VERBIER FESTIVAL CONCERT
DVORÁK: Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 66. SHCHEDRIN: "Romantic Offering" -
Double Concerto for Piano, Cello and Orchestra. FRANCK: Sonata in A.
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 9 in E flat, Op. 70.
POULENC: Dialogue of the Carmelites
Martha Argerich at her peak of performance! What more could one want? And all filmed with the latest technology! The Verbier Festival Concert took place July 22, 2009 in Switzerland. After a superlative performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 (one of her favorites), she gives as elegant a reading as you will ever hear of a Scarlatti sonata. Then she is joined by trumpeter David Guerrier in Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1—a virtuoso high-spirited romp for all concerned. Excitement diminishes a bit with the "bonus," Bizet's Symphony No. 1. Throughout, the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra is in fine form under conductor Gábor Takács-Nagy.
A highlight of the Lucerne concert is the world premiere of Rodion Shchedrin's "Romantic Concerto" for piano, cello and orchestra commissioned by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. It is a larger-scale work in three movements, the second a dazzling study in percussive piano sounds. Writing for the cello is equally challenging, and the music is played from manuscript. Argerich and Maisky have been musical partners for more than three decades, and they play as one. This is an incredible performance that received a huge ovation and for good reason. Composer Shchedrin was present and understandably in a great mood—he bowed to both soloists, and all were recalled many times. After intermission, Argerich and Maisky played a rich performance of Franck's sonata originally for violin and piano. Neemi Järvi conducted the fine Lucerne Orchestra with his usual expertise, opening with the Dvorak Scherzo Capriccioso and ending with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9. This was a brilliant concert - don't miss it!
DVDs of Poulenc's masterpiece, Dialogue of the Carmelites, have been mentioned on this site: a LaScala production led by Riccardo Muti (REVIEW) and a Hamburg production conducted by Simone Young (REVIEW). While neither is ideal for reasons mentioned in the reviews, both are infinitely superior to this Bavarian production conducted by Kent Nagano, who doesn't seem to mind opera directors' ill-advised concepts (particularly the Bavarian Opera Lohengrin, a travesty of a production—except vocally (REVIEW). The new Carmelites is very well sung, and I imagine the singers often thought to themselves, "Just what did we get ourselves into?" Staged by Dmitri Tcherniakov, the story is updated minimizing the religious aspects of the plot. Tcherniakov has decided the nuns should not be executed but they would choose to gas themselves (!!!). And the nuns do not sing in the final scene, and there is no sign of a guillotine. This wretched production is an insult to the operatic world and to Poulenc. Why was it ever allowed onstage???
R.E.B. (August 2011)