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Gramophone Magazine (Grande-Bretagne) - Editor's Choice March 2016.
“Here is music and music-making in which elegance, dash and lightness of spirit sit side by side with pools of emotional quiet which can haunt the mind for days to come” Gramophone Magazine, March 2016.
Revue CLASSICA (France) - Choc du mois Mars 2016.
Un premier jour radieux
Le troisième concert du Nouvel An à Vienne de Mariss Jansons est assurément son meilleur et un des modèles du genre. Un régal.
Le 1er janvier dernier, le chef letton était invité pour la troisième fois à diriger le Concert du Nouvel An, seul événement planétaire qui oblige certains à se lever très tôt et d'autres à se coucher très tard... Il en va ainsi des traditions musicales dont les Viennois se sont fait une spécialité touristique et télévisuelle. D'ailleurs, à chaque nouvel an, on se dit qu'on ne nous y reprendra plus... Et puis, en jetant négligemment un œil à l'écran, on se laisse capter et la magie opère. Une magie qu'il faut renouveler à Vienne, à défaut de changer le rituel des bouquets de fleurs qui surchargent la grande salle du Musikverein, l'angle des caméras et les incontournables deux derniers tubes.
Il reste alors le choix de partitions nouvelles, dans un catalogue vaste de quelques centaines de pièces. Comme chaque année, nous avons droit à une pincée de compositeurs accueillis pour la première fois: Emile Waldteufel(le roi de la valse sous notre Second Empire), mais aussi Robert Stolz et Josef Hellmesberger. Et quelques pièces bien enlevées: Violetta de Stolz (sic !!!), Ausser Rand und Band d'Eduard Strauss, Sängerlust de Josef Strauss... Autant d'extraits d'opérettes, valses et polkas oubliées, que l'orchestre joue avec un engagement sidérant. Il est vrai que Jansons impose son charisme. Il suggère et laisse toute liberté aux solistes, allège et allège encore la pâte sonore, oublie avec un charme fou le troisième temps de toutes les valses (à Vienne, il demeure facultatif...). L'orchestre rutile avec cette tension électrique inégalée et qui « mordille » les accords. Comment font-ils, de si bon matin?
Des trois concerts de Jansons (il y eut 2006 et 2012), on préférera ce dernier, véritablement incandescent. L'un des grands concerts du Nouvel An avec ceux de Karajan, Kleiber et Harnoncourt.
« I Saw Musical Vienna Fall »
La revue musicale américaine « THE ETUDE » publiait dans son numéro d’Avril 1941, un long article consacré à Robert STOLZ.
A conference with Robert Stolz, The famous Viennese composer-conductor.
Robert Stolz is the composer of thirty-eight highly successful operettas, including the world famous “Two Hearts in Three-Quarter Time” and fifty-three musical settings for moving pictures, including the sensational hit, “Spring Parade”, in which Deanna Durbin starred. In his native land, Austria, he was looked upon as the lineal successor to the famous Viennese composers who made Viennese operettas immortal and contributed so much to that indefinable aroma of romance which for over a century has made Vienna a dream city for millions.
When Naziism came to Vienna many composers, both Aryan and Semitic, realized that the famous atmosphere which so inspired Beethoven, Strauss, Brahms, Schubert, Haydn, Mahler, von Suppe, Millöcker, Lehar and many others had literally evaporated. Therefore, Mr. Stolz, who is pure Aryan, set out, at the very height of his success, to make his new home in America.
Mr. Stolz was born August 25th, 1880, at Graz, Austria’s second city, which now has a population of over 150.000. Graz is little visited by tourists, but it is rich in the picturesque beauty which characterizes Austrian cities. There is a Gothic cathedral dating back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and one church which was built in the twelfth century. The city has been musically famous recently because of its widely heralded Bruckner Festivals.
Mr. Stolz’s father, who was also an opera director, was a pupil of Bruckner, and young Robert was brought up to have a great admiration for the symphonist. The elder Stolz conducted the first performance of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” in Vienna. Edward Hanslick, the famous critic, referred to this performance, regarding the music as “a most unpleasant noise”.
Robert studied with his father, then with the famous Robert Fuchs, Professor of Theory at the Vienna Conservatory, and finally with Wagner’s protégé, Engelbert Humperdinck.
After engagements as a conductor in Brünn, Prague, Mannheim, and other cities, Robert became conductor of one of the most famous musical institutions in the world, the Theater an der Wien (the theater on the little river Wien) where most of the great composers of comic opera in Vienna, from Offenbach to this day, have presented their works. Mr. Stolz remained at the Theater an der Wien for twelve years. It was there that he conducted the debuts of Lehar’s “The Merry Widow”, Oskar Straus’ “The Chocolate Soldier”, Berte and Romberg’s “Blossom-time” (a composite of Schubert’s melodies), and many famous works of this type.
The theater is even more famous than the great State Opera at Vienna and the post of director is one of the most coveted in Europe. Artur Bodansky, long a famous Wagnerian conductor at the Metropolitan in New York, was Mr. Stolz’s immediate predecessor at the Theater an der Wien. Mr. Stolz is also the composer of the now famous waltz-fantasy, Nostalgia, which expresses his homesickness for the Vienna of hallowed days. In addition to his work at the Theater an der Wien, Mr. Stolz has conducted the world-famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra as guest conductor, and also many noted orchestras in various parts of Europe, including the renowned Orchestra of the British Broadcasting Company in London.
His sincere and fearless remarks at this time will win him the admiration of many Etude readers.
“I am an Aryan, pure Aryan as they say. When the Nazis came to Vienna in 1938, I was considered one of the most successful operetta composers in Europe. I had a fine home and was very happy in my work. I was proud of my Austrian ancestry and of the great achievements in art and science, and particularly in music, in Austria and in Germany. Volumes have been written upon the splendid musical history of Vienna, with its glorious array of great masters.”
“On March 12th, 1938, the Nazis entered the city. Economically, Vienna has been crushed after the First World War. Hitler’s agents had taken such advantage of this that they entered the city without bloodshed and were, in fact, welcomed by a large Fifth Column which the Nazis had built up. It was not a Blitzkrieg (lightning war), but the change in the musical life of the city was like a stroke of lightning. I realized at once that hardly in a generation could one expect the atmosphere of old Vienna to return, and I made plans to leave immediately for Paris. It is an injustice to think that Nazis dominates the soul of each Austrian and German, because this is not the case. Millions resent it. The rule of the Gestapo has, however, cowed so many that it is hopeless to expect them to do differently. They are the victims of Naziism just as much as the Jews, but without the cruelties that have been inflicted upon the Jews. However, the people of Vienna now know what Naziism means.”
“I must confess, however, that is was largely the fact that the Jew has been blotted out of the artistic and interpretative life of Vienna which brought me to my terrible decision to exile myself from my native land. Every race has certain characteristics which come to it as natural gifts. The Jews, as everyone knows, are wonderfully gifted in music. For years I had had Jewish publishers, Jewish librettists, and Jewish artists in my operettas. They worked exceedingly well with the Aryan musicians, and there was no thought of creed. Many were just as essential to the musical life of Vienna as the rain is to flowers. They added a certain touch of technic, wit, cleverness, and one might say oriental charm. Then, in one day, they were tragically ousted from their life work. Take, for instance, the case of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, with a string section famed around the world. The concert master, Arnold Rosé, seventy-one years old, had been with the orchestra nearly fifty years – a lifetime- and was beloved by all. To remove a man like that, with one day’s notice, was like killing his soul, yet out he went and with him that fabulous string section which may never be revived. O course, all Jews were dismissed at once. The decision was not artistic but purely political, and an artist cannot honestly tolerate such an action.
“The inconsistency of it all has a touch of the humorous as well as the tragic. The Führer looks upon “The Merry Widow” music, by the Aryan Franz Lehar, as his favorite operetta, and arrangements are repeatedly made to have it presented when he visits cities. But, mark you, the author of the book of “The Merry Widow” was the brilliant Jewish writer, Victor Leon, who starved to death two or three months ago in a Viennese attic, at the age of eighty-seven. Leon’s name never appears upon the program in these Hitler days, yet I actually heard Lehar say one time that it was Leon who gave him his start, and it was Leon who made Lehar, a simple military orchestra-leader, into a world famous composer.
“All in all, I have conducted seventeen thousand performances in all parts of Europe, mostly in Vienna, and you can imagine with what deep heartache I left my lovely city after the musical black-out. I had offers, indirectly, from Hitler and Goebbels, asking me to return, but I would rather spend the rest of my days in an attic, in the United States, than in a palace in the Vienna of the present. Thanks to the fine hospitality of my friends in my new home in America, this is not necessary. Some days the tired and war-worn world will limp back to the love of fellow man, and millions will again realize that the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule are the only roads upon which the world may safely and successfully progress.
“Meanwhile in my new home in the New World, I am (just as every American-born citizen would be under similar circumstances) proud of my forebears, all industrious, peace-loving (though fearless), honest, happy artistic people whose great objective was to bring as much joy and beauty and usefulness to the world as possible.
“The great scientific, literary and artistic contributions of Austria and Germany have won world-wide admiration, from all people of all lands. There can, however, be no permanent peace save a peace based upon tolerance for all people, and that means the end of the political and military regime at present in power. Mine is no single voice alone in the land. There are millions who echo my statement. It would be cowardly for me not to make this statement, feeling as I do.
“Let us turn aside from the black clouds of politics and war. I am asked my opinions upon modern music. We must define modern music before an answer can be given. If modern music means ‘freak music’ I don’t like it. If it means Stravinsky at the best, Ravel, Sibelius and other composers’ works which combine beauty, charm, force, strength and real inspiration, that is another thing. The world is starved for melodic charm. That is why the magnificent flow of melody that came from the soul of Puccini is always welcomed. His themes seem so simple and so lovely, but try to do what he did and you will realize that it is far easier to write a mechanical fugue than a Puccini aria.
“One of the most fortunate friendships I have had in my lifetime is that with this illustrious Italian operatic composer, Puccini, whose rich and beautiful melodies make his works a series of resplendent and colorful musical tapestries. We were once discussing atonal music. Atonal music is music which has an entire lack of relationship to the tones of any central keynote or scale. It is reputed to have started with Arnold Schoenberg, a really able musician, who I endeavoring to devise something radically new, created a system based upon a twelve half-tone scale, each tone of equal importance. Schoenberg does not like the thought that his scale is without key but most musicians are incapable of finding a key. The world admire a revolutionary if, like Wagner, have an increasing human appeal which leads to permanent admiration. To Puccini such atonal music was abhorrent. He said: “The only way to describe it is that it is music without any home. That is, it seems to start nowhere in particular, meanders over everything, and never reaches a satisfactory period of rest” With all due respect to Schoenberg, who developed this extreme style between 1907 and 1911, it must be acknowledged that, in the thirty intervening years, if atonal music had a genuine human appeal, it would have come into far wider recognition during this time. Music, whether it be a page of Strauss’ entrancing “Die Fledermaus” or Stravinsky’s “The Fire Bird”, must have an emotional starting point, one or more melodic climaxes, and then reach a definite point of repose; or if the composer desires to secure a feeling of suspense, as Schumann did at the end of his ethereal song, “Im wunderschönen Monat Mai”, a note and harmony indicating suspense are employed. Puccini was right. Atonal music has no home. It belongs in No Man’s Land, out among the shell holes and craters of dissonance.
“Notwithstanding the vast number of melodies that have been written, new and distinctive tunes appear continually, and fresh harmonic backgrounds are devised. But these appear only when they are the product of a genuinely musical and inspired mind. The idea that anyone who studies enough and, as you say in America, ‘knows the game’ can do this, is the reason why have so much dry and dull music.
“There is a great mystery in the occurrence of real musical talent, such for instance as that manifested by Mozart and Schubert. One of the most extraordinary exhibitions of musical talent I have ever had the privilege of meeting was that possessed by Angelo Neumann (1838-1910). I was engaged as a conductor in Prague when he was in charge of the opera there. Neumann started in life as a business man, but became an operatic tenor and operatic manager. During his long career he directed opera in many parts of Europe. One of his strongest friends and admirers was Richard Wagner. This man’s musical sensitivity was astounding. He had a telephone in his business office and, while he was conducting business affairs, heard the rehearsals. He knew the operas so well that he could pick up the slightest defect in the performance. Once, while I was rehearsing Marschner’s ‘Hans Heiling’, he called me from the office by phone and said: ‘Where is the fourth French horn in the twenty-first measure?’. I was astounded because only the most acute ears could have noticed that there were only three. The missing horn player had remained home, because of illness. Naturally, Wagner would admire a musician with a musical gift like that.
“Angelo Neumann had an uncanny gift of selecting young artists with prospects for a promising future. The voices he picked were regarded as ‘made’ in that they were almost certain to become famous. Every Friday night he had an audition at which he sat like a king in his court, attended by young singers who came from all over the world to sing for him. One day a young American tenor, Alfred Picaver, attented this circle. After singing eight measures of an aria, Neumann stopped him. ‘Have I failed?’ asked the frightened youth. ‘No’, said Neumann, ‘you are engaged’. Picaver became the leading tenor of the Vienna opera for ten years.
“Wagner himself had, of course, fabulous musical gifts. To him, music was a matter of personal development, because he had developed himself in that way. His musical instruction lasted only about eight months. In his first big operatic effort, ‘Rienzi’, he was obviously influenced by Meyerbeer whom he later vilified so miserably. After that, however, he struck out for himself and made an art of his own. While many other composers, of course, have devised new harmonic treatment and new orchestral effects since Wagner’s passing, no composer has made such a radical advance as applied to such a vast amount of material in one lifetime. Wagner, a great genius, was perhaps not a representative of the home-loving Germanic spirit as was his protégé, Humperdinck.
“Compare the Nazidom of to-day with the lovely, simple, characteristic ‘Gemütlichkeit’ of Humperdinck’s ‘Hänsel and Gretel’. Humperdinck, when I was studying with him, told me how this charming work came into being one Christmas time. Humperdinck was visiting his sister, who had a little son and daughter. Humperdinck made an arrangement of an old folk-fairy-tale song. He then arranged several songs for the children to sing in their home theater. With other neighbors’ children they made up a little ‘Christmas Opera Company’. He had no idea of writing an opera but his friends were so charmed with the tunes that they urged him to do so, his sister exclaiming: ‘I will write the book’. ‘What shall we call it ?’ asked Humperdinck. ‘Why not call it after our own children, little Hänsel and Gretel?’ Thus the now famous ‘Hänsel and Gretel’ was born. There is no work in the whole operatic literature that I think is more valuable as a model of theatrical and contrapuntal technic than ‘Hänsel and Gretel.’ Every student of composition should study it. This gives us an intimate picture into the home life of the Germany which everybody loved and which I pray may be restored once more to the world.
“To millions who have never seen Vienna, the city is a kind of myth. Why is it that this great capital of southeastern Europe is possessed of the rich charm which has made it the magnet for so many of the world’s famous masters of music? To me it is in the spirit of Vienna and the Viennese. It is a city of illusion. The Danube is not blue; it is yellow, a muddy yellow, but the Viennese can see no other color but blue. There you have it. The people see everything through the beautiful colored glasses of the imagination. There is sweetness, a kindness, a gentleness and a conviviality unequaled elsewhere. The wine may not be better, but it tastes better; the women may not be prettier, but they seem prettier; the music may not be more beautiful, but it sounds more beautiful. The simple, easy life, the flowers, the trees, the hills, the sparkling air, the circling snow-clad Alps, make the city a kind of dreamland which stays forever in the imagination of all who have known old Vienna. It is this which Johann Strauss caught in the intoxicating lilt of his waltzes.
“Vienna is not merely a locality; it is a spirit which is revived wherever the music of the Viennese composers is heard. The Viennese cannot leave it without profound homesickness, and it is the quality which I endeavored to put into my waltz-fantasy, Nostalgia. Vienna, glorious Vienna! Some day it will live again. No wonder the cinema continually endeavors to capture the romance of Vienna.
“The cinema points to a great future for a definite school of musical composition. It is an art all in itself and calls for a kind of skill as difficult and complicated as anything demanded from the writer of operas or symphonies. The art of film music is distinctly different from that of the opera. This is shown by the fact that, up to this time,, no grand opera has been successfully transferred to the films. The reason is that if there is a literal transfer, it seems practically impossible to carry over the flavor of the dramatic story without additional music which would spoil the creation of a master. In fact, most of the operatic writers have looked upon opera as a spectacle. Even a vivid opera, like Bizet’s magic ‘Carmen’, misses fearfully when there is an attempt to put the words of the text and the arias into the atmosphere of the tone-film as contrasted with that of the grand opera house.
“America and Americans need more of the atmosphere of Vienna in life. In this marvelous country, with such tremendous dynamic power and such astonishing speed, there is great need of relaxation, appreciation of the simple things in life, beauty, charm, everything to relieve tenseness. There is so much tragedy in life at this hour that everyone who contributes to joy, is a very necessary citizen”.
Pour davantage d'informations, contactez :
Société Internationale Robert STOLZ