MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Happy Birthday, György Kurtág

Today the remarkable Hungarian composer György Kurtág celebrates his 91st birthday.

He and his wife Márta Kurtág were just announced as the winners of a 2017 Borletti-Buitoni Trust prize (usually a distinction conferred on young artists — they received the Franco Buitoni Award). The press release for the award, which was awarded today, reads:

Franco Buitoni Award presented to György and Márta Kurtág

19 February 2017

Today, Hungarian composer György Kurtág is 91 years old and also celebrates his 70th wedding anniversary. He and his pianist wife, Márta, have been presented with a Borletti-Buitoni Trust award (£30,000) in recognition of their distinguished contribution to  the world of music, as well as their long and devoted musical partnership. This special tribute is in memory of Franco Buitoni (1934-2016) who co-founded the Borletti-Buitoni Trust (BBT) in 2002 with his wife, Ilaria.

Ilaria Borletti Buitoni, who travelled to Budapest with BBT trustee Mitsuko Uchida to present the award, said: “My husband, Franco, passed away last August. He and I founded BBT in 2002 to help talented young musicians develop their careers.  From the very beginning we were pleased to have the artistic guidance and ideas of our founding trustee, Mitsuko Uchida, who was also a dear friend to Franco. I wanted to honour my husband’s own lifetime of loving and supporting music with this special award and there seemed no better person to nominate a worthy recipient than Mitsuko.”

Mitsuko Uchida commented: “Intense, mysterious, dark, otherworldly and innig; these are the words that come to my mind when I think of György Kurtág’s music. He is inspirational and fiercely honest but there is also a deep love that glows through his music. This may be an expression of his extraordinary relationship with his wife, Márta. Anybody who has heard the Kurtágs play, four hands, would know what that means. We know György Kurtág the great composer but with him always is Márta the wonderful pianist. They live music together. Therefore, the special Franco Buitoni Award goes to György and Márta Kurtág. We are honoured that they have accepted this award on his 91st birthday and their 70th wedding anniversary. We have all been so lucky to have known them and their music, me especially.”

BBT presented its first awards in 2003 and, since then, has proudly supported more than 100 musicians and ensembles all over the world.

Filed under: Kurtág, music news

Opening of the Elbphilharmonie

Arte has made the opening event available for streaming here:

http://concert.arte.tv/de/eroeffnungskonzert-elbphilharmonie

And here’s a report (in German) on the new hall’s acoustics.

Filed under: music news

Congratulations to Philip Kennicott

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Philip Kennicott

As a respite from the election nightmare, some good news: the 2016 ASCAP Virgil Thomson Award for Music Criticism (Concert Music category) has gone to the brilliant Philip Kennicott for his reflections on the Met’s Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci double bill for Opera News, titled “Suffering the Truth.”

It’s so satisfying to see a genuinely first-rate writer getting the honor he deserves. In 2013 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. Kennicott’s eloquent writing is consistently original, stimulating, and richly insightful. Enjoy this prize-winning piece from one of our very finest critics:

It was in the fifth or sixth grade, in the class of a teacher I remember for only two things: he was portly, and his pants were too bright. Everything else is a blur, except for one afternoon when he decided his pupils needed to know something about musical theater, so he brought a stack of records to class and proceeded to play his favorite bits. Among them were snatches of Hello, Dolly!, The Music Man and Mame, and — for reasons I can’t quite figure out — Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci.

continue

Filed under: cultural criticism, music news

RIP Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

The losses continue mercilessly.

From the New York Times obituary:

Mr. Cohen was an unlikely and reluctant pop star, if in fact he ever was one. He was 33 when his first record was released in 1967. He sang in an increasingly gravelly baritone. He played simple chords on acoustic guitar or a cheap keyboard. And he maintained a private, sometime ascetic image at odds with the Dionysian excesses associated with rock ’n’ roll.

[…]

“The changeless is what he’s been about since the beginning,” the writer Pico Iyer argued in the liner notes for the anthology “The Essential Leonard Cohen.” “Some of the other great pilgrims of song pass through philosophies and selves as if through the stations of the cross. With Cohen, one feels he knew who he was and where he was going from the beginning, and only digs deeper, deeper, deeper.”

Filed under: music news, obituary

2017 Lucerne Summer Festival Announced

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The program for the 2017 Summer Festival in Lucerne has just been announced. The overall theme is “Identity.” Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Jay Campbell will be featured as “artistes étoiles,” and Michel van der Aa will be the composer-in-residence for 2017’s Summer Festival.

Lucerne has also launched a new magazine packed with interviews, commentary, and articles and listings of the programming for all three festivals.

download a pdf of the magazine

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news

RIP Sir Neville Marriner (1924-2016)

Gramophone looks back over the long, influential career of a master:

Sir Neville Marriner’s natural habitat for the past half-century has been the recording studio. With the Academy of St Martin in the Fields he has made hundreds of recordings of a breadth of repertoire that few other conductors (even the equally eclectic Herbert von Karajan) achieved…. His performances of music of the Classical period … were characterised by the vitality and energy of which Murray Perahia speaks.

From Tim Page’s obituary:

The decision to name the ensemble the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields was a practical one.

“It was the place where we gave our first ever concert back in 1958, so there’s significance in that,” Mr. Marriner told the London Daily Telegraph in 2014. “But the real reason we took the name was that the vicar let us rehearse there for free so long as we publicized the church. That was the deal. And it was his idea that we should be an ‘academy’ rather than the ‘chamber orchestra’ we’d originally planned to call ourselves.”

 

Filed under: music news, obituary

A Summer of Changes in Lucerne

This coming weekend brings the close of the Summer Festival in Lucerne. Along with the usual Stendhal Syndrome-inducing concentration of great artists and great art, the 2016 edition introduced two major changes — if not exactly paradigm shifts — to Lucerne Festival’s organization and overall character: the inauguration of Riccardo Chailly as new Music Director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, succeeding the late Claudio Abbado, and, in the wake of Pierre Boulez’s death, the first Lucerne Festival Academy under new leadership, with Wolgang Rihm as Artistic Director and Matthias Pintscher as Principal Conductor.

Michael Cooper reports in The New York Times on how the Lucerne Festival is “reinventing itself”:

But behind the scenes, the Lucerne Festival, an increasingly important part of the classical music ecosystem, was being forced to reinvent itself. Within the past couple of years, the festival has lost not one, but both of its guiding artistic lights: Mr. Abbado died in 2014 at 80, and Mr. Boulez this year at 90. Their losses pose a challenge at a moment when Europe’s leading summer festivals hotly compete for artists, audiences and prestige.

Cooper also wrote about the 2016 Lucerne Festival theme of women in music, interviewing four of the eleven female conductors who appeared on the podium there this summer: Barbara Hannigan, Marin Alsop, Susanne Mälkki, and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.

And here’s a European perspective from one of the German-speaking world’s major music critics, Christian Wildhagen (who wrote his dissertation on Mahler 8, the work with which Chailly and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra opened the festival last month):

Niemand sei «in der Gewalt seelenvollster, rauschendster, visionärster Musik dem Himmel näher getragen worden» als Mahler, schwärmte Ernst Bloch in seinem Buch «Geist der Utopie». Eine Aufführung der 8.Sinfonie wäre indes nicht komplett, wenn auf diesem Weg nicht auch ein paar Unzulänglichkeiten Ereignis würden.

 

Filed under: conductors, Lucerne Festival, music news

RIP Einojuhani Rautavaara

“Devastated by the passing of Einojuhani Rautavaara [1928-2016], great original voice in Finnish music. Also my first composition teacher and friend,” Esa-Pekka Salonen posted on Facebook at the news of the Finnish master’s death.

From The Guardian‘s obituary:

A prolific composer, he wrote eight symphonies, nine operas, 12 instrumental (and one choral) concertos, plus a wide variety of orchestral, chamber, instrumental, choral and vocal works. He was also a highly perceptive writer on music and a teacher: many Finnish composers who have enjoyed international success were his pupils, including Paavo Heininen and Kalevi Aho.

 

Filed under: Einojuhani Rautavaara, music news, Salonen

John Adams’s New Opera

Adams-Sellars

© Terrence McCarthy/San Francisco Opera

It’s now official: the newest opera from John Adams, Girls of the Golden West, which during the California Gold Rush in the 1850s, with a libretto by Peter Sellars, will be premiered in the fall of 2017 at San Francisco Opera. SFO has co-commissioned the work with Dallas Opera, Dutch National Opera, and Teatro La Fenice.

Here’s the company’s press release:

SAN FRANCISCO (June 14, 2016) — San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley today announced the Company will present the world premiere commission of Girls of the Golden West, a new opera set during the 1850s California Gold Rush, by the internationally-renowned team of composer John Adams and director/librettist Peter Sellars. Presented at the War Memorial Opera House for seven performances opening November 2017, San Francisco Opera will announce casting, conductor, design team and ticket information in January 2017 as part of the Company’s 2017–18 repertory season.

continue reading

Filed under: John Adams, music news, San Francisco Opera

Yannick Nézet-Séguin to the Met

The Met announced today that Yannick Nézet-Séguin will replace James Levine as new Music Director.
Live stream on the news from the Met at 10:00 am EST.

Filed under: Metropolitan Opera, music news

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