MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

News from Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

Press release from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra:
CBSO Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has shared the following news with us:

I would like to tell you about some happy news in my family. I am pregnant with our second child, with a due date in August. We will need to make some necessary changes in my schedule but I look forward to working together to realize some of our most exciting plans. My family and I are very grateful for your friendship and support.

Major projects and tours during the CBSO’s 2020-21 season will take place as planned, with some modifications to her schedule.

Everyone at the CBSO would like to congratulate Mirga on this exciting news.

Filed under: music news

Guy Braunstein and Martha Argerich

Tonight at Pierre Boulez Saal, Guy Braunstein and Martha Argerich perform a sold-out program of Schumann, Prokofiev, and Franck. My program essay is available here. (It’s their first time collaborating as a duo, so the clip above is of Argerich with Gidon Kremer — not exactly a bad compromise — in Schumann’s A minor Violin Sonata.)

Filed under: César Franck, Martha Argerich, Pierre Boulez Saal, Prokofiev, Schumann

Unsuk Chin: Gougalon: Scenes from a Street Theater

We need to hear lots more Unsuk Chin — why isn’t she programmed more in the U.S.?

Filed under: new music

Happy Birthday, John Adams

A very happy birthday to John Coolidge Adams, who turns 73 today. The clip above, City Noir, is one of the pieces on the program when Adams guest conducts the Seattle Symphony in April. He’ll also present Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes, his brilliant new piano concerto, with Jeremy Denk as the fiendish soloist.

(I haven’t noticed yet whether Sony Classical has sent out a message celebrating “the composer of Become Ocean.”)

Filed under: John Adams

Latest Music News

It’s been a deluge. Just gathering some of the past day’s worth of major announcements:

–Simon Woods has been named Interim Executive Director of the Grand Teton Music Festival.

–The New York Philharmonic announced its 2020-21 season, which will include Project 19 and the American premiere of György Kurtág’s Beckett opera Fin de Partie.

–Juilliard has named violist alum Adam Meyer as its new provost starting July 1, “when Ara Guzelimian steps down as provost and dean and assumes an advisory role.” Juilliard will now have separate the positions of dean and provost and will embark on a search for the new dean.

–Philadelphia Orchestra’s BeethovenNOW project starts March 12 and will pair the nine symphonies with four world premieres commissioned by the ensemble, including composer-in-residence Gabriela Lena Frank, Iman Habibi, Jessica Hunt, and Carlos Simon.

–The Metropolitan Opera just announced its 2020-21 season, featuring new productions of Aida, Die Zauberflöte, and Don Giovanni and Met premieres of The Fiery Angel and Dead Man Walking.

–Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced its 2020-21 season, which is the final season of Sir Andrew Davis’s tenure as music director. Delighted to see Proving Up and Lessons in Love and Violence among the offerings.

Plus: last week, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced its remarkable 2020-21 season program, including America: The Stories We Tell, the Seoul Festival, the Pan-American Music Initiative, the return of the Tristan Project, two John Adams operas, and a total of 27 premieres.

Filed under: music news

The Weimar Republic at LA Phil

Esa-Pekka Salonen is back in Disney Hall to lead the second weekend of programs exploring the musical ferment of the Weimar Republic. Tonight brings the orchestra’s collaboration with director Simon McBurney for a staged presentation of Hindemith’s Murderer, the Hope of Women
and two Weill-Brecht creations: Das Berliner Requiem and The Seven Deadly Sins. And I’m wishing this had not become so relevant…

Filed under: Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kurt Weill, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Paul Hindemith

Weekend Concert Tips in Seattle


If you’re in the Seattle are, there’s a lot to choose from this weekend. One more chance to catch the incomparable violinist Gidon Kremer, who has become a major champion of the long-neglected Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-96). Earlier this week, Kremer gave an intimate performance at Octave 9, playing his transcriptions of half of Weinberg’s 24 Preludes for Solo Cello as well as his vast First Sonata for solo violin and the Bach D minor Chaconne.

Under Dausgaard’s baron, he will perform Weinberg’s Violin Concerto (from 1960) again on Saturday evening. Last night’s account was a major discovery, leaving me moved, thrilled, enraptured–and hungry for more. Weinberg is routinely compared to Shostakovich (same thing happens to Galina Ustvolskaya), but for all the superficial resemblances, I was drawn to Weinberg’s distinctive lyricism and the pockets of hopefulness he weaves into this score. It delighted me no end that Kremer chose what I immediately selected as my favorite of the Preludes for his encore.

The rest of the program was magnificent: Dausgaard mixed rich oil with theatrical flair in the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture — Tchaikovsky’s early breakthrough — and brought out many a smile from the musicians in a heartfelt, vibrant, even deliriously unbuttoned interpretation of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8. SSO principal flutist Demarre McGill’s exquisite solos alone negated any excuse to miss this.

Sunday brings a real feast. Octave 9, which has been on overdrive lately with not-to-be-missed concerts, will present one of the most compelling young cellists at work today: Seth Parker Woods, in a program titled Difficult Grace. The teaser reads: “Inspired by Dudley Randall’s poem “Primitives,” this interactive concert features five world premieres and one Seattle premiere by Monty Adkins, Nathalie Joachim, Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, Fredrick Gifford, Ryan Carter and Freida Abtan. ‘Difficult Grace’ showcases an array of visual art and music by some of today’s most imaginative storytellers.”

Parker Woods is also a brilliant curator, so there’s bound to be some excellent discoveries here. More background on the cellist.

Elsewhere in the Benaroya Hall complex on Sunday evening, Byron Schenkman & Friends will perform a program enticingly titled Baroque Bacchanalia. The wonderful harpsichordist Byron Schenkman has curated an evening of selections on mythological themes by Bernier, Campra, Jacquet, and Rebel, with bass-baritone (and composer) Jonathan Woody as the featured vocalist.

Earlier on Sunday, Early Music Seattle presents a semi-staged production of Vivaldi’s Motezuma at Town Hall. This version was reconstructed and reimagined by Matthias Maute, music director of the Montreal-based Ensemble Caprice Music Director. The Other Conquest, a response to Vivaldi’s colonialist distortions by composer Héctor Armienta and Seattle poet Raúl Sánchez, is being presented Saturday evening (free of charge) at Broadway Performance Hall.

Also Sunday afternoon: Temple de Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill (1441 16th Ave) is presenting a free concert at 2pm featuring pianist Judith Cohen, SSO clarinetist Eric Jacobs, and violinist Hal Grossman. Their program is titled Bernstein, Copland, Bloch, & Gershwin: Legendary Jewish Composers of the 20th Century. I’m especially looking forward to hearing Copland’s Vitebsk Trio, a study in quarter-tones from 1929. The concert is actually just one of a weekend-long series of events at Temple de Hirsch Sinai celebrating Shabbat Shirah (Shabbat of Song).

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, Gidon Kremer, music news, Seattle Symphony, Seth Parker Woods, Thomas Dausgaard

A Chat with Nicholas McGegan


Nicholas McGegan conducting Juilliard415 in 2019

Ahead of his upcoming Juilliard projects, I spoke with the always delightful Nicholas McGegan.

A new year and decade: 2020 brings some major milestones for eminent conductor, harpsichordist, and flutist Nicholas McGegan…


Filed under: conductors, early music, Handel, Juilliard

Intensity and compassion: Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s stunning return to Seattle


Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Thomas Dausgaard and the Seattle Symphony
© Carlin Ma

When Patricia Kopatchinskaja is on the bill, you’re guaranteed to encounter the unexpected, no matter how well-known the music …


Filed under: Patricia Kopatchinskaja, review, Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard

Happy Palindrome Day

It’s taken a little over a thousand years to arrive at today’s calendrical palindrome: 02-02-2020. Last time was 11-11-1111–909 years ago (using the eight-digit format).

The French composer Olivier Messiaen found special significance in the palindrome. When looking at the rhythmic parameter, for example, he developed structures based on “non-retrogradable rhythms,” as he termed them.

The German musicologist Siglind Bruhn explores the implications for Messiaen of palindromic structures: “Rhythmic palindromes are interesting above all for their spiritual significance. In the realm of human experience, the irreversibility that defines all acts, be they physical or linguistic, the course of a day or a life, and the expected execution of a plan, are of a quality intrinsically different from reminiscences, regrets, nostalgia, and other acts or feelings turned toward the past.”

from Messiaen’s Contemplations of Covenant and Incarnation

Filed under: miscellaneous, Olivier Messiaen

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