INTO THE ´BEST-EVERS´ WITH A BULLET !´
The Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra (BCPO)
The 37th Annual Canary Islands International Music Festival
17 July 2021
reviewed by Norman Warwick
Founded in 1990 by young musicians from Augsburg, The Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra (BCPO) is characterized by the strong integration and energy of its members, brought to the stage without the figure of the director and with original programs, among which the commissions and premieres of contemporary music stand out.
They have their own concert series, fundamental in the cultural life of Augsburg. It highlights the figure of the violinist and conductor Reinhard Goebel, who has influenced the trajectory of the Bavarian formation in recent years. Since 2018 the orchestra has enhanced the activity aimed at family and youth audiences, with specific programming in this area.
He has toured Europe, the United States, Brazil and Korea. His collaboration with artists such as Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea and Marius Neset is of great importance. The orchestra has also had the opportunity to work with figures such as Leonidas Kavakos, Mstislav Rostropovich, etc., which endorses the excellence of the ensemble.
With more than 20 recordings for major European labels, he has received numerous awards such as the Association for the Promotion of European Business, the Diapason d’Or and the ECHO Klassik.
Among his most recent projects, 2019 stands out for the celebration of the 300th anniversary of Leopold Mozart, with the recording of the Solemn Mass in C, under the direction of Alessandro de Marchi; and in 2020 the recording of three Mozart piano concertos with Alexander Schimpf for Cavi Records.
Tonight´s programme was diverse and gloriously delivered.
The Prayer of the Bullfighter, was composed by Joacime Turina but because Spain’s nationalist musical renaissance was over by the end of the first half of the 20th Century it struggled for attention, despite Turina being one of the foremost composers of renaissance. Apparently, Turina’s music has enjoyed a revival very recently and became most played and recorded in professional music studios.
Turina (left) was born in Seville (1882-1949) and studied there and in Madrid. From 1905 till 1914 he lived in Paris and studied composition with Cesar Franck’s disciple, Vincent D’Indy at the Schola Cantorum, where he learned the mysteries of the “Cyclical Form” (meaning, what you hear at the beginning, you will hear again at the end). He studied the piano under Moritz Moszkowski. In composing works he was encouraged by Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, whose influences can be heard in Torina’s music, and, in turn, both Frenchmen wrote pieces influenced by Spanish music.
The Bullfighter´s Prayer, premierred in 1925, became one of Turina´s most popular works and one of his most often performed. If you couldn´t join the fortunate4 few inside the theatre tonight you can find the composer and his work on You Tube, but here in the theatre was special indeed. The tale of bull and the matador is of an eight minute fight, told in music that despite its grisly subject matter, focuses instead on the bewildering beauty and surprising splendour of the occasion. It tells of the Toreador´s battle in the bull´s own arena. We sense in the music the tension, the pulsating breathing and enormous self-control required of the Toreador. There is an eruption of ferocity and temperament but the music fades almost to a sigh of relief. The music speaks in a language of grace and tenderness and in that way reflects on Debussy, perhaps a major influence on the work.
Here tonight, the Orchestra took the piece from its delightfully skittish beginning to a languid stroll to its peaceful end, connecting the first to last note with a wonderful clarity of sound. Fifteen musicians all dressed in black, some elegantly, some more casually, performed the work with masterful certainty and their trust in each other glowed from the stage.
Chamber Symphony op. 110A by Dmitri Shostakovich (right) was the second piece of the programme. Whenever speaking about this, or other Shostakovich compositions The Smithsonian Chamber Orchestra, conductor, Kenneth Slowik says ´No other music [than Shostakovich’s]—indeed, I would not hesitate to say, no other body of texts—so radically forces engagement with the most fundamental issues of interpretation. No other body of texts so compellingly demonstrates that meaning is never wholly immanent but arises out of a process of interaction between subject and object, so that interpretation is never wholly subjective or wholly objective to the exclusion of the other. And no other body of texts so fully convinces us that the meaning of an artwork, indeed of any communication, is never wholly stable but is the product of its history, a history that only begins with its creation´.
Notwithstanding any false claims of Hyperbola, it seems that Kenneth Slowick´s words reveal not only an empathy with the work of Shostakovic but also perhaps identify the very essence of great art. It certainly seemed that way tonight as the The Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra put a soundtrack to his words that precisely demonstrated his opinions, with lead violin and bass in eloquent conversation
Adagio For Strings is one of the most recognizable mournful pieces of classical music. It was composed in 1936 by American Samuel Barber who is also one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music twice. Adagio For Strings is arranged for string orchestra from the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11. Samuel Barber rejected many arrangements of it, such as with the organ but he did transcribe the piece in 1967 for an eight-part choir, as a setting of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). Adagio For Strings has featured in many television shows and movies (including Platoon) and was even played at the funerals of Albert Einstein and Princess Grace of Monaco. There are occasions for such solemnity and melancholy, but even in a concert setting like this they have their place, as intervals of calm and reflection.
The orchestra´s delivery of this captured a gentleness and sensitively captured what is a dignified sadness.
A film full of melancholia might be one way of describing Schindler´s List and the atrocities it depicted. The film, however, also showed great acts of humanity and courage and its sound track by John Williams reflected that, too.
John Towner Williams (right) is an American composer, conductor, pianist and trombonist. In a career that has spanned nearly seven decades, he has composed some of the most popular, recognizable, and critically acclaimed film scores in cinematic history. Williams has won 25 Grammy Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, five Academy Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards. With 52 Academy Award nominations, he is the second most-nominated individual, after Walt Disney. His compositions are considered the epitome of film music. In 2005, the American Film Institute selected Williams’s score to 1977’s Star Wars as the greatest film score of all time. The Library of Congress also entered the Star Wars soundtrack into the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Williams has composed for many critically acclaimed and popular movies, including the Star Wars saga, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the first two Home Alone films, the Indiana Jones films, the first two Jurassic Park films, and the first three Harry Potter films as well as Schindler´s List. Williams has also composed numerous classical concertos and other works for orchestral ensembles and solo instruments. He served as the Boston Pops‘ principal conductor from 1980 to 1993 and is its laureate conductor. He has been associated with director Steven Spielberg since 1974, composing music for all but five of his feature films, and George Lucas, with whom he has worked on both of his main franchises.
Williams was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl‘s Hall of Fame in 2000, and received a Kennedy Centre Honour in 2004. His AFI Life Achievement Award in 2016 was the first to be awarded outside of the acting and directing fields. He has composed the score for nine of the top 25 highest-grossing films at the U.S. box office (adjusted for inflation). His work has influenced other composers of film, popular, and contemporary classical music; Norwegian composer Marcus Paus argues that Williams’ ´satisfying way of embodying dissonance and avant-garde techniques within a larger tonal framework´ makes him ´one of the great composers of any century´.
I find the theme almost impossible to listen to without seeing those images of the little girl in a blood red coat shown on a black and white film reel of a war torn city. Our visiting musicians, however, perfectly presented all the nuances of the piece.
Cavalleria Rusticana is an opera in one act by Pietro Masdcagni to an Italian libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci. It was adapted from an 1880 short story of the same title and subsequently beame the benchmark for ´verisomo opera´. This type of opera deals with ordinary people in ordinary circumstances.
In our review of a previous concert in this series of performances in the 37th Canary Islands International Music Festival we reported on an exciting programme by Trio Aggiara of work by the composer Astor Piazzolla. That work is still available in my archives at both Lanzarote Information and Sidetracks And Detours
Tonight we were given his Tango No. 1 for strings and violinsolo and again there was profuse exercise of pizzicato, and the more traditional playing continued the wonderful sound production that had been evident throughout the concert.
So that we could all leave the theatre like moon-struck teenagers the selected scheduled close of this concert was composed by Nino Rota, who wrote the music to lyrics by Larry Kusik, that were recorded as Speak Softly, Love by Andy Williams as a popular song in 1972. The song was first introduced as an instrumental theme in the 1972 film The Godfather that was simply known as Love Theme from The Godfather. Tonight we heard Rota´s Love Theme From Romeo And Juliet, … and that was another story that didn´t end well.
And yet it ended this concert, perfectly well, especially as the lead violinist and conductor, for his final notes, cradled his instrument in his arms and played it as if it were a timple or a ukelele.
Better known as Nino Rota ([niːno]), was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor and academic who is best known for his film scores, notably for the films of Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti. He also composed the music for two of Franco Zeffirelli’s Shakespeare films, and for the first two films of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, earning the Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Godfather Part II (1974). During his long career, Rota was an extraordinarily prolific composer, especially of music for the cinema. He wrote more than 150 scores for Italian and international productions from the 1930s until his death in 1979 — an average of three scores each year over a 46-year period, and in his most productive period from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s he wrote as many as ten scores every year, and sometimes more, with a remarkable thirteen film scores to his credit in 1954. Alongside this great body of film work, he composed ten operas, five ballets and dozens of other orchestral, choral and chamber works, the best known being his string concerto. He also composed the music for many theatre productions by Visconti, Zeffirelli and Eduardo De Filippo as well as maintaining a long teaching career at the Liceo Musicale in Bari, Italy, where he was the director for almost 30 years.
This had been a glorious work for the conclusion of the chorus, but what had, throughout the concert, been sustained applause for each piece now became relentless. The cries of bravo and encore rang out an the fifteen musicians were twice brought back to the stage for encores, and for the first of these we were treated to Astor Piazzola music we had heard in that previous concert by Trio Arriaga a week or so earlier. It is impossible really to compare and contrast a delivery by a three piece ensemble of violin, cello and piano to that from a fifteen musician chamber orchestra, but both groups succeeded in liberating the tango from what Piazzola had seen as its restrictive traditions. Perhaps, although I´m only musing here, there was a greater feeling of emancipation in tonight´s interpretation, but what we previously had heard from the trio carried much of the struggle that brought about that sense of freedom.
The music had been wonderful, and the venue so spectacular as shown in these photos, that still the audience refused to allow the BCPO to leave the stage our violinist and conductor introduced (in English as he had all night) what he told us would be, ´the last piece and one you will all know´.
It was music to bring perfect a perfect end to an evening in ´summertime when the living is easy´ and we all eventually left the theatre, thinking fondly of Gershwin and Hayward´s libretto for the three act opera of Porgy And Bess.
By the way, as we filed out it seemed that most of us thanked each and all of the staff for their care and courtesy in what must, for them as much as for us, be trying and testing conditions. I take this opportunity to put those thanks here in writing in Lanzarote information / Sidetracks And Detours. They do a fantastic job.
My preferred music may always be that of the songwriters of Americana but we have seen scores of ´classical´ concerts over the years, including the Halle playing by the lake in Tatton Park and other great performances of wonderful music at Bridgewater Hall and The Royal Northern College Of Music when we lived in the UK. We have now seen a score of such concerts delivered by The Canary Islands International Music Festival, (of which this was the 37 annual edition) over the past five years, since re-locating here to Lanzarote.
For some reason that I cannot claim to be expert enough to identify, this concert shot through them all and entered the top three with a bullet. My wife Dee talked on the way home about the variety in the selection of music, of professional musicians all looking as if they were enjoying themselves. There was something, too, for me about the clarity and precision of the notes and the ease with which we were able to identify which players were playing which parts. It was if each of the fifteen players had chosen the precise spot on stage from which their instrument could be heard and identified through the auditorium.
It was all as pristine and clear as a studio recording but floated on the joy of live music, to make one of the top three, and may yet settle at number one, among all the classical concert I have enjoyed.