MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

San Francisco Symphony Announces 2022-23 Season

San Francisco Symphony today announced the program for its 2022-23 season. Lots of great stuff is lined up. Esa-Pekka Salonen’s third season with SFS promises world premieres of works by Samuel Adams, Magnus Lindberg, and winner of the 2021 Emerging Black Composers Project Trevor Weston, as well as the U.S. premieres of Daniel Kidane’s Precipice Dances and works by Danny Elfman and Outi Tarkiainen, along with the West Coast premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Her Story.

There will be a two-week theme focus in October on music involving “myth, magic, and horror,” including the suite from Béla Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin, Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, HK Gruber’s Frankenstein!!, the suite from Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho, Franz Liszt’s Totentanz, and Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.

Some other highlights: Igor Levit will be Artist-in-Residence and will give a rare performance of Ferruccio Busoni’s wild, choral Piano Concerto. The orchestra will present Gabriel Kahane’s emergency shelter intake form, and Music Director Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas returns for four weeks of programs. The orchestra will tour in spring 2023 to Paris, Luxembourg, and Hamburg.

EPS and SFS are also undertaking a four-year partnership with Peter Sellars, launching in June 2022 with a staged production of Igor Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex. Kaija Saariaho’s Adriana Mater comes in June 2023, and future seasons will present new Sellars-staged productions of Olivier Messiaen’s La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ (2024) and Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (2025), the latter featuring SFS featuring Collaborative Partner Julia Bullock.

States Salonen: “I don’t believe in the concept of canon, especially canon as something finished or immovable. If you look back at concert programs from 150 years ago, what then was understood as canon is very different from today. We don’t need the concept of canon as long as music is a dynamic thing that keeps changing, because we keep changing. There’s a tradition of these works we love and want to take care of, there’s a sort of gardener’s duty that we have. We have to take care of the old trees, but we also have to make sure that there’s new growth everywhere, because without the new growth the trees actually won’t survive. Ultimately, it’s all about relevance. Every day that goes by stretches the virtual rubber band between, say, us and Beethoven. And the fear of course is that one day we come to the point where it snaps, and we no longer feel that it’s relevant, which would be a catastrophe in a way because it’s wonderful. The only way to keep that relevance and connection is to make sure that there’s new music. There’s new growth, new composers, new artists who keep this art form alive and take it places that we cannot even imagine. That’s the most important thing—the surprise, the new directions. I want to be part of that process. That’s why we want to commission works from young composers and support new artists. We want to engage new performers and expand the horizons of what we do.”

You can see the full listing for the 2022-23 season here.

Filed under: Esa-Pekka Salonen, music news, Peter Sellars, San Francisco Symphony

Jimmy López Bellido’s Ephemerae

Javier Perianes and the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo led by Alexander Shelley recently gave the South American premiere of Jimmy López Bellido’s synesthesia-inspired piano concerto Ephemerae — available for the next few weeks from the stream captured above. The program also includes Jessie Montgomery’s Coincident Dances and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony From the New World.

Perianes gave the world premiere of Ephemerae on 23 January 2022 at Royal Festival Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Jonathan Berman (filling in at the very last minute for the originally scheduled conductor, Klaus Mäkelä). The brilliant and busy composer is also looking forward to unveiling his Symphony No. 3, which the Reno Philharmonic will premiere on  7 and 8 May 2022 under the baton of Laura Jackson. And for the Berkeley Symphony’s 50th anniversary, he has written Rise, which the orchestra and its chief conductor Joseph Young will premiere on 12 June 2022.

The composer writes: “Fragrances may be amongst the most fleeting and ethereal sensations most sentient beings experience in their daily lives. They come in a myriad of varieties, making them incredibly hard to verbalize and categorize. Although elusive, they are also capable of making lasting impressions, remaining in our memory long after they are gone. The perfume industry has found ways to harness their power by meticulously studying them and classifying them. Michael Edwards’ Fragrance Wheel is perhaps the most known successful attempt and has become an industry standard. Divided into three movements, Ephemerae journeys along the whole fragrance spectrum, from the high floral, fruity, and marine tones, all the way to the dark tones of dry and mossy woods…”

Filed under: Jimmy López, music news, piano

Michael Tilson Thomas with the National Symphony

Honored to have been able to write the program notes for this weekend’s National Symphony concerts with Michael Tilson Thomas. The program features his own remarkable, unclassifiable  Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind.

Filed under: American music, Michael Tilson Thomas, National Symphony, program notes

Seattle Symphony Announces 2022-23 Season

The Seattle Symphony Orchestra (SSO) just announced the lineup for the 2022-23 season. It’s the first time since I’ve been following the SSO that this announcement comes without a music director in place. So the first thing that stands out is the long list of guest conductors: I count a total of 30 (!), including such luminaries as Marin Alsop, Tan Dun, and Osmo Vänskä, who will close out the season with Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony on 22 and 24 June. (Asher Fisch’s moving recent account of Das Lied von der Erde marked the first time Mahler resounded again in Benaroya Hall since the pandemic, and Morlot is set to conduct the Sixth next week. The Second is the only Mahler lined up for next season.)

No fewer than 13 are set to make their SSO debuts. And there will also be familiar faces: particularly Conductor Emeritus Ludovic Morlot, who has the honor of leading the opening night concert on 17 September along with two later programs.

As to new music, five commissioned works will be presented (including both SSO concerts and the Octave 9 chamber series), including a world premiere by 2022-23 artist-in-residence Angelique Poteat (scheduled for opening night) and new compositions by Freida Abtan, Enrico Chapela, Dai Fujikura, and
Abel Selaocoe. Other contemporary voices among the 25 living composers represented include Gabriella Smith, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Tan Dun, Gina Gillie, Nina Shekhar, Salina Fisher, Qigang Chen, Caroline Shaw, Shanyse Strickland, and Hannah Lash.

The Symphony No. 7 by Sibelius will be paired with a world premiere by Dai Fujikura in response to the Finn’s last symphony. But that’s the only Sibelius that figures on next season’s schedule. It appears that the Sibelius Cycle that had been intended as a highlight under former music director Thomas Dausgaard will be left incomplete. I haven’t seen any statement on the matter but will update as soon as I do. Which means that by the end of next season, as far as I understand it, SSO will have given Symphonies 1, 2, and 7, together with their corresponding paired commissions (music by Ellen Reid and Angélica Negrón for Symphonies 1 and 2, respectively) — with 3, 4, and 5 apparently falling by the wayside. Since each of these was to be accompanied by a newly commissioned work, I wonder what will become of the “missing” commissions….

There’s also a lot of love for Rachmaninoff, who only seems to increase in popularity each season. The Spring will bring a “Rachfest” devoted to the four piano concertos, featuring pianists Dominic Cheli, Rémi Geniet, and Albert Cano Smit, with Katharina Winkor conducting — all but Geniet making their SSO debuts. Plus, David Robertson will conduct the rarely heard Symphony No. 1 (the work whose fiasco premiere nearly led Rachmaninoff to abandon composing) and yet another program of the ubiquitous Piano Concerto No. 2 in January (with Nobuyuki Tsujii as the soloist and SSO newcomer Jirí Rožeň conducting). The Rachfest originally planned for spring 2020 was cancelled when the pandemic arrived, but 2023 has the added bonus of being the 150th anniversary year of the Russian composer’s birth.

I’m especially excited about the new works by Poteat and Fujikura, as well as the incredible Gabriella Smith’s Tidlewave Kitchen, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Cello Concerto with Nicholas Altstaedt, and the Seattle premiere of Tan Dun’s remarkable Buddha Passion (which I reviewed three years ago when Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic gave the U.S. premiere). And Octave 9 will present Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera and also welcome back cellist extraordinaire Seth Parker Woods for the world premiere of Freida Abtan’s My Heart is a River.

In fact, there’s a strong cello theme running through the programming, which includes a new work by Abel Selaocoe (featuring himself as the soloist) and Yue Bao conducting the Three Continents Cello Concerto by Nico Muhly, Sven Helbig, and Zhou Long, with the cellist Jan Vogler.

Link to the complete SSO season announcement press release here.

Filed under: commissions, music news, Seattle Symphony

Les Six-and-a-Half: Chamber Concert

On 23 March 2022, Orca Concerts series presents an evening of French and Brazilian chamber music featuring clarinetist Sean Osborn, pianist Angela Draghicescu, and Seattle Symphony musicians Ben Hausmann (oboe) and Luke Fieweger (bassoon). Titled Les Six-and-a-Half, it’s quite an interesting program: Germaine Tailleferre: Sonata champêtre (1972); Heitor Villa-Lobos: Trio for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1921); Darius Milhaud: Duo concertante (1956); and Francis Poulenc: Trio pour hautbois, basson, et piano, FP 43 (1926).

The performance will be at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center at 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N. in Seattle. Tickets General: $30, Senior: $20, Student and Under 19: FREE.

From the press release: “Les Six was a collective of composers in France in the early 20th-century, organized in part by philosopher Jean Cocteau and composer Erik Satie.  Their neo-classic style of composition embraced lightness, charm, melody, and was also a reaction to the excesses of Wagner and Impressionists like Debussy. Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Trio from 1921 employs sophisticated overlapping rhythms, ostinato, and melodic fragments for an otherworldly sense of place.”

Filed under: chamber music, music news

Reena Esmail’s Violin Concerto for Indian Violinist Kala Ramnath

Reena Esmail, Seattle Symphony’s composer in residence (Rachel Garcia)

ALSO NOTE: Tonight Friday night at 8pm, Reena Esmail curates a program at Seattle Symphony”s Octave 9 space with Kala Ramnath and SSO musicians, titled “Ragamala: A Journey into Hindustani Music.”

I had the pleasure of writing about the marvelous Reena Esmail and her new violin concerto for Hindustani violinist Kala Ramnath, which Seattle Symphony will premiere at the Celebrate Asia concert on Sunday, 20 March.

For its opening night concert last September, when the Seattle Symphony returned for its first full season since the pandemic struck, it was music by Reena Esmail that launched the program. She continues in her role as composer-in-residence with the world premiere of a newly commissioned violin concerto …


Filed under: Reena Esmail, Seattle Symphony, Seattle Times, violinists

Silvestre Revueltas and Social Justice Art

Cultural historian Joseph Horowitz considers the case of the Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1939) in his latest piece for NPR. According to Horowitz, Revueltas was not only “Mexico’s greatest composer but the supreme political composer of concert music produced in our Western hemisphere.”

A related project of Horowitz’s PostClassical Ensemble endeavor is the world premiere recording of the complete soundtrack Revueltas wrote for the 1935 film Redes, conducted by Angel Gil-Ordonez.

Filed under: Mexican composers, PostClassical Ensemble

Seattle Symphony Names Sunny Xuecong Xia as New Assistant Conductor

Sunny Xia conducting the Arizona State University Studio Orchestra in the Andante cantabile from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony 5

This morning Seattle Symphony announced that Sunny Xuecong Xia has been named the Douglas F. King Assistant Conductor. She will begin her appointment in September 2022. Meanwhile, the search for a new music director since the sudden departure early this year of Thomas Dausgaard is underway. Lee Mills will continue to serve as Associate Conductor through the current 2021-2022 season, until Xia succeeds him at the start of the 2022-23 season.

Currently, Xia is Assistant Conductor of the Phoenix Youth Symphony Orchestra and Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra. The selection process for the SSO position involved a working rehearsal session with SSO musicians as well as an interview with a panel comprising musicians, board, and staff. Xia is also pursuing a doctorate in Orchestral and Opera Conducting at Arizona State University.

Here’s the full bio from Xia’s website:

Recognized for her innate musicality, compelling presence, and technical precision, conductor Sunny Xuecong Xia’s ability to forge an immediate and captivating connection with orchestras and audiences alike has led to engagements around the country. Sunny currently serves as Assistant Conductor of the Phoenix Youth Symphony Orchestra and Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra while pursuing a doctorate in Orchestral Conducting under Dr. Jeffery Meyer. In the 2021-22 season, she was invited to lead a production of La bohème with the Chandler Opera Company and serve as cover conductor for Arizona Musicfest. She recently appeared with double bassist Xavier Foley and violinist Eunice Kim in a performance of Foley’s poignant For Justice and Peace at Arizona’s Mesa Arts Center. In the 2020-21 season, she appeared as guest conductor with the MusicaNova Orchestra and was invited to serve as Assistant Conductor at the National Music Festival and Pierre Monteux Music Festival. In January 2020, she made her successful debut with the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra. 

Highlights of the 2019-20 season include being selected by Marin Alsop as a Conducting Fellow in the Peabody Conducting Workshop. She was also appointed Apprentice Conductor at the North American New Opera Workshop (NANOWorks) and served as Cover Conductor for the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and Firelands Symphony Orchestra. Chosen from a pool of 75 first-round competitors, she was one of ten semifinalists in the NRTA Conducting Competition in Tirana, Albania. Additionally, she led the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra in the 2019 Benefit Concert “A Legacy in Bloom: Celebrating Clara T. Rankin” with violinist Caroline Goulding.

As Assistant Conductor of the Cleveland Institute of Music Opera Theater from 2017 to 2020, Sunny assisted Maestro Harry Davidson in productions of Die ZauberflöteThe Juniper TreeLe Rossignol, and L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. A dynamic advocate for contemporary music, she has led the CIM New Music Ensemble in music series such as the Cleveland NEOSonicFest and CIM New Music Series. She also served as a Conducting Fellow in the 2020 Cortona Sessions for New Music Conductor and Advocate Virtual Summit. Dedicated to bringing music to unconventional and diverse locations, while in Cleveland, Sunny organized and led concerts in retirement communities and elementary schools, including an interactive presentation of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf in East Cleveland for an audience of 4th and 5th graders. 

Sunny holds a dual master’s degree in Orchestral Conducting and Violin Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music where she studied under the tutelage of Carl Topilow and Jan Mark Sloman. She has had the privilege to be mentored by a number of prominent conductors, including Marin Alsop, JoAnn Falleta, Giancarlo Guerrero, Tito Muñoz, Ludovic Morlot, Larry Rachleff, Robert Spano, Carl St.Clair, and Thomas Wilkins. For two summers, she attended the Monteux School and Music Festival as a Kurt & Torj Wray Conducting Scholar. An accomplished violinist, prior to becoming a conductor, Sunny performed as a soloist with orchestras in China and Australia, including the symphony orchestras of Harbin, Zheijiang, Hunan and Guangxi, and the Concertante Ensemble. While attending Cleveland Institute of music, she served as concertmaster of the CIM Orchestra. 

Originally from Guangzhou, China, Sunny relocated to Sydney, Australia at the age of 14 on a sponsorship from the Australian String Academy that allowed her to further her violin studies with Peter Shi-xiang Zhang and Charmian Gadd. A talented basketball athlete, she competed in the semi-professional New South Wales Metro Junior League before focusing primarily on her musical pursuits. When not performing or enjoying a pick-up game, Sunny can be found reading, kayaking, or learning languages. She speaks Cantonese, English, German, Mandarin and Teochew, and is improving her French and Italian.

Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony

Six Centuries of Keyboard Music by Women

Byron Schenkman & Friends present the following program of Six Centuries of Keyboard Music by Women (available in the video above):

Maddalena Casulana: Amor per qual cagion

See the entire concert

Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre: Gavotte in A Minor

Specially recorded for this event

Anna Bon: Sonata in C Major, op. 2, no. 4

Specially recorded for this event

Clara Schumann: Nocturne in F Major, op. 6, no. 2, for piano

See the entire concert

Teresa Carreño: Un rêve en mer, op. 28

See the entire concert

Margaret Bonds: Troubled Water

See the entire concert

Mari Elabel Valverde: “his eyes were in the stars”

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, music news, women composers

Keeping Watch

Sarasota, Fla.

Filed under: photography

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