I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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Devastating and dark Pathétique from Gergiev and the Mariinsky on tour in Brussels

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: The Tale of Tsar Saltan, Suite, Op. 57
Igor Stravinsky: Symphony in C
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony no. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 “Pathétique”
Mariinsky Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 18 November 2018

Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky forces have been frequent guests in Brussels over the last 25 years: quite an extraordinary feat in itself, if you think about it. Several visits were memorable events, yet this all-Russian programme ranks as one of the finest I heard them perform in a long time and easily tops my list of favourite concerts this year. An absolutely thrilling journey with privileged guides, encompassing the mysterious fantasy world of Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky’s neoclassical outings as well as Tchaikovsky’s crushing emotional outpourings. Familiar repertoire it may be, but it emerged here with astonishing freshness and impact, reconfirming that old cliché that it takes Russians to play their own music.

Read the full review on Bachtrack.


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Scandale

Francesco Tristano: A Soft Shell Groove
Igor Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakoff: The Story of the Kalendar Prince from “Scheherazade”
Maurice Ravel: La Valse

Alice Sara Ott & Francesco Tristano, piano
Deutsche Grammophon 4793541 DDD TT 61:56

Scandale from Ott and Tristano

Scandale from Ott and Tristano

The “Scandale” popping up in pink font on the cover of this CD refers to the 1913 premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring in Paris, performed here in the composer’s version for piano duet. Never mind that the scandal – adroitly masterminded by impresario Sergei Diaghilev – had in fact more to do with Vaslav Nijinsky’s unconventional choreography than with Stravinsky’s music – the score survived unscathed, yet Nijinsky’s choreography was never seen again, until its resurrection in 1987 for the Joffrey Ballet. Pianists Alice Sara Ott and Francesco Tristano team up in what primarily looks like an homage to the visionary genius of Diaghilev and an extraordinary group of creative artists, who caused a hundred years ago with the Ballets Russes a shockwave in the arts world – one that clearly still ripples on.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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The Chicago Symphony in Paris

Felix Mendelssohn: Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op. 27
Claude Debussy: La Mer
Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: Symphony #4 in F minor, Op. 36

Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: The Tempest, Op. 18
Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird, Suite #2 (1919)
Robert Schumann: Symphony #3 in E-Flat Major, Op. 97 “Rhenish”

Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti
Paris, Salle Pleyel, 25-26 October 2014

Riccardo Muti

Riccardo Muti (© Todd Rosenberg)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) under their Music Director Riccardo Muti finished two magnificent concerts at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. Part of a European tour that took the orchestra from Poland to Austria, by way of Luxemburg, Switzerland and France, these Paris concerts were easily some of the most rewarding classical music acts I attended this year. The choice of repertoire was agreeable, but it was the outstanding quality of the CSO as well as Muti’s vision which caused most satisfaction.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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The Rite of Spring 100 Years Young

Maurice Ravel: La Valse
Claude Debussy: La Mer
Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 15 May 2013

There is no way to escape it: on May 29 it will be exactly a hundred years ago that Igor Stravinsky’s seminal Rite of Spring was premiered in Paris, as part of the famous Ballets Russes seasons masterminded by Serge Diaghilev. While the fascination of dance-makers with the work has never diminished since its notorious creation at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées – very few scores have been so frequently choreographed throughout the years or triggered man’s boundless imagination – the centenary promises plenty of concerts and music-related events commemorating the Rite. For that matter, one of the most original renditions were to be found at London’s Royal Festival Hall where the complete Rite could be heard whistled in the lavatories – courtesy of Joao Penalva.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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A Stop at Beethoven in a Music Marathon

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto #1; Piano Concerto #3
Igor Stravinsky: Concerto for String Orchestra in D Major; Octet for Wind Instruments

Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Leif Ove Andsnes
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 21 November 2012

Anyone who still considers classical music elitist or inaccessible, should have a go at the Music Marathon organized by the Bozar, aka Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. In the space of just one week, November 18 through 24, Bozar is hosting a non-stop succession of big names. Cecilia Bartoli, René Jacobs, Nelson Freire, Leif Ove Andsnes, Alice Sara Ott, and Antonio Pappano appear with prestigious orchestras in celebrated works such as Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Beethoven’s Piano Concertos. And to make it even more attractive the program includes introductions, meet-and-greet opportunities, a video screening, and public rehearsals, all adding up to a thoroughly complete musical experience.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Buniatishvili in Paris

Franz Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor, Mephisto Waltz #1
Frédéric Chopin: Scherzi #1, 2 & 3
Igor Stravinsky: Three Movements from Petrushka

Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
Paris, Cité de la Musique, 5 January 2012

While most pianists would conclude their recital with the Sonata from Franz Liszt, Khatia Buniatishvili, at the Cité de la Musique in Paris, choose to open with it. She is a fearless performer. Focused and intense – this mysterious sotto voce opening seems even more daunting when it has to form the first sound to resonate in the hall – she is sure to grab your attention from the very first bars and never really let go. You may first notice the speed, the vehemence, the electrifying energy, the occasional risk-taking, too, but pretty soon she also wins you over with her thorough control of sound and color (in spite of a none too flattering instrument provided by the Cité de la Musique), her unerring ability to really nail the key notes during the hardest passages, her dramatic presentation and the utterly romantic sweep that kicks Liszt back to life. In any case, Khatia Buniatishvili doesn’t take any prisoners, but I guess most in the audience would have been willing to give their lives. She possesses the freedom to shape this music at will, yet the good news is she has a clear idea of how to use that freedom and while she may occasionally throw in a few flashes to reinforce the message, musicality prevails over empty rhetoric and circus display.
Read the full review on Classical Net