Berliner Philharmoniker broadcasting live to cinemas all over Europe

In the new season, you have as many as three opportunities to experience the Berliner Philharmoniker live in a cinema near you. Be there when the orchestra continues its Mahler cycle with the “Symphony of a Thousand” conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, when Christian Thielemann conducts Anton Bruckner’s “Romantic” Symphony, and when star soloists Magdalena Kožená and Albrecht Mayer make guest appearances at the Philharmonie. Tickets are available online and directly at the cinema. [Source]

Anne-Sophie Mutter and Andre Previn perform George Gershwin on David Letterman

Anne-Sophie Mutter recently stopped by CBS’s “The Late Show with David Letterman” to perform a selection from her new album collection — “ASM 35”, a compilation of music celebrating her 35 years as a violinist. Mutter was joined by her ex-husband André Previn, who accompanied her on the piano. Letterman had some trouble handling the large plastic casing for the album, joking that it would make an ideal home for a hamster. Following her performance, Mutter asked Letterman if he had a hamster at home, to which the comedian responded that he will get one. [Source]

Listen to the new Harold Budd album on NPR

Metaphorically speaking, Harold Budd is a soaring bird, and rock music a supersonic rocket ship. Budd may play as few as six notes in 10 seconds — I’m guessing the average rock band plays 60. It’s the space left between those few notes that makes Budd’s music so alluring, so calming and so timeless. Budd has been making music with a minimal number of notes for a long time. Sometimes his music is filled with drones, sometimes solo piano; sometimes the piano is altered physically or electronically, and sometimes there are string ensembles. But the music is always thoughtful and thought-provoking.

If you’ve never put on a record by Harold Budd, put your headphones on and watch the world change around you. I find that the visual world shifts cinematically, with clouds and people seeming to move as one big bit of choreography. (No, I’m not high.)

The constant background nature of music can deaden its impact. Budd’s music is a slow trickle, a source of appreciation for the sounds and sights around us. His collaborations with Brian Eno in the 1970s provided a counterpoint to the progressive rock of the day, much the way reggae was a counterpoint to punk. We need that — one enriches the other. The 75-year-old composer brings the landscape of the desert, where he’s often lived, right into the heart of the city.

In the Mist, out Sept. 27, is an album most Budd fans thought we’d never hear. Seven years ago, he told his friends and fans that he’d said all he wanted to say with music, and was retiring. But he had a change of heart, and now we have this rare gem. I’m glad he’s back — and I’d love to know how you feel after hearing it, especially if you’ve never heard his music before.

Listen to Harold Budd. You deserve the vacation, and the listening you do to anything else for the rest of the day will be supercharged. [Source]

Listen to the album in its entirety here. Listen to the album track by track here.

The New York Philharmonic Opening Night

The New York Philharmonic are performing two compositions by Samuel Barber on opening night tomorrow:

Overture to The School for Scandal, Op. 5 (1931)

Barber was just 21 and still a student at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute when he composed this overture, “suggested by Sheridan’s comedy” of the same name. It is one of several of his works inspired by literature. The sparkling, energetic concert piece wasn’t intended for any particular production of Sheridan’s 1777 comedy of manners, but rather to capture the spirit of the play. Premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1933, the Overture earned the composer Columbia University’s Bearns Prize. The music, like the comedy itself, reflects the maneuverings and high-spirited hijinks of characters with hilarious names like Lady Sneerwell, Sir Benjamin Backbite, Mrs. Candor, and Sir Peter Teazle as they engage in spreading unfounded rumors. The moods of the music shift swiftly, from dissonant to vivacious, from lively to lyrical, finishing with a rowdy flourish. One of the most delightful curtain-raisers in the repertoire.

Andromache’s Farewell for soprano and orchestra, Op. 39 (1962)

If you haven’t read your Homer recently or seen the movie Troy (the most recent filmed attempt to tell the story stars Brad Pitt as Achilles, Saffron Burrows as Andromache) you may find a context-setting of this heart-wrenching monologue helpful. Samuel Barber himself provided it: “Scene: an open space before Troy, which has just been captured by the Greeks. All Trojan men have been killed or have fled and the women and children are held captives. Each Trojan woman has been allotted to a Greek warrior and the ships are now ready to take them into exile. Andromache, widow of Hector, Prince of Troy, has been given as a slave-wife to the son of Achilles. She has just been told that she cannot take her little son [Astyanax] with her in the ship, for it has been decreed by the Greeks that a hero’s son must not be allowed to live and that he is to be hurled over the battlements of Troy. She bids him farewell. In the background the city is burning. It is just before dawn.” This “Farewell” was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic under Thomas Schippers in honor of its first season at Lincoln Center, and for the great soprano Martina Arroyo. The compact soliloquy embodies a range of feelings—dignity, grief, anger, and desperation—in both the vocal line and the riveting orchestral accompaniment. Barber completed the piece after auditioning Arroyo, who said, “The finishing touches were tailored to my voice…the pianissimo, the crescendo, for example, in some of the phrases,” when Andromache expresses her rage over the impending murder of Astyanax. A New York Times review of the San Francisco Symphony’s performance stated that Deborah Voigt “had all the elements in the right proportions: sheer vocal power, emotional depth and range, and the ability to project the text… Her performance was wrenching and irresistible.”

Download the program notes as a PDF file here: Barber_School for Scandal_1112.

James Levine steps down from Boston Symphony

James Levine, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is to relinquish the role at the end of the current season. Dogged by ill health, he has had to cancel an increasing number of appearances with the orchestra. The search is now on for a successor, though the BSO are also considering a new role for Levine, who has led them since 2004.

Read the full article in Gramophone here.

Times may be tight, but we're hooked on classics

Summer is upon us, which means that cultural tourists will once again be dusting off their sandals and dinner jackets and heading for the airport.

The classical music festival has taken root and blossomed during the past 20 years. At times it can seem as if every Italian town, Swiss village and Croatian seaside resort is wooing cultural tourists. And the remarkable thing is that despite the economic woes affecting Europe, the number of festivals on offer is actually on the increase.

Read the full article in The Independent here.

Festival will celebrate Japanese and Japanese American arts

A variety of Japanese and Japanese American arts — including Butoh and jazz, as well as  anime — will be celebrated during “JapanOC,” a seven-month festival presented by Carnegie Hall, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Programs will feature traditional and contemporary music, dance, theater, film and visual art. Among the highlights will be tributes to composer Toru Takemitsu and sculptor-designer Isamu Noguchi by artists including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Martha Graham Dance Company and the Tokyo String Quartet.

Music offerings include:

  • Guitarist Kazumi Watanabe playing selections from Takemitsu’s avant-garde works on Dec. 19 at OCPAC’s Samueli Theater.
  • Gustavo Dudamel leading the L.A. Philharmonic in a program of Takemitsu’s “Requiem for Strings” and works by Webern and Bruckner on March 5 at OCPAC’s Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
  • The Tokyo String Quartet performing Takemitsu’s “A Way a Lone” and other works on April 19 at the Samueli Theater.

Read the full article in The Los Angeles Times here.

Bargemusic keeps reinventing itself with new programs

There is usually a moment early in any concert at Bargemusic when even listeners who have spent many evenings hearing music in this converted coffee barge find themselves wondering why they couldn’t have found something to do on dry land. The barge, moored on the Brooklyn side of the East River — near the River Café and a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Bridge — is a boat, after all, and it is given to the gentle rocking motion that mariners love and landlubbers can find mildly disconcerting.

But part of the magic of Bargemusic is that you quickly forget about the motion. When you take your seat, you face a stage set before a large window that offers a spectacular view: the river, with its varied traffic, and the looming cityscape of Lower Manhattan. The performances, by an expansive roster of regulars, as well as visiting ensembles and soloists, are typically so involving that they eclipse even the view.

Lately the programming has been increasingly inventive, as Mark Peskanov, the violinist who has been Bargemusic’s president and executive and artistic director since 2006, has added a new-music series (Here and Now), an early-music series (There and Then) and jazz concerts to the diet of standard repertory solo and chamber works that has been Bargemusic’s main fare. All told, the barge presents about 220 concerts year round.

Read the full article in The New York Times here.

Five contenders for 'Turner Prize of music'

A ‘satellite symphony’ delivered via an iPhone app, a portable organ that recycles sounds, and a work shaped by the movement of the stars are just three of the contenders for the UK’s most avant garde music award.

The biennial New Music Award, run by the PRS for Music Foundation, has announced its five-strong shortlist today. ‘It’s arguably the boldest and most exciting yet,’ says Sally Taylor, chair of the foundation, likening the competition to art’s infamous Turner Prize. The winner of the New Music Award will be given £50,000; this year the prize pot for the Turner was £25,000.

With a judging panel headed by The Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins and also featuring pianist Joanna MacGregor and composer Michael Finnissy, the scrutiny is fierce. This year’s shortlisted works share a common desire to reframe or challenge listeners’ conception of music. Instrument-maker Terry Mann aims to create ‘automatic musical instruments’ to be played by members of the public, while Robert Jarvis hopes to use the movement of the stars around the celestial North Pole to create music.

The other shortlisted pieces are by Blue Hippo Media, collaborators Marc Yeats, Ralph Hoyte and Phill Phelps, and members of art group Liminal. David Ross’s work Eye Tones, which proposed turning the London Eye into a giant musical instrument, has had to be withdrawn after the judges felt that it would not be ‘deliverable’.

Previous winners include Jem Finer (formerly a member of Irish folk band The Pogues), whose Score of a Hole in the Ground was inspired by Japanese suikinkutsu water chimes. Tuned percussion instruments were suspended, creating music when struck by falling water.

Click here to read more.