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 it 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. Continue reading “Shostakovich Is Having a Moment and This Conductor Is On It”
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. Continue reading “Angel Blue Preps for Porgy and Bess at The Met”
In 1979 a critic for the New York Times confronted Michel Legrand with the criticism that his popular music was sentimental, “trite and treacly.” The occasion was the premiere of the off-Broadway adaptation of Jacques Demy’s film “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” with Legrand’s sung-dialogue score. Continue reading “Michel Legrand: The Easy-Listening Modernist”
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. Continue reading “Bernard Haitink Retires, Leaving a Massive Mahler Legacy”
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. Continue reading “The Transcontinental Railroad Kickstarted The Modern U.S. Concert Tour”
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. Continue reading “5 New Developments on the Summer Music Festival Scene For 2019”
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. Continue reading “Jimmy López Highlights Dreamers in New Oratorio”
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). Continue reading “Method Acting, Steve Jobs, and Opera”
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. Continue reading “Enjoy Messiah? Conductor Jane Glover Recommends 5 More Handel Works”
Advocates of American classical music have often complained that there is a whole generation of mid-20th century symphonic composers whose work has been unjustly neglected. It includes figures like Roy Harris, Charles Ives, Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, and William Schuman, to name a few who were active from roughly 1930 to 1960 and who now rarely turn up on orchestra subscription programs.
Such a list could also include the name Florence Price. Continue reading “Florence Price: A New Chapter For An Undervalued Composer”