25/08/2023 Juliana Széchenyi

Ute Lemper inspires young Slovenian musicians with Živa Ploj Peršuh

This year's traditional concert of the Slovenian Youth Orchestra conducted by its founder and artistic director Živa Ploj Peršuh took place at the 71st Slovenian Youth Festival in Prague. Ljubljana Festival filled the Križanke Summer Theatre. The orchestra was joined by the famous German singer Ute Lemper as a guest, and many famous faces from the world of music and theatre were seen in the auditorium.

It is right that the young generation of musicians who come and are members of this non-permanent orchestra between the ages of ten and twenty-six should be given special attention and publicity.The collaboration of young people with such a well-known musician is a particular tribute to her, which in turn is linked to her experience and upbringing as a mother and to her rich and varied international artistic life in general. She spoke a little about this from the stage, praising Ljubljana and thanking the organisers and the young orchestra for the invitation and for their participation, and a little later at a short reception in the Inferno Courtyard.

We have already briefly introduced it, but let's do it again.

She made her debut in the Vienna production of Cats. Her role as Sally Bowles in Jerome Savary's Cabaret (Paris) won her the Molière Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She won the Laurence Olivier Award for her performance as Velma Kelly in Chicago on the West End, followed the following year by the

Ute Lemper performs solo concerts of works by Weill and Brecht, Dietrich and Piaf, Jacques Brel, Leo Ferré, and Sondheim, as well as Berlin cabaret evenings in prestigious halls around the world.

She has appeared with the London, Israel, Boston, Hollywood, San Francisco, Berlin, Paris Radio, Illusions and Michael Nyman Band Symphony Orchestras in works such as The Seven Deadly Sins, Kurt Weill's Songs, Songbook and her discography is extensive. Decca has released 10 CDs with works by Weill, Nyman, Dietrich, Piaf, Prever, Sondheim, Brel, Piazzolla, Heymann, Eisler, Berlin cabaret songs and her own works. In 2000, Decca/Universal Music released Punishing Kiss, an album of new songs written for her by Costello, Waits, Glass and Nick Cave. The label CBS Records and Polydor, she released six more albums. She has appeared in many films, including Pret-á-porter (Robert Altman), and in several television shows for Arte, HBO. She lives in New York with her four children, Max, Stella, Julian and Jonas.

To say that the whole evening was marked by Uta Lemper's guest would be unfair to the orchestra, which opened with the very challenging Three Dance Episodes from Leonard Bernstein's musical On the Town for orchestra. (The famous musician was only in Ljubljana once at the beginning of the opening of the Gallus Hall of the Cankarjev Dom and young musicians may not remember him). On the Town is one of the liveliest Broadway musicals, brimming with youthful exuberance and optimism during the Second World War. Bernstein wrote it in 1944. Its charm lies in the lightness with which it looks at a life that refuses to take itself too seriously, but at the same time evokes the danger of war, to which the sailors, who are partying with the girls during their 24-hour stopover in New York, will ultimately have to return.

The introduction already showed the orchestra's very good preparation, but the one-sided and poor sounding, especially of the strings, was a distraction, so that the cellos and double basses, as well as the violas, were practically inaudible, especially in places where there was an abundance or above-average number of brass instruments (trumpets, trombones) on stage. The tone-master must notice this immediately and adjust the dynamics by all means, making the performance unified and sonically appealing. Unfortunately, this was not heard until the end of the concerto or the addition of the orchestra itself. In general, it seems as if the performers do not know that performance on stage is one thing, and audibility in an open-air summer theatre is another. The conductor should have checked for herself what her orchestra sounded like and gone to the top or middle of the ambience, as she would have quickly noticed that the beauty of the sound of the strings was diminished or their softness and beauty destroyed from or because of the boisterous background (10 trumpets, 5 trombones, massed woodwinds, including saxophones).

Ute Lemper began her performance with the famous Milord , as once inimitably sung by Edit Piaf, and any subsequent or later interpretation cannot join or surpass it, it is like an impenetrable stylistic and lifetime retrospective intervention in history to change it. Lemper immediately wanted to prove that she could and does, but it was quickly discovered that her French is more German (and yet - can you work out what that is in French ?). Her performance seemed a little warming up.

Then it quickly rose to a real concert form and attitude, both with Cabaret by American composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, who created the work in 1966 for Broadway shows.

They have scored 14 films and TV shows over the past 40 years. Cabaret ran for 1,165 performances, won the 1967 Tony Award for Best Musical and seven other awards, and made Kander and Ebb world-famous. The 1972 film adaptation starring Liza Minnelli won several Oscars. Another hit, Chicago, has had over 900 revivals and has been nominated for eleven Tony Awards. The musical also made it to the cinema screen and won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2002.

This cabaret music setting was then linked to the Weimar Suite by Kurt Weill and the writer Bertolt Brecht. Weill, as a Jew, was persona non grata in Germany and left the country. Weill created two of his most important works with Brecht; The Threepenny Opera and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. These are still on the programmes of opera theatres today.

Before both performances, Ute Lemper spoke about the cultural boom of Berlin and Germany in the 1920s, on all levels; in music, theatre, ballet or dance, in fine arts, film, photography, journalism, literature, journalism, fashion, design, in short, all the programmes that gave Germany an unheard of, but in reality achieved, creative freedom, which is why the experience of the change of power in 1933 was so harsh and, as it quickly turned out, very cruel.

More rare is the memory of the famous representative or labelled as German Entartete Musik of the Silesian-born Austrian composer Viktor Ulmann, who was explicitly described from the stage, especially his tragic fate from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he ended his highly creative compositional life in 1944.

Here, in the concert - in the last points of the programme, we felt her greatest, not only musical, but already quite deeply feminine and human pain. She mentioned the problem of sexual emancipation, the elevation of women to a position of equality - she saw a Slovenian conductor by her side - she mentioned the German-American actress and singer Marlene Dietrich, originally from the Berlin district of Schöneberg, and of course her most famous song, Lili Marleen, which soon became a hit with both German and American soldiers.

Understandably, in the context of this biographical and historical impact, it was here that Ute Lemper reached her concert peak at the Križanke.

The second part of the concert was more French, but also American and Argentinian. First, we listened to three songs or chansons by Jacques Brel: Je ne sais pas, Ne me quitte pas and Amsterdam . Here she reminded us of her first performance in Paris back in 1987 and warned us not to calculate how old she is now.

Jacques Brel, master of the chanson, was born in Brussels in 1929. During his school years, he wrote short stories, poems, essays and plays, which he adapted for youth theatre. At 18, he joined his father in the family business. He wrote songs and performed them in Brussels cabarets. He signed his first contract with Philips Records in 1953 and was soon invited to Paris. When he became famous, his wife and children left him. Later, while filming a movie in the Caribbean, he met the young actress and dancer Madly Bamy, with whom he sailed around the world on a sailboat for the rest of his life. His work influenced many musicians, including Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie. One of his best-known chansons is Ne me quitte pas (Don't leave me) (From the programme).

The following compositions by Bob Dylan: Blowin in the Wind and Astor Piazzolla: Yo Soy María (de Buenos Aires) were quite a surprise. The personal confession comes from the opera María de Buenos Aires, which he wrote with librettist Horacio Ferrer in 1968. It is an aria in which María, a lady from the streets of Buenos Aires, loves, sings and seduces men with the tango. In Spanish it was again inferior (đo shoy).

With Bob Dylan, the confessional-textual side seemed particularly worthy of attention:

How many roads does a person have to travel,

before you call him a man?

How many seas does a white dove have to cross,

before it falls asleep in the sand?

Yes, and how many times do cannonballs have to fly,

before they are banned forever?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind.

But it is different in singing style and here Ute Lemper has shown again a new singing style and could have added acting or a personal confession.

What the World Needs Now Is Love, by the multi-Oscar and Grammy-winning Burt Bacharach, is a 1965 song with lyrics by Hal David, first recorded and popularised by Jackie DeShannon. It became a huge hit when it was released, which surprised the authors, who were well aware of how Americans felt about the Vietnam War, which had given rise to the lyrics. DeShannon's version of the poem was published in 2023 by the Library of Congress in USA selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry. (From the programme).

Ute Lemper also chose Avec le temps by Leo Ferré and All That Jazz by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb to close her performance.

Pianist Vana Gierig and double bassist Giuseppe Bassi were also mentioned as guests of the orchestra and the concert. They had a separate sound system and could be heard very well, as well as the jazz drummer and guitarist again separately on stage.

The accompaniment was very solid, but again with the caveat that the strings were not heard enough.

Ute Lemper has chosen George Gershwin's The Man I Love as an additional song.

After a thunderous applause and ovation, the Slovenian Youth Orchestra with conductor Živa Ploj Peršuh also made their appearance.

The concert was certainly more full-blooded than the film music concerts last week. For the young musicians, meeting Ute Lemper will be a lasting memory, as she thanked them on stage in front of everyone for making her performance so enjoyable to watch.

At the concert we heard, among other things, the lines "If I were too happy, I'd pine for sorrow!" I don't believe it. We don't need sadness, least of all our own.

Medium: Kritik.si
Date: 25 Aug 2023
Link: Ute Lemper inspires young Slovenian musicians with Živa Ploj Peršuh