Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Opera Lafayette gives the modern world premiere of Le Roi et le fermier

Opera Lafayette, the Washington, DC-based ensemble specializing in French 18th-century opera, will make history on January 26th when it presents the modern day world premiere of Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny's Le Roi et le fermier (The King and the Farmer) at the Rose Theater in New York City. The cast of singers includes Thomas Michael Allen (Le Roi), William Sharp (Le Fermier), Dominique Labelle (Jenny) and Jeffrey Thompson (Lurewel). The period instrument Opera Lafayette Orchestra will be conducted by the company's artistic director Ryan Brown.

Brown spoke with Ariama editor Craig Zeichner about Monsigny and the French  opéra comique.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Album Review: In the Beginning

The album’s title packs a double meaning. The musical theme of the program is beginnings and endings. The opening of the Book of Genesis (Aaron Copland) and the Gospel of John (Gabriel Jackson) take care of beginnings. The endings are covered by three settings of the canticle associated with Christian evening services, the Nunc dimittis (“Lord, lettest thy servant depart in peace”). There are also a number of lamentations on the death of King David’s son Absalom. On another level, this is the first album by the newly formed Choir of Merton College, Oxford, so it’s a beginning for them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Album Review: Mozart: Keyboard Music, Vol. 3

I never warmed to Mozart’s music for solo piano until I heard Kristian Bezuidenhout play it. I don’t know if the South African fortepianist intends to record Mozart’s entire keyboard oeuvre but, based on what I’ve heard in each volume of this series, I hope he takes a shot at it. This new volume features Bezuidenhout playing a Paul McNulty reproduction of an 1805 Walter instrument.

Two sonatas frame the program. The B-flat major, K. 333 opens the show and the F major, K. 332 closes it. The B-flat major was written in 1783, about the same time as the “Linz” Symphony. In the first movement Mozart stresses structure (moving away from the purely melody driven galant style) and the clarity of Bezuidenhout’s playing puts the composer’s blueprint in sharp relief.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alan Gilbert wants you to turn off your cell phone

It's pretty rare when a performance by the New York Philharmonic is covered on the local television newscasts or in the tabloids. But the orchestra and music director Alan Gilbert's performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony made the news the other night.

Steven Mackey talks composition and intersecting with Lady Gaga

Steven Mackey had the kind of 2011 composers dream about. In May, violinist Leila Josefowicz and the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel gave the West coast premiere of Mackey's Beautiful Passing.Two weeks later, Mackey strapped on his electric guitar and joined violinist Jennifer Koh and the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group conducted by John Adams for the premiere of his Four Iconoclastic Episodes. September saw the world premiere of Mackey's Stumble to Grace, a piano concerto written for Orli Shaham and performed by Shaham and the St. Louis Symphony conducted by David Robertson.
Mackey's year was capped in December by four Grammy nominations for the recording of his composition Lonely Motel. "It's the only time in my life that my professional life will intersect with Bon Iver not to mention Lady Gaga," said Mackey.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Album Review: Liszt Lieder

Click to sample and buy the album

This album of Liszt songs sung by soprano Diana Damrau accompanied by pianist Helmut Deutsch comes to us at the end of the Liszt anniversary year. It’s one of those rare albums that present relatively unfamiliar music by a very well known composer in performances that may not ever be surpassed.

Liszt wrote approximately 80 songs, mostly setting German texts (Schiller, Heine, Goethe, Lenau are the noteworthy poets here) but also Italian (Petrarch), Hungarian, Russian and even English. It’s difficult to say why his songs aren’t more popular. Certainly his other works overshadowed them, but as Andrew Huth points out in his excellent liner notes, the songs are also quite difficult.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Some Enchanted Evening

David Daniels and Joyce DiDonato, photo by Nick Heavican/Met Opera
The Enchanted Island, a pastiche of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with music by Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau and others, may not look like such a great idea on paper. But when you factor in some A+ list singers, a superstar conductor, spectacular staging and a clever libretto (setting new words to the old arias and recitatives), you have the makings of an enchanted evening.