National and even international attention has been focused on music director searches in Eugene lately because three of the last four people on the podium — Marin Alsop, Miguel Harth-Bedoya and Giancarlo Guerrero — have all gone on from their jobs here to national prominence.
“Like thousands of other Stravinsky fans, I listened to a live stream of the première, my anticipation heightened by descriptions that the composer had supplied later in life. (He called it ‘the best of my works before The Firebird, and the most advanced in chromatic harmony.’) Like many others, I felt mild disappointment. Funeral Song contains no thrilling premonitions of the Stravinsky to come. … Yet, after spending more time with the piece … I felt a growing fascination. The music has a veiled power, and hints at otherwise hidden sources of inspiration. A spectre haunts the scene: the spectre of Wagner.” (includes sound clip)
“Karl-Heinz Steffens announced that he’s already decided to leave his post next year. Steffens was popular and had been viewed as a unifying force in an organization riddled with conflict, but he claims he simply hasn’t found a good tone with the Opera’s incoming and embattled Artistic Director, Annilese Miskimmon.”
“It’s simply not realistic to expect someone to respond to music with such life-defining fervour more than once. And it’s not realistic, either, to expect someone comfortable with his personality to be flailing about for new sensibilities to adopt. I’ve always been somewhat suspicious of those who truly do, as the overused phrase has it, listen to everything. Such schizophrenic tastes seem not so much a symptom of well-roundedness as of an unstable sense of self. Liking everything means loving nothing. If you’re so quick to adopt new sentiments and their expression, then how serious were you about the ones you pushed aside to accommodate them?”
Chase, 38, became the first flutist to receive the Fisher Prize, which is awarded every few years to recognize musical excellence, vision and leadership (and whose payoff was increased this year from $75,000). The prize comes half a year after Ms. Chase stepped down from leading the International Contemporary Ensemble, the vital new-music collective commonly known as ICE, to focus more on her performing career.
“Americans might say that their freedom of self-expression is being denied if they are told how to dress. I think we can learn that self-expression and respect for certain traditions are not mutually exclusive. I have seen many of my fellow citizens dressed in attire more suited to a workout at the gym or for mowing the lawn in restaurants, offices and theaters. This detracts from the specialness of certain occasions.”
“To repeat the same sequence of eight notes over and over again while staring at the back of John Mellencamp’s head as amplified guitars and boisterous audience members drown out most of the sound—I can’t think of a greater privilege than that. The only thing better would be playing with Jon Bon Jovi, but I’m not getting my hopes up.”
“How can we change what we do so that we are bringing in more readers in more places to be more engaged. It’s not a question purely of page views, but more engaged: the term that encompasses both sheer numbers and the kind of readers they are, whether they are subscribers, how long they’re spending on the articles, where in the world they’re located. So what we want in classical music, and what everyone in the paper wants, is to be bringing our journalism to a substantive and engaged readership.”
Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim looks at the still-common dynamic that the opera explores via myth: as Savage puts it, “It’s a common delusion, particularly among women, that their love is transformative. That they can find their damaged man and, by loving him, they can save him, restore him, fix him, make him a better person.”
“Expanding the concert experience is a pet theme of classical music these days. And if you wonder why the concert experience needs expanding, it’s because the term ‘classical concert’ tends to translate as ’19th-century music played in a stuffy setting’ – at least, to the people who aren’t coming. In fact, classical concerts are more and more varied, and this weekend I saw a couple of different attempts – one more subtle, one more overt – to mix things up.”
Well, strictly speaking, it’s in Boulogne-Billancourt, about 10 miles and 20 Métro stops southwest of the city center. Designed by the Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban (known for his extraordinary way with much materials as cardboard and paper tubes), La Seine Musicale has a 6,000-seat hall for rock events (it opened on Friday with Bob Dylan) and an 1,150-seat classical concert hall that’s been turned over to conductor Laurence Equilbey and her professional chamber choir, Accentus, and period-instrument Insula Orchestra.
Unplugged, soft-spoken and unchaotic — parents now, rather than children — is a good summary of the Bang on a Can founders these days, even as their energy is undimmed. Their work, once punkishly outsiderish, is now showered with mainstream accolades.
“The only possibility for orchestras and opera houses to find new repertoire, with the chance that they hit upon something of real value, is to preserve a practical framework: the one which defines the fundamentals of the art form. This means ignoring the postwar modernist ideologies of progress – because there is no progress in the arts – and requiring of new repertoire that it be suited to the medium as it has developed over time.”
Tim Wilson was a star trumpeter. But he began to go blind. Now – instead of playing Puccini’s “La Bohème” at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, the 58-year-old maestro is working up to 14 hours a day coaxing “Jingle Bells” out of beginners and pouring much of his life savings into bringing music back to a school where 95 percent of students live in poverty. If he can take kids who can’t play a note and teach them a song, Wilson believes, they will not just feel successful, but see new possibilities everywhere in their lives.
“We were very aggressive about being relevant for the community we were in,” Morlot said. “We want people to feel that this symphony is their community orchestra.” But that part of his job, he said, “is crucial but sometimes exhausting” — the fundraising, the meetings, the oversight for educational programs and civic engagement.
The double bass player recruited and organized a group quickly in 2015, and her project has been a success. “The Chineke! Foundation — which includes both Europe’s first professional orchestra made up entirely of minority musicians from across Britain and Europe, and also a junior orchestra — has had a strong impact not only on the musicians involved, but also on the audiences.”
The 65-year-old was shocked when a lump he discovered on his neck in 2014 was cancerous, but now he’s in full remission and resuming his career with a vengeance (and hoping to premiere an opera in 2019).
It is, as a matter of fact, already affected: The pound has fallen, and Apple Music is considering raising the cost of a subscription. Then there’s the little issue of touring, and who’s allowed where.
He bought the starling and, when it died, wrote an elegy for it. Yes, really. “He paid a few kreuzers for a starling in that notebook. And he called the bird Vogelstar.”
“The paradox in Canadian music is that we have so many superstars and very few developmental channels to build future superstars. We cannot expect to continue to have globally relevant Canadian pop stars without examining (or creating) the mechanisms needed to sustain pop chart ascension.”
VO moved to a festival model to ensure the future viability of the company as it deals with universal challenges facing the opera world. Kim Gaynor says tickets are selling, but she concedes the buzz has been slow to build.
“The sounds frequently referred to as elevator music are, at least officially, no more; over five years ago the company folded in a deal with its new owner, Mood Music. Muzak often amounted to the sonic equivalent of a Pan-Am smile, inspiring the listener to a bland, blinkered contentedness. In part, its reputation has obscured much of what made the company viable, and the extent to which its style fed others in its wake.”
Overall, “Music of the 1940s was preferred to music of its neighboring decades, and the same was true for music of the 1960s. The music of the 1980s also showed a peak, but … only for the younger participants.”
We should raise a cheer to the woman who contributed so much, with so little fanfare, to the history of 20th and 21st Century music. Don’t take my word for it. “Nadia Boulanger,” says Quincy Jones, “was the most astounding woman I ever met in my life.” And he’s met a few.
“We [conductors] are the ears of the singer. But if we tell singers to please fit into a little box that I’m trying to create … then the conductor is like a teacher, and that is not what it should be.” David Patrick Stearns does a Q&A with YNS as he prepares for the opening of The Flying Dutchman, his first production at the Metropolitan Opera since becoming music director-designate.
Lindsay Kemp visits Kobe to talk with the founder/director of the Bach Collegium Japan about the extraordinary (and excellent) 55-CD, 18-year project that Suzuki didn’t expect he’d be undertaking when he started it.
America’s favorite orchestra CEO talks about arts funding, what she achieved in her 17 years in L.A., and what she hopes to achieve in New York. And Tavis (based in L.A.) literally gets on his knees and begs her not to go. (video)
“The opera, Harry Somers’s Louis Riel, tells the story of Riel, who led two 19th-century uprisings against the young nation of Canada, helped found Manitoba and was hanged for treason.” Missing from the score, and from its early stagings around Canada’s centennial, were the voices of the country’s First Nations. The Canadian Opera Company’s new production (for Canada’s 150th anniversary) has found a poetic way to address that absence.
Reporter Peter Dobrin follows Hannibal Lokumbe as he takes four of the orchestra’s musicians to the Philadelphia Detention Center to perform a new piece about Anne Frank.
“The instrument sports a number of unusual features, like a banked fingerboard that fights strain by reducing supination in a player’s left arm. But what truly draws the eye—and drops the jaw—is the viola’s off-kilter layout: It has been stretched on the diagonal to some 20 inches to maximize the vibrating surface area. Because it has also been shortened from top to bottom, it feels like a ¾-size viola to the player’s left hand.”