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American Classical Orchestra and Chorus: Cherubini, Beethoven and Mozart

November 24, 2017

The two soprano soloists were marvelous. Hélène Brunet combines supple lyricism with technical elegance. Clara Rottsolk’s voice is at once silvery and earthy, delicate and powerful. In their individual arias, both women committed to highly ornamented interpretations; both were able to make ornament feel like a spontaneous, unplanned and experimental development of ideas. In his conducting, Crawford gives his best singers – such as Brunet and Rottsolk – considerable room to make the music their own without ever losing coherence or the appropriate tempo. When singing together, as in “Domine Deus, Rex caelestis,” these sopranos’ voices were beautifully matched. [more]

Christen Lien: Elpis and The Dark Side of Hope Tour Launch

November 6, 2017

Christen Lien is an exciting artist, playing innovative music for viola, combining formal and informal, classical and electronic elements. She brings an eclectic intelligence, alternately divergent and focused, to her work; her confident musicianship, based on both technical facility and wide-ranging experimentation, enables her to develop a performance style that is simultaneously intense, serious and seductive. Lien talks to her audience; she tells stories, developing the intellectual contexts for her music. She amplifies her viola and uses loop pedals to create complex layers of sound; in her all-out, passionate performing, she describes the constant changes of human response to the complex project of being alive. [more]

Marc Bamuthi Joseph on His Artistic and Cultural Influences in “/peh-LO-tah/”

October 16, 2017

I’ve been playing soccer and have been exposed to soccer longer than I have been exposed to dance. Both of these things are part of my kinesthetic and the biography of my body. I can’t really recall a time where I didn’t play soccer and I’ve been dancing since I was at least ten years old. It’s actually not super far-fetched when I watch a soccer game, it looks like choreography to me. I trained for dance in some ways as an athlete would train for sport, I really connect to the similarities more than the dissimilarities. In terms of the literal transfer, our choreographer Stacey Printz did a great job of identifying some tropes that are consistent in both soccer and the kind of cultural universe that we traverse. There are elements of hip-hop, samba, South African gumboot dancing, Haitian folkloric movement – all of these inform the choreography. Moving forward, without being hyper-literal, I think that’s proven to be a really transformative experience for us and also makes it very clear and legible for audiences watching the piece. If our written and spoken language is literal, dance gives us allegory and metaphor and the synthesis of the two - - spoken language and body language -- helps to communicate the ideas in a very powerful way. [more]

Bach + Glass, with Simone Dinnerstein and A Far Cry

October 8, 2017

Because the first three pieces of the program had established an intellectual across-time dialogue between Bach and Glass and an examination of Glass’ Bach ‘ancestry,’ the unabashedly Romantic quality of Glass’ new piece came as a surprise: in spite of the presence of familiar Glass rhythmic and harmonic motifs, the concerto contained new cadences and directions. In both piano-strings simultaneities and in the four piano cadenzas, explorations of uncertainty and of distances from longed-for resolutions felt like new territory for Glass. The piece as a whole moved from monumentality through moments of increasing quiet to Dinnerstein’s final poignant movement into silence. [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Political Protest and Social Justice

August 10, 2017

Interestingly, some of the most raucously explicit material of protest came not from the Peace and Social Justice Concert 24 but from the Wil(helms/liams)burg Concert 26, a collaboration of musicians and performing artists from Brooklyn and Hamburg, Germany. In the opening work, "Trumpen," for clarinet, piano, cello and laptop performers, Georg Hajdu created a piece based on the destructive and fracturing words of Donald J. Trump. This piece introduced the Unheard-of//Ensemble – Ford Fourqurean/clarinet, Daniel Anastasio/piano and Thea Mesirow/cello – who played throughout the concert, demonstrating remarkable technical control and versatility; this group “is a contemporary chamber ensemble dedicated to the development and performance of new music by living composers.” In "Trumpen," Trump’s words are altered and devolved into an ever-increasing intensity of chaos; the audience is witness to the mess – and is part of it as well – as this replicates political protest at its best, at once ancient and contemporary. [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Composer as Creator

August 10, 2017

n light-hearted Rationalize (concert 27), composer Cody Brookshire combined found and manipulated sounds created by the audience with live music on bass clarinet and marimba. Brookshire created SynkroTakt, an audio streaming technology. Before the piece began, the composer instructed the audience on the seven-step procedure required to enable their devices to create sounds streamed into synchronous audio tracks; the audience, in this way, became the collective ‘artist/musician’ and provided one half of the ‘duet’ of electronic sounds and live instruments. The result was an unexpectedly sweet and pretty piece, a bauble in which sounds produced by an unusually concocted combination of chance and intention became a contemporaneous agent of creativity. [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Outstanding Performers

August 9, 2017

In spite of the Festival’s lengthy booklet and daily concert updates, the rich creative vitality of the electroacoustic musical community remains only tangentially documented: composers and performers clearly work in close collaboration. Internationally recognized cellist Madeleine Shapiro, for instance, director of the important NewMusicMannes ensemble at the New School’s Mannes College of Music, is on the NYCEMF 2017 Steering Committee, and performed in several of the 2017 Festival’s concerts. She is clearly the sort of artist who can turn her instrument into both the composers’ muse and their servant. Shaprio’s ability to incorporate the cello’s entire history into its creative use in contemporary classical and experimental music suggests expanded incorporations of cello sounds in new music to contemporary composers. [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Overview

August 7, 2017

In the seven concerts of the second half of the 2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival held this month at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, New York, the full diversity and eclectic versatility of electroacoustic music was on vibrant, energetic display; the densely packed weekend of music was exciting, sometimes disconcerting and sometimes thrilling, and always fascinating. Sixty-six works by sixty-six composers were performed … a dizzying array of instruments, equipment, performers, sensibilities and effects! [more]

Jen Shyu: Nine Doors

July 8, 2017

After fifteen years of formal study, Shyu incorporates five distinct music traditions in her newest work: “epic storytelling (Pansori), East Coast shaman music (DongHaeAhnByeolShinGut), and Binari, usually performed as a blessing for an audience, all from Korea; music from sub-districts Aileu and Atauro ferom East Timor; Hengchung Folk Song with moon lute from Taiwan; Ledhekan, which combines Javanese dance with improvisational singing (Sindehenan) from Indonesia; and the ‘speaking-the-song’ or ‘katari’ with Japanese bias, the rare 4-stringed instrument originally used by monks and priests.” [more]

C4, The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Electric – Choral Works with electrified ensemble

June 25, 2017

C4’s last concert of the season was a typical C4 concert. The concert had one intermission; in both halves of the concert, there were one or two pieces that were new to C4 and one or two that they’d performed before. In this concert, there were also three premieres. Some pieces were a cappella; some were accompanied by a somewhat unexpected set of instruments, in this case, electronic … hence this concert’s name, “Electric: Choral works with electrified ensemble.” Almost all of the composers featured were either current or former C4 members; singers conducted each others’ works. Individual singers moved easily between solo parts and “just” being a section member. The extensive program notes were, as always, extremely useful. [more]

Heartbeat Opera: Butterfly

June 9, 2017

The artistic team responsible for this "Butterfly" made radical decisions and changes. Puccini’s original three acts of linear story – love and “wedding,” waiting, betrayal and death – are reorganized and abbreviated into three scenes of waiting, remembered love, and then betrayal. Some minor characters in the original opera are eliminated to create a caste of just five singing characters. The entire orchestra is reduced to a chamber orchestra of just six musicians, the Cantata Profana. The adaptation of Puccini’s orchestral score for this small chamber group by Daniel Schlosberg is remarkable: unexpectedly, its absolute faithfulness to Puccini’s musical intent at almost every turn made up for the diminished number of musicians. [more]

Spotlight Cabaret: Ella At 100

May 29, 2017

It's Ella Fitgerald's centennial. She influenced more than a generation of singers and musicians. The lady called the “Queen of Jazz” or “The First Lady of Song” would have turned 100 this year. Her bounty is unmatched. Among her musical gifts, Ella was an exceptionally well-rounded musician, a pristine vocalist and impeccable improviser. She was jazz. There have been many first ladies of this or that but Ella was an original, clarion-voiced swing singer in a league of her own. [more]

The New York Virtuoso Singers: Morton Gould/ASCAP Young Composer Award Recipients

May 28, 2017

From the beginning, one core component of Rosenbaum’s mission has been the cultivation of a contemporary American repertoire and the regular commission of new works. Rosenbaum is, in fact, an enthusiastic champion of young composers. This May concert, consisting of ten new works, reflected this focus … and was a wonderful celebration of young talent and achievement. [more]

St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys: Glory Be to Thee O Lord: Songs of Faith, Hope and Love

May 20, 2017

But the concert didn’t have the satisfaction of a big blockbuster – such as Haydn’s Creation, with which the season began – or of two or three masterworks. Music of the Anglican tradition is the bone and blood of St. Thomas’ work: it’s the music in which the choir excels. The formal musical curriculum in which St. Thomas students are immersed serves them well in any musical endeavor or style, but the Anglican vocabulary is the one these young musicians are most comfortable with. In this particular concert, the music of non-Anglican-tradition composers was well presented, demonstrating the skills of the singers, both young and old, but wasn’t thrilling. [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Klas Torstensson

May 6, 2017

"Elliott loves bebop" is a much more satisfying piece than either "Sonerna" or "No slash" on their own. It would be no matter what. But the experience of having listened to the two quartets one after the other immediately before the octet immeasurably enriched the experience of hearing the octet: the octet’s complexities were more intelligible and the patterns of their interconnections were more clear. Without compromising or simplifying the work’s density, its meanings were more accessible. [more]

Catherine Russell, On Her 30 Year Milestone with “Perfect Crime”

April 28, 2017

New York City based actress Catherine Russell, has much to celebrate this spring, as she reaches an important milestone in her career – being the first actress in theater history to perform 30 years in the same role. Ms. Russell has played leading lady Margaret Throne Brent in NY’s longest running play, "Perfect Crime," a thrilling murder mystery that leaves audiences on the edge of their seats as they work to piece the clues together. Additionally, this extraordinary actress has expanded her love and knowledge of the industry by taking on many other roles throughout her career -- including general manager, producer, teacher, builder, etc. -- and receives pleasure in a job well done. In fact, it’s key to her success as Ms. Russell credits happiness and fulfillment in your work being the main contributors to good health and well-being. [more]

Alam Khan: Maestro Ali Akbar Khan Birthday Celebration

April 17, 2017

Thanking his packed audience at Le Poisson Rouge for coming to hear him play, Alam Khan described his music on this evening as a tribute to his father, Ali Akbar Khan, whose ninety-fifth birthday it would have been. But it was more than an ancestral honoring: it was a tribute to a rich centuries-old tradition of Hindustani classical music. [more]

Vespers of 1610 (Handel + Haydn Society Orchestra and Chorus)

April 17, 2017

"Vespers of 1610" is a big and oddly sprawling work. It makes no liturgical sense, and, in terms of texts, has little programmatic unity beyond a consistent Marian devotion. But it is a coherent whole of musical and spiritual experience. It gives the impression of limitlessness, as though there were no end to what Monteverdi could have kept on telling us, precisely because the sacredness and meaning of God’s sacred words are infinite. [more]

World Music Institute: Salif Keita

April 9, 2017

Over the course of Salif Keita’s recent appearance at The Town Hall there was a story whose shape reflected both Keita’s identity and his music. At 7:00 p.m., there was a question-and-answer session with Keita, musician and writer Banning Eyre of www.afropop.org, and translator Isabelle Dupuis. By the end of the evening, audience and performers were inseparably merged; singing and dancing had become one, and Keita had made us all his own. Far from needing any explanation or translation, the music of Salif Keita is entirely universal. [more]

Glass @ 80: Philip Glass & Foday Musa Suso

March 24, 2017

Beginning in the 1980s, Glass and Suso collaborated on several projects. Genet’s difficult, demanding, essentially un-actable and relentlessly fracturing play, "The Screens," elicited from Glass and Suso unexpectedly warm and affirming music. The setting for Genet’s play – the wretchedness of the French Algerian War – calls for music that is both European and African, but to imagine Glass’ contribution as “the European one” and Suso’s as its African opposite is to misunderstand the creative relationship. [more]

Otello (LoftOpera)

March 20, 2017

LoftOpera is a feisty little company that operates around Brooklyn, especially Bushwick. They are giving" Otello" in LightSpace Studios, a disco on Flushing Avenue about the size of a high school gymnasium. There’s a small orchestra (27, about half the size Rossini wrote for), kept under tight but lyrical control by the company’s maestro, Sean Kelly. The singers do not appear to be looking at him for cues while they are enthusiastically playing out the story, but they only got lost once at Saturday night’s performance. [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Misato Mochizuki

March 11, 2017

Neither a “Western composer” nor a “Japanese composer,” Mochizuki hasn’t sought to manufacture some sort of mix-and-match blend. She doesn’t borrow or build add-ons. Instead, seeking inspiration in nature on the one hand and in human projects as diverse as photography, genetics and cooking on the other, she produces music that is about both being and story. Embedded within every piece one beginning after another, her stories unfold from each; then she builds them into each other. Though she incorporates elements of theater in the use of lighting and musicians’ movements around the stage, her music is fundamentally unpretentious and unfussy; her writing is equally straight-forward and optimistically fresh. [more]

Cabaret Spotlight: Hey There, Good Times

February 21, 2017

The measure of a singer's worth is in the ear of the beholder. What is one person's Piaf is another person's Barbra. There's no magic formula to being one of the great ones. All one can do is be dedicated to the art and have a willingness to experiment and keep at it come rain or shine. The rest is a matter of luck and timing, talent and tenacity. For some, the call might come late. But when answered, there's no turning back. [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Beat Furrer featuring Either/Or

February 16, 2017

This is serious work. Without defiance of traditional or conservative contemporary classical music simply for mere defiance’s haughty sake, Furrer is developing his own particular vocabulary. And successful performance of Furrer’s music requires serious musicians. The musicians of Either/Or are a good match for this composer. Their technical skills are superb, marked by both muscular stamina and virtuosic creativity; equally important, their willingness to take performance risks is grounded in intellectual and artistic integrity. [more]

New York Polyphony: Palestrina’s “Marcellus Mass”

February 4, 2017

The second work of the evening was the world premiere of Ivan Moody’s Vespers Sequence. In careful, clear program notes, Moody described his goals in his compositions in general and in this new Vespers Sequence in particular: he seeks to “bring the concepts and principles underlying Orthodox spirituality … into dialogue with modernity” … in the “creation of a specifically Orthodox para-liturgical repertoire that brings together liturgy and concert.” Moody collaborated closely with New York Polyphony in conceiving and then finalizing this work; although the sacred texts and many of the originating aesthetic impulses of the work are ancient, the overall feel, in this premiere performance, was of something vital and contemporary. [more]

Making Dreams a Reality: First Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Shares Her Journey to Off Broadway Musical

February 1, 2017

I’ve been watching Miss America since I was very little, and my sister and I would get dressed up every year in crowns and gowns and banners and I saw Miss Pennsylvania, Marla Wynne, in '92 or '93 and her talent was ventriloquism and I fell in love with it, and decided that I wanted to learn to make my Barbie’s talk. I went to my bedroom and sat in front of the mirror and figured out how to talk without moving my lips. I then got my first puppet at around age seven and started performing, but it all started watching Miss America. [more]

The Tallis Scholars: “A Renaissance Christmas”

December 27, 2016

It was a Tallis-perfect performance. Palestrina has long been one of the most sure-fire dazzling jewels in the Tallis Scholars' treasury. In writing sacred music, Palestrina made his particular kind of beauty – elegance, intellect, decorous sensuality – a kind of theology of mediation, a meeting place for the human and the divine. The Tallis precision of diction and tone and their ability to reveal every rhythmic and melodic nuance in the music they sing make Palestrina marvelous. The bright acoustic features of St. Mary the Virgin provide a wash of light on the singing. [more]

Boubacar Traore

December 16, 2016

For those who could not understand the lyrics of Traore's songs – he sang in Mali's French – each song was an experience of four interconnected musical sounds: the calabash thump and click rhythms, the harmonica, the amplified acoustic guitar, and Traore's voice. The songs' lyrics – love songs, folk tales, celebrations, imprecations – added particular locations and stories to what, all together, was a full, rich exploration of human experience through the lens of the blues, of hard-won wisdom and infinite empathy for joy and anguish, for hope and despair. [more]

American Classical Orchestra: Johann Sebastian Bach

December 15, 2016

The consistency – the from-the-very-beginning wholeness – of Bach's genius was clear in this chronological arrangement. The kinds of writing techniques and subjects – the sequences and suspensions, chromaticisms and counterpoint intricacies – that Bach transformed from craft common to hundreds of composers to art unique to only a few became, over the years, Bach's vehicles for examinations of all aspects of being human. In this single program, Crawford's choice of music from almost all major liturgical seasons enabled his singers to present grief and joy, despair and hope, prayer and praise. And this they did marvelously. [more]

Da Capo Chamber Players: Milton Babbitt Centennial Da Capo

December 3, 2016

Joined by percussionist John Ferrari and conductor Jeffrey Means, the five members of the Da Capo Chamber Players – Curtis Macomber/violin, Chris Gross/cello, Patricia Spencer/flute, Meighan Stoops/clarinet and Steven Beck/piano – recently presented a concert inspired by the vibrant, important music of Milton Babbitt (1916-2011) on the occasion of the centennial of his birth. One piece was written by Babbitt himself, but all the other pieces, ranging in date from 1981 to 2013, were written by contemporary composers who at one point or another had studied with Babbitt at either Princeton or Juilliard. [more]

The Babies

November 23, 2016

Musical numbers are catchy and silly while sharing important life lessons. “What Are Friends For” and “All Alone” examines feelings of sadness, loneliness, and finding your tribe no matter your family circumstances. You may not be able to choose your family, but these babies will always have each other’s back. The emotional ballad, “We Will Get through This,” tugs at the heartstrings and is sung beautifully by Mallory. The scenic and lighting design by Josh Iacovelli brings light and warmth to the space with minimal props as not to distract from the group dynamic on stage – while ensuring that the babies are comfy and cozy in their distinctive onesies. [more]

Zora Neale Hurston: a Theatrical Biography

November 17, 2016

The actors make the characterless space come alive. Elizabeth Van Dyke (Zora Neale Hurston) shrouds Zora with the same purity and authority that she conveyed in the 1998 production. Zora never pandered to convention -- Harlem Renaissance beliefs (Langston Hughes or Richard Wright) or white America politics. Zora walked her own path and was unwaveringly true to who she was and her ideas about art, politics, men and women, academia, and Black culture. Van Dyke towering performance is one that depicts Zora's all these character traits, as well as having a vulnerability and zest for life. [more]
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