. Interchanging Idioms: April 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Marin Alsop Leads Emanuel Ax, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Brahms' First Piano Concerto, June 2-5

Emanuel Ax Performs Brahms’ First Piano Concerto, June 2-5

Marin Alsop leads regional premiere of BSO co-commission by Argentine-American composer Osvaldo Golijov

Piano legend Emanuel Ax returns to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO), under the direction of BSO Music Director Marin Alsop, in a performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 on Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore, Friday, June 3 and Saturday, June 4 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 5 at 3 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Maestra Alsop will lead the BSO in a delightful tour of the orchestra in Britten’s A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and will also feature Sidereus, a BSO co-commission by Argentine-American composer Osvaldo Golijov.

Emanuel Ax’s legendary music-making has thrilled audiences for more than 30 years. Among the world’s most sought-after piano virtuosos, the New York Times describes his style as, “a shifting balance of poetry, earthiness and analytical clarity.” He joins the BSO to perform Brahms’ dramatic First Piano Concerto. Brahms performed the work’s challenging solo at its premiere in 1859 in Hanover. Brahms’ listeners were not prepared for the work’s assaulting principal theme and unconventional tonality, after their steady diet of Liszt and Mendelssohn’s charming vehicles of virtuosity.

Opening the concert is Sidereus, an overture for small orchestra by Argentine-American composer Osvaldo Golijov. This piece was commissioned by more than 35 orchestras that comprise the Henry Fogel Commission Consortium. Of Russian-Jewish descent, Golijov’s family escaped the Czarist pograms by immigrating to Argentina when the composer was young. This unique background has helped Golijov find a style that blends Latin rhythms with Yiddish expression, rooted in firm classical training. Sidereus was inspired by Galileo Galilei’s 1610 treatise Sidereus Nuncius, which contains the trail-blazing astronomer’s observations about the galaxy.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Trumpet Concerto: the Review is in - and glowing to say the least

Being compared to Aaron Copland makes this composer feel pretty good!

Robert McNeil wrote a review of a recent concert at the Lamont School of Music in his blog OpusColorado. The Lamont Symphony Orchestra featured a variety of new works by composers at the school, including one by yours truly --Trumpet Concerto 3rd movement.

"This is truly a fine composition. This is another work where I would like to examine the score, because it seemed to me that intentionally or unintentionally, Mr. Michael made use of what theory students have learned to tag as “white key diatonicism.” This is the style of composition personified by the American composer Aaron Copland, and as I have said before in very oversimplified terms, white key diatonicism is where key signatures and enharmonic equivalence are taken as points of departure for a study of the diatonic-chromatic relationship. In other words, key relationships do not follow established rules of traditional harmony. But I must tell you that as I listened to this composition, I was totally astonished not just by the work itself, but by the amazing trumpet performance by Traci Nelson."

It was a good night and a good concert. Traci did very well with the difficult music I gave her, as did the Lamont Symphony Orchestra. I was pleased with the night and obviously so was Robert McNeil.

Decca Releases Julia Fischer’s New Recording, Poème, on May 3, 2011

Four Substantial Works for Solo Violin and Orchestra Feature Fischer with Her Long-Term Colleague, Yakov Kreizberg

Violinist Julia Fischer follows her extraordinary Grammy®-nominated recording of the Paganini Caprices with this contrasting album of impressionistic and poetic works for solo violin and orchestra. Comprised of four substantial works by a multinational list of composers, Julia displays not only her technique and gorgeous tone but also her lyrical abilities. Julia is joined by her long-time collaborator Yakov Kreizberg who leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra. The album will be released on May 3, 2011.

Since being signed to Decca Classics Julia has successfully recorded concerti by Bach (an album which debuted as the highest-selling classical debut in iTunes history) and an album of the Paganini Caprices which was nominated for a Grammy®. After albums of Baroque music and fiendishly difficult solo repertoire, Julia turns her attention to the more lyrical side of her playing and her expressive palate of tone colors. Comprising four substantial pieces, this unique program is headed by Suk’s virtuosic Fantasy, a mini-concerto that is now justifiably finding its way into the concert repertoire. It is accompanied by two well-known tone poems – the elegant Poème by Chausson and the English pastoral The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams. The album is completed by Respighi’s Poema autunnale (of which there are only a few other recordings in the catalog), making the program truly multinational.

Decca Releases its Third Album of Music by Nico Muhly, Seeing is Believing, Available June 21st

Includes the Concerto for Electric Violin and Other Original Compositions as well as Arrangements of Vocal Works by Byrd and Gibbons

Decca is proud to continue its association with American composer Nico Muhly with the release of their third album together, Seeing is Believing. Having previous concentrated on choral music and a complete ballet score, this album includes four original compositions and three orchestral arrangements of vocal works originally by both William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons. The Aurora Orchestra, the relatively new, young British ensemble, records this album under the direction of contemporary music specialist Nicholas Collon. The album will be released on June 21, 2011 just days before the premiere of Muhly’s opera, Two Boys, in London.

The centerpiece of the album is the concerto for electric violin, Seeing is Believing. This unique, six-string instrument makes available a variety of sounds that are both vaguely familiar and wholly new. The leader of the Aurora Orchestra, Thomas Gould, became acquainted with Muhly’s work while in school and that eventually led to this composition. On his initial response to Gould’s proposition of composing a work for electric violin, Muhly said: “Of course, it sounds like a kind of crazy idea. And also I liked it because it sort of sounded like a bad idea. And that’s the best thing: take something that seems like a bad idea and make it into a good idea.” In addition to Seeing is Believing, the album includes three more works for chamber orchestra: Motion, By All Means and Step Team.

Gil Shaham Plays Walton and Other “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” with Orchestras of Philadelphia, New York, and Aspen

Gil Shaham’s recent account of William Walton’s Violin Concerto with the Houston Symphony was “a goose-bump experience – an event to remember” (Houston Chronicle). Now the Israeli-American virtuoso makes Walton’s masterpiece central to his long-term exploration of the “Violin Concertos of the 1930s,” performing it with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Charles Dutoit in Philadelphia (May 12-17) and Washington, DC (May 20); with the New York Philharmonic and Ludovic Morlot in New York (June 16-18) and at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival (July 27); and with the Aspen Concert Orchestra directed by Christopher Seaman at the Aspen Music Festival (July 6). At Aspen Shaham also presents three further concertos from the same turbulent decade: Bartók’s Second (July 8), the Stravinsky (July 12), and Hartmann’s Concerto funèbre (July 21).

The ongoing “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” project was conceived when, as the Los Angeles Times describes, “one of the era’s star fiddlers, Shaham began musing about his favorite 20th-century violin concertos at the turn of the millennium. He found to his surprise that most were written in the 1930s.” In an in-depth feature on the enterprise, the Wall Street Journal explains,

“In the 1930s, horrific developments in Europe ultimately swept more than 50 countries into the most destructive global conflict ever known. Coincidentally during that decade, at least 14 significant composers wrote violin concertos, many for the first time.”

These include the sole violin concerto of William Walton, which dates from 1938-39. Best-known today for the succès de scandale of his chamber entertainment Facade, in the 1930s Walton was considered the most important English composer of his generation. Shaham describes the genesis of his concerto:

“The great Jascha Heifetz commissioned the work and premiered it with the Cleveland Orchestra. Walton wrote the piece while in Italy, and there are obvious Mediterranean influences, especially in the second movement tarantella. Elgar’s Violin Concerto seems to be the Walton concerto’s closest spiritual partner. If, as it has been said, Elgar’s concerto is the story of love lost, then Walton’s is the story of love regained – or perhaps love re-won.”

Consequently, Shaham confesses wanting to revisit the work “again and again and again,” and it figures prominently in his current programming. He gives four accounts of the concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra under its Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Charles Dutoit, the first three in the orchestra’s home (May 12, 14, & 17), and the last at Washington’s Kennedy Center (May 20). The most recent of Shaham’s numerous collaborations with Dutoit was at the Bravo!-Vail Valley Music Festival this past summer; likewise at Tanglewood he performed with Ludovic Morlot, who guest conducts the New York Philharmonic in three further performances of the Walton concerto at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall (June 16-18). Shaham reprises the work with the same forces for his guest appearance at Colorado’s Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival (July 27), and it is also with the Walton that he kicks off the summer season across the Rockies at the Aspen Music Festival, where British conductor Christopher Seaman, artistic director of the San Antonio Symphony, directs the Aspen Concert Orchestra (July 6).

GRAMMY Award Winner k.d. lang Performs at the Meyerhoff for One Night Only, July 14

Concert will include selections from lang’s newest album, Sing It Loud

Singer and songwriter k.d. lang and her band the Siss Boom Bang will perform at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall for one night only on Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 8 p.m. This announcement comes on the heels of lang’s highly anticipated release of Sing it Loud, her first studio album since 2008’s Watershed. Sing it Loud is lang’s first record made entirely with her own band, Siss Boom Bang, since the pair of albums with the Reclines that launched her groundbreaking career more than 25 years ago.

Since lang first hit the music scene over a quarter-century ago, she has amassed numerous awards including four GRAMMY® awards, eight JUNO Awards, a BRIT, an AMA, a VMA, and four awards from GLAAD. In 1996, she received Canada’s highest civilian honor, the Order of Canada. lang’s unique style transcends genre, combining country, alternative, rock and even punk styles and her soulful voice prompted frequent collaborator Tony Bennett to remark, “She’s the best singer of her generation.” She has also appeared alongside such musical luminaries as Roy Orbison, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Loretta Lynn, and Tony Bennett.

Carlos Kalmar Leads Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Violinist Karen Gomyo in Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, May 27-28

BSO performs Walton’s Symphony No. 1 for the first time

Maestro Carlos Kalmar leads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and violinist Karen Gomyo in Sibelius’ Violin Concerto on Friday, May 27 at 8 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and Saturday, May 28 at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore. Maestro Kalmar will also conduct the first-ever BSO performance of Walton’s Symphony No. 1. As part of the BSO’s year long tribute to Mahler’s 100th anniversary, this concert will also feature What the Wild Flowers Tell Me, arranged by Benjamin Britten.

Sibelius’ Violin Concerto was conceived for the soloist that Sibelius aspired to become, prompting him to write into the solo part some of the most fiendishly difficult musical phrases in the repertoire. The composer began the work in 1902 at the urging of Willy Burmester, the Concertmaster of the Helsinki Philharmonic. He barely completed the work in time for its initial premiere in 1904. Unaccountably, Sibelius selected Viktor Novácek, a less capable violinist than Burmester, for the concerto’s first performance. The work’s exceptionally difficult demands, coupled with Novácek’s inferior skill, resulted in derision from critics at its premiere. Sibelius revised the work extensively and gave the new version to Karl Halir to perform in 1905 with the Berlin Philharmonic, under the direction of Richard Strauss.

The commission for Sir William Walton’s First Symphony came in 1932 from Sir Hamilton Harty, the Music Director of London Symphony Orchestra, at a time when Walton’s previously composed works, such as his flashy oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast and witty song cycle Façade, began to gain attention. Walton’s First Symphony had a long gestation of over three years, and took a serious toll on Walton’s personal life. Its eventual premiere in 1935 with the London Symphony Orchestra was a huge success and solidified Walton’s reputation as a symphonic composer.

WQXR Presents Roundtable Discussion "American Orchestras: An Endangered Species?" at The Greene Space on May 3

Kicking Off Live Broadcast Series From Carnegie Hall's Spring for Music Festival

Times are troubling for American orchestras: The Philadelphia Orchestra just declared bankruptcy. The Detroit Symphony is emerging from a bruising six-month strike. The orchestras of Honolulu and Syracuse folded in recent months. Music-lovers read the headlines and are left wondering: “What's the prognosis for my local orchestra?” But while many American ensembles face great challenges, a hopeful note can be found amongst those that are exploring new models of presentation, recording, and community engagement.

On Tuesday, May 3 at 7pm, Classical 105.9 FM WQXR, New York City’s classical station, will host a conversation entitled "American Orchestras: An Endangered Species?". Seeking to explore some of the vexing issues faced by American orchestras and to pose possible solutions, the event will be held at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WQXR as part of its “NEXT New York Conversation” series. It is timed to kick off WQXR’s live broadcasts of Carnegie Hall's Spring for Music, a nine-day festival celebrating the innovative presentation and programming of seven orchestras from around the country.

Curtis 20/21 Showcases Music of Joan Tower at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre in NYC

On May 5, Curtis 20/21, the contemporary music ensemble of the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music, devotes an evening to the music of Grammy Award-winning American composer Joan Tower. The concert caps Tower’s composer residency at Curtis and takes place in New York at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre as part of the venue’s “Composer Portraits” series. The wide-ranging program features works for a variety of soloists and ensembles, including string quartet, piano trio, percussion ensemble, brass quintet, and solo violin, viola, and piano. At intermission, Curtis 20/21’s artistic director, David Ludwig, will conduct an onstage interview with the composer. A video preview of the concert is available at vimeo.com.

Joan Tower (b.1938) is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today; the New York Times has judged her works “expertly wrought, full of character, and instantly communicative.” Over a career spanning more than 50 years, she has made lasting contributions to American musical life as composer, performer, conductor, and educator. Her works have been commissioned by major ensembles, soloists, and orchestras, including the Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir string quartets; soloists Evelyn Glennie, Carol Wincenc, David Shifrin, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC. Tower was the first composer to be chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission by 65 orchestras. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony recorded her resulting work, Made in America, on an album of her orchestral music that went on to collect three 2008 Grammy Awards, including those for Best Classical Contemporary Composition and Best Classical Album. As the Detroit News reported, “Tower has truly earned a place among the most original and forceful voices in modern American music.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Boston Pops Celebrate Mardi Gras in May with New Orleans' Own Dukes of Dixieland, the Oldest Still-performing Dixieland Band

The Boston Pops and Keith Lockhart celebrate Mardi Gras in May on Tuesday, May 17, and Wednesday, May 18, with the inimitable Dukes of Dixieland, the world’s oldest continuing Dixieland jazz band. In this lively themed concert, audiences will be treated to music from the Mardi Gras extravaganzas in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro. Dvořák’s “Carnival Overture” and other light classical pieces open the concert, and in the first set Harvard senior Charlie Albright, a 22-year-old pianist, will make his Boston Pops debut with Gottschalk’s Grand Tarantelle. The intoxicating bossa-nova and Samba rhythms from Brazil take a prominent role during the second set, with tunes such as "Girl from Ipanema” and “Brazil,” and the Dukes of Dixieland bring the concert to an energetic finale when they fuse their authentic New Orleans sound with the orchestra for performances of “What a Wonderful World,” “Honky Tonk Train Blues,” and, of course, “When the Saints Come Marching In.”

Telling a Story Through Music

James Newton Howard captures the story in the sound track from Water for Elephants

What is a circus? What is it to dream to be part of that magical world? It would be one thing to capture the essence of a circus by writing circus-like music. But whether you're young or old, the circus is more than just brassy circus music; it is the magic and wonder of the world, from the large elephants and the setting up of the tent, to the amazing flying acrobatics, the beautiful women in dazzling costumes and the painted clowns. A circus is a place of dreams and wonderment. Water for Elephants is more than just a circus, it is also a world of memories, hopes and dreams.

What James Newton Howard does with the sound track is create a world lost in the haze of time, clouded by the forgotten memories yet colored by the painful ones we wish we could forget. He also captures the beauty of memories the way we remember them, not how events actually took place, but shaded with who we are now. The sound track for the film Water for Elephants is thoroughly modern music, with glimpses of the past, from the wonderful flapper excerpt of "Button up your overcoat" to the swing tune of "I'm Confessin'." Mr Howard captures a sense of the immediate with the energetic, heart thumping "The Circus Sets Up" which is part Appalachian guitar riff, part symphonic hero music. The sound track also moves in a modern sound world with "Sanctuary" with long sustains over a melody that defies specific direction creating a sense of paused peace.

I've not seen the film yet. Often film music doesn't stand up on its own; it needs the story to be complete, the images to give meaning to the sounds we hear. This is not the case with the sound track for Water for Elephants. Maybe the specifics of the story aren't spelled out in the music, but there is clearly a sense of narrative, images created through the music that are rich and wonderful, filled with both a sense of pining "Did I miss it," and of dark regrets "I'm coming home."

This isn't just a CD for those who like the film. This is a CD for those who like music and story, particularly for those who like music with a narrative, music that captures emotions of a world of memories the way only music can.

Hatred over Religious "Race" Still a Problem 100 years later

Over 100 Years ago Gustav Mahler was lampooned and derided because he was Jewish. Even after he converted to Catholicism (he couldn't conduct the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra without doing so), much of the public (including his own wife) felt he was Jewish. His mother was Jewish so Mahler was Jewish. This hatred of him as a composer and conductor kept him an outsider and was an endless obstacle in his career.

Well, 100 years later news reports that Barrack Obama is a Muslim. His father is a Muslim so he must be a Muslim (or at least born one). It's as if some genetic code was somehow passed from father to son (or in the case of Mahler, mother to son), which decides their religious leanings.

Science proves this isn't true. Christianity has long stood on the stance profession of faith is all that is required --believe in Me and you shall have everlasting life. So, when do we stop hating the "other" folks just because of who their parents were?

I try to not talk about politics on this blog. This should be about music. But music is about our society and it's difficult to discuss what's happening in our society without occasionally talking about politics.

The world is struggling in so many ways. If we can't get over a little issue that has time and again been proven to NOT exist, we'll never start tackling the real problems. You can disagree with someone's policies all you want but stop making who their parent are/were the reason you disagree with them.

Summer is in the air at the Colorado Symphony.

Colorado Symphony is excited about their 2011 Summer Series featuring Independence Eve at Civic Center Park, three Symphony on the Rocks concerts, three Summer Seasonings concerts at Boettcher Hall presented by PCL, plus two nights at Arvada Center!

A Summer filled with a variety of concerts including Sarah McLaughlin, Idina Menzel, Chicago, film music by John Williams and classics from Beethoven and Mozart. There is something for everyone.

BSO OrchKids Host “El Sistema in the United States,” May 7

Concert features students from several El Sistema-based programs

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids will collaborate with students from Virginia Symphony’s “Soundscapes,” Philadelphia Youth Orchestra’s “Tune Up Philly,” and The People’s Music School’s “YOURS” for a day of music making and celebration of the El Sistema movement in the United States on Saturday, May 7 at Lockerman Bundy Elmentary School (LBES). The day-long event culminates in a concert that is open to the public at 5 p.m. at LBES. Tune Up Philly, Y.O.U.R.S., Soundscapes, and OrchKids are four of the nation’s most innovative and successful El Sistema-inspired programs in the United States. This event will be the first of its kind in the nation.

Spring for Music Live Chats with Melinda Wagner, Steven Stucky, and Daniel Bernard Roumain

Spring for Music, an annual festival of concerts by North American symphony and chamber orchestras at Carnegie Hall, was created in part to start a conversation about repertoire, about audience expectations, and about orchestral programming in general. To help continue this conversation, the festival is hosting a series of online events allowing participants to interact with members of the Spring for Music team in an open and engaged dialogue. For three sessions leading up the festival, click here. Each session will start with an artist guest host posting a statement. Participants will then be able to talk about the topic with the guest host and fellow chatters. The schedule is as follows:

April 28 at 12noon ET: Steven Stucky's August 4, 1964 confronts recent history. He writes, "How does a composer write a work about a failed President (Johnson) and a probable war criminal (McNamarra) without lapsing into propaganda? Does he have to check his personal opinions at the door? If a middle-class white composer writes music about the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, does he risk being patronizing? In writing a historical symphony does he steal the voices of those who actually went through the struggles of the movement, fought and died in Vietnam?" He is excited to work out this questions with chatters.

May 2 at 12noon ET: Composer Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) hosts a live discussion on the viability of the traditional symphonic structure. He would like to ask, "Are music halls, concert dress, conventional instrument choices, and other orthodox custom strangling the composer's imagination? Are we limiting the potential for a truly relevant, uncompromising, and exciting orchestral experience? Is there a way to work within the tradition and move it forward, or should we burn it all down and start over?" DBR shares his unique perspective as a contemporary, Haitian-American composer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

eighth blackbird’s Double Sextet rendition at Carnegie Hall’s Steve Reich festival and on Q2

It was eighth blackbird that commissioned, premiered, and recorded Steve Reich’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet (2007), and the coming week offers the chance to hear the group’s rendition of the work both live at Carnegie Hall, as the centerpiece of the “Music of Steve Reich” festival on Saturday, April 30, and on Q2, Classical 105.9 WQXR’s contemporary music stream.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Susan Graham Sings “Breath-Stopping” Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos with Houston Grand Opera

A star on stages from New York to London, Paris, and beyond, Texas-bred mezzo-soprano Susan Graham returns to the Houston Grand Opera for the “trouser role” of the ardent Composer in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos (April 29 – May 10). Then the Grammy Award-winner resumes her signature repertoire when she joins the Philadelphia Orchestra to sing Marguerite in Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust (May 27-28).

Graham’s summer engagements include the title role of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea at the Maggio Musicale festival in Florence, Italy (June 18-22), as well as orchestral recitals featuring Handel and more at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, N.C. (July 2-3) and at Tanglewood (July 22

The Met Live in HD presents Il Trovatore on Saturday, April 30

The Metropolitan Opera’s presentation of Verdi’s Il Trovatore will be transmitted live in HD to movie theaters on Saturday, April 30 at 1:00 pm ET as part of The Met’s groundbreaking Live in HD series. We hope you will let your readers know about the opera being shown in your local theaters. Photos, videos and audio clips are available by logging in through the link below. Please let us know if we can help you with further information.

Four of today’s leading Verdi stars—Sondra Radvanovsky, Dolora Zajick, Marcelo Álvarez, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky—sing the main roles in this fast-paced production by David McVicar first seen at the Met in 2009. Marco Armiliato conducts the opera, which features some of Verdi’s most famous music, including the “Anvil Chorus.” Renée Fleming, star of this Saturday’s Live in HD transmission of Capriccio, will host the intermission interviews.

The cast and production of Il Trovatore have received impressive critical acclaim. The New York Times noted David McVicar’s “clear-headed, psychologically insightful and fluid staging” and the Wall Street Journal wrote “A streamlined staging and breakneck pace made the most of the opera's ferocious, larger-than-life conflicts and emotions.” The New York Times also said that “Mr. Álvarez…has a real tenor voice, full of throbbing warmth and ping. Mr. Hvorostovsky…once again makes a Verdi role his own, singing with an alluring combination of dusky colors, creamy legato and robust top notes. Sondra Radvanovsky gives an intensely expressive and musically honest performance, letting phrases fly with bright, soaring sound and shaping passages with pianissimo tenderness. Dolora Zajick, a force of nature, sings Azucena with demonic ferocity, a woman obsessed.”

Bach-it-Forward - Bach-centric CD by Dave Camwell Brings Bach to the Saxophone

This extremely faithful recording could prove to be a new standard for listening to Bach's music for young listeners

Playing Bach's music on instruments other than the keyboard is nothing new. It isn't even all that unusual to hear Bach played on the saxophone anymore. However, what makes Bach-centric an unusual find is virtually veridical rendition by Dave Camwell. The accuracy and integrity of the music is of the highest standard.

Opening with Cantata 29, Dave plays all the various lines of music, typically played on a keyboard instrument, on the saxophone --various saxophones, with multiple takes. Not only is the virtuosity of the performance of any given lines brilliant, but the skill of playing each of these lines separately, yet so accurate as to create a single unified sound. It is one instrument, one musician, one glorious piece masterfully composed both by Bach and by Camwell.

This is followed by the Sonata in A minor. The solo lines are graceful dances that sing and yet capture what Bach must have intended. Even though the saxophone was not yet invented in Bach's time, I feel he would have written for this instrument if he could hear how Dave takes what Bach did write and reproduce it so remarkably well.

Dave is joined by Stephen Page for a series of two part inventions (BWV 772-786) with a delightfully clean interpretation. Each line takes importance or sub-ordinance as needed to highlight each without making either player too prominent.

For the Concerto in D minor, James Brute, Nathan Nabb and James Romain join Dave to create a saxophone ensemble. You'd never know the saxophone wasn't a baroque instrument with the clarity and intricacy they weave the lines of music together giving the music a reedy, brassy sound like only a saxophone can.

It's difficult to decide which track is the most amazing. The Ave Maria, arranged and performed by Dave Camwell, certainly has to rank among the options. The slow, lyric soprano saxophone taking the melody over the top an "ensemble" of saxophones (again, all played by Dave), is absolutely beautiful.

What collection of Bach pieces would be complete without including a fugue. Dave opted for Little Fugue in G Minor (BWV 578). He masterfully brings each line into play without every allowing the music to sound muddy of cluttered. Yes, some of this is to the amazing writing of J.S. Bach. But in Dave's version each saxophone is allowed to shine with it's own unique color giving an individuality to each line, while the collections of saxophones give a unity as well.

This is a delightful album, extremely well performed. Don't just consider this for your collection, but tell your friends. Bach-it-Forward!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Thomas Hampson Explores George Crumb’s American Songbooks in Washington, DC and New York City (April 28-29)

Thomas Hampson returns to the U.S. this month for two concerts with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, featuring songs from six of the American Songbooks by George Crumb. The performances take place at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. on April 28, and at New York’s Alice Tully Hall on April 29. Soon after, Hampson sings an all-Richard Strauss program with Renée Fleming and the Berlin Philharmonic under Christian Thielemann in Berlin (May 5-7), before returning to the music of Gustav Mahler, on whom he has been focusing intensively this season. The baritone’s six concerts with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic in the major music capitals of Central Europe (May 12-23) feature an all-Mahler program – Symphony No. 5 and Kindertotenlieder – and mark the second consecutive season that Hampson has toured Europe with Gilbert and the orchestra.

Now 81 years old, composer George Crumb remains deeply engrossed in a long-term initiative inspired by the great American songbook – the same great American songbook to which Hampson returns again and again in study and performance. In recent years, while the baritone toured the country with his “Song of America” project, Crumb was at work on his own American Songbook series. The Songbooks showcase the composer’s remarkable command of timbre and theatrics, using a battery of percussion instruments to transform spirituals, hymns, Civil War songs, and other folk material into contemporary soundscapes. In the two upcoming performances, Hampson sings a broad selection of songs from Crumb’s six completed sets.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Steven Stucky’s August 4, 1964, an Evening-Long Concert Drama Based on Momentous Events in American History at Carnegie Hall

With Dallas Symphony Orchestra & Chorus on May 11

On May 11, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and soloists will present the New York premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky’s August 4, 1964 at Carnegie Hall. Commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to commemorate the birth centennial of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 2008, the evening-long concert drama explores two defining issues of the controversial leader’s presidency: the Vietnam War and civil rights. Stucky and librettist Gene Scheer have based August 4, 1964 on the tragic events of that date 46 years ago: the discovery in Mississippi of the bodies of three recently murdered young civil-rights workers and a disputed “attack” on two American warships in the Gulf of Tonkin.

August 4, 1964 explores that day’s historic and tragic events from two perspectives: that of the mothers of two of the murdered men, and reactions from within the Oval Office. At the time in which the concert drama is set, President Johnson is widely unpopular at this point in his presidency, despite several noteworthy accomplishments; Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara is wrapped up in the United States’ growing involvement in Vietnam; the mothers of two of the civil-rights workers, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, have just lost their sons in the horrifying racial war raging at home – foreshadowing the 58,000 Americans who were to die in Southeast Asia by the end of the as yet undeclared Vietnam War.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Play's the Thing and Play They Did - Andrew Grams with the Colorado Symphony Did Mendelssohn Right

Andrew Grams led the Colorado Symphony tonight through a delightful rendition of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream complete with fairy chorus (Colorado Children's Chorale) and actors to set the scene. The evening was more than just classical music played extremely well; it was also a delightful chance to hear some very familiar music in a very new way.

The program started off with the Prelude and "Good Friday Spell" from Wagner's Parcifal. From the opening moment as the audience waited to hear the first note, until the end of the opening musical phrase, Andrew Grams commanded complete attention from everyone in the hall. The music began quietly, and then unfolded much like the dawning of a new day. The orchestral colors shifted and swayed allowing the audience to catch only glimpses until something new caught our attention. The shadings of the music by the Colorado Symphony was simply Immaculate. Wagner's Prelude has several breaks in the music, where the music crests up to a point then stops, only to begin again as if at the beginning. Grams utilized these breaks to build the tension as Wagner intended. As the piece begins to take shape we get a glorious brass choir with each note shaped to heighten the emotional impact.

The first half of the concert was all about shadings. The "Good Friday Spell" starts bold, winds its way into a lovely oboe solo by Peter Cooper accompanied by the full orchestra, to a whisper of the clarinet by Bil Jackson, to the point it was impossible to tell when Bil's playing stopped. Boettcher concert hall seemed to breath the music in and then delightfully let it surround us. This was not a bombastic concert opening, but one filled with refined moments in music.

The second half of the concert was Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The staging was focused on the orchestra, but also included the Colorado Children's Chorale, a pair of Sopranos singing the parts of fairies and a couple of actors reading some of the relevant lines from the play. Mendelssohn wrote the music to be incidental music for the play, much like film music is today. However, tonight the music was primary and the words were just added color.

Shelly Gaza and Leigh Miller provided the voices of the incidental lines from Shakespeare. Playing a variety of roles from the play, these actors gave new dimension to the music, fleshing out the meaning behind some of the musical elements. After their opening dialog it was impossible to hear the orchestra play and not imagine fairies peering out from behind the various music stands. The only disappointment is there was no "Bottom" portrayed. His roles as the Ass for whom Titania falls in love is one of the most remarkable, identifiable elements in the music --Mendelssohn actually gets a donkey's braying to sound lovely.

Katherine Whyte and Michelle Areyzaga were joined by the Colorado Children's Chorale for a couple of the fairy songs. The voices of the children brought a delightful playfulness to the music (as if it didn't have enough of that already), while the two sopranos glided over top like fairies dancing in the moonlight.

From the opening four chords, which are pure joy, to the finale four chords at the end of Puck's speech, Andrew Grams overtly demands every little nuance one could imagine in the music. The Colorado Symphony musicians responded with impeccable precision. If Andrew squatted down to bring the orchestra to new lows, or raised a triumphant fist to bring in the heroic horns, the musicians captured the sentiment in sound. As Andrew turned to the brass to sculpt a fanfare then bounce with the low strings to add emphasis to their pizzicato, each section played their part in creating a highly dramatic evening. For every note there was something Maestro Grams was doing on the podium with the musicians responding to ensure the night was magical.

The night was filled with subtle shading from start to finish. Andrew Grams and the Colorado Symphony played Wagner beautifully capturing soupçon of flavor. Then, changing the tone of the evening to the playful Mendelssohn, they captured every possible form of laughter an orchestra can make and then some. Truly a delightful evening. Fortunately, they will be playing again tomorrow night!

SAT 7:30PM - Boettcher Concert Hall

Andrew Grams, conductor
Colorado Children’s Chorale
Katherine Whyte, soprano
Michelle Areyzaga, soprano
Shelly Gaza, actor
Leigh Miller, actor

WAGNER / Prelude to Parsifal
WAGNER / “Good Friday Spell” from Parsifal
MENDELSSOHN / A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nicola Benedetti: Tchaikovsky-Bruch Violin Concertos Really Reaches Her Potential

Nicola Benedetti and I have not been on the best of terms. I've always felt she has wonderful potential as an artist, but hasn't lived up to it... not yet... not until now. I wasn't asked to review her latest CD, Tchaikovsky & Bruch: Violin Concertos, but did run across it the other day and decided it was worth taking a chance. I am so glad I did.

I actually heard Nicola perform the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto several years ago with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. It was a nice performance, but not stunning, as I'd expected. Wow, has she come a long way. She amazed the critics in 2004 capturing BBC Young Artist of the Year. This new recording is nuanced, rich and flavorful. Her violin sings with such emotion, there are times it is difficult to breathe her command of the music is so masterful.

The Tchaikovsky would have been enough to warrant getting the CD, but she adds Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor. The opening allows Nicola to capture the subtleties of the violin and bring them to the forefront. Then, as the Allegro Moderato moves into a more aggressive section, Nicola easily shifts to match the mood, then back again. She captures not just the line of the music, but the narrative of the journey.

Her performance is absolutely world class. If there was any doubt of her talent, she has laid them to rest. The work she has done to master the violin is readily evident in this album. The CD is a joy to listen to. Even if you have a dozen recordings of these concerti, get this one.

Yundi in Master Class (April 22) and Live Concert (April 23) from Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts

The young and charismatic Chinese pianist Yundi (also known as Yundi Li) performs two programs this week from his homeland that can be viewed for free at medici.tv. On Friday, April 22 he will give a master class – available via delayed streaming – that will illuminate his approach to interpretation and his unique vision of the art of piano playing. The next day, on April 23, medici.tv will offer a live webcast of Yundi’s highly anticipated concert at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA). The venue’s orchestra, under the direction of conductor Zuohuang Chen, will join Yundi for Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Yundi will also perform solo works by the composer with whom he is most closely associated, Frédéric Chopin – including three nocturnes and the Heroic Polonaise, Op. 53 – as well as Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. The concert, part of the NCPA’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of Liszt’s birth, will also include Zuohuang Chen leading the orchestra in the Hungarian composer’s best-known symphonic poem, Les Préludes.

Yundi’s remarkable artistry first received international attention when he won the Chopin Competition in 2000, the youngest pianist ever to receive the prize. His master class will showcase his special affinity for the music of the Romantic era, as he shares anecdotes and gives memorable advice about some of the piano’s most popular repertoire. Is playing an innate gift or is it learned technique? Black magic or strenuous repetition? These are just some of the issues Yundi will touch upon. It promises to be a fascinating “up close” encounter with an artist whom the New York Times has called “a technically astounding pianist who is by turns elegant and rambunctious, coolly expressive and white-hot.”

Colorado Symphony Association and Denver Musicians Association Ratify Contract

New three-year agreement paves the way for a sustainable future and meaningful programming for Colorado Symphony and the communities it serves

The Colorado Symphony today announced that it has ratified a new three-year agreement with the Denver Musicians Association – Local 20-623 of the American Federation of Musicians in Denver, Colorado – on behalf of the musicians of the Colorado Symphony. The new agreement paves the way for the Colorado Symphony to finish institutional visioning work and launch an intensive long-range planning process. In addition, new community-focused concerts and educational programming will remain a focus, all the while continuing plans for the renovation of Boettcher Concert Hall and the search for a new music director.

Keith Lockhart & the Boston Pops Welcome Several Boston-area Young Musicians to Perform Saturday, May 14

The Boston Pops and Keith Lockhart present a highly anticipated Family Concert Saturday, May 14, at 3 p.m. featuring the multi-talented Byron Stripling on trumpet and vocals, as well as performances by several local youth musicians. Certain to encourage aspiring young musicians in the audience, the Varsity Girls, a Boston-based teenage vocal quartet, lend their pop harmonies to the orchestra; Jackson Mann, a Boston Arts Academy senior, receives the distinct honor of leading the orchestra in its signature work, The Stars and Stripes Forever, and Gergana Haralampieva, winner of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Concerto Competition performs a piece with the Pops.

Appropriate for children of all ages, the Family Concert will include youth-friendly selections from Harry Potter, Star Wars, and E.T. Families and children will also be introduced to the music of Dizzy Gillespie, Cab Calloway, and Mahalia Jackson, when the charismatic Byron Stripling takes to the stage to pay tribute to these three great icons of American music.

Rockapella Performs at the Meyerhoff for One Night Only, July 7

Long before the hit television program GLEE! created a national obsession with a cappella singing, the vocals-only, five-member ensemble Rockapella was entertaining audiences around the world with their full-band sound. Rockapella will perform at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. Editor’s Note: The BSO will not be performing on this program.

Rockapella first gained fame on the popular children’s TV show “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” as the voices behind the familiar theme song and the show’s resident comedy troupe and vocal house band. Known for their full-band sound, the five-man band has changed members over its more than 20 year existence, and currently features High Tenor Scott Leonard, Vocal Percussionist Jeff Thatcher, Bass George Baldi III, Tenor John K. Brown and Tenor Steven Dorian.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Joyce DiDonato Makes House Role Debut as Composer in Metropolitan Opera’s Staging of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos

“The perfect 21st-century diva – an effortless combination of glamour, charisma, intelligence, grace, and talent.” – New York Times

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato – coming off rave reviews for her role debut as Isolier in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Rossini’s rarely-seen Le comte Ory – takes to the Met stage again on May 7-13 to make her house role debut as the Composer in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. At a recent Met Q&A, the ever-effervescent singer talked about the Composer – a “trouser role” like Isolier, but from a completely different musical world: “I’ve sung the Composer before and it speaks very strongly to me – he is ardent and naïve and purposeful,” she explained. “Strauss sketched him so perfectly that I only need to sing what’s on the page and he will hopefully spring to life!” About the role’s being “a perfect part” for her, she added: “I think it’s that combination of innocence and dedication to music. ‘Sein wir wieder gut’ [Let’s Be Friends Again] is an anthem to the world of music, and I think anyone who has had the honor to sing those words has a special affinity for this young man.”

DiDonato’s new Virgin/EMI album – Diva, Divo, a collection of favorite and rare arias for characters in both pants and skirts – climaxes with the mezzo’s scintillating take on “Sein wir wieder gut.” BBC Music magazine judged the album full of “singing that restores your faith in human nature,” while Gramophone magazine, which crowned DiDonato its 2010 Artist of the Year, praised the disc’s concept as well as its singing: “Applause for the imagination – I guess the compiler is the diva herself – can be doubled for her performances of Bellini and Rossini.” In the U.S., Mike Silverman’s Associated Press review concluded: “One of today’s most accomplished singers, American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato has it all.” The singer recently signed a long-term renewal of her EMI contract, prompting Virgin Classics president Alain Lanceron to call her relationship with the label “a wonderful adventure.”

Colorado Symphony Announces Boyz II Men Concert: June 5th

Tickets are on sale now for unforgettable concert featuring R&B icons Boyz II Men with the Colorado Symphony

The Colorado Symphony today announced that Boyz II Men, the best-selling R&B group of all time, will join the Colorado Symphony for one night only on Sunday, June 5. This concert event, led by resident conductor Scott O'Neil and featuring Boyz II Men members Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, and Shawn Stockman, promises to be a night of unforgettable melodies, touching ballads and a capella harmonies.

Since "End of the Road" hit number-one in 1992, the Grammy® Award-winning ensemble has gone on to sell more than 60 million recordings. Named Billboard Magazine's most successful musical group of the 1990s, Boyz II Men is beloved for hits such as "I'll Make Love to You," "On Bended Knee," "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday," "4 Seasons Of Loneliness," "A Song for Mama" and "One Sweet Day" (with Mariah Carey). The group, which received two 2009 Grammy® Award nominations for Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA, is collaborating with the Colorado Symphony for an exceptional orchestral appearance spotlighting many of their beloved hits. Tickets are on sale now at the Colorado Symphony Box Office.

ONE NIGHT ONLY! Sunday, June 5 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now! Tickets currently start at $19

Buy online

This week's Top Ticket from the Colorado Symphony: A Midsummer Night's Dream

This Eastertide program begins with Wagner's Prelude and "Good Friday Spell" from Parsifal, about the famous knight in search of the Holy Grail. These spiritual works are a perfect way to celebrate the season. The program's centerpiece is Mendelssohn's sparkling A Midsummer Night's Dream, complete with actors reading from Shakespeare's comedy.

Andrew Grams, conductor (more)
Colorado Children's Chorale / Deborah DeSantis, director (more)
Katherine Whyte, soprano (more)
Michelle Areyzaga , soprano (more)
Leigh Miller, actor
Shelly Gaza, actor

WAGNER / Prelude to Parsifal
WAGNER / "Good Friday Spell" from Parsifal
MENDELSSOHN / A Midsummer Night's Dream

London Symphony Orchestra Performs Bernstein's Candide with a star cast conducted by Kristjan Jarvi

The London Symphony Orchestra performs Leonard Bernstein’s Candide in concert on 5 June conducted by Kristjan Järvi. The stellar cast includes Andrew Staples as Candide, Kiera Duffy as Cunegonde, Jeremy Williams as Pangloss, Marcus Deloach as Maximillian and Kim Criswell as Old Lady, alongside David Robinson, Sarah Jane McMahon, Jeffrey Tucker, Ross Benoliel, Jason Switzer, Michael Scarcelle and Peter Tantsits.

The LSO has a significant history with Bernstein’s operetta, having performed and recorded the work in 1989, memorably conducted by Leonard Bernstein in his final concert appearances in London.

Sunday 5 June 2011, 7pm Barbican Hall

(concert performance)
Kristjan Järvi conductor
London Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Chorus

Andrew Staples Candide
Kiera Duffy Cunegonde
Kim Criswell Old Lady
Jeremy Huw Williams Pangloss, Martin
David Robinson Governer, Vanderdendur, Ragotski
Marcus Deloach Maximilan, Captain
Kristy Swift Paquette
Jeffrey Tucker Bear Keeper, Inquisitor, Tzar Ivan
Ross Benoliel Cosmetic Merchant, Inquisitor, Charles Edward
Jason Switzer Doctor, King Stanislaus
Michael Scarcelle Junkman, Inquisitor, Hermann Augustus, Croupier
Peter Tantsits Alchemist, Inquisitor, Sultan Achmet, Crook

Tickets: £8 £14 £19 £25 £32
Secure online booking at lso.co.uk (booking fee)
Box office: 020 7638 8891 open Mon-Sat 10am – 8pm, Sun 11am-8pm (booking fee)
In person at the Advance Box Office in the Barbican centre (no booking fee)
(Mon-Sat 10am – 9pm; Sun 12pm – 9pm)

Opera Colorado presents Cinderella (La Cenerentola)

Rossini's Cinderella (La Cenerentola) lights up the stage of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House for four performances, April 30 through May 8, 2011. Cinderella is Rossini's take on the traditional fairytale about a young girl who yearns for true love. In this version, Cinderella is known as Angelina. She toils away while under the thumb of her stepfather, Don Magnifico, and her vain stepsisters. When Angelina offers kindness to a stranger, her fate is forever altered as she is whisked away to the ball and becomes the woman who captures the prince's heart. In this version of the story, Angelina's transformation is brought about not by supernatural powers, but through the magic of music.

The sets and costumes for this performance were created by late opera director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (1932-1988), one of the giants of international opera culture. Ponnelle created this production for San Francisco Opera and it has been a perennial favorite with that company for generations. Ponnelle's delightful vision for La Cenerentola is one of his most beloved and his production has been carefully preserved by distinguished Stage Director Grischa Asagaroff, one of Ponnelle's original assistants. Conductor Timothy Long makes his Opera Colorado debut with this production. The cast includes three artists making their Opera Colorado debuts as well as returning favorite performers.

Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Friday, May 6, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, May 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Ellie Caulkins Opera House
14th & Curtis Street at the Denver Performing Arts Complex in downtown Denver

Tickets range in price from $25 to $155 - $10 per ticket discount for children, ages 6 to 17

Boston Pops Opener, May 11--Linda Eder/Sound of Music event/Over the Rainbow Video Collage

The Boston Pops Orchestra and Keith Lockhart celebrate the opening of the 2011 season in style when Broadway darling Linda Eder takes the stage for a tribute to the music of Judy Garland, singing such favorites as “Me and My Shadow,” “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” and “Over the Rainbow.” This Boston Pops opening night program on Wednesday, May 11, at 8 p.m.—heralding the start of the 126th Boston Pops season—opens with Peter Boyer’s “Silver Fanfare,” followed by a medley of Gershwin hits including “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “The Man I Love,” and a Sound of Music Sing-Along, featuring “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss,” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” In the spirit of the festive opening of the Boston Pops spring season, Keith Lockhart invites audience members to attend the concert dressed as their favorite Sound of Music character. The first 20 patrons who enter the doors dressed in character will be invited to sing from the stage of Symphony Hall, accompanied by Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Orchestra, and leading the audience in the incredibly popular Sound of Music Sing-Along.

The opening night program will also present the premiere of a new film by frequent Boston Pops collaborator Susie Dangel. Inspired by Aaron Copland’s “Hoe Down” from Rodeo, the film will be shown with live musical accompaniment provided by Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Orchestra. Opening Night at Pops and the entire 2011 Spring Pops Season are sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

No Boston Pops Opening Night celebration would be complete without a chance for audience members to socialize with friends and family at a complimentary pre-concert (7 p.m.) reception, in the relaxed atmosphere of a festively decorated Symphony Hall.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann to Star in the Metropolitan Opera’s Die Walküre, Opening Friday April 22

German tenor Jonas Kaufmann has recently returned to the US after an absence of almost a year and is poised to once again grab the attention of opera fans. On Friday, April 22, Kaufmann will make his role debut as Siegmund in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Die Walküre. In addition, Kaufmann was presented with an Opera News Award this past Sunday and yesterday Decca released his all-new album, Verismo, as well as a new DVD of Tosca.

Die Walküre, the next installment in the Metropolitan Opera’s new Ring cycle which is directed by Robert Lepage, receives its premiere performance on Friday, April 22. For this highly anticipated event Jonas Kaufmann will sing the role of Siegmund in a cast that also includes fellow Universal recording artist Bryn Terfel and sopranos Deborah Voigt and Eva-Maria Westbroek. The opera will be broadcast as part of the Met’s Live in HD series on May 14 which will be the first time Kaufmann has appeared in one of these transmissions.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Colorado Symphony bucking national trend of arts organizations

Colorado Symphony bucking national trend of arts organizations; credits reorganization, new programming for success

The Colorado Symphony today announced new box office figures revealing that the organization is experiencing a renaissance across all programs and is experiencing record-breaking earned revenues during the 2010/11 season. Symphony officials credit this hard-won economic momentum, documented through ticket sales and audience growth, to the organization's overhaul of both administrative and concert programs during the past 18 months. From its online presence to ticket pricing and seating strategies, as well as the addition of the new Inside the Score series and a bold approach to Pops programming, the Symphony has left no stone unturned when it comes to enhancing product delivery and improving offerings for the community.

"We can credit changes made in administration, marketing and programming with a true renaissance for the Colorado Symphony in terms of record-breaking earned revenue and audience growth," said James W. Palermo, CEO, Colorado Symphony. "These changes have been necessary for the institution, and we thank our patrons and the greater community for their steadfast support. Today, we are experiencing substantial results from these changes and are proud to report that the Colorado Symphony is on strong artistic ground and has gained significant momentum toward financial stability."

Yefim Bronfman Performs Shostakovich's 1st & 2nd Piano Concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra

Pianist Yefim Bronfman and LSO Principal Trumpet Philip Cobb are soloists in two performances of Shostakovich’s Concerto for Trumpet, Piano and Strings, with the London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev on 12 & 15 May in the Barbican. The programme is completed by Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 3 (‘Polish’) and Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No.2.

Grammy Award-winning pianist Yefim (“Fima”) Bronfman has wowed critics and audiences worldwide with his solo recitals, prestigious orchestral engagements, and expanding catalogue of recordings, being especially admired for his performances of modern Russian repertory.

Thursday 12 & Sunday 15 May, 7.30pm, Barbican Hall

SHOSTAKOVICH Concerto for Trumpet, Piano and Strings
SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concerto No 2
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No 3 ('Polish')

Valery Gergiev conductor
Yefim Bronfman piano
Philip Cobb trumpet
London Symphony Orchestra

Tickets: £8 - £32
Secure online booking at lso.co.uk (booking fee)
Box office: 020 7638 8891 open Mon-Sat 9am – 8pm, Sun 11am-8pm (booking fee)
In person at the Advance Box Office in the Barbican centre (no booking fee)
(Mon-Sat 9am – 9pm; Sun 12pm – 9pm)

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Presents Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY, July 30

Images from the video game series to be projected above the stage

As part of its summer concert series, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will present a new program, FINAL FANTASY, and will be joined by the Handel Choir of Baltimore on Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Stunning graphics from FINAL FANTASY I through XIV will be projected on a screen above the stage as the BSO performs this video game’s most popular music written by Japanese composer, Nobuo Uematsu, such as FFVI: Opera Maria & Draco, FFVIII: “Liberi Fatali,” and FFVII: “Opening Bombing Mission”. “Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY” concerts also feature select music by FINAL FANTASY XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu and new scores by Nobuo Uematsu from the latest release, FINAL FANTASY XIV. Special $150 tickets will include premium seating and a post-concert meet and greet with Arnie Roth and Nobuo Uematsu.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

“Stupenda! A Loving Tribute to the Late Dame Joan Sutherland” Is on May 17 at Town Hall in NYC

In the final public program of its 75th anniversary season, the Metropolitan Opera Guild pays tribute to one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century: Dame Joan Sutherland, who died last October at the age of 83. “Stupenda! A Loving Tribute to Dame Joan Sutherland” will take place at New York City’s Town Hall on Tuesday, May 17, at 7:30pm. Marilyn Horne, a legend in her own right and one of Dame Joan’s most cherished colleagues and friends, will host the all-star celebration. Joining her to speak will be five other great Met stars: Martina Arroyo, Sherrill Milnes, James Morris, Samuel Ramey, and Regina Resnik. Richard Bonynge, renowned conductor and widower of Dame Joan, will be the evening’s special guest, offering his own reminiscences of his extraordinary wife. The evening will include the screening of a new video biography of Dame Joan, as well as a generous sampling of video clips from her greatest performances, many of them rare selections from the personal archives of Maestro Bonynge.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

René Pape Makes Role Debut as Wotan in Die Walküre and Releases New DG CD – Wagner – in Europe

On this Sunday, April 17, René Pape makes his role debut as Wotan in Wagner’s Die Walküre at the Berlin State Opera under Daniel Barenboim. Of the compelling, very human qualities Wotan possesses, Pape says: “There is something about Wotan’s plight, wanting control and love, that I think most of us recognize; we see how hard it is, perhaps impossible, to have both.” Welcoming the German bass’s combination of sensitivity and authority in the role, after his debut in Das Rheingold at La Scala last May, Germany’s Die Welt anticipated that his portrayal of Wotan would “change the perception of this Wagner character for decades to come.”

Pape’s important Walküre debut comes just two days after the European release of his most recent Deutsche Grammophon recording, Wagner. Also featuring Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle, the new disc is a dream release for fans of both Pape and the music of Richard Wagner; it includes excerpts from such signature roles as Gurnemanz and the Rheingold Wotan as well as a terrific teaser of a part that Pape has yet to reveal on stage: his eagerly anticipated Hans Sachs, the noble cobbler of Die Meistersinger. With music from Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, and Die Walküre, the recording also boasts a special guest appearance by Pape’s friend and esteemed colleague, tenor Plácido Domingo, who joins him in a scene from Parsifal.

Third Season of MUSIC/WORDS series, exploring connections between poetry and music, continues on APRIL 29th, 2011

Music/Words, an interdisciplinary series founded and curated by NYC-based pianist Inna Faliks, continues its third season on Friday, April 29, at 6pm with a performance at New York’s Cornelia Street Café featuring Faliks at the piano along with violinist Sharan Leventhal and readings by Susan Miller and LB Thompson, poets. The varied program will include Schubert’s Sonata in a minor opus 143, Concert Piece (1959) by Seymour Shifrin (1926-1979), and Ravel’s Sonata for violin and piano. The Cornelia Street Café (www.corneliastreetcafe.com) is located at 29 Cornelia Street, Greenwich Village, NYC. Tickets are $20 and are available by calling 212-989-9319

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Celebrates 200th Anniversary of Robert Schumann’s Birth with All-Schumann Program, May 12 & 15

Program to include Mahler’s arrangements of Schumann’s First Symphony and Manfred Overture

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) Music Director Marin Alsop will lead the BSO in an all-Schumann concert to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth on Thursday, May 12 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 15 at 3 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The works to be performed include Mahler’s arrangements of Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, “Spring” and Manfred Overture. Also on the program will be Schumann’s Symphony No. 2.

Schumann composed his first symphony in 1841, following his recent blissful and long-awaited marriage to the talented piano virtuoso Clara Wieck. His bride reported that it was the poetry of Schumann’s friend Adolph Böttger, about a lover longing for spring, which inspired the work’s opening fanfare, earning it the nickname “Spring.” The BSO will perform Gustav Mahler’s arrangement of Schumann’s First Symphony. A genius at composing lieder, Schumann’s ability as an orchestrator was not as finely developed. Mahler’s efforts to lighten the work’s texture to create greater clarity and numerous adjustments to the dynamic markings throughout help the work’s melodies soar.

Unlike his optimistic ‘Spring Symphony,’ Schumann’s Second Symphony in C major was composed in his darkest days after his worst mental breakdown, which limited his creative capacity as a composer. After recovering from his mental illness temporarily, he went into one of his most manic creative periods, composing his piano concerto in A minor and his Second Symphony. It is remarkable that, in the face of adversity, Schumann was able to complete this work successfully. The symphony is a psychological journey from dark to light, reflecting Schumann’s struggle with his mental illness to recovery, from the slow and somber opening to the fanfare and triumphant finale expressing his recovery.

Tormented throughout his life by his insanity and struggle as an artist, Schumann found much in common with the character of Manfred, the protagonist in Lord Byron’s epic poem Manfred, who inspired his final orchestral work. The poem tells the tale of a tormented antihero who flees to the peaks of the Alps to seek solace from a mysterious crime, but finds no peace and is instead tortured by the spirits and demons. He eventually finds peace only in death. The story of Manfred is a true embodiment of the Romantic ideals that Schumann subscribed to and drew parallels with his own life.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Deutsche Grammophon to Release the First Recordings under Daniel Barenboim’s New Affiliation with Universal Music on May 3

Barenboim is Recorded as a Pianist in Two Albums Devoted to the Works of Chopin

Daniel Barenboim, known around the world for his work as both pianist and conductor, has entered a far reaching affiliation with Deutsche Grammophon and Decca and will record and release a number of albums over time. The first two releases, both on Deutsche Grammophon and both showcasing Barenboim as pianist, focus on Chopin and will be released in the US on May 3, 2011. Barenboim as a conductor will be featured on the upcoming Decca release of Tchaikovsky and Schoenberg, available June 7, 2011.

This past Friday, Barenboim captivated London with a surprise concert and talk at the Tate Modern. “The standing ovation began before Daniel Barenboim had played a note,” reported The Guardian. A crowd of 1,100 who had only learned of the impromptu event three days earlier gathered to hear the great artist and humanitarian as he celebrated 60 years of performing with an all-Chopin recital in Tate Modern’s cavernous Turbine Hall. 8,000 people had applied for the 400 seats while 700 more watched a live relay in the hall below, where an installation by the detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is on show.

The Met: Live in HD presents Capriccio in theaters April 23

The Met: Live in HD presents Strauss’s Capriccio starring Renée Fleming, in movie theaters on Saturday, April 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm ET.

Renée Fleming sang the final scene of Strauss’s wise and worldly meditation on art and life as part of the Met’s 2008 opening night gala, but this run of Capriccio marks her first time singing the complete role of the Countess at the Met. Ms. Fleming has been praised for how well suited the role is to her voice and The New York Times wrote that she sang “splendidly.” The Associated Press remarked that “her performance has a grace and charisma that are quite winning… Fleming is at her best [in the final scene], bringing to life the poignant dilemma of a woman who must choose between two suitors and in doing so pronounce a verdict on their art.” For fans for Renée Fleming, this is an opera not to be missed. The Countess in Capriccio is Ms. Fleming’s twenty-first role at the Met and her third Strauss heroine. Joseph Kaiser, Russell Braun, and Sarah Connolly also star, and Andrew Davis conducts.

Strauss’s Capriccio
April 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm ET
U.S. Encore: Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 6:30 p.m. local time
Canada Encores: Saturday, May 21, 2011, 1 p.m. ET; Monday, June 27, 2011, 6:30 p.m. ET
Expected Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Redefining what is Classical Music

Sometimes the elements in the cosmos just come together

This week I gave a presentation on the commercial music influence on classical music --commercial music being all types of music that don't fall into the category of classical music, or music written for commercial gain. Before we get too far afield with arguing over that definition, for a moment accept the definition to understand the events of the week.

Ok, I gave this presentation which basically said, folk, jazz and other 'popular' forms of music have long be a traditional influence on classical music. So, why should we separate them into categories, or refuse one because it has 'pop' references or styling as opposed to another??? Again, let's not lose track of the events of the week by arguing this point....

Another conversation I had this week was talking about the performance practice of musicians and it struck me that jazz musicians don't spend so much time worried about being perfectly in tune before they start because they're good enough to play in tune as the night goes on (either that, or jazz doesn't need to be in tune, and I rather don't think that's a viable excuse). So, are jazz musicians better than classical musicians???? Or do jazz musicians realize that the average audience member isn't going to notice is the rapid runs are a tad bit off and the slow notes can be pulled into tune so the audience won't notice those either???

Then I read THIS article by Adrian Chamberlain. The opening quote by Craig Martin goes, "The "classical" music of the future will not be Bach, Beethoven and the boys. Rather, it will be the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd." Wow!!!

Now, I'm not sure I really agree with that statement, but certainly 200 years from now the music of these iconic bands will be hailed as some of the last centuries great music. It may go along side Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" or Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire as some of the great works of the 20th century. You might want to include Charles Ives' Symphony No. 3 or George Crumbs' Echoes of Time and the River, both won Pulitzer Prizes, but the haven't had the impact on music as a whole as Pink Floyd of Led Zeppelin. I think we'd need to include the Beatles and perhaps Elvis into the category of movers and shakers in the music world, as well as Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. And what of film music, has not Bernard Hermann and John Williams changed the expectations of what film music can be?

Much like the point I was making in presentation this week, music is more than just a bunch of different styles. The styles shift and move, bleed through and blend together much more than they stand apart. By labeling one style commercial and another style classical we fall into the trap of trying to decide if one is more viable than the other.

If a classical composer writes without thinking of his/her audience than I tell you they are not thinking about music - because music is nothing without the audience. Maybe they are not looking specifically for financial gain, but if that's the case, then are people like Libby Larson, Jennifer Higdon and John Adams not classical composers?? Because I assure you they are well aware of their worth when commissioned to write a new work. Is John Williams music less because he makes millions per film? - or maybe his music has more value because he makes millions.

I am no David Gilmore or Jimmy Page. Their artistry is well proven. They should be as revered as Paganini or Liszt. It time, I think the musicologists will.

The 22nd annual Bard Music Festival: “Sibelius and His World”

In-Depth Survey of Music by Finnish Symphonist Jean Sibelius and His Contemporaries (Aug 12–14; Aug 19–21) Is Centerpiece of Seven-Week 2011 Bard SummerScape Festival

Described by the Los Angeles Times as “uniquely stimulating,” the world-renowned Bard Music Festival returns for its 22nd annual season, filling the last two weekends of Bard SummerScape 2011 with a compelling and enlightening exploration of “Sibelius and His World.” Twelve concert programs over the two mid-August weekends, complemented by pre-concert lectures, panel discussions, expert commentary, a symposium, and a special film screening, make up Bard’s examination of Jean Sibelius, the composer once condescendingly dismissed as “easy listening” yet now embraced by audiences and critics alike as one of Beethoven’s great heirs. The twelve concerts present masterpieces from Sibelius’s orchestral and choral oeuvre, as well as many of his chamber, keyboard, and vocal works, alongside a wealth of music from almost 40 of his contemporaries. Weekend One –“Imagining Finland” (August 12–14) – explores Sibelius’s early years and the influence of those who sought to define Finnish and Scandinavian culture, while Weekend Two – “Sibelius: Conservative or Modernist?” (August 19–21) – confronts Sibelius’s reputation, reception, and influence in Europe and America after the First World War.

The Bard Music Festival 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. Leon Botstein, co-artistic director of the festival and music director of the resident American Symphony Orchestra, will conduct the orchestral programs; these, like many of the other concerts and special events, will take place in the beautiful Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on Bard’s glorious Hudson Valley campus. As in previous seasons, choral programs will feature the Bard Festival Chorale directed by James Bagwell, while this year’s impressive roster of performers includes the Daedalus Quartet, pianists Jeremy Denk, Anna Polonsky, Gilles Vonsattel, and Orion Weiss, cellist Edward Arron, soprano Christiane Libor, and mezzo-soprano Melis Jaatinen.

Through the prism of Sibelius’s life and career, the 2011 festival will explore the music of Scandinavia and examine the challenges faced by those who continued working within a tonal framework after the revolutions of musical modernism. Listeners will encounter music ranging from the Romanticism – both Austro-German and Russian – so prevalent in Sibelius’s youth to masterpieces of the 1930s from both sides of the Atlantic. Usually hailed as the sole and quintessential representative of Finnish music, here Sibelius will be delineated with greater accuracy as a complex, contradictory figure, whose first language was Swedish, not Finnish; who studied in Berlin and Vienna, not just Helsinki; and who wrote some of his most characteristically Nordic music while traveling in the southern warmth of Italy. He will be contextualized among his Finnish and Scandinavian contemporaries, from such well-known figures as Edvard Grieg and Carl Nielsen to less familiar ones like Toivo Kuula and Väinö Raitio. Difficult questions – concerning Sibelius’s politics, his stance toward the Nazi regime, and the mystery of why he all but gave up composing for the last three decades of his life – will be addressed.

Christopher H. Gibbs, one of the three Artistic Directors for the Bard Music Festival – along with Leon Botstein and Robert Martin – observes that “for a long time Sibelius was a victim of his own popularity. He was extraordinarily famous for a small number of overexposed, stylistically conservative compositions and popularly associated almost exclusively with Finland. The festival this summer aims to broaden our appreciation of the scope of Sibelius’s accomplishments and innovations as we unravel key enigmatic and paradoxical aspects of his life, music, and influence.”

Conductor Andrew Grams leads Colorado Symphony in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Conductor Andrews Grams leads Colorado Symphony in Eastertide program featuring soprano Katherine Whyte and soprano Michelle Areyzaga

Escape into the wondrous fantasy world of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream with the Colorado Symphony on Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23 as young American conductor Andrew Grams leads the orchestra in a special Eastertide program. The evening begins with Wagner's Prelude and Good Friday Spell from Parsifal, an opera about the famous knight in search of the Holy Grail. Parsifal, which Wagner called a "stage-consecration-festival play," is rich in philosophical allusion, mystical symbolism and historical reference.

The concert's centerpiece is Mendelssohn's magical A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring soprano Katherine Whyte, soprano Michelle Areyzaga and the Colorado Children's Chorale. Actors Shelly Gaza and Leigh Miller will read passages from Shakespeare's comedy to bring the melodrama to life amidst shimmering music and radiant voices.

From the first few moments, Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream conjures up images of Shakespeare's play in a musical journey to the enchanted woods and the land of sprites and fairies. Mendelssohn composed the Overture to Shakespeare's comedy in less than a month when he was only 17. Arguably, it is the greatest piece of orchestral music ever composed by one so young, including Mozart and Schubert.

Music Makes a City – Documentary Chronicling Largest Classical Music Commissioning Project in American History

To Be Released on DVD, May 24

“A singular harmonic convergence is recounted in Music Makes A City, Owsley Brown III and Jerome Hiler’s enlightening documentary about how Louisville, KY., became a locus for contemporary music in the mid-20th century. In striking synchronicity, a mayor, a conductor, and a robust postwar generation of composers intersected to make the city a hub for visionary composition” – New York Times

On May 24, Music Makes a City, a “tale of artistic vision” (Symphony), will be released on DVD. The feature-length documentary film tells a tale of civic aspiration, cultural ingenuity, and how Louisville, Kentucky became the world's unlikely capital of new music in the 1950s. According to Sedgwick Clark, of MusicalAmerica.com, “anyone interested in classical music should see this uplifting story of American ingenuity at its best.”

In 1948, a small, struggling, semi-professional orchestra in Louisville, Kentucky began a novel project to commission new works from contemporary composers around the world. The project grew far beyond anyone's expectations. In 1953, the orchestra received an unprecedented $400,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to commission 52 compositions a year for three years. The new works were to be performed in weekly concerts and recorded for sale by subscription. The architect of this ambitious artistic venture was Louisville Mayor Charles Farnsley who had a deep love of cultural expressions of all kinds as well as boundless enthusiasm and an inexhaustible bank of new ideas. Farnsley, professing to be guided by the philosophical principles of the Chinese sage Confucius, found a willing partner for his plans in Robert Whitney, the young conductor who had arrived in Louisville in 1937 to lead the fledgling orchestra. Over the years, nearly every living composer of note would be commissioned and recorded by the Louisville Orchestra.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Classical Action Closes 2010-11 Season with Vocal Recitals by Stephanie Blythe with Warren Jones and Joyce DiDonato with Jeremy Denk

To close out its 2010-11 season, Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS presents two great collaborations in its annual Michael Palm Series of house concerts in New York City. On April 6, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, fresh from portraying Fricka in Das Rheingold at the Metropolitan Opera, will present a recital with pianist Warren Jones. The series closes on May 4, when Gramophone’s “Artist of the Year” mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato joins forces for a duo recital with pianist Jeremy Denk, whose recent solo recital debut at Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium won high praise. Both concerts will be held at the magnificent Tribeca loft apartment of longtime Classical Action supporters Simon Yates and Kevin Roon. Tickets for all concerts in the series can be purchased online at www.classicalaction.org or by calling (212) 997-7717.

Stephanie Blythe, recently called “vocally sumptuous” by the New York Times, is performing her first concert for Classical Action. Although she has concluded her run of Das Rheingold at the Met, Blythe hardly takes a break before continuing in the Met’s Ring Cycle when Die Walküre opens on April 22. In addition to joining Classical Action for the fundraising concert, Blythe will co-host the Opera News Awards with Patti LuPone on April 17. For the April 6 Classical Action concert, Blythe will be accompanied by Warren Jones, who was recently named “Collaborative Pianist of the Year” by Musical America

Opera Colorado presents Cinderella (La Cenerentola)

Rossini's Cinderella (La Cenerentola) lights up the stage of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House for four performances, April 30 through May 8, 2011. Cinderella is Rossini's take on the traditional fairytale about a young girl who yearns for true love. In this version, Cinderella is known as Angelina. She toils away while under the thumb of her stepfather, Don Magnifico, and her vain stepsisters. When Angelina offers kindness to a stranger, her fate is forever altered as she is whisked away to the ball and becomes the woman who captures the prince's heart. In this version of the story, Angelina's transformation is brought about not by supernatural powers, but through the magic of music.

The sets and costumes for this performance were created by late opera director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (1932-1988), one of the giants of international opera culture. Ponnelle created this production for San Francisco Opera and it has been a perennial favorite with that company for generations. Ponnelle's delightful vision for La Cenerentola is one of his most beloved and his production has been carefully preserved by distinguished Stage Director Grischa Asagaroff, one of Ponnelle's original assistants. Conductor Timothy Long makes his Opera Colorado debut with this production. The cast includes three artists making their Opera Colorado debuts as well as returning favorite performers.

Boston Pops Invites Singers to Submit Video Renditions of "Over the Rainbow" for Sing-Along Video Collage to be Shown May 11-June 26


The Boston Pops is inviting singers and music fans from around the country to submit video renditions of “Over the Rainbow” for possible inclusion in a video collage to be shown at Boston Pops performances throughout the 2011 Boston Pops season, May 11-June 26. Participants of all ages can submit video of themselves singing all or part of “Over the Rainbow,” by uploading a video to YouTube and emailing a link, contact info, and geographical location to overtherainbow@bso.org. Videos chosen to be part of the “Over the Rainbow” season-long video collage will also be featured on the Boston Pops YouTube channel and on the Boston Pops website www.bostonpops.org. All video submissions are due by Tuesday, April 26, 2011.

“Whether an amateur, professional, or just a shower singer, we hope singers of every age and level of ability will submit videos for consideration in the Boston Pops “Over the Rainbow” season-long video collage,” said Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart. “Creativity is encouraged!”

Sony Classical Releases "Water for Elephants" Soundtrack Available April 19

Original Score by Grammy-winning Composer James Newton Howard

Sony Classical is excited to announce the release of the original motion picture soundtrack of Water for Elephants, featuring an original score by acclaimed composer James Newton Howard, available April 19, 2011. Directed by Francis Lawrence, Water for Elephants stars Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz and Hal Holbrook. One of the most highly anticipated films of 2011, Water for Elephants opens nationwide April 22.

With his rich variety of experience, James Newton Howard was the ideal choice of composer for a score to match the color, excitement and emotional intensity of Water for Elephants. A powerful, epic tale of forbidden love, based on the acclaimed #1 best seller, the film is about an idealistic young man who finds his destiny in a magical place filled with adventure, wonder and great danger. To complement the sounds of a 1930s circus, Howard has supplemented his magical score with four songs from the Depression era.

One of the most versatile and in-demand composers, James Newton Howard has received eight Oscar nominations, four Grammy nominations plus a win for The Dark Knight (with Hans Zimmer), an Emmy Award, two additional Emmy nominations, four Golden Globe nominations and has been honored with ASCAP’s prestigious Henry Mancini Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2008, Howard was recipient of the World Soundtrack Award for Film Composer of the Year. His most recent films include the critically acclaimed blockbuster The Dark Knight (with Hans Zimmer), the legal thriller Michael Clayton and the box office hit I Am Legend. To date, Howard has over 100 films to his credit. Among them are all of M. Night Shyamalan’s films; five films for director Lawrence Kasdan; four Julia Roberts comedies including Pretty Woman and My Best Friend’s Wedding and three animated films for Walt Disney Studios.

Opera Star Erwin Schrott Releases Rojotango Debut Album on Sony Classical

A Passionate Tribute to the Music of his Native South America

The South American bass-baritone Erwin Schrott, who gained international notoriety with his convincing interpretations of Mozart roles (as Don Giovanni, Leporello and Figaro), is now considered one of the leading opera stars of his generation. Erwin Schrott releases Rojotango, his Sony Classical debut album devoted to the music of Latin America on Tuesday, April 19, 2011.

Rojotango is a highly personal album for Erwin Schrott and presents a new facet of his vocal artistry. The recording features tangos by Astor Piazzolla and Pablo Ziegler, as well as folk songs from Argentina and Brazil. Schrott reveals a passion for the music that he has known since his early childhood - music that for him symbolizes home and has helped shape him as a man and a musician. The dark, velvety and sensuous timbre of his voice seems destined to explore the passion, melancholy and erotic power of tango.

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Erwin Schrott made his opera debut at the age of twenty-two as Roucher in Andrea Chénier. Then in 1998, he won first prize and the audience award in the international OPERALIA competition, founded by Plácido Domingo. Since then Schrott has starred in many important roles in the greatest opera houses around the world.

Along with the Argentinean pianist, composer and arranger Pablo Ziegler and his quartet, Erwin Schrott has some of the most experienced and renowned musicians in this repertoire by his side. In his home town of Buenos Aires, Pablo Ziegler met Astor Piazzolla, the grandmaster of tango Nuevo. As a young man, Ziegler played for a decade in Piazzolla’s famous New Tango Quintet. Regarded as the driving force of tango nuevo today, Ziegler arranged the compositions on Rojotango, contributed original pieces and accompanied Schrott on the piano.

Marin Alsop Hosts Off the Cuff Concert, Schumann’s Beautiful Mind, May 13-14

Pianist and Schumann scholar Dr. Richard Kogan joins Alsop to discuss Schumann’s genius and mental illness

Music Director Marin Alsop leads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in an Off the Cuff series presentation, Schumann’s Beautiful Mind, on Friday, May 13 at 8:15 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore and Saturday, May 14 at 7 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Renowned Schumann scholar Dr. Richard Kogan will join Maestra Alsop to explore Schumann’s beautiful mind—one tormented by his bi-polar disorder, and yet still able to continue his work. Dr. Kogan will perform and discuss selections from Schumann’s beloved piano work Carnaval. Also on the program are selections from Schumann’s Second Symphony. The BSO’s Off the Cuff series offers a fresh take on classical music by exploring the lives of the composers, making the performances entertaining and engaging for music enthusiasts of any level.

Robert Schumann—among the Romantic era’s most ingenious and prolific composers—spent the last years of his life in an asylum, where he eventually starved himself to death. Such a tragic end to a dazzling genius warrants a closer look into the madness and depression that plagued him. Host and conductor Marin Alsop, aided by Schumann scholar and pianist Dr. Richard Kogan, will examine the manic and creative episodes responsible for Schumann’s bursts of feverish composing.

Among the works performed by the BSO will be Schumann’s Second Symphony, composed in his darkest days after his worst mental breakdown limited his creative capacity as a composer. After recovering from his mental illness temporarily, he went into one of his most manic creative periods, composing his piano concerto in A minor and his Second Symphony during that time. It is remarkable that in the face of adversity, Schumann was able to complete this work successfully. The symphony is a psychological journey from dark to light, reflecting Schumann’s struggle with his mental illness to recovery, from the slow and somber opening to the fanfare and triumphant finale expressing his recovery.

Jack Everly Leads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies, May 19-22

Scenes from favorite musicals like Oklahoma! and The King and I will be shown on a screen above the Orchestra

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Principal Pops conductor Jack Everly leads the BSO in a performance of the music scores from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s most popular movie musicals in Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies on Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore, Friday, May 20, 2011 at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 21, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 3 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Music from Oklahoma!, The King and I, South Pacific, The Sound of Music and Carousel will be played while spectacular re-mastered clips are shown on a screen above the orchestra.

Sixth Annual Opera News Awards Announces All-Star Line-Up of Presenters and Honorees

The complete list of presenters at the sixth annual Opera News Awards, which will take place on April 17 at The Plaza in New York City, has been announced: beloved singer Barbara Cook will present the award to tenor Jonas Kaufmann; iconic film director Francis Ford Coppola will present to conductor Riccardo Muti; legendary soprano Renata Scotto will present to soprano Patricia Racette; conductor Andrew Davis will present to soprano Kiri Te Kanawa; and award-winning playwright John Guare will present to bass-baritone Bryn Terfel. Acclaimed mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and Broadway favorite Patti LuPone will co-host the gala event. Always a night of extraordinary star-power and glamour, the Opera News Awards gala evening will once again bring together a bevy of New York’s cultural and social luminaries.

The Opera News Awards gala will feature the celebrity presenters speaking about the awardees, as well as introducing video clips for each. Tributes to the five awardees, all of them distinguished members of the international operatic community, also feature prominently in the just-published April 2011 issue of Opera News.

The Opera News Awards were created in 2005. They recognize five individuals each year for their distinguished achievement in the field of opera. Proceeds from the gala evening on April 17 will benefit the education programs of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.

Now in its 75th anniversary season, Opera News has been published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild since 1936 and has the largest circulation of any classical music magazine in the United States. The monthly magazine is a winner of three ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in music journalism.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gabriel Prokofiev Comes to LSO St Luke's as Part of the the UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica Series

Composer Gabriel Prokofiev, best known for his nonclassical club-nights, genre-busting remixes and edgy string quartets, curates a programme using instruments and objects not normally associated with classical music at LSO St Luke’s on 17 May, part of the UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica series.

Echoes of Stravinsky, Berio and Reich, combined with driving syncopations and sparse beats, will be heard on electric guitars, turntables, oil drums, soda bottles and a set of eight loud speakers. The programme of Gabriel Prokofiev compositions includes Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra (special three turntable version), import/export – Suite for Global Junk, and a world premiere for cello and eight loud speakers.

Performers include Powerplant (Joby Burgess, percussion; Kathy Hinde, visuals; Matthew Fairclough, sound engineer); Sam Cave, Alastair Putt, Tom Ellis, Matthew Robinson on electric guitars; cellist Peter Gregson and DJ Switch on turntables.

From 9.30pm downstairs in the LSO St Luke’s bar there will be DJ sets from Prokofiev and pioneering classical DJ Richard Lannoy.

Tuesday 17 May, 8pm, Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s, 161 Old Street, London EC1
UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica
Nonclassical Directions

Tickets £8 - £22
Barbican box office 020 7638 8891