. Interchanging Idioms: September 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The San Francisco Symphony Launches American Orchestra Forum with Six Major Visiting U.S. Orchestras

Michael Tilson Thomas, Gustavo Dudamel, and Alan Gilbert are keynote speakers in free public events in Davies Symphony Hall preceding concerts during American Orchestra Series in SF Symphony’s 2011-12 Centennial Season

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) today announced that it will host a season-long, nationwide dialogue on the 21st century American orchestra, in conjunction with the visits of six other major American orchestras during its Centennial 2011-12 season. San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, and New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert are the keynote speakers for three free events in Davies Symphony Hall during the season. The San Francisco Symphony has also launched an American Orchestra Forum website at www.symphonyforum.org, as a hub for the ongoing conversation, with perspectives from leaders in and outside the orchestra world, as well as the general public, via blogs, podcasts and videos of the discussions.

The presence of seven of America’s leading orchestras–Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco–performing as part of the SF Symphony’s 2011-2012 Centennial Season offers a unique opportunity to explore significant questions facing American orchestras.

“In the orchestral world, we spend a lot of time talking about music,” said Brent Assink, SFS Executive Director. “In this centennial season, with the leading orchestras in the country coming to San Francisco, it’s a perfect opportunity to also reflect on the connection points around the music – our communities, our creative inspirations and challenges, and, of course, our audiences. What does our past teach us? And how do we best shape our collective future? I look forward to lively discussions throughout the season.”

Gustavo Dudamel’s keynote conversation Sunday, October 23, “Talking About Community,” kicks off a two-concert residency of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Davies Symphony Hall October 23 and 24. Michael Tilson Thomas and Assink open a discussion of creativity on Saturday, March 17, 2012, in conjunction with San Francisco Symphony’s month-long American Mavericks festival of adventurous American music. Alan Gilbert initiates a discussion on the role of live music in a world of changing audience habits Sunday, May 13, and leads the New York Philharmonic for two concerts May 13 and 14. Composers John Adams and Mason Bates take part in a conversation and discussion following the MTT keynote during the American Mavericks festival event March 17.

Other participants in the forums include SF Symphony musicians; leaders in the classical music field, including the League of American Orchestras; scholars from Stanford University and the University of Chicago , as well as those in private enterprise, including executives from Silicon Valley technology firms and Major League Baseball. San Francisco-based cultural critic and journalist Steven Winn and University of Michigan musicologist Mark Clague will co-moderate the forums and host the podcasts.

Uniting the content of the public forums with ongoing dialogue will be the American Orchestra Forum website, www.symphonyforum.org. Over the course of the year, the website will host blogs, video interviews, transcripts, and podcasts to help stimulate conversation about the state of American orchestras among global audiences. The events in San Francisco will be live blogged.

Topics to be explored in the free public forums, and online, will include how orchestras connect with their communities, bridging multiple cultures; how new ways of producing music are shaping listening habits, and vice versa; how orchestras balance creativity and innovation with artistic traditions; and how orchestras can learn from companies and organizations outside the classical music world as they work to meet the challenge of attracting and involving new and changing audiences.

The League of American Orchestras, the professional association for American orchestras, is a project partner, promoting a national dialogue around topics addressed in the American Orchestra Forum. Results from the project will be reported at the League of American Orchestras’ 2012 conference in Dallas .

WQXR Welcomes Stars of the Metropolitan Opera to The Greene Space For a Season Preview on Tuesday, October 4 at 7pm

On Tuesday, October 4 at 7pm, WQXR – the nation’s most-listened to classical radio station – will present a Metropolitan Opera Season Preview, an evening of conversation and performance at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, the station’s innovative performance studio. The event will feature Met General Manager Peter Gelb with some of the biggest stars in opera, including Anna Netrebko and Deborah Voigt, and is the first in a season-long partnership in The Greene Space between WQXR and the Met, which will continue in December with a preview of the Met world premiere The Enchanted Island.

For the event on October 4, WQXR Host Naomi Lewin will welcome the Met’s General Manager, Peter Gelb, for a lively discussion with two of the opera world’s leading divas, Anna Netrebko and Deborah Voigt. Netrebko stars in the Met’s season-opening production of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and Voigt sings Brünnhilde in Robert Lepage’s upcoming productions of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, the final two operas in Wagner’s Ring cycle. The conversation will include a video clip of Netrebko in Anna Bolena – giving the audience an advance look at the production before the complete opera airs on WQXR later this fall – as well as a clip from Voigt’s exciting role debut as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre last spring, a role she reprises later this season.

The second half of the evening will feature live performances from three rising stars of the opera stage. Bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni, who sings Leporello in a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, will sing his character’s famous “Catalogue Aria,” while tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Angela Meade will sing the Act I love duet from Anna Bolena.

“WQXR is delighted to partner with the Metropolitan Opera to present the first of several special events in our intimate performance space,” said Graham Parker, Vice President, WQXR. “WQXR has been the broadcast home for the Met for generations, and we see this Greene Space collaboration as the next natural extension of this partnership, creating intimate moments to explore and enjoy the artistic delights of the Met.”

Tickets and a live video webcast of this special event are available at www.thegreenespace.org. In addition, the evening will broadcast live on WQXR 105.9 FM, and the video of the evening will be archived on www.wqxr.org. For more information on the Metropolitan Opera and its 2011-12 season, please visit www.metopera.org.

Ebène Quartet Returns with North American Tour, New Mozart Album

“We are fortunate to have a clutch of young, extremely talented string quartets in action today. … But none except the Ebène Quartet can sing four-part harmony on tunes like ‘Someday My Prince Will Come,’ improvise solos on standards like ‘Nature Boy,’ shred with conviction on the surf-rock classic ‘Misirlou,’ and uncover the unique sound world of Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel.” — NPR Music

France’s dynamic young Ebène Quartet, whose unique ability to switch seamlessly from core classical repertoire to jazz and pop music has made it one of classical music’s most talked-about ensembles, returns to the U.S. in the 2011-12 season with live performances and master classes, and on two new recordings from Virgin Classics. Fall performances in Pasadena, CA (Oct 2) and Portland, OR (Oct 3 & 4), master classes at the Colburn School in Los Angeles (Oct 5–13), and a concert with the Colburn Chamber Music Society (Oct 9) will coincide with the release on September 27 of Dissonances, an all-Mozart album featuring two of the composer’s “Haydn” Quartets (K. 421 and K. 465, “Dissonance”) and the Divertimento (K. 138), as well as Quatuor Ebène: Fiction – Live at Folies Bergère, a new DVD filmed at one of Paris’s most famous music halls. The Ebène will return to the U.S. in March for performances across the country and Canada beginning in San Diego (March 2), and including stops in San Francisco (March 8), New Orleans (March 14), and New York City, where they will make their debut at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall (March 18).

The Ebène’s new Mozart recording takes its name from the C-major quartet (K. 465), “Dissonance,” so named because of the strikingly modern harmonies that open the first movement. Also on the album is the String Quartet in D minor (K. 421), the only one of the so-called “Haydn” Quartets – the six quartets Mozart wrote for and dedicated to his friend, mentor, and fellow composer, Joseph Haydn – in a minor key. The final movement is a haunting theme and variations that brings to mind the otherworldly feeling of Schubert’s late works.

13-Week “Song of America” Radio Series, Hosted by Thomas Hampson and Syndicated by WFMT Radio Network

Begins Airing Oct 1 Across U.S

“Song of America”, a 13-week radio series hosted by renowned American baritone Thomas Hampson, begins airing on October 1 on radio stations across the country, from KMXT-FM in Alaska and KALW-FM in San Francisco to WFIU-FM in Indiana and WFSQ-FM in Florida. More than 140 stations across the country have already committed to airing the series. Reflecting Hampson’s deep passion and decades-long advocacy for the music of his country, “Song of America” reveals American classic song – poetry set to music by American composers – as a vibrant diary of the American experience. Hampson conceived and developed the series, which is co-produced by the Hampsong Foundation and the WFMT Radio Network of Chicago and will be syndicated by the network to public radio stations across the country. The network also makes the series available to members of the European Broadcasting Union and to stations in other countries around the world.

Each hour-long program focuses on a particular topic that sheds light on a larger theme in American history, and includes approximately 40 minutes of songs drawn from archival and modern recordings, plus stories and insights from Hampson about the people and events that inspired those songs. Several programs also feature interviews with experts from related fields. Programs include Stephen Foster, dedicated exclusively to the 19th-century songwriter who is considered the father of American music; Whitman and Music, examining the great poet and the music that shaped him as well as his deep influence on American composers; “There Is No Gender in Music”, exploring the contributions of American women composers; and Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, which traces the roots and influences of the great 20th-century poet who gave jubilant voice to the lives of African Americans.

Anne-Sophie Mutter On The Late Show with David Letterman Tomorrow!

On Friday, September 30th, internationally renowned, four-time Grammy® Award winning violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will be the musical guest on the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS. Together with Sir André Previn at the piano, Mutter will perform "It Ain't Necessarily So" from Gershwin's beloved Porgy and Bess from the recent release ASM35: The Complete Musician Highlights , celebrating her extraordinary 35 year career.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Maestro Kurt Masur & Pianist Yefim Bronfman Join Boston Symphony for an All-Brahms Program


Performances to take place Thursday, October 20, and Saturday, October 22, at 8 p.m.,
and Friday, October 21, at 1:30 p.m., with an Open Rehearsal Thursday, October 20, at 10:30 a.m.

The Symphony Hall performances October 20-22 mark the return of two familiar BSO guests as eminent German conductor Kurt Masur takes the podium for his first of two programs with the orchestra this season. (He leads Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in February.) Opening this all-Brahms program is the Third Symphony—the most concise and classically reserved of the composer’s four—written in 1883 when Brahms was 50 years old and firmly established as a master. After intermission, always-impressive Russian-born American pianist Yefim Bronfman joins Maestro Masur and the orchestra for the expansive and brilliant four-movement Piano Concerto No. 2.

London Symphony Orchestra Celebrates the Music of Hollywood Composer Dimitri Tiomkin

The London Symphony Orchestra celebrates the works of Dimitri Tiomkin performing many of his best-loved soundtracks in the Barbican Hall on Thursday 27 October at 7:30pm. The concert is conducted by renowned film & television music expert Richard Kaufman who is joined by singers Whitney Claire Kaufman, Andrew Playfoot and the London Voices and features soundtracks including High Noon, Wild is the Wind, Dial M for Murder, Strangers on a Train and The Guns of Navarone.

Prior to the concert, at 6:45pm on the Barbican Freestage, young musicians from the LSO St Luke’s Fusion Orchestra showcase music that they have created which has been inspired by Tiomkin. On Friday 14 October, the LSO Discovery Lunchtime Concert at LSO St Luke’s focuses on his music, with presenter Rachel Leach and musicians from the Guildhall School.

Alongside the LSO’s concert tribute to the composer, the Barbican presents two films, Strangers on a Train on 23 October and Dial M for Murder on 30 October, showcasing Tiomkin’s work with director Alfred Hitchcock. The concert and screenings are accompanied by an exhibition of original posters of Tiomkin-scored films on the Barbican mezzanine.

Dimitri Tiomkin was born in Russia in 1894 and later emigrated to America. He is considered one of Hollywood’s most distinguished composers, his works spanning all genres of film and television music from horror films to westerns. He died in 1979 having won four Oscars, and 16 Academy Awards nominations. His most famous film soundtracks include It’s a Wonderful Life and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

The LSO was the first symphony orchestra ever to record a film soundtrack, with Sir Aurthur Bliss’s score for Things to Come in 1935. It has since built up a reputation as one of the world’s best and most prolific film orchestras, having recorded major landmark soundtracks such as Henry V (William Walton, 1944), all six Star Wars (John Williams, 1977-2005) and Superman (John Williams, 1978). Most recently, the Orchestra’s close relationship with French composer Alexandre Desplat has resulted in outstanding recordings for acclaimed films such as Twilight: New Moon, The Queen and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2.

Sol Gabetta Performs Italian Baroque Cello Concertos

Although he is best known for his vast work of violin concertos, Antonio Vivaldi also wrote at least twenty-seven concertos for cello. These date from the time when he was working as composer of instrumental music for the orchestra of the girls' orphanage Ospedale della Pietà in Venice. Argentinean cellist Sol Gabetta already recorded five of Vivaldi's cello concertos in 2007. Her latest CD, Il Progetto Vivaldi 2, features three more, played on a valuable instrument built in Naples in 1781 by Ferdinando Gagliano. She is accompanied by the Cappella Gabetta, which she founded together with her brother, violinist and conductor Andres Gabetta. The Baroque ensemble consists of hand-picked Early Music specialists she is friends with, taken from groups like the Basel Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestre Baroque de Limoges and Il Giardino Armonico. In addition to a sonata from the pen of "the red-haired priest", as Vivaldi was known, the new release also contains two concertos by contemporaries of his – one of them the world première recording of the cello concerto by Giovanni Battista Platti (1697–1763). Il Progetto Vivaldi 2 is available Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The works on the recording combine virtuoso demands and brisk tempi with charming cantilenas. They also show how quickly the works of the Italian Baroque masters became popular at German royal courts. One of the most important amateur musicians in the first half of the 18th century was the German Count Rudolf Franz Erwein von Schönborn (1677-1754). Schönborn was an outstanding cellist, who met Corelli while a student in Rome. He also built up a unique music library at his palace Schloss Wiesentheid in Franconia, the foundation of which the diplomat-to-be assembled in Rome.

Except for the five-movement concerto by the Neapolitan composer Leonardo Leo (1694 - 1744), all the works on this CD come from the Schönborn collection. Giovanni Battista Platti wrote his D minor cello concerto for the Count; it displays particularly sophisticated composing technique in the concertante and fugal outer movements, and cantabile and expressive melodies for the solo instrument in the slow movement. Vivaldi's G minor cello sonata is another rarity: the sarabande theme in the third movement bears an astonishing resemblance to the sarabande in J.S. Bach's second suite for solo cello.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Experience Faure’s Requiem with the Colorado Symphony

Grammy®-nominated soprano Karina Gauvin promises to shine in Britten's Les Illuminations; conductor Matthew Halls returns to Colorado for three stellar concert performances

The Colorado Symphony presents a spectacular weekend of uplifting masterpieces as Grammy®-nominated soprano Karina Gauvin and baritone Jonathan Beyer join conductor Matthew Halls and the Colorado Symphony and Colorado Symphony Chorus in three performances of Fauré's Requiem on Friday, October 21, Saturday, October 22 and on Sunday, October 23. A work that speaks to everyone with an open heart, Fauré's Requiem is an intimate work unlike others in its genre – a masterpiece with the power to move rather than impress listeners, a treasure of the choral repertoire. In this concert program, the Requiem is paired with Britten's Les Illuminations featuring Gauvin – a work she recently recorded with Les Violons du Roy that has garnered major critical acclaim. Based on the remarkable works of French poet Arthur Rimbaud, Les Illuminations is evocative, dreamlike and even surrealistic. Tickets are now on sale for these concerts that also feature Bizet's Suite No. 2 from the Incidental Music to Alphonse Daudet’s L’Arlésienne.

The centerpiece of this concert weekend is Fauré's Requiem, featuring the Colorado Symphony Chorus under the direction of Duain Wolfe. Unlike other requiems in the repertoire that set the full Latin liturgy (spoken church service) to music, Fauré's Requiem differs in that the composer cut much of the text that focuses on judgment. With these selective edits, Fauré created a work that is more soothing, peaceful and contemplative –widely-regarded as one of the most beautiful in music. Its "Pie Jesu" is undoubtedly the best-known among contemporary audiences, partly due to its use in film and television, most recently "Broken Flowers" starring Bill Murray, which won the Grand prix at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

Ironically, Fauré – like many other composers – cared very little for organized religion. He was an avowed agnostic despite holding positions as a church organist. Emile Vuillermoz, in his biography of the composer, explained, "The Requiem is, if I dare say so, the work of a disbeliever who respects the beliefs of others." Rather than a testament of dogmatic faith, then, Fauré’s Requiem is a work to console and comfort the living — music, according to Vuillermoz, "to accompany with contemplation and emotion a loved one to a final resting place."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Met: Live in HD Enters Its Sixth Season With Largest-Ever Worldwide Distribution

The 2011-12 season of the award-winning series kicks off Saturday, October 15, with Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, starring Anna Netrebko

The Met: Live in HD, the Metropolitan Opera’s award-winning series of live transmissions to movie theaters around the world, has expanded its worldwide distribution to 1,600 theaters in 54 countries, the largest global audience the initiative has ever reached. The newest countries to sign on for Live in HD transmissions include Russia, Israel, China, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Slovenia, and the territory of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Last year, a record of more than 2.6 million Live in HD tickets were sold to opera lovers across the globe, effectively quadrupling the Met’s paying audience (approximately 800,000 people attend performances in the opera house in a Met season).

The sixth season of live transmissions begins October 15 with the Met premiere production of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, featuring Anna Netrebko in the title role. She stars in the first transmission to be shown in her native country, joined by Russian colleagues Ekaterina Gubanova as Jane Seymour and Ildar Abdrazakov as Enrico (Henry VIII).

The opera, directed by David McVicar and conducted by Marco Armiliato, is based on the final, tragic days of Anne Boleyn and has been a dramatic and vocal showcase for some of the greatest sopranos in operatic history. In addition to Ms. Netrebko, the 2011-12 Live in HD season features many of the opera world’s most prominent stars, including Stephanie Blythe, David Daniels, Natalie Dessay, Joyce DiDonato, Plácido Domingo, Renée Fleming, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Jonas Kaufmann, Mariusz Kwiecien, René Pape, Marina Poplavskaya, Bryn Terfel, and Deborah Voigt.

The 2011-12 Live in HD season features 11 transmissions, which include a Met premiere, a world premiere, three new productions of repertory favorites, and the final two installments of a new Ring cycle. All 11 high-definition productions will be shown live worldwide on Saturdays. Most operas begin at 12:55 p.m EST, with some operas beginning earlier in the afternoon; exact starting times appear on the schedule below. The majority of encore presentations in the United States will be shown on Wednesdays, 18 days after the live exhibition. For complete information on locations and tickets, visit www.metopera.org/hdlive.

Colorado Symphony Announces Positive Vote from Musicians

After additional negotiation this week with the Colorado Symphony Association (CSA), the musicians of the Colorado Symphony issued a vote to accept changes to the current contract. The changes constitute a total reduction in pay of $530,000. The contract concessions were requested to assist with balancing the FY12 operating budget.

Prior to receiving this positive vote from the players, several resignations from the Board of Trustees were received and several were tendered at the meeting for a total of 20 resignations. An overall sentiment of appreciation and love for the orchestra was shared by all of those who issued resignation, and several specifically encouraged the organization to “be bold, be brave, and be different.” The CSA extends heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the departing Board members for their dedication, commitment and generosity on behalf of the entire organization.

While approval of the FY12 budget is pending a more complete understanding of cash flow, the musician trustees spoke on behalf of their colleagues in the orchestra that they would play without pay this weekend and further, that the players intend to perform all concerts as scheduled. Members of the administrative staff have also contributed their salaries.

Due to the new Board of Trustees structure, several business items on the agenda were tabled until the next meeting tentatively scheduled for Monday, September 26, 2011.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Boston Symphony Chamber Players Open 2011-12 Season with All-Czech Program


The Boston Symphony Chamber Players begin their 2011-12 season Sunday, October 16, 2011, at 3 p.m. in New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, with an all-Czech program featuring the E-major Serenade for strings, Op. 22, by the greatest Czech composer, Antonín Dvořák, as well as Leoš Janáček’s Mládi and Bohuslav Martinů’s Sextet for piano and winds. This all-Czech program is part of the Chamber Players’ region-oriented programming this season: they follow this concert with an all-Viennese concert (Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms) in January, an all-Russian program in March, and an all-English program in April. For further information about the Boston Symphony Chamber Players 2011-12 season, click here.

One of the world’s most distinguished chamber music ensembles sponsored by a major symphony orchestra and made up of that orchestra’s principal players, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players feature first-desk string, woodwind, and brass players from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The October 16 concert features Boston Symphony Orchestra players Malcolm Lowe, violin; Haldan Martinson, violin; Steven Ansell, viola; Jules Eskin, cello; Edwin Barker, bass; Elizabeth Rowe, flute; John Ferrillo, oboe; William R. Hudgins, clarinet; Craig Nordstrom, clarinet; Richard Svoboda, bassoon; Suzanne Nelsen, bassoon; and James Sommerville, horn. Pianist Vytas Baksys will join the Chamber Players for Martinů’s Sextet for piano and winds.

Written at breakneck speed in just two weeks, Dvořák’s elegant five-movement Serenade for strings is a relatively early work dating from 1875, right around the time the composer was becoming well known. It dates from a happy and productive period of his life, when he was recently married, had a newborn son, and had a steady income for the first time. The music reflects these joyful circumstances and, despite a few wistful moments, rarely strays from its uplifting, contented mood.

Janáček’s Mládi (Youth)—scored for flute, two clarinets, oboe, bassoon, and horn—was written at the height of its late-blooming composer’s celebrity (as he was turning 70 years old) and is the work of an accomplished, established master looking back on his childhood and childhood in general. It is not, however, melancholy music that fearfully yearns for youthfulness. Janáček wrote Mládi in 1924 concurrently with his opera The Makropoulos Case, and both works are characterized by an inventiveness and enthusiasm that attest to a composer still at the height of inspiration. Martinů’s Sextet for piano, flute, oboe, clarinet, and two bassoons, written in 1929 while during the composer’s time in Paris, reveals a French-influenced neoclassical style with the rhythmic energy of jazz and Central European folk music.

St Louis Symphony Introduces New Video

Exciting look at musicians, Powell Hall and the concert experience is available to view on-line

The St. Louis Symphony is pleased to present a new promotional video designed to tell the St. Louis Symphony story and build excitement for the upcoming 2011-2012 season. Featuring Music Director David Robertson, Concertmaster David Halen and other STL Symphony musicians, the “brandumentary” communicates the power and accessibility of live music at Powell Hall.

Captured during the STL Symphony’s performances of Carmina Burana in May 2011, the brandumentary and its accompanying videos are now available to view on-line at www.stlsymphony.org/story After watching the brandumentary in its entirety, viewers will receive a special 2-for-1 ticket offer.

The videos were produced by UPBrand Collaborative, a St. Louis-based branding and creative firm. Photography was captured by Rob Durbin with sound/video editing by 90 Degrees West.

Susan Graham starts 2011-12 Season with Canadian Opera Company debut in Iphigénie en Tauride

To kick off the 2011-12 season, Susan Graham – “America’s favorite mezzo” (Gramophone magazine) – makes her much-anticipated Canadian Opera Company debut on Thursday, September 22, headlining the company premiere of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride with the role that has become her “calling card” (New York Times). October 30 sees the Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano, always “spellbinding” (Wall Street Journal) in Handel, return to the San Francisco Opera in the title role of the Baroque master’s Xerxes, in Nicholas Hytner’s Olivier Award-winning staging. A third title role follows in the new year, when Graham – “everybody’s dream Widow” (Variety) – joins the Paris Opera for Franz Lehár’s popular operetta The Merry Widow, which bows on February 29. Meanwhile, in January she embarks on a North American recital tour with her frequent collaborator, pianist Malcolm Martineau; that tour concludes with her return to Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium on February 1.

As the New York Times’s Anthony Tommasini explains, Gluck’s 1779 masterpiece Iphigénie en Tauride “has enjoyed a renaissance, thanks to the star power of the superb American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham”; when she undertook the title role at her home company, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, he judged her performance “riveting.” Likewise, at the San Francisco Opera, London’s Sunday Times described Iphigénie as “a role she was born to sing,” continuing:

“Iphigénie now belongs to Susan Graham and nobody else. She is spellbinding. …Graham has made the part her own. …Among the top-ranking singers of today, Graham has the field to herself. She can claim personal credit for the restoration of this sublime masterpiece to the repertoire.”

This past February, Graham returned to the Met to reprise her signature role opposite Plácido Domingo, earning the New York Times’s praise once again for her “haunted and mournful” portrayal of a role that’s a “perfect fit” for her. Tommasini wrote: “She started off singing with floating richness, emanating tenderness and hurt in arias with the quiet eloquence of prayer, and gained power and authority as the opera went on.” Similarly, after her account of the role at Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Chicago Tribune observed: “Graham put her own stamp on the part, bringing both nobility and vibrant vocal beauty to her affecting performance.”

The Canadian Opera Company production, in which she stars from September 22 until October 12, is directed by Robert Carsen, with Pablo Heras-Casado on the podium and baritone Russell Braun as Orestes.

Minnesota Orchestra Names Erin Keefe as New ConcertMaster

The Minnesota Orchestra and Music Director Osmo Vänskä announced today the appointment of American violinist Erin Keefe as concertmaster. Keefe, who is known as a renowned chamber musician, will officially begin as concertmaster at the Orchestra’s season opening concerts September 29 to October 1.

The Orchestra’s Concertmaster Search Committee said in a statement, “Throughout the past two seasons our 13-member search committee listened to many excellent concertmaster candidates. Erin Keefe’s audition, in which she performed as concertmaster, chamber musician and soloist, captivated us. Her depth, refinement, and exquisite artistry showed her to be a violinist of the highest caliber. As we welcome Erin to the Minnesota Orchestra, we are confident that she brings the wonderful qualities of talent and leadership commensurate with this great orchestra.”

Keefe played with the Minnesota Orchestra as guest concertmaster in performances last May. “I’m extremely pleased that we are able to announce Erin Keefe as our new concertmaster,” said Music Director Osmo Vänskä. “While our search was underway, we were fortunate to have Sarah Kwak serve as acting concertmaster, allowing us to continue our work at the highest level, and I thank Sarah for her excellent contributions. I look forward to welcoming Erin to the Orchestra and to making extraordinary music.”

Keefe succeeds Jorja Fleezanis, who departed the Orchestra after 20 years of service to become professor of music at Indiana University in 2009. Keefe now becomes the 19th violinist to serve as a Minnesota Orchestra concertmaster in the ensemble’s 109-year history.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New CD Sometimes the City is Silent by Meerenai Shim is Delightfully Simple, yet Incredibly Complex

Meerenai Engages the Listener with Pure Flute Technique and Sound on her Debut Album

Flutes are delightfully simple, yet incredibly complex instruments. When you look at the wave form, the sound of the flute is pure and clean. The emotional range and technical possibilities of the instrument are astonishingly diverse. Meerenai's new CD Sometimes the City is Silent seizes all these subtleties, yet proffers them in such a splendidly pure way, we are intrigued by the flute with all of its complexity without being immersed in an overly effected recording.

The opening track “Hamburger” Flute Sonata in G major was written by CPE Bach in 1786. The music is florid and ornate, yet with a sense of regular structure typical of the early classical period. Meerenai captures the mood of the music on her modern Boehm-system flute with a sense of ease. While there are moments the performance doesn't quite flow naturally, we do get a sense of the playful nature of the music.  Accompanied by Lori Lack, the clean recording displays a charming duet between the piano and flute, highlighting the "soloist" while gliding gracefully along.

Noah Luna was commissioned to write the next piece, Entrometido, for flute & Cello. With a thorough sense of 21st century music, Entrometido is amazing and lyric, quarrelsome and constantly interrupted, playful and diverse in scope of tonal color. Meerenai really gets a chance to show off her vast array of technical skill on the flute. The lyric passages are flowing and lovely, while the jagged sections are punctuated and percussive. Rachel Turner Houk commands the cello with the same precision, creating a kaleidoscope of colors from drums and guitar to cello and harp (all from one instrument). The music of Noah Luna is fascinating, exciting and exquisitely well played.

Sérénade aux étoiles by Cécile Chaminade is a lovely, lush romantic piece. Written in 1911, it captures the delightful lyricism of the late Romantic era while preluding to the sentimental melodies of early film scores. Meerenai never over-plays the extreme rubato in this style of music yet still captures the emotional roller-coaster of the genre. Lori Lack accompanies on the piano.

The title track Sometimes the City is Silent was commissioned by the National Flute Association for the 2003 High School Soloist Competition, written by Janice Misurell-Mitchell. Similar to Entrometido, Sometimes is a modern piece complete with a wide range of flute effects and extended techniques: singing while playing, tongue pizzicato, tongue stops, whisper tones and flutter tonguing. None of these are easy to accomplish, and to shift so rapidly from one to another with breaking the flow of the piece shows real finesse. This solo work is intense and yet incredibly intimate.  We hear every breath, every punctuation, practically every thought, as Meerenai moves through the music.

A collection of arrangements of Romantic Folk Dances by Bela Bartók written in 1915 and Carl Reinecke's “Undine” Sonata for piano and flute written in 1882 follow. These lovely pieces provide a nice collection of more traditional sounding flute music. While the performances are clean, these tracks are not what makes this CD so engaging.

Zooming ahead to the final track Zoom Tube Meerenai displays the intense control required by jazz flute. Written by Ian Clarke in 1999, it captures the sounds of the London Tube. The music is all at once so very cool, crazily complex and overwhelmingly interesting -- a great way to close out an engaging album of flute pieces.

Overall the album displays both a broad range of musical styles and highlights the diverse arsenal of techniques at Meerenai's disposal. The music is intelligent and engaging, without needing any post performance effects. What we get with Sometimes the City is Silent is pure flute, with all the color and complexity imaginable. The recording is clean, the performances sharp; there is no need to add to the sound. Instead we hear all the nuances Meerenai brings to her music. For a debut album this displays remarkable poise; Meerenai is destined to bring many more alluring pieces to life with purity and command of her instrument.

Alan Gilbert’s Third Season as Music Director of NY Phil Begins with Televised Barber/Wagner/Strauss Concert with Deborah Voigt TONIGHT

Alan Gilbert begins his third season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic on September 21, 2011, when soprano Deborah Voigt joins him for a program of Wagner, R. Strauss and Barber that will be broadcast on Live From Lincoln Center on PBS and on Classical 105.9 FM WQXR. The concert launches an adventurous new season for Gilbert that features world and New York premieres, three Mahler symphonies, a residency at London’s Barbican Centre, tours to Europe and California, and a season-ending musical exploration of space at the Park Avenue Armory that features Stockhausen’s theatrical immersion, Gruppen. Additional highlights for Gilbert’s 2011-12 season include fall concerts with the Munich Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra (where he is Principal Guest Conductor), and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, as well as spring performances of Wagner’s Lohengrin with the Royal Swedish Opera and a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra (of which he is Conductor Laureate). In September 2011 Alan Gilbert becomes Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at The Juilliard School, where he is also the first to hold the William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies.

New York Philharmonic and Deborah Voigt
Barber: The School for Scandal Overture
Wagner: “Dich teure Halle” from Tannhäuser
Barber: Andromache’s Farewell
Wagner: Overture to Tannhäuser
R. Strauss: Intermezzo, Dance of the Seven Veils, and Final Scene from Salome
Free open rehearsal at 9:45AM
Gala concert begins 7:30PM

Classical 105.9 FM WQXR Gives Listeners New Way to Tune In: Mobile App

Launch Coincides with Broadcast of NY Phil’s Season-Opening Concert Tonight

Classical 105.9 FM WQXR, the nation’s most listened-to classical music station, extends its reach even further with the launch of a new mobile app, available today. This technological advance will give listeners a new way to tune in to the station’s vibrant music programming as well as granting access to WQXR’s wealth of digital-only features. In keeping with the station’s programming hallmark of broadcasting and streaming live from New York City’s concert halls and performance spaces, the app debut coincides with the station’s live broadcast of tonight’s season-opening concert by the New York Philharmonic.
The mobile app will give audiences direct access to the broadcast on 105.9 FM and on Q2 Music, WQXR’s online contemporary music stream. The app will also offer all the rich content and features found on www.wqxr.org, including:
    · real-time and archived radio playlists
    · archived episodes of destination programs, including the cross-genre All Ears with Terrance McKnight
    · the film-score fest Movies on the Radio, and The Choral Mix with Kent Tritle
    · WQXR news features including “Arts File” and “The Washington Report” with New York Times reporter David Sanger
    · WQXR blogs, including the popular “Operavore” (formerly “WQX-Aria”), authored by Fred Plotkin and Olivia Giovetti
    · original video/audio content, such as Café Concerts videos, which features both emerging and established artists, and “Top Five at 105.9,” on which classical music luminaries and personalities from other fields share their favorite compositions and performances;
    · WQXR podcasts, including the music industry roundtable “Conducting Business” and Around Broadway with New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood, among others.
The new WQXR app is available free of charge to iPhone users, and may be downloaded from the iTunes store. An Android version will be available in early October.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This week's Top Ticket in Denver: Grammy® nominee, David Nail

Lastest single "Let it Rain" is in the top 20

David Nail performs with the Colorado Symphony on October 8th. Growing up in a small southeastern Missouri town, it was music that called David Nail’s name. His baseball coach said, ‘David, you need to decide where you’re going to school,’ and out of the blue David said, ‘Do you know anybody in Nashville?’” The rest is history. The recent Grammy® nominee for Best Male Vocal Country Performance for his hit “Turning Home” will make his first orchestral appearance with the Colorado Symphony. This is history in the making.

Effectively Using Social Media to Improve Your Outreach to Fans beyond your current base

Classical Music Organizations need to find new audiences, to reach out to people who aren't currently attending their concerts

Social Media is a great way to connect to people outside your current circle of influence. Facebook and Twitter are especially effective at this because tweets can be re-tweeted, reaching into areas of exposure you never imagined. However, in order to get the most of these "tools" effective use is important.

Most arts organizations have a facebook page and many a twitter account. Unfortunately, if the orchestra has any budget for social media at all, it's generally pretty small, which means they end up getting a newly graduated college student in as an intern. These students may have their own twitter and/or facebook account, but the chances of them really knowing what to do to market an arts organization is slim. But, what they don't know they can learn. So, I've created a few touch points that might help.

  • 1 - post something to facebook every day!
    This doesn't have to be breaking news, but it should be something of interest to your fans.
    It would be great if your musicians that have facebook could provide commentary or updates as well.
  • 2 - reply to every response you get.
    This creates dialog and gives your fans the feeling you are listening, connecting with them.
  • 3 - Comment on all of your musician's facebook pages at least once a week. More is better.
    Get involved in their conversations.
  • 1 - post something to twitter at least 5 times a day (throughout the day)
    Don't just copy what you have on Facebook. It should be original and of interest to your fans.
    It doesn't have to be links to your press releases, but can include links to press releases from artists coming to perform with you, even if the release is about them performing somewhere else. By leveraging that artists fans, you engage with more than just your own followers.
  • 2 - Re-Tweet (RT) EVERY tweet that mentions you in a positive light.
    This is probably the biggest place where orchestras fall down. By RTing these tweets you connect with people who are sharing your message. This will encourage them to do it more often.
  • 3 - Comment on as many conversations you can regarding fans who have tweeted about you before, artists who are coming to perform with you, or other orchestras.
    Make connections. If someone is a fan of another orchestra, they may be a fan for you too.
  • 4 - follow your fans!!!
    If someone follows you, look at their tweets. Are they tweeting about music, you or other related topics? If so, follow them. Don't just limit the people you follow to a small select list. You WANT to encourage followers, but returning a follow is a great way to do it.
  • 5 - don't just link Facebook and Twitter.
    They should be separate feeds. You can occasionally share one with the other, but they are unique entities. If every tweet you make is on Facebook, you're commenting too much on Facebook. If your comments are Facebook are your only tweets, you're not tweeting enough.

For some of the organizations out there, these simple tips may seem obvious. However, it's surprising how many are not doing any of these.

They do take time, but not a huge amount - maybe 30 mins to an hour a day. Even if your organization is a small community ensemble, it's worth it when you consider how much you can get people talking about your organization. And the more they talk about your organization, the more you'll be to the forefront of their minds when it comes time to thinking about what they want to do with their evenings out.

Effectively use Social Media and start connecting with fans other than those you already have!

Live Recording of Dvorak's Rusalka by Franz Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra - available Sep 27

Opera recorded during Cleveland Orchestra’s sold-out performances at the 2008 Salzburg Festival

A live audio recording of Dvořák’s Rusalka performed by Music Director Franz Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera Chorus, and an international cast of soloists at the Salzburg Festival in August 2008 has been released by the Orfeo label. The CD will be available through retailers and available for download online in the United States on September 27, 2011 . It is now available in the Cleveland Orchestra Store at Severance Hall.

These performances of Rusalka marked the first time that The Cleveland Orchestra presented an opera production and played from the orchestra pit at the Salzburg Festival. The five sold-out Rusalka performances were part of a Festival residency that also included Franz Welser-Möst conducting the Orchestra in three different concert programs. Prior to the staged Salzburg performances, Franz Welser-Möst led The Cleveland Orchestra in concert performances of Rusalka in Cleveland in June 2008.

London’s Sunday Times praised the Salzburg Festival performance, calling it “the most spellbinding account of Dvorak’s miraculous score I have ever heard, either in the theatre or on record…. I doubt this music can be better played than by the Clevelanders, the most ‘European’ of the American orchestras, with wind and brass soloists to die for and a string sound of superlative warmth and sensitivity.” The London Sunday Telegraph review said, “the playing of the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst is sumptuously beautiful and exquisitely detailed, allowing Dvorak's operatic masterpiece to weave a strong spell at its first-ever Salzburg showing.”

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein Named a 2011 MacArthur Fellow

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein was today named a 2011 MacArthur Foundation Fellow. The prestigious award carries a prize of $500,000 of “no strings attached” support over the next five years and has been dubbed the “Genius Award”.

In a letter advising her of the honor, the MacArthur Foundation outlined that the fellowships are given in recognition of the recipient’s “originality, creativity, self-direction, and capacity to contribute importantly to society through your work.”

New York-based Ms. Weilerstein, 29, was performing in Jerusalem when she received the news about being made a MacArthur Fellow: “This is an incredible and unexpected honor and completely overwhelming. My first response was an expression of total shock and amazement and I still cannot believe it.”

Ms. Weilerstein has attracted widespread attention worldwide for playing that combines a natural virtuosic command and technical precision with impassioned musicianship. She has appeared with all of the major orchestras throughout the United States and Europe and last year she became an exclusive recording artist for Decca Classics, the first cellist to be signed by the prestigious label in over 30 years.

Deborah Voigt’s Two New Brünnhilde Debuts at Met

Deborah Voigt launches her 2011-12 season on September 21 when she joins the New York Philharmonic in its season-opening gala in a performance to be broadcast live on public television’s Live From Lincoln Center. Soon after, she makes much-anticipated role debuts as Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, the final two installments of the Metropolitan Opera’s new “Ring” cycle, directed by Robert Lepage. In spring 2012 Voigt will also sing Brünnhilde in performances of three complete Ring cycles at the Met. Among Voigt’s other new season highlights are a Broadway concert at Washington National Opera; solo recitals in Mexico City, Fort Worth, TX, and Sydney, Australia; and concerts with the Montreal Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Throughout the season, Voigt will make further appearances as both performer and host in the “Met: Live in HD” series, including hosting duties at the Met’s gala season-opening performance on September 26, which will be telecast live onto the Lincoln Center Plaza and in Times Square.

Voigt’s opening-night program with the New York Philharmonic features a signature aria, “Dich teure Halle,” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Barber’s Andromache’s Farewell, and the final scene from Richard Strauss’s Salome. Voigt’s recent performance with the orchestra featured what Concertonet.com described as an “absolutely frightening” performance of Schoenberg’s Erwartung, noting that she sang “with strength, power, and an honest blatant truth. She could take the most arduous passages, crescendoing from lowest to highest notes with laughable ease. (Grisly laughable ease.) This Erwartung was neither monodrama nor short opera. It was an arousing experience in hysteria and delusions.”

Voigt introduced the role of Brünnhilde to her repertoire last season when she took on the title role in Wagner’s Die Walküre at the Met. Reviewing for the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini wrote, “I have seldom heard the role sung with such rhythmic accuracy and verbal clarity. From the start, with those go-for-broke cries of ‘Hojotoho,’ she sang every note honestly. She invested energy, feeling and character in every phrase.” In New York magazine, Justin Davidson noted, “Voigt gives Brünnhilde a steely joy.” In addition to her staged Wagner performances this year, Voigt will also sing Brünnhilde’s music, the famous “Immolation Scene” from the last act of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, in a winter concert with the Hamburg Symphony.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Houston Grand Opera Takes First Mariachi Opera Across Atlantic

Having commissioned the world's first Mariachi opera and premiered the work to great acclaim last season, Houston Grand Opera crosses the Atlantic with its pioneering creation for season-opening performances September 23-27 at the illustrious Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) features music by composer and writer José “Pepe” Martínez, with lyrics by Broadway director and author Leonard Foglia. To showcase the vibrant score–which ranges from plaintive, folk-like balladry to rousing Latin dance rhythms–a live recording from the Houston premiere of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna will be released on CD by Albany Records on October 1.

Enthusing over last December's sold-out premiere run in Houston, the Houston Chronicle called Cruzar la Cara de la Luna "a bold first-time fusion" that "succeeded on all fronts." The newspaper added, "Kudos to [former] HGO general director Anthony Freud . . . for taking a chance on something different and realizing the concept so expertly.” The New York Times chimed in, pointing out that "Houston Grand Opera [still] embraces bold ventures," while Culture Map called Cruzar "a stunning, emotional work." As on the recording, the upcoming Paris performances will feature Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán–the world's top mariachi ensemble, directed by Martínez–along with mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte as Renata (praised by the Houston Chronicle for her "intensity and conviction") and baritone Octavio Moreno as Laurentino (hailed as "warm and sympathetic").

The 2,000-seat Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris is renowned for showcasing original, compelling productions from around the globe, offering a platform to singers, musicians, actors, and dancers who have forged new paths across the international arts landscape. The invitation to open the new season at the Châtelet follows last year’s sold-out Houston premiere performances at the Wortham Center and Talento Bilingüe de Houston. Commissioned by Houston Grand Opera through its "Song of Houston: Mexico 2010" project (in celebration of the anniversaries of Mexican independence and revolution), Cruzar la Cara de la Luna chronicles three generations of a family divided by countries and cultures, and depicts the emotional-spiritual connection to one’s country of origin; the challenges of being a stranger in a strange land; and the very nature of home that is at the heart of the immigrant experience.

The fusion of mariachi and opera was the brainchild of former HGO general director Anthony Freud (now general director of Lyric Opera Chicago). Watching a performance by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, Freud was struck by the resonances between the two traditions. “Opera arias and mariachi songs tell human stories of love and loss, family and country; through music, they aim their narratives straight at the heart,” he says. “It seemed to me a natural fit.”

London Philharmonic Orchestra Premieres New Works in their 2011-12 Season

This season features several new works by leading contemporary composers Alexander Raskatov, Matthias Pintscher, Kalevi Aho and our own Composer in Residence Julian Anderson.

On 21 September the premieres begin with Alexander Raskatov's homage to Mussorgsky A White Night's Dream, a world premiere.  Modest Mussorgsky created some of the most novel music of the nineteenth century. No painstaking craftsman, Mussorgsky wrote in fitful episodes of white-hot inspiration, exemplified by the hair-raising audio-cinematography of hisNight on a Bare Mountain. Here his works are placed alongside twentieth and twenty-first century creations that will reveal just how forward-looking Mussorgsky’s music was. To end there’s the chillingly vivid realm of Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death – a series of narrative songs shot through with deception and darkness, the composer’s myriad textures and creeping lines portraying a humanity confronted with the pitiful inevitability of life’s end.

Matthias Pintscher's Ma'reh for Violin and Orchestra was written for violinist Julia Fischer. She joins the London Philharmonic Orchestra for the UK premiere on 24 September. Legendary egomaniacs Liszt and Scriabin viewed themselves in as heroic a vein as Prometheus himself – bringers of light and truth to a darkened world. Beethoven’s early ballet score based on Prometheus’s moulding of mankind contains so much urgency and character; he used parts of it in the finale of his Eroica Symphony. Scriabin’s indescribable audiovisual experiment Prometheus, Poem of Fire set out to drench the audience in sound and light – ‘an orgasmic blaze of sonic and visual colours’. Many scoff at Scriabin’s ambition. But here it lives: Vladimir Jurowski conducts as award-winning lighting designer Lucy Carter re-interprets Scriabin’s world of light and colour to match the extraordinary sonic breadth of Scriabin’s music.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

René Pape Kicks Off 2011-12 with Faust at Covent Garden (Sept 18) and Met (Nov 29)

"A mix of seductive lyricism and awesome power." -- Chicago Sun-Times on René Pape's Méphistophélès

Peerless bass René Pape – honored last season as a “Mastersinger” by the Metropolitan Opera for such triumphs as his universally acclaimed Boris Godunov – launches his 2011-12 season on September 18, when he stars as Méphistophélès in the all-star David McVicar production of Gounod’s Faust at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The Covent Garden Faust runs until October 10, with the September 28 performance to be beamed live into cinemas around the world. Already lauded in Europe as “unquestionably magnificent” (Guardian, UK), Pape’s latest Deutsche Grammophon solo album, titled Wagner Arias, will be released in the U.S. on October 4. And the German singer crosses the Atlantic to play the Devil again in another starry production of Faust, this time at the Metropolitan Opera, in the Des McAnuff staging that runs from November 29 to January 19.

Cellist Matt Haimovitz & Pianist Christopher O'Riley Release Shuffle.Play.Listen – Blurs the Boundaries Dividing Classical and Pop – on Sep 27

Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O'Riley have made one of the year's true event recordings with Shuffle.Play.Listen, which blurs the often artificial, outmoded boundaries that divide classical and popular music. The double-album CD set will be released Sept. 27 by Oxingale Records, teaming the groundbreaking, Grammy-nominated Haimovitz with O'Riley (host of the popular NPR and PBS weekly program "From the Top"). Shuffle.Play.Listen juxtaposes 20th-century classics by Stravinsky, Janácek, Martinu, Piazzolla and Bernard Hermann with art-rock songs – by the likes of Radiohead and Arcade Fire – and the jazz-rock of John McLaughlin in boldly imaginative cello-piano arrangements by O'Riley.

Whether playing the standard repertoire or contemporary works, both Haimovitz and O'Riley – in addition to being classical virtuosos of the highest order – have shown intrepid flair for finding kindred spirits in the rock world: Haimovitz with his blazing versions of classic-rock tracks by Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, and O'Riley with a series of albums featuring his subtle solo-piano arrangements of songs by Radiohead, Nick Drake and Elliott Smith. The CD package of Shuffle.Play.Listen includes an extensive interview with Haimovitz and O'Riley on the making of the album by New York Times best-selling author Dan Levitin (This Is Your Brain on Music).

In discussing the duo's expansive concept, Haimovitz told Levitin: "In concert, we go between Stravinsky and Radiohead, and then John McLaughlin and then some Bach and Ravel. It’s part of the same trajectory for us, and it fits seamlessly in a program. For me, a classical listener will be interested in Radiohead or any of the tunes we’re playing on the pop side. I think what we’re doing has a sincerity to it. We’re getting to the spirit of this music, while translating it in a very different way than the original. I think they would appreciate that there are some complex things going on contrapuntally, harmonically and lyrically. There’s a richness there."

O'Riley says he was inspired by the lyrical possibilities of Matt Haimovitz’s cello: “So I was drawn to bands that have really interesting and idiosyncratic vocal technique – but the two main characteristics that I really go for when I’m making an arrangement are texture and harmony. . . The complexity of the voices, and being able to transcribe that to a duo setting, but also a chord that just gets under your skin. That really is what gets me."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Leah Kardos: Feather Hammer - a journey into new worlds of what music can be

Classical music is so much more than dead white composers. Leah Kardos is living proof of what it not only can be, it moves toward what is may be in the years ahead.

The music is a mixture of styles and influences from Debussy to Tavener, Shostakovich to Bryars with pop elements from Bowie, Brian Eno and The Flaming Lips. From this rich tapestry we are given a sonic-scape that transports us into a distant world of colors, shapes and sounds like nothing I've heard before. At times the music is opaque and difficult to see clearly all that's happening, while at other times there is a clear lyric glide to the musical lines that float over the listener with utter beauty.

Feather Hammer begins with "The Waiting" and an ethereal strumming of the strings within the piano. Eventually, the effects of distant "steps" appear as we wait and wonder where we are, who is coming and what will happen. This isn't the music of Psycho where we dread the next scene, but rather a nice blend of calm anticipation mixed with interested excitement. "DFACE (Pratice this video)" follows with minimalist piano figures beneath elements of an instructional 'video' about aural music learning. As the speaker in the video continues, the music builds as we "learn" how music explodes in our minds and becomes part of our inner consciousness. The music becomes internal, reflexive.

Further down the playlist is "Dura Mater" which starts like a chant, but then quickly combines piano internals, piano lines, effects, and a pulse taking it from the ancient into the thoroughly modern. There are ghosts of the past, but overshadowed by the beat of a modern thought. The title refers to the outer most layer of the brain which is where this music hovers, never quite settling into the depths of understanding, but rather lurking just beneath the surface.

The next to last track is "Apology," a heart-aching reach into what we might want, might wish for, yet won't happen. For whatever reason, the moment for those wishes and dreams are gone. I'm sorry.

Feather Hammer ends with a reprise of "The Waiting" but not a rehash of the same thing. This is a fresh new track with echos of the first. Even when you play the first and last track side by side, there is a wonderful continuity and uniqueness to each track; they bookend the album delightfully well. It is as if we're waiting for Leah's music to come to life and yet waiting for the next album already.
The album Feather Hammer is available Sept 19th on Leah's Bandcamp page with a launch party The Wilmington in London on Nov 25th.

Mojca Erdmann's Mozart’s Garden out on Deutsche Grammophon October 4th

The soprano Opera News calls “a ray of sunlight” is launched by Deutsche Grammophon on October 4th

On October 4th, Deutsche Grammophon will release the debut album of young German lyric soprano Mojca Erdmann. Entitled Mozart’s Garden, Erdmann showcases her “spirited, impeccably tuned soprano” (Gramophone) in an album that sheds new light on Mozart’s universal genius. Erdmann is joined by worthy colleagues: Andrea Marcon and the period instrumentalists of La Cetra Baroque Orchestra Basel.

Mozart’s Garden is an album that avoids the well-worn paths of the standard repertory and introduces listeners to arias from the early-Classical and Classical periods combining a variety of Mozart’s best loved arias with cannily chosen works by his contemporaries such as J. C. Bach, Holzbauer, Paisiello.

“Mozart has accompanied me all my life,” Erdmann says. “For me there is nothing to beat singing Mozart. You know exactly how it should sound, but it’s insanely difficult to achieve this.”

No one listening to Mojca Erdmann’s singing would suspect that she finds Mozart difficult. Her astonishing combination of technical mastery, tonal beauty and consummate expression is ideally suited to it and impressive proof of what Mozart singing can be like today. She enchants her listeners not just with the remarkably flexible and bell-like tone of her voice itself but also with the unconcealed emotionality of her singing: “Mozart goes straight to my heart,” she admits. “That may sound a little dramatic, but that’s how it is. He touches something deep inside me, and sometimes the tears come unbidden to my eyes. It’s impossible to say why this should be so, but this magic may well be the secret of his success.”

WQXR Classical Comedy Contest Seeks Funny Musicians and Musical Comedians

Deadline for Submissions is October 10; Winner to Perform a Second Set During New York Comedy Festival

The tradition of mixing classical music and comedy is long and grand – really! From Victor Borge’s musical slapstick and Danny Kaye conducting orchestras to Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd singing Ride of the Valkyries and Adam Sandler’s “Opera Man” skits, comedians have found humor in a genre better known for its high-brow seriousness than its comic potential.

Classical 105.9FM WQXR and legendary comedy club Carolines On Broadway have come together for the WQXR CLASSICAL COMEDY CONTEST, a one-of-a-kind talent contest for performers of all shapes and sizes who combine classical music and humor. Think of Flight of the Conchords headlining Carnegie Hall, or The Lonely Island meets Yo-Yo Ma. This is a singular opportunity for all those comedians with classical music training, or classical musicians who tell a mean joke, or simply for comedians who find classical music funny, to show off their unique talents.

Finalists will perform at Carolines on Broadway on Tuesday, November 8 as part of the New York Comedy Festival. The winner will go on to perform a second set during New York Comedy Festival.

Complete details and a video invitation by Robert Klein may be found here: www.wqxr.org/comedy.

The deadline for entering the WQXR Classical Comedy Contest is Monday, October 10, 2011 at 11:59pm EST. Contestants may enter the contest by providing a five-minute video of their act, name, and a few other details at WQXR.org/comedy. WQXR staff will judge all the entries and announce the semi-finalists at noon on Monday, October 17. Semi-finalist videos will be posted on WQXR.org for comment by the general public and a group of finalists will be selected.

Stephen Costello’s 2011-12 Season Begins With Met Opening Night, in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena

“A prodigiously gifted singer whose voice makes an immediate impact.” — Associated Press

On Monday, September 26, just a few days before his 30th birthday, Stephen Costello will sing the role of Lord Percy at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in the company’s first production of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena (twelve performances through Feb 4). The performance – Costello’s second appearance in an opening night at the Met – begins an exciting new season for the fast-rising Philadelphia-born tenor described by Opera News as “a first-class talent.” Among the highlights of Costello’s 2011-12 season are his company role debut as Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and his debut at Los Angeles Opera, where he will sing Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème alongside his wife, soprano Ailyn Pérez, who portrays Mimì. He also returns for the second season running to the Vienna State Opera, where he will perform Nemorino in Donizetti’s L'elisir d'amore.

The Met’s Anna Bolena is a new production by David McVicar and features Anna Netrebko in the title role. The October 15 performance will be transmitted to movie theaters worldwide as part of the “Met: Live in HD” series. Costello starred with Netrebko in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet at the Salzburg Festival last summer, and he will sing two performances of La traviata with her at London’s Covent Garden this season (Jan 17 and 20). Costello made his role debut as Lord Percy last season at Dallas Opera, marking the completion of his performances of the leading tenor roles in Dallas’s trilogy of Donizetti’s Tudor operas.

Costello met his wife, Chicago-born Ailyn Pérez, at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts, and they often perform together as the lead romantic couple, including last season in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette with the Opera Company of Philadelphia. In addition to their performances at Los Angeles Opera, they will also appear together this season in Mascagni’s L'amico Fritz, with the Moscow Philharmonic, and in La traviata at Cincinnati Opera. Following a performance together in La bohème at Cincinnati Opera, the Enquirer wrote enthusiastically about “the young newlyweds,” calling Costello’s Rodolfo “wonderfully sung” and Pérez’s Mimi “radiant”. The reviewer added: “Costello's fresh, Italianate tenor was consistently a joy to hear. … Mimi and Rodolfo's duet, ‘O soave fanciulla’ was stunning for the singers' warmth of tone and effortless high notes.”

Other engagements during Stephen Costello’s next season include Leicester in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda in concert performances to be recorded at the Gasteig in Munich, and Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting Heard: Finding a NEW Audience

There are 100 million people on Twitter but many are just lurking

A recent article by Dick Costolo in Fortune magazine (linked above) talks about the vast number of people on twitter who are just lurking, listening in, but not actually tweeting. He also mentions topics that create a lot of chatter on Twitter and about promoted tweets. But ultimately, what this points out is how ineffective tweeting a marketing message can be.

Promoted Tweets ONLY go to people who already follow the business, so if you're buying promoted tweets, your preaching to the choir. If your tweets are just marketing-spiel and not being copied or re-tweeted by your fans (followers), again, you're just preaching to the choir. The only way to get beyond the people who already know and love you, is to engage in conversation OUTSIDE your current sphere of influence.


    If your an orchestra and you're bringing in Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (they're a popular item this year), are you going out to find the followers for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (#BBVD)?

    They have 17k followers who are obviously interested in what BBVD are doing. Take a look at what these people are talking about, beyond BBVD and you'll find a 2nd connection of interest. It's this 2nd connection of interest that can get your organization the topic of conversation by potential audience members.

Go out and find that new audience. There are more followers then you might imaging. Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber have over 12Million followers so it's possible!

Renée Fleming Unveils Lyric Opera of Chicago’s New Collaboration with Merit School of Music

Collaboration Benefits Teens, Offering New Opera and Musical Theater Solo Voice Major

Lyric Opera of Chicago Creative Consultant – and star soprano – Renée Fleming revealed details of a new collaboration between the world-renowned opera company and Chicago’s Merit School of Music in a media conference at the school on Monday, September 12. This collaboration – part of Lyric’s Renée Fleming Initiative – will benefit teenagers in a new Opera and Musical Theater solo voice major at Merit’s Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory. Other Merit students will also participate in Lyric offerings.

Joining Fleming were Lyric President and CEO Kenneth G. Pigott, who also serves on the Merit board; Lyric General Director Designate Anthony Freud; Ryan Opera Center Director Gianna Rolandi; and Merit President Duffie Adelson.

Since Lyric announced the Renée Fleming Initiative, plans have solidified for the long-term collaboration between Lyric Opera and the highly regarded community music school, which is based on the near-west side of Chicago, less than a mile from the Civic Opera House. Founded in 1979, Merit School of Music is regarded as a principal leader in providing extraordinary music education and life-changing experiences for Chicago-area children through music. Of the more than 6,000 students participating in Merit’s numerous programs, 375 have been selected by audition for Merit’s advanced program, the Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory.

“The collaboration between Lyric and Merit School of Music, one of the country’s best community music schools, creates an exciting and extraordinary environment for teens with vocal potential,” said Fleming. As part of the company’s Renée Fleming Initiative, “Lyric will assist Merit in enhancing its vocal program and will make Lyric Opera more accessible to all Merit students.” Fleming’s background is in music education as well as performance; both her parents were high-school vocal music teachers in public schools.

San Francisco Symphony Launches Online Interactive History Timeline

Media-rich site features video, archival audio and rarely seen photos and documents from the San Francisco Symphony’s first 100 years


In the second week of its celebratory 100th season, the San Francisco Symphony has launched a web-based interactive history timeline at sfsymphony.org/timeline, where Symphony and history fans can explore the Orchestra's major milestones and accomplishments. This media-rich site features video excerpts from the new documentary San Francisco Symphony at 100, premiering on KQED 9 Public TV Friday,September 16 at 9 pm and airing in repeat broadcasts throughout the month, archival audio recordings, short excerpts from the new book Music for a City, Music for the World by Larry Rothe, and rarely seen photos and documents from the San Francisco Symphony’s archives. Together these elements tell the story of the birth, growth and success of one of the country’s top orchestras and its place in San Francisco history and culture. The Symphony's first century also comes to life at the San Francisco Main Library in a historical exhibit on display through January 9, 2012. A free screening of the San Francisco Symphony at 100 documentary will be shown there on Wednesday, October 5 at 6 pm.

Entitled 100 Years with the San Francisco Symphony, the interactive timeline allows visitors to explore chronologically, or to select aspects of the orchestra’s history by color-coded themes titled Builders and Leaders, For The People, Education, A Place for Music, Pioneers and Innovators, New Music, Music Makers, On the Road, Recordings, and an Audio Tour. The timeline is packed with highlights of the Orchestra and the city’s history from 1848 to 2011, offering video, still images, and a generous sampling of music recordings that enable users to trace the evolving sound of the orchestra. The SFS history timeline is a Flash-based application that was designed and developed by Adobe Experience Design as an in-kind donation.

The San Francisco Symphony is a leader among orchestras in embracing new media. From its first broadcast in 1926 to the launch, in 2001, of the Orchestra’s own in-house audio and video recording label, and its nationally broadcast television series Keeping Score, the SFS has been at the forefront of harnessing media and technology as a way to make classical music accessible to all. In its Centennial Season in addition to the book, documentary and timeline, the SFS broadcast its opening gala on American Public Media radio and recorded the concert for later television broadcast on Great Performances. In addition, Bay Area Residents and visitors can experience SFS history first hand in two historical exhibits: in the Jewett Gallery at the San Francisco Main Library through January 9, 2012; and at the San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 3 where a photography exhibition titled The San Francisco Symphony on Tour will be on display from March 1 through May 31, 2012.

Bass-baritone Ildebrando d’Arcangelo debut album Mozart is now available

From the start of his career, D’Arcangelo has been the pre-eminent Mozart man in his vocal range. Hailed by critics for his magnificent voice and stage presence, Italian bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo has been called “a complete knock-out” by the Independent and “an ideal Figaro” by the Guardian. For his all-Italian Mozart album under Gianandrea Noseda, he delivers arias both famous and rare that brim with vocal distinction and interpretive panache. D’Arcangelo’s Don Giovanni (“Champagne Aria”) and uproarious Leporello (“Catalog Aria”) establish his wide emotional range. Excerpts of his Guglielmo in Così fan tutte and his notable Figaro highlight other facets of D’Arcangelo’s command as a Mozartian. His previous appearances on Deutsche Grammophon include a Figaro opposite Anna Netrebko’s Susanna in the new Salzburg Festival production (released by Deutsche Grammophon on CD and DVD) in 2007.

Aleksandra Kurzak and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo appear at the Los Angeles Opera in Cosí fan Tutte on September 18, 22, 24 & October 2, 5, 8. Kurzak appears as Gretel in the Metropolitan Opera’s performances of Hansel & Gretel on December 16, 21, 24, 26, 29, 30, 2011 & January 3, 7, 2012.

Solo Album by Aleksandra Kurzak Gioia! is available NOW

Decca releases the debut album of Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak. Entitled Gioia!, the album features arias by Rossini, Mozart, Donizetti, Strauss II, Puccini, Verdi, Bellini and Moniuszko.

Aleksandra Kurzak says that the title of her new recording Gioia! – in English, “joy” – was actually her agent’s spontaneous idea: “He said that he can see the joy on my face when I’m singing. I’ve also heard from fans that listening to me sing makes them smile, because they can tell how much I enjoy performing. On this album, there is also joy in the music and in the words. This notion of “gioia” comes up in many arias, like Violetta’s and Susanna’s, which I sing and love. And this is just what I’ve been feeling about this recording. The joy in the music and my enjoyment of singing go hand in hand.”

Gioia! is released on the heels of several stellar turns in opera houses around the world including Royal Opera House, La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera for which Kurzak has been unanimously praised. The New York Times has called Kurzak “alluring” and praised her ”luminous, impressively focused and agile coloratura voice,” while the Observer (London) dubbed her “a rising-star soprano with flashing eyes and cover-girl looks.” Reviewing the soprano’s recent performances in Lucia di Lammermoor in Seattle, Opera stated: “It was as if the heady days of the Bel Canto Revival, with Sills, Sutherland and Callas, were back again, eerie and unforgettable.” That Bel Canto gift is fully on display on Gioia! with the soprano performing bel canto favorites (Bellini’s I Puritani, Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia) as well as lyric arias from La Traviata and La Bohème. Kurzak even includes an aria in her native Polish from Moniuszko’s The Haunted Manor.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Virtuoso's appear in all forms of music, not just Classical

Many of my friends are not classical music enthusiasts. They are very supportive of my career choice (crazy as they find it) and go to great lengths to critique each of my compositions. Still, when it comes to attending a concert, many would prefer to take in a contemporary "commercial" ensemble rather than join me at the symphony.

When I speak to them about classical music and the virtuosity involved by many of the performers, my friends often speak about the other virtuoso's in the world --people playing music that isn't "classical" but still displaying unbelievable skills. The other day, the following video was played for me and my jaw dropped. The music, the performance, everything about this short piece by the Sleepy Banjo Boys is virtuosic!

Fortunately enough, their skills have not gone unnoticed. Here they are on David Letterman earlier this year.

Watch out Mark O'Connor, one is a mean fiddle player, and Chris Thile, the youngest is outstanding on the banjo!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cypress String Quartet The American Album: Music by Dvořák, Griffes, and Barber

The Cypress String Quartet (Cecily Ward, violin; Tom Stone, violin; Ethan Filner, viola; and Jennifer Kloetzel, cello) is pleased to announce the release of its latest recording, The American Album, featuring music inspired by America. The new album will be available from all major retailers on Tuesday, November 8, 2011, through the Cypress’ own label. The American Album includes Antonín Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96 (“American”), Charles Tomlinson Griffes’ Two Sketches Based on Indian Themes, and Samuel Barber’s String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 11.

With The American Album, the Cypress Quartet celebrates these composers’ efforts to define and develop an American sound. Dvořák wrote his String Quartet No. 12, nicknamed the “American,” in Spillville, Iowa in 1893 while visiting a small Czech farming community. Influenced by the music he encountered there, he incorporated Native American and African American themes into the work. Of his time in Spillville, Dvořák later said, “That’s when I was happy.”

Charles Tomlinson Griffes’ Two Sketches is based on two Native American songs. The members of the Cypress String Quartet have done a great deal of research on which songs Griffes used in his concert work. They spoke with an elder of the Chippewa tribe, and found that the first sketch is based on the “Chippewa Farewell Song,” and the second is part of a Hopi festival. Cypress cellist Jennifer Kloetzel explains further, “The farewell song may have been sung by the tribe’s warriors as they walked to war, and then sung by the tribe’s women and children as they walked back to the village from the battlefield.”

It is the second movement of Barber’s String Quartet with which the composer earned his greatest fame. The slow movement, marked Molto adagio, would become Adagio for Strings for orchestra after Barber expanded it for Arturo Toscanini to conduct. Aaron Copland’s belief that Adagio for Strings “comes straight from the heart” applies equally to the string quartet version. In his own words, Barber knew that the movement was “a knockout” as soon as he finished it.

Steve Reich's 75th Birthday Celebrated by the London Symphony Orchestra, Oct 12 & 15

The London Symphony Orchestra celebrates Steve Reich’s 75th Birthday, performing two concerts in October. A chamber group made up of LSO players performs a selection of Reich’s works at LSO St Luke’s on 12 October. The UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica concert includes Reich’s seminal Different Trains which won a Grammy Award for best Contemporary Classical Composition in 1990, Music for Pieces of Wood, Nagoya Marimbas, Violin Phase and Sextet.

UBS's support for the rich and diverse UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica series at LSO St Luke’s offers audiences the chance to experience world-class artists working at the cutting edge of contemporary style, crossing classical, jazz, folk, pop and world music.

On 15 October there will be a Performance Demonstration on Steve Reich’s Different Trains and Violin Phase by LSO violinists Roman Simovic and David Alberman. They will perform and discuss the inner workings of Reich’s Different Trains and Violin Phase with students from the Guildhall School as part of the Centre for Orchestra programme.

Wednesday 12 October 2011, 8pm, LSO St Luke’s
UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica Different Trains
Reich Different Trains
Reich Music for Pieces of Wood
Reich Nagoya Marimbas
Reich Violin Phase
Reich Sextet

Neil Percy percussion
David Jackson percussion
Sam Walton percussion
Antoine Bedewi percussion
John Alley piano
Roman Simovic violin
David Alberman violin

Tickets: £10 £15 £22

Saturday 15 October 2011, 2:30-5:30pm, Jerwood Hall,
LSO St Luke’s Centre for Orchestra:
Steve Reich Performance Demonstration

Tickets:£3 (advance booking only)

Roman Simovic violin
David Alberman violin
Students from the Guildhall

Saturday 15 October 2011, 7:30pm, Barbican Hall
Reich Three Movements
Reich The Four Sections
Reich Clapping Music
Reich The Desert Music

Kristjan Järvi conductor
Synergy Vocals
London Symphony Orchestra

Tickets: £10 £15 £19.50 £27 £35

Internationally Renowned Pianist Lang Lang Celebrates Franz Liszt's 200th Birthday with Philadelphia Orchestra

Over 100,000 people will have the unprecedented opportunity to experience internationally acclaimed pianist Lang Lang in a special event to be broadcast live to movie theaters across the country. Sony Classical is proud to announce that on Saturday, October 22, 2011, Lang Lang will celebrate Liszt’s 200th anniversary on his exact birthdate with a special, live concert featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra. A re-broadcast of the performance will take place on Monday, October 24th in select movie theaters. Event and ticketing information will be announced in September.

Lang Lang, will perform Liszt’s famed Piano Concerto No. 1 with additional selections from Liszt’s well-known repertoire in conjunction with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Charles Dutoit. The performance will also feature unique footage from this summer‘s iTunes Festival in London, including behind the scenes interviews, commentary and exclusive musical performances.

The Event will be offered in high definition across NCM Fathom’s Digital Broadcast Network (DBN) in hundreds of locations. The event will mark the first time that a live, classical music cinema broadcast will be headlined by a solo artist. Lang Lang, will perform Liszt’s famed Piano Concerto No. 1 with additional selections from Liszt’s well-known repertoire in conjunction with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Charles Dutoit. The performance will also feature unique footage from this summer‘s iTunes Festival in London, including behind the scenes interviews, commentary and exclusive musical performances.

Vittorio Grigolo's Second Release on Sony Classical Arriverderci - Available Sep 20

Makes West Coast Operatic Debut At LA Opera on November 6

Hailed by the Independent as “the most exciting young male talent in opera today,” Vittorio Grigolo follows up his Sony Classical debut album, The Italian Tenor, with his second release, Arrivederci - a fresh and personal take on Italy’s exceptional musical heritage, available September 20. Also on November 6, Vittorio will also make his west coast operatic debut at the LA Opera, starring as Roméo in Shakespeare’s classic, Roméo et Juliette.

While The Italian Tenor was devoted to a purely classical operatic repertoire, Vittorio’s new album, Arrivederci, combines his selection of beautiful arias with songs from the past century that are steeped in the Italian tradition. Recorded with Pier Giorgio Morandi conducting the Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Parma, the album is a deeply personal homage to the music with which the great tenors of the past have thrilled generations of music lovers for years.

Vittorio chose the title Arrivederci for a specific reason. As Vittorio explains, Arrivederci means ‘see you again soon,’ it holds the promise of a time when our eyes will meet again,” and it offers the opportunity to “revisit the values and colors of an Italian tradition which often get brushed aside by a faster pace of life.” Taking his precedent from the musical culture of his country at the turn of the 20th-century, Vittorio’s fashioning of arias together with songs gestures back to a time when opera and popular song were merging on both the opera stage and Italian streets.

The album picks up where The Italian Tenor left off, with incomparable arias such as Verdi’s “La donna è mobile” (Rigoletto), Cilea’s “Il lamento di Federico” (L’arlesiana) and Giordano’s “Amor ti vieta” (Fedora), before moving on to greatly loved Italian songs that tenors such as Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli and Mario Lanza introduced to a 20th-century audience.

On November 6, Vittorio will make his West Coast operatic debut at the LA Opera in Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy of star crossed lovers, Roméo et Juliette, starring as Roméo, with the enchanting Nino Machaidze returning as Juliette. Plácido Domingo conducts one of LA Opera’s landmark productions, directed by Ian Judge. As Frère Laurent, the magnificent bass, Vitalij Kowaljow returns for his first LA Opera appearance since his performances as Wotan in the Ring cycle. Baritone Vladimir Chernov, a Company favorite, returns as Count Capulet. Performance dates are November 6, 9, 12, 17, 20 and 26.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: The Music of Nicholas Vasallo

There is a current trend in thinking for some modern composers where live musicians are simply not capable of performing the music intricacy with the precision composers are putting into their music. Electro-acoustic music takes samples and distorts them in ways which are simply not possible during live performances. New Complexity provides music for live performers, but includes too much information for an actual performer to play live, so choices have to be made for performance.  Nicholas Vasallo take a new direction, using machines to play organic instruments.  Although the reasoning is similar to electro-acoustic music, the results are remarkably different. With electro-acoustic the sound can become less organic and highly effected, unnatural and at times (for me) video game-ish.  Nick's music is alive and vibrant with the organic instrument.

The music in let the machines do it for us still has the rich sound because it's created by organic instruments.  On this album the instrument is a piano or, more accurately, a modern-era player piano – the disklavier. The precision of the notes as evidenced in the first short piece, "Evanescent Revolutions I," is amazing. It takes a moment to adjust to the onslaught of sound, wholly organic and yet so complex our brains need time to comprehend what we're hearing.

Ligeti was a pioneer in using organic instruments in a way to create a sonic sound-scape. In Atmosphères Ligeti breaks the strings into individual instruments, rather than having the musicians play as a section. Add micro-tonality and the effect is not specific notes, but rather a blurred sonic experience --remarkable. Many years later, Ligeti turned to shifts in meter and rapid repetitive figures to create a similar effect with his piano etudes. Incidentally, Vasallo says these very etudes were influential in his work.

Returning to Nick's music, while the effect of music in "Evanescent Revolutions I-III" is complex, there is a sense of the organic the machines do not seem to capture. Whether it is because the music is so precise, or perhaps the subtle inflection differences a human hand can impress upon the keys that a machine doesn't capture, there is something about the music that still seems mechanical. With midi technology a composer can control the intensity a key has been played from 0 to 127. The human hand won't play two notes together with the same intensity so it is possible to program midi music commands to try and capture this nuance.  The disklavier takes this midi commands and translates them into manipulating the hammers on the piano to play the notes.  Reading through Nick's notes on his music, it appears the music was created mathematically and programmed into the disklavier. Perhaps if the lines had been written down, played into a midi recorder capturing that sense of human imperfection and THEN played by the disklavier it would have seemed less mechanical.  The music has a sense of being programmed, an exactness that eventually equates to a sameness that fails to capture the nuance which humans are capable or producing, whether by accident or intent.

That said, there are places where the music succeeds extremely well. "Shades of December" and "The Crown Canon Variations" are ethereal and beautiful. Both pieces capture of sense of perpetual movement, while creating a sense of longing. The opening to "Shades of December" starts with brief notes where we're allowed to hear the lingering echo of sound and the overtones even after the sounded "note" has stopped, rather like the effect of the cold on one's cheeks after they've come in from outside. With "The Crown Canon Variations" it starts like a four part invention and yet becomes something only possible with 4 hands (or a disklavier), giving the canon new depth and character. Around 4 mins into the piece the music combines the sustain in the lower register while the upper canon completes creating an eerie anticipation, which is nicely followed by a return to the "invention" of the opening only much slower. Both pieces are remarkable, inventive and capture something super-musical, beyond the human performer.

While at times stunning and perhaps even a bit overwhelming (in a good way), the overall effect of the music left me wanting, longing for something that had more of a human touch to it. I think Nick is on to something new and exciting in terms of music possibilities. Heading in this direction look for great things to come. I'm just not sure he's there yet.

New CD by Leah Kardos – Feather Hammer available online Sept 19

Feather Hammer is a collection of short pieces that explore the composerʼs relationship with the piano, her first instrument, as a source of familiarity, expressing warmth, pain, repetitive stress injuries, muscle memory, and a way to communicate with the outside world. The music crosses genre boundaries between contemporary classical, folktronica and ambient styles, and has been constructed from acoustic and prepared piano sounds and location recordings, making special use of the unique strummed, plucked, ambient and percussive tones of the instrument.

Leah Kardos is an Australian composer and producer working in Bedford, England. Her past projects include film scores, chamber work commissions, collaborations with bands and a trip-hop tribute to David Bowie. Feather Hammer is the first album project that she has released under her own name as the sole composer, performer and producer. The album bears the marks of Leahʼs diverse influences; from the tiny, intimate, percussive beauty of Bjorkʼs Vespertine to the prepared piano works of John Cage, via the sampling and cut-up work of Amon Tobin, the cyclic minimalism of Glass and Riley, the disjointed grooves of Graham Fitkin and the expansive ambient textures of Brian Eno.

DIY in every aspect of its creation, Feather Hammer will be released online via Bandcamp (http://music.leahkardos.com) on the 19th of September 2011. Leah will be promoting the launch with a live radio spot on Resonance104.4fm on Friday the 16th of September from 8 - 9pm, where she will talk about her creative practice and influences, play tracks from the album and share the stories behind their creation. A live premiere of the work has been developed in collaboration with video artist Matthew Greasley and will be staged on the 25th of November 2011 at The Wilmington Arms in London; the Ligeti Quartet and improviser and drone artist Sam Grinsell will present support performances.

Tickets Go On Sale for 2011 Boston Pops Holiday Season Monday, September 12

Tickets will go on sale for the Boston Pops Holiday Series on Monday, September 12. Continuing one of Boston’s most beloved traditions, Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops open the 2011 series on Wednesday, December 7, and the 37 concert series will run until Saturday, December 24. A complete Holiday Pops concert schedule appears at the end of this release. Holiday Pops tickets, ranging in price from $28-$127, depending on date and time, will go on sale at 8 a.m. on Monday, September 12, online at bostonpops.org. Starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, September 12, tickets may be purchased by phone at SymphonyCharge at 617-266-1200 or 888-266-1200, and through the Symphony Hall Box Office, located at 301 Massachusetts Avenue.

This year’s holiday series runs December 7-24 and includes 37 pre-Christmas evening and matinee concerts. The season also includes five special kids’ matinee concerts on Saturday, December 10 (11 a.m.); Sunday, December 11 (11 a.m.); Saturday, December 17 (11 a.m.); Sunday, December 18 (11 a.m.), and Saturday, December 24 (11 a.m.). These family concerts include a children’s sing-along, and parents can bring cameras to take photos of their children with Santa after the concert. Table seats will include a kid-friendly menu, along with special holiday treats. The Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation is the official sponsor of the Kids Matinees.

Performing Arts Against AIDS Strikes Up the New Season with “Up Our Alley 13” on September 19

Classical music and performing arts industry professionals will descend on Greenwich Village’s hallowed Bowlmor Lanes on Monday, September 19, for what promises to be an evening of great fun, embarrassment, and goodwill for Up Our Alley 13: Classical Action's Annual Benefit Bowling Bonanza. The event attracts scores of worker-bees from New York City’s music professionals, including arts presenters, service organizations, and management and publicity firms, who will try to keep their minds uncharacteristically out of the gutter and help Classical Action raise funds to fight AIDS and other critical illnesses. Since its inception in 1999, Up Our Alley has raised more than $1.2 million dollars for Classical Action and its parent organization, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

In the weeks leading up to the event, participants have worked hard to persuade friends, family, and non-participating colleagues to sponsor their once-a-year attempts at physical activity – all in the spirit of putting the fun in fundraising towards a cause whose need unfortunately shows no signs of abating.

Many of the key players from New York’s classical music community will participate in Up Our Alley 13: Classical Action’s Thirteen Annual Benefit Bowling Bonanza. As in past seasons, the event will feature a wide range of bowling skills (from unfortunate to abysmal) from teams representing such organizations as Opera News, IMG Artists, Lincoln Center, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and last year’s recipient of “Best Team Costumes,” 21C Media Group; competing in their attempts not to reveal the true extent of their bowling inadequacies, the teams will unite in raising as much money as they can for Classical Action.