classics that speak for themselves, as chosen for you by our invited guests
ninety minutes of wwclassic music radio, ohne worte, without words
a musical key to our guest's individuality.
Radio host Hans Haffmans
Opera never played a crucial role during my childhood. Opera didn't even play a marginal role:
('Listen, boy, Kathleen Ferrier was a great singer, but it was a downright shame
that she went astray and got involved in the opera business').
During my years at the Amsterdam Conservatory (as part of a reckless and ultimately senseless
endeavor to pursue the art of guitar playing) I heard my first opera on cd:
Pelléas et Mélisande by Claude Debussy.
This discovery hit me like a thunderbolt and I continued to roam through the never
ending forest of opera recordings without any sense of direction, but I listened like a madman
to masterworks ranging from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas to Stravinsky's Rake's Progress,
trying to make up for lost time. My thirst for opera has been unquenchable ever since
that first discovery by the deep well hidden in Debussy's magical forest, so to speak.
The bicentennial celebration of Hector Berlioz' birthday in 2003 saw the first staged
production of Les Troyens, The Trojans, here in the Netherlands. You'll hear three highlights from
this epic opera including the simple yet utterly enticing aria by the sailor Hyllas, the fantastic love
duet between Enée and Didon and the heartbreaking funeral music for Adromaques husband taken from the first act.
Pelléas et Mélisande arrived first in my life and other French operas followed like Les Troyens,
Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites and Olivier Messiaen's Saint-François d'Assise. The first staged production in
Holland of 'Saint-François' is due to take place in June 2008. The French master was born in 1908 and this year
we'll be able to hear a lot of Messiaen both at the Concertgebouw and at the Netherlands Opera.
I would like to share with you the final movement of Messiaen's oratorio La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ,
which he molded into the form of a chorale. This majestic finale is conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw,
arguably the most inspired Messiaen conductor of our time.
Just before this Messiaen you'll hear another French composer whom I greatly admire: Henri Dutilleux, with the
high voltage scherzo from his first symphony. Two instrumental intermezzos by Strauss and Handel are also included.
The final scene of Strauss' last opera Capriccio begins with a nocturnal orchestral intermezzo.
Strauss seems to have come to grips with the successes and setbacks of his long career, maybe even with the absurdity of life itself.
To me, this horn solo is among the most beautiful melodies ever written. Strauss, just like Handel in his funeral march
for the biblical hero Samson, mourns in a major key. Only musical giants like Mozart, Handel and Strauss are able to weep with a smile.
Finally, there is Brahms with his wonderful opus 17 for the enchanting combination of women's choir, two horns and harp.
Plus Dvorak, here with an excerpt from his rarely heard trios for two violins and viola.
I hope that you'll enjoy these unusual encounters between composers and musical styles.
Crucial? Yep. Opera is crucial now, even when I listen to Handel's Concerti grossi, Mozart's piano concertos or Tchaikovsky's symphonies:
the hidden operatic qualities that have only recently surfaced enrich it all for me.
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Ryland Davies/Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden/Colin Davis: Berlioz, from Les Troyens (Act 5), Chanson d'Hylas
Philips 456 387-2
Philharmonia Orchestra/Wolfgang Sawallisch: Richard Strauss, from Capriccio, Orchestral intermezzo before the final scene
RIAS-Kammerchor and instrumentalists/Marcus Creed: Brahms, from Vier Gesänge opus 17, Es tönt ein voller Harfenklang
Harmonia Mundi 901592
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers: Händel, from Samson, Funeral March
Collins Classics 70382
Jon Vickers/Enée and Josephine Veasy/Ryland Davies/Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden/Colin Davis: Berlioz,
from Les Troyens (finale Act 4), Nuit d'ivresse et d'extase infinie!
Philips 456 387-2
Bella Davidovich/Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Neeme Järvi: Rachmaninov, Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini
Philips 410 052-2
Ian Bostridge/Tom Rakewell/The Monteverdi Choir/London Symphony Orchestra/John Eliot Gardiner: Stravinsky,
from The Rake's Progress, Where art thou, Venus and chorus Mourn for Adonis
Deutsche Gramophon 459648-2
Members of the Panocha Quartet: Dvorak, from Terzetto in C major opus 74, Scherzo
Supraphon 11 1451-2 131
Same performers and CD as above: Berlioz, from Les Troyens (Act 1), Pantomime Andromaque et son fils
BBC Philharmonic/Yan Pascal Tortelier: Henri Dutilleux, from Symphony no.1, Scherzo
Choir of the Belgian Radio/Netherlands Radio Choir/Netherlands Radio Symphony/Reinbert de Leeuw:
Olivier Messiaen, from La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, Choral de la Lumière de Gloire
Auvidis Montaigne MO 782040
Hans Haffmans is Dutch of nationality but his musical interests,
education and experience are truly international. Contemporary art is his passion,
classical music radio his profession. This gives all his programmes a scope
and richness appreciated for many years now by listeners in both Holland, and abroad
(via the radio programme Live! at the Concertgebouw, produced by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, syndicated by WFMT, Chicago).
Haffmans studied classical guitar at the conservatory in Amsterdam but, traveling extensively while a student,
ended up for several years in California where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from
Vanguard University of Southern California.
Hans with his handsome family enjoying Kirkegaard's favourite spot in Denmark
Hans is eclectic in his admiration and dependence on the gamut of classical music, from early music to contemporary opera,
but he also harbours a rather obsessive, inexplicable love of Tchiakovsky.
His choices for without words are all that more surprising, focusing as they do on Hector Berlioz's magnificent opera Les Troyens.
A radio presenter for just a moment at a loss of (without) words, we hope you enjoy Hans Haffman's choice for wwclassicsonline.