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Turandot Bangs a Gong in Montréal

The Opéra de Montréal closed its 34th season with Puccini's unfinished opera Turandot. Graeme Murphy’s production of Turandot, which originated in Australia twenty years ago (and which is also available on DVD), remains as attractive as ever. This staging’s undeniably greatest asset is the absence of any dead spots, any moments when the visual elements conflict with the ensemble’s spatial patterns or when their movements appear too studied or obviously choreographed—a powerful staging, galvanized by ...
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The 2014 edition of the ResMusica Summer Festivals Guide

The 2014 edition of the ResMusica Summer Festivals Guide The third edition of the ResMusica Summer Festivals Guide offers a selection of 60 European festivals of classical music and dance . As with  previous editions, this enhanced version uses the successful  downloadable-only  format. This selection of festivals is intentionally European (at a time when would-be soothsaying demagogues and pitchmen once again hope to build walls between people) because, as with all the ...
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Thaïs at Los Angeles with Domingo and Fournillier

Plácido Domingo offers American audiences his first Athanaël, already successfully honed in Europe, and about which there really is nothing to say or write…or very little. At 72, the General Director of the Los Angeles Opera, is still, despite everything, a 10, in the vocal and dramatic “force of nature” category! The breath is slightly shorter, the timbre slightly less colored. The movements have slowed down a bit, but this Athanaël, ...
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Hartmut Haenchen conducts the Helsinki Philharmonic

Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 may be one of the most performed pieces of orchestral music, and the first 2-4 measures of this work could be the most recognized musical excerpt of all of classical music. With a legacy consisting of literally countless recordings and interpretations, how does one approach this well-worn score and still make it sound vital and fresh? Based on this evening's performance, Haenchen's answer to this question appeared ...
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Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducts the Finnish RSO in Dutilleux, Strauss, and Brahms

Jukka-Pekka Saraste is a familiar presence to Helsinki audiences, regularly conducting both the Helsinki Philharmonic and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. His interpretive style generally focuses on clarity, balance and transparency, while avoiding excesses such as bombast or effusive sentimentality. Such an approach led to mixed results in this program of Dutilleux, Strauss, and Brahms. Saraste is almost solely responsible for the regular performances of Dutilleux's orchestral music in Helsinki, and ...
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A journey with quater tones, and death: Hannu Lintu conducts the Tapiola Sinfonietta

For both musicians and audiences only familiar with the Western chromatic scale of 12 pitches, listening to music which employs quarter tones can be a disorienting experience. If a composer wishes to write a piece which employs quarter tones as an integral part of the musical fabric, as opposed to simple extensions of color, the role of each quarter tone pitch needs to be firmly established within the harmonic vocabulary ...
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The Beethoven Festival 2014 in Warsaw

Founder Elżbieta Penderecka chose Beethoven and the ideal of freedom as a theme for this new edition, using the anniversary of the Fidelio's composition as a backdrop. For almost two weeks, there were daily concerts at the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and at the royal castle, with operas, symphonic concerts and chamber music recitals. The 2014 edition also hosted the yearly gala of the International Classical Music Awards. As for the guest ...
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The 2014 ICMA Gala in Warsaw

The 2014 ICMA Ceremony and Gala took place in Warsaw, during the Easter Beethoven Festival, one of the major cultural events of Central Europe. The Polish young orchestra (Sinfonia Juventus) was onstage for this very special concert; it also received a prize for their recording of the entirety of Penderecki's Symphonies under the direction of the composer (Dux–2013 Recording of the Year for ResMusica). The first part of the evening was ...
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Rossini’s Otello at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées

Parisian intellectuals have the habit of booing the direction at all openings, as if it were their only reason for buying a ticket in the first place. To walk in their footsteps is not the point. Indeed, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier's work was rather more interesting than usual. The action shifts to an undetermined, contemporary date. The first act takes place in the anteroom of an official building with many ...
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Transiberian Festival

Deep in the heart of the Siberian forests, Novosibirsk is the third most populated city of all Russia. Situated on the legendary Trans-Siberian railway, Novosibirsk, capital of Siberia, is a huge industrial town, where research and education flourish, but it is also an important place for the arts. Local authorities try to showcase this side of their town, using the fame of one of their citizens: Vadim Repin. 2014 marked the ...
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A glossy Manon Lescaut in Baden-Baden

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and its conductor Simon Rattle chose Puccini's Manon Lescaut to represent the lyrical side of their second passage in Baden-Baden's Easter Festival. Compared to last year's opening with the Enchanted Flute, it was a huge stylistic deviation, especially since it was the first time Rattle conducted an opera by the Italian composer. There can be no doubt about it any longer: the true stars of the show ...
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Boris Godunov at home at the Bolshoi

If there is an iconic opera at the Bolshoi Theatre, which is within walking distance  of the Kremlin,  it is Boris Godunov. By its size and cost, an opera house is in itself an affair of  state. This was particularly true in the former USSR, where classical music played a crucial cultural role, and is still the case in today’s Russia at the Bolshoi Theatre, whose lavish restoration was peppered ...
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Ville Matvejeff leads the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra in Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass

Orchestral concerts in Finland during the Easter season are generally dominated by performances of Bach's Passions. In this concert, the rising conducting talent Ville Matvejeff  provided a refreshing alternative, leading the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra in a varied program of Rachmaninoff, Matvejeff , and Janáček. The Isle of the Dead is one of Rachmaninoff's most atmospheric and somber scores. Inspired by a viewing of Arnold Böcklin's painting of the same name, Rachmaninoff's work evokes ...
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Rising from the abyss: Leif Segerstam with the Turku Philharmonic

Three cities often come to mind when discussing the Finnish orchestral scene: Helsinki, Lahti, and Tampere. Turku is usually left out of the discussion, but the recent appointment of Leif Segerstam as chief conductor, as well as some ambitious recent programming, may change this situation. This evening's concert would certainly fall into the ambitious category. The Viola Concerto was one of the last works that Schnittke completed before suffering his first ...
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Nikolai Alexeev conducts all-Shostakovich program with the Estonian National Symphony

According to the marketing materials for this concert, this program featured the “two faces” of Shostakovich. In the suite from Korzinkina’s Adventures we find Shostakovich at his most light-hearted and witty, while the Symphony No. 4 shows a much more serious side of the composer. On the podium was Nikolai Alexeev, the former chief conductor of the Estonian National SO. The program opened with a brief six-movement suite derived from Shostakovich’s ...
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Michael Francis conducts the Helsinki Philharmonic in an all-British Program

Although performances of British music are not entirely rare in Helsinki, an entire evening dedicated to mid-20th century British orchestral music is quite remarkable. Michael Francis, the current chief conductor of the Norrköping SO, led the Helsinki Philharmonic in this evening's program of Britten, Walton, and Vaughan Williams. Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem was the opening work of this concert. Commissioned in 1940 by the Japanese government to commemorate the 2600th anniversary ...
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The Sommets Musicaux Festival in Gstaad

The Sommets Musicaux festival, held in Gstaad, Switzerland, and dedicated to chamber music, was founded in 2001. It takes place during the winter season in this posh ski resort located on the linguistic border between the French- and German-speaking parts of Switzerland. This year, the festival’s subtitle was “the two-headed eagle”: indeed, piano duos (four-hands or two keyboards) had the place of honor. There are always two concerts per day, ...
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The XXth-century US at the Folle Journée de Nantes

The audience’s rejuvenation is a direct consequence of the program, which was built around four axes: the musical roots of the new continent (traditional songs and the European legacy, with works by Foster, Ives, and Gershwin, and then Bernstein, Cage, Reich, Glass, and Adams), the United States as a land of hope (with works by European musicians who crossed the Atlantic as refugees or immigrants, such as Dvořák, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, ...
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The Ring in Geneva : a crescendo in aesthetics

With its perfect narration of the legend, the depth of its direction, and an aesthetic sometimes deliberately distressed by a Brechtian desire to expose the seams, the beautiful Die Walküre imagined by Dieter Dorn for the Grand Théâtre de Genève last November was captivating from beginning to end and created a certain eagerness for its sequel. That eagerness was fully satisfied throughout the wonderful Siegfried staged by the German director ...
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Oslo Philharmonic plays Mahler’s sixth symphony in Helsinki

Jukka-Pekka Saraste is a familiar presence in the Helsinki music scene, regularly guest conducting both the Helsinki Philharmonic and Finnish RSO. On this evening's concert, however, Saraste was not on the podium with a local band but instead brought the Oslo Philharmonic, showcasing the results of his recently concluded tenure with this ensemble. This orchestra is sometimes called the best in the Nordic countries, and the music-making on display this evening ...
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Gustavo Dudamel conducts Berlioz’s Requiem in Notre-Dame de Paris

A performance of Berlioz’s Requiem is always a special occasion, because of the number of people involved (almost four hundred), the space required for effective spatialization of the four different brass orchestras, and the expressiveness of the score, which was written a few years after the Symphonie Fantastique by a thirty-four-year-old visionary genius. In the choir at Notre-Dame de Paris, genius conductor Gustavo Dudamel mastered the venue’s acoustics while leading ...
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Alexander Raskatov’s A Dog’s Heart in Lyon

In the interview he gave to ResMusica about his opera A Dog's Heart, Alexander Raskatov insisted on two things: its (pessimistic) message about our civilization's evolution, and its refusal—unusual in France—of working on musical language as an end in itself. The choice of a fantastic, satirical short story by Mikhail Bulgakov and of the atmosphere of 1920s USSR immediately relates Cœur de chien to Shostakovich’s The Nose, but this is ...
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Alexander Kniazev performs Miaskovsky’s Cello Concerto

The mid-twentieth century cello concerto is dominated by two great Russian works: the Sinfonia Concertante of Prokofiev and the first cello concerto of Shostakovich. Both works feature fiendishly difficult solo parts and place the soloist in the traditional concerto role of hero or protagonist. On this concert, the Russian cellist Alexander Kniazev presented the infrequently performed cello concerto of Miaskovsky, demonstrating its worthiness as a viable alternative to the Prokofiev ...
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Pehr Henrik Nordgren at 70

Pehr Henrik Nordgren (1944-2008) was a unique voice in Finnish music. Influenced by both Japanese and Finnish folk music, as well as Shostakovich, Nordgren never achieved the same international recognition as his younger Finnish colleagues, such as Aho, Saariaho, Salonen, and Lindberg. In honor of Nordgren’s 70th birthday, the Finnish RSO organized both a chamber music and orchestral concert featuring his music. The chamber music program began with the Ritornello for ...
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A sea journey with Leif Segerstam

With a population of just over 5 million, Finland can boast of having a disproportionately large number of orchestras with international reputations. This includes the orchestras of Tampere and Lahti, as well as the three full-time bands found in Helsinki. While the former capital city of Turku also has a full-time symphony orchestra, this group does not enjoy the same visibility and recognition as its peers. The Finnish conductor and ...
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Chamber Music Week in Elmau

Located in Bavaria near the Austrian border, the Castle of Elmau is well- known in the world of classical music. Since the 1950s, it has become a famous concert hall, due to the renowned quality of its acoustics. Passing through the region, Benjamin Britten discovered and instantly fell in love with the site and in 1959, with his partner Peter Pears, he founded a British-German Chamber Music festival there. In ...
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Lintu conducts Sibelius’ Symphonies 6 and 7

For the major Finnish orchestras, all the seven symphonies of Sibelius appear to be held in equal regard, as opposed to say nos. 2 and 5 which may be preferred over the others elsewhere in the world. This evening's program featured the new music director of the Finnish RSO, Hannu Lintu, and his interpretation of Sibelius' final two completed symphonies. The program opened with Lindberg's Era, a recent high-profile commission from ...
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Kari Kriikku plays Saariaho’s clarinet concerto

For such a small country, Finland can easily boast having at least four living composers with major international careers: Saariaho, Magnus Lindberg, Salonen, and Aho. Of these, Saariaho is arguably the most widely performed throughout the world. Saariaho's clarinet concerto "D'om le vrai sens" was premiered in 2010 with the Finnish RSO in the acoustically inferior Finlandia Hall, and this evening's concert gave Helsinki audiences another chance to sample this ...
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Grisey’s Les Espaces Acoustiques at the Cité de la Musique

A concert presenting the full cycle of Gérard Grisey’s Les Espaces Acoustiques is a rare event. The project had not been performed by the Ensemble Intercontemporain for a decade. The strong forces of the Conservatoire National de Paris were also needed in order to perform the last three pieces, written for orchestra. Grisey initiated, with his colleague and friend Tristan Murail, the “spectral music” movement, of which Les Espaces Acoustiques, a ...
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Jukka-Pekka Saraste’s debut in Lyon

The Orchestre National de Lyon likes Finnish conductors: after Hannu Lintu and before Osmo Vänskä and Susanna Mälkki, Jukka-Pekka Saraste was the one in charge that night. Saraste is well-known in France. He has been heard conducting the Toulouse and Paris orchestras, the Orchestre National de France and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, of whom he is a regular guest. He is also a specialist of French music: his Debussy ...
 

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