Reminders about archived concerts online: you can listen to the New York Philharmonic's Kraft at Volkswagen, a Curtis Symphony Turangalîla, Riccardo Muti's Franck Symphony with the Chicago (an account I praised last fall), and, of course, all of the Spring for Music events (don't miss David Carpenter's powerful reading of the Schnittke Viola Concerto, with the National Symphony)... Miller Theatre has announced a sterling twenty-fifth anniversary season: featured are John Zorn, Steven Schick, Kaija Saariaho, Joan Tower, Steve Reich, G. F. Haas, Rand Steiger, Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, Roger Reynolds, Unsuk Chin, Jean-Baptiste Barrière, and Liza Lim.... Taking issue with Leonard Slatkin's remarks about his much-lauded Spring for Music event, Kyle Gann has an excellent defense of the Ives First Symphony, which I, too, prize highly. The great recording is by Morton Gould, whose own Third Symphony is another Spring for Music highlight.... Congratulations to Derek Bermel, who has been named the new artistic director of the American Composers Orchestra.... Joyce DiDonato, diva de nos jours, is submitting the title of her "greatest hits" compilation to popular vote. I like "ReJoyce."
May 24, 2013 | Permalink
The solitary French master, who maintained as high a standard for his work as any composer since Berg, died yesterday at the age of ninety-seven. Paul Griffiths has written a beautiful obituary for the New York Times. One way to remember Dutilleux, or to become acquainted with him, would be to pick up Esa-Pekka Salonen's superb new disc on DG.
May 23, 2013 | Permalink
Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig two hundred years ago today. For the New Yorker website I have perpetrated a Wagner Birthday Roast, the second in a sporadic series of bicentennial commentaries. (The first was A Walking Tour of Wagner's New York.) I've written at least a dozen Wagner-centered pieces over the years; the one I'm happiest with, and the one I'd offer to anyone asking why this ever-problematic composer still matters, is my Walküre essay from 2011. Elsewhere on the Internet, I recommend Mark Berry's posts at Boulezian, the Wagnerian's Scrapbook, and Sam Hawke's perceptive essay on Wagner's politics at Social Justice First. A reminder that the WKCR marathon is in progress; also, you can listen to the entire 1953 Clemens Krauss Ring at Minnesota Public Radio. Happy birthday, old magician! May your third century be more peaceful than your second.
May 22, 2013 | Permalink
The distinguished Boston-area composer, a deft practitioner of mid-century neoclassical style, has died at the age of ninety-three. He was the last living representative of the Copland generation, that remarkable phalanx of American composers who came to the fore in the thirties and forties. While others went in for brawny populist gestures, Shapero was always elegant and restrained, a faithful yet distinctive devotee of Stravinsky in his Symphony in C phase. Shapero's Symphony for Classical Orchestra, from 1947, is a masterpiece of its time and place — a "marvel," Leonard Bernstein once called it, in a letter to Koussevitzky. It deserves to be heard more often, or, indeed, heard at all. Tony Tommasini argued for its revival in 1999, but I'm unaware of any recent performances. I once had dinner with Shapero and his wife, the artist Esther Geller Shapero. For a composer of such exquisite habits, he was surprisingly boisterous in person. My condolences to Esther, to whom Harold was married for nearly seventy years.
May 18, 2013 | Permalink
A program from 1913, courtesy of Joan Matabosch.
Wagner's two-hundredth birthday arrives on Wednesday, and most of the world's major music cities will mark the occasion in some way. In Leipzig, Wagner's birthplace, there will be a celebratory concert, a staging of Götterdämmerung, and an afternoon coffee party; in Venice, where he died, La Fenice has a day of music and lectures. In London, as part of Wagner 200, the Philharmonia will give a special concert at Royal Festival Hall, with Andrew Davis conducting and Susan Bullock singing. In Berlin, you can see The Flying Dutchman; in Milan and Vienna, Götterdämmerung; in Hamburg and Copenhagen, Tannhäuser; in Santiago, Parsifal. The numerous Wagnerians of Barcelona may assemble at L'Auditori. Dresden will have a flurry of events next week, including a Thielemann / Jonas Kaufmann affair on May 21. In Paris, you can attend Götterdämmerung on the same night, and sing happy birthday to the old wizard at midnight. And Thielemann will conduct at the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth on the birthday itself, with a no doubt wild street party to follow.
Curiously, though, almost nothing is happening here in New York. Igor Stravinsky, a professed Wagner-hater, would have been delighted to know that Lincoln Center will be presenting, on the day of the bicentennial, a Bard College concert entitled Stravinsky and His World. Juilliard is holding an Elliott Carter memorial, which makes me think that when Carter was born Wagner had been dead for only twenty-five years. The only live Wagner event I can find is a vocal recital at the German Consulate, sponsored by the Wagner Society of New York; it is sold out. Also, WKCR, the Columbia radio station, is hosting a Wagner marathon, beginning at midnight on the 22nd. But the most Wagnerian thing you could do in the city next Wednesday, aside from listening to the confused Parsifal bells at Riverside, would be to recall Wagner's famous slogan "Kinder! macht Neues!" ("Children, make something new") and go see the Missy Mazzoli concert at (Le) Poisson Rouge. I will be spending most of the day on Amtrak — so it goes.
Update: I asked on Twitter whether any American orchestra or opera house was performing Wagner on the day of the anniversary, and so far not much has come up. The closest is the Dallas Symphony, which played an all-Wagner program this weekend. The Boston Wagner Society is presenting a concert at Old South Church; the Seattle Opera is holding a Sing Along; and the New Century Chamber Orchestra will play Siegfried Idyll in San Francisco on May 23. This is not in the nature of a lament; anniversaries are generally overdone, and Wagner gets enough attention. Still, it's curious.
See also: The Ring in 2013.
May 18, 2013 | Permalink
What do the brothers Wesendonck, Guardian Life Insurance, Confucius Plaza, the Roerich Museum, Grant's Tomb, West Point, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and the Temple of the Grail have in common? Needless to say, they are all part of "A Walking Tour of Wagner's New York."
May 16, 2013 | Permalink
Major news from the Boston Symphony: the impassioned young Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons has been chosen as the orchestra's fifteenth music director, succeeding James Levine. "I am deeply honored and touched that the Boston Symphony Orchestra has appointed me its next music director, as it is one of the highest achievements a conductor could hope for in his lifetime," Nelsons says in the press release. "Each time I have worked with the BSO I have been inspired by how effectively it gets to the heart of the music, always leaving its audience with a great wealth of emotions." Last summer in the New Yorker, I wrote about Nelsons's memorable appearances with the BSO at Tanglewood. I also heard his splendid Lohengrin at Bayreuth in 2011. I believe him to be a very strong choice — indeed, about the best that the orchestra could have made. Daniele Gatti was also considered a candidate for the post, but Jeremy Eichler, in recent Globe reviews, pointed out an "airless," mannered quality that I, too, have noticed in Gatti's work. Nelsons is a more natural, spontaneous musician, not to mention more widely liked, and his energy will be welcome in Boston.
May 16, 2013 | Permalink
May 13, 2013 | Permalink