Sunday, December 19, 2010

Denoke and Mattei sing Zemlinsky

Webern-Berg-Zemlinsky, Salle Pleyel - Paris, December 3 2010

Angela Denoke

Daniel Harding Peter Hirsch ..... conductor
Angela Denoke .... soprano
Peter Mattei ... baritone

Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France

Incredible amount of snow in Paris this morning: pro- it all looks delightfully white, con- shoveling snow is not on the list of my favorite Sysiphusian activities. Now, stuck in my apartment and feeling lazy to run my codes, I can at least update this blog...

Only a couple of hours before the concert at Pleyel I realized that Daniel Harding canceled his appearance and Peter Hirsch who I believe to have never listened conducting an orchestra before. Hirsch seems to be an expert for 20th century music; already recorded works by Schönberg, Nono, Ryan, Reimann, Zimmermann... So from that side it looked promising.
In spite of the names of Mattei, Denoke and Harding (all three of them are big names in Paris!), La Salle Pleyel was not filled up with people. To see the crowd not responding to this wonderful music, while regularly rushing to suck some more of Puccini's sugary trivialities (or worse, the vulgarities of verismo!)  is a bummer.  Whatever... (my apologies)

On the program there was Webern (Six Pieces for large Orchestra), Berg (Lyric Suite for String Quartet) and Zemlinsky (Lyric Symphony).

Webern's pieces sounded fun, and it is funny to know that the premiere of this music --conducted by Schönberg 1913 at  Musikverein in-- was followed by an extreme polarization of public that the police had to intervene to stop the fight between those who were pro and who were against this "new" music. The traditionalists preferred Hindemith/Pfitzner-type of stale music to the change that was coming with Viennese school.  Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France (OPRF) sounded very good to me, and maestro Hirsch was good.

Then came the Lyric Suite by Berg that I know pretty well but performed by a String Quartet, not by a  large orchestra. So my pleasure was greater for it. This is maybe the best illustration of Berg's genius. He does make reference to the past (which was necessary thing to do for the time he lived in!) but contrary to the boredom of Hindemith/Pfitzner-type of music, he's not looping within the codes of tradition. He opens the horizons and go for modernism.  Orchestra was very in form in that part.

Peter Mattei

The second part was all devoted to Lyric Symphony by Alexander von Zemlinsky (great teacher who was in part responsible for the genius of Berg, Schönberg and Webern). Built on the poems by Rabindranath Tagore, this Symphony is in fact is a series of 7 movements, sung alternatively by a baritone and by a soprano.   To me this was first time to listen to the piece and  I liked it a lot. Later I read that in fact Berg was inspired by this Symphony to compose his Lyric Suite.

I love Peter Mattei (I believe he's the best musician among the male singers, just like Malena Ernman is among the ladies). Angela Denoke  is one of my favorite sopranos for tougher roles, who in this repertoire regularly shines with thousand colors. It is especially in this big a hall such as Pleyel that you can realize how beautifully warm and big is her voice. So both of them were really good, but unfortunately Peter Hirsch lost control and often drowned Angela and Peter.
I believe the radio recording of the concert was much better in terms of re-establishing the balance of intensity of orchestra wrt the singers. Here is the link to the site where you can listen to the entire concert.

Denoke, Hirsch, Mattei, and OPRF 

Lyrics of the first movement/first poem:

Ich bin friedlos, ich bin durstig nach fernen Dingen.
Meine Seele schweift in Sehnsucht,
Den Saum der dunklen Weite zu berühren.
O großes Jenseits, o ungestürmes Rufen Deiner Flöte.
Ich vergesse, ich vergesse immer,
Daß ich keine Schwingen zum Fliegen habe,
Daß ich an dieses Stück Erde gefesselt bin
Für alle Zeit.

Ich bin voll Verlangen und wachsam,
Ich bin ein Fremder im fremden Land;
Dein Odem kommt zu mir
Und raunt mir unmögliche Hoffnungen zu.
Deine Sprache klingt meinem Herzen vertraut
Wie seine eig'ne.
O Ziel in Fernen, o ungestümes Rufen deiner Flöte.
Ich vergesse immer, ich vergesse,
Daß ich nicht den Weg weiß,
Daß ich das beschwingte Roß nicht habe.

Ich bin ruhlos, ich bin ein Wanderer in meinem Herzen.
Im sonnigen Nebel der zögernden Stunden
Welch gewaltiges Gesicht von dir wird gestaltet
In der Bläue des Himmels.
O fernstes Ende, o ungestümes Rufen deiner Flöte.
Ich vergesse, ich vergesse immer,
Daß die Türen überall verschlossen sind in dem Hause,
Wo ich einsam wohne, o fernstes Ende,
O ungestümes Rufen deiner Flöte.


I am restless, I am thirsty for far away things
My soul rambles in longing
to touch the dark hem of the world.
Oh great aeons, oh impetuous calls of your flute,
I forget, I ever forget,
That I have no wings to fly,
that I am bound to this piece of Earth
for all time.

I am much in need and watchful,
I am a stranger in a foreign land;
Your spirit comes to me
and whispers impossible hopes.
Your familiar voice rings in my ears
like you are here.
Oh distant goal, oh impetuous calls of your flute,
I forget, I ever forget,
That I do not know the way,
That I do not have a high spirited horse.

I am restless, I am a wanderer in my heart.
In the sun flecked mist of the uncertain hours
What huge pictures of you form
in the blue sky.
Oh immensity, oh impetuous calls of your flute.
I forget, I ever forget,
that the doors are everywhere closed in the house
where I live alone, oh immensity,
Oh impetuous calls of your flute.


  1. She's by far one of my favorites too. Can't believe her recording (and youtube) output is so small.

  2. ... which is what makes her concerts even more attractive ;)

    She'll be soon back in Paris for a revival of excellent production of Kat'a Kabanova. She'll also sing in Janacek's Makropoulos next summer in Salzburg.

  3. This was really excellent. And YouTube and recordings (which, let's face it, are very sparse for almost everyone born after 1960, Denoke seems to be doing very well, singing frequently in most of the big houses, (with the notable exception of the Met).