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Mariss Jansons

Monday, April 24, 2017


April 12

Bavarian RSO/Jansons review – a brilliantly engineered affair

GuardianBarbican Hall, London Like a sleekly upholstered car, the Munich orchestra toured an all-Russian programme with exquisite ease, but only their reading of Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances was truly authoritativeLondon’s own top orchestras are on a high at the moment. So the old implicit idea that visiting orchestras, especially from Germany, provide an opportunity to hear how the core repertoire really ought to be done no longer washes. Mariss Jansons’ Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra concert at the Barbican underlined the point. Don’t get me wrong. The Munich-based orchestra is a band of fabulous quality. The weight of their sound, the sheen of the strings and the technical ability of their principals are all beyond question, as is Jansons’s famous control and touch. But this all-Russian programme, with one wonderful exception, was not revelatory, let alone definitive. The Bavarians gave us one way of doing these pieces – a very good way and always exceptionally well played – but it’s not the only way. Continue reading...

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

April 21

Mariss Jansons wins 100 grand

The Bavarian Radio music director does not play the horses or the lottery, so far as we know. His windfall comes today in the form of the 2018 Léonie Sonning Music Prize, awarded each year to an outstanding international performer. All Jansons has to do to collect the money is to turn up in Copenhagen and conduct the Royal Danish Orchestra on March 9, 2018, according to Danish Radio. photo: Chris Christodoulou/Lebrecht

My Classical Notes

March 29

Mahler’s Ninth Symphony

Mahler: Symphony No. 9 Live-Recording: Munich, Philharmonie im Gasteig, performed by the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Mariss Jansons conducting. Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony is primarily regarded as the composer’s reaction to the diagnosis of a heart ailment, which he received just before writing the first sketches for the work. Mahler was deeply distraught and cannot have known how few years he still had left to live. His exploration of his own life experiences, and of the meaning of life, death, salvation, life after death and love, always took place in and through his music. The Ninth Symphony was composed between 1909 and 1910 in Toblach, in a kind of creative frenzy, and was first performed in Vienna on June 26, 1912 by the Vienna Philharmonic, under the baton of Bruno Walter. Mahler had already died on May 18, 1911, and was no longer able to experience the premiere of his last completed work. Willem Mengelberg, the first major conductor of the composer’s works, wrote in his score: “Mahler’s soul sings its farewell!” Mahler’s Ninth Symphony represents the culmination of a development process. The progressive chromaticism and maximum utilization of the tonal are here taken to their limits – and, for the first time, beyond them. Indeed, the two movements that frame the work, in particular, depart from the tonal entirely, pointing clearly to the dawn of a new musical epoch. Alban Berg even called this symphony “the first work of New Music”. Here is the Andanta Comodo from Mahler’s Symphony number 9:

Classical iconoclast

February 20

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is back !

Welcome return of Shostakovich Lady Macbeth oif Mtsensk with Eva-Maria Westbroek and Christopher Ventris,  conducted by Mariss Jansons, available for a ,limited time on Opera Platform. All good stagings connect to the music and ideas in an opera but in this famous classic, from 2006,   Janson's conducting is so powerful that the physical settings seem to dissolve. In the abstraction so the music dominates. This production (Martin Kušej, Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam)  won't please those think opera "must" be decorative, but it's an excellent example of how abstract musical ideas can find visual expression.  The violent staccato and dissonaces in Shostakovich's score come alive, bristling with tension and violence. In orchestral passages, the stage disappears in a thunderstorm of flashing bright lights against darkness, replicating the angularity in the score. You wouldn't want to be prone to seizures.  Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is not a decorative opera. It's a savage cry of protest, against the oppression of women, against closed minded communities, against repression of all types.   Staccato passages scream and low brasses and winds moan with baleful malevolence. Even while Katerina lives in comfort, chill winds from Siberia blow invisibly around her.  The Ismailov business is built on tight control. When then workers are left to their own devices, they break into mob violence.  The rape scene comes almost right at the beginning - violence against women symbolizes weakness, not strength. Real men don't need to beat up on others to get ahead. Shostakovich's testosterone thrusts are indictment, not glorification. These men are scum because they can't be en in any healthy way. In the libretto, it's clear that Sergei fancies Katerina because she stands up to bullying.  Trolls  aren't constructive : they need to destroy because they can't create.  Zinovy Borisovichs is impotent but he's a good man. He doesn't play games.  Hence  the bittersweet anti-romance in the cocky flute melodies round Sergey and the distorted bombast in  Boris Timofeyevich music.  Thus, too, the maddening, circular rhythms when the mob intrude, thrusting in every direction.  The solo violin, in contrast, suggests demented resolve.  And so  Boris dies in slow diminuendo.  The crowd scenes are meticulously choreographed, suggesting a kind of orchestrated turmoil.  Nothing much seems to happen in the long orchestral passage in the second act, but the music functions as an invisible backdrop. As we watch Jansons conduct, we can "hear" the events which are unfolding after Boris's death.   Katerina's still in a box, trapped in a frame without walls, yet there's strange beauty in the orchestration, suggesting wide open spaces, small, twinkling figures shining like starlight.  The staccato now trudges grimly forward.  The scene where Boris's ghost curses is shrouded in darkness, so we pay attention to the elusive violin melody. Although Westbroek and Ventris spend time groping each other in their undies, there's more desolation here than lust.  Zinovy lies dead, out of sight. Shostakovich's music for the police officers is brilliantly malevolent, underlining the anti-authoritarian message implicit in the opera.  When the police invade the wedding, Jansons conducts the multiple cross currents with clear definition. No partying for Sergey and Katerina.  We're off to Siberia. Now the whole cast are stripped to their undies. Everyone's exposed. If the chant of the chorus sounds vaguely like religious chant, there may well be a reason for that. Jansons's conducting was matched by the high standards of singing. Westbroek "owns" parts like this. When the Royal Opera House did Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in 2004, Katarina Dalayman sang the part very well, but on balance I think Westbroek's hapless earthiness extends characterization. In London, Ventris exuded sexual magnetism, effectively stealing the show. Unfortunately in this Amsterdam production, filmed two years later, he's not called on to do much.  It's a wasted opportunity since he can do the role extremely well when called on.  Anatoli Kotsjerga sings Boris. Kušej's production isn't nearly as visual as Richard Jones's production for London.  Without Jansons, Westbroek and Ventris, I wonder how effective it would be  ? Yet it's been revived several times since 2006.  So it's nice to hear the original again. (It;s been on DVD for ages) ,

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