domenica 13 gennaio 2013

Concerts for Peace in Music and Vision 30 Dicembre 2012

Very Emotional Concerts in Rome for Peace, heard by GIUSEPPE PENNISI Traditionally, the Christmas Concert of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia is dedicated to peace and humanitarian action in the world and a special 'Rome Prize' is awarded to someone who has helped achieving peace in the world with distinguished activities during the previous twelve months. This year the price was received by Malala Yousfazi, the fifteen-year-old Pakistani girl at the forefront of the fight against child labor and women's human rights. Perfectly in line with this concept, the orchestra and chorus of the National Academy offered Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on 20, 21 and 22 December 2012. The conductor was Lorin Maazel. The soloists were Maria Luigia Borsi (soprano), Ekaterina Metlova (mezzo), Steve Davislim (tenor) and Samuel Youn (bass). The chorus master was Ciro Visco. I listened to the 20 December performance where, luckily, the ceremonial aspects (the Rome Prize award and an audience with many guests from the world of politics, business and arts) did not prevail over a very professional musical performance. Maazel knows the score inside out and gave a very solemn reading of the three movements preparing the final Ode to Joy where Beethoven introduces the human voice to dialog with, and further enhance the orchestra.
From left to right, soloists Maria Luigia Borsi and Samuel Youn, conductor Lorin Maazel and soloists Steve Davislim and Ekaterina Metlova with (behind) members of the choir and orchestra of Santa Cecilia, Rome. Photo © 2012 Musacchio & Ianniello. Click on the image for higher resolution The formal 'Peace Concert' was preceded, on 15-19 December, by another symphonic concert [attended 15 December] implicitly dedicated to Peace (in the troubled Middle East). Indeed, it was initially planned as an ordinary subscription concert. The program included only Beethoven's music: The Coriolan Overture, Piano Concerto No 1 and the Symphony No 4 -- all very well-known works. The main attraction was deemed to be the world famous pianist Radu Lupu. For the more sophisticated in the audience, an added feature of interest was the Rome debut of David Afkham, twenty-seven-year-old German-born conductor from a Parsi family (followers of Zarathustra, also named Zoroastrians, often persecuted in Iran, the country his parents came from). Afkham had been the winner of the Summer 2012 Salzburg competition for young conductors.
David Afkham conducting the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia at Rome's Auditorium Parco della Musica. Photo © 2012 Musacchio & Ianniello. Click on the image for higher resolution Radu Lupu became ill and cancelled all his performances. Afkham suggested that the Santa Cecilia Academy should contact the young Palestinian pianist Saleem Abdoub Ashkar, born in Nazareth. Thus, we had two young artists both from the troubled Middle East but with different religions, dealing with a very emotional Beethoven. Afkham conducted Coriolan's allegro con brio with a vibrant vigor which he also brought to the Fourth Symphony.
Saleem Abboud Ashkar playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 1 at Rome's Auditorium Parco della Musica. Photo © 2012 Musacchio & Ianniello. Click on the image for higher resolution
The real marvel was the C major piano concerto: a magnificent dialogue between David Afkham and Saleem Abdoub Ashkar, concluded with a Brahms encore by the pianist and an embrace, as warm as unusual, between Afkham and Ashkar during a standing ovation by three thousand people -- a rare event on a Saturday afternoon at Santa Cecilia, and a real concert for Peace. Copyright © 30 December 2012 Giuseppe Pennisi, Rome, Italy

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