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Lang Lang

Monday, March 27, 2017


Classical iconoclast

March 15

Hanns Eisler Deutsche Sinfonie : Anti Fascist Cantata

Classical iconoclast On Sunday, Fabio Luisi conducts Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem at the Barbican. Why "A" German Requiem as opposed to "the" or just plain "German Requiem" ? Lots of reasons. An opportune time to consider another "German Requiem", Hanns Eisler's Deutsche Sinfonie  an Anti-Fascist Cantata", effectively a Requiem for Germany 1933-45 and thereafter, a work which developed in gestation throughout the period, completed only in 1957.  A conventional Requiem would have been out of them question, considering the Holocaust, and in any case Eisler was agnostic. "I wanted", he wrote "to convey grief without sentimentality", and (to express) struggle without the use of militaristic music" Eisler's Deutsches Sinfonie is elegaic, even heroic, but muted. The Präludium sets the mood. Long string lines, rising slowly upwards.  Like smoke "Auferstanden aus Ruinen", though the national anthem of the DDR is, understandably, more upbeat.  Not many national anthems are wreitten by composers like Eisler.  From this haze, hushed voices emerge "O Deutschland, blieche Mutter, wie bist du besudelt mit dem Blut deiner besten Söhne!"  Eisler works in a quote from the Internationale, so the piece connects the defeat of the Nazis and the establishment of the East German state, so the reference to Auferstanden aus Ruinen is quite appropriate and possibly ironic. Though he was unshakeably a Communist, Eisler's individualism and modern tastes in music didn't necessarily endear him to the more conservative forces in the regime. The mood changes again with the Passacaglia, slippery, wayward woodwinds defying heavy staccato.The text is Bertolt Brecht, An die Kämpfer in den Konzentrationslagern : the "fighters" in the concentration camps, being socialists, dissidents, Jews, gays, and anyone who fell  foul of the Reich.  Like the woodwinds, the alto lines moves in quirky dance-like angles until the choir joins in with more affirmative confidence. The timpani blast, the choir becomes hushed, but the soloist returns, the winds and brass "marching" alongside.  The Étude for orchestra is marvellously compressed - dizzyingly angular lines, interspersed by scurrying, marching figures, trumpets blasting single chords : jazz age militarism, madly awry but deftly orchestrated. Woodwinds dash ahead of the tumult. Use your imagination and "see" street fighters battling forces of oppression. Muffled drumstrokes and a funereal march, from which the solo baritone's voice rises, . The song Zu Potsdam, unter der Eichern describes men are carrying a coffin down the tree lined streets of Potsdam, the soul of Prussia. The cross is decorated with oak leaves, commemorating those fallen in Verdun. It's a political demonstration, the protestors seeking a future "fit for heroes" so the police barge in,smashing things up.  A short, ironic ditty, and bitter.  After the truly haunting Zu  Potsdam, Sonnenberg, where male and female soloists alternate, is relatively straightforward, though the orchestra  screams protest.  Perhaps we need to catch our breath between Zu Potsdam and the Intermezzo which follows. Like the Étude,this section is highly condensed, long, shifting lines, intercut with sprightly passages which thrust the music forward to an eerily quite resolution. For the time being, that is. An ominous bass voice introduces the Burial of the Trouble-maker in a zinc coffin.This is a mini cantata, where the bass interacts with soprano, chorus and orchestra.  Who is sealed inside the box  ? "Wer sich solidarisch erklcrt mit allen Unterdrückten, der soll von nun an bis in die Ewigkeit in das Zink komen wie dieser da, als ein Hertzer und verschart werden".  The "Millionmassen der Arbeit" who agitate for change and are suppressed.  As in the Hollywood Liederbook, Eisler writes cantata with cantata. The Bauernkantata here comprises four individual songs, three of which seem fairly standard "proletarian" in that a bass sings about peasants and peasant revolt.  But Eisler throws a curveball The third song isn't a song so much as an occluded mystery with spoken voices whispering scraps of text in hurried snatches.  "Die Regierung will niht, dass es bekannt wird, es Leute gibt, die den Krieg bekämpfen". (The Government doesn't want it know that there are people who oppose the war)   What do we make of this, partiyularly in conjution with the politically safe farmer songs ? The Bauernkantata is followed by the Arbeiterkantatea, a much more cohesive song which runs more than twice as long as the four songs of the Bauernkanata.  Further contrasts : written for soprano, baritone, choir, spoken voices and orchestra, the song is a sophisticated "art" work with a complex structure.  The text (also Brecht) is interesting because it incorporates shifting ideas. Who is the "Class Enemy"  here?   The protagonist or protagonists have obediently gone to war  followed orders and welcomed in the new regime.  The generals names change, but the system hasn't  Is a classless society possible if struggle is part of the system. "Da mag euer Anstreicher dtreichen, diesen Riss streicht er uns nicht zu " (when there are cracks innthe foundations of a building, a housepainter ie Hitler, cant paint them over) So how do we interpret the Allegro, the longest and most complex of the three orchestral commentaries ? Again, long planes of sound, searching and probing, wildly independent woodwind figures darting agilely ahead, defying the drums, rising about massed strings.  And the brief epigrammatiuc Epilog , where the pure,clean voice of the soprano sings as if  in a void, her words echoing those in the Präludium.  The children (of Germany) have been freed "vom eingefrornen Tank" Suddenly the chorus and orchestra interject "Warm them !" Eisler's Deutcshe Sinfonie op 50 is a panorama, with multiple images and allusions, covering an extended time span. A bit like a collage in an art film. Eisler is sometimes written off because his politics made him aware that music should communicate, but he didn't compromise his artistic integrity   Like the Hollywood Liederbook, the Deutsche Sinfonie is immensely rewarding.  There are several recordings on the market.  The ones to go for are Lothar Zagrosek with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig on Decca, recorded 1995 with a particularly wonderful Zu Potsdam with Matthias Goerne, easily the best Eisler singer in the business now.   Max Pommer with the Rundfunks Sinfonie Orchester Berrlin, 1987, on Berlin Classics, where Rosemarie Lang is the alto. Adolf  Fritz Guhl  with the Rundfunks Sinfonie Orchester Leipzig from 1964 which isn't available anymore. I own it but it's stored away in a cupboard I can't reach. Sound quality a bit rough.

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

March 23

Sicklist: Lang Lang cancels Elbphilharmonie

It’s the first time any artist has cancelled on Hamburg’s new concert hall. But they have found a luxury replacement for flu-stricken Lang Lang this Saturday. Igor Levit steps in.




ArtsJournal: music

March 1

Program Associate - Arts & Cultural Heritage

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (“Foundation”) is a not-for-profit, grantmaking organization that seeks to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies. It makes grants in five core program areas (higher education and scholarship in the humanities; arts and cultural heritage; diversity; scholarly communications; and international higher education and strategic projects). The Foundation seeks a Program Associate in the Arts and Cultural Heritage Program (ACH). Summary:The position reports to the program officer with responsibility for Art History, Conservation, and Museums, and requires close collaboration with the senior program officer, program officer with responsibility for the Performing Arts, ACH program staff, and other Foundation staff, particularly with grant management associates in the General Counsel’s office. The work is detail-oriented and requires accuracy, the ability to anticipate outcomes, multi-tasking, flexibility, efficiency, patience, and discretion. Position Details: Responsibilities may include, but will not be limited to the following: Actively participate in the formulation of new proposals for funding, including advising grantees in preparation and revision of the narrative and financial components of proposals. Monitor grantee performance, including careful review of all reports, financial information, and other communication with directors and primary investigators. Execute related follow up. Work with program assistants on routine grant management, including modifications, extensions, matching payments, etc. Assist with drafting of quarterly dockets of grant recommendations and special reports to the Trustees and senior staff. Participate in meetings with current and potential grantees; take notes and maintain notes and files on grant and potential grant activities. Represent the Foundation at public meetings and conferences as assigned. Attend periodic program and administrative staff meetings. Contribute to the maintenance of electronic and paper files pertaining to all program activity. Undertake research in connection with current and new initiatives. Conduct occasional site visits and attend concerts, shows, and exhibitions or installations at grantee and non-grantee institutions, as directed by supervisors and as appropriate to the program’s mission and priorities. Help plan and coordinate arrangements for on- and off-site meetings. Assist Foundation staff with updating or drafting website copy. Respond to general inquiries, requests for information, and unsolicited requests for funding. Qualifications: A Master’s degree in a humanities discipline, preferably art history, plus a minimum of two years of experience working in an academic humanities department or cultural institution. Preference will be given to candidates with an art history degree and/or museum experience. The position is not suitable for PhD’s. Demonstrated knowledge of organizational practices and field-wide trends in arts and cultural heritage. Strong experience in financial analysis and program administration. Facility with survey design and complex data analysis a plus. Fluency with aspects of the ACH program’s strategic priorities beyond core area of expertise. Superior communication skills including writing, editing, and interpersonal skills. Excellent analytic, critical thinking, and organizational skills with a precise attention to detail. Experience working both independently and collaboratively in a high-volume and fast-paced environment to complete assignments on regular deadlines. Ability to anticipate and solve problems proactively. Indefatigable work ethic with an adaptable temperament, curiosity, and a good sense of humor. A high degree of competency in the MS Office suite, particularly Excel and Word. Experience with Sharepoint or other asset management system preferred. Commitment to promoting and maintaining a collegial, collaborative work environment. The Foundation is an equal opportunity employer that offers a competitive salary, outstanding benefits, and excellent working conditions. Qualified candidates should carefully review the Mellon Foundation’s website and the Arts and Cultural Heritage program’s strategic priorities, which may be found at www.mellon.org . Candidates should apply by submitting a thoughtful cover letter describing fit for the position together with a resume at:https://workforcenow.adp.com/jobs/apply/posting.html?client=theandreww&jobId=44087&lang=en_US&source=CC3 We will consider each response carefully, but contact only those individuals we feel are most qualified for the position.



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