Bernard Haitink Retires, Leaving a Massive Mahler Legacy

Bernard Haitink leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

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.

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The Transcontinental Railroad Kickstarted The Modern U.S. Concert Tour

Paderewski on tour in 1896. Photo: Paderewski Museum, Morges; George Steckel)

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.

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5 New Developments on the Summer Music Festival Scene For 2019

Filene Center at Wolftrap (Photo: Robert Llewellyn)

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.

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Jimmy López Highlights Dreamers in New Oratorio

Jimmy López at work. Photo: Franciel Braga

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.

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Method Acting, Steve Jobs, and Opera

John Moore in The Revolution of Steve Jobs (Seattle Opera)

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).

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Enjoy Messiah? Conductor Jane Glover Recommends 5 More Handel Works

George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner

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.

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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”