I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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Buniatishvili in London

Jean Sibelius: Karelia Suite
Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
Antonin Dvorak: Symphony #7 in D minor, Op. 70

Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
London, Royal Festival Hall, 7 April 2013

At first glance, the concert of the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Paavo Järvi at the London Royal Festival Hall on April 7 couldn’t have been further removed from the “blazing originality” label that the orchestra’s 2012/13 cycle at the Southbank Centre brandishes on its posters and programs. Sibelius’ Karelia Suite, Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony seem rather safe Sunday matinee fare instead. Yet with an electrifying Khatia Buniatishvili bringing insight and character to the Grieg, with an inspired maestro and above all a Philharmonia in tremendous doing, the concert was nothing short of revelatory.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Loud, louder, loudest

Jean Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela (from Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22/2)
Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto, Op. 16
Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: Symphony #5, Op. 64

Alice Sara Ott, piano
National Orchestra of Belgium/Stefan Blunier
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 23 November 2012

In the Meet & Greet that preceded the performance, Swiss-born conductor Stefan Blunier pointed out how difficult it is to start a concert with Sibelius’ Swan of Tuonela. That was unfortunately proven true in this concert with the National Orchestra of Belgium on the next to the last day of the Brussels Bozar Marathon Week. The program was dubbed “Strong musical stories”. Strong they may have been, but the stories sounded surprisingly similar in Blunier’s hands. Leading a massive orchestra for Sibelius’ Swan, Blunier opted for a slow pace but remained more analytical than atmospheric and allowed far too outspoken contrasts and brusque interruptions of orchestral sections (especially brass and bass drum). The cor anglais made a commendable contribution but he was too prominent as if it was his concerto and a swifter tempo would have saved him from some uncomfortable moments. The violins, massed to the left, sounded rather cold, yet the lower strings created an impressive sonority.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Southern Fire Against Nordic Cool

Benjamin Britten: Simple Symphony
Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
Jean Sibelius: Symphony #1 in E minor, Op. 39

Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Munich, Philharmonie im Gasteig, 28 April 2012

The German city of Munich boasts no less than three symphony orchestras of international stature. Next to the Bavarian State Orchestra (the former Bavarian Court Orchestra, now the opera ensemble) and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, it is however the Munich Philharmonic which is considered the true city orchestra. Founded in 1893, in recent times the Munich Philharmonic became mainly associated with Sergiu Celibidache, who was its influential general Music Director from 1979 until his death in 1996, and whose memory remains to this day very much alive – the legendary Romanian maestro even has a (smallish) square named after him next to the concert hall. As of 2012/13 Lorin Maazel will act as the orchestra’s Music Director.
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Gergiev Reunited with Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw

Henri Dutilleux: Métaboles
Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47
Sergei Prokofieff: Symphony #5 in B Flat Major, Op. 100

Leonidas Kavakos, violin
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, March 18, 2012

For being one of the world’s most sought-after conductors whose budding career moreover got a serious boost in the Netherlands back in the late 1980s with among others televised concerts, Valery Gergiev hasn’t been seen much at the helm of the country’s most illustrious ensemble, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He got firm ground in Rotterdam, crowned by an annual “Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival”, but Amsterdam has reportedly always been a love/hate affair. The short tour this March with a program of 20th-century music and concerts in Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels reunited the Russian maestro with the Concertgebouw Orchestra after a break of more than 15 years.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Inspired Programming from Salonen and the Philharmonia

Jean Sibelius: Symphonic Fantasy “Pohjola’s Daughter”
Esa-Pekka Salonen: Violin Concerto
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony #7

Leila Josefowicz, violin
Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen
Brussels, Center for Fine Arts, March 6, 2012

As part of the European Galas series hosted by the Center for Fine Arts in Brussels and the Flanders Festival, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London under its current music director Esa-Pekka Salonen brought a remarkable evening, covering no less than two centuries of music. Starting with Jean Sibelius’ rarely heard Pohjola’s Daughter from 1906, they fast-forwarded us to 2009 with Salonen’s own Violin Concerto, before bringing us back to 1813 with the Beethoven Seventh. And although these compositions might as well have originated on different planets, rhythmic drive is a prominent feature in all three. By juxtaposing Beethoven with contemporary music, Salonen replicates his “Beethoven Unbound” project from 2005/06 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Inspired concert programming like this is all too rarely found, and it’s still most welcome.
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Alice Sara Ott at the BBC Proms

Jean Sibelius: Symphony #6 in D minor, Op. 104
Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
Carl Nielsen: Symphony #4 “Inextinguishable”

Alice Sara Ott, piano
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
BBC Proms – London, Royal Albert Hall, 8 August 2011

The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic under their chief conductor Sakari Oramo brought a delectable all-Scandinavian program for the 33rd installment of this year’s BBC Proms. Two rarely played works, Jean Sibelius’ 6th Symphony and Carl Nielsen’s 4th Symphony, framed Edvard Grieg’s ever-popular Piano Concerto. The soloist in the concerto was Alice Sara Ott in her Proms debut.
Read the full review on Classical Net