A GRACEFUL GLIDE
ORQUESTA de CAMARA de PARIS
Jameos Del Agua, Lanzarote
Saturday 29th January 2022
review by Norman Warwick
So here we were, half way along a very long queue of people waiting to present their covid vaccinatiion certificate and id card for
The Ensemble orchestral de Paris was created in 1978 by the City of Paris as its only official chamber orchestra. John Nelson was his Music Director from 1998 to 2008.
Over the years the Ensemble Orchestra Paris (EOP) has continued to develop and expand artistically and musically, with a wide repertoire of works from different periods. Based on a core size of 43 musicians, the orchestra is extremely versatile and can expand to perform many symphonic works, as well as the chamber orchestra repertoire.
As a conductor and Music Director of international stature, John Nelson’s personal touch enhanced this chamber orchestra’s reputation. He continued to work on developing a rich repertoire, covering nearly four centuries of music, from the greatest classics to contemporary works.
John Nelson’s world with the orchestra is entering an era of excellence that places it amongst the best chamber orchestras in the world. This position is being confirmed and broadened through the planning and implementation of an ambitious program of international touring, large-scale artistic performances and recordings of CDs and DVDs.
In Paris, the orchestra has its own sold-out season concerts at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, as well as annual concerts at Notre Dame Cathedral, where it performs major choral works. The orchestra also appears each season at the Châtelet Musical Theater and at the Paris Opera Garnier, where it takes part in opera productions.
Since its creation by Marcel Landowski, Roland Bourdin and Jean-Pierre Wallez, the EOP has gradually expanded its reputation beyond the City of Paris with increasingly important appearances on the international music scene as well as through internationally acclaimed recordings. Public and critical recognition have combined to raise the orchestra’s profile and create a platform for the orchestra’s continued development. Among the orchestra’s touring destinations are Austria, Korea, Greece, St Petersburg, Rome and Japan, as well as regular visits to venues throughout France.
The Ensemble Orchestral de Paris was founded in 1978 and various art directors of the ensemble have contributed to the specific tonal color of the ensemble. With the help of its characteristic repertoire the ensemble is now deeply rooted in French music space. The repertoire of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris comprises well-known classical works, famous and less known (especially French) works of the 19th and 20th centuries and modern music. The ensemble also engages in operas and special cycles of chamber music. Each year they traditionally perform a masterpiece of sacral music in a cathedral or a basilica.
In 2012, l’Ensemble orchestral de Paris becomes the “Orchester de hamber de Paris” (“Paris Chamber Orchestra), in order to “confirm the orchestra’s chamber culture” (Jean-Marc Bador, head of the Ensemble orchestral de Paris since 2008 )
Orquesta de Camara de Paris were tonight under the direction of Antonio Mendez (left) , who joined his 23 musicians as soon as they had taken the stage and re-acclamatised their instruments..
He led them with seeming delicacy through works by Haydn (below right), Mozart and Schubert and brought from them a performance perfectly deserving of the wonderful acoustic, fnatasic viewpoints and natural splendour that this incredible cave under the volcano rocks.
Haydn Symphony No. 85 in B♭ major, Hoboken I/85, is the fourth of the six Paris symphonies (numbers 82–87) written by Joseph Haydn. It is popularly known as La Reine (The Queen). The 85th Symphony was completed in either 1785 or 1786. It made its way to America early on, at first through a keyboard arrangement such as one played by Nelly Custis at the White House. The nickname La Reine originated because the work was a favorite of Marie Antoinette, at the time Queen of France. It is the only one of the Paris symphonies whose nickname is of 18th-century origin.
By 1779 – a few years before Haydn wrote his Symphony No. 76 – the 23-year-old Mozart (left), we are reminded by Thomas May, a senior editor at Amazon.com and a regular contributor to andante.com.. was desperate to break free from the restrictions imposed by his employer in Salzburg, the Archbishop Colloredo. His recent tour westward to Mannheim and Paris had proved of decisive importance; it apparently stirred a desire to experiment with some of the instrumental forms and styles Mozart had been encountering.
photo 3 One result was the Sinfonia Concertante, a work that bursts with the joy of exploring new instrumental sound combinations and possibilities. It also marks a sort of turning point, in essence summing up much of what Mozart had achieved to date as an artist. Not long afterward – and in part on account of indulging in such purely pleasurable creative endeavors, at the expense of his duties as court organist – he was summarily dismissed by his boss (as he sardonically puts it in a letter, “with a kick on my arse”) and left Salzburg for good to live in Vienna.
The genre here, as the name indicates, is basically a hybrid between the symphony and the concerto – what, later in the 19th century, would be labeled a double concerto for violin and viola. Yet the Sinfonia Concertante wondrously unifies these several dimensions. Like Haydn, Mozart exploits his rather modest orchestral ensemble to the maximum; there’s no percussion, nor even flutes or Mozart’s beloved clarinets, but he divides the violas into two for a richer string blend. The proportions of the opening movement (marked with the epic-sounding tempo “Allegro maestoso”) are generous and expansive, further contributing to the work’s symphonic aspect.
For many, this piece represents the grandest of Mozart’s violin concertos, surpassing the five official ones. At the same time, the viola is no second fiddle here. Mozart’s choice of instrument for the second soloist is telling: although an excellent violinist, he himself loved to play viola in string quartet ensembles, enjoying the perspective of being “in the middle.” One unforgettable characteristic of the Sinfonia Concertante is the remarkable partnership and equality shared by both soloists and the searingly beautiful sound blend they create. Mozart’s original score even inscribes the viola part in D major, thus requiring the violist to tune the strings up a half-step. The intention is to give the usually more-reserved viola a certain resonance to offset the violin’s usual limelight-hogging sonority.
The Sinfonia Concertante is in part about an extraordinary abundance of ideas and sonorities which – thanks to Mozart’s art – pour out with a seeming effortlessness, like ripened fruit simply there to be plucked. The opening orchestral exposition makes this clear, as one idea is laid out on top of another until, with a half dozen in the air, one loses track. And more are yet to come as the curtain opens and the soloists enter in one of the most sublime passages of all Mozart, soaring out from the background on a sustained high E-flat. It’s perhaps no surprise that George Balanchine choreographed a famous ballet to this music, for the role of the duo soloists entails a conversation not just with the orchestra at large but with each other (it’s intriguing, as well, to imagine Mozart’s own voice represented by the viola). This is clear in the many echoing passages he unfolds and in his construction of the cadenzas, expressly written out.
Beyond these instrumental dimensions, there’s yet another. This is the world of opera, of lamenting song, with a hint of archaic baroque sentiment, which comes to the fore in the sensitive and lengthy Andante, one of Mozart’s relatively rare minor-mode slow movements. Here we find an emotional depth that, as Maynard Solomon speculates in his notable biography, may reflect the composer’s experience of loss in coping with the recent death of his mother. Specifically, the duality of the violin-viola sound contributes to another aspect of the piece’s stunning beauty: listen as the solo violin takes up its plaintive aria of grief and the response from the viola, now providing a sudden but believable consolation. The two continue to form a complementary pair as Mozart unfolds his song seamlessly, virtually prefiguring what Wagner would later coin as “infinite melody.”
With the presto rondo finale, an irrepressibly joyful spirit returns. As Alfred Einstein observes, its “gaiety results principally from the fact that in the chain of musical events the unexpected always occurs first, being followed by the expected.” Or, to return to Hesse’s ethereal Immortals, the Sinfonia Concertante ends with their characteristic laughter, which is “laughter without an object…simply light and lucidity.”
Schubert´s fifth symphony seemed to somehow bring this performance back full circle. As with the hayudn work there were quick. short passages that chased each away into the distance just as another one came along. This gave an air of call and responsde and echo, of course, and the cave was filled with the sounds of all kinds of music skittering away like early morning dreams. perhaps, or like theose crashing waves somewhere over our heads that then tip toed quietly back out to sea.
Franz Peter Schubert, right) was (Germanborn: 31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert left behind a vast oeuvre, including more than 600 secular vocal works (mainly lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music, and a large body of piano and chamber music. His major works include “Erlkönig” (D. 328), the Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 (Trout Quintet), the Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D. 759 (Unfinished Symphony), the “Great” Symphony No. 9 in C major, D. 944, the String Quintet (D. 956), the three last piano sonatas (D. 958–960), the opera Fierrabras (D. 796), the incidental music to the play Rosamunde (D. 797), and the song cycles Die schöne Müllerin (D. 795) and Winterreise (D. 911).
Born in the Himmelpfortgrund suburb of Vienna, Schubert showed uncommon gifts for music from an early age. His father gave him his first violin lessons and his elder brother gave him piano lessons, but Schubert soon exceeded their abilities. In 1808, at the age of eleven, he became a pupil at the Stadtkonvikt school, where he became acquainted with the orchestral music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. He left the Stadtkonvikt at the end of 1813, and returned home to live with his father, where he began studying to become a schoolteacher. Despite this, he continued his studies in composition with Antonio Salieri and still composed prolifically. In 1821, Schubert was admitted to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde as a performing member, which helped establish his name among the Viennese citizenry. He gave a concert of his own works to critical acclaim in March 1828, the only time he did so in his career. He died eight months later at the age of 31, the cause officially attributed to typhoid fever, but believed by some historians to be syphilis.
Appreciation of Schubert’s music while he was alive was limited to a relatively small circle of admirers in Vienna, but interest in his work increased greatly in the decades following his death. Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms and other 19th-century composers discovered and championed his works. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers in the history of Western music and his work continues to be admired.
On the journey back to the other end of the island it was obvious from the conversation that all four of us had enjoyed the concert, but perhaps for different elements, Margaret thought the playing was somewhat formal and sedate, and Iain reckoned that the director had perhaps not quite been ahead of the orchestra, although we all had recognised the empathy between director and musicians. My wife, Dee, had enjoyed the orchestra, the violinists in particular and so I was left struck, as I am so often am, by how much I seem to miss. What I remembered on the way home was how quickly the music escaped; as quickly as I became used to one particular ´riff´ it was replaced quickly by another that then seemed to disappear ion the same. Then as I smiled at what I was thinking to be a brand new refrain, it became thrillingly familiar for a few bars and drifted off into the ether again.
Somehow that is the overall of emotion I brought away from the concert. I was tangibly aware of how ephemeral music can be, and of how it can be allowed to escape by its composers and aided by its musicians.
It was as if I were hearing three composers calling to one another over a two or three hundred year period, to let the music go free. And tonight, some two hundred years later I felt as if this conductor and his orchestra heeded the calls of the composers, and gently released the musiuc to fo flying with the hang-gliders we had watched earlier; careful rise and fall, gentle sway and a graceful landing.