MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Nadia Shpachenko’s Invasion: Music and Art for Ukraine

As a gesture of solidarity and to support humanitarian aid to Ukraine, the Grammy-winning, Ukrainian-American pianist Nadia Shpachenko has released the album Invasion: Music and Art for Ukraine. The title work, composed for for piano, alto saxophone, horn, trombone, timpani, snare drum, and mandolin, represents the response to the war of her longtime collaborator and Pulitzer Prize winner Lewis Spratlan.

Invasion was composed for Shpachenko at the beginning of the invasion (the period 24 February–13 March 2022). The rest of the album features world premiere recordings of other works by Spratlan for solo piano. “These pieces reflect on the human experience, often finding solace and inspiration in nature and music of the past,” notes the press release from Reference Recordings. “Wonderer, a major piece that closes the album, connects in its character to the current experience of many Ukrainian people, especially those displaced by the war. The hero, searching through the unknown, overcoming pain, and reminiscing about things past, triumphs at the end.”

100% of the proceeds go to benefit Ukrainian people affected by war.

Filed under: music news, pianists, recommended listening

Happy 80th Birthday, Meredith Monk!

To celebrate the art of Meredith Monk — who turns 80 today — Flotation Device is presenting a two-hour career retrospective from her experimental origins (w/Collin Walcott & Don Preston) through her recordings for ECM to the large-ensemble works she has written in recent years. Sunday 10pm to midnight PST, @KBCS 91.3fm https://kbcs.fm.

Filed under: Meredith Monk, music news

João Carlos Martins at Carnegie Hall

The incredible João Carlos Martins — a genuine cultural hero — celebrates the 60th anniversary of his debut at Carnegie Hall this evening at 7pm ET. He will lead NOVUS NY in a program combining Bach with music by the Brazilian composers Heitor Villa-Lobos and André Mehmari.

One of the great Bach interpreters at the keyboard, Martins shifted to conducting when it became no longer possible to continue his career as a concert pianist as a result of injuries and the condition of focal dystonia (which also affected the late Leon Fleisher). You can read in much greater detail here about the musician’s epic struggles and the love of music that has kept him going.

I had the honor of writing the program notes for his Carnegie Hall concert, which will present the following program:

J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concertos 1 and 3
“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” from the Cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben BWV 147
(arranged by Heitor Fujinami)

Heitor Villa-Lobos Prelúdio from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4 W264 – 424

André Mehmari Portais Brasilerios No. 2 (Cirandas)




Filed under: Bach, music news, pianists

Lucerne Festival Forward

Lucerne Festival’s three-day fall edition devoted to contemporary music starts today. The opening program of Forward takes place at the Swiss Museum of Transport planetarium and is centered around the Swiss premiere of Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Enigma for string quartet, featuring with 360-degree video by Sigurður Guðjónsson.

Telescope meets microscope: let’s shake up the relationship between outside and inside, between macrocosm and microcosm! Under the massive planetarium dome at the Swiss Museum of Transport, you will zoom into the infinite expanses of the universe, accompanied by improvisations. Sigurður Guðjónsson’s immersive 360-degree video Enigma also makes visible what is normally hidden from the human eye: with the help of an electron microscope, Guðjónsson scans the surface of a carbon fragment – suggestive images reminiscent of Martian landscapes. In tandem with the sounds of Anna Thorvaldsdottir, which oscillate subtly between flow and fragmentation, they combine to form a hypnotizing Gesamtkunstwerk.

more on Lucerne Festival Forward

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news

Happy 80th Birthday, Daniel Barenboim!

Lucerne Debut: Daniel Barenboim conducts the English Chamber Orchestra, 1966 © Paul Weber / Lucerne Festival

As a tribute to the phenomenon known as Daniel Barenboim, here’s a collection of memories from his decades at Lucerne Festival.

On 25 August 1966 – the very same year as two other artists who have left a deep impression in recent decades, Bernard Haitink and Claudio Abbado – Daniel Barenboim appeared for the first time before the Festival audience in Lucerne. He was only 23 years old at the time, and yet he confidently played a double role: in piano concertos by Mozart (Jenamy) and Beethoven (Piano Concerto No. 2), he not only appeared as the soloist with the English Chamber Orchestra but also conducted from the keyboard, and he also took to the podium to conduct Bartók’s Divertimento for String Orchestra….

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Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, music news

Songs for the People from Seattle Pro Musica

Seattle Pro Musica continues its 50th-anniversary season with Songs for the People, the second of its New American Composers concerts. The program features composer Melissa https://melissadunphy.com/about.phpDunphy, an award-winning and acclaimed composer specializing in vocal, political, and theatrical music. 

SONGS FOR THE PEOPLE features five choral works by Melissa Dunphy, including the world premiere of her commissioned work, Songs for the People, set to poetry by the poet and anti-slavery activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Her other works on the concert address issues of immigrant rights and women’s rights. Melissa will present a pre-concert talk at 7:00 pm.

Also on the program are works by Dale Warland, Pärt Uusberg, and Eric Tuan.

The concert takes place at Seattle First Baptist Church, at 7:30 pm, November 12.

Tickets available at seattlepromusica.org/songs-for-the-people

The performance will also be available by livestream in real time, and on demand following the performance. You just need to register in advance.

Program notes:

Filed under: music news, Seattle Pro Musica

Rediscovering Joseph Bologne

Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, posing with his fencing rapier, painted by Mather Brown, in 1787. (Public domain)

Here’s my Seattle Times story for Seattle Baroque Orchestra’s upcoming concert devoted entirely to music by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges:

Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, defies easy categorization.

For Seattle-based violinist, professor and filmmaker Quinton Morris, Bologne (1745-1799) combined “the entertainment appeal of Michael Jackson and the athleticism of Michael Jordan.” Morris’ award-winning film and performance project “Breakthrough,” which he has taken on tour around the world, presents Bologne’s many-layered story through a contemporary lens.

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Filed under: music news, Seattle Times

Music of Remembrance Launches Its 25th Season

To launch this milestone season, Music of Remembrance (MOR) founder and artistic director Mina Miller has curated a remarkable program that will take place at Benaroya Hall on Sunday, 30 October, at 5pm. The centerpiece is a new production of Josephine, Tom Cipullo’s one-act monodrama by based on the life of the legendary singer and dancer Josephine Baker, who found fame and success in France as an artist, a French Resistance hero, and a civil rights activist after escaping racism in America.

 “Josephine tells a story that resonates with all of us today,” comments artistic director Mina Miller, “a story about a woman with the courage to fight back against prejudice and discrimination, and stand up for her art and ideals to make a difference in the world.” Starring soprano Laquita Mitchell in the title role, the production is directed by Erich Parce and conducted by Geoffrey Larson. 

Also a highlight will be the world premiere of Wertheim Park, a setting of the poetry of Susan de Sola by composer Lori Laitman, which was commissioned by MOR. Soprano Alisa Jordheim interprets this haunting song, a deeply moving elegy for the Dutch Jews lost to the Holocaust.

In addition, the program includes chamber works by two Holocaust-era composers. Erwin Schulhoff’s virtuosic Concertino for Flute, Viola and Double Bass showcases two of the Seattle Symphony’s principal chairs, violist Susan Gulkis Assadi and flautist Demarre McGill, along with double bassist Jonathan Green. The concert opens with the elegiac Lamento for viola and piano by Dutch composer Max Vredenburg. Vredenburg sought haven in the Dutch East Indies only to endure years of captivity there under Japanese occupation; Schulhoff perished in a Nazi prison camp.

MOR’s stellar instrumental ensemble, drawn from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, features flutist Demarre McGill, clarinetist Laura DeLuca, violinist Mikhail Shmidt, violist Susan Gulkis Assadi, cellist Walter Gray, double bassist Jonathan Green, and pianists Jessica Choe and Mina Miller. 

Tickets and Information: https://www.musicofremembrance.org/concert/concert-josephine

For a quarter century now, MOR remembers the Holocaust through music and honors the resilience of all people excluded or persecuted for their faith, nationality, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. In addition to rediscovering and performing music from the Holocaust, MOR has commissioned and premiered more than 30 new works by some of today’s leading composers, drawing on the Holocaust’s lessons to address urgent questions for our own time.

Lamento (1953)

Max Vredenburg

Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola

Jessica Choe, piano

Wertheim Park (2022)

Music by Lori Laitman Poetry by Susan de Sola

World Premiere

Commissioned by Music of Remembrance

Alisa Jordheim, soprano

 Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Jonathan Green, double bass; Mina Miller, piano

Concertino for Flute, Viola and Double Bass (1925)

Erwin Schulhoff

Demarre McGill, flute; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Jonathan Green, double bass

Josephine (2016)

Music and Libretto by Tom Cipullo

A Monodrama in One Scene

Laquita Mitchell, soprano

Music of Remembrance Instrumental Ensemble

DeMarre McGill, flute; Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Walter Gray, cello

Jessica Choe, piano

Geoffrey Larson, conductor

Erich Parce, director 

Peter Crompton, media designer

Filed under: music news, Music of Remembrance

David T. Little’s Black Lodge

Black Lodge is the first full-length feature film by the influential opera producer Beth Morrison Projects. and features music by Grammy-nominated David T. Little, with a libretto by legendary Beat poet Anne Waldman. Drawing on the disturbing and complicated mythologies of the surrealist writer William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch), Black Lodge uses dance, industrial rock, classical string quartet, and opera to take viewers through a Lynchian psychological escape room. Starring Timur and dancer Jennifer Harrison Newman, Black Lodge is now available for streaming on the Opera Philadelphia Channel.

Set in a nightmarish Bardo, a place between death and rebirth, a tormented writer (Timur) faces down demons of his own making. Forced to confront the darkest moment in his life, he mines fractured and repressed memories for a way out. A woman (Jennifer Harrison Newman) is at the center of all the writer’s afterlife encounters. She is the subject of his life’s greatest regret, and she materializes everywhere in this Otherworld. The writer cannot detach any thoughts of his life from her. 

The groundbreaking Beth Morrison Projects developed and produced Black Lodge over the past ten years. Founded by “contemporary opera mastermind” (LA Times) Beth Morrison, who was honored as one of Musical America’s Artists of the Year/Agents of Change in 2020, BMP has grown into “a driving force behind America’s thriving opera scene” (Financial Times), with Opera News declaring that the company, “more than any other… has helped propel the art form into the twenty-first century.”

The project is attracting attention throughout the music industry. Renowned musician Thurston Moore, known as a member of Sonic Youth, serves as executive producer of Black Lodge. “This is opera ripping through the fabric of future vision psychosis where the integrity of classic form clasps the hands of radical possibilities,” said Moore. “David T. Little takes no prisoners here, in confluence with poet angel head Anne Waldman’s libretto of nature, irreality, and spirit consciousness, divining deliverance from life’s spectacle of chaos and love. You’re about to have your mind scorched, my friends!”

Composer Philip Glass (AkhnatenEinstein on the Beach) is also a fan.  “Black Lodge is a bold new operatic film,” said Glass. “It seamlessly blends poetry and music into a powerful cinematic experience.”

Filed under: music news, new opera

RIP Geoff Nuttall (1965–2022)

Geoff Nuttall in 2019; photo by Leigh Webber

Devastating news that Geoff Nuttall has passed away. The beloved violinist and founder of the St. Lawrence String Quartet died today at his home in California at the age of 56. He had been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

The Spoleto Festival USA , where Nuttall was Director of Chamber Music, released the following press announcement:

October 19, 2022 — Violinist, music education advocate, and Spoleto Festival USA Charles E. and Andrea L. Volpe Director of Chamber Music Geoff Nuttall died today at home in California where he was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. He was 56.

From center stage of Charleston’s historic Dock Street Theatre, Nuttall hosted the Festival’s iconic chamber music concerts since 2010, drawing enthusiastic audiences whose devout attendance owed as much to the series’ programming as the dynamism of its host and star performer. As director, he curated each of the 33 annual concerts and performed on many as a violinist and founding member of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Spoleto’s quartet-in-residence, for more than 25 years.

Nuttall began playing the violin at age 8 after moving from Texas to Ontario, Canada. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, where he studied under Lorand Fenyves. Shortly after graduating, he co-founded the St. Lawrence String Quartet in 1989. The ensemble swiftly received top prizes at the Banff International String Quartet Competition and the Young Concert Artist Auditions, becoming a fixture at some of North America’s most celebrated festivals and concert halls.

St. Lawrence String Quartet is also ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University, where Nuttall served on the music faculty since 1999. With the quartet and as a solo artist, Nuttall played more than 2,000 concerts worldwide to critical acclaim, and was lauded as “intensely dynamic,” with “stunning technique and volatility” (The New York Times).

Nuttall was named to his role at Spoleto by longtime Festival chamber music director and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center founder Charles Wadsworth, who first invited Nuttall and the St. Lawrence String Quartet to Spoleto in 1995. Like his predecessor, Nuttall amassed a robust following—audience members who forged a strong connection to Nuttall’s onstage charisma.

The New York Times labeled him “chamber music’s Jon Stewart,” describing Nuttall as a “creatively daring, physically talented performer who can go goofball in a nanosecond, maintaining a veneer of entertainment while educating his base about serious matters…he is subtly redefining what a chamber music concert can be.”

Part of Nuttall’s genius as series host could be found in his pre-performance banter; engaging the audience in revelatory musical learning—facts about the composer or themes to anticipate. While this type of commentary has become de rigueur in many chamber music concert settings, Nuttall’s approach captivated novice listeners and experts alike.

Nuttall’s fervor for the music inspired colleagues both on and offstage. The sense of camaraderie Nuttall created between visiting artists contributed to a celebratory spirit felt in each concert, and a palpable camaraderie among players. He provided a platform for young musicians and composers to flourish. In recent years, next generation titans, including Benjamin Beilman, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Jennifer Frautschi, Arlen Hlusko, James Austin Smith, Paul Wiancko, and JACK Quartet, have appeared onstage in Charleston.

In addition to recording works by such composers as Schumann, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky, Nuttall and the St. Lawrence String Quartet were dedicated to the music of Joseph Haydn. In 2020, they were featured on the PBS Great Performances series, “Now Hear This,” in an episode that chronicled the composer’s life and work. Nuttall was also a steadfast champion of contemporary composers. He frequently worked with John Adams, Jonathan Berger, and Osvaldo Golijov—and received a Grammy Award nomination for the recording of Golijov’s Yiddishbbuk.

His passion for new music discovery permeated Spoleto Festival USA’s programming. He often placed contemporary works amongst lesser-known pieces from the canon, and emphatically promoted the works of his players and close friends such as Mark Applebaum, Todd Palmer, Stephen Prutsman, Joshua Roman, and Paul Wiancko. In 2019, Nuttall explained his programming style to Charleston magazine: “My closest friends are constantly curious, and I hope my audiences will share my enthusiasm for curiosity.”

In his final days, his wife, the renowned violinist Livia Sohn, who also serves as Spoleto Festival USA Assistant Director of Chamber Music, asked Nuttall if he had any unfulfilled aspirations on his bucket list. With his characteristic humor and grace, Nuttall replied, “my life has been my bucket list.”

In addition to Sohn, Nuttall is survived by their children, Jack and Ellis, as well as his mother and sister.

STATEMENTS

Mena Mark Hanna, Spoleto Festival USA General Director and CEO: “This is a loss not just for Spoleto Festival USA, but for music lovers around the world. Geoff was classical music’s greatest showman, eliciting a rowdy, raucous reception to Haydn that would sound more at home in a club than a concert hall. He didn’t care if people were clapping between movements; he didn’t care that people wore shorts and sandals to performances; he didn’t care for the rigid social formalities that govern classical music performance. All he cared about was the communitarian, cathartic power of music. And because of that, he changed chamber music in America.”

Alicia Gregory, Chair of Spoleto Festival USA’s Board of Directors: “Within the remarkable constellation of international talent featured every year at Spoleto Festival USA, Geoff Nuttall was consistently one of its brightest stars. His virtuosic artistry, combined with his deft skill in connecting with both artists and audiences, created transcendent performances. He will be remembered as one of the finest classical musicians and curators of our time.” 

A celebration of Nuttall’s life and contributions to Spoleto Festival USA will be part of the 2023 chamber music program. 

Geoff was able to continue living his life as fully as possible under the outstanding and thoughtful care of Dr. Christopher Chen. Geoff’s family has created The Geoff Nuttall Memorial Fund to advance Dr. Chen’s cancer research at Stanford University. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a tax-deductible donation. Gifts can be made three ways: 1) Online atmemorial.stanford.edu by selecting “Other Stanford Designation” and entering The Geoff Nuttall Memorial Fund in the “Other” text box, 2) By check payable to Stanford University with The Geoff Nuttall Memorial Fund indicated on the memo line, mailed to Development Services, P.O. Box 20466, Stanford, CA 94309, or 3) By phone at 650-725-4360.

Filed under: music news, Spoleto Festival USA, violinists

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