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Valery Gergiev

Friday, August 26, 2016


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

August 18

Gergiev hands over concert to flying Finn

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discFrom our colleague Vesa Siren in Helsinki: Valery Gergiev held a masterclass at Turku Music Festival yesterday. Two minutes before the concert he asked talented young Eero Lehtimäki to conduct the first piece in the concert, Mother Goose by Maurice Ravel. “Sure”, Lehtimäki agreed. Managing Director Liisa Ketomäki asked artistic director, conductor VIlle Matvejeff to double-check this with Gergiev. “I know he can do it. He has good hands and he knows the piece”, said Gergiev. One minute before the concert, the orchestra didn’t know. Lehtimäki walked on stage and conducted well, with Gergiev in the audience. “I told you”, Gergiev grinned and conducted the rest of the concert himself. Later Gergiev raised a toast “to my new colleague Eero”. Previously, Eero was the “artistic misleader” of well known humour band Retuperän WPK but also a conducting student in Vienna and Helsinki and the winner of international NWBC conducting competition. Next Finn on the block? Eero is 27. Short video of his performance here. UPDATE: From an observer who asks to remain anonymous: What Gergiev said before the concert, and what he even said in his speech to the orchestra after the reception was that he felt bad that Eero got so little podium time during the actual masterclass. He wanted to make it up by letting him conduct the piece he had prepared in the concert. Just to set the record straight.

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

August 5

LA Phil picks Spanish principal

Spanish musicians are abuzz with the news that David Rejano Cantero has been chosen as principal trombone of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. David, who is principal trombone of Valery Gergiev’s Munich Philharmonic, has been freelancing of late with the Berlin Phil and LA. There has been no confirmation yet from LA. Cool catch.




getClassical (Ilona Oltuski)

July 20

National Youth Orchestra at Carnegie Hall: Signing up for excellence – standing for cultural outreach

Short of the national “red, white and blue,” the National Youth Orchestra’s featured dress code on Carnegie Hall’s stage incorporated red slacks, white shirts and black blazers, with Converse-style sneakers adding a youthful touch. Despite the teenagers’ adolescent appearance, they could be judged on a rather adult level of performance as they cautiously, but deliberately held back in Mozart’s subtle virtuoso passages, so as not to undermine master pianist Emanuel Ax, known endearingly as Manny to New Yorkers. The teens later befittingly let loose in Bruckner’s bursts of amalgamated power and dexterity, energetically coaxed by the veteran leadership of iconic Christoph Eschenbach. (photo credit:Chris Lee) As music director of the National Symphony Orchestra and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Eschenbach, known to enjoy working with young talent, understands not only how to lucidly direct young musicians through his communicative body language, but how to pull his audience into the elementary pathos and summits of musical drama. Given the packed hall and high level of musicianship, providing a hopeful outlook on sustaining the future of classical music, one can’t help but wonder why it took until 2012 to reinstate pre-World War II attempts to unite young talent on a national level, specifically Leopold Stokowski’s short-lived effort to establish the All-American Youth Orchestra from 1940 until 1942. For British-born Sir Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s leading force since 2005, the inspiration gained by young musicians partaking in such an overarching collaboration was the decisive element behind initiating NYO, which he implemented as a major community outreach program within Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute’s education wing. “It is so important to be here together with the greatest young players in the country,” he exclaims, “and the implications are manifold. We can inspire them, simply by not being a big fish in a little pond, but becoming a part of the big pond. They may decide to rise to the challenge and inspire us in turn, in whatever field they will choose. They also are our ambassadors and carry the best of our messages. It is a virtuous circle.” Most significantly perhaps, Gillinson experienced the impact personally when – as a teenage cellist growing up in Great Britain – he was given the opportunity to perform with the National Youth Orchestra there. “It was one of the greatest experiences for me, an eye opener,” he remembers, “that put music in the center of my life.” This continued to hold true throughout Gillinson’s many years with the London Symphony Orchestra as a cellist, and then as its managing director in 1984. Before coming to Carnegie Hall, his pioneering vision brought about many new changes at LSO, including the orchestra’s installation at the Barbican Centre, as well as the establishment of LSO’s own label for presenting their live-recorded performances. Archiving and sharing live performances continue to be an important way to manifest the cultural message. Just before our meeting, Gillinson prepared his interview about NYO with WQXR, who will broadcast NYO’s Carnegie Hall performance later this year. For his vision for NYO-USA, Gillinson closely followed the principles of the established National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Following the practices of its model across the pond, the NYO-USA residency entails that the musicians’ two weeks’ preparation at Purchase College is assisted by principal musicians from professional American orchestras, and overseen by the orchestra director — a position that varies from season to season, leaving room to engage renowned guest conductors. (Clive Gillinson, photo credit: New York Classical Review) NYO-USA’s first concerts were held in 2013, and the concept grew more ambitious each year. The brilliant featuring of star soloists like violinists Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham and last year, pianist YUNDI, did not only up the ante, but opened international concert venue doors to the orchestra for future summer tours. Traveling as musicians with world-renowned soloists and conductors like Valery Gergiev, David Robertson, Charles Dutoit or now Christoph Eschenbach, and serving as ambassadors abroad, has a lasting effect on the young participants, who must be age 16-19 and hold American citizenship or a green card to participate in touring. “They can’t be enrolled fulltime in a college-level conservatory or a music department on an instrumental performance major, that’s why many conductors and soloists who have performed with these young orchestral players, are so surprised by the high level of musicianship,” says Synneve Carlino, director of PR at Carnegie Hall. Two recommendations are also required in order to be considered in NYO’s nationwide, egalitarian search for excellence, in which participation is free–of–charge, no matter from where participants travel. “New technology is partially to blame for spreading the word more swiftly,” explains Carnegie Hall’s Synneve Carlino about online applications like DecisionDesk, which facilitate the extraordinarily broad reach of modern application processes. “We put out the word and applicants can simply sign up and introduce themselves and their talent with a personal video clip,” says Carlino. NYO-USA is a remarkable institution on its own, but Gillinson is not one to rest on his laurels. With the launch of NYO2 this year, he has already managed to broaden his original vision exponentially, catering to an even younger talent pool of musicians age 12-17 with the goal to expand classical music’s reach even further. Recognizing that musical talent forms early on, NYO2’s special agenda is to come into communities that are underserved and underrepresented in the field of classical music. This younger group of musicians will also form a natural pre-selection, potentially feeding into the orchestra, or other music-related fields. Among this year’s 109 NYO2 participants, two apprentice composers and conductors, as well as a librarian joined the program. Passion about classical music goes beyond the narrow field of the professional performing artist. Planting the seed of love for classical music-by-doing is essential for bringing the next generation not only to the stage, but into the hall. The tour travels on meeting Valery Gergiev for the next concert at Amsterdam’s Het Concert Gebouw. (photo credit Medici.tv) NYO-USA 2016 at Carnegie Hall: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Piano Concerto No.22 in E-flat Major, K.482 pianist Emanuel Ax Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 6 in A major. conductor: Christoph Eschenbach



Classical iconoclast

July 19

Gergiev smiles Prom 4 Ravel Ustvolskaya

Valery Gergiev in a happy, sunny mood at BBC Prom 4  Grergiev always springs surprises but this was a surprise beyond expectation. When Gergiev is good, he's very good but when he's bad, he's very, very bad.  This "new" Gergiev.should come out more often. The programme was fairly standard - Ravel, Rachmaninov, Strauss and Ustvolskaya, but Gergiev animated it by emphasizing each composer's individuality.  Fidelity to idiom does matter !  Gergiev is musician enough to know that the score does count, however his  more extremist fans might think.  Thus the discipline with which he conducted Ravel Boléro, observing the progressions as they unfold.  New elements enter as the music builds up until it reaches its climax. Each element adds new flavours, but fundamentally the traverse is defined by the steady beat of the drum, reflected in the strumming pizzicato. In flamenco, rigid rhythmic discipline is part of the style creating a ritualized tension that makes the brief flourishes seem even more like explosive release.  As the piece progresses, the energy builds up as a natural result iof what's gone before. Just as dancers and athletes train hard to build muscle, Gergiev shows how disciplined conducting serves music much better than fake, flashy "excitement". Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no 3 has a reputation for flamboyant display, but its wonders lie in the piano part. Gergiev wisely gave Behzod Abduraimov pride of place. Abduramov isn't the most spectacular of players, so the restraint Gergiev brought to the orchestra was sensitive, supporting the soloist. Galina Ustvolskaya's Symphony no 3 Jesus Messaih, save us !  was based on the life of a 11th century monk, Hermann of Reichenau, aka "Hermann the cripple" who was born with so many birth defects that he lived in constant pain and had speech defects. Nonetheless, he became a theologian, an astronomer, a mathematician and write a treatise on the science of music. He lived to age 44, ancient by the standards of the time and was canonized in 1863.  A paralysed musician without a voice ? What a metaphor for a composer in the Soviet era !  Ustvolskaya's music is certainly very different from conventional Soviet music, but it does have deeper antecedents and connections.  Pounding blocks of form, percussion led  rough hewn sounds and spoken narrative that speaks fire and brimstone (speaker Alexei Petrenko)   Its "primitivism" is deliberate for it evokes the idea of  strength in times of hardship. Petrenko recites so forcefully that it hardly matters whether you speak Russian or not : you can imagine the monk/saint defying the odds stacked against him, firm in his faith in God.  Ustovskaya didn't fit in with Soviet convention but her music does have antecedents. She may or may not have know Janáček's Glagolitic Mass but she would have known Stravinsky's Rite of Spring which evokes even older beliefs. She would also have known of Orthodox Church music and the Russian hermit tradition. The "primitivism" in this symphony also connects to Futurism, which flourished in the early years after the Revolution, and produced works like Alexander Mosolov's The Iron Foundry (1925-6) and also influenced film makers like Sergei Eisenstein.  By 1983, when this symphony was written, Ustvolskaya would also have been aware of music in the west,, particularly Messiaen, who also had a thing for huge blocks of rock-solid sound and ecstatic visions of the glory of God.  Ustvolskaya's Third Symnphony is highly individual, and shows that Shostakovich was by no means the only modernist in town Gergiev still lives in one of the several oligarch enclaves in London, from which he can jetset with ease. Munich is a smaller city,  so chances are he'll spend even less time with the Munich Philharmonic than he did with the LSO, but if he has good rehearsal conductors and musicians he can add the finishing touches.  Like the LSO,the Munich Philharmonic is one of several top notch orchestras working in close proximity and stimulating each other.  In recent years it's been somewhat outshone, but if this prom with Gergiev is anything to go by, good things lie ahead.  And judging from their performance of this Suite from Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, they are teaching Gergiev to be lyrical.

Valery Gergiev

Valery Gergiev (2 May 1953) is a Russian conductor and opera company director. He is general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and artistic director of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg.



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