Or, the proper use of a bass flute.
A perusal score of Kurtág's Petite musique solennelle en hommage à Pierre Boulez 90, just premiered in Lucerne, can be seen on the Editio Musica Budapest website. The musical world is eagerly awaiting word of Kurtág's Endgame opera, which has been announced several times for the Salzburg Festival and La Scala and then delayed. At the moment, it appears on the La Scala schedule for November 2016; if it has its première in Salzburg next summer, alongside Thomas Adès's The Exterminating Angel, there will be no more interesting place.
The Athens-born composer was featured at this year's ManiFeste festival at IRCAM: her 2010 theatre piece The Bacchae, the opening of which can be seen above, appeared alongside two new pieces, Membranes, for timpani, and Roll... n'Roll... n'Roll, for harp and live electronics, both of which can be heard by following links to the richly stocked IRCAM archive. IRCAM also offers a handsome video of a Philharmonie de Paris concert featuring Michael Jarrell's Assonance VII, Helmut Lachenmann's Mouvement (-vor der Erstarrung), and Boulez's mighty Répons, with the Ensemble Intercontemporain under the direction of Matthias Pintscher.
Robert Carl: "I’ve come to feel that Feldman was to Cage somewhat as Berg was to Schoenberg—the composer who took a technical and conceptual armature from his mentor and combined it with an ear that was able to render even the most dissonant harmonic materials sensuous. The great surprise is that his music is some of the most beautiful of the second half of the 20th century."
My column in this week's New Yorker, on symphonies of the post-Mahler era, is rooted in old loves. I fell for Mahler and Sibelius as a teenager, and soon began exploring the myriad byways of twentieth-century symphonic writing, often following recommendations in Fanfare magazine. Fanfare led me to, among others, Eduard Tubin, whose symphonies I blasted at high volume throughout my freshman year of college, to the puzzlement of my roommates. At my college radio station, I presented a show called The Twentieth-Century Symphony, which featured not only the obvious Mahler, Sibelius, Nielsen, Shostakovich, Vaughan Williams, and Ives / Harris / Schuman / Copland but also the likes of Bax, Hartmann, Pijper, Vermeulen, Henze, Killmayer, Kelterborn, Bentzon, Holmboe, Valen, Haug, Saeverud, Nørgård, Kokkonen, Sallinen, Nystroem, and Pettersson. Tubin's Sixth was the theme music for my other radio show, Music Since 1900. And my first published piece of music writing, in a WHRB Program Guide from 1988, was a review of the Hyperion CD of Robert Simpson's Sixth and Seventh Symphonies.
There is, to be sure, a great deal more to be said about latter-day symphonic writing than my New Yorker piece could accommodate, and for some months I expect to be receiving letters of the "What about Schreker?" variety. At least twenty or thirty other symphonists* might have been mentioned, in addition to the above-named and those who appear in my column: for example, Hindemith, Schmidt, Schnabel, Wellesz, Honegger, Roussel, Milhaud, Chávez, Villa-Lobos, Casella, Gerhard, Florence Price, Cowell, Sessions, Riegger, Siegmeister, Piston, Thomson, Carter, Harrison, Bernstein, Foss, Antheil, Mennin, Diamond, Creston, Rochberg, Bolcom, Harbison, Walker, Branca, Zwilich, Rangström, Langgaard, Alfvén, Aho, Rautavaara, Szymanowski, Górecki, Lutosławski, Prokofiev, Miaskovsky, Popov, Shebalin, Weinberg, Karamanov, Ustvolskaya, Kancheli, Pärt, Tüür, Narbutaitė, Alwyn, Britten, Arnold, Lloyd, Tippett, Rawsthorne, Frankel, Grace Williams, Davies, Isang Yun, Toshi Ichiyanagi, etc, etc. My ever-patient editors would, however, have balked at publishing an annotated telephone directory. So few of these works stand any chance of being played in today's orchestral culture, which, as Bob Shingleton has often observed on his Overgrown Path blog, runs on a celebrity logic, with a select roster of brand names being used to sell tickets and hundreds of others being thrown by the wayside. Fortunately, recorded archives are vast, and in the digital age can be explored more easily than ever before.
*Note: I'm excluding from the category "symphonists" those who composed just one or two symphonies, no matter how fine (Webern, Korngold, Weill, B. A. Zimmermann, Barber, Walton, William Levi Dawson, Shapero, Fine, Wolpe, Dutilleux, Berio, Gubaidulina, R. Murray Schafer, etc).
August 25, 2015 | Permalink
The superb Boston-based choir Blue Heron have released Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, vol. 4, featuring works of Robert Jones, Nicholas Ludford, and Robert Hunt in reconstructions by Nick Sandon. Almost nothing is known about Jones (fl. 1520-35), yet his Missa Spes nostra is, as Scott Metcalfe writes in his notes, the "unique creation of a mature composer with a distinct individual voice." Flowing vocal lines are interspersed with tart, ambiguous harmonies; there is a canny use of musical space, a sense of height and depth to the unfolding structures. As on previous releases, the singing is both precise and fluid, immaculate and alive. In Robert Hunt's Stabat mater, another remarkable piece by an otherwise unknown composer, the choir swells to a darkly splendid climax at "Stabat natus sic contentus / Ad debellandum Sathanam," the latter name slicing through the air.
The eternally fascinating La Monte Young spoke to Will Robin in advance of an exceedingly rare performance of Young's Trio for Strings, ground zero for American minimalism. The big event takes place on Sept. 3, at Dia:Chelsea, as part of a multi-month Young /Marian Zazeela / Jung Hee Choi series.... ACME kicks off its season on Sept. 11, with a program featuring Timo Andres, Caleb Burhans, Clarice Jensen, Ben Russell, and Caroline Shaw, both as composers and performers. It's part of the Five Boroughs Music Festival.... On the same night in LA, wild Up presents the winners of the American Composers Forum National Composition Competition: Alex Temple, Nina C. Young, and William Gardiner all receive premieres.... There are many fascinating pages on Frank Gehry's musical architecture in Paul Goldberger's new biography, Building Art.... The new Sono Luminus recording of Anna Thorvaldsdottír's mesmerizing In The Light Of Air is streaming on NPR Music. You can also watch an ICE video above.... Never mind those celebrity Baltic conductors: Q2 is today presenting a twenty-four-hour marathon of twenty-first-century music from Latvia. There will be a repeat on Aug. 29.... At WFMT, the gifted young composer-conductor Matthew Aucoin has a thoughtful response to some absurdly overblown comparisons (Bernstein, Mozart) that he has lately inspired: "When a young playwright is getting attention, no one says, ‘Oh, this person is the next Shakespeare.'" His children's opera Second Nature had its première at Lincoln Park Zoo last week and will return on Oct. 17.... Floating Opera, New York's newest alternative opera company, will make its début on Oct. 16, with a production of Pelléas. The venue will be the Lehigh Valley Barge No. 79, Red Hook's beloved arts barge. Cage's Europeras 3 and 4 will follow later in the season.
— Loyset Compère, Magnificat, etc.; Orlando Consort (Hyperion)
— Chou Wen-chung, Eternal Pine I, II, III, Ode to Eternal Pine; Contemporary Music Ensemble Korea, Boston Musica Viva, Taipei Chinese Orchestra, etc. (New World)
— Bach, Harpsichord Concertos; Andreas Staier, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (Harmonia Mundi)
— Panufnik, Concertos for violin, cello, piano; Łukasz Borowicz conducting the Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin, with Alexander Sitkovetsky, Raphael Wallfisch, Ewa Kupiec (cpo)
— Lukas Foss, Complete Symphonies; Gil Rose conducting the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP)
— Nielsen, Symphonies Nos. 2 and 6; Sakari Oramo conducting the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic (BIS)
— Dutilleux, Métaboles, L'Arbre des songes, Symphony No. 2; Ludovic Morlot conducting the Seattle Symphony, with Augustin Hadelich (Seattle Symphony)
— Robert Jones, Missa Spes nostra, Nicholas Ludford, Ave cujus conceptio, Robert Hunt, Stabat mater; Blue Heron (BHCD)
August 20, 2015 | Permalink
With another carefree Bayreuth summer winding down, Micaela Baranello has a New York Times report on the current state of the festival, and Jens Laurson supplies a very thorough review of the revival of the Castorf Ring. The complete Katharina Wagner Tristan, this summer's new show, has shown up on YouTube; also, David Robertson and the Sydney Symphony have begun to stream their recent Tristan-in-concert, with Act I now available and the rest to come shortly.... Programs from the 2015 MATA Festival are now archived on Q2.... Also on Q2, Nadia Sirota hosts a Meet the Composer episode devoted to Kaija Saariaho, with a Library of Congress performance of Saariaho's Light and Matter tacked on for good measure.... The Detroit Symphony, the most tech-savvy of American orchestras, has launched a new service called Replay, archiving its popular video streams. A one-time donation of fifty dollars buys you access.... Ensemble Dal Niente, in Chicago, has announced an enticing 2015-16 season; the U.S. première of Stefan Prins's Generation Kill is on the schedule, as well as world premières by Johannes Kreidler, Natacha Diels, Kirsten Broberg, and Ben Sutherland, among others.... On Sept. 7, Annie Gosfield will have a semi-retrospective concert at The Stone in NYC.
August 17, 2015 | Permalink
Marco Blaauw, the brilliant trumpeter of Musikfabrik, plays Georg Friedrich Haas's I can't breathe (In memoriam Eric Garner). Haas writes: "[The piece] begins quite traditionally with a dirge: a free cantilena in twelve-tone space. Then the intervals constrict; the song becomes more and more smothered, ultimately in a 16-note scale. The dirge constricts within a sonic space of other trumpet notes of extreme registers and changing colours — cautionary symbols, perhaps, of the world from which the victim was violently torn away. I give no notes to the perpetrators." (Via Emre Tetik.)
August 13, 2015 | Permalink
Lalo Schifrin, the composer of the Mission: Impossible theme, studied with Messiaen in the nineteen-fifties. In an interview with Royal S. Brown (published in Brown's excellent book Overtones and Undertones), Schifrin described how his time with Messiaen left its mark on his Hollywood work: the cue above, from the music for the Mission: Impossible TV show, is based on Messiaen's second mode of limited transpositions, better known as the octatonic scale.
August 12, 2015 | Permalink
Giannini's work, commissioned for the opening of the IBM World Headquarters in 1938, rings variations on the IBM Rally Song, "Ever Onward" (see the quasi-Wagnerian passage at around 4:30, the motoric Allegro at 7:30, and the peroration):
There's a thrill in store for all,
For we're about to toast,
The corporation known in every land.
We're here to cheer each pioneer
And also proudly boast
Of that "man of men," our friend and guiding hand.
The name of T. J. Watson means a courage none can stem;
And we feel honored to be here to toast the "IBM."
EVER ONWARD — EVER ONWARD!
August 10, 2015 | Permalink
George Benjamin will take over the Mostly Mozart Festival next week, as Written on Skin, an honest-to-God twenty-first-century operatic masterpiece (my review is here), receives three performances at the venue formerly known as the New York State Theater. Alan Gilbert conducts. On Aug. 16, Benjamin himself will lead ICE in a program of Messiaen's Oiseaux exotiques, Ligeti's Piano Concerto, and his own Into the Little Hill. Pierre-Laurent Aimard is the piano soloist at the latter concert.... On Sedge Clark's blog, Victoria Bond gives an insider's perspective on Musikfabrik's recent performances of Harry Partch's Delusion of the Fury: she was the Old Goat Woman in the original production.... I'm proud to be a mere footnote in Kyle Gann's soon-to-be-canonical study of the Ives Concord Sonata.... At the site Hyperallegric, Alison Kinney has a superb piece on African-American opera singers and the Met's belated decision to abandon blackface.... Musical America notes that Orin O'Brien, the first woman to join the New York Philharmonic, was recently honored at the Music Academy of the West. Bernstein hired her in 1966; she is still a member of the double-bass section. She is the daughter of the actor George O'Brien, the male lead in F. W. Murnau's Sunrise, widely considered one of the greatest films ever made.
August 07, 2015 | Permalink