Cello Nation. The New Yorker, June 6 and 13, 2016.
— R. Nathaniel Dett, The Ordering of Moses; Latonia Moore, Ronnita Nicole Miller, Rodrick Dixon, Donnie Ray Albert, James Conlon conducting the Cincinnati Symphony and May Festival Chorus (Bridge)
— Mark Simpson, Night Music and other works; various performers (NMC)
— Shostakovich, Symphonies Nos. 5, 8, 9, Suite from Hamlet; Andris Nelsons conducting the Boston Symphony (DG)
— Brahms: recaptured by pupils & colleagues; Carl Friedberg, Felix Salmond, Danil Karpilowsky, Edith Heymann, Marie Baumayer, Ilona Eibenschutz, Etelka Freund, Brahms (Arbiter)
— Satie, Complete Solo Piano Music; Jean-Yves Thibaudet (Decca)
— Beethoven, Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5; Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting the Concentus Musicus Wien (Sony)
— Beethoven, Complete Works for Cello and Piano; Colin Carr, Thomas Sauer (MSR Classics)
— Beethoven, Symphony No. 3, Coriolan; Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony, Feb. 1949 (Pristine)
— Haydn, Complete Symphonies; Christopher Hogwood conducting the Academy of Ancient Music, Frans Brüggen conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, Ottavio Dantone conducting the Accademia Bizantina (Decca)
May 25, 2016 | Permalink
The Boston Musical Intelligencer has a story about imminent cuts in free-lance classical criticism at the Boston Globe. Several people have confirmed it to me privately. This is a disheartening development, not least because the Globe has, aside from staff classical critic Jeremy Eichler and writer-editor Steve Smith, some of the sharpest critics in the country. I know particularly well the work of David Weininger and Matthew Guerrieri — the latter the author of The First Four Notes, one of the notable music books of recent years. What's more, the Globe had recently been publishing Zoë Madonna, to whom the jury of the most recent Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, myself included, unanimously awarded its first prize. All this comes in the wake of a widely publicized fiasco in Toronto, in the course of which an arts editor at the National Post said, “I really hate running reviews for performing arts." I will have more to say on this subject soon, but for the moment I'd like to join many voices in begging the Globe to reconsider what looks to be a major reduction in review coverage. One upbeat note: in September Jeremy will be taking a sabbatical to work on a book called Memorials in Sound, and Steve will be filling in for him. I'm very eager to see what both of them produce; the Globe should feel very lucky to have such brilliant writers on staff. But one or two critics cannot cover the entire teeming Boston scene, a bastion of music both early and new. Boston-area music organizations, the time to speak up is now.
May 24, 2016 | Permalink
The NY Phil Biennial takes flight on Monday, with a JACK Quartet program of Cenk Ergün, Derek Bermel, and Marc Sabat. Some highlights from the remaining fortnight: Jennifer Koh's program of new-music miniatures; Gerald Barry's The Importance of Being Earnest, with Ilan Volkov conducting; the Ligeti Forward series, with Alan Gilbert; an Interlochen Academy concert, with premières by Gabriel Kahane, Hannah Lash, and Ashley Fure; and the final Phil concerts, with Bolcom's new Trombone Concerto, Stucky's Second Concerto, and the Nørgård Eighth.... Volkov's Tectonics Festival, from which the Biennial could learn a few lessons in boldness, took place earlier this month; BBC 3's Hear and Now series is broadcasting some highlights. I'm listening now to music of Alwynne Pritchard, Jessika Kenney, Eyvind Kang, and Michael Pisaro (his extraordinarily beautiful Lucretius Melody), and am looking forward to a Pisaro première that comes online on May 28.... On May 24 and 31, Jacaranda presents guitar music of Nørgård, Henze, Ginastera, Berio, and others at the Villa Aurora in Pacific Palisades.... For VAN, Heather O'Donnell has an enlightening article on musicians with disabilities.... Maria Schneider has a blistering piece on the musical-ethical black hole that is YouTube.... On June 17, the Cincinnati Opera introduces Gregory Spears's Fellow Travelers, about the gay witch-hunts of the nineteen-fifties.
May 22, 2016 | Permalink
"Imagine a member of Congress facing his constituents after voting to appropriate $200,000 to teach young people how to execute vocal gymnastics, or play on the fiddle. We are not so esthetic as that." So said the Indianapolis Journal on Feb. 25, 1888, in response to Jeannette Thurber's request for federal funding for her National Conservatory. Quoted in Jean E. Snyder's Harry T. Burleigh: From the Spiritual to the Harlem Renaissance, new from University of Illinois Press.
May 15, 2016 | Permalink
Snapshot from Zurich: the Thomas Mann Archive, out of the picture to the left, is at the corner of Doktor-Faust-Gasse and Schönberggasse. The latter presumably doesn't refer to the Schö/oenberg, who had no Zurich connections that I know of, but the coincidence is amusing.
Previously: The corner of Strauss and Stravinsky.
May 13, 2016 | Permalink
Louis Menand writes in this week's New Yorker about Matthew Futterman’s book Players: The Story of Sports and Money. One passage caught my eye: "[Futterman] thinks that the industry has expanded beyond the scale of its actual audience. 'One of the great illusions of the sports industry is mass fascination,' he says. It’s true that hundreds of millions of people watch special events like the World Cup and the Olympics, but the day-to-day audience for sports is tiny. In the United States, it amounts to about four per cent of households. Fewer than three per cent on average watch their local N.B.A. games; fewer than two per cent watch their home-town N.H.L. teams."
And more: "About twenty per cent of the average cable bill goes to sports channels, which pay the teams or the leagues for the right to show their games. Which means that sports are currently enjoying a very large subsidy from a public that doesn’t watch them ... A statistic related to the shrinking market is the rising age of fans in some sports. According to Futterman, in 2009 the average age of a postseason baseball viewer was forty-nine; in 2014, it was fifty-five. The average age of someone who watched a regular-season baseball game that season was fifty-eight .... Sports’ 'cultural relevance,' as Futterman puts it, may be in decline."
May 13, 2016 | Permalink
At the Goetheanum, in Dornach, Switzerland.
On May 19, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa will present an omnibus program entitled Life Reflected, consisting of four recently commissioned works about formidable female figures. The composers are Zosha Di Castri, Jocelyn Morlock, Nicole Lizée, and John Estacio. Alexander Shelley conducts.... David Hanlon, whom longtime readers of this blog may (or may not) recall as the winner of the Rest Is Noise Classical Apocalypse Contest, has written a chamber opera entitled After the Storm, about the storms that have repeatedly laid waste to Galveston, Texas. Houston Grand Opera gives the première this weekend.... The Red Bull Music Academy unleashes three guitar symphonies by Glenn Branca in NYC on May 16.... In LA, the last WasteLAnd program of the season, on May 27, brings music of Griffeath-Loeb, Aperghis, Deyoe, Eckardt, and Michelle Lou. The following day, Dudamel and the LA Phil will introduce a new Arvo Pärt work, Greater Antiphons.... Next Monday, at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, I will talk to Peter Sellars about his plans for the Ojai Festival in June and various other matters.... The English rock band Radiohead have released a new album, entitled A Moon Shaped Pool. Like their previous albums, it is very good.... Q2's Peabody Award-winning Meet the Composer series is raising funds for a third season.
May 10, 2016 | Permalink
Milton Babbitt, a glorious singularity of a man, would have been a hundred today. Q2 is celebrating the occasion with a couple of archival broadcasts, including a 1986 seventieth-birthday tribute conducted by Tim Page. If you haven't watched Robert Hilferty's Babbitt documentary, now would be a good time.
May 10, 2016 | Permalink
I am in the great Wagner-, Mann-, and Joyce-Stadt of Zürich, where the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste has invited me to lecture on general classical-music matters (Monday, 530pm). I just saw Dmitri Tcherniakov's formidable new production of Pelléas et Mélisande at the Zürich Opera, for which Kyle Ketelsen created perhaps the most psychologically intricate and unsettling portrait of Golaud I've seen —one that is all the more potent for stopping short of irrevocable violence. More on that at a later date, I hope.
May 08, 2016 | Permalink
May 03, 2016 | Permalink
Edna O'Brien's novelistic response to the unmasking and trial of Radovan Karadžić is as astonishing and harrowing as everyone says it is. To quote James Wood's review in The New Yorker: "What is extraordinary and unsettling about O’Brien’s novel is the way that it begins in an atmosphere of something approaching pastoral comedy, and steadily darkens as we become acquainted with the buried but unrepressed war crimes of the town’s resident trickster. It is like watching a blush turn into the red of murderous fury: it seems impossible that the same mild medium could be so brutally weaponized." The final sentence of the book contains the words "savage music," and they suffice to describe O'Brien's achievement.
May 01, 2016 | Permalink
James Tenney originally wrote Saxony, an ecstatic extrapolation of the natural harmonic series, for one or more saxophones; he also made a brass-quintet version, which went unplayed until WasteLAnd, one of the country's most far-sighted new-music series, presented it in Los Angeles last spring. The performers were Allen Fogle, Matt Barbier, and Luke Storm, of Trio Kobayashi, plus Aaron Smith and Hopscotch's Jonah Levy. It's great to see WasteLAnd uploading videos of its concerts; I also recommend Ashley Walters's rendition of Liza Lim's Invisibility, from the same 2015 concert, which I was fortunate to attend.
— Jean Martinon, Chicago Symphony Orchestra: The Complete Recordings (RCA)
— Morton Gould, The Complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra Recordings (RCA)
— Horatiu Radulescu, Piano Sonatas and String Quartets I; Stephen Clarke, JACK Quartet (Mode)
— Hilda Paredes, Señales and other works; Irvine Arditti, Ensemble Signal, Alberto Rosado, ensemble recherche, Adrián Sandí (Mode)
— Gerald Eckert, An den Rändern des Maßes, Bruchstücke ... erstarrtes Lot, Sopra di noi... (niente); Ensemble Reflexion K (Mode)
— Ben Johnston, String Quartets Nos. 6, 7, 8; Kepler Quartet (New World)
— R. Murray Schafer, Apocalypsis; David Fallis conducting various forces (Analekta)
— Henry Threadgill, Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi)
— Nicholas Deyoe, Facesplitter, Clint McCallum, Bowel Resection; Matt Barbier, trombone (Populist)
— Alfredo Casella, Symphonies Nos. 1-3; Gianandrea Noseda conducting the BBC Philharmonic (Chandos)
— Christopher Rouse, Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4, Odna Zhizn, Prospero's Rooms; Alan Gilbert conducting the New York Philharmonic (da capo)
— Anohni, Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian)
A recording of last year's Luminato Festival production of R. Murray Schafer's Apocalypsis, instigated by Jörn Weisbrodt and directed by Lemi Ponfasio, has appeared on the Analekta label. At the head of a vast array of performers are Laurie Anderson, as John the Revelator; Tanya Tagaq, as the Old Woman; and Brent Carver, in the role of the Antichrist. David Fallis conducts. Having listened several times, I'm in alignment with Robert Harris, who, in a review of the 2015 performance, called the work "never uninteresting, and often stunning." The chaotic furies of the world-destruction sequence make one wonder whether Apocalypsis should be added to the Leverkühnian catalogue; Anderson's dispassionate recitation of the words "King of kings, and Lord of lords" is chillingly anti-Handelian; the ecstatic, long-drawn-out, bell-bellowing coda brings to mind Stockhausen's Samstag, which actually postdates Schafer's piece by a few years. I wish I could have attended the performance in person, but the recording is a compelling document on which the imagination can build.
April 26, 2016 | Permalink
Over the weekend, longtime Noise friend Will Robin, soon to take up a professorship in musicology at the University of Maryland, organized a second Symphomania marathon on WQXR's Q2 — a channel that recently won a well-deserved Peabody award for Nadia Sirota's show Meet the Composer. Symphomania, as I noted in a New Yorker web piece last year, is dedicated to the proposition that twenty-first-century composers are writing major works for orchestra that symphony orchestras ought to be playing far more than they do. The 2016 edition was even more diverse and absorbing than last year's. The composers ranged from celebrated European figures such as Wolfgang Rihm and Kaija Saariaho to younger Americans like Andrew Norman and Ashley Fure. A transatlantic flight caused me to miss a good portion of the program, but I'm planning to catch up during an imminent rebroadcast (begins Tuesday at midnight). I did hear the powerhouse ending, which moved from Peter Maxwell Davies's noble, oratoriolike Symphony No. 10 to Rebecca Saunders's transfixingly eerie miniata — a glimpse of its electric-guitar part appears above — and on to a series of works of decreasing duration: Liza Lim's The Guest, Nina Young's Agnosco Veteris, Julia Adolphe's Dark Sand, Sifting Light, Valentin Silvestrov's Abschiedsserenade, and Peter Ablinger's Drei minuten. That sequence speaks volumes about the range and power of the music of our time.
April 25, 2016 | Permalink
I wish I knew enough to say something intelligent about Prince, the pop colossus who died yesterday at the age of fifty-seven. The show I saw at Madison Square Garden in 2004 — with my husband, a devoted Prince fan — was one of the most staggering live performances I've ever seen, in any medium. It was a feast of lusty precision, and the sense of authority emanating from the man in the middle was almost frightening. The relationship between performer and spectator somehow flipped, so that the huge crowd became part of a band that was being closely watched and urged to greater passion. Prince was, above all, a profoundly musical being whose most startling displays of virtuosity never lost sight of the fundamental harmonic landscape of a song (his solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is a great example). Pop-critic colleagues are writing about him beautifully; try Ann Powers, for a start. Or just listen to Miles Davis, above.
Update: One cannot fail to mention this lyric from "Good Love": "Gustav Mahler No. 3 is jamming on the box / I'll have another glass of you, this time on the rocks."
April 22, 2016 | Permalink