MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Classical Editor Picks: March 2016

kholodenko-prokofievHere are my top picks for this month, now posted on Rhapsody:

Music for the keyboard launches this playlist, and starting us off is Ukrainian pianist Vadim Kholodenko in a pair of neglected but fascinating Prokofiev piano concertos. Even being a Van Cliburn Competition gold medalist (Kholodenko won in 2013) doesn’t guarantee the chops needed to take on Prokofiev’s fiendishly difficult challenges, but Kholodenko dazzles and astonishes from start to finish. Seong-Jin Cho, who won last year’s Chopin Competition, has just released his debut solo album — fittingly, of Chopin. And the homage to the late Pierre Boulez continues with a superb set of his complete solo piano music performed by Marc Ponthus.

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Filed under: editor picks, Rhapsody

Feeling Small


Filed under: photography

John Adams Conducts Scheherazade.2 at Seattle Symphony


Illustration by Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

The cover story of the weekend section of The Seattle Times‘ is my feature on John Adams. He’ll be in town this coming week to conduct the Seattle Symphony in the West Coast premiere of his brilliant new violin concerto/dramatic symphony Scheherazade.2:

Some people feel like they’ve missed out because Mozart and Beethoven lived in a different century. But they’re overlooking the great artists who are in our midst today — composers writing music that is just as meaningful, and just as likely to last.

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Filed under: American music, John Adams, Seattle Symphony, Seattle Times

Maria Stuarda at Seattle Opera: Donizetti Fever Rages on from Coast to Coast


Joyce El-Khoury in the title role of Maria Stuarda; image credit: Jacob Lucas

My review of Maria Stuarda at Seattle Opera — where soprano Joyce El-Khoury has made a spectacular company debut — is now posted on Bachtrack:

Tudormania continues its invasion of America. Later this month at the Met, Sondra Radvanovsky will have added the third and final jewel to her Donizetti crown when she sings Elizabeth in Roberto Devereux. And across the continent, Seattle Opera has been presenting its company debut of Maria Stuarda (1835).

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Filed under: bel canto, directors, Donizetti, review, Seattle Opera

Kosky & Co. Recharge the Magic of Flute at LA Opera


Musical America has posted my review of the Barrie Kosky/Suzanne Andrade-directed Magic Flute (behind a paywall):

LOS ANGELES— Singspiel meets silent film in this genuinely innovative production of The Magic Flute directed by Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade. Initially created in 2012 for the Komische Oper Berlin …

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Filed under: Los Angeles Opera, Mozart, review

Women’s Indelible Mark on Classical Music

MIRGA-WomenComposersThe 29-year-old Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla gives hope that more women will have influential roles in classical music.

Here’s my Rhapsody piece for International Women’s Day:

It took until 1920 for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be ratified, guaranteeing female citizens the right to vote. But almost 100 years later, the status quo in classical music still needs a whole lot of shaking up if women are to have any chance of fair representation.

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Filed under: essay, music news, Rhapsody

A Bright Mahlerian Cosmos from Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic


gustavo003-950My review of this weekend’s Mahler 3  by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic is now posted on Bachtrack:

No work is more emblematic of Mahler‘s symphonic philosophy than the Third. Or at least that version of his philosophy filtered by Sibelius, who recollected Mahler’s words decades after their meeting in 1907, long after his colleague’s death: ‘The symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything’.

But it was another Mahlerian statement that Gustavo Dudamel’s interpretation with the Los Angeles Philharmonic brought to mind – a statement reported by his confidante Natalie Bauer-Lechner referring specifically to the Third Symphony when it was still a work in progress: ‘To me, “symphony” means constructing a world with all the technical means at one’s disposal’.

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Filed under: conductors, Gustavo Dudamel, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mahler, review

Americans at Work

2016-03-06-music-of-the-coal-minerHere’s my program essay for the upcoming West Coast premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields, a remarkable oratorio:

“The thing I love about music is, it’s beyond words. But somehow the words crept back in — big time,” remarked Julia Wolfe in an interview on NPR’s Studio360 following the announcement that she had won last year’s Pulitzer Prize in Music for Anthracite Fields. Wolfe’s moving and innovative new oratorio fuses music with words to tell a story deeply rooted in American history — and one inextricably connected to how we live today.

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Filed under: choral music, Julia Wolfe, Los Angeles Master Chorale

The Power of Musick

Filed under: Handel

David Jaffe: The Space Between Us

JaffeDavid Aaron Jaffe

Recommended event in Seattle: David A. Jaffe’s The Space Between Us on Saturday, March 5, at 7:30 p.m. at the Chapel Performance Space.

Jaffe is a San Francisco-based composer and performer with a special interest in computer music innovation (Silicon Valley Breakdown); he’s also a software developer and writer.

The Space Between Us, commissioned by the San Francisco Other Minds Festival and dedicated to Jaffe’s mentor, the legendary Henry Brant, receives its Seattle premiere. The work mixes acoustic instruments with “robotic percussion instruments” created by sound sculptor and maverick composer Trimpin.

Jaffe offers this background:

“It combines the remarkable ‘radiodrum’ 3D controller, which Seattle percussionist Andrew Schloss has pioneered, with Trimpin’s transformations of funky pre-war instruments I inherited from spatial music pioneer (and Pulitzer Prize-winner) Henry Brant, as well as eight string players distributed throughout the hall.”

Jaffe explains that Brant died before he could realize a collaboration he had been planning with Trimpin: “I was in Santa Barbara packing up for shipment the instruments that he left me in his will, and I got the idea of approaching Trimpin to see if he would be interested in doing a piece with these instruments in honor of Brant. He was enthusiastic so, at the very last minute, while standing at the UPS counter, I changed the destination address and sent the instruments directly to Trimpin….”

More info on the work, including reviews, can be found here.

The program will also include Jaffe’s virtuoso fiddle showpiece Cluck Old Hen Variations, “which sounds like what Paganini might have written if he were from Kentucky,” and Impossible Animals for computer voices, “in which the brain of a bird is transplanted into a wildly-gifted computer-generated soprano.”

The all-woman Lafayette String Quartet — for whom Jaffe has written several quartets — will additionally perform Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 9 and English composer Rebecca Clarke’s Poem.

Filed under: instruments, new music

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