Two time Emmy winning composer Michael Whalen sits down for an in depth interview to discuss music production, his new album, and the music biz with Rob Mullins. They covered a lot of ground in 50 minutes. Music. Life. Rhodes pianos. Advice for young composers. Duran Duran. Quincy Jones. David Foster. The "three questions" that every young musician asks me and much, much more. Enjoy the attached wide ranging conversation.
Data Lords is the new double-album by Grammy Award-winning composer and bandleader Maria Schneider. Inspired by conflicting relationships between the digital and natural worlds, the recording features Schneider's acclaimed orchestra of 18 world-class musicians.
"No one can deny the great impact that the data-hungry digital world has had on our lives. As big data companies clamor for our attention, I know that I'm not alone in struggling to find space – to keep connected with my inner world, the natural world, and just the simpler things in life," says Schneider. "Just as I feel myself ping ponging between a digital world and the real world, the same dichotomy is showing up in my music. In order to truly represent my creative output from the last few years, it felt natural to make a two- album release reflecting these two polar extremes."
Here and Now host Robin Young speaks with Schneider about "Data Lords." (Photo by Briene Lermitte)
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When the coronavirus forced concert halls and opera houses to close in March, a flood of music came online. The livestreams proved especially gratifying, offering a jolt of you-are-there excitement. Many of these programs were offered for free.
But musicians and institutions have to make money. Will the public pay for music online?
The answer is just beginning to emerge. The artists and organizations who can draw sizable numbers of paying customers may be those who already had globally prominent brands before the pandemic. The Metropolitan Opera, for example, has recently begun a series of livestreamed recitals featuring star singers, sophisticated camerawork and vibrant audio. The tenor Jonas Kaufmann's recital last month, tickets for which cost $20, was viewed by 44,000 people - not a bad gross.
The second program in the series took place on Aug. 1, with the soprano Renée Fleming and the pianist Robert Ainsley performing live from Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. (The film is available through Friday, and Sunday afternoon brings a new livestream featuring Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak.)
Ms. Fleming was in splendid voice, singing with honeyed tone and elegant phrasing. She delivered some favorites, like "O mio babbino caro." But she also included novelties, like a coquettish aria from Leoncavallo's - not Puccini's - "La Bohème" and lesser heard arias from operas and oratorios by Handel and Korngold. And she began with a premiere composed for her: John Corigliano's eloquently understated "And the People Stayed Home," a setting of a poem written by Catherine M. O'Meara that went viral at the start of the pandemic.
Prerecorded offerings might seem less fulfilling to music lovers who are longing for the live concert experience. Yet if the content is substantive and the quality of the video high, these programs can be rewarding. Caramoor, in Katonah, N.Y., is streaming the four musicians of Sandbox Percussion and the pianist Conor Hanick, through Sunday, for $10.
Caramoor, usually a summer favorite just north of New York City, has this year presented a series of livestreams, with tickets for purchase, from its intimate, elegant Music Room. The programs have been adventurous and excellent, including a recent one featuring members of the Knights, a chamber orchestra, playing a premiere by Anna Clyne and a Brahms sextet.
The Sandbox Percussion program had to be filmed in advance, since the works being performed utilized an enormous array of unusual and cumbersome percussion instruments. The concert included inventive pieces by Andy Akiko, Juri Seo, Amy Beth Kirsten and David Crowell, variously complex and demanding contemporary scores.
But the premiere of Christopher Cerrone's "Don't Look Down," an 18-minute concerto for prepared piano and percussion quartet, was the highlight. As he explained in an interview before the performance, Mr. Cerrone began composing the score just as the shutdowns started in March, and finished it only recently. So it's a piece written in lockdown. The piano is prepared similarly to John Cage's innovative techniques, but with fewer screws and pieces of metal inserted between the piano strings, and more materials like putty - which dampens and distorts sounds - and fishing wire, which allows the strings to be bowed to create eerie, whining tones.
The first movement, "Hammerspace," begins with the whooshing of a bike pump and droning gongs. In time, restless riffs played with mallets burst forth. Amid rushes of rhythmic, spiraling figures on the prepared piano, fragments for the percussion instruments coalesced into fleeting almost-melodies.
The second movement, "The Great Empty," is more elemental, with music gurgling and heaving over ominous bass tones in the piano. The final movement, "Caton Flats," is named for the mixed-use development in Brooklyn where Mr. Cerrone lives. As he said in the interview, the music recalls the metallic noise of construction crews at work in his neighborhood this summer.
Tanglewood, perhaps America's most eminent summer music festival, has opted for offering only prerecorded online programs - some from its archives, but many filmed earlier this summer. One, recorded in June, was put online on Saturday evening: the pianist Daniil Trifonov playing Bach's "The Art of the Fugue" in one of the studios of Tanglewood's new Linde Center. (The program is available for $12 through Saturday, when a recital by another pianist, Conrad Tao, goes online.)
Mr. Trifonov played this work, Bach's final piece, at a recital at Alice Tully Hall in early March, one of the final concerts in New York before the lockdown. His performance then was magnificent, combining youthful inventiveness, crisp articulations and, for a performer still in his 20s, profoundly insightful musicianship. The Tanglewood performance was even better, though the chance it offered to see Mr. Trifonov up close - to watch as a finger on his right hand gave extra pressure to a crucial note - may have made it especially absorbing.
Though he was not required to do so, Mr. Trifonov performed wearing a mask, which came across as a gesture of solidarity with those watching from home. Playing these complex and compelling fugues, Mr. Trifonov displayed an unusual kind of virtuosity - not flashy, but precise, nuanced and subtle. Rippling passagework was not like filigree but substantive: Each note mattered.
For Fugue 14, which Bach died before finishing, Mr. Trifonov, who is also a composer, dared to do the job and played his own completion. Good for him that, rather than feeling intimidated, he paid homage to Bach by adding his own personal take. The intricate contrapuntal lines unfolded effectively, the music taking a quasi-mystical turn and becoming harmonically elusive delicate and gentle, with a cushioned landing at the end instead of a full stop.
Worth paying for? Worth waiting for? I'd say yes, on both counts.
Australian violin virtuoso Ray Chen has established himself as one of the most prodigiously talented and captivating instrumentalists to emerge internationally. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Aaron Rosand, Ray is a former 1st prize winner at the Menuhin and Queen Elisabeth International Violin Competitions.
His debuts include solo engagements with major international orchestras – including ongoing collaborations with the San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony and the London Philharmonic. Ray was announced as one of Forbes Magazines' 30 Under 30 recipients, an ambassador for Sony Electronics – and a collaborator and consultant on a number of film score and video game projects.
Last week, he released his new ‘Solace' album on the Decca Classics label – recorded professionally from his home during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Ray currently performs on the 1735 ‘Samazeuilh' Stradivarius violin, on generous loan from the Nippon Music Foundation – and is under world-wide general management with CAMI Music, in New York.
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Intimate original chamber music John Finbury – AMERICAN NOCTURNES/FINAL DAYS OF JULY: In June of 2020, I reviewed producer/arranger John's wonderful "Quatro" album, which got near perfect marks… on this new album, John and his players give you some of the most intimate original chamber music you will ever listen to… here's a video clip for the album…
…since you're there already, I strongly recommend that you SUBSCRIBE to John Finbury's YouTube channel, so you can watch many more exciting performances.
The players on this new excursion are Tim Ray – piano; Eugene Friesen – cello; Roni Eytan – harmonica; and Roberto Cassan – accordion… Produced and arranged by John Finbury and Bob Patton… though the album is partially classified as New Age, John's music is always unique and different… the beautiful "Winter Waltz" even has some strong elements of jazz, and will be a favorite among DJ's, I believe.
The gentle guitar on "Black Tea" melds seamlessly in with the other instruments, giving you the gift of pleasant (yet stirring) memories… the relaxed pacing makes the tune a total winner.
I had no trouble (at all) in making my choice for personal favorite of the eleven enchanting songs offered up… the title track, "Final Days Of July", will touch your heart deeply with its' beautifully crafted tones!
I give John and his musical partners a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) score of 4.98 for this fine album. Get more information on the Green Flash Music page for the release. Rotcod Zzaj
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Blues Hall of Famer Bettye LaVette is set to release; 'Blackbirds,' on August 28 via Verve Records. Blackbirds features songs primarily popularized by some of her peers, other iconic women in music, who she personally respected and admired. The album finds LaVette in top form delivering powerful renditions of songs that touched her personally. It also re-unites her with producer Steve Jordan.
From Dinah Washington's "Drinking Again," Nina Simone's "I Hold No Grudge," Nancy Wilson's "Save Your Love For Me" and more, all delivered in LaVette's rich and raspy tone with a touch of the blues.
Bettye LaVette is a native of Detroit. Her first recording in 1962, at the age of sixteen, was on Atlantic Records. She later charted with such singles as "He Made A Woman Out Of Me" and "Do Your Duty," Since then she has recorded ten albums. Her most recent album Things Have Changed, also produced by Steve Jordan (John Mayer, Keith Richards), was released on Verve in 2018 and received two GRAMMY nominations, which brings her total Grammy nominations to five.
WPFW: Wash DC, Tim Masters spoke with BL about the new recording and her amazing career. Listen to the attached interview.
From Poetry to Song: A Russian Poet's Work Makes a Debut
A new album by classical composer Mark Abel features four musical adaptations of Tsvetaeva's poetry- a first for the English-language genre. Mark Abel
For most in the English-speaking world, the name Marina Tsvetaeva is obscure. While often revered as one of the greatest Russian poets of the early Soviet period, Tsvetaeva's work has by-and-large failed to garner an international audience.
One American artist, however, has recently completed a project putting Tsvetaeva's work to music in English – reportedly the first time her poetry has been adapted to classical music in English.
In his new album, The Cave of Wondrous Voice, California-based journalist-turned-musician Mark Abel focuses his talents on creating a masterful chamber-music sound, including a groundbreaking song cycle of four of Tsvetaeva's poems.
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The first-time teaming of Poland's dynamic Marcin Wasilewski Trio and big-toned US tenorist Joe Lovano brings forth special music of concentrated, deep feeling, in which lyricism and strength seem ideally balanced.
Sony Music Masterworks today releases Not Our First Goat Rodeo, the long-awaited follow-up album to the GRAMMY Award-winning The Goat Rodeo Sessions, with Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile.
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.
Milan Records announces the Friday, August 21 release of I Am Woman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), an album of music from the biographical film surrounding Australian singer Helen Reddy as performed by Chelsea Cullen.
Praised by The Washington Post for playing with "an easy warmth, drawing the orchestra after him like a halo around a candle flame," cellist Kian Soltani follows his DG debut album, Home, with a Dvořák album centered on the famous cello concerto.
Cecilia Bartoli's Norma is a furious triumph / The Telegraph review
Posted: August 7, 2016 12:00 AM
| By: Admin
The prospect of seeing great Italian soprano Cecilia Bartoli as Bellini's Norma was both enticing and disquieting. It's one of the towering roles in the dramatic soprano repertory, and anyone lucky enough to have seen Maria Callas or Joan Sutherland as Norma counts it as one of the great experiences of their lives.
But Bartoli? She's a soprano who's made the distracted sorceresses and betrayed queens of Baroque opera her speciality. Vocal pyrotechnics are her thing, executed with a fury that used to leave one speechless with admiration, but in recent years has become just too extreme and mannered. Still, if you're going to be pathologically vengeful there's no better vehicle than Bellini's Druidic priestess, who falls for a Roman officer, is betrayed by him, thinks for a moment of murdering their children, and eventually immolates herself in self-sacrifice, to purge the sullied altar of her "contaminating presence". On the psychological level it's perfect for Bartoli, and she's persuaded herself the role was made for her.
To do that, the other roles in this production at the Edinburgh International Festival – first seen at Salzburg in 2013 - have had to be miniaturised, vocally speaking, so as not to overwhelm her fundamentally small voice. In the programme book Bartoli claims this is in line with the original performance in 1831, but her analysis of the facts is questionable, and it has some odd results. John Osborne is a charmingly light and soft-toned tenor, but he lacked the edge to be credible as the caddish (and in this production, thuggish) Roman officer Pollione. Rebeca Olvera threw herself into the role of Adalgisa, rival to Norma for Pollione's affections, but was hampered by her pert little-girl soprano, which seemed more apt for Gilbert and Sullivan than Bellini.
Everything else was similarly muffled, so as not to impede the dominance of La Bartoli. The chorus of Swiss Radio and Television was small in number, and made a remarkably feeble sound. And the Swiss-based orchestra I Barrocchisti was not on good form. True, their "period" 19th-century instruments conjured some fascinating colours, particularly in the night-time scenes, but they seemed scrappy and ill-at-ease under Gianluca Capuano, who bravely stepped in at short notice for Diego Fasolis.
As if this weren't annoyance enough, the production by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier was vastly implausible. They set the opera in Nazi-occupied Paris, which at least gave set designer Christian Fenouillat the chance to create a pleasingly exact French 1940s schoolroom, which at night became a lair for Resistance fighters. Péter Kálmán as Oroveso, tribal chief and Norma's father, sang his first aria from a book, which suggested these fighters were recovering their cultural roots by delving into their pagan past. An interesting idea for a fantasy novel, but as this production showed, impossible to make dramatically plausible.
All this special pleading and muddled thinking had the intended effect, which was to throw our attention onto Bartoli. If she hadn't triumphed it would have been something of a scandal, but thank God she did. She conveyed Norma's confusion and fragility as well as her superb fury, and she made the immortal Casta Diva aria tremulous with suppressed emotion, rather than purely chaste. At the end, when Norma and Pollione are abandoned in the "school", everything miraculously came together. John Osborne finally acquired some emotional heft in his closing heart-breaking duet with Bartoli, who threw off pathological intensity and became noble in her self-sacrifice. As the "Resistance fighters" torched the school in a 20th-century recreation of pagan immolation, one felt a potential disaster had been converted into a triumph. But it was a close-run thing.
Celebrating over three decades on the Decca Classics label, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli releases a brand new album commemorating the life and career of the most famous opera singer of the 18th century: the castrato Farinelli. Set to release on November 29, the record includes arias by Farinelli's older brother Riccardo Broschi and his teacher and mentor Nicola Porpora. It also features a new recording of "Alto Giove" from Porpora's Polifemo, which celebrates Farinelli's unique capacity to sing long musical phrases and extraordinary high notes. Cecilia performs with the period ensemble Il Giardino Armonico and its conductor Giovanni Antonini, with whom she first collaborated on her Grammy Award-winning Vivaldi album, and again on Sacrificium, her first castrati album from 2009, which also won a Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Performance.
Almost 20 years after her historic Vivaldi album, Cecilia Bartoli turns to the composer once again for her brand new solo recording, Antonio Vivaldi. The album is a glorious collection of Vivaldi arias, performed with French baroque orchestra Ensemble Matheus under Jean-Christophe Spinosi. This new release also marks 30 years since Bartoli signed to Decca Classics.
Cecilia Bartoli's 1999 recording The Vivaldi Album redefined her status as an artist: for the first time, she was widely appreciated as a rescuer of neglected or forgotten music, in her dual role as meticulous researcher and passionate interpreter.
The Vivaldi Album shone a spotlight on the Italian as a composer of vocal works, sparking a revival in the operas of Vivaldi, who had hitherto been primarily known for his concerti. The album sold 700,000 copies in five years and went Gold in six countries. It paved the way for similarly trailblazing releases, including the Italian arias of Christoph Willibald Gluck, the legendary castratos (on the album Sacrificium) and Bartoli's personal 19th-century hero, the mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran.
This fall, best-selling mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli looks to the little-known operas of 18th-century Russia on her upcoming release, Cecilia Bartoli– St Petersburg. These Baroque musical treasures were written by Italian and German composers working for the Russian court: specifically, Francesco Araia (at the court 1735–59), Hermann Friedrich Raupach (1759–61), Vincenzo Manfredini (1761–63), and Domenico Cimarosa (1787–91). The works were commissioned under the rules of empresses Anna Ioannovna (1730–40), Elizaveta Petrovna (Elizabeth, 1741–62), and Catherine II (known as Catherine the Great, 1762–96). The three rulers continued and completed the wholesale redefinition of Russia into an enlightened European state that began under Peter the Great. Cecilia Bartoli – St Petersburg, which releases on October 14, aims to shed new light on this incredible and momentous time for Russia, while simultaneously exploring the first instances of operatic music writing in the country.
30 NEW - 35 Total
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