MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Happy Birthday, Esa-Pekka Salonen!

Today the Maestro turns 60 years young.

Great conductor, great composer:

Filed under: anniversary, conductors, Mahler

San Francisco Opera Reforges Its Ring

SFO-Ring-Walküre

Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde and Greer Grimsley as Wotan in Wagner’s “Die Walküre.”
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Here’s Part 1 of my review for Musical America of San Francisco Opera’s Ring, directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Donald Runnicles:

SAN FRANCISCO—One sure gauge of a successful Ring production is when it consistently leads you to a liminal state: to a kind of hovering between rapt focus on the moment and deliberation about what it all implies. Over the course of San Francisco Opera’s Ring, I found myself taking that threshold for granted, encouraged to ponder the connections, musical and dramatic, that are essential for Wagner’s project to make its desired impact.

continue [behind MA’s paywall]

Filed under: directors, Musical America, review, Ring cycle, San Francisco Opera, Wagner

Happy Birthday, George Walker!

The wonderful American composer George Walker turns 96 today. And he’s still very much at work, with a symphonic world premiere coming up in the new Seattle Symphony season: Sinfonia No. 5, in which he reflects on the massacre at a Charleston church in 2015.

The clip above is from a 2012 interview, just before George Walker reached the age of 90.
Happy Birthday, George!

Filed under: American music, George Walker

Michael Tilson Thomas: Music and Emotion through Time

Filed under: Michael Tilson Thomas

Seattle Symphony’s New Venue

octave-9-header

Octave 9 can create a 360° shared virtual experience with a surround video screen, in-the-round seating and responsive video and acoustics. (Rendering by LMN Architects)

Seattle Symphony just announced that it will open its new Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center in February 2019.

Octave 9 will be located in what has been called the Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center (corner of Second Avenue & Union Street). The new initiative, according to SSO, is intended to create “a versatile, immersive environment for inventive performances, education opportunities, and community engagement” — which is reminiscent of the “salle modulable” paradigm that has been realized, for example, at the Pierre Boulez-Saal in Berlin.

Why the name? “Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center is named in honor of Seattle philanthropists James and Sherry Raisbeck, who provided a $2 million matching challenge to transform the former Soundbridge. The name, created by LORE Naming, was inspired by the size of a concert grand piano, which spans just over seven octaves. A nine-octave range, then, pushes past the boundaries, redefining what is musically possible.”

SSO’s press release continues: “Combining a modular surround video screen with 13 moveable panels, 10 ultra-short-throw projectors, motion-capture cameras, and a state-of-the-art Meyer Sound Constellation® Acoustic System with 42 speakers and 30 microphones, the technology in Octave 9 can create a 360° shared virtual experience or disappear into the background for a more traditional setting.”

The first artist-in-residence at Octave 9 will be the cellist Seth Parker Woods, the subject of my Strings magazine cover story last summer. “During his residency, he will premiere a number of new works for cello and multimedia commissioned by the Seattle Symphony from a diverse group of composers and visual artists.”

read more about Octave 9

Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony, Seth Parker Woods

Ending an Era with Mahler 6

Simon Rattle’s final concert with the Berlin Philharmonic: how fitting for our tragic time: streaming live from the Digital Concert Hall.

Filed under: Berlin Philharmonic, Mahler, Simon Rattle

Seattle Symphony Names New President and CEO

SSO

By a unanimous vote of its Board of Directors, Seattle Symphony has named Krishna Thiagarajan, currently Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, as its next President and CEO, succeeding Simon Woods, who recently became CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Thiagarajan will start his tenure this September.

From the SSO press release:

Thiagarajan’s track record in his past three leadership positions encompasses strong financial management including balanced budgets and significant growth in both ticket sales and donations. He has also produced numerous acclaimed recordings and several international tours, as well as commissioned new works and created meaningful education programs for students. His past leadership has included strong community and corporate relationships, and a personal emphasis on creating an inclusive organizational culture.

Thiagarajan: “I believe the Seattle Symphony to be among the most innovative orchestras in the United States, having delivered an impressive track record of growth, artistic excellence and strong community presence. In collaboration with this outstanding group of musicians, staff and board, as well as dedicated supporters, I look forward to serving the community of the greater Seattle area as the orchestra becomes an even more prominent cultural ambassador for the Pacific Northwest.”

Thiagarajan replaces former President & CEO Simon Woods who became the CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in January after seven years of exemplary leadership in Seattle.

Complete press release

Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony

Bye Bye Beethoven

Last night at Zellerbach Hall, Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s remarkable staged concert,Bye Bye Beethoven, opened the Berkeley edition of the programs she just curated for the 2018 Ojai Festival. One of the most creative deconstructions I’ve seen in a while, one that really achieves what it sets out to do: to shake us out of the stupor of the safe concert routine and show us what we’ve been missing.

According to Kopatchinskaja, “the concert routine around the world is so absurd,” continually replaying the same icons “with not very much imagination relevant to our time.” Bye Bye Beethoven dramatizes her concern “about petrified traditions. I don’t think Beethoven would be happy to know that in the future his music would take so much space.”

It’s not iconoclasm—ultimately, a Puritan approach—but rather a wittily inventive transformation of perceptions that motivates Bye Bye Beethoven.

This is the kind of work being done all the time in the visual arts, in poetry, in fiction, in film. Why can’t we have more of it in concert life?

Filed under: Cal Performances, directors, Patricia Kopatchinskaja

Joyce Drama

Revolutionary_Joyce_Better_Contrast

Bloomsday is around the corner, so just in time comes Jack Hitt’s fascinating story in the New York Times magazine: “The Strange Case of the Missing Joyce Scholar,” about the extraordinary case of John Kidd, Ulysses scholar and eccentric who became a literary celebrity in the Joyce Wars in the 1980s and ’90s — and then suddenly vanished.

link to story

Filed under: James Joyce, literary criticism

The “Other” Scandal Concert

Vienna, 31 March 1913 — two months before The Rite of Spring in Paris — Schoenberg programmed two songs from his student Alban Berg’s settings of five Ansichtskartentexte (“Picture-Postcard Texts”) by the poet Peter Altenberg (Nos. 2 and 3).

The rest of the program consisted of Schoenberg’s own Op. 9 Chamber Symphony (in a special version for strings alone); the world premiere of a work by another Schoenberg pupil, Anton Webern’s Pieces for Orchestra (now known as Op. 6); and Maeterlinck Songs by Schoenberg’s own mentor, Alexander von Zemlinsky, with Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder as the final work — except that the Mahler was never performed. A disturbance broke out during the Berg songs, reaching such a point that police were called in. The orchestra gave up and the show did not go on. Incidentally, those two songs last all of three, four minutes…

“One is not wrong in alleging that scenes like the one yesterday have never before happened, neither in Vienna nor certainly any other concert hall in any other cultural city,” the Neues Wiener Tagblatt observed.

Another paper, Die Zeit, even accused the organizer, Schoenberg (who himself had recently had an anomalous success with the premiere of his Gurrelieder), of engaging in vanity programming. It claimed that he “felt obliged to repay his disciples by using his influence to have a performance of their pieces, although he privately thought very little of what they had achieved.”

Fortunately young Alban Berg was at least absent from the concert itself.

Filed under: Alban Berg, music history

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