MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Joel Sachs’s Farewell Concert

It’s hard to process the reality that Joel Sachs has decided to retire as of June 30 after 52 years of teaching and music making at Juilliard; he will hold the status of professor emeritus. Generations of musicians and musical thinkers have been mentored by Sachs, who as a conductor, pianist, and curator has also made invaluable contributions to new music. I’ve been immensely privileged over the years to benefit from his incredible wisdom while editing the programs he single-handedly writes for Juilliard’s always-stimulating Focus festival at the beginning of the year. Zachary Woolfe wrote about Sachs and the 2022 edition of Focus in The New York Times here.

Sachs tonight conducts the New Juilliard Ensemble, which he founded and has led for 29 seasons, in their final concert of the season and his own farewell concert (at 7.30 pm ET).

The program, which will be live-streamed, is characteristically intriguing and full of discoveries:

Yangfan XU Fantastic Creatures of the Mountains and Seas
     Lennox Thuy Duong, Narrator
Paul FREHNER Sometimes the Devil Plays Fate
     
Mary Beth Nelson, Mezzo-Soprano
Diana SYRSE The Invention of Sex
     
Diana Syrse, Soprano
Paul DESENNE Sinfonía Burocràtica ed’Amazzònica

A digital program can be found accesible digital program.

Writes Sachs in his farewell announcement: “Of course, I have mixed feelings–making music with our great young performers is always a huge pleasure. But having arrived at age 82 in excellent health, it struck me as time to move on to other projects–recording, performing as a pianist, and writing–and to indulge in luxuries that come with an open schedule, such as more traveling and more time with my children and grandchildren.”

I’m looking forward to the next project Joel Sachs will be sharing with us. In the meantime, warmest congratulations!

Filed under: Joel Sachs, Juilliard, music news, new music

Juilliard’s Focus 2022: The Making of an American Music, 1899-1948

Tonight is the opening program in Juilliard’s weeklong Focus 2022 Festival, which will tackle the theme The Making of an American Music, 1899-1948. And all events will be livestreamed through Juilliard LIVE on the school’s website.

I had the privilege of editing the program book and can attest that these carefully curated programs are well worth your attention. From the recent New York Times article on Focus and its founder and director, the remarkable Joel Sachs: “’It blossomed into a kind of monster,’ Sachs said, chuckling. “The program book is 88 pages. But it’s a really interesting period.'” [link to program book]

Filed under: American music, Joel Sachs, Juilliard

The Mother of Us All Tonight

This evening at 7pm EST, the Met Museum hosts the digital premiere of The Mother of Us All by Virgil Thomson to Gertrude Stein’s libretto about Susan B. Anthony and the women’s suffrage movement.

The production, which was filmed during live performances at the Met’s sculpture court in the American Wing in February, is a collaboration between Juilliard and the New York Philharmonic (and part of the latter’s ongoing Project 19 initiative.

Watch the premiere on Facebook, YouTube, or at the bottom of the Met’s page here.

Louisa Proske, the production’s brilliant director, offers an introduction here:

Filed under: American opera, directors, Juilliard, New York Philharmonic

Jörg Widmann

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My new profile of Jörg Widmann for the Juilliard Journal:

Which Jörg Widmann would you like to meet? The prolific artist who appears on Bachtrack.com’s list of the top 10 most frequently performed living composers for 2019 (alongside figures like Philip Glass and John Adams)? The virtuoso clarinetist who has inspired numerous new compositions? The conductor of major international orchestras? The erudite lecturer? The teacher and mentor of young musicians?

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Filed under: Jörg Widmann, Juilliard

A Chat with Nicholas McGegan

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Nicholas McGegan conducting Juilliard415 in 2019

Ahead of his upcoming Juilliard projects, I spoke with the always delightful Nicholas McGegan.

A new year and decade: 2020 brings some major milestones for eminent conductor, harpsichordist, and flutist Nicholas McGegan…

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Filed under: conductors, early music, Handel, Juilliard

Juilliard’s 2020 Focus Festival: Pioneering Women Composers of the 20th Century

The 36th annual Focus Festival at Juilliard starts tomorrow with a fascinating program by the New Juilliard Ensemble and its director, Joel Sachs–the first of six free concerts to take place between Friday and January 31. (The clip above is of Mary Lou Williams performing “Roll ’em” from 1944, on the menu for Program III on Tuesday night.)

Joel Sachs, the mastermind behind Juilliard’s Focus Festival tradition, co-curated this year’s edition with Cuban-American composer and conductor Odaline de la Martinez.

If you’re in New York over the next week, it’s really worth considering a visit to one of these amazingly varied programs. Each one is full of discoveries.

The topic, Pioneering Women Composers of the 20th Century, was of course inspired by a desire to mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment being ratified.

Yet, as de la Martinez remarks: “Although prospects for women composers have improved greatly over the last few decades, let’s not forget how much more work needs to be done!”

In this preview by Joshua Barrone (with samples of several of the 32 composers on the roster), de la Martinez goes on to say: ““A lot of these composers have disappeared because people don’t know what to look for. And musicology used to teach only men. It’s about time to make cases for other composers, and women.”

View the complete program

Filed under: Juilliard

Mozart’s Sex and Mind Games at Juilliard

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Sara Jean Tosetti’s costume sketches for Ferrando, Dorabella, Fiordiligi, and Guglielmo

For the Juilliard Journal, I spoke to stage director David Paul and music director Nimrod David Pfeffer about their production of the final Mozart-Da Ponte collaboration, which Juilliard Opera performs later this month.

Così fan tutte is subtitled “The School for Lovers” — but this third and last of Mozart’s collaborations with his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte also provides an excellent education for emerging opera artists. The two couples at the center of the narrative “are young people who are at a juncture of having to figure out who they are and what they want out of love and life,” according to David Paul, who will direct Juilliard Opera’s new production. “They have to make consequential decisions for the first time in their lives, which makes Così remarkably appropriate for what these students are living through.”

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Filed under: directors, Juilliard, Mozart

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

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