In what alternative world could this win Eurovision?

Welcome to the 62nd work in the Slipped Disc/Idagio Beethoven Edition

Variations in F major on Mozart’s ‘Se vuol ballare’ for Violin and Piano WoO 40

The story goes that Beethoven,aged 17, was brought to Mozart’s home in Vienna and told to play something. He struck up Mozart’s C minor concerto, only to be told to perform something of his own. Mozart was impressed, telling his wife Constanze, ‘watch out for that boy, one day he’ll give the world something to talk about.’

Whether that meeting ever happened in 1787 is a matter of conjecture. Beethoven certainly visited Vienna but Mozart was mostly out of town and there is no reliable corroboration of the anecdote. What is certain is that Beethoven knew Mozart’s music and was confident enough when writing his own not to attempt imitation. By the time he returned to Vienna as a young composer in November 1792, Mozart had been dead less than a year and there was a big gap in the pantheon. Beethoven was talked about as a successor but he understood that, to make his name, he needed to be different from Mozart in significant ways.

Knowing Mozart’s music, however, he could not altogether escape its influence, nor did he want to. At key points in his mature output, he references Mozart, consciously or otherwise. The opening of his Eroica symphony, for instance, is strikingly similar to the introductory phrase of Mozart’s little opera Bastien et Bastienne. Compare them here. And here.

A second affinity can be found in the start of the third movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony (here) and the first eight notes of Mozart’s 40th symphony (here). There is also a case to be made that Beethoven’s 3rd piano concerto in C minor draws upon Mozart’s in the same key, the one that Beethoven allegedly started to play at Mozart’s home. Did that experience challenge him to go one better in C minor?

These echoes are extremely interesting without being of lasting significance in our appreciation of Beethoven’s originality. Sure, he quoted from Handel’s Messiah in the Missa Solemnis, but that work could not have been written by anyone other than Beethoven. We know that at an open-air performance of Mozart’s C minor concerto Beethoven said to a pupil, ‘Ah, Cramer, we will never be able to do anything like that.’ Somewhere within that remark one can imagine Beethoven thinking, ‘thank goodness we don’t have to do anything like that.’ Beethoven never saw himself as the next Mozart, only as a completely different kind of composer.

He was unstinting in his appreciation of Mozart’s operas and, in his first months in Vienna in 1792-3, he composed four sets of variations, two on themes from Marriage of Figaro and two from the Magic Flute. Only one of these essays made it into his final catalogue but they have always been popular with audiences.

The ‘Se vuol ballare’ theme from Figaro uses the violin initially as a plucked instrument before the piano changes to a plusher sound. Yehudi Menuhin and Wilhelm Kempff, opposites in almost every human aspect, are aptly matched for cut and thrust in the 12 variations on this 1970 recording. One can almost smell the effort each of them was making to stay polite. Elsewhere, in a fairly thin field, I am also drawn to a 2019 set by James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong, a convincing reflection of a young composer’s respect for a half-resented forbear.

Variations in C major on ‘Là ci darem la mano’ by W. A. Mozart for 2 Oboes and Cor anglais WoO 28

Better known by far is Beethoven’s riff on a Figaro theme delivery boys were whistling in the Vienna streets. The appeal of this piece is so extensive that musicians have often felt free to change the instrumentation. The woodwinds of the Berlin Philharmonic, for instance, deliver a horribly reverential, pedestrian group exercise. Sabine Meyer, her brother and a friend play on two clarinets and a bassethorn, nothing like what Beethoven had in mind but warmer and livelier than the Berliners.

The Frenchman Francois Lelux goes for oboe, clarinet and bassoon, perhaps the most convincing of these renditions. Avoid, at all costs, the London Baroque Ensemble‘s prissy, undernourished take of 1991.

Variations in F major on ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’ by W. A. Mozart for Violoncello and Piano op. 66

There is a veritable cornucopia of high-powered performances on record. Pablo Casals and Rudolf Serkin at Perpignan in 1951, before the cellist had fully established his summer festival at nearby Prades, give an account of great restraint and solemnity, perhaps still shadowed by the recent war. For painful beauty, it’s hard to beat.

Gregor Piatigorsky is always compelling and, with the Lukas Foss at the piano, memorably challenging as well.

Mstislav Rostropovich has Vasso Devetzi as his pianist on a little-known 1974 recording in which the cellist seems more than usually restrained but unfailingly glorious in tone. For demonstration purposes you would want to play János Starker and Rudolf Buchbinder, both pedagogically inclined. My ultimate choice would be Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich, utterly uninhibited and full of the mischief that Mozart first invested in this aria.

Variations in E flat major on ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen’ by W. A. Mozart for Violoncello and Piano WoO 46

This aria sounds as if it started as a nursery rhyme and got lost on the way to the bathroom. Taken literally – as Elly Ney and Ludwig Hoelscher play the score – it is insufferably puerile. Given some air by Alfred Cortot and Casals (1927), it’s a different piece altogether, a gentle rejoicing in the pleasures of love and life itself.

You might find Yo Yo Ma a bit big in this, even with Emanuel Ax at the piano, urging restraint. Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich are inevitably recommendable. But spare a few moments for a 2015 Wigmore Hall recital by Ralph Kirshbaum and Shai Wosner, a performance that brings out the serene informality and semi-privacy of chamber music at its best.


A fantasy illustration from the fanciful meeting

 

The Knights Orchestra has incorporated Paul Simon’s American Tune into the 3rd Bach Brandenburg Concerto, whence it originally came.

 

The press release puts an upbeat spin on a desperately sad piece of distancing:

(INTERLOCHEN, Mich., April 24, 2020)—For the first time in 93 years, young artists from around the world will be able to take part in Interlochen Arts Camp virtually. The 2020 Interlochen Arts Camp will transition to virtual instruction as part of the newly launched Interlochen Online, announced Interlochen Center for the Arts President Trey Devey today. 

 

“After careful evaluation of the projected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to pivot this summer’s Arts Camp to a virtual model,” Devey said. “No words can fully capture our profound sadness and disappointment in the loss of convening on campus, but we are guided by our first priority: ensuring the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, volunteers, guests, and the entire Interlochen community.” 

“Interlochen Online enables us to continue to nurture young artists, expand their creative capacities, and provide them with critically needed inspiration and community during this unprecedented time.” 

Interlochen Online will commence its camp programs with a virtual gathering of students and the Interlochen community the evening of June 28, with classes taking place from June 29 to July 17, 2020 and virtual multidisciplinary performances on July 18 and 19. Programs will be offered in acting, musical theatre, theatre design and production, creative writing, visual arts, dance, filmmaking, classical music performance and composition, music production and engineering, songwriting, jazz performance and improvisation, and general arts for students in grades 2-12. 

Like Interlochen’s traditional Arts Camp, the online camp will feature one-of-a-kind seminars and coaching led by world-class artists and arts leaders including violinist Nicoletta Benedetti, the School of American Ballet’s Craig Hall, television writer and producer Janet Leahy, jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, and many others; private arts instruction as well as collaboration with peers; virtual performances, exhibitions, screenings, and readings by students and faculty; daily “virtual cabin” social activities; synchronous Camp-wide convenings such as “First Gathering,” “Collage,” and “Les Preludes;” and “camp in a box,” materials and supplies which will be sent to students’ homes prior to camp.

You couldn’t make it up:

Los Angeles, CA (April 23, 2020) – Gustavo Dudamel and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic reunite in tonight’s episode of Bravo’s Top Chef, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the LA Phil. In an episode titled “Get Your Phil,” the competing chefs draw inspiration from the orchestra and work in pairs to find harmony between two flavor profiles, culminating in a meal prepared for Dudamel and members of the LA Phil at the downtown L.A. restaurant Otium.

Claron McFadden, from Rochester, NY, got a call today from the Mayor of Amsterdam that she is to be honoured with a knighthood in the order of Orange-Nassau.

 

The Lebrecht Album of the Week is a recital of unknown chamber music by the forgotten Paul Dessau:

Like Bertolt Brecht and Hanns Eisler, and with equal reluctance, Paul Dessau left McCarthyist America in the late 1940s to settle in the austere and oppressive German Democratic Republic. All three men were tainted by having enjoyed life in the capitalist West. Dessau, the least famous, was attacked by party inquisitors and forced to write propaganda hymns in the requisite Socialist Realism style.

In the US, he had been reduced to working on a chicken farm before Brecht brought him to Hollywood, helping him get film score work while playing off his insecurity against Eisler’s in a sadistic game that continued after their return to East Germany…

 

 

Read on here.

And here.

In our fifth week of isolation the following deaths were recorded in the music community:

43 Harpsichord pioneer James Weaver

44 Formidable Russian composer Alexander Vustin (pictured)

45 Jazz bassist Henry Grimes

46 Julia Craik, manager of The Premises rehearsal studios in Hackney

47 Virginia composer Walter Braxton

48 Idaho pianist Kelly Hove

49 Broadway costume designer Jennifer Robin Arnold

50 Philadephia tenor sax Bootsie Barnes

51 LA klezmer singer Alby Kass

52 NY Rapper Fred the Godson, 35

53 Baltimore Symphony cellist Eva F Anderson

54 Bournemouth guitar teacher Terry Cheesman, 62

 

Earlier:

This was week 1.

Week 2

Week 3.

Week 4

English National Opera is planning September performances in the grounds of Alexandra Palace, where the audience will sit in 300 cars and the performers will be safely distanced from one another.

Bicycles and motorbikes will also be admitted.

The first 12 shows will be shortened versions of La Bohème and Magic Flute.

Worth a try, right? It could be an interim solution for Glyndebourne, Grange Park and other summer fests.

Read more here.

Yale student Henry Shapard has been named principal cello of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in Canada.

Henry is 21 and, according to his alma mater, the youngest in the world.

Anyone beat that?

UPDATE: Henry has asked us to state – since the Yale article does not – that he is a pupil at Yale of Ole Akahoshi.

Following the Finnish government’s ban on all sports and cultural events with more than 500 spectators until August at the earliest, the Savonlinna festival shifted its entire programme to the summer of 2021. Valery Gergiev’s concert festivals at Mikkeli has been shelved.

 

Elsewhere, Opernfestspiele Heidenheim, specialising in early Verdi operas, has been called off. Salzburg is looking at ‘alternative strategies’.

Glyndebourne still clings to hope that the second half of its season might be saved.

 

 

 

 

They called him the singers’ friend. He did more for young artists than anyone I can name.

Conductor Zubin Mehta: My eight years with Peter Jonas at the Bavarian State Opera were the artistic culmination of my life. I can never thank him enough for that time.

Conductor Ivor Bolton: For me he was a great boss, mentor and friend. He naturally shone brightly in many people’s lives and his dominant personality was matched by his unfailing kindness and sharp sense of humour.
He was an impressive and successful manager of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra , ENO and the Bayerische Staatsoper where I knew him best . His thirteen brilliant years there live strongly in the memory.
As a manager he knew how to lead by example, diffuse many tense situations, occasionally be formidably tough,tease gently,inspire artists and their collaborators to achieve their best, and still,in a company with thousands of employees, create a strong sense of family and belonging. His vast knowledge not only of music, but also art, literature,film and politics allied to a wonderful gift of being able to express himself with elegance, fluency and precision made for stimulating conversations which I shall always treasure.

Mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly: Deeply sad news. Peter was an incredible force of nature, highly informed, honest and courageous beyond belief. A great soul.

Counter-tenor Christopher Robson: He was so ill in the last year that his death comes as no surprise, but it nevertheless is a shock and leaves a gaping hole in my life. But I rejoice in my memories of him, a man who had an enormous influence on me, who was always loyal to a fault and supportive of me when the going got rough, and who – in my humble opinion – left an unforgettable and unique mark on the world of music and music theatre. Throughout his years at Chicago Symphony, English National Opera and Bavarian State Opera he left a formidable legacy of innovative and ground breaking work, and he genuinely brought opera to “the people” in a big way.

Soprano Nadja Michael: Sir Peter Jonas

My heart is heavy . My mentor – tying me to my beloved Bayerische Staatsoper , challenging me with wonderful parts and bringing me together with my other mentor Zubin Mehta , passed away after 45 years battle against cancer . Always in high spirit and with the most dignity possible . I am so sad that I have no positive words left

Cellist and festival director Jan Vogler: Inspiring role model for all arts administrators, and artists as well.

The first British citizen to direct  major German opera house, Peter was a passionate pan-European. Listen to him: