is currently living in Russia. He is the artistic director of the Opera House of Perm and the principal conductor of the orchestra “MusicAeterna”.

The collaboration of the above-mentioned musicians led to an interpretation of high level, which has undoubtedly imposed new standards for the performers of such music in Greece. It was obvious from the start that accuracy and clarity were the main characteristics of their interpretation. The conductor took care of every single detail and no mistake was detected, even when some of the musicians had to change positions playing from different sides of the music hall.

Keith Stonum (tenor) also sang with clarity and his voice seemed to be closer to the original score’s demands. But he did not hesitate to use a... loudspeaker when there was a need to emphasize on extreme desperation arising from the verses!

The verses were translated by the poet Alexandros Issaris and the translation was shown, with adequate synchronization, on a board above the musicians.

We are confident that conductor Kourentzis can perform even the most complicated contemporary compositions and make them attractive to a wider audience, since his great abilities are combined with a strong image promotion.

Thanassis Vavlidas
Member of the “Union of drama and music Greek critics”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Schubert: Symphony No.9 / Sawallisch - Wiener Philharmoniker

Toru Takemitsu: Requiem

On March 17, 2011, after Music Director Alan Gilbert and guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen addressed the audience, the New York Philharmonic performed Toru Takemitsu's Requiem for String Orchestra, in sympathy and admiration for the Japanese people who had recently suffered great loss and damage by the earthquake and tsunami.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A. Piazzolla 'Oblivion' - Arabella Steinbacher

Astor Piazzolla: 'Oblivion'

Wurttembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn
Conductor: Ruben Gazarian
Viola: Arabella Steinbacher

Weilburger Schlosskonzerte 2007
Live recording, 14 July 2007

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto - Arabella Steinbacher

P. I. Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major, op.35

Arabella Steinbacher - Violin
Vladimir Fedoseyev - Conductor
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra (Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra)

25/9/2011, Musikverein Saal, Vienna, Austria.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Elgar: Enigma Variations - Bernstein

Edward Elgar composed his Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra ("Enigma"), Op. 36, commonly referred to as the Enigma Variations, in 1898–99. It is a set of fourteen variations on a hidden "theme" that is, in Elgar's words, "not played". It is Elgar's best-known large-scale composition, for both the music itself and the enigma behind it.

Elgar dedicated the piece to "my friends pictured within", each variation being an affectionate portrayal of one of his circle of close acquaintances. The people portrayed in the variations include Elgar's wife Alice, Augustus J. Jaeger and Elgar himself. The enigma is the hidden theme, which has been the subject of much speculation. Various musicians have proposed theories for what melody it could be, although Elgar did not say that that his "theme" was a melody. The enigma could be something else, such as a symbol or a literary theme. Elgar accepted none of the solutions proposed in his lifetime, and took the secret with him to the grave.

After its 1899 London premiere, the piece achieved popularity and was performed internationally. It has been recorded over 60 times.

Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Enigma Variations, Op. 36
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein

Sunday, May 18, 2014

“City Lives”: Fascinating Music Theater by Alexandros Mouzas

By Thanassis Vavlidas

9/5/2014, “City Lives”: Fascinating Music Theater by Alexandros Mouzas (Athens Concert Hall known as Megaron Moussikis of Athens)

Music Theater is one of the newest operatic forms, which flourished during the second half of the twentieth century and still gives birth to remarkable compositions. Kurt Weil and Bertold Brecht could be considered as the European forerunners of this form. Maurizio Kagel, Peter Maxwell Davies and Yannis Christou are held in great esteem for having presented the first and most successful pieces of this form. Quite recently we attended the performance of “Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot” and “Vesalii Icones” by P. M. Davies at Megaron Moussikis of Athens. The composer Alexandros Mouzas was responsible for the artistic supervision of this production. It cannot be considered as a coincidence that three months later, Mouzas presented a fine example of this form entitled “City Lives”. Apparently, he must have been working on this composition for a long time. It consists of eight parts, each of which presents an aspect of city life in relation to important factors affecting it:

1. Introduction
2. Street Life
3. Social Life
4. Money Life
5. Media Life
6. Early Life
7. Inner Life
8. After Life

The composer himself wrote a functional and rather philosophical libretto based on the ideas of modern intellectuals such as Castells, Simmel, McLuhan and Auge (Introduction), which is epitomized by the phrase: “Foreigners in the global village”. Extracts from Hugo, Baudelaire, Barthelemy, Mead, Bakhtin, Gergen, Giddens, Sennet, Bauman, Old Testament, Apocalypse, Koran, Tibetan Bible of the Dead, Kybalion, Ars Moriendi, Financial newspapers and Fairy tales can be traced among the phrases of the libretto. The performance was supported by rather overloaded theatrical scenery, as well as by images (video art, animation, digital painting and sketches) created by Viki Betsou and Alexia Othonaiou. The images sometimes tended to exclusively attract our attention but they functioned quite well with music, especially in the Introduction and in the four last parts.

The musical part took advantage of several styles such as jazz, minimalism, theatrical songs, lyrical parts and religious music, all filtered through the personal style of the composer who managed to create the universe of city life without missing his main point. The singers Myrsini Margariti, Artemis Bogri (sopranos), Maria Vlachopoulou (mezzo soprano) and Tassos Apostolou (bass) were quite expressive and accurate, although they had to overcome frequent changes of scenes and costumes. However, the intensity of music did not always give space for their voices, especially at Street Life and Money Life. The conductor Andreas Tselikas seemed to follow closely the instructions of the composer. He successfully coordinated the singers with “Ergon Ensemble”, a group of musicians specializing in modern music and Music Theater (“Ergon Ensemble” had also taken part in the performance of P. M. Davies’ compositions three months earlier). The composer himself participated in the group by creating special sound effects through the computer.

Our city life has been enriched with new sounds!

Thanassis Vavlidas
Member of the “Union of drama and music Greek critics”

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mendelssohn: Double Piano Concerto in A-Flat Major

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Concerto for Two Pianos in A-Flat Major

Pianos: Love Derwinger & Roland Pöntinen.
The Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam, cond. Lev Markiz.

An early masterpiece by Mendelssohn and -unjustly- a relatively unknown work!