MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

On the Air! Juilliard’s Focus Festival Salutes Radio Commissions

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For this year’s Focus Festival at Juilliard, titled On the Air! A Salute to 75 Years of International Radio Commissioning, Joel Sachs has curated six programs sampling this wealth of compositions from an international array of stations.

The opening concert is on 25 January at Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater, when Sachs will lead the New Juilliard Ensemble. All six Focus events are free of charge.

Sachs explains what inspired the 2019 Festival:

I unexpectedly realized the role of radio in October 2017, while writing a program note about Argentinean-German composer Mauricio Kagel for a New Juilliard Ensemble concert. Because Kagel settled in Cologne, I began thinking about the extraordinary post-World War II new music scene that flourished there, where he and many other compositional giants, German and foreign, had settled.

Being reasonably acquainted with that Rhineland city and its institutions, I immediately recalled the German letters WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk, West German Broadcasting), the radio-TV public broadcast based there. An enormous operation, WDR generally considered the most important broadcaster in German, with five radio transmissions, television, internet broadcasts, and a group of external studios in various cities around Germany’s industrial heartland. Having had a professional relationship with WDR 3, I realized that it has had a vital role as one of the most prominent of European radio stations with its decades-old commissioning program.

Dots began to connect. I had performed or recorded at the BBC, Radio France, Swiss stations in Zurich and Basel, Austrian radio in Salzburg, but what had never struck me was that they all were busily commissioning composers, not just creating background music for radio dramas, but also music intended for live performance in concerts, and not just those composers who produced ‘comfortable’ music. Suddenly I had a topic for Focus 2019: “On the Air! A Salute to 75 Years of International Radio Commissions.”

more on the 2019 Focus Festival at Juilliard: 25 Jan-1 Feb

Filed under: commissions, Juilliard

Winter Dreams

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Filed under: photography

The Adventurous Mahan Esfahani

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Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani plays with the Seattle Symphony on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 11 and 12. (Kaja Smith)

Here’s my Seattle Times profile of harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani:

“Controversial artist” is not one of the images that a professional harpsichordist tends to conjure. It cuts against the grain of countless stereotypes involving restraint, uptightness, dusty academicism. But flipping stereotypes is one way of characterizing the remarkable career of Mahan Esfahani, who makes his Seattle Symphony debut this weekend (Jan. 11 and 12) as the soloist in a program juxtaposing two generations of the Bach family.

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Filed under: Bach family, Seattle Times

Brahms, the Consoler

Filed under: Uncategorized

Michael Vincent Waller: Musical America‘s New Artist of the Month

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Composer Michael Vincent Waller: photo by Alan Del Rio Ortiz

Congratulations to Michael Vincent Waller on being selected Musical America‘s New Artist of the Month at the start of 2019. Here’s my profile of this talented young composer:

The contemplative aura that gently emanates from Michael Vincent Waller’s music suggests a hard-won focus on the essential, distilled from long decades of reflection and experience. But the composer was already shaping this unique sound world while still in his 20s. Now 33, he’s poised for a breakout moment as his work draws increasing attention from international new music circles.

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Filed under: Musical America, new music

Turning the Page: Happy New Year 2019

Here’s one way to start the New Year: with this remarkable interpretation of Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier by Samuil Feinberg. The opening Prelude and Fugue in C major in particular sounds like a fresh start, yet already shadowed by experience.

Filed under: Bach, miscellaneous

Hip To Be HIP

This was one of my favorite projects to research in 2018 — and one of many assignments that helped me to keep my sanity during a dark year.

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Cracked Orlando Enraged Alcina (Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, mezzo-soprano) casts a curse on the love of Angelica (Sharon Harms, soprano) and Medoro (Brian Jeffers, tenor); from Jonathan Dawe’s Cracked Orlando: dramma per musica e fractals at Juilliard, 2017; photo by Nanette Melville

My story on the creative connections between early music performers and contemporary composers is the current cover story in Early Music America Magazine‘s fall 2018 issue:

When early and new music intersect, alliances are opening up a sense of fresh potential for both sides …

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Filed under: early music, new music

Revolution No. 9

I was considerably more optimistic when I wrote this two years ago. It’s going to be a while before I can attend a performance of the Ninth again.

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

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It was premiered almost two centuries ago. And Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 still feels as urgently needed today as ever.

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Filed under: Beethoven

RIP Amos Oz (1939-2018)

The literary giant and peace activist has died at 79 — another terrible loss of 2018.

Filed under: literature

A Fuller Monty: Christmas Vespers by Monteverdi

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David Fallis and colleagues

Early Music Seattle presented this remarkable concert over the weekend: and it was just what the doctor ordered in these jaded times.

Even if he hadn’t composed a single opera, Claudio Monteverdi would still belong to the greatest of the great for his achievements as a master of sacred music. His Vespro della Beata Vergine, published in 1610, is hailed as a landmark of the literature – and is the work instantly conjured whenever you hear the phrase “the Monteverdi Vespers.” But it was an altogether different setting of the Vespers service that Early Music Seattle presented at this concert, the most recent installment in the ongoing Northwest Baroque Masterworks Project.

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Filed under: Monteverdi, review

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