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Jordi Savall

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tribuna musical

September 15

The Colón Ballet Gala: renovated repertoire and great dancing

Tribuna musical Every year during recent seasons the Colón does in late August or early September an international Ballet Gala and it always combines it with a ballet of the Colón repertoire. The choices have mostly been very conservative, and it was time for a degree of renovation. This time Maximiliano Guerra chose well the Colón Ballet presentation: an attractive Nacho Duato ballet seen in June, "Por vos muero", reviewed for the Herald: Renaissance Spanish music selected by Jordi Savall and played by his group plus texts by Garcilaso de la Vega spoken by Miguel Bosé. Beautiful music and fine stylisation of old Spanish dances with attractive staging. And thirteen Colón dancers, mostly quite young and very able, in a kaleidoscope of groups and duets. The basic idea of Maximiliano Guerra, the Colón Ballet´s Director, was to ask famous companies to send couples in representative pieces of their repertoire, instead of calling on dancers picked by Guerra. That was the procedure except in one special case: the return of that magical "étoile", Alessandra Ferri, to the theatre where she danced often in memorable performances, particularly the Prokofiev/MacMillan complete "Romeo and Juliet" with Julio Bocca, certainly a unique experience for any ballet lover. And with her partner since she came back to the stage after a six-year sabbatical: Herman Cornejo; we saw both in the intimate "Chéri" at the Maipo. (You probably read days ago the detailed articles by Cristiana Visan on this fascinating conjunction of artists). The guests started with two artists from the Hamburg Ballet, ruled for decades by John Neumeier, a prolific choreographer born in 1942 and author of more than a hundred ballets. Anna Laudere, born 1983 in Latvia, and Edvin Revazov, an Ucranian of the same age, gave us two samples of Neumeier´s creativity. First, a rather disconcerting updating of "Hamlet" premièred in 1985 and revised in 1997, using music by Michael Tippett (two "ts", not one as in the hand programme). What we saw was Ophelia´s goodbye to Hamlet, for he is going away to study. But frankly, I would never have guessed that the awkward encounter was between these characters unless I was told. By the way, Tippett´s music is unfortunately rarely played here; the piece we heard was the 1954 "Divertimento on Sellinger´s Round" for chamber orchestra. Two points: all the music of the gala was recorded ; some with good sound, others with gritty, noisy reproduction. And no information was given about the works; biographies of the artists, yes. Laudere and Revazov were equally at home in this curious "Hamlet" and in the expressive view of the choreographer on "The Lady of the Camelias"; the "Pas de Deux Blanc" from Act II has Chopin´s Largo from Piano Sonata Nº3 as the meditative background. Laudere showed flexibility in portraying that declining moment of the protagonist´s life, with her whole body seeming to lose all strength. And Revazov supported her with sensibility and dramatic presence. Marianela Núñez is the Argentine "prima ballerina" of the London Royal Ballet and will shortly be Tatiana in "Onieguin". Partnered by the Colón´s Alejandro Parente, she danced the Pas de deux of the White Swan (Odette) from Tchaikovsky´s "Swan Lake", changing the announced "Black Swan" Pas de deux, certainly because in the Second Part she danced the "Tchaikovsky Pas de deux" by Balanchine, which uses music for the Black Swan (Odile) that wasn´t used in the 1877 première; discovered in the Bolshoi archives in 1953, Balanchine asked permission to do a ballet on it, and it was granted. She was admirable in both, her pure classical technique and noble demeanor ideal for Odette and the added variety on the Black Swan interpretation distinguishing Odile´s character. Parente´s Prince is basically a porteur, but the Prince is much more active in Act III, in which we appreciated the command and style of the Italian Federico Bonelli, also from the Royal Ballet. Elisa Badenes, Spanish, and Pablo von Sternenfels (Mexican of German descent) were brilliant interpreters of a Pas de deux from the funny and energetic ballet concocted by John Cranko on Shakespeare´s "The Taming of the Shrew" (Domenico Scarlatti sonatas much altered by Kurt-Heinz Stolze). Both have the humor and command of their body to solve the pirouettes of their amorous duel. They come from the Stuttgart Ballet, ruled by Cranko for decades until his early death. The Paris Opera Ballet sent the Pas de Deux from Nureyev´s vision of Prokofiev´s "Cinderella" danced by Laura Hecquet and Mathieu Ganio. They are accomplished dancers but –dare I say it- I found the choreography rather pale, and the music sounded harsh in a bad recording, when it is in fact very poetic. Ending both parts, Ferri and Cornejo did two contrasting pieces. "Rhapsody" is an Ashton ballet on Rachmaninov´s "Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini"; we saw a solo by Cornejo showing his splendid technique (he is First Dancer at the American Ballet Theatre) and then a duet with Ferri, in which the 53-year-old ballerina showed the same remarkable resilience of Fonteyn or Plisetskaya at similar ages. Finally, "Le Parc", on Mozart´s marvelous Adagio from Piano concerto Nº 23, is Angelin Preljocaj´s body contact duet, almost without formal steps, culminating in a kiss in which Ferri girated wildly until she seemed to be flying. Her plasticity and expressiveness found an ideal partner in Cornejo. For Buenos Aires Herald

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

August 7

Jordi Savall: We three risk-takers changed the sound of music

From an interview with Jordi in Platea magazine: I was part of a group of artists who decided to take risks. And thanks to that, today, a variety of music has been recognized and has become part of the classical repertoire. This may have been possible because, at one point, someone like Leohardt decided he had to play with a harpsichord and not a piano; or someone like Harnoncourt who decided he would direct certain repertoire in a particular way. And I decided I would play the viola da gamba as I thought it should be played. I think I’ve been very consistent in my life and my way of making music. I started making music with Gustav Leonhardt when he created La Petite Bande, playing baroque repertoire with Anner Bylsma and Sigiswald Kuijken. I was in the creation of The English Concert, with Trevor Pinnock and Stephen Preston and I travelled every week from Basel to London to play with them. It was Nikolaus Harnoncourt who recommended me to substitute my teacher at the School Cantorum in Basel, in the subjects of chamber music and viola da gamba. It was a period in which each of us, in our own way, contributed to learn that music is not only important for what it means within the story but also has a value for what it can provide today.

Tribuna musical

July 12

“Contemporary night”, a quartet of dissimilar ballets

In recent seasons the Colón Ballet offered varied Contemporary Trilogies, changing them each year. This time what we have is a quartet: two premières commissioned by the Colón to Argentine choreographers, and two famous works by established choreographers which hadn´t been seen at our great house. The results were uneven but sufficiently valid to justify the evening. And all four were very different from each other. The start wasn´t very enticing. "Amor, el miedo desaparecerá" ("Love, fear will disappear") is the work of Walter Cammertoni, who hails from Córdoba and has created "Consecuencias" for Maximiliano Guerra´s Ballet del Mercosur. Paradoxically what interested me was the music: Johann Sebastian Bach´s great Chaconne for solo violin (closing Partita Nº2) heard fragmentarily in its original form, in the cello adaptation by Robert Bockmühl, in the flashily Romantic Busoni piano transcription, and briefly at the end in Stokowski´s full orchestra version. But the dancing steps were morose and grey, too literally like the choreographer´s description: "a lost man, downtrodden and trampled, who also wounds and abandons". Although at the end there was an imaginative suggestion of raindrops in the stage design of Santiago Pérez, the cold impression was accentuated by Renata Schussheim´s costumes. Roberto Traferri´s lighting gave the requisite contrasts. Thirteen dancers from the Resident Ballet and five from the Art Institute did their best to give some life to a very static piece. Constanza Macras lives in Berlin since 1995; in 2003 she founded with dramaturgist Carmen Mehnert the company of dance theatre Constanza Macras/Dorky Park, combining dance, spoken text, video and live music, on such subjects as segregation or globalisation. She follows those guidelines in "Bosque de Espejos" ("Mirrors Wood"): in it reflexions on the human body by Michel Foucault are said by aged dancers; the music contrasts Lieder by Berg and Webern (admirably done by Carla Filipcic Holm and Fernando Pérez) with choral music by Purcell and Bach (a good chamber choir directed by Ulises Maino and accompanied by organist Ezequiel Fautario). Norma Molina and Ricardo Ale, veteran resident dancers, enact scenes from "Giselle" and "Romeo and Juliet" both dealing with death. Along with two younger soloists (Carla Vincelli and Alejandro Parente) an ample group of 21 dancers do complex psychological steps that seem to combine Merce Cunningham´s influence with classical ballet. Macras has brought along her production team: stage designs by Laura Gamberg, meaningful costumes by Allie Saunders and expert lighting by Sergio Pessanha. Macras is creative and audacious; even if one doesn´t always like the results, there´s a sensitive mind at work. Nacho Duato has had a distinguished career: after early experience in London, Brussels, New York, Stockholm and Holland with great choreographers, he was named in 1990 Artistic Director of the Compañía Nacional de Danza at Madrid and stayed there until 2007; during that period he came to Buenos Aires with his company twenty years ago, and presented at the Teatro San Martín among other things "Por vos muero" ("I die for you"), a beautiful Neoclassic ballet based on texts of Garcilaso de la Vega and with a fine selection of old Spanish music interpreted by Jordi Savall´s group. Guerra asked Duato´s permission to revive the ballet at the Colón, and Duato tells in the hand programme that he is very excited to present one of his works for the first time at the Colón; he even praises the rehearsals, so I suppose that Catharine Habasque and Kim McCarthy have been faithful to the original in this revival. Done with much style and precision by eleven dancers, with lovely music very adequate for dancing, fine stage design by Duato and costumes by Duato and Ismael Aznar (I liked the ones for women but found the bare-legged men contradictory with the refined ambience otherwise present), plus skillful lighting by Nicolás Fischtel, this was for me the best part of the evening. The voice of Miguel Bosé communicated the moving verses of De la Vega admirably. William Forsythe is considered in Europe an important choreographer; he was for twenty years at the head of the Frankfurt Ballet, and when it closed, he formed The Forsythe Company. Somehow his work was never seen at the Colón until now, when his most famous piece was premièred; it has a strange title, "In the middle, somewhat elevated", and it was commissioned by Nureyev for the Paris Opera in 1987. Frankly, I won´t mince words: I hated the music of his long-time collaborator Thom Willems, a continuous electronic clangor in strong but unvaried rhythm. Kathryn Bennetts was in charge of this revival; she says: "this work extends, prolongs and pushes classical technique...It is the most abstract and innovative choreography of its time". The girls dance in points but with expansive, athletic postures, and the men must certainly be in fine shape to cope with the material. Costumes and lighting are by the choreographer . Nine dancers impressed with their display of agility and coordination. Although the Colón Ballet is in dire need of institutional reform, it certainly has very capable artists. But due to the lack of competitions, right now there´s only one prima ballerina (no male counterpart), three official soloists (including Silvina Perillo, who danced her goodbye two years ago), and all the rest have no recognised rank, although as you read the names you find all those that dance main roles ... For Buenos Aires Herald

On An Overgrown Path

June 25

We reap what we sow

'... the EU Commission has been dysfunctional throughout the process and unfit for purpose. What needs to be done to make these time-servers democratically accountable?' - Slipped Disc: 31/5/2016 'This EU press release has just landed. It’s an instant fudge that admits no error and patches over the recent chaos. An appalling piece of misgovernance from start to finish' - ibid: 1/6/2016Those are just two of the public attacks made by Norman Lebrecht on the EU during his coverage of the recent European Union Youth Orchestra funding crisis. It is bad enough that this is the same 'cultural commentator' who tweeted yesterday that "Turkey just voted for Christmas" and "All things considered, we're screwed". But what is worse is that none of classical music's great and good have the balls to disassociate themselves from Lebrecht's cynical opportunism. Readers will know that I am passionately pro-inclusivity, and it goes without saying I believe that the UK EU referendum arrived at the wrong decision. But we need to understand that the 'leave' vote was not just prompted by misguided views on immigration. It was also also an understandable but wrong-headed rejection of the cynical opportunism of our politicians and other opinion formers. Krishnamurti told us that leaders destroy followers and followers destroy leaders. Unless we stop behaving like sheep and following without question David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Norman Lebrecht and others, all things considered, we're screwed Much solace during difficult times has come from Alia Vox's reissue of Jordi Savall's interpretation of the Eroica Symphony. The performance by the early instrument Le Concert des Nations was captured during an all-night session in 1994, and in remastered SACD sound it blazes even more passionately than in the original release. It's current relevance is enhanced by Beethoven's redaction of its dedication to a contemporary leader. No review samples involved in this post. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

Jordi Savall

Jordi Savall (1941) is a Spanish Catalan viol player, conductor and composer. He has been one of the major figures in the field of early music since the 1970s, largely responsible for bringing the viol back to life on the stage. His characteristic repertory ranges from Medieval to Renaissance and Baroque music, though he has occasionally ventured into the classical or even the romantic period.

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