Accompanied by the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln under the baton of the Israeli conductor Lahav Shani (b. 1989), the award-winning German-French cellist Nicolas Altstaedt (b. 1982) performs Ernest Bloch's Schelomo: Rhapsodie Hébraïque for Violoncello and Orchestra. The concert was recorded at Kölner Philharmonie, on June 20, 2017.
Schelomo, subtitled "Rhapsodie hébraïque", was written in the space of six weeks during January and February 1916. Bloch had, over a number of years, noted down thematic ideas for a vocal setting of selected verses from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, the authorship of which is attributed to King Solomon (Hebrew: Schelomo) who reigned some 3000 years ago. Bloch had felt, however, that French, German or English were somehow unsuitable for the purpose, and that his grasp of Hebrew was inadequate. Coming into contact with the celebrated Russian cellist Alexandre Barjansky (1883-1961) and his wife Katja in Geneva towards the end of 1915 (some six years after their first meeting), Bloch was keen to share with them his "Jewish Cycle" in general, and this new work in particular. Barjansky was greatly moved by what he heard. Realizing that the cello was the solution to the language problem, Bloch reformulated his sketches and passed them to Alexandre for scrutiny, while Katja at the same time made a small sculpture of King Solomon. In gratitude, Bloch dedicated Schelomo to the Barjanskys.
According to Bloch: "It is possible to imagine that the solo cello is the incarnation of King Solomon, and that the orchestra represents his internal world and his experience of life, though sometimes it is the orchestra that seems to reflect Solomon's thoughts, while the solo instrument voices his words: ‘All is vanity’". Bloch places much emphasis on the king's pessimism, despite "the royal pomp, the treasure, the wealth, the power, the women, all that a man might desire in this world", and "the barbaric coloration of an Oriental world" that surround him. The rhapsodic manner and glittering instrumentation may give the work an improvised air, but the underlying structure is a sturdy "ternary" form (ABA), plus an introduction and coda.
The heroic melody that appears before and during the great orchestral climaxes occurring towards the end of the first and third sections of Schelomo is built upon motifs that bear a remarkable resemblance to the those of Tzur Yisroel ("Rock of Israel"), a traditional chant that Bloch received from Reuben Rinder (1887-1966, Cantor at Temple Emanu-El, San Francisco) in the late 1920s while preparing his Avodath Hakodesh ("Sacred Service", 1930-1933). Nevertheless, although numerous motifs throughout the six published works of the "Jewish Cycle" are the composer's subconscious transformations of biblical and cantorial chant, in only one instance did Bloch acknowledge that he had consciously taken a melody from a traditional source – a motif that his father "sang often, in Hebrew", which appears for the first time at the beginning of the middle section of Schelomo. Bloch quoted the Hebrew text in a letter written to his mother four years after the work had been completed; and the melody is, in fact, an adaptation of a South German cantorial chant Uv'chen ten pachdecha, sung in Ashkenazi synagogues during High Holy Days.
"Almost all my works, even the darkest ones, still end optimistically, or at least with some hope. This is the only one that concludes in complete negation. But the subject demanded it." The opening of Ecclesiastes confirms Bloch's observation: "The words of Kohelet, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, saith Kohelet... And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven... and, behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind".
Despite the enormously demanding technical skills required of the soloist, this is not a concerto in the usual sense, and virtuosity is always the servant of that expressiveness in which the spiritual and sensual are fused.
Source: Alexander Knapp (hyperion-records.co.uk)
Ernest Bloch (1880-1959)
♪ Schelomo: Rhapsodie Hébraïque for Violoncello and Orchestra (1916)
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
♪ Le carnaval des animaux / Carnival of the Animals (1886)
xiii. Le Cygne (The Swan)
Nicolas Altstaedt, cello
Conductor: Lahav Shani
Kölner Philharmonie, June 20, 2017
Renowned worldwide for his musical integrity and effortless virtuosity German-French cellist Nicolas Altstaedt (b. 1982) is one of the most sought after and versatile artists today. As a soloist, conductor and artistic director of he enthralls audiences with repertoire spanning from the baroque to the contemporary.
At the beginning at the 2017-2018 season he performed the highly acclaimed Finnish Premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen's new cello concerto under the baton of the composer at the Helsinki Festival. He will be Artist in Spotlight at the Concertgebouw in 2017-2018 and Artist in Residence 2018-2019 at the NDR Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, where is going to perform with Krzysztof Urbanski, Hannu Lintu and Christoph Eschenbach. Later on he will be touring major european venues with the SWR Orchestra with Teodor Currentzis, the BBCSO, La Chambre Philharmonique with Emanuel Krivine and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta. Further engagements include debuts performances with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony in Suntory Hall, Finnish Radio Symphony, Helsinki Philharmonic, Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin with Juraj Valcuha, the Scottish Chamber as Soloist and conductor, Orchestre National de Belgique, Hongkong Sinfonietta and Les Violons du Roy as well as returning to the Deutsche Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin with Robin Ticciati.
Awarded the Credit Suisse Young Artist Award in 2010, he gave a highly acclaimed performance of the Schumann concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel at the Lucerne Festival. Since then he has performed worldwide with orchestras such as the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne- and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras working with conductors like Sir Roger Norrington, Andrew Manze, Lahav Shani, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Neville Marriner, Vladimir Fedosseev, Leif Segerstam, Dmitri Slobodeniouk, Alexander Shelley, Fabien Gabel, Joshua Weilerstein, Gustavo Gimeno, Giovanni Antonini and Andrea Marcon amongst many others.
In recital, Nicolas performs solo and with partners Fazil Say and Alexander Lonquich. He will tour both Europe and the US and will visit Istanbul, London Wigmore Hall, Bozar, Tonhalle Zurich, Koerner Hall Toronto, Theatre des Champs-Elysées, Amsterdam Concertgebouw and New York Carnegie Hall amongst others.
In Autumn 2017 Nicolas toured Australia extensively as part of a Musica Viva Recital tour with Aleksandar Madzar.
As a chamber musician, Nicolas regularly plays with Janine Jansen, Vilde Frang, Andreas Ottensamer, Pekka Kuusisto, Antoine Tamestit, Lawrence Power, Jonathan Cohen and the Quatuor Ébène performing at Salzburg Mozart and Summer Festival, Verbier, Utrecht, BBC Proms, Lucerne, Gstaad, Musikfest Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein, Rheingau and Stavanger.
In 2012 Nicolas has been chosen by Gidon Kremer to become his successor as the new artistic director of the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival and in 2014, Adam Fischer asked him to follow in his footsteps as Artistic Director of the Haydn Philharmonie, with whom he regularly performs at the Vienna Konzerthaus, Esterházy Festival and will tour both China and Japan in the next season.
Nicolas premieres new music and performs with composers like Thomas Ades, Jörg Widmann, Thomas Larcher, Matthias Pintscher, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and Fazil Say. He has commissioned the pianist/composer Hauschka as part of this season as Artistic Director of "Viva Cello" Festival in Liestal in 2016 inspired by a film script by Federico Fellini as well composers Sebastian Fagerlund, Thomas Larcher, Bryce Dessner and Helena Winkelman for new cello concertos.
Nicolas' recent recording of CPE Bach Concertos on Hyperion with Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen received the BBC Music Magazine Concerto Award 2017. This year, he released a Recital CD with Fazil Say on Warner. Previous recordings of cello concerti by Haydn, Schumann, Ligeti, Shostakovich and Weinberg have been acclaimed worldwide.
Nicolas Altstaedt was a BBC New Generation Artist 2010-2012 and a recipient of the "Borletti Buitoni Trust Fellowship" in 2009. He plays a Giulio Cesare Gigli cello, Rome around 1760.
Prodigiously gifted Israeli conductor, Lahav Shani's conducting career was launched when he won first prize at the 2013 Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition in Bamberg. Since then he has quickly established himself as one of the most talked about young conducting talents making a huge impression with his astonishing maturity and natural, instinctive musicality.
In August 2016 it was announced that Shani will become Chief Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in September 2018, taking over from Yannick Nézet-Séguin and becoming the youngest chief conductor in the orchestra's history. In the 2020-2021 season, Shani will succeed Zubin Mehta as Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and will be the orchestra's Music Director Designate from 2019-2020. In the 2017-2018 season, Shani became Principal Guest Conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, following a number of appearances with the orchestra since his debut in May 2015, including a major European tour in January 2016.
Recent and upcoming highlights as a guest conductor include the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Philadelphia Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Bamberger Symphoniker and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.
Shani made a sensational debut with the Berlin Staatskapelle in June 2014 with concerts at the Berlin Konzerthaus and the Berlin Philharmonie, and has since returned regularly to conduct both at the Berlin Staatsoper and for symphonic concerts. In December 2015 Shani stepped in, at short notice, to make his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic in the Musikverein when he directed Bach: Concerto in D minor from the keyboard and conducted Mahler 1 winning a standing ovation from the public and high praise from the critics.
In October 2013 Shani was invited to open the season of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. An immediate re-invitation followed for the next two seasons and in December 2016 he conducted the final concert of the orchestra's 80th birthday celebrations. His close relationship with the Israel Philharmonic started in 2007 when he performed Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto under the baton of Zubin Mehta and then continued in the following years as both a pianist and also as a double-bass player.
Shani was born in Tel Aviv in 1989 and started his piano studies aged six with Hannah Shalgi, continuing with Prof. Arie Vardi at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv. He then went on to complete his studies in conducting with Prof. Christian Ehwald and piano with Prof. Fabio Bidini, both at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin. Whilst a student he was mentored by Daniel Barenboim.
Shani has play-directed piano concerti with orchestras including the Philharmonia Orchestra, Staatskapelle Berlin, and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Upcoming piano engagements include appearances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Beethoven Triple Concerto with Renaud and Gautier Capuçon with the Israel Philharmonic. He will also make his recital debut at the Boulez Saal in Berlin this season. Shani also has considerable experience performing chamber music and makes his playing debut this season at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence and at the Cologne Philharmonie, as well as returning to the Verbier Festival where he made his debut in July 2017.
Source: intermusica.co.uk (2018)
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