Saturday, May 28, 2016
Othello in the Seraglio is the rather unfortunate title bestowed by the ensemble Dünya on its “coffeehouse opera,” ossia The Tragedy of Sümbül the Black Eunuch, presented Friday night at the National Sawdust concert space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, following a brief run in Boston, where Dünya is based. The title is an unhappy choice because, though it pricks the attention of any opera-lover and sets the story in its time and place, such a title gets us humming Verdi and Mozart, and the work being presented cannot compete on that level. Best to leave the masters out of it, and you can enjoy a charming pasticcio of Turkish folk music played on original instruments interleaved with Italian madrigals. The story, derived from a Turkish novel of 1933, concerns one of the “black eunuchs,” enslaved and marched across the Sahara, assigned to the harem of the sultans in Istanbul, a custom that continued as long as the Ottoman monarchy. One of these eunuchs, Sümbül, rich and retired after a long career, buys an Italian slave girl, Suzun (remember those Turkish corsairs who keep turning up in operas? They were real), as a gift to his old master, the sultan. But the girl is damaged goods! Pregnant by one of the pirates. That won’t do for the sultan, so he keeps her himself and treats her kindly. They fall in love. They even marry. This outrages another European slave, Frenk Mustafa (Mustafa the European), who believes he has more right to the girl (being whole) than does a eunuch. Suzun spurns him, so he becomes Iago, playing on Sümbül’s jealousy and fears of inadequacy, driving him to murder the girl. A Turkish maid tells Sümbül the truth and he kills himself. Suzun’s son inherits the house, and the title “Bastard of the Chief Black Eunuch.” You can see the operatic potential of this tale, but grand opera was not the intention or, perhaps, the talent of the composer, Mehmet Ali Sanl?kol. Sanlikol, master of a dozen traditional Turkish instruments (kemane, kasuk, ceng, ud, ney, zurna, nekkare, davul, darbuka, bombo and kos—and do try the mezes!) which, as well as many western ones (gamba, recorders, sackbut), are part of the Dünya ensemble, has attempted to tell a story of clashing cultures by clashing and blending their different musics. This is a method that has evolved in many Dünya recordings that present linkages between the music of ancient Byzantium and medieval Istanbul, including all the cultures under the Ottoman regime. This is rather in the manner of the programs of Jordi Savall, from the other end of the Mediterranean, who produces similar albums of Moorish, Crusader, Troubadour and Greek Orthodox traditions, blended and displayed. In Othello in the Seraglio, therefore, Sümbül (Sanlikol himself) sings traditional Turkish laments of love, with Middle Eastern melismas and ornamentation and some falsetto flutters for the eunuch’s keening; Suzun (soprano Camila Parias) sings Italian madrigals of Monteverdi and his ilk with a sweet, true voice and the bleating trills of that day; Frenk Mustafa (baritone Michael Barrett) sings an insidious “crossover” between the cultures, and Saadet, the maid (alto Burcu Gülec) performs Turkish music with finger cymbals and ecstatic ululations. The music-making was fine and haunting, the alternation of styles and languages and rhythms keeping the occasion vivid. There was even an a cappella quartet, perhaps another nod to Verdi’s and Mozart’s operas, but this appeared to be more of the meditative variety, each character making a statement to us of private feelings than the interactive quartets of Otello and Seraglio. But it’s certainly where Sanlikol should begin if he really wants to create Turkish folk opera, a praiseworthy ambition. There were no surtitles and I did not miss them, in part because Ms. Parias’ Italian lyrics were comprehensible to any opera lover, but also because of the “coffeehouse opera” concept, developed by Robert Labaree and directed by Brian Fairley, who collaborated on the script. Storytelling in the coffeehouses is an Ottoman tradition: Max Sklar played a garrulous narrator, telling us everything we might to know (and then some) to know about the characters, their motivations and the customs of old Istanbul. The original storytellers also panhandled the audience between numbers, as in Massenet’s Le Jongleur de Notre Dame. Thus the story was clear enough, but the conceit let the composer off the hook: He did not have to make an opera out of it, have his persons evolve and interact. The “opera” consisted of alternating numbers and lengthy verbal footnotes. There were statements of character and motivation, but the singers never became those characters, never felt those motivations. It was an action with very little action. National Sawdust, on North Seventh Street, is a venue new to me, including restaurant, bar and performance spaces. The room for the opera is about half the size of Merkin Hall at Lincoln Center and boasts superb acoustics, no doubt enhanced by the décor, which is sort of a modern, asymmetrical take on traditional, symmetrical Moorish motifs. Very appropriate to this piece. They do a lot of fascinating classical avant-garde stuff, but I’d also recommend it to anyone looking for a concert venue in Brooklyn. Photography: Öykü Canli
The Orchestra of Louis the 13th (1601-1643) Pavane pour la petitte guaire, fait pour les Cornetz en 1601 Gaillarde, en suitte Pavane pour hautbois, fait au sacre du Roy en 1610 Boureé D'avignonez Les Bergers Sarabandes & Tambourin Jordi Savall, Le Concert des Nations Alia Vox CD Sampler SP AV 9824 (2002) [Flac & Scans]
Jordi Savall (file photo) Jordi Savall’s fame drew a robust crowd into the seasonably cold and drafty St. Paul Church in Harvard Square—enough to warm up the cavernous edifice and make it just a little less nippy for Boston Early Music Festival’s show on Saturday. The regal Catalan maestro appeared this time accompanied by Frank McGuire, his established partner in Celtic explorations. The presence of a robust Scotsman in a black kilt and matching shirt, with a silver sporran and one diamond earring glittering in the dark, added to pre-concert excitement, but it was the immensely photogenic master of the viol who was photographed as he hung around, tuning and poking his seven-string 1697 bass viol and the six-string treble one. The preconcert lecture amounted to a rather abbreviated introduction and a few questions and answers, during which McGuire, a master of several traditional instruments, had a chance to showcase his tunable percussion of the evening, the bodhrán. Savall started on the treble viol with four short Irish pieces with McGuire joining for the two faster ones. With the pieces played without a pause, the percussion joining in created a somewhat improvisational atmosphere. A selection of Musicall Humours for bass viol by Captain Tobias Hume followed. Aside from the viol being the 17th century’s instrument of choice, this mercenary has only one connection to the Celtic theme: some letters penned in his infirm years, captured his far-fetched plans to defeat the Irish rebels. Fittingly, his Musicall Humours provided a nice contrast with the main Celtic theme of the concert. Some of the pieces by Hume brought out the vintage Saval—spontaneous and soulful. The last selection under the title A Souldiers Resolution consisted of a series of musical depictions of campaign scenes, whose titles were announced by the performer, in a kind of Elizabethan version, or rather inversion, of the genre of music video. Several subsequent suites derived from Celtic pieces extracted from collections spanning three centuries and were arranged by Savall according to required tuning and by matching key. The performers alternated slow pieces played by Savall solo with fast ones where McGuire added excitement and character by joining in on the bodhrán. The emerging harmonization placed high among the sonic highlights of the evening. The audience showed the most animation in the moments when the playing accelerated to a breakneck speed, the best trick of fiddlers of all times. The sound of the treble viol carried reasonably well, but for listeners, especially those who did not have a good view of the performers, it likely did not add up to a fully satisfying musical experience. Even sitting upfront, I could not help wondering whether the softer notes reached the back at all. One also wondered how this music would react to trading one da gamba player for a couple of less historically informed da braccio examples. Of all the founding faiths or founders’ intents of the Early Music movement—closer proximity to the intent of the composer, attempts to replicate what the piece sounded like to its first listeners, reanimation of undeservedly abandoned instruments, or just simply music making with passion that is stimulated by the depth of knowledge—this listener always found the last one to be the most rewarding. Jordi Savall’s concerts and recordings always delivered. Despite considerable moments of virtuosity and moments of beauty, I was left pondering what qualities were missing during this outing. There has been an interesting discussion, reflected [here ] in these pages provoked by Savall’s excursions into another folk music tradition—Sephardic in that case. It was centered on the question of whether early music illuminati can bring better or even matching insights into a tradition, when compared to modern performers practicing that continuously evolving folklore. A related question is which approach is likely to bring more musical joy. Celtic tradition is remarkably rich and full of vitality, and I, for one, had a strong impulse after coming home from the concert to scurry around YouTube for some Chieftains or look for Celtic Sojourn on the radio. To this reviewer, the many vibrant modern faces of the organically evolving Celtic music look much more interesting than the well-researched presentation by this magister of the art of recorded music. What could be a better conclusion from a concert, which, by including a traditional player and by offering an homage it its very heartfelt program notes, pays tribute to the powerful surviving spirit of centuries-old oral transmission? Victor Khatutsky is a software developer who reviewed music as a US-based freelancer for the Kommersant Daily of Moscow. He has been known for occasionally traveling long distances to catch his favorite performers. The post Da Gamba in Celtic Lands appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .
Dulichius - Motets Weser Renaissance Schein - Opella Nova I Ensemble Sagittarius Scheidt, Schütz, Schein Ricercar Consort - Pierlot Schütz - Psalmen Davids Oxford Camerata - Summerly Praetorius - Dances Westra Aros Pijpare Philipp Dulichius (1562-1631)18 Motets Weser-Renaissance BremenManfred Cordes - directionLabel: CPO 777 352-2Recorded August 2008 If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here[flacs & scans]Download Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630) Opella Nova Fontana d'Israel Ensemble Sagittarius Michel Laplénie - direction Label: Hortus 075 Recorded October 2009 If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here [flacs & scans] Download Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)10 PsalmenJohann Hermann Schein2 Pavans from Suiten XII & XVII Oxford CamerataJeremy Summerly - directionLaurence Cummings - organistLabel: Naxos 8.553044Recorded September 1994 If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here[flacs & scans]Download Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667) Fantasias, Toccatas, Capriccios, Ricercari Joseph Kelemen - organist Baumeister organ (1737), II/P/22 Maihingen (meantone voiced) Label: Arte Nova 74321 85322 2 Recorded September 2000 If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here [flacs & scans] Download Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654)Ludi Musici, prima pars Hesperion XXJordi Savall - directionLabel: EMI CDC 7 63067 2Recorded November 1978Courtesy of member Marvinius If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here[flacs & scans]Download Scheidt, Schütz, Bernhardt, Ahle, Schein, Krieger Geistliche Deutsche Barockmusik Ricercar Consort & La Fenice Philippe Pierlot - direction Label: Ricercar RIC 254 (2CD) Recorded in 1981-1994 & 1998 If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here [flacs & scans] Download Jauchzet dem HerrenWorks of Buxtehude, Scheidt, Förscht, Weiland, Weckmann & others Hans-Jörg Mammel - tenorEnsemble La Fenice Jean Tubéry - directionLabel: Alpha 179Recorded August 2009Thanks to unknown uploader If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here[flacs & scans]Download Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) Dances from Terpsichore Westra Aros Pijpare Ensemble Bourrasque Lena Hellström, Bertil Färnlöf Label: Naxos 8.553865 Recorded April 1996 If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here [flacs & scans] Download
The several BMInt writers not immune to nostalgic rumination have each submitted lists of their favorite CDs and concerts of the last season. We thank them for their reflections. More are expected, so check back. Some have chosen to nominate concerts they have reviewed while others have chosen from concerts which they merely attended. During the past 12 months BMInt has published hundreds of reviews and articles (for the record, 3700 reviews in 5 years), so this epistle must needs place a severe test on the memories of the participants. But this exercise also gives us all yet another reminder of how much to be grateful for the musical life of Boston and its environs. I believe that BMInt’s 50+ active writers, including one who doffed her training wheels to serve as a correspondent to the Globe, salute all of our players and presenters. And I add my wishes for a Happy New Year to the readers of this site who on a good day number over 5000. The discourses on these pages and their re-postings on Facebook, Twitter, and presenters’ websites speak volumes to the relevance of the art we celebrate and our yearnings to discuss it. Vance Koven: Concerts Calder String Quartet Radius New And Old A Rake’s Progress BoCo Boston Trio Adds Astrid Sheen H + H: Haydn Creation Dedham Choral Society: Mendelssohn Lobgesang Quarteto LatinoAmerica in Rockport Mahler 8 at Tanglewood Portland Chamber Music Society BoCo Winds With Panach Aeolous Palmer Ashmont Boston Arts Ensemble in Brookline BSO Holiday Refreshment Recordings: American Romantics: The Boston Scene by Artem Belogurov Geoff Wieting: Recordings Flutist Linda Bento-Rei’s “Invocation ” Messa di Requiem by 20th-century Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti . Concerts Pianists Gloria Chien and Elizabeth Schumann in Stravinsky’s Le sacre du Printemps NEC Philharmonia & Hugh Wolff Defy Fierce February BSO with Olivier Latry and Mahler 6. Renaissance Men Emphasize on the Romantic German tradition. Susan Miron: Concerts Borromeo Bartok Beethoven Gardner Bryn Terfel Tanglewood Lee Eiseman: Concerts: BSO Brahms Requiem with Terfel Grand Harmonie’s Gran Partita Elias String Quartet in Rockport Avi Avital on Fire CD/Songbook Nursery Rhymes and Songs James Liu: Concerts Borromeo Quartet in Ashmont Savall’s BEMF Social Club Otter for BEMF Isabelle Faust at BSO Elektra at BSO The post Critics Remember 2015 appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .
The viola da gamba virtuoso and director of supergroup Hesperion XXI – and UNESCO Artist for Peace – was praised last week when he announced that, in honor of International Migrants Day, they would perform in the “jungle,” the makeshift settlement of refugees looking for some way across the Channel to Britain, where they hope to settle. Then Savall called off the concert, claiming that he hadn’t received sufficient assurances of security for himself and his musicians. The angry organizer of the concert responded that he’d go ahead with the event “with a new generation of musicians … who won’t require us to roll out a red carpet in France’s biggest shantytown.” (in French; Google Translate version here )