MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

John Adams on the Yin and Yang of His Musical Life

My story for the Juilliard Journal on John Adams as he returns to conduct the Juilliard Orchestra next week at Alice Tully Hall. Program details here.

“What does it take to move us from our customary place?” John Adams asked in his commencement speech to the Juilliard class of 2011. “That is what we want when we confront a work of art, whether it’s a completely new creation or an impassioned performance of a masterwork from the past.” The acclaimed composer returns to Juilliard December 10—this time to conduct the Juilliard Orchestra in a program that pairs the Brahms Fourth Symphony with two 21st-century pieces: Ciel d’hiver by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and Adams’ own Doctor Atomic Symphony.

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Filed under: conductors, John Adams, Brahms

Esa-Pekka Salonen to San Francisco Symphony

The ever-adventurous Esa-Pekka Salonen will take over the reins from Michael Tilson Thomas to lead San Francisco Symphony after Michael Tilson Thomas steps down in 2020.

From Michael Cooper’s report in the New York Times about this decidedly inspired choice:

“He definitely is somebody who has that sense of the interesting mission that the West Coast has been on for a while, and he has certainly been a part of it,” Mr. Thomas said, adding: “I’ve always felt with the San Francisco Symphony, since I first began to work with them, that they are really up for looking at things in new ways.”

From the San Francisco Symphony press release:

“From the very first approach, the San Francisco Symphony leaders and musicians and I were buzzing with
possibilities,” said Esa-Pekka Salonen. “The ‘what-ifs’ of the orchestra world were suddenly on the table in a real
way. Here is a top symphony orchestra in the place in America where things start; where the ways things have always
been done are interrogated, and where problems are first identified and then solved. In San Francisco itself and in
the San Francisco Symphony, I see both the big ideas being thought and the actual work being done, and that, to me,
is irresistible.
I wasn’t looking for another Music Directorship. I am so proud of the work we did together at the Swedish Radio
Orchestra, at the LA Philharmonic, and at the Philharmonia Orchestra, and that those organizations where I’ve held
music director titles thrive without me gives me great joy. But there was a ‘no brainer’ aspect to this that I’ve been
fortunate to have experienced a few times before in my career, so I know it when I see it. The San Francisco
Symphony is an ensemble and an organization at the top of their game, renowned for their interpretations of
masterpieces and unafraid to treat new works the same way. They have had the powerhouse combination of
Michael’s exacting musicality and freedom of spirit for 25 years: a legacy I’m privileged to inherit.“

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Filed under: conductors, music news

Interview with Nodoka Okisawa, the First Woman To Take the Top Prize at the Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting

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Nodoka Okisawa (c) Min-On Concert Association

Here is Part Two of my coverage of the 18th Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting in 2018: a profile of first prize winner Nodoka Okisawa. (Part One is here.)

It took just a couple hours after her performance for the results to be announced: but the effect of Nodoka Okisawa’s victory at the 18th Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting will continue to unfold for years to come.

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Filed under: conductors, music news, Nodoka Okisawa

Measure for Measure: 18th Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting

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From left to right: Kanade Yokoyama, Nodoka Okisawa, and Masaru Kumakura
(c) Min-On Concert Association

Here’s Part One of my report on the 18th Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting. (Part Two, an interview with first prize winner Nodoka Okisawa, is here.)

Competitions have become an essential rite of passage for professional classical musicians. Take a look at the artists’ biographies in a random program and lists of victories occupy a prominent position. The premise of powerful young talents finding the entrée to recognition through a public showdown has inspired art itself — think Wagner’s Die Meistersinger — and even ancient mythology (things could go very badly when daring to vie with the gods, as in the contest of the satyr Marsyas with Apollo).

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Part Two, a focus on the first prize winner Nodoka Okisawa, will be published shortly.

Filed under: conductors, music news

Ruth Reinhardt at Lucerne Festival

The talented young conductor Ruth Reinhardt, who returns to Seattle Symphony for a major concert next month (where she was a Conducting Fellow in 2015-16), led an impressive performance of Luigi Nono’s No hay caminos, hay que caminar … Andrej Tarkowskij this past Sunday — one of the highlights of this year’s Lucerne Festival Academy.

Reinhardt gave a brief introduction to this highly challenging piece, suggesting the possibility of perceiving in the highly structured, subtle transformations to which Nono subjects his material a “metaphor for the human journey, our pilgrimage through life.

The Nono work explores spatial music as well, with discrete groups of the players subdivided into seven and positioned throughout the hall. Before and after this concert (which also included Messiaen’s awe-inducing, terrifyingly loud Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum for winds and percussion, led by Sir Simon Rattle), the Orchestra of the Lucerne Festival Academy joined the London Symphony for Stockhausen’s Gruppen.

A fascinating juxtaposition: the devoutly Catholic Messiaen, the resolutely atheist Nono.

Filed under: conductors, Lucerne Festival, Lucerne Festival Academy

Gianandrea Noseda to Zurich Opera

What a coup for Zurich Opera: Gianandrea Noseda has accepted Andreas Homoki’s invitation to become chief conductor at Zurich Opera, following the travail at Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy, which led Noseda to resign his post there.

According to Michael Cooper for the New York Times: “Mr. Noseda thought it over, and decided that the chance to conduct Wagner’s epic Ring cycle for the first time, in a new production, was impossible to refuse.”

And so lured by the Ring, Noseda will start his post in 2021 as general music director in Zurich, succeeding Fabio Luisi (himself off to take the reins at the Dallas Symphony). The Ring will follow in the spring of 2022.

Cooper’s report is here.

Christian Wildhagen has published a very interesting interview for the NZZ (in German). The maestro explains at greater length what, in addition to the prospect of doing a Ring, is so attractive about the post (my translation):

The “Ring” remains the central challenge for every opera conductor and every major house — one of the greatest challenges ever. But overall I am also tempted by the opportunity to work with the musicians of the Philharmonia intensively on the so-called German repertoire. I already did a “Tristan” at my previous house, the Teatro Regio Torino, as well as “Salome” by Richard Strauss and, three years ago, a “Lohengrin” in St. Petersburg. The opportunity to expand on these explorations in Zurich, in the center of German-speaking Switzerland, makes the invitation particularly appealing to me. All the more so since the timing for this artistic development seems to coincide with my personal journey.

Filed under: conductors, music news, Zurich Opera

Happy Birthday, Esa-Pekka Salonen!

Today the Maestro turns 60 years young.

Great conductor, great composer:

Filed under: anniversary, conductors, Mahler

Joana Carneiro to Step Down

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From Berkeley Symphony comes this news:

Joana Carneiro announces her intent to step down as Music Director of Berkeley Symphony after nine seasons.

Joana Carneiro, whose adventurous artistic vision and leadership has garnered both critical acclaim and audience praise, has announced that she will step down as Berkeley Symphony’s music director as of the end of the 2017-2018 season and after nine seasons at its artistic helm. Carneiro will stay on as Music Director Emerita.

A committee has been formed to seek the next Music Director and to determine the best approach for the future of Berkeley Symphony.

Guest conductors Ming Luke, Jonathon Heyward, Christopher Rountree, and Christian Reif have been scheduled to conduct the four symphonic concerts planned for the 2018-2019 season. Full 2018-2019 season details will be forthcoming.

Under Carneiro’s baton, Berkeley Symphony has commissioned a total of 13 new works and co-commissioned three since 2009. As part of the subscription series, Carneiro has led 14 world premieres with the Symphony, as well as one United States premiere, and 10 West Coast premieres. Through the Symphony’s Under Construction—a new music workshopping program—she has led 41 additional world premieres, solidifying hers and the Symphony’s commitment to supporting the work of living composers and broadening the symphonic repertoire.

During her tenure, Berkeley Symphony’s programmatic offerings grew to include not just mainstage performances and Under Construction—now Berkeley Sounds Composer Fellows—but the launch and growth of the Berkeley Symphony and Friends Chamber Series, and the creation of partnerships with Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) and San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). In addition, Music in the Schools expanded both in scope and engagement under her oversight, with increases in the number of programs, number of participating schools, and number of students engaged annually.

“We are grateful to Joana for her ability to connect and establish both trust and curiosity from our musicians and our community,” said Symphony Board Chair S. Shariq Yosufzai. “As the Symphony looks ahead to its 50th anniversary season in in 2020-2021, we know that our future is bright because Joana has made an indelible mark.”

Joana Carneiro said: “I love this orchestra and the Berkeley community. I am so proud of what I have been able to accomplish together with this extraordinary organization over the past nine years and look forward to returning to Berkeley soon.”

“Joana has been an inspirational presence on the podium and off,” said Berkeley Symphony Executive Director René Mandel. “Speaking for myself and the entire Berkeley Symphony community, we will miss her dearly, but she will be back, and we so look forward to her return to Berkeley.”

Filed under: conductors, music news

Alan Gilbert Reflects on Juilliard

Nearly a year after bringing to a close his eight-year tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert reflects on another farewell—he’s stepping down as director of conducting and orchestral studies at Juilliard this spring. As announced in March, David Robertson will succeed him in the fall.

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Filed under: conductors, Juilliard, New York Philharmonic

Musical America‘s New Artist of the Month: Pablo Rus Broseta

Here’s my profile of the highly talented conductor Pablo Rus Broseta for Musical America. He’s the featured new Artist of the Month for October 2016. Congratulations, Pablo!

It’s a couple days before the season officially begins with an ambitious program, and Seattle Symphony Associate Conductor Pablo Rus Broseta is monitoring the sound balance from the hall during the first full rehearsal. A lot is at stake. Following the glitz and good will of the SSO’s gala opening a few days ago, this concert represents a sort of manifesto of the orchestra’s programming philosophy under Music Director Ludovic Morlot.

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Filed under: conductors, Musical America, Seattle Symphony

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