Excerpts from Houston Grand Opera’s Adventurous Discography

The water is receding and the cleanup begins in Houston’s hard-hit theater district. The Wortham Theater Center, home of Houston Grand Opera, experienced significant flooding from Hurricane Harvey with water reaching the top of one of the complex’s stages. Referencing a recent staging of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the company put out a statement this week including the following lines,  Houston Grand Opera will recover and deliver a fantastic season to our patrons, giving them the …

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New Release: Maya Beiser’s TranceClassical

The sounds of the twenty-first century are largely electronic and computer processed. In this environment, a recording can become a work of art in its own right, not just a feeble attempt to recreate a live concert experience. I was reminded of this over the past few days as I sampled cellist Maya Beiser’s newly-released album, TranceClassical. Beiser, an Israeli-born American (her mother is French and her father is Argentine) who graduated from Yale …

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The 2016 Oscars: Nominees for Best Original Score

With the 88th Academy Awards ceremony coming up this Sunday, let’s finish the week with some film music. Here are this year’s nominees for “Best Original Score,” along with a few audio samples: “Carol” (Carter Burwell) This atmospheric score seems to pay homage to the musical language of Philip Glass. This passage contains all of the hallmarks of Glass’ vocabulary: a simple melody that grows out of repeating, undulating piano lines, triad-laden …

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Musical Humidity: Michael Torke’s "Tahiti"

  When you listen to the music of the most time-tested, enduring composers, it’s easy to get a sense of effortless perfection, as if the music couldn’t be any other way. It’s impossible to know if Michael Torke, or any other living composer, will one day fall into the “enduring” category. But I often sense this quality in Torke’s music. It speaks with sublime honesty. A strange combination of elements emerge in …

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Kenji Bunch: New American Sounds

If you’re near Chicago this evening, head down to the Loop and swing by the Pritzker Pavilion at Grant Park. Conductor Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra will give the world premiere performance of Kenji Bunch’s Symphony No. 3: Dream Songs. The work is based on Native American folksongs and texts collected in 1879 by the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnology. The Bureau’s preservation of the last vestiges of tribal music seems …

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Creating New Sounds: Ben Sollee’s "Steeples Part One"

  Forget about the guitar or the banjo. The music of Kentucky-born singer-songwriter Ben Sollee (b. 1983) centers around an unlikely instrument: the cello. Sollee’s songs are an eclectic mix of bluegrass, folk, rhythm and blues and more. He approaches the cello as if there are no limitations. Listen to the colorful array of sounds he creates in this TED clip. Touring on a bicycle, Ben Sollee has been an outspoken advocate for …

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Hilary Hahn: In 27 Pieces

Earlier this month, violinist Hilary Hahn and accompanist Cory Smythe picked up a Grammy award for their 2013 album, In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores. The recording came in first in the Best Chamber/Small Ensemble category. Don’t be deceived by the album’s title. This isn’t yet another CD of violin showpiece warhorses. It’s a collection of completely new music born out of an intriguingly fresh idea. Hahn noticed that, while the violin repertoire …

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