Mary Norris, one of The New Yorker's staggeringly brilliant copyeditors, has written a book about the art of fine-tuning the English language. No less than any other writer on the staff, I have happily been schooled by Mary, Ann Goldstein, and the rest of the comma squad, going back to The Gould, and I look forward to furthering my education. Congratulations, Mary!
April 23, 2015 | Permalink
Anna Clyne sits for her Portrait Concert at Miller Theatre this Thursday. Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim profiles her in the New York Times.... On the same night in Chicago, Ensemble Dal Niente will devote a program to Rebecca Saunders.... At NewMusicBox, Rob Deemer solicits thoughts on the place of new music in an increasingly clickbait-driven media culture.... Alan Gilbert's Royal Philharmonic Society lecture is worth a read. The NY Phil's London concerts have been winning strong reviews; as Sedge Clark points out, the orchestra's European tour programs are unusually varied. Again one has to wonder why Gilbert is leaving the Phil just as he seems to be hitting his stride.... Tomorrow night at LA's Zipper Hall, the ever-formidable Gloria Cheng gives a recital under the rubric Lyric / Modern, playing works of Ingram Marshall, Karen Tanaka, Eric Nathan, Steven Stucky (the world première of his Sonata), Brett Dean, Unsuk Chin, Boulez, and Jonathan Harvey.... Cheng will also take part in a typically arresting Jacaranda program on April 25, one that serves up late-Soviet-period works of Schnittke, Gubaidulina, and Pärt, with Prokofiev to boot.... The violinist Linus Roth has founded the International Mieczysław Weinberg Society.... The composer and pianist Jessica Krash tells a sad story of drastic cuts to adjunct music teaching at George Washington University, in Washington DC. Replies from the administration, rich in acronyms, platitudes, and euphemisms, fail to banish the impression that GWU is showing needless cruelty.... The invaluable Yale Baroque Opera Project, under the aegis of the scholar Ellen Rosand, will present Cavalli's Erismena next weekend. The singers will employ an English translation that was made in the late seventeenth century.
New and recent releases of interest.
— Szymański, Pieces for String Quartet, Mykietyn, String Quartet No. 2; Royal String Quartet (Hyperion)
— Gesualdo, Tenebrae Responsoria; Philippe Herreweghe conducting the Collegium Vocale Gent (Outhere)
— Mahler, Symphony No. 8, Wagner Overtures; Jascha Horenstein conducting the London Symphony and the Royal Philharmonic, and various other forces (Pristine)
— Bernd Richard Deutsch, Mad Dog, String Quartet No. 2, Dr. Futurity; Enno Poppe conducting Klangforum Wien (Kairos)
— Boulez, Livre pour Quatuor, last revision, 2012; Quatuor Diotima (Megadisc)
— Hilda Paredes, Cuerdas del destino, Canciones lunáticas, Paplote, In Memoriam Thomas Kakuska; Arditti Quartet, with Jake Arditti, countertenor (Aeon)
— Schumann, Violin Concerto, Piano Trio No. 3; Isabelle Faust, with Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, and with Jean-Guihen Queyras and Alexander Melnikov (Harmonia Mundi)
— Maximilian Steinberg, Passion Week; Alexander Lingas conducting Cappella Romana (Cappella Romana)
— Héroïque: French Opera Arias; Bryan Hymel, tenor, with Emmanuel Villaume conducting the Prague Philharmonia (Warner Classics)
— Chris Pitsiokos and Philip White, Paroxysm (Carrier)
Mark Swed, in the LA Times, recently noted a shortage of American orchestral tributes to Pierre Boulez in his ninetieth-birthday year. The New York Philharmonic, Boulez's former base, programmed nothing by him this season; likewise the LA Phil. Instead, as Swed observed, on Boulez's birthday both orchestras were playing works by John Adams. As one who laments the mindlessness of calendrically generated programming — despite my love for Strauss and Sibelius, I am boycotting their one-hundred-fiftieth anniversaries — I can't register too strong a complaint, but the omissions seem a little odd. (Let's recall that the neglect of Milton Babbitt, on his ninetieth birthday, was more severe.) In any case, SoCal Boulezians can converge on the Ojai Festival in June, where Steven Schick, this year's director, will offer a substantial Boulez tribute, with an Ojai in Berkeley series to follow. And, this Sunday in New York, David Robertson and the Juilliard Orchestra will perform Boulez's Rituel and the Originel from “…explosante-fixe…," alongside Debussy’s Prelude to "The Afternoon of a Faun" and Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Winds.
Update: The Chicago Symphony presented a pair of Boulez concerts last month.
John Adams will lead Leila Josefowicz and the Cincinnati Symphony in his striking new work Scheherazade.2 next week. The dedicated page on the Cincinnati's website provokes a wry smile. Adams is at least sufficiently well known that his name gets in the headline. I appreciate, of course, the challenges of marketing new music to mainstream audiences, and am happy to see that Cincinnati has taken on Adams's big new piece. They have a strong track record with contemporary music generally — witness the Music Now Festival. But the emphasis on Respighi seems strange, to say the least. The new work should be the lead story. More on Scheherazade.2 and the travails of contemporary orchestral writing here.
The scholar James Schmidt has made a fascinating discovery: the lost mansucript of Theodor W. Adorno's own translation of his Philosophie der neuen Musik has turned up in the papers of Virgil Thomson, at Yale. Adorno and Thomson occasionally exchanged letters; as I commented in a blog post last fall, they had certain ideological concerns in common. In The Rest Is Noise, I mentioned that at one point Adorno attempted to interest Thomson in his writings on Sibelius, provoking the immortal reply, "The tone is more apt to create antagonism toward yourself than toward Sibelius." (That letter appears in Tim Page and Vanessa Weeks Page's Selected Letters of Virgil Thomson.) Apparently, Adorno also hoped to draw Thomson's attention to his Philosophy. As Schmidt observes, the translation reveals that Adorno had no more idea of how to render his adamantine prose in English than did later translators. Indeed, Adorno's uncertain command of English placed him at something of a disadvantage. Nonetheless, Adornians are sure to learn much from this notable find. I look forward to reading more of Schmidt's musings on the Adorno-Thomson relationship.
April 13, 2015 | Permalink
A sign from Bruges.
Next week the MATA Festival returns to NYC, with finely varied programs ranging from Sweden (Malin Bång) to Iran (Idin Samimi Mofakham). Ensembles include the Curious Chamber Players, the Momenta Quartet, and the brawny boys of Bearthoven, giving the première of Adam de la Cour's Corporate Talent Factor’s Next Top Idol! ... The sublime Laurie Anderson is curating and performing in a Live Ideas festival at New York Live Arts. Included in the expectedly eclectic lineup are several events focused on Arvo Pärt, including a panel discussion with Anderson and Will Robin.... The album of the week on Q2 is an excellent new Hyperion disc, with the Royal String Quartet, of works by two major Polish composers, Paweł Szymański and Paweł Mykietyn. As Doyle Armbrust observes, the Royal Quartet deserves an American tour.... The News, a "multimedia reality opera" by Jacob TV, plays at the Met Museum April 17-18.... Tomorrow night at LA's Zipper Hall, the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet gives the première of Andrew McIntosh's I Hold the Lion's Paw and also offers works of Joseph Pereira, Nicholas Deyoe, and the late Shaun Naidoo.... The Before Bach series is under way at Carnegie. In this week's New Yorker I have a preview of an obvious highlight, Jordi Savall's solo viol recital. Sonnambula, a superb NYC-based viol consort that might well have been featured in Carnegie's lineup (as Jim Oestreich has noted, the hall seems fixated on British performers), play tonight at the Museum of Biblical Art and will delve into the gorgeous world of William Lawes in May.... Noted with great interest: a biography of the conductor Dean Dixon. The Overgrown Path has more.
April 09, 2015 | Permalink
New titles of interest.
— Philip Glass, Words without Music (Norton)
— Sarah Barbedette, ed., Pierre Boulez (Actes Sud)
— Gary Tomlinson, A Million Years of Music: The Emergence of Human Modernity (Zone)
— Nigel Simeone and John Tyrrell, eds., Charles Mackerras (Boydell Press)
— Vincent Giroud, Nicolas Nabokov (Oxford)
— Oliver Hilmes, Malevolent Muse: The Life of Alma Mahler (Northeastern)
— Robert Raines, Composition in the Digital World: Conversations with 21-Century American Composers (Oxford)
— Zofia Posmysz, The Christ from Auschwitz (IYMC Foundation / Konrad Adenauer Foundation)
April 06, 2015 | Permalink