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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

Making up a bit for not personally attending the Salzburg Festival this year is this ample New York Times Review: At the Salzburg Festival, Riches, Retreads and Notes of Caution

The premiere of a new production of Janacek’s opera “Kat’a Kabanova” had just ended at the Salzburg Festival here last week. When the lights went up, Kristina Hammer, the festival’s new president, was wiping tears off her cheeks.

It was hard to blame her for crying. “Kat’a” is a breathless tragedy about a small-town woman trapped in a loveless marriage and driven to suicide after having a brief affair. Janacek’s music stamps out her ethereal fantasies with the brutal fist of reality.

Barrie Kosky’s staging was the highlight of a week at Salzburg, classical music’s pre-eminent annual event, which runs through Aug. 31. Kosky has pared down this pared-down work even further, to its core of quivering human beings.

Yes, this is the kind of performance that one goes to Salzburg for.

The other opera in the relatively intimate Haus für Mozart this summer also takes a hint from the movies: Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” framed by the director Lydia Steier like “The Princess Bride,” with a grandfather telling the story to a young child — here, three boys. As when this staging was new, in 2018, this is a clever way of super-compressing the work’s extensive spoken dialogue.

Four years ago, the production sprawled in the festival’s largest theater; now it’s been smushed into its smallest. Steier has wisely jettisoned a whole strand of steampunk circus imagery and concentrated more on the plot as a parable of the start of World War I, with “Little Nemo” touches. It’s subtle work as the boys gradually become participants in the action, not merely observers. The Philharmonic played under Joana Mallwitz with an ideal mixture of crispness and roundedness.

Salzburg has not one, but two opera houses, side by side. The large Felsenreitschule and the smaller Haus für Mozart. These are right next to the Big Festival Concert Hall. But there are other venues as well such as the Grosses Saal at the Mozarteum where every weekend the Mozarteum Orchestra performs and the Kollegienkirche where several concerts devoted to the music of Morton Feldman were held.

More memorable was a less exalted, less widely publicized concert: one of the festival’s 11 a.m. weekend Mozart Matinees featuring the Mozarteum Orchestra. These mornings often have the most joyful, vibrant playing of the festival, and last week’s program was no exception, led with verve by Adam Fischer.

The Mozart Matinees are well attended and happily received. But they still feel like a Salzburg secret.

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 FREE OPERA OF THE WEEK – ORIGINAL AND EXCLUSIVE FROM ENGLAND’S BAYREUTH

Slippedisc courtesy of OperaVision streams live from the Longborough Festival Opera, known  as the British Bayreuth.  This is the bucolic backdrop for this new production by Amy Lane which celebrates the natural world. Renowned Wagnerian Anthony Negus conducts a cast of the UK’s leading Wagnerian singers.

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From The Guardian: Bring that beat back: why are people in their 30s giving up on music?

There are many things you notice as you plow deeper into your 30s. It’s a transitional period with incredibly visible milestones: babies, weddings, houses, more babies. What gets added to people’s lives can feel loud and inescapable – but often what drifts away is less visible.

For the last few years, I have felt the inescapable disappearance of music from my friends’ lives. Even people with whom I have longstanding relationships that were born from a shared love of music have simply let it go, or let it fade deep into the background. A 2015 study of people’s listening habits on Spotify found that most people stop listening to new music at 33; a 2018 report by Deezer had it at 30. In my 20s, the idea that people’s appetite to consume new music regularly would be switched off like some kind of tap was ludicrous. However, now I’m 36, it’s difficult to argue with.

* * *

Together on the Way: An interview with composer Eva-Maria Houben

Some people say to me: “Eva-Maria, you write so many compositions! How can you do that?” And I say, “It’s because I do not stop: I’m always composing.” If I ride my bicycle or if I go for a swim or if I sit in the garden listening to the birds, I’m always composing: it’s a form of life. When I’m on my bike or swimming, I compose in my head, and then I can sit and write. But I do not distinguish between composing in my head and composing on paper or on the computer.  And so I work on many pieces, sometimes simultaneously. I do not revise a piece when it’s concluded: it’s gone, and people perform it. I do not take it back and then work on it again. And I do not have the vision that I could create a perfect piece or the one and only piece. Every piece is one piece within a long row of pieces; it’s one step on a way that can never be finished.

* * *

Upending Expectations for Indigenous Music, Noisily

Raven Chacon wasn’t sure he should accept the commission that would soon earn him the Pulitzer Prize for music. A Milwaukee ensemble had asked Chacon — a Diné composer, improviser and visual artist born on the edge of the Navajo Nation — to write a piece for its annual Thanksgiving concert in 2021, slated for a 175-year-old cathedral downtown. The offer smacked of cliché, another act of holiday tokenism.

“My impulse is to turn down any Thanksgiving invitation, not because I’m anti-Thanksgiving but because that’s the only time we get asked to do stuff,” Chacon, 44, said in a recent phone interview.

But he slowly reconsidered, recognizing that performing on Thanksgiving in a cathedral (with an enormous pipe organ, no less) offered a rare opportunity to address the Catholic Church’s violent role in the conquest of Native Americans. He penned “Voiceless Mass” and, at the premiere, positioned violinists, flutists and percussionists around the seated audience, their parts cresting through a hangdog drone.

* * *

And now for some envois. First up an excerpt from a piece by Eva-Maria Houben for organ, piano and percussion:


Next, excerpts from Janacek's Kat'a Kabanova:


Finally, Yuri Bashmet with Glinka's Viola Sonata:




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