Ian Bostridge the writer

There’s been quite a bit of chatter about Ian Bostridge’s new book. He’s been singing Die Winterreise for thirty years now, so I guess he’s entitled to put down some insights. The blurb on the book’s Amazon page has this to say:

Schubert’s Winterreise is at the same time one of the most powerful and one of the most enigmatic masterpieces in Western culture. In his new book, Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, Ian Bostridge — one of the work’s finest interpreters — focusses on the context, resonance and personal significance of a work which is possibly the greatest landmark in the history of Lieder. Drawing equally on his vast experience of performing this work (he has performed it more than a hundred times), on his musical knowledge and on his training as a scholar, Bostridge unpicks the enigmas and subtle meaning of each of the 24 songs to explore for us the world Schubert inhabited, bringing the work and its world alive for connoisseurs and new listeners alike. Originally intended to be sung to an intimate gathering, performances of Winterreise now pack the greatest concert halls around the world.

Schubert's Winter Journey

First BSO recording from Andris Nelsons

Nelsons BSO

A bit of a milestone, this. Andris Nelsons began his tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in September, and this is the first recording (available lon the orchestra’s own label) to be released featuring the new partnership. This is the blurb on the BSO’s site:

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons are very pleased to announce their first compact disc recording, a BSO Classics release pairing the overture to Wagner’s Tannhäuser and the Symphony No. 2 of Jean Sibelius. Both works are taken from concert performances earlier this season at Symphony Hall-the Wagner from Maestro Nelsons’ inaugural concert as music director on September 27, 2014, the Sibelius from his BSO program of November 6-11. The selections are particularly meaningful. It was hearing Wagner’s opera when he was just five years old that made Andris Nelsons want to be a conductor; the Sibelius reflects his strong interest in music of the Scandinavian and Slavic countries, and also builds upon the BSO’s distinguished history of past Sibelius recordings.

Why didn’t we know about this production?

I’ve been searching for images of the Wexford Opera House (as you do), and that’s how I came across this photo of the 2011 production of Mercadante’s  Virginia. It looks like we would have been in our element, n’est-ce pas?

Mercadante's Virginia at wexford

The photo comes from an NPR page which gives in-depth background about a broadcast of the opera. You can click on the image to see the photo full size if you like.

Launch of new-look website

Members at today’s music session got a live preview of the re-designed web site I’ve been working on over the past few weeks. The original site design has served us well for several years, but had become rather tired and old and out-of-date. I’ve been thinking of a re-design for a while, and decided at the beginning of the month that it would be appropriate to have it up and running for the new year.

Front Page

The image above shows the new home (Schedule) page. It’s dramatically different in appearance, but there are also some refinements above and beyond what was there before. For starters, I’ve added a list of each month’s anniversary dates for ease of reference. Also, there’s a new What’s On section which pops up from the bottom of the page, as shown below.

What's On popup

The functionality of this page remains the same as members are accustomed to: mouse over the JAN, FEB, MAR … list to view the schedule for each month, now including that month’s anniversary dates. Also as before, the Schedule page will default to display the current month as the year progresses.

These changes are not merely cosmetic: The new implementation makes updating much easier and quicker than it has been, and it will even be possible for someone other than the webmaster to make changes online. This will be thanks to a shift away from our present hosting providers, who didn’t really cover themselves in glory during the recent hacking experience. The new-look site will be hosted by Adobe as part of my monthly subscription to their Creative Cloud. The annual collection will go towards offsetting part of this subscription rather than meeting our present-day hosting costs. There will be an overlap period during which the old site will continue to be hosted as before, and some of the new pages will link back to there. This is necessary because I still need to implement a tie-in between the Presentations database and the web-design software I’ve used for the new look, and it will take some time to sort out the technical problems involved. The link will be seamless however, and members will be presented in the interim with the Presentations information in the way they’ve been used to.

There will also be a cross-over period with regard to the photo galleries of the group trips abroad during the time it takes for me to change all the galleries to the new approach demonstrated on the pages for Paris 2001 and Berlin 2010.

I welcome feedback about the re-design. To be able to do that, though, you need to know where to find it. So here’s the link to the new web location.

Further progress with weblog rescue

Things are looking up on the weblog front. We will unfortunately have to do without images and photos and the like which were originally part of some entries (thanks to Mr Hacker and his deletion spree), but I’ve now managed to get the weblog system to talk to the existing database. That means that all our content is still available to view and search and comment on.

I’ll work through those entires which are showing ugly spaces where photos/images should be, and I’ll tidy these up. After that, I’ll see what I can do about sourcing a more interesting and colourful theme (hopefully one which will tie in with the rest of our web site).

Almost a rescue

Our nasty-minded hacking visitor made things extremely difficult for me when it came to rescuing our weblog.

He rather beat me to the punch and was busily deleting material while I was trying to copy it to my hard drive. So what survives is rather lacking in photos and other images, and I’ve had to use a different look to be able to make sense of the existing posts.

At any rate, there’s something back here now for you to turn to. I haven’t had time to go through all the posts to see which ones are affected by yer man’s antics. At this stage I was mainly concerned about having a tidy first page for you to ooh and aah over — and even at that there’s some basic functionality missing, for which I apologise.

Daniele Gatti to take over at the Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti has been appointed the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s new chief conductor, a post he will assume in 2016. The Italian maestro will thus be the seventh chief conductor in the orchestra’s history. He will be succeeding Mariss Jansons, who announced in April 2014 he was relinquishing the post of chief conductor; Maestro Jansons will be leading the RCO in that capacity for the last time on 20 March 2015.

That’s from the announcement on the RCO website. I find it a rather surprising and disappointing appointment. Certainly, Gatti’s name never even entered my head when the great Jansons announced his resignation.

We shall see.


Lorin Maazel RIP

So,Lorin Maazel’s cancellation of the concert in Berlin when Semyon Bychkov stood in for him and his recent retirement from his position in Munich make full sense now, with the announcement that he died today at his home in Virginia, USA after suffering complications from pneumonia.

The usual obituaries have popped up on the internet, including from The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The BBC (which includes a rare photograph of the maestro as a a young man).

That BBC item links to an interesting feature from 2011, not the only piece which refers to critical disagreement about his interpretations. On the other hand, there is total agreement about several of his recordings, most notably the complete Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet with the Cleveland Orchestra, his early recordings of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius symphonies (Vienna Philharmonic), and a highly regarded Mahler 4. I also remember a wonderful version of Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto with Jean-Philippe Collard as soloist. Oh yes, and there’s also more Ravel: the operas L’Enfant et Les Sortilèges and L’Heure Espagnole.

Group Visit to Berlin 2014

By our Special Correspondent Dermot Kehoe

The 14th Music Group visit to the European mainland took place from June 5th to 11th. There were 7 participants. It was our third time in Berlin.

All 7 met for the Gala dinner on Saturday evening at the Greek Trilogie on Motz Strasse. Afterwards we moved on, but the full history of the night remains to be told.

However 5 survivors moved South the following day and took the Wannsee ferry to Kladow where many hours were spent in a shady Biergarten. Hits of the day were the Currywurst and the invasion of a fleet of old American amphibious  cars!

Mostly we split up for the musical events and with the huge variety available everyone was able to satisfy their own particular tastes. There were no duds reported and there was general agreement that standards were exceptionally high.

The operas seen were Rameau’s Castor et Pollux and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro at the Komische Oper and Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd at the Deutsche Oper.

Concerts were:

At the Philharmonie:

  • Berlin Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov
    Richard Strauss Don Quixote, Schubert ‘Great’ C major Symphony
  • Deutsches Symphonie Orchester, Herbert Blomstedt, Richard Goode
    Mozart Piano Concerto no. 25 in C major K503, Bruckner Symphony no. 6

At the Konzerthaus:

  • Konzerthaus Orchestra, Michael Sanderling, Kim Da Sol (piano), Michael Erxleben, Sayako Kusaka (violins)
    Schnittke Concerto Grosso No. 1, Mozart Piano Concerto no. 9 in E flat major K271 (‘Jeunehomme’), Beethoven Symphony No. 1
  • Staatskapelle Berlin, Lahav Shani, Bernarda Fink
    Mahler: Rückert Lieder,  Symphony No. 1
  • Christoph Schoener (Organ recital)
    J. S. Bach Fantasia on Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott BWV 651, Nicolas de Grigny Hymnus Veni creator, J. S. Bach Chromatische Fantasie and Fugue in D minor BWV 903 (arranged for organ by Max Reger), Louis Vierne Symphony no. 3 in F sharp minor op. 28