“His return to the stage on Friday — to headline the season opener at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home in the Berkshires — is being closely watched not only by his fans, but also by the music industry. … The select group of artists who can still sell out concerts on the strength of their names includes Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell and Renée Fleming — and Mr. Lang.” Michael Cooper explains what kept Lang Lang away from playing and what’s at stake now.
“Elizabeth Rowe, who joined the BSO in 2004 after winning a blind audition for the role of principal flute, says in the lawsuit she’s asked for years to be paid the same as the principal oboe — the best comparison to her unique position — but the orchestra kept her pay well below that of her peer.” The difference is currently $70,000.
“ENO is now a shell of the great and pioneering company it was when Peter Jonas was general director in the 1980s. Under Jonas, director of productions David Pountney and music director Mark Elder, ENO developed enormous self-confidence, great visual elan and an in-your-face aesthetic that combined high camp with raw violence.” Now the company lurches from crisis to crisis, runs fewer performances of duller productions, and rents out its house for half the year. Stephen Moss has a few suggestions for making ENO great again – including getting rid of its ‘white elephant’ of a theatre.
“Like many courtships, this one was sealed with a ring. The Italian conductor Gianandrea Noseda, the music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, had left an operatic post this spring at the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy, amid administrative and political upheaval. The Zurich Opera House came calling. ‘I said, ‘Do you want to be my chief conductor?” Andreas Homoki, the artistic director in Zurich, recalled recently. Then he offered Mr. Noseda the icing on the cake: ‘I said, ‘Do you wanted to do the Ring with me?””
The Russian conductor takes up the post at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, at which time he’ll step down from his current position at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, where he will have spent a successful 15 years. Petrenko succeeds Charles Dutoit, who resigned this year following accusations of sexual harassment and assault.
Massey Hall has been the best room in Canada for 124 years. Doesn’t that mean anything? Playing in that room, looking out across the floor, to the two balconies that are so close you can almost touch them, the over-lacquered red walls and black poles? This room stands in witness and testament to all the greats who have performed on its stage.
Since entering the pop-music world, the judgments I would have made when I was in classical music about pop, I increasingly understand why they would have been irrelevant. And it’s made me appreciate that most classical music isn’t about the technical shit either. Pop includes a lot of what is called “extra-musical information.” The lyrics, that’s not music, that’s words representing outside ideas. The artwork, the music videos—all this stuff that’s not the music, but that is used to create the product. But it turns out that’s true in classical music. There’s no Mahler No. 9 without knowing his daughter died.
“Truly great works build a bridge not only between the concerns of their time and a longer historical struggle, but also between the performer’s feelings and the common well of human sentiment. The most consequential protest songs get referenced again and again for a reason: their power, both felt and understood, never dies.”
Germany, of course, is walking a tightrope of history. “As Germany struggles with increasing attacks on Jews and Israel is under pressure for killings of protesters along its border with Gaza, a growing clash over B.D.S. is spilling over into the cultural scene. It has divided art and music festivals that aim to foster cultural dialogue, and even sparked a feud between the mayor of Munich and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.”
“James Taylor was 22 when he bought 175 acres of woods with the proceeds from his first record deal. On a stormy June afternoon nearly half a century later, Carly Simon, his ex-wife; their children, Sally Taylor and Ben Taylor; Ben’s partner, Sophie Hiller, and their friends, the musicians John Forté and David Saw, were gathered in the rambling house that has grown up like a wagon wheel around the original structure, with hallways that hopscotch over rooms and staircases in odd places.”
Anne Tomlinson has been at the helm for 22 years, taking the chorus numbers from 100 to 450 and from three ensembles to six. Though she’s firm with the kids at rehearsal, “it is quite clear that plenty of fun is being had. The fun, however, is in the execution of the craft. And craft is elevated above all else.”
Anthony Tommasini: “For 80 years, New York audiences — and critics, including me — have felt as much affection for the Frick’s music room as the artists who have performed there, even ones of international renown. It truly is the closest thing to a 19th-century music salon this city has to offer. But the beloved room is, sadly, now on borrowed time.”
When you want to perform Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Gruppen” in the Tate Modern, and you really, really, don’t want the three orchestras to fall out of sync, you have to take rather a lot of meetings. The three conductors: “Pencils in hand, they laid out their scores on a table and mimicked their orchestras’ parts in a cacophony of hummed notes, whoops, grunts, bleats and birdlike sounds — and every once in a while, in unison, a triumphant’Bang!'”
[The gossip] is the human comedy, that’s what I like. I came into music because nobody was writing about it in a way that interested me. Musicologists were writing arcane and abstruse things which had no relation to who the composer was, where he or she was at that particular time in her life. They weren’t answering the questions of, “Why is this piece meaningful to me, why is this phrase meaningful to me?” In the way that you’d ask in every other human transaction from the restaurant to the bedroom. And so I started asking those questions.
“David Mellor said that while he thought begging the prime minister to buy the Coliseum for the ENO had been ‘a major contribution to the cultural life of the country’, he now thought it was an ‘act of stupidity’. His intervention has been sparked in part by the decision of the ENO management to lease out the Coliseum in London for almost half the year [to producers of commercial musicals].”
“My central aim was to give the reading public an informed yardstick of opinion by which they could measure their own reactions to a given performance. … Contrary to what many assume of critics, I took no delight in panning performers. I always tried for balance in my reviews. I appreciated the power of the pen but was often reminded of the limitations of language when it comes to evoking arguably the most word-proof of the arts.”
“We have the 19th-century ideal of strength in unity — expressed in the “Ode to Joy” — scraping up uneasily against a 21st-century ideal of strength in diversity. The change in perspective makes some people afraid and angry. It makes others hopeful and optimistic. Until we see whether we can achieve a paradigm shift or whether we fall back into something like the genocidal chaos of the mid-20th century, I think we should press pause on Beethoven’s Ninth. I, personally, would be satisfied to never hear it again.”
“For decades, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s all-volunteer group of singers, dazzled audiences with its performances, delivering masterful renditions of intricate scores in German, Czech, Latin, and French — almost always from memory. But discordant notes are being struck after the chorus’s new conductor, James Burton, has unceremoniously decimated its ranks, forcing out a large swath of singers, including many of the group’s most senior members.”
“It was Rio’s equivalent of the Blue Note or Ronnie Scott’s, a legendary downtown samba club famed for its caipirinha-fuelled jam sessions and for spawning some of the best young musicians in town. Today, though, Bar Semente lies abandoned, a graffiti-covered symbol of the city’s post-mega-event slump. An epitaph has been sprayed on its facade: ‘The Olympics, for who?'”
“Simon Rattle is looking straight at me, eyes flaring, fist shaking. I am straining with every fibre of my being to give him what he wants. I would die for this man right now. I’m desperate to shape the phrase just as he’s showing, sustaining the long note and getting louder over the arpeggio. But I over-push the sound, my notes crack, I lose my focus and have to break eye contact to look at the music, ashamed of myself. I’m reminded why I decided not to become a professional musician.”
“Maestro Muti stopped a performance of Chant sur la Mort de Joseph Haydn, Luigi Cherubini’s funeral cantata for the Austrian composer, dead in its tracks, and one audience member told the Tribune they thought he said ‘it’s impossible’ while another said they thought he uttered an expletive. A CSO spokeswoman would not comment on what he said.”
It was “a period in which he helped transform the Berlin Philharmonic, one of Europe’s most venerable ensembles, into one of the 21st century’s most forward-thinking orchestras. He mounted ambitious educational extravaganzas, broadened its repertoire, reached out to Berlin’s diverse communities, and asked its musicians to embrace a different vision of what it means to play in an orchestra. It was a partnership that wound up succeeding despite occasional tensions, creative and otherwise, with the players — who self-govern the orchestra and hold the power to hire their chief.”
The times – and the methods for counting a song’s popularity – are changing: “As the market rapidly evolves, so too must the chart if it wants to cling to any vestige of relevance: the latest changes will see video streams added for the first time and a new weighting system applied to ‘premium’ streams (those on paid subscription services) and ‘free’ streams (those on ad-supported services like YouTube and the free tier of Spotify).”
It’s a challenge, for so many reasons: “The received idea of ballet pianists is that they are at the bottom of the totem pole, working, as they do, out of the public eye with people who don’t really care about music. On the surface it seems easy enough—small bits of light classics in triple and duple meter with a maybe a show tune or two thrown in for fun. Plié. Sauté. Soutenu. And again on the other side. [But] Ballet pianists at a top company will have about ten seconds to choose the music for the exercise from the library of tunes in their heads.”