. Interchanging Idioms: August 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Miguel Harth-Bedoya continues to Rocket to Stardom on the Podium

Miguel Harth-Bedoya has been conducting the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra for nine seasons. According to Scott Cantrell of the Dallas Morning News, "Miguel Harth-Bedoya has turned the FWSO into an ensemble worthy of comparison with its Dallas counterpart." In Scott's review of the latest Beethoven concert he offered high praise for the young conductor through the performances of Eroica Symphony, "Inner voices were nicely brought out, without making a fuss over them. The Funeral March was riveting, the scherzo exhilarating.

Miguel Harth-Bedoya is a conductor to watch. He is contucting Bolero with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on September 1st and 3rd at the Hollywood Bowl, and in Denver with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra October 2nd, 3rd and 4th at Boettcher Concert Hall to conduct Jimmy López fantastic new piece Fiesta!. He then travels out to the Netherlands with the Hague Philharmonic later in October. If you get the chance, catch him in action!

Murray Perahia's new Bach Partitas 1, 5 and 6 is Liquid Gold

Murray Perahia is releasing a new album of Bach partitas for the piano, Bach Partitas1, 5, and 6. This is a follow up album to his universally acclaimed first album, Bach Partitas 2, 3, 4. Well, he has done it again. His lyrical mastery of the piano brings these lovely little suites to life. Even the most florid moments are played so delicately as to simply pour like liquid gold from the piano without seeming garish or flamboyant – quite the opposite, it is impossible to imagine them any different. Each individual phrase is shines in its place, allowing the intricate polyphonic interweaving of Bach’s melodies to play out in perfect synchronicity.

Many of the movements are based on dances. In Bach’s Partita No. 1 the Gigue is a delightful play with a running series of mini arpeggios underneath a rather staccato melody which dances all around the arpeggios. Mr Perahia’s ability to crest and fall without causing the piece to rush or drag is simply amazing. Bach’s Partita No. 5, the Corrente, is a wonderful blend of multiple melodic lines interweaving and playing off each other. There are times when the bass needs to come through or when the tenor or treble line needs to dominate. Perahia has no trouble keeping each line moving and yet bringing to light each one as it needs highlighted. In the Gigue, the piece seems to halt at first, but only because Bach is playing with the syncopation of the actual line, giving us only bits of it before the piece comes together.

The final Partita No. 6 is as much a joy as the first two. The toccata is strong without being bombastic. With the Allemande, Perahia plays the leading embellishments with a subtle crescendo leading into the primary note – beautifully done. As with the Gigue in No. 1, the Corrente has multiple lines moving at different speeds, each one folded into the others to create a sparkling light, waltz-like dance. The air has fugue elements where the opening line needs to fade beneath the second line and so on. As each line appears, Perahia gives it just enough weight to be heard, but not overpowering, for an air should also be a light melody. The Gavotta bounces along delightfully while the Gigue allows the intricacy of Bach’s writing to really shine.

I do not know how anyone can heap more praise on this album than they did on the last one. Perhaps it is just enough to say it is just as perfect as the first. As a two time Grammy® Award-winner it appears Murray Perahia is after a third with his latest album.

näive Vivaldi Edition nears its halfway point

Jordi Savall’s Acclaimed Recording of Opera, Farnace
Rinaldo Alessandrini Conducting Two “Glorias”
Oboe Concerti from Alfred Bernardini and Zefiro

In 2000, when the Paris-based record company näive announced its launch of a 15-year project to record the more than 450 works of Antonio Vivaldi held in the National Library in Torino, Italy, many people were sceptical. Nearly 100 CDs by one composer? Now nearly at the halfway point, the Vivaldi Edition is recognized as a groundbreaking project with far-reaching repercussions, from raising the performance level of this composer’s virtuosic music to changing our understanding of the history of Western music.

Antonio Vivaldi is practically a household name today thanks to his ubiquitous piece, The Four Seasons, which is as much a hit today as it was when it was first published in 1725. We are now learning that there are numerous works of equal quality penned by the Venetian priest, including operas on a par with those of Georg Friedrich Handel, sacred music, and hundreds of concertos. The influence this prolific composer had on the history of music is only now beginning to be understood and evaluated, in great part thanks to the Vivaldi Edition.

The project distinguishes itself by engaging some of the finest modern interpreters of Baroque music and working with leading Vivaldi scholars on reconstructing much of the music. The packaging, which has elicited much attention and commentary, presents striking photographic portraits by artist Denis Rouvre. To date, 43 titles have been released, of which eight are full-length operas.

The most recent opera recording, La fida ninfa, features Jean-Christophe Spinosi conducting the Ensemble Matheus and an all-star cast. New Yorker critic Alex Ross made the album a CD of the Week at his popular blog, The Rest Is Noise, and David Stearns gave the album a 4-star review last month in the Philadelphia Inquirer, calling it “one of the ultimate landmarks” in the edition. Lawson Taitte gave the album an A-rating in the Dallas Morning News, reporting:

“Naive's series of Vivaldi operas remains one of our time's most interesting projects. La fida ninfa, top-flight Vivaldi, has had a few previous recordings, all dismally inadequate. This new one boasts an all-star cast and great orchestral playing under Jean-Claude Spinosi, exhilarating in the Red Priest's famous storm imitations, feather-light in the many pastoral moments. The plot involves brothers parted at birth, pirates, lovelorn nymphs and even a goddess or two. Sandrine Piau and Marie-Nicole Lemieux, both sensational, play the sisters; Verónica Cangemi and Philippe Jaroussky are the brothers, Lorenzo Regazzo the pirate and Topi Lehtipuu the sweet-voiced tenor father. All are virtuosos in top form. Whether you're a baroque enthusiast or are relatively new to Vivaldi, you're likely to enjoy this one.”

Antonio Vivaldi: Farnace
Coro del Teatro de la Zarzuela
Les Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
3CD set available August 25 from naive

Antonio Vivaldi: Gloria RV589 and Gloria RV 588
Introduzione: “Ostro picta, armata spina” RV642
Concerto Italiano (choir and orchestra)/Rinaldo Alessandrini
Sara Mingardo, contralto
Available August 25 from naive

Antonio Vivaldi: Oboe Concerti
Ensemble Zefiro
Alfredo Bernardini, oboe and direction
Available August 25 from naive

Friday, August 28, 2009

Murray Perahia Releases New Album of Bach Partitas 1, 5 & 6

This eagerly awaited follow-up to his University Acclaimed First Partita Album is available September 1st

Album Release Launches A Seven-City U.S. Tour This Fall
“No one does it better than Murray Perahia” — San Francisco Chronicle, review of Bach Partitas 2, 3, 4

Pianist Murray Perahia has captivated listeners for more than 30 years with playing of unrestrained elegance and generous insight. The two-time Grammy® Award-winner has become one of the most sought-after and cherished pianists of our time. Sony Classical’s new release of Perahia’s Bach: Partitas 1, 5, and 6 is the follow-up to his universally acclaimed recording of Partitas 2, 3, and 4, which consolidated Perahia’s reputation as one of today’s foremost interpreters of Bach’s keyboard music. The recording is available on September 1, 2009.

The partitas were the first works ever published by Bach, and so he bestowed upon them the considerable honor of naming them his “Opus 1.” Bach originally designed the partitas as keyboard exercises of a certain complexity to sustain the attention of music lovers and practitioners while also bringing them considerable joy. One can only imagine what Bach — ever the humble servant of music as both a performer and a pedagogue — must have thought when his published series of compositions went on to become bestsellers.

From the moment Murray Perahia lays his hands on the keys for the prelude to Partita No. 1, listeners are aware that they are in the presence of a formidable musician of considerable gifts who has mastered the style of these works. His special association with Bach is evident in his previous recordings of Bach keyboard concertos, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, and The Goldberg Variations, which was on the Top 10 Billboard Classical chart for 15 weeks.

Perahia’s wide and varied discography has brought him two Grammy® Awards, for his recordings of Frederic Chopin’s complete Etudes, Op. 10 and Op. 25 and Bach’s English Suites Nos. 1, 3, and 6, and numerous Grammy nominations; he has also won several Gramophone Awards. He has been an exclusive Sony Classical artist for more than 25 years.

In 2009–10, Perahia performs recitals across North America including at New York’s Carnegie Hall and tours in Europe in the fall and spring with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

Previously Unreleased Recordings of Vladimir Horowitz at the height of his Powers

Stunning Interpretations Of Schumann, Balakirev, Chopin, Liszt

Recordings Taken From The Horowitz Papers At Yale University

Perhaps the mightiest and most influential of all pianists of the twentieth century, Vladimir Horowitz left the world a matchless catalog of recordings—a Masterworks legacy that is renewed with this second release of private recordings from the archives of Yale University. The Private Collection: Schumann, Chopin, Liszt & Balakirev captures Horowitz in his golden prime, playing his signature repertoire live in concert at Carnegie Hall, where he celebrated the milestones in his storied career. This collection is the latest release in Sony Masterworks’ Carnegie Hall Presents series and is available on September 1, 2009.

This release features performances of Schumann’s Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17; Balakirev’s Islamey: An Oriental Fantasy; Chopin’s Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60; and Liszt’s Légende, No. 2, “St. François de Paule merchant sur les flots.”

In 1986 Horowitz donated to Yale University a treasure trove of private recordings composed of Carnegie Hall concerts and performances he gave during the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Horowitz had employed an engineer to make 78-rpm recordings of his Carnegie Hall concerts in this period, and he used them to review and judge his performances. Most of these mono recordings were originally contained on 12- and 16-inch acetate discs. They have been impeccably mastered, with the sound restored, from new transfers made in the Yale archives. Significant press accompanied the original announcement of the donation of these recordings to Yale, where Horowitz performed often through the years and was an assistant fellow of Silliman College.

Classical-music lovers—from the sternest music critics to the most ardent fans—have often lamented the gaps in Horowitz’s performing career, hiatuses that deprived the classical music world of one of its most enchanting performers. This second release in Sony Masterworks’s new Vladimir Horowitz Private Collection series allows listeners to revisit the pianist at the height of his powers, in beguiling performances that must be heard to be believed. Performances that were once lost to history, only to be conjured through old newspaper reviews, come thrillingly back to life in this newly remastered edition.

The release includes four works that take the listener deep into the heart of the Romantic age. Horowitz handles Schumann’s Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17 with passion and precision, bringing the piece to an inexorable finish in the final movement, in one perfectly calculated musical moment. His playing of Liszt’s evocative musical meditation, Légende, No. 2, “St. François de Paule merchant sur les flots” (St. Francis of Paola walking on waves) is expertly judged and immaculately executed; he marries together the trademark impishness of the composer’s virtuoso writing with the work’s profoundly religious subject matter. Horowitz dispatches the breathtaking steeplechase of Mily Balakirev’s Islamey—one of the most demanding pieces ever written for solo piano—with the ease and control of an Olympic athlete. On the other side of the musical spectrum, Chopin’s calm, lilting Barcarolle, Op. 60, receives an expansive musical treatment—each line is like the long, slow, methodical stroke of a gondolier’s oar dividing peaceful waters.

Born in Kiev in 1903, Vladimir Horowitz received early instruction on the piano from his mother, before studying with Sergei Tarnowsky and Felix Blumenfeld at the Kiev Conservatory, where he performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 for his graduation in 1919. By the time he was twenty-one, he had toured Russia and found particular success with a series of concerts in Leningrad. His American debut at Carnegie Hall on January 12, 1928 was an eagerly awaited event. He married Toscanini’s daughter Wanda in 1933 and became a U.S. citizen in 1944. Horowitz’s specialty was the stormy, fearsome literature of the Romantic era—Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Chopin—though he gave bracing performances of Clementi and Beethoven and championed the work of Scriabin and Prokofiev. He electrified audiences with his prodigious technique, from thundering fortissimos and floating pianissimos to lightning-fast octaves executed in perfect alignment. He remained a dominant force in music until his death in 1989, establishing a legacy as one of the most supremely gifted pianists of all time.

coming in January: The Private Collection: Haydn’s Sonata in E-flat Major; Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata and Moonlight Sonata

Discovering Vagn Holmboe, A Danish Composer

Vagn Gylding Holmboe (1909-1996) began formal music training at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen at the age of 17. Three years later he moved to Berlin where he studied with Ernst Toch. Eventually he moved back to Copenhagen to teach at the Conservatoire in Copenhagen.

He composed over 200 works including over 20 concertos (his Trombone Concerto Op. 52 is particularly cool!), 13 symphonies, 21 string quartets and numerous other pieces including a pair of sonatas for guitar. So he was very versatile.

He may not be as "undiscovered" as some other composers as he has his own LastFM channel, where you can hear a number of his pieces. His Piano Concerto No. 1, Op 17 composed in 1939 has elements of Prokofiev and early Lutosławski. While there are elements of angular lines, for the most part Vagn Holmboe is firmly in the tonal world. He definitely is a mid-20th century composer based on the pieces I heard. Even his Symphony No. 13, written in 1994, has more in common with mid century tonal composers (like Britten or Shostakovich). However, that should in no way diminish his music. In many respects his music (on first listen) is as exciting and intriguing as many modern composers - undeniably worth a listen!

If you're a trombonist (like me) you will want to check out the Danish National Symphony Orchestra "Romantic Trombone Concertos" released by Dacapo and available at Naxos or Amazon. There are several trombone concertos by several different composers and a nice collection of some thrilling music.

London Symphony Orchestra begin their Barbican Season Concerts in October

1 & 4 October 2009, 7.30pm,
Barbican Centre
MOZART Symphony No 34
MOZART Piano Concerto No 20
NIELSEN Symphony No 5
Sir Colin Davis conductor Radu Lupu piano
4 October supported by LSO Friends

October 2009, 7.30pm,
Barbican Centre
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto
SIBELIUS Symphony No 5
Sir Colin Davis conductor Arabella Steinbacher violin
Guildhall Artists at the Barbican, 6pm, Barbican Hall Guildhall students perform Beethoven Septet. Free admission.

13 October 2009, 7.30pm,
Barbican Centre
SCHUBERT Symphony No 8 (‘Unfinished’)
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Bernard Haitink conductor Christianne Stotijn mezzo-soprano Robert Gambill tenor

13 October Takeda Global Concert Guildhall Artists at the Barbican, 6pm,
11 October, Barbican Hall Guildhall students perform Schubert songs.
Free admission.

October 2009, 7.30pm,
Barbican Centre
SCHUBERT Symphony No 5
MAHLER Symphony No 4
Bernard Haitink conductor Christiane Schaefer soprano
There is a free pre-concert chamber music performance by musicians from the Guildhall School, beginning at 6pm in Barbican Hall.

Guildhall Artists at the Barbican, 6pm, Barbican Hall Guildhall students perform Schubert String Quartet in D minor ‘Der Tod und das Mädchen D531. Free admission.

October 2009, 7.30pm,
Barbican Hall
LSO On Track & LSO St Luke’s Fusion Orchestra Concert
Kristjan Järvi, one of the world’s most exciting young conducting young talents, teams up with LSO On Track musicians from East London, and soloists from the London Symphony Orchestra, to perform James MacMillan’s Into The Ferment.
In the first half, composer Nitin Sawhney joins the LSO St Luke’s Fusion Orchestra.
Tickets £6 (£4 concessions) from Barbican Box Office.

Grammy® Award-Winning Mezzo-Soprano Susan Graham to Sing at Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s Funeral on Saturday, August 29

The Grammy® Award-winning mezzo-soprano Susan Graham will sing at the funeral mass for Senator Edward Moore Kennedy. The service will be held on Saturday, August 29, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston, Massachusetts . President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy.

Susan Graham is one of today’s foremost stars of opera and recital. She can be heard in the great opera houses and with the most prestigious orchestras in the world. Her extensive discography includes a Grammy® Award-winning recording of the songs of American composer Charles Ives on the Warner Classics label. An expert in French music, Graham holds the honorary title of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, bestowed by the French government.

Born in New Mexico and raised in Texas , Susan Graham studied at Texas Tech University and the Manhattan School of Music, which awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2008. She won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the Schwabacher Award from San Francisco Opera, as well as a Career Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. She was Musical America’s 2004 Vocalist of the Year, and, since 2006, her hometown of Midland , Texas has proclaimed September 5 “Susan Graham Day.”

Feature Film Version of La Bohème, Starring Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón, in Theaters this September

“An intimate staging of Puccini’s tragic love story, which nevertheless retains the feel of a live performance and shows why Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón are currently considered two of opera’s biggest stars.”– Independent ( London )

Anna Netrebko, who has graced silver screens for the past three years in The Met: Live In HD broadcasts, returns to movie theaters across America this September, when Emerging Pictures releases a feature film version of Puccini’s La Bohème, starring the Russian soprano alongside Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón. London ’s Times calls the film “starry and sumptuous,” while according to Classic FM magazine, “The lavish sets and special effects give rise to an extraordinary theatrical opera film.”

The movie, which was filmed in 2008 in Vienna and is directed by Oscar- and Emmy-nominated director Robert Dornhelm, will be shown in theaters in select cities starting September 23.

London’s Times, in reviewing Netrebko’s full-length recording of La Bohème, asserts, “It is succulently dramatic – a tribute … to the stars’ power.” The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “[Villazón] sounds relaxed and lyrical as the young poet. His high notes in the climaxes are vibrant and attacked cleanly … . Netrebko, too, is in excellent voice, her gleaming soprano filling out Mimì’s wistful phrases with grace and sensitivity.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pablo Heras-Casado - A conductor on the rise

At the age of 31, Pablo Heras-Casado already has a remarkably versatile international career. In the past few months the Spanish conductor has led concerts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers in London in music exploring Mendelssohn's royal connections; two world premieres with Klangforum Vienna in Granada and Seville; film scores with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; concerts in Aldeburgh and London's Tate Modern gallery with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain; and a recording of Nino Rota's Trombone Concerto with SWR Symphony Orchestra Freiburg. Later this month Heras-Casado travels to Tokyo for Stockhausen's Gruppen with the NHK Symphony Orchestra.

Orchestral, choral, new and early music and opera are intertwined in Heras-Casado's musical interests. "I look for the new," says the Granada native, "whether the ink is still wet on the page or a first performance of ancient music. It's about the discovery." Heras-Casado is music director of the only original-instrument chamber opera company in Spain; Compania Teatro del Principe in Aranjuez specializes in performances of neglected or newly discovered 17th- and 18th-century music. At the Aranjuez Festival in June "La Compania" performed and made the world premiere recording of L'Isola Disabitata by Giuseppe Bonno, an 18th-century Italian who worked in the Spanish court at the time of Ferdinand VI.

In September Heras-Casado returns to France to lead the Orchestre National de Bordeaux, and then heads for a double dip at the Tonhalle Zurich: a re-invitation to the Collegium Novum Zurich and his debut with the Tonhalle Orchestra in the very same week. American music lovers will have to wait until next summer to hear the fast-rising conductor on our continent. Watch for details of his 2009-2010 American engagements in coming posts on this blog.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Alan Gilbert Begins Tenure as Music Director of New York Philharmonic

with Televised Gala Concert on Wednesday, September 16

Alan Gilbert begins his tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in the 2009–10 season, which launches on Wednesday, September 16 with a concert from Avery Fisher Hall that will be televised on PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center. The program features a new work, EXPO, by the Philharmonic’s new Composer-in-Residence Magnus Lindberg, commissioned by the Philharmonic for the occasion; superstar soprano Renée Fleming singing Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi; and Gilbert conducting Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. The opening-night concert will also be projected live onto Lincoln Center ’s Josie Robertson Plaza , and the public is invited to a free open rehearsal of the evening’s program conducted by Alan Gilbert that morning. Most of Gilbert’s concerts this season will be with the New York Philharmonic, but he will also return to Europe to continue his relationship with Hamburg ’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, where he has been principal guest conductor since 2004. He will also be heard this fall on a new recording from the BIS label conducting Mahler’s Ninth Symphony with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. The recording was made in June 2008 and captures Gilbert’s final performances as the orchestra’s chief conductor and artistic advisor; at the time he was also named the orchestra’s conductor laureate.

As well as being one of the New York Philharmonic’s youngest music directors, the Manhattan-born Gilbert is the first native New Yorker to hold the post. For his inaugural season he has introduced a number of new initiatives, including creating a new position of Artist-in-Residence, to which Thomas Hampson has been appointed this year, as well as naming the new Composer-in-Residence, Magnus Lindberg. An annual three-week festival – this season focusing on the music of Stravinsky – has also been introduced, as well as CONTACT, the New York Philharmonic’s new-music series. In other highlights of the 2009-10 season, Gilbert leads the orchestra on Asian Horizons, a major tour of Asia in October 2009, with debuts in Hanoi (Vietnam) and Abu Dhabi; on a European tour in January/February 2010; and in performances of world, U.S., and New York premieres – notably including a spring performance of Ligeti’s seminal opera Le Grand Macabre, which has never been performed complete in New York. This season Gilbert also becomes the first person to hold the newly created William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies at the Juilliard School , a position that will include coaching, conducting, and performance master classes.

Highlights of Gilbert’s 2008–09 season with the New York Philharmonic included the November 14 Bernstein anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall, and a performance with the Juilliard Orchestra, presented by the Philharmonic, featuring Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, Kaddish. In spring 2009 Gilbert conducted the world premiere of Peter Lieberson’s The World in Flower, a New York Philharmonic commission, and Mahler’s First Symphony. Writing about the latter for the New York Times, critic Anthony Tommasini observed, “it was a thrill to hear the work performed with such precision and daring by the Philharmonic under Mr. Gilbert, conducting from memory. During the blazing episodes in the finale, he drove the orchestra to frenzied outbursts, all the more terrifying for being executed with such cool command. The tremendous ovation bodes well for his coming tenure as the orchestra’s music director.” In July 2009 Gilbert led the New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks and Free Indoor Concerts and four concerts at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival in Colorado.

"Mr Gilbert was able to bring out all the dense sounds, rich contours, complex colors, fluid orchestration, multifaceted rhythms and sensuous emotions – allowing each one space to be heard and yet, buried within the whole to create something greater." - Chip Michael, Interchanging Idioms

Also last season, Gilbert made his Metropolitan Opera debut, conducting John Adams’s Doctor Atomic – the first time the company had presented an opera by the great American composer. New York magazine named the production the top classical music event of 2008, with critic Justin Davidson observing, “the real star was the Met orchestra, which under Alan Gilbert sounded like one great inhaling—the upbeat to the nuclear age." In February, Gilbert led the Boston Symphony Orchestra in an acclaimed performance of Ives’s visionary Fourth Symphony. Jeremy Eichler reported on the occasion for the Boston Globe, noting, “Gilbert chose a spacious pacing and found clarity and structure within the chaos. He drew a beautifully rich tone from the strings in the third movement fugue, and traced the broadest of arcs in the spiritually searching finale. At the very end, the music created just the desired effect: it seemed to evaporate into a clear night sky.”

In April, Gilbert returned to the podium of Berlin’s famed Philharmonie, where he led the Berlin Philharmonic in a program of Dvorak and Martinu. Berlin's Morgenpost called Gilbert’s return “a triumph," with Klaus Geitel, the dean of Germany's music critics, giving special praise to Gilbert for his revelatory performance of Martinu's Fourth Symphony: "[Gilbert] ripped Bohuslav Martinu from the perpetual twilight that has been so negligently inflicted upon him, and with an enlightened performance of the Fourth Symphony demonstrated the gravitas, greatness and originality of this master."

Deutsche Grammophon Releases Two Concerts with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic

World-Premiere Performance of Arvo Pärt’s "Symphony No. 4" and works by De Falla, Debussy and Ravel

The very first Los Angeles Philharmonic release in the DG Concerts series featured Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa, surely one of the great works of the twentieth-century. During Esa-Pekka Salonen’s final season as music director he presented the world-premiere of Pärt’s Symphony No. 4, “Los Angeles.” Salonen long desired a new work by Pärt and at the time of commission the composer was working with ancient canon in Church Slavonic and with a prayer to a guardian angel – “the connection to Los Angeles was irresistible,” as a note in the score indicates.

Working with simplicity as a guiding principle, Pärt builds his music “with the most primitive materials – with the triad, with one specific tonality.” Yet, Pärt remains simple in only spirit and texture (the work is scored for strings and percussion only) as he quickly expands upon this musical language with the use of modal and chromatic harmony, ever-present suspensions and tonal ambiguity. From shimmering string chords to small moments of calm sorrow, “Los Angeles” is both a much-welcomed addition to the orchestral repertory and an emblematic moment in Esa-Pekka Salonen’s time with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, demonstrating both his and the orchestra’s support of new music and conviction to place these works on equal footing with those of acknowledged masters.

Pärt: Symphony No. 4, “ Los Angeles ”
Esa-Pekka Salonen / Los Angeles Philharmonic
Performed live in Walt Disney Concert Hall
January 9–11, 2009
Available at iTunes September 22, 2009

The second CD in the DG Concert series was recorded live last October. This concert is a virtuoso performance of technique and orchestral color. The three composers represented were all contemporaries and even knew each other. Manuel de Falla, though of Spanish origins, spent time in Paris and learned from both Debussy and Ravel. After traveling back to Spain, Falla focused on capturing the uniquely Spanish sound (as opposed to that of the famous French and Russian “Spanish scores”) and succeeded by drawing inspiration from Andalusian folk songs (though he did not quote any actual songs). El amor brujo, like most of his works, was for the stage. This suite of three dances captures the earthy and native impulses of the region and is given a rousing performance.

Debussy long had a fond relationship with the sea and for his great work, La mer, he drew inspiration from as varied sources as the paintings of Joseph Turner and prints of Katsushika Hokusai (whose “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa” print was the composer’s choice to adorn the title page of the score). In three movements Debussy paints the dual nature of the sea: ever-changing on the surface with an underlying eternal and static quality.

The final work of the concert is the complete ballet score of Ravel’s Mother Goose. Originally a charming and delightful work for piano four-hands (composed for children), the work was eventually expanded and orchestrated into a complete ballet. At once both sophisticated and child-like (much like the composer himself) the work is another virtuoso composition testing the talents of the orchestra. It bears noting that Ravel was simultaneously working on Daphnis et Chloé, his longest and possibly most ambitious work, as both scores share similar sounds and colors.

Falla: Three Dances from El amor brujo
Debussy: La mer
Ravel: Mother Goose (complete ballet)
Esa-Pekka Salonen / Los Angeles Philharmonic
Performed live in Walt Disney Concert Hall
October 3–5, 2008
Available at iTunes August 25, 2009

Der Rosenkavalier on DVD with Renée Fleming coming October 6th

“Renée Fleming’s soprano is not only beautifully in place for this music, but it is employed with a rare flexibility and sensitivity for the text.” – International Herald Tribune

Renée Fleming appears on DVD in one of her greatest roles – the Marschallin, in Richard Strauss’s bittersweet comedy of love, Der Rosenkavalier. Her peerless performance is supported by “a galactic cast” (Christian Thielemann), which includes Sophie Koch as Octavian, Diana Damrau as the young Sophie, Franz Hawlata as the boorish Baron Ochs and Jonas Kaufmann, making a guest appearance as the Italian Singer. Herbert Wernicke’s celebrated Salzburg Festival production was specially restaged at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden for this high-definition film.

R. Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
Fleming / Koch / Damrau / Hawlata / Kaufmann
Christian Theielmann / Munich Philharmonic / Baden-Baden
Release Date: October 6, 2009

Danielle de Niese to release The Mozart Album

“Her singing is utterly delectable and completely assured…Sheer ‘joie de vivre’ and mastery come spilling across, to the eyes as well as the ears.” -The New York Times

Danielle made her Met debut as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro. At just 19, it was already clear that she was destined to be a major Mozart singer, with her extraordinary ability to communicate emotion through the expressive use of vocal color and the irresistible force of her personality. This recording of Mozart arias is thus a natural follow-up to the remarkable Handel album.

Her partnership here with Sir Charles Mackerras lends her the wise and authoritative support of one of the great modern heroes of Mozart performance style and practice. It’s an added bonus that in the only duet on this album — “Là ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni — Danielle is reunited after ten years with the great Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, who had also been in the Figaro in which she made her Met debut. On The Mozart Album she also explores other opera gems from Così fan tutte, Idomeneo, Don Giovanni, and more!

The Mozart Album
Danielle de Niese
Sir Charles Mackerras / The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Release Date: September 8, 2009

Marin Alsop Leads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra through the Demanding Bernstein's Mass

Naxos to release recording of this major work August 25, 2009

There are few composers in the 20th century with as much magnitude as Leonard Bernstein. His effect on both his generation of musicians and future composers is immense. Working as a composer with Steven Sondheim on West Side Story, still one of the best musicals ever written, and Stephen Schwartz for Bernstein’s “Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers,” he directly affected the two of the greatest writers in American musical theatre today. As an educator, his “Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard” is still a seminal work for music educators today. The list goes on, but this is not a review of Leonard Bernstein’s life’s work which is too vast for me to do it justice in this small space.

This is a review of Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s recent recording of Bernstein’s “Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers.” I started with references to Bernstein’s work to give some scope for the sheer size and weight of taking on a project like this. Certainly, Maestro Alsop was a protégé of Leonard Bernstein, and perhaps because of that she is one of the few people to be truly qualified to handle such an undertaking. And yes, numerous orchestras perform Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite, so his music can be performed. But his “Mass” is huge, complex, demanding on more levels than just musical performance. It requires two choirs, a full orchestra and a host of singers who are accomplished at not only operatic singing, but also in the more vernacular style of American musical theater.

The music is intense as well, containing elements of extreme angular lyricism as in the opening “Kyrie eleison” and the angelic “A Simple Song” in which Jubilant Sykes as the celebrant drifts lightly over some simple orchestration. However, as is typical of Bernstein, the harmonic structure is anything but simple, fluctuating from chord to chord in a seamless manner, but with numerous unexpected turns and shifts. Follow this with a jazzy “Responsory: Alleluia” which is as cool as it is beautiful. From the beginning to the “Pax: Communion” the music is a journey through some of the best and most intricate music Bernstein ever wrote. Throw in the musical styles of rock, pop, Middle Eastern, solemn hymns and dissonant counter point and you will begin to get a sense as to the musical complexity of this work. It takes nearly two hours to complete the full work, similar in length and demand of musicians as Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, but Bernstein’s “Mass” is also a theater piece so it demands acting, dancing - performance on all levels. And it is a mass, so there is a reverence to be maintained.

Bernstein wanted this mass to reflect the disillusionment of his time, mixed with a hope for the future. Lyrics like ”World without end spins endlessly on, only the men who lived here are gone.” followed by a rock ballad with ”I believe in one God, But then I believe in three. I’ll believe in twenty gods if they’ll believe in me.” give the “Mass” a sense of the desperation of society enmasse. But this is followed by the latin De profundis with an angular rich symphonic choral meditation leading into the a prayer by the Celebrant for the Offertory. Are we and our lives the sacrifice, that which is being offered up?

This is a massive work and done extremely well. The nuances of the music are not lost in the recording process, quite the opposite. When Jubilant Sykes sings tender moments, such as the “Lord’s Prayer” we can hear the affectionate pleading in his voice. Yet he also dances through the lyrics of “Gloria tibi” complete with bongo and the Boy’s Choir of the Peabody Children’s Chorus. Mr Sykes’ jazz and Gospel background mixed with his classical training is perfect for the demanding role as the Celebrant. There is never a lack of reverence in his voice and yet he is able to accomplish the broad variety of styles seemingly impromptu, rehearsed as a priest might memorize the mass, but still reflecting the immediacy of the moment.

The Morgan State University Choir under the direction of Dr, Eric Conway did an excellent job of the choral voices, the street chorus and numerous solo voices of the people. “Half of the People” with lyrics by Paul Simon is a searing comment on the state of the populace of today. “Half the people are stoned and the other half are waiting for the next election,” is sung with a sense of anger and intensity that makes the sentiment as strong and indicting, as it should be. They also capture the fun of “God Said” which, like “America” or “Officer Krupke” in West Side Story, is another intense comment on the state of our world. By combining the humor with biting lyrics the commentary is all the more piercing. This track is an excellent example of the harsher style of American musical singing not just singing the notes but densely packing the emotions into voices so they sound more authentic, more intense and more honest. I would love to give specific credit to some of the outstanding solo vocalists, but other than a list of names there was no reference in the liner notes as to who sung what.

Marin Alsop does a wonderful job moving the orchestra through the extremely rhythmic music. “Meditation No. 2” based on a sequence by Beethoven goes through all the paces, from angular rhythms to passages of slow sustains. Maestro Alsop keeps the orchestra moving through each section capturing the moments of meditation, in between points of rage and anxiety. In “Mediation No. 1” the music is more lyrical - more meditative, complete with a beautifully tender violin solo. Although the orchestra is in more a support role in terms of the overall performance, they are solid support.

Bernstein’s Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers released by Naxos on August 25, 2009 is a solid recording, delicate when it needs to be but also displaying biting social commentary with power and authority. This will undoubtedly become a classic recording in terms of anyone’s Bernstein music library. Not only was this a massive undertaking, but done remarkably well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis present the music of Nielsen and Sibelius

LSO President Sir Colin Davis begins a two-year survey of Nielsen’s six symphonies and continues his well-known love for the music of Sibelius, alongside conductors Kristjan Järvi, John Adams and Robin Ticciati, who makes his LSO debut this season.

Sir Colin Davis says:

‘Sibelius and Nielsen have certain universal things in common. Both are obsessive: Nielsen is obsessive, almost relentless, with certain figures, and you could say that Sibelius’s relentless pedal points have something in common with that. I haven’t been close to Nielsen’s music until now, but in looking for new repertory for the Orchestra I have spent time with the fourth and fifth symphonies, and found it increasingly fascinating. There’s such a destructive force in the man and he lets it loose in the most surprising ways. The forms that Nielsen chooses seem to develop out of themselves. You could say that is also the case in Sibelius’s music but Nielsen’s is a much more discrepant and wilder way of going on. We are faced with the problem of making a consecutive narrative out if it and not just painting a nice picture and then slashing it to pieces.

'It’s true of every composer but Sibelius’s sound is unique. It is pitched rather low, unlike Mediterranean music which is higher up, so you suspect that in the darkness of his symphonies, things may be lying hidden. It has enormous emotional power, and that’s what really grasps people. All his symphonies are very different from one another. As he got older the music became more compressed – the Seventh is only 22 minutes but it feels like a lifetime. You are involved with the development of a very complex man when you are dealing with his music.

'The energy in these pieces is astounding. And there is a continual threat to order – take the Seventh where his great trombone theme is subject to the most inordinate onslaught. What does it mean? Well a noble tune like that in C major must stand for human idealism, and the suffering that the idealism has to go through in order to match up with reality. There’s a mystery about the first movement of the Fifth Symphony; it has all kinds of eerie spirits lying around it. I once went to Finland in the height of summer and I stayed in a woodland cabin, and what with the insects and the heat and the light and the birch trees and a couple of vodkas, you could imagine anything would come out of that forest.‘

Sir Colin Davis conducts:
1 & 4 October 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
NIELSEN Symphony No 5
MOZART Symphony No 34 Piano Concerto No 20 with Radu Lupu

8 October 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
SIBELIUS Symphony No 5
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto with Arabella Steinbacher

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jonathan Biss Recording of works by Schubert And Kurtág to be Released October 13

On Tuesday, October 13, Wigmore Hall Live releases a new CD by pianist Jonathan Biss of works by Franz Schubert and György Kurtág. Recorded before a live audience at the Wigmore Hall this past May, the album is Mr. Biss’s first on the Wigmore Hall Live label. The recording of Schubert’s Piano Sonatas in C Major, D. 840 (Reliquie) and A Major, D. 959, opens and closes with two selections from Kurtág’s Játékok--Birthday elegy for Judit, for the second finger of her left hand and Hommage à Schubert. Mr. Biss believes that because Kurtág has “such deep roots in the past and is the most sensitive of souls,” Schubert and Kurtág make a very natural pairing.

“It’s very interesting how these kinds of pairings across the centuries work,” said Mr. Biss. “It’s not only that Kurtág responds to Schubert but also that the reverse is true. Somehow Schubert’s music is changed and affected, and its chemistry is altered by sharing a platform with Kurtág. “

“For years, the Schubert Sonatas have been objects of fascination and enormous affection for me. Like all of his works, they are filled with small moments of aching beauty and lyricism, but at the same time, they are immense in length, scope, and ambition. Because the proportions of the movements are so huge,” he explains, “there is room in them for moments in which we feel lost, or far afield, and these moments are part of what makes the climaxes feel so justified. Schubert’s imagination is so unique,” Mr. Biss adds, “that you never know what might engage him.”

This Schubert/Kurtág recording follows four CDs Mr. Biss made for EMI Classics, the most recent of which was a recording of Mozart Piano Concertos 21 and 22 with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The others were an all-Beethoven recital, which was recognized with a 2008 Edison Award; an all-Schumann recital, which received a 2007 Diapason d’Or award; and a CD of works by Beethoven and Schumann in EMI’s Debut series. BBC Music Magazine has written that “Biss has all the technique required, yet he unfailingly puts the composer first. Such is the strength and conviction of his playing that the music unfolds with a natural-sounding inevitability.”

Still in his 20’s, Mr. Biss has proved himself an exceptional musician, noted for his prodigious technique, intriguing programs, and artistic maturity, with a flourishing international reputation through his orchestral, recital, and chamber music performances in North America, Europe, and Asia. Since he made his New York Philharmonic debut in 2001, he has appeared with the foremost orchestras of the United States and Europe and is a frequent performer at leading international music festivals.

He represents the third generation in a family of professional musicians that includes his grandmother cellist Raya Garbousova and his parents, violinist Miriam Fried and violist/violinist Paul Biss. Mr. Biss began his piano studies at age six, and his first musical collaborations were with his mother and father. He studied at Indiana University with Evelyne Brancart and at The Curtis Institute of Music with Leon Fleisher. Among his numerous awards are the Leonard Bernstein Award, Wolf Trap’s Shouse Debut Artist Award, the Andrew Wolf Memorial Chamber Music Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award. He was the first American to participate in the BBC’s New Generation Artist program.

The Cleveland Orchestra Announces Details of 2009 Vienna Musikverein Residency and Tour Performances with Music Director Franz Welser-Möst

Tour includes ten concerts, in Toronto , Amsterdam , Paris , Luxembourg , Vienna and Linz

Music Director Franz Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra will embark on their eighth international tour together, which includes their fourth biennial residency in Vienna ’s historic Musikverein, famous for its golden concert hall with golden sound. The Orchestra will give ten performances in Canada and Europe from October 20 through November 3. The tour includes a concert in Toronto , two concerts in Luxembourg , and single concerts in Amsterdam , Paris , and Linz , and four concerts in Vienna as part of the residency.

Musikverein Residency and Tour Performances During the Musikverein Residency, pianist Mitsuko Uchida will be soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. A long time member of the Cleveland Orchestra family, Ms. Uchida completed a five-year project performing all of Mozart’s piano concertos with the Orchestra in 2007. A recording of recent live performances of The Cleveland Orchestra with Ms. Uchida conducting and performing Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 23 and 24 will be released by Decca in September 2009.

Soprano Malin Hartelius and baritone Simon Keenlyside will appear in the Musikverein performances of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem). The Vienna Singverein, of which Franz Welser-Möst is an honorary member, will also take part in these performances.

Additional tour and residency repertoire includes Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, Haydn’s Symphony No. 85 (“La Reine”), Debussy’s Nuages (Clouds) and Fêtes (Festivals) from Nocturnes, Widmann’s Chor (for orchestra) and Liszt’s A Faust Symphony.

The Musikverein Residency began as a multi-year relationship in 2003. Each residency includes a series of concerts under the direction of Franz Welser-Möst. This was the first such residency by an American orchestra in the history of the Musikverein. Highlights of these critically acclaimed residency concerts have included performances of symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, and Schubert, as well as Stravinsky’s Requiem Canticles and Britten’s War Requiem. The Vienna Singverein has performed with The Cleveland Orchestra at the Musikverein in each of the previous residencies, in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

European Connections Gary Hanson, Executive Director of The Cleveland Orchestra, has announced the formation of a European Advisory Board in support of the Orchestra’s European tours and residencies. Herbert Kloiber, Chairman of the Tele München Group, who leads the new Advisory Board said, “Franz Welser-Möst and this orchestra bring something unique and special to Europe , a combination of artistic excellence at the highest level and a strong educational mission. I am honored to help them build a base of support here.”

Dr. Ludwig Scharinger, CEO of Raiffeisenlandesbank Oberösterreich, has recently joined The Cleveland Orchestra’s Board of Trustees, signifying the integration between its home country and European activities. Raiffeisenlandesbank Oberösterreich has been an active partner in the Orchestra’s electronic media projects since 2006 and was a sponsor of the 2008 Cleveland Orchestra Salzburg Residency.

Under Franz Welser-Möst’s direction, The Cleveland Orchestra has toured extensively in Europe and regularly participates in residencies in Vienna , Salzburg , Lucerne , and Miami . In January 2007, the Orchestra began a 10-year residency project in Miami , Florida , where it performs at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. This season, the Orchestra begins a multi-year residency at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. The Cleveland Orchestra’s residencies are anchored by full orchestral concerts and often include additional activities developed in partnership with local institutions. These activities, which include education and outreach programs, chamber music, and masterclasses, are oriented toward building audiences and developing the next generation of orchestral musicians.

Leon Botstein Continues His Exploration of Off-the-Beaten-Track Opera with Concert Performance of D’Indy’s Fervaal, with American Symphony

Following Unanimously-Praised Production of Meyerbeer’s Grand Opera Les Huguenots at Bard SummerScape

Wall Street Journal Calls Bard’s Huguenots, “A Triumph for Conductor Leon Botstein”

Each summer at Bard SummerScape, and each season at Lincoln Center, Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra explore the forgotten byways of operatic repertoire with often-revelatory results. In recent seasons, they have given concert performances of such rarities as Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers – which the New York Times called “a bang up performance, one of the best [Botstein] has ever put on”; Édouard Lalo’s Le roi d’Ys; and a double bill of one-act operas by Italian modernist Luigi Dallapiccola that left a critic for ConcertoNet “astonished by what [Botstein] brings to light – sometimes radiant light.” Following a performance by Botstein and the ASO of Franz Shreker’s Der ferne Klang, veteran critic Peter G. Davis wrote for Musical America, “Botstein’s sympathy for the score was apparent everywhere… The spirit and sweep of the music could scarcely have been more fully captured.”

But perhaps no opera performance by Botstein and the ASO has captured the imagination of the public and critics as much as the fully staged production of Meyerbeer’s grand opera, Les Huguenots, a highlight of the 2009 Bard SummerScape festival, which is dedicated to “Wagner and His World” – the theme of the 20th annual Bard Music Festival. Producing this supposedly unstageable opera (“Too tough for the singers!” and “Too long!” are but two long-held criticisms) was clearly a risk for Botstein – despite once having been enormously popular (it was the first to receive 1,000 performances at the Paris Opera), Les Huguenots went on to drop like a stone into obscurity, last being performed at the Met in 1915. And yet, as the Wall Street Journal reported, “Bard’s gamble paid off… [Botstein] capably balanced the grandeur and the intimacy of the score and fused its varied musical styles into a grand, architectural sweep.”

Other critics agreed. A five-star review in the Financial Times reported, “Les Huguenots in Bard’s staging is a thriller from beginning to end. ... Leon Botstein made the right preliminary decision by settling on an ample performing text ... and, leading the American Symphony Orchestra and an excellent chorus, holds it all together with complete assurance.” According to the New York Post, “The large cast of young American singers, although lacking superstar vocal glamour, rose to the virtuoso vocal moments. ... Les Huguenots may not be a masterpiece, but Botstein conducts it with the fire and precision befitting one,” while Musical America noted, “Let’s not forget Meyerbeer’s imaginative and colorful orchestration, which Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra showed to full advantage in their wholly persuasive performance.” Praising the “sweep, style, and energy” of the performance,” the New York Times concluded, “This production was a chance to enter into the cultural mind-set of a rich era in opera history. The time may be right for a Met revival. Until then, Mr. Botstein once again deserves credit for an overdue rescue job.”

Opera lovers needn’t wait until next summer to join Botstein and his intrepid orchestra on another voyage of discovery (although there’s no harm in being excited about Bard SummerScape’s plan to stage Schreker’s Der ferne Klang in summer 2010). Instead, they can plan to attend the first of six concerts to be given by the American Symphony Orchestra as part of the 2009-10 Great Performers series at Lincoln Center , where, on Wednesday, October 14, Botstein will lead the ASO in Vincent d’Indy’s Fervaal, Op. 40 (1893) at Avery Fisher Hall. D’Indy’s great opera was inspired by Wagner’s epics, but composers such as Debussy and Dukas thought Fervaal soared to even greater heights.

The concert performance of Fervaal sheds much-needed light on another gem from the golden age of French opera, a period that Botstein and the ASO have mined with superb results, including the 2008-09 season opener by Lalo (Le roi d’Ys), and, in previous seasons, Dukas’s Ariane et Barbe-bleue and Chausson’s Le roi Arthus. Botstein recorded the latter two works to great acclaim with the BBC Symphony Orchestra for Telarc, with the Chausson release selected by Gramophone for “Editor’s Choice” distinction. “Botstein clearly loves this score,” noted the magazine’s editor, “and he makes the most convincing case yet for it.”

Out of My Hands: A new album from pianist Christopher O'Riley

“As a huge fan of O'Riley's work with the Radiohead and Nick Drake catalogs, I am very impressed and honored that he chose to interpret this song.” - Michael Stipe, R.E.M.

Critically acclaimed concert pianist Christopher O'Riley releases Out of My Hands, a new album of his trademark piano interpretations of contemporary repertoire featuring compositions by Nirvana, REM, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Tori Amos, The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, and Portishead, among others. These are based on his own groundbreaking transcriptions of the songs in question, following on the heels of his past readings of the finest in pop repertoire from Radiohead, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. Along with his powerful interpretations of the Classical piano repertoire, these new performances exhibit how pianist Christopher O'Riley continues to stretch and redefine the possibilities of Classical music in our time.

Out of My Hands features the single “Heart Shaped Box,” now available on iTunes, originally composed by Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. The recording techniques employed exemplify Christopher O’Riley’s unique straddling of the Classical and rock music worlds: O’Riley performed on a Hamburg Steinway Model D piano with five microphones placed inside, as well as a 360 degree surround system known as the "Death Star," comprising seven additional microphones. This dual system delivers the intensity and rich harmonic layering of O’Riley's piano arrangements, inspired by the sound of guitars, basses and drums, and captures the concert hall acoustic.

Also included on the new album are “Mother” by Tori Amos; Elliot Smith’s “New Disaster;” Portishead’s “The Rip;” “Us and Them” from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon; “Woman In Chains” by Tears for Fears; “Blue Bell Knoll” by the Cocteau Twins; “World Leader Pretend” from R.E.M.; “Asleep” by The Smiths; Reid Anderson’s “Lost of Love” and returning to Radiohead, from In Rainbows, “All I Need” and “Video Tape.” In his fascinating booklet notes, Christopher O’Riley describes the songs through a Classical lens, noting the Debussian fifths in “All I Need,” the Glassian arpeggiations on “Blue Bell Knoll,” the Schubertian focus on “Asleep” and the operatic duet in “Woman in Chains,” along with making musical comparisons to Sibelius, Chopin, Messiaen and Scriabin – all providing enlightening insight into his inimitable craft.

Christopher O’Riley’s first recording of Radiohead transcriptions, True Love Waits (Sony/Odyssey), was as critically acclaimed as it was commercially successful, sitting at the top of Billboard’s Classical chart for months. Rolling Stone gave the album four stars, calling the music “melodically vivid yet also noisily orchestral, revoicing Radiohead’s distortions, threats, loveliness and dismay … with unblinking virtuosity.” Hold Me to This: Christopher O'Riley Plays the Music of Radiohead, released on harmonia mundi’s World Village imprint, followed suit: “The songs are recognizable as Radiohead's, but their materials are deconstructed, tweaked, expanded into new time frames, new structures, new expressive possibilities,” said The Chicago Tribune. Home to Oblivion; An Elliott Smith Tribute (World Village), tackled the deeply emotional and complex work from the troubled singer/songwriter who died prematurely in 2003 and similarly drew critical praise. O’Riley’s fourth set of transcriptions from the contemporary popular songbook was Second Grace – The Music Of Nick Drake,repertoire from the late enigmatic British guitar wizard and songwriter, taken from Drake’s formally unreleased home recordings as well as his official studio output.

One of the most important and versatile pianists performing today, Christopher O’Riley’s unique career encompasses performances of a broad repertoire, ranging from the music of the Renaissance and Baroque to premiering works by today’s leading composers such as Richard Danielpour and Aaron Jay Kernis, and to such non-classical genres as the tango. As a classical pianist, O’Riley has performed with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra and the symphonies of Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Baltimore with conductors including Marin Alsop, David Zinman, Leonard Slatkin, John Williams, Neeme Järvi, Bobby McFerrin and Hans Graf, among many others. His classical recordings, including works by Scriabin, Stravinsky, Busoni, Ravel, Beethoven and John Adams can be found on the Image, Nonesuch, and RCA labels. Recently, O’Riley made his conducting debut with the Columbus Symphony, also performing Ravel’s G Major Piano Concerto with the orchestra. O’Riley has performed his acclaimed transcriptions at major venues around the world, from Istanbul to London and from Sicily to Sydney. Recent performances have incorporated live video art, in collaboration with award-winning artists Steven Byram (who also creates all O’Riley’s album artwork and illustrated his book of transcriptions, True Love Waits: Radiohead Reimagined For The Piano) and Jonathan Rosen. As host of the most popular classical music radio show on the air today, National Public Radio's top-rated From The Top, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this season, Christopher O'Riley works and performs with the next generation of brilliant young musicians. Two years ago, PBS launched the weekly television series From The Top from Carnegie Hall, featuring O’Riley as host. New episodes will be filmed in Spring 2010.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Young Artists create a shining hope for future with new release From the Top at the Pops

Nurturing young musicians is important. However, when we think of budding young musicians we imagine a screeching violin never quite in tune or a halting performance of “Heart and Soul.” From the Top at the Pops with Erich Junzel and the Cinicinnati Pops Orchestra is a soon to be released CD by Telarc where the star performers are young, budding musicians, but a far cry from out of tune – quite the opposite, this recording is a stunning example of what the horizon holds for classical music. There are shafts of brilliant gold screaming through a heavily laden sky of great classical music.

The pieces range from the powerful Piano Concerto in A minor by Edvard Greig (with Ji-Yong on piano, age 17) to the very modern jazz The Upward Stream by Russell Peck (with Corey Dundee on Tenor Saxophone, age 17). For the past ten years From the Top has been showcasing young performers. Caroline Goulding, who's debut CD I recently reviewed, is one of these stunning performers and well on her way to a spectacular professional career. The other young artists who were also featured on this year’s album show they too are well on their way.

Some of the highlights start right at the beginning. Ji-Yong does an amazing performance of Greig’s Piano Concerto in A. He only performs the opening movement, Allegra molto moderato, but he does so with command of the piano, never once giving the impression he is not intimately familiar with the music, the instrument or his ability. Chad Hoopes, only age 14, performed Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with a delightful clarity. He played even the most demanding passages with precision. Finally, Corey Dundee gave a phenomenal performance with Pecks’ The Upward Stream.

Even though I only highlighted only a few of these young artists, the entire album was delightful and worthy of praise. Hilda Huang on the piano is only 12. Matthew Allen, on cello, and Caroline Goulding, on violin, are only 16. Stephen Feigenbaum, the composer of a delightful Serenade for Strings is the oldest at 19. Each and every one is laudable as a solo performer.

From The Top at the Pops Erich Kunzel & Cincinnati Pops Orchestra Available August 25th, 2009

Timeless Ravel lives on in new recording of Daphnis et Chloé by Boston Symphony Orchestra

Ravel is one of those composers who can transcend time. Although his Daphnis et Chloé was first performed nearly a hundred years ago, the music is rich and evocative as any music score today, floating along unusual harmonic lines, fluttering with elements of late 20th century like ethereal sounds orchestrated as only Ravel could do. There are moments where the melody soars and others where the music seems to drift into a world of bacchanalia. The Boston Symphony Orchestra's new recording of Daphnis et Chloé is as timeless as the ballet, completely modern and yet as lost in mythos as Pan and Syrinx.

While this particular piece is considered as part of the repertoire of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, it is seldom played or performed. Typically we are treated to Ravel's Bolero or his orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Getting to hear the complete Daphnis et Chloé is pure pleasure. James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra bring the story to life with the subtleties we might experience from dancers live on stage. This CD is simply the delightful music, and in so many ways, much richer than we could ever expect from a stage performance. With no accompanying dance, the musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra breathe life into the characters as the music dances from the recording. And they do it very well.

As is typical with Ravel, many of the “pieces” within the ballet are short, less than 2 minutes. With Daphnis et Chloé we get bursts of characterization, scintillating orchestration and rich romantic colors. This is the first release of BSO’s new recording label and a wonderful choice allowing the orchestra a chance to dance with the music.

Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé Boston Symphony Orchestra James Levine, conductor Tanglewood Festival Chorus John Oliver, conductor

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is the basis for “Pictures Reframed”

Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes has embarked on a major collaboration with South African-born artist Robin Rhode, creating a special program entitled “Pictures Reframed”. At the core of the project is Mussorgsky’s epic piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition, and it combines music, film and still imagery.

The world premiere of “Pictures Reframed” takes place at Lincoln Center on November 13 & 14, but National Public Radio provides a preview – including interviews with the artists – on Friday, August 21 during All Things Considered, broadcast between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm eastern time (the segment is currently slotted to run at the end of the first hour of the program – approximately 4:50pm New York time). Visit NPR's newly designed music web site at http://www.npr.org/music/ to see video footage of the development of the project; and for those who miss the radio broadcast, the ATC audio segment will be available online, at the same link, after 7pm eastern time.

EMI Classics, for which Leif Ove Andsnes records exclusively, will release the project on both DVD and CD in the fall, before the world premiere performances in November. The project tours the United States and Europe during November and December, with Andsnes performing Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition while images and videos by Rhode are projected onto screens surrounding the piano. The sponsor of “Pictures Reframed” is StatoilHydro, and New York’s Lincoln Center is the commissioning arts institution.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Emmanuel Villaume Appointed Chief Conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra

New role follows his appointment in october 2008 as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra

Emmanuel Villaume has been appointed Chief Conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra that is based in Bratislava . He will begin his tenure with the orchestra during the 2009-10 season with three programs featuring Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, Poulenc’s Gloria and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Mr. Villaume will gradually increase his presence with the orchestra over the next few years.

Founded in 1949, the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra marks its 60th anniversary during the 2009-10 season. The Orchestra resides in the Baroque-era Reduta Concert Hall built in 1773 and in addition to its concert season, performs regularly at music festivals throughout Europe, and has made international tours to Cyprus, Turkey, Japan, and the United States.

In October 2008 Mr. Villaume was appointed the Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra based in Ljubljana where he will conduct at least six programs during the season. His repertoire for the 2009-10 season includes Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 and concert performances of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette and act three of Wagner’s Parsifal. One of the world’s oldest orchestras – its roots date back to 1701 – the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra includes composers Haydn, Beethoven, Paganini and Brahms amongst its honorary members and, over the centuries, has worked regularly with some of the most celebrated figures in musical history.

“Both of these orchestras have very prestigious traditions and specific identities. I have worked a lot over the past 10 years with the Slovak Philharmonic; we have a great rapport and I am looking forward to building this relationship even further. The Slovenian Philharmonic is also a magnificent orchestra, full of vitality and with a deep soul. We have been able to put together a great 2009-10 season with first class soloists and conductors. These two positions will help me balance further my work between the opera and the symphonic worlds, which I find is fundamental for a conductor,” says Mr. Villaume.

Based in New York and Paris, Mr. Villaume recently completed his ninth season as the Music Director for Opera & Orchestra at the Spoleto Festival USA. During the forthcoming 2009-10 season, Mr. Villaume will conduct soprano Anna Netrebko in concerts in Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden in September and lead The Merry Widow with Elizabeth Futral at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in December. In June 2009 he conducted Tosca at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and during the 2008-09 season he opened the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s season leading Manon (with Natalie Dessay and Jonas Kaufmann) and led Carmen at Los Angeles Opera and Les Contes d’Hoffmann in Turin.

Sting and Trudie Styler Star in Twin Spirits

The poignant and tragic love story of Robert and Clara Schumann told in words and music to be released on Opus Arte September 29th DVD sales to support the vital work of the Royal Opera House Education Program

On September 29th, Opus Arte presents Twin Spirits, the story of the passionate romance and subsequent marriage between composer Robert Schumann and piano prodigy Clara Wieck, available on DVD and Blu-Ray disc. This production from the Royal Opera House brings together nine diverse performers of the highest caliber: Sting, an artist who defies simple classification, joins his wife, actress and producer Trudie Styler to read from the letters between Robert and Clara. Their story, narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi, is illustrated and interwoven with music composed by Robert – whose spirit is embodied by pianist Iain Burnside, baritone Simon Keenlyside and violinist Sergej Krylov – and by Clara, who is evoked by pianist Natasha Paremski, soprano Rebecca Evans, and cellist Natalie Clein.

“A performance like this is a personal journey. You’re forced to share very private thoughts and make them public, and that creates a tension. This love story – the relationship and the tragedy – provides a great introduction for people who don’t normally listen to classical music. Hearing the Schumanns’ music at the same time as telling their story is a very intimate, engaging and emotional experience.” - Sting

This subtle and moving piece, a fusion of recital and drama, was devised by the stage director and writer John Caird. His credits include Hamlet and Candide at the National Theatre, Les Misérables and Nicholas Nickleby with Trevor Nunn, and Don Carlos for Welsh National Opera.

“When we started on this adventure with Twin Spirits. I was profoundly moved by the richness and power of the narrative. The passion of Robert and Clara’s love transcends the ages. It is a wonderful and moving story which I believe remains fascinating and relevant to today's world.” - Trudie Styler

Love began to blossom between Robert Schumann (1810-56) and Clara Wieck (1819-90) when she was a teenager and he was the student of her father, Friedrich Wieck, who made every effort to impede the relationship. She was one of the 19th century’s greatest pianists and herself a composer of note. After a legal battle with her father the couple finally married in 1840. In the 1850s their happiness became compromised by Robert’s increasing mental instability, which resulted in a suicide attempt in 1854; he died in an asylum in 1856. Clara, who lived for another 40 years, devoted her considerable energies to propagating her husband’s music, which is at its greatest in his intimate works for piano, voice and chamber ensemble. “Twin Spirits tells a great human drama, irrespective of the fact that it’s about two great musicians,” says director John Caird. “It makes us think about love, marriage, relationships, pain, illness and how they influence art and life. Robert and Clara's chamber music was almost like a diary and listening to it you feel you are looking into the pages of something deeply personal.” Twin Spirits was recorded before a small audience in a studio space at London’s Royal Opera House shortly before Christmas 2007. All the artists involved donated their talent and time so that everyone buying a copy will be supporting the important work of the Royal Opera House Education Program which provides opportunities for some 90,000 people annually to engage with opera, music and dance. These projects reach people of all ages and backgrounds, including the isolated and elderly, the socially deprived, disabled adults and children, young offenders and for these people they have a very significant and positive impact. The Royal Opera House’s work helps them to become enthusiastic and motivated, learn self-respect, discover the potential within themselves and develop a team spirit. For every performance on the world-famous stage, at least twice as many educational activities are taking place and this work is a vital part of the Royal Opera House’s mission.

The original performance of Twin Sprits took place in June 2005, also at the Royal Opera House. Other charity performances took place at Salisbury Cathedral (to benefit the Salisbury Cathedral Girl Choristers), the New Victory Theatre in New York (to benefit Broadway Cares – Equity Fights Aids) and, at the Prince of Wales’ invitation, Windsor Castle (to benefit the Royal Opera House Foundation, and Soil Association). Among other performers who have participated alongside Sting and Trudie are actors Sir Ian McKellen, Charles Dance, and Jonathan Pryce and violinists Vasko Vassilev and Joshua Bell. Twin Spirits will be released by Opus Arte on DVD (OA 0994 D) and Blu-Ray (OA BD7043 D) in the US on September 29th, 2009. Preview the DVD and access further information about the Twin Spirits project, Robert and Clara Schumann and the Royal Opera House Education Program at www.twin-spirits.com.

Violinists Adele Anthony and Gil Shaham Celebrate Music of Legendary Spanish Composer Pablo de Sarasate with New Recording for Canary Classics

Album Launch Event at New York’s (Le) Poisson Rouge on Tuesday, September 29

Violinists Adele Anthony and Gil Shaham share many passions. Along with their personal relationship (they are married) and careers as performing artists, they both feel a deep connection to the music of Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908), the legendary Spanish violinist and composer whose colorful dance- and song-inspired works are not only enormously entertaining and irresistibly appealing, but also full of sometimes hair-raising technical challenges. Following a number of concert performances at home and abroad dedicated to the composer’s music, Adele and Gil recorded many of their favorites for a new album, Sarasate: Virtuoso Violin Works, which will be released by Canary Classics – the label Gil founded in 2004 – on Tuesday, September 29. Gil and Adele will celebrate the release by performing an all-Sarasate program at the popular downtown music club (Le) Poisson Rouge in New York City .

Adele and Gil used the occasion of Sarasate’s centenary in 2008 to pay tribute to the revered master’s work. One highlight of their activities included a November concert at New York ’s Lincoln Center , broadcast live on public television, at which a much-surprised Gil was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize, presented to him by his friend and colleague conductor Gustavo Dudamel. The season’s festivities culminated in “¡Sarasateada!” – a series of Sarasate concerts in Valladolid , Spain , which were recorded for this CD release.

“Sarasate’s compositions are full of imagination and melody, impeccably clean and concise. He was very respected in his day and was, in many ways, the heir to Paganini. Many great composers dedicated their works to him – Saint-Saëns, Bruch, Lalo, and others. And he was a pioneer – the first to bring the rich music and dance of the Spanish vernaculars to the concert stage. He was a Spanish aristocrat from the Basque country who was honored by the Queen. At the same time, he was loved worldwide by professional and amateur musicians, as well as by the public at large. Sarasate basically wrote three genres of music: Spanish dances, opera transcriptions, and original compositions. The new recording gives a sampling of each of these and we hope that listeners will find as much to love in this music as we do.” -Gil Shaham

Adele Anthony, who makes her debut on the Canary Classics label with this recording, adds:

“Like many violinists I grew up with Sarasate, attempting to master some of his works, which offer a combination of melody, violinistic idiom, and elegance and are often evocative of his native Spain . While exploring his music I became more and more impressed by his diversity and imagination, especially as presented in his original work Song of the Nightingale. To me, this piece is exceptionally beautiful as well as thoughtfully presented. I always enjoy playing Sarasate because he uses violin techniques so organically that the music miraculously emerges.”

Following in the footsteps of the showman Paganini, Pablo de Sarasate was the last of the 19th-century larger-than-life virtuosos. His seemingly limitless technique was a factor that flowed into his compositions and imbued them with a natural bravura that demands the most from those who perform them. The new release features both the popular and the unexpected. Sarasate’s “Carmen” Fantasy (given a red-blooded live performance by Gil with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León), Zapateado, the raucous cowboy dance, and Introduction and Tarantella are works that have challenged violinists for decades and never fail to dazzle audiences. Lesser known are such wonderful works as Song of the Nightingale, Airs écossais, and Gavota de “Mignon”, which further demonstrate the variety of his compositional gifts. The disc concludes with the winsome stratospheric duo Navarra, a folk song derived from Navarre , Sarasate’s region.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Soprano Susanna Phillips to Perform Mozart Arias with Marin Alsop and Baltimore Symphony

A Little Night Music and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 also on the November program

Baltimore, Md. (August 19, 2009)—BSO Music Director Marin Alsop will welcome soprano Susanna Phillips to the stage to perform selections of Mozart’s arias with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on Friday, November 6 and Saturday, November 7 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, November 8 at 3:00 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The program also includes Mozart’s lively Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music) and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.

Originally scored for a chamber ensemble, Mozart composed Eine kleine Nachtmusik while concurrently composing Don Giovanni. Though Mozart originally composed the piece in five movements, only four survive. Even in its diminished form, the tuneful melodies and simple harmonies make it a favorite among classical and non-classical audiences.

Of Mozart’s 60 arias, 35 were composed for soprano. Susanna Phillips will sing three that were composed in the later years of Mozart’s life: “Alma grande e nobil core,” K. 578, “Vado, ma dove? O dei,” K. 583 and “Bella mia fiamma—Resta, o cara,” K. 528. The last piece was composed for the Czech soprano Josefa Duschek, who reportedly locked Mozart in a room in order to convince him to write an aria for her. In turn, the piece is full of difficult leaps and surprising harmonic progressions. A relatively new artist, Ms. Phillips brings “warmth and suppleness, as well as an attractively dark tone to the soprano lines” (New York Times).

Gustav Mahler’s Fourth Symphony was inspired by a collection of German folk poems, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (“The Youth’s Magic Horn”). Based on one song from this cycle, “Das himmlische Leben” (“The Heavenly Life”), the symphony relays a child’s concept of heaven. This naïve “child’s vision,” along with its more modest, classical proportions and humorous nature, contributes to its posthumous reputation as one of Mahler’s more approachable works.

Classical Concert Series: Mozart and Mahler
Friday, November 6, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. —Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall*
Saturday, November 7, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. — JMSH
Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 3:00 p.m. - JMSH

Marin Alsop, conductor
Susanna Phillips, soprano

Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik
Mozart: Alma grande e nobil core, K. 578
Mozart: Vado, ma dove? O dei, K. 583
Mozart: Bella mia fiamma—Resta, o cara, K. 528
Mahler: Symphony No. 4

*Classical Conversations is a free pre-concert lecture at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The program begins at 7:00 p.m. and is free to ticket holders.

Tickets for these concerts go on sale September 1, 2009, range from $28 to $90 and are available through the BSO Ticket Office, 877.BSO.1444, 410.783.8000 or BSOmusic.org.

Violinist Nikolaj Znaider Makes His Salzburg Festival Debut Playing Tchaikovsky with Vienna Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel

After summer festival performances in the US with the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst, the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert and the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Leonard Slatin, Nikolaj Znaider performs in a pair of concerts at the Salzburg Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. Znaider will perform the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto on August 27 and August 29. These will be his first performances with the Vienna Philharmonic since his recording sessions under Valery Gergiev for the recently released Brahms and Korngold concertos, a disc that earned this rave from the Dallas Morning News: “The Copenhagen native with matinee-idol looks serves up deeply committed and lustrously intoned performances of both the Brahms and the…Korngold.” The Daily Telegraph wrote of the Brahms recording: “Znaider’s own playing transmits thoughtfulness, expressive power, concentration and command of the nuances of phrasing, combined with an overarching sense of structure.”

Znaider started his summer on this side of the Atlantic, welcomed back first to Cleveland where he has become a popular visitor. Writing about his interpretation of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Festival, the Plain Dealer praised a performance “marked by a honeyed tone and exceptional precision. ... Few violinists relish the finer points of music the way Znaider does. No potentially subtle or velvety passage goes by untapped.” The next stop on Znaider’s festival tour was Napa Valley’s Festival del Sole, where he played the Brahms concerto; a few days later he left California for the Bravo!-Vail Valley Music Festival, repeating the Brahms with the resident New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert, its new music director.

On August 6, Znaider stepped in to replace Leonidas Kavakos (who was recovering from surgery) at the Hollywood Bowl, playing Tchaikovsky’s concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Leonard Slatkin. Although he was brought in at very short notice, Znaider dazzled both audiences and critics with his seemingly effortless performance. Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times reported:

“[Znaider] has learned from Heifetz to make the impossible sound effortless… Znaider skated over the orchestra, his reflexes a delight. Nothing Slatkin could throw at him fazed him. The central Canzonetta was weightless and a wonder.”

Znaider rounds out his summer with appearances at the Jerusalem Intern ational Chamber Music Festival (Sept 1 and 2) and then at northeast Germany ’s regional Festival Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Sept 5), where he will play Brahms’s concerto with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields . His summer draws to a close in the Swiss Alps at the Ascona Festival (Sept 10); there he conducts the Lugano Orchestra in a concert featuring Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 and Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 2, which he will lead from the violin.

Earlier this summer Znaider recorded Sir Edward Elgar’s violin concerto with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Sir Colin Davis for release next year on BMG/Red Seal, the Sony Classical-held label for which Znaider records exclusively. He will perform the work widely next season, during the centennial of its creation.

Nikolaj Znaider at the Salzburg Festival
August 27 & 29, Salzburg , Austria
Vienna Philharmonic / Gustavo Dudamel
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto

Violinist Daniel Hope Performs World Premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s New Violin Concerto

Fiddler on the Shore premieres with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra on August 22

Hope and Maxwell Davies Give UK Premiere on September 8 with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at BBC Proms

Violinist Daniel Hope, a long-time champion of new music, is the soloist for the world premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s second violin concerto, Fiddler on the Shore, on August 22 with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. The work, commissioned by the orchestra and written specially for Hope, will be conducted by the composer. This performance will be part of the orchestra’s Mendelssohn bicentennial celebrations in Leipzig. After the world premiere, Daniel Hope and Peter Maxwell Davies will bring the piece back home to Great Britain, where they will present the UK premiere at the BBC Proms on September 8 – Sir Peter’s 75th birthday, this time with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Both Hope and Maxwell Davies are favorite British musicians. Peter Maxwell Davies, one of the UK’s most celebrated composers, was knighted in 1987, and he was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in March 2004.

Fiddler on the Shore, Maxwell Davies’s second violin concerto, uses elements of the folk music of the Orkney Islands in Scotland , a place well known for traditional fiddling, and it transforms this music into a large-scale orchestral work. In the composer’s program notes, he says:

“The new work is at the same time a celebration of Orkney traditional fiddle music, and of the sheer wonder and beauty of the sea, whose sound permeates every moment of your life, and also a meditation on the fragility of this music under modern pressures, and the vulnerability of a sandy island in the way of ever-rising seas, as icecaps melt.”

As the soloist in this new work, Daniel Hope continues his celebrated career in which he brings a wide array of both new and newly discovered works to the public’s attention. In 2008, his first solo recording for Deutsche Grammophon featured the world premiere recording of the original version of Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and a revised version of the composer’s irresistible Octet for Strings, a CD that Alex Ross of the New Yorker called “a bold, stylish recording of the Violin Concerto, alongside one of the finest modern accounts of the Octet.” Meanwhile, that same year, Hope presented Celeste, a new work for violin and percussion by Stewart Copeland, the drummer of the rock band The Police, at the Savannah Music Festival.

The premiere of Fiddler on the Shore marks a special opportunity for Daniel Hope to work with one of today’s most celebrated composers – an honor that he is proud will start off his new season. Speaking of the work and the composer in general, Hope said:

“I have been particularly fascinated by the ingenious way in which Sir Peter has been able to blend the folk with the symphonic. It is a technically challenging work, and yet it relies on a strong element of lyricism, which I find particularly inspiring. I have long admired Sir Peter's music, and so to be the dedicatee of such an important work, and to give the world premiere with the Gewandhaus Orchestra during its Mendelssohn bicentennial celebrations is a huge honour, as indeed it is to perform it at the Proms, on the composer's 75th birthday.”

Daniel Hope – Peter Maxwell Davies Violin Concerto premiere:

Aug 22: Leipzig , Germany
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies: Violin Concerto No. 2 Fiddler on the Shore (world premiere)
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, conductor

September 8: BBC Proms, London , UK
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies: Violin Concerto No. 2 Fiddler on the Shore ( UK premiere)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, conductor

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Trumpet Concerto - a work in progress

For those of you who don't know, I am also a composer. Occasionally I post links to pieces I am currently working on.

This trumpet concerto is my lastest project. The link is only the first movement, but feel free to comment...

Fall Season Preview for OperaColorado

DENVER, CO—Opera Colorado General Director Gregory Carpenter announced plans for the company’s upcoming 2009/2010 Season. “Our new season includes three beloved elections from the operatic repertoire that represent both traditional and innovative approaches to the art form,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter stated that the artistic goals for the new season build on the company’s recent successes. “As we move into the future, Opera Colorado will strive to present at least one opera per season that is either new to Opera Colorado, new to Denver audiences or rarely performed in Colorado,” Carpenter said. “We are particularly excited that the 09/10 season will also introduce Denver audiences to many new artists, including conductors, designers, directors, and singers.” All together, twenty-nine artists will make their Opera Colorado debuts next season when all casting is complete.

    The Tales of Hoffmann
    By Jacques Offenbach
    November 7, 10, 13 and 15, 2009

    The Barber of Seville
    By Gioachino Rossini
    February 6, 9, 12 and 14, 2010

    By Giacomo Puccini
    April 24, 27, 30, May 2, 2010

Here is a behind the scenes look at The Tales of Hoffmann

Monday, August 17, 2009

Puccini's La Rondine as performed by Washington National Opera released to DVD

Washington National Opera’s acclaimed 1998 production of Puccini’s La Rondine, which was nationally televised on PBS, is now available on DVD. Decca is proud to add this title to its impressive collection of opera-on-DVD, especially as this is the first available performance of the controversial “third ending” which Puccini completed in 1921. After extensive investigative research and tireless efforts, the director, Marta Domingo, has reconstructed the tragic version of this opera. Rather than having Magda fly off like a swallow at the end, the story ends with her taking her own life. This alternate edition of the score presents a very different Magda and dramatic arch.

Seen not only in Washington DC but also Los Angeles , this production is a deeply moving addition to the standard repertoire and this DVD a valuable document of Puccini’s experimentation with drama and theatricality.

Deutsche Grammophon releases Monteverdi's L’Incoronazione di Poppea on DVD

Returning to the opera house where she sang her sensational Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Danielle performs the title role in Monteverdi’s great opera of lust and power, in Robert Carsen’s modern-dress staging. De Niese is perfectly cast as the beautiful and seductive Poppea who ruthlessly grabs power as Nero’s lover but, in this production, is doomed from the moment of her coronation at the end of the opera. De Niese’s performance is vocally and dramatically powerful, perfectly complemented by Alice Coote as Nero. The two are supported by an outstanding cast, together with period-performance star Emmanuelle Haïm conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

“Wonderfully lucid and unflinching staging... the wonder of conductor Emmanuelle Haïm’s work here with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is the way she illuminates the play of Monteverdi’s expressive vocal lines with the harmony beneath” – The Independent, London