Florence Price: A New Chapter For An Undervalued Composer

Florence Price

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”

Classical Music Podcasts: 12 to Listen For

A microphone for podcasts (StockSnap_Maciej_Korsan)

The universe of classical music podcasts is expanding. Some of these shows have an educational focus while others specialize in roundtable-style banter. The most sophisticated feature elaborate sound design and narratives; others have a quirky, home-spun feel, with guests veering off-mic and conversations peppered with “um’s.” Here are a dozen to check out, depending on your interest. Continue reading “Classical Music Podcasts: 12 to Listen For”

Landfills, Icebergs and Far-Flung Piano Performances

Pavel Andreev, pianist

The most attention-getting moment in a new short film by Russian pianist Pavel Andreev comes near the end, when a front-loader carrying a mountain of household garbage approaches him from behind, seemingly ready to dump it on the musician and his 11-foot grand. Andreev (pictured, above) sits at a piano in the middle of a landfill in Russia’s northern Leningrad region. He plays an original piece as seagulls hover above and tractors scale the mounds of waste. Continue reading “Landfills, Icebergs and Far-Flung Piano Performances”

Visiting the Brahms House in Baden-Baden

Brahms House in Baden-Baden (photo: Brian Wise)

Visitors to Baden-Baden usually have a few items leading their agendas, whether visiting an old-school thermal spa, spending euros (or perhaps, rubles) on boutique-lined Sophienstrasse, or trying lady luck at the casino. The town is tucked away in the Black Forest region, and it feels, it in some ways, like the German equivalent to Aspen or Jackson Hole. Continue reading “Visiting the Brahms House in Baden-Baden”

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.

Continue reading “John Luther Adams, With 800 Singers, Takes on Central Park”

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. 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 “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”