Just before the Chiara String Quartet played Webern’s Five Movements for String Quartet on Wednesday evening at Le Poisson Rouge, the group’s first violinist, Rebecca Fischer, pointed out that the work was 101 years old. There was a sense of wonder in her tone — an unspoken subtext that seemed to ask, “Can you believe that people still hear this antique as harsh modernism?” Ms. Fischer added that for her, the movements are five “tiny landscapes.”
The greatest rivalries are frequently between people who were once close colleagues, and may even have grown up together. Think of Cain and Abel, Lenin and Trotsky, Blair and Brown, Lennon and McCartney. Now the classical music business is enthralled by something similar in the murky world of agents.
The world’s most charismatic young conductor — Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuelan who achieved sensational fame with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra and is now music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic — has been snatched from one agency by another. The money involved isn’t big by Hollywood or pop music standards. Music-business insiders reckon that the agent’s commission (typically 15 per cent) on Dudamel’s fees over the next five years (at, say, £20,000 a concert) will amount to about half a million quid — though of course Dudamel could earn his agent millions if he conducts at the highest level for the next 50 years.
But the preening on one side and seething annoyance on the other attest to the pride involved. To add spice to the story, both agencies are based in London, the world capital of classical music deal-making. And both are run by men who, 30 years ago, cut their teeth in the same office.
Edgard Varèse (1883-1965): the very name is a modernist shibboleth. No composer is more readily identifiable with the abolition of the syntax and vocabulary of past music; none more plausibly linked to the stereotype of “modern music” as noisy, unbridled, percussive dissonance, music as “organised sound” rather than melody and harmony. As if to emblematise his rupture with trad ition, he suffered (some say even contrived) the loss in a Berlin warehouse fire of nearly all his pre-1919 scores — music that is thought to relate (unsurprisingly enough) to that of the leading figures of the day, Debussy, for instance. Having by now left France to settle in New York, he was able to build on this tabula rasa an oeuvre that, though small, is like a monument to the uninhibitedness and pioneering spirit of the new world, to the human potential symbolised by both Americas.
Featuring Anthony Braxton 12+1tet, plus performances by Marilyn Crispell-Mark Dresser-Gerry Hemingway trio; Steve Coleman-Jonathan Finlayson duo, Nicole Mitchell, Richard Teitelbaum, Matthew Welch, John Zorn-Dave Douglas-Brad Jones-Gerry Hemingway quartet, and more special guests to be announced
The Tri-Centric Foundation presents a two-day benefit fundraiser event celebrating the artistic legacy of composer Anthony Braxton, in honor of his 65th birthday. In addition to rare NYC appearances by Braxton himself, the two concerts will feature a host of performers who have performed with or been deeply influenced by his music, playing both their own music and Braxton compositions. All proceeds will go to benefit the Tri-Centric Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating and realizing the most ambitious projects in the ongoing work and legacy of composer Anthony Braxton, and to cultivating and inspiring the next generation of creative artists to pursue their own visions with the kind of idealism and integrity that Braxton has demonstrated thoughout his five decade career.
– At Le Poisson Rouge, June 18, doors will open at 5:30pm, and performers will include the Anthony Braxton 12+1tet, plus performances by Marilyn Crispell-Mark Dresser-Gerry Hemingway trio; Steve Coleman-Jonathan Finlayson duo, Nicole Mitchell, Richard Teitelbaum, Matthew Welch, John Zorn-Dave Douglas-Brad Jones-Gerry Hemingway quartet, and more special guests to be announced.
– At Issue Project Roon, June 19, doors will open at 5:30, and the performance will include excerpts from Braxton’s recently recorded four-act opera, Trillium E, in addition to sets featuring the recent generation of Braxton-influenced artists, including Taylor Ho Bynum, Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone, Chris Jonas & James Fei, Andrew Raffo Dewar, Tyshawn Sorey, and many more musicians to be announced.
This is a general admission, standing event.
Timothy Andres grew up listening to Brahms and Beethoven as he studied piano at the Juilliard School’s precollege program. When he enrolled at Yale in 2003, he discovered a new canon. “I gravitated to the, shall we say, stoner hippie types who were listening to really interesting music,” he says. Suddenly Pink Floyd and Brian Eno were on the menu, as were classical minimalists Steve Reich and John Adams.
What began as his senior project at Yale is now his debut album, “Shy and Mighty,” a work for two pianos, to be released May 18 by Nonesuch Records. The composer, 24 years old, says he thinks of his music as architecture. In a piece called “The Night Jaunt,” one piano sets up a spiralling series of chords, while the other piano weaves phrases in lengthening strings.
The composer says his pop inspirations include Scottish electronic act Boards of Canada and Radiohead (“amazing range and sense of space”). The challenge now is to avoid getting lost in the sprawl of his influences: “How can you possibly synthesize all that into something that makes sense? That’s something that I struggle with in my writing every day.”
The composer’s top iTunes plays*
Radiohead 1,157 plays
Brian Eno 964
John Adams 901
J.S. Bach 868
The Beatles 787
The Beta Band 718
Benjamin Britten 676
Arcade Fire 641
*Source: His Last.fm profile