Secret cypher! Loch Ness Monster!

Stravinsky LSO is a video release on the LSO’s own label of a 2015 concert at the Barbican featuring music by Berg, Webern, Ligeti and Stravinsky conducted by Simon Rattle.  It opens with Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra Op.6.  Rattle produces a transparent, clearly articulated and structurally coherent account of this short work.


Then it’s on to vocal pieces featuring Barbara Hannigan as soprano soloist; my main reason for wanting to get hold of this disk.  First up is Berg’s Three Fragments from Wozzeck Op. 7.  I’m pretty sure that Hannigan has never sung Marie on stage but, one may reasonably assume, it’s a role she might take on once she puts Lulu and Gepopo behind her.  She has certainly hinted that that might happen sooner rather than later.  It’s a fine performance that suggests that she has the power and heft for the role.  The musicianship and mastery of the idiom are, of course, never in doubt.


The second vocal piece is Hannigan (and Rattle)’s party piece Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre; an English version of some of the secret police chief Gepopo’s music from Le Grand Macabre.  This time we get Hannigan as slutty schoolgirl, rather than leather clad dominatrix, complete with gum.  It’s crazy of course but everyone is having great fun.  Hannigan hands her gum to Rattle.  The crazy music starts.  The orchestra crumple up newspapers and throw them (Which prompts a side thought – why do orchestras persidt with evening dress even for this type of concert?  Frankly it looks a bit daft!).  Rattle makes a Farage joke.  Hannigan kicks Rattle out and starts conducting.  Rattle hoofs Hannigan.  The music is mad, the words are crazier and the stage action is completely Frootloop.  At the end everyone looks exhausted but that doesn’t stop Hannigan skipping around the stage for her call.


After all that Rattle’s masterly account of Stravinsy’s Rite of Spring seems almost an anti-climax.  It does the pose the question for me though whether there are other ballet scores that are played as concert pieces complete, rather than suites of extracts?


Technically this disk is a bit of an oddball.  It’s a dual format DVD/Blu-ray release but, although the Blu-ray has an HD picture, the sound is 16bit LPCM stereo.  In other words, standard CD/DVD quality which seems odd.  That said, it sounds perfectly OK surely this would be ideal material for a PCM 5.0 track and, at least, 24 bit stereo.  Also there are no subtitles.  The texts for the Berg and the Ligeti are contained in the booklet which also has brief bios of Hannigan, Rattle and the orchestra.  Olivier Simmonet directed the film.  I’m not sure one can say much about filming a concert except that full screen facial close ups don’t make anyone look good; even Barbara Hannigan.


Worth a look for the “schoolgirl” Mysteries.  The leather version, also with Rattle, can be found on the Hannigan documentary.


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