Today's Classical Music Video

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Louis Langrée to Head Cincinnati Symphony

 The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra announced this week that its new music director would be Louis Langrée. Langrée continues to head the Camerata Salzburg and the Mostly Mozart summer festival in New York. He will assume his new position for the 2013-14 season. Langrée succeeds Paavo Järv,i who left the orchestra after ten years and is now the music director of the Orchestre de Paris. Langrée is well-known for his Mozart but is at home with a wide repertoire. In this video he leads the Orchestre national de Lyon in the second movement from Brahms' Symphony No. 1. Paul E. Robinson

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jeremy Denk Plays Ives

Here is Jeremy Denk performing "The Alcotts" from Charles Ives' Concord Sonata. This is the movement with the quotation from the Beethoven Fifth. It is amusing and clever but it also shows Ives' fertile and eclectic imagination at work.

American pianist Jeremy Denk has emerged recently as a fine soloist and chamber music player but he is also attracting a lot of attention for his writing. On the music side his latest recording is a collaboration with Joshua Bell called "French Impressions" (Sony). And coming soon is a Nonesuch CD devoted to music by Beethoven and Ligeti.

Denk writes a blog ( that is both extremely personal and amazingly analytical about himself, life and music. His latest blog entry (April 23) is typically unsettling. It is ostensibly about attending an all-Schubert recital by Mitsuko Uchida but that is only a prism for the day's events. And who can resist a blog that begins like this:

          After the day of manic joy and sunshine and desire, the last thing I wanted was to go into Carnegie Hall
          with all the Schubert and the syphilis and death.

Paul E. Robinson

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Monday, April 23, 2012

In Memoriam: Veriano Luchetti (March 12 1939 - April 23 2012)

It was reported earlier today (April 23) that Italian tenor Veriano Luchetti had passed away in his home in Rome at the age of 73.  A fine lirico-spinto tenor with a robust and vibrant sound, Luchetti made his operatic debut as Alfredo in La traviata at the Wexford Festival in 1965.  He subsequently sang in many of the world's most important opera houses, including Rome, Naples, Florence, Palermo, Verona, Milan, Munich, Chicago, San Francisco, Paris, London, Vienna and New York. Luchetti made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Rodolfo in 1977.  His appearances in Canada were few, the most notable was when he came with La Scala on tour to the Vancouver Expo 86 in Verdi's I Lombardi.  Luchetti was celebrated for his roles in the operas of Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Berlioz, Spontini, Gounod and Meyerbeer. He sang under the baton of many famous conductors including Riccardo Muti, Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Carlos Kleiber, Georg Solti, Seiji Ozawa, and Wolfgang Sawallisch.  Overshadowed by Pavarotti and Domingo throughout his career, Luchetti recorded relatively little, his most important legacy includes two excellent studio recordings of Verdi Requiem, one with Muti on EMI, and one with Solti on RCA. After his retirement, Luchetti was a noted teacher and he was involved in the music festival in Riva del Garda in Italy.  To remember Veriano Luchetti, here is a complete performance of the Verdi Requiem from Amsterdam, dated 1976. Other soloists are soprano Ileana Cotrubas, mezzo Julia Hamari, and bass Ruggero Raimondi, under the baton of Riccardo Muti. 

Joseph K. So


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jaap van Zweden Talks About New Season in Dallas

I recently sat down with Dallas Symphony conductor Jaap van Zweden to discuss his plans for the new season, 2012-2013. Among the highlights: performances of Britten's A War Requiem, Wagner's Die Walkuere Act I, and Mahler's Symphony No. 6. This last work will also be featured on the orchestra's forthcoming European tour.

In discussing the Wagner it became clear that Van Zweden wants to spend more of his time conducting opera. In early May this year in Dallas he'll be leading performances of Beethoven's Fidelio and he hopes to do more opera in concert with the DSO. 

I also asked him about his new appointment to head the Hong Kong Philharmonic. Here again, the chance to do more opera was part of the attraction. Jaap van Zweden conducting a Ring cycle in a new opera house in Hong Kong would draw fans and critics from all over the world.

Breaking News: This week Challenge Records is releasing a new recording of Britten's A War Requiem conducted by Jaap van Zweden. The recording was made with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic May, 2011.

Paul E. Robinson

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Franz-Paul Decker Conducts Shostakovich

Franz-Paul Decker was to have conducted the Montreal Symphony this week in a program featuring Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony. Decker was the orchestra's music director from 1967-75. Unfortunately, Decker was forced to cancel his appearance due to ill health. At the age of 88 - he will be 89 in June - he may be the oldest conductor alive still appearing with major orchestras. Decker has had a long and illustrious career, much of it in Canada. In addition to his association with the Montreal Symphony he has been artistic advisor of the Calgary Philharmonic (1975-77) and the Winnipeg Symphony (1980-82), and principal guest conductor of the National Arts Centre Orchestra (1991-99). At various times he has also been music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the New Zealand Symphony and the Barcelona Symphony. In the video we see him conducting the Orquestra Ciutat de Barcelona (Barcelona Symphony) in a movement from the Symphony No. 6 by Shostakovich. The performance was recorded in 1989. Paul E. Robinson

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Catherine Malfitano Sings Salome's Final Scene

On Wednesday April 18, American soprano Catherine Malfitano turns 64. One of the most remarkable singing actors of our time, Malfitano combines dramatic intensity with an expressive voice that never fails to move the listener. She began as a high lyric soprano - I recall seeing her in a 1984 Metropolitan Opera production of The Tales of Hoffmann where she sang all three heroines. A daring thing for such a young singer! Other roles that I remember hearing her sing include Juliette, Servilia, Daphne (in concert at Roy Thomson Hall in the mid 80s), Butterfly, Salome, Kostelnicka, and this last one at the English National Opera in 2006, very close to the end of her singing days. Through it all, she impressed me with her searing drama and committed vocalism. Ms. Malfitano is currently in Toronto directing the double-bill of Zemlinsky's Florentine Tragedy and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. We can expect her personal stamp of dramatic acuity in these two shows. Here is an outstanding performance of Malfitano in the final scene from Salome, one of her most acclaimed roles. It was taped in Covent Garden 15 years ago. - Joseph K. So

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bychkov Conducts Walton

I have said it many times but I will say it again: the Berlin Philharmonic is not only a great orchestra but it produces the best video performances of its work. The video quality is HD and the audio quality is on the same level. Unfortunately, you will only find excerpts - teasers, if you will - of its concerts on youTube. You can have the complete performances and complete concerts only by subscription. But if you want to have a terrific live symphonic performance in your own living room every week it is well worth the money.

This is one of the more offbeat performances from earlier this season. The Walton Symphony No. 1 does not get many performances anywhere these days and to see it turn up in Berlin and not be conducted by Simon Rattle is unusual. Rattle is the orchestra's music director and a champion of British music but the conductor on this occasion was Semyon Bychkov. But who is complaining when the performance is so good? Don't miss the moment when the two timpanists cut loose.

Paul E. Robinson

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Van Zweden Discusses the St. Matthew Passion

In Dallas recently Jaap van Zweden conducted a series of performances of Bach's St. Matthew Passion. The performance I attended was extraordinary. For my detailed comments see my blog elsewhere on the LSM website.

I sat down with Maestro van Zweden the day after the performance and we talked about his approach to this great masterpiece. My own experience with the St. Matthew Passion goes back to the annual performances conducted by Sir Ernest MacMillan in Toronto in the 1950s. That was a different time. But in spite of the rather Victorian approach the essence of the work always came through when Sir Ernest conducted. It also helped that he had soloists of the calibre of Lois Marshall, Maureen Forrester, Jon Vickers and James Milligan and the fine Mendelssohn Choir.

Jaap van Zweden also grew up in a country where the St. Matthew Passion was often an annual event. Again, the performances tended to be more grandiose and romantic than they ought to have been. But during his long tenure as concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Jaap van Zweden came under the influence of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Harnoncourt was a pioneer in trying to discover the authentic performance practice for the music of Bach. For a long time major conductors ridiculed the early music specialists and many of them came to avoid Bach altogether for fear of seeming to be ill-informed and old-fashioned. Others, like Simon Rattle, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Jaap van Zweden took a different approach. Such conductors are born with the attitude that there is always more to learn. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work. They did their homework and started performing this great old music with a fresh and more informed approach, and the results have often been wonderful.

— Paul E. Robinson

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sondra Radvanovsky Sings Bolero from I vespri Siciliani

This Wednesday (April 11), soprano Sondra Radvanovsky is the soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.  She also turns 43 on Wednesday!  Radvanovsky is considered the foremost Verdi soprano of our time, and for good reason.  The voice is huge and powerful, with a gorgeous timbre, great legato, long breath-line, all backed by a fabulous technique. A singer of intelligence and discerning taste, Radvanovsky excels not just in Verdi but all the Bel Canto operas of Bellini and Donizetti.  In the two performances with the TSO (April 11 and 14), Radvanovsky is singing "Merce, dilette amiche" otherwise known as the Bolero, from Verdi's I vespri Siciliani.  When I interviewed her two years ago, she said Elena is one of her most favourite roles, and she throws in the sustained high E at the end of the Bolero, as in the audio clip here.  The other piece on the TSO program is Tatiana's Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin.  Well known Italian conductor Gianandrea Noseda is at the helm.  This is a concert not to be missed!

Joseph K. So

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Music for Easter

Music for the season by J.S. Bach. The aria "Erbarme dich" (Have mercy, my God, for the sake of my tears) from the St. Matthew Passion. This performance was given in 2008 by the ensemble known as Les Siècles directed by François-Xavier Roth. The contralto soloist is Delphine Galou and the violinist is François-Marie Drieux.

Next week I will have an interview with conductor Jaap van Zweden about the St. Matthew Passion, and a review of the performance he conducted recently in Dallas.

Paul E. Robinson

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Gergiev Talks About Tchaikovsky

Beyond any doubt Valery Gergiev is the foremost Russian conductor of his generation. He divides his time now primarily between two orchestras: the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra of St. Petersburg and the London Symphony. But he is a man perpetually in motion. His schedule shows that he is conducting a different concert or opera nearly every day. Visit his website at  for the details. How does he keep on top of so much music? Critics would say that he doesn't. It is simply not possible for one man to do so much. And yet, his performances are invariably excting and memorable.

In Tchaikovsky's music he is an acknowledged master. He has conducted all of Tchaikovsky's orchestral music and all of the operas too. In this video we see him conducting excerpts from several of the symphonies, concluding with the finale from the Symphony No. 3.

Paul E. Robinson

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill's "Surabaya Johnny"

Today (April 3) marked the death of German composer sixty two years ago in 1950.  Quite by chance, one of the greatest interpreters of Weill's music, Ute Lemper, is in town this week (Wednesday April 4)  to give a concert at Koerner Hall.  Joining her is the Vogler Quartet and Stefan Malzew. In addition to Weill, she is also singing songs by Hans Eisler, Erwin Schulhoff, Edith Piaf, and Astor Piazolla, among others.  I understand the concert is already sold out, but do check with the box office as there may be returns. To remember Kurt Weill and to mark the return to Toronto of Ute Lemper, here is the rendition of her incomparable "Surabaya Johnny" from Weill's Happy End.

Joseph K. So

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