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On Stage

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, ...
Marc ROGER

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...
Pehr Henrik Nordgren

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 ...
Kari Kriikku Photo: Marco Borggreve

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 ...
DIALOGUES DES CARMELITES -

Dialogues of the Carmelites in Paris, The ladies’ Delight

This is the fourth important production of Dialogues of the Carmelites premiered this season in France, after the ones in Toulon, Bordeaux/Nantes and Lyon. This work, commissioned exactly sixty years ago by the director of the Ricordi book house and premiered in Italian at La Scala, Milan in 1957, can be considered as Poulenc’s magnum opus and has never been that much put forward in France before. The Théâtre des ...
Anna-Maria Helsing

Anna-Maria Helsing conducts Webern, Mahler, Berg, and Hartmann

Classical music as we know it today would be quite different if it were not for early twentieth century Vienna. Mahler was taking the late-romantic symphony to almost every extreme possible, while Schönberg and his disciples developed musical systems independent of tonality. Anna-Maria Helsing, yet another gifted Finnish conductor with a steadily rising career, presented an intelligent survey of this music, along with a symphony from Karl Amadeus Hartmann. Webern's Passacaglia ...
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Warsaw celebrates Krzysztof Penderecki’s 80th birthday

Poland has been celebrating the 80th birthday of its most famous composer, Krzysztof Penderecki. It is not often that contemporary composers are extolled with such splendor: the National Bank of Poland created a special banknote; the Polish mail service produced a stamp with his portrait; a box set including all his symphonies was published under his direction on the Dux label; there were two exhibitions in the hall of the ...
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The Cleveland Orchestra in Paris : an event in itself

The Cleveland Orchestra has a prominent place, both among the greatest American orchestras and in music-lovers’ hearts. It is indeed legitimately considered one of the famous “Big Five,” with some of the best conductors of the twentieth century, such as George Szell, Lorin Maazel, and Christoph van Dohnanyi, having conducted it. Its chief conductor has been Austrian conductor Franz Welser-Möst for a decade now. The orchestra is in great shape, and ...
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Stockhausen night at the Festival d’Automne

For this concert of the Festival d’Automne, a banner was hung up at the entrance of the Cité de la Musique building. It warned the incoming audience that the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra is in dire situation. Indeed, the German orchestra, which was performing that night under the baton of François-Xavier Roth, celebrating one of Germany’s national geniuses, namely Karlheinz Stockhausen, could very well disappear soon. Roth also spoke ...
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Brahms, Leipzig Gewandhaus and Riccardo Chailly in Paris : delightful classicism

For this series of concerts by the legendary Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Pleyel concert hall was unusually crowded. Riccardo Chailly has been the orchestra’s conductor since 2005, and his contract has been renewed through 2020. The program was classical to the core: yet again in Paris, Brahms’s full cycle of symphonies and concertos. However, when they are played as they were here, we can only ask for more. Brahms played by ...
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The Magic Flute in London: drama, music and magic

In the program at the opening of The Magic Flute in London, director Simon McBurney recounts a rehearsal, explaining at the same time the ideas driving his direction of the work: “and suddenly I know . . . that if I am lost in the unpredictable turbulence of this opera which is not an opera, but a stage play, then I shall make the music my compass. Listening to the ...
Jukka-Pekka Saraste

Finnish Independence Day Concert

Although performances of Finnish music in Finland are frequent, the repertoire is generally restricted to Sibelius or other living composers, such as the "big three" of Lindberg, Salonen, and Saariaho. Every year on 6 December, which is Finland's independence day, Helsinki audiences are given the opportunity to enjoy an afternoon of Finnish orchestral music. This annual independence day concert sometimes features composers who have largely been forgotten. This year's program began ...
Christian Tetzlaff

Christian Tetzlaff plays Shostakovich second violin concerto

While the first violin concerto of Shostakovich is firmly established in the 20th-century violin repertoire, performances of his second violin concerto are considerably less frequent. Perhaps this is due to the latter work's more introverted stance, its greater depth of emotion, and its bitter and sometimes vulgar sarcasm. Christian Tetzlaff was the soloist in tonight's performance, and, as expected, he displayed complete control over the solo part. One noticeable aspect of ...
Magic Flute_Orchestra Tech 1 _November 18, 2013

Los Angeles : The Magic Flute in silent film style

This Flute, which first we watch, with ever-widening eyes, for we proceed from good to excellent surprises, then we hear…is especially noteworthy, as you may have guessed, because of the unique, often staggering reinterpretation by the Berlin theatre troupe, “1927,” (Suzanne Andrade) and Barrie Kosky, the Australian director, in the throes of euphoria. An audacious reinterpretation, embellished by the breathtaking animation of Paul Barritt. Of course, Mozart suffers a bit…but ...
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Denève conducts Britten, Roussel and Ravel

22 November 2013 is the precise day when the British composer Benjamin Britten would have turned 100 years old. To celebrate the occasion, the first half of the evening’s program was focused on his music, with the second half turning to music from early-twentieth century France. The program opened with an extract from what is arguably Britten’s most famous work, the opera Peter Grimes. Taking place in the middle of Act ...
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Rare flute concertos by Loïc Schneider

Like Sakari Oramo, Susanna Mälkki, and Jukka-Pekka Saraste, among others, Jan Söderblom is another talented Finnish conductor whose career began as an instrumentalist. In this concert, Söderblom led the Tapiola Sinfonietta from the concertmaster’s chair in a highly varied program for string orchestra. The opening piece of the program was the most challenging for both performers and audiences. Despite being the first work he composed for orchestral forces, Pettersson’s Concerto No. ...
Photo: ©Julieta Cervantes

Trisha Brown’s Living Repertoire in Paris

The Trisha Brown Dance Company devoted its first night in Paris to a focus on cinema, beginning with For M.G.: The Movie, a 1991 tribute to Michel Guy, Secretary of State for Culture and head of the Festival d’Automne. On a richly evocative soundtrack (featuring the sounds of a roaring engine, a freighter ready to leave port, and Indians in a trance state, among other things), the dancers move with ...
Orchestre symphonique de Norrköping & Christian Lindberg, 31 oct 2013

Allan Pettersson by Lindberg, a historic milestone like Mahler by Bernstein ?

In his famous television series Young People's concert, Leonard Bernstein devoted one show in 1960 to the Austrian composer with this revealing title "Who is Gustav Mahler?". Speaking to his young audience that filled the Carnegie Hall, Bernstein asks: "Has any one of you ever heard of him? I'll bet not, or only very few of you." Mahler was played - more than Pettersson today - but he was still ...
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In Budapest, the Franz Liszt Academy reopens

The Franz Liszt Academy, built by architects Flóris Korb and Kálmán Giergl in 1907, is the major Hungarian conservatory (music school?), but it also includes several concert halls, among them the Grand Hall and the Chamber Hall. Its restoration, mostly paid for by the European Union (14 million euros), gives back all its lustre to this building, both academic/eclectic in its bulk and Art Nouveau/fin de siècle in his details ...