Press

Wed, February 24, 2016

Wachner to leave Washington Chorus after 9 seasons
The Washington Post

Today, the Washington Chorus is a young group that bears the stamp of Wachner’s colorful programming — innovations such as the annual New Music for a New Age concert, focused on the work of a single living composer. (This year’s installment, devoted to Luna Pearl Woolf, is Sunday.) The Essential series offered new perspectives on composers not necessarily known for their choral writing, including Wagner, Puccini and Bernstein, and the Washington Chorus’s Christmas concerts now feature carol arrangements by Wachner that he gleefully calls “trashy” but that share some of his own slightly messy exuberance.

Read Full Text

Wachner to leave Washington Chorus after 9 seasons

By Anne Midgette Classical music critic/The Classical Beat February 24 

The Washington Chorus is facing a complete change of leadership. Its longtime executive director, Dianne Peterson, is preparing to step down in June. Now, it will also be in the market for a new music director. The organization announced Wednesday that Julian Wachner, who has led the chorus since 2008, will leave at the end of the 2016-17 season.

The news is hardly a surprise. In 2010, Wachner became music director of Trinity Wall Street in New York. Since then, he has transformed that post — leading several ensembles, including the church choir, the Trinity Baroque Orchestra and the contemporary-music ensemble Novus NY — into a significant presence on the New York scene, participating not only in regular Trinity programs, but also in collaborations with a range of other New York presenters (the Prototype Festival, the Metropolitan Museum). Wachner also is an active composer and has an increasingly busy schedule of guest-conducting appearances, with big-league management — Opus 3 Artists — working to get him ever more. It’s no secret that fitting Washington into his schedule has been a challenge; more notable than his departure, perhaps, is the fact that he has stayed here so long.

When Wachner took over, the chorus was still recovering from the difficult departure of its longtime music director Robert Shafer, whose dismissal by the chorus’s board prompted something of a schism among the chorus’s members. But choruses have a way of regenerating themselves as members cycle in and out. Today, the Washington Chorus is a young group that bears the stamp of Wachner’s colorful programming — innovations such as the annual New Music for a New Age concert, focused on the work of a single living composer. (This year’s installment, devoted to Luna Pearl Woolf, is Sunday.) The Essential series offered new perspectives on composers not necessarily known for their choral writing, including Wagner, Puccini and Bernstein, and the Washington Chorus’s Christmas concerts now feature carol arrangements by Wachner that he gleefully calls “trashy” but that share some of his own slightly messy exuberance.

Peterson, who has kept everything running smoothly during Wachner’s protracted absences, will be departing before the search for Wachner’s replacement gets fully underway. (An announcement of her replacement is said to be imminent.) And the programming for Wachner’s final season has yet to be made public. Whether Wachner will be back to guest-conduct the chorus is also unclear. But one way or another, chances are that music lovers will be able to hear more of him in the future.

Thu, January 21, 2016

Miscellany
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise

Trinity Wall Street’s annual Twelfth Night Festival, in the period after Christmas, brought the inauguration of the multi-year Mass Reimaginings series. On Trinity’s invaluable streaming portal, you can see Daniel Felsenfeld’s potent, questing Astrophysical Mass, on a text by Rick Moody. The video also includes Lassus’s Prophetiae Sibyllarum

Read Full Text

Miscellany

One of the most impressive improvisational feats I've ever witnessed took place at Marlboro Music in 2008, when the pianist and composer Matan Porat provided live accompaniment to a screening of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The really amazing thing, it was revealed afterward, was that the version of the film shown was different from —and quite a bit longer than — the one that Porat had looked at in advance. You would never known from his ebullient, seamless playing. Porat has two concerts coming up at the 92nd Street Y: on January 25th, he will give a program entitled Variations on a Theme by Scarlatti, covering music from Bach to Boulez; and on the 26th he will accompany a screening of Buster Keaton's The General.... Trinity Wall Street's annual Twelfth Night Festival, in the period after Christmas, brought the inauguration of the multi-yearMass Reimaginings series. On Trinity's invaluable streaming portal, you can see Daniel Felsenfeld's potent, questingAstrophysical Mass, on a text by Rick Moody. The video also includes Lassus's Prophetiae Sibyllarum.... Eric Huebner has a pop-up concert on Jan. 26 at Miller Theatre, playing Roger Reynolds's Piano Etudes, Book I and Eric Wubbles'sPsychomechanochronometer, both written for him.... TheSpektral Quartet, young radicals of Chicago, have a delirious new record called Serious Business, on the theme of comedy in music. The central piece, Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s Hack, is a knockout: instrumental reproductions/revampings of comedy routines by the likes of George Carlin, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Pryor, Sarah Silverman, and Dave Chappelle. Spektral will present live concerts in Chicago on January 29th and 31st.... David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony have unveiled their enhanced production of Messiaen's Des Canyons aux étoiles, with imagery of the Utah canyons provided by the photographer Deborah O'Grady. I listened to the radio broadcast and was enthralled by the playing. The orchestra will now bring the Canyons west, to Berkeley's Cal Performances series (Jan. 31) and LA's Disney Hall (Feb. 2). The latter concert is part of the LA Phil's Francophone series called City of Light, which will culminate in a semi-staged production of Pelléas et Mélisande, with Esa-Pekka Salonen presiding.... This year's Juilliard Focus! Festival (Jan. 22-29) is celebrating the centenary of the great, lamented Milton Babbitt. Will Robin has a good overview in theNew York Times. Once again I urgently recommend Robert Hilferty's brilliant Babbitt documentary.

Mon, January 18, 2016

At an opera festival, tales of drug cartels. At opera houses, same old song.
The Washington Post

The main presenter of all of this work is the Prototype Festival, which, in only four seasons of existence (the 2016 edition ran from Jan. 6-17), has become something of a beacon as a generator of high-quality new operas…

...Prototype’s aesthetic runs more to dark, edgy subjects — such as the devastating “Angel’s Bone” by Du Yun that I saw on Saturday. What would happen if two angels fell to Earth? In this work, they are first lovingly taken up by a human couple who are delighted at their find — but then “prune” the angels (an excruciating scene) and effectively pimp them out to their community, allowing access to people who do gradually crueler and crueler things to them.

The anguish of the hurt and battered angels and their horrific treatment is conveyed in a well-paced libretto by Royce Vavrek, who has become a kind of Metastasio of the downtown opera scene, and in music that ranges across a spectrum of sound — from a fine a cappella chorus to the hum of electronica, presented here by Julian Wachner, the music director of the Washington Chorus and the head of music at Trinity Wall Street in New York.

Read Full Text

At an opera festival, tales of drug cartels. At opera houses, same old song.

By Anne Midgette Classical music critic/The Classical Beat January 18 

NEW YORK — Classical music, some say, is in decline. I say, over and over, that it isn’t. Classical music is just fine. It’s the institutions that perform it that are having trouble.

Traditional orchestras and opera houses are struggling to keep up funding, ticket sales, and audiences — and to figure out how to present new work, which is essential to any art form. Alas, the core audience of these traditional institutions isn’t always interested in venturing outside of the canon. Recently, someone informed me that this season at the Washington National Opera was the worst he had ever seen — because it included two works, Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars” (from 1949) and Philip Glass’s “Appomattox,” that he didn’t know.

Of course, new work has an audience. It just may not be a traditional opera audience. This weekend in New York I went on an opera binge that started with a sold-out matinee of Bizet’s “Pearl Fishers” at the Metropolitan Opera and continued with several other sold-out productions of new works at much smaller venues across the city. The audiences tended to be energetic and enthusiastic — but they were coming to see work on a different scale than a typical opera house, and with different content. (I saw an opera about human trafficking, one about a Mexican drug cartel and one that, in the best traditions of modernism, proved its edginess by remaining defiantly impenetrable, but it involved a hotel, an unhappy couple, a suicide and disco lights.)

The main presenter of all of this work is the Prototype Festival, which, in only four seasons of existence (the 2016 edition ran from Jan. 6-17), has become something of a beacon as a generator of high-quality new operas. Co-founder Beth Morrison has been identifying and producing new operas since 2006, and her stable has included works by Missy Mazzoli (“Song From the Uproar”), Paola Prestini (whose “Oceanic Verses” was seen in Washington in 2012), Mohammed Fairouz (whose works in progress include “The New Prince” for the Dutch National Opera, with a libretto by David Ignatius), and David T. Little, whose acclaimed “Dog Days” has appeared at the Fort Worth Opera, the Los Angeles Opera and in a revival at this year’s Prototype Festival.

All of these mainstage commissions and opera-house collaborations demonstrate one reason for Prototype’s rapid ascent to prominence: The opera world is desperate to find good new operas and new audiences, and it isn’t sure how to go about it. Mainstage commissions are an expensive gamble, costing upward of a million dollars and creating, all too often, work that fails to make an impact or to get the best out of an adventurous young composer. Beth Morrison’s production company helps midwife mainstage projects (such as Fairouz’s “Bhutto,” scheduled to premiere at the Pittsburgh Opera in 2018) or develop autonomous pieces such as “Dog Days”; it has a sizable roster of touring productions that an opera company can take over lock, stock and barrel.

All of the cool companies are doing it. Opera Philadelphia’s Aurora Series for Chamber Opera develops and presents work — such as “Yardbird” or its recent Andy Warhol opera — in collaboration with other small companies; and smaller-scale operas will become even more integral to the company when it launches a new opera festival next year. The Los Angeles Opera started a chamber opera series five years ago, and it began collaborating with Morrison not long thereafter; Los Angeles has seen “Dog Days” and “Song From the Uproar,” and in June, it will present the Morrison-developed world premiere of “Anatomy Theater” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang, which will subsequently be seen at Prototype. The San Francisco Opera will open its new, smaller Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera in February; its program includes some chamber operas, such as “Svadba-Wedding,” which Opera Philadelphia offered in 2013.

Some companies, of course, remain invested in creating new work themselves — such as the Washington National Opera, which has, in recent years, been offering plenty of new chamber opera thanks to its American Opera Initiative, a commissioning program created in-house with plenty of workshops. Most of these works partake of the aesthetic of the mainstage house — which is exactly what Prototype doesn’t do.

Prototype’s aesthetic runs more to dark, edgy subjects — such as the devastating “Angel’s Bone” by Du Yun that I saw on Saturday. What would happen if two angels fell to Earth? In this work, they are first lovingly taken up by a human couple who are delighted at their find — but then “prune” the angels (an excruciating scene) and effectively pimp them out to their community, allowing access to people who do gradually crueler and crueler things to them.

The anguish of the hurt and battered angels and their horrific treatment is conveyed in a well-paced libretto by Royce Vavrek, who has become a kind of Metastasio of the downtown opera scene, and in music that ranges across a spectrum of sound — from a fine a cappella chorus to the hum of electronica, presented here by Julian Wachner, the music director of the Washington Chorus and the head of music at Trinity Wall Street in New York. Disturbing, powerful and original, effectively using electronics and video, the opera ended with the evil wife tearfully pleading her case on daytime TV, adding the final nail of credibility to a work that gave me nightmares, yet one that I would nonetheless see again.

“Angel’s Bone” was a showpiece of a range of work, not all of it developed here. “The Last Hotel,” by the Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, has been seen at the Royal Opera House and the Edinburgh International Festival, where one reviewer found it “searingly powerful.” Dennehy’s music, filled with restlessly active sawing strings in nonrepeating patterns, is certainly both searing and powerful in places, but Enda Walsh’s opaque libretto kept me from connecting to the characters or their disjointed story, for all of its cute touches.

Whatever your view of the individual work, the Prototype Festival demonstrates conclusively that opera is a perfectly natural vehicle for contemporary stories and contemporary art. The real issue is one of scale, and, perhaps, taste — does the opera world as it exists want to embrace this size opera and this kind of subject? David Gockley, now in his last season as general director of the San Francisco Opera, controversially described his company’s brand of opera as a “bourgeois art form” in a radio interview this summer. That’s not what you’ll find at the Prototype Festival. What it offers is less opera of the future than opera of the present. Whether or not opera’s institutions are able to embrace it remains an open question, but it’s very much worth seeing.

Mon, December 28, 2015

Review: ‘Saint Nicolas’ at Trinity Wall Street
The New York Times

Audience participation takes an ecclesiastical turn in Britten’s sumptuous cantata “Saint Nicolas,” featured at Trinity Church on Sunday during the first weekend of Trinity Wall Street’s annual Twelfth Night Festival (hosted by Julian Wachner, Director of Music and the Arts).

The part of Nicolas was sung with steadiness and sensitivity by the tenor Steven Caldicott Wilson, who was impassioned without ever straining, and calm in his death scene. In the sequences in which the adult choir sang at the front of the church, with the children’s choir in the organ loft, the conductor Stephen Sands beautifully balanced the sound and maintained order. The singers and instrumentalists had incisive, agile strength.

Read Full Text

Review: ‘Saint Nicolas’ at Trinity Wall Street

By ZACHARY WOOLFE

DEC. 28, 2015

Audience participation takes an ecclesiastical turn in Britten’s sumptuous cantata “Saint Nicolas,” featured at Trinity Church on Sunday during the first weekend of Trinity Wall Street’s annual Twelfth Night Festival. At two key points in the work listeners are asked to become singers and join in traditional hymns inserted into the text, which was written by Eric Crozier, a longtime Britten collaborator.

Swelling both the music’s volume and its sense of communal ritual, these moments were among the most moving in a generally strong performance by the Trinity Youth Chorus (which also performed Britten’s charming “A Ceremony of Carols”), Downtown Voices and the instrumental forces of Novus NY and the symphony of the InterSchool Orchestras of New York.

Written in 1948 to commemorate the centennial of Lancing College in Sussex, England, “Saint Nicolas” had its premiere that summer at the first Aldeburgh Festival, founded by Britten, Crozier and Britten’s partner, the tenor Peter Pears. It begins with a steady, foreboding beat, over which a violinist (here the excellent Katie Hyun) weaves a sinuous melody that guides the chorus into the introduction of the saint. Poetically retelling Nicolas’s life story, the cantata continues through an alternation of solo recitatives, arialike passages, instrumental outcries, organ surges and choruses that build to a raucous energy reminiscent of Handel’s oratorios.

The part of Nicolas was sung with steadiness and sensitivity by the tenor Steven Caldicott Wilson, who was impassioned without ever straining, and calm in his death scene. In the sequences in which the adult choir sang at the front of the church, with the children’s choir in the organ loft, the conductor Stephen Sands beautifully balanced the sound and maintained order. The singers and instrumentalists had incisive, agile strength.

In “A Ceremony of Carols,” conducted by Melissa Attebury, the harpist Caroline Cole was breathtaking in a solo interlude that included both weighty grandeur and an uncanny softness.

The Twelfth Night Festival continues with a rich array of works (Baroque, contemporary and much in between), as well as a short run of Gotham Early Music Scene’s well-loved staging of the medieval “Play of Daniel” and, on Wednesday, the premiere of Daniel Felsenfeld and Rick Moody’s “Astrophysical Mass.” This is the first in a series of what Trinity is calling “Mass Reimaginings”: new versions of the traditional Mass, commissioned by the church. Coming every year just after Christmas, Twelfth Night is more than ever a gift.

Mon, November 23, 2015

A massive ensemble for a mammoth piece
The Washington Post

Wachner is a commanding, dramatic conductor, and the chorus responded with full confidence to his every gesture…The conductor’s vehement motions drew from the orchestra both Elgar’s full-throated passion and the melodiousness that has marked British music since at least the Norman conquest.

Read Full Text

A massive ensemble for a mammoth piece
Julian Wachner conducts the Washington Chorus and Orchestra.

By Cecelia Porter November 23

An island nation with a storied naval past, Britain knows the seas. British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (who died in 1958) expressed this in a very special way — through his mammoth 70-minute paean “A Sea Symphony,” set for a soprano, baritone, children’s voices, a massive chorus and a symphony orchestra.

On Sunday afternoon, the Washington Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Julian Wachner, performed the piece, occupying the entire stage of the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall. The symphony’s text, poems from Walt Whitman’s soaring “Leaves of Grass,” furnished a sense of infinite space and lofty perspective in every movement. Williams also couldn’t hide his allegiance to Gustav Mahler’s choral-orchestral textures, use of children’s voices or even Wagner’s Rhinemaidens’ insistent calls.

Wachner is a commanding, dramatic conductor, and the chorus responded with full confidence to his every gesture. Nevertheless, the first movement never rose above the maudlin and bombastic, with Wachner somehow propelling the chorus, especially the women’s voices, to screech over the orchestra to the back of the hall. Words were indistinguishable, and the orchestra sounded inconclusive.

But from the second movement on, the voices and instruments seemed to settle in, and soloist Dana Whiteside’s baritone maintained a noble clarity both powerful and resonant. In the Scherzo movement, Wachner’s lighter strokes made much of Vaughan Williams’s toying with the waves — musically depicting Whitman’s anthropomorphic vision of the sea. By the time the final movement (“The Explorers”) had rolled around, the chorus — most notably the tenors and sopranos — delicately but surely engaged in the easy flow of Vaughan William’s counterpoint. And Wachner had finally managed to balance all his forces precisely, giving the piece a driving sense of the inevitable.

Soprano Colleen Daly’s voice was ample enough to ride clearly above the chorus and yet remain vibrant. The voices of the Washington National Cathedral Choir of Boys and Girls came through with luster, lucidity and perfect timing.

Although the performance was billed as a “Washington Chorus” event titled “Behold, the Sea,” Wachner delayed performing the Vaughan Williams until after the intermission and after paying homage to the world’s “great seamen.” Instead, Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations, Op. 36” — totally lacking in water symbolism — opened the concert. The work is filled with abstract musical codes and none of the visual imagery of “A Sea Symphony.” The conductor’s vehement motions drew from the orchestra both Elgar’s full-throated passion and the melodiousness that has marked British music since at least the Norman conquest.

Porter is a freelance writer.

Wed, October 21, 2015

Opera creators Morrison, Jacobs announce five-year partnership
The Boston Globe

Now, Morrison and Jacobs have announced four additional productions, projected out to the end of the decade. “REV.23,” with music by former Bostonian Julian Wachner, is based on an imagined 23d chapter of Revelation (September 2017).

Read Full Text

Opera creators Morrison, Jacobs announce five-year partnership

By David Weininger Globe Correspondent  October 21, 2015

Expanding a collaboration already set to produce one of Boston’s largest operatic undertakings in decades, Beth Morrison Projects has announced an extension of its alliance with Friends of Madame White Snake, a not-for-profit cultural organization headed by Boston-based librettist and producer Cerise Lim Jacobs. The partnership currently is preparing “Ouroboros Trilogy,” a cycle of operas conceived by Jacobs with music by Scott Wheeler, Zhou Long, and Paola Prestini, for a September 2016 premiere at the Cutler Majestic Theatre. (One part of the trilogy, Zhou’s “Madame White Snake,” was mounted by Opera Boston in 2010, and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011.)

Now, Morrison and Jacobs have announced four additional productions, projected out to the end of the decade. “REV.23,” with music by former Bostonian Julian Wachner, is based on an imagined 23d chapter of Revelation (September 2017). “PermaDeath” is an interactive video game opera, with music by Dan Visconti and a libretto co-credited to Jacobs and game designer Pirate Epstein (March 2018).

Composers remain to be named for two more operas: “Monkey,” a “kung fu puppet parable,” with human performers interspersed among a puppet cast (September 2019), and “Cosmic Cowboy,” based on the landing of space probe Philae on a comet, and featuring robotic technology developed by New York’s 3LD Art & Technology Center (September 2020).

For all four operas, Morrison will serve as creative producer and Cori Ellison as dramaturge. Mark Streshinsky will direct “REV.23,” and Michael Counts, who is directing “Ouroboros Trilogy,” will return for “PermaDeath.”

BMP’s first local production, Sarah Kirkland Snider’s song cycle “Penelope,” will open at the Gardner Museum on Dec. 3.

Tue, September 22, 2015

Music fit for a pope
The Washington Post

The exact playlists of what the pope is going to hear are a closely guarded secret, with details emerging only from individual musicians and music publishers. But the emphasis, in Washington, is very much on living composers: Leo Nestor, a Catholic University professor; Peter Latona, the music director of the basilica; and Julian Wachner, the music director of the Washington Chorus as well as New York’s Trinity Wall Street, are among the dozen or more composers who have written new pieces for the occasion.

Read Full Text

Music fit for a pope
By Anne Midgette Classical music critic/The Classical Beat September 22

Classical music tends to come into its own on festive public occasions: as a vehicle of celebration or commemoration. This is never more true than when the Catholic Church, a cradle of much of Western music, has something to celebrate. So the pope’s impending visit sent music institutions, from Holy ­Comforter-St. Cyprian Parish to the Kennedy Center, into overdrive.

Yet church music, these days, isn’t really “classical.” The pope will hear a lot of music while he’s in the United States this week, from the Catholic University Chamber Choir and the Philadelphia Orchestra to Aretha Franklin and Sister Sledge. The very breadth of the performers shows the shift in thinking 50 years after the Second Vatican Council opened the doors to more popular forms of music in the Catholic Church. The message that presenters want to give is less one of orthodoxy than inclusion. Music remains a potent symbolic force, but these days, and particularly for this pope, it is symbolizing multiculturalism and inclusiveness rather than the purity of established tradition.

This can make programming a representative cross-section of religious music only more difficult. Not that music for the pope is confined to specifically religious music. In Philadelphia, where the “Festival of Families” scheduled during the pope’s visit sounds like a 21st-century take on a ’60s love-in, Sister Sledge’s “We are Family” is reportedly among the pieces that have made the cut.

But the music at Wednesday’s Mass in Washington, as conceived by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, is intended to reflect and affect Washington’s religious landscape. The five groups scheduled to perform include a gospel choir, the Catholic University Chamber Choir and a “Papal Mass Choir” of 90 participants selected from more than 300 people who auditioned in the D.C. area.

“The diversity of the mosaic of who we are as Catholics is represented at this event, and it’s quite intentional,” said Thomas Stehle, director of music ministries of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle and the person in charge of music planning for the event, told the Catholic News Agency earlier this month. The Mass, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, will be in Spanish, but other languages will be represented, including Vietnamese, Tagalog and Xhosa.

For Catholics, this is hardly a new discussion. “Like the Great Books, there is the great music of the church: Gregorian chant, Palestrina, my own Latin [American] music,” says Grayson Wagstaff, dean of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at Catholic University. “Alongside that, there are many different virtuoso traditions associated with the Catholic Church: Gospel, mariachi, many African traditions. Part of the issue in the United States is balancing what we would consider these more educated traditions, including gospel and mariachi, [with] more singable congregation pieces.”

As for the kind of folk music that came into the church after the 1960s, Wagstaff says that he recently heard a student refer to it as “ancient music.”

The exact playlists of what the pope is going to hear are a closely guarded secret, with details emerging only from individual musicians and music publishers. But the emphasis, in Washington, is very much on living composers: Leo Nestor, a Catholic University professor; Peter Latona, the music director of the basilica; and Julian Wachner, the music director of the Washington Chorus as well as New York’s Trinity Wall Street, are among the dozen or more composers who have written new pieces for the occasion. Catholic University’s choir represents high-church tradition, and even it is doing only one piece from the standard classical canon — the Dona nobis pacem section from the Mass in B minor by the Lutheran composer J. S. Bach. (Their centerpiece is “¡Albricias mortales! que viene la aurora” by Manuel de Sumaya, the leading Mexican composer of the 18th century — a fitting nod to the pope’s Latin American heritage as well as to Catholic University’s acclaimed Latin American Music Institute.)

This emphasis reveals a signal difference in outlook between the music world and the church world: Rather than seeing new music as unpalatable to audiences, the church evidently believes it reflects a contemporary sensibility, the importance of maintaining a living tradition. It is rather wonderful that the instinct, when welcoming a major religious figure, is to commission a lot of new works rather than roll out banner performances of old ones.

That is left to the Kennedy Center, where the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted and partnered by two members of the team of Washington National Opera’s “Carmen,” Evan Rogister and Clémentine Margaine, in a refreshing display of true cross-institutional collaboration, will present standards like Mozart’s “Exultate, jubilate” and Franck’s “Panis angelicus” — music that a pope, one could imagine, might be sick of hearing. (The pope will not attend the Kennedy Center event.)

Which brings up another salient point that does not appear to have been addressed. What kind of music does Pope Francis himself like during worship?

“I do not know,” Wagstaff says. “He is so outspoken on the power of music, or, as we would say spiritual food, I don’t know that anyone has asked him what his easy listening is.”

In his private life, though, NPR ferreted out another answer: Pope Francis likes opera.

Sun, September 20, 2015

Classical Notes
Philly.com

The intricate word play and mechanized rhythms of Wolfe’s post-minimal aesthetic come through much more clearly, especially as sung by the lean, low-vibrato Choir of Trinity Wall Street under Julian Wachner. On purely musical terms, the piece’s variety and level of invention are continually astonishing.

Read Full Text

Gallery: CLASSICAL NOTES

Is it still great? Anytime you hear a well-received world premiere, you shudder a bit upon later encountering a recording: Will it live up to what you experienced? Anthracite Fields, Julia Wolfe's choral meditation on coal-mining culture, premiered by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia and winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, comes off better on its new Cantaloupe-label recording, if only because the microphones allow you to hear at closer proximity. The intricate word play and mechanized rhythms of Wolfe's post-minimal aesthetic come through much more clearly, especially as sung by the lean, low-vibrato Choir of Trinity Wall Street under Julian Wachner.On purely musical terms, the piece's variety and level of invention are continually astonishing. - David Patrick Stearns

Adroit Detroit. Among orchestras, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is perhaps doing the best job of getting listeners beyond two stubborn barriers: price and proximity. For as little as a $50 donation to the orchestra's annual fund, fans can see and hear more than 100 works in a new online on-demand series called Replay. Ravel's Mother Goose Suite, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, the "Pathétique," Gershwin's Porgy and Bess and Orff's Carmina Burana are among the initial offerings, and the list will grow throughout the season. http://www.dso.org - Pet.er Dobrin

The two Eschenbachs. Though Christoph Eschenbach is sometimes characterized as having two aesthetically separate musical lives - the cool classicist of his concert pianist years and the interventionist romantic of his current conducting career. However, the new Deutsche Grammophon six-disc compilation of his older piano recordings, titled Romantische Klaviermusik, gives a more integrated picture. In Chopin's Preludes and Schubert's Piano Sonatas D 959 and D 960, he's a more fiery individualist than I remembered. Mendelssohn's usually easygoing Songs Without Words can be interestingly bumpy. Same thing in the Pentatone rerelease of Beethoven's Piano Concertos Nos. 3 and 5. He wasn't just a keyboard poet but a force. Though these performances don't quite achieve classic status, try tearing your ears away once a piece starts. - D.P.S.

Wed, September 9, 2015

Classical Music Listings for the Fall Season and Beyond
The New York Times

‘ANTHRACITE FIELDS’ Julia Wolfe’s oratorio, an indictment of the exploitation of Pennsylvania coal miners, won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize and is now being released on record, featuring the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, conducted by Julian Wachner. Sept. 25. Cantaloupe Music…

‘MESSIAH’ Every holiday season, the options are bountiful when it comes to Handel’s oratorio classic. Lucid, lithe and intense, the performances led by Julian Wachner and featuring the Trinity Baroque Orchestra and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street are particularly memorable. (Dec. 16 and 26 at Trinity Church and Dec. 17 at Alice Tully Hall.)

Read Full Text

Classical Music Listings for the Fall Season and Beyond

By ZACHARY WOOLFE SEPT. 9, 2015

JACK QUARTET Peerless in the strangest and most challenging contemporary music, this group opens the Miller Theater’s season with an evening of zanily theatrical multimedia works by Simon Steen-Andersen, then returns to the theater in October as part of a three-evening celebration of the composer John Luther Adams. Sept. 17; millertheatre.com.

ARGENTO CHAMBER ENSEMBLE Revisiting the enigmatic composer Giacinto Scelsi (1905-88), this concert features Scelsi’s darkly resplendent violin concerto “Anahit” alongside works by Tristan Murail and the American premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas’s “Introduktion und Transsonation,” scored for chamber orchestra and a taped recording made by Scelsi. Sept. 18, Bohemian National Hall; bohemiannationalhall.com.

‘OTELLO’ Opening night at the Metropolitan Opera, a new production of Verdi’s great Shakespeare adaptation, has been entrusted to Yannick Nézet-Séguin, a prime candidate to be the Met’s next music director. His opera conducting having lately gained in profundity while retaining its brash energy, he leads a cast that includes Aleksandrs Antonenko, Sonya Yoncheva (sensational last season in “La Bohème” and “La Traviata”) and Zeljko Lucic. The director is Bartlett Sher, a Met standby better known at the company for charmingly choreographed comedy than towering tragedy. Opens Sept. 21; metopera.org.

‘ANTHRACITE FIELDS’ Julia Wolfe’s oratorio, an indictment of the exploitation of Pennsylvania coal miners, won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize and is now being released on record, featuring the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, conducted by Julian Wachner. Sept. 25. Cantaloupe Music.

ESA-PEKKA SALONEN A fascinating, if potentially awkward, dance begins as this galvanizing composer and conductor, widely regarded as a strong possibility to replace Alan Gilbert at the New York Philharmonic’s podium in 2017, starts a three-season stint as the Philharmonic’s composer in residence. As the season opens, Mr. Gilbert conducts “LA Variations,” then leads “Karawane” in March, as well as a new work as part of the spring’s NY Phil Biennial. Mr. Salonen, meanwhile, conducts Messiaen’s “Turangalîla-Symphonie” in March and hosts two of the orchestra’s Contact! new-music concerts. If he is, in fact, to be the Philharmonic’s new music director, it’s hard to imagine a smoother transition. Sept. 25-26. David Geffen Hall; nyphil.org.

CLAIRE CHASE One of the most stubbornly grand projects in music continues as this keen flutist and administrator, the founder and artistic director of the International Contemporary Ensemble, performs “density 2036, parts i-iii,” the first three (on successive evenings) of a long annual series of programs of new repertory for solo flute that will culminate in 2036, the 100th anniversary of Varèse’s pathbreaking “Density 21.5.” The composers for “part iii” (to be unveiled Oct. 2) include Nathan Davis, Jason Eckardt, Dai Fujikura, Pauline Oliveros and Francesca Verunelli. Sept. 29-30, Oct. 2. the Kitchen; thekitchen.org.

YARN/WIRE An unusual new-music quartet — two pianists, two percussionists — celebrating its 10th season, this group appears under the auspices of Issue Project Room with premieres of works by David Bird, Mark Fell and Sam Pluta. Sept. 29, Artists Space Books & Talks; issueprojectroom.org.

October

NATIONAL SAWDUST This extravagant yet intimate new performance space, placed by the architecture firm Bureau V like a jewel inside the shell of a sawdust factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, opens with a dense month of events created by a team led by the composer Paola Prestini, the hall’s creative and executive director. Opens Oct. 1; nationalsawdust.org.

CHIARA STRING QUARTET Taking up the storied post of quartet in residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this youthful, vibrant ensemble opens its four-concert season at the museum by playing Brahms’s three quartets from memory. Other programs include quintets, with the pianist Simone Dinnerstein, by Brahms and Jefferson Friedman (the New York premiere of “The Heart Wakes Into”) and works by Bartok, Gabriela Lena Frank, Beethoven and Schubert. Oct. 2; metmuseum.org.

NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC Opening Carnegie Hall’s season, the hometown band and Alan Gilbert give the premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s “Vivo” alongside Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Evgeny Kissin) and Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé” Suite No. 2. Back at David Geffen Hall, other season highlights include James Gaffigan leading the premiere of Andrew Norman’s new piano concerto in December, with Jeffrey Kahane as soloist; Eric Owens (the season’s artist in residence) and Heidi Melton in Wagner excerpts under Mr. Gilbert in January; and Christoph von Dohnanyi leading Brahms’s “German Requiem” in March. Oct. 7.

‘TANNHÄUSER’ Not seen at the Met since 2004, Wagner’s early opera, a favorite of James Levine, returns under his baton. Otto Schenk’s production is stodgy, but this revival’s cast is excellent, including Eva-Maria Westbroek, Michelle DeYoung, Johan Botha, Peter Mattei and Günther Groissböck. Opens Oct. 8, Metropolitan Opera.

TENET The centerpiece of this creative early-music group’s season is a three-concert series devoted to the rich medieval repertory, led by a guest, the violinist Robert Mealy, and beginning with a program on the French trouvères of the 1300s. The other concerts include an exploration of the complex style known as “ars subtilior” and a set of music of the 15th century. Oct. 9, St. Malachy’s Church; tenet.nyc.

‘PICTURES’ Conrad Tao, a gifted young pianist and composer, has recorded an album featuring Mussorgsky’s dazzling “Pictures at an Exhibition” alongside less expected works by Elliott Carter, Toru Takemitsu, David Lang and Mr. Tao himself. Oct. 9, Warner Classics.

AXIOM One can hardly take issue with a season that begins with two performances of Giacinto Scelsi’s heaving violin concerto “Anahit” in the course of a couple of weeks. This crack Juilliard School ensemble, which focuses on classics of modern music, takes its turn with the piece during its opening concert, which also features Scelsi’s “Okanagon” and works by Grisey and Saariaho. Later programs, heavy on British modernism, feature Adès, Knussen, Benjamin, Birtwistle and — the lone American — John Zorn. Oct. 10, Juilliard School; juilliard.edu.

PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA The dynamic Yannick Nézet-Séguin brings his luxe ensemble to New York no fewer than four times this season, and he arrives like a man on a mission to show off himself and his players in the standard repertory, filling the programs with works by Grieg, Bartok, Sibelius, Johann Strauss Jr., Beethoven, Haydn, Bruckner, Rachmaninoff and Mahler. (Over four concerts, just 12 minutes — the length of HK Gruber’s “Charivari” — is devoted to music by living composers.) Oct. 13, Jan. 14, 26, May 11, Carnegie Hall; carnegiehall.org.

MALCOLM GOLDSTEIN Presented by Issue Project Room, a venerable experimental musician pays tribute to the seminal avant-jazz composer and musician Ornette Coleman, who died in June, with “Trinity,” a violin solo Mr. Coleman wrote for him, and a series of Mr. Goldstein’s own works, including his trademark extended improvisations. Oct. 13, Artists Space Books & Talks; issueprojectroom.org.

MARK PADMORE AND PAUL LEWIS This tenor and pianist, two of the great Schubertians of our time, have together recorded that composer’s three major song cycles. But both are at their moving best live, so it’s imperative to witness them perform the cycles over three evenings as the opening of Lincoln Center’s spirituality-tinged White Light Festival. A few days later Mr. Lewis joins the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, programmed alongside Sebastian Currier’s “Divisions” and Brahms’s Symphony No. 2. And in November Mr. Lewis, who memorably played Schubert’s final three piano sonatas at White Light in 2012, returns to the festival with Beethoven’s final three. (Meanwhile, lovers of Beethoven’s Third Concerto — and who isn’t? — can also hear the subtle Maria João Pires play it at Carnegie in March with Kent Nagano and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal.) Oct. 14, 15, 17, Alice Tully Hall; whitelightfestival.org.

WHITE LIGHT FESTIVAL In addition to Mark Padmore and Paul Lewis’s Schubert, this year’s iteration of Lincoln Center’s fall festival includes performances by the Irish group the Gloaming and the ensemble Dialogos; an evening of dance to the music of Thomas Adès; the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis celebrating the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”; and a recital by the soprano Christine Brewer and the organist Paul Jacobs. Oct. 14-Nov. 22, various locations.

SPHINX ORGANIZATION In March, this invaluable organization, devoted to promoting racial diversity in classical music, announced that its founder and president, Aaron P. Dworkin, would step down to take a position at the University of Michigan. His wife, Afa S. Dworkin, the first Sphinx employee — their professional relationship predated their personal one — is the new executive and artistic director, ensuring that continuity will prevail in a new season of competitions, grants and educational activities, as well as a concert at Carnegie featuring the Sphinx Virtuosi, the organization’s flagship orchestra, and the Catalyst Quartet in works by Gabriela Lena Frank, Jennifer Higdon, Rachel Barton Pine and others. Oct. 14, Carnegie Hall.

ORPHEUS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA This eminent conductorless ensemble’s season begins in high style, with the premiere of a new concerto for violin (Mira Wang) and cello (Jan Vogler) by Wolfgang Rihm. Oct. 15, Carnegie Hall.

AMERICAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA The ceaselessly adventurous conductor Leon Botstein, also president of Bard College, now has two orchestras. His flagship American Symphony opens its season with examples of musical mimesis by Gunther Schuller, Nico Muhly, Dutilleux and Strauss, following that performance with a program in December devoted to Russian Jewish composers. A new venture, the Orchestra Now, envisioned as a training ensemble and a component of a Bard master’s program, will play two Carnegie concerts, the first (Jan. 29) including works by composers in Beethoven’s circle and the second (May 13) focusing on masterpieces left unfinished by Schoenberg and Mozart. Oct. 16, Carnegie Hall.

KIRILL GERSTEIN This subtle, agile pianist’s background in jazz will serve him well when he opens the 92nd Street Y’s season with Ferde Grofé’s arrangements for jazz band (here Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, with Maurice Peress conducting) of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Piano Concerto in F. Mr. Gerstein returns in April for a more traditional solo recital featuring works by Beethoven, Liszt and Rachmaninoff. Oct. 20, 92nd Street Y; 92y.org.

NATE WOOLEY This fascinating experimental trumpeter and composer arrives at the Stone for a weeklong residency, with shifting slates of collaborators, that includes “Battle Pieces” and “For Kenneth Gaburo,” an amalgam of linguistics and music. Oct. 20-25; thestonenyc.com.

DETROIT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA In addition to being perhaps the most technologically adept orchestra in America — having recently introduced Replay, an archive of its video streams — this ensemble, led by Leonard Slatkin, distinguishes itself with its density of music by living composers. This season’s offerings begin with the American premiere of Nico Muhly’s Viola Concerto (for Nadia Sirota), and later on include the premieres of Tod Machover’s Symphony in D, Mohammed Fairouz’s Cello Concerto (for Maya Beiser), Aaron Jay Kernis’s Flute Concerto (for Marina Piccinini), Mr. Slatkin’s “Kinah” and new works by Sarah Kirkland Snider and Gabriela Lena Frank, as well as pieces by William Bolcom and John Williams. Oct. 23, dso.org.

BRIDGE TO BEETHOVEN Pairing Beethoven violin sonatas with contemporary works, two exquisite artists, the violinist Jennifer Koh and the pianist Shai Wosner, perform selections by four of the finest composers on today’s scene: Vijay Iyer, Andrew Norman, Anthony Cheung and Jörg Widmann. Oct. 26, Dec. 7, Mar. 21, April 7, 92nd Street Y.

CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER The highlight of the society’s fairly standard season is an embarrassment of string quartet cycles, performed in the intimate Rose Studio and beginning with the Escher String Quartet and Zemlinsky’s four. The series continues with Nielsen (the energetic Danish String Quartet, Nov. 12); Bartok (Jerusalem Quartet, Jan. 28 and Feb. 4); Ginastera, who would have turned 100 in 2016 and will also be celebrated in a series of spring concerts at Trinity Wall Street (Miró Quartet, April 7); and Kirchner (Orion String Quartet, May 19). Oct. 29, Rose Studio; chambermusicsociety.org.

ANDRAS SCHIFF Rigorous yet nuanced, this pianist performs the last of three programs — a two-season project — devoted to the final sonatas of Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert. Oct. 30, Carnegie Hall.

LES ARTS FLORISSANTS Returning to New York with a complete work after last season’s compendium of smaller pieces, this distinguished yet ever-fresh ensemble and its founder, William Christie, perform Handel’s soberly shining “Theodora” with a cast that includes Katherine Watson in the title role, the commanding Stéphanie d’Oustrac as Irene and the magnificent Philippe Jaroussky as Didymus. Oct. 31, Alice Tully Hall.

‘HOPSCOTCH’ The latest production from Yuval Sharon’s ingenious company the Industry, this sprawling experiment places audience members and artists together in cars roaming Los Angeles, featuring music by six composers. Opens Oct. 31, theindustryla.org.

November

EVGENY KISSIN Having come a long way from his early fame as a keyboard-pounding young prodigy, this authoritative pianist packs a great deal of tradition into his season-long Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall. After opening Carnegie’s season with the New York Philharmonic, he begins the series in earnest with a recital program including works by Beethoven, Mozart and Albéniz that will, in a rarity at the hall, be repeated a few evenings later. In December, he’s joined by the star violinist Itzhak Perlman and the cellist Mischa Maisky in a concert of works by Schubert and Tchaikovsky, then hosts a solo evening devoted to Jewish music and poetry: works by Ernest Bloch, Alexander Veprik and Alexander Krein as well as poems by Yitzhak Leibush Peretz, recited by Mr. Kissin. Last, but hardly least, he joins the Met Orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in May. Nov. 3, 6, Carnegie Hall.

‘LULU’ His signature projections of black-and-white ink animations and his newsprint obsession both intact, the artist, director and designer William Kentridge’s staging of Berg’s modernist masterpiece arrives at the Met after a run in Amsterdam. James Levine conducts one of his favorite scores, and the cast includes, in the title role, the expressive soprano Marlis Petersen, as well as Susan Graham, Paul Groves and Johan Reuter. (The full Kentridge experience this fall also includes a trip to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in October, when he performs as an actor in the multimedia chamber opera “Refuse the Hour,” based on his installation “The Refusal of Time,” with music by Philip Miller.) Opens Nov. 5, Metropolitan Opera.

NEW YORK FESTIVAL OF SONG A hotbed of intriguing selections and rising singers, this venerable series opens with a program devoted to Rachmaninoff and his American contemporaries, part of the New York Philharmonic’s Rachmaninoff festival. Later performances focus on a juxtaposition of Schubert and the Beatles; works inspired by domestic life; and songs by Latin American women. Nov. 10, Merkin Concert Hall; nyfos.org.

RACHMANINOFF: A PHILHARMONIC FESTIVAL Few artists have burst onto the classical music scene in recent years with the incandescence of the pianist Daniil Trifonov. He joins the New York Philharmonic for three programs devoted to his fellow Russian, an evergreen composer all too prevalent in orchestral seasons — but not always interpreted by a musician of Mr. Trifonov’s energy, skill and subtlety. The conductors joining him are Cristian Macelaru, Neeme Jarvi and Ludovic Morlot; festival events include a chamber concert at the 92nd Street Y featuring Mr. Trifonov and Philharmonic musicians and a New York Festival of Song program at Merkin Concert Hall. Just one question: Why, if the Philharmonic knew this all was coming, did Mr. Trifonov perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the orchestra just last season? Nov. 11-28, David Geffen Hall.

JEAN-YVES THIBAUDET Suave and sensitive, this pianist juxtaposes Ravel and Schumann in his latest New York recital program. Nov. 11, Carnegie Hall.

‘YOU US WE ALL’ A contemporary version of a Baroque court masque, this opera gives voice to characters like Death, Love, Virtue, Hope and Time. The ensemble Baroque Orchestration X performs a score by Shara Worden, also known as the singer and songwriter of My Brightest Diamond — she also plays Hope — with text, direction and design by Andrew Ondrejcak. (So Percussion gives the New York premiere of “Timeline,” composed in collaboration with Ms. Worden, at Carnegie Hall on Feb. 12.) Nov. 11 to 14, Brooklyn Academy of Music; bam.org.

‘APPOMATTOX’ This Civil War opera didn’t get the best notices of Philip Glass’s career when it had its premiere in San Francisco in 2007. But now he and the work’s librettist, Christopher Hampton, have substantially revised it for the Washington National Opera, with a new second act that brings the action a century forward in time, to the civil rights battles of the 1960s. Tazewell Thompson directs, and Dennis Russell Davies, a longtime Glass champion who was on the podium for the original version’s San Francisco premiere, conducts. Nov. 14-22, Washington National Opera; kennedy-center.org/wno.

BERLIN PHILHARMONIC As galvanizing as orchestras get, this ensemble opened Carnegie Hall’s season last year with a Schumann cycle and performed Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” at the Park Avenue Armory. Not resting on its laurels, the Berliners will play all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies in five concerts, led by their music director, Simon Rattle, who departs in 2018 and has been controversial in standard repertory like this. Let the debates begin. Nov. 17-21, Carnegie Hall.

JUILLIARD OPERA The Juilliard School’s often professional-caliber students perform two one-acts, Poulenc’s “Les Mamelles de Tirésias” and Viktor Ullmann’s “Der Kaiser von Atlantis,” conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson and directed by Ted Huffman. Nov. 18, 20, 22, Juilliard School.

December

RIVERSIDE SYMPHONY Operating a bit under the radar, this ensemble and its music director, George Rothman, have a lively programming imagination. The opening concert, of three this season, stretches from the 18th century to William Anderson’s new settings of texts by Djuna Barnes, by way of Bartok and Delius. Dec. 2, Merkin Concert Hall; riversidesymphony.org.

TRISTAN PERICH Known for his acoustic-electric combinations, this adventurous composer gives a rare solo performance, first on piano and then using the deceptively simple one-bit electronics that have been a fixture of his work in recent years. Dec. 3, Roulette; roulette.org.

TALEA ENSEMBLE With a taste for music of sprawling ambition and formidable technical demands, this group has carved out a niche for itself. It gives the New York premiere of Steven Kazuo Takasugi’s “Sideshow,” an evening-length theatrical piece for ensemble and electronics, six years in the making, inspired by the Coney Island freak show and with texts drawn from the writings of Karl Kraus. Dec. 5, DiMenna Center for Classical Music; taleaensemble.org.

‘GOLDBERG’ This promises to be ... unconventional. The performance art doyenne Marina Abramovic collaborates with the searching pianist Igor Levit on an experiential take on the Goldberg Variations that involves noise-canceling headphones, long periods of silence and — oh, yes — Bach. Opens Dec. 7, Park Avenue Armory; armoryonpark.org

‘BEL CANTO’ The trend of adapting operas from popular novels shows no sign of abating. Next season alone brings “The Shining” at Minnesota Opera, “The Scarlet Letter” at Opera Colorado and, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, this new work by Jimmy López, with a libretto by Nilo Cruz based on Ann Patchett’s best-selling book from 2001 about terrorists and the group of hostages they take, including a prominent American soprano. Ushered through the workshop process by the Lyric Opera’s creative consultant, Renée Fleming, who knows a thing or two about being a prominent American soprano, the opera stars the glamorous Danielle de Niese; Andrew Davis conducts and Kevin Newbury directs. Opens Dec. 7, Lyric Opera of Chicago; lyricopera.org.

‘MESSIAH’ Every holiday season, the options are bountiful when it comes to Handel’s oratorio classic. Lucid, lithe and intense, the performances led by Julian Wachner and featuring the Trinity Baroque Orchestra and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street are particularly memorable. (Dec. 16 and 26 at Trinity Church and Dec. 17 at Alice Tully Hall.) Mourning the death, on Aug. 12, of its director, John Scott, the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys performs the work on Dec. 8 and 10 at St. Thomas Church. Jane Glover leads the New York Philharmonic at David Geffen Hall, Dec. 15-19, and Kent Tritle conducts the Oratorio Society of New York on Dec. 21 and Musica Sacra on Dec. 22, both at Carnegie Hall.

‘THE DANGEROUS LIAISONS’Manhattan School of Music, whose opera offerings are often the most intriguing of any New York conservatory, revives Conrad Susa’s perfumed 1994 version of the much-adapted 18th-century novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. George Manahan conducts and Dona D. Vaughn, who runs the school’s opera programs, directs. Dec. 9, 11, 13; msmnyc.edu.

ANONYMOUS 4 To close its nearly 30-year career, this luminous vocal quartet has chosen a classic setting: the Met Museum’s Medieval Sculpture Hall, with its beloved Christmas tree. Dec. 22.

TWELFTH NIGHT FESTIVAL This year titled “Time’s Arrow,” Trinity Wall Street’s annual post-Christmas music marathon includes, among a bounty, performances by the Trinity forces, led by Julian Wachner; a premiere by Daniel Felsenfeld that is the first commission in the church’s “Mass Reimaginings” series; and Gotham Early Music Scene’s well-loved staging of the medieval “Play of Daniel.” Dec. 26-Jan. 6.

‘LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES’ Not heard at the Met since 1916 — Caruso starred then — this sumptuous, Orientalist love triangle by Bizet, far better known for “Carmen,” rings in the new year in a production directed by Penny Woolcock and conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. The starry cast includes Diana Damrau, Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecien; the two men sing “Au fond du temple saint,” as close as the work comes to a hit number. Opens Dec. 31. Metropolitan Opera.

January

CINCINNATI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Louis Langrée, since 2003 a lively music director of the Mostly Mozart festival, is no stranger to Lincoln Center, but New York audiences have had fewer opportunities to hear him lead this richly expressive ensemble, his other band, which is lately on a more secure financial footing. The program features Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and his Piano Concerto No. 1, with Alexander Gavrylyuk as soloist. Jan. 6, David Geffen Hall.

PROTOTYPE: OPERA/THEATRE/NOW This annual festival of contemporary chamber opera and performance has become New York’s most dependably interesting source of new music theater. Its fourth iteration, presented by Beth Morrison Projects and Here Arts Center, includes the otherworldly “Angel’s Bone” (by the composer Du Yun and the librettist Royce Vavrek), “The Last Hotel” (by Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh) and the New York premiere of the acclaimed, intense and apocalyptic “Dog Days” by David T. Little and Mr. Vavrek, as well as several concerts and presentations. Jan. 6-17, various locations; prototypefestival.org.

CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA Few if any ensembles can touch this one for sensitivity and self-effacing virtuosity, even if its music director, Franz Welser-Möst, has sometimes proved polarizing. With the soprano Barbara Hannigan, the orchestra gives the New York premiere of Hans Abrahamsen’s “let me tell you” and plays Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4, then returns with works by Mozart and, as conductor and pianist, the great Mitsuko Uchida, who plays a solo recital on the same stage a week later. Jan. 17, Feb. 14, Carnegie Hall.

‘HAND EYE’ Part of Carnegie Hall’s 125 Commissions Project, undertaken in honor of the hall’s 125th anniversary in 2016, this multimedia project brings together the adventurous sextet eighth blackbird with the six composers of the collective Sleeping Giant for — what else? — six pieces, each conjuring a unique sound world. Jan. 18, Zankel Hall.

‘THE BOOK OF DISQUIET’ Combining music, live action and video — a specialty of the composer, Michel van der Aa — this 2008 theatrical piece, based on the work of the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, comes to Montclair State University’s daring Peak Performances series, conducted by Alan Pierson and starring the actor Samuel West. Opens Jan. 21, Montclair State University; peakperfs.org.

FOCUS! FESTIVAL One of New York’s great champions of new and recent music, Joel Sachs leads this annual deep dive at the Juilliard School, where he teaches. This year, in “Milton Babbitt’s World: A Centennial Celebration,” he and his performers zero in on the work and context of a composer (1916-2011) who remains a forbidding figure for many. Jan. 22-29, Juilliard School.

STILE ANTICO This shining vocal ensemble, joined by the Folger Consort and Arcadia Viols, performs songs and dances from Shakespeare’s plays to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death, a highlight of the valuable Music Before 1800 series, which this season also presents a who’s who of the early-music scene: groups like Rebel, Música Temprana, Blue Heron, the Dark Horse Consort and Quicksilver. Jan. 24, Corpus Christi Church; mb1800.org.

JUILLIARD415 Another celebration of Shakespeare (and Cervantes, who also died in 1616), comes not quite a week later, courtesy of the Juilliard School’s marvelous early-music ensemble and Jordi Savall, who leads music from the era of the Spanish Armada. Other Juilliard415 highlights this season include Bach with Masaaki Suzuki; Handel, Rameau and Bach with William Christie; Haydn and Telemann with Nicholas McGegan; and Cavalli’s “La Calisto” with Juilliard Opera. Jan. 30, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

February

COMPOSER PORTRAITS The Miller Theater’s marquee series offers immersions into a single composer’s work at a time. Melissa Smey, the theater’s executive director, gives all-too-rare attention to female artists, and the season opens with Ashley Fure. It continues with concerts devoted to Alex Mincek, Iancu Dumitrescu, Hans Abrahamsen, Hannah Lash (who also has a premiere with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in October), Francesca Verunelli and Michael Gordon. Feb. 4.

MASTERS OF INDIAN MUSIC Juxtaposing the northern and southern branches of Indian classical music, this series, under the auspices of the World Music Institute, first presents the violinist L. Subramaniam, whose brand of fusion has made him an easy collaborator with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Yehudi Menuhin and Herbie Hancock. Then in April, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the star sarod player Amjad Ali Khan performs with his two sons. Feb. 5, 92nd Street Y.

‘MANON LESCAUT’ Sparks have flown in London and Munich when Kristine Opolais and Jonas Kaufmann have appeared together in this coruscating Puccini tragedy. The two singers, Mr. Kaufmann burnished and passionate, Ms. Opolais intense if slender-voiced, join yet again at the Met, where Richard Eyre sets the opera in occupied France during World War II. Fabio Luisi, his work with the company ever more compelling, conducts. Mr. Kaufmann’s legion of fans will also thrill to his recital with the pianist Helmut Deutsch at Carnegie Hall on Jan. 31. Opens Feb. 12.

BUDAPEST FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA Playful yet substantive, Ivan Fischer has made this orchestra one of the most vibrant in the world, with rare freshness even in the standard repertory. The ensemble plays works by Weber, Prokofiev and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Marc-André Hamelin, who will have given a solo recital on the same stage in January. Feb. 18, Carnegie Hall.

FREIBURG BAROQUE ORCHESTRA There are many baritones who could sing excerpts from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and “Le Nozze di Figaro,” but this animated ensemble has engaged one of the best: the profound Christian Gerhaher, who will already have appeared in recital at the Park Avenue Armory in November with his frequent collaborator, Gerold Huber, and songs by Viennese composers, including Beethoven, Schoenberg, Haydn and Berg. Feb. 25, Alice Tully Hall.

VIENNA PHILHARMONIC Wagner forms the core of this pre-eminent orchestra’s three-evening stand with the volatile, charismatic Valery Gergiev: the overture to “Der Fliegende Holländer,” selections from “Götterdämmerung” (with the soprano Heidi Melton) and the Prelude and Good Friday Music from “Parsifal.” Works by Debussy, Mussorgsky, Olga Neuwirth and Tchaikovsky round out the programs. Feb. 26-28, Carnegie Hall.

ANNA NETREBKO This Russian star soprano has had a difficult time with solo concerts in the city, twice canceling planned New York recital debuts at Carnegie Hall. But a change of venue to the Met — where, in September, she sings Leonora in Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” — with the pianist Malcolm Martineau, and a program including songs by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky, may lead to a better result. Feb. 28.

March

MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA Before it was riven by a 16-month lockout, this excellent ensemble and its music director, the Finnish conductor Osmo Vanska, had planned a Sibelius cycle at Carnegie Hall. Now that the music has returned to Minneapolis, the trip to Carnegie Hall is next, with a program that includes Sibelius’s First and Third Symphonies and his Violin Concerto, featuring the poised Hilary Hahn. March 3.

‘PRINCE OF PLAYERS’ The composer Carlisle Floyd once said that he considered his 2000 opera “Cold Sassy Tree” to mark the end of his writing career. But he evidently had more to say: A few months before Mr. Floyd turns 90, the Houston Grand Opera will give the premiere of his “Prince of Players,” a new work based on the life of the 17th-century actor Edward Kynaston, one of the last of the “boy players” who took on female characters. Opens March 5, Houston Grand Opera; houstongrandopera.org.

KARITA MATTILA New York knows this fiery Finnish soprano best inhabiting the grand Met stage, but this program of art songs will showcase her talents as an adroit recitalist. March 10, Alice Tully Hall.

ENGLISH CONCERT Continuing an extraordinary series of Handel performances in New York, this vibrant ensemble and its artistic director, the spirited Harry Bicket, present the tragicomedy “Orlando,” with a young and vital cast, including Iestyn Davies, Erin Morley, Carolyn Sampson, Sasha Cooke and Kyle Ketelsen. March 13, Carnegie Hall.

STEPHEN HOUGH An eventful eight days in March for this insightful pianist and composer (and the author of a witty blog) begins with a duo recital at the 92nd Street Y with the cellist Steven Isserlis that includes works by Grieg, Dvorak, Josef Suk, Schubert and the New York premiere of Mr. Hough’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, Left Hand (“Les Adieux”). He then joins the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for Schumann’s Piano Concerto before returning to the Y for a solo recital featuring Schubert, Liszt, Franck and the New York premiere of his Sonata III (“Trinitas”), obsessed with threes. March 15, 92nd Street Y.

‘ROBERTO DEVEREUX’ A few sopranos, Leyla Gencer and Beverly Sills among them, have performed all three main roles in Donizetti’s so-called Tudor trilogy of operas. But no one has done it at the Met before Sondra Radvanovsky, who this season stars in the whole trio. Her voice capacious and chicory-dark, Ms. Radvanovsky will bring “Roberto Devereux” to the company for the first time (directed, like “Anna Bolena” and “Maria Stuarda,” by David McVicar), conducted by Maurizio Benini. The cast also includes Elina Garanca, Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecien. Opens March 24.

April

‘DUST’ The most tantalizing operatic offering by a New York conservatory this season is the Mannes College the New School for Music production of this experimental 1998 opera by Robert Ashley (1930-2014), set among five denizens of a small urban park. For Mannes, which has moved downtown from its longtime home on the Upper West Side, the staging (a collaboration with Parsons School of Design) is a symbol of its renewed focus on contemporary music. Mimi Johnson (Mr. Ashley’s widow), and Tom Hamilton and Joan LaBarbara, who took part in the “Dust” premiere, bring a wealth of experience to the creative team. April 1 to 3, Arnhold Hall Theater.

TIMO ANDRES AND GABRIEL KAHANE New works by these two richly talented young composer-performers are framed by Kurtag’s Bach arrangements, Britten’s folk song arrangements, Ives songs and selections by Thomas Adès, Andrew Norman, Jerome Kern and others. April 7, Zankel Hall.

SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY Unusual for this orchestra, there’s no new or recent music on offer during this New York visit. But there’s a welcome immersion in Aaron Copland: the Orchestral Variations, Piano Concerto (with Inon Barnatan) and “Inscape,” all thornier than the standard “Appalachian Spring.” Symphonies by Schumann and Schubert and Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” round out the programs. April 13-14, Carnegie Hall.

‘ELEKTRA’ Months before his death, Patrice Chéreau finished his final production, staging this savage Strauss one-act, often played more or less for camp, with unusual restraint and humanity. Led by Esa-Pekka Salonen, who conducted the 2013 premiere, the Met’s flawless cast includes Nina Stemme, Adrianne Pieczonka, Waltraud Meier and Eric Owens. “Elektra” aficionados may still have ringing in their ears the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s performance of the opera at Carnegie Hall in October, conducted by Andris Nelsons and starring Christine Goerke. Opens April 14, Metropolitan Opera.

CHRISTIANE KARG Joined by the pianist Malcolm Martineau, this expressive soprano, too little heard in America, makes her New York recital debut with songs by Wolf, Ravel, Hahn, Poulenc and others. April 15, Carnegie Hall.

BAVARIAN RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Mariss Jansons, an electric force in the standard repertory, leads symphonies by Dvorak (the Eighth) and Shostakovich (the “Leningrad”) on these programs, as well as Korngold’s ardent Violin Concerto (with Leonidas Kavakos) and John Corigliano’s simmering “Fantasia on an Ostinato.” April 19-20, Carnegie Hall.

‘DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL’ It’s a Met season dotted with operas James Levine adores but hasn’t touched in a while in New York. He last conducted this Mozart comedy here in 2003, and returns to it with a cast that includes Albina Shagimuratova, Paul Appleby (stirring in the spring as Tom in “The Rake’s Progress”), Kathleen Kim and Hans-Peter König. John Dexter’s production doesn’t locate in the piece the harsh darkness found in it by some recent directors, but the Met’s staging has brightly stylized picturesqueness on its side. Opens April 22.

‘JFK’ A few months after Philip Glass’s “Appomattox” returns to the stage, a wholly new opera about American history has its premiere. An intimate perspective on John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy on the eve of his assassination by the composer David T. Little and the librettist Royce Vavrek, the creators of the acclaimed “Dog Days,” “JFK” is both set and performed in Fort Worth, Tex. — this is about as local as opera gets. Directed by Thaddeus Strassberger and conducted by Steven Osgood, the cast includes Matthew Worth, Sean Panikkar, Daniel Okulitch and Daniela Mack. April 23, May 1, 7, Fort Worth Opera; fwopera.org.

May

PHILIPPE JAROUSSKY This extraordinarily eloquent countertenor is joined by the pianist Jérôme Ducros for an intriguing program of song settings of Verlaine poems: usual suspects by Fauré, Debussy and Hahn as well as lesser-known pieces by the likes of Poldowski (the pen name of Régine Wieniawski), Charles Bordes and Josef Szulc. May 6, Morgan Library & Museum; themorgan.org.

‘THEATRE OF THE WORLD’ Inspired by the life and work of Athanasius Kircher, a brilliant and wide-ranging 17th-century Jesuit scholar, this opera by the influential Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, his style extreme and eclectic, is a kind of metaphysical parable about a journey Kircher takes through time and space. Directed by Pierre Audi — recently named the next artistic director of the Park Avenue Armory — with video by the Quay Brothers and Reinbert de Leeuw conducting, it is a typically ambitious project for the indefatigably bold Los Angeles Philharmonic, which also gives the American premiere of Mr. Andriessen’s “Mysteriën” in October. May 6, 8, Walt Disney Concert Hall; laphil.com.

PHILHARMONIA BAROQUE Nicholas McGegan and his intrepid ensemble reintroduce Scarlatti’s long-forgotten opera “La Gloria di Primavera,” first performed in 1716, with a cast that includes Diana Moore, Douglas Williams and Nicholas Phan. May 6, Zankel Hall.

PIATIGORSKY INTERNATIONAL CELLO FESTIVAL This orgy of all things cellistic, led by the prominent musician and teacher Ralph Kirshbaum of the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, extends over Los Angeles for 10 days and includes orchestral concerts, recitals and master classes. May 13 to 22, piatigorskyfestival.usc.edu.

MET ORCHESTRA Crammed into a week after the Met’s main stage season ends, this gleaming ensemble’s three-concert series includes a Russian program and two helpings of vocal glories: a Strauss concert that includes Renée Fleming in the “Four Last Songs” and other selections, and excerpts from Wagner’s “Ring” cycle with Johan Botha and Christine Goerke, the Met’s Brünnhilde in the 2018-19 season. May 19, 22, 26.

‘CHARLIE PARKER’S YARDBIRD’ This poignant operatic portrait of the traumatized life and too-early death of the jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, which had its premiere in Philadelphia in June, comes to the Apollo Theater under the auspices of Gotham Chamber Opera. With music by Daniel Schnyder and a libretto by Bridgette A. Wimberley, this New York run stars Stanley Jackson (as Parker), Angela Brown and Will Liverman, and is conducted by Gotham’s Neal Goren. May 31, June 3, 5; gothamchamberopera.org.

NY PHIL BIENNIAL The New York Philharmonic’s first biennial celebration of contemporary music, in 2014, was a heartening success, full of stimulating music and collaborations among institutions. Details of this spring’s iteration are still sketchy, but it will include a generous helping of new works, including premieres by William Bolcom and Esa-Pekka Salonen, and the American stage premiere of Gerald Barry’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” the latest in a series of operas presented by the Philharmonic in partnership with Lincoln Center. May 31-June 11, various locations.

Tue, September 8, 2015

Music in the Shadow of Ground Zero
BBC Radio 4

Historic Trinity Church, Wall St is only a stone’s throw from Ground Zero and has turned itself into a mini-Lincoln Centre, hosting some of the best classical and contemporary music concerts in America…Radio 4 visits the church, and its sister chapel St Paul’s, during a special week of music marking 150 years since the abolition of slavery, honouring the power of black music in America featuring special guest Bobby McFerrin.

Julian Wachner, Trinity’s Grammy-nominated winning music director, says: “There are people who come to St Paul’s to remember someone close who was lost in the towers, and they go to the churchyard - think of the ashes and what fell on that space - and the music heals.”

Mon, April 20, 2015

Julia Wolfe’s ‘Anthracite Fields’ wins 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music
The Los Angeles Times

Julia Wolfe has won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music for her folk-classical hybrid work “Anthracite Fields.”

The piece was given its premiere in April 2014 at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Mendelssohn Club Chorus. It also was part of the New York Philharmonic’s first biennial of new music [featuring The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and conducted by Julian Wachner]. The Los Angeles Master Chorale is scheduled to perform “Anthracite Fields” next March at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Read Full Text

Julia Wolfe has won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music for her folk-classical hybrid work "Anthracite Fields.”

The piece was given its premiere in April 2014 at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Mendelssohn Club Chorus. It also was part of the New York Philharmonic's first biennial of new music. The Los Angeles Master Chorale is scheduled to perform "Anthracite Fields" next March at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

In his article about the best classical music moments of 2014, Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed -- a member of the Pulitzer jury that selected Wolfe this year -- wrote that "Anthracite Fields” was “an unforgettably haunting, harrowing evocation of the plight of Pennsylvania's coal miners, incorporating many musical styles and effectively shadowy visuals.”

Wolfe, 56, is a Philadelphia native and graduate of the University of Michigan and one of the founders of Bang on a Can. She was a runner-up for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in music for her piece “Steel Hammer.” "Anthracite Fields” was commissioned through Meet the Composer’s Commissioning Music/USA program.

Music category finalists, announced Monday with winners at Columbia University in New York, included Lei Liang, who teaches at UC San Diego and was nominated for "Xiaoxiang”; and John Zorn for his "The Aristos." Zorn will present a day of concerts May 2 consisting of one show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art followed by two night performances at UCLA's Royce Hall.

Mon, March 2, 2015

Music from discord
The New Criterion

But to say that Saturday’s performance was “ugly” or even “unpleasant” would be missing the point. Listening to Wachner and his musicians produced an adrenal thrill—the tumult of the crowd was repellent, but at the same time it had a certain allure. Even as I felt surrounded, threatened on all sides, I had a sense of just how easily one could be swept up in the fanatic frenzy of the mob.

When the concert finished, a sense of relief washed over the hall as Wachner held up the enormous score in triumph. After the chorus had roared at the audience for an hour, it seemed only too appropriate that we should roar back.

Read Full Text

Music from discord

by Eric C. Simpson

I heard an ambitious concert at Carnegie Hall a Saturday ago: Julian Wachner, who commands the musical forces of Trinity Wall Street and the Washington Chorus, brought just about every musician at his disposal to perform two comparatively rare works.

About the first, Charles Ives’s Symphony No. 4, I won’t say much other than that it is a strong (if somewhat scattered) piece that received a strong (if somewhat scattered) performance.

The second piece, Ginastera’s Turbae ad passionem Gregorianam, was entirely unfamiliar to me—as I’m sure it was to the rest of the audience. It received its premiere in 1975, and since then has been performed only a few times, no more than a dozen or so. It is a revelation.

The Turbae is a difficult work to listen to, much as Hedda Gabler is a difficult play to watch, or Heart of Darkness a difficult book to read. It is emotionally trying—terrifying, really. The speeches of Christ, the Evangelist, and the other characters (Judas, Longinus, etc.) are simply intoned by three soloists, but they are not the main attraction. Ginastera distills the narrative of the Passion to its crowd scenes, making the chorus the driving force of his work.

There is not much in the way of beauty here, at least not superficial beauty—there are some moments of lyricism to be found, but the music mostly impresses by sheer force, the violent discord of the chorus reminding the listener of his insignificance, his helplessness. Much of the chorus’s text is whispered, chanted, hissed, or even screamed. To these furious episodes the speakers’ occasional interludes act both as a soothing antidote and a point of comparison, exaggerating the madness of the crowd.

But to say that Saturday’s performance was “ugly” or even “unpleasant” would be missing the point. Listening to Wachner and his musicians produced an adrenal thrill—the tumult of the crowd was repellent, but at the same time it had a certain allure. Even as I felt surrounded, threatened on all sides, I had a sense of just how easily one could be swept up in the fanatic frenzy of the mob.

When the concert finished, a sense of relief washed over the hall as Wachner held up the enormous score in triumph. After the chorus had roared at the audience for an hour, it seemed only too appropriate that we should roar back.

Thu, February 26, 2015

NOVUS NY, Trinity Choir & Washington Chorus Perform Ives & Ginastera at Carnegie Hall
Feast of Music

Thinking back, I’ve seen some pretty massive concerts at Carnegie Hall over the years. There was Seiji Ozawa conducting Berlioz’ Reqiuem with the BSO barely a month after 9/11/2001. Or James Levine conducting that same orchestra three years later in Mahler’s 8th Symphony, requiring a stage extension and the removal of the first six rows of seats. Or last season’s operatic performances by the St. Louis Symphony and the Vienna Staatsoper.

But, I hadn’t heard anything at Carnegie quite so ambitious as last Saturday’s production by Trinity Wall Street, featuring the combined forces of contemporary music orchestra NOVUS NY, the Trinity Choir and Trinity Youth Chorus, the Washington Chorus, and the boys and girls of the Washington National Cathedral Choir, all led by Trinity’s Director of Music Julian Wachner. Wachner, who was also the mastermind behind the program featuring rarely performed works by Charles Ives and Alberto Ginastera, seemed completely at ease for someone making their Carnegie Hall debut, cracking jokes and leading the audience in an impromptu hymn singalong.

Read Full Text

NOVUS NY, Trinity Choir and Washington Chorus Perform Ives and Ginastera at Carnegie Hall

by Peter Matthews

Thinking back, I've seen some pretty massive concerts at Carnegie Hall over the years. There was Seiji Ozawa conducting Berlioz' Reqiuem with the BSO barely a month after 9/11/2001. Or James Levine conducting that same orchestra three years later in Mahler's 8th Symphony, requiring a stage extension and the removal of the first six rows of seats. Or last season's operatic performances by the St. Louis Symphony and the Vienna Staatsoper.

But, I hadn't heard anything at Carnegie quite so ambitious as last Saturday's production by Trinity Wall Street, featuring the combined forces of contemporary music orchestra NOVUS NY, the Trinity Choir and Trinity Youth Chorus, the Washington Chorus, and the boys and girls of the Washington National Cathedral Choir, all led by Trinity's Director of Music Julian Wachner. Wachner, who was also the mastermind behind the program featuring rarely performed works by Charles Ives and Alberto Ginastera, seemed completely at ease for someone making their Carnegie Hall debut, cracking jokes and leading the audience in an impromptu hymn singalong.

I first heard Ives' 4th Symphony two years ago by the Detroit Symphony at Carnegie as part of the annual Spring for Music festival. Written in 1924 but not given a complete performance until 1965 (also at Carnegie), the 4th symphony vacillates between wild cacophony and an almost simplistic tonality, quoting popular hymns of the day such as "Watchman" and "Nearer My God to Thee." As in the DSO performance, Wachner placed performers throughout the hall in order to amplify the work's spatial configurations: the chorus in the 1st tier boxes, a chamber orchestra up in the Dress Circle (conducted by Scott Allen Jarrett). From my seat in the center orchestra, the music seemed to be coming from all directions: no 2-track recording does this work justice. 

Onstage, Timo Andres performed the challenging piano part from center stage, which did little to obscure Wachner's exuberant jumping and gesticulating on the podium behind. Everything came together in the final movement with its grotesque, decayed d version of the hymn "Bethany," sung as vocalise by the chorus, slowly fading away at the end. 

Following intermission was a work that was new to just about everyone in the hall: Ginastera's passion setting Turbae ad Passionem Gregorianam, which has only had a handful of performances - and no recordings - since its 1975 premiere. Wachner, who has Latin American heritage, has made it his personal mission to rescue Ginastera from obscurity on the eve of the 100th anniversary of his birth: next year, Trinity will mount a season-long festival devoted to his music, much as they did last season for Benjamin Britten.

Here, Wachner seemed bent on making the case for Turbae's inclusion in the standard repertoire, alongside other passions such as Bach's St. Matthew Passion and John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary. (Wachner has already announced plans to record the work later this season.) With more than 300 instrumentalists and choristers packed onto the Carnegie stage, the hour-long work was strange, dissonant, explosive, borderline terrifying. At times, the chorus seemed to oscillate like Ligeti's Lux Aeterna or Requiem; at others - such as the climactic "Resurrection" scene that closes the work - it rang with the emphatic, religious ecstasy of Messiaen.  

As in the Bach passions, a trio of soloists portray various roles, here singing in Gregorian chant. Anchoring the work was the clear-voiced baritone Thomas McCargar as the Evangelist, with tenor Geoffrey Silver (Pilate/Judas), and baritone Scott Allen Jarrett (Jesus) in supporting roles. Wachner admirably managed to hold together the unwieldy forces, looking completely spent at the end.

Wachner, who is nothing if not ambitious, deserves immense credit for his advocacy and for the sheer logistical execution on display here. But, for all the musicality on display, I couldn't help but wonder who, exactly, this program was meant to appeal to. Musical daredevils? Latent Ginastera fans? Certainly, there is something viscerally exciting about seeing 300+ musicians perform together, but there's may also good reason - other than resources - to explain why such works aren't performed more often. 

Mon, February 23, 2015

Trinity Wall Street - Ives & Ginestera - 02/21/15
Classical Music Rocks

On Saturday it certainly sounded like we had all the right personnel in the house to meet the challenge as the combined choirs kept on delivering consistently powerful, occasionally stunning, choral parts, the sheer number of singers offering many thrilling possibilities, the poised Gregorian chanting by the three highly capable soloists kept the action moving smoothly, the fired-up orchestra played with much precision and assurance, all under the tight control of one hell of a multi-tasking conductor.

Read Full Text

CLASSICAL MUSIC ROCKS

Personal notes - by Isabelle

Monday, February 23, 2015

Trinity Wall Street - Ives & Ginestera - 02/21/15

Orchestra: NOVUS NY
Conductor: Julian Wachner
Ives: Symphony No. 4
Distant Choir Conductor: Scott Allen Jarrett
Ginestera: Turbae ad passionem gregorianam
The Choir of Trinity Wall Street
The Trinity Youth Chorus
The Washington Chorus
The Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir
Scott Allen Jarrett: Jesus
Thomas McCargar: Evangelist
Geoffrey Silver: Judas

After a festive Carnival Day with Ballet Hispanico and Matuto at El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem on Saturday afternoon, the only place I wanted to be on Saturday night was home, especially since the snow that had started falling earlier in the day was visibly not tapering off any time soon. But that was not meant to  be as I had one more item of my schedule, and not a minor one, so I made sure not to get too comfortable during my quick stop in my apartment before heading back out, all the way to Carnegie Hall this time.
As someone increasingly on the look-out for new and rarely performed works, I simply could not resist the perspective of hearing four major choirs and an expanded orchestra, for a grand total of 300 musicians and singers, as well as two conductors, tackle two formidable 20th century pieces, an American melting pot symphony and an Argentinean modern-day Passion. So I expectantly joined a not huge but clearly committed audience in the Stern Auditorium for what had to be - Better be! - an exciting evening.

Upon stepping up on stage, Julian Wachner, the fearless director of music and the arts at Trinity Wall Street and music director of The Washington Chorus, immediately made a well-taken point of thanking the audience for braving 1) the raging elements outside and 2) the difficult program inside. Then, after a few words of explanation about the concert, he took a seat at the piano and had most people in the audience sing along a few American hymns, which were unsurprisingly totally foreign to me, in order to introduce Ives' Symphony No. 4. His humorous and insightful comments effortlessly lightened up the atmosphere and congenially prepared us for what was coming up next.

Notorious for its endless complexity, some of which requiring two conductors, Ives' fourth and final symphony is a work that is filled with references to American music such as folk songs, marching band tunes and - here they are - religious hymns in a solidly transcendentalist tradition. To say it is very dense would not even begin to describe it, but this kind of hunt for Americana's musical treasures can be a lot of fun too. On Saturday night, it did not take long for well-defined ideas, fleeting melodies and quieter moments to emerge from time to time and prove that there had to be some sort of method to the on-going madness. Moreover, the purposeful energy with which the numerous components of the piece were handled by the excellent orchestra was to be savored, especially when channeled by the resolutely unflappable and deeply involved Julian Wachner.
After a well-deserved intermission, we moved down from North America to South America to become acquainted with the anchor of the program, Alberto Ginestera's little-known and seldom performed Turbae ad passionem gregorianam. Writing a contemporary score for the Passion using a wide range of compositional techniques for choir and orchestra, the equally ambitious and talented Argentine came up with an extended, dauntingly complex, intensely dramatic and downright fascinating oratorio, which manages to convey the concrete brutality of the story with underlying spirituality. On Saturday it certainly sounded like we had all the right personnel in the house to meet the challenge as the combined choirs kept on delivering consistently powerful, occasionally stunning, choral parts, the sheer number of singers offering many thrilling possibilities, the poised Gregorian chanting by the three highly capable soloists kept the action moving smoothly, the fired-up orchestra played with much precision and assurance, all under the tight control of one hell of a multi-tasking conductor. After hearing it, one can understand how the difficulty and scale of the work prevent it from being presented more often, and one can only be grateful to Trinity Wall Street for tempting the impossible and succeeding so resoundingly, even if it meant that we eventually had to go back to the real world and face yet another dreadful cold mushy mess.

Sun, February 22, 2015

A Carnegie Hall commemoration for Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera
The Washington Post

Wachner, who is director of music and the arts at Trinity Wall Street, as well as the music director of the Washington Chorus, stumbled upon the work while poring over a catalogue of Ginastera’s music in search of ways to commemorate the composer’s centenary in 2016. And since the work demands an enormous performing force, he was able to use all his ensembles, and more: Crowded onto the Carnegie stage were the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, the Trinity Youth Chorus, the Washington Chorus, the Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral and NOVUS NY, the new-music orchestra Wachner founded at Trinity.

Read Full Text

A Carnegie Hall commemoration for Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera
By Allan Kozinn February 22

NEW YORK — The Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera never lacked for champions in his lifetime, and since his death in 1983, several of his works — most notably his keyboard music — have remained in the repertory. But Ginastera’s output was enormous, and much of it currently dwells in the purgatory where works languish after their composers’ deaths, awaiting rediscovery.

That rediscovery may be at hand, and Julian Wachner offered a glimpse of it at Carnegie Hall on Saturday evening, when he conducted the first New York performance in 40 years of Ginastera’s monumental Passion setting — formally, the “Turbae ad Passionem Gregorianam,” Op. 43, from 1974.

Wachner, who is director of music and the arts at Trinity Wall Street, as well as the music director of the Washington Chorus, stumbled upon the work while poring over a catalogue of Ginastera’s music in search of ways to commemorate the composer’s centenary in 2016. And since the work demands an enormous performing force, he was able to use all his ensembles, and more: Crowded onto the Carnegie stage were the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, the Trinity Youth Chorus, the Washington Chorus, the Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral and NOVUS NY, the new-music orchestra Wachner founded at Trinity.

Ginastera used pretty much the full palette of Western techniques and timbres, from Gregorian chant to 12-tone rows, with fleeting glimpses of neo-Romantic orchestral lushness, South American percussion coloration and occasional ad libitum passages, sung (or even shouted) by soloists from within the choir along the way.

The work’s frame is the chanted narrative of “The Evangelist”, drawn from the New Testament, projected with a calm fluidity by the baritone Thomas McCargar, with occasional contributions, also cast in plainsong, by baritone Scott Allen Jarrett as Jesus and tenor Geoffrey Silver as both Pilate and Judas. But the real action is in the choral writing, in which Old and New Testament texts and passages from the Liber Usualis mingle. The massed choir presents the crowd scenes, Jesus’s supporters and detractors, and at one point, an inner rumination by Judas on a text from Jonah.

Much of the choral writing is ecstatic — not merely energetic — with soaring, fortissimo soprano lines and rich, vigorous bass passages slicing through the often dense, percussion-heavy orchestration. But the most compelling, emotionally gripping sections are more restrained, among them several haunting, contrapuntal (and occasionally pointillistic) Psalm settings and the serene setting from Matthew that describes the moment of Jesus’s death. The combined choruses here produced a beautifully blended and often thrilling sound.

Before the Ginastera, Wachner led NOVUS NY and a smaller, offstage choir in a suitably gritty, roaring account of Charles Ives’s Symphony No. 4. Like the Ginastera, Ives combined antique elements (hymns and folk melodies) with freewheeling, modernist dissonance. It may not be, as Wachner suggests in a program-book interview, “the definitive 20th century American symphony,” but it captures Ives’s ornery New England spirit and makes a joyful noise, conveyed here in a virtuosic, high-energy reading.

Sun, February 22, 2015

Wachner, Trinity forces rock Carnegie with massive rarities by Ives and Ginastera
New York Classical Review

Although they didn’t have the heft of the major orchestras, the large collective of musicians captured this, because they played the music with such skill and sympathy. The music, especially in the second “Comedy” movement, becomes so dense, that details are essential, and they were marvelously audible. One could hear a second violin sawing away in a rough solo in a back stand, the quarter-tone piano, and the lone soprano voice separating from the choir in the final movement. There is much chamber music inside this symphony, and it was remarkable how compellingly intimate Wachner made that sound. And the choral entrances, especially singing “Watchman” in the first movement, were like the touch of a loving hand on one’s back in the middle of a cold and lonely night.

Read Full Text

Wachner, Trinity forces rock Carnegie with massive rarities by Ives and Ginastera

February 22, 2015 at 1:27 pm
By George Grella

Trinity Wall Street was calling the concert they produced at Carnegie Hall Saturday night “The Big Concert,” and big it was. It was also, in many ways, quite grand. And in a few ways it was also quite mad.

In the most obvious, logistical sense, the program was tremendously ambitious: Ives’ Symphony No. 4, with its chorus and multiple groups within the larger ensemble, followed by Turbae ad Passionem Gregorianam, by Alberto Ginastera, a symphonic Passion oratorio that calls for hundreds of singers.

All this was presented by Trinity’s Choir, Trinity Youth Chorus, the NOVUS NY orchestra, and the Washington Chorus and Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir, led with command and passionate energy by Trinity’s music director, Julian Wachner.

Wachner also lead the audience in some hymn singing because, as he explained from the stage, the hymns were the common fabric from which Ives composed (along with marches and popular music) and were a part of the regular musical life of his audience. So the audience sang the hymns to get acquainted with Ives’ world, sounding great, but helped by some chorus ringers in the boxes on each side of the hall.

That was one of several features that Wachner established for the Ives symphony that were true to the music and exceptionally effective. The “distant choir” of strings and harp were placed in an upper balcony, stage right, the offstage percussion was truly offstage, and, in a completely unexpected touch, the solo piano—played with beautiful naturalism by Timo Andres—was at the foot of the stage, in concerto configuration.

The musical results could not have been truer to Ives’ values and aesthetic. His work is full of spatial configurations because that’s how he heard and experienced music, and in this symphony, hearing voices sing from above and each side, hearing different music, with different tempos and rhythms, drifting from what might have been the house next door, means experiencing the music communally.

And that means hearing Ives’ mystic chords of memory. Wachner said, “Ives was looking to the past to make a statement about America,” But more precisely Ives was seeking a way to return to a personal, idealized past, his memories full of admiration for his father and a sense of loss for a utopian era that never existed. Amid this, there is the sincere desire to connect all humanity through the Emerson’s Great Over-Soul.

Although they didn’t have the heft of the major orchestras, the large collective of musicians captured this, because they played the music with such skill and sympathy. The music, especially in the second “Comedy” movement, becomes so dense, that details are essential, and they were marvelously audible. One could hear a second violin sawing away in a rough solo in a back stand, the quarter-tone piano, and the lone soprano voice separating from the choir in the final movement. There is much chamber music inside this symphony, and it was remarkable how compellingly intimate Wachner made that sound. And the choral entrances, especially singing “Watchman” in the first movement, were like the touch of a loving hand on one’s back in the middle of a cold and lonely night.

The contrast between Ives’ communitarianism and Ginastera’s more traditional authoritarianism was amazing. “Turbae” is the Latin word for crowd, and in the Passion, the word refers to any group of people speaking. In Ginastera’s massive, rarely performed piece, the crowd is the main character; the chorus is the crowd and it seethes with rough, aggressive energy, threatening to explode off the stage.

Demanding 300+ singers makes for infrequent performances, but so does the maniacal quality of the music. It is fascinating but is also too long, and has the style of a sledgehammer. The score alternates narration between three soloists—two baritones and a tenor—who sing individual roles from Mark, Luke and John, and the chorus, which at times is the apostles, or witnesses, or itself a narrator.

At times the music is tremendous: the singers arrayed in polytonal stacks, everyone in the mass of voices responding “Surely not I, Lord?” in free rhythm, moments, especially around the word “Hosanna!”, when the singers do a half-scream that felt like it was peeling back one’s eyeballs.

But the piece is ritualistic and distant from the audience—where Ives chats, Ginastera lectures, and so much of the writing, like dissonant singing over rumbling and chattering percussion, sounds dated.

Still, the musicians played this like it was the greatest music ever written, and were impressive in every way. 
Thomas McCargar, as the Evangelist, has by far the largest solo part, and he was excellent, while tenor Geoffrey Silver (both Pilate and Judas), and baritone Scott Allen Jarrett as Jesus, were strong in what are oddly limited parts.

Like a lot of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, it is good to hear Turbae and good to know one will never hear it again. But Ives’ Symphony No. 4  should be heard always, and preferably in performances as well-prepared and outstanding as this.

Sun, February 22, 2015

Review: Trinity Wall Street and Julian Wachner Play Carnegie Hall
The New York Times

Mr. Wachner led a viscerally dramatic performance. With this concert he signaled that next year, the centennial of Ginastera, Trinity Wall Street will present an extensive survey of the composer’s works. Adventure and ambition go hand in hand at Trinity Wall Street.

Read Full Text

Review: Trinity Wall Street and Julian Wachner Play Carnegie Hall

By ANTHONY TOMMASINI

FEB. 22, 2015

Julian Wachner, the impressive director of music and the arts at Trinity Wall Street, didn’t seem the slightest bit nervous in his first performance as a conductor at Carnegie Hall on Saturday night. He affably welcomed the audience, thanking everyone for braving not just the winter weather but the program he had planned. The concert paired Ives’s Fourth Symphony, generally considered one of the most complex and challenging 20th-century symphonic works, and a rare performance of an intense 60-minute oratorio, “Turbae ad Passionem Gregorianam,” by the Argentine-born composer Alberto Ginastera, first performed in 1975.

For these works, Mr. Wachner, who is also a composer, assembled some 300 performers: the excellent Choir of Trinity Wall Street; the Trinity Youth Chorus; the Washington Chorus, an award-winning ensemble that Mr. Wachner also directs; the Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir; and Novus NY, the Trinity Wall Street’s contemporary music orchestra, its ranks fortified for this demanding concert with extra players.

Mr. Wachner prepared the audience by first sitting at a piano onstage and leading everyone in some hymn singing. The score, typical for Ives, is laced with hymn tunes, sometimes fairly direct, sometimes veiled. Ives assumed that any audience in his day would recognize the hymns when hearing his symphony. So to help the listeners at Carnegie do so, Mr. Wachner, asked everyone to sing along, following a sheet of printed music inserted into the programs, including the choir members who, for the Ives, were sitting in the first balcony.

Ives’s Fourth Symphony crams formidable difficulties into a 33-minute time span. The performance was confident and exciting. The first movement, as Ives commented, poses transcendentalist questions of “what” and why.” Fraught rumblings from the orchestra, prodded by restless bursts from a solo piano (the accomplished Timothy Andres) are contrasted with shimmering string choirs and, before long, the actual choristers, singing a hymn. The second movement is a kind of satire. The orchestra shifts between pummeling evocations of a celestial train promising to take a man directly to the heavenly city — a promise that proves a scam — and evocations of the hymn-singing pilgrims who beat a path to heaven the old-fashioned way. The third movement is a sturdy but elusive fugue on a hymn tune; the final movement, the most cosmic and cacophonous, is at once ecstatic and terrifying.

For sheer terror in music, however, not much matches the most intense moments of Ginastera’s passion, which put all the evening’s performers onstage. Like the Bach passions, this one has a solo Evangelist who tells the story, not in recitative, as Bach does, but in Gregorian chant. (Thomas McCargar sang the Evangelist here, along with Geoffrey Silver as Pilate and Judas, and Scott Allen Jarrett as Jesus.)

Those who know Ginastera, who died in 1983 at 67, only from his earlier South American nationalist style work may be stunned to hear this passion, essentially a 12-tone score of gnashing dissonance and multilayered complexity. Yet much of the harmonic language sounds lushly chromatic, in an Expressionist vein. The piece’s most audacious element is its shrieking cinematic realism. Sometimes the choirs speak and sputter the lines; sometimes the music breaks into free-for-all bouts of hysteria.

Mr. Wachner led a viscerally dramatic performance. With this concert he signaled that next year, the centennial of Ginastera, Trinity Wall Street will present an extensive survey of the composer’s works. Adventure and ambition go hand in hand at Trinity Wall Street.

A version of this review appears in print on February 23, 2015, on page C5 of the New York edition with the headline: An Army, Some 300 Strong, Recruited for Notoriously Knotty Classical Works.

Sat, February 21, 2015

NOVUS NY at Carnegie Hall
The Upcoming

Turbae’s obscurity is a mystery, because it is powerful. The audience went crazy for it. This performance went a long way proving that musicians and listeners don’t have a problem being challenged. That’s what music is all about.

Read Full Text

NOVUS NY at Carnegie Hall

live review by Patricia Contino

Saturday 21st February 2015

Prior to this concert, Carnegie Hall’s new chair Ronald O. Perelman made disparaging remarks about classical music as only a one-percenter can. No one would argue that diversified programming is crucial – especially for a venue like Carnegie Hall. The billionaire would have discovered a cross-section of ticket-holders ignoring nasty wet weather to hear Trinity Wall Street play two challenging, rarely heard choral works.

To familiarize listeners, conductor Julian Wachner warmed up the crowd encouraging them to sing hymns Charles Ives worked into his Fourth Symphony. Maestro noted that one, Near My God to Thee, played when the Titanic sank – hoping its inclusion wouldn’t be a bad omen for the concert. He needn’t have worried. Composed from 1898-1911, Ives never heard it in his lifetime because he was a control freak and his score is unapologetically difficult – and unbelievably exhilarating. He brings together not only hymns but also previous compositions, sound effects (whistles, chimes), marches, and ragtime to create a sound picture of pre-World War I America. The first two movements weave these ideas into a weird sense of harmony. The third movement Fugue is a pretty, “classical” interlude, and the Finale is pure Ives – a wordless chorus uniting outside musical ideas as he creates his own.

Wachner kept Triniity’s NOVUS NY orchestra and Trinity Choir well in control. Charles Ives’ music is hard describing because he is an original. His music isn’t easy to “like” but, as this performance proved, rewarding.

Even less familiar is Alberto Ginastera’s Turbae ad Passionem Gregoriana. Like Ives, Ginastera brought together different sounds for The Passion.

Turbae is Latin for “crowd” – and this crowd, comprised of the Trinity Choir, Trinity Youth Chorus, Washington Chorus, and Washington National Cathedral Choir of Boys and Girls, is a screaming mob. They are only quieted when the Evangelical (Thomas McCargar) describes events in a cappella Gregorian chanting used in the Catholic Mass. The “passion” for this 1975 Good Friday setting is for blood. Ginastera musically paints a cross being dragged in the street, the man nailed to it, the earthquake following his death.

Salvation comes only in the final moments when the final chorus rejoices in the Resurrection.

Turbae’s obscurity is a mystery, because it is powerful. The audience went crazy for it. This performance went a long way proving that musicians and listeners don’t have a problem being challenged. That’s what music is all about.

Verdict: five stars

Mon, January 26, 2015

Life Can Be Such a Drag!
The Huffington Post

Conductor Julian Wachner kept the opera’s momentum moving forward without ever overpowering his singers.

Read Full Text

George Heymont

Life Can Be Such a Drag!

Posted: 01/26/2015 12:48 am EST Updated: 01/26/2015 8:59 am EST

So many questions about gender identity found a place in 2014's headlines that, as the world put last year to rest and got on with the business of 2015, I couldn't help but think back to a particular week last fall. October in San Francisco always evokes images in a resident's mind of:

The Blue Angels buzzing around the Bay during Fleet Week.
Sailors clad in dress whites who (in the post "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" era) can freely socialize in gay bars where their presence will please a population that loves the sight of a man in uniform.
Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall all lit up to look like a giant pumpkin.

Busy costume preparations for Halloween celebrations.
The sudden onslaught of pumpkin-flavored everything.
San Francisco City Hall basking in the glow of orange lighting.

At that time, two of the Civic Center's stages were awash in gender confusion. Over at the War Memorial Opera House, two countertenors appearing in traditional male costumes had to cope with a confused mezzo-soprano seeking revenge in yet another trouser role. Meanwhile, at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, one of the Bay area's most talented drag artists was holding center stage in the kind of hysterical farce in which one of the more clueless characters is described as "an 11-inch dong that deserves to have my luggage tags hanging from it." To everyone's relief, subtlety was away on sabbatical.

* * * * * * * * * *

The San Francisco Opera was presenting the company premiere of George Frideric Handel's romantic farce, Partenope, which had its premiere in London some 284 years ago on February 24, 1730. The opera's American premiere did not take place until 1988, when it was staged by Opera Omaha (in 1998 it was co-produced by the Glimmerglass Festival and the New York City Opera).

Directed by Christopher Alden, the current production originated as a co-production between the English National Opera (where it premiered in October of 2008) and Opera Australia, which subsequently staged the work in Melbourne and Sydney. It may be the only operatic production whose press notes include a statement that "singing from behind the bathroom door is slightly amplified."

Heavily influenced by the Dadaism and Surrealism movements of the early 20th century, the opera's plot has been updated to a 1920s Parisian salon where parties and card games are hosted by Partenope (who, in the original version, is the Queen of Naples). While everyone loves Partenope, she's not always sure whose love she can trust or, for that matter, whose love is worth reciprocating. As a result, much of the opera's action is based on misguided lovers chasing after those who either should not or can not return their affection. As Alden notes:

"Partenope is a subversive, urban, gender-defying work that is witty but, at the same time, raises questions about societal assumptions. The libretto turns the norm around so that the powerful monarch in this piece is a woman. The men are all vying for her political/romantic favors and, like anyone in power, Partenope can never be sure whether these people are attracted to her or her power. Handel takes that from the story and writes music that makes her a fascinating, sympathetic, three-dimensional character.

There's a very camp aspect to Handel's operas, especially this piece. It can't be proven that Handel was gay, but he was an unmarried man who chose to live in a sophisticated city, who had unmarried male friends in his circle and his relationship with powerful divas was a big part of his life. The idea is not to airlift the piece into a specific modern context. It's a very open-ended visual context that allows the audience to focus on the relationships and on the text and the music."

Over the years, Alden's productions have been known for their gimmickry. Although his Partenope employs all kinds of modern touches from toilet humor to tap dancing (and has characters freely throw glasses and bananas against the walls), each sight gag is carefully calibrated to frame a character's motivation, frustration, and sense of inadequacy or rage. The audience around me chuckled in glee at many of Alden's gimmicks, clearly enjoying a night of Handel more than they had ever anticipated.

When push comes to shove, the quality of the singing is one of the biggest concerns in any production of a Handel opera. While strong performances came from mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack (doubling as Rosmira and Eurimene) and countertenor David Daniels as Arsace (the lover who humped Rosmira and then callously dumped her after falling for Partenope's charms), I was shocked by the mushy coloratura work that compromised so much of tenor Alek Shrader's performance as Emilio. Baritone Philippe Sly's Ormonte (both in and out of drag) added a nice sense of balance to the ensemble.

Much of Alden's production requires singers who can not only act, but can move like dancers. Danielle De Niese had a luscious, intensely feminine appeal in the title role (wearing Jon Morrell's costumes with a rare sense of style and grace). As far as I'm concerned, however, the evening's top honors went to countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo who, as the timid and lovesick Armindo, not only sang magnificently but handled his tap dancing chores and pratfalls as if he had been born to physical comedy (not something one can say about most opera singers).

I was particularly taken with Andrew Lieberman's set designs for this production. Conductor Julian Wachner kept the opera's momentum moving forward without ever overpowering his singers. Here's some footage from San Francisco Opera's production of Partenope:

* * * * * * * * * *

For nearly two-thirds of the 20th century, the Cunard Steamship Company was the dominant brand in transatlantic travel. Long before Cunard Line became a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation, the company's advertising campaigns were based on the simple slogan: "Getting There Is Half The Fun!"

That motto could easily have been applied to Act I of the New Conservatory Theatre Center's production of Charles Busch's stage farce, Die, Mommie, Die! (which, at its 1999 premiere in Los Angeles, was subtitled The Fall of the House of Sussman). For Act II, let me quote Alan Yuhas's take on the opening night performance of the Metropolitan Opera's controversial production of The Death of Klinghoffer: "It had all the deft touch of a sledgehammer."

Believe it or not, that's a compliment for Die, Mommie Die!'s director, F. Allen Sawyer, who took Busch's catty romp and used it as a template for the best kind of camp madness. Set in 1967, the plot revolves around a toxic Beverly Hills family whose lust for wretched excess is, at the very least, excessive. With references to numerous bitch fest B-movies from the 1950s as well as an ancient Greek tragedy, the cast of characters includes:

Sol Sussman (Joe Wicht), a fabled Hollywood producer whose luck at the box office has run dry. Head over heels in debt to the mob, Sol has been unable to finance his artistic dream of having Elizabeth Taylor star in a biopic about Billie Holiday. To make matters worse, a private detective has confirmed Sol's wife's infidelity (she's been screwing her sexy tennis instructor). Meanwhile, Sol's constipation has become the bane of this angry old Jew's existence.

Edith Sussman (Ali Haas), Sol's father-worshipping, mother-hating, Electra-like daughter who has some unresolved issues of her own to deal with.
Lance Sussman (Devin S. O'Brien), Sol's ditsy gay son who has been experimenting with drugs, finding new ways to express himself in a college theatre department, and who can be obsessively captivated by the pull-chain switch on a table lamp in the family's living room.

Angela Arden (J. Conrad Frank), Sol's diva-like wife who is desperately hoping to make a comeback on the cabaret circuit and has even landed a contract to perform at a small hotel in the Catskills.
Tony Parker (Justin Liszanckie), the not-very-bright gigolo who has been shtupping Angela while trying to convince her to move to New York with him where he hopes to resurrect his acting career. Tony is more than willing to put his hefty endowment to use titillating Edith and Lance if the ends will justify the means.
Bootsie Carp (Marie O'Donnell), the wise-cracking Thelma Ritter-like maid who, for years, has been dividing her affection between her employer and Richard Nixon.

Clues drop with a resounding thud throughout Busch's play.

Who knew that Angela had such skill at throwing knives and scissors?
Or that she could be driven to murder Sol with a silvery suppository (the size of an extra-large burrito) that had been laced with arsenic?
Why would Angela recoil at the sight of the LP recording she once made with her long-deceased identical twin, Barbara?
And why does Angela deliver so many lines in Act II as if she were channeling Bette Davis?

Thanks to her enterprising children (who slip some LSD into Angela's evening cup of coffee), plenty of secrets are revealed against the background of Kuo-Hao Lo's deliciously vulgar unit set. While many may assume that the role of Angela would forever belong to its creator, Charles Busch, New Conservatory Theatre Center triumphantly cast J. Conrad Frank as Angela.

Over the years, Mr. Frank has been perfecting his own cabaret act as the failed Russian opera diva, Countess Katya Smirnoff-Skyy (who is now forced to work at the cosmetics counter in Macy's). With a series of gowns designed by "Mr. David," the statuesque Mr. Frank dominated the stage in the manner of a performer who knows his way around high camp, low morals, divine outfits, and operatic posturing. His comic timing was rock solid. His Angela knew how to milk a line (as well as Tony Parker's prized piece of anatomy) like a champ.

Although far more sinister than Madame Arcati's séance in Blithe Spirit, Angela's Act II acid trip is every bit as hilarious and revealing. In a comedy built to showcase and revolve around a fading star, Mr. Frank knew how to work Angela's diminishing force of gravity for all it was worth. The rest of the cast orbited around her with maniacal glee, with particularly energetic performances coming from Ali Haas and Devin S. O'Brien as Angela's scheming children. I also very much enjoyed Marie O'Donnell's performance as Bootsie.

Wed, January 21, 2015

Julian Wachner: Transcending the Sacred and the Profane
NewMusicBox

“For me, all music is meant to induce a transformative experience upon the listener. … I want it to be life changing,” exclaimed Wachner, when we spoke with him at Trinity’s office shortly after the start of the New Year. He actually sees it as “moral responsibility of the compositional craft and the performative craft as well.”

Read Full Text

Julian Wachner: Transcending the Sacred and the Profane

By Frank J. Oteri on January 21, 2015

Video presentation and photography by Molly Sheridan

As the director of music and the arts for Trinity Wall Street, Julian Wachner wears many hats. The 45-year-old composer, conductor, organist, and pianist oversees the music-making at this Lower Manhattan Episcopal house of worship, navigating both what the extremely versatile Trinity Wall Street Choir sings during religious services and a broad range of secular concerts held both in the main church and in St. Paul’s Chapel, which survived the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center across the street. But while religion is central to his musical as well as his personal life (he is a practicing Episcopalian and his wife, Rev. Emily Wachner, serves as a priest at Trinity), he also is a regular conductor for the PROTOTYPE Festival, earlier this month conducting Ellen Reid’s Winter’s Child. (His own opera Evangeline Revisited was showcased on the New York City Opera’s VOX series in 2010.) And in February he will conduct Charles Ives’s 4th Symphony and a rarely performed Alberto Ginastera choral work at Carnegie Hall.

“For me, all music is meant to induce a transformative experience upon the listener. … I want it to be life changing,” exclaimed Wachner, when we spoke with him at Trinity’s office shortly after the start of the New Year. He actually sees it as “moral responsibility of the compositional craft and the performative craft as well.” In booklet notes he wrote for the first CD devoted exclusively to his own music, a 2010 Naxos disc containing both sacred and secular choral music performed by the Elora Festival Singers, he described an often-perceived schism between music he calls Apollonian (either music for worship or academic music) and music that is Dionysian (popular music or theatrical music including operas and ballets). His own aesthetic inclinations, he pointed out, have led him to ignore this schism and to freely mix approaches that have traditionally been polar opposites.

This is in no small part due to his family background, how he first became involved with music, and how that involvement led to his own personal religious awakening. He describes his parents as “sort of California hippies” and remembers that there was “no religion in my life at all.” His mother “grew up Catholic but totally rejected that,” and his father had a Jewish background but was also a non-practitioner even though Wachner learned from his paternal grandmother, who had been a strong influence in his life, that among his ancestors “were all these chief rabbis in Germany.” But there was another important influence—a musical one. Wachner’s stepfather Robert Cole was a conductor and served as Michael Tilson Thomas’s assistant at the Buffalo Philharmonic during Wachner’s childhood. “So I had that whole world of post-Bernstein energy,” he acknowledges. An early piano teacher of his recommended that he sing as a boy chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, so he started doing that at age seven.

“It was really just a performance opportunity,” Wachner explains. “When I went there, I thought of my identity as Jewish, even though I had never been bar mitzvahed or anything like that. But it was understood that that was what I was and it was cool with everybody.”

But a few years later, he had an epiphany. By this time, he had moved to New York City and was singing with the St. Thomas choir:

Part of it was the music and the power of the liturgy. But the other part of it was the actual mission and message. We would sing the Byrd Mass in Five Parts and this incredible music by Howells, but then we’d go out and feed the homeless. That was part of our training. That whole gospel message really resonated and I became an Episcopalian at age 11 or 12.

After his conversion, however, Wachner remained deeply involved with a great deal of music outside of the Christian sacred repertoire. In high school, he even played in rock bands while sporting a Mohawk and an earring. “As I went through life, I had always a sort of wilder side and a more conservative side,” he confesses. At the same time he was immersing himself in the downtown rock club scene, he was composing his first polyphonic mass, a Missa Brevis for chorus and organ; he points out that “the Sanctus of it is has almost an ‘80s pop ballad chord progression which comes from the Depeche Mode/Smiths/Howard Jones world I was living in during that period.”

That 1987 mass, which appears on the Elora Festival Singers’ disc, sounds more secular than parts of his ethereal cycle of Rilke settings, Rilke Songs (2002), or even his 1998 E. E. Cummings-inspired cycle Sometimes I Feel Alive, despite their texts. (Both of which also appear on that recording.) For Wachner, finding the sacred in the secular is as important as finding the secular in the sacred. In fact, he believes there is a fluid continuity between the arts, the sciences, and religions—all religions. That multiplicity of perspectives is something he aspires to tap into as much as he can in anything he composes or performs.

My definition of sacred is so liquid that I am able to interpret everything in that direction in the same way I see everything as theater as well, how action follows action and produces some kind of response or result. … I’ve been drawing on not only the Judeo-Christian tradition but also Islamic, the Buddhist world, the Martial Arts, as well as the scientific. I’m also a Feldenkrais practitioner. For me embracing all that is available to us now is actually a sacred act. The gift of intelligence and curiosity and seeking is a God-given act, if you want to say that, or that humans are endowed with as part of our make-up.

Wachner’s “little c” catholic interpretation of faith is the inspiration behind all of the music that is featured on a 3-CD set devoted to his vocal and instrumental works released last year on Trinity’s own Musica Omnia label. The track list includes extremely flamboyant settings of psalms, a majestic symphony, and a powerful trumpet and organ duo, Blue Green Red, whose only immediate sonic relationship to sacred music is that it features a pipe organ. Also included is Wachner’s over-the-top arrangement of the ubiquitous “Joy To The World” by George Frederick Handel (a composer whose sacred and secular works he has frequently conducted and whose own balancing of the sacred and secular is perhaps the most famous compositional precedent for what he is doing).

Yet despite his own musical omnivorousness and his firm belief that any kind of compositional technique can serve both sacred and secular music, Wachner admits that he approaches sacred and secular music differently as a performer.

“In terms of musical language and compositional technique, I think it’s all available to both areas,” Wachner explains. “In terms of what’s off-limits, I haven’t really found that yet. I interpret work theatrically; I tend to do that with everything. But if I were to do a sacred work in a liturgical setting, I tend to downplay my physical performance. I do that to draw more focus to the specific theater of the liturgy and not the theater of me as performer. I tone down my gestures; it feels more appropriate to temper the extremities. For me temperance comes in the performance; in the creation of a piece of music, the possibility of using everything at my disposal adds to the ecstasy of it and those ecstatic moments are the high point.”

Page 6 of 23 pages ‹ First  < 4 5 6 7 8 >  Last ›