Monday, August 29, 2016
Egos often get in the way of making great music. Yesterday I saw an example where the music got priority, and egos did not play a role. As a result the listener received the benefit. I heard a performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, as performed by violinist Hilary Hahn. What a wonderful performance that was! One major reason for my enjoyment was that Ms. Hahn played certain sections at a slightly slower tempo, and this provided a wonderful level of intimacy to music that has been performed so often. A key factor that drove this success was the conductor. He let the soloist decide on the tempo, and he provided the expert leadership to have the orchestra support the soloist as she unfolded this wonderful music for us. Here is Ms. Hahn in this amazing presentation:
Royal Albert Hall, London Katherine Broderick shone in a complete version of Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while soloist Alisa Weilerstein stood up to the demands of Pintscher’s explosive Reflections of NarcissusOpportunities to hear Mendelssohn’s incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream in its entirety are rare, though a handful of extracts – the Overture, Scherzo, Nocturne and the ubiquitous Wedding March – are popular concert pieces. But there’s much more to it than these, including a sequence of melodramas (consisting of music written to accompany speech), two songs with chorus, and an odd little comic-grotesque funeral march in the play-within-a-play sequence.This year’s Shakespeare celebrations inspired this Proms performance of the whole score in a version devised by Gerard McBurney, incorporating (with the help of half a dozen skilful actors) some of the original context for the music. Continue reading...
Proms 46 and 48 with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra making their welcome annual visit to the Royal Albert Hall, London. Since the BBC SSO is second only to the BBC SO in the BBC stable of orchestras, this pair of Proms were special occasions. This year, they played not with their usual Chief but with Ivan Volkov, Chief Emeritus and Matthias Pintscher. Those familiar with these conductors would be on alert, since Volkov and Pintscher are both leading specialists in contemporary music. Hence the unusual programmes : Grisey with Mahler and Mozart, Pintscher and Mendelssohn. Volkov is passionate about Gérard Grisey, one of the most iconic figures in modern music, who left work of strikingly original quality. For more, read Liam Cagney's informative piece on Grisey here and lots more on this blog, if you click the label "Grisey" below. Grisey himself described Dérives (1974/5) as the movement of a boat, adapting to waves and currents, its trajectory identifiable by points of juncture between the small ensembles . "Ces différentes dérives reflètent une même intention : composer non plus l’objet, mais le passage d’un objet à un autre et son évolution. Ceci n’empêche nullement de contrôler la nature de l’objet sonore que l’on manipule, mais il ne prend son sens que dans le temps, inséré dans un contexte qui le définit. Le chemin parcouru est plus important que le véhicule." Dérives began with long, searching planes, tiny incidents in the background gradually coming into prominence. This sense of inner stillness operates on your mind much in the way that deep meditation releases you from the detritus of noise that passes for much of life. Gradually a rocking rhythm emerges, intercepted by a crashing sound, not sufficient t disrupt the calm equilibrium. More extended chords, so rarified they seem to flow into each other like liquids, interjecting chords adding spiky definition. The pace picks up suddenly, whips of angular sound, then darker longer chords but the crystalline serenity continues, as if the orchestra were creating an invisible nbeing levitaing itself above the stage. is less complex than Les espaces acoutiques, written soon after but the germ of the idea is already present. Wonderfully restrained, glistening playing The BBCSSOare second only to the BBC SO in the BBC stable of orchestras , but they're unique in smaller scale, intense and esoteric works like this. I wish they'd do more. Pity the Proms don't do justice to really fine music like this, but at least they bring Grisey to the attention of a mass audience. While this performance of Mahler's Rückert-Lieder was more routine than rewarding, it concluded with Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, linking to Grisey's luminous Dérives. Haunted still by thoughts of Grisey, I could not help feeling a frisson . Grisey's final masterpiece, Quatre chants for fraîchir la seule deals with a similar kind of ethereal transcendance. The soloist was Tania Ariane Baumgartner, whom I've heard only once before, she's quite young. Volkov and the BBC SSO concluded with Mozart's Mass in C minor, or rather a new completion thereof. It's Mass-lite, breezy and youthful. Baumgartner was joined by Louise Alder, Carolyn Sampson, Benjamin Hulett, Matthew Rose and the BBC Symphony Chorus.
Not long ago I waxed enthusiastic about an all-Ginastera programme by the Sinfónica Juvenil Nacional José de San Martín led by Mario Benzecry. Now I welcome a splendid combination of two scores by these forces at the Blue Whale: that surprising cantata by Mendelssohn, "The First Night of Walpurgis"; and one of the greatest symphonic challenges, Gustav Holst´s magisterial "The Planets". The cantata has been heard in recent years and I´m glad that it no longer is a rarity, for I find it the most dynamic and dramatic work of choir and orchestra from this fundamental Romantic composer, only comparable to some bits of the great oratorio "Elijah" though very different. Although I´ve written before about this "Walpurgis" (on Goethe´s text) it´s worth remembering the main facts (unfortunately those that went to the concert got no help at all: neither comments nor texts). It starts with a long and tumultuous Overture called "Das schlechte Wetter" ("Bad weather"). And then, the cantata recounting a reunion of pagans and druids to celebrate the feast of the first Night of Walpurgis; they disguise themselves as demons to rout intruding Christians. A tenor recitative with chorus celebrates the coming of Spring; an old woman warns about the chastisements they might suffer if discovered by Christians. A Druid Priest wants to prepare a sacrifice; a choir of Druid Guards tells that they will protect the attenders; a Druid Guard calls for disguise. A rhythmic, ominous Choir "Come with points and pitchforks" gets more and more intense, until the final words, "owls and ravens, howl with us, and scare the cravens". Now the Druid Priest leads the celebration, and shortly after the Christians think they see Demons and run away. The final music is majestic: "Unclouded now, the flame is bright!". This half hour of fantasmagory is a masterpìece, and it had a `performance to remember. Benzecry gave to each number the exact weight and dramatic sense, the orchestra played beautifully, and the Coro Lagun Onak, 50-strong, led by Rubén Pesce, was in very good form. Of the soloists I was particularly impressed by Alejandro Meerapfel whose powerful voice and command of style were ideal. Tenor Ricardo González Dorrego and mezzosoprano Victoria Correa Dupuy are very experienced artists who gave their best. In Great Britain Holst´s "The Planets" was always considered an amazing feat of imagination and orchestration, but it was only in the Long Play era that the score came into its own with dozens of recordings by British and foreign conductors. It was Eduardo Mata that revealed the work to our concert audiences; I believe it was in 1974. Since then it has been done several times, but not quite enough: perhaps because Holst incorporates a small treble choir in the final three minutes (that may also be the reason that foreign orchestras have never played it here). The suite is in seven contrasting parts each with its character. "Mars, the bringr of War" has tremendous impact. "Venus, the bringer of Peace" is serene. "Mercury, the Winged Messager" is, well, mercurial..."Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity", is a splendid concatenation of melodies in different speeds. "Saturn, the bringer of Old Age", is appropriately mournful. "Uranus, the Magician", after its forceful beginning, a scherzo full of surprises. And "Neptune, the Mystic" is slow and metaphysic, ending with just the voices. Benzecry showed the confidence he has in his young charges, for only quality orchestras can do justice to such a creation. But the conductor seems to be going through an Indian Summer, for at 79, spry and communicative, he didn´t put a foot wrong: everything was played according to Holst´s indications. And the orchestra responded with admirable solidity, with never a moment of hesitation, and with high technical ability. On this showing, the Juvenil San Martín is clearly our best Youth Orchestra and can play as well as the B.A.Phil or the National Symphony. The feminine sector of the Coro Polifónico Nacional de Ciegos (Osvaldo Manzanelli) sang nicely. A final phrase: how incredibly modern is this 1916 score coming from what was musically a very conservative country. So, we commemorate its centenary. For Buenos Aires Herald
The New York Choral Society (NYChoral) is a vibrant, ever-renewing musical community which believes in the power of music to impact all lives, enriches the cultural life of New York and beyond through the world-class quality and artistic creativity of our performances, and is committed to delivering excellence to our singers, our audiences, and our supporters. An essential force in the New York choral scene since its founding in 1959, the 175-voice strong NYChoral is widely known for the outstanding artistic quality of its performances and the diversity of its repertoire, which encompasses choral masterworks as well as rarely performed and new compositions. In 2012 David Hayes joined NYChoral as its fourth Music Director (MD). Under his visionary leadership, NYChoral’s performances have included Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ, the New York premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s The Singing Rooms, John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls, Paul Hindemith’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d, Mendelssohn’s St. Paul, Arvo Pärt’s Te Deum and in May 2016 a performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt. In addition to its regular season appearances at Carnegie Hall, NYChoral has appeared at every major venue in the New York City area, including Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, Madison Square Garden, NJPAC, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. NYChoral is frequently in demand as guest artists and appearances have included the Richard Tucker Music Foundation Gala since 1993, numerous appearances with Andrea Bocelli, Opera Orchestra of New York, New York Youth Symphony, American Ballet Theater, and many others. International concert tours have included China, Greece, Italy, France, Mexico, Austria, Hungry, Israel, and the Czech Republic. Please visit our website at www.nychoral.org for more information about NYChoral. Position Summary The Executive Director (ED), newly recast as a full-time position, is responsible for oversight and management of all administrative aspects of NYChoral, including, but not limited to, fundraising, marketing, board interaction and development, and day-to-day operations. This position reports to the Board of Trustees (BOT) and works in partnership with the MD and volunteer staff. In September 2015, NYChoral adopted a three-year strategic plan and supporting implementation plan. The ED will be expected to work in conjunction with the BOT to achieve the goals and initiatives of the strategic plan with an emphasis on fundraising and development. Since its founding, NYChoral has been primarily managed by dedicated volunteers from within the chorus membership. In order to accomplish its strategic plan and related goals, the organization has determined that a transition to professional management is now necessary, starting with the engagement of a full-time ED. The successful candidate will be flexible and sensitive to this dynamic, and will have the ability to provide leadership and guidance, yet work in a collaborative manner with both volunteer staff and Board while overseeing the transition to an operating model that reflects the organization’s mission, goals, and values. Duties and Responsibilities The ED will be responsible for directly executing or overseeing volunteers/staff in the execution of the duties and responsibilities outlined below. It is expected that some tasks will begin immediately upon the start of employment while other responsibilities will be rolled out over the first 3-5 years. Development and Fundraising Develop, coordinate, and execute a comprehensive strategy of financial development and support, including cultivating, securing, and sustaining new sources of revenue from individual, corporate, foundation, and governmental sources. Secure funding for specific projects/programs/concerts Organizing events, including the annual gala, donor cultivation, and other events. Prepare grant requests and reports. Work with the BOT to establish and support committees to implement fundraising initiatives. Governance, Management, and Finance Direct and manage all aspects of the organization’s finances, operations, budget, and administration to ensure fiscal responsibility and the most effective use of resources. Work directly with the Treasurer on budget preparation and approval, and manage financial operations in accordance with the budget and governmental regulations. Determine upcoming season with MD and administrative costs. Monitor expenses to budget line items; coordinate proper expense allocations with Treasurer. Comply with all local, state, and federal tax regulations, and prepare and file reports as needed. Prepare and present regular financial reports to the BOT and identify potential issues. Oversee short- and long-range planning while ensuring alignment with the strategic plan; engage BOT, music staff, and volunteer staff in periodic planning sessions. Collaborate with the BOT to cultivate and recruit new potential Board members. Support and advise the board in the regular review and revision of by-laws and policies. Create mechanisms for institutional memory. Operations and Concert Production/Management Oversee day-to-day operations including rehearsal management. Liaise with concert venues and producers of guest engagement. Oversee orchestral and professional soloist relations. Provide support to the tour planning and tour operations committees for periodic national and international tours. Serve as the year-round point of contact for potential new members and oversee the audition process in conjunction with the music staff. Audience Development, Marketing, Public Relations, and Community Relations Develop and implement a comprehensive marketing strategy both internally and externally for each season and individual concerts and projects. Oversee and track ticket sales with the goal of audience enhancement. Work in conjunction with external public relations firm to oversee all advertising efforts. Ensure that PR work is conducted in accordance with marketing strategy and the organization’s brand. In conjunction with the MD, establish and maintain an educational/community outreach program to increase awareness of the chorus by corporations, grant sources, and the general public. Provide oversight and maintenance of the website and social media. Develop and maintain an ongoing presence and relationship within the NYC arts community. Together with the MD, act as a spokesperson for the chorus to the media, government agencies, corporate community, foundations, donors, and represent the chorus at appropriate functions. Manage and perform data analysis of donors, membership, alumni, etc. Internal Communications Develop and maintain interpersonal relations with and be the liaison between the BOT, music staff, volunteer staff, chorus members, and alumni. Ensure chorus members stay adequately abreast of relevant information and enthusiastic about chorus. Maintain and enforce provisions of the member guide. Participate in the annual member review at end of season with music staff. Maintain roster of current singers, concert rosters, and seating charts. Act as central resource for member inquiries. Human Resources and Volunteer Management Identify, recruit, staff, and manage volunteers from within chorus; consider means of including external volunteer support. In the long-term, identify support staffing needs, obtain Board of Trustee approval to pursue, and oversee funding to initiate recruitment. Create and maintain job descriptions for all approved positions with Personnel Committee. Hire, train, and supervise support staff as needed/approved to achieve the organization’s goals and objectives. With Personnel Committee, create all human resources policies, practices, and procedures and ensure that they comply with state and federal employment laws and regulations. Create an administrative structure and decision making mechanisms that promote a productive working atmosphere and effective staff relations. Qualifications and Skills A bachelor’s degree is required; an advanced degree in an appropriate discipline may be considered a plus. A successful track record with at least 7-10 years of experience in non-profit management with an emphasis on fundraising/development experience, marketing, and audience development is required. The ideal candidate will be a seasoned, well-connected individual with an established reputation and network in the arts, preferably in choral music, and will be familiar with the philanthropic community with connections to the NYC artistic community. S/he will be a strategically minded, resourceful, and organized individual with strong attention to detail and strong communications skills (both written and verbal) with previous experience in the following: Fundraising, including program/project based financing and/or sponsorship, grant writing, donor cultivation (individual and corporate), “Grassroots” campaign Administrative skills, including supervision of staff/volunteers/recruitment and hiring, facilitation of organizations in governance transition, demonstrative collaborative and team building ability Development and implementation of budgets and financial management Cultivation/development of not-for-profit boards Knowledge of choral repertoire and related orchestra/soloists requirements Marketing, audience development, community/educational outreach program development, website and social media skills Term: Start date – as available; preferably January 1, 2017 Compensation: Competitive; commensurate with experience Application Instructions: To apply, email the following to NYChoralED@nychoral.org : Cover letter of interest. To increase your chances of success, we’d be interested in hearing about a successful development initiative you pursued or one you might be interested in investigating for NYChoral. Resume 2-3 professional references (optional for initial application package) [Please note that all submitted information, including references, will remain confidential; references will not be contacted without the applicant’s prior notification and agreement.] Priority deadline for application materials is September 15, 2016, or until the position is filled.
Robert Page, Grammy-winning Director of Choruses for the Cleveland Orchestra from 1971 to 1989 and assistant conductor of the orchestra from 1979 to 1989, has died at the age of 89. After 18 busy years in Cleveland, where he also conducted the opera company, he moved on to rebuild the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh from 1979-2005, making it one of the country’s finest. he was co-founder of Chorus America in 1977 and its president from 1990-1993. Among many triumphs, he conducted the US premiere of Shostakovich’s 13th symphony and made choral settings of Candide arias for Leonard Bernstein. Fine obituary here.
Felix Mendelssohn (3 February 1809 - 4 November 1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. Felix Mendelssohn was recognised early as a musical prodigy, but his parents were cautious and did not seek to capitalise on his abilities. Early success in Germany, where he also revived interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, was followed by travel throughout Europe. Mendelssohn was particularly well-received in Britain as a composer, conductor and soloist. His essentially conservative musical tastes however set him apart from many of his more adventurous musical contemporaries such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Hector Berlioz. The Leipzig Conservatoire which he founded, became a bastion of this anti-radical outlook. Mendelssohn's work includes symphonies, concerti, oratorios, piano music and chamber music. His most-performed works include his Overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, the Hebrides Overture, his Violin Concerto, and his String Octet. After a long period of relative denigration due to changing musical tastes and anti-Semitism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, his creative originality has now been recognised and re-evaluated. He is now among the most popular composers of the Romantic era.
Great composers of classical music