Nordic music as performed by the Brno Philharmonic – The Enthusiasm That Didn’t Arrive

14 January 2023, 16:00
Nordic music as performed by the Brno Philharmonic – The Enthusiasm That Didn’t Arrive

Drama, philosophy, and an interestingly outlined psychology of works was offered up by the most recent big concert of the Brno Philharmonic at the Janáček Theatre. The listener-friendly programme, aptly titled Ancient Nordic Tales, was staged and performed with the orchestra by Danish conductor Michael Schønwandt (*1953), currently chief conductor of the Orchestra of the National Opera Montpellier. His fondness for promoting contemporary composers is reflected in the dramaturgy itself. In addition to well-known works by Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius, the audience had the opportunity to get acquainted with Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen (*1952). American soprano Nicole Chevalier also introduced her works to the audience.

The stage version of Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen’s dramatic poem Peer Gynt is rightly one of the most performed works of his compatriot Edvard Grieg, but the piece is rarely performed in its original version. Much more often, the two orchestral suites are performed to be heard, and their uniqueness has led them from the theatre to the concert hall. Schønwandt, together with the Philharmonic, chose five notorious movements from the two suites. In the first, Morning Mood, the atmosphere is enhanced by solos from the transverse flutes and oboes. The question remains whether the interesting interpretation was the conductor’s wish or the invention of the players themselves. The solos, detailed in expression and phrasing, were often rhythmically unconvincing, yet they imaginatively illustrated the playfulness and naivety inherent in the subject matter itself. The overall faster pace, while refreshing, was at times detrimental to the overall interplay. The work with dynamics and colour was very novel, especially in the string section, which also appeared in the next movement, The Death of Åse. The often extremely weak intensity of the pianos and pianissimos gave the piece musical drive. Anitra’s Dance to the rhythm of the mazurka provided a contrast to the previous two pieces. The dancing and the imaginary push-off were adversely affected in terms of instrumental-articulation and in the overall sense of tempo. The first violin in particular tended to speed up and overtake the rest of the orchestra. This eventually calmed down in the movement In the Hall of the Mountain King, where on the other hand the uniform pizzicato and the work with accents and precise phrasing of the main motif should be noted. Grieg’s work concluded with the fourth movement from the second suite, Solveig’s Song, in which the singer Nicole Chevalier was introduced to the audience for the first time. Apart from a few negligible intonational inaccuracies, it was very interesting to perceive the musical and expressive conception of this soprano, who portrayed the motif of waiting in a very sophisticated way not only with her singing but also with her facial expressions.

Hans Abrahamsen’s demanding song cycle Let Me Tell You for soprano and orchestra was a dramaturgical and musical leap of faith. The text of the novella of the same name by the publicist, librettist, and writer Paul Griffiths describes the heroine Ophelia from Shakespeare’s drama Hamlet. She is not portrayed as a poor woman, however, but as a confident, perceptive woman. The composition was originally written at the instigation of Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan, who also gave the premiere performance with the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Andris Nelsons. Chevalier’s interpretation was somewhat darker in colour and expression than we may know from Barbara Hannigan. The singer portrayed the psychology of the work, especially that of the protagonist, excellently, with an occasional more expressive vibrato and velvety poise. The enunciation was debatable, often coming across as overdone. This did make the singer easy to understand, however, despite the fact that some syllables or words deviated from the usual pronunciation of the English language. Compositionally and technically, there were critical points in the piece – major or minor seconds (sounding like quarter tones), high positions in unison in various instrumental combinations, and pizzicato deliberately written in a rhythmically “fuzzy” way. In these exposed places, then, it might have seemed to the listener that the orchestra and the singer were at odds and making rhythmic or intonational errors, when this in fact was the composer’s intention. Even so, a few reservations about the performance can be formulated. Throughout the piece one could feel and hear that the players were not overly familiar with Abrahamsen’s musical language, and this was certainly evident in many areas. The work was also challenging in terms of its construction. The last text I Will Go Out Now from the third movement of the cycle is also the longest section. The conclusion gave a kind of never-ending impression. In the conductor’s attempt to bring the whole phrase carefully to a close and really let all the dynamic parts fade away to nothing, the very end of the piece seemed unattainable after the long built-up conclusion.

davne_nordicke_pribehy_02_foto_FB

Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82 by Jean Sibelius was to be the intended highlight of the evening. The Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, however, simply performed just another piece. Perhaps the players were exhausted after the first half of the programme, or maybe they devoted less effort to this composition. The orchestra transformed into a boat on a stormy sea, constantly looking for stability. The three-movement symphony is based on alternating varied tempos, dance rhythms, and contrasting surfaces. Apart from a few bright moments, such as the sonically dense romantic string surfaces or the fairly homogeneous pizzicatos, the rest of the piece was unfortunately marked by rhythmic incongruity, especially in the individual transitions between tempos. In the symphony, articulation and concreteness disappeared from the players, so that the individual surfaces merged and seemed monotonous in expression. This, of course, made the piece suffer overall. Especially at the end of the whole concert, it was a great pity that the drama and musical drive that had been felt in the previous compositions had completely dissipated.

davne_nordicke_pribehy_03_foto_FB

I completely understand the dramaturgical intention to leave Sibelius’ work to the finale, but I can rather imagine hearing it in the first half of the evening and closing the concert with the more familiar Peer Gynt. Probably a selection from the suites would have worked better as a climax than the aforementioned symphony.

Edvard Grieg: Peer Gynt, selection from suites

No. 1 Op. 46

Morning Mood (Allegretto pastorale)

The Death of Åse (Andante doloroso)

Anitra’s Dance (Tempo di mazurka)

In the Hall of the Mountain King (Alla marcia e molto marcato)

No. 2 Op. 55

4. Solveig’s Song (Andante – Allegretto tranquillamente)

Hans Abrahamsen: Let Me Tell You for soprano and orchestra

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82

Nicole Chevalier: soprano

Brno Philharmonic Orchestra

Michael Schønwandt: conductor

Comments

Reply

No comment added yet..

Drama, philosophy, and an interestingly outlined psychology of works was offered up by the most recent big concert of the Brno Philharmonic at the Janáček Theatre. The listener-friendly programme, aptly titled Ancient Nordic Tales, was staged and performed with the orchestra by Danish conductor Michael Schønwandt (*1953), currently chief conductor of the Orchestra of the National Opera Montpellier. His fondness for promoting contemporary composers is reflected in the dramaturgy itself. In addition to well-known works by Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius, the audience had the opportunity to get acquainted with Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen (*1952). American soprano Nicole Chevalier also introduced her works to the audience.  more

Martin Kyšperský and Aleš Pilgr recently celebrated twenty years of cooperation in the Květy (Flowers) group. While the bandmates and instruments around them have changed over the two decades, the two have remained a constant force in one of Brno's most essential bands of the century. This constant force, however, has been a dynamic one, as the two protagonists alternate between different instruments and approaches. Martin switches from the guitar to other instruments, and Aleš has gone from being a drummer to a double bassist and will be a drummer again from 2023. This context is then also important for understanding the new album Duo, which Kyšperský and Pilgr recorded as, well, a duo.  more

The latest addition to the concert series organized by the Brno-based Ensemble Opera Diversa is a chamber recital by violinist Milan Paľa and pianist Katarína Paľová entitled “Repentance”. The program, which took place on Sunday 30 October at Villa Stiassni, presented works by composers Valentin Bibik and the recently deceased Roman Berger, whose Adagio No. 2 "Repentance" (Pokánie) inspired the title of the evening.  more

Lidověk is the first solo album by Matěj Metoděj Štrunc, a young actor, singer and musician originally from Brno, frontman of the band Ateliér, and son of dulcimer player Dalibor and violinist Katerina Štrunc from the bands Cimbal Classic and Javory. The apple really did not fall far from the tree, but at the same time it came closer to other trees and colored itself with original colors.  more

The Brazilian singer-songwriter with (not only) Japanese roots Luiz Murá first appeared in Moravia five years ago, when he performed at the Folk Holidays in Náměšt' with his then international band Miramundo. This summer he came to Brno. Not as a musician, but as an organizer of club concerts in Barcelona, where he has been living for the last few years. As an official foreign delegate he participated in the two-day Central European Jazz Showcase at the Husa na provázku theatre. During his stay in Brno, we asked the likeable world traveler, who is still first and foremost a musician, a few questions. Not least because Luiz's previous stay in Moravia was reflected in his latest solo album.  more

The Latvian instrumental band Very Cool People recently released an album with the long title 50 Years of Influence + 30 Years of Cool Equals 13 Years of Music Hooliganism. In a few days they will come to Brno to present it – they’ll play on 17th September in Music Lab club. And besides the songs from the aforementioned album, you’ll also get to hear the complete new songs from the yet-to-be-released projects. The band, led by guitarist Elvijs Grafcovs, who answers our questions, has plenty of them.  more

“We did it as a session, sitting opposite each other, so that the viewer would have the experience of coming to a rehearsal,” says singer Dan Bárta, describing how his current album, In One Breath (Jedním dechem), was recorded together with the jazz Robert Balzar Trio and Hungarian trumpeter Kornél Fekete-Kovács. The jazziest album in Dan Bárta’s rich discography was released on the Brno label Bivak Records and was recorded in the Brno studio of Czech Television.  more

After a covid break, the streets of Brno were once again filled with costumes from various parts of Moravia as well as other European countries. On the first day of September, the International Folklore Festival Brno began. Like the vast majority of festivals and regular events that could not take place in the last two years, the IFF also had a break due to government measures. And that is why this year’s festival chose the telling subtitle “We Live”. This time BROLN provided the opening concert in the courtyard of the New Town Hall, and there were two special reasons for this.  more

At the penultimate concert of its tenth year jubilee staged in the Fresco Room of the Comenium Elementary School, the Olomouc Baroque Festival presented an evening with the Musica Florea ensemble. The musicians, conducted by cellist Marek Štryncl, performed a selection of compositions by forgotten classical and early romantic composers Karl Kohaut, Jan Ladislav Dusík and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. The choice of composers was not random – this year it is 210 years since Dusík’s death and 185 years since Hummel’s death. Performing with the ensemble’s core members – violinist Magdalena Malá and Simona Tydlitátová, violist Lýdie Cillerová, cellist Marek Štryncl and bass player Ondřej Štajnochra – was Petra Matějová on the fortepiano.  more

The album Zavrzlama by Bosnian band Divanhana is so far in continuous sequence, the second best world recording of 2022 according to the panel of radio publicists of World Music Charts Europe. Divanhana will perform as part of the Lednice-Valtice Music Festival on 26 August in Hlohovec and a day later in Břeclav – Charvátská Nová Ves. The band’s pianist, Neven Tunjíč, is here to answer our questions.  more

On 18 and 19 August, the tenth anniversary edition of the Olomouc Baroque Music Festival included a unique dramaturgical treat in its program – one of the most historically important Czech operas which, however, does not appear much on the stages of opera houses or music halls. This is Dráteník (The Tinker), the first original Czech opera composed by František Škroup to a libretto by Josef Krasoslav Chmelenský. It was directed by Kateřina Křivánková, with costumes and set by Sylva Marková and music by Marek Čermák, and performed by the Volantes Orchestra, the festival’s resident ensemble. Singing roles were taken up by Matúš Šimko (Dráteník/Škroup), Lenka Cafourková Ďuricová (Růžena), Vincenc Ignác Novotný (Vojtěch), Zuzana Badárová (Liduška), Aleš Janiga (Květenský), Jiří Miroslav Procházka (Lána), and Martin Vodrážka (Kůl). The purely dramatic roles of Chmelenský – the aforementioned author of the libretto – and Hranatý the guard were played by Martin Mihál. The reviewer visited the premiere performance.  more

For the seventh time, the multi-genre music festival Brno Music Marathon proved that with precise organization and a little luck, an astonishing amount of music can be packed into one long weekend. From Thursday to Sunday (11-14 August), selected music halls, squares, courtyards, and city streets were filled with the artistic creations of countless bands, ensembles, and specific musical groups of all genres and styles. Lovers of rock, world music, jazz, artistic music, folklore, and improvised music were in for a treat. However, this year’s edition differed from the previous one in one crucial respect: 2022 introduced the first ever artist in residence of the festival, the violinist, flautist, and pianist Anna Fusekmore

For the sixth time, the Music Marathon has stirred up the streets, squares, and many spaces in Brno with all sorts of musical genres. These are not necessarily just concert venues, however. The Hausopera ensemble, for example, took their opera The Eternal Miss Pale to the Zeman Café on Friday 12 August. In three weekend performances there, they will complete their “Trilogy for the City”, a custom-made project for Brno that recalls its pros, cons, and above all some of its functionalist buildings.  more

As part of the Ibérica Festival, Catalan singer-songwriter Magalí Sare performed with guitarist Sebastià Gris from Mallorca on 17 June 2022 in Brno. The following interview was conducted immediately after the concert.  more

Just like every year, the Znojmo Music Festival brought its visitors an opera of its own production. For this year's 18th edition, subtitled Returning Home and Our Guardian Angels, the organizers prepared a stage performance of Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Return of Tobias. The Old Testament story about a tested marriage and a blind father was performed by the Czech Ensemble Baroque under the baton of Roman Válek and directed by Tomáš Ondřej Pilař at the premiere on 15 July 2022 (this performance was visited by this author) in the riding hall of the Louka Monastery – the reprise and last performances will take place on the following two days. Shira Patchornik (Sarah), Lucie Kaňková (d'Azaria), Dagmar Šašková (Anna), Theodore Browne (Tobias), and Adam Plachetka (Tobit) performed the solo roles. Costumes were designed by Ivana Ševčíková Miklošková, choreography by Martin Šinták, and lighting design by Tomáš Příkrýmore

Editorial

For the first time in the Czech Republic, the world-famous countertenor Andreas Scholl will perform as a conductor. The acclaimed expert on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach will perform two Bach cantatas with the Czech Ensemble Baroque in Brno Cathedral this evening, opening the eleventh season of the “Bacha na Mozarta!” series.  more

Singer and musician Lenka Dusilová will perform live for the first time ever with the big band Cotatcha Orchestra. Their joint concert will take place at the Husa na provázku Theater. The nine-time winner of the Anděl Award and the sixteen-member ensemble led by trumpeter Jiří Kotača will present both original novelties written for their joint project and some compositions from their award-winning album Bigbandová elektronikamore

Today’s premiere of Bolero is the work of three creators – Dan Datca, Mario Radačovský, and Johan Inger. The three different movement manuscripts deal with human relationships, fundamental questions of human existence, and questions about one’s own identity. With this title, the Brno National Theater Ballet continues to present contemporary ballet repertoire and original works, now in the form of one-act ballets, unlike last season.  more

Over two nights, more than sixty concerts by artists from dozens of countries will take place in thirteen clubs in Brno. Clubs such as Alterna, ArtBar Druhý Pád, Fléda, Kabinet múz, Kafara, Metro Music Bar, Music Lab, Ponava, Rusty Nail, Sibiř, Sono Music Club, Stará Pekárna, and Vegalité, united in BACH – Brno Association of Club Music, have joined the first edition of the Batch club night.  more

The management of the National Theater Brno is creating the new position of theater lecturer/lecturer. Applications for the selection procedure must be sent by the end of the month.  more

The ReConnect conference for music managers, booking agents, representatives of the club scene, and other music professionals, organized by the Music Managers Forum Czech Republic association and the SoundCzech pro-export office, starts tomorrow in Brno.  more

The Brno Philharmonic has been on an extraordinary guest tour since yesterday. For three consecutive nights it will appear on one of Europe’s most prestigious stages, playing in Salzburg, at the Great Festival House.  more

The band Poletíme? returns to the Brno club Fléda on the occasion of recording a new album. The album BEST OF DO GRAMOFONU (Best of, for the turntable) will map the greatest hits in the fifteen years of the band’s existence. Fans will get a unique chance to be part of the live recording in two concert days.  more

Matěj Metoděj Štrunc will christen his first solo album Lidověk in Kabinet Múz. The guest of the evening will be Czech-Polish singer-songwriter Beata Bocek.  more

Marie Steinerová, a soloist of the Brno National Theatre and a key performer of the title roles in Leoš Janáček’s operas, would have turned 100 years old today, 10 January 2023. The Brno National Theatre will dedicate a performance of Puccini’s Tosca to the singer on 10 February 2023 at the Janáček Theatre. A portrait of the artist will also be on display in the first order foyer of the Janáček Theatre from today.  more