Musica Antiqua Köln to disband

this article on the Playbill Arts site. It’s sad news to learn that Musica Antiqua Köln will not be with us for much longer. Interesting, too, to see that the main reason is Reinhard Goebel’s suffering from focal dystonia, the same condition which affected violinist Peter Oundjian of the Tokyo String Quartet and pianists Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman. It sounds, then, as if Leon Fleischer’s recovery and return to being able to play with both hands was all the more remarkable.

Production boos for Vienna Lohengrin

“Barrie Kosky’s Wagner is not Wagner’s Wagner. The audience at [a] new production of Lohengrin [at the Vienna State Opera] thought so too. At the end of a five-hour performance, there was prolonged applause and “bravas” for the soloists, choir, orchestra and conductor. But Kosky, the director, was roundly booed, along with stage and lighting designer Klaus Grünberg and Alfred Mayerhofer, responsible for costumes.

Most of their work was neither jarring nor controversial. It was worse — irrelevant, leaving the audience little choice but to concentrate on the mastery of the conductor Semyon Bychkov and the soloists Johan Botha, Soile Isokoski, Falk Struckmann, Janina Bächle, Kwangchul Youn and Adrian Eräd. They — and an alternately feisty, majestic or tremulous orchestra — wove a magical musical tapestry.

Of course, a lot of liberties have been taken with Wagner operas since. But those that don’t work because they are deemed out of sync with what Wagner might have done today are booed by audiences familiar with the German master, like [the audience] in Vienna. Worst was the second act, putting the scheming Ortrud and her weak-willed husband Friedrich von Telramund in a child’s playground, complete with Day-Glo toy house and plastic animals, including — you guessed it — a swan.”

(OK, so this isn’t exactly the very latest news, but I thought it was worth sharing nonetheless.) The above is an excerpt from an Associated Press review by George Jahn of the opening night (3rd December 2005) of Barrie Kosky’s production. The description of the staging of the second act sounds especially trying. I’m not sure if I would have joined in the booing if I’d been there (we’re just too polite really, aren’t we?), but the review suggests that the experience might even have been on a par with the now-legendary, and appallingly awful Munich staging of poor old Gounod’s Faust. Barrie Kosky: another name to add to the Black List of Producers.

Theme day in the offing

Fergus is scheduled to host and present on 28th October. Because it’s the Halloween weekend, he’s decided that we should have a musical theme for the day, and his choice is Myth, Magic and the Macabre.

But that’s not all. Fergus also invites us all for Afternoon Tea after the session. Finally, Fergus (he has been busy, hasn’t he?) has decided that the session in his place on 28th October will begin later than usual, at 3.30 pm.

All this info is already on the Schedule page, and is also set out on Bernard’s handout sheet, but I thought it wise to repeat it here for the sake of completeness.

Update, 12th August:  Fergus sought the views of the group at today’s session about the timing of the Afternoon Tea. It was agreed that this will be served when the normal session ends. The usual refreshments will not be available on that day during the session itself.

The demise of Warner Classics

Norman Lebrecht: ‘Another record crash’ (La Scena musicale, 6th June)
“The tragic fact of the matter is that giant media players are pulling out of minority art, a myopic strategy that gives them no chance of tapping the next quirk in public taste or contributing to cultural evolution. Warner bought its way into classics just ahead of the Three Tenors 1990 boom and scored an eight-million follow-up CD at the Los Angeles World Cup. It gobbled up one independent after another — Erato in France, Teldec in Germany, Finlandia, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi — and went into overproduction along with all the others in the 1990s until the roof fell in and the outlet was slimmed down to a single stream of mainstream classics. That, too, has now been deemed surplus to requirements.”

This was news to me, though I’m sure John already knew about it. What sad news, indeed! The short-sightedness of it all is desperately depressing. Did any of us ever imagine that classical music would fall victim to the inexorable march of globalisation?

Stravinsky bio is a modern classic

Terry Teachout reviews Stephen Walsh’s new biography of Igor Stravinsky (Commentary Magazine):
The Second Exile, like its predecessor, is an inspiring piece of work, at once comprehensive and beguilingly well written. After two careful readings, I feel safe in ranking it — alongside David Cairns’s Berlioz, Lewis Lockwood’s Beethoven: The Music and the Life, and Anthony Tommasini’s Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle — as one of the finest biographies of a classical composer to be published in the modern age of musical scholarship.”

I’m not familiar with any of the books mentioned here, but I’ll certainly make a point of following up on them after reading this article.

Do we overthink what we’re trying to appreciate?

Forget history — it’s art that goes straight to the heart that counts
If there’s one thing more invigorating than a really good concert, it’s a really bad one — provided it’s bad in a way that gets you thinking. I had one of those last week, when I went to the first concert in the Barbican’s Mostly Mozart series. I’m not fuming any more (well, not much), but I am still puzzled by the event, which was a performance of an opera Mozart wrote when he was 15. Why on earth did someone think it a good idea to make us sit through 2½ hours of mediocre Mozart when there are so many hours of great, little-known Mozart to enjoy?’

This challenging article by Ivan Hewett in The Telegraph (15th June) speaks out against the modern trend towards resurrecting the mediocre at the expense of the worthwhile. And, is the Mozart opera he mentions the same as the one Opera Ireland included in their season earlier this year? (An aside: Note the reference to the passing of György Ligeti at the end of the piece. Naturally, I completely agree with the writer’s assessment.)

Goodbye Chicago, hello world

From the Telegraph:
“If you really want to help me,” Daniel Barenboim said as he prepared to conduct the mighty Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the last time as its music director, “then find me a 25th hour of the day, an 8th day of the week, or a 13th month of the year”. Barenboim may have taken his leave of America’s finest orchestra — and what a farewell it was, the towering ninth symphonies of Mahler, Bruckner and Beethoven on successive evenings — but the future offers endless possibilities. An important chapter in his life has now closed, and yet, at 64, no great age for a conductor, one senses that his race has some way to run.

This article goes on to mention that Bernard Haitink takes over as Principal Conductor of the CSO until it appoints a Music Director to succeed Barenboim.

Orchestra selling itself on eBay

A Belgian Orchestra Puts Itself Up for Sale
“On June 23, just before a rehearsal, the Belgian chamber orchestra Beethoven Academie was informed that its government grant was to be eliminated entirely as of 2007 — in effect, that it has six more months to live. In desperation, and figuring that you can buy and sell anything on eBay, it put itself up for auction on the web site.”

What with recent reports of a guy (in Canada, was it) who began with a paper clip and traded it up and up until he got a house, i guess this all goes to prove that anything goes on eBay.

Matthias Bamert

Conductor suddenly departs Australian orchestra
When Matthias Bamert became music director of the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra, he was touted as the group’s savior. Now he has suddenly departed, and no one’s talking. “The reason Bamert fell out of favour depends on who you ask, although no one can say on the record because players have received written and verbal warnings not to make any public comment. Before the China tour they signed a code of conduct that reminded them that section 70 of the Crimes Act made it an offence to publicly disclose company matters.”

Didn’t Matthias Bamert spend a while with the NSOI?