Archive for September, 2009

Alicia De Larrocha Passes Away at 86

by: Colin Oettle

Alicia De Larrocha
Alicia De Larrocha passed away on Friday, leaving behind her two children and an enduring legacy as one of the greatest pianists of her time. Known for her expressive playing and mastery of Spanish music, De Larrocha enjoyed a lengthy career, retiring in 2003 at age 80. There is a charming obituary at the BBC here.

Gilbert Leads NY Phil as Music Director

Mother probably proud

by: Colin Oettle

Alan Gilbert reigned over the New York Philharmonic tonight for the first time as music director. Hosted by actor Alec Baldwin, the televised broadcast “Live from Lincoln Center” allowed millions to watch not only the NY Phil’s opening night, but its venture into a new era of leadership. Gilbert is not only the youngest-appointed music director, but also the first native New Yorker to hold the position.

The program began with the world premier of EXPO by Magnus Lindberg, the Phil’s composer-in-residence until 2011. Lindberg wrote the work knowing it would open the milestone season—the Phil’s 50th at Avery Fisher Hall.

EXPO was followed by Songs pour Mi—a song cycle by Olivier Messiaen. Sung by Renée Fleming, the song cycle is a portrait of Messiaen’s love for his wife, Claire Delbos, who he nicknamed Mi. Those watching the televised broadcast saw Fleming introduce the cycle with a pre-recorded speech, which outlined Messiaen’s relationship from his marriage to Delbos at 27 years old, to her institutionalization due to mental illness after the end of World War II.

Finally, the headlining work of the night was Symphony No. 1—or the Fantastic Symphony—by Hector Berlioz. Written only three years after Beethoven’s death, the work facilitated the exodus into Romanticism, as it’s massive orchestration and lush expression brought unrestricted emotive composition into the musical world. The work is programmatic—that is, it possesses a narrative—with notes written by Berlioz himself. Each of the five movements has a descriptive title, including the famous March to the Scaffold and Dream of a Witch’s Sabbath. As described by Berlioz, the piece tells the story of “an artist gifted with a lively imagination” who has “poisoned himself with opium” in the “depths of despair” out of “hopeless love.”

Alan Gilbert Opens NY Phil on Wednesday

New York Times is Skeptical

by: Colin Oettle

Alan Gilbert
On Wednesday night, conductor Alan Gilbert will put on his music director’s shoes as he takes the podium in Avery Fisher Hall—a step up which marks a new era in the New York Philharmonic. The maestro will lead a performance of Mahler’s third symphony EXPO by Magnus Lindberg, Songs Pour Mi by Oliver Messiaen, and Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique. While great expectations lie on Mr. Gilbert’s baton, one hopes the orchestra will take the opportunity to embrace its new leader, a fresh outlook, and renewed vigor.

Here is a great interview with Gilbert by Martin Steinberg (AP).

World’s Longest Piece of Music Performed in London

by: Colin Oettle

No One Alive Today Will Hear it End

Tibetan Singing Bowl
A 1,000 minute arrangement of The Longplayer, a 1,000-year-long piece of music by Jem Finer, is being performed live at The Roundhouse in London. Until now, the piece had only been generated and performed by computers at The Lighthouse in Trinity Buoy Wharf in London. The piece began December 31st 1999 and will be completed at the end of the year 2999.

This performance takes place in a 20 meter circle where musicians play 1,000 year old Tibetan Singing Bowls arranged in six concentric rings. In 2002, Finer created an arrangement of the piece—he wrote a score for the musicians and dictated the proper arrangement of the instruments. And in case you were wondering, 1,000 minutes is 16.667 hours. That is 1.90132588 x 10-6 the length of the complete work.

See the BBC article (and video) here.

WQXR Moves to 105.9 on October 8

by: Colin Oettle

With Live Broadcast at 8pm

WQXR, New York’s classical station, announced that its move from 96.3FM to 105.9FM will take place on October 8th, 2009 at 8:00PM EST. This frequency transplant comes as part of an FCC-approved three-way deal between New York Times Co., Univision, and WNYC—the nation’s largest public radio station. After 65 years of ownership, NYT Co. sold WQXR’s rights and namesake to WNYC, and the station’s spot at 96.3FM to Univision.

The new WQXR will launch with a live broadcast from Carnegie Hall on October 8th at 8pm. The performance by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra will feature the world premier of Concerto With Echoes by Aaron Jay Kernis, as well as works by Stravinsky, Webern, and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto played by Janine Jansen. The performance will be simulcast on 93.9FM, another station owned by WNYC.

WQXR will remain a 24/7 classical music station, but is to become fully listener-supported. The initial purchase is being supported by The Campaign to Preserve Classical Music Radio in New York City—a $15 million campaign co-chaired by Emanuel Ax. So far, the campaign has raised $7.2 million.

Click for the official WNYC press release.

Man Transcribes Bird Composition

by: Colin Oettle

Musical, not Corporal

While reading a newspaper, Jarbas Agnelli noticed a similarity between music staves and a photo of birds perched on power lines. Curious to see what the “notes” would sound like, Agnelli created a piece of music based on his observation.

Of course, the notes were instead birds who had perched on five evenly spaced power lines. He has since created a video, and set his music to the photo that initially inspired the transcription. Click to the full article to see the video. View Full Article »

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