Saturday, September 22, 2012

Adams : Nixon in China

Alan Oke (Mao) and the amazing
Kathleen Kim (Madame Mao)
Like many people, I like almost exactly half of what John Adams has written. Still, that's a better average than with many contemporary composers. And it's also interesting to see what compositions have weathered well. Among these I would place Nixon in China. Alice Goodman's libretto manages to balance two perspectives creatively: the impersonal, global scale of the political action and the personal level of the characters who, though they are among the powerful elite of the world, are in the end just people. 
Pat Nixon's small-townness, Nixon's own nostalgia for the simpler days when he was a serviceman in the war, the ominous black presence of Kissinger, and – my own favourite – the weary solitude of Chou En Lai. 

Adams conducted the opera on the Proms this year, and this recording is from the BBC transmission. It takes a minute to settle down – be patient. But it rapidly becomes deeply involving. There really isn't a weak link in this performance, but I have to point out the contribution of Kathleen Kim, whose brilliant, terrifying performance as Madame Mao is the high point of the performance. 

You should read the synopsis of the opera. It will help, especially in the poignant, intimate Act III. 

5th of September, 2012
320KBS mp4 from BBC web stream, no re-encoding

Kathleen Kim soprano (Madame Mao)
Alan Oke tenor (Chairman Mao)
Gerald Finley bass-baritone (Chou En-Lai)
Robert Orth baritone (President Nixon)
Jessica Rivera soprano (Pat Nixon)
James Rutherford bass-baritone, New Generation Artist (Kissinger)
Stephanie Marshall mezzo-soprano (Secretary)
Louise Poole mezzo-soprano (Secretary)
Susan Platts mezzo-soprano (Secretary)
BBC Singers
BBC Symphony Orchestra
John Adams conductor
Paul Curran stage director

Download from Rapidshare

Friday, September 14, 2012

Valentina Lisitsa : Mozart Concerto in D minor, K466

Fig I : Valentina Lisitsa
It is in sheer irritation that I am posting this here. The ignoramuses in Sony have blocked Valentina Lisitsa's Youtube video of the Mozart K466 piano concerto on the grounds that the pianist is Martin Stadtfeld! Any ass at all, with the exception of anyone in the recording industry, can see that Martin Stadtfeld would have required some major surgery before he looked anything like Valentina Lisitsa! 
Fig II : Martin Stadtfeld

Poor Stadtfeld may end up through no fault of his own looking bad in this affair. He's a pianist who has recorded quite a lot of Bach and although I don't like his rather interventionist style of interpretation, he's an honest musician, and deserves better than to be managed by a company with an IQ of 160. That, incidentally, is a total IQ of 160.

As some sort of consolation to our music-loving friends in Germany, I have uploaded the audio from the Youtube video. It's decent sound – 192 kbs VBR. 

Mozart : Piano Concerto No 20 in D minor K466 
Valentina Lisitsa, Freiburger Mozartorchester, Michael Erren