MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

John Adams’s Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra, the latest opera by John Adams, is receiving its world premiere this month at San Francisco Opera. Tomorrow is opening night and the start of the company’s centennial season.

Here’s a preview I wrote for Opera Now‘s September issue, in which the composer discusses his decision to set Shakespeare’s love tragedy.

[San Francisco Opera will livestream the performance of 18 September at 2pm PST. Tickets are $27.50.  

Filed under: John Adams, San Francisco Opera, Shakespeare

RIP Lars Vogt (1970-2022)

Deeply saddened to learn that Lars Vogt has died. The wonderful, deeply humane pianist and conductor had been battling cancer over the past few years — a situation he movingly described in this 2021 interview: “In the last several years, I often had the feeling that time was passing insanely fast. It was so easy to imagine a ‘whoosh,’ and suddenly I’m 80, and the day is done. It’s something that I think a lot of us experience, an accelerando where time keeps flying by more quickly. Before the illness, I was often depressed, even if it was just for a day or two. I’d stay in bed and think: ‘Oh God, I’m so old.’ Funnily, because of the illness that’s completely disappeared. I’m rarely so defeated. More often I’m utterly happy.”

In his most recently released recording, which came out in March, Vogt combined his personalities as pianist and conductor to give sensitive accounts, together with his Orchestre chambre de Paris, of the Mendelssohn piano concertos. Here the artist shares his insights on Mendelssohn, whose music he likens to “fresh, clean water — completely refreshing in every way”:

Filed under: Mendelssohn, music news, pianists

Music on the Strait: 2022 Finale Featuring Paul Chihara Commission

Tonight brings the finale concert of this summer’s Music on the Strait Festival. It features the world premiere of Paul Chihara‘s, Duo for Violin and Viola, which was commissioned by Music on the Strait. The concert begins at 7pm PST, with a pre-concert interview with the composer by Lisa Bergman starting at 6.15.

Long based in New York City, Chihara was born in Seattle in 1938 and spent three formative childhood years in the notorious internment camp in Minidoka, Idaho, where his family was among the 120,000 Japanese Americans forcibly “relocated” at ten camps throughout the US during the Second World War.

Regarding that experience, Chihara remarked in a recent interview with Diane Urbani de la Paz: “I don’t know how my parents emotionally survived this … we could have come back and found nothing.”

A  professor of music at New York University, Chihara has composed a vast body of work, ranging from  symphonies, concertos, ballets, and choral music to chamber pieces; he has also written scores for more than 90 films and TV series (Prince of the City, The Morning After, Crossing DelanceyChina Beach, and Noble House, among many others).

Music on the Strait’s Artistic Directors Richard O’Neill and James Garlick will give the inaugural performance of the new duo Chihara wrote especially for them. The composer explained to de la Paz that the new duo is a “fantasy” on a song he had written 40 years ago for his violinist wife, “Born to Be Together.” Also on the program is Felix Mendelssohn’s D minor Piano Trio and Edward Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A minor.

Although it is sold out, the concert will be live-streamed at the link above.


Kyu-Young Kim, violin
James Garlick, violin
Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, cello
Richard O’Neill, viola
George Li, piano

Paul Chihara Duo for Violin and Viola WORLD PREMIERE (2022)

Felix Mendelssohn Piano Trio No 1 in D minor, Op 49 (1839)


Edward Elgar Piano Quartet in A minor, Op 84 (1918)

Filed under: commissions, music news, Music on the Strait

In Pastoral Vastness, Grand Art Harmonizes With Music’s Intimacy at Tippet Rise

Composer Reena Esmail and cellist Arlen Hlusko

Here’s my report on Tippet Rise Art Center and its opening weekend for the 2022 season, which I wrote for Classical Voice North America:

FISHTAIL, Mont. — Set amid endlessly rolling hills, mesas, and grasslands that are framed by rugged mountains and the vast Montana sky, Tippet Rise Art Center beckons with a unique intersection of pristine nature and interdisciplinary artistic adventure. The surrounding landscape inevitably injects itself into each musical experience, while looming sculptural shapes retune the sounds of wind and distant thunder. The metaphors proliferate so abundantly here that you need to take care not to step on them — to adapt Brahms’ famous observation about a favorite summer idyll that stimulated his creativity…


Filed under: Classical Voice North America, commissions, Reena Esmail, Schumann, Tippet Rise

Music on the Strait 2022

Music on the Strait 2022 Opening Night: Demarre McGill and Jeremy Denk play Beach and Franck

The 2022 Music on the Strait season began on Friday (see above) with a spotlight on the extraordinary flutist Demarre McGill, who was featured in works by Debussy and Amy Beach in the opening night program. Joining McGill were violinists Elisa Barston and James Garlick (Music on the Strait’s co-artistic director) violist David Auerbach, cellist Efe Baltacıgil, and pianist Jeremy Denk (2022 special guest artist), who will perform César Franck’s Piano Quintet in F minor.

The festival takes place on Washington’s beautiful Olympic Peninsula over two weekends, from 26 August to 3 September:

  • August 26: Opening Night with virtuoso flautist Demarre McGill 
  • August 27: Efe Baltacıgil and Jeremy Denk play Beethoven 
  • August 28: Every Good Boy Does Fine: Jeremy Denk in Recital and Conversation
  • September 2: Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet 
  • September 3: Festival Finale: A World Premiere by Paul Chihara


VIOLIN: Elisa Barston, Kyu-Young Kim, James Garlick 

VIOLA: David Auerbach, Richard O’Neill 

CELLO: Efe Baltacıgil, Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir

FLUTE: Demarre McGill 

PIANO: Jeremy Denk, George Li 


Filed under: chamber music, music news, Music on the Strait

Tippet Rise Returns to Live Music: The 2022 Season

Tippet Rise Art Center launches its 2022 season on Friday. For five weeks, from 26 August to 25 September, the rural Montana-based festival will present 50 works in some 15 concerts, including three world premieres. Friday evening’s concert at the Olivier Music Barn unveils the first of these new works: a new composition for solo cello by Reena Esmail, which the Canadian cellist Arlen Hlusko will premiere. The program also features violinist Jennifer Frautschi and pianist Zoltán Fejérvári in Mozart’s Violin Sonata No. 22 in A major, K. 305, and all three musicians in Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 2 in F Major, Op. 80.

Filed under: music news, Reena Esmail, Tippet Rise

2022 Summer Festival at Lucerne

Following several days of showcasing the young generation with performances by various youth orchestras, Lucerne Festival’s summer of music for 2022 officially launches tomorrow, 12 August. Riccardo Chailly will conduct the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in a program of music by Wolfgang Rihm, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, and Rachmaninoff, with Anne-Sophie Mutter as the soloist in Saint-Georges’ Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 5, no. 2.

Here’s a list of concert transmissions that will be broadcast. Check Radio SRF 2 Kultur as well for broadcast information.

This summer’s theme is “Diversity.” The Festival describes the program as follows:

“For a long stretch, until the post-war decades, time seemed to stand still in the classical music scene. Orchestras were a male domain — women could only be found playing the harp or in the ranks of the violins. People of color were almost non-existent, and Asian women had to fight for their place on the stage. Of course, the leadership was also in male hands: the conductor was to be addressed as “maestro” or, in German orchestras, as “Meister” or “Herr Professor.” The repertoire, in turn, was limited to the Eurocentric canon of works, including the Viennese classics, the German-Austrian Romantics, plus Italian opera and a few coloristic touches from the fringes of Europe. This monoculture even persisted with respect to the audience, since access was found primarily among educated bourgeois circles who had enough income for musical pursuits.

A great deal has of course changed since then, yet a lot still remains to be done. Through this summer’s theme of “Diversity,” we want to make a plea for genuine diversity in classical music. That is why we have invited artists from demographic groups that were previously underrepresented in the scene. A number of women have made their mark on the program, and many works that are inherently diverse or have never been heard here before will be performed. And with affordable offers like the “Overture” presented by international youth orchestras, we hope to prove that enjoying classical music is not a question of money. Because music is for everyone.”

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news

Donizetti’s Elixir of Love at Seattle Opera

Andres Acosta as Nemorino in Seattle Opera’s production of “The Elixir of Love.” (Sunny Martini)

Seattle Opera’s new season has opened with a production of The Elixir of Love, Donizetti’s melodramma giocoso from 1832. Although I have to miss these performances, I reviewed the company’s production directed by David Gately when it was presented at the height of the pandemic virtually, as a film (with a different cast and a very small ensemble):

While the world pins its hope on a coronavirus vaccine, another elixir is getting top billing at Seattle Opera…


Filed under: review, Seattle Opera

A Week at the 2022 Bravo! Vail Music Festival

Jaap van Zweden and the New York Philharmonic at Bravo! Vail. (Photo by Tom Cohen for Bravo! Vail Music Festival)

This summer I was able to visit the Bravo! Vail Music Festival in the heart of Colorado during the New York Philharmonic’s residency. Here’s my report for Classical Voice North America:

VAIL, Colo. — More than one-and-a-half miles above sea level, there’s a special tang to the music. Or perhaps it’s a side-effect of the serene backdrop of wooded slopes, alpine flowers, and spectacular cloud formations. Whatever the reason, the fading A minor chord that closes the lid on Mahler’s Sixth Symphony reverberated with a peculiar blend of shell-shocked dread and exuberant release.


Filed under: Bravo! Vail Music Festival, Mahler, music festivals, New York Philharmonic

The New York Phil Pays Heartfelt Tribute to Stephen Sondheim at Bravo! Vail

Emmett O’Hanlon, Isabel Leonard, Leonard Slatkin; photo (c)Carly Finke

Here’s my report on the New York Philharmonic’s closing orchestral concert of the 2022 Bravo Vail Music Festival:

One of four orchestras appearing at Bravo! Vail this summer, the New York Philharmonic brought along six different programmes, the first four of which were led by music director Jaap van Zweden – including a cathartic Mahler Sixth. Leonard Slatkin took over the reins for the remaining two programmes in the open-air main venue: an all-Tchaikovsky evening and this concluding concert, “A Sondheim Celebration”….


Filed under: Bravo! Vail Music Festival, New York Philharmonic, review, Stephen Sondheim

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