Halloween is Classical Music’s Most Entertaining Holiday

Halloween brings certain songs and compositions that never seem to grow old, in part because their annual moment is so fleeting and the music so evocative, colorful and hair-raising. Continue reading “Halloween is Classical Music’s Most Entertaining Holiday”

The Leeds Competition and Jury Reforms

Competitions have a long history as being classical music’s talent mills. While almost all aim to launch artists’ careers, in practice, their track record is famously inconsistent. One frequent complaint holds that interesting and idiosyncratic performers often get bypassed in favor of “consensus” candidates that win over juries. But musicians continue to compete and the biggest contests still generate a certain amount of media attention (albeit nowhere near the level of Van Cliburn’s 1958 win at the Tchaikovsky Competition, pictured above). Continue reading “The Leeds Competition and Jury Reforms”

Seven Classical Music Trends to Watch For This Season

The 2016-17 season of classical music is underway with plenty of Gershwin, a debated new production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Met, and labor crises in Pennsylvania and Fort Worth. Here are seven other things to watch and listen for in the months ahead. Continue reading “Seven Classical Music Trends to Watch For This Season”

Three Orchestra Strikes: Considering Artistic Health

As the fall 2016 concert season begins, the musicians of three big-city orchestras are on strike: the Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony and Fort Worth Symphony. Continue reading “Three Orchestra Strikes: Considering Artistic Health”

Lars von Trier Film Gets an Operatic Makeover

Opera composers and their librettists have always mined familiar stories for inspiration and, in the past two decades, movies have provided especially rich source material. This year alone brings the upcoming Houston Grand Opera premiere of It’s a Wonderful Life by composer Jake Heggie (whose credits also include Dead Man Walking), and the Salzburg Festival debut of Thomas Adès’ The Exterminating Angel, based on Luis Buñuel’s surrealist film.  Continue reading “Lars von Trier Film Gets an Operatic Makeover”

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”