Temirkanov vs Alsop

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Haydnseek
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Temirkanov vs Alsop

Post by Haydnseek » Sun Nov 20, 2005 9:52 am

Recordings clearly show conductors' differences

Critical Eye

By Tim Smith
Sun Music Critic

November 20, 2005

http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/cu ... -headlines

Yuri Temirkanov's remarkable six-year tenure with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which ends in June, will go unrecorded, except in memories.

It's regrettable enough that no money could be found for a commercial recording project. It's even more dispiriting that the BSO couldn't even follow the lead of several other orchestras and release its own self-manufactured CDs, so that at least a sense of the Temirkanov magic could be preserved in a tangible fashion.

As things stand now, the situation will be different for Temirkanov's successor, Marin Alsop, who officially takes the post in 2007. She's already scheduled to record John Corigliano's Red Violin Concerto with the orchestra this June for Sony, and she's talking about a BSO project for Naxos, the budget label for which she has recorded several discs with other orchestras.

Meanwhile, just-released CDs featuring Alsop and those other orchestras, as well as CDs and one DVD featuring Temirkanov with his other orchestra, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, provide a sense of the BSO's artistic present and future.

The latest Temirkanov discs, recorded live, make it all too clear what the BSO will be losing, a conductor who can ignite electric music-making in the concert hall, an interpreter who knows his way into the vast, endlessly rewarding realm behind the printed notes of a score.

The material on the recordings - Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, Mahler - also reiterates Temirkanov's comparatively limited range, one that leaves out a great deal of contemporary music. The DVD release contains mostly well-trodden fare, too.

The latest Alsop discs reaffirm at least some of what the BSO will be gaining, especially a conductor whose remarkable inquisitiveness takes her into a richly varied repertoire that she can enlighten to compelling effect. Her performances of music by Kurt Weill, Leonard Bernstein and Mark-Anthony Turnage make potent additions to her discography.

There's also a warhorse item among these releases, Brahms' Symphony No. 2. That it fails to make a strong impression may explain why some people questioned her BSO appointment.

Music directors are invariably measured on how they handle the standard, essential core of orchestral works. Based on the new Brahms disc, along with the one of Brahms' First Symphony released earlier this year - part of her complete Brahms symphony set for Naxos with the excellent London Philharmonic Orchestra - Alsop has a way to go in developing the sort of interpretive depth that distinguishes many conductors in such repertoire.

In Brahms' First, all you have to hear is how Alsop shapes the famous theme in the finale to realize the weakness. Her tempo isn't so much slow as limp.

With the Second Symphony, the problem comes more in subtle details, atmosphere, color. Alsop sounds matter-of-fact, letting the music unfold without a distinctive character. Everything is in its place, respectable and well played; little of it hits home. Slip just about any vintage performance of the symphony under the beam of your compact disc player and you'll quickly hear what's missing in this one.

It's possible to make a direct comparison between the way Alsop and Temirkanov approach Brahms' Second. In a live, out-of-print 1981 recording with the so-so U.S.S.R. State Symphony Orchestra, Temirkanov finds expressive richness at almost every turn. The finale, in particular, is a triumph, taken at an extremely fast clip that provides an amazing lift. Alsop has that finale moving along neatly, but the music remains earthbound.

No reservations, though, about Alsop's Bernstein disc for Naxos, recorded with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (she has been its principal conductor since 2002). It's a grabber from the first notes. Everything clicks brilliantly in the Serenade. Philippe Quint is the sterling violin soloist; the ensemble sounds taut and fully engaged; Alsop gets right to the heart of the ingenious music, which deserves to be as well known to American audiences as any European violin concerto.

The conductor illuminates the multiple layers of Bernstein's intense, haunting ballet Facsimile and revels in the prismatic coloring and wit of his late-career Divertimento. Hot stuff.

On another new Naxos disc, Alsop makes a strong case for Kurt Weill as a symphonist, no easy task. She can't disguise dips in inspiration in his two symphonies (No. 1 is decidedly gray), but still manages to make them persuasive. She is especially sensitive to the dark lyricism in No. 2.

She also coaxes from her fine orchestra a beautifully detailed account of a suite from Weill's musical Lady in the Dark, a sophisticated score from a Broadway long ago and oh, so far away.

An all-Turnage disc on the LPO label (the London Philharmonic's own) includes contributions from several conductors. The composer's Yet Another Set To, a thorny piece for trombone and orchestra, reveals Alsop's flair for hot-off-the-presses music.

The way Temirkanov conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 5 on a new release from the boutique Water Lily Acoustics label, you'd think this score was just written, too. The interpretation is that alive, that fresh. Recorded in 2003 before a cough-prone audience (and one particularly annoying sneezer) at the historic Philharmonia in St. Petersburg, the performance captures Temirkanov at his most involved and involving. He seems to be living the symphony as intently as he lives those by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.

There is remarkable expressive weight in the conductor's phrasing of the first and second movements, vivid coloring in the third, sublime poetry in the fourth, a superb combination of push and pull in the finale that keeps the music surprising.

Not everything is tidy in the St. Petersburg Philharmonic's execution, but the payoff is in the vitality and sense of discovery, qualities we have been fortunate to experience on so many nights when Temirkanov and the BSO have collaborated.

Too bad the CD's balances push the brass into the forefront; the strings sound as if they're playing in Moscow. (I haven't heard the disc in its SACD format, which might improve the balance.)

For another souvenir of a hot night in the Philharmonia, there's a EuroArts DVD of a 2003 gala concert with Temirkanov, his orchestra and glittery guest artists, including soprano Anna Netrebko, baritone Dmitri Hvorostofsky and cellist Mischa Maisky. Lots of entertaining material here.

A new Warner Classics release, recorded live in London last year, is being marketed on the appeal of Hvorostovsky, who delivers an arresting account of Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death (in the Shostakovich orchestration). Temirkanov, who doesn't even get his photo in the CD booklet, is an attentive partner, and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic matches the singer nuance for nuance.

Conductor and orchestra get the longest portion of the recording to themselves, delivering a knockout performance of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances. Temirkanov gives explosive passages terrific impact, but also draws extraordinary subtleties from the score, capturing the yearning and regret that shades the third movement. The orchestra's burnished tone comes through in well-balanced, vivid sound.

As examples of Temirkanov's art, an art that seems increasingly rare and valuable in today's music world, these releases recommend themselves.

Copyright © 2005, The Baltimore Sun
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Post by Ralph » Sun Nov 20, 2005 7:16 pm

Alsop has a huge opportunity to grow in Baltimore and my guess is she will.
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Haydnseek
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Post by Haydnseek » Sun Nov 20, 2005 7:53 pm

Ralph wrote:Alsop has a huge opportunity to grow in Baltimore and my guess is she will.
I think it will be a good match. Her appointment marks a return to the successful path David Zinman had the orchestra on adventurously performing modern American music alongside the core European repertoire.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

Gregory Kleyn

Post by Gregory Kleyn » Sun Nov 20, 2005 9:52 pm

Haydnseek wrote:
Ralph wrote:Alsop has a huge opportunity to grow in Baltimore and my guess is she will.
I think it will be a good match. Her appointment marks a return to the successful path David Zinman had the orchestra on adventurously performing modern American music alongside the core European repertoire.
The players themselves didn't want her, - not a portent for a good match if you ask me.

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Post by Barry » Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:53 am

I'm not familiar with any of Alsop's work, but I hold Temirkanov in very high esteem. I've seen him live twice and both were among the most thrilling concerts I've ever attended. He led performances of the Shostakovich seventh and Brahms second symphonies that I won't soon forget.

I'm hoping that leaving Baltimore will leave him more time for guest appearances. His visit to Philly earlier this season was his first in about five years. He was a frequent visitor during the 80s and 90s, but that stopped around the time he took over in Baltimore.
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Haydnseek
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Post by Haydnseek » Tue Nov 22, 2005 11:56 am

Gregory Kleyn wrote:
Haydnseek wrote:
Ralph wrote:Alsop has a huge opportunity to grow in Baltimore and my guess is she will.
I think it will be a good match. Her appointment marks a return to the successful path David Zinman had the orchestra on adventurously performing modern American music alongside the core European repertoire.
The players themselves didn't want her, - not a portent for a good match if you ask me.
Job security is an issue now in Baltimore as the following article demonstrates. If Alsop improves ticket sales and is a successful saleswoman to corporate sponsors and government the orchestra members will realize what a brilliant artist she really is. :wink: They are going to love recording again and their collective egos will be stroked continually by PC journalists wishing to avoid saying anything negative about BSO performances because Alsop's failure "would be perceived as a setback for women" :twisted:

All cynicism aside, her apparent down-to-earth personality should play well in Baltimore and the orchestra's profile will be raised. I don't know her work but I'll bet she's up to the job.

BSO cancels some concerts

Objective is to save money on trips to Strathmore hall

By Tim Smith
Sun Music Critic

November 9, 2005

http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainme ... 9621.story

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, fresh from playing to large, enthusiastic audiences during a European tour, is back to reality and fiscal priorities in Maryland, where low ticket sales and high costs have led to the cancellation of events at two venues.

Most of the cancellations are at the orchestra's second home, the Music Center at Strathmore in Montgomery County, starting with a series of family concerts scheduled for launch Saturday. A sluggish box office and/or high production costs are blamed.

"There are pressures to reduce the [orchestra's] budget deficit in Baltimore," said Michael Mael, BSO vice president for Strathmore. "The concerts we have canceled were not going to do well economically. But the good news is that our core classical series are doing very well."

Also scratched:

two performances of Handel's Messiah in December

one of three "Midday Serenade" concerts new this season

one of two appearances by a BSO partner, the Soulful Symphony

nine of 16 educational concerts for Montgomery County school students
In Baltimore, a new matinee series of chamber music concerts at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, featuring BSO members and guest artists, was canceled before it even got started due to poor sales.

The cancellations come less than a month after BSO management reduced administrative personnel by about 20 percent to save more than $500,000.

The deletion of the Strathmore concerts is expected to save between $200,000 and $250,000 for the orchestra, which continues to be saddled with an accumulated deficit of about $10 million.

Last year, the BSO announced a bond deal to sell Meyerhoff Hall to a private corporation, but the proposal was quickly dropped. Lately, there have been rumors that the orchestra would attempt to obtain a state bailout, as it did in the mid-1980s. Earlier this year, the BSO hired a high-profile lobbyist in Annapolis, former state Sen. Barbara Hoffman.

"It's not unheard of," Hoffman said last night. "The state has a vested interest in the orchestra already. If we were to do this, I believe it's really salable to the legislature because the BSO is really the state's cultural institution, especially now that it is performing in two major venues. We'll see what happens."

While not addressing the rumors, BSO president James Glicker said, "We're developing various strategies involving both public and private money. We are talking to the state all the time, but nothing has crystallized into a plan."

The cost of taking the BSO to Strathmore several times a month - three buses, a truck, stagehands, hall rental - adds pressure to the annual budget.

"Those costs have always been factored in," Mael said. "We see Strathmore as a long-term investment. We don't expect to see returns for five to seven years, not 12 months."

Although the BSO has an endowment fund of about $90 million, only a small percentage of interest can be applied to the annual budget which is about $30 million. Dipping into an endowment to reduce accumulated deficits is rarely an option for any nonprofit organization.

The $100 million Strathmore facility opened in February with a gala concert by the BSO, the new center's premiere resident organization. Ticket sales for the orchestra's first season there - effectively, a half-season - were strong. Capacity for classical and pops events averaged 93 percent. That figure hovered near 60 percent in recent seasons at Meyerhoff Hall, but is "closer to 70 percent now," Glicker said.

So far this season, after only about a half-dozen concerts, average attendance is down about 10 percent at Strathmore. (The National Symphony Orchestra, which performs at the Kennedy Center in Washington, reports a 5 percent increase in subscription sales over last year.)

Glicker said the drop in attendance at Strathmore was not unexpected. "The history of most new halls is that you sell slightly less in the second year," he said. "We were expecting this. We didn't know the market perfectly when we went in. We could not know the exact demand for every kind of concert we do."

Julia Kirchhausen, vice president for public relations at the American Symphony Orchestra League was also not surprised by the news of the cutbacks. "There are natural peaks and valleys in any orchestra or arts center," she said. "The opening of a new hall is a natural curiosity the first season, but may be less ... the next."

(The Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Maryland, College Park, opened in 2001, experienced a 6 percent increase in ticket sales during its second season.)

Eliot Pfanstiehl, Strathmore's president and CEO, said that, overall, his new hall was "still in a honeymoon phase. There is a real excitement about the place.

"We had always counted on the BSO doing about 40 events a season," he said. "They went to 52 shows, a huge increase, this year. I think they were throwing out a lot of things to see what sticks."

tim.smith@baltsun.com
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

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Post by MahlerSnob » Thu Nov 24, 2005 5:30 pm

If Alsop improves ticket sales and is a successful saleswoman to corporate sponsors and government the orchestra members will realize what a brilliant artist she really is.
....Since when is marketing prowess a measure of a conductors artistic brilliance?

I have expressed my views on Alsop here before, so I won't go into detail. However, I will say that she was not the best pick for the BSO and I think her appointment will do more to advance her career than it will to improve the BSO's playing (or morale) or financial situation.
Her appointment marks a return to the successful path David Zinman had the orchestra on adventurously performing modern American music alongside the core European repertoire.
The difference is that Zinman can do both well. Indeed, Zinman is one of the finest and most versatile conductors working today. Alsop, while not a bad conductor, is not on the same level as Zinman when it comes to standard rep.
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