Gershwin in Concert: When Orchestras Prefer Jazz Pianists

During the 1990s and early 2000s, several improvised, jazz-based versions of George Gershwin’s 1924 Rhapsody in Blue arrived in concert halls. Jazz pianists, including Marcus Roberts, Herbie Hancock and Michel Camilo, unveiled deconstructed, semi-improvisatory versions of the score. There were few protests from purists – the piece is a rhapsody, after all, and it can withstand or even be enhanced by novel approaches. Continue reading “Gershwin in Concert: When Orchestras Prefer Jazz Pianists”

Daniel Barenboim Drops Some Knowledge in Video Series

For his new video series, the conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim steps off the treadmill of promoting recordings and concerts that many classical musicians find themselves on, and pontificates on some larger topics: politics, culture, society and the inner workings of music. The latest installment centers on the nature of global conflicts. Continue reading “Daniel Barenboim Drops Some Knowledge in Video Series”

Cracking the Fourth Wall Between Audiences and Performers

A noted classical soloist recently told me in an interview that there was nothing she found more terrifying than speaking to an audience, with its breach in the fourth wall between the concert stage and audience. Certainly, not every artist possesses the gift to gab. But a number of concert productions and modern pieces have made this blurring of audience-performer boundaries intrinsic to the experience. Continue reading “Cracking the Fourth Wall Between Audiences and Performers”

Pops Means Maximum Variety for Many Orchestras

LENOX, MA – Dispelling any notion that the living is easy for orchestra musicians in August, the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, Aug. 21, presented two-and-a-half-hour, Shakespeare-themed concert at Tanglewood featuring four works: Berlioz’s Overture to Béatrice et Bénédict, Saint-Saens’s Egyptian Concerto (with pianist Dejan Lazić), George Tsontakis’ Sonnets and Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet. Continue reading “Pops Means Maximum Variety for Many Orchestras”

‘The Girl From Ipanema,’ Opera and Olympic Comebacks

Never underestimate the power of a global sporting event – aided by a supermodel – to drive interest in a song, artist or composer.

Google Trends shows that worldwide searches for “The Girl from Ipanema” spiked dramatically after Daniel Jobim performed the bossa nova classic during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Aug. 5, with Gisele Bundchen strutting across the arena in Rio de Janeiro (the graphs may take a moment to appear). Continue reading “‘The Girl From Ipanema,’ Opera and Olympic Comebacks”

5 Takeaways from Classical Music Virtual Reality Projects

The classical music field has had an on-and-off relationship with online gaming and personal technology. Back in 2007, users of the Nintendo Wii could play a new virtual reality-type game called the Virtual Maestro, which turned the Wii controller (which resembled a TV remote) into a baton to manipulate a digital orchestra’s tempo. Before that, there was the Concert Companion, a pre-smartphone era device that was intended to provide realtime program notes at concerts. Continue reading “5 Takeaways from Classical Music Virtual Reality Projects”

The Olympic Piece That Received 122 Performances

The opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics on August 5 featured an assortment of the country’s musical talent, including the preeminent singer-songwriters Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil and performers from the worlds of samba, funk, hip-hop and bossa nova. Perhaps a bit of Heitor Villa-Lobos will yet appear before the games conclude. Continue reading “The Olympic Piece That Received 122 Performances”

The Top 10 Classical Music Capitals on Spotify

In a recent article for MusicalAmerica.com about classical music’s appeal on streaming services, I looked at the profile of an average Spotify user. In brief, the core classical listener is a 35-year-old male who listens at work (chiefly, mid-afternoons and mid-week), enjoys soft piano music and lives in an urban area or college town. Continue reading “The Top 10 Classical Music Capitals on Spotify”

A Musical Journey Through Iceland, from Ólafur Arnalds

As New York bakes under an ominous-sounding heat dome, thoughts turn to cooler spots on the globe, such as Iceland. Enter Ólafur Arnalds, an Icelandic composer who is in the midst of an intriguing new project called Island Songs. Continue reading “A Musical Journey Through Iceland, from Ólafur Arnalds”

Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1 Takes Hold on Spotify

The 150th anniversary of composer Erik Satie’s birth on May 17 generated surprisingly little attention among classical musicians or commentators outside of France. But a few have started to take notice. There was a 22-hour performance of Satie’s Vexations at England’s Cheltenham Music Festival on July 15, and wide-ranging appraisals have recently appeared in the Boston Globe, The Guardian and Gramophone.
Continue reading “Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1 Takes Hold on Spotify”