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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

The New York Times has a list of the best recordings of 2021 that is worth a look. I've been thinking of exploring Bartók's music theatre lately and they feature a new recording of Bluebeard's Castle with Szilvia Voros, mezzo-soprano; Mika Kares, bass; Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Susanna Malkki, conductor. The very inclusive list includes recordings from C. P. E. Bach to Tyshawn Sorey. They include clips so I am going to spend some time browsing among them.

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The Goldberg Variations by Bach continue to get a lot of attention from nearly every pianist and harpsichordist on the planet. The Guardian reviews a recent Lang Lang concert:

Too often, though, Lang seemed intent on smothering the music with love, in little details as well as the big picture. When he plays fast, he is very fast; when he is slow, he is funereal. The opening aria was pulled about with such elongated exaggeration that its role as the heartbeat of the 30 variations that follow was lost. The celebrated 25th variation, whose stillness and chromaticism are the emotional crux of the work, was stretched beyond belief and almost came to a halt.

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I haven't visited the music blog On An Overgrown Path recently but I discovered he has been writing about one of my favorite musicians Scott Ross:

After seven years my post 'Scott Ross and the paradox of genius' is still one of the most widely read Overgrown Path articles. This popularity at first sight seems pardoxical, as Scott Ross lacks any click bait or celebrity appeal. But his flame is kept alive by thoughtful articles such as the one in today's FranceSoir by Moufid Azmaïesh which links to my 2004 post.

Follow the link for more.

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Over at the New Yorker Alex Ross gives us his notable performances and recordings of the year:

 The thousand-year-old, thousand-sided art form known as classical music hinges almost entirely on live performance. Catastrophically, the pandemic made a musical livelihood all but impossible. Organizations and individuals learned some new tricks with streaming, but no one could feed a family or care for a pet by posting videos. Those early indoor performances caught the heart all the more because they were the sound of work resuming. Statistics from recent years suggest that, before the pandemic, American orchestras and opera companies were together employing more than ninety thousand people. This is not a small cohort, and it excludes the thousands of freelancers who had no organizational reserves to fall back on when everything shut down. That evanescent shimmer is the labor of throats, lungs, arms, and hands.

Again, follow the link for a lot of interesting observations.

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Opera composer Matthew Aucoin has a book out:

Matthew Aucoin happily wrestles with multiple impossibilities in this highly personal book. In vivid, granular detail, he explores composers and operas he loves, from Claudio Monteverdi in 17th-century Italy to contemporary British composers Harrison Birtwistle and Thomas Adès. He also highlights the process of writing two of his own three operas: Crossing, a work about Walt Whitman dating from 2015, and Eurydice, which premiered in February 2020 at the Los Angeles Opera and made its Metropolitan Opera debut this fall. Now 31, Aucoin is one of classical music’s brightest stars—winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, cofounder of the innovative American Modern Opera Company, and a former Solti Conducting Apprentice at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He was 23 when the Met asked him to write an opera, starting him on the path to Eurydice.

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I didn't know that "Doom Metal" was a thing, but apparently it is: ‘Doom metal’ organist’s Paris show cancelled amid Catholic protests

Von Hausswolff’s primary instrument is the pipe organ, largely found in places of worship. British music publication the Quietus described the Swedish Grammy nominee’s output as exploring “unmapped territory where post-rock, prog, doom metal, modern classical and high church music all coexist in uneasy alliance”. Her lyrics have touched on gothic themes.

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Anthony Tommasini is bidding farewell as the principal classical music critic for the New York Times and his final column is a summing up:

after 18 perilous months when this art form seemed in danger of disappearing altogether, I love it more than ever. I want to protect it, as well as shake it up.

So what things about classical music shouldn’t change? I’ve been pondering this as I approach my departure after 21 years as the chief classical music critic of The New York Times.

It’s not inconsistent to fret over the fixation on a roster of familiar works while also extolling the repertory that’s been created over centuries. The staples are often staples for good reasons.

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We don't seem to have a clip of Susanna Mälkki conducting Bluebeard's Castle on YouTube, but here she is with Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta:


Here is Scott Ross playing the Gavotte with six doubles by Rameau:


And here is The Orphic Moment, a dramatic cantata by Matthew Aucoin:



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