Posts Tagged ‘Andris Nelsons’

Dorny, Jurowski to Staatsoper

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Vladimir Jurowski photographed by Simon Pauly in Berlin

Published: March 6, 2018

MUNICH — The rumor emerged last fall, lingered, and today became fact during a Free State of Bavaria cabinet meeting: Serge Dorny, 56, and Vladimir Jurowski, 45, will in Sept. 2021 take over as Intendant and Generalmusikdirektor, respectively, at Bavarian State Opera. So said a statement from Bavaria’s Kultusminister Ludwig Spaenle, listing the appointments in that sequence. No contract term was disclosed, and no salary. The opera company will go without a GMD in the preceding season, after incumbent Kirill Petrenko steps down.

Lyon-based Dorny and Berlin-based Jurowski have been colleagues before, if not salaried together, notably by way of the London Philharmonic and the Glyndebourne Festival. Presumably they will get along, as have Petrenko and outgoing Intendant Nikolaus Bachler. Bavaria’s Culture Ministry did not answer questions about the joint nature of the new hiring.

Dorny drew attention around Germany when in 2014 he sued Dresden’s Semperoper for wrongful termination. He had been appointed Intendant of that company for five years, to start that fall, but was peremptorily fired in February, midway through an agreed preparative season, and suffered the further indignity of a Saxon minister’s televised description that he had behaved “like the Sun King.” He won the case, and pay and damages to the tune of a reported €1.5 million, and in July 2016 fended off the Free State of Saxony’s appeal.

Dorny grew up in a Flemish-speaking family on western Belgium’s French border. He began his career in 1983 as a dramaturge working for Gerard Mortier at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie. Four years later he was heading the Festival van Vlaanderen. From 1996 to 2003 he served as chief executive and artistic director of the London Philharmonic, a post that took him yearly to Glyndebourne, before he started in his present, acclaimed role as directeur général of the Opéra de Lyon.

The Moscow-born conductor, whose family emigrated to Germany in 1990, promises high standards and a slightly freer approach to music direction than Petrenko. His theater work has centered on projects at Glyndebourne, where between 2003 and 2013 he filmed operas by all three of BStO’s so-called “house gods”: Mozart, Wagner and Strauss.

Janowski debuted with BStO in Nov. 2015 leading an adrenaline-charged Akademiekonzert program of Liszt, Hindemith and Prokofiev, and weeks later presided over a musically and dramatically successful new Ognenny angel (Огненный ангел). Although he did return for one performance of that opera the next summer, he has not appeared with the company since.

Andris Nelsons’ name was also floated for the GMD position. He moved to Munich in 2015 and had seemingly been interested in vitalizing the thinnish opera side of his career at Germany’s biggest opera company. However, as Munich’s Merkur newspaper has reported, his schedule was deemed too full to take on all the GMD duties — a fair assessment but one that could equally apply to Jurowski, who today heads orchestras* in London, Berlin and Moscow. Four performances of Rusalka last June have been Nelsons’ only BStO assignment.

[*He is concurrently principal conductor of the London Philharmonic, chief conductor and artistic director of the Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin and artistic director of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia (in Moscow, formerly the USSR State Symphony Orchestra) … as well as principal artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, in London, and artistic director of the George Enescu Festival, in Bucharest.]

Photo © Simon Pauly

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MPhil Bosses Want Continuity

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Valery Gergiev and Munich Philharmonic Intendant Paul Müller in 2017

Published: January 31, 2018

MUNICH — Contrary to a London blog report yesterday, nothing has been “locked down” with regard to a contract extension for Valery Gergiev at the Munich Philharmonic, though things are indeed moving in that direction, for practical more than artistic reasons.

What has happened is that Hans-Georg Küppers, Kulturreferent of the City of Munich, which operates the orchestra, has gone public with his resolve to recommend a full five-year renewal for the Russian maestro to the city council at its scheduled Feb. 21 meeting. Any contract-signing would naturally take place later.

Küppers, MPhil Intendant Paul Müller (pictured last year with Gergiev), and Munich Bürgermeister Dieter Reiter are all inclined on continuity because 2020, when the present contract expires, heralds the lengthy and probably tortuous closure of the MPhil’s Gasteig home for gutting — at which time the musicians must decamp for a temporary wooden hall next to a power plant up the Isar River.

Gergiev has been no more of a musical success here than anyone predicted, but the high tensions around his friendship with Vladimir Putin — at fever pitch in 2013 when he was hired — have abated, and artistic decision-making since he began his tenure 29 months ago has gone smoothly.

Regarding other jobs around town, rumors persist that Vladimir Jurowski has joined Andris Nelsons im Gespräch for Kirill Petrenko’s position as Generalmusikdirektor at Bavarian State Opera. Petrenko steps down in fall 2020 after an unprecedented single season as head both of Germany’s largest opera company and of the Berlin Philharmonic. No rumors are yet floating about a successor to, or a renewal for, Mariss Jansons, whose contract at the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is up one year after Gergiev’s.

Photo © Florian Emanuel Schwarz

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Candidate Nelsons?

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Cast and conductor for Rusalka in Munich in June 2017

Published: June 16, 2017

MUNICH — An odd thing happened during the curtain calls last evening after a taut, riveting Rusalka here at Bavarian State Opera. The orchestra players made various signs of approval for the cast members’ work, as is customary, and then essentially none for the conductor (and leading lady’s husband). Their coolness was the more noteworthy given that Andris Nelsons was making his company debut. Cheers from the house reflected the strength of the performance.

Why would this be? Nelsons is im Gespräch for Kirill Petrenko’s job, and perhaps the players aren’t ready to have their future mapped out so soon after the Berlin Philharmonic’s poaching of their GMD. Petrenko has, after all, lifted them artistically from the twenty-year trough that was SchneiderMehtaNagano. Besides, his exit will grind along in slomo, with the vacancy not opening until Sept. 2020 and a substantial guest-conducting presence for him through the season that starts that month.

Then there is the irksome whiff of pre-planning. In 2015 the Boston Symphony Orchestra oddly replaced its two-year-old agreement with the Latvian maestro with a partly retroactive one for 2014–2022. An “evergreen” clause in this continues its effect for a defined period unless it is canceled within a stated time, ipso facto picturing such notice. Months after signing it, Nelsons moved with his daughter and wife, compatriot Kristine Opolais, the Rusalka star, to Munich’s Bogenhausen district, within walking distance of BStO, Germany’s largest opera company. (It was in opera that Nelsons launched his career, in Riga.) At the same time, he accepted a second orchestra job, with a Feb. 2018 start, in Leipzig, just three hours north of here by train.

At least one listener went to the performance not expecting revelations from the newly resident conductor. Tomáš Hanus had presented Dvořák’s score so lyrically and so urgently at the 2010 premiere of Martin Kušej’s wayward staging — which not incidentally propelled Opolais to fame, thirty years old and a year into her marriage — as well as on DVD and in seasons following, that it seemed nothing more could be said. But Nelsons remolded it entirely, galvanizing long, long, telling lines that penetrated beyond the frames of the acts and into the musical silence of intermission.

Pictured from the Dvořák cast are: Ulrich Reß, Nelsons, Dmytro Popov (a rich-toned Princ), Opolais (still an endearing Rusalka), Helena Zubanovich (a Ježibaba voiced to peel the silk off the walls), Alyona Abramova, Günther Groissböck (the almighty Vodník) and Nadia Krasteva (the enticing Cizí kněžna); front: Rachael Wilson, Tara Erraught and Evgeniya Sotnikova.

Photo © Bayerische Staatsoper

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Paris Concerts – Tonight through Saturday

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

By: Frank Cadenhead

The season hasn’t really even started but here is a list of the Paris classical music concerts from tonight through Saturday, courtesy of L’Officiel des spectacles, a weekly magazine listing of movies, concerts and other events in Paris and available at your local magazine shop. It highlights, for me, the amazing number of concerts, many in churches, every night of the year by “below the radar” groups and soloists. They obviously attract audiences or the concerts wouldn’t happen. There is only one “above the radar” group on this list if you can find it. Some live off “The Four Seasons” but most seem to be serious artists.

September 2
Marieke Bouche (violon), Dahlia Adamopoulos (alto) et Lucile Perrin (violoncelle), au programme : Divertimento de Mozart et Sérénade de Beethoven. Tarifs : 15/10€. Théâtre de l’Île Saint-Louis – Paris 4e

Récital de violoncelle par Timothée Marcel, au programme : suites de J.-S. Bach. Tarifs : 23/15€. Église Saint-Éphrem – Paris 5e

Récital de piano par J.-C. Millot, au programme : « Grand festival Beethoven et Chopin » fantaisie-impromptu, valses, Sonate « pathétique », « Clair de lune », Grande Polonaise… Tarifs: 23/18/13€. Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre – Paris 5e

Duo Spianato, au programme : « Trois morceaux en forme de poire » de Satie, Petite Suite de Debussy, « Ma mère l’Oye » de Ravel et Sonate de Poulenc.Tarifs : 15/10€. Théâtre de l’Île Saint-Louis – Paris 4e

September 3
Récital de piano par Georges Beriachvili, au programme : œuvres de Beethoven, Schumann et Chopin. Tarifs : 15/10€. Théâtre de l’Île Saint-Louis – Paris 4e

Orchestre Les Violons de France, au programme : « Les Quatre Saisons » de Vivaldi.
Tarifs : 30/20€. Sainte-Chapelle – Paris 1er

Récital de piano par Thomas Tobing, au programme : « Festival Chopin, le Best of » nocturnes, valses, études, polonaises, scherzos, mazurkas.. Tarifs : 23/18/13€. Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre – Paris 5e

Boston Symphony Orchestra, dir. Andris Nelsons, Yo-Yo Ma (violoncelle) et Steven Ansell (alto), au programme : « Don Quichotte » de Strauss et Symphonie n°10 de Chostakovitch. Tarifs : 10 à 130€. Philharmonie 1 – Grande Salle – Paris 19e

Trio Jacob, au programme : Variations « Goldberg » de J.-S. Bach. 19h00 Tarifs : 30/20€. Sainte-Chapelle – Paris 1er

September 4
Récital de piano par Robert Millardet, au programme : Sonate « pathétique » de Beethoven, Intermezzo op.118 n°6 de Brahms et Sonate de Schubert. Tarifs : 15/10€. Théâtre de l’Île Saint-Louis – Paris 4e

Orchestre Les Violons de France et Cécile Besnard (soprano), au programme : « Une petite musique de nuit » et Alléluia de Mozart, Canon de Pachelbel, Adagio d’Alninoni, Ave Maria de Schubert et Gounod, Aria de J.-S. Bach et « La Chanson de Solveig ». Tarifs : entrée 30/20€. Sainte-Chapelle – Paris 1er

Récital de piano par Herbert du Plessis, au programme : « Grand festival Liszt et Chopin » rhapsodies hongroises, barcarolle, « Rêve d’amour », « La Campanella », nocturnes, valses, scherzos… Tarifs : 23/18/13€. Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre – Paris 5e

Orchestre Paris Classik et Bertrand Cervera (violon), au programme : « Les Quatre Saisons » de Vivaldi, Ave Maria de Schubert et Caccini, Adagio d’Albinoni et Canon de Pachelbel. Tarifs : 16 à 40€. Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés – Paris 6e

Récital de violoncelle par Robin Defives, au programme : suites de J.-S. Bach. Tarifs : 30/20€. Sainte-Chapelle – Paris 1er

Ensemble Tirsi e Clori, au programme : œuvres de Barbara Strozzi, Francesca et Giulio Caccini… Tarifs : 12/8€. Église luthérienne des Billettes – Paris 4e

Carte blanche a Masae Gimbayashi-Barbotte (piano). Tarifs : 15/10€. Théâtre de l’Île Saint-Louis – Paris 4e

September 5
Récital de piano « aux chandelles » par Louis Lancien, au programme : œuvres de Mozart et Chopin. Tarifs : 23/15€. Église Saint-Éphrem – Paris 5e

Récital de piano par Boneui Park, au programme : Sonate de Haydn, Sonate op.27 n°2 de Beethoven, Valse op.18 de Chopin, « Danzas argentinas » op.2 de Ginastera et œuvres de Debussy. Tarifs : 15/10€. Théâtre de l’Île Saint-Louis – Paris 4e

Récital d’orgue par David Jonies, au programme : œuvres de Haendel, Saint-Saëns, Hindemith et Sowerby. Tarifs : entrée libre. Cathédrale Notre-Dame – Paris 4e

Kazuko Matsumoto-Villedary (soprano) et Yusuke Ishii (piano), au programme : œuvres de Poulenc, Fauré et mélodies japonaises. Tarifs : entrée libre (participation aux frais). Église écossaise Scots Kirk – Paris 8e


More Random Thoughts on Bayreuth

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

By: Frank Cadenhead

The Austrian newspaper, Der Kurier, let drop a great deal of information about what to expect in the future for the Bayreuth Festival. The new Ring in 2020, to the surprise of many, will not be conducted by the new Music Director of the festival, Christian Thielemann, but rather the Boston Symphony’s Andris Nelsons with American soprano Christine Goerke chalked in to sing Brunnhilde. She will be singing the complete Ring when the Robert Lepage production returns to the state at the Metropolitan Opera, it has been announced. Hints are that Dimitri Tcherniakov will be creating the new Bayreuth production.

The 2016 Parsifal will also feature Andris Nelsons and will be staged by Uwe Eric Laufenberg with Klaus Florian Vogt in the title role. The 2017 performances will star Andreas Schager. That same year, Die Meistersinger will return with a new production by Barrie Kosky with Vogt as Stolzing and Michael Volle as Sachs. The 2018 Lohengrin will be conducted by Thielemann and staged by Alvis Hermanis with Roberto Alagna in the title role and Anna Netrebko as Else. There will be a new Tannhäuser staged by Tobias Kratzer in 2019. In addition to Goerke for the Ring in 2020, Andreas Schager will be the Siegfried. With time, however, things happen and with the last minute changes in this year’s casting it is way too early to carve these names in stone.

I find the lack of surtitles in Bayreuth to be a symbol of arrogant old thinking that should change. The lack of such an amenity, now literally everywhere in the opera world, is hard to explain in rational terms. If they think all of the audience has memorized the entire dialogue of the always prolix Richard Wagner they simply have never considered the question. With new technology, seat-back additions, like at the Met, would not be expensive and the one percent who have actually memorized every word can turn them off. Frank Castorf’s very detailed Ring dramatics must have left the majority of the audience in various stage of incomprehension a good part of the time.

My impression is that formal wear is now worn by the minority toward the end of the festival run. I can’t speak about opening night but you could see jeans and sport shirts at the last Ring cycle in August. The fact that there is no air conditioning at the Festspielhaus for the August festival is an added encouragement to forget the bow tie and layers.

At the end of the Castorf ring, the larger implications for Wagner’s shrine are being examined whether the regulars like it or not. My first time there, in 1963, Bayreuth and the festival reminded me of a temple of worship and the stiff, well-aged and very formal audiences were acolytes at a ceremony. Significantly, the Wieland Wagner staging of Tannhäuser (with Grace Bumbry as the Black Venus) stirred rage among the traditionalists by abstracting the stage direction. The overt sexuality of the ballet for the Venusberg music was, for me, assuringly apt but provoked the regulars. Aside from the rather more mixed audiences – more varied ages and social levels – a half-century later the Castorf staging still had the traditionalists in a lather. But, at the end of the run, I noted little of this heat. Clearly the staging was intended to puncture some balloons. This lèse-majesté began to be understood better, as with the Chereau Ring, after some time.

The festival Ring program was quite specific about what a dangerous revolutionary Wagner was. While many are aware of his anti-Semitism and assumed he grew socially conservative, Wagner advocated radical social movements all his life. Siegfried’s “Mount Rushmore” with Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao was no accident and his depiction of the lust for wealth and control, here “black gold,” provided a logical background for the drama.

Something that was little discussed among this year’s festival news was a fundamental change in the structure and soul of the festival that will certainly have major long term consequences. My guess is that the change, announced a few days before the start of the festival, will have a ultimate negative impact. The appointment of Christian Thielemann as “music director” of the festival first became public when the new sign for his parking place, with his new title, was widely tweeted. Some days later a press conference gave the official declaration.

Since the beginning, the festival never has had a music director. The structure formally was to hire the conductor and director for a particular opera and wait for the results. Casting was the prerogative of the conductor. Now this is not certain and Kirill Petrenko, the new designated successor to Simon Rattle at the Berlin Philharmonic, had his tenor changed just weeks before opening night and it was likely that Thielemann had something to do with that. It resulted in an uncharacteristic public statement critical of the meddling from the notoriously media-shy conductor. I would imagine this will not be the last scandal involving Thielemann who has a long history of arch-conservative remarks and trouble with management and musicians. Clearly there would be conductors and stage directors who would not consider Bayreuth while he is “music director.” My view is that this appointment, approved by the festival’s board of directors, will likely be regretted in the future.

Rocky Seas, a Waltz and a Violin Concerto

Friday, October 26th, 2012

By Rebecca Schmid

The programming of the Berlin Philharmonic, while reportedly having gravitated away from the players’ specialty in German repertoire since Sir Simon Rattle took the reins a decade ago, not only gives equal weight to post-Romantic repertoire but consistently illuminates connections between works which seem disparate at first glance. Andris Nelsons conducted the orchestra on Wednesday in a program of Britten, Widmann, Debussy and Ravel that yielded a powerful sense of emotional coherence. Jörg Widmann, a prolific German clarinettist and composer whose opera Babylon premieres in Munich next week (also featuring New Artist of the Month Anna Prohaska), combines neo-Romantic expressivity with avant-garde textures and unrestrained modern angst, much in the spirit of his teacher Wolfgang Rihm, yet in its own impulsive search. His Violin Concerto unfolds in a single, approximately 30-minute movement with a driving, lamenting melody at its center, alternately spurring and diffracting the colors of the orchestra. Structurally, it recalls Rihm works such as Gesungene Zeit, a chamber concerto written for Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Soloist Christian Tetzlaff, who premiered Widmann’s concerto in 2007, brought out the music’s direct dramatic qualities in plangent lyricism that escalates into an existential struggle richocheting throughout the orchestra. The players of the Philharmonic performed in precise coordination and with sensitivity under Nelsons. After a long pause toward the end of the piece the music returns with a violent snap in the low strings until the soloist, supported by the violins, climbs out of its tortured state. A celeste chord and gentle gong crash provide closure. This sense of eerie loneliness also penetrated the final moments opening work, the Passcaglia op.33b from the opera Peter Grimes. The soulful viola solo performed over celeste at the close, foreshadowing the death of the persecuted fisherman’s second apprentice, evokes a deserted beach and grey skies, a struggle already expired. Nelsons intelligently gave the viola section emphasis by placing it downstage in front of the celli. The aching string passages in the body of the work, punctured by anxious woodwinds, were a bit studied in this reading by the Philharmonic, but the fluid communication of the players kept the balance naturally in place.

A more lively vision of the sea emerged in Debussy’s poetic masterpiece La Mer, a series of three ‘symphonic sketches’ whose free structure and painterly landscapes have inspired everyone from Luciano Berio to John Williams. The orchestra found its stride in the second movement Jeux de vagues, capturing the music’s buoyancy with more ease than the surging, mysterious quality of the opening De l’aube à midi sur la mer, although wind solos were impeccable throughout. Nelsons brought sweep and youthful energy to Debussy’s vision of dancing waves which escalates into a battle between wind and water in the final Dialogue du vent et de la mer. The impending turbulence emerged with keen dramatic timing before subsiding into triumphant serenity. Ravel’s La Valse, conceived as a poème choréographique, follows the opposite trajectory, gathering its forces into a Viennese waltz à la Johann Strauß before marching brass attacks and Spanish-inflected castanets force the melody to fragment and spin out of control. Program notes infer that Ravel was not only impacted by the fall of the Hapsburg Empire in the First World War but the death of this mother in 1916. The strings of the Berlin Philharmonic reaffirmed their elegant culture of playing as the demonic dance unfurled with a sense of desperation that had been tacitly present the entire evening.

Keeping the Faith in Lucerne

Friday, September 7th, 2012

By Rebecca Schmid

Reconnecting the spiritual with classical music might seem a controversial issue in an era of cultural pluralism, yet the hunger to unearth the spiritual has seeped into some of Europe´s leading festivals. As Jim Oestreich reported earlier this season in The New York Times, a wave of religiosity has spread from Lincoln Center´s White Lights Festival, now in its third season, to both Salzburg and Luzern. In what may be interpreted as an increased awareness of social responsibility, both picture-perfect cities have devoted attention to Judeo-Christian tradition and the ramifications of Holocaust—although Luzern was in fact founded as a non-fascist alternative to Bayreuth and Salzburg in Nazi times, bringing in composers such as Toscanini and Bruno Walter. While Luzern´s Easter Festival has already established itself as a sanctuary of religious music, the summer edition (August 8-September 15) hopes to explore the theme more deeply and thereby further integrate itself into the social fabric, as Intendant Michael Haeflinger explains in an interview with the festival magazine Più. A production of Schönberg´s biblical opera Moses and Aron was mounted in direct collaboration with a local church, while Lutheranism, Buddism and Islamic mysticism briefly received their due.

Programming around the theme of faith of course provides a wealth of dramaturgical possibilities. Maris Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam appeared in a program of Schönberg, Stravinsky, Barber and Varèse, as much a spiritual as geographic journey that had already travelled to the Salzburg Festival. The detached recitation of the speaker (Sergei Leiferkus) against the shrieking brass and raw strings of A Survivor from Warsaw, which Schönberg wrote in American exile upon hearing about the horrors of the Holocaust, ceded to Stravinsky´s austerely meditative yet playfully neo-classical Symphonie de Psaumes. The final chorus, which the composer described as a “calm of praise,” remained firmly trapped in the heavens against the ethereal dissonances of the orchestra, a choir of survivors singing down in the aftermath of destruction. The CBSO chorus, trained by Simon Halsey, dispatched its role in fine form.

The spirit of reconciliation found more worldly expression in the Adagio for Strings, which managed to escape its hackneyed identity in the context of this concert. Jansons coaxed the full-bodied strings of his orchestra into sensuous, sighing phrases. Closing the program was Amériques, a vast landscape of musical possibilities for which Varèse found inspiration from the window of his Upper West Side apartment shortly after leaving Europe. Siren-like brass, anxious, insistent winds, pounding percussion and metallic bursts into post-modernity capture both the harshness and chaos the composer must have sensed as well as his affection for this open-ended, untameable future. The Concertgebouw musicians played with combustible energy.

Mahler´s Resurrection Symphony, performed by Andris Nelsons—Luzern´s Artiste étoile this summer—and his City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was also amenable to the program´s goals, the music´s spiritual ambiguity retaining a powerful hold on the modern psyche. As program notes by Susanne Stähr point out, Mahler hadn´t yet converted to Catholicism when he wrote his Second Symphony. His bombastic affirmation of faith in an afterlife, replete with Wagnerian undertones, does not entirely mask the composer´s extreme ambivalence toward abandoning his Jewish roots in order to ensure more professional mobility: “Cease from trembling! Prepare thyself to live,” sings the chorus in the final movement. Nelson led the orchestra and the CBSO chorus with a clear sense of the music´s architecture, mastering sweeping phrases in visceral connection with the musicians, yet a sense of irony could have been more present in the Klezmer-like melodies of the third movement and quotes from the Knaben Wunderhorn song cycle. The performances of soloists Lucy Crowe and Mihoko Fujimura also verged on the melodramatic despite their polished execution.

Much as Mahler could not avoid undertaking a highly spiritually quest in his music, not least by subverting classical form with his free integration of popular melodies, Composer-in-Residence Sofia Gubaidulina, whose 80th birthday was celebrated internationally last year, considers writing music not a secular act but “a form of worship,” as she says in a statement. She has also testified in interview that music provided an escape from the politics of the former Soviet Union. Nelsons conducted fellow Latvian violinist Baiba Skride and the City of Birmingham Symphony the following evening in the Russian-Tartar composer´s First Violin Concerto Offertorium, an approximately 35-minute work which opens with the main theme of Bach´s Musical Offering, only to be stripped down and built back note by note. The violin remains trapped in its own quest to win back spiritual direction, as it were, against an orchestra ridden by uncertainty.

Skride played with humility and elegance throughout high-pitched harmonics and ethereal sketches, while the Birmingham players remained strong and on point under Nelsons. The notion of faith took on a directly political connotation with Shostakovich´s Leningrad Symphony, who famously thematicizes the German occupation of the Russian city in 1941, completed after the composer fled to Moscow. An ironically jovial theme marches on with a nearly farcical stride in the opening movement, while unusually simple harmonies quietly convey resignation and nostalgia before yielding to a tortured, C-major victory. Nelson led the orchestra in a clean, sincere performance that could have nevertheless brooded more under the surface.

Meanwhile, the young musicians of the Lucerne Festival Academy were busy rehearsing a wide range of contemporary repertoire, some with Academy Co-Founder Pierre Boulez, who in his earlier days with the Darmstadt School advocated a complete break with the musical values of the past due to the political horrors of the twentieth century. Yet even he admits in his own way that spirituality can transcend certain human and artistic polarities. “Faith in the broadest sense reveals itself in all music,” he tells the Swiss magazine Musik&Theater. “Whether a composer is conservative or progressive, he maintains his motivation to create art.”