Philip Glass at 80

Tomorrow marks the 80th birthday of American composer Philip Glass. In celebration, conductor Dennis Russell Davies will lead the Bruckner Orchestra Linz in a world premiere performance of Glass’ Symphony No. 11 at Carnegie Hall. Along with Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and La Monte Young, Philip Glass was a leading voice in the American minimalist movement which emerged in the late 1960s and 70s. His music from this period, which includes the gradually unfolding Music in Similar Motion (1969) and …

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Semyon Bychkov on “The Tchaikovsky Project”

This weekend, Russian conductor Semyon Bychkov leads the New York Philharmonic in a festival called Beloved Friend: Tchaikovsky and His World. It’s a small piece of The Tchaikovsky Project, which includes a cycle of recordings, released on the Decca label, featuring Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic. In a recent interview, Bychkov talked about the project with Richmond Public Radio’s Mike Goldberg. Released in October, The Tchaikovsky Project’s first recording begins at the end of the composer’s output with …

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Remembering Estonian Choral Composer Veljo Tormis

The prolific Estonian composer Veljo Tormis passed away last Saturday. He was 86. Tormis’ music, deeply rooted in the ancient Estonian folk tradition, includes more than 500, mostly a cappella, choral compositions. His music played a role in the revolutionary movement for Estonian independence from the Soviet Union. (The documentary, The Singing Revolution, chronicles the spontaneous, overnight, mass singing demonstrations which unfolded at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds in June, 1988). Veljo Tormis described the …

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A Flash of Operatic Drama in Chopin’s Second Concerto

There’s a strange flash of operatic drama in the middle of the otherwise dreamy second movement of Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2. It’s a moment which caught my attention recently, while I was playing this piece in the orchestra. Chopin, the Polish virtuoso pianist and Romanticist, isn’t a composer we often associate with opera. But, while living in exile in Paris, following Poland’s unsuccessful 1830 November Uprising against the Russian Empire, Chopin frequently attended …

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Hamburg’s New Elbphilharmonie: “Here Time Becomes Space”

Here time becomes space. This enigmatic line from Wagner’s Parsifal suggests the transcendent nature of the 1882 work, which dramatizes a twelfth-century knight’s quest for the Holy Grail. Parsifal goes beyond opera, transporting us into a mystical new realm. Foremost, it’s an experience. Appropriately, this line became the theme for last week’s inaugural concerts of Hamburg’s spectacular, new Elbphilharmonie- the long-anticipated home of the NDR Sinfonieorchester (North German Radio Symphony Orchestra), now renamed the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. In …

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Adam Schoenberg’s “Bounce”: Radiohead Meets Copland

This has to be some of the most playfully exuberant and joyful music ever written. American composer Adam Schoenberg (b. 1980) wrote Bounce in 2013, after learning that he was about to become a father. In an interview, Schoenberg explained, The very first word that came to mind, both for the baby and the commission, was ‘bounce.’ It felt playful, innocent, fun, light. And rhythmic. The piece, which has been described as “Radiohead meets …

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“Hallelujah, Baby!”: African-American Civil Rights on Broadway in 1967

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, here are two excerpts from Hallelujah, Baby!, a 1967 Broadway musical which has been described as “a chronicle of the struggle for equality during the [first half of the] 20th century.” The plot of Hallelujah Baby! centers around Georgina, a talented, young African-American woman who is determined to develop a career in show business despite her mother’s advice that she “keep her place” as a maid on a South Carolina estate. …

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