Today's Classical Music Video

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jansons Resigns from the Royal Concertgebouw

This past week Mariss Jansons, 71, announced his resignation from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, effective at the end of next season. Jansons has been the chief conductor of the RCO since 2004, and only the 6th chief conductor of this great orchestra in its long and illustrious history.

Jansons has had major health problems since at least 1996 when he suffered a serious heart attack. In recent years he has cut back his long distance travel and limited his conducting to just a handful of orchestras, all of them in Europe.

Jansons was born in Latvia but grew up in St. Petersburg (formerly called Leningrad). His father, Arvid Jansons was assistant conductor to Mravinsky with the Leningrad Philharmonic. Mariss Jansons still uses St. Petersburg as his home base although he rarely does any conducting there.

At various times in the course of his career Mariss Jansons has been chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic and the Pittsburg Symphony.

Jansons is currently the music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony in Munich and after leaving the RCO he will retain that position.

In the video Jansons conducts the final part of Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Paul E. Robinson

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Peter Sellars discusses Bach's St. Matthew Passion

For Easter Week 2014 what better time to discuss Bach's St. Matthew Passion. In recent years conductor Simon Rattle and director Peter Sellars have collaborated on performances of both the St. Matthew and the St. John Passions of Bach. What makes these performances fresh and original is the placement of the performers on stage and the interaction between them. Sellars and Rattle see these works as much more than oratorios but something less than operas. Whatever else one can say about them, it is clear that they are dramatic works. Purists will say that the drama is in the music and that movement is both unnecessary and against Bach's conception. Each listener will have to make up his or her mind about this.

There is no question, however, that Peter Sellars has an inquiring mind and a vivid imagination. In this conversation Peter Sellars is joined by Simon Halsey, the conductor of the Berlin Radio Chorus which also took part in these performances. They are sitting in the home of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Philharmonie. If you are interested in seeing the performances themselves they are available - for a fee - from the BPO's website,

Paul E. Robinson

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Van Zweden Gets a Call From the VPO

Last year Jaap van Zweden got a call from the Berlin Philharmonic to fill in for an ailing conductor. He did and made his debut with the BPO to great acclaim. And just last week, van Zweden got a call from another prestigious orchestra. This time it was the Vienna Philharmonic, and another conductor (Gustavo Dudamel) had fallen ill. Van Zweden made his debut with the VPO April 6 conducting the Bruckner Symphony No. 8.

For several years now van Zweden has been a favorite guest conductor with the Chicago Symphony. In June this year he will lead three weeks of concerts devoted to the music of Britten, Shostakovich and Prokofiev.

But before that he will preside over a Beethoven Festival with one of his own orchestras, the Dallas Symphony.

Jaap van Zweden is a very busy man these days and a large chunk of his time is devoted to his other orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic. Just last month he led the HPO on an extensive tour of China with Simone Lamsma as soloist in the Beethoven Violin Concerto.

Lamsma is one of van Zweden's favorite soloists and they have often worked together. Our video this week features van Zweden and Lamsma in an excerpt from the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1. The orchestra is the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. The concert was given in Utrecht on October 30, 2009.

For more on Lamsma visit her website at

Paul E. Robinson