MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Hélène Grimaud and Nicholas McGegan in an all-Mozart concert with the DSO

Today at 8:00PM CET/1:00PM CST: Hélène Grimaud with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Nicholas McGegan in a digital concert that was recorded live in performances from January 14-16, 2021.

The program includes Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466, which is featured on Grimaud’s latest release, The Messenger. McGegan also leads Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550. This is part of the DSO’s Next Stage Digital Concert Series presented jointly with Deutsche Grammophon.

Filed under: Mozart, Nicholas McGegan, pianists

Mozart Birthday Toast

Raise a toast to Mozart with Byron Schenkman & Friends: tonight at 7.30pm PST on the  Town Hall Seattle site (free to $10-15; up to age 22 free)

The livestreamed program includes the E minor Violin Sonata, K. 304 (300c); Six Variations on Au bord d’une Fontaine, K. 360 (374b); and the Piano Quartet in G minor, K. 478. Byron Schenkman is joined by violinist Ingrid Matthews, one of today’s most respected baroque violinists; violist Susan Gulkis Assadi, principal viola at the Seattle Symphony; and cellist Nathan Chan, the assistant principal cello at Seattle Symphony.

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, Mozart

Covid fan tutte

Very much enjoying this “update” from Finnish Opera of Mozart’s ingenious opera buffa, which has just opened the company’s season. With Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting and staging by Jussi Nikkilä, this abridged version of the original features a libretto by Minna Lindgren rewritten for today and referencing the coronavirus pandemic and reality shows.

Cast: FIORDILIGI Miina-Liisa Värelä, DORABELLA Johanna Rusanen, FERRANDO Tuomas Katajala, GUGLIELMO Waltteri Torikka, DESPINA Karita Mattila, DON ALFONSO Tommi Hakala, INTERFACE MANAGER Sanna-Kaisa Palo, MOUZART Ylermi Rajamaa, COVID VIRUS Natasha Lommi

Meanwhile, here’s a recent tribute to the amazing Karita Mattila, who plays Despina in this production.

Filed under: COVID-19 Era, directors, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Mozart

Don Giovanni at Finnish National Opera

Here’s a new production staged by Finnish actor-director Jussi Nikkilä for Finnish National Opera, with Patrick Fournillier conducting.

Cast
Don Giovanni: Tuomas Pursio
Donna Anna: Hanna Rantala
The Commandant: Koit Soasepp
Donna Elvira: Tamuna Gochashvili
Don Ottavio: Tuomas Katajala
Leporello: Markus Suihkonen
Masetto: Henri Uusitalo
Zerlina: Olga Heikkilä

Filed under: directors, Mozart

Mozart’s Sex and Mind Games at Juilliard

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Sara Jean Tosetti’s costume sketches for Ferrando, Dorabella, Fiordiligi, and Guglielmo

For the Juilliard Journal, I spoke to stage director David Paul and music director Nimrod David Pfeffer about their production of the final Mozart-Da Ponte collaboration, which Juilliard Opera performs later this month.

Così fan tutte is subtitled “The School for Lovers” — but this third and last of Mozart’s collaborations with his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte also provides an excellent education for emerging opera artists. The two couples at the center of the narrative “are young people who are at a juncture of having to figure out who they are and what they want out of love and life,” according to David Paul, who will direct Juilliard Opera’s new production. “They have to make consequential decisions for the first time in their lives, which makes Così remarkably appropriate for what these students are living through.”

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Filed under: directors, Juilliard, Mozart

Festival Season, Opera Style

The wonderfully provocative new production of Tannhäuser directed by Tobias Kratzer (responsible for a first-rate Der Zwerg this spring) was streamed live and is currently available from BR-Klassik (configure your VPN as needed); the audio is at the moment available here.

Elsewhere in Bavaria, Barrie Kosky has applied his stage genius to Handel’s Agrippina, with Ivor Bolton conducting. You can watch it on Bayerische Staatsoper TV here (available 29 July-12 August).

There’s lots of information about Salzburg Festival’s new Idomeneo here, including interviews with director Peter Sellars and music director Teodor Currentzis.

Here’s another piece on the season-opening production from ORF’s Kultur Heute program.

At 19:00 EST on 28 July 2019, the concert performance of the complete Die Walküre with the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra, led by Andris Nelsons and taped over two days, will be broadcast via WMNR Radio. Marc Mandel’s program notes here.

For more Mozart, Glyndebourne Festival’s new Barbe & Doucet production of The Magic Flute will be streamed live on Sunday 4 August and remain available for seven days.

Filed under: Bayreuth Festival, Mozart, Salzburg Festival, Wagner

Late-Night Liszt

I’d never heard Till Fellner live before but am now a convert. He played this as an encore after his rainwater-clear account of Mozart’s K. 503 C major Concerto on the first half of the finale concert of the 2019 Easter Festival in Lucerne on Palm Sunday.

Filed under: Franz Liszt, Lucerne Festival, Mozart, pianists

Demarre McGill Dazzles in Dalbavie Flute Concerto

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Demarre McGill, Ludovic Morlot, and Marc-André Dalbavie with Seattle Symphony

Seattle Symphony audiences are familiar with Demarre McGill’s magical flute artistry from countless solo moments he’s performed as the ensemble’s principal flute. But this week’s program puts him center stage for the Flute Concerto by Marc-André Dalbavie — and it was an unforgettable highlight of Thursday’s performance.

The French composer wrote his Flute Concerto in 2006 for the Berlin Philharmonic’s principal flutist, the Franco-Swiss Emmanuel Pahud, so you can readily imagine the caliber of playing required. Even at 17 minutes, relatively brief for a concerto, the piece keeps the soloist frenetically active for long stretches.

McGill negotiated its challenges with pure grace and eloquence, engaging in Dalbavie’s unusual dialectic with the orchestra. Rather than a sweet-tuned concerto of airy charms, the flute seems to be simultaneously urging on and trying to tame the orchestra’s ebullient spirits. McGill projected a complex protagonist, Orphic in the central slower section, sprightly as Puck girdling the earth in the rapidfire passages.

Ludovic Morlot led a vivid, gorgeously textured performance that was the theme of the entire generous program, mostly a French affair. He began with another of his specialities, Maurice Ravel’s Suite from Ma mère l’Oye. This time, I detected a radiant, but never forced, tone of elegiac wonder in Sleeping Beauty’s Pavane and the concluding scene of the Enchanted Garden. There was ebullience in the latter as well, underscoring a kinship with the parallel concluding moment in The Firebird. The SSO’s playing was at its most refined, full of silken caresses and subtly articulated rhythms.

The first half ended with the world premiere of Tropes de : Bussy, an ambitious symphonic work the SSO commissioned from Joël-François Durand, Associate Director of the UW School of Music. The title alone requires considerable unpacking and points to the layered associations and post-modern play of Durand’s score. Explains the French-born composer, who developed his concept of the piece while orchestrating some of the piano Préludes of Debussy: “As I kept re-working my arrangements, I gradually started to modify the original music, as if adding more and more interpretive filters with each attempt… Tropes de : Bussy is at first glance a pun on the French composer’s last name, but it also reflects the distance I took from the original texts, revealing and at the same time hiding most of the actual music.”

Durand chose five of the Book I Préludes (Les sons et les parfums, La danse de Puck, Le vent dans la plaine, Des pas sur la neige, and Minstrels. There was much to admire in the imaginative soundscapes he conjured from a large orchestra. If the piece seemed to overstay its welcome, stretching the game of hide-and-seek with the familiar Debussyan harmonies and ideas on at great length, it offered numerous enchanting moments (particularly the “slow” movement after Des pas sur la neige. With its deconstruction of rhythmic structures, the finale after Minstrels recalled something of Ravel’s strategy (though not his sound world) in La valse.

To conclude, Morlot led the one non-French work on this wonderful program. His account of Mozart’s later G minor Symphony, K. 550, glistened with the textural alertness that had been his focus in the French pieces. Taking the Andante at a brisk “walking” tempo worked especially well, and Morlot set off sparks by leaning into the cross-rhythms of the Minuet. The relentless drive of the outer movements gained freshness from being juxtaposed with the Dalbavie.

Review (c) 2019 Thomas May

Filed under: commissions, Ludovic Morlot, Maurice Ravel, Mozart, new music, review, Seattle Symphony

Der Kindheit Verzauberung

Tonight was the final performance of Berlin Staatsoper’s new Zauberflöte production, directed by Yuval Sharon. Very happy to have been able to catch this — report forthcoming for Musical America. (Available here.)

Filed under: Berlin Staatsoper, directors, Mozart, Musical America, Yuval Sharon

Wolfgang von Mozart?

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The intrepid Mozart scholar Michael Lorenz published an article in 2009 examining documentation from the composer’s later years in which his name is given as “von Mozart.”

Lorenz believes this evidence suggests “that he either was addressed with a predicate of nobility or even claimed his status as nobleman himself.”
He concludes: “Of course there is no absolute proof that Mozart’s nobility was universally acknowledged by his Viennese contemporaries. But the above documents make it very likely that at some time Mozart actually passed himself off as a nobleman.”

Another issue connected with these documents involves Mozart’s worsening financial condition in the late 1780s and how this has been interpreted. According to Lorenz:

It seems that Mozart’s main reason for moving to the outskirts of Vienna was not to reduce his costs, but to take advantage of the better living conditions in more spacious environs … The circumstances of his choice of lodgings show him as a man of the world, who in spite of being faced with a major decline in income is unable to reduce the living standards to which he has become accustomed.

Filed under: Mozart, musicology

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