Thursday, December 05, 2013

Doesn't Anybody Bother to Edit this Stuff?

And don't they know anything about music? Found in the Times compendium of classical music box sets and books:

  • "...a former British businessman." No, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, actually, he's a British former businessman, unless he gave up his citizenship when he retired from the business world.
  • "....composers like Julius Korngold, Ernst Krenek and Franz Shrecker." Corinna, that would be composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, not his father Julius, the music critic.

11 comments:

Joshua Kosman said...

Is the misspelling of Schreker also theirs, or yours?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Mine, dammit, because I did not copy and paste, and I can NEVER remember which c is missing (obviously). My bug report to the Times also contains that goof.

Paul Pelkonen said...

Her argument is that since Wagner and Verdi are each 200, (and died at 70 and 87) therefore the arguments of how to appreciate their music are thus 200 years old? Sigh.

As for my friend Mr. Woolfe, the "State Opera forces" are NOT "drawn from the ranks of the Vienna Philharmonic." In fact the arrangement is precisely the reverse. There is an audition process to become a member of the Staatsoper Orchestra.

After a certain term of service, those musicians become eligible to audition AGAIN for the right to join the elite of the Philharmonic. (They still play in the Staatsoper pit, but only members of the VPO can play in that orchestra's concerts at the Musikverein and in its lucrative touring and recording engagements.

As for the singers being excellent, he might have skimmed Wolfgang Schmidt's disreputable Mime in 'Siegfried'--painful to listen to as his 'Siegfried' was 20 years ago.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Schmidt sang Tristan in SF in 1998 and Siegfried the following year; he was execrable. Paul, you could file a correction request about the VPO. :-)

Joshua Kosman said...

Schmidt's Tristan was indeed execrable, but his Siegfried had some surprised fans, including this asshole: http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Redemption-Arrives-In-Gripping-Siegfried-2924317.php

Lisa Hirsch said...

Joshua, we saw different cycles in 1999. I saw the first-cast cycle in which Eaglen was sick for Walkuere and we got Ginzer, and by then, alas, Schmidt had returned to his form as Tristan.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Paul, you’re right about the official version of arrangements in Vienna. But in practice Staatsopernorchester members often play for the Philharmonic before their 3 year wait to audition is up, and both orchestras also lean heavily on substitutes who haven't been admitted to either ensemble. The ones who appear sporadically belie the lore of a carefully cultivated 'Vienna sound' and a closely bonded collective, while long-term freelancing is traditionally aligned with the orchestra's sexism (Ursula Plaichinger & Ursula Wex played for years in the Philharmonic without being recognized as members).

The orchestra projects itself as a luxury brand and its members expect to be remunerated accordingly. Anxiety following the passing of the DG royalties cash cow led to the current strategy of maximizing revenue through touring – revenue which is concentrated by keeping a tight cap on members. Excessive workloads are managed by limiting rehearsals and haphazardly drafting in substitutes. The problem here is not quality of substitutes but rather members who abandon an opera halfway through the run for a concert or tour, and are replaced by musicians who didn't attend rehearsals (Salonen has remarked that at his Salzburg Věc Makropulos he was astonished by the new faces he saw at every performance). Last June, audiences in London paid to hear the Vienna Philharmonic and heard an orchestra full of last-minute substitutes (which was poorly reviewed), since FWM was engaging his GMD prerogative to keep the Philharmonic in Vienna for a new production of Don Carlo.

The Thielemann Ring is another case in point. The morning of Götterdämmerung I went to a Philharmonic subscription concert conducted by Jansons, which was an unmistakably majority-Philharmonic event in a way that the opera wasn't, despite a few recognizable faces. The insanity of recording a live Ring the same weekend as two subscription concerts unfortunately shows in the final product, which was patched to within an inch of its life (I'm astonished that so many wretched blunders could be expunged, though what remains of Götterdämmerung is a lot of autopilot until the very end, which was magnificent). Casting hitches included Dohmen, who replaced Uusitalo quite late, and Linda Watson flying in the day before Siegfried to replace Dalayman. On Wolfgang Schmidt, no comment. There was also the silly drama about what would be released, so Rheingold was filmed for a planned DVD release and the rest was stripped down to the essentials for a cheap radio broadcast, explaining the audio quality of the final release. FWM had abruptly decided that the Ring was a 'Chefsache' and vetoed the entire project against resistance from Thielemann & the orchestra, and though the Staatsoperndirektor now declares the Ring a history-making release, 18 months ago he defended FWM saying that the audio results could "affect the reputations of the artists involved". All told, there was enough Viennese farce in the entire business for a sequel of Meeting Venus.

To cut a long off-topic comment short: it's a flawed recording and even reviewers well-disposed to Thielemann and the orchestra have commented about the mixed playing, so it's surprising to see a positive write-up from Zach Woolfe which only expresses reservations about Stephen Gould (of all the singers in this cast! Gould has sung Siegfried in Vienna every year since the premiere of this production and was particularly impressive in 2011).

As for Corinna da F-W: while the subtitle of the book is "the Jewish composers banned by the Nazis", it might have been clarified that Krenek was not in fact Jewish. And a problem with sourcing all your quotations from the epigraphs which head individual chapters is that readers who are actually familiar with the book might wonder how closely you the professional critic have read it. The Julius Korngold thing I noticed before seeing this blog post, but it did amuse me, to think of how his putative music might have sounded.

Lisa Hirsch said...

The above comment is from Zwolftoner, not me, but I accidentally deleted it instead of publishing (sigh).

Lisa Hirsch said...

And of course now I am wondering which VPO - the orchestra or a crowd of substitutes - will be visiting Berkeley for three concerts in early March. FWM is conducting one of them....

kalimac said...

Whichever VPO was playing in Berkeley three years ago, it certainly had a highly distinctive sound. Whether they keep this up at home all the time, I know not.

Zwölftöner said...

Sure, they're capable of giving exceptional concerts, and when they're challenged by a conductor (Boulez, Jansons, Barenboim), it's special. The fondness for has-been veterans with 50+ years of loyalty (Maazel, Mehta) is typically a recipe for mediocrity. As for quality, well, they do 50 operas each season for the Staatsoper, the Musikverein subscription series, Musikverein/Konzerthaus non-subscription programmes, the Salzburg festival, chamber music with the numerous Philharmonic-associated ensembles, and more touring than ever before. Members also teach classes at Vienna's music university, and lucrative masterclasses in Japan & China are another gravy train they like to get on. Naturally the level of all this varies, how couldn't it.

Lisa, your Berkeley dates are bound with the Staatsoper Carnegie residency so you'll be getting the A-team. But they're packing a hell of a lot into this tour so how rehearsed it will all be is anyone's guess.