MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Lisztomania

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Filed under: Franz Liszt

Learning To Listen: Fallujah Brings the Iraq War to the Opera Stage

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(c) Sarah Shatz/New York City Opera

The tag “CNN opera” was always a misleading way to refer to operas grappling with current events, but it’s downright insulting when it comes to a work like Fallujah, the chamber opera by the Canadian composer Tobin Stokes and the Iraqi-American librettist Heather Raffo that just received its East Coast première in a co-production by New York City Opera and Long Beach Opera.

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Filed under: new music, New York City Opera, review

Charles Ives: Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day

Filed under: American music, Charles Ives, San Francisco Symphony

Jaap van Zweden Takes the New York Philharmonic for a Test Drive

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Last week Jaap van Zweden conducted the New York Philharmonic in their first concert together since he was named Alan Gilbert’s successor as music director (starting in the 2018-19 season).

The program was a rich one: the Prelude to Wagner’s Lohengrin, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, and the New York premiere of a brand-new viola concerto, Unearth, Release, by the highly talented young LA-based composer Julia Adolphe.

My review for Musical America has now been posted (behind the usual paywall):

NEW YORK—Four-and-a-half years after making his New York Philharmonic debut, Jaap van Zweden ascended the podium on Thursday for his first concert with the orchestra since being appointed …

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Filed under: Musical America, new music, New York Philharmonic, review, Tchaikovsky, Wagner

Jonathan Dove’s Flight Lands at Juilliard

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Composer Jonathan Dove (Photo by Max Barstow)

My article on Jonathan Dove’s opera Flight for The Juilliard Journal:

Jonathan Dove’s three-act opera Flight has enjoyed phenomenal success since its 1998 premiere, as a commission by the Glyndebourne Festival. Opera Theatre of St. Louis staged the first U.S. production, in 2003, and to date Flight has been performed more than 85 times around the world in productions for mainstage opera companies and music schools alike. This month, Juilliard Opera opens its season with a new production of this comedy for 10 singers and large orchestra.

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Filed under: Juilliard, new opera

Lucerne’s Piano Festival

The third and final installment of Lucerne Festival’s 2016 programming is the Piano Festival. It starts on Saturday (19 November), with Grigory Sokolov in a Mozart-Schumann recital.  And he’s playing one of the pianistic holy of holies, Schumann’s Op. 17.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, piano, Schumann, Uncategorized

Listening to Julia Adolphe

Tonight brings the New York Philharmonic’s world premiere of Julia Adolphe’s Viola Concerto for Cynthia Phelps, titled Unearth, Release — along with a bit of Wagner and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, with Jaap van Zweden conducting.

Filed under: new music, New York Philharmonic, Uncategorized

Congratulations to Philip Kennicott

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Philip Kennicott

As a respite from the election nightmare, some good news: the 2016 ASCAP Virgil Thomson Award for Music Criticism (Concert Music category) has gone to the brilliant Philip Kennicott for his reflections on the Met’s Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci double bill for Opera News, titled “Suffering the Truth.”

It’s so satisfying to see a genuinely first-rate writer getting the honor he deserves. In 2013 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. Kennicott’s eloquent writing is consistently original, stimulating, and richly insightful. Enjoy this prize-winning piece from one of our very finest critics:

It was in the fifth or sixth grade, in the class of a teacher I remember for only two things: he was portly, and his pants were too bright. Everything else is a blur, except for one afternoon when he decided his pupils needed to know something about musical theater, so he brought a stack of records to class and proceeded to play his favorite bits. Among them were snatches of Hello, Dolly!, The Music Man and Mame, and — for reasons I can’t quite figure out — Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci.

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Filed under: cultural criticism, music news

RIP Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

The losses continue mercilessly.

From the New York Times obituary:

Mr. Cohen was an unlikely and reluctant pop star, if in fact he ever was one. He was 33 when his first record was released in 1967. He sang in an increasingly gravelly baritone. He played simple chords on acoustic guitar or a cheap keyboard. And he maintained a private, sometime ascetic image at odds with the Dionysian excesses associated with rock ’n’ roll.

[…]

“The changeless is what he’s been about since the beginning,” the writer Pico Iyer argued in the liner notes for the anthology “The Essential Leonard Cohen.” “Some of the other great pilgrims of song pass through philosophies and selves as if through the stations of the cross. With Cohen, one feels he knew who he was and where he was going from the beginning, and only digs deeper, deeper, deeper.”

Filed under: music news, obituary

Tim Munro’s Recounting

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It’s been hard to fight the despair of the last few days. But we have to move on and focus on our shared humanity. The work of artists is more essential than ever. If you’re in New York, tonight flutist Tim Munro (formerly of eighth blackbird) makes his solo concert debut there in a fascinating program at the Miller Theatre. Here’s my introduction from the program book:

Thresholds and Transitions: Tim Munro’s New York Solo Debut

If there’s one thing you might safely expect from a Tim Munro concert, it’s not merely that it will contain the unexpected, but that the unexpected will hold centerstage. Munro (b. 1978) has pointedly not organized a menu of greatest hits replete with virtuoso pablum for his New York solo debut. Casting aside the standard showcases of silver-toned sweetness, he presents a program entirely of living composers (including two world premieres) who aid and abet Munro’s fascination with the theatrical and performative dimensions of his instrument.

If the avant-garde became known for its preoccupation with “extended-playing” techniques, Munro updates the experimental impulse for the 21st century with a bold vision of what it means to play the flute.

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Filed under: new music

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