Archive for the “Orchestras” Category

…The Seattle Times‘ forever-esconced-but-barely-there music crtic, Melinda Bargreen (reviewing Thursday’s Seattle Symphony concert):

When a conductor picks up a microphone to address the audience about the music they’re going to hear, the audience can be pretty sure of one thing: They aren’t expected to like the piece. By the time guest conductor Michael Stern had finished telling Thursday’s Seattle Symphony audience about Varèse’s “Intégrales,” it’s a wonder they weren’t fleeing the hall en masse. With Stern’s every phrase (“A certain weird clarity,” “An assault on the senses”), the impending work loomed more ominously. When the downbeat finally came, and the small wind ensemble plus a whole armory of percussion began to play Varèse’s chaotic motifs and random-sounding outbursts, no one could say we weren’t warned.

Come on now, a piece from freakin’ 1925 gets this kind of write-up in 2008?

Not that she’s the only thing wrong with this picture that is this story. I’ve got to fault Michael Stern for trying too hard to talk the piece up, in effect almost apologising to the audience beforehand. Intégrales, after more than 80 years now, is a piece that doesn’t need any such justification or apology; just shut up, Michael, and play the thing already!

And notice that Sunday afternoon’s “Musically Speaking” version of this concert — i.e., the concert for supposedly explicating and enlightening the classically curious — does away with the Varèse altogether, leaving everyone to safely ruminate (perhaps literally) over just the Victor Herbert and Rachmaninoff.


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Architect Jean Nouvel has won a competition to design the new Philharmonie de Paris building at Parc de La Villette in the French capital.

The 2,400 seat auditorium is due to open in 2012.

Sure looks like Boulez has some influence on the design.  Check out the Flash show at the architect’s web site.

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The big news out of Los Angeles this morning is that Gustavo Dudamel, the 26-year-old Venezuelan wunderkind, will replace Esa-Pekka Salonen when he leaves the LA Phil at the end of his term in 2009.  Salonen plans to spend more of his time composing.  

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Six years ago, Sequenza21 published an interesting interview with Brett Dean.  The violist who was once the youngest member of the Berlin Philharmonic was beginning to be recognized as a composer.  This was about the time he made his first appearance with members of the LA Philharmonic in a “Green Umbrella” concert of new music, performing his work “Intimate Decisions” for viola.  S21, typically prescient, gave a lede to the interview stating that if you hadn’t heard of Dean yet, “You will.  You will.”

This season Dean is the first contemporary composer to be given a spotlight by the LA Phil, in two programs.  Yesterday’s subscription concert featured Dean’s “Viola Concerto” (2005) with the composer as soloist and the full orchestra conducted by Salonen.  Salonen brought out a microphone to introduce Dean to the audience, commenting on how rare (these days) it is to hear a composer performing his own concerto, much less to be so accomplished in both performance and composition. The Phil was one of the co-commissioners for this significant work.  Dean relates that it was initially written as only two movements, but that he then felt the piece needed an introductory movement to provide a frame-setting for the musical ideas.

The first movement, “Fragment”, establishes Dean’s sound, quietly growing in space.  “Pursuit” then places the solo viola in a chase with the orchestra.  Dean’s notes for the work refer to this movement as what could have happened if Paul Hindemith had played in a band with Tom Waits, an interesting idea.  There are occasional respites from the chase, including a lovely and technically-demanding cadenza which also includes elements of bird calls.  The relationship to Australia’s spaciousness and to its birds is a recurring element in several of Dean’s compositions.  “Veiled and Mysterious” returns us to space and quiet of the first movement.  The viola seems to meditate, and then it leads the orchestra into a re-examination of ideas of the first two movements.  The viola, finally at peace, enters into a closing dialog with the English horn.

Dean made great use of sonic color from his orchestra, and the sound in Disney Hall was responsive.  In the third movement, for example, a solo cello begins the orchestral accompaniment, with tremolo from violas; a second solo cello joins in, then a third, then a fourth.  Other strings join the tremolo and then add their own lines.  Bowed percussion add cool, metallic sounds to color the interactions.  This is attractive music, music willing to be introspective as well as active, music able to take advantage of quiet as well as to build sound.

The program for the concert built in color.  Haydn’s Symphony 82 (“The Bear”) began the program.  Following intermission, Salonen conducted a sonic spectacular bringing out every possible color in Ravel’s orchestration of “Pictures at an Exhibition”.

On Saturday, the LA Opera did a really good job of community outreach.  They presented two performances of a new work “Concierto para Mendez” with music by Lee Holdridge and libretto by Richard Sparks.  This is a musical celebration of the life of the trumpeter Rafael Mendez; it combines elements of documentary, opera, and concerto for trumpet.  Soloists from the Opera provided the singers and the LA Opera Orchestra provided the musical continuity and support.  Mendez had an amazing life:  dragooned into Pancho Villa’s revolutionary army as a trumpeter at the age of 10; immigrant to the United States as a laborer at 20; discovered as a musician and becoming a member of the Russ Morgan and Rudy Vallee orchestras; injured in an accident and having to readjust and retrain his embouchure; first chair trumpet for the MGM Orchestra, the best of the studios, at 35; starting a life as soloist and teacher at 40.  Six local trumpet students were selected to appear as his students in the work.  The performances were free. 

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The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra announced the schedule yesterday for its usual four concerts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and there’s great news for contemporary music lovers, especially those who have a jones for the didgeridoo.  

The season opens on February 3 with two works by the Australian composer Peter Schulthorpe–Earth Cry and Mangrove–plus Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.  Music director Michael Christie, now in his second season, was formerly director of the Queensland Orchestra, which explains the ‘Roo connection. 

The second concert, on March 10, pits Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round and a new orchestration of Dreams & Prayers of Issac the Blind against Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.  My money’s on Mahler by about eight minutes.

The orchestra will be joined by the Kronos Quartet on April 21 for the premiere of Julia Wolfe’s My Beautiful Scream, plus Holst’s Planets and Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, the wellspring of the spirtualist wing of contemporary music (Part, Taverner, Gorecki, Lauridsen, Whitacre et al), an important and popular modern movement mostly ignored by the fine young cannibals who gather here but greatly admired by those of us who don’t know any better. 

And, speaking of Gorecki, his Symphony Number 3–with a first ever staging by the Ridge Theater–is the centerpiece of the final concert on May 12.  It’s matched with Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Mahler and Mozart’s Exsultate jubilate.

The Philharmonic also does community and school concerts, and will present two genre-blending concerts, including a program with performances by Laurie Anderson,Nellie McKay, Joan Osborne and Suzanne Vega.

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The Philadelphia Orchestra unveiled this morning an online music store where you can download archival recordings, commerically released CDs and, coming soon, recent Philadelphia Orchestra concerts.  Other orchestras have done the same thing but the orchestra says it is first major American ensemble to market directly to the public without a distributor. 

There are 26 pieces currently available on the site, including eight Beethoven symphonies conducted by Christoph Eschenbach over the 2005-06 season, plus Wolfgang Sawallisch’s Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 from 2005 and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 from 2000.

For a limited time, you can download Beethoven’s Fifth (can’t get too many copies of that one) in a performance led by Eschenbach, recorded live in the orchestra’s home, Verizon Hall at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

Prices are $4.99 for basic MP3 files; shorter works, such as Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, cost 99 cents.

Smart move by Philadelphia.  Downloading is clearly becoming the dominant form of music distribution which is good news for classical music in general because the economics of digital mean almost anybody can get into the game.   A lot more music will be available in a lot more flavors.  Take that, EMI.

Elsewhere, check out Darcy James Argue’s splendid review of Monday’s Wordless Music concert at the Good Shepherd-Faith Church.

You’ll note in the right-hand column that the Metropolis Ensemble, one of the hipper new chamber music groups around town, has joined Bridge Records as a distinguished sponsor of  S21.  The ensemble will open its second season on Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 8 pm at the Angel Orensanz Foundation Center for the Arts, 172 Norfolk Street, with the New York premiere of David Schiff’s song cycle All About Love, a panoramic meditation on love and all that good stuff. Schiff, the ensemble’s composer-in-residence, is best-known for his opera Gempel The Fool.

The program also features rising vocal stars Thomas Glenn and mezzo Hai-Ting Chinn and a semi-staged performance of the Rite of Spring of the Baroque Era: Monteverdi’s musical drama Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.

If you’re interested, we still have space for a couple of more sponsors.  For the time being, at least, any dinero we take in will be used to pay musicians for the S21 concert on November 20.

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