MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Philip Glass at 80

The tyrants, war-mongers, and profiteers come and go, as predictable as they are destructive: and they make life hell for all around them.

But it’s possible to feel hope when we consider the immense power that comes from creative personalities who use their gifts to radiate what’s best in humanity. All the more reason to take stock of how our artists and performers so generously enhance our lives with their creative contributions.

A very happy 80th birthday indeed to the marvelous, magnanimous Philip Glass. He has changed the way we listen to music, opening up new vistas of perception and beauty.

A handy list of upcoming events to mark Glass at 80 is here on the composer’s website.

From my recent essay for  Los Angeles Opera on their moving production of Akhnaten directed by Phelim McDermott:

Numbers, chanted in hypnotic patterns, set the stage for Philip Glass’s first opera, Einstein on the Beach, and the very idea of numbers underlies the revolution depicted in his third, Akhnaten: the monotheistic revolution instigated by the opera’s pharaoh-protagonist, who fatefully attempts to replace ancient Egypt’s traditional polytheistic order with the one god Aten.

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Filed under: new music, Philip Glass

Christopher Cerrone’s Liminal Highway

The remarkable composer Christopher Cerrone has posted excerpts from Liminal Highway, his recent work for flute and electronics premiered by Tim Munro (formerly of eighth blackbird fame).

I had the privilege of writing the notes for this and the other works Tim programmed on his New York solo debut concert last fall at Miller Theatre. From my piece on Liminal Highway:

The issue of resonance and how it relates to the process of memory is a central preoccupation in much of Cerrone’s music. As the winner of the 2015 Samuel Barber Rome Prize, he spent his year in the Eternal City exploring the intersections between music, architecture, and acoustics, building an installation in a stairwell in the American Academy…

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Filed under: electronic music, flute, new music

Mozart’s Ambitious Declaration of Independence

In honor of Mozart’s birthday, here’s my essay on The Abduction from the Seraglio. His breakthrough opera hit after Mozart made the bold move to become a freelance artist in Vienna, it’s being presented (starting this weekend) by Los Angeles Opera in a lively production directed by James Robinson. From my program essay for LA Opera:

With The Abduction from the Seraglio, Mozart scored the biggest stage success he would enjoy during his lifetime. It premiered in Vienna on July 16, 1782, and, by the fourth performance—according to Mozart himself—the show was “creating such a sensation that they don’t want to see or hear anything else, and the theater is packed full each time.”

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Filed under: Los Angeles Opera, Mozart

Music for Troubled Times: Seattle Symphony’s Shostakovich Concerto Festival

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Violinist Aleksey Semenenko, with Pablo Rus Broseta conducting the Seattle Symphony; photo (c)Brandon Patoc

My review of Seattle Symphony’s remarkable, two-part Shostakovich Concerto Festival is now available on STRINGS:

The Seattle Symphony just offered a rare chance to hear all six of Dmitri Shostakovich’s solo instrumental concertos back-to-back in a two-day marathon (January 19–20) featuring three young virtuosos, all led by the ensemble’s associate conductor, Pablo Rus Broseta.

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Filed under: review, Seattle Symphony, Shostakovich

Our Southern Neighbors: The Music of Latin America at Juilliard

Juilliard’s Focus! Festival for 2017 is devoted to the music of Latin America. Complete schedule and programming here.

Longtime Juilliard professor, conductor, and scholar Joel Sachs, who organized the entire festival, writes:

In the fall of 1992, I was offered the directorship of MoMA’s Summergarden, then a two-month long festival of new music.  Since the museum was preparing a major show of Latin American art, I was asked if my first Summergarden in 1993 might explore Latin American music. I assented, not realizing the challenge of finding the best music of a high swath of the world whose composers were hardly known. I quickly learned that the resources were huge.

As my knowledge of the music of Latin America has increased in the ensuing years, so has the number of composers. A Latin American Focus! festival seemed badly needed, even if six concerts could only scratch the surface. I wanted to emphasize composers still living in their home countries, but could not exclude the Latin America diaspora – composers who went abroad for education, opportunity, and in many cases, to escape the persecution and violence of the 20th century military regimes.

For months I have consulted extensively with composers in Latin America and elsewhere, assembling lists especially of young composer. The quantity of composers is truly staggering, and I have had to create limitations, favoring the living and those who remain in their home countries, while including some émigrés. Three of the pioneers are heard on the opening and closing programs.

Above all, I want to illustrate the stylistic diversity that makes to term ‘Latin American composer’ difficult to define other than geographically. The breadth of styles is truly amazing. The audience should not expect only ‘Latin-sounding’ folklore-based compositions. Since the primary aim of Juilliard’s Focus! festival is to give Juilliard students opportunities to extend their experience and skills, I have excluded purely electronic music, or music requiring indigenous instruments.

Filed under: Juilliard

Voices Uplifted: Cappella Romana Performs Rautavaara’s Vigilia

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My Seattle Times story on Cappella Romana’s upcoming Rautavaara program:

It’s the oldest instrument we’ve got.

Yet the musical possibilities of the human voice remain inexhaustible. And when a group of singers joins together a cappella — without the “props” of any other instruments for accompaniment — they can produce soundscapes as vivid and enveloping as what you might hear from the most sophisticated orchestra.

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Filed under: choral music, Seattle Times

Shostakovich Concerto Festival at SSO

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Soloist Aleksey Semenenko with the Seattle Symphony and Pablo Rus Broseta conducting; (c) Brandon Patoc

The Seattle Symphony’s Shostakovich Concerto Festival started off last night with a powerful program covering half of the Russian master’s six concertos for solo instruments.

It’s a fascinating opportunity to hear, compare, and contrast each of the pairs of concertos for piano, violin, and cello in a two-evening marathon. Ditto the three young artists appearing as the soloists: pianist Kenvin Ahfat, violinist Aleksey Semenenko, and cellist Edgar Moreau. Leading the Seattle Symphony is its marvelously talented associate conductor, Pablo Rus Broseta.

I’ll have a report on the whole festival later on in Strings magazine. In the meantime, based on the caliber of the performances — not to mention the new relevance of Shostakovich at the dawn of an era of profound political and cultural angst — I highly recommend Part Two this evening. On the program tonight: the Second Piano and Cello Concertos and the First Violin Concerto.

Filed under: Seattle Symphony, Shostakovich

Heavy-Metal Dmitri

Getting in the mood for the start of Seattle Symphony’s two-concert Shostakovich Concerto Festival.

Filed under: Seattle Symphony, Shostakovich

New Take on Old Favorite: La traviata at Seattle Opera

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La traviata director Mika Blauensteiner, in rehearsal at Seattle Opera

This familiar story of Violetta, her love, and death is the world’s most-performed opera. With new staging that marks the North American debut of the German director Peter Konwitschny, Seattle Opera hopes to shed fresh light on Verdi’s 1853 masterpiece.

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Filed under: directors, Seattle Opera, Seattle Times, Verdi

Classic

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Filed under: photography

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