The 2017 Classical Grammys

Here is an overview of last weekend’s 2017 Grammy Awards in the classical categories. From opera to chamber music, the list features a heavy dose of American contemporary music: Best Orchestral Performance This is the second installment in a series of live-concert Shostakovich recordings by Music Director Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony on the Deutsche Grammophon label. The first recording of the five-part series was honored in the same category at …

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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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Remembering Sir Neville Marriner

Every great conductor started out as an accomplished instrumentalist. Look at the biography of Sir Neville Marriner, who passed away yesterday at the age of 92, and you’ll be reminded of this truism. In the 1950s, Marriner performed as a violinist in two celebrated orchestras: the Philharmonia and the London Symphony. For 13 years, he served as second violinist of the Martin String Quartet. He first picked up a baton around age 40. …

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Adolph Herseth and the Chicago Sound

Recently, I ran across tributes to Adolph “Bud” Herseth, the longtime principal trumpeter of the Chicago Symphony who passed away in April, 2013. Herseth’s 53-year association with the Chicago Symphony began in 1948 when conductor Artur Rodzinski invited him to audition for the CSO’s principal trumpet position. Herseth will forever be associated with the distinct sound of the Chicago Symphony brass section, which developed in the 1950s and 60s during Fritz Reiner’s tenure as music …

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Remembering Prince

Last Thursday, as news broke of the untimely death of Prince, we were all reminded of his enormous contributions, both as a cultural icon and as one of contemporary pop music’s most innovative songwriters. His work drew upon a wide variety of styles, including “funk, rock, rhythm and blues, soul, psychedelia, and pop.” In songs such as When Doves Cry, from the 1984 album Purple Rain, he turned the traditional structure of the pop song on its …

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A Brief Look Back at James Levine’s Tenure at the Met

Last week, the Metropolitan Opera announced that James Levine will be stepping down as music director after four decades and 2,551 performances. Levine, who is 72, has been battling Parkinson’s Disease along with other ailments. Levine, who became music director of the Met in 1976, has been credited with raising the level of the company. In this interview he reflects on some of his achievements. Recently, Alex Ross summed up Levine’s tenure …

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Zaha Hadid’s Frozen Music

Zaha Hadid, the visionary and sometimes controversial Iraqi-born British architect, passed away suddenly on Thursday. She was 65. Her uncompromising, sculptural designs unequivocally embraced the ethos of “architecture as art” in a way reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. Fellow architect Rem Koolhaas called her “a planet in her own inimitable orbit.” There’s a geological quality to Hadid’s Wanjing Soho towers in Beijing, completed in 2014. They rise on the landscape like three giant pebbles. Horizontal …

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