Tages Woche: Das Sinfonieorchester Basel erhält begeisterte Kritiken

April 29, 2014

Vier von fünf Sternen verlieh der Kritiker des «Guardian» dem ersten Konzert des Sinfonieorchester Basels – eine Note, die in diesem Sektor Seltenheitswert geniesst.  Andrew Clements titelt enthusiastisch «minimalist works maximise power and excitement» und betont Dennis Russell Davies Fähigkeit, «to showcase the strengths of his orchestra, the depth of its string tone, liveliness of its woodwind and security of its brass.»

Jenes Konzert wurde vorab von der BBC beworben – etwa mit einem kleinen Intermezzo für Klavier zu vier Händen von Dennis Russell Davies und Pianistin Maki Namekawa – und anschliessend live übertragen (es kann online nachgehört werden). Dies generierte sogar zusätzliche Konzertbesucher. Zwei Tage später nämlich verriet beim Konzert inBasingstoke eine britische Dame den Basler Tourbegleitern am CD-Verkaufstisch, sie habe das Konzert am Radio gehört und sofort entschieden, dass sie dies unbedingt live hören müsse. Deshalb sei sie extra nach Basingstoke gekommen.

Beeindruckte Besucherinnen und Besucher

Selbst die «Freunde des Sinfonieorchesters Basel» sind für einige Tage nach London gereist. Suzanne Pollak-Daicker (71), seit ihrem zwanzigsten Lebensjahr Exilbaslerin, hält sogar von ihrem Wohnort Liechtenstein aus Kontakt zum Orchester. Nach dem Konzert in der Cadogan Hall erzählt sie, dass ihr John Adams’ «Harmonielehre» zwar ein wenig zu laut, ein wenig zu aggressiv erschien. Doch sie sei grosser Fan von Arvo Pärt; und dass sie bei dessen Klavierkonzert «Lamentate» auch noch Dennis Russell Davies Frau, Maki Namekawa, am Klavier erleben durfte, «ihr edles Spiel, und wie sie mit dem Orchester gekämpft hat», das habe sie sehr beeindruckt.

Es ist ein freundliches, offenherziges Publikum, das hier den Baslern begegnet. Ob in den riesigen Mehrzweckhallen von Coventry und Basingstoke, ob in der edlen Londoner Cadogan Hall oder in der urchigen ehemaligen Lagerhalle «Corn Exchange» in Cambridge (die atmosphärisch der Basler Kaserne sehr nahe kommt); überall erntet das Orchester jubelnden Applaus. Nicht selten sprechen Konzertbesucher die Orchestermitglieder direkt nach den Konzerten an, um ihnen ihre Begeisterung und ihren Dank mitzuteilen.

Schöne Ansprache des Chefs

Dies hat nicht nur mit der Musik zu tun, die auf dem Programm steht: Minimalmusic ist zwar beliebt, weil sie tonal komponiert ist und schöne Atmosphären schafft, aber sie ist längst nicht so ein Zugpferd wie etwa eine Beethoven-Sinfonie.

Der Erfolg hat vor allem auch mit dem Orchester und seinem Chefdirigenten zu tun. «Harmonielehre war eine richtige Bombe», lobte Davies sein Orchester nach dem ersten Konzert.

Und nach dem dritten Konzert gab er gleich einen ganzen Apéro aus. In seiner Ansprache sagte er seinen Musikern: «Wir haben hier ein Publikum, das gekommen ist, um diese Musik zu hören. Und was sie hören ist weit über dem, was sie erwartet haben. Und das hat damit zu tun, wie das Sinfonieorchester Basel mit der Musik umgeht: Mit Leidenschaft, mit Können, mit Geduld, wenn Geduld gefragt ist, und Disziplin. Ich bewundere das, und ich bedanke mich sehr.»

All das motiviert nachhaltig. Selbst nach einer staubedingten, unfreiwillig langen Busfahrt von drei Stunden, nach der es ohne Abendessen direkt auf die Bühne von «The Anvil» in Basingstoke geht, spielen die Basler ein hervorragendes Konzert voller Energie – und steigen anschliessend ohne Murren direkt wieder in den Bus, um die Rückfahrt ins Hotel anzutreten – schmerzende Rücken und steife Beine ob des langen Sitzens ungeachtet.

Schrecksekunde beim Saitenriss

Sogar eine gerissene Cellosaite bringt die Basler nicht aus der Ruhe: Als beim gestrigen Konzert in der Cambridge Corn Exchange  dem Solisten Matt Haimovitz bei Philip Glass’ 2. Cellokonzert «Naqoyqatsi» die tiefste Saite riss, die er zuvor noch intensiv bearbeitet hatte, um seinem Cello ein gefährlich drohendes Grummeln zu entlocken, da zückte Stimmführer David Delacroix vorbildlich eine passende Ersatzsaite aus dem Jackett. Noch auf der Bühne wechselte Haimovitz die Saite, und binnen weniger Minuten konnte das Konzert weitergehen, als wäre nichts gewesen.

The Telegraph: Basel Symphony Orchestra, Cadogan Hall, review: ‘fabulous ride’

April 29, 2014
Photo: Benno Hunziker

Photo: Benno Hunziker

There were two puzzles about this concert, which was part of a UK tour by the Basel Symphony Orchestra focused on American minimalist music. The first was: why on earth it was presented in the bright neo-Byzantine elegance of Cadogan Hall? Minimalist music needs dim light and a groovy ambience. In the Roundhouse this concert would have been packed; the audience at Cadogan Hall was barely passable.

The second was the music itself. Cognitive scientists tell us we’re hard-wired to enjoy repetition in music. Which is true, but only up to a point. Minimalism delights in going beyond that point, with results that can be maddening or intriguing or moving, or all three at once.

That’s a recipe for emotional exhaustion, and to avoid that, minimalist music needs performances which are sympathetic and sensitive rather than merely accurate. The Basel SO certainly did their three pieces proud. In Philip Glass’s Cello Concerto No 2 they were joined by cellist Matt Haimowitz. He shaped the cello’s keening phrases with such care that they seemed like the outpourings of genuine lyricism, which repeats only to intensify. Continue reading

Triad Arts Weekend: David English, Mark Freundt, Hope Larson, Lemony Snicket, and Matt Haimovitz on Triad Arts Weekend

April 27, 2014

This week we revisit some of Team Triad Arts’ choice recent interviews, and get a musical look at this Earth Day Weekend. Guitarist David English is one of the performers at the Piedmont Earth Day Fair, and we’ll join him in conversation with David Ford, and learn about the art of building the cigar box guitar. Our celebration of Mother Earth continues with Mark Freundt. He’s conducting the 4th annual presentation of the Missa Gaia (Earth Mass). Then we’ll get a little silly & confusing with author Lemony Snicket – that is, if he even shows up. Mr. Snicket crafted the wildly popular “A Series of Unfortunate Events” novels, and now he’s inking out his peculiar craft in the world of detective fiction. We keep the pen close to paper with acclaimed graphic novelist Hope Larson, and a look at her adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time.” Then we wrap things up with acclaimed cellist Matt Haimovitz. Matt explores the sonic limits of the cello from Bach to Hendrix with indie rock detours along the way. … Continue reading

Classical Source: Basel Symphony Orchestra/Dennis Russell Davies at Cadogan Hall – 2: The Chairman Dances, Naqoyqatsi (with Matt Haimovitz), Prospero’s Books

April 28, 2014

This was the second of three concerts by the Basel Symphony Orchestra at Cadogan Hall as part of this venue’s Zürich International Orchestra series. Though not billed as such, each programme features what might be loosely described as minimalist music. All three works played in this second programme derived from works that were written other than for the concert hall.

By far the best known of these is John Adams’s The Chairman Dances, which uses music from the opera, Nixon in China, with driving ostinatos juxtaposed with irregular accents and rhythms, and with colourful orchestration and subtle percussion effects. Dennis Russell Davies led his smallish and efficient orchestra in authoritative fashion.

Philip Glass’s Cello Concerto No.2 is a re-working of music written for the 2001 film, Naqoyqatsi: Life as War. The work, which falls into seven sections, was first performed by Matt Haimovitz, with this conductor, in 2012. For the most part, the soloist is rewarded by music that has a lyrical quality: sometimes he seems to be making a commentary on the orchestral part, which often consists of rather less eloquent repetitive material. Two of the movements, ‘New World’ and ‘Old World’, comprise a dialogue between cello and light percussion, which makes good contrast with the heavier forces employed elsewhere. Haimovitz’s playing was remarkably beautiful throughout, despite the many demands made on his technical prowess.

Michael Nyman’s Prospero’s Books derives from his music for the eponymous film. It comprises five movements as heard in this performance: these were not listed in the programme and which contained a rather confusing short essay on the score by the composer. Here again were repetitive phrases drummed out by the ensemble adorned by single instrumental comments, in contrasting metres and rhythms. But there was a distinct lack of contrast between the movements, four of which proceeded at a similar tempo, though this was occasionally varied; and the material seemed to be carefully constructed rather than creatively inspired; in the end this and the rest of the programme left an impression of continually stunted compositional growth. The hall was not much more than half full, but all the performances were greeted with much enthusiasm, it seems fair to report.

By: Alan Sanders

Read at: Classical Source

Coventry Telegraph: Celebrating pioneers of minimalism

April 4, 2014

A celebration of minimalist music takes place in Coventry this month when the Basel Symphony Orchestra calls in on the city as part of their first UK tour.

The orchestra will be playing three works hailed as “minimalist masterpieces” at Warwick Arts Centre on April 23, 7.30pm.

Under the baton of their music director Dennis Russell Davies, they will be performing three 20th century works: John Adams’s Harmonielehre, a dream-inspired score for large orchestra; Arvo Pärt’s These Words, a meditation for string orchestra and percussion on human foibles and delusions; and the European premiere of Philip Glass’s Cello Concerto No2, featuring Matt Haimovitz, an Israeli-born cellist now based in the US and Canada.

The Coventry concert marks the start of a UK tour in which the orchestra will focus on pioneering minimalists. It reflects the passion of Davies, an American conductor and pianist who first encountered minimalist works in the early 1970s and has become a champion of living composers and modern music.

He says: “This repertoire area has been part of my musical life for over 40 years. Philip Glass and I were considered the young upstarts of our generation back then. Now we’re thought of as the senior citizens!”

Hans-Georg Hofmann, the orchestra’s artistic manager, says: “It’s special for us to play this repertoire with someone who is so closely associated with it. Audiences will be able to trace the development of minimalist music from the Harmonielehre of 1985 to Glass’s recent Second Cello Concerto.

“This is a fantastic project for us and is part of the great adventure in sound we’re enjoying with our music director. “

Davies, in turn, praises his players. “They can handle anything written over the past 120 years and, for instance, really hold the intensity demanded by Glass and Pärt.

“It’s time now to introduce the orchestra to a wider audience, which is why I’m so looking forward to our appearances in the UK. I believe a large audience will want to hear our minimalist programmes.”

Tickets on 024 7652 4524.

By: Patsy Fuller

Read at: Coventry Telegraph 

The New York Times, ArtsBeat: Opera America Names Eight Grant Winners

April 2, 2014

Late last year, Opera America set out to encourage women composers to write new operas, and offered incentives, by way of a two-year grant program, underwritten by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. The organization announced the first group of recipients of its Opera Grants for Female Composers on Tuesday. Eight composers, and their proposed projects, were chosen from among 112 eligible applicants. Each will receive a $12,500 grant to help develop her opera.

The winner composers (and projects) are Anna Clyne (“As Sudden Shut”); Michelle DiBucci (“Charlotte Salomon: Death and the Painter”); Laura Kaminsky (“As One”); Kristin Kuster (“Old Presque Isle”); Anne LeBaron (“Psyche & Delia”); Fang Man (“Golden Lily”); Sheila Silver (“A Thousand Splendid Suns”); and Luna Pearl Woolf (“The Pillar”).

The adjudication panel included the vocal coach Susan Ashbaker; the composers Douglas Cuomo and David T. Little; the mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer; and the librettist and composer Gene Scheer.

By: ALLAN KOZINN

Read at: The New York Times

GazetteNet.com: Music review: As Haimovitz and O’Riley shuffled and played, the audience gladly listened

April 2, 2014

The distinguished cellist Matt Haimovitz returned to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Monday, together with the brilliant pianist Christopher O’Riley, with“Shuffle.Play.Listen,” an unusual (if not eccentric) concert before a full house in the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall. Both musicians were faultless in their playing, and O’Riley was perfect as an accompanist even when the music demanded heavy chords and fortissimo passages full of brilliant scales and arpeggios. He is known as the host and accompanist of NPR’s Sunday program “From the Top,” and his career has included transcriptions of rock music and jazz, as well as the classical canon.

Haimovitz, well known in western Massachusetts (he once lived in Northampton, and was on the UMass faculty), has, like the eminent cellist Yo Yo Ma, played in what used to be considered unusual settings, such as bars and clubs. He has, like O’Riley, been a pioneer in extending the range of his instrument’s literature from the classical canon to rock and jazz. The audience could expect an extraordinary mix of classical, pop and jazz pieces, and they were not disappointed.

The performers did not always announce what they were about to play nor was there a printed program. As the word “shuffle” in the concert’s title implied, the order of the pieces was both unusual and unexpected. The only piece to suffer from this was Beethoven’s “Twelve Variations on a Theme of Mozart,” which seemed austere in its setting between modern pop pieces. Here O’Riley played with lucid delicacy and Haimovitz switched, as it were, to a more restrained style.

The concert began with music from 1958, composed by Brian Herrmann for Alfred Hitchcock’s film masterpiece, “Vertigo.” It continued with a song by the British rock band Radiohead, performed with intense emotion by Haimovitz.

Next, the duo performed the cello sonata in C major composed by Sergei Prokofiev in 1949, a time for Russians of the joy of liberation from the war and sadness for the damage and immense loss of life that it caused.

Both musicians were fully engaged in this difficult work, playing as one, yet allowing each to come forward brilliantly when the music demanded. This work was the central piece of the program in scale and substance, and the most satisfying.

There followed a contrasting piece by the Argentinian Astor Piazzolla, who died in 1992. His music was devoted to the tango, whose style he extended to what he called the nuevo tango, with its rich counterpoint of contrasting rhythms and harmonies, energetically played, an invitation, it seemed, for the audience to get up and dance.

In addition to the Beethoven, the second half included a very energetic piece (not announced) that showed off the brilliant bowing of the cellist. Later there was an exceptionally gentle and beautiful piece, “Orchard,” by Philip Glass.

To end the concert the performers turned to the music of John McLaughlin, a virtuoso guitarist, now in his 70s. In the 1970s McLaughlin had formed a small orchestra called Mahavishnu, a name sometimes used by McLaughlin and indicative of his interest in and use of Indian music. A single hearing was not enough to gauge the depth of this captivating music.

For their encore the players chose “In the Backseat,” a song from the Canadian rock group Arcade Fire. True to the song’s lyrics — “I like the peace / In the backseat / I don’t have to drive / I don’t have to speak / I can watch the countryside / And I can fall asleep” — the selection brought a quiet and peaceful ending to the concert.

By: MARK MORFORD

Read at: Gazettenet.com

The Examiner: Oxingale presents a stunning context for Messiaen on its latest release

Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time

Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time

Yesterday Oxingale released a new recording with a somewhat intimidating title, Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. This title definitely deserves points (and probably extra credit) for truth in advertising. It refers to Henri Akoka, a Jewish clarinetist who met Messiaen on the way to Stalag VIII-A, the prisoner-of-war camp to which Messiaen was sent when he was captured by the German army in June of 1940. While they were in transit to the camp, Messiaen worked up sketches for a clarinet solo that he showed to Akoka. Those sketches would eventually become the “Abîme des oiseaux” (abyss of birds) movement of his “Quatuor pour la fin du temps.” Once at the camp, Messiaen and Akoka met the violinist Jean le Boulaire and the cellist Étienne Pasquier. Messiaen wrote a short trio for clarinet, violin, and cello from which the full quartet eventually emerged and was first performed at the camp (“outdoors and in the rain,” as its Wikipedia page observes) on January 15, 1941 with Messiaen taking the piano part.

On this new recording the performers are Geoffrey Burleson on piano, David Krakauer on clarinet, Jonathan Crow on violin, and Matt Haimovitz on cello. It is, to say the least, one hell of an interpretation, combining connotations of highly free improvisation (as in “Abîme des oiseaux”) with the rhythmically demanding unison for the entire quartet in the “Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes” (dance of fury, for the seven trumpets), requiring the utmost precision for the required uniformity. However, in the midst of all the technical demands lies some of Messiaen’s most visceral efforts at composition. While this is probably a reflection of the composer’s deeply-felt commitment to the Catholic religion, I have previouslyconsidered the possibility that the entire composition is based on a misreading of the tenth chapter of the Book of Revelation. Thus, it is better to approach this music as a series of reflections of apocalyptic visions without worrying about whether or not those visions can be traced back to the New Testament.

In that respect this new recording establishes a context for Messiaen’s quartet that has more to do with the circumstances surrounding the original performers than with Messiaen’s personal articles of faith. It begins with “AKOKA,” which is an almost entirely improvised composition by Krakauer. This suggests (not necessarily accurately) that at least some of the passages that Messiaen composed may have been inspired by his listening to Akoka, le Boulaire, and Pasquier improvising on their respective instruments. It is thus at least remotely possible that “AKOKA” honors a significant precedent, since much of the music that Alban Berg composed for the violin part in his concerto emerged from his listening to improvisations by the violinist who commissioned the concerto, Louis Krasner.

Adventurous as “AKOKA” may be, as a prelude it is a bit modest in comparison with the postlude, entitled “MEANWHILE….” This is the work of Socalled, which is the name that composer Josh Dolgin assumes when he is working as a “beat architect.” The music (and, yes, I have no problem with calling it “music”) is a collage that mixes live samples of the four Messiaen performers with old radio broadcasts (news reports of the Nazi advances during the Second World War), hip-hop, Jewish liturgical incantation, and the steady beats of “markers of time.” Particularly impressive is when Socalled inserts an incessant club-scene beat behind that homophonic “Danse de la fureur” movement. On the one hand this mix affirms the precision with which that music was being played; but, at the same time, it refracts the apocalyptic denotations of the score through a jazzy lens, making for a provocative distortion of Messiaen’s original conception.

Haimovitz has been quoted as saying that the intention of the full program for this recording was to lift Messiaen’s quartet “out of the polite confines of a normal chamber music performance.” He and his colleagues have succeeded admirably; but it is worth noting that they are not the only ones inspired by this “mission statement.” Here in San Francisco in February of 2011, four of the musicians in Nonsemble 6 (originally formed by students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to prepare a performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s Opus 21 Pierrot Lunaire) performed Messiaen’s quartet in the Red Poppy Art House surrounded by eight paintings (one for each of the quartet’s movements) by Olivia Lam. Just as Messiaen’s score amounts to a highly individual reading of New Testament scripture, so can performances of this music reflect equally individual readings through other uses of auxiliary media.

By: Stephen Smoliar

Read at: The Examiner

The Buffalo News: Listening Post: Future Islands, Bob Dylan tribute, Avi Avital, Dinara Alieva, Hafez Nazeri, Oran Etkin and ‘Working Man’s Poet’

March 30, 2014

… Avi Avital, “Between Worlds” (Deutsche Grammophon). You have to smile, hearing Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances played on mandolin, accompanied by accordion and harp. That’s what mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital means about being between worlds. (Though the Romanian Folk Dances do sound quite at home on the mandolin, which sort of stands in for a balalaika.) Avital has great sidemen, led by Richard Galliano on accordion. They are warm and witty and unconventional – sort of like Buffalo’s Skiffle Minstrels, I thought now and then. only with a more Eastern European slant. They trade witty duets in a Piazzolla piece and fill a traditional Bulgarian dance with an infectious joy. The music tends to gather speed, gradually, like the music you hear at the Greek Festival. The mood grows more reflective with Ernest Bloch’s “Nigun” and a traditional Welsh melody, “Hen Ferghetan,” which begins with extreme delicacy and features Catrin Finch on harp. The thread that holds this disc together is that all the composers represented – also including Manuel de Falla and Hector Villa-Lobos – were all inspired by folk music. Avital and his friends help you see why. ΩΩΩ½ (Mary Kunz Goldman)

Hafez Nazeri, “Rumi Symphony, Project Untold” Performed by Nazeri and the Rumi Instrumental Ensemble and various artists including cellist Matt Haimovitz, violist Phil Neubauer and percussionists Glen Velez and Zakir Hussain under Nazeri’s direction (Sony Classical). How’s this for musical ambition? What the great Iranian composer and vocalist and instrumentalist wants to do with his Rumi Symphony Project, he says, is “spark a musical fusion so convincing and so different that it demands a new name.” It incorporates “the singular voice of the Persian mystical poet Rumi with the harmonic structure of Western Symphonic music, signaling the integration of distinct musical traditions into a new form and identity, a new beginning.” Nazeri has sold out Carnegie Hall with his music, and when you hear the power and beauty of what he is trying to do here (which is way beyond previous Eastern/Western musics by, say, Ravi Shankar) you’ll have no confusion why. I wish there were translations of Rumi’s poetry in the notes, but it’s marvelous, no matter.ΩΩΩΩ (Jeff Simon)…

Read at: The Buffalo News

 

Gazzettenet.com: Headliners: Matt Haimovitz, Christopher O’Riley at UMass FAC: Local Vocal Chord Bowl at NHS

March 28, 2014

Mixing it up

Cello virtuoso (and former Valley resident) Matt Haimovitz has long been a critic of what he calls the artificial and outmoded boundaries that divide classical and popular music, and with the emergence of the iPod generation — a listening public that mixes Mozart with Lady Gaga — he’s serendipitously discovered an audience in synch with his doctrine. Taking its title from media-player terminology, “Shuffle.Play.Listen,” Haimovitz’s new two-disc collaboration with Christopher O’Riley — a classical pianist similarly inclined to genre-jumping — interweaves an arrangement of film composer Bernard Herrmann’s five-part suite for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” with related pieces by Igor Stravinsky, Argentine tango composer Ástor Piazzolla and Czech composers Bohuslav Martinu and Leoš Janáček (disc one), then delves further into the mosaical (disc two) with a series of arrangements of works by various outre rock artists (Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Cocteau Twins) to create “a wonderfully diverse musical experience performed by two incredibly complex artists” (All Things Strings).

On Monday Haimovitz and O’Riley bring their Shuffle.Play.Listen tour to the UMass Fine Arts Center Concert Hall for a 7:30 p.m. show. The first half of the concert is pre-arranged; the second half will be programmed from the stage to allow the players to share contexts and permit the music to flow seamlessly from one genre to the next.

$15, $30, $40 general; $10 Five College, GCC, STCC students and youth 17 and under. There is a pre-concert talk with NEPR afternoon classical music host Walter Carroll at 6:30 p.m. at the University Club. 545-251, fineartscenter.com

By: Dan DeNicola

Read at: Gazettenet.com