MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Patricia Kopatchinskaja Comes to California

ojai-at-berkeley@2xPatricia Kopatchinskaja is an ideal choice to be this year’s music director of the Ojai Festival. In advance of the festival’s northern edition, Ojai at Berkeley, here’s my profile of this incomparable artist for Cal Performances:

Matters of technical proficiency are well accounted for in the arsenal of words that critics have at their disposal to describe what sets a musician apart. What is sorely lacking is …

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Filed under: Cal Performances, Ojai Festival, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, profile, violinists

Musical America’s Artist of the Month: Louisa Proske

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Louisa Proske; photo by Russ Rowland

Congratulations are in order for the talented and brilliantly original director Louisa Proske, this month’s featured Artist of the Month at Musical America:

Only a week is left before tech rehearsals start for Heartbeat Opera’s fourth
annual spring festival, but Louisa Proske remains intently focused on our
conversation….

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Filed under: directors, Musical America, profile

John Corigliano at 80

JCJohn Corigliano turns 80 this Friday. Here’s my profile of the composer for Strings magazine:

Released in 1999, François Girard’s film The Red Violin crystallized an image of the instrument for many who don’t usually listen to classical music…

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Filed under: John Corigliano, profile, Strings

Stefan Jackiw Portrait

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Stefan Jackiw. Photo by Sophie Zhai

My profile of the violinist Stefan Jackiw is on the cover of Strings magazine’s February 2018 issue — and available online:

A sense of modesty may seem incompatible with the drive required to remain successful in the highly competitive realm of classical performance. Yet violinist Stefan Jackiw has made it central to his artistic credo..

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Filed under: profile, Strings, violinists

John Adams, with Strings Attached

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John Adams. Photo by Margaretta Mitchell

My new John Adams profile for Strings is now available online:

In the contemporary music world, writing opera tends to generate the sexiest headlines and, at least temporarily, to garner more widespread attention….

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Filed under: John Adams, profile, Strings

Conrad Tao: Leaving the Comfort Zone

My new profile of pianist and composer Conrad Tao for Steinway  is now online:

HIS NAME HASN’T changed, but mentally splicing the twenty-three-year-old Conrad Tao with the child prodigy who first came before the general public more than a decade ago is likely to make you do a double take.

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Filed under: Conrad Tao, pianists, profile

Reena Esmail: Musical America’s New Artist of the Month

reena-esmail-amber2I had the privilege of writing this profile of the remarkable young composer Reena Esmail, Musical America‘s New Artist of the Month:

At Chorus America’s annual conference this past June in Los Angeles, a general session devoted to the topic “The Medicine of Music” featured a singalong demonstration of a new interactive choral work titled Take What You Need.

It wasn’t only the members of Street Symphony and the Urban Voices Project, a community choir of singers from LA’s Skid Row neighborhood, who appeared transformed as they sang this music by Reena Esmail. The large audience of choral professionals from around America joined in, visibly moved by this confirmation of musical meaning.

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Filed under: Musical America, new music, profile

Profile of Cellist Seth Parker Woods

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Seth Parker Woods; photo by Michael Yu

My profile of the cellist Seth Parker Woods is the cover story for the August issue of Strings magazine:

“Question authority” isn’t just a political slogan. This quintessentially Socratic imperative is also characteristic of visionary artists who are drawn to challenge cultural assumptions that put a damper on the power of the art they practice. For Texas-born cellist Seth Parker Woods, pushing boundaries and definitions comes naturally—both for his own creative development and for his overall sense of mission.

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Filed under: American music, cello, profile, Strings

Celebrating American Composer George Walker

07aGood timing: here’s my Strings magazine profile of George Walker, who turned 95 years young last week (now available online).

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Filed under: American music, George Walker, profile

Igor Levit’s Big Win

There’s so much music news I’m still trying to catch up with: including the recent announcement of pianist Igor Levit’s big win. His mammoth account of three sets of variations — and it is a fantastic recording — was named 2016 Recording of the Year, the top prize from Gramophone.

My profile of Levit appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Listen Magazine:

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. It was only two years ago that the Russian-German pianist made his first U.S. appearance — choosing the unusually intimate venue of the Board of Officers Room at the Park Avenue Armory (seating for about 150) — just a few days before jumping in at the last minute for Hélène Grimaud in a City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra concert. (He did the same for Maurizio Pollini three months later.)

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Hugo Shirley interviewed Levit when Gramophone first reviewed the recording — Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, and Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated! (Sony Classical) — for the November 2015 issue.

When I meet Levit in Berlin he is quick to make clear that he sees these composers as a trinity of equal importance. He doesn’t feel for one moment any sense of special pleading in the inclusion of Rzewski, the radical, consonant-heavy American composer (the name is pronounced ‘jefski’) whose People United was composed in 1975 as a modern complement to Beethoven’s great set of 33 variations on Diabelli’s simple little waltz.

The fact that it has 36 variations, following the 33 and 30 ‘Veränderungen’ (the German word implies something more transformational than the somewhat flat English equivalent) of the Diabellis and the Goldbergs respectively, offers just one pleasing numerical development between these works, with Bach’s set providing a foundational lexicon of variation techniques that both Beethoven and Rzewski build upon.

Congratulations, Igor Levit!

Filed under: Bach, Beethoven, Frederic Rzewski, pianists, profile

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