Britten, Auden, and the GPO Film Unit, 1936. The classic bit begins at 19:12.
The remarkable Mr. Reed died today at the age of seventy-one. His influence on modern rock and pop was, of course, immense, and remains so; he also had a substantial and mutually beneficial relationship with the world of classical composition. Not many other pop musicians have had their albums played in full at Columbia University's Miller Theatre. Follow Steve Smith on Twitter for some excellent links and memories. Heartfelt condolences to Laurie Anderson.
October 27, 2013 | Permalink
“I said to Frau Cosima that I could not see that the stage trappings at Bayreuth or anywhere else were anything like the visions [Wagner's] music conjured up. And I think I remember her saying ‘And what pictures do you see, Mr. Craig?’ And I described something like the wild pampas of South America, the rushing of the wind, perhaps a prairie fire, and so on. When I looked at Frau Wagner I could hardly see her face, because she had turned the same colour as the table-cloth, into which she seemed to be vanishing.”
— Edward Gordon Craig, Index to the Story of My Days
October 26, 2013 | Permalink
Photo: Metropolitan Opera.
Angela Meade and Jamie Barton both delivered tremendous performances in last night's Norma at the Met, causing some old-school pandemonium in the house. Meade sang with a degree of dramatic involvement that I hadn't yet seen from this greatly gifted soprano. It was a considerable advance on her Caramoor Norma, which was already very fine. She may be even stronger on Monday, her only other night in this run; in "Casta diva," she seemed a little on edge and short of breath. Soon enough, she settled in, and by the end she had taken full, fiery command of the stage. As for Barton, she is a fresh wonder of the opera world, possessing a voice of preternatural beauty and power. She has a remarkable ability to keep the vocal line afloat amid pauses for breath; she'd swell on a note, take a breath, and then resume at even greater volume, tricking the ear into thinking that the phrase had never been broken. To see these young artists reveling together in their voices makes you believe unswervingly in the future of the art.
October 25, 2013 | Permalink
Photo: Paul Fusco / Magnum Photos / Library of Congress.
At Robert F. Kennedy's funeral, on June 8, 1968, Leonard Bernstein led members of the New York Philharmonic in the Adagietto of Mahler's Fifth Symphony. At 4AM that night, Jacqueline Kennedy wrote this to Bernstein:
When your Mahler started to fill (but that is the wrong word — because it was more this sensitive trembling) the Cathedral today — I thought it the most beautiful music I had ever heard. I am so glad I didn't know it — it was this strange music of all the gods who were crying. And then — if only you could have seen it — it was the time when Ethel had thought of the most touching thing — having the littlest nephews and nieces, small children, before that terrifying array of Cardinals and gold and Gothic vaults, carry all the little vessels for Communion up to the high altar, so that they could have some part in the farewell to the uncle they all loved so much. They were so vulnerable — and your music was everything in my heart, of peace and pain and such drowning beauty. You could just close your eyes and be lost in it forever.... Will you tell your noble orchestra, drowning in heat and cables when I passed them — that so many people all this day have said: how beautiful you were....
She says many other moving things in this remarkable letter, but what strikes me most is this: as she walks down the aisle of St. Patrick's Cathedral, at the funeral of the murdered brother of her murdered husband, she thinks about how hot the players must be under the lights.
October 24, 2013 | Permalink
After a mysterious absence from the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times, Andrew Patner, one of America's most authoritative and knowledgeable critics in any field, returns to the beat, with reviews of Susanna Mälkki at the Chicago Symphony and of an important revival of William Grant Still and Langston Hughes's Troubled Island.... Various concerts from the recent Donaueschingen Music Days can be heard on the SWR site here. Raphaël Cendo's new piece was sonically riveting, if perhaps a bit diffuse at first hearing; Enno Poppe's Speicher I-IV is also worth close attention.... This weekend in San Francisco, Lisa Bielawa stages another large-scale airfield composition — Crissy Broadcast, with more than eight hundred performers.... There's good new material at Laura Kuhn's John Cage blog.... Q2 Music has two broadcasts of recent works by Caroline Shaw.... Lincoln Center's Eric Gewirtz notes that the two most recent Grawemeyer Award-winning pieces will pass through New York next week: Michel van der Aa's Up-close will be heard at the White Light Festival on Monday, and Esa-Pekka Salonen will lead the first of five performances of his Violin Concerto at the New York Philharmonic on Oct. 30, with Leila Josefowicz as soloist. Note also a Salonen CONTACT! event on Nov. 4.... Tim Rutherford-Johnson features an absolutely fascinating piano piece by the young Canadian composer Cassandra Miller, and hails a new choral work by same... To Tim I also owe news of the first complete recording of The History of Photography in Sound, Michael Finnissy's five-and-a-half-hour music drama for solo piano. Ian Pace undertakes the mighty task. More anon; I've listened only as far as Seventeen Immortal Homosexual Poets.... Read Michael Markham on Vivaldi, Berio, and Kanye West.... There's a round-up of reviews of Nico Muhly's Two Boys at ionarts. I discussed the London première here; I remain convinced it's a substantial, absorbing work, despite its flaws.... Anton Batagov gives three performances of Feldman's Triadic Memories at the Park Avenue Armory this weekend.
October 24, 2013 | Permalink
During my recent visit to the University of Oklahoma — many thanks to my hosts, Robert Scafe and Sanna Pederson, and to all who attended my Wagner-Nietzsche lecture — I made a quick visit to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. They have a striking exhibition of postwar Latin American and Caribbean art, drawn from the collection of the Art Museum of the Americas, in Washington. Above is Escalera VI, by the Paraguayan painter Margarita Morselli.
October 23, 2013 | Permalink
Mohsen Saghafi comments: "The dialogue among the four solo string instruments attempting to be heard through the tumult of orchestral sounds is a musical metaphor for the cultural status of the tribes of Iran. In this piece, Hosseini reproduces the absurdity and multi-cultural aspect of societal and popular culture and conversations with the use of the orchestra. He represents the tumult of a society in which ethnic cultural elements are evident but cannot be easily heard."
October 22, 2013 | Permalink
Gotham Chamber Opera's production Baden-Baden 1927—re-creating the legendary quadruple bill of Milhaud's L'Enlèvement d'Europe, Hindemith's Hin und zurück, Toch's Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse, and Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel—opens next week. Paul Curran directs, with stage designs by Georg Baselitz; Helen Donath, in a rare New York appearance, takes the Lotte Lenya role in Mahagonny.
October 17, 2013 | Permalink
October 16, 2013 | Permalink
Balter's Strohbass appears on Hot (New Focus Recordings), an absorbing new disc by the saxophonist Ryan Muncy. Also featured are works by Georges Aperghis, Anthony Cheung, Aaron Cassidy, Chaya Czernowin, and Franco Donatoni. Muncy's collaborators are Nadia Sirota, Ben Melsky, Claire Chase, and Ensemble Dal Niente, who are presenting works of Johannes Kreidler in Chicago tomorrow.
October 14, 2013 | Permalink
New-music news from the Met, in advance of the opening of Nico Muhly's Two Boys on Oct. 21: the company will present Kaija Saariaho's magnificent L'Amour de loin in the 2016-17 season, and Matthew Aucoin, David T. Little, and Joshua Schmidt have joined the company's "new works" program. As previously bruited, The Death of Klinghoffer is coming next season, and Thomas Adès's The Exterminating Angel will make its way to the house after its Salzburg première.... Frank Oteri, at NewMusicBox, combats misinformation about the demise of New York City Opera. It's sad that the head of AFM Local 802 seems to know so little about the history and mission of the company. Meanwhile, James Stewart has a grisly narrative of City Opera's financial suicide... The discussion of sexism in classical music continues: read thoughtful contributions by Justin Davidson and Anastasia Tscioulcas... Registre des lumières, a new work by Rest Is Noise favorite Raphaël Cendo, will be heard at the Donaueschingen Music Days on Oct. 19; there's a broadcast on SWR.... Attention arts journalists aged 18 to 35: Carnegie Hall is inviting you to participate in its David Lang workshop. The deadline is Oct. 15.... Russian anti-gay laws have drawn plenty of attention, and a few protests from within the classical world. The Overgrown Path asks why nary a peep has been heard about considerably more oppressive laws in Abu Dhabi, whose high-profile festival draws classical stars.... A première at the Liszt Festival Raiding on Oct. 20: Martin Haselböck has discovered an orchestral version of Liszt's Vexilla regis prodeunt.... Emily Thompson, author of the celebrated tome The Soundscape of Modernity, has developed a fascinating website called "The Roaring 'Twenties," allowing you to hear the noises of New York circa 1930.... Pure brainy pleasure: Ethan Iverson on Andreas Staier.
October 12, 2013 | Permalink
The Times's Zachary Woolfe sent me this excerpt from a 1997 Houston Grand Opera Macbeth, with Catherine Malfitano as the sleepwalking Lady Macbeth and, right at the start, a 28-year-old Joyce DiDonato as her lady-in-waiting. Earlier that year, DiDonato had made her professional debut, as a Slave in Houston's Salome, with Hildegard Behrens in the title role. Not yet available on YouTube, alas, is DiDonato singing Godspell at Bishop Miege High School. She performs this Sunday with James Levine and the Met Orchestra; a few tickets remain. I am given to understand that she has worked out a spectacular dance routine for Elliott Carter's Variations for Orchestra.*
*Just kidding. Although you never know.
October 10, 2013 | Permalink
October 09, 2013 | Permalink
Callas and Di Stefano in La Traviata, at La Scala, 1955; Don Carlos at the Vienna State Opera in 2004, as directed by Peter Konwitschny. In 2001 I wrote an essay on Verdi, which is reprinted in revised form in Listen to This. It ends thus:
The greatness of Verdi is a simple thing. Solitary by nature, he found a way of speaking to limitless crowds, and his method was to sink himself completely into his characters. He never composed music for music’s sake; every phrase helps to tell a story. The most astounding scenes in his work are those in which all the voices come together in a visceral mass— like a human wave that could carry anything before it. The voices at the end of Simon Boccanegra, crying out in grief; the voices at the end of Un ballo, overcome by the spiritual magnificence of a dying man; and, of course, the voices of “Va pensiero,” remembering, in a unison line, the destruction of Jerusalem. In the modern world, we seldom find ourselves in the grip of a single emotion, and this is what Verdi restores to us— the sense of belonging.
October 09, 2013 | Permalink