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Valery Gergiev

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Classical iconoclast

August 8

National Youth Choir of Great Britain Prom : Walton Prokofiev Karabits

Classical iconoclast Kiril Karabits conducted the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra  and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain in a Prom featuring Beethoven, Richard Strauss and William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast but the gem was a miniature, Prokofiev's cantata Seven, they are Seven op 30. If Seven, They are Seven could ever be a "miniature", that is. Though it runs barely seven minutes it's so concentrated that once heard, it's never forgotten.  Valery Gergiev conducted it with the London Symphony Orchestra in March 2017, nearly lifting the roof off the Barbican Hall.  At the Royal Albert Hall with its cavernous capacity and raised dome, it might be less of a bone shaker, but is still an experience.  An ideal vehicle for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain to let rip. The text for Seven, they are Seven is taken from a Mesopotamian script describing the beginning of time, when seven demonic gods control creation.  Malevolent gods, and violent.  Since Prokofiev was writing in 1917, we can reasonably assume he wasn't writing about Tigris and Euphrates 5000 years ago, but about Russia at a time of upheaval.  A loud crash, followed by a scream in which the whole choir can indulge in force. The piece is written for tenor, but relatively few have the dark timbre and forceful projection to carry it off its vocal extremes, pitted against a huge orchestra and choir. David Butt Phillip  manages well, his voice carrying over the thumping ostinato behind him. One man against the forces of hell.  The choral line is equally dramatic : repeated lines, some thumping, others wildly angular, wavering like flames and winds.  Suddenly the volume drops. Cymbals crash, timpani rumble. Butt Phillip sings sotto voce, intoning mysterious prayer. From a rarity to a hardy perennial, William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast. The setting is again ostensibly Babylon, but the real reason for including it in this Prom was to give the Choir another chance to shine.  And they did ! the freshness of younger voices adds to the sense of excitement: Walton's score is quasi Hollywood, maximizing excess, with brass bands thrown into the heady mix.  Biblical as its context may be, it';s hardly pious, but very much a piece of its time (1931) when the jazz age still prevailed and the Bright Young Things partied like there'd be no tomorrow,  Belshazzar's having a rave.  "Babylon was a great city" sang James Rutherford, enumerating the treasures"...chariots, slaves and the souls of men". Singing with unbridled delight, the choir seemed to be having a good time.  "Praise thee !, Praise thee !"  But as we know, parties don't last forever.  Ominous sounds from the orchestra. The King sees a hand writing on the wall "Mene, mene tekel upharsim". The  "Hebrew" sound of trumpets. the choir emphazing the baritones words with dramatic finality "Slain !" Slain!"  Then we're back to zany 30's celebration. "Hallelujah ! Hallelujah!" Flamboyant riffs give way to ecstatic swoons.  "And the Light of the Lord shall shine on us".  Yet more ecstatic Hallelujahs. "Make a joyful noise!"  The photo above, from the choir's 2016 Prom,  illustrates the vibe so well.

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

July 31

Valery Gergiev recruits a British kid, 16

The Russian maestro has called up George Harliono, to play Rachmaninov’s second concerto with the Mariinsky orchestra in Vladivostok on August 5. George, 16, was born in Hackney, East London, and now lives near Cambridge where he studies with Professor Vanessa Latarche. He also travels to Switzerland to work with Vovka Ashkenazy and his father Vladimir Ashkenazy. ‘It is such an honour for me to have been asked to perform with Maestro Gergiev, he really is a world class conductor and I can’t wait to meet him,’ says the debutant.

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

July 16

Radio France is attacked for engaging Gergiev on Bastille Day

The cultural commentator Antoine Perraud has compared the hiring of Putin-puppet Valery Gergiev on Bastille Day to Radio France’s past error in favouring Herbert von Karajan who conducted in Paris under Nazi occupation. The full article is pay-walled, but this gives the general gist: En confiant, pour le traditionnel concert du Champ-de-Mars, l’Orchestre national de France au grand chef Valery Gergiev, salaud politique au sens sartrien du terme, le service public verse dans la bassesse, au nom du panem et circenses… Pour ce 14-Juillet 2017, Radio France – dans le rôle du grand… « crétinstitutionnel » ! – justifie l’injustifiable par la voix de son président, Mathieu Gallet : « Valery Gergiev est un des plus grands chefs d’orchestre. C’est un immense honneur qu’il nous fait de venir diriger les musiciens le soir de notre fête nationale. Je ne veux pas commenter les choix qu’il peut faire au niveau politique. Il ne s’agit que de musique ce soir-là. Sa stature et sa renommée médiatique sont une chance pour nous puisque cela permet au plus grand nombre d’écouter de la musique classique à une heure de grande écoute. Le Concert de Paris est devenu un vrai rendez-vous avec le grand public. » Traduction : on a réussi un sacré coup de pub pour en mettre plein la vue des gogos et gonfler l’audimat avec une bête de scène qui va rapporter gros. Contexte : ce « Concert de Paris du 14 juillet » est diffusé en direct sur France Inter, France 2 puis, en différé, sur CultureBox.

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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