Anna Gourari: Canto oscuro


If you have not yet heard Canto oscuro pianist Anna Gourari’s recent debut for ECM Records, you are missing out.The CD’s program combines affecting performances of transcriptions by Ferrucio Busoni of chorales and the Chaconne in d-minor by J.S. Bach with modern repertoire by Paul Hindemith and Sofia Gubaidulina (another Chaconne). The recording shows Gourari capable of performing repertoire in a wide range of moods: from the brash Ragtime movement found in the Hindemith suite to the gravitas and grandeur required in the Bach/Busoni transcriptions. One through line: she makes technically demanding repertoire sound far too achievable by mere mortals.

I’d hoped to get a chance to hear her live tonight in a performance at the German Consulate in New York, but it was not to be. I’ll have to content myself with the luminous performances on Canto oscuro and hope she visits New York again soon.

Don’t Toy with the Noonday Demon

Much as I respect his work as a composer, I was upset by Keeril Makan’s post on the NY Times’ Score blog yesterday.

I’m not sure I buy Keeril’s suggestion that all composers battling with depression fear how it will impact their work if they are treated. In my discussion with creatives, I’ve come to learn that when you are in the grips of a major depressive episode, you may not be able to work at all. Indeed, those I know who are really dealing with depression don’t toy with it: they fear it as an unwelcome and unbidden visitor.

The notion that depression (or addiction) is a little seasoning to our creative juices is a pernicious one that has caused a lot of self-inflicted wounds by artists. Going after “dark moments” to spur your creativity, which is what is described in the article, is very different from experiencing brain chemistry gone haywire and completely out of your control. Having worked with blocked composers who deal with severe emotional issues, I can only hope that Mr. Makan doesn’t try and share this tidbit of “method acting” with his students.

I also steadfastly reject the notion that composers are inevitably reflecting their emotional life in their music. Some of Mozart’s most joyful works are written from the depths of mourning. It is a romantic notion, but it just doesn’t hold up for everyone. Keeril is free to explore his dark materials, but I’d urge other composers not to feel compelled to “emote all their notes.”

(Note: an abridged version of the commentary above appeared on the NYT blog here). 


Q2 Elicits Your Feedback!

Q2, The online “Living Music, Living Composers” arm of New York’s classical radio station WQXR (105.9 FM) is requesting some feedback from its listeners. Their Listener Survey (available online here), subtitled “Help Us Serve You!”, provides Q2 listeners with an opportunity to let the station know what’s working and what you would like to see changed. Please take a few minutes and let the good folks at Q2 know that you’re out there listening with discerning ears and an appetite for more contemporary classical listening fare.

Monday: Transatlantic Ensemble at Steinway Hall

It is a bit of a dreary looking day in New York. One way to enliven one’s spirits: a free concert after work! Translatlantic Ensemble, which features clarinetist Mariam Adam (also of Imani Winds) and pianist Evelyn Ulex, will be performing at Steinway Hall tonight at  7 PM (doors open at 6:30).

The program will include music from Transatlantic Ensemble’s new CD, Crossing America (Eroica JDT 3469). including works by Paquito D’Rivera and Jeff Scott.  After the hour long concert concludes, meet the artists at a reception. New music in a lovely setting and a free nosh afterwards? Sounds like a cure for January Monday blahs.


Sunday: LPR Celebrates Carter

Tonight at 7:30 at Le Poisson Rouge, cellist Fred Sherry, soprano Tony Arnold, pianist Ursula Oppens, and several other estimable performers known for their interpretations of Elliott Carter’s music join Ensemble LPR to celebrate and remember the composer. The program includes the song cycle Tempo e Tempi and the Quintet for Piano and Strings.

Tickets/more info here.

Soldier Songs at Prototype

David T. Little’s opera Dog Days got a lot of buzz for its 2012 production in Montclair, NJ. Little’s 2006 opera Soldier Songs will be presented tonight through 1/18 as part of the Prototype showcase of recent operas.

Brooklyn Vegan has an interview with Little here. Also check out the embedded video trailer below.


PROTOTYPE Festival 2013 – David T. Little’s Soldier Songs from PROTOTYPE Festival on Vimeo.