Friday, October 28, 2011

O Schönheit at Théâtre du Châtelet

Cycle Mahler, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, October 27 2011

Daniele Gatti, Stephen Gould, and Marie-Nicole Lemieux

Conductor ..... Daniele Gatti
Contralto ..... Marie-Nicole Lemieux
Tenor ..... Stephen Gould
Violin ..... Frank Peter Zimmermann

Orchestre National de France

Cool night at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

I very much like this theater for its peculiar beauty, and for its amazing history (remember  when Gatti conducted the Symphony No.2 by Mahler last year that it was 100 years after Mahler did the same thing at the very same theater -- that's only one of many fascinating stories related to this house.) Even though nowadays most of the stuff on the program of this beautiful theater reeks easy entertainment, there is st ill  a good dozen of good concerts per year, a few interesting recitals, and one or two opera per season.

This concert is a part of the so called Mahler Cycle by which the Orchestre National de France (ONF) and their music director Daniele Gatti wanted to present to the Parisian public the entire opus by Gustav Mahler at Châtelet, and mark the centenary of the composer's death, as well as to celebrate his 150th birthday. The Cycle is nearing its end. This was the next-to-last in the series of 12 or 13 concerts, most of which I attended and even blogged about almost all of them.

Châtelet is a relatively large theater, and it always feel good to see the full house of Mahler-aficionados. Even the stairs were decorated with people and so the Mahler-mania could begin!

In the first part of the program Frank Peter Zimmermann, together with ONF, performed "To the memory of an angel," a rather famous Violin Concerto that Alban Berg devoted to Manon, daughter of Alma Mahler's who was paralyzed and died at the age of 18. Clearly inspired by a Bach's cantata, Berg composed this piece in dodecaphony --the 12 tone technique associated with the Second Viennese School-- that makes the combination very interesting for your ear.  Manon is essentially musically sculpted by violin and Zimmermann did a fantastic job in doing so.
Quite appropriately, after the series of applause, as an encore he played a solo-piece by Bach -- if someone recognized what it was, please let me know. A round of well deserved cheers for Zimmermann! Bravo

Frank Peter Zimmermann during his encore performance

 was on the program I did not really expect this big a crowd: it was packed with people. Many folks were sitting on the stairs
The crowd seemed to be very receptive and you could feel that everyone was ready for the  "Das Lied von der Erde" experience. This is a beautiful set of songs, magnificently orchestrated, that sounds very special when it is well performed and when you actually attend the concert. I thought the Châtelet Theater would be the optimal place for this type of Mahler's music.
I didn't listen to "Das Lied von der Erde" since the memorable concert at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, with Klaus Florian Vogt and Christian Gerhaher singing the two parts, and Kent Nagano conducting the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (a very good CD with the same cast is available.)
Tonight the tone was set very differently. Gatti preferred a tenor part to be sung by a mighty helden-tenor, and that's where  Stephen Gould's name comes to your mind first. The huge orchestra would occasionally get a swing to throw a few overwhelming musical waves that would risk drowning Stephen, but he would just add one extra notch to the power of his voice. If you like the way the helden-tenors sound, Stephen is the best case in business. I am not sure this part suits him though.

To exacerbate the contrast, Gatti invited  Marie-Nicole Lemieux  to sing the lyrical part. Her mezzo is easily diving in the contralto area, while she can pick all the notes in the high mezzo range when necessary. Any singer with such vocal abilities must be thrilled to sing Der Abschied. The song is  beautiful, it requires all from the singer, with the orchestral part being absolutely glorious. I find it also perfectly resonating with the time we live in -- when we are all ever more aware of the importance of protecting the Nature...

Stephen Gould and Marie-Nicole Lemieux

Obviously, the crowd received the concert with an avalanche of cheers and "Bravi!"  The orchestra was very good, Gatti extremely focused -- his Song of the Earth is maybe not the best you've listened to but it is slow, it is highly lyrical, and it is beautifully crafted.  

Is it his new haircut or something else, but Gatti looks 10 years younger than before summer

Radio France Musique provided the live broadcast of the concert that you can now listen on this link.


Since we are at Der Abschied, listen to the Royal Goncertgebouw Orchestra and always fascinating Anna Larsson

or, in a more recent performance (Leipzig, May 2011)

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