Given all the particular, er, associations attached to Wagner and his operas, the reopening of his own opera house and festival six years after Germany’s defeat was a fraught, touchy affair. Yet conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler pulled it off, forgoing any of Wagner’s own operas in favor of everyone’s favorite German expression of uplift. Sappy? On the contrary, argues Colin Fleming: the performance, newly reissued on disc, “is as viscerally intense as 20th-century classical recordings get … simultaneously draining, in what it pulls from you emotionally, and emboldeningly triumphal.”
From my own teaching of introductory music classes, I can report that today’s students still listen to classical music—but they don’t single it out as anything special or elite. Armed with laptops, tablets, smartphones, and iPods, and assisted by iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, and other online resources, they consume vast amounts of music on a daily basis. And they have astonishingly cosmopolitan palates, happily taking in reggae, heavy metal, gamelan, hip hop, grunge, salsa, jazz, classical, klezmer—and much more, in equal measure. It’s all one playlist, it’s all music, and it’s all “classic.”
“Thelonious Monk once said ‘All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.’ Musicians like John Coltrane though have been very much aware of the mathematics of music and consciously applied it to his works.”
Kensho Watanabe, the 29-year-old assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, stepped in at the last minute on Saturday evening for suddenly-ill music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin – and reportedly brought the house down. With a Q&A, David Patrick Stearns introduces readers to Watanabe and gets the story of the fateful night.
Phelim McDermott’s English National Opera production – starring a
naked nude Anthony Roth Costanzo – of the Philip Glass opera about the iconoclastic pharaoh won for best new opera production, while conductor Mark Wigglesworth – who stormed away from the ENO’s music directorship in March of last year to protest funding cuts – was honored for outstanding achievement in opera for his conducting of Don Giovanni and Lulu at the company.
Du Yun’s “Angel’s Bone” wins. The Pulitzer jury described it as “a bold operatic work that integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world.”
“Consumers initiated 133.9 billion streams in the first quarter, up from 99.1 billion during the same period last year, continuing the growth of 39% overall in 2016 compared to 2015. Translated as album sales, using a formula that assigns one sale for every 1,500 song streams, the music industry also experienced continued growth, but at a more modest rate of 5.9%. Unit sales of track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA) increased from 137.4 million last year to 145.5 million so far in 2017.”
An audacious power trio that also functions as a postbop combo, The Bad Plus first made its mark by reforging songs from the pop-culture consciousness. (“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” by Nirvana, was an early calling card.) But the band has also been a tireless engine for original music. Each member contributes compositions, writing for the band while preserving a distinctive signature: vaulting and sonorous for Anderson, dissonant yet often delicate for Iverson, wily and kinetic for King.
“The atrium is the highest-profile new toy to come out of the remodeling project. Chamber groups perform there, and soloists with the orchestra do pre- and post-concert work. For Sommerfest, the atrium provides the orchestra three distinct venues (including Peavey Plaza) for programming. It also serves as something of a town hall — political and corporate groups routinely hold meetings there. Weddings and other private social events generate income, too.”
Yuja Wang: “If the music is beautiful and sensual, why not dress to fit? It’s about power and persuasion. Perhaps it’s a little sadomasochistic of me. But if I’m going to get naked with my music, I may as well be comfortable while I’m at it.”
The Boston Typewriter orchestra doesn’t travel, but (ironically?) its music is all too available online.
There are several dangers in listening to classical music only in recordings. But the worst is that “we are in danger of losing touch with the greatest strength of classical music – its liveness. The unrepeatable, unpredictable nature of great music performed in the moment for that moment only.”
“A video, widely shared online since Sunday, shows clubbers dancing to music that includes the call to prayer at the club in the north-east town of Nabeul. The footage sparked a storm of debate on social media.”
The custom has made its way to the opera house from, of all places, Christmas pantomimes – and Antonio Pappano is all for it. (After all, that Pinkerton is a terrible cad.)
Entry fees are only half the battle. You’ll spend quite a bit on lodging, transportation, food and alcohol as well. In fact, hotel prices for Coachella weekends are 140% higher than normal, according to hotel booking website Trivago. Even compared to last year, hotel costs for properties within 10-miles of the festival are up by $120.
I’ve heard leading figures in the harpsichord world give recitals that were played as if someone had died. Personally, I’d rather have dental surgery than hear recitals such as these, but there are those who applaud the fact that “you always know where you stand with them.” Really?! Could you imagine going to bed with someone like that, always knowing where you stand with him? “OK, see you same time, same place next year!”
It sounds, surreal, but it’s true: Steve Lillywhite, who has won six Grammys, is now CEO of a Jakarta company that compiles and packages pop music discs that are sold in KFC restaurants throughout Indonesia. They move half a million CDs every month.
Michael Linnit, who co-produces the musicals presented at the Coliseum, ENO’s home theatre (and London’s largest), said the company “only produces its opera six months of the year, so we facilitate those six months by taking in musicals, producing a lot of money for it. … It [ENO] would not survive without the additional rental weeks.”
“Online streaming services offer countless choices, so there’s no reason to stick with a song that doesn’t grab you right off the bat. And many people don’t: Research from 2014 found Spotify subscribers skip about one-third of sampled songs after a mere 20 seconds. But perhaps more interesting is the notion that this new reality is changing the way music is written and recorded.”
The absolute number of total attendance at the symphony has dropped about 10 percent during Assink’s tenure. In effect, more individuals are coming, but less often. The good news is that the average age is dropping. What’s also changed are donor profiles and giving patterns, particularly in the last two years. The amount per donor has increased slightly and there is a new culture among donors, which is increasingly tied to Silicon Valley — as Assink put it, “with everything that that means.”
Almost 500 music leaders have signed a letter decrying the “anti-intellectualism” of a recently published Guardian feature, which argued children are “locked out” by overly academic music lessons.
Sarah Cahill: “Composers and musicians need validation, but more than that, they need to feel their work is understood. I see that hunger when guests come on my radio show and talk about themselves, and I hear it from friends who throw everything they have – emotionally and financially and professionally – into a big new project, only to have it vanish into the ether without a trace. We’re all grateful for the excellent music critics in this country, but still miss the freedom and the space they once had, as we miss the daily ritual of reading a beautifully crafted music review.”
It hasn’t been said officially, but it’s widely rumored that her upcoming run as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier at the Met will be her final appearance in staged opera. Charles McGrath talks to one of her closest friends, her college voice teacher, a former manager, a former publicist, Met General Manager Peter Gelb, and others who have figured prominently in her career.
“Ryan Nunez had been a member of the chorus for a number of years and worked on staff as the group’s Administrative Coordinator since 2014.”
The 44-year-old tenor, famous for his skill at high-flying, difficult Rossini roles, has been named Artistic Advisor. “One of his first projects is to help develop a new opera with jazz musicians Esperanza Spalding and Wayne Shorter that’s expected to premiere in 2019. One of his big goals is to show young people in Philadelphia that opera is cool.” Peter Dobrin does a Q&A with Brownlee about his plans – which, not to worry, include continuing to sing.
“It’s 2017, and EDM, a disposable culture from the start, is rotting in the trash. Battered by its association with bro culture and drug deaths, the genre has become America’s anthem for vomit and sexual coercion. Since the last time I was in Miami, SFX has gone bankrupt, Avicii has retired, and even Skrillex, once the genre’s poster child, is returning to his rock roots and collaborating with Incubus. So what happens to Miami Music Week, once the epicenter of America’s corporate dance music bubble, in today’s post-EDM world?”
The LA Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles operates in an area where the high school graduation rate is 50%. But kids in this program? “The statistics coming out of the HOLA’s academic enrichment, visual arts and music programs speak to why demand is so high. Of the 63 students in those programs who were high school seniors in 2015, 100% of them graduated, and 97% went on to college.”
“The legislation offers tax breaks for recording and film scoring projects, as well as attracting groups who want rehearsal space to prepare for tours. If a touring band holds rehearsals and begins their tours in Georgia, and spend over $500,000 here, they will receive a 15 to 20 percent tax credit. Recording projects in Georgia that spend a minimum of $100,000 over a year’s time would also receive a 15 to 20 percent tax credit.”
“Rock music is in its jazz phase And I don’t mean it’s having a Kamasi Washington/Thundercat moment of extreme hipness. I mean it’s like Ryan Gosling’s version of jazz in La La Land: something fetishised by an older audience, but which has ceded its place at the centre of the pop-cultural conversation to other forms of music, ones less tied to a sense of history. Ones, dare I say it, more forward looking. For several years, it seemed, I was asked by one desk or another at the Guardian to write a start-of-year story about how this was the year rock would bounce back. But it never did. The experts who predicted big things for guitar bands each year were routinely wrong. No one asks for that story any longer.”
“The music industry remains greatly diminished since its turn-of-millennium heights: 2016’s $7.7 billion in revenue is only half of the approximately $15 billion that was being made in 1999. The internet—piracy, cheap single sales, and free streaming—largely caused the declines seen in the 2000s. So if streaming is helping now, it is first helping to offset the enormous losses caused by the technology that enables it.”