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Am I a sicko? Sinopoli's last performance - recorded

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Posted on September 26, 2020 at 11:41:43
Chris from Lafayette
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I got ahold of a copy of a pirate recording which somebody had made at the Deutsche Oper on April 20, 2001. This was a performance of Verdi's Aida, conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli. The sound quality is very poor, but it's good enough to tell what's going on.

And what's going on is that, about 26 minutes into the third act, Sinopoli suddenly keels over and dies from a heart attack (at the age of 54). The music is just going along, and you hear this crash and thud which stops the music completely, followed by shouting (I can't understand the words, but it's presumably to get a doctor up there fast!)

I've listened to it twice, and, the second time through, I found myself thinking, about 20 or so seconds before the collapse, "it's so weird - he's got only about 20 more seconds to live and he doesn't even realize it." Morbid to be sure, but maybe I've crossed the line into perversity with such thoughts? Maybe a defect of my personality? I can't help it - I was inexorably drawn to listening to it.

 

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Got just the solution..., posted on September 26, 2020 at 14:08:05
Ivan303
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Give this a listen, perhaps two or three times, to clear your mind of those morbid thoughts.





 

RE: Am I a sicko? Sinopoli's last performance - recorded, posted on September 26, 2020 at 14:19:57
fstein
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Ars longa, vita brevis

 

Certainly true in Sinopoli's case, posted on September 26, 2020 at 15:10:52
Chris from Lafayette
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There's also been an interesting discussion over on the SymphonyShare site regarding the hostility of a fairly large number of London-based critics to Sinopoli's basic competence in musicianship and conducting skills. (This occured during the ten years of his principal directorship of the Philharmonia Orchestra, 1984-1994.) It seems to have been a bandwagon thing which kind of created its own momentum, and yet seemed confined to the UK. One of the ringleaders in the "go after Sinopoli" wing of the British press was Norman Lebrecht. (Why am I not surprised?)

As one poster on SS noted, Sinopoli's last job was as principal conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle, a position which he held for nine years. (And prior to those nine years, he had apparently guest-conducted frequently with the orchestra.) So if Sinopoli was so incompetent (as claimed by the London-based critics), why did the Sk Dresden hire him in the first place, and why was he still in the position of principal conductor of that orchestra up until the very moment of his death?

In any case, Sinopoli conducted a number of great recordings with DG, where he often showed considerable imagination and independence of interpretive outlook. And, certainly, I think that the playing of the Sk Dresden in these recordings is well beyond reproach. So I don't think his reputation has anything to lose to from the early-90's carping of these insider, would-be "expert" critics.

 

RE: Am I a sicko? Sinopoli's last performance - recorded, posted on September 26, 2020 at 15:17:03
blakey
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Can't believe it's already been 20 years since his untimely death. I think he was unfairly criticized by the British press during his tenure at the Philharmonia for the reasons I never quite understood.

I never had the opportunity to hear him live but treasure many of his recordings - symphonies of Mahler, Bruckner, Elgar, Schumann, not to mention his Salome, Elektra, Tannhauser, etc.

 

Thanks, I thought he died during Tristan rehearsal. It's been awhile, but Lebrecht wrote that Sinopoli lost, posted on September 26, 2020 at 16:25:59
jdaniel@jps.net
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his place in a score while before the Vienna Philharmonic, IRRC.

That said, I would be perfectly capable of that myself, and then some.

Perhaps it's true, and perhaps it's not unusual for that to happen.

Or perhaps it's not.

Of all Sinopoli recordings, I'd recommend his Mahler 7, Elgar "In the South," Strauss Elektra and Salome and Scriabin "Poem of Ecstasy."

 

Yeah - I have those Strauss (Elektra and Salome) recordings too, posted on September 26, 2020 at 18:40:39
Chris from Lafayette
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Also Friedenstag and JosephsLegende. I was impressed by his very first DG recordings too, which included the Schumann Second Symphony, the Mendelssohn Italian Symphony and the Schubert Unfinished. Overall, I still find him a much more interesting conductor than (for instance) Abbado. His incomplete set of Bruckner Symphonies with the Sk Dresden is also great. (I have 3, 5, 7 and 8.) He recorded three Liszt albums with the Sk Dresden, which I think are all outstanding. (I have the Dante Symphony and the Faust Symphony, and I've heard the other Liszt album on Qobuz.) I also really liked his complete Schumann Symphonies with the Sk Dresden (even though his tempos on the Second Symphony had slowed down a bit compared to his Philharmonia recording). His Wagner album with the SkD (Parsifal, Tannhauser, etc.) was great too. I just like a lot of the stuff he did, especially with the SkD! (BTW, I still haven't been able to get Sinopoli's Elgar set, which includes the "In the South" Overture you mentioned - the couple of times I tried to get it, it came with two Disc-1's and no Disc-2's - Grr!)

The link below gives a pretty fair assessment of Lebrecht's slime-ridden writing on this subject, and concludes with this observation:
there are enough listeners out there who do not rely on the prevailing wisdom of critics when making decisions about music, and that should be taken as a good sign for listening!
The author also quotes a post which indicates the fuzzy mental state of Lebrecht's "fans":
Norman Lebrecht is a good writer. He may not report facts correctly, and he may not be able to predict the future, but he can certainly put compelling sentences and paragraphs together.
Unbelievable!

 

Just adding to my reply to jdaniel below, posted on September 26, 2020 at 19:01:56
Chris from Lafayette
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I agree with what you both say about Sinopoli's recordings, to the extent that I've heard them (!): I don't have much from his DG Mahler set with the Philharmonia (only the Fifth), but I also have the Ninth (an in-concert performance) with the SkD on the Profil label. Haven't heard his complete Tannhauser either. I've read some good reports about his Tchaikovsky Pathetique too, but that's another performance I haven't heard myself.

 

RE: Just adding to my reply to jdaniel below, posted on September 26, 2020 at 21:50:31
blakey
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Yes, Chris, his Pathetique remains one of my all time favorites, along with Giulini (1961 with Philhamonia), Mravinsky, and Pletnev (Virgin). It's available for streaming (CD quality) on Qobuz. You should give it a listen!

 

RE: Yeah - I have those Strauss (Elektra and Salome) recordings too, posted on September 26, 2020 at 22:15:55
blakey
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You took the words of my mouth when you said you found him a lot more interesting than Abbado. Though there are some Abbado recordings I like - Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky, Lieutenant KijÚ Suite, Scythian Suite comes to mind - I thought he was as overrated as Sinopoli was underrated.

 

Agree 100%, posted on September 27, 2020 at 00:23:29
Russell
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I've got almost all of his DG output (in very decent sound, generally) and love his non-middle-of-the-road approach. Always fascinating, never boring, and often mesmerizing and enthralling. I must try more of his stuff on Profil!

Russell

 

And you gotta love his Bolero!, posted on September 27, 2020 at 10:25:09
jimbill
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Quick and powerful.

 

Yet it must be said that Sinopoli could indeed be eccentric on occasion, posted on September 27, 2020 at 11:07:59
jdaniel@jps.net
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The 1st mov't of his Mahler 7th is a perfect example: balances are sometimes distorted, and then consider the slow speeds...but I love it. The vivisected material following the "moonlight" music to the end is almost unrecognizable from other performances, but the operatic lament of the tuba and trombone, (M3 First Movt?) is unforgettable, IMHO.

Same with the Coda of the Finale. It leaves me exhausted, those final valedictory measures never seemed harder-won, and the lead-up is more of a breathless trudge. (In C:) C-- G-- G E-- D
C-- G-- G E-- D.......

The oh-so-slow Finale to Elgar's Enigma Variations is also hard to forget, due to the Philharmonia's unflagging energy. Whatever the Phil may or may not have thought of Sinopoli, they gave him what he wanted.

Salome: As for Salome's last scene, those whopping horns (let's be serious: orgasmic horns) have never sounded more outrageous, as far as I know. How lucky that Sinopoli and Studer were at their height at the same time.

I've read good things about his Frau, though with cuts.

 

Yes - I have that Sinopoli Frau ohne Schatten recording too, posted on September 27, 2020 at 13:14:43
Chris from Lafayette
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You correctly mention the cuts - but I can't remember what else I didn't like about it - Voigt and Heppner were certainly good. Maybe I thought the SQ was a bit congested? I've still got it, so maybe I can re-listen.

I was just looking at the reviews on Amazon and somebody mentioned that the only UNCUT version (at least as of the time of that posting) was the Sawallisch recording. Now I see that there's a YouTube video which shows the score in real time with the Sawallisch performance.

The Sawallisch recording with the score:








View YouTube Video

Another video on YouTube which I was impressed by is the concert performance (no staging) given with Jurowski and the Netherlands RPO (in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw), with Goerke, Schwanewilms, et al. (three separate videos, act-by-act). I love one of the comments about this performance which one person posted, something like, "Christine Goerke - you are the bomb!" ;-) I thought Schwanewilms was outstanding too. (I also have her recording of Four Last Songs.) BTW, now I see from one of the comments that this Jurowski performance is, like the Sawallisch, uncut.


The Jurowski concert performance in Amsterdam (also pretty good video at 720p BTW - but, eew!, NO subtitles!):







View YouTube Video








View YouTube Video








View YouTube Video







 

I have it - I'll listen again - I've been fixated recently on performances which. . . , posted on September 27, 2020 at 16:42:46
Chris from Lafayette
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. . . try to replicate Ravel's tempo. But there's always room for variety. I think the Mehta/LAPO recording is another of the faster ones IIRC. I kind of like the cover of the Sinopoli recording too, since I'm a fan of Raoul Dufy - although his nudes aren't my favorite category of his output.

 

Munch, posted on September 28, 2020 at 04:56:02
pbarach
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Munch's EMI Bolero (Orchestre de Paris) reeplicates Ravel's tempo of 17 minutes. IIRC, the LP's program notes mentioned this. But for me, 5 minutes of Bolero is enough.

 

Dang Chris!, posted on September 28, 2020 at 09:49:12
jimbill
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I try to give you a dig about your "favorite" piece of music and you take me seriously.

Buzz kill.

 

LOL! Regardless, it's still a fascinating, hypnotic piece. . . ;-), posted on September 28, 2020 at 10:28:36
Chris from Lafayette
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. . . full of brilliant orchestration, which, for me, keeps it interesting throughout its length. Also, like many other normal people of the male persuasion, I start having fantasies about Bo Derek when I hear it! ;-)

BTW, like Munch, Skowaczewski takes a little over 17 minutes (in his Minnesota recording) - probably a few others too. But then, there's Paray at 13:24 - compared to Paray, Mehta's a slowpoke at 13:51!

 

See below for why I like Bolero , posted on September 28, 2020 at 10:30:54
Chris from Lafayette
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Hint: it has something to do with Bo Derek. ;-)

 

RE: LOL! Regardless, it's still a fascinating, hypnotic piece. . . ;-), posted on September 28, 2020 at 10:56:21
pbarach
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A friend who played bass in the Cleveland Orchestra for 44 years just **hates** Bolero. The bass part is not too interesting...

 

LOL - I can imagine! [nt] ;-), posted on September 28, 2020 at 11:05:42
Chris from Lafayette
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RE: LOL! Regardless, it's still a fascinating, hypnotic piece. . . ;-), posted on September 28, 2020 at 11:25:43
rivervalley817
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someone has to keep the percussionist in time

isn't ostinato boring for one player or section nearly by definition?

with regards,



 

RE: LOL! Regardless, it's still a fascinating, hypnotic piece. . . ;-), posted on September 28, 2020 at 13:20:31
desertorganist
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When I hear Bolero, I keep thinking, "Surely Ravel had friends who were organists!" because of some of his effects in this piece. The iteration of the C major tune starting at two measures after rehearsal mark 8 bring the distinctive sound of the organ Cornet into the orchestra. In the organ, it's made up of flute pipes, sounding unison, an octave higher, the twelfth, the fifteenth, and the seventeenth. It's one of the most-used solo combinations in organ music, especially in French music. All the pitches are there in Ravel, in their correct relationship. The next iteration, two after 9, gives us clarinets in octaves (an unusual sound, oboe, oboe d'amore, and cor anglais, making up a five-rank mixture (unison, octave, and fifth-sounding pipes). If Ravel had been an organist, he would have been a master at registration.

 

RE: LOL! Regardless, it's still a fascinating, hypnotic piece. . . ;-), posted on September 28, 2020 at 13:25:42
rivervalley817
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that is a wonderful analysis

have you [or anyone really] transcribed the piece to pipe organ?

is it 'fleet' enough to sound out the intervals?

[maybe fleet isn't the right word]

regards,

 

RE: Am I a sicko? Sinopoli's last performance - recorded, posted on September 29, 2020 at 12:14:44
bald2
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Chris-
As one who has survived two heart attacks, I don't think that there's anything sick or morbid about this at all. The first was pretty major, and I'm lucky to be alive and tying this:). It's our condition, right?

Sinopoli was (is) a wonderful musician and I love many of his recordings. Thanks for posting this.

Harry Z

 

Harry - thanks so much for the reassuring post [nt], posted on October 4, 2020 at 00:40:52
Chris from Lafayette
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