For more than five weeks (August 12-September 18), Lucerne is the place to be for seasoned music lovers and neophytes alike. The summer edition of the Lucerne Festival offers 62 performances of wide-ranging repertoire performed by some of the world’s most established musicians and ensembles as well as younger artists who are well on their way to major careers.
JWR will be in Switzerland for the entire festival, reporting daily on the concerts, cuisine and extra-musical activities: humankind cannot survive on fine art alone!
Comparisons will be made to the 1984 season (cross-references below); after 26 years it will be especially fascinating to hear Maurizio Pollini (in a recital of works by Chopin, Debussy and Boulez), Claudio Abbado (several programs at the helm of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra); in 1984 Abbado performed Schubert’s “Great” C Major Symphony, this year the honour goes to András Schiff and his Cappella Andrea Barca and the Vienna Philharmonic (closing out the festival conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustavo Dudamel with pianist Lang Lang and the winner of the “Credit Suisse Young Artist Award”).
The 150th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s birth will be celebrated through many of his symphonies: No. 9 with Abbado, No. 3—Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons with mezzo-soprano Anna Larsson, No. 6 will be led by Pierre Boulez with the resident orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas will conclude the fête as he and the San Francisco Symphony tackle the mighty No.5—that program will open with Aaron Copland’s Organ Symphony with Paul Jacobs at the console.
Particularly welcome is the bounty of works from the Viennese school. The dean, Arnold Schönberg’s spectacularly romantic Gurre-Lieder will see the combined forces of six soloists, the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the NDR Choir and the Ladies of the Choeur du Théâtre de Genève all come under the baton of David Zinman. Also on the slate from the genius/harmonic-revolutionary are lieder (the recital by Tobias Berndt and Alexander Fleisher lifts off the “Début” series and will also include Schubert songs), Five Pieces for Orchestra (Berlin Philharmonic/Simon Rattle) and Pierrot lunaire (maddeningly competing in the same time slot as the Five Pieces; Pierre Boulez directs the Lucerne Festival Academy Ensemble).
The master’s devoted disciples are also well represented: Anton Webern’s Passacaglia, Op. 1, Variations for Orchestra, Op. 30, Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 are scheduled; a generous helping of Alban Berg’s unique style will also be served up in the form of the Violin Concerto (Christian Tetzlaff, soloist), Sonata, Op. 1 (played twice: curiously orchestrated for brass and percussion by Theo Verbey); 2 days later part of artiste étoile, Hélène Grimaud’s multi-era recital), Three pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 and Lulu-Suite (on the same Vienna-rich program as Schubert’s Symphony No. 4 in C Minor “Tragic” and an arrangement of some of the same composer’s lieder for high voice—soprano Christine Schäfer will be conducted by Franz Welser-Möst and accompanied by The Cleveland Orchestra).
Chamber music fans won’t be disappointed. A highlight has to be the complete Brahms sonatas for violin (Anne-Sophie Mutter) and piano (Lambert Orkis) in one sitting. String quartets include the Atrium Quartett, the Casal Quartett (Beethoven, composer-in-residence Dieter Ammann and Janáček’s “Kreutzer Sonata”) and the Modigliani Quartett (Haydn, Ravel and Mendelssohn). A pair of recitals capture the imagination immediately: bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff along with Grimaud will perform Brahms’ Nine Lieder and Songs Op. 32 and Schumann’s Dichterliebe, Op. 48; works from Beethoven and Elliot Carter will be brought to life by cellist Nicolas Altstaedt and pianist José Gallardo.
New music devotees have seven “Modern” programs from to which to choose. World premières come from the fresh approaches of Katrin Frauchiger, Michael Roth, Fritz Hauser, Nadir Vassena, Michael Wertmüller and—most notably—the festival première of Hans Werner Henze’s concert opera, Phaedra.
Those who prefer their music to be well-aged will want to snap up tickets for Teatro d’amore (compositions by Claudio Monteverdi) or an evening with Berliner Barock Solisten (featuring Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater in F Minor).
Finally, opera and choral lovers and just lovers in general will revel with the opera-in-concert offerings for the 2010 season. Beethoven’s Fidelio (his only opera, possibly autobiographical in nature …) open’s the proceedings on August 12 (repeated on the 15th); Mendelssohn’s Elijah will be heard in all of its glory (August 22); directed by the legendary Peter Sellars, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde will have a semi-staged performance on September 10 (Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra); the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia sweeps into town on September 15 when Dmitri Jurowski conducts a concert performance of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
Three cheers to executive and artistic director Michael Haefliger for crafting such a well-balanced, talent-laden festival. From the first notes of Fidelio to the final cheers weeks later as Ravel’s Boléro brings the music to its final double bar, all roads of those who enjoy excellence and variety in the world’s most universal art will lead to Lucerne. JWR