MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Another Musical Exit with Brexit

The music world is still reeling from Simon Rattle’s recently announced curtailment of his tenure with the London Symphony Orchestra in favor of the Symphonieorcehster des Bayerischen Radiofunks. And now we learn that the young Lithuanian star conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will step down from her post helming the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the end of the 2021-22 season. What hath Brexit wrought?

Gražinytė-Tyla stated: “I have decided to give up my position of Music Director of the CBSO at the end of the 2021-22 season and have happily accepted the orchestra’s invitation to become Principal Guest Conductor in the 2022-23 season. This is a deeply personal decision, reflecting my desire to step away from the organizational and administrative responsibilities of being a Music Director at this particular moment in my life and focusing more on my purely musical activities.”

Filed under: conductors, music news

Inauguration Fanfares

Let the music begin.

On Tuesday 19 January at 12pm EST, the Hope & Harmony Ensemble will give a livestream performance in honor of the upcoming Inauguration. Led by Marin Alsop, they will play Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman*.

The Hope & Harmony Ensemble brings together 14 brass and percussion players from all around the United States: one musician each from the Atlanta Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Peabody Institute, South Asian Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, and Utah Symphony.

This tribute is the brainchild of Neeta Helms, founder and president of the DC area-based tour company Classical Movements. Helms conceived the idea over a dozen years ago and sees it as an offering to unite a bitterly divided country through the power of music. The Hope & Harmony Ensemble was chosen to reflect the diversity of the American people.

“I am elated to be able to finally celebrate our first female Vice President. I am deeply inspired by Kamala Harris – and as an Indian-born American, I feel particular personal pride that her mother was Indian and in her archetypically American background,” says Neeta Helms. “In this time of difficulty and hardship, it is also fitting that we celebrate Joe Biden, an example to us all for his ideals of decency and hope and his perseverance in the face of hardship and tragedy. Filling a unique and vital role in the music industry that has been hit so hard by the pandemic, it was essential to us to create an ensemble that represented and celebrated our nation’s diversity, featuring women and men equally.”

In addition to footage of each musician, recorded in their homes and on site across the country, the presentation incorporates photographs and video illustrating “America the Beautiful” and the context of the struggle for civil rights and equality for women in the United States. Classical Movements has partnered with video and sound engineers Arts Laureate to produce these videos.

You can watch the presentation on Classical Movements’ YouTube channel and Facebook page.

*My profile of Joan Tower starts on p. 27 here. And here’s a little background I wrote on Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1:

Tower alludes in several ways to Copland’s 1942 Fanfare for the Common Man, which had been commissioned as one of a series of fanfares to support the Allied struggle in World War Two. Tower similarly scores for a brass and percussion ensemble but uses a much more extended array of percussion instruments. With its mix of tuned and untuned instruments, this section actually resembles a miniature orchestra of its own. Tower also packs a greater variety of thematic material and textural contrast into her fanfare. 

Filed under: American music, Joan Tower, music news

Third Coast Percussion: In with the New

Third Coast Percussion celebrates this momentous week of change on Inauguration Day, 20 January 2021, at 8pm ET. The group will perform repertoire new to the musicians, share news about upcoming projects, engage in live Q&A with viewers after the show, and more. Watch on Facebook and YouTube.
“Press” by Devonté Hynes
“Halo” by Joe W. Moore III
“Kodama” by Rodrigo Bussad
“Death Wish” by Gemma Peacocke

Filed under: music news, Third Coast Percussion

Getting to Carnegie

This afternoon at 5pm ET, tune in to the Violin Channel for the final round of the 7th annual Getting to Carnegie competition. It will be streamed live and audiences across the globe can cast their vote for the winner (after registering to vote): 50% of the vote comes from the audience, the other half from a jury of professional musicians including the past six winners (Haeji Kim, violin; Chae won Hong, cello; Emily Helenbrook, voice; Nathan Meltzer, violin; Rachel Siu, cello; Brianna Robinson, voice) and violinist Dmitri Berlinsky. The voting will be open for 48 hours and the winner will be announced Jan 14 at 5pm EST on the Violin Channel’s Facebook page.

The competition rotates annually between violin, cello, and voice. This is the year of the violin, and the four young finalists are from Spain, South Korea, Hong Kong, and the United States, respectively: Maria Dueñas (age 18), Sory Park (20), Angela Chan (23), and Sophia Stoyanovich (24).

The competition is the brainchild of pianist and composer Julian Gargiulo, whose mission is to make classical music “relevant and fun” for younger generations. For this year’s final round, Gargiulo has written a new violin sonata; each finalist will perform one movement from the sonata with him on piano via split screen, giving its world premiere performance, with commentary and interviews in between.

Filed under: competitions, music news

Simon Rattle Will Go Back to Germany

In the middle of these turbulent days, there is some major classical music news: Sir Simon Rattle is stepping down from his post heading the London Symphony Orchestra and will return to Germany to lead the  Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, effective with the 2023-24 season. (See clip above for an example of his collaboration with the BRSO.)

The official statement released from the LSO gives this explanation from Rattle: “My reasons for accepting the role of Chief Conductor in Munich are entirely personal, enabling me to better manage the balance of my work and be close enough to home to be present for my children in a meaningful way. I love the London Symphony Orchestra. I remain committed to the LSO, and we have plans for major projects in the coming years. I am thrilled that we will be making music together far into the future.”

But as Joshua Barone notes in The New York Times, Rattle “has been a vocal critic of Brexit, which was voted on after he accepted the London Symphony post in 2015. And progress has been sluggish on the Center for Music, the much-desired new home for the orchestra that was conceived alongside Mr. Rattle’s appointment.”

Barone adds: “In Munich, Mr. Rattle won’t have to contend with those Brexit woes, but he will once again find himself involved in the building of a new concert hall, in the Werksviertel-Mitte area — a modern contrast to the neo-Classical Herkulessaal in the city center. “

Filed under: conductors, music news

Metamorphosis by Third Coast Percussion

Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion (TCP) presents a re-broadcast of the world premiere performance of  Metamorphosis, originally presented by La Jolla Music Society at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center on November 7, 2020. The stream is being made available free-of-charge on Friday, 8 January 2020 at 8:30 p.m. ET via TCP’s YouTube channel

Metamorphosis offers a dynamic artistic collaboration by blending street dance and percussion ensemble performance. Choreography by Movement Art Is co-founders Jon Boogz and Lil Buck is featured alongside new music composed by Jlin and Tyondai Braxton and TCP’s acclaimed arrangements of Philip Glass’s Aguas da Amazonia. Movement artists Ron Myles and Quentin Robinson joined TCP members on stage for the debut of this program, which had been in the making for more than a year.


Philip Glass (arr. by Third Coast Percussion) – Metamorphosis
Jlin – Perspective
Tyondai Braxton – Sunny X
Philip Glass (arr. by Third Coast Percussion) – Amazon River

Movement by Ron Myles and Quentin Robinson
Choreography by Movement Art Is (Jon Boogz and Lil Buck)
Lighting design by Joe Burke
Stage direction by Leslie Buxbaum Danzig

Filed under: music news, Philip Glass, Third Coast Percussion

Listening to the Future from Central Conservatory of Music

Here’s a new documentary from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing (CCOM) and just premiered on Violin Channel’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Titled Listening to the Future, it chronicles the Carnegie Hall debut of the CCOM Symphony Orchestra on 13 December 2019. Led by CCOM president Feng Yu, the program presented works by contemporary Chinese composers blending Chinese and Western instruments.

The documentary focuses on these eight composers —  Danbu Chen, Guoping Jia, Jianping Tang, Ping Chang, Weiya Hao, Wenchen Qin, Wenjing Guo, and Xiaogang Yealong — who discuss their pieces and share their thoughts on contemporary Chinese music. Commentary by the music critic Linda Holt assesses their achievements.

Other highlights of the film include details of the long-term partnership between Edition Peters and Central Conservatory of Music Publisher (CCMP). Together, they launched the Edition Peters Silk Road Library project in April 2019 and plan to release the international version of CCOM’s score collection in 2021. The result will make it easier for orchestras, conductors, and performers to present the works of Chinese composers outside China and forge unprecedented links between East and West.

Another topic the documentary covers is the Chinese Music Composition Center’s upcoming performance tour in Europe in 2021. Comprised of musicians from the symphony orchestras of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna (MDW) and the Central Conservatory of Music, the ensemble will perform at the Grosser Saal of the Vienna Konzerthaus and Festsaal. Ulrike Sych, Rector of the MDW, explains the long and intensive collaboration between MDW and CCOM, two of the largest and most renowned music universities on opposite sides of the world.

Filed under: Central Conservatory of Music, music news

New from Byron Schenkman & Friends

Tune in for Bach & Baroque Virtuosity from Byron Schenkman & Friends on Sunday, 27 December (7:00pm PST). The concert features Rachell Ellen Wong, Andrew Gonzalez, and Byron Schenkman and will remain available for the foreseeable future on the BS&F YouTube channel.

For this concert harpsichordist Byron Schenkman is joined by violinist Rachell Ellen Wong and violoncello da spalla (“cello of the shoulder,” an unusual Baroque instrument rediscovered in recent years) player Andrew Gonzalez. The program journeys through music by Antonio Vivaldi,; Jean-Marie Leclair; Johann Sebastian Bach (the Partita in D Minor, which includes the famous Chaconne); and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, who was one of the most-celebrated French composers of her time. In addition to music for violin and harpsichord we offer a rare opportunity to hear the violoncello da spalla (cello of the shoulder), an unusual Baroque instrument only rediscovered in recent years.

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, early music, music news, Uncategorized

Oxford Vaccine Tribute Concert

The Oxford Philharmonic  has filmed a tribute concert in recognition of the work by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca scientists on their new COVID-19 vaccine. The concert will be broadcast on the Oxford Philharmonic’s YouTube channel on Friday, 18 December at 6:30 PM GMT (1:30 PM EST), recorded in the city’s historic Sheldonian Theatre, and will stay online afterwards indefinitely.

The program features the world premiere of John Rutter’s Joseph’s Carol, written in tribute to the Oxford Vaccine Group, the Jenner Institute, and the RECOVERY team. The words, also by Rutter, recount the long and weary journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem before the birth of baby Jesus, echoing the program’s journey from struggle to hope. 

Bryn Terfel also joins the Orchestra and the Choir of Merton College, Oxford, in a program that ranges from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s You’ll Never Walk Alone (with Jette Parker Young Artist Alexandra Lowe) to Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus. Sir Bryn and the Orchestra are also joined in the hymn of comfort, Abide with Me, by chorister Alexander Olleson of Christ Church Cathedral Choir—winner of the BBC Young Chorister of the Year 2020. Joining the Orchestra from Russia and Germany respectively, world-renowned virtuoso violinists Maxim Vengerov (performing the Adagio from Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001) and Anne-Sophie Mutter offer their own special tributes to the program.

“I am delighted to have been invited to contribute to this celebration, which expresses in music the gratitude we all feel in our hearts,” says John Rutter. “As always, music goes beyond words.”

Marios Papadopoulos, Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director, remarks:
“We are extremely grateful to the researchers, medical staff and volunteers based at the University of Oxford for their tireless work in the search for treatment and a vaccine for COVID-19. As the Orchestra in Residence at the University, we offer this concert in celebration of their recently announced achievements and are thrilled to be joined in our message of thanks by a stellar line-up of classical musicians with whom we have worked with closely in the past.”

The concert, introduced by Classic FM presenter John Suchet, will be interspersed with footage from the lab and trials of the treatment and vaccine process, as well as interviews with performers, researchers, and special messages from the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, as well as from the Orchestra’s Royal Patron, HRH Princess Alexandra. 

Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology and project lead for the Oxford Vaccine Trial: “On behalf of the COVID-19 vaccine trial team, I would like to thank the Oxford Philharmonic for this creative approach to celebrating our work, and look forward to the performance which should provide some welcome respite from the difficulties we have all faced this year.” 

Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, Professor Andrew Pollard: “We are delighted that the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra has decided to pay tribute to the remarkable and dedicated team of inspiring individuals, at the University and Hospital, who have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to assess the Oxford vaccine and show that it can protect people from the pandemic virus.We would also like to dedicate the moment to all those who came forward to take part in the trials during this uncertain time, to help in the assessment of the vaccine.” 

Filed under: COVID-19 Era, music news

New Season from American Classical Orchestra

Chaconne Poster copy (1)

On Tuesday, 17 November, New York City’s American Classical Orchestra opens its 2020-21 season with the first part of Chaconne, a virtual program of chamber music in two parts.

Part One becomes available online starting at 7:30 PM EST on; the second part will be available on Friday, 20 November. It was filmed at Harlem Parish, a neo-Gothic church celebrated for its fan vaulting and fine acoustics. Along with the award-winning Mexican mezzo-soprano Guadalupe Peraza, the performers include the violinists Karen Dekker and Chloe Fedor, gambist Arnie Tanimoto, theorbo player Charles Weaver, and
Thomas Crawford on harpsichord. Suggested donation for virtual event: $25. Additional information here

Here’s the complete lineup:


Part One: Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 7:30 PM (Pre-recorded)

Part Two: Friday, November 20, 2020, 7:30 PM (Pre-recorded)

Filmed at the Harlem Parish

Karen Dekker and Chloe Fedor, Baroque violin

Maureen Murchie,viola

Arnie Tanimoto, viola da gamba and cello

Charles Weaver, theorbo and Baroque guitar

Guadalupe Peraza, mezzo soprano

Thomas Crawford, harpsichord

Juan Arañés: Chacona a la vida bona     

Nicola Francesco Haym: Ciaccona in E Major

Barbara Strozzi: L’Eraclito amoroso

Marin Marais: Chaconne in A Major, from Pièces de Viole, Book 4

Santiago de Murcia: Marionas

Arcangelo Corelli: Trio Sonata, Opus 2, No. 12     

Johann Sebastian Bach: Chaconne from Partita for Solo Violin, BWV 1004

François Couperin: La Favorite   

Claudio Monteverdi: Lamento della Ninfa

Henry Purcell: Chaconne from King Arthur

Filed under: music news

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