Happy eightieth birthday (tomorrow) to Frank Gehry, architect of the greatest concert hall of the modern era.... Norman Lebrecht gets an exclusive on the hot new mezzo-soprano Tutula Bartley.... The LA Times has a promising piece on Obama and the arts; Soho the Dog deconstructs the phrase "the arts count".... The Rocky Mountain News is no more; condolences to Marc Shulgold.... A fond farewell to Kyle Gann's PostClassic Radio.... The indomitable Alan Rich has a new home at the LA City Beat.... The Boston Symphony inaugurates its new recording series with discs and downloads of Bolcom, Ravel, Mahler, and Brahms; Jeremy Eichler sums up five years with James Levine.... Bob Shingleton likes the look of Pierre-Laurent Aimard's first season as artistic director of Benjamin Britten's glorious Aldeburgh Festival. But, John Amis has wondered, what does Aimard actually think of Britten's music?
February 27, 2009 | Permalink
Rebecca Mead's profile of Natalie Dessay appears in this week's New Yorker (online for subscribers). In one scene, Dessay talks to Roland Geyer, the Intendant of the Theater an der Wien, about the possibility of singing in a revival of Falstaff — not the Verdi masterpiece but the 1799 version by Antonio Salieri:
A member of Geyer's staff went backstage and gave Dessay a copy of the Falstaff. During intermission, she paged through it, scanning the staves to see if the role rose to vocal heights sufficient to interest her. . . . "There's nothing to sing here," she said of the Salieri, leafing swiftly through in pursuit of a challenging aria before studying the music in greater detail. On a first pass, at least, she didn't find much. "If I do something without high notes, everyone will say, 'Oh, she doesn't have high notes anymore.' You can do it once, but if you do it again and again they start to talk, and then the reputation is gone."
Dessay sings in La Sonnambula at the Met starting on March 2. I'll review that production and the new Trovatore later in the month.
February 24, 2009 | Permalink
Alice Tully Hall reopens on Sunday, and Lincoln Center has assembled an impressive lineup of artists for a two-week renovation festival: Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI, the Emerson and Belcea Quartets, violinist Daniel Hope, tenor Mark Padmore, David Robertson and the Juilliard Orchestra (Messiaen's From the Canyons to the Stars, which Tully commissioned), Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic, Philippe Herreweghe and the Collegium Vocale Gent (the Mass in B Minor), Paavo Järvi and the Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (four Beethoven symphonies in one night), a new-music day with ETHEL, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Alarm Will Sound, and Steve Reich and Musicians, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. All tickets are $25, except when they're free.
February 18, 2009 | Permalink
From p. 143 of the stimulus bill, which the U.S. Congress passed yesterday: "$50,000,000, to be distributed in direct grants to fund arts projects and activities which preserve jobs in the non-profit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn." An attempt by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to eliminate all arts and museum funding from the bill was defeated. Ironically, Sen. Coburn is the father of the outstanding young soprano Sarah Coburn, who has appeared many times at opera houses supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Last year the younger Coburn went home to Oklahoma to sing in Lakmé at the Tulsa Opera — a production made possible in part by a $15,000 grant from the NEA.
February 14, 2009 | Permalink
Thanks to the footage above, we can now hear what Yo-Yo and company actually played during their 4'33"-long performance at the inauguration. (A "satirical hypothetical document," via Kyle Gann.) Elsewhere on YouTube: the Ophicleide Summit.... John Adams critiques young composers in an interview with Newsweek's Seth Colter Walls; Judd Greenstein responds.... The long-awaited Blog of Sedge. Also joining the fray is Matthew Gurewitsch.... Tony Tommasini of the New York Times answers readers' questions.... The violist Nadia Sirota and the vocalist Helga Davis are giving a new spin to the overnight show on WNYC. A recent program led with Britten's A Hymn to the Virgin, Cowell's Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 10, Cage's Hymns and Variations, and Ingram Marshall's bewitching Hymnodic Delays. That's radio we can believe in.
February 11, 2009 | Permalink
A bout of work and travel derailed my plans to write a preview post for Georg Friedrich Haas's in vain, a darkly radiant modern masterpiece that was given its U.S. premiere by the Argento Chamber Ensemble at Miller Theatre last night. A second performance follows on Monday at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, DC. Washingtonians should also be aware that György and Márta Kurtág will present a Kurtág world premiere at the Library of Congress tonight. Both concerts are free.
Sylvain Cambreling / Klangforum Wien; Kairos 1233.
February 07, 2009 | Permalink
I watched the Golden Globe Awards last month, but I somehow failed to register that when Susan Sarandon was announcing the Best Actor winner she stated that Brad Pitt was nominated for his performance in The Curious Case of Benjamin Britten.
Photo: Pitt as Britten, with Tom Cruise as Peter Pears.
February 05, 2009 | Permalink
The eighty-fourth-anniversary issue of The New Yorker is now on the stands. Every so often I ask regular readers of this site to consider subscribing to the magazine. Nothing I do would be possible without it, and there are far more compelling reasons to give it your support. With the Digital Reader, The New Yorker is now instantly accessible anywhere in the world.
Jonathan Biss was one of a number of musicians who turned out to hear György and Márta Kurtág perform at Zankel Hall on Sunday night. Also in the crowd were Richard Goode, Leif Ove Andsnes, Christian Tetzlaff, and Ursula Oppens. Biss offers "fugitive thoughts" on his website. I wrote about a Vienna version of this stupendous program in 2006.
Sonatina from Bach's Cantata BWV 106, "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit," arr. György Kurtág; G. and M. Kurtág, upright piano; BMC CD 123.
February 02, 2009 | Permalink
The American Music Center has released a fascinating survey of the American composer population. You can read a summary as well as the entire report at NewMusicBox. Some patterns that emerge: 1) Composers don't make a mint from their work. They have a median total income of $45,000, and, on average, they derive 19% of that amount from composition. Yet they spend twenty-seven hours a week on composing-related activities. Eighty-five respondents — 6.4% of the total — make a living entirely from writing music. That figure is actually higher than I might have guessed. 2) Composers — at least those responding to this survey — are predominantly white and male: 85% and 79% respectively. But those figures will drop as new generations rise. 3) Composers are dabbling energetically in new technologies. Forty-three percent are on MySpace, 39% percent are on Facebook, and 63% either "do not mind" or "like the exposure" when people download their music for free.
February 02, 2009 | Permalink
In January 2009 I decided to see how many concerts I could see in New York for under $100. This column was the result. As a follow-up, here is a guide to cheap seats at classical institutions around the world. (Prepared with assistance from Will Robin.)
Discounts, cheap seats, student prices:
Carnegie Hall: If you're in the 20-40 age range, for $20 you can get a year-long membership in Carnegie's Notables program, providing access to $20 tickets.
Juilliard sends out students to give free lunchtime concerts at 180 Maiden Lane downtown on most Tuesdays. Numerous free or cheap events are listed in the Juilliard calendar.
Frick Collection: All concerts $30/$25
Le Poisson Rouge: Most shows $10-20
Issue Project Room: Most shows $10/$8
New Amsterdam: Many cheap new-music events in calendar
92nd Street Y: Student10 tickets available for $10 and Under-35 tickets for $25
Peoples' Symphony Concerts: Most single tickets $13
Bargemusic: $15-20 student tickets
Symphony Space: $15-25 student and senior tickets
Orchestra of St. Luke's: $10 student rush
New York Youth Symphony: $20 tickets, $10 if you show a student ID at the box office
Church-music listings via the New York Chapter of the American Guild of Organists
New Music listings at SoundArt
MOMA Summergarden (free)
Boston Lyric Opera: 50% off student tickets
Boston Philharmonic: $8 student and senior rush tickets
New England Conservatory: Free student performances
Celebrity Series: $20 rush tickets
Collage New Music: $15 single tickets, students free
Northeast summer festivals:
Caramoor: $15 tickets available for most concerts
Glimmerglass: 50% off student discount, $10 tickets for youths aged 6-18
Tanglewood: Lawn tickets from $17 (lawn free for children under 18)
Bard SummerScape: $5 student rush tickets
Norfolk has $15 tickets available for most concerts and a number of free performances
D.C. / Baltimore:
Chicago Lyric Opera: $20 student tickets available by signing up
Chicago Opera Theater: $15 student tickets available by signing up
Chicago Symphony Orchestra: $10 student tickets
Chicago Opera Vanguard: $40-50 subscriptions, $30 for students
UChicago Presents: $5 or $10 student tickets
Grant Park: Free performances in the summer
Pick Staiger: Tickets under $10 for general public, $5 for students; sometimes free
Detroit / Ann Arbor:
The University Musical Society in Ann Arbor offers $10 rush tickets and other discounts.
The Detroit Symphony has a $25 student pass, giving unlimited access to all classical, pops, and jazz concerts each season.
Dallas Opera: $25 student tickets
Houston Symphony: $12 and 50% off student tickets
Houston Grand Opera: $12.50 NEXUS program
Texas Performing Arts in Austin: $10 student tickets
Fort Worth Opera: 50% off for students and military
LA Opera: student rush tickets available, prices not given
UCLA Live: $15 student tickets
LA Chamber Orchestra: $10 student rush
Pacific Symphony: $10 student tickets
La Jolla Music Society: $10 rush student tickets
La Jolla Symphony: $15 student tickets
San Diego Symphony: $10 last-minute tickets
Orchestra Nova San Diego: $10 tickets for students and educators, free tickets for active military and family
Northern California (with thanks to Lisa Hirsch):
SF Symphony: $20 rush tickets
SF Opera: $25 student and senior rush tickets and other discounts
Cal Performances, Berkeley: 50% for students, other discounts
Old First Concerts: $15 general admission, $12 for students and seniors
Seattle Opera: $20 student rush tickets, $5 teen tickets, various other discounts
Portland Opera: $10 rush tickets for students, seniors, military
Other American orchestras:
Cleveland: $10 student tickets
Nashville: $10 college-student tickets
Atlanta: $12 student tickets
Cincinnati: Various discounts, including $12 tickets for people aged 18-30
Phoenix: Various discounts, including a $30 season pass
Utah Symphony / Opera: Student tickets from $10
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra: $10 tickets for age 20-39; $10 student rush; $3 off senior discount
Other American opera companies:
Kansas City Opera: $15 student tickets
Cincinnati Opera: $12 student rush
Toronto Symphony: Their innovative tsoundcheck program offers $14 tickets to people aged 15-15, whether they are students or not.
Scottish Opera: £10 tickets for people under 26
London Philharmonic: Student tickets from £1-4; £8 for under 26
City of Birmingham Symphony: £5 student rush tickets; discount standby tickets also available
Hallé Orchestra: Student tickets for £3.o0
Royal Opera House at Covent Garden: Discounts available for students, people under 18, and others
English National Opera: Various student and under-30 discounts
Berlin Philharmonic: Standing room tickets starting at 7€
Berlin Staatsoper: Various discounts
Deutsche Oper Berlin: Judgendclub discounts
Dresden Semperoper: 10€ student tickets, other offers
Bayerische Staatsoper (Munich): 10€ student tickets and other discounts
Bavarian Radio Symphony: 8€ student tickets
Bamberger Symphoniker: Discount tickets for under 18, students, and military
Rest of Europe:
Czech Philharmonic: 50% off for seniors and students
La Scala: Major discounts in the Under 30 program
Helsinki Philharmonic: 6€ student tickets and other discounts
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra: 10€ rush tickets for under-28
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra: 80SEK student tickets
Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich: 20CHF tickets for under-25 and students
February 01, 2009 | Permalink