Monday, 30 January 2012

Hausmusik from the Salon Wittgenstein

Haus Wittgenstein, 29/01/2012

Franz & Matthias Bartolomey, cello duo

Offenbach: Duo for two cellos op. 52, no. 3
Popper: Gavotte from the Suite for two cellos, op. 16





Principal cellist of the Wiener Philharmoniker Franz Bartolomey shares a family history with the orchestra stretching back over three generations to 1892. In the first of two concert lectures at Vienna’s Haus Wittgenstein yesterday afternoon he spoke to music journalist Wilhelm Sinkovicz about the family’s rich past and, looking to its future, performed cello duets with his son Matthias, a gifted cellist in his own right.

Sound in time and space

Alte Schmiede, 28/01/2012

Ensemble Polysono: Christine Simolka (soprana), Ursula Seiler Kombaratov (flute/piccolo),  Igor Kombaratov (clarinet), Markus Stolz (cello), René Wohlhauser (piano, baritone, conductor)

Nono: ‘Djamila Boupachà’ for soprano solo (1962)
Beat Furrer: Invocation III for soprano and flute (2004)
René Wohlhauser: Die Auflösung der Zeit in Raum, version for clarinet, cello and piano (2000-01/2011) EA
Xenakis: Kottos for solo cello (1977)
Ursula Seiler Kombaratov: Les deux, duo for flute/piccolo and B flat clarinet (2010) EA
René Wohlhauser: Marakra Code Ø for baritone solo and Code 2 for soprano, baritone, flute, clarinet, cello, piano and percussion (2011) EA

EA = Austrian premiere

‘Klang in Zeit und Raum’ is the title of the European tour the Ensemble Polysono is currently making with this programme, and in other venues the lofty aims of works like René Wohlhauser’s Die Auflösung der Zeit in Raum may stand more of a chance than in the cramped conditions and dry acoustic of the Alte Schmiede. That said, I’ve heard ensembles that overcame the venue’s limitations to offer more penetrating studies into the spatiality of sound than Wohlhauser’s ragtag group of musicians.

Das Land mit Musik

Here’s my review of an ORF RSO Wien concert a few days ago (programme: Adès & Elgar). On reflection I probably want to hear more from Estonian conductor Anu Tali; she has strong ideas and about a third of them pay off, which in my book is still better than timidity. Earlier in the week I also saw Neville Marriner and the ASMF at the Musikverein (programme: Ruslan and Lyudmila overture, Mendelssohn second piano concerto, Dvořák 9), though the ship has sailed on reviewing that one. My brief thoughts: exciting playing, very close ensemble (and with much larger numbers than usual, it seemed) and Marriner successfully doing his self-effacing if lively thing. Pianist Martin Helmchen could have been less self-indulgent in a couple of places but otherwise didn’t do much wrong.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Gratulation, Fritz

Austrian composer Friedrich Cerha has been announced as the winner of the 2012 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize. I have no idea what possessed Norman Lebrecht to describe this as ‘unearned’, but can only assume it comes from the same close-minded and mean-spirited place as a British composer’s description of Cerha’s works as ‘derivative’ and his Lulu completion as ‘secretarial’. Maybe the disdain has something to do with Cerha’s reticence; you’d be hard pressed to find a composer more reluctant to bang his own drum. I remember when I first spoke with him at length that every comment he made about his music was immediately qualified with statements like ‘you know my music, I don’t really have a style.’ At a concert to mark his 85th birthday at the Konzerthaus last year he seemed almost embarrassed to have sold out the Mozart Saal, and jokingly expressed the hope he would die before reaching 90 so as to spare us all another unnecessary celebration. But such modesty belies the individuality and integrity of his eclectic output. Cerha’s friend Lothar Knessl has written an essay for the music prize’s website which is well worth reading for more information. Cerha Dokumente, though sadly missing the complete Spiegel, offers a good selection of some of the composer’s most important works. And there’s a fair bit on Youtube too. The video below shows Cerha conducting die reihe in a 1960 performance of Relazioni fragili at the Konzerthaus.


Image credit: Manu Theobald / Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Konwitschny Butterfly in Bratislava

Slovak National Theatre, 23/01/2012

Cio-Cio San | Adriana Kohútková

Pinkerton | Peter Berger
Suzuki | Monika Fabianová
Sharpless | Dalibor Jenis 
Goro | Ondrej Šaling

Conductor | Paolo Gatto
Director | Peter Konwitschny

Co-production with the Oper Graz (Graz premiere 1992, Bratislava premiere 2007)

I went to this 20 year old Konwitschny production with Volksoper expectations, thinking about the evening as a Tesco and Carrefour shopping run with an opera on the side. That theatrically it equalled a great night at the Theater an der Wien can be put down to an outstanding production which, aesthetically, has barely aged, and a revival team that’s done such an uncannily authentic job it’s as if Konwitschny rehearsed it himself. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Sado-baroque

Here’s my review of a baroque pastiche without the actual pasticcio – just the fun bits in between, otherwise known as Dorimena e Tuberone. There’s no plot to speak of, but plenty of enchantment and no silly island... The concert performance took place as part of ‘Resonanzen’, the Konzerthaus’s annual week of HIP, and there was also a pre-concert recital of Couperin and Froberger from Polish harpsichordist Alina Ratkowska, who is worth noting; I can think of organists in whose hands Couperin sounds eccentric, but with Ratkowska’s carefully considered playing the ingenuity of the writing came across in more thoughtful ways. And to explain the image briefly: the main concert was followed by a screening of The Night Porter – yes, I actually went to this, and will possibly never think about Dorimena and Tuberone in quite the same way again... A friend I bumped into unexpectedly didn’t think much of it (‘maybe the Konzerthaus should programme the Deutsche Auferstehung and then we can all watch The Sound of Music after.’) But I like that the Konzerthaus does things like this, it was something different. I would be totally for The Piano Teacher after Elisabeth Leonskaja’s Schubert sonatas.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Matteo Cesari's avant-garde Zauberflöte


Alte Schmiede, 20/01/2012

Niccolò Castiglioni: Gymel for flute and piano (1960)
Fabio Nieder: Ein abendliches Glockenspiel (I) – deutsches Volkslied in Kanonform (2010)
Beat Furrer: Presto for flute and piano (1997)
Maurilio Cacciatore: IV Anfibio (2011) UA
Stefano Trevisi: Dark again / Still again for prepared piano and live electronics (2011) UA
Brian Ferneyhough: Sisyphus Redux for alto flute (2010) EA
Fabio Nieder: ‘Vom Himmel hoch, da kommt ein Engel her zu Dir’ for piano (2010/11) EA
Bruno Maderna: Honeyrêves for flute and piano (1963)

[UA = world premiere, EA = Austrian premiere]

Matteo Cesari, flute
Stefania Amisano, piano
Stefano Trevisi, live electronics and sound director


A good third of the programmes I hear in Vienna are purely contemporary and standards of performance can be impressively high, not least at the Alte Schmiede, probably the city’s foremost venue for avant-garde and experimental programming. Gerald Resch’s introduction to this concert – describing Bruno Maderna as a ‘Klassiker’ relative to the other names on the programme – observes commonplace practice at the Schmiede, throwing into sharp relief what the Konzerthaus and Musikverein can claim only a handful of times a year by virtue of the Berio Saal and Ensemble Kontrapunkte respectively. The Schmiede’s attraction to artists is no less diminished by its size and having heard enthusiastic reports from friends, Matteo Cesari is a musician I’ve wanted to hear for a while. Cesari is fast establishing a name for himself on the contemporary circuit – résumé highlights include numerous prizes, an upcoming Sciarrino release for Kairos and, if reported accurately, possibly the kindest words I’ve heard Michael Finnissy utter – and duly impressed, putting in a performance that would have made for a stand-out Wien Modern concert.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Liederless


The Wiener Staatsoper’s seemingly accursed foray into Liederland suffers yet another setback: Dominique Meyer had the misfortune to book Thomas Quasthoff just as he was winding down his career, Michael Schade got good reviews but anybody who was, um, nobody turned up, and now an ill Diana Damrau has cancelled this evening’s recital of Schubert, Strauss, Fauré and Duparc songs. Wiener who bought tickets – yes, all five of you – can return them at Operngasse 2 and console themselves with this video of Damrau’s lovely ‘Wiegenlied’:


Image credit: Andrea Kremper

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

New revelations from Salzburg

More news from the Austrian Rechnungshof, which is positively bee-like in its Fleiß. And in this case, news that presents rather more cause for concern than the sensible salaries paid to the likes of Dominique Meyer. After a year-long audit of the Salzburg Festival – the impetus for which came from the recent financial scandal that shook the Osterfestspiele – the Rechnungshof has been stinging in its criticism. Chief of the audit office Josef Moser travelled to Salzburg today to hold a press conference in which he claimed that the festival’s management is hopelessly out of date in its attitudes to corporate governance, and that ‘when you look at their organizational framework, they don’t even meet the requirements for an association [Verein] responsible for managing finances of one million euros.’ (Salzburg finances last year totalled 50 million). Ouch.

There is an extensive press release in which, reading between the lines, Moser all but accuses the festival’s management of gross incompetence. Here are the highlights:

  • The law which governs the festival’s funding doesn’t bother to mandate things like due diligence
  • There’s no internal control system for things like asset management, IT, insurance, procurement, inventory, and business travel
  • Irregularities – reading between the lines here  – are generally not brought to the attention of the board of trustees, who know to look the other way when they are
  • Their IT, to put it bluntly, is crap
  • The annual accounts of the festival do not give a true picture of assets and earnings (direct quotation)
  • Fixed assets aren’t valued correctly
  • In two financial statements public funds were not accounted for in full
  • The festival doesn’t bother to make calculations of foreseeable costs not yet paid out (i.e. pensions, severance pay, unused leave etc.)
  • Estimates for ‘decorations, stage scenery, costumes, wigs and masks’ are wildly inaccurate – margin of error +/- 40%
  • 6.83 million euros of fees for artists are paid out in cash, contrary to festival policy
  • The accountant who prepares the festival’s financial statements is also their tax consultant

The Rechnungshof follow up with their 99 recommendations for solving these problems. The reaction from the festival’s president, Helga Rabl-Stadler, is that they have already implemented many of these (could be true, though that is what everybody who gets criticized by the Rechnungshof claims).  Unsurprisingly, governor of Salzburg Gabi Burgstaller is sticking up for her. The press release is here, and the full report, in all 177 pages of its mind-numbing glory, here.

Image credit: Salzburger Festspiele  

Monday, 16 January 2012

Gergiev's Венский филармонический оркестр

Musikverein, 14/01/2012

Wiener Philharmoniker, Valery Gergiev, Daniil Trifonov


Prokofiev: Symphony no. 1 in D major, op. 25 'Classical'

Chaikovsky: Piano Concerto no. 1 in B flat minor, op. 23
Trifonov encores: Chopin, Grande valse brillante; Bach/arr. Rachmaninov, Gavotte from the Partita in E for violin
Rimsky-Korsakov: Suite from the opera 'The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya'
Rodion Shchedrin: Concerto for Orchestra no. 1 'Naughty Limericks'

The Musikverein was just a pit stop for the Wiener Philharmoniker this weekend; Valery Gergiev (who else?) had them schlep this all-Russian programme around Germany earlier in the week and immediately after Sunday morning’s concert the orchestra flew to Oman, where this evening they have been performing at the recently opened Royal Opera House in Muscat. I had no idea about Oman until today, when curiosity drove me to find out why my stats were showing so many searches from that country leading to this. Wikipedia informs us that Oman is ‘described as "one of the most advanced countries in the Persian Gulf region as far as women's rights are concerned"’ and that seems borne out by questions such as ‘why are there no women in the Vienna Philharmonic?’ (as one of my Omani Googlers phrased it). As what remains of the liberal-left consolidates the removal of restrictions to opportunity, institutions such as the Vienna Philharmonic will increasingly stand out for their apparent upholding of gender, racial and cultural divides, and now that the citizens of an Arab League state – without wishing to belittle Oman, quite the contrary – are putting the official cultural ambassador of a supposedly enlightened Western nation to shame, we see just how precarious the orchestra’s position, assuming it continues, will one day be, and if not imminently then perhaps sooner than they think.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sei nicht bös’, TadW!


A few months ago I – and many other people I know in Wien – signed a petition against the impending federal funding cuts that would cripple the city’s second smallest opera company, the Wiener Kammeroper. Those cuts went ahead and at present the Kammeroper is in limbo: they cut their season down to three operas in 2010-11 and no productions were announced for 2011-12. On their website they do say that a 2012 ‘programme’ will come shortly, and in the meantime the Theater an der Wien has been renting the space for productions that would normally take place in their studio (the ‘Hölle’), which is currently out of use due to water damage. All this seemed above board and I didn’t question it further at the time. But wait! Vienna is nothing if not a city of scandalmongering and intrigue, as Arabella reminds us. And in the case of the Kammeroper it appears that David Pountney, writing in July 2011, has the inside track:
I have two petitions for you to sign! One is from Vienna, that fabled city of false smiles and lethal handshakes. There resides, or resided, the Kammeroper, a tiny little opera company housed in the former ball-room of the Hotel Post. It was founded by Hans Gabor – whose name I stole for a character in Mr. Emmet takes a Walk – and is now run by his widow, Isabel, and an engaging eccentric German Holger Bleck. They have maintained an astonishing record of highly adventurous repertoire, and have become a vital resource of experience and development for countless young artists. I declare an interest here: my wife Nicola virtually turned herself into a successful opera director via 7 productions at the Kammeroper – but then that is exactly what such institutions are for. Unfortunately, one of the other big fish in Vienna’s foetid operatic pool has eyes on the potential of this little theatre to be their studio annexe, and has close connections with the city’s cultural minister. Hey presto, the next thing to appear on the Kammeroper’s desk is an invitation for Isabel and Holger to step down and hand over their little jewel to the predatory fish. Not surprisingly, they stuck one proverbial finger in the air and said “No”!

On the other side of town, the central government, which has been funding the Kammeroper more or less 50/50 with the city, decides to cut down its subsidy, probably because it sees such a venture as more in the remit of the city than the state, with some justice. Normally this kind of thing would result in some energetic jostling between city and state, ending in a rebalancing of their respective subsidy commitments. Not on this occasion. Now the city is apparently only too willing to stand by and watch the disappearing state subsidy strangle the Kammeroper, knowing that they can pick up the pieces and hand them over to their other client.
You can read more here (thanks to John of operaramblings for bringing Pountney’s blog to my attention). Some of the other posts are worth reading too, if only because ‘discretion’ and ‘tact’ obviously aren’t in Pountney’s vocabulary. The Wiener Philharmoniker ‘adore’ Christian Thielemann – which is probably true, though they have a funny way of showing it sometimes – but he is ‘one of the ugliest conductors around, giving an uncanny impersonation of a praying mantis with back pain.’ Apparently directors are personae non gratae at Wiener Staatsoper revivals, which doesn’t surprise me too much (wait until your Jenůfa is a good thirty years old, David, and then you might be invited back in your dotage for ‘aufpolieren’, just like Otto Schenk). And naturally you’ll want to read why the arts shouldn’t ‘joyously frolic in the nudity of self-financing’.

Image credit: Réne Del Missier

Quatuor Mosaïques: Gut instinct

On Thursday I went to see the Quatuor Mosaïques play Mozart, Haydn and Schumann. I was fortunate enough to be reared on the Lindsays so the Schumann and Mozart didn’t do much for me. But the Mosaïques’ Haydn was something quite special.
Click here to read my review.

Image credit: Wolfgang Krautzer

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Trouble at t'mill


Wiener Staatsoper, 10/01/12
Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin, D 795
Michael Schade, Rudolf Buchbinder

It struck me at several moments in this concert that Michael Schade’s voice is probably at its peak for performing this repertoire. He had his powerful top gear under expert control and used it none too sparingly but always effectively, without sacrificing tonal beauty or overwhelming Schubert’s line. Moments like his ‘Dein ist mein Herz’ in ‘Ungeduld’ only went as far as was wise, leaving the huntsman to induce a credible sense of crisis. That Schade knows his text was in further evidence with the inertness of ‘Morgengruß’, ‘Des Müllers Blumen’, and ‘Tränenregen’, even if tempi were excessively slow here and one might have questioned where the interpretation appeared to be going. But observed in terms of vocal production alone these three songs were extraordinary. A sense of uninterrupted line was carefully and precisely coloured by notes that Schade dispatched in turn with quiet intensity, creamy softness, and muted half-tones (projected flawlessly). This heightened sensitivity and disinclination to indulge in mere felicities of text and music was present – and no less demanding of focus – in the final three songs.

The rest of the cycle seemed all the more bizarre for contrasting so starkly with the refined slow burn of these efforts. The rhythmic waywardness of ‘Das Wandern’ was noticeably the product of nerves, but the cycle’s other lively songs were disturbingly mannered in a way which seemed quite intentional. Attentiveness to the music slipped and text became garbled. Performing on the stage of the Wiener Staatsoper, Schade also appeared compelled to put in an increasingly unwatchable acting performance. Extravagant hand gestures revealed that his huntsman sports a goatie and the alpine porn star get-up so beloved by the late Jörg Haider; elsewhere there was some mildly disconcerting cupping of manboobs.

Rudolf Buchbinder contributed some sensitive, unfussy piano playing, though I doubted his skills as an accompanist (it’s not something he does often and there were a number of coordination problems including elementary things like picking up Schade’s upbeats). A far greater problem was that the acoustic of the Wiener Staatsoper does not lend itself at all well to a concert grand and, through no fault of Buchbinder, stripped his Steinway of most of its depth and sonority. It took strenuous effort and much overpedalling – hardly ideal – to make this fine specimen of a Model D not sound like a tinny upright, and even then Buchbinder was only intermittently successful. In defending his new Liederabende series, Dominique Meyer has spoken of the Staatsoper as a ‘temple for singing’. Schade sounded fine but that isn’t the problem, as most of the regulars who stayed away from this concert would have recognized. The next Liederabend is Diana Damrau with a harpist, which doesn’t sound much more promising; I suspect the Staatsoper will have to resort to giving away tickets for that event just as they did for this concert.

Schade and Buchbinder have indeed recorded Die schöne Müllerin, hence the image, though judging from the reviews Schade’s 2005 recording with Malcolm Martineau is the better bet.

Thomas Quasthoff retires

Sad news breaking, from news.at: Viennese Publikumsliebling Thomas Quasthoff is ending his singing career with immediate effect. He says just a press release will do as he doesn't want to give 'four farewell tours, like Christa Ludwig'. Teaching and other commitments will continue, but all concerts from January 1st have been cancelled. Quasthoff said 'I'm not as healthy as I was ten years ago and am tired of travelling.' There is also a 'state of classical music' parting shot which I'll do him the dignity of not reporting.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Follow the money


Say the words ‘Freedom of Information Act’ to any Austrian and you’re likely to be met with a quizzical expression. The Austrian Rechnungshof, or National Audit Office, is however required by law to publish biannual statistics on public sector salaries at the higher end (from what I gather, it’s people who earn around the same as the Austrian chancellor). No names are mentioned in their most recent report, but what Der Standard has cleverly deduced is that through quirks in the accounting (like that the Rechnungshof is publishing on the gender pay gap for the first time) it is possible to attach some faces to the figures. And on the whole, it doesn’t make for bad reading.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Kinder, Küche, Kammermusik


How did I miss this? In a freewheeling interview with Vienna Philharmonic chairman Clemens Hellsberg, Michael Horowitz asks about clubbing, women, and cooking for Boulez.

The full interview (auf Deutsch) is here; follow the jump for my translated highlights. The translation is a bit free in places, but that’s the only way I get fun out of it, OK? And there is a load of stuff I could raise a wry smile at, but I eventually gave up a little on the square brackets as much of it speaks for itself.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

January blues and greens



The inexorable but shambolic beast that is Viennese musical life judders to a halt after the New Year’s concerts, with the Musikverein and Konzerthaus taking a post-festive breather while the Wiener Staatsoper churns out the last of its seasonal Fledermäuse and Sleeping Beauties. Institutions begin to resume their normal hectic pace around the middle of the month, so click through the jump for my round up of January’s highlights.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Beethoven in an age of...

Tradition has it in Vienna that while the Wiener Philharmoniker ring in the New Year to the strains of the Blue Danube and other Strauss family hits, the Wiener Symphoniker give festive performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Konzerthaus. The contrast between light music and more substantial fare was particularly pronounced this year, with the Symphoniker’s chief conductor designate Philippe Jordan leading a performance so lean and mean that ‘Ode to Austerity’ would not be an inapt description. I sometimes wondered if he was being too inflexibly joyless.
Yes, on Sunday I went to Vienna's other New Year's concert and wrote about it for Bachtrack. You can click here to read more. According to the Symphoniker, the New Year Beethoven tradition has been going strong for over thirty-five years. And in this interview, Jordan makes some HIP-friendly comments about Vienna Eroicas sounding like the Rhenish symphony, so what I wrote about the winds not being doubled was probably the case. It sounded like it but I couldn't see them, obscured as they were (looking from the parterre) by the humongous string section. They put in a plucky effort, as I mention, but the balance wasn't ideal. In his interview Jordan does however also make some remarks about not playing Brahms all the time, so there's something we can agree on.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A note on women and the Vienna Philharmonic



I only heard the first half of this morning’s concert, which is about as much waltzing as I can take. But that was on the radio, so I didn’t see what caused such indignation on Twitter (views expressed under #spotthewomenintheviennaphil). The Wiener’s well-hidden women also prompted some posts to the American Musicological Society’s listserv. I will have to examine the video evidence myself, but from what I read only two of the six female full WP members were present, with one of them blocked out by a flower display when the orchestra took their bows.

The Twitter and AMS-L comments brought some links to my attention: a new post from William Osborne, a long-standing thorn in the Philharmoniker’s side, who presents some statistics and the scary news that the Philharmoniker has been endorsed by the New Century Foundation, a dodgy American think tank led by this wingnut; and an article published last year in the Independent. Osborne has brought interesting information to light in the past, but has also published journal articles on the orchestra which I’ve found to be somewhat lacking in scholarly detachment (the Philharmoniker, or at least part of its history, is my Fach). But as I’m about to engage in a Philharmoniker Conspiracy Theory I perhaps shouldn’t call his kettle black.

Maybe the four women were on annual leave, sick leave, whatever. I also remember ridiculously large floral displays obscuring male musicians at the Neujahrskonzert in previous years (seriously - that's would Clemens Hellsberg would say). And now for my highly speculative 2¢ on the hidden women of the New Year’s Day concert: this is the Wiener Philharmoniker sticking two fingers at the Austrian political establishment for the way a lucrative public subsidy was cancelled in July 2010. The Indy’s article doesn’t report this quite correctly: starting in 2000 the subsidy was somewhere slightly below the region of 2.8 million euros per year and not on the condition of securing ‘absolute equality between men and women’, but rather ‘Chancengleichheit’, which is something quite different – equality of opportunity. The Philharmoniker claim to have that with screened auditions (the credibility of which has been called into doubt). There was some other vaguely worded stuff about the Philharmoniker being a good ambassador for Austria, and performing a certain number of concerts in service of the Republic (I have no idea if this condition was met, but the Philharmoniker would probably argue that every foreign concert promotes Austria).

Fast forward to 2010. Parliamentary opinion turned against the Republiksvertrag after a damning culture committee investigation spearheaded by the Austrian Green Party. The cancellation came to a vote on Mahler’s birthday and I turned up to observe the debate, which showed that discontent with the WP’s employment practices has spread from the Greens to a sizeable number of the SPÖ (Social Democrats) and most of the women from the ÖVP (conservatives). Many who supported cancellation also continued to affirm that as a private organization (Verein), the Philharmoniker is free to admit whomever it wants, but the issue has moved from what an FPÖ (far right) politician termed the ‘Philharmoniker complex of the Greens’ to a situation – unthinkable a few years ago – where members of the ÖVP are rebuking the Philharmonic. And rebuking is almost certainly how the orchestra would see it. Hence the tit-for-tat visuals of the 2012 New Year’s Day concert.

The bad news is the classic Austrian compromise which came out of this mess. The subsidy has been transferred to the Staatsopernorchester for ‘extra rehearsals’, and if you believe that... (Quite why an orchestra as loaded as the Philharmonic was being publicly subsidized in the first place, I don't even want to discuss). A Green-sponsored motion for the orchestra to bring gender equality up to international standards within ten years was also resoundingly rejected. And Walter Rosenkranz of the FPÖ proves that Austria is not without its Michele Bachmanns.

Below the jump is the stenographic report from that day's parliamentary business. I’ve cut it down a lot as debates cover several topics at once. All auf Deutsch I’m afraid, as it's 1500 words long and I don’t have the time to translate. But I tried it with Google translate and the important bits are understandable that way.

Heath Quartet at Wigmore Hall


30/12/2011

Beethoven: String Quartet No. 10 in E flat major ‘Harp’
Luke Bedford: Nine Little Boxes, All Carefully Packed (world premiere)
Schubert: String Quartet in A minor, D 804 ‘Rosamunde’

When I heard the Heath Quartet in Vienna the December before last I thought they had the makings of a fine ensemble. Hearing them at Wigmore Hall on Friday I was left with the same impression, give or take a couple of reservations. Technique is solid across the quartet, and the players have cultivated a good ear for balance, expressive consistency, and a refined homogeneity to their sound. Helped by the home advantage of the Wigmore acoustic, they also sounded warmer and more resonant than in the Brahms Saal of the Musikverein. It was however that sense of poise and refinement which, acting as a very English inhibitor, worked rather incongruously as a brake when the tone acquired too much sweetness or metallic edge, and, more disappointingly, prevented limits from being pushed.