Üben, üben, üben – Mit Kirill Petrenko auf Tour

Petrenko on Tour

(Berliner Morgenpost) —  Das Orchester schweigt. Kirill Petrenko betritt die Bühne mit einem Handtuch um den Nacken und einer Flasche Wasser in der Hand. Sein athletischer Körperbau und zufriedenes Lächeln lassen einen an einen Yoga-Meister denken.

“Konnichi wa”, begrüßt er das Bayerische Staatsorchester mit einem leichten Beugen. Die Musiker kichern. Schon bei der einschneidenden Pause zwischen den Trompeten-Rufen, die Mahlers Fünfte Sinfonie einleiten, kommt die akribische Arbeitsweise des Dirigenten zum Vorschein. Vier Mal wurde das Programm bereits aufgeführt, zuletzt vor weniger als einer Woche in Seoul. Nun wird Petrenko auf Asien-Tournee mit der Bayerischen Staatsoper zum ersten Mal vor japanischem Publikum stehen im Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, einer 1961 entstandenen Konzerthalle mit berühmter Akustik.

“Deutlicher”, sagt er den Bläsern nach einer präzise aufgeführten Phrase. “Pianissimo und gesungen”, verlangt der designierte Chefdirigent der Berliner Philharmoniker noch, wie “aus dem Nichts”. Beim dritten Mal erlangt die Musik eine sterbende, zerbrechliche Qualität. Vor allem der langsame Adagietto erweist Petrenkos Sorgfalt um die Dynamik.

Für den 45-Jährigen ist die Arbeit an der Partitur nie fertig. Dass er am Klavier in den frühen Morgenstunden sitzt, ist den Musikern bekannt. Bei Premierenfeiern oder einem Umtrunk ist er nur sehr kurz dabei. “Man merkt es auch in den nächsten Konzerten”, so der Hornist und Orchestervorstandsmitglied Christian Loferer. “Die Dinge, wo er Potenzial sieht, werden sofort abgearbeitet – damit man es noch besser macht”. […]

Staatsoper Berlin Finally Reopens. Sort Of.

(New York Times) — After seven years of construction, the Staatsoper is finally preparing to reopen its doors on the historic Boulevard Unter den Linden, at least temporarily.

The work took much longer than expected — the company was originally scheduled to move back from its interim residence across town in the Schiller Theater four years ago — and the renovation costs spiraled from an estimated 239 million euros to 400 million ($473 million), half of which was covered by federal funds.

The season begins on Sept. 30 with a concert outside the opera house and continues on Oct. 3 with a new production of Schumann’s “Szenen aus Goethes Faust,” to be conducted by the music director, Daniel Barenboim, and staged by the current general director, Jürgen Flimm. Performances in the main theater will then be suspended for approximately two months, starting Oct. 8, so technicians can master the new computer-controlled stage equipment.

During that time, chamber opera and symphonic programs will take place in venues including the Neue Werkstatt, a repurposed orchestral rehearsal space in an adjacent building, until the house reopens permanently on Dec. 7 with a concert featuring works by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Richard Strauss and Pierre Boulez, all composers who once conducted at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden.  […]

Staatsoper Berlin Finally Reopens. Sort Of.

Raphael Wallfischs musikalische Arbeit wider das Vergessen

A Cellist's personal Mission

(Berliner Morgenpost) —  Der Cellist Raphael Wallfisch beugt sich über das Notenpult in seiner Garderobe. Der Klavierauszug ist handgeschrieben und die Notenschrift ist so klein, dass Wallfisch eine Lupe zum Lesen benutzen muss. Das Cello-Konzert des österreichischen-amerikanischen Komponisten Karl Weigl, das er zusammen mit dem Konzerthausorchester Berlin und dem Dirigenten Nicholas Milton aufnimmt, wurde bislang noch nie gespielt.

“Ich werde bald mehr über diese Musik erzählen können”, sagt Wallfisch. “Sie ist sehr romantisch, ein bisschen wie die von Alexander Zemlinsky. Es gibt auch groteske Momente, die einen an Gustav Mahler denken lassen: märchenhaft, wie Gnomen im Wald”.

Der 61 Jahre alte, in London geborene Musiker widmete sich im Laufe seiner Karriere über 100 verschiedenen Werken des Cello-Repertoires, von Paul Hindemith und Bohuslav Martinu bis hin zu britischen Komponisten wie Gerald Finzi und James MacMillan. Die Reihe, die er für das Label cpo in Osnabrück aufnimmt, liegt ihm jedoch besonders am Herzen. Es entreißt die Musik jüdischer Exilkomponisten der Vergessenheit, und dies in jener Stadt, in der seine Mutter Anita Lasker-Wallfisch als Cello-Studentin einst die Reichspogromnacht erlebte. Sie ist eine der letzten Überlebenden des Mädchenorchesters von Auschwitz.  […]

Monteverdi Set Human Emotion to Music

(New York Times) —  More than any other composer of his time, Claudio Monteverdi liberated the human voice to express the most intense personal emotions. His “L’Orfeo,” which had its premiere in 1607, is widely regarded as the first great opera. But in the madrigals — short poetry settings that were sometimes woven into dramatic sequences — Monteverdi had already created an unprecedented synthesis between words and music. And his progressive style spilled over into church music.

This season in Europe, to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth, early music ensembles are exploring the composer’s oeuvre in all its breadth. Performances include I Fagiolini presenting Monteverdi’s lesser-known vespers (the 1641 “Selva morale e spirtuale”) at the Edinburgh International Festival on Aug. 19, and Les Arts Florissants in a selection from the third and fourth books of madrigals at the Festival in the Gardens of William Christie on Aug. 21 and 23.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir are on tour with a semi-staged trilogy of Monteverdi’s three surviving operas — “L’Orfeo,” “Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria” and “L’incoronazione di Poppea” — which arrives in Salzburg on July 26 and Lucerne on Aug. 22. […]

Monteverdi's Humanist Message

Mondparsifal Alpha 1-8, Theater an der Wien, Vienna — Wagner deconstructed

Parsifal goes to the Moon

(Financial Times) — The flower maidens give Hitler salutes. The magician Klingsor fornicates with a giant teddy bear. Parsifal prances in knee-length leather boots and a red bikini holster as the main melody from the chorus “Komm, komm, holder Knabe!” emerges to jazzy percussion and warped, glassy harmonies enhanced by accordion and electric synthesisers.

Wagner conceived his Parsifal exclusively for performance in Bayreuth. Thanks to a falling-out between the current festival administration and performance artist Jonathan Meese over a staging that was to take place last year, the opera is now enjoying a different fate at the Wiener Festwochen: Mondparsifal Alpha 1-8, a collaboration between Meese and Austrian composer Bernhard Lang, rewrites and rescores the original as a journey in which Parsifal is “redeemed from the redeemers”.

The Kingdom of the Grail is relocated to the moon, where the knights resemble deranged, Star Trek-like explorers. Kundry emerges first as a Wagner lookalike in a floppy beret, later as the science fiction film character Barbarella. Rather than dying for her sins, she survives in the final scene to dance with Parsifal. […]

For the Vienna Philharmonic, Summer Means Schönbrunn

(New York Times) —  When the Vienna Philharmonic first performed on the park grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace in 2004, the event was intended as a one-time celebration of the European Union’s expansion in Eastern Europe. The “Concert for Europe” was such a success, however, that it became an annual fixture, attracting local audiences, tourists and television viewers around the world.

Like the famed New Year’s Concert at the Musikverein, the Summer Night Concert Schönbrunn, as it is now called, has become an important part of the Philharmonic’s brand. The open-air event, which is on Thursday this year, attracts an audience of up to 100,000 and is broadcast to over 80 countries, not far behind the 90 countries reached by the New Year’s Concert.

As of last year, through a partnership with Vienna Tourism, the program is also streamed to plazas in four selected cities, this year’s being Barcelona, Warsaw, Seoul and Beijing. But perhaps most important, performing free of charge in a relaxed setting has opened the storied orchestra to a broader audience at home.

“The event attracts listeners who don’t necessarily go to classical concerts,” said Andreas Grossbauer, the Philharmonic chairman and first violinist. “The New Year’s Concert is of course more exclusive. Tickets are very expensive. Here we try to do exactly the opposite.” […]

In Vienna, an open-air Sidekick to the New Year's Concert

Medea, Komische Oper Berlin — dramatic weight

Medea wreaks Havoc at the Komische Oper

(Financial Times) —  Well before Medea takes matters into her own hands, fury spills out from the orchestra. The haughty coloratura of Kreusa, girlfriend of the protagonist’s husband, Jason, provokes dark premonitions from the growling strings. “No other mother needs be,” declares Medea.

As per the 19th-century play by Franz Grillparzer on which composer Aribert Reimann bases his libretto, it is not the gods’ will but sheer human force that wreaks havoc on Corinth. Armed with the sacred Golden Fleece and the power to give and take life, Medea will murder her two children and flee to Delphi.

Conceived as a female counterpart to Lear, Reimann’s most widely performed opera, Medea was first heard in 2010 at the Vienna State Opera and received its German premiere in Frankfurt that year. It has now arrived at the Komische Oper Berlin in a new staging, although the evening’s musical standards more easily justify the occasion. While the director Benedict Andrews fleshes out the characters’ turbulent emotional lives, the stage aesthetic threatens to undermine the opera’s dramatic weight. […]

Concerts Celebrate Isang Yun, a Musical Bridge Between Asia and Europe

(New York Times) — Today’s classical music world is not foreign to composers who fuse their Asian roots with Western avant-garde techniques, from Toshio Hosokawa to Unsuk Chin. But in 1966, when the Korean composer Isang Yun made his international breakthrough with the orchestral work “Réak,” at Germany’s Donaueschingen Festival, harmonies imitating an East Asian mouth organ were radical.

Born in what is now South Korea, Mr. Yun was an activist for the reunification of the North and South after the division of his home country in 1945. He moved to West Berlin in 1957 to study at the Hochschule für Musik. A decade later, he was abducted and held as an enemy of the state by the South Korean military regime of Park Chung-hee until protests from the West German Foreign Ministry and leading musical figures, including the composer Igor Stravinsky and the conductor Herbert von Karajan, led to his release. Mr. Yun became a West German citizen after returning to West Berlin in 1969.

If both North and South Korea claim him as a national composer, it was the North that offered him a platform during his lifetime — by 1990, the capital, Pyongyang, had established a festival, institute and ensemble in Mr. Yun’s name. He tried to move back to South Korea on the occasion of a festival in his honor in 1994, but the trip fell through because of complications with the authorities. […]

A Father Figure for Asian-European Music


Building the Future

Building the Future

(Symphony Magazine) — From Lucerne to Los Angeles to Shanghai, the 21st century has seen a boom in new concert hall architecture. This season alone in Germany brought the opening of the €789 million Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, the Boulez Hall at the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin, and the Musikforum Ruhr in Bochum. In Paris, La Seine Musicale—a €170 building designed by Shigeru Ban in the suburbs of western Paris—opens its doors on April 22, just two years after the opening of the Philharmonie de Paris and three years after the inauguration of the Grand Auditorium at Maison de la Radio France.

… As the architecture historian Victoria Newhouse concludes in her 2012 book Site and Sound, “costly, high-profile” classical music venues “are replacing museums as linchpins of urban expansion and tools of global politics and cultural economics” in the twenty-first century.  But Newhouse also notes a “puzzling paradox”: the trend occurs “at a time of what appears to be declining attendance and aging audiences, together with the preference of many young people for less formal environments.” But is it a paradox? Halls from the New World Center in Miami to La Seine Musicale in Paris are intentionally deploying their new facilities to introduce innovative programming and attract new audiences. […]

Visual Magic Hits, Misses in Ravel-Stravinsky Bill

(Classical Voice North America) — A talking tea-pot, a wounded tree, dancing math equations–there is hardly a stage work that would lend itself better to animated film than Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges. Enter the British company 1927 (animator Paul Barritt, writer Suzanne Andrade, and performer Esme Appleton), which specializes in juxtaposing sets of tailor-made cartoons with live action. In its first foray into opera with Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Komische Oper Berlin in 2012, the wilder effects included Pamina’s ascent in butterfly wings after her suicide attempt and flying pink elephants that led Papageno to Papagena. The production was a blockbuster at home and later traveled as far as London and Los Angeles.

As seen on Jan. 28 at the Komische Oper in a double bill with Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka, 1927’s palette of imagery is even better suited to Ravel’s fantasy world in which the damaged objects of a boy’s bedroom come to life and haunt him until he understands the meaning of virtue.  The Boy (Nadja Mchantaf) first appears in pure animation until he is punished by his mother and enters the world of spirits. Perched on a platform in front of the projection, he appears to soar through the cosmos. Nevertheless, 1927’s imagination did not reach its full potential until subsequent tableaux.  […]