Sunday, December 30, 2007

Roy Harris's Third Symphony

2007 was the centennial year for my native state, Oklahoma, and before it fades away, I wanted to mention a recent post by Robert Gable. Gable writes, that "I personally, subjectively, non-rationally prefer Harris' Symphony No. 3 to anything by Adams or Reich. Of course, numbers 2 thru 24 are all Adams and Reich (with #25 Lara Downes playing Harris' American Ballads)."

Gable talks about the work as if it's a guilty pleasure. I like it, too (there's a cheap recording easily available.)

Harris was an Oklahoma native, although I don't remember hearing anything about him when I lived there, even when I took a classical music appreciation class at the University of Oklahoma.

Harris biography here.
Editors -- Hands off Don Rosenberg!

I was very pleased when I saw that Donald Rosenberg, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's excellent classical music critic, had a roundup in the Sunday PD on the year in classical music. I knew he'd have something trenchant to say about the Cleveland Chamber Symphony's dramatic year -- the Grammy Award it shared with local pianist Angelin Chang, its survival of the departure of board president Mark George, the exciting new season it has begun. (It's performing work by a bunch of local composers next year, including Michael Leese, Eric Gould, Chris Auerbach-Brown, Dennis Eberhard, Loris Chobanian and Monica Houghton.)

But the Rosenberg article doesn't say a word about any of this. It does mention CityMusic Cleveland, including its premiere of Margaret Brouwer's excellent violin concerto, which Rosenberg says "deserves to enter the standard repertoire."

No doubt Rosenberg mentioned the Cleveland Chamber Symphony in his original article, and and his editor chopped it out. Yeah, that's what happened!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ross releases his 'year's best' list

Critic Alex Ross has posted his 2007 "best of" list, including performances, recordings and his "Person of the Year." I was mostly interested in his recordings list. I've already bought three of the titles he lists -- the Lieberson, the Radiohead and the new recording of Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cleveland Orchestra to premiere Ades piece

The Cleveland Orchestra, which has been criticized for failing to program new music, will give the U.S. premiere of a Thomas Ades work, Suite from "Powder Her Face," in a series of concerts on Jan. 17, 18 and 19. They are also playing two Stravinky pieces ("Firebird" and "Pulcinella" suites) and Mozart's 20th piano concerto. It's a nice program, and I'll be 

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lieberson album gets top rating

The late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's album, "Songs by Mahler, Handel and Lieberson" has been rated the best classical album of the year by The Week magazine, which cited reviews from a variety of sources. The album includes songs from her husband, modern composer Peter Lieberson, so this is a nice nod for modern music, although admittedly most of the album consists of Handel and Mahler. Alex Ross' book, THE REST OF NOISE, is rated one of the top nonfiction books of the year by the same magazine. Ross wrote earlier this year that the Lieberson album is "is almost certainly better than anything else you might be thinking of buying right now." The album is available cheap on Emusic.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Worst holiday ever?

Alex Ross notes that Monday, Dec. 17, could well be celebrated as Worldwide Atonality Day.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Live music from Cleveland released

Live performances of two Cleveland composers recently have become available. Amazon has begun carrying the newly-released CD "CityMusic Cleveland LIVE." It includes Margaret Brouwer's excellent new violin concerto. (It also has Stravinsky's "Danses Concertantes" and Mozart's 39th symphony.) It's just $10. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Quick has posted a performance by the Cleveland Chamber Collective of his String Quartet No. 1 in A. If you want to get enough of his other work to be able to burn a CD or put together an iPod playlist, look here. I like the Divertimento in C, which my wife calls "the frolicking bunny music." I'm hoping this nickname will catch on, as I like the idea of seeing CD covers that say QUICK: Divertimento in C ("Frolicking Bunny") and liner notes that solemnly note the nickname was not bestowed by the composer.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

eighth blackbird to premier Rzewski at Oberlin

The band eighth blackbird reveals on its blog that it is commissioning a Frederic Rzewski work, to be premiered in New York but also at Oberlin College. (The only clue on when to mark your calendar: "next season.") In the meantime, the post links to a YouTube video of the composer's "Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues."
Duckworth's iOrpheus on YouTube

For those of you who couldn't make it to Australia a few months ago to see the performance of the William Duckworth and Nora Farrell opera iOrpheus, there's now a 10-minute film by Paul Davidson that includes interviews with the two creators and clips of the performance. You can see it here. For audio and video feeds of the work, go here.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Free music on Classical Cat

I recently posted about Alex Ross' list of 12 top classical music works since 1980. For your convenience, here is the list again:

Steve Reich, Different Trains
John Adams, Nixon in China
Kaija Saariaho, L'Amour de loin
Sofia Gubaidulina, Offertorium
Gérard Grisey, Les Espaces acoustiques
Arvo Pärt, Da pacem domine
Louis Andriessen, De Stijl
Thomas Ades, Asyla
Georg Friedrich Haas, in vain
Michael Gordon, Decasia
Magnus Lindberg, Kraft
Osvaldo Golijov, St. Mark Passion

After my original posting, Cleveland composer Jeffrey Quick weighed in, "Should I admit that I've only heard of 83% of the composers and have only heard 41% of the pieces? This sounds like a fair musicological assessment of overall activity, but the fracturing of style also means a fracturing of audience, which means that many people only listen within their own subgenre. Not sure that's healthy, but it is what is."

Actually, I think Quick does rather well. I've only heard one of the pieces (8 percent), although I have heard of 75 percent of the composers and have listened to music by 42 percent of them.

He addresses an important question though: How does even the well-meaning listener "keep up"? It's not like we get much help from the radio, even from satellite radio.

With that in mind, I took a look at Classical Cat, a site that provides free downloads of performances of classical music.

I could not find ANY of the pieces Ross mentions. I did find work from two of the composers Ross mentions, Arvo Park and Louis Andriessen.
Alex Ross' Internet manifesto

"As the behemoth of mass culture breaks up into a melee of subcultures and niche markets, as the Internet weakens the media's stranglehold on cultural distribution, there is reason to think that classical music, and with it new music, can find fresh audiences in far-flung places."
-- THE REST IS NOISE, page 515

Saturday, December 08, 2007

More on Stockhausen

The New York Times weighs in with an obituary, while Jeffrey Quick offers a personal anecdote and calls Stockhausen the "Wagner of the 20th Century." Alex Ross comments here.

Friday, December 07, 2007

We're sure the duck whistle technique was good

At the Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed reviews the latest modern music recital by Gloria Cheng, one of my favorite pianists. She was "consistently compelling." (On a less serious note, she played a John Cage piece that compelled her to blow a duck whistle in a bowl of water.) It's a shame she doesn't issue more solo albums; only the people who live in LA get to hear most of her music. The Messiaen piece Swed mentions, however, is the highlight of her excellent Messiaen album, available at Emusic.
Stockhausen is dead

Influential German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen is dead at age 79, multiple news sources are reporting.

I don't know his music well enough to make an intelligent comment, but I'll mention a recent issue. Some of the articles note Stockhausen's comments about the 9-11 hijackers. As I noted here, the composer's comments apparently were taken out of context.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

eighth blackbird nabs Grammy nomination

Former northern Ohio residents eight blackbird has nabbed two Grammy nominations for the band's latest album.

The group's album "Strange Imaginary Animals" has received a Grammy nomination for "Best Chamber Music Performance." And in related news, composer Jennifer Higdon's "Zaka," a track from the album, has been nominated for "Best Contemporary Classical Composition."

eighth blackbird formed while its members were attending Oberlin College, although I believe they are based in Illinois now. Oberlin provides good support for contemporary music, so it's nice for the school (and the Cleveland area) to see the nomination.

Additional Cleveland note: Higdon's work has been performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, and one of her better-known works, "blue cathedral," was released on Cleveland's Telarc record label (as part of an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra album, "The Rainbow Body.")

As of Thursday night, neither eighth blackbird nor Higdon had bothered to mention the nomination on their Web sites. Hey guys, try to control your excitement. (Addendum: There's now a blog entry on the eighth blackbird site about it. Their producer also was nominated, so there are actually three Grammy nominations in connection with their album. See also Lisa Kaplan's comment that she posted to this blog entry.)

Full list of classical Grammy nominees here.

Addendum: The Oberlin news keeps on coming. Phillip Bush spots a famous musician on the Oberlin faculty in a Geico commercial.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Stravinsky on YouTube

Composer and musician Elaine Fine discovers that YouTube has videos of the Joffrey Ballet performing Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and the Bolshoi Ballet doing "Petrushka" and shares the news (and the links!) with the rest of us. I've been a Stravinsky fan all my life, and I've never seen "The Rite of Spring" performed. You don't get too many performances of it in Oklahoma. Via the essential New Music ReBlog.
Ligeti, Schnittke at Oberlin

Works by Gyorgy Ligeti, Alfred Schnittke and the ever-popular TBA will be offered when the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at Conservatory Hall. Details here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Robert Gable's minimalism discoveries

Robert Gable, who combines a nose for news with a work ethic that puts me to shame, alertly spots a new recording of Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" which has cropped up on Emusic.
Gable's minireview: "West Michigan rocks. Well, at least the Grand Valley State New Music Ensemble does."

Gable also discovered that Pandora is supporting classical music and has created a new John Adams radio station.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Believe the hype

I've been reading Alex Ross' excellent new book, THE REST IS NOISE.

Has anyone noticed what a surprising and pleasant phenomena this book has become? A classical music critic writes a rather long book about 20th century classical music, a title that seems aimed directly at me and perhaps 100 other readers, and it appears on the bestseller lists. I was going to go see Alex Ross' lecture in Cleveland Friday night, but when I tried to get tickets, more than a week before his date, they were sold out. (Damn, he practically has a moral obligation to link to my blog now!)

By becoming a best selling author, not to mention a lecturer who apparently inspires mob scenes, Ross appears to have at least temporarily won the argument over whether classical music is deceased. Let's see of Greg "Classical Music Is Dead" Sandow hits the bestseller list with his new book.