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Recommended: Music We Think You Should Listen To

May 12, 2020

Like everyone, I don’t have time to catch up with all the music that’s happening online. And right now, it’s part of my job: if you’re not paid to discover and listen to interesting music and performances, I don’t even know how you’d start to pick things out of the myriad of possibilities, with everything else there is to do and worry about. So since we’re always trying to be helpful at SFCV and since we dearly hope that some financial support will flow to artists and organizations we spotlight, here’s a short, annotated list of performances I found this past week that I think are especially recommendable.

Online Gatherings

14 Violinists Play the Bach Chaconne: One of the joys of chamber music or, really, any music, is making it with other people. And since the pandemic has made this difficult, musicians have found interesting ways around this problem. Violinist Augustin Hadelich came up with the brilliant idea of having different violinists play this famous Bach showpiece and then splicing them together. The violinists take slightly different tempos, have very different interpretive ideas, and two of them are even using Baroque-era bows. Hadelich weaves all of them into a vivid performance that I’ve now watched twice, only because I didn’t have time to watch it a third time.

“Bella Ciao” by Delirium Musicum: Recently, Italy celebrated the 70th anniversary of the fall of dictator Benito Mussolini. Some older Italians sang this famous anti-fascist anthem from their windows. It so happens that this same song is also the theme to the Netflix show Money Heist/La Casa de Papel. The musicians of L.A.’s young chamber group Delirium Musicum, now dispersed on three continents, came together virtually to make this 55-second ode to hope.

Les Introuvables de YouTube Channels

Voices of Music, Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 6: If you’re a regular reader of SFCV and you don’t know about Voices of Music’s YouTube channel, then you’re probably not a regular reader of SFCV. David Tayler and Hanneke van Proosdij tell us that last month the channel had 2.8 million pageviews. Aside from the high definition video and audio, the performances are stellar. Bach’s Brandenburg No. 6 is one of the most challenging to play well: all the more reason to hear VoM do it.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, concert broadcast — Ravel, Mazzoli, Stravinsky, Prokofiev: LACO is bootstrapping its own on-demand service “LACO at Home.” There’s a lot of interesting content on it, including a short interview with Hollywood great John Williams and some terrific solo performances as well. The kickoff for the channel was a broadcast of a concert that the orchestra did in October featuring Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, Missy Mazzoli’s double bass concerto Dark With Excessive Bright, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite, and Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony. Check it out:

Opera

American Opera Project TV, The Echo Drift: One of the big hits of Beth Morrison Projects and HERE's 2018 Prototype Festival, this incredible 78-minute jazz/rock influenced opera is about prison and how your own mind can turn against you when you’re in solitary confinement. Commissioned and developed by BMP, HERE, and American Opera Project, out of a workshop production at the Swedish Embassy in D.C., it’s a brilliant wedding of words and music, tightly staged by director Mallory Catlett and powered by a leave-it-all-out-there performance by Blythe Gaissert. You may not have heard of composer Mikael Karlsson before, but look him up after you see the show. There’s a lot of good music out there with his name on it. (AOP asks that you register with your email in order to view videos, but they are free to view.) Watch here.

Opera North, Trouble in Tahiti: Leonard Bernstein’s one-act opera is one of his finest dramatic works. Despite its engagement with a lot of the ephemera of 1950s white suburbia, the opera seems less dated, musically, than many of the operas written at the same time. This 2018 production, from Leeds-based Opera North, is pitch perfect in so many ways that it would be exhausting to list them all. The treasurable details are like Easter eggs. Only available till June 1, but don’t miss it. This opera is done way less frequently than it should be.

New Music

Timo Andres, Old Ground: So much music, so little time. When Andres’s Carnegie Hall piano recital was canceled, he recorded it himself at home. There’s lots of good music on the program, including the premiere of Gabriela Smith’s Imaginary Pancake and pieces by Louis Andriessen, John Adams, Brad Mehldau, Nico Muhly, and more, but if you only have time to look in on it, try this deeply felt piece by Andres himself. (And for the full recital, click here.)

Center for New Music Encore Concert — Ensemble for These Times: San Francisco’s vibrant, invaluable Center for New Music has provided shelter for so many important and useful projects and expanded our view of the musical world so greatly that they deserve some sort of award. Or at least a donation. On Thursday, May 14, at 7 p.m. PT, C4NM streams an encore presentation of Ensemble for These Times’s recent concert there, featuring the world premiere of Weiwei Miao’s Blooming Flowers, Full Moon and music by eight other (well-known and highly regarded) women composers. Just login a few minutes before 7. Here’s the link.

High Spirits and Uptempo

Stop being so serious, I’m always hearing. Right, let’s have some (serious) escapism. To start things off, check out the Nu Deco ensemble from Miami playing their tribute to Nina Simone, Miss Simone.

And then there are guitarists Rodrigo y Gabriela playing an NPR Tiny Desk Concert from their home. This pair have their own thing going that includes rock, flamenco, folk, and a whole lot else:

And finally, in tribute to Little Richard, who died this month but whose breakthrough songs and performances are immortal classics, here is “Long Tall Sally” and “Tutti Frutti”:

And as a bonus: Little Richard and Fishbone in Huddie Ledbetter’s “Rock Island Line” from the CBS tribute album A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. Kicks ass.

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.