MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

YOLA: Shaping Tomorrow’s Voices Today

My story about YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) for the new issue of Strings magazine is now online:

YOLA has become a signature of the Gustavo Dudamel era. Its creation predates his first season at the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009 and shows the influence of the educational philosophy that shaped him…

Filed under: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Strings

George Walker’s Sinfonia No. 4

In the spring of 2019, the Seattle Symphony gave the posthumous world premiere of George Walker’s Sinfonia No. 5 (more background in my New York Times story here). Simon Rattle was hoping to give the UK premiere with the Chineke! Orchestra at the BBC Proms, but the pandemic scuttled that plan.

So he scheduled Walker’s concise Sinfonia No. 4 (“Strands”) on the London Symphony Orchestra’s program for this week. The concert will be repeated and streamed online by Marquee TV on 19 September at 1.30pm ET and then available on demand. Also on the program (notes here): Darius Milhaud’s La création du monde and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony.

Filed under: George Walker, music news

Bohemia, Bombay, Bloomington: The Musical Exile of Walter Kaufmann

How many voices were silenced by the Nazis — how much music was lost or marginalized as a result of the Holocaust and World War Two? Today at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST, an online discussion of Czech/American composer Walter Kaufmann (1907–1984) will take place in connection with the Royal Conservatory of Music’s ARC Ensemble first-ever recording devoted to Kaufmann’s chamber music.

The conversation will explore the issue of lost repertoire in the 20th century and efforts to reclaim it. Speakers include the conductor James Conlon; Robert Elias, Director of the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices at the Colburn School; and Simon Wynberg, Artistic Director of the Royal Conservatory of Music’s ARC Ensemble.

There will also be live performances by the ARC Ensemble and students of the Colburn School. The event will be hosted on the Colburn School’s YouTube and Facebook accounts. Watch it here. Following the discussion, attendees can participate in a live Q&A session via YouTube’s chat feature.

Filed under: music news

Inside the George Walker Cello Sonata with CelloChat

Panelists Astrid Schween, Emmanuel Feldman, Owen Young, and Seth Parker Woods will discuss George Walker’s three-movement Cello Sonata from 1957 in this two-part offering from CelloBello.

Part 1: Saturday, 19 September at 12:00 pm EDT

Part 2: Saturday, 26 September at 12:00 pm EDT

For my Strings magazine profile of George Walker in 2017, Seth Parker Woods shared the following remarks about the Cello Sonata: “In playing [this piece], you’re engulfed in a state of beauty and episodic turmoil. One of the things I love is that its amazing melodic lines fit perfectly in the hand, as if they were molded all along for a cellist. It’s a brilliant work that I really would love to see more and more younger and older cellists performing. George Walker’s music is of monumental status and importance.” 

Filed under: American music, cello, George Walker, Seth Parker Woods

Heartbeat Opera’s Secret Sauce

This week (14-20 September), the ever-innovative company Heartbeat Opera is celebrating its seventh anniversary with seven virtual soirées hosted by seven special guests, including the likes of Julia Bullock, Anthony Roth Costanzo, and Derrell Acon. Tickets available here.

Each soirée is 75-90 minutes long and features three videos from various past productions, following which leaders from Heartbeat engage in a discussion moderated by the special guest. Each soirée also includes a live preview performance of The Extinctionist — the company’s first newly commissioned opera, scheduled for this coming spring — and an intimate talkback for audience members to ask questions in a breakout room.

More on the Secret Sauce:

Filed under: Heartbeat Opera, music news

Giora Feidman Trio: The Spirit of Klezmer

Tonight Giora Feidman makes his long-awaited debut at Boulez Saal in Berlin — in his Trio formation, with friends Enrique Ugarte and Guido Jäger. Some background in my program essay here.

Filed under: klezmer, Pierre Boulez Saal

Double Entendre

Martha Argerich and her friend violinist Renaud Capuçon are finding an accommodation to coronavirus spacing restrictions that is very generous: by playing the same program twice, back-to-back, as in tonight’s recital at Victoria Hall in Geneva.

The complete program: Beethoven/Sonata No. 8 in G major, Op. 30, no 3 and the Franck Violin Sonata.

I’d love to hear how their takes on César Franck’s great sonata compare between the 6.30 and 9pm concerts. This is one of the possible contenders Proust had in mind as his model for the Sonata for Piano and Violin by composer Vinteuil (no first name) in À la recherche du temps perdu — see “La Sonate pour piano et violon” de Vinteuil: Réflexion sur un intitulé inhabituel” by Jean-David Jumeau-Lafond in the Bulletin Marcel Proust:

Excerpt from Swann’s Way:

So Swann was not mistaken in believing that the phrase of the sonata did, really, exist. Human as it was from this point of view, it belonged, none the less, to an order of supernatural creatures whom we have never seen, but whom, in spite of that, we recognize and acclaim with rapture when some explorer of the unseen contrives to coax one forth, to bring it down from that divine world to which he has access to shine for a brief moment in the firmament of ours. This was what Vinteuil had done for the little phrase. Swann felt that the composer had been content (with the musical instruments at his disposal) to draw aside its veil, to make it visible, following and respecting its outlines with a hand so loving, so prudent, so delicate and so sure, that the sound altered at every moment, blunting itself to indicate a shadow, springing back into life when it must follow the curve of some more bold projection. And one proof that Swann was not mistaken when he believed in the real existence of this phrase, was that anyone with an ear at all delicate for music would at once have detected the imposture had Vinteuil, endowed with less power to see and to render its forms, sought to dissemble (by adding a line, here and there, of his own invention) the dimness of his vision or the feebleness of his hand.

The phrase had disappeared. Swann knew that it would come again at the end of the last movement, after a long passage which Mme. Verdurin’s pianist always ‘skipped.’ There were in this passage some admirable ideas which Swann had not distinguished on first hearing the sonata, and which he now perceived, as if they had, in the cloakroom of his memory, divested themselves of their uniform disguise of novelty. Swann listened to all the scattered themes which entered into the composition of the phrase, as its premises enter into the inevitable conclusion of a syllogism; he was assisting at the mystery of its birth. “Audacity,” he exclaimed to himself, “as inspired, perhaps, as a Lavoisier’s or an Ampere’s, the audacity of a Vinteuil making experiment, discovering the secret laws that govern an unknown force, driving across a region unexplored towards the one possible goal the invisible team in which he has placed his trust and which he never may discern!” How charming the dialogue which Swann now heard between piano and violin, at the beginning of the last passage. The suppression of human speech, so far from letting fancy reign there uncontrolled (as one might have thought), had eliminated it altogether. Never was spoken language of such inflexible necessity, never had it known questions so pertinent, such obvious replies. At first the piano complained alone, like a bird deserted by its mate; the violin heard and answered it, as from a neighbouring tree. It was as at the first beginning of the world, as if there were not yet but these twain upon the earth, or rather in this world closed against all the rest, so fashioned by the logic of its creator that in it there should never be any but themselves; the world of this sonata….

Filed under: COVID-19 Era, Martha Argerich, music news, Renaud Capuçon

Tippet Rise at Home: Escher String Quartet

On Thursday, 10 September, at 6pm MT, Tippet Rise continues its monthly streaming series, Tippet Rise & Friends at Home, with a concert featuring the Escher String Quartet.

Their program includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Quartet in F major, K. 590 and the Adagio from Samuel Barber’s Quartet, Op. 11 (otherwise known as the “Adagio for Strings”).

You can access the stream here.

Here are the last two months’ streams:

Pianist Behzod Abduraimov

Pianist Stephen Hough

Filed under: chamber music, string quartet, Tippet Rise

A New Era at Wiener Staatsoper

From the Wiener Zeitung:

“For director Bogdan Roščić’s inaugural season at the Vienna State Opera [he just took over the reins from Dominique Meyer in July], the audience is being greeted by a photorealistic still life that critiques colonialism — even before the curtain is raised. On Monday, ahead of the season’s first premiere, the new safety curtain was presented. It is the work of US artist Carrie Mae Weems.

For her model, she turned to R&B icon Mary J. Blige. Titled ‘Queen B (Mary J. Blige),’ the figure looks at herself in a mirror amid a Baroque-style setting — clad in a blend of contemporary clothing and set pieces alluding to the trappings of erstwhile symbols of power from the West. Here, a visual indictment of the Eurocentric gaze goes hand in hand with a celebration of Black beauty and prosperity. ‘What actually interests me is the idea of representation itself,’ says Weems …”

Filed under: music news

400th Anniversary of Isabella Leonarda

Today marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of the extraordinary Isabella Leonarda, a versatile and prolific composer whose long life unfolded against a backdrop of dramatic transformation in the history of music.

She left behind a vast output of compositions, a musical treasure that defied the strictures of the patriarchy. Working within the confines of the Ursuline convent where she spent her life, Leonarda also became the first woman to publish instrumental sonatas.

PacificMusicWorks celebrates this fiercely creative woman with a concert hosted by Henry Lebedinsky and featuring special guest countertenor Reginald L. Mobley. Linked above, the concert will remain available through September.

Filed under: Isabella Leonarda, music news

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