Nico Muhly’s third opera, Marnie, can be heard on BBC 3. It arrives at the Met next season.
At the New Yorker website may be found my list of Notable Performances and Recordings of 2017.
The Rest Is Noise Person of the Year is Tyshawn Sorey. Oh, do not ask, “What is it?” Let us go and listen to it.
My favorite music book of 2017 was Tim Rutherford-Johnson’s Music After the Fall: Modern Composition and Culture since 1989 (University of California Press). This remarkable feat of synthesis and analysis, about which I’ll write in The New Yorker in the near future, has fundamentally changed my vision of the music of our time. No one who seriously follows contemporary music should be without it.
Other notable books on music: Harvey Sachs, Toscanini: Musician of Conscience (Liveright); Damon Krukowski, The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World (The New Press); Severine Neff, Maureen Carr, and Gretchen Horlacher, eds., “The Rite of Spring” at 100 (Indiana UP); Alice Goodman, History Is Our Mother: Three Libretti (New York Review); Kyle Gann, Charles Ives’s Concord: Essays after a Sonata (Illinois UP); Bill Alves and Brett Campbell, Lou Harrison: American Musical Maverick (Indiana UP); Seth Brodsky, From 1989, or European Music and the Modernist Unconscious (University of California Press); Bethany Beardslee and Minna Proctor, I Sang the Unsingable: My Life in Twentieth-Century Music (Boydell and Brewer); Celia Applegate, The Necessity of Music: Variations on a German Theme (University of Toronto Press); Annegret Fauser, Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring (Oxford).
Photo by Adam Crane.
Esa-Pekka Salonen, who is seen above on the Santa Monica beach in 2008. will be the subject of a Total Immersion program at the Barbican on Sunday. The day will culminate in BBC Symphony performances of Wing on Wing, Mimo II, and Karawane…. Tremendous news from the University of Buffalo Music Library: they have received a grant to preserve recordings of more than six hundred works performed in Buffalo between 1964 and 1980, with emphasis on the legacy of the legendary Creative Associates collective. The trove includes more than a dozen documents of Julius Eastman…. The Torrance Art Museum, in Torrance, California, is launching a new series called TAM Activated. On Sunday it presents the virtuoso avant-trombonist Matt Barbier, in a program of Franzson, Czernowin, and Michelle Lou…. In the New Yorker, Hua Hsu writes beautifully about Björk’s new album Utopia.
Michael Cooper reports in the New York Times that three men have now come forward with allegations that James Levine sexually abused them when they were teenagers. The Met has responded by suspending the conductor from all future engagements at the house, including the new Tosca that is scheduled to open on New Year’s Eve. This would seem to be the end of Levine’s career. The consequences for the Met, and for classical music more widely, remain to be seen. For the moment, it is enough to read this harrowing story and register the awfulness of what Levine appears to have done.
I have begun compiling my end-of-year list of notable performances and recordings. The following recordings will appear on it:
Tyshawn Sorey, Verisimilitude (Pi)
Divine Theatre: works of Giaches de Wert; Stile Antico (Harmonia Mundi)
Bach, Solo Cello Suites; Thomas Demenga (ECM)
Jürg Frey, Collection Gustave Roud; Frey, Stefan Thut, Dante Boon, Andrew McIntosh, Regula Konrad, Stephen Altoft, Lee Ferguson (another timbre)
James Weeks, Mala Punica; Exaudi (Winter & Winter)
Scott Wollschleger, Soft Aberration; Longleash, Anne Lanzilotti, Karl Larson, Andy Kozar, Corrine Byrne, John Popham, Mivos Quartet (New Focus)
Linda Catlin Smith, Drifter and other works; Apartment House, Bozzini Quartet (another timbre)
Berlioz, Les Troyens; Joyce DiDonato, Michael Spyres, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Stéphane Degout, Nicolas Courjal, Marianne Crebassa, Hanna Hipp, Cyrille Dubois, Stanislas de Barbeyrac, Philippe Sly, John Nelson conducting the Choeur de l’Opéra du Rhin, Badischer Staatsopernchor, orchestra and chorus of the Philharmonique de Strasbourg (Erato)
Michael Pisaro playing Pauline Oliveros’s Bye Bye Butterfly.
On Nov. 30, the Talea Ensemble will come to the Italian Academy in NYC to give the American première of FACE, a major new seventy-minute voice-and-ensemble work by Pierluigi Billone, one of the more original composers on the world stage. Talea will bring the piece to Los Angeles’s venerable Monday Evening Concerts on Dec. 4, where they will share the bill with Ensemble Vocatrix singing selections from Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo virtutum…. The Renaissance ensemble Sonnambula is focusing this season on Women’s Voices. At the Academy of Arts and Letters on Dec. 21, it will devote a program to Leonora Duarte, a Jewish Converso who lived in Antwerp and wrote seven Sinfonias for viol consort. A recording will follow…. The UnCaged toy piano festival will unfold at various venues in NYC from Dec. 8 to 14. Among the highlights is an all-toy-piano version of Terry Riley’s In C…. On Dec. 2, Yarn/Wire will give world premières of Klaus Lang’s molten trees and Michelle Lou’s Different Furs…. Tom Morris will complete his tenure as the artistic director of the Ojai Festival in 2019. He deserves warmest congratulations for his superb stewardship of one of the world’s major new-music festivals…. I will give two talks at Johns Hopkins next week: on Dec. 5 at 6pm, at Gilman Hall, “Wagner’s Shadow: Music, Literature, and the Birth of the Modern”; and on Dec. 6 at noon, at Peabody, “Composers, Critics, and the Weight of the Past.”
My beloved great-aunt Cleo died on Monday at the age of ninety-eight. She would not have approved of any sort of elaborate memorial; she wished to depart with a minimum of fuss. Still, I feel compelled to pay tribute to someone who from a very early age had an exalted presence in my life. She was the last surviving child of the Rev. Basilios Lambrides, who was born in Varna, Bulgaria, in 1867; was ordained at Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; and earned a doctorate of divinity at the University of Jena. He came to America in 1906 and led Greek Orthodox churches variously in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Georgia, Utah, Alabama, Washington DC, and Massachusetts. Cleo grew up in Boston and studied art at the Museum School, where she met her lifelong friend Esther Geller, a noted exponent of encaustic painting. (Cleo introduced Esther to her husband, the composer Harold Shapero.) Cleo produced striking abstract canvases with a Baroque richness of color and intricate, arboreal geometries. In 1942 she survived the horrific Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston. Soon after she married the pioneering plastic surgeon Richard Webster, and spent the remainder of her life in a vast, rambling house in Brookline, stocked with her artwork, gems and minerals, Uncle Richard’s prized collection of snuffboxes, an extraordinarily large trophy sailfish, and various other items suitable for museum display. This household would inspire awe when our family would pass through on summer vacations. Cleo spoke in a vaguely Boston Brahmin accent that harked a hundred years. She was not, however, grand in manner; she was filled with curiosity about a world that inevitably came to seem remote to her, especially as she had trouble with her vision. She remained in reasonably good health right to the end. Her mind and spirit were brilliantly intact, her voice booming out in a grainy mezzo. I would be in a good mood for hours after every conversation with her: she was a fixed point of character, warm and keen, sage and frank. I can’t believe I won’t hear her voice again: “Hello Ahlexahnder…” If only we could all grow old while changing so little.
Deepest condolences to the Webster daughters: Cassandra, Kathryne, Heather, and Martha. Heather took the picture above at Cleo’s ninety-third birthday party.