. Interchanging Idioms: February 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

JN Howard's I Would Plant A Tree Rooted in Film Music

Last Thursday, the Pacific Symphony performed a concert honoring "Hollywood's Golden Age." While there were pieces by Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Miklós Rósza, the concert also branched out into the music of today, giving a World Premiere of a piece written specifically for the occasion by James Newton Howard, I would plant a tree. Timothy Magnan, of the Orange County Register, gave this review of the new work:

"Tree" sounds like movie music. It is tonal and melodic and athletically rhythmic and highly decorative (the orchestration is for a large orchestra, including cimbasso, Wagner tubas and lots of trumpets and percussion, especially bells.) It sparkles and scintillates. At 20 minutes, it is also formally secure, describing an arch of beauteous simplicity and wonder through strenuous upheaval and back again. On the other hand, "Tree" sounds so much like other music that it is predictable and lacks a strong identity of its own. Still, the confidence and polish here is undeniable.

To be fair, Mr Magnan was not overly impressed with the concert as a whole. While he enjoys film music, he considers film music "function(s) as accompaniment to visual images (not to mention sound effects and dialogue), movie music, as an art form, is a supporting actor." He was pleasant about the performance of the orchestra, but in the end gave the feeling this sort of ncert doesn't really serve to belie the opinion that film music is somehow a lesser art form - not really enough bark on it's own to stand against the wind without the images of the film to support it.

Pacific Symphony * With: Timothy Landauer, cello; Raymond Kobler, cello; John-David Keller, narrator * Where: Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall * When: Feb. 26 * Next: 8 p.m. Feb. 27-28; 3 p.m. (partial program) March 1 * How much: $39-$185 * Online: www.pacificsymphony.org

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Performs Video Game Symphony
Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY, June 27

Arnie Roth to conduct; images from Final Fantasy series projected above the stage.

Baltimore, Md. (February 27, 2009)– Grammy award-winning conductor Arnie Roth (pictured)leads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY, by Japanese video game composer Nobuo Uematsu on Friday, June 27 at 8:00 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Celebrating the beloved music of Final Fantasy, the program will include compositions from games throughout the series, with video graphics from the popular game projected on a screen above the stage. See below for complete program information.

In the summer of 2008, the BSO performed Play! A Video Game Symphony, also under the direction of Arnie Roth, earning rave reviews and the gratitude of local gamers. This concert taps into that enthusiasm once again, bringing what critics include among the best orchestral works written for a video game. Featuring 13 favorite selections, such as “Aerith’s Theme” (VII), “Theme of Love” (IV) and “Vamo Alla Flamenco” (IX), with well known graphics from the Final Fantasy series projected on a large screen above the orchestra, this concert is an enveloping aural and visual treat for gamers and curious alike.

Many of the visual and music innovations such as realistic character models, full motion videos and orchestrated music were made popular by the Final Fantasy series. Owned by Square Enix, this wildly successful series is the fourth best-selling video game franchise, having sold over 85 million units over its 20 years of production. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is pleased to perform the East Coast debut concert of Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY.

Conductor Arnie Roth shares, “I am excited to be conducting Nobuo Uematsu's captivating music and to collaborate with him on Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY!”

Arnie Roth, conductor
A classically trained violinist, conductor, composer, producer and Grammy award-winning artist, Arnie Roth performs across a wide array of musical genres. Mr. Roth has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Hollywood Bowl Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony, Houston Symphony, BBC Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Winnipeg Symphony, Joffrey Ballet Orchestra, Ravinia Festival Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic and the Sydney Symphony.

Since 2004, Mr. Roth has brought critical acclaim to the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra as music director and principal conductor showcasing artists such as Michael Feinstein, Linda Elder, Art Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt, Wynonna Judd, Judy Collins, the Beach Boys and Johnny Mathis. Under his direction the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra appeared in a nationally broadcast PBS Special featuring The Irish Tenors. Mr. Roth has performed with a host of artists, including Il Divo, Diana Ross, Jewel, The Three Tenors, Charlotte Church, Josh Groban, Patrick Stewart, Branford Marsalis and Andrea Bocelli. He is also a long-time member of the Grammy award-winning group Mannheim Steamroller.

Mr. Roth was the music director and conductor of Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy, and PLAY! A Video Game Symphony, featuring music from blockbuster video games (such as Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and Battlefield 1942). Mr. Roth conducted PLAY! with many international orchestras including the National Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Singapore Symphony and Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Presents Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY
Friday, June 27 at 8:00 p.m. – Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

Arnie Roth, conductor
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Local choir, TBD

Tickets range from $30 to $68 and are available on March 2, 2009 through the BSO Ticket Office, 410.783.8000, 877.BSO.1444 or BSOmusic.org.

Darin Atwater, Soulful Symphony Cancel April Performances

The Sounds of Motown will be performed as scheduled in May 2009

(Baltimore, Md.) – The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra regrets to announce that Soulful Symphony, under the direction of Darin Atwater, will not be performing Soulful Sings, previously scheduled for April 3, 2009 at The Music Center at Strathmore and April 4, 2009 at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, due to the weak economy. The final Soulful Symphony concert of the season, The Sounds of Motown, will be performed as scheduled.

"It's unfortunate that the current economic downturn has affected us in this way,” says Darin Atwater, founder and artistic director of Soulful Symphony. “We are anticipating an exciting evening as we close the season with The Sounds of Motown. Our patrons are resilient and we will do everything possible to keep alive the wonderful performances they have come to love."

BSO Vice President and General Manager, Kendra Whitlock Ingram agrees, “We felt it best to focus all of our efforts on The Sounds of Motown, which, given current sales, is projected to sell out.”

Patrons who purchased tickets to Soulful Sings may exchange their tickets into another program, apply the face value of their ticket toward any upcoming 2008-2009 Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert, donate the value of their ticket as a charitable contribution or receive a full refund*. Patrons who purchased tickets to Soulful Sings might enjoy similar programs such as The Sounds of Motown (May 15 and 16, 2009) or BSO SuperPops concert Patti Austin: An Ella Fitzgerald Tribute (March 12-15, 2009).

Soulful Symphony will close its 2008-2009 season with The Sounds of Motown on Friday, May 15 at 8:00 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and Saturday, May 16 at 8:00 p.m. at The Music Center at Strathmore. The program features powerhouse vocalists and masterfully orchestrated hits by Motown greats like Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and The Supremes.

About Soulful Symphony
Founded in 2000 by composer and artistic director Darin Atwater, Soulful Symphony is dedicated to the preservation of African-American cultural expression and to the presentation of American vernacular music. Soulful Symphony is a repository for the exploration of diverse musical expressions: classical, jazz, gospel and popular forms capturing a universal language that gives all cultures common ground.

In 2004, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra forged an historic joint venture with Soulful Symphony, partnering with the organization to bring their unique brand of music to new and diverse audiences throughout Maryland. Since partnering with the BSO, Soulful Symphony has performed to sell-out houses at both the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore and the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda.

For a bit about Soulful Symphony on YouTube

To exchange your tickets, call the BSO Ticket Office, 410.783.8000 or 877.BSO.1444.

American Symphony Orchestra Plays Works by Composer William Grant Still

March 22 Concert at Lincoln Center Conducted by Leon Botstein

“Revisiting William Grant Still” Presents Still’s Remarkable Darker America, Africa, and Symphony No. 2
Complemented by Edgard Varèse’s Offrandes and George Whitefield Chadwick’s Rip Van Winkle Overture

The pioneering African-American composer William Grant Still (1895-1978)(pictured) ranks among the greatest composers born and educated in the United States , rivaled only by Leonard Bernstein in the variety of his output. On March 22 the American Symphony Orchestra celebrates his under-appreciated genius with its Lincoln Center concert “Revisiting William Grant Still”. Performing three of Still’s landmark compositions – Darker America, Africa, and Symphony No. 2 – along with works by two of his great influences, George Whitefield Chadwick (the concert overture Rip Van Winkle) and Edgard Varèse (Offrandes), the ASO acknowledges Still’s important position in musical and African-American history.

Often referred to as the dean of African-American composers, Still was the first African-American to conduct a major symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony of his own performed by a leading orchestra and the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company. Yet despite these achievements, concertgoers today know little about him and rarely encounter his works. True to its mission, the ASO seeks to redress that injustice with this program, which also poses questions about how race has impacted Still’s musical legacy. As the ASO’s Music Director Leon Botstein explains:

“When this concert … was scheduled a year and a half ago, those who were betting on who might be the next president of the United States gave Barack Obama very low odds. … Eminent African American composers of classical and concert music have been rare, just as the advent of an African American president is unique, at least for now. What connects the career of Barack Obama with that of William Grant Still is that they both defy the easy stereotypes we associate with race. … There is no uniformity in response to the world that the color of one’s skin renders inevitable. William Grant Still was an individual who crafted an individual voice … [and] his own vision of the African American heritage. In the end the promise of individuality and a respect for it commends democracy and freedom to us all.”

William Grant Still trained and worked with the finest teachers of his day to forge the sound of the “American Experience”, composing operas, symphonies, concertos, chamber music, art songs, film scores, and popular music. He was a Mississippian, raised in Little Rock , who studied at Wilberforce College and Oberlin, and later moved to New York to work for W.C. Handy. Catherine Parsons Smith notes in a program essay for this concert that Still sought out the influential George Whitefield Chadwick for composition instruction when Handy’s show moved to Boston , and after his return to New York he studied with Edgard Varèse. Varèse, although French, was very Americanized and “encouraged [Still’s] lyric gifts, introduced him to modernist scores, challenged him to experiment with form, programmed his music … and saw that he met conductors who would become his champions.” Although the modernist style influenced his earlier works, he eventually absorbed and integrated more of the popular African-American idiom into his compositions.

Darker America, written in 1924, comes from the compositional period Still himself labeled “Negroid”. In his own program note for the 1924 premiere under Eugene Goossens, the composer wrote: “Darker America is representative of the American Negro, and suggests triumph over sorrows through fervent prayer.” He had pulled away from the modernist influence Varèse had exercised and returned to traditional Black sources. Africa, the second of his works on the program, written in 1930, was designated “the Africa of my imagination” in a letter from Still to its first conductor, George Barrère. Ms. Smith’s essay again sheds light:

“As a man of the Harlem Renaissance, [Still] wanted to represent the ancestral and cultural connections of Black Americans. No wonder he struggled long and hard – for more than a decade – over Africa , and no wonder the work exudes aesthetic integrity even though Still never traveled to that continent.”

By the time he composed his Symphony No. 2, in 1936-7, Still had progressed to a more American view of the African-American aesthetic and he had achieved broader recognition; this work was first played by the Philadelphia Orchestra under its adventurous conductor Leopold Stokowski (founder of the American Symphony Orchestra). According to Ms. Smith, the Second Symphony’s “characteristically expansive, lyrical string writing seems specifically intended to exploit that orchestra’s famously silky string sound.”

William Grant Still’s early teacher, George Whitefield Chadwick, is often grouped with the pre-Ives generation of New England composers that included Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, Edward MacDowell, John Knowles Paine, and Horatio Parker. His influence as a teacher was perhaps greater than that as a composer, but, according by Byron Adams, who contributed a program essay for the ASO concert, he “possessed an intriguingly contradictory and complicated personality that was far from ordinary …[and] despite a limited formal education, rose to become the director of the New England Conservatory.” Chadwick admired both Brahms and Wagner with vigor, and wrote “Italianate operas [that] can best be described as ‘Yankee verismo’.” Alas, Chadwick possessed some of the usual Yankee fear of the influx of immigrants to the U.S. , particularly in the case of Jewish composers who might “dilute” American mores and values. Byron Adams states that Chadwick “nailed his American colors to the mast early … by composing the concert overture Rip Van Winkle in 1879 as his ‘graduation piece’ from the Leipzig Conservatory.” What better teacher might the young Still possibly have found on these shores?

Edgard Varèse was born in Paris in 1883 and studied there with D’Indy, Roussel, and Widor, among others. He moved to Berlin for its exciting musical scene, then emigrated to New York by 1915. He wanted, writes Byron Adams, “to immerse himself in the machine-driven radicalism of New York [where] he was exposed to jazz by the Mexican poet Jose Juan Tablada [author of one of the texts Varèse was to set in Offrandes] and was introduced to his future wife, Louise.” The composer himself described Offrandes as a “very small-scale piece, a purely intimate work”. The celebrated Russian soprano Nina Koshetz sang the first performance, in New York in 1922, a performance Adams describes as “an unqualified success with the (admittedly partisan) audience – the last unalloyed public acclaim that the composer was to enjoy for decades.”

Sunday, March 22, 3 pm
“Revisiting William Grant Still”
Leon Botstein conducts the American Symphony Orchestra
Avery Fisher Hall
George Whitefield Chadwick (1854-1931)
Rip Van Winkle Concert Overture (1879)
William Grant Still (1895-1978)
Darker America (1924)
Africa (1930)
Edgard Varèse (1883-1965)
Offrandes (1921), with Jennifer Rivera, Mezzo-Soprano
William Grant Still
Symphony No. 2 (1937)

Tickets start at just $28; call 212.868.9ASO (9276).
Group discounts available. All ticket sales are final.

Composer-in-Residence Richard Wilson will give an illuminating pre-concert talk at 1:45 pm in the auditorium of Avery Fisher Hall, free to ticket-holders.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Southbank (London) treated to the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra

Sounds Venezuela - The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall

Saturday 18 April 2009, 7.30pm

Gustavo Dudamel (pictured) conducts the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar (Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, Venezuela's youth orchestra) through Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a piece that shocked audiences when it was first performed, thanks to its intensely rhythmic score and complex musical techniques. The later half of the performance will have a Latin flavor with music from Venezuelan and Mexican composers.

Marshall Marcus, Head of Music for the Southbank Centre in London, said "They will sweep aside every preconception people have about classical music. Anyone who ever thought classical music was not for them - this is the one thing they should see. They demonstrate what we've perhaps been missing in Europe - musicians performing out of a sheer, goddam, unbridled desire to live the music."

The economist José Antonio Abreu established the orchestra on 12 February 1975 in an attempt to get the youth of Venezeula a chance to do something other than get involved with drugs, crime and gangs. The orchestra is under the auspices of Fundacion del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de las Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela, known colloquially as El Sistema. Based at the Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex in Caracas, it is considered the apex of the nation's system of 220 youth orchestras.

Saturday 18 April 2009, 7.30pm
Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
Antonio Estevez: Mediodia en el llano
Silvestre Revueltas: Sensemaya
Evencio Castellanos: Santa Cruz de Pacairigua

Gustavo Dudamel conductor

Tickets available online

The Phoenix Symphony Releases CD, Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio

CD Available in stores and online starting March 31

PHOENIX, AZ - The Phoenix Symphony is proud to announce the CD release of Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio on the Naxos label March 31 - the fifth recording for the Symphony and the first CD release since 1994. Recorded live during its sold out world premiere February 7, 2008 at Symphony Hall under the baton of Virginia G. Piper Music Director Michael Christie, the work represents the fusion of Navajo Culture with traditional orchestral art form.

In celebration of The Phoenix Symphony’s 60th Anniversary during the 2007-08 Season, the orchestra commissioned the work combining symphonic music with the traditions of the Southwest. The work for chorus, orchestra, and baritone soloist composed by Music Alive Composer-in-Residence Mark Grey explores a contemporary retelling of an ancient but timeless Navajo epic. Incorporating a libretto of Navajo and English-language text by Navajo librettist Laura Tohe, the world-premiere also included the digital artwork of photographer Deborah O’Grady as a visual backdrop to the music. The Oratorio also featured the talents of internationally-renowned baritone Scott Hendricks and the 120 voices of the all-volunteer Phoenix Symphony Chorus. Of its premiere, The Arizona Republic raved of the score as being “perfectly crafted, impeccably paced, beautifully scored.”

The compact disc will be released in North America on March 31 under catalogue number 8559604 and will be available for purchase through all major retailers and e-tailers as well as at the Phoenix Symphony Gift Shop during Symphony concerts at Symphony Hall.

Previous Phoenix Symphony recordings include releases on the Koch International Classics Label recorded under the direction of former Music Director James Sedares. The three recordings released between 1991 and 1994 include discs devoted to Aaron Copland, American composers Bernard Herrmann and William Schuman, as well as the Grammy-nominated recording of Elmer Bernstein’s score, The Magnificent Seven. An additional recording in 1993 under the New World Records label in collaboration with the Meet the Composer Orchestra Residency Series featured former Music Director James Sedares conducting the Second and Third Symphonies of American composer Daniel Asia.

About Music Alive Composer-in-Residence Mark Grey
Mark Grey is a musician and sound designer now living in Phoenix. Originally from San Francisco, Grey made his Carnegie Hall debut as a composer with Kronos Quartet in November 2003. His music has been performed in such venues as the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, Barbican Centre in London, Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam, Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, and Royce Hall in Los Angeles. As a sound designer, he has premiered several major works for composers John Adams, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Paul Dresher. He is an artistic collaborator, sound designer and soundscape engineer for John Adams’s critically acclaimed On the Transmigration of Souls, which received the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Music as well as three Grammy awards in 2005.

About Librettist Dr. Laura Tohe
Librettist Laura Tohe is Diné (Navajo). She was born in Fort Defiance, Arizona and is Tsénáhábiãnii (Sleepy Rock People clan) and born for the Tódich’inii (Bitter Water clan). Dr. Tohe is currently Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University. A poet and scholar, Tohe’s work has been published in the journals Ploughshares, New Letters, Calyx and others. Her chapbook of poetry, Making Friends with Water, has been translated into modern dance and music by The Moving Company in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1999 Dr. Tohe’s book of poetry, No Parole Today, was awarded Poetry of the Year by the Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers. She co-edited Sister Nations: Native American Women Writers on Community. Her new book, Tséyi’, Deep in the Rock, a book of poetry and photography by Stephen Strom, was listed as a 2005 Southwest Book of the Year.

About Baritone Scott Hendricks
Scott Hendricks, a native of San Antonio, Texas, has emerged as one today’s most versatile baritones. He is an alumnus of the prestigious Houston Grand Opera Studio, and is a recipient of a Richard Tucker Foundation Career Grant. A frequent guest of opera companies across the country, Mr. Hendricks has performed with Opera Colorado, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, San Francisco Opera, and Santa Fe Opera. Mr. Hendricks made his New York recital debut under the auspices of the prestigious Marilyn Horne Foundation and was an active member for many years. He also toured extensively with John Wustman as a soloist with the Complete Songs of Franz Schubert Recital Series. Scott has performed with the Gewandhaus Orchester in Leipzig, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Orchestra of St. Lukes, and maintains a close relationship with the Minnesota Orchestra.

About Music Director Michael Christie
Michael Christie begins his fourth season as the Virginia G. Piper Music Director of The Phoenix Symphony with the 2008-09 season. He also serves as Music Director of the Colorado Music Festival and of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. He has appeared with orchestras across the United States, Europe, and Canada, as well as with the Finnish National Opera, Queensland Opera, and Zürich Opera. In 1995, Mr. Christie was awarded a special prize at the First International Sibelius Conductor’s Competition. Following the competition, he became an apprentice conductor with the Chicago Symphony. Michael Christie graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music with a bachelor’s degree in trumpet performance. His conducting teachers have included Daniel Barenboim, Robert Spano, Eiji Oue, and Peter Jaffe.

About The Phoenix Symphony
The Phoenix Symphony has been proudly serving the citizens of the Phoenix metropolitan area and Arizona since 1947. What began as an occasional group of musicians performing a handful of concerts each year (in a city of fewer than 100,000 people) today serves more than 300,000 people annually, with 275 concerts and presentations throughout the greater Phoenix area and beyond.

North Carolina Symphony recording features Branford Marsalis

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Symphony has released its first commercial recording, but it's a jazz saxophonist, three-time Grammy winner Branford Marsalis, who gets top billing on the classical release. "American Spectrum," a four-work compact disc, features Marsalis the soloist on one performance and his quartet on another. And Marsalis has no airs when it comes to classical music, which he says requires more attention to detail than jazz.

"All the music we grow up with in our country, you can have certain little technical quirks or deficiencies, and you can just pass it off as part of your personal style," Classical music "is a different aesthetic completely."

Marsalis performs as a soloist on John Williams' "Escapades" and his quartet performs on Ned Rorem's "Lions (a Dream)." Because the jazz band leader had performed with the North Carolina Symphony in the past, symphony music director Grant Llewellyn knew what to expect. "As jazz musicians go, Branford ... not only reads music fluently, he is fascinated by the whole orchestral, symphonic scene," Llewellyn said.

The quartet musicians may not be as versed in classical music, he said, but are "such naturally smart, instinctive musicians that between us all, we could all end up on the same page." Marsalis, who moved with his wife and three children from New Rochelle, N.Y., to Durham in 2002, is a member of the symphony's Board of Trustees. Marsalis has come to relish the "adagio" in classical music, the slower movement in a piece. "I think because musicians are so obsessed with technical perfection, they spend a lot more time working on the fast bits," Marsalis said. "And the slow bits to me are where all the meat and bones are ... That's the part that affect people the most."

Besides two pieces with Marsalis, the symphony also plays "Sunset Strip" by Michael Daugherty and a 27-minute version of "Friandises" by Christopher Rouse. Llewellyn said the symphony easily could have recorded more typical classical fare such as Bach, but sought out more difficult works. That helped attract BIS Records in Stockholm, which is releasing the CD internationally. "I think it's very important for an orchestra of this caliber to be seen and heard on CD and not playing just anything," Llewellyn said. "In jazz, you might just have a chord sheet and everybody needs to know the changes and there is tremendous scope for improvisation," but for the CD, "we were dealing with a much more exacting process."

Symphony president David Chambliss Worters said he doesn't expect the CD, like many classical CDs, to be a moneymaker. But he said it will provide exposure for the symphony and "for changing people's perception about the quality of your organization." Two gifts covered the $170,000 costs of the CD. Worters said BIS was so pleased with results it is moving up the release of a second CD featuring piano concertos by Russian composers that should be out by year's end.

Guildhall School and Royal Academy of Music combine to play Beethoven's 9th

18 March 2009, 7.30pm, The Anvil, Basingstoke
20 March 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican Hall, London

Combined Orchestra of the Guildhall School and Royal Academy of Music
Combined Chorus of the Guildhall School, Royal Academy of Music and King’s College London Chamber Choir
The Anvil
Claire Rutter soprano
Charlotte Stephenson mezzo soprano
Thomas Hobbs tenor
David Stout bass
Barbican Hall
Claire Rutter soprano
Anne Mason mezzo soprano
Philip Langridge tenor
Alan Opie bass

Some of the best musicians currently studying in London perform Beethoven’s monumental final symphony. Sir Colin Davis is international Chair of Conducting Studies at both the Guildhall School and the Royal Academy of Music and both conservatoires are pleased to welcome back renowned alumni as soloists for these performances.

Alan Opie, Claire Rutter and David Stout: Guildhall School alumni
Thomas Hobbs, Philip Langridge, Anne Mason and Charlotte Stephenson: Royal Academy of Music alumni

The Guildhall School is provided by the City of London. www.gsmd.ac.uk

The Anvil: Reserved tickets £15, £10 (£5 concessions)
available from The Anvil box office: 01256 844244, box.office@theanvil.org.uk

BBC Galapagos Film competition submittion

Over the last week I've been in the process of creating and defining my MySpace page. As a result of this process I've been digging out some old material to post, films I've scored which I don't currently have posted anywhere.

Over a year ago, the BBC ran a contest to score a short BBC film clip. The clip was created from images of their Galapagos Island documentary. Scoring the images was an interesting project and, although I was not selected as the winning entry, I do like what I achieve. So, here it is - soon to be available on MySpace.

Doctor Atomic Explodes in London

With the rave reviews coming out of Chicago and New York, it is no surprise that the opera Doctor Atomic by John Adams is receiving the same sort of praise in London. Based on the life and memoirs of Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who built and tested the first atomic bomb in July 1945. It's three hours of thought provoking music and words and yet, not so much a history lesson as a look at our own situation of action and consequence.

Richard Morrison of the The Times (London) gave this review:

"There are fascinating vignettes (much of Peter Sellars’s libretto is drawn verbatim from memoirs) mingled with agonised soliloquies in which characters wrestle with their consciences. There is even a tender love scene in which Oppenheimer (the superb Gerald Finley) soothes the fears of Kitty, his increasingly unhinged wife (the luscious-voiced Sasha Cooke) with sensuous renditions of Baudelaire. ...as the atomic test draws near, Oppenheimer himself disintegrates, singing Donne’s sonnet Batter my Heart, Three-person'd God, an agonised cry for oblivion and a clean start which, of course, will never be possible. "

The opera is not a glimpse at history, even though the characters and events are historical; it is not a documentary, although much of the libretto is taken from Oppenheimers own memoirs. It is about Oppenheimer, but rather than a glimpse at historical events, Doctor Atomic probes into the mind set of the era, of the scientist and the morality of our actions. The music drives us to ask questions, from the subtle repetitions in the orchestra to the mind numbing ticking of the count-down clock and eventually to the recorded screams of horror. Edward Seckerson of The Independent had this to say:

There are two distinct kinds of music in Doctor Atomic: the busy, impatient, dryly kinetic music of scientific theory (and Adams harnesses his orchestra like a force of nature) and that which foreshadows and confronts the emotional consequences of the scientists’ actions. Oppenheimer found his refuge in poetry and in the intimate second scene of the opera with Kitty, his wife (Sasha Cooke, bravely negotiating the challenging vocal compass of the role) the heady poetry of Charles Baudelaire demands and gets an effusion of lyricism."

The music and libretto don't make this an easy opera to watch, but the subject matter isn't easy either. Befitting his world class statis, John Adams and his opera Doctor Atomic launch the London stage into a new way of thinking.

Doctor Atomic
February 28, March 5, 7, 11, 13, 16, 18 & 20 London Coliseum Tickets available online at: https://www.tickets.eno.org/show_events_list.asp - £15-84

John Adams' music is the focus of a Barbican Series next year. As part of the Focus, baritone Thomas Hampson and the New York Philharmonic, led by conductor Alan Gilbert, will perform Adams's The Wound-Dresser along with works by Haydn, Schubert, and Berg, on February 4, 2010; Emanuel Ax will give the UK premiere, on March 5, of a new work for solo piano written for him. On March 25, the St. Lawrence String Quartet will give the UK premiere of Adams's String Quartet, at LSO St. Luke's.

The composer will lead the London Symphony Orchestra in two concerts, one featuring the UK premiere of his revised Doctor Atomic Symphony on March 7, and the other the UK premiere of the new Los Angeles Philharmonic commission for Gustavo Dudamel, City Noir. In July 2010, the Barbican and Theatre Royal Stratford East will present a new production of his theatrical piece I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky on the main stage of Theatre Royal, reimagined from 1994 Los Angeles to 21st-century East London.

Osmo Vänskä leads the Minnesota Orchestra, but Joshua is the Bell of Barbican

Jennifer Taylor for The New York Times
Joshua Bell performed with the Minnesota Orchestra under the baton of Osmo Vänskä at the Barbican Centre Tuesday night, starting their European tour on solid ground. London is the first stop on a European tour for the Minnesota Orchestra, continueing on to Berlin, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Vienna. Osmo Vänskä lead the orchestra through a thrilling programme of Adams’s Slonimsky’s Earbox, Barber’s Violin Concerto and Beethoven's Eroica. With a sold out crowd, it was a stunning way to start the trip.

Both conductor and violist were praised for their performances, but it was Bell who won the night.Neil Fisher of The Times (London) wrote:

"America’s favourite preppy violinist was on ravishing form, offering sweetly sustained lyricism that never threatened to teeter into schmaltz. The reward for the audience’s ovations was a fiendish encore (Henri Vieuxtemps’ Souvenir d’Amérique) that flashed virtuosity in all the right ways."

Edward Seckerson of The Independent was equally as admiring of Bell.

"Joshua Bell played the Violin Concerto with rapt, confidential, beauty, slipping into the salon-like texture of the opening so unassumingly that he might easily have been just another member of the Minnesota string section. It was that awareness of his surroundings, that chamber music intuition, that made this performance so revealing. The virtuosic finale still sounds like an afterthought to me – a last ditch attempt to get some fireworks into the piece. Bell took those in his stride like a mischievous Puck gone bad."

Even with the star light shinning on Bell, Vänskä held his own with an exceptional performance. Martin Kettle of The Guardian wrote:

"As one would expect from the imaginative Osmo Vänskä, the Minnesota programme was exceptionally well constructed. John Adams's Slonimsky's Earbox, written for the Hallé in 1995 and a turning point in the composer's move away from minimalism, allowed the orchestra to display some pulsatingly loud virtuosity, though its most haunting passages are its rare moments of restraint.

"In the second half, Vänskä offered a fast, well-prepared account of Beethoven's Eroica symphony. The opening movement, tense and exciting, fared best, along with the finale. But in the funeral march, weight and tone were sacrificed for bite and momentum, and the interpretation slightly lost its way."

Neil Fisher's also spoke highly of Vänskä, "the Finnish conductor and his brilliant American orchestra punched, teased, charmed and thrilled their way through Beethoven’s Eroica symphony." With a grueling tour ahead of them, it's nice to see it start on such a high note.

Performances by the orchestra, most of them recordings, are being broadcast on BBC Radio 3 every night (or heard on the BBC's iPlayer), with each program hosted by Brian Newhouse of Minnesota Public Radio. Tuesday’s concert by the Minnesota Orchestra at London’s Barbican Centre will be re-broadcast Friday (Feb. 27) at 8 p.m. on MPR’s classical station, 99.5 FM.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Alan Gilbert Returns to Podiums of Boston Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Alan Gilbert’s first season as the new Music Director of the New York Philharmonic doesn’t begin until September 2009, but he’ll be back this spring to lead his hometown orchestra in two programs (Apr 30 – May 5 and May 7–9, respectively) that will include his first performance of a Mahler symphony with the orchestra as well as the world premiere of The World in Flower, a new work by composer Peter Lieberson, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic. Before those concerts, however, Gilbert will return to the podiums of several major orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Mar 5–10), Hamburg ’s NDR Symphony Orchestra (Mar 27–29), and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Apr 18 and 19). Before returning to New York , he will also make his debut with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (Mar 18–21).

In Boston , Gilbert will conduct Charles Ives’s haunting (and daunting) Symphony No. 4, which he conducted to great acclaim with the New York Philharmonic in June 2004. Alex Ross reported on the occasion for the New Yorker:

“After intermission [Gilbert] turned in a stupendous performance of the Ives Fourth. Often, this piece comes off as a kind of spring break for orchestra, oboes gone wild; … Gilbert made the notorious ‘Comedy’ movement into an overwhelming force of nature, almost scary in its progress. Then, in the fugal slow movement, he led with a hypnotic slow beat, at once liquid and exact. The strings sang out in endless intertwining lines, and emotion surged through the music. This man can conduct.”

Anne Midgette wrote presciently in the New York Times: “The Ives concert he led on Saturday night sounded fantastic. He leads with authority, energy, humor. And he seems to be on the way to a big career.”

With the Berlin Philharmonic, Gilbert will conduct an all-Czech program featuring Dvorák’s beloved Cello Concerto, with soloist Steven Isserlis, and Martinu’s deeply expressive Symphony No. 4. Gilbert led the Chicago Symphony in the latter work in February 2005, prompting veteran critic John von Rhein to write in the Chicago Tribune,

“This meaty neoclassical score abounds in memorable ideas, good-humored energy, and scoring that’s remarkably airy despite its size, including an athletic piano part. Gilbert and the orchestra gave back to the audience everything that is affirmative in this masterpiece.”

Gilbert first conducted the storied BPO in February 2006, substituting at the last minute for an indisposed Bernard Haitink. Klaus Geitel, the dean of German music critics, was on hand to give this glowing account in the Berliner Morgenpost:

“Only a month after his triumphant Berlin debut with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester in a glorious performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony in the Konzerthaus, Alan Gilbert … was on the podium again, this time in the Philharmonie and in front of the Berlin Philharmonic. … He is a bundle of energy who fully understands how to coax his orchestra into a real frenzy. The outer movements [of Schumann’s First Symphony] swell in his hands right up to their gigantic releases. But he also proves to be a master of delicate nuances. The larghetto was absolutely poetic – dying away as if breathing its last … Gilbert is the name of the man on the podium, and we hope he’ll come back to Berlin again soon. He is absolutely aquiver with musicality and a clear view of his goal, but he’s self-contained, not nervous or high-strung, and not flashy. He knows exactly which way he wants to take the music. And that’s the way music works: anyone who doesn’t know what’s at the end can’t find the way there. Gilbert never takes his eye off it, and all his passion never distracts him from that goal. His gestures are extremely clear and his body-language speaks volumes, especially the musical language of the score in front of him. He is the embodiment of a conducting ‘event.’”
Alan Gilbert – highlights of upcoming engagements

March 5, 6, 7, and 10 ( Boston , MA )
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Sibelius: Night Ride and Sunrise
Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini(with Stephen Hough)
Ives: Symphony No. 4

March 18, 19, 20, and 21 ( Vienna , Austria )
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Beethoven: “Coriolan” Overture
Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 2 (with Heinrich Schiff)
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

March 27–29 ( Hamburg [Mar 27 and 29] and Kiel [Mar 28], Germany )
NDR Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg
Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, Suites 1 and 2
Debussy: Three Nocturnes
Program includes Messiaen: Poèmes pour Mi (Mar 27 and 29) Haydn: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in C major (with Roland Greutter – Mar 28)

April 18 and 19 ( Berlin , Germany )
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Dvorák: Cello Concerto (with Steven Isserlis)
Martinu: Symphony No. 4

April 30, May 1, 2, and 5 ( New York , NY )
New York Philharmonic
Dvorák: The Golden Spinning Wheel
Saint-Saëns: Violin Concerto No. 3 (with Joshua Bell) Martinu: Symphony No. 4

May 7–9 ( New York , NY )
New York Philharmonic
Mahler: Blumine
Lieberson: The World in Flower (world premiere)
    New York Philharmonic commission with:
      Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano
      Russell Braun, baritone
      and the New York Choral Artists
Mahler: Symphony No. 1

For additional information visit Alan Gilbert’s new web site: www.alangilbert.com.

Valery Gergiev conducts Dutilleux’s Tout un monde lointain and Wagner’s Parsifal Act III

Thursday 12 March 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican

DUTILLEUX Tout un monde lointain
WAGNER Parsifal (Act III)

Valery Gergiev conductor (pictured)
Tim Hugh cello
Sergey Semishkur Parsifal
René Pape Gurnemanz
Evgeny Nitkin Amfortas
London Symphony Chorus
Sponsored by Canon Europe

The great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich commissioned Henri Dutilleux to write Tout un monde lointain, now an important work in the cello repertoire. Rostropovich gave the world premiere at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in July 1970.

Following his success at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, LSO Principal Cellist Tim Hugh has enjoyed an international career as soloist while maintaining his position with the LSO. He has worked as soloist with many of the great conductors including Previn, Haitink, Sir Colin Davis, Sir Andrew Davis, Rostropovich, Menuhin, Harding, Xavier-Roth, Chung and Tortelier. His recordings of Brahms Double and Beethoven Triple with the LSO, Bernard Haitink, Gordan Nikolitch and Lars Vogt are released by LSO Live.

The final act of Wagner’s final opera, written in 1882, concludes an epic tale about the knights of the holy grail, which culminates at Easter. After years of desolation, the orphan and holy fool Parsifal brings absolution to the knights and their wounded leader Amfortas. As a messianic allegory of sin, redemption and deep compassion, the opera still causes regular controversy – but audiences are swept up by its musical mysticism, its weave of sacred and profane.

Born in Kirov, tenor Sergey Semishkur graduated from the Nizhny-Novgorod State Glinka Conservatoire in 2003. He joined the Mariinksy Academy of Young Singers as a soloist and was a prize-winner at the International Lisitsian Competition that same year. He has been a Mariinsky Theatre Soloist since 2007.

René Pape is one of the leading international basses of the younger generation and has performed in all the major opera houses in Europe, Japan and at the Metropolitan New York. He made his debut at the Berlin State Opera in 1998 whilst still a student and has been a member of the Company ever since.

Valery Gergiev has been Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra since January 2007 and has recorded the complete Mahler Symphony Cycle for release on LSO Live. Maestro Gergiev is also Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre and Conductor of the World Orchestra for Peace (founded by Sir Georg Solti in 1995). He is Founder and Artistic Director of the Stars of the White Nights Festival, the Moscow Easter Festival, the Gergiev Rotterdam Festival, the Mikkeli International Festival, the Red Sea Festival and the New Horizons Festival, the latter of which is a contemporary music festival in the Mariinsky Theatre’s new Concert Hall.

Artist Conversation with Valery Gergiev, 12 March 2009, 4pm-5.30pm, LSO St Luke’s LSO Principal Conductor Valery Gergiev discusses his Émigré series, which looks at the effect on the work of composers forced to leave their homeland, including Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Stravinsky. Tickets are free but booking is essential. To book please call the Barbican Box Office on 020 7638 8891. Supported by The Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Tickets to Barbican concerts: £7 - £32 Secure online booking at
    lso.co.uk (£1.50 booking fee)
Box office: 020 7638 8891
    open 9am – 8pm Mon-Sat
    11am – 8pm Sun (£2.50 booking fee)
In person at the Advance Box Office in the Barbican centre
    (Mon-Sat 9am – 9pm; Sun 12pm – 9pm)

Moving on the Web: Music, Video and Networking

For the past few months I've been providing links to the various artist's sites when they are mentioned in articles I'm posting. I'm not terribly consistent in providing links for every one, but I try to include any I can find. It amazes me how many artists, performing at the professional level, do not have a personal website, a MySpace page or biographical information dedicated to their career. Many artists are listed with their agency (IMGArtists does a nice job of create a bio page for all the artist they represent), but this isn't quite the same as a personal webpage.

I know I, too, am lacking a website, but since my career is just beginning, I'm not sure how many people would be looking for my presence on the web. A website is really only good if people are trying to find you. It doesn't really promote you like a newspaper or magazine article does (as a website doesn't go into peoples homes; people have to go looking for it). Still, if you're a professional artist, people are going to be looking for you. Therefore, a website would be a great way to gather a lot of information about yourself, other projects you're involved with they may not know about and promote yourself even further to those that have sought you out.

On the flip side, there are websites artists use which do promote you and your work. Facebook is one that gets a fair amount of attention, but MySpace is designed to aid artists in getting new fans. Active fans can assist in promoting artists they like by linking in music and videos to their own pages. It does more than a personal website, it generates interest.

I'm not sure why I've been so slow, but I am just now getting a MySpace page setup and functional - http://www.myspace.com/Chip_Michael. My daughter has been trying to get me to create a presence on MySpace as "all the top artists have MySpace pages, Dad." You'd think, coming from an Internet/software development background that I'd be way into getting setup with all the various Internet networking sites. Somehow, I've been a bit focused on writing music (and this blog).

Anyway, the site is up. One of the nice features of MySpace is the ability to post both music and video. So, there are links to players for some of music - at least the music I've created mp3 players for, and there are videos of some of the films I've written music for. This is (IMHO) one of the best features as it's a good way to get a glimpse at what I've done.

However, having said that I find that my musical style has changed pretty dramatically over the years. One of my earliest projects was "Silly Games." While I still enjoy the jazz trio sound through most of the film, I "Micky Mouse" the cues a bit much. "Complacency" is an animation that I really enjoy and although I tend to tag the action a bit in this film, too, it's an animation and can support it. "Moving Targets" is probably the most ambitious of the films. I really tried to orchestrate the score all the way through as there is no dialog. All in all, they are good examples of my progress in film score writing.

Another aspect of MySpace is the linking of friends. So far my list is pretty small, but I just started the page this weekend. Maybe, if you're reading this page, you can link in and add me to your friend list (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Or you could comment on the music or videos I have posted.

I also have a Facebook and a LinkedIn. They've been up for a while and doing well in terms of contacts and network. Adding MySpace is just trying to leverage another aspect of the Internet.

Next up a website...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

World-Premiere Recording of Virtually-Unknown Vivaldi Opera La Fida Ninfa

all-star cast including Sandrine Piau, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, and Philippe Jaroussky led by Jean-Christophe Spinosi

Antonio Vivaldi: La fida ninfa
Lorenzo Regazzo, Veronica Cangemi, Philippe Jaroussky, Sandrine Piau, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Topi Lehtipuu, and Sara Mingardo
Ensemble Matheus / Jean-Christophe Spinosi
CD and downloads available February 24 from naïve
The [Ensemble Matheus] gives a crisp and exciting performance under the direction of Jean-Christophe Spinosi … . Vivaldi’s delectable arias, with their unexpected curves, jagged, irregular phrases, and gleaming string colors, reflect the seductive light and rhythm of Venice, his water-ringed home town.
– New Yorker review of Spinosi’s recording of Griselda

Jean-Christophe Spinosi leads his Ensemble Matheus with an all-star cast in the world-premiere recording of Antonio Vivaldi’s La fida ninfa, which was originally premiered during the Verona carnival of 1732 at the Teatro Filarmonico. The work was composed to help celebrate the opening of the theater, which had been postponed for two years because the city had been surrounded by foreign troops. The production was spectacular, and included elaborate dances by Andrea Cattani, a famous ballet master from Poland , as well as sumptuous sets by Francesco Bibiena. The story concerns the fate of two long-lost brothers who had been kidnapped, one after the other, in their youth, and brought to the island of Naxos , the stronghold of the pirate Oralto.

This new release from naïve, recorded after a highly-successful European tour by the featured artists, is the ninth opera to be issued in the label’s landmark Vivaldi Edition, a project launched in 2000 with the aim of recording the massive collection of Vivaldi autograph manuscripts preserved today in the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria in Turin . The collection includes 15 operas and several hundred concertos, as well as sacred compositions and secular cantatas, most of which have not been heard since the 18th century. La fida ninfa is the fourth opera in the series to be performed by Ensemble Matheus under the direction of Jean-Christophe Spinosi. The previous three, Griselda, Orlando furioso, and La verità in cimento, have received many international accolades.

Among the cast on the new recording are three remarkable singers who sang on Spinosi’s recording of Griselda, which won a 2007 BBC Music Magazine Award: Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto), Veronica Cangemi (soprano), and Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor). ClassicsToday.com gave the album its highest rating, 10/10 for Artistic Quality and Sound Quality, summarizing the performances of Spinosi and the three singers as follows:

“This performance is sublime. Jean-Christophe Spinosi leads a dramatically taut reading, with his period-instrument Ensemble Matheus underpinning the vocal theatrics with snap and a huge range of dynamics all its own … Marie-Nicole Lemieux has a simply beautiful voice, its darkish timbre ideal for Griselda’s humility, sadness, and, when needed, vitriol … . Veronica Cangemi’s lovely soprano is marvelously used throughout … . Philippe Jaroussky’s countertenor Roberto … is well-formed and beautifully sung; he can caress a vocal line with great tenderness.”

Other cast members on La fida ninfa include Sandrine Piau (soprano), Lorenzo Regazzo (bass), Topi Lehtipuu (tenor), Sara Mingardo (contralto), and Christian Senn (bass-baritone).

Michael Quinn of the BBC gives a glowing review of this CD here stating:

Vocal performances are above and beyond the call of duty, with especially agile and vivid contributions from sopranos Sandrine Piau (Licori) and Verónica Cangemi (Morasto), countertenor Philippe Jaroussky (Osmino) and tenor Topi Lehtippu (Narete) altogether outstanding.The playing, from Spinosi's own period-instrument Ensemble Matheus is fresh and vital, fizzing with energy and bursting with exuberant colour, their begetter conducting with incisive winning conviction.

Five:15 Returns - Scottish Opera & Five 15 min Operas

Following the overwhelming success of Five:15 in 2008, Scottish Opera returns with a brand new set of five, specially commissioned, fifteen-minute operas from Scottish writers and composers.

"The whole project was ingenious"
The Herald, March 2008

"I came away from Five:15 thrilled, stimulated and, yes, moved"
Financial Times, March 2008

The first performances happened this last weekend in Glasgow with strong reviews. Sarah Urwin Jones of TimesOnline wrote:

Two short-story adaptations opened the night, with varying success. Where the librettist and lecturer Amy Parker's take on Herman Melville's The Lightning Rod Man, an all-American allegory, is florid and a little dated, David Fennessy and Nicholas Bone's clean adaptation of Peter Carey's Happy Story fades alluringly in and out of introspection, despite the ultimately daft decision to work in five scene changes in 15 minutes.

...the most successful offering of the night, Remembrance Day, written by the crime writer Louise Welsh, author of The Cutting Room. She takes up the Ian Rankin operatic crime spree ticket with a decidedly nasty, rather uneven libretto about two geriatric killers rekindling love's youthful fire over the body of their vacuous young cleaner. Approached with darkly mischievous glee by the composer Stuart McRae, there are some delightful moments of musical play, as McRae interleaves the cleaner's tuneless humming or the strains of an old LP over the relentless orchestral score.

The Lightning Rod Man
Music: Dr Martin Dixon Words: Amy Parker
Based on the original story by Herman Melville
Director: Frederic Wake-Walker
A door-to-door lightning rod salesman, preying on peopleís fears, meets a sceptical customer who is having none of his hocus-pocus.

Death of a Scientist
Music: John Harris Words: Zinnie Harris
Director: Michael McCarthy
A man in crisis stands on the edge, not knowing which way to jump. Either way his life as he knows it is over, but should he stay around to face the consequences?

Music: Gareth Williams Words: Margaret McCartney
Director: Frederic Wake-Walker
An outsider finds herself drawn into a world of sadness but is unable to ease the suffering around her by sharing her own experiences. Can a stranger help during the most difficult times or should your grief remain your own?

Remembrance Day
Music: Stuart MacRae Words: Louise Welsh
Director: Michael McCarthy
A young girl cleaning her elderly neighbourís house puts on an old LP, but the music rekindles memories from the old coupleís past, unleashing horrific consequences.

Happy Story
Music: David Fennessy Adaptation: David Fennessy & Nicholas Bone
Based on the original short story by Peter Carey
Director: Nicholas Bone
A man and a woman learn that to be happy, they must dream together. All he wants to do is fly - what should she do other than fly with him?

(Shows at 3.30pm and 7.30pm)

The Hub, Edinburgh
Sat 7 March • Sun 8 March

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Approach to a Classical Instrument

There is an article by Zack McMillin in Commercial Appeal, an online paper in Memphis, which talks about violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR). I love finding gems like this because it gives me an opportunity to listen to, to discover someone news in the industry - and potentially hear new sounds. DBR is all about new sounds.

He was named one of "The New Faces of Classical Music" in the May 2008 issue of Esquire Magazine. In February 2008, he was featured Interview Magazine as one of the most "Notable Harlemites" alongside Marcia Gay Harden and others. He appears in the November 2008 issue of ZINK magazine in the article "The Perfect Score." MUSO Magazine, Vanderbilt Magazine, New York Radio WNYC have all feature DBR as well. He's making noise of all the right kinds.

Listening to his Voodoo Violin Concerto (below) he is looking at the orchestra and violin and the way they make music in new ways. He starts the performance playing the violin like a mandolin and yet when he does put it under his chin, the music is still unique and rich. There are definitely influences of Cajun rhythms and harmonies, but taken to the next level (maybe three or four levels). The use of percussion, new techniques and yet very tonally based music is exciting to listen to.

This is the sort of direction I want to take my own music - driving rhythms influenced by various folk music elements (I consider rock, jazz and urban modern folk music) which really gets the heart pumping and is entirely classically composed. I'm not quite there with either the string quartet or the violin concerto, but I hope you can hear similarities (see side bar). My music is not quite adventurous enough - after listening to DBR, I think my next piece will be.

Pacific Symphony's Ninth American Composers Festival Explores The Composers And Music That Belonged To "Hollywood's Golden Age"

Orange County, Calif. — Dec. 20 — This season, Pacific Symphony's 2009 American Composers Festival (ACF) looks at the differences between composing for concerts and composing for film and how the two styles have evolved into what we hear today—all the while celebrating the art of film music, past and present. This ACF is particularly relevant, considering that film music has been an integral part of Southern California culture since the inception of the movie industry; plus, it has strong connections to the world of "classical" concert music. Once disregarded by the modernist school of composition, film music has now come into its own as a fully recognized art form. And, of course, this recognition is not just academic. Millions of filmgoers have been exposed to—and delighted by—orchestral music through the movies. For tickets or more information on the ACF, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org/ACF.

"Hollywood's Golden Age," led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, revisits a unique period in our country when a number of refugee composers fled to the United States from a turbulent Europe and found Hollywood not only receptive, but hungry for their work.

While some might argue the point, the period best known as the "Golden Age of Hollywood" occupied the first half of the 20th century—and was both glamorous and prosperous for the movie industry and those associated with it. The festival explores that period through the present by focusing on a handful of composers, including golden-era figures Miklós Rozsa and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, both established European concert/opera composers who transformed themselves into Hollywood composers. And Bernard Herrmann, an American radio/film composer who also produced concert works, was the embattled genius behind Alfred Hitchcock's finest scores.

The stories of these three individuals are contrasted against modern day masters James Newton Howard, a seven-time Oscar nominee whose list of films reads like an endless list of contemporary big-screen hits, including "Michael Clayton," "The Fugitive" and "The Dark Knight" (with composer Hans Zimmer) and Paul Chihara, who wrote the music for such films as "Crossing Delancey" and "Prince of the City." "One of the special features of our ‘Hollywood' festival is the opportunity to present composers who straddle two different worlds," says Maestro St.Clair. "I think people will be surprised to find that the composers' concert music isn't all that different from their unforgettable film scores. Plus, we'll be discovering new pieces—all of which I'll be conducting for the first time—that need to be heard." Joseph Horowitz, the Symphony's artistic advisor, continues to serve as host and ACF advisor, as he has done since the festival's inception in 2000—showcasing each year a different facet of American music.

The Festival's Programming
The festival kicks off with a special event featuring composer Howard — details TBA! ACF continues on Feb. 26-28, 2009, with "Hollywood's Golden Age" — a concert led by St.Clair and featuring music by Herrmann, Rozsa, Korngold and Howard, spotlighting performances by Concertmaster Raymond Kobler and Principal Cellist Timothy Landauer. The program examines the difference between the two genres: composing for film and composing for classical music in the concert hall. A pre-concert discussion includes Horowitz and Howard.

The program includes "I Would Plant a Tree," a world premiere by Howard that is also his first major concert work for orchestra;; the West Coast premiere of Herrmann's "The City of Brass," melodrama for radio (with narrator), and Herrmann's Suite from the Hitchcock film "Vertigo" (Prelude, Nightmare and Love Scene); Korngold's Theme and Variations from the film "King's Row" (with film clip); and Herrmann's Scherzo from Symphony in F-sharp; Rozsa's Theme and Variations for Violin, Cello and Orchestra; and Rozsa's Parade of the Charioteers from "Ben-Hur." On Sunday, March 1, 2009, at 3 p.m., "Classical Connections: Hollywood Haven" led by St.Clair, features Kobler and Landauer returning to perform music selected from repertoire featured in "Hollywood's Golden Age." For this afternoon event Maestro St.Clair probes beneath the surface and offers insight into the composers and the music.

And on Monday, March 2, at 8 p.m., in the Samueli Theater, the festival concludes with "Cinema to Symphony: How Movies Become Music," spotlighting the festival's composer-in-residence Paul Chihara. This multimedia performance includes film clips and discussion by Horowitz and Chihara. The program includes Korngold's Five Songs from the film "Sea Hawk," Chihara's "Minidoka" adapted from the film "Farewell to Manzanar," Herrmann's Clarinet Quintet, from Hitchcock's "Vertigo," and Rozsa's "Toccata Capriccioso" for solo cello, a rarely heard showpiece with Hungarian flair.

The "Golden Age" composers
Korngold (1897-1957) arrived in America from Vienna, one of a number of immigrants who would become important Hollywood composers. He was already as famous and established abroad as Stravinsky or Schoenberg—and upon arriving in Hollywood in 1934, his fame continued. In fact, no other screen composer was as successful or prestigious; he scored 21 American films and enjoyed the privileges of a pampered star. Korngold was grateful to the United States for rescuing him from Hitler and more specifically to Hollywood for the creative opportunities it offered. But after the war, he felt the need to retire from film music, reverting to composing for the concert hall—and proceeded to embed pieces of his film scores into classical works. He also yearned to return to opera, which for him seemed no different than composing for film. His other great desire was to return to Vienna—but unfortunately, the country had by then lost interest in him.

Like Korngold, the Hungarian Rozsa (1907-1995) arrived in Hollywood with a solid European concert reputation. Both composers were drawn to film in America because they needed to make a living and the United States was less receptive to contemporary operas and symphonies than Berlin, Budapest or Vienna. Like Herrmann, Rozsa felt split between two musical worlds. In Hollywood, he scored 97 films and won three Academy Awards—but his summers were reserved for concert composition abroad. In his 1983 autobiography, "Double Life," he examined what would have become of him if had not been drawn into cinema.

"Materially, certainly, I would have been greatly the poorer; and when I look at the careers of many of my Leipzig colleagues—gray, unfulfilled, limited lives lived out for the most part amid humdrum provincial and academic surroundings—I feel grateful for the challenges and excitement offered me by my work in a complex, unpredictable, often exasperating but always vital medium." He was less certain about whether it affected the course of his musical development in a crucial way. "I have no time for any music which does not stimulate pleasure in life, and even more importantly, pride in life," Rozsa once said.

Another composer, Herrmann, an American and a contemporary of Korngold and Rozsa, began as a radio composer, migrating to film and only marginally composing. Born in 1911 and dying in 1975, Herrmann scored 51 films, including "Citizen Kane" in 1941, "Vertigo" in 1958, "North by Northwest" in 1959 and "Psycho" in 1960. And yet, his relationship with Hollywood was not a happy one. He fought with directors and studio heads, and while he defended film music when it was slighted, he sought recognition as a concert composer in the midst of his peak success in film.

The actor/producer John Houseman once recalled Herrmann as "consumed with rage and envy and malice and hatred....you couldn't spend an evening with Benny without his spending half of it in terrible diatribe about one of the young musicians who'd gotten a job."

In 1948, Herrmann proclaimed: "I will never do a movie again... I now understand that it was the movie that exhausted me and sapped my strength. I sincerely hope that I will never see Hollywood as long as I live." Of course, he did see Hollywood again, and began some of his legendary collaborations in the 1950s through the 1970s.

The Living Composers
James Newton Howard — one of the two ACF composers-in-residence—whose "I Would Plant a Tree" makes its world premiere at the festival—is one of the foremost film composers of his generation. Throughout his prolific career he has scored films of all scales and genres, earning multiple award nominations for his work. Born in Los Angeles in 1951, Howard grew up in a family that fostered training in classical music. He began studying music as a small child and later majored in piano performance at the University of Southern California. After college, he toured with Elton John as a keyboardist during the late 1970s/early '80s before moving into film music.

"Few film composers today write symphonic film scores so compellingly, with such a keen sense of orchestral affect and musical shape," says music historian Christopher Reynolds. "Howard's film career shows a trajectory from keyboard to symphony, from pop and rock styles of his friend and employer Elton John to sounds influenced by the classical scores of Bartok and Stravinsky."

By the 1990s, Howard's career took off, scoring the film "Pretty Woman" and receiving his first Academy Award nomination for "The Prince of Tides." His skills encompassed a plethora of genres, including four more best original score Oscar nominations for "The Fugitive," "My Best Friend's Wedding," M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village," (in fact, he has scored all of Shyamalan's suspense thrillers), and most recently, "Michael Clayton." In addition, Howard scored "Wyatt Earp," "Waterworld," "Primal Fear" and "King Kong," which earned a Golden Globe nomination. He has also collaborated on the score for "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." Some of his most recent works are "Blood Diamond," "I am Legend" and "Charlie Wilson's War." Additionally, he has contributed music for television, earning an Emmy nomination for "ER." The list goes on.

"A distinguishing feature of my musical style, I would say, is the blend of classical influences with contemporary electronic music," says Howard. "Unfortunately, the technology has allowed for the creation of a lot of second-rate music. In my opinion, film music is definitely a receding art form—mediocre scores can garner a lot of attention. There are many opportunities to write a score with the scope of ‘Vertigo.' I go after these opportunities." "Howard's scores are among the most remarkable currently being composed in Hollywood," says St.Clair. "I was thrilled to discover how excited he is about composing his first symphonic work. He has obviously taken his commission very seriously."

Chihara — ACF's other composer-in-residence — also represents the next evolution of film composers. And interestingly, like many of his predecessors, he was a refugee. Horowitz explains Chihara's inclusion in ACF like this: "If Erich Korngold viewed composing for the concert hall and composing for film as one and the same; if Bernard Herrmann questioned his stature as a composer because he mainly wrote for film; and if Miklos Rozsa experienced a ‘double life,' then Chihara's creative odyssey is one in which a double life in film and concert music conflated to a single life conditioned by a new aesthetic age."

Chihara, who is head of the visual media program at UCLA, was born in Seattle in 1938, and is known as both a composer of concert music and film/television music. He was recently named Composer of the Year by the Classical Recording Foundation (CRF), and he has composed scores for more than 100 motion pictures, including "The Morning After," as well as for television. He is also a prolific concert composer. Chihara's 1996 chamber work, "Minidoka," which is being performed as part of the ACF, incorporates musical materials that originate in his film score for the 1974 television film "Farewell to Manzanar." Based on a true story, the film narrates the ordeal of a Japanese-American family compelled to spend World War II in an internment camp—something he knows about personally.

"I was 4 years old when our family was relocated in the spring of 1942," says Chihara. "My father was taken first, and sent to some camp... My remembrances of the succeeding three years were the reverse of my parents—to whom it was heartache, terror, rage and humiliation. For us kids it was an adventure."

Goals and Aspirations
Each year, Pacific Symphony explores a different facet of American music through the ACF. Since 2000, the festival has featured composers from Aaron Copland to Ana Lara and artists from Yo-Yo Ma to Stephen Scott's Bowed Piano Ensemble. By examining this diverse musical heritage, the Symphony points a microscope at who we are as a culture, where we've been, and where we are going—some of the most important questions that music can raise.

Sponsors for ACF include Narratus Solution, American Express, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and Meet The Composer/MetlLife Creative Connections.

British Violinist Daniel Hope Returns to U.S. for February Concert

Performances at NYC’s Alice Tully Hall and Savannah Music Festival

Hope’s New Vivaldi Concertos Album for DG, Released This Month in U.S. , Is Gramophone “Editor’s Choice”

Daniel Hope’s three-concert residency this season with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMSLC) culminates on February 27 at the newly-reopened Alice Tully Hall, with the U.S. premiere of a special project that he himself conceived. The program, “War and Pieces”, is a concert blending military-themed music with poetry and texts about war and peace, including Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale in a new translation by Paul Griffiths. Hope commissioned the young German composer Jan Müller-Wieland to transcribe Beethoven’s Egmont Overture for the same jazz/cabaret-style instrumentation as the Stravinsky work. Beethoven’s overture is linked to a recitation of “Long Live War!”, a monologue from Goethe’s Egmont, to be performed by Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer (Mephisto, Out of Africa) who will also feature as narrator of The Soldier’s Tale. Hope has worked with Brandauer and other acclaimed actors – including Mia Farrow – on a number of conceptual projects (“An Audience with Beethoven” and “Dietrich Bonhoeffer – someone had to do something” among them), with the violinist placing live music performance in the context of semi-staged, theatrical readings.

Following a performance of “War and Pieces” in Germany last spring, the Wolfsburger Nachrichten reported:

“Armed with reason and emotion in equal measure, they used music and text to create deep understanding while they explored the limits and plumbed the depths of art. Brandauer and Hope demanded a lot from the audience in their version of Stravinsky’s Histore du Soldat – and they earned it. They forged every bit of their commitment and talent into a compelling weapon. There’s nothing new to the idea that Daniel Hope is a great violinist, nor that he was born to exemplify Stravinsky’s inspirational concept: during the introduction he and his instrument move about as one – visibly, audibly, consummately. … Brandauer is such a powerful actor that he matched all seven musicians eye for eye. He stared blankly into the audience, gave a quick snap of his fingers, a blink, and one quiet word before he took on the roles of Speaker, Soldier, and Devil – by the end the audience was apparently so shocked by the stillness after the storm that it paused for a few seconds that felt like minutes before the concentrated power of the evening exploded into a storm of applause and a standing ovation.”

Hope’s previous work with the CMSLC this season included a master class at the Rose Theater and a performance of an all-French program that included Messiaen’s transcendent Quartet for the End of Time and music by Boulez, Milhaud, and Ravel. The New York Times praised Hope’s “impassioned and virtuosic performance of Ravel’s Tzigane, his gypsy rhapsodizing spiraling into a frenzied whirl at the work’s conclusion.” The New York Times also selected the Messiaen performance as one of the most impressive of 2008.

Earlier this month (Feb 3), Hope’s new recording of Violin Concertos by Antonio Vivaldi was released in the U.S. on the Deutsche Grammophon label –for which he records exclusively – after receiving superb reviews across the Atlantic , including a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” citation. The new album, described by Gramophone as “Out-of-Season Vivaldi delivered with a winning blend of love and intelligence,” also features an exquisite aria from the opera Andromeda liberata, sung by Anne Sofie von Otter. Hope considers all of the concertos on the recording to be “as good as any in The Four Seasons.” His energetic back-up band on the new release is once again the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, with which Hope began his exclusive relationship with DG last season in the world-premiere recording of the original version of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and a revised version of the composer’s irresistible Octet for Strings. In celebration of the bicentennial of the composer’s birth, the New York Times recently included the album in a round-up of top Mendelssohn recordings. Alex Ross also praised the album in his recent Mendelssohn feature for the New Yorker: "Mendelssohn is thriving in other hands. The violinist Daniel Hope and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe recently made a bold, stylish recording of the Violin Concerto, alongside one of the finest modern accounts of the Octet."

Hope will return to the U.S. again early in the spring for another season as Associate Artistic Director at the Savannah Music Festival in Georgia (March 19 – April 4). Hope began his relationship with the Festival in January 2004, when he served as Artist in Residence before being appointed Associate Artistic Director in October of that year. Reviewing a number of last season’s offerings, a reporter for the Financial Times praised the “staggering breadth” of the programming, noting, “What other festival allows you to start the evening with a string quartet and finish it by listening to bluegrass over a beer?” Hope’s comments on some of the festival highlights echo this enthusiasm for the eclectic nature of its offerings:

“We have some really stunning artists and some very unique collaborations this season: Chick Corea for the first time, John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain, Ian Bostridge, Béla Fleck, David Finckel and Wu Han, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Academy of Ancient Music . It’s such an amazing mixture of styles and quality – a real melting pot of music and musicians – and wandering from one genre to the next offers a special thrill. One of the biggest initiatives this season will be with our children’s concerts, which we expect to draw 20,000 kids! We’ve also commissioned a new work for two violins from the young New York composer Alexandra du Bois, who has written a piece for Kronos in the past, which I’ll play with Lorenza Borrani.”

March 12, 2009 marks the tenth anniversary of Yehudi Menuhin’s death. Hope was closely associated with the great violinist and humanist Menuhin, performing with him more than 60 times, including at Menuhin’s final concert. After the worldwide success of Hope’s “Tu Was” (Do Something) project, which commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Nazis’ reign of terror on “Kristallnacht”, Hope returns to Berlin . There he has persuaded the Mayor’s Office to present a concert at the Rotes Rathaus ( Berlin ’s Town Hall) on March 12. Some of Europe ’s leading political and cultural figures will be present to hear Hope perform a number of works with orchestra, in memory of Menuhin. Hope has also commissioned the French-Lebanese composer, Bechara El-Khoury, himself a protégé of Kurt Masur, to write a piece for violin and strings entitled Unfinished Journey, after Menuhin’s autobiography of the same name. The piece will receive its world premiere in Berlin on March 12. All money raised that evening will be donated to “Live Music Now”, the charity founded by Menuhin that gives young performers the chance to gain experience by performing for the underprivileged, in hospitals, prisons, and retirement homes.

Following performances in other U.S. cities, Hope returns to New York in the spring for a performance on May 2 at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. The program, “Terezín/Theresienstadt”, teams Hope with mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, pianist Bengt Forsberg, and cellist Daniel Müller-Schott for an unforgettable exploration of vocal and chamber works by composers interned during World War II in the notorious Theresienstadt concentration camp. Hope will perform Erwin Schulhoff’s Sonata for violin and piano and Duo for violin and cello as well as Robert Dauber’s Serenade for violin and piano. Hope has long championed the works of composers whose lives were destroyed by the Nazis. Last year, his Deutsche Grammophon recording of music from Theresienstadt was received with great acclaim. The album, which featured liner notes by Hope and performances by von Otter, Forsberg, and baritone Christian Gerhaher, was a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” selection. Britain ’s Guardian called the recording “an eloquent act of homage which cannot fail to move,” and the disc also won France ’s coveted Diapason d’Or prize.

Boston Pops Spring Season 2009: Tickets go on Sale Today, February 23

Season Includes Special Appearances
By Barbara Cook, John Williams, Michael Feinstein And Linda Eder

Other Highlights Include Special Tributes To:
Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, The Apollo 11 Moon Landing, Ballets Russes, Richard Rodgers, Benny Goodman, Billy Joel, Harry Ellis Dickson, And America’s National Pastime, Baseball.

Tickets for the 2009 Spring Pops season go on sale Monday, February 23. In his 15th year as Conductor of the Boston Pops, Keith Lockhart returns to the podium for the orchestra’s 124th season, May 6-June 21. In commemoration of the Pops’ brand-new Red Sox Album, produced in conjunction with the Boston Red Sox and Major League Baseball and scheduled for release April 6, the season’s theme is America’s Favorite Pastime. Music from the CD and baseball-themed segments will be featured in programs throughout the season.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.bostonpops.org by phone through SymphonyCharge at 888-266-1200 or in person at the Symphony Hall Box Office located at 301 Massachusetts Avenue. For further information call 617-266-1492.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Julia Fischer to Performer Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No.1 with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Julia Fischer with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
and Mariss Jansons at Carnegie Hall Sunday March 15 at 2:00pm.

German violinist Julia Fischer (pictured) will perform Prokofiev’s first violin concerto with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Mariss Jansons at Carnegie Hall on Sunday, March 15 at 2:00PM. The concert will be Ms. Fischer’s first New York City performance since the release in January of her debut Decca recording of Bach concertos recorded with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields which was the highest-selling classical debut in iTunes history. The Carnegie Hall concert follows concerts in ten U.S. cities this month leading the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields on its 50th Anniversary tour.

Following the current tour, Ms. Fischer will make numerous U.S. appearances in coming months with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (April 16-18), Los Angeles Philharmonic (May 22-24), Philadelphia Orchestra (May 28-31) and the San Francisco Symphony (June 3-7). In addition to her Orchestral engagements, Ms. Fischer will tour eight U.S. cities performing in recital with pianist Milana Chernyavska in April/May. She will return to Carnegie Hall in 2010 to perform two all-Bach programs in Zankel Hall March 31 and April 1.

Voted “Best Newcomer” by BBC Music Magazine in 2006 and acclaimed as “Artist of the Year” in the prestigious Classic FM Gramophone Awards only a year later, 25-year-old Ms. Fischer is already being hailed as one of the great violinists of the twenty-first century. A student of famed violinist Ana Chumachenco, Ms. Fischer is herself Germany’s youngest Professor of Violin at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Frankfurt am Main. She lives in Munich, Germany.

Sunday, March 15 at 2:00PM
Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, Carnegie Hall

Mariss Jansons, Conductor
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Julia Fischer, Violin

SHCHEDRIN Beethoven's Heiligenstädter Testament (U.S. Premiere)
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68

This concert is the final in a series of three concerts by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall March 13-15.
Tickets from $34 to $105 available at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, 154 West 57th Street or from CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800 or www.carnegiehall.org.

Anna Netrebko or Angela Gheorghiu featured in Gramophone’s March 2009 Issue

The March 2009 issue of Gramophone features two beautiful and enormously talented sopranos on its cover: Anna Netrebko (right) and Angela Gheorghiu (left). The question posed by the magazine’s cover story is simple: which of these two “dueling divas” is today’s true Prima Donna? As James Inverne explains in his monthly editorial, he “grew up with tales of singers pitted against each other by possessive record companies … [So,] as this month sees major Italian opera sets from each, it seemed as good a moment as any to assess their relative merits.” Mike Ashman charts the history of the diva wars in a four-page article while critics John Allison and Anne Midgette make the case for Gheorghiu and Netrebko respectively. Gramophone also reviews both Netrebko’s new recording of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi (DG) and Gheorghiu’s new recording of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (EMI Classics).

Other highlights for Gramophone’s March 2009 issue:
  • The magazine’s monthly Diary page is from conductor Antonio Pappano, who writes about, among other things, the centenary season of his Rome-based Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Orchestra.
  • In his monthly Lend an Ear column, Philip Kennicott considers the continuing controversy caused by the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s reassignment of long-time classical music critic Don Rosenberg.
  • The Pacifica Quartet’s cellist Brandon Vamos writes for Encounters about the group’s visit to an American juvenile detention center.
  • For the Gramophone Collection, Andrew Farach-Colton selects a top choice from among the recordings – many of them excellent – of Britten’s Les illuminations.
  • And, only in the North American edition, writer and long-time radio listener Laurence Vittes surveys the surprisingly vibrant scene for classical music radio on the Web.

Gramophone’s complete list of monthly “Editor’s Choice” recordings, thousands of archived reviews, breaking news, and much more can be found at the magazine’s web site: http://www.gramophone.co.uk/

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Symphony No 1 - Figuratively Speaking

There have been a number of requests to hear the symphony so I've put together this player of the entire work.
Warning: it's 55 minutes in length. So, unless you're got some time to listen to the entire thing you might want to just listen to the 3rd movement (what most consider my best movement in the symphony) - although I tend to favor the 4th movement.

This symphony, along with other compositions of mine, are available on MySpace.com/Chip_Michael

Figuratively Speaking is an orchestral metaphor

met-a-phor ( m t-fôr ,-fr) n. one thing conceived as representing another; a symbol

Metaphor (from the Greek: μεταφορά - metaphora) is language that directly compares seemingly unrelated subjects. In the simplest case, this takes the form: "The [first subject] is a [second subject]." More generally, a metaphor is a rhetorical trope that describes a first subject as being or equal to a second subject in some way. Thus, the first subject can be economically described because implicit and explicit attributes from the second subject are used to enhance the description of the first.

Figuratively speaking is a turn of phrase that means to speak in metaphors.

The Road Goes Both Ways is built on a single “figure” or motif. The piece then “Speaks” the figure in a variety of ways, modifying and manipulating it until it is unrecognizable as the original motif. As metaphors are describing one thing by associating it with another and equating the two, in this piece all the elements are equated and thereby go both ways, associated with each other so in the end they are all part of the same element. It is a journey of an idea; the journey is the heart of this metaphor. The orchestra is the journey and the journey is orchestra.

Time Flies When You’re Havin’ Fun The more fun it is, the faster it gets. Like the first movement, the piece is built on a single melodic idea. This “figure” is longer than in the first movement but still core to all the melodic ideas. During the piece, it is mutating, reversed, inverted, in a fugue and twisted about, yet always returning back to the original idea. As the piece progresses the tempo speeds up. When it’s all over it feels like it should have gone on longer, and perhaps it should. After all, it is a lot of fun.

You Can’t Catch Rabbits With Drums is a percussion piece, for the entire orchestra. There are two “figures” for this piece although one is a concept and not a collection of notes – the percussion section. The timpani, side drums, bass drum, tom toms and eventually the gong move through different rhythms in a constant stream. Occasionally the other instruments augment this rhythmic progression propelling the piece forward. Amid all this is the “rabbit” motif bouncing about, sometimes quickly, and sometimes rather slow. While the two ideas fit together, they are still always separate, neither caught up with the other.

Don't Tell Your Secrets to the Fence is a slow, dark piece. The figure is the longest motif yet, and built on the baroque idea of melodic line. Each time the figure is repeated it alters slightly, so it eventually becomes unidentifiable from the original motif. Yet, it is possible to see (or hear) the progression from one to the next. There are also elements of the "secret" which stand out as if taunting the motif as it moves through the piece.

The Water is Like the Sun is simile - where two things are compared. So, as a figure of speech, this movement compares the previous motifs, giving life to them as a collective whole. As the figures meld together, the similarities between them become more obvious as if to say "there are many ways to say the same thing" and yet each way is still unique.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphor (April 2008)