It’s a crowded category, but here are fifteen “covers from hell.”
“A concert hall that was simply too cavernous: hard to sell out and leaving audiences feeling distant from the music. Lobbies that have grown shabby over time. A fortresslike presence, somewhat isolated from the city just outside its doors. These are all problems that Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic have been trying to fix for nearly two decades at the theater now known as David Geffen Hall – and still hope to, after their announcement earlier this month that they had scrapped a $500 million gut renovation in favor of a more modest approach. But Cincinnati faced these issues too – and went ahead and did something about them.”
“He will begin the role starting with the 2018-19 season – the post had previously been held by Jiří Bělohlávek until his death in June this year.”
“Plenty of technological advancements have followed the modern LP record, which debuted in 1948: audio cassettes, compact discs, MP3 files, and now streaming services. Yet vinyl sales skyrocketed by nearly 4,000 percent between 1993 and 2016. And while CDs still vastly outpace vinyl in total units sold—99.4 million to 17.2 million in 2016—CD sales have plummeted some 91 percent since their peak in 2000. Lest you think the vinyl phenomenon is contained to this side of the Atlantic, vinyl surpassed digital music in sales in England (about $3 million to $2.7 million) at one point last year.”
Rhiannon Giddens, who was a founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, is writing a musical based on a series of events in 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina, and centering it around the music of the time. She says, “for me, the heart of American music is in this moment of white and black sort of coming together. Maybe that’s simplistic, but to me it is a symbol of the best of what we do culturally.”
Well, that’s happening in Canada, anyway: “Books on music are hardly new, but the recent flurry of new titles is part of a broader cultural shift – a nascent one, with kinks to work out. New authors are working with small, scrappy publishers to get these stories into the world. With hope, this won’t all be a blip and we’ll be treated to long treatises on Canadian pop for years to come. There should be time for growing pains.”
“It’s time for the opera world to also look at its own epidemic of sexual harassment and assault. As much as there is to say about what women go through, I’m starting from the gay perspective because it’s what I know.”
Many composer in residence posts involve a behind-the-scenes presence, helping read through submitted scores, writing new work, and emerging to do some community events. Bates, however, has become a key part of the Kennedy Center’s programming team. His KC Jukebox is one of the center’s marquee new series, spotlighting contemporary music and a wide range of performers, from Chanticleer to the Thievery Corporation, in always-unexpected combinations.
“With his goatee, dark sunglasses and exotic hats, Thelonious Monk was the quintessential hepcat. He patted his feet in mad rhythm while he was playing – and when his sidemen soloed, he got up and danced in circles. Monk, who was born 100 years ago today, was also one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. The late pianist wrote about 70 songs during his career – many of which have became standards, including the most recorded jazz composition of all time, ‘Round Midnight’.” (includes video and audio)
“Overhead, the new glass ‘acoustical clouds’ reflect sound back to the stage and into the hall, a distinct visual upgrade from old shell’s look. The stage is lower to the ground, coming only to the knees of front row attendees, and musicians behind the string sections are elevated on a set of terraced risers which should’ve been implemented years ago. Perhaps most importantly, the acoustics—which many voiced as the primary concern about the venue’s reconfiguration—are not only maintained, but improved. Simply put, the results of the renovation banished any skepticism I harbored and exceed even my wildest expectations; it is a masterpiece, a triumph. It’s so good to be home.”
Well, as he explains, his arthritis won’t let him conduct, so what’s he going to do? With Renée Fleming about to premiere his new song cycle, and with a monodrama written for her in the works, Previn talks to David Patrick Stearns on his career as he heads toward 90.
Only a week before departure, Nicolás Maduro’s regime has called off the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra’s tour to Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Taipei under conductor Gustavo Dudamel. This is the second time an overseas tour by Dudamel and a Venezuelan ensemble has been cancelled since the conductor, one of the country’s biggest international celebrities, began criticizing the Maduro government’s violent crackdowns on protesters earlier this year.
Music Theatre Wales has been catching fire for its current touring production of Peter Eötvös’s opera The Golden Dragon, which uses an all-white cast in a work set in a Chinese restaurant and featuring Chinese characters. Now the London venue for the tour, the Hackney Empire, has cancelled its scheduled performance (October 31) and disavowed all connection with the production.
Janelle Gelfand: “On opening night, listeners were still taking in the elegant new décor and patron-friendly amenities, which include cup holders for the first time on new, wider seats. Now, however, there are about 1,000 fewer seats in a hall that formerly seated more than 3,400; the audience for this gala re-opening was 2,282.”
The October Revolution in Jazz & Contemporary Music was something like a State of the Union for free improvisation and avant-garde composition, and also a statement of potential. An intergenerational sweep of experimentalists — including younger acts as well as many of free jazz’s first-generation heroes, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s — appeared on a well-appointed stage in a city not known for high-budget jazz presentations. It was a rare institutional moment for the improvising avant-garde and maybe proof that in a moment when jazzis surging, the United States can respect its fringes on a level that only Europe historically has.
A reporter climbs up to the equivalent of the organ loft (which looks “more like an air traffic control booth”) at Fenway Park to watch Boston Red Sox organist Josh Kantor and his high-tech equipment at work.
“After a five-year fundraising campaign, the Kansas City Symphony announced Wednesday that it had accomplished its goal of raising $55 million for its endowment fund, which will now total more than $100 million.”
Mikhail Klein, a pianist from the Siberian city of Irkutsk who was proficient in both classical and jazz repertoire, suffered cardiac arrest while playing a concert in his hometown’s Philharmonic Hall.
“The orchestra was established in London in 1976 but the British vote to leave meant it had to come up with a plan for a future outside the UK. … The orchestra said on Wednesday it had accepted an offer from the Italian culture ministry to be based in Ferrara and Rome.” As EUYO chief executive Marshall Marcus says, “You can’t ask for EU funding and then not be in the EU.”
The Metropolitan Opera opened the season with its hundred-and-fifty-seventh performance of Bellini’s “Norma.” The New York Philharmonic began with its hundred-and-nineteenth rendition of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. This is the safe course that many performing-arts groups are choosing in precarious times: the eternal return to the world that was. Both works are masterpieces that deserve to be heard repeatedly. Yet the implicit message is reactionary. As the nation contends with its racist and misogynist demons, New York’s leading musical institutions give us canonical pieces by white males, conducted by white males, directed by white males.
As the contract now stands, Nagano will serve as General Music Director until 2025, a role he began in 2015.
Anne Midgette looks at how filmmakers employ well-known classical scores as signifiers and, occasionally, plot points.
“The architects were selected by the City of London Corporation from a shortlist of well-established names, including Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano, to design the new [£250 million] Centre for Music. The concert hall will be built on the current site of the Museum of London as a permanent home for Simon Rattle’s London Symphony Orchestra.”
The three productions – Verdi’s Aida, Strauss’s Salome and Wagner’s Lohengrin – are the first joint ventures for the two companies. No dates or directors have been announced yet, though Bolshoi general director Vladimir Urin made a point of saying that the project has President Putin’s approval.
Lennon and McCartney are writing their own songs because skiffle has empowered them. And I don’t think there was that equivalent in the United States. There was no mass movement of school-aged boys playing three-chord blues songs in the United States. Skiffle was less like the punk scene and more like — do you know what a fidget spinner is?
Matthew Shaver has been playing the piano since he was 4 years old, and being homeless – or “home-free,” as he calls it – isn’t stopping him, thanks to the free piano at Union Station. “The piano, he says, “is the most positive influence in my life. … I felt accepted, I felt wanted, I felt that I was useful, that I could do something that could last.”
What’s the difference between it and even a grand piano? A lot: “It was a gigantic experiment. If you think of a typical concert piano, of course they sound amazing. But with this piano, there is an extra level of depth and resonance again because the piano wires are more than 20 feet long,”
The musician says he spent a lot of time singing under his breath at school. “At 10, his pastor parents moved from California, where he was born, to Accra in Ghana, where his fellow students would mock his American accent. It kickstarted what he calls ‘an almost obnoxious obsession with loneliness, singledom, isolation,’ which has permeated his music ever since.”
Wesley Morris investigates: “We take female musicians just seriously enough not to notice that we don’t actually take them seriously enough. They matter in the present. But posterity is another matter. Posterity is keeping them down in the basement in case Tom Petty comes over.”
“Figures from the University of Sussex suggest the number of schools in England offering music GCSE has dropped from 85% to 79% between 2012 and 2016. The survey, which spoke to 657 state and 48 private schools across England, claimed the amount of 13 and 14-year-olds given compulsory music lessons fell by nearly 25%.”