MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Happy 70th Birthday, John Adams!

Today John Adams celebrates his 70th birthday. We have countless reasons to be grateful for what he’s already given the world. And he has so much left to say, as works of more recent vintage like The Gospel According to the Other Mary demonstrate.

Here’s a bit on JA’s ongoing relationship with San Francisco Symphony, which gives the Bay area premiere of this masterpiece starting Thursday:

You would be forgiven for imagining a clever director had coached a miniature army of body doubles, or that a music-mad bioengineer had disseminated a few clones: John Adams seems to be intercontinentally omnipresent this season—in London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles. This month, when he actually reaches the biblical milestone of 70 (February 15), he is right back home, with his music as the centerpiece of a three-weekend celebration by the San Francisco Symphony.

continue reading

San Francisco Symphony on JOHN ADAMS: CELEBRATING 70 YEARS

 

Filed under: John Adams, San Francisco Symphony

Charles Ives: Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day

Filed under: American music, Charles Ives, San Francisco Symphony

Brahms 1

This is going to be a good concert:

Filed under: Brahms, Michael Tilson Thomas, San Francisco Symphony

New from Mason Bates: Auditorium

A day in the life of Mason Bates: after this morning’s Santa Fe Opera season announcement, with a foretaste of The (R)Evolution of Steve Jobs, the San Francisco Symphony tonight unveils his latest orchestral piece, Auditorium. Here’s my introduction:

The relationship between Mason Bates and the San Francisco Symphony has played a pivotal role in the emergence of one of the most frequently performed American composers at work today. It began in 2009 with the first SFS commission of an orchestral work by Bates, The B-Sides: Five Pieces for Orchestra and Electronica (dedicated to Michael Tilson Thomas), and has continued through this most recent collaboration, which receives its world premiere on this program.

continue reading

Filed under: commissions, Mason Bates, new music, program notes, San Francisco Symphony

Brentano Lieder

Part of this week’s excellent program by San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Filed under: San Francisco Symphony, Schumann, Strauss

A Fourth with Ives

Celebrate American music! And you can’t do much better than Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony for this rep.

As Charles Ives impishly recalled about this third movement from his Holidays Symphony :

I did what I wanted to, quite sure that the thing would never be played, although the uneven measures that look so complicated in the score are mostly caused by missing a beat, which was often done in parades. In the parts taking off explosions, I worked out combinations of tones and rhythms very carefully by kind of prescriptions, in the way a chemical compound which makes explosions would be made.

And for good measure:

Filed under: American music, Charles Ives, John Adams, Michael Tilson Thomas, San Francisco Symphony

“May It Return to the Heart!”

MISSA+1

This week brings the San Francisco Symphony’s performances with Michael Tilson Thomas of the Missa Solemnis of Beethoven — a work that certainly belongs to my top-ten list of all time.

Following a trial run in Los Angeles in January, it’s being given as a “multimedia staged event”, complete with scenic, lighting, and video design; James Darrah is the director.

Of the earlier run in January, Mark Swed had this to say about MTT’s relationship with the Beethoven score:

In the grandest sense, this “Missa Solemnis,” with all its attendant baggage, is a kind of mission statement for MTT. He sets out to unpack a complicated artistic and musical construct, to reveal its workings and to treat it as a large-scale act of discovery.

The Missa Solemnis held intense personal significance for its composer as well: “Von Herzen — Möge es wieder — Zu Herzen gehn!” (“From the heart –- may it return to the heart!” wrote Beethoven on the copy of the score he presented to its dedicatee, his pupil and friend Archduke Rudolf.

For its public “premiere” in Vienna, three of the Missa‘s movements were given as part of the grand concert of 7 May 1824 that also unveiled the Ninth Symphony. (The secular context brought objections to performing the entire Missa.)

Next week MTT and the SFS continue their Beethoven Festival with a recreation of an earlier “marathon concert”: the one on a cold December night in 1808, when Beethoven premiered his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, and Fourth Piano Concerto in a program that also included a concert aria, three movements from his other Mass setting (the Mass in C major), a piano fantasy, and the Choral Fantasy, that fascinating precursor to the Ninth.

Filed under: Beethoven, choral music, directors, San Francisco Symphony

Finnish Creation

March is going to bring a lot of Sibelius to my ears, as the Seattle Symphony marks his 150th anniversary with an ambitious Sibelius Festival to include not just all seven symphonies (conducted by principal guest conductor Thomas Dausgaard) but the Violin Concerto and Finlandia.

According to the SSO, this three-week festival will be “the most extensive festival of Sibelius’s music this year in the U.S.” Even Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum is joining in for the Finnish focus with an exhibit titled Finland: Designed Environments. The exhibit will examine:

the explosion of creativity in Finnish design over the last 15 years. Examples of furnishings, fashion, and craft, as well as architecture and urbanism, illustrate how nearly every aspect of Finnish life incorporates thoughtful design thinking—from city streets and summer homes to fashion and food—and is marked by sensitivity to form and material. The exhibition is the first significant U.S. museum presentation since the 1990s to examine contemporary Finnish design.

Meanwhile, next week reunites Thomas Adès (as composer and conductor) with the San Francisco Symphony for a program on creation themes: along with his new video-accompanied piece In Seven Days, Adès will conduct Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question, Darius Milhaud’s La Création du monde, and the remarkable tone poem-with-soprano Luonnotar. (My contribution to the program book is here.)

Filed under: programming, San Francisco Symphony, Sibelius

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

RSS Arts & Culture Stories from NPR