MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Listening to the Future from Central Conservatory of Music

Here’s a new documentary from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing (CCOM) and just premiered on Violin Channel’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Titled Listening to the Future, it chronicles the Carnegie Hall debut of the CCOM Symphony Orchestra on 13 December 2019. Led by CCOM president Feng Yu, the program presented works by contemporary Chinese composers blending Chinese and Western instruments.

The documentary focuses on these eight composers —  Danbu Chen, Guoping Jia, Jianping Tang, Ping Chang, Weiya Hao, Wenchen Qin, Wenjing Guo, and Xiaogang Yealong — who discuss their pieces and share their thoughts on contemporary Chinese music. Commentary by the music critic Linda Holt assesses their achievements.

Other highlights of the film include details of the long-term partnership between Edition Peters and Central Conservatory of Music Publisher (CCMP). Together, they launched the Edition Peters Silk Road Library project in April 2019 and plan to release the international version of CCOM’s score collection in 2021. The result will make it easier for orchestras, conductors, and performers to present the works of Chinese composers outside China and forge unprecedented links between East and West.

Another topic the documentary covers is the Chinese Music Composition Center’s upcoming performance tour in Europe in 2021. Comprised of musicians from the symphony orchestras of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna (MDW) and the Central Conservatory of Music, the ensemble will perform at the Grosser Saal of the Vienna Konzerthaus and Festsaal. Ulrike Sych, Rector of the MDW, explains the long and intensive collaboration between MDW and CCOM, two of the largest and most renowned music universities on opposite sides of the world.

Filed under: Central Conservatory of Music, music news

New from Byron Schenkman & Friends

Tune in for Bach & Baroque Virtuosity from Byron Schenkman & Friends on Sunday, 27 December (7:00pm PST). The concert features Rachell Ellen Wong, Andrew Gonzalez, and Byron Schenkman and will remain available for the foreseeable future on the BS&F YouTube channel.

For this concert harpsichordist Byron Schenkman is joined by violinist Rachell Ellen Wong and violoncello da spalla (“cello of the shoulder,” an unusual Baroque instrument rediscovered in recent years) player Andrew Gonzalez. The program journeys through music by Antonio Vivaldi,; Jean-Marie Leclair; Johann Sebastian Bach (the Partita in D Minor, which includes the famous Chaconne); and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, who was one of the most-celebrated French composers of her time. In addition to music for violin and harpsichord we offer a rare opportunity to hear the violoncello da spalla (cello of the shoulder), an unusual Baroque instrument only rediscovered in recent years.

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, early music, music news, Uncategorized

Oxford Vaccine Tribute Concert

The Oxford Philharmonic  has filmed a tribute concert in recognition of the work by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca scientists on their new COVID-19 vaccine. The concert will be broadcast on the Oxford Philharmonic’s YouTube channel on Friday, 18 December at 6:30 PM GMT (1:30 PM EST), recorded in the city’s historic Sheldonian Theatre, and will stay online afterwards indefinitely.

The program features the world premiere of John Rutter’s Joseph’s Carol, written in tribute to the Oxford Vaccine Group, the Jenner Institute, and the RECOVERY team. The words, also by Rutter, recount the long and weary journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem before the birth of baby Jesus, echoing the program’s journey from struggle to hope. 

Bryn Terfel also joins the Orchestra and the Choir of Merton College, Oxford, in a program that ranges from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s You’ll Never Walk Alone (with Jette Parker Young Artist Alexandra Lowe) to Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus. Sir Bryn and the Orchestra are also joined in the hymn of comfort, Abide with Me, by chorister Alexander Olleson of Christ Church Cathedral Choir—winner of the BBC Young Chorister of the Year 2020. Joining the Orchestra from Russia and Germany respectively, world-renowned virtuoso violinists Maxim Vengerov (performing the Adagio from Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001) and Anne-Sophie Mutter offer their own special tributes to the program.

“I am delighted to have been invited to contribute to this celebration, which expresses in music the gratitude we all feel in our hearts,” says John Rutter. “As always, music goes beyond words.”

Marios Papadopoulos, Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director, remarks:
“We are extremely grateful to the researchers, medical staff and volunteers based at the University of Oxford for their tireless work in the search for treatment and a vaccine for COVID-19. As the Orchestra in Residence at the University, we offer this concert in celebration of their recently announced achievements and are thrilled to be joined in our message of thanks by a stellar line-up of classical musicians with whom we have worked with closely in the past.”

The concert, introduced by Classic FM presenter John Suchet, will be interspersed with footage from the lab and trials of the treatment and vaccine process, as well as interviews with performers, researchers, and special messages from the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, as well as from the Orchestra’s Royal Patron, HRH Princess Alexandra. 

Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology and project lead for the Oxford Vaccine Trial: “On behalf of the COVID-19 vaccine trial team, I would like to thank the Oxford Philharmonic for this creative approach to celebrating our work, and look forward to the performance which should provide some welcome respite from the difficulties we have all faced this year.” 

Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, Professor Andrew Pollard: “We are delighted that the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra has decided to pay tribute to the remarkable and dedicated team of inspiring individuals, at the University and Hospital, who have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to assess the Oxford vaccine and show that it can protect people from the pandemic virus.We would also like to dedicate the moment to all those who came forward to take part in the trials during this uncertain time, to help in the assessment of the vaccine.” 

Filed under: COVID-19 Era, music news

Beethoven Marathon with Yael Weiss

To mark the occasion, pianist Yael Weiss presents an all-day live marathon here, with guests from around the world, including conversations and performances of Beethoven and newly commissioned works written for the project 32 Bright Clouds: Beethoven Conversations Around the World.


Beethoven and the Global Aspiration for Peace:
Yael Weiss and the 32 Bright Clouds Project

World Premiere:
A conversation with composer Alfred Wong from Hong Kong
and the world premiere performance of his piece Passion
(connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 23 “Appassionata”).

The Moonlight Sonata and Social Justice:
A conversation with Indonesian composer Ananda Sukarlan
and performance of his piece No More Moonlight Over Jakarta
(connected to Beethoven’s Sonata No. 14 “Moonlight”).

Beethoven in Myanmar:
A conversation with composer Ne Myo Aung,
a performance of his new piece Moha
(connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21 “Waldstein”)
and a discussion of the Burmese Sandaya piano style.

A Lullaby for Beethoven:
A conversation with Turkish composer Aslihan Keçebaşoğlu
and a performance of her piece Ninni
(connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 28 Op. 101).

African Rituals and Dedications:
A conversation with South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen
and a performance of his work
Isiko: An African Ritual for Ancestral Intercession
(connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 29 “Hammerklavier”)

Beethoven and a World Unheard:
A conversation with composer Sidney Boquiren from the Philippines
and a performance of his piece Unheard Voices
(connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 7 Op. 10 No. 3)

Painting Beethoven in Afghanistan:
A conversation with composer, calligrapher and painter
Milad Yousufi from Afghanistan
and a performance of his work Willow
(connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 8 “Pathetique”)

New from Guatemala:
A conversation with composer Xavier Beteta about his upcoming
new work for the 32 Bright Clouds project Noche Profunda
(connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 5 Op.10 no. 1)

Recordings of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, and a Bagatelles project:
A conversation with music writer, composer and critic Jed Distler
and performances of his Bagatelles

World Premiere:

A conversation with composer Bosba about music in Cambodia
and a world premiere performance of her work
Sovannaphum: Kosal’s Lament
(connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 11 Op. 22)

After Beethoven, from Iran:
A conversation with Iranian composer Aida Shirazi
and a performance of her piece Aprés
(connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 26 “Les Adieux”)

New from Colombia:
A conversation with composer Carolina Noguera-Palau about her upcoming
new work for the 32 Bright Clouds project, De Adoración Y Espanto
(connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 31, Op. 110)

Demonstrating for Peace:
A conversation with Venezuelan composer Adina Izarra
and a performance of her piece Arietta for the 150
(connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32 Op. 111)

Closing remarks and Beethoven’s final piano Sonata no. 32 in c minor, Op. 111

Filed under: Beethoven, commissions, piano

This Is Beethoven

The film “ordinary grief / the people to come” from zoe | juniper will premiere at the This Is Beethoven festival. (Juniper Shuey)

My Seattle Times story on This Is Beethoven, Seattle’s citywide digital festival that will take place from 16 to 19 December.

Milestone anniversaries are supposed to be predictable events.

And since no figure in the classical music firmament looms as large as Ludwig van Beethoven, the classical music world was counting on the composer’s 250th birthday this year as a major selling point. But coronavirus started wreaking its havoc, and countless Beethoven-related events had to be scuttled — or adapted on the fly to constraints no one could have predicted….


Filed under: Beethoven, Seattle Times

Seattle Pro Musica Offers Comfort and Joy

Fire up Seattle Pro Musica’s YouTube page and be treated to some Comfort and Joy on 12 and 13 December at 7:30pm and 4:00pm PST, respectively. Each concert will include an accompanying live chat.

This virtual-concert format is a first for Seattle Pro Musica. Comfort and Joy features over 60 singers who were recorded individually in their homes, the results being blended together by SPM’s expert musicians.

Seattle Pro Musica is one of my very favorite choral organizations, and artistic director, composer, and conductor Karen P. Thomas has put together a characteristically thoughtful, artful program combining traditional carols with some lesser-known pieces and a new work by the American composer Marques L. A. Garrett: My Heart Be Brave, a 2018 composition setting poetry by James Weldon Johnson that is intended as an ode to social justice.

Also on the program: Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on Christmas Carols and Fantasia on Greensleeves; Gustav Holst’s In the Bleak Midwinter in an arrangement by Karen Thomas; 16th-century Spanish composer Matheo Flecha’s Ríu, ríu, chíu; Star of Wonder by Terre Roche of the Roche Sisters; Rachmaninoff’s Bogoroditse Devo (from All-Night Vigil ); Ding! dong! Merrily on High by Thoinot Arbeau (born Jehan Tabourot; France, 1520–1595); Gloucestershire Wassail; and Franz Xaver Grüber’s Silent Night.

Comfort and Joy will close with a holiday carol sing-along led by conductor Karen P. Thomas and featuring Seattle Pro Musica singers, with Dwight Beckmeyer at the keyboard.

Also note: Seattle Pro Musica is one of the 17 Seattle-based performing arts organizations participating in the virtual This Is Beethoven Festival (16-19 December) and can be heard on the program of Thursday night, 17 December (8-10pm PST). It’s a neat program juxtaposing three composers who, like Beethoven, were overtaken by deafness in their later years: including Ethel Smyth. She is represented by her March of the Women (1911), which became an anthem of the women’s suffrage movement.

Filed under: choral music, Christmas, Seattle Pro Musica

Some New/Upcoming Streams of Note

–The American Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with Marcus Roberts and the Modern Jazz Generation in United We Play, a short film presenting three world premieres of works for strings, jazz instrumentals, and piano composed by Roberts and commissioned by the ASO: America Has the Blues, Seeking Peace, and United We Play. It streams here for free through 21 February 2021.

United We Play was “inspired by the current turbulent times, and the belief that strength comes through adversity—where there is divide, there is also community. The project [presents] a musical, visual, and narrative digital experience that speaks to the future in a positive and hopeful way.”

As musicians, we have learned to depend on and trust one another in order to create something greater than any one of us could create alone. I believe that every time we listen to someone else’s voice we become stronger and better people. Given the current state of the world, I hope that the great musical collaboration we built with the ASO for United We Play will be used as a vehicle to encourage and demonstrate that strength.—Marcus Roberts

Benjamin Britten’s other Henry James-inspired opera, Owen Wingrave, is part of Grange Park Opera’s interim season and is now being streamed here.

Filmed over five September days, director Stephen Medcalf explains: “A minimal crew maintained distancing in intimate domestic interiors and COVID restrictions required the cast to costume themselves. I’ve given full rein to the satirical, often blackly comic aspects of the opera. Alongside that there are three serious themes: the pressure from society to conform; the courage it takes to stand up for who we really are; the destructive love of family.”

In the words of Henry James: “A piece of ingenuity pure and simple, of cold artistic calculation, an amusette to catch those not easily caught.”

The opera is presented with the kind collaboration of Faber Music and The Britten Estate.

Britten did not own a TV when the work was broadcast on BBC2 on 16 May 1971. However, Decca presented him with a set two years later.

The work is an expression of Britten’s own pacifism, and was partly a response to the Vietnam War.

Oregon Bach Festival available here: world premiere of An American Mosaic, composed by Richard Danielpour. The commission commemorates segments of the American population that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Simone Dinnerstein performs the 15 piano miniatures and an array of accompanying Bach works.

–An all-Rihm concert from the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, streaming here. Stanley Dodds conducts this program:

Wolfgang Rihm
Sphäre nach Studie für 6 Instrumentalisten (1993/2002)

Wolfgang Rihm
Stabat Mater für Bariton und Viola

Wolfgang Rihm
Male über Male 2 für Klarinette und 9 Instrumentalisten (2000/2008)

 11 December Alexandre Bloch conducting the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker in Stravinsky/”Dumbarton Oaks”; Wagner/Siegfried Idyll; Poulenc/Sinfonietta, available here.

13 December Wagner/Lohengrin at the Staatsoper Berlin here. Cast:

–14 December  Hans Werner Henze/Das verratene Meer at Wiener Staatsoper, streaming here at 19:00 CET.

Musik Hans Werner Henze
Text Hans­-Ulrich Treichel nach Yukio Mishima
Musikalische Leitung Simone Young
Inszenierung Jossi Wieler & Sergio Morabito
Bühne und Kostüme Anna Viebrock
Licht Phoenix
Mit Boecker, Skovhus, Lovell, Van Heyningen, Kim, Astakhov, Häßler

Filed under: Hans Werner Henze, Live-Streamed Performance, Marcus Roberts, Wagner, Wolfgang Rihm

Golijov’s Falling Out of Time

Here’s my review for Gramophone of Osvaldo Golijov’s remarkable new collaboration with Silkroad Ensemble, Falling Out of Time.

Though conceived and created well before the pandemic, Osvaldo Golijov’s latest collaboration with Silkroad Ensemble seems uncannily well suited to the era of corona.


Filed under: CD review, Gramophone, Osvaldo Golijov, Silk Road Project

Songs at the Confluence: Indigenous Poets on Place

Songs at the Confluence: Indigenous Poets on Place is a digital poetry event presented by the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation and Tippet Rise Art Center, in partnership with In-Na-Po (Indigenous Nations’ Poets). It is presented in conjunction with the recently published Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, with curation by Kimberly Blaeser and Jake Skeets.

This video contains seven short films by emerging and celebrated Indigenous poets reading their own work, as well as other works from the anthology; a discussion between two of the anthology’s editors, LeAnne Howe and Jennifer Foerster; and video recordings of the inspiring landscape and music produced at Tippet Rise.

Poets included: Kimberly Blaeser (Anishinaabe), Sy Hoahwah (Yapaituka Comanche and Southern Arapaho), Brandy Nalani McDougall (Kanaka Maoli), and Jake Skeets (Diné) reading their own work, and anthology editors LeAnne Howe (Choctaw) and Jennifer Foerster (Mvskoke) in discussion. Also included: Jake Skeets reading a poem by Adrian Louis (Lovelock Paiute), Kimberly Blaeser reading a poem by b: william bearheart (Anishinaabe-St. Croix), and Jennifer Foerster reading a poem by Louis Little Coon Oliver (Mvskoke).

Filed under: poetry, Tippet Rise

Dover Quartet at Cal Performances

While preparing to write program notes for the upcoming stream from Cal Performances — a concert by the Dover Quartet that premieres on 10 December — I got to submerge myself in some glorious string quartets. Along with Haydn’s Op. 76, No. 2 (“Die Quinten”) and Dvořák’s magnificent Op. 106, the Dovers will perform an early work from the years while György Ligeti was still in Budapest (Métamorphoses nocturnes).

Here’s a look at the Ligeti, with score included:

Filed under: Cal Performances, Ligeti, string quartet

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