New and recent releases of interest.
— Haydn, Symphonies Nos. 78-81; Ottavio Dantone conducting the Accademia Bizantina (Decca)
— The Secret Lover: music of Barbara Strozzi, Francesca Caccini, Caroline Shaw, etc.; TENET (Avie)
— Michael Pisaro and Christian Woolf, Looking Around; Pisaro, guitar, and Woolf, piano (Erstwhile)
— Samuel Andreyev, Moving and other works; Matthias Kuhn conducting the Ensemble Proton Bern (Klarthe)
— Elgar, Symphony No. 1; Daniel Barenboim conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin (Decca)
— Klemperer in Philadelphia, Vol. 1: Beethoven Egmont Overture and Eroica, Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, Brahms Symphony No. 3; Otto Klemperer conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra (Pristine)
— Bach, St. John Passion; Sunhae Im, Benno Schachtner, Sebastian Kohlhepp, Werner Gura, Johannes Weisser, René Jacobs conducting the Staats- und Domchor Berlin, RIAS Kammerchor, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (Harmonia Mundi)
— Wagner, Das Rheingold; Michael Volle, Christian Van Horn, Benjamin Bruns, Burkhard Ulrich, Elisabeth Kulman, Annette Dasch, Janina Baechle, Tomasz Konieczny, Herwig Pecoraro, Peter Rose, Eric Halfvarson, Simon Rattle conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony (BR Klassik)
— James Wood, Tongues of Fire and Cloud Polyphonies; MDR Leipzig Radio Choir, Ear Massage Percussion Quartet, Yale Percussion Group (NMC)
March 26, 2016 | Permalink
It's a rich week for music in New York: Andriessen's De Materie is playing at the Armory, in the Heiner Goebbels production, while the entirety of Stockhausen's KLANG is about to resonate through various venues of the Met Museum, including the newly appropriated Breuer building. KLANG is a production of Joseph Drew and Analog Arts; for more, see their website. Also, Ensemble Signal essays Abrahamsen's Schnee tonight at Miller Theatre; Anthony Roth Costanzo sings Matthew Aucoin's Orphic Moments at National Sawdust; and James Blachly's Experiential Orchestra presents a full circus rendition of Petrushka on March 26.... MusikFabrik is preparing a major new work by Liza Lim, the opera Tree of Codes, based on the work by Jonathan Safran Foer. In an essay on her website, Lim discusses her use of field recordings of Australian magpies. The première is in Köln on April 9th; let's hope adventurous American presenters take a look.... The superb contemporary-minded cellist Séverine Ballon plays Lim's Invisibility at LA's Monday Evening Concerts on March 28; the program also has works of Rebecca Saunders, Chaya Czernowin, Mauro Lanza, and Ferneyhough.... The revitalized Louisville Orchestra launches an American Festival this weekend with a program including Ives's Thanksgiving and Forefathers' Day, Copland's Clarinet Concerto, Antheil's Jazz Symphony, Meredith Monk's Songs of Ascension, and Steve Reich's Three Movements. Teddy Abrams, Louisville's energetic young director, conducts and also plays clarinet. Good luck discovering any of that from the orchestra's website.... Philip Glass, John Luther Adams, Steve Schick, Nico Muhly, Maya Beiser, and Eighth Blackbird are among the classical figures congregating in Knoxville, Tennessee next week for the all-consuming Big Ears Festival.... A major Luigi Nono conference entitled Utopian Listening is under way at Tufts University in Medford MA, with Harvard co-sponsoring and Nuria Schoenberg-Nono in attendance. The focus is on the later electroacoustic music; there are three concerts this weekend.
March 24, 2016 | Permalink
In this work, given its première last month at the Firehouse Space in Brooklyn, two pianists and two vibraphonists use their heartbeats as metronomes. I first heard Wollschleger's music back in 2004, when he was a student at the Manhattan School; he's become a formidable, individual presence. Score here.
March 23, 2016 | Permalink
The tenth anniversary of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's death arrives in July. The supreme mezzo-soprano, whom I described in a memorial article as the "most remarkable singer I ever heard" (nothing has changed in the interim), made her final public appearance ten years ago today, in a Chicago Symphony performance of Mahler's Second Symphony. Marc Geelhoed, the manager of audio media at the Chicago Symphony (and the former classical critic of Time Out Chicago), has arranged to stream the "Urlicht" movement from those performances. Frank Villella, the CSO's archivist and a member of the CSO Chorus, remembers her beautifully in a commentary on the CSO site. In the recording, she gives the impression that she intends to go on singing forever, as indeed she will.
March 18, 2016 | Permalink
As a rule, non-specialist articles on classical music feel compelled to mention at the earliest opportunity that the art form is clutched in the bony hands of ghastly old people. A Times magazine profile of Caroline Shaw, obviously motivated by her recent collaboration with Kanye West, is no exception: "A few months ago, in Iowa City, I attended a recital by the avant-garde string quartet JACK ... The recital hall was crowded, with a sizable contingent of skinny-jean-clad locals. This incursion of youth into the securely aged domain of the classical-music audience was owed, it seemed, to the promised appearance of a guest performer, Caroline Shaw." Yes, the JACK Quartet usually attracts nursing-home residents on field trips, but on this occasion the group was blessed by a visit from a friend of Kanye, and young people materialized. At least, that's what the article seems to be suggesting. It's more likely that these "skinny-jean-clad locals" were composition students at the University of Iowa. Caroline Shaw, a gifted and individual artist, deserves better than to be introduced in this fashion.
March 12, 2016 | Permalink
Tomorrow at Williams College, as part of the Williams Music Department's Class of 1960 lecture series, I will speak on the topic "Brünnhilde's Rock: Wagnerism, Gender, and Sexuality." The event is in Presser Hall at 415pm. The next day, Judd Greenstein's much-anticipated first opera, A Marvelous Order, will have what is described as its "pre-première."
March 10, 2016 | Permalink
Frank Martin's austere choral masterwork will receive an exceedingly rare New York performance on Sunday at Trinity Wall Street, with the New Amsterdam Singers undertaking the task. The archives of the New York Times suggest that the last — indeed, only — local performance was in 1952, when the Dessoff Choirs presented it. Olin Downes, of the Times, described the work as "unfortunately invertebrate," a phrase that applies rather better to Downes's style than to Martin's. Tony Tommasini gave a much warmer reception to Harmonia Mundi's 2010 recording.
Previously: Busoni, Martin
March 07, 2016 | Permalink
Detail of Dürer's "Melancolia I."
Here, at the request of Michael Cooper of the New York Times, are various materials relating to the music of Adrian Leverkühn, as imagined in Thomas Mann’s novel Doktor Faustus. When I first became a Faustus obsessive thirty years ago, I jotted down a list of Leverkühn's works on a blank page of a beat-up paperback; I give an expanded version of that list there, alongside a partial selection of works that informed Mann’s descriptions and a list of real-life works that took inspiration from Mann’s fictional creation. S. Fischer Verlag’s critical edition of Doktor Faustus, edited by Ruprecht Wimmer and Stephan Stachorski, was of assistance.
Short biography: Adrian Leverkühn was born on June 6, 1885, in Kaisersaschern, Germany. He pursued theological studies in Halle and Leipzig, and from 1905 to 1910 he studied music privately with Wendell Kretzschmar in Leipzig. He lived in Munich from 1910 to 1913, then moved to Pfeiffering bei Waldshut, in Oberbayern, where he remained until his death. Independent of the Second Viennese School, he evolved a non-tonal, at times idiosyncratically serialist language, although he also incorporated parodic imitations of past styles and anticipated certain developments of the postwar avant-garde. The manifest difficulty of his musical idiom hindered public acceptance, although he received support from such leading conductors as Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, and Ernest Ansermet. His creative career ended on or about May 16, 1930, when, twenty-four years to the day after an apparent pact with the Devil, he suffered a mental collapse. He died on August 25, 1940, and is buried in Oberweiler churchyard. The principal source of information about his life is an unsystematic biography by his longtime friend Serenus Zeitblom.
March 06, 2016 | Permalink
On this week's episode of the miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson, Detective Mark Fuhrman, whose history of racial epithets helped to doom the prosecution of Simpson for double murder, is seen polishing his display case of Nazi memorabilia while the Meistersinger Prelude plays on the soundtrack. Apparently, Wagner is responsible not only for the Holocaust but also for systemic racism in American police departments.
March 03, 2016 | Permalink
The Italian-born composer Clara Iannotta, presently dividing her time between Berlin and Cambridge MA, transfixed an LA Phil Green Umbrella audience last night with the above-embedded work, Intent on Resurrection — Spring or Some Such Thing. It was part of an engrossing and far from conventional program, selected by John Adams and conducted by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, that also included the world première of Annie Gosfield's Refracted Reflections and Telepathic Static, the American première of Chaya Czernowin's Knights of the Strange, and performances of Nancarrow's Sonatina and Lutosławski's Paganini Variations by the adventurous piano duo Michelle and Christina Naughton. The Naughtons have a new recording of Messiaen's Visions de l'Amen on Warner Classical; the disc also includes Adams's Hallelujah Junction and Bach's "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit" in the Kurtág arrangement. They will appear at WQXR's Greene Space on March 23, playing the Messiaen alongside a semi-new Adams piece called Roll Over Beethoven (Preben Antonson's arrangement of Adams's Second Quartet).
March 02, 2016 | Permalink
The LA Philharmonic has announced its 2016-17 season, and, as usual, it makes most other orchestras look dull by comparison. There are twenty-one commissions and fourteen world premières, including new works by Kate Soper, Mario Diaz de León, James Matheson, and Gerald Barry (an evening-length piece entitled Alice's Adventures Under Ground). The major festival offering is a week of music from Iceland, co-curated by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Daníel Bjarnason. Gustavo Dudamel focuses on older fare, surveying Schubert symphonies, Mahler orchestral songs, and the Bartók piano concertos (with Yuja Wang), although he also addresses a number of contemporary works, including Andrew Norman's sprawling Play. The Schoenberg family will be happy to see the master's Piano Concerto sharing space with Mozart. John Adams's seventieth birthday is marked by performances of El Niño and Nixon in China. Thomas Adès is on hand to conduct his Totentanz and the Barry première. And Hopscotch mastermind Yuval Sharon, beginning a term as "artist-collaborator," presents an evening of Schubert songs and Beckett plays, featuring Ian Bostridge, and a staging of Lou Harrison's pioneering gay opera Young Caesar. The schedule is light on female composers, although that may change as more details of the Icelandic festival are announced. Deborah Borda, the orchestra's president, told Richard Ginell of Musical America that "Björk might well be appearing with the Iceland Symphony."
Across the street, LA Opera's 2016-17 season doesn't lag too far behind, featuring Glass's Akhnaten, Ted Hearne's The Source, a new Matthew Aucoin score for Murnau's Nosferatu, and Bernstein's Wonderful Town.
February 23, 2016 | Permalink
I've often complained about a classical-music marketing syndrome that might be called John Adams Conducts Respighi: the tendency to advertise concerts in a way that pointedly ignores new or unfamiliar works, as if they were mistakes to be covered up. If you want to bring audiences round to non-standard fare, you need to own it, take pride in it. So it was a pleasure to open Carnegie Hall's 2016-17 brochure, emblazoned with the words "Come Hear," and find that on many pages it is the new, unusual, lesser-known, or ostensibly "difficult" piece that is highlighted and briefly explicated: Vivaldi's Juditha triumphans, Webern's Pieces Opus 6, Adams's Gospel According to the Other Mary, Cage's The Seasons, Benjamin's Dream of the Song. In an inversion of the usual practice, a Boston Symphony program containing the "Eroica" is singled out on account of Gunther Schuller's Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee. More of this, please!
February 22, 2016 | Permalink