Browsing: Contemporary

Great recordings are easy to review. Likewise bad ones. About 99.5 percent of all releases fall somewhere in between. Of these, four in five quickly outlast their initial attraction. I had high hopes for Shostakovich’s first symphony from the Luxembourg Philharmonic and its Spanish music director, Gustavo Gimeno. The orchestra has announced a multi-record contract with the Dutch label, Pentatone, one of the last remaining labels that puts sound quality first. Gimeno, until lately principal percussionist with the Concertgebouw orchestra, has got plenty of wind in his sails. So what’s wrong with this release? Hard to isolate it. I ordered…

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Montreal, Wednesday, May 10, 2017 – During today’s parliamentary session in the National Assembly, Luc Fortin, Minister of Culture and Communications, Minister responsible for the Protection and Promotion of the French Language, and Minister responsible for the Estrie region, read a declaration paying tribute to the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. The motion was placed on the National Assembly agenda to put forward the many initiatives which for five decades the SMCQ has successfully accomplished, promoting contemporary music, Quebec and Canadian composers, plus the impact of its activities in Quebec’s musical…

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There is no wholly recommendable performance on record of Mahler’s third symphony. The earliest, by F. Charles Adler in 1952, is faultlessly idiomatic, as is Jascha Horenstein’s 1970 LSO account, but both are marred by inferior orchestral playing and poor sound. Claudio Abbado’s 2007 DVD from Lucerne is as good as it gets, though even a lifelong Mahlerian like Abbado struggles with the lop-sidedness of this amalgam of nostalgic pastoralism and saloon-bar philosophy. No-one can satisfactorily explain what Friedrich Nietzsche is getting at in the fourth movement contralto solo. It’s just odd. If you listen just to the second disc…

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A REVERIE: on Victor Herbert’s wonderful and terrifying children’s operatic dreamscape, Babes in Toyland, as presented and performed by MasterVoices (formerly the Collegiate Chorale), the Orchestra of Saint Luke’s, and a large cast of principals at Carnegie Hall on April 27; with one additional performance scheduled at the Tilles Center of LIU Post in Brookville, New York on April 29, 2017 at 7 p.m. Dear Diary: On Thursday night, I visited Toyland! Or at least I woke up believing I did. It seemed so real, I’m going to talk to you about it like it really happened. But I guess…

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In the dying years of the Soviet Union I became aware of dozens of symphonists who survived on the fringes of musical society, tolerated by the authorities but never given a proper hearing. Once I got past the immense, historic figures of Mieczyslaw Weinberg and Galina Ustvolskaya, both pivotal in the life of Dmitri Shostakovich, I kept discovering other samizdat composers who, for some reason, seemed to speak my language. At a time when western musicians were subjected to a dictatorship of style and serial ideology if they wanted to get on the BBC, these covert Russians were free to…

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PREVIEW: of the new MasterVoices concert presentation of Babes in Toyland by Victor Herbert (Carnegie Hall, New York City, April 27, 2017 at 7 p.m.); and INTERVIEW: with MasterVoices’ musical director Ted Sperling. Long before Sondheim walked on the dark side with Into the Woods, or Disney began issuing its franchise line of tailored fairy-tale musicals, composer Victor Herbert and his Broadway posse had raided the nursery cradle, character-snatching a mother lode of Mother-Goose autochthons to populate the monumental 1903 operetta, Babes in Toyland. They’re all there – Mary Quite Contrary, Tom Tom the Piper’s Son, Little Bopeep, Jack, Jill,…

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Never a big Easter bunny, I generally receive the springtime festival releases with the same excitement as I’d feel about a Placido Domingo Christmas record. What comes round, comes round. This one, however, is pure class. The international Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak opens with a Litany to the Virgin Mary that is slow, devout, soulful and twenty shades lighter than one might expect from a Polish Catholic ritual. Kurzak has never sounded sweeter or more comfortable on record. The little-known Litany is followed by the more familiar Stabat Mater and capped with Szymanowski’s third symphony, the ‘Song of the Night’…

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When: Wednesday April 5, 2017 at 8pm Where: Roulette The name of New York composer Phil Kline is synonymous with the global cult Unsilent Night – the annual one night in December public artwork, which invites members of the public to collaborate in a street performance combining boomboxes and shared soundtracks. The sum of the parts of Kline is one part rock musician, (having co-founded the band Del-Byzanteens with filmmaker and composer/musician Jim Jarmusch), one part performance artist, and one part classical music composer. Kline is an artist who crosses multiple boundaries bringing his diverse immersions in literature, theater, and…

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Samy Moussa, a young Montreal composer, will see his work premiered on the occasion of the 375th anniversary of the city of Montreal by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. At 32 years old, Moussa has just won the 2017 Hindemith Prize, given to a contemporary composer and accompanied by an award of 20,000 euros. This is not the composer’s first collaboration with the OSM, since the soberly-titled Symphonie is his fifth orchestral commission. It is, however, his longest and most ambitious work. In a brief interview, Moussa spoke to us about the circumstances of the creation of the work and…

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First published September 1, 2000 Avant-garde composer Erik Satie created his Première Gnossienne (the first in a series of Gnossiennes) in 1890, when he was 24 years old. Like his Sarabandes and Gymnopédies, it was one of the highly successful works that placed Satie squarely in the Parisian fin-de-siècle scene. Although it first appeared publicly in a musical revue in 1893, it took 20 years to be published by Rouart-Lerolle. The work is typical of his enigmatic style, and like many of his compositions gives us pause for thought. To begin with, the title offers cause for much speculation. Does it refer to the Cretan island…

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