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Claude Debussy

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


My Classical Notes

April 24

Christiane Karg’s New Album: Perfum

My Classical NotesI am a long-term fan of soprano Christine Karg, and I want to tell you about her new album. It is called “Perfum”. It contains selections by the following composers: Britten: Quatre Chansons Françaises Debussy: Le Balcon Harmonie du soir Le Jet d’eau (from Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire) Recueillement Duparc: L’Invitation au voyage La Vie antérieure Phidylé Koechlin: Épiphanie, Op. 17 No. 3 Ravel: Shéhérazade All performed by Christiane Karg (soprano), with the Bamberger Symphoniker, David Afkham conducting. Christiane Karg is one of the most-sought-after lyric sopranos of the present day, acclaimed for her embodiment of operatic roles and as a lieder, concert and oratorio singer. She can be seen and heard all around the world: at lieder recitals in New York’s Carnegie Hall and in the Vienna Konzerthaus, at La Scala in Milan with her 2016 debut in “Der Rosenkavalier”, and at regular guest appearances at the Munich State Opera and the Chicago Lyric Opera House, at the Salzburg Festival and at the Royal Opera House London. At the end of 2017 she will give her debut performance at the MET Opera in New York (The Marriage of Figaro) and at the Vienna State Opera. David Afkham is Principal Conductor of the Spanish National Orchestra and Chorus. He is in high demand as a guest conductor with some of the world’s finest orchestras and opera houses The Bamberg Symphony – Bavarian State Philharmonic has always enjoyed a special status in the music world. Here is the trailer from this recording. Enjoy it!

The Well-Tempered Ear

April 21

Classical music: Saturday night brings the Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet to the Wisconsin Union Theater and a concert of chamber works by the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble. Plus tonight’s concert by the Madison Choral Project is at 8:30 p.m. — NOT 7:30 as originally announced.

URGENT CORRECTION: The time for tonight’s performance of “Privilege” by the Madison Choral Project has been moved from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. due to noise from a nearby football game in Camp Randall Stadium . For more about the concert, go to: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/classical-music-madison-choral-project-gives-concert-of-new-music-focusing-on-the-social-and-political-theme-of-privilege-this-friday-night-and-sunday-afternoon/ THIS JUST IN: Hi Jake: We’ve got cellist Karl von Huene and bassist John Dowling at the Malt House, at 2609 East Washington Avenue on the corner of Milwaukee Street, again this Saturday, from 3-5 p.m. Karl says the pieces they’ll play are by J.S. Bach , W. A. Mozart , Arcangelo Corelli, S. Lee, F. J. Haydn , G.F. Handel , Dmitri Kabalevsky , and Francesco Durante. It should be fun! Cheers, Bill Rogers BIG ALERT: This is a reminder that, in this busy week of music, one stand-out concert is by the Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. It will perform the annual Fan Taylor Memorial Concert this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater . (You can hear a sample of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 they will play in the YouTube video at the bottom.) The acclaimed quartet will perform music by Bach, Bizet, Debussy, and Villa-Lobos as well as 17th-century Spanish music from the age of the novelist Cervantes For more information about the group, the program and tickets ($10-$48), go to: https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/los-angeles-guitar-quartet/ By Jacob Stockinger The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will give a concert of baroque chamber music on Saturday night, April 22, at 7:30 p.m. It will take place in Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent Street. Members of the WBE are: Mimmi Fulmer, soprano; Nathan Giglierano, baroque violin; Brett Lipshutz, traverse flute; Eric Miller, viola da gamba; Sigrun Paust, recorder; Monica Steger, traverse flute and harpsichord; Anton TenWolde, baroque cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord. The program includes: Georg Philipp Telemann – Quartet for two traversi, recorder and basso continuo, TWV 43:d1 Mr. De Machy – Pièces de Violle, Suite No. 3 (Pieces for Viol) Francesca Caccini – “Lasciatemi qui solo” (Leave me here alone) Quentin – Trio Sonata for two traversi and basso continuo, Op. 13, No. 3 INTERMISSION Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger – “Interrotte Speranze” (Vain Hope) Johann Christoph Pepusch – Trio Sonata for recorder, violin and basso continuo Georg Philipp Telemann (below) – Nouveaux Quatuors (Paris Quartets), No. 6 in E minor Giulio Caccini – “Odi, Euterpe” (Hear, Euterpe) Tickets at the door are $20, $10 for students. A post-concert reception will be held after the concert at 2422 Kendall Ave, second floor. For more information, go to: www.wisconsinbaroque.org Tagged: Arcangelo Corelli , Arts , Bach , bar , Baroque , bass , Beer , Bizet , Brandenburg Concerto , Caccini , Cello , Cervantes , Chamber music , classical guitar , Classical music , Compact Disc , continuo , Corelli , Debussy , double bass , Early music , Episcopal , Euterpe , Fan Taylor , flute , Francesca Caccini , Francesco Durante , Georg Philipp Telemann , Grammy Award , guitar , Handel , harpsichord , Haydn , hope , Jacob Stockinger , Johann Sebastian Bach , Kabalevsky , Kapsberger , Le sieur de Machy , Los Angeles , Los Angeles Guitar Quartet , Madison , malt , Malt House , Mozart , Music , Paris , Pepusch , Quartet , Quentin , recorder , Sonata , soprano , Spain , Spanish music , St. Andrew , tavern , Telemann , traverso , trio , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , vain , Villa-Lobos , Viol , Viola , viola da gamba , Violin , vocal music , Wisconsin , Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble , Wisconsin Union Theater , YouTube




Meeting in Music

April 21

Musik für Harfe mit anderen instrumente (5 CD's)

  Jean-Xavier Lefevre (1763 - 1829) Sonatas Nos. 1-5 & 7 from Méthode de Clarinette Label: Harp & Co 5050-32 (2013) Olivier Dartevelle, ClarinetRachel Talitman, Harp Flac & Scans Ivan Müller (1786 - 1854)Trio de l'opera Armide (Rossini) for Clarinet, Cello and HarpJoseph Weigl (1776 - 1846)Concertino in B-flat major for Harp and Wind QuartetGioacchino Rossini (1792 - 1868)Andante con Variazioni for Violin and HarpFerdinand Ries (1784 - 1838)Sextet for Winds, Harp, Piano and Double-bass Op. 142Jakob Philipp Riotte (1776 - 1856)Notturno for Violin and Harp Label: KOCH schwann 310001-H1(1989) Consortium Classicum Flac & Scans Ivan Müller (1786 - 1854)Grande Polonaise for Harp with obbligato Clarinet and BassoonThree Fantasies on Themes from Operas by Rossini Op. 27Duo Concertante for Clarinet and Bassoon with HarpRomanza di Blangini for Clarinet and HarpFirst Fantasy on a Barcarolle for Clarinet and HarpTrio de l'opera Armide (Rossini) for Clarinet, Bassoon and HarpVariations on the aria O Dolce Concento (Mozart) for Clarinet, Alto Clarinet, Bassoon and Harp Label: Talent DOM 2910-84(2003) Olivier Dartevelle, ClarinetEmmanuel Chaussade, Alto ClarinetLuc Loubry, BassoonRachel Talitman, Harp Flac & Scans Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937)Introduction et Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String QuartetPavane pour une infante défunte for Flute and Harp (arr. Maganini)Sonata for Violin and CelloClaude Debussy (1862 - 1918)Syrinx for Flute soloSonata for Flute, Viola and HarpChansons de Bilitis Incidental Music for Récitante, Two Flutes, Two Harps and Celesta Label: DG 429 738-2(1990) Ensemble Wien-Berlin Flac & Scans Martin Christoph Redel (b.1947)Arparinetto Three Pieces for Clarinet and Harp Op. 71Frank Zabel (b.1968)Seven Miniatures for Clarinet and microtonal HarpStefan Heucke (b.1959)Serenata Malinconica for Clarinet and Harp Op. 67Jörg Birkenkötter (b.1962)Why Tristan? Notturno for Bass Clarinet and HarpDietrich Hahne (b.1961)Metanoia for Clarinet (B. Cl), Harp and Tape Label: Chromart Classics TXA 13035(2014) Duo ImaginaireJohn Corbett, Clarinet & Bass ClarinetSimone Seiler, Harp Flac & Scans

Kenneth Woods- A View From the Podium

April 19

No place to call home. An appreciation of Allan Holdsworth

That Allan Holdsworth died this week in relative poverty and obscurity (at least considering his enormous artistic legacy) is a sad but completely predictable sign of the times. I first encountered Holdsworth as an ambitious young guitar player. Even then, in what in retrospect was his heyday, he was the kind of musician described as “the best guitarist you never heard of.” I immediately loved not only his playing but his music. Even when listening very casually, one could tell that it was incredibly harmonically sophisticated, melodically engaging and amazingly well played. One thing that struck me almost immediately was the sheer beauty and lyricism of his music- qualities not often found in virtuoso electric guitar players. He struck me then as much more of a guitar Debussy than a guitar Shostakovich. From early days of listening to his music for pleasure I gradually moved on to listening more and more analytically and critically, then, bit by bit, trying to understand what he was doing. Holdsworth may have been music’s greatest iceberg. What you see on first glance is beautiful, massive, impressive and even intimidating, but what lies beneath the surface is simply beyond belief. I’ll make a confession of my youthful arrogance here. I grew up learning the cello and the guitar more or less in parallel. Compared to the cello, the guitar always came easily to me- on the surface it is a much more straightforward instrument to play, and having a certain amount of technical grounding as a cellist put me way ahead of a lot (by no means all!) of my peers (at least until I met my first real guitar super-virtuoso in person, a chap named David Biller. Dave was in a different league the rest of us back then). Trying to learn to play Holdsworth’s chords and solos quickly humbled the living shit out of me. Chord voicings he would flit through in a few tenths of a second I would have to spend ages trying to stretch and bend and contort my hand to reach. I felt like a complete beginner. Somewhere I have an old demo of my band playing Road Games on cassette- I’ll upload it if i can find it. We did a pretty good job, but Allan would have pretty bemused at how hard we had to work to play it. It’s probably one of his easiest tunes. Later on, during my years at Indiana University, I went through a period of deep disillusionment with classical music. At that time, I often wished I could be a jazz musician. I was completely immersed then in the 60’s jazz of Miles Davis 2nd quintet, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock. Working with David Baker in the IU jazz department, I felt like I started to understand the music well and to form solid ideas about improvisation. However, as David Baker knew probably better than anyone, the cello is no instrument for jazz. And for all its pedigree as a jazz instrument, neither is the guitar. When one listens to the solos of people like Trane, Miles, Woody Shaw, Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson, you realise they were all able to develop single-note improvisation with a kind of agility, ease and expressivity that not even the best guitarists could approach. Even the cream of the crop of 70’s and 80’s fusion guitarists working with Miles or Freddie Hubbard often ended up sounding like amateurs next to their horn-playing colleagues. In their defence, it wasn’t entirely their fault. Saxophones and trumpets are near-ideal instruments for jazz improvisation. The guitar is not. None of the guitar greats of the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s could approach the kind of expressive ingenuity and creative freedom of a John Coltrane. None of them, that is, except Allan Holdsworth. Holdsworth seemed not to be bound by the same laws of physics that limited every other guitarist from Django Reinhardt to George Benson. For him, picking didn’t seem to exist. Changing strings didn’t seem to exist. Shifting positions didn’t seem to exist. The notes simply flowed out of the guitar as they might from a scat singer possessing Messiaen’s harmonic knowledge with a four octave range on speed. Harmonically, he was simply in a different league to any other jazz guitarist of his generation. He might well have been the first guitarist to really completely escape the blues-box cliché. His improvisatory language was distinctive- one always knew it was him, but largely because it was so easy to recognise the lack of repetition, the lack of pre-planned licks, the lack of fall-back BS. Holdsworth seemed to be happiest playing in the higher extensions of a chord- weaving patterns around the 9th, the sharp 11th and the 13th. The upshot of this approach was that when he did settle melodically on the root or the fifth of the chord, it sounded somehow new, even a bit exotic. Holdsworth’s chordal approach was even more astounding and unique. I don’t think any guitarist ever understood the fingerboard as well as him, and he seemed to be able to move between chords with a kind of nonchalant ease that simply beggared belief. One could sense incredible logic and musical purpose over decisions about harmonic subtleties that would flit by in less than a beat. Though some of those voicings seemed to defy the mechanical working of the human hand, he made them all seem so natural, elegant and logical. In purely instrumental, technical terms, Holdsworth was as much better than any other guitarist I ever came across than any human in any field of endeavour I can think of. There are human achievements that are so far removed from what anyone else has done, we eventually accept that they’re by and large unapproachable. Shakespeare’s literary output and Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak are obvious examples. DiMaggio’s streak was about 20% longer than the next longest streak before or since. Imagine being 20% faster than the fastest person ever to run the 100 meter dash and you have some idea what a special player Holdsworth was. Reactions to Holdsworth’s death this week have hammered home yet again that the musical world never really knew what to make of him. In many ways, he embodied the highest ideals of jazz at its best- pioneering, fearless, fiercely original. He also was a remarkably formidable rock musician- Road Games is one of the best rock albums ever made (Holdsworth apparently felt it was a failure). At the end of the day, his astonishing gifts as an instrumentalist were means to a musical end. Nobody else had the technical equipment to play the music Holdsworth heard so vividly in his head so he had to develop that technique to play the music he heard. I don’t think he would have liked the often-used description of him as the “guitarists’ guitartist.” I think he would have preferred “the musician’s guitarist.” Of course, rock and jazz critics are by and large united in their total disdain for music and musicianship. For critics on both sides, calling Holdsworth a “prog rocker” was an easy put down and a way to hide their own lack of perception and taste. Holdsworth was nearly the antithesis of the rock star- he didn’t seem to have a posing bone in his body. In an era in which “attitude” and lyrics were what mattered to critics and looks and showmanship were what mattered to the public, he was always going to struggle. Holdsworth stuck to his guns, although he struggled financially throughout his life. Being a genius seemed to be a burden for him- over the years he seemed to find playing and composing more and more difficult. The last few clips I saw of him on social media seemed to hint that he was haunted by many demons and that life was not easy for him. One would have hoped that the age of the internet would have been a boon for an independent musician like Holdsworth. Modern technology meant that an artist like him doesn’t need an expensive studio or access to a pressing plant or all the infrastructure of a label behind him to create and share music. It also means that music, once shared, has very little potential to generate earnings. However, what the Internet has really been a boon for is a generation of imitators and pretenders. Thanks to YouTube, it’s a whole lot easier than it used to be to learn to copy Allan’s stuff and to disseminate second-pressing Holdsworth-isms for a generation of fans who gave up waiting for the next Atavachron. These days music schools are churning out whiz-kid guitarists with the kind of faceless efficiency that would make MacDonalds look like a boutique outfit. Some of them, with enough practice, can probably play Allan’s music cleanly enough to not embarrass themselves. What they lack is the vision to create that music and the courage to promote a completely honest and uncompromising artistic vision as he did. One positive of the internet age is that, in the few bits and pieces of things I was able to pay attention to, Allan’s many fans seemed so grateful for all he had already given, so eager to support him over the last ten years. If any good comes of his death, it will surely be an appreciation that even the most gifted artists need our support and encouragement.



Kenneth Woods- A View From the Podium

April 11

Haunted by my visit to Thornfield

John Joubert- Jane Eyre: An opera in two acts £22.00 Add to cart Where does an opera really take place? Why, on the stage, I hear you say. Of course, that’s true, but not quite the truth. Der Rosenkavalier and The Magic Flute might take place on the same stage in the same week, but they clearly don’t take place in the same place. Of course, in the theatre, each opera will have its own set. Some are more realistic, some are more abstract. But yes, when the situation is normal, one would hope that each opera, perhaps even each act or scene, would take place on a set that is appropriate to the action of the story. But then what of recordings? And concert performances? Where does the action of an opera take place then? I have long thought that one of Wagner’s greatest dramatic insights was to create the conditions by which the opera takes place in the orchestra. The characters sing in the world of the orchestra, the plot unfolds according the musical threads heard in the orchestra. The orchestra tells us what we’re looking at and where we are. The meaning, the symbolism, the emotion- it’s almost all in the orchestra. For all of his obsessions with Gesamkunstwerke (total artwork), which led him to have built the ideal opera house for his works (and to limit Parsifal to performances in that space in his lifetime , a ban which lasted until 1903), Wagner’s opera’s work better than almost anyone else’s as concert works. They work supremely well as works for recording. Solti’s Ring Cycle has stood the test of time as one of the great achievements in the history of recoded music across all genres in spite of the fact that there are no sets. You don’t need sets for Wagner. Wagner’s Valhalla, Rhine and Cornwall all exist completely, if not exclusively, in the orchestra. The world Wagner creates in the orchestra, and the stories he tells through the orchestra, are so rich, so complete, so convincing and so detailed, that as long as there have been Wagner operas there have been operatic paraphrases and orchestral suites assembled by conductors and composers which even go so far as to dispense with singers. A certain amount of scene painting and local colour has always been part of opera. Think of the Janissary music from The Abduction from the Seraglio where a few cymbals and a bit of triangle help to give the opera a Turkish flavour- appropriate for the story and popular with Viennese audiences of the day. An obvious and often-cited influence of Wagner is Weber’s Der Freischütz, notably the wild Wolf’s Glen scene, which is certainly full of wild, evocative nocturnal portent. To me, however, in his mature works, Wagner is the first composer to really create a completely compelling and immersive world within the orchestra that seems to be able to serve as both narrative and setting from beginning to end, not just accompaniment and commentary. Debussy worked hard to distance himself from Wagner, but was hugely influenced by the bad boy of Bayreuth. Pelleas et Melisande is one of the few works I can think of which is as immersive as Wagner. Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle is another. I’d spent many months working on John Joubert’s Jane Eyre before the ESO’s recent premiere and recording of it for Somm Recordings last year. I knew where there were likely to be balance problems, I knew where there were likely to be tears. What I didn’t know was just how enveloping the orchestral soundworld of Joubert’s Jane would be. Being on a theatrical or operatic set is almost always a bit of a let down- however convincing a production is at making you think you’re watching the real thing in the audience, when you’re on stage, it looks like you’re in a theatre. Everyone around you is wearing freakish amounts of makeup. The sets look cheap and fake, you can see into the wings, and when you stare pensively into the distance, there are hundreds of punters staring back at you. Being in the middle of the action on stage you have to work harder to suspend disbelief than the audience. In Wagner, however, I think that when you’re surrounded by that music, it’s even more immersive for the musicians than for the listeners. And so it was, to my surprise and delight, in Jane Eyre. From the first notes of the first scene in the first rehearsal (for once, we actually managed to start with the first bar of Act 1 –Scene 1), it really did feel like we were entering a world of John’s imagining. Over the course of those two short but epic days, my mind built sets. Colors of walls were noted, shifting shades of light coming through windows were observed. I came to picture the rooms of Thornfield during Jane and Rochester’s courtship, I came to feel a slightly ominous sense of dread as the church doors opened to reveal their doomed wedding ceremony, and I can still feel the smug claustrophobia of St John Rivers’ house during his confrontation with Jane. That this vivid, rich and compelling world existed only in John’s imagination and in the printed instructions he put on the page for nearly 20 years is both depressing and inspiring. We as musicians sometimes take for granted the miracle by which a score can preserve a piece of music in static silence for decades until it can be heard. But it is even more miraculous when finally hearing that music can allow a drama to be seen, allow characters to come to life, allow buildings and landscapes to be observed and remembered. The acrid smoke of Bertha’s fires sting the nose through the orchestra. When Rochester sings of the nightingale, one sees the night, feels the evening dew settling in, all through the orchestra.The world of Joubert’s Jane Eyre certainly cast a spell on me- I can scarcely think of an opera which begins and ends more magically, and throughout our work on the piece, I feel like I spent hardly a minute in Edgbaston. Those were two very happy days, and I very much hope that we’ll be able to reunite that astonishing cast for another round of performances, but for now, the world of Jane Eyre is one I can remember but not visit. It was lovely to see David and April , our magnificent Rochester and Jane, at John’s 90th birthday the other day. Some things are too fragile and too precious to discuss, but seeing them, in a noisy function room full of cake and tea and saturated with oppressive fluorescent light, I felt myself, just for a very, very brief moment, remembering what it was like to stand in the ruins of Joubert’s Thornfield watching two damaged lovers heal each other and re-start their lives. I hope that we did a good job of allowing our audience, both live and through the recording, to “see” the action unfold through John’s miraculous scoring, but we are the blessed few who have not just seen Joubert’s Thornfield, we have been there. Such things are not for discussing at social occasions. Such things are not for discussing at all. Those of us who have been to Joubert’s Thornfield are both blessed and changed, forever just a little homesick for a world created by a great composer and finally brought to life for 48 precious hours by 35 hard-working musicians. Getting there costs more than most journeys, but at long last a few of us know the way.

Claude Debussy
(1862 – 1918)

Claude Debussy (August 22, 1862 - March 25, 1918) was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions. Debussy is among the most important of all French composers, and a central figure in European music of the turn of the 20th century. He was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1903. His music is noted for its sensory component and for not often forming around one key or pitch. Often Debussy's work reflected the activities or turbulence in his own life. His music virtually defines the transition from late-Romantic music to 20th century modernist music. In French literary circles, the style of this period was known as symbolism, a movement that directly inspired Debussy both as a composer and as an active cultural participant.



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