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The rising popularity of women conductors

Of the concert conductors, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla got into the top 50 conductors despite taking four months off for maternity leave. Goodness knows how many performances she will be able to clock up in 2019! A newcomer to the conductor list is Karina Canellakis, an American of Greek and Russian origin. She takes up the baton at the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in September and as winner of the Critics’ Circle Emerging Talent award is definitely one to watch.

Bernstein’s blockbusting birthday

Leonard_Bernstein_NYWTS_19552018 was Leonard Bernstein’s centenary, celebrated across the globe with such enthusiasm that Lenny became the third most performed composer (after the regular holders of the nos, 1 and 2 slots, Beethoven and Mozart). We asked Paul Epstein, Senior Vice President at the Bernstein Foundation, what he had to say about this extraordinary achievement:

“Our goal was to take Leonard Bernstein’s music to the next generation … and for more young people to know about him. We also hoped that Lenny’s music would be looked at altogether, to make a new assessment of what his music was worth, what it was about, and we believed that that would all work to Lenny’s credit – and in fact it did. We feel we did right by Lenny.”

What did our favourite composers think about Christmas?

ice-3009009_1920We all know that many of the greatest composers wrote Christmas music which remains popular today, whether that be Bach’s Oratorio or Händel’s Messiah. But what did these musicians get up to during the festive season? And how did it inspire their work? Some interesting answers to these questions are available in several letters collected by Classical Music Magazine. Mahler doesn’t seem to have had quite such a celebratory time when he was in Leipzig in 1886. He wrote to his friend Friedrich Löhr, “Last night I spent a sad Christmas Eve once again sitting at home all by myself, gazing out, seeing all the windows opposite aglow with Christmas trees and candles. And then I thought of my poor joyless people at home, sadly sitting in the dark, waiting–and then again before me I saw yourself and your family, the old congenial circle, now lost to me […] then I no longer saw anything because a veil of moisture moved before my eyes, and the whole world through which I am destined to wander without rest was blotted out by a few tear-drops.”

Hector Berlioz was a controversial French composer

Berlioz_Petit_BNF_GallicaBerlioz (1803-69) started his carrier as a medical student, he swapped disciplines mid-course and started his formal music studies at the Paris Conservatoire. An extraordinary pupil, over the next six years he produced a series of increasingly original and inventive works that climaxed in the Symphonie Fantastique. In 1832 Berlioz began a 30-year spell as music critic, but had a love-hate relationship with his work, even though he was one of few composers whose prose was as accomplished as his music. When his requiem, Grande Messe des Morts, was first performed in 1837, its unprecedented scale – temporal, emotional and instrumental – left onlookers gasping in its wake, while Roméo et Juliette (1839) accomplished much the same reaction in the symphonic sphere. His greatest masterpiece, the epic five-hour opera Les Troyens, defied all attempts to get a complete production staged in his lifetime, and although his last great work, the light-hearted opera Béatrice et Bénédict, was well received, it was a case of too little too late for Berlioz.

(Magyar) Boros Misi otthonosan érzi magát Vácott

Sorry, this entry is only available in Hungarian.

How to make classical music concerts more attractive?

200330172-002The audience should feel free to applaud between movements: Gustav Mahler introduced the habit of sitting silently until the end of a piece and I think after some 100 years, it’s time to change that.

Programs should be less predictable: there must be an element of unpredictability a little item of chamber music or anything else, something unexpected.

The artists should engage with the audience: to introduce a piece, greet the audience or to sign a program. Everybody should be able to talk to the musicians and share their thoughts and opinions, if it’s backstage or in the bar.

Orchestras shouldn’t play in tail suits

Concerts should be more family friendly: people with small kids want to go to concerts too, but they have to be able to leave the hall quickly and silently when the little ones get bored, and should offer priority seats near the exits. Playing areas, interactive content, even child-minding facilities – concert halls need to think about families.

We should move the concert experience into the 21st century, like why do concert halls not use screens to show details of a performance to people who can’t see it from the back? Or offering more contents to download before and during a performance?

Every program should contain a contemporary piece

Les Illuminations

brittensum_2451119bBenjamin Britten (1913-76) was an English composer, conductor, and pianist; and one of the central figures of twentieth century music. The Illuminations, op. 18, is a song cycle by Benjamin Britten, first performed in 1940. It is composed for soprano or tenor soloist and string orchestra, and sets verse and prose poems written in 1872–73 by Arthur Rimbaud, part of his collection Les Illuminations. Britten began writing the cycle in Suffolk in March 1939 and completed it a few months later in the United States. It was the first of his song cycles to gain widespread popularity. The cycle was originally written for a soprano; Britten’s biographer David Matthews comments that the work is “so much more sensuous when sung by the soprano voice for which the songs were conceived.” Nevertheless the work can be, and more often is, sung by a tenor: Britten conducted the piece with Peter Pears as soloist within two years of the premiere. The first performance of the cycle was given on 30 January 1940 at the Aeolian Hall, London, by Sophie Wyss, to whom the cycle is dedicated. In the present performance of this rearly played piece the soprano voice of Sophie Klußmann was accompanied by the Budapest Festival Orchestra.

Let a piece of music show you the impact of climate change

United States, Alaska, Denali National Park, Mount McKinley, Glacier Creek valley

A piece of music has been produced using data collected from the different species of trees growing in Alaska. In a process known as data sonification, researchers recreated the changing landscape in song. Some species, such as the yellow cedar, are in decline due to climate change and this is brought out by the weakening of the piano part as the piece progresses. Each note on the piano represents a singel tree, while flutes represent the western hemlock, violin and viola the mountain hemlock, cello and bass the Sitka spruce and clarinet the shore pine. The piece begins in the north, where there is still snow and the cedars are able to grow, before proceeding southward. The data came from researcher Lauren Oakes. Nik Sawe, who was on the same doctoral programme, came up with the idea of transforming the data into music. He described the piece as a powerful tool for science communication. Yellow cedars can live up to 1,000 years old, but are dying in increasing numbers due to climate change.

Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti

gaetano_maria_donizetti– is one of the most important composers in the history of Italian opera. Donizetti was born in Bergamo in November 1797, the third and youngest son of a relatively impoverished couple who had very little money and absolutely no musical training. His success as a composer was made possible by a scholarship: in 1806, he began his studies at the Lezioni Caritatevoli School, where he received a thorough musical education. Although the amount of instrumental music Donizetti composed was by no means insignificant, he’s remembered today for his wealth of operas, which number well over 70 in total. Composed between 1816 and 1845, they include Lucia di Lammermoor and La Fille du Regiment, both of which remain huge hits in opera houses the world over. Donizetti divided his time between Italy and France, eventually settling in Paris in 1838. As well as being an acclaimed composer, Donizetti was also in demand as a conductor. It was he who conducted the very first performance of Rossini’s Stabat Mater

François Couperin was born on 10 November 1668 in Paris

francois-couperin-grangerFrançois Couperin was a French Baroque composer, organist and harpsichordist. Couperin introduced Corelli’s trio sonata form to France. In which he blended the Italian and French styles of music in a set of pieces which he called Les goûts réunis (“Styles Reunited”). His most famous book, L’art de toucher le clavecin “The Art of Harpsichord Playing” published in 1716, contains suggestions for fingerings, touch, ornamentation and other features of keyboard technique. Couperin’s four volumes of harpsichord music, published in Paris in 1713, 1717, 1722, and 1730, contain over 230 individual pieces, which can be played on solo harpsichord or performed as small chamber works. These pieces were not grouped into suites, as was the common practice, but ordres, which were Couperin’s own version of suites containing traditional dances as well as descriptive pieces. The first and last pieces in an ordre were of the same tonality, but the middle pieces could be in other closely related tonalities. These volumes were loved by Johann Sebastian Bach and, much later, Richard Strauss, as well as Maurice Ravel who memorialized their composer with Le tombeau de Couperin (Couperin’s Memorial).

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