. Interchanging Idioms: July 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Patricia Petibon Releases All-New Recital on Deutsche Grammophon

French Soprano Patricia Petibon Records Rosso: Italian Baroque Arias for Deutsche Grammophon

Many notable vocalists have turned their attention to Italian Baroque music in the last few years resulting in a vast supply of recordings to choose from. Yet, in this abundance of riches soprano Patricia Petibon stands out as the rare artist who combines a uniquely beguiling and agile voice with the dramatic instincts of a true actress. Rosso, her second recital album for Deutsche Grammophon, is a dramatic tour of late 17th and early 18th century Italian vocal music.

The period of music covered in the present recital produced some of the most remarkable and memorable arias ever written. Whether testing the limits of virtuoso technique or singing long melodies in one endless breath, these arias expose the very nature and limits of a singer’s voice. Patricia Petibon has easily mastered the technique required and has freed herself to focus on the dramatic elements of each aria. With selections by Handel, Scarlatti, Porpora, Stradella, Sartorio, Vivaldi and Marcello, Ms. Petibon covers a number of individual styles within this period of music.

While focused on conveying the text as well as the emotional content for each aria, Ms. Petibon displays her rare gift of being able to act through the voice. Throughout the fourteen selections on this recital, Ms. Petibon summons to vivid life a wealth of characters tangled up in the power plays of gods, kings, witches and devils. In a recent profile, Opera News observed: “Her voice is certainly suited to Baroque music; though it is striking, beautiful and unusually versatile, its strength is its sensitivity, rather than its size … But it's clear that she has no intention of allowing Fach stereotypes to hold her back: her artistry is all about breaking the mold.”

Ms. Petibon is joined by the vibrant Venice Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Andrea Marcon. A regular presence on the Deutsche Grammophon label, the Venice Baroque Orchestra has garnered universal praise for their fearless style and thrilling performances. According to NPR, “Today, the group is recognized as one of the world’s most adventurous and dramatic period-instrument ensembles.” Having worked with such artists as Giuliano Carmignola, Magdalena Kožená, Viktoria Mullova, Simone Kermes and others, the ensemble also performs numerous concerts devoted to music of the Italian Baroque.

Johannes Moser’s New CD: Cello Sonatas by British Composers Bridge, Britten, and Bax – Is Issued by Hänssler Classics

Hailed by Gramophone magazine as “one of the finest among the astonishing gallery of young virtuoso cellists,” Johannes Moser been recognized as “young, gifted, and intense…a major talent” (St. Louis Dispatch). This week sees the release of the Tchaikovsky Competition-winner’s sixth album on the Hänssler Classics label. A recital disc with Moser’s regular duo partner Paul Rivinius, the new issue features cello sonatas by three great British composers of the 20th-century, Frank Bridge, Benjamin Britten, and Arnold Bax; these three works aren’t collected together on any other recording. According to NDR Kultur (North German Broadcasting), “These British cello sonatas reveal Moser to be a versatile and very sensitive musician, who not only applies his gifts to the mainstream cello repertoire, but also introduces his listeners to lesser-known works. These are exemplary performances that will please both the heart and mind.” Two of Moser’s previous recordings with Rivinius – Brahms and His Contemporaries (Vol. I) and cello sonatas by Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, and Weinberg – have already won ECHO Klassik awards.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

2010 Gilmore Artist Kirill Gerstein Makes Boston Symphony Debut with Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto under Dutoit at Tanglewood (July 30)

Gerstein Rejoins Dutoit with Philadelphia Orchestra (Aug 6); Gives Recital at Tannery Pond (July 31);
Plays Chamber Music at Saratoga (Aug 9); Performs with Royal Philharmonic in Shanghai (Aug 18);
and Concludes Summer at Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival (Aug 31 – Sep 4)

Kirill Gerstein has had a momentous season. In January, he became the sixth recipient of the coveted Gilmore Artist Award, worth $300,000 and described by the New York Times as “music’s answer to the MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ grants.” Only two months later, he followed this coup with a second major triumph when he was named the winner of a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. Not surprisingly, this Russian-born pianist is much in demand this summer. He makes his Boston Symphony debut at Tanglewood on July 30, performing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto under the direction of Charles Dutoit. The following night, as part of the Tannery Pond Concerts’ landmark 20th-anniversary season, he gives a recital of Bach, Schumann, and Chopin in New Lebanon, NY. The Tannery Pond program also features Oliver Knussen’s “emotionally charged” (New York Times) new work, Ophelia’s Last Dance, which was commissioned for Gerstein as the 2010 Gilmore Artist.

Reuniting with Dutoit on August 6, Gerstein undertakes Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Saratoga, NY. On August 9, he will collaborate with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Chantal Juillet, and members of the Philadelphia orchestra in performance at the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival. Three more chamber music programs, which include two Brahms sonatas, follow at the Jerusalem International Music Festival, on August 31, September 1, and September 4.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard is Artist-in-Residence at Mostly Mozart Festival

As Artist-in-Residence at NYC’s Mostly Mozart Festival, “Brilliant French Pianist” Pierre-Laurent Aimard Curates and Leads Six Programs Exploring “Bach and Polyphonies” (Aug 13-16), after Return to Tanglewood (Aug 10)

Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s summer opened in Europe, where the “ferociously intelligent musician” (Financial Times) won esteem for his second tenure as Artistic Director of England’s fabled Aldeburgh Festival. After returning to the UK to play George Benjamin and Mozart at London’s BBC Proms, the “brilliant French pianist” (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times) now turns his attention to festivals on this side of the Atlantic. At Tanglewood (Aug 10) he performs chamber music by Bach, Ligeti, and Elliott Carter, as he will also do in his first appearance at New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival. As Artist-in-Residence of this venerable four-week festival, Aimard curates and leads six concerts exploring “Bach and Polyphonies,” with musical partners including the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the International Contemporary Ensemble (Aug 13-16).

Anna Netrebko Returns to Salzburg Festival - Aug 10-23

Anna Betrebko returns to the Salzburg Festival to sing the doomed heroine in Bartlett Sher's production of Gounod's Romeo et Juliette. Last season she worked with the Tony Award-winning director on his production of Les contes d'Hoffmann at the Met. The performances mark the first time the Russian soprano will sing Juliette, now one of her signature roles, at the Austrian summer festival.

Lara St. John and Scott St. John MOZART Sinfonia Concertante Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 3

New Release Available on iTunes Music Store on August 3rd on Ancalagon Records SACD/CD Hybrid Available Nationwide on October 12th

On August 3rd, violinists Lara and Scott St. John present a new Mozart recording to be released exclusively on iTunes two months prior to the Hybrid SACD/CD release on October 12th. The siblings St. John share the spotlight in three of the composer’s violin concerti recorded on Lara’s Ancalagon label. The focal point of the album is Mozart’s monumental Sinfonia Concertante (K. 364), the last and greatest of his string concerti. This piece is rarely recorded in its original form, with the viola part in scordatura (with open strings tuned a semi-tone higher than standard tuning). Scott St. John takes up the viola to join his sister on the recording, making this the first time the Sinfonia Concertante has ever been recorded by siblings. The remainder of the album lets each St. John take center stage. The Violin Concerto No. 1 (K. 207) is led by Scott, and Lara has the solo voice in the Violin Concerto No. 3 (K. 216). The innovative New York-based ensemble The Knights collaborate with the pair on all the works (also led by a sibling act composed of conductor Eric Jacobsen and concertmaster Colin Jacobsen). The internationally acknowledged sound recording legend Tonmeister Martha de Francisco is recording producer. Having produced or engineered over 300 recordings, de Francisco has been entrusted with the recording legacy of world-class soloists and orchestras from Alfred Brendel to the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Scott and Lara began playing together at the ages of 5 and 3 respectively, just as Mozart and his own sister famously played together from a young age. Of the Sinfonia Concertante, Lara explains, “My brother and I first learned the piece when I was 10 and he 12. Most children have a special kinship with Mozart, and we were no exception. Although we had already each learned and performed a few of his violin concertos by that age, we both knew the Sinfonia to be something else entirely. None of his earlier violin concertos have such a towering opening movement, the emotional outpouring of the second, and the sheer joy of the last. Each time we have revisited it over the years, we love it more, and discover new insights into the genius of this fellow. Although most pianists would challenge me to a duel for saying this, I wholeheartedly believe this is the greatest of his concertos; it is rarely played as it was meant to be heard, due to the difficulty of the scordatura for the violist, but I am lucky enough to have a brother who is not only a superb violist, but also a fantastic musician who plays this Sinfonia like no one else."

When looking for cover ideas, Lara’s mind turned to the historical. “We are the St. Johns, and the orchestra is The Knights! We should use a symbol,” she says. Thoughts turned to the Maltese cross, the symbol of the Knights of the Order of St. John. By 1565, this group was one of the last remnants of the Crusades - they were not crusaders, but were called the Knights Hospitaller. They helped pilgrims across what is now Syria, and nurtured the sick and wounded for centuries. Even today, ambulances and fire trucks use a version of the Maltese cross from that origin. At the height of the Ottoman Empire, the Knights valiantly defended their fort against the Turks in battle, and some say they stopped the Turks from getting a foothold in Western Europe. “Although that might be a bit exaggerated,” says St. John, “there’s no doubt that they were quite brave.” Mozart himself had contacts with the organization, from his performance at age ten for the grand prior of the papal Knights of St. John to his membership in a Viennese Masonic lodge that associated itself with the charitable traditions of the knights.

First Fully-Staged North American Production of Franz Schreker’s Haunting 1910 Opera The Distant Sound (“Der ferne Klang”) - Jul 30

SummerScape 2010 Includes 21st Season of World-Renowned Bard Music Festival, “Berg and His World”, and New Production of Oscar Straus’s Operetta The Chocolate Soldier (Aug 5–15)

The eighth annual Bard SummerScape’s opera presentation, Franz Schreker’s The Distant Sound (“Der ferne Klang,” 1910), though familiar in Europe, has never yet – in the century since its composition – been fully staged in North America. Schreker, whose music synthesized elements from Romanticism to expressionism, was hailed early in his career as the most significant musical dramatist since Wagner, and The Distant Sound is a key work of Viennese modernism. Thaddeus Strassberger, visionary director of last season’s lavishly praised Huguenots presentation and winner of the 2005 European Opera Directing Prize, returns to direct the landmark production, with set designs by Narelle Sissons, whose credits include Babes in Toyland at Lincoln Center (2008), and costume design by Mattie Ullrich, who created the costumes for SummerScape’s productions of The Sorcerer (2007) and Les Huguenots (2009). Tenor Mathias Schulz, a Pavarotti International Voice Competition finalist, stars as Fritz, and soprano Yamina Maamar plays Grete, in which role the New York Times described her performance as a “triumph.” The Distant Sound’s four performances (July 30, August 1, 4, & 6) feature the festival’s resident American Symphony Orchestra under music director Leon Botstein, who gives a free Opera Talk before the August 1 performance.

“Versatile Virtuoso”* Jeremy Denk’s Hotly-Anticipated New Album – Jeremy Denk Plays Ives

Available on iTunes, CD Will Be Widely Released on October 12

“Ives wants to recreate the raw experience of music-making, something unfiltered, and beyond all your piano lessons … While driving me crazy, he reminds me why I play the piano at all.” — Jeremy Denk

If there is one composer in whose works Jeremy Denk has inspired nothing but frank and heartfelt praise, it is thorny American experimentalist Charles Ives. Denk’s recital programs have long featured not only Ives’s famous and monumental “Concord” Sonata but also the far less familiar Sonata No. 1, impressing critics with “thrilling performances” (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times) that offer “an entire world” (Anne Midgette, Washington Post). Now the pianist’s celebrated Ives interpretations have finally been committed to disc; due for CD release on October 12, Jeremy Denk plays Ives will be launched in advance in its entirety on iTunes, where it will be available for download from July 27.

In accompanying booklet notes that remind us why the Washington Post’s Joan Reinthaler found Denk’s “the most interesting and well-written program notes [she had] ever read,” the pianist asks: “Why Ives?” After all, while recognized as an important and influential American original who anticipated many musical innovations to come, Charles Ives (1874-1954) is best known for the dissonance and seeming chaos of his sound world, in which disparate elements are not so much juxtaposed as superimposed, apparently jostling for space. And yet, as Denk explains,

“It’s not [the] so-called historical importance that makes me love the music. There is a terrific tenderness emanating from this dissonant, difficult music: a tenderness for experiences of childhood, for the ‘uneducated,’ fervid hymn-singing of camp meetings, for the silliness of ragtime, for the quaint wistful corners of ballads, and on and on. There is a correspondingly enormous wit: the love of crazy musical mishap, a love of syncopation, disjunction, mash-up; the merger of opposites. He recreates, almost like Proust, a whole world for us: the musical world of America in the last part of the 19th century. He evokes a tremendous nostalgia for that world, while making it alive again.”

It is Denk’s ability to synthesize this emotional connection to the music with more intellectual analysis – not to mention full technical mastery of the material – that sets his interpretations apart.

While Ives’s second piano sonata has achieved so much greater fame than the first, taken together, Denk realizes, “The two piano sonatas are wonderful representations of the two productive decades of his composing life. The first, with its hymn-improvisations and its ragtime dances, represents an earlier, more variegated Ives,” while “the famous ‘Concord’ Sonata represents the summit of Ives’ maturity, an attempt to consolidate his musical (and extramusical) thinking…in a huge statement.” When Denk revived the five-movement First Sonata (1909) at last season’s Ojai Music Festival, the Los Angeles Times’s Mark Swed dubbed him a “hero of the Festival,” adding: “If he had done nothing more than rescue Ives’ First Piano Sonata from obscurity, which he did in his glorious Saturday morning recital, I would say the weekend would have been worthwhile.” Rita Moran, reporting for the Ventura County Star, shared Swed’s enthusiasm, concluding that the “idiosyncratic Ives rarely seemed so relevant…and [Denk’s] joy in playing was infectious.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

21st Century Career in Composing: Is Education the Answer?

Gerald Klickstein started a discussion on Linked In, "Are music schools preparing students for 21st-century careers? I have my doubts." This is in conjunction with his own blog post "Music Education and Entrepreneurship." The discussion questions whether or not our educational institutions are really preparing young musicians for a career in music.

Several comments on the Linked In discussion are from educators and either speak about what their establishments are doing to try and face the issue, with others in agreement with Klickstein in doubting what they're doing is really career preparation. Some of the problems are technology and the cost of keeping up with it; others are the institutionalized curriculum which hasn't changed in years. What ever the issue at the establishment the general consensus is we are not focused enough on how to have a career in music in the educational community.

Speaking to the topic of composition education there seems to be two approaches. One approach is in the classical music sector which focused on writing music using 12-tone, pitch class or serial techniques. There are orchestration classes and technology classes, but the core of composition is focused on ideas which are outdated by 50 or more years. Occasionally minimalism is considered an option or extended techniques are encouraged, but serious discussions into current composers like Libby Larsen, Jennifer Higdon, Thomas Adès or Nico Muhly --all composers who make their living composing (and not only in the film industry).

I'm not being fair to the Composers Seminar discussions which did embark on some of this type of discussion and occasionally discussed what it means to work in the industry. But this was a small portion of the focus and hardly enough to really prepare new composers with what they need to succeed.

It's difficult for every educational institution to really talk to the subject because so few composers really are making their living at composition. Perhaps the only way to really get this kind of education for a composer is to work for a composer who is making their living composing music.

If you make your living composing music, I'd love to hear from you!

Saint Louis Symphony Chorus Announces Audition for Altos, Tenors and Basses

WHO: Saint Louis Symphony Chorus
Amy Kaiser , director

WHAT: The Saint Louis Symphony Chorus is holding auditions for altos, tenors and basses for its exciting 35th season.

Repertoire for the 2010-2011 season includes Schubert: Mass in E flat, Stravinsky: Credo, Pater Noster, Ave Maria (a cappella), Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky, Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem, Shore: 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring', Barber: Prayers of Kierkegaard, Mahler: Symphony No. 2, Orff: Carmina Burana

WHEN: August 17, 18 & 19, 2010

REQUIREMENTS: To receive detailed information regarding the auditions send an email to RichardA@slso.org, or call Richard Ashburner, chorus manager, at 314-286-4130

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dautsche Grammophon & Decca Celebrate Mahler's 150th Birthday

During this Mahler anniversary year Deutsche Grammophon and Decca lead the way by honoring the revolutionary composer with Mahler 150. Certainly one of the most influential composers of symphonies and song-cycles, Mahler will be feted with a website that encourages exploration of his works, a “People’s Edition” selected and programmed by listeners, and an impressive line-up of new releases and rare re-issues.

With the 150th anniversary of Mahler’s birth and the composer will be celebrated with numerous live concerts (including a recital with Thomas Hampson in Mahler’s birth-house in Kaliste, Czech Republic which will be web-cast live on medici.tv). Deutsche Grammophon and Decca join the celebration by launching a new website devoted to the richest catalog of Mahler recordings in existence as well as beginning a number of long reaching initiatives.

The Mahler 150 website is devoted to the composer and his music and will offer full-track streaming of the complete Deutsche Grammophon and Decca Mahler catalogs – featuring some 180 symphony recordings – with integrated shop links for instant purchase on CD or download. (Full-track streaming will be available for all titles next week, though most are available now). Additionally, there will be a comprehensive out-of-print section of over 60 recordings, including important recordings that have become virtually unobtainable and legendary performances from the archives that are being made available for the first time in digital form via the DG Web Shop. (No purchase is necessary to enjoy the free streaming and to participate in the voting).

“Mahler – The People’s Edition” invites music lovers to compile and vote online for their own dream cycle by taking advantage of our full-track streaming to compare any or all of the combined Deutsche Grammophon and Decca 180 recordings of Mahler symphonies. The “winning” complete set will be released as a CD box-set this fall.

A host of major new releases will accompany the celebrations, including Pierre Boulez’s new Cleveland Orchestra recording of Des Knaben Wunder­horn with mezzo Magdalena Kožená and baritone Christian Gerhaher; a new recording of Thomas Hampson performing Des Knaben Wunderhorn as well scheduled for January 2011; and the Mahler Complete Edition on 18 CDs (already available) featuring classic recordings by Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Riccardo Chailly, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Herbert von Karajan, Rafael Kubelik, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Giuseppe Sinopoli and Sir Georg Solti.

Mahler himself famously proclaimed: “A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.” Inspired by that challenge, Mahler 150 will embrace his vast musical world in a multi-dimensional format certain to engross Mahler lovers everywhere as well as create new admirers for this endlessly fascinating composer. His time is now!

Monday, July 19, 2010

After His First ‘Glorious’ Wotan at La Scala and Then at White Nights with Gergiev, René Pape Graces Festivals All Over Europe

Fall Sees the Black Diamond Bass Starring in New Met Production of Boris Godunov, and on a New Parsifal CD

“A glorious role debut that will change the perception of this Wagner character for the next decades” – Die Welt (Germany)

Weeks after René Pape delivered his much praised role debut as Wagner’s King of the Gods, he traveled to the White Nights Festival where he reprised the role of Wotan in concert and recorded the opera with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra for later release on the Mariinsky label. Pape fans don’t have to wait long, however, to hear a new Wagner recording from the German bass: his famous Gurnemanz can be heard on a fall release of Parsifal, also from Mariinsky, which represents Gergiev’s first Wagner recording. Festival appearances in Europe keep Pape busy during the summer, before he heads over the Atlantic to assume the mighty role of Russian Tsar Boris Godunov in the Met’s new fall production.

On July 20, Pape will meet up again with Gergiev in Baden-Baden for a concert featuring the final act of Boris Godunov, giving a sneak preview of the starring role that Pape unveils in New York this fall in a new Metropolitan Opera production. (This will mark Pape’s Met debut in the title role; after performances as the Tsar in Berlin, the Financial Times described Pape as the "consummate Boris, terrifying yet pitiable, a complex and charismatic ruler whose greatest battle is with himself.”) To round out his summer European performances, Pape sings Bruckner’s Te Deum at the Salzburg Festival (July 26 & 27) with Daniel Barenboim and the Vienna Philharmonic; and in August, still in Salzburg, Pape portrays the role of Orest in a new production of Strauss’s Elektra, with Danielle Gatti conducting.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Performs Broadway Favorites at Oregon Ridge, July 24

Concert concludes with grand fireworks display

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will conclude its summer season with Broadway Melodies led by guest conductor Randall Craig Fleischer and featuring vocalists Doug LaBrecque and Patricia Phillips at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, Md. on Saturday, July 24 at 8 p.m. The evening includes music from George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers and Andrew Lloyd Webber and favorites like “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady,“ Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera and "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables. A grand fireworks display will end the evening.

Vocalists Doug LaBrecque and Patricia Phillips will join forces to bring these Broadway melodies to life. LaBrecque has starred on Broadway as Ravenal in Harold Prince’s revival of Show Boat, featured in Oscar Hammerstein's 100th Birthday Celebration on Broadway at The Gershwin Theatre and toured nationally with Les Misérables. The San Diego Union-Times Tribune complimented LaBrecque’s technique in his performance of The Phantom of the Opera: “he excelled, bringing fervent, sensuous tones." Patricia Phillips was the first woman of African-American descent to perform the role of Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. She also appeared in the original cast of Baz Luhrmann’s Broadway production of Puccini’s La Bohème, as well as in the casts of The Secret Garden and The Sound of Music.

For more than 20 years, the BSO at Oregon Ridge has been a Baltimore-area summer tradition, drawing tens of thousands for family fun, music and fireworks in the wooded enclaves of the Cockeysville, Md., park. Patrons are invited to arrive early with lawn chairs, blankets and picnic dinners or purchase food and drink from onsite venders for a full evening of entertainment with the BSO. Gates will open at 5 p.m. and the concert begins at 8 p.m.

Broadway Melodies
Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 8 p.m. – Oregon Ridge Park*
13555 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, MD 21030

Tickets are general admission lawn seating and are available through the BSO Ticket Office, 410.783.8000, 877.BSO.1444 or BSOmusic.org. Advanced tickets are $18 for adults and $9 for children under 12. If purchased at the gate, tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Free onsite parking is available.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Free Downloads from the London Philharmonic Orchestra

Get 15 orchestral downloads free!

The London Philharmonic Orchestra and other great orchestras from across the UK have joined forces with iTunes for a free orchestral music download offer: 15 fantastic orchestral tracks from 15 great British orchestras, available for download for free until midnight, Saturday 17th July.

In this smorgasbord of musical delights, Mahler and Brahms rub shoulders with Bach and Handel in a celebration of British orchestral talent.

Share the love - forward this offer to your friends and family!

Book Review: The Doctor and The Diva

The Doctor And The Diva is a lush historical novel filled with vivid imagery and meticulously detailed settings. The story centers around Erika von Kessler, an opera singer in turn of the 20th century Boston. Based on a member of the author's family tree, The Doctor and the Diva rises above formulaic historic romance to give us a glimpse into another world - one filled with conflicting desires, expectations and overwhelming ambitions.

Unusually for a story in this setting, one of the primary characters is an obstetrician who is a specialist in conception. This subject matter, combined with a reverence for opera and the power of the music set up a conflict between a woman's desire for motherhood and career.

I do not know if Adrienne McDonnell sings, but she has very effectively captured the 'voice' of opera and the otherworldly aspects of singing this glorious music. Erika von Kessler is torn between the pull of her art and the responsibilities of motherhood, and throughout this book we feel her struggle and labor with impossible decisions. For those of us who will never open our own mouth and hear the angels of Puccini pour out, this is as close as we can get to understanding what it feels like to stand on the opera stage.

Although Erika has two men in her life and romance is a big part of the story, by books end I was entranced not by the romantic story, but by the tale of a woman finding herself - against all odds and with little to no support from the men in her life. This book is about a woman daring to BE.

Adrienne McDonnell's debut novel "The Doctor And The Diva" (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking ISBN:9780670021888) will be on sale July 26, 2010.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Music, Motor Activitiy, the Brain and Writing Pastiche Pop

I was reading "Can't Get You Out of My Head: Melody and the Brain" by Jayson Greene on The New MusicBox this morning and it struck me that musicians spend a great deal of time learning to play. Unlike other physical activities, music activates all areas of the brain. There is the physical nature of playing, whether it is with the fingers on the keys of a piano or the entire body as with a drum kit. The brain has to memorize how to maneuver the body in a precise way create the music. The eyes and cognitive area of the brain is active in reading the music. Even if the musician gets to the point of memorizing a piece, brain scans show the mental areas of cognitive thought still fire when playing a piece of music. Then there is the aural and/or artistic area of the brain which attempts to create something beautiful out of the physical and mental processes at work.

When a musician is actively listening to music, the same areas of the brain are active. So, a musician is thinking about how he/she might move to play the piece, what notes are involved (or how it might look on the page) and whether it is artistic. Athletes activate the physical and cognitive areas of the brain, but they aren't attempting to create something artistic, so that area of the brain remains dormant (unless we're talking about dance and/or floor routines which are accompanied by music). Chess players and computer programmers activate the cognitive areas of the brain and the artistic side but not the physical.

Thinking about this it occurs to me that perhaps this full range of activity by musicians over an extended period of time is why music affects the brain differently than other activities -- why people respond differently to music than to other stimulus.

Then I got to thinking about my own ability to write (or inability as the case may be) pop music, to get the sound right. I do well with classical forms that I've studied (and listened to) extensively. I am moderately good at 80's rock and many jazz forms, but then I grew up in the 70's and 80's listening to lots of rock music and played in orchestra, concert band and jazz band so I was exposed to a broad variety of styles in classical and jazz idioms. But I stopped actively playing in groups in the mid 80's as my life moved into the computer programming world. While I still listened to music, I didn't tend to explore new styles but stuck with what I already enjoyed.

Then, in 2004, I opted to return to my music education with active listening. My studies were focused on classical music, however my daughter was eagerly encouraging me to broaden my pop horizons as well. Unfortunately, I didn't spend the same time with pop music as I did classical. While I did gain an appreciation for new styles of pop music, I didn't grasp the idiom as well as I did classical music. Add to this my classical studies were an extension of what I already knew so further programming my brain with specific musical knowledge.

If the key to fully understanding a musical genre is to immerse the brain to the point all areas can create solid neural pathways, then I need to spend a great deal more time listening, playing and studying pop styles in order for me to accurately replicate them. I'm still in the midst of my Masters studies (and have a Model composition class where I'll be expected to write three pastiche pieces of three different classical composers this year) so it's probably not the best time to add something as intensive as immersion into modern pop music, but it is something I need to keep on the back burner if I ever want to be successful with it.

John Adams Interview

Philip Glass Interview

Rest In Peace

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Colorado Symphony Plays Classical Masterpieces at Stapleton Central Park, July 18th

Part of the FREE Summer Concert Series by Colorado Symphony

Colorado Symphony Associate Conductor Scott O’Neil leads the orchestra in a program of Classical Masterpieces at Stapleton Central Park including Glinka’s Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla, Berlioz’ Roman Carnival Overture, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, Bartόk’s Rumanian Folk Dances, Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, Smetana’s “The Moldau” and the final movement of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8. This concert is sponsored by PCL Construction, presented by Target as a part of the Target Free Family Concerts, and presented by cultural partner Denver Office of Cultural Affairs.

The Colorado Symphony performs a full line-up of summer outdoor concerts in July, as well as a special concert at Boettcher Concert Hall in celebration of the Biennial of the Americas on July 24. Visit the Colorado Symphony’s website at www.coloradosymphony.org for more information or call the Colorado Symphony Box Office at 303.623.7876.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Performs Works by Frank Zappa and Philip Glass, July 23

Program also features Baltimore beatboxer, Shodekeh, in excerpts from new concerto for beatboxer and strings, Fujiko’s Fairy Tale

Music Director Marin Alsop will conduct the BSO in The Music of Frank Zappa and Philip Glass on Friday, July 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The concert pays tribute to the musical triumphs of the Baltimore-born composers who pushed the music envelope. To connect the avant-garde movement of Zappa and Glass to the next generation of artists, Baltimore beatboxer Shodekeh makes his BSO debut in the U.S. premiere of Fujiko’s Fairy Tale by Finnish composer Jan Mikael Vainio.

From his early work with the band Mothers of Invention to his classical, rock, jazz and electronic compositions, Frank Zappa is revered for the complexity and versatility of his music. “Frank Zappa dabbled in virtually all kinds of music,” says Rolling Stone. “Whether guised as a satirical rocker, jazz-rock fusionist, guitar virtuoso, electronics wizard or orchestral innovator, his eccentric genius was undeniable.” Zappa’s music interweaves a plethora of genres and instruments that transcends typical sounds and messages of popular music. Maestra Alsop and the BSO will perform Zappa’s own great orchestral versions of Be-Bop Tango and Dupree’s Paradise, as well as Outrage at Valdez and G-Spot Tornado.

The program concludes with four movements from Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 4, “Heroes,” based on the David Bowie and Brian Eno 70’s album Heroes. “Philip [Glass] has put more of himself in this new [work], but the irony is that I believe that he's actually put his finger on more of my original voice,” said David Bowie. “It was though Philip had fed into my voice...but somehow had arrived, I feel, a lot nearer to the gut feeling of what I was trying to do.” Movements I, IV, V and VI will be played of what the Los Angeles Times calls "a dramatically sweeping, pull-out-the-stops piece."

The concert will also introduce a 33-year-old Baltimore beatboxer, Shodekeh, in a unique collaboration of vocal drumming (beatboxing) with orchestra. Shodekeh is a Prince George’s County native and Coppin State University graduate. In 2004, he worked as an usher at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall “to be close to music” and then moved to New York City to pursue his dream of beatboxing. With a large following in the Baltimore area, he has even been praised by such esteemed critics as Roger Ebert. “He's the only percussion section I've ever seen with choreography,” says Ebert. “The personal element he puts into his performances uplifts a song and carries it along. His joy is infectious.” Shodekeh will perform the beatbox solo in Jan Mikael Vainio’s Fujiko’s Fairy Tale, a concerto written for strings and beatboxer that made its world debut with the Mikkeli Orchestra in Finland in February 2010. Shodekeh will also open the second half of the concert with beatbox improvisations, serving as lead-in for Glass’ Symphony No. 4, “Heroes.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Seven Emerging Composers Chosen for 2010 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute

Composers will travel to Minneapolis for Orchestra’s acclaimed professional training program; Institute runs from October 24 to 30, highlighted by October 29 Future Classics concert

Seven emerging composers have been selected as participants in the Minnesota Orchestra’s tenth annual Composer Institute, Institute Director Aaron Jay Kernis announced today. Chosen from a pool of 168 candidates through a competitive process, the composers represent four nationalities and reside throughout the U.S. , and their works encompass a variety of musical styles. They will be in Minneapolis from October 24 to 30, 2010, for rehearsals, seminars and tutoring sessions, as well as a public concert of their works on Friday, October 29, led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä.

The participants are Taylor Brizendine of Los Angeles , California ; Chinese-born Wang Jie of Philadelphia , Pennsylvania ; Russian-born Polina Nazaykinskaya of Austin , Texas ; Clint Needham of Bloomington , Indiana ; Ben Phelps of Los Angeles , California ; Thailand native Narong Prangcharoen of Kansas City , Missouri ; and David Weaver of Philadelphia , Pennsylvania .

“We received dozens of exceptionally-crafted scores, which made the final choices difficult,” says Mr. Kernis, who chaired the selection panel. “The high quality of submissions confirms what we know from past Composer Institutes: the future of new orchestral music is vibrant and strong.” Other panel members included composers Augusta Read Thomas, Bright Sheng and Stacy Garrop—a Composer Institute alumnus—as well as the Orchestra’s Assistant Conductor Courtney Lewis.

Tiddley-om-Prom-Prom: Summer with the London Philharmonic Orchestra

Don't miss the London Philharmonic Orchestra's two appearances at this summer's BBC Proms.

Sunday 15 August
Julia Fischer joins the Orchestra for an all-Russian affair, conducted by Principal Conductor, Vladimir Jurowski

Mussorgsky, arr. Rimsky-Korsakov A Night on the Bare Mountain
Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor
Scriabin Rêverie
Prokofiev Symphony No. 3 in C Minor

Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO perform a dynamic, all-Russian programme.

Julia Fischer returns to play Shostakovich's long-suppressed Violin Concerto, following her triumphant debut here two years ago – and she returns again even more swiftly, to appear in tomorrow's Proms Chamber Music recital. Prokofiev's impassioned, sometimes spine-chilling Third Symphony originated in music from his opera The Fiery Angel.

Musorgsky's feast of ghosts and ghouls appears in Rimsky-Korsakov's spectacular rearrangement, and we continue our Scriabin focus with the composer's fleeting dream-like rhapsody.

Tuesday 31 August
Glyndebourne Opera makes its annual visit to the Proms with a semi-staged performance of Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel. Robin Ticciati, who is making his Proms début, conducts.

Alice Coote Hänsel
Lydia Teuscher Gretel
Irmgard Vilsmaier Mother
William Dazeley Father
Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke Witch
Tara Erraught Sandman
Ida Falk Winland Dew Fairy

Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra

Prize-winning author and former Children's Laureate Anne Fine and child psychotherapist Margaret Rustin discuss the themes of the Grimm Brothers' Hänsel and Gretel and the story's continuing relevance to children today. Ian McMillan hosts.

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Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra Presents Hot! Hot! Hot!: A Night at the Copa

For one night only, Powell Hall will be filled with the sounds and excitement of the legendary Copacabana nightclub. Come experience Latin music and dance with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Victor Vanacore. Hot! Hot! Hot! also includes the champion competitive dance team of Andrzej and Jennifer Przybyl.

Bernadette Peters, originally scheduled for this date, will now perform on May 13, 2011.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra Performing Wagner

Soprano Measha Brueggergosman Joins in for a Ravishing Account of the Wesendonck Lieder, Available July 27th, 2010

Deutsche Grammophon continues its successful relationship with the acclaimed Cleveland Orchestra and its chief conductor Franz Welser-Möst with this thrilling all-Wagner album. Recorded live in Cleveland, this recording showcases one of America’s premier orchestras in Wagner’s romantic and virtuosic music, available July 27, 2010.

The orchestra delivers powerful performances of the Lohengrin Preludes (Act I and Act III), The Ride of the Valkyries, the Rienzi and Die Meistersinger von Nürmburg Overtures, and the orchestral version of opera’s non plus ultra of love’s power to transfigure, the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde.

The centerpiece of the concert features soprano Measha Brueggergosman performing Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder. According to The Plain Dealer, “Measha Brueggergosman again proved a master interpreter of this score, melding to her radiant voice a profound dramatic sensibility. The singer applied a distinctive vocal character to each piece, taking cues from the text to evoke specific physical and emotional states with stunning likeness.” The entire evening was judged a success and DG was proud to be on-hand to record the event.

This unlikely program is not considered standard fare for most American orchestras: “It’s the sort of music you don’t often find on the menu of a straight-forward symphony orchestra,” says conductor Franz Welser-Möst. Yet, maybe this type of program should be more popular. According to The Plain Dealer, “even hardened anti-Wagnerians could not have resisted” and the concert “likely made legions of new Wagner fans.”

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Sound Grapes make when they're Sour

I hate pop music. No, correction. I hate pop musicians. I hate rock musicians. I hate urban musicians... basically I hate everyone who writes music in a form that I find endlessly fascinating and yet continuously beyond my reach.

As a classical composer I have studied numerous other composers, styles and forms of music. Many of these "classical" forms I understand and can emulate, from high-classical to the avant-gard pan-tonal forms of the 20th century. However, the current styles of music heard on the pop radio stations continues to elude me!

People tell me "Pop music is c&#p!" but if it's so bad how come it's 1) so popular and 2) impossible for me to capture the nuances of it within my own music??? I love listening pop music --all styles and artists; I just can't write it. People say pop music won't last, but we still remember "Blue Swede Shoes", "Tuxedo Junction" and "The Entertainer" which are now over 60, 80 and 100 years old. Maybe they're not on the pop stations anymore, but they are remembered. Lady Gaga is more than just good marketing. Shakira, Beyonce and Alica Keys are extremely talented. Their music will be remembered because it's more than just simple chords and repetitive rhythms.

I studied dance music styles as an undergraduate and amazed at how the other students could so adeptly capture the various modern styles. It also was extremely interesting how layered modern music is. We don't pay attention to the various layers because of the overly simply repetitive rhythms and harmonic progression. But, beneath all that simplicity are constant changing sound textures and effects. Brilliant, brilliant music! (sometimes).

While I have experimented with musique-accousmatique, the skill modern record producers display on modern music is mystifying. Perhaps I need to just give up on trying every understand how to write pop music and see if I can make something from the sound of squishing sour grapes.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra receives $2 million endowment gift

The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra announced today that it has received commitment of a $2 million endowment gift from the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation. In recognition of this contribution, the SLSO will establish The Mabel Dorn Reeder Honorary Chair.

The Chair will be awarded based on merit for a period of five years to a musician of the SLSO who demonstrates both excellence in artistry and leadership within the Orchestra and may be granted to any tenured orchestra member including those who already occupy a named chair. There will be a one-time $10,000 stipend awarded to the recipient at the start of their five-year term as the honoree, to be utilized for professional development. The award will be celebrated every five years.

Mabel Purkerson, Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Trustee, said: “Mabel Reeder, my godmother, loved the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and was extremely generous to it. We at the Foundation felt that we could both further her legacy and support the wonderful music-making of the Saint Louis Symphony with an award that recognized the individual efforts of the musicians themselves. This award not only acknowledges artistic talent, but so many other things that go into being a valued member of this orchestra, which includes a commitment to the St. Louis community.”

Ned Lemkemeier, SLSO Chairman, Board of Trustees, said: “The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra continues to benefit in many significant ways from Mabel’s leadership and generosity as a patron and Trustee. The extraordinary gift of the Reeder Foundation, of which Mabel is a Trustee, demonstrates once again Mabel’s interest in, and commitment to, our Orchestra and the St. Louis Community. She is a very special friend.”

Fred Bronstein, SLSO President & Executive Director, said: “This wonderfully imaginative gift by the trustees of The Mabel D. Reeder Foundation both gives us a unique opportunity to celebrate every five years an outstanding member of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra whose artistry, leadership and musical contribution to our community has gone above and beyond, while at the same time adding to the future financial security of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra by helping build its endowment.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Harmony of Mathematics

Our bond with music is deeper than the simple response 'I like/don't like what I hear'.

Dr. Oliver Sacks in his book Musicophilia spends a great deal of time exploring the music/brain connection. Philosophers through the ages have examined the role of music in human life. There is something primal in the way we can be attracted or repulsed by the music we hear.

This week a scholar has announced the discovery of a hidden musical message in the scrolls of Plato. According to Jay Kennedy, it is possible that Plato was using musical code to show his solidarity with Pythagorean theory:

"The Pythagoreans realized that when we hear beauty and music, when we hear notes harmonizing, that's because the notes have simple ratios, like 1:2 or 3:4," Kennedy explains. "So the beauty of music is direct perception of the mathematical order underlying the world. They worshipped that mathematics."

Of course, many composers through the ages have spoken of the mystical mathematical quality of music. One of my favorite obsessives is Scriabin. His use of a Whole Tone Dominant Chord suspended over Tonic Root has been named the Mystic Chord. His final planned work before his untimely death at age 43 was the Mysterium, a multi-media work for performance at the highest possible point in the Himalayas. It was Scriabin's hope that it would be "a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world."

Music has the power to soothe the savage beast indeed!

Trisha Brown Dance Company Launches Bard SummerScape 2010 on Thursday, July 8

SummerScape 2010 Includes 21st Season of World-Renowned Bard Music Festival, “Berg and His World,” and First Staged Production in North America of Franz Schreker’s Haunting 1910 Opera, The Distant Sound (Der ferne Klang).

“Seven weeks of cultural delight.” – International Herald Tribune

The Trisha Brown Dance Company kicks off the eighth annual Bard SummerScape festival this week on Thursday, July 8 at 8 pm, with the trailblazing choreographer’s most recent piece – L’Amour au théâtre (2009), two of her legendary Rauschenberg collaborations – Foray Forêt (1990) and You can see us (1995), and a duet from her 1996 piece, Twelve Ton Rose, which is set to music by Anton Webern. This performance and the company’s three subsequent SummerScape appearances (on Friday, July 9 and Saturday, July 10, both also at 8 pm, and on Sunday, July 11 at 3 pm) form a highlight of the company’s 40th anniversary season.

As in previous years, SummerScape 2010 is keyed to the theme of the Bard Music Festival, which this year celebrates “Berg and His World.” Like the great Austrian composer, Trisha Brown is a pioneer of her art; where Berg is one of musical modernism’s founding fathers, she has long been recognized as “the innovative high priestess of postmodernist dance” (Jennifer Dunning, New York Times). Since helping to found the avant-garde Judson Dance Theater movement in the 1960s, Brown has consistently shattered perceptions of what dance can be. She was awarded a coveted MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 1991, becoming the first female choreographer to be so honored.

Classical 105.9 WQXR Honors Mahler’s 150th Birthday with Eight-Day Dedicated Audio Webstream (July 7-14)

Q2 Presents Live Varèse Webcast and Highlights of 2010’s Bang on a Can Marathon

This summer, Classical 105.9 WQXR – New York’s sole dedicated classical station – will honor an important anniversary: Gustav Mahler’s 150th birthday on July 7. Q2, the station’s 24-hour contemporary music stream, will present a live webcast of an all-Varèse program (July 7); highlights from the 2010 Bang on a Can Marathon (Aug 15); and more installments of Cued Up on Q2, featuring an eclectic mix of new-music events recorded live in New York City.

Stewart Pearce Is Named Managing Director of Metropolitan Opera Guild

The Metropolitan Opera Guild is pleased to announce that Stewart Pearce has been named its new Managing Director. Mr. Pearce assumes the position today after a long and distinguished association with both the Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Opera Guild. His predecessor was David A. Dik, who has taken a new position as the National Executive Director of Young Audiences Arts for Learning. Mr. Pearce will continue in his role as Assistant Manager for Operations at the Metropolitan Opera, a position he has held since 2006.

Richard J. Miller, Jr., the President of the Guild, observed: “As the Guild begins its 75th anniversary season, Stewart’s long history at both the Guild and the Metropolitan Opera makes him uniquely qualified to carry out the Guild’s initiatives in education, creating new audiences for opera and supporting the Metropolitan Opera Association.”

Mr. Pearce commented: “I am honored to be appointed the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s new Managing Director. The Guild’s history of supporting the Metropolitan Opera and making opera accessible to audiences of all ages is unique. I look forward to working with the Guild board, management, and staff to increase the effectiveness of all its programs, in even greater partnership with the Metropolitan Opera.”

Stewart Pearce has spent virtually his entire professional career at the Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Opera Guild, in a variety of management positions spanning almost 35 years. His Master’s Degree in Arts Management, which he received from New York University in 1977, included an internship at the Metropolitan Opera Guild. He served as the Guild’s Director of Membership, including broad-based marketing and fund raising responsibilities.

Mozart Under Moonlight with the Colorado Symphony at the Arvada Center

Colorado Symphony Principal Guest Conductor Douglas Boyd leads the orchestra in an all-Mozart program featuring soprano Elizabeth Keusch. The program includes Mozart’s Serenade No. 12 in C minor, arias “Voi che sapete” from Marriage of Figaro and “Come scoglio” from Cosi fan tutte, Exsultate, jubilate and concludes with Mozart’s beloved Symphony No. 38 “ Prague .”

Tickets are available for purchase at the Arvada Center Box Office, 720.898.7200 or online at www.arvadacenter.org. Tickets are $45 – premium covered, $35 – covered, $25 – lawn section general admission and $15 – covered stage edge.

The Colorado Symphony performs a full line-up of summer outdoor concerts in July, as well as a special concert at Boettcher Concert Hall in celebration of the Biennial of the Americas on July 24. Visit the Colorado Symphony’s website at www.coloradosymphony.org for more information or call the Colorado Symphony Box Office at 303.623.7876.

Thomas Hampson Begins Season-Long Celebration of Gustav Mahler’s 150th Anniversary with Live Webcast

from Composer’s Birth-House in Kaliste, Czech Republic, on Wednesday, July 7 at 9am EDT on www.medici.tv

Long regarded as the premier interpreter of the songs of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), Thomas Hampson will dedicate much of his summer and the upcoming 2010-11 season to performances of the Austrian composer’s works. The celebration begins on July 7 – the date of Mahler’s birth 150 years ago – with Hampson’s recital from Mahler’s birth-house in Kaliste, Czech Republic, that will be webcast live on www.medici.tv, and an evening concert from Kaliste with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck, which the European Broadcasting Union will transmit live across Europe. The webcast will also be available for streaming through www.medici.tv for 60 days following the performance.

Additional Mahler performances will follow throughout the summer – making more than 50 concerts over the course of the 2010-11 season – including Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen at the Zurich Opera with conductor Philippe Jordan; Rückert-Lieder with the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra and Christoph Eschenbach at the Rheingau and Schleswig-Holstein Music Festivals; and Das Lied von der Erde with the NDR Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg and Alan Gilbert on a four-city tour that includes the final concert of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.

Sony Classical signs exclusive multi-album recording agreement with conductor Kristjan Järvi

Release dates: Sept. 6 (UK and worldwide) and Sept. 14 (US)

“a kinetic force on the podium” – The New York Times on Kristjan Järvi

Sony Classical is pleased to announce a new, exclusive multi-album recording agreement with the dynamic the Estonian-born and American-raised conductor Kristjan Järvi. The new relationship launches with the September 6 (UK and worldwide) and September 14 (US) release of Cantique, featuring the music of iconic Estonian composer Arvo Pärt in celebration of his 75th birthday. Järvi leads the Rundfunk Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin and the RIAS Kammerchor. Cantique includes Pärt’s 1971 masterpiece, Symphony No. 3, plus the world premiere recordings of the orchestral and choral version of his Stabat mater (1985/2008) and Cantique des degrès (1999/2002) for choir and orchestra. The album was produced by Florian Schmidt and recorded at Haus des Rundfunks in Berlin in February 2010.

Cantique represents the culmination of a lifelong friendship between Kristjan Järvi and Arvo Pärt, which has been shaped as much by their shared personal history as their shared musical life. The Järvi and Pärt families have been friends since the 1960s, when Kristjan’s father Neeme Järvi and Arvo Pärt worked together at Estonian Radio – Neeme Järvi as the conductor of the Estonian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra, and Pärt as a recording engineer. Both families chose to emigrant from Estonia in 1980 because of continuing struggles with Soviet officials, and settled in Vienna within days of each other. Initially, they stayed at the same convent there, which was a stop for refugees. Though the Pärt family remained in Vienna, later relocating to Berlin, and the Järvis moved to the United States, the families have remained close throughout the decades.

Their musical lives have remained intertwined over the years, and have crossed generations. Pärt’s Symphony No. 3 is a major symphonic masterpiece of the late 20th century and is dedicated to Neeme Järvi. In 2008, when Kristjan Järvi was the music director of the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich in Vienna, he commissioned an orchestral and choral version of Pärt’s Stabat mater, originally written for soprano, alto, and tenor, with string trio. Järvi premiered it with that orchestra at the Großen Musikvereinssaal during the Wiener Festwochen, with Pärt in attendance. For both men, it was a moving experience to premiere the work in the city to which they both originally came as refugees.

The orchestra – Rundfunk Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin – is one with which Kristjan Järvi has collaborated for more than a decade, and hails from Berlin, Pärt’s home for many years outside of Estonia.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Music or Noise - It is in the Ear of the Beholder

The ability to create sound is crucial for the creation of music, but is simply creating a series of sounds enough to qualify something as music?

I found this report of a Lou Reed concert very interesting. It seems the debate of what constitutes music is raging in more than the classical sphere.

In the end run, I think that determination is made by the composer - he or she must write what is music to them - ignoring the pressure of audience, tutors, academia and hangers on.

Of course I also think the determination of what is music is made by the listener. So in the above situation both the musicians and the audience are right. It was music - and it was not.

Composers need to have thick skins if they are going to ignore all of the opinions that will be thrown at their music. They also need to accept the fact that there is no magical audience fairy that will ensure their music gets heard.

All you can do is write the music that sings in your soul and hope that there are others who hear the same music you do.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fireworks on the Web

Here is a look at the Colorado Symphony Fireworks

Jeremy Denk Appears at Three Top U.S. Festivals – Bard, Mostly Mozart, and Tanglewood – Over Just Eight Days (Aug 13-21)

“With a supreme command of the piano allowing endlessly varied color, touch, and chord voicing, all possibilities are seemingly open to him. And all possibilities are imaginable, thanks to a fine intellect. – David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer

Jeremy Denk’s summer reaches its acme in mid-August, when he appears at three of the season’s most prestigious U.S. festivals – Bard (Aug 13-15), Mostly Mozart (Aug 17-19), and Tanglewood (Aug 21) – to give six prominent performances in little over a week. In repertoire ranging from solo and chamber to orchestral, and from composers of the First Viennese School to those of the Second, the versatile pianist collaborates with leading artists including Joshua Bell and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The first of these appearances is at Annandale-on-Hudson’s Bard Music Festival, which has won international acclaim for its unrivaled, in-depth exploration of the life and works of a single composer and his contemporaries, offering, in the words of the New York Times, a “rich web of context” for a full appreciation of that composer’s inspirations and significance. A veteran of the festival, last season Denk impressed the New York Times’s Steve Smith with playing that juxtaposed “tenderness personified” with his “more athletic side.” At this year’s celebration of “Berg and His World,” the pianist performs two important chamber works by the groundbreaking Austrian composer: the Piano Sonata, Op. 1, for Bard’s opening-night concert on August 13, and – with Paganini Competition-winner Soovin Kim and members of the resident American Symphony Orchestra – the Kammerkonzert for piano, violin, and 13 wind instruments, Op. 8, for the close of the festival’s first weekend on August 15.

As Denk once confided on his humorous and engaging blog, Think Denk, despite knowing Berg’s Kammerkonzert to be “one amazing piece,” he fears that others will hear in it only “disturbed waltz-tunes.” When he performed the work with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, however, he need not have worried. In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Peter Dobrin declared that “if audience size were commensurate with artistic value, Berg’s Chamber Concerto…would have been enough to fill the house all by itself. In fact, it’s a work so overcrowded with genius, it should have been played twice.” Dobrin went on to applaud Denk’s “heroism,” skill as a “fastidious detail worker,” and ability to make “manipulation of tone as emotional a variant as the pitch of an actor’s voice.”

After taking his Berg interpretations to Bard, Denk returns for to New York City’s Mostly Mozart Festival, where he joins Joshua Bell and the Festival Orchestra under Louis Langrée for two performances of Mendelssohn’s Double Concerto in Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Written for violin, piano, and strings in 1823, the work reveals its youthful composer’s delight in lyrical invention and virtuosity, lending itself perfectly to the winning partnership of Denk and Bell, themselves dubbed “young, gifted, and energetic” by the New York Times. As Vivien Schweitzer remarked in the same paper, “These two musicians are an ideally matched duo, with Mr. Denk’s fiery playing complementing Mr. Bell’s luxuriant singing tone.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Brain Change, Brain Damage, Brain Drain or just Things Click

Kyle Gann wrote on his blog Post Classic about his Summer Projects, three new pieces. It seems he's finished with two and nearly with the third. The amazing thing to him is he was writing all three at the same time. You Go Gann!!!

Mozart wrote his final three symphonies while working on an opera. We don't know why he wrote these symphonies, but we do know he finished all of them within approximately a month of initially putting pen to paper. Bach wrote so much music it is impossible to image he wasn't writing multiple pieces pretty much constantly. So, writing multiple pieces of music simultaneously is not new. What is new -for Gann and composers like me - is the ability to think clearly about multiple pieces and keeping them straight.

I have successfully composed multiple pieces at the same time in the past, but not with any regularity or consistent success. It is something I continually strive to do, work on consciously, because I feel the process itself does something to the brain --I think differently about music when multiple pieces are swimming (successfully) in my head. And all the pieces end up as better pieces.

What happens when it works is a fermenting of ideas from one to another, without confusing issues or themes. When it isn't successful, good ideas tend to migrate to one composition while the other(s) suffer. It is rather like absorbing good ideas from studying Mahler, Mendelssohn and Machaut at the same time (again, not an easy task, nor one I recommend for those wishing to remain sane). The end result is a collection of richer ideas (richer compositions).

I'm attempting to do the same thing as Gann this Summer. I've completed a 10 minute orchestral work Exchanging Glances, an Oboe Concerto, a Piano Sonata, a string quartet and an opera (well, I'm re-working the opera so perhaps it doesn't really fit in the "new composition category"). The ideas have remained separate - thanks to a composition book that lives with me. When new thoughts come to me (whether in my dreams, on the road or when I'm working on something else), I jot them down into the book. If something rings vaguely familiar the other compositions are also in the book for easy reference. Sometimes these means new ideas can be scratched out when duplicated, or morphed into better ideas when met with previous concepts from other compositional ideas.

It isn't a perfect system. If it was I'd be successful at continually writing multiple pieces at one time. It is helping...

So, here's Gann. Congrats on your success. May it continue to bear fruit (and I can't wait to hear the results)! And to the rest of you composing music - keep the ideas flowing. The world needs more music!

Colorado Symphony Starts Summer Season With Explosive Civic Center Fireworks

Photo by Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostDenver's City and County Building was ablaze with color and the sky alight with Fireworks while the Colorado Symphony brought the audience to their feet with the ever popular Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture

Photo by Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

The Colorado Symphony, under the baton of consummate showman Scott O'Neil, Associate Conductor, performed for a huge crowd at Civic Center Park last night. Using Denver's City and County Building as a backdrop, the symphony played an American themed patriotic concert for an Independence Eve Celebration. The Colorado Symphony performed popular pieces by American composers such as Souza and Copland to create a festive evening primed for the fireworks. Scott O'Neil encouraged the crowd to clap during particularly popular numbers or helped them find the words during "America the Beautiful" to create the celebratory atmosphere of the evening.

The symphony was well mic'd so the speakers at the side of the stage could provide amplification. Unfortunately, the crowd was so much larger than expected, stretching back to the Capital steps, nearly 1/4 mile away. The amplification was nice but not enough to reach the extensive, enthusiastic crowd. Combine that with a colorful light show that didn't just light up the City and County Building, but changed to reflect the changes in music, some of the drama of the event was lost on the far reaches of the crowd.

Those minor quibbles aside, the Independence Eve Celebration was a perfect first year event. From the sea of spectators relaxing on the lawn, to the people milling about amid the vendors enjoying a variety of foods, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the performance.

The fireworks display began at the culmination of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and continued through Souza's Stars and Stripes Forever and beyond. Hundreds of pocket cameras captured the event for people who will be talking about this event for years to come.

What's even better is this concert was the first of several FREE concerts by the Colorado Symphony. On Monday they perform again at the picturesque Red Rocks Amphitheater. See you all there!