Showing posts from January, 2009

Update: Violin Concerto

Writing this Violin Concerto has been an interesting project. After reviewing the recording from the concert last June and going over the scores, parts and comments from the performers, I started writing this new work with the idea of further honing my compositional skills. And I think it not only worked, but I ended up with a new piece that is much stronger than the compositions from just a year ago. 1st Movement - Bad Things Happen
2nd Movement - Grief in Suspension
3rd Movement - Moving BeyondNow that it's finished, or at least to the point of shopping it around, I proud to say there are at least 2 professional violinists considering it. The only drawback is finding an orchestra, but we're working on that too. Scores are available on request.

Opera Review: Plonsey hits a high note, while Pekar drones on

Harvey Pekar and Dan Plonsey wrote a jazz opera, “Leave Me Alone!”, which premiered in Cleveland on the 31st of January. I was fortunate to have been included in the premiere as the production was simulcast on the web by Real Time Opera and Oberlin College of Arts and Sciences. As an ex-Netscape engineer, I am always thrilled to find new groups pushing the scope of the internet and although streaming video isn’t necessarily new, providing the world the opportunity to see the premiere of a new opera is a very worthy project. That said, perhaps the first thing I should say about the production is that this review was greatly hindered by the technology. Streaming video has come a long way what with high speed routers and fast connection speeds. I am a huge fan of BBC’s iPlayer and the content that is as good as watching the programs on television. However, Real Time Opera’s production of “Leave Me Alone!” probably would have been better served to have been time delayed to allow for …

Two New Classical Music CD Releases

The Royal Flemish Philharmonic turns in powerful performances of three great 20th-century masterpieces on two new recordings for naïve’s sister label, ambroisie, for release in the U.S. on January 27, 2009.The first release features Shostakovich’s landmark Symphony No. 5 conducted by Jaap van Zweden (pictured), the long-time concertmaster of Amsterdam’s famed Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, whose rapid rise in the world of conducting – he left his position with the orchestra in 1995 after 16 years – includes a prominent new post in America. He took over the music directorship of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in the 2008-09 season, where he is winning consistent acclaim for his intensely expressive performances. Van Zweden also began his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic in the 2008-09 season.Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47, between April and July 1937, and the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra premiered it in Leningrad on November 21,…

New Music: "A Sweeter Music" by Sarah Cahill

Under the title "A Sweeter Music" Sarah Cahill commissioned 18 composers, both established and up-and-coming, to write pieces on the themes of peace and war. Sunday's recital at the Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus introduced 10 of them, accompanied by video counterpoint on three screens from Cahill's husband, John Sanborn. The title of the project came to Cahill serendipitously when she encountered this quote while reading the text of Martin Luther King's Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody that is far superior to the discord of war."In a blog by SFMike, "My real favorite of the concert was "There Is a Field" by Jerome Kitzke where he had Sarah play the piano, recite poetry (3 Whitmans, 1 Rumi) at the same time, drum on the head of the piano, shout, and sing/scat. She was fabulous and fearless with all of it, shifting as rapidly as the music from mournful to rocking and…

NY Premiere of George Benjamin’s Duet with Piano and Orchestra February 6th

George Benjamin is a British composer who studied with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire during the second half of the 1970s. His latest work, Duet for piano and orchestra was originally premiered in the UK by the Cleveland Orchestra with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, as well as performances in the US and at Switzerland ’s Lucerne Festival, London ’s BBC Proms, and in Cleveland , respectively. Finally the piece comes to New York at Carnegie Hall on February 6, during the Cleveland Orchestra’s week-long residency in the city. Conducted by the orchestra’s long-standing music director, Franz Welser-Möst, the concert will be Aimard’s second Carnegie appearance in as many days.The Financial Times described Aimard as "a ferociously intelligent musician, and full of sharp insights," and his sovereignty in the fields of contemporary music and Bach is internationally acknowledged. To have four such opportunities, to present an important new work like Benjamin’s to as many new a…

Composer Michael Hersch to Receive World Premiere in Washington , DC

The world premiere of Last Autumn, a major new work for saxophone and cello, will be the centerpiece of a concert devoted to music by award-winning composer Michael Hersch. Presented by the Left Bank Concert Society, “Music of Michael Hersch” will take place on Saturday, January 31 at 7:30 pm at the historic Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Georgetown , Washington , DC. Last Autumn will be performed by Gary Louie on saxophone and Evelyn Elsing on cello, alongside two piano works – Two Pieces for Piano (2003) and Suite from The Vanishing Pavilions (2006) – that the composer will perform himself. A “Meet the Audience” reception with refreshments will follow the concert.Hersch began composing Last Autumn in 2005. Commissioned by the Washington Performing Arts Society, the work is based on fragments of poetry by the late W. G. Sebald, a German novelist and poet who died in 2001. His work, which often simultaneously intertwined themes of biography, literary history, poetry, and cultura…

Cello Scrotum: a rash of humour

Photo by Carey MoreWill Pavia reported today in the TimesOnLine that "Cello Scrotum" is a hoax, a supposed mallady that affects cellist with a rash in the genital area.
Never mind that this dermatalogical ailment seemed unlikely, given the posture of the average male cellist, the condition was named in the British Medical Journal, and thereafter in an array of reviews of musician’s aches and pains.

Nearly all such reviews referred to a letter to the journal in 1974 from John Murphy, husband of Dr Elaine Murphy, who noted that he had once come across a case of cello scrotum. But Dr Elaine Murphy, now Baroness Murphy, has now admitted that the letter she drafted with her husband was a hoax, a practical joke that the couple have been "dining out on" ever since. In May 1974, Elaine Murphy -- now Baroness Murphy -- joined with John Murphy in submitting a hoax letter to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which often publishes correspondence from doctors about unusual c…

Tour Program Features World Premiere by David Ludwig

Each season, Curtis On Tour brings the extraordinary artistry of the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music to audiences nationwide, with tomorrow’s leading musicians performing alongside celebrated alumni and faculty. This year the Curtis On Tour ensemble includes eight students and two faculty members: double-bassist Harold Hall Robinson and composer/narrator David Ludwig(pictured). The 2008–09 season of Curtis On Tour begins with a free recital on Wednesday, February 18 in Field Concert Hall at the Curtis Institute of Music.The program features the world premiere of David Ludwig’s From the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, a song-cycle based on the thousand-year-old quatrains of the Persian poet and scholar Omar Khayyám. Written for mezzo-soprano and an ensemble inspired by the instrumentation in Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat, the work combines the sensual nature of Khayyám’s poetry and the spirit of eleventh-century Persia with a contemporary-music setting.As well as this new work,…

Thomas Hampson to Sing Title Role in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Thomas Hampson first sang the role of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera on September 25, 2001, to great acclaim; the New York Times wrote, “Thomas Hampson is moving from strength to strength … . His Onegin was truly fine. His voice has deepened and taken on more power, and his connection with his roles seems ever more profound.” Hampson returns to the Met on January 30 for a run of seven performances (through Feb 21) opposite the luminous Karita Mattila as Tatyana, conducted by Jirí Belohlávek.Performing in Russian, one of at least ten languages that he sings fluently, the versatile American baritone portrays Alexander Pushkin’s unlikeable hero, as interpreted by Tchaikovsky in his 1879 opera. Opera News had this to say about Hampson’s performance of Onegin in 2001:Robert Carsen’s spare but richly poetic 1997 production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, sung in Russian, returned to the Met on September 25 in much-improved condition, due to new casting. Thomas Ham…

John Adams World Premiere of His New String Quartet

"FOCUS!" festival will highlight the world premiere of John Adams String Quartet No. 2 at Juilliard on January 29, by the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Adams will join fellow California composers Pamela Z, Pauline Oliveros, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Morton Subotnick this Tuesday, January 27, at 7 PM, at the school's Peter Jay Sharp Theater, for a special panel discussion moderated by Sachs. The discussion precedes a concert of music that includes the New York premiere of works by Frank, Subotnick, and Terry Riley.A major highlight of the festival is the world premiere of Adams’s String Quartet by the St. Lawrence String Quartet on Thursday, January 29. This two-movement piece, written for the SLSQ, is Adams’s second full-length work for string quartet and contrasts with its predecessor, John’s Book of Alleged Dances, which Kronos Quartet premiered in 1994, in that it does not include electronics. The concert begins at 8 PM in the school's Peter Jay Sharp Theater. Pri…

Producer Credits Determined for Best Picture Nominee

Beverly Hills, CA — Producer credits for Academy Award® Best Picture nominee “The Reader” have been determined by the Producers Branch Executive Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The official nominees for the film are Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Donna Gigliotti and Redmond Morris.Because four producers were listed on the credits form submitted for Oscar® consideration and Academy rules allow for only three producers – except in “a rare and extraordinary circumstance” – to be nominated and potentially receive Oscar statuettes, a meeting of the executive committee was necessary. In the end, the committee determined that the circumstances of “The Reader” – in which the two original producers (Minghella and Pollack) both died partway through the process – met its definition of “rare and extraordinary” and that all four submitted individuals should be named as nominees.Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2008 will be presented on Sunday, …

SF Opera: Three World Premieres

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The San Francisco Opera plans to commission new operas by American composers Christopher Theofanidis, Mark Adamo and Jennifer Higdon.The announcement Monday coincided with the release of the schedule for 2009-10, conductor Nicola Luisotti's first as music director. The company canceled a planned new production of Britten's "Peter Grimes" and a revival of Puccini's "La Boheme" because of finances.Theofanidis' work will focus on heroism and the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. It will have a libretto by Donna DiNovelli and is planned to premiere in September 2011. Adamo's opera, "The Gospel of Mary Magdalene," is scheduled to open in June 2013 and will have a libretto by the composer. Higdon's opera, with a libretto by Gene Scheer, is to open in the autumn 2013. The subject was not announced.

A book I want to read: Taruskin's The Danger of Music - and Other Anti-Utopian Essays.

Tom Service of the Guardian wrote a review of the book "The Danger of Music - and Other Anti-Utopian Essays" by Richard Taruskin. According to the review:The book is full of broadsides against the lazy thinking of musical establishments: the modernist juggernaut that Taruskin sees as hijacking critical thinking about music in the academy in the mid-century, the sort of kneejerk reaction that, "if it's difficult and nobody likes it, it must be good"; the emerging practices of early music, and the idea that what Roger Norrington and John Eliot Gardiner were up to in the 80s amounted to "authenticity" - Taruskin's elegant and brilliant rebuttal is that they are modernists, performers whose Beethoven and Mozart is of our time, not of the 18th or 19th centuries; and above all, the facile assumption of music's much-vaunted universality, and its supposed status as the highest and most ethereal of the arts. On every page, Taruskin reminds you how mess…

Monterey Symphony: Classical Music from Mexico

Two internationally renowned classical musicians are coming to Salinas California next month as the Monterey Symphony pays tribute to symphonic music from Mexico. Conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto (pictured) and his father, renowned cellist Carlos Prieto, will perform Saturday, Feb. 14, at Sherwood Hall, 940 N. Main St. in Salinas.Carlos Miguel Prieto, a graduate of both Princeton and Harvard, was voted "conductor of the year 2002" by the Mexican Union of Music, and he was named music director of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico (National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico). "I'm always looking to present positive role models," said Joseph Truskot, executive director of the Monterey Symphony. "This is a side of Mexican culture many people may not be aware of."The concert will consist of a cello concerto composed by Federico Ibarra especially for the elder Prieto. The suite from redes (fish nets) will also be performed. Silvestre Revueltas, arguably …

BAFTA Nominations: Music

The British Academy Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award nominations for Music are:The CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
* Alexandre DesplatThe DARK KNIGHT
* Hans Zimmer
* James Newton HowardMAMMA MIA!
* Benny Andersson
* A. R. RahmanWALL-E
* Thomas NewmanFor those that know me, there will be no surprise that I am not cheering for Mamma Mia!. The music is entertaining, or it was back in the day and the film and stage production were a huge hit in the UK. However, as fun as it might be, it doesn't fit in the category for best film music. Dark Knight is another film that I feel ought to be given the pass in terms of music. I hope to see Benjamin Button this next weekend and will probably take in both Wall-E and Slumdog again just to refresh myself with the music.

Marketing isn't Everything

I surf the net on a daily basis looking for news stories, new operas, classical music and film scores - petty much any interesting story in relation to music. Back on the 1st of October, I found news of a New Opera - coming to film, Repo: The Genetic Opera. There was press covering the soon to be released film, a pretty nice website with sound bites and games to create a fan base and the hype in the film, music & goth magazines was growing exponentially. In terms of modern marketing, this film was hitting all the buttons!As of the first of the year, the film has only grossed $150,000, partly due to a very limited release (only 8 screens initially) and partly due to the lack of crowds at the cinemas where it was released. Pre-screening reviews were good, but that was before the film was finished. When it made it to the cinema, the reviews were poor at best - some of them were bloody cruel, but then it is a bloody film. Fans seem to love it, though - or at least the online rev…

Sarah Chang in the UK

Sarah Chang performs with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Joji HattoriSarah Chang is recognised the world over as one of classical music’s most captivating and gifted performers. Last October Sarah performed the world premiere of the Violin Concerto by composer Christopher Theofanidis, commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra specifically for Sarah. Joji Hattori is one of the leading Japanese musicians of his generation and has enjoyed a very varied career as a musician, firstly as a concert violinist, an activity which has developed into directing chamber orchestras, conducting symphony orchestras and finally operas. He has been Associate Conductor of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra since 2004 and during the 2007/08 season served as Principal Resident Conductor of the Opera House in Erfurt, Germany. The Philharmonia Orchestra was founded in 1945, primarily as a recording orchestra. It is made up of more than 80 musicians giving around 40 concerts in London and over 60 …

Musicians are still amazing, live or otherwise

There are lots of reports that the version of "Air and Simple Gifts", which was performed by Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriella Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill at the President's Inauguration, was actually a pre-recorded version to which the musicians played insync to. I'm not sure why this is such big news; it's not like they were pretending to play something someone else had actually performed (ref: Milli Vanilli). The quartet recorded the piece and then made a decision, due to weather, to have the pre-recording piece broadcast because it would be impossible for their instruments to be in tune. What benefit would have been served by having the performance something less than amazing? It's still a lovely piece of music, the musicians are tops in their field, and they did play what we heard - just what we heard wasn't quite the same as what they actually sounded like on the day.

Oscar Nominations

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score) “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.),Alexandre Desplat
“Defiance” (Paramount Vantage), James Newton Howard
“Milk” (Focus Features), Danny Elfman
“Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Rahman
“WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Thomas NewmanAchievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song) “Down to Earth” from “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
“Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
“O Saya” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman andMaya Arulpragasam
This is a really good list of music. While there has been noise for nominating the music from "Dark Knight", "The Changeling" and "Frost/Nixon" I don't think any of those were of the quality of what we have here. It is disappointing that Nico Muh…

Opera Review: Dust

Robert Ashley wrote a trio of operas playing at La Mama E.T.C. Annex in New York this month, Dust, Celestial Excursions & Made Out of Concrete. "My characters are ordinary people," Ashley explains. "I am interested in their profoundly good qualities. They just happen to be ordinary people who are spiritually divine." These operas are staged in a new retrospective that will also feature performances by pioneer video artist/choreographer Joan Jonas and keyboard player “Blue” Gene Tyranny.Ryan Tracy of the New York Press doesn't feel Dust necessarily qualifies as opera, "I think I can resist conceding that Dust is an "opera" without diminishing the good that the work does do." He did very much enjoy the performance.The music is fresh in its way, and big in scope. Ashley divides the piece using relatively conservative formal structures. In the first part, while each character is reminisces, the other performers chant in a delicate, Berlioz…

Opera Review: Skin Deep

Opera North (Leeds, England) premiered a new operetta (read light-hearted) by composers David Sawer and lyricist Armando Iannucci, Skin Deep, on January 16th. Set in the clinic of cosmetic surgery guru Doktor Needlemeier, Skin Deep is a satire on a world where staying young and beautiful is all that matters, whatever the cost. Iannucci is famous for his witty TV writing and Sawer is well known for his craft in music, so the mixture should be a light-hearted romp for an evening of comedy and satire.Ron Simpson of What's On Stage felt, "Skin Deep is a pleasant entertainment, but somehow there’s not quite enough of anything: tunes, funny lines, momentum, satirical bite, even the power to shock... Much of the most interesting music is in the orchestra." While Simpson felt the orchestra was one of the most interesting aspects of the evening, Andrew Clark of Financial Times couldn't agree less, "Sawer strangles Iannucci’s wit. His music lacks fluency, tunefulness, …

Update: Air and Simple Gifts by John Williams

Here is the premiere of Air and Simple Gifts, composed by John Williams for the President Obama's Inauguration. Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun says: The "air" at the start of the roughly four-minute piece strikes a sober note, as if to recall the many challenges facing the country. The soft, slow, rather bittersweet theme, begun by the violin and soon picked up cello and piano, gives way to another, very familiar melody from the clarinet -- the gently uplifting Shaker hymn, "Simple Gifts," which was used so indelibly by Aaron Copland in his 1944 ballet score Appalachian Spring. Williams quotes that passage almost verbatim, and goes on to put the hymn tune through a very Coplandesque treatment before bringing the mood back down to earth with the opening material.I agree with one of the comments on Tim's article:I guess wish they had just played the Copland, a much better piece and one that makes the Williams not only a little trite but also unnecessary. Wha…

Film Music: Che

Alberto Iglesias wrote the original music for Steven Soderbergh's "Che", the double length biopic about Argentine revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara staring Benicio del Toro. The film, being shown in 2 parts, has been receiving rave reviews. Part II hasn't arrived in the UK yet, so I can only comment about the music for Part I.The Cuban Revolution of 1959, led by Fidel Castro, was a huge turning point for Cuba and its relations with the US. 'Che' Guevara was instrumental in the revolution and the relationship of Cuba with the rest of the world. His memoirs of the period are what Soderbergh used as a reference for his film. Post revolution was also a huge turning point for many Cuban musicians as many of the night clubs and music establishments that catered to the US tourist and servicemen were shut down, the focus of music was shifted from Cuban Latin styles to classical music and many musicians fled the country to find a place where their freedom of…

England follows El Sistema model

A new project has been created in England to help children in the most deprived areas of England to participate in music programmes - in the form of a symphony orchestra. The organisation, In Harmony, is chaired by world renowned cellist Julian Lloyd-Webber. In Harmony is inspired by the hugely successful Venezuelan project El Sistema and encurages participation in music which can have huge persoanl benefits for the children involved, providing opportunities to grow and develop, both socially and musically.

LA Opera postpones `Il Postino' world premiere

The Los Angeles Opera has postponed the world premiere of Daniel Catan's "Il Postino." The Spanish-language opera, based on the 1994 movie, was to have starred Placido Domingo. The project, announced in July 2005, had been scheduled to open the 2009-10 season.Domingo, who's also the company's general director, says it would have been financially irresponsible in the current economic climate to program a world premiere in the same season as the Ring Cycle. Instead, the season will open Sept. 12 with a revival of a 1996 production of Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love."The company will present the first complete Los Angeles staging of Wagner's Ring Cycle in three full cycles May 29-June 26, 2010.

New Music for the Inauguration

John Williams, who has been nominated for more Academy Awards than any other person as well as written an olympic theme has been tagged for providing new music for the inauguration of Barack Obama today, “Air and Simple Gifts,” a four and a half minute piece for classical quartet. Clarinetist Anthony McGill, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Gabriela Montero comprise the illustrious group to perform the new piece. Mr Ma and Mr Perlman chose the ensemble. The instrumentation is the same as Messiaen's “Quatuor Pour la Fin du Temps” (“Quartet for the End of Time”) but is similar to Copeland in style. “We wanted something that could reference America, the president-elect’s fondness for Copland, something that’s both uplifting and solemn, that traverses time but is also quintessentially American,” Mr. Ma said. Mr Williams reportedly created a hymn-like piece which will interpolate the ‘Simple Gifts’ melody from Copland’s 1944 ballet ‘Appalachian Spring’ in its …

Construction Continues, Cancels Concert

Edinburgh's Usher Hall is STILL under construction and will be well into May. There the the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is forcd to cancel its Edinburgh performance of Haydn’s The Seasons at the Usher Hall. The concert was scheduled to close the Orchestra’s Edinburgh Season on 14 May. The Orchestra has recently been informed by the City of Edinburgh Council that delays to the redevelopment of the City’s Usher Hall mean that the venue will not be ready for use as scheduled. Unfortunately, in this instance, it has proved impossible for the SCO to find an available alternative venue for the performance and the Orchestra has, therefore, had to take the decision to cancel.The SCO will be contacting all customers this week to offer a complete refund for their tickets, or an exchange for a ticket and courtesy coach travel for the performance of The Seasons at Glasgow’s City Hall on the following evening, Friday 15 May. The performance in Glasgow will be conducted by SCO Principal Gue…

New Audiences for New Music

Getting an audience into a classical music concert isn't always about play Beethoven or Mozart (although these are pretty standard crowd pleasers). Sometimes it's about taking a new look at music, playing something that we may not think of as classical music, but doing it in a classical format. Pop orchestras have been doing something like this for a while, but the attitudes about what a pop orchestra should play is changing and so are the arrangements.Peter Brennan, a Canadian musician and arranger for Jeans ’n Classics brings together a classic rock music with orchestral arrangements. His band plays music that was popular in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. A traditional orchestra pops concert presents music that was popular in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Other composers (myself included - see below) are using modern styles and hip-hop beats in their original work, incorporating video or dance to expose a broader audience to the orchestra. Groups such as Jeans ’n Classics bring…

New Work by Magnus Lindberg to premiere with New York Philharmonic

Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg, the new composer-in-residence at the New York Philharmonic, is to have a world première of a new commissioned work at the orchestra’s opening night gala at Avery Fisher Hall on September 16th.This will be the first time for many decades when the Philharmonic’s opening night gala begins with a brand-new, never-before-heard piece written especially for the occasion. The new work by Magnus Lindberg will be performed three times in New York and several times during the orchestra’s upcoming tour to Asia.

Update: Nico Muhly and "The Reader"

The soundtrack for "The Reader", music by Nico Muhly, has been released and available on Amazon. Zach Freeman wrote a review of the music here and says much the same thing about music as I did in my previous post. And Muhly delivers the goods. With a score consisting of roughly 50 minutes of stripped-down, “less is more” music, Muhly has created the kind of score that expresses passion and emotion with a relatively gentle and gentle delivery. The majority of the album seems to consist of a few strings and a piano. The back-to-back tracks “Go Back To Your Friends” (one of the longest of the album) and “Not What I Expected” (one of the shortest of the album) provide some of the most expressive bits of the album, pushing the strings into faster and more emotional rhythms, though most of the album is more subdued and contemplative. Muhly doesn’t seem to be one for excess, choosing instead to use a light collection of music to express heavy dramatic scenes. It’s an impressive ju…

Film Music: Defiance

James Newton Howard has a number of successes in film music, as a performer, orchestrator, score producer and composer. He collaborated on "Dark Knight", orchestrated "Unbreakable", composed the music for "The Village" and "Michael Clayton", and these are just a few of the hundreds of films he's worked on. His latest film score is that of "Defiance" staring Daniel Craig, a true story about three Russian Jewish Brothers who helped save hundreds from the holocaust living in the Belorussian woods during the war. Due to the subject matter, it's difficult not to compare the music with John's Williams "Schindler's List" (1993) which used a solo violin in a Klezmer style. Klezmer music is a Eastern European Jewish style of music which immediately creates the flavor of the culture. The solo violin laments over the top of the score, adding to the dark nature of the film. Occasionally the film has jocular moments, …

What is Folk Influence in Classical Music?

I don't consider myself a pianist (and neither does anyone who's heard me play), - but I do spend a fair amount of time at the piano working on my compositions, improvising themes, variations, counter melodies and chord progressions. Much of what I like is influenced by jazz musicians of the 60's, 70's and 80's, so improvising seems to be a natural extension of this style of music.My wife, Eddie Louise, grew up listening to Country music, and so her own particular style is influenced with more of a traditional folk feel. If you listen to our classical compositions you definitely get a sense of folk influences on Eddie's music, while mine tend toward jazz influences (as you might expect). Both of us also are influenced by classical music, Eddie tends to enjoy Mozart and Debussy as I veer toward Shostakovich. Our mutual love of Aaron Copland is one place where our classical sides mesh. His folk/Americana stylings appeal to my wife, for myself (like the jazz musi…

Economic Downturn hits Baltimore Symphony

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra laid off five of its 67 administrative employees and changed one full-time position to part-time yesterday in an effort to reduce expenditures. Those moves, along with a decision not to fill certain open staff positions, will save the BSO about $500,000."We can see that the economic downturn is going to be a lot more prolonged than we had expected," president/CEO Paul Meecham said. "We're trying to do everything we can to cut costs and raise money, without cutting quality onstage." The BSO has seen a decline in single-ticket sales and government grants this season. Meecham said smaller gifts of $500 or less are down about 30 percent from last year. And since Sept. 1, the orchestra's endowment has dropped 23 percent in value, to about $47 million. - according to Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun

Programmes for Howard Assembly Room at Opera North

There will be a ten day opening celebration for the new Howard Assembly Room. Some events are free. Tickets for all other events are £10. Attendance at all events, free or at £10, requires a ticket. Here is what's on for the first week.Friday 16 January, 5.30pm
Iannucci and Jones on ‘Skin Deep’
Free event only for Skin Deep ticket holders
Ahead of the world premiere of Skin Deep, award-winning writer and broadcaster Armando Iannucci (Knowing me, knowing you…with Alan Partridge, The Thick of It) in conversation with leading opera director Richard Jones, providing some insight to their creation of a satirical opera about cosmetic surgery. Saturday 17 January 8pm
Joanna MacGregor: Pictures at an Exhibition
Tickets £10
One of the world’s most wide-ranging, innovative and imaginative musicians, pianist Joanna MacGregor performs an eclectic programme that includes Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, six mazurkas by Chopin, six dances by Bartók and Bach’s French Suite no.5. Sunday …

New Opera House for Opera North, Leeds

photo by Richard MoranFor the first time in over twenty years, the culturally curious from Leeds and beyond will have the chance to experience the Howard Assembly Room and the adventurous and eclectic programme that is planned for it. From 16 January 2009 the much anticipated venue, the first to be run by Opera North, will showcase an international and diverse range of chamber-sized work including film, classical music, spoken word, world music, folk, jazz and music theatre based in the cool northern edge of the city. With much of the building restored to its original Grade II* listed Victorian splendour, The Howard Assembly Room marks the final phase in the restoration of Leeds Grand Theatre. The opening programme gives a taste of what’s in store for Leeds audiences.Highlights include:Joanna MacGregor: ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ – one of the world’s most wide ranging and innovative musicians makes a rare appearance in Leeds. I Fagiolini, Monteverdi: Flaming Heart - This internationa…

New Artistic Director/General Manager for New York City Opera

The Board of Directors of New York City Opera has announced the appointment of George Steel as the company's new General Manager and Artistic Director. Mr. Steel is expected to assume his responsibilities as of February 1, 2009.A respected, accomplished and innovative figure in the American performing arts, Mr. Steel is best known for his outstanding eleven-year tenure as Executive Director of the Miller Theatre at Columbia University, from 1997 to 2008. Under his leadership, the theater became known as one of New York City's leading showcases for early and modern music and multi-disciplinary programming."George Steel is both a brilliant artistic producer and a highly effective institution-builder," Susan Baker, Chairman of the City Opera Board, commented. "He is also someone with a deep commitment to the historic mission of New York City Opera, in both its adventurous programming and its dynamic educational initiatives and audience outreach. We are confident th…

Film Music: Igor

Patrick Doyle did the music for the animated film "Igor". He has credits for the music in a number of films, "Nim's Island", "Eragon" and even "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" although for that film he used themes by John Williams who had established the initial Harry Potter theme. He was nominated for an Oscar for both "Hamlet" (1996) and "Sense and Sensibility" (1995), so he is a respected composer in the industry.However, listening to the music in "Igor" you get the idea that much of the music was canned, pre-programmed for the scene rather like a laugh track. When the King's carriage is shown, there is a fanfare but nothing special. When the subject matter gets dark, the music sounds like it was pulled from any number of 50's style black and white horror films, or when there is a love interest the sappy music is sweet, but generic. While I was watching the film, before I researched the comp…