Here's our guide to the wonderful, sometimes wacky world of classical music blogs. You'll find commentary on local, national and international happenings. Jump in and join in! If we’ve missed one of your favorites, send us an email at email@example.com.
Magnificat is an ensemble of voices and instruments that specializes in music of the 17th Century. Under the artistic direction of Warren Stewart, Magnificat performs a wide repertoire ranging from reconstructions of historic liturgies to staged operas. In this blog, Stewart and others write about Magnificat, the music they perform, and the art. culture and history of the 17th Century.
Mind the Gap (Molly Sheridan)
Molly Sheridan writes about American culture through the lens of great performances. The range of posts is wide, but always rooted in classical music performance and culture.
Monotonous Forest (Bruce Hodges)
Bruce Hodges writes about his experiences at concerts in New York (and occasionally beyond). Posts often link to his freelance reviews sprinkled throughout the web.
An opera lover from Copenhagen with a heavy travel schedule provides a plethora of pictures and video from productions all over Europe.
Musical Perceptions (Scott Spiegelberg)
Scott Spiegelberg teaches theory at DePauw University. Here he flits between technical discussions and his recommendations for listening, reading, attending, etc...
My Favorite Intermissions (Maury D'annato)
Opera buff Maury D'annato shares his experiences attending opera in New York City
Get the latest on new releases from classical music label Naxos, as well as discussion about the state of the classical music industry.
Neoclassical (Holly Mulcahy)
Holly Mulcahy writes about her experiences as a freelance violinist in the Chicago area. Her roughly monthly missives offer a peak behind the curtain at life in the classical music world.
New Music Box
This web magazine of the American Music Center covers the world of new music, including interviews with composers, editorials, reports and general chatter.
Night After Night (Steve Smith)
New York Times critic Steve Smith offers listening suggestions, and shines a light on some of his favorite musical events in New York City. The majority of postings, however are links to the reviews he writes for his day job.
Speaking of Adams: In 2003, Berkeley's John (Coolidge) Adams won the Pulitzer Prize in Music; on April 14, Alaska's John (Luther) Adams won the 2014 Pulitzer for Music for his orchestral work Become Ocean.
J.L. Adams was born on Jan. 23, 1953, in Meridian, Mississippi; his music is inspired by nature, especially the landscapes of Alaska where he has lived since 1978.
Commissioned by the Seattle Symphony, which premiered the work last summer, Become Ocean is on the orchestra's schedule at its Carnegie Hall concert on May 6. The composer said of the work: "My hope is that the music creates a strange, beautiful, overwhelming — sometimes even frightening — landscape, and invites you to get lost in it."
Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot said:
"What really attracts me to a composer is the individuality in the voice — and John Luther Adams' music is very much inspired by the natural landscapes that are all around us. Become Ocean is written for three different orchestras, each of which has its own journey and rhythm. Three times in the piece they meet in that crucial moment, at the peak of their dynamics together. It's ultimately about you becoming an element of nature yourself, and disappearing in the whole landscape of things."
The composition was inspired by the oceans of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest and it's said to "immerse the audience in an organic and constantly evolving sound world that reflects the natural environment with an orchestral technique that is deeply original and unique to Adams."
"It may be the loveliest apocalypse in musical history," a New Yorker review said of Become Ocean. Adams spoke of its "sonic geography":
My music has led me beyond landscape painting with tones into the larger territory of "sonic geography" — a region that lies somewhere between place and culture, between human imagination and the world around us. My music is going inexorably from being about place to becoming place.
The score includes this inscription by Adams: "Life on this earth emerged from the sea. As the polar ice melts and sea level rises, we humans face the prospect that once again we may quite literally become ocean." See the composer describe his The Music of a True Place and talk about his work in general.
San Francisco Symphony will perform its first J.L. Adams work Feb. 26-March 1, 2015, the chamber version of The Light that Fills the World.
As you will see below, there are many attractions of the next San Francisco Performances season, announced today, but the Shenson Piano Series is especially impressive for 2014-2015:
* Gilmore Award-winner and Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz on Oct. 14
* Yuja Wang returns to the city she rightly considers her second home on Dec. 1 (performing in Davies Symphony Hall, while the other recitals are held in SFJAZZ)
* Dubravka Tomsic performs a program of Chopin, Schubert, Wagner-Liszt, Scriabin, Granados, and Albeniz on April 19, 2015
* Stephen Hough plays works by Debussy and Chopin on May 12, 2015
Apart from the Shenson Series, Garrick Ohlsson performs all-Scriabin programs over two recitals, Dec. 7 and March 14, at SFJAZZ.
Among other highlights of the 35th season, German baritone Christian Gerhaher makes his debut; Wendy Whelan debuts her dance project, Restless Creature with four other choreographers; Philip Glass performs his complete etudes with Timo Andres and Maki Namekawa; Batsheva celebrates its 50th anniversary season; Lera Auerbach's chamber works are performed by the composer, violinist Daniel Hope, and cellist Joshua Roman; MacArthur Fellow Alisa Weilerstein performs in a solo cello recital.
In the chamber music series, Austria's famed Hagen Quartet makes its debut in the music of Mozart, Shostakovich and Brahms, Nov. 1 in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church; the Takács Quartet returns to perform March 15 at SFJAZZ in an all-Schubert program; the young English Elias Quartet will be at St. Mark's on March 30 with an all-Beethoven program. A unique addition to this season’s chamber series is a piano quintet composed by S.F. Performances Jazz Artist-in-Residence and 2013 MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer for himself and the famed Brentano Quartet. The S.F. debut of the quintet is May 10 at the SFJAZZ Center.
San Francisco Performances founder/president Ruth Felt says:
In this our 35th Season we are proud to present significant San Francisco debuts, namely baritone Christian Gerhaher, the acclaimed Hagen Quartet and ballet star Wendy Whelan. And these are just a few highlights among the return of so many of our favorite artists including Philip Glass, Alisa Weilerstein, Hilary Hahn, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company.
Having enjoyed the exploits of Judith, the decapitating semi-Biblical heroine just a few days ago, our attention now turns to a really bad dudette, Lilith, also from the fringes of the Bible.
Lilith, the Night Demon In One Lewd Act, to be premiered by Veretski Pass and the San Francisco Choral Artists, May 1, 3, and 4 in three Bay Area venues, is about somebody much worse than the killer of Holofernes or even Boris Badenov's Natasha.
The work, says composer Joshua Horowitz, "explores the absurd underbelly of Judaism, and looks at the superstitions and irrational interpretations of the everyday."
Lilith seems to be typecast for the mission. In the Babylonian Talmud and later sources, she is identified as a monster, a demon, Adam's first wife — yes, preceding Eve — who left the First Man, and mated with archangel Samael, called "an accuser, seducer and destroyer."
And that's before the worst part: Lilith, killer of children. As a succubus, she was made to roam at night, seeking newborn babies, strangling them in their sleep. Horowitz says:
Superstitions about Lilith were the only protection Jews had against the threat of infant mortality. So the opera is like an externalization of the mindset of paranoid Jews in a world of real dangers. It’s somehow both freakishly hilarious and deeply tragic at the same time.
The work is described by the producers as "a bawdy alternate Jewish story of Creation ... an edgy folk opera." Following each performance of the opera, will be a traditional klezmer dance party with the music for which Veretski Pass is best known.
Michael Wex stars is the narrator, with soprano Heather Klein as Lilith, and bass Anthony Russell as Adam. Under the direction of Magen Solomon, the San Francisco Choral Artists form the Hebrew version of a Greek chorus. Phil Blank has created artwork for the project, culminating in an annotated, illustrated libretto that will be made available at the performances.
Klein says of the work:
Josh has created a huge work that brings together so many genres — Jewish liturgical, operatic and folk. When I heard the score I was amazed by the character-driven melodies that bring this daring Yiddish and English libretto to life.
The Veretski Pass Trio (named for the mountain pass used by Magyar tribes in the 9th century to cross into the Carpathian basin) plays folk music with origins in the Ottoman Empire. It is a collage of Carpathian, Jewish, Romanian and Ottoman styles, with dances from Moldavia and Bessarabia; Jewish melodies from Poland and Rumania; Hutzul wedding music from Carpathian-Ruthenia; and Rebetic airs from Smyrna.
On the one hand, the announcement is about restoring "a long tradition of performing a major sacred work on Good Friday," on the other — in the same sentence — the work announced for April 18 is the organ transcription of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6.
Looking beyond that puzzle, the news from organist Cyril Deaconoff, director of music at Oakland's First Presbyterian Church, is that his church, the first in the East Bay, founded in 1853, just a year after the city itself was chartered, will mark an important anniversary.
It is the current building's centennial: The neo-Gothic building at Broadway and 27th Street, built by William C. Hays, has been a prominent part of Oakland's skyline since 1914. The organ, a 1993 Rosales, Op. 16, has 63 stops, 75 ranks, and 4,062 pipes (the largest is 32 feet tall). It has the handcrafted wooden facade and some of the original pipes from the Kimball Organ which had been used since the church was constructed a century ago.
On Easter Sunday, April 20 the 10 a.m. service will include Copland's Fanfare, Widor's Toccata, and the world premiere of Deaconoff's own Kontakion for Pascha (Easter).
Starting on April 25, every Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., the sanctuary doors will be open to show visitors the stained glass windows, get a tour of the sanctuary, and hear the organ which will be played as an open rehearsal.
After several weeks of heated discussion and a few glimmers of hope following the surprising announcement almost a month ago, it appears that San Diego Opera will shut down on April 29.
After a three-week battle that convulsed the community here and subjected its once revered opera company to widespread derision and accusations of mismanagement — Ian D. Campbell, its general and artistic director, was nearly booed off the stage when he stepped out to introduce Don Quixote this month on opening night — the board of directors on Friday reaffirmed its intention to close down. The final scheduled performance was on Sunday.
A new website, Fighting for San Diego Opera, is trying to mobilize the community to prevent the company's demise. The Opera's own website makes no reference to the crisis, having removed previous notices.
Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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