MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

A Bold New Season for Karina Canellakis

Karina_Canellakis_Conducts_BeethovenMy profile of Karina Canellakis for the Juilliard Journal has just been posted. Maestra Canellakis returns to her alma mater next month to conduct the Juilliard Orchestra in a program of Missy Mazzoli, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Richard Strauss.

In early summer, the first of several record-breaking heat waves scorched Western Europe just as Karina Canellakis was settling into her new home in Amsterdam…

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Filed under: conductors, Juilliard

Turangalîla at Juilliard

Here’s my Juilliard Journal story for the upcoming performance of Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie with David Robertson:

Turangalîla is the work of my life,” Olivier Messiaen wrote in a letter to a young Leonard Bernstein, who was preparing to conduct the world premiere near the end of 1949. Messiaen thanked him in advance for agreeing to take on this formidable challenge, “since I know (having seen you in The Rite of Spring) that you will do it in a way that is marvelous and brilliant.”

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Filed under: Juilliard, Olivier Messiaen

Dido and Aeneas at Juilliard

Here’s my program essay for Juilliard Opera’s production of Dido and Aeneas at the Willson Theater, directed by Mary Birnbaum and led by Avi Stein, with choreography by Claudia Schreier. Closes tomorrow.

“Even this little boarding-school opera is full of [Purcell’s] spirit, his
freshness, his dramatic expression, and his unapproached art of setting
English speech to music.” This was the verdict that Cornetto di Basso (aka
George Bernard Shaw, using his pen name as a music critic) reached when
covering an otherwise less-than-thrilling performance of Dido and Aeneas
in 1889. Though two centuries old by then, the score had only first been
published in 1841; the opera would not be performed outside England until
1895, when the bicentennial of Henry Purcell’s death stimulated curiosity
about his work.

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Filed under: Henry Purcell, Juilliard

Barbara Hannigan’s New York Conducting Debut

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Here’s my story for the Julliard Journal on the phenomenal Barbara Hannigan:

Even as an internationally acclaimed soprano, Barbara Hannigan is unable to resist challenging herself to ever more-formidable accomplishments. In 2011 she made a bold leap to the podium, debuting as a conductor at the Châtelet in Paris with Stravinsky’s Renard.

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Filed under: Barbara Hannigan, conductors, Juilliard

On the Air! Juilliard’s Focus Festival Salutes Radio Commissions

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For this year’s Focus Festival at Juilliard, titled On the Air! A Salute to 75 Years of International Radio Commissioning, Joel Sachs has curated six programs sampling this wealth of compositions from an international array of stations.

The opening concert is on 25 January at Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater, when Sachs will lead the New Juilliard Ensemble. All six Focus events are free of charge.

Sachs explains what inspired the 2019 Festival:

I unexpectedly realized the role of radio in October 2017, while writing a program note about Argentinean-German composer Mauricio Kagel for a New Juilliard Ensemble concert. Because Kagel settled in Cologne, I began thinking about the extraordinary post-World War II new music scene that flourished there, where he and many other compositional giants, German and foreign, had settled.

Being reasonably acquainted with that Rhineland city and its institutions, I immediately recalled the German letters WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk, West German Broadcasting), the radio-TV public broadcast based there. An enormous operation, WDR generally considered the most important broadcaster in German, with five radio transmissions, television, internet broadcasts, and a group of external studios in various cities around Germany’s industrial heartland. Having had a professional relationship with WDR 3, I realized that it has had a vital role as one of the most prominent of European radio stations with its decades-old commissioning program.

Dots began to connect. I had performed or recorded at the BBC, Radio France, Swiss stations in Zurich and Basel, Austrian radio in Salzburg, but what had never struck me was that they all were busily commissioning composers, not just creating background music for radio dramas, but also music intended for live performance in concerts, and not just those composers who produced ‘comfortable’ music. Suddenly I had a topic for Focus 2019: “On the Air! A Salute to 75 Years of International Radio Commissions.”

more on the 2019 Focus Festival at Juilliard: 25 Jan-1 Feb

Filed under: commissions, Juilliard

Byron Schenkman & Friends Explore Handel’s Italian Cantatas

Sunday evening’s Byron Schenkman & Friends program looks delicious: focusing on two early cantatas by Handel (including Vedendo Amor from his sojourn in Rome), it also includes some of his instrumental music plus pieces by Domenico Scarlatti, Antonio Caldara, and Anna Bon.
For some background, here’s my piece in this month’s Juilliard Journal on Handel in Rome (on p. 16).

Complete program:

George Frideric Handel:
Sonata in G Major, op. 1, no. 5, for flute and continuo

Domenico Scarlatti:
Four keyboard sonatas, K. 238, K. 239, K. 99, K. 100

George Frideric Handel:
Cantata “Vedendo Amor” for voice and continuo

Antonio Caldara:
Cantata “Soffri, mio caro Alcino” for voice and continuo

Anna Bon:
Sonata in F Major, op. 1, no. 2, for flute and continuo

George Frideric Handel:
Cantata “Mi palpita il cor” for voice, flute, and continuo

Performers:
Reginald Mobley

COUNTERTENOR
Joshua Romatowski

FLUTE
Nathan Whittaker

CELLO
Byron Schenkman

HARPSICHORD

Concert starts 7pm on Sunday 18 November at Benaroya’s Nordstrom Recital Hall.
Tickets here.

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, Handel, Juilliard

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

An Overshadowed Merry Wives Comes to Juilliard

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The Merry Wives of Windsor at The Juilliard School (photo by Richard Termine)

By a strange coincidence, the swan songs of two 19th-century composers, Giuseppe Verdi and Otto Nicolai, are dazzling comic operas that are based on the same play: Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, which was first registered in 1602. ..

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Filed under: Juilliard

Making Mozart’s Garden Grow

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Conductor Joseph Colaneri and director Mary Birnbaum during a rehearsal for Mozart’s ‘Finta’

My story on Juilliard’s upcoming production of La finta giardiniera:

It may be hard to imagine that there was a time when pre-Baroque figures were generally treated as an obscure footnote to the alleged master narrative of Western music history. But when it comes to the lifework of individual composers, a similarly myopic attitude is still sometimes found…

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Filed under: Juilliard, Mozart

The Devil Gets the Best Tunes

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Laurence Cummings (Photo by Robert Workman)

Here’s a piece I wrote for this month’s Juilliard Journal about Agrippina:

In one of Agrippina‘s pivotal scenes, the Emperor Claudius—at first presumed dead at sea by the scheming title character, only to be inconveniently rescued—crows in triumph over “conquered Britain” as a “new subject” for the Roman throne. That wouldn’t exactly be music to Brexit supporters—but, then, international migrants like George Frideric Handel (né Georg Friedrich Händel) would have had a harder time in a Europe of zealously policed borders.

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Filed under: Handel, Juilliard

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