Friday, August 26, 2016
Osvaldo Lamborghini´s "El fiord" invites polemics, for its whole text is a pornographic-scatological indictment of Argentine politics as they were in 1968, the year of the Cordobazo. César Aira and Alan Pauls defend him, others attack him. He is called a "poeta maldito" ("damned poet") but I hardly feel that he bears comparison with such illustrious specimens as Lautréamont ("Les chants de Maldoror"), Baudelaire´s marvelous "Les fleurs du mal" or Rimbaud´s fantasies. Their texts reflect decadent societies with dystopic views of reality though with beautiful literary language, never having recourse to the lowest possible level of words reflecting sex and bodily functions. Lamborghini isn´t earthy or picaresque as Rabelais or Boccaccio, he is simply dirty. There´s no eroticism in what he does nor is he crude and gross in the manner of "revista" comedians. What he does may be novel but not valid: corporize political ideas in chaotic and Surrealistic dialogues and gestures of an absolutely constant porno-scatological pouring out. You get easily saturated for you soon find out that it leads nowhere. Both Osvaldo and Leónidas (brothers) were writers and peronistas, but Leónidas never went to the extremes of his brother although being frankly militant. Militant writing can be good, witness the Weill-Brecht collaboration in "Grandeur and decadence of the City of Mahagonny", an attack on Capitalism of real quality and coherence. But both this and "El Fiord" end with people filling the stage with placards in which we read completely contradictory things, in both cases showing the tremendous confusion of society. It is one of the few salvageable things of Lamborghini´s opus. You can also think of it as predicting the disastrous way of Argentina to state terrorism. Said Osvaldo: "on March 24, 1976, I became mad, homosexual, marxist, drug addict and alcoholic". Those are the words that auto-describe one of the characters, Atilio Tancredo Vacán, one of the products of Carla Greta Terón, a vast woman that is always being made pregnant and giving birth. Everything is led (sort of) by El Loco Rodríguez, a ludicrous tyrant whose ideological line is quite unclear, seconded by the yells of the frantic leftist Alicia Fafó. And the Narrator is also a character who eventually is harassed by El Loco. But there´s a fantasmagoric "Woman of the Fiord" who is according to the Narrator the ghost of his dead wife (twice) and dead mother (once); these ghosts seem to evoke better times. Eventually El Loco gets his comeuppance and the others literally eat him up, not forgetting his most important part, the testicles. One hears all sorts of political references, some understandable, many others cryptic. But even in Surrealistic terms, all you have is chaos. One parallel can be made, Alfred Jarry´s "Ubu Roi", but there the cruel, absurd tyrant is deeply parodied, and Penderecki´s opera on the subject (seen at the Colón) was quite interesting. What led Diego Tedesco (composer) and Nacho Bartolone (libretto) to believe that O.L.´s material was viable as an opera I don´t know, but I feel they were wrong and that an institution like the Colón (through the CETC) can´t support such a text; Miguel Galperin, the CETC´s Director, has crossed a line, for nothing so dirty has been seen in opera. It´s true that the Colón is having a very permissive bent in what is staged at the big hall, certainly a bad trend, but this is too much at least for me. Paradoxically, producer Silvio Lang was good, in the sense that it is a vivid imaging of the text´s madness. He opted for stressed grotesque in gestures, costumes and lighting, abetted by Leonardo Ceolin (stage design), Endi Ruiz (costumes and art direction) and David Seldes (lighting). Everything was brutal, visceral, with touches of crazy humor. Colorful, with fast action. There are only two singing parts: El Loco, baritone (who also talks) and the Woman of the Fiord (soprano). The others are actors. The gigantic figure of Víctor Torres is cconvincing for El Loco, and of course he sang well. And Johanna Pizani produced pure, high notes. Of the actors I would single out the Narrator, Hernán Franco, who has intensity and adequate diction. The others almost constantly yell lustily, well, that´s what director Lang instructed them to do. MusicaQuantica Voces de Cámara are nine voices led by Camilo Santostefano; they don´t participate in the action and are placed in opposed rows near the audience. They sang moody music very well. The Ensemble Bracelet was led with good control by Juan Martín Miceli; the eight members play different instruments, providing timbric variety in music that mostly seems relegated by the stage outrages. I have to record that the very "décontracté" audience seemed to enjoy the stage meal provided; maybe they have good training in alternative theatres where the equivalent of the F word in Scorsese´s gangster pictures runs rampant. One thing, though: O.L. has a much wider variety of expletives. For Buenos Aires Herald
Lang Lang is certainly the most mediatic pianist in the world. As you read the biography in the hand programme, you find precious little about music, but plenty of kudos about his influence; and he´s only 32. He played at the 2008 Beijing Olympics for four thousand million people; he collaborated with pop dancer Marquese "Nonstop" Scott, Julio Iglesias and Herbie Hancock. He is a Messenger for Peace of the United Nations and he has his own Lang Lang International Music Foundation with stress on giving children access to good music through education. Steinway even designed the Lang Lang piano for China. He is a staple in presentations before Presidents and is chosen for commemorative concerts such as the one for Queen Elizabeth II´s Diamond Jubilee at Buckingham Palace. He was one of the Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum (a musician!). But no mention is made about his training or his recordings or his early appearances. Lang Lang has been coming regularly during the last decade, so he seems to find the Colón attractive. In this recital of the Abono Verde (Green Subscription Series) the audience was quite varied, for apart from music lovers you had the mediatic seekers. The premices were full and increasingly enthusiastic; by the time the encores were played, the response was almost delirious; and he, as the showman he also is, saluted with charm and signed programmes. It helps that he is personable and very cordial. Now to the music. Lang Lang is realistic and he only squeezes small Chinese pieces in the encores. I have often wondered about the Oriental capacity to adapt to the Occidental world, for it doesn´t work the other way around. From this artist´s teens critics have recognised his amazing dexterity with something of the acrobatic mixed in; well, the best acrobats are Chinese. Apparently he can play faultlessly anything written for the piano, no matter how difficult. That´s the dazzling side, always present. But of course style matters and the success of the interpretation depends on it. In the same piece with Lang Lang you can hear a beguiling passage and seconds later a distorted view of the score, though note-perfect. That has been so in every visit, and there´s no sign that the problem will disappear. Nevertheless, the experience of hearing him is always interesting and worthwhile, and a good many minutes will be of very high rank. His recitals have always brought different programmes and sometimes his choices were intriguing. E.g., being such a virtuoso, why choose an easy Mozart sonata? He can also bring over some beautiful music very rarely heard, as he did this time with Tchaikovsky´s "The seasons". And he can disconcert playing it before, not after, Johann Sebastian Bach´s "Italian Concerto". "The seasons" is a misnomer for what should be called "The months". It was the result of monthly pieces written for a Saint Petersburg music magazine, afterwards edited by Jurgenson as Op.37a (Op.37 is the Great Piano Sonata in G). Beginning of course in January, an intimate piece called "Close to the chimney", each month has different character and title, sometimes brilliant and fast ("Carnival", "The Hunt") but more frequently melodic in the inimitable tchaikovskian way ("Barcarolle", "The lark´s song"). The last two are November ("Troika") and December ("The salon waltz"). In my long years of concert going I had never heard the whole suite in one concert, and Lang Lang is to be thanked for this discovery, though of course there are recordings (Ashkenazy, Bronfman, Pletnev; Ilona Prunyi plays them very nicely). Exciting but exaggerated in the fast ones, Lang Lang showed the subtility of his touch in the melodies, molded delicately and phrased with taste. His memory always seems excellent, you never see or hear a hesitation; you may disagree with some of his decisions, but he never improvises: he is sure of himself at all times. Bach´s marvelous Italian Concerto (called thus although written for one instrument) is of course a staple of the repertoire of harpsichordists (preferable) and pianists. Lang Lang uses the full resources of the modern piano but he doesn´t abuse the pedals and he has the sort of total independence of hands needed to keep the constant counterpoint clear. So, although slightly fast, he kept a steady rhythmic pulse. The four Chopin Scherzi are among his most important creations, wholly his in conception and technique, and equally mature from op.20 to Op.54. They all have a main Presto and a contrasting slow, moody melody. They can be played quite fast but not willfully, such as Orozco, Argerich or Rubinstein did; but Lang Lang suddenly sprints off when he resumes the Presto material at a double-fast clip not asked for by the composer, and the balance deteriorates. The perfection of the playing survives, but not the spirit. However, how lovely and contained were the quiet moments. In two of the encores he was at his worst: a wild, brutal "Fire Dance" from Falla´s "Love the Magician" ("El Amor Brujo") and a disheveled "Danza cubana" by Lecuona.(Listen respectively to Rubinstein and the author to know how they should sound). And in the middle, an inocuous slow Chinese melody, nicely done. Will he change in the future? I bet he won´t. He will remain fascinating and irritating. He likes things his way and that´s that. For Buenos Aires Herald
Based on searches recorded between 28 July and 16 August 2016. 1 David Helfgott – 705 average daily searches 2 Daniel Barenboim – 491 3 Andre Previn – 475 4 Martha Argerich – 414 5 Lang Lang – 397 6 Yuja Wang – 377 7 Philip Willcher (Australian children’s composer and pianist) – 234 8 Valentina Lisitsa – 231 9 Khatia Buniatishvili – 223 10 Evgeny Kissin – 180
Ensemble Signal/Lubman (Harmonia Mundi)“Most people never get the chance to change the world – it is really hard!” This is David Lang writing in the sleeve notes of Ensemble Signal’s new recording, acknowledging the rare predicament faced by fellow American composer Steve Reich: “If you are one of those people who changes the world, what do you do next?” Reich turns 80 in October and Signal’s tribute is a buoyant disc of two fairly recent pieces, both scores full of finesse and detail, both still bobbing to that definitively Reichian thrum that was once so game-changing. Six musicians play against recordings of themselves in the Double Sextet (2007) while snippets of Radiohead songs are woven through Radio Rewrite (2013) – a neat gesture from a composer whose influence on contemporary art rock is inestimable. Conductor Brad Lubman keeps the music lucid and elegant, if rather low-key; you’ll find peppier recordings of both works, but I enjoyed the warm sounds and lack of hysteria here. Continue reading...
“Unlike other musicians whose lives were marked by marital strife, substance abuse and run-ins with the law, Mr. Fountain lived a blissful existence with Beverly Lang Fountain, his wife of 64 years, and a sizable number of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
This is a biography for those with an interest in the composer’s life. He was charismatic and handsome, with many mistresses, and put on a great show. But something is missingLiszt is wonderful and unique, but you would not know it from the hapless subtitle to this study by Oliver Hilmes. A biography of a major cultural figure should not start by sounding like a performing arts undergraduate describing themself on Twitter. And without meaning any disrespect, this must be regarded as an unnecessary book. The weight of biographical commentary on Liszt is simply colossal. People have been writing full-length accounts of him since he was in his early 20s, and touring 1830s Europe. The first biographies written with the declared aim of stripping away accumulated myths appeared within Liszt’s lifetime, and have gone on being published ever since. Besides, in very recent times, he has been the subject of a truly great biography, Alan Walker’s astonishing and gloriously entertaining three-volume study, still in print. Oliver Hilmes wrote a very good life of Liszt’s appalling daughter, Cosima Wagner; I must say that I think his abilities would have been better directed elsewhere.Liszt was not the first touring virtuoso, but he was certainly someone who attracted vast interest due to his good looks, showy abilities and constant powers of reinvention. There is really no modern-day equivalent, though we pretend otherwise, and suggest that someone working in 4/4 in E minor is doing something never attempted before. If you could imagine a combination of Lang Lang’s virtuosity, Justin Timberlake’s mass appeal and Per Nørgård’s sheer confrontational newness, then something of Liszt could be envisaged. But it is impossible: circumstances have changed too much. Continue reading...