Ryan McKinny, Amfortas in the new Bayreuth production, has authorised Slipped Disc to publish his insights on the troubling opera.

berlin parsifal2

Why We Need Parsifal

by Ryan McKinny

Durch Mitleid wissend. Through compassion, understanding. This phrase has been in my ear for the last six weeks, as I prepare to sing the role of Amfortas in Richard Wagner’s Parsifal in the opera house it was composed for, the Bayreuther Festspielhaus. That phrase keeps sticking with me. So much of our world seems to be in chaos. Anger and suffering fill our screens, and we are told time and again that if we just hate the right person, or group of people, we can destroy them and our own suffering will cease. No compassion or understanding required, only dogma. Of course, as a bone fide anti-semite and misogynist, Wagner himself peddled that same solution. Klingsor, like other antagonists in Wagners operas is projected as “other” and therefore evil. And Kundry, the only main character who is female, is forced into the age-old trope that women brought evil itself into the world.

But Wagner’s music tells a different story, despite his worst intentions. I’ve always felt that somehow Wagner himself struggled to understand his own music, often trying to shoehorn it into his world view. He seemed to be battling his demons through his libretti. The music itself, however, refuses to be so small. Klingsor’s music, like that of Alberich in the Ring, another character defined by his otherness, has an incredible sympathy inside it, and it creates a character full of humanity, both good and bad. The music tells us that while Klingsor may be the source of other characters suffering, he himself suffers. Kundrys music portrays the pain of womanhood from the beginning of time; sometimes as mother, sometimes as lover and always as a human being. You cannot help but empathize with her through her music. And when I hear the searing prelude to Parsifal, I feel as if the music connects me not only to all the other people in the room, but to all the people that have ever existed or ever will exist. All the joy and suffering of humanity distilled into sound. Beyond words.

I frequently feel distressed that this art form is too often reserved for the wealthy and powerful. But in this case, I think the wealthy and powerful are maybe the ones that need to hear this music the most. Those who struggle with war and poverty on a daily basis are no strangers to suffering, while those of us experiencing music-theater in Bayreuth are some of the most privileged people in this world. We, who spend our days on the Green Hill this summer, are in a unique position to shape the world we live in. I hope this music reaches us. I hope we can feel compassion for our own suffering, for Amfortas’ suffering, for the suffering of the world. And through that compassion, gain some understanding.

ryan mckinny


(c) Ryan McKinny

Amazingly, tonight’s opening of Peter Stein’s production of La Damnation de Faust is the first time any work of Hector Berlioz has been staged at the Bolshoi.

Tugan Sokhiev conducts.

peter stein tugan sokhiev
Director and conductor at work


In a pre-festival interview in which she says nothing at all, the Bayreuth boss gives the strongest indication yet that the trouble this summer was between two conductors – Nelsons and Thielemann.

Bisher bat Andris Nelsons nur um Vertragsauflösung für 2016. Es gab ja sehr viele Spekulationen in der Öffentlichkeit. Herr Nelsons und ich haben eine Abmachung, dass wir die Gründe nicht kommentieren. Ich möchte aber betonen, dass Andris Nelsons und ich persönlich absolut im Guten zueinander stehen.

She adds that in conflicts between artists, the buck stops at her desk.

Full interview here.


katharina wagner thielemann

He has given up being music director of two of the best in western Europe, in Frankfurt and Paris.

Now Paavo Järvi is turning his Estonian Festival Orchestra into a permanent fixture.

paavo jarvi estonian

From the hyperbolic press release:


The Estonian Festival Orchestra was founded by Paavo Järvi in 2011 and made its debut at the newly inaugurated Pärnu Music Festival as the resident summer orchestra on the Baltic coast. From these small beginnings both the festival and orchestra have grown in reputation and are now beginning to make a name for themselves on the international scene.

The long dreamed-of ambition by Järvi to create a hand-picked orchestra, bringing together the best of Estonian talent and leading musicians from around the world, has resulted in performances at the Pärnu Music Festival… “An important component in creating the orchestra was to “match-make” the players in a professional way but within the festival atmosphere”says Järvi. “If you are a young player in Estonia, it doesn’t matter how good you are, its hard to make contact with a top player in the west. Now we can give these young musicians the advantage to both play with top colleagues from around Europe and get to know them as new friends. This spirit is what drives the orchestra and makes me particularly proud as it’s father figure.”

Until now the Estonian Festival Orchestra has performed only in Pärnu but in August 2017 it will make its first tour performing in neighbouring countries around the Baltic coast and at Scandinavia’s most prominent festivals. In January 2018 the orchestra will then spread its wings further afield with concerts already planned in the major European capitals, including Brussels, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich and Luxembourg. This tour, which also celebrates the 100th anniversary of Estonian Independence, will include a new orchestral work by Estonian composer, Erkki-Sven Tüür, which will receive its international premiere in Brussels on 18 January 2018.

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

Mozart had a little boy, born four months before he died. Salieri recommended that the kid, Franx Xaver, should stick with the family trade and become a travelling pianist and composer. Trading on the Mozart name, F.-X. made a living in places like Lemberg (Lviv), Salzburg and Karlsbad (Karlovivary)….

There’s a rare and rather good recording out of two of his piano concertos. Read on here.

Or here.


And here.


Built as a gift from China, it will stage orchestral and traditional dance performances.

But no opera. Not even L’Italiana in Algeri.

The state religion is Islam.

algeria opera

Anthea Kreston, American violinist in the Artemis Quartet, takes us every week behind the scenes of her transition from smalltown America to Weltstadt Berlin, from quiet to hectic, from piano trio to string quartet. Here’s her latest instalment.

I have finally had a “boring” week. Well – not boring for me, actually, but nothing spectacularly strange, upsetting, or life-changing has happened – which has bizarrely become de rigueur for me these past 5 months. We spent three magical days in Venice with the girls, had a very long and exhausting train trip back to Berlin, and have been alternately lounging around and taking care of an endless “to do” list in Berlin – from finalizing our car purchase to having our bikes repaired.

At times in these past 5 months I have had such busy weeks that I wrote extra diary entries. I just write on my phone, in “notepad” and have a handful of entries that I never submitted. Unless something miraculous happens between now (1 am on Friday morning) and breakfast, I will now bore you completely with an old text that I sent to the quartet in early April after a rehearsal of the second movement of Beethoven Op. 59 #1.

My Possibly Insane Thoughts on Beethoven Second Movement

Beethoven thoughts, second movement.

I have the same general thought as our Mozart – pick clearer characters, have a more solid tempo and less teeny fancy finesse things (or keep them but make sure they are incorporated into the line – sometimes they distract and have a little “side show” and then I am lost in terms of character).

I would like to have a more solid tempo and more solid piano sound, and make sure the melody takes total control (example 39-49 and 275-85).  Could we make m 27 snappier with the 32nd note (same in similar places later)

And here goes – can we make a plan for our pp sounds and separate the character of these?  There are (I think) 4 pp character places and a handful of “specialty” pp’s. Stay with me here – unless you think (possibly correctly) that I am totally insane.

– Clean and straight-forward, contrast 1 note melodies with melodies that have lots of character and some shape (1-12,68-87,304-319,420-442 (has pp nestled))

– Most stagnant – sustain line and long notes (54-58,290-294)

– Softest of the entire movement and fuzzy (62-8,298-303)

– No-nonsense, just clear and rhythmic and just a passing motive (99-101,151-3,335-7,390-2)

– Specialty” pp – 177-83, beautiful and airy, 213-30 – enjoy the shapes and interplay, 454-end final miniature dance

The result of this text was positive – and also led to our first “quartet fight”.  They asked me to lead them through a rehearsal and explain the notes, which I did. Strong words were exchanged.  I don’t like conflict, and was a bit shaken after, but they all reassured me – we must speak our minds – we can’t hold anything back. This is the only way we can find a group truth. Hold nothing back and we will become stronger. I don’t quite have the swing of this yet, but I am working on it.


artemis quartet2

N.B. This diary has been so good for me – I never anticipated liking a weekly writing assignment, or in fact being any good at it (I wish now that I had taken a writing course somewhere along the line).  I really like writing – I can’t believe that something like this has become such an important part of my life, something I am proud of, and something that helps me process my week – which can often be filled with overwhelming events. And – I am always surprised when people come to me after concerts and tell me that they read this. I don’t even want to know about that – the only way this can work is being able to block out any feelings of having to please others, or to be “good enough” at it.

Bellini’s Norma at the Edinburgh Festival is priced at £140 for best seats, down to ‘very restricted view’ at £60.

The lowest category of all is ‘no view.’ The EIF wants £30 for those.

What’s the Gaelic for chutzpah?

edinburgh festival

The pianist Fazil Say, who has been pursued through the courts by the Erdogan government for his outspoken atheism, has landed a major deal.

He’ll be recording Mozart sonatas for Warner, a conglomerate that owns his very earliest releases on Teldec.

Release below.


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Renowned pianist and composer Fazıl Say has signed a new recording contract with Warner Classics.  A household name in his native Turkey, Say has been hailed internationally not only as “a pianist of genius”, but as “one of the greatest artists of the 21st century” (Le Figaro). The signing sees Say return to the Warner roster some 18 years after he made his first acclaimed recordings for the Teldec label in 1998 – from Mozart and Bach to Stravinsky, alongside his own contemporary piano masterpiece, Black Earth.

“Fazıl Say is one of the greatest pianists of our era; he is also renowned composer whose unique style creates a scintillating blend of classical and jazz influences,” said Alain Lanceron, President of Warner Classics and Erato. “This is above all an artist engaged in the world around him; a humanist who never stops championing freedom of expression. To see him return to his original label family, with inspired recording projects that will captivate his loyal fans and new listeners alike, is for us a source of great pride.”

Fazıl Say adds: “I’m very happy to be once again a part of Warner. Warner Music launched my recording career twenty years ago when I was a Teldec artist. We now have this wonderful opportunity to record Mozart, as well as future projects ranging from Chopin to Satie, to my own music as a composer.”

Say renews his partnership with Warner Classics with a milestone project particularly dear to him: the completeMozart Piano Sonatas cycle, for release in September as a 6-CD boxed set and via digital/streaming platforms.


Dmitri the clown, who brought colour to the Festival’s youth programme, died on Wednesday night, aged 80.


dmitri the clown

Classicalmusicnews.ru reports the death, at 79, of Leonid Kononovich Blok, an unsung hero of Russian music.

He was regular accompanist to the leading Russian violinists and professor of chamber music at the Maimonides State Classical Academy.

His father, Conon, was cellist of the Gliere Quartet and principal cello of the Moscow Philharmonic.


Helga Rabl-Stadler, president of the Salzburg Festival since 1995, has applied for another term and says she’s good for a century.

Helga, who is 68, steadied the ship after the turbulent Mortier era.

Her family run Austria’s media. Her father was long-serving intendant of the national broadcaster ORF. Her husband was editor of the mass daily Kurier. When Helga runs for renewal in Salzburg she will probably do so unopposed.

helga rabl-stadler