Wednesday, 17 July 2013

In Manchester: 2 – The Michaelangelo Sonnets

A Peter Sellars staging of Shostakovich's Suite on Verses of Michaelangelo Buonarroti, Op.145  and Bach's Cantata BWV 56.  Both were sung by the Bass-Baritone Eric Owens, accompanied by the organist Cameron Carpenter.

The older I get the more I get Shostakovich.   His piano sonatas seem like the logical successor to Bach’s fugues, and the eighth string quartet perhaps the pinnacle piece of chamber music of the 20th Century. So I was already in a state of heightened expectation as Eric Owens started singing.  

The odd solitary tear but seldom graces my cheek, perhaps only once every couple of years, and usually at moments of overwhelming beauty. This was one of those. That said, the friend I took didn’t like it at all.  He found it a bit melancholic. However, I am older than him, and I quite like the cathartic effect of a bit of gloom. 

I was very happy subsequently to meet both Peter Sellars and Eric Owens at one of the many, many parties at the festival.   I couldn’t stop myself sort of hugging Eric, and I asked Peter if he was ever going to revive the “Peony Pavillion” – a Tan Dun piece which we had seen at the Barbican 20 years ago – and which has resonated in my head ever since.  He seemed very pleased to be asked, and is indeed just “finishing it off” now. 

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