Archive for December, 2010

Minkowski moves in at the Mozarteum

Posted in News on December 19, 2010 by figarosi

The French conductor Marc Minkowski was named artistic director of the Mozart Week (Mozartwoche) in Salzburg, The Mozarteum Foundation, sponsor of Mozart Week, made the announcement Friday. The event is held around the composer’s birthday in January.

The foundation also named concert promoter Matthias Schulz as their future director. Both men take office on March 1, 2012 and will be responsible for the 2013 Mozart Week. Mr. Schulz will replace Stephan Pauly who leaves to take over directorship of the Frankfurt Opera.

Minkowski, after founding the Musicians of the Louvre in 1984, made a substantial mark with this historically-infomed baroque group. He has since expanded his range of repertory and, since 2008, has been music director of Warsaw’s Sinfonia Warsovia. In recent years he has conducted many of the world’s major orchestras and his recording of baroque repertory have drawn wide praise. He has already appeared several times at the Mozarteum but nevertheless remarked, “I do not see this nomination as a reward for work done, but a promise for future accomplishment.”

Opera Ups and Downs

Posted in News on December 5, 2010 by figarosi

Stephane Lissner, intendant of La Scala, warns that his house might have to close, The Italian culture budget has been cut 40% from its top. “Almost all foundations that manage the opera houses of Italy must close” he said this during the news conference for the new season in Milan. That city’s opening night is to be televised live in Europe on Tuesday. In other news the new intendant,  also French, running the Vienna State Opera reports, in Die Presse, that his first hundred days had a 99.8% capacity – only two performances failed to sell out. And this includes a first ever production of Hindemith’s opera Cardillac and the first baroque opera staged there in recent memory, Handel’s Alcina.

Today I read in the NY Times that US lawmakers are thinking of eliminating the charitable contribution deduction. This critical tax deduction has been the fundamental financial source for funding of arts in America.  I’m glad I live in France.

Beethoven with Double Cheese

Posted in Reviews on December 1, 2010 by figarosi

A high-cholesterol Beethoven symphony cycle with superstar conductor Christian Thielemann, 51, just ended in Paris and is now onstage in Berlin. The Paris cycle, at the famed Théatre des Champs-Élysées was served up Tuesday, November 23 with Symphonies Four and Five with Numbers Six and Seven the following evening. Saturday evening we heard the first three with a Sunday afternoon concert completing the cycle with a flourish with the 8th and the mighty 9th with Annette Dasch, Piotr Beczala, Mihoko Fujimura, Robert Holl and the Chorus of Radio France. The Berlin cycle, at the Philharmonie, will run from December 1 to 5.

The meaty sound drawn from the orchestra was accompanied with a good portion of thick Central European expressive sauce. The accelerandi and ritardandi were applied with relish with minimal attention paid to trimmings which might add some lightness to the texture. It harked back to performance standards of the late 19th Century as if the lo-cal “historical informed” movement never existed. The first two symphonies, animated by Beethoven’s studies with Joseph Haydn, had any humor or lightness carefully excised and his “Eroica” clocks in at 55 minutes.

He is without doubt one of the podium giants of our time and his juicy readings deserve the attention they get. There is a certain amount of engaging freedom in his style of leadership; no Herbert Von Karajan military precision here. With a beat less than precise, you will hear occasional lazy attacks but also an expressiveness by the orchestra not always heard with other conductors. One can only speculate as to what new depths he might discover in these scores in his reflective later life.

His recording of the cycle on DVD in Vienna’s Musikvereinsaal began in December 2008 (Symphonies 1 and 2) until the Ninth, in April of this year, with the same fine soloist. The cycle has been recorded by Unitel in high density  and 5.0 Surround Sound and includes a Blue-Ray version. While some DVDs are available in shops now, the complete set has been announced, with an introductory video, as ready for release and could be available (at least in Europe) as a stocking stuffer. France Musique has broadcast the first two concerts and these are available for streaming on the station’s website. The final two concerts will be broadcast – and available for streaming – in mid-December.