MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

RIP Lynn Harrell (1944-2020)

This week brought the sad news that Lynn Harrell has died. He was only 76. Here are some “master class” observations on Beethoven’s Op. 104, no. 1 that the incomparable cellist shared with The Strad last year:

There is the most wonderful moment in the first movement of Sonata no.4, at the beginning of bar 94, where Beethoven writes in A major in the piano part and D minor for the cello. This lasts only for a moment, but for a Classical composer to have the concept that the two main poles of traditional harmony – the dominant and the tonic – could be played at the same time shows that he was starting to think in a way that might have led, if he had lived another 15–20 years, to a Schoenbergian breaking up of traditional harmony altogether. It’s just extraordinary.

Filed under: cello, chamber music, music news

Take Me to the World: Sondheim 90th Birthday Concert

UPDATE: Link moved here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A92wZIvEUAw&feature=youtu.be

Go to Broadwaycom’s YouTube channel at 20:00 EST on Sunday 26 April for Take Me to the World, a benefit concert celebrating Stephen Sondheim at 90 and hosted by Raúl Esparza.

A slew of NYTimes stories on Sondheim can be found here.

Filed under: Live-Streamed Performance, Stephen Sondheim, theater

Music of James Newton and His Quintet

Filed under: American music, James Newton

Augustin Hadelich Tells Bohemian Tales

Here’s a lovely taste of Augustin Hadelich’s new upcoming release, Bohemian Tales.

My recent feature on this extraordinary violinist for Strings magazine appears here.

Filed under: Antonín Dvořák, violinists

The Sublime Galina Ustvolskaya

I’ve been working on notes for an all-Ustvolskaya program at Boulez Saal in Berlin by the Boulez Ensemble (which will likely end up being cancelled, alas). But I’m grateful to be immersed in this world.

Concerning the religious implications of the title Composition No. 1: Dona nobis pacem from 1970-71, Semyon Bokman writes:

The large-scale movement toward religion was not, however, a discovery of faith, at least for the majority. It was an expression of protest, freedom of thought, disagreement with the system and the rule of Soviet ideology. Ustvolskaya’s spiritual works, apart from her special connection with God, are an expression of inner protest. (The score of the composition “Dona nobis pacem,” for example, could not be published with such a subtitle.) They are a challenge to the system, a reaction to oppression. Such art could appear only under the conditions of the Soviet Union. Imagine an American composer who write spiritual music. (It does not matter whether it is religious or not.) Would it be a sensation?

Filed under: Galina Ustvolskaya, Pierre Boulez Saal

Easter Evening 2020

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Filed under: photography

Tonight’s Met Stream: Parsifal

Here’s a link to Parsifal, the seasonally appropriate streaming from the Metropolitan Opera for the next 24 hours. This performance, directed by François Girard and with Danile Gatti conducting, was transmitted live on March 2, 2013.

A pdf of the program is here, with my program note starting on p. 2 of the insert.

Cast IN ORDER OF VOCAL APPEARANCE:
Gurnemanz: René Pape
Second Knight of the Grail: Ryan Speedo Green*
Second Sentry: Lauren McNeese
First Sentry: Jennifer Forni
First Knight of the Grail: Mark Schowalter
Kundry: Katarina Dalayman
Amfortas: Peter Mattei
Third Sentry: Andrew Stenson*
Fourth Sentry: Mario Chang*
Parsifal: Jonas Kaufmann
Titurel: Rúni Brattaberg
A Voice: Maria Zifchak
Klingsor: Evgeny Nikitin
Flower Maidens:
Kiera Duffy
Lei Xu*
Irene Roberts
Haeran Hong
Katherine Whyte
Heather Johnson
* Member of the Lindemann Young ArtistDevelopment Program

Filed under: Metropolitan Opera, Wagner

Seattle Symphony Musicians Furloughed

Another disappointing development in the Covid-19 era American orchestral landscape. Brendan Kiley reported this evening in the Seattle Times that the Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s management has decided to furlough three-quarters of its 250-person staff temporarily, bringing it down to 58.

The 88 SSO musicians will enter a temporary furlough projected to last from April 13 to June 1.

According to Kiley: “The decision was reached in negotiation with the musicians’ union — ‘a joint resolution,’ said SSO CEO Krishna Thiagarajan. “That’s really important — we want musicians to get the credit.'”

Fortunately, SSO will continue to provide health insurance coverage for everyone.

Kiley adds: “SSO has not yet seen any relief funding, either from the federal government or local, arts-specific measures — and, Thiagarajan added, they probably wouldn’t have come fast enough to alleviate the organization’s immediate needs.”

In another, more promising development: the National Symphony Orchestra musicians have reached an agreement with Kennedy Center management to take a 35% pay cut rather than an outright furlough, as reported here by The New York Times.

All hell broke lose last month when it was announced that Kennedy Center management planned to deal with the crisis by furloughing the musicians “for an undetermined amount of time so as to address the financial shortfalls from the coronavirus pandemic,” as Julia Jacobs reported. Following as this decision did on the allocation of $25 million for the Kennedy Center as part of the federal emergency stimulus package, the announcement sparked widespread outrage — and was used like red meat to stir up the anti-art frenzy of the MAGA base. That base, however, may have appreciated the quintessentially Trumpian tactics of announcing a unilateral furlough in the first place.

According to Peggy McGlone’s report in The Washington Post, “the musicians [said] they were blindsided” by the original announcement of the furlough. “They said they had contacted NSO Executive Director Gary Ginstling to negotiate some cuts but didn’t hear back. Instead, [Kennedy Center President Deborah] Rutter informed them that they would be furloughed [after April 3] until the arts center reopened.”

Fortunately, a more equitable process of grievance resolution was subsequently pursued: “Ed Malaga, president of American Federation of Musicians Local 161-710, said the musicians were pleased to resolve the grievance and avoid furloughs,” according to McGlone.

Filed under: music news, National Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony

Bidding A Baroque Adieu: End Of The McGegan Era At PBO

One of the productions I was most keen on seeing this season is the U.S. stage premiere of Jean-Marie Leclair’s only opera, Scylla et Glaucus: planned as Nicholas McGegan’s spectacular farewell as music director of Philharmonia Baroque — originally planned for later this month.

To mark the occasion, I wrote this profile of this extraordinary artist for Early Music America.

Nicholas McGegan looks back on his 34 years as music director of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, a tenure that ended suddenly amid the coronavirus pandemic….

continue

Filed under: Baroque opera, early music, Early Music America, Nicholas McGegan

The Mother of Us All Tonight

This evening at 7pm EST, the Met Museum hosts the digital premiere of The Mother of Us All by Virgil Thomson to Gertrude Stein’s libretto about Susan B. Anthony and the women’s suffrage movement.

The production, which was filmed during live performances at the Met’s sculpture court in the American Wing in February, is a collaboration between Juilliard and the New York Philharmonic (and part of the latter’s ongoing Project 19 initiative.

Watch the premiere on Facebook, YouTube, or at the bottom of the Met’s page here.

Louisa Proske, the production’s brilliant director, offers an introduction here:

Filed under: American opera, directors, Juilliard, New York Philharmonic

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