New Release: Andrew Norman’s “Sustain,” Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Sustain, a haunting orchestral soundscape by American composer Andrew Norman (b. 1979), was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the opening of its centennial season. A concert recording, released earlier this year, documents the piece’s October, 2018 world premiere. Sustain was a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Music. The recording, which features the LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel, is up for a Grammy in the categories of “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” and …

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Remembering Christopher Rouse

Christopher Rouse, the American Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, passed away on Saturday at a hospice center in Towson, Maryland. He was 70. The orchestra, with its dramatic power and rich color palette, was central to Rouse’s work. Pieces such as Gorgon (1984), Concerto for Orchestra (2008), and Prospero’s Rooms (2012), unleash a terrifying, raw, titanic energy. In a previous post, we explored the equally haunting sonic landscape of Rouse’s Symphony No. 1 (1986), in which the spirts of Bruckner and …

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Jeffrey Kahane’s Improvisation on “American the Beautiful”

Jeffrey Kahane’s improvisation on Samuel A. Ward’s “American the Beautiful” moves beyond fervent, flag-waving patriotism into something more sombre, introspective, and quietly majestic. As a solo pianist, Kahane turns to this soulful impromptu as a frequent encore. You may also know Jeffrey Kahane as a conductor. He served as music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra for twenty years and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra from 2005 to 2010. His son, Gabriel Kahane is a …

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New Release: RPO’s “American Rapture” Features Music of Higdon, Barber, and Harlin

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director Ward Stare have released a new album of American music on the Azica label. American Rapture contains two world premiere recordings—Jennifer Higdon’s Harp Concerto (2018) featuring the American harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, and Patrick Harlin’s Rapture (2011), an orchestral showpiece inspired by the terrifying and awe-inspiring exploration of the world’s deepest caves. In between these youthful pieces is Samuel Barber’s Symphony No. 1, a monumental mid-twentieth century work which unfolds in a single …

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Pavel Karmanov’s “Cambridge Music” for Piano Quartet: A Post-Minimalist Joyride

The music of contemporary Russian composer Pavel Karmanov (b. 1970) falls loosely into a category known as post-minimalism. Influenced by the work of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and others, this is music built on a strong, satisfying sense of pulse and a warm embrace of tonality. “Cambridge Music” for Piano Quartet, written in 2008, teems with sunny, youthful energy and bright, glistening colors. Its repeating bass lines and sense of “groove” seem to …

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New Release: Ólafur Arnalds’ “re:member”

Pulse, pattern, and expansive, ambient soundscapes blend into an intoxicating brew on re:member, an album released last August by Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds (b. 1986). In an earlier post, we explored the similarities between the gradual, hypnotic inevitability of Arnalds’ looping patterns and the music of minimalist composers like Steve Reich. Here, Arnalds takes the leap into a brave new world of computer-influenced composition. The music of re:member was written using Stratus, a new software program the composer helped …

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Gabriel Kahane’s “November”

November is the haunting opening track of Book of Travelers, a new album released in late August by New York-based composer/singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane. The album was inspired by the conversations Kahane had with strangers during a two-week-long Amtrak journey across the United States in November, 2016. In the final lines of November, the train becomes a means of “escape,” perhaps a metaphor for the restless westward expansion of the American frontier days. As November progresses, its harmonic center begins to …

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