You can read about it, and see video here.
Robots can do anything humans can, they say--even conduct an orchestra. A few days ago, a new piece premiered for orchestra and robot conductor. The robot even sings at times.
You can read about it, and see video here.
Italian soprano Mirella Freni has passed away. She died in Modena which was also the city of her birth.
Freni was a close friend and contemporary of Luciano Pavarotti. Roughly seven months apart in age, their mothers worked in the same factory. The two knew each other well growing up, and both of them went to Mantua to study music.
She died of degenerative muscular disease, and had also experienced several strokes. She was 84.
You can read more about her life and passing here.
(Photo by Andrew Eccles)
Soprano, arts advocate, and alumna Renée Fleming returns to Juilliard in February for a residency of performances, master classes, and other activities. Her days at Juilliard include two public events: a free Music and the Mind event on improvisation and the brain on Tuesday, February 18, and a livestreamed Vocal Arts master class on Wednesday, February 19.
On Tuesday, February 18, at 6pm in the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, Fleming leads Music and the Mind: Improvisation and the Brain. She will present on her Music and the Mind initiative—an exploration of the power of music as it relates to health and the brain. Dr. Karen Chan Barrett of the Sound and Music Perception Lab at the University of California at San Francisco will present on research examining creativity through a neural lens. Throughout the program, Juilliard students from all divisions will collaborate to create a new interdisciplinary work. The evening will culminate in a conversation with all participants moderated by Juilliard President Damian Woetzel. The event is free and open to the public; tickets are required and are available at juilliard.edu/calendar.
While she’s in residency, Fleming will also give a livestreamed Vocal Arts master class featuring singers from Juilliard’s Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts on Wednesday, February 19, from 4 to 6pm, in Juilliard’s Paul Hall. The master class will feature Juilliard singers: sopranos Lila Dufy, Kathleen O’Mara, Maritina Tampakopoulos, and Meredith Wohlgemuth; mezzo-soprano Megan Moore; tenor Dashuai Chen; and baritone Greg Feldmann in arias and ensembles by Dvořák, Massenet, Mozart, and Strauss. Collaborative piano students performing in the master class are Dror Baitel, Francesco Barfoed, and Bronwyn Schuman. Tickets are $10 and available at juilliard.edu/calendar. In addition, the master class will be livestreamed at juilliard.edu/live and on medici.tv, where it will remain available for one year.
Fleming will participate in additional activities at Juilliard including a live podcast recording of the This Is Your Brain With Dr. Phil Stieg on the topic of "Music and The Creative Brain" attended by the Juilliard community. The podcast host, Dr. Philip Stieg, is also Chair of the Weill Cornell Medicine Brain and Spine Center and Neurosurgeon-in-Chief of New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
While in New York City, Fleming will be performing with the New York Philharmonic conducted by its music director and Juilliard alumnus Jaap van Zweden, February 20-22. She will perform singer/songwriter Björk’s Virus and All Is Full of Love as well as Dark Harbor XXXV and Dark Harbor XI from Anders Hillborg’s The Strand Settings, a piece composed for Fleming. The concerts also include Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony and the world premiere of a work for orchestra by composer Ellen Reid.
Pianist Peter Serkin passed away over the weekend of pancreatic cancer. He was 72.
(For what it's worth, I always thought of Peter's playing as just a little cerebral for my taste. Nonetheless, he earned his reputation as a fine pianist. His passing leaves a void.)
The New York Times writes about him in depth here.
The National Symphony has become the second American orchestra cancelling planned concerts in China due to the Coronavirus epidemic.
More details can be found here.
Catching up on a few stories:
Bass-Baritone Bryn Terfel has broken his ankle in three places, and is cancelling a number of performances. Details here.
The Boston Symphony has cancelled its planned East Asia tour for February due to concerns over coronavirus. A local story can be read here.
Pianist-Conductor Vladimir Ashkenzy has announced his immediate retirement. He is 82. You can read more here.
Renowned hornist Barry Tuckwell passed away on January 18 at the age of 88 of heart disease. The New York Times has more here.
Sexual harrassment has been--and perhaps continues to be--a problem at many conservatories.
A new, well-researched article in The Atlantic discusses the problem. You can find it here.
The Brevard Music Center in Brevard, North Carolina will be holding its annual Summer Festival and Institute with pre-season events beginning as early as May 30. Their new Parker Concert Hall (pictured) will also be opening this season. What follows is from a press release:
BMC Artistic Director and alumnus Keith Lockhart, Principal Conductor of the Boston Pops and Chief Guest Conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, will oversee an inspiring festival program of 100 performances and events—many free to the public—in a wide variety of styles and genres. The 2020 season highlights include symphony, chamber, and opera masterpieces by Beethoven, Mahler, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, and Strauss, among many others. World-renowned classical virtuosi--Garrick Ohlsson, Gil Shaham, The Shanghai Quartet, and Ray Chen—will be featured among an equally legendary BMC Presents line-up of non-classical artists including Judy Collins, Béla Fleck, and Bryan Sutton.
BMC will take part in the worldwide celebration of Beethoven@250, honoring the great composer with a season-long “Festival Within A Festival” and exploration of his masterworks. Families will enjoy exciting special performances such as the explosive Fourth of July Patriotic Pops, and encourage a new generation of classical music fans with Disney in Concert: The Lion King (Live Action) on the big screen with live orchestra.
PRE-SEASON: MAY 30 - JUNE 18
The 2020 Season gets going early this year with acclaimed acoustic guitarist Bryan Sutton, who will host the inaugural Blue Ridge Guitar Camp at BMC, May 27 - 30, culminating with a North Carolina Guitar Celebration concert on May 30 (produced in collaboration with Mountain Song Productions). Pre-Season continues on June 11 with an Evening of Classical Guitar, a tribute to the First Lady of Jazz with Jane Monheit Sings Ella on June 12, and the rich, lively sounds of Jazz@Brevard on June 18.
OPENING WEEKEND, FRIDAY, JUNE 26 - TUESDAY, JUNE 30
Opening weekend at BMC always includes a grand and expansive series of world-class music! On Friday, June 26, Artistic Director Keith Lockhart officially launches the Beethoven@250 Festival when he takes center stage at Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium (WPA) for a spectacular All-Beethoven Celebration, featuring the joyful Symphony No. 7 and the return of renowned pianist Garrick Ohlsson for the 4th Piano Concerto.
Saturdays at BMC never disappoint, and June 27 promises an all-star opener to the 2020 BMC Presents series of non-classical music. Save the date now for what is sure to be an unmissable event with a soon to be announced guest artist.
Resident Conductor Ken Lam will lead one of classical music’s most beloved works, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concert No. 1, featuring the superb talents of pianist Anna Tsybuleva on Sunday, June 28. And to cap off an extraordinary first weekend, the BMC Orchestra will join iconic, Grammy®-Award winning singer-songwriter Judy Collins for a brand new symphonic arrangement of her landmark 1967 record, Wildflowers.
BEETHOVEN @ 250: A SEASON-LONG "FESTIVAL WITHIN A FESTIVAL”
In 2020, BMC is thrilled to be part of a global celebration of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday with a season-long exploration of masterworks created or influenced by the master composer. Audiences will experience a “Festival Within A Festival” like no other, as BMC pays tribute to Beethoven’s legacy with symphony, chamber, piano, and even opera with Season Finale: Fidelio in Concert on August 9—the powerful and inspiring concert version of Beethoven’s singular opera, featuring conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing and hundreds of artists on the WPA stage.
LIGHTS UP ON A NEW VENUE: PARKER CONCERT HALL
This summer, BMC audiences will be the first to attend special classical and contemporary piano and chamber concerts at the beautiful new Parker Concert Hall. This intimate lakeside venue, named for lead sponsors Drs. Tom and Joanne Parker, officially opens its doors with a grand opening VIP gala featuring pianist Garrick Ohlsson on June 23. Throughout the season, Parker Concert Hall will feature extraordinary performances by BMC Faculty and special guests including Johannes Moser and The Shanghai Quartet, as they conclude their exquisite Beethoven Cycle. And on July 28, Steep Canyon Rangers’ Woody Platt and singer-songwriter Shannon Whitworth will appear together in a very special BMC Presents concert (produced in collaboration with Mountain Song Productions).
The $6 million, 400-seat Parker Concert Hall represents the first-ever year-round venue on the Music Center campus. Beginning in Fall 2020, patrons can look forward to a special series of BMC concerts throughout the year.
GYPSIES, STRINGS & LION KINGS: SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
BMC’s gorgeous, scenic venues play host to a wide variety of extraordinary programming throughout the summer. Symphonic fans will find much to delight in a season rich in masterworks, including Beethoven Symphonies 3, 5, and 7, Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, Dvořák’s New World Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Suite from Sleeping Beauty, Mahler Symphony No. 7, and much more.
Two perennial audience favorites return to BMC's Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium in 2020: the rousing Fourth of July concert with live cannon, Pendergrast Patriotic Pops, and a very special night at the movies featuring Walt Disney Studios’ thrilling, 2019 live-action remake of The Lion King, with live symphony performing Hans Zimmer’s stunning score.
Throughout much of its 84-year history, opera has been an integral part of BMC programming. This summer, opera lovers will enjoy a dazzling selection of three fully staged operas — Bizet’s Carmen, Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio, and Leigh-Wasserman’s Man of La Mancha — plus a recital of Opera’s Greatest Hits and a very special Evening of Cole Porter. All operas are staged in the Scott Concert Hall at the Porter Center (on the Brevard College campus) and complemented by English supertitles above the stage.
Additional non-classical guest artists (to be announced in the coming weeks) will take the stage at the Music Center throughout the season as part of the popular BMC Presents series. This year, BMC is thrilled to welcome back Béla Fleck, who headlines his third Blue Ridge Banjo Camp Concert on August 17 (produced in collaboration with Mountain Song Productions).
More information and details can be found here.
Tuomas Hiltunen, General Director of Fort Worth Opera since 2017, has resigned. Reports are that he and the board of directors had differing visions of where to take the company at this time.
Fort Worth Opera released this statement:
FORT WORTH, TX — Fort Worth Opera’s Board of Trustees announced today that they have accepted the submitted resignation of General Director Tuomas Hiltunen. Mr. Hiltunen joined Fort Worth Opera in July of 2017. During his tenure, he established security and growth by streamlining expenditures, reducing administrative costs and overhead, and maintaining a balanced operating budget.
“Fort Worth Opera is grateful for Tuomas’ leadership over the past two seasons and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Nelson E. Claytor, Ph.D., Chair of the Board of Trustees. “As we move forward, our top priority is, and always has been, ensuring that the financial health of the company is secure for decades to come.”
Building upon his prior experience in the world of theater, Mr. Hiltunen was instrumental in establishing Fort Worth Opera’s Relaxed Performances program, which created a welcoming opera environment for audience members with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and learning disabilities. Presented in tandem with Fort Worth Opera’s Children’s Opera Theatre program, these modified performances offered a friendly, calming, and supportive environment for children with sensory differences to enjoy opera with their families. The company will continue to work with the Fort Worth ISD and local organizations throughout Tarrant County as this inspiring program evolves.
Preparations for Fort Worth Opera’s thrilling 2020 Festival (April 17 – May 3) are well underway. This season features star-studded performances of Puccini’s romantic masterpiece La Bohème, a riotous Roaring Twenties comedy, Revenge of the Bat (Die Fledermaus), and the world premiere of swashbuckling adventure Zorro. The company is eager to announce the 2021 line-up for its exhilarating 75th anniversary season in the months ahead. Fort Worth Opera looks towards a bright future as it proudly forges ahead as the oldest continually operating opera company in the state of Texas.
Until a successor is appointed, Nelson E. Claytor, Ph.D., has assumed the role and duties of Acting General Director. www.fwopera.org.
The winners are:
BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITIONWINNER
Higdon: Harp Concerto
Yolanda Kondonassis, Ward Stare & The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUMWINNER
The Poetry Of Places
BEST CLASSICAL SOLO VOCAL ALBUMWINNER
BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLOWINNER
Marsalis: Violin Concerto; Fiddle Dance Suite
BEST CHAMBER MUSIC/SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCEWINNER
BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCEWINNER
Duruflé: Complete Choral Works
BEST OPERA RECORDINGWINNER
Picker: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Gil Rose, John Brancy, Krista River, Andrew Craig Brown, Edwin Vega & Gabriel Preisser
BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCEWINNER
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICALWINNER
BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM, CLASSICALWINNER
Riley: Sun Rings
I'm a classical radio announcer, blogger, and musician.