My book Listen to This, in the French translation by the superb Laurent Slaars, has received a prize from the Syndicat de la Critique, in the category "Meilleurs livres sur la musique." I am tremendously grateful for the honor.
The Berlin Philharmonic, recovering from last month's confusion, has chosen Kirill Petrenko as its next chief conductor. I was less impressed by his 2013 Bayreuth Ring than were many of my colleagues, but I admired his work in Ariadne and Khovanshchina at the Met, and a Digital Concert Hall stream of his most recent Berlin outing, in 2012, suggests a strong chemistry with the orchestra. So far, his involvement in new music seems limited, though he will lead Miroslav Srnka's South Pole in Munich next season. Benjamin Ivry has an interesting commentary, emphasizing Petrenko's Jewishness.... Harry Lawrence Freeman's long-lost opera Voodoo is revived in New York this weekend, in a joint effort by Morningside Opera, Harlem Opera Theater, and the Harlem Chamber Players. The Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia will mark the occasion with a two-day conference.... Tonight at NYC's River to River Festival, Roomful of Teeth presents Caroline Shaw's music, film, and theatre installation Ritornello.... Read Allan Kozinn on June in Buffalo.... Kyle Gann speaks on Nancarrow at the Whitney today, as part of the museum's Nancarrow Festival.... Tanglewood, on the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Tanglewood Music Center, is offering streaming audio from its archives. No fewer than thirty-four celebratory commissions will be presented this summer or in future seasons... Spectrum NYC is hosting a three-concert festival devoted to the restlessly inventive English composer Richard Barrett. It begins tonight and ends on June 30.... At the Luminato Festival in Toronto this weekend, close to a thousand musicians will perform R. Murray Schafer's gigantic oratorio Apocalypsis — a project possibly inspired by Adrian Leverkühn's Apocalypsis cum figuris, that most influential of nonexistent works. Colin Eatock has a preview at Classical Voice North America. The CBC will provide a live broadcast on June 28.... For Music and Literature, Doyle Armbrust has written a discerning introduction to Anna Thorvaldsdottir, whose tremendous piece In the Light of Air appears this summer on the Sono Luminus label. Also coming soon from that source is a Nordic Affect disc called Clockworking, featuring works of Anna, Hildur Gudnadóttir, María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, Hafdís Bjarnadóttir, and Thurídur Jónsdóttir.
A happy eightieth birthday to Terry Riley. Just out on Nonesuch is a Kronos Quartet disc of Cadenza on the Night Plain and other pieces, combining older recordings with fresh takes. The Kronos will further celebrate Riley at a three-day festival in San Francisco this week, culminating in a complete performance of Salome Dances for Peace.
A great force in American music is gone.
His memorable credo, in "Third Stream Revisited": "Third Steam is a way of composing, improvising, and performing that brings musics together rather than segregating them. It is a way of making music which holds that all musics are created equal, coexisting in a beautiful brotherhood/sisterhood of musics that complement and fructify each other. It is a global concept which allows the world's musics— written, improvised, handed-down, traditional, experimental— to come together, to learn from one another, to reflect human diversity and pluralism. It is the music of rapprochement, of entente—not of competition and confrontation. And it is the logical outcome of the American melting pot: E pluribus unum."
June 21, 2015 | Permalink
Footnote 159 of Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si', quoting the Sufi mystic Ali al-Khawas: "Prejudice should not have us criticize those who seek ecstasy in music or poetry. There is a subtle mystery in each of the movements and sounds of this world. The initiate will capture what is being said when the wind blows, the trees sway, water flows, flies buzz, doors creak, birds sing, or in the sound of strings or flutes, the sighs of the sick, the groans of the afflicted...”
Claire Chase, Steven Schick, and Sarah Rothenberg play Feldman's For Philip Guston at the Ojai Festival. The performance began at 5am and ended at 9:40am. I'll have a report on what Chase described as the "sonic gluttony" of Ojai in a future issue of The New Yorker. The ever-indispensable Mark Swed, who has been attending Ojai for some fifty years, has a piece on the festival's first day in the LA Times.
New and recent released of interest.
Rihm, Et Lux; Paul Van Nevel conducting the Huelgas Ensemble and the Minguet Quartet (ECM)
Shostakovich, Symphony No. 9, Violin Concerto No. 1; Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra, with Leonidas Kavakos (Mariinsky)
Birtwistle, Angel Fighter, In Broken Images, Virelai; David Atherton conducting the BBC Singers and the London Sinfonietta, with Andrew Watts, countertenor, and Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, tenor (NMC)
Dreamfall: works of Scott Smallwood, Mark Dancigers, John Supko, Nathan Williamson, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Andrea Mazzariello, Judd Greenstein; NOW Ensemble (New Amsterdam)
Johannes Kreidler, Musik mit Musik (selected works); Nadar Ensemble, Ensemble Lux, Ensemble Mosaik, Ensemble Modern (Wergo)
Grieg, Piano Concerto and Lyric Pieces; Javier Perianes, with Sakari Oramo conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra (Harmonia Mundi)
Feldman, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello; Aleck Karis, Curtis Macomber, Danielle Farina, Christopher Finckel (Bridge)
June 06, 2015 | Permalink
Last week I saw a concert at Disney Hall one night and at Avery Fisher Hall the next. The LA Phil, at Disney, was in the middle of its Next on Grand festival, a somewhat amorphous but generously proportioned festival of "Contemporary Americans." The event that night was a Green Umbrella show devoted to Dylan Mattingly, Sean Friar, Chris Cerrone, and Jacob Cooper; Mark Swed has a review, and, space permitting, I'll say something in a future column. For the moment, I want to focus on the seemingly trivial matter of the LA Phil's on-site store. Each time I visit, I'm entranced by the sight of CDs, DVDs, music books, and scores. Yes, actual musical scores, for sale in a concert hall! O uncanny apparition!
I remember the late Andrew Porter lamenting, sometime in the late seventies or early eighties, that Fisher lacked such a store. You should be able to buy or browse the scores of that evening's program on site, he said. Needless to say, little has changed. At Fisher itself, the principal reading matter consists of rack upon rack of brochures. The Juilliard Store has an excellent selection of scores, but since the renovation of the Lincoln Center campus it's been harder to reach, and it closes at 7pm or earlier. You could go the Performing Arts Library and check out a score, but that praiseworthy institution is plagued by what I call the Law of Adjacent Abundance: if you're looking for, say, Prokofiev's Sixth Symphony, you are almost guaranteed to see four or five copies of the Fifth, and two or three copies of the Seventh, but none of the Sixth. At Disney, you can, indeed, buy scores related to that week's program; there's also a general selection of Dover publications and a few modern items such as Takemitsu's Green. I watched as a man took out Falla's El amor brujo and explained the distribution of the instruments to his young daughter. In classical music, everything revolves around scores. Yet a display such as the one at Disney is rare. Do people buy these scores in great quantity? Probably not, but their presence sends an encouraging message, promoting musical literacy. Let's hope the future Geffen Hall follows suit.
At Avery Fisher, the Philharmonic was performing under the direction of Manfred Honeck. David Allen wrote an enthusiastic review in the Times. He went back two nights later and added a further thought on Twitter: "Honeck's Brahms on Thursday was very interesting. Honeck's Brahms tonight was utterly, unbelievably shattering." I wish I'd heard that later outing; I was sufficiently impressed with the vitality and the stylishness of the playing on the first night. It was, admittedly, a standard-issue, old-fashioned program: the Fledermaus overture, Mozart's Fifth Violin Concerto (with Augustin Hadelich, not quite on his customary form), and the Brahms Fourth. Honeck has been more adventurous in his programming at the Pittsburgh Symphony, although he seems in essence a core-repertory kind of conductor. To be sure, his deconstructive approach to the Mozart Requiem shows that he doesn't always proceed in conservative fashion.
The Brahms is one of my favorite pieces. I'm extremely picky about it, imposing various “checkpoints” that even legendary conductors fail to pass. But Honeck kept me riveted all the way through, even if he was guilty of Overloud Triangle and a few other offenses. The long, effusive lyrical lines put me in mind at times of old Bruno Walter recordings. The aggressive punch of the scherzo smacked of Toscanini. One passage after another "spoke" with idiomatic diction, transcending the fastidious, soulless execution that one hears so often in modern orchestral playing, not least at the Phil. Honeck seems to be on the radar for the music-director search; so is Jaap van Zweden, a somewhat relentlessly hammering conductor who strikes me as Solti lite. If the choice were between those two, I'd vote for Honeck. He is a true musician.
June 06, 2015 | Permalink
The NY Phil has named Anna Þorvaldsdóttir its next Kravis Emerging Composer. A very sound choice.... Next week in NYC, the Either/Or 10th Spring Festival presents Gio Janiashvili, Anthony Coleman, Rădulescu, and Feldman....On June 6 at the DiMenna Center in NYC, Lisa Moore plays music of Stephen Cabell, Kate Moore, Chris Rogerson, and John Luther Adams — part of the Kettle Corn New Music series.... The musicologist W. Anthony Sheppard has made some amazing discoveries about the music boxes that Puccini used for source material in Butterfly and Turandot. His article appears in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association (free access for the moment).... Worthy of support: a documentary about Einstein on the Beach.... A beautiful package of the films of Bill Morrison is now available from BFI.... This year the Chelsea Music Festival takes a Finno-Ugric turn, celebrating Finland and Hungary. The ensemble-in-residence is Avanti!, playing the obvious Sibelius and Bartók as well as a great many lesser-known or up-and-coming figures, including composer-in-residence Ilari Kaila.... The Carlsbad Music Festival has its annual Village Music Walk on June 20.... The full lineup for the Bang on a Can Marathon, on June 21, has been announced. The three founding composers are collaborating with Robert Zollitsch (aka Lao Luo) on a new collective work, Cloud-River-Mountain. Given that Make Music NY is slated for the same date, it will be a mad day in the big city.
June 05, 2015 | Permalink
The NMC label has issued another in its distinguished series of Birtwistle recordings. The program includes three works from the past decade: the short oratorio Angel Fighter, the antiphonal orchestral piece In Broken Images, and the miniature Virelai. Above is Cortege, which made a strong impression at an Ensemble Intercontemporain performance at the Philharmonie de Paris earlier this spring.
May 21, 2015 | Permalink