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Johannes Brahms

Saturday, July 30, 2016


The Boston Musical Intelligencer

Yesterday

Live from Tanglewood, It’s Saturday Night!

The Boston Musical IntelligencerSerious BSO listeners and classical lovers always have the fine live WCRB broadcasts, plus CRB’s superb Concert Channel archives, to get their Tanglewood or Symphony Hall fix. But we live in visual times, and shorter-attention times, in case you hadn’t noticed. And to that end, Saturday nights at 9:05 the BSO has been live-video-streaming the first 15 minutes of the Tanglewood performance via http://streambso.org/ . We’re halfway through, so for the next three weeks, be there or be square. The time constraint is due (of course) to American Federation of Musician union regulations for orchestra promos. There is no connection with the simultaneous CRB broadcasts, and while audio quality is unknown at press time, we request that BMInt readers who caught the first three weeks already past, report (15 minutes from the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto, Mozart 39, and Sibelius 5). This Saturday sees, or rather hears, the first movement of Beethoven 7 under the orchestra’s music director, and anyone who heard Andris Nelsons’s indoors rendition last winter knows the power and excitement likely to be in store. The August 5th video stream is Brahms Serenade 2 IV and V under Giancarlo Guerrero, and the 12th’s is La Mer II and III under Dutoit. It may not be the Evening at Symphony of yore, and excerpting movements may not be haute enough for many of us, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Per the BSO, it’s “a pilot test project to assess the level of interest in this kind of access.” We wish all involved every success! The post Live from Tanglewood, It’s Saturday Night! appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .

My Classical Notes

July 28

Shorter Piano Works by Brahms

I enjoy much of the music composed by Johannes Brahms. Some of his compositions are grand and fairly long, such as the German Requiem, the two piano concerti, and the symphonies. Yet Brahms was also a phenomenal pianist, and he gave concerts throughout his lifetime. I am a particular fan of Brahms’ intermezzi, Opus 117, 118, and 119. On this new recording, we are able to listen to a huge collection of Brahms’ shorter piano pieces. Brahms: Works for Solo Piano Volume 6 Brahms: Capriccio in C sharp minor, Op. 76 No. 5 Intermezzo in A minor, Op. 76 No. 7 Capriccio in C major, Op. 76 No. 8 Intermezzo in E flat minor, Op. 118 No. 6 Hungarian Dance No. 2 in D minor Hungarian Dance No. 4 Hungarian Dance No. 6 in D flat major Hungarian Dance No. 7 Hungarian Dance No. 8 in A minor Hungarian Dance No. 9 in E minor Hungarian Dance No. 10 in F major Gigues Study after Fr. Chopin (Studie for Pianoforte, No. 1) Study No. 2 after Weber (Rondo, Op. 24) Presto after J. S. Bach Gavotte after Chr. W. Gluck (arranged for piano) Canon in F minor, Anh. III/2 Rakoczy March Studies (5), Anh.1a/1: Chaconne von JS Bach All are performed by Barry Douglas (piano) This is the sixth and final volume in Barry Douglas’s survey of Brahms’ output for solo piano, which started four years ago. The music recorded here spans the entirety of the composer’s creative career, from March 1852 (the Study after Weber) – eighteen months before the life-changing meeting between Brahms and Robert and Clara Schumann – to August 1893 (the Intermezzo, Op. 118 No. 6) – less than four years before his death, on 3 April 1897. The Sunday Times, July, 2016 wrote: “This final stage of Douglas’Brahms survey offers an engaging, always surprising sequence of short (with one exception) and often fugitive pieces…at the end, as if a salutary chastening after the fun, his left-hand-only transcription of Bach’s great D minor violin Chaconne. But, of course, it proves the most engrossing item of all.” Here is Barry Douglas, talking and playing some of this music…




Joe's Concert Reviews

July 28

Calmus Vocal Quintet. July 27, 2016.

Richardson Auditorium, Princeton.  Balcony Left (free). MembersAnja Poche, soprano; Sebastian Krause, counter-tenor; Tobias Poche, tenor; Ludwig Bohme, baritone; Manuel Helmeke, bass. Program: ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE - Shakespeare a Capella The was the fourth and last of the Princeton Summer Free Chamber Music series for this season, and is the third one I attended.  The ensemble is all all-voice group, and I believe this was my first encounter with a group like this (not counting the isolated instances.) The group at the end of the first half. While I can carry a tune, I don’t think I have as much appreciation of the voice as an instrument as “instrument” instruments.  So my expectations weren’t that high when I sat down.  Anne and I came away very satisfied, happy that we went even though we couldn’t get tickets on line and had to drive to Princeton without knowing if we would be turned away.  Of course that wasn’t really expected as we had never seen a full auditorium. The selection of music reminded me of yesterday Mostly Mozart concert.  Yesterday the songs were picked because they had to do with emotions.  For today most of the songs were selected because they were written to Shakespeare’s lyrics.  Many of them were arranged for the quintet by one of the musicians in the group. The Concert Program. Each of the members also took turn to talk a bit about the music, which added quite a bit of appreciation when the songs were performed.  There were some musicological insights as well, but I frankly didn’t get all of it, and in any case don’t remember much of it. The one aspect that was interesting to me was while the pieces range from being written in the 17th century (or even earlier) to the 20th, the “styles” were not all that different.  Take as an exmaple the group of three songs chosen for their association with “Twelfth Night.”  One was written by Purcell, the other two were written by the Finnish composer Jaakko Mantyjarvi (b. 1963) and Nancy Wertsch (b.1943).  If I hadn’t read the program, I wouldn’t have placed the composers that far apart.  Now that may just point to my lack of music knowledge, but I certainly won’t make the same mistake with instrumental music, or operas for that matter. One reason I put forward is one can make an inanimate instrument do all sorts of atonal stuff.  As long as you hit the right key or have the finger in the right place, the music will come out.  With a capella singing however, the artists are limited by more natural intervals (I won’t go into the physics, but octaves, fifths, and thirds are more natural than fourths and sevenths, for instance.)  With instruments provided a reference (from an accompanist, for example), most competent musicians can get the note right.  However, if all you have are other people’s voices, then the music has to be written more “naturally.”  And perhaps all this is nonsense. Each of the individual voices was great, but when put together they just produced incredibly nice music.  Perhaps due to their German background (the group hails from Leipzig), the singers for the most part just stood there, but the coordination among them was simply incredible, they all did their t’s and d’s and the same time, and ended their notes at the same time. While the songs were sung in English (it’s Shakespeare after all), I had trouble with a lot of the words.  For encore they sang Brahms’s Waldensnacht, in German of course.  An all-Shakespeare program for a first encounter is a bit on the heavy side, so one wish I have is a more varied program so I could appreciate more the musical range a vocal ensemble can provide. There is something about Princeton during the summer.  At 9:30 pm there were still lots of people out and about.  Of course there was no one on Broadway when we got back to South Amboy.

My Classical Notes

July 26

Piano Daydreams

This is a wonderful collection of solo piano compositions played by different artists, such as Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Lang Lang, and more. Here is a long list of the selections that are recorded for your enjoyment: Bach, J S: Prelude & Fugue Book 1 No. 1 in C major, BWV846: Prelude Hélène Grimaud (piano) Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 ‘Moonlight’: Adagio sostenuto Daniel Barenboim (piano) Brahms: Intermezzo in E flat major, Op. 117 No. 1 Wilhelm Kempff (piano) Chopin: Nocturne No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 9 No. 2 Daniel Barenboim (piano) Nocturne No. 5 in F sharp major, Op. 15 No. 2 Daniel Barenboim (piano) Prelude Op. 28 No. 4 in E minor Martha Argerich (piano) Prelude Op. 28 No. 7 in A major Martha Argerich (piano) Debussy: Préludes – Book 1: No. 8, La fille aux cheveux de lin Dino Ciani (piano) Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque) Alexis Weissenberg (piano) Grieg: Lyric Pieces Op. 43: No. 6 – To Spring Mikhail Pletnev (piano) Lyric Pieces Op. 54: No. 4 – Nocturne Andrei Gavrilov (piano) Liszt: Consolation, S. 172 No. 3 in D flat major Daniel Barenboim (piano) Liebestraum, S541 No. 3 (Nocturne in A flat major) Yundi Li (piano) Mendelssohn: Song without Words, Op. 19b No. 1 in E major ‘Sweet Remembrance’ Daniel Barenboim (piano) Song without Words, Op. 30 No. 6 in F sharp minor ‘Venezianisches Gondellied No. 2’ Daniel Barenboim (piano) Rachmaninov: Prelude Op. 23 No. 4 in D major Lazar Berman (piano) Prelude Op. 32 No. 12 in G sharp minor Lilya Zilberstein (piano) Satie: Gymnopédie No. 1 Jean-Marc Luisada (piano) Schubert: Impromptu in G flat major, D899 No. 3 Daniel Barenboim (piano) Schumann: Kinderszenen, Op. 15: Traümerei Lang Lang (piano)



The Boston Musical Intelligencer

July 26

Walnut Hills Festival Opens Grandly

Nicholas Kitchen Discussing Computers and Music (A. Jaffee photo)Photo) A devoted fan of violinist Nicholas Kitchen, I grabbed the chance to hear him play in a violin and piano recital on Monday night on the 25th Annual Music Festival at Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick. The Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts (July 21-August 14) event in the mid-size Boswell Recital Hall, featured Kitchen and pianist Pi-Hsien Chen in a remarkable concert to a full-house of mostly students. Some of the best Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts concerts I heard over the past years have introduced me to some of the best musicians I never knew about. Each person, or ensemble, has turned out to be a most pleasant surprise, and the same held last night. Pianist Pi-Hsien Chen, who was born in Taiwan and who lived in Cologne from the age of nine, worked with composers Boulez, Stockhausen, Kurtág, Cage, and Carter, has established herself as a champion of Schoenberg, Boulez, and Bach (her Goldberg Variations were on sale at the concert next to her Boulez and Mozart CDs. She won some serious new music competitions, as well as So, it came as no real surprise to hear Chen give a stunning performance of Schoenberg’s Suite for Piano, Op. 25 (1921-1923) that opened the program. The evening felt pleasantly like a Hauskonzert. We were seated just a few feet from the Steinway grand, and the physical intimacy lent itself to extra concentration. Borrowing its titles from the Baroque suite, its five movements are models of brevity. I am hardly a Schoenberg or Boulez expert, but Chen offered this audience such a stunning and passionate introduction to these composers that I immediately decided I needed to get more acquainted with their piano music. She was that good. The two movement Mozart’s Sonata in E Minor for Piano and Violin (Paris 1778) is very close to my heart. I recall my husband teaching it to his viola students, and later, recall trying to work out a harp part for it (It was too chromatic, alas). I love this sonata, and loved this performance. Of course, being right on top of the piano, I heard more of it than, perhaps, usual, but Chen’s playing was strikingly colorful and exciting, and the duo played it with real Mozartian elegance. Kitchen read his part from a laptop on a music stand, as he does when he wears his Borromeo Quartet hat. (They have three concerts coming up at the Gardner Museum, starting this coming Sunday, and continuing on August 7th and 14th. In each concert, 8 of Bach’s keyboard Preludes and Fugues will be performed (in Kitchen’s arrangements) along with a Beethoven Op. 59 quartet, and on each, a quartet by Ligeti, Ravel, and Ades). Pi-Hsien-Chen Pi-hsien Chen (Markus Boysen photo) Pierre Boulez’s Third Piano Sonata (1962) is a landmark work in which Boulez ask the performer to choose the order of the movements and their subsections. Intended to consist of five ‘formants’ or movement, only two exist in full and a third has been published in an incomplete state. Chen showed us the enormous score, with one movement having staves printed in red and green (Christmas in July?), and said she’d be playing four of the eight pages. Most interesting was her showing the use of pedal for sustaining certain notes while letting go of other notes, a technique used by Stockhausen. Chen’s laser-like performance was thrilling to hear- and to watch. I was in awe from beginning to end. She is a great artist. After intermission, Kitchen played the Adagio and Fugue from Bach’s G Minor Sonata for Solo Violin, and it was sublime. I would have happily heard the whole sonata, but more was ahead, and my head was already a bit music-saturated. Yet, the indefatigable duo then launched into a gorgeous Brahms Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78, and gave a remarkably touching performance. Both performers were on top of their very impressive game, and it was a privilege to hear them in such an intimate setting. Luminaries galore will show up to give master classes and concerts at Walnut Hill through August 13th; it’s well worth getting to Natick to hear them. [Details here ] Susan Miron is a book critic, essayist, and harpist. Her last two CDs featured her transcriptions of keyboard music of Domenico Scarlatti. The post Walnut Hills Festival Opens Grandly appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .

The Boston Musical Intelligencer

July 25

Batiashvili & BSO Take Flight

Ripe with an intimate humidity and a potent cocktail of bug spray, pinots, and cheese, the Koussevitzky Shed welcomed Sir Andrew Davis, violinist Lisa Batiashvili, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Davis and the BSO began with a clear-eyed vision of the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughn Williams. The composer’s fascination with English Renaissance Music colors much of his work, and this Fantasia is no exception. The music of Tallis and his Renaissance countrymen Byrd and Gibbons (who also helped shape Anglican choral liturgy) is never trying to assert itself. To our Bach-tuned ears, the modal harmonic language seems riddled with anguished cross relations and at times seemingly unresolved harmonic structures. However, underneath those impressions, the listener is taken on a decidedly spiritual quest, rather than one of individualism. Vaughn Williams captures this aesthetic for a post-modal world. Hear Thomas Tallis’s Third Tune for Archbishop Parker (Why F’umth in fight) [here ] and Orlando Gibbons’s “Lord Salisbury’s Pavan” [here ]. Vaughn Williams also splits the orchestra into several distinct groups. Visually this makes a welcome break from the norm, and aurally highlights the organ-like textures. Most importantly, this choice reinforces the echo effect in a great cathedral (which is certainly where one hears this work best). The BSO strings conceived a very robust and focused sound throughout. Perhaps they could have chosen a broader tone through the use of more bow rather than more pressure—generally something one sees European orchestras doing. The many solos, however, floated in a beautifully reserved pastoral manner. Throughout it all, Davis and the BSO successfully conveyed the lavish imagery and elegant string writing in a less-than-ideal acoustical space. Inspired by Brahms’s new concerto which arose from a collaboration with violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim, Dvořák started writing his Violin Concerto in A Minor right after the premiere of the Brahms. The powerhouse of an opening immediately sets the mood with a passionate but short fanfare from the orchestra. This reviewer can vouch for the difficulty in diving right into the first solo after such an orchestral introduction. In fact, achieving a balance between soloist and orchestra is an especially challenging task throughout. So often the violin can be drowned out by the orchestra by virtue of Dvořák’s writing (one wonders why a man of his 6-foot stature allowed this!) and this can create a prickly push-and-pull between orchestra and soloist. Additionally, the violin part is uncomfortably written, even when compared to more difficult openings of concertos by Brahms or Paganini. However, when played with enough breadth and gusto, it is a truly grand effect. The Georgian-German violinist Lisa Batiashvili, with her consummate technical strength, launched the concerto with latitude and panache. There was no clutter to speak of. In general, her playing is more spoken than sung; she often prefers portato technique to separate legato slurs. She maintained a trenchant poise, never forcing the instrument past its limits. Batiashvili could have done more to distinguish the violinistic style of this piece from that of, say, the Brahms Violin Concerto or other Romantic war horses. While it is certainly a matter of taste, she opted for a more German than a Czech Dvořák. In the final bars of the first movement, Dvořák writes a delightful chamber interlude with the violin’s quiet yet expressive lament accompanied by a small group of winds. The performers treated it more as an extension of robust concerto writing, and could have done more to exploit the opportunity to do something truly breathtaking. In the second movement, Batiashvili’s playing never lacked suppleness, and she displayed a clear understanding of when to be chained to bar lines, and when to stretch across them. It was wonderfully balanced and expressive. The crisp, energetic third movement felt downright frisky from both orchestra and soloist. While I would have liked to hear more of the pesante feeling, I was very glad to not hear the finale of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, which is often what ends up happening when violinists perform this work (with more pom-pom-pom, of course). About half way into the movement, Dvořák suddenly introduces a lamenting d minor dumka-esque melody, with indication to avoid preparing it using rubato or tempo changes. In a moment of beautiful fidelity, the performers listened, and were able to alter our mood without needing a “checkpoint to re-calibrate.” Batiashvili closed with a rowdy and virtuosic coda. Her approach was more muscular than, say, the effortless and transparent sound of Nathan Milstein [here ] but equally convincing, and appropriate considering the venue. Before proceeding to an encore, Batiashvilli spoke about the horrors that occurred in her hometown of Munich just earlier that evening, and how art can help us create a better future for our children. With the assistance of Davis and the BSO, she performed Fritz Kreisler’s arrangement of the Largo theme of Dvořák’s Symphony No.9 “New World.” Charming and spiritual, it felt like home. Lisa Batiashvili and Sir Andrew Davis (Hilary Scott photo) Far from the dark and misunderstood Symphony No.4, Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No.5 was commissioned to celebrate the composer’s 50th birthday. It carries an earthbound spirituality that, according to biographer James Hepokoski, reflects the composer’s secluded forest retreat at Ainola. Even in the opening 3-note motif, which the BSO beautifully portrayed as series of melismatic echos in the flutes and oboes, I heard the sound of birds. To be clear, I also heard actual birds, as the concert was appropriately accompanied by the chirpings of the Tanglewood avian choir. Somehow, it did enhance the mood. Describing his own work, Sibelius wrote “…in a deep valley again. But I already begin to see dimly the mountain that I shall certainly ascend. . . . God opens His door for a moment and His orchestra plays the Fifth Symphony”. This is quite an image to live up to, and the performers finally delivered it in the last movement. It left an especially powerful impression. The utterly majestic triple-time motif, which begins in the horns, is said to have been inspired by the transcendent sound of swan-calls. Sibelius described witnessing 16 of them taking flight at once. Through all of its considerable breadth and beauty, I was left with one feeling—that of hope. I was reminded of Batiashvili’s earlier message to the audience—one of hope and beauty triumphing over the ugliness of our world. In that moment, in that space, the musician and occasional idealist in me began to feel that maybe music can really be an answer… Overall, a Symphony Hall setting would have let this excellent program soar higher. Nevertheless, the performers captivated auditors seated in the front of the shed, and families picnicking on the grass alike. Daniel Kurganov is a violinist and educator based in Boston. In addition to regularly performing worldwide, he is devoted to furthering the understanding of style, technique, and exemplification in musical practice, as well as expanding the tools of a musician through technology and cross-cultural reciprocity. The post Batiashvili & BSO Take Flight appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .

Johannes Brahms
(1833 – 1897)

Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 - 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene. In his lifetime, Brahms' popularity and influence were considerable; following a comment by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow, he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the Three Bs. Brahms composed for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, and for voice and chorus. A virtuoso pianist, he premiered many of his own works; he also worked with some of the leading performers of his time, including the pianist Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed many of his works and left some of them unpublished. Brahms is often considered both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters. He was a master of counterpoint, the complex and highly disciplined method of composition for which Bach is famous, and also of development, a compositional ethos pioneered by J. Haydn, W.A. Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Brahms aimed to honour the "purity" of these venerable "German" structures and advance them into a Romantic idiom, in the process creating bold new approaches to harmony and melody. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by subsequent figures as diverse as the progressive Arnold Schoenberg and the conservative Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature of Brahms's works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers.



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