. Interchanging Idioms: October 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Lincoln Trio: On New Music and Performance

The trio talks to Chris McGovern backstage at Le Poisson Rouge before their concert

Chicago-based ensemble The Lincoln Trio have invited me to come hear them at Le Poisson Rouge in NY--And I sadly had to leave early to get a train back to CT (long story; it's always trains, cabs, directions and timeline issues with me). What I did manage to hear was such a great program of works (some brand new) by Lera Auerbach, Stacy Garrop and Joan Tower among others, and there was absolutely nothing regrettable about having a chance to hear any of that, particularly the jarring modernism of the Stacy Garrop piece Seven (I have to stress that when I hear new music, I'm usually watching it played by people dressed in street clothes or the color black; these people had gowns and a nice suit on, and it has to be the first time I've seen a lady in a gown so gorgeous as Marta Aznavoorian's while she was playing inside the piano).

Sitting down with them before the show backstage, the trio discussed the difference between new music and the classics. "Well, the most obvious that there's no recording of the new piece, so you have no preconceived idea of what it should sound like--a completely clean slate", explains Aznavoorian. "That can work two ways, it can be a fabulous opportunity to totally explore the piece and your own interpretation, just have fun, get dirty and get into it. On the other hand, there's a lot of benefits to listening to a recording--you already have a shape of what the piece sounds like, how difficult it is, so, it could really work both ways. I personally enjoy the freedom of new music, however I love the freedom of expression in all the music, and we try to incorporate both in all of our performances."

"Contemporary music has its challenges", added violinist Desiree Ruhstrat. "The thing with doing a Haydn, Beethoven or a Brahms is you've done it so many times that you can try and fool around with something new in performance, and maybe not even talking about doing it but just making it happen...For the time being, with newer pieces you know the exact science of fitting a puzzle together because we're not quite comfortable enough with it that if somebody took that extra beat, that it would all fall together very naturally. A lot of times, in one of our pieces in particular--Laura Schwendinger purposefully has what we call "the floating beat" where there is no pulse, or we're all having a pulse at a different time, so the challenge is for the contemporary music to be able to feel as "at home" as you do when you play Haydn or Beethoven. One day you just decide to take a faster tempo because you're in the mood, and, you can be more spontaneous. I think the challenge of being able to create, especially when we have the opportunity to work with the composer, to recreate what that composer wanted, or even work with the composer and [ask] 'What do you think about this?', where he or she might have intended something else happening, that when you hear it for the first time, that they actually rethink. To have that opportunity is a really great thing."

On playing new music, cellist David Cunliffe adds "We are all so reliant on each other for these little cues, these little gestures (Marta mentions "A head nod!"), and it can be a sort of domino effect--Fortunately that doesn't happen very much!"

On programming old and new music together, Desiree gives an interesting perspective: "I think it depends on the audience we're playing for. Programming is so important, and you know what will work, and what will get a certain demographic excited about music--I think it's more, not so much with the favorite composers but being able to program pieces that wherever we're going that we think that the people will enjoy it, and one of our missions has always been that amongst the Brahms and the Beethoven that we have always programmed one contemporary piece, ever since our inception. That's kind of a fun thing to do--Tchaikovsky, and then say 'We're going to play Higdon', and see this look of 'ugh!'--And then at the end, everyone's so excited--'Oh, I had no idea I would enjoy it so much! and how much they loved it!"

Friday, October 28, 2011

ACO Underwood New Music Readings & Commission EarShot Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Readings

Deadline is Dec 2nd

EarShot Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
New Music Readings
Feb. 22-24, 2012, Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY
EarShot, the National Composition Discovery Network and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra announce their second annual New Music Readings, a professional development program for emerging composers. BPO associate conductor Matthew Kraemer directs, with mentor composers Margaret Brouwer, Michael Gandolfi, and Derek Bermel. Submission deadline extended: Dec. 2, 2011.

For more information

The MET: Live in HD presents Siegfried with Jay Hunter Morris in the 3rd Installment of the Ring Cycle

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5 at 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT

The third installment of Robert Lepage’s visually stunning new staging of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen follows the adventures of opera’s ultimate hero, a valiant warrior who literally does not know the meaning of the word “fear.” Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi leads an all-star cast featuring Jay Hunter Morris in his first Met performances of the title role, one of the most challenging in the entire operatic canon. Deborah Voigt returns as the warrior maiden Brünnhilde, Bryn Terfel is the mysterious Wanderer, Patricia Bardon is the ancient earth goddess Erda, and Gerhard Siegel and Eric Owens are the nefarious brothers Mime and Alberich.

Hilary Hahn announces online contest to select the 27th encore for her "In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores"

At age 31--32 on November 27--Hahn has already made a lasting impact on the violin repertoire, premiering a concerto by Jennifer Higdon in addition to another by Edgar Meyer and championing both well- and lesser- known works in performance and recording. This season, Hahn delves deeper into the world of contemporary classical music, commissioning over two dozen composers to write short-form pieces for acoustic violin and piano. She will tour these new works over the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons and then record them. The project is called In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores.

The 26 commissioned composers represent a large range of contemporary music being written today. Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Lera Auerbach, Richard Barrett, Mason Bates, Tina Davidson, David Del Tredici, Avner Dorman, Søren Nils Eichberg, Christos Hatzis, Jennifer Higdon, James Newton Howard, Bun-Ching Lam, David Lang, Edgar Meyer, Paul Moravec, Nico Muhly, Michiru Oshima, Krzysztof Penderecki, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Max Richter, Somei Satoh, Elliott Sharp, Valentin Silvestrov, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Gillian Whitehead, and Du Yun have all written new encore pieces for Hahn.

The final, 27th composer will be selected by Hahn from blind submissions on a website. Anyone from anywhere can submit a potential 27th encore. Hahn's goal is to give equal opportunity for participation, and to help create a positive environment in which everyone who is interested in expressing themselves musically can be heard. One Grand Prize winner will be named the 27th composer for In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores. The Grand Prize winning piece will be programmed on Hahn’s 2012-13 recital program with 13 other previously commissioned works for the project; toured around the world; and recorded for release in the 2013-14 concert season. Honorable Mentions (not to exceed ten in number) will also be awarded to the pieces that Hahn finds most compelling besides the Grand Prize winner. These Honorable Mentions will be listed on HilaryHahn.com. For every submission received, $2 will be donated to the music programs of Dramatic Need.

Metropolitan Opera Guild Salutes Marilyn Horne at 77th Annual Luncheon at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria

On Monday, October 31, the Metropolitan Opera Guild pays tribute to the legendary American mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, one of the greatest singers of our time, at the Guild’s 77th annual luncheon, a perennial highlight of the opera season. “Jackie! Celebrating Marilyn Horne” will feature tributes from her colleagues; live and prerecorded performances, including a musical tribute by acclaimed mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe; and other surprises. Among the 800 guests expected to attend are a bevy of stars and fans of opera, as well as an array of New York’s society, business and civic leaders. Current Met stars Bryn Terfel and Deborah Voigt will be on hand, along with many Met stars of the past, including Martina Arroyo, Richard Bonynge, Roberta Peters, Renata Scotto, and Frederica von Stade. Also attending will be Miss Horne’s friends, such as stage and screen actress Tyne Daly (who recently starred to great acclaim in a revival of Terrence McNally’s play Master Class), TV and stage actress Florence Henderson, and famed soprano Marni Nixon (who provided the film singing voices for Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, and Natalie Wood). Proceeds from the event will benefit the Guild’s education programs in New York City and throughout the country.

Widely known by her nickname Jackie, Marilyn Horne is one of the giant figures of American opera, beloved by the public and critics alike for her incandescent artistry and ebullient personality. While giving definitive performances of some of the most important characters in the mezzo-soprano repertory, Horne also revived interest in many neglected Baroque and bel canto works, including now-revered masterpieces by Handel, Bellini, and Rossini. Her television appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Carol Burnett Show, and The Odd Couple (where she played Jackie, a secretary who secretly pined to be an opera diva) were for many Americans their first exposure to opera. She is also an impassioned advocate for the art-song recital, which she promotes through her Marilyn Horne Foundation, as well as with extensive teaching and mentoring.

Violinist Mikhail Simonyan is joined by Kristjan Järvi and the Absolute Ensemble for an Evening of Music

The young violinist celebrates the release of his Deutsche Grammophon debut recording, Two Souls, with Järvi and the London Symphony Orchestra

Following recital and concerts around the world, violinist Mikhail Simonyan will release his Deutsche Grammophon debut recording, Two Souls, on November 1 in the United States. To mark the occasion Simonyan will present a 7:30pm concert at New York’s renowned (le) Poisson Rouge featuring an eclectic program of works by Ysaÿe, Tchaikovsky, and Milstein. For an evening of energetic and undoubtedly exciting music making, Simonyan will be joined by his good friend maestro Kristjan Järvi (who leads the London Symphony Orchestra on Simonyan’s new album) and Järvi’s Absolute Ensemble in re-imagined settings of music inspired by folk influences, Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, and more, written by ensemble member Gene Pritsker.

Still in his twenties, Mikhail Simonyan is already recognized as one of the most celebrated talents of his generation. The New York Times has praised his, “breadth, lyricism and fleet technique,” and reported that “Mr. Simonyan play[s] as if every note counted.” The 2010-11 season saw his recital debuts at the Verbier, Aspen and Ravinia Festivals, a debut with the NHK Symphony Orchestra performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto under Sir Neville Marriner, a debut with the Dresden Philharmonic and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, and debuts with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Aarhus Symphony Orchestra and Iceland Symphony Orchestra. In October, he filled in last minute for Midori to make his Baltimore Symphony debut to rave reviews.

Absolute Ensemble is conductor Kristjan Järvi’s celebrated chamber band from New York City. Founded in 1993 when Järvi was a piano student at Manhattan School of Music, Järvi’s uncanny prescience for the future of classical music led him to create a band so unique that the American Record Guide claims it “may well be the most alluring and virtuosic… of today’s new music groups.” An ebullient mix of jazz, classical and world music played with virtuosic flair, Järvi’s group of musical omnivores creates each project from start to finish, restoring the composer/arranger/performer synthesis and flavoring each concert with spontaneity and musical charisma. Absolute tours the globe extensively while maintaining its New York presence and a European base at Musikfest, Bremen. Absolute Ensemble has released eleven albums and has been awarded the German Record Critics Prize, a Grammy nomination and the Deutsche Bank Prize for Outstanding Artistic Achievement.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

American Contemporary Music Ensemble: A Night of New Classical at Joe's Pub

ACME in Concert, Joe's Pub, NYC, October 25, 2011

Other than my highly-expensive coke and chocolate brownie (Thanks, Joe's Pub food policy), the evening for the chamber group American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) left me feeling much more assured and happy I was there to capture it. It was quite a crisp, vital program in the intimate setting of Joe's Pub, a place that one associates more with indie rock, but these days there's hardly a chasm between the two anyway.

The ensemble, featuring the compelling violist Nadia Sirota and, on a few works pianist Timo Andres (Christian Carey's work and a great solo-piano piece by David Smooke called Requests), blazed through 11 relatively short pieces for varied instruments by 11 composers--9 of which that were chosen from over 200 that applied for the event--Carey and Hayes Biggs were judges and also had pieces on the program.

The highlights of this program for me were: a)The world premiere of Christian Carey's Wily Overture, taking on a unusually orchestral feel with the addition of a snare drum.

b) The NY premiere of Dale Trumbore's piece for string quartet How It Will Go, which the composer says she enjoys the ever-changing sound of performance from one ensemble to the next (I should have asked her if ACME played it better than the Kronos Quartet).

c) One noticeable moment during the quartet piece Refuge by Sam Nichols was watching how gifted the string players are when it is seen how seemingly spontaneous the performances are with cues and phrase changes, as if it could all unravel in a flash if someone plays a missed note or cue.

d) James Stephenson's Oracle Night is a haunting piece for viola and percussion made ever-so effectively creepy by Sirota's furious spiccato and the use of big and small claves and varied-size wood-blocks by percussionist Jonathan Singer.

e) James Holt's quartet Nostos-Algea was the closer and a really nice surprise for me. I've only known him as a podcaster until now. ;)

Co-presented by the great new music blog Sequenza21 and Manhattan New Music Project (MNMP; a group that specializes in aiding new music composers and music education), The ACME concert is leaving me hoping there will be many more of its kind.

Deborah Voigt Makes Brünnhilde Debut This Week in Met’s New Production of Wagner’s Siegfried

Deborah Voigt continues the journey of her first complete cycle of Wagner’s monumental Der Ring des Nibelungen with her role debut this week as Brünnhilde in Siegfried. The three fall performances (Oct 27, Nov 1, Nov 5) of this, the third opera in the Ring tetralogy, precede Voigt’s second Brünnhilde debut of the season, when the soprano portrays the character in Götterdämmerung (Jan 27 – Feb 11), the climactic conclusion to Wagner’s incomparable epic. The four Ring operas return to the Met in April for three complete cycles (April 7 – May 12), with Voigt’s Brünnhilde taking center stage in a cast of today’s most acclaimed Wagnerians, including Bryn Terfel as Wotan. The Met’s new productions of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung – directed, like their predecessors, by Robert Lepage – will also be transmitted to movie theaters worldwide as part of the Met’s popular Live in HD series on November 5 and February 11, respectively.

Voigt recorded Brünnhilde’s music in Siegfried on an album of Wagner duets with tenor Plácido Domingo that was released in 2000 by EMI Classics. Peter Branscombe sets the scene in his notes for the album:

“The closing scene of Siegfried, the third part of Der Ring des Nibelungen, is one of Wagner’s most ecstatic and beautiful love scenes. At the end of the previous music drama [Die Walküre] Wotan’s favorite daughter Brünnhilde has been sentenced to sleep, surrounded by magic fire, until a hero who has never known fear shall come and awaken her to human love.”

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.

St. Louis Symphony's Spooky Halloween Weekend

Powell Hall is truly THE place to be Halloween weekend for ghouls and goblins of all ages. The St. Louis Symphony is pleased to present two special and spooky programs: The Phantom of the Opera and Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead.

Powell Hall will return to its roots as a movie house for The Phantom of the Opera, Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29. The original silent film from 1925 will be shown and St. Louis Symphony musicians will provide a live score that’s sure to leave everyone on the edge of their seats.

Then on Sunday, October 30, audiences will delight in The Composer is Dead, the first Family Concert of the 2011-2012 season. Children’s author Lemony Snicket wrote the text and St. Louis Symphony musicians play a central role in this suspenseful whodunit designed to introduce children to the orchestra and its instruments. Renowned St. Louis storyteller Bobby Norfolk will narrate this special presentation. Costumes are encouraged!

Tickets for all three Halloween weekend concerts still remain and can be purchased by visiting www.stlsymphony.org or by calling 314-534-1700.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The San Francisco Symphony Launches American Orchestra Forum Sunday October 23, 2011

First of three live events presented as part of the San Francisco Symphony’s Centennial Season

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) will host the first event in its new American Orchestra Forum series this Sunday with a public forum titled “Talking About Community” from 2PM to 5PM at Davies Symphony Hall. Full schedule follows.

This event is the first of three such public discussions hosted by the San Francisco Symphony that instigate 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) and New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert are the keynote speakers for two future free events during the season. The San Francisco Symphony has also launched an American Orchestra Forum website at http://www.symphonyforum.org, as a hub for the ongoing conversation. 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.

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.

"First Lady of Broadway" Patti Lupone Joins Colorado Symphony in Broadway Celebration

Tony Award-winner Patti LuPone joins Colorado Symphony for one-night-only tribute to LuPone's personal "Best of Broadway"

"First Lady of Broadway" Patti LuPone joins the Colorado Symphony, led by resident conductor Scott O'Neil, for an evening showcasing her favorite selections from "the Broadway that raised her" on Saturday, October 29 at Denver's Boettcher Concert Hall. LuPone, whose unforgettable performances on the New Yorkmusical stage include Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Rosamund in The Robber Bridegroom, and the title role in Evita, personally selected the songs for her Colorado Symphony appearance. Concertgoers can look forward to classics such as "I’m In Love With A Wonderful Guy" from South Pacific, "Don't Rain On My Parade" from Funny Girl, "Easy To Be Hard" from Hair, "As Long As He Needs Me" from the musical film Oliver!, "Everything’s Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy, and much more. A true theatrical powerhouse and "musical cult goddess," LuPone is widely acclaimed as an award-winning actress and celebrated recording artist. She is also the author of the New York Times best-selling autobiography, Patti LuPone: A Memoir. Tickets for this one-night-only concert are now on sale.

LuPone swept the 2008 theatre awards winning the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress in a Musical and the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance for her performance as Rose in the critically-acclaimed Broadway production of Gypsy. Most recently, she starred on Broadway in the musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and earlier this spring, she appeared as Joanne in the New York Philharmonic’s concert production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company.

LuPone also made her debut with New York City Ballet in their new production of Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins. She is also touring in a new concert with her Evita co-star Mandy Patinkin titled An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. Her most recent CD is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches, a digitally remastered recording from soundboard tapes of her now-legendary 1980 nightclub act, which she performed during her Broadway run in Evita.

7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 29
Remaining tickets for this one-night-only performance currently start at $46.

Drew Baker's new recording Stress Position

Drew Baker displays an array of works that are all very stark in nature but vary in intensity

The works on Drew Baker's New Focus recording Stress Position are puzzling to analyze. As a listener of new music, it is compelling to hear, but to put in any kind of verbal language after only experiencing it a few times is like trying to describe how you feel after your first taste of a new cuisine. What is very apparent on this recording is that the works are a continuation of the ever-ongoing adventure of examining different ways of performing piano (in this case its amplification), Baker's use of piano resonance and visceral sound in general, done successfully by pianist Marilyn Nonken and (on the piece Gaeta) the percussionists Sean Connors and Peter Martin.

Gaeta, scored for Water Percussion and 2 Pianos (the second piano part provided by the composer), is a piece that interchanges the shrill, tinny sound of the percussion with the sonic booms of the low-end of 2 keyboards.

The first chord of Asa Nisi Masa (the first of many low-end chord clusters) makes one jump out of their skin after a 25-second silent introduction, and these chord clusters are played many times, some of them sustained, interspersed with pauses, then are gradually replaced by a higher-end melody halfway through.

The two pieces that Nonken plays without amplification are Gray, a slow, short piece written for Baker's nephew, and National Anthem, which to unbeknownst ears is actually a deconstructed, stripped-of-its-patriotism version of The Star-Spangled Banner played on solo piano, leaving it sounding almost like a eulogy for the country.

The highlight of the disc is the title piece Stress Position, which Nonken plays with both arms extended to extreme ends of the keyboard all though the piece while the hands stretch to accommodate six pitches. The consistency and intensity of this piece makes one wonder what an orchestral version would sound like.

Stress Position is a compelling display of pianistic delicateness, force and volume, and is a good indication of what can be imagined for piano and/or percussion. I hope to hear more from both composer and pianist.

Friday, October 21, 2011

WQXR’s Movies on the Radio to Broadcast World Premiere Of John Williams’ Soundtrack for “War Horse”

Saturday, October 22 at 9pm on WQXR 105.9 FM in New York and www.wqxr.org

On Saturday, October 22 at 9pm, MOVIES ON THE RADIO – WQXR’s Saturday evening program devoted to film music, produced and hosted by David Garland – will present the exclusive premiere of the five-time Academy Award-winning composer’s soundtrack for the forthcoming Spielberg film, War Horse. Slated to open Christmas Day 2011, War Horse – based on Nick Stafford’s best-selling novel and now a hit Broadway play – tells the inspiring story of a brave young man and his bond with an extraordinary horse, set against the backdrop – and on the frontlines of – World War I. Listeners will hear tones of beauty and quiet majesty in the score, inspired by the dramatic countryside of the British landscape.

“I’ve always been impressed by the range of John Williams’ mastery,” said Garland. “From comedies to thrillers, sci-fi epics to love stories, he always finds the most expressive way to enhance a film with his music. War Horse may be one of his most soulful scores.”

Additionally, Garland will present highlights from another upcoming Spielberg/Williams collaboration, The Adventures of Tintin, as well as familiar pieces from their previous films.

MOVIES ON THE RADIO airs live on Saturdays at 9pm on Classical 105.9 FM WQXR in New York. It will be available for both live and subsequent on-demand listening at http://www.wqxr.org/#/programs/movies/ and via the WQXR mobile app, available in the iTunes Store.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Get Noticed if you really want to Follow the Money in Classical Music

Good classical music isn't about money, but it's still important to understand where money comes from in the the classical music world in order to continue to do what we love - create music.

Concert goers like to think their tickets are the sole funding for an orchestra, and in an ideal world that would be true. However, most orchestras get somewhere between 30-50% of their budgets from actual ticket sales. So, next time you're in a concert (even a sold out one), look around and image that at least twice as many people would need to be seeing this performance for it to really balance the books. Recently there were discussions about how Opera is for the Rich, and yet ticket prices for the opera tend to me considerably less than for those of say Lady Gaga or Cold Play. Opera companies, like orchestras, depend in large part on donations and corporate sponsors.  Even commercial/pop artists make more money from their music sales than they do from concert appearances. Lady Gaga did a five city CD launch for her last album and broke all kinds of records in terms of sales.  Why? Because of the publicity machine that got her name out there.

For classical musicians the same is true, get noticed!  CD's are a nice way to augment their income, but Hilary Hahn and Joshua Bell need to continue a rigorous performance schedule in order to both stay in demand and continue to warrant their performance fees. Composers, rather the last part of this triad of classical artists, make money from commissions, but commissions aren't forthcoming if their name isn't in the forefront of people's consciousness (both for audience and artists).

Classical musicians need to remain focused on where they money really comes from. If an orchestra gets too focused on ticket sales, the drive for donors may slip and their budget could suffer as a result. What donors want to see if full houses. So, often times making a commitment to the community is better than selling tickets when it comes to getting donations. When a performing artist decides to take a break from performing to work on technique (or just relax), they need to be aware the effect the lack of their appearance in the news has on their earning potential. Composers need to understand getting pieces played, even if there is no money involved, can lead to more performances and eventually commissions.

There are some great potential success stories out there:

  • The Colorado Symphony SOLD OUT their 1st Educational performance this season. What's great about this is it shows Colorado Symphonies commitment to children and music education. Unfortunately, the press decided to focus on other issues and this opportunity to get the world out about what the Colorado Symphony really means to the community was lost. Hopefully Colorado Symphony can leverage this SOLD OUT concert to show what they really mean to the people of Colorado.

  • The Detroit Symphony has been struggling. But in an effort to show their commitment to the community they started selling $20 tickets to local residence. The key here is not the money they'll make from ticket sales, but the good will they will engender in their community. When it comes time for them to call on the community for support, the community will be there!
  • Nicola Benedetti took some time to refocus and hone her skills. When she returned to an active performances she did so with both a strong album release AND an exhausting schedule. It didn't take long before she was back in the ranks of top violinists. However, it was not just her talent and skill, but her appearance in the news and on stage that ranks her about the best.
  • Michael Daugherty has a Grammy, and several nominations. He isn't a film composer, so how it is he gets recognized by such a prestigious award? He gets played. Jennifer Higdon and Steve Reich recently won Pulitzer Prizes. Yet they continue to compose, get pieces performed and are constantly in the news with one or another new piece. They aren't resting on their laurels, but continually putting it out there to stay in the game.

The point for classical music artists to understand is the real money isn't always in the direct sale of materials, but in the publicity surrounding the event.  Get your name out there.  It may mean doing some performance that don't provide much in the way of income.  But if you keep at it, eventually the publicity will pay off.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Anne Akiko Meyers releases The Bach "Air" Album this February

The world-class violinist speaks about working on the new recording and shares details about other things, including her valuable Strad Molitor

By Chris McGovern

Scheduled to be released on February 13, 2012 (Just in time for that Valentine's Day gift, music lovers) is Anne's new CD The Bach 'Air' Album, a CD that will feature the Bach Violin Concertos, including the Double Violin Concerto where Anne will be performing both solo parts; one of them on the famous 1697 Strad Molitor that she acquired recently (More about this later), and the 2nd one on her 1730 Strad. Anne continues to perform numerous classics on the concert circuit as well as premiering new works by David Baker, Mason Bates, Jennifer Higdon, Arvo Part, Somei Satoh, and John Corligliano. She's also collaborated with artists as diverse as Ryuichi Sakamoto and Michael Bolton.

CM: Anne, the forthcoming Bach CD looks very promising! You recorded both solos on the Concerto for 2 violins, usually that's a duet. Was this difficult to record?

AAM: I loved recording both parts of the Bach Double immensely. It was like having a tennis match with myself. The only downside was that I only had myself to get mad at! I recorded the first violin part on the ex-"Molitor/Napoleon" Stradivari violin dated 1697, in London with the English Chamber Orchestra and the second part in New York with headphones on the SUNY Purchase stage. I played the "Royal Spanish" Stradivari violin dated 1730 for this part and played off the differences in tone quality and sound.

CM: I was checking out the current album Seasons...dreams, and such great pieces that are mostly befitting of the title, but what made you decide to include the Alfred Schnittke reading of "Stille Nacht (Silent Night)"? Artful arrangement, but a bit jarring in the context of this collection, would you say?

AAM: Seasons...dreams was an amazing assortment of dreamy and seasonally themed music based around the Beethoven 'Spring' Sonata No.5. I visited such diverse composers as Wagner, Gershwin, Debussy, Faure, Beethoven, and Gene Pritsker and also had some jazz standards arranged including "Tenderly/Autumn Leaves", (a personal favorite) and "Autumn in New York". When I looked at music for the winter season, I thought Alfred Schnittke's eerie spin on one of the most traditional songs ever composed "Silent Night" was beyond perfect. And personally, I love that you used the word "jarring". I believe that music shouldn't be all pretty and on the surface. Music should make one dream but also feel and the Schnittke has both elements, even if it makes one squirm.

CM: Can we also talk about the Strad Molitor since it sort of put you in the headlines (At least on Keith Olbermann's show)? This is a violin that has changed hands between what looks like 10-20 different owners, including Napoleon, and lord knows how many people were allowed to hold and/or play it. It was even owned and used by The Curtis Institute of Music in Philly for a time.

AAM: It is incredible to know the exact provenance/history of every person who owned 'Molly' since she was born in 1697. There aren't that many violins that this could be said about. So many of these antique violins have been destroyed over the 300 years due to floods, fire, wars, airplane crashes, and people not properly maintaining them. Knowing that this violin passed through the hands of Bonaparte Napoleon, Count Joseph Molitor, Madame Juliette Recamier, and Elmar Oliviera to name the core few, is truly humbling. It is rare when a violin of this stature and historical importance becomes available and when the auction house, Tarisio, had it in their offices, I knew I was in trouble. I wasn't even looking for a violin as I was happily touring with the 'Royal Spanish' Strad dated 1730, but once I tried the ex-'Molitor/Napoleon', it was love at first sound.

CM: Do you think it sounds better than any of your other violins?

AAM: Over the years I have played on some of the best Guarneri del Gesus and Stradivari violins and the ex-"Molitor/Napoleon" without a doubt, belongs to this category. The sound sparkles and shines.

CM: Where is it now?

AAM: It is hiding in an undisclosed location with guard dogs and security detail in tow.

CM: Your appearance on Countdown With Keith Olbermann [CNBC show] was hilarious, BTW! How did that come about?

AAM: Keith Olbermann is a big baseball fan. He jokingly asked if there was a connection between Paul Molitor, the Hall of Fame baseball player, and the ex-"Molitor/Napoleon" Stradivari. One thing led to another and he invited me to New York to play on his show. I also played the funeral music for Paul, the prognosticating octopus, who unfortunately passed away a few days later.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This week's Top Ticket in Denver - The Devil's Fiddler: 10/28

The phenomenal Gypsy fiddler Roby Lakatos is a rare musician who defies description. A scorching virtuoso equally comfortable performing classical, jazz and his own Hungarian folk idiom, Lakatos and his ensemble join the Colorado Symphony for an explosive mix of authentic Gypsy music with great themes from all around the world. With superb panache, Roby, his ensemble and the Symphony offer an electrifying program.

The Devil's Fiddler
10/28 - 7:30 p.m.
Boettcher Concert Hall

Conductor David Robertson Named “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”

On the evening of Friday, October 14, at Powell Hall in St. Louis, conductor David Robertson, Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony, was made a “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the French Republic’s Ministry of Culture. The award and medal were presented to Mr. Robertson by Marie-Anne Toledano, Cultural Attaché of the Consulate General of France in Chicago, at a festive reception after the St. Louis Symphony concert. This concert, led by David Robertson, gave the U.S. premiere of French composer Philippe Manoury’s Synapse, with violinist James Ehnes as soloist. It was supported by FACE, the French-American Fund for Contemporary Music created by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in 2004. Additional works on the program were the Overture to Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman and Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1.

The “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” (Order of Arts and of Letters) was established on May 2, 1957, by the French Minister of Culture, and ratified as part of the “Ordre national du Mérite” (National Order of Merit) by President Charles de Gaulle in December 1963. The award recognizes significant contributions to the arts and literature, or promotional efforts in these fields. The Order is awarded without restrictions of nationality or age, and comprises three degrees: “Chevalier” (knight), “Officier “(officer) and “Commandeur” (commander).

Gareth Davies, London Symphony Orchestra Principal Flute, Performs Nielsen's Flute Concerto with the LSO, conducted by Xian Zhang

LSO Principal Flute Gareth Davies will perform Nielsen’s Flute Concerto with the Orchestra, conducted by Xian Zhang, at the Barbican on Wednesday 9 November. Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin Suite and Zemlinsky’s The Mermaid complete the programme.

Gareth Davies joined the LSO as Principal Flute in 2000 and is a prolific blogger for the Orchestra on tour. Gareth’s blog posts can be found at http://lsoontour.wordpress.com/. Gareth has recorded Nielsen’s Flute Concerto for the Naxos label.

Xian Zhang performs regularly with the London Symphony Orchestra and is Music Director of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi and Artistic Director of the NJO / Dutch Orchestra and Ensemble Academy.

The performance of Nielsen’s Flute Concerto complements the Orchestra’s ongoing cycle of Nielsen’s Symphonies with Sir Colin Davis which comes to a close in December, with performances of Symphony No 2 ‘The Four Temperaments’ (4 & 6 December) and Symphony No 3 ‘Sinfonia espansiva’ (11 & 13 December).

Wednesday 9 November 2011, 7.30pm, Barbican
BARTÓK The Miraculous Mandarin - Suite
NIELSEN Flute Concerto
Xian Zhang conductor
Gareth Davies flute
London Symphony Orchestra

Tickets: £10 £15 £19.50 £27 £35
Secure online booking at lso.co.uk (booking fee)
Box office: 020 7638 8891 open Mon-Sat 10am – 8pm, Sun 11am-8pm (booking fee)
In person at the Advance Box Office in the Barbican centre (no booking fee)
(Mon-Sat 10am – 9pm; Sun 12pm – 9pm)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Are You Building Friendships or Clientele with your Twitter Account?

Too often Arts Organizations use Twitter to Market themselves and miss the opportunity to build lasting Friendships of their fans

There are some great orchestra twitter accounts online right now:

What makes these twitter accounts so wonderful?  They are engaging, personal and friendly.  They don't just talk about what's happening in the next week or month, or post links to press releases.  Pretty much every day they engage with their audience, fellow Twitterers creating an online personality that invites. There are numerous other symphonies and orchestras on Twitter.  I follow nearly 100 different organizations, but the five listed above really stand out.

The point of social media is to be "social." The organizations that succeed at this have tweets with personality.  They achieve this by:

  1. Listening (and responding) to tweets about their organization (even the bad ones)
  2. Joking and providing humorous tidbits (and not just about their organization)
  3. Have interests beyond just their organization (talk on multiple topics)
These may sound like obvious qualities which can be applied to anyone on Twitter.  But, if your organization is not listed in my top 5, go back over your tweets. How many are responses to what other's have said not about your organization?  How many of your tweets were re-tweeted by other's with some additional comment that makes you laugh, or it is obvious your tweet made them laugh?  What topics are you discussing not directly related to your organization?  If less than 5% of your tweets are not directly related to your organization and/or humorous then you're not building friendships via Twitter.

Now, you may ask why is building friendships important?  If a friend drives through your city, they'll feel a sense of obligation to say 'hi' (i.e., come see a concert).  But a client feels no obligation whatsoever. A friend is someone who will come to lend a helping hand, or donate money to your cause.  A client feels they have already given you their money for services rendered.  A friend is someone who will fight for you when the going gets tough.  A client will just find another vendor.  

Unless you really want to be replaceable, start building friendship.  Start tweeting with more emphasis on getting to know the people who are talking about you and allow them to get to know you.  


If you want to know more about tweeting with attitude, drop me a tweet... or better yet, chat up one of the orchestras I've listed above.  Their twitter accounts are linked to make it easy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Getting to Know You: A way for Orchestras to Reach out to their Audience

Connecting with our audience has never been more important - particularly in this economic climate

Erica Sipes recently blogged about a performance tour of her and her husband. Prior to the performance they would greet and talk to the audience members as the audience came into the hall. This type of "showmanship" isn't new as "barking" -standing out front calling attention to both yourself and your upcoming performance- has been around since the earliest performers.

Standing out front where your audience can connect with you and talking to them creates a sense of accessibility like no other. Audience members want to connect with performers. If they feel like they know you, the connection is stronger. The reason tabloid papers sell so well is because these personal stories of the stars, whether they are true or not, give people the feeling they are learning something they wouldn't get from just the performance --a deeper sense of connection.

What would happen if the musicians in an orchestra, all 80 of them, were to walk about into the concert hall before a performance? If they treated the pre-concert time as a cocktail party and went to mingle with the audience, the people in the audience would get that sense of connecting with the orchestra! It wouldn't just be one or two people, but 75 or 80 (or more) walking about, talking about the upcoming performance and sharing their "jitters" of performance. Audiences would eat this up.

Donor appreciation events are often this sort of "get to know the musicians." Mingling with the musicians is a great way to get people to give money. Well... a concert hall of 500-1500 people is a pretty large donor group. What if you could turn that entire crowd into donors for your symphony???

There are probably a few musicians who would balk at the idea; "I'm here to play music, not to be a good will ambassador." In my opinion, you couldn't be more wrong. As an orchestra member, you are a performer 1st and foremost. As a performer your job is to connect with the audience. Getting out front and talking to the audience is the best way of connecting with them. Plus, if it's good for the orchestra, it's good for you.

Musicians are fascinating people. Even the shyest of the bunch are passionate about music.  This passion translates really well in conversation.  When the passion for the music is translated to the audience before a performance, the audience will be more passionate about the performance (which will lead to more standing ovations, better reviews... the list goes on).  Get passionate with your audience by talking to them before a performance!

Here are a few talking points for those musicians who are reticent to talk to strangers:

  • Ask the if there anything on tonight's program they are particularly interested in hearing?
    • This will allow you to highlight your thoughts on the piece.
    • You can then talk about
      • what you found challenging 
      • what you found interesting
      • what part you like best about that particularly piece
  • Ask if the have ever been to an orchestra concert before
    • If they're regular attending, praise them for their support
    • Ask them about other shows they are going to see this season?
      • This leads you to talking about shows they didn't mention
      • or highlighting exciting points in shows they did
    • If they've never attended before, thank them for coming tonight
      • talk about what they can expect, things to look for in tonight's performance
These talking point should give you 5 to 10 minutes of flowing conversation.  Once done, thank the audience member again for coming to tonight's performance and then say, "I should probably talk to some other's before the concert begins."   

Nothing in this "patter" is outside conversations you already have with people you know.  You're just extending to people you don't know, but want to get to know you, want to support you and your orchestra. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Composing while Driving

I often find myself singing an ever changing melody while I am on long distance drives.
Unfortunately, there's no way to write any of these improvisations down as I keep my eyes on the road.

My wife and I love to drive. Our poor vehicles have logged thousands of miles as we've traveled back and forth from California, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, New Mexico and the pretty much the entire isle of UK from John O'Groats to Plymouth.  While driving we chat about pretty much everything.  Occasionally, the day gets warm or the night gets long and my wife drifts off for a brief nap.

It is during these 'quiet' moments that I sing to myself.  Sometimes it's jazz influenced, other's are far more classical in nature, even venturing into Baroque stylings. Most of it is pretty useless, variations droning on with no real direction.  However, every now and then, I glob onto something I really enjoy, a melodic line that intrigues me in how it  fits together.  Or a unique rhythm that takes me a while to sort out just how it's put together.

Yesterday, on the road from Denver to Fort Morgan I wound up with a nice rhythmic line of 5+5+6 which then lead to a series of 6's or (3+2,3+2,2+2+2 repeated twice then (2+2+2+3+3+2+2+2).  The shifting sense rhythm was cool to the point I ended up getting my phone recorder out to record a snatch of it to save the rhythm for later.

There were a couple more nice sections during the singing, improv session in the car yesterday, but none of those were recorded. So, they're gone, lost.  Maybe some day I'll sing something like it on other drives, but if not... ideas are a dime a dozen!  It would be nice to get all these ideas down, but I've come to realize it's not the idea that make great music  (although it helps to start with a good idea).  The pieces of my music I really enjoy are the ones that were not just good ideas, but concepts that were crafted into a fully formed piece.

So, for all those budding (and not so budding) composers out there... don't worry so much about finding the "right" idea.  Start with anything and spend time crafting it.  A rock is just a rock until you unlock the statue inside.  Music is that way.  Chisel away at the rough stuff.  A David is waiting to be discovered.

10-CD Box Set to Honor the 400th Anniversary of Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Death

Ensemble Plus Ultra and Director Michael Noone Have Recorded More Than 90 Works and Will Give Concerts in Boston and New York in October

2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of famed Spanish Renaissance composer Tomás Luis de Victoria. Arguably the finest composer of Spain’s Golden Age, the famed polyphonist is frequently compared to Palestrina and Lassus and is equal to their greatest achievements. Ensemble Plus Ultra has newly recorded 93 works by Victoria to honor this anniversary, and Deutsche Grammophon & Archiv Produktion released this monumental 10-CD box set on September 27, 2011.

Though Victoria may not be as well known today as in the 16th century, Ensemble Plus Ultra and these new recordings afford the opportunity for a sizeable reassessment of his work. The group has been dedicated since its foundation in 2001 to the music of the glorious Spanish Renaissance and after ten years has a strong history of performing and recording this music. On this series of 10 CDs, brought together in one box, 42 musicians from more than five countries have come together to record 93 works by Victoria. The entire venture took more than 70 days of rehearsals and recording and resulted in 11.5 hours of newly recorded Masses, Lamentations, Motets, Magnificats and more.

For this project the group chose to focus on the more than 25 years Victoria spent in Madrid during which time he published more than half of his compositional output. All of the works in his landmark publication of 1600, the Missae, Magnificat, motecta, psalmi et alia quam plurima published by the royal printer, Juan de Flandes, have been included in this set. In addition, there are recordings of many works by Victoria that are found only in manuscripts and have been specially edited for this project and that have never before been recorded. Highlights in this category include the nine lamentations that are preserved in a Sistine Chapel manuscript and the 12 works (including three masses and six magnificats) from a manuscript choirbook at Toledo cathedral. Other previously unrecorded masterworks include Bovicelli’s extraordinary virtuosic arrangement of Victoria’s Vadam et circuibo and a large number of ‘alternatim’ works featuring verses for organ, plainsong and wind instruments.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Emerson String Quartet - Mozart The Prussian Quartets Available Oct 18

Their first recording of Mozart quartets in 20 years

The Emerson String Quartet stands alone in the history of string quartets as musicians of unrivaled eminence with an incomparable list of great recordings over three decades.

For its debut on Sony Classical, the Quartet has selected Mozart’s last three string quartets, the “Prussian” quartets K. 575, K. 589 and K. 590. Available on Tuesday, October 18, the recording will coincide with a series of international concerts featuring the program of the CD.

Mozart’s three last string quartets, written in 1789 and 1790 after a visit to the royal court in Berlin, were commissioned by the King of Prussia. The King himself played the cello and accordingly, Mozart set out to provide the cello with an especially prominent part. These, Mozart's last quartets, represent the distillation of a lifetime of writing for string instruments in various combinations and genres.

Described by Time Magazine as “America's greatest quartet”, the Emerson String Quartet has received unparalleled acclaim for concert and recording activities since its formation in 1976. This has led to recognition with nine Grammy® Awards (including two for Best Classical Album, unprecedented for a chamber music group), three Gramophone Awards and the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. Having recorded Mozart's six "Haydn Quartets" as well as the flute quartets, the Emerson have long desired to add more Mozart to their discography. This new album sees them recording Mozart quartets for the first time in 20 years.

The Emerson Quartet says: “In playing Mozart, we always strive for elegance, beauty and style; in the purely melodic passages, we try to emulate the human voice, ranging from the most intimate pianissimo to a full sonority when appropriate. In general, Mozart has played an important role in our concert repertoire, and we learned these three quartets fairly early in our career. But it had been twenty years since we recorded any of his quartets, so we felt that it was time to add more of this wonderful and challenging music to our discography.”

The Emerson String Quartet, named after the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, is based in New York City. Violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer alternate in the first chair position, while Lawrence Dutton plays viola and David Finckel is the cellist. Gramophone has noted: "The Emerson's members understand as second nature the importance of clarifying the specific character of individual phrases and balancing them all into an elegant whole, and they can turn on a dime to create quicksilver variations of mood." During the 2011–12 season, their 35th together, the Emerson will perform throughout North America and Europe, for example in Germany, Austria, England, Spain, Switzerland and Italy.

MET OPERA SERIES - 4 new sets on CD for the first time!


Sony Classical, in partnership with the Metropolitan Opera, adds to its acclaimed series of releases drawn from the illustrious Met archives with four multi-disc sets that represent the first official release on CD of these historic Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts, which date from 1940 to 1955. On November 1, 2011, Sony Classical issues complete live performances – freshly remastered from the original sources – of Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment (1940), Ambroise Thomas's Mignon (1945), Bizet's Carmen (1952) and Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann (1955).

The four new CD sets star such legendary singers as Roberta Peters, Ezio Pinza, Lily Pons, Risë Stevens, and Richard Tucker, conducted by podium icons such as Fritz Reiner and Pierre Monteux. Sony Classical's series of releases from the Met archives – now totaling 24 titles on CD and DVD – has earned praise far and wide for making great vintage live performances available in the best possible sound. Encapsulating his enthusiastic anticipation of the must-have gems in this series, Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times wrote: "The CDs that plumb the Met's archives are the big news. . . I'd better start making room on my shelves."

Hilary Hahn touring "In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores"

October 15 - Central Moravian Church; Bethlehem, PA
October 17 - Presented by the Seattle Symphony; Benaroya Hall; Seattle, WA
October 19 - The Paramount Theater; Charlottesville, VA
October 21 - The Center for the Performing Arts; Carmel, IN
October 23 - Symphony Center; Chicago, IL
October 27 - Schwartz Center for Performing Arts at Emory University; Atlanta, GA
October 29 - Mondavi Center, UC Davis; Davis, CA
November 1 - Presented by LA Philharmonic; Hollywood Bowl; Los Angeles, CA
November 6 - The Broward Center; Ft. Lauderdale, FL

After two sold-out CD launch concerts at The Stone in New York City's lower east side on Monday night, and the release of Charles Ives: Four Sonatas yesterday, Hilary Hahn embarks on her US recital tour this week. At the Monday night events--which served to both celebrate Charles Ives: Four Sonatas and to raise money for The Stone--Hahn played Ives sonatas 1 and 4, hosted a conversation with composer John Zorn and Ives biographer Jan Swafford, accompanied the crowd in hymn-singing, and led the audience in singing Happy Birthday to Charles Ives, who would have turned 137 on October 20.

Alan Gilbert’s Fall Guest Conducting Engagements in America and Europe

After an extraordinarily busy start to his new season with the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert hits the road in October for a series of guest conducting engagements with major orchestras in the U.S. and Europe. His debut with the Munich Philharmonic (Oct 16, 18, 19) will include his first performance of Janácek’s thrilling Sinfonietta. A program of Haydn and Beethoven with the San Francisco Symphony (Oct 27–29) will also include Dutilleux’s L’arbre des songes, a violin concerto to be performed by Renaud Capuçon. Concerts with the Cleveland Orchestra (Nov 11–13) will feature Schoenberg’s hauntingly beautiful Pelleas und Melisande, which Gilbert conducted to great acclaim in his first season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, and last season with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. With Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra (Dec 1–3), Gilbert will conduct – among other works – Brahms’s grandly scaled Piano Concerto No. 2, with guest soloist Yefim Bronfman. In two Paris concerts (Dec 9 and 10) Gilbert will lead the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in his own arrangement of music from Wagner’s Ring cycle. Gilbert’s next concerts with the New York Philharmonic will take place in Canada on November 4 and 5 at the Maison symphonique de Montréal – the new home of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Gilbert and the Philharmonic are back in New York December 16 and 17, for further performances in CONTACT!, the Philharmonic’s new-music series.

Even before the curtain went up on Gilbert’s third season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic – a gala event on September 21 with soprano Deborah Voigt, broadcast nationally on PBS – Gilbert led the orchestra in three special concerts: A Concert for New York, a free, nationally and internationally televised performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” given in remembrance and renewal on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of 9/11; a free concert in New York’s Central Park, with pop superstar Andrea Bocelli and special guests; and a performance of Walton’s Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario, featuring narration by legendary stage and screen actor Christopher Plummer. Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony was reprised for the orchestra’s first subscription program of the season, and was enthusiastically acclaimed. In the Financial Times, critic Martin Bernheimer gave the concert a five-star (out of five) review, calling it “glorious business”:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Luca Pisaroni Kicks Off 2011-12 Season as Leporello in Met’s New Don Giovanni>

Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni looks forward to a stellar 2011-2012 season, beginning with two starring turns at the Metropolitan Opera. Pisaroni plays Leporello under Fabio Luisi in the Met's new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni (October 13-November 11). Then he appears as Caliban alongside Plácido Domingo and Joyce DiDonato in The Enchanted Island, the Met's freshly conceived Shakespearean tableaux of music by Handel, Vivaldi and Rameau, conducted by William Christie (December 31-January 30). He makes his Chicago Lyric Opera debut in February 2012, reprising his acclaimed portrayal of Argante for a new production of Handel’s Rinaldo (February 29-March 24). After playing a signature role – Mozart's Figaro – in Munich and Vienna in the spring, Pisaroni returns to the U.S. next summer to take on the title role in the Rossini rarity Maometto II at Sante Fe Opera, a world premiere of the score's new critical edition.

Pisaroni turned heads as Leporello in a lauded 2010 Glyndebourne production of Don Giovanni that was documented on an EMI Classics DVD, released this spring. BBC Music magazine extolled the DVD as one to have listeners "shivering with the best of them," adding that "Gerald Finley as the Don and Luca Pisaroni's nimble Leporello play a thought-provoking double act."

Underscoring the nuances of what has become one of his favorite Mozart roles, Pisaroni says: "I particularly enjoy Leporello’s relationship with his master. When this ‘duo act' is developed fully, it’s one of the most gratifying acting experiences a singer can have on stage. The role is challenging dramatically because of the vast range of emotions that need to be portrayed. Leporello lives in his recitatives – especially the ones with his master. These recitatives have to be as conversational as possible. I follow Mozart’s instructions in the score and try to make the audience believe they are listening to a conversation that is happening at that very moment. Leporello is proud of being the keeper of the catalog of his master’s conquests, and he knows that his services are invaluable. Leporello is Don Giovanni’s biographer – without him the tales of the Don’s tumultuous adventures would not be remembered."

Pisaroni is drawn to darker characters, too. He explains, "One of the fascinating aspects of being a stage performer is that you are able to walk in someone else’s shoes for a couple of hours. There are two kinds of roles: the ones close to your own personality – in my case that could be Figaro – or are completely different than you. I love to play the crazy, evil, broken characters. …Portraying Caliban in The Enchanted Island will be a unique theatrical opportunity. Portraying the bad guy is always satisfying, and Caliban is a monster, so I will have to push my acting skills to the limit. And even if the music is from the Baroque period, I'm excited to get the opportunity to sing in a world premiere."

Teaching to the Interest not the Known

The music industry is evolving. What composers can do now to earn a living is vastly different than even 20 years ago. The styles of music composers can draw on are also different, as are composers backgrounds and musical interests.
Music Educators, more than ever, need to teach to the students' interests and break out of their comfort zone of known musical styles and options.

The statement "every student is unique" has been said ad nauseum to the point one wonders how: can every student be unique and yet teachers still follow some sort of curriculum?  In terms of music students, particularly composition students, the key is to discover the unique qualities of the student and highlight what they learn with an eye on what makes them unique. While there are certainly general "skills" every student needs to learn, as the student progresses into Masters studies, their individuality needs to be encouraged.

For students to succeed, they will need to enhance their unique qualities. This is particularly true for composers, more so than with other musicians. Violinists can play like other violinists and still find work, even excel in their field if they play well. But composers need to find a unique voice if their music is going to be performed. We can't write like Mozart, even if we could write better than Mozart. Because an ensemble is not going to play music that sounds like Mozart, when they can just play Mozart. The same is true of sounding like John Adams or Phillip Glass. Why would an ensemble play "Chip Michael" sounding like Phillip Glass when they will get more audience to their performances simply by playing the music of Phillip Glass? - they wouldn't. As a composer I need to find my sense of individuality.

Using myself as an example: my music is filmic, perhaps somewhat like John Williams or James Newton Howard. Yet, it is also rhythmic and gritty, like that of John Adams. I have an interest in writing orchestral music. Therefore, my personal focus is learning to compose for film and/or working with large forces in music.  Writing atonal music or electro-acoustic music isn't an interest for me. As such, my focus and training should be toward styles that work in the industry most similar to my interests --film music.

Students be aware: your instructors can't know everything.  Therefore what I'm suggesting for composition instructors is a pretty tall order.  Because my own interests are in film music, I will not be as good at bringing out the interesting and unique aspects of atonal or electro-acoustic music as I am for a student studying orchestra/film music.  What I can do is know enough about the field to guild the student in the right direction.

As instructors, we should be well versed in how to research a topic.  So, if you end up with a student whose interests are in a field you're not familiar, research it.  Work with the student and research the topic together.  Masters student will particularly relish this because it will highlight their individuality by realizing they are venturing into uncharted territory (at least in terms of the staff on hand).

The internet (particularly social media) is a great way to connect with others in the music industry.  Reach out with Twitter and Facebook to find other instructors, composers and musicians who are interested in the same things as your student(s).  Connect the student with these people.  If these connections lead to success, you'll get residual glory on having made the introduction.

The key to this article is for music/composition instructors to branch out.  You don't need to become an expert in styles that aren't something you want to incorporate into your own music.  But, you should be connected with people who are experts, know where expert resources are and be able to guide your students to areas and people who will give them the most related education.

Violinist Mikhail Simonyan Releases His Deutsche Grammophon Debut, Two Souls, November 1

“…a flawless, liquid line and ravishing tone.” – The Washington Post

Violinist Mikhail Simonyan has covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Born in Novosibirsk he traveled to the US when he was 13 to study. Since then he has traveled the world giving concerts and performing concertos with conductors such as Valery Gergiev and Kristjan Järvi and even launched a private initiative, “Beethoven Not Bullets”, to assist the newly founded Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul. For his Deutsche Grammophon and concerto recording debut he has chosen the concertos of Khachaturian and Barber to reflect the two dominant aspects of his life. He is joined by conductor Kristjan Järvi and the London Symphony Orchestra. The album will be released on November 1, 2011 in the US.

Mikhail Simonyan is of Armenian and Russian heritage and began playing the violin at the age of 5. (Interestingly, violinists Vadim Repin and Maxim Vengerov are both natives of Novosibirsk.) When he was 13, he toured the US as soloist with the American Russian Young Artists Orchestra; soon afterwards he moved to America and entered the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia to study with Victor Danchenko, a pupil of David Oistrakh. “Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Khachaturian – Victor Danchenko had known them all and studied their music with Oistrakh, who gave the premiere of many of their works, including the Khachaturian Concerto”, says Simonyan. “It was wonderful to learn from him the traditions of performing that music.”

For this recording, Simonyan has commissioned a new cadenza for the Khachaturian concerto since he found the original essentially Oistrakh’s version, which is violinistic and virtuosic but lacking in an essentially Armenian quality. “This new cadenza,” according to Simonyan, “has a strong feeling of Armenian church music. Armenia was the first Christian country and has been persecuted for religion all through its history. Part of what it means to be an Armenian today is rooted in our deep, ancient and unique church music tradition. This element in Avanesov’s cadenza brings a whole new color to the concerto.”

Who Says Classical Music Doesn't Make an Economic Impact to the Local Economy?

The Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival Reports a $16.1M Dollar Direct Economic Impact in Eagle County

Annual attendance at Bravo! Concerts and Events in 2011 was 59,212

The Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival reports a total direct economic impact of $16,102,427 on Eagle County after the conclusion of its 2011 season, an increase of nearly 3 million dollars from the Festival’s economic impact on Eagle County in 2010. In the Town of Vail alone, the Festival had a $7,615,119 direct economic impact.

Bravo hired BBC Research and Consulting to estimate the direct economic impact created by the 2011 Bravo Festival on Eagle County. This is the first year the Festival hired a professional firm to calculate its economic impact, said Julie Johannes, Bravo’s CFO. BBC determined that the total direct spending of Bravo concert-goers and orchestra members was $15,406,419. Tax revenue was $696,008 resulting in a total direct economic impact of $16,102,427. Total orchestra spending was more than 1 million and most of it was spent in the Town of Vail. The total economic impact includes the direct local spending by Festival attendees and orchestra members and the associated tax revenue. Total spending included purchases on food and beverage, lodging, shopping and activities. Spending data was calculated from intercept and online surveys.

Indirect and induced impacts were not included and the economic impact model includes conservative estimates of guest and orchestra member spending, according to BBC researchers. Lodging and shopping expenditures of those respondents who did not list Bravo as a primary reason for their visit to Eagle County were not included. According to BBC’s report, “Bravo provides substantial direct benefit to the local community through audience and orchestra member spending and generates tax revenue for the town, county and state.”

The total attendance for Bravo’s 2011 season was 59,212. Nearly 9,000 attended Music Matters--the Festival’s music education programs and free community concerts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Boston Pops Provides Soundtrack for the World's Most Beloved Christmas Story on New Release of Jan Brett's The Night Before Christmas


The Boston Pops will bring the world’s most beloved Christmas story to life this season, with a new release of Jan Brett’s New York Times #1 bestseller, The Night Before Christmas. The book’s November 1 release date marks the first time the orchestra has released an audio DVD book. The new deluxe book and DVD edition of The Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Ms. Brett, features a Boston Pops recording of A Visit from St. Nicholas (“Twas the Night Before Christmas”) with narration of Clement Moore’s classic Christmas poem by Grammy award-winner Jim Dale. Ms. Brett’s gorgeous artwork will pair with the music and narration (DVD) in a deluxe hardcover edition of her popular The Night Before Christmas picture book. The Boston Pops will perform The Night Before Christmas and other holiday tunes during concerts at Symphony Hall from December 7-24.

Night Before Christmas sample

With over 37 million books in print, acclaimed children’s book artist/author Jan Brett is also a member of the BSO’s Board of Trustees and is married to Joseph Hearne, now celebrating his 50th season with the Boston Symphony as a double bassist. Mr. Hearne also serves as Ms. Brett’s business manager. Ms. Brett will generously donate all of her proceeds from sales of the new release to the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The Night Before Christmas Deluxe Book and DVD Edition will be released by Penguin Young Readers Group on November 1, 2011. The hardcover picture book is 32 pages long and will cost $20 with the included DVD. The Night Before Christmas (ISBN: 978-0-399-25670-7) is intended for ages 3-6 and will be available at www.bostonpops.org, the Symphony Hall gift shop, and book stores everywhere. Penguin Young Readers Group has also developed an app version of The Night Before Christmas, which will merge Ms. Brett’s gorgeous digitally rendered with the music and narration from the Boston Pops. Designed for iPhones, iPads, and iPods, the app will be available for download on November 1 through iTunes. The recording was made at live Symphony Hall performances during the 2010 Holiday Pops season.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hilary Hahn: Ives CD release party at The Stone

By Chris McGovern

The Stone is a very small, limited space venue in the area of New York known as Alphabet City. I get there and the place is totally covered in metal guards with no sign. If it weren't for the small but devoted conglomerate of people waiting to get in for the first of 2 sets of the CD party, I would have completely missed the place.

Fast-forward through the long but adventure-packed wait to be let in, and when we sat down, the chairs were set up in diagonal rows facing the middle of the floor where the grand piano was (Was it a baby grand? There wouldn't have been room for a concert one), and each chair had 3-page leaflets with Hilary Hahn and Charles Ives' pictures on the front with the words "The Hilary Hahn Hymnbook" underneath, and on the other pages were the lead sheets of 4 hymns. I immediately knew that these songs were related to the Ives Violin Sonatas as all 4 sonatas are filled with them. More people were let in and told to stand by the wall since the chairs ran out.

Wearing a new maroon-colored dress, Hilary came out with Cory Smythe, pianist for the evening, and Jan Swafford, Ives author/specialist, and himself a composer. Hilary introduced the evening by saying "Welcome to the Ives CD geekout party!".  It was a setting that had the all-too familiar quirkiness of Hilary Hahn, the lady that does interviews with fish, or sings "Happy Birthday" to Schoenberg like Marilyn Monroe when she isn't making music. We would be getting that same brand of quirkiness on this night as well as her brand of sweet and passionate beauty of the violin, all in the name of dropping her new CD "Ives: Four Sonatas" and raising money for the venue simultaneously. When we were told to get up and sing the hymns as a congregation would at a church service, my first thought was "This is weird", but after we had been singing "In The Sweet By And By", "Watchman, Tell Us Of The Night", "Shall We Gather At The River" and "Nearer My God To Thee", it was clear that Hilary and Mr. Swafford were allowing us to hear what the community in Charles Ives' life was like back in the day, and even though we were sort of hijacked into it, I have to say, I had a blast singing "Nearer My God". Plus, I also realized "We are singing with Hilary Hahn!" She played to sheet music with her reading glasses and Smythe accompanied us as well, and although it's as close to a musical collaboration with Hilary that I'll ever get, it was a great opportunity.

After the core themes had been established, Hilary then performed two of the violin sonatas, Nos. 1 and 4. Even though I was seated where I could barely get a full image of everything, Hahn had the room, and it was just as exhilarating hearing her play in a small dense space with no reverberation as it would be hearing her in a big hall where it would fill the place up with nothing but reverberation. There was such a crisp clarity of her violin in that tiny hot room (I hope some of our dollars that the show raised go into an AC system for The Stone) and even though Smythe was playing pieces he had just learned, despite a little shakiness, he definitely made a great effort in playing the complex piano part, one that you simply can't fake as it is every bit as important in those sonatas.

 The roles of the piano and violin were even talked about during the discussion portion of the night, when Hilary had asked composer and artistic director of The Stone, John Zorn to file through the sea of chairs and come up and join the panel. Hahn, Zorn and Swafford talked about what Ives' music represented, what led to it, the indifference towards it by peers and audience of the day, and what his music inspired. Hilary talked about the difficulty of learning the pieces as a musician. From what I can see, she approaches music the same way actors approach roles, and working from the inside out of the music was challenging for her. Other than the roles of the two instruments, in which Hahn and Zorn noted that Ives seemed to really push the complexity of the piano part and that the pieces were for "Two instruments going at it", Zorn talked about the progressiveness of Ives, and one quote of the night of his was "Everything is OK in Ives' language". Swafford mentioned that the commune of the room was all about what Ives wanted, despite the Christianity of the church hymns, Ives was speaking to the "universality and community" of them. Hilary has had panel discussions like these before--At her LPR gig in 2010 for the Violin and Voice CD she discussed Bach's music with David Lang and another panel of musicians.

 The evening was wrapped-up in perfect Hahn-like fashion as she led us into "Happy Birthday" for Charles Ives as his birthday is Oct. 20. "Happy Birthday Dear Charlie!" We heard great music, we learned some things, we got silly moments like Hilary joking about the heat by quickly fanning herself. I hope Charlie was there in spirit. I look forward to the next geekout!

Post Post-Graduate Composing

An observation into my personal approach to composition after my post-graduate degree

For the last couple of years I've been heavily into composing music at the behest of my professors in the pursuit of a Masters in Music, Composition. Many of the projects I was involved with were specifically focused toward a particular style or ensemble at the university. As such, these compositions were educational, but few have any lasting value in terms of adding to my body of works. After graduation, I felt the need to write something I could honestly say was from my heart and not for a project or grade --something I could put in my "list of compositions."

I'd met a conductor and his phenomenal piano playing wife while at university. While he's studying conducting, he is also the conductor for a community orchestra. In April prior to graduation, I suggested the idea of a piano concerto, something he could conduct with his wife as the soloist. They jumped at the chance and the project had begun. There were still a number of other compositions, papers and a sundry of other items I had to complete before graduation, so I didn't actually get started thinking about it until after graduation. The month after graduation was filled with trying to get a job, deciding where I was going to land and fulfilling other obligations - so, the piano concerto continued to remain on the back burner. Although I did start talking ideas with the conductor and pianist. Many of these ideas still fell into the realm of concepts I'd been working on as a "student" --things like extended techniques, pitch class sets and obfuscating the beat.

It wasn't until August that I began to work on the ideas in earnest. I'd been reviewing the music I'd written as a "student" deciding much of it wasn't worth keeping in my portfolio. This pushed me to rebel against the concepts I'd been writing and venture into something more akin to what I wrote pre-post-graduate studies. My Violin Concerto and Trumpet Concerto are pieces I am rather proud of and are indicative of "my voice" as a composer. So, I returned to these pieces to explore what it is to be "Chip Michael." I also started to explore other piano concertos I enjoy: those of Chopin, Liszt, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff. The end result was a conscious decision to avoid anything I'd specifically studied and/or worked on during post-graduate studies.

September rolled around and I earnestly started to put notes into Sibelius (the notation software I currently use).  My love of rhythm and melody combined to create the opening two themes.  This moves into a development section following the basic Sonata-Allegro form.  I created a series of potential variations of each theme and then did a pick and choose of my favorite ones.  What I consider the recapitulation section was first one idea, then another --both ended up in the development section as variations.  Eventually what I ended up with wasn't exactly a recap.  It sort of starts with the first theme, but not in the home key, the second theme isn't is the home key but actually just a modular shift from its original.  It'll be interesting to see what musicologists have to say about this in years to come.

The coda had a problem.  I liked how it was building, but I couldn't figure a way to end it --so I played.  This "playing" technique is ostensibly improvising on the music already composed to come up with something new. It isn't very craft oriented, but strikes closer to the "listening to one's heart" style of music composition and definitely holds to the spirit of Jazz improvisation.  When I finally found something, the notes just fell into place.  I haven't gone back through both vertical harmonies and horizontal lines to clean up spots to make sure the flow is really what I want (a technique I learned in Graduate studies), but for the most part it's done --without any real use of my very expensive post-graduate education.

Next, I will go back though and do "clean up," checking all the harmonies and lines to make sure they move the way they should.  This is a time consuming process, but something that takes a piece from "nice" to "strong."  Again, this is a technique I learned in graduate school.  So, while the music is basically a thumbing my nose at my Master's degree, I fully intend to then go back and utilize my education to make sure it's as strong as it can be musically.

Not sure what the next piece will be in relation to my graduate studies education.  I rather like the avoidance of the "technical" aspects of my studies in the initial creation of the music.  Does any of it seep in through my subconscious?  I'm sure it must.  Still, the freedom of following music in a more passionate, less intellectual way feels better to me as a composer.

I've love to hear your comments on the music or the writing...

Pianist Yuja Wang Embarks on a Twelve City North American Tour

Recent Recipient of the Echo Klassik Award for Newcomer of the Year (Piano) in Germany for her Deutsche Grammophon Album, Transformation

The 24-year-old piano virtuoso, who has repeatedly and consistently left critics and audiences searching for superlatives, returns to North America for a twelve city recital tour. An exclusive recording artist for Deutsche Grammophon, the pianist was recently awarded the Echo Klassik in Germany for “Newcomer of the Year (Piano)” for her second DG album, Transformation. Earlier this year she released her third album on DG, Rachmaninov, which included both the Piano Concerto no. 2 and Variations on a Theme of Paganini with Claudio Abbado conducting.

This recital tour started in Denver (10/4) and received both critical and popular praise. “From one moment to the next, her petite frame would burst forth with an astoundingly powerful flash of sound, only to be followed by the most tender, velvety whisper of sound … her delivery was as grand and gorgeous as one might imagine.” (The Denver Post)

Earlier this year Yuja gave a number of performances with orchestras in San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tanglewood (Boston Symphony Orchestra) and Blossom (Cleveland Orchestra). Again, her performances elicited the highest praise:

“To the concerto’s feistiest pages, Wang brought intense focus and hurricane-like power, whipping up storms verging on the violent. Yet the pianist also modeled exceptional delicacy, treating parts of the Andantino like they were made of glass.” (The Plain Dealer)

“Yuja Wang is the sort of musician whose combination of talents appears in the world only rarely. It is our own good fortune to be here when it happens.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Nothing, for her, looked even vaguely difficult.” (Los Angeles Times)

Yuja in Performance:

October 11        Fort Worth, TX              Bass Hall
October 12        Houston, TX                  Jones Hall
October 15        Albany, NY                   Picotte Recital Hall, Massry Center for the Arts, Albany
October 16        Purchase, NY                SUNY Purchase College / Performing Arts Center
October 18        Akron, OH                     EJ Thomas Hall
October 20        New York, NY                Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium
October 23        Montreal, Canada          Pollack Hall
October 29        Calgary, Canada            Leacock Theatre, MRU
October 30        Arcata, CA                    Fulkerson Recital Hall, Humboldt State University