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Siegfried at the Met

The current Times Literary Supplement (UK) includes my review of Fabio Luisi conducting SIegfried and Don Giovanni at the Met, as follows: Notwithstanding its importance as a showplace for rich boxholders -- Mrs. Caroline Astor, who regularly came late and left early, was called a "walking chandelier" -- the early Metropolitan Opera was a conductor's house. During its "German seasons" (1884-1891), the dominant composer was Wagner and the dominant performer was Wagner's protégé Anton Seidl, presiding in the pit. Not so long after, Mahler and … [Read more...]

Presenting Mahler’s Marriage

The most vivid writings about composers' lives, I find, are the ones they produce themselves: letters, articles, books. A case in point is Gustav Mahler -- a copious and gifted correspondent. I have yet to find a Mahler biography that as vividly or poignantly limns the man as Gustav Mahler: Letters of his Wife, as edited by Henry-Louis de La Grange and Gunther Weiss in collaboration with Knud Martner. In fact, this decade-long series of exchanges between Gustav and Alma, cannily interspersed with Alma's diary entries, reads like a play. For … [Read more...]

Ives the Man

The central premise of Post-Classical Ensemble's three-day "Ives Project" at the Strathmore Music Center last week was that Charles Ives the composer was not a curmudgeonly modernist, but a wholesome and uplifting product of fin-de-siecle America. The central presentation, "Charles Ives: A Life in Music," applied letters and other writings to an array of Ives songs (peerlessly enacted by William Sharp) and chamber-orchestra works, plus "The Alcotts" from the Concord Piano Sonata (an exalted performance by Jeremy Denk). The central … [Read more...]

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