MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Breaking: James Levine To Retire

From the Met’s Press Office:

Legendary Maestro James Levine to Retire as Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera at the End of the Current Season;

Will Become The Company’s First Music Director Emeritus

New York, NY  (April 14, 2016) – Maestro James Levine, the Met’s Music Director since 1976, announced that after 40 years in the position, he will retire at the end of the current season, for health reasons. At that time, he will assume the new position of Music Director Emeritus. In this role, he will continue as the artistic leader of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, a training program for operatic talent he began in 1980, and will continue to conduct some Met performances. Next season, he will withdraw from the new production of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, but plans to lead revivals of Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri, Verdi’s Nabucco and Mozart’s Idomeneo—three works he has led more than any other conductor in Met history.

He intends to conduct his remaining performances for the current Met season, which include the current run of Verdi’sSimon Boccanegra and a five-performance revival of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail later this month, as well as theMay 19 and 26 MET Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall. He will not conduct the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on May 22.

Over the course of his unparalleled career at the Met, Levine has led 2,551 performances—far more than any other conductor in Met history—working with thousands of the world’s most gifted musicians and conducting more than 85 different operas, ranging from 18th century works to contemporary world premieres. In recent years, Levine has struggled with the effects of Parkinson’s disease, making it increasingly difficult for him to conduct a full schedule of Met performances.

“There is no conductor in the history of opera who has accomplished what Jim has achieved in his epic career at the Met,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager. “We are fortunate that he will continue to play an active and vital role in the life of the company when he becomes Music Director Emeritus at the end of the season.”

“Through 45 years of unwavering devotion, Maestro Levine has shaped the MET Orchestra into the world-class ensemble it is today,” said Jessica Phillips, chair of the orchestra committee and a clarinetist in the Met’s orchestra. “He has a unique ability to inspire those around him to perform to the best of their abilities and beyond. We eagerly anticipate his upcoming projects as Music Director Emeritus, which promise to add to an already incomparable legacy of tireless dedication and artistic integrity. It is an honor to carry the values Maestro Levine has instilled in us into this new era at the Metropolitan Opera—the house that Jimmy built.”

            Replacement conductors for this season’s May 22 Carnegie Hall concert, and for the remainder of Mo. Levine’s 2016-17 engagements—the new production of Der Rosenkavalier, and three May 2017 MET Orchestra Carnegie Hall concerts—will be announced in the coming days.

A plan is in place to appoint a new Music Director for the Met, who will be announced in the coming months.

As Mo. Levine transitions to his new role at the Met, John Fisher, currently Director of Music Administration, has been promoted to Assistant General Manager, Music Administration, effective immediately. Fisher’s duties include overseeing the Met’s staff conductors, rehearsal pianists, and prompters; coaching principal singers; and working with Mo. Levine and the conductors for each Met performance to prepare and maintain the highest level of musical quality.

 

James Levine at the Met

Levine made his Met debut in 1971 at the age of 28, leading a performance of Puccini’s Tosca, and quickly became a company favorite. He was named Principal Conductor of the Met less than a year later, in February of 1972, and became Music Director in 1976.

He has led a total of 2,551 performances with the company, including more than 2,000 opera performances at the Met itself as well as orchestral and chamber concerts, and national and international tours. This is more than twice the number led by any conductor in the company’s history.

Perhaps more than any musician in Met history, Levine has been noted for the ever-expanding range of operatic repertory in which he excels, one of the hallmarks of his extraordinary career. He has led Met performances of works by 33 composers, ranging from the Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, and Wagner operas that are staples of the company’s seasons to works by such composers as Berg, Berlioz, Bartók, Debussy, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky. Earlier this season, he conducted Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus for the first time in his Met career.

A tireless champion of new works and neglected masterpieces, Levine expanded the company’s repertory by leading the first-ever staged Met performances of Berg’s Lulu; Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess; Rossini’s La Cenerentola; Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani, Stiffelio, and I Lombardi; Mozart’s Idomeneo and La Clemenza di Tito; Schoenberg’s Erwartung and Moses und Aron;Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny; Busoni’s Doktor Faust; and Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini, as well as the world premieres of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles and John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby.

Filed under: Metropolitan Opera, music news

Silvestrov Premiere in Seattle

silvestrov

This week’s Seattle Symphony concerts bring the U.S. premiere of Valentin Silvestrov’s Symphony No. 8, a work in six movements. The world premiere took place last year, on 25 May 2015, in the composer’s native Kiev. Mikhail Tatarnikov (Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Mikhailovsky Theater in St Petersburg) will guest conduct.

Here are some samples of Silvestrov’s work:

Filed under: new music, Seattle Symphony

Mr Handel

gfhandelKeeping watch in his Brook St bedroom.

Filed under: Handel, photography

Alexander’s Feast: A Handelian Ode to the Power of Music

2016-04-16-alexanders-feastMy essay on Handel’s magnificent ode Alexander’s Feast has been posted on the LA Master Chorale Site:

It sounds strange to refer to George Frideric Handel as a neglected composer. Messiah is such a fixture that the holiday season would feel bereft   were it suddenly to disappear from the scene. (Never mind that its association with Christmas postdates the practice during the composer’s lifetime.)

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Filed under: choral music, Handel, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Harold Pinter on Samuel Beckett

Filed under: Harold Pinter, playwrights, theater

Heart-Shaped Snack

squirrel

Filed under: photography

Opera Without Words

tp

Under Christoph Eschenbach, the National Symphony recently premiered Tobias Picker’s Opera Without Words — his first major orchestral composition in years. The perceptive critic Hilary Stroh gave a sensitive review for Bachtrack.

Here’s the program essay I wrote for the NSO world premiere:

Tobias Picker, described as “displaying a distinctively soulful style that is one of the glories of the current musical scene” by BBC Music Magazine and “a genuine creator with a fertile unforced vein of invention” by The New Yorker, has drawn performances and commissions by the world’s leading musicians, orchestras, and opera houses.

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Filed under: American music, commissions, new music, Tobias Picker, Uncategorized

András Schiff on Bach

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

“Each day when I get up (and if there’s a piano) I have to play Bach for an hour. That’s how my day begins.”

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Filed under: Uncategorized

Paying Attention

 

light-bulbAccording to the sociologist Frank Furedi in a recent essay for Aeon, today’s anxiety about not being able to focus is just another manifestation of a long-standing pattern:

The first time inattention emerged as a social threat was in 18th-century Europe, during the Enlightenment, just as logic and science were pushing against religion and myth. The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1710 entry from Tatler as its first reference to this word, coupling inattention with indolence; both are represented as moral vices of serious public concern.

[…]

Often the failure to inspire and capture the imagination of young people is blamed on their inattentive state of minds. Too often educators have responded to this condition by adopting a fatalistic approach of accommodating to the supposed inattentive reading practices of digital natives

I found another curious term for distraction: “leaky sensory gating,” as used in a study from Northwestern University examining “why the inability to shut out competing sensory information while focusing on the creative project at hand might have been so acute for geniuses such as Proust, Franz Kafka, Charles Darwin, Anton Chekhov and many others.”

Filed under: education

Stile Antico’s Homage to Shakespeare

I happily recall the British early music vocal ensemble Stile Antico’s first visit to Seattle over four years ago. On 9 April they return, under the auspices of the Early Music Guild, for a program titled The Touches of Sweet Harmony:  The Musical World of William Shakespeare.

The ensemble describes their program as follows:

“To mark of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, Stile Antico performs a mouthwatering program of Elizabethan and Jacobean music. In addition to settings of words from Shakespeare’s plays, we encounter music written for the great events of his life or which explore some of the themes of his work. Completing this fascinating picture are Shakespeare-texted works by Huw Watkins and Nico Muhly, written especially for Stile Antico.”

Filed under: early music, Shakespeare

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