MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

In Search of Identity at Lucerne Festival

160812_16300_EO_LFO_Chailly_Solisten_Choere_P_Fischli_Lucerne_FeThe 2017 Summer Festival — which is all about the theme of “identity” — begins today in Lucerne as Riccardo Chailly leads the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in an all-Strauss program.

From accentus:

“Accentus Music is delivering the live video stream of the Lucerne Festival’s opening concert on Friday, August 11th, at 6:30 p.m. [CET]. The ceremonial act which is going to take place in the KKL Lucerne will be streamed simultaneously open-air at Lucerne’s Inseli Park as well as on Facebook Live. The Lucerne Festival Orchestra and its music director Riccardo Chailly will be performing three symphonic poems by Richard Strauss: Thus Spoke ZarathustraDeath and Transfiguration as well as Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. 

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news

Playing Dangerously

I finally had my first live experience of Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Teodor Currentzis, who brought his Perm-based musicAeterna to Lucerne’s Easter Festival last night for the first of two programs: early Mozart and Beethoven Eroica.

It very well might have been a new music evening: that’s how unexpected and full of discoveries the performance was. Currentzis has become something of a cult figure, and it’s easy to see why. A friend compared him visually to Hoffmann’s Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler, with his spindly legs and tall, lanky figure. I wish I could have seen the expressions he was flashing, mirrored, I suspect, by his restlessly gesturing hands.

Currentzis seems to decide on the spur of the moment to fixate on a particular player or section, and then to stare them down, whip them up to further excitement, coax out a sudden swell or tamp it down to near inaudibility. No one knows when or where he’ll pounce: it’s all part of the electricity.

Mozart’s G minor Symphony K. 183 was full of shocks and epiphanies: the sort of thing we tend to privilege to the really big works like Eroica, but which are strewn about far and wide, and so unrecognized in so many other sources. I especially welcomed how Currentzis balances his spontaneous, red-hot, in-the-moment aura with carefully thought-through decisions (the articulation of the second theme reprise-time around, when it emanates a menacing despair;  tempo differentiation of the Minuet and the Trio).

Patricia Kopatchinskaja is a revelation, nothing less. The playing in her bare feet, the poses she strikes, the comic interplay with Currentzis: the things people like to focus on are just a part of her entire, fascinatingly refreshing outlook, and it’s rooted in brilliant insights about the source of invention, say, in the Mozart D major Violin Concerto (K. 218) she played.

Actually, Kopatchinskaja didn’t just  show up and “play” it, fulfill her contract, job done. It was such an unusual ratio of performance energy and creative expenditure to the Concerto’s part on the program.

It felt like an epic, and the audience seemed to learn far more than it had bargained for about what makes a concerto work, about how a soloist can interact with an ensemble of independent-minded players. Mozart’s folk song ploy in the finale became the key to Kopatchinskaja’s improvisational approach overall — the cadenzas she contributed wouldn’t have been out of place in Ligeti — and a bridge to her encores of Bartók and Enescu.

In their period-instrument Eroica, musicAeterna’s dangerous playing kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. I’ve never experienced in live performances of Beethoven’s Third such a powerful presence from the timpanist.  The impact of the drums in the Funeral March was at devastating as in Mahler’s Sixth finale.

A couple of wind players almost lost the reins in the finale when one clarinetist got so worked up he knocked a stand over– at first it looked like there might be a domino effect, just before a big solo for the oboe (so much a protagonist in this symphony!). Aside from an emanation of angst-waves — like watching a tightrope walker regaining balance — the music pushed ahead, and was the more intense for it.

 

Filed under: Beethoven, Lucerne Festival, Mozart, review

Lucerne’s Piano Festival

The third and final installment of Lucerne Festival’s 2016 programming is the Piano Festival. It starts on Saturday (19 November), with Grigory Sokolov in a Mozart-Schumann recital.  And he’s playing one of the pianistic holy of holies, Schumann’s Op. 17.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, piano, Schumann, Uncategorized

2017 Lucerne Summer Festival Announced

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The program for the 2017 Summer Festival in Lucerne has just been announced. The overall theme is “Identity.” Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Jay Campbell will be featured as “artistes étoiles,” and Michel van der Aa will be the composer-in-residence for 2017’s Summer Festival.

Lucerne has also launched a new magazine packed with interviews, commentary, and articles and listings of the programming for all three festivals.

download a pdf of the magazine

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news

A Summer of Changes in Lucerne

This coming weekend brings the close of the Summer Festival in Lucerne. Along with the usual Stendhal Syndrome-inducing concentration of great artists and great art, the 2016 edition introduced two major changes — if not exactly paradigm shifts — to Lucerne Festival’s organization and overall character: the inauguration of Riccardo Chailly as new Music Director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, succeeding the late Claudio Abbado, and, in the wake of Pierre Boulez’s death, the first Lucerne Festival Academy under new leadership, with Wolgang Rihm as Artistic Director and Matthias Pintscher as Principal Conductor.

Michael Cooper reports in The New York Times on how the Lucerne Festival is “reinventing itself”:

But behind the scenes, the Lucerne Festival, an increasingly important part of the classical music ecosystem, was being forced to reinvent itself. Within the past couple of years, the festival has lost not one, but both of its guiding artistic lights: Mr. Abbado died in 2014 at 80, and Mr. Boulez this year at 90. Their losses pose a challenge at a moment when Europe’s leading summer festivals hotly compete for artists, audiences and prestige.

Cooper also wrote about the 2016 Lucerne Festival theme of women in music, interviewing four of the eleven female conductors who appeared on the podium there this summer: Barbara Hannigan, Marin Alsop, Susanne Mälkki, and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.

And here’s a European perspective from one of the German-speaking world’s major music critics, Christian Wildhagen (who wrote his dissertation on Mahler 8, the work with which Chailly and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra opened the festival last month):

Niemand sei «in der Gewalt seelenvollster, rauschendster, visionärster Musik dem Himmel näher getragen worden» als Mahler, schwärmte Ernst Bloch in seinem Buch «Geist der Utopie». Eine Aufführung der 8.Sinfonie wäre indes nicht komplett, wenn auf diesem Weg nicht auch ein paar Unzulänglichkeiten Ereignis würden.

 

Filed under: conductors, Lucerne Festival, music news

Olga Neuwirth’s New Percussion Concerto for Lucerne Festival

Last weekend at Lucerne Festival brought the world premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s latest major orchestral work: a percussion concerto titled Trurliade – Zone Zero (which references one of the Austrian composer’s sources of inspiration, the sci fi master Stanisław Lem). The soloist was Victor Hanna, and Matthias Pintscher conducted the Orchestra of the Lucerne Festival Academy.

Trurliade was the eighth in the ongoing Roche Commissions series, which picks from the leading composers at work today to commission a new orchestral work every two years, which is then premiered at Lucerne Festival. Neuwirth has also been serving as this year’s composer-in-residence at the Festival, which is focusing on the theme of women in music.

Neuwirth is a genuinely fascinating, one-of-a-kind composer who has created especially striking works of music theater (including collaborations with fellow Austrian and Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek, an operatic treatment of David Lynch’s Lost Highway, and a “musicstallation” in homage to Herman Melville, among others).

In her Neue Zürcher Zeitung review, Michelle Ziegler writes:

Trotz der plastischen Anlage geht Neuwirth mit den Bezügen und Zitaten in ihrer «Trurliade – Zone Zero» ungemein feinsinnig um. Sie lässt die Zahnräder der Orchestermaschinerie zwar wie geschmiert laufen, verliert sich aber nie in einem vorhersehbaren Trott. Sie fügt Geräusche nicht zur Show ein, sondern findet im Klang der Schrottobjekte einen poetischen Zauber. Damit hat die Komponistinfür ihre zweite Residenz beim Lucerne Festival ein wunderbar persönliches, zugleich tiefsinniges und erfrischendes Werk geschaffen.

The composer has written an intriguing program note introducing her new concerto:

This is why the title of the piece refers to Stanisław Lem’s Trurl’s Machine. With his warning against unfreedom, Lem in turn alludes to George Orwell’s novel 1984. In Lem’s story the machine designed by Trurl insists on its mindless and inflexible assertion: “Two plus two is seven.” In Orwell’s book the apparatus of power demands obedience through re-education, propaganda lies, and surveillance by illogically claiming that “two plus two is five” – until the individual complies with the stipulations of the regime and gives up thinking. The regime “teaches” renegades and dissidents to love Big Brother by using cruel methods of torture. The protagonist, already demoralized and worn down mentally and physically through continual re-education measures, nevertheless does not give up the fight and becomes dangerous to the Party when he dares to express (mathematical) facts: “Freedom is the freedom to say two plus two is four.” And he does so even though, according to Orwell, the loudspeakers keep demanding over and over again that everyone accept whatever Big Brother defines as true, including that two and two is five. This phrase represents the obedience required by an ideology in contrast to rational facts and truth.

 

 

Filed under: commissions, Lucerne Festival, Olga Neuwirth

Chailly in Lucerne

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Swiss Radio and Television has now posted the  opening concert of Riccardo Chailly’s debut with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.

Chailly opened the 2016 Summer Festival on 12 August with a rousing performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony: the one work missing from the late Claudio Abbado’s otherwise complete  Mahler cycle with his beloved LFO.

The broadcast also includes a 10-minute portrait of the conductor with interviews by way of a prelude.

Christian Wildhagen, an expert on the Eighth (he wrote a dissertation about the work), covered Chailly’s interpretation for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

Chailly, der aus früheren Aufführungen so umfassende praktische Erfahrungen mit dem Stück hat wie kaum ein anderer Dirigent, erkennt das Problem und versucht zu dämpfen, wo immer es geht. Doch prompt verheddert er sich in dem Paradox, das er selbst so trefflich mit den Worten umschrieben hat, man müsse mit dieser Musik fliegen und doch mit beiden Beinen kontrolliert auf dem Podium stehen. Die Kontrolle des gewaltigen Apparats gelingt bereits mehr als achtbar, das Fliegen hingegen nicht.

[…]

Chailly deutet diese Vertonung der Schlussszene aus Goethes «Faust» völlig zu Recht als sakrale Oper – angesiedelt auf einer rein imaginären Theaterbühne, aber mit halbszenischen Momenten wie der Erscheinung der Mater Gloriosa (Anna Lucia Richter mit etwas zu irdischem Tonansatz in der Höhe) auf der Orgelempore, wo am Schluss beider Teile auch jeweils das Fernorchester seinen «Auftritt» hat.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Mahler

Happy 156th, Gustav Mahler

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Mahler

RIP Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)

The end of an era. From Lucerne Festival director Michael Haefliger’s eulogy :

“I am a French composer, conductor, and writer.” Most likely, this is the answer Pierre Boulez would have given anyone who asked him to describe his work as an artist: an answer that is precise, to the point, without ostentation or any kind of theatrical posing. This is how most of us “youngsters” experienced, felt, and saw Pierre Boulez. And this is how he became a great model for us, indeed, almost a “demigod.” We admired what he did and the goals which he steadfastly pursued, regardless of whether they involved relatively small or large revolutions. Last night, he left us. We mourn the loss of a great human being and artist, one who infinitely enriched and influenced this Festival.

continue reading

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, obituary, Pierre Boulez

Mozart’s Serenata

Il re pastore is being featured at the Lucerne Easter Festival in 2016:

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Mozart

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