This Friday - October 30 at 9 pm ET, SiriusXM's Symphony Hall Channel will feature; 'Scary Soundtracks with Michael Shapiro, a 1hr special highlighting the Overture to the the 1931 film 'Frankenstein.' With an incredible legacy, and selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant, the movie was first released, unfortunately, with no original soundtrack. That all changed in 2001, when composer Michael Shapiro was commissioned to write one. Join SiriusXM: Symphony Hall for a special Halloween "Classics On Film" when Michael joins host Vincent Caruso to speak about his own creation! You'll hear some of Michael's "Frankenstein" soundtrack as well as to hear some of Michael's picks for scariest film music!
Famed classical pianist Jeni Slotchiver recently released her ZOHO label debut album "American Heritage." It is a homage to the legendary composers of American traditional folk music. Jeni's new eighteen track release begins with the beautifully elegant delivery of Samuel Coleridge Taylor's (1875-1912) "Deep River." She performs a spiritual version of Harry Thacker Burleigh's (1866-1949) six-piece suite of "Southland," before arriving at the epic, nine-minute musical number "Union, Paraphrase de Concert Op. 48" by Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869). The melody livens-up with Florence B. Price's (1887-1953) "Nimble Feet" and "Tropical Noon." Jeni Slotchiver finishes up her new album with the more well-known sing-along "Down By The Riverside" by Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938) and the two-minute gentle masterpiece of "Swanee River" from William Grant Still (1895-1979). To find out more about Jeni Slotchiver and her latest release "American Heritage," please visit jenislotchiver.com.
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These Sisters Have Transformed the Piano Duo
"Oh, look!" said the pianist Katia Labèque, pushing aside some neatly ironed clothes hanging on a rack.
Behind the clothes, which were behind the boiler in the utility room of her home and studio here in French Basque Country, was a poster advertising concerts last year at the Philharmonie in Paris. It showed Katia and her sister, Marielle - both with dark hair flowing, glamorously dressed - and listed three programs: five centuries of Basque music; a Stravinsky and Debussy double bill; an evening with three art-rock auteurs, Thom Yorke, Bryce Dessner and David Chalmin.
"We're ridiculous," said Katia. "This is the only poster we have, and it's hidden."
The poster suggests the wildly varied musical interests of the Labèque sisters, who for over 50 years have been playing - and enlarging - the two-piano repertory. They have interpreted traditional classical and Romantic works, to brilliant effect, but have also ventured into jazz, Baroque, modernist and experimental genres - commissioning scores, inventing projects and testing their limits. Their latest recording, out this week, is a newly arranged two-piano adaptation of Philip Glass's opera "Les Enfants Terribles."
"What always struck me with both of them is that, although they are very different human beings, they both have this endless curiosity about everything, not just music," said Simon Rattle, the music director of the London Symphony Orchestra and a frequent Labèques collaborator.
Katia, 70, and Marielle, 68, have been inventing themselves since they were teenagers. First taught by their mother, an Italian piano teacher and pupil of the renowned pianist Marguerite Long, the sisters moved at 11 and 13 from their hometown, Hendaye (not far from here), to attend the prestigious Paris Conservatory.
"They taught you the tricks, but not the love of music that we learned from our parents," Marielle said. "Maybe that helped us develop our sense of independence, the desire to move in the world on our own terms." (The sisters, interviewed mostly in French, also speak fluent English, Italian and Spanish.)
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They decided against the solo careers that their fiercely competitive training had shaped them for. "From the moment we left - and it was 1968, the year of revolution of the students - we said, ‘Let's do something maybe not so conventional,'" Katia said.
They decided to play together.
After studying at the Paris Conservatory, the Labèques made the unconventional choice to play as a duo.Credit...Keystone/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images
"They took a time-honored form, the double piano, which had become slightly less fashionable, and breathed entirely new life into it," said Deborah Borda, the president and chief executive of the New York Philharmonic.
Despite their almost uncanny unity onstage - "it's a mystery beyond sisterhood," Mr. Rattle said - the Labèques have very different personalities. In the interview, Katia exuded energy and enthusiasm, while Marielle remained calm and reflective. But they agreed that they never really had a career plan. After deciding to perform together, they joined the Conservatory's chamber music graduate class to develop their dual repertory, and worked as ensemble musicians with Félix Blaska's dance company.
One day, while they were working on Olivier Messiaen's "Visions de l'Amen," Messiaen, who taught composition at the Conservatory, knocked on the door. After listening for a bit, he asked if one of the sisters would record the work with his wife. Even then, they showed surprising strength of purpose.
"We said, ‘No, we are just starting out and we can't begin by dividing,'" Katia recalled. But eventually Messiaen asked them to record the work together, which led to encounters with the composers Gyorgy Ligeti, Pierre Boulez and Luciano Berio, whom they boldly approached, asking him to compose a work for them. Berio suggested they give the French premiere of his double piano concerto, which they subsequently played all over the world.
Their international breakthrough came with a 1980 recording of "Rhapsody in Blue," which was a best seller but led to some harsh criticism from parts of the classical music establishment.
"The concert halls were closed to Gershwin," Katia said. "People would say, ‘He is not a serious composer.' The same thing was true 30 years later, when we started to play Philip Glass."
The sisters, brilliant in traditional repertory, played Mendelssohn with Bernard Labadie and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2013.
The sisters, brilliant in traditional repertory, played Mendelssohn with Bernard Labadie and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2013.Credit...Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times, via Getty Images
They were also sometimes ribbed for their designer outfits and glossy image. But Chad Smith, the chief executive of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said he loved that the Labèques "have a complete vision. Lighting creates a beautiful environment; clothes, too. They come with a theatrical approach and have shown the false narrative that it's less serious if you engage in the visual."
Over the years, they have pursued Baroque music, on Silbermann-model period-style pianofortes made for them and with the ensemble Il Giardino Armonico; ragtime; traditional Basque music; and jazz. Katia once lived with the jazz musician John McLaughlin and played in his band, and counts Miles Davis - who wrote two songs for her - and Billie Holiday as influences. The sisters have plunged deep into experimental terrain in "Minimalist Dream House," an ongoing series of concerts and recordings with Mr. Chalmin, who is Katia's partner, and Mr. Dessner.
"They have an extremely broad vision of what they can do in a concert hall, and they treat everyone with the same respect," said Mr. Dessner, best known as a member of the indie-rock band the National.
The coronavirus pandemic paused a number of their projects. A concerto by Nico Muhly, which should have premiered at the New York Philharmonic in early June, is now scheduled for the Paris Philharmonie on Nov. 12; a program with Mr. Dessner and the soprano Barbara Hannigan will probably be pushed to 2022.
But one thing they could work on in quarantine was "Les Enfants Terribles," arranged by Mr. Glass's longtime collaborator, Michael Riesman. During the initial lockdown the Labèques worked separately to prepare the score - Marielle lives with her husband, the conductor Semyon Bychkov, about nine miles from the house Katia and Mr. Chalmin share - but sent recordings back and forth and spoke frequently with Mr. Riesman about changes.
"We wanted more of the story and the dramatic parts," Katia said. "It was so odd that it's a story of confinement." After the lockdown restrictions were relaxed in May, they were able to practice together, and recorded the work in the state-of-the-art studio at Katia's house.
"I love the way they play Philip Glass," said Mr. Riesman. "They have the right style, the right approach. They don't overly dramatize or emote."
Mr. Muhly said, "They are actually much more involved in everything than most people of their stature. They email you about material; they are totally involved. The rhythms of the day are organized around an unspeakably rigorous work ethic, but there is something really elegant about the way they live their lives which flows into music and food and their extended family of artists."
The sisters' trick, according to Katia, is their constant desire to change and learn. "We never want to rely on what we've done," she said. "We have always tried to be relentlessly in the present." PHOTO: Lawrence K. Ho
One interesting aspect of Greek guitarist Smaro Greoriadou's playing is her willingness to experiment technically, the tunings and instruments chosen to suit the musical requirements of each work. So, her transcription of Bach's Violin Sonata No. 2 follows the composer's own keyboard version in switching from A minor to D minor, Gregoriadou using a guitar tuned a major third higher than usual. Her choice pays off, the instrument's leaner, crisper timbre closer to that of the harpsichord. There's an intensity and tautness to the sound which heightens the music's expressivity. Every flourish in Bach's opening "Grave" tells, followed by a cogent, elegant fugue. And I like the steely power of the final movement, music described by Gregoriadou as "smooth but assertive". For the rest of the disc we slip back down to conventional tuning, both instruments fitted with pedal mechanisms allowing the sound to be modified by the player. The one familiar work is Britten's Nocturnal after John Dowland, a sequence of variations based on Dowland's "Come, heavy sleep", the theme only appearing at the very end. This is thorny, late Britten, the spare textures easily offset by the warmth of Gregoriadou's playing, the arrival of the Dowland melody an effective coup de théâtre.
Sofia Gubaidulina's Serenade dates from 1960, three minutes of arresting but pained musing, ending suddenly and serenely with a G major chord. Rarer still is the Op. 41 Suite by French-Canadian composer Jacques Hétu. He described himself in 1996 as "a rather solitary hiker", a follower of Dutilleux rather than Boulez. This five-movement work is an accessible treat, Hétu's language alluding to conventional tonality while remaining distinct and fresh. As with Hindemith, thickets of thorny dissonance have a habit of resolving, magically, onto consonant chords. An enjoyable anthology, beautifully played and handsomely recorded, Gregoriadou's stated objective to "offer encouragement and hope against today's dystopia and chaos" accomplished with ease.
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Masked pedestrians enjoy Central Park earlier this year. The New York destination now has a site-specific soundtrack courtesy of composer Ellen Reid's Soundwalk app.
Even this spring, when New York City was at the center of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S, the city's public parks never closed. Instead, they became a place where people went for a socially distanced refuge, often escaping into music with their headphones. Ellen Reid has taken that experience one step further: The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer has written new music for a GPS-enabled app called Soundwalk, specifically designed to accompany walks around Central Park.
Reid had the idea for the app several years ago, but it wasn't until the pandemic hit that she went into her studio and got to work. When I met her at the park to test-drive the app myself, the artist said she was "thinking about creating beauty for people to be inspired by and a place to find joy and a way to connect with our phones, actually in a way that connects us to something larger than ourselves."
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American composer William Susman has created a distinctively expressive voice in contemporary classical music, with a catalog that includes orchestral, chamber, and vocal music, as well as numerous film scores. In addition to his work as a composer, he spearheads the contemporary ensemble OCTET and Belarca Records. AllMusic calls him an exemplar of "the next developments in the sphere of minimalism," and textura describes him as "not averse to letting his affection for Afro-Cuban, jazz, and other forms seep into his creative output." His music has earned praise from The New York Times for being "vivid, turbulent, and rich-textured," from Gramophone as "texturally shimmering and harmonically ravishing," and from textura for being "entrancing . . . harmonious and vibrant."
Scoring the documentary Fate of the Lhapa was an inspiring experience. Susman worked with a marvelous director, Sarah Sifers, who trusted his musicianship and gave him the freedom to compose a score that attempts to capture the place, culture, spirit and passion of the Tibetan Shamans and their broader historical context.
Scatter my Ashes reached No. 1 on Amazon's Classical Hot New Releases, No. 8 on Billboard's Classical and was featured in iTunes Classical New and Noteworthy.
Harmonious World podcast producer; Hilary Robertson interviewed composer William Susman focusing on Scatter My Ashes.
Bowling Green resident and Professor Emeritus at Bowling Green State University Dr. Wallace DePue has garnered another national award, receiving a third place recognition from the American Prize organization for his comic opera "Something Special."
DePue said that what makes "Something Special" one of a kind is that it is the only "barbershopera" in music literature. Moreover, says DePue, "The 50-minute piece is unique in that it is accapella, in the barbershop style. There is no orchestra, just the voices of the four singers."
The American Prize organization is dedicated to the idea that a great deal of excellent music is being made all across the country, in schools, churches, colleges and University. According to their website, these efforts too often go unrecognized. Laureates of the American Prize at all levels of achievement derive local, regional and national recognition to help generate jobs, build audiences and sustain careers.
"Something Special" was first presented in mid-1970s to a packed house at the Masonic Theater. The recording has often been aired on WBGU-TV. It also can be found on Youtube.
In 2014, "Something Special" also won the "Gold Medal" (first prize) in a worldwide competition sponsored by the Boston Metro Opera. There were 625 works, from six continents, submitted.
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WaterTower Music is pleased to announce today's release of the 62-track Lovecraft Country (Soundtrack from the HBO® Original Series), featuring music from the first season of Lovecraft Country, which airs on HBO/ HBO Max, and is Based on Matt Ruff 's novel of the same name.
Inspired by the ground-breaking mission of NASA's Juno space probe and its ongoing exploration of Jupiter, Juno to Jupiter is a multi-dimensional musical journey through electronic, progressive, ambient, techno, orchestral, and vocal music.
Milan Records today announces the release of Luca Guadagnino's WE ARE WHO WE ARE (ORIGINAL SERIES SCORE) featuring music by producer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter and vocalist DEVONTÉ HYNES.
Bettye LaVette is a US treasure, a blues-soul singer with a truly remarkable background and heritage.
Now approaching seventy-five years of age – "I'll be 75 in January," she tells me – she has weathered countless twists and turns in her own personal musical journey since first recording as a young sixteen-year-old teenager with Atlantic Records in Detroit. And, as we chat, surprisingly UK pop giants The Beatles somehow or other creep, albeit forcefully, into the conversation about her current place and her new album, ‘Blackbirds,' due to launch on Verve in August.
Blackbirds, I suggest includes an unexpected and surprising take as a title track with a Paul McCartney song: "Well, why not. It's a song about a bird, hearing a bird singing. A blackbird!," she laughs.
"I was invited to sing at Ringo Starr's birthday recently. He's now 80. I told him I had thought that I was old! "How did he take that? I ask: "He was great. He just laughed. I sang at his birthday about four years ago, I think it was. So, I already knew him. We get on okay."
But the new album is far from anything popular (or populist) or dated by 1960s musical shackles. So, I question, how long was the latest project in the thinking and making. Bettye laughs before quipping: "The new album was always there really. I always have projects on the go, songs I've already recorded maybe, just waiting till I'm ready to put it all together. I never do more than two cuts of any song. I've been doing this a long time and I know what works for me. And I have Steve Jordan again as producer. He knows what he's doing and he knows what I like." Jordan, now an industry veteran and always in-demand producer, also produced LaVette's last, widely acclaimed offering, ‘Things Have Changed,' a few years ago in 2018, an album that gained Best Americana Album award nominations and introduced her to many more listeners globally.
We discuss the horror of racism in the world generally and the USA in particular, an inescapable topic with the new album driven by the subject and full of tracks that shout about the appalling issues surrounding the subject: I mention talking with Nashville-based Will Kimboro recently following a visit to Alabama. Kimboro has a song, ‘Alabama,' on his latest album, ‘I Like It Down Here,' a track that is based on the public lynching of a young black man in the southern state in the early eighties, a shocking fact that brings the horror home forceably when the question of just how recent such behaviour is historically in modern USA. Bettye instantly agrees but counters with a question, asking me when I thought the last similar tragic event happened in Mississippi. When I shake my head and ask, she tells me: "It was only a few years ago in Mississippi!"
As we run through the tracks on the new album ranging from Nina Simone's ‘I Hold No Grudge,' Nancy Wilson's ‘Save Your Love For Me,' to Dinah Washington's ‘Drinking Again,' Bettye again confirms her despair that now, in 2020, the striking relevance and terrifyingly horrific imagery of one track in particular remains as salient and significant as it did when first recorded almost a century ago by Billie Holiday in 1939: "Strange Fruit is an incredible song," she says with an understandably heartfelt sigh: "It's just incredible and unbelievable that here we are again facing these issues and this behaviour. Absolutely incredible. I've been around a long time now and I never thought I'd be witnessing this kind of thing again in my lifetime."
Blues Hall of Famer Bettye LaVette has decided to release her stirring rendition of "Strange Fruit" ahead of schedule as it says as much about the history of American racism and the state of the country today. "Strange Fruit" was originally recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939 and written by Jewish teacher Abel Meeropol who wrote the song based on a photo of two black men who were lynched as a crowd of white people looked in the camera pointing and smiling. LaVette's version will be featured on her album, "Blackbirds" (Verve) set for release August 28.