Diana Damrau – soprano and Xavier de Maistre – harp

Date: 1 Sept 2019

Location: Romanian Athenaeum

Category: Recitals and chamber music

I so badly wanted to get tickets for this recital but unfortunately I didn’t catch any, as they were sold instantly. Damrau is an important name in the operatic world, so she was part of five artists I truly wanted to see live, the other ones being: Joyce DiDonato (no tickets left, but I’m not that sorry about it), Bryn Terfel (no tickets left – this is the one show I actually regret not getting tickets to, I love his voice), Rolando Villazón (I didn’t even try to buy one when I saw his program) and Anna Caterina Antonacci (she was, along with Kaufmann, among the artists that got me falling in love with opera so I’m super excited to see her live on the 6th of September).

Obviously, I watched the online broadcast and it turns out I didn’t miss much. I didn’t like her voice or how she sang: everything seemed dull (full program here). The same goes for the harp solo parts. Instead of being soothing and lyrical and elegant, it was just monotonous. In my opinion, this is the kind of show that makes people think classical music and opera (the song domain at least) are dry and unexciting.


Date: 1 Sept 2019

Location: Romanian Athenaeum

Category: Great Orchestras of the world

This was the first show I had tickets for, and I managed to missed it because I left the house too late…… They played the Violin Concerto op. 36 by Schoenberg (I wasn’t particularly excited for this part, as Schoenberg is not my cup of tea) and the Symphony no. 5 in E minor op. 64 by Tchaikovsky (this is the one I’m sorry I missed) under the direction of Kirill Petrenko. Thus, to kill the three hours I had before the next show, I went into a library and drowned my sorrow in books and DVDs: The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas, Twenty Years in Siberia by Anita Nandris – CudlaLa Fille du Regiment by Gaetano Donizetti (The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, dir. Bruno Campanella, Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Florez) and Giulio Cesare by Handel (Il Giardino Armonico, dir. Giovanni Antonini, Andreas Scholl, Cecilia Bartoli, Anne Sofie Von Otter, Philippe Jaroussky).


Date: 1 Sept 2019

Location: Romanian Athenaeum

Category: By Midnight Concerts

It all started with Pablo Casals’ (the great cellist of the 20th century) dream of having an orchestra consisting exclusively of cellos. He even composed a piece, Sardana – a Catalan dance, for an ensemble of no less than 32 cellos. It continued with the composition of another cellist, Julius Klengel, who wrote an Hymn for 12 cellos, which was played in 1920, in 1922 and then never again for 25 years, until someone discovered it an archive and asked the Berlin Philharmonic whether its cello section would play the work in a radio broadcast. The rest is history. The performers grouped themselves in this wonderful ensemble and have been charming ever since the public (with the approval of the entire Philharmonic) with works specially written for them or with various arrangements from sacred music to film scores. I had to leave with some palpable memento to always remind me of this beautiful night, because this was the exact opposite of the aforementioned show.

If you’re new to the realm of classical music, if you think it’s boring or if you’re intimidated by it, then these guys are the ones to check out first. After my initial perusal of the festival’s schedule, I had no intention of going to this show. I liked the idea of a cello ensemble, but I didn’t recognize most of what they were playing, so I opted out. Thankfully, on a whim, I changed my mind and chose to give it a try, as the cello is probably my favourite musical instrument. That was the best whim I had in a while. The evening turned out to be a fulminant success.

With a few exceptions, I liked everything they played, from more main stream well known music (the Waltz no. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich and the Titanic by James Horner) to lesser known works (at least for the likes of me, which are somewhat new to classical music). Out of all, I was especially enthralled by the following: Hymnus by Julius Klengel, Pavane op. 50 by Gabriel Fauré (with its lyrical and elegant sound), Lullaby of Birdland by George Shearing (an engaging conversation between the cellos, with beautiful solo trinkets), Caravan by Juan Tizol, Duke Ellington (for the energy and the feeling of urgency), Espagnola by Boris Blacher (for all the various techniques they used to obtain all sorts of sounds from those instruments), and Escualo by Astor Piazzolla (for its haunting theme).

But besides the marvellous selection of works and the impeccable technical skills of the ensemble, what most drew me in was the lightness with which they were playing, their communication with one another and their expressive figures and gestures. It felt like they were really enjoying themselves there on the stage, giving their best and being professionals, whilst also having fun as artists and entertainers. The encore fully reflected this, as they played the theme from The Pink Panther movie.

Waltz no. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich

Titanic by James Horner

Hymnus by Julius Klengel

Pavane op. 50 by Gabriel Fauré

Lullaby of Birdland by George Shearing

Caravan by Juan Tizol

Escualo by Astor Piazzolla

the theme from The Pink Panther movie

Overall, this was an experience that will certainly stay with me, as it had all the ingredients for a magnificent night: exceptional performers, music that spanned an entire array of emotions, a program that combined elegant, lyrical and moving sounds with passionate and lively scores, two encores and almost ten minutes of applauses from an ecstatic public.

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