Like many of my colleagues, I am unhappy to hear that Allan Kozinn, a hugely knowledgeable observer and chronicler of the New York music scene, has been laid off from the New York Times. He had been writing for the paper since the 1970s and became a staff critic in 1991. Will Robin has a compilation of classic Kozinn stories. In the past couple of years, Allan was inexplicably relegated to covering the felonious escapades of pop stars; let's hope that at other publications he will return to the classical beat he knows so well. I can do no better than to quote Jeremy Eichler: "Superb critic, treasured colleague, extraordinary mensch."
December 20, 2014 | Permalink
Jane Freilicher, "Yellow." Courtesy of Tibor de Nagy.
Over at WQXR, Anne Midgette, David Patrick Stearns, and Zachary Woolfe have an excellent wrap-up of the year's highs and lows. Also worth noting is a capacious CD list by George Grella. He's absolutely right about the Harbison disc — the String Trio is a piece in which every note seems to count. A few other notable discs that I overlooked in my year-end list: Panufnik's Ninth Symphony and Bassoon Concerto (Heritage), the Seattle Symphony's Dutilleux disc, Philip Thomas's Christian Wolff collection on Sub Rosa, and Olga Bell's Край (Krai), the last of which can be filed with Gabriel Kahane's masterly The Ambassador under Genre TBA.
Notable music books: Tim Page's Virgil Thomson: Music Chronicles, Thomas Forrest Kelly's Capturing Music, James Klosty's John Cage Was, Eric Weisbard's Top 40 Democracy, Mark Berry's After Wagner, Nicholas Mathew's Political Beethoven, Susan Tomes's Sleeping in Temples, Ellen Harris’s George Frideric Handel, Mark Evan Bonds's Absolute Music, Chris Walton's Lies and Epiphanies, Mina Yang's Planet Beethoven, David Grubbs's Records Ruin the Landscape.
The Rest Is Noise Person of the Year is Iván Fischer, a singular force of political and artistic courage. The Turkey of the Year is, of course, the Klinghoffer protest, which succeeded in making a box-office hit of the work it aimed to suppress.
As in past years, I will strain the patience of even the most indulgent readers by picking a few highlights outside my zone of nominal competence. Amid the endless Wagnerism reading — L'Ésotérisme et le symbolisme belge, anyone? — I took in Rebecca Mead's My Life in Middlemarch, Mark Harris's Five Came Back, and the new Walter Benjamin trove Radio Benjamin, which arrived too late for mention in my Frankfurt School piece. D'Angelo's Black Messiah is as sonically and thematically rich as pop colleagues claim. My favorite film of the year was Steve James's Life Itself, an affecting documentary about Roger Ebert. I also enjoyed Nightcrawler, a jolt of black comedy in the Billy Wilder tradition, and Grand Budapest Hotel. On the TV, the great event was the return of The Comeback; I also admit to relishing Penny Dreadful, not least for its Tristan scene.
December 18, 2014 | Permalink
This week, the New Republic, which last month marked its hundredth anniversary, fell into disarray. Franklin Foer, its editor, was replaced, and much of the staff resigned in protest. I'm not going to waste time inveighing against the Silicon Valley tycoon who bought the New Republic in 2012 and seems bent on destroying it. Rather, I'd like to offer a note of thanks to Leon Wieseltier, the New Republic's literary editor, who also resigned this week.
My first major piece of journalism appeared in the New Republic, in 1992. The magazine had a reputation for taking chances on unknown young writers, and I was a beneficiary of that policy; one day, the galleys for my article on Alfred Schnittke were sent over to the Dupont Circle video store where I was working as a clerk. But my debt to Leon goes deeper than that. When I wrote my first pieces for the magazine, I was preparing to go to graduate school, and had no plans to pursue journalism. Leon decided that this obscurantist devotee of the Frankfurt School should become a music critic. He had much to do with the job offer that came my way from the New York Times (via Ed Rothstein, who, it happens, took a buyout from the Times this week), and he then convinced me that I should take the plunge. Without Leon, I would, for better or worse, be doing something else.
Leon also cultivated such writers and editors as James Wood, Alex Star, and Ruth Franklin. He gave the New Republic major pieces of his own, notably the towering Holocaust meditation "After Memory." And—most significant in my world—he published a string of colossally brilliant, and brilliantly colossal, articles by Richard Taruskin, who, in another era-ending turn of events, is about to retire from the University of California, Berkeley. I remember reading those essays in the early nineteen-nineties and thinking, "My God—you can do that in a magazine?" And, in fact, you can't, unless you are Richard Taruskin and Leon Wieseltier is your editor. L'chaim!
Beginning tomorrow, the Library of Congress will celebrate the centennial of Irving Fine with a panoply of concerts and discussions. For background, read Will Robin and Ethan Iverson.... The ever-formidable Wolfgang Rihm has won the Grawemeyer for IN-SCHRIFT 2, a Berlin Philharmonic commission. An amusing detail in the Louisville Courier-Journal report: "Reached by phone in Germany Sunday, Rihm said he was happy his work has received the award but that he only gives interviews by fax. At the time, Rihm did not have access to a fax machine as he was in Berlin." ... On Dec. 13, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony introduce a new experimental space called SoundBox: there will be music of Josquin, Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, Ravel, Varèse, and Monteverdi.... On Dec. 2, Ensemble Pamplemousse gives the world première of George Lewis's A Recital for Terry Adkins, a multimedia creation that draws on the work of Adkins and Romare Bearden.... Master-Pieces, a new opera by Petr Kotik, will have its American première at the Paula Cooper Gallery on Dec. 17.... Via The Wagnerian, a fascinating discussion of that bedeviling Castorf Ring at Bayreuth.... The period from Dec. 3 to Dec. 10 will be particularly dizzying in NYC: events include Meredith Monk's On Behalf of Nature at BAM (see Zachary Woolfe's fine Monk profile); Steven Stucky and Jeremy Denk's The Classical Style at Carnegie; Philip Glass's Etudes at BAM; Xavier Montsalvatge's El gato con botas at Gotham Chamber Opera; Keeril Makan at Miller Theatre; an Anna Clyne première with Orpheus; the Teatro Regio di Torino's concert performance of William Tell at Carnegie; Annie Gosfield with the JACK Quartet at Roulette; William Christie conducting Handel's La Resurrezione at Juilliard; Matmos performing Robert Ashley's Perfect Lives at ISSUE Project Room; Gabriel Kahane's The Ambassador at BAM; and a fabulously grim American Symphony program of Vaughan Williams's Sixth Symphony, Ligeti's Requiem, and Schnittke's Nagasaki.
December 01, 2014 | Permalink
"Yellow," 2009. Courtesy of the Tibor de Nagy Gallery.
The great American painter Jane Freilicher turns ninety today. Happy birthday, Jane! There will be a celebration at the Poetry Project on December 12th, with readings and tributes by John Ashbery, Anselm Berrigan, Adam Fitzgerald, Maxine Groffsky, Tom Healy, Alex Katz, Vincent Katz, Amy Klein, Jenni Quilter, Karen Roffman, Charles Simic, Emily Skillings, Richard Thomas, and Anne Waldman.
November 29, 2014 | Permalink
For whatever it's worth, I've added several new selections to my page of recommended CDs. The first twenty or so are in the running for my best-of-the-year list. My colleagues at the New York Times have supplied gift-buying suggestions; I'd endorse a number of these, especially Tony Tommasini's choice of the Virgil Thomson Library of America edition. Some other recent music books of note: Mark Berry's After Wagner, Nicholas Mathew's Political Beethoven, Susan Tomes's Sleeping in Temples, Mark Evan Bonds's Absolute Music, Chris Walton's Lies and Epiphanies, and Mina Yang's Planet Beethoven. I have yet to see James Klosty's John Cage Was, but reliable sources report that it's delightful.
November 28, 2014 | Permalink
Recent releases of interest.
Ted Hearne, The Law of Mosaics, Andrew Norman, The Companion Guide to Rome; A Far Cry (Crier Records)
[Q2 stream here]
Lully, Amadis; Cyril Auvity, Judith van Wanroij, Christophe Rousset leading Les Talens Lyriques (Aparté)
Fantasticus: works of Weckmann, Bertali, Buxtehude, Kerll, Schmeltzer, Vierdanck, Oswald; Quicksilver (Acis)
[A Weckmann sample here]
Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, Aerial; various ensembles, including CAPUT, Iceland Symphony, Nordic Affect (DG)
Mahler, Symphony No. 9; Jascha Horenstein conducting the Vienna Symphony (Pristine)
Jacques Hétu, Complete Chamber Music for Strings; New Orford Quartet, Steven Dann, Colin Carr, Timothy Hutchins (Naxos)
Brigitta Muntendorf, it may be all an illusion; Ensemble Modern, Ensemble musikFabrik, Ensemble Garage, Calefax Reed Quintet, IEMA-Ensemble (col legno)
Anthony Cheung, Roundabouts; Ensemble Modern, Ueli Wiget, Frankfurt Radio Symphony (Ensemble Modern Medien)
Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen; Greer Grimsley, Alwyn Mellor, Stefan Vinke, Stephanie Blythe, Stuart Skelton, Margaret Jane Wray, Richard Paul Fink, Daniel Sumegi, Andrea Silvestrelli, and Dennis Petersen, with Asher Fisch conducting the Seattle Symphony and the Seattle Opera Chorus (Avie)
November 20, 2014 | Permalink