Opera & ballet
  • «Musica viva» will present Mozart’s opera of «Idomeneo»

    «Musica viva» will present Mozart’s opera of «Idomeneo»

    On December, 5th in the Moscow Tschaikovsky Concert hall within the limits of the philharmonic subscription «Opera masterpieces» the Moscow chamber orchestra and chorus «Musica Viva» under the direction of Alexander Rudin will present the concert version of an opera of Mozart of «Idomeneo». It already the fourth opera premiere «Musica Viva», after the past with stunning [...]

Symphony music
  • Simon Rattle and Berlin Philharmonic

    Simon Rattle and Berlin Philharmonic

    The Berlin Brahms Bombers victory tour came to a premature finish Tuesday night. The leader of the Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle, received a hero’s excited welcome. The Second Symphony proved smashing, as had the first night from this inimitable orchestra’s two-evening visit to Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Chamber music
  • Chamber Music Festival Features Professional Performers

    Chamber Music Festival Features Professional Performers

    The Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival is entertaining audiences in Chittenden County, with most performances at the Elley-Long Music Center in Colchester’s Fort Ethan Allen. Other shows have taken place at the Firehouse Gallery on Church Street. The festival is new this year, and features concerts as well as classes for students. Soovin Kim started the [...]

Instrumental Music
  • Finnish Composer Bursts Some of Her Own Myths

    Finnish Composer Bursts Some of Her Own Myths

    One of the perils of conducting a public interview with a composer is that you are likely to have your deeply held beliefs about your interviewee’s work shrugged off. That happened to the composer George E. Lewis during his interview with Kaija Saariaho during a Composer Portraits concert at the Miller Theater on Sunday evening. Mr. [...]

Vocal art
  • Ekaterina Shcherbachenko – «I live with sensation something new»

    Ekaterina Shcherbachenko – «I live with sensation something new»

    Ekaterina Shcherbachenko, the winner of competition BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2009 in Cardiff, has arrived to Moscow at 2 o’clock in the morning. And already early in the morning the call was distributed and we have agreed about interview time, this afternoon. Ekaterina knew that Classica.FM, has first informed on its victory, therefore with [...]

Persons
  • Ingo Metzmacher – I can’t believe it!

    Ingo Metzmacher – I can’t believe it!

    The well-known maestro, active propagandist of modern music, the one, who all Europe worships – Ingo Metzmacher has visited Moscow. Despite a number of possible difficulties – some heavy days, and, in addition, Friday 13, good luck has smiled to our magazine, and we managed to meet the adherent of modern music world and ask [...]

Editor's Column
  • Stuart Lawson: «Time-proven Pursuit of Excellence»

    The hero of today’s interview is like no other. First, he is not a musician but a banker. But obviously he is not an ordinary banker as we are not a business publication and write only about things related to classical music. Stuart Lawson is CEO of HSBC Russia. The bank has won praise for [...]

Dates of classical music

John Adams is feeling festive


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What does a renowned, Harvard-educated, Pulitzer Prize-winning classical music composer say just after the standing-ovation world premiereJohn Adams of his new symphony at Walt Disney Concert Hall, performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of its wildly celebrated new music director, Gustavo Dudamel? «That was rockin’, wasn’t it?» says a beaming John Adams. Yeah, that’s the way «we old boomers» talk, Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn. President Deborah Borda, 60, jokes of her longtime friend and colleague Adams, 62. It doesn’t seem to surprise her during a conversation at the gala party after the Oct. 8 premiere that Adams would use the phrase when talking about “City Noir,” a work inspired by Hollywood’s classic noir films of the 1940s and ’50s. Besides — it was rockin’. The buzz at the Latin-themed post-premiere affair seemed to have less to do with the generously distributed “Pasión” cocktail created in honor of Dudamel’s first Disney Hall concert as Philharmonic music director — an alarmingly sweet combo of rum, pineapple, coconut juice and grenadine — than with the afterglow of the music. The heady sensation made it clear that 28-year-old Dudamel isn’t the only new kid at the Phil: The other is Adams, in his inaugural season as the orchestra’s creative chair and curator of the Philharmonic’s first festival of Dudamel’s tenure: West Coast, Left Coast, a three-week event launching Saturday and exploring California music.

The multidisciplinary festival will feature composers and performers long associated with California’s classical music scene, including San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet, composer-musician Terry Riley and former L.A. Phil Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, now the orchestra’s first conductor laureate; Salonen’s “L.A. Variations” will be on the program with “City Noir,” also conducted by Dudamel.

Also on the eclectic list are former Beach Boy Brian Wilson and «The Yellow Shark», a contemporary composition by the late Frank Zappa that Adams will conduct and describes as “fiendishly difficult.” “Being the cantankerous person that he was, when he composed classical contemporary music, he made sure it was hard,” Adams says with obvious relish.

More stuff you might not expect: a «Night of the Beats», blending jazz performance with poetry, and a symposium that includes Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh, film composer Thomas Newman and USC history professor and former California State Librarian Kevin Starr. Starr’s series of books on California history were a major inspiration for “City Noir.”

«He’s quite an Americanist», says Starr of Adams. «John has a special ability, or developed ability, to hear the music of various American places. Look at his operas: ‘Dr. Atomic’ [about the first test of an atomic bomb in Los Alamos, N.M.]; ‘Nixon in China,’ with the breathtaking arrival of the plane onstage — when Nixon gets out, he really gives us Nixon in the music. His music is abstract but not too abstract. Despite the incredibly intricate theory behind what he does, you can follow the story he’s telling you».

Festival artists coming in from outside of the classical concert world seem to appreciate the opportunity Adams offers to work outside the walls of their commercial careers. Newman, whose film score credits include «Wall-E» and «American Beauty», says his new piece, “It Got Dark,” commissioned by the Philharmonic and receiving its world premiere during the festival, uses as inspiration Newman’s 20-year collection of L.A.-area ephemera, postcards, photographs and the like.

“Many creative choices that you are making for a movie are determinations, because you are looking at an image that gives you so much information, and it really determines the tempo», Newman says. «It’s obviously much less so in terms of a concert piece, because the ideas originate from me. It’s very exciting, in a very different way».

Also during the festival, audiences will get another chance to hear «City Noir», a jazz-influenced work that Times music critic Mark Swed called Adams’ “most demanding symphonic work». Says Adams, «I wanted to write a piece that had a California sensibility to it. . . . We want to create a repertoire that speaks to our culture the way that Mahler’s repertoire speaks for living in Central Europe around the turn of the 20th century».

Only in L.A.

A few of days after the premiere, Adams offers a more detailed observation on the star-studded premiere concert via e-mail: “What a circus that was! . . . ‘City Noir’ felt right — neither too long or too abbreviated. And my wife got to sit next to the very charming Tom Hanks and his very generous wife. Only in L.A.”

The white-haired “new kid” has a long history with the Phil: His «Dharma at Big Sur» was composed for the opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003, and Adams oversaw the Philharmonic’s Minimalist Jukebox festival in 2006.

Still, in a recent conversation with Adams — a native New Englander who left and now lives and works in Berkeley — the composer mirrors Dudamel’s boyishness as he talks about the festival and what «California music» means in 2009 — although Adams’ boyishness is less Dudamel’s bouncy freshman than that of a popular college professor who still radiates the sort of youthful cool that makes students fight to sign up for his class.

Dudamel was not available for comment for this story but offered a few words on Adams to Andy Garcia for PBS’ “Great Performances” telecast of the gala concert. «For me, it’s an honor that John Adams wrote for my first concert with the orchestra», Dudamel said. “I think he’s an amazing composer. He has Latin blood in his body.”

Adams’ 2008 autobiography, «Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life» — named for his 2006 composition for two pianos and detailing his New England roots — would not seem to concur with Dudamel’s blood-type analysis, but Adams has learned Spanish and traveled to Dudamel’s homeland when he was composing his 2006 opera «The Flowering Tree», which involved Venezuelan artists; it was during that period that Adams became aware of Dudamel’s rising star. And Adams seems keen to absorb California’s multiethnic landscape, Latin and otherwise, into his music and his life.

«I feel very much like a Californian now», says Adams, who was born in Worcester, Mass. «I grew up where everyone looked like me. . . . I don’t like looking around and seeing people of just one race or color».

Even though the conversation took place on the stress-filled day before the «City Noir» premiere, Adams seemed eager to pause to reflect about «City Noir», Dudamel, the festival and what it means to be a “creative chair».

I think they certainly could have a successful contemporary music program here without me, with or without a creative chair», Adams says. «I’m not a conductor, although I do conduct — but I’m basically a creative person, and this will be a chance to have a creative person as part of the extended Philharmonic family».

He added that Dudamel, phenom that he is, can’t help being 28 – or being new to Los Angeles. “Gustavo’s repertoire up to now has been largely the classics, and having not spent as much time in the United States and Europe, he’s not as plugged in as, say, Esa-Pekka Salonen. . . . We get along very well, I think he has a nice comfort quotient with me. His English is getting better than my Spanish.”

The Finnish Salonen, 51, who became music director of the Philharmonic at age 34, remembers what it was like to be the arriving wunderkind in a new place and thinks Adams is the perfect mentor to walk Dudamel through the process.

«It’s absolutely essential, of course, to have somebody to walk you through the various layers of historic sediment and the kind of cultural code that is so very different in different places», says Salonen, whose own mentors include Steven Stucky, the Philharmonic’s longtime consulting composer for new music, and stage director Peter Sellars.

And a festival of California music? «The idea has been on the horizon for a long time, but I also think it makes perfect sense that it happens now during Gustavo’s first year, for him to establish himself in California», Salonen adds. «It’s a great idea, and great timing».

Like Borda, Salonen appreciates that Adams’ interests come from many spheres outside music. «There is an intense curiosity about him that I find very inspiring», Salonen says. Grant Gershon, director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, is also a longtime associate of Adams and recently conducted the chorale in a performance of choruses from Adams’ controversial opera “The Death of Klinghoffer.” Gershon believes that Adams is the perfect composer to curate West Coast, Left Coast because he is so, well, not like a composer.

«He’s an extremely good listener, which is an unusual trait for a composer», Gershon says. «He clearly enjoys human interaction. All composers have to be very attuned to the music in their heads; it’s hard to open up their ears to what’s happening outside. He’s genuinely interested in hearing other viewpoints and in real conversation».

These days, Adams is taking a breather from composing, is lecturing and writing and has launched a new conversation with the public through his blog Hell Mouth, which can be found on his website www.earbox.com. A recent post: «Surviving a first rehearsal».

Says Adams of West Coast, Left Coast: “It’s definitely a speculative experiment. The first festival I curated here, the Minimalist Jukebox, was more successful than anyone dreamed it was going to be, but there I had the ability to choose music from all over the world in a certain stylistic proclivity. The West Coast is not famous for having produced a great canonical body of classical pieces the way that France or Germany or, for that matter, New York has.

«But there are some interesting works that I do think reflect life out here», he adds.

Will they open a new conversation with Los Angeles? Replies Adams: «Ask me after the festival. . . . Whether California has developed its own uniqueness, its own ‘flavor’ to constitute a truly identifiable style in music, literature, photography et cetera is still a question. Maybe we’ll be just a little bit more conscious of those questions after the West Coast, Left Coast festival has ended».

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Russian composer files a response to Charles Ives

Russian composer files a response to Charles Ives

When american composer Charles Ives (1874-1954) composed a piece he called «The Unanswered Question» in 1906, he couldn’t have dreamed that a Russian composer born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1953, would, if not quite «answer» his question, at least posit a tantalizing musical meditation on it more than a century later.

This new piece, called «Post-scriptum» by its composer, Victor Kissine, will receive its world premiere with the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, in concerts scheduled for 8 p.m. March 4, 5, and 6 and 2 p.m. March 7 at Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco.

Kissine — who makes his home in Belgium, where he is a professor of music at two important conservatories — writes that he was a student at the Leningrad Conservatory when he first discovered Ives’ piece. Considering it a «revelation», he assiduously studied the details of its score, noting that Ives used a trumpet to repeatedly intone his so-called «Perennial Question of Existence». The piece continues, as a series of other instruments offer comments on his question but cannot «answer» it. In his «Post-Scriptum», Kissine engages a series of five sounds, each of which evolves into either a major or minor pitch interval of a third to deal with «the question». During our recent e-mail exchange, I asked Kissine if, in his judgment, an average listener would consider his music in general, and «Post-Scriptum» in particular, to be «beautiful», «pleasing», «interesting» or «shocking» following a first hearing.

He replied, «If the listener finds my music ‘beautiful,’ I’d be overjoyed. I have nothing against ‘pleasing’ or ‘interesting,’ but if he is ‘shocked,’ I’d be disappointed, because this wasn’t my intention at all». Kissine has written a great deal of film music, as well as chamber and orchestral music. However, his approach to composition departs significantly from the assertive, agitated, often ear-grating styles issuing from the fin de siecle era at the beginning of the 20th century.

He explains that his musical language expands to include elements of classical Western-style tonality, 20th-century atonality, minimalism, aleatory sounds and 12-tone techniques, adding that he also uses micro-intervals (notes that fall «between the cracks» of notes on the piano). Further elaborating on his style, he wrote that beyond the four basic parameters of music — duration, pitch level, intensity and timbre — there is yet another: Silence, which he uses to great effect in his compositions.

«Silence», he says, «does not stop the music. It’s part of the music. It’s the flip side of music. Sound without silence wouldn’t exist». In his e-mail, Kissine asserted that he can’t imagine being anything other than a musician and composer. “I started music when I was 5,” he wrote. “So, it was the first language I learned to read. And, the first score I sight-read by myself was ‘Sonata quasi una Fantasia,’ Op. 27, No. 2 by Beethoven (the famous “Moonlight Sonata”). I remember having had enormous problems with the left-hand octaves».

Because his family lived near the Philharmonic Hall in Leningrad, he was taken to musical performances from a very early age. «I especially remember a recital by Sviatoslav Richter which made a great impression me», he wrote. «He was playing ‘my’ Beethoven sonata»! Kissine, father of two and grandfather to a 4-year-old, is a citizen of Belgium, living with his wife in Court-Saint-Etienne, a suburb of Brussels.

Other works scheduled for the S.F. Symphony’s March 4-7 program will be Ravel’s «Valses nobles et sentimentales», Liszt’s «Tasso: Lament and Triumph» and the unabashedly exultant Violin Concerto by another great Russian composer, Peter Tchaikovsky. Its soloist will be Christian Tetzlaff, prizewinning German violinist, who also performs the work with the symphony during its mid-March national tour.

Nobel Prize Concert Classical Music

Nobel Prize Concert Classical Music

Nobel Media, in association with the Stockholm Concert Hall, is proud to present this year’s Nobel Prize Concert – an event of world class stature. The concert is to take place on 8 December as part of the official Nobel Week programme of activities. Tickets will be released to the general public on Friday 29 May.

Stockholm Concert HallMartha Argerich, headstrong, charismatic and technically brilliant pianist, is this year’s soloist at the Nobel Prize Concert. Yuri Temirkanov, Music Director and Principal Conductor for the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic will be leading the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. The programme comprises Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major and Prokoviev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet.

Martha Argerich was born in Buenos Aires in 1941, and had her performing debut at the tender age of eight. Her breakthrough came in 1965, when she won the prestigious Chopin Competition in Warsaw. She has worked with most of the world’s leading conductors, and her repertoire includes Bach, Schumann, Liszt, Debussy, Ravel, Bartók and Prokoviev.

Ms Argerich is passionate about supporting young talent. The year 1999 saw the first International Martha Argerich Piano Contest in Buenos Aires, a competition that she founded and of which she is now the chief judge. She has also instituted the Martha Argerich Music Festival in Japan, with concerts and masterclasses.
The Nobel Prize Concert is held to honour the year’s Nobel Laureates, who attend with their respective parties. Also present are members of the Swedish Royal Family and guests of the Nobel Foundation.

The TV broadcast of the Nobel Prize Concert will be produced by EuroArts and distributed internationally. In Sweden the concert will be broadcast by SVT. The Nobel Prize Concert is sponsored by DnB NOR and Statkraft.

For further information contact:
Camilla Hyltén-Cavallius, CEO Nobel Media +46 (0)8-663 14 83 or +46 (0)70-524 57 70
Stefan Forsberg, CEO Stockholm Concert Hall +46 (0)8-786 02 20 or +46 (0)70-786 02 50

Dallas Symphony Orchestra – «Alexander Nevsky»

Dallas Symphony Orchestra – «Alexander Nevsky»

Sounds that kept provoking smells and colors: Thursday was synesthesia night at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Prokofiev’s cantata based on his score for the film Alexander Nevsky took pride of place on conductor Jaap van Zweden’s enterprising program. Before intermission, he typically plugged gaps in the orchestra’s repertoire.

Alexander NevskyWolfgang Rihm currently bears the flag for German modernism and post-modernism. Memoria marked his Dallas Symphony debut – an American premiere and indeed only the third performance of the work anywhere. Like Stravinsky’s late Requiem Canticles, it offers shards of a formal lamentation – in this case for chorus, two soloists and an odd assortment of orchestral personnel. The chorus sometimes hummed and shouted. Offstage batteries of percussion made a furious clamor. I loved the work’s quirky solemnity, and the audience gave it a surprisingly enthusiastic welcome.

One of the orchestra’s own stars, Christopher Adkins, then got his moment in the sun with Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C Major. Lost until 1961, the piece is one of the few Haydn concertos that suggest his preeminence as a composer. Thank goodness van Zweden is making up for all the years the Dallas Symphony neglected his genius.

The sweet richness of Adkins’ tone, closely matched by the orchestral strings, evoked vocabulary you’d associate with tasting dessert wines: I detected overtones of honey, vanilla and tobacco. The cellist’s extended family has been active on the local early music scene, so I was surprised by the frankly romantic, though not self-indulgent, approach here.

The great filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein was fulfilling a commission to prepare the Soviet public for the approaching World War II in Alexander Nevsky. Prokofiev’s soundtrack is inseparable from the images of medieval knights – good Russians, bad Germans – who battle onscreen. The cantata the composer arranged from the score made a great pairing with Rihm’s memorial to the dead of that same war.

Van Zweden seemed to be hurling gobs of paint onto a mighty canvas as he led the piece. The winds produced pungent, saturated colors, underpinned by tubas and contrabassoon, while the pitched percussion overlaid the picture with enamel splashes. Violins shaped delicate transitions between the climaxes piled on climaxes.

The huge Dallas Symphony Chorus blazed brightly when individual sections could revel in exposed lines. All together, the sound could be muddy. Prepared by interim director Terry Price, the chorus managed a convincing attempt at the language, even if the basses lacked that sepulchral low end of their Russian counterparts. Mezzo Gigi Velasco-Mitchell proved a wonderful alternative to the beefy Slavic contraltos we usually hear in the solo. Her singing was as elegant as it was earthy, confirming the excellent impression she (and treble Bryan Leines) had made in the Rihm.

Dallas News

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