Geoff Nuttall, violinist for the St. Lawrence String Quartet and Director of Chamber Music for the SpoletoUSA Festival in Charleston SC, just announced details of the 11 programs for the 33 concerts that will be performed at this year’s Festival . The series runs from Friday, May 22 through Sunday, June 7 and is sponsored by Bank of America. I’ll be taking in a few of the performances and giving you a report.
Among the highlight of this year’s series is the world premiere of Control Freak for improvising singer and instrumental septet, composed by the 2015 composer-in-residence Mark Applebaum. A colleague of Nuttall’s at Stanford University, Applebaum is known as the “mad scientist of music” because of his inventive compositional style and innovation with instruments. In addition to the premiere of his new piece, he will perform his Aphasia for hand gestures with pre-recorded sound as well as several pieces for blues piano. Applebaum performs on the first two programs; Control Freak premieres on Program III, performed by baritone Tyler Duncan, pianist Pedja Muzijevic, clarinetist Todd Palmer, oboist James Austin Smith, violinist Geoff Nuttall, violist Daniel Phillips, and cellist Christopher Costanza.
“It’s going to be a varied and eclectic musical ride with Mark,” Nuttall says. “He’s an amazing blues and jazz pianist, which you’ll experience, and you’ll also get to witness an important moment in music history when we hear a new piece of art.”
Programs for this season’s series include well-known canonic jewels as well as new musical experiences with contemporary compositions and selections unearthed from past centuries. Among the new and newish pieces are Osvaldo Golijov’s Omaramor for cello, performed by Alisa Weilerstein; Shostakovich’s Two Pieces for String Octet, op. 11; and Andrew Norman’s Light Screens.
The chamber music series begins on Friday, May 22 at 1:00pm with Vivaldi’s Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe in B-flat Major, featuring violinist Livia Sohn and oboist James Austin Smith; Mark Applebaum’s Aphasia; and Dvořák’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major.
Nuttall has great taste and his eclectic pairings of compositions spanning more than 400 years, are always entertaining, if a tad, quirky. Program IV will include two pieces by Chinese-American composer Huang Ruo, whose opera Paradise Interrupted has its world premiere at Spoleto Festival USA this season. “Flow I and II” will feature Huang Ruo on vocals, as well as Zhou Yi on pipa (Chinese lute) and other series artists, including Tara Helen O’Connor, who will abandon her usual flute for the djembe (West African drum). Huang Ruo’s compositional style often marries Chinese tradition with seemingly disparate cultures, as is also heard in Paradise Interrupted.
“It’s a great luxury to be able to bring Huang Ruo from the opera to the chamber stage.” Nuttall says. “Audiences will be able to see the full portrait of a musician. This is a great example of the spirit of Spoleto—we have this vast canvas of disparate artistic offerings, and because the creative minds behind them are in the same place at the same time, new artistic connections are forged for both the musicians and the audience.”
This year, lutenist Kevin Payne joins the musicians on the Dock Street stage, opening the doors to repertoire from the Renaissance, including two John Dowland songs and an Elizabethan set with Nuttall, flutist Tara Helen O’Connor, and cellist Christopher Costanza; the lute is also featured on Baroque and contemporary works. Payne is a member of Juilliard 415, the Buxtehude Consort, and the Peabody Consort, and was the first lutenist to be accepted to The Juilliard School, where he is pursuing a graduate diploma in historical plucked instruments.
Returning artists include baritone Tyler Duncan, pianist Pedja Muzijevic, flutist Tara Helen O’Connor, clarinetist Todd Palmer, oboist James Austin Smith, violinist Livia Sohn, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, pianist Inon Barnatan, violinist/violist Daniel Phillips, violist Hsin-Yun Huang, double bassist Anthony Manzo, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet (members of which are Mr. Nuttall, new second violinist Owen Dalby, Lesley Robertson, and Christopher Costanza). New to the series is composer Mark Applebaum, lutenist Kevin Payne, violinist Benjamin Beilman, and pianist Erika Switzer.
Led by Nuttall, the St. Lawrence String Quartet—the Arthur and Holly Magill Quartet in Residence—celebrates its 25th anniversary during their 2014–15 season, including 20 years as part of the Bank of America Chamber Music series at Spoleto Festival USA. Making his ensemble debut from the Dock Street Theatre stage, Owen Dalby has been named as the new second violinist of the SLSQ. Dalby is a graduate of Yale University and is an acclaimed soloist and chamber musician. Currently based in New York, his relocation to Stanford University to be an artist-in-residence with his colleagues in the SLSQ will be a homecoming of sorts; Dalby is a native of Berkeley.
This year’s festival will be Nuttall’s sixth season as chamber music director, a post that includes his introductions to each program from the stage. Of his ability to educate and entertain,The New York Times said: “Mr. Nuttall turns out to be chamber music’s Jon Stewart… while maintaining the high musical standards of the series, he has established a new style of presentation that juxtaposes the ridiculous with the sublime, delves into serious musicology and casually uses technology. In short, he is subtly redefining what a chamber music concert can be.”
Each of the 11 programs is performed three times with two performances daily at 11:00am and 1:00pm in the 463-seat Dock Street Theatre at 135 Church Street.
The joyous news from Philadelphia today is that Bird Lives! Opera Philadelphia is doing its first premiere in almost four decades and it’s Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, composed by Daniel Schnyder, whose “thrilling classical-tinged jazz blend…constantly pushes the envelope” (Jazz Times), to a libretto by award-winning poet and playwright Bridgette Wimberly. The new chamber opera was created for American tenor Lawrence Brownlee, a nominee for the 2015 International Opera Male Singer of the Year Award.
Co-commissioned and co-produced with Gotham Chamber Opera, Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD was conceived and written for Brownlee’s agile, expressive voice, which Schnyder likens to the color and technical virtuosity of Parker’s music. As the New York Times notes, the tenor “soars easily up to ringing top notes, high Cs and even higher. Mr. Brownlee’s singing is a model of bel canto style.”
Directed by Ron Daniels under the leadership of Music Director Corrado Rovaris, Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD premieres in Opera Philadelphia’s Aurora Series for Chamber Opera, crowning the company’s 40th Anniversary Season with a five-performance run in the Kimmel Center’s intimate Perelman Theater (June 5–14). Tickets are available from Ticket Philadelphia at 215.893.1018 or operaphila.org.
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He will take up his appointment in September 2017, following in the footsteps of previous Principal Conductors including André Previn, Michael Tilson Thomas, Sir Colin Davis and Valery Gergiev. As Music Director he will be involved in every aspect of the LSO’s work as well as championing the importance of music and music education.
At the announcement of his appointment, Simon Rattle said: “During my work with the LSO over the last years, I noticed that despite the Orchestra’s long and illustrious history, they almost never refer to it. Instead, refreshingly, they talk about the future, what can they make anew, what can they improve, how can they reach further into the community. In terms of musical excellence, it is clear that the sky’s the limit, but equally important, in terms of philosophy, they constantly strive to be a twenty-first century orchestra. We share a dream in which performing, teaching and learning are indivisible, with wider dissemination of our art at its centre. I cannot imagine a better or more inspiring way to spend my next years, and feel immensely fortunate to have the LSO as my musical family and co-conspirators.”
Simon Rattle outlined his vision for universal access to music, with children and young people at its heart. He called for new standards in making world-class music available to all. He stated his aim that every musician should be engaged in composing, improvising, mentoring and performing; that the creation of new music will be central to the process, working with leading composers and teachers; and that his appointment will generate new partnerships between London and the whole country to confirm the UK as a world leader in the arts.
Simon Rattle is currently Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker, where he was appointed in 2002. His first appearance with the London Symphony Orchestra was in October 1977, at the age of 22. He conducted the LSO at the opening ceremony of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, memorably performing Chariots of Fire with Rowan Atkinson. Most recently, in January this year, he was acclaimed for his two concerts with the LSO of Schumann, Stravinsky, Webern, Berg and Ligeti at the Barbican Centre.
Lennox Mackenzie, Chairman of the LSO, said: “I am thrilled that Sir Simon Rattle has accepted our invitation to lead the Orchestra into the future. On behalf of our whole Orchestra, we welcome him as our Music Director at this hugely important moment in the LSO’s history. I would also like to offer the Orchestra’s sincere thanks to Valery Gergiev who has been the LSO’s Principal Conductor since 2007 and who steps down from his position at the end of this year.”
Kathryn McDowell, Managing Director of the LSO, said: “This is the realisation of a dream, to bring Simon Rattle back to his home country to lead the extraordinary musicians of the LSO. We look forward to a new chapter of ambitious music-making that reaches deep into the communities we serve and touches people’s lives with the power of music.”
Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of the Barbican Centre, said: “We are delighted to welcome Sir Simon Rattle to the LSO, our resident orchestra since the Centre opened. The presence of a world-class orchestra at the heart of this world-class arts centre, serving the widest range of audiences across London and beyond, has been an indispensable part of the Barbican’s success. We look forward to a period of thrilling development as Simon Rattle takes the LSO to ever greater heights of musical achievement and service to the community.”
Professor Barry Ife, Principal of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, said: “Sir Simon Rattle’s commitment to the next generation of musicians and to music education is world renowned. His appointment as Music Director of the LSO is an exciting opportunity, particularly for the students of the Guildhall School who regularly perform alongside the LSO’s musicians.”
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MATA Festival celebrates its seventeenth year, Monday, April 13 to Saturday, April 18, 2015, showcasing the wild variety of today’s compositional climate with a sweeping range of original compositions by thirty composers under the age of 40 from seventeen countries around the globe. Curated by the newly appointed Artistic Director, Du Yun, the 2015 Festival received international submissions from nearly a thousand composers—increasing by hundreds each year and confirming MATA’s booming status as the leading international festival for emerging composer talent. Among the Festival’s featured works are eleven American premieres and nine world premieres—three of which are Festival commissions—representing voices from Croatia to Iran, Bolivia to China. The 2015 Festival Commissionees are Ann Cleare (Ireland), Adam de la Cour (UK), and Wang Lu (China/US). MATA Festival 2015 boasts an unequaled lineup of performers, presenting Sweden’s aptly named Curious Chamber Players in the group’s U.S. debut visit, along with performances by Talea Ensemble, Momenta Quartet,Bearthoven, and a number of featured composer/performers.
“A bellwether of shifting tides” (Village Voice), the Festival’s non-dogmatic stylistic range is dizzying, this year offering a percussion sculpture, a punk-inspired scream-song, two works involving lamps and light bulbs, a pop-glitch piece based on Billy Joel’s “Honesty,” a sung resumé, a dancer connected to a pulley-driven prepared piano, recordings of Chinese women exercising in public, string quartets, electronics, video, and more. For the 2015 Festival, MATA also partners with Chashama to present a free site-specific sound art installation open daily to the public at Chashama 266, a storefront gallery in the bustling Fashion District. Festival offerings are previewed in an intimate opening night salon at Chelsea’s ultra-chic Paula Cooper Gallery with wine and music (Monday, 4/13); the “vibrant annual celebration of young composers” (The New York Times) continues over five nights at The Kitchen(Tuesday-Saturday, 4/14-18). Tickets are $20, $15 for students, available at www.thekitchen.org except for the opening night reception, $50 via www.matafestival.org. A full schedule of events appears below.
Composers who have been commissioned or presented by MATA early in their careers include Pulitzer-prize winner Jennifer Higdon, Derek Bermel, Annie Gosfield, Nico Muhly, Andrew Norman, David T. Little, and Alex Mincek. Over the years, the Festival has steadily expanded its international profile, highlighting fresh new voices and emerging trends on a global scale. Says Du Yun, “Not only are we tirelessly expanding our international profile, we arealsosurveying the scene at home. We are building a platform where the unthinkable is the status quo and the outcast is the norm.”
The two living American composers who share the name John Adams were the big winners at last night’s Grammy Awards.
John Adams, of Nixon in China and Death of Klinghoffer fame, won the Best Orchestral Performance for the second year in a row with the Saint Louis Symphony, conducted by David Robertson, being selected for its recording of his latest scores: City Noir and the Saxophone Concerto. Last year, the San Francisco Symphony’s recording of his Harmonielehre and Short Ride in a Fast Machine took home the award.
The Seattle Symphony received the Best Contemporary Classical Composition award for its recording of John LUTHER Adams’s Become Ocean. The orchestral work, inspired by the Pacific Ocean and the effects of climate change, was premiered by the Seattle Symphony under Ludovic Morlot in 2013. Last year it won the Pulitzer Prize for music.
The wonderful Hilary Hahn and the pianist Cory Smythe shared a Best Chamber Music Grammy for “27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores,” a two-CD set of 27 short, diverse pieces that the violinist commissioned. .
A Lifetime Achievement Award went to the conductor, composer and 26-time Grammy winner Pierre Boulez, whom the announcer on the televised broadcast insisted on calling “BOU-LAY.”
For those you anticipating posthumous fame, the most encouraging selection of the evening was a Best Classical Compendium Grammy for late American maverick composer and inventor Harry Partch. Accepting the award for his recording of Partch’s Plectra & Percussion Dances, producer John Schneider noted that his musicians had to learn the composer’s daunting 43-note scale as part of their preparation. Congratulations and thank you to the great people at Bridge Records.
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Carnegie Hall will mark its 125th anniversary next season by launching a new music project that will commission 125 new works over the next five years. Carnegie will present 15 world premieres next season, two American premieres, and 19 New York premieres by composers including Magnus Lindberg, John Adams, Olga Neuwirth, Jonathan Leshnoff and the composing collective Sleeping Giant, which is made of composers Andrew Norman, Robert Honstein, Ted Hearne, Jacob Cooper, Christopher Cerrone, and Timo Andres.
Carnegie named the Kronos Quartet its creative chair for the season and said that as part of the newmusic project it would jointly commission 10 new works a year with the group for the next five years.
The Lincoln Center Festival schedule is out and, as usual, it has lots of goodies for new music lovers. The festival opens with Danny Elfman’s music from the films of Tim Burton, July 6-12. Expect lots of fans dressed as Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorshands and, alas, Batman. Of more interest to the hardcore, the Queens-based piano and percussion chamber ensemble Yarn/Wire will debut new works from three extraordinary contemporary French composers—Tristan Murail, Misato Mochizuki, and Raphaël Cendo—at Lincoln Center’s Kaplan Penthouse.
For the really hardcore, there’s two events featuring the music of Harry Partch: In Harry Partch: Bitter Music on July 23, David Moss performs a portion of Partch’s musical text in a hybrid lecture-performance and on July 23 and 24, Heiner Goebbels will lead Ensemble Musikfabrik in Partch’s final large-scale work, Delusion of the Fury. For us older people, the Cleveland Orchestra will perform Messiaen’s Chronochromie and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 5 on July 16.
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) has received a $450,000 award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support OpenICE, a new initiative, that will yield more than 150 new concerts featuring more than 60 newly commissioned works over the next three years. The concerts will be presented through seasons in ICE’s home cities of New York and Chicago, as well as new seasons in cities and rural areas throughout the United States, and will extend internationally to diverse corners of the world including Greenland and the Amazonas region of Brazil that have little to no access to contemporary music.
Next to the early and unlikely appearance of Mr. Eliot’s cruelest camellias, the most anticipated January event for many of us wintering in the Low Country is the arrival (in the other mailbox out by the street) of the annual printed Spoleto USA program. For those of you who may not know much about it, Spoleto USA is one of the world’s major arts festivals–bigger and better, for example, than the annual summer Lincoln Center Festival, whose programming is similar. It is safe to say that Spoleto USA has been a key factor in making Charleston, SC–also blessed with great winter weather, gloriously inventive southern cooking, and Bill Murray–the biggest little city in America.
We have the composer Gian Carlo Menotti to thank for that. He founded the festival in 1977 as a counterpart to the Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Italy. Over the early years, budgets were overrun, deficits mounted, philistines were elected to the board. There were the usual artist vs. accountant hissy fits and Menotti bailed for the good in the mid-1990s. The philistines and the angels have generally played nicely together since with the result that the programs are still excellent and finances are much more stable.
The program for the 17-day, May-June festival are a combination of classical and jazz music, dance, theater and a curious category called Physical Theater, which features the kind of tumbling, and acrobatic circus sort of dance, sort of not dance that I thought had disappeared with the Ed Sullivan Show. But, apparently not.
Not sure who to credit (I suspect John Kennedy) but there is also an especially generous amount of new music to heard each year. The featured opera this year is the world premiere of Huang Ruo and Jennifer Wen Ma’s opera Paradise Interrupted, featuring Qian Yi. May 22, 24, 27, 29, 31. And they’re also doing Huang’s The Lost Garden Chamber Concerto on May 23. There’s a conversation about the opera with Huang and Wen at the Charleston Library Society on May 24.
Bank of America sponsors a great series of 11 Chamber Music concerts which are usually sprinkled. with a healthy dose of music by composers who are still, more or less, breathing. This year’s composer-in-residence is Mark Applebaum, who will be premiering a piece. The St. Lawrence String Quartet will celebrate its 20th year of Spoleto USA residency. Alisa Weilerstein will be there.
Joe Miller’s Westminster Choir Concerts at St. Luke’s and St. Paul usually pair old and new works. Urmas Sisask’s Oremus and Eric Whitacre’s Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine join Montiverdi’s Si Ch’io vorren morire and the opening chorus of Bach’s Cantata 79 on May 24 and 27. David Lang’s marvelous The Little Match Girl Passion, with choreography by Poitus Lidberg, is scheduled along with Giacomo Carissimi’s Jephte for May 30 and May 31.
The Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, directed by John Kennedy, will do Bill Morrison/Michael Gordon’s Decasia (that old thing–just joking, just joking) on June 1. Kennedy is also directing a great-looking series of concerts called Music in Time that features the aforementioned Huang Ruo, Charles Ives’ Concord Sonata , Hans Otte’s concert-length piano suite The Book of Sounds, an evening of new commissioned works by Christopher Cerrone, Anna Meredith, Adrian Knight, Timo Andres, Nicole Lizzee and Samuel Carol Adams and–finally, for the hardcore–an evening called Quarter-Tone Shredding featuring the Living Earth Show, San Francisco’s electric guitar and percussion duo–performing Damon Waitkus’ North Pacific Garbage Patch, Brian Ferneyhough’s Renvoli/Shards, Ken Ueno’s WATT and assorted other stuff.
I’m sure I missed some things so take a look at the online program, get yourself some tickets, and get on down heah. You heah?
At Window Rock: ETHEL’s Kip Jones, dear friend James Bilagody, Jesse and Fiona Sherman.
For the past decade, the nationally acclaimed string quartet ETHEL has served as the Ensemble-in-Residence of the Grand Canyon Music Festival’s Native American Composer Apprentice Project (NACAP). To date, ETHEL’s residency has impacted almost 18,000 students, premiered over 150 works by Native American children, and touched more than 15 schools throughout Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. For about three weeks, the quartet conducts intense, one-on-one tutorial sessions, readings and rehearsals to help student composers refine their works. They then showcase the children’s pieces at school performances, all culminating at the public performances at the Grand Canyon Music Festival, which are recorded and sometimes later aired on National Public Radio (NPR). In the post that follows, ETHEL founding member, artistic director and viola Ralph Farris reports on the quartet’s most recent residency.
by Ralph Farris
From late August through early September, NACAP students (ages 13-21) participate in composition intensives in schools across Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, under the expert tutelage of superstar Native American composer Raven Chacon and his brilliant associates Trevor Reed, Blair Quamahongnewa and Mike Begay. Resident ensembles then visit these schools and workshop with the young composers on their new works, working out all the nitty-gritty details in service of the composers’ intentions. This new music is then performed at school assemblies – showcasing the young local talent, and celebrating these students’ work, right there, in their home communities. The resident ensembles then pick up and drive 100+ miles to the next school, and do it all again the next day.
After a fortnight of criss-crossing the Southwest, the resident ensembles ultimately arrive at Grand Canyon National Park, where the festival presents ALL of the new student pieces in a marathon concert. Each year there are some 30 pieces presented; the event is recorded and each student is provided a CD of their own work – for future study, for college applications, for sharing with grandmother…
Several of our NACAP students are now in music school; several of them are pursuing other career paths. All of them have been deeply moved – as has ETHEL – by their work with NACAP. Through this festival, these young people see themselves anew – they find their voices. And in turn, ETHEL has found new depth, new color, new joy – in ours.
NACAP itself has received numerous honors, including NewMusic USA’s New Music Educators Award, Arizona Governor’s Arts Award, and an Award from The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities(!). Our NACAP students have even been visited by John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.
What an amazing thing that happens each year in the Southwest! What a gift it has been for ETHEL to be a part of this extraordinary program!
ETHEL has enjoyed inspired collaborations with groups and soloists through our tenure with NACAP. In 2011, we were very pleased to welcome the Sphinx Organization’s powerhouse Catalyst Quartet as the NACAP Fellowship Quartet. This season, we were thrilled to work with trombone ensemble the Guidonian Hand, as well as ETHEL’s former (and founding) member, Mary Rowell. Under the auspices of this festival, ETHEL has toured the Southwest with Hawaiian slack-key guitar virtuoso Jeff Peterson, Bluegrass legend Dean Osborne, and Taos Pueblos’ master of Native American flute, Robert Mirabal.