. Interchanging Idioms: March 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gil Shaham and Sejong Soloists Team Up for High-Spirited Recording of Two Haydn Violin Concertos and Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings

New CD on Shaham’s Canary Classics Label

Offering an ebullient counterbalance to the often shadowy intensity of many of the works Gil Shaham is performing this season in his ongoing “Concertos of the 1930s” project, the celebrated violinist presents a new recording of Haydn’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in C major and Violin Concerto No. 4 in G major and Mendelssohn’s Octet. Shaham is joined by the Sejong Soloists on the new CD, due for release on March 30 on his own label, Canary Classics.

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) died in the same year that Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was born; the new recording grew out of the centenary concerts that Shaham and Sejong gave in 2009. Haydn was no doubt an influence on Mendelssohn’s music, and the younger composer held the earlier master in the highest esteem. The works featured on the new album share a buoyant enthusiasm reflective of both composers’ youth: Mendelssohn was just a teenager when the debut of his Octet in 1825 catapulted him to fame; Haydn wrote the two concertos heard on this disc during the 1760s, when he was in his 30s and still in his self-proclaimed “extended youthful period.”

Gil Shaham comments on the recording of Mendelssohn’s Octet: “Documents from the time show Mendelssohn thought of this piece as a ‘brand new type of music’ – revolutionary music from a 16-year-old who was out to prove himself and change the musical world. Although we stuck almost exclusively with Mendelssohn’s final revised version of the Octet, looking at the original was inspiring. The faster tempo markings and the attention to staccato articulation in Mendelssohn’s own handwriting persuaded us to try to conjure up a magical spirit world conveyed in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Goethe’s Faust, both works that greatly fired the young composer’s imagination.”

Haydn’s Concerto in C major was written for the violinist Alois Luigi Tomasini, whose star as a soloist was rising throughout Central Europe and who had recently begun his tenure as concert-master of the Esterhazy Orchestra, for whom Haydn would write so many of his works during his decades of service to the Esterhazy family in Eisenstadt. The C major presents greater technical challenges than the G major concerto, although as Stephen Somary explains in the album’s liner notes: “it allows the composer to focus [in the G major] on rhythmically driven and soaring melodic lines, as well as beautiful long phrases, especially in the slow second movement.”

Gil Shaham and Sejong’s association extends back more than ten years. Shaham says that performing the Mendelssohn Octet with Sejong is “like playing basketball with seven Michael Jordans. It was a privilege for me, sitting there with my graying hair, to try and keep up with their artistry." Sejong is renowned for its cohesiveness and refreshing musical style, and together with Shaham the ensemble brings to this repertoire a sense of intimacy, compelling intensity and engagement. (Shaham, incidentally, studied at Juilliard with renowned violin professor Hyo Kang, Sejong’s Artistic Director.)

Shaham and Sejong have toured the featured repertoire extensively, and as the concert review in the Santa Barbara Independent noted: “Shaham manages to combine extraordinary virtuosity with uncommon restraint ... The majestic sweep of the augmented quartet form was given full rein ... Two powerful forces in the service of a higher cause.”

Shaham’s previous recording for Canary Classics was a tribute to Spanish violinist and composer Pablo de Sarasate in his centenary year. In its December issue, BBC Music magazine noted: “With his pure tone, immaculately clear delivery and refusal to over-indulge, Shaham proves to be an almost ideal interpreter of this repertory. There’s a palpable sense of excitement in the live recordings as he surmounts all the technical hurdles of the Carmen Fantasy and Zigeunerweisen with outrageous ease.” Gramophone’s similarly enthusiastic review followed in January: “Both violinists [Shaham and Adele Anthony] have a real feeling for the music – its sometimes outrageous showmanship, which Shaham is particularly good at portraying, combined with easy, graceful, aristocratic manners.”

East Neuk Festival ‘Holiday Line’ Film and Exhibition Gathering Momentum

The soot, smoke and steam of the engines, the social hubbub of summer arrivals at the little picket-fenced stations dotted along the coastline from Largo to Crail, beach activities from dawn to dusk – these are some of the enduring memories of people interviewed by film makers Kenny Munro and Ed O’Donnelly for the specially commissioned East Neuk Festival film, The Holiday Line.

Prompted by sepia-tinted photo albums and silent flickering cine-film they recall the 1950s and early ‘60s heydays of the railway line that brought city dwellers every summer to the resorts of Pittenween, Elie and Anstruther for the long days of bathing, picnics, pageants and golf. Locals would move into the garden shed for the months of July and August and rent their houses to vacationing city dwellers and tents and caravans would take up residence in many a farmer’s field to accommodate the incoming swell of holidaymakers. Campers would apparently hurl their tents and equipment from the train windows as they passed by the campsites to save the haul back from the station several hundred yards further on. And everybody remembers times gone by as more relaxed; even the train chugged its way along the coast at a leisurely pace.

The development of the railway after the war encouraged not only tourism, but also agricultural and industrial development of the region: fish, fruit, hemp and linoleum are just some of the products that the railways took south. The demise came after the mid 1960s when the rail route was closed (a casualty of the Beeching Axe*) and now the railway lines are just ghostly traces across the landscape and only memories remain.

More recently though, a new generation love affair with the wide sandy beaches, coastal paths, fine dining, cosy pubs and burgeoning cultural scene has urbanites from Edinburgh (an hour’s drive away), Glasgow and London once again flooding to this corner (neuk) of Scotland, albeit by road and air these days.

The Holiday Line film will be shown in Crail Community Hall during the 2010 East Neuk Festival (30 June – 4 July) with six screenings a day (Friday-Sunday inclusive) and will undoubtedly appeal to railway enthusiasts, nostalgic romantics hankering after days gone by and baby-boomers with their own childhood memories to share. Admission is free.

An exhibition of the history and memorabilia associated with The Holiday Line will be on display in the Hall’s adjoining room, fashioned as a railway waiting room. Meanwhile round the corner on the site of the former Crail Railway Station another bucket-and-spade project of monumental proportions will be on parade and will transform a rather neglected corner of this picturesque seaside village.

The East Neuk Festival has commissioned Sand in Your Eye, a company famed for its award-winning sculptures in ice and sand, to create a gigantic steam engine made out of sand. This ephemeral work of art will take shape out of 15 tons of sand that will be dumped on site Saturday 26 June. The team of sculptors expect it to be completed by the following Saturday, allowing Festival visitors and locals to watch the train taking shape, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of railways past. www.sandsculptureice.co.uk.

Violinist Daniel Hope Performs Works From His New Deutsche Grammophon Recording, Air: A baroque journey, at New York’s Highline Ballroom April 5th

“A violinist of probing intellect and commanding style … In a business that likes tidy boxes drawn around its commodities, the British violinist Daniel Hope resists categorization.” – The New York Times

Innovative British violinist Daniel Hope continues creating concerts and recording projects that challenge and thrill audiences with his latest Deutsche Grammophon release, Air: A Baroque Journey. In an exciting move, Hope will perform extensive selections from the album at New York’s Highline Ballroom on April 5. The concert will mark the first time that the program will be presented in the US and is Daniel Hope’s only New York appearance this season.

Air: A Baroque Journey focuses on 17th and 18th century European violin music. The violin, created in the 16th century by Andrea Amati, and violin music went through arguably their greatest development during the Baroque era as composers were liberated from the austerity and contrapuntal strictures of the Renaissance. Both musically and geographically this journey is explored on the present album with some extraordinary (and sometimes quite popular) music.

Read Interchanging Idioms review of Daniel Hope's CD here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thomas Hampson Master Class on Mahler Songs at Manhattan School of Music Tomorrow, March 30, at 2 pm

Tonight Hampson Begins Run at Met in Verdi’s La Traviata; April 5 Sees Start of Series of Events with New York Philharmonic

Eminent American baritone Thomas Hampson, a Manhattan School of Music Distinguished Visiting Artist, will coach select small ensembles in a master class at the school tomorrow, Tuesday, March 30 at 2 PM. The groups, comprising students in the orchestral performance program, will study, transcribe, and perform pieces from some of Gustav Mahler’s most famous song cycles, including Kindertotenlieder and Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen. Presented in a collaboration between the distance learning and orchestral performance programs, the coaching will be open to the public on a first-come first-served basis, with no tickets required, and it will be streamed on http://dl.msmnyc.edu/live and with the Thomas Hampson iPhone app.

"There is nothing more important and exciting in education today than the world of technologies and how they allow us to expand outreach and guarantee content quality. The Manhattan School of Music continues to be at the forefront of this endeavor, and I am thrilled to be part of what we believe is the first classical music-related live event in an iPhone app." - Thomas Hampson

Hampson’s master class is one of a remarkable string of performances and special appearances he will make in New York City in the coming weeks, beginning tonight when he encores the role of Germont in Verdi’s La traviata at the Metropolitan Opera – in the first of eight performances through April 24. April also finds Hampson busy across the plaza in a series of events that are part of his yearlong appointment as the first Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence of the New York Philharmonic. His recital at Avery Fisher Hall on April 11, co-presented by the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center’s “Art of the Song” series, will feature Schumann’s great song cycle Dichterliebe and songs by Samuel Barber. On April 16, at Symphony Space, Hampson will give the world premiere of Matthias Pintscher’s songs from Solomon’s garden, commissioned by the orchestra and written expressly for Hampson; the concert will be repeated the following evening, on April 17, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with both performances conducted by Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert.

Hampson’s third and final Insights Series event for the Philharmonic this season, “Listening to Thought: A Guide to German Romanticism”, will take place on April 5 at Lincoln Center’s Kaplan Penthouse; Hampson will explore the iconography, metaphor, and imagery of this epochal period for European art song.

Baltimore Symphony Associates Host 34th Annual Decorators’ Show House, May 8-30, 2010

The Baltimore Symphony Associates (BSA) will host its 34th annual Decorators’ Show House at 31 Woodholme Ave. in Pikesville, Maryland from May 8-30. Featuring Maryland’s leading interior designers, the Show House is an annual fundraiser to benefit the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s education programs. Show House hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and are available through the BSO Box office, BSOmusic.org, Graul’s Market and Field’s Pharmacy. Tickets are $25 at the door. Guests may also purchase specialty goods and crafts and at the onsite boutique. Many of the accessories and furnishings used in the designed spaces and gently-used consignment items are also available for purchase. Parking is available at 15 Music Fair Road, Owings Mills, MD with a shuttle service from the parking area to Woodholme.

Constructed in 1925 during prohibition, this Tudor-styled home features two hidden liquor storage areas: a sliding cabinet behind a bookcase and a wine cellar built into the dining room wall. The four bedroom, three and half bath home also features a library, a sun porch and an alchemist’s chamber.

To prepare this home for the more than 10,000 guests who annually attend the Associate’s popular fundraiser, approximately 50 designers and construction workers renovate, decorate and furnish the estate’s 24 rooms. This year’s selection of award-winning interior designers include Maryland Chapter President of the American Society of Interior Designers Laura C. Kimball, Russell Slouck from Gatehouse Interiors and Donna Melvin from Twin Diamond Studios, among others. One special wall even includes a mural of the home’s history.

COMPLETE EVENT INFORMATION
Baltimore Symphony Associates’ Decorator’s Show House
May 8-30, 2010
Woodholme
31 Woodholme Ave
Pikesville, MD 21208

Parking at: 15 Music Fair Rd (off Painter’s Mill Rd)
Owings Mills, MD 21117

Hours:
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Thursdays: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Sundays: 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance and are available through the BSO Box office 410.783.8000, BSOmusic.org or several ticket outlets including, Graul’s Markets and Fields Pharmacy. Tickets are $25 at the door.

Metropolitan Opera star Sondra Radvanovsky makes her debut in the title role of Tosca with Opera Colorado

All-star production opens April 24; four performances only

Sondra Radvanovsky (pictured), leading lady of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, will make her debut as Puccini’s tragic heroine in Opera Colorado’s upcoming production of Tosca playing at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House April 24, 27, 30 and May 2.

Conductor Stephen Lord will lead the performance featuring the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Noted director Ron Daniels will stage the production also starring tenor Antonello Palombi as Cavaradossi and Greer Grimsley as the evil Baron Scarpia.

Tickets are available online at OperaColorado.org or by calling 800.982.ARTS.

A ruthless police chief's obsession with a celebrated opera singer leads to betrayal, murder and suicide in this operatic thriller. Set among the historical landmarks of 19th century Rome, this opulent production of Puccini's drama represents the best opera has to offer: an intensely dramatic storyline of cruelty and deception along with stirring and turbulent music from one of opera’s greatest composers, Giacomo Puccini.

American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky’s dramatic stage presence and stunning vocal gifts have firmly established her as one of the leading stars on the international stage today. The New York Times has praised her “rich, tremulous soprano voice and affecting intensity,” while The Times (UK) hailed her as “a true Verdian, with a big, juicy, vibrato-rich sound.” Most recently the San Francisco Chronicle declared, “even if nothing else happens during the rest of the San Francisco Opera's 2009 fall season, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky has already provided us with at least one extraordinary and indelible musical memory.” Ms. Radvanovsky has sung in every major opera house in the world including Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Vienna State Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, and numerous others. Her debut solo album, Verdi Arias, will be released on the Delos label on April 27.

Italian tenor Antonello Palombi was thrust into the international spotlight in 2006 when he unexpectedly stepped into the role of Radames in Aïda mid-performance at La Scala when the tenor who had started the performance was unable to continue. His star has continued to rise as he has performed at companies throughout Europe and North America, including Seattle Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Cincinnati Opera and Dallas Opera.

Greer Grimsley reprises the role of Scarpia at Opera Colorado. The San Diego Union Tribune counts Grimsley “in the first rank of this role’s great interpreters, a list that includes such heavyweights as Tito Gobbi and Cornell MacNeil.” Grimsley earned critical praise last year for his performances as Wotan in The Ring Cycle with Seattle Opera. His international career has also included performances with companies across North and South America and Europe.

Stage director Ron Daniels was a founding member of the Teatro Oficina in São Paulo. He has also worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company, American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain, The Shakespeare Theatre of Washington, D.C., The Public Theatre of New York and the Dallas Theater Center. Mr. Daniels is Opera Colorado’s 2009-2010 Nathaniel Merrill Honorary Director, an honor made possible by a generous gift from Pamela Merrill.

Tosca
By Giacomo Puccini

Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 7:30 pm
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 7:30 pm
Friday, April 30, 2010 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Ellie Caulkins Opera House
14th & Curtis Streets
Denver Performing Arts Complex

Tickets: $30 to $165

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Deutsche Grammophon & Decca Pianists Tour the US this Spring

Many of classical music’s most respected pianists will travel across the US this spring giving recitals and concerts. Deutsche Grammophon and Decca exclusive recording artists Maurizio Pollini, Yuja Wang and Jean-Yves Thibaudet all release new CDs in addition to their many performances.

Maurizio Pollini
Few pianists reach the legendary status that Maurizio Pollini has already attained. Since taking First Prize at the 1960 International Chopin Competition, Pollini has spent the last 50 years giving recitals and concerts around the world while creating an invaluable recorded legacy with Deutsche Grammophon. This spring, Pollini returns to the US with all-Chopin recitals in Chicago, New York, Boston and Norfolk. To celebrate, the pianist has hand-picked his favorite Chopin recordings for a compilation, available April 6. The CD includes Etudes for Piano; Waltzes (3) for Piano, op. 34; Ballade for Piano no. 4 in F minor, op. 52; a selection of Polonaises and more.

Yuja Wang
Whereas Pollini is an established fixture in the world of classical piano, Yuja Wang is emerging as a bright new talent. Yuja, who signed with Deutsche Grammophon based on her love of Pollini’s recordings, offers her second recital disc, Transformation, available April 13. Her debut solo recital disc was nominated for a Grammy, and this follow-up recital is sure to impress. Including Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka, Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Ravel’s La Valse and two Scarlatti Sonatas, this virtuosic program displays the many tones and colors Yuja can draw out of the piano. Yuja will tour extensively this spring, both with orchestra and in solo recital.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet
French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet is known for his sparkling virtuosity and unique touch with French piano music, but for his upcoming Decca release (available April 27) he turns to American composer George Gershwin. In collaboration with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Thibaudet performs the original jazz band arrangements of Rhapsody in Blue and the Piano Concerto along with Gershwin’s own arrangement of Variations on “I Got Rhythm”.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Baltimore Symphony Successfully Negotiates New Musicians' Contract

Board, Musicians, Marin Alsop Appeal to Public for Support of BSO’s Future

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra today announced that it has reached a new labor agreement with its musicians that will position the institution for financial stability and continued artistic innovation under the leadership of Marin Alsop. After several months of negotiations and working closely with the board and management through the prolonged economic crisis, the BSO musicians have agreed to a pivotal two-part contract through September 2013, which will maintain the BSO as one of only seventeen 52-week orchestras in America.

The existing contract has been modified for the 2010-11 season and includes a freeze in salaries from the current season including two furlough weeks. From September 2011, a new two-year agreement takes effect through September 2013; annual salary will be reduced 16.66% from the 2008-09 contract and medical insurance costs will be reduced by 16.5% through employee contributions to premiums and deductible payments. Vacant positions in the orchestra will remain unfilled.

In support of the BSO’s mission to educate and mentor young musicians, the BSO will begin an experimental Fellows program in September 2011 for highly talented post-conservatory musicians to perform with and be mentored by the BSO. The structure and details of the program have yet to be worked out, but will be developed by Marin Alsop and the BSO musicians. Like the Orchestra’s recently announced BSO Academy slated for this summer, the Fellows program is expected to be unprecedented in the industry.

This agreement enables the BSO to emerge from the recent economic downturn with a strong financial foundation and a return to balanced budgets. It follows two years of balanced budgets in 2006-07 and 2007-08, and a projected $5.6 million deficit for the most recent fiscal year (2008-09). 2009’s performance was a direct result of the financial market collapse, which impacted ticket sales and contributions, and the draw from the endowment. (Editor’s Note: Cash reserves covered the 2009 deficit, and the BSO carries no accumulated debt.) The BSO is projecting to balance its budget for the 2009-10 season.

The new agreement allows the organization now to focus on revenue growth fueled by new audience development initiatives, an expanded donor base, and other new revenue sources, including plans to fortify the endowment. BSO Board Chair Michael Bronfein commented, “The musicians of the BSO are to be applauded for their willingness to put music and the community’s love of symphonic music before their own financial benefit. Their sacrifices speak to the profound dedication they have to the art. But no sound business model can rely on concessionary contracts. As the economy starts to recover and we begin to implement an exciting strategic plan, this board is reinvigorated and committed to redoubling its fundraising efforts for this great cultural jewel, at the heart of which are our talented musicians. ”

Violinist Karen Gomyo Makes Her Colorado Symphony Debut

Conductor Andrew Litton returns to the CSO to conduct Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, "Pathétique," as well as Wagner's Overture to The Flying Dutchman and Bernstein's Serenade, performed by young violinist Karen Gomyo (pictured), making her CSO debut.

"Gomyo's big sound, excellent tone, rich lyricism and, above all, compelling authority made her performance very pleasurable." - Houston Chronicle

"...sharing the stage with the exceptional young violinist, Karen Gomyo, who gave a vivid performance that was full of interesting detail as well as a sense of drama. Some moments were downright spine-tingling." – The Dallas Morning News

Tchaikovsky, Bernstein
CSO Masterworks
APR 2-3
Andrew Litton, conductor
Karen Gomyo, violin

WAGNER Overture to The Flying Dutchman BERNSTEIN Serenade
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6, "Pathétique"

Composer, conductor and champion of modern music Pierre Boulez celebrates his 85th birthday today, March 26

Maestro Pierre Boulez celebrates his 85th birthday today. In leading up to this date, he spent the last few months touring the world and conducting the many orchestras he has had long relationships with including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic and Ensemble Intercontemporain. He will continue through April and May to give concerts featuring works by Messiaen, Bartók, Schoenberg, Ligeti, Varèse and his own compositions.

2010 also marks the 40th anniversary of Maestro Boulez’s long and fruitful association with Deutsche Grammophon. His first recording for the Yellow Label was a complete recording of Wagner’s Parsifal in 1970. Over the next four decades his extraordinary range of recordings has included music from Berlioz and Bartók to Mahler, Messiaen and beyond. Among his most celebrated discs are his award-winning Mahler cycle and (on DVD) the centenary production of Wagner’s Ring cycle from the Bayreuth Festival.

At 85 years old Boulez embarks not only on new projects but continues to be a tireless champion of contemporary music, and his discography includes a number of acclaimed recordings of his own compositions.

Minnesota orchestra and Osmo Vanska's Recording of Tchaikovsky's Complete Piano Works with Stephen Hough Available April 1st by Hyperion

CDs include Tchaikovsky’s three piano concertos and Concert Fantasia recorded live in concert in 2009

The British record label Hyperion has released a two-CD set of Tchaikovsky’s complete piano-and-orchestra works—three piano concertos and the Concert Fantasia—performed by Grammy Award-nominees Stephen Hough, the Minnesota Orchestra and conductor Osmo Vänskä. The album, the 50th release in Hyperion’s acclaimed Romantic Piano Concerto series, was recorded live in concert at Minneapolis ’ Orchestra Hall in spring and fall 2009. The CDs will be available April 1 in stores and online at minnesotaorchestra.org and hyperion-records.co.uk, and will also be available as a download on major internet music sites.

Mr. Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra have earned high praise for their previous recording projects together, including a five-CD Beethoven symphony cycle with Swedish-based BIS . The Tchaikovsky recording is the ensemble’s first live recording project under Mr. Vänskä, as well as its inaugural collaboration with Hyperion. Pianist Hough is a prolific Hyperion recording artist, having made 28 previous albums with the label.

In addition to the three piano concertos and Concert Fantasia, the set includes Hough’s solo piano arrangement of two brief Tchaikovsky works, as well as two alternative versions of the second movement of Piano Concerto No. 2, in editions by Hough and Tchaikovsky pupil Alexander Siloti.

Golijov's Pasión – A Timeless Story Set to Music for the Present Day Two CD & DVD Set Available Now!

A decade ago the premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s La Pasión según San Marcos “dropped like a bomb on the belief that classical music is an exclusively European art” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker) and became known as “the first indisputably great composition of the 21st Century” (Boston Globe). Deftly exploiting the popular appeal and emotional immediacy of samba, salsa, flamenco, mambo, and the elemental vigor of folk and popular motifs, Golijov’s La Pasión según San Marcos sets the last days of Christ amidst the streets of Latin America. This week, Deutsche Grammophon releases the first new recording of the work since the premiere in 2000. Both Golijov and the producers at DG felt it imperative to create this definitive new studio recording of La Pasión to showcase the richness of the work’s texture and its maturity over the past decade. The audio recording on two CDs is released in tandem with the DVD of a 2008 live performance from the Holland Festival conducted by Robert Spano.

National Public Radio hailed La Pasión as one of the most important records of the decade, and has referred to Golijov as “one of the most exciting, innovative and important composers working today.” Commissioned by the International Bach Academy, it bowed in 2000 in Stuttgart on the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death.

The original recording of this work, recorded live at that premiere in 2000 was an important early document of this new work, but a decade later La Pasión has, according to Golijov “acquired a certain monumentality. It has evolved from a wild beast into a coherent being; into something that is still powerful but in a more self-assured way. The important thing in doing this new recording was to show the stage of maturity the piece has reached.”

“The recording is radically different,” Golijov says, “because we know what we are doing and we know how to record all this vast array of percussion that was a blur in the first recording but now creates this rainbow of shifting colors. We also know how to record the many layers of the voices. We can really have a clear picture of what this piece is, as opposed to just a snapshot which is what we had ten years ago. Also, the performance is different. It is still visceral but grown-up. It is a piece that already exists. It is a presence; it is an entity in the world. And it sounds like that.”

On April 24 and 25, La Pasión según San Marcos will be performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic as part of Gustavo Dudamel’s Americas and Americans Festival spotlighting music from North and South America. The performers include Orchestra La Pasión conducted by Maria Guinand, and vocalist Luciana Souza.

The Canadian Brass with Echo Brass and Eric Robertson, Organ

Antiphonal Brass Music by Giovanni Gabrieli, Claudio Monteverdi and Samuel Scheidt

The Canadian Brass, called “the world’s leading brass ensemble” by the Washington Post, brings its trademark virtuosity and artistic passion to an album of stunning antiphonal brass music by Giovanni Gabrieli, Claudio Monteverdi and Samuel Scheidt, composers of the late Renaissance and early Baroque. Initially available through a limited release by ArkivMusic.com last October, Echo: Glory of Gabrieli is available everywhere on April 8, 2010 through E1 distribution.

Reviewing the recording, ClassicsToday.com raved: “If you're not completely hooked by the strikingly realistic antiphonal sound or the breathtakingly virtuosic playing in the first 30 seconds of this remarkable recording, then check your equipment ... a brighter-than-ever sheen, an even better-defined edge that leaves you with no words, just the impression that you're in the presence of superhuman musicianship.” Audiophile Audition agreed, calling Echo “a magnificent program of spatial Renaissance brass music." And, Roger Kaza, Principal Horn with the St. Louis Symphony comments, “I think I've been waiting my whole life to hear Gabrieli played that way...The Venetian master has finally had his day in court. Actually make that on the court: a slam-dunk.”

Giovanni Gabrieli, organist at the famous Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice at the turn of the seventeenth century, was one of the first to compose music specifically for brass instruments and brass choirs. On Echo, recorded in Toronto’s Deer Park Church, Canadian Brass makes these works sound as fresh and entertaining as when they were first heard four hundred years ago.

Echo Brass expands the ensemble in works for brass octet and brass with organ. These members of the Canadian Brass family include Manon LeFrance and Joe Burgstaller, part of the trumpet “dream team” often performing with Canadian Brass on stage, Austin Hitchcock, horn, and organist and arranger Eric Robertson.

Opera Colorado Nixon in China Recording with the Colorado Symphony for Naxos Receives Rave Reviews

The Naxos label’s recording of John Adams’ Nixon in China for Opera Colorado, featuring Colorado Symphony Conductor Laureate Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony, is receiving rave reviews. The recording was made live at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, Colorado from June 6-14, 2008.

Only the second recording in history of Adams’ Nixon in China, this release has caught the attention of critics throughout the classical music industry from Opera News and BBC Music Magazine to the Financial Times and e-Music. Music lovers and critics across the country and around the world are praising this release as a new standard in the genre.

The live performances of Nixon in China at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in June 2008 were presented as a part of the National Performing Arts Convention and League of American Orchestras Conference.

In a review of this Naxos recording for Audiophile Audition, Mike Birman states:

This live recording made in Denver in 2008, with Marin Alsop conducting the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and the Opera Colorado Chorus, is a superb realization of a difficult opera to bring to dramatic fruition. By its nature minimalism has a motoric sameness that can easily slip into repetitive drudgery. Adams avoids a mechanical homogeneity from creeping into his music by varying dynamics and by making it highly directional in its forward motion. Alsop emphasizes the contrasts found in this score, revealing all of its dramatic possibilities and insuring that it is always emotionally satisfying. She does a superb job in bringing this music to life, as do the soloists who are exemplary. The orchestra sounds committed and plays with a thrilling bravado when the drama is heightened. This is a brilliantly realized performance of one of our finest modern operas.

The recording also received top placement in Opera News as Critic’s Choice with the headline stating, “Marin Alsop leads a vigorous new recording of John Adams’ Nixon in China that affirms the opera’s status as a modern classic.” In the review, Joshua Rosenblum states:

Conductor Marin Alsop’s approach – vigorous and transparent – is apparent right out of the gate, as the pulsing A-minor scales begin their cyclical variations. Orchestra clarity is unfailingly impressive. When the Opera Colorado Chorus enters a couple of minutes later, it’s clear they have been drilled with the same emphasis on precision. Alsop makes the Colorado Symphony Orchestra sound like a force to be reckoned with – even more vital than the Orchestra of St. Luke’s under Edo de Waart in 1987.

“I'm thrilled with the critical response to our debut venture,” said Marin Alsop, “and I’m pleased that our collaboration has brought so much attention to this terrific opera.” Currently music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop’s ever expanding list of acclaimed recordings for Naxos continues to grow. Known for championing contemporary music by American composers, she has also received much critical acclaim for her Brahms symphony cycle recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. When asked in an interview for the Spring 2010 issue of Listen magazine about the legacy she hopes to leave through her recordings, Alsop states, “I hope it would be to bring a special perspective to a range of repertoire, from the Brahms symphonies…all the way through Dvořák with Baltimore and John Adams’ Nixon in China. So I hope that it’s bringing some kind of special connection with the composer, regardless of the era or the nationality. I think American music has played a big role in my career for any number of reasons, not least of which is that it was a good entrée for me.”

"The number of extremely positive reviews has been overwhelming and I am thrilled to have achieved such a prominent feature in Opera News,” stated Executive Director of Opera Colorado Gregory Carpenter, who is pleased by the outstanding critical acclaim the recording is receiving. “Our collaboration with the Colorado Symphony has been tremendously gratifying and is a testament to the exceptional quality of the performing arts in Denver.”

“We are delighted to continue our long, ongoing partnership with Opera Colorado and to celebrate the advent of a recording relationship with this seminal American work,” said Colorado Symphony President & CEO James W. Palermo . “John Adams’ masterpiece is given a magnificent performance by the combined forces, demonstrating the depth of musical accomplishment of the performing arts in Denver .”

Naming it CD of the month in December 2009, Classic FM’s Andrew Mellor stated, “Alsop lets you hear the workings of the music… Adams ’s score hasn’t dated a bit. It’s come up gleaming anew. And at budget price, Naxos’ Nixon really is one for our times.” On e-Music’s best albums of 2009 list, this recording of Nixon in China landed at number 21.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Female Concertmaster - Perish the Thought!

So, the Vienna Philharmonic inches its way into the 21st Century. By the response in the press you'd think that this is some great divide being crossed or alternatively that this was a case of affirmative action with the Philharmonic simply bowing to outside pressure.

Though I am all for seeing more women concertmasters, composers and conductors, I truly can't wait until the gender of our musical leaders is so inconsequential as to garner no mention. After all, the genitals have nothing whatsoever to do with the production of great music.

When will the day come we can celebrate the appointment of a concertmaster in Vienna, or indeed in thousands of musical organizations throughout the world by a celebration of the musicality of the person involved rather than by an irrelevant specification of gender?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Program Change Announcement for Dock Street Theatre Gala April 1st

Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves to replace Natalie Dessay

Celebrated mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, who portrayed Giullietta in the 1991 Spoleto production of Les Contes d’Hoffman, will replace singer Natalie Dessay at the Dock Street Theatre Reopening Gala on Thursday, April 1st in Charleston, SC. Ms. Dessay has cancelled all upcoming U.S. appearances due to illness.

Recognized worldwide as one of today's most exciting vocal stars, Ms. Graves is hailed by USA Today as “an operatic superstar of the 21st century.” The combination of her expressive, rich vocalism, elegant stage presence, and exciting theatrical abilities allows Ms. Graves to pursue a wide breadth of operatic portrayals as well as delight audiences in concert and recital appearances on the world’s most illustrious stages.

Ms. Graves will join Spoleto Festival USA artists violinist Geoff Nuttall, pianist Pedja Muzijevic, cellist Christopher Costanza, violist Caroline Blackwell, actress Heather Gillespie, and artists from the new Spoleto production of Flora, an Opera to celebrate the reopening of the Dock Street Theatre following a three-year renovation and to pay tribute to the building and its significance to Charleston’s thriving cultural life.

Thursday, April 1, 2010
6:00pm Champagne Reception
7:00pm Gala Concert

Tickets are still available ($250) online at spoletousa.org or by calling 843.579.3100

Sondra Radvanovsky releases debut solo album, tours North America with Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Acclaimed American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky will release her debut solo album, Verdi Arias, on Delos on April 27, 2010, captivating listeners with her supple voice and gracious phrasing. Radvanovsky has been lauded by the London Times as “a true Verdian, with a big, juicy, vibrato-rich sound,” and her collection of prize arias is a highly anticipated reflection on roles past and a preview of those to come.

Sondra Radvanovsky has earned top praises from critics the world over and is welcomed as “the ‘Leonora’ of our time” by the San Francisco Sentinel. She has performed in every major opera house in the world including Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Vienna State Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, and many others. Her home is the Metropolitan Opera, where she completed her training in the late 1990’s.

The exquisite depth and color of her voice are matched by her artistry and versatility across a remarkable range of repertoire. Radvanovsky has earned accolades for her riveting portrayals of Tatiana in Eugene Onegin and the title role of Rusalka, while her unique flexibility has led to success in such roles as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. But Radvanovsky’s talent shines most brightly in 19th century Italian opera and particularly in the soprano roles of Giuseppe Verdi. Her signature role is Leonora in Il trovatore, and she has portrayed Elvira in Ernani, the title role in Luisa Miller, and Lina in Stiffelio, among others.

Radvanovsky opened the 2009-10 season with a production of Il trovatore at the San Francisco Opera under the baton of new music director Nicola Luisotti. Her performance prompted the San Francisco Chronicle to declare, “Even if nothing else happens during the rest of the San Francisco Opera’s 2009 fall season, soprano Sondra Radvanovskky has already provided us with at least one extraordinary and indelible musical memory.” This season, she has portrayed Lina in Stiffelio at the Metropolitan Opera under the direction of Plácido Domingo; Elvira in Ernani at the Lyric Opera of Chicago; and Elisabetta in Don Carlo at the Paris Opera. Today, March 20, Radvanovsky embarks on a four-city North American tour with esteemed baritone and her frequent collaborator Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Performances on this tour include Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall (March 20), Montreal's Place des Arts (March 26), Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center (March 29), and a final performance in New York City's Carnegie Hall (April 1).

Marin Alsop & the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Announce 2010-2011 Season

Season-long Theme Celebrates Gustav Mahler’s Double Jubilee: 150th Anniversary of His Birth and Centennial of His Death

Music Director Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra announced today the Orchestra’s 2010-2011 season, the fourth full season under the direction of Maestra Alsop. The 2010-2011 season celebrates Gustav Mahler’s double jubilee, recognizing the 150th anniversary of his birth and the centennial of his death. Mahler’s works are closely associated with themes of youth and the innocence of childhood, prompting the BSO to create a season that highlights today’s rising young stars and that features the earlier works of several seminal composers. Notable BSO debuts include 17-year-old BSO-Peabody Bruno Walter Assistant Conductor Ilyich Rivas and German violinist Augustin Hadelich, and there are welcome returns for seasoned performers like Emanuel Ax and Midori. By coupling the beauty of music with the vigor of youth, the 2010-2011 season aims to nourish the youth inside all individuals and affirms the season’s overarching theme: life is better with music.

“I believe that the ability to appreciate the beauty of music is one of the key elements that makes us human,” comments Maestra Alsop. “Music reawakens that sense of wonder that we all had as children. To me, Mahler is a composer whose music has always tapped into that sense of wonder, reveling in the vitality and fearlessness of youth. To honor his memory, every aspect of the BSO’s 2010-2011 season celebrates themes of youth and the innocence of childhood. Music is the catalyst that helps us remember a time when we stood in awe of the world.”

BSO Celebrates Gustav Mahler Double Jubilee

The BSO honors the 150th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s birth and 100 years since his death by performing several of his most beloved works. The 2010-2011 season includes everything from his large-scale symphonies to delicate Lieder to his retouched arrangements of works by Beethoven and Schumann. The BSO’s season-opening concerts on September 24-25 feature Mahler’s grand Seventh Symphony, paired with his arrangement of music from Bach’s orchestral suites. On October 14-16, the BSO performs the second movement “Blumine” from Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. The program on November 4-6 features the 10th symphonies of both Mahler and Beethoven, works left unfinished as both composers died before completing the works. Also on this program are Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, arranged by Mahler, as well as Sieben Lieder, a work by Mahler’s wife, Alma. The BSO also performs Mahler’s retouched versions of other composers’ works, including Smetana’s The Bartered Bride Overture, to be performed April 28-30. Benjamin Britten intended to widen audiences for the composer he idolized by creating his own arrangement of Mahler’s What the Wild Flowers Tell Me, performed May 27-28. Das Lied von der Erde, performed May 6-8, demonstrates the composer’s profoundly expressive and personal nature in this symphonic song cycle. An all-Schumann program on May 12-15 features two works arranged by Mahler, the Manfred Overture and Symphony No. 1, “Spring.”

Special Off the Cuff Program: “Analyze This: Mahler and Freud”

Inspired by the BSO’s hit “CSI: Beethoven” program in 2008, Marin Alsop leads an Off the Cuff program dubbed “Analyze This: Mahler and Freud” on November 5-6, reenacting the little-known meeting in 1910 between Gustav Mahler and famous psychologist, Dr. Sigmund Freud. Maestra Alsop, “Dr. Freud” and a team of experts psychoanalyze the essence of Mahler’s relationship with his wife Alma, his music and his crippling fear of death—all interposed with performances of excerpts of his music, performed by the BSO. The BSO welcomes back Didi Balle to write and direct the event, whose work as writer/director of “CSI: Beethoven” earned praise from The Baltimore Sun, “…Didi Balle's script achieved concision, naturalness and good flow …this look beneath the epidermis of a musical giant, ‘CSI Beethoven’ cut smoothly and entertainingly."

Music as a Fountain of Youth

The 2010-2011 season celebrates the dual themes of youth and beauty by introducing audiences to young, “up-and-coming” performers and programming works by well-known composers written in the early stages of their careers. Three works, all composed at the age of 19, signal the composer’s emergence as a major voice: Shostakovich’s First Symphony, conducted by 17-year-old Ilyich Rivas on October 14-16; Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto , performed in a program on January 20-23, and Schubert’s Fifth Symphony, which will be performed by the BSO on March 17-19.

A bevy of artists, whose already successful careers belie their youth, will appear with the BSO this season, including pianists Markus Groh, Kirill Gerstein, Simon Trpčeski, Yuja Wang, Orion Weiss, Ingrid Fliter and Lukáš Vondráček; violinists Augustin Hadelich, Midori, Baiba Skride, Karen Gomyo, Stefan Jackiw and Tianwa Yang; and conductors Cornelius Meister and Ilyich Rivas.

The season-long focus on youth also includes works intended for or about youth. In the BSO co-commission by Philip Glass, Icarus at the Edge of Time, (January 14-16) the BSO presents a multimedia recreation of string theorist Brian Greene’s board book for children, depicting a young boy’s accidental journey to a black hole. The season’s celebration of youth is epitomized in a June 2-5 program featuring Benjamin Britten’s tour of the orchestra, A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, paired with the First Piano Concerto of Johannes Brahms, written when the composer was just 25.

Off the Cuff Series Expands to Music Center at Strathmore

Audiences at the BSO’s second home, The Music Center at Strathmore, will have the opportunity to experience the BSO’s popular series, Off the Cuff. On Fridays at Strathmore and Saturdays at the Meyerhoff, this series takes classical music appreciation to a whole new level by making it fun and engaging for any level of music enthusiast. In each of the four programs, Marin Alsop explores the evening’s featured masterpiece in a candid and engaging dialogue with the audience that is illuminated by orchestral excerpts and musical examples performed by the BSO. Each performance culminates with the featured work performed in its entirety and a Q&A session. The programs run 60 to 90 minutes without intermission, designed to enable audience members at Strathmore to arrive early to enjoy special dinner options before a later concert start time of 8:15 p.m. Baltimore patrons can arrive for the earlier start time of 7:00 p.m., leaving time to dine out afterwards in the Mount Vernon/Cultural District area.

Marin Alsop and the BSO Return to Carnegie Hall, November 13 and 14

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under Maestra Alsop’s direction, regularly performs at New York City’s prestigious Carnegie Hall. On November 13, Marin Alsop leads the BSO in two seminal works by 20th-century giants, Samuel Barber’s Essay No. 2, op. 17 and Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, which features lauded Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski, making his Carnegie Hall debut. The program’s second half features Beethoven’s heroic Symphony No. 3, “Eroica” in Gustav Mahler’s “retouched” orchestration. On November 14, a choir of New York City students joins Marin Alsop and the BSO for Maestra Alsop’s jazzy re-interpretation of Handel’s classical oratorio, Too Hot to Handel: The Gospel Messiah.

BSO Releases Dvořák’s Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8 on Naxos

During the 2007-2008 season, Marin Alsop and the BSO began a recording cycle of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphonies Nos. 6-9. The first CD in this cycle featured the “New World” Symphony and Symphonic Variations and its release in the 2008-2009 season earned praise from The Baltimore Sun, “Alsop has the Ninth unfurling with plenty of fire and lyrical power.” BSO subscribers have the exclusive option to purchase Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8 at a special price, before this second album is released to the general public in June 2010. The BSO will reprise Dvořák’s popular Symphony No. 9, “From the New World” on October 2-3.

Violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg Performs at Gala, September 11

Violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg returns to perform as guest soloist with the BSO for its Gala Concert on Saturday, September 11 at 8:30 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the Orchestra’s largest fundraising event of the season. Conducted by Maestra Alsop, the special gala performance will feature the world-famous violinist performing the sizzling rhythms of Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. In addition to event tickets available to BSO donors, gala concert tickets are first available to 2010-2011 subscribers for $50 and $75 and will be on sale to the general public beginning in early August.

Special Events: Pianist Emanuel Ax and Chaplin’s The Gold Rush

Among today’s most celebrated pianists, Emanuel Ax burst onto the concert scene in 1974 when he won The Arthur Rubenstein International Piano Competition, followed one year later with the Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists and after that, the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. Marin Alsop will lead Mr. Ax and the BSO in subscription concerts of Brahms’ First Piano Concerto on June 2-5.

Based on the enormous success of the BSO’s performance of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights in 2009, the BSO will present a special multimedia event that features Chaplin’s 1925 masterpiece, The Gold Rush, on April 15-17. Projected on a screen above the stage, patrons can watch The Little Tramp seek his fortune during the Klondike gold rush, accompanied by a live BSO performance of the original musical score.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Juan Diego Flórez stars in an all-new recording of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice, available April 20 on Decca

For his first major opera role recording outside of the bel canto repertory, Flórez sings the 1774 Paris version of Gluck’s beloved opera

Acclaimed for his appearances in the operas of Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini, Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez explores new territory with this recording of Gluck’s opera, Orphée et Eurydice. Flórez reclaims the leading role of Orphée (Orfeo) for male singers, as the opera was originally written. This recording, featuring Flórez in his first major role outside of the bel canto repertory for which he is acclaimed, offers the listener the chance to experience a different aspect of the tenor’s musical personality and remarkable ability. The 2-CD set, recorded live, will be available from Decca on April 20, 2010.

Like many operas, Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice went through many revisions and changes over the years. Originally written in Italian (Orfeo ed Euridice) for the 1762 premiere in Vienna, the opera featured a castrato in the lead role. Later, for performances in Parma in 1769, Gluck transposed Orfeo’s part up to accommodate another castrato in the lead role. For Gluck’s third and final version, the opera was translated into French, expanded and re-orchestrated, and notably re-scored for a haute-contre, the type of high-tenor voice found in heroic roles in French opera at the time. This voice type was all the rage in France as the castrati, so famous elsewhere in Europe, were decidedly looked down upon.

It is this third version that has been recorded to display the remarkable and unique talents of Juan Diego Flórez: his warm and supple voice easily encompassing the demanding tessitura required of the role while spinning long legato lines of melody throughout. Other tenors in modern history have performed and recorded the role (notably Nicolai Gedda and Léopold Simoneau) but none have matched the effortless delivery and virile phrasing that Flórez can bring to the part.

For this performance, recorded live at concerts given in May and June of 2008, Flórez is joined by sopranos Ainhoa Garmendia and Alessandra Marianelli in the roles of Eurydice and L’Amour, respectively. Spanish conductor Jesús López-Cobos leads the Coro y Orquesta Titular del Teatro Real.

The Cleveland Orchestra and Music Director Franz Welser-Möst announce 2010 Lucerne Residency and summer tour performances

The world premiere of Toshio Hosokawa’s Woven Dreams, the fifth in a series of Roche Commissions, will take place at the Lucerne Festival

Music Director Franz Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra will embark on their ninth international tour together, including the Orchestra’s ninth appearance at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland. The Orchestra will perform three programs at the Lucerne Festival, and five concerts in Scotland, Germany, and Italy.

Franz Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra begin the summer 2010 European tour in Edinburgh , Scotland , at the Edinburgh International Festival with two performances at Usher Hall. Founded in 1947, the three-week annual event takes place in six major concert halls and theaters, plus additional smaller venues. On Tuesday, August 17, the program includes three short works by Ives, including two organ solos, Variations on “ America ,” and Postlude in F, to be played by Joela Jones, the Principal Keyboardist of The Cleveland Orchestra. These works surround From the Steeples and the Mountains, performed by members of the Orchestra. The program concludes with Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony.

The second program in Edinburgh, on Wednesday, August 18, includes Korngold’s Prelude to Act II and “Mariettas Lied” from Die tote Stadt, Berg’s Suite from Lulu, and Brahms’s Symphony No. 2. American soprano Laura Aikin will join the Orchestra in Korngold’s aria and the Suite from Lulu.

The Cleveland Orchestra debuts at the Grafenegg Music Festival on Friday, August 20, with a program of Schubert’s Fourth Symphony and Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. The festival, begun in 2007, is in a park on the grounds of the historic fairytale-like Grafenegg Castle in lower Austria. Both a modern open-air stage with a pavilion and a concert hall were built recently to provide world-class venues for the festival. More than 10 international orchestras will perform at the Grafenegg Music Festival this season, including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Marinsky Orchestra, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

On Tuesday, August 24, The Cleveland Orchestra repeats the Grafenegg Music Festival program for the opening of the Merano Festival. Near Germany, Merano sits at the foot of the Alps. The festival, a month long, began in 1986 with chamber music performances, and is now visited by leading international orchestras.

The tour concludes with a performance at the Stresa Festival in Italy on the banks of Lake Maggiore. The program is Schubert’s Symphony No. 4 and Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. Founded in 1961, the Stresa Festival presents symphonic concerts, chamber music, solo recitals, and opera. Concerts are presented all summer at unique venues including churches and palaces. The Orchestra will perform in the Palazzo dei Congressi on August 29.

Chanticleer’s First National Youth Choral Festival™ Takes Place in San Francisco, March 26-29

Festival Culminates on March 29 with “The Singing Life”:
Chanticleer Performs with 416 High School Singers at Davies Symphony Hall

“This is the biggest thing we’ve ever done.” – Matthew Oltman, Chanticleer’s Music Director

Hot on the heels of a triumphant European tour, Chanticleer, Musical America’s 2008 Ensemble of the Year, takes its extensive nationwide education program to new heights this month with its first National Youth Choral Festival™. The festival, which takes place between March 26 and 29 in Chanticleer’s hometown, San Francisco, will bring together twelve high-school choirs comprising 416 student singers from across the country: five choirs from the Bay Area, and seven from as far east as Woodbridge VA and as far west as Honolulu HI.

During the four-day choral immersion, the visiting choirs will interact closely and intensively with the members of Chanticleer, who will coach them in all areas critical to the choral art. The climactic event on March 29, “The Singing Life”, will feature Chanticleer and the choirs in a day-long residency at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, where the choirs will be given the opportunity to perform individually on the stage, and to attend vocal master-classes led by mezzo-sopranos Frederica von Stade and Zheng Cao. That evening, all twelve choirs will come together with Chanticleer and von Stade for a gala concert under the direction of the group’s music director, Matthew Oltman. The program includes the American premiere of Annonciation, a cantata by French composer Daniel-Lesur, and a not-to-be-missed monumental performance of the Ave Maria by Franz Biebl, one of the most popular choral pieces of the 20th century.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Review: Daniel Hope's Air - A baroque journey

From the Rare to the Inundated, Daniel Hope presents his take on Baroque music

The opening track, Chaconne in G Major, is a delightful romp which could be as easily at home on a folk album as it is on this Baroque collection. Daniel Hope plays with an ease perfectly suited to this style of music. From the opening track to the closing the performances are delightful, articulate and ideal for the sentiment of the music from a modern perspective.

Shifting the mood from fast and frolicking to stately and serious, the second track of Handel's Suite No.15 in D minor for Harpsichord gives a chance for the marked tempo of the ensemble with the delicate flamboyance of Hope's virtuosity. Ricercata segunda returns to the dance music you might expect to hear at a festival, but with superlative playing.

Perhaps the only disappointment on the album is the inclusion of Pachelbel's Canon and Gigue in D minor. While it is without a double one of the most popular pieces ever performed, it is over performed. Daniel Hope lends his own personal touch to the piece, but not enough to warrant yet another recording of it, not on an album that is filled with so many other delightfully rare pieces.

I had a difficult time deciding whether Violin concertato, Strings and Basso continuo in A minor or Westhoff's Sonata for Violin and Continuo III was my favorite of the album. The Sonata allows for a striking display of Hope's virtuosity on the violin, but the Violin Concertato is sheer delight.

Air - a baroque journey is certainly filled with everything from the frolicking of a country fair to the tempestuous virtuoso displays of the British violinist Daniel Hope. He has the grace, skill and heart to bring Baroque music into a modern era as if it was composed only yesterday. Daniel wants to "show how diverse the music of the Baroque era was." He certainly captured that and so very much more.

Violinist Daniel Hope Performs Works From His New Recording, Air. A baroque journey, at New York’s Highline Ballroom on Monday, April 5

“A violinist of probing intellect and commanding style … In a business that likes tidy boxes drawn around its commodities, the British violinist Daniel Hope resists categorization.”– New York Times

Intrepid violinist Daniel Hope continues to forge new ground, challenging audiences to take a fresh look at standard concert repertoire while also opening their eyes to less performed but equally exciting works. His last album – featuring Vivaldi concertos, a sonata, and an aria with Anne Sofie von Otter – was nominated for a 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Now the latest fruit of Hope’s exclusive relationship with Deutsche Grammophon, was released on March 16 in the U.S., is a return to the Baroque alongside soloists from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Hope’s Air. A baroque journey is a pan-European exploration of an adventurous era, taking in works by the rarely-heard Falconieri and Valente, dramatic gems by Westhoff and Marini, folk-accented dances from Matteis, Leclair, and Ortiz, full concertos by Telemann and Geminiani, and individual takes on such evergreens as Pachelbel’s Canon, the folk tune “Greensleeves”, and Bach’s sublime Air. To celebrate the release of Air, Hope will perform selections from the CD at New York’s Highline Ballroom on April 5.

The concert at the Highline Ballroom will mark the first time the program will be presented in the US; earlier in the year, Hope played his Air program in London, inaugurating the Elgar Room, the Royal Albert Hall’s new performance venue. The Guardian was on hand and described Hope’s “artistry of breathtaking vitality” and the way “a tenderness of extraordinary richness took hold of the room,” concluding that “this was a memorable evening’s music-making.” The violinist has a dedicated web site for the album: www.hope-air.com. The site features streams of tracks from Air, along with video and print interviews with Hope about the disc and his collaborators (including wonderful second solo violinist Lorenza Borrani). Hope talks about some of his favorite tracks on the disc, which includes the transcription of a plaintive harpsichord Sarabande by Handel. And Hope rhapsodizes about another of the program’s wandering Italians: lutenist-composer Andrea Falconieri:

“Falconieri was this outrageous character. He loved good wine, good women; he traveled throughout Europe and set everybody afire with his enthusiasm … Just listen to his pieces: they have rhythm to them, a groove, this great improvisatory quality. In those days, it wasn't just desirable to be able to improvise; it was law, as it is with jazz musicians today. I have the feeling that people were willing to take more risks in the Baroque era than in the Renaissance. The spontaneity is part of what makes this period so individual. Those wigs are deceptive.”

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yuja Wang's Second Recital Album Transformation Available April 13th by Deutsche Grammophon

Album Includes Works by Stravinsky, Scarlatti, Brahms and Ravel

Yuja Wang's debut CD, "Sonatas & Etudes": The more you listen to it the more stunning her performance becomes; these amazing pieces become absolutely breath-taking. - Interchanging Idioms

Pianist Yuja Wang's highly anticipated second solo recital recording, Transformation, will be released by Deutsche Grammophon on Tuesday, April 13, 2010. The album comprises three movements from Pétrouchka by Stravinsky; Scarlatti's Sonata in E major K. 380, Andante comodo and Sonata in F minor/C major K. 466, Andante moderato; Brahms's Variations on a Theme by Paganini op. 35, Books I & II; and Maurice Ravel's La Valse. The album follows Yuja's critically acclaimed debut recording, Sonatas & Etudes, which was nominated for a Grammy® Award in the Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra) category and named Best Debut Album of 2009 by International Piano magazine.

For her second recital album Yuja chose a program of piano transcriptions of works written for either a different instrument or for symphony orchestra. This idea of taking a work and re-working it for the piano fits with Yuja's musical ideals: "For me, conveying the music through the piano is more important than the instrument itself. The music is what interests and intrigues me."

The concept of the album is further explained in the recording's liner notes by Michael Church: "Yuja Wang's title for her recording reflects the Buddhist idea that life consists of constant change, and she finds its musical rationale in Brahms transforming his theme 27 times, Ravel transforming the waltz by testing it to destruction, and Stravinsky's puppet Petrushka being temporarily transformed into a human being before finally reverting to puppethood."

Transformation opens with Stravinsky's own adaptation of three movements from his ballet, Pétrouchka. Rather than simply transcribe the orchestral version, Stravinsky sought to compose purely pianistic music. The finished score, some of the most difficult in the solo piano repertoire, was written for Arthur Rubinstein and gives the pianist ample opportunities to showcase technical virtuosity. Ravel also transcribed his own orchestral work La Valse for solo piano, but without the overt purpose of providing a technical showpiece. His re-interpretation of the Viennese waltz for piano is a work of immense instrumental color and ambience. The Brahms Variations on a Theme of Paganini is a similarly technically difficult, but emotionally rich, score allowing the pianist to demonstrate many aspects of playing. The work presents a simple theme (that of Paganini's famous Caprice No. 24 in A minor for solo violin) and then proceeds to present variations of that theme, varying in difficultly and character. Yuja follows the sequence of variations by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, a pianist she greatly admires. Between the larger dramatic works, Yuja presents two Scarlatti one-movement sonatas. Though not without technical challenges, these works are two of the Scarlatti's most sweetly expressive sonatas.

Rossini's Armida premieres April 12th at the Met with Renée Fleming

Rossini's Armida is the Metropolitan Opera’s final new production of the season. Six tenors perform opposite Renée Fleming’s eponymous heroine in this rarely-staged opera, which premieres at the Met on April 12. Never previously staged at the Met, Armida opens with Fleming in the title role, Riccardo Frizza conducting, and Mary Zimmerman returning to direct, bringing her fine-tuned theatricality to a work she describes as “a buried treasure, a box of jewels.” The fanciful story of a sorceress who enthralls men in an island prison of sensual delights, Zimmerman says, “has an epic, enchanted quality and a tremendous visual element.” It takes a sextet of tenors to counterbalance a prima donna as powerful as Armida, and, in “Six of One,” Jennifer Melick examines the distinctive musical and dramatic qualities that characterize the legendary enchantress’s multiple foils. The Met’s current contenders, led by modern virtuoso Lawrence Brownlee as Rinaldo, share thoughts on their respective roles with Scott Barnes, in Opera News’s April cover story. Also noteworthy as Rossini’s sole foray into the realm of the supernatural, Armida brought out otherworldly colors and textures that the bel canto maestro had never used before.

“Flicka and Friends – A Loving Tribute to Frederica von Stade”: Metropolitan Opera Guild’s 75th Annual Luncheon, April 20th

On Tuesday, April 20, two days before bidding farewell to her New York fans in a concert at Carnegie Hall, the beloved mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade will be honored at the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s 75th Annual Luncheon. With “Flicka and Friends – A Loving Tribute to Frederica von Stade,” the Guild will gather together colleagues and friends to salute the legendary artist in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel, with a musical tribute by baritone Thomas Hampson and a spoken tribute by one of Flicka’s long-time colleagues and friends, soprano Evelyn Lear. Among the many artists who be there to help celebrate Flicka will be Martina Arroyo, Rockwell Blake, Dave Brubeck, Chris Brubeck, Vladimir Chernov, Tyne Daly, Angela Gheorghiu, Marilyn Horne, Kristine Jepson, John Macurdy, Terrence McNally, Mildred Miller, Paul Plishka, Regina Resnik, Julius Rudel and Richard Stilwell. The afternoon will include the screening of a new video biography of the honoree, video performances and many more surprises.

Discover Opera Live: Rigoletto

The Royal Opera Liège proudly presents a new masterpiece in the OperaLive series: Rigoletto. This story of love, seduction and betrayal has been brought to life not only by the live online broadcast but also by the specially designed artwork. This handcrafted artwork is a unique piece and translates the opera we all know and love into a stunning visual. Let us sweep you of your feet by the music, story details and charachter description in this interactive storytelling experience, which you can discover here: http://www.operalive.org/rigoletto/

For centuries opera has touched the melodramatic hearts of thousands of enthusiasts. Opera Live aims to make opera accessible to all audiences through the means of live streaming via the internet. This project will allow people all around the world to discover some of the finest operas composed. Opera Live is where the old embraces the new.

Rigoletto will be broadcasted live on March 23rd, 2010 at 8:00pm (GMT + 1) and available on demand on Opera Live until a month after the live broadcast. This famous opera was composed by Giuseppe Verdi and features the well-known canzone ‘La donna è mobile’. This story of love, seduction and betrayal has been brought to life not only by the live online broadcast but also by the specially designed artwork, commissioned by the Royal Opera of Liège.

Tickets are available either as single viewing or multiple viewings with access to additional information. Enjoy the opera peacefully by yourself at your home and own convenience or invite your friends and turn it into a pleasant evening.

Buying a ticket allows you to experience opera(s) through OperaLive*, and gives you access to a complete information package containing artist biographies, notions about the composer and the composition, the libretto, a discography selection and a poster in pfd format.

Tickets available online.

Friday, March 19, 2010

American Symphony Orchestra Mark Bicentennial of Schumann’s Birth with Presentation of His Dramatic Oratorio Scenes from Goethe’s Faust

at Lincoln Center on Friday, April 9 All Tickets Now Only $25 Each

Scenes from Goethe’s Faust is the iconic poetic rendering of the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil, set to music by a composer who knew very well what it was like to be haunted by demons, his mental state often frayed. This year sees the bicentennial of Robert Schumann’s birth, and the American Symphony Orchestra marks the occasion on April 9 at Lincoln Center with the rarely-performed Scenes from Goethe’s Faust. This completes the trilogy of the composer’s dramatic oratorios in which the orchestra previously introduced audiences to Manfred and Das Paradies und die Peri. The ASO will be joined on stage by the Concert Chorale of New York directed by James Bagwell, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

A New York Times review of the 2006 ASO/Concert Chorale performance of Schumann’s Das Paradies und die Peri stated: “With … the kind of bursting lyricism we associate with the composer at his most fruitful, this two-hour piece leaves one wondering why we hear it so seldom and why its music has not done more to broaden and deepen the way Schumann speaks to us today.”

In his program essay for Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, ASO music director Leon Botstein discusses Schumann’s intense engagement with literature, describing him as “perhaps the first in a long line of great 19th- and 20th-century composers whose ambitions were as much literary as they were musical. One might count in that group such diverse personalities as Wagner, Berlioz, and Prokofiev.”

Part I of Goethe’s drama Faust, published in 1808, immediately became the epitome of early Romantic sensibility, establishing the author as the equivalent of Shakespeare in the German literary tradition. Part II of Faust, finished in 1832, was more symbolic and philosophical, exploring the spiritual and mystical in an allegorical depiction of Faust’s redemption as the fundamental struggle of the human soul.

“In the long history of musical settings of Goethe’s Faust, including Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust and Liszt’s Faust Symphony, Schumann’s effort is certainly among the most compelling. The 19th-century obsession with Faust never resulted in a work that combined popularity with profundity. The only one that became a staple of the repertoire was Gounod’s opera, which most German critics and opera lovers have held in contempt. Although Schumann succeeded, this work has undeservedly remained a rarity. … Schumann gave much of Goethe’s masterpiece its most eloquent, intense, and profound musical incarnation.” - Botstein

In its presentation of this under-appreciated work, the ASO will be joined by some new musical partners and several returning colleagues. Frequent collaborators James Bagwell and the Concert Chorale of New York, along with the celebrated Brooklyn Youth Chorus, will perform with the orchestra. The list of exceptional soloists includes tenor Michael Spyres and baritone Andrew Schroeder, both of whom worked with the ASO in Meyerbeer’s grand opera Les Huguenots at the 2009 Bard SummerScape festival. Reviewing Les Huguenots, the Financial Times proclaimed that Spyres’s “buoyant singing … ha[d] a natural ease, plus ardour and suppleness,” while the Wall Street Journal said that Schroeder “sang with warmth and fluiditiy.”

James Conlon Receives Lifetime Achievement Award From the Italian Institute of Culture

Conductor James Conlon has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Los Angeles for his lifelong activity and dedication to music and excellence in conducting in Italy , as well as all over the world. The award was presented by the Director of the Italian Institute of Culture, Francesca Valente, and by the Consul General of Italy in Los Angeles, Nicola Faganello on Monday, March 15 following Mr. Conlon’s lecture “Maria Callas and Richard Wagner: A Surprising Couple” at the Italian Institute of Culture as part of LA Opera’s Ring Festival and the Institute’s Maria Callas exhibit of costumes, jewelry, photos and memorabilia.

Since 2005, the Institute has awarded its Lifetime Achievement Award to distinguished individuals who best represent Italian excellence in the arts, including Renato Bruson for his contribution to opera; Ennio Morricone for music; Claudia Cardinale, Mario Monicelli, Vittorio Storaro, Pupi Avati, Francis Ford Coppola and Dino De Laurentiis for cinema; Sergio Pininfarina, Lella and Massimo Vignelli and Enzo Mari for design; Claudio Magris and Dacia Maraini for literature; Andrea Zanzotto for poetry; Ferruccio Soleri for theater; Emilio Vedova, Frank Stella and Bill Viola for visual arts; Giuliano Gori for art collecting; Renato Dulbecco for medicine; Renzo Piano, Tobia Scarpa and Cini Boeri for architecture; and James Ackerman and Carlo Pedretti for art history.

Mr. Conlon will receive a sculpture entitled Il Tondo by Tuscan artist Mauro Staccioli who was commissioned to create this sculpture by the Contemporary Art Museum of San Diego. Mr. Staccioli’s works have been displayed at two Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibition in Venice, are featured at major museums and are part of private collections.

James Conlon is Music Director of Los Angeles Opera, Music Director of the Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival where he celebrated his 30th anniversary in 2009. He has cultivated a vast symphonic, operatic and choral repertoire, and developed enduring relationships with the world's most prestigious symphony orchestras and opera houses, including La Scala where his recent performances of Rigoletto garnered critical acclaim from Paola Isotta of the Corrierie Della Sera. Mr. Isotta wrote: “A Rigoletto like this, thanks to the musical direction of James Conlon, is not to be forgotten…he knows and applies interpretive ‘traditions’ like the conductors of another generation…Conlon is one of the maestros who should have a regular place in every season and in the most diverse repertory.”

Thomas Hampson Takes Manhattan with String of Springtime Performances and Special Appearances, March 29 – April 24

Highlights Include Return to Metropolitan Opera, Recital at Alice Tully Hall, and World-Premiere of New Work by Matthias Pintscher Commissioned by New York Philharmonic

Eminent American baritone Thomas Hampson returns to New York City this month for a remarkable string of performances and special appearances, beginning on March 29 when he encores the role of Germont in Verdi’s La traviata at the Metropolitan Opera (eight performances through April 24). Those Met performances complement a series of events that are part of his yearlong appointment as the first Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence of the New York Philharmonic: his recital at Avery Fisher Hall on April 11, co-presented by the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center’s “Art of the Song” series, will feature Schumann’s great song cycle Dichterliebe and songs by Samuel Barber; and on April 16, at Symphony Space, he will give the world-premiere of Matthias Pintscher’s songs from Solomon’s garden, commissioned by the orchestra and written expressly for Hampson (a second performance follows on April 17 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with both performances conducted by Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert). Hampson’s third and final Insights Series event for the Philharmonic this season, “Listening to Thought: A Guide to German Romanticism”, will take place on April 5 at Lincoln Center’s Kaplan Penthouse, and will explore the iconography, metaphor, and imagery of this epochal period for European art song. Continuing his commitment to the Manhattan School of Music and its distance learning initiatives, on March 30 at 2pm Hampson will give select small ensembles an MSM Global Conservatory master class on Gustav Mahler’s song cycles, which will be streamed live at dl.msmnyc.edu/live. Despite this jam-packed schedule, Hampson will also take time to pay a tribute in song to Frederica von Stade, who is being honored this year at the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s 75th annual luncheon on April 20 at the Waldorf=Astoria.

Hampson’s passionate advocacy for American song has been widely documented, most notably in his ongoing “Song of America” project with the Library of Congress, so it comes as little surprise that half of his Alice Tully Hall recital on April 11 will focus on the songs of Samuel Barber. This is Barber’s centenary season (he was born on March 9, 1910 and died on January 23, 1981) and he is indisputably one of the country’s foremost vocal composers. Hampson will sing, among others, the Three Songs, Op. 10 and Three Songs, Op. 45, which he recorded to great acclaim as part of a complete set of the Barber songs for Deutsche Grammophon. Hampson recently recorded Letters from Lincoln for baritone and orchestra, an important new song cycle by another American composer, Michael Daugherty; the album was released by Koch in January. Earlier this season Hampson issued Wondrous Free – Song of America II on his own label, THM. This survey of 200 years of American song, named after Francis Hopkinson’s “My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free,” the first published art song in American history, was described by Gramophone as “a broad sweep of American art song by one of its great interpreters.” Reviewer Andrew Farach-Colton summarized the album’s appeal this way: “This recital is both entertaining and enlightening, and belongs in any serious collection of American art song.”

Hampson is extremely excited to be performing the new Pintscher work, part of the inaugural season of the Philharmonic’s new-music series CONTACT!, not least because of the language of the text he will be singing: Hebrew. Songs from Solomon’s garden is a setting by Pintscher from the Shir ha-Shirim, the Song of Solomon. As Hampson explains in a video interview at the New York Philharmonic’s website, he sang Bloch’s Sacred Service last summer in Israel and fell in love with the language, calling it “gorgeous and extremely singable.” When Pintscher asked Hampson if he would agree to sing a text set in Hebrew, Hampson was thrilled to oblige. Pintscher, who has known Hampson for a long time, had wanted from the start to write his Philharmonic commission for baritone and chamber orchestra, and considers Hampson “the perfect match.” He calls the Song of Solomon “the most beautiful love poetry ever written – if I may speak in superlatives,” noting, “In the Hebrew language, everything seems so condensed; every individual word is so meaningful and so radiant, and that inspired me to create a sound-world to surround these words.”

As the New York Philharmonic’s first Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence, Hampson is taking part in a variety of activities (16 events in all) that showcase his wide-ranging talents as performer, music enthusiast, and scholar. He recently toured Europe with Alan Gilbert and the orchestra performing John Adams’s setting of Whitman’s The Wound-Dresser. On New Year’s Eve, Hampson sang a program of Copland songs and selections from Broadway musicals in a concert that was televised nationally on Public Television. In November, he was a soloist with the orchestra in Zemlinsky’s opulent Lyric Symphony. Hampson is also the orchestra’s Leonard Bernstein Scholar-in-Residence this season.