Author Topic: Proms 2011  (Read 21333 times)

Offline Reiner Torheit

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #105 on: July 27, 2011, 11:23:23 am »
I've seen that some of the comments at the other place suggest that the tempo for the fourth movement was too slow

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Offline marbleflugel

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #106 on: July 27, 2011, 11:51:12 am »
 :D.Being at homewith an ague, I've just tried to complete an opinion survey on the proms website. After I commented that there was no info at all about new works, my connection timed out mysteriously.

Offline ahinton

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #107 on: July 27, 2011, 12:04:32 pm »
I've attended the last two night's proms (Mahler 9/Norrington and Liszt Faust Symphony/Jurowski) both of which were terrific. I do hope somebody else had a good time too.

I didn't see you at the Mahler, which I too thought terrific (though the usual suspects elsewhere (plus some less suspicious posters) certainly did not). I was unable to get to last night's but will be there this evening.
I trust that the level of suspicion attributable to me is on the low side, but I certainly did and do have issues with as much of that Mahler 9 performance as I was able to hear. I could not attend and, unfortunately, I had to miss the entire first movement and the beginning of the second in the broadcast, so anything I said or say is inevitably subject to that rather substantial caveat, but whilst I am far from lacking in sympathy for at least some of the comments about use of vibrato, this was by no means my principal concern - not even about the string playing in general, which all too often seemed to me to be intonationally challenged and thin. Some of the tempi seemed hasty, especially in the Adagio (although at least the tempi, if little else, more or less redeemend themselves by the time it reached its closing pages) and the sense of line - of moving inevitablty and inexorably from one statement to the next - and that of the thoughtful shaping of longer phrases came across to me less than in this performance than in any other that I have heard of this work. As to that vibrato question, whilst you are correct in stating that, on occasion, Mahler specified his requirements as to its use or non-use in scores, he certainly didn't do this for all his string writing, otherwise those scores would be littered with additional performances directions relating to that alone.

Whilst it can be interesting in itself to observe someone's approach to performing this symphony on the basis of his/her perceptions as to how Mahler might have intended it to sound (not that he ever actually heard his Ninth Symphony in live performance, of course), I do believe that it's worth giving due consideration to the changes in requirements that occurred between the composition of his First and incomplete Tenth symphonies, especially as that particular symphonic journey was a very long one in terms of how different Mahler's treatment of the orchestra was in the latter work than in the former.

Not only that, what bothers me from time to time from certain HIPP quarters is firstly the notion that listeners can accordingly think themslves into the environment of the time in order to be able to listen to this work from a century ago as though their lives and musical experiences were those of a hundred years ago (or that the fact that they can't and they aren't is of no consequence) and secondly that The Composer Is Always Right. As to the first, I recall Robert Simpson once saying that one cannot listen and respond to Bach as Bach's contemporary audiences would have done because we have listened to Xenakis (and somehow I doubt that RS mentioned Xenakis all that often!) and, as to the second, not only do I know only too painfully well as a composer that The Composer Is Not Always Right but I am also aware that Mahler himself must have felt the same, otherwise why would have have made so fundamental a change to the original order of movements in his Sixth Symphony (misguidedly, in my view, but that's neither here nor there) during rehearsals for its première?

Anyway, I can honestly say that I have never been so unmoved by a performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony as I was by this one - and it is a work that I have adored ever since first hearing it.

Ted Ryder

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #108 on: July 27, 2011, 12:29:34 pm »
 Here goes, contrary Ted again.
 I listened yesterday to the whole performance and I agree that vibrato is a red herring as indeed is speed. Labels are also pretty meaningless if, that is, Norrington and Klemperer can both be termed  "amoral" conductors.
 OK you hear more detail with Norrington but why detail? I want emotion-I don't want English introspection;  I want abandon not symphonic form. In fact I found Norrington's cool "this is what is written" objectivity distasteful, the last movement, for me, was more self-indulgent than anything Lenny could throw at you. This was the nub of the problem for, along with Klemperer's "amoral" comment, he also said, dismissively, that Walter was "too Jewish".Mahler can be over Bernsteined it can't be too Jewish. Norringtons performance was Low-Church CofE if not Non-Conformist. I trust I'm not a "usual suspect" but I do think the usual suspects have a point. Just seen AH's post :hthumbupr:
« Last Edit: July 27, 2011, 12:31:35 pm by Ted Ryder »

SimonH

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #109 on: July 27, 2011, 12:56:56 pm »
I recall Robert Simpson once saying that one cannot listen and respond to Bach as Bach's contemporary audiences would have done because we have listened to Xenakis (and somehow I doubt that RS mentioned Xenakis all that often!)

No, but you can use your imagination & capacity for empathy (if you have them), & combine those with research to develop understanding & knowledge. Or you can think your own imaginative horizons absolute & refuse the possibility of anything outside them.

I'll watch the BBC4 broadcast of Norrington's Mahler 9 tomorrow (I couldn't listen to it at the time). I have the CD & for me the Adagio is one of the most unflinchingly exact & uncompromising & true &, actually, heartfelt performances of anything I've heard. After it some other accounts sound (to me) a bit glib, I'm afraid.

Selva Oscura

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #110 on: July 27, 2011, 01:15:31 pm »
why detail?
... but why not?

Firstly: "detail" is probably one of the things I appreciate most in a musical performance, not "at the expense of" expressivity but as a means of expressivity. I want (usually) to be able to hear everything that's going on in an orchestral performance. Anything else constitutes a kind of obfuscation (perhaps from the best of motives). What I mean is: a composer, at least in the period encompassing Mahler and the present time, puts into a score those things which he/she thinks will, sympathetically realised and brought out, set in motion a musical event realising his/her structural/poetic precepts. (The idea of the composer being "right" or "wrong" doesn't really come into it.)

Secondly: attempting to give an insight into (not necessarily to "reproduce") the kind of orchestral sound the composer might have been familiar with is surely as valid a project as making a kind of orchestral sound the composer would certainly not have been familiar with (even though he "might have preferred it" - if the laws of physics were different from those we have).

Thirdly (and most importantly): miraculously, after a Norrington performance, Mahler's score still exists! Nothing is destroyed, nothing desecrated, nobody comes to any harm, the whole possible range of interpretation is still there to be further explored by performers and listeners.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2011, 01:28:24 pm by Selva Oscura »

Offline ahinton

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #111 on: July 27, 2011, 01:22:18 pm »
I recall Robert Simpson once saying that one cannot listen and respond to Bach as Bach's contemporary audiences would have done because we have listened to Xenakis (and somehow I doubt that RS mentioned Xenakis all that often!)

No, but you can use your imagination & capacity for empathy (if you have them), & combine those with research to develop understanding & knowledge. Or you can think your own imaginative horizons absolute & refuse the possibility of anything outside them.
Allowing (hopefully with good reason!) that your use of the pronouns "your" and "you" are intended to mean "one's" and "one", are there really no other possible alternatives to the two that you posit here? Whilst bringing an "imagination & capacity for emapthy" combined with "research" to bear on Mahler's Ninth Symphony is all very well when making a study of its score in the wider context of the performance traditions and expectations of its time, I don't quite see how this will do a great deal to help, let alone influence the responses of, the majority of its listeners, especially those first-time listeners who cannot read music and whose knowledge of immediate pre-WWI performance traditions and expectations is less than that of the average professional musicologist; indeed, to suggest (not that I'm saying that you're doing so) that having full recourse to these faculties is necessary to any valid appreciation of that symphony might well put off some people on the grounds that they feel insufficiently well equipped to approach it.

Thinking one's own imaginative horizons to be absolute runs entirely counter to the kind of thing about which I wrote above when I referred to the composer not always being right; composers' imaginative horizons will usually metamorphse over time, just as those of performers and listeners will do, in which context one could well imagine, for example, that Rakhmaninov might have played his first set of Preludes rather differently when they were relatively new than he would have done towards the end of his life.

Anyway, it is surely Mahler's imagination first and foremost that we're dealing with here! - and what I wrote is only my honest opinion at the time of writing rather than something that I could possibly see as in any sense "absolute".[/quote]

Offline ahinton

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #112 on: July 27, 2011, 01:27:23 pm »
why detail?
... but why not?

Firstly: "detail" is probably one of the things I appreciate most in a musical performance, not "at the expense of" expressivity but as a means of expressivity. I want (usually) to be able to hear everything that's going on in an orchestral performance. Anything else constitutes a kind of obfuscation (perhaps from the best of motives).

Secondly: attempting to give an insight into (not necessarily to "reproduce") the kind of orchestral sound the composer might have been familiar with is surely as valid a project as making a kind of orchestral sound the composer would certainly not have been familiar with (even though he "might have preferred it" - if the laws of physics were different from those we have).

Thirdly (and most importantly): miraculously, after a Norrington performance, Mahler's score still exists! Nothing is destroyed, nothing desecrated, nobody comes to any harm, the whole possible range of interpretation is still there to be further explored by performers and listeners.
I endorse all of the above - all of which makes excellent sense - notwithstanding my own remarks about the performance which I would like to think can still stand alongside what you've written here. As to "detail", there's no point in loading a score with "detail" unless it serves a useful purpose as part of its fabric; Mahler, whose attention to detail was as fastidious as anyone's, almost certainly knew this as well if not better than many composers and conductors and, let's face it, over-writing and obfuscation are certainly not things of which one could ever credibly charge Mahler!

Ted Ryder

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #113 on: July 27, 2011, 01:44:54 pm »
 It is, no doubt, a subjective matter whether one hears "detail" as an integral part of a homogeneous performance or a pedantic distraction. :)
 I don't know if your second paragraph is directed at me for I would not question a word of it. It is Norrington's performance I have problems with not the forces or form he uses to deliver it, indeed I said that vibrato was a red herring. Nor do I think the conductor is desecrating anything I just find his interpretation. a complete no no.

SimonH

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #114 on: July 27, 2011, 01:50:15 pm »
Allowing (hopefully with good reason!) that your use of the pronouns "your" and "you" are intended to mean "one's" and "one", are there really no other possible alternatives to the two that you posit here? Whilst bringing an "imagination & capacity for emapthy" combined with "research" to bear on Mahler's Ninth Symphony

The Simpson remark you cite is about Bach, not Mahler (I recall Robert Simpson once saying that one cannot listen and respond to Bach as Bach's contemporary audiences would have done because we have listened to Xenakis (and somehow I doubt that RS mentioned Xenakis all that often!) & it was performing Bach I had in mind (that being what the remark was about :)).

Yes, "one" & "one's" of course.

autoharp

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #115 on: July 27, 2011, 01:57:40 pm »
Could someone provide a link to a useful newspaper (?) review?

Oh . . . right. There isn't one.
Nobody seemed to have done their homework. Concert reviewers, eh?
Tut tut.
Oh, yes there are!

Many thanks for those links, Alistair. Not for the first time, I've submitted an ambiguous post. Emphasis should have been on the word useful. I had sought out the usual suspects so had read the reviews from the Guardian, Telegraph etc. Clements, for instance, was useless: he didn't need to have either been there or heard the broadcast to produce what he wrote. Several others were little better, but David Nice at The Arts Desk was certainly more interesting.
I'm amused by this xylophone stuff. I'm in the fortunate position of possessing a recording of Josef Matthias Hauer's opera Salambo which features said instrument far more prominently.

When I arrived for the Mahler, my heart sank. I hadn't clocked that the seats I'd booked were high up in the Circle, almost at balcony level. I expected the orchestra to sound half a mile away  (as it memorably did for a performance of Turangalila a few years back - I was nearer the orchestra for that one). But strangely enough it didn't. What's more, the clarity of the sound was fairly extraordinary for the Albert Hall - I could hear pretty much everything that happened, something I put down both to the way the instruments were played and how they were positioned (eg., double basses at the middle back, horns and percussion stage right and the rest of the brass plus timps + cymbals stage left. Only once, early on, did the strings get drowned out.
Mind you, I hardly know the piece at all, so what's my opinion worth?

Last night, the chappie who played the Bartok concerto decided to play an encore. I don't know what it was (it sounded like Liszt). Now the Albert Hall is lousy for solo piano. Play a load of loud notes and stick the sustain pedal down and you're on to a real loser. If he really had to play an encore, play pedal-less Bartok for Chrissake - like the Allegro Barbaro. So not too much clarity there.
Nor did I understand why Norrington felt it necessary to get his string section to play an Elgar Elegy as an encore after Mahler 9. Having been taken on a journey which went some distance into the world of perpetual modulation, I felt vaguely resentful at having to witness what came over as a powder-puff featuring almost entirely functional harmony. But then, Falstaff apart, I find most Elgar pretty tiresome.


« Last Edit: July 27, 2011, 02:00:44 pm by autoharp »

Offline ahinton

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #116 on: July 27, 2011, 01:59:20 pm »
Allowing (hopefully with good reason!) that your use of the pronouns "your" and "you" are intended to mean "one's" and "one", are there really no other possible alternatives to the two that you posit here? Whilst bringing an "imagination & capacity for emapthy" combined with "research" to bear on Mahler's Ninth Symphony

The Simpson remark you cite is about Bach, not Mahler (I recall Robert Simpson once saying that one cannot listen and respond to Bach as Bach's contemporary audiences would have done because we have listened to Xenakis (and somehow I doubt that RS mentioned Xenakis all that often!) & it was performing Bach I had in mind (that being what the remark was about :)).
Sure - but doesn't the cap fit nonetheless? - by which I mean that one could reasonably substitute the name of Mahler for the name of Bach in that context?

Offline ahinton

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #117 on: July 27, 2011, 02:03:07 pm »
Could someone provide a link to a useful newspaper (?) review?

Oh . . . right. There isn't one.
Nobody seemed to have done their homework. Concert reviewers, eh?
Tut tut.
Oh, yes there are!

Many thanks for those links, Alistair. Not for the first time, I've submitted an ambiguous post. Emphasis should have been on the word useful.
You did indeed write "useful" - and I did not completely ignore it when I appended to my post the caveat "Not that I'm vouching for any of the content, mind...". It is indeed disappointing that the best performance that the symphony has had to date has elicited so little of value from critical circles...
« Last Edit: July 27, 2011, 02:33:23 pm by ahinton »

autoharp

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #118 on: July 27, 2011, 02:17:33 pm »
Was it? So is this wrong?

I'm surprised that nobody seems to have compared it with other performances/recordings or indeed really commented on the quality of the performance. I did hear it on the radio and was rather perturbed by a number of the musical decisions. In the old Boult recording, the orchestra just about make it whereas the choirs don't really: some of the conductor's musical decisions, however, really hit the spot. Times have moved on but there probably hasn't been a performance where the choirs haven't struggled (they certainly seemed to on this occasion) and it's always tiresome to be made aware of competition at times when a few solo voices are operating simultaneously . . .  there were numerous musical opportunities missed. So I'm wondering about the effectiveness of the conductor, not so much in his marshalling of the forces but in regard to his musical vision. I'd previously thought Brabbins was (often but by no means always) pretty able . . .

Offline perfect wagnerite

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #119 on: July 27, 2011, 02:26:43 pm »
I've seen that some of the comments at the other place suggest that the tempo for the fourth movement was too slow



Sorry.  That should have been "too fast".   :facepalm: :( ::)
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