Can we create the sound of silence

Philippe JORDAN: The Sound of Silence #

Philippe JORDAN: The sound of silence / recorded by Haide Tenner, residence, 2020 / review by Guenther Johann

Philippe JORDAN: The sound of silence

JORDAN, Philippe: "The sound of silence", recorded by Haide Tenner, Salzburg Vienna 2020 A beautiful and important contribution for all lovers of classical music. The young conductor Jordan shows his commitment and his work from his point of view, whereby it is not a biography, but a description of the work and thinking in relation to music of the conductor Jordan. The book began in a very intense period, when Jordan still had the dual function of musical director of an opera and a symphony orchestra. The corona crisis and many event cancellations, however, took time to finish this book. For Philippe Jordan, music is a look into another dimension. “Music reminds us that there is something that the intellect cannot and cannot explain.” (Page 11) His father was a conductor and so he experienced this profession from childhood. He learned to play the piano at an early age and performed as a choir boy. At home in Zurich, English was spoken in addition to German. The mother came to Vienna as a refugee and grew up in Ireland. He spent his apprenticeship years with Barenboim and at the age of 27 he became chief conductor of the Graz Opera. Here he learned how to deal with opera, which for him is “the greatest form of art”. “If everything is right in the opera - singer, conductor, orchestra, choir, director, stage design and sometimes even dance - then for me it is the greatest art form of all.” (Page 61) In 2004 he conducted for the first time at the Opéra National in Paris and later became its director. The section in the book in which he describes his personal approach to the individual composers is very interesting. • “Mozart has been with me from the start of my career, and I cannot imagine a life without his greatest masterpieces. Mozart wrote for me the most heavenly, the most perfect music that a human being has ever created. ”(Page 76) • Puccini: As a young conductor, he conducted many Italian operas. His first was Puccini's Tosca in Ulm. “I consider Giacomo Puccini to be one of the best musical dramatists and La Boheme one of the best operas ever written; a perfect mixture of great theater, good dramaturgy, melodies full of melting and an orchestration whose quality is always comparable to Wagner and Strauss. "(page 79/80) •" Richard Strauss is an affair of the heart for me. "(page 92) Except for the woman without a shadow, he had conducted all the works. Jordan develops the greatest emotionality with the Rosenkavalier. • Wagner: In his first two years in Paris, he realized the entire Ring cycle. Wagner is very important for the development of an orchestra. For Jordan, the ring deals with the great issues of humanity. “It's about politics, economy, religion and redemption, betrayal and loyalty and the end of the world. Even about ecology, about the question of how the world will one day be left behind, and of course about power and love. ”(Page 107) For a conductor, the ring is something like an accolade. In connection with Wagner he says “Music makes us aware that there is something greater, something divine, something universal, something that is within us.” (Page 111) In the section on Schubert and his music, Jordan admits that he was earlier believed another dimension after death, but have abandoned that. “It's hard to believe that a person's death is like a tree that is cut down and that seems to be the end of it all. The longer I live, however, the less reason I see to believe that there is something else after death. We can look almost to the end of the universe, do quantum physics, astronomy and medicine, but we still don't know what happens after death. ”(Page 149) From the conductor's point of view, he also talks about things like acoustics. That in Bayreuth, for example, the music comes from the covered orchestra pit over a singing bowl. So there is no direct sound to the audience. Everything comes as a reflection. This in turn creates a delay that makes collaboration between conductor and singer extremely difficult. The longest chapter in the book is also devoted to Wagner. When Jordan became music director in Paris, he found an orchestra that worked primarily for the opera. He introduced concerts and thus gave the orchestra more self-confidence. He also sees his development self-critically when he says: “I believe that many conductors primarily practice their profession for themselves in the first few years, because with music you can live out a part of yourself - at least I am one of them. In the course of time, the motives change - for a long time now, I have stopped going to the desk for myself, but with the feeling that I have a task and give something to others. That is a new quality in my life. ”(Page 145) • Schubert: In his first season in Vienna he introduced a Schubert cycle. For him, Schubert can best be combined with other composers in a concert. “Schubert has to be played lovingly, worked lovingly, needs great quality in the interplay of the strings, in the homogeneity of the sound, in the intonation of the woodwinds and in the phrasing.” (Page 147) • Today, Bach is played almost exclusively by baroque ensembles . Jordan, however, is of the opinion that a symphony orchestra can also play Bach “leaner and more detoxified”. A friend told him "When you hear Bach, you have the feeling that everything will be fine again in this crazy world." He says that especially in today's world of Corona, an American President Trump, climate change and many daily problems with Bach Music can restore confidence. “Bach is and will remain our daily bread for us musicians.” (Page 154) • Beethoven was Jordan's central project when he moved to Vienna. He hears from Beethoven that the composer was himself a pianist. With Beethoven in particular, it is also important to him to give the musicians images of what should be expressed. Like Beethoven, Jordan finds his energy in the silence of nature. • Bruckner: The approach to this composer was a rocky road and in this chapter of the book there is still criticism, in addition to all appreciation. Bruckner's symphonic music was developed from playing the organ. It is also not as Catholic and religious as is generally assumed. He finds it more mystical and spiritual. There is a lot of the devil in Bruckner's music and not just of the sacred. “… In the eighth it increases so much that you can hardly take it anymore. You can't look at eternity, it dazzles and burns, like looking into the sun for too long. ”(Page 171) • Brahms“ always sounds good, but that's not the point, it's about the question of what he has to say to us has. ”(page 181) • Schumann: Jordan says of the violin concerto“ I am sure that Schumann would have continued to work on this work if his state of health had allowed it and he had not been admitted to the sanatorium. The creeping mental illness can already be read from the work. ”(Page 189) However, he admits that he likes this work despite its problems. “He orchestrates unusual, but not bad.” (Page 190) • Strauss: Austrian and southern German orchestras play Strauss more authentically than other orchestras. “The Viennese sound is brighter, more sensual, sweeter, smoother and more agile.” (Page 194) The book not only contains factual facts, it is also human. In the chapter “Strauss” and his Don Quixote, for example, Jordan refers to his own experience and that of the general public when he says: “Many people fight against windmills every day. My windmills are the opera business. It's a daily struggle in which you sometimes experience great moments, but sometimes also fight for your visions and ideals and often have to make compromises. Everyone has their windmills, maybe that's why Don Quixote is closer to me than heroic life. Don Quixote is an antihero who fights his way through the world with a lot of imagination, passion and idealism. I think the young Richard Strauss knew that all too well. ”(Page 195) • Britten: In the commemorative year 2018 (for the events of 1918 and 1938) he conducted War and Peace, where he“ always struggled ”with war music. "Whenever beaters and trumpets sound, music becomes very one-dimensional, very martial for me." (Page 198) He also rejects any form of violence and is glad that he never had to do military service. “I cannot imagine using a weapon to defend myself, but I hope never to get into this situation either. In America I know people who proudly show me their gun safe. You can't discuss that, it's a different worldview. ”(Page 201) • Mahler: His love for Mahler arose very early when he sang“ Bim-Bam ”as a choirboy in the Third Symphony. In the first grade of high school, the school orchestra performed the first symphony, in which he beat the drums and timpani. In Graz he then conducted his first Mahler symphony. He calls his relation to soloists “a give and take”, ie a cooperation, although there is more relation to some musicians. He works primarily with soloists whom he sees as partners. At the age of 35 he became music director of the Paris Opera. He was then chief conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra for six years, and in 2020 he returned to the opera in Vienna. It describes the conversion from a program opera house to a repertoire house like Vienna. He advocates playing by heart because he can listen to himself better. When conducting by heart, he can already look ahead and look directly at musicians before they start playing. He does not yet feel called to compose. He writes, but for himself. “I only compose for myself, it's good for me, and I wish I had more time.” (P. 233) Under the heading “What is success?” He clearly states that this is related to quality. For example, Beethoven's Seventh Symphony was a programmed success. But success can also be seen in different ways. He shows the access to the music of American and European singers who set different accents and priorities for their work. It is often said that classical music is primarily for the elderly and that this music will therefore become extinct. Jordan sees it simply: the youngsters also get old and later come to concerts. He sees no competition for concerts in records and CDs. “A room can vibrate like a large cello case, which creates sonic sensations that a recording can never produce.” (Page 241) Although it is about music, he says in the last chapter that silence is the greatest, most beautiful and strongest thing for him. One is strongest in oneself in silence. Silence is also an important factor in music, which the conductor in particular can create through his interventions. An interesting book in which the reader is allowed to look behind the soul curtain of a conductor and thus perhaps better understand some concerts.