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Updated: 2018-02-15T14:57:48.861+00:00


Thank you, Keith!


Thank you, Keith!

From ‘A Mozart Player Gives Himself Advice’ by Fer...


From ‘A Mozart Player Gives Himself Advice’ by Ferruccio Busoni in ‘Music, Sense and Nonsense: Collected Essays and Lectures’ by Alfred Brendel:
“I see in Haydn and Mozart the antithesis between the instrumental and vocal, motif and melody, … the surprise of the unexpected and the surprise of the expected.”

Mr. Berry is completely right. This obsession for ...


Mr. Berry is completely right. This obsession for Verdi is just routine… Most of his operas are simple music for simple people. His Requiem is a good example: he tried to compose liturgical music, but didn’t succeed and wrote a bombastic and absurd opera… He was a great man but a vulgar and limited composer.

I know we've spoken about this production befo...


I know we've spoken about this production before, but I think it may work much better on video. Much of the characterization of Lulu is this production--whether due to Loy's conception or Eichenholtz's--is in her on-stage demeanor especially in her face. Throughout the opera, hers is an attitude of extreme passivity, and we learn why in her colloquy with Schigolch in I/2:

Ich heisse seit Menschengedenken nicht mehr Lulu.
Und wie lange ist's her, dass ich tanzte? - Jetzt bin ich ja nur...

Was bist Du?

... ein Tier ...

And indeed, that Tierhaftigkeit, we know from the Prologue, is central to the opera: none of the characters are ”human“ in any eighteenth- or nineteenth-century sense of the word. They are not driven by their minds--even, or especially, by habits of thought associated with Bildung--but by pre-cultural impulses. That, I think, is what the video captures, regardless of whether that was the intention of any of the participants.

I heard the Sunday morning concert - never heard t...


I heard the Sunday morning concert - never heard the group before, though I know and hugely respect some of the players. I'd say it was perfection; hard to imagine a more incisive or moving performance of the Martinu Nonet, and the Brahms Piano Quintet was as good as the best I've heard from bigger names. Wish I'd gone to this rather than catching second-rank Russian works in Jurowski's Stravinsky series launch.

Yes! I can't believe I missed the 'Tristan...


Yes! I can't believe I missed the 'Tristan'! How embarrassing!
-- I think my uneasy laughter must have drowned it out! :-)

A bit of Tristan there about 30 seconds from the e...


A bit of Tristan there about 30 seconds from the end as well!

Thank you - as always - for your insights. In te...


Thank you - as always - for your insights.

In terms of other recordings, Clemens Krauss in 1940 with the Vienna Philharmonic is breathtakingly good and seems to me to be quite close to Klemperer in terms of pace and architecture.

Also the Herbert Kegel recording from Leipzig in '87 is wonderful -- in particular, the orchestral transition from the Osanna to the opening strands of the wandering violin in the Benedictus -- which he unfurls like a delicate fantasia on the overture to Lohengrin.

Good stuff! -- 'Liebesträume' quote noted...


Good stuff!

-- 'Liebesträume' quote noted; anyone spot any more...?

Mark D.

I made a real effort to discover composers that we...


I made a real effort to discover composers that were new to me... I was able to hear works by Missy Mazzoli, Kaija Saariaho, Vanessa Lann, Mary Jane Leach, Julia Wolfe, Nicole Lizee, Holly Herndon, Laurel Halo, Hildegard Westerkamp and Arlene Sierra, most of them via livecasts or from reading books like 'Music after the Fall: Modern Composition and Culture since 1989' by Tim Rutherford-Johnson and 'Experimental Music Since 1970' by Jennie Gottschalk... discovery is fun...

Michelle Monette, who was unable to leave a commen...


Michelle Monette, who was unable to leave a comment herself, e-mailed me and asked if I would post this on her behalf:

Maybe I am wrong but I believe part of the problem is that people know much better men composers music than women composers music The number of works by women in new albums is a pety (1 or 2 on 100 albums), and albums critics of recorded women composers works even worst. If people could listen more recorded music of women works (on radio or streaming platforms, or on their own audio system), they would be more open to go to concerts with works by women composers. I have found on Apple Music many albums I would not be aware of if I were only listening to what Apple Music suggest me. That's another problem. Algorithms are not Women friendly.

Michelle Monette
Quebec City

ps: my site is and If you do not understand French, you can see a page in English about the research I did (and still do) in Apple Music:

Thank you for your blog, it is very interesting, b...


Thank you for your blog, it is very interesting, but I feel slightly missing the point. Any musical performance, in my opinion, is foremost a personal statement of the artist. The composer's intentions are of secondary importance, if at all. The musical composition is only a vehicle for the artist. A vehicle for what? This is a question we might like to try to answer instead of dissecting the performance with our intellect, yet at the same time making statements about lacking warmth and other matters of the heart.
In my opinion, at least on the third night, Thielemann allowed us a rare insight into his soul and his soul alone - Beethoven's composition and his intentions were just a vehicle for Thielemann do open himself like a book and let us share his "Wesen". Many true and great artists can do this (Haitink, A-S Mutter, D Hvorostovsky, etc) and in my opinion this is were we find true genius. The warmth or passion or heartbreak of a show is not found in theatrical gestures or facial confessions of rapture of the artist, but unfortunately many people want to see such things and will be disappointed when none of it comes forth. In my view, such shallow demonstrations take away from a performance and show what the artist really is after, ie admiration of their narcissistic ego.
In my view, the performance is a "success", if and when the audience manages to understand the language of the artist. Thielemann does not speak everyone's language, but this is because his genius is exquisite and rare, most delicate and in need of tuning into like nobody else's. Lucky are those who can do this, because something unimaginably beautiful will open up.

Damn. It's just sad when this great opera does...


Damn. It's just sad when this great opera doesn't get the musical treatment it deserves. And now I want to go home and put it on even though I've got the new Troyens recording sitting there.

Thank you, Abigail! Yes, on another level from the...


Thank you, Abigail! Yes, on another level from the Schumann... The odd cut wouldn't have done any harm, I agree.

Hi Mark, wonderful to read such a thoughtful and d...


Hi Mark, wonderful to read such a thoughtful and detailed crit, which again expressed so much that I would have liked to have said. I seem to have been more moved by the production, especially in the first half, thanks to the intensity of the protagonists. I think the whole thing could have been cut somewhat, would do Monteverdi good as well as watch watchers in the audience(me for instance, in the second half). But I though it had the class a state opera should have, which was a relief after the Schumann fiasco in October.

Dear Mr Berry, thanks for this insightful and wit...


Dear Mr Berry,
thanks for this insightful and witty review!
personally, i would have been harsher with Haenchen, whose flat and uninspired conducting was, as far as i'm concerned, utterly forgettable -- except for his determination to make it a speedy affair. I am not (yet) well acquainted with your blog, but i am guessing that if its title is at all programmatic, you must have a lot more to say about tempo in Parsifal, bearing in mind that Haenchen is, afterall, a "disciple" of Boulez, who to my knowledge is still the unchallenged (unchallengeable?) holder of the world record for speediest Parsifal. But i am sure you dwell on this elsewhere, and will the search the web for further details (also regarding your contempt for Stephen Fry, who i find quite endearing (but i'm not English..)!)
i would have given special mention to the oboe solo of the Karfreitagzauber, which i thought was full of humanity and radiated with the warmth of the Marigaux sound! A special moment, which goes by all too quickly

Parsifal remains very enigmatic to me, and my reception of it is always complacently immanent -- in ways that would probably get chided by Flaubert, condemned by Nietzsche and scrutinised by Freud (but i flatter myself). But allow me an open, naive and obscenely vague question: How should the 21st century True Wagnerian react to Parsifal (and Tristan)? Now i'm no Wagnerian-bible thumping adept, but if you come up with a sagacious answer, i would be very happy to appropriate it as my own and elevate it as prescriptive stance.

Obviously i'm with you in denouncing Laufenberg's underlying imperialistic premises.. But to what extent can we commend him for basically staging some kind of grand narrative of progress towards the reconciliation of the monotheistic religions, some kind of humanisation of instituted religions? So that we are left with organic sociability (the spirit of religion, rather than the letter?) instead of the ritualistic extremism and the alienating sense of shame disseminated and enforced by religious dogma..? Now i'm not pretending that Laufenberg features that as such, i guess i'm just asking: How do you understand the "Erlösung dem Erlöser"?? Apologies, i know you have written extensively on the matter, and i will look into it.

a further question relates to what i think is the most badass sentence ever, "Zum Raum wird hier die Zeit", which i'm guessing is much more than merely "badass" and does carry some heuristic value (a confession which, in light of your article, would make me less advanced than a "schoolboy", let alone a schoolgirl for that matter!) But when you write of the "misunderstanding of Kant and Schopenhauer", i have some vague intuition of what you mean, but not really though...

ultimately, what i mean is that i'm very happy to have stumbled upon your blog, and your in-depth research on Wagner and the Young Hegelians (right..?). Also, i was delighted to sense some eliptical quip at K.L.Vogt which i like to indulge in (without devoting a messianic cult to JK!)


ps: friends who play in Bayreuth's heiliger Abgrund have told me a few anecdotes on what goes on down there, which might prove enlightening as to Haenchen's "artistic" "choices", if ever you're interested!

Thank you! Corrected.


Thank you! Corrected.

This sounds like a truly fascinating concert - I w...


This sounds like a truly fascinating concert - I wish I'd been in Berlin for this. I saw Altinoglu conduct The Golden Cockerel in Brussels last December - this was my first encounter with him, and he led the orchestra in a very lively account of Rimsky-Korsakov's score. It sounds as though he has a penchant for instrumental variations on operatic scores, since a bonus of the Brussels performance was a violin-and-piano variation on the Tsaritsaʼs Hymn to the Sun, offered as an interlude during the scene change between Acts 2 and 3. First violinist Saténik Khourdoian, who played with particular beauty, was sensitively accompanied on the piano by Altinoglu himself.

By the way, you seem accidentally to have mispelled his name (Antinoglu) at one point in this review...

I accept that Andreas Rosar is not Brunnhilde. I b...


I accept that Andreas Rosar is not Brunnhilde. I brought it up because had you seen a trans person act for Brunnhilde, you might say that you'd seen a trans Brunnhilde, but why would you say that having seen Andreas Rosar play her?
I don't contest your point about Hartmut Zelinsky et al, and I certainly don't question your knowledge of Wagner! Indeed I've never read those books. I just think the phrasing is questionable.

Thank you for your comment. It seems to me that yo...


Thank you for your comment. It seems to me that you confuse artist and character. (Not that it matters much: it was a throwaway remark concerning an impression.) The character is Brünnhilde, not Andreas Rosar, nor indeed Catherine Foster - although one might play with that too, of course. In any case, you quite rightly, concerning the assistant director, say 'presumably'; why should we presume that?

I am very happy to stand by and to defend what I said in the Meistersinger review. If I know something about anything, and I hope I do, then it would probably be about Richard Wagner.

As good as this review is, I must note - Andreas R...


As good as this review is, I must note - Andreas Rosar is presumably a cis man. The fact that he was there as the visual representation of Catherine Foster's voice introduces an ambiguity, but he's a cis man in a dress, which is different to a trans woman no matter what Eddie Redmayne would have us believe. The comparison should be avoided.
On the topic of dubious comparisons, regarding your Meistersinger review - comparing Jewish people to Joseph Goebbels is very cool, you should keep doing that. You may find Goebbels to be an effective byword for intellectual dishonesty, but no matter your intention, the comparison is inevitably emotionally fraught, and Godwin's Law, as much as our Trump-May era has decreased its relevance, still stands in this case.

Can't we enjoy some dumb flings from time to t...


Can't we enjoy some dumb flings from time to time? I agree that the "discourse" of the Kosky production is poor and false, but it's a well made and entertaining show, suggesting in a naive and ignorant way that we could look into the psyche of the man (that is, Wagner) to understand its antisemitic comments and tendancies ; that it got out of hand, even from Wagner's point of view ; and that in the end we wonder whether we can consider the art independently of it. It's hardly thought provoking, or even provocative. But it is pleasantly and finely arranged, choreographed, staged.

I didn't read the fake orchestra in the end as being quite about "love the music, hate the man", but rather a way to distantiate us from the "Verachtet Ihr die Meister nicht", suggesting it is mostly stuff in Wagner's head we may not pay attention to except as a dream of his. I for one could never figure out the dramatic role of that ending (and many Wagner ending, for what it's worth -- they're often more like 15' baites positionned at the end of the ending, maybe so people stay?).

The contrast was striking with Katharina's Tristan: this was not an easy or fun show to watch, and it was challenging in its radicality and attention to... words that are actually in the libretto (wish Isolde would have sung them intelligibly though). But to me it was profound and profoundly moving and changed the way I look at (and listen to) Tristan.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I love it.


I love it.

The last Aida I saw (Daniel Slater's productio...


The last Aida I saw (Daniel Slater's production, at Holland Park in 2015) also cast Aida as a cleaning lady (I had thought this quite original at the time, not having read about the 1981 Neufenfels staging). The prelude, indeed, was superbly handled in terms of stagecraft: a posh party in formal dress, hosted in the Egyptology section of a museum, with Aida being ordered by an imperious Amneris to wipe up some spilt champagne. Once the rest of the Egyptians emerged, dressed as contractors, the idea slightly ran out of steam - mainly because a surfeit of gold-plated luxury goods and a costume change by the Egyptians into gaudy belly dancing gear left things stranded in a region of Orientalist cliche.