A showcase of the artistry of Christoph Eschenbach and his tremendous talent for interpretation of new music, in a setting with the music of two contemporary composers of whom Eschenbach is a champion. Pintscher's Heriodade fragments also highlights the talent of soprano Marisol Montalvo, in an impressive Philadelphia Orchestra debut.
Born in a year when the theories of Schoenberg and Webern ruled the world of new concert music, Magnus Lindberg came of age just as the horizons of the avant-garde were beginning to widen. The years around 1980 saw him studying in Europe’s major centers of new music—with Brian Ferneyhough in Darmstadt, with Franco Donatoni in Siena, as well as in Helsinki and Paris. Although his early compositions were strictly serial in technique, he soon turned his attention more to new mixes of instrumental tone color and increasingly complex orchestral texture and rhythms. His Sculpture 2, composed in 1981, is so complicated that it requires two conductors to perform it. The following year, Lindberg composed a chamber piece for instruments with live electronics, Action-Situation-Signification, which led to the founding, with the composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, of the experimental ensemble Toimii, in which Lindberg frequently performed as a pianist. Both the group and Salonen became frequent collaborators in the development of this composer’s music. Early on, composing recognizable melodies was about as important to Lindberg as painting bowls of fruit was to Jackson Pollock. Sound and rhythm were all, as complex as possible, but also as primitive as possible. In 1985, commenting on his orchestral work Kraft (which means “Power”), the composer wrote that “only the extreme is interesting.” In more recent works, Lindberg has never abandoned the sensational, but he has added new threads to it. If the concentrated style of, say, Iannis Xenakis or Luciano Berio were early influences on him, he later gravitated more toward the expansive idiom of Witold Lutosławski. In fact, one of his most important orchestral works, Aura of 1994, was written in Lutosławski’s memory. The past 10 years or so have seen concertos for piano, cello, and clarinet by Lindberg, which show a newfound interest in melody for its own sake. Like many other composers of his generation, Lindberg has also begun to mine musical tradition for ideas, and to grapple with its implications for his work. No longer does “avant-garde” mean the absolute rejection of everything that came before. On the occasion of a multi-concert retrospective of his music in London in February 2002, titled “Related Rocks—the Music of Magnus Lindberg,” the composer wrote a new orchestral piece that refers back to not one but two great works of the past. Chorale is based on the hymn setting “Es ist genug” from J.S. Bach’s Cantata 60, which is also the theme of the threnody-variations that close the Violin Concerto composed by Alban Berg in 1935. The new piece was first performed in Leicester, England, on February 5, 2002, by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Salonen, and repeated five days later at London’s Royal Festival Hall by the same performers; it opened a program that also included Aura and, yes, Berg’s Violin Concerto. A Closer Look Part of the complexity of Lindberg’s style is the tendency of musical events to happen in different tempos simultaneously. An overlay of rapid activity gives Chorale a distinctly Lindbergian personality, even as the composer alludes to the chorale melody—sometimes audibly, sometimes not—and also to Bach’s harmonies and polyphony. Timpani and percussion are omitted from the large orchestra, as if to preserve a vocal character in Lindberg’s treatment of the hymn. The chorale “Es ist genug” (It is enough) closes Bach’s Cantata with a message of acceptance of death, and Berg uses it in his Concerto to come to grips with the death of an 18-year-old girl he knew. This subject matter, and the timing of Lindberg’s composition in the winter of 2001-02, seems to place Chorale among the many musical works that dealt with emotions of grief and loss that followed the attacks of September 11. Lindberg, however, insisted to the festival’s program annotator, Nick Kimberley, that no extramusical events prompted this composition. “I took the harmonic structure of the chorale, and imbedded it in my own harmonies,” he explained simply. But he admitted, “Sometimes you force things in certain directions; on other occasions you feel that the material has forced you. … In Chorale, I have my harmonies, but suddenly there is a melody on top. For me, that opens up a new dimension.” Also, the way this piece’s conflicts and complications are resolved at the end suggests a “coming to terms” very much in the spirit of Bach and Berg. —David Wright Program note commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra Association; © 2005 David Wright Hérodiade Fragments, Dramatic Scene for Soprano and Orchestra Composed in 1999 Matthias Pintscher Born in Marl, Germany, January 29, 1971 Now living in Frankfurt “My music,” Matthias Pintscher has said, “places its trust in the power of the poetic. … I view my music as an ‘imaginary theater’ full of mysteries and secrets, always rediscovering and redefining its own sensibility. It brings forth soundscapes into which the listener can plunge, unleashing vivid pictorial associations and turning into a mirror-image of faded realities.” He might have been thinking most particularly of this present work, his 25-minute “dramatic scene” Hérodiade-Fragmente (Hérodiade Fragments), which unveils on its imaginary stage a woman contemplating herself in a mirror. A Heroine’s Self-Absorbed Self-Expression She is Herodias, a member of the incestuous royal family of Judaea in the first century A.D., who married two of her uncles in turn and had, by the first of them, a daughter known for her fatal dance: Salome. Eighteen and a half centuries later, mother and daughter became figures of fascination again, for writers—including Stéphane Mallarmé, Gustave Flaubert, and Oscar Wilde—who saw them as examples of superb decadence. As embodied here, Herodias takes her words from Mallarmé’s version, a verse drama the poet began when he was 22, but of which he completed only three sections: an “overture” in the form of a servant’s exalted declamation, a scene in which this servant provides prompting and punctuation for Herodias’s self-absorbed self-expression, and a suitably compact song for John the Baptist at the instant of his beheading. Pintscher’s setting is of fragments from these fragments: three sequences from the scene for the heroine, in which she salutes her mirror, contemplates her image therein (“Oui, c’est pour moi”), and draws away into uncertainty and expectation (“J’attends une chose inconnue”). Mallarmé in this scene takes a situation Racine would have approved—that of an emotionally beleaguered queen, drawn out by her servant to speak of her feelings in high-flown lines following the classic alexandrine meter—and empowers it with a quite new kind of poetry. This opens the possibility—which Pintscher fully exploits—of a highly formal stance, such as might be found in a Gluck opera or a concert scena by Mozart, but for a character whose expressive language is that of a later and more complex time. The Composer Pintscher’s choice of a very literary text is characteristic. Poets are the heroes of both the operas he has written so far: Thomas Chatterton (1998) and L’Espace dernier, on the life and work of Arthur Rimbaud (2004). Other works include a set of “songs and snow pictures” after poems by e.e. cummings, as well as earlier Rimbaud settings. At a more essential level, his music often seems to behave like a language: indeed, to speak—in syllables and words made of the most variegated sounds, following the example, in particular, of Alban Berg. This combination of aural sophistication with firm expressive purpose brought him quickly to the eminence he has maintained. Born in 1971 in the industrial town of Marl, on the edge of the Ruhr district, he became a protégé of Hans Werner Henze when he was 19, began winning important prizes and scholarships in his very early 20s, and was featured at the Salzburg Festival when he was 26. In more recent years he has been composer-in-residence with the Cleveland Orchestra (2000-02) and has written a violin concerto for Frank Peter Zimmermann, en sourdine (2002), always developing the same basic features of imagination and style. A Closer Look Pintscher composed Hérodiade Fragments in 1999, by which time, he has said, he had lived with the text for 12 years, allowing the music to grow inside him. What attracted him, by his own account, was the elaborate way in which the text is put together—the attention to detail, so that often the rhythmic continuity is effaced by the momentary brilliances of the words. Singing these words, his soprano enters what he has called “an acoustically mobile, variable space.” “The singer sends things out like an echo-locator,” he goes on, “and attempts thereby to grasp this space, as well as to define her particular relationship to the abstraction as a lost individual. And the other voices react to that.” One might also say that what the orchestra provides, through its abstract space, its other voices, is Herodias’s mirror. Just as a silvered glass presents Herodias with an image of herself in another space, so the orchestra reflects the singing voice at another time, doing so very precisely at moments where the singer stops, whereupon instruments take over her most recent sounds. The first example comes at the end of the soprano’s opening line, where, already in the text, there is a characteristically Mallarméan reflexive play of sound and sense, “miroir” (mirror) extending the sounds of “moi” (me). In Pintscher’s setting, the soprano’s F (“moi”) is brought back after a short gap by a choice grouping of harp with clarinets plus solo cello and bass. This sound then vanishes into silence, from which the note returns as a solo viola harmonic before being recaptured by the soprano, who sings while the F of herself goes on echoing in the orchestra. Similar resonances of the voice—imitations of the vocal melody or, more usually, of vocal sounds, coming from solo instruments or small ensembles—are almost omnipresent from this point, and sometimes, when bowed percussion instruments or softly colored clarinets are involved, one may be unsure whether the sound is not indeed vocal. “Camouflaging sounds,” Pintscher has said, “is part of my compositional thinking, so that one can never exactly be sure who is playing or where the sound is coming from.” This requires considerable virtuosity from instrumental soloists, together with care in blending and matching. “The freedom of the whole,” Pintscher concludes, “depends on the absolute control of details.” Besides offering the soprano this highly polished mirror, Pintscher’s versatile orchestra is also there, like the servant in Mallarmé’s text, to support and goad. It has its own language of exclamations and punctuation signs, beginning at once, and these are developed throughout the score. Indeed, though this orchestral voice does not come from a human body, it gradually creates a being as impassioned as the delirious soprano. Mallarmé’s Herodias sees in her mirror a spectacle of luxury — “gardens of amethyst … Gold concealed”—with a fixation on image, distance, and coldness that is turning her heart to precious stone. By giving her instead a mirror of music, Pintscher brings her echoes from a warmer world, one within which she can perhaps find rest. —Paul Griffiths Program note commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra Association; © 2004 Paul Griffiths ABOUT THE ARTISTS One of today’s leading international conductors, at the time of this recording Christoph Eschenbach was in his third season as music director of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Held in highest esteem by the world’s foremost orchestras and opera houses for his commanding presence, versatility, and consummate musicianship, Mr. Eschenbach has been acclaimed for his creative insight and dynamic energy as a conductor, a collaborator, and ardent champion of young musicians. Highlights of his current Philadelphia Orchestra season include performances of all nine Beethoven symphonies paired with music of our time, with works by Dutilleux, Higdon, Lindberg, and Rouse. His 2006-07 Orchestra season will feature tributes to Mozart and Shostakovich, and the continuation of the Orchestra’s five-season long, first-ever Mahler cycle. Mr. Eschenbach made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut as a pianist in 1973; his Philadelphia conducting debut was in 1989. In addition to his work with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Mr. Eschenbach continues as music director of the Orchestra de Paris. This season he also leads the Vienna Philharmonic and the Hamburg NDR Symphony. A prolific recording artist, Mr. Eschenbach has made numerous recordings, as conductor, pianist, or both. His discography includes works of Adams, Berg, Berio, Berlioz, Brahms, Bruckner, Glass, Lourié, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Messiaen, Mozart, Picker, Pintscher, Rouse, Schnittke, Schoenberg, Schumann, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Webern. Before turning to conducting, Mr. Eschenbach had earned a distinguished reputation as a concert pianist. He began winning major competitions at age 11, and made his United States debut in 1969 with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Eschenbach learned the art of conducting under, among others, Mr. Szell, who personally took him as his protégé, and with whom he worked for over three years. In addition, Herbert von Karajan was his mentor for nearly 25 years, and Mr. Eschenbach credits him as having had a tremendous influence on his development as a conductor. Mr. Eschenbach made his conducting debut in Hamburg in 1972. In 1981 he was named principal guest conductor of Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, and was chief conductor from 1982 to 1986. Additional posts include music director of the Houston Symphony (1988-99); chief conductor of the Hamburg NDR Symphony (1998-2004); music director of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (1999-2002); and music director of the Ravinia Festival, summer home of the Chicago Symphony (1994-2003). Among Mr. Eschenbach’s most recent awards are the Légion d’Honneur of France and the Officer’s Cross with Star and Ribbon of the German Order of Merit. In 1993 he received the Leonard Bernstein Award, presented to him by the Pacific Music Festival, where he served as co-artistic director from 1992 to 1998. Additional information about Mr. Eschenbach can be found at his website, www.christoph-eschenbach.com. Soprano Marisol Montalvo was born on Long Island and attended the Mannes College of Music and the Studio Opera of Zurich. Winner of the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions and the Philadelphia Concerto Soloists Competition, she was also a finalist at the Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in Vienna. Ms. Montalvo has appeared at the Zurich Opera, Paris’ Bastille Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Liceu in Barcelona, the KlangBogen Festival in Vienna, the National Theater in Mannheim, the Opéra d’Avignon, the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse, the Dormund Opera, the Chautauqua Opera Festival, and the Bregenz Festival. Her operatic roles include the title role in Meyerbeer’s Dinorah, Adele in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, Euridice in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, Sulamith in Goldmark’s Die Königin von Saba, Frasquita in Bizet’s Carmen, Marie in Lortzing’s Zar und Zimmermann, Ascagne in Berlioz’s Les Troyens, Elvira in Rossini’s Italian Girl in Algiers, Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Adina in Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, the title role in Berg’s Lulu, Marie in Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment, Despina in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Pamina in Mozart’s Magic Flute, Oscar in Verdi’s A Masked Ball, Esmeralda in Smetana’s Prodaná nevěsta, Bella Giretti in Lehár’s Paganini, Blondchen in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio, and Gretel, the Sandman, and the Dew Fairy in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel. During the 2000-01 season, Ms. Montalvo created the title role in Charles Chaynes’s Cecilia at the Nancy, Monte Carlo, and Liège operas. Ms. Montalvo has appeared with the Orchestre de Paris and Christoph Eschenbach, the Florida Philharmonic, the Fort Collins Symphony, the World Youth Orchestra, the Orchestre Colonne, and at the Spoleto Festival USA. Upcoming engagements include concerts in Leipzig under the baton of Matthias Pintscher, Cecilia in Avignon, Henze’s Boulevard Solitude in Barcelona, and Henze’s The Bassarids and Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the Châtelet Théâtre in Paris. These performances mark Ms. Montalvo’s Philadelphia Orchestra debut. 11/2004 PRODUCTION CREDITS Chorale: Producer: Charles Gagnon Balance Engineer: Charles Gagnon Recording Engineer: Charles Gagnon Editor: Charles Gagnon Assistant Editor: Jason O’Connell Hérodiade Fragments: Recording Engineer: George Blood Editor: Charles Gagnon Assistant Editor: Jason O’Connell Archival Transfer: Jason O’Connell Christoph Eschenbach Bio Photo: Jessica Griffin