MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Refugees and Opera

Joshua Barone recently reported for the New York Times on a new production at Bavarian Staatsoper for part of its youth program that was “written for refugees, children of immigrants and born-and-raised Bavarians.”
The piece draws on Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto, among other sources. “Theater about the refugee crisis has proliferated in Germany since migration into the country reached its peak in 2016,” writes Barone. “But rarely has the hot-button issue … entered the realm of opera, much less children’s opera.”

Actually, the Zuflucht Kultur Association has been engaging with these issues for several years, offering productions of Mozart’s Zaide, Così, and Idomeneo (which traveled to the Lucerne Festival last summer), Carmen, Orfeo, and, most recently, Don Carlos.

Here’s a radio interview (in German) with mezzo Cornelia Lanz, one of the association’s producer-performers, on their Orfeo production.

Filed under: directors, music news, opera

Daniele Gatti Replacements at Lucerne Summer Festival

The replacement conductors for the two programs that the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra had originally scheduled at the 2018 Summer Festival in Lucerne with their former, now-ousted music director Daniele Gatti have been announced.

Manfred Honeck takes the reins for the 5 September concert; the very interesting lineup of Wagner, Berg, and Bruckner’s Third Symphony remains unchanged.

And on the evening after that, Bernard Haitink will replace Mahler’s Seventh (which was to have been paired with Webern with the Ninth Symphony. Given the reception of his Mahler Ninth last year in London, this should be one for the ages:

Other conductors extract more pathos (or self-pity, depending on one’s view of Mahler and the conductor involved) from the final Adagio, but few usher it towards its faltering close with more care and gentle humanity than Haitink did here. If the Ninth is the work through which Mahler confronted his mortality and came to terms with it, then in this performance it was expressed unswervingly.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Mahler, music news

RIP Oliver Knussen (1952-2018)

Such sad news today of the death of Oliver Knussen, only 66 years old. This prodigious, spectacular, generous, multifaceted genius left a mark that will endure.

“Besides definitive interpretations of his own music, he must surely have given more first performances than any other conductor, alongside an outstanding body of recordings. He was the central focus of so many activities, and an irreplaceable mentor to his fellow composers, who constantly sought and relied on his advice and encouragement.” Colin Matthews in The Guardian

BBC Radio 4 tribute here [h/t @AodhBC on Twitter]

“’He has had a fertilizing and energizing effect on the whole of British music for the last 40 years,’ the composer George Benjamin, a longtime friend and colleague, said in a telephone interview. ‘We have a lively and varied contemporary music world here in the U.K., and a lot of it is owed to him, because of the immensely generous encouragement he gave to generations and generations of composers.'” (from the New York Times obituary)

Faber Music’s summary of Knussen’s career is here.

Filed under: music news, Oliver Knussen

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

Seattle Symphony’s New Venue

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Octave 9 can create a 360° shared virtual experience with a surround video screen, in-the-round seating and responsive video and acoustics. (Rendering by LMN Architects)

Seattle Symphony just announced that it will open its new Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center in February 2019.

Octave 9 will be located in what has been called the Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center (corner of Second Avenue & Union Street). The new initiative, according to SSO, is intended to create “a versatile, immersive environment for inventive performances, education opportunities, and community engagement” — which is reminiscent of the “salle modulable” paradigm that has been realized, for example, at the Pierre Boulez-Saal in Berlin.

Why the name? “Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center is named in honor of Seattle philanthropists James and Sherry Raisbeck, who provided a $2 million matching challenge to transform the former Soundbridge. The name, created by LORE Naming, was inspired by the size of a concert grand piano, which spans just over seven octaves. A nine-octave range, then, pushes past the boundaries, redefining what is musically possible.”

SSO’s press release continues: “Combining a modular surround video screen with 13 moveable panels, 10 ultra-short-throw projectors, motion-capture cameras, and a state-of-the-art Meyer Sound Constellation® Acoustic System with 42 speakers and 30 microphones, the technology in Octave 9 can create a 360° shared virtual experience or disappear into the background for a more traditional setting.”

The first artist-in-residence at Octave 9 will be the cellist Seth Parker Woods, the subject of my Strings magazine cover story last summer. “During his residency, he will premiere a number of new works for cello and multimedia commissioned by the Seattle Symphony from a diverse group of composers and visual artists.”

read more about Octave 9

Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony, Seth Parker Woods

Seattle Symphony Names New President and CEO

SSO

By a unanimous vote of its Board of Directors, Seattle Symphony has named Krishna Thiagarajan, currently Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, as its next President and CEO, succeeding Simon Woods, who recently became CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Thiagarajan will start his tenure this September.

From the SSO press release:

Thiagarajan’s track record in his past three leadership positions encompasses strong financial management including balanced budgets and significant growth in both ticket sales and donations. He has also produced numerous acclaimed recordings and several international tours, as well as commissioned new works and created meaningful education programs for students. His past leadership has included strong community and corporate relationships, and a personal emphasis on creating an inclusive organizational culture.

Thiagarajan: “I believe the Seattle Symphony to be among the most innovative orchestras in the United States, having delivered an impressive track record of growth, artistic excellence and strong community presence. In collaboration with this outstanding group of musicians, staff and board, as well as dedicated supporters, I look forward to serving the community of the greater Seattle area as the orchestra becomes an even more prominent cultural ambassador for the Pacific Northwest.”

Thiagarajan replaces former President & CEO Simon Woods who became the CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in January after seven years of exemplary leadership in Seattle.

Complete press release

Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony

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

Sheku Kanneh-Mason Coming to Seattle

Sheku Kanneh-Mason moved countless viewers around the world playing “Sicilienne” (attributed to*) Maria Theresia von Paradis (a contemporary of Mozart), Fauré’s “Après un rêve,” and Schubert’s “Ave Maria” at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Because of the engagement, Kanneh-Mason had to forego what would have been his U.S. orchestral debut in LA (with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

And so lucky Seattle gets to be the host for the cellist’s actual U.S. debut in the fall: with the Seattle Symphony under conductor Ruth Reinhardt, when he will be the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations.

He’ll also give a concert in the Debut series at Lucerne Festival on 30 August, with his sister Isaka Kanneh-Mason at the keyboard.

*From the musicologist Michael Beckman (this fascinating update passed along to be by Elena Dubinets): “Can’t help noting that one of the cello pieces played at the royal wedding, the “Sicilienne” supposedly by Mozart’s blind contemporary Maria Theresia von Paradis, is actually a fake by the 20th century violinist and hoaxster, Samuel Dushkin. Pretty piece and perfect for a romantic ceremonial occasion…but also an exotic mashup based partly on a violin sonata by Weber.”

See Schott’s page for this score here:
“According to the latest research findings, ‘Sicilienne’ was not written by Maria Theresia von Paradis, but by Samuel Dushkin.”

Filed under: cello, Lucerne Festival, music news, Seattle Symphony

San Francisco Conservatory of Music Gets $46 Million Gift

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Students in the Technology and Applied Composition program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Credit Sewon Barrera

My latest New York Times story is now online.

Thanks to MaryClare Brzytwa, David Stull, Emily Pitts, DuMarkus Davis.

Here are some sound samples from the TAC program:

Filed under: music news, New York Times, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, women composers

Igor Levit Is the 2018 Gilmore Artist

Igor Levit

Congratulations to Igor Levit for winning the 2018 Gilmore Artist Award, a distinction conferred to recognize “extraordinary piano artistry with some of the most generous financial support given in the musical arts. The $300,000 award is conferred every four years to an international pianist of any age and nationality following a rigorous and confidential selection process.”

The Gilmore Artist Award “is made through a non-competitive process. Pianists are nominated by a large and diverse group of international music professionals.” Past recipients include Rafał Blechacz (2014), Kirill Gerstein (2010), Ingrid Fliter (2006), Piotr Anderszewski (2002), Leif Ove Andsnes (1998), Ralf Gothóni (1994), and David Owen Norris (1991).

I met Levit when the Republican presidential primaries were still in progress and the idea of Donald Trump winning the election seemed absurd, but even then I recall his very serious concern about the awful possibility. As Michael Cooper puts it in this first-rate New York Times profile, Levit “has stood out by emerging as the de facto pianist of the resistance.”

My profile of Levit for Steinway & Sons from 2016:

It’s early February, over lunch before his Seattle debut later in the evening, and Igor Levit can’t stop talking about how thrilled he is to be touring the United States.”

continue reading

 

Filed under: music news, pianists

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