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
New and recent publications of interest.
Jessica Hopper, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic (featherproof)
Rufus Jones, Jr., Dean Dixon: Negro at Home, Maestro Abroad (Rowman & Littlefield)
Ian Bostridge, Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession (Knopf)
Graham Johnson, Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs, 3 vols. (Yale)
David Cooper, Béla Bartók (Yale)
Nigel Simeone and John Tyrrell, eds., Charles Mackerras (Boydell)
Lily E. Hirsch, Music in American Crime Prevention and Punishment (University of Michigan)
May 21, 2015 | Permalink
On May 21 and 28, under the auspices of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, the Talea Ensemble will survey the admirably unpredictable Austrian composer Clemens Gadenstätter.... The Library of Congress, in collaboration with Q2, has made available a host of new-music concerts. I'm listening now to Chaya Czernowin's Slow Summer Stay II: Lakes.... On May 24, Q2 will devote a twenty-four-hour bloc to the late Canadian composer Ann Southam…. The influential Berlin critic Manuel Brug is blogging.... VisionIntoArt's Ferus Festival (May 29-30, NYC) features this year the likes of Agata Zubel, Hafez Modirzadeh, Molly Joyce, and Cornelius Dufallo.... Steve Schick, the Krishnamurti of percussion, has prepared an online course in advance of this year's Ojai Festival, which looks deliriously interesting.... Will Robin writes about Holly Herndon at Bandcamp.... The venerable June in Buffalo festival, celebrating its fortieth year, and the related Performance Institute get under way on May 30; David Felder's large-scale song cycle Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux will be featured in an Ensemble Signal performance..... Chicago's Spektral Quartet goes comic on May 30, with a Chris Fisher-Lochhead piece inspired by the stand-up cadences of Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, and Tig Notaro.... One more George Perle centennial event: May 21 at New York Public Library.... David T. Little's powerful and unsettling Dog Days is coming to LA Opera, under the umbrella of the LA Phil's richly stocked Next on Grand festival. Meanwhile, the eleventh Dog Star Orchestra festival, co-directed by Michael Pisaro, is now unfolding in locations around LA, as is Microfest.... Noted: a fascinating essay by Alice Coote on singing across gender lines.... On May 22 and 23, at Roulette in Brooklyn, ICE will give a preview of George Lewis's opera Afterword, an "aesthetic extension of Lewis’s 2008 book about the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.".... On May 20 the Detroit Symphony will webcast part of its rehearsals for an upcoming Mahler First.... Opera Philadelphia, which won strong notices for its Don Carlo with Eric Owens, is gearing up for the June 5 première of Charlie Parker's Yardbird, an opera by Daniel Schnyder. Larry Brownlee and Angela Brown, the leads, discuss the work.... The new Whitney Museum launches a promising new performance series with a three-day festival, presented by Issue Project Room, devoted to the pioneering multimedia composer David Rosenboom (May 22-24). Coming in June is a major Conlon Nancarrow survey.
May 19, 2015 | Permalink
Joel Stein alerts me to this cluster of musical street names in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. Arthur Nikisch conducted the Boston Symphony from 1889 to 1893, before moving on to the Budapest Opera and, well, the Berlin Philharmonic.
May 12, 2015 | Permalink
Wendy Lesser, the editor of The Threepenny Review, notes in a letter to her readers that last year the National Endowment for the Arts withdrew a long-standing grant to the publication, on the grounds that it was "too wedded to print." Anyone who is happily married to the printed word might consider offering support. And the NEA should reconsider its decision.
May 11, 2015 | Permalink