Author Topic: Gerhard's Gazebo  (Read 17777 times)

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Offline André

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Re: Gerhard's Gazebo
« Reply #80 on: January 09, 2020, 06:47:16 PM »
Cross-posted from the WAYL2 thread

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There’s a huge difference in sound reproduction between the Chandos disc and the Auvidis one (symphony no 1). And between the Chandos and the Lyrita (violin concerto) which I listened to yesterday. They are musically different as well, but not all that much. In the concerto Bamert/Charlier’s tempi are more spacious (about 3 minutes longer, mostly in the first movement), but violinist Olivier Charlier makes the most of his opportunity to spin a gorgeous singing line and pure, scintillating high register. As for the orchestra, it blooms gorgeously, which is not a characteristic I associate with the sound world of Roberto Gerhard. The ascending scales on the piano for example (concerto, first movement) are striking on Lyrita, whereas they are but one element of a lush, Douanier Rousseau-like backdrop on Chandos. It’s not a matter of loudness, but the result of a natural, neutral engineering philosophy from the Lyrita team. That being said, I think I prefer the Chandos version because of Charlier’s peerless beauty of tone - not inappropriate since the concerto is one of Gerhard’s most approachable scores.

The first symphony was recorded by the Auvidis team in 1993, in pellucid, ideally balanced sound. The soundscape is wide, with great antiphonal rendering of the orchestral layout and a wide dynamic range. The clarity achieved serves the music wonderfully. I definitely prefer this to the more colourful, reverberant Chandos sound. Orchestra and conductor are hugely involved and offer a splendid performance.

In the third symphony, Gerhard uses a magnetic tape to great effect - superbly integrated in the sound mix, midway between a soloistic prominence and a more blended instrumental layer. It is a very different work, more modern in tone, mosaic-like as the title implies. One of Gerhard’s most interesting scores. The Auvidis boxes of the symphonies and ballets are among the treasures of the gramophone. The total package (performances and sound) present the works in the best possible light.

Offline André

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Re: Gerhard's Gazebo
« Reply #81 on: January 09, 2020, 07:45:47 PM »
Listened to today, 3 oldies - among the first recorded performances of Gerhard’s orchestral music, all performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra:

- symphony no 3 (1960) cond. by Frederik Prausnitz (1968), from an EMI lp

- concerto for orchestra (1965), cond. by Norman del Mar (1967), from an Argo lp

- symphony no 4 (1967), cond. by Colin Davis (1968), from the Royal Festival Hall UK premiere broadcast.

All of the above are from youtube.

The sound in symphony no 3 is not up to snuff, as the transcript carries with it the usual assortment of clicks, pops and distortion which affects the electronic tape part. The source must be an old, worn LP. In these conditions I find it hard to assess the performance, but the tape part seems to be coming from a 1950s monster movie. In any case the Tenerife version under Pérez satisfies me fully on all accounts, with a particularly successful balance of all sections which does wonders to elucidate the score’s intricacies.

The Concerto for orchestra comes across much better, the recording benefiting from the wonderful acoustics of London’s Kingsway Hall. It would be nice to have a cd reissue.

The 4th symphony has been recorded by the same team on Lyrita in 1970. This performance dates from December 12, 1968 and is from a BBC Radio 3 re-broadcast of September 24, 2007 (I wonder what was the occasion?). I find it quite well recorded, but in a clinical, two-dimensional way. It is certainly quite characterful, with the percussion well to the fore. Still, I prefer the Pérez/Tenerife performance for its transparence and sophistication. Not to be neglected either is the fact that, in this kaleidoscopic score there are 13 clearly marked sections (andante, poco rallentando, subito allegro, flessible, etc) that are cued separately by Auvidis (the BBC and the Lyrita disc offer a single 26 minute track). Plus the fact that the work as a whole and each of its sections are superbly annotated in the Auvidis booklet. This IMO adds immeasurably to the understanding and enjoyment of the symphony. It is not easy music, but when presented in this way one can grasp the horizontality (continuity) of the music much better.

Offline André

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Re: Gerhard's Gazebo
« Reply #82 on: January 10, 2020, 11:13:15 AM »

Cross-posted from the WAYL2 thread:

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The fourth symphony is simply fantastic. The subtitle refers exclusively to the fact that it was a NYPO commission. It is purely abstract music. Pérez, the orchestra and the Auvidis team surpass themselves here. Métamorphoses, presented here in its revised version is Gerhard at his most pointillistic and austere. It is my least favourite among the symphonies.

I have read  some critics and comments to the effect that the Tenerife orchestra’s strings sound undernourished (in comparison with the BBCSO on Chandos). My opinion is that this is exactly how they should sound. They are not thin or meagre, but just right in terms of balancing their sound with that of the important winds, brass and especially percussion. The result is a clear, transparent soundstage allowing for the score’s verticality to register fully.

Offline André

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Re: Gerhard's Gazebo
« Reply #83 on: January 10, 2020, 05:36:24 PM »

Ross-posted from the WAYL2 thread:

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These are late works of Gerhard’s, scored for small ensemble. They are strictly serial/dodecaphonic. Gerhard became more and more ‘modern’ as he aged. Although born in Spain, his parents were a Swiss and an Alsatian. He spoke German fluently, studied in Germany before coming back home to Spain, corresponded regularly with Schönberg, studied with him in the 1920s, and became his close friend. In 1931-32 Schönberg lived in the Gerhards’ household where he composed most of Moses und Aron. Gerhard organised a modern music event in 1936 in which Webern and Scherchen participated. It seems that after the death of Webern and Schönberg he returned increasingly to his modernist roots, his studies with Pedrell (and the folk influences in his music) vanishing completely from his musical language.

A friend and admirer of the painter Joan Miró, the latter’s enigmatic and snazzy paintings seem to find an echo in these three colourful compositions. A musical kinship with this maybe:


Online ritter

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Re: Gerhard's Gazebo
« Reply #84 on: June 24, 2021, 11:27:10 AM »
Managed to attend the second performance (the premiere was, fittingly, last night) of the reconstructed ballet La nuit de Saint Jean or Les feux de la Saint Jean (“Midsummer Night” or “The Midsummer Night Bonfires”) by Roberto Gerhard. The production is being presented (invitation only) here in Madrid by the Juan March Foundation, and will travel to the Teatro del Liceo in Barcelona in the fall.

This ballet, which remained unperformed until now, has a chequered history. It started as a prospective commission in 1936 by Colonel de Basil’s Ballets Russes de Montecarlo for a Spanish-themed ballet, with music by Gerhard, scenario by Ventura Gassol, choreography by Léonide Massine and sets by Joan Junyer. The outbreak of the Spanish civil war (the outcome of which forced Gerhard, Gassol and Junyer into exile), followed by WW2, prevented any real progress to be made on the work, and in the meantime Colonel de Basil’s company had folded.

The composer rescued some numbers for the suite Soirées de Barcelone (which exists in solo piano and orchestral versions—both available on CD), but the whole ballet is, at around one hour, four times as long as the suite. Pianist Miguel Baselga, in a post-performance colloquium (more about that later  >:() explained how reconstructing the whole score was not easy, as the unpublished numbers were only available in a score not meant for performance (but rather as a base for the never to be completed orchestration) and had no dynamic markings, etc. In any case, he did a splendid job, and brought out every nuance in this substantial score, which is clearly derived from Catalan folk music (one of the most beautiful balletic moments included the catalan circle dance sardana, and one of the typical human towers castell), but some numbers are clearly by Gerhard the pupil of Arnold Schoenberg.

The single set and the costumes were based on the original sketches, but apparently no trace has survived of the choreography Massine had intended for the work, so Antonio Ruz (the mastermind of the whole project) worked from scratch, but did so very effectively IMHO. The only weak point was that the (otherwise splendid) ballerina playing Cupid would recite some passages from the scenario before each of the three tableaux, and that was unnecessary, sounded really kitschy, and cheapened the whole show a bit.

The three tableaux are i) the bonfires of midsummer night (an age old tradition in Spain, particularly on the east coast), ii) a dreamlike love scene in a forest after the bonfires, and iii) a wedding on the next day. Nicely varied and beautifully danced, fitting perfectly with the musical material. The fact that the music was piano only was not a real problem, but the ballet would be really something in full orchestral garb (which I suppose would not be that complicated—apart from the financial effort, of course—as good chunks are already available in orchestral score in the Soirées suite).

As mentioned above, there was a colloquium with the performers and artistic director of the whole enterprise  Ruz after the show. As mentioned above, Miguel Baselga (who may by known to some for having recorded the complete piano music of Albéniz on the BIS label) talked about the music, the dancers introduced themselves and expressed their joy at the project, and then questions or comments from the audience were taken. Unfortunately, the second audience member to speak was some bloke who started saying how happy he was, having just arrived from Barcelona at noon, to be able to attend this performance, particularly after having been yesterday  outside Lledoners prison to cheer and welcome the convicted Catalan separatist leaders upon their release—thanks to a controversial governmental pardon—.  This threatened to degenerate into an unnecessary and completely misplaced political diatribe. It’s unbearable how these people try to contaminate every aspect of life (not only in Catalonia, but elsewhere in Spain) with their political fixation. As I hadn’t gone to the performance to listen to such gibberish, and even less to engage in any sort of argument with strangers, I (and several other members of the audience) quietly but conspicuously rose and left the hall. O ciel, che noia!   ::)

Here a couple of scenes from the ballet:





And for those not familiar with them, here’s the typical formation of the sardana, and a group of castellers (of course, concerning the latter, what we saw in the ballet—with only six dancers—was rather more modest  ;)):



« Last Edit: June 24, 2021, 12:22:42 PM by ritter »
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