Monday, 3 April 2017

Abschied and Vorspiel - Schreker and de Leeuw

Reinbert de Leeuw's Abschied from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by Edo de Waart, recorded in Amsterdam in January, now on BBC R3.  De Leeuw (b 1938) is a huge name in contemporary music, as organizer, supporter, conductor and pianist.  His numerous ventures have left less time for his own music. Though his output is limited, his work is good. Last year, at the BBC Proms, Oliver Knussen conducted his Der nächtliche Wanderer  (2003) (read more hereAbschied is an early work, not a "farewell to life" but a starting point for new directions, looking back and looking forward. 

Scored for large orchestra, de Leeuw's Abschied (1973) uses resources with magnificent sweep, suggesting a very late Romantic drama.  But darker forces rumble beneath the surface. Huge , dissonant chords, flurries of brass, rivulets of tense, bubbling figures.  As if a volcano were erupting, spewing forth lava.  Lush strings return, long sweeping lines that spread and whip backwards, as if propelled by unseen tides.  The middle section broods, passages tentatively developing before being cut off. A piano is hear within the tumult: what does this signify ? Strange dissonances, but in lyrical patterns. Gradually, energy builds up, and the forward/backward dichotomy takes over. Fierce ostinato, Rite of Spring blocks merging with sweeping string lines that smear, eliding tones.  There is no resolution. Gradually sounds fade in volume and texture, single blows of percussion acting as markers. And then, it's over !  A witty piece, perfectly accessible, if not a work as sophisticated as Der nächtliche Wanderer.  But that's the point. In the forty years between the pieces, a lot has happened.

Preceeding this Abschied a Prelude - Franz Schreker's Vorspiel zu einem Drama (1913) based on the prelude to Schreker's Die Gezeichneten, but expanded for stand alone performance.  The opera encapsulated, in a sense. Far from being an obscurity, Die Gezeichneten is highly regarded, having been staged and recorded several times. In fact, there's a new production in Munich in July, to be conducted by Ingo Metzmacher, a master in this genre, with a superb cast, directed by Warlikowski. I can hardly wait.   Read here about the less musically stellar Lyon production with staging (David Bösch) that's much more faithful to the score than the famous Nagano/Lenhoff production from Salzburg many years ago.  In  Die Gezeichneten, the protagonist is rich, talented and artistic but shunned byn the Beautiful People around him because he's crippled. "Branded" because he thinks he's ugly, he compensates by creating a palace so beautiful that it seduces all who enter.  Unfortunately the beauty generates evil : women are despoiled because they're desirable. 

All kinds of levels of dis-ease in his opera, which touches raw nerves. No way would London audiences be able to cope.  So much for the nonsense that "Romantic" means unchallenging pap.  That attitude is "modern" and a betrayal of centuries of artistic development.  Schreker is looking backwards and forwards - no maudlin nostalgia here, despite the lush orchestration. Good programming (and performance) from de Waart and the RCOA. 

Four Glinka sings from Henk Neven Doubt; Where is our Rose; Lullaby; Do not Tempt Me Needlessly wind up an interesting concert., releasing built up tension

Original Content: Abschied and Vorspiel - Schreker and de Leeuw

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