Press

Wed, August 10, 2016

At a Concert, Floating Through Outer Space in Virtual Reality
Hyperallergic

Prestini’s operatic score, with a libretto by Royce Vavrek, did not encourage the “astronauts,” as the MC called the audience, to sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight: Instead, it was a thundering opus that obliquely told the story of a woman losing her child and committing suicide. The 20-person orchestra [conducted by Julian Wachner] was silhouetted behind a translucent screen projected with Sasha Arutyunova’s ghostly black-and-white photographs of a couple in despair, hands forming shadow puppets, and a glowing pregnant belly. This human tragedy was framed by a parallel narrative charting the birth, life, and death of a star, narrated by the Hubble’s lead astrophysicist, Dr. Mario Livio.

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At a Concert, Floating Through Outer Space in Virtual Reality

by Carey Dunne on August 10, 2016

On Saturday night, some 6,000 people gathered on the Prospect Park Bandshell’s grassy knoll and waited to be beamed up into space. Via Google Cardboard VR headsets, they would float through the Orion Nebula, a Milky Way star cluster more than 1,000 light years away. As they floated, they would listen to a Norwegian string orchestra, a choir of 100 and two Metropolitan Opera stars singing about the parallel life cycles of stars and humans.

This was the Hubble Cantata, a staggeringly ambitious work that attempted to bring the cosmos down to Brooklyn and make sweaty crowds bordered by beer tents and porta-potties feel like astronauts. Part of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! concert series, the event fused music by composer Paola Prestini with astrophysics and a finale in virtual reality.

Prestini’s operatic score, with a libretto by Royce Vavrek, did not encourage the “astronauts,” as the MC called the audience, to sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight: Instead, it was a thundering opus that obliquely told the story of a woman losing her child and committing suicide. The 20-person orchestra was silhouetted behind a translucent screen projected with Sasha Arutyunova’s ghostly black-and-white photographs of a couple in despair, hands forming shadow puppets, and a glowing pregnant belly. This human tragedy was framed by a parallel narrative charting the birth, life, and death of a star, narrated by the Hubble’s lead astrophysicist, Dr. Mario Livio.

When composing the cantata, Prestini took a synesthetic approach to translating the Hubble’s Orion Nebula images into music. “There’s actually no sound in space,” Prestini told Hyperallergic. She asked herself, “What do collapsing clouds of gas sound like? What do stars sound like?” In her musical imagination, they sound almost apocalyptic, with foreboding timpani rolls and searing string runs. The bellowed lyrics — sometimes a little on-the-nose — mused on “intelligent life,” “exhausted promises, exhausted frontiers,” and “a filter of doom.”

Forty-five minutes into the piece, a message appeared on the screen: “Astronauts: Lift Off Imminent.” The choir began a countdown. Before the show, audience members had been told to download an app, called Fistful of Stars, featuring a five-minute VR video by filmmaker Eliza McNitt. In unison, the “astronauts” popped their smartphones into the VR headsets, handed out for free, and launched into a 360-degree tour through space composed of CGI-animated imagery of the Orion Nebula, first photographed by the Hubble Telescope in 1993.

“People have asked, did you actually send your cameras to space [to make the video]?” McNitt said.

No, it would take thousands of years to get the footage back. And to the human eye, [the Orion Nebula] would just look like white light. We used Hubble Telescope photos as reference, to create a photorealistic simulation of what it would be like to travel into pockets of the universe that only the Hubble gets to see. We tried to make things as accurate as possible, but also to create a sense of magical realism.

Looking through the headset’s plastic eyeholes, a glow on the horizon grew into a glaring white sun, and the astronauts, sitting on a patchwork of blankets in the grass, were virtually transported into the silver cylinder of the Hubble Telescope. But just as I was about to float into the telescope’s round eye, the VR experience stopped, interrupted by a low battery warning on my phone.

Sans headset, angrily tapping the phone screen, I was returned to a non-virtual reality of french fry trays and half-eaten burgers and $8 cups of beer littering the grass, mosquitoes biting my legs, a crying baby, and my own dumb lack of preparedness (why hadn’t I visited the “charging station” nearby?). Stars in the real sky overhead twinkled faintly behind the light pollution. Around me, hundreds of people stared into their headsets, swiveling around in wonder, like drunk cyborgs. They had blasted off without me. My escape had been thwarted.

My expectations for the Hubble Cantata, vaguely based on sci-fi imaginings of VR, were impossibly high. I had arrived in Prospect Park hoping to achieve something akin to astral projection. A lazy meditator, I thought maybe this technology could offer a shortcut to five minutes of enlightenment. “All elements in our bodies were forged at the centers of stars,” Dr. Livio had said at the start of the performance, “which means we literally are stardust.” This wasn’t news, because I had heard Crosby, Stills & Nash before, but I’d hoped this smartphone app, paired with loud opera, would kill my ego and make me feellike stardust, for once. I had hoped an animation of the Orion Nebula seen through a cardboard headset would give me a hallucinogen-level out-of-body experience without destroying brain cells. Of course, this was too much to ask. The experience of VR, so far, doesn’t live up to the fantasy of total escape. (For the sake of staving off a Black Mirror-esque dystopia filled with VR porn addicts, that’s probably a good thing.)

“We may be doomed and intelligent civilizations will not survive for very long,” said Dr. Mario Livio from the speakers. “Life is extremely rare.” As if rooting for the survival of intelligent civilization, my phone did not die, the video resumed, and massive peaked clouds of pink and orange and blue star stuff began to swirl around me in all directions. Flecks of dirt on the screen camouflaged into thousands of virtual stars, and the usual sounds of Prospect Park mixed into the booming orchestra: Airplanes, skateboards, and garbage trucks on the nearby road, cicadas and tree frogs. The effect was dazzling and so unreal.

Mon, August 8, 2016

“The Hubble Cantata” and Tigue at BRIC’s Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival
Feast of Music

The performance itself featured the first-rate string ensemble 1B1 from Norway, the amassed voices of the Washington Chorus and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and soloists Nathan Gunn and Jessica Rivera, all conducted by Julian Wachner.

During some especially ravishing passages, I kept looking up towards the clear night sky speckled with stars, and felt a connection that was far more transporting than the mild VR one. I could only imagine what it would be like to hear this cantata in one of those places on the planet where the sky is teeming with millions of stars from our galaxy and not just a few pale pinpricks from the brightest ones.

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"The Hubble Cantata" and Tigue at BRIC's Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival

by Steven Pisano

"We are stardust/ Billion year old carbon/ We are golden/ Caught in the devil's bargain/ And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." --Joni Mitchell

For anyone interested in the origins of the Universe, the concepts of space and time, or the genesis of life, the spectacular, awe-inspiring photographs taken with the Hubble Space Telescope over the past 36 years have been a magical, almost religious source of wonder, enabling humankind to peer back 14 billion years into our collective past. These extraordinary photographs have inspired scientists to dream about what the future might hold for us. 

In Paola Prestini and Royce Vavrek's The Hubble Cantata, which received its world premiere as a full-length virtual reality experience at BRIC's Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival on Saturday night, the audience was invited to travel on a shared journey inspired by these majestic images, following the skeletal story of a woman who is born, dies, and seeks to be reborn, just as stars are reconstituted from their own stellar dust. Images of ex-New York City Ballet dancer Wendy Whelan were projected onto a scrim in front of the orchestra and chorus.

The tease of the show to the thousands of people in attendance was that it was the first-ever fusing of a major musical performance with Virtual Reality. But the VR experience--a wishy-washy video of theOrion Nebula called "Fistful of Stars" by filmmaker Eliza McNitt viewed on smartphones inserted into cardboard headsets--was underwhelming at best. I was anticipating oohs and aahs all around me, but mostly I saw a sea of shrugs. With a long line of feature film depictions of space from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Gravity, there has been no shortage of jaw-dropping footage of what space might look like.

Nevertheless, the performance itself was full of magic and wonder. Space, of course, is silent: there is no audible music of the spheres. But, Prestini has written some astonishing musical passages that capture a sense of what it might be like to be set adrift in a universe without the limitations of space or time. According to Hubble astrophysicist Dr. Mario Livio, who provided voice-over narration, all living matter on Earth is composed physically of star matter dating back to the Big Bang, so the stars are within us even as we are amongst the stars.

The performance itself featured the first-rate string ensemble 1B1 from Norway, the amassed voices of the Washington Chorus and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and soloists Nathan Gunn and Jessica Rivera, all conducted by Julian Wachner. 

During some especially ravishing passages, I kept looking up towards the clear night sky speckled with stars, and felt a connection that was far more transporting than the mild VR one. I could only imagine what it would be like to hear this cantata in one of those places on the planet where the sky is teeming with millions of stars from our galaxy and not just a few pale pinpricks from the brightest ones.

Leading off the night, and getting the audience in the mood for some intergalactic travel, was the Brooklyn-based art-rock group Tigue (Matt Evans, Amy Garapic and Carson Moody), whose voiceless compositions lean heavily toward drone-like percussion that can often be trance-inducing. They played selections from their new album Peaks, including the spacey "Dress Well," featuring Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan on guitar and James McNew on electric bass.

There is a Kickstarter campaign seeking to raise additional funds to perform The Hubble Cantata again in this full-performance version -- it has previously been performed as a 20-odd minute piece without the bells and whistles -- and from there it may go on tour. And as for the Hubble Space Telescope itself? For all it has revealed about the Universe, it should continue working for many years to come - though it will soon have competition from the larger and more sophisticated James Webb Space Telescope, which will launch in 2018.

Mon, August 8, 2016

‘The Hubble Cantata’ Explores Orchestral Transcendence in Space by Embracing VR
The Observer

After four years in the making, the success of this multi-disciplinary performance lies in its ability to exist as both high art and popular entertainment. And so The Hubble Cantata is a work that knows no parallel, pushing boundaries of technology and presentation that push our city’s relationship with multi-disciplinary performance further into uncharted territory.

The piece’s world premiere last weekend at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in Prospect Park not only utilized a 100-person choir, a 20-piece ensemble, baritone Nathan Gunn and soprano Jessica Rivera [conducted by Julian Wachner]—a massive production by normal standards alone—but a Virtual Reality climax to the piece, wherein the audience downloaded the VR film on their phones beforehand and raised their viewers (the same Google Cardboard boxes the NYT sent out to subscribers last fall) when the on-stage screen gave the signal.

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‘The Hubble Cantata’ Explores Orchestral Transcendence in Space by Embracing VR

By Justin Joffe • 08/08/16 12:27pm

There’s no experience more wondrous than the moment you first learn there’s music in space.

Generations of kids got wise when they heard Dark Side of the Moon for the first time, and some even earlier upon discovering the works of Sun Ra or Alice Coltrane. My fortunate musical education provided me with all of that, but it wasn’t until much later in life, when working for the record label of composer Philip Glass that it all made sense.

One evening Glass spoke with astrophysicist Greg Laughlin as part of the Rubin Museum’s BRAINWAVE speaker series about the music of the cosmos. They were how, when the sound of planetary orbits was recorded and adjusted to something we could hear on an audible spectrum, the orbits sounded just like Tibetan prayer bowls. This confirmed that music was not only innate to the universe, but that we humans are channeling it.

It also put those years in high school orchestra spent learning Gustav Holst’s 1916 astrological symphonic suite, The Planets, into perspective. The bright string runs that opened “Jupiter” still ring with the rush of interplanetary wonder, while the brass of “Mars” still sounds like impending cosmic conflict. Whether we consciously know it or not, the voices of orchestral music have long been well-versed in the music of the stars, too, for so long that they’re imbedded in our subconscious.

Those bright string runs and foreboding brass runs make brief textural appearances in The Hubble Cantata, composer Paola Prestini’s brilliant collaboration with librettist Royce Vavreck and the Hubble Space Telescope’s lead astrophysicist, Dr. Mario Livio. But in all other arenas, Hubble pushes its classical cosmic themes ever more upward than any orchestral work these ears have ear in a long time, upward and toward the stars.

After four years in the making, the success of this multi-disciplinary performance lies in its ability to exist as both high art and popular entertainment. And so The Hubble Cantata is a work that knows no parallel, pushing boundaries of technology and presentation that push our city’s relationship with multi-disciplinary performance further into uncharted territory.

The piece’s world premiere last weekend at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in Prospect Park not only utilized a 100-person choir, a 20-piece ensemble, baritone Nathan Gunn and soprano Jessica Rivera—a massive production by normal standards alone—but a Virtual Reality climax to the piece, wherein the audience downloaded the VR film on their phones beforehand and raised their viewers (the same Google Cardboard boxes the NYT sent out to subscribers last fall) when the on-stage screen gave the signal.

“We decided to create a piece that would essentially follow a woman’s perspective, who had lost her child and killed herself,” Prestini told me. “We began to create this hyper-structure of the birth, life and death of a star, but within it a human narrative that connects to it.”

That story, told through Vavreck’s libretto and delivered by Metropolitan Opera stars Gunn and Rivera, was further advanced with Sasha Arutyunova’s beautiful black and white photographs on a giant, translucent screen that covered the stage. The orchestra was tastefully silhouetted, visible only in the moments appropriate to the piece.

Dr. Mario Livio’s narration explained the larger celestial implications at stake in a simple, coherent manner, further revealing our characters’ journey in the grand scheme of things.

“All elements in our bodies were forged at the centers of stars,” he told the audience before the performance, “which means we literally are stardust. Not only that, but it is possible that this atom in my body was formed in that star, and this atom in my body was formed in another star over there. So not only are we in the universe; the universe is inside us.”

Such a message might sound like boiler-plate inspirational dreck in lesser hands, but it’s to The Hubble Cantata‘s credit that the piece never panders to its audience or offers any easy answers to the difficult metaphysical quandaries it proposes.

Prestini’s score is equally dense and modern in moments that communicate our characters’ duress, while airy and light in the story’s moments of transition or epiphany. Her ability to intimately evoke specific emotions and feelings with her phrases speaks to time spent not only as an accomplished composer for new media and modern orchestral performance.

Prestini’s time spent perfecting 30-plus commissioned multidisciplinary works and serving as creative and executive director of Williamsburg’s National Sawdust has only further fortified her with the tact to balance all the voices, mixed media and technology that combine to make The Hubble Cantata such a spectacle. Hence, Eliza McNitt’s stunning five-minute VR climax doesn’t come off as gimmicky or tacked on. Instead, Prestini’s decision to use the Hubble’s imagery sparingly speaks to her tasteful intuitions as a multi-disciplinary artist. (Her production company, Vision Into Art, also produced the show.)

“We decided to not use Hubble imagery until the very end of the piece,” she said, “and holding back was very important. Because by the end, when you’ve really connected with the human story and you finally get to be in the Orion Nebula, it’s much more visceral.”

It’s such commitment to using new technology, not as a driving force but as a means to accent the work, that makes The Hubble Cantata a resounding success. More often than not technology puts us at a distance from establishing an emotional connection, but it doesn’t have to. And that’s a valuable lesson in of itself.

Many families brought young kids to the performance, which was both free and outside, and for its entire spectacle, a more enticing young person’s gateway into the world of classical music does not exist.

Astronaut Mike Mannino was also on hand, regaling youngsters with tales of his time spent servicing the Hubble, including one harrowing tale where he had to break off a support rod in the blackness of space so that the thing would work properly.

“We’re the repair people,” he told the crowd, “and we did the job so people like Mario could look at the images and make the great discoveries that they did.”

The packed house ran out of its 5,000 viewers, and even on the lawn an empty spot was tough to come by; The Hubble Cantata demonstrated that people will still turn out for classical music, even when it’s presented in new, more modern perspectives.

“It’s just really cool that we’re no longer at a time when only one type of classical music is allowed,” said librettist Royce Vavreck. “We are free to dream, and this piece really came from that liberation.”

Fri, August 5, 2016

A Saturday Night at the Center of the Stars
The Wall Street Journal

It is often said that music can transport a listener. On Saturday night, “The Hubble Cantata” hopes to launch some 6,000 people from Prospect Park into the Orion Nebula, more than 1,000 light-years away.

“We want everyone at the performance to feel like they are an astronaut, but to go where no astronaut has ever gone before,” said filmmaker Eliza McNitt, who is directing visuals for the ambitious project that merges science and modern classical music. It will be presented as part of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn concert series.

For its operatic tour of outer space, “Hubble” features a score by composer Paola Prestini, a libretto by Royce Vavrek, narration by astrophysicist Dr. Mario Livio and virtual-reality effects from the Endless Collective. Performers include a 20-piece orchestra, a 100-person choir and two Metropolitan Opera veterans, Nathan Gunn and Jessica Rivera [conducted by Julian Wachner].

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A Saturday Night at the Center of the Stars
‘The Hubble Cantata,’ inspired by images from the telescope, comes to Prospect Park

By 
ANDY BETA
Aug. 5, 2016 7:12 p.m. ET

It is often said that music can transport a listener. On Saturday night, “The Hubble Cantata” hopes to launch some 6,000 people from Prospect Park into the Orion Nebula, more than 1,000 light-years away.

“We want everyone at the performance to feel like they are an astronaut, but to go where no astronaut has ever gone before,” said filmmaker Eliza McNitt, who is directing visuals for the ambitious project that merges science and modern classical music. It will be presented as part of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn concert series.

For its operatic tour of outer space, “Hubble” features a score by composer Paola Prestini, a libretto by Royce Vavrek, narration by astrophysicist Dr. Mario Livio and virtual-reality effects from the Endless Collective. Performers include a 20-piece orchestra, a 100-person choir and two Metropolitan Opera veterans, Nathan Gunn and Jessica Rivera.

And organizers have 6,000 cardboard virtual-reality headsets ready to hand out to attendees, who are encouraged to download a specially designed Fistful of Stars app before the show. The visuals were inspired by images transmitted to earth by the Hubble telescope.

“It’s poetic license with scientific guidance,” Ms. Prestini said of the project, which took more than four years to conceive and bring to completion. “You cannot know what space looks like, and of course space doesn’t sound like anything.”

Ms. Prestini is known for pushing the boundaries of classical music, in part through collaborations—with poets, filmmakers and conservationists, among others. Her work has been commissioned by groups including the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Opera and Kronos Quartet; she also serves as creative and executive director for Brooklyn’s National Sawdust performance space.

She worked with Mr. Vavrek and Dr. Livio to tell a story about the parallel lives of stars in deepest space and humans here on earth.

“Like humans, stars are born, live and die,” Dr. Livio said. “All the elements that make for life within our body—carbon, oxygen, iron and so on—are actually forged in the nuclear furnaces at the center of stars.”

According to Ms. Prestini, a key boost to the project was Dr. Livio’s ability to translate complex matters of physics, such as dark matter or extrasolar life, into graspable metaphors.

His guidance provided scientific grounding to the group’s broad creative interpretation of outer space.

“I gave them lectures on concepts,” Dr. Livio said. “They sent me everything to make sure there were no gross mistakes.”

“We’d go back and forth with lyrics, and Mario would go, ‘You can’t say multiverses, that’s not right,’ so we’d go back to the drawing board,” Ms. Prestini said.

Inspiring the group were the images transmitted from the Hubble telescope, which launched in 1990 and for the past 36 years has provided a window into previously unseen aspects of our universe.

“I’ve grown up with the legacy of Hubble and fallen in love with the images and been inspired, shocked and in awe of them,” Ms. McNitt said.

As she began to work on the project with Ms. Prestini, she said, she realized the best way to translate these images into an immersive experience for an audience was to use virtual reality.

Enter Duncan Ransom and the Endless Collective team. With visual credits including blockbuster films like “Wrath of the Titans” and the Academy Award-winning “Gravity,” Mr. Ransom accepted the challenge of manifesting the Orion Nebula for “Hubble.”

“ ‘Gravity’ was visually driven, but this is driven by sound,” Mr. Ransom said, adding that creating the cantata’s immersive experience isn’t simply a matter of tweaking the visuals.

Virtual reality, he said, comes with a lot of technical obstacles.

One hurdle: “You can’t actually experience VR for more than 10 minutes or else you get sick,” Ms. Prestini said. It is an aspect of the new technology that scientists have yet to understand.

So the part of the cantata where the audience explores the Orion Nebula occurs near the end of the performance, presenting a climax of the music with an immersive visual experience that aims to be as awe-inspiring as the telescope itself.

Dr. Livio said he hopes that through its ambitious mix of music, text and cutting-edge visuals, “Hubble” will personalize astrophysics for people—if only to impart an important lesson about the stars.

“Not only are we in the universe,” he said, “but the universe is inside us as well.”

Sun, May 22, 2016

Concert Review: A Mighty Shout of Joy
Super-Conductor Classical Blog

...Mr. Wachner followed the Ginastera with Beethoven’s Ninth, its mysterious opening chords seeming to float in the air as the audience waited for the first fortissimo to drop. What followed was a taut and relatively lean performance, as Mr. Wachner made the unfamiliar ensembles play together in taut accord.

The second movement benefited from the bright acoustic of Trinity, an ecclesiastical space that was somehow blessed with good sound design. Here, the propulsive scherzo was driven forward by a triple stroke on the timpani and Mr. Wachner was efficient in picking up the maddening repeats that haunt this movement. The slow movement was eloquent, benefitting from lush string playing from the 1B1 musicians and poetic winds from NOVUS NY.

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SUNDAY, MAY 22, 2016

Concert Review: A Mighty Shout of Joy

Trinity Church ends its two-month Revolutionaries festival.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 should not be taken, or performed lightly. This unwieldly but popular symphony is an occasion piece, performed at the opening or close of a major festival or sung to commemorate an historic event. The performance Friday night at Trinity Church met both qualifications, as five ensembles pooled their resources to perform the Ninth alongside Alberto Ginastera's equally imposing setting of Psalm 150.

Here, the event was the end of Revolutionaries: Beethoven and Ginastera a two month festival at the historic Wall Street church commemorating the 100th anniversary of Ginastera's birth and juxtaposing his ground-breaking music with more familiar pieces by Beethoven. With the church packed and the late composer's daughter present in a central pew, the sense of occasion was palpable as music director Julian Wachner mounted the temporary podium well in front of the massed forces.

Ginastera's setting of Psalm 150 ("Let All Things Praise the Lord") is a massive choral arrangement on a scale that would make Gustav Mahler proud. Like that earlier composer's Eighth Symphony, it opens with a mighty shout of sound, with the Downtown Voices and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street singing first in unison and then in more complicated polyphony and fugue. The massive orchestra (members of NOVUS NY and the Norwegian group 1B1) thundered, supporting the singers in a pillar of strength.

The work is sung in French, and although the words did not always come clearly to the ear its intent in singing the praises of the Almighty were lucid enough. The most impressive moment came in the final sections of the mass as the scarlet-gowned members of the Trinity Youth Chorus lined up on both of the outer aisles of the church and sang, giving this listener the effect of natural quadrophonic sound and the feeling of being totally immersed in this impressive work.

Following the structure of the aforementioned Mahler symphony, Mr. Wachner followed the Ginastera with Beethoven's Ninth, its mysterious opening chords seeming to float in the air as the audience waited for the first fortissimo to drop. What followed was a taut and relatively lean performance, as Mr. Wachner made the unfamiliar ensembles play together in taut accord.

The second movement benefited from the bright acoustic of Trinity, an ecclesiastical space that was somehow blessed with good sound design. Here, the propulsive scherzo was driven forward by a triple stroke on the timpani and Mr. Wachner was efficient in picking up the maddening repeats that haunt this movement. The slow movement was eloquent, benefitting from lush string playing from the 1B1 musicians and poetic winds from NOVUS NY.

And then it was time for the mighty finale, with the setting of Schiller's Ode to Joy led off by four unusually strong vocal soloists. The baritone was firm and resonant, aware of the import of the words he was singing but not too florid as he sang them. Mezzo-soprano, tenor and soprano joined the great outcry, with the chorussimetimes in support and other times in the lead. The most harrowing moment was the mighty double fugue, with the high voices seeking a "Father beyond the stars" in a rising tide of sound that overwhelmed and engulfed.

Sun, May 22, 2016

Review: Julian Wachner Celebrates Ginastera’s Centennial
The New York Times

For this concluding program…Mr. Wachner conducted Ginastera’s seldom-heard “Psalm 150” for chorus and orchestra, followed by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The roster of performers exemplified Trinity’s tradition of bringing together diverse ensembles. The impressive Choir of Trinity Wall Street was joined by Trinity Youth Chorus, Downtown Voices (a new choir comprised volunteers and professional Trinity choristers), Novus NY (Trinity’s contemporary music orchestra) and 1B1 (a Norwegian string ensemble)...

...This was a stirring, intensely dramatic performance…I have seldom been so swept away by the “Ode to Joy” choral finale. At the end, the ovation was tremendous.

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Review: Julian Wachner Celebrates Ginastera’s Centennial

By ANTHONY TOMMASINI

MAY 22, 2016

The conductor Julian Wachner’s feeling for the music of the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera began before he was born, he told the audience at Trinity Wall Street church on Friday night. When his mother was eight months pregnant with him, Mr. Wachner explained, she started learning Ginastera’s pulsing First Piano Sonata, and played it constantly.

Mr. Wachner most recently put his passion for Ginastera into practice this spring to celebrate that composer’s centennial. Friday’s program was the finale to “Revolutionaries,” a two-and-a-half-month celebration that linked Ginastera, who boldly combined South American musical idioms with atonal 20th-century techniques, to late Beethoven, suggesting that in their own ways both were revolutionary.

For this concluding program, a free concert streamed live on Trinity’s website, Mr. Wachner conducted Ginastera’s seldom-heard “Psalm 150” for chorus and orchestra, followed by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The roster of performers exemplified Trinity’s tradition of bringing together diverse ensembles. The impressive Choir of Trinity Wall Street was joined by Trinity Youth Chorus, Downtown Voices (a new choir comprised volunteers and professional Trinity choristers), Novus NY (Trinity’s contemporary music orchestra) and 1B1 (a Norwegian string ensemble).

The centennial of Ginastera, who died in 1983, has been mostly overlookedby New York institutions. In a notable exception, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center presented the Miró Quartet in exciting accounts of Ginastera’s three string quartets on a single program last month.

Though the “Revolutionaries” festival mostly presented late Ginastera works, “Psalm 150” was written in 1938 by the 22-year-old composer as a silver wedding anniversary present for his parents. This teeming 16-minute piece for large chorus and orchestra must have been the couple’s ultimate gift.

The music conveys the exuberant cacophony of an Argentine wedding. As it opens, a subdued, ominous bass motif stirs and slowly crests, breaking into fractured brassy fanfares and choral proclamations. During whole stretches, celebratory choral bursts seem to escape tugging strands of nervous, dark orchestra music. Reflective passages lead to celestial phrases for the children’s choir. The piece ends with blissful “Alleluia” refrains as crystalline chords cascade in the piano and percussion.

The reverberant acoustics of the church must make it a little hard for orchestra players to hear one another. During the Beethoven Ninth, the playing lacked precision and clarity now and then. No matter. This was a stirring, intensely dramatic performance. Four excellent vocal soloists — the soprano Sarah Brailey, the mezzo-soprano Melissa Attebury, the tenor Vale Rideout and the bass-baritone Dashon Burton — sat in the first pew of the church until their moment came in the last movement, when they rose to face the audience, seated right before them, and sang splendidly. I have seldom been so swept away by the “Ode to Joy” choral finale. At the end, the ovation was tremendous.

Sun, May 15, 2016

Trinity Church: Matt Haimovitz and the ‘Missa Solemnis’
The New Yorker

The great church’s festival celebrating the music of two forthright personalities, Beethoven and Ginastera, is in its final month. One of this week’s concerts (free, as always) is especially grand, offering the Argentinean master’s vivid Cello Concerto No. 1 (with a distinctive soloist, Matt Haimovitz) and the Viennese titan’s major sacred work, the “Missa Solemnis.” Julian Wachner conducts Downtown Voices, the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and the NOVUS NY ensemble.

Fri, April 29, 2016

A Parisian Spring Gala: The Washington Chorus celebrates at the French Embassy
DC Performing Arts Examiner

In the great French tradition of composition, music director Julian Wachner improvised at the piano on each letter of Peterson’s first name: DIANNE. The improvisation nodded to many of the great choral music that Wachner and Peterson have collaborated on over the years, many of which were settings of the Requiem…

...Rounding out the special celebration was the rendering of the beautiful “Cantique de Jean Racine” by Gabriel Fauré by The Washington Chorus conducted by Julian Wachner. What a perfect prelude to their special concert at The Kennedy Center.

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A Parisian Spring Gala: The Washington Chorus celebrates at the French Embassy

April 29, 2016  7:10 AM MST

By Patrick McCoy

The beauty of spring is certainly the time of year that conjures up beautiful celebrations, the sounds of music and the festivity of gala season. At the French Embassy, that could not be more evident as a few hundred well-wishes attended the Parisian Spring Gala on Tuesday evening hosted by The Washington Chorus. Brilliant colors, sparkling champagne and the elegance of the crowd all marked a festive evening honoring the chorus' executive director Dianne Peterson and Washington attorney and cultural benefactor Leonard Silverstein, who served as leader of the The French-American Cultural Foundation, a partner in the evening's festivities.

A unique aspect of any gala in Washington is certainly having a theme. In advance of The Washington Chorus' Kennedy Center Concert featuring the music of French composers, what better way to punctuate the beauty of French culture through wonderful food, fashion and of course, music. There was a wonderful showing of arts leaders in particular to celebrate Dianne Peterson's exemplary leadership. Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter, Washington Performing Arts President and CEO Jenny Bilfield, Chorus American President Catherine Dehoney, NEA Director of Music and Opera Ann Meier Baker, Gay Men's Chorus of Washington Executive Director Chase Maggiano,Wolf Trap President and CEO Arvind Manocha among many other arts administrators came out in full force to celebrate the accomplishments of two towering arts figures in Washington.

And there were surprises too! In the great French tradition of composition, music director Julian Wachnerimprovised at the piano on each letter of Peterson's first name: DIANNE. The improvisation nodded to many of the great choral music that Wachner and Peterson have collaborated on over the years, many of which were settings of the Requiem. Vale Ridout who has sung with the chorus on several occasions as guest soloist serenaded Dianne with a special song of tribute, much to her surprise.

“I thought there may have been some surprises in the last year...but I am just stunned. I am bursting with so much love and gratitude. This is an incredible honor, especially to me with Leonard who I have been in awe of for so many years...I never dreamed that 32 years later I would be standing here tonight trying to explain why I could still be here.” she reflected. In her generosity, she also announced and acknowledged her successor as executive director, Chase Maggiano.

Watch and listen to a touching excerpt of Dianne Peterson's remarks.

A hallmark of Peterson's leadership has been the Side by Side program which gives exceptional high school choirs the opportunity to perform with The Washington Chorus. The outstanding performance of the evening by A cappella! directed by Sandra Zinkievich was a wonderful example of this wonderful partnership and nurturing of young performers.

Rounding out the special celebration was the rendering of the beautiful “Cantique de Jean Racine” by Gabriel Fauré by The Washington Chorus conducted by Julian Wachner. What a perfect prelude to their special concert at The Kennedy Center.

The Washington Chorus in partnership with the French-American Cultural Foundation presents “A Parisian Spring” on Sunday, May 1, at 5 p.m. In the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, featuring the music of French composers Fauré, Duruflé and the premiere of Julian Wachner's “At the Lighting of the Lamps.”

Thu, March 10, 2016

Wachner brings new slant to “Americas” program with Seraphic Fire
South Florida Classical Review

This is the type of score the Seraphic Fire singers excel at, particularly the writing in the low register of the second lamentation where the hushed richness had potent impact. Wachner drew a larger corporate sonority from the singers than artistic director Patrick Quigley often achieves. The 13 choir members sounded at times, like more than twice their number. Dynamic contrasts were huge and wonderfully clear in the cathedral’s warm and reverberant acoustic.

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Wachner brings new slant to “Americas” program with Seraphic Fire

By Lawrence Budmen

Julian Wachner, music director of Trinity Wall Street in New York, was guest conductor for Seraphic Fire’s survey of choral music from the Americas Wednesday night at Miami’s St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral. A finely wrought Canadian discovery and major scores by one of Argentina’s most important voices and an American master highlighted Wachner’s ambitious program.

A vocal version of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 9, the concert opener, was an intriguing novelty. Wachner told the audience that this was a very flexible adaptation of Villa-Lobos’ partly illegible manuscript and described the result as a combination of Bach and doo-wop. The result sounded like the Swingle Singers, a group whose jazzed-up Bach vocals has had a strong following for decades.

Alberto Ginastera was one of South America’s most distinguished and prolific composers. The composer evolved from a folklorist who mined indigenous music from the Argentine countryside to a high modernist, embracing atonality and seralism.

His Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae (Lamentations of Jeremiah) dates from 1946, just before Ginastera joined the musical avant-garde. This liturgical setting is a major discovery. Opening with a huge wail from the women, which builds to a crescendo, the three-movement work proceeds to a solemn proclamation of grief–strikingly beautiful in its austere reverence–and closes with a Bachian fugue.

This is the type of score the Seraphic Fire singers excel at, particularly the writing in the low register of the second lamentation where the hushed richness had potent impact. Wachner drew a larger corporate sonority from the singers than artistic director Patrick Quigley often achieves. The 13 choir members sounded at times, like more than twice their number. Dynamic contrasts were huge and wonderfully clear in the cathedral’s warm and reverberant acoustic.

The octogenarian Canadian composer Ruth Watson Henderson has long been associated with her country’s choral music. Henderson’s musical sensibility is clearly French-oriented, as shown by the performance of her Missa Brevis.

The opening Kyrie echoes Renaissance polyphony through the modernist palette of Messiaen while the Gloria suggests the rhythmic and melodic contours of Poulenc’s setting. Henderson’s version of the Hosanna almost sounds like a French carol. The low male voices intoning Agnus Dei sets the stage for a final ascending theme which Wachner called a Mahlerian climax. Henderson’s voice and sensibility are distinctive. If her other choral works are as fine and interesting as the Missa Brevis, her music deserves to be heard more frequently south of the Canadian border.

Two settings of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke concluded the program. Wachner compared the tonal journey in his Six Rilke Songs to the circle of life. Based on Rilke’s animal poems, the 2001 suite is in the modern lyrical choral tradition. The score’s most effective sections exploit contrasts of vocal coloring and dynamics. A languid unicorn and jazzy black cat afforded its best moments.

For all his skill, Wachner’s work inevitably paled next to that of Morten Lauridsen, one of America’s finest choral composers. Lauridsen’s irresistibly charming Les Chansons des Roses, to French texts by Rilke, is a masterful demonstration of his gift for melody and alternating patterns of meter and texture. “Contre qui, rose” is quintessential Lauridsen, an expansive theme that stays in the listener’s memory.  “Dirat-on,” the concluding movement, proved both rousing and soothing with a piano line that Wachner adeptly played at the Yamaha, the choir bringing tonal purity and supple blending to this gorgeous score.

Seraphic Fire repeats the program 7:30 p.m. Friday at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Coral Gables, 8 p.m. Saturday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale, and 4 p.m. Sunday at All Souls Episcopal Church in Miami Beach. seraphicfire.org; 305-285-9060.

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.

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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

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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.

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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, 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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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