I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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Superb Dvořák 7 from Blomstedt and Vienna Philharmonic in Brussels

Franz Berwald, Symphony No. 3 in C Major “Sinfonie Singulière”
Antonin Dvořák: Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert Blomstedt
Brussels, Center for Fine Arts, 25 September 2018

This concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Herbert Blomstedt was part of several events in Brussels focusing on Austrian culture and coinciding with the Austrian presidency of the Council of the European Union. Incidentally, we weren’t treated to an all-Austrian programme, but rather to the current opener of the Viennese subscription concerts which combines a rarity from Swedish composer Franz Berwald and a well-known symphony from Antonin Dvořák, the magnificent Seventh. The Brussels Centre for Fine Arts (Bozar) was transformed into a tiny turf of Austrian Heimat for the occasion by the presence of its most illustrious cultural ambassador on stage, a large number of Austrian patrons attending, and even the unavoidable Mozartkugeln distributed in the interval.

Read the full review on Bachtrack.


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Radiant Vilde Frang opens Antwerp season

Ludwig van Beethoven, Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Antonín Dvořák, Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, “From the New World,” Op. 95

Vilde Frang, violin
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Robin Ticciati
Antwerp, Queen Elisabeth Hall, 9 September 2018

While not exactly a model of risky or unconventional programming, this season opener did include a rare visit by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, an orchestra with a rich pedigree, and had two of the most in-demand young artists of the day – British conductor Robin Ticciati and Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang – sharing the bill.

Read the full review on Bachtrack.


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Alice Sara Ott and Edo de Waart bring magnificent Mozart and Dvořák to Antwerp

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 13 in C Major, KV 415 (KV 387b)
Antonin Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95, “From the New World”

Alica Sara Ott, piano
Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, Edo de Waart
Antwerp, Elisabeth Center, 19 May 2018

The Antwerp Symphony Orchestra (ASO, formerly known as the deFilharmonie or the Royal Flemish Philharmonic) is a superb formation, one of the finest in the country. The quality of this ensemble was undeniable in an utterly delightful Mozart and Dvořák matinee concert in Antwerp’s Queen Elisabeth Hall under the ASO’s Conductor Laureate, Dutch maestro Edo de Waart. The presence of Alice Sara Ott as soloist was icing on the cake.

Read the full review on Bachtrack


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The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Brussels

Richard Wagner: Tristan and Isolde – Prelude and Liebestod
Ingvar Lidholm: Poesis
Antonín Dvořák: Symphony #9 in E minor “From the New World”, Op. 95

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Herbert Blomstedt
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 22 January 2016

This concert of Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) at the Brussels Center for Fine Arts marked the inauguration of the Dutch presidency of the Council of the European Union. A feisty event, attended by both the Dutch and Belgian royal couples and a host of excellencies – which accounted for an impossibly 30 minutes late start, but also proved for a city still in the throes of terrorist activity aimed at our way of life, that things can be normal after all.

And what better way is there to escape from grim-visaged reality than a concert with great music that sublimates our cultural achievements? The RCO was conducted by the veteran Swedish maestro Herbert Blomstedt. At 88 years and 7 months Blomstedt is, incidentally, the oldest guest conductor in the history of the orchestra, even surpassing the legendary Pierre Monteux who was “only” 88 and 4 months. Not that anybody would have been aware of this, because the vivid and impish personality of the Swede totally belied his age just as much as his music making. Conducting without a baton, and for most of the concert, from memory, Blomstedt offered a finely contrasting program with two popular works, Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and Dvořák’s “From the New World”, framing a modern rarity (although “modern” here is already well over 50 years old too) Poesis from the Swedish composer Ingvar Lidholm (b. 1921).

From the opening Tristan it became clear that while Blomstedt would treat us generously to the beauty of the RCO – and he knows more than anybody to use that beauty in a constructive way – he would also keep everything solidly under control. One can imagine a more emotional Wagner, or indeed a more immediately dramatic one, yet Blomstedt capitalized fully on the silken strings and the mellow woodwinds of the RCO to let the lyricism of Tristan speak with unforced eloquence in some breathtaking crescendos.

While the orchestra was being rearranged, Blomstedt undeterred by the presence of royalty, picked up a microphone and introduced, in an often hilarious manner – vocal imitations and his familiar reference to mushrooms haphazardly growing in the forest and all – Ingvar Lidholm’s piece Poesis. Composed for the 50th anniversary of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic in 1963 and premiered by Blomstedt the following year, its experimental and seemingly chaotic modernity stood in stark contrast to the melodious, organized world of the preceding Wagner. Poesis remains a striking 20-minute sonic exploration, with startling crescendos and virtuosic solos, often challenging the orchestra to extremes and creating sound in unconventional ways, like dropping the lid prop of the piano or rustling sandpaper. Blomstedt clearly adores the work and just as in Tristan he was able to inspire the RCO musicians to sound their best. In the end, Poesis was a great deal of fun, with in particular superb solo passages from piano (Jeroen Bal), double bass and percussion.

Dvořák’s Ninth received an elegant but powerful, and often stunningly beautiful reading. Tempi were well-judged throughout, dynamics were controlled, yet if there was an emotion that Blomstedt was willing to share it seems to have been one of joy. I don’t recall hearing such an optimistic, sunny reading of the opening Allegro molto with lightly sprung rhythms, delicate textures and deft phrasing. Even the Largo, swiftly but attractively played, didn’t linger too much on melancholy or longing. This was mostly happy Dvořák, the “New World” symphony as a masterful continuation of In Nature’s Realm, admiring nature in all its richness of color and tones. The closing movement, with irresistible drive, was a logical culmination of joy. And how many times can you hear such a tight ensemble, such well-judged orchestral balance and transparency, and such colorful instrumentalists? The RCO brass, particularly the horns, were simply glorious.

The audience greeted orchestra and conductor with a well-deserved standing ovation. Blomstedt offered a Slavonic dance in return, naturally one of the most lifting ones, the fast Op. 46/1 in C Major. The RCO is a fabulous orchestra as Blomstedt was readily reminding us. He sent us home with a big smile, and what more can one ask, even if deep down we realized that this orchestra has even more in store than we were given tonight.

Copyright © 2016, Marc Haegeman

First published on Classical Net  (http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/haegeman/20160122-brussels-rco-blomstedt.php)


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The Sound of Bohemia

Bedřich Smetana: Moldau (Vltava) from “Ma Vlast”
Antonín Dvořák: Symphony #9 in E minor “From the New World”, Op. 95
Leoš Janáček: Sinfonietta

Anima Eterna Brugge/Jos van Immerseel
Bruges, Concertgebouw, 13 March 2015

Jos van Immerseel and Anima Eterna Brugge have long since gone beyond exploring the Baroque and Classical eras. Their “historically aware” performances from the last fifteen years now range from Monteverdi to Gershwin. Based on the use and implementation of historically accurate instruments and performance techniques, as well as extensive and critical archival research, their projects have often warranted a fascinating, at times revelatory rediscovery of familiar scores. Their current “Sound of Bohemia” heard at a concert in Bruges focuses on the three most significant Czech composers – Smetana, Dvořák and Janáček – and covers a time span of roughly fifty years. All three are presented with one of their most popular works: The Moldau (1874), the Ninth Symphony “From the New World” (1893), and the Sinfonietta (1926).
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Gallic finesse and Georgian fire

César Franck: Sonata for Violin & Piano in A Major
Edvard Grieg: Sonata for Violin & Piano #3 in C minor, Op. 45
Antonín Dvořák: Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75b

Renaud Capuçon, violin
Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
Erato 08256-462501 DDD 66:20

Renaud Capuçon and Khatia Buniatishvili

Renaud Capuçon and Khatia Buniatishvili play romantic chamber music

French violinist Renaud Capuçon and Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili have been frequent partners in chamber music concerts. Their complementing temperaments – Gallic finesse and Georgian fire – have proven an exhilarating blend, while the charisma and winning stage presence of these brilliantly talented young artists evidently add to the fascination. In their debut disc as a duo for the resurrected Erato label they team up for an attractive program containing three romantic chamber music pieces of various origin, remarkably all written within the same time span 1886-1887.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Dvořák in Hungarian mode

Antonín Dvořák:
Slavonic Dance, Op. 72 #8
Concerto for Cello in B minor, Op. 104
Legend, Op. 59 #10
Symphony #8, Op. 88

Slavonic Dances, Op. 72 #1,2
Concerto for Piano in G minor, Op. 33
Legend, Op. 59 #6
Symphony #9 “From the New World”, Op. 95

Daniel Müller-Schott, cello
Stephen Hough, piano
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
Bruges, Concertgebouw, 22-23 May 2014

Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer

Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer

Whoever considers classical music concerts a dull affair should give the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their music director Iván Fischer a try. The Hungarians guarantee not only music-making of the highest order, they also present it in a surprise package full of spirit and fun. When they opened their small Dvořák festival in Bruges with the ravishing 8th Slavonic Dance from the Op. 72 set, nobody could have guessed who the man was, sitting somewhat awkwardly on the soloist podium to the left of the conductor. He was a member of the orchestra alright, but it was only after a couple of minutes, when he took a small bell out of his pocket, we realized he was the percussionist. Not without some theatricality he ticked it a dozen of times as if it was the greatest solo part ever. It was a funny touch that set the congenial tone for the rest of the evening.
Read the full review on Classical Net