John Luther Adams, With 800 Singers, Takes on Central Park

John Luther Adams

John Luther Adams’s In the Name of the Earth, which premieres on August 11 in New York’s Central Park, may rank among the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer’s most logistically ambitious works to date: It calls for 800 singers, divided into four groups and perched around the Harlem Meer, the lake at the park’s northern tip bordered by bluffs and rocky outcroppings.

The text, says Adams, draws on the names of North American rivers, lakes, mountains and deserts. The singers are a mix of amateurs and professionals, and their parts coalesce in the final bars, suggesting rivers flowing downhill and converging in the ocean.

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Leonard Slatkin on His Final Bow at the Detroit Symphony

On May 25, I attended the first of three final programs that Leonard Slatkin had programmed for his 10th and final season as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. But Slatkin wasn’t there. The 73-year-old conductor was forced to withdraw from the concerts in order to undergo a heart-bypass operation (he’s reportedly recovering well). Continue reading “Leonard Slatkin on His Final Bow at the Detroit Symphony”

2001: A Space Odyssey Turns 50 and Its Soundtrack Endures

2001: A Space Odyssey.

The ongoing craze among orchestras to present films with live soundtracks has split into separate creative strands in recent years. One is focused on recent blockbusters where music is of a more secondary appeal:  that’s arguably the case with the “Home Alone” franchise or the later, non-John Williams “Harry Potter” films. On the flip side are films that place music at the forefront, including “On the Waterfront” (music by Leonard Bernstein), “The Red Violin” (John Corigliano), and most significantly, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Continue reading “2001: A Space Odyssey Turns 50 and Its Soundtrack Endures”

For Debussy Anniversary Year, A Fresh Look at His Violin Sonata

Claude Debussy in June 1908 (Otto Wegener/Wikipedia Commons)

As the centennial of Debussy’s death approaches (March 25, 1918), appraisals of his work and career are turning up, including a new biography by Stephen Walsh, newspaper coverage (see Stephen Hough’s New York Times piece),  and recordings (Warner Classics has issued a 33-CD box set of his complete catalog). It’s also a chance for scholars and musicians to ponder Debussy’s innovations, with his painterly approach to harmony and use of non-Western classical sounds like the Javanese gamelan and American jazz. Continue reading “For Debussy Anniversary Year, A Fresh Look at His Violin Sonata”

The Top 10 Classical Music Stories of 2017

Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie opened in January 2017 (Robert Katzki)

In 2017, classical music mirrored aspects of the turbulent world around it. Hurricanes, Brexit, the Trump administration, and allegations of harassment all left their mark on the field. Classical music also did what it often does best: providing a haven in these restless, plugged-in times. That being said, here are ten stories that rose to the surface in 2017. Continue reading “The Top 10 Classical Music Stories of 2017”