Classical week: Siemens Hallé International Conductors Competition; LSO/Hannigan; Turandot – the review | Classical music

Jhe cheers in Manchester on Tuesday night weren’t just for the football (City’s 7-0 win over Leipzig). Another competition was held the same evening with over 200 entries from around the world narrowed down to a shortlist of eight, three finalists and one deserved winner. The purpose of the Siemens Hallé International Conductors Competition is to appoint the next assistant conductor of the Hallé orchestra. (Wipe your image of this work as depicted in the movie Tar, which I swore to myself never to mention again but must, for the sake of accuracy.) The assistant role has existed at the Hallé since 2002 – the first holder of the title was Edward Gardner, now Principal Chef of the London Philharmonic Orchestra – but the competition itself is new. Delyana Lazarova was the first winner of 2020 and is now ending her successful two-year stint in Manchester.

Much is at stake for all. From the buzz of conversation last week, it was clear that many spectators had followed the previous rounds (judged by an international panel of seven) and had views and favourites. In addition to working alongside Mark Elder, who is coming to the end of his long mandate as musical director of the Hallé, the assistant must lead his youth orchestra and engage in the many local projects, in retirement homes. , schools, hospitals. To be able to conduct, as each of the finalists did, the work of Mozart Marriage of Figaro openness is not enough.

Each then performed a substantial orchestral work: Pablo Urbina, 34, from Spain, had perhaps the most difficult task with Sibelius’ Symphony No. 3. The organic growth and stubborn formal puzzles of the work were skillfully unlocked by Urbina, attracting a dynamic response from gamers. Agata Zając, 27, from Poland, showed flair and mastery in Stravinsky Bird of Fire sequel, surfing on its technical challenges and taking up the challenge of the great closing of the work.

The winner was the youngest of the shortlist: the American Euan Shields, 24, who is still studying at the Juilliard School in New York. His Mozart had punch and some risque, though it led to a scrambled set, but he handled Elgar’s Variations of puzzles with authority, charm and a natural sense of rhythm and flow. As Elder noted when announcing the results, the question he is always asked is, “What is a conductor? TO DO?” The answer is: many things that cannot be seen from behind. Communication and musical intelligence to express phrasing, dynamics, rhythm, tempo, articulation, requires immediate rapport with the musicians The opinions of Hallé’s musicians, as well as those of the youth orchestra who worked with the finalists in a first round, were incorporated into the final result. Good luck to Shields, but also watch out for the finalists, all winners on their way.

The Canadian soprano Barbara HanniganThe path to conducting was through a fearless singing career. Many composers have created works for his virtuosity in the high register. Last weekend, citing health reasons, she decided not to attempt both as part of her residency with the London Symphony Orchestra. She conducted, but entrusted the solo of the last movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 to Aphrodite Patoulidou. The versatile Greek soprano, also a former lead singer of a heavy metal band, was part of Hannigan’s important Equilibrium Young Artists initiative.

Barbara Hannigan conducts the LSO and soprano Aphrodite Patoulidou in Mahler’s Fourth at the Barbican. Photography: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Hannigan’s gestures have a sculptural fluidity. She uses her hands as if holding the sound in her fingers, sometimes spacious, sometimes feathery, sometimes rich and compressed. This caused some stains in Messiaen’s sumptuous The Ascension. In the symphony, however, his approach was analytical and detailed. Mahler leaves nothing – and everything – to chance, splashing the score with multiple gradations of instruction. In a few pages, he specifies: little by little, do not rush, calmly, calmly again, hold back. How to differentiate? Hannigan does exactly what the composer asks. Not all conductors do this, no doubt fearing that the whole performance will fall apart. At times, Sunday’s narrative was dangerously heavy, but also thought-provoking. Listen on Radio 3 on March 24. Hannigan, it was announced last week, will conduct the opening concerts of the new LSO season: an endorsement indeed.

At the Royal Opera House, another conductor, Antonio Pappano – who first learned his talents as a pianist by working with singers – extracted gold from the dust of the reserves. Turandot, in the production of Andrei Serban, with designs by Sally Jacobs, was first seen in 1984 and has returned to Covent Garden at least 15 times since. Pappano, one of today’s finest Puccini conductors, spoke of his ambivalence towards this unfinished work. It was his debut directing it live at the theater (he has just recorded it with another cast).

Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha (Liù), kneeling center, with Hansung Yoo (Ping), Michael Gibson (Pong) and Aled Hall (Pang) at Turandot.
“Convincing grace”: Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha (Liù), kneeling, center, with Hansung Yoo (Ping), Michael Gibson (Pong) and Aled Hall (Pang) in Turandot. Photography: © Marc Brenner

This reservation is understandable and shared by many of us. According to the Persian legend revised in the 18th century, Turandot lack of humanity, except in the figure of the slave Liù (sung with irresistible grace by Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha, in the first of the two casts). The hero, Calaf, is in love with the ruthless princess of the title, a fiction he hardly knows. Given his indifference to the fate of his frail old father (superbly sung by Vitalij Kowaljow), one could say that lovers deserve each other. Yonghoon Lee’s Calaf, elegant, powerful and urgent in Nessun dorma, was well matched by Anna Pirozzi, imperious in the title role of the Ice Maiden. In the hands of Pappano, ROH orchestra on fire, the score shimmered and crackled.

The Ping, Pang and Pong episode of Act 2 can seem endless. Here, it looked like a thriller. The whistling of a Chinese gong, muted brass, insistent pizzicato cellos whispered in menace as the trio of evil servants (great work by Hansung Yoo, Michael Gibson and Aled Hall) sang riddles and severed heads, throwing skulls meanwhile. Join in on the wild excess and spectacle at movie screenings – live March 22 and rebroadcast March 26. This TurandotThe long and spectacular reign of cannot last forever.

Star ratings (out of five)
Siemens Hallé International Conductors Competition

  • Turandot is at the Royal Opera House in London until April 13

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