Concertgebouworkest streams ‘Made in America’ online

The Concertgebouworkest devotes the whole of this coming weekend to Made in America – music written by Americans or composed in the United States. The three concerts of the Made in America weekend are conducted by Susanna Mälkki, Stéphane Denève and Klaus Mäkelä respectively, with soloists Leila Josefowicz on Saturday evening, mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor on Sunday afternoon and Calogero Palermo on Sunday evening. These events will all be streamed online from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

This celebration of music from America starts on Friday, 28th January at 8.00 pm (CET), with a series of chamber performances by musicians of the Concertgebouw, a brief interview with artistic director Ulrike Niehoff, and a pub quiz, hosted in English, by Belgian actor and television personality Thomas Vanderveken – who will also be introducing each of the concerts. Audiences around the world can watch and listen without taking part in the quiz, but for those who’d like to participate, details can be found on the Concertgebouworkest website.

Saturday’s concert is led by Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki, whom the San Francisco Chronicle says “…. can invest anything she touches with persuasive grandeur”. Now in her sixth season as Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestra Mälkki is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and makes her debut at Carnegie Hall this season, conducting the New York Philharmonic.

The performance on Saturday opens with A Short Piece for Orchestra by Julia Perry, the African American composer known for incorporating into her works the folk music of her youth. Widely acclaimed in the United States, Julia Perry has had her music performed by many notable orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic.

This is followed by John Adams’ Violin Concerto, with violinist Leila Josefowicz as guest artist. This concerto is described by the Boston Globe as having “the qualities of intelligence, craftsmanship, and quirkiness that have always marked the composer and his work”, and the Guardian says that “It also demonstrates the way Adams has so successfully reinvented the traditional concerto form in his own eclectic image”.

Leila Josefowicz Photo by Chris Lee

It’s an extremely difficult work to perform, one which few violinists are capable of doing, but Josefowicz is not only a passionate supporter of contemporary work, but has the requisite skill, and the courage to take on a challenge such as this concerto. (See more)

The concert ends with Charles Ives’ Symphony No 2, a work characterised by references to melodies such as Camptown Races and popular songs from Ives’ youth in New England, but also to Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

Susanna Mälkki leads the Concertgebouworkest in a programme of works by Perry, Adams and Ives, with soloist Leila Josefowicz, in an online concert on Saturday, 29th January, at 8.00 pm (CET). For details on how to access the stream, see the Concertgebouworkest website.

On Sunday afternoon, Stéphane Denève takes to the podium of the Concertgebouw with a programme of famous film music. Currently Music Director of the St Louis Symphony Orchestra – a position which he will retain until the 2025-26 season – Maestro Denève will, from September 2023, also become Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra.

The programme opens with Jennifer Higdon’s Blue Cathedral and Peter Lieberson’s moving Neruda Songs, sung by Grammy® Award-winning mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor. Praised by The Scotsman for her “….remarkable richness and darkness of tone, but also her sheer range and suppleness of expression”, Kelley O’Connor had the title role of The Gospel According to the Other Mary written for her by John Adams. Ms O’Connor has since performed the work in concert and in the fully staged production by Peter Sellars.

The concert then moves to Alfred Newman’s 20th Century Fox Fanfare, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s The Sea Hawk, selections from Bernard Herrmann’s music for Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and music from John Williams, without whom no programme of film music would be complete. Featured Williams pieces are from ET: Adventures on Earth and Star Wars.

Stéphane Denève leads the Concertgebouworkest and mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor in a programme of film music, on Sunday, 30th January, at 2.15 pm (CET). Details on how to stream the concert can be found on the Concertgebouworkest website.

Sunday evening’s concert – a programme of music by Julia Wolfe, Aaron Copland and Antonín Dvořák – is led by Finnish conductor Klaus Mäkelä.

Klaus Mäkelä is currently Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. He became Artistic Advisor of the Orchestre de Paris at the start of the 2020-21 season, and was appointed Music Director last September. Following a performance led by Maestro Mäkelä, The Times wrote: “Here was something truly special: a conductor who revelled in freshly imagining each sound”.

Julia Wolfe – recipient of a 2015 Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur “Genius Grant” – has written a number of works for strings. Her Fountain of Youth – which has its Dutch premiere in this concert – was commissioned by the New World Symphony, with additional support from Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony. The work was premiered in April 2019 by the New World Symphony, led by Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas, who is also Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony.

Aaron Copland wrote his Clarinet Concerto in 1947-48, following a request by jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman to compose a work for him. The first part of this two-movement concerto is regarded as one of Copland’s most lyrical and melodious creations, and is separated from the more jazzy second part by a cadenza for the soloist. Copland was featured in the TV series Keeping Score by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony.

Calgero Palermo – courtesy artist’s website

The soloist in this Clarinet Concerto is multi-award-winning clarinetist Calogero Palermo, Principal Clarinet of the Concertgebouworkest – a role which he has also held in the Orchestra del Teatro V. Bellini in Catania, the Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and in the Orchestre National de France in Paris. Also known for his numerous solo appearances, Mr Palermo has for many years been a member of the Quintetto di fiati Santa Cecilia – Concertgebouw. (See more)

Antonín Dvořák wrote his Symphony No 9 From the New World in New York, where he’d gone in 1892 to take up the role of director of the National Conservatory of Music. He found New York exciting and colourful, and – inspired by the characteristics of Afro-American songs – used these to create new themes for the symphony which arguably became his most successful internationally. The work was premiered at New York’s Carnegie Hall on 16th December, 1893, with Anton Seidl conducting the New York Philharmonic.

Klaus Mäkelä leads the Concertgebouworkest in works by Dvořák, Wolfe and Copland, with clarinet soloist Calogero Palermo, on Sunday, 30th January, at 8.00 pm (CET). For details on streaming this concert, see the Concertgebouworkest website.

All recordings of both orchestral and chamber music will remain available until 6th February.

Information sourced from:
Concertgebouworkest programme notes
Artists’ websites

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Monte-Carlo Opera presents Rossini’s ‘Il turco in Italia’

Love, infidelity and comedic drama are in the air in Gioachino Rossini’s Il turco in Italia, to be staged by Monte-Carlo Opera this month.

This drama buffo per musica, set to a libretto by Felice Romani, stars Monte-Carlo Opera’s director designate, Cecilia Bartoli as the flirtatious young Neapolitan, Fiorilla, with Adrian Sâmpetrean as Selim, the wealthy Turk of the opera’s title, to whom she is attracted. Fiorilla’s husband, Don Geronio is sung by Nicola Alaimo, Barry Banks takes the role of Don Narciso, the knight serving Fiorilla (who is also her lover), the gypsy Zaida is José Maria Lo Monaco, her friend Albazar is David Astorga, and Giovanni Romeo is the poet and author Prosdocimo.

Model of scene from Monte-Carlo Opera’s production of ‘Il turco in Italia’ –
courtesy Monte-Carlo Opera

The plot revolves around the activities that arise when Prosdocimo -who is writing a play – sees a gypsy camp near the harbour as a means of relieving his writer’s block. There he meets the gypsy Zaida, and learns that she is living in hiding, having fled the harem of Prince Selim, following accusations of infidelity by a rival. The Prince himself coincidentally disembarks from a visiting ship, returns the advances of Fiorilla, and Prosdocimo realises that the Turk is in fact the Prince with whom Zaida is still in love. He now has the perfect outline for his comedy.

Events then move fast. Geronio interrupts his wife’s assignation with Selim – with whom she plans to elope – Selim sees Zaida and recognises her as his former lover, jealousy erupts – and Prosdocimo is delighted with the ensuing cat-fight! Fiorilla, determined to force Selim to choose between her and Zaida, sees a forthcoming masked ball as their chance to elope, but Prosdocimo tells Gerionio of their plans, and Geronio, Zaida, Fiorilla, Selim and Narciso all turn up in the same costumes. The four young lovers all successfully make their escape, although not necessarily with the correct partners, and ultimately, as tends to happen with comedies, all is resolved – and Prosdocimo has his happy ending.

Cecilia Bartoli © Kristian Schuller

Since her debut in 1987, multi-award-winning mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has frequently appeared on the stages of the world’s leading opera houses, concert halls and festivals in Europe, the USA, Asia and Australia. Venues include the Metropolitan Opera New York, London’s Royal Opera House, Zurich’s Opera House, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, the Philharmonie de Paris, Vienna’s Musikverein, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and the Berlin Philharmonic Hall. Also a highly successful recording artist, Ms Bartoli has served as artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival since 2012, a contract which was recently extended until 2026, and since 2016 she has worked with Les Musiciens du Prince – Monaco, an orchestra formed at her initiative and granted the generous patronage of the princely family of Monaco.

Romanian bass Adrian Sâmpetrean has previously sung the role of Selim at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Since his debut at the Romanian National Opera Cluj-Napoca, he has appeared at many of the major opera houses in Europe, such as the Bavarian State Opera Munich, Teatro Comunale Bologna, Opéra de Monte Carlo, the Staatsoper Berlin, Opéra de Paris, Teatro alla Scala, Arena di Verona, Teatro La Fenice and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. He has also sung at the Salzburg Festival, the Bolshoi Theatre Moscow and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. His future engagements include appearances at Opera Natională Bucureṣti, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Teatro de San Carlo and De Nationale Opera Amsterdam.

José Maria Lo Monaco – courtesy Allegorica Artists Management

José Maria Lo Monaco, with what the Sydney Morning Herald describes as “… a full-bodied mezzo soprano voice, fiery in the top register and smouldering in lower”, is well known as an interpreter of the bel canto repertoire, having starred as Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège, as Giovanna Seymour in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and Elisabetta in Maria Stuarda at the Bergamo Donizetti Festival. Among her career highlights are the roles of Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at Teatro La Fenice, Cherubino in his Le Nozze di Figaro at both La Fenice and Beijing NCPA, Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther in Bologna and Giulietta in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Naples Teatro San Carlo.

Nicola Alaimo – courtesy Monte-Carlo Opera

Baritone Nicola Alaimo is no stranger either to the role of Don Geronio, or to Monte-Carlo Opera. He sang Don Geronio in a concert performance at the closing performance of the 2015 Rossini Opera Festival, and in the same year appeared at Monte-Carlo Opera in the title role of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell – which he has also sung for Dutch National Opera, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, La Coruña, and in a concert performance at La Monnaie in Brussels. Other highlights of his career include appearances at the Ravenna Festival, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Metropolitan Opera, Opéra Bastille in Paris, Milan’s La Scala, the Teatro Real in Madrid the Opéra National de Paris, the Salzburg Festival and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Giovanni Romeo © DR

Giovanni Romeo’s portrayal of Dr Bartolo in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia opened the door to his appearance in major opera houses in Italy – such as Teatro alla Scala – and abroad. He has also appeared on the stages of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Monte-Carlo Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the NCPA in Beijing, ABAO in Bilbao, Royal Opera House Muscat and Spain’s Opera de Oviedo. He has participated in some of the most important international opera projects for young singers, such as “l’Ópera Estudio” in Tenerife, as well as in festivals such as the “Young Singer Project” in Salzburg, the Donizetti Festival in Bergamo and the “Vicenza Festival in lirica”.

Gianluco Capuano leads Les Musiciens du Prince-Monaco and the Chorus of the Monte-Carlo Opera (director Stefano Visconti) in Jean-Louis Grinda’s staging of Il turco in Italia. The opening Gala at the Salle Garnier takes place on 21st January, and further performances will take place on the 23rd, 25th and 27th January. For further information, visit the Monte-Carlo Opera website, and online tickets are available on this link.

Information sourced from:
Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes
Artists’ websites

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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MTT leads San Francisco Symphony with Gautier Capuçon & Yuja Wang

The San Francisco Symphony with music director Michael Tilson Thomas, during rehearsal at Davies Symphony Hall on Wednesday morning, November 2, 2016 Photo: Stefan Cohen

There’s a meeting of good friends at Davies Symphony Hall this month as the San Francisco Symphony welcomes Music Director Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas back to the podium, together with two hugely popular guest artists – cellist Gautier Capuçon and pianist Yuja Wang.

In the first program, MTT leads the Symphony in performances of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No 2, with guest artist Gautier Capuçon, and the Prokofiev Symphony No 5. The following week sees guest artist Yuja Wang join the Symphony for performances of the Piano Concerto No 1 by Franz Lizst in a program which includes Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony – Mahler being a composer much loved by Tilson Thomas.

Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony Michael Tilson Thomas
Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

Multiple award-winning cellist Gautier Capuçon regularly appears with many of the world’s finest orchestras, conductors and instrumentalists. Known for his profoundly expressive yet spirited artistry, he is also founder and leader of the Classe d’Excellence de Violoncelle at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris – based in the Gehry-designed Auditorium in Paris. There Mr Capuçon coaches six specially selected and talented young cellists in a six-month series of public masterclasses and concert performances.

Cellist Gautier Capuçon Photo: Anoush Abrar

He is also an enthusiastic ambassador for the Orchestre à l’École Association, which brings classical music to more than 40,000 thousand schoolchildren across France. During the summer of 2020 he entranced families across the whole of France with his musical odyssey Un été en France, and created a new edition of this project last summer, performing concerts in a number of towns and cities, together with 27 young musicians and dancers, to showcase their talents.

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Second Cello Concerto in Crimea in spring 1966, during the final ten years of his life. By that stage he was well accustomed to the ritual of denunciation and rehabilitation to which he had been subjected during his composing years, and at the time, he was deemed to be officially back in favor. He was even honored with multiple State medals at the concert to mark his 60th birthday, the performance at which this Cello Concerto was premiered on September 25th of that year. Mstislav Rostropovich – for whom Shostakovich wrote both of his cello concertos – was the soloist, with the State Academic Symphony of the USSR, conducted by Yevgeny Svetlanov.

Sergey Prokofiev composed his Fifth Symphony during the summer of 1944, drawing on some material sketched the preceding decade. He was staying a special ‘House of Rest and Creativity’ for composers at a former aristocratic estate near the town of Ivanovo, northeast of Moscow. The USSR’s entry into the War appeared to have temporarily halted the campaign against those who were perceived to be enemies of the state within the USSR, and as he was seen as a valuable tool for propaganda, Prokofiev’s popularity was growing, to the extent that his forthcoming symphony was highly anticipated. The premiere took place in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on January 13th, 1945, and Prokofiev himself conducted the State Symphonic Orchestra of the USSR. Such was the Symphony’s international success, that it marked a high point in Prokofiev’s standing within Russia during his lifetime.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony and soloist Gautier Capuçon in a program of works by Shostakovich and Prokofiev from January 20th to 22nd. Further information is available on the San Francisco Symphony website and tickets may be reserved on this link.

Yuja Wang / Konzerthaus Wien © Julia Wesely

Yuja Wang is the guest artist in the second of MTT’s programs at Davies Symphony Hall. The sheer genius of her performances and her captivating personality have granted Yuja Wang star status wherever she appears. Named Musical America’s Artist of the Year in 2017, she has performed with many of the world’s major orchestras across North America and Europe, as well as in the United Kingdom, and in her home country, China, as well as in prestigious concert halls such as Het Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall and The Barbican. The Financial Times writes: “Her combination of technical ease, colouristic range and sheer power has always been remarkable … but these days there is an ever-greater depth to her musicianship, drawing you into the world of each composer with compelling immediacy”.

Franz Liszt began composing his First Piano Concerto around 1830. Completed in 1834, it was never performed, and Liszt put it aside until 1839, at which time he rewrote it completely, converting it into a single-movement piece, although still retaining the principal theme. From the late 1840s to 1853 it was reworked into four movements – played without a break – and revised again from 1855 to 1856. Dedicated to pianist and composer Henry Litolff, the work was premiered on February 17th, 1855, at the Ducal Palace in Weimar. The Court Orchestra was conducted by Hector Berlioz, and Liszt himself was the soloist.

Gustav Mahler began to sketch his Symphony No 1 in D Major in 1885, initially using musical themes and ideas from his earlier compositions, but it was mainly written in Leipzig between January and March 1888. The work – which carried the title A Symphonic Poem in Two Sections – was premiered at the Vigadó Concert Hall in Budapest on November 20th, 1889, and conducted by the composer. Poorly received, the Symphony wasn’t performed again until 1893, at a concert at Hamburg’s Konzerthaus on October 27th that year, after Mahler had made major revisions to it. He continue to make revisions until the score was first published in 1899.

Michael Tilson Thomas has long loved the music of Mahler, and in 2001, he and the San Francisco Symphony launched The Mahler Project – 18 hours of his compositions, including all nine of his symphonies, and his works for voices, chorus and orchestra. Released by the Symphony’s own recording label, SFS Media™. Recordings in this highly acclaimed series received a combined 7 Grammy® Awards.

Mahler – Origins and Legacy was also the subject of one of MTT’s eight Keeping Score video presentations.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony and guest artist Yuja Wang in a program of works by Liszt and Mahler at Davies Symphony Hall from January 27th to 29th. More details are available on the San Francisco Symphony website, and tickets may be reserved on this link.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco program notes

Shostakovich Cello Concerto No 2

Prokofiev Symphony No 5

Liszt Piano Concerto No 1

Mahler Symphony No 1

Mahler Symphony No 1

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English National Ballet stages new version of ‘Raymonda’

English National Ballet in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ © Johan Persson

This week, English National Ballet stages a new version of Marius Petipa’s classic ballet, Raymonda – an interpretation created for the Company by Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo in her first production as director and choreographer.

Set to Alexander Glazunov’s original score, English National Ballet’s Raymonda is set against the background of the Crimean War and inspired by the achievements of Florence Nightingale and the courageous nurses and women who supported her.

Shiori Kase and English National Ballet dancers in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ © Johan Persson

Marius Petipa’s original ballet – one of the most successful of his illustrious career – was set in the 12th century, as the young countess Raymonda awaits the return of her fiancé Jean de Brienne from the Crusades. The Saracen knight, Abderakhman sets his sights on her and she is only saved from abduction by the timely return of de Brienne.

English National Ballet dancers in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ © Johan Persson

The World Première of Petipa’s Raymonda was presented on 7th January, 1898, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. Since then, a number of revivals have been staged in various formats – by names such as Alexander Gorsky, Anna Pavlova, Nicolas Zverev, George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova, Rudolf Nureyev, Konstantin Sergeyev, Yuri Grigorovich and Sergei Vikharev – but this is the first time that a new version of the classic story of Raymonda has been created, and the first time that the ballet has been staged in full in the United Kingdom.

English National Ballet dancers in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ © Johan Persson

Rojo’s re-creation of the story is set in 1854, during the Crimean War. Raymonda, living a comfortable life in England, decides to run away to Crimea to become a nurse. Whilst there, she becomes engaged to a soldier, John, but in time she finds herself attracted to Abdur, leader of the Ottoman army. The inner turmoil which follows creates a dilemma for Raymonda – to whom will she give her heart?

Daniel McCormick in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ by English National Ballet © Johan Persson

The choreography for the ballet represents an interesting mix. Petipa’s original choreography was written in the Stepanov notation, and – with the help of Doug Fullington, a specialist in reading this notation – Tamara Rojo has managed to recreate some of Petipa’s variations as faithfully as possible. Some of the choreography will however be new, since ballet wasn’t as athletic for the male dancer in Petipa’s time as it has become. The choreography of the character dances has also been brought up to date, by Vadim Sirotin – known as a specialist in this field.

Emily Suzuki in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ by English National Ballet © Johan Persson

Members of the creative team include Lucinda Coxon (Dramaturg), Mark Henderson (Lighting Designer), Antony McDonald (Costume Designer), Renato Paroni de Castro (Choreographic Assistant) and Lars Payne (Score Editor). Music Director Gavin Sutherland has adapted the music and will conduct the English National Ballet Philharmonic.

This co-production between English National Ballet and Finnish National Opera and Ballet, with the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton as Production Partner, premieres at the London Coliseum on 18th January, running for seven performances until 23rd January, 2022. Performances will be staged at the Mayflower Theatre from 30th November to 2nd December, 2022.
Tickets for English National Ballet’s production of Raymonda can be booked at the London Coliseum or online via this link.

Information sourced from:
English National Ballet programme notes
The Petipa Society

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