Philip Glass Finds Orchestral Converts

Philip Glass (photo: Flickr/letterchen)

The New York Philharmonic recently opened its fall season with the King Lear Overture, its first commissioned score by Philip Glass. Music director Jaap van Zweden was a driving force behind the premiere. “I felt strongly that this was a symphonic composer that needed more attention from our orchestra,” the Dutch conductor told me in an e-mail before the performances.

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Shostakovich Is Having a Moment and This Conductor Is On It

Karina Canellakis conducts Shostakovich

In scanning the calendars of symphony orchestras this season, you may notice that Shostakovich is having a moment. And it’s not just the popular Fifth Symphony that is getting all the attention (though that is certainly making the rounds).

The Boston Symphony is performing the Russian composer’s Symphony No. 2 “To October” (Nov. 21-26), the San Francisco Symphony is featuring the Seventh (Oct. 24-26), the Chicago Symphony has just revived the Eighth (I produce the CSO’s radio broadcasts), Minneapolis is doing the Ninth (Oct. 10-11) and both the Oslo Philharmonic and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in Amsterdam are presenting the Tenth over the same weekend (Oct. 11-14). And that’s just scratching the surface.

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Angel Blue Preps for Porgy and Bess at The Met

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess is returning to the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in 34 years, with the soprano Angel Blue and the bass-baritone Eric Owens in the title roles. In a bit of luxury casting, they’ll be joined by Ryan Speedo Green, Latonia Moore and Denyce Graves, among several other noted singers. A handsome production by James Robinson arrives on September 24 after a well-received run at English National Opera.

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Bernard Haitink Retires, Leaving a Massive Mahler Legacy

Bernard Haitink leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

AMSTERDAM – During a fascinating backstage tour of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam last month, a knowledgeable and droll tour guide paused before a wall of photos of past music directors. He proceeded to weave a series of colorful stories about the heroic and hapless maestros who have led the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the drama that sometimes followed in their wake. But drama seemed in short supply for one: Bernard Haitink.

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The Transcontinental Railroad Kickstarted The Modern U.S. Concert Tour

Paderewski on tour in 1896. Photo: Paderewski Museum, Morges; George Steckel)

Until 150 years ago the West Coast was isolated behind the Rocky Mountains. Then, on May 10, 1869, a game-changer called the Transcontinental Railroad was completed, fully connecting San Francisco, Sacramento and countless small mining towns to the rest of the Union. It made way for the largest movement of orchestras, opera companies and soloists in our history.

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5 New Developments on the Summer Music Festival Scene For 2019

Filene Center at Wolftrap (Photo: Robert Llewellyn)

Because summer music festivals rely heavily on the tourist dollar, most do not take on a lot of risk when it comes to programming. After all, rehearsal time can be limited in the summer, leaving little room to learn new works, let alone promote them. But as I discovered while putting together a summer festival guide for the April BBC Music Magazine, there are new and compelling approaches if you look for them. Here are five trends to watch for as the summer of 2019 approaches.

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Jimmy López Highlights Dreamers in New Oratorio

Jimmy López at work. Photo: Franciel Braga

Peruvian composer Jimmy López has explored his Latin-American heritage in a number of orchestral, chamber and vocal works. Dreamers, his new oratorio created with the Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz, focuses specifically on the subject of immigration. It receives its premiere at Cal Performances in Berkeley, CA, on March 17 (the performance will be live streamed). I spoke with him for the April issue of BBC Music Magazine. Below are excerpts from the interview.

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Method Acting, Steve Jobs, and Opera

John Moore in The Revolution of Steve Jobs (Seattle Opera)

Can method acting enhance an opera performance? Should an opera singer look like the character they are portraying, down to their body weight and hairstyle? These questions came up recently in a conversation with John Moore, the baritone who is starring as Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in the Seattle Opera production of The Revolution of Steve Jobs (February 23 – March 9).

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Enjoy Messiah? Conductor Jane Glover Recommends 5 More Handel Works

George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner

Even as “Home Alone” screenings with live accompaniment are a growing staple of orchestra programming in December, Handel’s Messiah remains a holiday season favorite. Like the 1990 holiday hi-jinx film, with its John Williams score, Messiah was a popular success from its 1742 premiere in Dublin. Unlike “Home Alone,” Messiah, of course, didn’t have a sequel. But Handel did compose some 25 other oratorios. For the Christmas issue of BBC Music Magazine, I asked conductor Jane Glover, author of Handel in London: The Making of a Genius, about next steps beyond Messiah.

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