Saturday, 1 September 2012

New season, old habits

Time to shed those fetching shades Franzi, summer hols are over now. The extended Salzburg festival isn’t over yet but, throwing caution and rehearsals to the wind, the Wiener Staatsoper hits the ground running this time next week with a festival schedule of its own: the low-maintenance Don Carlo NP from June, so dull I almost died, and with more or less the same cast (Alagna Fabio Sartori now Giuseppe Gipali replaces Vargas on the 4th & 7th; 10th & 13th is TBA now Bobby again), won’t need much poking back to life as there was never any in it; Arabella, with FWM and Camilla Nylund, has traditionally been a production worth seeing just for Genia Kühmeier’s Zdenka, though I think the chronically overlooked Ileana Tonca, who takes on the role, will be just fine, and after what he managed in Die Soldaten perhaps also Tomasz Konieczny; L’Elisir and Malin Hartelius make two things I am compelled to avoid because of their associations (insufferability and Harnoncourt, respectively) [update: Chen Reiss replaces Hartelius on the 6th. Still meh.]; and I vespri siciliani marks the Staatsoper debut of Angela Meade, starring alongside Gabriele Viviani, Burkhard Fritz and Ferruccio Furlanetto (Noseda conducts). Nope, not remotely near October yet. On the 20th Elektra returns with resident Klytämnestra Agnes Baltsa and attendant jokes about elektive surgery that never get, um, old. There is also Deborah Polaski’s Elektra, which I very much hope should still be an event one doesn’t miss (?). Sifting the politics out of the Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny is a dubious but staggering achievement, and though the Wiener Staatsoper is the place to witness such feats in this instance you’d have bags more fun watching grass grow (review here). Boris Godunov I haven’t seen but am told is traditional, with stiff robes and more arbitrary pan-Slavic iconography than you can rattle a shashka at. Rising star Tugan Sokhiev I haven’t seen yet either, though one critic’s effusive description – ‘if it were possible to cross conductors with one another, then Tugan Sokhiev would perhaps be the perfect blend of Christian Thielemann, Gustavo Dudamel and the Russian school’ – makes me think these Rocky Horror scenarios should be banned from music criticism altogether (come up to the lab and see Thielemel on the slab, eew). Just as well next and last up is glassy-eyed Joseph Calleja, who sings Pinkerton to Oksana Dyka’s Cio-Cio San from the 29th.

The Theater an der Wien opens the season, as always, with a concert. Roland Geyer likes to think outside the box for these and though I’m not sure I thank him for it, the bringing together in 2010 of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Lang Lang and the Vienna Philharmonic will remain forever indelibly etched in my memory. This year’s offering will involve, as far as I can gather, three Burgtheater actors reciting extracts from Ulysses to be either punctuated or overlaid by Dame Evelyn Glennie playing arrangements of Bach, Berio and Kate Bush. Hmm, close but no Harnonlang. The Joyce serves as a tie-in with this month’s opera: Claus Guth continues his Monteverdi series with Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria. His L’Orfeo last year was outstanding so this is one not to miss. On the 12th the Wiener Philharmoniker offers a more conventional concert programme with Vladimir Jurowski: Schumann and Chaik Manfreds either side of Messiaen’s L’ascension, which I’ve always been convinced works better on the organ (Transports clinches it). There is one opera in concert this month, Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto, with Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques.

The Konzerthaus always remains dark until October and September isn’t the busiest of months for the Musikverein either. There is however one very obvious highlight on the 16th and 17th: Abbado, Pollini and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, with a Mozart piano concerto you don’t hear too often (no. 17) and a Bruckner symphony practically never performed outside of the dreaded cycles (no. 1). The Musikverein says the Bruckner is going to be in the Wiener Fassung, though if Abbado does as he has done recently it may be his own curious amalgam of the Wiener Fassung and Linzer Fassung, which for meeting midway I’ve always thought could be cheekily called the Sankt Pölten Fassung. The matter is however somewhat complicated by the Linzer Fassung actually having been prepared in Vienna. I have now typed the word Fassung quite enough for one day and will stop being a Bruckner bore.

I’m beginning to wonder if the Wiener Philharmoniker secretly shares my aversion to Brahms, since in the time I’ve lived here I’ve yet to hear them produce anything approaching a respectable Brahms symphony. Let us see what Daniele Gatti manages when he conducts all four of them later in the month (22nd, 23rd, 25th). Lastly at the Musikverein, it’s a sluggish start on the recital front: Rudolf Buchbinder playing Schubert (I gave up long ago, he simply does nothing for me) and the beginning of the Capuçon residency are the only highlights.

Grafenegg’s Musik Festival continues for another week and there are tickets remaining for all concerts except FWM (Cleveland) and Thielemann (Staatskapelle Dresden). I can’t in good faith encourage you to snap them up as the Wolkenturm is an acoustic atrocity, but I’ll be enduring it for Thielemann’s Bruckner and James MacMillan.

At the end of the month the echoraum hosts an event postponed from May, the second concert in a three-part series showcasing the work of Tamara Friebel. I never made it to the other two so can’t rate, but any concert involving the Platypus Ensemble is worth considering. Next Wednesday at the Zacherlfabrik the Klangforum Wien repeat Katharina Klement’s einen Moment bitte, which will be recorded and transformed into a sound installation (on Cage’s 100th birthday, natch). I wrote a little about the first performance here and can’t recommend it highly enough. It is just a shame it coincides with this Cage-themed event at the Essl Museum (no one-off concert; here is their full autumn programme, put together of course by Karlheinz Essl junior). Naturally the Schönberg Center isn’t missing out on Cage at 100 either: on Wednesday there is an event styled ‘Red Carpet for John Cage’ with the Ensemble Wiener Collage. Also at the ASC this month: a cello recital from Christophe Pantillon, and the Ensemble Kontrapunkte with two arrangements I can’t imagine being much good (the Sechs kleine Klavierstücke and Mahler’s Ninth Symphony). Lastly, on the 21st and 22nd the Moozak Festival (all things experimental) takes place once again at Media Opera.


  1. Thank you for recommending Zacherlfabrik! I went and it was quite the experience, musically and otherwise.

  2. Great to hear that - sadly I couldn't get away from work in time...