Via harpsichordist Christopher Lewis.
The composer, conductor, and author Francesco d'Avalos, Prince d’Avalos and Marquis of Vasto and Pescara, great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the uncle of Maria d'Avalos, the unlucky first wife of Carlo Gesualdo, died on May 26th at the age of eighty-four, at his palazzo in Naples. I visited him in 2011, and described the encounter at the end of my article on Gesualdo. Norman Lebrecht has a word or two about d'Avalos's work as a conductor.
May 30, 2014 | Permalink
The full schedule for June 21 is announced. Some highlights: Henry Brant's Mass in Gregorian Chant for Multiple Flutes, John Cage's 49 Waltzes (hopefully incorporating all 147 NYC addresses), three smartphone-interactive pieces, the traditional Cornelia Street In C, Salvatore Sciarrino’s La Bocca, i piedi, il suono with a hundred saxophones, and what promises to be a mightily loud rendition of Berlioz's Symphonie funèbre et triomphale.
May 29, 2014 | Permalink
I've had a bit of an adventure the past couple of days. An overheated bathroom ceiling fan at a radar facility caused O'Hare Airport, in Chicago, to be shut down for several hours on Tuesday — so news reports said — and I was unable to fly on to Winnipeg as planned. The snarl was big enough that not even Alberich-Wotan could get through: social media indicated that Eric Owens was stranded somewhere in the same complex. There was only a middling chance I could fly the following day and arrive in time for my Winnipeg Arts Council event, and so I decided to rent a car and drive. After a nine-hundred-mile marathon, during which I listened to Tristan, Parsifal, three iterations of Become Ocean, and some fifty Dylan songs (including "Red River Shore," in sight of the river in question), I arrived at the Manitoba Theatre Centre with twenty minutes to spare. I spent the night by the banks of the Mississippi, in Winona, Minnesota, and drove up through North Dakota, which was not at its most picturesque. The man at the border was skeptical of my behavior, but let me pass. Many thanks to Bill Richardson for elicting conversation from an exhausted and barely coherent author, and to all those who showed up.
May 15, 2014 | Permalink
When I visited Warsaw last winter, I was happy to pick up several recordings containing music of Agata Zubel, one of the most gifted of younger Polish composers. There is now a strong compilation on the Kairos label, the principal item being her grittily expressive Beckett setting NOT I. A vocalist of high accomplishment and distinctive timbre, Zubel sings in this work and in Aphorisms on Miłosz and Labyrinth; Clement Power conducts the Klangforum Wien in a program that also includes Shades of Ice.
May 12, 2014 | Permalink
All of this year's Spring for Music concerts are now archived at WQXR. Two events in the series especially stand out: the Seattle Symphony program mentioned below, and the Cincinnati Symphony and May Festival Chorus's powerful revival of R. Nathaniel Dett's The Ordering of Moses. But all are worth hearing. Tony Tommasini, in the Times, properly mourns the demise of the festival: "What made Spring for Music exceptional is something that should be commonplace in classical music. Orchestras from across North America, large and small, major and regional, were selected to participate based on the artistic merit and adventurousness of the programs they proposed. Shouldn’t this be true of all orchestra programs? Shouldn’t the seasonal offerings of ensembles everywhere be a weekly succession of musical adventures?" Apparently not.
May 12, 2014 | Permalink
A year ago, I perpetrated an online piece entitled "A Walking Tour of Wagner's New York," tracing a curious itinerary in a city that Wagner himself never saw. I hadn't imagined anyone following in my eccentric footsteps, but Amelia Lester, the editor of the Goings On About Town section of the magazine, had the idea of concocting a walkable tour, as part of a series of New York audio guides that can be found on the Goings On smartphone and tablet app. Eventually, we came up with an excursion called Musical Mysteries of the Upper West Side, embracing not only the Parsifal bells of Riverside Church and the vaguely Wagnerian ambience of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine but also the mysterious world of Nicholas Roerich, noted for his affiliations with figures as various as Stravinsky and Henry Wallace. The tour begins at the Roerich cornerstone, at West 103rd and Riverside Drive, and ends at Riverside Church, where, alas, Frederick C. Mayer's Parsifal sequence is still being played in the wrong order. I hope it makes for a diverting couple of hours. Many thanks to Owen Agnew for crafting a narrative from my slightly demented ramblings.
On my trip to Budapest in January, I got to hear a rare revival of Zsolt Durkó's 1972 oratorio Halotti beszéd, or Burial Prayer. The performance took place under the auspices of the Mini-Festival at the Palace of Arts; Mátyás Antal led the MÁV Symphony and the Hungarian National Choir. At one time, in the seventies, Durkó seemed poised for wider renown; Burial Prayer won acclaim after a BBC performance that the tireless Bálint András Varga helped to bring about. Then, as Varga comments in his recent book From Boulanger to Stockhausen, Durkó "disappeared from the international scene almost without a trace," along with such contemporaries as Sándor Balassa and András Szőllősy. This is a pity: Burial Prayer, setting the oldest extant text in the Magyar language, is a substantial, powerful work. It's strongly reminiscent of Ligeti and Lutosławski in places, but the finely calibrated contrapuntal writing and the juxtapositions of complex textures and chantlike recitation show a distinctive personality. The ending, in which the tenor whisper-sings "Kyrie eleison" over a cloudlike chorus and tremolo double basses, is breathtaking. Admittedly, it's hard to imagine performances abroad: as the composer Gyula Fekete pointed out to me, even Hungarians have difficulty with the medieval text. But Durkó is certainly worth a second look. In my library is a 1996 Hungaroton CD of his music, pairing Burial Prayer with excerpts from the sprawling, rhapsodic 1989-91 piano cycle The History of the Spheres.