Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Concerts - best of 2010

Hans Werner Henze started the 2010 concert year off well. The Barbican Total Immersion weekend was well planned, several good concerts incl Elogium Musicum and a non-staged performance of Phaedra which I saw first staged in Berlin. I also enjoyed his ballet Ondine but utterly loathed Elegy for Young Lovers at the Young Vic, the most misguided and self pandering production I have ever seen or heard, anywhere, barring the same director's abortion of Sibelius's Luonnotar. Elegy isn't known in its original form in the UK: now Londoners think it's a TV sitcom. Henze's one of my herores. Check out this site - no fewer than 18 main posts about him.

The Barbican delivered yet again in March with a Wolfgang Rihm Total Immersion. Wonderful music, wonderful man. Henze doesn't really qualify as The Greatest Living German Composer since he lives in and identifies with Italy. So the honours go to Wolfgang Rihm. Much that's written in the US about modern music would be changed if there was greater awareness of what modern music in Europe really is like. Fortunately in the UK, we get plenty of Harrison Birtwistle, and many younger composers like Brian FerneyhoughLuke Bedford. and Simon Holt, all of whom merit several concerts and broadcasts this year - use search label for more. Up and coming, I loved Lloyd Moore's Diabolus in musica.

And then, Aldeburgh, the hippest and liveliest creative festival in the UK. With Pierre-Laurent Aimard at the helm, it attracts the best and brightest from Europe and the US but it's completely muisunderstood by the UK mainstream media, who don't even know enough about Benjamin Britten to know what Aldeburgh meant to him and what it stands for. No other site covers Aldeburgh as much as I do, so take time to explore this site. ABSOLUTE highlight this year was Pierre Boulez. Concert with Ensemble Intercontemporain, who played their hearts out, relishing the buzzy but relaxed  Aldeburgh atmosphere. Aimard and Boulez chatted informally, winning over an audience many of whom had come to hear Bach. 

This year's Proms started with a huge celebratory bang, but there were many other solid highlights, such as the Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker's mega symphony of Schoenberg, Webern and Berg, Metzmacher's DSO Berlin Mahler 7. Well balanced and good value. Although this is Mahler year, all but a very few Mahler concerts (Rattle, Berlin, Abbado Lucerne, Salonen South Bank) have been extremely disappointing. The "new" chocolate coated Mahler may have mass appeal but it make take another 50 years to reverse. Tchaikovsky still hasn't recovered.

Schumann, on the other hand, has benefited from the publicity. All his symphonies were played at the Proms, and in a stimulating way. Recitals, too, have been uniformly good. But if there's one single concert that will live in  my memory it will be Matthias Goerne's second Wigmore Hall recital. This is what Lieder singing really should be like - emotionally intense, intellectual sharp, absolute reverence for the music and poetry. Lieder isn't "easy listening", smooth or superficial, much as the celebrity market would like.

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