Showing posts with label Mahler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mahler. Show all posts

Friday, November 18, 2016

You want it darker?

Listening to Christoph Prégardien singing Lieder by Mahler, Schubert and Schumann the other night at the Wimbledon International Music Festival, I couldn't help wondering if that's where Leonard Cohen got it from. The journey to the darkest regions of the human heart dates not from today's finest singer-songwriters, perhaps not even from Mahler, but from the 1820s. Schubert's settings of Heinrich Heine in his last song cycle, Schwanengesang, are a strong contender for the title of bleakest, most nihilistic music in history, should we ever need to present such an accolade. Their intense pain is only increased by their beauty - and by the craftsmanship by which Schubert is able to kick our guts out with the upward step of one semitone in 'Der Doppelgänger'.

Christoph Prégardien. Photo: Medici.tv
There's something almost masochistic about a really good Lieder recital. We're put through the crushing emotions of lost love, of longing for death, of self-imposed suicidal isolation, and the more it hurts, the better the singer is presenting it. We're put through an emotional mangle and sometimes we weep. And the more of that there is, the more likely we are to offer him/her a standing ovation at the end. Because actually we come out feeling better.

Is that because it's over? Nope. It's good, old-fashioned, Greek catharsis. We have the chance, listening to these songs, to go into the secret, suppressed chambers of our own hearts and concentrate on feeling, unimpeded, the emotions we might not want to let out otherwise. It hurts, but it's an experience, a meditation and a release.

The fact that Christoph Prégardien was singing in Wimbledon at all is quite a triumph for the WIMF, whose programming these days wouldn't disgrace a festival three times its weight in the centre of some gorgeous European capital, rather than suburban south-west London, where we all go wombling free (even Alfred Brendel, who lives north of the river, was in the audience for this one). Prégardien's artistry is streamlined, focused, essential: with beauty of tenor tone absolutely intact - he is 60 - diction impeccable, emotions of text and tone fused and explored to the last degree, he is the consummate Lieder singer. His partnership with the excellent pianist Sholto Kynoch matched all of that. He brought splendour, agony and ecstasy to Mahler's Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen first; bitterness, irony and a heady intelligence to Schumann's Dichterliebe in the second half; and those Schubert Heine settings in between are still alive and reverberating with wonder and horror somewhere in my subconscious several days on. You want it darker? Try Schubert.

Incidentally, the artistic director of the WIMF, Anthony Wilkinson, has for some years been spearheading an effort to get a world-class concert hall built in Wimbledon; and at the moment, he tells me, things are progressing quite well. More power to his elbow.

The festival continues with a feast of great music-making until 27 November: Christian Tetzlaff in solo Bach and Bartók, Tabea Zimmermann and Dénes Várjon, Michael Collins, Raphael Wallfisch, a Klezmer night with Balkan Voices, the Tetzlaff Quartet, the Bach Christmas Oratorio and more. Wimbledon is a short train ride from Waterloo, or take the southbound District Line to the end.

Friday, August 05, 2011

COMETH THE HOUR, COMETH THE DUDE



Here is my exclusive interview with Gustavo Dudamel for today's Independent - the interview that most of the music business said I'd never get in a blue moon.

"I think we have to make everyone understand that it's important to have a future for the people. It's important to give the best level of art, the best level of culture and the best level of music to ALL the people, not only to one part of the community. This is the message of El Sistema..." 

He and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra are at the Proms tonight doing Mahler's Second Symphony. "Resurrection is happening every day," he says. "It's the resurrection of hope."


Remember my Fred & Ginger clip the other day? This is what it was all about... "They laughed at me, wanting The Dude, said I was reaching for the moon...But ah, he came through - now they'll have to change their tune..." 


Here's what happened last time they came to the Proms. You've seen it before. See it again. If you can't get to the show tonight, it's live on BBC Radio 3 as usual and on TV tomorrow.