MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Review: A Searing Katya Kabanova on the Seattle Opera stage

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Melody Moore sings the title role in “Katya Kabanova” on opening night at Seattle Opera. (Jacob F. Lucas)

My Seattle Times review of the new Katya Kabanova* production at Seattle Opera:

Nearly a century after it premiered, Leoš Janáček’s “Katya Kabanova” has made it to the Seattle Opera stage for the first time. The Czech composer’s portrayal of a sensitive young woman desperately in need of an escape route from her repressive surroundings contains all the ingredients for a searing music drama.

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*following the company’s English rendition of the title, sans diacriticals

Filed under: Leoš Janáček, review, Seattle Opera

Walt Whitman, Novelist

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Walt Whitman, 1853 or 1854. Credit The New York Public Library

This looks exciting: report of a short serialized novel the young Walt Whitman published anonymously in 1852. University of Houston grad student Zachary Turpin discovered the work — The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle — in the archives of the Library of Congress:

Tucked away in the long-forgotten, never-digitized “Sunday Dispatch”, the short novel was all but lost to the ages. But Turpin, who unearthed “Jack Engle” in the Library of Congress archive, used unpublished notes and outlines to connect the story to Whitman, one of America’s best known and most beloved poets.

In her report for The New York Times, Jennifer Schuessler describes the novel as “a quasi-Dickensian tale of an orphan’s adventures [that] features a villainous lawyer, virtuous Quakers, glad-handing politicians, a sultry Spanish dancer …”
A quasi-Dickensian tale of an orphan’s adventures, it features a villainous lawyer, virtuous Quakers, glad-handing politicians, a sultry Spanish dancer and more than a few unlikely plot twists and jarring narrative shifts.The Walt Whitman Quarterly Review has published the entire text, along with background material, here. The opening:
Life and Adventures of Jack Engle: An AutoBiography:
PREFATORY.—Candidly reader we are going to tell you a true story. The narrative is written in the first person; because it was originally jotted down by the principal actor in it, for the entertainment of a valued friend. From that narrative, although the present is somewhat elaborated, with an unimportant leaving out here, and putting in there, there has been no departure in substance. The main incidents were of actual occurrence in this good city of New York; and there will be a sprinkling of our readers by no means small, who will wonder how the deuce such facts, (as they happen to know them) ever got into print.

Filed under: literature, Walt Whitman

Happy Birthday, György Kurtág

Today the remarkable Hungarian composer György Kurtág celebrates his 91st birthday.

He and his wife Márta Kurtág were just announced as the winners of a 2017 Borletti-Buitoni Trust prize (usually a distinction conferred on young artists — they received the Franco Buitoni Award). The press release for the award, which was awarded today, reads:

Franco Buitoni Award presented to György and Márta Kurtág

19 February 2017

Today, Hungarian composer György Kurtág is 91 years old and also celebrates his 70th wedding anniversary. He and his pianist wife, Márta, have been presented with a Borletti-Buitoni Trust award (£30,000) in recognition of their distinguished contribution to  the world of music, as well as their long and devoted musical partnership. This special tribute is in memory of Franco Buitoni (1934-2016) who co-founded the Borletti-Buitoni Trust (BBT) in 2002 with his wife, Ilaria.

Ilaria Borletti Buitoni, who travelled to Budapest with BBT trustee Mitsuko Uchida to present the award, said: “My husband, Franco, passed away last August. He and I founded BBT in 2002 to help talented young musicians develop their careers.  From the very beginning we were pleased to have the artistic guidance and ideas of our founding trustee, Mitsuko Uchida, who was also a dear friend to Franco. I wanted to honour my husband’s own lifetime of loving and supporting music with this special award and there seemed no better person to nominate a worthy recipient than Mitsuko.”

Mitsuko Uchida commented: “Intense, mysterious, dark, otherworldly and innig; these are the words that come to my mind when I think of György Kurtág’s music. He is inspirational and fiercely honest but there is also a deep love that glows through his music. This may be an expression of his extraordinary relationship with his wife, Márta. Anybody who has heard the Kurtágs play, four hands, would know what that means. We know György Kurtág the great composer but with him always is Márta the wonderful pianist. They live music together. Therefore, the special Franco Buitoni Award goes to György and Márta Kurtág. We are honoured that they have accepted this award on his 91st birthday and their 70th wedding anniversary. We have all been so lucky to have known them and their music, me especially.”

BBT presented its first awards in 2003 and, since then, has proudly supported more than 100 musicians and ensembles all over the world.

Filed under: Kurtág, music news

Le Grand Macabre directed by Peter Sellars

Peter Sellars’s production of Ligeti’s <i>Le Grand Macabre</i> is being live-streamed on the Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall today.

Filed under: Berlin Philharmonic, Ligeti, Peter Sellars

The Devil Gets the Best Tunes

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Laurence Cummings (Photo by Robert Workman)

Here’s a piece I wrote for this month’s Juilliard Journal about Agrippina:

In one of Agrippina‘s pivotal scenes, the Emperor Claudius—at first presumed dead at sea by the scheming title character, only to be inconveniently rescued—crows in triumph over “conquered Britain” as a “new subject” for the Roman throne. That wouldn’t exactly be music to Brexit supporters—but, then, international migrants like George Frideric Handel (né Georg Friedrich Händel) would have had a harder time in a Europe of zealously policed borders.

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Filed under: Handel, Juilliard

Happy 70th Birthday, John Adams!

Today John Adams celebrates his 70th birthday. We have countless reasons to be grateful for what he’s already given the world. And he has so much left to say, as works of more recent vintage like The Gospel According to the Other Mary demonstrate.

Here’s a bit on JA’s ongoing relationship with San Francisco Symphony, which gives the Bay area premiere of this masterpiece starting Thursday:

You would be forgiven for imagining a clever director had coached a miniature army of body doubles, or that a music-mad bioengineer had disseminated a few clones: John Adams seems to be intercontinentally omnipresent this season—in London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles. This month, when he actually reaches the biblical milestone of 70 (February 15), he is right back home, with his music as the centerpiece of a three-weekend celebration by the San Francisco Symphony.

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San Francisco Symphony on JOHN ADAMS: CELEBRATING 70 YEARS

 

Filed under: John Adams, San Francisco Symphony

Seattle Symphony Is Making Music Matter

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Kinan Azmeh, Ludovic Morlot, and Seattle Symphony; image (c) Brando Patoc

Some thoughts on recent Seattle Symphony programs, now on Vanguard Seattle:

Say goodbye to ivory towers.

So far this month, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and music director Ludovic Morlot have presented three widely varied programs. Two of these addressed red-hot current events that would have seemed surprising in the middle of a “normal” concert season not too long ago.

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Filed under: American music, Beethoven, Debussy, Ives, Ludovic Morlot, Prokofiev, review, Seattle Symphony, Vanguard Seattle

Kavakos and Wang on Tour

 

kavakos-wangOn Friday Leonidas Kavakos and Yuja Wang come to Seattle as part of their current tour. My interview with the Greek violinist for The Seattle Times:

Forget about art for art’s sake.

The virtuoso violinist Leonidas Kavakos staunchly believes that artistic creativity is vital for a fully human life — and even for our survival.

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Filed under: pianists, Seattle Times, violinists

Generations Ahead: Steve Reich

My latest feature for STRINGS magazine is now online:

Composer Steve Reich’s Three Generations series will illustrate the sea change in compositional language ventured by Reich and his peers and carried forward by younger generations

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Filed under: programming, Steve Reich, Strings

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