Monday, August 21, 2017
Born on this day in 1936 designer Yves Saint-Laurent. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXQoO9r_CuY Born on this day in 1819 writer Herman Melville. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9CmZ531N1s Born on this day in 1899 conductor William Steinberg. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVlFlQs8izk Born on this day in 1921 contralto Lili Chookasian. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjPaLv805oo Happy 91st birthday bass Theo Adam. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPMWDjcrwqc Happy 85th birthday soprano Elinor Ross. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXjWD5TocgI Born on this day in 1933 actor Dom DeLuise. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws1Y13AeGc4 Born on this day in 1931 tenor and teacher Nico Castel. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=LusiQAlvaDk Happy 76th birthday conductor Jordi Savall. Happy 75th birthday tenor Claes H Ahnsjö. . . . and your humble servant Windy City Operaman adds another ring around his trunk today. Happy Birthday Leos!
With a production of Marin Marais's 1706 opera Alcione conducted by Jordi Savall, the historic house where Bizet's Carmen and Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande had their premieres is back with all its Belle Époque splendor renewed. Among the restorers' proudest achievements is recreating the auditorium's unique shade of red, somewhere between coral and brick. (slide show with text in French; Google Translate version here )
Sanders Theater filled with an audience perhaps warming up for for the Super Bowl at the latest Boston Early Music Festival offering. Jordi Savall returned to Boston at the helm of a seven-member version of his ensemble, Hespèrion XXI, delivering assorted Renaissance and Baroque dance music stretching over two centuries with a characteristic mix of meticulous research and exemplary execution. Within an ensemble of five viols, Savall played the highest treble from the furthest left, with Imke David on tenor next to him. Xavier Diaz-Latorre was in the middle of the group with his theorbo and a double-strung guitar (looking and sounding like a cross between an Arabian oud and the acoustic instrument familiar from pop music). Two early music conductors sat on the right, Lorenz Duftschmid (director of Armonico Tribute Austria) with a cello-sized bass viol, and on the far right, Philippe Pierlot (leader of the Ricercar Consort) on bass viol and viola-sized alto viol. Behind the violists, David Mayoral played an array of percussion instruments, and Xavier Puertas stood with a double-bass sized violone. The program explored the ways that Venetian innovations in instrumental music echoed and rippled through Western Europe between 1500 and 1700. Savall broke down a daunting list of instrumental dance music into eight sets of three to five pieces. The musical journey began in Venice around 1500, exploring dance music with an anonymous Pavana and Galliarda, an anonymous Saltarello, and a Hungaresca by Giorgio Mainerio. The stately dances flowed one into another without a break, making it a little tricky to tell one piece from the next, but the rhythmic drive imparted by Mayoral on tambourine and drums showed their clear ties to dance music from court. The viol parts were homophonic, mostly moving in exact parallel, though the Hungaresca had more of a bagpipe-like drone underlying it. The mid-to-late 1500’s featured Ricercar forms by Hieronymus Parabosco and Andrea Gabrieli, and a Capriccio by Giovanni Battista Grillo. These works had more contrapuntal complexity and less driven rhythm, with textures that sound like the kind of vocal polyphony that I’m accustomed to from church music. The Gabrieli featured nifty duetting between Savall and David, then a triple time refrain, then a duet between Duftschmid and Pierrot. The Grillo had some rhythmically challenging segments (there were some abrupt changes of meter that were tricky enough to require Savall to beat time when he wasn’t bowing). A set of consort music from the British age of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I featured the Lacrimal Pavan and The King of Denmark Galliard of John Dowland, an In Nomine à 4 by Orlando Gibbons, and Ein Schottisch Tanz by William Blade. The first three works further developed the theme of instrumental music as arrangements of vocal music, with an ear-catching mix of speeds and modes. The Gibbons sounded the most like pure vocal music, down to its Latin motet title, and was delivered by the four violists, violone, and theorbo. The circle came back to the world of dance music with Blade’s Scottish Dance. Here, Diaz-Latorre laid down another bagpipe-like drone while Savall duetted with Pierlot on alto viol with sharp rhythmic flair. From Britain we moved to early 17th-century France, and the dances start getting arranged in a style like the Baroque suite, in this case with an anonymous Pavane de la petitte Guerre & Galliard, Luigi Rossi’s Fantasie “Les pleurs d’Orphée,” then an anonymous Sarabande “A l’impero d’amore” and Bourée d’Avignonez. The Rossi was particularly striking with its descending bass line, interspersed with cutting dissonant leaps back up the scale. The Bourée unspooled with a gradual, steady acceleration, ending the first half with a virtuosic flourish. After intermission, Hespèrion XXI returned to Venice at the start of the 17th century, with two Canzon compositions by Giuseppe Guami. Canzon 7 “La Cromatica” had the chromatic figure you might expect, exchanged first among the lower strings, then all the strings and theorbo. Canzon 4 “sopra la Battaglia” began with a martial drum roll, then a compound meter ascending figure shared among the strings, with some fiercely articulated duetting between Savall and Duftschmid. With the German composer Samuel Scheidt, we moved to another four-movement Baroque suite, with Paduan V, Courant Dolorsa IX, Allemande XVI, and Galliard Battaglia XXI. Here, for the first time, the pieces take on a clearer form, with an A section of material, the A section repeated with some variation, a B “answering” section, then a reprised A section; this form evolved into the Classical minuet and scherzo. This set also featured dense counterpoint, with particularly striking duets between treble viol Savall and alto viol Pierlot in the outer dances. The latter in particular featured Pierlot echoing everything Savall did, matching articulation, dynamics, and breathtaking virtuosity in a kind of Baroque throwdown. (I’ve always wondered if you could have an effective concert on Super Bowl Sunday in which the game is broadcast on a big screen while an early music ensemble matches Renaissance and Baroque battle music to it.) Two larger scale pieces from Venice in the mid 17th century followed. Biagio Marini’s Passacaglia à 4 features a recurring bass pattern going through ‘A-A-B-A’ format through some five or six variations and plenty of polyphony for the viols. Giovanni Legrenzi’s Sonata VI à 4 Viole da gamba was the first piece in sonata form. In this case, it was a relatively short work in “church sonata” form in which slow and fast movements alternate, in this case ending with a slow coda. If my report to this point seems mostly lacking in descriptions of individuals, that’s because for the most part, this event really emphasized the group’s collective technical polish. The strings blended beautifully, and passing-tone dissonances and open fifths rang out in the kind of way that only gut strings can. Each violist had some moment in the spotlight with Savall, of which each made the most, though their eyes’ tending to be fixed on the sheet may have diminished spontaneity. The final set of the evening came from Iberia from the end of the 17th century, and here, Hespèrion XXI came through with the kind of verve that marked the folía program that brought down the house at BEMF in 2015 (reviewed here ). In the Folía (Obra de 1er Tono, No. 10) by Pedro de San Lorenzo, pizzicatoing viols, and Diaz-Latorre’s guitar within a shorter rhythmic pattern and bass line brought it close to the world of Spanish and Latin American music. The anonymous Canarios and Antonio Valente’s Gallarda featured even simpler recurring bass line motifs which underpinned Savall’s improvisatory flights of fancy. I wonder how much of the music was improvised, though; shortly after Savall reached up beyond the highest playable note on his treble instrument, the group abruptly switched to a minor-key version of the recurring bass line and improvisation, then switched back to major again, as all grinned with some of the more wayward directions. Savall explored the extremes of his range, a variety of rhythmic figurations and dynamics, and at one point even seemed to recall Bach’s harmonization of “Jesu, meine Freude” in his instrumental perambulations. The Latin-inspired music brought the concert to a close, and the audience to its feet with raucous cheers. Jordi Savall (file photo) For an encore, the group offered a Satyrn Dance by William Brade, another spirited romp which hushed down to pianissimo; within pizzicato textures percussionist Mayoral sported an amusing Jew’s harp solo. In sum, the show paid tribute both to Savall’s omnivorous musical research and his ability to recruit a band that functions compellingly of one mind. Savall will stay in town one extra day; on Monday, February 6th from 7:10 to 9:10 p.m., he will take part in a roundtable discussion of his cross-cultural musical collaborations at the Barker Center on the Harvard College campus; details are here . He then rejoins Hespèrion XXI for a very busy tour, taking them to Jackson (Mississippi), St. Paul, Kansas City, New York, Lyon, Barcelona, Luxembourg, and Paris before the month is out. BEMF returns on February 24th with Stile Antico performing Renaissance sacred music at St. Paul’s in Cambridge The post Savall Takes Hespèrion XXI Venetian appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .
Okay, this will be a somewhat unusual media round-up, because I am dipping into the past for some of my comparisons. I saw Jordi Savall and a current incarnation of Hesperion XXI the other night at Zellerbach - a terrible venue for an unamplified Renaissance string ensemble, but, well, First Congregational wasn't available - and hoo boy was it dull and disappointing. Dull for reasons you can see in my review; disappointing because on record the Savall Cabal is anything but dull. And yet, Joshua Kosman's 1997 review reflects what I heard Friday night, so I can't chalk up the problems to the absence of Montserrat Figueras. Then again, there's Alex Ross's 2005 review from The New Yorker, which memorialies a concert that's what I would have expected based on Hesperion's recordings. Allan Ulrich, in 2001, is in line with Alex Ross. Maybe I should have just withdrawn from reviewing as soon as I saw that this year's Hesperion is a viola da gamba ensemble plus percussion plus theorbo/guitar. Yeah, make any old viola joke you'd like; I refrained in my review. Lisa Hirsch, SFCVAlex Ross, "The King of Spain," NYer, 2005Joshua Kosman, Chronicle, 1997Allan Ulrich, Chron/Ex, 2001Not sure who else reviewed last week's program but I'm happy to link to other reviews. As to the why of all of this: everyone in the group seemed a little bit in his or her own world, removed from each other and from the audience, including Savall. There were ensemble problems in a couple of numbers, where Savall himself seemed out of synch with the other instrumentalists; that was very strange. The Hesperion tour page shows you all of their concerts and the locations of those concerts. They're currently touring several different programs and playing 14 concerts (maybe 15, not sure who is doing what at "Conference") in different configurations in February. That's a lot of playing and a lot of travel.
>Eric Hoeprich (file photo) The London Haydn Quartet and clarinetist Eric Hoeprich came back to First Church, Cambridge (Congregational) on Friday night for the Boston Early Music Festival; their stunning local debut had been in 2014. This year’s program of the Haydn Op. 77, No. 2; Beethoven’s Op. 18, No. 2; and Weber’s Clarinet Quintet had the same impressive blend and exquisite execution, but somehow the result felt more subdued, and didn’t jump off the stage the way it did three years back. The quartet arranged themselves on the concert stage with first violinist Catherine Manson, second violinist Michael Gurevich, violist John Crockatt, and cellist Jonathan Manson sitting from left to right. They opened with the final completed string quartet of their beloved Franz Joseph Haydn, the Quartet in F Major, Op. 77, No. 2. The ensemble’s phrasing was suave and tasteful, tuning was meticulously controlled, balances were superbly judged, and the four individual voices could be heard in crisp, clean counterpoint. Motifs moved between parts with an easy give and take, and fast passages were carried off with tight rhythmic unison. Catherine Manson dispatched Haydn’s many virtuosic passages for first violin with style and flair, and Jonathan Manson played a delightfully droll marching figure (in a duple time) which clashed with the triple time of the second movement Menuetto. The fourth movement Finale featured high spirited humor and sharp syncopations, impressive dynamic control, and a beautifully timed drawing out of the suspended movement right before the mad rush to the finish. Haydn’s last string quartet was followed by one of Beethoven’s earliest, the G major, Op. 18, No. 2. Even in this early example, Beethoven breaks up big musical phrases and scatters them among the various instrumental parts; with the London Haydn Quartet, you could follow the big phrase seamlessly. In the first movement’s development section, they beautifully negotiated the transition into a minor key harmonic wilderness. The recapitulation took advantage of Beethoven’s deceptive cadences by building up harmonic expectations, then deftly shifting in an unexpected direction. The second movement Adagio was played with noble serenity, followed by a suitably abrupt transition to the central, rough-humored Allegro, then back to the Adagio in a way that felt equally abrupt and inevitable. The third movement Scherzo had lovely dovetailing of musical motifs between the violinists Catherine Manson and Gurevich, and ringing, stunningly tuned chords in the middle-section Trio. The final Allegro molto was jaunty and brisk, with more brilliant soloist turns for Catherine Manson, and more of Beethoven’s harmonic detours, before ending with a unison explosion. The playing was all pleasant and agreeable. However, as I look over my review from 2014 [here ], I can’t help but feel that this performance lacked the exuberant energy that I heard three years ago. John Crockatt joined the quartet about a year ago, and the cellist was a substitute in 2014, so half the quartet was different on Friday night. Perhaps they are still working out their ensemble, or maybe they were tired from having played in Atlanta on Sunday, Philadelphia on Tuesday, and New York the night before. Their tour schedule shows them playing at least four different programs in two months, so maybe it’s a problem of familiarity and fluency. Perhaps First Church’s echoing acoustics washed out the group’s restrained, smaller, period instrument sound. But where my notes from 2014 are full of dipping and swaying and eye contact, on Friday I saw eyes glued to their scores, little glancing back and forth at each other, and the music was ably played, but didn’t have as much verve or sparkle. Clarinetist Eric Hoeprich, joining for Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Quintet in B-flat Major, Op. 34, extended the quartet arch, sitting next to cellist Jonathan Manson and opposite first violinist Catherine Manson. Weber’s quintet comes across as a show off vehicle for the clarinetist’s technical skills. Hoeprich impressed with lightning-fast scale runs and rhythmically buoyant leaps, considering that his period instrument didn’t have the key system of modern clarinets that makes those fast runs easier. He soared to the top of the instrument’s register and dove to its depths with equal fluency, showed surprising dynamic range with some strikingly sudden shifts mid-phrase, and played long, legato passages with a lyrical line. He injected a good deal of energy into the evening’s proceedings, though at moments the strings seemed reduced to accompanists rather than collaborators. The London Haydn Quartet nevertheless provided some lovely moments, not least the sumptuous chords that opened the first movement; Jonathan Manson’s sonorous cello solo leading to the melancholy aria-like opening of the second movement; and the counterpoint in the finale. The work finishes with a quicksilver flourish, though it missed the playful sense of exchange of the Mozart Quintet from 2014. Hoeprich and the London Haydn Quartet continue their tour in Milwaukee on Saturday and Yale University (a repeat of this program) on Sunday, the 15th. The Boston Early Music Festival returns on February 5, with Jordi Savall at the helm of Hespèrion XXI. James C.S. Liu is a physician by day and a baritone and music enthusiast by night. He lives with his wife and daughters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The post Haydn Plus Hoeprich Again appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .
Le Royaume oublié – La Tragédie Cathare Montserrat Figueras, Pascal Bertin, Marc Mauillon, Lluís Vilamajó, Furio Zanasi La Capella Reial de Catalunya Hesperion XXI Jordi Savall Alia Vox AVSA9873 A/C (2009) [flac, cue, log, scans of the book] This CD-set brings us back in time more than usual. It begins around the year 1000 and comes to a well known composer only at the end: Dufay. The dissident Christian movement of the Cathars, or Albigenses, is the subject of the four-hour program conceived by Jordi Savall, using mostly music of the troubadours of Occitania (south of France) where Catharism spread. The songs, while not Catharist, have been often composed at the courts which were trying to maintain their independence from the King of France in the same way the Cathars were trying to survive the opposition of the official Church. On hearing the beginning of the first CD, so various, you may be wondering what place that music belongs to. Well, you must think about the presence of the Arabs in Europe and their fruitful cultural exchange with the Jews. Would you believe this happened? Although the idea of providing the liner notes in seven languages is certainly part of the program, I had to choose: the full scans are given only for MIMIC official language, English. The following is an excerpt from the book. The principal sung text in the present recording were chosen primarly on the basis of their poetic and musical interest, as well as their relevance to the various historical events. In this context, we should single out the “first” troubadour, Guilhem de Peitieu, and the first trobairitz, the Countess of Dia, and of course the other wonderful troubadours such as Pèire Vidal, Raimon de Miraval, Guilhem Augier Novella, Pèire Cardenal, Guilhem Montanhagol and Ghilhem Figueira. In the case of the songs for which no music is extant, we have followed the practice of borrowing melodies by other composers such as Bernat de Ventadorn, Guiraut de Bornheilh, and other anonymous authors, thus emulating a very widespread practice in medieval poetry, a fact that sometimes is overlooked today. […] In our approach to the Cathar liturgy, all the texts are recited in Occitan, while the text in Latin are sung in a very ancient form of plain chant. In evoking the executions at he stake we have used a moving and dramatic combination of delicate improvisations on wind instruments of Eastern origin, such as the duduk and the kaval symbolising the souls of the victims, with the contrasting menace and mounting tension expressed by the presence of the drum rolls.