MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Aaron Copland: American Populist

This new film from PostClassical Ensemble’s More than Music Project explores Aaron Copland’s far left activism — including a rare performance of his prize-winning workers’ song “Into the Streets, May First,” with its call “Up with the sickle and the hammer!”

Notes Joseph Horowitz of PCE, “It’s all eerily pertinent today, this saga of an iconic American composer jostled by Populist currents on the far left, then the far right – and finally retreating from the fray.”

Among the film’s participants are the American historians: Michael Kazin (on populism) and Joseph McCartin (on the Red Scare). The soundtrack includes excerpts from PCE’s Naxos DVD of The City (1939), which Horowitz regards as “Copland’s highest achievement as a film composer, and the least-known consequential music that he composed.”

Aaron Copland, he concludes, “somewhat resembles ‘a cork in a stream,’ buffeted by political and social currents — a saga that raises many questions, including: What is the fate of the arts in the United States?”

An index to the 75-minute film:

10:14 – Copland on that Communist picnic

11:48 – Copland on workers’ songs

12:34 – “Into the Streets, May First” sung by Lisa Vroman and William Sharp

16:37 – Copland on Hollywood film music (with some Korngold to listen to)

20:00 – Excerpts from The City

39:20 – Joseph McCartin on the Red Scare

44:34 – Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn grill Copland

58:25 – Music historian Beth Levy on Copland’s quest for musical identity

1:04:32 – Michael Kazin on Copland and the Popular Front

1:06:30 – Horowitz’s summing up — a “cork in a stream” – with comparisons to Charles Ives and George Gershwin: composers with deeper roots

1:12:54 – The last word goes to pianist Benjamin Pasternack, recalling an illuminating meeting with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. 

Filed under: Aaron Copland, American music, PostClassical Ensemble

Hélène Grimaud and Nicholas McGegan in an all-Mozart concert with the DSO

Today at 8:00PM CET/1:00PM CST: Hélène Grimaud with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Nicholas McGegan in a digital concert that was recorded live in performances from January 14-16, 2021.

The program includes Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466, which is featured on Grimaud’s latest release, The Messenger. McGegan also leads Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550. This is part of the DSO’s Next Stage Digital Concert Series presented jointly with Deutsche Grammophon.

Filed under: Mozart, Nicholas McGegan, pianists

Mozart Birthday Toast

Raise a toast to Mozart with Byron Schenkman & Friends: tonight at 7.30pm PST on the  Town Hall Seattle site (free to $10-15; up to age 22 free)

The livestreamed program includes the E minor Violin Sonata, K. 304 (300c); Six Variations on Au bord d’une Fontaine, K. 360 (374b); and the Piano Quartet in G minor, K. 478. Byron Schenkman is joined by violinist Ingrid Matthews, one of today’s most respected baroque violinists; violist Susan Gulkis Assadi, principal viola at the Seattle Symphony; and cellist Nathan Chan, the assistant principal cello at Seattle Symphony.

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, Mozart

Schubert Week from Berlin

The Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin just completed its customary January week devoted to Schubert’s art song, with Thomas Hampson as guide and mentor.

The entire week’s worth of daily concerts, workshops, and conversations, which was streamed live from the hall, remains available online for another 30 days. The digital format also includes extended behind-the-scenes content on the songs and poems as well as interviews with some of the artists.

see the links to streams below on this page

Filed under: lieder, Pierre Boulez Saal, Schubert

Another Musical Exit with Brexit

The music world is still reeling from Simon Rattle’s recently announced curtailment of his tenure with the London Symphony Orchestra in favor of the Symphonieorcehster des Bayerischen Radiofunks. And now we learn that the young Lithuanian star conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will step down from her post helming the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the end of the 2021-22 season. What hath Brexit wrought?

Gražinytė-Tyla stated: “I have decided to give up my position of Music Director of the CBSO at the end of the 2021-22 season and have happily accepted the orchestra’s invitation to become Principal Guest Conductor in the 2022-23 season. This is a deeply personal decision, reflecting my desire to step away from the organizational and administrative responsibilities of being a Music Director at this particular moment in my life and focusing more on my purely musical activities.”

Filed under: conductors, music news

Inauguration Fanfares

Let the music begin.

On Tuesday 19 January at 12pm EST, the Hope & Harmony Ensemble will give a livestream performance in honor of the upcoming Inauguration. Led by Marin Alsop, they will play Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman*.

The Hope & Harmony Ensemble brings together 14 brass and percussion players from all around the United States: one musician each from the Atlanta Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Peabody Institute, South Asian Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, and Utah Symphony.

This tribute is the brainchild of Neeta Helms, founder and president of the DC area-based tour company Classical Movements. Helms conceived the idea over a dozen years ago and sees it as an offering to unite a bitterly divided country through the power of music. The Hope & Harmony Ensemble was chosen to reflect the diversity of the American people.

“I am elated to be able to finally celebrate our first female Vice President. I am deeply inspired by Kamala Harris – and as an Indian-born American, I feel particular personal pride that her mother was Indian and in her archetypically American background,” says Neeta Helms. “In this time of difficulty and hardship, it is also fitting that we celebrate Joe Biden, an example to us all for his ideals of decency and hope and his perseverance in the face of hardship and tragedy. Filling a unique and vital role in the music industry that has been hit so hard by the pandemic, it was essential to us to create an ensemble that represented and celebrated our nation’s diversity, featuring women and men equally.”

In addition to footage of each musician, recorded in their homes and on site across the country, the presentation incorporates photographs and video illustrating “America the Beautiful” and the context of the struggle for civil rights and equality for women in the United States. Classical Movements has partnered with video and sound engineers Arts Laureate to produce these videos.

You can watch the presentation on Classical Movements’ YouTube channel and Facebook page.

*My profile of Joan Tower starts on p. 27 here. And here’s a little background I wrote on Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1:

Tower alludes in several ways to Copland’s 1942 Fanfare for the Common Man, which had been commissioned as one of a series of fanfares to support the Allied struggle in World War Two. Tower similarly scores for a brass and percussion ensemble but uses a much more extended array of percussion instruments. With its mix of tuned and untuned instruments, this section actually resembles a miniature orchestra of its own. Tower also packs a greater variety of thematic material and textural contrast into her fanfare. 

Filed under: American music, Joan Tower, music news

Third Coast Percussion: In with the New



Third Coast Percussion celebrates this momentous week of change on Inauguration Day, 20 January 2021, at 8pm ET. The group will perform repertoire new to the musicians, share news about upcoming projects, engage in live Q&A with viewers after the show, and more. Watch on Facebook and YouTube.
Program:
“Press” by Devonté Hynes
“Halo” by Joe W. Moore III
“Kodama” by Rodrigo Bussad
“Death Wish” by Gemma Peacocke

Filed under: music news, Third Coast Percussion

Getting to Carnegie

This afternoon at 5pm ET, tune in to the Violin Channel for the final round of the 7th annual Getting to Carnegie competition. It will be streamed live and audiences across the globe can cast their vote for the winner (after registering to vote): 50% of the vote comes from the audience, the other half from a jury of professional musicians including the past six winners (Haeji Kim, violin; Chae won Hong, cello; Emily Helenbrook, voice; Nathan Meltzer, violin; Rachel Siu, cello; Brianna Robinson, voice) and violinist Dmitri Berlinsky. The voting will be open for 48 hours and the winner will be announced Jan 14 at 5pm EST on the Violin Channel’s Facebook page.

The competition rotates annually between violin, cello, and voice. This is the year of the violin, and the four young finalists are from Spain, South Korea, Hong Kong, and the United States, respectively: Maria Dueñas (age 18), Sory Park (20), Angela Chan (23), and Sophia Stoyanovich (24).

The competition is the brainchild of pianist and composer Julian Gargiulo, whose mission is to make classical music “relevant and fun” for younger generations. For this year’s final round, Gargiulo has written a new violin sonata; each finalist will perform one movement from the sonata with him on piano via split screen, giving its world premiere performance, with commentary and interviews in between.

Filed under: competitions, music news

Simon Rattle Will Go Back to Germany

In the middle of these turbulent days, there is some major classical music news: Sir Simon Rattle is stepping down from his post heading the London Symphony Orchestra and will return to Germany to lead the  Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, effective with the 2023-24 season. (See clip above for an example of his collaboration with the BRSO.)

The official statement released from the LSO gives this explanation from Rattle: “My reasons for accepting the role of Chief Conductor in Munich are entirely personal, enabling me to better manage the balance of my work and be close enough to home to be present for my children in a meaningful way. I love the London Symphony Orchestra. I remain committed to the LSO, and we have plans for major projects in the coming years. I am thrilled that we will be making music together far into the future.”

But as Joshua Barone notes in The New York Times, Rattle “has been a vocal critic of Brexit, which was voted on after he accepted the London Symphony post in 2015. And progress has been sluggish on the Center for Music, the much-desired new home for the orchestra that was conceived alongside Mr. Rattle’s appointment.”

Barone adds: “In Munich, Mr. Rattle won’t have to contend with those Brexit woes, but he will once again find himself involved in the building of a new concert hall, in the Werksviertel-Mitte area — a modern contrast to the neo-Classical Herkulessaal in the city center. “

Filed under: conductors, music news

Metamorphosis by Third Coast Percussion

Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion (TCP) presents a re-broadcast of the world premiere performance of  Metamorphosis, originally presented by La Jolla Music Society at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center on November 7, 2020. The stream is being made available free-of-charge on Friday, 8 January 2020 at 8:30 p.m. ET via TCP’s YouTube channel

Metamorphosis offers a dynamic artistic collaboration by blending street dance and percussion ensemble performance. Choreography by Movement Art Is co-founders Jon Boogz and Lil Buck is featured alongside new music composed by Jlin and Tyondai Braxton and TCP’s acclaimed arrangements of Philip Glass’s Aguas da Amazonia. Movement artists Ron Myles and Quentin Robinson joined TCP members on stage for the debut of this program, which had been in the making for more than a year.

Program:

Philip Glass (arr. by Third Coast Percussion) – Metamorphosis
Jlin – Perspective
Tyondai Braxton – Sunny X
Philip Glass (arr. by Third Coast Percussion) – Amazon River

Movement by Ron Myles and Quentin Robinson
Choreography by Movement Art Is (Jon Boogz and Lil Buck)
Lighting design by Joe Burke
Stage direction by Leslie Buxbaum Danzig

Filed under: music news, Philip Glass, Third Coast Percussion

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