Archive for the ‘Concert’ Category


Five Ottawa Composers Premiere Variations You Can Warm To

music-and-beyond-logoOttawa, Canada has had the privilege of playing host to two of the largest chamber music festivals in the world for five years now, and to one for fifteen before that. On Friday, July 11, the first of these, Music & Beyond, played host to its first concert during the 2014 festival dedicated primarily or exclusively to contemporary composers – and in this case, all of the pieces were from Ottawa, and all were world premieres, tied together by a compelling theme centered on one of the great ecological issues of our time.

Julian Armour - Photo Credit Couvrette/Ottawa

Julian Armour – Photo Credit Couvrette/Ottawa

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Spring for Music Goes Out With a Bang

logo_spring_for_musicEstablished in 2010, Spring for Music brings together orchestras from around the country, presenting works by living composers alongside crowd pleasers over the course of one week at Carnegie Hall. Despite the adventurous programming and the well-attended concerts, the series marked its last season this spring.

Spring for Music, the short-lived dream-come-true for orchestra-loving new music listeners in New York City, did not go out quietly into the night. Rather, the series went out with a bang so loud my ears are still ringing.

Seattle Symphony with Conductor/Music Director Ludovic Morlot

Seattle Symphony with Music Director Ludovic Morlot

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Emotional details in Haas’ Bluthaus at Wiener Festwochen in Vienna

logo_wiener_festwochenIn a pre-concert chat at the Theater an der Wien on Sunday, June 15, composer Georg Friedrich Haas said that classical music written in the 20th century sometimes had a tendency to be emotionless. He kept this in mind when writing Bluthaus (Blood House), which premiered in a revised score at this year’s Wiener Festwochen festival in Vienna. Bluthaus is an experience that is exactly as intense as you would expect from a contemporary opera about incest. But Haas and librettist Händl Klaus handled this emotionally explosive material with subtlety, creating an opera that is neither emotionally overwrought nor completely cold.

Bluthaus - Photo by Ruth Walz

Bluthaus – Photo by Ruth Walz

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Denk closes Ojai Music Festival with Ligeti, Ives, Beethoven

ojai-logo-tight-crop-250wIn California’s quiet and secluded Ojai valley persists a rugged individualist sensibility which is expressed in myriad ways, focused by an intense conviviality as well as strong convictions. A cohabitation within its shared experience, moving beyond the boundaries of art into every aspect of life and work, pervades the smooth and dreamy early summer air as the crown jewel of the town’s cultural life is foregrounded during the annual Ojai Music Festival. This year’s closing afternoon concert which took place on Sunday, June 15, 2014, led by pianist and Artist Director Jeremy Denk, embraced that local spirit of uncompromising and sacrificial devotion to art and life with a conundrum of Ligeti, Ives, and Beethoven which seemed to point in all possible directions simultaneously. Conductors Eric Jacobson & Kevin Fox, alongside New York’s versatile orchestral collective The Knights and the Ojai Festival Singers left the mixed-age audience of both locals and visitors enraptured by the scope of the multiplicitous beauty and wide-ranging inquiry of the festival’s finale. This was especially an achievement on the part of Mr. Denk, whose structural conceptions and stamina during his uninterrupted performance of Books I and II of György Ligeti’s Piano Études (which opened the program) became the triumphant apex of the entire festival.


Jeremy Denk, Ojai Music Festival 2014 Music Director (photo: Michael Wilson)

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Arvo Pärt’s Sonic Journeys at Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall LogoIn the 11th century Guido of Arezzo, music theorist and monk, created a scale. He called the first bass line “gamma” and the first note “ut,” place markers in a system designed to facilitate sight-singing. Merged together, “gamma + ut” marked the lowest note of the scale, the G on the lowest line of the bass staff. “Gamma + ut” eventually became “gamut,” and, like a water ripple traveling away from its source, the word subsequently came to refer first to Guido’s entire scale system, then more generally a series of notes or any scale, then the full range of notes an instrument is capable of producing, and finally, through the centuries, arrived at its broadest meaning: “the whole scale, range, or compass of a thing.” (OED) I had coincidentally read this etymology the morning of the recent Arvo Pärt concert at Carnegie Hall, and, struck anew by favorites such as Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten and Te Deum, I found myself reconsidering his pieces in terms of slow, inexorable explorations of register, as almost metaphysical meditations on range.

Arvo Pärt - Photo by Peeter Langovits

Arvo Pärt – Photo by Peeter Langovits

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