English

Die Teufel von Loudun

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Krzysztof Penderecki

In 1967 Rolf Liebermann approached Krzysztof Penderecki with the request to compose an opera for Hamburg. The result was Die Teufel von Loudun, for which the composer himself had written the libretto. The story is based on a true event: in Loudun (France) in 1634, a Prioress of the Ursuline Order accused a priest of diabolical practices for which he was sentenced to be burned at the stake.

The opera had its world premiere on 20 June 1969 and shortly afterwards it was filmed. The leading role of mother Jeanne was performed in a very impressive way by the great Tatiana Troyanos, whose career began in Hamburg. Her portrait of the hunchbacked demonically possessed nun with sexual visions is breathtaking. Everything about her, from head to toe, acts. Her facial expression changes with every phrase she sings and her voice chills you to the bone.

Liebermann Penderski

The horror-like music with its many glissandi and octave leaps evokes a feeling of unease and makes the opera, despite the immense tension, rather uncomfortable to watch. The staging, with a lot of nudity and explicit sex scenes, is very progressive for that time and I can imagine it was experienced as shocking. By the way: did you know that William Friedkin used music by Penderecki for his film The Exorcist?

In het Nederlands

In 1967 benaderde Rolf Liebermann Krzysztof Penderecki met het verzoek een opera voor Hamburg te componeren. Het werd Die Teufel von Loudun, waarvoor de componist zelf het libretto had geschreven. Het verhaal is gebaseerd op een ware gebeurtenis: door het toedoen van een priores van de Ursulinenorde werd in het Franse Loudun in 1634 een priester van duivelse praktijken beschuldigd en tot de brandstapel veroordeeld.

De opera beleefde zijn wereldpremière op 20 juni 1969 en kort erna werd hij verfilmd. De hoofdrol van moeder Jeanne werd op een zeer indrukwekkende manier vertolkt door de grote Tatiana Troyanos, wier carrière in Hamburg was begonnen. Haar portrettering van de door duivels geplaagde gebochelde non met seksuele visioenen is duizelingwekkend. Alles aan haar, van top tot teen, acteert. Haar gezichtsuitdrukking verandert met elke gezongen frase en haar stem gaat door merg en been.

De horrorachtige muziek met haar vele glissandi en octavensprongen roept een gevoel van onbehagen op en maakt dat je, ondanks de immense spanning, toch wel ongemakkelijk in je stoel blijft zitten. De enscenering, met veel bloot en expliciete seksscènes is voor die tijd zeer vooruitstrevend en ik kan me voorstellen dat het toentertijd als shockerend werd ervaren.

Over muziek gesproken: wist u dat William Friedkin muziek van Penderecki gebruikte voor zijn film The Exorcist?

Music as ecstasy: Kathryn Stott plays Erwin Schulhoff

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In 1919 Erwin Schulhoff wrote: “Music should bring primarily physical pleasure, even ecstasy, to the listener. It is not philosophy: its roots lie in ecstatic situations and its expression lies in rhythm.”  No wonder the synthesis of jazz and classical music was not only a challenge for him, but eventually became his artistic credo.

In his time, Schulhoff (1894-1942) was highly appreciated as a composer and a virtuoso pianist. One review even speaks of an ‘absolutely perfect technique’ and a remarkable gift for improvisation.

The latter was particularly appreciated during his (live) radio performances, in which, of course, he also promoted his own jazz compositions. In 1928 he recorded several of his compositions for Polydor, including three from his Cinq Études de Jazz. These are particularly difficult works, which demand almost the impossible from the performer.

That Kathryn Stott has the required technique is obvious. Her recordings of piano music by Fauré, among others, earned her world fame and numerous prizes. She also deserves the greatest praise for her performance of Schulhoff’s jazz compositions. She plays the Etudes much slower than the composer, yet very rhythmical and extremely virtuosic. And yes: the pleasure of listening is indeed physical.

Ervín Schulhoff
Hot Music
Katryn Stott (piano)
BIS 1249

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Jacqueline du Pré. Because no reason is necessary.

Ever since the truly brilliant and now legendary movie Amadeus shattered Mozart’s reputation (or, on the contrary, boosted it), nobody is holy anymore.

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In Anand Tucker’s extremely bad – in contrast to the masterful Amadeus –  Hilary and Jackie it was the turn of star cellist Jacqueline du Pré.

Trailer of the film:

It was all over with her image of a cute girl: the darling of so many fans turned out to be a nymphomaniac, who was also jealous of her sister and went to bed with her brother-in-law. The film is based on the book of du Pré’s sister and brother, so I’m sure it’s all true, but: what does it matter to a serious music lover? Will he now listen to Edward Elgar’s cello concerto in any other way? I certainly won’t.

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Cellist Jacqueline Du Pre records Elgar’s Cello Concerto with conductor John Barbirolli at Kingsway Hall in London, 1965.
David Farrell/EMI Classics

Elgar and Jaqueline du Pré belong together, just like Chopin and Rubinstein or Vincent van Gogh and the sunflowers. Du Pré began to study the Elgar Concerto at the age of thirteen, under the inspired guidance of her teacher and ‘cello daddy’ Wiliam Pleeth, and in 1965 she made a recording of it, conducted by John Barbirolli.  This performance was already declared legendary at the time of its appearance, and when in 1970 a live recording with her husband Daniel Barenboim came out, opinions were clearly divided.

Du Pré, Elgar and Barbirolli:


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Du Pré, Elgar and Barenboim:

Even today it remains difficult to choose between the two. The recording with Barbirolli is almost perfect, but the one with Barenboim sparkles and twinkles more. It is clearly audible that two perfect soul mates are at work here. This recording was also used in ‘Hilary and Jackie’ and can be found, next to Pheloung’s music on the soundtrack from that movie (Sony 60394).

Du Pré and Barenboim performed a lot together, but made few studio recordings together. The plans were there but her illness struck and that was that. Luckily there are a lot of live recordings of their performances. Beethoven’s cello sonatas, for example. They were recorded during the Edinburgh Festival in 1970 (EMI 5733322).

In 1999 EMI collected all the recordings the BBC ever made of du Pré (now available as Warner 2435733775). Maréchal’s arrangements of the Falla from 1961 are a bit dubious, and her Couperin (1963) and Händel (1961) are a bit dated, but the joy that radiates from them compensates a lot, or perhaps everything.

Du Pré was a natural talent, her playing was inspired and characterised by great intensity, and the liberties she took are not disturbing, partly because of that. As Barenboim once said “she had a gift for making the listener feel that the music she played was being composed at that moment”.

 

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Kremerata Baltica leaves the listener open-mouthed and gasping for breath

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Gidon Kremer is one of the most ardent advocates of Weinberg’s music. This is also not the first time he has tackled his music. With his Kremerata Baltica and a few eminent guests, he has already recorded Weinberg’s chamber music works for CD in 2014. And the live recording of Weinberg’s violin sonata he made with Martha Argerich in Lugano has rightfully become legendary.

Kremer’s unsubtle way of playing and his almost animalistic drive are the best keys to the music of the Polish-Russian-Jewish composer who for decades – if not forgotten – had been lost in the madness of world history.

The recording of the first three chamber symphonies was made live in the Viennese Musikverein in June 2015. As expected, Kremer and his ensemble are more than ideal for the impetuous music of the composer who whimsically seemed to disregard all musical laws.

A foretaste (in poor sound quality): Chamber Symphony No. 2, Op. 147 – III Andante Sostenuto

The arrangement of the 1944 piano quintet may seem superfluous, but the addition of percussion does not miss its effect and makes the work more monumental and the tension is immense.

The fourth symphony was the last work Weinberg orchestrated. The addition of the clarinet solo does not miss its effect and leaves the listener gasping for breath with an open mouth. Which is certainly also thanks to the unparalleled playing of the clarinettist Mate Bekavac and the very muscular conducting of Mirga Grazynité-Tyla.

The fact that the inflated piano quintet and the fourth symphony sound slightly better than the other works can be explained: the recording was made in the studio.


MIECZYSŁAW WEINBERG
Chamber Symphonies; Piano Quintet
Kremerata Baltica, Gidon Kremer (conductor and violin), Yulianna Avdeeva (piano), Andrei Pushkarev (percussion), Mate Bekavac (clarinet), Mirga Gražinité-Tyla (conductor)
ECM 2538/39 4814604 – 155′ (2cd’s)

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Minnie’s from Gigliola Frazzoni and Eleanor Steber

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Emmy Destinn (Minnie) at the premiere of La Fanciulla del West

Puccini’s women are never one-dimensional. That is expressed in his music, but who still understands the intentions behind the notes? Good Minnies are scarce these days, and to find the best, one has to go back to the nineteen fifties/sixties.

Like Salome, Minnie is loved and desired by men. Well, you say, she is the only woman in a rough world of miners inhabited only by guys. But it’s not that simple. She lives all alone in a remote hut and a few minutes after meeting a strange man, she invites him to her house. She smokes, and drinks whiskey. And she loves a game of cards, cheating if necessary.

In the scene leading up to the poker game, she says to the sheriff, “Who are you, Jack Rance? The owner of a gambling joint. And Johnson? A bandit. And me? The owner of a saloon and a gambling joint, I live off whiskey and gold, dancing and faro. We’re all the same! We’re all bandits and cheats!”

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Renata Tebaldi as Minnie

And I choose not to talk to you about Renata Tebaldi, even though she was one of the greatest (if not the greatest!) Minnie’s ever. She was lucky to have an exclusive contract with a leading record company (Decca), something her colleagues could only dream of.

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Gigliola Frazzoni as Minnie with Franco Corelli (Johnson)

That explains why few people, apart from a few opera-diehards, have ever heard of Gigliola Frazzoni or Eleanor Steber (to name but two). Believe me: neither soprano is inferior to Tebaldi. Just pay attention to the range of emotions they have at their disposal. They cry, sob, scream, roar, beg, suffer and love. Verismo at its best. You don’t need a libretto to understand what’s going on here.

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They sing as well, and how! All the notes are there. There’s no cheating. Well, something may go wrong during a live performance, but it is live, that’s drama, that’s opera. And let’s face it, when you play poker and your lover’s life is at stake, you don’t think about belcanto.

ELEANOR STEBER

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The recording with the American Eleanor Steber was made in 1954 at the Maggio Musicale in Florence (Regis RRC 2080). Steber’s soprano is very warm and despite the hysterical undertones of an almost perfect beauty.

Gian Giacomo Guelfi makes a devastating impression as Rance and the two together… well, forget Tosca and Scarpia! I don’t like Mario del Monaco, but Johnson was a role in which he truly shone. Mitropoulos conducts very dramatically with theatrical effects.

The recording can also be found on Spotify:


GIGLIOLA FRAZZONI

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The registration with Gigliola Frazzoni was made at La Scala in April 1956 (a.o. Opera d’Oro1318). Frazzoni sings very movingly: it is not always beautiful, but what drama!

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Franco Corelli is probably the most attractive bandit in history and Tito Gobbi as Jack Rance is a luxury. He is, what you call, a vocal actor. In his performance you can hear a lust for power and horniness, but also a kind of sentimental love.

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Franco Corelli as Johnson

Gigliola Frazzoni and Franco Corelli in ‘Mister Johnson siete rimasto indietro…Povera gente’.

The whole recording on Spotify:


Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

In Dutch:Minnie’s van Gigliola Frazzoni en Eleanor Steber

Silenced Voices

Silenced voices

Do you know the Black Oak Ensemble? There is a good chance you don’t, even though this American string trio, which barely anyone knows in the Netherlands, is rated as absolute top class. Its recent CD called Silenced Voices features pieces by six Jewish composers,  Géza Frid, Paul Hermann, Dick Kattenburg, Gideon Klein, Hans Krása and Sándor Kuti.

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Paul Hermann

They originally came from Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands and with the exception of Géza Frid, who was active in the Dutch Resistance, they were all murdered. Hans Krása, Gideon Klein and Dick Kattenburg at Auschwitz. Sándor Kuti at a concentration camp in the Ukraine, probably in 1945 (!). But we don’t even know when or where the almost Dutch Paul Hermann was murdered.

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Sándor Kuti

Sándor Kuti studied at the Franz Liszt Academy with Georg Solti, who had a great deal of respect for him and once said that if he had not been murdered, Kuti would have become one of the greatest composers of Hungary. I read that he continued to compose up until his death somewhere in the Ukraine.

His Serenade for String Trio (1934) was what touched me the most on this CD. Of course the fact that I had never heard this composition before could have influenced how it affected me, but even when I listened to it again, it intrigued and moved me. Despite the numerous quotes straight from Hungarian folk music, the trio got under my skin. Just listen to the mesmerizing Scherzando that turns into an ominous Adagio ma non troppo. Real goosebumps.

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Géza Frid

Géza Frid taught chamber music at the Utrecht Conservatory from 1964 to 1970, and his trio also had its world premiere here. Frid survived the war but died a horrifying death. The staff at his nursing home failed to check the temperature in his bathtub and he died at the Beverwijk Burn Centre.

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Hans Krása

Like Gideon Klein’s string trio, Hans Krása’s Passacaglia & Fugue for String Trio had already been recorded a couple of times, though still not often enough. Certainly not if you bear in mind that neither of the compositions are anything short of true masterpieces.

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Gideon Klein

There is also an earlier recording – one recording! – of Dick Kattenburg’s Trio à cordes. It had its world première on the incredible CD of The Hague String Trio. The composition only takes five minutes but what a five minutes they are!

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Dick Kattenburg: self portrait

The performance by the Black Oak Ensemble is simply sublime. I think you should all buy this CD!.


Kattenburg: Trio à cordes
Kuti: Serenade for String Trio 
Krása: Passacaglia & Fuga for String Trio
Klein: Trio for violin, viola, and cello
Hermann: Strijktrio
Frid: Trio à cordes, Op. 1
Black Oak Ensemble
Cedile Records CDR 90000 189

English translation: Sheila Gogol

 

 

 

About Victoria de los Angeles, a Madonna among opera singers.

de los Angeles

Victoria de los Angeles was without a doubt one of the most beautiful lyrical sopranos of her generation. She made her debut in 1945 at the Liceu in Barcelona as the Gräfin in Le Nozze di Figaro. Her international breakthrough came when she sang Salud in La vida breve by Manuel de Falla in 1948 for the BBC, a role she first performed in a staged performance at the Holland Festival in 1953.

de los angeles Salud

One year later she sang Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust in Paris and after that all the major stages in the world followed.

Her real name was Victoria Lopez Garcia. Why did she choose ‘de los Angeles’ as her stage name? It is not that important, but it fitted her like a glove. Not only did she look like a Spanish Madonna, but her voice was angelic too: gorgeous and of an innocent beauty. Something that made her less suitable for certain roles, such as Violetta. Not that she was bad, but she sounded very chaste.

And yet she was one of the best Manons (Massenet), also not exactly an example of a ‘decent’ woman:

Her interpretation of Carmen is also incredibly good. Not slutty and not too confident, but oh so attractive!

Her voice was not just lyrical, warm and delicate but also very aristocratic, so her Mimi and Cio Cio San were not only fragile and helpless but also got something royal and even Santuzza was enriched with a bit of nobility.

But the Los Angeles was more than just an opera diva. In addition to performing in operas, she frequently performed as a concert singer and was a very gifted song singer. It is said that at the beginning of her career, before performing in an opera, she insisted on giving a song recital first. In this way she could first introduce herself to the public as the real Victoria and not as an opera character.

For Spanish songs she has meant as much as Fischer-Dieskau for German songs or Peter Pears for English. She sang everything which was composed in her native country: starting with the medieval songs and the Sephardic romanceros and ending with zarzuelas and contemporary compositions.

Her repertoire was incredibly large. She sang Italian, Spanish, French and German songs and knew better than anyone how to make her own mark on everything she sang. Her Brahms and Mendelssohn are irresistible, and one cannot help falling in love with her ‘Ich Liebe Dich’ by Grieg.

Her loving, somewhat sweet timbre, her suppleness and her ability to colour words made her particularly suitable for the French repertoire. Her Debussy, her Ravel, her Delibes (just listen to ‘Les filles de Cadiz’!) are truly unrivalled.

Hopefully this album is still for sale.

Victoria de los Angeles
The very best of
Warner Classics 5758882 (2 CDs)

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

 

What’s the difference between a terrorist and a diva? ‘Caballé, beyond music’

Caballe docu

“We all owe a great deal to music (…) It is a form of expression that originates not so much from thinking as from feeling”. These words come from one of the greatest singers of the twentieth century, Montserrat Caballé.

In his film Caballé Beyond Music, Antonio Farré portrays the diva*, her life and her career, talking to her, her family and her colleagues. The documentary also contains a lot of wonderful (archival) footage, starting with Caballé’s debut in Il Pirata in 1966 in Paris.

The film is interspersed with fun anecdotes such as how she smashed a door because she was not allowed to take time off (Caballé wanted to attend a performance of Norma with Maria Callas). How she had stopped a dress rehearsal in La Scala because she noticed that the orchestra was not tuned well. About her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the discovery of José Carreras (how beautiful he was!), her friendship with Freddy Mercury ….

About her Tosca in the ROH in London in the production that was made for Callas. She wasn’t happy with that, it didn’t feel good, but no one wanted to change it. Caballé called Callas, it was exactly eight days before her death, and complained about her fate. “But of course it doesn’t feel right”, said Callas. “I am tall and you are not, I am slim and you are not, I have long arms and you have not. Tell them to call me, I will convince them that you are not me”.

And so the production was adapted for Caballé. “Copies are never good,” Caballé says, and I agree with her. This is a fascinating portrait of a fascinating singer. Very, very worthwhile.

* London taxi driver: “What is the difference between a terrorist and a diva? You can negotiate with a terrorist”.

Caballé beyond music
With José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Joan Sutherland, Cheryl Studer, Giuseppe di Stefano, Freddie Mercury, Claudio Abbado and others.
Directed by Antonio A. Farré
EuroArts 2053198

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Singing competitions: pros and cons

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Moritz von Schwind:  Der Sängerkrieg

As a young singer you could, so to speak, take part in a singing competition every week. Everywhere there are opportunities to sing yourself into the spotlights. Great news for the many talents that are around. But not everything is necessarily positive.

It is claimed that ‘the public’ is fond of competitions and I believe that. Already in antiquity people were able to keep their minds at rest with bread and games; and all kinds of competitions were organised, for poets and philosophers, but also for singers. The tradition lived on, and singing competitions also found their way into operas. Just think of Die Meistersinger or Tannhaüser. You were always rewarded for your singing skills. Once you were allowed to take the beautiful bride home, nowadays your price has become more tangible. A sum of money, a contract with an opera house and secret hopes of fame and a great career. No wonder, then, that there are so many competitions.

But: aren’t there too many now? Shouldn’t there be an age limit? Can you compare a singer who already sings at big houses with a starting colleague? Do competitions bring what the often very young participants have hoped for? Does it help them in their careers? You win and then? And how do you deal with your loss?

All these questions made me decide to take a closer look at the phenomenon of ‘singing competitions’ and to talk to some directly involved.

Mary Rammeloo (soprano):

Concoursen Maartje

Een bijschrift invoeren

In 2008 Maartje Rammelo was one of the semi-finalists of the IVC, where she eventually won the Staetshuijs Fund Prize. At the Belvedere Competition in 2013 she reached the semi-finals. She also won an engagement in Essen. Rammeloo was a finalist at the Montserrat Caballé Competition in Zaragosa and at the Wilhelm Stennhammer Competition in Sweden.

 “Taking part in competitions gives a double feeling. It inspires and is exciting, but results are either terribly predictable or completely bizarre.

You always participate with the aim to show the best of yourself and hope that this is sufficient to convince a jury of your quality: but how can you judge the skill and artistry of a musician in a competition? In an audition for a production, an artistic team has a concept and an idea about who should play a role. But in such a contest, several judges, each with their own taste, compare apples with pears: a Figaro with a Tosca, a Handel countertenor with a Wagner soprano.

Not to mention the intrigues and the hidden agendas of some judges, the chauvinism in regional competitions and the exoticism/commercialism of sometimes choosing singers who don’t necessarily give the best performance, but who are very interesting because of their origin or appearance.

So why participate? It gives you a chance to try out new repertoire and get feedback. It’s a chance to sing for the most important people in the profession, for whom you’ll never get an audition arranged in real life without a brilliant agent who guides you in.

I haven’t yet participated in a competition that didn’t either involve me in work or contacts, or gave me some useful feedback. And that is ultimately what we want: to work! Sing! To stand in front of an audience!

The prizes make it easier to practise your profession. From a financial point of view, because our profession doesn’t make us rich in the first few years, and also in terms of fame, which in turn can create more work. But just as well there are plenty of prize winners of whom we will never hear from again and singers who have never won a competition that now have a world career. At the end of the day it’s all about the long haul, not about the quick success…

What is always very difficult with competitions, is choosing your repertoire. First of all, few singers are 100% sure of their ‘fach’. Most of them doubt again and again what judges would like to hear them in.

Each competition has its own requirements. So many arias in total, so many of them from the list of compulsory works, of which your first round may only last for so many minutes and the jury detirmines the number of arias for the next round, and so on. Terribly difficult. Because you want to be heard as much as possible. Different languages, different styles, different techniques and topics.

There are also a number of competitions that offer more than just the competition element. I now also encourage my own students to look out for those. Contests like the IVC that use things like a youth jury, master classes, concerts and lectures to make it a real singing festival. And these are often the competitions that keep in touch with you in the years that follow. Who are committed to the further development of the singers. But unfortunately there are very few of them…

I have learned that if you sing what you feel comfortable with and what you are really good at, then at least one person will be happy after your performance. Namely you.

Maartje Rammeloo sings ‘I want magic!’ from The Streetcar named Desire by André Previn:

Piotr Barański (countertenor):

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© Cornelia Helfricht

In 2012, Piotr Barański was a semi-finalist at the IVC in Den Bosch.

 “For a long time I didn’t want to know anything about competitions, I didn’t think I was the type for them. You not only have to prepare yourself well, but also be sure of yourself and show the best of yourself to the jury, you have to perform while under stress. You have to be able to handle that very well and not everyone can.

And yet – competitions are very important. You get the chance to present yourself to a wider audience, to get to know new, important people – and in our profession we have to rely on connections and networks. And of course it’s very important that you can show yourself to conductors, agents, planners and casting directors who are looking for new talents.

Unfortunately, there are competitions where the eliminations and the first preliminaries take place behind closed doors and only the finals are open to the public. The chances of learning something from such competitions are then minimal.

The criteria of the jury are not always clear and the results can be very controversial. I know singers who, singing at the same level, win the highest prizes at one competition, while at the other they do not get any further than the preliminaries.

What is very important to me is the feedback. It is of the utmost importance for the further development of a singer to at least exchange a few words with the jury members, something that indeed happened at IVC and that has helped me enormously. A healthy, positive critique is indispensable and constructive.”

Piotr Barański (countertenor) and Hans Eijsackers (piano) in “Lullaby” from ‘Songs and Dances of Death’ by Modest Mussorgsky.

Reinild Mees (pianist):

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© Janica Draisma

“The results of singing competitions are already quite unpredictable – how a career goes after that is even more like gazing into a crystal ball! A performance (because that is what singing at a competition in fact is) is and remains a snapshot, even for those who listen and/or judge. There are so many factors involved: age, experience, musicality, voice, repertoire, language skills, etc. that it is sometimes difficult to determine which aspect is decisive.

The preparations for a competition, selecting and working on the repertoire with a singing teacher and a coach are invaluable. This requires great concentration and discipline – the pieces you have to learn will not be forgotten for the rest of your life – and in addition you have to make yourself strong to present yourself, you have to find the courage to do so, and you have to be able to cope with nervousness.

My experience is that a competition is always good for the development of a singer, even if in the worst case you are sent home. After all, the next day you have the choice: either you stop, or you decide to continue and develop yourself further in order to find new opportunities. Almost always you choose the second option and then it has been a good experience! Competitions are very valuable, even if you don’t win a prize…”

Reinild Mees accompanies Tania Kross in ‘Der Kaiser’ by Henriëtte Bosman±.

Reinild Mees and all Szymanowski songs, sang by (a.o.) Piotr Beczala and Iwona Sobotka.

Mauricio Fernández (from 1983 to 2016 casting director NTR Saturday Matinee):

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“As casting director of one of the most ambitious and internationally recognised concert series in the world, I have attended several singing competitions over the past thirty years – as a juror and as an ‘observer’.

If you ask me who the real star singers were that I have heard, I have to dig deep into my memory to give you an honest answer. It is a fact, at least for me, that the really interesting singers, who have an international career by now, often didn’t even reach the semi-finals or even won a prize at all.

It’s a waste of time to pain yourself with the question why the singers who didn’t deserve it in your ears/eyes go home with the biggest prizes. There’s no point in understanding the thoughts of those who have rewarded them: artistic directors, casting directors, directors, singers or teachers.

We should think about why we need all these competitions. Are they primarily intended to broaden the judges’ network or are they supposed to serve the interests of the young talented singers in order to help them build a decent career? A long lasting career that can pay for everything they have invested in it – money and often personal sacrifices.

Don’t forget that singers, like all sincere musicians and artists, have an important mission: to warm the hearts of the audience, in the theatre or in your living room. They are in favour of treating the legacy of the composer with respect and of ensuring that opera, as a living art form, does not become extinct”.

Annett Andriesen (director of the IVC in Bosch from 2006 till 2018):

Concoursen Annet-Andriesen_web-728x485 (1) foto Annett Anne Frankplein

In the past, Andriesen herself has participated in several competitions. Now that she is leading a competition, she knows what a singer needs: care and respect.

 “The IVC is a tough competition, but with a human face. I don’t want to make wimps out of the participants, they have to be able to cope in the big bad world. A competition is a place where opinions are formed, where singers meet and can see where they stand, they can learn to sing under high pressure, they can build a network. Above all, they have to feel safe.

The IVC places much higher demands on the composition of the repertoire, the longer list consists of three periods and requires three works from after 1915. In addition, the candidates must learn a new work by a Dutch composer.

We use the “Triple D” method: “Discover”, “Develop” (master classes, training session, feedback by jury members in personal conversations) and “Deal” (making contact with impresarios, concert directors and casting directors).

Let me make it clear that I don’t believe in hidden agendas or cheating jurors. I have no experience with that. I have now led three competitions and I have a lot of respect for jury members who really care about the singers and have conversations about the profession and the possible place the singer can take in it. There are singers who still have contact with jury members and on their advice have found a coach.

The jury at the IVC consists of singers/musicians who at the end of their career share their knowledge and often their network and want to share it with the young generation. In addition, casting directors or agents and intendants who you know want to help young people at the beginning of their careers. And not only because a young soloist would be ‘cheap’.

I think that the usefulness of a competition lies in meeting like-minded people, the conversations, listening to colleagues, learning repertoire from the other voice types, making friendships, making contacts and mirroring yourself to the other. There are so many singers on offer that it is good to be seen and heard in certain places and a competition could be that place. Top talent always comes to the fore.

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator

In Dutch:
ZANGCONCOURSEN: PRO’S EN CONTRA’S

Igor Levit and his Beethoven-project: “I do not feel like a servant, but I do not feel like anybody’s master either.”

Levit

On 17 December 2019 Ludwig van Beethoven will celebrate his 250th birthday. An occasion this big calls for a big party, so that is what we will get. There will be an abundance of concerts, recitals and recordings to choose from. Of all the projects we are about to be inundated with, there is one that appeals to me personally the most: the recording of all of his piano sonatas by Igor Levit.

What do we know about Igor Levit? He was born in 1987 in Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod) in Russia. He started piano lessons at the age of three and had already achieved enormous successes as a child. In 1995 the Levit family left for Germany, where he graduated from the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover in 2009. I heard him for the first time on recordings from the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv in 2005. At that time he was the youngest participant ever and he won the second prize, the chamber music prize, the audience prize and the prize for the best performance of a contemporary work. He looked timid and shy, but as an audience member you were not only enchanted by him but also drawn to him.

Levit plays Beethoven in Tel Aviv:

I decided to follow this young artist as much as possible. When Sony contracted him and they brought out an album with Beethoven’s late piano sonatas, I was extremely pleased! It was a huge gamble for Sony. Imagine: when you’re in your twenties choosing Beethoven’s last five piano sonatas for your debut album! You really need to have guts to do that. But it could also be conceived as arrogant. Didn’t most pianists have to wait until they reached a certain age to try their hand at the last sonatas?

The result was overwhelming. The album won several prizes in 2014, including an ECHO Klassik, when that prize was still taken seriously. And the prizes continued: in October 2015 his CD with works by Bach, Beethoven and Rzewsky was chosen as Recording of the Year at the 2016 Gramophone Classical Music Awards. In 2018 Levit received the prestigious Gilmore Award and was named the Royal Philharmonic Society’s ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’.

Levit’s interpretations of Beethoven are quite idiosyncratic, that’s true, but also greatly exciting! That is why Levit is so outspoken about the role of the interpreter. A quote from the pianist’s passionate interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“So you are against the widespread ideal that the interpreter is first and foremost the servant of the score?

I do not feel like a servant, but I do not feel like anybody’s master either. For me, the question is not: what would we be without the composers, but instead: what would the composers be without us? The interpretation is my personal reaction to the information I receive through the notes. But this information is sometimes so full of uncertainties that I have to think about it carefully. A performance never works one-on-one. Beethoven’s case is extra complicated because he tried to escape from his time in order to create something different, something new.”

Igor Levit about ‘the project’:

“For me, this recording is the conclusion of the past fifteen years. It started with my ‘encounter’ with the Diabelli Variations when I was seventeen years old, something that changed my life and that actually continues until now, because I live with his music every day. With Beethoven’s sonatas, but also with Beethoven himself and with how all this has influenced the world in which I live and myself. Everything together led to this recording. What began in 2013 with the recording of Beethoven’s last five sonatas, I can now conclude. It fills me with great happiness and at the same time it feels like a new beginning. “

Levit piano

© Sony

I can only add that Igor Levits’ vision of Beethoven has also changed my world. Raised with Gulda, Kempff, Schnabel and Barenboim – all greats that are still at the top of my list – I have suddenly discovered a totally new vision. No, in interpretation there are no absolute truths. Just listen to the ‘Adagio sostenuto’ from the Monscheinsonate. You rarely hear it so sweet, so tender, but at the same time not ‘weak.’ For me it felt like hearing the sonata for the first time in my life.

On Sunday 9 February 2020 Levit will make his long-awaited debut in the Master Pianists series at the Concertgebouw. It will be a very special recital, because he will, of course, not only play Beethoven’s last two sonatas, but also an arrangement for piano of the Adagio from Mahler’s Symphony No. 10. Something to really look forward to!


Beethoven – Piano Sonatas (Complete)
Igor Levit – Piano
Sony Classical, CD 19075843182 (9cd’s)

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator