February 23, 2014 | Permalink
The Interstellar Contract. New Yorker website, Feb. 19, 2004.
February 21, 2014 | Permalink
Edward FitzGerald to Fanny Kemble, 1880: "...heard an Opera (Carmen) on the Wagner model: very beautiful Accompaniments to no Melody..."
February 20, 2014 | Permalink
February 20, 2014 | Permalink
In a recent column on the Prototype Festival, I worked in an all-too-brief mention of Kate Soper's remarkable theater piece Here Be Sirens, which had its début at the same time as Prototype but wasn't part of the series. Fortunately, Steve Smith was also there, and wrote a typically comprehensive, perceptive review for the Times. Soper also has a new CD on the Carrier label, devoted to an eight-movement piece called Voices from the Killing Jar.
February 19, 2014 | Permalink
The formidably gifted composer-vocalist, whose website is here, just performed Fausto Romitelli's An Index of Metals at On the Boards in Seattle, with the Seattle Chamber Players. Above is Zubel's own work Not I, based on the Beckett monologue. More on contemporary Polish music in The New Yorker next week.
February 18, 2014 | Permalink
His desk, with the beloved Edison cylinder.
A cigarette found inside his Bösendorfer.
His insects. Pictures taken last month at the Bartók Memorial House, in Budapest.
“Justice resides in a good that cannot be a possession.”
— Walter Benjamin
December 19, 2013 | Permalink
The New Yorker website has posted this reporter's obligatory end-of-year list. Emily Nussbaum, our television critic, is probably right in decrying such lists as an intellectual mistake, especially as they pile up in unreadable heaps. Still, it's always a pleasure to review the year and savor a few memorable moments. Also on the website: an interview with Esa-Pekka Salonen about Patrice Chéreau, the year's most painful loss. Already posted below is a list of notable music books.
I am pleased to announce that the Rest Is Noise Person of the Year is Joyce DiDonato. She is a model artist of our age, an enlightened politician of beautiful sound. She's also great fun to drive across Kansas with, although this was not necessarily a deciding factor. The Medal of Musical Valor goes to the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians, who turned down what many considered an acceptable offer in the name of preserving their dignity. In an unprecedented repeat performance, the Turkey of the Year Award goes once again to the Minnesota Orchestral Association, which, it seems to me, has no business running a lemonade stand, much less a symphony orchestra.
As in past years, I'll add some items outside my area of nominal competence. In another Wagnerism-saturated year — if you saw some fool reading Huysmans on the subway, it was probably me — I did find time for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's marvelous Americanah. My favorite film of the year was Terrence Malick's To the Wonder. Richard Brody, one of very few critics who understood Malick's vision, wrote beautifully about the movie here and there. (The fact that the soundtrack made profound use of the Parsifal Prelude may have affected my response.) As for TV, household favorites were Veep, Breaking Bad, and — forgive me, Emily — The Walking Dead. Happy holidays!
December 18, 2013 | Permalink
Marco Blaauw, the high-flying hero of Ensemble musikFabrik's Michaels Reise at the Lincoln Center Festival last summer, has a riveting new CD called Angels, containing "sound images of winged creatures" by Liza Lim, Richard Ayres, Rebecca Saunders, GF Haas, Carl Ruggles (supplying the title), Agata Zubel, Martin Smolka, Martijn Padding, the jazzman Jimmy Rowles, and Blaauw himself. There's a preview on SoundCloud.
December 17, 2013 | Permalink
"You can't see Venice unless there's a little Venice inside you first."
— Edward Burne-Jones, quoted in Fiona MacCarthy's The Last Pre-Raphaelite
The winter-solstice festival returns on Saturday. Highlights of the schedule are a reprise of Chris Herbert's Winterize (a chilly pleasure last year); a bicycle-bell piece by Merche Blasco; a new version of James Holt's Bach-on-the-G concept; a percussion procession led by TIGUE (the core of the amazing Wall Street Vexations); and, of course, a boombox opus by Phil Kline.
The Canadian Opera Company recently announced that it had commissioned a new opera, entitled Hadrian, from the singer-songwriter-turned-opera-composer Rufus Wainwright. Reactions in the Canadian new-music community have not been entirely positive, as Robert Everett-Green indicates in a Globe and Mail article. In the past fifty years, the COC has managed to mount only five Canadian works on its main stage — a record that outdoes the Met's in spottiness. Was Wainwright the most deserving candidate for such a rare commission? Everett-Green contemplates that question, and he also examines the very different case of Opera Philadelphia, which, under the direction of a Canadian impresario, David Devan, has thrown itself into contemporary opera — including Ana Sokolović's Svadba, first seen at Toronto's Queen of Puddings Music Theatre. “We decided that, if we want to remain viable, we need to move from being Turner Classic Movies to being HBO,” Devan told Everett-Green. A metaphor for others to ponder.
December 15, 2013 | Permalink