Salle Pleyel

Les Arts Florissants' 2nd Performance of Giulio Cesare

Scholl2010 * Notes *
The second performance of Giulio Cesare at Salle Pleyel came together better than the first. Les Arts Florissants sounded more cohesive. The concertmaster did not break any strings this time, and her intonation was more accurate, but her playing for "Se in fiorito ameno prato" was still screechy and not beautiful. The horn soloist still hit many unpleasant notes in "Va tacito e nascosto" but her mistakes were less grating than on Tuesday. However, the three horns in the March of the last scene were awful, and were laughed at by various audience members.

The singing was consistent, the cast is extraordinary. Philippe Jaroussky (Sesto) and Nathalie Stutzmann (Cornelia) were definitely at their best in their duet at the end of Act I. Cecilia Bartoli was delicate and sweet in "Vadoro pupille." She also sang "Piangero la sorte mia" exquistely. Andreas Scholl seemed less tense than before, his voice came out more, though he was difficult to hear during "Al lampo dell' armi." He did cough twice during the concert. Scholl sang "Dall'ondoso periglio...Aure, deh, per pietà" with particular elegance.

* Tattling * 
The clapping did not start as early as it had on Tuesday, and people even managed to applaud after the music was done. The audience whispered a little, and there were two very noisy watch alarms on separate occasions. There was a medical emergency in the center terrace during "Da tempeste il legno infranto." As Cecilia Bartoli sang, an older woman lost consciousness, perhaps she fainted or had a seizure. The people around her checked her pulse and tried shaking her awake, but had to fetch medical help. The woman was able to walk out of the hall, but there was a noticeable pause between Cleopatra's aria and the recitative between Cornelia and Sesto that followed.

Les Arts Florissants' Giulio Cesare

Cecilia * Notes *
The Tuesday opening of Giulio Cesare at Salle Pleyel was stunning. For one thing, most of the singing was breathtaking. Both low voices were lovely, these being Andreas Wolf (Curio) and Umberto Chiummo (Achilla). The latter enunciated particularly well, and his aria "Se a me non sei crudele" was strong. Rachid Ben Abdeslam seemed quite excited to be on stage as Nireno, as did Christophe Dumaux as Tolomeo. Dumaux is such a clown, perhaps a touch too much for the villain in an unstaged concert version of this work. On the other hand, our tragic Sesto, Philippe Jaroussky, was pitch-perfect. His voice is bright, warm, and light, gleaming above the orchestra. Nathalie Stutzmann (Cornelia) was a fine foil, her voice seemed bottomless.

In the title role, Andreas Scholl, started off quietly, and was overwhelmed by the orchestra at more than one point. His voice warmed up after the night wore on, and the second half went more smoothly than the first. Scholl did crack on one note near the end of "Dall'ondoso periglio...Aure, deh, per pietà," though he sang the rest sublimely. Cecilia Bartoli sang with beauty, she was coy when pretending to be Lidia, and imperious as Cleopatra. There were a few times when Bartoli had too much vibrato, and this wobbling had an unpleasant quality to it. However, overall the singers were wonderful.

Les Arts Florissants had a few mishaps. William Christie did keep the musicians together and his tempi seemed appropriate. In general the playing was clear and fine. However, the concertmaster broke her E string in Act I, and it took a long time for everything to get back in place. It was interesting to watch how she traded her violin with her stand mate, someone from behind passed up a good E string, and the stand mate restrung the concertmaster's violin, trying to get it in tune without disrupting the music. Unfortunately, some of the violin solos were out of tune and squeaky, though this is understandable, given the circumstances. The horn soloist also had some intonation issues, she hit a score of sour notes in "Va tacito e nascosto."

* Tattling * 
The audience was quiet, though the men behind me in the second balcony did talk during the first chorus, were hushed, and snorted derisively at the suggestion that they should be silent. Nonetheless, they did not speak again during the music. The clapping was vehement, and although we were asked to not applaud after each number, somehow our enthusiasm got the better of us. It was a shame that some of us could not wait until after the orchestra stopped playing to cheer and clap.

Staatskapelle Berlin plays Beethoven Piano Concertos

Barenboim_copyright_monikarittershaus * Notes *
Last weekend the Staatskapelle Berlin performed all five of Beethoven piano concertos paired with works by Arnold Schönberg at Salle Pleyel. Friday night started off with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, a cheerful, almost Mozartian piece. Daniel Barenboim played straightforwardly, without any bravado. The woodwinds had a certain whimpering quality, and the strings were fine. The Schönberg was Fünf Orchesterstücke (5 Pieces for Orchestra), which was played with exuberance. This was followed by the fourth piano concerto of Beethoven, played with great vigor with emphasis on the wonderful sense of salvation in this piece.

The second evening gave us Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major and No. 3 in C minor. Barenboim played solidly, making only a few mistakes, and the orchestra kept pace. The Adagio of No. 2 had a beautiful longing in it, and the Rondo (Molto allegro) a certain irrepressibleness. In No. 3, the brass had a slightly hazy sound, but were not ostentatious. The Schönberg was Variations for Orchestra was played well, though I found it somewhat waxen in comparison to the Beethoven.

The final afternoon performance included the famous Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major. Barenboim and the orchestra played with vim and playfulness. Schönberg's rather romantic Pelleas und Melisande followed.

* Tattling * 
The audience was very good on Friday, from where we were only a bit of snoring was noted during Schönberg. Saturday's audience was less good, there was a cellphone ring during the second piano concerto. Worst of all was Sunday, when the couple next to us in the orchestra seats V 150 and 152 could not stop talking, whispering, and making out. It was actually pretty funny. However, a woman in the center terrace insisted on taking flash photographs of the orchestra, and was roundly scolded in French by Barenboim himself before Schönberg. She was unabashed and unrepentant, and she continued photographing him after the performance, even using flash a few times.