Author Topic: Nikolaus Harnoncourt  (Read 19877 times)

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PerfectWagnerite

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Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« on: December 28, 2007, 05:55:11 PM »
So he's gone from Bach to Bruckner and Brahms and Schumann. WHere do you guys think Harnoncourt is going next? You think he'll try his hand at Wagner or Mahler or maybe Verdi? That ought to be interesting. Anyone with the inside scoop on where crazy Nick is going next?

Offline 12tone.

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2007, 07:19:49 PM »
So he's gone from Bach to Bruckner and Brahms and Schumann. WHere do you guys think Harnoncourt is going next? You think he'll try his hand at Wagner or Mahler or maybe Verdi? That ought to be interesting. Anyone with the inside scoop on where crazy Nick is going next?

Xenakis.

M forever

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2007, 10:05:45 PM »
Harnoncourt hasn't just gone from Bach to Bruckner, during the past 50+ years, he has studied/played/conducted his way through large parts of our music history from the Renaissance to the 20th century.
In his explorations of 19th century music, he has concentrated mostly on the German/Austrian repertoire, but also Dvořák (which is not that far from the German/Austrian repertoire though), but he has done some Verdi (Requiem, Aida) though and some other works in areas of the repertoire not usually associated with him, such as Franz Schmidt's Das Buch mit den Sieben Siegeln and some Bartók (Divertimento, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta). Whatever he does next, I hope he still will do Bruckner's 6th, and maybe the 1st and 2nd as well (that would be a complete cycle then). Janáček would be an interesting composer to hear from him, maybe also Strauss.

Offline PSmith08

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2007, 10:14:31 PM »
Harnoncourt hasn't just gone from Bach to Bruckner, during the past 50+ years, he has studied/played/conducted his way through large parts of our music history from the Renaissance to the 20th century.
In his explorations of 19th century music, he has concentrated mostly on the German/Austrian repertoire, but also Dvořák (which is not that far from the German/Austrian repertoire though), but he has done some Verdi (Requiem, Aida) though and some other works in areas of the repertoire not usually associated with him, such as Franz Schmidt's Das Buch mit den Sieben Siegeln and some Bartók (Divertimento, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta). Whatever he does next, I hope he still will do Bruckner's 6th, and maybe the 1st and 2nd as well (that would be a complete cycle then). Janáček would be an interesting composer to hear from him, maybe also Strauss.

It seems that his recording of Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln was shelved before it had any chance to take root in the States. That was indeed a shame, especially now that the Mitropoulos disc is OOP, since that work deserves all the advocacy it can get. 

Offline knight66

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2007, 01:08:01 AM »
Sometimes his revisionism is not greatly appreciated; his Verdi is far from mainstream. However his take is invariably interesting, the Verdi Requiem for example was simply unlike anyone else's. So all that new light is valuable, I should think other conductors will absorb bits of what he presents to us.

I think Carmen would benefit from him and Stravinsky would surely be fascinating. Perhaps he has already performed some of the latter, though I can't find any.

Mike

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M forever

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2007, 05:39:23 AM »
I think Harnonourt conducted Carmen at the Styriarte Festival in Graz in 2005. Haven't heard any recordings of that though. Ihave the Verdi Requiem but haven't listened to it enough yet to form an opinion. His recordings of Brahms, Bruckner, Dvořák and Smetana were certainly highly interesting and musically very good. I had the good fortune to hear most of the Brahms symphonies and also Schubert 4 and Schumann 4 with him in Berlin; all of the above performances were recorded by Teldec. Those were all great musical events, the electricity in the air was so strong you could have measured it. There is a reason top orchestras like the Wiener and Berliner Philharmoniker and the Concertgebouworkest love playing under him. Whatever one thinks about his musical views and ideas in general or in particular works, there is no doubt Harnoncourt is one of the very best conductors around today. He has a better knowledge and understanding of how an orchestra works and breathes (especially the latter) than most, and the way he conducts completely registers with the players, as is very obvious when you watch him in concert or on video. This is why his peformances, as well reflected and prepared as they usually are, are also very "live". He is not afraid to take risks when he wants certain effects, and he knows when and where to let the music flow and when to propel it forward or structure it.

I have a live recording of Janáček's "Eternal Evangelium" with him and the WP which I will post when I get around to it, maybe tomorrow. The recording of Bartók's Divertimento and Music for... with the COE is also worth checking out.

So all that new light is valuable, I should think other conductors will absorb bits of what he presents to us.


What most conductors should definitely absorb or at least take an example of him is the seriousness with which he approaches the music he performs. What he does may not always make sense to everyone (it doesn't always to me either), but it is obvious that there is always a lot of study and reflection behind it, in addition to a theoretical and practical understanding and performance experience in several centuries worth of repertoire which is probably completely unparalleled by any other "classical" musician active today. So his contributions are definitely always welcome and most of the time interesting and relevant. Certainly much more interesting and relevant than many contributions from conductors (young and old, but especially young) who don't even have a fraction of the experience and knowledge but feel well equipped to tackle anything in the repertoire, often with just a few superficial ideas and little concept of the music they are "performing". It is all too easy these days for overhyped posers to set themselves in scene when most orchestras can autopliot through nearly everything anyway.

PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2007, 06:10:46 AM »
He's such a teaser sometimes. Sometimes he turns in performances like the Paris Symphonies that do not remotely resemble anything in the catalog. Then you get something like his Bruckner 7th sort of expecting something radical and get a pretty mainstream (but excellent) performance.

I'd love to see him first finish a Bruckner cycle. What's he missing now, #6? He'd probably not record 1 and 2.

Offline knight66

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2007, 06:50:17 AM »
M, I should think you will get a lot of pleasure from the Verdi recording. I wrote quite a long review of it, but cannot track it at the moment. It worked against expectations set up by more traditional performances, but produced a wonderdul luminosity and the mood of the performance is unique from any I have previously heard.

Mike
DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.

M forever

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2007, 07:34:24 AM »
I wish I could find it! Verdi's Requiem is one of my alltime favorite choral pieces. I just watched a video with Fabio Luisi and the MDR Sinfonieorchester in the reconstructed Frauenkirche in Dresden which is more "conventional", I guess, but a really nice performance, so I wanted to check out Harnoncourt's recording, but I couldn't find it in the chaos that my CD collection is in now...  ::) Well, I guess I'll make another attempt later  8)

Offline knight66

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2007, 07:51:13 AM »
Not anything I can do to help there. I know what the cover looks like, haha, so...as I said, no help. But it is a performance that lives in the head where many others don't; despite my feelings I would not recommend it as a first or only performance in someone's collection.

Mike
DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2007, 08:36:01 AM »
Athough I like his Requiem, I much prefer his Aida. Feeble soloists apart, the chorus and orchestral work in this recording are revelatory. Too often this opera is recorded with hastily assembled and ill-matched 'hot name' soloists, with predictably ho-hum results. Here the crushing forces of politics and religious fanaticism are overwhelming. There's nothing like it anywhere in the catalogue.

I've heard all his Bruckner symphonies recordings but I haven't been won over by the results. I find it hard to detect any particular vision or indeed affinity with the composer. The same goes (for me, that is) of his Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Dvorak. Although efficient and well conceived, very little of his 'german classic-romantic' music recordings has offered a challenge to older masters. Szell, Böhm, Jochum, Bernstein and Karajan all impart that music with a sharper profile. He definitely knows how to bring out the best in the orchestras he conducts, but the results are surprisingly variable. For some reason, I find his work in Amstrerdam the most interesting and satisfying. I think his conducting style is particularly well suited to the strongly individualized sections of that orchestra.

At the moment the only Bruckner I wish he would give us is the Te Deum. This is music that he was born to conduct. And a Glagolitic Mass would certainly be soemthing I'd rush to buy. A long shot but an interesting one: Sibelius symphonies.

Offline Que

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2007, 08:47:31 AM »
I've heard all his Bruckner symphonies recordings but I haven't been won over by the results. I find it hard to detect any particular vision or indeed affinity with the composer. The same goes (for me, that is) of his Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Dvorak. Although efficient and well conceived, very little of his 'german classic-romantic' music recordings has offered a challenge to older masters. Szell, Böhm, Jochum, Bernstein and Karajan all impart that music with a sharper profile. He definitely knows how to bring out the best in the orchestras he conducts, but the results are surprisingly variable. For some reason, I find his work in Amstrerdam the most interesting and satisfying.

We have the same experience , Lilas. Anything German baroque, especially Bach, and I'm sold on Nikolaus. Same with his Haydn and a fair amount of his Mozart. I mostly admire but am rather unsettled about other things he did.

Q

M forever

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2007, 09:44:36 AM »
What do you mean by unsettled?

Offline Que

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2007, 10:05:34 AM »
What do you mean by unsettled?

Undecided, ambivalent, it doesn't always feel quite 100% "right". One the one hand there is much to admire, and he does bring out very interesting things on the pieces he does. On other other hand, but this is clearly subjective, I hear often more scrutiny than affinity. At time he can be frustratingly fussy and too insistent/deliberate. (For the record: I've heard his LvB, some Bruckner - notably the 5th, and the Schubert and Brahms symfonies).

Q

Offline Todd

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2007, 10:15:32 AM »
I have mixed results with Harnoncourt - like pretty much every other conductor - but I must say that I find the idea of him conducting Janacek quite intriguing.  Boulez's pending From the House of the Dead followed up by anything by Harnoncourt, but especially the Sinfonietta or The Makropulos Case, would make me think anew about Janacek.  I think Harnoncourt might be nice to hear in Webern or Schoenberg, too, and, for no easily explained reason, I think he would do well in some Martinu.
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Lilas Pastia

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2007, 05:26:28 PM »
Undecided, ambivalent, it doesn't always feel quite 100% "right". One the one hand there is much to admire, and he does bring out very interesting things on the pieces he does. On other other hand, but this is clearly subjective, I hear often more scrutiny than affinity. At time he can be frustratingly fussy and too insistent/deliberate. (For the record: I've heard his LvB, some Bruckner - notably the 5th, and the Schubert and Brahms symfonies).
Q

I couldn't put it better. And this is not meant to disparage his art at all. I actually admire the relentless curiosity and wholehearted mindpouring he brings to all his musical endeavours. I have the feeling that with those composers he's been spending decades with, his musicianship is unparalleled and the musical results are just so authoritative as to silence criticism (other winners I might have mentioned: his K. 427 and Creation, both with the Concentus Musicus, Wien).

With his more recent "discoveries" the process is still not complete. Which is not to say that he doesn't score a hit here and there (his Aida and, I'm sure, a potential Te Deum - I can just sense it brewing in the air: a recording is coming, I'm almost sure :D).

A lot of his 19th century german repertoire music-making sounds just plain incomplete. I bought and speedily sold the Brahms piano concertos (with Buchbinder). Very musical and superlatively done. In French we say léché - not an easy translation, but "slick and perfectly put together au goût du jour" would convey the meaning.

What I keep in mind is that Harnoncourt (like Callas, Bernstein, Karajan and Boulez) is one of the driving forces of the post 1950 musical scene. Nobody asks these musical Prometheuses to succeed in everything, and we should be grateful for whatever they brought to the classical music scene that willl never be the same, thanks to their genius.

M forever

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #16 on: December 30, 2007, 04:52:09 AM »
Hmm...some interesting (and, actually surprising) remarks there. I have to think about some of these before I reply. In the meantime, I found the CDs of the Verdi Requiem - the reason I couldn't find them in my collection before was that I had already set them aside in my "to listen to" pile... ::)

For now, just one question for Lilas:
A lot of his 19th century german repertoire music-making sounds just plain incomplete. I bought and speedily sold the Brahms piano concertos (with Buchbinder). Very musical and superlatively done. In French we say léché - not an easy translation, but "slick and perfectly put together au goût du jour" would convey the meaning.

And it didn't occur to you before you "speedily" sold the disc that maybe you simply didn't get what Buchbinder and Harnoncourt did there, and why? Don't you think there is a good chance that someone who actually has grown up in the middle of that music tradition and who has performed this kind of music since before you were born - your idea that somehow Harnoncourt somehow only discovered the 19th century repertoire more or less recently is pretty funny, after all, he is from Vienna and as a cellist played a lot of that repertoire in the "traditional" style, including in the orchestra under the direction of many of the "old masters" even before he started his period performance exporations - anyway, that someone with that kind of background might actually know a thing or two, or a thousand more about this music than you over there in Canada? What is your basis for deciding his "19th century German repertoire music-making" is "incomplete"? And what does that mean? Do you think you have a complete understanding of that musical tradition and its cultural context? That appears rather unlikely to me.

Nobody really has, not even the people who come from right in the middle of it. That is basically where Harnoncourt comes in and what makes his contributions so interesting, namely that they have a lot of context and even though he questions and revises a lot of things, he is still very firmly rooted in the musical tradition he comes from. That may not be obvious to you, but it is to the people who actually understand that traditional cultural context. Which is why he is actually so well respected by orchestras as firmly rooted in those traditions as the ones from Vienna, Amsterdam and Berlin that he has done most of his work in the bigger symphonic repertoire with.

Which does't mean on has to actually "like" everything he does. I don't either. But it strikes me as a bit silly when someone says this is put together "au goût du jour". You obviously don't understand the depth and context of that. What surprises me though is that you don't realize that and speedily get rid of material that doesn't conform with your apparently clichéed and superficial ideas about German/Austrian music. My impression had been so far that you were a more interested and adventurous listener and explorer of our musical culture. I was wrong, apparently. Well, your loss.


Anyway, here is a rare live recording of Harnoncourt conducting Janáček: "The Eternal Evangelium", a cantata, with Luba Orgonášová, soprano, Ľudovít Ludha, tenor (and yes, the accent on the L is in the right place, starnge, but that's the way it is, I googled it!), Ivan Kusnjer, baritone, the Czech Philharmonic Choir and the Wiener Philharmoniker. Sound quality isn't that great, but not too bad either:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/2e4ols

Offline hautbois

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #17 on: December 30, 2007, 06:18:14 AM »
Anyway, here is a rare live recording of Harnoncourt conducting Janáček: "The Eternal Evangelium", a cantata, with Luba Orgonášová, soprano, Ľudovít Ludha, tenor (and yes, the accent on the L is in the right place, starnge, but that's the way it is, I googled it!), Ivan Kusnjer, baritone, the Czech Philharmonic Choir and the Wiener Philharmoniker. Sound quality isn't that great, but not too bad either:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/2e4ols

THANKYOU!

Howard

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #18 on: December 30, 2007, 08:48:19 AM »
Anyone's opinion is the expression of a transitory state of mind. I couldn't care less how mine is perceived at this point in time. It's just my opinion, and that's how I take others' too. Hopefully I'll still be learning for many, many years, and I may well look back and be surprised at some things I have thought or said. Actually, I look forward to that. And obviously artists go through the same process. What I admire in Harnoncourt is his incessant probing of music as an act of communication. He is not just a performer, but a fascinating musical thinker.

I should be listening to his new version of the Christmas Oratorio in the coming days. BTW this DHM production is not a patch on the old Teldec one. Notes are okay but much less detailed, and there is no text :P. I suppose the folks at DHM figure that printed texts are expendable since they're easily found on the net  ::).

Offline rappy

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Re: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
« Reply #19 on: December 30, 2007, 04:32:48 PM »
In an interview he said that he will never conduct Strauss because he had had so much talent ("maybe the most gifted composer after Mozart") and didn't use it, as well as he will never conduct Mahler and Berlioz because they are too egoistic.