His behavior is not always pleasant. But it is true.

Read the reviews that German conductor Michael Gielen received during his career and you find a running theme.

“He looks like an academic,” Raymond Ericson report on The New York Times after Gielen’s New York Philharmonic debut in 1971. “His batoning technique was unpretentious; it’s clear and precise. ”

A year later, Times critic Harold C. Schonberg Writtenof a concert with Belgium’s National Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, whose Mahler “almost literally hurts”.

“A sensible approach is exactly what the emotionless Mr. Gielen was not prepared to offer,” he added.

Eleven years later, Donald Henahan complain of a Carnegie visit with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which Gielen led for six seasons in an early rivalry, was eventually admired: “Even Bruckner wanted to sing and dance at times. This pretty school performance negated that joy of his.”

They mean prongs. But Gielen reveled in grave displeasure, defying the expectations of a subculture whose priorities he believed were misguided. When a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer asked in 1982 if he was belittling the artist too much for his own good, Gielen said: “If I compare what I do with what I hear about some of the fellows. less educated profession, then I must say that I myself agree. There is nothing more horrifying than making stupid music.”

No one can accuse Gillen, who died in 2019, among them. One might now think that he narrowed in on his doctrinal modernism focus; or view him as erroneous, even elitist, in forcing his listeners to hear what he considers to be good for them; or not share the ever more pessimistic leftism that has informed his work.

But Gielen raised fundamental questions during his run. He questions the music about what it said when it was made, and asks what it has to say about the present. He emphasizes that old and new works say the same things in different voices, and he thinks audiences will be lazy if they don’t hear it. He believes it is dishonest to settle for easy answers: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony troubled him so much in the Auschwitz and Hiroshima centuries that he paired Schoenberg “A survivor from Warsaw” between slow motion and the “Ode to Joy” finale, a choice that demonstrates his lifelong commitment to breaking complacency.

“Art offers an opportunity to meet the truth,” Gielen Written in 1981 to Cincinnati subscribers who were revolting against his rule. “And that’s not always pleasant.”

Even if Gielen has softened a bit over the years, pleasant would be the wrong word to describe the recently completed work. “Michael Gielen Version” from SWR Music: 88 CDs covering 5 decades of recording and providing the best insight into this conductor’s work, from White arrive Zimmermann.

Many were available before; some new out discs; is different important release must be found elsewhere. But there’s more than enough in its 10 volumes to claim that Gielen is one of the 20th century’s greatest stimulants.

He made most of these recordings with the SWR Baden-Baden and Freiburg Symphony Orchestras, the radio band he led from 1986 to 1999 – and worked with all the way before. the death of in 2016 – partly with the intention of using his practically unlimited rehearsal time to create an archive of recordings as close to his intentions as possible.

In the best sense, such intentions are often provocative. With the clarity of her rigorous analysis and her basis for transparency, Gielen has removed personal feelings from the scores as much as possible, which is of great benefit in the Mahlereven in Beethoven. His Haydn don’t giggle as freely as it can; his Mozart is strong, not proven; his Bruckner little interest in barging in heaven he denies, even though it doesn’t deep he sees all around him.

But relaxing or enjoying can be better understood as “eating well, or having a good bath”, rather than engaging in music, Gielen told The Times in 1982. His recordings are made more for the head than for the heart. Gielen is in the process of thinking, and he’s worth rethinking.

Music and politics were combined from the very beginning for him. Born in Dresden in 1927 to Josef Gielen, a theater and opera director, and Rose Steuermann, a soprano known for her Schoenberg, Michael and his family fled the Nazis, eventually settling in Buenos Aires in 1940.

Besieged in Argentina by refugees who did not sympathize with the style of the commanders who had remained in the service of the Third Reich, Gielen, a budding servant and commander at the Teatro Colón, interesting towards the textism of his two anti-fascist idols, Erich Kleiber and Arturo Toscanini. He shunned what he called the “giant” of Wilhelm Furtwänglerunder whom he wouldn’t be comfortable play continuously for “St. Matthew Passion” in 1950.

Back in Europe, Gielen focused on opera for the first half of her career, though not entirely. He is a commanding officer at the Vienna State Opera, then magically leading the Royal Swedish Opera and the Dutch Opera, before winning the position of musical director of the Frankfurt Opera, then home most aesthetically ambitious singing in Germany, from 1977 to 1987.

A bit of a pity from Gielen work heritage survive. But working with screenwriter Klaus Zehelein, he built Frankfurt into a re-robin of the Regietheater — or “director’s theater,” in which the director’s vision tends to dominate — in hopes of restoring restored something like the initial shock of pieces that he thought had become bland under the weight of performing traditions.

For Gielen, there are two ways to do something similar in a concert hall. One is to introduce programming that radicalizes the old and contextualizes the new. So he made a montage out of Webern’s “Six Pieces” and Schubert’s “Rosamunde”; placing Schoenberg’s more classically inclined works alongside Mozart’s more Romantic works; and stranded Schoenberg’s Expressionist monologue “Erwartung” before Beethoven’s “Eroica”.

Gielen’s other method is still well documented: an interpretive technique that appreciates restraint. Other musicians who worked at the same time explored period instruments as a way to restore the vibrations of a worn instrument, but he considers that path futile (even if he does). invited Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducted in Frankfurt). “Wearing a wig doesn’t make me an 18th century man,” he wrote in Memoir.

Instead, Gielen strives to clarify structures through careful analysis of pacing relationships and revealing details, though not so much as to obscure the overarching form. Critics often suggest that he aims for an “objective” interpretation, but he knows that there are ways to expose the truth he finds in a work. Three Mahler’s Sixth accounts are available on SWR, from 1971, 1999 and two thousand and thirteen, took 74, 84 and 94 minutes: fastest, streamlined; the middle is the dark heart of his essential Mahler survey; eventually slow and unbearably heavy, consuming from the outset with desperate nihilism.

Gielen thinks he will be remembered as a success of the Second Viennese School and of contemporary music, and the two sets of SWRs dedicated to that work are exemplary. Yes anguished in his Schoenberg, Berg and Webern, but also a ruthless lyricism; Like most of Gielen’s procedures, these fall somewhere between the clinical status of Pierre Boulez and the warm intensity of Hans Rosbaud, the predecessor of Gielen in Baden-Baden. Six discs volume of post-World War II music – a CD, dedicated to the awe of Jorge E. López “Dome Peak” and “Breath – Hammer – Lightning,” comes with a health warning for its loud volume – it’s a desperate affair. Ligeti’s Requiem, which Gielen premiered in 1965, in fact smoke with rage.

But Gielen’s approach produces equally complex, compelling results in other genres of music. His taste for detail is quite convincing in Late Romanticism, where his repertoire is particularly broad. Rachmaninoff’s “Isle of the Dead” appeared as a colossal masterpiece; Schoenberg’s “Gurrebeder” treated extensively, a dazzling sparkling Klimt; Schreker’s”Vorspiel zu einem Drama ” never sounded so glorious.

Gielen’s ability to seem to be breaking out of the ruts of the music he leads has allowed these types of points to flourish, with the effect of demonstrating exactly why later composers reacted. strong reaction against them – including Gillian herself, in some, stark do.

Elsewhere, Gielen felt the need to quell the excesses of Romanticism, where it was unwarranted – above all in BeethovenThe thing still has an unusual energy, even as many conductors since then come to Gielen’s unusual insistence on trying to keep up with the composer’s controversial metronome imprint.

That energy is not benign at all; for Gielen, the violence in Beethoven’s music is as much a part of who they are as they are with their idealism. While “Eroica” to be For him, a truly revolutionary work that builds a “new social existence” around individual dignity in its final part – he recorded it. many timesand passion – The 5th Symphony, which he believes is a “terrible awakening.” C’s unceasing hammer, writes Gielen, evokes not victory or freedom, but “the affirmation of no contradiction, and with it the trampling of any opposition, terror of the empire”. If his 1997 the recording isn’t quite convincing – it sounds empty, even barren – you suspect it shouldn’t.

Complexity where others find simplicity; mysteries that seem to have answers. For Gillen, there is no way out. “You find me helpless before the puzzling picture of the last century,” he writes near the end of the autobiography.

All that remains is to think about the music. That always has more truth to offer.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/arts/music/classical-music-michael-gielen.html His behavior is not always pleasant. But it is true.

Fry Electronics Team

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