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Articles by Jean Ballard Terepka

Jean Ballard Terepka
About Jean Ballard Terepka (90 Articles)
Jean Ballard Terepka, a native and life-long New Yorker, has been writing about choral and classical music for fifteen years. In addition to her continuing career as an independent educational consultant, Terepka also works as an archivist and historian with specialties in American cultural, intellectual and religious history. Most recently she has lectured on the history of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York and on the African-American experience within the Episcopal Church at conferences of the New York State Historical Association and the National Association of Episcopal Historians and Archivists. Terepka is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America.

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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 Dessoff Choirs: We Remember

November 15, 2016

Performed the evening before the American election, the theme and purpose of the concert – remembrance of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., two “outstanding stewards of humanity,” in Merriweather's words, whose lives were cut short by violence – embodied for musicians and audience alike art's core purposes. Art locates, grounds and inspires us; it gives us vocabularies for understanding ourselves. In the case of the works on this program, the American music of remembrance, contained in pieces by Steven Stucky and David Hurd, reminds us that moral and political conscience transcends individual lives and is strong within us all, even when our heroes are slain; and Mozart's "Requiem" calls up the universality of hope for salvation and pleadings for peace. [more]

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men & Boys: Haydn’s The Creation

November 14, 2016

From the very first opening bars of the "Chaos" overture, Hyde set the tone for the evening: conducting with gentlemanly authoritativeness, Hyde led the Orchestra of St. Luke's – who were all in exceptionally fine form – in a performance of expansive energy and optimism. Theologically, God's working material for his creation may have been unfathomably chaotic and formless, but in this particular artistic account of creation, Haydn's description of chaos is so informed by elegance, wit and bravura that the primordial chaos seems to have been imbued with goodness. [more]

John Zorn: Composer Portraits

November 3, 2016

In the first concert of the 2016-2017 Composer Portraits season at Columbia University School of the Arts' Miller Theatre, current music of American composer John Zorn (b. 1953), including five premieres, was presented and enthusiastically received. More accurately: Zorn's music-making – his understanding of individual composing and collegial collaborating as interconnected projects – was exuberantly celebrated. [more]

Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble: Verdi’s La Traviata & Chansons de Baudelaire

September 19, 2016

The performance of Verdi's "La Traviata" featuring Bonnie Frauenthal as Violetta and Jose Heredia as Alfredo Germont was wonderful in many ways. Frauenthal sang and acted her complex role compellingly: she is a confident singer, capable of both womanly sturdiness and subtle virtuosity, and she inhabited the dense narrative of Violetta's story credibly and compellingly. Heredia's youthful and earnest Alfredo was also convincing; his deep love of Violetta and grief at her death were poignantly believable. Interestingly, as an actor, Heredia stuck so literally to the movement of Alfredo's character in Piave's libretto that Alfredo's subservience to his father was maddening: the son's filial weakness undercut the manliness of his love for Violetta. Both Frauenthal and Heredia sang with integrity; they held nothing back from full commitment to either their roles or their audience. [more]

PRISM Quartet Color Theory: Sō Percussion and PARTCH

July 7, 2016

Over the last several years, PRISM and two colleague chamber groups, Sō Percussion on the one hand and PARTCH on the other, have been engaged in the “Color Theory” project, and presented two separate concerts. Taking as their model early modern visual artists' examination of pigment mixes through the insights of Isaac Newton's discovery of color theory and prisms, the four saxophonists and composers with whom they collaborate have been using “color theory as a framework to explore the spectra that make up instrumental sound.” The results were exhilarating. [more]

C4: Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Organic – New Works for Choir and Organ

June 28, 2016

C4 has always been driven by certain core values and goals; the particular repertoire “cornerstones” being emphasized this season, as indicated in the concert's program notes, were important but infrequently performed works, beauty, and the nurturing of new composers' voices. This concert contained all these features in both recent works and four premieres. [more]

SONOS Chamber Orchestra (May 24, 2016)

June 6, 2016

In the program notes and in informal remarks to the audience, Ochsner encouraged the audience to listen to all the works as music inspired by nature; this theme proved to be a useful organizing device for the concert. It was both literal – stars, storms, forest transformations and water events – and allusive: the vocabulary of nature works as well for human psychology as for meteorology. The size and composition of the 36-member chamber orchestra made both intimacy and grandeur possible. [more]

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys with Concert Royal: Music of Bach and Handel

May 31, 2016

Such feast days deserve magnificent music; Bach and Handel created it. And the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, the first rate period-instruments Concert Royal, and five marvelous soloists gave splendid performances of two Bach cantatas and a Handel psalm-setting that did both the feast days and the music proud. The first-rate concert was a particularly fine accomplishment for St. Thomas Church: rocked by the sudden death last summer of John Scott, choral director and organist, the school and the church had to both manage a top-knotch concert season without their director and perform the “director-less” concerts as suitable memorials to Scott. [more]

The Cecilia Chorus of New York with Orchestra: Ludwig van Beethoven, Missa Solemnis, Op. 123

May 25, 2016

Price, Bottoms, Richardson and Courville are all strong, clear singers; they were well matched in this performance, alert to each other's pacing and responsive to each other's sensibilities. Although any one of the four could have grabbed a center spotlight, they were unified – probably by a combination of their own individual understandings of Beethoven's purposes and by Shapiro's direction – in graceful collaborative cohesion in their singing. [more]

Either/Or: Music of Gyorgi Ligeti

May 8, 2016

In the hands of less virtuosic musicians, Ligeti's material can spin out of control. Kigawa, Choi and Drehmann, however, from the very opening, invited the audience into an experience of listening based on complete trust. The work's elegant, almost wistful conclusion – a distillation of harmonic lines into quiet, unresolved ambiguities – was compelling. [more]

The Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge

April 20, 2016

Since the 1670’s, the Choir has consisted of voices ranging from bass to treble, all students at St. John's College or the College School. There are currently six basses, five tenors, four counter-tenors and seventeen trebles; of the trebles – two or three of whom are no bigger than buttons – there currently appear to be thirteen families represented. In some senses, the trebles are the stars of the show: that such young boys should demonstrate such consistently high levels of both innate musicianship and disciplined formal training is remarkable. The sweetness of tone inherent to boys' soprano voices is not like anything else: its combined ethereality of the moment and promise of future sturdiness make it a perfect instrument for the invocation of angels, heavenly beauty and divine wisdom. [more]

Dave Douglas Meets The Westerlies

April 10, 2016

The Douglas-Westerlies music, whether its subject is lament or celebration, protest or affirmation, is artistically coherent: testing and stretching traditional genres, the music is about forward movement, about the exploration of “Great American Themes” as they end in felicitously determined encouragement and optimism. This music's informing energy and spirit shine and summon. Audience and listeners are invited into a musical experience in which history provides context, inspiration and goad; references to the political, musical and cultural past do not tether the music to old habits but liberate it for new conversations. Together, Douglas, Royston and the Westerlies generated a warm and rich brass-and-percussion sound; the Westerlies' happy virtuosity, discipline and irrepressible affection for the full range of their instruments' sounds make them a perfect collaborative partner for Douglas' genre mixing and generously imaginative expansion of the artistic possibilities of trumpet, trombone and drums. [more]

Ensemble Pamplemousse

April 6, 2016

And Ensemble Pamplemousse, an exciting and distinctive six-member “composer performer collective” founded in 2003, and performing at Miller Theatre for the first time, had all sorts of fine surprises to offer. Each of the musicians composes and performs; each seems able to play several traditional and non-traditional instruments, though their publicity material identifies one primary instrument of each. All six, fresh off their extensive recent European tour – Natacha Diels/flutes, Jessie Marino/cello, Andrew Greenwald/drums, David Broome/keys, Bryan Jacobs/electronics and Ross Karre/miniature drumset – contributed equally to their recent Pop-Up performance. [more]

The Saint Thomas Church Choir of Men and Boys: Seven Last Words from the Cross

March 29, 2016

The last piece of the concert was James MacMillan's substantive and moving 1994 "Seven Last Words from the Cross," a 35 minute piece of seven different movements, varying in length from nine to one-and-a-half minutes each, for choir and orchestra. As the piece progresses through the final Passion drama, from Jesus' plea for forgiveness for his executioners to his exhausted last breath, MacMillan explores aspects of prayer and petition, anguish and fear – Jesus' and humanity's – in music that bears close allegiance to Romantic liturgies and Requiems. Here, the Choir and the orchestra were elegant, boys and men singing with superb control, lush expressivity … and their usual clear diction. [more]

C4: Unusual – Music of the strange, the absurd, and the surreal

March 24, 2016

For the winter concert of their eleventh season, the twenty-three member C4: The Choral Composer Conductor Collective – elected to honor “Unusual - music of the strange, the absurd, the surreal.” The evening included three premieres, all by current C4 composers, among the eight pieces performed. Some of the works were splendid and some weren't, but all were presented with C4's characteristic superb musicianship and artistic integrity as well as their willingness to take risks. [more]

Composer Portrait: Iancu Dumitrescu with Either/Or

March 18, 2016

The evening was less about contemporary Romanian composer Dumitrescu, born in 1944, than about the music for which he is, in some mysterious sense, a medium. Each work is unique, each a premiere, even if its originating shape has existed before. The style of music in which Dumitrescu operates has recently been called Romanian Spectralism. Dumitrescu himself doesn't much use this phrase; he calls his music and the impulse to make music 'Orphism,' describing it, variously, as “natural, alive and intuitive” and “sonorous and refined ...from archaic sources.” [more]

Composer Portraits: Alex Mincek with Yarn/Wire and Mivos Quartet

March 14, 2016

In the compositions of New York composer Alex Mincek (b. 1975), music is explored by means of separating out its constitutive elements: as indicated in Miller Theatre program notes for his Composer Portrait concert, Mincek examines “sound worlds,” music states and the “sense of interconnectivity that reveals underlying qualities of coherence and unity.” These principles were on full display as two stellar contemporary groups, Yarn/Wire and Mivos Quartet, presented four recent Mincek works, including two world premieres. [more]
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