Monday, April 4, 2011


Among other interesting documents at the Musée D'Orsay's ongoing Mahler exhibit, one that caught my eye was a fascinating, particularly relevant program: a 1909 benefit concert put on by the Metropolitan Opera for victims of an earthquake which struck Italy in late 1908, killing over 150,000 and devastating the coast. Gustav Mahler, along with nearly every other famous operatic musician of his day, participated in this gala performance which raised a whopping $14,000 (about $330,000 today). A New York Times description of the concert is here--the program reveals not only the stars of early 20th century American opera, but also the classics of that time. Much of the gala fare has not changed in the past century, but you're not so likely to hear excerpts from Faure's Les Crucifix or Rossini's Semiramide overture at any of today's mega fundraisers--even Liszt's Les Preludes is gradually falling out of favor among today's conductors (Maestro Muti, as always, provides the rare exception). Here's the entire program:

In a related note, the Berlin Philharmonic and Staatskapelle orchestras raised 116,000 Euro for UNICEF and Japan in their joint benefit concert last week. That's a hefty sum; I imagine it's the most any classical organization has raised so far (feel free to prove me wrong). The concert was broadcast on their astounding Digital Concert Hall, and will be available for archived viewing soon; while you're on their website, check out Leif Ove Andsnes' splendorous Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2. Their countdown to Simon Rattle's Mahler Fifth is at 3 days (I'll be there on Wednesday).

This month is a good one to be in Germany. Along with those Philharmonic concerts, Berlin will see a Berliner Ensemble staging of Wedekind's Lulu directed by Robert Wilson with music by Lou Reed as well as their seminal 150th performance of Die Dreigroschenoper; new productions of Die Walkure and Wozzeck at the Staatsoper with Barenboim at the helm; Andsnes' perfectly-programmed solo recital; Othmar Schoeck's Notturno at the Konzerthaus; Bernd Alois Zimmermann's grim Ekklesiastische Aktion paired with Bruckner's Ninth; and over in Cologne, the world premiere of Stockhausen's Sonntag, the final opera of his Licht cycle, a full three decades after the first performance of Donnerstag. I will attend all and report back.

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