MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Madness, Revenge, and New Music: Looking for the Lost Finale of L’Orfeo

Pacific MusicWorks members David Morris on viola da gamba, harpist Maxine Eilander and lutenist Stephen Stubbs, in a performance of ‘Wayward Sisters’

This weekend’s program by Early MusicWorks, titled Wayward Sisters, will include the world premiere of artistic director Stephen Stubbs’s new musical completion of the “lost ending” to Monteverdi’s 1607 opera L’Orfeo. I spoke to Stubbs about the project for Early Music America:

Opera was born of the tantalizing premise that what had been lost to history could be regenerated through an act of creative imagination. So it seems peculiarly fitting that one of the foundational works of the art should inspire a similar effort…

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Filed under: Early Music America, Monteverdi, Stephen Stubbs

Bryon Schenkman & Friends Premiere Jonathan Woody’s nor shape of today

Another Jonathan Woody composition: Nigra Sum Sed Formosa: A Fantasia on Microaggressions

For their end-of-season program, Byron Schenkman & Friends juxtapose a world premiere by composer and bass-baritone Jonathan Woody with 19th-century music by Maria Szymanowsk, Francisca Gonzaga, Clara Schumann, Joseph Joachim, and Johannes Brahms. The concert takes place Sunday, May 22, 2022, at Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall, at Third and Union in downtown Seattle, beginning at 7:00  P.M.  (Prices range from $48 for Regular Price, $41 for Seniors, and $10 for Youth and Students with ID.

Woody’s nor shape of today, a BS&F commission, sets a text by Raquel Salas Rivera and was written, according to the composer, as “a companion to Johannes Brahms’s Two Songs for Voice, Viola and Piano, op. 91.” Woody writes: “In our 21st-century existence, many individuals still experience a longing for a place to belong, and I was struck by the similarity between these Romantic sentiments and the experience of trans and non-binary individuals, who face relentless pressure to conform to outdated norms surrounding gender and identity in our supposedly modern world…. I hoped to capture the sense of longing that so many human beings feel to belong, to be loved, and to be safe.”

The program will feature performances by soprano Hailey McAvoy, violist Andrew Gonzalez, and pianists Charles Enlow and Byron Schenkman. 

Complete Program:

Johannes Brahms: 16 Waltzes, op. 39, for piano
Maria Szymanowska: Polonaise in C (c.1820) for piano
Francisca “Chiquinha” Gonzaga: Tango in F Minor “Sospiro” (c.1881) for piano
Jonathan Woody: nor shape of today for mezzo-soprano, viola, and piano
Clara Schumann: Romance in A Minor, op. 21, no. 1 for piano
Clara Schumann: Impromptu in E Major (c.1844) for piano
Joseph Joachim: Hebrew Melody in G Minor, op. 9, no. 1 for viola and piano
Johannes Brahms: Lullaby, op. 49, no. 4, for voice and piano
Johannes Brahms: Two Songs for alto, viola, and piano, op. 91

Tickets available here.

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, commissions, music news

Reena Esmail Returns to Seattle Symphony

The Seattle Symphony will present two free Community Concerts this May. On Friday, May 13, at 8 p.m., Seattle Symphony Composer-in-Residence Reena Esmail returns to Benaroya Hall to host the first Community Concert, titled Ram Tori Maya, which features a Seattle Symphony string quartet sharing the stage with students of Swaranjali School of Music, an institution dedicated to the preservation, learning, and performance of Hindustani classical music. This program will explore pieces arranged or composed by Esmail herself along with a carefully curated selection of popular Indian works.

The second community concert will be on Tuesday, May 17, at 7 p.m., with Associate Conductor Lee Mills conducting music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Hannah Kendall, Astor Piazzolla, Johannes Brahms, and Carlos Simon.  2022 Young Artist Henry From will join the orchestra for the last movement from Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1.


Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony

World Premiere of Tres minutos

Music by Nicolas Benavides
 



New from the Seattle-Based Music of Remembrance:

On Sunday, May 15 at 5:30 pm, Music of Remembrance returns to Benaroya Hall for its final live concert of the season. The program, titled Tres minutos, features the world premiere of a compelling new opera of that title by composer Nicolas Benavides and librettist Marella Martin Koch.

Commissioned by MOR, Tres minutos explores the intimate human dimensions of an urgent issue for our time. It tells the story of Nila and Diego, a sister and brother who share family bonds, but not citizenship. Allowed a brief supervised reunion at the border that separates them, they wrestle with questions of identity, duty and belonging. The work is a timely reminder that beyond the arguments about immigration policy are actual people with real lives, deep emotions and complicated relationships.

Tres minutos comes at such an important time in our country,” remarks composer Nicolas Benavides, “a time when we have a refugee crisis and we have the choice to make it better or make it worse.” Starring soprano Vanessa Isiguen and baritone José Rubio in a production conceived and directed by Erich Parce and conducted by the composer.

The program includes chamber works by two composers who spoke out through their art in the darkest of times. Hans Krása, murdered in Auschwitz, is perhaps best known for his iconic children’s opera Brundibár that was performed 55 times by casts of young prisoners in the Terezín concentration camp. His Theme with Variations for string quartet was played by inmates in Terezin in a performance that was exploited by the Nazis for their infamous propaganda film “The Führer Gives a City to the Jews.” Géza Frid, in mortal danger as a stateless Jew in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, organized clandestine house concerts and was active in the underground as a forger of coupons and identity cards. Frid’s Podium Suite, featuring violinist Mikhail Shmidt and pianist Jessica Choe, is an explosion of fireworks — dramatic, virtuosic and rhythmically intense.

Performing as MOR instrumental ensemble are musicians from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra: clarinetist Laura DeLuca, violinists Mikhail Shmidt and Natasha Bazhanov, violist Susan Gulkis Assadi, cellist Walter Gray, double bassist Jonathan Green, and pianist Jessica Choe.

tickets available here

PROGRAM:

Theme with Variations (1936)          Hans Krása
Mikhail Shmidt, violin     Natasha Bazhanov, violin
Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola     Walter Gray, cello

Podium Suite, Op. 3 (1928)          Géza Frid
Mikhail Shmidt, violin
Jessica Choe, piano

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Tres minutos
Music by Nicolas Lell Benavides
Libretto by Marella Martin Koch
WORLD PREMIERE COMMISSIONED BY MUSIC OF REMEMBRANCE

More on the creative team:

Nicolas Lell Benavides’ music has been praised for finding “…a way to sketch complete characters in swift sure lines…” (Anne Midgette, Washington Post) and cooking up a “jaunty score [with] touches of cabaret, musical theater and Latin dance.” (Tim Smith, OPERA NEWS). He has worked with groups such as the Washington National Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, New Opera West, West Edge Opera, Nashville Opera, Shreveport Opera, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Friction Quartet, Khemia Ensemble, and Nomad Session. He was a fellow at the Eighth Blackbird Creative Lab and the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. Nicolas was the first ever Young Artist Composer in Residence at The Glimmerglass Festival and has been a fellow at the Del Mar International Composers Symposium. He premiered a new opera for Washington National Opera called Pepito with librettist Marella Martin Koch. Nicolas and Marella were selected as the recipient of West Edge Opera’s Aperture commission to develop an evening length opera about civil rights icon Dolores Huerta. He is also developing an opera with librettist Laura Barati as part of MassOpera’s New Opera Workshop. Other notable projects include a new dance piece called On Trac|< for The Glimmerglass Festival in collaboration with dancer Amanda Castro, Little Cloud for Khemia Ensemble, a new string quartet for Fry Street Quartet, and a new orchestra work for Gabriela Lena Frank’s Composing Earth initiative with support from New Music USA. Nicolas has studied at Santa Clara University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.

http://www.nicolasbenavides.com

Marella Martin Koch is a librettist and director originally from Los Angeles. In addition to Tres minutos, she wrote the 20-minute opera Pepito with composer Nicolas Lell Benavides for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative. Since its Kennedy Center premiere, Pepito has been performed across the country, recorded as a cast album “full of nuance and emotional pull” (Chris Ruel, Operawire), and released by New Opera West as an “entrancing” animated short film (Claudia Kawczynska, The Bark). Her and Nicolas’ upcoming full-length opera Dolores won the inaugural West Edge Opera Aperture Commission. Other notable credits as librettist include Ten Minutes in the Life or Death of… (music by Tyler J. Rubin), lauded as “quizzical and wonderstruck” (Steven Winn, SF Classical Voice) at West Edge Opera’s Snapshot 2021; and Elinor & Marianne (music by Aferdian), an original concept album inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility produced by The Rally Cat with support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, City Council, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Currently based in NYC, she teaches theatre and writing to middle school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate students and is developing a full-length play called Friend Animals with Midnight Oil Collective. With over a decade of experience in non-profit arts administration and production, she founded and leads the multidisciplinary opera/theatre company The Rally Cat. 

MFA, NYU/Tisch. BA, UC Berkeley. 

http://www.marellamartinkoch.com

Filed under: music news, Music of Remembrance

A New Figaro at Seattle Opera

Ryan McKinny (Figaro) and Soraya Mafi (Susanna)

I reviewed the Figaro production that just opened at Seattle Opera for Bachtrack:

There’s a moment in Seattle Opera’s end-of-season production, as the threads are being steadily pulled ever tighter in the final act, when Figaro reaches out from his hiding place behind a tree, trying to make contact with Susanna…

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Filed under: Mozart, review, Seattle Opera

BBC Proms Announces 2022 Program

From guest contributor Tom Luce:

The published program for this year’s British Broadcasting Corporation Proms has 73 concerts taking place over the 53 days from 15 July to 6 September, with at least 36 orchestras performing.  All of the concerts will be broadcast on the BBC radio and will be available via BBC Sounds as well, which is accessible across the world. Details are available here.

This year’s BBC Proms program returns fully to its pre-pandemic scale and cultural and humanitarian outreach. Amongst the most monumental classical works are J S Bach’s B minor Mass, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and Beethoven piano sonatas played by Sir András Schiff. Appropriately to the morbid pandemic circumstances globally, and especially now to the catastrophic war situation, the program opens with Verdi’s Requiem and also includes Brahms’s German Requiem.

International orchestras are now again included — from Philadelphia, Australia, Berlin, Vienna, Cologne, Norway and Finland. Another of special relevance is the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, which will also be performing in the USA. Also notable is the performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony by the Europe-based Chineke! Orchestra of non-European ethnic players with their new choral association. (Chineke! has on some occasions included a Seattle Symphony player.)

As well as the extensive symphonic and choral repertoire, several operas are to be given concert performances, including Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Puccini’s Il Tabarrro, and Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers. Many concerts include new music by many modern or current composers: for example, Brett Dean, Betsy Jolas, Florence Price, Valentin Silvestrov, and Thomas Adès.  On weekend mornings and afternoons, there are informal children and family concerts.

Two concerts represent particular celebrations: notably, an evening with historic British Coronation music from Handel onwards to reflect the widespread celebration of H M Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. Another marks the centenary of the BBC itself.

Most concerts take place in the Royal Albert Hall, which can accommodate up to 6,000 audience members. The broadcasts are known to have huge followers nationally and internationally. The scale, scope, and diversity of the overall program, its composers, and performers must also be unique both historically and internationally. — Tom Luce

Filed under: BBC Proms

Reena Esmail on PBS Tonight

Tonight, on the miniseries Great Performances: Now Hear This, Scott Yoo will profile the life and work of Reena Esmail as well as the Brazilian guitarist Sérgio Assad.

Filed under: music news

Danish Quartet: Doppelgänger II

Friday night brings the second installment in the Danish Quartet’s ongoing Doppelgänger Project at Cal Performances, with the world premiere of Finnish composer Lotta Wennaköski’s Pige, her response to Schubert’s Death and the Maiden quartet. Here’s the introduction I wrote to this program (click on tab “about the performance”).

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Filed under: Cal Performances, Danish String Quartet, Schubert

Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra This Summer

News from the Metropolitan Opera and Polish National Opera:

The Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera will gather leading Ukrainian musicians into the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra for a European and American tour July 28–August 20, including stops in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, before culminating with concerts in New York and Washington, DC. The tour has been assembled with the cooperation of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Ministry of Culture.

The orchestra will include recent refugees, Ukrainian members of European orchestras, and some of the top musicians of Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and elsewhere in Ukraine. The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine is supporting the project by addressing the organizational issues of allowing male musicians to put down weapons and take up their instruments in a remarkable demonstration of the power of art over adversity.

Money raised from the tour will go to support Ukrainian artists. Donations can be made to the Ministry of Culture at https://donate.arts.gov.ua/en

Under the leadership of Canadian-Ukrainian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, the orchestra will perform a program that includes Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov’s Seventh Symphony; Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with Ukrainian virtuoso Anna Fedorova; and either Brahms’s Fourth Symphony or Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony.

Leading Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, who is singing the title role of Turandot at the Met this spring, will also perform Leonore’s great aria “Abscheulicher!” from Beethoven’s Fidelio, a paean to humanity and peace in the face of violence and cruelty.

The orchestra’s musicians will gather in Warsaw on July 18 for an intensive rehearsal period led by Maestro Wilson to forge the ensemble, followed by the opening concert in the Polish capital at the Teatr Wielki–Polish National Opera on July 28. The residency and opening performance are being paid for by generous funding from the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, under the leadership of Minister Piotr Glinski. The tour will proceed with stops at the BBC Proms, on July 31, for a televised performance; Munich on August 1; the Chorégies d’Orange Festival in France on August 2; the Berlin Konzerthaus on August 4; the Edinburgh International Festival on August 6; Snape Maltings in England on August 8; the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Festival on August 11; and the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie on August 13. The orchestra will travel to New York on August 16, with concerts at Lincoln Center on August 18 and 19, followed by the final destination, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, on August 20.

The musicians are drawn from the Kyiv National Opera, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra, and Kharkiv Opera, among other Ukrainian ensembles. Outside of Ukraine, players come from ensembles including the Tonkunstler Orchestra of Vienna, the Belgian National Orchestra, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Filed under: Metropolitan Opera, music news

Byron Schenkman & Friends: Schumann Fairy Tales & Fantasies

Tonight at 7pm, Byron Schenkman is joined by clarinetist Thomas Carroll and violist Jason Fisher in a program celebrating the Romantic imagination. Here’s the menu:

R. Schumann:

Fairy Tales, op. 132,  for clarinet, viola, and piano

Marie Elisabeth von Sachsen-Meiningen:

Romance for clarinet and piano

Luisa Adolpha Le Beau:

Three Pieces, op. 26, for viola and piano

Max Bruch:

Romanian Melody, op. 83, no. 5, for clarinet, viola, and piano

R. Schumann:

Robert Schumann: Dreams, op. 15, no. 7, for piano 

R. Schumann:

Fantasy Pieces, op. 73, for clarinet and piano

Max Bruch:

Night Piece, op. 83, no. 6, for clarinet, viola, and piano

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, music news, Schumann

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