Cult Fame and Its Discontents, New Yorker website.
The New York Philharmonic has announced its 2015-16 season. The principal news is that Esa-Pekka Salonen is beginning a term as composer-in-residence, presiding over a Messiaen series in March of next year and introducing a new large-scale orchestral piece the following June, as part of the second edition of the Biennial. Also notable: the première of an Andrew Norman piano concerto on Dec. 10, 2015.... Some meaty offerings at this summer's Lincoln Center Festival: the celebrated MusikFabrik production of Partch's Delusion of the Fury, a Danny Elfman / Tim Burton evening, a Yarn/Wire program including works of Misato Mochizuki, Raphaël Cendo, and Tristan Murail, and the Cleveland Orchestra playing Strauss's Daphne.... The Detroit Symphony has announced a raft of premières for 2015-16: Mohammed Fairouz, Gabriela Lena Frank, Aaron Jay Kernis, Tod Machover, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and Leonard Slatkin.... Not to be outdone, the Cincinnati Symphony is giving seven world premières next season: works of Sebastian Currier, Thierry Escaich, Zhou Tian, Gunther Schuller (his Symphonic Triptych), Jonathan Bailey Holland, Kristin Kuster, and T.J. Cole.... Vulnicura, the new album by Björk, has appeared a couple of months ahead of schedule. Ann Powers has an overnight review. Björk will have a retrospective at MoMA in March.... The oboe's James Austin Smith has a new disc entitled Distance; he will give a related concert at Tenri on Jan. 27 ... Mozart in the Jungle, the classical-music TV show, has inevitably stirred critical debate: Zachary Woolfe is pro, Anne Midgette is con.... Rebecca Saunders has received the Mauricio Kagel Music Prize. In Februrary, Munich's Musica Viva will give the first performance of her trumpet concerto, with Marco Blaauw as soloist.... A happy sight: Allan Kozinn, late of the New York Times, writing about classical music, at length, in the Wall Street Journal. The topic is the New Music Gathering in San Francisco.
January 22, 2015 | Permalink
— Montage: works of Bruce Broughton, Don Davis, John Williams, Alexandre Desplat, Michael Giacchino, Randy Newman; Gloria Cheng, piano (Harmonia Mundi)
— Distance: works of Hindemith, Vasks, Carter, Bach, Krenek, Schumann; James Austin Smith, oboe, with Luís Magalhães, piano, and Bridget Kibbey, harp (TwoPianists)
— Saariaho, Quatre Instants, Terra Memoria, Émilie Suite; Karen Vourc'h, soprano, with Marko Letonja conducting the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg (Ondine)
— Stockhausen, Complete Early Percussion Works; Steven Schick, James Avery, red fish blue fish (Mode DVD)
— Simon Steen-Andersen, Black Box Music and Run Time Error; Håkan Stene conducting the Oslo Sinfonietta (Dacapo DVD)
— Harold Shapero, Piano Music; Sally Pinkas and Evan Hirsch (Toccata)
— John Luther Adams, The Wind in High Places, Canticles of the Sky, Dream of the Canyon Wren; JACK Quartet, Northwestern University Cello Ensemble (Cold Blue)
— Nielsen, Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3; Sakari Oramo conducting the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic (BIS)
January 17, 2015 | Permalink
The 2015-16 season announcements have begun to trickle in. Of particular interest is Jake Heggie's Great Scott, at the Dallas Opera, next October. I mentioned this opera-about-opera in my profile of Joyce DiDonato; she will play the title character, an American diva returning home for the world première of a lost bel-canto work entitled Rosa Dolorosa, Daughter of Pompeii. Complications ensue... As Michael Cooper reports in the Times, a decision is pending on the assets of New York City Opera. Of the proposed plans for a "renaissance," only BAM's strikes me as plausible.... Kyle Gann has been posting previews of his hotly anticipated book about the Ives Concord Sonata. Congratulations to Kyle on the completion of his First Symphony, modestly subtitled the "Implausible." .... If your neighborhood falls strangely quiet this week, the reason may be that all the contemporary-music types have gone to San Francisco for the New Music Gathering at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Such luminaries as Claire Chase, Sarah Cahill, and the Kronos are taking lead roles in three days of performances, talks, discussions, and demonstrations .... Ekmeles sings Johnston, Cage, Tenney, Evan Johnson, Matthew Ricketts, Andrew Waggoner, and Aaron Cassidy at NYC's DiMenna Center on Jan. 23.... Some tickets remain for late performances of Bora Yoon's Sunken Cathedral, part of this year's Prototype Festival. Most of the rest is, I believe, sold out.... The resurgent LA Opera, pursuing a Beaumarchais theme, presents ¡Figaro! (90210) Jan. 16-18 and then turns to Corigliano's Ghosts of Versailles, with The Barber of Seville and the full Figaro to follow later in the season.... The music department of The New Yorker is disconsolate at the departure of its pop-music magus, Sasha Frere-Jones. In a little over a decade, he revolutionized music coverage at the magazine. May he flourish at a site promisingly entitled Genius.
January 12, 2015 | Permalink
Yes, it's the future mezzo playing the Sonata for Viola Four Hands, S. 440, in conjunction with Robert Levine, who sent the picture along. Now the principal violist of the Milwaukee Symphony and also a contributor at Polyphonic, Robert often shared a stand with Lorraine during her viola-centric years, especially at George Cleve's Midsummer Mozart Festival. He remembers her as a gifted and generous player. Incidentally, the oddest of Bach's twenty-odd children is currently celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of his none-too-belated rediscovery.
January 07, 2015 | Permalink
Eduard Tubin's Sixth Symphony, with Neeme Järvi conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony. Apropos of nothing, the opening and closing of the second movement served as theme music for my college-radio show, "Music Since 1900." Tubin also composed one of the most viscerally thrilling endings in the symphonic literature, the timpani-driven coda of his Fifth Symphony. Järvi conducted a tremendous New York Philharmonic performance of the Fifth in 1995.
The Los Angeles blogger CK Dexter Haven has devised an amusing game: pick your favorite numbered symphonies, one through nine. Brian Lauritzen has added his own entry, and there are sure to be others. I have decided to make the bold choice of omitting Beethoven — he gets enough publicity — and am offering this mildly eccentric list:
Nielsen, Symphony No. 1
Ives, Symphony No. 21
Lutosławski, Symphony No. 32
Brahms, Symphony No. 43
Ustvolskaya, Symphony No. 5
Vaughan Williams, Symphony No. 6
Sibelius, Symphony No. 7
Schubert, Symphony No. 8
Mahler, Symphony No. 9
It's painful to leave out Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Martinů, and my beloved Eduard Tubin, among many others, but so the chips fall in one neck of the woods.
1. These first two could easily have been reversed. Also, I was sorely tempted to include Popov's astounding First.
2. An agonizing number, with the Eroica, the Roussel, and the great American Thirds. But the Lutosławski enchants me so deeply every time I hear it.
3. Another agonizing number, with Sibelius, Nielsen, and Shostakovich at their most intense. But the finale of the Brahms obliterates all.
"I could point you to important pieces written for a set of completely voiceless trumpets that I call the bugles of Silence, after the model of the unrecoverable buccins that once overthrew the walls of Jericho. "
— the composer Pouyadou, in Léon Bloy's "Le musicien du silence" (1893)
Previously: Imaginary Concerts.
Andrew Norman's Play, recorded here by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, is a sprawling, engulfing, furiously unpredictable piece in three symphonic movements. (Above is the first, "Level 1.") Will Robin has gone so far as to declare that Play "might be the best orchestral work that the 21st century has seen thus far" — an announcement that spurred a lively Twitter discussion of other candidates for that accolade, with emphasis on purely orchestral works more than half an hour long. I seconded Tim Rutherford-Johnson's nomination of Adès's Totentanz and Czernowin's MAIM, but, having listened to Play at least a dozen times, I won't dismiss Will's suggestion out of hand. I'll have more to say further down the line, particularly when an opportunity arises to hear the music live. At the BMOP site, you can read fine notes by Daniel Stephen Johnson and the composer's own reflections.
January 05, 2015 | Permalink