. Interchanging Idioms: November 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I love music... It moves me to new heights, always

I don't listen to music as much as I should (according to friends and family). Heck, I don't listen to music as much as I'd like, but partly that is due to the effect it has on me.

Music creates in me a sense of wonderment, a blissful haze at the immensely marvelous world I inhabit. This includes music from the anonymous composers pre-Palestrina, to the post-Modernist composers of today. Everything from Bach's beautiful lines to the angular atonality of Webern, I love it all.

The problem with loving it all is trying to decide what to listen to, what to embrace at any given moment. Because I also compose, this can be particularly problematic as anything I listen to can (and does) affect what I write. So, if I'm in the midst of a piece (or 4 as I am right now), listening to pieces in styles different from what I'm working on can reek havoc on my own composition.

Yet, there are moments like tonight, when I had a particularly trying day --not a bad one, just exhausting (mostly physical, although there was a fair amount of crunching numbers too). What I wanted this evening was to relax. I thought for a while about putting on some late romantic music, some Debussy or Chopin to soon the aching muscles. Then I thought, perhaps some Bach would do well to echo the numbers and yet put them into beautiful order.

As I scanned the internet, tweeted with friends, tried to catch up on my email (which is horribly out of control), I ended up listening to a broad spectrum of pieces. I don't think it ventured so far back as to the 14th century, but was a least one madrigal in the mix. There was also a 21st century piano concerto by a new composer (no, not mine). Ravel and Rachmaninoff made it into the mix, as did some John Adams. I almost played a Beethoven piece, and would have except I'd heard a couple of his recently, so I moved on to Mozart. Donizetti and Verdi added their voices to the play list, which moved to Britten and then to Ligeti.

In the end (although the music is still playing as I write), my mood was dramatically altered. The music wasn't all nice easy listening, but it was all great music. Somewhere, deep inside, I resonate with these amazing composers and their works.

I love music. Even better, I compose music; I get my hands dirty with it. Like a sculptor with clay, so in love with the human form, they not only get to look at it, they get to re-create it with their hands. I am so in love with music I can't help but dive in and become one with it.

No matter what you do for a job, take a moment and immerse yourself in music. Let it wash over you, through you. Then get your hands dirty and create music of your own!!!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Anna Netrebko Makes La Scala Debut in Season-Opening Don Giovanni on Dec 7

Following her star turn in the season-opening production of Anna Bolena at the Metropolitan Opera, Anna Netrebko – the “diva assoluta del mondo” (Opera News) – returns to Europe to reprise one of her most celebrated roles: Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Having performed Mozart’s heroine to rave reviews on tour with the Met and at the Salzburg Festival, Mariinsky Theatre, Vienna State Opera, and Covent Garden (the last of which prompted Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times to praise her “melting poignancy and gleaming power”), the superstar soprano takes her signature portrayal to Milan for her eagerly-anticipated debut at the Teatro alla Scala in a season-opening new production by Robert Carsen (Dec 7–23).

For her long-awaited first La Scala appearance, “the reigning new diva of the early 21st century” (Associated Press) graces a world-class cast that includes leading Mozart specialist Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni and star bass-baritone Bryn Terfel as his beleaguered servant Leporello. Daniel Barenboim, who collaborated with Netrebko on her bestselling 2010 Deutsche Grammophon album In the Still of Night, conducts the production. Don Giovanni’s opening-night performance on December 7 will be transmitted in high definition to movie theaters worldwide, as part of Emerging Pictures’ Opera in Cinema series.

The Milan performances come on the heels of Netrebko’s unbridled success at the Met, where she opened the 2011-12 season in the title role of a new production – and the company premiere – of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. In headlining David McVicar’s new staging, she became the face of the Met’s season, her image appearing on billboards, buses, and subways all over New York City. On stage, meanwhile, the soprano consistently proved herself an “undisputed superstar” (New York Post); due to what the Associated Press styled her “mesmerizing stage presence” and “uniquely alluring vocal timbre,” she “brought down the house” (New York Times). “Netrebko has a voice to die for,” marveled the Daily News. “Her voice was sure and luminous throughout and at its most radiant in the dramatic outbursts,” agreed the Huffington Post. “Her appeal is deceptively simple: when she sings, you don’t want her to stop,” confirmed the New York Observer. In short, as Martin Bernheimer exclaimed in the Financial Times, “Bravo Bolena! Soprano Anna Netrebko dazzles!”

The Met: Live in HD Presents RENÉE FLEMING in the title role of Handel's Rodelinda

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 3 at 12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT

Renée Fleming returns to The Met: Live in HD in one of her greatest roles, the title character in Handel’s Rodelinda. In this Baroque showpiece, Fleming plays a queen who must fight treacherous enemies to keep her son safe and the memory of her exiled husband alive. Handel’s score gives her the opportunity to sing some of the most beautiful and challenging arias in her extensive repertoire. The all-star supporting cast includes two of the world’s most prominent countertenors, Andreas Scholl and Iestyn Davies, as the exiled king Bertarido and his friend Unulfo; versatile mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as the noblewoman Eduige; Joseph Kaiser as the usurper Grimoaldo; and Shenyang as Grimoaldo’s corrupt advisor, Garibaldo. Baroque specialist Harry Bicket, who led the 2004 Met premiere of Stephen Wadsworth’s fast-paced, fluid production, conducts. Deborah Voigt hosts the transmission.

Encore screenings:
Select U.S. theaters: Wednesday, January 4, 6:30 p.m. local time
Canada : Saturday, January 28, 12:30 p.m. local time

Find a theater near you

Friday, November 25, 2011

Composing something New... But is it good?

All art, music included, is subjective. So, how can a composer be certain a piece they've composed is any good?

The point of this post is not to elicit compliments, to to examine the question of whether a composer can judge their own work.

We know Bach's music is good because not only is it pleasant to listen to, but analysis of the music shows a series of layers to the composition. This proves Bach did more than just jot some dots on a page. Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Stravinsky all did the same thing. There is the sound we love, but there is also a grace, an elegance to the way the pieces are put together that make the pieces so much more than just random notes that sound good.

In the past six months I've written a variety of different pieces of music, ranging from some solo flute music to a piano concerto, a string quartet to an orchestral dance. To some extent there is a common "sound" to these pieces, so that if you heard them played in the same concert you might recognized they were all by the same composer even if it wasn't listed in the program. But are they any good?

Flute Toys is the flute and piano piece written for a friend in Denver.

The idea was to create something challenging, something to show off her skill as a flutist. It's possible to put lots of notes on the page and creating music that is difficult to play, but that hardly makes it good. Perhaps some of the criteria to determine if the music is good is to determine if the music creates something new. Brian Ferneyhough certainly did this with his Unity Capsule for Solo Flute.

However, if I were to 'mimic' his style of "new complexity" that's all it would be, pastiche --nothing new.

Another "Soloist" work is the start to a Piano Concerto entitled "Intense Relationships."

Again, the point was to create challenging music that was also lyrical. Something else I very much enjoy is intense rhythms, so I incorporated rapid repetitive notes for the pianist --not particularly easy to accomplish and yet, not insurmountable. There were also considerations for how the music lays in the hands of the pianist. It's possible to write music where the hands fly all over the piano, but then I bet again the possibility of getting an accurate performance. Whether I captured some of what Ligeti did with his Etude No.10 "Der Zauberlehrling" is still to be determined. Certainly there is a difference in the sound of the music.

Rinaldi Strings asked me to write a string quartet, which is entitled "Atmospheres" after Ligeti's orchestral piece of the same name, the first movement, "Genus Cumulonimbus."

Another piece influenced by Ligeti, this time from his earlier music --the orchestral piece Atmospheres (my quartet bears the same name), and his consideration of two different styles of music which he described as clocks and clouds. My quartet is an amalgamation of the two together. Fresh on the heels of writing the 1st movement of the Piano Concerto, I was heavily influenced with the sound of repetition. I also very much like irregular rhythm, here incorporated into a 19/16 time signature. But it doesn't quite capture a "new" sound like Horatiu Radulescu does with his String Quartet No. 5.

I woke a few days after finishing the first movement of the string quartet with a series of orchestral dances using irregular rhythms.

This movement, recently finished (pending review), is entitled Dança apaixonado (Passionate Dance) as the music is a reflection of the passionate Latin music. The irregular rhythm of 31/16 feels ostensibly like 4/4, but with a slight anticipation to the music. Could it have been written in 4/4? Probably, but then I've sat through so many performances of Bernstein's "West Side Story Suite" where the musicians failed to get the proper hesitation or anticipation to the music and left the music sounding stiff. It is impossible to dance to Latin music and be stiff.

As I venture back over my recent pieces I realize I still like the music. Even after a few months, I like the way they sound. But that doesn't mean it's "good" music.

In my exploration of "new" music, I listen to a number of fellow living composers' music. There is not a single sound I would call contemporary classical. However, there is an edge in many of their pieces I'm not is present in mind. It may be; I just don't know.

Someone told me one once, write what you like and if it it's good, it'll get played. But it can be years from the finalizing of a piece to the first performance. In that time I will write numerous other pieces. If the piece isn't good, and I continue to write in that vein, all I will do is continue to write bad music (or at least, not good music).

I'm not sure there's an answer to the question "is it good," at least not one I can answer. There are qualities of "good" music. I have tried to incorporate those qualities into these pieces, while striving to create something new. Whether I succeeded isn't something I can judge. If I thing something is in the music, it may be there for me because I intended it to be there. An author writing a book, may think part of the plot, which explain everything, is evident, but somehow what was in their head didn't get down on paper. For a composer, our music is very much like that.

I like my music. I thought about all those "things" my instructors taught me about great classical pieces when writing the music. Someone else will have to be the judge as to whether I got them on the page or not.

Alessio Bax: on the radio, on disc, and with the Dallas Symphony

"I'm awfully glad to have met Alessio, and I can't wait to hear what he'll bring to the music he plays in the future," wrote Performance Today host Fred Child in "The Poetry and Power of Pianist Alessio Bax," his most recent "Favorite Sessions" blog post for NPR Music (Nov 10).

Child isn't Bax's only admirer. In its review of the pianist's new album, Rachmaninov: Preludes & Melodies, the Gramophone magazine praised "the wondrously gifted Alessio Bax," saying, "You would have to have a heart of stone not to be beguiled by Bax's romantic warmth." American Record Guide proclaimed, "This is an outstanding Rachmaninov program... . Bax conquers all with plenty of technique to spare."

In September, the pianist returned to the Dallas Symphony to play Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 with music director Jaap van Zweden. Styling him "the eloquent pianist Alessio Bax," the Dallas Morning News hailed his performance as "world-class Mendelssohn." Theater Jones confirmed, "Italian pianist Alessio Bax has both the nimble fingers and the easy charm required to give the concerto a marvelous outing."

Deutsche Grammophon & Decca Classics Victorious in 2011 Diapason d’or awards

France’s most prestigious recording prizes — the Diapason d’or de l’année — for 2011 were awarded on Thursday in Paris. The Diapason d’or de l’année, honoring the year’s finest CDs and DVDs, are voted by a jury composed of critics from Diapason magazine and broadcasters from France Musique.

Among the victors were Universal recording artists Jonas Kaufmann and Pierre Boulez as well as I Fagiolini’s recording of Alessandro Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts.

This is just the latest in a list of outstanding critical and commercial plaudits for I Fagiolini’s Striggio release on Decca – the world premiere recording of the 40-part mass, which is said to have inspired Tallis’ Spem in alium, after the work was lost for almost 450 years. As well as winning Gramophone’s “Early Music Award” last month, The Observer described it as “a masterpiece”.

Jonas Kaufmann also recently received an award from Gramophone for his recital album, Verismo. For the Diapason d’or de l’année Kaufmann wins for his emotionally intense portrayal of Werther in Massenet’s eponymous opera which was released by Decca on DVD. The performance, recorded live at the Paris Opera, includes the singers Sophie Koch and Ludovic Tézier under the musical direction of Michel Plasson.

Pierre Boulez, whose career has lasted more than 60 years, has received an outstanding 26 Grammy awards to date (beginning in 1967 with a recording of Berg’s Wozzeck and most recently in 2005 with a recording of his own works) and adds this Diapason d’or de l’année for his latest recording of works by Polish composer Karol Szymanowski.

Danças do Coração (Dance of the Heart) -a new orchestral dance by Chip Michael

Using contemporary composition techniques, the music creates a sense of anticipation found in passionate Latin style dance music.

This first completed work of the set, entitled Dança apaixonado (Passionate Dance), is one part of a set of orchestral dances entitled Danças do Coração (Dances of the Heart).

Each piece is an exploration of dance music and the way some indigenous forms create subtle shifts in the meter with hesitations or anticipations.For these pieces, these "shifts" are written in for the orchestra.

Dança Apaixonado begins in 15/16 with an anticipation of the beat.That anticipation becomes even more slight as the music moves into 31/16, although it feels like the orchestra is playing in 4/4.The point of the music is to create the illusion of dance and yet capture the essence of what dance musicians have known for centuries: good music doesn't fit into a square box.

The music is also heavy in terms of percussion use. While it only requires a timpanist and three other percussionists, the range of instruments they play cover every thing from the Vibraphone and Marimba, to Bongos, Conga, Snare Drum, Triangle, Guiro, Clave, Maracas and more. With the unusual time signature, there is a need to keep a constant plus in the music. Even though the music gives the impression of a hesitation, the highly articulate way it's done means the entire orchestra needs to be precise with each sixteenth note!

Dança apaixonado by Chip Michael

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2011 Holiday Pops Season with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Opens Wednesday, December 7

One of New England’s most beloved holiday traditions, the Holiday Pops season, under the direction of Keith Lockhart, opens on Wednesday, December 7, and runs through Saturday, December 24, at Symphony Hall. On Saturday, December 3, at noon on the Christian Science Plaza, Keith Lockhart will celebrate the opening of Holiday Pops with a pre-season kick-off event, inviting the greater Boston community to a holiday carol sing-off in an attempt to achieve a new Guinness Book world record for the most carolers gathered in one place. Among the celebrities and performing artists visiting Symphony Hall this season, comedian/actor/musician Jim Belushi and pop vocal act Rockapella will join Keith Lockhart and the Pops at “Company Christmas” on Wednesday, December 14. New Kid on the Block’s Joey McIntyre will also appear as a guest vocalist with members of the Pops to raise the holiday spirits of patients at the Boston Pops Annual Children’s Hospital concert on Tuesday, December 20.

Each of the season’s 37 Holiday Pops concerts features a performance of A Visit from St. Nicholas (“’Twas the Night Before Christmas”) with different guest narrators and projections from Jan Brett’s newly-released audio DVD book (featuring musical accompaniment by the Boston Pops and narration by Jim Dale) above the stage of Symphony Hall. Ms. Brett will narrate the work herself during Opening Night at Holiday Pops on Wednesday, December 7, at 8 p.m., a performance that will also feature Peter Fiedler—son of the legendary Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler—as a guest conductor on the ever-popular Sleigh Ride. In addition, Santa Claus will make a special guest appearance on opening night and at each of subsequent the Holiday season performances, which take place at Symphony Hall, festively decorated to evoke the unique charm of a New England holiday season.

Additional highlights of the 2011 Holiday Pops season include White Christmas, the Boston Pops’ signature Sleigh Ride, the inspiring Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah,” and a popular rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas featuring the majestic voices of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, who will join the orchestra until the last performance on Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24. The Boston Pops will also perform How the Grinch Stole Christmas with local actors Will Lebow and Jeremiah Kissel as guest narrators. Each concert concludes with A Merry Little Sing-Along giving the audience a chance to join in with the Pops to sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Let it Snow!, Winter Wonderland, and Jingle Bells.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

René Pape Takes His Méphistophélès Back to Met on Nov 29

CD Signing at Met Shop on Dec 9 and Worldwide HD Broadcast of Faust on Dec 10

“You can't get much better as Méphistophélès than René Pape.” — Opera Brittania

Few singers bring Méphistophélès to life like bass René Pape, who reprises his portrayal of the charming devil at the Metropolitan Opera in a November 29-January 19 run of Gounod's Faust, staged by Des McAnuff. Pape launched his season in the highly esteemed all-star David McVicar production of Faust at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The glowing reviews included this from the UK's Daily Telegraph: "René Pape was simply magnificent as Méphistophélès, his vocal power, histrionic authority and sly wit putting him in the Chaliapin league." During the Met run, to celebrate his internationally lauded new Deutsche Grammophon release, Wagner, Pape will meet his New York fans at 3 pm on December 9, when he signs CDs at the Met Opera Shop. The following day, opera lovers worldwide can revel in Pape's devilish portrayal of Méphistophélès when Faust is beamed to cinemas worldwide as part of the ever-popular Met in HD series.

In the Met’s Faust, under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Pape shares the stage with Marina Poplavskaya (Marguerite), Russell Braun (Valentin) and Jonas Kaufmann (Faust). Pape made his Met role debut as Méphistophélès in 2005, which led Anthony Tommasini to declare in the New York Times that the bass "already owns the role. His singing is robust, incisive and chilling." In the Wall Street Journal, Heidi Waleson wrote: "René Pape – handsome, suave-toned and full of high spirits and dangerous undercurrents – is a Méphistophélès that anyone would follow right to hell.” Proving that he has only added to his sound and portrayal since his initial Met run, top UK critics singled out Pape at Covent Garden for praise earlier this season, with George Hall highlighting "the magnificence of the voice" (The Stage) and Fiona Maddocks pointing to his "imperious charm" (The Observer). Opera Brittania enthused in detail: "When it comes to ideal casting you probably can’t get much better than René Pape as Méphistophélès … Pape’s Wagnerian instrument has a luscious `black' timbre and is perfectly smooth and even throughout the range, possessing the heft and authority required to really make an impact in this vital role… His Act III incantation `O nuit, étends sur eux ton ombre!' was sung with such noble majesty that he could have been Wotan saluting Valhalla."

Pape is one of today’s most distinguished Wagnerians, and his most recent album, Wagner, presents the bass – teamed with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin – in signature roles such as Gurnemanz in Parsifal and Wotan in Die Walküre. Released earlier this year in Europe, the album won Pape his second ECHO Klassik award for Opera Recording of the Year. WQXR, New York's classical music station, declared Wagner to be "a must for any Wagnerite." The album includes a teaser of a role Pape has yet to reveal on stage: his eagerly anticipated Hans Sachs, the noble cobbler of Die Meistersinger. There are also scenes from Lohengrin and Tannhäuser, as well as a special treat in the form of a scene from Parsifal that has Pape singing alongside the great tenor Plácido Domingo. In BBC Music magazine’s review of Wagner, Michael Tanner extolled Pape’s "very beautiful" voice, while extended praise came from the UK’s Guardian, where Tim Ashley wrote: “This is very lyrical Wagner singing – sensual, even sexual in tone, noble in utterance … The ‘Fliedermonolog,’ sounding unusually erotic, is one of the disc’s high points, along with Wotan’s farewell from Die Walküre.” Wagner was featured as an Editor’s Choice in the July issue of Gramophone, where Arnold Whittall’s review summed up the album's appeal: “It's not often we hear this music so gorgeously intoned… When it comes to sheer vocal refinement and the purest Wagnerian gravitas, René Pape is hard to beat."

At the Met CD signing on December 9, Pape will also be autographing copies of his 2008 DG album, Gods, Kings & Demons, on which he sings two Méphistophélès arias from Faust. Michael Tanner writes in International Record Review: “René Pape has the most beautiful bass voice to have emerged in Germany in the last 40 years… Here he is to be found singing the Devil in various guises… to all of whom he gives a gliding, insinuating tone of sinister near-geniality, with no snarls, manic cackles or other familiar satanic devices. … I’d urge those interested in this kind of repertoire and voice to buy it, so that they can listen to this wonderful instrument.”

Leif Ove Andsnes Gives His First U.S. Performance of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto With Pittsburgh Symphony Nov 25/27

The celebrated Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes gives his first U.S. performance of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck on November 25 and 27, followed soon after by a performance of the work with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Roger Norrington (Nov 30 and Dec 1). Early in 2012 he plays it again with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of David Zinman (Jan 12–14, 17), before turning to the Third Concerto, which he performs with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Herbert Blomstedt (Jan 19-21). Beethoven’s music figures prominently throughout Andsnes’s 2011-12 season and beyond, with numerous concerto performances and recitals across Europe, North America, and Japan, along with his debut recording for Sony Classical.

“Preparing myself for my first performance of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto this past summer, when I performed it with La Scala Philharmonic and Maestro Gianandrea Noseda, I came to understand why the legendary pianist Sviatoslav Richter called it his favorite concerto. It’s an astonishing piece – quite long at 36 minutes, and demonstrating all the breadth and vision we associate with Beethoven’s music. The First Concerto is the last of the composer’s five piano concertos that I’ve come to play, and I’m thrilled to be playing it this season with such wonderful conductors and orchestras. - Leif Ove Andsnes

Last month, Andsnes played Beethoven’s Third Concerto with Jirí Belohlávek and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London and on tour in Spain, and the First Concerto with Andris Nelsons and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra at the Musikverein. Throughout the season, he performs concertos – conducting from the piano – with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Mahler Chamber Orchestra. His May 2012 tour with the latter ensemble includes performances of the First and Third Concertos on tour in Italy, Dresden, Prague and Bergen. The Prague concerts will be recorded live by Sony Classical; they represent the first part of a multi-year project entitled “Beethoven – A Journey,” which will present Andsnes playing and recording all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos

Deutsche Grammophon Releases Soprano Patricia Petibon’s New Album – Melancolía: Spanish Arias and Songs

The soprano fulfills a lifelong dream of recording songs from not only Spain but also Cuba, Brazil and France


After two recitals on Deutsche Grammophon featuring works by Mozart, Haydn, Handel and their contemporaries, French soprano Patricia Petibon turns her attention to Spain and then other countries for songs and arias. This unique and personal collection of works all revolve around the idea of melancholy. According to Petibon, “at the center [of the idea] is the character of Salud in Falla’s La vida breve. She embodies the melancholy of the title, the loss of hope. Melancholy is a balance in life, a sadness that binds us to death. Salud represents the darkest side of melancholy that tends toward tragedy. But this sort of melancholy can also depict the radiance of childhood, of joy and laughter. What I wanted to explore through this disc was the journey between these two poles.”

Throughout her life Petibon has been attracted to Spain and its music. Early on she added Spanish songs to her recitals and later traveled to Madrid to perform. It was during performances in Torroba’s Luisa Fernanda in Vienna with Plácido Domingo that she found herself surrounded by many performers from all types of Spanish-language backgrounds. Working with them gave Petibon new insight: “Spanish artists have a physical sense of the music: for them, it draws its strength from the body, and there I can’t resist making a connection with Baroque music, with dance, of course, and extreme characters – think of Médée or Armide. It also shares the same kind of quality of roughness, of rawness, and voices are used to express emotions, not just to make a lovely sound.”

“But there are endless subtleties in Ms. Petibon’s thrilling voice, a vehicle for myriad shades of rage, pain and yearning … her voice rich in both its powerful top range and its mellower lower notes. She takes abundant liberties without sacrificing good taste.” – The New York Times review of Rosso

For repertoire choices Petibon has included a variety of works. The famous Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 by Villa-Lobos is joined by works of Granados, Montsalvatge, Turina and others. In addition, Petibon includes the world-premiere of a new song cycle written especially for her by French composer Nicolas Bacri: Melodías de la melancholia. With a text by the Paris-based Colombian writer Álvaro Escobar Molina, the cycle allows Petibon to “complete a melancholy journey with a contemporary work, an opening to the future, and a blend of our two cultures.” This cross-cultural conversation and sense of a journey permeates the selections and the overall structure of the recital.

This week's Top Ticket in Denver: Too Hot To Handel

Join Colorado Symphony December 16-17 for Marin Alsop conducting the ever popular Too Hot to Handel

This R&B, jazz, and gospel reworking of Handel’s “Messiah” has audiences rocking in the aisles. Join Marin Alsop, the Colorado Symphony, the Colorado Symphony Chorus and special guest vocalists for the 14th annual jazzy retelling of Handel’s great classic.

Too Hot To Handel
FRI 12/16 - 7:30 p.m.
SAT 12/17 - 7:30 p.m.
Boettcher Concert Hall

Marin Alsop, conductor laureate
Colorado Symphony Chorus
Mary Louise Burke, associate director

Cynthia Renee Saffron, soprano
Vaneese Thomas,
Lawrence Clayton, tenor
Clifford Carter, piano
Dana Landry, organ
Clint de Ganon, drums

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Opera Colorado Announces Chorus Auditions for 2012 Season

Opera Colorado will be holding auditions for chorus members on Sunday, December 11 from 12 pm to 3 pm at the Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education in the Historic Tramway Building. The Opera Colorado chorus is currently seeking tenors, baritones & basses for the 2012 Season productions of The Marriage of Figaro (Italian), Florencia en el Amazonas (Spanish), and Il Trovatore (Italian). In addition, we have limited audition slots available for sopranos and mezzo-sopranos. Singers who have auditioned for the chorus in the past two years do not need to re-audition at this time. Applicants who are being considered will be contacted and given an audition time.

The Opera Colorado Chorus is a largely volunteer group. Participants are paid a stipend for each production to cover parking and transportation costs. To request an audition slot, interested singers should send - VIA E-MAIL - their résumé, or a simple list of previous experience to Brad Trexell at btrexell@operacolorado.org. Please include your name, e-mail address and telephone number. Singers will be asked to sing one operatic aria or classical art song of their choice. An accompanist will be provided.

DATE: Sunday, December 11
TIME: 12 pm - 3 pm
WHERE: Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education in the Historic Tramway Building at 1101 13th Street, Denver
(Purple Studio on 2nd Floor)

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Production of Britten’s Rape of Lucretia Opens Feb 3 at Houston Grand Opera

Directed by Arin Arbus in Her Opera Debut
“The most gifted new director to emerge this year.” – The New York Times [2009]

Houston Grand Opera’s new production of Benjamin Britten’s intimate but intensely gripping chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia takes place on February 3–11, 2012 and features the young American theatre director Arin Arbus in her operatic debut. Arbus is the associate artistic director of Theatre for a New Audience, a classical off-Broadway company. She has made headlines in past seasons with her compelling direction of three Shakespeare productions, including her 2009 Othello, which received six Lortel nominations. In early 2010 she was featured in the New York Times, which spotlighted her work leading a theatre company of inmates at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in upstate New York; according to Arbus, it was her work there that re-ignited her passion for directing and storytelling. Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, last heard at HGO as Venus in Tannhäuser, sings the title role in HGO’s new Lucretia, which is led by Scottish conductor Rory Macdonald in his company debut.

In her notes for the production, Arbus observes: “Lucretia was first performed in 1946 - after WWII, after the Blitz, after over 300,000 Britons had died. As his homeland was reeling from this devastation, Britten was working on Lucretia – which attempts to harness song to human tragedy. Undoubtedly, as he wrote this opera about personal sacrifice and grief which gives way to political development, Britten was thinking of England’s own attempts to grapple with those very issues.” She continues, “On one level, the opera is deeply political. Lucretia’s rape and subsequent death are widely known as the events that provoked the Romans to revolt against the occupying Etruscan forces, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Roman Republic. The story is both mythic and intimate. I hope to preserve these inherent ambiguities. We will set the action in Rome in the historical period, but we won’t be literal or historical in the design.”

HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers describes the Britten work: “It is an incredibly searing piece; hard to watch, cathartic, and very beautiful. The opera is about unmotivated acts of violence and the power play of men over women. It was written in the 1940s, when the world had witnessed the most extraordinarily violent event in history (WWII), so it is very much a product of those years.” He adds, “Arin Arbus is emerging from a new, very young generation of American directors who work with real rigor and seriousness on Broadway. She has had extraordinary success directing Shakespeare, exploring the relationships between people, finding the ambiguity of the characters who behave in a certain way.”

Luca Pisaroni Reaps Universal Praise as Leporello in the Metropolitan Opera's New Don Giovanni

"Charismatic and compulsively watchable.” –New York Observer on Pisaroni's Leporello

In the first of several high-profile appearances this season, Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni earned universal acclaim for his star turn as Leporello in the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni, which ran from October 13-November 11. The New York Observer deemed Pisaroni "charismatic and compulsively watchable," while the New York Times enthused: "The bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni was a dynamic Leporello, singing with a muscular voice, rich colorings and agility." He sang alongside such talents as Peter Mattei and Mariusz Kwiecien (as Don Giovanni), Barbara Frittoli (Donna Elvira) and Ramón Vargas (Don Ottavio), led by Met principal conductor Fabio Luisi. The Financial Times singled out his Leporello for special praise, saying, "Pisaroni ignored buffo clichés as Leporello, making the servant eminently serious, eminently sonorous and essentially clever." The Daily News went further, stating: "The evening really belonged to bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni, as Don G's put-upon servant, Leporello. His performance packed sexiness and full-blooded zest."

For those who couldn't catch the Met's Don Giovanni, Pisaroni turned heads as Leporello in a lauded 2010 Glyndebourne production of the opera 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."

Next up for Pisaroni are his performances as Caliban – alongside Plácido Domingo and Joyce DiDonato – in The Enchanted Island, the Met's freshly conceived Shakespearean tableau 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). Of his performances in Rinaldo at Glyndebourne last summer, Opera Today wrote: "Argante can be a relatively small part, but Luca Pisaroni made it central, by the sheer force of personality in his singing." After playing a signature role – Mozart's Figaro – in Munich and Vienna in the spring, Pisaroni returns to the U.S. next summer to sing the title role in the Rossini rarity Maometto II at Santa Fe Opera, a world premiere of the score's new critical edition.

John D. Goldman to step down as San Francisco Symphony President effective October 2012

Goldman’s decade of accomplishments includes Centennial season celebration, completion of Second Century campaign, Keeping Score multimedia project, 10-year Gustav Mahler recording project and expansion of education programs

ohn D. Goldman, President of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) since 2001, has announced he will step down in October 2012, completing eleven years of distinguished accomplishments central to raising the artistic profile, expanding education programs, and strengthening the use of media and technology at the 100-year-old arts institution. Sakurako Fisher has been named President-Elect and will be officially elected to the office of President at the Board of Governors’ Annual Meeting on October 27, 2012. Upon the end of his term, John Goldman will remain a member of the SFS Board of Governors.

John D. Goldman’s many accomplishments in 10 years to date as Board President include the launch and completion of the Symphony’s Second Century campaign to support the Orchestra’s artistic, education, and community programs. The funds raised will strengthen the organization’s commitment to artistic and musical excellence, help develop new audiences, fund artist and composer residencies and commissioned works, and help assure the organization’s financial stability. Goldman was at the helm during the planning and the ongoing celebration of the Orchestra’s Centennial season in 2011-12, highlighted by the return of the groundbreaking American Mavericks Festival, the visits of six leading American orchestras for two-concert residencies, and the expansion of education and community programs. Also, during his tenure the Orchestra launched and successfully completed the globally-acclaimed, decade-long Gustav Mahler recording project on SFS Media, which encompassed the recordings of all of the composer’s symphonies and works for voice, chorus and orchestra, a cycle that won seven Grammy Awards.

With Goldman as President, the SFS conceived and created the $25 million Keeping Score project, producing a national television and radio series and websites designed to make classical music more widely accessible for all. Keeping Score, an unprecedented media endeavor in the Orchestra world, encompasses eight hour-long composer documentaries, eight live concert films, a Peabody Award-winning radio series, and a highly-praised educational music website with interactive segments on the composers. The Symphony’s media and technology endeavors significantly expanded during Goldman’s leadership as President, further establishing the SFS as an innovator in reaching audiences far beyond the concert experience at Davies Symphony Hall.

A member of the SFS’s Board of Governors since 1996, John D. Goldman succeeded Nancy Bechtle as President of the San Francisco Symphony in 2001. He was formerly the Chairman of Willis Bay Area, Inc., and the Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Insurance Services. He is the son of the late Richard N. Goldman and the late Rhoda Haas Goldman, influential leaders in the community and international affairs. Active in the community and philanthropic activities, Goldman was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2010.

Prior to joining Goldman Insurance in 1986, he served in the Office of the Legislative Analyst for the State of California from 1975 to 1978, and as Assistant Secretary of Transportation for the State of California from 1978 to 1981. He served as President of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma Counties , and the Peninsula . Goldman also chaired the Stanford University Athletic Board and was a member of the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College. He currently serves on the board of I Have A Dream (IHAD) Foundation – East Palo Alto , is a board member of FACE AIDS, and is a trustee of several family foundations.

Sakurako Fisher has been a member of the San Francisco Symphony’s Board of Governors since 1992 and is currently the Vice President of the Board of Governors and Chair of the Development Steering Committee. Active in several arts-related and educational institutions, she serves on the National Board of the Smithsonian Institution as its vice chair and chairs its development committee. She also sits on the U.S. advisory boards for the Union Centrale des Arts et Decoratifs and the Centre Pompidou. She is a Stanford graduate in international relations and has worked for Cargill and Citibank. Sakurako Fisher is an advisory board member of the Department of Humanities and Sciences and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford and also serves as trustee and former vice chair of development of the Thacher School in Ojai , California . Twice chair of the board of ODC/Dance, Fisher has also served on the boards of Stern Grove and the Asian Art Museum Foundation and has recently completed a term as vice chair of the board of The Exploratorium. She has also served on the boards of the American Hospital of Paris, the American Hospital of Paris Foundation, and Alliance Française, and was awarded Le Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the government of France. Fisher Is a passionate music lover who studied koto and flute growing up and continues to immerse herself in music of all kinds, whether exploring the worlds of Beethoven and Mahler or discovering her family's favorite bands. She is married to William Fisher, with whom she has three children.

“It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as President of the San Francisco Symphony,” said Goldman. “To lead this organization through a time of incredible growth and artistic success, working alongside the always-inspiring Michael Tilson Thomas and our exceptional Executive Director, Brent Assink, as well as the many committed donors, board and staff members who contribute their heart, vision, and soul to this organization. I am confident that Sako Fisher is clearly ready, willing, and able to lead the San Francisco Symphony into its next century, and I welcome the opportunity to work with her through this transition year and into the future.”

“John Goldman has been a superb leader of the San Francisco Symphony for the past decade,” said SFS Executive Director Brent Assink. His energy, wisdom, dedication, and good humor have inspired us all. He has encouraged us to take risks, to grow in our service to the community, and to find new ways to connect with diverse audiences. His generosity of spirit is boundless; his impact on the Symphony has been equally broad. On a personal note, I will miss our constant interaction but know that he will remain an active participant in the life of the Symphony for years to come.”

“John has been a close creative partner and friend for more than a decade and his love of music and passion for the orchestra is inspiring,” said SFS Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. “His vision and commitment for this Orchestra and for sustaining its future, both on stage and far beyond the walls of Davies Symphony Hall, has guided all of us. While he may be resigning as President, I’m sure his presence and his contributions will be felt and appreciated by all of us for a long time.”

“I’m deeply honored by the support of the San Francisco Symphony and my colleagues on the board, and am excited to serve as the next President of this incredible, vibrant, and forward-thinking institution,” said Sakurako Fisher. “I’ve long admired John’s leadership and vision for not just championing the musicians’ incredible level of artistry but continuing to grow and broaden the reach and impact of their music. I am excited to work with everyone at the Symphony to reach even greater heights.”

The newly-elected members of the Symphony’s Board of Governors are: Derek L. Dean, a partner at Exetor Group and board member, San Francisco Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; Robert G. O’Donnell, former senior vice president at Capital Research & Management Company and Director, Sequoia Hospital Foundation and Summit Public Schools; Trine Sorensen, formerly of Accenture Northern California and a board member at Music at Menlo; David R. Strand, chief executive officer of LifeNexus and board member of American Public Media, Minnesota Public Radio, and Southern California Public Radio; Ge Wang, assistant professor, Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Stanford University and co-founder, chief technology officer, and chief creative officer at Smule; and Sanford I. Weill, chairman of Carnegie Hall and chairman emeritus and chief executive officer of Citigroup.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Colorado Symphony Presents "Messiah by Candlelight"

The breathtaking "Messiah by Candlelight" returns to the intimate setting of
Montview BoulevardPresbyterian Church

Messiah by Candlelight – the Colorado Symphony's breathtaking production of Handel's Messiah – will return to the intimate setting of Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church this holiday season for three inspirational performances on Tuesday, December 13, Wednesday, December 14 and a sold out performance on Sunday, December 18. Presented for the first time in 2010, the Colorado Symphony's Messiah by Candlelight is one of the most memorable and poignant performances of the holiday season. For 2011, the Colorado Symphony, led by resident conductor Scott O’Neil, is joined by the Colorado Symphony Chorus and celebrated guest soloists including soprano Suzanne Ramo, mezzo-soprano Adriana Zabala, tenor Steven Sanders and baritone Robert Gardner. Concertgoers will cherish the opportunity to experience this inspirational choral favorite in a traditional setting that highlights its brilliantly moving lyrical work and rich vocal arrangements. Messiah by Candlelight will undoubtedly bring audiences to their feet once again in 2011! Tickets are on sale now and start at $25.

Please note: The December 18 performance is sold out.

A traditional December event around the world, Handel’s Messiah is synonymous with Christmas music. The most famous oratorio ever written, Messiah was composed in 1741 in less than three weeks. It became Handel’s most beloved masterwork. Written as a meditation on the idea of a Messiah, rather than a narrative drama about the life of Christ, Handel's Messiah represents, for many, a deeply loved annual tradition to share with friends and family. From the thrills of the "Hallelujah Chorus" to the dazzling "But who may abide the day of His coming" and the exquisiteness of the soprano aria "I know that my Redeemer liveth," Messiah is replete with joyful sincerity.

Tickets: General Admission tickets are $25, $51 and $87, and are on sale now at www.coloradosymphony.org, the Colorado Symphony Box Office: (303) 623-7876 or (877) 292-7979 or in-person in the lobby of Boettcher Concert Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Hours are Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

St Louis Symphony in Unison® Chorus Airport Performance

Chorus Rehearsing at Lambert Monday, November 20 to help ease holiday travel stress

Thanksgiving is the busiest, and perhaps most trying travel time of the year. The St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON® Chorus hopes to alleviate some of that transportation stress through the power of music.

On Monday, November 21, conductor Kevin McBeth and the entire IN UNISON Chorus will take their rehearsal on the road, performing for airline passengers at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The group, comprised of 125 singers from churches across the St. Louis region, will rehearse its upcoming A Gospel Christmas concert at the airport’s new Meet and Greet area, located by the baggage claim carousels.

It’s hoped the rehearsal will help get Lambert travelers in the holiday spirit as they head out for Thanksgiving. The group will begin its rehearsal at 7pm; it’s expected to last about an hour.

Special programs are planned at Powell Hall throughout the month of December and include:

· Thursday, December 8: A Gospel Christmas featuring vocalist Larnelle Harris and the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus, conducted by Kevin McBeth.

· December 9-10: Michael W. Smith’s Christmas pairs the contemporary Christian singer with the St. Louis Symphony for two amazing evenings of holiday music.

· December 16-18: The St. Louis Symphony Holiday Celebration is a favorite annual tradition. Come and enjoy fantastic music from the St. Louis Symphony, your favorite carols and even a special surprise or two from Santa. The fun is presented by Macy’s.

· December 29-30: The Movie Music of John Williams will delight movie fans of all ages. Enjoy iconic movie scores performed live by the St. Louis Symphony from favorites such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars

· December 31: New Year’s Eve Celebration: Join Music Director David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony for a magical evening designed to ring in 2012 in style! The concert is presented by M&I Wealth Management.

Tickets for all of the St. Louis Symphony’s holiday concerts may be purchased on-line at www.stlsymphony.org or by phone at 314-534-1700.

In addition, the St. Louis Symphony is offering “gift packages” for Mom, Dad and families. These special ticket deals offer some of the season’s most popular concerts at great prices and are perfect for holiday gift-giving. For more information on the ticket gift packages, visit www.stlsymphony.org

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tenet Honors St. Cecilia’s Day with Music of Henry Purcell at Trinity Wall Street on Nov 22

On November 22, Trinity Wall Street presents “Odes”, a concert celebrating St. Cecilia’s Day to be given by Tenet, one of New York’s preeminent vocal ensembles (Trinity Church: Broadway at Wall Street). Led by artistic director Jolle Greenleaf, Tenet welcomes violinist and conductor Scott Metcalfe as guest music director for the program. Metcalfe will conduct a stellar ensemble that includes sopranos Jolle Greenleaf and Molly Quinn, countertenors Geoffrey Williams and Ryland Angel, tenors Sumner Thompson and Scott Mello, and basses Jesse Blumberg and Mischa Bouvier. Their program features music by celebrated English composer Henry Purcell, alongside music for Baroque trumpet performed by Kris Kwapis. A preview performance of “Odes” will be given the preceding day, on Monday, November 21, in Trinity Wall Street’s St. Paul’s Chapel (Broadway at Fulton Street).

The program, an invigorating mix of odes, arias, and trumpet-based instrumental works, showcases the range of Henry Purcell’s work, produced in a brilliant career cut short at the age of 36. The earliest recorded musical celebrations of St. Cecilia’s Day took place in London on November 22, 1683, but the tradition may be older still. The English celebrations were established by a band of musicians called the Musical Society, whose revels included a specially commissioned “Ode to St. Cecilia” by Purcell that was performed by the combined choirs of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and the Chapel Royal. That ode, “Hail! Bright Cecilia,” will be performed on November 22, as will other of the composer’s Cecilian odes: “Raise, raise the voice” and “Welcome to all the pleasures.”

A prolific composer of odes and welcome songs, Purcell also wrote a variety of music for the London stage, including interludes, incidental pieces, and operas, masques, and semi-operas: works with lavish staging, spoken dialogue, and elaborate musical set-pieces. The “Odes” program at Trinity Wall Street offers selected examples of these, among them the Sonata for trumpet and strings, music from The Fairy-Queen, and the overture from the masque in Timon of Athens. It is songs, however, that form the evening’s centerpiece, sung one voice to a part by Tenet’s distinguished soloists and supported by its seven instrumentalists. Purcell’s first welcome song for King James II, celebrating his return from summer vacation and titled “Why are all the muses mute?”, is notable for its unconventional opening, fine arias, and moving closing chorus.

Trinity Wall Street presents Tenet
Tuesday, November 22 at 7pm
Trinity Church (Broadway at Wall Street)

Decca Releases Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig in an All-New Complete Beethoven Cycle

All Nine Symphonies and Eight Overtures, Recorded in the Gewandhaus, Available November 21, 2011

In 1825 the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig performed the first complete cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies in the history of music under the direction of Johann Philipp Christian Schulz. This momentous occasion began a tradition in Leipzig, one that has been embraced by all succeeding music directors including Riccardo Chailly, the present principal conductor. For the maestro’s first recording of Beethoven’s symphonies Decca will release a comprehensive cycle of all nine symphonies paired with eight overtures – all recorded at the Gewandhaus in stunningly realized performances. The full set will be available November 21, 2011.

Over the last three years Chailly and the orchestra have presented the symphonies and overtures in concert and then set about recording each. To celebrate this monumental occasion, Chailly and the Gewandhaus Orchestra have just completed four critically acclaimed Beethoven cycles in Leipzig, Vienna, Paris and London. Before the performances were even completed in London the critics were already raving: “Rush to get any remaining seats” (The Times, London). And with the cycle complete the praise continues: “Riccardo Chailly's Barbican Beethoven cycle with his storied Leipzig orchestra has been one of the musical pinnacles of the year” (The Guardian).

The partnership between Chailly and the Gewandhaus has revitalized the German orchestra, the oldest in the world, with results that are vividly apparent on the new recordings. Of special note in these recordings is Chailly’s observation of Beethoven’s demanding metronome markings, which dramatically destroys many existing tempo preconceptions. This will certainly be the cycle on modern instruments that gets closest to achieving what Beethoven himself revealed were his desired tempos (fully documented in the hard-back book).

WQXR presents Beethoven sonata marathon Nov 20 at The Greene Space

WQXR, New York’s sole dedicated classical music station, offers an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime experience with a twelve-hour marathon of all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas on Sunday, November 20 at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, the station’s downtown venue. Hosted by WQXR’s Midge Woolsey and Terrance McKnight, this unique event highlights the station’s Beethoven Awareness Month, and will be streamed live at www.wqxr.org.

Performing the 32 piano sonatas – including such masterpieces as the “Moonlight,” “Appassionata,” and “Hammerklavier” – are some of today’s most promising young Beethoven interpreters, including Inon Barnatan, Alessio Bax, Jonathan Biss, Jeremy Denk, Benjamin Hochman, Valentina Lisitsa, Natasha Paremski, and Joyce Yang, as well as rising stars from the Juilliard School. The milestone marathon will be presented in six two-hour parts. All-day passes are available at www.thegreenespace.org, and links for tickets to individual segments are provided below.

No composer has impacted the course of Western music quite like Ludwig van Beethoven. According to eminent musicologist Charles Rosen, the 32 piano sonatas, which Beethoven composed between 1795 and 1822, “form one of the most important collections of works in the whole history of music.”

Graham Parker, Vice President of WQXR, comments: “The opportunity to hear this collection complete in live performance by the most exciting group of young professionals and dazzling students is rare indeed. WQXR is incredibly fortunate to have gathered the newest voices of Beethoven interpretation to contribute to what promises to be an extraordinary marathon.”

WNYC to Celebrate John Schaefer's 30th Anniversary on the NYC Airwaves on Friday, Dec. 2 at 8pm

JS 30: Three Decades of John Schaefer

Angelique Kidjo to Emcee Celebration of WNYC’s Pioneering Music Host, with guests including
Steve Reich, Laurie Anderson, We Are Augustines, and Simone Dinnerstein

In 1981, a young radio host from Brooklyn came to WNYC. JOHN SCHAEFER was hired to read newscasts and introduce classical music, but soon found himself hosting a new music show that quickly became the on-air hub of the fertile downtown music scene.

Thirty years later, Schaefer is a singular force at WNYC – a host who retains his street cred, but can often be found emceeing broadcasts from the New York Phil or Carnegie Hall. NEW SOUNDS continues to champion new music, international voices, and obscure artists; the highly-regarded NEW SOUNDS LIVE concert series presents commissioned works and unexpected pairings of artists; and SOUNDCHECK is the city’s only multi-genre, multiplatform source for smart conversation and live music. The only thing that hasn’t changed? Schaefer’s penchant for T-shirts and jeans… and his boundless curiosity about music.

Thoughout December, WNYC will celebrate Schaefer’s inimitable contributions to the musical life of New York City . The festivities kick off on Friday, December 2 at 8pm, when WNYC presents “JS 30: THREE DECADES OF JOHN SCHAEFER,” an evening of live music and heartfelt memories in its downtown, street-level studio, The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space. The event will be followed by an after-party with Schaefer and invited musical guests.

The celebration will also include a dedicated webstream of Schaefer programming, a photo timeline, and an opportunity for listeners to share their favorite “Schaefer moments,” to launch shortly.

“John Schaefer has done more to promote and draw attention to new and interesting music in NYC than anyone else I can think of,” said MOBY, multiplatinum-selling artist and DJ. “I think of him as the John Peel of New York radio.”

Friday, December 2 at 8pm – Tickets for Event with After-Party on Sale Now
Live Video Webcast available at www.thegreenespace.org

Colorado Symphony Adds Concerts in 2012 Spring Season

New offerings include Valentine Romance, Gershwin
and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

The Colorado Symphony announces several new additions to the 2011/12 concert season, as well as the addition of extra performances and new dates for several of its most popular concerts. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to fill open dates in the Spring with new concerts and added performances,” states Interim CEO Jim Copenhaver. “These concerts create revenue-generating opportunities for us.”

Leading the series of concert announcements is Valentine Classics, an evening of the romantic era's most passionate and dreamy works on Saturday, February 11 – just in time for Valentine's Day.

Music and dance lovers will also be thrilled to learn new concert dates for "Cleo Parker Robinson Dances Romeo and Juliet:” Friday, March 30 and Saturday, March 31. “We are very pleased to be able to continue this long-time partnership with one of Denver’s finest arts entities,” states Copenhaver.

An extra concert date has also been added to the performance of Beethoven's "Eroica." In addition to the scheduled Sunday matinee performance on March 25, concertgoers can also attend this magnificent concert on Saturday, March 24.

The music of George and Ira Gershwin will take center stage in a new, one-night-only special titled "Here to Stay: The Gershwin Concert Experience" on Friday, May 4. Starring Kevin Cole, the leading Gershwin interpreter, and Grammy® Award-winning soprano Sylvia McNair, this concert offers an unprecedented insider view of the music of the legendary duo, while sharing rare audio and video footage of the Gershwins.

The popular Inside the Score Series also returns “Shuffle” back to its schedule, a program engineered by resident conductor Scott O’Neil, which connects vast musical styles, from Bach to Bjork, from Seal to Stravinsky.

Ticket-holders for rescheduled concerts can contact our box office at (303) 623-7876 or tickets@coloradosymphony.org. Complete details are being mailed to subscribers and ticketholders affected by these changes.

Tickets for these newly-added events will go on sale to the general public December 2 at the Colorado Symphony Box Office. To learn more, visit www.coloradosymphony.org.

Colorado Symphony 2011/12 Season Additions and Updates:

NEW! Valentine Classics – Masterworks Series
Saturday, February 11 at 7:30 p.m.

Scott O’Neil, resident conductor
Just in time for the most passionate day of the year, the Colorado Symphony presents a Valentine's-inspired evening of romantic classics. Prepare to be swept away by the romance, power and ardor that only a symphony orchestra can deliver.

NEW DATE ADDED! Beethoven's Eroica – Masterworks Series
Saturday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. (new) and Sunday, March 25 at 2:30 p.m.

Scott O'Neil, resident conductor
HAYDN: Symphony No. 22 in E-flat major, “The Philosopher”
KODALY: Dances of Galánta
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (Op. 55), "Eroica"

NEW DATES! Cleo Parker Robinson Dances Romeo and Juliet – Masterworks Series (event replaces originally scheduled Litton on Piano & Pulcinella concert on 3/31)
Friday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 31 at 7:30 p.m.

Andrew Litton, conductor
MOZART: Ballet Music from Idomeneo
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major
PROKOFIEV: Selections from Romeo and Juliet

NEW DATE! SHUFFLE – Inside the Score Series (event replaces originally scheduled Who Killed Tchaikovsky concert)
Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m.

Scott O'Neil, resident conductor

NEW! "Here to Stay: The Gershwin Concert Experience"
Friday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Marin Alsop returns to Colorado for Too Hot To Handel

Experience the one-and-only R&B, jazz, rock and gospel reworking of
Handel’s Messiah with the Colorado Symphony!

Colorado Symphony conductor laureate Marin Alsop returns to Colorado for a 14th straight year to conduct the one-and-only Too Hot to Handel – the incomparable reinterpretation of Handel’s Messiah – in two spectacular performances on Friday, December 16 and Saturday, December 17 at Boettcher Concert Hall. Called “the jazziest, most soulful reinterpretation of Handel's Messiah you'll ever hear” by the New York Post, Too Hot to Handel features the Colorado Symphony and Chorus, joined by acclaimed soloists including soprano Cynthia Renée Saffron, mezzo-soprano Vaneese Thomas and tenor Lawrence Clayton. Heralded as "a crossover project that really works" by the St. Petersburg Times and "Handel with flair" by BBC Magazine, Too Hot to Handel takes the timeless brilliance of Handel’s classic oratorio and infuses it with a blend of jazz, gospel, rock and R&B.

For 13 consecutive seasons, Denver concertgoers have smiled, cheered, and danced in the aisles to this fabulous reworking of Handel’s Messiah – a rare musical sensation that crosses traditional boundaries while retaining its heartfelt sense of inspiration and hope. On Too Hot to Handel, the New York Times wrote, "Listeners hooted, whistled and shouted their approval after every number. The 'Hallelujah Chorus' was so ecstatically received, it was repeated as an encore." In its enthusiastic review, The Chicago Tribune wrote, "Ingeniously re-imagined to embrace black musical tradition, the aptly named Too Hot to Handel proved that even the most revered classical masterpieces can be taught to swing."

This year, come and experience what people are raving about: the exhilaration of Too Hot to Handel with the Colorado Symphony and Chorus! Tickets are on sale now and start at $25.00.

Marin Alsop, conductor laureate
Colorado Symphony Chorus with members of community choruses and Manual and Montbello High Schools
Mary Louise Burke, associate director
Cynthia Renée Saffron, soprano
Vaneese Thomas, mezzo-soprano
Lawrence Clayton, tenor
Dana Landry, organ
Clifford Carter, piano
Clint de Ganon, drums

Friday, December 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, December 17 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now and start at $25.00.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Agony and the Ecstasy - and such honesty too from the Elias String Quartet!

“Up until recently, I’d always found op.130 (and its last movement op.133) the hardest Beethoven quartet to understand. It’s the first, 3rd, 4th and last movements (the Grosse Fugue) that were particularly enigmatic to me. I didn’t understand the connections between movements, the tonality relationships, what the characters are, and the meaning of this 15 minute relentless fugue that ends it. The fugue seemed an intellectual tour de force to me, but without the incredible depth of emotion there is in all of Beethoven’s other music. However I was convinced that this must be from my own lack of understanding rather than Beethoven’s fault! We’ve just had a week of rehearsals to really get to grips with it, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to immerse myself in the op.130 world and find my way into it….”

Such honesty comes from Elias String Quartet cellist, Sara Bitlloch, doing exactly what The Beethoven Project website and blog was set up to do – share thoughts, ideas, doubts - and, ultimately, breakthroughs - with the world at large. With support from the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, this dedicated website was launched earlier this year to track the Quartet’s discovery of all Beethoven’s string quartets as they rehearse and perform them in preparation for the complete cycle performances throughout the UK beginning in Autumn 2012. As well as their own thoughts and experiences, there is a growing portfolio of audio, film and comment from Peter Cropper (Lindsay Quartet), David Waterman (Endellion String Quartet), Hugh Maguire and Svend Brown (East Neuk Festival director).

Tanglewood Announces Their New Season Nov 17 at 1:15 EST

Press Conference, Thursday, November 17, at 1:15 p.m EST

Streaming Live From the Academy: A 40th Anniversary Screening of "The Last Picture Show" Hosted by Luke Wilson

The Academy celebrates the 40th anniversary of “The Last Picture Show” with the L.A. premiere of the digitally restored “Definitive Director's Cut” and an onstage discussion with members of the cast and crew.

Watch live at http://www.oscars.org/live/

Please note: The movie will not be streamed.

London Symphony Orchestra Continues Nielsen Symphony Cycle with Sir Colin Davis

The London Symphony Orchestra and LSO President Sir Colin Davis continue their cycle of Nielsen symphonies with performances of the Symphony No. 2 on 4 & 6 December and Symphony No. 3 on 11 & 13 December. The four movements of Nielsen’s Symphony No. 2 were inspired by a caricature of ‘The Four Temperaments’ which the composer came across in a country pub; Choleric, Phlegmatic, Melancholic and Sanguine. Nielsen’s Symphony No. 3, ‘Espansiva’, refers to ‘the outward growth of the mind’s scope’ and features influences from Nordic folk music.

In addition to the Nielsen cycle, Mitsuko Uchida completes her survey of Beethoven’s piano concertos with the Piano Concerto No. 4 on 4 & 6 December and Piano Concerto No. 5 (‘Emperor’) on 11 & 13 December. Beethoven was the soloist at the premiere of his Fourth Piano Concerto, his last public concert before deafness prevented him from performing. Beethoven’s fifth and final concerto was first performed in 1811, and was nicknamed the ‘Emperor’ by composer Johann Baptist Cramer for its heroic themes.

The programmes include Haydn’s Symphonies No. 93 & No. 98, two of the twelve ‘London’ symphonies Haydn wrote during his first visit to the city.

Sunday 4 & Tuesday 6 December 2011 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
HAYDN Symphony No 98
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No 4
NIELSEN Symphony No 2 ('The Four Temperaments')
Sir Colin Davis conductor
Mitsuko Uchida piano
London Symphony Orchestra

Sunday 11 & Tuesday 13 December 2011 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
HAYDN Symphony No 93
NIELSEN Symphony No 3 ('Sinfonia Espansiva')
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No 5 ('Emperor')
Sir Colin Davis conductor
Mitsuko Uchida piano
Lucy Hall soprano
Marcus Farnsworth baritone
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)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Susan Graham’s “Commanding Performance” Makes San Francisco Opera’s Xerxes a “Genuine Triumph”

Susan Graham – “America’s favorite mezzo” (Gramophone) – has just scored another major triumph, this time in the title role of Handel’s Xerxes at San Francisco Opera. As Mercury News reports, “hers was a commanding performance,” with Nicholas Hytner’s revival of the Olivier Award-winning staging already looking to be “the hit of the season.”

The San Francisco Chronicle concurs: “It only took about five minutes on Sunday afternoon for the San Francisco Opera’s first production of Handel’s Xerxes to establish itself as a genuine triumph. …For vocal allure, theatrical dexterity, and visual inventiveness, this Xerxes proved to be a complete delight from beginning to end.” As for the Grammy Award-winning mezzo herself,

“In the title role, Graham added to her long catalog of San Francisco successes with a performance of vocal majesty and vigor – her delivery of Xerxes’ big Act II showpiece aria was a tour de force – as well as a comic gift that has rarely been called into evidence.”

The revival features celebrated countertenor David Daniels – also Graham’s co-star in the same staging at Houston Grand Opera last season – as Arsamenes, with Lisette Oropesa as Romilda, and Patrick Summers conducting, under Michael Walling’s direction. “Hands down, this is an exceptional cast,” observes the Bay Area Reporter, admiring the “superb, consistently delightful production” and singling out the way

“Graham, as superb in Baroque coloratura as she is in Romantic lyricism, tosses off one interpolated embellishment after another with the warm, seductive sound for which she is prized. …Her voice and artistic commitment sweep all before them.”

In short, as the San Francisco Examiner affirms, the production is another “grand-slam winner” to add to Graham’s burgeoning roster of success stories.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ads on the Blog and their affect on my thought process

Every so often I stop by my blog to check on how things look, mostly after posting an article or publishing a comment.  On the side bar of the blog posts are tidbits of information and advertisements.  No, these don't really pay me anything, much more than the occasional dinner out (about once or twice a year), but I keep ads there because they're focused on music (or suppose to be).  So, if once in a while one of my readers sees something they like, then the blog has done it's job and brought you information you didn't have.  

Today the ad I saw was for San Francisco Symphony "Holidays with the Symphony." It made me smile.  I'm a sucker for the holidays, to the point my wife & I watched an older holiday film last night just for something different.  It wasn't a great film, but it certainly put me in the mood to start thinking about Christmas.

Is this too early?  Well, not if I want to get Christmas presents to distant people in a timely manner.  It's also not too early to think about getting those holiday concert tickets.  My experience has been these concerts tend to sell out and do so fairly early.

So, while I don't normally pay much attention to the advertisements, this one today seemed pertinent. For nothing else, it got me thinking about the holidays and what I need to do to get ready.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thinking about time in music

Much of my composing searches for answers in a never-ending quest: What is time in music?

The majority of my compositions have some sort of intense rhythmic element, the most recent being a 19/16 journey for a string quartet. The quartet is entitled Atmospheres tangentially inspired by Ligeti's orchestral piece of the same name.  Rather than create a sonic journey as he did, I use each movement as a glimpse at various cloud formations, using their shapes as impetus. The first movement is entitled Cumulonimbus and therefore has numerous different elements popping out all over the place and covers a broad range for the instruments.  The second movement is entitled Stratus, a low lying cloud formation with less shape than other forms.  By using different cloud formations as the genesis of the idea, each movement will have it's own character, expressing not only the shape of the clouds, but their movement through the sky, through time.

In the researching what to do and how to accomplish what I want to do with the rest of the movements, I began to imagine interesting potential paths for the music.  The underlying idea for the string quartet is based on Ligeti's two types of music: clocks and clouds. Music that has a clear pulse falls into the clock category; shifts of tonal color and sonic shapes are what Ligeti called cloud music. The first movement of my string quartet (in the challenging 19/16 meter) is definitely a clock type piece. I endeavor to capture the essence of the title, Cumulonimbus, through the irregular pulse of 19, divided up in a variety of uneven ways.

The second movement is titled Stratus, a type of cloud that lies low to the ground and hovers, quietly shifting in space. The influence of Ligeti, harking back to his String Quartet No. 1, is felt even more in this movement. It has a sense of shifting color and blended tones. Where Ligeti and I diverge is a sense of timelessness with the music. I'm writing the movement without a time signature and without bar lines. I think the only way to actually play the piece will be from the score as entrances and exits will have to be relational to what the other players are doing.  In some respects, the players will "create" the piece fresh each time it's played.

This sort of music isn't really possible with a large ensemble, because what I'm asking of the players is to be aware not only of self, but of how that self fits in the subtle shifts of the other players. Perhaps all quartet music is that to some degree, but in Stratus the "pulse" (if there is one) is going to shift as the players move through the music. I don't want a sense of measured time and yet, there should be a sense of journey.

Composing the second movement is taking me fairly far from my normal style. What I'm hoping to achieve is not just a "cloud" piece, but something that when played as part of the whole also fits. There should be connections drawn from this slow, timeless music, to the perpetual onslaught of Cumulonimbus, the movement prior. The entire quartet will be an exploration of time in music for me. What is time? How do we mark it? How does it influence us?

I don't know the future, but  it will be interesting to see where time takes me.

Stephen Costello Returns to Vienna State Opera for Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore

Following a highly successful run of performances in the Metropolitan Opera’s season-opening production of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Stephen Costello returns to the Vienna State Opera for a second consecutive season, singing the role of Nemorino in another (and far more light-hearted) Donizetti opera, L'elisir d'amore. The four performances take place November 8–18. Costello made his company debut last season with the Vienna State Opera when, in the opening weekend, he substituted for an ailing Rolando Villazón as Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème. This fall, Costello will also give concert performances as Leicester in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda with the Munich Opera Orchestra (Dec 2 & 5), before heading to London for his company role debut as Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Jan 2–20).

As he prepares for another production in Vienna, Costello looks forward to returning to a role that he is especially fond of doing: “Nemorino is the first role I ever sang, and it’s incredibly enjoyable to do. It gives you not only the chance to show off your comic acting, but also serious moments to open up your soul and let it pour out to the audience.”

Costello made his Glyndebourne Festival debut this past June with the role of Nemorino. Reviewing the opening-night performance, London’s Guardian described Costello’s “pliant tenor” as possessing “velvety depths,” while The Times praised his “rich, easy timbre” and concluded, “The best voice on stage belongs to Stephen Costello.” His Nemorino at Michigan Opera Theatre in March 2009 drew high praise, including Opera News’s assertion that the tenor is “a first-class talent…clearly destined for a major career.” Reviewing the same production, the Detroit News singled out Costello’s “endearing, effortlessly comedic appearance,” observing, “It's hard to know which to admire more, Costello’s smart, heart-tugging comic turn, something between Charlie Chaplin and a young Steve Martin, or his superb singing – and not just in Nemorino’s hugely famous lament ‘Una furtiva lagrima.’”

Evan Shinners to release new CD @bach

Unconcerned with preconceptions of how Bach should be played, or with conventions of what a finished recording should sound like, the wildly talented pianist and 2010 Juilliard graduate Evan Shinners releases @bach (new cull records), a compilation of two live, unedited performances recorded at Juilliard and Rockefeller University. Bursting with raw musicality, spontaneous and calculated virtuosity, and an ebullient energy, Shinners connects with today’s audiences in a way that has seldom been seen for a classical artist.

“I use the music of Bach to create a modern experience, a spectacle which resembles a classical music concert, but is, instead, about living in the current year,” says Shinners, “I improvise, change notes, rescore, re-harmonize -- not out of disrespect for the composer, but to bring an air of unexpectedness and spontaneity that I feel the traditional classical music concert has lost.” - Evan Shinners

The release of @bach follows several all-Bach recitals by Shinners around New York, Colorado, California, Taiwan, Paris and Berlin since Spring 2010. Devoid of the sense of formality of most classical artists, Shinners has been heard playing Bach on an upright piano in a Brooklyn bar, prompting Time Out New York to call him “a bona fide Bach star.” In January, Shinners was seen and heard by over 10,000 Museum of Modern Art attendees during his residency in the Performance Exhibition Series at MoMA: Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy for a Prepared Piano. Evan was interviewed by CBS “Eye on New York” and a review on the cover of The New York Times Arts section declared, "Evan Shinners attacked the score with a bravura that might have pleased Liszt."

The Met: Live in HD Presents Satyagraha


SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19 at 12:55 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT

Philip Glass’s 20th-century masterpiece is an inspirational retelling of Gandhi’s formative philosophical experiences as a young man in South Africa . The minimalist score, sung in Sanskrit, features lyrics drawn from the Bhagavad Gita. Phelim McDermott’s visually extravagant production uses large-scale puppetry, acrobatics, and supertitles to create a moving, life-affirming theatrical experience. Richard Croft portrays Gandhi, a role he first sang to critical acclaim in the 2008 Met premiere of the work. The cast also includes Rachelle Durkin as Miss Schlesen, Kim Josephson as Mr. Kallenbach, and Alfred Walker as Parsi Rustomji. Contemporary music specialist Dante Anzolini conducts; rising bass-baritone star Eric Owens hosts the transmission.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are All Good Composers Moody or Simply (insert derogatory word here)

There is a fine line
   between artistic license and being a jerk
      between genius and irritating

I should apologize to my kids; for the 18 years they lived with me while growing up, I attributed my moods to their behavior. If that was the case, then, now that they're out of the house (and have been for over 10 years) the moodiness should have stopped. *sigh*, no such luck.

BTW - this is not an apology.  I'm not in the mood!

I should apologize to my wife who has put up with it all these years. Occasionally she'll tell me living with me is a constant sense of wondering what's next to which I bristle and complain,"I'm not that bad."

This isn't an apology either, but I will proffer one once this is posted.

Well, it came clear to me today that yes, sometimes I am that bad!

Life comes with a certain amount of stress. Some people have more than others and it isn't limited to one income bracket or another. My life, in comparison to someone in Afghanistan, is relatively calm and put together. I could offer up some time-worn platitudes about how wonderful or blessed I am. Unfortunately, you're catching at glimpse of me at my worst as the desire to type a series of words not normally found in PG-13 films want to come streaming from my fingers (and then blame it all on Tourettes). Any platitudes I might begin would be twisted until it's unrecognizable and you'd think my life was falling apart.

Perhaps you have the impression at this point that I'm having a bad day.  Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!  Yes, but that's not the whole truth.  The truth is I've actually had a pretty good day.  But, I didn't get a great night's sleep and there are a few recent events that have soured the positive mood.  So, a sense of exhaustion, tied with current stresses and a series of unfortunate events and I end up in a rotten mood.

This happens to everyone you say?  Well, I'd accept that if it weren't for a comment my daughter made many years ago.  My children, it seems, were astute at reading my moods when I came through the door.  They could tell instantly whether the family was being carted off to dinner and a movie or if it was best to "finish" their homework in their rooms, alone.

We thought my "moods" might be caused by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or in other words, a lack of sunlight.  But I was just as likely to be moody in Summer in Scotland when the sun is up for 18 hours a day as I was in the Winter when the sun rarely made an appearance from behind the clouds.  Other courses of action were to have my wife "do" the bills so I wouldn't stress about money.  Ok, that did relieve some stress, but then I just became "Mr Moneybags" and spent far too much money going out to dinner and buying my wife prezzies from Victoria's Secret.  (Which, on hind-sight also helped improve my mood considerably).

However, recently I've began ready biographies of various composers, these moody, irrational, irritating folks who want to put little black dots on paper and somehow think that particular skills warrants some "Get Out of Jail Free" cards for their behavior.  Beethoven was unpleasant at best, Schumann spent the last couple of years in a mental institution and Mahler was often regarded as dark, moody and irrational (disclaimer: that could be attributed to detractors who didn't like his ethnic origin).  Still, the list of composers who exhibited some sense of radical mood swings and/or a dark brooding nature is long (and illustrious).

This find should cheer me up, right?  If I'm moody and other great composers are moody, I could be another great composer.  Ummm... somehow it doesn't seem to lighten the mood.  If anything it just serves to strengthen the feeling that this day, this moment in time sucks!  Because the worst part about these moods is the inability to compose anything.  I would probably accept the foul mood IF in exchange I were able to write great swatches of music.  But alas, that is not the case.

So, today, you'd best stay clear of me. And if you know any composers, just know there will be times they will bite your head off.  This isn't an excuse.  BUT, if you want to play fetch with a rabid dog and it comes back to bite you, don't complain to me.  I'm not in the mood!

Iestyn Davies Is First British Countertenor to Sing at Met

On November 14, Iestyn Davies – named 2010’s Royal Philharmonic Young Artist of the Year – makes his house and role debuts at the Metropolitan Opera, singing Unulfo in Handel’s Rodelinda. This is an important milestone, not only for the singer but also for the company: the occasion marks the first time in the Met’s 131-year history that a British countertenor will have graced its stage.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that Britain is the home of the countertenor. As the New York Times explains, the “countertenor movement was born in England, where historically castrati were a high-priced import and [Baroque] composers like Handel were obliged to be fairly flexible.” In more recent decades, a massive resurgence of interest also originated in Britain, with 20th-century legends like Alfred Deller and James Bowman bringing the male falsetto voice back from church choir obscurity and once more onto the concert platform. In 1988, the American Jeffrey Gall became the first countertenor to sing a major role at the Met, understudying for Marilyn Horne in Handel’s Orlando. Subsequent productions have featured other exponents of the countertenor’s art, yet to date the nation that founded the tradition still remains unrepresented at the Met. How fitting, then, that the balance should be redressed by Davies, who has proved himself not only “today’s most exciting British countertenor” (Observer, UK) but also possessor of “one of the most glorious countertenor voices in the world” (Independent, UK).

The upcoming Rodelinda production is a revival of the 2005 staging with which director Stephen Wadsworth made his own Met debut, one that Variety found “memorable for its simplicity and for the emotional truth that simplicity carried,” and that the New Yorker deemed “essentially perfect.” Star soprano Renée Fleming returns in the title role as the Queen of Lombardy; Stephanie Blythe reprises Eduige; and German countertenor Andreas Scholl undertakes the part of the usurped King Bertarido, with Davies’s Unulfo as his loyal counselor. Conducted – as in 2005 – by Harry Bicket, who “drew uncannily stylish period sounds from the Met orchestra” (New Yorker), the production will be transmitted Live in HD to movie theaters worldwide on December 3.

This landmark Met debut is just one of Davies’s current season highlights. October saw the U.S. release of his most recent recording, Porpora Cantatas, a solo album on the Hyperion label that is already a sensation in Europe, and over the coming months the singer makes two more major U.S. debuts. On December 15, with pianist Kevin Murphy, he sings his first Carnegie Hall recital, presenting the world premiere of folksong arrangements by Nico Muhly alongside works by Britten, Purcell, and Bach. Then, for his first Lyric Opera of Chicago appearance, Davies makes another Handel role debut, portraying Eustanzio in Rinaldo. Directed by Francisco Negrin and co-starring David Daniels, the production opens on February 29.

This week's TOP TICKET in Denver - Drums Of The World: Nov 27th

Purchase a Family 4-Pack (2 adults, 2 kids) for only $52.80 during Denver Arts Week - November 4-12.

Travel with the virtuoso percussionists of the Colorado Symphony on a musical journey of discovery to learn all about fantastical drums of the world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Confessions of a Confounded Composer

I love music - all sorts of music.  This is my biggest problem.

You might think that loving music is necessary as a composer and I suppose all composers love music to some degree. Most composers have favorites, styles of music they gravitate toward.  I do too, to some extent.  However, there is so much available sound to choose from in the world today - compliments of the radio stations, Musak, iPod, mp3 players, downloads, Napster, Naxos... we are, as a society, inundated with new music.

Commercial music has their top 10 or top 40 or top 100 of practically every genre.  Satellite radio has hundreds of stations, and internet radio allows you to pick and choose your style down to the composer and/or band.  Yet, if we limit our choices we ultimately find, as we sit on the bus, someone is playing something we've never heard before on their phone. Advertisements bombard us with new jingles and film and TV composers are frantically writing new scores for the thousands of hours of entertainment vying for our attention.

Go to YouTube and find a video only to have the sidebar show you a dozen options you didn't choose --yet.  Follow those and another dozen options haunt you, taunt you, lure you into the abyss of musical hell, a place where you can't possibly absorb it all, you can't hear it all.  It just isn't possible.

This is where I live --in a world where new music discoveries are constantly on the horizon, hovering a click away.  Sometimes I can shut out the world and focus on what I'm writing, but no man is an island.  No composer composes without being influenced by something.  So, when I'm writing how do I limit those influences?

My wife thinks I don't listen to enough music.  She encourages me to listen to more progressive and indie rock as she thinks it will add new dimensions to my music.  I already have an infusion of jazz and early hard rock in the mix.  Add to these the exposure to classical music of my education, everything from pre-Renaissance music to Adams, Barios, Dallapiccola & Xenakis and my music takes on an interesting blend of Balkan Swing with American Psychedelia.  In a quest to live in the classical world of music I've attended countless concerts featuring Bach to Brahms, Sibelius to Shostakovich, Britten to Vivaldi, soloist recitals, new music chamber concerts, premiers of orchestral works, reviewed old operas and new, old performers and new.  Yet, every day someone introduces me to something new I've never heard before - and not just newly composed works, but pieces that have been around, music I probably should be aware of I just haven't listened enough --and that's just classical music.

So I'm back to the initial problem: there is too much music for me to listen to it all.

I'm writing a new piece which lead me to want to research some of Ligeti's music. The research was hoping to find somewhere in his string quartets I could leverage --a jumping off place. On one hand the quest was very successful.  Yet...

On my very first search, a YouTube performance of his String Quartet No. 1, I saw on the side bar a new string quartet by Ferneyhough.  I'd studied Ferneyhough in my undergraduate days and hadn't heard of his 6th string quartet (for good reason, it hadn't been composed by the time I graduated).  Curiosity got the best of me.  I listened to the Ligeti, took notes and made some great finds, then I returned to the initial page with the link to Ferneyhough and off I went.

The link to the 1st movement of Ferneyhough's String Quartet No. 6 lead me to a video of his String Quartet No. 5 which I'd also not heard AND this video had music.  OMG, here I was being presented with a chance to hear a new work by one of the great living composers of our day AND I could follow along with the music.  I was mesmerized!

Not everyone likes Ferneyhough's music.  Then again, not everyone likes my music either.  I'm not suggesting either of the composers I listened to tonight are going to played on main stream radio.  They are not even likely to be found on Classical Radio very often.  Yet, there is no denying they are huge in terms of their influence on other composers and modern classical music.  Ferneyhough is still composing!

Here I sit, still listening to his music, stunned.  Yes, I like it.  I really do.  Maybe I wouldn't put it on the stereo as much as I would say, The Chieftains.  When it comes to wanting to compose new music, the problem isn't how much I listen to one form of music or another, but in what influences me.  I want it ALL to influence me.