This week, the New Republic, which last month marked its hundredth anniversary, fell into disarray. Franklin Foer, its editor, was replaced, and much of the staff resigned in protest. I'm not going to waste time inveighing against the Silicon Valley tycoon who bought the New Republic in 2012 and seems bent on destroying it. Rather, I'd like to offer a note of thanks to Leon Wieseltier, the New Republic's literary editor, who also resigned this week.
My first major piece of journalism appeared in the New Republic, in 1992. The magazine had a reputation for taking chances on unknown young writers, and I was a beneficiary of that policy; one day, the galleys for my article on Alfred Schnittke were sent over to the Dupont Circle video store where I was working as a clerk. But my debt to Leon goes deeper than that. When I wrote my first pieces for the magazine, I was preparing to go to graduate school, and had no plans to pursue journalism. Leon decided that this obscurantist devotee of the Frankfurt School should become a music critic. He had much to do with the job offer that came my way from the New York Times (via Ed Rothstein, who, it happens, took a buyout from the Times this week), and he then convinced me that I should take the plunge. Without Leon, I would, for better or worse, be doing something else.
Leon also cultivated such writers and editors as James Wood, Alex Star, and Ruth Franklin. He gave the New Republic major pieces of his own, notably the towering Holocaust meditation "After Memory." And—most significant in my world—he published a string of colossally brilliant, and brilliantly colossal, articles by Richard Taruskin, who, in another era-ending turn of events, is about to retire from the University of California, Berkeley. I remember reading those essays in the early nineteen-nineties and thinking, "My God—you can do that in a magazine?" And, in fact, you can't, unless you are Richard Taruskin and Leon Wieseltier is your editor. L'chaim!
December 06, 2014 | Permalink
Beginning tomorrow, the Library of Congress will celebrate the centennial of Irving Fine with a panoply of concerts and discussions. For background, read Will Robin and Ethan Iverson.... The ever-formidable Wolfgang Rihm has won the Grawemeyer for IN-SCHRIFT 2, a Berlin Philharmonic commission. An amusing detail in the Louisville Courier-Journal report: "Reached by phone in Germany Sunday, Rihm said he was happy his work has received the award but that he only gives interviews by fax. At the time, Rihm did not have access to a fax machine as he was in Berlin." ... On Dec. 13, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony introduce a new experimental space called SoundBox: there will be music of Josquin, Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, Ravel, Varèse, and Monteverdi.... On Dec. 2, Ensemble Pamplemousse gives the world première of George Lewis's A Recital for Terry Adkins, a multimedia creation that draws on the work of Adkins and Romare Bearden.... Master-Pieces, a new opera by Petr Kotik, will have its American première at the Paula Cooper Gallery on Dec. 17.... Via The Wagnerian, a fascinating discussion of that bedeviling Castorf Ring at Bayreuth.... The period from Dec. 3 to Dec. 10 will be particularly dizzying in NYC: events include Meredith Monk's On Behalf of Nature at BAM (see Zachary Woolfe's fine Monk profile); Steven Stucky and Jeremy Denk's The Classical Style at Carnegie; Philip Glass's Etudes at BAM; Xavier Montsalvatge's El gato con botas at Gotham Chamber Opera; Keeril Makan at Miller Theatre; an Anna Clyne première with Orpheus; the Teatro Regio di Torino's concert performance of William Tell at Carnegie; Annie Gosfield with the JACK Quartet at Roulette; William Christie conducting Handel's La Resurrezione at Juilliard; Matmos performing Robert Ashley's Perfect Lives at ISSUE Project Room; Gabriel Kahane's The Ambassador at BAM; and a fabulously grim American Symphony program of Vaughan Williams's Sixth Symphony, Ligeti's Requiem, and Schnittke's Nagasaki.
December 01, 2014 | Permalink
"Yellow," 2009. Courtesy of the Tibor de Nagy Gallery.
The great American painter Jane Freilicher turns ninety today. Happy birthday, Jane! There will be a celebration at the Poetry Project on December 12th, with readings and tributes by John Ashbery, Anselm Berrigan, Adam Fitzgerald, Maxine Groffsky, Tom Healy, Alex Katz, Vincent Katz, Amy Klein, Jenni Quilter, Karen Roffman, Charles Simic, Emily Skillings, Richard Thomas, and Anne Waldman.
November 29, 2014 | Permalink
For whatever it's worth, I've added several new selections to my page of recommended CDs. The first twenty or so are in the running for my best-of-the-year list. My colleagues at the New York Times have supplied gift-buying suggestions; I'd endorse a number of these, especially Tony Tommasini's choice of the Virgil Thomson Library of America edition. Some other recent music books of note: Mark Berry's After Wagner, Nicholas Mathew's Political Beethoven, Susan Tomes's Sleeping in Temples, Mark Evan Bonds's Absolute Music, Chris Walton's Lies and Epiphanies, and Mina Yang's Planet Beethoven. I have yet to see James Klosty's John Cage Was, but reliable sources report that it's delightful.
November 28, 2014 | Permalink
Recent releases of interest.
Ted Hearne, The Law of Mosaics, Andrew Norman, The Companion Guide to Rome; A Far Cry (Crier Records)
[Q2 stream here]
Lully, Amadis; Cyril Auvity, Judith van Wanroij, Christophe Rousset leading Les Talens Lyriques (Aparté)
Fantasticus: works of Weckmann, Bertali, Buxtehude, Kerll, Schmeltzer, Vierdanck, Oswald; Quicksilver (Acis)
[A Weckmann sample here]
Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, Aerial; various ensembles, including CAPUT, Iceland Symphony, Nordic Affect (DG)
Mahler, Symphony No. 9; Jascha Horenstein conducting the Vienna Symphony (Pristine)
Jacques Hétu, Complete Chamber Music for Strings; New Orford Quartet, Steven Dann, Colin Carr, Timothy Hutchins (Naxos)
Brigitta Muntendorf, it may be all an illusion; Ensemble Modern, Ensemble musikFabrik, Ensemble Garage, Calefax Reed Quintet, IEMA-Ensemble (col legno)
Anthony Cheung, Roundabouts; Ensemble Modern, Ueli Wiget, Frankfurt Radio Symphony (Ensemble Modern Medien)
Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen; Greer Grimsley, Alwyn Mellor, Stefan Vinke, Stephanie Blythe, Stuart Skelton, Margaret Jane Wray, Richard Paul Fink, Daniel Sumegi, Andrea Silvestrelli, and Dennis Petersen, with Asher Fisch conducting the Seattle Symphony and the Seattle Opera Chorus (Avie)
November 20, 2014 | Permalink
Virgil Thomson on the 1952 protests against Don Carlo at the Met:
Just for pleasure, and also to impress a visitor from Europe, your announcer dropped in last Monday night at the Metropolitan Opera for a performance of Verdi’s Don Carlo ... It was something of a surprise to learn that the performance was being picketed. Investigation revealed the following facts. The Archdiocesan Union of the Holy Name Society of New York, the American Society for the Preservation of Sacred, Patriotic, and Operatic Music, and the Children’s Drama Guild have all made protests to the Metropolitan management. The latter group had already asked the Manhattan Supreme Court, back in 1950, for a declaratory judgment enjoining the Metropolitan Opera Association from disseminating subversive anti-religious propaganda. This suit is still awaiting action....
The signs carried by the picketers, who are about thirty in number, bore the following legends:
“The opera Don Carlo is a mockery of religion.”
“The opera Don Carlo is anti-state and anti-religious.”
“Stop Sovietizing operas.”
“Moscow termites invade the ‘Met.’”
“Don’t support ‘Met’ Opera as long as they hire subversives.”
“Who gets the money that the ‘Met’ loses?”
“Planned deficit financing is anti-American.”
I quote from the excellent new Library of America edition of Thomson's writings, edited by Tim Page. Thomson further notes that the protesters had earlier been confused about their dates, showing up on a night when Die Fledermaus was playing.
Needless to say, all of this anticipates the Klinghoffer demonstrations that unfolded this fall — not least the scene on opening night, when some protesters upbraided operagoers for attending an anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist work, not realizing that the opera on offer was The Marriage of Figaro.
November 15, 2014 | Permalink
Strange days at Lincoln Center: according to Robin Pogrebin's Times report, the complex "is essentially paying the [Fisher] family $15 million for permission to drop the name" of Avery Fisher from the main concert hall, so that another donor can offer his, her, or its name to the forthcoming renovation.... On Saturday in Cambridge MA, Blue Heron presents a multimedia event celebrating Thomas Forrest Kelly's new book Capturing Music, a lucid and absorbing account of the emergence of musical notation.... On Friday at Spectrum in NYC, Cantata Profana plays a program of Mozart, Adès, and Ustvolskaya, with "wine and Oreos" to follow.... The LA Phil celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Disney Hall organ—Hurricane Mama, as Terry Riley has dubbed it—with the première of Stephen Hartke's Fourth Symphony, for organ and orchestra, on Nov. 20, and a special Pipedreams event on Nov. 23.... The next NY Phil CONTACT! event, on Monday, will be hosted by John Adams, and will include works of Daníel Bjarnason, Ingram Marshall, Missy Mazzoli, and Timo Andres (his Schumann-inspired string quartet Early to Rise).... The formidable Norwegian singer-composer Maja S. K. Ratkje is in residence at The Stone Nov. 25-30.
November 13, 2014 | Permalink
Bob Shingleton responds to the Mrs. Bach "clickbait fest" by drawing attention to the organist and composer Jeanne Demessieux, in whom Virgil Thomson once heard "music making of the most crystalline and dazzling clarity." Above, the ever-superb Paul Jacobs plays her "Octaves" Étude.
November 03, 2014 | Permalink
I picked up a copy of B. H. Haggin's once popular music-appreciation book, Music for the Man Who Enjoys Hamlet. Published in 1944, it included a record-measuring tool, so that the reader could time musical examples. "Play side 1 to the point five sixteenths of an inch from the first groove," Haggin instructs, in a discussion of the Schubert B-flat-major Sonata. I might repurpose the ruler as an exotic bookmark.
November 02, 2014 | Permalink
A final indignity for the misbegotten protest against The Death of Klinghoffer: as Michael Cooper reports in the New York Times, ticket sales at the Met, initially sluggish, have picked up as a result of all the media coverage. In what amounts to a final ruling on the matter, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg went to see the opera and found nothing anti-Semitic in it.... Disturbing: the pianist Dejan Lazic has asked that an Anne Midgette review of one of his recitals be removed from the Internet, under the EU's "right to be forgotten" ruling... A fairly mouth-watering lineup for the Huddersfield Festival later this month: the SEM Ensemble pays tribute to Christian Wolff, Feldman's multi-piano pieces receive rare performances, and James Dillon is celebrated, among much else.... On Nov. 1, wild Up plays at the Colburn in LA: works of Steve Mackey, Kate Moore, Derek Bermel, and Ted Hearne.... ASCAP will soon hand out its annual Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson prizes; I'm proud to see Will Robin, my former assistant, receive recognition for his NewMusicBox article “Shape Notes, Billings, and American Modernisms." Will has a piece in the Sunday Times about Irving Fine. Other worthy honorees include Annegret Fauser, for Sounds of War, and Terry Teachout, for Duke.... This is the last weekend to see In the Garden of Sonic Delights, Caramoor's celebration of sound art.... On Nov. 7-8, the Kitchen will present a production of Originale, Stockhausen's 1961 "happening," in association with Analog Arts, the Goethe Institute, and Darmstadt Essential Repertoire. The distinguished and provocative cast includes the poet Eileen Myles, the downtown luminary Justin Vivian Bond, and the pianist Stephen Drury. There are some wonderful images of the 1961 New York production at the Analog Arts website, including David Tudor in drag.... Also new from Analog Arts, a loadbang album featuring Eve Beglarian's Island of the Sirens, Hannah Lash's Stoned Prince, Andy Akiho's Six Haikus, and Paul Pinto's g3db.Did0 (goodbye, Dido). On Nov. 5 there will be a release event at Greenwich House Music School.... Two striking visual representations of the state of classical music: Ricky O'Bannon's charts of American orchestral repertory, and Suby Raman's graphs detailing the neglect of living composers at the Met.
October 31, 2014 | Permalink
— Ustvolskaya, Violin Sonata, Clarinet Trio, Duet; Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Markus Hinterhäuser, Reto Bieri (ECM)
— Milhaud, L'Orestie d'Eschyle; Lori Phillips, Dan Kempson, Sidney Outlaw, Sophie Delphis, Brenda Rae, Tamara Mumford, Jennifer Lane, Julianna Di Giacomo, Kristin Eder, with Kenneth Kiesler conducting the University of Michigan Symphony, University Choir, Orpheus Singers, and UMS Choral Union (Naxos)
— áltaVoz: works of Felipe Lara, José Luis Hurtado, Mauricio Pauly, Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann; JACK Quartet (New Focus)
— Andrew McIntosh, Symmetry Etudes, Hyenas in the Temples of Pleasure; Yarn/Wire, James Sullivan, Brian Walsh, and Andrew McIntosh (Populist)
— Schubert, Schwanengesang; Florian Boesch, Malcolm Martineau (Onyx)
— Graffiti: works of Unsuk Chin, Olga Neuwirth, Sun Ra; Ensemble musikFabrik (Wergo)
— Mamoru Fujieda, Patterns of Plants; Sarah Cahill (Pinna)
— Nico Muhly, Two Boys; Paul Appleby, Alice Coote, David Robertson conducting the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Nonesuch)
October 28, 2014 | Permalink