Issues in the Arts

Opera Is Back – Hooray! As For The Rude Voice That Booed: Back Atcha

PERSPECTIVE – In Macduff’s aria mourning his murdered children, at Lyric Opera of Chicago's new Macbeth, tenor Joshua Guerrero offered his heart and soul. Then, amid the cheering, one loud boo. Really? After all we've been through?

Bernstein’s Mass, Once Written Off, Now Enjoys Embrace Of A New Era

PERSPECTIVE – The stylistic cross-pollination that runs through Bernstein's Mass, derided as "cheap and vulgar" five decades ago, has become familiar language. The work will see several performances during this anniversary year.

From Music’s Dim Past, Rediscovered Songbook Casts Telling New Light

PERSPECTIVE – The Leuven Chansonnier, a tiny 600-page volume of 50 secular songs that turned up in a 2014 auction in Belgium, has sharpened our sense of what early music means, how it should be performed, and what it says to us.

Ormandy Philly Legend: Outsized Image Forged From Undersized Gifts

PERSPECTIVE – Eugene Ormandy's record 44-year tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra (1936-1980) stretched over sleepy seasons marred by his faulty conducting technique. Some musicians say he wouldn't have a major career today.

1921 Tulsa Massacre Memorialized In Music By 4 Black Composers

NEW YORK – The concert titled Pity These Ashes: Tulsa 1921-2021 featured works by Adolphus Hailstork, Jessie Montgomery, Trevor Weston, and Alice Coltrane, whose Prema, transcribed from piano to harp, drew on the jazz tradition.

Negro Opera Birthplace Rescued By A Visionary With Preservation Goal

PERSPECTIVE – Jonnet Solomon, a tax accountant and director of the Steel City Arts Initiative, has worked for decades to save the long-vacant home where Mary Cardwell Dawson established the National Negro Opera Company in 1941.

But Was He Happy? This Biography Of Mozart Makes A Case For Yes

BOOK REVIEW – At its best when evoking Mozart's day-to-day life in an age of crude carriages, lousy air, and barbarous doctors, Jan Swafford's study asserts that "composers do not get much more successful than Mozart in his own time."

Tenor Parlays His Craft In Dual Aid To Students, Emerging Professionals

PERSPECTIVE – Michael Fabiano and fellow tenor John Viscardi run a non-profit program of their own creation called ArtSmart, which pays gifted young freelance singers to mentor pre-teen and teen students and give them voice lessons.

Sleuths Pursue Chopin As Genius And Enigma Across Pages Of Time

BOOK REVIEW – Three recent books about the composer-pianist offer rich insights into his life as man and musician. All three offer much to ponder, and time and again had this reader reaching for a score or a recording to follow up.

Composer Schwantner, Marching To His Own Drum, Chimes, Crotales

PERSPECTIVE – Even with some 60 works and a Pulitzer Prize to his credit, Joseph Schwantner's far-ranging sound palette and distinctive voice remain something of a hidden treasure, unfamiliar to much of the concertgoing public.

Risen To New Visibility, Black Composers Now Face Test Of Longevity

COMMENTARY – Black composers have been emerging over the past year at a dramatically accelerated pace that’s particularly rare amid the normally glacial progression of the classical music world. The next challenge is staying power.

Berliners Conjure Gold From Musical Pantheon Of Weimar Twenties

DIGITAL REVIEW – Now available for streaming is a well-produced series of concerts by the Berlin Philharmonic titled The Golden Twenties. Works by composers from Weill and Strauss to Sibelius bespeak an era of exceptional creativity.

Radio Host Is Bridging Gap Between Blacks, Classical Music World

PERSPECTIVE – Terrance McKnight has always lived his life "between the two worlds" of being Black and being part of the classical music culture. He wants to bring everyone’s culture to the table, "not putting one above the other."

Alone With Stravinsky: In His Closing Silence, Echo Of ‘Sacre’ Raged

PERSPECTIVE – Stravinsky died 50 years ago on April 6, 1971. And so I found myself there, a music student all alone with his casket at the funeral home, the sounds of his music racing through my brain: Firebird, Petrouchka, Sacre du printemps.

Opera Artists, Critics Peer Into The Future: Watch Now Via Zoom

COMMENTARY – What lies ahead for opera now? Gathering via Zoom, composer Ellen Reid, librettists Tazewell Thompson and Royce Vavrek, producer Kristin Martin and critics Heidi Waleson and Alex Ross discuss the transformative impact of this challenging year.

Chamber Music Series Casts Revelatory Light On Black Composers

DIGITAL REVIEW – As part of Black History month, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra through its CSOtv network offers a significant tribute to Black composers in chamber music played with compelling virtuosity by members of the CSO.

Seeking Humanity Amid Operas That Wax Humanitarian

DIGITAL REVIEW – Three new streamings point up the possibilities and pitfalls in play as high-minded opera creators and administrators are seized with the need to be relevant amid current times but risk losing the essence of their art.

Koh Caps Her Bach Project With Links To Berio, Harbison

DIGITAL REVIEW – As the final installment of Jennifer Koh’s Bach & Beyond project for solo violin was released in November, the series became a metaphor for sheltering in place. The crowning CD ties Bach to two more modernists.

Found Eloquence: 4’33” Of A Thing In Overabundance

COMMENTARY – This time, John Cage’s famous 4’33” really was about silence as Kirill Petrenko and the Berlin Philharmonic found a special way to say farewell to live audiences under Europe's Covid-constrained lockdown.

Exploring Wagner, Loathsome Genius Of Endless Allure

BOOK REVIEW – In his exhaustive and fascinating book Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, Alex Ross probes the enduring cultural impact of the composer's art as well as his controversial social views.
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