Conductor André de Ridder presents a reworking of David Bowie’s hits across the decades with a range of guests
Six months and three weeks after David Bowie died, musicians still feel compelled to give their tributes, to sing those songs that shaped their lives. It was almost unsurprising when the Bowie prom was announced, promising Bowie with a twist – but who really wants Bowie with a twist? Bowie was the twist: the wayward Bromley boy who turned himself into a peculiar pop art project, perfectly.
Haus für Mozart, SalzburgThe composer-conductor offers some of his most powerful orchestral writing in this pared down but magnificent take on Luis Buñuel’s surrealist film
Creating an opera out of The Exterminating Angel, Luis Buñuel’s 1962 surrealist classic film, was a long-standing ambition for Thomas Adès. As he revealed in interviews leading up to this Salzburg premiere, Adès had already made plans for such a piece well before he began work on The Tempest, which premiered at Covent Garden in 2004.
Related: Rifles, bears and Buñuel: Thomas Adès on his new never-ending opera
This is a biography for those with an interest in the composer’s life. He was charismatic and handsome, with many mistresses, and put on a great show. But something is missing
Liszt is wonderful and unique, but you would not know it from the hapless subtitle to this study by Oliver Hilmes. A biography of a major cultural figure should not start by sounding like a performing arts undergraduate describing themself on Twitter. And without meaning any disrespect, this must be regarded as an unnecessary book. The weight of biographical commentary on Liszt is simply colossal. People have been writing full-length accounts of him since he was in his early 20s, and touring 1830s Europe. The first biographies written with the declared aim of stripping away accumulated myths appeared within Liszt’s lifetime, and have gone on being published ever since. Besides, in very recent times, he has been the subject of a truly great biography, Alan Walker’s astonishing and gloriously entertaining three-volume study, still in print. Oliver Hilmes wrote a very good life of Liszt’s appalling daughter, Cosima Wagner; I must say that I think his abilities would have been better directed elsewhere.
Liszt was not the first touring virtuoso, but he was certainly someone who attracted vast interest due to his good looks, showy abilities and constant powers of reinvention. There is really no modern-day equivalent, though we pretend otherwise, and suggest that someone working in 4/4 in E minor is doing something never attempted before. If you could imagine a combination of Lang Lang’s virtuosity, Justin Timberlake’s mass appeal and Per Nørgård’s sheer confrontational newness, then something of Liszt could be envisaged. But it is impossible: circumstances have changed too much.
Romeo And Juliet | The Queen Of Spades | National Youth Orchestra | Der Nächtliche Wanderer | Norma
John Eliot Gardiner’s performance of Berlioz’s great dramatic symphony ticks the Proms’ Shakespeare box. It’s with the Monteverdi Choir and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique; Julie Boulianne, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt and Laurent Naouri are the soloists.
In the third of a new series, we look at music inspired by the city of two faces, one opulent and one decaying: next it’s Helsinki – leave your ideas below
Once again thanks for your suggestions for our post-Brexit referendum grand musical tour of Europe’s great cities, which this week reaches Venice.
@PositivistDinosaur is surely right that we must begin with Claudio Monteverdi, who lived in the city for the second half of his life and was responsible for the music at St Mark’s Basilica. Monteverdi’s reputation was established before he arrived in Venice in around 1613, thanks mainly to his groundbreaking opera Orfeo and the Vespers, but his two late operatic masterpieces The Return of Ulysses and The Coronation of Poppea were produced during the three decades he spent in the city. He died in 1643 and is buried in the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, one of the city’s most imposing churches.
In the course of a long compositional career, the defining feature of the music of the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, who has died at the age of 87, was its stylistic adaptability. The distinctive Rautavaara soundworld familiar from his later, internationally successful works evolved only gradually, achieving its fully recognisable form in the 1980s.
A prolific composer, he wrote eight symphonies, nine operas, 12 instrumental (and one choral) concertos, plus a wide variety of orchestral, chamber, instrumental, choral and vocal works. He was also a highly perceptive writer on music and a teacher: many Finnish composers who have enjoyed international success were his pupils, including Paavo Heininen and Kalevi Aho.
Marian Consort/Berkeley Ensemble/Wordsworth(Delphian)
“Severe but extremely impartial” is how composer Lennox Berkeley once summed up Nadia Boulanger, the fearsome Parisian pedagogue with whom he had studied in the 1920s, and who was likely responsible for his becoming a Catholic at the end of that decade. Similar sentiments apply to his sparse and astringent Stabat Mater from the late 40s: six solo voice and 12 instrumentalists weaving together a solemn sort of neo-classicism, all jagged-edged mysticism and glimmering triads. There’s earnest beauty in it and the instrumental playing on this recording is spot on – the Berkeley Ensemble under David Wordsworth clinches the balance of chaste, plaintive and urgent – while the young early-music voices of the Marian Consort sound well-behaved but a bit thin for the more thuddingly gothic moments. They’re better-suited to the sinewy a-cappella Mass for Five Voices, or to the spindly arabesques of the last piece on the disc, Touch Light, by Lennox’s son Michael.
Hesperion XXI/Savall(Alia Vox)
A classic Jordi Savall project with Iberian cultural history lesson and loads of misty reverb attached, in this album, the Catalan viol player/conductor takes on five grand centuries (the 11th to the 16th) of Muslim, Christian and Jewish musical heritage in the city of Granada. The music is glorious, regardless of how diligently you engage with the chunky liner notes: influences seep in from Byzantium and north Africa, Berbers, Sephardic Jews, Arab Andalusians, Catholics. There are border ballads telling of battles and poetic exiles and laments telling of religious persecution on various counts. Savall has gathered a band of crack musicians and singers from Syria, Morocco, Turkey, Greece and Israel and the performances are full of finesse and intensity. What stands out for me is the Mozarabic polyphony – vibrant, poised singing from La Capella Reial de Catalunya.
Le Cercle de l’Harmonie/Rhorer(Alpha)
This production of Mozart’s dubiously orientalist Singspiel (part song, part speech, generally comic, racial politics firmly of its time) was created for the 2015 Aix-en-Provence festival then recorded at a concert in Paris a few months later. It’s definitely a live performance – the audience makes its enthusiasm felt and the sound isn’t entirely polished, which I quite like. The cast is pretty appealing (David Portillo as Pedrillo, Norman Reinhardt as Belmonte, Rachele Gilmore as Blonde, Jane Archibald as a radiant Konstanze) and attacks ensembles with vigour and arias with the kind of breezy elegance that makes easy work of fiendish stuff. But with two other major versions of Entführung out last year from René Jacobs and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, what the young conductor Jérémie Rhorer really offers is a whole lot of orchestral charisma: an overture full of bounce and clatter, pacey tempos that fizz but also breathe, textures that are bright and fibrous, a delivery that is happily slapdash without getting messy.
Helsinki Chamber Choir/Uusinta Ensemble/Schweckendiek (Toccata Classics)
Beat Furrer’s Enigmas began as an unaccompanied work for youth choir, designed to demonstrate that young singers could cope with far more demanding music than is usually assumed.
Between 2006 and 2013 Furrer, continued to add to the series, until it contained six pieces, all with texts from Leonardo da Vinci’s Prophecies, which may be performed separately or as a set. The aim of the settings changed, too, so that Enigma V is not only as long as the other five pieces put together, but technically goes way beyond what any amateur choir could possibly attempt. It makes the pieces a hugely attractive collection: a journey into ever-increasing complexity that is full of subtle transformations and strikingly original, sometimes strikingly simple, ideas – the perfect antidote to the neo-romantic pap that so often passes for choral music today.
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