Last week I traveled to Guanajuato, Mexico, a singularly beautiful old city, to participate in a convocation of critics from various disciplines. This was at the behest of the Cervantino International Festival, which, in its forty-second year, remains one of the more imposing arts festivals on the global scene. Unfortunately, I wasn't there long enough to gain a good impression of Cervantino's offerings, although I did catch a concert by the Next Mushroom Promotion Ensemble, from Japan. Tomoko Fukui's Schlaglicht, a grippingly spastic, wild-eyed piece for violin and piano, was the highlight. Performers this year include the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Steve Schick and red fish blue fish, the Arditti Quartet, Les Arts Florissants, and Bach Collegium Japan. I was happy to meet Hilda Paredes, and came away with a list of younger Mexican composers to investigate. Many thanks to Dr. Jorge Volpi, the festival director, for hosting me.
October 23, 2014 | Permalink
Geoff Edgers, formerly of the Boston Globe and newly arrived at the Washington Post, has a richly detailed, wrenching piece on the Atlanta Symphony lockout. It seems to me that the conduct of the Woodruff Arts Center, and in particular its murky financial dealings, demand a serious investigation.... A retrospective of the work of filmmaker Bill Morrison, who has collaborated so memorably with John Moran (The Death Train), Michael Gordon (Decasia), and Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Miners' Hymns), among others, opens at MoMA next week. There will be film-concerts with Dave Douglas, Maya Beiser, and Bill Frisell.... Tonight, the Yale Symphony will give what is billed as the North American première of Anthony Philip Heinrich's 1857 piece The Columbiad, or Migration of American Wild Passenger Pigeons, in the context of a symposium on extinction. Neely Bruce says more about the remarkable Heinrich.... In other Yale doings, Masaaki Suzuki is leading the Yale Schola Cantorum and Juilliard415 in three performances of Jan Dismas Zelenka's Missa Dei Patris, in Boston, New Haven, and New York (Oct. 17-19). Zelenka is a dark master of the Baroque who has been slowly coming to the fore in recent decades; I wrote about him for the Times back in 1995.... The Stefan Wolpe Society is presenting four concerts this year of Wolpe and his circle, with the Momenta Quartet kicking things off on Oct. 23. The Momenta also has Gordon Beeferman and Elizabeth Brown concerts coming up.... The Gotham Chamber Opera season opens next week with a Bohuslav Martinů double bill.... A tip of the hat to Cedille Records on its twenty-fifth anniversary.... On Oct. 19, the enterprising Metropolitan Symphony, of Minneapolis, will give the world première of Dominick Argento's first symphonic work, Ode to the West Wind.
October 11, 2014 | Permalink
I spoke at Carnegie Mellon last night, in the Humanities Center's "Music: Mind, Machine, and Milieu" lecture series. Many thanks to David Shumway, Richard Randall, and others for hosting me. This was my first visit to Pittsburgh since 2000, when I saw Mariss Jansons lead the Pittsburgh Symphony in Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra. Two strong recommendations: Caliban Books, where I picked up as many books as will fit in my luggage; and Crested Duck, where we ate after the lecture. I'm no professional foodie, but the latter seemed pretty extraordinary. Above, a musical stained-glass window at Heinz Memorial Chapel, with Wagner lurking on the left.
October 10, 2014 | Permalink
Last night at Powell Hall in St. Louis, just before a St. Louis Symphony performance of Brahms's German Requiem, a group of protesters staged a peaceful demonstration tied to the killing of young Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Positioned in various parts of the auditorium, the protesters unfurled banners and sang "Which Side Are You On?" They then walked out, chanting, "Black lives matter." Much of the audience, and some musicians in the orchestra, responded with applause. I've attached a snippet of audio of the broadcast, with commentary by Robert Peterson and Adam Crane, of St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Symphony, respectively. Note the moment when someone shouts, "Let's have some real music!" Crane thoughtfully adds, "That was also some real music we heard from passionate people in the audience."
October 05, 2014 | Permalink
The Atlanta Symphony musicians are holding an event tonight outside the Woodruff Center, where they have been locked out by a management that seems to have learned absolutely nothing from the recent debacle of the Minnesota Orchestra. Meanwhile, John Adams, John Corigliano, and other leading American composers have published an open letter at NewMusicBox; Robert Spano, Altanta's music director, speaks up for the musicians in an interview with the Times's Michael Cooper; and Donald Runnicles, the principal guest conductor, does the same in an interview with the Guardian's Tom Service. For a blistering series of posts on mismanagement in Atlanta, read Mask of the Flower Prince, the pen name of Scott Chamberlain, who sings with the Minnesota Chorale. On a happier note, the Minnesota Orchestra's new season opens tomorrow; Chamberlain conveys the atmosphere inside the building.
September 25, 2014 | Permalink
Judah Adashi, of the Peabody Institute, has put together a program of ground-bass works across the centuries, to transpire on Sept. 30 at Peabody. It includes his beguiling new piece my heart comes undone, inspired by a phrase of Björk's. Lavena Johanson is the cellist on the recording. I'm delighted to have provided a bit of inspiration for the concert, with my old "Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues" essay.
September 25, 2014 | Permalink
Update: Sadly, Peter Jefferies has been denied entry to the United States on account of visa issues, and his tour has been cancelled.
September 24, 2014 | Permalink
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, an investment banker and political operative, struck a chilling tone at the protest against The Death of Klinghoffer yesterday: "You will be made to destroy that set before we're finished. We are going to be back here—everyone here and many, many more—every night of the Klinghoffer opera until the set is burned to the ground." (You can see and hear him in the second video embedded in Michael Cooper's piece, linked above.) In 2011, Wiesenfeld, who has a long history of belligerent pronouncements, drew attention for attempting to block the awarding of an honorary degree to the playwright Tony Kushner, whom Wiesenfeld compared to a "Kapo," or a Jewish concentration-camp functionary. Elsewhere, Justin Davidson and Philip Kennicott have thoughtful reassessments of the opera, which opens at the Met on October 20.
September 23, 2014 | Permalink