MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

From Easter Island, a Pianist Emerges

Here’s my latest story for The New York Times. Deeply grateful to Mahani Teave for sharing her story, as well as to David Fulton, John Forsen, Gayle Podrabsky, and Elizabeth Dworkin for their generous insights.

“From her home, halfway up the highest hill on Rapa Nui, Mahani Teave was describing the power of nature there to overwhelm….”


Filed under: New York Times, pianists

RIP Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021)

Poetry as an “insurgent art,” the poet as storyteller, as painter: the many-faceted artist Lawrence Ferlinghetti has died at the age of 101 in his beloved San Francisco.

As a young man freshly armed with a comparative literature doctorate from Paris, Ferlinghetti arrived in San Francisco in 1951. He resembled, in his words, “the last of the bohemians rather than the first of the Beats.” See the New York Times assessment here, which adds: “San Francisco remained close to his heart as well, especially North Beach, the traditionally Italian-American neighborhood where he lived for most of his adult life” — and where he joined with Peter Martin to open the City Lights Pocket Book Shop in 1953 (each invested just $500).

“City Lights quickly became the hangout of choice for the city’s radical intelligentsia, particularly Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso and the rest of the Beats,” writes Emma Brown in The Washington Post. “The doors stayed open until midnight weekdays and 2 a.m. weekends, and even then it was hard to close on time. From its earliest years, it stocked gay and lesbian publications.”

A brave opponent of censorship and a pioneer of independent publishing, Ferlinghetti sustained his credo about art’s potential to change our world (as quoted in NPR’s appreciation): “I really believe that art is capable of the total transformation of the world, and of life itself. And nothing less is really acceptable. So I mean if art is going to have any excuse for — beyond being a leisure-class plaything — it has to transform life itself.”

He also said: “Everyone is a poet at 16, but how many are poets at 50? Generally, people seem to get more conservative as they age, but in my case, I seem to have gotten more radical, Poetry must be capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this means sounding apocalyptic.”

Here’s a group of photos taken outside City Lights showing an impromptu memorial on Tuesday.

Filed under: poetry

Stringing and Singing

Attention choral music fans: on Saturday evening 20 February at 5pm PST Seattle Pro Musica, led by Karen Thomas, will inaugurate the series Choral Tapas: Bite-Size Concerts online at Broadcasts available for free, donations welcome. No registration required.
Each episode features two choral works (one old, one new), an appetizer demo by Erica Weisman (both a very fine SPM alto and the chef and co-owner of Seattle Cucina Cooking School), and a cocktail recipe by SPM Executive Director and cocktail aficionado Katie Skovholt. Recipes are available here so you can “play along”: Patas Bravas snackRestless Amadeus cocktail
The inaugural event on February 20th features music by Marques Garrett and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

And the Orchestra Now, directed by James Bagwell, will offer a free livestreamed concert on Sunday, 21 Feb. (2pm EST). This program of works for strings includes the world premiere of Falling Together by composer Sarah Hennies, who was recently profiled in The New York Times; and the 2005 piece Popcorn Superhet Receiver by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, which was used in the film There Will Be Blood. The program also includes Grieg’s Holberg Suite and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams.

Access: RSVP at starting on January 27 to receive a direct link to the livestream on the day of the concert. This concert will be available for delayed streaming on STAY TŌNED starting on February 25.


On Sunday February 21 at 7pm PST, Byron Schenkman & Friends presents Piano Songs and Fantasies: music by Mozart, Teresa Carreño, Florence Price, Johannes Brahms, Margaret Bonds, Water Hale Smith, and Franz Schubert. William Chapman Nyaho, Joseph Williams, and Byron Schenkman will perform.

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, music news, Seattle Pro Musica

Beethoven in China

My colleague Rudolph Tang has created a film about the reception of Beethoven in the People’s Republic of China featuring an interview with conductor Liang Zhang, whose new Beethoven symphony cycle is the fourth recording of the complete symphonies to be made by musicians from Mainland China.

The documentary is available for free viewing until Friday here.

Filed under: Beethoven, classical music in Mainland China, conductors

Hannah Kendall Returns to Seattle Symphony

My latest story for The Seattle Times:

Two of the most famous names in the classical canon — Beethoven and Ravel — appear on the program for Seattle Symphony’s upcoming livestream on Feb. 25. But the concert’s opening work was written by a composer, currently 36 years old, whose boldly individual, exquisitely crafted music sounds completely at home in their company…


And some excerpts that got cut from the published version:

 In addition to her orchestral music, Jonathon Heywqrd conducted the Royal Opera House production of “The Knife of Dawn” and has been entrusted with the premiere of her opera-in-progress “Tan-Tan and Dry Bone.” The new opera is based on an Afrofuturist story and is being written for the experimental vocalist and movement artist Elaine Michener.  

Heyward points out that Kendall’s gifts as a storyteller echo Ravel and his ability in the Mother Goose Suite “to encapsulate vivid worlds through texture.” With Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, which will feature Seattle favorite Conrad Tao as the soloist, he emphasizes the role of the very short slow movement and its powerful contrast with “this gargantuan first movement and jubilant finale.The sense of stillness, of time stopping here, is another thing that Hannah does amazingly in her work.”

Filed under: Hannah Kendall, new music, Seattle Symphony

Yuja Wang in Conversation with Michael Haefliger

New from Lucerne Festival:

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, pianists

Winter Festival: Seattle Chamber Music Society

Week 2 of Seattle Chamber Music Society’s 2021 Winter Festival continues on Saturday with a program of Schumann, Sibelius, Massenet, and Prokofiev. And since the performance is streamed online, no worries about how the coming winter storm will shape up.

Every concert is available to stream on demand from its release through March 15. Subscriptions for all 6 concerts are $100.

Filed under: chamber music, Seattle Chamber Music Society

Will Liverman: Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers

The American baritone Will Liverman’s new recital album Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers releases on 12 February.

With pianist Paul Sánchez, Liverman sings his first full-length recording for Cedille — “a passion project,” in his words, that gathers art songs by Black composers spanning from the early 20th century’s Henry Burleigh through Margaret Bonds, Thomas Kerr, and Robert Owens to such contemporary composers as Leslie Adams, Damien Sneed, and Shawn E. Okpebholo (in the world premiere recording of Two Black Churches, which Liverman commissioned).

Liverman also plays piano in his own arrangement of Richard Fariña’s Birmingham Sunday. The album includes two booklets: a 20-page booklet with extensive program notes and a booklet with the complete song texts.

Filed under: music news, recommended listening

Inaugural Piazzolla Music Competition

This year marks Astor Piazzolla‘s centenary: he was born on 11 March 1921 in Mar del Plata, Argentina. The Fundación Astor Piazzolla and PARMA Recordings are honoring the occasion by collaborating to establish the Piazzolla Music Competition. This virtual competition, which will accept submissions until 18 April 18 2021, is open to all musicians, professional and otherwise, soloist or ensemble, instrumentalist or singer, who have an affinity for works of this trailblazing 20th-century composer.

The jury includes Pablo Ziegler, Héctor del Curto, David Binelli, Cesere Chiacchiaretta, Arthur Gottschalk, Walther Castro, Pablo Petrocelli, and Sandra Rumolino as well as performing arts executives and arts managers. They will award the grand prize winners (solo and ensemble) with a cash prize, a recording deal with PARMA Recordings, and a performance tour through China, organized and funded by the Competition. Additional special prizes will be awarded, including concerts in the 2022-2023 season with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, Grosseto Symphony Orchestra, or Athens Philharmonia Orchestra to be scheduled, booked, and funded by the orchestras. 

The finalists will be announced in May, and the winners will be announced on 15 June 2021.

More on the inaugural Piazzolla Music Competition:

The Piazzolla Music Competition seeks to continue Piazzolla’s legacy as the single most influential
figure in the history of tango, by identifying and celebrating highly talented musicians of any
instrument or voice type with an affinity for the inimitable style and virtuosity of Astor Piazzolla’s
• The esteemed individuals comprising the jury include: Grammy Award-winning pianist and composer
Pablo Ziegler (President of the Jury); Grammy Award-winning bandoneonist Héctor del Curto;
bandoneonist /composer David Binelli; Daniel Villaflor Piazzolla, grandson of Astor Piazzolla and vice
president of Fundación Astor Piazzolla; tango singer, actress, and dancer Sandra Rumolino;
accordionist, bandoneonist, and composer Cesere Chiacchiaretta; Professor of Music Composition at
Rice University, Arthur Gottschalk; Walther Castro, bandoneonist, composer and arranger; performing
arts manager Pablo Petrocelli; Croatian Music Institute President Romana Matanovac Vučković,
Institution Management owner and arts consultant Masae Shiwa; and Jia Rui, Vice President of
JoyTitan Entertainment
• Judged through video submissions sent in by applicants, the competition winners will be announced
on 15 June 2021
• Inclusive of all pre-professional and professional soloists and ensembles of 6 or fewer of any
nationality, state, or country of residence, any contestant over the age of 13 (at the time of video
submission) is eligible to apply
• The Piazzolla Competition offers the highly coveted grand prize, in both the solo and ensemble
divisions, of a cash prize ($1500 USD for soloist, $3500 USD for ensemble), a recording and release
deal with PARMA Recordings’s Navona Records, as well as a concert tour throughout China arranged
and funded by PARMA
• Second and Third Prize winners receive Silver or Bronze medallions, respectively, to mark their
outstanding talent and potential
• Special Prizes include the Pablo Ziegler Award, a masterclass for the soloist or ensemble recipient
and Maestro Pablo Ziegler, facilitated by PARMA Recordings; or an invitation to perform with the
Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, Grosseto Symphony Orchestra, or Athens Philharmonia Orchestra in the 2022-23 season, with concerts scheduled, booked, and funded by the respective acclaimed
• The application process, designed with inclusivity of resource availability at the forefront, requires
musicians to submit by video at least two pieces totaling a minimum of six minutes, performing only
music of Astor Piazzolla, from any time between 18 April 2011 and the application deadline of 18 April
2021. Submission videos must show the musicians with hands and faces fully visible in one,
unedited take. In order to comply with COVID-19 precautions, new ensemble videos may be recorded
“frame-in-frame” in one unedited take, and must date to January 1, 2020 or later
• Applications are open from today
• Finalists will be listed publicly on May 18, 2021, and the Winners Announcement will take place on
15 June 2021

Filed under: Astor Piazzolla, competitions, music news

Patricia Kopatchinskaya: A Day in the Life

Filed under: Patricia Kopatchinskaja

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