LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  September 2005

CLASSICAL September 2005

Subject:

Ton Koopman at (or nearby) Carnegie Hall

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 26 Sep 2005 14:26:05 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (112 lines)

Last Monday, finding myself in New York, I picked through the New Yorker's
"Goings On About the Town" section and found a listing for that evening
of a Carnegie Hall concert by Dutch keyboardist and conductor Ton Koopman
featuring three Bach cantatas.  Since New York has so many classical-music
mavens and I didn't want to be left out, I immediately phoned the box
office and scored two tickets.  Programs of Bach cantatas - let alone
by first-rank performers - are rare in any case.  I felt very lucky,
especially since the tickets cost me only $20 apiece - a bargain on the
scale of Manhattan prices.

As I went to the box office, I noticed a huge line of people waiting for
cancellations.  I had expected the concert to be well-attended but not
sold out.  The concert actually took place not in the main hall itself,
but in the smaller, relatively new Zanker Hall - part of the Carnegie
complex.  Sources tell me it used to be a movie theater, but one sees
no trace of that now.  It's a beautifully furbished hall, with great
sight lines and decent (though not blow-your-mind) acoustics, just the
thing for chamber concerts.

The program consisted of the Cantatas 6, 147, and 198 ("Trauer-Ode").
Some of you may know that Erato tapped Koopman to record all the Bach
cantatas.  Unfortunately, Time-Warner, the parent company, fileted its
classical-music division, and the project dried up.  Koopman went on to
found his own label to complete the cycle.  I don't know whether he has
actually done so.

Generally, Koopman has done at least as well as Harnoncourt for Telefunken.
Bach's music can take - and often demands - many different approaches.
Indeed, the cantatas are so varied in expressive means and values that
one doubts a single interpreter would do them all successfully.  Koopman,
like Harnoncourt, has his triumphs and failures.  His advantages include
rhythms that spring like young gazelles, preternaturally clear textures,
and performers that play both "historically" and beautifully.  On the
other hand, he often failed to capture the drama and intensity of the
more monumental cantatas, like No. 21, "Ich hatte viel Bekuemmernis,"
for example.

Koopman did not lead his usual ensemble of Amsterdam pros.  The
concert was part of a Carnegie Hall Foundation program that affords
young performers from all over the world the chance to work with a great
musician.  The instrumental group, which included two small organs, lute,
theorbo, traverse flutes, oboes, oboe di caccia, two gambas, as well as
the usual strings, and a 22-voice choir were all in their twenties -
conservatory seniors, MFAs, postgrads, and the like.

Consequently, I didn't expect what in fact I got: tremendous instrumental
ensemble and tonal beauty.  From the opening bars of the first cantata,
it became clear immediately that these kids can play.  Musical lines
bounded and bounced.  In Koopman's hands, with gestures that seemed to
pluck the music from the air like a magician conjures cards, the cantata
danced.  Furthermore, I couldn't discern any difference between the kid
choir at Zanker and Koopman's usual Amsterdam Baroque Choir.  There was
the same textural clarity, the same tonal and textural unanimity that
made for exciting unisons, and diction so sharp that you really didn't
need the texts the concert hall provided.  Like the instrumentalists,
the singers made beautiful phrases, connecting them into long arcs with
only the slightest expressive gasps between cadences, and they shaded
their lines by delicate yet proper word stress.  However, the performance
didn't have the perfect mechanics of a studio recording.  Here and there,
one met with rough spots, momentary cloudiness, an oboist fumbling through
a quick melismatic passage.  On the other hand, Koopman could make
instantaneous and microscopic adjustments: a single cello suddenly
intensified, the oboe di caccia gracefully retiring into the texture.
His players always stayed with him.

On the other hand, Cantata 147, somewhat of a "penitential cantata,"
seemed to baffle him.  Not that anything was badly done, but the music
didn't unfold in a convincing way.  Sometimes, indeed, it didn't unfold
at all - a kind of wad o' Bach.  One missed the dramatic surges, the
dynamic builds from low to high, and the "pointings" of musical and
expressive meaning, although the performance contained a stunning duet
between tenor and bass soloists.  The two, avoiding identity of vocal
color, nevertheless made an elegant rapprochement, the phrasing and
melismas created as if by one mind, or like two different manuals on
an organ.  This was a highlight of an already fine concert.

By the Trauer-Ode, things got back on track.  Bach wrote the work on
the death of some countess or other, and he exploits the duality found
in other of his funeral cantatas: though we grieve for our loss of such
a good soul, yet she is happy in heaven.  The music makes a monument
of sorrow, but it also rejoices in paradise.  Koopman caught the tone
of the work right away.  Indeed, this cantata came off the best of the
three.  It had none of the occasional cloudinesses or dips of No. 6,
and Koopman sculpted a near-palpable musical shape.  I became less aware
of playing as such and (excepting a couple of movements) began to notice
the work itself - not musicians, but Bach - an illusion that usually
occurs only when the performance is unusually good.  The thing starts
with a sinfonia featuring a virtuoso organ part (perhaps Bach played it
himself), performed with nervous verve by a young keyboardist named Avi
Stein - yet another highlight of the concert.  You will probaby hear of
him in days to come.

The set of soloists varied in quality.  Unfortunately, I lost my program
and can't remember any names, although I wouldn't mention the names of
students who didn't exceed expectations anyway.  An alto had almost no
lower register.  A soprano stumbled over her runs.  Almost every soprano
had a thin, glassy top. Without exception, the men did better than the
women, thoroughly professional at least.  A record producer or concert
promoter would do well to hire them right now.  The standout of the set
was the Trauer-Ode bass soloist.  He struck me as very much in the mold
of Koopman favorite Klaus Mertens, a favorite of mine as well.  The voice
lacks weight - he will probably never sing Boris - but he makes up for
it in spades with breathtaking intonation and a complete mastery of text
and phrase.  He is already a wonderful baritone, and I hope great things
for him.

The concert ended with enthusiastic applause, but I was one of the few
to give a standing O.  It was easily one of the best concerts I've ever
heard, but, then again, I'm a rube.  Ah, these jaded (and so lucky) New
Yorkers!

Steve Schwartz

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager