Friday, April 22, 2016

La passion selon Messiaen

Didier van Moere

Philharmonie 1
04/10/2016 -
Charles Ives : The Unanswered Question
Olivier Messiaen : Turangalîla-Symphonie
Roger Muraro (piano), Cynthia Millar (ondes Martenot)
Orchestre de Paris, Paavo Järvi (direction)

P. Järvi (© Kaupo Kikkas)

Esa-Pekka Salonen la dirigeait aux Champs-Elysées la saison dernière, Paavo Järvi clôt avec elle le week-end « Passions » à la Philharmonie (voir par ailleurs ici) : la Turangalîla-Symphonie, véritable geyser orchestral, est devenue une classique du répertoire. Le gigantisme de l’œuvre, quatre-vingts minutes de musique, avec son effectif énorme, un piano et des ondes Martenot – tous les claviers, percussions comprises, ici placés devant l’orchestre – n’effraie plus les orchestres. Elle résume d’ailleurs le langage de Messiaen : recours aux modes et aux rythmes extra-européens, chants d’oiseaux...

Ce flamboyant hymne à l’amour, où le désir prend des dimensions cosmiques, inspire au chef estonien une vision d’une exemplaire clarté, jusque dans les passages les plus foisonnants – il lorgne plutôt vers la tradition française alors qu’on peut aussi situer la partition dans la postérité du Tristan de Wagner. Il refuse ainsi d’en exacerber le lyrisme là où le kitsch pourrait menacer – on ne rappellera pas ici le persiflage de Pierre Boulez sur l’œuvre de son maître. Certes, cela peut émousser la sensualité brûlante de certaines pages – de « Jardin du sommeil d’amour » par exemple, où la direction suspend magnifiquement le temps. Järvi privilégie, de même, les couleurs crues, tout en préservant les chatoiements sonores, comme dans « Turangalîla 2 ». Dès l’Introduction de la Symphonie, les rythmes, très acérés, ont parfois quelque chose de stravinskien, même s’ils peuvent rester ici ou là un peu carrés alors que d’autres osent davantage de swing – notamment pour « Joie du sang et des étoiles » ou le Finale. Cette Turangalîla n’en reste pas moins superbe, grâce aussi à un orchestre au sommet, et au fabuleux Roger Muraro – tellement inégalé dans Messiaen que l’étiquette finit par lui coller aux doigts. Qui donc déploie ici autant de couleurs, autant de virtuosité jubilatoire, qui fait de son clavier un second orchestre ? Cynthia Millar, en revanche, reste trop discrète aux ondes Martenot, en deçà d’une Valérie Hartmann-Claverie.

D’assez étrange façon, la Symphonie était précédée d’une Question sans réponse d’Ives en apesanteur, où le chef obtenait des cordes les plus infimes des nuances. Les langages, en effet, sont à l’opposé et « l’éternelle question de l’existence » ne s’est jamais posée au fervent catholique qu’était Messiaen. Quoi qu’il en soit, on était loin des « concerts du dimanche ».

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Steven Isserlis, Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Paavo Järvi

The Elgar Society Journal 
Richard Wiley
April 2016 Vol.19, No. 4

Elgar: Cello Concerto
Walton: Cello Concerto
Gustav Holst: Invocation
Imogen Holst: The fall of the leaf
Steven Isserlis (’cello); Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Paavo Järvi

Full marks to Hyperion and, in particular, to Steven Isserlis for the unexpected and imaginative repertoire on this disc: and I refer not to the Elgar and Walton concertos but to the ’cello pieces by the Holsts, father and daughter, which somehow escape mention on the front of the booklet. You’ll forgive me, then, if I start with what, to me, were two unknown works by the Holsts. The unaccompanied The fall of the leaf, was written in 1963 for an old friend, Pamela Hind o’Malley. A set of studies, or variations, on a theme by the late 16th century composer Martin Peerson, it was played by Isserlis at Imogen Holst’s seventieth birthday concert in 1977. Here he plays it sensitively yet with considerable emotion.

Gustav Holst’s Invocation was written in 1911, and remained unpublished at the time of his death. Isserlis eventually received Imogen’s approval to perform it, in an arrangement with piano, at the 1980 Aldeburgh Festival, and has now recorded it in its original form with orchestra. First performed by May Mukle and the New Symphony Orchestra conducted by Landon Ronald in a concert that also contained Thomas Dunhill’s 1910 ‘Capricious Variations on Salley in our Alley’ (future repertoire for Hyperion?), The Times said that it was ‘effectively scored in a conventional way, but the matter does not sound very new, and the whole work has less individuality than some other of Mr. Von Holst’s compositions’. It is surely far more than that:
its scoring clearly comes from the composer of The Planets, and in its eight or so minutes it covers a vast range of highly evocative moods, pensive and dreamy. Placed between the Elgar and Walton concertos on the disc, it proves an ideal stylistic link.

Walton’s concerto, written for Gregor Piatigorsky, has received a number of fine recordings in recent years and this is up there with the best of them.

In terms of sheer virtuosity it might well have never been bettered, especially in the second movement, Allegro appassionato, which I have rarely heard played with such apparent ease. Turn to the dedicatee’s recording, made shortly after the work’s première in 1957, and one hears all too readily what a stiff technical challenge the concerto presents. I felt that at the very opening Isserlis was trying to put more into the music than was perhaps there: all seemed a little laboured and to be holding back the ticking quavers of the orchestral accompaniment. To my surprise I found it was played faster than on other recordings: a clear example of pace not being the same thing as speed.
Elgar’s concerto is performed both at the right pace and at the right speeds. Isserlis and the conductor, Paavo Järvi, clearly believe that Elgar knew what he was doing with regard to his markings of speed and expression, and demonstrate that a performance that feels entirely natural and unforced can be produced when the markings are followed rather than ignored. And those markings, too, allow for playing of considerable power and emotion while giving a firm sense of structure to the whole. This must rank as one of the finest of the many performances of the concerto that I have heard. The recording team have, as ever when one sees the name of Andrew Keener as producer, delivered an excellently balanced recorded of clarity and bite, though in the unaccompanied work the microphone has picked up rather too much of Isserlis’s breathing for my liking. The icing on the cake comes in the form of booklet notes by Isserlis himself, giving not only a ’cellist’s insight into the music, but some fascinating anecdotes of his relationships with Imogen Holst and Piatigorsky.

Richard Wiley

Jeans-Hemd trifft auf Klassik-Hits

Lalo, Sarasate, Bruch: Renaud Capuçon. Erato, 1 CD, ca. 19 Euro.

(dawa) Frankreichs Herzeigegeiger Renaud Capuçon mit ebenso prominenter Klassikkost. Wie anders sollte man Edouard Lalos fünfsätzige "Symphonie espagnole", Pablo de Sarasates wilde "Zigeunerweisen" und Max Bruchs g-Moll virtuoses Violinkonzert op. 26 bezeichnen. Was des Einen höchste Affektenlehre, sind dem anderen die abgedroschenen Pflichtstücke der Romantik schlechthin. Diese Aufnahme lässt jedenfalls keinerlei Langeweile aufkommen. Das mag zum einen an dem profunden Solisten liegen: Capuçon wuchs mit den Meisterwerken aus den 1860er/70ern heran, das hört man in der unglaublichen Routine, der schlicht harmonischen Gestaltung seiner Stimmführung (Lalos Rondo hat Referenzcharakter, wärmende Soli bei Bruch). Bei den vielen persönlichen Bindungen darf der Virtuose auch einmal im legeren Jeans-Hemd auf dem Cover posieren. Zum anderen fungiert das Orchestre de Paris, berühmt für sein Repertoire des 19. Jahrhunderts, als gewohnt kongenialer Klangpartner. Wobei Dirigent Paavo Järvi auf breiten Schönklang zugunsten präziser Schärfe verzichtet - ein Umstand, der das Miteinander Solist-Ensemble noch erlebbarer macht.

Classical CDs Weekly: Nielsen

The arts


Nielsen: Symphonies 1-6 Frankfurt Radio Symphony/Paavo Järvi (RCA)
Nielsen’s 150th birthday celebrations ended some months ago, but that hasn’t led to any let up in new releases of his music. There’s a phenomenal box set of archive Nielsen recordings on the Danacord label which I’ll cover shortly, but as a stopgap we’ve yet another cycle of the six symphonies. Happily, Paavo Järvi’s set is among the best of the newcomers. Oramo’s is the most consistent, but Järvi has different strengths. He’s aided by magnificent playing from his Frankfurt orchestra, showing few signs of strain in music that can’t yet be familiar repertoire in Germany. Nielsen’s contrapuntal textures never sound muddy, and every thread is projected with confidence. Especially the all-important bass lines: there’s a resonant cello and bass entry about three minutes into the Fifth Symphony which made me jump. John Storgärds’ hard-working BBC Philharmonic sound lightweight by comparison. You’d expect Symphonies 4 and 5 to eat up most of an orchestra’s rehearsal time, and these performances really do deliver. No. 5’s ending blazes, and No. 4’s duelling timps don’t disappoint, though the Järvi’s unscripted slowdown in the symphony’s coda sounds corny once you’re used to hearing it played straight.
Symphonies 1-3 aren’t heard as frequently – a pity, as they’re delectable. The glorious waltz at the heart of the Espansiva’s opening movement is intoxicating, and Järvi gets the tempo exactly right in the finale. The sudden collapse of momentum in No. 2’s last movement is brilliantly managed, and I’ve had Järvi’s exuberant performance of Nielsen’s First playing on a loop: perky, characterful winds and shrewdly chosen speeds give the scherzo a delicious lilt. No. 6 is the most enigmatic: Järvi doesn’t plumb its depths as deeply as Oramo does, but the playing is phenomenal, the first movement’s terrible climax a real shocker. Fantastic bassoons at the work’s close – what a way to end a symphonic career. This set’s bargain price makes it all the more desirable; there’s no excuse not to buy it.