MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

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

Aidan Lang to Leave Seattle Opera for Welsh National Opera

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Aidan Lang announced today that he will leave Seattle Opera in June 2019 to become general director of Welsh National Opera.

That means he’ll be departing just when Ludovic Morlot ends his tenure with the Seattle Symphony — although of course Morlot’s successor is already familiar to Seattle, the much-admired Thomas Dausgaard. The SSO also has a brand-new president, Krishna Thiagarajan, who replaced Simon Woods (now helming the Los Angeles Philharmonic), began his post this month.

Aidan Lang began his statement as follows:

“I am writing to share some bittersweet news. My time with you in Seattle will come to an end this June 2019, as I have been appointed as General Director of Welsh National Opera. This decision has not come lightly as I love dearly both this community and opera company. Coming to Seattle Opera was one of the greatest honors of my life and I am still absolutely thrilled to have had created opera with you. Seattle Opera is known around the world for its enthusiastic and generous opera community, for its warmth and welcoming atmosphere for artists, and more recently, for our commitment to racial equity.”

Lang’s complete statement is here.

Filed under: music news, Seattle Opera

2018 Gramophone Award Winners

Gramophone has announced the ten recordings that are the winners of the magazine’s classical music awards for 2018:
CHAMBER
Dvořák: Piano Quintets
Boris Giltburg pf Pavel Nikl va Pavel Haas Quartet (Supraphon)
CHORAL
Pärt: Magnificat. Nunc dimittis Schnittke Psalms of Repentance
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir / Kaspars Putniņš (BIS)
CONCERTO
Bartók: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
Christian Tetzlaff violin Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Hannu Lintu (Ondine)
CONTEMPORARY
Dusapin: String Quartets Nos. 6 and 7
Arditti Quartet; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France / Pascal Rophé (Aeon)
EARLY MUSIC
Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, Vol 5
Blue Heron / Scott Metcalfe (Blue Heron)
INSTRUMENTAL
Brahms: Piano Pieces, Opp. 76, 117, and 118
Arcadi Volodos (Sony Classical)
OPERA
Berlioz: Les Troyens
Soloists include DiDonato, Spyres, Lemieux; Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra / John Nelson (Erato)
ORCHESTRAL
Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé
Ensemble Aedes; Les Siècles / François-Xavier Roth (Harmonia Mundi)
RECITAL
Agitata
Delphine Galou mezzo-soprano Accademia Bizantina / Ottavio Dantone harpsichord (Alpha Classics)
SOLO VOCAL
Secrets
Marianne Crebassa mezzo-soprano Fazıl Say piano (Erato)

Stay tuned for the announcement of Recording of the Year on 13 September at the London awards ceremony, which will be livestreamed on medici.tv. Also to be named at that time: Orchestra of the Year, Artist of the Year, Young Artist of the Year, Label of the Year, and the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Filed under: Gramophone, music news

RIP George Walker (1922-2018)

I’m devastated by news of the death of George Walker. It was just over a year ago that I had the opportunity to interview him at length for a magazine profile. I know he was eagerly looking forward to the live public premiere of his Sinfonia No. 5 (“Visions”) next April with the Seattle Symphony — his reaction to the 2015 church massacre in Charleston.

George Walker’s music remains woefully neglected and underrepresented. As the music world looks back over his remarkable legacy — as a composer and a pianist, whose career was stymied by systemic racism — I hope this situation finally begins to change for the better.

Filed under: George Walker, music news

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

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