Bernd Alois Zimmermann would have been one hundred today. Mark Berry, in the New York Times, has a discerning overview of the great German composer, whose works bear unflinching witness to the darkest of centuries. I wrote about Die Soldaten in 1995 and 2008.
Brian Ferneyhough’s joyously terrifying 1979 work La Terre est un homme is featured on a new NMC release. Play it loud.
The richly appointed new season of Mostly Mozart includes Ashley Fure’s The Force of Things, John Adams and Lucinda Childs’s Available Light (with sets by Frank Gehry), Bernstein’s Mass, Michael Pisaro’s A wave and waves, and a big new outdoor choral piece by John Luther Adams…. JLA’s Become Desert, the quasi-sequel to Become Ocean, has its première at the Seattle Symphony March 29-31 and travels to Berkeley’s Cal Performances April 7-8. He writes about the new score in Slate…. From March 22 to 24, the Wandelweiser-oriented series A Place to Listen in NYC presents a Gentle Traces Festival, with Antoine Beuger at the center of the festivities…. On March 10, the SEM Ensemble will reprise their famous performance of Feldman’s For Philip Guston at their Willow Place headquarters in Brooklyn. I reviewed their 1995 performance of the piece for the New York Times…. In conjunction with Carnegie Hall’s 1960s festival, MoMA is devoting a series to the avant-garde film score. There’s some fabulously rare material on offer here, including Jean Mitry’s Symphonie mécanique, with a score by Boulez…. From March 14-18 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NYC, the choreographer Jody Oberfelder and the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra present Kurt Weill’s Zaubernacht, using the recently rediscovered original Weill orchestrations…. Meredith Monk’s new work Cellular Songs plays at BAM March 14-18… The very belated world première of Jón Leifs’s Edda II: The Lives of the Gods takes place at the Iceland Symphony on March 23. There will be a broadcast on March 29…. Analog Arts presents all twenty-one completed parts of Stockhausen’s KLANG in Philadelphia April 7-8…. Opera Omaha’s adventurous ONE Festival includes Missy Mazzaoli’s Proving Up, Cherubini’s Medea, and Handel’s Ariodante…. Among this year’s offerings at Microfest in LA are Daniel Corral’s Polytope and Harry Partch’s Daphne of the Dunes — the latter receiving its first live performance.
Split Personality. The New Yorker, March 12, 2018.
Salvatore Martirano’s hallucinatory anti-war piece L’s GA, in which a narrator recites Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address while inhaling nitrous oxide and helium, was given a potent revival tonight at an LA Phil Green Umbrella concert, with the performance artist Ron Athey in the starring role. The program, under the direction of John Adams, also included Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s AURA, Andrew McIntosh’s luminous new brass-ensemble piece Shasta, and Julius Eastman’s Evil Nigger.
Palace Intrigue. The New Yorker, Feb. 26, 2018.
Lully, Alceste; Judith Van Wanroij, Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro, Ambroisine Bré, Douglas Williams, Étienne Bazola, Bénédicte Tauran, Lucía Martín Cartón, Enguerrand de Hys, Christophe Rousset conducting Les Talens Lyriques and the Chamber Choir of Namur (Aparte)
Claude Balbastre, Pièces de Clavecin, Book I; Christophe Rousset (Aparte)
Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet, Nightfall (Nonesuch)
Lou Harrison, Young Caesar; Adam Fisher, Hadleigh Adams, Bruce Vilanch, Nancy Maultsby, Delaram Kamareh, Timur, Marc Lowenstein conducting the LA Phil New Music Group and the Los Angeles Master Chorale (The Industry)
John Luther Adams, Everything That Rises: JACK Quartet (Cold Blue)
Sándor Veress, String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2, String Trio; Doelen Quartet (Cybele)
LULU: Although for my sake a man may kill himself or kill others, my value still remains what it was.
Previously: An Alban Berg Valentine, Another Alban Berg Valentine, Yet Another Alban Berg Valentine, Return of Alban Berg Valentine, Nothing says forever like an Alban Berg valentine, Alban Berg Valentine (10th anniversary edition), Alban Berg Valentine (2017 edition).
The 2018-19 season announcements for American orchestras have, for the most part, presented a bleakish picture of the state of the art. One index of backward thinking is a lack of female composers. If an orchestra is programming few female composers, it is almost certainly playing little new music, since any serious consideration of the music of our time would have to have to include a large number of women. If an orchestra is programming no female composers — as is the case, in announcements so far made, for the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Houston Symphony — something is very wrong. (Chicago has yet to announce its MusicNOW series.) Lisa Hirsch, a longtime monitor of such trends, is keeping tabs; Zoë Madonna muses intelligently on the wider issues, providing a link to a wise Twitter thread by Douglas Shadle. All this relates to issues I brought up in my Florence Price column last week. A lack of non-white composers is another index of backward thinking. If an orchestra is confining itself to music of the late eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, the lineup is going to be as white and male as an alt-right torchlight parade.
The Detroit Symphony is one notable exception to this trend, having included five women among twelve living composers in its 2018-19 season. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, not unexpectedly, is another. America’s leading orchestra announced today its centennial season. It also unveiled a new website, causing me some dismay, but I’ll leave that aside for now. (The latest iteration of my perpetual complaint about orchestra websites can be found here.) The orchestra has, first of all, commissioned more than fifty pieces from a splendidly diverse group of composers: Julia Adolphe, Daniel Allas, Timo Andres, Julianna Barwick, Eve Beglarian, Ethan Braun, Carolyn Chen, Anthony Cheung, Billy Childs, Unsuk Chin, Christopher Cerrone, Ann Cleare, Donnacha Dennehy, Paul Desenne, Natacha Diels, Bryce Dessner, Francesco Filidei, Ashley Fure, Philip Glass, Adolphus Hailstork, Arnulf Herrmann, Anders Hillborg, Vijay Iyer, George Lewis, Michelle Lou, Dylan Mattingly, Nico Muhly, Jeffrey Mumford, Hitomi Oba, Gabriela Ortiz, Hermeto Pascoal, André Previn, Ellen Reid, Yann Robin, Christopher Rountree, Tyshawn Sorey, Miroslav Srnka, Christopher Stark, Steven Takasugi, Tina Tallon, Toivo Tulev, Pēteris Vasks, Freya Waley-Cohen, George Walker, Kamasi Washington, Lotta Wennäkoski, Julia Wolfe, and Pamela Z. A few of the bigger offerings: a piano concerto by John Adams, with the delightful title Why Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes; new orchestral pieces by Thomas Adès, Louis Andriessen, Steve Reich, and Andrew Norman; the US premières of Kaija Saariaho’s harp concerto Trans and Tan Dun’s Buddha Passion; and a Chinese-opera piece by Du Yun.
Perhaps the most significant gesture of the entire season is the long-awaited arrival of Meredith Monk’s long-unheard masterpiece ATLAS, under the direction of Yuval Sharon, completing his three-year term as the LA Phil’s artist-in-residence. Sharon will also direct Cage’s Europeras 1 and 2 — a project that ties in with a season-long concentration on the work of Fluxus. Esa-Pekka Salonen will lead a nine-day Stravinsky festival and begin a multi-season exploration of the music of the Weimar Republic (as he is doing at the Philharmonia). Zubin Mehta and André Previn return to their former stomping ground; Michael Tilson Thomas begins a deeper association with his hometown orchestra. Something I’m particularly excited about is a theatrical version of The Tempest, with Sibelius’s extraordinarily inventive late-period score; this is an undertaking by Susanna Mälkki, the Phil’s principal guest conductor. Gustavo Dudamel will be much in evidence in a season-opening LA Fest, which includes evenings devoted to Andrew Bird, Moby, and Herbie Hancock. Benjamin Millepied choreographs a new Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet. A series of programs examines the music of William Grant Still in the context of the Harlem Renaissance. Eric Owens and Lawrence Brownlee sing a program of spirituals and arias. There will be installations, projections on the exterior of Disney, a celebratory street festival stretching from the hall to the Hollywood Bowl. Mark Swed, in the LA Times, risks hyperbole when he writes, “No orchestra has ever come close to the ambition of this centennial season.” But it’s hard to think of an immediate counterexample.