The author's feline assistants are still culling items for a year-end list of notable performances and recordings, but here is an early selection of discs that have made the cut.
Anna Thorvaldsdottir, In the Light of Air; International Contemporary Ensemble (Sono Luminus)
Scott Worthington, Prism (Populist)
Andrew Norman, Play and Try; Gil Rose conducting the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP)
Ted Hearne, The Source; Hearne, Mellissa Hughes, Samia Mounts, Isaiah Robinson, Jonathan Woody, Courtney Orlando, Anne Lanzilotti, Leah Coloff, Taylor Levine, Greg Chudzik, Ron Wiltrout, Nathan Koci (New Amsterdam)
Michael Pisaro, A Mist Is a Collection of Points; Phillip Bush, Greg Stuart, Michael Pisaro, sine tones (New World)
Wolfgang Rihm, Et Lux; Paul Van Nevel conducting the Huelgas Ensemble and the Minguet Quartet (ECM)
Schubert, Sonatas in G (D894) and B-flat (D960), Moments musicaux, Impromptus D935; András Schiff, fortepiano (ECM)
Shostakovich, Symphony No. 10, Passacaglia from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk; Andris Nelsons conducting the Boston Symphony (DG)
Liszt Inspections: music of John Adams, Berio, Cerha, Feldman, Kurtág, Ligeti, Murail, Pesson, Rihm, Sciarrino, Stockhausen, Ustvolskaya, and Liszt; Marino Formenti (Kairos)
Salieri, Les Danaïdes; Judith van Wonroij, Philippe Talbot, Tassis Christoyannis, Christophe Rousset conducting Les Talens Lyriques (Ediciones Singulares)
Panufnik, Concertos for violin, cello, piano; Łukasz Borowicz conducting the Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin, with Alexander Sitkovetsky, Raphael Wallfisch, Ewa Kupiec (cpo)
The Popular: The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (Nonesuch); Björk,Vulnicura; (One Little Indian); Joanna Newsom, Divers (Drag City)
December 02, 2015 | Permalink
One of the early legends attaching to Orson Welles is that he made his stage début as an infant performer at the Ravinia Festival, playing Dolore, the infant in Madame Butterfly. Russell Maloney reported the story in "The Ageless Soul," a New Yorker Profile of Welles that appeared in 1938; Peter Noble stated in his 1956 biography The Fabulous Orson Welles that little Orson played various infant roles in opera but soon "became so heavy that sopranos finally refused to lift him." Later, the Welles biographers Charles Higham and Simon Callow denied that such an incident could have taken place, declaring that no full performances of Butterfly were given at Ravinia in that period. In fact, as I note in my Welles piece this week, Ravinia presented Butterfly on various occasions in 1918 and 1919, when Welles was three or four. He could well have been one of the unnamed performers assuming the Dolore role. I found the item above in the archives of the Chicago Tribune; the date is Aug. 4, 1919. Might he have been the "fairy child" mentioned here? Or, possibly, the "far heftier child" who replaced him? Almost certainly, we will never know.
Incidentally, the noted American soprano Edith Mason, mentioned here, later married Maurice Bernstein, who became Welles's guardian after his father's death. His name appears in a 1930 Tribune story investigating rumors of a rift in that marriage. Mason's personal secretary offers the explanation that the singer has moved out of Bernstein's home because his young visitor (not yet his charge) has caught a "terrible cold, a perfectly awful one," which she did not wish to catch. Mason and Bernstein soon divorced, and Mason returned to her first husband, the conductor Giorgio Polacco. The story, which appeared on page 3 of the paper, gives a glimpse of the strangeness of Welles's childhood.
Winter is coming.
On Dec. 10, the New York Philharmonic and Jeffrey Kahane will give the première of Split, a piano concerto by Andrew Norman, one of the most significant American composers in the younger age bracket. Will Robin has profiled Norman for the New York Times; I interviewed him for my Hopscotch piece.... Two days earlier, as part of the LA Phil's Green Umbrella series, three Southern California quartets — the Calder, the Formalist, and the Lyris — will play works of Cage, Johnston, Wolff, Reich, and George Brecht, alongside premières of John Luther Adams and Tristan Perich.... Two days before that, Ensemble Dal Niente, of Chicago, kicks off its Neue Musik tour with a program of Poppe, Andre, Lachenmann, Spahlinger, Johannes Kreidler, and Carola Bauckholt. Dates in Boston and New York follow.... Counterbalancing the maleness of the above, a Women, Music, Power symposium, in honor of the musicologist Suzanne G. Cusick, will unfold at Columbia on Dec. 11 and 12. A related concert by the International Contemporary Ensemble will feature music of Zosha Di Castri and David Adamcyk (writing in tandem), Natacha Diels, and Maria Stankova. Cusick is also the focus of a special issue of Women & Music.... Congratulations to the Cedar Park High School Timberwolf Band— mentioned in this post — for their victory in the UIL 5A State Marching Competition, a big Texas contest. They did it with a vibrant sequence of Mozart, Rossini, Grieg, Beethoven, and Puccini.... Hans Abrahamsen has won the 2016 Grawemeyer Award for his voice-and-orchestra piece let me tell you. As it happens, Winter & Winter will release a recording in early January, with Barbara Hannigan, Andris Nelsons, and the Bavarian Radio Symphony; and Hannigan will sing the work with the Cleveland Orchestra in the middle of the month (two dates at Severance, one at Carnegie Hall).
November 29, 2015 | Permalink
Randol Schoenberg, grandson of Arnold Schoenberg and president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, speaking to the Los Angeles Times: "Obviously, many Americans in 1943 felt the same as many do today — that we cannot risk admitting enemy agents among the throng of refugees. During World War II, this type of fear meant that millions of honest, innocent people were unable to escape their murderers. I hope we don't make the same mistake again."
November 20, 2015 | Permalink
The theatrical wonder that is Hopscotch has its final performances on Saturday and Sunday. (I've begun pondering my year-end best-of list, and am tempted to list the three routes of Hopscotch as separate events.) Tickets are long gone, but the folks at the Industry have assembled a list of locations where Angelenos can watch performances on site. The obvious move is to go to the Bradbury Building and watch Veronika Krausas's wild jazz cantata-ballet from the ground floor. I'd also recommend making the trip up to Angel's Point, in Elysian Park, to witness Andrew McIntosh's crystalline music for ambulatory saxophones. If you happen to be on the bike path that goes along the LA River east of Silver Lake, you might catch a glimpse of the strange doings of David Rosenboom's "Hades," Jeep included. And if you're walking around the Arts District you will may well hear wind-borne bits of the antiphonal trumpet-trombone duet that crowns Ellen Reid's "Rooftops." Performances last from 11am-1230pm, 1-230pm, and 3-430pm. Anyone can, of course, go to the Hub and watch live feeds there; Andrew Norman's Finale begins at around 430pm.
November 19, 2015 | Permalink
— Stravinsky: Complete Edition (DG)
— Bach, Goldberg Variations, Beethoven Diabelli Variations, Rzewski The People United Will Never Be Defeated; Igor Levit (Sony)
— Bach, Goldberg Variations; Alexandre Tharaud (Erato)
— Handel, Partenope; Karina Gauvin, Philippe Jaroussky, Teresa Iervolino, Emöke Baráth, John Mark Ainsley, Luco Tittoto, Riccardo Minasi leading Il pomo d'oro (Erato)
— Michael Pisaro, A mist is a collection of points; Philip Bush, Greg Stuart (New World)
— Brahms, Symphony No. 4, Hungarian Dances; Iván Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra (Channel Classics)
— Ravel, Piano Concerto in G and Concerto for the Left Hand, Fauré Ballade in F-sharp; Yuja Wang, with Lionel Bringuier conducting the Tonhalle Orchestra (DG)
— Liszt Inspections: music of John Adams, Berio, Cerha, Feldman, Kurtág, Ligeti, Murail, Pesson, Rihm, Sciarrino, Stockhausen, Ustvolskaya, and Liszt; Marino Formenti (Kairos)
— Shostakovich, Symphonies Nos. 1-15; Vasily Petrenko conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (Naxos)
November 15, 2015 | Permalink
The conductor and author Robert Craft, who played a singular role in twentieth-century music history through his association with Igor Stravinsky, has died at the age of ninety-two. The degree to which Craft influenced Stravinsky and became his public voice has not ceased to cause controversy, and even in the past few years Craft stirred new turmoil with startling claims about Stravinsky's personal life. But this is not the occasion to carry on the debate. Craft can remembered now as a formidable early American advocate for the Second Viennese School; as a pioneering interpreter of Renaissance music, including Gesualdo; as an essential and assiduous witness of Stravinsky's final decades; as a feisty critic and essayist; and, above all, as a vital force in the creative process of a twentieth-century master. To have helped bring Requiem Canticles into the world is achievement enough.
November 14, 2015 | Permalink
Trevor Davis and Brianna Seamster at the Bradbury Building.
In this week's issue of The New Yorker I have an article about Hopscotch, the Industry's car-borne multi-composer opera. I've added a few more thoughts on the New Yorker website, alongside a slide show of Angie Smith's photographs of one of the Hopscotch routes. Here are some of my own photos and videos, inevitably of far inferior quality. They should, however, give a bit of the flavor of this astonishing event. Having been a music critic for almost twenty-five years, I sometimes find myself thinking that there is nothing new under the sun. Hopscotch put a stop to that.
The daredevil trumpter Jonah Levy, a student of Markus Stockhausen and Marco Blaauw, begins his climb up the ETO Doors tower, in preparation for the "Farewell from the Rooftops" scene, which has music by Ellen Reid and words by Mandy Kahn. Reid's opera Winter's Child was featured at last winter's Prototype Festival.
Video of part of Levy's solo, with the trombonist Tony Rinaldi answering from the roof of the National Biscuit Company building. Both players are representations of Jameson, the vanished lover of Lucha, the central character of Hopscotch. Notice the sculpture of Jameson's motorcycle at the top of the tower. At some performances, the trombone part is taken by Matt Barbier, an L.A. new-music stalwart, who has a magnificently abrasive new album called FACE|RESECTION on Populist Records.
Video of Rebekah Barton going back and forth along an L.A. River access road. Your intrepid critic waded across the river and clambered through masses of bamboo in order to obtain this angle; not recommended.
From a rehearsal of the "Hades" scene along the L.A. River, which doubles, not implausibly, as the River Styx. We are at the Bowtie, which now serves as an outdoor art park, in a collaboration between the Clockshop organization and California State Parks. The structure in which the audience sits was erected by architecture students from Woodbury University.
Yuval Sharon, the director of Hopscotch, rappels down the embankment. He is unlikely to face similar conditions on his next major directing assignment — a production of Peter Eötvös's Three Sisters at the Vienna State Opera.
"The Floating Nebula," under the North Broadway Viaduct, with the soprano Quayla Bramble and the dancer Alisa Guardiola. Playing on the speakers is a recording of members of the Trinity Youth Chorus of NYC, singing radiant music by Ellen Reid. As all these photos show, Hopscotch had striking costume design, by Ann Closs-Farley and Kate Bergh.
"A Fortune," in Chinatown Central Plaza, with Justine Aronson as Lucha. Of all the Hopscotch scenes, this is the one that most determinedly invades a public space, causing considerable perplexity among spectators. Veronika Krausas, who wrote the music, told me that at one rehearsal a passerby walked up to Aronson, who was singing of Lucha's mysterious lover, and asked her, "Who's Jameson?"
Marc Lowenstein's intricately layered score for "Orfeo," set in Sid Grauman's Million Dollar Theatre, incorporates quotations from Monteverdi's Orfeo; the tenor James Onstad, seen here onstage, sings passages from the opera while Jennifer Lindsay, as Lucha, roams the auditorium and offstage violins provide accompaniment.
From "Reunion": Jameson Cherilus as Jameson and Lindsay Patterson as the Bicyclist.
What these pictures cannot convey is the singular texture of Hopscotch, which alternates between moments of pure elation — the "Rooftops" scene is one of these, the Bradbury Building scene another — and spells of disorientation, of confusion, of psychological unease. To sit in a limo next to a woman singing is fundamentally strange: the magic of theatrical illusion is negated. This is very much Yuval Sharon's intent. He is skeptical of "immersive" theatre, citing the French philosopher Jacques Rancière, who, in his essay "The Emancipated Spectator," notes how works of the immersive, participatory, hybridized, and/or multimedia type can easily devolve into empty egotistical display or "consumerist hyperactivity." Sharon wants to jockey back and forth between onrushing sensations and a more critical, distanced perspective that he associates with Brecht. Spectators are left to piece together what they have seen; in Rancière's words, they end up “plotting their own paths in the forest of things, acts, and signs that confront or surround them.”
Corinne DeWitt, a journalism student at USC who has been documenting Hopscotch for months, has gathered much usual information at Ampersand, a website associated with the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. You can hear quite a bit of the music of Hopscotch there, alongside commentaries by Sharon.
November 11, 2015 | Permalink