MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

That Which is Fundamental: Seth Parker Woods in Recital

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Tonight at Seattle Symphony’s Octave 9 experimental space: the extraordinary cellist Seth Parker Woods, as part of his residency this year with SSO, has put together a program titled “That Which Is Fundamental.

Pieces by Anton Lukoszevieze, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Vinko Globokar, Tonia Ko, Gustavo Tavares, and Julius Eastman explore “language and essential truths of the human condition” and show “inspiration from the simplicity and complexity of speech and text.” Joining Parker Woods is the percussionist Bonnie Whiting. The program begins at 7.30 at Octave 9 at Benaroya Hall.

Filed under: cello, Octave 9, Seattle Symphony, Seth Parker Woods

Aya Yoshida Wins the Zemlinsky Prize

The 27-year-old Japanese composer Aya Yoshida has won the 2019 Zemlinsky Prize for Composition, which has been presented to young composers from around the world since 1990 by the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).

Along with a cash award of $30,000, Yoshida will receive a major new orchestral commission for dance, to be given its world premiere by CCM’s Philharmonia Orchestra and Ballet in December 2020, which will also record the piece.

Aya Yoshida, a native of Kobe who is based in Amsterdam, was chosen for Double Face, a ten-minute orchestral piece. The Danish National Symphony Orchestra premiered the work in 2016.

From the press release:

The title [“Double Face”] is open to interpretation, but like
many of Yoshida’s pieces (e.g. “Polka dots,” “Tone on Tone Check,” “Pointed toe”), this work also has a fashion resonance. “Double face,” meaning reverse clothing, is a term commonly used in the rag-trade.

Second prize of $20,000 went to Tomasz Skweres, 34, a Polish composer living in Vienna, for his piece “über das farbige Licht der Doppelsterne…” Third prize of $10,000 was awarded to 24-year-old Joel Jäventausta, a Finnish composer based in London, for his piece “Cantus.”
More than 200 compositions were submitted for consideration before five finalists were shortlisted in September by an international panel of leading composers: Colin Matthews (London), Missy Mazzoli (New York/Chicago), Iris Ter Schiphorst (Vienna), and Carl Vine (Sydney). The shortlisted works were then submitted anonymously to a final judging panel, which included the Dean of CCM, Stanley E. Romanstein, and CCM Philharmonia Conductor, Mark Gibson.

Missy Mazzoli said Yoshida’s winning entry “showed true originality, combined with skillful orchestration and a well-balanced approach to form…This daring work really communicated a mini-world of fantastic orchestral colors.” Carl Vine praised it “as redolent with intriguing musical gestures and textures.” Colin Matthews said, “Aya Yoshida’s piece came out on top from a very impressive line-up” and noted “it was good to see the unanimity of choice between a panel of composers all with very different stylistic personalities.”

Expressing her gratitude, Aya Yoshida said: “After my opera in 2017, I have been somehow dreaming of composing for ballet in my 20s or 30s, so I am thankful, humble, surprised and really happy to have the opportunity. Music is a collection of movements; the texture of the sound itself and also the physical gestures of the musicians. I am looking forward to exploring the connections between ballet and music in my new piece for CCM Philharmonia Orchestra.”

Filed under: competitions, music news

Opera in San Francisco

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Act III of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” with Heidi Stober as Gretel and Sasha Cooke as Hansel, production by Antony McDonald; photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The last few weeks have been so busy I forgot to post my coverage of a trip last month to the Bay Area. Here are links to my reviews for Musical America of two productions at San Francisco Opera (Hansel and Gretel and Manon Lescaut) and of a concert performance of the first act of Die Walküre by San Francisco Symphony.

Filed under: Engelbert Humperdinck, Musical America, Puccini, review, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, Wagner

San Francisco Opera Announces New Music Director

The big news from San Francisco Opera this afternoon: Eun Sun Kim, a native of South Korea, has been chosen as the fourth music director in the company’s history, effective August 21, 2021.

Of Maestro Kim’s SFO debut this past June conducting Dvořák’s Rusalka I wrote: “Holding it all together was the outstanding musical direction of Eun Sun Kim, who was at home not only with the score’s Wagnerian resonances but with Dvořák’s folk-inflected rhythmic energy, too. The orchestra’s vibrant responsiveness made Kim’s debut here a spectacular one for a company currently in search of a music director.”

Kim made the following statement:

From my very first moments at San Francisco Opera, I felt this was home. There was an unusual feeling of open collaboration across so many facets of the Company—a real sense of professional alchemy. I’m deeply honored to be joining the San Francisco Opera family, and helping to carry this incredible lineage forward.

From the press release:

Effective immediately, Ms. Kim is Music Director Designate, in which role she will participate in the planning of future seasons and in orchestral auditions. She will conduct the Company’s new production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” that will be a part of the opening weekend of the 2020–21 Season. Complete information about San Francisco Opera’s 2020–21 Season will be announced in January.

As music director, she will conduct up to four productions in each season of her initial five-year contract, in addition to conducting concerts, working with San Francisco Opera’s resident artist Adler Fellows and participating in the executive leadership of the organization…

Born in South Korea, 39-year-old Eun Sun Kim conducts frequently at major opera houses across Europe and is increasingly recognized in North America as an insightful interpreter of the operatic and symphonic repertoire. She made her U.S. debut in September 2017, leading a production of La Traviata with Houston Grand Opera, and she was subsequently named the company’s first principal guest conductor in 25 years. Last month, she made her Washington National Opera debut conducting The Magic Flute, and upcoming U.S. company debuts include productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and LA Opera. She returns to Houston Grand Opera in April for a production of Salome. In the concert hall, she has conducted the Cincinnati Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Milwaukee Symphony, and future performances include subscription concerts with the New York Philharmonic and Oregon, San Diego and Seattle symphonies.

Ms. Kim began her career in Europe, where she assisted Jesús López-Cobos at Madrid’s Teatro Real and Kirill Petrenko at Opéra National de Lyon, before making her own professional debut in 2012 conducting La Bohème at Frankfurt Opera.

Another important mentor to Ms. Kim was Daniel Barenboim, whom she met while working in Europe early in her career. After hearing Ms. Kim in rehearsals, Mr. Barenboim invited her to make her debut in 2015 at the Berlin State Opera, where he is General Music Director.

Among Ms. Kim’s future European engagements is her debut at the Vienna State Opera. She has previously conducted at companies including English National Opera, Opéra de Marseille, Opernhaus Zürich, Royal Danish Opera, Royal Swedish Opera and Teatro Real. She has been particularly active in Germany, where she maintains a close relationship not only with the Berlin State Opera, but also Frankfurt Opera. She has also appeared at the Bavarian State Opera, Cologne Opera, Semperoper Dresden and Stuttgart State Opera. Her international concert engagements have included performances with Beethoven Orchester Bonn, Calgary Philharmonic, Malmö Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Stuttgart Philharmonic, among others.

Ms. Kim studied composition and conducting in her hometown of Seoul, South Korea, before continuing her studies at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Stuttgart (State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart), where she graduated with distinction. Directly after graduation, she was awarded the First Prize in the International Jesús López-Cobos Opera Conducting Competition at the Teatro Real.

Filed under: conductors, music news, San Francisco Opera

The Miró Quartet at 25

The November-December 2019 issue of Strings magazine is now available. I wrote a profile of the marvelous Miró Quartet and their Archive Project, which celebrates the ensemble’s quarter-century milestone.

When the Miró Quartet started out in October 1995, a prediction that it would be thriving a quarter century on must have sounded wildly optimistic. “Because we were such different personalities in terms of musical approach and demeanor, we had a lot of fights and disagreements in the first couple of years,” recalls cellist Joshua Gindele…

continue (starts p. 20)

Filed under: Beethoven, profile, string quartet, Strings

Lei Liang Wins the 2020 Grawemeyer Award


Just announced:
The Chinese-American composer Lei Liang has won the 2020 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. He was chosen on the basis of his orchestral work A Thousand Mountains, a Million Streams, commissioned and premiered by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project under Gil Rose. The new work addresses the issue of climate change and what humans can do to change the outcome.

From the Grawemeyer announcement:

“The world we live in today is dangerous,” Liang said. “Our very existence is threatened by global warming, which is causing violent disruptions to the living things on our planet and being made worse by human irresponsibility.”

The half-hour piece takes listeners on a journey through a virtual landscape that first sings and dances but later jolts and collapses into fragments. Near the end, the sound of rain emerges and resurrects nature.

“When creating the work, I wanted to convey the importance of preserving our landscapes, both physically and spiritually, to sustain a place where we and our children can belong,” he said.

Liang, 47, is a music professor at University of California, San Diego, and research-artist-in-residence at Qualcomm Institute, the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. He has composed more than 100 works, including pieces addressing other contemporary social issues such as human trafficking and gun violence.

“Xiaoxiang,” his concerto for saxophone and orchestra, was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2015.

“Liang’s piece, which explores a huge range of emotions and ends with both hope and ambiguity, has a forceful, convincing arc and wonderful orchestral colors,” said Marc Satterwhite, music award director. “Like some of our other winners, he challenges people inside and outside the field of music to ponder important things, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.”

Schott Music, a company founded in 1770 in Germany now with offices worldwide, publishes all of Liang’s compositions. BMOP/sound record label released a recording of his Grawemeyer-winning piece in 2018.

Filed under: awards, music news

Musical America’s New Artist of the Month: Hao Zhou

Congratulations to Hao Zhou, who is featured by Musical America as New Artist of the Month. Here’s my profile of this extraordinary violinist.

More on Hao Zhou here.

Video of Hao Zhou with Viano String Quartet.

Filed under: Musical America, violinists

RIP Mariss Jansons (1943-2019)

The great Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons has died at his home in St. Petersburg. He was only 76. From his orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony:
“The news of the death of our chief conductor Mariss Jansons has filled us with deep dismay and sorrow. With his death, the music world loses one of its greatest artists. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have shared many unforgettable concerts with him over the past 17 years and treasure our close personal and artistic collaboration. The unrelenting demands he made on himself and his musicians, the treatment of his colleagues that was unfailingly full of respect, and the great dedication to music he demonstrated will forever be remembered. Mariss Jansons will occupy a place of honor in the history of our orchestra, and we will honor his memory and keep it alive.” (Orchestra Board of the BRSO)
“The news of Mariss Janson’s death fills me and indeed all those who got to know him with unfathomable sadness. As an individual and a musician alike, he made the lives of so many people richer. I will always be grateful to him for this.” (Nikolaus Pont, Manager BRSO)

Filed under: conductors, music news

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