Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tief - how deep is Mahler's Third!

Manfred Honeck
Tonight's concert at Heinz Hall was extra special!
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Jane Irwin, mezzo-soprano
The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh,
- Betsy Burleigh
, director
Children's Festival Chorus ,
- Christine Jordanoff
, director
Mahler: Symphony No. 3
This is but a brief list of why I think this concert shined brighter than Venus on a summer's night:
  • Manfred Honeck - when he conducts he's both a force of music, and at the same time comes across as humble and respectful. His smile seems to melt the audience's collective hearts.
  • Jane Irwin, mezzo-soprano -- wow, her voice was fantastic, and the words, written in German, were easily understood; I got to meet her at the event after the symphony --
  • The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh along side the Children's Festival Chorus sang some beautiful songs along with the symphony - that was a treat.
  • Mahler's third - yet I see no subtitle; the first symphony was called "Titan" -- I guess when you start out with a giant like Titan, is there anywhere else left to go -- not up, but a broader, deeper symphony was this third, thus I suppose no subtitle is necessary when you grow thus.
  • Farcical yet tragic - Mahler's understatement of his symphony -- from wikipedia - "Mahler himself recognised the idiosyncrasies in his work, calling the Scherzo in the Third Symphony 'the most farcical and at the same time the most tragic piece that ever existed ... It is as though all nature is making faces and sticking out its tongue.'"' -- I wasn't sticking out my tongue; in fact, I was sitting there in awe with my mouth ajar, marveling at this beautiful music.
  • Nature - Mahler once said: “I might be called (with due deference to Him) the singer of nature. Since my childhood, nature has been for me the ‘one and all’.” Well as I've called myself a country-boy at heart, I feel one in tune with this composer - who is in tune with nature - especially after hearing his first and third symphonies. I need to hear some more, they are not played nearly enough. Somehow I missed the second symphony.
  • A Vital Force - If nature, to Mahler, is an overwhelming vital force then I wholeheartedly agree. I see nature everywhere and in everything. Mostly good, but nature has its deep and somber moments as well, and we heard that tonight in the first introductory movement and spread throughout this symphony. The range of the emotion was invigorating. The deep bass sounds and the drums where broad, expressive and moving, the strings were vivid and the woodwinds and brass trumpeted trilling messages of fervour.
  • The PSO - they were wonderful, what else can I say - except I believe the sounds was better tonight, perhaps the larger expanse caused by the projection of the back wall permitted a better permeation and greater dissemination of that fabulous brass sound.
  • Tief - Deep -- The lyrics/words by Nietzsche used this word 'Tief' to describe his 'deep dream from which he has awakened.
  • Die Welt ist tief - The world is deep. Tief ist ihr Weh - Deep is her woe. Doch alle Lust will tiefe Ewigkeit - Yet all joy wants deep eternity -- Und tief ist diese Sinfonie!
  • I was told that principal Trumpet for the PSO, George Vosburgh was off stage somewhere on the fourth floor playing that remote trumpet part in the third movement. To me that was one of the most beautiful solos and fantastic movements to a symphony I've ever heard. If I had to pick a favorite at this particular moment in the history of the world, this one is now it - it's my current 'next best thing.'
  • A friend who I saw at the after concert event hosted by WQED (why didn't everyone stop there on the second floor of Heinz Hall afterwards) told me Mahler is his favorite composer, and that if he had to pick a favorite movement from any symphony it would be that beautiful last movement where the strings of the PSO had their showcase - he does have a good point - but there can only be one favorite.
  • It was great to have Manfred Honeck stop afterward and speak to the folks who stayed after the concert.
  • Speaking of 'next best thing,' we are always searching for just that, the next best, and most important thing on our minds at the moment. Tonight I saw folks going to so many venues in downtown Pittsburgh, it's great to have an alive and vibrant community filled with the arts. If I could clone myself, one of me would be at the PSO, and the other would have been at the Three Rivers Art's Festival - I'm told they have an inflatable floating head of Andrew Carnegie on display, what a great sense of humour our town has!
  • I got to meet my new facebook contact Susan Johnson, who told me that little tid-bit about the sense of humour we all have in Pittsburgh :)
  • Likewise I met many of the people who work for and do the radio shows for WQED, including Jim Cunningham and all the rest. It was a pleasure to meet everyone.
  • Thanks to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for such a great season, and especially for letting me blog for them!
btw: I counted over 30 microphones strategically placed, the PSO was recording this live for later release on CD.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Brotherhood: Beethoven's Ultimate Statement of Joy

Mountain Laurel"Yet how incongruous: Beethoven, in his deafness and isolation, was separated from his brothers by a gulf of intellect, phenomenal egotism, and—finally—silence. He came to personify the triumph of individuality, not brotherhood. " -- program notes on Beethoven Symphony No. 9.

I wonder, these words to me also seem philosophically incongruous. I've often delved into the rational investigation of the truths and principles of knowledge, and I continue to return to the thought that it is the individual striving to be better and to discern the ultimate truth - and to communicate the beauty and grace of this knowledge that brings a more lasting 'brotherhood' than any artificially concocted artifact of brotherhood thrust upon the collective in ways they many may lament or mistrust. Only individuals, upon their own impetus, can come together in brotherhood when the understanding through succinct interchange of ideas is ideally struck. What better elucidation of the harmonious ideas that Beethoven was trying to achieve than his Symphony number 9: The 'Ode to Joy'..? How many have heard this masterpiece and felt the ultimate joy he was trying to express. I feel ultimately connected to Ludwig van Beethoven through his music, more so than 10,000 million words could express. I feel the message and I propose that many if not most other 'individuals' do so as well. Was he isolated in his deafness: perhaps to those immediately around him. But who better in this world have expressed such wonderment as Beethoven? Separated from his brothers by a gulf? Perhaps not so much in reality when one considers his gift to humanity, which shared so generously. His triumph was not so much individuality for the sake of it, but it was his use of his own individuality which brought this gift of brotherhood to us all. Who can walk away from this symphony with any other feeling? No longer incongruous are these thoughts I forswear; rather: harmoniously matched and suitable is his brotherhood of all mankind in his ultimate statement of joy.

"(at the end of the first performance) with the audience applauding madly and waving handkerchiefs, the alto soloist went to him and turned him around. Then he was able to see the enthusiastic response he could not hear. Perhaps it was, at last, a rare moment of joy for Beethoven."


Saturday, June 5, 2010

To Joy

Arrive an hour early for the final concert of the first year of our Beethoven Project and enjoy a Concert Prelude with PSO Resident Conductor Lawrence Loh.
I did make it almost on time to see Resident Conductor Loh and his description of the 'Ode to Joy' Symphony by Beethoven. Lawrence Loh was very entertaining. In this sequence we see him describing all the movements of the symphony, and their depiction of various emotions from sad to joy, and along the way all the developments in the composition that take us on this journey into an amazing harmonic weaving which builds on the simple themes and melodies (for instance the third movement) and intertwines various flavors of the same phrases for different instruments and sections of the orchestra in a beautiful statement of both melancholy and ultimately joy.

Well the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra led by Manfred Honeck did not disappoint, their triumphant return to Heinz Hall along with the soloists and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh delivered the nicest and fullest performance of this Symphony No. 9 that I've ever heard. Well I've only heard it one other time live in concert, and that was at Heinz Hall a few years ago. But this time it was such a treat. I'd like to hear it again and again. I've got several recordings on CD, and I only wish this one was available for purchase.

During the performance it was fun to watch various members of the orchestra and also the chorus. I couldn't help but notice them smiling from time to time, something about this symphony makes one smile: It's 'to joy', I suppose that's why. The magic of Beethoven is the affect his music has on everyone.Fire pink my native child

One more thing: I kept hearing that word repeated again and again by the chorus. That was the style that Beethoven used, to repeat the words over and over, to great effect. It was the word 'feuertrunken' which is always translated 'fire imbibed'. Well the actual literal translation would really be: 'drunk with fire.' Somehow, I think after hearing this symphony, I am drunk with fire (and I wanted to use my photo to demonstrate :)

Next week I'm really looking forward to Mahler: Symphony No. 3, a new piece for me.

Friday, June 4, 2010

An die Freude

Check out Mark Rohr's concert notes on 'making the rhythm swagger' -- a description of the Scherzo in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9

Fire pink my native child

Firepink, a photo I took this spring -- sort of
reminds me of 'making the rhythm swagger' --
I can't wait to hear it again at Heinz Hall
this weekend.

Here's some of the text of Schiller's poem -- 'An die Freude'.

I like this translation myself rather than the one you find publish because it's more literal to the original German, rather than the poetic twist you see in published English versions:

Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, überm Sternenzelt
Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter fire imbibed,
Heavenly, thy sanctuary.
Your magic substance reunites
What style strictly divided;
All men become brothers
Where your gentle wings dwell.
Be embraced, Millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the stars
There must live a loving Father.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Anne-Sophie Mutter performs with the PSO

English version of the interview...

Anne-Sophie Mutter performs with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Vienna - About Downloads, conductor experiences and breaks in the interview

Standard: Are there many downloads of your recordings?

Mutter: No idea, but I hope so. This would suggest that there are also some people below my age [downloading], for classical interest. If I'm traveling on, I also use an MP3 player, it's incredibly practical. And iTunes is a great thing. I can not imagine to lug suitcases full of CDs on tour. For private use, I prefer CDs. Subtleties, nuances there are better genuinely gained.

Standard: As a performer you like to devote extended periods of individual work cycles.

Mutter: at premieres it is clear. The point is, after the initial presentation in the next two or three years, it is possible to obtain many premieres. I try, for instance, where I can only [perform] violin concerto by Sofia Gubaidulina "reinzuquetschen." The work is great! It grabs you by the throat - from the first notes on!

Standard: premieres are important to you. Writes just half the world for you new?

Mutter: No, sorry, rather just a small part of the world, but of those it the important to me. Wolfgang Rihm has just written something, he and Krzysztof Penderecki have written something for violin and double bass. Even Andre Previn has sent me a violin sonata, which we will then premiere in 2012 in Essen. And I also hope very much that Sofia Gubaidulina will sometime take my request, writing something for violin and Aquaphone

Standard: Aquaphone, why is that?

Mutter: I have heard a piece for two cellos and Aquaphone, the whirring sound of the instrument - I was almost blown away, and Gubaidulina plays the instrument itself by the way, too

Standard: Pierre Boulez should also write something for you, yes.

Mutter: There was and is the order of the Paul Sacher Foundation with me as soloist. I do not know how it stands. With Boulez, the conductor, I had time with - my - a great pleasure working for some.

Standard: This was not as complicated as Sergiu Celibidache?

Mutter: For heaven's sake, no! If it is speed Celibidache questions failed to. Maybe his time greeting, I should everything that has ever said Herbert Karajan me of forget, in addition to me aroused resistance. From then on it was certainly very difficult, and it did not come to the concert. After the rehearsal, I have canceled the concert for artistic reasons.

Standard: Were there long periods, which you have not touched the violin while?

Mutter: Absolutely. Back when my first child was there. Then I remember a period of three months in which I was very busy. That is not bad. I have five and a half years, started playing violin, and am now 46th So, because three months are not relevant. There are of course always very intense work phases. But I am generally not a man who every day 8:00 to 12:00 on the fiddle would work. I can also at times the door is not even afford the luxury of me. Flexibility is also important for environmental reasons. Then I practice just at night or in between or even without the violin.

Standard: Why They recorded the Brahms Sonatas for violin and piano on now?

Mutter: One sometimes forgets things where you have buried his sweetest - in the garden of the vast repertoire. It is certainly good and right two years ago felt already, so we had taken into the vague eye. Then we also had a room available, recordings of acoustically suited for. And so the time is then placed in was when I did not have to give concerts. I had early lasting impression by David Oistrakh as a listener will, yes. By Alexis Weissenberg, I then played the sonatas.

Standard: What is the basic approach to interpretations of her?

Mutter: I'm from the big picture and, without losing it, then I fall in love in detail. Then I try to make sense of this big picture of the work to integrate the details. Of course, you consider: Where are the highlights of the work? How to play the recapitulation, it will change the tempo? How does all this sound to you? In the Brahms sonatas, it is also a helpful luxury that every composer has not, that it is correspondence, referring to the works.

(Ljubiša Tošić, THE STANDARD / print edition, 22./23./24.05.2010)
Artikelbild: Immer schon und auch jetzt, in der Krise der Branche, eine stabile  "Klassikaktie"  - Geigerin Anne-Sophie Mutter.   Zur Person: Die deutsche Geigerin Anne-Sophie Mutter (Jahrgang  1963) wurde einst von Herbert von Karajan entdeckt und veröffentlicht  ihre CDs seit jeher bei der Deutschen Grammophon.  - Foto: EPA
Immer schon und auch jetzt, in der Krise der Branche, eine stabile "Klassikaktie" - violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.

The German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter (born 1963) was once discovered by Herbert von Karajan; they published their CDs and have always been with Deutsche Grammophon.