Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Enduringly Dramatic Italian Soprano Magda Olivero Dies At 104

One of the last great Italian divas, and one of opera's most thrilling voices, has finally gone silent. Soprano Magda Olivero died in Milan, Italy today, according to multiple media organizations including the newspaper La Repubblica. She was 104. Olivero never had a glitzy recording career, but she did have something her contemporaries didn't: longevity. She sang in public for more than seven decades.

I first heard Olivero almost three decades ago on one of her hard-to-get bootlegged live recordings, and I immediately fell for her unique sound.

But don't take my word for it. Renée Fleming, one of today's reigning divas, is so crazy about Olivero that she made a pilgrimage to Milan to see her when the older soprano was a spry 94.  watch/listen/read

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Maryland Ban on Grain Alcohol Hurts Violin Makers

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Binge drinkers and frat boys aren't the only ones despairing over Maryland's new ban on grain alcohol: Violin makers who used the liquor to make varnish are also affected.

Silver Spring violin maker Howard Needham tells The Washington Post that nothing works better than Everclear grain alcohol for making the varnishes he uses to repair chipped or broken musical instruments. He's been hoarding whatever grain alcohol he can get his hands on since the ban took effect last month.

Other violin makers report similar concerns.

Atlanta Symphony Labor Talks Approach Nervous Crescendo

In news that has an aura of deja-vu about it, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and its musicians have been in contract talks for eight months and are now approaching a September 6 deadline that is prompting murmurs of an impasse.

It was at this time in 2012 that the orchestra – battling a projected $5 million budget deficit and mounting debt – hit a stalemate and locked out its musicians for four weeks. When two sides settled, musicians agreed to a two-year contract that included a 16 percent pay cut; the length of the season was reduced and the size of the orchestra trimmed, from 93 to 88 players. more

Thursday, August 21, 2014

You’re An Artist, Not An Entrepreneur

entrepreneur
On October 2, 2012, the MacArthur Foundation named Claire Chase, CEO and artistic director of the International Contemporary Ensemble, a MacArthur Fellow. It was a half-million dollar[1] stamp on an
increasingly prominent buzzword in new music: entrepreneurship.

Where 2011 MacArthur Fellow Francisco Núñez was simply described as a “Choral Conductor & Composer” and 2013 Fellow Jeremy Denk as “Pianist and Writer,” Chase was given the distinction of being an “Arts Entrepreneur.” The foundation recognized her in part for “forging a new model for the commissioning, recording, and live performance of contemporary classical music.” This was the future of music.

Since then, entrepreneurial programs in conservatories have earned a new degree of recognition and legitimacy, while the (increasingly few) schools without such programs seem to be behind the curve. What was once a possible alternative to the increasingly scarce “traditional” jobs for musicians has become the de facto model for conservatory graduates. “Can’t find a job? Make one!” is the new motto. More

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Symphony guide: Vaughan Williams's A Pastoral Symphony

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams … Vindicating his personal vision.

“It’s really wartime music – a great deal of it incubated when I used to go up night after night in the ambulance wagon at Ecoivres and we went up a steep hill and there was wonderful Corot-like landscape in the sunset. It’s not really lambkins frisking at all, as most people take for granted.”

Ralph Vaughan Williams was talking about one of his most controversial and misunderstood pieces, A Pastoral Symphony, his third, which he completed in 1922. It’s easy to see where the confusion comes from: here is that master of nostalgic evocation calling a piece “pastoral”, immediately asking audiences to hear it – you’d have thought – as the acme of all things quaintly, gently rustic, the sound of an imagined idyll of English landscape turned into sound. More

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dett finds the roots of an American classical style






On Wednesday, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra resurrects R. Nathaniel Dett’s compact but ambitiously innovative 1919 oratorio “The Chariot Jubilee.” Born in Ontario in 1882, Dett accomplished much. He was Oberlin College’s first African-American music graduate. He led the music department at Virginia’s Hampton Institute for nearly 20 years. While on a Harvard sabbatical — during which “The Chariot Jubilee” was premiered, by the Boston Cecilia — his influential four-part essay on “Negro Music” won the university’s Bowdoin Prize. He was the model of a serious, early-20th-century African-American musician. More