With orchestral and choral forces that could outnumber a small European village, Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder is a composition designed to overwhelm. The young composer was intent on cashing in on the pre-World War 1 fad for gigantism that spawned such works Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and on exploring a full palette of human emotions and natural wonders in a single evening. His fin-de-siècle oratorio deploys upward of 300 performers and contains a kitchen sink of effects, including trombone glissandi, percussion with chains and a surreal spoken “melodrama” about the transformative Nordic wind. Read more »
The finer performances of Tristan und Isolde have a way of sounding like a four-hour improvisation, the fruit of a single moment of inspiration that makes one forget how emotionally manipulative and painstakingly crafted the music really is.
A 2009 revival from Glyndebourne on the festival’s label does quite nicely in this regard, balancing secure and expressive singing by Torsten Kerl, Anja Kampe and Sarah Connolly with a transparent accompaniment by Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic that captures the opera’s shifting moods and the beguiling musical lines. Like Marek Janowski, the Russian maestro is less concerned with overwhelming the audience with epic sound or tragic intensity than with letting Wagner’s melodic ideas and forceful climaxes tell the story. Read more »
The impression was sure to be tested by the last two installments in the series, Siegfriedand Götterdämmerung, which Janowski and the Berlin Radio Symphony and Chorus recorded in concert performances two weeks apart last March. Though the vocal and orchestral forces remain highly attentive to the veteran maestro’s wishes and the super audio sound vividly captures the acoustics of Berlin’s Philharmonie, the results are a bit of a let down, with overtaxed principals, occasionally underwhelming climaxes and wayward tempi. Read more »
Beneath the pageantry, the paeans to German art and the self-referential allusions to the creative process, Die Meistersinger is a story about a community and human qualities like love, friendship, envy and hatred.
The abrupt withdrawal of Katharina Wagner from an abridged seven-hour Ring cycle she was to direct at the Teatro Colon last year prompted no shortage of scorn and Schadenfreude.
The curious things about accepted wisdom is that sometimes it’s correct.
Marek Janowski’s second recorded Ring cycle began on an off note, with a Rheingold that was fleet and lucid but failed to impress in the important musical moments.
Between Fidelio and Der Freischutz there was “Romantische Oper,” a type of musical drama descended from medieval mystery plays in which ghosts, gnomes and other “invisibles” get entangled in the lives of unsuspecting people.
Could Marek Janowski do for Wagner what the early music movement did for the Baroque and Classical repertory?