Press

Fri, September 1, 2017

The Gemlike Music of Webern
BestTours.com

“This is a song for you alone”: such is the invitational opening line of the first of five songs set to Stefan George poems (Op. 3) by Anton Webern (1883-1945). It’s one of thirty-one works in which the Austrian composer distilled his musical inheritance—an odd combination of post-Wagnerian Romanticism and medieval polyphony—into a bracing new style of crystalline compression that exerted a towering influence over modern composition after the Second World War. That influence has since waned, but this is no deterrent to the conductor Julian Wachner, whose annual “Time’s Arrow” festival, at Trinity Church Wall Street, is mounting a two-season traversal of Webern’s complete works. It begins with three days of concerts (Sept. 12-14) featuring the superb Choir of Trinity Wall Street and its associated new-music ensemble, NOVUS NY.

Read Full Text

The Gemlike Music of Webern 

“This is a song for you alone”: such is the invitational opening line of the first of five songs set to Stefan George poems (Op. 3) by Anton Webern (1883-1945). It’s one of thirty-one works in which the Austrian composer distilled his musical inheritance—an odd combination of post-Wagnerian Romanticism and medieval polyphony—into a bracing new style of crystalline compression that exerted a towering influence over modern composition after the Second World War. That influence has since waned, but this is no deterrent to the conductor Julian Wachner, whose annual “Time’s Arrow” festival, at Trinity Church Wall Street, is mounting a two-season traversal of Webern’s complete works. It begins with three days of concerts (Sept. 12-14) featuring the superb Choir of Trinity Wall Street and its associated new-music ensemble, NOVUS NY.

If the idea of Webern’s “complete works” sounds daunting, it’s not a matter of duration: even those who know little of Webern’s compositions are aware that most of them are extremely short, haikulike in their gnomic concentration. It is, rather, in the style of the music that the gauntlet is thrown down, for both performers and audience. The melodic lines are jagged and disjunct, the language is proudly atonal, and the textures can take canonic counterpoint to a fetishistic extreme. The series of small-scale vocal works (Opp. 12-18) in which Webern gradually adapted the strict system of twelve-tone technique that he virtually co-invented with his revered teacher, Arnold Schoenberg—all of which are included in Wachner’s first batch of concerts—reach a dizzying height of abstraction. These gleaming compositions fulfill the high-modernist beau ideal; they exist for themselves alone.

And yet there are many pieces that, within their rigorous confines, yearn for intimacy. Gestures of gentleness and warmth keep breaking into works like the First Cantata, with texts by the poet Hildegard Jone, who shared with Webern, an alpine enthusiast, an intense love for nature at its most pure; carefully chosen timbres of strings and percussion with solo brass and woodwinds caress as often as they collide. The Symphony has an Apollonian benevolence worthy of Satie; the Concerto for Nine Instruments and the Variations for Orchestra have drama and excitement to spare. Wachner’s concerts, which also feature works by such Webern-loving kindred spirits as Sebastian Currier and Sofia Gubaidulina, will be difficult to ignore. 

Thu, August 31, 2017

REV. 23 premiere: new opera from Julian Wachner & Cerise Jacobs, the sequel to Revelations
In Tune

On September 29, a new opera from Cerise Jacobs and Julian Wachner, Rev. 23, premieres at Boston’s John Hancock Theater. The premiere kicks off the Boston New Music Festival and features White Snake Projects production company, who shares new, relevant opera based on the stories of Cerise Jacobs. Rev. 23 will be available soon from E.C. Schirmer.

Read Full Text

REV. 23 premiere: new opera from Julian Wachner & Cerise Jacobs, the sequel to Revelations

AUGUST 31, 2017

On September 29, a new opera from Cerise Jacobs and Julian Wachner, Rev. 23, premieres at Boston’s John Hancock Theater. The premiere kicks off the Boston New Music Festivaland features White Snake Projects production company, who shares new, relevant opera based on the stories of Cerise Jacobs. Rev. 23 will be available soon from E. C. Schirmer.

Plot
Rev. 23 is the sequel to the Book of Revelations. It is told from the perspective of St. John the Divine and “transcribed” by Cerise Lim Jacobs. The opera narrates the last battle to recapture Paradise-on-Earth and restore the balance of good and evil to our world. Persephone, the only being able to pass freely between Hell and Earth, is recruited by Lucifer in the fight against the rulers of Paradise-on-Earth. No one is exempt from this battle. The opera transcends the Biblical narrative, and pulls characters from mythology and Chinese history.

Librettist/Creator
Cerise Lim Jacobs has earned a place as one of the most creative and imaginative thinkers of our time. Born in Singapore, Jacobs eventually moved to Massachussetts where she worked as a trial partner at one of New England’s largest law firms, practicing law for more than two decades. Three years into her retirement, a song cycle written for her husband turned into her first, full-length opera Madame White Snake. The music by Zhou Long won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011.

Jacobs writes, “I dreamed up REV. 23 one day as I was thinking of where I would meet my husband Charles again since he passed from this world. It amused me that my incorrigible, irascible and impossible husband wouldn’t be caught dead (pardon the pun) in Paradise (not that he’d be entirely welcome there) as some of the most interesting people seem to be consigned to that other place. This led to more musing about what Heaven was like and concomitantly, what that other place was like.

I was aided in these musings by the fact that I was a Singaporean Methodist, a product of an American Methodist Missionary school and deeply steeped in biblical lore. So I turned, naturally, to the most detailed account of Paradise-on-Earth familiar to me, the divine visions of John of Patmos, author of the Book of Revelation.

Poring over the Book of Revelation over and over again (it’s a very short book), I couldn’t shake away the sense of unease that grew stronger with each read, that perhaps I wouldn’t be perfectly happy in a place of perfect happiness. As I began to explore why I felt uneasy, the framework for Rev. 23, the final chapter of the Book of Revelation, began to take shape.”

Composer

Julian Wachner, Grammy-nominated composer, is one of North America’s most exciting and versatile musicians, sought after as composer, conductor, educator and keyboard artist. He is currently Director of Music and Arts at Trinity Wall Street and Music Director of the Grammy award winning Washington Chorus.

With over 80 works in his catalog, Wachner’s music has been variously described as “jazzy, energetic, and ingenious” (Boston Globe), having “splendor, dignity, outstanding tone combinations, sophisticated chromatic exploration…a rich backdrop, wavering between a glimmer and a tingle…” (La Scena Musicale), being “a compendium of surprises” (Washington Post), and as “bold and atmospheric”, having “an imaginative flair for allusive text setting” and noted for “the silken complexities of his harmonies” (New York Times.) The American Record Guide noted that “Wachner is both an unapologetic modernist and an open-minded eclectic – his music has something to say.” In 2010, He made New York City Opera history when he was selected as both conductor and composer at the company’s annual VOX festival of contemporary opera leading to the invitation to be the sole conductor of this Festival in 2012.

Thu, August 31, 2017

Classical Notes: A New Recording of “Threni” and Ted Hearne’s “Sound from the Bench”
The New Yorker

But “Threni” benefits from Herreweghe’s heightened sense of beauty, magnifying the way Stravinsky used his idiosyncratic twelve-tone technique—shaped by the work of two deceased contemporaries, Schoenberg and Webern—to insert daubs of ravishing tonal harmony (chanted intermittently by the chorus, in the letters of the Hebrew alphabet) within a larger canvas of dissonant counterpoint (the prophet’s yearning words of condemnation and forgiveness), emerging like flowers from cracks in a concrete surface. The piece will never join the general repertory, but it will never go away. Julian Wachner’s committed live performance of the piece with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, in 2013, proved that it can always impress an audience.

Read Full Text


Culture Desk

Classical Notes: A New Recording of “Threni” and Ted Hearne’s “Sound from the Bench”

By Russell Platt

August 31, 2017

On “Sound from the Bench,” Ted Hearne, a composer with a passion for social justice, offers fierce and timely pieces.

When Igor Stravinsky wrote “Threni,” a musical setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah for chorus, orchestra, and vocal soloists, in 1957-58, the United States was a confident place: abundantly prosperous at home while holding the line against Communism abroad. Los Angeles, where the composer was living, would have been a secure base from which to explore ancient truths—Judeo-Christian religiosity, the mysteries of Renaissance counterpoint—and to throw them as a lance into the future. Something of this serenity can be sensed in a new recording (on the PHI label) of “Threni,” along with the composer’s “Requiem Canticles” and two smaller sacred works, by the Collegium Vocale Gent and the Royal Flemish Philharmonic; they are led by Philippe Herreweghe, a veteran conductor who largely made his name by conducting the kind of music that Stravinsky, in this late stage of his career, was drawing deeply from.

When conducting music of the modern era, Herreweghe’s signature style is still intact. He does on the podium what Khnopff or van Rysselberghe did with the easel: in the manner of a good Belgian Symbolist painter, he clarifies intricate textures while bathing them in a luminous sheen. Those who know the original recording, on Columbia, of “Threni,” made by some expert and very hardworking musicians under Stravinsky’s not always elegant baton, will be amazed by the sheer beauty of this new album; those who love Oliver Knussen’s recording of “Requiem Canticles,” on Deutsche Grammophon, might miss Knussen’s keen balancing of contrasting timbres and his more urgent sense of drama. But “Threni” benefits from Herreweghe’s heightened sense of beauty, magnifying the way Stravinsky used his idiosyncratic twelve-tone technique—shaped by the work of two deceased contemporaries, Schoenberg and Webern—to insert daubs of ravishing tonal harmony (chanted intermittently by the chorus, in the letters of the Hebrew alphabet) within a larger canvas of dissonant counterpoint (the prophet’s yearning words of condemnation and forgiveness), emerging like flowers from cracks in a concrete surface. The piece will never join the general repertory, but it will never go away. Julian Wachner’s committed live performance of the piece with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, in 2013, proved that it can always impress an audience.

Today, Ted Hearne, one of the brightest compositional talents of the millennial generation, makes his home in Los Angeles, where he teaches at the University of Southern California. Hearne can write postmodern instrumental works to an international standard, but he has made his reputation with music involving voices—most notably “Katrina Ballads,” a blues-and-rock-drenched oratorio that made blunt yet brilliant use of texts from news reports and interviews documenting the George W. Bush Administration’s shambolic bungling of the humanitarian crisis that came with the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, in 2005.

Hearne is at one with his American generation’s passion for social justice, a movement which—aside from the eternal vigilance of the black church—no longer seems to need religion for its fire or foundation. But choral music, over the centuries, has been a primarily religious idiom, and Hearne’s pieces burn with an ecclesiastical fervor. “Sound from the Bench”—which gives Hearne’s new album, on Cantaloupe, its title—and the other works collected here deal with several manifestations of modern oppression: economic, sexual, corporate (the travesty of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision), and military (a lethal incident of confusion in the Iraq War, laid out in a text gleaned from a WikiLeaks release).

Hearne’s music, like that of most of his contemporaries, leaves the complexity of counterpoint, in which Stravinsky revelled, behind, but the chanting simultaneities of Hearne’s writing are enriched by clashes of style and texture. These qualities are enhanced by Hearne’s unerring performers, the superb Philadelphia choir the Crossing, directed by Donald Nally. In “Consent,” words taken from Catholic and Jewish wedding ceremonies are mixed with fragments of Hearne’s own love letters, and text messages (written by high-school students) that were used as evidence in the Steubenville rape trial; in a movement from “Sound from the Bench,” the disk’s most ambitious work, soaring lines of choral ecstasy coexist with a klaxon-like electric guitar. (In another movement, Hearne saucily summons the presence of an L.A. goddess, Joni Mitchell.) In each case, Hearne’s varied harmonies, propulsive drive, and savvy timing carry the day. The album’s final selection, “Privilege,” has its stodgy spaces: Hearne is not always his own best librettist. But the work’s powerful finale, “We Cannot Leave,” its words taken from a Xhosa anti-apartheid song, melts away in a heartrending cloud of softly dissonant tones. From the timeless echoes of injustice, Hearne has forged a fierce and timely grace.

Mon, August 28, 2017

Fall Classical-Music Preview
The New Yorker

The crystalline music of Anton Webern, the most controversial of the three great composers of the Second Viennese School, is often ignored. Leave it to the adventurous conductor Julian Wachner to take up the cause, leading the musical forces of Trinity Church Wall Street in the first phase (Sept. 12-14) of a two-season retrospective of Webern’s complete works. Wachner’s superb Choir of Trinity Wall Street plays an important role in “The Psalms Experience,” a sequence of twelve concerts (Nov. 2-11), presented by Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, which highlights the spiritual expressions of composers from the medieval era to the present day.

Read Full Text

Fall Classical-Music Preview
Centenary celebrations for Leonard Bernstein, and the White Light Festival, which highlights the spiritual expressions of composers.

By Russell Platt

In a fall season bustling with innovation, musical titans of the past cast looming shadows. Most familiar to New Yorkers will be that of Leonard Bernstein, for whom centenary celebrations will begin this year. During Bernstein’s lifetime, the sheer force of his powers as a conductor, an educator, and a media personality outshone his music, but, as time passes, it is his music we treasure most. Carnegie Hall’s opening-night concert (Oct. 4), an evening with the Philadelphia Orchestra and its music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, features the Symphonic Suite from the film “On the Waterfront” and the Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story.” Lenny’s old band, the New York Philharmonic, will go deeper, offering a survey of Bernstein’s three symphonies in a trio of programs (Oct. 25-Nov. 14) conducted by Alan Gilbert and Leonard Slatkin. Even the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center takes part, presenting the composer’s uninhibited late song cycle “Arias and Barcarolles” (Oct. 29).

The crystalline music of Anton Webern, the most controversial of the three great composers of the Second Viennese School, is often ignored. Leave it to the adventurous conductor Julian Wachner to take up the cause, leading the musical forces of Trinity Church Wall Street in the first phase (Sept. 12-14) of a two-season retrospective of Webern’s complete works. Wachner’s superb Choir of Trinity Wall Street plays an important role in “The Psalms Experience,” a sequence of twelve concerts (Nov. 2-11), presented by Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, which highlights the spiritual expressions of composers from the medieval era to the present day. But the reigning deity of White Light will be Claudio Monteverdi, whose three extant operas will be presented, in matchless style, by the conductor John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists (Oct. 18-21).

The Metropolitan Opera’s opening-night production will be a new staging (by David McVicar) of Bellini’s “Norma,” featuring two of the company’s power divas, Sondra Radvanovsky and Joyce DiDonato (Sept. 25-Dec. 16). But the Met will also innovate, presenting the American première of Thomas Adès’s “The Exterminating Angel,” a work based on the 1962 film by Luis Buñuel (Oct. 26-Nov. 21). New York City Opera strikes a similar balance, opening its season with Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West” (Sept. 6-12) but also presenting chamber operas by Tobias Picker and Dominick Argento. bam, as ever, champions the new: its fall season includes the New York première of the composer-conductor Matthew Aucoin’s opera about Walt Whitman, “Crossing” (Oct. 3-8), and “Road Trip,” a burst of fresh material from the composers of Bang on a Can which celebrates the collective’s thirtieth anniversary (Oct. 27-28). 

Thu, August 24, 2017

Critic’s Choice for the 2017-18 season
New York Classical Review

Trinity Wall Street’s music director Julian Wachner has a notably ambitious season planned, and it begins with this three-day, six-concert exploration of Anton Webern, his music and its antecedents and descendants. This year (nine concerts will follow in 2018) presents much of Webern’s vocal music, and instrumental works that include the Five Pieces for Orchestra Op. 10, and the Op. 30 Variations. Intriguing context will come via Ockeghem, Tallis, Stockhausen, Sebastian Currier, Kati Agócs, and others old and new.

Read Full Text

Critic’s Choice for the 2017-18 season

Thu Aug 24, 2017 at 11:23 am
By George Grella and Eric C. Simpson

Time’s Arrow festival. September 12-14 at Trinity Wall Street.

Trinity Wall Street’s music director Julian Wachner has a notably ambitious season planned, and it begins with this three-day, six-concert exploration of Anton Webern, his music and its antecedents and descendants. This year (nine concerts will follow in 2018) presents much of Webern’s vocal music, and instrumental works that include the Five Pieces for Orchestra Op. 10, and the Op. 30 Variations. Intriguing context will come via Ockeghem, Tallis, Stockhausen, Sebastian Currier, Kati Agócs, and others old and new. trinitywallstreet.org (GG)

Pierre Boulez’ Répons. October 6-7 at the Park Avenue Armory.

One of Boulez’ most creatively adventurous compositions, Répons can be heard on recordings, and occasionally in halls, but only rarely as it was designed and created–in a multi-dimensional aural space. The Park Avenue Armory is the ideal venue for spatial music, and these performances will realize the composer’s vision, with the audience surrounding Ensemble Intercontemporain and conductor Matthias Pintscher. armoryonpark.org (GG)

“Monteverdi: The Birth of Opera.” October 18-21 at Lincoln Center.

For all practical purposes, Claudio Monteverdi is the first opera composer and among the greatest, though productions of his works are frustratingly infrequent. Into that gap comes John Eliot Gardiner, the English Baroque Soloists, and the Monteverdi Choir, who will deliver semi-staged performances of Orfeo, The Return of Ulysses, and The Coronation of Poppea. This is to celebrate the composer’s 450th anniversary, and appears to be the first such event in New York since BAM’s “Full Monte” in 2002—a true must-see series. lincolncenter.org (GG)

JACK Quartet: Soundscape America. October 19 & 21 at Miller Theatre.

A great American string quartet playing great American String Quartets. Across these two nights JACK has curated a program of classic old and new pieces, many difficult to hear in concert or even find on recordings. There will be John Zorn’s thrilling Necronomicon and music from the last few years by Cenk Ergün, Natacha Diels, and others. There will also be Carter’s String Quartet No. 2, Feldman’s Structures, and (if one can pick only one of the concerts) String Quartet No. 8 from the important Gloria Coates and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s extraordinary String Quartet, both on the 21st. millertheatre.com (GG)

Wagner’s Parsifal. February 5-27, 2018 at the Metropolitan Opera.

Parsifal as an opera needs little introduction: Wagner’s last opera is arguably the greatest example of his ideal of Gestamtkunstwerk, the complete work of art; through its combination of text, theater, and sublime music it keeps audiences in its spell for six timeless hours.

The Metropolitan Opera in February will revive the acclaimed François Girard production that premiered in 2013, with a strong cast that features Klaus Florian Vogt in the title role, Peter Mattei as Amfortas, Evelyn Herlitzius as Kundry, Evgeny Nikitin as Klingsor, and René Pape as Gurnemanz. The company’s music director elect, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, will lead the epic work, following up on his well-received Wagnerian debut in Der Fliegende Holländer last season. metopera.org (ES)

Matthias Goerne and Daniil Trifonov. February 6 at Carnegie Hall.

A recital with either Matthias Goerne or Daniil Trifonov would be a major event: to get the two together is an embarrassment of riches. The pair will perform Schumann’s Dichterliebe and Brahms’s Four Last Songs, plus songs by Berg, Wolf, and Shostakovich. carnegiehall.org(ES)

“Schubert: Epic and Intimate.” February 16-June 8 at the 92nd Street Y.

Neither 220 years since his birth nor 190 years since his death seems like platinum anniversary, yet Schubert cycles and mini-festivals are popping up everywhere this season. That’s not a complaint: drink in as much of the master as you can. The 92nd Street Y gets in on the act this spring with a 5-concert series, “Schubert: Epic and Intimate,” featuring a Winterreise with Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake, three recitals of the late piano sonatas with Shai Wosner, and a program of part songs with New York Polyphony. 92y.org (ES)

Brahms trios with Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma. February 22 at Carnegie Hall. 

Brahms’s three piano trios are among the most treasured items in the chamber music repertoire, and they offer a sort-of snapshot of the composer’s career, written in 1854, 1880, and 1883, respectively (the wise master returned to the first in 1889 to for revisions). We hear in these three the ardor of young Brahms and the brilliant technique of the elder statesman. Presenting all three in concert this February will be three of today’s leading instrumentalists: Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, and Yo-Yo Ma. carnegiehall.org (ES)

Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier performed by the Bayerische Staatsoper. March 29 at Carnegie Hall.

New York just had a new Rosenkavalier last year, in a stunning set of performances at the Met, and we’re about to get another. This spring, the Bavarian State Opera comes to Carnegie Hall for a concert performance of Strauss’s romantic masterpiece. Adrianne Pieczonka leads the cast as the Marschallin, with Angela Brower as Octavian, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller as Sophie, and Peter Rose as Baron Ochs. Kirill Petrenko conducts. carnegiehall.org (ES)

Daniil Trifonov. May 4 at Carnegie Hall.

Daniil Trifonov’s performing career already hints that he will take his place among the all-time great pianists. The main thing missing has been time in which to hear his thinking and playing across the large-scale repertoire. His Perspectives Series at Carnegie Hall will have him exploring new territory, most acutely in this concert where he will survey the 20th century with music from each decade, from Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata, Op. 1, to Traces Overhead by Thomas Adès, with intriguing visits with Copland, Ligeti, Stockhausen, John Adams, and more. carnegiehall.org (GG)

Fri, August 18, 2017

Choral Featured Album: ‘The Hubble Cantata’
Minnesota Public Radio

For this week’s Choral Featured Album, we present “The Hubble Cantata.” Set against the backdrop of space, the cantata takes the listener on a journey through the cosmos and explores themes of life and loss. The collaborative work of composer Paola Prestini and librettist Royce Vavrek, the cantata is brought to life in this recording by over 100 performers from the Washington Chorus, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and the contemporary music ensemble Novus NY [directed by Julian Wachner].

Read Full Text

Choral Featured Album: 'The Hubble Cantata'

Classical Music FeaturesSeiji Cataldo · St. Paul, Minn. · Aug 18, 2017

Hear selections from new releases with our weekly Choral Featured Album every Friday at 11 a.m. central on the Choral Stream.

For this week's Choral Featured Album, we present "The Hubble Cantata." Set against the backdrop of space, the cantata takes the listener on a journey through the cosmos and explores themes of life and loss. The collaborative work of composer Paola Prestini and librettist Royce Vavrek, the cantata is brought to life in this recording by over 100 performers from the Washington Chorus, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and the contemporary music ensemble Novus NY.

Fri, August 18, 2017

America’s Quintessential Maverick Composer, at 100
The New York Times

When Trinity Wall Street [Julian Wachner, Director of Music and the Arts] presented a Harrison centennial concert in April featuring a chorus and percussion ensemble from Rutgers University performing “La Koro Sutro,” I was knocked out by the music’s sheer inventiveness: the allure of its component parts; the instrumental colorings; the intricate choral writing that shifts from stretches of elegiac melodic lines sung in unison to intense passages where choristers alternate phrases antiphonally.

Read Full Text

America’s Quintessential Maverick Composer, at 100

By ANTHONY TOMMASINIAUG. 18, 2017

Many of the musical and philosophical characteristics that defined Lou Harrison, who would have turned 100 this year, as a quintessential American maverick composer come through in “La Koro Sutro” (“The Heart Sutra”).

Harrison’s early fascination with Eastern spiritual thought and culture culminated in pieces like this 1971 choral work. The text is one of the most beloved Buddhist scriptures, describing the pathway to attaining nirvana.

He purposefully chose a version of the sutra that had been translated into Esperanto, a synthetic language created in the late 1880s in an attempt to facilitate universal communication. This ideal appealed deeply to Harrison, a pacifist with an embracing view of diverse cultures and a pioneer in the gay rights movement, who died in 2003.

“La Koro Sutro” is ambitious and large-scale, lasting nearly 30 minutes, yet somehow personal and modest, too, with a kind of innately American directness. The musical language is steeped in Asian elements, ancient modes, pentatonic scales, chantlike choral writing and systems of “just” (what Harrison considered the more natural) tuning, rather than the tempered intonation common to Western music for centuries.

The chorus is accompanied by what Harrison called an American gamelan, his attempt to replicate the Indonesian gamelan orchestra (the “most sensually beautiful musical ensemble on the planet,” as he described it) by assembling all manner of percussion instruments invented by him and William Colvig, his partner in life and work. During the early 1940s, when many American composers were exploring the latest developments of Modernism or writing in a Neo-Classical style, Harrison and his fellow maverick John Cage were presenting all-percussion concerts, often using instruments fashioned from materials they rescued from junkyards.

When Trinity Wall Street presented a Harrison centennial concert in April featuring a chorus and percussion ensemble from Rutgers University performing “La Koro Sutro,” I was knocked out by the music’s sheer inventiveness: the allure of its component parts; the instrumental colorings; the intricate choral writing that shifts from stretches of elegiac melodic lines sung in unison to intense passages where choristers alternate phrases antiphonally.

The technical command alone in the score reveals that this American maverick was also an American master. There are certainly positive aspects to the maverick label, which suggests a composer of flinty individuality unbound by protocols and conventions. Indeed, a comprehensive and engrossing new biography of Harrison by Bill Alves and Brett Campbell is subtitled “American Musical Maverick.”

Still, there’s a trace of condescension in relegating Harrison (along with Cage, Henry Cowell, Harry Partch and other iconoclasts) to the maverick category. The subtitle of a 1998 Harrison biography by Leta E. Miller and Fredric Lieberman, also excellent, better encapsulates the goals of his life and work: “Composing a World.”

The Trinity concert included Harrison’s mesmerizing Suite for Violin with American Gamelan (1974), another revelation. Then there was the unabashedly eclectic Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra (1973). How can this exhilarating concerto not be played all the time? The organist sometimes uses a small wood bar to depress blocks of keys to produce punchy cluster chords, surrounded by bursts of chimes, gongs and mallet percussion. The slow second movement, a Siciliana in the form of a double canon, unfolds in skillfully written counterpoint. Yet the lines creep up and down and overlap with impish freedom.

Performing that concerto requires assembling a battery of percussion, including some exotic instruments, which may account for its rarity in performance. But what explains the neglect of, say, Harrison’s 1988 Grand Duo for violin and piano? This 35-minute suite is infused with the sound world of the gamelan, but scored traditionally (though the pianist also uses a padded bar for clusters). The aptly named Stampede movement races along like some combination of Asian dance and American hoedown.

A rhapsodic Air begins with an ominous piano solo, thickly chromatic and dissonant, roiled by heaving outbursts. Soon, the violin spins out a pensive, restless solo line that keeps taking surprise turns, yet somehow sounds inevitable.

The duo ends with a deceptively jaunty Polka, at once giddy and a little dangerous.

Harrison’s gravitation toward things Eastern started early. He grew up in a house in Portland, Ore., reflecting the taste of his mother and decorated with Japanese lanterns, Persian rugs and artifacts from Asia. He remembered Hawaiian music playing all the time on the radio, that “sliding, waving thing,” as he later described it to Mr. Campbell.

On moving to San Francisco in 1934, he took lessons with Cowell, who become a crucial mentor, and attended productions of Chinese opera. He also worked as accompanist to dancer-choreographers including Bonnie Bird and Lester Horton, often using percussion instruments. The Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939 proved a revelation: It was his first time hearing gamelan music live, an ensemble from Bali.

In 1943, he studied with Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles. Seeking lessons from this imposing composer, who had devised the 12-tone technique, might have seemed a mismatch. But Harrison was fascinated by 12-tone music, with its systematic ordering of all 12 notes of the chromatic scale into tone rows. The “Air” from “Rapunzel,” Harrison’s 1952 opera in six short scenes, intriguingly blends Cowell-like clusters with jagged Schoenbergian writing for voice. Performed in 1954 by the young Leontyne Price at a contemporary music conference in Rome, the piece won a 20th-century masterpiece award, conferred by Stravinsky.

After working with Schoenberg, Harrison followed Horton and his dance troupe to New York. He was soon tapped by Virgil Thomson, the influential music critic of The New York Herald Tribune, to join a roster of fellow composer-reviewers, including (briefly) Cage. (Thomson simply thought composers knew the most about music.) Harrison was initially wary, since he had a spotty knowledge of the standard repertory. To Thomson, this was an advantage that would give Harrison’s takes on core works some freshness. And he admired Harrison’s deep knowledge of non-Western music.

It was from attending concerts as a critic that Harrison really learned the classical repertory. “I was terribly happy,” he said, “when I could review [Beethoven’s] ‘Waldstein’ Sonata as though I’d heard it more than once.”

Harrison’s vivid reviews hold up well today. Artur Schnabel’s serene approach to the slow movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor suggested, to Harrison, “a classically cultured Chinese gentleman” sitting down “to convey to those attentive a few choicely turned phrases of counsel and reflection.” In a rave review, he described a new piano concerto by Alan Hovhaness as modern in its “elegant simplicity and adamant modal integrity,” adding that the brilliance and excitement of the piano part were “due entirely to vigor of idea.”

Harrison remained grateful for Thomson’s support during a period of mental instability. Once, in 1947, Harrison went to work feeling shaky. Thomson gave him a talking-to about guardian angels. There aren’t enough to go around, he said. So one of Harrison’s angels must be off caring for someone else. For now, Thomson said, “you must sit quietly” and not panic. Completely credulous, Harrison asked if there were some people without any guardian angels.

“Yes,” Thomson said emphatically, “but you are not one of them.” Harrison left, carried by thoughts of comforting angels. But in time he had a breakdown that required hospitalization.

This episode confirmed Harrison’s growing feeling that New York was not his place. He returned to California in 1953. In 1991, while working on a biography of Thomson, I went to interview Harrison at the home he shared with Colvig in Aptos, near Santa Cruz. Wall hangings and small statues from Asia and the Middle East were everywhere, along with shelves stuffed with books and stacks of scores. In one large room, Colvig, with help from Harrison, designed, built and maintained instruments.

Though he wasn’t prone to complaining, one sore spot for Harrison was the neglect over decades from his hometown orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony. This situation changed completely when Michael Tilson Thomas became the ensemble’s music director in 1995. The first piece on Mr. Thomas’s first program was a Harrison commission, “A Parade for MTT,” scored for the largest orchestra of any Harrison work, including six percussionists, Javanese gongs and the Davies Hall organ.

In its evocation of exuberant parades and bustling crowds, the piece paid homage to a hero of Harrison’s youth, Charles Ives. Harrison was a pivotal Ives advocate who conducted the premiere of the composer’s then-unknown Third Symphony in 1946, a score he had edited from manuscripts.

When Colvig died in 2000, after they spent 35 years together, Harrison built a dream house the couple had long contemplated, a winter retreat in the California desert, near Joshua Tree National Park. Today, the Harrison House provides a residency program for artists and thinkers — an ideal way to honor an all-embracing creator.

Mon, August 7, 2017

Snow Lay on the Ground receives rave reviews
ECS In Tune

Julian Wachner and the Grammy-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street, The Trinity Youth Chorus, and the NOVUS NY orchestra collaborated to create The Snow Lay on the Ground (CD 180). A stunning recording of nine brilliant carol settings and three organ improvisations performed by Wachner, the album continues to garner widespread enthusiasm from critics.

Read Full Text

Julian Wachner and the Grammy-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street, The Trinity Youth Chorus, and the NOVUS NY orchestra collaborated to create The Snow Lay on the Ground (CD 180). A stunning recording of nine brilliant carol settings and three organ improvisations performed by Wachner, the album continues to garner widespread enthusiasm from critics.

“Julian Wachner continues to do fantastic work with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, as their atmospherically recorded The Snow Lay on the Ground: Festive Carols from Trinity Wall Street (Arsis) shows. Together with the Trinity Youth Chorus and Novus NY, these renditions of Wachner ‘s arrangements, along with his four unedited, first-take organ improvisations, score a 10. Dynamics are excellent for CD, with the beginning of ‘Joy to the World’ strong enough to bolster a crumbling empire.”– Jason Victor Serinus, Bay Area Reporter

“Julian Wachner — composer, arranger, conductor, organist — is the director of music and the arts at New York’s historic Trinity Episcopal Church on Wall Street.  The Snow Lay on the Ground: Festive Carols from Trinity Wall Street shows off all his talents, with the assistance of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, the Trinity Youth Chorus and Novus NY, the church’s resident contemporary music orchestra. Wachner often takes a maximalist approach to familiar carols but brings something new and thoughtful to others, and his organ improvisations are creative and enlightening.”– Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2016

Mon, July 24, 2017

This Real World ‘Space Opera’ Lets You Become the Hubble Telescope
Gizmodo

Fistful of Stars is a five minute-long virtual reality experience that takes the viewer on a tour through the vast star-forming region known as the Orion Nebula. Its hauntingly beautiful images, accompanied by The Hubble Cantata—which includes a 30 piece ensemble, a 100 person choir, and two singers from the Metropolitan Opera [directed by Julian Wachner]—gives the film a 2001 feel without the murderous robots.

“It’s a combination of science and magical realism,” director Eliza McNitt told Gizmodo. “We wanted to give users the feeling as if they were a star floating on stellar winds through the Orion Nebula. That could take billions of years but we wanted to give you the experience of that spectacular journey through five minutes.”

Read Full Text

This Real World 'Space Opera' Lets You Become the Hubble Telescope

Rae Paoletta
7/24/17 4:30pm
Filed to: SPACE

It’s easy to feel small and insignificant in the grandiose scope of the universe, because we are. At the same time, as Carl Sagan once reminded us, we’re made of the same “star stuff” as the cosmos. All too often, we forget how random, ridiculous, and resplendent it is to part of the stellar sorority of the universe. That’s why art, specifically movies like Eliza McNitt’s Fistful of Stars, is important—it reacquaints us with humanity’s small and stupid and somehow very special place in the cosmos.

Fistful of Stars is a five minute-long virtual reality experience that takes the viewer on a tour through the vast star-forming region known as the Orion Nebula. Its hauntingly beautiful images, accompanied by The Hubble Cantata—which includes a 30 piece ensemble, a 100 person choir, and two singers from the Metropolitan Opera—gives the film a 2001 feel without the murderous robots.

“It’s a combination of science and magical realism,” director Eliza McNitt told Gizmodo. “We wanted to give users the feeling as if they were a star floating on stellar winds through the Orion Nebula. That could take billions of years but we wanted to give you the experience of that spectacular journey through five minutes.”

Humans have never ventured into the Orion Nebula, because it’s roughly 1,500 lightyears away. Peering into its cloudy heart, Hubble has found some of the most beautiful chaos of star birth ever captured. As its name suggests, Fistful of Stars masterfully captures the beauty within our otherwise bellicose universe. I still can’t decide whether the whole thing is a cause or cure for an existential crisis.

“The Orion Nebula is a place thousands of lightyears away where no human has ever been,” McNitt said. “Fistful of stars offers humans an experience...where you get to become the eyes of the human telescope.”

Though the film originally premiered back in March at SXSW, it’s finally available on Vice’s Samsung VR channel. If you don’t have VR gear, you can check still check it out without a headset right here, in 360 video.

Fri, July 21, 2017

Sacred Song Service to celebrate Christmas in July
The Chautauquan Daily

One of the anthems the Chautauqua Choir will perform is “The Snow Lay on the Ground,” arranged by Julian Wachner for the Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City, which Jacobsen said is one of the most experimental churches for music. He said the piece was “dazzling” and wanted to perform it because not many Chautauquans would hear it in their home churches.

Read Full Text

Sacred Song Service to celebrate Christmas in July

by DELANEY VAN WEY on JULY 21, 2017  

Don’t be alarmed by the sounds of Christmas carols coming from the Amphitheater on Sunday evening. Yes, it is still July.

But that won’t stop Chautauquans from celebrating the holiday they won’t be able to spend all together. At 8 p.m. Sunday in the Amp, the Chautauqua Choir and Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, will perform a Sacred Song Service program titled “Mary, Mother of God: Christmas in July.”

“Chautauquans love to sing Christmas carols because they’re not usually together at Christmas time,” Jacobsen said. “And there’s something extra special about singing Christmas carols when it’s like 85 degrees outside.”

Jacobsen said while he creates a Sacred Song Service program based on Christmas nearly every year, he tries to bring a new focus to it to keep it fresh. This season, he is concentrating on Mary, the mother of Jesus, who he said is featured in much more Christmas music than Joseph is.

The song that will set the theme for Sunday’s performance is “Annunciation Story” by Richard Dirksen, who wrote it for the Washington National Cathedral in 1975. It is the story of Mary learning of her pregnancy from an angel, which sets the stage for the rest of the Christmas narrative.

“The musical language is very spare,” Jacobsen said. “The focus is on the story.”

One of the anthems the Chautauqua Choir will perform is “The Snow Lay on the Ground,” arranged by Julian Wachner for the Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City, which Jacobsen said is one of the most experimental churches for music. He said the piece was “dazzling” and wanted to perform it because not many Chautauquans would hear it in their home churches.

Although Jacobsen noted that it is unclear if there was snow on the ground when Jesus was born, there definitely is plenty of it at Chautauqua during the winter season. While Jacobsen said he’s only been at Chautauqua during the holidays a few times, he tries to check in on the Bestor Plaza livestream at least once to see the snow twinkling in the light of the beautifully decorated trees on either side of the plaza.

“It really is like a fantasy-land Christmas,” Jacobsen said.

There will also be numerous carols for the congregation to perform, including “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” which Jacobsen said is one of his favorites.

Thu, July 20, 2017

Colorado Music Festival offers ‘Beyoncé-Beethoven,’ other mash-ups
Boulder Daily Camera

Wachner knew that he would have a large orchestra to work with. The anchor work on the concert is Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” which uses a gargantuan ensemble. The 10-minute work he wrote is in homage to Leonard Bernstein, whose birth centenary will be celebrated in 2018. “I wanted to bridge the serious and popular, like he did,” Wachner said. “I looked at music like the film score to ‘On the Waterfront,’” he explained.

Read Full Text

Colorado Music Festival offers 'Beyoncé-Beethoven,' other mash-ups

Clarinetist Boris Allakhverdyan, now with Los Angeles Philharmonic, returns to Boulder

By Kelly Dean Hansen

Camera Classical Music Writer

POSTED:   07/20/2017 05:35:03 PM MDT 

The fifth of the Colorado Music Festival season's six weeks is possibly its most full and diverse. The return of "mash-up" master Steve Hackman — whose unique creations became a CMF staple for three years, from 2013-2015 — closes the Tuesday "Happy Hour Series." A full orchestra concert with a multimedia element and a commissioned work is followed by a weekend featuring a former CMF player, Boris Allakhverdyan, who has gone on to a high-profile career.

Classicalapalooza widens scope of mash-up

When Steve Hackman takes the podium in front of the CMF orchestra on Tuesday, he will lead a mash-up that goes beyond his previous full-length combinations of a specific classical work with several songs by a single current popular artist.

"For my return after a year's absence, I wanted to do something grander in scale that used several different artists and composers," Hackman said. "The previous pieces were very specific, and the audience had to trust that there was a compelling reason to combine this composer with that artist."

[The Colorado Music Festival orchestra will perform an original composition by Julian Wachner during its concert on Thrusday.]
The Colorado Music Festival orchestra will perform an original composition by Julian Wachner during its concert on Thrusday. (Courtesy Colorado Music Festival)

His Classicalapalooza program takes on a series of smaller combinations with multiple composers and artists, and adds a narrative element to explain the reasoning. "It's like the music festival of my dreams," Hackman said. "I imagine a time machine where the composers and artists could interact at the same event. I'd like to speculate what kind of music they would make together."

The smaller segments have titles like "Lady Gaga-Brahms," "Bruno Mars-Bach," "Adele-Wagner" and "Beyoncé-Beethoven." Hackman said that each of these is a self-contained piece of music, and the narrator will both explain the pairings and lead between them. "There is a large arc," he said. "Adele-Wagner" is very much a slow movement. As usual, Hackman has engaged a trio of his favorite singers to present the popular songs.

The artists chosen would headline the biggest shows today, and the composers are the all-time greats. Sometimes, Hackman said, the combinations wrote themselves. The finale of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony is combined with Muse's "Uprising," both pieces having the theme of resistance to oppression, for example. The 90-minute show is divided into two acts with intermission, each act consisting of four or five numbers.

"I'm excited to come back and do yet another original piece with the CMF," Hackman said. "I think the orchestra and I really came to understand each other and learned to make great music together."

Commissioned work and 'The Planets'

The Thursday full festival orchestra concert does not have a guest soloist, but the work commissioned from last year's Click! competition winner will begin the program. Click! is a long-running CMF initiative where audience members listen to music by four selected composers and vote on one to write a new piece for the next season.

This year's winner is Julian Wachner, who has worked with CMF music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni in Montreal. "He really is a musicians' composer who writes accessible, pleasing things," Zeitouni said.

Wachner knew that he would have a large orchestra to work with. The anchor work on the concert is Gustav Holst's "The Planets," which uses a gargantuan ensemble. The 10-minute work he wrote is in homage to Leonard Bernstein, whose birth centenary will be celebrated in 2018. "I wanted to bridge the serious and popular, like he did," Wachner said. "I looked at music like the film score to 'On the Waterfront,'" he explained.

Wachner referred to a series of photos in the Maestro Suite at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., depicting the conductors who have worked there. "All of them have a serious face, doing things like shushing the orchestra — except Bernstein. His mouth is open, and he is looking to the sky. The photo just expresses pure joy." He used the Latin word for "joy" — gaude — as the title for his piece. "Joy" just happens to be the 2017 CMF theme.

The piece is framed by a low brass chorale, Wachner said, and a faster, jubilant middle section. "It could be reasonably programmed at any large orchestra concert," Wachner said. He didn't go as far as Holst with woodwinds and brass, but the work includes a large percussion section, as contemporary composers generally do.

As for "The Planets," it will be accompanied by visual projections, as is often the case with performances of the work, but it will be different from the commonly-used versions produced by NASA. Zeitouni said that planetary images and CGI animations by visual artist Adrian Wyard are designed to follow the music in real time, the operator responding to Zeitouni's pace. This is similar to what was done with Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" last year. The images are designed to accompany a specific portion of the music, but the musicians are not beholden to anything like a "click track."

Coming between Wachner's piece and "The Planets" is Alexander Scriabin's "Poem of Ecstasy." Another work with a massive orchestra, it also fits the "joyous" theme of the program. Zeitoni described it as a "passionate, orgasmic explosion from the soul." The final "Fresh Friday" encore performance at 6:30 p.m. on July 28 will include only "The Planets."

Clarinetist returns after hitting it big

Zeitouni has had interest in inviting back a former CMF musician who has gone on to a high-profile position. The obvious choice was Azerbaijan-born clarinetist Boris Allakhverdyan, who was CMF principal from 2008-2012. Since then, Allakhverdyan served a stint as one of two principal clarinetists for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York, and is now principal for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the orchestra led by superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

Allakhverdyan performs with CMF musicians on a chamber music program Saturday, July 29, and then with the chamber orchestra in a "Classically Jazz" concert on Sunday, July 30. The solo clarinet part in Leonard Bernstein's "Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs" is something he has been playing recently. Zeitouni had wanted to do a jazz-inspired classical concert, and this presented an opportunity. Because the Bernstein piece is short, Allakhverdyan will also play Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto, another heavily jazz-influenced work.

"The Copland is one of the great clarinet concertos," Allakhverdyan explained. "I've played it in many places, including Armenia, where it was well-received." He noted that both pieces were written for the famous American clarinetist Benny Goodman.

Zeitouni surrounds the clarinet works with other classical pieces that have become "jazz standards." They include the wind band suite from Kurt Weill's "Threepenny Opera" (which features "Mack the Knife"), George Gershwin's "Lullaby for Strings," and orchestrations of two Scott Joplin piano rags, "The Entertainer" and "Maple Leaf Rag." French composer Darius Milhaud's "La Création du monde," a 1923 ballet score that was one of the first serious orchestral works to use jazz idioms (but reflected through a Parisian lens), fills out the program.

The Saturday chamber concert includes the Brahms Clarinet Quintet, in which Allakhverdyan joins four CMF string players (including the orchestra's longest-serving player, violinist Mary Ellen Goree). That group also plays Tchaikovsky's "Autumn Song" arranged by Toru Takemitsu. Then, pianist Vivienne Spy and CMF wind players present Mozart's Quintet for Piano and Winds.

Mon, July 3, 2017

CDA’s best classical albums of 2017 (so far)
Classical Dark Arts

The Kennedy Center staged an astounding performance of The Hubble Cantata in May that included solo singers, an instrumental ensemble, the Washington Chorus [all directed by Julian Wachner], narrator Mario Livio (astrophysicist, director of the Hubble project), and a virtual-reality film. Paola Prestini composed the music and Royce Vavrek the libretto. While this recording won’t have quite the same impact — for obvious format reasons — it gets close. Turn off the lights, put on headphones, lie back and blast off.

Read Full Text

CDA’s best classical albums of 2017 (so far)

ON JULY 3, 2017 BY DUBUQUECELLO

Welcome to the halfway point of the year.

Typically critics and fans announce their favorite albums at the end of each year. It’s a fine tradition, but wouldn’t it be nice to get a head start? By looking at the best classical albums released thus far we can preempt some of our December binge-listening.

The ground rules: No reissues and no re-recordings. If your group recorded a Mahler symphony cycle I’m not recommending it. We reward originality, we patronize living composers. Second, this list ain’t exhaustive. I’m only one listener. I’m open to additions because the list will change over time. Finally, your mileage may vary. If you’re gonna buy something, preview it first lest you get burned. Click on the titles to buy the albums.

Paola Prestini ‘The Hubble Cantata’
The Kennedy Center staged an astounding performance of The Hubble Cantata in May that included solo singers, an instrumental ensemble, the Washington Chorus, narrator Mario Livio (astrophysicist, director of the Hubble project), and a virtual-reality film. Paola Prestini composed the music and Royce Vavrek the libretto. While this recording won’t have quite the same impact — for obvious format reasons — it gets close. Turn off the lights, put on headphones, lie back and blast off.

Ars Nova Copenhagen ‘First Drop’
Ars Nova Copenhagen are a vocal group formed in 1979. These Danes program centuries-old music and cutting-edge new music. Standouts on their latest album, called First Drop, include Michael Gordon’s He Saw a Skull (straight wizardry), Pablo Ortiz’s Five Motets, and a remix of Steve Reich’s Clapping Music by group leader Paul Hillier that’s arguably better than the original.

Bearthoven ‘Trios’
Does it help your chances to get on this list if your group name’s slightly punny? Hell yes my friend. Bearthoven are a piano-bass-drums trio that at first blush might be mistaken for a jazz group. Truthfully they might be that, but as Bearthoven note in their official bio they don’t put much stock in labels or expectations. Trios includes Brendon Randall-Myers’s dirty, twisting groove called Simple Machine, Fjóla Evans’ thick, ethereal Shoaling, and an opener (Undertoad) and closer (The Ringing World) that flirt with orchestrated, Gil Evans-style writing.

New Vintage Baroque, Oracle Hysterical ‘Passionate Pilgrim’
This is wild. Oracle Hysterical call themselves “half band, half book club.” They’re comprised of composer-performers Doug Balliett, Brad Balliett, Majel Connery, Elliot Cole, and Dylan Greene. Passionate Pilgrim pairs Oracle Hysterical with period orchestra New Vintage Baroque. They take “discredited” verses once thought to be Shakespeare’s and weave them into a 19-song cycle. It goes by fast, the reason being that the idea is fresh. Passionate Pilgrim is beautifully original, if you’re open to it.

Alvin Lucier ‘Two Circles’
All right I know I said no reissues but I’m banking on few people having heard of Alvin Lucier. You might’ve caught Lucier’s music on the current season of Meet the Composer, when Nadia played his beguiling I Am Sitting in a Room. Two Circles includes that work along with others in a similar vein: all feature repeated figures, long, drawn-out notes, absolutely zero haste. Screw all you short attention-span-having millennials (of which I am one).

Jasper String Quartet ‘Unbound’
From Caroline Shaw’s jangly opener Valencia to Ted Hearne’s Law of Mosaics, this program from the Jasper is a treat. Sometimes string quartet writing doesn’t allow the format’s best characteristics — distinct voices, ability of all four players to lead, unity of timbre, wide expressive range — to shine through. Another way of saying it is that inferior composers have as much chance of succeeding in the string quartet format as a Perkins pie-maker on The Great British Bake Off. It don’t end well, bruv. Luckily, Unbound is quality music top to bottom. If you’re not impressed by the one-two punch of Annie Gosfield’s The Blue Horse Walks on the Horizon and Judd Greenstein’s Four on the Floor, then we’re done here.

​ACME ‘Thrive on Routine’
The American Contemporary Musical Ensemble is a shape-shifting new music group started in 2004 and led by cellist and artistic director Clarice Jensen. Their performance roll reads like a who’s who of NYC classical luminaries, and their catalog features heavy hitters: an eight-hour recording of Max Richter’s Sleep; Carolina Eyck’s Fantasias for Theremin and String Quartet (a CDA 2016 album pick); and enough New Amsterdam records to build your week around. This year’s Thrive on Routine is an ACME family affair, with pieces by group members Caroline Shaw, Caleb Burhans and Timo Andres. Bonus fun fact: Andres’ “Potatoes” was inspired by the morning routine of Charles Ives, who listened to Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier while working in his potato patch.

Iceland Symphony Orchestra ‘Recurrence’
Iceland is having a moment. What Atlanta is for rappers, New Orleans is for jazz, Silicon Valley is for douchey tech broflakes, and Florida is for uniformly shocking news headlines, Iceland is for contemporary classical music. We’re talking about a country with an equivalent population to Corpus Christi, Texas, built on lava fields and “geologically active” terrain, that endures months of either constant light or enveloping darkness. (Thinking.) Okay, maybe that’s a fertile musical breeding ground. Recurrence by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra features pieces by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir and similarly white-hot Icelandic composers. Don’t hesitate to ride this wave.

The Knights, Yo-Yo Ma, Osvaldo Golijov et al. ‘Azul’
You have to hand it to Yo-Yo Ma — the guy won’t sit still. Ma has racked up more travel miles than a US Secretary of State. The worldwide projects he’s undertaken are more impressive when you consider he doesn’t have anything left to prove. He’s a performer for the ages. So then, how about a new collabo between Ma, the NYC chamber ensemble The Knights, composer Osvaldo Golijov, and um, Sufjan Stevens? Yes please. Like Postmates when you’re too lazy or too lit up to drive, this one delivers.

Brian Eno ‘Reflection’
This is an electronic album from Mr. Eno that has me scratching my head over the distinction between classical composition and whatever this is. Do the musical implements of execution matter? Is Eno a composer, or “just” a music programmer? Weirdly, Reflection has been a staple of airline in-flight entertainment, so I’ve listened to it in the air (back to back) as often as on terra firma. It’s good both ways. Reflection is an accomplishment, and a strong contender for our year-end list.

Tue, June 20, 2017

150 Psalms, 150 Composers at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival
The New York Times

For a concert called “Justice” that will be held at St. Paul’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Mr. Lang was commissioned to write a setting for Psalm 101 (“I will sing of your love and justice”). It will be performed by the Choir of Trinity Wall Street [under the direction of Julian Wachner], part of a program featuring psalms set by Bruckner, Ned Rorem and Hildegard von Bingen.

Read Full Text

150 Psalms, 150 Composers at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival

By MICHAEL COOPER JUNE 20, 2017

A veritable Psalm-athon will be the centerpiece of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival this fall. Organizers said Tuesday that the festival would feature performances of settings of all 150 biblical psalms, by 150 different composers, in “The Psalms Experience.”

This seems a natural fit for White Light, which has made transcendence and spirituality its central themes. Other highlights of the festival — which will run from Oct. 18 through Nov. 15 — include John Eliot Gardiner conducting Monteverdi’s three surviving operas; the Mark Morris Dance Group performing the New York premiere of “Layla and Majnun,” a Middle Eastern opera; and the choreographer Jessica Lang staging Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater.”

But the psalms bonanza, for which the festival will spread out across the city to present a dozen concerts featuring 1,000 years of music by composers including Bach, Handel, Telemann and Arvo Pärt, will be the most unusual offering. Here is a sampling of some of the newly commissioned settings.

David Lang: Psalm 101

For a concert called “Justice” that will be held at St. Paul’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Mr. Lang was commissioned to write a setting for Psalm 101 (“I will sing of your love and justice”). It will be performed by the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, part of a program featuring psalms set by Bruckner, Ned Rorem and Hildegard von Bingen.

Mohammed Fairouz: Psalm 14

Mr. Fairouz was commissioned to set Psalm 14, which grapples with questions of faith, for a concert called “The State of Humankind” that will be performed by the Netherlands Chamber Choir at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. The concert is also to feature a new commission by Michel van der Aa and settings by Tallis, Bach, Purcell and Monteverdi.

Evelin Seppar: Psalm 129

For a concert called “Pilgrimage of Life,” Ms. Seppar, an Estonian composer, has been asked to set the so-called “song of ascents,” which will be sung by the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir. The program, which will be held at Union Theological Seminary on Broadway at 121st Street, will also include music by Palestrina, Brahms and Mr. Pärt.

Nico Muhly: Psalm 63

Mr. Muhly, a composer with a particular fondness for choral church music, has been commissioned to set this psalm, which explores the thirst for God, for a concert called “Gratitude” that will be performed by the Tallis Scholars at the Ethical Culture society. (William Byrd, Haydn and Schubert settings are also on the program.)

Fri, June 2, 2017

Review: New York’s Early-Music Scene Is Having a Moment
The New York Times

The fast-growing vitality of the early-music scene in New York has seldom been more clearly on display than in the closing days of this season.

Last week the instrumentalists of Acronym offered “From Venice to Vienna,” a motley program of almost wholly unknown works from the 17th century. And on Thursday New York Baroque Incorporated added a grand finale of sorts, performing Bonaventura Aliotti’s 1687 oratorio “Santa Rosalia” at Trinity Church on lower Broadway [hosted by Julian Wachner, Director of Music and the Arts], in what it was probably safe to call a United States premiere.

Read Full Text

Review: New York’s Early-Music Scene Is Having a Moment

By JAMES R. OESTREICHJUNE 2, 2017

The fast-growing vitality of the early-music scene in New York has seldom been more clearly on display than in the closing days of this season.

Last week the instrumentalists of Acronym offered “From Venice to Vienna,” a motley program of almost wholly unknown works from the 17th century. And on Thursday New York Baroque Incorporated added a grand finale of sorts, performing Bonaventura Aliotti’s 1687 oratorio “Santa Rosalia” at Trinity Church on lower Broadway, in what it was probably safe to call a United States premiere.

What the groups share (with at least one other, the Sebastians) is a strong representation of alumni from the Juilliard School’s historical-performance program, which was founded just eight years ago but is already a major force in the field. It is probably no coincidence that these groups also share impeccable musicianship and a venturesome approach to repertory.

But in contrast to Acronym, which is hard put to corral its dozen busy members for an occasional concert, NYBI, as Baroque Incorporated is known, maintained a steady presence in the city this spring as part of Trinity Wall Street’s ambitious music program. (Juilliard and Trinity, between them, drive much of the early-music energy here.) In particular, Baroque Incorporated took over Trinity’s “Bach at One” series at St. Paul’s Chapel, plying repertory that extended far beyond Bach.

Bonaventura Aliotti — a priest and organist who was born in Palermo, Sicily, and spent most of his life there — merits a mere two paragraphs and a modest work list in the 29-volume New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. The 12th-century Rosalia (rhymes with Maria), the patron saint of Palermo, is said to have been a descendant of Charlemagne and was born to aristocracy and wealth, which she renounced to become a hermit, devoted to God and living in a cave.

“Santa Rosalia,” presented in a rudimentary semi-staging directed by Marc Verzatt, is an interior allegorical drama enacted by Rosalia’s better self, Repentance, and her lesser ones, Ambition and Sense, who try to steer her off her saintly course. Lucifer joins that unholy alliance in a final bid for Rosalia’s soul, but Mary Most Holy has the last word, as she bestows a crown of roses on the retreating Rosalia. (“Roses grown in heaven/Have no thorns.”)

Continue reading the main story

The music, tuneful yet sophisticated, consists largely of a smooth flow of dialogue with mere continuo accompaniment, broken by arias wrapped more lavishly in strings, and occasional ensembles. Aliotti’s style recalls the operatic Monteverdi at times, without ever reaching a similar level of sustained inspiration.

The fine cast was led by the soprano Johannette Zomer, as a sympathetic Santa Rosalia, but the real standout was another soprano, Molly Netter, playing both Repentance and Mary Most Holy with clear, beautiful tone and vivacious personality. The estimable bass-baritone Dashon Burton more than filled the relatively small role of Lucifer. Owen McIntosh was suitably brash as Sense, and Kate Maroney was somewhat aloof as an arrogant Ambition.

The instrumental ensemble, studded with stars in the making, was truly excellent, with the lead violinist, Lorenzo Colitto, as music director, and the double-bassist, Wen Yang, as artistic director. Ezra Seltzer, a stalwart cellist in New York’s new old-music scene, was superb in his solos.

Mon, May 22, 2017

Kennedy Center’s JFK Centennial culminates with final week of events
WTOP

On Thursday, “The Hubble Cantata” salutes the Hubble satellite on the anniversary of Kennedy’s Moon Shot. Metropolitan opera star Nathan Gunn will join acclaimed soprano Talise Trevigne, music director Julian Wachner, a 20-piece orchestra, and a 100-person choir from The Washington Chorus.

“A fantastic female composer Paola Prestini has written this work,” Rutter said. “It has a virtual reality component to it. It is so cool! And it is on the day of the anniversary of his Moon Shot speech, so we’re delighted to have this brand new work. There’s been a lot of excitement about it, there’s a lot of buzz.”

Read Full Text

Kennedy Center’s JFK Centennial culminates with final week of events

By Jason Fraley | @JFray

WTOP May 22, 2017 2:23 am

WASHINGTON — Have you noticed the Kennedy Center bathed in red, white and blue lights lately? Or the bold letters “JFK 100” stenciled atop the building?

It’s all for the JFK Centennial, a yearlong celebration that culminates this week with a final string of events building up to what would have been President John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday on Monday, May 29.

“We’re taking this centennial to remind people that we are the memorial to John F. Kennedy,” Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter told WTOP.

“Some people forget; they think it’s the name of a place like Kennedy Airport or Kennedy Space Center. … [First lady Jackie Kennedy] knew his memory could live on through a living memorial. So, every day we celebrate John F. Kennedy. … It gives us an inspiration when we are programming things at the center.”

It was certainly a unique task putting together the lineup of events for “JFK 100.”

“When you have an anniversary in a performing arts center, you can celebrate a composer, you can celebrate a performer or choreographer very easily because they created performingworks,” Rutter said. “What do you do when you’re a performing arts center honoring a president? We spent a lot of time thinking about it [and] decided we would focus on what he stood for [particularly] on five ideals: Service, Courage, Justice, Freedom and — after we spoke with his family — we added Gratitude.”

The week of events kicks off Tuesday with “Rebirth of a Nation,” as Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky will reinterpret D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking yet racially offensive movie “The Birth of a Nation” (1915).

“It’s a multimedia event with music, a little bit of video, a little bit of spoken word … to take this really iconic work and have a new perspective on it with a new voice to the Kennedy Center,” Rutter said. “The art of our day — in terms of having music from hip-hop artists — has been a really important addition to the Kennedy Center. We’ve had Nas, Common, and Q-Tip is now our artistic adviser.”

On Wednesday, get ready for renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma with the National Symphony Orchestra, performing a collection of John Williams, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Mason Bates.

“Yo-Yo Ma helped raise money for the nation’s cultural center before it was the Kennedy Center,” Rutter said. “He performed for John F. Kennedy when he was 7, his sister played the piano and Leonard Bernstein was the host of a fundraising event that the Kennedys graced with their presence. … So, Yo-Yo is really our lead on all things ‘JFKC,’ our way of referring to the centennial.”

On Thursday, “The Hubble Cantata” salutes the Hubble satellite on the anniversary of Kennedy’s Moon Shot. Metropolitan opera star Nathan Gunn will join acclaimed soprano Talise Trevigne, music director Julian Wachner, a 20-piece orchestra, and a 100-person choir from The Washington Chorus.

“A fantastic female composer Paola Prestini has written this work,” Rutter said. “It has a virtual reality component to it. It is so cool! And it is on the day of the anniversary of his Moon Shot speech, so we’re delighted to have this brand new work. There’s been a lot of excitement about it, there’s a lot of buzz.”

Similarly, The Washington Ballet presents its “Frontier” space ballet from Thursday though Sunday.

“What’s been really great is the number of arts organizations across the city who’ve been connected to this centennial,” Rutter said. “We’re really proud that The Washington Ballet is in residence that week and are a part of our celebration. … We’re really pleased the ballet is performing that week.”

On Saturday, check out the Kennedy Center Open House with free activities from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“The Open House is something that’s been really popular at the Kennedy Center,” Rutter said. “It will be an all-day celebration … all kinds of events, inside, outside, inside the performance spaces, some really unexpected stuff and some more traditional …. a lot of family activities. Please come on down.”

Sunday brings the annual National Memorial Day Concert, featuring the NSO on the National Mall.

“This is, of course, filmed live on PBS, but it’s better to be in person,” Rutter said. “[It’s] a wonderful program, their traditional concert. You can’t have [Memorial Day] weekend without it.”

It all culminates Monday with the JFK Centennial Celebration on Kennedy’s actual 100th birthday.

“The fact that Memorial Day is his birthday is really special, it was just all meant to be,” Rutter said. “We have a lot of spoken word, music and dance, but this is not a musical variety show; it’s more about reflecting on who he was. … So, we have some fantastic actors, dancers, performers, Martin Sheen will be there, one of the prima ballerinas of our day Tiler Peck will be there, Renee Fleming will be singing, we have some surprises along the way, but it’s intended to be open and affordable to all.”

Of course, if you have a little cash to spare, you can donate to the Kennedy Center’s arts mission with its “35 Days of Giving” program, named after Kennedy’s place as 35th president of the United States.

“Everybody refers to the president by the number [’35’], so we have built a program for giving [over] 35 days leading up to May 29,” Rutter said. “We have a challenge grant from a wonderful D.C. family, Shelley and Allan Holt, who will match every gift 2-to-1. … The idea being that people can give back to their cultural center in honor of his birth at any level. We have a $5 gift, a $5,000 gift, even larger gifts. … Any gift makes a difference and you can feel like you’re helping celebrate John F. Kennedy.”

That celebration will continue beyond the centennial, thanks to the Kennedy Center’s enduring work.

“Kennedy was not just a young, inspirational, optimistic politician, he also really thought about the world in a different way,” Rutter said. “He was the first politician to use television, he was the first to speak to our society in a different way. He was aspirational. He was the one who encouraged us to think about our role as citizens in a different way. … He was always pushing us to think differently about our role in society, so I really believe that this whole week of programming is about that.”

Mon, May 22, 2017

Vast, Intricate, Awe-Inspiring Oceans of Sound Downtown
Lucid Culture

What’s the likelihood that the two opening works on a program featuring John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean would hold their own alongside that epically enveloping, meticulously churning, playfully palindromic masterpiece? It happened yesterday at St. Paul’s Chapel downtown, where Novus NY delivered a mighty coda to this season’s program of music on themes of water justice, staged by Trinity Church.

The pervasive cynicism that still exists at corporate rock concerts has roots in the classical world: “Let’s warm up the crowd with something short and random and then get down to business.” From the first few stark, distantly enigmatic notes of Luna Pearl Woolf’s After the Wave, a portrait of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and its aftermath, it was clear that Julian Wachner’s fearlessly eclectic ensemble had come to deliver a message.

Read Full Text

Vast, Intricate, Awe-Inspiring Oceans of Sound Downtown

What’s the likelihood that the two opening works on a program featuring John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean would hold their own alongside that epically enveloping, meticulously churning, playfully palindromic masterpiece? It happened yesterday at St. Paul’s Chapel downtown, where Novus NY delivered a mighty coda to this season’s program of music on themes of water justice, staged by Trinity Church.

The pervasive cynicism that still exists at corporate rock concerts has roots in the classical world: “Let’s warm up the crowd with something short and random and then get down to business.” From the first few stark, distantly enigmatic notes of Luna Pearl Woolf’s After the Wave, a portrait of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and its aftermath, it was clear that Julian Wachner’s fearlessly eclectic ensemble had come to deliver a message. With just the hint of foreshadowing, the methodical pulse of daily routine gave way to a flood of low tonalities and bracing close harmonies as haunting as anything in Adams’ work. From there the orchestra made their way through an unexpectedly triumphant latin-tinged fanfare of sorts, up to a conclusion that signaled triumph and recovery over an ocean of devastation.

The world premiere of violist/composer Jessica Meyer’s string orchestra piece Through Which We Flow was  even more consistently riveting. Introducing the work, Meyer explained how she’d been inspired by Masuru Emoto’s book The Hidden Messages in Water, which claims that human thought directed at water can affect the shape of its ice crystals. Considering that we’re 85% water, if science can validate Emoto’s thesis, this would be paradigm-shifting to the extreme.

Meyer has made a name for herself with her intricate, solo loopmusic, its intertwining themes and atmospheric electronic effects. That influence was apparent in the work’s subtle thematic shifts, intricately circular motives and rhythmic persistence, not unlike Julia Wolfe. But freed from the confines of the loop pedal, Meyer’s mini-suite flowed carefully and methodically from rapt, mantra-like permutations, through grim insistence to a peacefully hypnotic ending. All this demanded plenty of extended plucking and percussive technique, and the ensemble rose to the challenge. It’s the best thing Meyer’s ever written: there isn’t a string orchestra on the planet that wouldn’t have a field day playing this.

So it’s fair to say that Become Ocean wasn’t just the piece de resistance, but a fitting coda.  Performed by three separate segments of the orchestra – strings and percussion facing the church’s south wall, brass on the back balcony, with winds, harp and vibraphone under the nave of the church, Wachner (wearing headphones) led the groups through a seamless morass of tidal shifts, endlessly bubbly chains of rivulets and a titanic wall of sound that evoked dread and deadly power as much as awestruck wonder.

It’s easy to describe the early part of the work as orchestral Eno (and just as difficult to play: try pedaling the same note for ten minutes, nonstop, maintaining perfectly unwavering tone and timbre!). But that womb-like reverie gave way to a wall as menacing as anything depicted in Woolf’s piece – at five times the volume. As themes made their way slowly back and forth between the three groups of musicians, it was as if the audience had become part of the orchestra, literally immersed in the music. In an era where the Seventh Continent continues to expand – plastic springwater bottles no doubt being part of it – and the Fukushima reactors continue to leak their lethal toxins into the Pacific, it’s hard to think of a more relevant concert being staged in New  York this year.

Trinity Wall Street’s orchestra conclude this spring’s season with a performance of Philip Glass’ similarly rapturous if not necessarily water-themed Symphony No. 5 there tonight, May 19 and tomorrow, May 20 at 8 PM. Admission is free; early arrival is advised.

Fri, May 19, 2017

Concert Review: Let Me Drown
Superconductor

St. Paul’s Chapel, located in the long shadow of the World Trade Center is one of the oldest and most historic churches in New York. On Thursday afternoon, the last matinee concert of the annual music series sponsored by Trinity Church featured another historic occasion: the second New York pperformance of Become Ocean, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning composition by John Luther Adams. This concert, featuring contemporary orchestra Novus NY under the baton of Trinity Church maestro Julian Wachner, paired Mr. Adams’ creation with works by contemporary composers Luna Pearl Woolf and Jessica Meyer. All three composers were in attendance.

Read Full Text

FRIDAY, MAY 19, 2017

Concert Review: Let Me Drown

Novus NY plays Become Ocean.

by Paul J. Pelkonen

(This review is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell.)

The composer John Luther Adams who won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Become Ocean.

St. Paul's Chapel, located in the long shadow of the World Trade Center is one of the oldest and most historic churches in New York. On Thursday afternoon, the last matinee concert of the annual music series sponsored by Trinity Church featured another historic occasion: the second New York pperformance of Become Ocean, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning composition by John Luther Adams. This concert, featuring contemporary orchestra Novus NY under the baton of Trinity Church maestro Julian Wachner, paired Mr. Adams' creation with works by contemporary composers Luna Pearl Woolf  and Jessica Meyer. All three composers were in attendance,
The concert was the penultimate entry in a spring series that conductor Julian Wachner has dubbed “ Sunken Cathedral, a festival exploring compositions centered around the element of water. Mr. Wachner and the Novus forces were arrayed lengthwise in the nave of this small church, with the conductor’s podium facing the glass windows to the north and the altar on his right. The first two works on this program were prefaced with introductory remarks and interviews with their composers.

The concert opened with After the Wave by Ms, Woolf. It started with a lone, faraway trumpet, answered from a seemingly great distance by oboe and English horn, that most desolate sounding of wind instruments. These solo parts formed a four-note row (A-C-E-B natural) from which Ms. Woolf germinated the entire piece. Swelling surges of strings and brass crashed and broke on the senses, at turns meditative and anguished, moaning of irredeemable loss.

It was not loss but transfiguration that inspired composer-violist Jessica Meyer to write Through This We Flow. This is a tone poem for multiple solo string players in the manner of Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen. However, Ms. Meyer used half toned, diminish nets and strange chords to create a series of unsettling effects. Her low strong players ground their bows, rotating them hard against the the strings of their instruments to create a harsh mechanical sound. She also instructed the players to work their strings, scratching, plucking and snapping them hard in the Bartók style. Arrhythmic col legno taps using the backs of the players bows added to the sense of unease.

These phantasmagorical textures emerged slowly with the growling low strings answered by keening shrieks in th the little squads of violins. An expressive solo for viola (Ms. Meyers own instrument) provided a kind of narrative drive and the work ended on a quiet, fading diminuendo. This was spoiled by the sirens and klaxons of a nearby fire truck, a normal hazard when playing concerts just off Wall Street. Mr. Wachner calmly had his players repeated the last section from the “K” marker in the score. There were no further interruptions.
Mr. Adams' composition took the world by storm two years ago when the Seattle Symphony gave its New York premiere at Carnegie Hall. Here, the piece was performed in a spatial arrangement, with brass players confined to the choir loft and the woodwind ensemble in the apse. The string players remained seated in the middle of the nave. Mr. Wachner sum he'd the three ensembles, working with the benefit of headphones for optimum synchronization.

It is too easy to write of Become Ocean with words like “flooding,” “surging” or “billowing." None of those adjectives do it justice. The effect of this piece is a like 45 minutes in a primitive diving bell, plunging deep into an aquatic sound-world where the sheer weight of volume rushing in from the choirs of brass wind and strings make it impossible to breathe, even as timpani, gran casa and piano batter at the senses, The work is overwhelming and inexorable as the sea, lifting, crashing, and finally dwindling into a pulse of cellos and bass, exactly where isn't started. 

Fri, May 19, 2017

Intoned Absurdity: This Week’s 8 Best Classical Music Moments
The New York Times

Julian Wachner conducted Novus NY in the final program of its water-themed series at St. Paul’s Chapel on Lower Broadway on Thursday afternoon, and I attended mainly to rehear “Become Ocean,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning work by John Luther Adams. The performance was excellent, but I was also struck by “Through Which We Flow,” a new 15-minute work for strings by Jessica Meyer, a Novus violist. Its departure point was the lovely sound of works like the Dvorak and Tchaikovsky serenades, which Ms. Meyer quickly complicated, by dividing and redividing lines, and roughed up with astringent effects, like a creaking and croaking among the double basses midway through, which was then offset by squealing violins.

Read Full Text

Intoned Absurdity: This Week’s 8 Best Classical Music Moments

MAY 19, 2017

In addition to reviews, features and news during the week, our critics and reporters collect the best of what they’ve heard: notes that sent shivers down their spines, memorable voices, quotations that cut to the heart of the story.

LEONIDAS KAVAKOS, MAY 18 

Reaching for the Sky

The New York Philharmonic’s artist in residence this season, the violinist Leonidas Kavakos, plays Brahms’s Violin Concerto this weekend. In a Facebook Live concert and interview, he walked us through the first movement: a theme delivered in unison by the orchestra, then developed in typical sonata form in a 24-minute journey full of drama, contemplation and beauty. After the cadenza — a long, virtuosic solo passage written by the great 19th-century violinist Joseph Joachim — there is what Mr. Kavakos calls “a magical moment.” The violin, with a soulful vibrato, reaches higher and higher until it settles on heavenly C-sharp. Brahms, Mr. Kavakos said, “sends the violin up to the sky as the voice of an angel.” JOSHUA BARONE 

Our review of Mr. Kavakos at the Philharmonic will be online Sunday evening and in Monday’s print newspaper.

NATE WOOLEY AND KEN VANDERMARK, MAY 16

Abrasive Yet Sensual

In a somehow both low-key and ferocious evening at Issue Project Room, Mr. Wooley, on trumpet, and Mr. Vandermark, on saxophone and clarinet, made music of casual extremity. When they came together for duos after separate solo sets, Mr. Wooley produced an eerie, memorable moment: Picking up a sheet of metal as he produced a low moan on his trumpet, he scratched it against his instrument. It was a mix of nails on a chalkboard and a whale’s keening call — abrasive yet sensual ZACHARY WOOLFE

METROPOLITAN OPERA, MAY 16

A Met Role, By the Skin of His Teeth

It may well have been the weirdest audition in Met history: The British director Phelim McDermott was looking for a strongman, to be part of the carny milieu of his Coney Island “Così Fan Tutte” next season. Enter Titano Oddfellow, who in a sublime moment asked Mr. McDermott, “Have you ever been bound in leather before?” Muscleman proceeded to lift opera auteur, using only his teeth. ZACHARY WOOLFE

SCHNEIDER CONCERTS, MAY 14

Intoned Absurdity

Luciano Berio, in his seminal 1960 work “Circles” for soprano, harp and two percussionists, explored unusual ways of setting words to music, eerily prolonging syllables and turning verbal sounds into skittish lines that dart and weave. The soprano Tony Arnold gave a mesmerizing performance of the piece at the New School. The moment that grabbed me, though, came when the game percussionists Daniel Druckman and James Baker, while playing various instruments, intoned words from the E.E. Cummings poems Berio sets. And give them credit for making sense of phrases like “starT birDs(lEAp) Openi ng.” ANTHONY TOMMASINI

YOUNG CONCERT ARTISTS GALA, MAY 16

Russian Melancholy, No Show-Off

Young Concert Artists, which has long fostered the careers of emerging talents, ended its 56th season with three exceptional performers as concerto soloists with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Last was the 22-year-old Korean cellist Sang-Eun Lee, who gave a graceful, stylish and subtle account of Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme.” Though her handling of the piece’s difficult passagework was impressive, I was particularly affected by her melting way with the opening of the ruminative sixth variation. Suddenly, this show-off piece for cello had an unexpected moment of Russian melancholy. ANTHONY TOMMASINI

CALIDORE STRING QUARTET, MAY 18

A Cello’s Musical CPR

In the closing stretch of the Calidore Quartet’s atmospheric reading of Ligeti’s String Quartet No. 1, the cello suddenly seemed to malfunction. After a line wilted downward with an exhausted slide, the cellist Estelle Choi allowed her tone to flatline. Then, gradually, the held note seemed to revive through little pulsating additions of vibrato that sounded like musical CPR. Sure enough, the work’s opening motif came back to life; soon after the whole ensemble rallied and carried the piece over the finish line. CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM

KYUNG WHA CHUNG, MAY 18

A Challenge Redoubled

The veteran Korean violin virtuoso, who retired in 2005 because of a hand injury, has been attempting a comeback in recent years. “To this day, I can’t practice, so all my work is done in my head,” Ms. Chung told The Juilliard Journal this month. You could appreciate her bravery in a marathon presentation of all six of Bach’s sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin at Carnegie Hall, but not entirely ignore the obvious difficulties involved. Still, trouper that she is, she rose impressively to the biggest moment of all with a stirring reading of the towering Chaconne that concludes the D minor Partita, decidedly more Romantic than Baroque in style yet persuasively delivered. JAMES R. OESTREICH

‘SUNKEN CATHEDRAL,’ MAY 18

Appealing Astringency

Julian Wachner conducted Novus NY in the final program of its water-themed series at St. Paul’s Chapel on Lower Broadway on Thursday afternoon, and I attended mainly to rehear “Become Ocean,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning work by John Luther Adams. The performance was excellent, but I was also struck by “Through Which We Flow,” a new 15-minute work for strings by Jessica Meyer, a Novus violist. Its departure point was the lovely sound of works like the Dvorak and Tchaikovsky serenades, which Ms. Meyer quickly complicated, by dividing and redividing lines, and roughed up with astringent effects, like a creaking and croaking among the double basses midway through, which was then offset by squealing violins. JAMES R. OESTREICH

Fri, May 19, 2017

This week: concerts in New York (May 15, 2017 – May 21, 2017)
I Care if You Listen

The contemporary music orchestra of Trinity Church, NOVUS NY, conducted by Julian Wachner, premieres Jessica Meyer’s Through which we flow as part of the church’s “Sunken Cathedral” series. The series features diverse arrangements of Debussy’s classic and haunting prelude La Cathédrale engloutie, alongside a variety of newer compositions focusing on climate change and water. The program also features John Luther Adams’s Pulitzer and Grammy-winning Become Ocean and Luna Pearl Woolf’s After the Wave.

Read Full Text

This week: concerts in New York (May 15, 2017 – May 21, 2017)

by SAM REISING on May 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

MICHAEL RIESMAN AND ENSEMBLE SIGNAL CELEBRATE PHILIP GLASS | POP-UP CONCERTS

Joined by Doug Perkins and Lauren Radnofsky of Ensemble Signal, Michael Riesman takes to the Miller stage for a program surveying Glass’s legendary opera and film music.
Monday, May 15 at 6:00 PM
Free
Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway, New York, NY

RADICALS IN MINIATURE | AIN GORDON WITH JOSH QUILLEN

Radicals in Miniature is a series of textual-sonic odes to personal icons of 20th century “alternative” culture that lost their toehold on immortality and (in the pre-Internet era) their place in public memory. Radicals is performed by 3-time Obie Award winner Ain Gordon and So Percussion’s Josh Quillen.
Tuesday, May 16 to Saturday, May 20 at 7:30 PM; Sunday, May 21 at 2 PM
Tickets $20
Baryshnikov Arts Center, Howard Gilman Performance Space, 450 West 37th Street, Suite 501, New York, NY

FOR THIS FROM THAT WILL BE FILLED | CLARICE JENSEN AND JONATHAN TURNER

This first-time collaboration between cellist Clarice Jensen and artist Jonathan Turner presents three world-premiere compositions and explores the variable differences between acoustic and electronic sound, and between simulation and the unconscious, through repetition and layering.
Wednesday, May 17 at 7:30 PM
Tickets $15
The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, New York, NY

CONCERTS AT ONE: SUNKEN CATHEDRAL

The contemporary music orchestra of Trinity Church, NOVUS NY, conducted by Julian Wachner, premieres Jessica Meyer’s Through which we flow as part of the church’s “Sunken Cathedral” series. The series features diverse arrangements of Debussy’s classic and haunting prelude La Cathédrale engloutie, alongside a variety of newer compositions focusing on climate change and water. The program also features John Luther Adams’s Pulitzer and Grammy-winning Become Ocean and Luna Pearl Woolf’s After the Wave.
Thursday, May 18 at 1:00 PM
Free
St. Paul’s Chapel, Broadway and Fulton Street, New York, NY

TERRY AND GYAN RILEY

Terry Riley and Gyan Riley come to National Sawdust for a special performance. Longtime music collaborators, this father-son duo of pianist + classical guitarist draws influences from their studies and experiences around the world.
Thursday, May 18 at 7:00 PM
Tickets $35
National Sawdust, 80 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY

DAY 1 | LOOK + LISTEN FESTIVAL

Helping to usher in the festival’s Opening Night at Pratt Manhattan Gallery is Ione from the Deep Listening Institute who will lead Pauline Oliveros’ The Heart Chant. Hosted by Bill McGlaughlin, the evening’s program features violinist and violist Miranda Cuckson, septet ensemble yMusic performing selections from their latest album, First, composed by Son Lux; and tenor sax quartet Battle Trance is performing an excerpt from Blade of Love.
Thursday, May 18 at 8:00 PM
Free
Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 West 14th Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY

DAY 2 | LOOK + LISTEN FESTIVAL

Day 2 of the festival at BRIC is hosted by Lara Pellegrinelli and features So Percussion performing the New York premiere of Paul Lansky’s Springs, as well as Michael Gordon’s Timber, joined by Yarn/Wire percussionists. Yarn/Wire then takes the stage to perform Žibuoklė Martinaityte’s Look + Listen commission, Unique forms of continuity in space. Jen Shyu presents excerpts from her newest solo work, Nine and Look + Listen’s Composer’s Competition winner, Nina C. Young’s Spero Lucern, will be performed by Ensemble Échappé.
Friday, May 19 at 8:00 PM
Free
BRIC, 647 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY

REVOLUTION X3

A concert featuring Sexmob, Jaimeo Brown Transcendence, and the premiere of Beats Per Revolution by Martha Mooke and Rahzel. Featuring a performance of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and an all-star ensemble.
Friday, May 19 at 8:00 PM
Tickets $35-$65
Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, New York, NY

PHILIP GLASS’S SYMPHONY NO. 5

The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Downtown Voices, and NOVUS NY join forces to perform Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 5.
Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20 at 8:00 PM
Free
Trinity Church, Broadway at Wall Street, New York, NY

AERIALITY | ANNA THORVALDSDOTTIR

The New York Philharmonic premieres Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Aeriality on a concert that also includes the New York premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Wing on Wing featuring sopranos Anu Komsi and Piia Komsi and Brahms’s Violin Concerto performed by Leonidas Kavakos.
Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20 at 8:00 PM
Tickets $19-$104
David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, New York, NY

MARIEL ROBERTS: CARTOGRAPHY, WORKS FOR SOLO CELLO+

Cellist Mariel Roberts explores the outer limits of her instrument as she celebrates the release of her second solo album, Cartography, out May 19 on New Focus Recordings. The program features music by Davi∂ Brynjar Franzson, Cenk Ergün, George Lewis, and Eric Wubbels (who guests on piano).
Friday, May 19 at 7:00 PM
Tickets $25
National Sawdust, 80 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY

IL TRAMONTO: MUSIC OF RESPIGHI, TAKEMITSU, MAHLER, IVES + LASH

Guest soloists Sarah Heltzel (mezzo-soprano), Catherine Gregory (flute), and Melanie Genin (harp) join the String Orchestra of Brooklyn to perform works by Hannah Lash, Respighi, Ives, Takemitsu, and Mahler.
Saturday, May 20 at 8:00 PM
Tickets $16, $11 students/seniors
St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church, 157 Montague Street, Brooklyn, NY

DAY 3 | LOOK + LISTEN FESTIVAL

The festival concludes with a program curated and hosted by Terrance McKnight, in partnership with The Studio Museum in Harlem. L+L is delighted to have Craig Harris and The Saints and Aint’s Brass Choir performing selections, along with Carman Moore’s Skymusic Ensemble performing several of his own works, including the gospel themed Think In An New Way.
Sunday, May 21 at 3:00 PM
Free
The Studio Museum, 144 West 125th Street, New York, NY
 

Fri, May 19, 2017

10 Things to Do in NYC Now
The New York Times

Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 5 is music of Mahlerian scale, a 100-minute work requiring five solo singers, a choir and a children’s chorus. Mr. Glass doesn’t stint on philosophical ambition in the piece, either, its 12 movements aiming high with titles like “Joy and Love,” “Judgment and Apocalypse,” and “Evil and Ignorance.” Julian Wachner conducts Trinity’s new-music ensemble, with arrayed voices. If you’re feeling brave, the performances, at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, are free.

Read Full Text

10 Things to Do in NYC Now

It’s a big city, with plenty to do, see, hear and watch. Here’s a sampling of cultural highlights this weekend and over the week ahead.

Compiled by LOUIS LUCERO II

MAY 19, 2017

JAZZ

A Steady Vision on Shifting Ground
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah at Zankel Hall

For over a decade, Mr. Scott, 34, has carried his precise and restless vision across shifting terrain. Most recently, he’s been fusing new developments in hip-hop with the linguistics of contemporary jazz and the West African-derived music of New Orleans. All the while, he has maintained a core group of musical associates, working up a productive tension between his fastidious vision and the will of his allies. This year, Mr. Scott will release three albums (“Ruler Rebel” is already out), and on Saturday night he’ll perform some of that new material alongside the flutist Elena Pinderhughes, the alto saxophonist Logan Richardson, the keyboardist Lawrence Fields, the bassist Luques Curtis, the drummer Corey Fonville and the percussionist Themba Mkhatshwa. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

DANCE

A Sugar Rush, Then Candied Fever Dreams
American Ballet Theater at the Metropolitan Opera

The company continues performances of its first full-length production of the season, “Don Quixote,” staged by Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jones, through Saturday. (Saturday’s evening performance will feature Christine Shevchenko and Thomas Forster in debuts as Mercedes and Espada.) But the spring gala on Monday heralds a new treat: Alexei Ratmansky’s “Whipped Cream,” set to music by Richard Strauss, with whimsical scenery and costumes by the acclaimed pop-surrealist artist Mark Ryden. In the ballet, a young boy samples too many pastries and dreams of Princess Praline and her court. This New York premiere will also be the return of the principal David Hallberg, who has — for too long — been absent from the stage because of injury. He takes on Prince Coffee. GIA KOURLAS

THEATER

Slinking Through Paris, Receding Onstage
‘Amélie’ at the Walter Kerr Theater

This musical about a French gamin finding love, adapted by Craig Lucas, Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen from the Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie, will steal its final garden gnome on Sunday. Ben Brantley described the production, which stars Phillipa Soo of “Hamilton,” as “pleasant to look at, easy to listen to and oddly recessive. It neither offends nor enthralls.” ALEXIS SOLOSKI

FOR CHILDREN

Tiny Wings in Small Hands
‘Meet the Fledglings With the Wild Bird Fund’ at the New-York Historical Society

Two sets of fledglings will be involved in this adventure: birds, and young humans who may be trying their wings, too. On Saturday, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., the Wild Bird Fund, a Manhattan nonprofit that functions as a wildlife E.R. and rehabilitation center, will show juvenile ducks, starlings, sparrows and pigeons at the society’s DiMenna Children’s History Museum, along with Cal Vornberger’s photographs of some of the more exotic species that call New York home, like the glossy ibis and the snowy egret. Held in conjunction with the society’s exhibition “Big Bird: Looking for Lifesize,” the program will teach visitors about the birds, including the difference between nestlings and fledglings — it’s like that between toddlers and teenagers — and how to rescue one that’s injured. All museumgoers are welcome, but only those 5 and older can take part in this annual event’s biggest attraction: helping to hold and feed some of the young birds. LAUREL GRAEBER

FILM SERIES

New to the Nation, and Sometimes the Planet
Immigrant Songs at the Quad Cinema

This series ventures well beyond the usual coming-to-America stories, like “The Godfather Part II” (Saturday and May 29) and “Moscow on the Hudson” (Tuesday and June 1), in which a Russian circus performer (Robin Williams) defects after visiting Bloomingdale’s. The immigrants here come also from other planets (“Superman,” Tuesday and May 27, and “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” May 27 and 31), though the decision to include fugitive war criminals in the definition might have taken things a step too far. In “The Stranger,” showing on Monday and Wednesday, Orson Welles plays a Nazi in hiding who tips off Edward G. Robinson to his identity when he claims at dinner that Karl Marx was not a German — because he was a Jew. BEN KENIGSBERG

CLASSICAL MUSIC

From Creation to Apocalypse in 100 Minutes
Novus NY at Trinity Wall Street

Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 5 is music of Mahlerian scale, a 100-minute work requiring five solo singers, a choir and a children’s chorus. Mr. Glass doesn’t stint on philosophical ambition in the piece, either, its 12 movements aiming high with titles like “Joy and Love,” “Judgment and Apocalypse,” and “Evil and Ignorance.” Julian Wachner conducts Trinity’s new-music ensemble, with arrayed voices. If you’re feeling brave, the performances, at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, are free. DAVID ALLEN

MUSEUMS & GALLERIES

Artifacts That Offer a Fresh Look at Dickinson
‘I’m Nobody! Who are you? The Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson’ at the Morgan Library & Museum

This is the second-largest gathering ever, anywhere, of prime Dickinson relics, and as such it comes with an aura the size of a city block. It instantly turns the Morgan into a pilgrimage site, a literary Lourdes, a place to come in contact with one aspect of America that truly can claim greatness. And the show, which closes on May 28, has a mission, to give 21st-century audiences a fresh take on Dickinson. Gone is the white-gowned Puritan nun, and the Belle of Amherst, that infantilized charmer. At the Morgan, we get a different Dickinson, a person among people: a member of a household, a village dweller, a citizen. HOLLAND COTTER

POP & ROCK

Anxieties Aired in an Arena
The xx and Sampha at Forest Hills Stadium

You won’t hear bombast from these artists: They make anguished pop that transports solitary anxiety to the dance floor. Their moody restraint has had an influence extending far beyond their own music, influencing the output of acts as varied as Drake and the Chainsmokers. And while their lyrical thrusts are quite different — the xx fights for communal uplift, whereas Sampha wallows in grief — their music is similarly textured and gorgeous. Sampha will open for the xx at these 6:30 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday. ANDREW R. CHOW

COMEDY

Wordless Antics With an Adhesive Shtick
Tape Face at Gramercy Theater

Tape Face, the alter ego of the New Zealand comedian and mime Sam Wills, was a finalist on the most recent season of “America’s Got Talent.” With tape over his mouth all performance long, he mimes full scenes using props pulled from his messenger bag. Although entirely free of speech, his one-of-a-kind shows — he performs at 8 p.m. on Monday — are far from silent, as he uses musical cues and sound effects to great effect. Tape Face is also known to pull audience members onstage to participate in elaborately goofy and joyful games. ELISE CZAJKOWSKI

MUSEUMS & GALLERIES

Making Mountains Out of Less Than Molehills
‘The Mysterious Landscapes of Hercules Segers’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

This exhibition, closing on Sunday, is the largest yet devoted to Segers, an under-known Dutch master whose printmaking innovations, talent for contrasting textures and predilection for rendering each sheet a unique artwork resulted in images that are tantamount to small paintings. They influenced Rembrandt, may qualify as some of the world’s first Process Art, presage Surrealism, and still look strange and radical. Segers loved mountains: It probably helped that he never actually saw one. ROBERTA SMITH

Page 4 of 25 pages ‹ First  < 2 3 4 5 6 >  Last ›